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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

At the Equinox - Is it Just Me or Have a Lot of Bloggers Drifted Off With Spring Fever?

I was reminded this week of something I forget from year to year. In certain seasons in Las Vegas, some of the houseplants must be watered almost every day due to heat and sun. The current cat population is less intrigued by plants than some I've shared life with, so my store of plants has become pretty impressive, with only the very occasional sound of surreptitious chomping in the night. I wonder why I've never had a chomping cat become ill. They are supposed to be creatures very delicate when exposed to all sorts of flora. Mine gack up premium cat food on the floor while retaining the green leafies with which to fill the cat box. Things that make you go "hmmmmmmm" . .

There are some things I don't want to do. Like run the vacuum cleaner and shop for groceries and the list goes on. I don't mind wet chores like do the laundry, clean the bathroom, wash the dishes. But I don't want to make the acquaintance of dusting cloths and Dustbusters, anything involving Pledge or moving little doodads around on all the furniture. And don't show me a push broom. I detest a push broom. I don't have the arm strength for it. I could do it if it could be done with the legs. I don't like to contemplate sweeping the great outdoors. It's too big. All of this can cause terrible conflict for a woman whose father calls her "snotty clean". So, if you get the picture, I finally break down and do what I must. And crab about it a lot.

The arrival of spring has made me want to roast mushrooms and onions and peppers and corn on the grill outdoors and slide into the pool naked in the dark when the neighbors might not be looking from upstairs next door. I want to sit at the cafe table with coffee and a book in the sun, my cat sitting in my lap. When I wake in the morning, I want to look through the French doors with their glass like crystal. A quick inspection of the yard confirmed that I wouldn't seat my rear on the outdoor chairs in their current condition, feeling reluctant to even put my shod feet on the cool deck. The panes in the French doors may be terminal, but I can take them on one at a time and do my best - it was hell for windy across the dark months. The surface of the grill is shiny clean - I was careful last November, the last time I used it. The hired service keeps the pool and spa sparkling. OK, a mixed bag. Get started. Play music. Ply the ever-loving push broom.

The back yard reminds me of Cell Block 419A at the women's prison. Long and narrow, it holds the pool and a modest frame of walking space surrounding it. When I told a friend the unimaginative light block walls were about 15 feet high, he looked so startled I thought, "Well, maybe I'm exaggerating. I'm not so good at that kind of estimation." I've just gone outdoors in the dawn and measured myself like parents who track a child's growth with a mark and the date on a convenient door jamb. That wall is easily twice as tall as I and, on one angle, reaches to the top of the second story. I feel pretty solid about it again - 10-15 feet high. As there are no structures contiguous to any of the walls, the cats cannot escape the yard (just as the women prisoners could not, I suppose). I had to be "worked" about the escape-proof yard for a long time, as I believe that cats can get out of any confinement. However, I finally became a believer. The cats would have to spring 10-15 feet into the air to head for high ground, and I doubt they will. Food, water and an auxiliary litter box are provided. Virginia Woolf and Bogey enjoy the yard during fine weather.

I determined I'd approach my tasks in a linear way, starting in one corner and working my way around the rectangle. "Come on, cats," I called. They joined me, first tiptoeing on the narrow tiled strip separating pool from spa, drinking a little chlorinated water. Soon enough they found places to perch where my frenetic activity wouldn't disturb them. My BFF had sent me some new music and - hey! - it was good. She was right: the one song was very much like our conversational e-mail thread about our individual journeys. I peeled off some layers of clothing, grinning at Virginia Woolf languishing in the sun, eyes scrunched up at half-mast (does she need sunglasses?), shiny black nose sniffing at the air. This wasn't so terrible! I alternated using the hated broom with very conservative squirts from the water hose and even a few blasts of air from the compressor. I'm thorough in most everything I approach, and finally that yard was spotlessly clean, not a cobweb to be found, no leaves blown into crevices. I'd applied SprayWay cleaner to every glass surface (forget Windex, reader!) and finally sat for an iced coffee and a read. When I got up to go inside, there was no telltale powdering of fine desert dust on the rear of my black shorts, a pretty good testament to my efforts.

When I came inside, I was pretty energized, so I started attacking other tasks. I was joined in the bedroom by Virginia Woolf as I put clean, deep green sheets on the bed. I didn't actually look directly at her, but more saw her out of the corner of my eye as she came pussyfooting through the French doors. It's when she jumped up onto the dark green sheets to play the bed-making game that I noticed it. That cat looked as if she'd been dredged in flour, preparatory to immersion in a deep fat fryer for an order of cat crispies. I saw golden eyes, black nose and powdery white cat. And she'd found whatever it was in the yard! WTF? Oh, yeah, I was going to have to wash and dry the sheets again, but I wanted to know what dirty substance lurked in the yard. I paced and inspected, I crawled on the cool deck until my knees were chopped meat. I looked in the precise location where that cat had basked in the sun. Nothing. Have I mentioned there are some things I don't want to do, like dry household tasks or sweeping the great outdoors?

A blushing factoid to tell on myself: I consume true crime stories, mostly about serial murderers. I have a handful of favored authors I follow avidly, my tastes refined through the years I have read such things. My mother perverted me in the 1970s (or maybe early 1980s) with the Ann Rule book about Ted Bundy and I've read countless volumes since then. In bookstores, I slink off to the remote aisles where such books are displayed and then place my selections face down in my arms as I continue to shop. I intersperse these reads with biographies, poetry more recently, and other "good" books. But I continue to feed my need.

Now, I'm a well-known wiener about things violent or bloody. Usually I cannot read the pages describing what the killer did to the girl or the disrespect shown to the body. No, I don't have a secret penchant for the stereotypical 1940s gumshoe - tweed jacket, balloony trousers with the waistband under the armpits, a fedora and his face veiled in cigarette smoke. Sometimes the descriptions of the ballistics or DNA evidence make me yawn. So what's the attraction? I am utterly fascinated by the fact that completely bat-shit people walk around among us disguised as the next door neighbor. I want to know what makes them bat-shit. What happened in their childhoods and what makes them bat-shit part of the time but able to blend in part of the time, and - please - what makes them think particular atrocious acts are sexually gratifying? The other thing that pulls me in just a little (I don't want 85 pages of details, but I do want to know generally) is how detectives solve cases. Because they almost always do - more and more cases, some of them cold for 50 years. Hey, crazy people, don't do the crime! You can't get by with anything.

So I'm reading the latest one, quite a find, twisting and turning with a huge cast of characters, a favorite author outdoing herself. It draws me, in particular, because it features a Pacific Coast lifestyle including sportfishing boats, something I know about. I just spoke of this in my last post. The murderers, in this case, were incredibly stupid, but they were young and pretty and expert at that blending in thing. They killed a married couple by beating them up a little (not fatally), tying and binding them up a little (not fatally), then tying them to the anchor of their boat and tossing them into the deep. A witness said the couple had to have heard the anchor chain running out across the deck, knowing it would finally pull them in. It did. Yes, it was the lighter of the boat's anchors, but that's hardly humane. This scenario has freaked me out. I'm not sleeping well at night for thinking of it. I've been on the ocean in the dark. I've heard the chain run out into the sea, though I wasn't tied to it. I cannot imagine the horror those people must have endured.

Now, since 1-1-11, we have Investigation Discovery. 24 hours a day, it shows televised versions of some stories I know well. Whereas I rarely sit down to watch TV, I do often have it playing for white noise. Sometimes a case I've read about will be featured and I can hear the voice of that interesting detective or of that poor mother or of the brave ordinary citizen who was smart enough to recognize bat-shit when he saw it. This morning I was half-reading from my daily reflections and affirmations books. It was still dark outside and I would read my books with more focus several times during the day. This was my first run-through with the first cup of coffee. I heard the names spoken quietly on TV. My fishing boat story that I'm currently reading! I sprinted and leapt into the recliner, nearly tipping it over. Frightening. Bat-shit. Walking around among us.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Friend to All Who Knew Him


The other evening I was happily participating in Cramcake's gratitude posts which had entertained me for several days. Writing items for which to be thankful comes pretty naturally to me. I am grateful for many, many small and larger things. I thought to type that I was thankful/grateful to have enjoyed Stepfather in my life, but I got all jumbly. I decided to go to Walgreens and distract myself awhile buying hair goo and other important items. I came home and tried to type again about my honor to have known Stepfather. I lost it. Shoulders heaving, sobbing out loud. And that's before I really got going. Clearly I could not stick this man simply on commentary somewhere, no matter how special the blog might be to me. I needed to write about him because it was clear I had some wires that were still live.

