Friday, December 27, 2013

merry christmas bitches


Yeah, right, get out of my chair my ass. I haven't sat down in the last twenty-seven days, merry christmas, bitches. The cleaning, the fudge-making, the frosting of star-shaped cookies, the Santa stickers on all those cards, empty tape dispensers piling up. Where's my Christmas spirit? Why, it's up your cranberry red asses, you little funky elves and elvettes, bah humbug.

That out of my system I need to say this. I like Christmas. I really do. It's all about the glitter and peppermint and Bing Crosby, have yourself a merry little whatever but I must tell you this. I often fantasize about escaping the family pit. Somewhere on an island, green bluffs silhouetted against an ocean, white caps bobbing on the horizon, perhaps a dolphin sighting, endless margaritaville. I can smell the Coppertone. I'm sweating and steaming in the tropical sun, rum and fruit juice mating in my half-coconut shell just waiting for that jerk chicken guy to swing on by.

I awake Christmas morning and I know I want someone else to cook me breakfast. Our usual greasy spoon is open, run by a ruthless Greek guy who never lets his poor wait staff rest. I am agitated because there are tables of 16, 20 people waiting, families who want to get the Christmas get-together over and in a public place so they can go home and watch Netflix and eat store-bought peanut brickle. I need to get back to mix up the cheesy potato casserole and my two eggs over easy are way way down on the cook's schedule thanks to these mega families.

I have invited my family for dinner. My sister and father arrive early so we can play the traditional Christmas Scrabble game. My father wins by three lousy points and I attribute this to the fact that he spends several evenings a month perusing the Scrabble dictionary. He comes up with "za" and "qi" for acceptable words. I want to disqualify anything coming out of that accursed book, but he's 89, enjoy the win old man, you won't have many more.

I'm just saying.

my sister's sentiments

 


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Thursday, December 19, 2013

an afternoon with the cuzzes

"Sometimes Grandpa can be fun," I tell the pouting five-year-old on the couch. I am off to a cookie exchange in my mother's home town and this young princess would rather have me stay with her. "Have him roll you on his exercise ball." For some reason this is their activity of choice, jeesh.


Rats, it's Christmas and that means parties with people making small talk and asking dumb questions. I pick and choose what I attend because there is not enough of my entertaining self to go around and some of you will just have to suffer the absence of me.

Sitting in the back of my aunt Celine's car I consider unwrapping one of the hard candies on the floor, I'm hungry. The invitation promised food and I am picturing spinach quiche, fresh fruit salad, raspberry scones and champagne punch. I can wait.

My 93 year-old aunt Leona, all 4'3" of her is sitting next to me. She is wearing black leggings and knee-high boots. She is also sporting a white turtle-neck sweater with black leather vest and a Harley-Davidson cap. Her tiny fingernails are painted black with white stripes, a skunk manicure. She hangs out at several Harley bars and the propreiters always keep beer mugs on ice for her.

We are at my aunt Rita's country home spilling over with Santas and snowmen decorations and I am hearing a story about Dagwood's Pub, the town's waterhole and the ladies are talking about Dagwood, the owner. "Is that his real name?" I ask. Oh no, they shake their heads, but he is such a dagwood, they say. Huh? And then Rita is telling me about a pub crawl they have at four other neighborhood bars and everyone gets a playing card at each place. The fifth card is supplied at Dagwood's and the best poker hand wins. And what's the prize, I ask. Oh usually cash, or guns, they all nod their heads.

I was deemed unworthy to wear a Christmas headband.

Alas, there is no champagne punch. Instead everyone's drinking coffee, pot after pot. Since I do not I am offered milk. Who drinks milk at a party? I am finally handed a warm glass of Diet Rite. "I never chill my pop," says Rita, "it makes me cold when I drink it."

I kissed my spinach quiche a sad good-by when I saw the giant margarine tubs filled with grapes on the tables and Rita had made cinnamon rolls. Two of her daughters made muffins and the youngest brought a crock pot of bacon. "Thanks for the bacon, " I tell her. I made three trips to that crock, I needed protein. "And I like your shirt." It pictured the manger scene with a balloon above saying, "It's a girl!"

I love my mother's sisters. They are honest and warm, generous and hard-working. Debbie processed 500 pounds of tomatoes this fall and I always feel lazy next to these women. Aunt Helen, all of 96, snaps at me when I admire her red coat. "You can't have it!" she yells. After a minute of thought she changes her tune, "if you buy me a new one I'll give it to you."

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

at work

I'm sitting in the Alzheimer's day room, a little space created at the end of a long hallway, far from the scrutiny of the casual visitor, someone who might react stongly to an elderly person animatedly talking to her shoes.  There are no blaring TVs here, no hip hop belching from radios, noise is deadly to the demented. Who needs this senseless cacophony, my favorite new word.

I am talking to Evelyn, a small intense woman obsessed with her body fluids and she tells me her eyes are weeping.  I hand her a napkin and offer a drink of cranberry juice but she says no, I don't want to pee in the bed, well who does.

 
And then there's Adrienne, a long lean horsey woman and her body never looks comfortable in her too small wheelchair. She lived in a high rise in New York with her impeccably dressed husband. They were missionaries in Japan and occasionally she will lapse into that Asian language but more frequently she stares past me into a corner of the ceiling and shrieks. She shakes all over and her eyes lock on this space and I am reminded of the movie The Grudge. The film depicts an elderly woman who cannot speak and she keeps seeing this ghoul hunched in a ceiling corner and no one else can see it. I look upward with a little shiver and move her and myself to the other side of the room.

 
 
Freida comes bustling in, she's the kindest woman I have ever known and she spends all her time in this little room administering to her children, adults who look in the mirror and ask, who is that old woman? Freida is large and sweaty and carries two paper plates and plops one down in front of me. It is a small yellow square with a circle of grease spreading beneath it and for some reason that fascinates me. It has orange and pink specks, the pink I believe is meat. I don't want to eat it but I want to be polite to Freida because I really like her. After I have consumed half Freida says, "Helen brought this last week and I think it's okay to eat."

"I'm feeling seepage from my anus," Evelyn announces and I smile and pat her hand and thank god I don't have to check that one out.



 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

thankful

I am thankful my father continues to complain heatedly and often about the leaves in the gutters, the creeping charley in his lawn,  the last restaurant meal he ate.  A complaining German is a healthy German.

I am thankful my two sons are in love.

I am thankful my extrovert husband has finally stopped telling people at parties, "Dawn had a similar experience.  Dawn, would you like to tell us?" And he only grumbles a little when I write about him on this blog.

I am thankful my bedroom window faces east. I hang crystals in that window and wake to rainbow hues.

I am thankful for my daughter and her logic and clear headedness. She should be president.

I am thankful for my family full of hermits who understand our get-togethers need not be frequent.

I am grateful for my mother's handwritten instructions on my stuffing recipe card.

I am grateful for my few good friends who don't mind much when I don't call them back right away.

I am grateful for the ancient oak tree outside my window.  I know Native Americans camped beneath its boughs.

I am thankful for my swimming routine. It keeps me sane and allows me to be less impatient with other human beings.

And my grandchildren. Lord, they're all I need. Let the rest of the world withdraw, I am content.


 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

39 in a 25 zone

I hear the husband one level down in our townhouse talking to the phone. "Here," he says, "I'll let you talk to her."

