They say nirvana is a state of perfect serenity; the highest happiness. Some believe it is impossible to achieve, but the truth is quite the contrary.
It began some years ago at Utopia, bazaar of sorts once described as ‘a bunch of weird people doing weird things.’ Sister Madly was in the middle of one of those weird things* when Management announced that Utopia would be hosting Tibetan Monks from an unpronounceable Buddhist monastery, who would be making a Sand Mandala at the store.
* Washing soap (don’t ask…)
Naturally this announcement came with a lot of unnecessary protocol, which ranged from limiting the music to Tibetan Chants, to locking the store’s mascot- a fat cat named Sinner- in the basement lest he turn the Mandala into his personal litter box; and while they did not forbid the employees from eating meat, Management strongly encouraged them to not eat it in the presence of the Monks as they were strictly vegan.
They wanted the week-long event to be a completely ‘spiritual’ experience.
Now Sister Madly has a confession to make: she does not like leafy green things. At all. She likes them on the trees, sure, and feeding them to the garbage disposal delights her to no end, but personally consuming them guarantees a night chock-full of healthy nightmares. She might be able to maintain this strongly-suggested vegan facade for a few hours a day, if not hallucinate while trying- which could be fun, now that she thinks about it…
And so the day came when the Monks from the Unpronounceable Buddhist Monastery arrived on their doorstep in saffron robes and buckets of sand, signifying the start of Sister Madly’s 8 Hours-a-Day Vegan Charade- the thought of just pretending to like leafy green things was enough to send her into fits. Indeed, the Road to Enlightenment is a twisted one.
It was on Thursday that nirvana was finally realized. Management had run off to another mysterious business meeting, leaving behind a long list weird to-do’s (wash candles, inventory all defective sparkle beads, etc) and a note stating that there was a snack plate* in the fridge in case the Monks felt ‘peckish.’
*…if one can call grass-clippings and spongy white things on toothpicks ‘snacks’…
However, the Monks from the Unpronounceable Buddhist Monastery were not the slightest bit interested in the Snack Plate; no, they wanted Chinese food from the restaurant across the street. With considerable effort, Sister Madly broke through that language barrier to find that they wanted 8 orders of Steamed Dumplings and 8 orders of Kung Pao Pork, which is slightly incompatible with a ‘strict vegan lifestyle.’
But then, who is she to judge?
There was some hesitation on the part of Victor, who felt that by calling in this order he would be contributing to the corruption of their humble souls. So Sister Madly made the call, and merrily launched the Monks down the path of sin.
It turned out that the Monks were no strangers to transgression: not only were they avid fans of meat -pork, no less- they also had email, a cell phone each, played a wicked game of ping pong,* and would routinely break from Sand Mandala-ing to challenge the kids on the street to skateboard races (albeit through an interpreter.)
*And billiards. And badminton. And volleyball. It was quite unfair, really.
Yes, when Management’s away, the Monks will play. They released Sinner from the basement, fed him massive amounts of pork, and took an immediate- if not unfortunate- liking the Miami Vice soundtrack. But the highlight of this monastic skullduggery was the moment Sister Madly broke out the ultimate forbidden fruit:
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said that music is the universal language of mankind; yet there is another phenomenon that transcends all cultures and dialects: the wide-eyed, giddy wonder of experiencing Pop Rocks for the very first time, and the numbing bliss that immediately follows.
The highest happiness.
A state of perfect serenity.
MADEIRA LAMB STEW
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- baby carrots
- baby potatoes, cubed
- cipollini or pearl onions, peeled
- 1 lb lamb, cubed
- 1 cup Madeira wine, divided (1/4 cup + remaining)
- 4 cups beef or lamb stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp thyme
- 2 tsp rosemary
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire
- 1 tbsp Dijon
- salt and pepper, to taste
In Dutch oven, brown lamb on all sides; set aside
Saute chopped onion until translucent, adding oil if needed; 5 min
Add garlic and carrots; saute 3-5 min
Add bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme; saute until fragrant; 30 secs
Deglaze with 1/4 cup Madeira wine; bring to a simmer
Add lamb, potatoes, cipollinis, and mushrooms; stir until coated
Add stock, Worcestershire, and remaining wine; bring to a boil
Reduce heat; cover
Simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat and veggies are tender; 1-1.5 hours
Uncover; simmer to reduce and thicken (if desired)
Add Dijon; mix thoroughly
Remove bay leaves before serving
THEME SONG: Happy Together, the Turtles
When she was young, Sister Madly thought her looks were ordinary; she couldn’t understand how people even recognized her. There was nothing special about her hair or her eyes, she was short, and her nose was simply there- in other words, she was that typical, run-of-the-mill moppet that couldn’t be distinguished from any other.
In fact, her looks so ordinary, it practically made her invisible.*
* She could, however, throw a tantrum of epic proportions, which would render her invisibility temporarily null and void.
Now invisibility had its perks: she could make faces at passing strangers, not eat her vegetables, even get away with murder (once she figured out what murder was and why she would want to get away with it) all without consequence. Of course, Sister Madly would grow up being overlooked and trampled underfoot, a plight for which her mother must have some secret sympathy, enough at least to compel her to buy her daughter the mercury she’d been begging for the past week.
At is turned out, her mother hadn’t much sympathy at all, which left Sister Madly sulking in the basement with a coloring book and not an ounce of mercury to her name (nor a hammer- one simply cannot play with mercury without a hammer!) She wasn’t completely heartless, though, as she invited Serafina over in hopes of cheering Sister Madly out of her no-mercury funk.
After getting the Hula Hoop stuck in a tree yet again (a favorite pastime in the Madliverse*) the girls wandered down to the corner party store for candy cigarettes, which naturally resulted in the two deciding to cut their own hair. Serafina’s decimated lock ended up being easily tucked behind her ear, but Sister Madly’s- well, her lock stuck straight up in the back, much like the fuse on a cartoon bomb.
