Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ms. Creant

I have always been bad. It is not something I chose for myself, or can help, it is just the way things are. I am bad to the bone. When I was five, my mother brought home a white teddy bear from the A&P. “It’s a honey bear,” she chirped. I loathed it on sight. I liked brown teddy bears, so when Mary Shower, a sly shyster of a seven year old, offered to trade me her brown bear for it, I handed it over. She promised to go to her house and get the brown one, but she didn’t. When I reminded her, she pushed me down in the dirt and kicked me several times. Then she stuffed my honey bear under her arm and went to play with other children.

When I got home, my mother asked me where my new honey bear was. I told her that I had traded it to Mary Shower for her brown bear but that Mary didn’t give me her brown bear and my mother fell apart. “I got that honey bear for you,” she said, and two deep vertical lines appeared between her perfectly shaped brows. “I didn’t pay a whole dollar for that honey bear so you could give it away.” “But I didn’t give it away, I traded it,” I told her. It seemed important to set the record straight. After my father spanked me and my mother cried for awhile, I was sent to my room without any dinner. I felt like an arch criminal for a very long time.

That year, my friend Mary Ann and I changed our names to Dorothy and Patricia, such beautiful names, we assured each other, far more exotic and fancy than our own. She became Patricia and I told my mother that henceforth I would answer only to Dorothy. She discovered that I was quite serious when she called me home to dinner.

“Susan,” she yelled. “Su-san! Come in now.” Nothing happened. “S-U-S-A-N !!” she screamed. “It’s dinner time.” “I’m Dorothy,” I screamed back from the crotch of the sapling magnolia tree which could barely hold my weight. My mother was mortified because all the neighbors knew that her daughter was named Susan. Since she cared about things like that, she couldn’t very well call me Dorothy; they’d all think she’d gone wacko. She upped the decibel level. “SUSAN R------ C---!” she shouted in her overdrive voice. I stayed in my tree. This went on for weeks. I would like to say that I got to miss a lot of lousy dinners but my parents were really big on eating. Every night I was dragged inside and plunked down at table, unrepentant. Eventually I got tired of this and told them my name was Patricia.

My secret friend Gwendolyn walked partway to school with me every day. Incredibly, she said that she was 24 years old although she was shorter than I was at six. She had a large head with a long nose that nearly touched her pointed chin, and she looked elderly. The other kids called her "A Dwarf." “I love Frank Snotrag,” she confided, dancing clumsily on her short legs while she hugged herself. "You mean Sinatra," I offered. "That's what I said, Snotrag," she replied indignantly. I thought that somebody must be having fun at Gwendolyn’s expense but I never told anyone the things she said. It was obvious that she had more than enough trouble in her life already.

She boosted me up a maple tree to pick green pods that we split in half with our fingernails so they would stick to our noses. We called them “pollynoses.” My teacher ordered me to throw mine away immediately but Gwendolyn got to wear hers all day because she didn’t have to go to school. I would gladly have traded places with her. School was boring, and there was a whole world of adventure in the woods, and in books, which I longed to explore.

In school we were studying Genghis Khan and the Mongrel Hordes, thousands of mutt dogs racing through ancient cities with their tongues out, lifting their legs on everything. Contemplating the effects of this was truly astounding. I found a book called The Story of a Hundred Operas in our bookcase and read all of them. The most romantic was Aida, who loved her boyfriend so much that as he was sealed into his tomb alive, she jumped in to die with him. Years later, I got to relive this fantasy when I married my first husband. The marriage ended due to a lack of necrophilia on my part.

Most adult books seemed to feature heroines who fainted as soon as things got mudgy. Such frailty was presented as proof of how delicate they were, veritable flowers of femininity. This would not be easy. We didn't even have the right kind of furniture. I practiced fainting in my room, careful to fall on soft pillows I’d arranged on the floor. My dog watched with keen interest from the bed, awaiting her chance to jump me. She had no sense of how serious an endeavor this was. Or how much I had riding on it. Since I had never really fainted, I felt inadequate and unfeminine. I wondered what would become of me when I grew up and didn’t flower; not being feminine enough to faint was a source of private embarrassment for a very long time.

Meanwhile, there was often a rousing game of hide-and-go-seek going on outside, and everybody could play. We ran and hid as if our lives depended on it while the kid who was “it” yelled, “Allee allee infree!!” and searched us out amid squealing and pushing as we tried to get back to "Home free. Home free all!!" After several rounds, we couldn’t stand the tension anymore and we all collapsed on somebody’s lawn, drained and content.

