Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Like Sands Through the Hourglass...

'Member when you were a kid and old movies would have pages of a calendar flying off into the breeze to mark the passage of time? How you thought it was so hokey, until your life started to be like that? How you find yourself saying “a couple of months ago…” and you hesitate, think a bit and realize it was nearly a year ago and you’re wondering, “how the hell did that happen!!!”

Three months ago my grandson arrived from Washington for a visit of undetermined length. He stayed almost three months, which now seems like a flash bulb of time. A penultimate example of Catch 22, visiting grandchildren. Time seems to pass oh-so-slowly while their incessant questions come as surely as the next wave at tide’s edge. A four year old is like a Duracell bunny with no off switch. Then, as soon as they’re gone, the quiet that you longed for seems deafening, and you miss their wonder at bubbles, staples, and seed pods hanging from the wisteria bushes.

Someone in our small community two years my junior just passed from Cancer two months after diagnosis. A friend has a husband my age with a debilitating disease that has him hospitalized, likely permanently. A close family friend was killed by a drunk driver earlier this year at age 22. Still, Psycho kitty and Timex live on, like guests who just won’t leave the party.

Two kids (one still at home), 2 dogs, 2 cats, and one ex that I wish would just go away, often have me dreaming of an empty nest. Of the day when I can swing my leg over the back seat of a big bike and be somebody’s bitch for a summer. Of the day that I can drive across country, flitting about like a bee from flower to flower, landing where I’d like from time to time. I want to live in the country with some animals, want to identify birds and trees, want to have a pantry stocked with things I’ve canned, and a cozy spot for sewing next to a window looking out on a garden or stand of trees. The gripe is that I don’t want to be old as spit when I get around to it!

Feelings of your own mortality creep up around the half century mark. We all live as though we’ll reach 100, but there are no guarantees. This is no dress rehearsal. If I died coming down the stairs at work, I’d be really, super pissed, ‘cause I’ve so much life left to live, and yet I wait. For what? Diagnosis of a terminal condition? The glass is half full. Accentuate the positive. Love yourself. Carpe Diem!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What’s Your Favorite Song? Mine’s Stardust.

You can tell a lot about a person by their favorite songs and music. I’ve always preferred minor chords. My first recollections of music appreciation at the onset of puberty were those hours spent singing along to Carol King’s ‘So Far Away’ and the Bee Gees ‘How Can You Mend a Broken Heart’ while my other sixth grade classmates sang along with Three Dog Knight’s ‘Joy to the World’ and Melanie’s ’Brand New Key.’ Take the Billboard Magazine’s Hot Pop Songs of 1971 list and give it to anyone my age to figure out if they’re a glass is half empty or a glass is half full person by nature. Believe me, ignorance is bliss, and if I had my druthers, I’d much rather be Pollyanna than Holden Caulfield. It’s not a choice, no matter what all those damn counselors tell you, it’s just how you’re wired.

The summer of ‘71 a bunch of my family went to some hell forsaken place along the Colorado River for a dune buggy trip. At that particular camp ground there sat afloat a bar at the edge of the river where a pack of looser drunkards continuously fed quarters into the juke box choosing either ’Joy to the World’, ’One Bad Apple’, or ’Proud Mary’ more times than was possible to count, enough to make me contemplate homicide for the first time in my short life. We could drown them in the river, I thought. The silent death. A pack of us strong, sober teens could easily take their sodden asses. I retreated with my angst ridden cousins behind the hillock of sand away from the offending songs traveling on the infrequent breezes where we all laid around getting sunburned drinking Orange Crush and listening to Janis Joplin’s ‘Pearl’ and Carol King’s ‘Tapestry’ on my new cassette player.

