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Thursday, July 28, 2011

All New Look!! All New Philosophy!! All New Name!!

Drop and Give Me 10 is no more...It has ceased to be.

Welcome to StoryTown Tales, where all we want to hear are your stories. True or False. Real or Imagined. Straight Poop or Bullshit.

Why the change? Well, the old format seemed a bit constrictive, and I wanted more room for expression.

So anything goes...Sonnets, Lyrics, Prose, Rants.

But tell a story...

And we'll tell one back...


And so it goes...

Monday, June 20, 2011

SHOW: Thank you very F#%&ing Much



 I suppose its ego, really. No one will ever read this, so why bother to record it. Serves no purpose but to remind me from time to time how great I art. Still, at  those times when I’m feeling unappreciated, and Maker knows those times are frequent, it helps to know that I can look back to a time of accomplishment.

            I saved the World again last night, thank you very fucking much.  From which alien life from, or what man-made organism is not important. Space Slug or Uber virus are of a likeness to me in all but size. The end is always the same though the means be different.

            I don’t mean to give the impression that I do this alone. I do not. I operate as part of a vast worldwide network that has, at this point, existed for centuries.  For the most part we are unseen, unnoticed and that’s the way we like it. Mostly we’re solo operatives but we have been known to mobilize en masse, should the threat be big enough. We are also very good at out our job.

            I’m tired and hungry, and there is nothing to be found. Would it kill them to keep the fucking crunchies bowl filled?
                                                                                                     Patches
                                                                                          (Counter Assault Tactition)

Monday, June 13, 2011

11: This One Goes to....

     In the 60's we all had aspirations to be in a band. The Beatles and the Monkees had seen to that. And I pestered, yes pestered was the word she used, my mother for a guitar.

     While having taken piano lessons as a child and having excellent taste in music in general, I felt she must not be as knowledgeable on stringed instruments. She gave me a ukulele one birthday.
  
     "What's this?" I asked, as if I'd been cheated which is what I felt at the time.

     " It's a Ukulele" she replied.

     " This isn't a Guitar. I wanted a guitar" I complained. I've always been one to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially when I was a kid. This is why I appreciated the advent of the gift card so much.

      "It is a guitar. Ukulele is Hawaiian for "Little Guitar". It isn't. It's actually translates to "jumping flea" in Hawaiian, but when you're lying to to a child it's important to sound as if you have authority on a subject..

     "I've never seen John, Paul or George play ukuleles"

     "They did when they were your age".


     I had no answer and, as it turned out, she got lucky on that one.  I saw the above picture not long afterwards. Still it wasn't a guitar and, as far as I was concerned, it was still on.

     Finally the Christmas I was 8 years old I got it. It was made out of particle board and had pictures of cowboys on it, but it was full size, and mine.

    Full size was the problem. I had and have smallish hands (admittedly they're bigger now than then, thank you) which kept me from being able to chord properly. Add to that, the guitar couldn't hold a tune, and we couldn't afford lessons, so when I played it sounded pretty awful.

     However...My uncle who I didn't see often knew a little guitar showed me how to play the bass line for ''Louie Louie". It only needed one finger on the fret and the fact that I had to change frets during it impressed the hell out of my friends and I was invited to join their band.

     We had no name. We had no talent.. None of us could play. We did have the one place to play. The front entrance to Rose Avenue Public School, on weekends...in good weather...  until somebody told us to shut up.

  And every song had the bass line for "Louie Louie"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Absolvo

Last night as I was driving east down I-84 on my way home from an emotional visit with my family, my mind drifted about all the changes I was making for the future and I almost missed my exit.

I'd been remembering a time when I was in the hospital with an unknown condition which caused agonizing pain from my waist down and all kinds of doctors teamed up attempting to diagnose it. The door to my room might has well have been revolving for all the quick 'head pop in's' who never introduced themselves (incidentally, my version of Whack-A-Mole was to not pay them so it worked out very satisfactorily) but some were intrigued and considered what I had a challenge if only I wasn't such an uncooperative patient.

My stomach was uncooperative because it rejected all food. My veins were uncooperative because they rejected by the hour all needles and IVs. My nervous system was uncooperative because I had an unusual immunity to morphine among other opiates. My flesh was uncooperative because if you so much as approached me with a cotton ball I would lose my mind in dread anticipation of pain.  And my wounds were uncooperative because MRSA was wreaking havoc and threatening to stop zigzagging and head straight for internal organs and bone.

One particular specialist which I had once visited prior to my hospitalization looked like a kindly old grandpa and was so reassuring I began to trust him but his bedside manner proved me horribly wrong. He told me he had to do a biopsy at my bed and I begged him for a anesthetic. He told me not to be silly and shoved a long swab in a wound and grimaced when I shrieked.

 My sister, who had not left my side and had been eating my dinner, stood up and told him to stop. He responded by throwing her out of the room, closing the privacy curtain and approached me with an instrument which bore a remarkable resemblance to a melon-baller.

 Again, I pleaded for an anesthetic and he rolled his eyes and said there was one on the bedside table if it got too rough (he was lying) and just before he touched me, my sister shouted from the doorway, 'IF HE HURTS YOU ELAINE, YOU SCREAM! DO YOU HEAR ME? YOU SCREAM!!!'

