The Line Forms On the Right, Babe

Could it be our boy’s done something rash?

Audrey and I are always in the same Aquarian boat, and have been since 1991. If I’m at the end of my rope with some man, Audrey’s just put another on the train back to his mama. If her friends are acting crazy, mine play with toy trains on the railroad tracks. If her mother’s speaking in tongues, mine has laryngitis. Yesterday, I was upset and sent her what would otherwise be an unintelligible email.

Tata: In the past two weeks, how many rats have jumped ship?
Audrey: They jumped in the month prior.
Tata: Alone, alone, alone?
Audrey: Yes, yes, yes.

She was right. I’ve been a slow learner. Aquarians of my acquaintance are all close to a breaking point, if they haven’t already broken. A woman in my office has been calling her husband “the Liability” for a couple of months now. A man I see every day grows desperate about his wife’s refusal to treat her depression.

Life is really fucking short. Enough with lovers who don’t have time, can’t be honest, have to play games or only want us on their terms. Let us waste no more time on lament. The trees are a breathtaking green. The sky is a pillowy blue. Every night is filled with starry promise, and Audrey and I are fabulous, brainy babes. Somewhere, there are courageous, lusty hedonists, and let’s not keep them waiting.

One word: NEXT!

Cards For Pain

Part One

The atmosphere inside the car became moist and sultry after a few minutes and positively tropical shortly thereafter. Where windows were open for fresh air, water splattered inside. I hunkered down facing forward in the driver’s seat, winding a skein of yarn into a ball as water splashed down my back. I don’t know how long it was before the first car zipped past me on the slick, winding valley road, screeched to a halt, drove backwards at a breakneck pace and screeched to a second halt. The driver jumped out and came running.

I pushed the car door open, and by open I mean up, and I climbed out from under the door.

Dude: Are you alright?
Tata: I am! I’m waiting for a tow truck. Everything’s okay.
Dude: Are you hurt?
Tata: I’m not! It’s not actually my car.
Dude: Whew! A truck’s coming?
Tata: Yes, thank you, it’ll be here soon.
Dude: Okay, then…

By the third time, I was apologizing.

Dude: Are you alright?
Tata: I’m fine, and I’m sorry I scared you. A truck’s coming.
Dude: Are you hurt?
Tata: This is my friend’s car. I’m just waiting for the tow truck. Thank you so much! I’m sorry!
Dude: Okay, then…

Yes, and picture all this with rain like a firehose turned on our faces. An hour passed, during which I thought at great length about Dad. I was doing exactly what Dad would have done, or had me do. I had no doubt in an uncomfortable situation. There was no folding and slinking back to the house. I was honoring my father by being the capable person he wanted me to be. When the sixth vehicle stopped, skidded, careened, and skidded again, the rain…stopped. I got out of the car soaked to the skin. Suddenly, I was in a National Lampoon movie.

A family of four blond people jumped out of a big pick up truck. For about a second and a half, it was as if the film sped up when, as one, they rushed to the edge of the ditch and came to a springy stop. Then the film stopped for a second or two as they stared at me in slack-jawed horror. The younger blond child licked a lollypop.

Dad: Didja have a downpour?
Tata: Yes, I am okay. There’s a tow truck coming. It’s my friend’s car.
Mom: Are you injured?
Tata: No, I’m fine, thank you. Everything is okay. I’m sorry you were worried.

We stared at each other. Seconds ticked by. Their expressions did …not …change.

Mom: Can we get you an ambulance?
Tata: My family is at the end of the driveway and I am unhurt. I wasn’t in the car when it slid into the ditch. The driver is being cared for at the house. The combination to my high school gym locker was –
Dad: You sure about that tow truck?
Tata: I am entirely desperate for you to have a good day, and I’m so sorry I frightened you.

