December 2019


I left the house this week. In fact, I left Long Island altogether and ventured into Manhattan (the island that is to the leftof the Isle of Long, likewise adrift off the east coast of the United States).

I know. So unlike me. I would happily never leave the house, and have the world would come to me, which by the way it already does because: Internet. But I had a problem that the internet couldn’t solve within the necessary time frame, so I had to go to the city. To Koreatown.

In Koreatown, all the signs are in Korean. Also, it was a misty, dark afternoon, and with the neon lights flickering in Hangul and the cold fog, I felt as if I had become a Blade Runner. Only, instead of tracking down and killing Nexus-6 replicants, I was hunting down Korean chopsticks.

I needed Korean chopsticks, and I needed them ASAP.

Korean chopsticks are very different from Chinese or Japanese chopsticks in that they are shorter, and flat, and made of metal. They are harder to use than Chinese or Japanese chopsticks, the rumor being that this kind of chopstick is better suited to eating Korean food. But I think the real reason Korean chopsticks are so very different from anything you would be more comfortable with is because everything has to be just slightly weirder in Korea.



Korean chopsticks are usually sold along with a long-handled metal spoon, because Koreans do not use chopsticks to eat rice. They use a spoon. OK, that spoon does make life a bit easier, but it still proves my point that Koreans are the Tiggers (Winnie-the-Pooh reference) of Asia.

So I got my Korean chopsticks (수저) and then I walked half a block to meet Top Cat for the start of our date night.

We went to New York City’s only vegetarian Korean restaurant, where we had to take off our shoes and pad to our table in our socks and sit on the floor.

Then our handsome young Korean waiter knelt at my side and asked me if I wanted a soju cocktail.

The last time a man knelt to ask me a question was when Top Cat asked me to marry him, so I did what I always do when a man kneels to interrogate me: I said Hell, yes.

I ordered the spiciest Korean vegetarian dish  the menu (rice and kimchi with other plant stuff) and it came to the table sizzling in a stone bowl set inside a block of wood that served as a tray of sorts,  so not to burn the diner. The handsome waiter knelt and cautiously took one and half spoonfuls of pepper sauce from the side dish and stirred it into my stone bowl before he placed it in front of me.

When the handsome waiter left, I dumped the rest of the pepper sauce into the bowl and it was still not as spicy as I would have liked it. But it was very good, and I used my new Korean utensil the whole time (I had an alcohol wipe in my pocket to sanitize it) and yes, I did get a cramp from how tightly I had to clutch the slippery and thin chopsticks. I need to develop my 수저 muscles.

We left the restaurant and headed uptown via Herald Square and ran into a huge anti-Trump march! It was several city blocks long and it was noisy and exciting and stopped traffic, and was one of 600 protest marches from Hawaii to Maine organized by MoveOn on the eve of impeachment. Top Cat and I marched with them for a few minutes, but we had theater tickets and had to bustle to Broadway.

We proceeded to walk across town on 34th Street and came upon a throng of people on the sidewalk, taking cell phone pictures of a woman standing inside a big shop window. She was wearing a glittery gold evening gown and throwing kisses.

“Who’s that?” I shouted to one of the thongers.

“Mariah Carey”, the guy said.

And then I realized that oh yeah, she did look a lot like Mariah Carey. Her song from 1994, All I Want For Christmas Is You, is No. 1 this week and she was celebrating. Some people can’t stand that song, but I like it.

We got to the Nederlander Theater with ten minutes to spare until curtain time. I watched Bob Costas pick up his tickets at the Will Call guichet.

Harry Connick Jr. is a wonderful performer: smart and charming, and from New Orleans, our favorite American city. But this wasn’t a simple concert show — he had a solid, two-hour concept with very clever staging, and he did a “class” on Cole Porter’s compositional genius (projected onto the back wall of the stage) that made me grateful that I was only learning Korean, and not musical notation.

We took the 9:42 home and were tucked into bed by 11.

