Everything Counts In Large Amounts

Sometimes, I can’t tell if I’m rich or poor, broke or breaking even. I’m lousy with numbers but that’s not the only issue; I also don’t know what day it is. Unless I write everything down and cling to my date book with the kung fu grip, I could be in trouble pretty often. Fortunately, people want things and don’t feel shy about issuing demands. These demands come in all sorts of forms. A few weeks ago, my neighborhood was turned upside down for the better part of a Friday night. On the next business day, the borough plastered every foyer in the apartment complex with nervous letters about “the animal incident.” Residents who had contact with “the animal” were ordered to turn themselves in to the Health Department for rabies testing.

The number of things I don’t know is not decreasing as time passes. No, letters like this force me to conclude that there are as time passes an even greater number of things I do not know, as more facts I would not have imagined are revealed. This seems counterintuitive. Recently, I figured out that with five lines of instructions I could program a 200 CD player but it was only possible because a teenager paraphrased the manual using very small words.

Two Sundays ago, I firmly believed I could not run and learned I was mistaken. I ran a few hundred – let’s modestly suppose – feet further than I thought I’d ever run again. This had a profound effect on my psyche. I began to wonder what other assumptions were limiting me. Once, it was true that I could not run and it remained true for more than twenty years. In all probability I’ll never run a marathon, but my limits have changed. Yesterday, I found a solitary stretch of road in the park and ran further than before by picking a marker of some kind and running to it, then picking another, and another, a few times. For other people, this distance would be nothing. I was thrilled. Half an hour later on the street above the park, I ran two short blocks toward home just because it felt so good to run.

I doubt I will ever balance a checkbook – I do wonder what appears certain but simply isn’t impossible. Spring is an excellent time for wild ideas.

A Dream That Don’t Ask No Questions

For the last week or two, one storyline on General Hospital has been irritating me.

Sam and Jason discovered Alexis, once the hidden Russian love child of the Greek prince Mikos Cassadine, was forced to give up her illegitimate baby when she was sixteen, and Sam was that baby! Sam loves Jason the mobster and Jason and Sam hate Alexis, the selfish, insecure, controlling, not-listening to anyone, superior bitch lawyer.

…I know! That plotline has a z-axis. But wait! There’s more!

Jason met Sam on a balcony and a shot meant for him penetrated her back and – it’s a soap opera – she either can’t or probably can’t have babies. Oh, the humidity! Anyway, her blood won’t clot and Dr. Rick Springfield’s Son (Patrick) says Sam needs an operation Jason grants permission to do but Alexis shows up with a court order refusing permission because she’s Sam’s mother, damn it, and severing your parental rights means never having to say, “Well, she’s an adult now and can make her own decisions.” Alexis keeps talking about this and that but what she’s really saying is: MINE! MINE! MINE! AND I’M NOT SHARING! The hospital staff is sympathetic to the mobster and his scrappy gal so they trick Alexis and do surgery but, post-op, Alexis spirits the unconscious Sam off to a “facility” because Sam who lives with Jason hasn’t publicly and absolutely expressed her wishes to be with Jason –

…and I am going to lose my mind.

My relationship with my mother improved 100% after I moved out when I was 18 but 100% was not enough for the two of us to have a calm conversation for twenty years afterward. Miss Sasha wondered for years why the Grandma she adored and I were seldom in the same place; the simple explanation was I felt Miss Sasha should form her own relationships with her family members and be able to freely love the family members for whom I felt stabby-stabby murderous rage.

Wait! There’s a plot twist!

Nobody else had the same problems with Mom so until people outside the family saw that Mom was different with me than anyone else everyone thought I was crazy. Sometimes I agreed. When Miss Sasha moved to Charleston with the then-pre-Mr. Sasha, it was as if the clouds parted and my mother became a ration human in my presence and my bitey-gnashy anger cooled. What I didn’t realize was the moment my sisters and brother had children they found out that not only wasn’t I out of my mind but they needed my help dealing with Mom’s baby-related/time-mysterious control issues. No one – I mean no one – saw that coming!

