About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Just Passin' Through

While it is true that I always have much to say, I don't always have exactly the right thing to say on the spur of the moment. Sometimes I want to say something a little more correctly, so I take a day or two to polish my language, making sure it matches what I feel.

Her name is Kim and her husband is Dave. I've touted her blog several times here, but I want to go on record again. If you want to see the most beautiful and creative art in all manner of media - collage, jewelry, hand made beads, paper-decorated ephemera - then you need to spend some time on her wonderful blog. Those of you who have a short attention span will lose out. It is worth reviewing many, many of Kim's past posts and checking out all the links on her sidebar. Hers is a blog treasure chest of delights.

We'd planned this blogger get-together for some weeks and on Sunday morning, we began making high security coordinates worthy of a military mission on our cell phones. Kim and Dave are on their snowbirding trip from Arizona to Alaska and it is luck that landed them in my neighborhood on Easter Sunday at dinner time. We appeared in the parking lot at approximately the same time, and each said what must be Blogging 101 script: "You look just like your pictures!" Introductions were made and we repaired into the Lindo Michoacan - one of my favorite spots to dine, and they liked it, too. They were hot and tired and parched after 7 hours of travel, so they tidied up a bit and we tucked into a booth where we shared a most lovely early evening. Dave did not feel stiff in any way - come on, I know when someone is enjoying himself! - which was wonderful. One of my friends had said earlier, "Oh, that poor man." No. He had fun, too. It was grand to meet with new friends who were not precisely strangers. We had much to say to one another, photos to be snapped on 3 different cameras, stories to tell and Kim's jewelry offerings brought out for my own private showing.

I've mentioned that Kim is generous, and she did not come empty handed. She had recently posted photos of some postcards she had collaged but said they were not very practical, since she'd become overly excited and decorated both sides of the cards. My comment at the time was that they were so beautiful, I wouldn't want to mail them away anyway, but would just keep them to enjoy in all their beauty. She handed me a stack and said, "You choose!" Oh, I don't like to make decisions on a too full belly. One later always thinks, "Hmmmm, I wonder . . ." But I love, love, love my Asian flavored offering that now sits perched against my computer monitor. Check the little wind-up pelican on the one side! (upper left-hand corner, photo on the right.) All photos have been kept at high resolution to retain the detail. Just click on them. So now I was ready for my private showing of the most recent jewelry creations, but Kim wasn't finished pulling surprises out of her hat. "Here," she said. "I made this just for you." And it's this part I wanted to be sure to relate in a properly descriptive way.

Note about photos: The lighting is not good. I needed to use my little lamp that has a base that behaves like an easel to display my goods. The lamp is dear to me. But it does not shed as much light as the sparks from my brain shoot out of my ears. Click in for a larger, closer view. Ha! I must be feeling very secure today because I'm not even inclined to apologize for being unskilled at taking pictures. That's not what I do. I tell stories. And I'm OK with that.

First of all, Kim doesn't bring a gift and just toss it at the recipient. I already knew this because when I have purchased jewelry from her, the
first thing that has always impressed me is her beautiful packaging and presentation. Across the table, she handed me a rectangular package wrapped in sewing directions from a paper pattern and adorned with a collaged tag she had made. I grinned. I'm a woman who recognizes sewing directions. My gift is a journal, but that does not begin to tell the story. In this journal, one does not want to record that she went to Fresh & Easy for the cucumber sale or to Ross on Geezer Day. There is no place in this journal for mundane notations such as "get oil changed in car" or "make annual gynecology appointment". No, this journal begs the recording of important events or a recital of one's loftiest thoughts and emotions, maybe a poem or a snippet of meaningful lyrics. Important births and deaths might be memorialized in a journal such as this, and it must always be displayed so visitors can appreciate its beauty. Here is my best effort to appropriately describe the journal:

She made it pink - a nod to my blog's pink presence. Kim pays attention to details. Its cover is muslin, stiffened by paint applied to cover and batik-decorate it. Pink, deep fuchsia, purple and gold coexist alongside funky golden buttons and a lovely, distressed length of burgundy ribbon which serve to secure the journal when not in use. The pages inside the bound book are made from differently colored heavy art paper, decorated with every imaginable kind of ephemera from vintage postage stamps to old photos, cuts of musical scores and antique books.
Some of these images make me grin - the pansy my Granny and I so loved (even though Kim didn't know that), the 1950s high-heeled shoe and dance steps, some old advertising art. Some made me sentimental or moony - the lovely teacup and very, very old botanical images and reproduction woodcuts of crying babies. Kim gets her paper ephemera from many countries, estate sales, stamp shows - she is not a typical "go to Michael's and buy what's there" woman. As I flipped the pages slowly, enjoying and exclaiming, I came upon something that I had to hold up into better light, for the restaurant is not brightly lit. "Corralejo!", I exclaimed a little loudly. Kim's eyes asked, "What?" On the bottom right hand page was a picture of 3 blue bottles of some of the best tequila I've ever enjoyed! And Kim didn't know that, either. We laughed and laughed. Six months ago, I'd have said, "Let's go get some. I have something to show you."

I did get my private showing of the Collection and bought a glorious pair of earrings which will be revealed when I partner them with the right dress and get someone to snap my picture. And then it was time for them to leave. Hugs and more hugs were exchanged. I walked them in the wind to the curb to pint out where they'd make their turn to get back on the highway and continue driving for as long as they could tolerate. Later that evening Kim commented on my blog to say they'd enjoyed dinner and had driven as far as Alamo, Nevada. And so it goes . . .

In my ears right now: Another big hit from the Sea Hags' repertoire. I imagine everyone knows the part I sang. I hate it when I'm pushy and selfish! Sort of.

Something that charmed me: I shared the story of the journal and the Corralejo at an AA meeting. I had to do a little back story to set the table, and I was going to lose the men, so I cut to the chase. Suddenly, I had everyone's attention again. "You never told her that was your booze of choice?" "Never did." "How'd she do that?" "Well, I'm not sure, but it is remarkable." "Yeah, like an omen from god or something. You should stop at a casino on the way home and play a few hands. The stars are aligned in your favor." Uh-huh. I need a new addiction.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Got Your Bliss, Erin!

Alright, yesterday I was inspired by Erin O'Brien, stuck in an Ohio never-quite-dawning spring. I dashed out on my way to the office and snapped a few colorful shots, including one of cactus flowers just about to bloom. Erin commented, "Bliss".

Today I popped out onto the front porch and the sight grabbed my attention immediately, even though the place is five houses away down the street. They bloomed! Fewer than 24 hours after I first spotted them. I slid into some shoes and headed eastward, intent on those cactus blossoms. Just like yesterday, I knocked on the door to ask permission. Just like yesterday, no one answered and I erred on the side of getting what I came for.

My camera activity attracted the attention of the neighbor across the street, the man who owns the house with the lovely xeriscaped yard with all the poppies. "Whatcha doing there?" I felt it was self-evident what I was doing, but I told him about blogging with those in cold, gray country and confessed to shooting pictures in his own yard yesterday. This man is now my official new best friend! "Hey, after you take pictures of the cactus, come on over and come into my backyard." I had to think about that a little. This is Las Vegas. But he waited for me beside the curb. "Come on, I'll show you."

