Friday, December 30, 2011

man, I hate the dentist

"Is this receded area sensitive?" asks the hygienist  as she jabs a metal probe into the exposed root below my ancient tooth.  Lightning streaks across the back of my eyeballs and a high-pitched  silent scream  resonates through my frontal robe.  I feel tears forming and I shake my head.  "Actually never bothered me until you put that pointy thing into the raw bone tissue of my jaw, you clueless idiot."

Dental personnel are a category unto themselves.  What normal person wants to spend hours everyday peering into cavernous mouths full of decay and odor.  My own dentist, Chris, is an obsessive compulsive, meticulous, nit-pickety professional, all the things you want in a dentist. He has the personality of a salamander, bland and colorless, and he giggles like a fourth-grade girl.  He's perfect for the profession.

I make it a point never to listen to John Mellancamp and unfortunately this is what is being piped over the intercom. There is a TV screen in the corner and I count nine scenes of peaceful scenery, mesas and mountains, bales of rolled hay in a deserted pasture portrayed digitally.  I am growing comfortable with the rhythm of the show and then Chris clicks a button and I am staring at my tooth, the size of a Lazy boy chair, scary little cracks and pock marks dotting its surface.

I lay perfectly prostate and what is with these modern flat-on-your-back dental chairs, my lower muscles will be knotted and twisted when they put me upright again. I will hobble over to my backpack and accept the free toothbrush and floss and agree to another appointment. We sat in barbershop chairs in my youth with a bowl next to us to spit in, no modern suckie-thing swooshing it away before we could see it. And Novocaine was not available for cavity-filling no matter how deep the thing was.

Chris has tried many whistles and toys over the years of my visiting.  There were the headphones back in the 90's and I could bring my own tapes, Def Leppard roaring into my skull covering up the mosquito whine of the drill.  Big, cataract surgery sunglasses, wait he still has those, and then there was laughing gas.  Man, I loved that stuff, interfering with my oxygen flow and causing an out-of-body experience which is what you want in a dental setting.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

damn the emotion

Christmas, shishmas.  I may actually round the corner of this insane holiday with some gas still in my tanks thanks to an unexpected day off from work. I am cleaning a toilet and having profound thoughts which often happens while doing repetitive maintenance tasks. Before enlightenment, we chopped wood and carried water and after enlightenment we chopped wood and carried water.  I have tried to convince my husband of this simple phenomena but he chooses to remain detached.  All Christmas purchases have been made and the MasterCard company has been keeping tabs on the crazy rising total and they will send me a fat and bulging envelope next month and I will need to sit down before I open it.

Wait, I'm not finished.  I need to buy something for Dave's three older sisters and they don't need any material thing floating around this universe.  In years past I have received from them Christmas Snoopy coasters, a cheese tray shaped like a Christmas tree with a light bulb knife (see December 2010) an ornament with a painted picture of the family home.  It was a simple row house in a neighborhood inhabited by packing house workers, no masterpiece here.

My painfully logical mind thinks about buying battery packs for those girls or chapstick, lint rollers, or a package of ground beef, 93%, of course.  My poor children suffered through a history of practical educational toys, magnets and models of the human skeleton, thanks to their overly teachery mother.

I  like the idea of Christmas more than I like Christmas.  It's a lot of work and people keep coming over and there's an abundance of bad food, cream cheese and sour cream and mounds of sugar and don't get me started on the cocktail weenies.
But I need Christmas and if it didn't exist there would be a large hole at the end of my year.  I require the sparkly stuff.
And I miss my mother. I follow recipes in her handwriting and tenderly unwrap ornaments she owned, and I remember a younger, painless version of herself and I am lonely for her.
So, cheers everyone. It's Christmas eve and I am balancing my checkbook and waiting for the frozen spinach to drain and wishing I could find one decent horror movie on cable.  Damn the emotion and merry christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

a resplendent woman

Today I saw Carlene and if you like soap operas keep reading because you are going to get one.

 My former job had ended with a lot of heartache and disappointment and my self-centered boss wore spiked high heels and she renigged on a verbal contract we had. I would work a concentrated three-day schedule allowing me to babysit my shiny new grandson the rest of the week. The scaldiwag nurse hired to pick up the other hours got lazy and useless and then they said we changed our minds, she's out and you need to be here the whole time and I said no, we had a deal, but I was powerless to change things.

 On my last day I clocked in and saw the unbelievable workload scheduled for me and decided, I'm outta here.  I grabbed my Kleenex box and stapler and my toddler grandson and I spent the day on the river's beach, the boy shoveling sand into a bucket and me staring at the horizon wondering what the hell just happened.

I was not accustomed to being unemployed and I did not like it.  I spent the first week sewing a cover for a table lamp and I thought, when this period comes to an end and people ask what did you accomplish while unemployed,  I will say, look at this lamp cover.

Then I got this new job and they gave me my own bright blue folder and I had a desk with drawers and a bulletin board.  Carlene was my co-worker and she was planning a vacation with her husband Jeff, in Hawaii. It seemed liked a contented union for these two and they had a young son, Joshua.  Upon their return Jeff attempted suicide and it had not been the first time. He had carefully timed his intended demise to occur at the same time a sister was scheduled to visit his house and she was never tardy. It was a safe gamble.

Carlene was disgusted.  Jeff had been playing these dangerous games a long time and the disruption to her and Joshua's life had become unbearable.  She left that man and over the weeks we learned the history of this sad marriage, Jeff was an emotional and verbal abuser, a man prone to manic and gargantuan rages.

Shortly after this, Carlene moved to a lake home owned by a woman, deep in the woods north of town and announced she was a lesbian.  Most of us reacted with dropped jaws wondering how we had missed this.  Carlene got stronger, protected and nurtured under Lynn's love and she stopped being such a scared little girl.  All of this was gist for Jeff's hate machine and he managed to convince even her own mother Carlene was malicious and not to be trusted with her new identity.

With his dad's urging Carlene's young son refused to spend time with her and  I watched Carlene bring all this heartache to work. I was impressed with her calmness in the midst of this lonely tragedy.  She never complained or blamed, accepting her lot and always, always her son was the core of her existence and she arranged counseling for the two of them.  Her neurotic husband fought her at every step, spreading lies and poisoning the son, Jeff was a selfish beast.  Carlene had a Zen-like attitude toward life, never challenging or tempting the universe, allowing events to transpire and play themselves out before she would react.

And then she got breast cancer, an invasive, estrogen-fueled tumor that blasted itself into her lymph nodes and left her shivering and senseless from the current medical barbaric technology of cut, burn, poison.  And she met the disease face-on with the same heroic stoicism that kept her sane in the bedlam of her collapsed marriage. Those of small mind mumbled amongst themselves she deserved this fate and we ignored these insignificants.

I work evenings now and Carlene remains on the day shift.  But by chance I saw her this week and she wouldn't stop hugging me. I hadn't seen her since the start of her disease and she was wearing little snowman earrings and her long blond hair was gone and a spiky crew cut stuck up jaggedly on her scalp. The human spirit is resplendent in the soul of this woman, and still I remain uncertain of the very existence of souls, but what moves and inspires this child of the universe represents an energy undefined by anything mortal.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

and it's roller derby time

My only daughter, a beautiful brilliant woman, married with kids and a master's degree, announced she wanted to attend a women's roller derby event.  I wouldn't have been more surprised if she had tickets to a nude mud wrestling tournament and did we want to go?  I generally don't do sports-related things and I would rather be stuck in church than sit through a basketball game.

And that is how I find myself in a bar nursing a Kessler's and diet hissing at Dave not to tell anyone we are waiting on a roller derby.  Phil, the pot-bellied elderly bartender points at my empty glass. "Phil'er up, Phil," I say quoting the sign above my head, a drawing of a much younger, slimmer Phil pouring the spirits.  Beers I drank in college like Old Style and Bud Light and Miller Light are the only tap selections and this is seriously crazy redneck country.

