Monday, June 25, 2007

I Am Honored


Thinker at Theory of Thought has awarded me the Rockin' Girl Blogger Award. Thank you, Wonderful Person, for putting me in the same league as you.

I am choosing five women who, as far as I know, don't already have this particular honor. I am also not giving it to anyone I gave the Thinking Blogger Award to so as to spread the love.

It's not easy because there are so many of you whose blogs I read constantly and enjoy so much.

1. Meno at Meno's Blog always makes me think or feel something. Her comments on other people's blogs are often exactly what I want to say, but she usually says it first. Naturally, I think she's brilliant.

2. Josie at All In Good Time has an adorable puckish irreverence and her varied posts are always delightful company. She is also a most talented painter.

3. Pam at Audio Video Disco..I Hear..I See.. I Learn. Her blog is a wonderland of gorgeous photographs with commentary of Australia through the eyes of someone who loves her land, and is one of the most genuinely kind and giving people in the blogosphere.

4. Eslocura at Eslocura's Asylum returned to Puerto Rico, where she was born, after growing up in Brooklyn, NY. She is an observer and a seeker who is able to convey real life in the Caribbean, which is fascinating to those of us who have only been there as tourists, if at all.

5. Jocelyn at O Mighty Crisis often manages to be delightfully cranky and screamingly funny at the same time. Not surprisingly, she teaches writing, and is truly someone to emulate.

So there you have it, ladies. If anyone cares to pass on this award, please let me know so I can read your selections.

Consumer Fraud


How does the women's clothing industry justify charging the exact same amount of money for my size 2's as they do for larger sizes? In some cases, my things use half the amount of fabric and, one assumes, take less time to assemble, so seamstresses can, theoretically, run up several in the time it takes to complete one larger one. It's not fair. Whatever happened to the concept of getting what you pay for?

It isn't easy to find acceptable clothing in small sizes either. I am not an ice cream cone, nor a big fan of ruffles that make their wearer resemble a lampshade.

On top of that, I have to shell out for alterations, while men do not. Their trousers actually come with a raw edge for hemming. It is expected that they will be hemmed to the right length at no extra charge, while I have to pay quite a lot on top of the already inflated purchase prices to avoid tripping. Since the clever makers of women's clothing believe that all women are of my exact weight but 19 feet tall, everything I buy has to be shortened. It's also wasteful. All those two-foot tubes of cut-off denim from the legs of my jeans, stretched end to end, would probably reach from here to the New York garment district, but are utterly useless, good only for lining a hamster cage. If I had a hamster.

I am sure that this accounts for women's adoration of shoes. Shoes do not need to be altered. If you select them out of vanity rather than practicality, they will alter your feet, but shoes do not have to be shortened, taken in, or otherwise adjusted. They are instant gratification attire. You put your feet in and go. And that is what I'm going to do. I'm putting on my shoes and going to New York on Wednesday. I'll be gone for ten days. I don't know if I'll be checking blogs or posting in that time, but I'll try. It beats the hell out of shopping.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Very Best


Tomorrow is my birthday, and guess what I got in the mail today? A Special Invitation to... HALLMARK Magazine. Omigod. Do I look like a Hallmark kind of person to you?

Ew.

"This is what you'll get," it proclaims.

"Lots of ideas that cost nothing. Lots of proud, joyful moments. Lots of long, lavish hugs. A wealth of great times. A wealth of great memories, all wrapped up and made easy for you."

Ewwwww. Has it never occurred to these people that I would not like my life to be prefabricated like Sea Monkeys, who live in suspended animation for years until they are dropped in water? I don't even buy greeting cards with canned messages, but blank ones in which I write something specific to the occasion and the recipient.

"Hallmark Magazine really helps with things that matter: What to say when your child goes to college, what to do for a friend going through rough times. How to cope when your parents need your compassion and care. Even what to say when there are no words." Honestly, people. There are always words. We are a thinking, feeling, verbalizing species. It is really not necessary to substitute sentimentality for true sentiment. At least, I would hope not.

"For nearly 100 years, Hallmark has helped people connect & celebrate. Our slogan "When you care enough to send the very best" has come to mean showing how much you care. You deserve the very best."

