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Ramekins, book reviews, food vs sex...

Phrase of the day-- I said it a few minutes back. What does this say about my life? "You can never have too many ramekins." It is as true as any, and more harmless than some. (How about 'God never gives us more than we can manage?' That one has done a lot of harm.)

Groceries in today. This is the one day of the week that Mike and I intersect reliably in the daytime. I like the process of grocery shopping. I like lugging the food home, propelling it up all those stairs, putting it away. I like the feeling of full cupboards, and thinking about what I will make out of everything. It is a little shameful to think about food. Kind of the way we used to look at sex, I think. Yes one does it, but thinking about a lot is kind of unacceptable. Well. I think about things.

I have been reading a wonderful book! It is a biography of James Fitzjames. He was the second under Franklin on Erebus that last horrible time. After Franklin's death he was CO of Erebus, and Crozier's opposite number. (Francis Crozier retained command of the Terror, until they were forced to leave her.

Nobody is exactly sure when Fitzjames died, or what became of his remains. Some of the bones found scattered around may be his. I have not gotten as far as the Arctic with him yet. Nobody is quite sure who his mother was, or where his family came from. He never said. He did not know his mother. He may have been a bastard. (which expalins the 'Fitz' thing.) His father may have been James Gambier. Fitzjames spoke fluent Portuguese as a child. He seems to have been born in the Bahamas. The author, who was diligent in research, seems puzzled by this. Fitzjames entered the Navy in 1825, just at the intersection of sail and steam. Fitzjames was rated mid without the requisite time served. He was on a very early steam vessel that made a hapless expedition up the Basra river. He fought in the first opium war and broke his leg. He got shot in the back at some point and then got malaria while he recovered from that. And he captained a sailing ship which had a pet cheetah that used to climb the rigging! Cheetah eventually attacked him from the back as stood on the Q-deck. It has such a good grip on him that it had to be removed with a crowbar! We know all this because Fitzjames wrote wonderful funny letters-- lots of them. And he illustrated them with pen and ink, or even watercolors.

He thought he was going to have the command of Erebus. But at the very last minute John Franklin was given the top spot. This seems to have been a favor from the elderly Barrow. We all know what happened after that. So regrettable. I can feel confident now, that Fitzjames faced it bravely, and did his best for those serving under him. The book has given me a peek into his personality. He would have done his best.

The book is called: 'James Fitzjames, the mystery man of the Franklin Expedition.'

I know you all have reading lists to the sky. But this one is amazing.

Well. the sun is going down. I am off to think about filling those ramekins.

For some value of back

I feel sometimes like Lucy, who jumps out of the wardrobe shouting 'I'm back!' only to have everyone say 'Well you need to be gone longer than that before you shout.'

Anyway-- I am back. My old computer which had no case is gone. Apparently there is a reason for the case existing. A project computer is neat, and the internal visible is cool, but things fall in and dust comes, and cats. This shortens lifespan of cool caseless computer.

Now I have a new one with a pedestrian black metal box case. It is designated for writing and internet. It did not cost much. It is mine all mine! It does not have to do games or engineering homework.

I have been busy at work. The trouble with work is that they want you to show up and do it. I really don't mind it all that much. I can do phone sales, always could. And this is better than actual sales, it is charity fund raising. I have checked out the charities on my own and find them to be reputable. They are not like Susan Korman which takes all the money to have parties with.

And I do like calling people, even if I am asking them for money. It is like visiting their lives for a little moment. I can hear things in the background, dogs, kids, sinks running. Life sounds. People are nice, mostly. They are nice even when they won't give me money. Some, especially older men, are funny. The work is not difficult to learn. You just have to do it the same way, each time, precisely. And you have to make each person who answers feel important.

We had a quiet Thanksgiving. Son came down from Buffalo. Mike visited his mom briefly. I had beef instead of turkey, but cooked it too hard. It irritated my trigeminal neuralgia. This time the attack was not severe pain, but mostly swelling. The side of my face swelled up, and my eye got all black and closed up. I looked as if I had been punched in the face over and over. It has subsided now. I can still feel on my face where the nerve is not happy to be poked at. It takes at least a week to settle down afterward. These attacks only happen a few times a year. Not really worth doing anything much for them, like taking a pill every day. Doctor says my current treatment plan is ok. Current plan involves hot baths, frozen peas on face, whiskey, and complaining to anyone who will listen. If the trigeminal nerve acts up more frequently there are more drastic measures that can be taken. I looked the swelling up online. It is a thing that happens. It usually comes with less pain, which is a blessing.

It is ridiculously warm here. Rainy, drippy, sweatshirt weather. Feels like spring. I am sure the trees are confused. If it goes on much longer the daffodils will come. And when it is actually March we will be stuck without them! Today has brought a grey foggy rainy wind. Festive decorations outside stores are getting all soggy. We are to expect thunder.

In my defense

If you are wondering why we have a toolbox in the living room, I can only say New York is all about lack of storage. Our apartment has only two closets.