His backyard is as lovely as the front, but different - quieter, softer colors in the blooms. This man knows a lot about growing things in the desert. I met a sweet gray poodle (and remember, I don't even really like dogs too much) who weighs about 4 pounds and made not a noise the entire time I was there. The patio was covered with assorted pots and containers filled with plants. A dining table on the patio was set for a meal, including beautiful crystal wine balloons. The man told me his roommate is a botany professor at the university here, so they may have a leg up on such a beautifully designed yard, but that - generally - they just tossed out handsful of seeds and the result was what we can see. He offered me seeds and volunteered to help me or advise me when I said I really wanted a tomato crop this year. I was invited to stay for a glass of wine, but told him I needed to get to a meeting. He didn't need to know it was an AA meeting.

As I drove off, I remembered that neighbors used to know one another and enjoyed talking about their gardens and sharing things they had in abundance, like seeds or advice. I knew I would never have managed more than a "Hi!" to my neighbor. For - yes, really - I'm a little shy, a little unsure of myself in certain situations. Now I've got an invitation to "Stop by any time" and assurances that he will pop over when he sees me working in my yard (that could happen!). All because of Erin O'Brien whom I see as never shy. I'm glad you motivated me to get my arse outside and enjoy the spring, Woman!

And the wind continues to howl.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Desperately Seeking Spring - Dedicated to Blogging Friends in the East and Other Environs

The fabulous Erin O'Brien, stupendous blogger from Cleveland, Ohio, was bemoaning the lingering winter in her part of the world, so I said I'd go in search of spring where I live. Oh, here in Las Vegas, Nevada, we gritch (um, that's a cross between a gripe and a bitch) about the constant, maddening wind, then the heat, but right now it is sweet. The birdies tweet softly at 3:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. and carry on raucously in between. The cats stretch languorously beside the pool in gentle sunlight that will soon enough be hell's blaze. Is that enough substantiation? Is it really spring? On my short drive to the office today, I decided to check my assumptions.

Hmm . . irises. Bulb plants are among the first flowers to show themselves in spring. No, the slightly bent ones were not trying to run from the picture. They are being blasted by the wind, as was I! Nevertheless, hope springs eternal . . .

Cactus flowers just at the ready ~ that's got to be an omen, right?

Best yard on my block - we appreciate the xeriscape efforts made, low water usage and native plants. The riot of color makes me grin when I pass this place each day. Surely, surely . .

Incontrovertible evidence! It's warm. It's spring. You'll get yours, too!

Since it's still objectionable in parts north and east of my world, would someone mind booking the Wind Festival for an exclusive engagement in your world? It can't make things seem that much worse! That is all.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Eased Her - a Love of Springtime

Easter has never held a lot of meaning for me, as such. Oh, yeah, when Amber was a little girl, we spent weeks making springtime bird houses for the relatives, and flowery bracelets and yummy treats like bunny cakes for the big family gathering held at my mother's home. I always loved making small, cotton floral frocks for my child who - obligingly, happily - never failed to announce loudly, "My mom made this dress!" As if her mother knew how to do something world-shaking. Stepfather always made a grand entrance carrying approximately 17 tons of strawberries freshly picked in the fields of north San Diego County. It was a nice gathering of food, fun and confabulation. The kids (meaning children and menfolk) would go into the ravine behind my mother's home for the egg hunt - some of the colorful plastic ovoids contained a lottery ticket or a dollar bill. Others held pastel sweets or tiny toys. One notable case of poison ivy emerged on the body of an adult man coming out of that ravine. No child ever came to harm. It was a sweet, warm, lazy day. Later, when I decided nature and the changing seasons, new growth of flora, new intensity to the sun's glow and the blue of the sky were more meaningful to me than any religious tenets, I still enjoyed "Eastertime". I just call it "Spring".

The past week has intrigued me as I have practiced mindfulness and living in the now. Sincere thanks to my sister blogger, CramCake, for reminding me of mindfulness, for I'd forgotten it somehow! I'd completed a work assignment that drained my reserves of energy and creativity. I was given an unexpected few days of "nothing much going on, no demands". Sometimes a void in my day has caused me distress. Not now. The memories I indulged in were of the soft, bunny tail type, not the ones with razor sharp edges. I snickered a lot. No tears, no angst, no regrets. I kind of eased on down the road. That's rather new business for me. Calm, rested. Can "satisfied" be far behind? Maybe . . . . never mind. I wanted to write for the blog, but I could not. I could not plant myself in the chair at the computer, viewing the monitor and the slice of the world I see through the French doors. Not for a little while.My friend, the Sea Hag, and I loved - oh, we loved - to sing very loudly and poorly, but with great gusto. Mostly, we favored heavily harmonized boy band tunes, and those with a concentration on a boyish lead singer. We danced, as well, though I was always dicey about dancing with her when she was pregnant, and I'm not sure why. It's not like anyone would think I made her that way. Oh, well. We sang and danced up and down the corridors of a tension-filled workplace, to the delight (mostly) of the other staff. Our rendition of Solitary Man should be archived - um, somewhere - for posterity. Yes, I know it may sound odd that "Melinda was mine" and that "Sue came along, loved me strong". It doesn't matter! Get it? So, in my ears right now: a firm favorite. Give me a hairbrush microphone, and I'm off. In a pinch, I can sing all the parts. And I can still dance, sort of.
Play it! Oh, come on! I must to confess to being a little selfish sometimes in life. I knew the part I wanted to sing and I'd "work" the Sea Hag. Funny how I almost always landed where I wanted to be. The Sea Hag wasn't dumb. Maybe it just mattered less to her than it did to me. So, for this pick, I argued that the lead singer was skinny and had a pretty remarkable nose, while the guitar player was gorgeous, and therefore, she must take the guitarist's part. " . . .'cause I'd already kno-o-o-ow".

I found "the kicks" this week at Ross on Tuesday (Geezer Day), so I saved 10% ~ always a factor in my selection. You see, spring isn't official, never mind summer, until I have found "the kicks". I mark the passage of time and season with the purchase of the year's most wonderful shoes. It puts a spring in my step, one might say. The kicks must have a little edge to them, and it's better if they make me grin or laugh out loud. I'm not terrifically subtle. Uh-huh, I know spring/summer kicks are expected to be yellow or white, but that doesn't work for me. I have an unreasonable attachment to black for pants and shoes. The 2011 model sports a zipper up the back and reveals not only the foot tattoo, but a little toe cleavage. Oh, these will be fun!