* Not so much for the Pater Madly, who had to retrieve said Hula Hoop.
The impromptu makeover was not a particular blow to her vanity, as Sister Madly lacked a certain awareness at that age. Surely the Mater Madly would agree that this ‘new do’ was an improvement, as Sister Madly was sporting a rather unflattering pixie cut* at the time.
* Aka, a ‘Dorothy Hamill,’ named after the only individual on the planet who could pull off such a style.
As it turned out, the ‘new do’ was as subtle as a brick through the window. There was a lengthy lecture that evening, during which the Parental Madlys explained exactly why they didn’t want their daughter personally modifying her pint-sized physique: she could harm herself, it wasn’t a necessity in order to survive, and heaven knows she wasn’t doing it for a worthy cause. It would grow back, sure, it was only hair- but it was only hair this time. They didn’t want to know what would happen next time, and sought to discourage further experimentation before Sister Madly emerged from the basement one Sunday afternoon with various piercings and badly executed tattoos.
The Mater Madly was particularly frustrated: not only were Sister Madly’s class pictures upcoming, she was also to be in her cousin’s wedding the following weekend.
Still, Sister Madly didn’t see why they made such a fuss; she was invisible, after all. Had her mother been in a slightly less end-of-the-world frame of mind, Sister Madly would have pointed out the likelihood of her pictures turning out blank- it is impossible to photograph the invisible, that’s just common sense. She also would’ve suggested that Tallulah take her place in the wedding- Sister Madly wasn’t exactly sure what a wedding was or its purpose, but her mother made it sound important, and her cousin would probably want a flower girl who could be photographed.
About a week after the wedding, the pictures revealed something rather shocking: Sister Madly was clearly visible in the photos, right down to the wispy, fuse-of-the-bomb hairdo. While initially perplexed by this development, the answer was suddenly so obvious that she felt silly for not recognizing it: Sister Madly, you see, was invisible to the world, not to herself. Therefore, just as she could see herself in a mirror, she would be able to see herself in a photo. No doubt her class picture would reflect the same.
This is the rationale that has sustained her into adulthood. Logic is a dying art.
CURRIED SUMAC PULLED CHICKEN
- Ghee/Oil for sauteing
- 1 1/2- 2 cups chicken stock
- 6 boneless chicken thighs, whole
- 2 sweet onions, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp dried parsley
- 2 tsp curry powder (used Japanese Curry)
- 1½ – 2 tsp Harissa
- 1½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- salt to taste
Saute onions until caramelized; 45-50 minutes
Add garlic; saute 3 minutes
Add spices; saute 30 secs
Add chicken; stir to coat
Add stock; bring to a boil
Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes
Shredded chicken w/2 forks in sauce
Simmer to reduce/thicken (if needed)
Let stand 2 minutes; serve
THEME SONG: Invisible, U2
Image 4.) Anna Spencer Photography
Now Sister Madly knows better than to believe every rumor that crosses her path; otherwise, she would be locked in the pantry, wailing in sackcloth over the fact that the world did not end in 2012. However, when the Professor cited an article that claimed Stilton Cheese has been known to induce dreams, she was most intrigued.
The idea of vivid dreams was like catnip to the starry-eyed moppet, as her sleep has been rather dreary as of late: even Rambunctious Shadow Kitty has been tame these last few weeks. A dream of epic proportions would be a welcome change to the recent nights of intermittent insomnia: dreams of travel, of sparkly things, of encounters with legendary creatures- anything that deviated from the current ritual of staring up at the ceiling fan at 3 AM would be greatly appreciated.
There was, of course, the possibility that she would end up with equally vivid nightmares, in which case Sister Madly would spend the rest of the night with her eyes propped open with toothpicks.
But that is the risk one assumes when dabbling with Stilton Cheese.*
* Along with the most atrocious morning breath. Indeed, it is not a Cheese of Romance.
So to ensure a night of unparalleled adventures in slumberland, Sister Madly decided to hit up the local Stilton-Dealing demimonde: the neighborhood grocer.
It’s quite sci-fi, really, the way the supermarket doors slide apart before her. She has long-since perfected her majestic stride, parading in and out of the market like a demented Grand Vizier- until that afternoon, that is, when the doors slid apart with all the speed and enthusiasm of continental drift.
Which Sister Madly failed to notice until it was all too late.
After the usual bout of stars and bluebirds circling about her head, the first thing she saw was a pair of bacon socks and bear claw slippers standing before her. Further on up, the celestial vision gave way to the wool skirt and orange poncho of the jolly transient who collects bottles from bins and feeds granola to the pigeons. He was particularly chipper that day, having just heard of a possible 5¢ bottle deposit increase, and was eager to tell Sister Madly all about it.
He then mentioned that the doors were defective as of late, and she should take care when challenging their position.
Once inside, she made her way over to the cheese counter, where she effectively avoided all staff due to the glossy ‘don’t even try talking to me’ veneer inherent in all feral Sister Madly’s. Unfortunately, the market was rather limited on their selection of Stilton; but then, certain American proprietors are rather skittish when it comes to unconventional cheeses.*
* Especially in regards to that cheese infested with maggots– seriously, Italy, that is so uncool.
While the cutesy little sign recommended a cheeky wine pairing for foodies and romantics alike, there was no advice on protocol for inducing dreams (how unthoughtful!) Apparently, dream-seekers were completely on their own when pursuing a round of nocturnal adventures.
And yet, this revelation was nothing compared to the terror Sister Madly endured when confronted by the mother of all social horrors:
The self-checkout was gone.
There is a reason that the gods created self-checkout, just as they created texting, single-passenger cars, and carrier pigeons: to pass their divine blessing upon lovely, antisocial behavior.
You know what this means, don’t you? Sister Madly has to talk to people!
And she has to talk to them about a wedge of stinky cheese.
