Saturday, December 29, 2012

one more christmas post and then i'll leave it alone


It is Christmas morning and I am sitting across from my husband at a local breakfast eatery run by this anal Greek man who never smiles and works his waitresses every single day of the year. I struggle with the guilt of patronizing a restaurant that makes people show up on this holiday but my waitress assures me she likes Christmas hours and the big guy will be leaving a large tip, oh yes he will.  I order eggs and Big Dave wants a banana split. When the thing comes it's eight inches high, whipped cream included and he points out the two chunks of pineapple and one slimy strawberry which is supposed to indicate this was a healthy choice on his part.

I worry, it's what I do and I should not have left the house. There are relatives coming and I still need to cook some beans and slice this really hard cheese and arrange cookies attractively on a Christmas plate. I sit back and rattle my newspaper and throw too much pepper on the eggs, achoo.  I immerse myself in Christmas and I lose myself as a result.

You do this to yourself every year, my husband says, a smudge of fudge sauce on his cheek. You do all this work and you're too tired to enjoy anything. I hate it when he's right and once every ten years he is. But enjoyment for me is one of those elusive qualities, usually attained when I am by myself with no human in sight.

The truth is I need my people around me at Christmas. All that random social craziness I try to avoid all year now serves to block out my winter darkness and oh, is it dark.  Without this season my life would plod along from one ordinary thing to the next and I would flatten out like a two-dimensional pencil cartoon, no color or depth and the wind would blow me to bleak and scary places.
 
Sonny shows up for our Christmas Scrabble game. We are gentle people, he and I but we each own a fierce competitiveness when it comes to this game. I beat him severely on Thanksgiving and he has been frothing to get back to my dining room table and turn the story around.  He owns a Scrabble dictionary and I refuse to let him bring it because I am tired of him building Q words that have no U.  Isn't that the point? If you have a Q, you MUST have a U. It's called strategy, old man.


Monday, December 24, 2012

if the fates allow


It's Christmas and my house is heavy with history. There's this box that's more tape than cardboard and the peeling label says give to Dawn, my mother's handwriting. Those angels sat on our television set through the 50's and then some and my brothers' scuffles and other tomfoolery sent them crashing to the floor and onto my father's work table to be pasted together yet again.  I feel Marie in my house today and I'm not sure I want that, that empty hole feeling her memory creates in me.


I am preparing fettuccine with ham and peas for my father and I get crazy dicing the ham. I seem to have excess energy and the ham gets almost microscopic.  My mother's cream-stained recipe card sits on the counter. I have carols playing, the real kind Bing Crosby and I have candles lit and the room feels golden. She has been engraved on my brain for most of the day, it's been awhile since this has happened but it is happening today.


too many peas

My daughter arrives,"smells like Grandma's house. I can feel her, she's here."  I am an academic and a scientist and she teases me, "I know you don't believe in this stuff" and she smiles that smile young women give their creaky old mothers when they think we need catch-up instruction on the ways of the world.  And this is the point of contention, the girl has a master's degree and she believes in my mother's ghost and I do not.

My mind is a sitting target for obscure and irrational thoughts this emotional time of year.  Babysitting the unruly one, extra hours at the job, groceries galore, all the amazon gift orders and then it all cleared as if someone flipped a switch.  My anxious mind lurched for an explanation and then a calm sea filled that space. I swear I heard her, a small clear voice in the depths of me. 'This is good what you do" reverberated through my conscious self and the intensity made me grip the handles of my fettucini pot and my eyes got full, my paws dashing away that annoying moisture.  Probably a bounce-off reaction to her handwriting on the recipe card, Judy Garland singing and all that sentimental mishmash. Just a girl wishing for her mother and the missing is a bottomless cavern.


"someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow, until then we''ll have to
muddle through somehow. So have yourself a merry little christmas now."


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

tongue in cheek, maybe

 


Little Al wins the Christmas sweater contest again

My family comes to my house on Christmas because I feel sorry for the pathetic slobs. If I didn't invite them they would be forced to wander the streets peering in other people's windows and smelling their dinners. I have a deal with the local police. I keep them until 8 p.m .and they'll take it from there. As the hostess I have the opportunity to stay in the kitchen for long periods of time and I keep rewashing the same dishes over and over and nobody's the wiser. It should be noted that no one ever tells me to put down that dishrag and come talk to us. It seems to be a prearranged condition on all our parts and has since become the tradition.


gift box shoes, we all have them


New Year's is fast approaching and this is always good news. It means Christmas is gone and all that wadded-up wrapping paper is buried at the bottom of a landfill and aren't we glad. I did know a couple of bachelors in the day who were downcast and morose over the red and green holiday having no lovey to share it with and tired of being the odd fellow at their parents' Christmas dinner table. But a week later they were only too happy to celebrate the entrance of the new year because it involved no sentimentality and encouraged the consumption of large amounts of booze and other acts of general debauchery.




oh Luke, you silly goose
 
Unfortunately for me New Year's is another upset in an introvert's world. The obligation to have fun is what I find depressing. I can't be festive at a certain hour, I don't know how to do that, any more than I can laugh on cue. New Year's parties are the worst - a celebration of the passage of time - and the few I've attended were next to hellish, a lot of hard drinking by loud people in enclosed places.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

fa-la-la-enough all ready

I hate Christmas. Any sacrificing and sleep-deprived woman would admit that. There's nothing in it for us, never has been. It overtaxes our bulging schedules with chores that have no other purpose than appeasing people who need to learn to appease themselves. These ingrates need nothing yet we are out there in the worst weather of the year shopping for them.


And baking up huge amounts of nutrient-free sugary things for mostly overweight people, probably subtracting years from their lives which would actually result in less work for us, who says I can't see the bright side.  And then there's the hanging of the tinsel and letting people in your house who dribble cocktail sauce on your carpet and manage to find your twelve-year-old scotch in the back of the cupboard behind the oatmeal box. And then there's the Christmas letter. I don't need reminders that I am still in relationships with people who think myself and sixty others want to know what the doctor said after their colonoscopy and take three paragraphs to do it.

Like Lucy of Peanuts fame says, "I never get what I really want."  My husband asks if I want jewelry. I'm not a jewelry person. I don't see the point of adorning the body with pieces of rock and metal like an Aborigine tribesman. They just weigh you down and attract lightning and I am always fearful I'm going to leave the diamond ring in a public restroom while washing my hands and my brain is addled by too many Kessler's cocktails. As my son said when he first saw it, "you could punch some one's eye out with that." Not the usual comment one would expect but you would need to know Jason.

My spare bedroom is a sea of purple and pink presents. I have many granddaughters, none have been named after me, not even a middle name although my first husband got his moniker attached to a grandson, that low down, seldom-to-visit grandfather that he is. It's not that I long for immortality, okay, maybe it is and I suppose my name might be too much for the little hussy to live up to.  It's best that I fade into obscurity some day, me and all my un-Christmasy notions.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

oh daddy dear you know you're still number one

My father lingers at the table. He is finishing his dessert and he still has a full glass of wine. There will be conversation.