Probably the worst thing he could utter. Usually he doesn't do this. Usually he will tell them I am unavailable, take a message and I don't have to get involved. He knows I hate phones and the people who use them. He knows this but he's still mad at me from the night before.

It started out innocently as do all marital squabbles.  I was sitting next to the five-year-old granddaughter in the back of my 2003 Chevy Impala because we were going to play Barbies while Grandpa drove us to the pizza place. Next thing I know blinding red and blue lights are pulsating through the rear window and the big guy is frantically digging through the glove compartment for the insurance card. The flashlight is shining directly on his face as Officer Jill explains she clocked him doing 39 in a 25 zone. I am trying to calm the child down, she is convinced this police person is going to shoot Grandpa, the woman does sound fierce and her gun is so big.

Back on the road Dave is hanging his head and moaning, "all my fault, all my fault, I wasn't paying attention," and after the twenty-fifth recital of this information I say this. "Yes, you seem to have a problem paying attention which is how the motor oil ended up in my radiator instead of the anti-freeze last week."  Well, you would think I just okayed the terrorist bombing of every preschool in our city, the tirade that came from his lips. I, of course, had to keep up with the pace and soon the child is laughing and yelling, "stop saying those dirty words, Grandma!" "Well, he's an asshole," I say.

I am always amazed when my kids allow me to watch their kids unsupervised.  There have been a few episodes over the years, not many but enough to make my children wary. It's probably best I not be allowed around anyone of youth or impressionability when I'm angry or driving, often the same situation. "Pick a lane, you you person you!" is so ineffective.

So this is how I find myself talking on the phone to Velma, the ancient secretary of our local hiking club. Two years ago I went on one of their hikes to please my father and now she calls me every few months to encourage me to rejoin the fold, come to our chili dinner, the potluck at the park, the duck dinner at the Chinese place.
 I probably just need to be nicer to my husband but that sounds like so much work.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

two hours

Abbie is in my inbox again and surprise, she wants me to work her weekend, four whole days so she can attend a wedding that suddenly sprung up. Abbie gets invited to a lot of weddings "suddenly" and she always needs four days off.  What kind of weddings are you attending, Indian perhaps? Don't they have three days of feasting and ceremonies with henna tattooing and lamb sacrifices? I can barely get through two hours of an American wedding reception and I'm looking longingly at the door almost panting with my desire to depart.

My own family is filled with misfits and we get together three holidays a year, my one sociable brother might throw in an extra picnic, drat, otherwise we stay at home and do social media like all the other nice introverts. We maintain this Spartan schedule just so we can tell people at work that yes, we had somewhere to go on Thanksgiving, somebody cooked us a turkey and we brought orange jello. My husband's family rents gymnasiums for holidays as they have grown huge and out-of-control.  I would think with their numbers being so large and daunting this would be a signal to them to cut back, have smaller more intimate gatherings but no one listens to me. I'm not even sure they like me, eh.

My husband knows two hours is my limit.

 Fifteen minutes to scope out the place and find where to put the gift card and where the john is, look for a table on the outskirts near an exit, somewhere with inadequate lighting.  Thirty minutes playing with the mints and cashews, folding and refolding the napkin, people find us, we beg off  joining them at their tables, husband complies, he knows.
 Twenty minutes standing in the buffet line, my back towards the tables of guests, taking a particular interest in the green bean casserole and how the salad dressings are lined up, look at those butter squares, staring up at the ceiling, waiting for the fat chick to stop spooning gravy on everything, I need to sit down, I'm on display.
Fifteen minutes eating, mouth full, don't need to speak.
Thank god, someone has a microphone, all heads swivel towards the front, there are toasts, a  DJ's attempts at jokes, garters and drunken groomsmen, fifty minutes pass, I'm sitting in the dark, occasionally applauding, I can do this.

I'm sweating, time to go. But he needs to say good-by to people, why? If you're not there, they'll know you're gone. I'll be out in the car and the night air hits me like an old friend.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

stalkers and pervs

I am standing in line at the Legion hall and the smell of burned hash browns surrounds me. We are buying tickets for yet another veterans' breakfast and up ahead I see my cousin and the man she had an affair with during her rocky marriage. This woman has a college degree and yet she allows herself to be seen in public with a guy who sports a mullet. That particular side of my family is full of shady types and they all married stalkers and pervs. Thank god my mother's side boasted honest farmers and gas station owners or I would never have achieved any kind of social acceptability.


I have nothing to do but stand and stare as they have run out of sausages and nobody's budging until they get some. This is Iowa and we take our pig meat seriously. There's an open bar and $3.00 bloody marys, garsh I wish I liked tomato juice but I get myself a can of diet Coke, the next best thing to booze. There is an enormous man on the bar stool and there's something about him that spells familiar. And then I see them. Zebra-colored snakeskin boots peeking out from his jeans. Can it be Terry?, the guy I lived with before I met the present husband.

Terry was from North Dakota just yards from the Canadian border where it is so cold the men never turn off the ignition in their trucks. Was he a cowboy, yes he was and no citizen in my county would ever be caught in those ugly striped boots.

He lived with me for several years and then I kicked him out, what a jerk but we still dated because I was 43 and convinced no other man would look at me. And then there's that popular theory that desperate women hold onto that starts out, "He'll change, I'll just give it more time." When he stopped showing up for major holidays I thought this calls for some investigation and sure enough, I saw him pushing a shopping cart at our local Sam's and nudging up against a younger woman.

And here they are sloshing down alcohol at nine in the morning and part of me, a very large part wants to go up to him and say, "Terry? Terry, is that you? I didn't recognize you. You got so fat! Oh, and is this your wife? Is she the one you were cheating with when you were dating me?" And I have actually played this conversation in my head many times over the years and I might just make it a reality some day. Why not, the schmuck has it coming. I just can't figure out how to finish the conversation, I need a real zinger to wrap it up.

Curses, this place is teeming with ill-reputed louses. I was never one of those people who remained friends with my exes. I cross the street when I see them coming. After all, they know too many of my secrets.

Friday, October 25, 2013

I'm calling the husband to remind him not to call me as I will be in a meeting. I want my phone on because there is an ill grandson laying on my couch and I need to be available.

I'm not a good listener. I believe this is in part because I find most conversation trivial and uninteresting. I abhor small talk and I always get right to the point when I'm on the phone. I really don't need to know how you are nor do I need to divulge similar information about myself to you.

I also distract easily. My attention level rivals that of a three-old and this makes classroom situations a chore. I always sit in the front so I can focus better by observing the speaker's neck fat or shoes. Sr. Bonita, the administrator of my place of employment, will do the honors. She doesn't like me and I do not like her. She administrates like a bad high school principal and oh wait! She was a bad high school principal in her younger days. I've seen her take down some of her finest employees, make them look cheap and unprinicpaled and always in front of other workers. She has a love of negativity and can sniff it out in any situation and person and display it for all to see.

The topic of the lecture is stewardship and I would rather hear a speech on creamed corn. It's just another ploy for the frugal Franciscans to remind us not to waste their money. We can't even throw a snippet of paper away. It needs to be reused like the empty candy boxes that become drawer dividers or CDs that can be art projects. I am watching a tiny drop of spittle form on Sister's lower lip when my phone rings. Her eyes lock on mine like a crocodile discovering a bunny that has hopped too close. I fear I may wet my pants and I jump up and mumble "sick grandchild at home."

