Thursday, October 28, 2010


I finally took a class with the husband of my favorite yoga teacher. He is, of course, completely ripped, incredibly flexible, and wears his hair in a topknot. Just like me! Well, the hair part anyway.

The highlight of the class was when we partnered up and took turns trying to fit our hands between our partner's low back and the floor, alternating that with karate-chopping the stomach and poking the ass. That last bit is phrased just as the instructor said it: "Poke the ass! Karate chop! Check that low back! Poke the ass again!"

You'd think I'd be all over poking a strange man's buttcheek, and I was. But, thankfully, when the roles were reversed the strange man did not poke my ass. Surprisingly, the karate chops hurt a lot. The idea is to squeeze your stomach and keep it stable even when it's vibrating. But for me the challenge was trying to breathe through the pain.

Later we put our palms flat on the floor and walked our feet up the wall while walking our hands in, until we were as vertical and close to kissing the wall as possible. On the second try, I was able to get pretty close. But the two tiny flexy bendy girls who were my spotters looked pretty freaked out. Because, let's be honest, just one of my ginormous man-legs could've squashed 'em like bugs.

Another shirtless and slightly flabby fellow inquired about my well-being as we were midway through doing exercises with our blankies-again, this is the instructor's terminology-where we'd slide them across the floor while low to the ground, or try and drag ourselves. I'm sure I looked like I was going to throw a clot but it was my arm around my stomach that worried the man. I thanked him for his concern and told him that's just how I look.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Today at the LNFU I learned about an underground route from one building to another, one that involves opening an unmarked door in a basement, entering one room full of big metal machines with small doors and smaller gauges, then hawing once and hawing again through another door and into a room with meters on a wall in a wire cage. Plus a few more steps I shan't reveal. I told the woman leading the way about PolackPappy's tale of the time he was in another subterranean portion of the LNFU-the place where they kept the stock certificates back in the day. There were boxes and boxes of them, according to PP, papers spilling out all over the place.

I have not run across such things in my time at the LNFU but I do every now and then see something really neat. Last week it was a gorgeous antique postage scale. It was big and black with lovely white-painted lettering. And it's still in use! Naturally, it lives in a basement.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

McPolack rates the airlines

I had the opportunity to fly Delta, KLM (which is Dutch) and Alitalia on my European vacation. Here's what I done thought of each of 'em:

Delta My Uncle J (the craziest of Cousin B's three Uncle J's, btw and the other 2 uncle Js are my dad and an uncle from the non-Mc side of cousin B's family) was a pilot for this airline for many years. Upon retirement he was allowed to fly anyone anywhere he wanted. He flew to England but only brought three family members with him. Given how many Mcs there are he could've filled a plane but we weren't about to tempt fate into smashing a plane full of Mcs into the Atlantic.

Anyhoo, there was no special treatment for Cousin B and I on our flight, but no matter-it was a great ride. I got to sit by the window, watch the sky outside, the earth and sea below, and Alice in Wonderland, and grab Cousin B's arm in joy/terror during takeoff. The food was good, the bathrooms were clean, and the seats weren't too cramped-though I wonder how anyone sleeps in coach.

Delta gets four out of five stars.

KLM We took a commuter flight - less than 45 minutes - on this Dutch airline, between Amsterdam and Cologne. The plane was old but very well taken care of, and the stewardesses wore outfits in the loveliest shade of blue, and we were fed these delicious oaten biscuits and real orange juice. It was like flying in your grandmother's living room. I loved, loved, loved it. Five stars and two big thumbs up.

Alitalia Holy shitballs does this airline suck. Case in point: Cousin B and I arrive two hours before our flight is due to leave. We wait in a crazy line and then the attendant's computer is broken and she DISAPPEARS FOR 20 MINUTES. As this is happening a lady next to us is informed she's missed her flight-because of something Alitalia did, mind you-and she can't get on another plane until the next day. Vaffanculo!

Lucky for B and I, we make our flight, but not before an almost comical cattle drive from one counter to another to security. Where my backpack is searched. And as I am sick, sick, sick and exhausted and therefore punchy, I announce that there's a stuffed kitty in my bag and is name is Senor Gato and go ahead and look, I say. And then smartly shut my mouth.

Once Senor Gato and I and Cousin B are through security we wait with a large group of dismayed/irritated passengers in a train station of sorts. There is a train there but the doors are closed. Also there is a trashcan and that trashcan is on fire. It smells weird. As more smoke billows out the top of the can, one of the passengers voices what we all fear-that if they don't open the train doors soon we're going to end up stuck here forever because hey, it is post-9/11 and a smoldering trashcan is not to be taken lightly.