I grab front row seats and can't help noticing a taped-on paper square on the floor that says, Suicide Section. This area is for the brain-damaged fans who want to sit on the floor and have a squadron of out-of-control overweight skaters trip and land in their laps. And there appears to be a lot of these people. This is the first event I attend where the fans look scarier than the security staff and even those guys are looking nervous. 

The first person I encounter is an obese menacing woman wearing a red spandex skating uniform, Christmas necktie, and torn black fishnet stockings encasing large varicose-veined thighs.  Team that with a bright orange mohawk with gang symbols shaved onto the sides of her scalp. Tattoos are far too many to count and her code name is emblazoned across her broad back, "Askin4it."  She shoves a huge bag of dried jerky at me and says, "want some meat?"  I shake my head, I'll not be askin' anything from Askin4it.  As I scuttle away she yells at me, "you KNOW you wanna buy a t-shirt!"

It's a simple sport for simple people, only four rules according to the explanation in the program, even dominoes has more than that.  The girls pretty much do what they want and the referees with names like Body Bag and Hugo Busther scream into their whistles.  I stand off to the side stretching my legs and the "blocker" section is coming at me,  a solid wall of unrelenting female flesh and some of these women are winking at me so Dave, we're going home.

Big Dave, me and Askin', BFF

Sunday, December 11, 2011

stout-hearted men

I drop off food at my father's house and am greeted at the door by the stereo blaring a rendition of "Stout-hearted Men."  Now you know that tune, "give us some men who are stout-hearted men who will fight for the right to be free,"  and loud enough to compensate my father who prefers not to wear his hearing aid.  I am transported back to an earlier time, my childhood and how is it I know all the words to this tune and all the others on the album.  Because unlike anyone else I know Sonny plays military music on a regular basis along with all the other dead guys music that his generation enjoys.

 It's no secret.  I grew up in a boot camp with an ex-Marine father who did everything on schedule and by the roster. I'm surprised he never hired a bugler to wake us in the morning.  Pity the poor child who would borrow one of his tools and not return it in the pristine condition he found it. I was one of those unfortunates and it was not pleasant. Dinner was served at 5:15 every day, not 5:16, not 5:17,  you get it.  I can still see my brother racing through the park across the street from our house at 10:59 p.m., his blond head visible under the street lamps.  His curfew was eleven and he knew better then to push the perimeter. Punishment would be swift and forthcoming possibly physical, it was still the sixties, although nothing out of hand. The old man was just trying to raise good citizens.

My father's war experience was different from my husband's Vietnam tour.  There were no ticker tape parades for Dave and no one yelled " you goddamned baby killer" at Sonny.  World War II had a lot of party elements, check out the movies that originated during that era. Comedies and romances, even musicals with privates dancing up a storm with wasp-waisted WACs, and not a Platoon or Born on the Fourth of July in the lot of them.  After Ima Jima the sergeant entered the barracks and asked each soldier, what did you do before the war, what did you do before the war and so on down the line.  When they got to Sonny, he had been a welder at the sprawling John Deere plant.  They whisked him off to Guam and "that's how I spent the remainder of the war," he wistfully reports, welding battleships back together.  Thank god, Dad, thank god for that gig.  And here we are, all your children, healthy, alive, and may I say again, here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

shameless braggarts

Forgive the total lack of humiliation in the following post but athletes and bloggers share one particular characteristic: we are shameless braggarts.

My fingernails look like piranha have been nibbling the tips and my eyes take on the redness of a chronic alcoholic. I know how you think, you wicked children, but you would be wrong.  That critter chlorine is the reason for my discomfort and they used it in nerve gas and other poisons.  I am spending more time in the water and have upped my swim routine to ninety minutes and the chemicals are disagreeable, small matter. I owe my new splurge of energy in part to my brother David, extreme athlete and bicyclist.  He arrives at my house on Sunday night with his bucket of tools to help with an electrical problem and aren't we lucky he is the main man at the energy plant.  The boy is swimming in his clothes. Why is it when men lose weight they keep wearing their same old stuff and I want to peer down his collar opening and yell, anybody in there?  He's lost 32 pounds and he is aiming toward Triple D, the January cycle race in our part of town and he needs to be lighter in the saddle. The guy inspires me and I will push myself.
Check out another shameless braggart at, 
a truly funny guy.

On my fourth day of the longer routine I overstretch muscles in both my calves. The right one fixes itself but left guy is a notorious repeat offender and will not be stilled.  Two unfortunate accidents six months apart while chasing an out-of-control toddler has left that part of my leg weaker.  The damn thing will be ignored and I swim through the pain knowing that this muscle will demand my attention later tonight.  As I stretch against the poolside wall a woman still swimming says, "it looks like the veins in the back of your legs are going to burst."  Well, geez, I hope not, they sure feel like they just might.

I can feel myself becoming a stronger swimmer and that is a good thing because usually at my age the only thing getting stronger is my breath.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

sorry, Mr. Johnson

I am backing up from a Pizza Hut parking spot when I feel my rear bumper crunch into the signal light of the 2008 Toyota Tacoma parked behind me.   I am distracted by two youths attempting to ride skateboards in front of me.  They are pisspoor athletes and one guy is six plus foot tall and his lanky frame looks ridiculous trying to maneuver his small board.  He wears jeans, a jean jacket and a farmer's cap.  Good God man, if you're going to play the sport get the proper wardrobe. I am attempting to estimate when his out of control board will crash into the hood of my car and then boom - I will be talking to my insurance company real soon.  And the only thought I'm having concerns my large sausage  pizza, extra cheese, and will it be cold.

Out of the restaurant door comes the owner of the car looking like the Episcopalian Republican he probably is, his  face frozen in strong frown lines and peering at me like I was a particularly ugly insect.  He brushes past me and opens his door and returns with a small zippered notebook. I realize he is a terribly efficient person judging by the paper tablet, several pens including a yellow magic marker and he has been prepared and waiting for this moment all this life.  I hand him my insurance card and he begins writing and after a couple of minutes I ask if I could see his card, why should I have to stand and watch him write.  I have a small notebook in the car but all the pages are are filled with children's drawings and I jot down his  particulars around the pictures of dogs and racing cars.
I want to go home. I just left a water park and I am wearing no underwear or socks, shoelaces slapping the cement and my hair is plastered against my wrinkled forehead.

I just need to pay closer attention and not be distracted by dweeb wannabe skateboarders.  Sorry, I ruined your trip Mr. Johnson, I say and I think to myself things could have gone worse.  Backing into some one's car on this end of town could have resulted in all kinds of scenarios that might involve pimps, gang members, pirates, lunatics or skeezes looking for insurance fraud schemes or maybe all of them at once. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

thanksgiving report

This is being written for the relatives who could not attend the family dinner and the guilty know who they are. The rest of you readers can go rent DVDs or make some soup because as a family we are not that interesting.

My daughter offers her house for Thanksgiving and damn I am glad. She's a social girl, the lovely Carrie and the next day I say, aren't you glad it's over?  I know her answer before I hear it, "actually, I like having people over," she says sounding a bit wistful.  Once again the evidence is clear, babies were switched at birth and this is not my living flesh and blood, yet I love her fiercely.

I suck at entertaining and the holidays bring my inadequacies to the surface.  My mother excelled at hospitality and anyone who supped at her table felt nurtured, her ironed violet linen napkins folded under the silverware.  If you get a food spill at  my house I will gladly throw a roll of paper towels at you.  I remember riding in the car with my parents, my son and his girlfriend.  My mother was talking about something and suddenly the girlfriend looked her straight in the eye and said, "I like you."  I was steaming in the front seat thinking why does nobody ever ever like me? But why should they?  The term polite company in my book means company who are polite enough to stay home and not expect me to wait on them.