A couple of years ago I was asked to write our annual Christmas play and it swelled my head and I produced a 97-page script later scaled down to 14 per my boss's request. It was full of talking candy canes and dancing elves and I admit, it was heavy on the secular stuff but truly that is the spirt of Christmas, don't lie to yourselves. Other plays in years past dwelled heavily on manger scenes and angels we have heard on high so I let the bell choir sing "Silent Night," the only song they knew unless you count the chorus from "I'm Just Wild About Harry." Sister Bonita always sent the play author a hand-written thank you note and I saw her leave my performance after only ten minutes and I never got a note.


And oh, it's the husband on the phone, the guy who never checks his voice mail, just the call history. "Did you call? What do you want?"
Your head on a platter.
 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

stupid meeting

"I'm going to my stupid meeting," I yell at my husband and he's buried in his man cave watching Family Feud.  "Murgf," he replies, his mouth full of cashews.

My place of employment has started a new procedure in training techniques and it's called the ten-minute stand-up meeting.
"What stupid person came up with this one," I email my boss. "Oh, unless it was you than I need to say this is highly creative and inspirational on your part."

Research shows that a group of people needs five minutes to settle in and focus on a speaker which is why speakers use jokes and ice-breakers for those first five minutes, hey, here's my personality, get used to it, I'll be talking to you for awhile. But a ten-minute meeting?  Will there be time for questions?  You know, the questions people spout out who don't want to go back to work. I've never liked those lazy SOBs. They're the ones who sit on the edge of my desk every Monday morning, dawdling, holding coffee mugs that say I NEED A NAP and ask how my weekend went and they actually want to know.

Sara, the little HR supervisor is our speaker. We will be witnessing changes in our buildings the next few weeks, she drones blah blah. There are two men in our group, Dan the Man, our resident social worker and Lance, a tall gay guy who resembles Ichabod Crane, Adam's apple and all and he publishes a column in our monthly news letter. He writes things like, "it was in the opening prayer that the Archbishop's expression of gratitude to those who work the hardest, giving diligent, persistent service every day and I felt he was speaking to me directly and this was especially touching for me as a CNA/Direct Care Professional." Yes, he actually writes stuff like that.

 
When I first knew Lance I accidentally called him Fran, the name of another gay man I knew.  I loved the real Fran. When I ripped my ear lobe from a pierced earring I complained about switching to clamp earrings. Fran said, "you look so sexy when you rub that sore lobe, just like the movie actresses in the 40's." He was a hair stylist and when I asked how I should style my do he said, "just don't let your hair hide your face." How could I not love this man?

Lance did not like being called Fran so he kind of snubs me. I sometimes mock his columns to my co-workers and they find it hilarious but come on, the articles beg for ridicule. Sometimes I need an audience despite the introvert I am.

Dan the Man stands up dwarfing little Sara and rearranges his belt over a bulging belly. Dan, yoo hoo, time to start wearing baggy polo shirts. He is giving a little speech of his own, monopolizing our time and Sara's grin is starting to look a little stretched and ridiculous. She says she will pass his information on to our CEO and then she quickly ends the meeting. As I grab my notebook with no notes I see Dan making a bee line towards her with more of his hype. So glad I have a peon job.



 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

huh?

I need to tell you the rest of my jury duty story because by doing that I will impart to you important information on the general population, specifically the behavior of the moron section.

After two and a half days we were ready for deliberation. This young defendant had been arrested for operating under the influence and he refused all four impairment tests that would have proved his innocence if indeed he had been. We had four officers testify to his drunken behavior and we saw video tape recorded in three locations and the young man was stumbling over nothing and slurring his words as he directed his ire at anyone wearing a uniform.

Our foreman asked us how we intended to vote.  I was certain we would be unanimous in our observations about the boy's wrongdoing. Ms. Sequins was seated to his immediate left and when he turned to her she shifted uneasily in her seat, "I don't want to be the first one to go." I interpreted this as she knew her vote might be contrary to the rest of us who had decided not to dress in t-shirts with Harley Davidson spelled out in pink sequins and if she went last she could change her vote to avoid embarrassment from the elitists that surrounded her. And I was correct.

she probably has this shirt, too
In the end there were three people who decided the guy was not guilty, Ms. Sequins and a young girl who lived ninety miles from this city but had forgotten to change her address, and this runty guy with a bullet-shaped head who was always asking for smoke breaks. He was pushy and loud and often interrupted people especially the women so he could get his own point across. He had been divorced twice, picked up for two OWIs himself and  his 16-old daughter had been in a car accident yesterday and had been ticketed for that and resisting arrest.  I hated the man instantly.

He didn't like it that all four officers had given the exact same testimony, he would have had more confidence in voting guilty if one of them had come up with a contrary story. Huh? When the defendant asked the officer at the police station if he was being arrested the deputy answered, "you think?" (video tape) Runty thought this was harassing and abusive behavior and disqualified the man's testimony based on just those two words. And this went on an on. Ms. Sequins added none of this would have happened if  he hadn't been stopped for a faulty license light . . . so it's okay to be guilty, just don't get caught.

Here's my theory. All three of these people were marginal, rebels without causes and I knew they had lots of tattoos under their clothes. They wanted to be contrary to be contrary. And the rational people of the world paid these guys no heed but today we were trapped by their malfunctioning thought processes and we had to sit and listen as they attempted to dissuade us. We could not just shrug our shoulders and dismiss them like we had dismissed so many of their kind before. So we, the sane guys locked eyes across the table and tried to keep our building angers from blasting out at those three stooges. They were having their day in court literally and we had no choice but listen to their ramblings.

The judge called us back and said if we could not make a decision we were coming back for a fourth day of endless courtroom hilarity and the prosecutor was not looking happy. Back we trudged to those hard wooden chairs and the three people changed their votes, just like that. I would never have given up my conviction, not even if I was sprawled on the floor and Runty's boot was poised above my face.

God, I hate people.


 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

i hate this woman

On weekends I share the pool with college students who teach small fry how to swim.  I enjoy watching screaming toddlers thrown in the water as much as the next guy but I'm also glad for the distraction. Swimming for ninety minutes does not allow you to do anything productive on the side like peeling potatoes or clipping coupons.


And then Caroline walked in dragging her spawn behind her, an eight-year-old boy with the same albino hair shade as his mother. I hate this woman. I worked with her a few years back at a second-rate nursing facility run by a bunch of Texans who previously  manufactured tires. She was an occupational therapist fresh out of school, first job EVER at a time when therapies first exploded on the medical market, thank you Medicare. I mean you shouldn't have to pay ninety bucks an hour to relearn how to comb your hair. Mothers have been doing this for free for years.

Caroline was 26 years old and still living with her parents and was not responsible for a lick of housework. In the early days when we were still friendly I recommended it was time to move out and begin a real grown-up's life. The next day she bought a $60,000 pick-up truck and couldn't "possibly take on the added burden of rent and a water bill."

She had a boyfriend named Frosty, never did hear the explanation for that one and he regularly made her cry "but he always apologizes later."  I was torn between concern and loss of respect for this mouseketeer.