The pain was so excruciating that my eyes rolled back and I let out a bloodcurdling shriek which made him drop the instrument, announce he was done and walk out. My sister ran inside and hugged me and didn't leave until Spouse arrived after he got out of work. They took shifts staying with me because in spite of impressive doses of Xanax, my anxiety levels were through the roof.

By the time he got there, the Dilaudid injection had kicked in and I was somewhat loopy as I listened to her tell him how proud she was of me and to never let that sadist near me again. They promised me juice and I fell asleep feeling like a warrior. A somewhat discombobulated warrior like the Black Knight in a Monty Python romp, but I had found my voice.

A month later I was released from the hospital under the constant care of frequent visiting nurses and Spouse and my sister as often as her job permitted.

 Because I couldn't have a Dilaudid IV at home, my medical team was running in last minute circles before my discharge trying to come up with an extremely potent painkiller or cocktail that would enable me to at least not suffer so much so that I would lose consciousness even if it didn't do much as far as real relief but the only cocktail they could come up with were high doses of Percocet and Fentanyl pops, tiny suckers that would dull the pain just enough that I wouldn't consider slitting my wrists as I was told my very rare almost unheard of condition had a high suicide rate due to that pain.

 They told me not to let anyone near those pops because they were normally only prescribed to those in last stage cancer and unless one was already dependent on a narcotic, one pop could potentially stop the heart of the user. So in my altered state of consciousness, I asked Spouse to lock them away and administer only what I needed for the day, and told my sister the truth, that if she experimented with them, as she had done with painkillers in the past to self-treat her occasional pulled muscles and other maladies, she could die. She promised me she wouldn't and I drifted off safely into a blissful almost but not quite painless fog.

For nearly six months.

I was quite lonely and isolated as the MRSA still had not been put in check, so when I could focus, I found a new home on the internet and when I couldn't concentrate I talked to my cat Mr.Peaches. Peachy was my kid in a catsuit, my first pet that was mine and I was his and everybody knew it. His loyalty to me, is still legend. While I recuperated, he died after a lengthy battle with liver cancer, on his own terms after a tender good-bye with me the night before. He was stoic and steadfast, my best true friend, even in his own pain and the lessons learned there are branded deeply into my heart.

And then my sister suddenly died in her sleep, some of my Fentanyl pops on her nightstand. My guilt and my grief were unbearable. I was too ill to attend her funeral, just as I was too ill to attend my brother's two years later, he dying of the same thing, having only spoken to him days before, just like my sister. I had lost so much in so short a time but still I refused to curse God and die. I didn't feel like talking too much to Him especially since a lot of people like Job's buddies thought they could speak for Him, volunteered quite enthusiastically as well and this too I wondered about as I drove home almost missing my exit.

Last night my sister-in-law confronted me in anguish and rage and demanded to know why I hadn't attended my brother's burial, the brother who loved me above all, and I had to confess the horror that continues to follow me and she forgave me and is already proving to be a staunch ally in this campaign which I have begun in order to save my future, to save myself.

In fact, my brother's last words to her, he the only one who saw the truth about what my family was still insisting wasn't happening, were, "Believe Elaine no matter how it looks, believe her."

Remembering my sister shouting to scream, my brother whispering that I was telling the truth and Peachy tenderly saying hold on, hold on, hold on, reaching from the grave, they gave me voice, credibility and mercy when I thought I had lost it. When I felt alone and adrift and betrayed by everyone and under attack.

Like Job who lost his family, his health, his belongings and everything good and meaningful, there is some reason which I may never know, behind the agony and loss. But I do know that like Job that I will forgive all, myself especially and I will be restored multiple times over.

 I cannot change the past and have only so much power over the present but after what is meaningless falls away and I am stripped to the bone, to the core, I have not missed my exit but found a new doorway, and will start anew.

Now, later, begins today.
New topic keyword, for those onboard: "later"

Friday, June 3, 2011

Illusion

Every mirror in my house has its own story. The one over the sofa table (horizontal once, now vertical) used to hang behind my family's couch and before that, my maternal grandmother's who grew bored with it. Cradled in a gilt baroque Florentine style frame, although it has a few scratches and in some spots the gold is worn, it is quite lovely. In spite of its ornateness, it's because of the silver pool in its center, also simple, and lends itself to an airiness in the room.

Directly across it, so they reflect each other, is the centerpiece of the living room; a giant sofit chimney, over a built in mirror, over an illusion mantle, then fireplace. Gazing into one, you can see the back of your head in the other.

I barely look into either.

The house was designed by an architect for himself and his family and in its style has a strange dichotomy, From outdoors, it looks smaller than it is and somewhat like a fairytale cottage but when you step inside, you see an entirely modern contemporary design with many sharp angles, bright wide skylights and narrow floor to ceiling casement windows which are filled with scenery from the woods all around them.

People have remarked about my stained glass windows in the summer and I have explained more than once that they are clear and what they're actually looking at is the bright leaves of the trees close by. The view is breathtaking and a gift I will always cherish even when this house is sold and I never see it again.

There's a stand-alone oval Victorian revival mirror framed in cherry, that my brother Donny was thrilled to buy me as as surprise but forgot to give me for two years. That he thought of me was the real treasure especially since when it was brought into the house, my husband broke the stand itself and hasn't seen fit in nearly 7 years to attempt to fix it.