For the first time in many years, I found myself at the bargaining table, representing [gulp] myself. I was a strong advocate for many years, for other people. It is more difficult for me to negotiate for myself, mostly because I've mostly felt unworthy in my life. I approached the proceedings with some trepidation, though I was to sit across from friends, David and George. The issue was how and how much to pay me for my writing project which is being performed in pieces across a wide span of time. We'd agreed at the outset that none of us had experience in paying for writing, we'd monitor the first installment and go from there. I was now delivering up Segment 1. I had lots of data to set out. They had the first tangible evidence that I could create exactly what they wanted. I spoke to them in terms of time spent, research conducted, interviews held, travel time. "Surely you must have a figure in mind, Les." I didn't! I'm a trained and collaborative bargainer. I came with the information - all verifiable. Now it was time for us to arrive at some sensible amount and move forward. Lest any reader be tempted to come and snatch my "bone" from me, I'll simply say this: I'd already been given advances so I wasn't working for free. Nothing would have made me squeeze them unfairly. I didn't need to. I came away with far more than I would ever have asked for. And that sets the table for the future. Nice. I thought to treat myself to a Starbucks on the way home. Instead, I filled up my gas tank for an amount equal to about 10 Starbucks treats. And I felt satisfied.

To my surprise, in a week full of those, my dance card is pretty much punched for today. I've been rather a shut-in for quite awhile, but it appears those new kicks are going to carry me out into the world. There is a social function at the Club where I attend AA meetings. Go figure - while I can put my guts out on a tray in AA meetings, I have found it far more difficult to socialize with the fellowship before and after meetings, so I am forcing myself today to take my potluck contribution of fried chicken and to stay for an hour (minimally). I won't eat there, as I'm invited to a few other functions, but I will aim for talking with 5 people I don't know, and if I need to, I can duck into a meeting. Then off to a traditional Easter ham dinner among friends. I contributed a banana cream pie which I also will not eat. And then, and then . . .

Her name is Kim and her wonderful blog is Numinosity. A fascinating and talented artist in unlimited (apparently) media, she was long ago designated as a blogger I'd most willingly follow around for 72 hours. She is a self-styled "rustafarian" (one who loves rust) who maintains homes in both Arizona and Alaska and commutes between them a la snowbird. Today, Kim and husband set out from Arizona and will drive through Las Vegas at dinnertime and then I will eat. Yep, the cell phone is already glued to my forehead. "Hey, Kim, does husband understand the juju of blogger meet-up? Will he take pictures of us?" "They call him Papa Razzi!" "Hey, Kim, you know that last round of ephemera earrings?" "I'll have them handy in the truck so you can make a selection." If any of my other events runs short, maybe I'll go out onto the highway and into the desert looking for rust treasures as I pass the time waiting. Yes, I'm kidding. One day can only hold so much.

Today is the birthday of my dear blogger friend, Kass, who has taken a blog break for awhile to pursue other important matters. I miss her! I'm sure I'm not alone in that. A year ago, some of us took an imaginary world-wide birthday tour in celebration of the auspicious occasion. I'm thinking of you with love today, Girlfriend. What a difference a year makes, good, bad and indifferent.

Something that charmed me: This past week charmed me. I was too depleted to swim against the current or attempt to control the world. I just went with the flow. Things I expected to happen, didn't. Things I didn't expect to happen, did. I was given so many gifts of the unexpected sort, that I must get busy giving back.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Venus Rising

I have emerged. Four days and nights of writing, sleeping, quick showers, quick nibbles, and then back to work to meet a (soft) deadline today. [See last post below.] I did it according to the tempo my body and mind set, so I typed awhile in the predawn and I slept some during the daylight. I escaped once each day to go to an AA meeting and I got up occasionally to stretch and work my body. I have spent much time alone with myself. Too much? I don't know. I reviewed many things from life and played movies the reader may laugh about. I concentrated 100% on my writing project for long periods of time and then took brain vacations wherever I chose to go. I won't approach a deadline in the same way again. Although it worked, it was not ideal for me. We live, learn and modify. Last night I blurted "Finis!" And it was finis - at least this first draft. I got up from the chair, stretched, grinned, sipped coffee. I almost immediately got an e-mail from David. "I'm not recuperating as quickly as I'd hoped from Thursday's surgery. I won't be able to work tomorrow. Can we play it by ear?" I sent back a sincere, "Just get better. I'm totally ready when you are." I thought to put up a post as I'd not done any writing for fun in several days. What I managed to do was put up the appearance of a post with a title from Byron's "She Walks in Beauty . . " and no other content. I can't even blame Blogger. I was just done and ready for insertion of the fork. "Go to bed, Les. Give it all up. This gig is over." And so, I did, French doors wide open to let in the warm night, cats curled up at the foot of the bed, content that their part in my writing marathon was now complete.

I have always enjoyed writing as part of my work, and I have always approached my work both feet forward, "Let's go!" But writing for work used to look different. When I worked for the union, I was acknowledged the writer of post-hearing and post-arbitration briefs in our office. This didn't make me unique. We each had a specialty. Writing just happened to be mine. When it was possible, various labor reps would trade off tasks, making each of us look good in all areas of our work. It was a different era. Our office was equipped with a fine word processor approximately the size of a small condo and an enormous printer that required a monstrous "cone of silence", as we dubbed it, to keep the noise within legal limits. The floppy disks were about the same dimensions as an old 33 rpm vinyl record. We were also gifted, in this office, with a Secretary I and a Secretary II for our combined needs. No Administrative Assistants, yet. These women were "secretaries" and proud of the title. I had served as the Secretary II in that office for years before my meteoric promotion to labor rep. I was likely pretty difficult for the two ladies to please, and in truth, I'd have preferred to boot one of them from her chair and bang at the keyboard on my own as we do today on our PCs. However, I was a true union believer. Each of us had our work to do, and I needed to let the women do their jobs.

My preferred secretary was Chris. She was my cousin's best friend since junior high school and I'd helped her to get the job for which she probably didn't qualify. I met her at the office on Saturdays and helped her get up to speed so she would be able to do the job. She rewarded me by becoming very good at what she was asked to do. On weekends, Chris, Cousin and I were an unholy trio of fun-loving, hell-raising 80s-90s women, residing in the vast 4-square-mile metropolis of Lemon Grove. We thought we were the queen and princesses of that cloistered little world. I could lean on Chris a little with my work demands and she'd dig in for me. That doesn't mean it was always sunshine and roses. She learned to enter the office before 8:00 a.m. and listen for the sound of my music. She could tell my mood by what I was playing. I learned to bring peace offerings and deliver them sincerely - "Chris, you know it's just the pressure I apply to my work." She understood that and loved me anyway. She was in the birthing center with us when Amber was born. Chris and I used a love name for one another when it was time to give a warning tone that we were reaching the end of our good nature: "Sea Hag". Yes, Popeye's Sea Hag, the one with the pet vulture, Bernard. The Sea Hag had always fascinated and repelled me, and it just popped out of my face one day. When others would ask "So which one of you is the Sea Hag?", we'd respond in unison, "She is!" I once found a gloriously beautiful Sea Hag and Bernard action figure in a funky little shop in a mall. There was only one, and of course, I bought it. To my credit, I gave it to Chris. I've searched and searched for another Sea Hag, but I guess I will have to accept that she will only live on in my dreams and on old, old cartoons.