Her most annoying feature was a lack of professionalism and granted, I set the bar high but I am the oldest Catholic daughter raised by a Marine. Our residents were ancient people and their children were retired and living on the golf course. At care plan meetings Caroline would inevitably say how "awesome your mom is doing and she's so cute, too!!!" Caroline was immune to the cringing looks on their faces. She was only able to interpret a very shallow slice of the action in front of her.

When I tried to talk to her about this she started crying and then jumped management channels and actually called the big wig of that undisciplined facility, some honcho living several hundred miles away who wore a white cowboy hat when he visited us once a year. I was called on the carpet and I realized I needed to work somewhere else where management did the employee damage control and not the cute little social worker I was at the time.

I transferred to another facility and Caroline was actually one of the minor reasons, maybe not a reason at all. And wham! bam! my trainer was no other than Caroline's mother. I could tell by the way she narrowed her eyes at me that Caroline had filled her in on my story and she unfairly had misrepresented me as she had done to Cowboy Bob. "I like your hair," I said to Patricia who was wearing a brown football helmet for a coiffure but it was really shiny. "I was poor when I grew up and I learned to do my own hair," she spit at me. Holy Protective Mothers, Batman and Caroline, grow the fuck up.

 

Friday, September 27, 2013

jury duty

I am driving at a snail's pace behind a car with a bumper sticker that says "You can't be Catholic and believe in abortion." And you know what, that's not even true. I was in San Diego at a farmers' market and there was a group of young people handing out flyers stating they were Catholic and pro-choice. They were an intelligent-looking lot and they wanted me to stick around and discuss all that but I politely declined as I had a date with an Indian food vendor.

I can't be late this morning. It is my first day of jury duty and I'm already in trouble due to the school bus incident. I just figured this was another extension of my punishment for that offense but I had been fairly confident I would be excused from the whole business.

 
I had read an article in a beauty magazine that said women who have olive skin tones should wear green nail polish. I'd gotten my toes painted that very color and the polish was chipped and really quite ugly. I made a point of sitting in the front row where the attorneys could see my crappy green toes and then there was the fact that I had cut my own bangs the day before. "Never cut your hair when you've been drinking," my sister-in-law was fond of saying but after several beers my inhibitions were non-existent. I thought these two physical pieces of evidence would get me off the hook, here is a woman who clearly has impaired judgment issues, but this was not to be the case.

 
On the bright side I got to wear a cool badge but they wouldn't let me take it outside the courthouse but I could wear it as I walked around the building making jokes with all the security guys, yes, I am truly one of you. "Can I take notes?" I asked the bailiff who is actually now called a court attendant but bailiff is way cooler-sounding. She looked pleased that somebody on this jury was taking the whole thing seriously and she glanced disapprovingly over at the woman next to me who had Harley Davidson spelled out in pink sequins across her ample breasts. I was anticipating a regular yellow pad like the attorneys but instead was handed a smaller version of the same tablet. This will never be enough, I sadly thought to myself especially since half the paper was already gone. People were always asking to borrow my notes in college because my abilities in that category were never short of awesome.

The county was going to pay me $30 a day to sit around and take notes so I decided to stay. There's a few more things I need to say on this subject but that will be at a later date.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

a blurry sheriff


Don being happy



The headline of my local newspaper reads, "Sheriff says no gun permits for legally blind people." Does this issue even merit discussion?  Sheriff Don is quoted as saying, "If you see nothing but a blurry mass in front of you then I would say you probably shouldn't be shooting something." And this is our sheriff, a hands-on kind of guy making the world safe for blurry masses everywhere.



This is a photo of Sheriff Don and I see him frequently out and about performing his Barney Fife  duties and I gotta say the man's facial expression never changes, never. He does not smile, he does not frown. He does not giggle, wince, hold back tears or laugh heartily. He is a bald Mr. Spock without the pointy ears and sprayed-on bangs, uh-huh I am a trekkie.

Don being unhappy


A long time ago Don was policing an outdoor festival and he came up to me and asked for a date. We had never spoken, been introduced or shared a taxi but there it was. Perhaps he thought he was a masterly macho guy with a gun on his hip and a walkie-talkie strapped to his shoulder but this was not to be the case.
 



I politely declined and that's because a man should have some color in his personality. This is not Don's strong point, he is so colorless he is practically transparent and this would be a boring sphere to inhabit.  If it were mandatory for deputies to have a color Don would be beige, a dirty neutral crayon smudge on the page. But then I had the unfortunate status to know a few self-absorbed men back in the day who had too much color and . . .  I will stop here because husband has not been happy with my last few posts.

I don't know. Don's probably a nice guy but back to the subject of what our newspaper decides to print.  My international son, the one who lives in Japan and teaches 89-year-old guys to speak English expresses great disgust regarding our city newspaper. "Any international news is on the back page in a few short paragraphs and the front page details some middle school principal who gets a creme pie in his face."
 Oooh, what flavor?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

coke

First they took away my marijuana and then my cigarettes. They could take away my whiskey and I would grumble just a little. But God help the man who tries to take away my Diet Coke.

Let me edit here just a little.  Yes, I quit smoking but there were a few months when I snuck a quick drag a couple times a week. I was visiting Susan in San Diego and announced I was going outside to smoke and she started knocking on neighbors' doors telling them to close their windows because Dawn was smoking. She loves me but she can be annoying.

I awake from some troubled dream, side effect of the Trazodone tablet I ingest so I don't wake up at 3 a.m. and relive every single issue of my miserable turbulent life.  I get up and take the required leak. I open the fridge, crack a cold coke and my day begins. I smack my lips, eyes roll inward and I say, life is good. This is the closest to nirvana I will ever get.

I have always been addicted to cola. I went through a Pepsi stage, a RC stage and even a Tab stage as a college freshman teaming it with saltines for the worst diet of my life. Eventually, I settled on Coke because it is the true cola, the purest cola, and there is a reason cocaine was in its original recipe, it is all that compelling and more.

 Once when I was dating this real slug of a guy he attempted to force some cocaine on me, jamming his thumb into my mouth coated with the vile stuff. I spent the remainder of the evening hunched over a toilet due to extremely loose bowels and eventually vomited into my purse.  Did I mention I bit that offending thumb, I was never meant for hard drugs.

So here's what you need to know. Happiness is fleeting, maybe not even necessary, aim for contentment, some peaceful thoughts and keep exercising.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

where is brooke shields when you need her?

 
I graduated high school in 1970 and since then I have moved eleven times and had two name changes, but somehow they still found me. In my hand is an invitation to my high school reunion.


I hated high school, hated it intensely. The only thing I liked were the cocoa chewies they served in the cafeteria and sometimes I would buy five of them and call it lunch.

I had a few friends, a few, mostly girls from my neighborhood but they were friends of convenience, not intention. They weren't very loyal and we badmouthed each other behind our backs and frankly I found the whole social process exhausting. My mother would crow at me to "go play with your friends" when all I wanted to do was sit under our cottonwood and read the Banned Books list, Lady Chatterley's Lover, Catcher in the Rye and the occasional MAD magazine.

I would go on to make better friends in college and even more so when I left my husband at age 29. I suffered an insane postpartum depression after my youngest boy was born.  I stopped nursing him when they put me on Valium, poor little guy, he immediately developed an intense oral fixation and everything went into his mouth, every little button. They called it the "housewife syndrome" and looked at me like I had advanced leprosy.

