Sunday, April 30, 2006

From dustmop to death row

The camera started it.

My CPU sits in a compartment of my desk and backs against a wall. Stacked next to the desk are three file storage boxes and a red plastic milk carton full of dumb bells which have to be moved so that I can find a portal to plug the camera in.

This morning, the boxes are still in the middle of the floor. Yesterday’s obsessing over the camera means that my weekday housekeeping method - “Stop and drop” - has left the entire apartment littered with paperwork, clothing, coffee cups, scissors, tools, shoes and books. The debris is still in place. The laundry isn’t done. The dishes are crusting up nicely in the sink. I have one day in which to take care of this, so I don’t.

I don’t because suddenly I’ve hit the tipping point with stuff. Instead of tidying my unkempt house, I begin to empty a deep clothes closet which is hiding four more stuffed-to-the-top file storage boxes, suitcases, shoes I never wore in the first place, and broken electronics. They are shoved to the back so I can’t see them, but I know they’re there.

I’m thinking about something KD mentioned. We’d been discussing Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui” – a deceptively unassuming looking little book guaranteed to make the most sentimental of us pitch family photos, heirloom jewelry that reminds us of our nastiest aunt, 80% of our clothing and half our books. KD says that what got to her was the idea that every item of stuff we own has gravity. The musty, graveyard, dead energy of stuff accumulating dust in the closets, vampire like, begins to suck the energy out of our lives. Stuff that reminds of unpleasant times in our lives (even if the item is in use) is even worse. The photo album of your crummy marriage, the beautiful ring Boy or Girlfriend From Hell bought you, the thin clothes or fat clothes you no longer wear – vampires, all of them. Sucking the very life out of you.

I filled nine garbage bags with personal letters. Two file storage boxes alone were letters from a six year relationship. One was crammed with research I slaved to pull together. I held my breath and dumped them. Perfectly Useful office supplies. Gone. Floppy disks by the dozens, filled with writing I will have no trace of. Goodbye. Letters from family and friends, all but a few from my father. Adios.

The bags were so heavy I dragged them down the hall, bumped them, step to step down three flights of stairs, heaved up the huge hinged lid of the dumpster and pushed them in. I did this six or seven times, adding the dozen cardboard boxes you keep in case you need to return something in the original packaging
and – well – basically – anything else that didn’t immediately get out of the way.

I have three file boxes left and a clear path through my walk-in storage closet.
And I figure I’m less than halfway there. The books are next. Then the clothes. Then the filing cabinet.

Strange what I keep. A few photographs I’d forgotten I had. Letters written by my father when I was twenty-three or four.

And the documents from one case of wrongful conviction, one man I can’t forget -

My friend, Running Feet, on death row in Florida. He loved to fish and garden. He spent as much time in the woods as his life allowed. A man in his seventies who, one day, in a fit of exhaustion and hopelessness, sent me all his legal files. “You’re a writer,” he said, “I’m tired. Maybe you can do something with them.” The story is horrific. The miscarriages of justice so monumental that I don’t know where to begin.

There are police reports, forensic evidence reports, witness statements. And there is an appeal brief that covers much of Running Feet’s personal history. The testimony of a senior officer as to what his unit suffered in Korea when the Chinese army swept down in the thousands and his battalion was left to defend while the other troupes retreated. Stories of a man, barely literate, suffering brain injuries, scarred by abuse and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, who was deemed fit to defend himself on murder charges, even though, during the trial, he leapt off an upper tier in the prison to a cement floor, trying to kill himself.

He named me Anigatogewi. The Cherokee word for, “wild potato,” because, he said, “wherever you plant it, it grows.” He asked his ancestors to look after me. He told me never, ever to send money. Just the letters.

Someday, Running Feet, I hope I can tell a little of your story. Meanwhile, your stuff is safe and sound. And your story is still here with me. Please tell your ancestors I haven't forgotten.