Late in the 80s, I'd sit up as late as necessary, writing for work, sometimes following a 16-hour workday. Hey, I had coffee. I'd drive to Chris' house at 5:00 a.m., tuck maybe 153 pages of hand-written yellow legal pad sheets under her windshield wiper, go home, rest a short while, shower, dress for the day, and land in the office - looking pretty fresh, I think - to find my first draft ready. When I needed to include an infant's needs in my night shift work, I managed that, too, though it took a lot more out of me. Sometime I shall write about the dawn day that I was hurrying to drop the writing off to Chris and accidentally locked my baby and the keys in the car. She slept through it. I nearly melted into a puddle in my driveway. The Lemon Grove Sheriff said, "Lady, if you want us to, we'll break out a window. But the baby is sleeping. Look, you can see her." AAA took an hour to arrive. But I digress. And I think I just told the entire story of baby locked in car. My point is that I could pull the occasional (or semi-frequent) all-nighter, present a good piece of writing, look perfectly appropriate the next day, work another 16 hours of intense enjoyment, and continue on. I thought I was a young Venus rising, but no longer.

Let's see. This time I preplanned almost to a fault. Had the apocalypse come, I'd have been ready. Man, that sounds an awful lot like my mother. I had a fine, fast PC, dual monitors, reference materials and office supplies at my fingertips. I was working on a project that has no right or wrong. I designate right, wrong or appropriate, verifiable or not, anecdotal or witnessed by many who will come forward in writing. There is no element of anyone (like a union member) winning or losing in this endeavor. There is no prior written biography of my subject to be challenged or bested. And yet, it was far more difficult for me to execute than any previous crunch-time assignment. Oh, some of it is that I'm rusty and don't fully trust myself. Yes, I had some concerns whether my recent illness and its artifacts would hinder me. They didn't. And yet, it took a lot out of me. I had to acknowledge it: I am no longer she who was. I can still deliver the goods. It just takes more of me to do it.

Last night, when I finally decided to throw in the towel, I stepped into the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. Of course, I got a look at myself in the mirror, "the writer at the end of the project". Oh, it wasn't quite as bad as death eating a cracker. But it was pretty bad. I felt as if I might smell kind of cobwebby like an old lady, and I looked - oh, yeah - like the Sea Hag, with or without Bernard perched upon her shoulder.

April Alliteration - Alcohol
My month-long musing about my alcoholic journey
Happy ending ~ 100% possible
Installment 5

Fast forward to April 16, 2011: The AA meeting I attended was something else altogether. Saturdays are not de rigeur at the club, so it helps break any tendency to complacency and forces me to try other things. The Feather Meeting intrigued me. The AAs there appear almost 100% to be breakaways from the enormous biker gatherings in appearance and presentation. I would say most of them have many, many years of sobriety and AA experience. A huge "bong" (sorry, no other word for it) of sage is burned in an abalone shell and passed one to another, the smoke purifying the environment. I detested the smell of the burning sage and after the meeting, my clothes and hair reeked of it, but I held in. An eagle feather is passed from one AA to another as each speaks. One holds only the beaded handpiece, and not the actual feather. There is no evidence of the Big Book or any other AA publication, but I must underscore that these AAs are veterans and recite entire pages of the Big Book from memory, so I wasn't too offput by that. "god" is universally referred to as "the creator". I have no problem with that. Going around in the circle, the AAs talked about stuff one hears at every other AA meeting, but then I was struck by something I didn't care for very much. These renegades, these outlaws, these very-far-from-mainstream folks are extremely rigid about their own little version of the AA "talk circle" and its "rules". There is all manner of bad juju surrounding the utterance of a curse word while one holds the eagle feather. One man supposedly committed this sin (I swear I did not hear him swear, and I was paying attention!) and all manner of grief and finger-pointing ensued. This was intriguing to me. Across the campus at the middle-of-the-road group operate all the freedoms I've come to associate with AA. And in the room populated by the wild bunch, restriction and required orderliness and rule-following. This intrigues me. And I marvel that I've now been doing this long enough to form opinions and preferences for certain meetings.

Something that charmed me: Two somethings, actually ~ Sunday afternoon, I pounded the keyboard in temperatures of more than 90 degrees outdoors. "Hmmmmmm, " thought I. I savored the first iced coffee of the season! And ~ I lost weight during my writing project! No, no, not the difference in weight effected by whether or not I am sporting a pencil behind my ear. Real loss. I wasn't a slave to The Bean, either. Go figure.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hunker in the Bunker

Officially, it's called the Imperial War Museum, comprised of the Cabinet War Rooms that housed an underground British government command center throughout the Second World War, and the Churchill Museum, a biographical museum exploring the life of British statesman Winston Churchill. Certainly I am not indifferent to its world-changing effects, but World War II does not fascinate me like some other conflicts. My father, however, was a child during that war and he is fascinated by it, his older brothers having gone off to military service, and all the reports coming over the huge family radio. It was Dad's only request on that particular trip to London, and I didn't want to be a jerk. Besides, I'll explore anything attached to the Churchill name, and so . . . although the government did not frequently retreat to the bunker to operate under emergency conditions, everything needed to do that was contained there. Located beneath the Treasury building in Whitehall, Westminster, the War Rooms contained everything needed, if retreat was required: state of the art telephone and radio transmitting equipment, close proximity to government and military leaders, dormitories for staff, private rooms for officers, and more. "This is the room from which I will direct the war," declared Sir Winston. I get that! Ex and I irreverently called it Hunker in the Bunker.

My first (modest and arbitrary) deadline for my writing project looms. This both excites me and makes me nervous. I've dedicated hours to exhaustive and sometimes esoteric research, interviewed a raft of (sometimes marginal) people, worked at honing the writing skills. I've refreshed talents I developed when I worked for the union, one of them being very active listening. If I only have one chance for an interview, I need to pay attention! I began the week with a whirlwind 24-hour trip to L.A. where I conducted more interviews and spent quite awhile touring and turning my hand to meaningful work at The Studio. I learned I am a deft hand at paint mixing and not so good at frame construction. I am in dead earnest here, folks. It is about to be showtime no. 1! Never mind that I could easily report, "I can't possibly be ready by Monday." That would not be held against me in any way. But I don't run like that. The first mile marker will be passed by Monday. That's how we planned it and that's how it will be.

I do not submit that this is the healthy way to approach a project, but this is the way I do it after many years of experience and successful delivery. I hole up for a ridiculous number of days (this time it will be 4 days and nights) and I surround myself with everything I could possibly need to complete my work, even if the world ended. My bed is covered with items in neat, orderly rows, leaving just a narrow slot for me when I decide the time is right to sleep awhile. Yes, I will need my AA daily devotional books. One doesn't put that aside, even for showtime. The little desk extension contains a miniature version of Office Depot. Well, it's possible I could require more than a ream of paper and a fresh ink cartridge in every color. [Not that I've printed any of this work even once, so far.] Cat food and litter have been toted in and form a small mountain next to the closet, while the French doors to the pool are set at an angle, just so. One wants a breath of real air, provided the freaking wind stops for just a moment. I ground coffee beans until my arm hurt, fighting with myself about at which point pre-ground beans no longer constituted "freshly ground". Two cell phones and a land line lie in wait, and no proud Mormon mommy ever had more healthy foods lined up on her basement shelves. My bathroom is attached, all necessary products in good supply.

