Sunday, November 23, 2014

how many dancing santas will this stage hold?

I'm sitting on a bus at 7:15 on this cold Sunday morning and listening to a woman older than me. She has a shiny blond pageboy haircut sprayed into frozen waves and lots of plastered on foundation two shades darker than her real face color. She laughs too much.

I zone out her prattle and wonder what she looks like first thing in the morning. That blond hair would be matted to her scalp and there would be smeared mascara on her pasty cheeks.  She looks like she requires a lotta time to get ready.

 I am traveling through frozen Wisconsin cornfields to a dinner theatre. I am with my 85-year-old aunt and she has small wads of toilet paper in her ears. This is her first winter in the Midwest after thirty years of living in a small trailer in Arizona.

I am not like these women. I don't wear garish holiday sweaters. Lipstick is my only cosmetic, very European and I do this because my natural lip color is fading and soon my mouth will be a small black hole at the bottom of my face. I don't need to wear four rings on each hand or designer jeans imbedded with shiny enormous rhinestones glued to my butt.

The chatter is constant and loud, these women do not need to come up for air. They have mastered the art of conversation without the use of oxygen. I am not one for endless loops of words. I may resort to the toilet paper in the ear thing.

She gives us Christmas quizzes on red and green paper. I refuse to circle any answers. The only thing more humiliating than taking this test is exhibiting enough interest to answer the questions. I stare straight ahead at Blondie's doughy face as she spits into the microphone. Her cheeks wiggle and wobble when she talks.

At the all you can eat buffet I watch the girls downing Bloody Marys and drinks with large umbrellas, I'm guessing six inches in diameter. I decide to treat myself and order a diet Coke. It comes in a 32 ounce glass and I need both hands to lift it up to my disappearing mouth. "And the best part,"chirps the red-cheeked waitress, "is it comes with free refills!" That will not be happening as I do not like peeing on a moving bus.

I am sitting in the dark theatre and audience members surround all four sides. We are all old and there are dozens of walking assisted devices taking up space in the aisles threatening to trip us and create more walking disasters. I can hear several people snoring and the farm wives behind me talk and laugh no matter how many dirty looks I give them. They think they are in their living room watching TV.

The actors are singing and whirling around the small stage. They are fresh-faced, sparkly lads and lasses with unbelievable skin and teeth.  Was I ever that young? Did I sparkle?  My friend Sandy's son is a famous symphony orchestra trumpet player and he says they're all on coke. He has played for many dinner theatres: two shows a day, they skip meals and snort coke to stay thin and alert. They do have a lot of energy and these shiny creatures seem to vibrate and twinkle and glow from within. There are four children in the program and I am hoping they were not given coke and I'm especially concerned about one lively little girl.

Back on the bus the chatter is louder fueled by those large colorful drinks. I just want to curl into a ball and have soft tropical breezes kiss my fevered brow. I will not talk for the next four days, I swear, tired little introvert that I am.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

sorrry i'm late

"I'm sorry I'm late," I say to my husband, "but I didn't want to come anyway." He sighs and waves me in the door. I sign the ledger, this is the veterans' center and why am I signing in anyway? I am not a security risk but I could be and I have been. I marched in a lot of anti-war protests in college and I know my picture is in more than a few FBI files. I hope my hair looked good.

I have agreed to attend a buffet luncheon with all the guys. Symbols of male aggression adorn the walls, weapons, military uniforms, a grenade on someone's desk. Nothing is color coordinated but I know these men have carefully and intentionally designed this getaway place to comfort and calm the ongoing battles in their heads.

There are several roasters of meat, atop a pool table,  piles and piles of meat, mountains of meat, too much meat, a gluttony of meat.  Randy, an Afghanistan vet is being applauded for providing all this animal protein. I hear him tell the guys his grandmother died in April 2013. He gathered up all the meat from her funeral dinner, bagged it and threw it in the freezer. Until now. Here it is for consumption, I will avoid those crock pots, they smell oily and unnatural.

The only vegetables are canned corn and Van Camp pork and beans. This is all I will put on my plate. One of the guys puts his hand in a roaster and pulls out a greasy grey pork rib and plops it on my plate. "You're gonna want to eat one of these," he says. When no one is looking I transfer it to Dave's plate. I'm fairly certain the big guy's stomach acid is much more intensely concentrated than mine. I've seen him eat sloppy joes slathered in peanut butter and mayonnaise with sliced pickles.

 The man sitting next to me is a Korean veteran and he is 84 years old. Why do old guys always have that dusty-looking skin? You just want to take a rag soaked in furniture polish to them.  He is dressed in a plaid blazer and sweater vest, corduroy trousers. I remember old black and white photos of great grandfathers playing cards around the kitchen table, factory laborers dressed in Sunday suit coats and ties, this generation liked to dress up. Thank god that's changed.

He has funny stories, he used to be a county supervisor so you know he has funny stories. His red nose looks like mutilated pink play dough, he must like the drink.  He says, why must I always be the oldest guy in the room? Come back on Wednesday, I tell him. My father, all of 90 years, stops by to play euchre. I notice his dinner-sized plate is heaped with cherry cream something and cookies plus potato chips. How he lived to be a great age on this diet is a mystery for the ages. I like it here.

I munch my corn and beans and look around the room. Some of the men are disheveled, clothing stained with holes and they never look up from their plates. They are here because they are hungry, they have no interest in socializing. Their fingers are drumming on the table, feet tapping tapping tapping, always always movement.  I remember the first date with my spouse. His knee never stopped bouncing for the entire two-hour movie.