If the reader wants to split hairs, come on. Strictly speaking, technically, he was not my stepfather. There were some pieces missing in that process. But he was my mother's mate and I don't know what else I'd call him. Or consider him. I come from a family that does not fit many molds perfectly. So he was my Stepfather, OK? And a second grandpa to Amber - to my eternal gratitude. He entered my life in 1966. I was 13. He left it by death in 2001. At his death, he was watching with great anticipation as I headed for a life-changing moment to come in September of that year. He missed it, to my eternal sorrow. He'd have cheered for me.

He was born to a large Mormon family in Riverside, California, in 1914. He maintained that Riverside connection all his life, though he eventually moved many places far removed from the Inland Empire. I have never known a man of 80 who still had so many friends left from his childhood. I've met about 20 of them, ancient fellows who still thought they were young boys. He had a childhood friend who became a Cadillac dealer and provided many, many cars across the decades. One sport from his youth was one of the Graber sons, the Grabers of olive fame. Graber olives can now be purchased in many grocery stores around the country for $5-7 a can. They are a treat that will not be forgotten. Every holiday season for decades, some lucky contingent was dispatched to Graber's and hauled back cases and cases of the olives for which no money had changed hands. Little kids in my family would pop 10 of them onto fingertips and grin from ear to ear. A favorite story concerns the year Stepfather went to his 60th high school reunion. Ex and I asked him, bellowing, for he was quite deaf by this time, how he'd enjoyed himself. He had, indeed, but he was disappointed so many of the cute girls had put on weight. He said this in dead seriousness. Ex had to step outside to laugh, visions of plump 78-year-old women dancing in his head. For many years, my mother marveled at finding herself in Italy or Sweden or in some dark corner of Timbuktu and suddenly running into some group of Stepfather's dearest friends. It was uncanny.

He had an extreme case of rheumatic fever in his youth, and was troubled later by rheumatoid arthritis. When I met him, one of his legs was much shorter than the other and he wore the highest, most built-up shoe I'd ever seen. At least 6 inches. He ultimately had one of the earliest hip replacement surgeries in the nation, repeated a few times across the years. It is my sense he was probably an average-to-good student. His spelling was always, ummmm, curious. But he was a shining artist in many methods, stained glass in particular. I know family legends get a little slick, a little too smooth with the retelling, but this is approximately how it went. He was poor. There was no hope of higher education for him. I don't know if college scholarships existed at the time, but they surely were not common. So the story goes that he went to a nearby college (now a university) and connected with the right person whom he told that he had no money but had a burning desire to be an artist and teach art to others and if they would allow him to go to school, he would someday return and do something fine for the college. He graduated with the class of 1939. He did return and endow the university with the swimming pool and aquatic center that bear his name, construction beginning in 1996 with continued enhancements after his death.

By the time I met him (1966), he was a very wealthy man whose net worth would increase exponentially throughout his life. He worked hard to make that happen. No longer teaching in the classroom at L.A. City College, he'd had an exciting life and he still had 35 years to go. He had owned bars in the far southeastern stretches of California. Once he went on a circuit to collect the receipts and one of the bars was held up while he was there. The robber shot Stepfather and every time he ever told the story, he spoke not of fear or pain. He marveled for the rest of his days that the blast blew him right out of his shoes. He owned a very large rose farm in San Diego County - the flower growing capital of the world at the time. He owned vast tracts of land in Las Vegas and had already started building houses there. He piloted his own planes and he owned fine sportfishing vessels that grew in size and luxury with each new purchase. He was generous to a fault. He enjoyed feeding people, entertaining them, taking them out to sea and up into the wild blue.
Some small minded people in my mother's own family still spew poison about Stepfather bankrolling her. They are mistaken. He taught her how to make her own money and she was a good student. In the early 1970s, my mother called to say that if Ex and I wanted to own a home at a much younger age than most Californians, we might want to come over to Las Vegas for just a short time and start making money. Our cottage industry was lovely. Stepfather built houses, my mother sold them, I escrowed them, Ex was the landscape contractor. Stepfather put up a lot of houses each year. Life was pretty exciting. When Ex and I finally decided to marry, Stepfather flew his plane over, completely stuffed with yellow roses, my wedding signature flower. For these flowers, no money exchanged hands. It took multiple florists to arrange these in time for the wedding. When my mother's alcoholism made her life unmanageable, he curtailed enjoying his own cocktails and took her to AA meetings. When Las Vegas busted, following the heady boom, he told us we were right to run for the coast to get jobs. We were too young to have a big enough cushion to carry us through a bust.

Some of my fondest memories include Stepfather's many kindnesses to my Granny. He called her Mary Belle, which no other human could get by with. She detested the "Belle" part of her name. I recall the summer when he had 75 houses completed except for the toilets. There was a toilet shortage. Seriously. Stepfather secured a sizable stack of Elvis Presley tickets which he parlayed into porcelain fixtures from California and other locations. We closed the deals on our houses while others sat throneless throughout the valley. Stepfather knew about some beautiful hams, as lean as poultry, and shaped rather like a football, maybe somewhat larger. I'd like a nickel for every one of those hams I've tucked under my arm alongside him, cans of olives, too, and gallons of good liquor. We'd take holiday gifts to each and every employee of each and every subcontractor at each construction site. That's how he felt it should be. The 1980s ensued. Ex and I jumped up to our necks into union work. Mom and Stepfather languished in Las Vegas half of the time and on the coast the other half. When Las Vegas was booming, they built. For years and years and years.

Amber was born in 1990. My mother and I were in the middle of a bitter, but temporary estrangement and she did not meet her only grandchild until the little girl was 5 - about to enter kindergarten. Of course, meeting Grandma also meant meeting Step. He liked Amber and she liked him. It was as simple as that. When she was 5 and taking bowling lessons, he produced a leather bowling bag, shoes and a swirly purple ball. When she sold Girl Scout cookies, he bought so many boxes he took them all to Father Beno's soup kitchen to treat the clients. He talked with her. Why do some people not know or know how to talk to children? He contributed a shocking sum of money to her education trust fund so she could go to Harvard or Yale or the local business college, as it pleased her. But the best thing he did for her, by far, was take her out on the boat. Oh, yeah, we went, too. We'd take her out of school for a month, get special assignments designed to play on what she'd be doing on the boat (different species of fish seen, weather faxes, GPS readings, keeping the diesel engines in good order) and we were gone. She knew by the age of 8 that she wanted to spend her life in and on the water. She never considered anything else. She was a brilliant student, and will be working as either an oceanographer or a marine biologist with master's degrees in both, before she is 25. Amber, an only child, has always been just a little reserved. Not chilly or hostile. It just takes her awhile to feel secure. She also has a soft, tender voice as her father did. Stepfather was very deaf by the time she was born. We taught her to stand directly in front of him, make and keep eye contact and holler. She did it! They were grand friends.

