Background Check

A charming co-worker once listened to me blurt, stared, then said slowly to a third person as we all sat there, “There’s a context for everything she says. We just don’t know what it is.” This blogging thing takes practice.

The reason for yesterday’s adventure which we can refer to as The Ceremonial Running of the Non-Sequiturs was that I don’t sleep, and my co-worker asked why I haven’t turned myself in to the proper sleep authorities. Given that I can’t get through an eye exam without a psychiatric referral, I doubt one of those clinics where they wire you for sound is a great idea, mostly because I’d like to be on the other side of the glass, snickering, but also because I fail time and again to articulate my problems in such a way as to permit modern medicine to solve them. I guess. Either that or I’m just so droll doctors can’t bear the idea of parting with my cameo appearances.

Don’t get the idea I’m sick. I’m not – but someday I may go for a consultation armed with sock puppets.

Lapses and Collapses and Synapses

Mine is a very amusing and peculiar relationship with the medical community. I describe a complaint and practitioners say, “I’ve never heard that before.” There are two possibilities, really:

1. I should never leave my house without my insurance card and a UN translator since I am speaking a strange language and that could prove dangerous;

2. I am unique in all of history, possibly a genetic freak or some mad scientist’s experiment inexplicably switched with a normal child shortly after birth when I began exhibiting all the qualities of being unique in all the world, my parents swear. This would explain why clothing simply does not fit, why computers do not love me, why infants cannot avert their eyes, so let’s go with this theory.

Last fall, a visit to the eye doctor went the way you’d think. Anyone blowing air into my eyes is going to get an earful, no matter the cause. He asked, “So what brings you here?”

His office is across the street from My Little Tenement, so it didn’t take much. “I keep seeing these things – they’re kind of on the surface of my eye – especially when I’m tired or dehydrated – they look like lint. What makes me see lint, Doc?”

He said, “I’ve never heard that one before.”

I said, “You take checks, right?” Sometime later, I told my stepfather about this episode. He said, “It sounds like you’re describing [such-and-such thing] I read about in Scientific American.” I should’ve seen that coming. Years ago, I worked for a horrifying fast food chain and the stress of leaving my baby with a sitter for days on end and working 60 hours a week with a nasty commute for less than $17,000/year caused my brain to declare time-outs. I would find myself standing in the kitchen, unable to see my hand in front of my face, or hear someone talking. It was freaking me out, and it stopped the moment I walked out of the joint and put my car in drive, which freaked out everyone else. When I could see, I was forced to read lips. One night at the register, this conversation occurred:

Customer: mmmrphh mrhgnpuu muphhh panpppp mherrrnema.

Tata: I’m sorry, I can’t hear you unless I can see your lips.


Tata: Yes.

Customer: Oops.

This came up in conversation with the stepfather, who said, “That’s called ‘figure ground.’ I just read about that in Scientific American.” Maybe I should confront Scientific American with my bizarre health issues, because when I arrive at the radiologists’ office:

Receptionist: Please fill out this form.

Tata: I can’t. I’m here to get my hands x-rayed. They don’t work.

Receptionist: Didn’t you bring anybody to do it?

Tata: I’m terribly sorry. I left my scribe at home.

(The second time it happened I promised next time I’d bring a helper monkey.)

My little problems never actually get solved, except for that temporary blindness thing which went away by itself but can be re-created a la the History Channel with internal application of an entire bottle of tequila. Anyway, maybe Scientific American has been experimenting with me for a few decades, and just before I blurt out my problems to non-medical science professionals, the mag prints hinty articles. It’s like foreshadowing or the 19th of Twenty Questions: Why isn’t Scientific American on my doctors’ reading lists?

Is the answer “Because suspense is a real knee-slapper”?

Coffee, Cigarettes, Getaway

Miss Sasha plans her wedding. I’m planning the nervous breakdown. Mine, I mean. She’s got years of dealing with the family before she earns the right to An Unfortunate Incident At The Kentucky Fried Chicken, leading to A Period Of Resting Comfortably. Toss in some green Jell-O and you’ve got a story no one wants to tell the grandkids.

Last night, I started thinking of how to stage the Persephone piece in English and Italian for a bilingual panel discussion in February. Since I have virtually nothing to say that doesn’t come through a character, I’m hoping nobody asks me any questions and I can sit there as Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest, controlling Mommy. When she says, “It’s my way or the highway,” we know which highway she’s talking about. The script practically writes itself. What I can’t picture is wearing her espadrilles. Me, I mean. Demeter never updates to leather, it’s just not her style.

Audrey’s interested, which is exciting. She’s become a better writer than I am, which isn’t a big ambition. I’m not really writing anymore, which I’ve mentioned in the blog. Audrey, however, will be a star. I’m lucky she talks to me, but then I’ve got a photograph of her posed as one of Charlie’s Angels in a bar basement. Shoot, I’d be nice to me, too.