But we got bored. It was hot. The river called. We longed to drift down river in our inner tubes or lay atop our anchored rafts, but couldn’t bear the 3 song repetition. We begged our parents for quarters and coaxed a friendly old curmudgeon into beating the drunken river rats to the juke box to play alternate selections such as ‘Theme from Shaft‘, ‘Brown Sugar’ or ‘Indian Reservation’ whereupon we would sing loudly to patrons from the deck at the bar’s perimeter where we were allowed along with accompanying theatrics. When Donny Osmond and Jackson 5 songs were chosen we sang as loudly and most saccharin as was humanly possible without getting us evicted from the camp. If Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’ or Dawn’s ‘Knock Three Times’ played, we all made gagging sounds and pretended to be vomiting into the river. Pretty soon people began making other choices on the jukebox, looking forward to our interpretations of the songs. We relished the attention, our dramatic exploits flourishing. Favorites folks in the bar chose were ‘Go Away Little Girl’, where one of us gals would pretend to be Donny in the song, garnishing lots of yucks or when we’d enact ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ with the majority of kids participating for full impact.

Over 30 years later, I still find myself drawn to the minor chords. There are many days when I feel like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Dani California’ but when I listen to the news on the radio I end up feeling more like I’ve just listened to Beck’s ’Sea Change’ album. Like the hokey songs say, you have to “Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don’t mess with Mr. In-Between,” ‘Keep Your Sunny Side Up‘, ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street‘, and all that kinda stuff. Carpe diem. This is not a dress rehersal. Look for the good. Your thoughts and words are the pebble in the pond that causes that ripple effect. At the same time, don't be like that dumb ass frog that sits in the water and doesn't realize the heat's rising and before he knows it his legs are covered in butter on a platter for someone's eatin'. Look alive!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Things That Have Pissed Me Off This Week

In First Place by a landslide is the Ex (a.k.a. A-hole) who missed his only daughter's High School Graduation because his drunk thieving ass was being arrested. I thought he'd hit rock bottom, but evidently he’s started to dig. The only help I'm willing to give him at this point is to drive him to a bridge AND push him off.

Runners Up:

A tee shirt in a store window downtown that read "Fuck the Art, Let's Rock and Roll." I'm against profanity of any sort on public display, be it bumper stickers, graffiti, t-shirts, etc. I'm not against heavy innuendo or a purposeful play on words like the one advertising the bar with 'Liquor in Front and Poker in the Rear,' or 'Shuck Me, Suck Me, Eat Me Raw' for that Oyster Joint, but I don’t believe that public displays of profanity deserve First Amendment protection. Am I just getting old?

Crying f*cking babies and bratty ass kids. It is my curse. If you don’t believe me, come hang out with me for just half a day. You will never hear so many whining, crying kids in your entire life as in one afternoon spent with me. It’s everything I can do not to approach them when a parent isn’t watching and whisper to them with a very intense, scary face “Shut Up!” As I am of a certain age, I think this is nature’s way of telling me that even though I still have eggs, they are rotten, just like the kids that would erupt from my nether regions once again should I ever be crazy enough to think that spawning more offspring might be a good idea. An unattended little boy at Target pushed an empty cart from the front of the store into oncoming cars driving by, quickly hiding behind a post. Oh how I resisted grabbing it, hopping on that back bottom bar with one leg and pushing myself with the other crazed foot, careening towards him as fast as humanly possible before crashing into the post he was hiding behind. This is how I remain sane. Just that fleeting thought brought a smile to my lips. Anyone watching would just think I was amused by the young boy’s antics.

Tourists who drive slowly to see all the sites. Summer is officially here. It's time for me to once again listen to Wayne Dyer or some such mumbo jumbo in the car so I don’t go postal and let Road Rage get the best of me. After all, I still remember the time several years ago I flipped someone off that was dilly dallying on the road, only to have them pull in behind me at the winery where I worked. D’oh!

Trashy people. Went to the movies this weekend. There was a large group of piggish people who spoke all together too loud, spilling popcorn and bobbing their heads back and forth to intentionally set off the beeper for the 3D glasses as we waited outside of the theatre to be let in. I weep for the future. Makes me want to never leave my house.I realize of course that this is all relative, and somewhere on another blog someone could be writing about the three gals who laughed too loud at jokes they didn't think were funny during the movie and who had looked at them cooly in the lobby.