I do. And I am my own very best. I do not need freakin' Hallmark to help me simulate feelings. In fact, right now, my overwhelming feeling is that this revolting piece of crap advertisement belongs in the garbage, right down to its last fancy font. I have to wash my hands now. Hallmark crackwhores, just go away.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Long and Winding Road

Today I lost someone very dear to me. I first wrote about Adolf in October, on his 104th birthday. For a very long time, we have had daily telephone conversations. Until a few weeks ago, he lived alone in his home on Long Island, taking care of himself. He had become completely blind, but knew every inch of his surroundings.

He always insisted that he had "no aches and pains." In late May he fell, but managed to get up again. He didn't mention it to me or his daughter-in-law in Maryland for several days. When he realized that he was not improving on his own, he allowed her to take him to the hospital, where it was discovered that he had a compression fracture in his back. Two weeks later, he was delivered by ambulance to a nursing home in Maryland, near Marlene and her family.

His son and only child had died young of kidney disease. There cannot be anything worse than outliving your own child, which is out of the natural order of things. Martin's last gift to his father was a loving daughter-in-law and three granddaughters, who made his life as comfortable as possible. For years, Marlene and one of her daughters drove to Long Island from Maryland every 5 or 6 weeks to do his paperwork and fill his freezer with home-cooked meals.

He was unreachable for several days, but Marlene kept me apprised of his condition. The nursing home Nazis would tell me nothing because I was not "the responsible party." Last Thursday, Marlene told me that his kidneys had failed. The nursing home wanted to hospitalize him for invasive testing, but he refused. He was ready to go.

The doctors predicted that he would live for days, not weeks, while his systems shut down. He was given "palliative" care. He would be kept comfortable, with no heroic measures.

On Friday, I received a great gift. Adolf called me! His voice was strong, and he said that he missed me, too. He told me that he loved me, words I never heard from my own parents, and promised that we would catch up soon. Marlene says that he was aware of his prognosis, but chose to ignore it. I think he was trying to spare me the knowledge that he was really saying goodbye.

Flip has always considered my relationship with Adolf a strange love affair. I think that a life without such love would be even stranger.

Adolf gave me the experience of being a beloved daughter. He used every day of his life to learn more about the world. He kept up with current events, and always had opinions on them. When he became blind, he listened to books on tape. He was intensely interested in other people. He lost his eyesight, but he never lost his vision. Or his humanity. Even when he was sighted, he was colorblind. He considered all people one race - human, and everyone he met was a friend he didn't yet know.

Although 104 years is undeniably a very long run, it's hard to accept that he is gone because I expected him to live forever. I cannot imagine a world without Adolf in it. Sunday was Father's Day, and I feel as if I have lost my father. Bon voyage, Adolf.

Another Opening, Another Meme

Wanderlust Scarlett of From the Shores of Introspect and Retrospect has tagged me with a meme that requires me to disclose eight facts about myself. I had hoped to sit this one out, but she caught me hiding out in the stall with my feet up. I will not tag anyone, but if you would like to do it, please let me know so I can read yours.

1. I love animals. Many of my best friends have been four-leggeds. Animals have great values and know what is really important. I do not fear anyone in the animal kingdom but homo sapien.

2. My favorite music is baroque classical, especially Vivaldi, but I also love Mozart, Bach and Haydn. I used to play the violin, and I was good.

I also love jazz, blues and some rock music.

3. I am a book junkie. I can always justify a book purchase.

4. I acted in several Off-Broadway plays, and played both Madge and Millie in different productions of "Picnic." I gave up acting because I knew that I would be playing Juliet forever while I really wanted to be Lady Macbeth.

I also intended to have children, and didn't think that performing would combine well with motherhood.

When I see really good acting, I still feel twinges of what might have been. There are many actors today who have both career and family, and I wish that I had known it was possible.

But if I had to choose again, I would still choose my children in a New York minute. (I've always wanted to use that expression since I am from New York, where I never once heard it. I never heard of Long Island Iced Tea either, despite growing up on Long Island, until I lived in North Carolina.)