It was summer.

Mother of Ten Buys Farm

My cat is neurotic. Out of control. She begins stomping in my hair and squealing at 5:00 a.m. now. She has not only adjusted to Daylight Savings Time, she has reinvented morning. She races from pillar to post rattling wires, batting around hard objects like hockey pucks and knocking things off surfaces in a specific order that never varies, like the Stations of the Cross.

Truffle suffers from a depression mentality. She believes that at any moment, the world's supply of canned cat food will run out and she will be found on the kitchen floor, feet in the air like a dead bird. When I go for my shoes, she goes for her bowl, looking over her shoulder fervently to make sure that I'm following. She would prefer to go for my jugular if she could reach it. She knows in the darkest recesses of her little kitty soul that I will never return. Every time I leave the apartment is the Very Last Time. I will not pass this way again, and her cupboard will be bare for all eternity. St. Truffle of the Perpetually Empty Bowl. She does not care for chow. "Try it, you'll like it," I tell her. "Chow is the new chicken." She sneers at me like a fluffy Elvis and knocks a new can of meat from the stack. I know she hates me because I have thumbs. She gets four or five feedings a day which must be microwaved to the perfect temperature, the one that approximates fresh kill. Even newborn human babies get four designated feedings a day: 10:00, 2:00, 6:00 and 10:00 again. This is the schedule imposed by hospitals. Anything else and you're on your own.

It makes no difference if Truffle has just eaten. When we sit down to a meal, she streaks to her bowl and directs her most imploring look at me, the one that brings to mind all those starving children in Europe I had to eat for when I was a child. I never grasped the logic in that, how my eating could possibly help them, but I passionately wished that my parents would take all that liver and cauliflower and send it to them. From this behavior, I infer that Truffle's fixation on food is as much psychological as physical. Her sense of propriety dictates that we eat together. Even if she bursts, hair and teeth everywhere.

She went to college with my daughter. Starred in several episodes of Pussies Gone Wild. Ten babies later, her kittenhood spent, she was given to Grandma to raise. We took away her "toys" and she fills the emptiness with canned flesh as often as possible, which provides endless opportunities for yakking in secret places, difficult to reach. If all the chickens that have died for this cat were stretched beak to tail feathers, they would reach Uranus. I think the medical term for her condition is Nutjob. Earlier posts about Truffle are here, here, and here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tennessee Dreaming

Sometimes I miss our home in Tennessee. When Flip and I were first together, we bought an old house with possibilities on an acre and a half of beautiful land near Nashville. The house had designated parkland on two sides which could not be built upon, and there were often deer in our backyard. The land rolled gently down to the road, and a creek ran through it.

We spent several years fixing it up ourselves. We learned to replace wood flooring and to re-fit door jambs. We ripped off artificial wood paneling that was in every room and turned out to be concealing large holes in the plaster and sheet-rock walls where there had once been air conditioners.

We tiled the bathrooms, updated all the plumbing and wiring, put in a new kitchen, and Flip got friendly with the snakes and spiders in the crawl space under the house replacing floor joists with cinder blocks. He would emerge from these excursions covered in spun glass insulation material.

The only thing we didn't do ourselves was roofing. It was legal to have only two roofs, one on top of the other, but our house had four. We had them all removed and replaced with a single new one.

It took a long time and a lot of money, but we were finally ready to paint the outside and put up shutters and window boxes. We landscaped the entire property.

We had purchased an old used tractor, which Flip painted green and yellow and called a John Doe. I found my true calling with that tractor. Cutting the lawn in perfect rows was marvelously zen. It took me six hours to mow all the grassed areas, while Flip did everything requiring strength and intelligence: weed-eating, hedge trimming, cultivating, pruning, and tractor maintenance. Every time I mowed the lawn, he had to make adjustments so it would work one more time.

Just before we sold the house, we bought a new Craftsman 28 HP tractor, and I was sure that life couldn't get any better. We each got to use it once before we gave it to the female couple who bought our house for much less than it was worth. I still miss my tractor.

Flip was eager to see Tennessee in the rear view mirror. He was tired of working at his day job with people who brought guns to work, and we both realized that we didn't belong in the South, despite its great natural beauty.