Find a happy place, find a happy place! Accept the things you cannot change...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

39 days till I'm off the financial hook!

That's when my beautiful daughter turns 18 years old and I change the locks and put all the boxes of her shit out on the porch, including her cat in a cardboard carrier. Don't worry, I'll put a little dish of water in there with him, jeez! Oh Calgon, take me away! If only I were truly that cold!

My dear sweet angel was a late bloomer in the acting out department. Pretty darned wonderful until her junior year and then all the things that other people's kids do started to tick off on the teenage horror checklist one by one. Overall, she's still been pretty good, and I do have extremely high expectations for everyone and everything in my life, but... you know, I was SO much better than her when I was her age, weren't you?

I certainly wasn't as materialistic, I'll tell you that! Shit, my single mom couldn't even afford to buy me the pair of roller skates I wanted, I think I had two new bikes my whole life up to 25, but of course since I'm old as shit, there weren't anywhere near as many gizmos back then for kids to want! I was extrememly stoked by the cassette/recorder player that I got in 1970. I walked around with the microphone for weeks, recording everyone for my 'television' show.

In my darling's lifetime (and there's her 23 year old brother who's had plenty of stuff, too) she's had 4 or 5 bikes, 2 or 3 pairs of roller blades, an iPod, a digital camera, a couple of cell phones, a small menagerie of animals (guinea pigs, cats, mice, hamsters, dogs, chickens), and LOTS of clothes and accesories. She is always wanting something, or so it seems. I finally had her start a list, which hangs on the fridge, so that when she begins to ask for something, I just say "Put it on the list."

The latest items to be added to the list are: Prom dress, Grad Night Party outfit, Grad party, presents for graduating friends. Who the f*ck does she think I am, Leona Helmsley? Last Sunday we were all set to go out and shop for the first item, since that's occurring first. Now I HATE shopping, but I was actually looking forward to it. Thought we might do a little shopping, have a little lunch, do more shopping if we hadn't already been successful. I was into the idea, which shopping-wise, occurs about as often as when I want to clean the house from top to bottom or cook a week's worth of meals in one day = 3-4 times a year, MAX.

The night before I had spent the night at a friend's house. On my way home I get a phone call from my ex who has obviously fallen off the wagon in a BIG way, AGAIN. Great start to my morning. When I arrive at my house around 11:00 am, about half a dozen male and female kids come pouring out of the house. Nora said they came over for breakfast. Hmmm. She looks pretty tired, wearing shades. By the time we get to our first stop, about 20 minutes away, it becomes apparent to me that she is hung over. While she is looking in a store my ex's sister calls and asks if I can do anything to help ex. "Yeah," I tell her, "I can drive him to the bridge AND push him off." She is quiet. While I'm thinking of what to say to her next, my daughter comes out of the store quickly and runs to a nearby trash can where she proceeds to toss up cookies from the night before. Mmmmmm. Who wants lunch?

So on the way home, after I ream her for at least 10 minutes, she tells me to "seriously, stop talking" to which I answer "When are you moving out again?" to which she replies "as soon as possible" and to which I get in the final word "not soon enough."

Birthday present? How about a nice sleeping bag, a hefty Safeway gift card, a Target gift card and a nice duffle bag. Giving your 18 year old a gaggle of grown up gifts = $500. Having the house to yourself? Priceless.

Monday, May 11, 2009

So So Mutha's Day

Mother’s Day was a bit of a let down. Not because I’m a glass-is-half-empty person, but because I pine for the days when my children were young and made me cards, gave me presents, and attempted to pamper me the whole day, even if it was a result of direction from other adults. I mean, c’mon, one day out of the whole friggin' year? Okay there’s your birthday, but often that’s a let down, too.