The family turned dubiously back to the truck, disappointed that I wasn’t bleeding. The younger one licked her lollypop. I smiled at her and wrinkled my nose. She climbed back in the truck. I slid down the grassy embankment and back into the car. As if on cue, the rain started again. The windows remained fogged. I felt mossy, like a fern in a crooked terrarium. Eventually, I saw flashing lights through the fog. I rejoiced: it must be the tow truck! No, it was the local police. I pushed the door up and climbed out from under it. Though my hobbies include bread baking, swearing and beautifying America one room at a time, I was unprepared for the handsome man’s impatient reaction to seeing me.

Cop: You called the police?
Tata: I didn’t! Must’ve been one of those concerned citizens who drove by.
Cop: What the hell are you doing?
Tata: I have to stay with the car. The tow truck should be here any time now.
Cop: No way! Folks’ll keep stopping to pick up the body. Get in the cruiser!

For once in my life, in the rain, completely soaked, wishing I had solved the ditched car problem and had returned to being a mourner, I did what I was told without an argument, but I did laugh. In fact, I giggled like a teenager as I explained.

Tata: My father’s memorial …at the house …not my car …auto club …tow truck on the way …friend with a cane…
Cop: You called the auto club? Where’s your card?
Tata: In the car. I’ll go get it.

I trudged the ten steps in the monsoon, slid down the side of the ditch, climbed into the car and got my wallet. On the way back, I lost my flipflops. By then, I was laughing so hard, I got back into the cop car barefoot. He called the station. The station called the auto club three times. The auto club said they’d never heard of me, then said, “Just kidding!” and sent another truck. By this time, the cop was irritated but apparently warming to my soggy beauty.

Cop: What’s the phone number at the house?
Tata: It’s…540-I GIVE UP! But it’s right over there.
Cop: Where?
Tata: My Dad lives at the end of the next driveway.
Cop: And what were you doing there?
Tata: He’s dead and we were having a memorial.
Cop: Where?
Tata: Over there!
Cop: I have to take you back there and get the phone number for the report.
Tata: Can I get my flipflops?
Cop: Grrrr.

I retrieved the flipflops in the soaking rain and once again, as soon as he turned the car around, the rain stopped. I directed him down the driveway, which everyone at the house could see. As he shut off the car and we got out, a crowd spilled out of the house and into the driveway to meet us. The cop was shocked that my story was true.

Darla: Sweetie, I bet that’s not the first time the police brought you home!
Tata: If you can believe it, I’ve managed to elude capture! He needs the phone number here.

He wrote down the number but he never asked to see Melody, which confused me, but when he pulled away, it didn’t matter anymore. The tow truck came and pulled Melody’s car out of the ditch. Guests told us stories, guests came and went. A few hours later, Darla and I sat on the dining room floor, talking about the future of literature. Daria and Todd appeared in the doorway, laughing.

Daria: You won’t believe what just happened.
Tata: Try us!
Daria: Fred told us about the time he and Dad grabbed meat cleavers and stalked a burglar through an attic. It was a riot! Then we were standing there by ourselves. Nobody else would have gotten this! Todd said –
Todd: “From ze day he was born – “
Daria: And I said, “Shebop shebop shebop.”
Darla: ” – he vas trouble.”
Tata: “Shebop shebop shebop.”
Todd: “He vas ze thorn in his mutter’s side.”
Daria: “Not her back but her side.”
Darla: “She cried in vain.”
Tata: “Not the artery but the vein!”
Todd: “But he never caused her nozing but shame!”
All: “He left home ze day she died!”

Then we all did the twist.

I miss Dad terribly. Since the end of last year, I have been battered by terrible situation after terrible situation and little time to deal with the separate griefs. A time may come when I end up small and shattered but I don’t feel that way now. I feel lucky to have had the father I did, who didn’t metaphorically bind my feet. He knew I’d need them to land on and stand on.