Late in Stepfather's life, he learned about McDonald's. He did love a chocolate shake and my mother took him for a large one every Tuesday. I don't know why Tuesday. It has nothing to do with the story. Some months before he died, she pulled into the driveway between errands on a Tuesday afternoon to the shocking sight of lots and lots of police cars, fire trucks and paramedic vehicles. What the heezy? Oh, we all knew he was done. One didn't have to be clairvoyant. He was 87 and he wasn't squeezing all the good things out of life any longer. He and Mom had only realized a couple of years previously that he was 20 years older than she and their lives weren't going to end at a similar time. He was tired. He'd packed about 107 years of life into that 87 years. When she went out on errands that morning, he'd gone to his stained glass studio where the .357 magnum was secreted in his workbench. He shot himself in the chest as he had planned to do, but it did not kill him. No amount of money or fast talk would keep him out of the psych ward. "Mom, do you need me, specifically, to go with you?" "No, I think Ex would handle it better." Agreed! I couldn't go. I stayed home with my little child. When Ex came home, he sobbed. Stepfather sat in a wheelchair, doped up, head hanging. He might have been dead. My mother wrung her hands. Ex stepped up and said, "Stepfather, we love you. What were you thinking?" "Ex, I'm an old, old man. Five years ago, I wouldn't have missed." He died of natural causes, at home, fewer than 90 days later. He and I had a little fun going on. On 9-11-01, the 9-11, my life was going to change. He was rooting for me. I'm sad he did not share in my success. He died on 7-11-01, not such a lucky date for him or us.

Likely, I know (at least partially) why his children eschewed him. OK. So be it. Their experience was not mine. Mine, not theirs. Why did his grandchildren value him so little? Likely because of watching their parents' treatment of him. He was smart enough not to try to be my dad - I had one I valued tremendously, thank you very much. He was flawed. He was the best example I ever knew of a person who got up every day and went forth to do good things and to do things well.

Something that charmed me: A favored bit of videotape exists and - oh! - it charms me. It was the July 4th holiday and we were out at sea, pulling in so much fish that we'd press it on everyone we ever knew and Father Beno's soup kitchen. When we went onboard, Stepfather told Amber he had a little project for them to do to surprise everyone else aboard. She was about 5, big black eyes sparkling at the notion of a surprise project. They went off together into the galley and we all swore we weren't looking at them. Yes, the sound of the electric mixer and the eventual good smells told us they were likely baking a cake, and they were. It would be iced white with strawberries and blueberries to fashion an American flag. Captain Sean had free range on the boat. He had work to do nearly 24/7 and orders such as "don't come into the galley" did not apply to him. He grinned, watching the cooks and it is he who saw what had to be caught on videotape. It was loud on that vessel. Diesel engines roaring, excited anglers one-upping each other outside on deck, electric mixer going. Amber is a talker - one who feels compelled to communicate. Stepfather was as deaf as a post. On the tape, she stands on an ice chest next to Stepfather, the only way she could reach the countertop. The viewer can see her mouth moving and her head turning toward him. No response of any kind. She continued to crack eggs and her mouth continued to move, though she got no recognition. She figured it out for herself. Not missing a beat in her egg-cracking, she shot an elbow into Stepfather's ribs. He gave a little start and smiled at her. She engaged in her own version of sign language to get across whatever important cake-making message she felt so driven to deliver. He bobbed his head. They were having fun.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blogger Eats Boogers

OK, look. I've done it long enough I know the ins and outs. I get how it is done, usually. Because I write and THINK, I'm usually 3-5 pieces ahead of myself, pieces "in the can" as they say. So why is Blogger saying (repeatedly, not once) that I've published a writing that is days away from being ready? It is god damned unnerving! It leaves nothing to the reader's imagination for what I might write about in the future. It makes me feel like spies are up my shorts. I do not care for it. If I want someone/something up my shorts, I'd like to have invite him/her/it.

To cop a phrase (sorry, dear) from my esteemed blogger friend, Erin O'Brien, "That is all."

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shorts Subjects

A couple of weekends ago, spring was seriously flirting and I got pretty adventuresome. Poking into the bottom-most dresser drawer, I fished them out, and they still looked and felt grand, though I'd not seen them in a year. I do not golf, but I could, because I have the shorts. It pleases me that women's golf shorts are not unimaginatively pastel like men's golf togs of old. No, these are bright and exciting and they weigh less than zero, being fashioned from a miracle fabric that wicks my (golfing, supposedly) perspiration away from my body. I own 5 pairs of the same brand. They are hideously expensive, but not to me, because I buy them on eBay at a tiny fraction of retail. I scrunched the fabric in my hands for the sensory thrill I knew would result. The magic goods feel slightly suede-like, perhaps like suede in its infancy. I looked over the 5 choices, remembering which tops and which shoes or sandals to pair with each for best effect. Feeling that I deserved to go all the way and squeeze every moment of pleasure out of this reacquaintance-making, I decided to slide on the pair I like best. Shite. Houston, we have a problem. I'd pulled those shorts up and over myself, buttoned them, zipped them, looked into the mirror and watched them slither right down to the floor, unfettered by buttons and zipper. My legs stuck out of them like two white sticks and it was clear. If I am to wear these shorts, I'm going to need a rope to hold them on.

I enjoy playing with clothing, displaying of it on my body. I'm not a fashion plate. I may not even have good taste. But I know what I like and I know what I don't like. I don't dress to seduce. I don't dress to impress. I dress for fun. For my own amusement and pleasure. I love to noodle around online finding bargains and I find - really - that if something about a piece of clothing makes me laugh, or even just grin, it's going to work for me. I have not always taken such pleasure in adorning myself. It is a newer game to me. I did not have the pleasure of "dressing up Barbie" for decades, and I'm enjoying it now. Not that my body resembles Barbie's in any way. Yes, even at eBay and other bargain spots, I've likely spent a shameful amount of money. At times I have owned too much, though I donated a mountain of really serviceable items and felt good for that. I've not replaced that mountain with new, unnecessary items.

I had no sister with whom to trade clothing. I would have enjoyed that, I think. For a very brief spell when I was 11, I could (and was invited to) wear some of my mother's things. They fit properly. But they smelled of cigarette smoke, even when recently laundered. And she was "old" and dressed that way. By the way, "old" is a relative concept. When I was 11, she was 28, but she didn't dress like Mod dollybirds in swinging London, and that's how I wanted to look. I rejected her kind offers very quickly. There was also a small window of opportunity during which Amber and I shared clothes, but it was not an ideal situation. I am virtually colorless and Amber is beautifully mocha - we have no business wearing the same colors. She was 12 and I was 50. Enough said? Oh, yes, and then there was the summer that she shot up to 5' 8", needing size 11 shoes, trumping everything.

I am also fascinated by the bodies that dwell beneath the veils. No, this post is not about to go south of PG-13. I am intrigued by the things our bodies can achieve and withstand. Perhaps the most heart-rending story of a body that I know is about Ex's and what he did to that body with years of drinking. When his body screamed "Enough! No more!", we had a 2-year-old child and were told he would not survive 6 months. Every bit of news was bad and then worse. It took him 18 years to die. That body worked hard to sustain the life force. It is something I admired about him, for with him, I saw physical atrocities that shouldn't be visited on any good human. And speaking of Ex's body, how 'bout the fact that we had a child! We tried, literally, for 20 years. It was important to us both. We accessed every scientific approach known at the time at great financial cost and cost to the soul when no pregnancy ever occurred. Not once. Same two people, same general health conditions. And then it did occur, just the once. Although I know how to do the "kootchy-kootchy, baby, baby" thing well and I love my daughter just because she is my child, I am also awed by the simple, unadorned fact that Ex and I made another human being together. Bits of him, bits of me, all of herself. It is a great gift and responsibility.

My father nears 80 and plays tennis every day of life. Despite his very small stature, he was an ace boxer in the Air Force. He suffered terribly from rheumatoid arthritis for many years, spending one entire year in a wheelchair. During one episode, he could not stand the weight of the blankets on his feet in the bed. He had my mother bring a cardboard box, slide it between the sheets, and he placed his feet in the box. That is burned in my memory. He'd learned it while in the VA hospital enduring an earlier attack at age 18. And yet he has not suffered now for 30 years or more. It doesn't just "go away". Where is it? What happened? I am brilliant in no way, but it occurs to me that my father's greatest periods of stability and happiness have also occurred during those same 30 years. Hmm . . . the body as the barometer of the heart and soul? He never harmed himself with food, alcohol or any other addictions. His body serves him well now.