I don’t know if it’s ‘cause I’m getting old and sentimental, or if it’s because the world is in fact going to hell in the proverbial hand basket, but I swear try not to dwell on how often I’m disappointed in things. I know it’s because my expectations are too high, driven by the fact that I'm both a person who strives for excellence and works in an industry where perfection is the unattainable ideal. Regardless, I find myself daydreaming more and more, dallying along in my imaginary world, interspersed with the niceties of this one, in other words, I am slowly slipping into dementia, and that’s okay. It keeps me from hurting people.

I’ve always had an inability to block out the depressing aspects of life. It’s one of the reasons I had to leave NYC. The daily viewings of the homeless sleeping in doorways or huddled on benches with their blistered, swollen fingers and bare legs baring open sores in the cold evoked an unshakable melancholy that no amount of all night partying at the clubs or Bloomingdale’s shopping could purge. Back then my defense was to think of spiking cheap jug wine with cyanide and going out with little paper cups to dispense to them all, thereby cleaning up the streets and allowing me to focus solely on the tulips and crocus backed by the cold bright, blue sky.

Now that I'm 'of a certain age' I’m more prone to look at my neighborhood crazies with more compassion than melancholy. In the current economic climate, I realize we all are but a handfull of paychecks away of possibly being one of them.

'Hummer Man' walks the streets all day long having two way conversations with presumably his ex-wife (if in fact there ever was one) who apparently left him because she no longer loved him. When the rote conversation runs its course, he hums while the tape rewinds to its beginning only to be enacted all over again in the continuous loop.

'Sucks Man' walks the streets declaring everything sucks. He obviously either reads the paper or watches TV, because what sucks is always current. Last summer it was gas prices suck, followed by Obama sucks, then Christmas sucks, New Year’s sucks, Valentines sucks, you name it, it sucks. Among the litany of all the things that sucks are many truths - medical sucks, the economoy sucks, dog shit sucks, cars suck, etc.

'Hitch-in-his-get-along Rapper Dude' raps loudly as he swaggers along to the corner market for what I presume is a cold beverage of some sort. I’ve never been close enough to him to see if he's listening to music through headphones or just singing along with his inner voices. I’ve never recognized any of the songs, but I appreciate his enthusiasm.

'Head-tilting Guy' walks slowly along the main drag, with his head severely tilted to the left as though it’s just about ready to drop off and roll down into the gutter where I imagine seeing it promptly get run over by a bus, ala squishy movie noises and all. He is stick thin and breathes laboriously.

What I couldn’t help thinking about all this weekend when I observed each and every one of them is how they were once some one’s baby - loved and swaddled, cooed and sung to, and here they are, living the rough life of the streets. I wonder if those mothers think the same as a friend of mine’s who on more than one occasion said to he and his brother (while brandishing a cigarette between her first two fingers, gesturing accusedly) “I shoulda had PUPPIES!”

As much as we love them, the disappointment we sometimes feel when we realize we have no control and they're growing into the fairy tale child we imagined when they were young can sometimes feel overwhelmingly sorrowful.
The inner tapes that play over and over in our heads. Are we to blame? Where did we go wrong? Maybe I shouldn't have had children because my best wasn't good enough.

…accept the things you cannot change, courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
My mantra, though it doesn’t always help.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What, me worry?

I gotta say, I’ve been diggin’ this non-working’ thing. Two of my best friends are more or less ‘retired’ and I always wondered what the hell they did to fill their damn days. In fact, one of them called me a couple of days ago and said ”what are you doing all day?” and I said “Hello pot, this is kettle, you’re black” which made him laugh.

Oh, the time you have to garden, to clean (and you want to!), to research blogs and websites, to cook, to read magazines and the paper leisurely in the back yard with a big sun hat on while watching the dogs and cats play and lay in the sun… good times.

HOWEVER, it’s been two weeks since I’ve been laid off, and now as I await an answer for a job I pitched four days ago to a great company, the novelty is wearing thin. I've enjoyed the luxury of being able to catch up on several industry publications, sites, and blogs. Though I feel re-energized, if I don’t start working again soon, that time of day which I consider late enough to have a tipple might just start creeping closer to noon than I would care to admit. It’s already been ratcheted back from 5 to 3. Every day is like your day off and that can be not so good.

