Woke up and that last dream of dream time, right before you wake up, the one that’s usually so vivid, made me want to call my son right away. I dreamed of a superhero, and my son likes superheroes; he’s also been writing video game scenarios of late. I don’t particularly want to write about superheroes or do a graphic novel, but maybe he would. Or maybe you would. Because this was a dream with a plot.

I dreamt of a guy who made himself an outfit out of a muslin sack. There was no reason to do this, or at least I wasn’t given one; the dream started in the middle. All he had to decorate the sack with was gold spray paint, so he taped some very graphic straight lines with the paint, so they’d be easy to spray, and he made these designs on his sack.

So then he goes out in the street and he sees these little kids being hassled and bullied by big people, and he saves them. And everybody’s all confused, because the symbols on his sack are gold swatiskas, which he didn’t realize. Because, I remind you, it’s a dream, so my brain was not really bringing its logic A Game.

So now all these firm-jawed body-building young men in pseudo army gear are looking at him and saying, why are you saving little kids who we are thinking are Jewish or Arab or something we’re supposed to treat horribly? And naturally, they start to emulate him because he’s this superhero. A little lightbulb goes off in the guy’s head—he can subvert all Nazi teachings—and that’s about when I woke up.

I really did dream this. It was sketchy. The kids looked very cartoony, like a cross between Walter Keane (the Big Eyes guy) and Charles Addams, and I remember the superhero kind of picked them up, one in each hand.

Anyway, I naturally started extrapolating this to, what if you had someone who dressed like Trump, was kind of a double? Then he goes out and starts doing stuff like helping the environment and the poor, and following CDC guidelines on COVID and actually draining the swamp like he said he would? (One can argue, as some comedian, maybe Stephen Colbert, has, that he drained it directly into his cabinet, but I don’t think that’s what we thought he meant.) Because his followers love that guy and will do whatever the hell he does.

So I guess we just either need a true superhero who wears a disguise, or Trump needs his own little revelation that gets him to stop acting like himself. What if he tweeted out things like Love Your Neighbor and Take Care of Widows and Orphans? What better way to drive Democrats crazy? We’d all have to stop despising him if he started to actually help people. What better way to mess with our heads than to actually be a good president?

A woman can dream. So I did.

What Afghanistan Means to Me

I’ve long been drawn to almost any story about Afghanistan. I think but am not sure that it comes from my desire, toward the end of college (and before I was accepted into Cornell’s MFA program, another story for another time) that I desperately wanted to fly to Europe and just vagabond my way through it. It’s pretty adorable to me now that I thought, romantically, about camping in fields, joining the grape harvest in France, and riding on the back of a truck to Kabul, which I understood as some sort of exotic hippy paradise.

I think that a lot of us who were kids in the 60s—particularly if we had older siblings who were super cool teenagers in the 60s—felt like we’d missed out a little. When I was cast as Sheila in our college production of Hair, I and everyone else had a grand old time dressing up in crazy hippie costumes (designed by my brilliant friend, Callie Floor and her fellow designer Roz Hammend). We got hold of psychedelics and had an even grander time.

And then the show ended.

Many of us are still friends. (That’s Mark Anthony Taylor, a genuinely kind and sweet guy who still acts all the time in regional theater.) Apparently, many productions of Hair have a life-changing element to them. The cast truly becomes a tribe. Maybe everyone should be in a mandatory production of Hair.

In any event, I was ready for the show to go on in my life. I did my research on tooling around Europe and North Africa and Afghanistan. I don’t regret decisions in my life because, well, life is what it is, and mine is pretty awesome. Still, I have no doubt it would have been equally awesome had I made it to Europe, though different. Maybe a lot shorter, because in my naivete, I didn’t consider that all sorts of terrible happen to young unsuspecting women who wander around foreign countries aimlessly.

The Afghanistan Reality Check

Of course, it was very hard for most if not all of us to foresee what would actually happen to Afghanistan. I first learned of Herat when the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed by Taliban, a horrible tragedy. At the time, I actually had been tasked to write a sort of spy story for an ad account at my job. It centered on art smuggling from Kabul before the Taliban wrecked everything else. I wrote it in late August and early September 2001.