We had 56 pounds of turkey, I'm serious, for eighteen adults and a smattering of small children who were mainly interested in dinner rolls and desserts.  Like I said, people cancelled along the way, no matter, Thanksgiving reigns as leftovers royalty and my gravy was smashing, I must say, simply smashing and it will live again, thanks to freezable containers.

Last year I hired some young bakers at the farmers' market to do the pies, I was too full of my mother's loss to deal with that baking requirement.  Pies were her speciality but those pseudo desserts were dull and lifeless and full of too much sugar. This year I produced a pumpkin pie of superior value, butter and brown sugar and walnuts between the crust and the filling, Marie's recipe on a cinnamon-stained card.  My sweet sister-in-law experimented with mincemeat to please the old man and who the hell eats mincemeat anyway?

End of the evening and I realized I had not seen my father for an hour. I walk down to the basement just a few creases in my forehead and there he is, sitting at the table surrounded by five children. They are teaching him Texas Hold'em and he says to me, "they understand the game but not the value of the hands."  Expertise intersects with youthful enthusiasm and it's a win-win situation.  Oh, lovely day. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

butter and other stories of slippery consequences

 I am ravenous for the Caribbean shrimp at one of our old German taverns.  And there is nothing Caribbean about it, guys I can taste the  rosemary for chrissake, but the saving feature is butter.  The shrimp are swimming in butter and their little bodies are encrusted with the stuff.  Add a baked potato with even more butter cuz sour cream is for amateurs and you have a slice of saturated heaven.
Dave says order another drink, he's not moving because his alma mater, Iowa State University is doing something exceptional on the TV.  The football team is ranked eighteen and they are about to trounce Oklahoma, the second ranking team in the country.  Like most Americans I love triumphant underdog stories because that's what this country was built on, look at Abe Lincoln, Liberace or that guy from Walmart.

I find a newspaper and doodle with the crossword puzzle and yes, I'll have another drink. Off to the right of our table three young men are laughing and yelling at an annoying pitch, slamming their fists on the bar making their drinks jump and spill a little.  The little guy in the middle is rattling off death threats to the Iowa State team on the screen above him and his homies are goading him on.  Men like to encourage stupidity in each other and I think it's an alpha male thing.

 Dave is talking to another bar customer and then he hears the loud guy and saunters over to him.  "Either you're from Oklahoma or you're drunk," Dave says with a broad smile.  I saw the man's face change and it became something feral and fearsome.  He's going to hit Dave and I launch myself out of the chair and am next to my husband in one second down.  I latch onto his arm pulling him away and giving the young rascal a wide-eyed expression of "what are  you going to do with a sweet old crazy guy like this?"  I am praying to an unseen presence, "oh, please, do not let this night end at the hospital or the police station."

At last the two buddies come to their senses and realize throwing more kerosene on this fire could result in ugly consequences beyond their control and they half drag, half push their frothing little friend towards the door.  Dave remains perched on the bar pole, still smiling and looking for a new listener, oblivious to how close his face came to being rearranged. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

marge at large

A pool stalker is sharing the planet with me.  Marge, her name is Marge and I know that because she signs her name on the pool log just like I do. She looks like a Marge, a bland, forgettable face kind of like a goat's, greying hair cut in a bob, an athlete's body, soft in the predictable places and she is older than me.  Despite that fact she is a stronger swimmer, she does a fast crawl to my casual butterfly stroke. When our schedules coincide I can feel her eyes on me from the other lane. Today I finished first and  headed down to the locker room.  I was under the hair dryer, my lime green towel wrapped around me snugly and suddenly, there she was. She bounded, yes bounded, over to me and made a complimentary comment about my swim bag, a converted Trader Joe's sack. And then she left, she didn't even use the toilet, now what to think of that.

Today she signs in just a few minutes before me. The hour passes and I have accomplished what I came to do and I head into the bowels of the building, the location of the women's locker room and for a century this college only accepted men as students so I guess we get the scummy seconds.  I walk past the showers and out of the corner of my eye I see her, waiting for me. Naked as naked can be and she is combing her nicely styled hair and her cosmetics are flawless and there is a gold and turquoise necklace around her neck nestled between two perfect breasts. Well, anybody's breasts are perfect when our arms are above our heads.  She purrs at me,"well, hello-o-ooh!"  Marge appears extremely pleased to see me and we are the only two occupants of this dungeon room.  I spit out a "hi" and head toward the toilet.  Swim pees are serious pees, your bladder was buoyed in the water, now you are weight-bearing and feeling the pressure.

I linger on the stool and wonder why she has to be so naked when everybody else scurries to get their towels around them.  Damn, this woman cannot be from the Midwest.   I know she is a faculty member as she marks that column when logging in her name.  At least I can attract professional academics and I actually feel proud of this.
Out I come and she's still posing and her body is unmarred by pregnancies and poor dietary choices. I figure the best way to nip this craziness in the bud is to show her my own disastrous body.  Off comes the towel and here is my lumpy abdomen compromised by three pregnancies and a progressive love of alcohol.  There have been three breast biopsies that left the tissue dented and dimpled and nursing three babies has assisted gravity's plan for my bosoms. But she is not swayed by all this and oh God, now she has winked at me. I leave hastily and red-faced and still dripping from the swim.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

we medicate the hell out of them

You wouldn't believe how often people ask if I like working in an Alzheimer's unit.  Some of them are the grown children of my residents and they rarely visit because their mother is a threat, a reminder that the end is inevitable and steamrolling their way.  They talk volumes at me, instructions on what I should be doing. You don't know your mother anymore, I want to say, her disease has changed her.  I show these insensitives no mercy. "Yes, I do like working in a nursing home.  Old people are so grateful and the ones that aren't we medicate the hell out of them."

 I wouldn't be anywhere else. Casey is my resident and thirty-one years ago Casey's son interviewed me for a job at their family jewelry store, it was the year I left my husband. I needed work and I thought why not a jewelry store and surely there would be commissions paid out on this expensive glittery stuff.  No, Casey's son told me.  No commissions, we don't want the staff competing against each other, bad feelings. And what he meant was: you all the get the same lousy minimum wage salary.  You cheap bastard, I thought, I got some bad feelings for you right here and then he went on to inform me since it was the Christmas season not to plan on spending time with my family.  I would be there at the store every night and weekend and all the miserable hours in between. That guy was just like his old man and Casey is one cantankerous, sewer-speaking, inappropriate dude and that would be the nice way to put it.

The staff is afraid of him, especially the housekeepers as they scurry around the dining room cleaning tables and floors after the evening meal. Casey has a keen eye and he will kick over their bucket of water if they don't move quickly enough.  He points out every missed crumb and gravy stain and will curse them like the evil pirate he is should they miss one.  I ignore Casey's taunts, what else can I do, he has Alzheimer's disease and most dementia patients fall into one of two categories, "pleasantly confused" (which will be my legacy when I am diagnosed although friends tell me I am already there) and, "aggressively mean and paranoid" and here Casey is firmly planted like a barnacle under a ship.  I'll sit him down with a 24-piece puzzle, some ditsy Disney character puzzle, and when Casey focuses his tyrannical tendencies are left behind.   And tomorrow and the day after and the day after I'll give Casey the same puzzle and he won't remember.

Friday, November 11, 2011


What's that white crap on my car?  Snow hit us early and hard and I awoke to a crackling sound hitting my window. Wait, my sleeping brain postulated, this ain't soft lullaby rain falling, it has mass and weight and I will need to deal with it.
I took the George test. I scooped a quarter out of my coin purse and inserted it into the tread of my tire and the coin should have sunk down to to his eyebrow line but there it sat and I could see the whole bald pate.  I need new tires and soon if I am to scale the treacherous slippery-slidey bluffs of my hometown.

