I write what I know, and the suppositions of "what if". This place incorporates the two aspects of my life: the real (or my perspective of what is "real") and the fiction. Sometimes it's profane, confusing, sad, sweet, bitter,and funny- or just plain boring and stupid, all at the same time, but it's mine.
Teacher, writer, amateur bass player, observer of the world..
One other thing:
My dad passed away August 15, 2013 from Alzheimer's. I hate Alzheimer's.
One of my friends told me today that he loves Smarties but he doesn’t eat them when he’s alone anymore. Last week he was at home by himself, happily popping Smartie after Smartie into his mouth, and inhaled one. For a moment he thought he was going to die by choking to death on a Smartie. And all this after beating cancer. I told him at least he would have a cool obituary, and the conversation at the funeral would be interesting as hell:
“You hear how Bill died?” “No, what happened?” “He choked to death on a Smartie.” “What the hell is a Smartie?”
“You know, those little candies that come in a cellophane roll.”
“You can choke to death on a Smartie?” “Well, Bill did.”
I read on the Darwin awards website where some twisted fellow went down into his basement, dressed up in a school girl uniform, placed a gasmask on his face that had a long rubber tube extending from the end, inserted the other end of the tube into….um, (no way to put this delicately) his rectum ,and asphyxiated himself. Can you imagine the look on the face of whoever discovered the body? Can you imagine the widow trying to explain that shit to the life insurance company?
One of my mom’s cousins died a dignified death, but left instructions for her favorite pet cat to be “put to sleep” and placed in a box at the bottom of her casket. I didn’t find out about this until after the viewing at the funeral home or I would have been all up in that casket trying to find that poor cat. I don’t even want to know what she had done with the other cat that wasn’t her favorite.
Speaking of death stories, there’s the one about a distant relative who was cremated. His daughter switched out his cremated remains with some Kingsford ashes from the barbeque grill. The wife, I guess, still has the Kingsford ashes in an urn on her mantle. Her husband, meanwhile, is scattered over a cemetery seven hundred miles away in another state, per his last wishes that the wife did not want to honor.
Me? I don’t care how I leave this earth as long as it doesn’t involve fire or an overly extended period of suffering. Or anything like the poor guy in the basement. That goes without saying.Afterwards? I don’t care. I like the idea of shooting my ashes off into space, but that’s probably a tad bit costly. I’ve always half-joked that I want my cremated remains to be given to my daughter. She loses things constantly. She can’t keep up with her driver’s license, her makeup, her shoes, her brush. I figure if she gets my ashes she’ll just lose them and the problem will be solved. Maybe I'll eventually end up in a warehouse out in East Texas and have my fifteen minutes of fame on the television show "Storage Wars" when my ashes are discovered inside a makeup bag. Could be worse..
Do truly crazy (I'm talking certifiable) people just kind of silently bloom in a corner where no one will notice them, and then lash out the minute their personal reality and the rest of the world’s clash? Seriously, I had a “conversation” with one of these wackaloons today. The way this person was describing her perceptions and interpretations of events, both past and present, was so twisted and skewed from reality that it sounded like a version of Bizarro world from the Superman comics.
I suppose people can convince themselves of anything if it soothes their minds and hearts and helps them deal with their own internal pain. I can’t help but feel sorry for these wounded souls though. They are poison to themselves and everyone who gets near them. When I identify one of them- the process is not always instantaneous- all I can do is speak my peace, back away slowly, as if backing away from a rattlesnake, and then proceed to cut that person out of my life totally and completely.
Self centeredness, jealousy, hurt, and pain stirred together in one person is a vicious combination. I can’t help anyone who envelops themselves in that deadly mixture. I can’t reason with a person like that. All I can do is step away and thank the stars that I don’t have to live in his or her skin. Must be hell on earth...
I am fifty years old today and from this day forward I am allowed to do the following:
Tell certain people in WalMart that they are ugly and need to stop wearing their pajamas out in public
Get old lady hair (although I’m not quiet certain how one “gets” old lady hair.. maybe it just springs from the hair follicles after the 50th).
Remind those underwear showing teen boys to pull their damn pants up..and do not even give me that look, young man.