Now this was a high-risk scenario: would the cashier deny Sister Madly this cheese knowing she was using it for recreational purposes? Were there guidelines on how to consume this delicacy for maximum dream lucidity? Is she allowed crackers? Cured meats? Some people put Stilton in a port wine sauce; however, Sister Madly wasn’t too keen on the idea of drinking her cheese- that all but guaranteed unforgivable nightmares. And what about the rind? Was there a certain magic contained within that outer layer?
But these questions answered themselves when Sister Madly woke the next morning, all tangled in bed sheets and with the world’s most terrifying bed-head.
There had been a dream, all right, one of a plucky Sister Madly sticking pins in ginger root as though it was a voodoo doll, all the while singing ‘All I Have to Do is Dream’ to her pet pinecone (affectionately named, ‘Pinecone.’) There was a vague awareness that the constellation Sagittarius was being held hostage by a man named Doug, but this was of no consequence as Sister Madly was a Gemini.
In other words, your run-of-the-mill dream. So disappointing.
TUNISIAN VEGETABLE SOUP
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 garlic gloves, minced
- 8 oz. mushrooms, quartered
- Sweet potato, cubed
- Rainbow carrots, chopped
- Celery, sliced
- 1 cup pearl couscous, uncooked (opt)
- 6-8 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1-2 tbsp Harissa, to taste
- 1 tbsp Ras el Hanout
- 1 tbsp coriander
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cardamom powder
- 1/4 cinnamon powder
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Oil, for sauteing
Saute onion and garlic until translucent; 5-8 min
Add carrots and celery; saute 3-5 min
Add spices, tomato paste, and harissa; mix
Add potatoes and mushrooms; stir to coat
Add stock and bring to a boil
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25-30 min, stirring occasionally
Add couscous (if using)
Cover and simmer until couscous is cooked; 8-10 min
THEME SONG: All I Have to Do is Dream, Everly Brothers
Is like a Strong Wind:
It Tears from Us All but That
Which Cannot be Torn
So that We may
As We Really Are.
~ Arthur Golden
2.) Markus Weggässer
3.) We Heart It
5.) We Heart It
When One Tugs at
A Single Thing in Nature ~
One Finds it Connected
To the Rest of the World.
~ John Muir
The Bialbero di Casorzo – the Double Tree of Casorzo – in Piedmont, Italy, consists of a Cherry Tree growing atop a Mulberry Tree. Also called Epiphytes, large ‘double-trees’ are a rarity as they require root connection to the ground, often through the hollow trunk of its host.
1) Giulio Colla
3) Enzo Isaiah
Only a Poet
Or a Madman ~
Can Water the Asphalt
And Expect Lilies to Grow.
~ W. Somerset Maugham (paraphrased)
The Professor wasn’t buying it.
“That’s the Internet Movie DataBase.”
Well Sister Madly, it seems you’ve been outed. When one risks a lie without first checking its credibility, there is always a chance that some potato-toting PhD will call your bluff.
Over time, Sister Madly has seen the pub crowd immerse themselves in a variety of crazes- the worst of these being the Settlers of Catan, a game which allows the common man to dabble in the cutthroat world of land re-zoning and development. Seriously, Catan Fandom is terrifying; people have made pizzas based on that game.
But second only to the Catan Fandom is the Cult of Personality.
It began a several years ago, when the Professor returned from the holy land* bearing more than the usual gifts of unsolicited advice and potatoes. It appears that, while searching for whatever it is one searches for on the internet late at night, the Professor had uncovered the divinely inspired texts of something called MBTI, and was an instant convert.
Now there are many lovely individuals who dabble in this MBTI without it inhibiting their ability to function in their everyday lives. The Cult of Personality, however, won’t even poach an egg without telling you precisely:
- how their type will do so
- whether or not their type will feel remorse for the egg
- whether or not their type will feel remorse for the chicken that laid said egg
- whether or not their type will struggle with the ethics of eating the egg they heartlessly stole from the chicken
- whether or not their type with convert to veganism as a result
MBTI, after all, advocates life-changing self-awareness and self-knowledge.
Unfortunately, the Cult seems far less interested in understanding their behavior than they are in justifying it. They behave a certain way because quite frankly, MBTI says that they do, rendering them absolutely powerless to do anything about it. Oh, pooh.
“It provides the framework not only to understand others, but to understand yourself and why you do things the way you do…”
A noble sentiment, O’ Beholder of a PhD, but Sister Madly would rather pursue the answers to the important questions of life, such as the origins of the universe, or who let the dogs out. Besides, she already understands what lies behind her increasingly anti-social behavior. For example: she put Sriracha in your whiskey because you annoyed her. Sister Madly is really not that complicated.
Now one doesn’t simply convert to the Cult through proselytizing alone; one has to take a test, which can now be done anytime and anywhere due to the cheeky invention known as the Smart Phone. The fella who invented that has a lot to answer for, should he and Sister Madly ever meet.
Not only is it common knowledge that Sister Madly doesn’t have a Smart Phone, there are legends surrounding just how remarkably inept she is in using one, the most recent of these being how Sister Madly set a GPS, only to have it lead them all to an abandoned silo off an old logging road. And that’s the cheerful part of the story.
So it came to pass the other night that Sister Madly found herself- most unwillingly- at the pub, with an MBTI test on the Professor’s phone and specific instructions not to leave the bar until she had a result.
After nearly an hour of swiping screens, pushing nonexistent buttons, accidentally taking pictures of her thumb and displaying a vast array of colorful vocabulary, she had that result:
Now Sister Madly knows what you’re all thinking: that’s 8 letters too many. And you’d be correct, except that Sister Madly didn’t take a traditional MBTI test; she took one entitled Which Cthulhu Mythos Deity Are You? and was rather pleased with the result.
At once the Professor was expressing doubts over the validity of this test. MBTI was all about cognitive functions, such as thinking vs. feeling-
Well, so was her Mythos Test, O Bringer of Potatoes. Sister Madly was asked if she preferred to control the masses by driving them mad, or simply by eating them*- and you know how Sister Madly favors madness. In fact, judging by the steam wafting from your ears, Sister Madly is clearly driving you insane at this very moment.