Cards For Sorrow

About thirty miles from Staunton, I realized I was sitting behind an electrical truck I’d chased out of the left lane fifty miles before, my car had a distinct high-speed shimmy, and I was so far beyond exhausted I was a danger to myself and the other drivers. So I drove faster. It was 9:46 Friday night, 11 May, and it would have been Dad’s 66th birthday.

When I got to the house, my female relatives were already sobbing. Someone handed me a glass of cheap white wine. It was as if I’d blinked and we were back in March, only Daddy was dead. I stayed up for a few hours with Darla and Miss Sasha until I was crosseyed and confused. Suddenly, it was morning. I sat bolt upright in my bed on Dad’s office floor, marched myself to the kitchen and started baking. Darla and Miss Sasha slept in. Daria, Dara and Todd went grocery shopping. My brother-in-law Tyler and I stuck our heads out the front door, did Paper, Rock, Scissors about the weather and set up the buffet in the dining room.

Promptly at 2, Dad’s friends began arriving for our memorial barbecue. Packs of nice people – some with faces familiar to me, some not – nodded and expressed their sorrow. Many told stories I cannot repeat because you wouldn’t believe me. Daria and Dad’s ex-wife Summer knew everyone who came down the driveway but I felt the pull of the kitchen. My impulse in a crowd is always to go scour something. At just about 2:30, Daria corralled Todd.

Daria: Take Barry and drag Melody’s car out of the ditch at the next driveway.
Todd: What am I, Superman?
Daria: Keys!

Before you snicker: the country roads were slick, narrow and pitched at wicked angles. It could have been any of us that went for a frightening slide, but it was Darla’s friend Melody, who walks with a cane. Todd and Barry returned to the kitchen fifteen minutes later.

Todd: It’s tow truck time! Who’s got auto club?
Tata: Hand me the phone and behold my truck-summoning powers!
Crowd: Oooooooooh!

The nice lady on the phone told me the truck would arrive to pluck the little car from the ditch before 3:55 but that I should be standing next to the vehicle cheerily waving my membership card in fifteen minutes. I thanked her, hung up, packed some new yarn into my messenger bag and set off down the driveway on foot. Before I got halfway across the lawn, heads spun.

Todd: What? Where’s she going?
Melody: What’s going on?
Darla: Need a blackjack and a Diet Coke?
Daria: Who’s going with you?
Tata: I don’t need back up.

Geez louise. The car was nose-down in that ditch on a diagonal. Todd had said one of the front tires was hanging in space but I never saw it or the front of the car. I climbed down three or four feet into the ditch and stood next to the car in two-foot tall grass, leaned on the car and started winding a skein of recycled silk yarn into a lumpy ball. Minutes passed, rain threatened, then suddenly delivered. I jumped into the driver’s seat, set up yarn for more winding and opened a couple of windows a crack each for fresh air as torrential rain pounded the Shenandoah Valley. Then things got deeply, cinematically weird.

Part Two

Smile Up At the One Standing Proud

In this time of terrible cognitive dissonance, we can best honor soldiers and veterans by caring for their medical and occupational needs after they serve, because the dead need only love. As a person deeply opposed to war, I am also opposed to the mistreatment of people who trust us not to expend life and limb foolishly. There is everything to say now and no way to say it anymore.

This song still brings tears to my eyes. For a youthful, stylized version of what we had and lost, have a look at this.

Peace be with you this day, whoever you are.

We Were So Close, There Was No Room

Previously on Poor Impulse Control: Dad got sick. Everyone dropped everything and went to Virginia. We laughed, we cried, we made ganache. Dad died on April Fool’s Day and eventually we all saw the insides of our own houses again before we went back to Virginia for a memorial barbecue the day after what would have been Dad’s 66th birthday. Believe it or not, I’m still writing this story, and as I do, I’ll keep adding to this list. Only death is final. All else is editing.

Oh Jesus Christ, foreshadowing.

New Year’s Eve

Sing out!


It’s cancer.

Life expectancy.