"I was not a good child," he begins, "I'm surprised my father didn't shoot me" and  I'm surprised he's telling me this.  After almost ninety years he chooses to drop this confession on my dinner table with Bing Crosby crooning Christmas tunes in the background.  I find this incredulous and as if he can hear my inner thoughts he says, "I know the masses will remember me as an honest and true man but that's not what I was. I was an imp and a scoundrel and a vagabond." This is how my father talks like he has a Webster dictionary and a Shakespeare manuscript in front of him.

 Sonny, nee Albert is the eldest in his family but his mother had delivered a stillborn child the year before at the Catholic hospital. The doctor was late and the nuns tied her legs together to keep the baby from birthing. The poor infant suffocated and my grandmother would not return to "that Catholic torture chamber" for another fifty years. I'm sure Nana had some spicier words to describe her situation because she could swear like a serious sailor. When I visited her in later years she would gaze at her arthritic withered hands and mutter, "sugar."  I knew when my younger sister showed up Nana used stronger language to describe her discomfort, those two were cohorts in borderline behaviors. I was such a good little Catholic back then and nobody cussed in front of me.  I went on to commit great and notorious sins but I am still remembered for my early piety and I swear when I enter a room the tone turns somber and church like.


As for my father he never did give me a lot of information about his deviant youth. Something about stealing everything that wasn't nailed down and it reminded me of the time he talked about his stint in the Marines.  He went on leave in New York City and his eyes got big and fuzzy at the memory and then he remembered  I was sitting there.  His face shifted as if a window shade was pulled down and he went silent.  If I had been my brother the story would have been told accompanied by much laughter and foot stomping, maybe not the stomping.  Girls just want to have fun but lots of time we really have to work for it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

no crazy news

The phone is ringing and I scream at it as I always do, "leave me alone!" Unfortunately, the four-year-old nymph that shares her days with me is quick with the pick-up, social dominatrix that she is. Luckily, she hangs up before any meaningful conversation can occur.



I don't make friends easily and that doesn't bother me.  I figure there are not many people worth knowing and as Thomas Edison said, "just how often does someone say something interesting?"  He spent a lot of evenings fishing off his dock after telling his wife he could not hear the conversation around the dinner table.  I have a couple of friends and they are gems, unfortunately they've moved out of town. I wasn't the reason, the town was, at least I think. We stay in touch in the way out of town friends stay in touch, precariously.



Sandy and I have been swimming together for over two years. We just happened to be in the same pool at the same time and after awhile, a long while we started talking. Swimming is a logical method of learning to know someone. If a pregnant pause is looming you can submerge and blow bubbles until an interesting thought appears and you can pick up the conversation again.

She tells me she and husband will celebrate their 40th anniversary next month. They met when they were seven years old (husband remembers, Sandy does not) and they were sixteen on their first date. Wow, I tell her my story. Married for 8 1/2 years and most people were surprised I lasted that long, divorced for twenty years and with Big Dave for twenty years. "Oh wait, I tend to round things up." Those numbers would have made me a bride at age twelve. "Divorced for seventeen, in this relationship seventeen."

I have had several lives all packed into one. And I don't find this upsetting, just exhausting. I long for the status quo, days without change or surprises, predictability and normalcy. I'm through with adventures. I just want to sit in the sun under the oak tree and know the ringing phone will bring no crazy news.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

state of iowa vs me - part two

I am sitting in a courtroom for my pre-trial conference because some bozo of a school bus driver decided his day needed excitement and told the police I drove past his bus, lights flashing. An uneasy feeling begins to creep along the side of my brain when I realize the last time I sat in a courtroom was my divorce and that didn't go too well either. That might have been due to the idiotic shady attorney I hired on the advice of a co-worker whose husband was eventually deterred by a state trooper who found a large chunk of cocaine and a loaded revolver on the front seat of his car. And that attorney? He is currently in federal prison and will be for a long time due to threatening a witness. And the beat goes on . . .

There are about thirty people here, all degenerates like myself and I notice the wardrobe choices of the woman ahead of me. She is wearing skin-tight black jeans and six-inch black fake leather boots and when she bends over to sign the attendance sheet a large sequinned heart on each of her buttocks winks at me.

The assistant county attorney walks in pulling a suitcase on wheels and it is full of red files and one of them will be mine. He has a large chest and an immense belly that hangs halfway to his knees. In an attempt to cover up this physical mishap he has tied his very orange tie so that the front piece is twice as long as the usual observed tie and the back piece is only a few inches. Like all fashion faux pas it only accentuates what was intended to be hidden.

And then the judge walks in and I couldn't make this up any better. He has one eye that is dead-on center square and the other one lolls off to the left.  Don't you just hate that because you never know which eye to look at and by the time you decide you're frustrated and the other guy is totally pissed at you for not figuring it out.

Again I wait almost two hours for a four-minute conference and I feel like an insignificant animal in an insignificant herd. I am never driving near a school bus again. And the worst is yet to come.

Monday, November 19, 2012

careful, Boots

It is 4:05 in the morning and sleep eludes me, obviously. Last night I drank a half gallon of salty oily syrupy crap attempting to cleanse my digestive tract for my date with the colon doc.  I accept the fact that in a very short time a two foot tube will be inserted in a place where nothing should ever be inserted but I'd just rather it not happen so early in the morning.  I am on a medically prescribed starvation diet to keep myself clean and pristine for the man in white and I am not accustomed to denying myself.

No food all day leaves me lightheaded and crabby.  But I'm feeling better than I look which is often the case these days and I'm still riding high on the Obama wave. I can now sit back and coast for another four years. Whenever a Republican is in office I feel the need to stay alert and owl-eyed in case of a nuclear retaliation or a sudden rise in social worker suicides which is often the case in that kind of administration.

Mornings are not my best time. I prefer to stay asleep as long as possible before meeting the confrontations and humiliations of the day. All I can think about is Gomer's Pickle Barrel sub shop just across the street from the hospital where my procedure is scheduled.  They whip together a mean marinara meatball sandwich and that is where I will be once they allow me to put my pants back on.

At my lowest point I think about checking you tube for some really blatant image shots of the upcoming procedure. I try not to peruse that website too often as it has a way of spiraling out of control.  I need to monitor my four year-old granddaughter's usage as some really warped individuals will slip in a Dora video with the little senorita spouting profanity and making lewd gestures towards Boots, her monkey companion. It's enough to make you want to gather your clan together and escape into the mountains to raise goats or something.

Monday, November 12, 2012

still in Paris with mr. cranky pants



Jason wouldn't ask for help if he were hanging from a tree root sprouting out the side of a cliff with masticating crocodiles circling below and an avalanche rescue team up above twiddling their thumbs just begging for something to do. That's how oblivious he is to the career needs of others.


I on the other hand ask for assistance from total strangers all the time in my hometown so you can imagine how that habit mushroomed when I was overseas. I'm old, I don't know how much time I have, I need to know now.

My son made it clear he was bothered every time I asked some person directions or when I needed help counting my change and especially when I questioned two gentlemen behind me in line to use a one-seat public toilet in Paris. Entrance was gained by pushing buttons and one of the fellows showed me how to do that. Once inside I realized my mistake. A French woman was purring over an intercom and she was telling me what I needed to do and I understood nothing. I panicked like the amateur tourist I am and began pushing all the buttons and the toilet started flushing and water sprayed out of openings in the floor to clean that surface and it seemed like a long time since I saw daylight. I started banging on the door and the sweet voice above me just caused my agitation to escalate and I was so relieved when the door finally opened and I never did pee.