And that was our Date Night in New York City. The evening was a lot for me to process, since my life is more about crappy used books and cat care than cross-cultural experiences, political street marches, Mariah Carey, and Harry Connick Jr. taking his shirt off (Harry Connick Jr. takes his shirt off on stage). I forget how many other people there are in the world, tucked up as I am in my own little.

Maybe because of this radical departure from routine, I have been in an extremely good mood this past week and to top it all off, the merriest Winter event of the year is approaching, so I want to wish everyone a Happy ChrisHanuKwanSoltice!

ChrisHanuKwanSolstice is the holiday that I made up so us atheist could join in all the fun of the most pagan holiday of all, but I also want to send traditional greetings to all you who are more observant of the time-honored practices of the season:



And enjoy:














She must have been a goddess to get cats to work?!

Have a happy weekend, all you badass goddesses. Note to Australia — it gets hot here in summer on the north shore of Long Island, but not that hot. Still, here’s my tip: take a cold shower with all your clothes on, then walk around until they are dry; repeat as often as necessary.

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It’s a very slow Saturday in the used book store that I resentfully manage out of the goodness of my heart to raise money for my local library here on the north shore of Long Island. REALLY slow. I opened at noon and the first customer didn’t show up until 1:27.

So it’s a good thing that I’ve brought my flash cards with me, and I am sitting in the corner muttering to myself:

“Ah. Ew. Yeh. Heh.  Shit! Ha. Yuh. We. Huh. Yee. Yoo. Shit! YO! Ee. Yeh.”

There was one lone browser in the store at the time and he is slowly looking through the history books but after a few minutes he walks over to me and says, “OK. I have to ask. What are you doing?

“Korean vowels,” I say.

I cleverly cut the notches into the top of my flash cards, otherwise I would not know if they were upside down or not. Some of these are regular vowels, and some of these are “down” vowels, and for the life of me, the “down” vowels are really hard to differentiate. Korean consonants are much more distinctive and it only took me a day (OK, two) to memorize them…but after a week, these vowels are still too subtle for me.

The Korean Cultural Center in Manhattan offers Korean language classes but I read the Yelp reviews and everyone who has taken the class advises that you get more out of it if you go in with a solid knowledge of Hangul (the Korean alphabet), so that’s what I’m doing with my flash cards, training my eye to “see” these lines as letters, each with a personality all their own and as easily identifiable  as A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y. Only, in Korean, there’s 21 of them, and half of them are some version of “Y”.

Are you surprised that Korean has an alphabet? Me too. Before 1443, the Korean language was written in classical Chinese characters, which are almost impossible to learn. But then King Sejong the Great freed the Korean language from its centuries’ long imprisonment in ideograms, and had the scholars of his nation invent an alphabet and a writing system that is read from left to right. Easy! Once you learn the alphabet, you, too,  can “read” Korean.

My Korean notebook. I marked it “K” for “Korean”, because I’m that obvious. That’s my name below, but that “down” vowel at the end is not supposed to be wavy, just so you know. My Korean handwriting is crap. P. S. In Korean, my last name is two syllables long.

Although it may be rather easy to learn to read Korean, it’s no day at the beach to learn to speak Korean. The US Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute says that an adult native English speaker needs 600 classroom hours to achieve a level 3 in DLPT (a Defense Dept. scale for officer training)  for languages like Spanish or French. But it takes 2,200 hours to acquire the same level of skill in Korean.

DLPT level 3 is:

Able to speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations in practical, social, and professional topics. Pronunciation may be obviously foreign. The individual uses the language acceptably, but with some noticeable imperfections; yet, errors virtually never interfere with understanding and rarely disturb the native speaker. In face-to-face conversation with natives speaking the standard dialect at a normal rate of speech, comprehension is quite complete.

As of today, I can “read” Korean, but if it’s not “Vivian Swift” or the name of a K-Pop group (such as 방탄소년단) I am what they call (in America) SOL.