The invitation says they are planning a slumber party at a local hotel, good god can it get much worse. I look at the attached page and it is a list of all of us, names, addresses, email info. And under the name column we are referred to as, example here, "Mrs. Arthur Cheeseman, etc;"  In the true Catholic spirit we are just extensions of our husbands and I haven't used the Mrs. title in like, forever, okay never.

Inside my head I see girls in pink sponge rollers and Dippety-do glazed curls on their cheeks. There are huge puffy bedroom slippers and baby doll p.j's.  The record player is spinning, "Mrs. Brown, you've got a lovely daughter . . ."  There is Chef-Boy-R-Dee pizza and glass bottles of Pepsi and a poster on my friend's wall that says, "War is not healthy for children and other living things." For just a few moments I want to go home again.
 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

sonny's closet

I expect to find many strange secrets in my father's house when he leaves this earthly world, in fact I already have. Like most Depression era babies he wastes nothing so the seven green beans are carefully sealed in a baggie and plopped in the freezer next to all the other little baggies and a chunk of cream cheese two years expired.


He left for ten days on a vacation a couple of months ago and when I dropped off the first day's mail I saw a blackened banana on the kitchen counter. He will return from southern Missouri expecting to slice that gooey thing on his morning Grape Nuts.

Under his bathroom sink is a three-gallon-sized basin filled with tiny slivers of soap, all too small to use and I surmise there is about ninety of them. Why they are there remains a deep-seated mystery to me, does he melt them down and put the sludge in ice cube trays to harden and reuse?  I don't know, nobody knows.

His closets are scary. He never throws anything out and he takes great pride buying used stuff at Goodwill and other such places. His corduroy slacks have smooth shiny seats and he retreads his forty-year-old shoes at the shoe shop. Who goes to a shoe shop? The shirts are so tightly packed it is difficult to extract one and why do you even bother ironing those shirts? All that compression just wrinkles them up again.

I pick him up on  the fourth of July and I cringe at his clothing choices. He is wearing copper-colored jeans, an ugly color like something you would see at the bottom of a smelting pot and they are three inches above his ankles. And this tight white nylon shirt circa 1990's  that looks like a woman's blouse. There are red and blue stripes bordering the hem and sleeves and the front pocket, thus the patriotic angle. And little red and blue flying bird appliques dotting the front. Seems it belonged to my Uncle Flash now deceased ten years and he always had a huge honking cigar in his mouth and the hot drifting ashes made quick waste of that highly flammable material. So my aunt pasted on these little flying birds over the holes.

I love these old people in my life and I plant red geraniums on that uncle's grave every year. He wore red jumpsuits and had Milky Way dark chocolates in his pocket and he fried potatoes and onions at our lakeside cabin when I was a youngster. Tonight I fry those same potatoes and will deliver them to his widow in the morning.



no more wire hangers, yo mummy dearest

Thursday, August 22, 2013

for sale


"We need to sell our townhouse and move somewhere else."  I say this to Big Dave and he is blissfully munching on a piece of pig intestine at our farmers' market.

Just a few moments earlier I ran into Jillian, a nosy bossy neighbor of mine who has been stalking me all summer trying to get me to volunteer for a neighborhood committee.

A few days ago she pounced on me as I was walking to my front door and I saw her coming, peripheral vision, but it was too late. My flip-flops were no match for her Nikes. She said I needed to fill out some kind of form regarding a construction request and I told her, I really hate forms. I worked for the government and that job left me with a deep-seated hatred of  forms and meetings. I dropped that scalding statement in her lap and she replied, "Well, isn't that a sad story? You're going to fill this one out anyway."  Drip, drip went the sarcasm from those nasty words.

And now she wants me to come sit at these useless committee meetings and hear her rattle on about how the mowing crew needs to cut the grass another 3/4 inch shorter. Seriously, I have seen the woman kneeling on the ground with a ruler.

So today again I am staring into her beady little eyes and I don't know why, I'll never know why but I answered yes to her request. It was too late the words were out there hovering above my head like a  cartoon bubble with a tail pointing to my mouth. As much as I wanted to I could not pull them back.

Jillian stared at me in disbelief, her usual caustic attitude tampered down in the bright light of my acceptance. She even told me I would be good for the position because I am a thinker. For the remainder of  our conversation she was pleasant and soft-toned and that must have killed her and she probably had to vomit after I left.

Drat, drat, drat.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

quit eating in the bathroom and other post-its to my husband*

 
- Quit eating in the bathroom. This is gross on so many levels.

- Don't buy any more sleeveless t-shirts. Any man over the age of 19 should not be wearing these. It's a well-documented fact that armpit hair never stops growing.

- Quit leaving prints on the glass door and don't blame the granddaughter. No five-year-old has hands the size of hams.

- Five pairs of dirty underwear on the floor by the bed. Deal with it.

- Quit eating in the bathroom. I have better things to do when sitting there than pick cracker crumbs out of the rug.

- Don't clip your toenails in the living room and throw them behind the couch.  Go outside on the deck like I do.

- You have too many t-shirts. When you get a new one and you probably will in the next 48 hours get rid of an old one.

- I read frequently that owning a dog reduces blood pressure and other health risks. Considering those extra pounds you are carrying a dog might save your life.

- Got your note that says, I don't have to cook for you tonight.  I don't have to cook for you any night.

- Pick up bag of flour at the store. Pillsbury enriched unbleached flour, five pounds. That's all you need to know. Do not call me from the store using some stranger's cell to ask a lot of questions on this one simple purchase.

- Get a cell phone.

- We're getting a dog. This is not a point for discussion, this is an announcement.

- You seem to think because you do the laundry in this house you really work hard. You're retired, I'm semi, how much clothing can that be and it is not unusual for me to wear a dress all day, use it for my nightgown that night and wear it again the next day.

- There are winged insects flying out of our cupboard. This is probably due to the box of peaches and cream instant oatmeal you have had on the top shelf for three years.

- You are not allergic to dogs. You're just saying that because you don't want one. I insist on a certified letter from an allergist proclaiming this to be medical fact before I change my mind.

- Quit eating in the bathroom, in fact quit eating snacks altogether. You need to lose weight. You don't listen to me, you don't listen to your doctor, who will you listen to? The cardiac surgeon who visits you in the ER?

- You're lucky I married you. Your mother felt the same way, God bless her.

Disclaimer: in all actuality this is fiction except for the eating in the bathroom post-its. They and their content are indeed factual and correct. It has cost me lots of sleep and encouraged my already ample liquor dependency. Okay, the sleeveless t-shirt has some credibility as well.

*with love and respect to the fabulously talented Jenny Lawson and her book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened
 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

greg, are you there?

I am trying to swim in our city pool. And it's not easy when there is only one lap lane and it's filled with cretins who think they can swim but can't and they keep interrupting my routine.  God, I hate people, always have. One very big fellow has six pounds of dreadlocks coiled around his head and he's wearing large orange sunglasses. He can only swim ten yards and then holds onto the rope breathing heavily and I think persons carrying extreme poundage should wear more than just the basic swim gear. How about those Chinese silk pajamas with the long sleeves and pants and the ever popular yet sensible elastic waist. It would make gazing around the pool a more attractive activity.

Two other people are walking, damn it walking, in my swim area and I give them my cool hand Luke look, booga booga, leave this place, get outa my way. And then Husband joins me and I assign him outside my lane, there's just so much a dedicated swimmer can handle when surrounded by amateurs.