Just in case I need a distraction, I've laid out two stacks of laundry on the floor to be cleaned while I write. I like the white noise of the washer and dryer. My stacks of CDs are arranged according to how each makes me feel and the array is quite startling. Last, but certainly not least, my body promises to complain about the abuse. Enter The Bean! Though I am not much of a TV watcher, and I would recognize few "As Seen on TV" items if they did not fly that flag on their packaging, somehow The Bean and I made friends a few years ago. "Better than a balance ball" goes the claim. It offers firm, non-jarring resistance, a DVD with multiple workouts, weighs nothing, can be wiped clean and it seems to work for me. When my head is whizzing, I get up frequently to use The Bean or weights or resistance bands and I manage to avoid coming out of the bunker with any lasting war wounds. The DVD player and big-screen TV are loaded with The Bean DVD. I know I'll want the Stress Reducer workout at the end of my day ~ a little hip and back stretching. But my favorite Bean activity - oh, it pleases me - is using the bright yellow foot pump to fill The Bean to proper inflation for my body and level of exercise. Man, I step on that pump and get my legs going . . . and never fail to check the blinds to make sure that no one, anywhere, could see this old woman pumping up The Bean in preparation for writing.

Before I slide down the rabbit hole, I had this small token for blogging friend Kirk, with these comments: The Blue Angel Motel draws my attention because of its mascot, the lovely, very natural-looking blond angel. Sometimes I wonder if she's not actually a fairy, because she does carry a wand (with one prong broken off, it appears) but she also sports a halo. Maybe she's conflicted? There are no photos available of the Blue Angel at night, which makes me wonder if they even shine the lights any more. I am sorry to report I don't even know any men whose company would make me feel safe enough to go to the area in the dark. And, p.s., you cannot imagine some of the images one sees after Googling "Blue Angel + Las Vegas"! Ahem. (Photos kept at high resolution. Just click.)

April Alliteration - Alcohol
My month-long musing about my alcoholic journey
Happy ending ~ 100% possible
Installment 4

Ex had a huge circle of relatives including a gaggle of aunts and uncles who were barely older than we were. His grandfather had had a much later second marriage and these were his younger offspring. Each of them had small children. I'd never met any of them until 3:30 one morning. The bars had closed, they'd made their weekly visit to Johnny's Shrimp Boat in downtown L.A. to have "6 and rice" and they weren't ready to go home to bed. The door shook in its frame as they pounded and called Ex's name, probably a dozen men and women, including spouses and dates. Into the tiny apartment they poured, each one seemingly with a bottle stashed in purse or pocket. "You guys have a stereo?" We did. "Let's play oldies," which in those days meant old time soul and R&B. There began the strangest, most surreal "party" I've ever seen. The liquor flowed. The brothers, sisters, aunts, friends hugged and danced and fought like hell. When they left, there was scalped hair all over the floor from the "bitch fights" and I had no dishes or crockery left intact. They threw things. Whether it was their own property or not. The women seemed pretty balanced about me. I'd say they decided to give me a chance. Some of the men were clearly disapproving. I was such a white girl, and I wouldn't drink. Others of the men leered. One uncle began that night and never gave up pulling me onto his lap whenever I was in the same building with him. It didn't matter if 8 of his male relatives lit into him 15 seconds after he pulled me onto his lap, he enjoyed those 15 seconds. I did not. "Dammit, Ex, get him out of here and keep him out of here. I don't appreciate him at all." By noon, half of them had left and the other half slumbered noisily on the floors of my home.

It came to pass that at every major holiday for many years, all the children of the family would be dropped off at my home while the adults went out to drink for up to 3 or 4 days. I loved the kids and enjoyed feeding them, reading to them, giving them a bath, washing their clothes while they used one of Ex's T-shirts as a "robe". Some of the adults would invariably go to jail and I would coordinate their release(s). I was fortunate to earn a sizable "family" of children who loved me as I loved them. Some of them had children of their own before I had Amber (remember, I was a very late bloomer). I could go on with Ex-and-family stories forever and that is not the exercise here. The point is that I was the calm, but also dysfunctional, center in a cyclone of alcoholic madness. I hadn't trained for it. I didn't know what to do with it. I wanted Ex to stop drinking and be "normal". That was not going to happen. My chosen role in the dysfunction was as the "fixer", the micromanager of the world. If I didn't maintain control, who would? My shoulders were broad enough to handle a world of craziness. Yeah! Sure! I wouldn't have taken a drink with your mouth. And this rolled on for years.

In my ears right now: I can't even claim credit for locating it on YouTube. Another blogger had put it up. Jimmy Ruffin did it admirably, no question. But - oh! - for fun, you want to go here. [Sorry, embedding disabled. I guess I'd protect my rights, too!] Warning: Be prepared to dance. And grin. The woman can sing anything! She's not just another stranger on the bus. Please, tell me, in comments, that you listened to her!

Hey, Bloggers, throw me a lifeline from time to time!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Architect

What if your friend became an architect,
but failed to tell you that
and you sent no gift, no card, no flowers
for matriculation?
Wouldn't a friend tell a friend?

And what if your friend decided the
ancient edifice that was your relationship
needed renovation – oh, immediately, extensively -
but failed to tell you that?

What if you entered the home place you shared with your friend
and found she had applied skills she possessed
but had failed to tell you that?
What if you asked, “Friend, what is all this?”
And your friend replied, guilelessly, “What? Nothing's different.”

What if, upon your next visit, it could no longer be denied?
She had reassigned weight-bearing walls, reduced the size of
certain rooms and built an escape hatch as would be used in
the Underground Railroad, but failed to tell you that.

“Friend, I can and will live with anything between us,
my only requirement being truth.”
And what if your friend began to build such a
structure of lies that you could feel life, love
and esteem, as you knew them for her, slipping away?
But you failed to tell her that. Wouldn't a friend tell a friend?

What if your friend progressed from lies to silence, used interchangeably,
choosing the subjects about which she would or would not say anything at all?
“Friend, I am losing respect and admiration for you. I have been plain
about what I need. You have nothing to lose by being honest with me.
I will not abandon you.”
“Nothing has changed between us.”
What if you left the building having made a hard decision,
but you failed to tell her that? Wouldn't a friend tell a friend?

What if your friend asked for a favor and explained
she needed you to lie?
She needed your lie to cover a lie she'd told another friend.
In fact, “Heh, heh,” she'd already misused your name and
a false premise to fool a perfectly innocent person for
whom you felt no enmity.
Used your name, or lack thereof, and your artistic property,
your own history, without permission or discussion.
Wouldn't a friend tell a friend?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Let's . . . WHAT Did You Just Say??

It was hell for hot and she had another mile to go. She neither wanted to break pace nor deal with the kind of idiot who honked, hooted and hollered as she executed her run. The engine growled a little louder and the car invaded her personal space more than she liked. She shot an angry glance over her shoulder. Oh, boy. The red monster machine. "Hi! I seen you running and thought I'd stop to say hello. It's pretty hot." Of all his shortcomings, perhaps his mangling of the language bothered her most. The man had a better education than she. He was a business professional. Why didn't he speak properly? "No, you saw me. Get off my ass with that car." "Would you like to go to Denny's later, as long as we can get there before 5:00? Early Bird Special!" He dropped back a few feet in the car. "No!" She was shocked there was that much reserve energy in her body. She nearly broke the sound barrier. He dropped back still farther and then roared off around her, tires squealing.