**Running Feet's legal name is George Porter and I've just found the following link:

Monday, April 24, 2006

1 year, 10 months, 1 week

Friday’s meltdown flipped the switch on the big cartoon light bulb over my head. A few more years of choking down the frustration that leads to that kind of explosion and I figure they’re going to haul me away from work on a stretcher. Stroke. (We could see it coming, they’ll say, and of course, she smokes.)

And I keep asking myself when I crossed the line from confidence in my own ingenuity to paranoidly clinging to a job. At one time in my life, I never doubted my ability to earn my living. I took scary leaps into self-employment, I worked for every kind of outfit, in every kind of job you can imagine. I knew that I’d figure something out – and I didn’t care if it was washing floors and cleaning up other people’s crap. I’d do what it took to earn my living.

Today, at work, I cleaned up crap. No, seriously. Not paper crap or bureaucratic crap – actual crap. I helped pry a small cabinet off the floor, for instance – it had been plastic-waxed around its edges so often, with trickles of wax running underneath, that it had welded itself to the floor. It took forty minutes, hammers, paint scrapers and wooden edges to get it up. The cabinet, an extraordinarily well built item, started to rip apart from the strain. When we were done, pieces of the floor tile ripped right out of the floor and stayed on the bottom of the wood.

My student assistants and I trucked enough crap out of the tiny circulation area to cover two five foot by ten foot table tops. And then we removed a good six years worth of grime, scrubbing and disinfecting everything. We scraped scotch tape from the Paleolithic era off the walls. We hauled furniture.

Tomorrow, that small area will be painted and the floor, unwashed for at least three or four years, will be stripped, cleaned and waxed.

And I know that when I retire, in one year, ten months and one week, this will be the last time the area was cleaned.

When I talk about “understaffing” people don’t take me seriously. Everyone says it. Everyone is overworked. But I doubt that most library workers are crawling up on step-stools to get mouse turds off the shelves. Yellow rubber gloves are not the usual fashion accessory in my profession.

And the understaffing and discouragement in maintenance are a reflection of the understaffing and discouragement institution-wide. Many of us, at this point, are making it out of sheer necessity and a sense of loyalty to a place that has been home for years.

So, I’m retiring. Not when I can afford it, when it’s practical – which is seven years from now - but in one year, ten months and one week. Not that I’m counting. My current estimates suggest that my pension income may cover my rent, electric and phone bills. Eating, without additional work, will be optional.

I don’t care.

It was a good day, today. I enjoyed every crud-encrusted, Pinesol perfumed, rubber gloved moment of it.

I made the decision on Saturday. And that was a good day. It was the day I stopped being paralyzed by the thought of losing “security.”

It was the day I realized that I can still do whatever it takes. Even if it means cleaning up other people’s crap.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Have a nice day.

Today: My heel catches on a cable line snaking out from under the desk. I crash to the floor, landing on three-points: heel of the left hand, both kneecaps. In spite of swearing not to, in spite of counting to ten, twenty, one hundred and twenty, I am losing it with anyone who crosses my path.

I have gin and tonic and charred mammal for lunch.

Or as Weedy puts it, if the people who really know me were to describe me, “nice” would not be the first adjective that came to mind.

I tell this to the Scorpio. An amused gleam in his eyes. “Well,” he says, pretending to search for something reassuring, “you don’t like having to hurt people’s feelings.” I glare at him.

Sometimes I do.” Belligerent. He guffaws. “I’m telling you – I’m suspicious of nice people. What’s really going on, anyway? What are they up to? What the hell is their game?” He beams at me. “And by the way,” I tell him, jabbing him in the ribs for emphasis, “I don’t know what you’re laughing at – you aren’t nice either.”

“Yes I am,” he assures me, smiling beatifically, “on my nice days.”

“Oh fine. Well anyone can be nice on their nice days.”

So, I say to Weedy (keep up, we are moving back to another conversation here) – “What would they say?” There is a pause on the other end of the line. A noticeable pause.

“Well. You’re artistic.” Oh f-cking great. I’m a rotten shite of a human being, but at least I make pretty stuff. All the pretty goes into the stuff, matter of fact.