I choose to live in Iowa. My father is here and my daughter and some of my grandchildren so I have roots and more than enough reason to stay.  I visit warmer, dryer climates throughout the year but I always return to this unstable land and wait for the cold days knowing they complete me. I could not live in an endless summer.

When I was divorced and impoverished I drove a forest green Chevette, a midget's car and there was no front wheel drive or anti-lock brakes.  I needed traction and one year I filled the back of that car with chunks of cement I found near a construction site. Luckily, no other vehicle came racing towards me causing my foot to hit the brakes excessively hard and those chunks would have hurled themselves towards my tender neck.  The following year I bought eighty pounds of kitty litter for the hatchback to combat the ice and my father commented, "what do you have for a pet, a tiger?"

Snow fascinates me, its beauty and singularity, and as I age I long for and appreciate the silences of life, so few in these days of techno noise and endless motor rumblings.  A snowy country landscape shushes the clatter and creaking in  my brain, bring it on.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Thanks to Herman Cain it's fun to read the newspapers again.  My hometown paper chooses to print the international news on the back pages adjacent to the auction ads, all pigs must go.  The front page is reserved for pictures of high school girl volleyball teams crying over their last place status and articles on yet another dumb thing the local police department did.  Our state capital boasts a Pulitzer-winning newspaper but none of that star-studded journalism got channeled our way. I buy the publication for the obits, the crossword puzzle and the Olive Garden ads. Our town is anything but a contemporary metropolis. Only twelve people showed up for the Occupy protest in the city park last weekend and two of them were rumored to be homeless and looking for free sandwiches.

Anyway, Cain remains a shining reminder that Rick Perry may not be the biggest loser the Republicans are backing.   Cain is a prominent name in the national restaurant biz and has decent academic degrees in computers and economics but there's those allegations made by women saying he sexually harassed them, made them feel like meat on hooks, gawked at and turned and pinched for plumpness.  There are reports of  payoffs to keep them silent and now these women want to break that earlier agreement as the stakes are quite high and the consequences quite devastating should this man ever sit in the Oval Office. Cain reacted like the sweating, wheedling  predator he is, denials, memory lapses, sketchy details introduced awkwardly and sparingly.

Then there's that other thing, Cain is a black man. And the journalists and spin doctors are calling this a color thing but we know better. It's a power thing.

John and Bobby Kennedy were sensible leaders and probably the reason we are still walking this continent after the Bay of Pigs.
And speaking of pigs, they both had their cake and got to eat it, too and Jack was renowned for his swiftness in the extramarital bedroom, evidently a matter of pride back in those manly sixties. Step away from that history book, young woman, you may hurt yourself.  Bill Clinton got a little more coverage than the Irish bros and he was raked over the proverbial coals a bit longer thanks to the burgeoning women's movement. Why Hillary never divorced his sorry ass will remain a permanent question mark in my mind and the reason I will never take her seriously for any political office.

Since forever Americans have missed the boat. We were surrounded by an ocean of ethnic talent, the potential for genius waiting to spark in the sciences, the arts, technology and yes, public leadership if only the proper direction and environment were provided.  But we sentenced them to servile jobs, dirt sweepers, laundresses, maids and farm laborers, shoe shiners, nannies, in essence, slaves.  But we did allow African-Americans and Hispanics to play our sports and fight in our wars because these were important entertainments in our lives and they were physically hearty and expendable. Unfortunately, Cain is a blemish on the proud history of a proud people, but I don't blame race, I blame male omnipotent ego.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I hate you, Leslie

It's 41 degrees outside and I am wearing a lightweight summer shift, bare legs and flipflops and I am on my way to the doctor.  The inappropriate clothing is necessary because when I am called back by the nurse she will insist I step on the scale and the flipflops can be easily discarded, too bad the dress can't as well.  And look at that,  I gained five pounds in the twenty days since I have last been here. "Good," says doc, "the weight gain is good, you were too small."  Hmmph, I bet he doesn't get to say that too often judging by the immensity of the company sitting in his waiting room. "It'll be gone the next time you see me," I say scornfully.  Five pounds is a pants size and my Liz Claiborne jeans sit idly in the dresser drawer and I am wearing  sweats with elastic bands. But those Claibornes run small, don't they, oh how we delude ourselves.

I have been sick these last three weeks and this has caused a major interruption in my exercise routine.  My eating habits never change but inertia breeds inertia and it has been easier sitting on the couch feeling sorry for myself and eating chocolate-covered peanuts than taking my feverish, wheezing body to the pool.  But now I need to move again, do the power walks listening to Jesus Christ Superstar on the ipod (I truly am odd and surely you knew that) and those goddamn Leslie Sansone exercise DVDs.  God, I hate that woman, she is perky and laughs too much at her own inane jokes with her mouth wide open and she's a biblethumper to boot. Who needs biblical quotations when I'm sweating through her prescribed lunges?  I comfort myself knowing she has chunky thighs and those black bell-bottomed sweats DON'T HIDE THAT FACT, LESLIE.  She gets me moving, easy on the joints,  I'll give her that, but I still yell obscenities while I'm doing her dance.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

songs of mother

I'm slicing apples, mounds of apples, granny smith, winesap, red delicious, jonathan.  And I think of my mother, slicing apples is an associated memory and she recommended a combination of several kinds of apples for a worthy pie.  Walking into her kitchen on a Sunday with the roast simmering after finishing my eighth grade homework and grabbing a sugared apple slice from the bowl, green and tart, I never ate the pie, a cake person myself.  Marie used a fork to ventilate her pie crust, her mother cut thin parallel lines, I do the same.

That's my Princess sign and that's what my
father called me in my distant youth but I still had
to pay my own way through college.
 In the last few days before her death she and I attempted a rhubarb pie. I  was  standing next to her hobbled little body holding onto the kitchen counter for support, not realizing she would be gone from me in a just a few short days and trying to keep my temper as she barked out orders.  I rolled the pie dough noticing its denseness, knowing it would be tough and sluggish on the tongue but she would not let me add more water.  It's fine, you said, and I knew it wasn't, but I would not argue with such an ill woman, death in her features. The crust was stiff and I poured the sugared rhubarb into it's midst just wanting to excuse myself from this place, this tired sick woman, it felt so wrong.  I  watched you knead dough year after year, learning from you.  Later, she said it was the worst pie she ever tasted. The creatin was building in your brain, your thinking was askew. Well, not that awful, added my gentle ambassador father trying to make a happy ending.

I see you in my kitchen, wearing your Thanksgiving sweater, the one with the orange and brown leaves, a turkey pin on your shoulder.  "Start the gravy," you say, "put some tin foil on that dressing."  There is no one behind me now, just absence and silence, and it's so profound, Marie, I want to skip the holidays, sit on a bench by the river watching eagles. I do not want to be around people, they're loud and self-seeking.  Where are you,  Cameron sees you,  three years of age, why can't I?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

pumpkin time

Sonny's coming for dinner and I am scrapping for a killer dessert recipe, a little show-off cooking if you will. I want to dazzle the company.  There are several pounds of apples in my fridge calling to me, we wanna be pie, bake us into pie but I don't feel like cleaning up flour and cinnamon for the next several hours, pies are messy stuff.  I am staring at a can of pumpkin and when I peel back the label, kazaam!   Encoded on the back are hidden secret recipes and then I see it, Pumpkin Roll,  oh glorious, I must do this.

I read through the recipe and cringe at the instructions, only a chump would attempt this, a fool born every minute, yes, but not on this block.   I mix up the little bowl of orange dough and then spoon it out on a greased and floured piece of wax paper which is stuck on a jelly roll pan by another layer of grease.  When the cake comes out I must toss it on a kitchen towel dusted with powdered sugar and wrap cake and towel into a big lump of cloth cake and let it cool. What is this nonsense?  This is positively insane and there will be orange chunks dotted with walnuts and congealed powdered sugar all over my counter. I smell all my kitchen towels looking for one that doesnt' smell like lavender Bounce and let the challenge begin.