Smile smugly (I love alliteration) when I see a young mother struggling to pry her screaming children away from the Coca Puffs in the supermarket.
Stop pretending that I like plain active yeast yogurt. I hate that crap. I don’t care if it’s good for me or not.
Cancel my subscription to Cosmopolitan. Who cares that there are twenty-five new sexual positions that will get my man revved?
Start drinking a bottle of red wine every evening because it’s “good for the heart”.
Speaking of wine: Start drinking the really good, expensive wine because wine drinking after a certain age is considered sophisticated. A lot has changed since I used to drink Boone’s Farm and then puke in the backseat of my boyfriend’s car.
Walk past the tampon/maxi pad aisle in the drugstore and never have to visit it again…
Wear false eyelashes on a daily basis (where in the hell did my real lashes go anyway?)
That’s it. Like my good friend Martha Jean would say, “That’s the list.” Viva la FIFTY!!!!
I was almost asleep last night and something popped into my head. You know how that can be. This one little thing grabs ahold of you and won't let go. Mine was this:
If you live long enough you're going to develop your own particular brand of crazy.
Wow, where did that come from? I didn’t know, but I liked it. I told myself that I’d remember it, but then it occurred to me that a lot of good story ideas, snippets of wisdom, and solutions to ancient and modern issues have probably been lost in time due to falling-asleep-epiphanies not being written down for posterity and morning. Late night genius has a tendency to dissipate before sunrise like Hot and Now Kripsy Kreme doughnuts bought at midnight. I know; I once solved the issue of the energy crisis before falling asleep. By morning it was gone. Just like that. Gone.
So, last night I knew I’d never remember the above piece of wisdom, so I grabbed my Droid charging by the bed on the night table, activated the camcorder and whispered into it. Then I figured while I had it on I might as well video Dear Husband sleeping so I could convince him that he really does snore. I videoed him for an entire three minutes. It's funny as hell. If Dear Husband and I ever have a major martial disagreement that becomes too heated, I might post it to YouTube.
So remember: If you live long enough you're going to develop your own particular brand of crazy.
A writer acquaintance posted on Facebook today asking for women to post their most hilarious non-violent divorce revenge stories. She says it’s “research” for a book, but if her husband’s belongings show up in an EVERYTHING MUST GO FOR $1.00 sale, we’ll know why this certain research was needed.
The varying revenge stories were quite unique and creative. One woman calmly asked her ex to stop texting, phoning, writing her letters begging her to come back to him. The REALLY bad part? The NEW girlfriend was standing right there when she asked. Another woman said she put in a change of address for her ex husband at the post office and had all his mail forwarded to a vacant house.
Tonight I was relating these revenge stories to my friend, Scott. He proceeded to tell me about a woman (who shall remain nameless) who became so angry at her soon-to-be-ex that she repeatedly crashed her car over and over into his house trailer- I do live in the South- until the trailer physically left the foundation. Pissed off lady, I’d say. I hope she had some damn good car insurance, and he had damn good.. uh..… trailer insurance.
I am a woman, but women can be evil creatures. We will carry a grudge for years, and no one can talk us out of it. There’s a reason I don’t have a lot of close women friends. They are devious as hell. A woman’s mode of thinking is somewhat like this: “I have been wronged and the scales must be balanced, even if I have to break my neck doing it”. Why?
True confession here, and one I am not proud of (Husband of Thirteen Years, if you are reading this, stop now). When Husband of Thirteen Years and I split up, I sold his heater for $50.00. Not just any heater, but a MASSIVE kerosene blower heater used on construction jobs. I sold that sucker, and when Husband of Thirteen Years asked me about it, I naturally feigned complete innocence and ignorance about said heater. I really don’t think he believed me, but that was back in 1996. If there is any statue of limitations for selling an ex’s property for far less than its value, I think it’s come and gone. And no, Husband of Thirteen Years, I will not give you that $50.00. I spent it on gas. It’s gone. And I think I may have cut a few of your shirts with a pair of scissors too, but they were old shirts. And I was a lot younger and a lot more passionate in my anger back then.