5. I'm terrified of haircuts, and have only begun to get them this year. I have heard that ones hair and nails continue to grow after we die, and in my case, it will certainly be true.

6. I lived with my youngest child for a year in Vermont in a house without central heating. Our only heat source was a wood-burning stove I built from a galvanized garbage can, and every morning, I chopped wood in the barn.

The water pipes froze in October, and my daughter and I visited a hot tub every day so we could shower. Every night, I hauled a dozen water-filled plastic milk jugs in a rope harness three miles up the steep hill we lived on so we could wash our hands and dishes.

We wore many layers of clothing to bed, and the outside and inside temperatures were often the same. Neither of us ever had a cold, though, as germs could not live in that climate.

Although I often referred to our state as "Varmint," it was one of the most gorgeous places I have ever lived.

7. I have a geographic tongue, which means that unlike most people's, smooth as liver, mine resembles several miles of bad track. It has deep crevices all over it, which are really exposed nerve endings. I cannot drink anything really hot without getting blisters. When I eat pizza, the roof of my mouth hangs in shreds like skin stalagtites.

This is one of many reasons why I should be in a sideshow.

8. I was stalked for several years by a known murderer. I have never stalked anyone, however.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nana


Shrilly
we
twist into

life demanding
accommodation
the way an alarm

clock unwinds itself
into a dream. My
grandmother is

93, lying on
her side in the
nursing home she

hates, pink cluster
earring riding
shotgun on her

shrunken head.
I recognize her
by family photos

on the nightstand
beside her other
earring. Her dried

sunflower
grace evokes
my childhood home

far from
her
awareness

drifting
in and out in
tantalizing ways.

Imagine - Susan
a grandmother!
she beams on

waking. I am
26. Two unmatched
bookends bore

into my body
and the
baby clings

marsupially
in simultaneous
silence.

I wonder if
they feel a filial
connection to

this ancient sack
of deer antlers
startled

in our headlights.
How did you find me
here? she asks. I’m

sorry you have to
see me like this
and not as

I really
am. She went
peacefully

they tell me as
they make her
extinct with

Lysol and clean
sheets in her newly
vacant room.

They even have
the gall to say
she didn’t

suffer
but I know
they’re wrong.

The furniture
moved inside
her head,

landmarks
displaced by
smug professional

kindness as if
she’s no one
anymore. Such

annihilation
kills before
the body does.

Wife, mother,
grand and great-
grandmother gone

and I move up
a step in the
family

dance. We all
move up and
the music

resumes
and someday
we dream

silently out
of life if
we’re

lucky,
demanding
nothing.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When a Day at the Beach is Not a Day at the Beach


What perverse aberration causes people to go to a beach that is completely empty except for dog walkers and set up shop right next to me? Upwind and smoking. Why does my presence in a particular area make it the designated beach blanket spot?

1. I don't care how many tattoos you and your girlfriend have between you. You do not have the right to force me to move a mile or so down the beach to get away from you.

2. What kind of moron brings a boombox here to drown out lapping waves while birds soar overhead, calling to each other?

Scientists should study the magnetic force I exert on my fellow humans, (and I use that term advisedly,) who have no apparent interest in communing with Nature, and feel compelled to ensure that I can't either. I would like to know what spawns this behavior so I can fix it.

Beaches are the last frontier. They are among the few places that still have constant change and movement. Structures do not stand in sand, nor are there malls, offices or even Starbucks by this shore. What remains is rushing tide, egrets and gulls, native plants.

On beaches, I both forget and remember who I am, far from hungry eyes consuming all they light upon. I wear no labels by the shore. I could be anyone. In anonymity is freedom, a concept that has become suspect in our national life today.

I could gain weight here, for being outdoors makes me hungry. The simplest fare's a banquet when sitting on hot sand with cool breeze riffling my hair.

A small blue fishing boat sails in under a cloud of seagulls. It's obvious they have made a good haul.

A flock of pelicans swoops by single file, 13 in all, browsing the waves in search of supper.

I watch a dog sniff another dog's ass, then lift his leg and piss on the first dog.

No dogfight ensues.

There seems to be an unspoken rule of life here: The world is divided into two camps, the pissers and the pissees.