Lucky for us the train doors open and we get on the plane. No window seat this time, but whatevs. What is most irritating is how s-l-o-w-l-y the plane taxis down the runway. I mean like 45 minutes of taxiing. I don't know that you could even call it taxiing.

Finally we take off! There are no back-of-seat tv screens. The in-flight movies are crappy but I watch one with David Duchovny and Demi Moore anyway. The food is of course inedible. When the plane finally lands we have to wait wait wait wait wait some more until they open the door and let us the heck off.

Alitalia ZERO STARS!

Monday, October 25, 2010


...was on television last night and I half-watched it, but gave it my full attention whenever there were Coliseum scenes (except for when the poor tigers on chains showed up) because hey-I was just there a month ago! And because the lovely lady tour guide told us that the movie was a decent portrayal of how the Coliseum appeared in its gory glory days.

I was surprised to learn that the Coliseum was once entirely covered in marble. And unsurprised to learn that the Catholics (in part) ripped it all off once they took power. The floor of the Coliseum was wood, with trapdoors (all the better to hide the leopardies and giraffies) and sand (all the better to soak up rivers of blood).

Also, women had to sit with slaves. This fact touched off a bit of a row between cousin B and I which ended in a draw. (Cousin B felt one couldn't understand the Coliseum violence as we weren't a part of ancient Rome while I insisted that regardless of whether you were there or not, whether you understood the culture of Rome at that time or not, all that terror and brutality and death was an evil, evil thing in and of itself. I was also feeling particularly feminist at that moment because all that shit went down when men were running the world. And I mean really running it.)

We were joined on our tour by a lovely Australian family-mom, dad and two kids-and I for the second time on our trip crapped all over the US of A, frightening the mother especially with my tales of what having no health insurance and no vacation does to a person. Cousin B kindly did not call me out on my America-pooing until we got home. And I did neglect to add, during my conversations with foreigners, that despite all its problems I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. But alas I was tired and/or really quite sick at the time and so I just plain forgot.

Interestingly, there are now kitties living in the Coliseum. They're there to eat the rats. Considering how many of their much larger ancestral relatives lost their lives there, it was pretty neat to watch one little furball strut across a part of the (reproduction) floor as the sun set over Rome.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Cousin B and I had a couple of lively debates (ahem) over the aggressive tendencies of different groups, including the U.S. and ancient Rome. And while there's certainly nowhere in the world you can go that hasn't seen bloodshed, the fact that it happened so recently in Germany affected my perception of the country.

It was as if a shroud hung over Cologne on some level. We walked by a park one day; there was a big stone building in the center of the park, and a sad-looking statue similar to an Irish potato famine monument on my jogging route in Cambridge.

Turns out the stone building was the headquarters of the Gestapo.

Later, at the train station, we saw a plaque denoting the horrible side of German efficiency: 11,000 Jewish people had been shipped off to concentration camps from that very station in just one year.

What I found more strange than sad was the street vendors selling laminated placemats. One side featured brightly-colored maps of Germany.

The other had a collage of black-and-white photos of various landmarks and parts of the city after 93 percent of it was bombed-by the RAF, it turns out. (I'd originally thought perhaps it was us.)

I can't imagine why they were selling this stuff, other than the most obvious-that people buy it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It gets better

My cousin was in the New York Times! As he's from an outer layer of boonie-dwelling cousins, I see him infrequently. But I did spend a month on vacation as his nanny when he was a baby and I am sure my careful diaper-changing and feedings contributed to his overall loveliness.

I like that bullying is being addressed in the media like this. Me and my good friend Walnut initially bonded in part over the vicious bullying we suffered in middle and junior high school. I know from experience how damaging bullying can be because it damaged me.

Rock on, cousin Calvin!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Senor Gato

Like many modern Americans, I travel with a stuffed animal.

OK who am I kidding. I'd never been off the continent in my life before three weeks ago and I'm still able to count without running out of fingers the number of times I've flown in a plane.

And I'm a stuffed animal wackadoo. I've noted before that one reason I knew my sister-in-law would fit in perfectly was because like us, her stuffed animals have distinct personalities and life histories. In fact, my brother isn't allowed to buy her stuffed animals b/c she needs to meet each critter first and will only make a purchase if that critter and she make a connection.

Anyhoo, I've had this stuffed kitty with a crazy look in its eyes hanging out in my bedroom for awhile now, and since I was going to be away from my real-life furball, I decided to bring him along to Europe. Yes, him. Once I got to know him, he told me his name was Senor Gato, and that he is a telenovela star who had to flee Mexico due to kidnapping threats. Cousin B and I shot an art film starting Senor Gato in the bathroom of our hotel in Cologne but that's still being edited. In the meantime, here are a series of photos of S.G. enjoying The Continent...