My mother abused her body in many ways, from years of smoking, terrifying alcoholism (Her assessment. I am not qualified to judge her so.), anorexia, addiction to prescribed medication and addiction to working out. [Please note, I'm never going to point a finger at any human being and scream "Addict!" It isn't my right. If I feel the urge, I'll just glance into one of many mirrors available.] My mother, however, is heroic (yes, that one IS my opinion) about working the "rigorous honesty" part of her 12-step program. She tells anyone who will listen. I haven't always credited her so. I do today. Despite all the abuse, my mother is a relatively healthy 75-year-old who walks miles every day, attends her AA meetings and takes other steps to retain her health and well-being. It is amazing to me now to look into a mirror after I shower. Oh, yeah, the face is 100% my father's and 0% anyone else's except my own, I suppose, after all these years. (Ironically, Amber's face, too, is nearly 100% her father's. Oh, that hurt when she was an infant and toddler. I wanted her to carry some physical evidence that she was my child, too. Alas. But her brain and heart are much like mine, and that is a gift, too.) But my body is nearly 100% like my mother's. It wasn't always so. It is now.

My own body and my treatment of it, my acceptance of the ways that some others have treated it, is the biggest mystery to me. Right now it is the most healthy it has been since my youth, and I have maintained general good health for nearly 10 years. I do not get colds or the flu. Though I can trip over lint, I'm rarely injured very seriously. I find that when I push my person, I learn new and gratifying things about myself. Yes, I can walk just 2 more miles. I can swim 5 extra laps. I can and will be stronger at 60 than I was at 40. I seem prone to a few troubling conditions that I call "odd". "Rare" or "uncommon" might be more accurate. It reminds me that no one asks for illness or "conditions", there are probably no good reasons why some of us get this thing, but not that thing, and handling burdens with grace is a difficult task. I find I am frightened of things I can't control easily. This includes alcoholism - the most shocking illness I've ever discovered in me. I am frightened of the collapse of my self.

Some of my most frightening and lonely moments have been spent in an emergency room at a hospital with a very fine address in Las Vegas. I go to this hospital for the occasional blood transfusion, staying overnight to have my tank topped off and to be monitored awhile. Make no mistake, I am damned grateful to get a shot of A- when I need it and a blood transfusion is not physically difficult. Lie back and fill up. Read a book, listen to the iPod, take it easy. Walk to the bathroom if needed, request juice and have it magically appear. However, it eats my head alive. I focus and fret about the reasons I need a blood transfusion and why and what if and oh, my! At this hospital, I have never been housed in any other way than this: on a gurney in the hallway, pushed smack up against a wall, no curtain, brakes applied to my gurney so I don't roll away. I clutch my purse between my knees in case I doze off. My shoes remain on my feet, even while lying down, because there is no place to put them, otherwise. I stress about whether, if I do doze off, I will drool, snore or whimper in my sleep, right out there for god and everybody to notice. It is the most naked, the most vulnerable and exposed way, I have ever felt. I never fail to come away disturbed. But much pinker of cheek.

Most recently I have been working with someone on the junk in my trunk. Again. Still. This time, therapy and medication are assisted by everything AA, so another implement in the tool chest being applied to a pretty disastrous construction. I have become amazed to learn how many of my quirks (very nice word for such flaws) are symptomatic of alcoholism or other addiction, even some stemming from childhood. I have nearly dropped my jaw to hear some theories that say, "The patient may use these words . . . " and they are precisely the words I've used since my first foray into therapy. I wonder why no one, not one professional, ever suggested to me . . . oh, well. I found it anyway, even if quite late.

Preface to paragraph: I can't order up my thoughts for the day like items from a menu. I can't say "only fairy dust today, please". The thoughts just come on their own. This isn't a pretty paragraph. For many reasons, my body, my person, attracted a number of different forms of disrespect and bad acts over the years by more than one person. At a very young age, I knew how to take anger out on my body even when others were not doing so. I was such a good learner, I didn't even need an abuser to further damage myself. This strikes me much like young women who have been sexually violated and then become promiscuous as a reaction. I have sat before a number of therapists who have listened to me talk and then said, "Do you cut, carve or burn yourself?" I don't. Some of them have said, "May I look at your arms and legs?" Sure. I really don't do those things. And right now, today, I don't do many other harmful or questionable things to my person. Mostly, I am doing things to take care of myself. Not reliant upon anyone else to care for me, I am blundering my way along toward learning to take care of myself. Sometimes, I even think I'm worth it. That is progress.

Well, the sky is now hop-scotching from perfectly leaden to short periods of bright sunshine. The wind is incessant, the temperature just not quite warm enough to suit me. What's new? It saddened me to read about the death of Geraldine Ferraro just now. Yes, I liked her politics. But she died from an ailment I know about. Sorrowful. She hoped to survive the disease long enough to attend the inauguration of the first woman U.S. president. She didn't make it.

Something that charmed me: I don't feel so charmed or charming today. I feel pensive and restless. Tomorrow will be another day, and I'm sure I'll roll out feeling perky. I used to feel obligated to force a smile, put on a happy face that no one bought anyway. No more. If it's the shits, it's the shits. OK, here it is. A couple of days ago I developed a (new) resentment. Resentments are the keys for alcoholics to start the engine again. No, I didn't drink. I didn't really even think about drinking. But everything else was present when a resentment starts to take up the room. Let me see, shame and a feeling that one will never quite get it right, complete loss of self-respect, and little dangerous sounds tinkling in the back of the mind. Now, Tag has put up some Linda Ronstadt and I have 2 biographies to write.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Word Play - Simply For Love of Language

Created by self and other bloggers, thank you so much!

You are the cheese to my macaroni
You are the horizon to my sky
You are the bacon to my eggs
You are the laces to my sneakers
You are the jelly to my peanut butter
You are the Iams to my cat's dish
You are the muriatic acid to my pool
You are the smile to my face
You are the gravy to my mashed potatoes
You are the bubbles to my bath
You are the milk to my cookie
You are the ink to my pen
You are the ketchup to my French fries
You are the water to my ocean
You are the icing on my cupcake
You are the beans to my wiener
You are the comment to my blog post
You are the thread to my needle
You are the donut to my 7-11 case
You are the litter to my cat's box
You are the jewel to my piercing
You are the bookmark to my tome
You are the Garmin to my torturous trek
You are the sense in my sentence
You are the lens to my perception
You are the punchline to my joke
You are the mirror to my reflection
You are the phoenix to my hope
You are the cake to my ice cream
You are the hot fudge to my sundae
You are the sprinkles to my donut
You are the branches to my snowfall
You are the I to my loneliness
You are the island to my I
You are the spaces between the trees of my forest
You are the loveliness to my buttons
You are the underwiring to my bra
You are the canvas to my acrylic
You are the paper to my thought
You are the light to my shining
You are the glasses to my opera
ou're the Budweiser commercial to my Super Bowl
You're the Cinderella's castle to my Disneyland
You're the A-1 sauce to my steak
You're the iambic pentameter to my poem
You are the mouse to my pad
You are the Wite-Out to my typo (ask your grandparents about that one, kids)
You are the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building to my Lee Harvey Oswald
You are the Leo the lion to my Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
You are the George Martin to my Beatles
You are the neuroses to my Woody Allen
You are the bus to my another stranger
You are the shadow to my doubt

You are the sunshine of my life,
that's why I'll always be around

You're the tops
You're the colosseum
You're the top
You're the Louvre museum

What would you add, bloggers?

Created by self and paid $300 to send to relief efforts for Japan. (Below, a very early, primitive attempt at poetry. How's that, Rachel? I TOLD you it was modest and only a fan of me, personally, would pay for it!)
Some of you good ones have already e-mailed to ask what it is about, etc.
Please feel free to contact me in that way.