Nashville was a wonderland of music. Besides the ubiquitous country music, which we were not into, there were several jazz venues where we saw Joshua Redman, Brian Blade, Sam Yahel, Larry Carleton, and Wynton Marsalis, among others. We heard Leon Russell, the Moody Blues, Rush, James Taylor, and AJ Croce in concert, as well as numerous acts I've forgotten.

My favorite town character was an old man aptly named Buttons, as his clothing was covered in them. He performed authentic blues on a downtown street corner and was always up for a conversation between numbers. He had kind eyes and a good word for everyone who showed him respect, and was a great musician.

Flip's former music partner, Stephen, played at the famed Blue Bird Cafe, and Flip's new band performed on the Cumberland riverboat New Year's Eve, where I finally got to say the words that every girl longs to utter, "I'm with the band."

Our only near neighbor was a couple we'll call Jeff and Judy. (Most Southern men with only one first name are Jeffs.) This particular Jeff used to start each day by kicking his dog, which was tied to a tree, and revving up every engine on his property including the vehicles on blocks. He had piles of carburetors everywhere that probably resembled pyramids from outer space, and eventually built an immense and immensely ugly building behind his house to play mechanic in.

Meanwhile, Judy followed him around planting flowers, which tried to bloom among the vehicular litter.

I untied his dog one moonless night and took him to a shelter in another town.

The next day, Judy's son, Tommy, flagged me down and asked me to help him find his dog. To avoid blowing my own cover, I did, and we drove around calling the dog repeatedly, one of us with considerably more optimism than the other.

We ended up at a mall, where an appealing teen age girl carrying several shopping bags ran in front of my car without looking, and then flashed the universal cute teen age girl grin that means, "Oops. I'm sorry I scared you, but I am adorable." I grinned back while braking firmly.

Tommy leaned out the car window and yelled, "How do you feel about nooses?"

I was shocked but not speechless. (That rarely happens.) I told him I didn't feel that way and if he did, he was not welcome in my car.

I had seen the young girl, who was black, drive away safely, so I evicted Tommy and drove home alone. He and his brother shot their guns behind our house late into the night.

It's impossible to comprehend such hatred. The Civil War was recent and personal to so many people, who just assumed that we must share their prejudices because we shared their skin color.

It would be unfair to imply that all white Southerners hold these views. Many don't. But far too many still do, and we needed to be in a place where race was not a constant issue requiring us to take a stand over and over on something that should have been settled long ago.

Our other neighbors around the "holler" were the Peyton Place people. They lived in a huge house with several children. There had been two families that were best friends. They switched partners, and the women and children stayed in their own homes while the men played musical houses.

I thought there were kinkier things, like flying Confederate flags off the backs of pickup trucks.

Lorrie Morgan lived on our road and was known to be an evil bitch unfriendly. I learned to watch for her car after she sideswiped me into a ditch on my bicycle and nearly hit my dog more than once.

One year, I had a Christmas job at a local department store. She picked out a few things and cut to the front of a long line of customers waiting to be rung up, shoving her purchases at me.

I told her politely that she would have to wait her turn.

She yelled in my face, "Do you know who I am?"

I said that it really didn't matter, that I had to take care of everyone in order. She got abusive so I quietly commented that some of these people had helped her to become famous. She threatened to have me fired, threw her stuff at me and stomped out, leaving quite a cloud of booze breath, rage and bad perfume.

You can't buy class.

I made Christmas for a lot of people that year. I had no authority to change prices, but if someone complained that an item was too expensive, I asked, "What would you like to pay?" and rang it up at that price.

I didn't do it for myself, though, as that would have been stealing.

I was lucky I didn't get put in jail, but I think the store management assumed that I was too stupid to ring up sales correctly.

When I applied for a Christmas job the next year, I didn't even get an interview, or, of course, a job.

I know I got off easy.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Happy Birthday, Beautiful Lady

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was opened on May 27th, 1937, and was the world's longest suspension bridge until the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened in New York City in 1964.

The Golden Gate Strait joins San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean. The bridge connects San Francisco to Marin County, and as both US Highway 101 and California State Highway 1, is the only northerly route out of the city.

The bridge was the idea of Joseph Strauss, an engineer who had designed hundreds of drawbridges. He spent over a decade gathering support for the project. Architect Irving Morrow collaborated on the design, adding Art Deco touches and choosing the color, Industrial Orange, while engineer Charles Alton Ellis and bridge designer Leon Moisseiff were responsible for the complicated mathematics involved.

The cost was over $27 million.

