Sunday, February 26, 2006


Minus fourteen Celsius and my windows are cracked open. I’m considering wearing a denim skirt and jacket to work tomorrow – with 14 layers of sweaters under the jacket. It will reach the dizzying heights of minus seven, after all. I imagine I will look like a cowgirl version of the Goodyear blimp. It’s reached the time of year when, if the sun shines, I become utterly convinced that spring is here. My inner clock says so.

In reality, I should put on my winter coat, high boots and mittens because even February is followed by a month Weedy has named, “Farch,” and my inner seasonal clock is utterly unreliable.

I am using as today’s entry a piece I wrote when I first moved into this building. It’s a “tale of the neighborhood,” like “The Spandex Cop,” and reminds me why high school kids have referred to this place as “The Sprylight Zone.”

And the last line is inspired by the film China Town: “Forget it, Jake. It’s China Town.”

Here goes, from March 9th, 2002.


I doubt the wisdom of getting up as soon as I open the blinds. The sky is white, the color of used wash water. It is almost indistinguishable in shade from the rock hard, ice-encrusted remains of snow banks clotted with black exhaust. The wind howls and moans around my windows like a gothic movie soundtrack. The temperature has elevated just enough to permit pouring rain.

"Farch" is what Wendy calls this part of the year. Not February. Not a March that you can conceivably accept. April is happening in Brigadoon or Oz and you know in your bones that it's staying there. Here on the coast, Winter will hang on like a corpse clutching the land in rigor mortis.

And to this homey scene we add the solitary figure of a young man.

I hear him before I see him. He’s ten feet from my ground-floor window, shouting up to someone on the third floor. These ground to balcony conversations happen. They are annoying, but usually I ignore them. Only he doesn’t leave, and his words are loud enough to be audible even over the wind and with my windows closed.

“I cleaned for two hours. Jesus. I spent two hours on the place because you were coming over. And now you can’t come because of a fourteen year old? How old are you? Forty? What’s the matter with you? Is he drunk?

I peek out. He’s just a boy. His dark curly hair is plastered to his head. He is standing in a puddle. He’s wearing black dress pants and an expensive-looking black and white leather jacket. He got dressed up, I thought.

He stands with his fists clenched, face red, resolute and too angry to go away. Too angry and hurt to believe that she – and I assume it’s a “she” – isn’t coming. I hear a female voice from the balcony, but not what’s said. Whatever it was, it enrages him further. He rails at her from his puddle.

He looks like he’s all of sixteen, seventeen.

I stay away from the windows. He’s too close. I consider calling Alice, my Super. But I don’t. In this neighborhood, minding your own business is the best defense.

Later, going to the store for milk, I see him. He’s sitting on the stoop of the neighboring building, in a wet dejected heap. He’s looking at that third floor window like it’s all that’s real, all that’s left in the whole wide world. And no one will let him in.

Farch, I think. It’s just Farch.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A media moment. apparently.

“Media is not available for your current job. Check machine status.”

Excuse me?

Machine status, machine status. Oh. There. It’s a button.

“Check paper tray 1.”


When did “Paper Tray empty” become an inadequate description of the problem?
Is an unnamed company (whose name rhymes with, say, Peerox) afraid that I’m going to find out that I’m using a photocopier? IT’S A PHOTOCOPIER PEOPLE. IT USES PAPER. In trays 1 to 4.

Excuse me. Just view and interface emotionally with the digital image of the Ursus Maritimus below while I attempt to reestablish my sense of connection to the collective use of rapidly altering forms of communication in this post-post-modern age.

Thank you.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The habit of sorrow

“There are places,” I tell him, “where the ice is thin. Sometimes, one word will take you there and you’ll step right through. I never mean for it to happen. I never know when it will happen.” We’ve been talking for over an hour. Trying to untangle the mess we’ve made of things. It’s not easy when you’re trying to be here, now – instead of being the sum of all the parts that led up to here and now.

He nods. Yes. He says…

“Can you let me make you happy? I mean it. Do you think you can do that?” His brown eyes, my blue eyes become the whole room.