She worked hard to regulate her breathing, maintain her pace, and concentrate on the run, not on him. She squirted half a bottle of drinking water over the top of her head. "Freak! Lummox!" For she was not indifferent. She actively disliked him. Her disdain and abhorrence caught fire and she slowed to a walk, her intense focus on the run broken. Well, walking was still exercise. "God damn him." She fumed along, her head roaring with negative energy, the positive draining out through her pores. She felt her feet stomp hard as she thought about all the framed art in his home - "pitchers" - and the "picture" of beer he shared with buddies after golf each weekend. She felt backed into a corner, the right angle of two walls pressing against her back. Now he even made her crazy when he wasn't in her presence. She gave him entirely too much power to sap her strength and she hardly recognized herself. What had happened here?

Her son was concerned. "Would you like me to tell him you don't want to see him any more? I can do that nicely." She didn't want that. She was the parent, the adult. Her son was barely more than a kid. He shouldn't have to dig her out of situations. Her therapist asked, "What is your role in this? We know what's up with him. He's never had it so good. He has little self-esteem and he has you for a charm bracelet. He doesn't have to perform sexually or be responsible for you in any way. He's not going to change anything. He is a man for whom a little bit of nothing is sufficient." She tried to think what the real answer was. What was she doing? "He's not giving you money. He doesn't provide you a home. You have no common interests. He makes you insane. He seems unable or unwilling to care about any other person. You've lived - happily - uninvolved with anyone from time to time. What are you getting from this that you're so resistant to screaming 'Enough!'?" The tears began to roll. If this counselor really could not see the problem, she wanted a rebate for the $150 per hour she paid to be treated. Or was he trying to force her to see it for herself and say it out loud? For she knew, without question. It was the same old thing, new time, new station.

Her own personal flock of charlatan analysts was sufficiently large to break into subcategories. She only even exchanged holiday cards with a handful of them any longer. "Mehhhh," she thought, striking another from the list just last December. She'd been much analyzed, medicated and treated, for everyone knew there was something wrong with her since she was very young. Her disputed, dire potential and actual diagnoses filled volumes. This she hid behind a veil of (mostly) respectable and successful behavior, a life acted "as if". She was (mostly) a grand actress. Some of the professionals went far afield from time to time, suggesting some psychological malady that hadn't been considered previously. Those counselors, their diagnoses and treatment generally were dismissed shortly, for she and her primary health professionals felt they knew what the core issues were, and how to set her right for a peaceful life.

She could repeat the guidelines by rote, having heard them so often. "People who endured early childhood abuse and psychological neglect often develop a protective personality subself whose goal is to please others at all costs. The pleaser's intense, narrow focus is on protecting shamed, abandoned and scared young subselves from the pain of social rejection, scorn, disapproval, criticism and dislike." It didn't matter who the other people were, or what they asked for. Compliance and pleasing were paramount. She'd often found herself doing things she didn't want to do with people she did not like.

"Common behavioral clues of an overactive pleaser include:
  • rarely confronting or disagreeing with people
  • over-apologizing
  • smiling and joking despite major inner pain
  • focusing on others' needs and feelings while neglecting their own (self- abandonment)
  • rarely asking for, or accepting, help.
Until the pleaser reduces shame and fear of abandonment through personal recovery, he will attract and seek out other wounded people for companionship, often the narcissist or the controller, whose needs are so many, the pleaser knows he will be completely consumed with pleasing the other and, thereby, protecting himself from abandonment."

When she was aged 5 and 15, she pleased with a smile on her face - oh, so sincere - asking about the next need on the list even before she'd finished with the pleasing act she was performing now. She was an adolescent the first time it dawned on her that she was working awfully hard, to the detriment of her own interests and fulfillment, to make others feel satisfied and fulfilled. She wasn't sure, then, what to do with that. The need to please pulled her in one direction, the anger and resentment at having her time, energy and will displaced in another. As she aged, the balance began to shift, the resentment growing in equal proportion to the diminishing need to please. But the deep seated need did not entirely disappear, and she grew to recognize in herself the hybrid disease she called submit-and-resent. Oh, yes, she could claim such boundaries as "I will not get out in the cold and snow" or "I will not be routed out of my bed early because you are prepunctual and impulsive". But she could not manage a firm, "No, I will not go to Brenton Mountain with you. I don't want to." The therapist said, "He does not believe you when you take a stand." She understood that.

He sat alone in a booth at Denny's, dour, at 4:45 p.m. He fist-gripped a fork, forgetting exactly what he had ordered, but enjoying the copious smothering of white gravy it sported. Who didn't like white gravy? He'd never met anyone who didn't like white gravy. Why was she such a bitch about food? Maybe she had one of those eating disorders. Whenever he ordered his favorite orange Fanta, she visibly winced. Why shouldn't a man order his favored orange soft drink? Was there something wrong with it? The longer he brooded, the more determined he became. Nothing was going to make him call her to see if she'd like to get together this evening. He'd go home and engage in some furniture rearranging, something he thoroughly enjoyed and yet another thing for her to bitch about. "You don't line up all the tables in a row like train cars," she crabbed. His staging of the upholstered furnishings never made sense to her, and she bitched incessantly about his placement of his pitchers. It was his home. She had nothing to say about it. And he wouldn't stoop to call her tonight.

"Hello." "Hi, are you in a better mood now?" Bad choice of greeting. "I wasn't in a bad mood earlier until I felt the hot breath of that red monster breathing right up the back of my running shorts." He remembered why he'd previously determined not to call her tonight. "I went to the VA clinic today. I got an appointment to have my hearing tested next week. I told them about my leg." She was happy to hear that. He was in fragile health due to the effects of his Agent Orange exposure in Viet Nam, suffering both near-terminal and fairly minor ailments from time to time. He now presented with a small area on his upper thigh that gave him intense and constant pain. There was no visible symptom and nothing could be felt internally upon palpation. They were both concerned about it. "What did they say about that?" He told her they weren't yet certain what was going on, but they had prescribed him something for the pain. She asked what they gave him. "A Lubriderm patch. They're really expensive. My co-pay was $45. The pharmacist said I could try half a patch to start and if that was effective, I'd get twice the use out of my prescription." Her head began to pound. Lubriderm patch? What? Was there reason to suspect he suffered from fatal dry skin? She'd never heard of skin lotion in patch form. She asked him to repeat what was prescribed. "Lubriderm patches. I bought a bottle of the lotion, too, for my hands." "So they're treating this mystery pain with an intense application of lotion?" "I guess."

