The Volcanic Night Sky

We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We.

All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out.

You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You.

Face me.

Ripples Across the Gene Pool

Daria calls from that Sherman tank she drives, on her second return trip from the pediatrician in two days. Her children are squawking. Though Daria’s voice cuts out often, the kids’ complaints sound like they’re beamed via satellite straight to my living room.

Daria: I now understand why there are songs about housewives taking drugs.
Tata: Boy, you are a slow learner!
Daria: The baby had an appointment for shots but Tyler had a fever and we were going to the pediatrician anyway. So the baby feels wretched and Tyler’s got Fifth Disease.
Tata: Fists’ Disease?
Daria: Fifth Disease. First. Second. Third. Fourth. Fifth.
Tata: You made that up!
Daria; So we’ve all been exposed to it and it’s harmful to fetuses. We couldn’t go to the reunion, which I’ve been looking forward to for months. And this morning, I found a spot on Sandro’s back and back to the doctor we went. He’s got Lyme Disease.
Tata: You’re in Hell!
Daria: Specifically, a McDonald’s drive-thru with my diseased children. It’s medicinal. Don’t say a word!

Far be it from me to advise. Since Miss Sasha was born a great deal seems to have changed in the sport of childrearing. For one thing, “parent” became a verb. Also: electricity was discovered and signals from the Law & Order planet are received on mysterious talking boxes in our living rooms. Miss Sasha and I became two separate monograms in Hartford, Connecticut – at that time, one of the three poorest cities in the country, where I lived with street kids, landscaping rent boys, and the very elderly during a recession nobody remembers anymore. The three days I was in Hartford Hospital were three days I had enough to eat. Until Miss Sasha was four and I got a state job, taking her to the pediatrician depended entirely on whether or not I had enough cash to pay the doctor. So when I’m standing in Daria’s kitchen and she spills another nutty edict issued by the pediatrician, I’m always shocked that she listens.

Daria: Babies cannot sleep on their bellies.
Tata: What?
Daria: The pediatrician said. There’s a special pillow. Babies have to sleep on their sides now.
Tata: You had to go shopping to comply with that rule, didn’t you?
Daria: I had a coupon.

Or:

Daria: No raw fish during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Tata: What?
Daria: Mercury. No tuna, either.
Tata: Aren’t millions of pregnant Asian women eating that every day? If they’re lucky?

Or:

Tata: What…what are you doing?
Daria: I’m writing down everything the baby does.
Tata: At this age, they…don’t do much, Dar…
Daria: Every sip, when she sleeps, diaper changes.
Tata: What if you had a job outside your home?
Daria: I’d have to quit.
Tata: Don’t you have enough to do without obsessive record keeping?
Daria: The pediatrician said!

Or:

Daria: I wish I could have a glass of wine with you.
Tata: What? Why can’t you have a glass of wine?
Daria: I’m PREGNANT.
Tata: European women drink wine during pregancy.
Daria: There’s NO EXCUSE.

In my brain, the doctor looks like Russ Tamblyn in Twin Peaks. Too many rules! Half make life harder and the other half make life less sensible. I couldn’t be this kind of parent. For one thing, I didn’t have the attention span for a second pregnancy. For another, I’m more of a “Bring Mommy the scotch, darling,” kind of parent. In fact, when Miss Sasha turned 21, Mamie and I sent her out for booze and porn.

After the divorce from the Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm), Miss Sasha spent Sundays with me and a then-internationally syndicated college radio comedy troupe. The comedians took an active interest in Miss Sasha. They quizzed her on geography. They taught her to roast a chicken. They explained vocabulary conundrums like what ‘blow job’ and ‘turning Japanese’ meant. She asked. They explained. I was grateful for the help. Their children should be grateful the comedians had an unspoiled little psyche to practice on.

Tata: So, what did you kids do while I was recording in the basement?
Mamie: I taught her to play cards for money and drink Zima.
Tata: That’s practically vocational training!

I may be an annoying Mommy, but I will make the best Grandma.

Fiercely, Madly, False Mustache-y

This weekend, most of my relatives pile into SUVs and head to Moscow, Pennsylvania for a reunion of my stepfather’s family. While I would love to compare Jell-O mold recipes with distant relations I usually only see at funerals, I’m staying put. Last night, I started throwing away stuff in anticipation of moving. That means I have to find a place to move to. This afternoon, I’ll see a studio apartment in Highland Park. If it works out, I can stop grinding my teeth and my friends – to a fine sheen. I like my friends smooth and attentive. And smooth. Yes.