Talk about prescient. D’oh.

But today, I have some beautiful news from Afghanistan. At this link, you can read about these young girls in Herat who are building respirators out of old car parts. Led by 17-year-old Somaya Feruqi, they’ve built a prototype using a motor from a used Toyota Corolla and a chain drive from a Honda motorcycle.

BBC Photo, click for source article

The team had requested visas to visit the US in 2017. I’m sure you can do the math on how that went.

I Didn’t Cook Yesterday Because….

I’ve been haphazardly following the week’s meal suggestions from Half Baked Harvest, a site you’re familiar with if you’ve read a few of my posts. Last night, however, I had a treat as Steve made his bean dip and homemade tortilla chips. Steve’s dip is pretty easy: He sautes a mess of onions with chili powder and then chops up spinach and broccoli and adds them to refried beans. He hasn’t made it in many a moon and he was trying to remember what was in it, so I gave him a few suggestions while I drank a glass of rosé and did our 2000 piece balloon puzzle.

We’re now doing sky (slightly varying shades of deep blue) and water (all black) and it’s taking FOREVER. We will be glad to sweep this one back into the box, and only started it because the winter went on and on and on. But even though it’s finally halfway nice outside, I remain committed to finishing the damn thing. Steve has been ready to sweep ever since we got the relatively easy part, the balloons and their reflections, done. But he sticks with it because I’m anti-sweep. And we’re so blasted close.

Just for perspective, this is how big this freaking thing is.

I mean, how can I not finish it? Also, while not a good picture, it gives a sense of the lovely backyard I’m neglecting because of the damn puzzle. You can even see Old Blue, the Wonder Pontoon of Venerated Age, plunked down in the water.

But Tonight, I’ll Be Making…

HBH is reco’ing this noodle bowl recipe. However, while it looks pretty good and I have everything on hand, I’m averse to broken-up ground chicken or turkey in anything but a taco. I remembered that I’d always meant to try Lion’s Head, which is basically Chinese meatballs. I’ve unearthed a couple of recipes from my cookbook collection, and I’ll do a little experiment. If they turn out well, a recipe shall come your way.

Reading Right Now: The World

Prior to Perú, I had decided to end my New Yorker subscription. I just can’t keep up with the damn things. This problem of New Yorker subscribers the world over was documented on The Good Place, when head torturer Trevor consigns Ted Danson devil Michael to a room with an ever-growing pile of New Yorkers.

As Trevor says, “They just keep coming, and coming…..oh, look. There’s another one.”

Yet when I do read The New Yorker, I’m always impressed by the reporting. I’ve read some amazing stuff when I just commit to reading most of each issue, including, of all things, a story on heirloom beans. But they have a way of getting away from me. At which point, Steve begins to get impatient because he likes to go through them and rip out the best cartoons.

However, my “don’t renew” selection apparently didn’t take. Sure enough, I came home to a stack of them. And…oh, look. Here’s another one.

I’m extremely glad. There’s been superb COVID reporting, including a profile of Fauci and a great article in the May 4 issue—I tend to get them a week behind, and I prefer reading the print rather than online—by Charles Duhigg, “The Pandemic Protocol” at this link. The gist of the article is the need for a united, cohesive response. Places that have had those are faring measurably better.

Certainly, I learned the beauty of that in Perú. Difficult as it was, the government meant business. From that first day, when armed guards in masks addressed us at the Lima Holiday Inn breakfast room, we knew what we had to do: Stay put, only one person going out for groceries, wear masks. Restrictions increased over time, including a curfew, mask requirements as opposed to suggestions, and the gender days—which clearly backfired a bit and were quickly dropped. But the message was unified. The president would issue rules based on the science, and everyone followed them or got arrested.

Look, this time is confusing enough. What’s the future? What do with ourselves in this strange new world? How will it all turn out? That’s a state of constant limbo that is its own kind of difficulty. While we were in Perú, we had all those questions that everyone has, as well as a constant need to check phone and email to see if we could get back. At least we didn’t have to add mixed messages from the government on top of that.