Having downed two chicken, mushroom and cheese lean pockets and a glass of rose to accompany each, I now contemplate a cup of tea to perk me back up to complete the chore (note, singular) I guess I should do. Hell, in the last four days I’ve done my taxes, read a book in waiting, got the car smogged and washed, bathed the dogs, clipped coupons, did all the laundry, ironing, dishes, and gardening possible, and all that’s left is THE TABLE, and if I clear that off, what will I have left???

I’m now officially in love with Eric Asimov’s blog The Pour (the NY Times wine blog) as well as Dr. Vino’s wine blog, and have been fortunate to have enough time to read current posts from Blogger Queen, Petunia Face, The Circus Has Come to Town, and The Typing Makes Me Sound Busy. Weasel, we know you’re busy, but we desperately need a new Why Women Hate Men post. Chicas necessitas mas chuckles. Lastly, make sure to check out Imbibe, my new favorite mag out of Portland, OR which covers all liquid culture - coffee, beer, wine, spirits, etc. Kick ass design, minimal ads, and great articles. Meanwhile, I guess I'll have a cup of tea, tackle THE TABLE and take yet another bubble bath. Don't hate me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I Finally Got Laid! (Off)

I have a very strong work ethic and have never missed more than 2 weeks of work in my life (other than vacation or disability for my two pregnancies) since I was 15 and let me tell you, that was a while ago! Here I am possibly having to go on the dole for the first time in my near half century of life. Bummer.

When all the bad news about the economy started, what was it, 6-8 months ago? I started changing the channels on the radio again, just like when there was too much election coverage, or when they started talking about number of troops killed, suicide bombings, etc. and stuck to the 'nice' pages of the paper once again, the Travel section, Food & Wine, the Pink, etc. Is this the ostrich head in the sand approach, or is it simply trying to concentrate on the good things in life, thereby necessitating blocking out all the bad?

Last year when the economy started to tank, and after opening up 2-3 statements decrying the deteriorating state of my 401K, I started to tune all that out, too. Once again, like so many times before when news was bad, I felt so powerless. More than ever before, I tuned it out. I occasionally caught glimpses of news in papers or bits on the radio about increasing homelessness, lay offs, plummeting stocks, foreclosures, etc. (I had shut off the TV after 9/11 when I coudn't stand the replaying of those tapes over and over, the ugly racism it brought to the forefront, and the match that lit the fuse of the war machines again). The food bank that I volunteer at couldn't keep up with demand. Supplies were at an all time low, coupled with an increase in demand.

I don't think I'm alone when I say that by trying to block out the bad news, you're trying to make yourself immune. It's as though the problems with the economy are contagious, and if you're not careful it could creep into your life like the plague. Which is exactly how some people I worked with acted towards me when they learned of my plight as a casualty of the latest round of layoffs. It was as though if they got too close to me, it might happen to them next. I don't fault them for their behavior. Most of us feel awkward even though we're not culpable, because as regretful as we are of their situation, we breathe an inner sigh of relief that it was not us. We feel empathy yet can't find the right words to say. I know because I, too have felt that way when it happened to others in the waves that preceeded me.

My prayer for the planet this week is that all of this turns us inside out and exposes the humility deep inside all of us. Instead of posturing ourselves as though we're above reproach and are therefore safe, in spite of the powerlessness that the current situation creates, we have the opportunity to shed much of the bullshit and live our lives with integrity and grace.

I just saw 'Milk' recently. The single statement that struck me the most was in the beginning when Harvey says "40 years old and I haven't done a thing that I'm proud of." Perhaps this is a time of renewal, reflection and acknowledgement for things more important than just earning a paycheck.

But hey, gotta pay rent. Maybe after months of meditating I'll have to go sell dime bags in a park somewhere or service old dudes in retirement homes on SS check days. Girls gotta do what a girls gotta do!