Friday, June 27, 2014

buffalo bill

Every day I spray myself with a Coppertone product designed for water use, it's kind of like shellac for your skin. When I flex my elbow or bend my knee my skin actually cracks. But it's good stuff and it keeps the melanoma bugs at bay. I have never encountered a pool with shade trees so my ninety-minute lap sessions require sun screen with the density of a good varnish.

Most of the participants during the adult swim time are large older women and we call them water walkers. They go back and forth, back and forth in the shallow areas, talking about doctor appointments and restaurant menus. Their choice of slow almost non-existent exercise and love of double bacon cheeseburgers (I catch snatches of their conversations as I work my way through the water) keep them overweight. But they are a kindly lot and I respect the fact that they are trying.

As I near the edge of the lane I encounter two male life guards, young men probably college students earning their summer keep and they are deep in talk. I hear the one kid say, "no room for us to swim today, this place is teeming with buffalo." Jesus, what, excuse me and I draw myself up to the five-foot height that is me. "That was an unkind thing to say!" I tell him and his orange-framed sunglasses swerve my way. He smirks when he sees me, little old lady, salt and pepper dyke haircut and wrinkly neck. "Wha-a-a-t?" he uses his best squirrely tone, reserved for the likes of me and unimportant types. "Your turn will come," I spit back. "I would like to see what you look like in 60 years."

I am angry and swim away quickly. I inherited my father's trigger temper and I know it is better to leave and wait until I simmer down  and then attempt a conversation.  If I don't I will say something truly stupid and risk a punch in the face. This much I know about myself.  Several laps later I approach the prick and he says "I was referring to their behavior not their weight." "I wasn't aware buffalo behave," I respond. "I meant they are like, herding. Maybe I should have used a smaller animal to reference this whole thing." "Maybe I should talk to your supervisor."

He has longish blond hair, a surfer look with a few Asian tattoos, attempting to copy karma, so beyond him. His slack hardened expression tells me he has no conscience. The supervisor listens to me, appears sympathetic but there he is the next day, sitting on his high chair, whistle in mouth, observing his herd.

"Hey Buffalo Bill!" I shout his way, "how's it going today, sweetness?" I like being old, there are no apologies, no explanations, we get away with everything, no one's listening.  He scowls and bites down on his whistle. Karma says,what goes down comes around, dude. Good luck when that happens.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Oily turns 90

There are two words that will cause me to descend into a sweaty and heartbeat-skipping anxiety attack. Family meeting. FAMILY MEETING. I have this game I play with myself because I have a lack of interesting things to do. If I need to deal with something unpleasant - a root canal, a gynecological exam, bingo night at the nursing home I ask myself.  Which would be worse, hostessing the bingo or having that exam? It helps put things into perspective and makes the event less threatening. But there's nothing more frightening than the family meeting. It stands alone in its hellish terror.

Luckily, I come from a family whose members agree on this. Major catastrophies need to be happening before we will all gather in a room without a Christmas tree and stare at each other. Like my mother's final illness and now, my father's 90th birthday.

I am one of five siblings all born within seven years. The upside of that situation is that we enjoyed the same childhood interests pretty much the whole time during our upbringing. The downside is that we are fiercely competitive for the desired parental attention slot and we are ballsy and ruthless about our expectations.  These characteristics do not lend to a successful family meeting.

I have just finished feeding my father his supper after he spent eight hours at our local museum dressed as Oily the Oiler, an imaginary employee on a steamboat. Dad gives tours on this crate that used to dredge mud out of the Mississippi way back when. I cannot think of anything more boring but like my brothers he is totally fascinated by anything that has an engine, especially big noisy, grease-belching ones.

I baked a rhubarb cake for Dad's dessert and consider offering a piece to my brothers and their wives. But then I think, no, they'd want something to drink and then would need to use the bathroom and that would only prolong the situation.

We face each other across the room and talk about pulled pork sandwiches and buying tableware at the dollar store and for the most part the session ends with no blood shed and the vein on my father's forehead did not pulsate at all, not even once.

Successful family meeting.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

old lady dreams

I am standing in line to buy a movie ticket and I consider seeing Maleficient.  I, like the rest of the country am totally mesmerized by Angelina Jolie.  I see the parade of pink and purple eight-year-old debutantes filing into that theatre and I think, perhaps not. I am not attracted to anything appreciated by one small part of the population, especially if it's all one gender. Do you think Jennifer Anniston ever attends movies starring Angelina?  I wish someone would research that issue. I really want to know.