STEWARD OF THE HEART LAND

No more free right
of ingress and egress for you.
A toll booth was constructed,
your picture taped to the glass,
so you will be recognized
if you attempt to encroach.

You said you loved the landscape
but you plundered
irreplaceable artifacts,
smuggled out in your backpack and pouches.
Sand drifted from a hole in your pocket,
a sinuous trail like the track of a sidewinder.

You took brochures and attended lectures,
learning small things you could do
to help safeguard a precious resource.

The face is like a topo map,
revealing what there is to know.
Brow furrowed in apportioned concern,
yours inspires confidence and
hints at shared passion. You mislead.

You grasped the things that one can do,
for conservation and preservation,
citing by rote the steps you'd never take.
You are glib, though the sincere did not know
that for you to be spurred to
conserve or preserve, the words
must be preceded by "self".

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Work Juju and More

What a difference a couple of weeks can make! I believed I could not get meaningful work to save my life, and I needed meaningful work to [at least help] save my life. I rather half-heartedly made some job applications, resulting in a very quick offer of "work" with a Spam sandwich for lunch. Within days came the real and nearly ideal offer, proffered from a well-remembered shining place in my tapestry. It was both rescue and a tip of the hat for the efforts I've made to find health and peace. It has seemed a lifetime. In actuality, it's been less than one year, that quest for balance. Am I perfectly balanced? No. I'll have to work for near-balance every day that remains to me.

On January 20, 2011, Kass wrote a most wonderful post both in tribute to the writer Virginia Woolf, and to ask other bloggers about how they order their surroundings for writing. I was able to comment a bit about Woolf, one of my favorite authors and a beloved historical figure. But I couldn't say anything about my writing area, because I really had no routine, no staging. I felt both inadequate and dull. Today I'd be a little kinder to myself, remembering that I'd only returned to blogging one day before, after a 6-month breather. I'd been extremely ill, moved to a new home and was barely clearing some very dark clouds. I hadn't written in a very long time, and only once in my new location. There's no sin in that, nor in not being able to add to commentary. But it bothered me terribly. It made me feel very sad.

Now, suddenly, "writing" also means my work. I'm thinking to laminate or bronze the first check I receive solely in payment for writing. Has the reader ever divined that in addition to all of my other "-holisms", I might be classified a workaholic? I prefer to think I'm just painstaking and responsible about whatever work I undertake, but I am forced to acknowledge that I probably take it between my teeth like a dog with a bone and chew it to pulp. And there is all kinds of juju attached to my "work". Whether my work is running a little carpet cleaning company or enabling an executive committee to behave irresponsibly, trying to hit all the marks required of a union representative or simply behaving like the office monkey I can be when I won't engage, don't contribrute, refuse to participate, there is a certain sameness about my set-up for work. I've got definite ideas about what my area should look like, what items should be at my fingertips. It's not so very different now that my office is at home.

While I want my dictionary to be of the online variety, I love the heft of my Roget's thesaurus in my hand. Fully 2 inches thick, the pages have aged to a yellow-brown hue that pleases me. I play a game when I look up a word in the thesaurus. Does the word mean what I thought it means? Is there some synonym I may have never dreamed of? I find now that I win more often than the book wins. For more than 20 years, I've stored my colored pencils in small ceramic flower pots, the pencils sticking out like so many posies. I do not use highlighters ever, for any purpose, and I do not keep them at hand. I do keep complete coffee service at hand, even if there is another coffee set-up nearby. I want it at my desk. I always want a betta fish on my desk, and a live plant and several notepads, as I keep multiple lists running at all times. I keep a set of small weights and a hula hoop nearby and several small, framed pictures that are meaningful to me. My stack of CDs is about 16 inches deep, this in addition to all the YouTube links on my desktop. Yes, I know how I want my work space to feel.

It's different now. I'm still not 100% solid with being home, in "the robe", clacking away at the computer, and having it constitute my work. What do I need to do, start up the car, drive around the block into my own driveway and "arrive"? Organize a small faux "lobby"? Maybe make mens and womens separate restrooms? I could dress professionally for myself and then allow myself casual Fridays. I could start an office grapevine of gossip . . . or I could make some small changes to remind myself that my work is now different work, of the sort I've longed for, and it's going to look different.

In my home there is a small studio upstairs, presently unused. It is warm in the winter and hot in the summer. It has a large expanse of windows and French doors leading out onto a deck that overlooks the pool. It is well suited to host land-line telephone, internet and coffee service. It is rather removed from the rest of the living area of the house and, therefore, quiet. The cats thoroughly enjoy this little spot and wouldn't have to be enticed to join me. Should I make this my little atelier? I'm artsier now. Perhaps I should wear a beret. I own 3 genuine modern-day German military berets in different colors. Hmm . . tilted toward the side of my head . . . I have an Edith Piaf CD I could play loudly. I'd take up my antique crystal inkwell and my Waterman fountain pen with the 18k gold nib. I thought I might like a beautiful bottle of absinthe on the corner of the desk - no, I wouldn't drink any. I thought of it as decor. Then I decided what I'd really like are some of the sexy little absinthe spoons. I looked on eBay, the same place I spy out beautiful inkwells for the collection and - oh, yeah! Absinthe spoons.

David and George brought in people from both coasts for me to interview and I've already got more writing assignments. They were impressed with the work I'd done in 6 days. They were amazed I could talk pop art. They were pleased to see that my personality has returned, my vitality, my sense of excitement. I pleased myself in that I asked good questions during the interviews, connected well with my subjects, sparked new ideas. It was a good meeting. I met a most fascinating and pleasant man, and I'm not talking about the heat of sexual tension, but human warmth. "Can I take you out for a meal?" he asked. "No, not while I'm writing about you." "OK, I'll wait." Very nice, indeed.

On the way home, I decided to stop and pick up some things I needed. I'd been housebound for so long, even if by tethers of my own making. It had been a long time since I'd been out anywhere in the middle of a weekday, in the old neighborhood. I stopped at a nationally known megastore I detest. I don't like the trek through the place, I don't like to give them my money. Their prices are the best, however, and sometimes I bite the bullet. I got goo for my hair and moisturizer for my face, food for my cats, litter for said cats. I found a book I'd like to read, diet Dr. Pepper and some bits and pieces for the dolls I'm making. Finally my list was exhausted and it was time to check out. The lines weren't long, but what the hell? Every female customer in the place was carrying an armload of newspaper ads. It seems this particular store will honor any other store's lower advertised prices. I watched, fascinated, as matrons negotiated oranges priced individually vs. oranges priced by the pound, bickered about whether an 8-pack of light yogurt was the same as an 8-pack of regular yogurt, and just exactly what is the weight of those bags of Doritos. My eyes widened when the woman directly in front of me was busted for using as comparison the sale sheets that wouldn't go into effect for 2 more days. A young kid with a mullet highlighted much like my own hair stood behind me. "Have you ever seen anything like this?" "No, never." I looked at his purchases. A package of socks and a package of underwear. "You can go ahead of me. You've only got the two items." "Thank you, but haven't you been standing here a long time?" "Well, apparently not long enough, kid, because I'm still enthralled." Who knew? How long has this gone on?

Lying in my tub this morning, ears underwater, I enjoyed the distortion of sound, floating in the deep, deep water, and decided I want and need to write about something that isn't a particularly pleasant subject. April is Poetry Month and I was blown away last spring by all the wonderful presentations the various bloggers made. Mine will not be so pretty. I will be writing a series of posts under the heading of April Alliteration - Alcohol. I need to. It pleases me that I will write it from this end of the tunnel. Sunday I was journaling. Sometimes the writing takes on a life of its own as one's hands move involuntarily along the Ouija board. Without thinking about it very much, I found I'd written "I don't have to hide things and I don't have to drink." And that's what moves me forward toward doing the next right thing.