No one ever asked me that before. Not so it was a real question. So I think about it and realize that sadness has followed me always, like a mongrel looking for a home. I expect that dog now. Water trembles under the ice, the sun melting it thinner. Every time the sun starts shining, I am waiting for that dog to step.

And so, he comes along. He feels me waiting and he comes. The ice shatters and the dog and I swim.

And if I moved – even by an inch or so – I could enjoy the sun shining. Maybe I could throw a stick for that old dog. I could turn around and say, “Getting’ mighty close to the edge there, cowboy.” And instead of falling in, we’d laugh and go another direction.

I consider the question, and the dog, and finally when I’m sure of the answer, I say, “Yes. I think I might be able to do that….Thank you for asking.”

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Walk with an archetype

The fabric of her dress is
torn, greasy
with age.
Her tangled hair
streaked white.
We are walking by the ocean
and I am mostly
The air smells wrong
she says. A statement
nothing more.
I don’t reply.
She soothes herself
stroking the serpent
resting around her neck,
Good girl, good girl.
The serpent
opens sleepy eyes,
readjusts its’ curl.
A plastic bottle
bobs on the water.
She sees it
with tidal wave eyes.
They called me a demon.
Water sighs in and out
on the shore.
Her owl follows
at a distance
hooting messages.
Her glance captures the landscape.
They think they are gods,
she says, scooping sand
and letting it run
through her fingers.
Her nails are bitten to the quick.
They cut down the tree.
They made women into
walking sticks and
drove me away.
She picks up a pebble
and kisses it tenderly,
sends it skimming and bouncing
across the waves.
But, (she raises one arm high
and smiles at me
as the waves begin
to surge)
I didn’t go.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The devil in the demographics

Once I wrote an article entitled, Demon Demographics: How I Discovered My Potential for Poverty in Magazine Writing.

Looking for writing markets, I had picked my way through the newsstand selection trying not to gag at the covers of items like Modern Bride and Cosmo. I bought Esquire, Ms and More and began to research their target audiences.

One memorable piece appeared in Esquire – “Pol Pot’s Hand-Grenaded Mud-Fish Soup.” But as I said in the article, “If I’m Esquire’s ideal reader, I am a middle-aged, balding man with a healthy stock portfolio and a bar stocked with expensive scotch. When I’m off duty as Captain Capitalism, I buy expensive watches, stereos and cars. Or judging from the fashion ads, I am an anorexic young man, wearing scary makeup, a sneer and an Armani suit.”

Ms. left me feeling like I’d attended an angry, humorless lecture in Women’s Studies and More, targeting over-forty women, addressed such crucial issues as “His and Hers Spa Vacations.” Cheryl Tiegs tossed her hair in the fashion section under the headline “Going Grey.” Not her hair. Her clothes. And the only redeeming article was “The Dying of the Light,” one writer’s account of her mother’s last month. “Death, it turns out, “ I wrote, “is the only subject matter that cheers me up.

I declared myself demographically homeless.

It’s been about ten years since that article failed to be published. And I have yet to find my demographic – unless we resort to ridiculously broad categories like “human” or “organic life form.”

This is the list:

Age: 58

Sexual preference: Heterosexual but not overbearingly so.

Maritial status: Divorced (married three times – once for over 20 years.)

Children: No

Grandchildren: Well, obviously not.

Pets: No, unless you count my plants and stones.

Dating: No. I see someone very dear to me once a week or so, but you couldn’t call it dating and we couldn’t be considered a couple.

Future plans for marriage: Insert uproarious laughter here.

Favorite occupations: Writing, beadwork, reading, looking at the sky, being with close friends on a basis time-limited by my tendency to need huge amounts of solitude.

Politics: Left of center, I suppose. But only if you’re standing to the right. I don’t like fanatics on either side of the fence. More often than not, I feel the rapidly escalating deterioration of society is a necessary break-down allowing us to kick some of our crappiest paradigms out of the way and try to do things differently. Not that I expect “differently” to happen in my lifetime.