I get that US citizens pride themselves on their independence and ability to make their own decisions, but dammit, there are times when you just have to work together, and trust that some people know more than you do and you better listen to them. When you don’t just do what makes sense to you, because you don’t have all the facts to make a decision. When you listen to experts, you accept inconvenience, and you take care of each other.

Reading Right Now: Other Stuff

As I start to work on my Cuba stuff, I’ve been ferretting out some history. Of course I know a decent amount, but I was interested in a fictional approach to the early 20th century—long before Castro, but also helping to provide context for why he was able to come to power. So I was delighted to find an Elmore Leonard book, Cuba Libre, which means “Free Cuba” and is not just a drink.

I read some Leonard in the 80s when I lived in New York. You can bang through a Leonard book pretty quickly; he’s a great subway read. (Probably his most famous book is Get Shorty.) But I was unaware he’d taken a stab at a bona fide historical novel. Of course it’s got cool tough guys, shady rich guys, sleepy cops, and gorgeous dames who smoke a lot. Still, I’m liking the way he’s framing the blowing up of the US Maine. Was it the Spanish or the US trying to start a war?

At least based on who our sympathies are with, Leonard is firmly on the side of the Cubans trying to get control of their own island. Here, my own shot of Morro Castle, a location in the book. It was used as a prison. Apparently, it was a scary one, but all the characters in the book keep saying, “This is nothin‘.”

dream time

Here I am with our guide Javier, in front of an old-timey Cuban mural.

I also found, through Scribd, Isadora Tattlin’s Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana. Tattlin’s husband worked for an energy company, and the family, with two young kids, was transferred to Cuba for what ended up being four years. It’s a great way to peer into the reality of life there, something Steve and I naturally only got glimpses of. Javier offered us a lot of insight, of course. But 10 days is nothin’ compared to living in a place, grocery shopping, dealing with schools and cops and bureaucracy and a lot of other stuff I haven’t read about yet. Tattlin’s filling in some gaps for me.

On the Housewife Label

Incidentally, when I was on Jeopardy!, I had a bunch of Twitter action, most of which I didn’t bother to read. (Everyone gets a bunch of Twitter action when they’re on Jeopardy!, and I was on four days, so I got more.) Most people said kind things, if an inordinate amount were weirdly obsessed with my relationship with Alex Trebec, which was basically what everyone’s is on Jeopardy except for people who earn a ton of money and stay for days: He’s the host, you’re the contestant. But there was one Twitter person who had some weird hate boner for me, and seemed to be trying to get at me. I only remember the one real zinger was “by food writer, she means retired housewife.”

Because the person appeared with quite a few snarky comments, I asked my niece, @auntievice, how do you deal with someone being a dick on Twitter? After all, she’s dealt with tons of that nonsense; she writes about all sorts of hot topics, including body positivity and other grown-up things like polyamory and BDSM. (Here’s her blog. She won a Sex Blogging Superhero award. Also, she wrote a cookbook. She’s a great cook.)

So she said, just block them. Then you won’t see anything. They want attention, so don’t react. Like those boys who’d pull your hair because they liked you, but they were too confused to realize that pulling hair was probably not the way to start a productive relationship.

But in hindsight, I kind of wish I’d said, “Housewife? I wish.” I mean, I kind of have always wanted to be a housewife. Taking care of your home, watching your kids, being there for them when they get out of school, cooking dinner, making awesome lunchbox lunches in those bento trays, plus the zillion other things stay-home parents do—why the hell would anyone retire from that? Sounds really good, and in the years I was working long shifts and not doing all that stuff—man, I would have taken that gig in a second.

Now I have it. Not retiring any time soon. It’s pretty awesome.

The Marcus Aurelius Moment* for 21-May, 2020

From Steve, that you can always get better at listening. That you disagree and you talk through it, and then you’re ok. That the harder the line between work and play, the quicker you need to get a new job. And that dramas are just speed bumps: If you drive over them too fast, you’ll tear the shit out of your car. If you slow down and are patient and don’t make a big deal about them, they’re over in a minute and you get right back on with your life. Te amo, caro amigo.

*In the first part of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman ruler details what various people in his life have taught him. To read the full intro to why I care about Marcus Aurelius, click here.