And because Alexis does the same kind of “Because I said so” talking, based on reasoning with the tensile strength of used Kleenex that Mom presented every day when I was in high school – it is not rational to demand I ask to go to play practice every day for months on end, so I didn’t ask, making everyone the tiniest bit tense – the emotions come flooding back. It’s not especially fetching to say that when I see the character’s face and she draws a breath to speak, I feel the same powerlessness, the same rage and the same desire to kill myself rather than listen to another illogical word. I’m thinking I need to shut off General Hospital for a week or two, which is a shame because Luke, Robert, Holly, Anna and Tracy on an island together with pop guns, stolen jewels, and some very healthy men carrying a litter was a hoot.

Still, real life has a way of twisting storylines that would soap writers blush.

Last night, I went to Our Lady of Peace in South Brunswick for Mom’s and Tom’s Philomusica concert to keep statistics; I arrived before the other volunteers and could answer no questions because I was full of no information whatever. The choir was warming up so I sat on the floor of the vestibule and read a book Siobhan loaned me called The Stupidest Angel. This book made me bark with laughter, and eventually I had to quit reading it when during the concert I read where the town’s corrupt developer/traditional Santa says, “Eat me, you little vermin” and I couldn’t stop choking for five minutes. So I put the book away and went to help the volunteers set up a rather lavish refreshments table. My help was not so much needed, which I figured I should tell Mom about before I left.

After the concert, the choir members joined the audience in the vestibule, where I found members of the extended family, in a friends-of-the-family-all-my-life sense. They also live three blocks from my apartment, and I see them outside gardening quite often. Mom finally joins us.

Tata: So, there’s a thing I have to tell you before I leave.
Mom: What’s that?
Tata: There’s this lady who was in charge of setting up the refreshments table and I went to go help her. She was putting little cream puffs on a tray and she said, “I should have stacked them in a pyramid.” I said, “That would require caramel.” She stared at me, then she made a face.
Alan: Caramel?
Tata: You know, for the woot-woot-woot –

I am making the international gesture for spinning sticky sugar over a pyramid of cream puffs.

Diane, Mom, Alan: Oh!
Mom: Which lady?
Tata: Over there.
Mom: I don’t know her!
Tata: Well, that’s settled. I don’t know what she thought I was talking about. She did not find me funny! I made a perfectly legitimate croque en buche joke –
Mom: Hahahahahaha!
Diane: Apparently, your mom’s your target audience.
Tata: I did not see that coming…yet, the croque en buche jokes kill…Anyway, after that, she didn’t really want me standing near the food so I sat in a corner and read porn.
Mom: Did you remind Father John that a year ago today Sasha got married here?
Tata: No. Should I? Isn’t my presence tonight punishment enough?

It’s true he seems surprised.

Friday Cat Blogging: Tell Me One More Time

Note the transfer of black cat fur onto the drapes in the shape of a drowsy pussycat. I had the drapes cleaned. They now hang on very sturdy hangers in my coat closet. I have reached a stage of maturity that includes having a coat closet and knowing what belongs in it. This comes right before, “Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn! I baked cookies, do you want oatmeal or peanut butter?”

Aging is fraught with peril. I’m working a lot of hours right now so keeping domestic details organized and in motion is tricky and crucially important. Last night, I packaged up lunch, an afternoon snack – designed to keep drive-thrus of any stripe from holding salty appeal – and the papers I’d need to harass the publishers in Maryland of whom Miss Manners would not approve. This morning, as I pulled into a parking space at work, I noticed I had lunch but I’d left my purse-replacing Dragonball Z lunchbox on the kitchen floor. I have to drive home to retrieve it and I’ve rehearsed my:

Tata: But officer, we little old ladies forget things, as God intended. Do you know what was written on the side of the Titanic?
Officer: “Titanic”?
Tata: Sure. It also said something like “Not even the hand of God could sink the Titanic.” Boy, were they forgetful!
Officer: If you remember that, I bet you can remember to carry your driver license. Here’s your ticket, and there’s your court date.
Tata: …I won’t remember…
Officer: I’ll help you for one of those cookies.