We installed shelves going up to the ceiling, but Mike does not want hammers, knives, poisons, saws, drill, on an overhead shelf. He is a funny guy that way. Must be all that time in Safety Dept.

As they get older

Yodel's hind legs are not as strong as they were in his youth. (Well, neither are mine...)

We have always fed cats on top of a big tool chest. It keeps them from menacing dogs and taking dog food. (Both Hazel and Sabir have had that problem.)

But lately Yodel has had trouble leaping to his food dish. So today we moved furniture some to give Yodel a nice padded arm chair.by the tool chest to accend by stages. He can use his claws to help if he needs to.

As best we know, Yodel is 13. Not far into old age, but definitely into needing extra help.


Poor Beast

Recently met a pitbull when I was walking alone. Many around here are intact males. This one was, and I could see the scars too, down over his face, and sides. If you don't have a dog with you they are usually sweet. This guy was wiggling with joy as I came down the sidewalk. He was being walked by a man. I asked dog's name and it was Beast.

No doubt they chose it to be frightening, but beast is just the old word for animal after all.

"Hello Beast," I said. And I scritched him and he wiggled and licked my hand.

"He is a very good boy," I said. If nobody is actually caught fighting him, I can do no more. Maybe he is a rescue from the ring anyway. Animal fighting is sadly prevalent around here. At least some of the dogs can have lives after.

Saw him again today while I was walking Sabir. Kept well away. Beast and Sabir would likely not mix well. Anyway Beast was getting yelled at. He was off leash, which is not a good idea on the crowded sidewalk and busy street. And he ran down the sidewalk and nipped through a fence to some grass.

He was with a woman. "Beast," she yelled, "Get back here so I can beat your ass. What are you doing, bad dog!" Beast could not really comply, he was locked into crouch, taking an enormous dump on the lawn. The best Beast could do was waddle forward with a look of sorrow and shame.

'Get back here so I can beat you' is an offer only taken when it is worse to stay away. I have heard it said to kids too, of course.

My mother always said that a dog will stay with you if he has more fun with you than away from you. (She said the same about men actually...) She also said that you never need to raise your voice to a dog. She said their hearing is excellent, and they already care what you are going to say.

The man really seemed to like Beast. He liked having him admired too. He was pleased that I could see that this was a good dog. I hope the woman is a transitory presence in their lives.

My Boys


It pleases me very much to think that Kyd may have written Arden of Faversham. It is a play that I love, it is so ridiculous and over the top, and somehow that feels very modern. It feels much more vivid and recent to me than Spanish Tragedy. Spanish Tragedy feels much more anchored in time somehow. Maybe because ST has dukes and princes, and AoF is regular people?

If Kyd wrote all or most of those he must have had much skill and range. And he obviously could do gore for laughs or for tears.

I am liking more and more the idea that these guys were riffing off each other-- daring each other to do better, to try new things. And this at a time when the wrong words could get you thoroughly dead. So brave. They were so brave.

Silly stuff

Silly animal photos.


In other news, had to run out, asked daughter to walk Sabir. Got text from her 'I did not have time to give him a long walk, but I did give him an old shoe full of peanut butter.' She says she thought he looked sad.

Someday future historians will wade though out texts, as we wade through letters now. We will flummox them...


I have feelings about this

They are now saying that Marlowe will be credited with collaborating with Shakespeare on several plays.

You guys have probably seen this and read it already. It is new to me this week. And I have feelings. I cannot seem to link to the article so I am going to quote from it.

'Carol Rutter, professor of Shakespeare and performance studies at the University of Warwick, told BBC News: "It will still be open for people to make up their own minds. I don't think [Oxford University Press] putting their brand mark on an attribution settles the issue for most people."

But it is clear Shakespeare did work with several other figures in theatre at the time, she added.

"I believe Shakespeare collaborated with all kinds of people... but I would be very surprised if Marlowe was one of them," she said.

"The reason for that is that while these were being written, Marlowe was the poster boy of theatre writing. Why would he agree to collaborate with a non-entity of an actor?"'

So Marlowe will be credited as a co-author on Henry iv, to start with.

I have no trouble at all believing that Kit Marlowe would have co-authored with WS. He worked with actors constantly. They were the pointy end of what he was trying to do. There is no reason to think he did not respect them. And it is true that the Elizabethan's were preoccupied with social class. But these guys invented upward mobility.

Marlowe and WS were exactly the same social class. Kit had more education, because he was lucky enough to get the Parker Scholarship to take him through what I would call middle school, high school, and college.

I bet when Marlowe met WS he saw, not a non-entity, but another writer. They were the same age down to months. Shakespeare feels older to us because he lived to be older. I think we all sort of imagine him as middle aged and balding, patient, fatherly, paunchy, conservative. It is true that he avoided knife fights. We can be grateful for that at least.