* It is worth mentioning that, had Sister Madly been hungry at the time, she would have preferred eating the masses, rather than driving them mad.
True, Sister Madly managed to venture away from the Professor’s MBTI test, and quite deliberately (she’s remarkably stubborn as well) but that doesn’t mean the Mythos result was inaccurate; far from it.
Allow Sister Madly to explain:
NYARLATHOTEP is a Shape-Shifter.
SHAPE-SHIFTERS take on many different personas.
IMDB is a Database of Actors.
ACTORS take on many different personas.
Therefore: NYARLATHOTEP = IMDB
Now, since all personas fall into one of the 1,636.72* different personality types outlined by MBTI, and since IMDB is a database of actors who either have or portray those personality types, Sister Madly’s original assessment of IMDB- and, consequently, Nyarlathotep- is both accurate and correct.
* Number approximate.
And if that doesn’t suffice, Professor, there are other 4-letter words in her arsenal…
THEME SONG: Cult of Personality, Living Colour
What you Hide
In your Heart
Can be Seen
In Your Eyes.
~ Arabic Proverb
Evokes the Mystery ~
Without which the World
Would not Exist.
~ Rene Magritte
1.) Michael Freeman Photography
2.) RONI Photography
3.) Michael Freeman Photography
The Important Thing
Is not to
Has its own Reason
~ Albert Einstein
1.) Gerald Rhemann
3.) Michael Shainblum
4.) Dave Lane
5.) Sapna Reddy Photography
The Great Lesson
Is that the Sacred
Is in the Ordinary ~
It is to be Found
In one’s Daily Life…
In one’s Own Backyard.
~ Abraham H. Maslow
1) Saefull Regina
3) Don Komarechka
4) Sharon Johnstone
Sophistication can be tricky, especially in the art of deciding whether to arrive to an assignation on time, or fashionably late. But what is apparently quite unacceptable is the in-between tardiness that results from staring at a giant mushroom.
It wasn’t that this tardiness was found to be thoughtless or even rude, but unnatural. Delays involving traffic, bees, and runaway steamrollers have all been overlooked, but the fungus was deemed inexcusable as the Professors seem to be biologically opposed to all things mushroom. In fact, they didn’t seem to believe that Sister Madly saw the mushroom at all, which resulted in a frustration she hadn’t felt since Christmas Eve, when no one believed that Elvis was sitting on her neighbor’s balcony.
So after much discussion, the Professors came to the logical conclusion that Sister Madly would greatly benefit from a week-long retreat at the Trappist Monastery.
To begin with, Sister Madly doesn’t like how this particular monastic order contains the word Trap. No doubt that name exists for a reason, and she’s not too keen on finding out why. Besides, it’s not like she ate the mushroom, although she did form a bond with a hookah-smoking caterpillar over their mutual lack of height.
The Professors cheerfully overlooked these misgivings, determined that Sister Madly would embrace the simple life once she was not only aware of all the thrills…
“You can make creamed honey-”
…but moments of sweet meditation.
“-and fruit cake!”
Yes, very few graduates today realize that all of life’s predicaments can be rectified with a bakery and a beehive, as Monastic Fruit Cake Philosophy is only available on a PhD level. Sister Madly herself was ill-equipped upon finishing high school, facing the world with nothing more than knowledge of how to add and subtract papayas, that throwing tea into a harbor results in warfare, and that battery acid eats through shirts.* Had she furthered her education, she might not have been contaminated by Giant Mushroom Awe.
* The understanding of battery acid came about in a household setting rather than the classroom.
(Sorry about that.)
But why a Trappist Monastery? What about the monks who make cider? Why can’t she spend a few days with those fine gentlemen?
The Professors thought the reason was obvious enough: the Monks Who Make Cider live in a little place called The Other Side of the World, which was a wee bit outside of their ‘stay-for-free-but-donations-are-accepted’ budget.
“Besides, Trappist Monks are known for their silence.”
Well, that’s a comfort: the monks will be unable to tattle on Sister Madly when she engages in some very un-monastic rituals, such as swimming in the baptistery and putting toothpaste in the fruit cake. Surely nothing is more infuriating than a gossipy little monk.*
* Or a gossipy tall monk, for that matter.
But wait- would she also be bound by this vow of silence? Not that she’s a chatty little supernova, mind you, but Sister Madly has been known to talk to, with, and amongst herself on occasion. And of course, she simply must reply; not responding to oneself when speaking to oneself is most impolite. But this mandatory silence would be like giving herself the cold shoulder, and Sister Madly might take offense and not speak to herself for days.
“It’s not completely silent; after all, there is a confessor.”
If that is not the essence of ingenuity! No need for the monks to tattle; Sister Madly will be required to tattle on herself! Then she will sulk and call herself names, which will escalate to rumor-spreading and hair-pulling, after which Sister Madly will vow to never tell herself another secret again.
Well son of a biscuit, Sister Madly- you just uncovered the Trap of Trappist! This whole ‘retreat’ is just a ruse on the part of the Professors to thwart future high-jinks and delicious skullduggery, all of which takes a great deal of planning amongst yourself; the Giant Mushroom is just an excuse to implement it. They’re trying to make you just like them, all responsible and early-to-bed. You need to put a stop to this wicked agenda at once!
Professor- did you do something with your hair?
That’s what she thought.
THEME SONG: Enjoy the Silence, Depeche Mode
We don’t Know
The Weight of the Burden
We are Carrying
Until we Feel the Lightness
Of it’s Release.
More Images at: oddstuffmagazine.com
Seek the Wisdom
Of the Ages ~
But look at the World
Through the Eyes
Of a Child.
~ Ron Wild
Crows have been known to build fake nests in order to fool predators. Sister Madly intends to utilize this strategy the next time she goes camping by pitching a fake tent to fool her friends.