One advantage with aging is you lose that self-consciousness your teen-aged psyche worked so hard to construct long ago. I could fall out of a moving vehicle totally nude in front of a busload of professional football players and and feel no remorse other than for my scraped knees. What other people think of me is none of my business.



But a 39-year-old bachelor traveling through Europe with his mother is weird toast indeed and he is like other non-married males, nit-pickity like a virginal old library lady, whiny and overly set in his routine. Walking down the hostel hallway in my slippers and housecoat with toothbrush and paste in hand the other somewhat dirty young residents smile and nod their heads and they usher me to the front of the toilet line. They look at me with gentle expressions, they miss their mothers I think.




Tuesday, November 6, 2012

state of iowa vs. me - part one


This day has been a rotting halibut on my calendar. It has alarmed and depressed me for weeks but here it is and I enter the traffic violation east courtroom where I will need to answer to a school bus driver who says I passed him while his lights were flashing. I am clutching a carbon copy form the officers gave me a month ago when they were kind enough to visit my home and inform me of this invitation and it says 8:30 will my be my appointment time. I have arrived ten minutes early and I could have been earlier but I didn't want to appear too eager. Imagine my surprise when I find fourteen people waiting before me  and why I assumed I would have my own private appointment time shows my extreme ignorance in the ways of Lady Justice and her schedules.


The court clerk informs us that we will be seen in the order we checked in so I attempt to get comfortable on the hard wooden lawbreaker chair. I cast sideways looks at the other party-goers and I appear to be the only person outside the court clerk who is not wearing jeans, sweats or Green Bay Packer pajama bottoms. One disheveled young man has been told to remove his baseball cap and that was a mistake as he is sporting one hell of a case of greasy bedhead locks thereby increasing his guilty index by several points.

The clerk asks me how I will plead and I say not guilty and then I realize every citizen in this courtroom is also claiming to be not guilty. All of us are pure as driven snow responsible drivers and the victims of overly zealous police officers and lying GI Joe school bus drivers.  It just makes me wanna cry as I nod sympathetically to the woman sitting next to me. Her kohl-rimmed eyes, triple-pierced lips and belly rolls extending over ripped jeans scream that she's just another innocent tread-upon victim of the fascist state of Iowa.


And I notice that all these other innocents have something that I do not. Paperwork. Realms and realms of computer sheets with diagrams of little cars and school buses in various positions on little streets. Piles of paper with arrows and circles drawn all over the place and highlighted sentences with exclamation marks. All I have is the before-mentioned pink carbon copy barely readable as all carbon copies are. I will definitely need to get myself some serious bad ass paperwork.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

please god let it be over


Just in case you are hanging out on your couch wondering where your favorite presidential candidate is today think no more. I can tell you with absolute certainty they are both in my small Iowa town dragging their tired ass menageries behind them. Mitt Romney touched down in our city airport at noon today and no one in this household gives a hoot and Obama is currently in a small park about an hour's walk from my place.  Iowa is one of those politically infuriating battleground states and there are loads of undecided independent people who could be persuaded at the last minute and the candidates know this. We are stubborn procrastinating farmers holding our ballots tightly in dirt-encrusted hands hoping the last light will reveal the true prophet.


 I decide to take that hour walk and check out the scene. I know I am getting close when ten-foot chain-link fences keep butting up in front of me not allowing further passage.
There is John Deere equipment blocking alleys because no one in Iowa messes with a Deere and how comforting it is knowing those slick secret service guys borrowed the machines from our JD plant just north of town.


And here they are, the guys and it's a strange way to earn a salary, milling around casting fierce looks at the crowd and wearing curly pig tail wires left over from the Nixon administration and yes, that is a sniper squatting on top of the post office. I'll  be buying those stamps later.



I visit my aunt who lives in a senior citizen apartment building kitty corner from the park and the residents were instructed to keep their shades drawn. Who knows what fury a disgruntled octogenarian could release when faced with the blaring ineffectiveness of the current Medicare laws. Those quad canes can become weaponry in the wink of a cataract-clouded eye.




Big Dave shoves this sheet in front of me last night and I remind him it is no guarantee of admission to this president-starring event. Anyone who logs onto this website can get the precious page but the show will be a first come situation. My husband has the patience of a two-year-old waiting for a popsicle so I know he'll never get to see our current hero. We'll just go and drink beer and eat greasy fries someplace and that'll be fine enough for a Saturday night.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

champagne is overrated


Normally I don't indulge my pinterest side but I am logged onto the website and viewing instructions on assembling turkey oreos and I am wondering who has time for this. I keep browsing because like all women I am enamored by the glitter and razzle-dazzle and the darn prettiness of the thing. I remind you that there are no lace curtains in my household or flowery wallpaper although I have admired these things in other women's homes.

I am in Florida to see Sarah get married and her wedding could have been pulled right from that website and I mean that as a serious compliment.

My brother's children are friendly and generous with their time to the elders of the family and that's admirable considering how rarely we say anything interesting. My brother, Sarah's father and I have had our disagreements. There is a scar on his left temple just past the hair line. I hit him hard with a metal ice cube tray back in the 60's and the tray was full of rock-like ice and I'm pretty sure I had a good reason at the time.

We were more violent back then. Monkey bars were embedded in cement slabs and every day our young brains were bombarded with sugar overload from drinking large quantities of Kool-aid and then there were all those Three Stooges episodes we watched.

All things forgiven I still get an invite to the wedding. It is an elegant affair and we are sitting next to a small body of water shaded by trees with swans and a fountain. It is crazy beautiful. No alcohol will be served so we don't have to worry about some one's crazy aunt falling off a chair like the last time. And I am kidding.



The bride is shimmering, literally shimmering in all that lace and her coal black hair is pulled back in a simple chiffon with what I'm guessing are lilies. I don't know these tropical blooms and the Ecuadorian pink roses are everywhere.


I watch my brother walk this gorgeous woman down the aisle and his face struggles with the volume of emotion swelling within and he seems surprised by the enormity of it.  I look for the half-circle scar from the ice tray that his receding hairline should have laid bare and I fail to see it. Like so many useless and perturbing memories it's gone, good riddance.
I raise a glass to this lovely place and company and I would swear this stuff is champagne.





Tuesday, October 23, 2012

not so trivial things

Traveling with an elderly parent is like childbirth. Painful and conveniently forgotten as the brain erases all memories of the event insuring you will become impregnated again and keep the species going.  And so I agreed to take another trip with my father and I had forgotten all the mishaps that seem to happen when I travel with the old man. As we were standing in the security line at O'Hare my father told me he had no picture ID on his person and I realized it was going to be a very long trip.

It was a full 45 minutes before we were cleared past the stone-faced airport officials.  Dad kept beeping as he went through the metal-detecting doorway.  Keys, huge outdated mobile phone, coin purse (who has one of these?), suspenders and belt. And he had full shampoo bottles and toothpaste, razor blades and tweezers in his carry-on bag. He was a walking 88-year-old national security threat and I thought his Coke-bottle glasses might offer some protection but this was not the case. I love this man, but I need to monitor his situation more closely.