Religion: When it doesn't get in the way of having a decent relationship with the Universe. Or, as Marko would say, "The Great Magnet."

Friends: A small handful of treasured friends, ranging in age from twenties to seventies. Atheists, Evangelical Christians, Buddhists, Bahάǐs, Muslims, Jews and the very undecided. Rich, poor, in-between. Complete (and adored) wackos and supremely sane people. Artists, gardeners, teachers, actors, students and my very own Holden Caulfield catching the children in the rye.

Ambitions: To be present. And okay with that. To be myself. And okay with that.
To be mature the way the Scorpio defines it, meaning, A. To respect myself and others. B. To have the self-confidence to do what’s right for me, without allowing pressure from loved ones, associates or society to steer me in another direction.

It’s hard to find a demographic for that.

This afternoon, I threw myself a gigantic pity party over this whole not fitting in anywhere thing. (There was no one else in the demographic to invite.) And then I noticed the sky was very blue. The sunlight, at 4:00 p.m. was glinting off an emerald green bottle in my window, lighting it like a jewel. It was playing similar tricks with all the reflective surfaces and the whole living room was winking and glowing at me. Never mind, I thought, it snowed. And you hate snow. And your stomach is upset. It was a good try at maintaining gloom, but nobody, in any demographic, can resist a sun that bright or a sky that blue for long.

You have to be okay with it. It always comes to that.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Granny Vs Thong: the sequel

What’s rattling around the gumball machine today:

1. The cotton Granny pants vs Thong question, raised by Jess on “Indicative of Nothing.” I sit firmly on the fence regarding this issue – but not, please note, with any of the fence stuck annoyingly between the cheeks of my ass - and not as firmly as I might have once sat when white-girl-ass was in a less advanced stage.

I am appalled that manufacturers have such difficulty designing underwear that actually looks good and feels comfortable, although my requirements vary a bit from Jess’s. My drawers-drawer is full of practical, mostly-cotton ¾ briefs with French cut sides and enough material to cover my butt. Another section is composed of racy, butt-abrading, lace, torture devices I wear for an entire 15 minutes on…occasions. I make it a point not to turn around much when I wear those, because as Jess indicates in her rant on the subject, at a certain point, the average 40-50-something woman might feel that in a beauty contest, her ass might be voted Miss Surrendering to Gravity.

Then there are bras. Buying one, for me, means a four hour shopping trip pawing through racks of foam-padded, pre-shaped, floatation devices trying to find one lousy bra that doesn’t want to inflate my boobs and insulate them in case of the sudden occurrence of nuclear winter. And doesn’t look like medical apparatus.

So do I need the impractical stuff? Certainly. And my reasons are selfish. I like to see the Scorpio’s eyes light up when I wear lace. It’s not that he’d head for the door if I showed up in an old T-shirt, jeans and flip-flops. It’s that the lace telegraphs intent. I thought about him. This is for him. And he knows it.

As long as we’re talking 30 minutes, this stuff is perfectly lovely and it’s fun. Like stiletto heels, and pointy toed shoes. I mean, hell, you don’t actually intend to walk in those, anymore than you intend to wash the floors or put in a day at work having your skin sanded by synthetic scratchy lace stuff. Not at my age.

A lovely Greek lady who ran the cafeteria where my friend Weedy worked, once pointed out to us, as we debated the calorie count of our lunches, “It no matter. You married!” This is a variation on JF’s theory that men don’t care if you are covered in sheep dip. I’ll admit I think there’s some truth there. But in my experience, it’s an excellent means to achieving the next stage on my personal sexual journey with a partner, which is: “I’d rather clean ashtrays, thanks.” (Note that I say this is my experience. I know it isn’t everyone’s.) I'm conducting experiments in not reaching that stage of the journey now.