But we have to imagine him as a roaring boy at this time, a young man full of swagger. Nice to think about.
And in any case, Kyd was the most famous author then. Spanish Tragedy was a blockbusting hit. Kyd and the actors were mobbed in the street. It did not stop Kyd from rooming with Marlowe, who was much less famous.

My own belief is that they all knew each other. They lived in a dense busy world crammed into a little space. They understood each other better than anyone on the outside understood them. When they disagreed it was almost as family.

Here are the interconnections, as I understand them:

WS and Marlowe on Henry 1v
WS and Kyd on part of the middle of Spanish Tragedy (maybe)
Marlowe and Kyd lived together in 1592-3. There is no reason to think that they never bounced things off each other.
Nashe and Marlowe worked together on something, I forget what
Nashe and Jonson on Isle of Dogs. (Later, after 1593, because Jonson was younger.)

This is not to say that I have any doubt about the Shakespeare 'authorship question.' I believe he sat down with his own hands and wrote his plays. But I don't think he did it in a total vacuum. I think he talked ideas with other writers, and probably with the actors too. Picture a culture sort of like Hemingway in Paris maybe? Lots of writing, but also lots of sitting around and drinking, people watching, laughing, fighting.

I am glad that they had the warmth of friendship for a little while. Their lives were not easy. They all had bad times too.

Hot water and ballots

Once again, plans to simplify the ballot.


I have voted in 6 states now, as I moved through the last 30 years. (I even voted for my mother one year when she was no longer competent. I just had to promise that I would do my best to vote as she would have done. That was easy, mom was never shy about her political opinions, and it was a rare area where we totally agreed.) The ballots have never been the same twice it seems, every four years they say they have redesigned them, tweaked them to make them better. They are always a little puzzling. They always seem to include people I have not had time to research.

And in every state there are poll workers doing earnest best to help. Here in Brooklyn there are a lot of elderly people, and there are kids, voting for the first time. And there are people who speak English as a second, or third, language. I feel humbled by them. They have come here from somewhere else, and they are eager to vote, they really care. So the polls here, like the hospitals, are staffed with Spanish speakers, Arabic speakers, Russian speakers, French... (And that is just Coney Island.)

I am so ready to vote, you guys. I know I have spent a lot of time and space, especially on Twitter, on politics. Tip O'Neil famously said that all politics is local. He meant, I think, that the down-ballot choices we make matter a great deal. He did not really live to see the days of Twitter feeds where one has to worry about boring or alarming overseas friends.

I am ready for this thing to be decided. I am ready to think about Marlowe and sailing ships, and the actual events of the world, and our ordinary sized place in them.

In other news, my stove and hot water problems continue. The gas company came out and said I must have a new stove. I am fine with that, but they went away again without fixing my gas. This is presumably because the stove,(which I have been using for three years,) is unsafe. It is true that sometimes if you turn the burners up all the way there are some unexpected flames here and there. It is true that it has no knobs.

I suppose it will be nice to get a new stove. But while I wait we continue to have no hot water. Mike does not mind at all. He took cold showers for years on shipboard. A Navy shower is supposed to take something like 3 minutes. You step into the cold and get skin wet, you step back and apply soap. You step in and rinse soap. He has hardly any hair so he does that with soap too. There is no lingering. I myself prefer a sit in the tub, up to my chin in super hot water. Sometimes I bring a book. I have not been able to do that for a while now.

Landlord has put the heat on. This would normally be fine. He is complying with the law which says that it is cold enough in mid October to need the heat. Unfortunately it is in the mid 80's now. We have no real temperature control here, the heaters just go even when the thermostat is at zero. And we are on the top floor. We get all the heat from below too. So we have the windows open and a fan going, which is pretty silly.

Hope you are all well.

Plus they are so cute!

Look at these fuzzy little guys-- I have never minded the jumping kind. They are like kittens of spiders. And now more cool than ever.


I have some days off from work this week. I am cleaning today so it will not bug me later. Was up half the night working on the Marlowe thing. Then Sabir had to be walked at 4 am for some reason. Street and park empty, which was nice. Still very dark then, not a sniff of dawn. Very serene, everyone asleep. I like the empty dark street and the warm feeling of everyone sleeping behind their dark windows. I am less patient in my heart with people who are awake, being noisy, crowding me on the subway. I suppose it is kind of the way you can be irritated with a child all day, and filled with tenderness once they are asleep in bed. I know it is better to appreciate people when they are conscious enough to feel it. I cannot always do that.

Came back and Yodel climbed up in bed with me, wanted me to pat him. He tends, as he gets older to redirect with his claws out. I end up shoving him away, sometimes I want to sleep, not have my hair pulled or my face scratched at.
Anyway, by then Mike was getting up. He has a two hour commute to the Bronx, and is quite accustomed to getting up at 5. So I got up too. The gas company is coming here today as we have had a problem with out gas. (One of those things where you beg them to come and they say 'between 8 am and midnight, be home...') Luckily I can be home. But you have to be awake too... They say they will call first, but I have known them to dissemble.