We are on our way to Florida, land of overly refrigerated rooms and mailboxes in the shapes of sea glass-studded dolphins.  My niece is getting married at Boca Raton which translates as "mouth of the rat." Despite the unfortunate moniker it is a lovely town and we are here to celebrate and eat some really good citrus and catch up on trivial and not so trivial things.

My brother is a Republican but I still spend time with him because he possesses an inexhaustible supply of information on any subject. We are in the back of his van, way back because the middle seat is missing as he is transporting counter tops for his customers back to the home town. He is a small business man and that explains his vote for Romney, the majority of his paycheck goes to Uncle Sam and he's mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore. He is driving and arguing with my father and he says he doesn't fault Mitt for making legal decisions that would result in personal profit and then I need to rouse myself from my tropical daze and get into this misguided discussion.

We travel through West Palm Beach, a town of grunt workers and it's designed purely for the purpose of keeping affluent Palm Beach afloat. You can't park a garbage truck in Palm Beach and staff  must be out by 4:00 just before the first martini gets poured.  Construction halts on November 1 so the richies returning from the French Riveria for their six-week respite in their oceanfront mansions won't be offended by the sight of real citizens working.


Back at the home front my nieces struggle with 500 roses from Ecuador wrapping them into bouquets and boutonnieres and the rest into square glass vases. We are having a wedding and although I am not a big believer in the institution I am feeling buoyant about the whole thing. My brother's daughter is one classy dame and I know the day will be a series of carefully crafted delights.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

monster month, oh yeah




Normally I love October, lovely golden October, but this October sucks and I just need it to be history. The first week I am in traffic court because some vigilante school bus driver says I zoomed through his flashing red lights, liar liar pants on fire.  Later I have a date with my gastroenterologist who wants to shove a two foot tube up my pachookas and chop off parts of my colon for whatever his reason.  But those incidents will rate as strolls through the rose garden compared to what I did last weekend.  Big Dave wanted me to accompany him to the 50th anniversary of his eighth grade graduation from Sacred Heart Elementary School.


They herd us into church for the obligatory Mass followed by a meal in the basement and the menu is cardboard slabs of beef and chicken wrapped in deli ham sprayed with cheese, and corn, there's always that corn but this is Iowa and there is lots of it.

Sister Lucien sat next to me and she was one of the nuns who taught these people so how old would she be. She at first pooh-poohed Dave's offer of a Bud Lite but then she says maybe just half, we could share, all right give me one. Soon after that she finished the can and was moving Dave's beer closer to her own glass. After our cooler went dry she moved to a table with numerous wine cooler bottles and I could hear her telling off color Irish priest jokes.


 A woman is standing at the front of the room holding a stack of index cards full of necessary information for us and I think some of it was supposed to be humorous. She talked about nuns whacking students' fingers with rulers and the classmates were screaming with laughter but then Catholics, all of them, have warped senses of humor and perhaps you know this from your own personal experience.  This woman looks directly at my husband and says, "I just want everyone to know I have had a crush on Dave since the fifth grade." I realize now why her own husband did not attend. I keep waiting for her to add another joke, maybe wink in my direction and acknowledge me somehow in this little skit but no such relief is forthcoming. She leaves this thought hanging in the air for all of us to contemplate and sits down.

 I felt the evening had provided me with more than enough entertainment for my buck and I had to sit and stare at paintings of men in red velvet skirts for almost three hours so I should be allowed to exit gracefully. Usually I stay away from all things Catholic because I can't trust an establishment that refuses to place women in upper management positions. And then there's all those other reasons, too.



Friday, October 5, 2012

jim morrison paris apartment


 Our hostel in Paris is owned by a a charming gay gentleman so it is decently clean and we see no punched-out  holes in the plaster and nothing is growing on the toilet seat and there are dishes and silverware in the cupboard all neatly stacked. We only need to learn to love the bright magenta walls and the grape-colored chairs and I am willing to reconsider the sexual photos of overly ripe orchids on the walls because the bathroom doesn't reek of anything.


Today we will hoof it down to the Seine where all the really interesting stuff is located. It is our second day in this city and I am prepared to do some serious sight-seeing. Yesterday was laundry and groceries and our first taste of a truly good piece of bread but today I will rub up against some of the world's most renowned architecture.


We have walked a couple of hours and it is raining and we are huddled around a table in a brasserie, me with my cafe au chocolat and the boy with his little cup of espresso. We are trying to avoid going back out into that gloomy crappy weather but our snobby garcon is giving us those up-down looks as he takes in our hostel-inspired wardrobe, cargo pants with bulging pockets, windbreaker hoods tied low on our foreheads, and Jason's backpack has a couple of handmade patches. Hey, it works, comprendez-vous? Jesus, these people are rude.

I can practically smell the Louvre from here but I take one last look at my Lonely Planet book and I see a small dot on the map and it says, "house where Jim Morrison died." "Well, now isn't that interesting?" I say to my son who is clearly eyeing the remains of my chocolat. "Let's take a quick shortcut here and check out this little rock and roll tidbit and then we'll hit the heavy stuff."

That was four rain-soaked hours ago.

Let me explain how Paris works. Imagine your living room carpet is the landscape of the city. Take a large garbage can and fill it with marbles. Throw those marbles on the rug and after they land take a felt pen and draw lines connecting them and these would be the streets of Paris. There was no prearranged plan here, no blueprint or meetings with a zoning committee, just a cramming of avenues and alleys into every available space.

This was my idea and my desperation to maintain face leads me to look for odd little signs. I see a Rolling Stone lips and tongue logo, a sticker high up on one side of a building and then there are several French words scribbled on a sidewalk and one of them is l'guitare. Gotta mean something, gotta be close. I hear two gentleman conversing on the corner and they have English accents. I question them and they know nothing but "there is a record store around the corner," the younger one says," and there is a poster of the Doors in the window. Maybe they would know."


Hope renewed but we never find the record shop. We turn into an alley and then another one and then another and then there it is.
 17 Rue Beautreillis. There is no identifying plaque or marker or rotten carnations or shrine or gate around the door, nothing and I am doubting what I see and wonder if I may have wasted a precious afternoon on my Paris clock.

Or have I? When I return to the purple room I google image 'jim morrison paris apartment'' and mon Dieu, there it is, the same featureless door whose threshold I had dripped all over earlier in the day. Jim was there just like I was staring up at the strip of sky between the narrow buildings, walking those crazy wraparound streets, dodging the bicycles and marveling at the beauty of this ancient lady of a city until he wandered home one day, imbibed too much and died in his bathtub. That's too bad. This one's for you, Amy.  


Saturday, September 29, 2012

if this is Paris I need to do laundry

 
We are walking the streets of Paris and the citizens of this fair city look at me and sniff down their long aristocratic noses. They regard me as they would an annoying particle of food stuck in their teeth. There are a lot of long-legged skinny women in this city wearing jaunty scarves and leather boots with patterned stockings and they get the lingering looks and men part on the sidewalks to let them through. I have to fight for every foot of space and I still get tossed into the bike lane. Paris loves only the beautiful, not the cute and feisty.