Which is why it is necessary for humanity that I immediately win the lottery and quit being forced to make a living dealing with nice people all day long. Nice people who are not doing their jobs meaning I have to yell at them because it is my job to see that they do their jobs. Nice people who are not saying what they mean or doing what they say or, in fact, paying any attention at all. Nice people as clueless as budgies. Nice people who worry about my stress levels, aloud, and want to help talk me through it.

People? Yesterday’s work is somewhere buried in the desk-fill. My working surfaces are obliterated with post-it notes and memos, all of them urgent and stating a deadline. Most of the dealines are now. At 3:00 pm I haven’t checked my email – because I’m afraid. My phone is ringing, three people are waiting to tell me I am responsible for the fact that they’ve incurred huge fines by steadfastly ignoring all overdue notices. They have to pay for them, which means, in turn, they will starve on the street, fail to graduate and break their parent’s hearts and it is definitely my fault. If you want to help my stress level, get out of my face and let me deal with these things instead of trying to accumulate Good Human Being Points by rendering uninvited drive-by therapy. My kneecaps are swelling and my thumb doesn’t want to move. And if you don’t stop nicing me now, I’m warning you (as I begin to count one thousand) you are exactly one gin and tonic away from becoming a newspaper headline.

Nice person dies at hands of Librarian. People who knew the suspect say she was “artistic.” Close friends reveal they always knew it would happen some day.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


My answers:

. Name three books that have truly shaken your world view.

This is from a much longer list, but…
1. Still Life in Harlem – Eddy L. Harris
2. Ceremony – Leslie Marmon Silko
3. Relating – Liz Greene

. Name three movies that make you wish you’d written the script.

1. Crash
2. The Year of Living Dangerously
3. The Dresser

Name three things you like about yourself.

1. I don’t respect authority unless “authority” is proven to my satisfaction.
2. I am self-taught in almost every skill I value – and (with the exception of things like surgery) feel I can learn anything I need to learn – with a few good books and ingenuity.
3. I’m not afraid of much anymore.

Name three careers you think you might have been good at.

1. Profiler
2. Geologist
3. Writer

Name three things you say to yourself all the time.

1. “Get over yourself.”
2. “It won’t matter when I’m dead.”
3. “I don’t have to answer that.” (The phone.)

Name three things you know now that you didn’t know three years ago.

1. I finally feel like I know (instead of think) that “If you have a choice between guilt and resentment, choose guilt.” My friend Weedy picked that up somewhere and it’s standing up well. Resentment, as Weedy points out, is other-directed, whereas guilt is yours, and you can own it and deal with it as you see fit.
2. That niceness is mistaken for kindness all the time. That kindness has a shadow and is rarely selfless. And (thanks KD) “No good deed goes unpunished."
3. That I know what’s right for me. That no one else gets to define it. And I don’t get to define what’s right for anyone else. (An honesty PS - I actually THINK I know what's right for everyone else. It's disgusting. But true. I only pretend fairness, in this case.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Meme of Fours: The Sequel

Take two on the meme of four and as there are a hundred conceivable answers to every question, I’ll try not to repeat anything I’ve said before. And thanks to Phelgmfatale for stirring me to sit down and write something.

Four jobs I’ve had in my life:

1. Roving magazine subscription salesperson. I’m sixteen. An unlucky six to eight barely employable people are packed into a car and driven to the outskirts of some place like Southeast Backwards, Ontario and dropped off to knock on doors and offer special deals on subscriptions to poor people. It is cold. It is unpleasant. I end up talking to lonely homemakers for hours and I go home sad. I quit within two weeks.

2. Assistant to a TV producer. I sit in an office and wonder what I’m supposed to do. No one explains it. Once in a while the producer drops a letter to be typed. This is back when there were typewriters and carbon copies and (a great deal of) White Out because I was (until God gave us computer keyboards) a shitty typist.
I last about a month.