The real issue here (world peace, justice and concern for the environment aside for a moment) – is that many women my age are still sexual beings. We'd like a choice. Some of us like sleazy lingerie and the fun of dress-up (even though, in an odd twist, we might be given to wearing cartoon slippers at the same time). So with so many boomers still lingering around, why haven’t manufacturers thought about producing something fabulous that suits an actual female body over the age of 35. I want Jess to have her beloved style #2342s if she wants them, too. (And by the way, L’Oreal, I haven’t forgotten about you taking my favorite orange lipstick off the market, you wankers!) Wake up, manufacturers. We have jobs! We have disposable income. But Brittany is not the image we're looking for.

I urge you to catch Jess’s entry – “I’ve been to Bali and it wasn’t pretty.” It’s nervy, funny, and dead on the money. She’s not taking any prisoners. Hat’s (or thongs) off, Jess! Link to the entry at the top.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Still visible

I’m delighted with the responses to my question, “Who do you think you’ll be at 58?” Thank you for your wit, honesty and candor. May you all grow old without too much annoying grace and having shucked whatever is false in your lives Thank you, Lucas – for knowing about what we might call “institutionalized invisibility.” I lift my glass to you all.

This may be part one of a rant.

Anyone seen the Hallmark cards by the hilarious dozens congratulating on us on being able to blow out that many birthday candles or get out of bed unassisted? The cards on wrinkles and rheumatism and drooping butts and zero libido, on bad hearing, failing vision?

“There are only three ages for women in Hollywood – Babe, District Attorney and Driving Miss Daisy.” - Goldie Hawn.

Aging, in this culture, especially (but not entirely) for women, is considered a liability combined with a crappy Hallmark joke.

If you’re the type to stand for that sort of dismissal.

I’ve been chewing this since I was thirty-five – and nothing made me chew harder than the AHA moment I had while reading the following excerpt from an interview with Gloria Steinem (then sixty-one).

“It’s complicated….Old is not a thing. We’re the same people, going through a different stage….

Fifty was the end of this long familiar plateau that you entered at 13—you know, the country of the female stereotype. And when I got to 50, which is the edge of this territory—indeed, the edge used to be 35, 40, we’ve pushed it to 50—then it was like falling off a cliff. There was no map. Now it’s true that I had been fighting with the map. But you’re enmeshed with it either way, whether you’re obeying it or fighting with it. It was very difficult. So I’m not saying it’s all cheerful. I’m just saying that even though you realize the only country described to women is this 13-to-50-year-old country, there is another country after 50. It’s so exciting, and so interesting.

Remember when you were 9 or 10 or 11, and maybe you were this tree-climbing, shit-free little girl who said, “It’s not fair,” and at 12 or 13 you suddenly turned into a female impersonator who said, “How clever of you to know what time it is!” and all that stuff? Well, what happens is that when you get to be 60, and the role is over, you go back to that clear-eyed, shit-free, I-know-what-I-want-what-I-think, 9 or 10 year-old girl. Only now—you have your own apartment.”

I was not surprised to hear Marigoldie comment that she could envision 46 but not 56. It’s not on the map. And it might not be just because of the distance in years - the collective page goes blank there and the empty space is a little fearful – filled with hallmark jokes. No image bank of women between District Attorney and Driving Miss Daisy until recently. Now we have Olivia Soprano and Ruth Fisher. The bitter and the evil to the insanely repressed. (If you have a list of positive images – be my guest!)

The other thing Steinem said that really hit home was this:

“In my case, and in the case of some other women, it takes a lot of years even to question your conditioning.”

So here I am (and many of my sisters and brothers, I might add.) Questioning. All of it. All the collective wisdom of the tribe. Steadfastly refusing to fall off the cliff or the map. Or to think of our beds solely as a place for sleeping or our bodies as an inconvenience or to dismiss ourselves and sit in the corner.

And here is what I’d rather see on the greeting cards. Take note, creative geniuses at Hallmark.

“Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns to be amused rather than shocked.” – Pearl S. buck

“Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.” – Benjamin Franklin

“These are the soul’s changes. I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism. “ – Virginia Woolf

and best for last…

“Perhaps middle age is, or should be, a period of shedding shells; the shell of ambition, the shell of material accumulations and possessions, the shell of the ego. Perhaps one can shed at this stage in life as one sheds in beach-living; one’s pride, one’s false ambitions, one’s mask, one’s armor…Perhaps one can at last in middle age, if not earlier, be completely oneself. And what a liberation that would be!” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Gift from the Sea.