I love the concept of a bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge is a notorious site for suicides. The official jumper count ended in 1995 when the number approached 1,000, and is considerably higher now. It is estimated that a person leaps off the bridge every 15 days.

The 220-foot fall from the bridge takes four seconds and jumpers hit the water at 75 miles per hour. Only 26 people are known to have survived the jump. Those who did struck the water feet first and suffered multiple internal injuries and broken bones.

One young woman may be the only person to have jumped from the bridge twice. She survived her first jump in early 1988, but died in her second attempt later that year.

Methods have been discussed to reduce the number of suicides. The bridge has been closed to pedestrians at night, although cyclists are still permitted. Attempts to introduce a suicide barrier have been thwarted by engineering difficulties, high costs, and public opposition on aesthetic grounds. It has also been argued that making the bridge a more difficult place to end ones life would only move suicides elsewhere.

The Bureau of Inverse Technology has deployed a number of Suicide Boxes containing motion-detecting cameras to monitor suicides and correlate, in real-time, the number of jumpers with the Dow Jones Industrial Index to create their novel Despondency Index.

I think that becoming a statistic should be enough of a deterrent. Plus, that is some of the coldest water anywhere.

It's stunning to consider a life so utterly miserable that death would be preferable. Such intense aloneness is hard to imagine. A lot of people would have failed to give someone a sense of worth to bring him or her to that point, as death by bridge is a very large crack to fall through.

There will not be a celebration or even cake on this special anniversary. No fireworks. It isn't easy to keep a low profile when you are famous and beautiful, but the stately landmark's handlers are contemplating yet another fare increase over the $5 it now costs to traverse the bridge and are hoping that no one will notice.

Let's raise a glass to a grand old girl, gateway to a fairyland beautiful city.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Pimp My Bank

I reported an unauthorized charge to my debit card for online music, and after much discussion with various departments at the bank, it was decided that we should cancel my card and order a new one.

"Today it's Rhapsody, tomorrow they could put through another charge for Apple Music," the Fraud Department guy suggested. "There are a lot of online companies offering music for your computer. $12.99 here, $100 there."

I saw his point.

He promised to put a rush on the new card, and this morning it arrived by Fed Ex. (I am sure the Fed Ex charge was more than I have in that account, but that's not relevant. Unless they charge it to me.)

There was an activation number on the back, which I promptly called. I got a sex line. Wow. That didn't sound like Bank of America at all, so I tried again. Same recording.

"Feeling horny? Call our live hot line from National at sixty-nine cents a minute.

1-800 SEX or try our collect call-back service. Talk live with horny students, housewives and working girls. Key word, wet. That's W-E-T. Wet.

Now stay on the line for Pilgrim Telephone Services."

I don't think these Pilgrims came over on the Mayflower.

At least it wasn't Dial-a-Prayer.

I asked Flip to read me the activation number on the sticker. It was 1-888, not 1-800.

I really need to get some new glasses. Or a seeing eye dog who can read.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Death by Prune

"If I get delirious and you have to take me to the hospital," I told Flip, "remember to tell them it was moldy prunes."

"Sounds like a rock band," he said. "The Moldy Prunes. Maybe. A rock band of old ladies, I thought, but I didn't feel that he should be making jokes with me on my deathbed.

We were out of ice cream, and also mochi. There were no cookies to be had. I needed a snack to watch the season finale of SVU and apples crunch noisily, so I grabbed an open bag of prunes and some Brazil nuts and went back to my show. After eating five or six of the prunes, I happened to look at one. It was white and furry. I spat into a napkin and looked in the bag. They were all like that. I might as well have been snacking on kittens. I am not good at vomiting. I have not barfed since my last pregnancy, and my baby is now a woman. I was never even able to stick my finger down my throat to get out of school; I had to lie about it.

I drank some water and rinsed my mouth about a million times with Listerine. The moldy prunes are still sitting at the base of my throat, waiting for me to drop off to sleep so they can strangle me. Or drive me mad like the women in "The Crucible" who ate moldy rye bread and were tried as witches. Mold is mold, and I'm allergic to penicillin. I even avoid Roquefort cheese. My stomach hurts, and so does my jaw. I wonder if you can get lockjaw from moldy fruit. It wouldn't surprise me. It would be ironic to die of this as I don't even like prunes much. I prefer them when they are still plums.

When I was three, my mother made me eat one and I choked on it. My father held me upside down by my ankles until the whole prune fell out of my mouth onto the kitchen floor.