Nothing that breaks in this house ever gets fixed unless I take it upon myself to take command and I haven't had the heart for so long so it's beginning to look like the slowly decaying mansion in Great Expectations. Not exactly left at the altar, I, but sorta kinda in a way, yes. Dreams not lost, almost, but only, thankfully deferred.

The last two mirrors of note are twins which came to America from Italy with my paternal Italian grandparents. They are the most ornate in deep dark walnut carved lovingly with giant roses and part of an 8 piece bedroom suite. The silver has long since tarnished and the cost of replacement or refurbishing is prohibitive but I am content to just have them reflect the light that pours into the room from those blessed skylights and windows scattered throughout.

I don't often look into them either.

People tend to look at me and in sizing me up often assume I am superficial. I tend to joke that I am but only, like those mirrors, on the surface. I am surrounded and steeped in beauty everywhere I look but it took me many years not so much to own my own, but to believe anyone else knew it. I studied what I saw reflected in those mirrors and many before them and wondered why not, but I was only fooling myself.

As with the mirrors reflecting mirrors in the living room, I was so distracted trying to catch the image of the back of my head that I never believed what I thought I did. I was indeed beautiful but didn't think what was was beneath the surface was as well, or was worth it, so how could anyone else?

It took a lot of heartache to see that while I had my own light, in order to attract it, I had to reflect it and stop hiding in the dark.

And so I stepped away from the surface and stepped out into the light.

TODAYS TEN MINUTE TOPIC IS........................................

Mirror. Go!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Winging It

Now that it's warm, my front door is wide open and the full screen storm door is allowing me a beautiful view. Last night as my best friend, who I'd spent the day with, and I were walking out, we were doing our little Wilma and Betty giggles, going over the day's events and making plans to travel together (destination unknown) and stood by the big red sugar maple growing in an outsized box built into my porch. She noted that we had a family of cardinals there and they watched us as we stood at a respectful distance but they fluttered around anyway probably wondering what the stoopid hoomins were doing awake yet at 2AM.

After dinner at a restaurant I'd been dying to try, and as a treat and pick me up, I surprised her with a Skype psychic reading from one of my other besties earlier and we laughed like hyenas at the things my intuitive friend was saying, some of which was at my expense about my ego blah blah but mostly what C had to work on and look forward to.  C was getting more and more excited and astounded and I took notes and tried to keep my mouth shut. A couldn't see me but she told C she knew I was probably biting my hand to not say anything and indeed I was. A told C that the guy who would fall for her wouldn't give me a second glance and that relieved C and they both joked that I couldn't have everyone. I told them the joke was on them because I wanted C's happiness more than my own and was actually content regarding my own romantic horizon. in due time. All in due time.

If we could all know the future, would we dare want to?

I pose this question because A has been saying for oh maybe a year that huge huge things are going to be happening in my life --beyond my wildest dreams and deepest desires of my heart. At one point I thought I lost that, that the timing was off or she was mistaken and both of us disappointed and disillusioned, actually lost touch for some time. Only recently we've reunited and I told her it was like losing a limb and she said she never stopped loving me, that I was her spiritual sister and we are both so relieved to be back together it's like giant weights have been lifted off our shoulders. 

One thing that particularly touched me was that everything she saw in my future has not changed. It's all solid, and she was sad because she thought she would not be a part of it. I told her she underestimated my gratitude. In spite of our differences, I would have hunted her down and celebrated with her. I know myself. I am completely incapable of holding a grudge. That may be both my greatest strength and flaw. It most certainly is my biggest vulnerability after my wide open heart.

When we were apart, I did question the authenticity of her gifts. But something strange began to happen. People would appear and events would occur in my life and subsequent changes to my maturity and spiritual growth did occur, perhaps not exactly as she had said but in such a way that it was not vague but unmistakably had her thumbprint all over it.

When we talk, every now and then she gets little bursts of intuition about me and has shared them for free, even though it's part of her livelihood to do readings and she needs to pay bills like the rest of us, but I have told her repeatedly that she never has to do that with me. She is not a psychic who became a friend but a friend who is a psychic and there's a huge distinction. If she never told me another personal insight again, she would still be my friend, She too is also, like C and L and Cat and K, all sisters given to me after I lost my own. That alone is a gift.

Last night (well, night for me, afternoon for her) as we were saying our goodbye's on Yahoo, I told her jokingly that I was proud that I used remarkable restraint in not horning in on C's reading (she wanted me present because she was nervous) and deserved a cookie. She reminded me that I could ask her at any time always and we said hugs and talk to you later and logged-off.

The funny thing is now I have arrived at a point in my life, (and she had said a long time ago that I would reach it) that I don't need to know and she's right. I have a lot of stuff to do this coming summer, fall and winter. A lot of rebuilding but also preparing for something I came very close to losing because I was looking in another direction and had let myself be distracted. I'm not going to be asking any questions about that part because part of the journey is the learning, the surprise. I love surprises, (well the good ones anyway)  and there are far too few of them in my life.

