May 24, 2005

Apple Crumble/Apple Cake Recipe

Here's a recipe that everyone I've made it for has enjoyed (PS if you substitute an egg for the cream you will get Apple Cake)

Apple Crumble/Apple Cake

Ingredients: 2 Tbs cream (OR 1 egg)
1/2 C vegetable oil
1 C brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (the real stuff not imitation)
1 C flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 C apples peeled, cored, diced or sliced
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour an 8" by 8" cake pan
2) In a mixing bowl beat cream and oil (or egg and oil) until creamy then add sugar and vanilla and beat well
3) In a large measuring cup, measure out flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix them together with a spoon. Slowly add this to oil and sugar mixture until combined. The batter will be very thick. Fold in apples and nuts (if desired) by hand using a wooden spoon. Spread batter into cake pan.
4) Bake at 350 F for 45-55 min or until top is crispy brown and cake yields downward with pressure. Cool and serve directly from the pan, with or without whipped cream. Cake version may be turned out onto wire rack and frosted when cool.
5) WARNING: This is a small dessert and very delicious...will not serve a crowd of more than six adults or six hungry children though the recipe claims to feed 12!

Posted by pamwagg at 05:00 PM | Comments (1)

May 20, 2005

Update on book

Well, everyone, we're down to the final stretch with the book and things are loooking mighty promising. I just got the galleys yesterday, which are uncorrected proofs of the book itself, basically an uncorrected version that looks like a paperback, which is sent out to reviewers and bookbuyers etc so they can see it and read it and perhaps put in advanced orders for it. At least that's what I've gathered, though all this is very new to me, as new as it probably it to all of you.

We got a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which was apparently a coveted thing, since not many books get a star (I feel like a first grader crowing about my red star!) and they wrote that the book was "a harrowing but arresting memoir" (or perhaps it was the reverse).

Then the other news is that the New York Times has asked us to submit a LIVES column for their Sunday magazine (a one-time deal). The Reader's Digest is doing a long interview over a few days in mid-June for an article to come out in their "on-the-stands-in-September" issue
(October). MORE magazine wants an excerpt. The documentary filmmaker who has been following us around is coming up in June for her final footage...and so on. Needless to say, we've been busy. And I foolishly thought that once the book was done, the work would be done!

AH, but I suppose it's an enviable dilemma to be in. My only problem is limited energy and fear, and wanting to stop medication so I can do more...BUT I WON'T, I PROMISE! I know I need to stay sane and the only way I can is to take every damn one of the more than 16 pills prescribed me. So everyone of them goes down my throat, come high water or hades.

In any event, things are certainly getting exciting, and I'm enjoying myself. And that's the news.

Posted by pamwagg at 09:03 AM | Comments (2)

May 17, 2005

Poems for collection


First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma
and steel-tipped boots,
your blue collar misunderstandings.

Do not assume meanings hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.

To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
and trust.

Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later on it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.

Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true
doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.

When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don't even notice,
close this manual.

You can now read poetry.

*new version



(For the victims of 9/11/2001)

I wasn’t there, I’m sorry.
I would have helped if I could
but I was at home watching television,
eating a tuna fish sandwich or orange sherbet.
I was answering the phone, opening the mail.
I was still in bed, asleep.
My life is still quiet. Mostly I stay in.
I solve crossword puzzles, I read,
I play with the cat.
If I don’t go out often
I do sometimes long for company.
I guess you know what that’s like now—
the hunger that starts deep in your fingertips
and penetrates to your bones,
how much you can ache
for the touch of some other human being.
Ah, but here I am telling you my troubles
as if they compared to yours.
You see, that’s what happens
when you haven’t survived such awfulness.
I didn’t feel the weight of calamity on my skin
I didn’t taste the smoke
or hear the frightened
cry. I didn’t see anything
but what the cameras packaged
for my little screen.
I wasn’t there. I can never understand.
You must accept this: you are alone
with your terrible particular knowledge.
It is yours, a burden
I cannot share
I’m sorry. I’m sorry—
I wasn’t there.