She felt a sinking sensation, fatigued. His voice became a drone without words. Her friends enjoyed her laughter and sense of humor, but she hadn't guffawed in a long time, and couldn't work one up now. "Is your prescription near you as we're talking?" He said it was right at his fingertips. She asked him to read the name of the medication and he replied, "Lubriderm Patch." She thought, "What the hell? Don't make me come over there!" Finally she thought to ask him of pitchers/pictures, seen/saw to spell the name of the potion. "L-i-d-o-d-e-r-m Patch." Oh. That made sense. "That would be lidoderm, probably so named because it contains lidocaine, an analgesic painkiller. It has nothing to do with lotion or dry skin. It sounds really sensible to use that to control your pain while they figure out what the problem is." Silence. She waited for some response which she imagined would be the "Errr?" of Scooby Doo and Tim, the Tool Man, Taylor. The silence went on and on. Then the call was disconnected. She hadn't done it.

He roared aloud in the privacy of his own home. "I never knew anybody who knows everything about everything. Who the hell does she think she is, the bitch?" How was he supposed to know about medicines? He wasn't a doctor or a pharmacist. She began to prepare a salad in her kitchen with baby romaine, parmesan cheese, croutons and homemade vinaigrette. Her phone rang. Oh, no. No. She wasn't playing this. When he tried to call the fourth time, she turned off the call alert. She went through the house and closed all the blinds, stopping at the front door to arm the security system. She took her salad to her favorite, well-worn chair and sat down. Her mouth was full when she began to snicker. She quickly, but thoroughly, chewed and swallowed, because she felt it coming on. Her stomach and ribcage convulsed first, then her throat began to emit little bursts of air and energy. Her face broke into a smile that nearly hurt. When the guffaw emerged, it was stupendous. She was shocked there was that much reserve energy in her body. She nearly broke the sound barrier.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

For Kirk, By Request (Or At Least Upon Suggestion)

Blogging friend Kirk appreciates the beauty of a vintage neon sign against a dark sky and I knew that. I just didn't happen to be thinking about it when I last posted. I was daydreaming along Fremont Street in the car, fantasizing about the Lucky Cuss Motel in the sunshine. Kirk didn't complain. He simply commented that the sign would probably be amazing against the night sky. He was right! So here is the Lucky Cuss as it would be seen by some lucky cuss after dinner, drinks and a spin of the roulette wheel.
And, as added sprinkles on the top, these are Miss Vickie Vegas, the cowgirl (though I think she should be dubbed the Lovely Leslie Las Vegas - hey, I've got the boots and I can kick pretty high), and a view of the Neon Museum displays lit up at night.

I do not typically rely on pictures as the bulk of my posts, but my alcohol paragraphs run a little long this time. So I'll let the pictures tell a story and continue on with my real life one.

NO photo credits: Leslie Morgan (She couldn't do as well.)

April Alliteration - Alcohol
My month-long musing about my alcoholic journey
Happy ending ~ 100% possible
Installment 3
As a teenager, I consumed some alcohol, although pot and other substances were preferred by young people of the time. I am small, I share the genetic makeup, and I am foolishly mulish. The instant someone says "You'd better not drink any more," I'm off and running. Sometimes men who were not old but who were old enough to buy alcohol and who were certainly too old for me would ply me with liquor and, apparently, enjoy the "wind her up and watch her go" game. On my 18th birthday, an attentive young man bought me a pint of Southern Comfort, Janis Joplin fan that I was. I drank it very quickly and I was very ill for a great number of days. It was the last alcohol I would touch for a very, very long time. By 18, I'd had more than plenty to drink, and never anything CLOSE to "Let's have A drink." The memory of the Southern Comfort served me for decades. I attest: Janis must have had an iron gut.

Ex was full blooded Native American, of the Pima tribe from the Salt River Reservation in Arizona. The struggles of native peoples with alcohol is well-documented. I don't have to beat that drum. His parents and others of a similar age wanted to get off the reservation - considered a sign of progress and good fortune. They did get away. Right into the mean streets of Skid Row L.A. where they produced 5 children together, and she eventually produced 10 before dying of cirrhosis at the age of 32. After meeting Ex in my late teens, I heard and witnessed the most sorrowful and horrific stories imaginable, all related in some way to too much alcohol. I cried when I first heard the stories. The same stories and the ones that followed make me cry today.

I got Ex when he was 17 years old and already an entrenched alcoholic. In retrospect, it is shocking how quickly I fit into the mold of enabler and codependent. I was perfectly suited. If only I did ABC, then Ex wouldn't drink any more. Uh-huh. I believed that for more than 20 years. In our extremely young years, there were events I could relate in a humorous way. Except that right now I can't work up a cackle. Rare for me. I can usually work up a donkey laugh about most things - the more painful, the heartier the laugh. There was the time he went out in the rain to buy more beer before the stores stopped selling at 2:00 a.m. When he didn't appear after a couple of hours, I figured he was in jail and went to bed to read and wait for the bad news. I was startled when he burst through the front door, soaked. He'd stranded our only car in the mud on the train tracks and had spent awhile trying to push it to safe ground. When he finally had to give it up - that car was good and truly stuck - he came home. He had not failed to get into the store in time to buy beer and then return to the car on the tracks.

I am not blessed with a deep well of patience. While I continued to try to do things that would divert him from drinking - keep a perfect house, cook wonderfully - my tongue sharpened very quickly. I am quick with a quip, and was then, but it didn't do a lot of good things. He learned to turn off my volume a little sooner in an altercation. I became an embittered young woman. When I grew sturdy enough to snap, "Go sleep it off awhile before you go out again!", he sometimes didn't argue. Once he took matters into his own hands. Rather than have me follow him, bitching, to the door, he opened the kitchen window in our second floor apartment and leapt out. I blinked a few times and rushed to the open window when I heard a loud yelp from below. Had he broken a leg, cut himself? No. He had landed on the back of the landlord's very large dog, Chunky. Chunky was not hurt, but was very, very surprised to have a dark young man with waist-length braids fly out of a window and land on his back. "Shut up, Chunky, " I heard the landlord snap out of his own kitchen window. Ex got up, dusted himself off, jumped the fence of Chunky's dog run and went off to find some fun. One of his ankles remained fragile for the remainder of his life.

In my ears right now: Very poor quality video and sound take nothing away from Natalie Merchant for me. Scritchy scratchy is OK enough. Just for today.

Something that charmed me: This morning I got a double-yolked egg - the first one I've ever seen, I believe. I don't get away from home much, I guess.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Send Les - Despite Her Protestations, She Likes It

I'm already on record about hating to waste precious time performing stupid tasks. I don't want to run errands such as the dry cleaner, the pharmacy, grocery shopping (my own and the cats'), or picking up the certified letter at the post office when I was home, inside the house, when the letter carrier went by with it. Fiddling around pisses me off, and - mostly, I am truly sorry to say - I am further pissed off by many people who "help" me as I perform these tasks. I am nearly as crabby assed as my father and Donald Duck, particularly about poor service in a place where I am spending my money. On the other hand, more sensitive readers, I spend time writing notecards, sending e-mails or delivering homemade cookies when I've been served in a manner that exceeds expectations. I'm just not called upon to do that very frequently.