So now I sit near the open door and the cardinals are playing in the short red tree not ten feet from my couch and they're singing for me and Wonton. Wonton actually is licking her lips but she does too like to listen. They know she's there and they put on a show and dance, flit and flirt with her near the door. She rolls over on her back and yawns and pretends to be bored but the lashing of her tail betrays her.

I too am excited but I am in no hurry either. The best things in life are worth waiting for and while I'm getting my act together, preparing for the next stage and know by my effusiveness, everyone has tickets to the front row, the show must and will go on. Critics may be a bitch but I'll be living it and not judging from a cold bitter corner, and regardless of what they say, I know I am a fucking star.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Welcome new folk and TODAY'S 10 MINUTE TOPIC

While your benevolent host is still playing catch up on the last couple of topics, I'd like to welcome Newbies and encourage the followers to come out and take part in the party...

Remember the Buzzer is just a tool and if you're still writing when it goes off it's not cheating to finish.

The point is to get you writing.

Speaking of which, is this helping? Let me know, I'm curious.

And with that Today's 10 Minute Topic is: SHOW

Have fun...

DISCIPLINE: The Strap

     I was in grade school for the last gasp of corporal punishment. This is not a story about abuse. It's not even anti-corporal punishment. It's more of a peer pressure piece.

     The corporal punishment of choice at Rose Avenue Public School was the strap.  It was whispered about in hushed tones with a terror normally reserved for Vampires, Frankenstein's Monster and Mr. Jackson, the certifiably insane 4th grade teacher.
  
     The strap was either  3 feet long wrapped in barbwire,  a foot and a half of rawhide with hooks. The length and material changed, as did the presence or absence of metal accessories, depending on who was telling the story. The fact was that very few kids had actually seen the strap. And the group I hung around with considered it a challenge.

    The guys I ran with weren't the wrong crowd. They were A wrong crowd but not THE wrong crowd. THE wrong crowd  were perrenial Grade Sixers who always hung out in the back corner of the schoolyard, sneaking smokes, mumbling incoherencies, and slouching, kind of like grade school Brandos without a cause. We weren't The Wrong Crowd, but we aspired to be.

     Then it happened. Danny Telfer got caught trying to sneak into the supply room (why we could never figure out, and he wouldn't tell us. I think he may have had a thing for chalk) and was taken to the Vice Principal's office. The VP of Rose Avenue PS was a guy named Marvin Lipton. He was tall from my 8 year old perspective, bald, and wore rimless glasses. It turned out he also wrote a weekly column for the Toronto Star on Current Events, complete with a quiz at the end to see if you'd been paying attention. But as far as we were concerned he was the Executioner.
  
     So we didn't see Danny 'til we got out of school that day, and once we did we asked him how it was.

     "It wasn't anything' Telfer said, "Didn't even hurt."

     "You're full of it" Michael Barnes opined.

     "You think so?" Telfer smiles " Then you go get the strap, and prove me a liar"

     And it was on. We had begun what was, to that point, the stupidest dare of my 8 some odd years on the planet.  Barnes picked up the gauntlet. Two days later Barnes was sent to Lipton's office for bouncing a rock off Mrs. Babbington's prominent posterior.
  
     He confirmed Telfer's report. " Guy can't hit for shit" Michael Barnes announced.
 
     I was after Ilhan Dagastanli, who tried to get in after the doors had been closed and locked post recess, and made a dent. He too said it was nothing special.

     My disgression was much less spectacular, but it did get gasps, and I assure you that it wasn't intentional. I was not a stupid child. I already had parents who  thought spanking okay by them. I did not wish to do a comparative study. Problem was I was a little too smart for my own safety.

    Remember I said Mr. Jackson was insane? Well, he was also a pompous windbag who took sadistic pleasure in mocking his (Grade 4) students. (In retrospect, he was almost certainly Gay too, but that probably didn't have anything to do with his personality disorders. They have  Gay assholes too...so to speak). Jackson was not above physical discipline himself. I saw him personally throw a little girl against the back cupboards in a fit inexplicable rage over some perceived slight. But nobody believed us when we spoke about him and what he had done in class. He had all our mothers completely conned. They all thought he was charming and nice, and would never do anything as heinous as we had described.

    He has just finished berating my friend Sean for misspelling Egypt or Rhythm, something with a "y" as a vowel. and I muttered something starting with the vowel "a" and ending with the vowel  "e" at a subsonic level. Well, Jackson must have had bat hearing, because when I looked up he was hovering over me.

     "Mr. Boyes? Office." Mr. Jackson smirked.
  
     I knew that arguing could lead to worse punishment so I got up. and walked towards the classroom door.  Sean asked me what I had done, and I replied this time quite audibly (making sure Jackson wasn't within grabbing distance) and, using my theatrically trained 8 year old voice to project, I said " I called him an Asshole", got the gasp, and left.  I was much tougher as a kid.

     I walked down the hall to the main office, like Cagney goes to the chair in "Angels with Dirty Faces". Not the part where he turns yellow and cries like woman, but the part where Father Jerry is trying to talk him in to feigning cowardice, as he walks the last mile with a sneer on his  face. I may even had done the Rocky Sullivan shoulder roll, at least I like to think I did, as I walked into the office.