Be fat and green and still,
little jade Buddha of my heart,
broken by love in my thirteenth summer.
Is it possible to want nothing more
than to want nothing more perfectly?
Smoke of sandalwood rising dreamy
amid the burn of tallow candles,
flowers of white light
fractured into color, pomegranates
globed and teeming – maya --
to not want all this?
And if I one day wake, not
wanting anymore what I thought I always
wanted, let me not contemn
the lush seductions of commerce
and the useful body. For the world,
it seems, is always too much,
its prescient polar looming
a dream of shifting green water,
snow blown hard against the door.



We've learned to hear them, haven't we,
the sounds of silence in subway graffiti,
in a Zen hand clapping,
and on the railway trestle
over the Shunpike Thruway, in names
we’ve seen a hundred times
without hearing,
which, according to physicists,
doesn't matter: a tree falls in the forest
and bodies vibrate -- leaves,
loam, the rush of air filling the space
left behind: sound.

Thirty-five years ago,
when words came between us,
my father stopped speaking to me,
his lockjaw shunning so brutal, so righteous,
those years I still endured the holidays
I detoured my requests for salt, the gravy,
to the next person down the table,
aware of the lightning-struck air,
the dangerous thrum,
his silence telegraphing: All
visits cancelled. Stop.
Do not come home.

The earth sings, yes,
but not necessarily for us
which is what mattered yesterday
on my half-mile last lap
when I heard a father bellow
at his small daughter, the caustic scald
pumped clear through a half-open
“Listen, young lady, when I say no,
I mean no. Do you hear me?”
And she, flaming up, scorched,
helpless: “I hate you! I hate you!”
as if her utterance,
like the bottlenose dolphin’s,
were enough to stun, deafen, kill.

And what, finally,
of my own father’s silence?
Beneath the relatives’ gossip
at the Thanksgiving table
where we gathered together
came his jokes like winter roses --
first fruits for the rest of the family
for me, outside the family pale,
forever beyond the kingdom
and the power
just withered mustard roses
tossed like so much shmutz
upon the rotting snow.



Men once burned for less.
To say the earth was like an orange
or an eyeball -- the very idea of it
threatened souls.
And who wanted a globular world
where there was no true center,
where one latitude led to another
until you met yourself coming home, where
huge unspeakable intimacies were not

And if the entire landscape of Christendom
felt menaced, is it any wonder
when his sister informs him
the world is round
two year old Oliver races to the kitchen
burying his face in his mother’s side
afraid to let go, certain the ground,
suddenly tentative beneath his feet,
won’t hold on?

Seven year old Hannah’s not so sure
she believes it either,
the fact so contrary to common sense.
It’s obvious the planet’s like a table,
or a plate on the table
of the universe: go far enough
and you’ll reach that steep edge
where you teeter, toes clinging
to dirt that crumbles underneath,
praying lest you pitch headlong
and drown in deep sky.



(for Lynn L)

The buff-bellied hummingbird nested
on a Rio Grande housewife’s clothespin
might not mind a poem, though,
if her nest is left unmolested
till the tablet eggs hatch out safely
and her brood is fledged,
so I’ll say, l’chaim,
and this one’s for the bird,
lest I unduly burden the unnamed friend
of 70+ years and a birthday approaching
who well deserves a poem
but might view being given one
like a social phobic shaking hands or a hug.
I should know.
And should I prove I’m huggable
if she can tolerate being versed?
Or would we be denying each the need to be
the person she is: the same
as she was yesterday?
But that’s not need, just habit --
and sometimes habits, like desire and memory
mix badly, breeding not lilacs but ruts
when shaking things up's the only thing to do,
doing what's needful only, since change
is the only thing that never changes.
If I the unhuggable who never shakes
a hand, if I embrace my friend,
for whom poetry’s impenetrable,
a for-the-birds waste of verbiage,
will she accept this gift from me,
though it’s (horrors!)
a poem?