My Give-a-Shitter broke years ago, thank Buddha and anyone else responsible for the breakage of my Give-a-Shitter. I have calmed down considerably. If all that divorce stuff were to happen today I would probably just sigh and then go back to reading my book. I don’t have the energy for revenge anymore. I'm tired. Maybe that’s what getting older means: we’re too tired to fight over much of anything. Leave all that craziness to the young ones who haven’t learned that none of it will matter in thirty years anyway. Why waste a good hour or two on fighting, arguing, getting revenge, or destroying property? I could be taking a nap. Bet Dear Husband will be happy to read this entry.
Dear Husband had surgery yesterday on his right rotator cuff. He’s had this surgery before in the exact same shoulder, so this surgery entailed the removal of scar tissue (yuck), repair of the muscle itself, and shaving down of a bone spur (double yuck).
Dear Husband has been sitting on the couch for most of the day with a morphine I.V drip in his vein. He hits a pink button and a bit of morphine is suddenly released into his system. About twenty seconds after the morphine is released (I know because I timed it) his eyelids grow heavy and he gets a dopey little shit eating grin on his face. Then his head lolls back, if he’s not in mid-sentence, and his mouth drops open, and a type of weird snorting sleep overtakes him. Weird sleep though. If I move towards him he snaps awake like he’s at Boy Scout Camp and someone is attempting sneak up and fill his hand with shaving cream. I haven’t been able to get within a foot of him without his startling into an instant awake state. He’s good. Even doped up, he’s good. It’s like trying to approach a vampire sleeping in his coffin. He senses the wooden stake somehow. But I keep trying.
It’s been an interesting and vastly entertaining afternoon, between trying to outwit a morphine drugged husband and driving back and forth to the store. Each time I come home from the store with an item he’s requested, he thinks of something else that he needs, then zones out for another twilight nap. Bread. Pimento cheese. Dairy Queen Blizzard. Benadryl. But I really don’t mind. I get to listen to Leonard Cohen in the car cranked full volume, and when I had surgery three months ago I kept Dear Husband running back and forth to the store like an overgrown Energizer bunny, only he’s not pink and doesn’t play a percussion instrument. But I, unlike Dear Husband, didn’t get to bring home a morphine I.V drip when I had surgery. How unfair is that? I wasn’t bombed out on the couch, and Dear Husband missed all the entertainment value of a spouse in a post-op morphine daze.
The nurse is coming tomorrow to remove Dear Husband’s I.V. What am I going to do for fun after that?
In September, I decided to become, at last, a bit more serious about my writing. I have written all my life, but only on sporadic occasions have I attempted to turn my writing into more than just a hobby. My September decision to delve headfirst into a writing life was a huge leap into the unknown- a realm of do or die. I am a writer who composes in her head before sitting down at night to put into concrete words the often confusing thoughts. To give them life. To flesh them into something more than just mere ramblings. To enter the world of the true wordsmith.
Having entered this writing life (a lonely one, I’ve found), I stored all my teacher clothes in the spare closet, and began to live in what is becoming my everyday uniform: ragged at the cuff Old Navy jeans, various long sleeve boys’ button up shirts, and black high top Converses. I look like a twelve year old boy, but in my mind’s eye this is exactly how a true writer looks- a bit disheveled, low maintenance, and too busy in actual creation to give much thought to something as insubstantial as appearance. Did Van Gogh not sacrifice a portion of his body for his art (or was that lust?) Did Poe not forgo heat in his very own home in order to follow his tell-tale heart? Did Dickinson not send a letter to the world and then shut herself from it? And while I will not sacrifice an ear to the blade, because I just love the way small silver earrings fit into the little holes there, I will cut corners, so to speak.
I’m no Van Gogh, Poe, or Dickinson, but should I not have to suffer for my art? Should I not have to frump around in consignment sale shirts while I attempt to turn the words out onto the page like a perfect skillet fried egg? Suffer is a matter of perspective, anyway, is it not? I have pared back in my life: I do not darken the doors of Belk’s and buy that smoking hot dress that was made for my black boots. I do not wander into the regular priced section in Barnes & Noble, but instead limit myself to the clearance tables. I do not press a button and instantly order movies from satellite Pay for View, but have become one with the local Redbox where I can rent the same movies for a dollar. I am sacrificing. I am giving into my art. I am creating my own garret with instant Rhapsody music and green lemon tea with honey. I may want to appear like a self sacrificing “starving” artist on the outside; however I do not want to live like one. After all, my mama didn’t raise no fool.