Also, the Hangul has to be in a very clear font, like what is used in the Korean newspaper that I “read” at the library. WordPress’s Korean font (see above) is too hard for me to read.

So the sooner I can divest myself of my book store duties, the sooner I can put in those 2,200 classroom hours that I’ll need in order to speak the language like the half-bright foreign dip shit that I am.

Remember last week? When I showed you those books about bears with all the book marks in them and I speculated that someone must have found something profound in the lives of polar bears? Some of you Dear Readers hypothesized that those book marks were left by a schoolkid doing research for a report.

Well, I didn’t tell you the whole story behind that donation. It was brought in by an older guy who told me that his wife had died the previous year and he is just now going through her things, and these are her books.

So, that’s who liked polar bears. And, as you will see, she also like Kermit the Frog. This is her book, too:

I chose some pages at random, to see what was so interesting about being green:

And once, when she ran out of stickies, she had to Macgyver a book mark:

I think this woman was definitely searching for something in the books she read. Now, if you ask me, I wouldn’t think that books about polar bears or Kermit would be the best place to find life-changing insights, but I’m the idiot who is learning Korean in order to sing along with BTS so what do I know about going (or being) “deep”?

I do have some deep thoughts I want to share today, but first let’s do the Lickety update.

I got a new rug for our front hall, and didn’t immediately remove it from its box, so Lickety colonized it?

After seeing him curled up there for a few days, I added his pink blankie to make his ew favorite napping spot more comfy.

After I had to take possession of the rug, Lickety settled onto the packing paper, so we left it on the middle of the living room floor because CATS are the MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN OUR HOUSE:

I inserted his pink blankie again for the same reason as (above).

Yesterday morning there was a very fine sunbeam streaming into the living room and I noticed that Lickety had company:

That’ Lickety’s brother, Taffy. Before he got cancer, Lickety used to be much fatter than Taffy.

Five minutes later, Bibs got in on the sun bath:

Here’s the “deep” part of today’s blog post.

I think we can all agree that TIME got it 100% right this year. Let us all hail the future president of the world:

And you all probably know, the TIME cover came out the same day in which North Korea issued a fresh threat and a House committee set the stage for Trump’s impeachment, yet the shit stain that is the current US president found time to insult the 6-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg for being named Time’s Person of the Year, an honor he has coveted for years.

In a tweet that he sent to his 67 million followers Trump wrote:

“So ridiculous. Greta must work on her Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Greta, Chill!”

Classy, huh? Makes you proud to be American, huh?

Now, cast your minds back a week, to the testimony of Stanford Law School Professor Pamela Karlan to the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing, when she made a stupid little joke : “Contrary to what President Trump has said, Article 2 [of the Constitution] does not give him the power to do anything he wants. The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”

And the Republicans lost their minds, with Melanoma tweeting that: “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”

But those same people haven’t said a WORD about Trump trolling Greta Thunberg and I wonder why?

Because common decency would dictate that, as a society, we don’t condone an adult bullying a 16-year-old girl online. Because we know it’s wrong. Because we know if we had a daughter, we wouldn’t want her to be bullied by an adult. Much less an adult man. Much less one who is the President of the United States. (These are the words of Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor at Large)

Well, it’s just another Thursday in Trump’s America.



So let’s get to today’s deep thoughts (courtesy of YellowDogGranny and Hackwhakcers and every other website I randomly steal from):




















Have a great weekend, everyone. And remember, we’re approaching the solstice of light and love, so let’s open our hearts to each other this holiday season:

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I’m not asking about Life in Trump’s America, I’m asking about in your own, private, non-headline-news life. Because I have the least demanding life I know of (I, *cough* write for a living, at home with cats and plenty of tea, and I have zero kids so, really, I should have nothing to stress about ever) and still, I have to deal with bullshit on a daily basis.

One morning last week I stumbled into the kitchen at dawn for my wake-up cup of tea. While the water was heating up I checked my phone, which I usually leave on my desk in the den.  I discovered that someone had called and left a message the night before.