Sometimes when I’ve spent hours rushing somewhere
and just as many hours rushing back
I like to make myself stop ten minutes from home
ten minutes short of where I can put my feet up
finally, and get out at the road’s edge
stretch like a cat and ask myself where I am
going and where have I been and why
am I hurrying just to get it over with, or is there no point
to this day but in the ending of it?
Ten minutes, this pause
wrenched out of the rush by the roadside
getting the kinks out, lets me hear the sudden quiet
of my own thoughts
as the out-of-doors pours in and gives me pause.
What have I been doing all day
racing, rushing, wasting my time all day
for what, to get what over with?
Better to have rested more along the way,
to have seen, to have been, to have watched, listened
to have paid attention
than to have beeped and swerved so much
sped and sweated in bottlenecks
and cursed the traffic for what could neither be avoided
nor its fault, being its nature.
Where had I been all day
in my hurrying to get home, but on my way
along the only way there was: mine.
Oh, but I should have known better--
how all homes are but temporary shelter:
a roadside or leafy park bench,
a ramshackle timber lean-to --
each a place to rest as good as any mansion
ten minutes away. Ten mere minutes from home
the roadside beckoned with saffron mustard sprigs,
sprays of Bouncing Bet. I was too much in a hurry,
no time to pay attention, so nearly home.
Oh, but I should have known better--
There are times and places we must stop
or we pay the rest of our lives.

Posted by pamwagg at 05:16 PM | Comments (1)

May 15, 2005

Befriending a spider

You can interpret this entry metaphorically or read it for what it is:

I am trying to befriend a spider that traveled, so I believe, in on a pants leg from Dinosaur Park and has taken up precarious residence in my apartment.

At first it was a matter of not simply reaching out instinctively with an Ugh and squashing it, but of gently flicking it away to where, out of sight being out of mind, it blended in better with the rug fiber and could not be seen.

Next, it was the deliberate -- and I say deliberate because it was scary, took effort and fortitude -- attempt to look it in the face, to actually stare at it long enough to see it had a pale salmon-colored body with dark horizontal bars and black-tipped legs.

And finally there was the genuine, if still somewhat mixed, pleasure when she (do he-spiders build webs or do anything much at all?) started spinning a web between my lamp and my bulletin board! Alas, I am not an experienced spider-watcher and so I forgot that I might frighten her if I moved my teacup away from the hub of all her orb-building activity (being unwilling at the time to sacrifice it to her endeavors) and so I scared her and she scurried away under the staper in fright.

I spent long minutes then looking up spiders in my Insects books to find out what sort of creature I was housing, only to discover that spiders ain't insects are all, they're arachnids, as any fool can tell you and while I was reading up on my unnamed friend she, or he, scurried away to places unseen.

Posted by pamwagg at 06:49 AM | Comments (1)

May 09, 2005

Another True Story

I was in third grade and the Art Teacher was to choose 4 students for Special Art, which was a coveted class every Friday afternoon that took the Chosen out of social studies and let them experiment with oil paints and copper enameling and real clay. I was dying to be one of them, but I didn't know how to prove to Art Teacher that I deserved to be among those chosen.

I knew that artists were nonconformists. That they used colors in unconventional ways, because there was a pastel picture of me in the hallway at home with blue and green in my face that Mommy said an artist had drawn when I was young. I didn't like it, because it looked funny, but I knew that artists saw things in funny ways because of it.

I also knew that artists dressed weirdly, in wild costumes and turbans and lots of gold jewelry and big rings. Our art teacher didn't look like that at all; she dressed in beige, beige pants, beige blouses, brown shoes, brown hair...everything about her was noncommittal. That should have been the first clue, but it wasn't.

On the day we were to be tested, I was ready with my brand new crayons and white paper. And when Art Teacher put Peter and the Wolf on the record player and told us to draw what it made us feel, I knew exactly what to do. I knew that I shouldn't draw big black figures and color inside the lines, because true artists didn't need lines, and unlike Gareth who was drawing cars as usual I wanted to draw something about the music. What, what, what?