3. Paralegal for a criminal lawyer. Well, almost. I was hired but never actually started. After spending the weekend at the Northern Lights Folk Festival, I decided that I was never working in a high rise building with sealed windows again. Nor was I going to work anywhere that required business clothing. It might have been the drugs. That was…oh…twenty-seven years ago – and I kept that promise to myself. Now I work in the arts, meaning I’m doomed to work too much for too little, but I get to wear jeans and inhale lung fulls of pure, clean car exhaust coming in open windows.

4. Waitress. Bad, bad waitress. I have a permanent case of hero-worship for good waiters and waitresses everywhere. I tip heavily because I admire the fact they haven’t thrown a plate of food in my face. This was an almost uncontrollable compulsion I had while employed in the Food Service Industry.

Four movies I have watched over and over again.

1. Blade Runner
2. Withnail and I
3. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Café
4. Serenity

Four websites I visit every day

1. Sorry. I have to repeat here. EVERY website link on my blog.
2. Astrodienst
3. BeadFX
4. And I surf.

Four foods I love

1. Potato salad – homemade
2. Peach pie
3. Lime Mango chutney
4. Baked beans

Four of the most wonderful places I’ve visited

1. Chicago. Coming in by car from the airport, with the sun setting and the city sparkling like Cartier’s window. Staying in a Latino area where every other shop had a gigantic, lurid mural painted on the building. A juicy city.

2. Toronto. Actually I was born there. The Kensington Market – ramshackle bins of fruit and the Jewish Bakery - everything sprawling untidily onto the sidewalk. The smell of apples and fish and bread.

3. St. Louis. The famous Japanese Gardens. A little piece of paradise. Coy fish like living rainbows. K.D. (until then a “distance” friend I only knew from internet and phone) to walk with – who has driven from another state, just to spend the day with me.

4. Deventer, Holland. I stayed in a home that was formerly a lightening rod factory. Apple trees in back, a field of Brussels sprouts on one side and a windmill on the other.

Four songs I could listen to every day (out of 4,000)

1. “Peyote Healing” from Robbie Robertson’s Contact From The Underworld of Redboy
2. "Mannish Boy" – Muddy Waters
3. “Reconsider Me” – Warren Zevon, Sentimental Hygiene
4. “The End of the Innocence” – Don Henley, The End of the Innocence”

Four People I’m Tagging (think of it as exercise)

1. Mary at A Breath of Air
2. Jess at Past Tense, Future Perfect
3. Marko at Yottabite (come on #3 & #4 – you aren’t too cool for this. I will
personally believe it’s sheer laziness if you don’t write something.)
4. String at Yottabite

Monday, April 17, 2006

Silence. Will. Weekend.

Human will is the most underestimated faculty on earth. And possibly the most misunderstood.

When we will something, we do not worry about it, wish for it or hope for it. We decide – and then we let go of the process and even the outcome.

Will is operating for us when we stick to a practice we love. When we stay in the moment, moment by moment, day by day doing something that fully engages us. When we can hear the voice of our inner critic and cut it off smartly so that we can go on doing it. Writing. Running. Art. Cooking. Practicing for the Scrabble Hall of Fame. When we spend a four day weekend (in my particular case) doing beadwork. Not returning phone calls or falling prey to a thousand possible distractions. Taking my own work seriously.

Will also operates for us when we falter and stop. It’s a good servant and doesn’t discriminate. It listens to our feelings, to our internal talk, and whatever talks loudest and longest wins. It’s wise, therefore, to pay close attention to those yakkers in your head. What are you saying to yourself? What are you telling your will to bring you?

I’ve been thinking about what a miraculous process it is when you feel your will working for you. And how, for years, I didn’t understand that I wasn’t helpless against the voices in my mind – the ones that are misguidedly trying to protect me by keeping me out of the line of fire. The ones that are criticizing me before anyone else gets the chance. The ones that judge and condemn.

I haven’t turned them off. This isn’t “positive thinking,” or a matter of happy little mantras. I respect the fact that those voices came into being as I grew up and needed to protect myself. At best they are an inner council I turn to when I need to balance. At their worst, they cripple me with guilt, indecision and self-doubt.