Something that charmed me: My BFF would know if it is some special time that honors women right now. I'm not as good about keeping up with such things, and - in fact - I rely upon her to tell me about special recognition or celebrations. However, in my own small world, I am celebrating women this week. Women older and quite young, women I know from different places and for different reasons. Of course I love my men friends, but this week, I appreciate the women. I had to get to a pretty advanced age to genuinely treasure what women can and will do for one another. Thank you, one and all. Sincerely.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Let's Get an Interpreter

He did not like women. Not really. Oh, he wasn't gay, though even that mattered little any longer, as sexual activity was not possible. It was more that he didn't value women. He didn't crave their company because he found their company invigorating. He was simply hard-wired to pursue them and did so avidly, a shark moving continually to keep the water running across the gills. But once he snared one in his jaws, he didn't know what to do with it. They weren't as bright as men or as interesting as men or as compelling as men or as worthy as men. They were difficult to understand and not worth the time spent trying to do so. When she pointed out that he didn't really seem to like women, a row ensued. He didn't let on that he'd heard that before, from other people. She wouldn't have been surprised.

His manly accoutrements kept him in the game and competition with other men, whose company was all he really valued. His golf game was good, his big screen TV huge, his sound system remarkable, his car louder and redder than most. He wore good clothing and he wore her on his arm like a wristwatch. When they walked into a room, other men of a certain age gave him an admiring look and sometimes an almost imperceptible nod. If anyone spoke to them, he knew he could rely upon her to give a sparkling response and he wouldn't have to think. She'd remember where the car was parked and the names of each of his new-found men friends. He didn't realize she understood she was so handy and useful - her purpose. He would have been surprised to learn he was so transparent.

He was his mother's eldest and favorite child. The other six seem to have occupied a second level in common, but he occupied a loftier position. It was his mother who told him that women always want something - always. As she taught him this, it never seemed to register with him that Mother, too, was a woman. Because they shared a home until he was more than 55 years old, Mother had many opportunities to underscore her assertion. He would have been surprised to hear it was unusual to live with one's mother for 55 years, thereby avoiding relationships with other women. He wouldn't have believed it. His mother made his good food, kept his home clean and warned him against prowling, selfish females. He hadn't missed out on anything in life by choosing to spend it with his mother.

After his mother died, he began a series of short, failed pairings with women. None of them could cook like his mother. None of them could easily see his deserved position in any pecking order. None of them loved him the way his mother had loved him, and Mother had been right: they all wanted something. He was a man who did not feel many things intensely, but he grew a deep, burning well of anger. His mother was gone, no one would feed him, no one would idolize him, and they all wanted to take from him. With each failed attempt to engage with a female, he became more bitter, and soon he thought of them all as objects - things for which he might have some limited use. He liked the more pliable and less intelligent ones best. They required less effort on his part and tended to be grateful for even small attentions. Once in awhile he met one who could cook or one who was willing to put him on a pedestal. Those were pleasant for awhile.

This one was different. She didn't broadcast her needs through appearance or conversation. She didn't ask for what she wanted, not money or jewelry or meals out or home repairs. If he thought for even a moment that she really wanted nothing, he would relax. But he had the strong feeling she had deep wants and needs. He thought there might be fire hidden behind the ice, but just beyond his ability to grasp. This required him to spend a deal of time thinking and he did not care for that. It required him to guess at what might please her and he knew he was not good at that. If he had ever pleased her tremendously, she had not revealed it with a huge smile and squeals of delight. Whenever he grossly displeased her, she made it very clear in a way that even he could understand. He could certainly move on. The social networking website e-mails announced themselves on his computer hourly. But women of this age tended to look a little shopworn, bodies growing heavy, hair turning gray. This one caused the other men to give him an "Atta boy!" His male coworkers raved about how attractive and bright she was, and how did an old dog like him manage to catch her attention?

When he picked her up for her Mexican food dinner, he was already in a huff. He did not know about Mexican food and the resort had a perfectly good Denny's. Everyone liked Denny's. "If she says one word about my driving, I'm going to put her out in the street," he determined. It wasn't as if he actually hit people. Oh, there was that recent Saturday when he'd had a close call with a big, fat cow who stepped off the curb right in front of him. He'd barely avoided a knock-down there and he knew it. When the woman he couldn't understand screamed his name in warning, his immediate response was "It wasn't my fault!" Not, "Geez!" or "Good Lord!" or "Close call!" No. "It wasn't my fault."

"I didn't suggest it was your fault. I simply didn't want you to hit a woman right before my eyes. This is happening way too frequently. What's up with that?" He'd fumed along silently, noticing that she slowly and silently shook her head from side to side. Pulling into the parking lot at their destination, he asked her again: "Are you sure you won't come in?" She would not patronize the place. "No, I'll wait in the car. It's sunny and warm. I have a book in my bag." It pissed him off. Who the hell did she think she was? And as he pulled into a parking stall, he solidly thunked into the car in front of him, setting the alarm screaming. She didn't say a word, simply looking at him. He slammed his car into reverse and prepared to get out. "Are you going to leave them a note on their windshield?" she asked. He was not. "If they come out and ask me if you hit them, I'm going to tell them the truth."

But now it was time for a nice, celebratory meal. He stepped on the back of her shoe walking inside, causing her to step right out of it. She took it with good grace. Once they were seated, the server brought the traditional basket of tortilla chips, a selection of salsa and bean dips, and invited them to visit the salsa bar. "I suppose that's the salsa bar," he growled. She grinned and pointed to the enormous, festively Mexican sign, "SALSA BAR" located about 6 feet away. He lumbered up, peered at the offerings and returned to say, "All they have is beans and salsa. You know, they bring these chips and stuff so people will fill up on it and not eat their food." She smiled, dipping a chip into the hottest of the salsa choices. "Really? I'd think they would want us to fill up on their pricey entrees rather than their free chips." That silenced him. He busied himself with the menu. "What's botanas?" She explained it meant "appetizers". He thought he ordered his fajita burrito with some panache and felt pleased with himself.

The server arrived with their meal saying, "Very hot plates!" He picked his up with both hands to move it closer to himself. Yes, it was very hot. "I don't like rice. Do you want to take mine home with you?" She had rice of her own, she stated. He knew from the look on her face that he was doing something wrong. Trying to divert her attention he asked, "How's your meal?" She said it was excellent. "What is it?" As she explained, his eyes glazed and he kept up the attack on his burrito. She was watching him closely. He knew she was! What the hell? She had never seen anyone tuck into a burrito, tearing open the tortilla as if it were a paper wrapping, using a knife to push aside the onions, peppers and seasoned pan drippings. She idly wondered exactly what part of the meal he might actually be consuming. "The beans are real good," he said.

As they walked out of the resort, she trailed a little behind trying to figure out exactly what she was seeing. Once she understood, she said, "Your cloth napkin is sticking to the leg of your trousers with static electricity." It made him very angry.

Friday, March 18, 2011

In the Eye of the Beholder

I'd had it in the corporate world, at least under the circumstances in which I was working. I'd come to my executive position after years of very liberal employment in a labor union. I felt strangled for a number of reasons. Assistant to the Executive Committee sounds quite lovely, and I had a glorious office in a beautiful new custom-constructed building. But the place was owned and directed by people who were rather . . . whimsical. Since no one on the Executive Committee wanted to do anything . . . unpleasant, those sorts of tasks fell to me. On the rare occasions when the owner would drop in, her constant-canine-companions would get a little distressed for some reason. Every time. They were enormous, well-fed dogs. I was expected to clean up after them. We didn't have a custodian, just a night-shift cleaning service. It fell to me to "counsel" young women (who were barely paid a subsistence wage) when they didn't dress in Jones New York career wear. And when I wanted to wear an outfit with transparent pantyhose, I was asked to first apply a bandaid to my very discreet tattoo so no one would see it. You may think none of that is justification to leave a job, and I'd usually agree. But I was 3 months away from turning 55, when my monthly pension would start and I'd have some supplemental financial stability. After years of advocating for employees, I chafed against being directed to treat people badly in the name of their employment. I needed to start looking for a different situation.