At 11:20 PM.

The message was from a woman I don’t know, calling about volunteering at the used book store that I manage out of the goodness of my heart for our local library.

I’m trying to be a better person these days. I’m trying to meditate and be compassionate and give people dignity (like it says in the book I’m reading) and to not assume everyone is an asshole whose purpose in life is to piss me off (like I do because I’m me). But who calls up a stranger at 11:20 PM to talk about becoming a volunteer bookseller?

An asshole, right?

So that pissed me off, and I hadn’t even heard the morning news about the latest Trump atrocity yet. And I hadn’t had my morning tea either. I don’t like to start the day like this, and it seems that I start a lot of days like this.

But I didn’t call this lady back and fill her in on how much I hate her, for two reasons: It takes too much effort, and I’m trying not to be a fight or flight kind of person who confronts every single instance of assholery in my life. I’m trying to send love from my heart to all those who annoy the crap out of me and thus become a more evolved and self-actualized person. Well, that’s what this meditation book promises. We’ll see.

But speaking of books, here’s this month’s most useless book that came in as a donation to the used book store that I manage for our local library here on the north shore of Long Island:

If you need a book in order to think of a name for your horse, maybe you aren’t smart enough to have a horse. I hear they are very intelligent animals and they require a lot of care. Naming a horse is the easiest part of having a horse.

It’s been a while since you’ve seen what a typical few days’ worth of book donations looks like. This is what I deal with every four or five days:

This pile of books was weirder than most because it contained some very specific tastes in reading. Such as:

Also, this:

Including this:

I don’t know. That seems like an awful lot of bookmarks for a book about polar bears.

In fact, all the bear books had little book marks stuck inside them, something I’ve only seen before in self-help books. Seems to me that these books about bears, mostly ones about polar bears, must have meant a lot to someone, obviously at some challenging phase in their life.

But no matter how lost you are, desperately grasping for meaning via polar bears, it would have been polite to remove those stickies before you made them my problem donated them to the library’s used book store.

Here’s a book that we in the used book store have absolutely no use for:

Not because sailboat racing rules are not a fascinating subject. It’s because, maybe as you can see in the photo, the book is, literally, filthy.

We can’t use this book (below) either (this time because the subject happens to be boring, sorry, Canada) but it had a killer cover and it made me happy, so I have to show it to you:

That’s enough of about books I can’t wait to throw out. Here’s the book about meditation that I hope will make me a better person:

This book comes highly recommended (by the Dali Lama, among others), and I’m determined to learn from it because in the near future I’m going to have a lot of free time on my hands and I can’t spend it being constantly pissed off. I need to find a way to have a spectacular Third Act, and I don’t want to read a lot of books about polar bears to find out how. I hope this one book will do it.

At this week’s board meeting of the Friends of the Library I turned in my notice. I’m closing the book store for the ChrisHanuKwanSolstice/New Year’s holiday on December 21, but I’m not coming back in January. I quit.

And it feels FANTASTIC.

In other news, our old cat, Lickety, is still with us, bless his darling little heart. I don’t know how he does it, since his cancer has made him skin and bones, but he is enjoying left over Thanksgiving turkey and, now and then, a sunbath in the back yard:
It’s hard for me, now,  to remember him as the cat he’d been for the 12 years before cancer:

Lickety is on my lap as I type this:

As weak and cancer-ridden as he is, Lickety is still as gentle and loving as he was when he was  fat and healthy . I think there is definitely something deep and meaningful about his life, and we could all learn from him.

But then, we all know that cats are deep and meaningful creatures:

Here are some more life thoughts to get you through the day”


Have a great weekend, everyone. And if telling us about an recent incident of bullshittery in your life helps you get the ball rolling on a joyful TGIF, please feel free to share in the Comments.

Here’s you political righteousness for the day:












I miss Obama more every single damn day.


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