Ill-Gotten Whole Grains

This morning, there was a small commotion at one end of the office, and someone asked for me. A man I’d seen but never talked to came around the corner, put down his briefcase and handed me a loaf of bread. He said, “My wife baked this for you, as I promised.” Suddenly I remembered what had seemed like an idle promise over an obscure work matter from a co-worker up in Newark, and this was that man. He turned on his heel and disappeared.

I almost had to lie down to laugh hard enough. This is not the first time strange gentlemen have brought me comestibles. Once, I answered the phone at a late night job with the name of the office. A boy said, “Hey!”

“Hey!” I said.

“You’re there! Are you there?”

“I’m there! Are you coming here?”

“I’m coming there! How late are you open?”


“I’ll be right over.”

“Bring pizza,” I said and hung up. A little while later, a boy came to the door and said, “Hey!”

“Hey!” I said.

“I’m here!” he said.

“You are! Did you bring pizza?”

He slapped a giant Toblerone on the counter. We ate chocolate and we talked about Marilyn Monroe for an hour. That’s it. Never saw him again.

Because I have a cold I stood in the middle of my office and shouted, “Who has clean hands and doesn’t have a cold?” One reluctant co-worker, accustomed to my antics, mumbled, “Meeee.” I made her get a bread board, cut up the bread and put out napkins. We all had pieces with butter or cream cheese. My co-workers labeled this episode “The Bribe.” And not one of them was truly surprised.

Here and Now, There and Then

Johnny’s feeling introspective:

I imagine sometimes that I’m young and I can see into the future through my rear view mirror. I imagine I’m a New Waver in college, my whole glamorous, fabulous life ahead of me, and I look through and see the me of today, a grizzled greaser with gray in his stubble and gin blossoms in his nose, and no matter what kind of day I’m having, I about piss myself laughing, thinking of the look of horror on his face. I half want to tell him somehow through the glass that it’s not as bad as it looks, but really there’s nothing I can say. For him, it is. Then I think of the me who first got into professional depression and into driving, great combination, the road ahead a ghastly tear-smeared blur, praying for God, for anyone, to please deliver me, clamping my fingers on the wheel to keep from swerving into oncoming traffic, one loud bang and then peace, staring into the mirror and seeing myself at forty-three, still alive, with a red sportscar and a hot wife and laughing at the world because I get paid to massage dogs, and I wish I could tell the poor bastard that it turns out all right. But he’d never believe it even if he saw it with his own eyes. Somehow he’ll have to hang on until he does see it. And by then he knows.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt as optimistic at the start of a new year. I feel like a greyhound who’s just retired from the track and gotten placed with a yuppie couple in the suburbs. Yes. I’ve become my own dogs. And I was spared the embarrassment and odor of dying and being reincarnated.

Happy New Year, princess. I love you.


He calls me “princess.” Wanna make something of it, geek?

Putting One’s Best Foot Backward

I went out for a pack of cigs dressed like I was at least 6’6″ and 300lbs., and you should do this in this small urban area because something like the following *will* happen. As I parked the car across the street from the liquor store open on New Year’s Day, the vehicle coming toward me on the side street was a police car. If you’ve never been to New Brunswick, I should tell you this important thing – don’t try talking to the cops. They’re more insecure than a bloated beauty queen clutching an empty box of Godivas. I have honestly had this conversation with an officer demanding I put my clothes back on one November.

Him: Are you over 18?

Wait, wait, while that made me laugh like Lucy and Ethel stuffing chocolates in their pockets, that wasn’t the really funny part. Nope.

Me: Officer, you’ve caught me modeling naked for this photographer in this completely secluded location.

Him: We’re the *New Brunswick* Police. We don’t catch anybody doing *anything.* Some guy from the prosecutor’s office sat in his car behind those bushes until he got bored and called it in.

In a city filled with rampaging art students, you’d think the police would be used to *that.* Anyway, so I’m standing on Senior Street today, waiting to cross to the liquor store, and the police car is driving very slowly – so slowly – toward me. My days of stopping traffic with pulchritude and a toothy smile are way, way over, so I don’t think the nice policeman is entranced, and his speed not increasing. What do I do? I hula. I can hear the ukeleles in my head. Palm trees, ocean breezes, grass skirts; it’s Hawaii in my brain, and I’m making a very hula hand gesture that anywhere else might mean, “After you, I insist.” But I’m in New Brunswick, and he just about stops the car to stare at me. I look like a little old lady who quit painting her outhouse to go buy something flammable. And I can just hear him thinking, “Does this cruiser make me look fat?”

A Word On the Uncomfortable Present

…from the uncomfortable past.

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

-John F. Kennedy, 35th US president (1917-1963)

This from Anu Garg and A.Word.A.Day. Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, and I wish you a Happy New Year in which you feel wise and prosperous, and galvanized into creative action for the common good. I think he also wishes you boiled shrimp, but I could be projecting.