And then there's the screaming fifty teen-agers trying to prove they are the coolest by shoving and splashing their opposite genders and I vaguely remember this ritual.  Greg Hammel was a rotten little weasel-faced kid who threw snowballs at me when I was in the fourth grade and he put rocks inside their icy centers. Some delusional grown-up actually said to me, "oh that's because he likes you." What would he do if he loved me? Come at me with a chainsaw?  Greg was in love with the idea of me having a concussion.

I need to leave and I mouth to Husband, "LOUD" and move towards the ladder. He says,"this isn't loud." No, of course not, this is the normal noise level of your family parties.  I come from a family of cave dwellers who were loathe to answer the phone or attend pretty much any social event and they lingered in quiet, self-absorbed pools dwelling on their navals or whatever.

I need to go home. There are trailer trash people all around me, people who have homemade tattoos, the kind they carved onto their arms with a ball point pen during GED class before they got kicked out. People who keep losing their kids and don't seem to care as they laugh it up behind their tobacco-stained teeth. People who let their pre-teen daughter wear a bikini bottom labeled Wild Thing and whose kids I keep fishing out of the deep end because no one is watching them.

And I'm thinking this situation might be calling for a Greg Hammel kind of solution.


.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

you are

My five-year-old granddaughter sleeps with me tonight and she can't lay still.  Earlier she played in the bath and hid behind my rose silk shower curtain and said, grandma can you see me?  No, cannot and I know she is washing those Barbies with my expensive Kiel's shampoos and that's all right.


We lie together and her body dips and dives, like a baby seal she undulates and presses herself against me.  I pull her towards me, kiss her damp brow and feathery hair and she releases.

 Her heaviness next to me reminds me of another girl some thirty-plus years ago.  She had uneven bangs thanks to my amateur efforts and the softest hazel-green eyes, luminous and startling.  She still shivers in my old lady dreams, always a young girl, never aging.  My Carrie never wrestled with demons, her dreams went uninterrupted, angels would visit and nestle next to her. She slept without effort, not like her daughter, not like her mother.

I want to hover over this grandchild and convince her she is the only one and Carrie, you are.


 

 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

my life and welcome to it

I work evenings in an Alzheimer's unit. The first bullet point on my job description is patient safety so I follow people around making sure they don't fall down or put their hands under a hot water faucet or drink milk that's been sitting in their rooms for two days. It's not a hard job, it's not an easy job, it's what I do. I used to have more sophisticated jobs with lots of paperwork and computer time and responsibility but I needed to do something truly useful with my life so now I do this. I'm a lucky slob.

I'm unfolding linen napkins under the table. The three elderly women sitting with me are engrossed with the folding of these napkins and I need to keep unfolding them so they can stay busy and satisfied with their utterly mundane and kind of sad lives. I love them and I feel sorry for them and that's why I'm here. To keep unfolding the linen napkins.


And then Gretchen sits down with us, a really overweight certified nursing assistant with bright copper curly locks. She's a smart one and witty and she makes two flavors of ice cream shakes every Sunday night for my darlings. I tell her I like her Grecian/ Roman hair-style, she said she was going for a 40's romantic Hepburn look and I said, oh and that too.
She grabs Dottie's hand, a woman who has been folding the same napkin for forty minutes and squeals, "Dottie, I am in such an incredible mood because I have had the most wonderful date last night!"

"Oooh, details!" I squeal back, something I'm not really good at but I'm being polite because I don't know what else to do, it's my default mode.

Gretchen's kind of a slut I realize as she explains how she met this guy on some dating website after breaking up with her worthless former boyfriend who never took her anywhere, they just "boned" in Gretch's pathetic third floor loser apartment.

So the new guy has some kind of birth defect in his private area and needed 17 surgeries and isn't that a lot for one organ and she took a picture of the thing and was going to show it to me and I fanned that nasty phone away from me, away from me you demon nurse, you and your organ phone.  So instead she showed me a picture of the guy's face and I said, I don't think he wanted his picture taken guessing from his scowl and she agreed and then it was my turn to say something so I said, he has a nice face, my standard response when I look at a photo of a serial killer who happens to be someone's boyfriend.

And I realize I work with pervs and this is confirmed when Steve, the asexual male charge nurse who has never said anything to me other than "could you pick up that kleenex" sits down at the table. He reminds Gretch that she has patients needing attention and when she leaves he leans into me. "You know," he says, "17 surgeries can result in a lot of nerve degeneration and that means more endurance and longevity. I know this personally." I don't look at him, I never will again and I feel a wave of relief when he returns to his med cart, his white slacks just a little bit too tight in the buttocks area. God, I love my life.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

madame wang has left the neighborhood

I am driving to a squalid, disheveled part of town and I am salivating. I am envisioning chicken meatballs in a light tomato ginger sauce and they will be in the front pan under the heated awning at my favorite Asian buffet. Some really imaginative guy named the place Asian Buffet and now I am parking right outside the place. Across the street is a combined manicure/massage parlor and the week before our police department closed the place because Madame Wang, the fifty-ish proprietor was doing more for her clients than kneading their backs and polishing their nails. I think you know what I mean.


An elderly Chinese couple originally owned the place and they knew little English but they did a lot of bowing which made up for their deficit in our quirky language. I like the Asian practice of bowing and we should adopt this in our country.  It makes more sense than those four-minute handshakes the dudes do.  Bowing and more popcorn shops, that's what this country needs.

But now a younger Asian gentleman is running the place and I assumed he was second generation American.  I have heard him say only two things all the times I've been there so he's probably not. "Ha-rro-o-o!" every time someone enters and "Long time no see!" even though I was here two days ago. "I like your shirt," I say a little too loudly as if he were hard of hearing. He smiles and bows not knowing I am referring to his Jimi Hendrix tee.

This new guy has cut corners, I've noticed this, sneaky devil. He's replaced the red and white paper Coke glasses with this cheap version that gets soggy after the fifth refill, yes I do drink that much soda and I think he's watering it down. There are no longer extra napkins so the one flimsy one fastened around the silverware will have to do.  The ice machine never works and don't get me started on the condition of the restroom the one time I was stupid enough to use it. I think about inviting my father because of all the healthy crunchy marinated vegetables the buffet offers but he's the kind of guy who carries a large-sized jar of sanitized wipes in his jeans pocket at every family reunion. I'd never get him past the front door.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

three years

When my mother died three short years ago my father insisted I remove her stuff from his household right now.  At first I was miffed and then I remembered he is an ex-Marine, a watch wound too tightly and he can only operate in an uncluttered environment. Every household item must have function and my mother's collections of holiday decorations and dried flowers would not fall into that category.

And then there were her clothes, boxes and boxes. Years before she told me "there is some money in the pocket of my pink bathrobe so don't just give it away." And it turned out to be $500 worth of "some money." I found other caches of cash totaling close to $2500 and my father was awestruck. I didn't tell him Mom felt compelled to squirrel away all those $20 bills because he screened all her purchases and declared them unnecessary. They were both Depression era babies and those kids never get over those years. My mother grew up in flour sack dresses and church donations and she relished those new clothes, she earned those new clothes.

