Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tears in the Pesto

I know it's been a while since I've posted the hilarious and intriguing police calls from our local paper, but today I have my own crime to report. My potted basil plant was stolen from our front walk Saturday night. I went out Sunday afternoon to gather the basil I'd need for two of my dinner dishes, and there was a gap in my row of potted herbs. I didn't jump to conclusions. I scouted the perimeter of the house and questioned its inhabitants before arriving at the sad and shocking truth: somebody ripped off my basil. And then I began swearing, which I believe is the step after denial in the grieving process.

It's Tuesday now, and I don't think my basil will be returned. I've left its spot open, just in case the hooligans might regret their actions, but only the chalky orange circle on the pavement stares up at me each day. Since I can't figure out why anyone would steal another person's 20-inch pot, AND SAUCER, three feet from the front door, I can't help but wonder what has become of my plant. I mean, the thieves took the saucer. Doesn't that mean they care? Maybe they've always wanted a basil plant of their own but, for whatever reason, just weren't able to have one. Or have they completely stripped it and created some culinary nightmare with all of its beautiful leaves? By now the dirt-filled pot must be lying cracked and abandoned in a ditch somewhere.

As some insensitive clod said to me, at least I still have my other herbs. That is cold comfort, Sam, I mean, anonymous insensitive clod! What the hell do you think Angelina would say if someone made off with Pax? Oh, it's okay, I still have Shiloh and Maddox and Zahara...dear Lord, and I get flak for "Paolo"? Yes, Sage and Rosemary are present and hearty, but Basil is gone! Basil was my favorite, my high-needs herb, the one that mattered the most in our summer cuisine. Too much sun, it burns; too little sun; it won't mature; too much pruning, it can't recover; too little pruning, it goes to seed. I have spent years perfecting the right location, pot size, maintenance regimen, and this year I nailed it. It wasn't a basil plant, it was a basil epiphany. Oh, you should have seen it. Have you seen it? Or who took it? There may be a reward.

I have imposed upon you long enough, kind reader, with my tale of woe. I could have written something funny, like how Paolo wants to change his name to Chief Bruno, but instead I've bored you with botanical theft: a senseless-but not victimless-crime. The writing has been therapeutic for me. Maybe now the healing can begin.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Law Clerk: Parking near campus is just impossible lately. I used to park in the University Baptist Church lot, but they've turned it all into paid parking.

Melissa: Have they? That's where I used to park, too.

Me: Where Would Jesus Park?

Melissa: He wouldn't have a car.

Me: Yeah, they'd be all, "You can't park that donkey here."

Melissa: They wouldn't make Jesus pay for parking.

Me: I bet they would.

Melissa: He's Jesus. They wouldn't make him pay.

Me: Whatever. They don't care who his daddy is.

Melissa: WWJP?

Me: I'm going to spray paint that all over their No Parking signs ... Hey, where did the law clerk go?

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Retirement of a Gladiator

Francesco Totti announced his retirement from the national team today, after a year of speculation following the Azzurri's World Cup victory. At his best, Totti had vision, skill, artistry and unflagging devotion on the pitch. At his worst, he was petulant, fraudulent, lazy and absent. Throughout his career, I have both admired him and been terribly disappointed in him, but there is no denying he is one of the greats, an Italian legend.

Totti wore the number 10 for the Azzurri, and I can't think who will wear it now. A creative, attacking midfielder - the Playmaker - is not so easy to replace. Who is the new Totti? Sure, there are Del Piero and Pirlo, but those guys aren't getting any younger. Who is the next brash, fearless, imperfect, brilliant star to streak towards goal, to send in the perfect cross, or to score a free kick that defies the laws of physics?

Totti has said that he is more loyal to his club team, AS Roma, than to the national team. I could never understand that, and I don't think Italian fans or players did either. Totti is a rare player in that he has only ever played for Roma. Most players jump around in their careers to bigger clubs, higher salaries, and better chances at winning titles. Still, everyone knows it is the greatest honor to pull on the blue jersey and play for Italy. Ever since Totti made that statement, I have had mixed feelings about his place on the Azzurri squad. If his heart is not in it, I know how badly he can play. "If Italy is not his highest professional priority, I don't want him on my team," I declared defiantly, all the while watching from the corner of my eye for his return.

Totti, affectionately called Bimbo d'Oro (Golden Boy), was often weighed down by a superstar complex, but on many occasions earned every accolade. Totti: easy to love, easy to hate, impossible to count out. Until now. Now he has counted himself out of the lineup, and I will miss him.

Grazie, Francesco, for your contributions in blue. See you in August wearing red and yellow.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The blinding and unwelcome dawn of realization

Everywhere Paolo and I go, people ask him about his impending sibling. Since he doesn't know where the little guy is right now, he always gets the same expression on his face: DUDE, how do they KNOW? In all other respects, Paolo is a smart and observant boy, but he has no idea why I have an enormous belly. He knows he's getting a baby brother, but he thinks someone is bringing him to us. We're okay with that. As Sam puts it, if Paolo ends up thinking that we went to the hospital to pick up a baby, that's just fine with him. A four-year-old doesn't need to understand the logistics or start thinking of his mother's abdomen as a tank of sea monkeys. Because once that line is crossed, then come the uncomfortable questions: how did he get there and how is he getting out? I expect to have that talk much later, when I can lay down the mechanics of the process and lecture that he must never, never engage in it until he is at least in college and never with a skank.* I can't control what his dad tells him, but he better back me up on the skanks.