You know who you are.

Proclamation


I just realized that today is my blog's one-year anniversary. I timidly put up my first post on June 13, 2006.

How time flies when you're having fun!

Cake will be served in the main rotunda, and you are all welcome.

Be there. (Yes, this means YOU.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Shipwrecked


I have always had fantasies about being shipwrecked on a desert island. Perhaps I was overly influenced by "Robinson Crusoe" because I always imagined and even planned on it.

"Lord of the Flies" would be a less favorable outcome, of course.

It is not lost on me that some people endure their entire lives without ever being shipwrecked, but still, I have hopes.

I have devoted much thought to what I would take with me, made lists, even. Gloated over the fact that my appendix would never burst in the middle of nowhere because it already has. Asked myself endlessly what one book I would choose if I had to read it over and over.

Many folks would choose the Bible. I would not. I would want something that is easier to read and has no ambiguity. Hel-lo, I'm on a desert island here. I need things simple.

In fact, any book I read that many times would soon be memorized, so I think I would opt for a thick pad of blank lined paper. And many pens. I would write my own book on that island, and maybe reach enlightenment.

You never know.

At least there wouldn't be so many distractions.

My ex-husband once locked me in a room to force me to write after learning that Colette's husband had done so to her. (He also stole her writings and put his own name on them, the dirty scoundrel.)

I did not take kindly to being locked in a room for any reason. Since I have a photographic memory, I reproduced the first page of "Ulysses," complete with the giant "S" that in most editions is several lines high.

"Stately plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed."

"I'm ready to come out now," I called sweetly.

He eagerly ran to unlock the door, ecstatic that his wonderful plan had worked.

I handed him my James Joyce simulation and flounced away.

We never discussed the incident again.

It is possible that on my desert island, I would merely reproduce other famous works while worrying about high tide. How ironic if I actually wrote the Great American Novel and then got swept off the island in a storm before any publishers could get there.

Life is uncertain.

I have always found geography exciting despite my teachers' best efforts to make it dreary. My soul expands when I hear intriguing place names like Madagascar, Timbuktoo, Casablanca, Pago Pago, Katmandu, and Poontang, which I saw in a book but got smacked when I asked my father where it was. Nobody told me why.

The Amazon River Basin is perennially a luscious dark green in my mind. Rio de Janeiro is golden. Machu Pichu is shades of pink and purple and the Aegean Sea is always a shimmering turquoise.

My first Gauguin painting at the Metropolitan Museum ("Femmes Aux Mangoes") changed me forever. Tahiti was my Promised Land, the place I was meant to be but for a tragic geographical mishap. Or perhaps it was my real home from which I was kidnapped as an infant. I found a Tahitian-English dictionary and set about memorizing words in my former native tongue.

When I was 22, I sailed to Europe on a student ship out of Montreal. Ron Silvers, the actor, was a stowaway. He had no luggage, just the wide-striped t-shirt and pants he was wearing. He was a complete ass. I couldn't stand him. He gets a lot of work on TV now, and every time I see him, I wonder if he is still an ass. (Probably.)

The idea of someone stowing away on a ship enchanted me, though I never had the courage to try it. Such limitations in my adventurous spirit have always disappointed me.

The ship was German, and Werner the bartender, pronounced Verner, vatered my drinks every night.

I confronted him, and he said that he was doing it to protect me. Needless to say, this infuriated me. I wanted as much chance as the next girl to be taken advantage of.

It was the story of my life. I looked so innocent that even my assurances to the contrary made guys want to protect me from themselves.

"I don't want to hurt you."

"Hurt me. Hurt me."

For years I had to live like this. The whole thing was depressing.

Now I watch ships steam out to sea through the Golden Gate Bridge, laden with cargo and passengers. I think about latitude and longitude, words that conjure unbearably romantic reveries. I taste the salt air and feel the waves under me.

The possibility of shipwreck is tantalizing.

And then it dawns on me that I would no longer relish being shipwrecked on a desert island. I have a family. It would be unthinkable to never see them again. I am addicted to my computer, and there is also the matter of chocolate.

