About Me

My photo
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 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!


  1. OK, I'm officially interested in "The Bean". I'm starting my google search of said object in moments. I will however, not search "The Bean + Las Vegas". I can't even imagine what the results would be.

  2. You have to come up for air sometime. A bunker sounds like a perfect spot to hole up in while completing a project of such magnitude that you foresee the use of an inflated bean.
    Are you and Amber still in contact with any of those relatives? Thanks for Joan Osborne That song is always welcome.Music to shag to here at Virginia Beach and the Outer Banks at Cape Hatteras.

  3. @ CramCake ~ Oh, The Bean is the best. I can even do that stick-it-behind-my-back-against-the-wall-and-squat thing. It took a long time to master that. I had a harrowing thought. What if you Googled "The Bean + Las Vegas" and there was a surreptitious film of me inflating my Bean? Oh, the horror of that! It makes lovely little whooshing noises as one pumps it up, too.

  4. @ Tag ~ OH, given all the musical treats you have presented to me on blog, I'm glad you enjoyed Ms. Joan. There is more to come in a similar vein, too. Just as soon as I finish my writing assignment.

    I'm sorry to say that all of the relatives I refer to in this post were gone (dead) long ago. Ex was extremely long-lived for his family, and Amber didn't come along for many, many years, so she just never met very many of them. One of Ex's younger brothers has died already - a young man I regarded almost as my son - and another of them is dying. Alcohol. I have seen a lot of its treachery.

  5. Count me as one who is fascinated by World War II, so I very much would have enjoyed seeing Churchill's bunker. You mentioned it wasn't used much, which surprised me, given the Blitz and all. This inspired me to do a little research. During the war, Churchill was often photographed entering and leaving 110 Downing Street, holding up his fingers in the famous "V for Victory"
    sign, though he actually, and grudgingly, slept in a nearby bunker.

    Does the Blue Angel bear any resemblence to Marlene Dietrich? Because that's the movie that made her a star.

    I enjoyed listening to Joan Osbourne, but I still prefer Jimmy Ruffin's version. Sorry.

  6. @ Kirk ~ I knew you appreciated the history of that war, Kirk. I've read your words about it many times. Yes, you'd enjoy the Imperial War Rooms. Some of his personal effects are there - a toiletries kit, etc. I am a huge Churchill aficionado, but I much preferred his country home, Chartwell, where he painted watercolors and actually (physically) helped to dig the man-made lake on his property.

    I regret to inform you that Marlene Dietrich would have presented better 10 years after her death than the Blue Angel Motel on its best day. Man, it is seedy! And I have some other treats in store for you the next time I post.

    It's OK if you prefer Jimmy Ruffin ~ it's his song, actually. I'm just an Osborne fan, and she did this tune well.

  7. Beans can be exhausting, from my experience :)

    I can't listen the song right now as the kids are zedding but I'll listen next time I remember, which may be tomorrow or may be in a month after I stop remembering at exactly this same time....

    Do you reckon there's any symbolic importance in the fact that the blue angel is holding a broken stick? Maybe she's just an icon for false icons - a standard bearer for myths....maybe she was designed by someone skilled in the manufacture of holy blue ladies with starless wands...maybe she just got cold and lonely up there....

  8. @ Rachel ~ OMG, "the kids are zedding" nearly made me wet my pants and I had NO time for extra clean-up duties! I love "zedding" and plan to use it sometime soon in some way. You'll enjoy the Joan Osborne when you can give her your ear, I think.

    One thing I like about you, is that you make me think about things - really apply my head and whimsy. I think there IS some symbolism in the Blue Angel's broken wand. First, I think it was snapped by the godforsaken wind that screams through here and nearly makes all insane. But that's only the physical manifestation. Symbolically, I think she and the establishment are representative of the tiny little world on that corner - broken spirits, broken dreams, broken people, broken down rooms, broken angels. She's not really a beautiful angel, except for her beautiful shabbiness, the kind of second-hand beauty the habitues appreciate.

  9. @ Rachel ~ Duh! How could I forget to say you'd be the EXPERT in the exhaustion factor of Beanies!