    " Go into the Vice Principal's office, Michael"

    I wish I could say I maintained the Cagney cockiness as I went into Lipton's office, but I didn't. I was scared. Maybe he did hit harder. The one question that had had my curiosity was answered immediately.  The strap itself was laying on the the top right hand corner. It was brown shiny leather (almost, naugahyde looking),no visible metal, and about 15 inches long. That mystery solved..

     "Have a seat, Mr Boyes"

    I sat in the armed wooden chair opposite Lipton's immaculate desk and stared straight ahead through the window that actually faced the apartment building where I lived. I didn't hear much. I was in something like a meditative state. I turned my palms up as instructed. I stared through the bricks of the opposite building. The first strike took me by surprise and I grunted. They had all fucking lied, the bastards. It hurt like hell. A scorching sharp pain. In the microseconds before the next hit  a voice inside my head said quite distinctly " Don't Cry or Yell ". I felt an explosion of pain in my right hand, but I made no sound and kept staring through the window, through the bricks,  through the rooms, through the back wall to the parking behind the building, through the cars, out into the streets beyond.

     When I had received 5 on each hand, he put the strap down and stared at me as though I was a weird inhuman creature.

   "Well,  I have to admit that you're the first I've ever given the strap to who didn't cry."

    I wish I'd said something grand and melodramatic like "Your weapons have no power over me" or thought  to slip my glow in the dark vampire teeth into my mouth beforehand so I could hiss at him and thus confirm his suspicions.  But to tell the truth my hands were starting to smart and pulse and all I could manage was " Thanks".

     " Go back to class"

      By the time school let out word had spread, and the group surrounded me. Michael Lanka asked me what it was like. I looked at Barnes, Telfer, and Dagastanli in turn. Then looked at Michael Lanka and said "It hurt  a lot"

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sometimes things get so broken that it seems there’s no way of fixing it.

When I was 9 and you were 11, I idolized you, my big brother. You were the kid everyone wanted in their club. You were always the captain of the Capture the Flag team, always on the winning side in Kick the Can. I was so proud to be your sister. But I had problems. I was shy – painfully so – and I didn’t have the magnetism you had. That made me awkward in social settings, and you didn’t enjoy having me around because I made you uncomfortable. So you would go out of your way to ditch me, and even join in with your friends in teasing me and excluding me. I learned to play by myself.

As we both hit teenage-hood, things changed a little. You were so handsome, so popular with everyone, so charismatic. Everyone loved you. You were the soccer champ, the amazing singer, the one all the girls swooned after. I was no longer as awkward, not quite as shy – the boys loved me – and I still had stars in my eyes for you. All I wanted was to please you. Since dad left you had made yourself the head of the family to help mom out, and I knew you had expectations of me, and I was determined to make you proud of me, in spite of the fact that I was still non-existent to you in social circles. We had many of the same friends, but you rarely acknowledged me when we were out with them. So I started acting out, trying to get your attention. Dating the bad boys, worrying mom, staying out late. This only succeeded in making you angry at me and embarrassed by me. When I ended up marrying “the wrong boy” and starting a family with him, your disappointment in me was palpable. You made it acutely obvious that there was nothing about my life that you accepted or approved of. As my children grew, I saw flashes of your distaste and anger reach out and touch my children, sometimes literally, in ways that were very unacceptable. I stopped communicating with you, avoided family events that you attended, and lived my life in the best way I could, still secretly yearning for your approval.

Fast forward to now. I am the antithesis of everything you find acceptable. But there’s something about me you obviously don’t know. Your approval means little to me now in how I perceive myself and live my life. I don’t need to know that you’re proud of me. I want to be friends with you, and I’ve tried. I reached out, expecting you to reach back so we could find middle ground, but I didn’t realize I was stepping into the lion cage, and the lion hadn’t had his “tranquil”izer.

Your perception of me is warped. I’m a stranger to you, and your desire to discover who I am isn’t there. You’d rather live in your misconceptions and lash out in anger and indignation at my “accusations”. Your perception of the past is warped, as well. It matters little to you that the effect you have had on people all of your life has left scars, and you can’t face that fact in order to try to fix it, even though those you scarred are willing to leave it where it lands and start fresh, if only we could get you to open up and talk. Okay, yes, I could leave the past in the past and try to have a relationship, but the scars and resentment will still be there, and frankly, after a lifetime of being the one who compromises, I’m not willing to do that anymore. You can puff up and be the big man and push others around all you want, but you’re not doing it to me anymore. However, I watch you doing it to mom and it takes away any desire to have a relationship with you. In fact, it makes me want to RUN from having anything to do with you. I do have some news flashes for you, though:

Being “emotional” isn’t a bad thing. God made our bodies to cry for a reason, and there’s nothing wrong with it – in fact, it’s healthy. Try it sometime and maybe it would help unclench your ass a bit. Being aware of how you feel and why you feel it can lift huge burdens, all it takes is being brave enough to crawl into that mirror and explore, and be willing to be honest with yourself.

Your perception of right and wrong isn’t the official version.

Now that you’ve got what you wanted and are back in control of “the family”, you want me to step up and get in line with our siblings. You want me to accept that you’re in charge and you know what’s best and stop “being emotional and over-reactive”.

As much as it pains me to alienate myself from all of you….I’m going to have to take a pass.

Worth It All

I'd like to preface this by saying the crisis is over and it's not going to happen.