This weekend, I’ve felt at peace with myself. Mostly in silence for four days, I’ve listened as my inner voices speak. The old tapes play, telling me what I can’t do, can’t accomplish. I’ve listened to the voices that want me to worry about becoming too insular and unsociable.

And I’ve gone right on with my work, unperturbed and unafraid of making mistakes or wasting time.

Priceless - simply to hold the needle, weave the beads and watch something come out of nothing.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Work in progress: naked people part 11

Estimated time of completion – 2010.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Spring fever in Halifax. Warm sun, jackets slung off, walks rhythmic, light and bouncy.

And some old familiar mating instinct kicks in.

Have I mentioned The Stock Market White Guys? This is a group of regulars at my favorite dark, musty local. At some point, one of them explained his work to me and I took it in with all the rapt attention of a six-year-old staying after school.

And all the regular guys in that group – engineers, business men from various backgrounds – became, to me, The Stock Market White Guys. It was handy. It was more specific than “the guys.” Or “the guys who talk about golf.” And because I’m a regular too, they gave me honorary guy status. I thought.

These are guys my age but of a different generation, if you know what I mean.
Once, when they were really drunk, one of them asked me if I was married. When I said “no,” he blurted out, “But…who takes care of you?”

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve grown to like them – but they’re men of a particular kind. The kind who, when a friend’s wife suddenly dies, get together and take him golfing for the weekend. They are from the Hank Hill school, when it comes to expressing deep emotion. They feel life’s vicissitudes, keenly as anyone else, but they believe that swallowing them firmly and in silence is the wisest reaction, and if one of their number mists up with feeling, they buy him another beer, shove him in a taxi or change the subject.

One of them kissed me today. ON the lips. Alright - there was no tongue, thank god, and Pollyanna that I am, I told myself this was in reaction to the fact that I’d lent a sympathetic ear when his father died recently. He’s grateful, I thought. Masterfully, I inserted a French fry in my face as quickly as possible so as to discourage any more grateful impulses.

And then he started to lovingly brush my hair off my face. Slowly. Looking into my eyes. And may I add that I was sitting at the front of the musty old’s deck, with dozens of people walking by, half of whom I knew. I took a large bite of my jerk chicken wrap and chewed vigorously, hoping this was not endearing in any way.

I’m trying to stop thinking about it. I’m trying to stop wondering how anyone can fail to detect my utter lack of that kind of interest. And I answer myself – Spring.

And beer.

Tomorrow, I’m taking a half day vacation and if I’m lucky, the Scorpio will have Spring fever. And that won’t involve beer or the French fry maneuver.


Monday, April 10, 2006

The Mother. mother. For Vera and all the mothers and daughters

You have to understand that my Mother is imaginary. That I’m telling the truth here, but the truth is that of a 13 year-old girl. The woman I am never knew her small “m” mother. Never knew the person.

And yet, she is the person whose undercurrents and attributes have ghosted my life.

I’m moved to write this entry by recent talk with other daughters, who, although their mothers are alive or not so long gone from the world, are also living out their mother’s unlived lives – consciously or not.

This is some of what I remember:

Walking in winter with my mother. Just the two of us with Mike, our dog, and the neighbor’s dog, Toby. Feet crunching over the snow that covered the golf course across the road from our house. It’s well below freezing and we are going to walk alongside the creek. The sky is unblemished winter blue.

At the creek, the dogs run out on the ice and Toby falls through. He’s scrambling not to be drawn under by the current, his front legs uselessly pawing at the ice. My mother doesn’t hesitate. She crashes through the thin ice, into the freezing water, up to her hips and pulls the dog out. “Go home,” she says to me. And she cradles Toby in her arms and heads home has fast as her frozen legs and feet will carry her.

Our neighbor suffers a stroke. My mother goes, every day to help her do her exercises, to clean her house, to cook.

When my father is out of work, my mother whispers, “Now try not to bother your father. He’s feeling bad. It’s hard on a man’s pride to be out of work.” My mother gets a job to help out. And I wonder (because I know that I am a bad, selfish girl)
why my father has to be so protected when my mother is doing everything.