So I ask the cute young man selling tickets, "Um, how is the X-Men movie? Would an old lady like it?"  He has a touch of African-American blood and those fabulously dazzling white teeth all young people seem to have.  I flutter my 62-year-old eyelashes. "You're cute," I say when he stumbles over the answer. I am at ease saying this now but I didn't when I was younger. What a shame, perhaps I should have, my life could have been interestingly different.

I sit through six or seven movie trailers.  We all know those short clips match the movie and I become slightly alarmed when they flash names like Schwarzenegger, Gibson, Stallone, Cruise, Ford - all actors whose movies I actively avoid - okay, I do like Harrison. Those movies tend to have a disproportionate  amount of gun fights, car chases and male bonding behavior, grunt, grunt.  Jesus, where is the intelligent dialogue and character development I so desire. Woody Allen, make an appearance already.

I apply too much butter to my popcorn as usual and find the theatre overly populated by alpha males. Still I become intensely involved in the story line, never getting bored with Hugh Jackson's knuckles sprouting sharpie things, is that bamboo or bone or what? My first X-Men movie and I am a convert. I wink at the young ticket-seller as I leave the theatre. I can dream old lady dreams, it's all I have left . . .   


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

my thoughts on the bike

I want a bike. Some of my best moments were spent on a bike, my trusted partner in escape from the social complexities of being a teen-ager in the 60's, a Kelly green baby with a tiny 24-inch tire span, some nameless brand, not like the Schwinns my well-to-do neighbors rode, I don't know where my dad dug it up. I became one with the wind when saddling this princess and spent glorious hours away from home, far away from the shenanigans of three crazy Animal House brothers and a mother who said I never got her house clean enough.

The last time I rode that beauty was in college. "1-2-3-4 WE DON'T WANT YOUR FUCKING WAR . . ."  Sometimes the militants brought donuts so it was worth showing up and a lot of the boys were really cute, yes, I was so serious about politics.  I rode a bike one other time. My brother had a pseudo farm in Wisconsin, he raised rabbits for their meat and I think the little hares knew about it. They rustled nervously when I entered their barn. And there in the corner was a crotchety old piece of a bike. And I didn't know the brakes were useless until I smashed noisily into a bale of rusty barb wire, just another trip to the ER and a tetanus shot. I go there a lot but that's another story.

My favorite brother steers me to his local bike shop and you need to know this about my favorite brother. He is an extreme athlete and he has biked so long and so hard that he has an enlarged heart and his doctors plead with him, less time on the bike, weirdo. Anyway the bike specialists came at me like I'm a trainee for an astronaut program.  My brother has phoned them in advance, she's old but she's in good shape, yeap, thanks.

I am bashful and insecure about my ability to ride this bike. I never had to deal with 24 gears and hand brakes.  Would your brother help you with the whole bike riding thing or would he just give you a rash of crappy? the bike salesman sincerely asks.  Crappy rash, I answer. Do you want me to call him? No, not at this point. But then I think, he can be paternal, I respond, remembering how he coached me through facebook and blogspot, me a computer novice as we shared my mother's deathwatch. It beat crying and breast beating.

And then came Helen. My husband likes to discuss all the details of our married life to the world and he told Helen, an established cyclist at his vets' center that I was having trouble. It is my observation that anyone named Helen is a dependable sort, steadfast and true, not particularly exciting or interesting, but a stable personality none the less. And this Helen fits that bill. So we agree to meet up, a cycle lesson for me. Her husband Paul comes along, for no good reason that I can see. "Yeah, my bike cost $1600 and I've already rode 40 miles this morning," he tosses off.  Well, good for you, you self-absorbed egotistical yuppie and your hairless legs are making me nauseous. He tells me he's an engineer and you just know he's trouble.  He's all about the science of the bike ride and I prefer to see the fairy tale side. We approach a scary downhill slant and he says, "here's what I want you to do. Coast half way down the hill and then start pedalling really fast."  Wha-a-a-, my brain is whirling, ABORT MISSION, ABORT MISSION, danger Will Robinson, DANGER!

To be continued . . .