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.