Recently for the first time since the one time in July, I held a bottle of painkillers in my hand and considered swallowing the contents. One of the reasons was the same as it was in the summer but there were many more reasons including that I am taking an increased dosage of a new medication which can cause suicidal ideation and that I am at risk because two of my three siblings died from 'accidental' overdose. The emotional reasons are unnecessary for me to go into here in detail but someone will be finding their own place in the summer or sooner and couldn't be happier. Thank God for friends who recognize a cry for help, even one in voiceless grief.

The loss of my sweet baby brother Donny less than a week after his 41st birthday this year, and my only sister at 35, two years ago and my godmother and my mother, most painful of all, has left a deep hole of grief inside me. I struggled with medication to at least allow me to function but it made me robotic and completely blocked my creativity. It did not however address that I have been desperate to be loved for too long by people who should have been out of my life a long time ago.

I have tried four different meds and for one medical reason or another others are unavailable to me, but that doesn't mean I won't stop searching. Much of my therapy is in writing, so there will have to be a trial-and-error happy medium so I don't lose my mojo. I have a book to finish and it will be published. NOT might, but will.

I didn't realize it then, but I do now that a lot of my feelings of being rejected and unloved were valid but not because of me. I am indeed most lovable. It was because of people who were incapable of seeing or appreciating who I am, what I have to offer and also were battling their own demons. It wasn't until a talk with a stranger today that I was able to let go of all of it and put down that bottle, not the one in my hand, but the one in my mind whispering that it would be oh so easy to check-out.

The best most exciting part of my life is ahead of me. I've decided it's worth living for, so no more flirting with self-harm. I'm worth a wonderful life so to death, I'm taking a pass.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

No A**hole Soup For Me, Thanks. I'm full.

To whom this concerns (and you know who you are):

There was a time when your rudeness, boorish behaviour and bad manners would have started a chain reaction. First, I would have analyzed the situation for days, if not weeks, wondering what I had done wrong and how I could fix it. Failing that, I would have begun socially and professionally dismantling your life.

Recently, I had my first moment of clarity. I was lying awake in bed, when the voice of a former co-worker, a dear friend and mentor, chirped up:
"Lex, so what? Who cares?"

So simple. So effective. It's my new damn mantra.

Why should I waste time worrying about people who aren't worth it? I've got too much on the go! I've accomplished everything I have ever set out to do, and am about to embark on my biggest journey yet. What have you done lately?

I don't have to excuse being treated badly (as per my mother, another wise sage). Being angry at you only makes me angry. Feeling wounded by your actions only makes me a victim. I'm taking a new approach: It's not me, it's you. At the end of the day, you have to be who you are and I get to be me.

I'm giving it back to you. I'm putting it in a bubble and blowing it away. I'm blowing your shit up. I'm taking a pass on you and your whole damn existence.

Bye.

FILM: Excerpt from Killer Wives

One of the reasons I started this blog was to help other writers get unstuck, as well as to help myself.  When I came up with the topic of film I was originally going to wax poetic on the genius of Edward Arnold or Allen Jenkins ( I'll do those in another venue), or write a review. But then I thought "Why don't you see if this is working?" I had been working on a screenplay called Killer Wives for a while and then I got blocked. So I opened up the file and started where I left off and also tried  to incorporate the topic. The basic story is 3 friends have different reasons for wanting their husbands dead. At this point in the story Fay and Evy have been visiting their friend Mary who's been put into the hospital by her abusive husband Gary. Having just resolved that they will do whatever it takes to avenge their friend they are on their way out when Fay realizes she's forgotten her cell phone. The new stuff starts after Fay's line "We'll follow him, Marlowe, We'll follow him." I should add that Fay has film noir fantasies throughout the script, so she's something of an authority on the subject.


INT. ROOM 602 HUMBER RIVER HOSPITAL - MOMENTS LATER
Evy and Fay enter the doorway and freeze in shock.

   CUT TO:

REVERSE ANGLE- INT.ROOM 602 HUMBER RIVER HOSPITAL- CONTINUOUS 

Gary sits beside Mary on the hospital bed, smiling, with his arm around her. There is a large vase of flowers on the table beside the bed. Mary attempts to smile, but isn’t quite making it.

GARY
Hello, Ladies!

There is a long awkward pause.

FAY
Hi Gary...

EVY
Hi...

There is another long awkward pause.

GARY
Forget something.

EVY
What?!

Gary holds up Fay’s cell phone.

GARY
This?

FAY
Yes, that’s exactly what I came back for... 
Thanks for picking up on that, or picking that up ha ha ha!!

Fay edges over to Gary holding the cell phone and gingerly takes it from it him, then 
returns to Evy’s side. There’s another glassy eyed silence then...

EVY
Well, we’ve got some very important shopping we need 
to be getting back to. Get better Mary! G’bye Gary. C’mon Fay.

FAY
Yeah...Get better Mary. Goodbye Gary. C’mon Fay. 

Fay and Evy exit awkwardly through the door walking backwards.

CUT TO:
INT.  CORRIDOR OF HUMBER RIVER HOSPITAL - CONTINUOUS

Fay and Evy hustle down the hall.

EVY
Well, at least now we know where he is. What’s next, Sam Spade?

FAY
We follow him, Marlowe. We follow him.