Ready? Altering our aspects to the Sun? And shedding shells? Marko – watch out for that van load of ex-wives!

Much love.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

What? When? Was I there?

Recently, the coyote made a teasing joke about a comment of mine on one of his blogs and my reply was something like, “Huh?” because my mind, a highly unreliable mechanism, had shorted out and I’d forgotten what I’d said.

In order to explain my confusion, I told him to picture my brain as a gumball machine with only two or three gumballs tumbling around, lamely trying to make contact with something, anything – and stick. There once were, I said, a lot more gumballs moving a lot faster than they do now.


It’s that my brain is a scaled down version of Deep Thought, Douglas Adams’ fictional super-computer in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. My brain is using its gumballs for solving questions like:

1. Why don’t we have world peace yet? It isn’t like we haven’t had pointed examples of how little war ever accomplished.

2. Why do hairdressers want to layer my hair?

3. Why does the CBC let a dull-witted journalist interview Kurt Vonnegut? (No, really. At the end, when he’s thanked for the interview, he replies, “Go jump in a lake" and I break into spontaneous applause. I live alone, so there are no witnesses.)

4. What is the purpose of life? Mine, specifically. The rest of you are on your own with that one. (Mothers, I love you, but you may not reply to this question until your children hit their teens.)

5. Why do people watch talk shows when I could cure them by having them ride the local #20 bus three times? Guaranteed. Satisfaction or your television cheerfully refunded. It’s a new concept. Like reality TV. On without the “TV” part.

6. There was a “6” but I lost the gumball.

7. Where the hell is gumball 6?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Home sweet home

There is no wooden stand spilling mangos and melons and ripe peaches and you do not wave a daily hello to the smiling vendor. Your name brand gym bag is not slung over your shoulder. You are not on your way to a yoga class or Pilates or lunch in a place with plate glass and plants. You will not order salad with raspberry dressing from a waiter who tells you his name. Coffee comes in coffee flavor.

It’s fish and chips and KFC. Transfat cardiac arrest on Styrofoam dishes. Shrieking in primary colors: red & yellow prefab huts wearing red and yellow clowns with terrifying lips cuddled up to playgrounds with Tupperware slides on poison green indoor/outdoor carpeting. You are on your way to the bingo or the video lottery terminal, ready to throw in your last five bucks, hoping you can catch a break because the government doesn’t send cheques until next week and the beer has run out.

And it’s not park benches under swooning tree branches. And the wild rose bushes sprout foil bags and candy wrappers, cigarette packages, moldy Tim Horton’s coffee cups.

Outdoor sports: Buddy over there waltzes down the road pushing his stolen grocery cart as if everybody does that and everybody does. That same cart turns up, later, belly up, wheels in the air like a rusting, stranded beetle in the water of Mac Run where the ducks no longer live. Abandoned carts and smashed glass at the bus shelter are the dominant décor.

And the ambience is sirens screaming down the street and babies pushing strollers full of babies. Girls who fight dirty and don’t expect life to be anything else but a lowdown fight. It’s kids with cell phones and iPods trailing from their ears and no dinner, no father, no anything waiting at home or any other place. It’s Lawrence in the same thin jacket, hands and neck bare, pacing the street even when it’s thirty below muttering back at his voices and Scary Sherry following the Scorpio home to announce, “The last time I had an orgasm, I saw a rainbow.”

It’s memorial crosses duct taped to crosswalk islands for the hit and run dead and the drive-by dead and dollar store flowers on the lawn of the headline mama who dealt crack around the corner. It’s regular mortgaged working stiffs with big heating bills and the gay couple who bought cheap, painted the house and planted a garden. It’s all of us stuffed on the number twenty bus, trying to make room for the woman with ten bags of groceries and trying, if not to love, at least to stand our neighbor.