Mop fu.

The year of no birthdays

home from the hospital, yay!


leaving tonight


hotel living, dying at home

the journey, the terror

Todd arrives, truths are told

praying with athiests

antics, remembered

Dad’s mad magic

a prelude

be prepared!

the actual ‘lude to what was pre

domestic pitcrew, gunfire

the outside world, in


chicken feet and Shut Up Time

that chanting thing

care and manicure

phones, running on phumes

t-shirts, felines, DMV

roadblocks, slaphappy

the only truth I know is you

Daria departs, grownups arrive

I’m pretty wide


Dad dies

Dad dies, I said

I come home

the undertaker


the outer world, again

poultry and legacy


we don’t know what it means


that damn tree

Like this

questions and quiet

the premonition

the guitars, the poster

Love Has No Pride

a public person

Into the fray, out of the ditch

Artifacts and Anthems

Hopefully the fucking archives will be working sometime soon.

Updated 5.29.07: Siobhan and Sharkey fixed the archives. PIC still has linky problems but at least the archives are visible. And the villagers rejoiced!

Friday Music Blogging: What Else To Do Edition

I’ll admit it: I’m a bit depressed. I could give you forty reasons why and if you could fix thirty-nine, you still wouldn’t be able to do anything about that last one: people waste time they could have spent being happy together. There is often no discernable, rational reason for what happens. People act on the idea that the clock will never run out and chances for happiness will keep arriving but that’s not true, is it?

Well, I can’t change what other people do, so let’s dance. It’s a really silly video. Let’s get lost in a song about exuberance and passion, and laugh about the hair.

I can’t wait to go home today. The last month has been years long.

Is Equal To the Love You Make

Indulge me for just a second – or 4:33. With just over a minute-thirty left in this video, I start shouting every time.

This morning, I buzzed around my apartment and Today In New York was on in the living room. Mostly, I wait for the weather report but every two or three weeks, something catches my attention. This morning, during a report on seniors with AIDS, I heard the word abstinence and stopped buzzing. I saw an older woman saying, “As far as contact with a gentleman: forget it. Not me. No way.” I mean, whatever. So I went and brushed my teeth. Anyway, I went to work and couldn’t stop thinking about what I had nor had not heard. The video is posted to the Today In New York blog and I want you, and you, and you there. So, surrender, Dorothy. Here again is the video.

What is this report about, really? It starts out with a safe sex lecture at a senior center in Corona, Queens. Seniors are having sex and want protection from communicable disease, and recently a man “died of AIDS”, leaving – forgive me! – high and dry four elderly ladies who didn’t know he had the virus. Next thing we know, we have a city council member requesting funds for education programs, and here’s where the subject drifts from the one in the headline and bumps into a couple of weird Republican talking points.

The cues are subtle. The problems with inflection are minor until we get to this whopper in reporter Melissa Russo’s voiceover: “The commissioner would not comment on whether the city should spend tax dollars on more safe sex programs in senior centers.” I didn’t hear these words this morning. The next line is, “Of course there will always be some who practice abstinence.”

Later, the condescending kicker: “The sad part is I mean is – of course it’s good that these people are living longer lives – the sad part is if they’d known all along they’d live long their lives would have been so different.” (What a bitch that was to transcribe. I bet closed captioning typists slit their wrists when this reporter talks.) Sure, if they’d known that gigolo with the plaid jacket had the rabid gay disco plague, all those love-starved grannies might’ve stuck with platonic bingo partners, is that it?

There is so much wrong with this I’m going to miss stuff. Feel free to write your own book report.

First, the headline is A Third Of New Yorkers With AIDS Are Over 50. This story mentions that people with AIDS are living longer, and society will have to consider their needs. The report offers us a retirement-age activist who no longer worries he’s going to be cut down in his youth. That’s it. I’m not wearing a stop watch but that’s got to be less than 30 seconds in a report stretching past the four-minute mark. So, what is the actual topic? Our squeamishness, and we have it by the – forgive me! – buttload.