So, if you see me around town, just nod your head and try not to tell me how awful my attire is. I know how unfashionable I am. One day, when I win the Pushcart Prize or The National Book Award, I will be called eccentric and fresh. Now? I’m just sitting at my computer looking like a frumpy fifty year old woman pretending I dress this way for my art, when really it’s just the fact that the older I get, the more the realm of comfort becomes my sole aim in life. Writer, my ass….
My grandmother, Ma, has been gone for almost nine years. Let me rephrase that: My grandmother, Ma, has been dead for almost nine years. I don’t like to write the “D” word- it’s too permanent. But last night, oh last night, I was able to spend a few precious minutes with her. Not in this life, but in my other life. The one that I live in when I sleep- my dreams.
There she was, as real as I am, maybe more so. She was lying in a steel framed bed, dying, but alert. Her face pale pink against the white starched sheets. A blue hued painting hung above the bed. An impressionistic one. Monet maybe? In the dream, unlike the way it had been when she actually died, Ma knew she was dying, and there was a peace in her knowledge. She was animated, smiling even, and she wanted music. Demanded it. There was an old cabinet stereo in the corner of the hospital room. Ma held out a scratched 45 rpm record of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and then she asked me to dim the harsh hospital room lights. I placed the record on the record player, and Ma laid her head back on the bed and listened and smiled.
Back in my waking life, my heart tugs with an ache to see her, talk to her, touch her. When she died, while I was watched helpless to keep her here, a part of me left with her. And I haven’t been able to find it since.
But, she’s still with me. Still here. And last night it was wonderful to spend those few minutes with her.. To hear her voice and to be comforted with the reminder that she lives inside of me and that she’ll never really leave me. Not really.
I came to the mountains yesterday for a write-cation. I have to get my novel revised if it is to have any chance (even as slim as that may be) of seeing published birth. I packed up three pair of jeans, some button up comfy shirts, a hard copy of the manuscript, pens, my laptop, jump drive, smart phone, and my dog, Truman; Truman is a little Maltese who has the eyes of a street beggar and the heart of a small lion. I loaded everything in my car and then drove four and half hours to get here. I also packed food. Lots of food. I also stopped at a Super WalMart halfway in the drive and bought fresh boneless chicken breast. Throw some parmesan cheese mixed with Duke’s mayo, spread it thick on the chicken, top with bread crumbs, and then bake.. viola! Heaven. I was determined not to have to ride the seven or so miles into town while I was write-cationing. But I also wanted to eat well.That plan didn’t work.
I peeled my potatoes to boil them for mashed taters (I do so love them smashed to a creamy concoction with plenty of real butter) and then discovered I had no tater masher. How can I have mashed taters without a tater masher? Put manuscript aside, grab car keys and wallet. Put Collective Soul in the car CD player and head out to get a tater masher. Five stores and twenty-five minutes later, still no tater masher, although I did find a white plastic strainer and a key ring with a cool red laser pointer thingy. I was starting to think if I was going to have mashed taters I was going to have to stomp on ‘em like they do grapes in Italy, but I wasn’t too crazy about the prospect of getting butter between my toes. On a whim I pulled into a small little EVERYTHING’S A DOLLAR store and there it was on a back aisle. A white handled tater masher. White to match my new strainer. The Holy Grail of mashed taters.
I cooked and ate my taters and chicken, and then Truman and I took a nap. I had to get the creative juices flowing again and a nap always seems to help. Tomorrow I have to find a corkscrew. I have wine and no way to open it. It is chilled in the refrigerator calling my name. I can hear it.Tomorrow back to the EVERYTHING’S A DOLLAR store…. Thank the baby Jesus for it.