Senor Gato helping me blog in Venice

Getting his beauty sleep in Rome.

In the cab from Cologne to the airport. I like how excited he looks here. I was excited, too.

Cat-napping in his very Swiss bed in Stelvio.

Posing with his personal assistant at Lake Garda.

Watching the boats go by on the Grand Canal in Venice. He got miao-miaoed at here and was very pleased.

One of Senor Gato's ancestors educating the humans in the Piazza San Marco, Venice.

Keeping an eye on Cousin B as he showers. You never know when a diabetic coma's going to hit! Unfortunately Cousin B did not appreciate Senor Gato's efforts, and kicked across the room soon after this picture was taken. In fact Cousin B in general took offense to the kitty, and whenever Senor Gato tried to give him goodnight kisses, he punched him in the face. I think this is because Cousin B directed Senor Gato in the aforementioned German art film, and there was tension, because they are both metrosexual divas.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Busy busy busy

More living than usual these days, which leaves less time for writing. Good to fill up the story tank, tho'. Today we'll have a brief interruption in the European vacation tales for the latest from Dr. Moo...

Moo Un: Dr. Moo tried her best to creep in at 1:00 on a Monday morning after untwisting a twisted cow uterus. She stepped on half a dead mouse and managed to keep it together, allowing Mr. Moo to get his much-needed beauty sleep, but when she stepped in the pile of cold cat puke, she screamed.

Moo Deux: Apparently my formerly vegetarian (for 20 years!) sister is considering raising calves for veal. Of course, this being a McPolack farmer, it's not what you think. Moo is hoping to save more animals like Beefy Chunks from an early and terrible demise. Her whole reason for being a veg in the first place was that the animals raised for meat are ill-treated. If she knows the animal has a good life, she'll eat it.

Anyhoo, there's apparently a heifer available whose sideways teat makes her unfit for the milking machine. Dr. Moo will use that heifer to feed all the baby beef cows born on dairy farms, who she'll transport to her backyard where they'll enjoy sideways-teat milk and a happy existence for a few months until being humanely slaughtered and sold, thus funding future baby beef cows.

I think it's a wonderful idea.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Friends of mine lost their child in utero to a rare genetic disorder this week. They had to go through labor and deliver her little body. I remember this happening to a coworker of mine, when she was 8 1/2 months along, and so excited because she was nearing the end of her fertile years.

Sometimes the world is cruel and stupid and unfair.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Know what this blog needs?

More cowbell.

Part of our European journey was supposed to involve an 8-mile hike through the Alps followed by a drive on this crazy road.

Unfortunately, the day dawned cold and wet. The Roman owner of the hotel looked online to find that 18 cm of snow had already fallen on the crazy road, and our car had no snow tires, so driving on the crazy road was out. We inquired about a shorter hike, and were given a couple of options. When we walked out on the porch and saw how icky it really was, the hotel owner said "OK, you go to museum."

Well there was no way I was going to museum, so I marched purposefully off the porch, trailed by tiny-lunged, diabetic Cousin B. He was pretty irritated for the first 45 minutes or so of hiking, which was done on a cow-ploppy dirt road, but then we broke through onto an actual hiking trail and even in the pouring rain (which was now heavy wet snow) was incredibly, breathtakingly beautiful. A hawk flew by overhead. There were crazy mushrooms and wildflowers everywhere. And soon, there were cowbells. I started having heart palpitations and soon realized this was because what I thought had been regular coffee at breakfast was actually espresso and I'd had about six.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

European Vacation: Rats

I am home from Europe where I had many adventures and caught a disgusting hacking feverish yellow phlegmy cold. I'm just going to post little bits of the trip at random and will try to put some pictures up, too. The first little bit is below:

In Rome we stayed in a hotel across the street from some ruins where kitties live on a diet of rats and leftover spaghetti. The hotel room was a bit musty and I went to open the window. Unlike in the US, they let you open the hotel windows all the way in Europe.

By "they" I mean people who are not my cousin B. "Don't open that window!" he yelled at me.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because rats will crawl in!" he replied.

I took the name of the Lord in vain and then offered a compromise: I would open the window for five minutes, so the room could air out, and would keep my eyes on it at all times.

"OK fine but if any rats crawl in you have to kill them by biting off their heads," said cousin B.

"No problem," said I. Then I opened the window and remarked on how many other windows in the airshaft we faced were open. But still, after five minutes I closed the window. Later we turned on the air conditioner and it smelled like urine. Cousin B said the smell came from angry rats climbing up five stories so they could hop on the air conditioner and pee all over it, out of sheer rattiness.