In 2007, a certain segment of the population believes that sex education must come with abstinence education or perhaps there shouldn’t be sex education at all. The blank stupidity of this assumption hurts my head. The simple fact is that most of us are not having sex right now. We know what not having sex is like. No one has to teach us that, which differs sharply from our need to learn about the health and function of our bodies. We are not born with an expert knowledge of anatomy and physiology, and proceeding without one can kill us. Further, we should know how bodies function sexually and how to protect ourselves from disease. This information can be taught to us in a simply factual manner. It is possible to present facts without coloring them with opinion, which may seem like an absolutely crazy notion we can examine after everyone calms down, but really. For instance: I can teach you how to apply a condom and what you do with that knowledge is your business. Period. Everyone should know how male and female bodies work and why; it is simply a matter of public health. So, why does the question of “tax dollars on more safe sex programs” come up?

Even if we quake in our shoes at the idea that teenagers have sex despite the fact that we did, we have to grow the fuck up and accept the idea that adults have sex. Our opinion, especially if we don’t like that idea, is unimportant. Adults have sex. That is a simple fact, and because adults have sex, adults should have a functioning knowledge of anatomy and physiology which a lot of adults do not possess, and where could one reliably acquire it? Instead of wondering whether tax dollars should fund safe sex programs, our reporter would better serve the public interest by asking that commissioner if he’s ready to fund a 24-hour sex education channel. For one thing, people don’t die of AIDS. They die of complications of AIDS. Those terrible deaths suck. And a reporter should be more careful with words.

The real subject of this report can be summed up simply: Gross! AIDS is too terrifying to inspire rational thought and my tax dollars buy Grandpa rubbers!

Next time, NBC news should send an adult.

And the Shadows And the Stars

This morning, I had just left the apartment complex along one of the tree-lined avenues of my town when ahead of me on the sidewalk I spied a man so tall his head brushed the leaves well above me. I watched him for a few minutes as I caught up. He was wearing a brown suit. As I got closer, I guessed he might be 6’2″ or taller with a stoop, and very thin. His left arm had a distinct palsy, and soon I saw his right arm had something odd about it too, though I can’t say now what it was. His brown hair was white at the scalp, but older men have some latitude when it comes to hair fashion so I didn’t think it odd that his hair was probably longer than mine. I soon came to a point where I was going to have to pass him and because it’s a very small town and if I piss someone off he’s going to spit in my snowcone at the next street fair, I have to be delicate about it.

Though I seldom step into the street on this particular tree-lined avenue at this hour because drivers are talking on cell phones, pulling on pantyhose and noshing toaster strudel without a thought for reasonably unarmed pedestrians and I am one, I did. Within ten steps, the gap between us closed and I turned to say a polite, “Good morning” to the person I’d just passed. I pass a lot of people. Usually, people smile and respond in kind and nobody worries about snowcones. This man stopped, bobbed and made a burbling sound. His face was doughy and his expression blank. The detail that caught my attention though was his belt: the prong was stuck through a hole, the end of the belt dangled a long way. It was the belt of a large man who’d lost a great deal of weight. I snapped my eyes forward, then turned back. Without looking at me, he took a step backward, then began to walk forward slowly. Ahead of me, in the distance, walked another man with a huge bag of laundry on his back, and ahead of him, on the other side of the town’s main drag sat a police car with lights on. That was three things in a row I did not expect to see on this normally tranquil spot. I looked around for toaster strudel.

I felt sick. I felt like I’d seen something I shouldn’t have. Maybe I was overreacting, but I was afraid he was having a stroke. Maybe he was fine and just really quirky. The other possibility, fresh in mind from having to corral Dad when he hallucinated, was that this man suffered from dementia and this morning he got dressed and went out because that’s what he used to do. I came to the corner of Tree-Lined Avenue and Main Drag, hesitated for a moment, then turned toward the bridge and kept walking. The cop was one traffic light away. The man was a block behind me. I thought I’d have an aneurism. I started arguing with me in self-defense.