For most of my adult life, I have been the champion of all errand runners, especially considering that I detest it so. Oh, I could take a route of 7 establishments, carrying a written list for each, take the shortest, straightest route to each, get the bargains and return home having completed each list. I could even incorporate a little "picking up" for my mother or the elderly woman next door. I watched the stores year around for holiday gifts and birthday gifts to be purchased and I had an eagle eye for new products on the shelves. My erranding prowess was a source of contention between Ex and me. I am sorry to say, in retrospect, that I turned it into a competition for which he felt no passion. No bright red letters marked next Tuesday in Ex's DayPlanner as "Errands" day. Others have been heartily appreciative of me. It's a mixed bag of stuff, like everything else. Yes, that bright red streak in the parking lot was me!

Life changes, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. I divorced and was no longer responsible for being the errander for 3 full-time. My holiday and birthday lists were whittled down to manageable. However, I remained efficient and thorough. It should be noted that I miss nothing as I drive through the streets. New store over there to be checked out! Oh, no, another Fresh & Easy location boarded up. My god, the Sahara corridor is like a ghost town with all the businesses and car lots shutting down. That branch of Borders is closing its doors - like I didn't see that coming. A new Ross Dress for Less ~ let's see, is it Geezer Day so I'll get my discount? Oh, bite me - now there is an 89-Cents store, apparently set to vie with all the 99-Cents emporia. I notice when buildings are painted a different color and I recall the storefronts that existed when I lived here years ago. Sometimes I can even recollect what sort of business was housed there in the 1970s. No, nothing on the land escapes me, and sometimes I spin around the block just to make sure I saw what I think I saw, losing no time on my route. Add to all of this the fact that I have a memory like an elephant. Oh, a mind that is a veritable index system of pretty much trivial data to anyone except myself. Welcome to my head.

After my alcoholic meltdown, I found I had misplaced a number of things I'd called upon for many years, if not an entire lifetime. I found I could not rely upon my head 100% of the time. This frightened me. My heretofore admirable stamina had evaporated. I was not physically capable of prolonged activity of any kind. Isolation being a strong element of alcoholism, I'd become fairly agoraphobic. Lists seemed a good idea. Perhaps they would help ground me. But I couldn't think of anything to write on the lists, or why I was writing one. I never lost the imprinting of the sights on the streets, but I didn't file them away with a snort or a giggle or a reminder to "take a picture of that and write something". Please note that those statements are written in past tense. I am in a program and a state of recovery. Recovery is a fluid thing, not static. I am not the exact same person I was in any other frame of the film that is me. I like the present one best, so far. And I arrange my errands across a wider span of time and a shorter space of distance now.

The weather had turned from wintry on the weekend to hot by Thursday and Friday. I reminded myself to take it slow, perhaps make some outings in the dusk or first thing in the morning. The first heat slam takes a lot out of everyone. All the stores and public buildings engage their air conditioning systems for the first time of the year, rendering the ambient air temperature about 20-degrees, it seems. Note to self: take spray water bottle for cooling off and sweater to wear indoors. I had a destination only about 6 miles from home, driving on streets and through areas of Las Vegas I'd never seen before. The eastern side of the valley was settled long ago, some communities and commerce arising shortly after the arrival of the WPA workers who came to build the Hoover Dam in the 1930s. There exists the "Boulder Strip" of casinos and resorts, which caters to a different clientele than those who prefer the Strip. Interspersed with some of the "big houses" are shabby little relics of bygone days, here a lush, shamefully water-wasting garden oasis, there a dirt patch that never supported any form of life. There are many pedestrians, but they are not exercisers. Walking appears to be their only mode of transportation, their worldly possessions upon their backs.

I am clumsy about people who stand at stoplight intersections with cardboard signs requesting money. I have never failed to have a heart plunge about such persons, not knowing whether their situation was as they present it or not, but definitely feeling sorrowful. I was rejected when I attempted to assist once. I'd seen a very young woman at an intersection I passed through each day. She looked physically worse by the day, it was hellish high July, and I was distraught. I gathered clothing I could spare, bought underwear new so she could see the package and know they'd never been worn, put together some toiletries, got a few fast food gift cards. I provided bottled water and I'd put much thought into keeping it all compact - her backpack wasn't huge. She told me loudly on that corner, attracting much attention, exactly where I could put my handouts. She wanted money. But I digress . . . .

The man at the intersection was of the bold variety, not only brandishing his sign, but walking up and down between the stopped cars, bumping against the fenders and doors. Look, I don't have any money. But if I did, and had I been inclined to part with some, he'd lost me with that car bumping. I may want to give money, but one may not demand it of me by bumping. I immediately got very busy eyeballing the attractions alongside the road. Even the panhandler could not have mistaken my intense concentration. He still bumped, but it no longer bothered me. For I'd landed upon the sight of the Lucky Cuss Motel and it pleased me. I am going to guess that the Lucky Cuss is about my age, circa early 1950s. It shows its age, but it has been well maintained with a fresh coat of paint. (Please, may that be my fate, as well.) I grinned to think of hipsters pulling into the Lucky Cuss parking lot when it was a happening place. In the parking lot I spotted a car that would be appropriate to the era in my head. Hmmmm . . . . imprinting the sights and making up stories. Well!

April Alliteration - Alcohol
My month-long musing about my alcoholic journey
Happy ending (at least for me) 100% possible
Installment 2
I do not recall ever hearing one word about alcohol relating to my Morgan relatives (my father's family). He comes from a sizable brood, with 7 siblings plus Grandma and Grandpa. I take this lack of comment, lack of anecdotes, to mean alcohol is not an issue for the Morgans. My father says he has never been drunk. "What, Dad, not even in the Air Force with buddies?" He says, "No. I was always in training for boxing." In addition, my father is unwilling to surrender his self-control sufficiently to become drunk. On the few occasions he has "tried it", he has not cared for the taste, nor felt a need to repeat the experience. Once, at a fine French restaurant, I saw him order a glass of non-alcoholic wine, to the server's clear disdain. He has a particular contempt for "drunks", my father. "What the hell is the matter with people? Just don't drink it!"

My beloved Granny and Grandpa O'Farrell, my mother's parents, did not have problems with alcohol. Each and every one of their 12 children is/was an alcoholic. 100%, ranging from one who had only moderate difficulty functioning in the world to the one who died in a spew of blood from cirrhosis of the liver while seated on the toilet. Then there was the handsomest, most loved of the brothers who died at age 24 having made and consumed home brew created from wood alcohol while onboard ship in the Navy. In my generation of the 40 cousins, I'd be hard pressed to say how many of us has struggled with alcohol and/or drugs. Let's say "many". Let's say "most". Let's say my favored cousin, John, was dead from all of it by age 45. Some of us, from both generations, have found the way out.

During my childhood, my parents always kept a bottle of something available for visitors who might want a drink. In my junior high years, a group of school-ditching kids descended upon my house and the kids razzed me because of the paucity of booze. No one sneaked a nip from this bottle, ever. My mother's alcoholism (her assessment of her problem, not mine) wouldn't show itself for many years. I can recall a time or two when my parents went to the holiday party given by the bank where my mother worked. My mother must have had a drink or three, because on the following day, my father was silent and disapproving. It is not my impression, even today, that she did anything as outrageous as swinging, partially clad, from the chandelier. She was just so well-positioned for embarrassment and disaster if she took even one drink.