She might even make use of a papier-mâché Sister Madly decoy, which no doubt will go unnoticed for the first 36 hours.*
* Possibly 40, if special mushrooms are involved.
In a rational world, there are many reasons that one would camp out in the wild: to get out of the city, to go on an adventure, to hide a body, or to simply experience nature.
Oh there was nature, all right, in those outdoor adventures of yore…
Professor- was that a peacock?!
While the Professors heard her question, they apparently did not hear the distinctive, prehistoric squawk as their only response was a look suggesting that Sister Madly was treading dangerously close to butterfly-net territory. It would seem that not one of the Professors’ credentials included a PhD in birds.*
* Or anything useful, for that matter.
Furthermore, the Professors must have assumed that Sister Madly not only hallucinated the Peacock’s Song, but did so out of hunger as she was handed a bag of vegan cat treats.
For those unfamiliar with the species, ‘cats’ are those cuddly creatures that purr when happy and strategically hack hairballs into your shoes without the slightest bit of shame. There are kitties in the wild, this much is true: but they are awfully big kitties, Professor- seriously, are these Treats for the cougars?
“For the… Peacock.”
Now Sister Madly’s parents didn’t raise a fool- a darling rapscallion with latent psychopathic tendencies, perhaps, but not a fool. She was well-aware that when the word Peacock was spoken, it was italicized. So they didn’t believe there was a Peacock in the vicinity; so they were merely humoring her like a dim-witted child. So Sister Madly, in return, humored those hollow smiles by indulging in the Cat Treats herself.
However, it seemed that the Treats were intended for the Italicized Peacock after all, for no sooner did Sister Madly start munching on the Treats that the bag was snatched out of her hand with a serious reprimand.
“If you must eat, Sister Madly, then eat this.”
‘This’ turned out to be a most luxurious lump of something akin to the color grey, of which even the Italicized Peacock would be jealous. As the Italicized Peacock was unavailable, Sister Madly had the luxurious lump- which she ritualistically drenched in ketchup like a petulant 2 year-old- all to herself. The ketchup, however, was all in vain as the lump tasted like a near-death experience.
‘This’ was not something she should be eating. ‘This’ was something she should be playing Jacks with while sitting on the sidewalk, and Sister Madly became very depressed that it was in her mouth.
Sensing her dissatisfaction in the second-hand lump, the Professor engaged in a lofty dissertation on how oysters are a source of vitamins this and that, antioxidants, iron, zinc and oh, they can make pearls, Sister Madly! Isn’t that one of your birthstones? Aren’t you just tickled pink?
Sister Madly couldn’t help but be skeptical of any nutritional advice coming from someone whose daily serving of fruits and vegetables had, until recently,* consisted of whatever was garnishing a cocktail glass. But when she heard that oysters are also said to be aphrodisiacs, she began to suspect that the Professors had ulterior motives.
* This Professor had been a pescetarian for 4 days at this point, and would continue to be one for another 6- because, bacon.
But that’s ridiculous; when one is out of one’s element, one tends to be skeptical of anything unfamiliar. No doubt the Professor accidentally packed the Cat Treats instead of trail mix, and the oyster was simply overcooked. Of course the Professors had no ulterior motives; they were in it strictly for the adventure- that is why they insisted on that rugged fundamental: individual foot-baths infused with salt, rosemary and mint.
Face it, Sister Madly: there are ulterior motives at play. You are secretly being seasoned- what other possible explanation is there? Not even a pampered city slicker would insist on a salted rosemary and mint foot-bath out in the wild- isn’t all the sweat, dirt, and funky foot aroma part of the primal allure?
This suspicion was confirmed by the horror displayed when Sister Madly absolutely refused to washed her feet, and no amount of cider could make her comply. It doesn’t take a genius to pick apart your dastardly plan, Professor: a trail of Cat Treats leading from the woods to a rosemary and mint-marinated Sister Madly* smorgasbord, thus satiating the cougar appetite and calling a truce between the civilized world and the wild.
* A free-range Sister Madly, of course.
“Those aren’t Cat Treats, Sister Madly; that’s eggplant and tofu jerky. It’s been marinated in beer. Aren’t you allergic to hops?”
Eggplant, tofu, and hops.
Eggplant and Tofu…
Definitely utilizing that papier-mâché decoy during the next camping trip.*
* The Italicized Peacock agrees.
There comes a time in every child’s life where one must face that dreaded rite of passage: the ambiguous ‘science project.’
If Sister Madly had known all the loopholes, such as time machine = clock, or better yet, cooking = chemistry, she would have had her mother bake a couple dozen cookies and be done with it. With little hesitation, both parents deemed proving the existence of unicorns impractical to the scientific community, yet supported her decision to dismember her sibling and replace the limbs with butterfly wings so long as Sister Madly was willing to clean up afterwards (which she wasn’t.) In the end, Sister Madly chose an experiment out of some How to Scientifically Take Over the World book that she once found wrapped up under a Christmas tree.
And that experiment was to bleach a rose. With sulfur.*
* The book mysteriously disappeared after the completion of this science project.
There was some concern about this project from the onset, in particular the obtaining of the roses. After all, Sister Madly knew just how expensive these flowers could be (He got you a dozen roses?! It MUST be love!) which was why they were so treasured. Growing the roses herself was simply out of the question- to this day, plants refuse to photosynthesize in her presence. She decided that her parents’ budget would allow for 3 roses: a practice run, the actual project, and one unbleached rose to compare. She wouldn’t need more than that because science projects always turn out perfectly the first time around- especially when it involves an 8 year-old playing with fire.
Her parents, however, had a slightly different- and, in Sister Madly’s opinion, utterly preposterous- concern: where, dear child, are you going to get the sulfur?
Contrary to popular belief, one does not just pop off to Sulfur Express to get this element, nor does the average citizen keep a stockpile in the garage next to the Harley. And while certain religious texts believe sulfur* to be an important ingredient in the Lake of Fire, neither her parents nor the school board approved of the lengthy, transcendental holiday it would take to obtain the sulfur, much less the destination. Her school wasn’t very Hell-friendly.