It requires grande courage to walk the avenues of Paris. Cars squeal their tires when encountering a red light and they are pissed these stupid pedestrians need to cross a street. They rev their motors like snarling animals and inch forward attempting to claim your space.  Even though you have a green light the driver can pass through the intersection if he deems it safe to do so. Safe is defined as you being mere inches away from his front bumper. And don't even get me started on the motorbikes.



Our hostel window overlooks several shops run by swarthy cigar-smoking men wearing large sparkly rings and their wares consist of bolts of brightly embroidered fabric. In the alley I can see three citizens happily passing around a bottle of Jack Daniels at this nine o'clock morning hour. The guide book said the French do not drink to excess but evidently these guys did not get the memo. I briefly think about joining them but then - eh - just brushed my teeth.



The French generate a lot of garbage, so much that trucks prowl the streets every night removing it. Part of the problem might be the city trash containers overflowing with wine bottles. It should be noted there are recycle bins on the street the size of Volkswagens specifically designed for those wine bottles and yet it's not enough.

 And then there's the dog poop, 16 tons of it comes out of those little French puppies every day and yes, someone took the time to measure it and report it in a guide book. Their owners must think it adds to the charm of Parisian streets because there it sits waiting for me and my flip-flops to discover.

We dine at a Tibetan restaurant. I always liked that Dalai Lama guy and have loads of respect for his philosophy and all that is Buddhist although I never could get the hang of that meditation thing. And wouldn't you agree that if you put a suit on this guy he would look like your fourth grade teacher?


 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I keep a handwritten diary when I travel and the pages are full of glowing descriptions of amazing sites, unusual encounters and my introduction to local accommodations and foods. My notes from September 15 read:

-hostel from hell
-walk and drink
-walk and drink
-pasta

Jason had booked our lodging ahead of time while sitting at my dining room table back in comfortable old Dubuque because his obsessive-compulsive mother has an insane fear that she will arrive at a destination without a prepaid bed and be forced to wander the streets dragging her overly packed suitcase. It had slipped my mind that my son was on a strict budget as he is moving to Japan and is counting every euro and mine, too.


We enter the lobby of the hostel and there were the usual horde of grubby students milling around the desk mainly because they have no money to spend in the city.


We march up the greasy looking stairs and I see that the bathroom is two flights down from our room and how will I manage this with my wildly unpredictable bowels, thanks to my mother's side of the family. And I will need to maneuver myself past a stairwell of students locked into their Iphones or trying to remain upright and not vomit on their shoes due to their state of inebriation.




checking out the landscape with my trusty flashlight
We drop off our luggage in this strange little
hole of a room and the words come out of my mouth unchecked, "this looks like a jail cell." It is barely six yards long and three yards across. The wrinkled red sheet on my bed is full of lint and other small specks so I know it wasn't washed and oh my god, did that one move? I go to bed fully clothed so that only a minimum amount of skin will have contact with that wretched linen.


I  have three tastefully decorated bathrooms in our lovely town house and a closet-full of Charmin extra-soft, extra plush toilet paper.  I stand in the rank water closet with my package of Huggie wipes clutched against my chest and hold my breath from the stench, my buttocks hovering over the bowl below me (please excuse the mental picture.)

Never have I wanted a night to be over as swiftly as this one. Okay, there was that one night when I had a bladder infection and had to sit on the toilet all night so this would be the second night I want over as swiftly as possible.

So we walked and stopped for a pint, walked and stopped for a pint, you get the picture. Anything to erase from my mind the place I must return to at the end of my ale-soaked walk. Oh, but I did have a fairly good meal of chicken, spinach and Gorgonzola over pasta. Pasta, thus my note.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I think Cockfosters is a funny word

We fly into Sweden on this our European voyage and the Stockholm airport is cold and austere and these people have the highest standard of living anywhere and so not surprisingly one of the healthiest lifestyles. So it would follow that I could not find one goddamn can of Diet Coke anywhere. I waded through rows of vitamin water, carrot juice, and exotic coffees but I found no familiar red and white can. And if that were not enough in the same airport I lost a toenail and a really good earring.
On to England. I know the Brits have coke because the Beatles always drank it.

Few would argue that the Royal Family is useless, boring to the point of pain and dress badly on a regular basis but I gotta tell you - you should see their party rooms. We toured Buckingham Palace and they confiscated my entire bag - even my medication and lifesavers - at the entrance and told me I could pick it up later in the garden. So while the palace staff were laughing at my driver's license picture I walked through room after room of priceless paintings and porcelain, diamond-studded crowns and very old mangy-looking tapestries and tiled floors with inlaid jewels. We could sell all this on ebay and solve world hunger and pay my dental bill all in one swipe. If I were a Brit I would be jabbing my finger in Liz's chest and saying, "wake up, sister, you don't need another brooch to go with the purple gloves and purse. And by the way, go a little crazy kid, mix plaids with stripes."

These English are polite and unknowingly funny as are most ethnic groups to the American tourist but I have to stifle a giggle when I'm riding the metro and the canned voice comes over the intercom and says, "you are riding the Piccadilly service all the way to Cockfosters. Please mind the gap between the train and the platform when leaving." Jason reminds me that words of dubious nature and that are unmentionable in polite company in the states can be quite allowable in this fair country and vice verse. For example, what do I see coming at me but a middle-aged couple wearing matching bowling shirts and wearing (shudder) fanny packs around their ample waist lines. I point this out to Jason and he tells me that here the word fanny translates as vagina and so I stay quiet with my observation. Always ask, I say.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

and so it begins

We fly into London and I have sleeping pills and ear plugs and I intend that trip to be a blur. I don't know how a sixty-year-old body handles jet lag but I don't think it would be a pretty sight, I don't want to see it nor should anybody else.



Jason met Wasp in India a few months ago. The guy is in his 30's, outrageously gay (is there any other way?) with multiple facial piercings and lots of tattoos, once they start sticking you with a needle you don't want them to stop. He was traveling across the Mideast using funds he received from a lawsuit he filed and won against the British police. The details on that are cloudy and mysterious as is the origin of his strange nickname. There are so many odd things about Wasp that it's difficult to catalog all of them.  He finally responded to Jason's email and he is currently living in an abandoned house outside London and he has indicated there is an extra couch should we desire lodging during our stay. And this is one of the reasons we travel. We get to talk to people who would never move into our neighborhood.

Another reason I need to leave my comfortable couch is that I have a lot of questions. Did you know they clip the ravens' wings at the Tower of London to prevent them from flying away, garsh those crazy Brits and just how do they do that?  Where is PETA in this equation? They believe if the birds fly away the walls of the Tower will crumble and like London Bridge come falling down. I don't understand the connection and I will be checking this out and reporting back to you. Did I mention that we will travel by train through an underground tunnel from London to Paris and how the hell do they do that?  So many questions.

Jason has printed pages of London and Paris vegan restaurants and health food stores. If nothing else I will come back from this trip very healthy or very hungry or somewhere in between. I have reminded him that I do need to have a slice of meat occasionally or I may turn into a cabbage or a turnip and my passport photo will no longer be applicable.