It has taken most of my life for me to be able to even look at one again. There is obviously a reason for this. I have bad prune karma.

I'm so tired, but if I let down my guard, they'll get me. I am in prune hell.

Pray for this sinner now and at the hour of my death.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Enraged in San Francisco

I am disappointed. In a survey to determine which cities have the worst road rage, San Francisco was only ranked Number 10. I know we can do better than that. I have seen every possible kind of creative bad driving here and heard so much blue language that it no longer surprises me. Unless our rating means that we are a Perfect 10. We are perfectly terrible drivers in every measurable way, and also most angry. Perfect.

I grew up in New York, Number 2 on the list after Miami. Now that I can believe. Also Miami. Boston ranked 3rd, and Los Angeles 4th. I have lived in the first three, as well as Minneapolis, Number 14, and San Diego, Number 17. Do we sense a trend here? I'm surprised that Nashville did not make the list. They have more accidents per square mile than any other place I have lived. Of course, they didn't used to have any open container laws, which was certainly a factor. The rudeness quotient is not high there as Southerners are capable of doing horrible things more politely than anyone else, bless their hearts.

It seems that bad driving and road rage are on the increase everywhere, and I contemplate the reasons for this every day while trying to stay alive behind the wheel. I was pretty sure that the problem was not exclusive to San Francisco, although it is a small, hilly city with far more cars than the roads were intended for. I wonder if I am more aware of bad drivers because as I get older, there are more who are younger than I. Statistically, the youngest drivers are most likely to have accidents because of inexperience, juiced-up hormones, and the belief that they can't die, plus of course, their propensity to do other things while driving like talking on their phones, texting, putting on makeup, fiddling with CD players, eating, drinking, and copping a feel. Simultaneously.

I have witnessed a carload of eight kids jump out at a red light clutching beer cans, run around the car and change seats, in full view of a police officer. Did they get ticketed? Nah. Bad cop, no donut.

I do my share of swearing at other drivers, although I do so furtively so as not to rattle any cages. I have no desire to be shot. I am not given to flipping birds, but I learned to drive in New York and I know what my horn is for.

The list, ranked from those reporting the most incidents of road rage to the fewest:

1. Miami

2. New York

3. Boston

4. Los Angeles

5. Washington, D.C.

6. Phoenix

7. Chicago

8. Sacramento, Calif.

9. Philadelphia

10. San Francisco

11. Houston

12. Atlanta

13. Detroit

14. Minneapolis-St. Paul

15. Baltimore

16. Tampa, Fla.

17. San Diego

18. Cincinnati

19. Cleveland

20. Denver

21. Dallas-Ft. Worth

22. St. Louis

23. Seattle-Tacoma

24. Pittsburgh

25. Portland, Ore.

Where does your city rank? If it's after Number 25, please send airline ticket.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dial "M" For Mother

My friend, J, is looking for her birth mother. J is 31 years old. She was privately adopted at birth, and knows very little about the teenage girl who gave her away to parents who were old enough to raise a child. J's adoptive grandmother was there minutes after her birth, and took her from her biological mother's arms to her own daughter's.

J was raised in a family of great means that desperately wanted children, but couldn't have them. She has enjoyed every advantage that wealth could provide, and is at ease nearly everywhere in the world. She is one of the brightest people I know, resembles a naturally blond Brooke Shields, and is a PGA-ranked golfer. She is also one of the funniest people on earth. J is incredibly special.

She has placed her name and information on a national registry that exists to reunite adopted children and their birth parents if both are willing, but so far, there is no match. Who wouldn't want to be her mother? Every effort to find this woman, who is now in her 40's, has failed. It isn't that J is unhappy with the parents who raised her. She isn't looking to replace them. But a part of her remains unknown to herself because she has no idea who her biological family is. How can she then fully know who she, herself, is?

I have always been intensely interested in the issues surrounding adoption, although I was not adopted, and am not an adoptive parent. Nor have I ever given up a baby that was born to me. I would not have been capable of that kind of selflessness. If I had ever been forced to do so, I would have spent my entire life peering into the faces of passing children. I would have marked my baby's birthday every year, and never stopped looking for him or her. Giving up my own child would have been worse than amputation. It is hard to praise women enough who recognize their inability to give babies everything they deserve. It is a truly noble thing to do. I cannot imagine that in most cases, it is done without enormous soul-searching and many tears.