Horoscopically speaking, I’ve been keeping secrets from myself. How that is possible for a mental blabbermouth I do not know, but I decided to sit myself down and demand the truth.

Me: What is it you’re not telling me?
Me: I can’t tell you.
Me: You sound like half my Exes after visits to the Lower East Side.
Me: After an unnamed event I can’t hint about that will change something you’re not aware of I won’t need to tell you anything and we can forget all about this non-moment.
Me: Will you tell me after it happens?
Me: Nope.
Me: Tell me!
Me: No!
Me: Tell me!
Me: No!
Me: So what is the purpose of telling me you won’t tell me?
Me: Are you worried now?
Me: Yessirree, Bob!
Me: Were you worried before?
Me: Not…that I recall.
Me: I give you focus. Now, sit up straight and fret like you mean it!

Right…so last night I started throwing things away. Who needs copies of CMJ from 1999 still in the mailing plastic? Who needs paystubs from 1996? Out they went! It got a little dicey when I found drafts of poems I didn’t remember writing because the 1990s have disappeared from my memory. A bunch of crumpled up napkins I guessed I could keep. All the rest: out!

Tonight: maybe I’ll get to the closet with my costumes and the old bottles of body paint. It’s not like I’m going to slather myself with bronze goo and stand on a pedestal again in public anytime soon.

Not until your check clears, anyhow.

On Patience

People ask you for things all the time. You ask for things. These interactions form parts great and small of daily life. You may not even notice these sticky obligations.

Tata (on your answering machine): You have the idea you could have something more important to do besides call me back. That’s so…misguided…

I am not a nice person. I am a good person – sometimes – and there is a big difference.

Tata: Are you going to ask out that girl who no longer works for you? The one who quit this morning and did everything but tell you where she’d be holding a menu at 7:30 tonight?
Shocked Co-Worker: I…I can’t…I can’t ask her out…
Tata: And that, my friends, is why God gave us email.
Shocked Co-Worker: What…what if…
Tata: She will absolutely do you. Pick up the check and she’s yours. Bon Appetit!

Some people need a shove and my hands happen to be free; some people need patience. On my best days, I can be patient with small children, the elderly, the infirm and hapless local drunks. If a guy on the street tells me he needs $3.85 to get a train home and I have a buck, I’ll give it to him – the first time. The second time, I lose patience when his imaginary plight fails to entertain me. He needs a new story! I need a new harrowing tale! It’s selfish, and I don’t care.

Recently, a friend asked me to be patient with a Difficult Situation(tm) while he worked out what to do. I’m just a bystander, here. I agreed to try keeping my trap shut on the subject for a while, which you might think would be as simple as hanging up the phone – except I obsess. So. I didn’t say, “HAVE WE MET? I’m the least patient person you know without an assault conviction.” I didn’t say, “Tick tick tick time’s up.” There’s nothing I can do about that Difficult Situation(tm), so I am trying to go about the business of preventing other Difficult Situations(tm) from compounding my worries.

1. I need a microscopic apartment I can afford LAST WEEK, ALREADY.
2. My driver’s side door seems intent on bashing itself shut permanently. How can my mechanical nemesis despise itself through and through?
3. Do I need a land line anymore?
4. It’s back to the Wonderful World of Multiple Jobs for me! How will I do it?
5. Audrey proposed a book of themed poems. The project appeals to me. Hmm.
6. Miss Sasha and the new Mr. Sasha moved to Pensacola last week. Perhaps I’ll knit them a rowboat and a GPS transmitter.

Fortunately for me, there are only 24 hours every day I can be sick with fear. At least that hasn’t changed. Developing patience is no fun but having it might be helpful. So. Can I keep my hands so busy I don’t shove myself off a cliff?

Q: Boo! A: Eek!

The other night, I said, “I am a terrible judge of character.” Six people rushed to assure me that yes, I was a fine judge of character! I wasn’t fishing for compliments and wouldn’t accept any on the subject.