*Brimstone = Sulfur
Then again, she once heard that onions contain sulfur, thus saw no reason why setting fire to an onion would not produce the desired effect. Her parents did not agree.
It was her science teacher, through a connection at the local college, who later obtained the sulfur. As Sister Madly now had all the components, she was quite ready to bleach the rose and successfully take over the world.
However: Rose + Chemical + Fire = Father doing the project while Sister Madly watches.
With her father at the reigns, the project went off without a hitch (although it took a total of 5 roses.) But it wasn’t enough for Sister Madly to walk into school the next day and announce that the experiment had been a success; no, not only was she required to turn in the completed project, she was to present it to the class.
What do you mean that Sister Madly has to understand and explain the science behind this project? Isn’t the fact that a rose transformed from red to white in the seclusion of her own backyard with absolutely no witnesses cool enough on its own? The How to Scientifically Take Over the World book didn’t explain how this experiment worked, only that it does work and quite frankly, that’s good enough for her.
Mind you, when all this occurred, the average family was still several years away from regular internet access. Sister Madly didn’t know any pro-science adults who could explain to her the sulfur phenomenon (she wasn’t very social) and didn’t know where to begin researching it in the library (not that she had any desire to do so.) Faced with these impossible options, Sister Madly decided that it was necessary to bluff her way through, figuring that if she threw enough scientific-sounding words around, she would pass.
And bluff she did, attributing the bleaching phenomenon to static electricity: when exposed to fire in an enclosed area, the sulfur produces an electrical charge which causes its particles to cling to the rose, thus turning it white.
It is not known whether the teacher bought this snake oil sales pitch, or whether he simply admired her audacity, but that day Sister Madly adjourned for recess with not only with a passing grade, but the confidence that school was a waste of time as her science teacher was no more wiser than she.
20+ years later, Sister Madly finally knows the science behind this experiment.* It hasn’t enhanced her life in the slightest.
* When sulfur burns it produces sulfur dioxide- which acts as a bleaching agent- reducing the pigments, thus turning the rose white. Re-oxidizing the reduced pigments restores the color, which can be as simple by exposing the reduced dyes to the oxygen in the atmosphere.
They both savored the strange warm glow of being much more ignorant than ordinary people, who were only ignorant of ordinary things ~ Terry Pratchett
“It’s not his hobby, Sister Madly.”
He just said that he loves his job, Professor, and when you love your job, you don’t work a day in your life. By this definition, it IS his hobby.
Now, Sister Madly has always been wary of anyone the Professors call a ‘friend’ and this time, she had good reason to be: he was chatty and he was happy. Too happy. Frolicking with the tumbleweed happy- and all without a nip of cider. That’s what makes it sinister- that, and the maniacal good cheer with which he announced that he was a phlebotomist.*
*In layman’s terms, a giant mosquito.
Then again, perhaps that is the secret to his sinister happiness: draining a large portion of his blood to the point of mental absurdity in the name of good times. Or perhaps he gets his jollies by mixing blood types like some gruesome, vascular cocktail. Whatever his secret, this psychotic bliss was reinforced later that night simply by coming upon Sister Madly’s copy of Maugham’s Of Human Bondage.
“You like this sort of thing, do you?”
She couldn’t help but wonder what, exactly, the Happy Phlebotomist meant by ‘this sort of thing.’ True, it wasn’t the sort of book her mother would read to a young Sister Madly while they shared a bottle of TAB, but her mother wasn’t one to read her The Runaway Bunny either. Perhaps the Happy Phlebotomist didn’t much care for the author, or perhaps it was the implication that Sister Madly likes to read books out of season. Of Human Bondage always seemed like a book one reads in the winter.
Of course it is possible to read any book at any time of the year, but unless you are some sort of literary rogue, here is a small sample of the appropriate seasonal fare:
– A Confederacy of Dunces
– Bonjour Tristesse
– The Magus
– The Picture of Dorian Gray
– Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky
– The Moon and Sixpence
– Three Men in a Boat
While the Happy Phlebotomist found this ‘seasonal reading’ slightly baffling, he was a sight more tolerant than the Professors were upon learning that Sister Madly arranges her DVDs according to ambiance instead of alphabetically. She doesn’t understand all the fuss- after all, she knows where to find everything. That’s all that really matters.*
*There are also many people who listen to music according to season- her neighbors, for example. They always listen to Christmas music in the winter. Loudly.
Not that the Professors should cast any stones. Sister Madly has not only seen them eat lettuce, she has seen them enjoy the process– a sure sign that something is not quite right in the head.
Now over the course of her acquaintance with the Professors, they have taken it upon themselves to lend her books that they think she should read, rather than books they think she would enjoy. So it was something of a shock when the Happy Phlebotomist approached her with a copy of The Story of O, for no reason other than “you seem to like this sort of thing.”
And by ‘this sort of thing,’ the Happy Phlebotomist meant erotic literature.
“Since you were reading that book on human bondage…”
Perhaps Sister Madly is just naïve- or perhaps it’s because her hobby isn’t the gleeful draining of blood out of living individuals- but the possibility of Of Human Bondage being some sort of literary porn never once crossed her mind the day she found it in the bookstore. She was just intrigued by a book whose title started with the word ‘Of.’
According to the obligatory new book flip-thru (and later confirmed through the internet) The Story of O was originally published in the 1950‘s and was somewhat influenced by the works of the Marquis de Sade- which is a far, far cry from the themes found in Of Human Bondage.
You see, the title Of Human Bondage is taken from Part IV of Spinoza’s Ethics, entitled “Of Human Bondage, or the Strength of Emotions” in which Spinoza speaks of people’s inability to control their emotions (the emotions themselves, not one’s conscious response to them) which constitutes bondage. The crux of Maugham’s story is the unrequited love of Philip Carey, which binds him to a rather disagreeable* woman- soul ties, and all that.