A bad dress rehearsal means a good opening night.

Anywhere Else Than Here Today

Before the invasion of Afghanistan, a large group of my friends debated the pros and cons of military action on a closed mailing list. The only one of us who supported invasion was so alienated he threatened us with legal action and has never spoken to the rest of us again. This was a painful break. At the time, it seemed unthinkable that we could be separated by – well – anything. The rest of us wondered if he were having other problems he didn’t want to talk about but it was my first hint that after September 11th, some people were so deeply frightened that calming down was years off.

That was the first night of my lifetime that the stars didn’t flash landing lights, and I still watch the planes. They seem to fly much lower now than they did before. Every so often, I discover that someone else I met somewhere was killed that day. Other than this, which is occasionally sad, September 11th does not figure into my life anymore.

The site will be rebuilt.
The dust settled into the lungs of the rescuers and will cause illnesses.
I have taken up blogging.

Life goes on.

From this particular place, there is no need to bomb villages, supplant dictators, tap phones, monitor phone records; no need to do anything but pursue one’s own dreams and ambitions. I can’t do anything for the dead. For the living, I say: listen, it’s time to calm down and recognize that life is short. There is no guarantee of safety. The guy sitting next to you on the bus could have a bomb or a cake for his granny. Either way, worrying youself sick is pointless. Go buy your granny a cake and get on with your life.

Many things are foreseeable. There will always be wars prosecuted somewhere on earth because people are foolish, violent and greedy. What we should also foresee is what that does to the human beings making war, and the people in their bloody path. I did not have to be a genius to predict for my friends that war would turn young men and women into killers who lost control of their emotions and behavior. War turns quiet kids into murderers – not all of them, to be sure. But some. We have seen it, we have stopped talking about it because it seems hurtful to the trusting kids we sent off to war, and when soldiers return we regard them with a certain reserve. We are saying: I’m glad you’re home but what have you done?

Yesterday, TBogg published a rational and terribly sad review of the Haditha incident and the radical right’s Swiftboating – again – of Jack Murtha for talking about it: Now can we compare it to Viet Nam?

Too be honest, I’ve been been waiting for something like this to come to light because I feel like I’m watching the same war movie that I watched playing out in the late sixties when I was a teen. In this case, it’s less surprising when one looks at what preceded it: the fake rationale for a war, too few troops and too many tours of duty, the frustration that comes with being unable to distinguish between the enemy and the people we are supposed to be saving, little hope of an exit in the very near future, and the same lack of leadership that gave us the aforementioned Abu Ghraib with no accountablity up the chain of command. What surprises me is the fact that it involves Marines and not a National Guard squad made up of soldiers who thought they were signing up for weekends in the boonies, not months in Iraq. In the meantime the Right, unsurprisingly, is taking after the true villain of this piece: John Murtha.

“It’s much worse than was reported in Time magazine,” Murtha, a Democrat, former Marine colonel and Vietnam war veteran, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “There was no firefight. There was no [bomb] that killed those innocent people,” Murtha explained, adding there were “about twice as many” Iraqis killed than Time had reported.

Frankly, this is the actions[sic] of a traitor or a sellout. He deserves to be ridiculed, excoriated and frog-marched off Capitol Hill, then remanded to jail. No bail. Doesn’t this idiot know the type of damage this inflicts on the Marines? Or is it that he’s so intoxicated with the thought of becoming the next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee that he’ll say anything?

Like TBogg, I’ve seen this movie, and I remember how it ends: massacres, trials and shame. Ruined lives. Suicides. Families torn apart. Children grow up without the parent who died before they were born or who ate a gun when the nightmares took a turn for the even-worse. I was a child during Viet Nam but I have clear recollections of friends’ fathers and brothers returning damaged and distant. And here it is again, and the mystery is that anyone is surprised.

And for what? For nothing, that’s what. Vanity and hubris. The panic we should address with tea and talk and never, never with the bright and brittle futures of young men and women.