We outgrow our fondest dreams because we have changed. Life changes us, for that was the plan all along. Our priorities change, and somehow, the whole world changes as well.

The solution is to grow new dreams that reflect who we have become. The shipwreck mentality can still serve us to make new choices, to retain only the things that are truly essential to our lives and our sanity.

When we examine our values and clean house, we become more fully ourselves. Thinning the herds of ideas and objects that no longer express who we are is empowering.

It can feel nearly as free as being on a desert island in the middle of the ocean, without the sunstroke.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

No Bull

I once had a friend, a charming fellow who was, in fact, the first Chicano to graduate from Harvard Law School. His name was Enrique, but he Americanized it to "Hank." His wife, Millie, was often in India meditating with the Maharishi, so Hank spent a lot of time with my then-husband and me. He was old enough to be our father, but we all shared a passion for literature and travel.

The day his teenage son got into a wreck and killed his best friend, Hank was having dinner with us. In the aftermath, we all spent many hours trying to help his son cope with his enormous guilt. I pointed out to Hank that it was actually a blessing that his son had sustained a broken leg in the accident because if he had walked away without injury, his guilt would have been even worse. He agreed.

Hank's oldest friend was Anthony Quinn, whom he had known for many years. One night, it was arranged for my husband and me to have dinner in Manhattan with Hank and Quinn. I was thrilled, as Anthony Quinn was one of the actors I most admired. He had captivated me in "Zorba the Greek." At the appointed hour, the three of us arrived at the restaurant and sat down to have a drink while we waited for Quinn. An hour and several drinks later, he still had not made his entrance, so we decided to order dinner.

Halfway through the meal, which was excellent Mexican food, Anthony Quinn arrived with his date, a 19-year old bimbo named Bambi who was prancing like a filly at the starting gate. Quinn, on the other hand, practically crawled to our table, looking utterly exhausted. He downed several drinks but was too drained to eat. The young lady made it clear that she expected to go several more rounds in the sack with Quinn after his obligatory appearance at his friend's dinner party. While I listened to her preen and prattle, Quinn and Hank had a brief conversation in Spanish.

it turned out that the three of us were delegated to give Bambi a ride home, while Quinn slunk away for some restorative R&R. All the way there, she sat in the back seat glowing as she effused over what a "wonderful person" Anthony Quinn was. For years, my husband and I used "Wonderful Person" as code for great lay. Later, Hank told us that Quinn had muttered the phrase that bullfighters use when they want another bullfighter to take their bull.

I Am Special


I would like to be in the Special Olympics. I'm sure that I must have some kind of untapped athletic ability, and it would be very nice to win an Olympic medal. Preferably gold, but silver or bronze would be okay, too.

I am mechanically challenged, so I think that I qualify. A certain person who shall remain nameless says that I am at war with the physical world. He says it often, and this comment is normally accompanied by gratuitous head shaking.

My throwing arm is not powerful, but it is accurate. I can hurl a wadded-up Kleenex into a waste basket from across the room. Even backhand. The Globe Trotters would want me on their team if they knew I could do that. I would be their secret weapon, running through other players' legs, dribbling madly. They would never know I was there until it was too late, and I would score the winning touchdown. Home run, too.

Also, I am very special. Everyone says so. I don't think it means anything that they snicker when they say it.

I am a team player and will do almost anything for a cookie.

I have not won an Oscar or an Emmy this year, a Pulitzer or a Nobel. Everybody knows that. I haven't gotten a gold star next to my name for brushing my teeth or walking the dog. In fact, I don't even own a dog so it's not fair.

I really, really need a Gold Medal. I can put a shot, or shoot a pot, and my discus hardly ever slips. When I run across intersections, my ice cream never levitates out of the cone, and I once shot an arrow into the air. (It fell to earth, I know not where.)

I have almost drowned at Nice, Jones Beach, and Nantucket, but I didn't so I deserve a medal for swimming. I have an irrational fear of diving, so I think that's a skill we can work with, too.

I am easily entertained. I am cracking myself up right now.

Do they give medals for keeping people awake with raucous, giddy laughter? If they do, I'm your girl.