So cheerio and up, up and away I guess, the time has come to leave. I will visit the castles of Henry VIII and Marie Antoinette and I won't have to make anyone's lunch or scour out the recycle bins. See you on the other side of that proverbial pond.



 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Frankly, Mrs. Welter . . .

"Frankly, Mrs. Welter I find it hard to believe that one, you cannot remember passing a stopped school bus and two, that you would do so in the first place," says one of the police officers exiting my home.


I am a good citizen. I pay my taxes on time and I recycle and compost for the city. I am a library card carrying woman and I bring my own cloth bags to the supermarket. I never litter and I hold doors open for old people. I just swept my sidewalk clean of the dead begonia blossoms my neighbor refuses to water. I have only one idiotic blemish on my record and that was a speeding ticket back when I was a crazy reckless young thing.  Yes, I was doing 60 something in a 35 mph zone but I had a good reason. Some man in my life had stood me up and I had drunk a bottle of wine except for one inch and I was headed out on the highway and decided to speed up early because there was no one around and it felt good. Ah, frivolous youth but I do need to add I was not driving erratically.  I could always steer well even when under the influence, it's a gift I tell you.

A bus driver with the school system reported to the police that I passed his stopped school bus. I would sooner light a burning cross on some minority member's lawn than commit such an atrocity, christ I'm a grandmother and attend all my grandsons' events, even the boring ones which are pretty much all of them.

The young rookie officer with the red crew cut seems embarrassed by the whole situation. Lord knows I don't look the part and there is the smell of beef stew bubbling on my stove and fresh baked bread on the counter. There are no overflowing ashtrays in my house or fast food containers and Mountain Dew bottles strewn on the floor. But there it is and he hands me a carbon copy that says I am a lawbreaker and an enemy of children everywhere all wrapped up in one egg roll.

I remember the alleged crime. I was coming around a curve and suddenly - tah-da! - there was the bus, man that guy was plowing. His yellow lights were flashing and the arm with the sign was just starting to move. We were nose to nose and I remember I could not see the whole word STOP because the arm was still in motion as I passed.

I am befuddled and betrayed, shaking my head over the incident and wondering how can I possibly wait until October 2nd to get my day in court. The next day I park on the curb facing the ill-fated intersection and I am stalking my accuser.  There he is!  I see a tall figure with a strangely creased grayish face and he looks like a predator out of a cheap rate slasher film. Does this guy want to be a hero at my expense or did I miss something?  I go online and the law says I did OK - I don't need to stop when approaching a school bus with yellow lights, excuse me amber lights flashing.

 As usual, the wheels of justice move slowly and I write all this down in my little notebook should I forget anything in the next three weeks which I undoubtedly will.  My slacks will be ironed and I'll take the good purse when I walk up those courthouse steps next month. Oh, bother.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

there are no cows here

Uh-oh . . . pressure's on . . . expiration date on this unopened two-pound box of Velveeta is 9/24/12. How could I let this happen? I'm supposed to leave the country in nine days and how much mac and cheese will I need to stuff down my family's throats to make this problem go away?  God, I'm so irresponsible.

 I should clean before I leave. I look around my townhouse and find it hard to believe I once read a book on feng shui. Every flat and horizontal space is cluttered with grand children's pictures, cheap mementos from trips and the occasional sea shell. I long for clean minimalist Swedish decor but I need my stuff, lots of it, need to see it, know it's there, home.

The trip looms before me, I say looms. It takes me two days to decide whether I should attend a local event even if it's only minutes from my comfortable couch.  And yet I am winging off to foreign countries and airports where half the citizens don't speak English and are quite content with that.  I am not flexible enough for this project and I should just stay home.

It is the sensible farm woman in me speaking, the one who needs to stay home and milk those full to bursting cows every day.  There are no cows here.

I have always had wanderlust, I spent my first two years of college thumbing it across the state and beyond. And then I got pregnant, a deliberate choice and I would go on to live in the same town my parents and their parents resided and raise this child and a couple more and that was correct on all levels.  But I am older now and in need of very few material things, just new underwear now and then.  What monies I accumulate at this point will be used for traveling, lovely traveling.

I have seen the odd movie, The Odd Life of Timothy Green twice in the last week and I am not recommending it, eh.  But there was that one line that came at me, "and what are you going to do with your one and only life?"   Don't want to be sappy but I do want a really good answer for that.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

a really sick monkey

Unbelievable. Once again I am spending precious weekend hours sandwiched between a teen-ager with a really drippy eye and an ancient wrinkled little man whose coughs sound like they're being scraped off the moldy floor of an abandoned well.

Oh wait, those pathetic choking noises are coming from yours truly and the reason I am sitting in an emergency room full of welfare clients waiting to see some physician's assistant, all the doctors are golfing at the country club this Saturday afternoon. I can't seem  to make an appointment with my regular doc on a week-day.  I only allow him to see me at my bi-annual exams when I am healthy and robust and bragging about all the fiber I eat and how many hours I spend in the pool, a 60-year old poster child for aging broads.  I can't betray that image to him, it's a matter of intense personal pride and I don't want my doctor finding out I get sick.  Now that's sick.  In my defense I was raised by this short little German couple who considered illness shameful and not an allowable excuse for a day missed from work or the general arena of life.

And the phlebotomist is setting up jars, jelly jars I tell you, to fill with my blood. "Hey leave some behind, could you, I still have to drive home."  I'm tring to lighten up here.  No response. "Do you like your job?" I try again. "Yes," and she smiles this really strange little smile, no eye contact,  and I am just noticing the homemade tattoo on the inside of her wrist that looks like a gargoyle or a really sick monkey.  So I think it best to remain silent and get her out of here before she finds another empty jar on her cart. It seems I have pneumonia and they need to figure out which bug thus the need for half my blood supply being hauled away.  At least I won't need to be begging for antibiotics as they are practically throwing them at me, huge horse pills, only five, really powerful stuff and they come with a shitload of possible side effects including inflamed tendons. I am rubbing my calves as we speak . . .

And it seems they want me to see my regular doc on his first available convenience and the bubble will be burst and I just hope he won't get weepy.  In ten days I plan to be on a plane to Sweden and this is my main motivation for showing up for the dreaded weekday appointment.  He may need to approve an iron lung to be sitting at the airport.  Just in case.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

lucky dogs

Good things come to those who wait and I have been waiting.  After one year and seven months my eldest boy is sitting on a bench in Rockford Illinois.  He has been gone from my sight and heart all these months and it is a long time for a mother to ponder what escapades he may be embroiled in.  My maternal mind is crazy good at conjuring up pictures of him withering away in a Thai prison or floating face down in the Genghis river.

When he left Iowa on that cold January day his plan was to explore mideastern Asia and he did all that.  Initially he said he would not visit China and this mother was glad he would not be inside those red, red borders. And then he changed his mind and I was scared when I heard the guards confiscated his travel book at the border because of the chapter on Tibet, poor enslaved Tibet.  They insisted it was "all wrong, this all wrong, not true!"  Yes it is true you crazy, communist cretins.  Luckily, Jason doesn't act like an American, that's his saving feature. There isn't a rude, spoiled, competitive bone in his body.  And he blends in easily with foreign landscapes and native populations. Small, darkly tanned, obviously intelligent and quietly curious, never drawing attention to himself.