The old man walked into the room. It was freezing. He blew out and his breathe crystallized into vapor the way it once did in his childhood in Ohio. Those were cold winters. This.. not so bad.But still, it would be nice to have heat on. Damn electric company couldn’t wait three more days until his Social Security check came, could they? No, they just turn the shit off and don’t care that an old man freezes his wrinkly balls off. And he was an old man. There was no getting around that. He hated the sound of “senior citizen”. You didn’t call a young person a “teen citizen” or a forty something-year-old frump a “middle citizen”. Where in the hell did that word come from anyway?
He went to the refrigerator and opened it. He cocked his head in puzzlement over the darkness inside then remembered for the hundredth time that the lights were out. The little light thingy in the fridge wouldn’t work. He reached for a carton of yogurt, hoping it wasn’t out of date, peeled the tin lid back and carried it into the living room where he spooned it up with a long handled silver ice cream spoon that had once belonged to his grandmother. The candle on the worn end table next to him was flickering into a waxy puddle. He’d better look in the drawer and see if he had more. Thank God Edna had stocked up on things like that before she died three years ago. Back then he had bitched and moaned about Edna’s hoarding of batteries, candles, jugs of water.. now he was grateful. It was if she had been able to see the future.
Edna had been the one to handle the money, the bills. He hated the same ole same ole of responsibility. He’d rather be writing a paper on Shakespeare and his contributions to the English language, or tending his African violets. Bills? Screw them. After Edna’s death, the old man’s oldest son had taken over the bills and had them set up on an automatic bank withdrawal system that the old man didn’t quite understand. So every month the account went into the red. Even when his son had taken the debit card away, the old man used a dusty old checkbook that he had found shoved in one of Edna’s junk drawers. It was for the same account they had had for over forty years. So far, the son hadn’t figured out why the payments still bounced.
The upstairs bedroom was filled with shopping bags of books, books, books from Barnes & Noble. The old man had almost had an orgasm when the chain bookstore had opened a spanking new store in the shopping mall not a mile from his house two years ago.Once his son had bought him a computer and arranged for internet access, and his granddaughter had taught him how to order online, the amazon.com boxes piled up too.The old man could order books any time, and often did at three or four in the morning when sleep evaded him. The UPS man was his most frequent visitor, often arriving with four or five cardboard wrapped books. The old man owned so many books that he could never read them all if he lived another fifty years, which was highly unlikely anyway.
Books, books, books. He loved them. He worshiped them. The feel of them. The smell of them. The very existence of them. They contained everything: wishes, dreams, adventures, horror, tears, sex, longings, fears- everything human under the sun was held in the pages of some book somewhere. This world was stale. The real one had never held much for the old man. He merely tolerated the world the way one tolerates waiting in a doctor’s office for a yearly physical. Not pleasant, but not exciting.On the other hand, life in books was more real, more tangible than anything in the so called “real” world.
Edna has never complained about his constant reading. She knew when she had married him that he was a college literature professor. For thirty-five years she chalked up the long hours spent reading to his profession, but when he retired and the reading encompassed almost all his waking hours, she had merely sighed and starting traveling alone to visit out of town relatives and old college friends from bygone days.The old man couldn’t be bothered. Only once, when a cousin’s twenty-something year-old son had died in a sudden, bloody automobile accident had the old man given in, left his precious library, and boarded an airplane. He’d only taken one book and had finished that one during the funeral home visitation the next evening. He’d much rather read about places than actually go to them. But he had attended the cousin’s son’s funeral because it had been so horrific, so unexpected. It had seemed like fiction. And Southern fiction too, since the accident and funeral had taken place in a small Mississippi town. At the long drawn out funeral the old man had kept an eye peeled for any Faulkner looking characters. He never did see one. He only spied a little wrinkled lady that might have been Faulkner’s older sister; the resemblance had been uncanny- the same beak-like nose, the same overdramatized eyebrows. But alas, no drama, no falling on the ground. No heart retching weeping, no fainting. The funeral had been sparsely attended. He left disappointed, and upon arrival at the airport had promptly made a beeline for the airport book store and paid seventeen dollars, a ridiculous sum for a paperback, for Tess of the De’Abervilles- the most depressing author the old man could think of-Hardy himself.