It was always my dream to have biological children and to adopt others. I envisioned my home as a place where kids of various ethnicities would become a family. Since I did not have Angelina Jolie's bank account, I did not adopt. I gave birth to three incredible children, whom I raised alone, and I took in animals. We all find our own level. The clothing bills for my dogs, cats and ponies were non-existent, and I didn't have to put them through college. (All my children accomplished this with scholarships, grants, and student loans.)

But how incomplete J and other adopted children must feel not knowing such simple things as whose eyes they have, whose hair, whose artistic talent or math skills. They deserve to know of any medical conditions to which their genetic heritage predisposes them. No matter how much love they share with the parents who raised them, they must wonder what their lives would have been like with their biological family, and if they have brothers and sisters somewhere. It must be a very special kind of loneliness. I hope that J and her birth mother are able to find each other and connect in some way, maybe even grow to love each other as the wonderful people they surely both are.

Happy Mother's Day to the special women who gave their children better lives through adoption than they, themselves, could provide.

UPDATE: J has found her birth mother! They have been talking lengthily, and will meet in person soon. I am so happy to be able to report this beautiful outcome, and I really believe that all the good energy you guys sent her way helped.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

It's Mother's Day, as if motherhood were a state of being that occurred but once a year. Still, Hallmark aside, it serves as a lovely reminder of the three occasions I was able to play God and bring my children into the world.

Each of their birthdays is a special Mother's Day for me. If I had never accomplished anything else in my life, I would feel that I succeeded magnificently because of them. My children have grown up and become the people they were meant to be. It happened much too fast, but watching the whole process has been miraculous.

My memories of them at all the ages they have been so far give me great joy and sometimes, laughter. It's been the ride of a lifetime, and continues to fill me with wonder. I raised my own best friends, and I am truly blessed.


This is a channel-bridge over the River Elbe and joins the former East and West Germany as part of a unification project. It is located in the city of Magdeburg, near Berlin.

It took six years to complete at a cost of 500 million euros, and is 918 meters long.

The photo was taken on the day of inauguration.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Playing Well With Others

It was an uneventful day. I did not win a Pulitzer Prize. I did not win a Nobel Prize, or even a Booby Prize. I was not chosen (again) for Miss America. It's getting old, this not being chosen. That ain't no way to treat a lady.

There is a thong on the floor of the lobby in my building. It has been there all day. Somebody was in a hurry. It is brown. A brown thong.

I didn't know that Sheryl Crow lived here.

If I got to choose my neighbors, some of them would not make the cut. Princess Leia would be plying her wares elsewhere, and a young man whom I usually refer to as "Dickboy" would be gone, too.

He has the charming habit of leaving his garbage outside the door of his apartment, sometimes for days at a time. I have concluded that he is waiting for the Garbage Fairy to come and take it away, perhaps leaving a few quarters under his doormat.

I parked in the driveway for less than a minute while I unloaded some heavy bags, leaving my motor running. Dickboy drove up in his giant SUV and leaned on his horn, even though he could see what I was doing and assume that I did not plan to leave my car there all night, blocking admittance to his obscenely large vehicle. Although somebody should.

I have lived here longer than he has, so if anyone has a right to be a territorial asshole, it would be me.

He rarely bothers to click the garage door shut, which upsets me because we keep our mountain bikes out there, attached to a pillar with a flimsy chain. Our helmets were already stolen once, so we now keep their replacements in the apartment.

He slammed into the garage after me, removing a section of the door frame he missed last time with his fender and strewing large splinters everywhere. Once I had gathered up the rest of my parcels, he had already entered the building.

A huge trash bag was blooming right in front of the door. The drawstring was not fully closed, so I peered inside at soda cans, beer bottles, empty potato chip bags, cigarette butts and other garbage which had clearly come from his car. (So comforting that he drinks beer while driving.)

Dickboy was too lazy to carry it upstairs and throw it down the garbage shute into the dumpster. I extracted a postcard with his name on it.

After hauling the heavy, leaking bag up four flights of stairs and placing it against his door, I propped the postcard on top so he would know that the Garbage Fairy didn't just make a wild guess as to whose trash it was.

I am not his frickin' mother. I already raised my children. They turned out fine. I do not care to raise him, too. I don't even like him.

I'm sure he was raised by rabid weasels. It's nearly Mother's Day. I hope he takes his mother some fresh roadkill on Sunday.