Tata: What are you doing? We can’t leave that guy like that! He’s in trouble.
Tata: You’re a fucking drama queen, you know that? He’s probably fine. If he’s a mathematician, he’s probably better than fine.
Tata: You’re such a bitch! You’re more afraid you’re going to be embarrassed than that that guy needs an ambulance.
Tata: Shut it, that never happens. We’ve been wandering around for four decades and how many times have we ever called an ambulance? Zero. He’s an old guy out for a morning walk.
Tata: Coward!
Tata: Busybody!

Yeah, my insides spun like a like a funnel cloud as I crossed the bridge, then walked under Route 18. Standing on Albany Street, I dialed the town’s police non-emergency number and, marching along at a brisk clip, reported my suspicions to the person who answered the phone, and when I say this is a really small town, that person was probably someone walking her dog by town hall when the phone rang. Then I walked the rest of the way to work, rationalizing my decision to call the cops. I’m sure I looked really sane, what with the waving and “Would you shut up, please?”

For the last hour, I’ve stared at my office phone and wanted to call back. I haven’t. I’m scared the police will tell me I was foolish to worry and would I please not tie up their lines, thankyouverymuch? Or they’ll tell me they didn’t find him, or they found him too late. Why didn’t I call sooner?

I don’t trust me. That’s my problem, right there.

Just Keep the Groove And Then

Each time Blogger leaps about like a puppy about to pee itself, I get nervous. A lot of bloggers get nervous. Over the weekend sometime, Blogger upgraded some contraption and now I can’t preview. What’s this post going to look like? We don’t know! Fortunately, I love surprises, and when one of my posts doesn’t suck, it’s Happy Birthday to Me! So let’s hope for cake.

Two stories are burning up bandwidth in the Blogosphere tonight. One is that Bush is actually planning to double the number of combat troops in Iraq, which comes with a tasty sidedish of Congressional Democrats caving. The other story is that the President appointed himself Emergency Czar. This is a highly unusual step that circumvents two whole branches of our government as described by the Constitution. On a daily basis, I find one news story out of Washington so astounding I can’t believe what I’ve just read; to find two appalling stories in one day is almost more than I can bear. I gotta think about something else tonight.

Daria and Tyler are in Hawaii, which doesn’t suck except that neither of them sleeps well and there’s a substantial time difference between the Jersey Shore and the North Shore. After that last gypsy caravan to Virginia, Tyler handed me one of his cell phones he didn’t use, said, “Use it to call your sisters,” and stalked off. I stared. Talk to them more? Not without quitting my job, I can’t. But what the Hell, Sunday I charged the paperweight and called. It was noon on my living room floor. Daria was thrilled to talk to me at six in the morning because, of course, she was up. She sounded like her eyes were rolling around in her head but if you have to have insomnia, Maui is a fine place to have it. She said they were thinking of going snorkeling or canoing with giant tortoises and suddenly I pictured a family reunion coinciding with Discovery’s Shark Week. I said she should stick to canoing, as it had a lesser probability of ending in teeth.

On the other hand, what the hell do I know? For months, I’ve been staring at the weights on my living room floor and wondering why I’m not lifting them. I love lifting weights. I’ve been doing it off and on for thirty years. I’ve stared at the yoga mat. Why am I not doing yoga? I don’t know. I haven’t known for a long time. Yesterday, I was staring at the weights again when I thought, ‘Uh, princess, you walk to work every day. Why not velcro on those wrist weights?’ Sure, I felt stupid getting a bright idea at this late date, but this morning I wrapped the weights around my wrists and patted the fastener, then repeated the process on the way home. I should have done this months ago.

And frosting. I should’ve done that, too.