First, whip up three feces-encrusted eggs you purchased from the Amish lady at farmers' market.  What is with these people and their complete ignorance of simple hygiene?  I bet they don't own one container of sanitary wipes.

Secondly, remove the pan from the oven that you cooked your pork tenderloins on last week.

Pumpkin loaf is plumping nicely.  It will soon be time to start the circus antics, tossing this thing on a powdered-sugar towel and I'm trying not to panic.

I had other pictures but who cares. This has dragged on long enough and the darn thing is filled, rolled and sitting on the round steak and next to the tuna.  I open the fridge numerous times during the day to spy on my project probably spoiling the tuna, but who likes tuna anyway. Oh, and now that you've seen the inside of my appliances I feel such a special closeness with you.  Do you feel the love, too?  
"Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater, had a wife but couldn't keep her. Put her in a pumpkin shell and there he kept her very well."  Wise up, Pete, and get some decent real estate or Jack Sprat will be parking his shoes under your wife's bed.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

convenient care my arse

New day, new story.  My eyes have exploded into swollen pools of green matter and I need antibiotics, I am walking contagion. I will be wasting my time hanging around a medical office, not my personal doctor's of course, the lazy bastard doesn't work Sundays.  I am headed for the convenient care unit which my lousy insurance plan approves and is anything but convenient.  Waiting three hours with a bunch of convicts and welfare recipients*  brings out the inner snob in me.  I have always paid my medical premiums and bills on time and I would rather not spend time with these goofs wearing pajama bottoms and sporting homemade tattoos with misspelled words.

The air is thick with the odor of unwashed bodies and the short chubby woman in front of me with greasy tufts for hair  is crying to the receptionist, "but I hurt all over and I'm throwing up." Add that scent to this overloaded waiting room.  "Lenore," says the nurse, " a lot of people here hurt all over and are throwing up."  Lenore waddles back to her chair and all the people who were sitting near her have vacated their chairs and have joined me on the opposite side of the room.  She spends the next two hours snoring loudly and when the insurance guy wants a copy of her Medicaid card she tells him her spasms have gone from a half hour to every five minutes and then lapses back into her coma.
There's a woman with a large mole on her cheek dressed in black heels and black hose complaining that she has broken her foot.  If that were the situation how she can walk on that appendage in high heels is beyond me.  She has a granddaughter, a string-bean teen who has decided to accompany her grandma because she thinks she has strep throat.  It is amazing to me how quickly undereducated people jump  to the worse conclusion.  They are clearly enjoying themselves and they recognize other friends in the waiting room and this is probably the most interesting thing happening to them in weeks.  But the mole woman winks at me and says, "I guess I must come here a lot because I know all the staff and don't have to look at their name badges."  Um-m-m, oh yeah, back to my book.

 The physician-assistant guy keeps his distance from me validating my contagion theory and I leave with computer-generated forms on conjunctivitis, the ever popular pink eye, and I won't need to be around people for a couple of days. At least something worthwhile came from all of this.

* I am allowed to say disparaging things about welfare clients because two of my former jobs as a social worker were with this segment of the population and granted me access to their mind frame. I went into the experience thinking these guys were the misfit toys, misunderstood and treated badly by the middle and upper classes, victims of poverty and abuse.  That description covers about half a percent of the welfare class. The rest are losers, lazy and ignorant, slothful, dishonest and the world would be a lovelier place if they would just fall off a cliff.  I mean, they come to the emergency room knowing they will be here hours and do not even bring any reading material.

Monday, October 24, 2011

let's get the story straight

I try to open my eyes on this grey autumn morning and find that during the night an evil-faced troll has painted my lids shut with a crusty greenish glue and it's another sinus infection.  Hopefully, you're not ingesting a fried egg with wiggly uncooked white stuff as you read this but I am not wasting time in any doctor's waiting room today.  If I plead for antibiotics he will push his chair back, cross his arms and give me a steely glare which clearly implies I am the sole reason for the establishment and proliferation of every super bug in the past decade. I don't need this crap and besides I can tell I'm better.  The swelling and drooping skin has receded and I no longer resemble a stroke victim and it is safe for me to resume my place in the social environment as we know it.

I am driving to the pharmacy to peruse the eye ointment aisle and to score some candy corn.  I am sitting at a red light and on the rear window of the soccer van in front of me are pencil silhouette decals of a family including mom and dad and little kiddies lined up by size and even a puppy at the end.  I hate these displays of familial harmony and I see the driver is indeed a soccer mom and she is anything but pencil thin and I imagine her large well-padded body rolling over on that little puppy and crushing the canine life out of him.  Daddy will be out there tomorrow morning with a scraper getting the last shreds of puppy stencil off the window.

I cease to be a reasonable, empathetic human being when I am sick.  Like small children I cannot see the day ahead when the mucous will dry up and it won't hurt when I comb my hair.  I have the midwestern farmer's habit of reading the obituaries each day.  There are countless stories of how Mr. Kuperschmidt and multiple others "fought but lost a brave battle to cancer."  That won't be me.  My account will read, "she cursed and kicked and screamed the whole way and bit a few argumentative medical personnel as well." You fight your battles your way and I will fight mine, the little unbrave street fighter I was destined to be.

Friday, October 21, 2011

naked ladies in the shower

Oh, I am so gonna get the hits with that title and a lot of them will be Japanese guys at four in the a.m. CST and you know who you are.. I don't know who you are, we blog authors have no names, just times and locations of hits.  And if all this sounds racist, seriously, according to my stats I have a party of oriental interesteds coming at me in the wee hours and their referring URLs have strange names like stinky standing ashtray and naughty nancy nuggets.  What does that even mean, dude? There's no porn like Asian porn and they still won't get the juicy stuff out of me, but they keep checking back just in case I have a weak moment.  I may be misinterpreting all this due to my limited understanding of technology and my copy of Blogspot for Dummies has not yet arrived from Amazon. But hey guys, keep reading.

I am thinking about this while I swim and when I am finished I sprint downstairs to the locker room.  I need to shower because the chlorine crystallizes on my skin when dry and if I don't wash it off  the ride home is unbearable due to my steaming itchy skin.  And this is a college locker room which means group showers with no curtains and when you're nineteen and athletic you don't care, nudity only gets you good things in those early years..  Enter middle age and a comically, lumpy body stamped with varicose veins and stretch marks and those sagging buttock cheeks.  "Never, never look in the mirror when you're naked," says Susan.  Words to live by.

I tried showering in my swim suit but that's just stupid so off comes the suit, the dignity, the lies I tell myself about my body.  In walks a matron with bouffant red-tinted hair and well-applied cosmetics (in the pool?) and her sparkling earrings match her swim suit.  Swimming is a social event for her and she is one of the main talkers in the water walker club, trilling and chatting her group up with tales of buffet lines and sick relatives.  She never speaks to me.  For one thing I don't make eye contact, just a brief nod in her general direction, let me get on with my schedule.  But here I am with nothing between me and this glittery woman but shower droplets and suddenly she is all talky-cozy with me, grinning with those dental implants, surprising me with her familiarity and chumminess.  I guess nudity is vulnerability and accessibility and I am no longer the alpha swimmer in the lap lane and she just the mere waterwalker.  She is beginning to strip off her suit  and I am flashing to Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates in the hot tub and this woman has the same look as Bates and I am outta here . . . -

Monday, October 17, 2011

birdetta lucille

she's in the middle

"Grandma, don't say shit," she's three years old and is perched on my couch watching Dora the Explorer do the chicken dance on my laptop over and over.  I am talking to Susan back in San Diego and I always cuss a lot during our conversations because it is the right and authentic thing to do.  "You do know how much Grandma hates that video, don't you?" I ask.  "I do know that, Grandma."