My mother gives up things for us. My father tells us this. “Your mother didn’t get a new coat this year so you could have those music lessons.” My mother takes the smallest portion of the best treats at dinner.

When my mother is 12, her father dies. She leaves school and goes to work. She is the eldest, like me, and she has to take care of everyone. Someone has to earn.

Understand, my mother loved to laugh. She sang – in her beautiful voice. She dressed with all the style a small budget allowed and could cut a mean rug. She drew people to our house like a light draws moths.

And I remember her as being sad.

Perception is everything. It isn’t necessarily anywhere near the truth of another person, let alone a parent, but the perception is what shapes us.

I wanted to be like her. She was my hero, my role model. She was everything I could never be. She was the yard-stick by which I measured every step.

Before she died, only days before, her last words to me were, “Take care of your brother and father.” I’d have promised her anything. I was thirteen.

So my life, like the lives of so many women, became a contest between trying to be my mother, and trying not to be my mother.

To be the “good woman” or to be…your own woman. That is the question.

I would try to be both. I didn’t understand that I could be my own woman and good, in a different way. Saint or sinner was how I secretly thought of it – in spite of intellectual cover-ups of astonishing dexterity.

When I married in my thirties, I wanted to be safe. I wanted, this time, to be a good partner and not a selfish, neurotic, bitchy unpredictable girl. I found a good man who loved me for myself, with a minimum of adjustment. And we were happy for a long time.

That’s the cover version.

The other version is that I began to give parts of myself up – not that he necessarily asked me to. Nothing so big you’d notice outwardly and so slowly that I didn’t know it myself. People admired how much autonomy we had in our relationship. But little by little, when the choice was what I needed as opposed to what I thought the relationship needed, I started handing out pieces of myself. No matter how “different” I thought we were, my husband and me, the myth of my Mother, the Good Woman, was working it’s way in. I thought of my needs as “selfish.” I felt guilty if I gave in to them. My need for freedom, my need to connect intensely with other people, my need to alone, my need to work obsessively on what captured my attention. My need for change. I found middle-ground, but not enough. Finally, not enough.

As I was trying to be the person I’d mythologized, I missed my mother’s shadow. My mother had ambitions and one hell of a fighting spirit. After her first job, when she received a lukewarm reference – she charged into the office, pulled out letterhead and wrote the reference she deserved – slapped it down for the boss to sign. That was also my mother. Her sacrifices made her sad and deprived her of chances to do the other things she longed to do. I sensed in my mother a terrible yearning for freedom and growth beyond the domestic life. When I was little, and she told me about when she was a girl – how hard it was – I would ache with the weight of it. Some part of me thought, Not me. It isn’t going to be me.

Understand that my mother is a fiction. My fiction. My myth. But perception is what we grow on.

I wonder who she really was – Vera, my mother. I wonder what she thinks of her daughter’s life. And I think I’d be ready to meet her now. So I hope that it happens when the time comes. And that finally, now that the myths have dissolved, we might be able to talk. Woman to woman. Like friends.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

True confessions: Freedom 58

December 13, 2004.

I have to look it up because my memory for dates is awful. I know that was the day because on December 12th, a Friday, I said in an email to Coyo, (who had once teasingly called me Sister Mary Snake because of my celibacy) that the Scorpio had touched my hand, and told me he might call.

And even if he didn’t, I told Coyo, “I am so tired of Sister Mary Snake. I am so tired of my solitary bed.”

We’d been trying to remain civilized on public transit for months by then, the Scorpio and me. Well, I had been trying. When I’d spot him, I was as cool as your average six month old Golden Retriever spying a Frisbee. The Scorpio’s got a game face.

He liked me I knew, but I wondered if I was a curiosity, a kind of interesting freak to him. Experience gives me to understand that I am puzzling, possibly threatening to a lot of men. Interesting perhaps, but a little too off-center and absolutely too direct. Overly-present you could call it.

I said to Coyo, “I know he won’t call but…”

I hit send on those words and the phone started to ring.