 
What was India like, I ask. He avoided my inquiries during our phone calls and emails.  Crazy, was all I could get out of him. What kind of crazy, I pushed and he told the story of some local youngsters wanting to play football but lacking the necessary ball. They found a dead dog that served the purpose. You don't even want to think about that. And then there were the bodies barely covered with a scrap of clothing lying in the street covered with flies.  How does this happen, my orderly sanitized American brain wants to know. Too many people, he said, no government could keep up with the chaos, the monstrous conditions, glad my grandsons are on this side of the globe absent from the insanity of too much humanity and not enough sustenance and space.

We are lucky dogs, we Americans.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

high school french

Questions I need to ask myself before embarking on the London-Paris trip:
  • can I fit a liter size bottle of Kessler's in my backpack?
  • should I leave my Iowa t-shirts behind and pretend I'm from Canada?
  • do I really want to drink warm beer?
  • I'm okay on sharing a bathroom at the hostel but whom am I sharing with, refugees from a small third world country who herd goats and live in tents in desert climes and poop in holes?  Okay, they might be interesting . . .
  • can I really go three weeks without a decent ham and cheese omelet?
  • will pinterest be available in the UK?
  • will my husband and father still be alive on my return or will they die a languishing hoarder's death amidst towering piles of junk mail and styrofoam food containers?
  • will the customs people eye me strangely when 17 double rolls of extra-strength Charmin roll out of my bag?
  • can I deal with my own body odor and that of my son's and the goat herders for days on end?
  • do I have to eat fish and chips and do I have to eat them with malt vinegar?
  • where can I find fishnet stockings for my first stroll down the Champs Elysees?
  • should I ditch my hello kitty around the neck passport holder?
  • and lastly, uh, okay I guess that was it.  Was hoping for a much bigger finish.


Friday, August 17, 2012

women in the neighborhood

Nothing embarrassed my mother, nothing and that made her different from the other women in the neighborhood. Those 50's housewives were invisible and they had no voice in the important arenas of life.

These descriptions did not apply to my mother. If Marie was unhappy about a restaurant meal she would take herself back to the kitchen and inform the chef of his culinary mistake and educate him to a tastier technique. That would leave me back at the table playing with my silverware and looking the other way until she emerged triumphant, a new friendship forged with this chef and they are laughing and patting each other on the shoulder.

She excelled in shopping and finding the best deal and if that was not available she would hide the garment in one of those roomy drawers underneath the counter under a bunch of hangers and wait for the damn thing to go on sale. She would watch the papers incessantly and call me excited with the discovery that her capri pants were five dollars cheaper and we could rescue them from their hidden place and the sales people were never the wiser, a game played well.  She exalted in the secrecy.

She was an outrageous flirt, oh she liked the boys, check out her girlhood diary. On Saturday night my high school date would arrive and I was up in the bathroom frantically trying to cover a row of pimples with Cover Girl rosy beige glow.  I knew she was sitting in the rocking chair in her housecoat with the hem of  her lacy nightie peeking out, swinging her shapely crossed leg and entertaining my teen-aged romeo. And probably better than I would be able to do, well I didn't care, they were uninteresting slobs . . .

Did I say flirt?  When I was still a young mother I took her on all-day shopping trips once a month and one time she suggested having an early morning donut at a bakery on Central avenue. We walked into the fragrant shop and I saw a roomful of truckers swigging their morning coffee before mounting their rigs and heading out.  "Hey Marie!" and "Marie, over here!" and "lookin' good, Marie!" came from various tables in the room and I am chagrined and she is beaming.

She was a darling and years ago traveling back from Philadelphia with my youngest son and his then girlfriend she had us crazy laughing all the way to the Mississippi  and then some. And the girlfriend patted her hand and said, "I like you." And that of course left me seething in the front seat, "why does no one ever like me?"  Well, we all know that answer.  Occasionally, I can be fun but not on a regular basis, too much work.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

i don't know

 Didn't Nana like to visit Mackinac Island?, I ask my father interrupting his vigorous consumption of my fettuccine. "There are two interesting things about Mackinac Island," he begins totally ignoring my question. "First of all, the island is the source of the title, 'mad hatter.'"  Where does he find this stuff?  "Back when they made top hats from beaver skin they treated the material with mercury and when that gets into the body it changes brain tissue and causes insanity. The hatters had mercury on their hands and they would in fact, go mad, thus the "mad hatter."  And yet there's more.  "The second thing about the island is that in the nineteenth century a miner was injured when part of his abdomen was blasted away in a mine explosion." Sonny goes on to explain the man lived but one could actually view food he ate traveling through his digestive system and the doctor convinced him to stay for two years so he could observe and study his intestinal tract.
This is a horrible story I tell him and I am understanding why he wins every Trivial Pursuit game he plays and I have forgotten my original question.

Men like to swagger when they talk, the show-offs  They have difficulty admitting they do not know the answer to any question and my husband cannot say those three emasculating words, "I don't know."  An example: Crazy Tom is planning a bike trip across Jamaica, one of our favorite haunts.  I ask Big Dave, how does Tom plan to get from Ocho Ries (his hotel location) to Montego Bay (where the ride will begin.)  My husband's response includes a history of the biking industry on the island, check point stops in the Jamaican Blue Mountains, why coffee is an important Jamaican export and Tom's latest argument with his father.  He does not know.

Personally, "I don't know" is one of my favorite replies. It means I don't have to continue this conversation.

"And another thing, hair doesn't grow under my arm pits anymore,"  my father tells me.  I'm considering printing up a pre-approved list of acceptable dinner topics.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

sometimes the past comes crashing through the front door

I am sitting on my couch with a stiff drink, glad to be home and away from work, tonight they just wanted to beat me up.  My mind roams backwards as the years collect  and sometimes the past comes crashing through the front door.

 I was once a divorced woman with three young children and ambiguous child support.  "I'm a little short this month," the ex was fond of saying and he wasn't referring to his 5'7" stature.  I needed to take the highest-paying job and those gigs were not usually pleasant.

 Being a supervisor in an understaffed human services office is right up there with a root canal minus the novocaine.  I can tell you some weird stories like the greasy little pimp who offered me a position in his harem while I was smoking a cigarette outside the Scott county office, "hey little mama, you wanna make some really good money?"  Davenport Iowa is a cess pool and then there was the six-foot-plus black man who wanted to meet me in the parking lot after work to discuss why I canceled his food stamps, may the better man win.  Sometimes I get really tired of this human race.

Back in my home office I was the only supervisor in the place that day and I get a frantic call from Linda, a new worker, all of five feet short.  She was interviewing a muscular young man, he wanted food stamps and was living with his brother who had a lot of money and we had to deny his application.  He kept rhythmically pounding his fist on little Linda's desk and chanting, "some one's gonna get hurt here if I don't get what I want," what a dick.  I come into her cubicle and my goal was to get Linda out of there, so I send her on a fake errand, see what General Relief can do for this poor slob.  My mind is crazy racing and then I remember Dave, an ex-Marine social worker, 6'5" and biceps that resemble boulders. Dave and I return to the cubicle and Dave stands there with arms crossed like Mr. Clean and I say, " let me explain the policy again." That guy exited our space so fast I felt a breeze. I think he called a congressman on this one, damn welfare state.