 My own Nana was a joyous, devil-may-care flapper who tossed down her beers with a Pall Mall cigarette jauntily held between fire engine red polished nails and who told me not to wear underwear to bed because "women need to air themselves out."  This was heavy stuff to my eight-year-old self, product of a Catholic education and a mother who insisted I clean rooms that were already clean and yes, wear underwear to bed.  Nana's daughters told me she was not a good mother, multiple affairs, even the taxi driver who brought her home,  but damn, she was a great grandma and introduced me to my first Chinese restaurant, a dive frequented by lower Main street prostitutes. We had ice cream for breakfast and she said "shit" a lot and "sugar" when my father was in the room. And whispered confidences sometimes ended in "don't tell your mother."  I know my daughter's antennae just stood at attention and I comfort her by saying, nothing serious, go back to work.

Parents of young children have no sense of humor. And if they do have one then they're not paying attention.  If they're smart they are busy growing eyes in the backs of their heads and this is the best advice I can give to unfortunate people experiencing a child entering adolescence.  Hoo haw, you have some interesting years ahead and I am not just referring to drivers' education and all that it implies. I spent a lot of time on the passenger's side of my car, my knees jack-knifed into my chest, a reflex protective action, a result of children driving up and over the curb and thinking nothing of it.

I can't imagine a life without children. There would be much less noise, less laughter, the bellyful kind with tears streaming down my cheeks, bathroom humor can be fun coming from a cynical nine-year-old with an arid dry sense of humor.  Rules are different the second time around, thank god, because they sure weren't much fun the first time and in the autumn of my life, the overrated, overly mature autumn of my life, I question the necessity of some of those rules.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

it's still about her

I was born by Cesarean section.  It was a mistake, should have been a natural birth but the doctor was stoned and as a result I have a four- inch scar on my upper arm.  He missed the maternal tissue and the knife sliced into my infant limb, I wonder what my water-encased brain made of the incident.  To this day I have a deep-based fear of knives.  I touch them gingerly and reluctantly, only when necessary.  My fingertips are marred by multiple scars, I cut myself a lot, all accidental, honest, the plight of the serious chef.

 I cry easily these days, I miss my mother. Her birthday is Saturday and she's still gone.  I thought I would feel her presence on some subliminal level, a whisper in my ear, a scent of violets in the back of the room, but she has escaped me, cleanly and completely. She would do that.
We were sometimes not the best of friends.  Two overly strong, emphatic women of intensity and loud voice.  More alike than not, damn it all. We had a pain-soaked introduction on that first day, my first day.

If I could just speak to her one more time.  Could the seas of spiritual plasma part slightly and allow an earthly message to penetrate? There is no day in my life that I do not feel her.  Perhaps this is the message.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"and I dream I saw the bomber death planes riding shotgun in the sky turning into butterflies"

I find the note on Dave's desk and I am startled at the blatant emotion, not his style, red flags jump and scream in front of me.  I have just picked up my mother's ashes at the post office and wiping my eyes I direct my car downtown to the veterans' conference where my husband is waiting for me.  The morning is emotionally charged and it is only just beginning.

I park on the street plunking quarters into the meter and head into the theatre.  A woman with long grey hair is on stage strumming a guitar and she is wearing jeans and Birkenstocks with socks and a tee shirt emblazoned with the American flag.  Post-hippie entertainment and her soulful lyrics take me back to a more innocent age, me with hair I could sit on and lounging around a bonfire at the river's edge, guitars crooning Judy Mitchell tunes.

The panel is here to discuss PTSD.  Included are Jacob, an Afghanistan graduate who passed out during a July 4th celebration his first year back and woke up on a park bench, weeping.  And Miranda, widow to a marine sergeant dismissed by military psychiatrists who said he drank too much caffeine and that's what caused his manic, rocking behavior, his fingernails bitten to bloody stumps.  Miranda heard him cussing and screaming in the master bathroom and opened the door to see no one but her husband staring down the mirror.  Miranda is a nurse and she found him in their backyard.  She thought he was unconscious and as she lifted his head to perform CPR she touched his bare skull, half his head blown away by a self-inflected gunshot wound.

There are medical people here and I am drawn to the psychiatrist, a recent veteran of Mideast Asian persuasion.  When he returned he had unexplainable rages, especially in traffic jams when he would flash back to a roadblock,  bullets raining down on him and his buddies and he did not keep a weapon at home or in the car because he would have used it.  He tells us soldiers' brains exposed to combat show an increased growth in the "fight or flight" response. Like the professional baseball pitcher who over uses his arm the muscle becomes over proportional and over developed and now works against the body, grinding against the bone.  The soldiers become overly hyper vigilant, everything represents threat, the lawn mower not working, the empty cereal box, the unfolded towels. "These guys are trained to solve problems with violence," is his unfortunate message.

It is 1:45 a.m. and I don't know where Dave is. He left hurriedly, saying he needed to be gone, a common occurrence.  The conference has frightened him and he is restless. This is what it's like. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

she who talks to ashes

I am usually not home at this time on a Saturday morning. Our routine is to leave the house early and wander around the farmers' market and eat a greasy breakfast at the local cafe where we always order the same thing and the waitress knows this.  But today is different.  Dave has left early to attend a veterans' conference and I am on my way to join him and the phone rings. I screen my calls because I am that kind of person and a woman named Sandy tells me I have a package from the University of Iowa at the post office and am I going to pick it up or what.  She's not happy.  I grab the phone.  "Sandy? I'm on my way."  My mother's ashes have arrived.

I put the phone down and I cry a little.  In the car, more crying.  I have ended Sandy's frustration.  She tells me I should have received two peach-colored slips about a week apart telling me of the package's arrival and I have not.  We have a new mail person and she must be overwhelmed at the amount of paperwork a federal job  generates.  The post office can only keep the package fifteen days and today is that fifteenth day and if I have not showed up by noon it was going back and who knows where it might end up.  "I hate to send these back, they're so expensive to mail," Sandy tells me.  The postal mark shows $19.86 and when I lift the small box, it is heavy, concentrated material inside.  "Deeded body program," the return address says.  And the address label is typed, not a computer-made label, somebody somewhere had a typewriter and typed it, imagine that.

In the car I shake the box and I can sense small chunks of uneven material inside.  I have read about cremated bodies and there are always pieces of bone that didn't completely get fired. Back in the car I put my mother in the seat next to me.  And the words come easily.
"Remember the last time we rode together?"  It was the week before she died.  I had taken her to a doctor appointment to get her ears examined for a hearing aide.  "What nursing home is she at," the doctor asked, noticing her black legs, so bruised from the prednisone.  "She's still at home," I said, sensing what I think is disapproval from him.  She would not even discuss the possibility of facility placement, she had worked thirty-three years in a nursing home kitchen and seen lots of unpleasant things.

Afterwards we drove through the summer-kissed countryside and had chocolate ice cream from the dairy queen.  "I'm really not hungry," she said, scraping the last drop from the bowl with her spoon.
My father asks that I keep the ashes in my home. "What if I get run over and nobody knows where they are or what they are."
I am glad she is with me.  She will rest in the same box as her wedding gown.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

God, I love this woman

Susan now reads my blog, whew, it's different writing a text when you know specifics about your audience.  Better yet to be speaking to the void, a faceless audience, thoughts flow more smoothly, but I welcome her attention to my story.

The day after I arrive in San Diego Martha* calls.  She lives in an upscale condo and is inviting people to play Shanghai Rummy, a card game that requires eight participants.  She needs to have that exact count for the game to happen and four of her regulars have declined and she sounds downright desperate.  I don't know what I hate more, playing cards or meeting new people, but when Susan asks me would I like to attend, I say, "Sounds like fun, okay!" God, I'm a miserable piece of humanity.