After one such encounter with an impertinent grocery checker (seriously, people, please direct your questions to me instead of the child), Paolo and I discussed his baby brother in the car on the way home. I asked Paolo for name suggestions and, after thinking for a minute, he answered, "His father will come and tell us what his name is." Oh boy. "Paolo, Daddy is your baby brother's daddy." With near-hysteria in his voice, Paolo declared that I am HIS mama, and Daddy is HIS daddy and any would-be usurper can just suck it. That last part was implied. My explanation of how the newbie would be a part of our family was met with cold silence. I tried to continue our baby-naming conversation, which had been interrupted by the elephant falling on his head, but he blasted me with, "I don't think we should call him ANYTHING." Discovering that he will be expected to share the center of the universe has Paolo completely over the baby brother thing. This is not going to go well.

*I was watching VH1's "I Love the 80s" wherein the term skank was featured as extinct slang from 1987. Perchance I'm showing my age, but when did skank die? I can understand if I were going around calling Juicy-butted girls ho-bags, but skank? Skank is timeless.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Pneumonia in July

Summer's here, the grass is green, the weather is warm, and Paolo contracted pneumonia. Figure that one out. It started with a minor cold that, over a week or two, escalated into a recurrent fever and deep cough. We got him to the doctor last Wednesday and received the diagnosis. Luckily, it's a mild case, and we're treating him with asthma medication and antibiotics. He was cleared to return to school on Monday, but his dad decided to keep him home until Wednesday.

With mom at work, the boys are running around shirtless, cleaning the house, excavating watermelons with drills, and doing the grocery shopping. The last thing they wore shirts for, I'm pretty sure. Today they're going to a magic show at the library and, at Paolo's suggestion, we're meeting up for a picnic lunch, and then who knows what other excellent boy adventures are in store. It's such a pleasure for me to come home to the two of them and see their utter contentment at having spent the day together.

Sam slipped into fatherhood like a favorite T-shirt, like he'd been waiting his whole life to be the light in his little boy's eyes. He makes mistakes like any parent, but he reflects on them, discusses them, and learns from them. I'll never be as natural and easy a parent as Sam, but I learn a lot by watching him. So when Paolo went on a coughing jag that ended up with him projectile vomiting all over the bathroom, I happily scrubbed down the walls while Sam cuddled Paolo on the couch.

Monday, July 9, 2007

My Husband, the Bad-Ass

Over the weekend, Sam gave Paolo and himself their annual summer buzzcut. A freshly shorn Paolo is about the cutest thing in creation; I can barely look directly at him without my eyeballs melting. On the other hand, the same haircut makes Sam look a bit like a thug, and I think it's gone to his head. On Saturday, he kicked a cat. At least that's the report I got from Paolo. Our neighbors have a cat they keep outside (which incidentally VIOLATES CITY ANIMAL ORDINANCES), and this cat has a most annoying habit of trying to run into our house every time the front door opens. Apparently, Sam and Paolo were about to come inside, and the cat was preparing to bolt, so Sam put his foot under the cat's belly and scooped it into the air. It flew impressively across the yard before landing on its feet. It hasn't tried to move in with us since. To Paolo, however, it will always be the meow-head that Daddy kicked. How funny was it at the pet store on Sunday (just visiting; no plans to adopt) when Paolo announced loudly, "That meow-head looks just like the one you kicked, Daddy!" in earshot of shoppers and employees? Totally hilarious.

Act II of Sam's new thug life took place Sunday afternoon. We were walking to the car after exiting Target, Sam carrying Paolo and a bag, me a few steps behind with another bag. We were well into in the crosswalk when an SUV shot past, inches away from Sam and Paolo. Having his hands full, Sam swung the bag into the side of the SUV. The driver stopped, brakes screeching, and opened her door as Sam marched around the back to yell at her. "HEY! You almost hit me, and you almost hit my son. This is a CROSSWALK. Do you see these yellow stripes? You have to stop when there are people in the crosswalk." And he swung the bag against the SUV again as he walked away. The driver's response: "Do you want me to call the cops? If you do that again, I'm calling the cops." As if that weren't amusing enough, Sam yelled back, "Why don't you back over my pregnant wife, too?" I was still chuckling when we got to our car and I noticed the SUV that almost ran down my family double-parked in the handicapped zone a few rows over while the driver, I'm sure, furiously dialed her cell phone. Oh, to be a fly on the windshield for that call: "I was speeding through a crosswalk when a man carrying a small child, who I guess I almost hit or whatever, assaulted my car with a plastic shampoo bottle and yelled at me. God, it was terrifying! Can you, like, arrest him or something?"

In the car Sam lamented that he was not setting a very good example for Paolo lately: kicking a cat and screaming at a crazy driver. I assured him they both had it coming, and it's important for Paolo to know his dad's a total bad-ass.