I figured, seeing he’d given me his birth information and I’d made a few remarks about his birth chart that hit home, he’d use that as an excuse for coming over. And after all, he’d been through hell with his health, he’d been through dozens of funerals and that’s the kind of time when people usually look me up. I prepped on his chart the night before. And got a good basic lesson in astrology the next day. Scorpios don’t do excuses. I’d got too used to men who danced, it seems. I wasn’t expecting one who didn’t.

He knocked on the door at 2:00. I asked if he’d come to hear about his birth chart and he laughed. “No,” he said, looking straight into my eyes, “I have not come to discuss my horoscope.”

“I’m not sleeping with him,” I’d told my girlfriends. But I shaved my legs. I dithered about beforehand trying to find something casual yet devastatingly attractive to wear. I figured out just how I’d take control of the situation. By 2:30, we were in bed. “Get condoms,” my thirty-year-old girlfriend said. I didn’t. He didn’t. We both thought it would seem presumptuous. Besides, I certainly wasn’t having sex with him the first time I saw him.

By the third visit, we’d installed a toothbrush and deodorant for him. Sixteen months later, I keep Tequila and lemons on hand, and we’ve added a hairbrush. He has a key.

I’m thinking what an odd relationship it is. By all accounts, it should be doomed and I should be wringing my hands and despairing of dying alone because this is not heading for city hall, not going to end up with us at the same address – and according to popular wisdom, I’m past my best-before date. I should be either desperate or adopting hordes of cats by now.

This is how it is: we have whole lives, circles of friends and family who are unconnected in any way. Different orbits.

This is how it feels: like we aren’t intended to be together in this lifetime, but it’s a nice surprise that we’ve found each other again. We’re grateful that we get to see each other. There’s no need for it to be more. And that the relationship exists as a kind of island out of time and place, doesn’t make it less. It feels like we’ve known each other for centuries, so we’ve learned how to cut to the chase.

Fifty-eight years and this is the first time a relationship has felt like it fits right. Not too tight or loose. Not too casual or too formal. Not anything like I ever expected or thought I wanted. No rings, no promises, no lies, no having to squeeze either of us into anyone’s expectations. No games. Lots of laughter, respect, gratitude and affection on both sides.

For this, I’d happily die alone. Because really, we all do anyway. And in the meantime, being around a man who doesn’t want me to be just a little less, or a little more of myself, who likes me as I am - that is my personal Frisbee and walk in the park. Hell, sometimes it feels like the Holy Grail of relationships.

So, here’s to men who truly love women. Here’s to men who don’t need to prove anything. Here’s to the transit system. Here’s to you, sweetheart – even though you hate reading and will never see this. Here’s to you.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Your perfume is to die for...

It’s heading into allergy season here, and enough nasal irritants have dripped into my personal allergy bucket to cause an overflow requiring wads of crumpled Kleenex, 24 hour allergy pills and cold medicine.

I have inadvertently attempted suicide by Lily pollen – and have since consigned the offending blossoms to the balcony, where I can view them through the mostly-glass door.

Ah. Relief. You’d think.

But no. While I can medicate myself through the effects of nature bursting into polleny bloom, there’s something I can’t control.

Men, especially young men, have apparently discovered cologne. Young men on the bus. Young men sitting directly behind me in restaurants. Young men who work for me. And they have not so much discovered fragrance as they have wallowed in bathtubs of it.

Women, who have been using perfume for years, mostly understand the guidelines: If you can smell it yourself, you’re wearing far too much. Men have not mastered this subtle guideline, and so, today, after fleeing the bus, nose dripping; after breakfast, where I turned around expecting that the stench wafting my way was emanating from a convention of working girls only to find the neighboring booth was occupied by three men; after several trips past my student assistant at the front desk that left me feeling like my throat was packed with razors wrapped in cotton gauze, I had to rant.