*Status-seeking, social-climbing, cold-hearted, unfaithful waitress-turned-mistress-turned-hooker-who-contracts-an-STD-most-likely-syphilis type of disagreeable.
Also, she was rude.
“So it’s about human trafficking?”
Perhaps it was fatigue from reading veins all day, or perhaps it was too much vascular cocktail, but it was obvious that the Happy Phlebotomist was determined not to understand a single word of their conversation. No wonder the Professors were so fond of him.
And so she was about to suggest a book that would do away with his starry-eyed disposition, The Runaway Bunny, as even adults have been known to cry at that story…
… when the Professors interrupted by sending a drink over to her table.
A Bloody Mary.
THEME SONG: Sunday Bloody Sunday, U2
It’s a known fact that every great business transaction begins with “Psst, Buddy…”
More so when the negotiation sequence is initiated by a sock.
It began a few hours prior in faux Medieval times,* where all attempts to out-cupcake the Dodo in the Battle of the Baked Goods failed in a most pathetic manner. True, it was because Sister Madly fled in what looked like a cowardly fashion, but she had a good reason: her sock was slipping off.
*A Renaissance Faire.
For those still following along, aye- this would be same sock that accosted Sister Madly behind the Hatchet-Throwing Range (perhaps not the ideal place for a little business tête-à-tête, but the nearest Waffle House was several states away.) She lost her sock, you see, when the Dodo made off with it after Sister Madly launched it out the window of the Citadel That Has No Pearls. What became of the Avian Horror immediately after was a mystery- that is, until she came upon a 2-ton* Viking well-versed in Barbarian-speak with her sock on his hand. Sister Madly didn’t think that was very sanitary, but then, hygiene didn’t seem to be a top priority with this particular philistine.
It came as no surprise to find that, amongst his other fiendish virtues, the Dodo was a heartless Sock Trafficker, having sold her paisley little friend to the Vikings for mere pennies on the dollar. Now her wretched Sock was doomed to a life of hard Viking labor, such as drinking and pillaging, and bellowing incoherent battle cries (faux Medieval-era Vikings didn’t do much else.)
But what baffled her was that the Sock didn’t seem particularly upset about this- in fact, it seemed rather chipper, if not downright happy. The Sock was never happy on her foot; after all, it did try to slip off earlier in the day. It did fly out the window at the first opportunity, and not once did it protest when shanghaied by the Dodo.
And when one considers the fact that it was the Sock, itself, negotiating its own safe return…
She promised the Sock prime real estate in her sock drawer. She promised him treats. She promised to hand-wash him in the kitchen sink rather than force him to endure the spin-cycle, which can’t be a pleasant experience. She even promised to buy him a cider here and now… an offer that was interrupted by the arrival of some good, old-fashioned, plague doctor melancholy.
You’re bribing a Sock Puppet with a pint?
My dear corpse-bird, if Sister Madly had a dollar for every time… that is, she has negotiated with socks before, especially during that crucial washer-to-dryer transfer- that they honor their commitment to each other, that they implement the buddy system- admittedly with mixed results. Besides, she wouldn’t be bribing her Sock with a pint if someone hadn’t handed him over to the Vikings in the first place!
I set him free. If he loves you, he will return to you.
Why aren’t you out treating the plague?!
Do you see a case of the plague that needs to be treated?
Rather than admit that he had a valid point- or worse, that he was good at his job- Sister Madly lamented that she didn’t have any cupcake ammo aimed at his stone-cold heart (if he had one.) The Dodo then obliged her with a handful of his customary Mystery Flavored Dum Dums.
Which she threw right back at him.
But soon she faced a different dilemma: her other sock clearly wasn’t happy about being left out of the barbarism- she knew this, because it was currently working its way down to her toes much like its mate had. It wouldn’t be long before she had a mutiny on her hands, and to be overthrown by sock puppets was not the way she wanted to leave this planet.* Besides, this particular sock species tends to mate for life- one never sees a paisley sock paired with an argyle. To destroy such a bond would be cruel, and Sister Madly had no choice but to let this sock join its mate. Her conscience can be totally bourgeois, sometimes.
And so Sister Madly pulled off her other sock and stuffed it into the Viking’s drinking horn.*
*Her conscience can be a total brat as well.
THEME SONG: Rock-A-Sock-A-Hop, Jimmy Crain
Sister Madly so wanted to be an orphan when she was young. The Boxcar Children can do that to a girl.
No doubt it would be a dreamy life, where she would spend her days collecting pretty rocks, cooking over an open fire, bathing in a babbling brook (but only when she felt like it, by golly!) and stocking her humble abode with treasures found at the local junkyard. She would be a pioneer in the industrialized Midwest, where she would eat nothing but jerky and Zingers- which was only logical, since these foods never spoil. Also, they were readily available at the party store down the street.
Despite its flawless beauty, there was something about this plan that offended her mother so horribly- seriously, what did being an orphan have anything to do with her mother, anyway? After all, it was a perfectly normal childhood desire to be a foundling; even her sister, Tallulah, had orphan aspirations, which were inspired by the movie Annie.
*Turns out, being an orphan had everything to do with her mother.*
Alas, the dream began to sour when it became clear that Sister Madly could never survive in a boxcar; in fact, she is reminded of her own incompetence every time she goes camping. And it’s not just setting up the tent; getting in and out of the horrid thing can only be achieved through a sophisticated network of zippers which leaves her whimpering within the confines of that canvas prison until someone lets her out. If she can’t figure out a tent, surely the boxcar would have eaten her alive. Not to mention that she has no idea where the nearest junkyard is, that babbling brooks are hard to come by, and what on earth does she know about intentionally starting fires?
But what killed the orphan dream was not only the discovery that the frosting can be peeled off a Zinger in one rubbery piece, but that it can stick to the ceiling for hours.