Today, I got an e-mail called a PajamaGram. "Mom Deserves To Be Pampered This Mother's Day," it proclaimed in big bold letters.

It advertised All Women's Pajamas Delivered With Free

*Keepsake hatbox
*Lavender sachet
*Do not disturb sign
*Gift card

Who thinks of this stuff anyway? Will they bring back housedresses next?

Apparently, lavender and old lace are alive and well. Does anybody under the age of 70 even know what a sachet is? And who uses hatboxes? I have never owned a hatbox in my life, but if I did, I would keep cat litter or crayons in it.

Women who use sachet and hatboxes most certainly have no use for "Do not disturb" signs.

A billboard offering some kind of freebies might be more useful. Maybe Tuesday Twofers. Or hummers.

Tomorrow may be the day I win a Pulitzer, Nobel or beauty crown. But in the meantime, I got to live another day, and it was good.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Betty & Veronica Fist-Fight Long Distance

I've been pondering friendship today.

I have an old friend, in fact she is the friend I've known longest, and for that reason I cut her more slack than I might someone newer to my life. Our mothers knew each other, and our daughters are friends. In fact, we know each other because our parents met when her family moved to our town, and my mother volunteered me to introduce her to other kids. It felt like a blind date, something I always avoided, but we hit it off well enough. That was a long time ago. We haven't been 18 in years.

She means well. At least I think she does, but she treats me like a moron. No matter what I do, she criticizes me and demands that I do it her way. For my own good. Of course I ignore her. I have always had a problem with authority figures as I dislike being told what to do. I certainly don't make friends with them. Friendship by definition is a relationship between equals.

She has sometimes been there for me when I needed a friend, but the cost is high. She is bossy and abrasive, and seems to consider herself my self-appointed life coach, while I do not believe that I need one. If I did, I would not choose her for the job. After all, I have survived many hardships and I am still here. I have not lost my compassion for others or my sense of humor. My capacity for joy is alive and well. I have become stronger because I had to, and I like myself better now than I ever have. So why does she persist in treating me as if I'm stupid? She is a Special Ed teacher, but this behavior predates her teaching career by many years.

Strangely, perhaps, we have never had much in common. We have vastly different value systems. She has only been involved with wealthy men because they provided well, regardless of how they got that way. We do not want the same things out of life. I have never liked any of her other friends. Our own relationship survives mainly because of longevity. She does not care for animals. She is the kind of mother who eats her young. And her plants die.

This morning on the phone, she started again. Her voice took on a familiar hard edge as she reminded me that it was stupid for Flip and me to live in San Francisco for reasons I can barely remember. Let's just call them blah, blah, blah, and blah. I told her very calmly that she treats me as if I'm stupid, and I am not. (I saw Flip's head spin around like Linda Blair's, smiling. He has wanted me to address this for years.) She denied that she thinks I'm stupid, but continued to push her superior plan for my life as if it justified her behavior.

I said that she couldn't possibly respect me since she thinks I make poor decisions. I pointed out that I have done quite well in handling most of the crises I've been dealt, and demeaning me does not match my definition of friendship. I know that nothing will change, but I feel better for standing up to her. And I've bought myself a week or two of tranquility while she sulks. I just read a post on Another Tangential Thinker in which CS responds to five interview questions. Here is what she says about friendship in Question 5.

I would like all my friends to be more like her.

Friday, May 04, 2007

How Not To Murder Your Wife

The owner of a manicure shop next to the launderette I patronize was murdered a week ago Sunday. Mai Banh was found dead in her workplace, where she spent 10 hours a day, six days a week, so she could give her children a better life. Her two sons, ages 4 and 8, were placed in the custody of Child Protective Services after her estranged husband admitted to bludgeoning her to death. He had reported her missing, although they no longer shared a home, and was also the one who "found" her body. Jeff Nguyen led police to her shop at 10 p.m. on April 15th, telling them he had found her dead on the floor. The victim's uncle had also arrived and was sobbing uncontrollably while her husband acted as if nothing had happened. Suspicions aroused, the police recovered his wife's wallet and jewelry from his garage. His vehicle also yielded evidence of his involvement in the crime. He is being held on one count of murder.

I hope their children have relatives who will raise them and love them so they don't have to be farmed out to strangers as they have now lost both their parents. It's impossible to understand why someone would murder his spouse, the mother of his children. The end of a marriage should not mean the end of life for one of the partners. Nobody has the right to determine when another's life ends. How hard a concept is that to master?