CUT TO:
EXT. HUMBER RIVER HOSPITAL PARKING LOT - LATER

Fay and Evy are crouched down in Fay's Van

EVY
Can we get up? My back is starting to seize.

FAY
(sitting up)
I’m just as uncomfortable but you wanted to play hard boiled dick.
 This is how its done. Ever see “The Big Sleep”?

EVY
(also sitting up)
Trying to follow the plot gave me a headache...

FAY
The plot’s easy...

EVY
Like fun it is. 

FAY
It is !

EVY
So explain it to me

FAY
Okay, I will. Philip Marlowe gets hired by the wealthy retired General Sternwood, 
who has 2 daughters, the youngest,Carmen, who parties too hard and her older sister,divorcee Vivien Rutledge. Marlowe has already met Carmen, who 
attempted to seduce him, when he arrived at their home.A man named Arthur Gwynne- Geiger is blackmailing the General with Carmen’s gambling debts and Sternwood wants Marlowe to pay them off. When Marlowe tries to leave he is met by Vivien, who unsuccessfully attempts to find out why her father has hired him. She thinks The General is looking for his companion/bodyguard, Sean Regan, who has suddenly gone missing.Marlowe tells her nothing, and sets out to find the blackmailers.

EVY
And how far into the movie are we at this point?

FAY
About 10 minutes...

EVY
I’m already confused.

FAY
Marlowe traces Arthur Gwynne Geiger to an antiquarian bookshop 
that they are using as a front...

EVY
Fay...

FAY
...for their operation. Marlowe goes the Hollywood public library 

EVY
Fay!

FAY
...to research antiquarian books

EVY
FAY!!

FAY
What?

EVY
He’s coming!

CUT TO:
EXT.HUMBER RIVER HOSPITAL MAIN ENTRANCE - CONTINUOUS

Gary exits the hospital and heads toward the parking lot

CUT TO:
EXT. HUMBER RIVER HOSPITAL PARKING LOT - CONTINUOUS

Fay and Evy duck back down. Gary passes by.

FAY
I’ll tell you the rest later.
EVY
I’ll read the book. It’ll be faster.

CUT TO:
EXT. HUMBER RIVER HOSPITAL PARKING LOT - CONTINUOUS

Gary’s car passes by Fay’s van. A few moments later the van pulls out.

Not Dead Yet, and TODAY's 10 MINUTE TOPIC

Please forgive my absence from this here Blog exercise for the last week or so. Nothing serious, but it was necessary.. I will play catch up on the other blogs, I won't cheat and in the meantime Today's Ten Minute Topic is: PASS.

Have fun my little scribblers! And it's good to be back!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dignity, Mr. Peaches and The Simpsons

There is now an entire generation which doesn't know life without the Simpsons but oh say fifteen years ago, it was still rather fresh and cutting edge. It really did usher in prime-time animation and arguably singlehandedly made Fox the fourth network. It originally started as 48 snippets in Squigglevision on the Tracey Ullman show and was such a success it earned its own slot in television history. For me it was my wubby when I moved out on my own.

Technically I didn't move out. My parents moved to PA and sold the house out from under my brother Donny and I while I was scrambling to find an apartment. Actually they didn't own the house. My grandmother did and my sadistic troll uncle John was solely in charge of the sale so he had the pleasure of telling me to get the fuck out. My parents basically ran away from home which is okay because they got to own their own home in their senior-ish years which was nice. It's a cute little A-frame Tudor-style cottage just off a lake near Scranton. My grandmother surrounds it with gnomes painted in garish color combinations not found in any universe and toilet-tank plant arrangements. To say a pink-flamingo would class it up a bit would be an understatement but she likes it and my dad doesn't care so I can live with it and laugh every single time she points out the silk flowers she's tucked into her spider plants and tell me to smell them because they're 'Never-Die's'. She also makes me exquisite Polish pancake crepes that I eat with sugar and butter so I am not saying shit as long as she piles on more bacon too. Yes, I CAN whore myself for bacon and talks about gay sex with my 86-year-old grandmother. I have no dignity.

I had a rich and interesting childhood, a rocky adolescence, and then my twenties and thirties took off nicely. I was dating a nice guy and then just quit my job (because no one told me oral sex was part of the job description) and was imminently homeless but he was starting to get a little squirrelly and his eyes would dart around whenever I mentioned looking at apartments. Obviously he wasn't ready to shack up and I didn't want to be with anyone who didn't want me around so I kept looking and found one apartment, then spent my last penny fixing it up and the day that last check was cashed I was evicted. I became so hysterical at my predicament that my friends started a telephone chain and a new apartment with a friend who I'd lost touch with but was DELIGHTED to have me was found. We were both thrilled. Now that I think about it, boyfriend was probably most thrilled. I told him, 'fuck you' and adopted a cat, Mr. Peaches.

I am blessed with many multitudes of friends and in an emergency, like Jesus with the loaves and fishes, the bounty was miraculously plentiful. People came out of the woodwork to paint and do repairs and donate 'stuff' to my new abode. I found a great new job and was having an awesome almost idyllic time and was very busy and nothing slowed down, even when I got into bed. My mind would race a mile a minute. I had yet to discover the joys of Xanax and one very bad episode with Tylenol PMs made me terrified of them, so most nights I was up til dawn and had to be dressed and ready for work at 7:30 which meant at most 3 hours of sleep.