The newspaper advertisements were full of potential, and my resume was ready to go. I got up early, took on some coffee and hit the phones. By midmorning, I was deflated. I don't recall that I ever spoke with one actual human being. I listened to a number of recordings telling me to fax, e-mail, U.S. mail or drop off my paperwork and if I looked acceptable, I'd be contacted in the future and blah, blah, blah. Hey, I was on the job market! I wanted to meet a person and hear about the job they offered and convince them I was their woman if I thought I'd be a fit. I only talked to one such person, though the ad was two stoplights beyond borderline for me: "Entrepreneur Seeks Personal Assistant". Oh, it sounded Las Vegas-y to me! I didn't like to wonder what kind of personal assistance might be needed, but the man sounded very legitimate, his office was in a location that sounded safe to me, and I had no better prospects. Besides, I'm not usually opposed to "go find out what it's all about." The person was David, and I ended up in what has - so far - been my happiest and most rewarding employment situation in life. However, that's not precisely what this post is about.

I pulled into the small, off-street business plaza and found the suite I wanted. There was no company name on the door. I stepped inside and asked for David. "Sure, have a seat for just a moment and I'll get him for you!" I wasn't sure there was a seat for me, but I didn't want to appear to be nervous or about to bolt, so I finally perched on the edge of a chair and looked around the place. It was a rabbit warren of hallways and small, interior offices, stark white paint and no names on any of the doors except one: A1 Carpet Care. Oh, I could figure that out! Otherwise, I didn't know. There were a lot of busy workers. They didn't seem to be doing anything relating to carpets. Well, no harm. I'd know soon enough.

The reason I'd had difficulty finding a seat is that every square inch of floor, wall and countertop was taken up by miles and miles of truly shitty "swap meet art". The air reeked of oil paint. Some of the stacks were precarious, so one wanted to scoot sideways between the rows or tuck in the tummy or rear while navigating between piles. If one could find a seat in a chair, leaning back against the wall was inadvisable for concern of knocking pictures off the walls. The smallest of the paintings was larger than I, the largest of them, larger than my apartment. Most of them appeared to be celebrity studies. Muhammad Ali and Oscar de la Hoya, some NASCAR guy, a couple of Muhammad Ali together with the early Beatles (what?) which didn't impress me at all, Beatles notwithstanding. "Geez," thought I, "who in the world . . . no matter how much blank wall space you needed to cover up . . " "Leslie, come on back to see David!" I spent the next hour interviewing and when I left the place I simply shuddered at all that "art" and went on my way.

I started work at A1 the very next morning. In and out of the office each day, my purse and leather tote bag in my hands, I learned quickly when to swing a hip or do-si-do to avoid a stack of paintings on the way to the break room. The oil paint odor simply became part of the landscape. I know what to do if my surroundings don't smell like a flower field.

For my first several months of employment, David and I shared a very small office space, practically knee-to-knee beneath the desktops. He wanted me to learn that business by watching him run it. It was effective! I learned. Our office doors were glass, so others could see when we were in. Since the other office doors were usually closed, and the entire place a beehive, people often came in to visit us for a chat, a laugh, a breather. I'd been there only a few days when David's partner, George, stuck his head in our area to say "Steve's here." David glanced my way. We already understood one another pretty well. "He's the guy who paints these pictures," he told me. I thought to myself that we really needed some more of those stacked up, but said nothing. I figured we might owe him $100 from the swap meet last weekend and I kept working.

When he came into our presence, he filled the room. He was 6'7" or 6'8", a loud speaker, and just as comfortable delivering his monologue of the day in our office as he was at home in the Bronx. When I was introduced, his eyes never tracked an inch. I did not exist, no molecules taking up any space in the room. His bellowing voice attracted the men of the place and soon there was standing room only. He name-dropped shamelessly, as if no one else in the room ever knew a Las Vegas big-timer . . . and when he was finished with us, he left, all the men following after him like the Pied Piper. All except David. I stopped writing, as I'd been pretending to work during the "show", put down my pen and slowly raised my eyes to meet David's. "Go ahead," he almost grinned. I blew. I'd rarely met anyone who could offend me at just about every level of my person in so short a time. "Sexist, ignorant, insensitive, benighted . . " I sputtered. "I agree. I think part of it is that people just inflate his ego so he believes he's that wonderful."

I shook my head and got back to work. David got busy clacking away at his keyboard. He gestured for me to come and look at his monitor. There was that big rascal who'd just left our company! "Oh, I don't want to look at him!" He asked me to hang on and read just a few lines. Hey, he was my new boss. I'd read. "What? Assistant to Andy Warhol? Completed Warhol's unfinished work when the artist died? Commissioned by the Pablo Picasso Academy of Fine Art to paint a portrait of Picasso? Recognized by the Nevada Congress? The only American artist ever awarded the Pablo Picasso Ring? Painted the portrait of Van Gogh used in the Van Gogh Museum's logo? WTF?" David clicked to another webpage. The reader would be shocked to see what one can charge for a large piece of shitty swap meet art. My jaw dropped. David grinned. "I should have told you. I was just so focused on getting you trained." I nodded. I let him know that, absent any other choices, I'd recently put my purse on top of one of the stacks while I was in the ladies room. I could as easily have accidentally put my foot through one of the canvases. Yow.

The paintings were appropriately cataloged and moved to a secure storage location. The artist died unexpectedly. David and his partner own a fine stock of paintings valuable for many different reasons now. Those in the "beehive" contact private collectors and galleries daily, looking for the perfect match of knowledgeable collector to fine art. Oh, me? I have something to do, as well. I am to write a comprehensive, well-researched biography, for none exists. While the artist is well-documented in gallery show announcements and photo ops with celebrities he painted, for humanitarian causes he supported, and for a small vanity coffee table book he published containing his own autobiography, there is little independent, verified information about him in print. That's my job. Oh, come on! I don't understand football, but I know who Tom Brady is. And I know how to learn.

In my ears right now:
Because this is just the way it feels right now ~

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Did the Ides Turn the Tide?

I was sitting in the recliner enjoying a book. The prediction was that our valley would reach 80-degrees and I tended to believe it. The recliner is leather, and I was wearing "the robe", I'm a woman of a particular age group and phase of life - all the signs were there for "too warm". "The robe" is a thing of great tatty appeal. It is 100% cotton weave in a nice gray and black plaid. It has some details one might not expect because it was bought at a rather downscale emporium. As the robe was not purchased for me, it is not my size, but a mens' size small which is still large for me. It cost $4 on sale (probably because it was time for the store to bring out swimsuits) and the robe is a thing of comfort to me. I want it when I'm sick or sad, I want it when it's cold in the house. But I need to pay closer attention as I whiz past the mirrors doing my household tasks: if the robe is around for very long, I should take it as a sign I need to do some work in some area of my life. It is the equivalent of the ostrich with its head in the sand.

I'm enjoying my book. I'm enjoying the shlock I play on TV as white noise. I'm enjoying plying a needle, thread, sewing machine and surgical instruments as I begin to explore the most modest examples of creativity. I did not particularly enjoy my small foray into job-seeking last week. Mostly I got scammed, spammed and disrespected. That was by the potential employers who didn't simply ignore me. Now, I am not going to starve to death this week, but I need to make some changes for all manner of reasons. I'd even done the old "reach out and contact every past business associate you know". The results were less than overwhelming. Readers, I am not yet a perfect person. Nope. I still get angry and resentful. If we add some intoxicating substances to my anger and resentment, we get fireworks, but we're not going to do that on a weekday afternoon in the sunshine. Instead, I sat thinking of some smarty-ass things I could say to a particular man, like "Hey, when you said 'Let's get together and talk again soon about some options' I assumed that would mean within the same season of the year!" Or something. That's productive, and conducive to landing some work, eh? No, I didn't do it. And I chewed my own butt through several miles of walking for being so hateful, so small. It is a good lesson for me to hold my tongue. I can be impulsive, to my own detriment.