But the lights were out. The house was cold. And the old man was hungry. The yogurt had been half spoiled, he suspected. He stood up, standing in one spot for a moment until the light headiness passed, then he reached down and picked up the green saucer to which the candle was firmly attached. The candle gave off a weak glow, barely enough to cast a dim light a foot in circumference. The old man made his way to the stairs and mounted them slowly. He rarely went upstairs anymore except to throw the bags and packages of books in the bedroom that had once been his daughter’s. The stairs creaked in protest. The old man breathed out and the vapor fog drifted in front of his face like cigarette smoke. In the dead of winter when he had been a child and had had to walk to school, he would roll up a bit of white paper into a thin tube, put it to his lips, and then blow out in imitation of his chain smoking father. His father who had had died at the age of forty of lung cancer. So it goes.
He reached the landing of the second floor and opened the door to what he now thought of as the “book room.” Books upon books upon books. Piles of stories, adventures, horror, mystery.. Soft cover, hard cover, first editions, used and smudged editions, thin books, thick books, crisp new books. They were all here. He breathed in and the smell of paper and ink hit his nostrils. He smiled and the cold of the house didn’t seem so cold anymore. He walked to the middle of the room and knelt down on one arthritic knee. He caressed a towering stack of books and held the candle higher. He could just make out the farthest corner. The books rose waist high there. He sighed. His legs went out from beneath him and he thumped with a jolt on his butt, hitting so hard that his upper dentures almost leapt out of his mouth.He teetered for one brief moment and then fell face first onto an obscure little edition of a Dickens’s novel, The Cricket on the Hearth. The lit candle stub tumbled from his hand. He tried to curse and found he could only utter a deep guttural sound. His right hand was numb and didn’t feel like it belonged to him. He tried to raise it to pick up the candle and found he couldn’t. The candle sputtered against the dry paper of the books nearby. The old man felt a moment of panic and then inexplicitly he relaxed. The flames caught and rose as they licked the edges of the books. The books flared into shades of red, orange, yellow, and blue. The old man felt the heat rise. The colors were extraordinary and mesmerizing.
The old man was growing warmer. The heat felt good. He knew the fire was spreading, but couldn’t seem to summon the emotion to care. He closed his eyes and remembered all the words. All the words he had read. He breathed in the acrid smoke, the stories. And they gathered together into one giant heat before blowing into his mind and dispersing in ash memories. In a final movement, he reached his left hand under his semi-paralyzed body and struggled to clasp a thin volume that was trapped under his body. He managed to maneuver the book until it was nestled directly beneath his feeble and stuttering beating heart. The old man breathed the sharp sting of the flames deep into his already smoke singed lungs as the fire bellowed out into a roar of satiated hunger and finality..
A new year. An entire year of fresh possibilities. It stretches out before me like Frost’s road; it bends in the undergrowth and I cannot fathom what lies beyond that bend. I begin day one of this New Year with trepidation and hopefulness. I have learned how much life can change in one year-in one day.
Kennedy taken from us amid the pop of gunshots in Dallas; Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon and proclaiming “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"; The American military pulling out of Vietnam, and our prisoners of war, who had been held for years, at long last walking off that airplane onto United States soil; Nixon’s resignation, Reagan’s near miss with an assassin’s bullet, the Rodney King verdict and the violent aftermath; the Challenger explosion, the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the resulting unification of a country; the Twin Towers in New York City violently crumbling to the ground in a shattering of metal and human blood; the capture of Saddam Hussein. I could not have predcited these events. No one could have. But they happened.
On a personal level, dear friends can be seemingly healthy one day and fighting for their lives the next, our economic situation can fall and then rise again, we can trip in and out of love, our own health and quality of life can change in the blink of an eye, talents can be discovered, newly born grandchildren can be placed in our arms, we may be forced to say goodbye to loved ones we aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to, children leave home to start their own lives. All in the course of a single moment. The moments that make up our years, our lifetimes.
So, welcome 2012, whatever you may bring. I have my bitch boots on, my armor secure, my experience intact, and my heart wide open. But, nonetheless, you will surprise me.