The night arrives and I had eaten a Baha monstrosity at a local bistro and gosh, it was good, but my belly chose to expand and implode and I was extremely uncomfortable, opening my jeans to accomodate the bloated tummy.  I yearned for the comfort of sweatpants, but had neglected to pack the dear things because I was still in the summer wardrobe zone.

Bwhahaaa Baha entree

We drive to Martha's and I remind Susan that I am not a social animal but  I am nosey about other people's houses and yes, there will be scrumptious hors d'eurves that I will put into my already too-full belly. We arrive at the condo and I heave my swollen carcass out of the car and up the fancy staircase.  Martha tells us the regulars changed their minds and they plan on attending and when Susan realizes that our presence is not necessary she recants.  "You don't need us," and after five minutes of visitation we are  in the car and headed back for an evening of pajamas and margaritas on her living room couch.  God, I love this woman.

*name changed to protect the not-so-innocent (me)

Friday, September 23, 2011

death by zumba

The pulled pork dinner would be my only stab at domesticity while in California although I weakly suggested cooking a chicken or paring potatoes but Susan overrode me and I meekly backed down. Guess I'll gave to be a beach slug the rest of the week, oh drat.  But all that changed when Susan cheerily announced, "we're going to a zumba class and it starts at 8:30 in the morning!"  I don't like setting an alarm while on vacation or any time for that matter but I dutifully punched in the numbers on my cell and was hoping zumba was a cooking demonstration or some African musical adventure but that's where I was wrong, dreadfully wrong.

In the 1990's in Columbia Alberto Perez forgot the music tapes for the exercise class he was teaching so he took whatever tapes he had in his car, mostly Latin salsa and international musical genres such as Greek, Spanish and African, and zumba was born.  Won't be the first time an unorganized Hispanic man who can't multi-task has messed up my life but that would be another story.

Now I am in good shape for the age of me (I did not say I HAVE a good shape) and I frequently do two hours exercise daily and I don't mention that fact too often as I would appear the eccentric addict, but there it is.  I was eager to try my muscles in a new routine because cardiovascular workouts, although necessary, can get dreary quickly.

The instructor of the class was all of five feet tall and wearing lilac tights and a figure-hugging tank top. I speak the truth when not one inch of her body jiggled when she moved and this included her almost non-existent butt.  She immediately asks who is new to the class and I should have kept quiet because she kept dancing back to me throughout the session and in the throes of zumba agony I did not want personal attention from a pro.

Thirty minutes into the routine I am staggering, my quivering legs shuffling frantically from side to side.  I dare not look in the numerous mirrors, walls of mirrors surrounding me as I will either a) fall to the floor in fits of hysterical, whooping laughter and probably pee my pants or b) picking up my towel and water and immediately vacating the premises and one woman did.
But heavier, older Hispanic woman are still twirling and shaking like experienced belly dancers and they probably have been twitching those hips since childhood. I am nearing a point of no return, but I continue, shame is a great motivator.
We are finally released and I notice the half top of my tee shirt is soaked with sweat, God I hate that. Serves me right for being  a smug  bunny about all this.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

do you even know what an 'accent de goo' is?

I love O'Hare and ridiculously long layovers much to the chagrin of my husband, that way I can slurp up all that crazy culture parading past me. The dark gentleman in the grey leather Italian shoes smelling like cinnamon water, the sari-swathed Indian couple eating McDonald's and that blond New York teen in lavender boots, leopard tights and candy cane striped hair. The air is charged with exotic flavor and  I can only compare this back in the hometown to a Walmart on a Sunday morning after church and the wardrobe palette for farmers is navy blue, brown and grey.  We blend, usually fading into the background.
The guy in front of me at the sandwich shop orders a jalpeno bagel with peanut butter and pickles.  I absorb the local art work produced by inner city kids with little environmental stimulation yet universes of imagination not to mention motivating middle school teachers.

I have flown many times and the child in me insists on the window seat still fascinated with the concept of being 37,000 feet above the earth.  This trip to San Diego will take three hours, 45 minutes and I will bask in the freedom of marathon reading and journaling.
Unfortunately, the man in the middle seat should have reconsidered his decision as he is too antsy for the position.  Only children under age 11 are comfortable in coach these days and I am still that size.  My fellow flier has analyzed the companion on either side and since I am the lesser person has decided that he will launch his rangy body over our shared armrest, his elbow in my rib cage.  I accidentally stab him with my eversharp, oops.

And he emits a tortured sigh every few minutes that engulfs me in an odorous cloud that smells like rotten olives and curdled milk. I have had the breakfast burrito before departure and my sixty-year-old lower digestive tract keeps bringing the subject out into the surrounding air, touche with an accent de goo.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

the republican debate

The Republican candidates got together a week ago and had themselves a hoedown and gosh, they looked swell, everybody cleaned up and pressed into dark suits with flag pins, fresh haircuts and shaved necks, except Rick Santorum, wearing a pink tie against a baby blue shirt, a wimpy, hippie look, possibly liberal, a social worker's choice. I sat through this televised ordeal and enjoyed the only one interesting moment, when Newt Gingrich challenged the interviewers claiming they were trying to get the candidates to rat on each other, whoo whoo, the Romans want blood.  The network guys didn't bite and the discussion went on without a hitch, that's entertainment.

It amazes me that Ricky Perry is the leading candidate despite showing a consistent level of contradictary statements.  He labeled himself the "pinata" of the debate or did he say piranha, lordie, he got in the jabs. Perry and Mitt Romney ran ram shod over this show, smashing into each  other and muscling in on the other candidates' time slots.  They misconstrued data when presenting their contributions to job creation in their native states but you cannot find two states more opposite than Massachusetts and Texas, like comparing apples to Pygmies.

Ron Paul looks like his dentures are slipping, poor kid, always the class clown.  I wonder about his fan club, the lost and disillusioned,  but he is mainstream Republican, blissfully clueless to the average American citizen, no job, home mortgaged, unemployment benefits running out. And don't forget those 4000 babies he delivered as he keeps reminding us. I kinda like the idea of a doctor president (just not him) as their oath reflects the Hippocratic corpus, "First do no harm" and that should be included in the presidential oath as well.

Michelle Bachmann, two n's had difficulty grabbing attention during all the fireworks at the Romney/Perry Show and what's with the hair?  Teased hair in this century? And  the Captain Hook fake fingernails?  Female politicians need to be clean and uncluttered, like the Franciscan nuns for whom I work, this is not a sexist comment, think about it, women focused on their direction and their work, not the latest Estee Lauder shade.

Predebate remarks made by Romney, "I have spent most of my life outside politics. I've been dealing with real problems in the real economy" and he calls Perry a "career politician,"  just an empty suit with the wind blowing through it. "Fall in love with a man who can work with his hands," my father told me, and in the political world this translates to a candidate that will quit the confusing rhetoric jibber jabber and show us a consistent work ethic and singular commitment, not unlike the founding fathers. It remains unclear to me just who that person may be. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

who is that old woman?

"I'm never getting out of here, am I?" I said to the woman behind the information desk.  She was a pleasant, softly plump lady with a Hollywood smile probably due to her husband's expensive dental plan.  She was charged with making my ID card at this local college so I could swim in their pool this winter.  She had only made one other card and there was a single-spaced typed set of instructions on a paper next to her and she would glance from that paper to her computer screen and back again never making an entry.  And her phone kept ringing and she was new to the job and it would take her a few minutes to collect her thoughts and try to remember what information she needed to complete the task.  I sighed and glanced at the clock knowing the pool only had a little more than a precious hour to remain open.  To make matters worse a security guard named Doug who looked to be in his 90's kept trying to make conversation with me. "Everything secure, Doug?" I asked.  I check out the novel  the woman is reading, sitting on her desk. Why can't I get a job where I can read?  The back cover describes it as a romance set in the deep South and there are lots of y'alls scattered in the text, a book I will never read, snob that I am.