This is our collective life now. Bring them home and let us begin to repair the endless damage done in our name: to ourselves, and to the world.

Of Your Life To Wander Free

It’s a cloudy Graduation Day at the university. Today, New Brunswick is my idea of overdressed hell on earth with teary Moms and Dads, which is why I’m at home across the river. Earlier, I was making yogurt, talking to Siobhan and placating Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul. When I hung up the phone, I dropped it – plunk! – into the sink. After fishing it out and toweling it off, I dialed Miss Sasha. I got voicemail.

Tata: Hello, darling! It’s Mom! I dropped my phone into the sink and had to test it out so I called you. Aren’t you lucky?

She called back.

Miss Sasha: Your phone works!
Tata: I hear that.
Miss Sasha: Grandma’s mailing me wedding cake.
Tata: Yeah…I’m not so sure about this mailing-the-wedding-cake-thing. You’re really going to eat that?
Miss Sasha: Yes..?
Tata: For your anniversary, I’ll mail you Pepto Bismal.
Miss Sasha: Mr. Sasha has gotten thinner and needs new clothes so I’m buying him nice ones.
Tata: What? You can buy men’s clothes?
Miss Sasha: Sure. Most women can.
Tata: Ah! Proof I might actually be a wildebeast.
Miss Sasha: I told him, “No more dressing like a fat kid.”
Tata: Okay, less Pepto for him. And feed him some cheese.

If you missed the riotous months-long saga of Miss and Mr. Sasha’s wedding, here’s a link to the ancestral plastic fruit, a bridal shower where I tried climbing out a second story window, a purple Ming the Merciless blouse and an Italian family dancing the hora. Meet my archenemy, the Mother of the Groom!

And if you read along as events unfolded, Saturday’s the wedding anniversary, and tomorrow it will be a year since the rehearsal. Feel free to relive the miracle that was our survival – in formalwear!

The Words of the Profits Were Written On the Studio Walls

Johnny says, “No fucking way.”

My first thought was that there must be some mistake. The car dealership called to ask me when I could “come aboard.” Evidently my speeding tickets and my crash don’t disqualify me from driving civilians around. I didn’t really envision that this day would come. Now the joke is on me and I don’t know what the fuck to do.

Take the job, Andretti!

The radio says Kenny Loggins is playing at one of the casino ballrooms. I have tried, but I cannot escape the savagely humiliating recollection that when I stood trembling over the phone about thirty years ago, trying to screw up my courage to call and ask Jane Z. for a date, the first time I had ever done such a thing, I gave myself strength with the words to Kenny Loggins’ staggeringly insipid song “This Is It.”
Oh yes, this is it.
Make no mistake where you are.
Your back’s to the corner.
Until it’s over and done.
One way or the other.

God, what a towering dork. I deserve to be a car salesman.

What a liar! I worshipped him in high school after he stood up on a table in the lunchroom with a guitar and a pig nose amp and played Devo’s Mongoloid – I think it was Mongoloid. The principal pulled up a chair, wrote up a detention slip and waited. Johnny screamed, “YOU WANT MY AUTOGRAPH?” The principal nodded and carted him off, trying to squelch his own laughter. That might’ve been November, 1978 and it was the bravest thing I’d seen another kid do. Now, of course, he’d be shipped off to kiddie jail for having a sense of humor. In any case, our little fashionplate was no coward.

I had so many dreams when I was young. In most of them I was naked in a crowded room. Now, mercifully, I am dreamless. I want nothing. I am content to be a no-hit wonder.

He’s a little queeny today, so pretend not to notice. It’ll just encourage him. About going to court two months ago:

I was wrong. There is one thing I don’t like here. The juniper is blooming and half of Santa Fe is in allergy agony. Still worth it, though.