And that riffraff is FDA approved.
Fortunately, her plucky spirit did not die with the dream, for even prior to these discoveries Sister Madly was fascinated with the idea of alternative worlds- especially those found down rabbit holes, inside of cupboards or magic books, or behind mirrors. It is so much easier to survive in these realms than in a boxcar as one’s basic necessities are always provided for through magic, with no shortage of life lessons learned through a host of mythical creatures, arch nemeses, and lovely lunch pail trees. Sister Madly never understood why those who stumbled upon these worlds spent their entire time trying to get back home- seriously, just think about it. Magical jewelry. Luck Dragons. Ancient texts. A moon that becomes a kitten’s smile. Spontaneous musical numbers in which you instinctively know all the songs and all the choreography.
And again- lunch pail trees.
But as the years passed, her looking-glass remained inaccessible, she never encountered the Goblin King, and her mother was constantly preventing her from traveling Over the Rainbow by dragging her to the basement whenever there was a tornado in the area. Apparently, Sister Madly’s insistence that she knew exactly how to get home from Oz was not at all reassuring.
As neither her mother nor the laws of physics were on her side, Sister Madly sulked at the prospect of living out the rest of her life in the world of the mundane.
But is there really such a difference between the two worlds?
In one world, roads are made of yellow brick.
In the other, roads are made of asphalt, in which large, gaping sinkholes appear without warning and swallow everything whole.
In one, the animals speak the native language and join you for dinner.
In the other, the animals speak a foreign language and are made into dinner.
In one, certain foods make you grow taller.
In the other, certain foods make you grow wider.
In one, the moon is a smile.
In the other, the moon has a face. Sometimes.
In one, mushrooms make you hallucinate.
In the other, mushrooms make you hallucinate.
In one, animals wear human clothing.
In the other, animals are human clothing.
So Sister Madly, explain to us if you will, why should you prefer the mysteries and adventures of alternative worlds when the one you live in is just as bizarre?
Then again, there’s that whole lunch pail tree thing…
THEME SONG: Mad World, Tears for Fears
In the Madliverse, curiosity not only kills the cat, it buries it at the nearest construction site, fills the hole with cement and makes it the foundation of a fabulous 5-star hotel.
So it was with some trepidation when Sister Madly succumbed to her curiosity and asked Midori, a recent transplant from Japan, the question that had been plaguing her for days:
What language do you think in?
But Midori thought it the most natural question in the world, just as she thought dandelions made the lawn look ‘untidy.’ She also despised the name ‘Chad’- which proved to be most unfortunate as irony would one day find her married to a Chad. Midori was one who could trace her family tree back many, many generations straight through samurai Japan, while Sister Madly’s family tree was once handed her on a yellow post-it and whose branches were as alive and lush as a twig in the dead of winter. This family sapling covered no more than 5 generations and scattered them across Europe, Asia and the Middle East- something which seemed to fascinate Midori.
That was how the 2 of them found themselves lounging amongst the pillows of the opium bed at Utopia, debating over the proper pronunciation of the word Pączki*- until Management appeared, which resulted in the 3 of them lounging amongst the pillows of that antique opium bed, debating the proper pronunciation of the word Pączki. Similar debates would occur over the pronunciation of Gruyere, Reykjavik, and Jicama during the next several months, just a handful of the words they had both before seen, but had never heard spoken.
There was once an attempt to teach Sister Madly the Japanese language- and she is proud to say, to this day, she can still count to ‘1’ like a champ. Yet Midori steadfastly refused to teach her any Japanese recipes- “What is there to teach? Raw fish is not a cuisine.” In fact, Midori found America’s fondness for deep-frying anything remotely digestible as irrefutable proof that there is, indeed, a god.
*It’s pronounce POONCH-key. Say it: Pączki.
So it came to pass on the eve of Midori’s 22nd birthday that she and Sister Madly found themselves wandering the town, when…
“Oh my god- I’m so old!”
You know, Sister Madly once looked forward to the day in which she unintentionally frightened small children simply by being old. However, as Midori now finds herself ancient on the eve of her 22nd birthday, one can only concluded that Sister Madly has been laughing in the face of the Grim Reaper since the beginning of June.
Naturally this led them to the roof of the nearest parking garage that night with a roll of SweeTarts and some cider, doing that which all the Ancients find inevitable: discussing the laws of Thermodynamics.
Indeed, Sister Madly was untamable in those days.
But it wasn’t until they arrived back at Midori’s later that night that the conversation took on an entirely new meaning.
“Where’s my porch?”
The question was facetious, really, for one only had to look no further than the charred bits of wood smoldering at their feet to find said porch. Still, one could not help but wonder how the lovely wrap-around porch was suddenly reduced of a pile of charbroiled ashes without at least a note of apology.
That is, everyone except Midori.
There was no arguing with this logic, for obviously there had been some thermo involved in the removal of the porch; and there was no arguing that the dynamic of the porch had drastically changed. There was no arguing because of the few too many ciders Sister Madly had consumed not long before, and no longer found the topic remotely interesting.
However, when one removes the wrap-around porch from an old Victorian, one also removes the method of conquering the distance from the lawn to the front door. Fortunately- for Midori, at least- Sister Madly was able to offer up what remained of her strength and her brawn, and attempted to stand en pointe upon a stack of cinder blocks while she hoisted Midori upon her shoulders so she could unlock the front door.
This plan went much more smoothly in her mind, for in her mind, Sister Madly was skilled in ballet, had impeccable balance, and was not three sheets to the wind. In reality, her balance was as such that Sister Madly not only toppled Midori multiple times against the door, but multiple times against the doorbell as well- a doorbell that played the first few chords of Beethoven’s Fifth. Bet the landlord regrets that purchase now.
Still, it was the least Sister Madly could do; one simply cannot leave the elderly out in the frigid night air- that would be rude. Especially on her birthday.
*Midori tends to think in the language that she is currently speaking, by the way.