Those early days hold a bittersweet flavor for me.  We were innocent young shining things back then and I used to silently grumble while cleaning my daughter's long hair out of the bathroom drain, but damn, I wish I could go back.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

slut no more

We have a word for women like that, I tell Big Dave, we have a word for women who desert their women friends and go off with some man. The word is slut. Crazy Tom, my husband's long-time bachelor friend who recognizes only his own predicament and cannot for the life see the trees or the forest left Dave high and dry at a local saloon last night. My dogs are tired after my evening shift and I send Dave out alone into the night and Tom was supposed to meet him but he never showed.  Dave had seen him a couple of hours earlier at their gym talking to some overweight woman with dirty blond hair and Dave thinks they are doing the dirty deed on Tom's saggy mattress even as we speak. Men are shits, I growl.

Back in my crazy divorcee days I had a woman acquaintance who pulled the same trick on myself and our circle of friends, I tell my husband, poor man, his eyes downcast and clearly saddened by the betrayal. My friend's paramour informed her that he would not tolerate her spending time with us gals, and we were solid citizens, all of us, but she caved. She worked for the post office so on one beer-soaked night we ordered foot-long chili dogs and mailed them.  At her station's postal box. Federal offense, yes, but I believe statute of limitations apply. Thirty years ago I emerged from my divorce a male-hating crazy person  but  I cleaned myself up and can now sit down with polite society again. Two sugars, please.

My father quickly entered into a friendship with a woman mere months after my mother's passing. Do you think it's too soon, he asked. Yes I do, I thought.  No I don't, I tell him.  None of my business, do what you need to do to heal, I am worried by your weary, grieving face. But now that woman, actually an old friend of his, has ended the relationship. My father craves matrimony and she is fiercely protective of her independence. Who can blame her, but I say nothing to the old man. Why chain herself to another needy man, tote that barge and lift that laundry basket. We should all live in solitary rooms, emerging only to ask necessary questions.

Oh, and Crazy Tom fell asleep in front of the TV while waiting to go out with Dave. Slut no more.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

man's land



He's gone and done it again. Big Dave went clothes-shopping without me. He has been warned never to attempt this activity unless I accompany,  I am the sole manifestation of class and good taste in his little simple life.  I see the Kohl's bags on the floor and I sigh painfully as I take out his newly purchased khaki work pants, what is this awful shiny material?  My husband will look like an Italian pimp when he shows up at the office.


I myself went shopping today. After several years of procrastination I  finally committed to painting the old beat up bench that sits outside my front door. I entered the hardware store with my usual trepidation, the same feeling I get when I talk to a mechanic.  I have entered Man's Land and I don't understand the language or the smells or the lack of color-coordinated decor. Chin up, I am the daughter of a paint store owner, I can do this.

 "Can I help you, ma'am," says the clerk, himself a man, already looking at me like I am a child with chocolate syrup on my face. Yes, I say and I explain the dilemma of the bench, the one with the paint so embedded in the grain that paint stripper has no effect. I'll be scrubbing and sanding the wood, I tell him, sounding totally in charge of my project, just direct me to the proper paint shelf. "And what color are you thinking?"  Something along the line of a burnt sienna orange, I say, and I see his eyes roll ever so slightly as my response  reminds him of my gender or maybe I'm imagining all this. No, I'm not. I have lost all credibility with this man and I am just another silly woman who paints ordinary objects outrageous colors.

For truth to be told the only comfortable commercial setting for me is a bakery, those wonderful warm and aromatic little shops, the promise of sensual fulfillment in the form of a cream-filled, chocolate-covered long john.  There and only there does the world make sense for me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

a bernard boy at that

I only play classical music in my car because I am the fire-breathing poster child of road rage. The great composers keep me sedated and less likely to hurl obscene epithets and empty fast food containers out the window at stupid drivers.  I cannot tolerate those uncivilized boors who can't seem to pick a lane and stay with it, their cell phones glued to their stupid pointy ears. They should have their bare buttocks caned, all of them, only mideastern disciplinary measures will suffice here.


The Iowa drought continues. Someone with a questionable sense of humor emailed me this picture and it was titled, Iowa's new rain gauge. And you just know that's a Budweiser cap.  Friend James zinged back, "they could also do an Iowa porta potty, an empty beer bottle filled with you know what." And he's an old Bernard boy at that and I tell him, it's a good thing to have classy friends. Once again, the bottle would be Budweiser.

 Our lawns crunch when we walk on them, like tredding on really frozen snow and they would reduce your feet to bloody rubble should you go barefoot. And the only gardens in my neighborhood that look healthy belong to my father. Watering is his new mission, his Ex Calibur, his Holy Grail so to speak. Sonny needs projects, a schedule of regular, unwavering tasks, something he can talk about later. Without this he would be reduced to a dry husk of a man and none of us want to see that.  He planted a ton of hostas on a hillside and now he awakens every morning with only one desire, to have a hose in his hand.  He has built a rather ingenious little fence around the plants not wanting our hired lawn-cutters to mow them down but no one is mowing this grass, the little fellers stopped growing weeks ago.  He has rigged up carefully spaced buckets with holes in specific areas to allow the water to trickle out slowly and not be rushed away to the bottom of the hill. There is a soothing symmetry about the design of his work, a touch of Da Vinci, a mind launched and unfettered. If given enough time and space Sonny could design a cathedral out of Popsicle sticks and rubber bands.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

in my newspaper today

Some guy in Portland, Oregon took a dead rodent out of a stray cat's mouth, a cat with which he had no personal relationship and now he is infected with bubonic plague, the same bacterium that wiped out one third of Europe in the    14th century.  I'm not quite sure why he wanted that putrid mouse but now he's in critical condition, of course he is.  Is anybody besides me scared by the level of stupidity out there? These people drive on the same streets my grandchildren cross and some of them may actually take the time to vote.  We're all going to hell in a teacup, whatever that means.

And then I read about the Flying Wallenda family and they are famous not for their choice of work clothes which would be sequin-studded spandex but their choice of career. For seven generations these kids have been manning trapezes in the circus arena leaping and jumping into each others' arms.  And you wear khakis to your job and stare at a computer screen all day.  There is a downside to this career choice as demonstrated by Grandpa Wally when he fell to his death from that same trapeze. If someone is calling you Grandpa you need a safety net, old fellow. The latest star in the Wallenda sky is young Nik who plans to walk the tight rope across Niagra Falls. And I am grateful I was born into a family that finds fulfillment by refinishing furniture.  We prefer to be close to the ground, boring but essential to continuing good health.

"Being on a tightrope is living. Everything else is waiting," says deceased Grandpa Wallenda.

And now from the Financial Q&A column "My 80-year-old mother had a living trust done years ago specifying that all assets be divided equally among her five children. My sister and a deceased brother got my mother to take out several loans  blah blah blah. . ."  I gotta give this deceased brother credit for proving that not only can you take it with you, you can get even more after you've crossed that great divide. I'm just sayin' . . .

The newspaper would be a lot more interesting if that Calvin & Hobbes guy hadn't retired.