Finally I get my card and I grimace at my laminated appearance now slashed across a picture of the football field. Who is that old woman?  It is torture for me to be in front of a camera and I have systematically eliminated a lot of photos of me that cross my coffee table.  In the dim future no one will remember what I look like and that suits me well.

I am in the pool and I miss the open sky that was above me all summer. I peruse the lists of swimming records on the walls, names and dates, and wonder if I will have them memorized by April. The dates are wildly scattered and that indicates the team has not done well but this is a small Catholic college and there are no athletic scholarships. I feel old next to these earnest fresh-faced students splashing each other at the pool's edge, their whole lives ahead of them, many decisions to be made.  I am content to be an old lady with just a few decisions left and time to enjoy the luxury of a late summer swim.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

signs of the invader

Cleaning a man's bathroom can be as daunting as giving birth and there are similarities.  Both are messy, confine you to uncomfortable positions and are accompanied by a lot of yelling and swearing.  Why doesn't the man just clean his own bathroom and the answer comes back swiftly.  Dirt is invisible to men. It can be crawling down the walls and onto their shoes but they don't see it and what can't be acknowledged cannot be conquered. So if I ask Dave to please clean that disgusting bathroom he obliges and after five minutes is seen leaving the premises, possibly even whistling. There will be a few swipes here and there but as all women know dirt likes to hide in the corners, in places people never even see that require on-your-knees attention.

Men are pigs, Ivy said and she goes on to tell me some of the messes she has had to clean late at night in men's restrooms in some of the more elegant business buildings in town where her family runs a cleaning business.  I interrupt her, not necessary to hear the details, my own imagination can feed me lots of horror stories based on growing up with three brothers and having two husbands.

My aunt Irene calls her daughter Sandy after discovering a couple of the great grand kids had made a mess upstairs in her attic behind a closed door in her ancient farmhouse.  You must come and help me get that cleaned up, Irene insists.  Can't today, maybe tomorrow, Mom, I have meetings all afternoon.  You must come today, Irene repeats, I cannot, I will not live in a house with that going on in the attic.
I understand, Irene, and I feel your pain.

Susan married a second time and we were all surprised, no wait,, we were thunderstruck.  Susan was the pioneer for unmarried women and although living with a man she always swore she would remain in her blissful single state never signing the papers. So I began to question my own manless state and I liked the idea of a really big diamond on my finger.  I had heroically told my first husband that a simple gold band would do. We needed furniture and appliances much more than I needed that bauble, stupid me. When I approached Susan with the M question she promptly answered that as long as he had his own bathroom all would go well.  It never occurred to me that on some day deep into the future the tile in his bathroom would need to be regrouted and replaced and that meant the man would need to share my bathroom, my private sanctum. I am relieved to say the work is done, his exploding shaving cream can is back on his sticky vanity and I have cancelled my appointment with the divorce lawyer.

Monday, September 5, 2011

it's their party and I'll cry if I want to

The Republican debates start Wednesday and it's any person's guess who will commit the best verbal blooper but my money is on that Bachmann woman, two n's or Cowboy Rick Perry.  Call me an education snob but we don't need another dumb, undereducated Texan in the White House,  I want an academic in that oval office. Let's review a few of the candidates and see what kinds of skeletons are inhabiting their conservative closets.

 Rick Perry took over the Texas governor position when George Bush became President. He is the longest running governor in Texan history and the second longest in national history, that title being won by Governor Terry Branstad in Iowa and don't even get me started on that one.

Rick graduated from Texas U with a 2.5 GPA and a degree in animal science although he did round out his curriculum by joining the cheerleader squad.  Here is a copy of his transcript and he earned a D in Economics, a C in U.S. History and only two A's in this time period, one of those in World Military Systems.  He owns a concealed handgun license and holds the record for the most vetoes (82) while in session.  234 executions were carried out in Texan prisons during his administration. He wants both creationism and evolution taught in schools but favors the former theory stating that, "God is how we got here."  He signed the Mandatory Ultrasound Bill that forces a pregnant woman needing an abortion to watch a sonogram of her fetus and listen to the heartbeat before the procedure can be done. He believes global warming is a lie created by scientists wanting  to pad their own pockets with funding monies acquired under this "falsely" reported condition.

Mitt Romney was named after a quarterback for the Chicago Bears in the 1920's and friend of Mitt's father, a man who protested the Viet Nam war.  Mitt is the governor of Massachusetts but he lost the 1994 Senate election to Ted Kennedy.  He and Ted are fast friends and Ted, whose passion is universal health coverage, was so impressed with Mitt's health reform law that he encouraged Democrats to approve it.  Mitt boosted the empty coffers of the 2002 Winter Olympics when he was president of that organization firing officials who were accepting  bribes.  History shows him to be a financial whip and he decreased the state budget by three billion dollars, uh huh, three billion. But a prez named Mitt?

A couple of days ago Michelle Bachmann stood up a group of Muslim constituents who had an appointment to meet with her and this is the second time the Muslims were turned away by said lady.  Michelle just shrugs those tailored shoulders but she has never missed a tea party rally or home schooling event.  Googling Michelle is like googling the Marx brothers with articles that are titled  "10 of the craziest things Michelle Bachmann has said" and "Michelle says the dumbest things."  And don't forget about her PhD psychology husband, yet not a certified psychologist, and the Christian counseling center they run where any willing homosexual can learn how to "pray away the gay."  I'm having fun, are you?

I kind of like Jon Huntsman.  He dropped out of high school to join a rock band and played keyboards for two songs with REO Speedwagon at the 2005 Utah state fair.  He did acquire an international politics college degree and Obama hired him to be Ambassador to China. While governor of Utah the state was named Best Managed State and won the prize for the Best State in which to do business. He is pro-life and pro-civil unions and he signed bills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming.  Call me crazy."  I call you acceptable, says this Democrat, except for that glitch at the 2008 Republican National Convention when he gave a nominating speech for Sarah Palin, a perfect example of temporary insanity.

And what about Sarah?  She has not indicated an interest in this race as of yet.  Perhaps her reminder post-it note on the fridge got lost in the clutter of dead moose pictures.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

and to dust thou shalt return

My father called me today.  I had given him leftover salmon from dinner last night and he needed directions on reheating, sigh.  I don't understand people who can't cook.  He received a letter from the University hospital stating  my mother's remains had been cremated and they would be shipped back to us. 

 From time to time I had thought about my mother's body and the processes that were being performed on it. I had seen an anatomy lab when I visited my son the first year he was in medical school.  Cadavers were laid out on gurneys, white gauze wrapped around their faces, anonymous to the world, the smell of formaldehyde, acidic and stinging in my nostrils.  The flesh, grey and gummy, peeled back in layers and held back with pins, the abdominal cavity filled with pale organs.  These were high school experiments for all I knew, everything mapped out and labeled. It all appeared orderly and necessary. To this day I have difficulty carving turkeys.

 My grandson was six months old at the time and he accompanied us in his stroller on this tour.  He wailed horribly upon entering the lab.  His baby brain told him something was wrong here.  The cadavers were mostly derelicts, explained my son, homeless men, bodies donated by the county board.  Pickled livers and fat-filled arteries, I imagined.  What did they think of little Marie, one kidney atrophied, no gall bladder or uterus, five cesarean scars crisscrossing her belly and her nails polished with her favorite frosty tint.
Sonny said he felt a tug when reading the letter and his voice faded away on the last word. I know all about tugs and we agreed  we were glad the process had been completed and there would be no more questions on our part.  "I'm glad she's coming back to us," I say, "whatever that is," not coming out as I wanted it, kind of reeling from what he has told me, grief messes with your vocabulary and pretty much everything else.