I am like my father. I wear neutral tones to avoid attention and unwanted conversation. I wear the same clothes over and over, year after year. "Please buy some new clothes," my husband says. How weird is that. He is looking at my Old Navy swimsuit cover-up I purchased in 1999 for $8.99 and I wear it to work a lot despite the stains, it's striped, who can tell . . .


 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

fun and games at the airport

I am sitting in the San Diego airport. Across from me is a large woman eating a meatball sandwich the size of a football and eavesdropping on my phone conversation. She corrected me loudly when I told Husband what I thought was our new departure time and she went on to recite the weather report for our destination city.  I was still on the phone so I had the luxury of turning away from this person and when I returned to the scene I hear her telling someone, "this is probably way too much information to be telling a complete stranger but my mom got custody of my cousin because he never came out of the basement."  There is an ankle to knee brace on her right leg and I am convinced it's a prop, a conversation springboard, a bid for sympathy so she can just keep talking. She's from New Jersey.

"My aunt keeps camels her in her back yard and she's studying to be a taxidermist." I don't know if there's a connection between those two thoughts. She has now cornered this quaint little Indian couple and the husband speaks English. His wife is decked out in swaddling violet spangled silks and she's nodding her head much too eagerly. She obviously understands nothing, but New Jersey keeps talking.

"So my step brother got married in Las Vegas in a public restroom because that's where they met because she was so drunk she hooked up in the wrong bathroom . . ." and now she's talking to a Justin Bieber wannabe who is straddling the seat next to her all white ankle socks and backwards cap. His mom has the same haircut and when he leans his head on her shoulder the intensity of all that fake blondness is annoying.


I take myself back to the plane's bathroom and I mistimed my visit, the movie has just ended and we all need to pee. There are four of us jammed into the back section and a large Hispanic woman in a red velour jumpsuit is looking pale and I try to sit her down on the folding seat. The flight attendant appears and screams, "SHE CAN'T SIT THERE!" and I attempt to prop her back up. The attendant grabs the woman's arm and Senora screams, "DON'T TOUCH ME! I AM SENSITIVE TO PEOPLE TOUCHING ME! DON'T TOUCH ME!" although I just did.  The flight attendant is trying to ram her way out of this people-packed space and there are beads of sweat on her upper lip and she says, "I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE! I'M CLAUSTROPHOBIC!"  So I am caught between a raging Mexican woman and a hyperventilating stewardess clearly in the throes of an anxiety attack. And I'm wondering why a claustrophobic person would choose a career where she spends the majority of her working hours in a space the size of a closet.
 Just wanna go to the bathroom . . .

Thursday, June 27, 2013

one burrito

I am sitting in the back of Susan's convertible speeding towards Mexico.  I volunteered to sit in the wind tunnel section because I get to be silent and comfortable and introverted. "If you need to say anything to me, say it now," I cheerfully tell the two women in front of me, "I won't hear you later."


Earlier in the day we volunteered at Father Joe's mission kitchen. "Where's the spoon for this applesauce?" I asked and the lead guy overheard me, a guy who looked like Ice-T on a really bad day. "That's chicken gravy," came his response dripping with well, icicles. Somebody should have stirred the stuff and added some broth or water or something, it was lumpy plus.  "And give everybody just one burrito," he added clearly dissatisfied with my performance.

 And here they come, all 785 of them and I was told this was a slow day.  Hollow-eyed people, vets missing limbs, a range of color black brown yellow white, clean and not so clean, clearly crazy people postulating all kinds of theories and others looking almost professional in their button-down shirts and pressed pants, so many stories but all of them hungry.  Some little hispanic guy, he looked like a withered corn cob doll, kept showing up in my line wanting one of my burritos, four times he showed and four times he got a burrito. I could see Ice-T shaking his head and I ignored him.  We got to wear plastic aprons and hair nets and an orange VOLUNTEER badge, but we couldn't keep any of it.  I would have liked that orange badge.


We finish our task and my girls decide to travel even further south to a casino owned by the Viejas tribe. Their reservation borders another owned by the Ewiiaapaayp and I love these Native American names. Crazily, the shameful US of A did everything to eradicate the peoples from their philosophies and practices and yet we labeled every state, river town and street using their lovely lyrical names.

I do not possess a gambler's personality. I work hard for the money and want to spend it on something tangible like shoes or cheese. But I am with two women who are hungry for the game, the quick take and loose slots that were not that loose. I slip a $20 bill into a Sex and the City machine just to keep them happy and after four minutes I have 35 cents to show for my efforts. I am glad the American Indian nation has gained from my losses and my friends keep trolling for the big money.



Thursday, June 20, 2013

you can't have my cheetos

I'm back home long enough to wash the underwear and pack for San Diego.  I throw in swimsuits, books, booze and drugs.  Yes, I have a kindle e-book but I still like the sentimental feeling of turning a page and inhaling that lovely ink smell.  I bring my own liquor because I don't expect friends to pay for my fondness for Kentucky whisky.  Also, extra anti-depressant pills and probiotics in case of flight delays or a plane hijacking. I can think of nothing worse than some guy named Ishmael holding a gun to my head and me being depressed and having chronic diarrhea. Did I cover everything?

I take my seat on the plane and the pilot announces there will be a thirty minute delay. This is a concern because my connecting flight is forty minutes after I land. I got distracted making those computer connections.  I was watching an old rerun of Friends and Phoebe was singing that "Smelly Dog" song and this was in the coffee shop when Rachel was still chubby but with the great haircut and that strange little gnome-like fellow who ran the place had this crush on her but he was rude to everyone else, well, you know the rest.

I try to relax as the minutes tick by and the guy next to me puts down his ear buds to visit the necessary room and I can hear the lyrics of this stupid country western tune, "Shoulda seen the rack on the gal I did last night la-la-la."  Thank God this flight is only thirty minutes.

 I am zipping through O'Hare with my heavy computer case, my really heavy backpack and my flimsy flip-flops and I'm mowing down old people and unattended toddlers left and right. I am applauding my intense exercise regime which allows me to move at this pace and in two minutes I am again sitting on a plane watching the runway disappear beneath me.

 Soon I will be lying on the beach watching sandpipers leave tracks in the sand and giving threatening looks to any seagull eyeing my cheetos.





 

Friday, June 14, 2013

and here I thought Indiana was such a dull state

 I am jogging down a wooded path in Michigan and there are scary rustling animal noises all around me, lions and tigers and bears oh my.  I am city born and bred and I only like nature in small controlled doses.  I also am a former dog bite victim with a chunk of tissue missing below my left knee so I am doubly cautious.  I stoop low to breathe in a delicate wild rose and then quickly pull away. There could be poison ivy lurking about and I cannot spend another summer dealing with weepy skin lesions and being strung out on steroids. I have no faith in nature, she's out to get us.

We are visiting my son Jim and his family. We have traveled four states to get here, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and now Michigan. We were only in Indiana long enough to clear my throat and usually we make it through without peeing, but not this time.  We  pull over to a state rest stop right next to the Valparasi Vasectomy Clinic and I'm glad we did.

 There were about a hundred index cards pasted above the sinks and they had comments from travelers to the cleaning staff. At the bottom was a section for your name and phone number if you wanted a staffer to contact you about your restroom experience.  And I'm thinking how lonely does a person have to be to do this? I am finding all of this terribly amusing and the Illinois rest stops cannot compete with this place. The Land of Lincoln restrooms have enlarged insect models the size of a shoe box and this bug is destroying the local ash trees. There are several glass and wooden boxes showing the larvae cycles and they are made out of, well - ash.
.
 