Then I had it. I'd draw the wolf sniffing Peter as it nosed out of the woods. I freed my arm and started scrawling in long strokes, letting the music guide me, not worrying about the lines and colors going exactly where they should. I wanted to let the wolf emerge, not cage him up in my drawing.

When the music ended, I handed in my drawing barely able to look at what I'd drawn. I was certain the art teacher would see my talent and applaud my effort to free the artist inside and let the wolf out of the paper. I was sure she'd see how I'd used different colors in weird ways just like a real artist would. I was certain I had Special Art in the bag.

The following week the four names were to be announced. I wriggled in my seat, eager to hear. Art teacher said, "Jane C." Well, that was understandable. Jane, like me, was good at everything, though I found her a little too obedient to the rules. Then the second name: "Rachel." Huh? Who'd a thought of Rachel getting into Special Art? But maybe they just wanted to give her a chance to shine qat something. The third name was also anticipatable. Then the fourth name...I waited. I knew my name would be announced now. Who else deserved it more? I waited and waited, whispering it to myself. Then the teacher coughed, as if she'd lost her place in the list and had just found it again. "Gareth G."

Gareth?? But he drew cars! He drew black outlines of cars and slavishly filled them in with colors! Not like any artist would. His pictures were just like a regular third grader's, nothing special at all! I could feel the tears starting but swore I wouldn't give in and cry. Special Art wasn't worth it, not if you had to draw outlines of cars to get in. I'd learned a lesson and it was not how to be an artist, it was simply how to get into special art classes that had nothing to do with Art.

Posted by pamwagg at 11:44 AM | Comments (1)

May 05, 2005

Voices Again

Had a harrowing episode the other day that I handled badly, largely because I fell back into old patterns, old ways of thinking that are hard, even now, to dismiss as erroneous wrong-think. What happened was that I was sitting in the car, passenger side, alone, smoking a cigarette, when the workmen on a building site nearby seemed to start talking about me, whispering nasty things about me to each other about "that fatso" down there smoking a "goddam cigarette" in the middle of the day when I should be working like they were and so on. Then they started talking TO me, calling me a "fat ass lazy bum" and other insults and finally, so it seemed to me, they started threatening me with their nail gun or staple gun and shooting it at me as a warning for me to get out of there or they were coming after me.

Well, I smashed out my cigarette and dashed out of the lot and around the corner out of sight, but I was still in danger, because I was on view of all sorts of people, so I finally ran up the stairs of Dr O's office and took refuge in her waiting room, where I had an appointment in half an hour anyway. My hands were tingling, my heart was racing, my breaths were coming in short spurts like I had run a race -- all because of the terror I'd felt in the parking lot when the workmen starting talking about me.

Now, several days later, and calmer, I can think more clearly about the situation and perhaps analyse it from a distance. Were they talking to me, about me, threatening me? It certainly sounded that way, and I KNOW that nail or staple gun was no hallucination. That was just too loud and too real! But as Dr O asked me at the time, did I see their lips moving when they spoke? No, I wasn't watching them, I was too busy looking away in order NOT to be visible, in order to seem uninterested. So no, I don't know for certain that what I heard was actually said, or was a hallucination. It's also possible that something was said, but it wasn't the words I heard, that my brain superimposed the words it heard on top of their very different conversation, a hallucination, I suppose, of another sort.

Nevertheless, I still want to complain, BUT...But it was real. But I really heard it. But it came from them, not from my brain, honest to god! How could it not be real? And what about the nail gun, what does your theory say about that one???

Dr O wanted to test things, she wanted to go outside with me and see what she heard compared with what I heard, and let me know the difference. Unfortunately, we had other business we had to attend to and the session ended before we had any opportunity.

So I don't know for certain what Dr O would have said, but I suspect she'd either consign the gun to the same hallucination bin, or tell me that there was indeed a nail gun going, but that it had nothing to do with me, that they were building a house and needed to nail boards together.