Due to bureaucratic incompetence, I had to back to court two more times. I was starting to run out of suits to wear. Some would consider a Nehru suit and two-tone shoes a little garish for court. Fuck them. I was waiting on one of my visits for some paperwork and I overheard a public defender telling a kid in a track suit that yes, the cops did have the right to search his vehicle if when he rolled down the window, pot smoke came pouring out, and if they could see a bag of weed on the passenger seat. He said it’s hard enough to be a black man on the roads, in the future, smoke your weed, then get in the car, and put the bag of weed under the seat. Speaking of which, I’ve started listening to the Albuquerque hip-hop station, just for a change of pace. There are some great lyricists on there.

I’m in love with a stripper
She poppin’, she rollin’, she rollin’
She climbin’ that pole, and
I’m in love with a stripper
She trickin’, she playin’, she playin’
I ain’t goin’ nowhere, girl, I’m stayin’

On a whiter note, this weekend I’m going to burn some Lyres music for you. I don’t know if it will do anything for you, but after all this time I still listen to it and think how can people think of music this good. Damn, or, as they say on the radio, day-um.

The Lyres. I wracked my brain. Did one of us date, you know, the band, get tanked with the band or did we hear it on the radio?

This time, we heard it on the radio.

Cross Bones Style

Yesterday, I walked all over town in an effort to stimulate what’s left of my metabolism. When I got to the park, I looked everywhere but there were few other visitors. I got a screwy idea: maybe I could sort of kind of possibly try running a few feet. Since I retired from gymnastics twenty-six years ago, I’ve been able to run maybe three steps before I hear popping sounds in my ankles that sound like small caliber weapons fire, and I stop running. What the hell, I decided, it’s an occasion.

So, I leaned forward and started running. I love the sensations: the freedom, the temporary and almost imperceptable escapes from gravity. After the first four or five steps I didn’t hear the usual pop! pop! so I ran on the paved path past a dumpster, then past another, then past a garbage can, then toward the weeds. Then I stopped because I still felt good and I’d run about a hundred yards farther than I thought I ever would again. I was thrilled! I giggled like an idiot for the next half-hour. Then I saw a duck swimming around in a puddle on the road and turned back toward town because I had never seen a duck swimming in a puddle on the road.

I’ve got another screwy idea: maybe I could sort of kind of possibly try running again. Just a few feet. Not very far. Still – yesterday I didn’t know I could run at all. As life lessons go, this one arrives right between the eyes.

When the Flood Waters Pour From the Mouth

Paul Simon was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live last night. This reminded me of A Simple Desultory Phillipic, a song that is about 40 years old now and more timely than ever before.

I been norman mailered, maxwell taylored.
I been john o’hara’d, mcnamara’d.
I been rolling stoned and beatled till I’m blind.
I been ayn randed, nearly branded
Communist, ’cause I’m left-handed.
That’s the hand I use, well, never mind!
I been phil spectored, resurrected.
I been lou adlered, barry sadlered.
Well, I paid all the dues I want to pay.
And I learned the truth from lenny bruce,
And all my wealth won’t buy me health,
So I smoke a pint of tea a day.

I knew a man, his brain was so small,
He couldn’t think of nothing at all.
He’s not the same as you and me.
He doesn’t dig poetry. he’s so unhip that
When you say dylan, he thinks you’re talking about dylan thomas,
Whoever he was.
The man ain’t got no culture,
But it’s alright, ma,
Everybody must get stoned.

I been mick jaggered, silver daggered.
Andy warhol, won’t you please come home?
I been mothered, fathered, aunt and uncled,
Been roy haleed and art garfunkeled.
I just discovered somebody’s tapped my phone.

It’s becoming harder and harder to keep up with the daily revelations of the administration’s abuses of power; with every revelation, I hear someone say, “That’s impossible” or “I give up.” The desire to sleep now and wake when this is over can be strong. Yesterday, Agitprop’s Blogenfreude, wide awake, made a list of extremely naughty children and their crimes. It’s so impressive I stopped yawning and rubbing my eyes like a six-year-old an hour after bedtime. Blogenfreude’s iceberg picture is worth several thousand words.