In my pre-allergy days, I used to think people who claimed to be scent-sensitive were just being precious. Just wanted attention. Princes and Princesses who couldn’t sleep with a pea at the bottom of a mattress pile, the wimpy whiner babies. Now I know people who could die of allergy-triggered asthma attacks because other people think just like I used to. And while I might not die – the headache I’m sporting now, along with a runny nose and congestion, is not exactly a day at Disneyworld.

I’m a smoker, as you may know. I don’t like the fact – but so far, I haven’t managed to break the addiction. It contributes to my sensitivities, I’m sure – but the allergies also exist on their own. As a smoker, I realize that cigarette smoke bothers people - non-smokers and especially ex-smokers. By law and by choice, I try not to smoke around others. If you visit my house, and it’s a long visit, then I might light up. If the weather doesn’t permit standing on the balcony, then I’ll open the balcony door and blow the smoke outside, away from where you’re sitting. In my own house.

Message to anyone out there who adores perfume and cologne: I understand. I used to love it, too. When I’m not in a hot allergy phase, I burn flower essential oils and use shampoos that smell good – and I love to do that. But I don’t burn oils on public transit, in restaurants or at work. Please consider that when you drench yourself in scent, it is as uncomfortable and obnoxious to me and nearly as dangerous to my health as I’d be to yours if I blew cigarette smoke up your nostrils. Thank you.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Notes from The Home

Prodded on by your generous and foolish acceptance of my fancy-ass version of the I-have-nothing-to-say entry, I’ve decided to unload more perfectly meaningless information.

For instance, my house smells like a funeral home. (Speak of being dead, huh?)
Saturday, I purchased white lilies with pink centers. At the time they were long narrow buds. Now they are monstrous, yawning blossoms big enough to look like they’d eat a house cat if I had one. And they…They stink. I hate to admit that. I would like to tell you the scent of heaven wafts through my living room, but funeral home is what comes to mind.

I can’t throw them out. I am tender with plants and stones. Perfectly capable of shooting dirty looks at helpless beleaguered mothers with crying babies, a teenager with leaky headphones on my bus whom I call “Heavy Metal Deaf Boy” and anyone within audible range talking on a cell phone. I am perfectly capable of eating fellow-mammals fried up with onions and sliced fungus. I cannot murder a plant. Even one that was, for all intents and purposes, dead when I bought it.

I will not ever sleep in a room where my feet are towards the door, or a window is behind me. But I forget to lock my door at night.

I swear like a sailor but will not use terms like “download” or “interface” in any sense unconnected with computers. I hate the term, “twenty-four seven” because it’s prison language – origins quickly lost, grown fashionable and used by those who have no idea of the painful hell it refers to.

There now. I think I’ve dispelled a little of the calm. Thank you for your patience.

Posthumously yours, LJ

If there’s an inspired topic left in me, it’s sunk so far into the Bermuda Triangle of my subconscious it might as well be a pickle fork from the cutlery set on the Edmund Fitzgerald. It’s walked the gang plank. It slipped out through the hole in the hull. It’s covered in barnacles and is now home to tiny one-celled creatures who have no idea there is any “me” up there in the daylight world.

I have cravenly taken to posting my friend’s art. Not that I don’t love it and didn’t want to share it. I did – but just between me and you, I’m also coming up empty on the topic front.

The problem is that I’m calm. Calm. I think that’s what it is. I’ve observed other people in this state and believe that is the description for it. When I’ve experienced it myself, because it is alien to me, it is usually followed by the uncomfortable thought that perhaps I am not merely “calm” but am actually deceased. It’s just that I haven’t fallen down yet.

So. I haven’t fallen down yet. And it’s been quite some time. I have to conclude that I have passed through the dangerous stage (deceased but still moving) and have made it to “calm.”

And I have to tell you, I’m disappointed. Really. It’s nothing to write home about.
It’s nothing to write about at all.

Thank you for checking the site. I’m sure I’ll return to my usual overexcited, over-opinionated, over-sharing self any day now. And I’m sure the universe will oblige by sending a cream pie in the direction of my face if I use up one more word bellyaching about life becoming too peaceful.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Drawing by T. Hetherington.

New take on an old myth. And about time.

Click to bring the size up.

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