Tata: No. Statement of fact: I am a terrible judge of character and you as my friends should suspect yourselves of having monstrous character flaws.
Friend 1: I’m a drug addict.
Friend 2: I watch the Travel Channel to disguise my xenophobia.
Friend 3: I teach second grade.
Tata: Arrest each other immediately!

Johnny and I met when I was 14. Though that’s 98 in dog years, it’s mighty young by human standards. His last wife hated my guts so this one will probably never meet me. This shouldn’t be funny but it is:

They have roadrunners here. Actual live ones, running across the, as you would imagine, road. And tarantulas. And foxes. I think I already mentioned that they have coyotes.
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Miss Sasha, not impressed with the season’s first hurricane on Pensacola, sets in motion a linguistic storm of her own:

Soooo, how was ur trip? did it go great? what did you do in WI? Oh, by the way, the knot.com…the website I used for the wedding now has a new cite for newlyweds. I have been setting up my blog and new webpage the last couple of days…I will send you the link when I finish updating everything.
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A newlywed blog? The April-freshest of fresh Hells! Yesterday, we had a mother-daughter discussion of hanging laundry outside and the perils of folding flying insects into one’s sock drawers. I can’t wait to read more about what my advice sounds like to Miss Sasha.

What I Might Actually Say:
Baking soda softens hard water but you should look into the condition of the pipes in your house or apartment. Salts corrode. Maybe. Or maybe plumbing disasters have all been a terrible coincidence. We should ask someone who knows.

What Miss Sasha Might Hear:
Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels.

We don’t know! She could be listening! But we don’t know! I’m a terrible judge of character.

In This Future, You Demonstrate Great Courage

Yesterday, I was standing in a friend’s foyer discussing the current furor in the reality-based blogosphere. If you don’t know what happened or is happening at this moment, it’s not likely that linking to the participants’ blogs will help. On Saturday, when the first shots were fired, I was at the bottom of a pile of refreshing beverages and cats with medical conditions and catching up has proven remarkably difficult. Mamie joins us in the foyer, takes one look at me.

Mamie: You’re talking about Shakespeare’s Sister?
Tata: Yeah, how’d you know?
Mamie: That’s the expression your face gets everytime.
Tata: What? I have a look just for a person I’ve never met?
Mamie: At least she makes you think!

Life is short, unless you’re in prison. A gal’s got to pick her battles and fewer of them as age creeps up and metabolism slows. For instance: that I get to work in the morning is a daily miracle; there’s no way I’d have the time or energy to pick a fight with a bigtime blogger and pin him to the mat. So I’m watching the fracas with the expression on my face that says, “Look at that girl go! She’s gonna run out of stomach lining before she runs out of opponents.” This is how I know I must be nearly old enough for a red New Yorker and the early bird special: the fire that drove me for decades has burned down to embers.

Plus, Vanessa Marcil is on the cover of Maxim. And I love Vanessa Marcil.

The initial fight was over an ad on a progressive website, and that degenerated into the bigtime blogger calling feminists tired, tired insulting names, dismissing the point, and backing up so, so close to dismissing women altogether. What I see here, and what the dozens of women participating in the story see is nothing new: many men, no matter what they say, want women to stop challenging them.

Personally – because that’s where the political stream meets the ocean of day-to-day results – I have watched affection and interest disappear from the eyes of men who chased me when they realized that what they caught was just as smart as they were. Men who really liked me tried to keep me a secret from their friends because I wouldn’t shut up. I have seen men who loved me lose their nerve and break things off, and I hate them for being such cowards because the only love worth having is brave love.

Personally, I have a band of female friends who say the exact same thing. We have a mantra: “Maybe this one is different. Maybe this one is brave.” Over and over, we find that no matter what his politics, the new man is terrified of vivacious women with their own opinions and ideas (the utterly fearless Paulie Gonzalez being one exception.) The more single women I meet, the more often I hear this story.

Menfolk of the Left: women are watching you, and every. last. one. has heard some form of the old horseshit about spreading her legs for the Revolution. You are not slick. You have to take us seriously whether you like it or not. We simply will not behave for you. We will not be quiet. We will not go cook you something.

The best thing you could do is cultivate a shiny-new steel-reinforced spine where your smart female counterparts are concerned. Plenty of us are going on with lives without you because you’ve lost your nerve. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if you grew the hell up and we could go on together?