One thing I haven’t heard anyone say is whether or not the recording, selling and examining of phone records has stopped. I have a proposal: call your Congresspersons. Call your senators. Call your representatives. Call Nancy Pelosi and tell her that despite her reluctance to get her hands dirty –

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) told her caucus members during their weekly closed meeting Wednesday “that impeachment is off the table; she is not interested in pursuing it,” spokesman Brendan Daly said.

– the dirt must fly: we must have impeachment and removal. Call your mom and say, “Happy Mother’s Day, and I’ve emailed you the phone numbers of your Congressional representatives, and be sure to call that harpy Nancy Pelosi. Love you!”

If our phone records are being examined for patterns, let’s show ’em one.

Cross-posted at Running Scared and Blanton’s and Ashton’s.

Friday Goose Blogging: Unexpected Gosling Edition

Sharkey reports:

So this momma goose laid her eggs up on the roof of our office (a one story building). It’s a flat roof with a short rim around the edge. We knew once the eggs hatched, there would be no way for the chicks to get down. They finally hatched today (four of them), so we had to do something about them since there would be nothing for them to eat up there, and, it turns out, geese don’t feed their young like other birds.

You can’t tell from this photograph but his eyes are a deep blue that causes complete strangers to blurt out, “Where did you buy those color contacts? That color is not found in nature, man.”

Somehow, one of the chicks ended up on the ground, but we didn’t know how it got down. As I was going out to my car, I heard some noise in one of the gutter downspouts. That’s when I realized that’s probably how the first one got down, and now a second one was in there, sitting in an elbow up near the roof. I ended up going up onto the roof and scooping the two remaining into a box and brought them down to the parents. Then I had to get up onto a ladder, take apart the the downspout, and bring the last one down.

Our hero and a wild gosling chase! I called him up because poking him with a rotisserie fork requires geographical proximity. For example.

Tata: I like the pictures of the goslings running toward you. It’s like they’re in formation or something!
Sharkey: You can really see where the term “goose stepping” came from.
Tata: And look at them run away! Eeeeeee! It’s as if they’re running laps!
Sharkey: They were! And when I got close, they ran behind an HVAC system so I had to hide in the roof hatch.
Tata: You are the Terror of the Geese!
Sharkey: Then I took the ones in the box across the street and put the box down facing away from the parents.
Tata: I see you were wearing gloves.
Sharkey: I didn’t want to get human stink on them.
Tata: Good man.
Sharkey: Goslings are really soft.
Tata: Okay, now I’m worried.

I should knit him a flame-retardant Superman cape, in case he makes a hobby of protecting truth, justice and Canadian geese.

Friday Cat Blogging: Mama Says Edition

Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, has begun to limp every day, whether or not I’ve tricked him into eating his kiddie steroids. This has two effects on our relationship: I watch him struggle and worry, and he spends more time sitting on my lap, warming up. My lap is the warmest spot in a fairly warm apartment. I’m thinking about buying a heating pad for when my lap is warm at work.

Yesterday, the cat objected to my downward-facing-dog ways and nipped my tricep. Who can blame him? I was stubbornly neglecting to sit cross-legged and scritch under his chin after selfishly sleeping nearly six consecutive hours. What about his needs? Plainly, his nose requires regular and devoted scritching.

As a little black cat bent on stealing your soul, Larry has little time or patience for nail clipping. Perhaps I haven’t mentioned this fact: I am allergic to cats. After years of blowing my nose into tissues with cheery goldfish and raven-haired bad girls printed on them, I seldom notice except when the kitty stands on me like a pedestal and digs in his claws for extra traction. Then I come out in welts. This happens at least twice a day, and I don’t care an iota. Not one! I love the pussycat madly. You will note the ancient and crumbling quilt I keep on the couch to shield my lap from the claws of the happy cat friend. That is the concession I make to allergies.

It’s just about time to take him back to the vet so someone else can sniff kitty breath and decide if we must address another toothache. This is the way feline leukemia progresses. Fortunately, his appetite is excellent, his weight is up and he’s very demanding about kibble. “Where is my tasty kibble?” he asks every morning. “And scritch me, while you’re at it. Hop to!”