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.