Memories

Memories are like tattoos. They’re a permanent stain on our person, staying with us for life. Some visible to others, some not, they may change our perception of the world, or how the word perceives us. Indelible as they may be, no matter how many layers of skin the ink penetrates, no matter how deeply our thoughts alter our present, they do change.

Slowly, imperceptibly over the years, lines begin to blur. Colors become muddy. Once vibrant, sharp, crystalline pictures fade into confusion and darkness. Can you trust your own mind? Can you understand the symbols painted on your body? Does it all still make sense?

Memories can be painful, seared into our consciousness through traumatic events. Once they’re there, it’s almost impossible to remove their lingering outlines entirely, forever tracing around wrists and ankles like ghostly shackles. Cover-ups are like bandages with weak adhesive at best. No matter how many solid color blocks you add or intricate geometric designs, they’re still there, lurking beneath it all.

Sometimes our memories are tattoos, literally, and vice versa. If you could go back, would you change them? Would you paint a new picture? Would it even make a difference? The body underneath is always the same. It only matters what you do with it.

Portraits of and artwork by Squiggle Tats.

Luka Love


My beautiful baby boy, do you remember the first day we met? It’s hard to imagine life without you, but it’s true, we had no idea the other existed when you entered the world. Where did you come from, really? Not a parking lot in Hercules, CA where you leapt into my arms without looking back, that much is sure. I’ll never know what came before that, though. What became of your original home, and why did you first mama disappear without a trace? Who could surrender such a sweet child to a complete stranger?

My beautiful baby boy, did you know that they first called you, “Max”? Yes, short for Maximilian, or perhaps the Roman family name Maximus. Barely tipping the scales at 6 pounds, you were more like Mini than Max. Do you like being called “Luka” better, or is it too much like Loki, the God of mischief? I was worried about that myself, but you seem to have taken to it, and it’s grown to suit you, my little troublemaker.

My beautiful baby boy, how is it that four years have passed since that fateful moment when you adopted me? Do you recall that rough start, with so many sleepless nights, ruined rugs, and frantic vet visits? You’ve certainly trained me well since then. Now I’m a treat-dispensing, belly-rubbing, walking pro, just like you always wanted.

My beautiful baby boy, Happy Gotcha Day. I don’t know how I ever got so lucky, but I got you. Through the good days and the bad, that’s all I really need.

Thunder Lullaby

Thunder rolls ponderously, ominously overhead. Unseen but felt, like a heavy weight it rumbles and shakes, groans and snaps, sounding off on pain that mere mortals fail to comprehend. Speaking a language we can’t translate, it is unreachable, inconsolable. On and on it wails into the dark of night, interrupting the continuous staccato of rain bouncing of asphalt shingles and aluminum siding. For what, for whom does the thunder grieve so achingly? There is no soothing this profound pain. The thunder suffers alone, but with all the world in attendance, until it cries itself to sleep.

Thank God It’s FryDay

yEtiquette tip: Just order the French fries.

Your friends are lovely people, all of them, I’m sure. Some may just not have the confidence to ask for what they want. Perhaps they’re simply not self-aware enough to even know what they really want. They could be forgiven for all the salads, dressing on the side, no croutons, please, because this is the culture we live in. It’s polite to take the spartan, healthy path, while denying more decadent desires.

That’s why you’re doing them, yourself, and society at large a great favor by ordering the French fries. Don’t ask, don’t make a scene about it, still go for those giant bowls of frilly lettuces all the same. Nonchalantly push the glorious golden spuds into the center of the table, make subtle gestures to share if you must provide further encouragement, and consider the ice officially broken.

 

The Devil Eats Chocolate

“That’s very fattening.”

Dropping like a stone out of the clear blue sky, the unsolicited comment stopped me cold. I hadn’t even been aware of the man standing in front of my cart, blocking my slow procession down the aisle. An instinctual flicker of rage flashed before my eyes, as if I had been slapped and called out back for a fight. This? This innocent little chocolate bar I held in my hand, fattening? What had it ever done to deserve such a harsh insult, completely unprovoked?

I looked up quickly, startled by the intrusion. There was only one way to respond, as far as I could see.

Looking this odd stranger straight in the eye, I spoke clearly and calmly.

“Yep.”

Immediately, the decision was made under that advice. Into the cart went the candy, tossed nonchalantly. That was all such a careless exclamation warranted.

Pulling the cart away from the shelf, away from this intruder, an incredulous grin began to spread across my face. What a laughable claim! What a strange thing to interject! Perhaps I should be grateful he’s so deeply concerned with my nutritional well-being. As if “fattening” was a terrible condition that could be contracted and spread like a disease, it was so kind of him to take a stand against the evils of all confectionery the world over, starting with my misinformed purchase.

Taking my plunder outside the store, there was only one way to dispose of such dangerous contraband. Quickly removing the wrapper to dissect the scored rectangles, it broke like the flimsy villain facade it hid behind, shattering into dark brown splinters that glittered inside the foil sheath. Vanquishing the beast, piece after piece succumbed to a sharp bite of the teeth, and a slow melt over the tongue.

May this beast inflict its fattening ways over society no more.

A Whole Latke Love

Contrary to the frequently perpetuated oversimplification, latkes are not potato pancakes. They’re not hash browns nor patties, neither nuggets, tots, nor home fries. “Shredded potato clusters” don’t quite do them justice, but it’s hard to explain such a disarmingly simple dish. Sometimes it easier to describe what they aren’t, rather than what they are- Or ought to be. Strong opinions exist about what makes a proper latke, but in my family, that only means one thing: thin, crispy, silver dollar disks of starchy ribbons, all bound together with a scant handful of matzo meal and a whisper of yellow onion for seasoning. Deeply browned around the edges with a tender interior, some more so than others to appease a diverse crowd, they’re made by the pound and scaled up by tens; never trimmed back, never turned down. Rarely do leftovers survive the main meal, no matter how many buttery Yukon golds press through those sharp spinning grates.

For as long as I can remember, Hanukah has meant the smell of canola oil wafting through the house come midday, long before the menorah comes out or the table is set. My parents work in concert to sling the edible oily miracles well in advance of arriving guests to hide the laborious demands of each painstakingly shaped round. My mom stands guard inside the kitchen, cutting down armies of potatoes to form the raw fuel for this fire. Conveying them in heaping stock pots to my dad, he then dutifully, patiently shallow fries them outside on the grill. Through the bitterly cold winds, freezing rain, hail, snow, and thunderstorms, he faces the elements with steely resolve. There’s no Hanukkah celebration without the latkes, and they’re not about to cook themselves.

I’ll start by assembling my plate daintily, politely spearing two or three small clusters to save enough for the crowd, but after the first bite, proper manners quickly fall by the wayside. Seconds consist of a half sheet tray of the potato gems, shamelessly slathered with enough sour cream to sink a ship, if not lavished with a truly decadent crown of seaweed caviar. From age 3 to 30, if I don’t end the night with grease stains on my shirt and crispy potato shrapnel tangled in my hair, then it isn’t a real holiday dinner with my family.

Latkes aren’t the point here, despite their dominance on festive menus and historical authenticity- Or lack thereof. Latkes are about symbolism, taking on whatever meaning you assign them on this holy, yet entirely ordinary winter day. Latkes are whatever you want them to be, but the only way I’ll ever want them is back east in the house where I grew up, my parents lovingly slinging them from dawn to dusk. No recipe on Earth could ever recreate that kind of experience.