Afterthought: This post was inspired by watching and working with the amazing people who participate in the Special Olympics and accomplish extraordinary feats of skill and courage every day of their lives.

My political incorrectness is only intended to make fun of myself, and not of the special athletes whom I deeply admire.


Their spirit humbles me.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Missing in Action


I'm going to the City of Angels today, and will be back on Sunday.

I will not be visiting the L.A. County Jail, or smuggling a file in chocolate cake to Ms. Hilton.

I probably won't be online while I'm gone, but will catch up with your great blogs when I get back.

You will all be missed.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Moral Dilemma


Interesting developments next door. For the last week, Next Door Whore has been clattering around her apartment in her ubiquitous 7" heels, moving boxes and racks of clothing out. She even had a helper, her cousin who "might be staying there once in a while." I asked if she was moving. She said she wasn't, that she was house-sitting for a friend nearby until the end of the year and would then be traveling in Southeast Asia for several months.

"What kind of work do you do?" I asked.

"Oh, I quit my job a long time ago," she said. Nice. She said that she was moving her clothing to the other place so she wouldn't have to stop in here every time she needed something. It takes six days to move all her clothing? I calculated how long it would take me to move all my clothing. About an hour, counting the taping of boxes. And a couple of tea breaks. Maybe a short nap.

"Are you subletting?" I asked.

"Oh, no."

Yesterday, a crew of moving men came and removed all her furniture, then carried in a houseful of different furniture, directed by the cousin.

I said to the cousin, "So you're moving in?" She looked annoyed.

"No, just a little clothing," she said. We didn't talk further because we were blocking four moving men hauling an eight-foot couch up the stairs and into the apartment. Apparently, she wears couches, easy chairs, dressers, lamps, and a stupendous array of large wardrobe boxes.

I suspect they're trying to do an illegal sublet so the rent won't be raised. San Francisco has rent control. Landlords are allowed to raise the rent only a certain percentage, but for a new tenant, they can ask market price. A rental agent would also get a commission for renting the space. These apartments are going for a lot more than when Jackie moved in over two years ago. Probably the only thing that's true is that they are cousins. They both look like rodents. Flip says it's none of my business, and while he's technically correct, I think it is my business who lives next door to me. This is a small building with only nine apartments. It's hard to be anonymous in such a small crowd.

My ethical sense is offended, and I resent that they lied to me. I can think of ways to bust them.
(a.) When I pay my rent, remark to the rental agent that I wish I'd known the apartment was available because I have a friend who would have been interested. Does she think that anything else in the building will be vacant soon?
(b.) When Rodent #2 blasts her stereo as her cousin did at ungodly hours, complain that the new tenant in 102 is very noisy, and what do they suggest I do about it? Both of which should elicit a "HUH? New tenant?" from the management company.

I have no affection for the management company. The head person is shockingly nasty, and the building owner is a pig. They make repairs as cheaply as possible. They destroy gardens. They have been known to let themselves into occupied apartments without the requisite 24-hour notice for non-emergencies.

If Jackie had told me the truth, I would have been on her side. But she and her cousin, the new non-tenant, both lied to my face and expected me to believe that one was not moving out and the other in, despite the fact that their movers were here all day. With a huge truck blocking our driveway. Bumping large house furnishings up and down the stairs for hours. How stupid do they think I am? I know, I know. They don't owe me an explanation. But I don't owe them any loyalty. Besides, wouldn't that make me an accessory after the fact? I am not eager to incur bad karma. Tonight, I drove into the garage and noticed that the new non-tenant's non-car that wasn't parked in Jackie's space had its dome light on. I'm ashamed to say that I debated with myself as to whether to let her know. After all, she isn't really here, is she? I knocked on her door and told her. She didn't thank me. But I'm off the karmic hook for tonight.

Flip thinks that I should let the illegal sublet thing go. He is nicer than I am. I probably will, but something mean-spirited in me really doesn't want to. What would you do?

Update:

The new tenant also comes home every day at about 9:30 a.m. in stilettos, which precludes a night shift kind of job. More like shiftLESS. I don't believe they're cousins, but lamppost buddies. The common resemblance to rodents is probably just a happy coincidence.