Years ago, I managed a domestic violence shelter in North Carolina. It was my job to counsel the clients as well as to keep the building running. The hours were long, and I often had a police escort home after midnight because of death threats. Some men were displeased that I stood between them and their human punching bags.

The officer would follow me home and check out my house for intruders before allowing me to enter. Since I lived on a remote dirt road in the country, it would have been easy to attack me after he left, but we went through the charade anyway. It made him feel safer.

To work in the domestic violence field is to have your heart broken every day. One of my clients was a woman whose two daughters, ages 11 and 13, had watched their father string her up above a wood stove and beat the bottoms of her feet with a hose, then burn her breasts with a blow torch. He raped her with a bottle while they screamed for their mother. The rope broke and she fell onto the stove, where he left her. A relative brought her to me. Most of our counseling sessions concerned her intense feelings of guilt because it was her fault he'd been arrested. His whole family was mad at her.

I tried to make her understand that she didn't deserve to be abused, and she finally agreed to be relocated to another state with her children. A month later, she left the shelter I had sent her to, bailed her husband out, dropped all charges, and returned to domestic bliss with him. He murdered her that night.

Another client I still remember was cute, blond and pudgy, a young Natalie Maines look-alike. She arrived at the shelter on Christmas Eve with three small daughters, a diaper bag, and a large plastic shopping bag filled with wrapped presents. She asked if I had any band-aids because "Stretch marks bleed if you get hit on them."

My eyes filled with tears, and I looked down at the toddler in my lap. "Cindy, I have to ask if you have any drugs or weapons with you," I said. She shifted the baby slightly and dug into her shopping bag. She extracted a package wrapped in bright green paper with Santa Claus hugging Rudolph all over it, carefully removed the paper and handed me a .38 Special. "It was the only way I could get it out of the house," she giggled. "It's my husband's. I was afraid he'd shoot me if I didn't take it."

When I took her and the children to their room, she proudly showed me a tattoo on her butt of Garfield raising a beer stein. It said "BOTTOMS UP" in large letters under the picture. Later that night, I called the police because her husband climbed onto the roof while his mother and two brothers stood in the street hurling rocks at our windows.

Another client asked me if I had ever been beaten by a man. I told her that I hadn't. She regarded me with pity, her big, dark eyes filled with sadness. "But you're so sweet and beautiful," she said. "I can't believe that no man has ever loved you enough to beat you."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Stealth Miss(ile)

When I am bereft of flowers, I go on the prowl.

A few days ago, I saw pink jasmine growing near the Palace of Fine Arts, so under cover of darkness, I headed out tonight. I walked up and down streets near the Bay, unable to remember where I had seen them as I hadn't thought to make note of it. I didn't know I would need to. I have scruples. I never steal flowers that grow on stems, nor do I take my clippers as that would be lacking in spontaneity, even crass. Premeditated. I do not ever take them from private property, although public areas are fair game. Purchased flowers are always welcome, but sometimes I just crave the home-grown variety.

On one corner, an official-looking sign was attached to the street marker: "Suspicious activity will be reported to the police." Those Neighborhood Watch types never give up. Some garages had heat-sensors that set off spotlights when someone walks by. Those houses didn't even have flowers to steal. What were they protecting? A few dogs barked from inside. I barked back at them. They barked louder. So did I. I am a very good barker. I always have the last word.

Flip refuses to accompany me on these excursions. He does not have a clandestine bone in his body, and considers me a criminal because I do. The wind was whipping and it started to rain. I don't know why Chicago is called the Windy City, probably because whoever claimed that title had never been here.

I grabbed a bough twig of pink jasmine from the grounds of an elementary school and headed home, hair plastered to my head.

It had been awhile, but the body remembers. Like riding a bicycle. I know I should hate myself, but I really, really need flowers around me. I need them in a vase by my bed so I will have sweet dreams. it can't be a bad thing as I have never heard of a 12-Step program for flower thieves.

Still, it seems that I have not reformed, as I imagined. I just didn't need to pilfer flowers while I had a backyard full of them. Now that I don't, I'm back in operation. Old habits die hard.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A Rose By Any Other Name

Flip has found a widget that offers Homer quotes.

"Ohh," I thought. "The Iliad and The Odyssey. How interesting!"

He read me one.

"Homer no function beer without well."

Ahh, the Simpson's Homer.

Well, that's different.

Never mind.