Jim is a pediatrician who dabbles in oncology and hematology and he is happiest when sitting in front of a microscope staring at a drop of blood. His wife has a doctorate in microbiology so we spend a lot of time talking about their two laughing daughters or the weather or what's for supper. What else can we do.




 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

always the misfit

Christ, another wedding shower. We are invited to too many things, I grumble at the husband as we pull up to a ranch house in the western suburbia of my city.  He's my driver and I'm making him stay because any gathering which has only one gender in attendance makes my nervous. And I don't like this neighborhood. All the ranch houses have varying shades of mauve siding, who knew there could be so many and there's too many yuppies which means too many BMW vans to manuever around. The hostess greets me at the door and asks, "Mimosa, Bloody Mary or coffee with Bailey's creme?" Well, maybe this won't be too bad.


The postcard invite said "Stop and go shower, 10:00 - 12:00."  Cool, this won't take any more time than going through a McDonald's drive-thru and that means no excruciatingly painful shower games. I've never wanted to construct a bridal veil out of toilet tissue or guess what articles would be in the bride's honeymoon suitcase.

 We would just deposit the gift, chug a couple of drinks, hug some women and leave, but this was not to be. The living room was filled with elegantly coiffed and fashionably attired guests and I shuffled in wearing jeans, my unisex all-purpose grey sweatshirt and Nike flip-flops with the stuffing coming out of the sole. Alas, always the misfit.

I tried to hide behind a crystal vase filled with six-foot bamboo reeds but my sister-in-law found me, the chatty one and dragged me over to the huge dining room table populated with females from my husband's family. I made the mistake of marrying a man with too many relatives and I am paying the penalty. A week doesn't go by without somebody getting baptized,  married, playing t-ball or dying and we get invited to it all.

There are over 80 women at this soiree and we stay an hour. This entire time the bride, resplendent in a champagne-colored chiffon dress covered with raindrop rhinestones and matching pumps, is opening gifts. I just know she was opening before I got there and will be opening long after I leave.

"It's 12:08!" I whisper fiercely to the husband, "this party was supposed to end at noon! Why aren't these people leaving?"  He finished his drink, shuffled over to the mimosa dispenser and I had to look for a new place to hide.    

Thursday, May 30, 2013

i don't remember the last time i was lonely

I am standing in line with my granddaughter waiting to buy a ticket to see another granddaughter perform in a cheer leading program. The granddaughter with me today will herself be playing the lead in Annie tonight at a grade school in Wisconsin. Her long blond hair will be covered by a curly red wig and I don't know how these children do it.  Putting their bodies and voices on display for strangers to scrutinize and critique. I tell her she's welcome to go stand with her parents who are several people ahead of us but she says no, I'll stay here with you. I don't want you to be lonely.
I smile in spite of myself.  I don't remember the last time I was lonely.

I define myself as an introvert. I am not shy in fact I am quite adept at social gatherings. That is a skill, being good at something you loathe and it's still kind of a surprise when people seek me out at parties.

My husband is always introducing me to people and I tell him enough, I know enough people, in fact I hit my quota about 1996.  He has a goal of meeting one new person each day, ouch and sooner or later he drags some chatty soul over to make my acquaintance. Oh, you'll like her, he gushes, she heads a charity agency that sends doctors from the University of Iowa to Jamaican hospitals and I protest but suddenly she's there, a perky little blond and I knew she would be. Tiffany (shudder) talks about her life using lots of hand gestures and I can't help but admire her perfect French manicure. But I'm losing interest fast as I realize she just wants to talk about herself and her very public achievements and is using the goodwill program as a springboard for her notoriety.

Enough, I say enough. Where are all the pure spirits, I ask, those honest janes and joes who plod along quietly performing noble duties and avoiding that limelit stage?  Well, they're not looking for people to dance ceremoniously in front of, better believe it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

i fought the law and the law won

The Department of Transportation has relieved me of my license for thirty days.  I  always hated the DOT, I know how deviant these guys can be and the reason I know this is because I am a former government employee.  I used to sit behind a desk, point to a triple-carbon form and say sign right here, you can trust me and the saps believed me, every time. By saps I mean welfare clients who were committing fraud with their state benefits.  I never walked to my car after work without an escort, a large muscular male social worker if I could find one.  I was not real popular in the downscale neighborhoods. I saw a lot of corruption and deceit and manipulation in those state and county offices. And I'm talking about management. When I was up for a promotion they asked me, would you agree to an action your supervisor requested even though you found it morally corrupt and I said yes.  I would never do that but I wanted the job because all the other applicants would answer yes and mean it.

They say I broke a law with my car, I passed a stopped school bus. I don't remember the incident.  I was adamant about pleading not guilty and I told that to the cops at my front door and the nice court lady and later to the assistant county attorney. And that last guy told me if I insisted on my innocence I would be accountable for subpoena costs, time spent for those police officers and the Rambo bus driver, all the extra paperwork and court officials' time. I decided to plead guilty, seemed less costly. But then I got a letter informing me of the suspension and a $600 fine. I appealed and won. And then the department overhauled the decision so I talked to an attorney who was nice enough not to charge me and I appealed again, won, another overhaul and now I am sitting in the county attorney's office and he said the department made a mistake, they don't understand the law, you should not lose your license.  Here's what you gotta do, hire an attorney and file an administrative appeal and at that point I stopped listening. I was getting sucked further into the black hole and I'm already $600 poorer and this has been going on since last August. Enough, they win, where's my checkbook, I'm outta here.

 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

the boys are back in town

 
 Lynard Skynard is coming to town and Crazy Tom is planning a pre-party for the occasion. I remember the last time I heard these guys. It was a small county fair and REO Speedwagon was sharing the ticket. You could not find two more diverse bands. The REO's are tiny little fellows like the oompa-loompas only thinner with highlighted puffy 80's hair. They are dressed in immaculate white jump suits with sequins and when the sun shines it is like the clouds opening and celestial angels have descended to the stage.

 The Skynard boys stride on stage all dressed in devil black, high-heeled boots and long leather trench coats, greasy hair tumbling down their backs, matted beards and you know remnants of their chicken-fried steak dinners are stuck in there somewhere. They smoked and belched down bottles of Jack Daniels and never offered any to the audience. They resonate pure evil and unhealthy lifestyles.

The guy sitting in front of us is wearing an armless t-shirt and I try not to look at his dangling pit hair and he penned something on the back.  I don't remember but it was the worse thing I ever read on a t-shirt and it had something to do with the smell of tuna fish. He was loud and stupid and had difficulty remaining upright and I could feel Big Dave's growing irritation as we tried to watch the show and I prayed my guy would keep his views to himself but that was not meant to be.















Now Himself has always lived in a white bread Catholic Republican society where everyone followed the rules and dental check-ups were routinely kept. But the buffoons in front of us are from a different neighborhood and my years at government welfare offices taught me you don't mess with these boys in their own territory. Dave never learned this lesson and next thing I know tuna guy has him by the neck and I'm thinking we're all gonna die. I put my old lady body between tuna guy and spouse and hold my breath and the moron lets go. We are quiet church mice for the rest of the show.

 Tom, I will come and drink your cheap beer and then I will go home and lock the door. The boys are back in town.