I'm left in limbo, nonetheless. I know what I'm supposed to believe, that the experience wasn't real, that it came from my brain and was a construction of it, a "mere" hallucination, not real sounds at all. Yet I also know what I heard and what bodily reactions it elicited from me, which it doesn't seem possible something that wasn't even real could do. So, I'm halfway there. Maybe even more than that. But I need to get myself to the point where I can believe Dr O at least after the fact, and better, understand and believe her while it is happening, so I no longer respond with terror to something that is fundamentally only a ghost, literally a figment of the imagination, no more.

Posted by pamwagg at 04:58 PM | Comments (1)

May 03, 2005

A Short but True Story

Dr G had an awful lot of exercise machines, it seemed to me. There were machines for skiing and machines for running, machines for rowing and even a machine like a bicycle for biking without going anywhere.

The G's lived next door to us and Gareth, their son, was my age, give or take the nine, ten months head start he had on me. We used to play in his cellar, but were forbidden, ever, to use his father's exercise equipment, though we were dying to. It all looked like so much fun, running in place, rowing without water, skiing without snow? It was so silly it HAD to be fun. We always wondered why Dr G never seemed to want to use the many machines he had collected, and why he had forbidden us to use them when we did want to.

One morning when we were six or so, we gave in to temptation, and tried every machine. They were much harder to operate than we expected. We could barely budge the running machine and the rower took the two of us to work just one oar. I tried the bicycle last, the best and easiest. And it was. I managed to make it work and soon got both pedals flying, even though I had to stand up to do so. Then, disaster: I tried to stop, realized the pedals had a life of their own, and I had to jump off while they whirled on.

I landed in a heap, glad to be in one piece, no broken bones, but when I looked at my left knee I saw a small but deep gash, one that I knew I was going to need help with, at least a butterfly bandage if not a stitch or two. I couldn't just sneak a bandaid out of the medcine cabinet and hide it.

Glumly, I trudged home, knowing I was in trouble. My mother was in the kitchen. She saw me come in and sensed something was wrong. "Honey, what's up?" she said, crouching to my height and taking my hands.

"I cut my knee!" I wailed, hoping my distress would keep her from asking how I did it.

It worked. She took my hand and led me to the bathroom where she soothingly washed the cut and applied a butterfly bandage she cut out of adhesive tape. "Feel better, sweetheart?" she asked. I nodded. "How about a cup of pea soup?"

Yum, my favorite! Things were looking brighter and brighter. I was almost out of the woods and began breathing again. Then:

"But, Honey, how did you get such a bad cut?" Mommy asked, tender concern in her voice.

Oh, I couldn't lie, I never could. I tried to fudge the truth sometimes, yes, but only with a vague version of the real truth. and so that's what I did now. "I fell off a bike," I offered warily.

"I see," she said. She was silent a while, and I hoped she'd leave it there. but no, not my mom. "But not your bike? Whose bike was it then?"

"It was at Gareth's" I was still fudging, but not quite lying.

"At Gareth's. But it wasn't Gareth's bike?"

I bit my lips, trying not to cry. What could I say? How could I explain? Dr G had expressly forbidden us to use those machines, and now look what happened!

"I hurt myself on Dr G's bicycle that goes nowhere!" I finally blurted out. "I don't know why he doesn't ride it, or why it doesn't go anywhere, or why he keeps it in the cellar instead of outside where he could feel the air even if it stays in one place and it seems to silly to ski without snow and row without water and to bike without going anywhere..."

"Honey, honey, honey, you're all right. You don't understand these things yet, but one day you will. Now I fixed your knee. Will you promise me to stay away from Dr G's machines from now on? If you do I promise I won't tell. Bargain?"

I nodded eagerly. And from then on, all my riding was outside and took me somewhere. I never went near that dreaded exercycle again.

Posted by pamwagg at 04:46 PM | Comments (1)