When the e-mail landed, I nearly fell out of the chair, for it was from the man I'd thought about unkindly. I actually blushed to read his name. The timing was just too close for comfort. "E-mail me or call me. I have a writing project for you to do." What the heezy? Not "Come and talk to me about something", but "I have work for you." Huh? Gainfully employed? Paid to write? We quickly made arrangements to meet and I spent a very sleepless night. He had told me generally what the topic would be, and I did some quick research so I wouldn't be stuck on stupid right at his threshold. Those who have visited this blog for awhile may be interested to know the man's name is [drum roll] David. Remember, he has many more business endeavors than simply A1 Carpet Care.

Wednesday morning, I fairly flew up the stairs on the back of the building to the upper deck. There were the heavy double doors, and I could see David inside with his partner, George. I leapt across the deck, grinning, and was met with "Look at you!" We met at length about a project unlike any writing I've ever tackled. Ever the office monkey, I took copious notes. I asked the long list of questions I'd brought with me. Finally, I said, "OK, I believe I understand what you want." David dug in his pocket and gave me a sizable amount of cash in advance for expenses. "What else do you need?" I couldn't think of a thing. "I take it you want me to do this from home?" They do, and encouraged frequent breaks in the pool or walking. George's style is different from David's and he hasn't worked as closely with me because I was always attached to A1 Carpet Care. He began to suggest and direct. "She knows what to do, George. Let it happen." And then, "Leslie, you'll have to let us know what amount is fair and we will pay it. We want you to get a chunk o' change for this." Oh, boy. "You look great, Les!"

David had me stay behind and he grilled me about every aspect of life. Where and how was I living, what was my medical condition, what was I doing with my time, what were the challenges, what did tomorrow hold? I told it all, unvarnished and unabashedly. It was the right thing to do. For, you see, I am employed again with every imaginable accommodation needed to make my life move forward positively. He offered, and I gratefully accepted, some assists that no person expects any other human being to provide. I wasn't even embarrassed to be in such need.

Get ready for corn, Reader. I like corn. It doesn't embarrass me to smell of it. I know what happened here. I visited David at the office earlier in the year. There were no work assignments made, no offers of employment. I wasn't ready. He knows me well enough to know that. He just waited. During the interim, I kept working - hard - to improve and heal. He could tell from e-mails and phone calls that I was doing better - on my way to good health and balance. He just needed to see me help myself first so he could step out of the wings and help me. I love learning new things!

I'm too excited to start the project. I've jumped around the internet like a flea on a hot griddle trying to start my research. It's not going to happen for a few hours. I am grinning, pinching myself, and I stopped at a favored store near the office on my way home. I haven't visited it since July. I left love notes on the windshields of the homes who have already called to say, "YAY!" It's been a very good day. And yes, I'll be writing more about my assignment!

In my ears right now: The sound of my face stretching as I grin bigger.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Let's Get Something to Eat

She had made and repeated the fearless moral inventory of herself as an important part of her 12-step program. It had not been as difficult for her as some addicts find it. She had had a lot of therapy in her lifetime, spent many years seeking self-realization and was naturally quite introspective. She did not lack awareness of her many shortcomings. She mostly did not let herself off the hook for them either, working actively to correct some of them, and at least admitting to them all. That had come with age and growth. Her youth had mostly begat denial and excuses. But now she saw herself quite clearly and she was OK with most of it.

She was a wordy person which some people appreciate and some do not. She didn't care for numbers at all. Numbers were not logical to her, and she was bright enough to know that that was completely illogical. Words warred to be the first to escape her brain whether written, spoken, sung or expressed in some other media. Numbers remained more firmly lodged in the gray matter and she had to struggle to manage even their simple use. Oh, she could add, subtract, multiply and calculate square footage quite nicely. She just always had to check her work twice to make sure. It hadn't been difficult to embrace her affinity for words over numbers. Despite that, her head was a veritable treasure trove of dates of events both important and unimportant, even to those more affected by the dates than she. The plethora of dates and events she could spew was remarkable.

"I'd like to take you out for dinner on Thursday." His face was a little more animated than usual and his fairly attractive smile lit it up.

Since he was pleasant, she determined to be pleasant and put a smile on. She teased, "Well, why Thursday instead of Tuesday or Saturday?"

He became kind of odd and the smile slipped. "It's the date we met each other. It means something to me." She cringed inwardly while trying to keep her game face. "I knew that," she lied. "That's why I was funning you!" Her hands became very busy and she moved the conversation forward. "Where shall we dine?" He named a couple of large resorts, each of which has several different cafes from which to choose. "You decide and I'll be happy with it." She pondered and said she'd enjoy a good meal of Mexican food. "OK, but you'll have to tell me what to order. I don't know about Mexican food." She felt the slow burn beginning again. It wasn't going to be about his deplorable driving this time. It was going to be about food. Food was not a good thing for her at which to aim anger.

She had never seen anyone eat the way he ate. Both his food choices and his table manners were atrocious. Some days he ate nothing whatsoever and some days he ate his weight in food. Sometimes he ate at 3:00 a.m. - ice cream and really bad "artificial" fried chicken one cooks in the oven to let all the grease run out from the crispy coating in streams. He'd never heard of low fat or reduced sodium or less sugar. She was certain he never knew vegetables came in any form other than canned until she pointed out the fresh and frozen varieties. He wanted white gravy on everything, just like his mother made for him.

By far, the bananas were the worst. She had never seen anyone consume 5 bananas in an hour. And there was something about the banana consumption that carried her from simple revulsion to real anger. She wasn't certain why she landed on anger. Perhaps it actually did start with disgust and escalated, as she longed to knock him in the head with a stick, to anger. His banana dance did not vary. Perhaps it was sacred to him. He first peeled the fruit entirely and then fist-gripped the naked banana like a child or a monkey would handle it, eating from both ends, with gusto and sound effects.

She had tried, rather half-heartedly and early on, to mine his food preferences so she could occasionally make them a meal. She found it hard going. Then she found it made her angry. He had lived his entire life in the southwest but he didn't know about Mexican food. She'd laughed at that! "What? You've never tried a taco?" He said he hadn't. She asked about lasagna, as she enjoyed making that. He'd never had that either. She didn't laugh. The man was more than 60 years old. In a part of the country where Mexican food reigns and has for decades, he's never sampled a taco? He's never tried lasagna at a restaurant or at someone's home or at a potluck meal at work? Never? Or did he simply open his face, insert food, never actually tasting it, never weighing whether he enjoyed it or not, never wondering if he might try it again sometime?

It occurred to her why he made her angry. It didn't come in a flash of brilliance. She'd had to sneak up on it, but it was gradually revealed. He went through life with blinders on all of his senses. Because he experienced so little of life, he had few memories, no stories. He had no texture. It seemed to her he simply ambled through the world, neither looking at anything, tasting or smelling. He paid no attention to other human beings, so he had never become socialized. He didn't know what 22-year-olds had already learned by simply asking or paying attention. He was singularly incurious, whereas she was curious about everything.

It seemed to her that it had finally happened. She had finally met a man to whom she would give utterly nothing of herself and he would find that acceptable. He might offer every fiber of himself to her, but she was not interested in the least. It had been her experience there was usually some accord about whether to continue casual relationships or end them. Mostly, the parties viewed the interaction similarly. That wasn't going to happen this time. For he was having the time of his life and she felt like she was losing ground. Her mistake was the same tired one: submit and resent. And now she'd allowed a situation to develop.

Some said she was a bit of a bitch. He was the salt of the earth. He had become sufficiently comfortable to walk up behind her as she typed personal e-mails, reading from the screen. She'd heard his hand on the doorknob a time or two when she hadn't quite finished getting dressed. She had become sufficiently uncomfortable to fantasize about running - literally, physically - down the street until she could not be seen. But, no. Running away like a child wouldn't resolve anything. Perhaps he'd even follow behind in his red muscle machine and find her! No, this time she'd have to stay and work to take back her sense of peace and self and self-respect.