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Today was St. Joseph Altar Cookie Day. For those who don't know, visitors to St. Joseph's altars (which will be held on Monday, March 19) are given a bag containing a holy card, a lucky (fava) bean, and an assortment of Italian cookies: usually iced fig bars, sesame seed cookies, and sweet-dough cookies in assorted flavors. I spent this afternoon rolling out all types of cookies and glazing ones that had already been baked. I turned out to have a knack for mixing the glaze, which consisted of powdered sugar, milk, and various flavored extracts -- almond, lemon, rum, and anise. It seemed easy enough to me, but of the eight or ten ladies* there, only I and Ms. Rosary, Goddess of the St. Joseph Altar at whose house we were doing the cooking, were able to get the consistency right. Perhaps it was because of my candy-making experience. I guess this sounds braggy, but in truth, since I don't believe myself to be good at very many things, I'm always thrilled to discover a new talent (however small).

One of the ladies reported that her family had gone to see Ricky Graham's cabaret show I Know What It Means last night and one of the images projected onstage was a photo of last year's Our Lady of Good Counsel St. Joseph altar, which they recognized by a card I'd made with pictures of Buddy Diliberto, Joe Casamento, and Mary Hansen, all of whom passed away in 2005. I am honored to think Ricky might have actually gotten the photo from this journal.

Also in attendance was an extremely articulate and charismatic seven-year-old boy named Hunter, who told me a horrible story: When his family was evacuating, they only had room in the car for one of their several outdoor cats, so they told him, "Hunter, choose your favorite." The cat he chose died six months later. What was that Harlan Ellison story where you could have memories surgically removed from your brain? I sometimes wish this technology existed.

Now I'm home and making tuna casserole. For the past six months or so, I've been experiencing nostalgia for foods of my childhood that I never liked in the first place -- casseroles that contain cream of mushroom soup, Hamburger Helper (I blame Lisey's Story for that one), and the like.

Next Sunday I return to Ms. Rosary's to help fix the food that will be served at the altar: eggplant casserole, cardoons, red gravy (for spaghetti), and the like. Most of these women are twenty or more years older than me and they seem to have ten times the energy I do. My back hurts, but it doesn't seem to matter much; this year in particular I must work my non-Sicilian, non-Catholic ass off for St. Joseph.

*Though it's not an absolute, preparation of the food for St. Joseph's altars is traditionally done by women, so I go in drag ... or mufti, if you like, since I don't actually wear a dress.

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