Still, this was a time of great joy for Peachy because he could count on me to lay down on my living room floor nude at 3AM with a broom to retrieve his favorite ball which got jammed directly underneath the loveseat every single night like clockwork. Peachy had the uncanny gift of telling me what was wrong replete with facial expressions, gesticulations and vocal commands so I was basically his zombie slave and I had nothing better to do. But what to do about sleep?

I was paying my own utility bills for the first time ever and sprung for cable when it dawned on me that I could watch something mindless and soothing to help me sleep. I did have a computer but was not the web-rat I am now, and to tell the truth, I was dog tired from work, the commute, Peachy's relentless demands, and telling the boyfriend to fuck off every hour on the hour since I dumped him. He eventually made his way back into my heart and bed which helped immensely with my sleep but it would take a while. 

Until then it was the Simpson's at eleven.

Good-night.

XI

"Eleven" is just about the dumbest topic ever for a writing exercise. I deserve ten whacks and one to grow on. I'll take it figuratively, thanks.

I have no idea what the synaptic trigger was for this. The blog is called "Drop and Give Me Ten", maybe? My first name [Evelyn] was frequently difficult for other kids to remember and/or say, and lately that's been on my mind because I've been heading down strange corridors off Memory Lane on Facebook? The whole Rapture nonsense, maybe? (You know: "elevate", and it gets corrupted to "eleven" because I'm not paying attention?)

Who cares. Nobody's reading it except you - sorry - so I guess you care. And you also have to write something on my whimsical topic word. Fortunately you are eleven times better than I am at writing so there is probably some sort of formula for how much easier these are for you to complete. Remember to factor in my lesser-than-years-ago expectations for my own efforts. Let's call that variable "X", and then solve for it.

I just counted my teeth. If there were eleven of them I could complete this essay on that topic: my teeth. Unfortunately, I now have nineteen, too many. If I'd been smart I'd have counted my teeth before deciding on the topic and thus been able to make the topic "nineteen". I know you're writing now - so, would it throw you off too much to change yours to "nineteen" at this point, or have you gotten too far into the whole "eleven" thing?

All right, I guess that's not particularly fair. So this is what I'll do. I'll write a song.

ELEVEN
(To the tune of "Put Them All Together, They Spell Mother")

E is for my slack e-magination
L is for the levity I seek
E confirms my mind's evacuation
V is "verily, I've got some cheek!"
E the third within this word so rotten
N concludes the Digital Plus One

Line them up and read from top to bottom,
Apologies to you ~ I'm done.

New Ten Minute Topic.

Eleven.

GO!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tiny Bees and Gigantic Whales

Millions of bees are dying due to a phenomenon coined Colony Collapse Syndrome. No one is quite sure of the cause. Some scientists blame pesticides, malnutrition, genetically modified crops and climate change to name a few but one stands out starkly because it seems to be following a pattern; electromagnetic radiation or for the layman, cell phones. We are probably killing off billions of bees because of technology.

It doesn't just end with bees. One might say, well okay, so no more honey (which is for you trivia buffs, the only food that can't 'go bad'--found perfectly sweet in wrecks of Viking ships and royal Bronze Age burial plots) but thousands of plant species are dependent upon bees for pollination. And thousands of insect species, and mammals and so on are dependent on those plant species. This is why the word 'Collapse' is in there. The house of cards is facing a catastrophic typhoon, proportions of which we can't even comprehend the toll and if you ask the next person if they've ever heard of it, they'd probably shrug, 'Bees. They sting. Good riddance'.

I'm no granola crunchy hippie tree-hugger. In fact, until a few years ago I was positively disgustingly smug conservative until it dawned on me the only thing vociferous conservatives are interested in conserving are their own very specific special interests and not at all as I understood it to be which was to conserve, like the grasshopper and the ant, to work and save for the winter for everyone but now winter is here and everyone is saying 'what's in it for me' and it makes my heart hurt. Forget 'what about the children'. What about the bees because it's gonna affect the children and we have to do something now. Luckily for the bees it appears that they might be gaining in numbers so I'm hoping they all fall in love and keep making more honey and pollinating like crazy kids.

Then there are the whale strandings or what most of us know as 'beached whales'. Multiple species of whale are falling off established migratory patterns and if you do a Google search, the same reasons are given as for the bees and in this case, in the Pacific and Atlantic at least, where whales need to go North to mate and give birth--they're getting LOST. How the fuck does a whale get lost? And you read 'cruise ship noise' and you do a facepalm because we're killing them too, tiny bees and gigantic whales. Signals we need to communicate over distances to each other are affecting and threatening their existence. 

It dawns on me. Distance. It's always distance. Mixed signals like the telephone game, where the message is totally beyond comprehension at the end; funny when kids are playing it at a basement birthday party but not so funny when we're trying to communicate.

We're so far away from each other and the internet brings us so close it gives a false intimacy as if it's real and to many it is but to many it's the perfect foil to hide behind anonymity and pretend you're one thing when you're another. It's so easy to be tempted. Years ago no one would have ever dreamed of the possibility of romance with someone 1000 miles or more away and now not only is it happening but it's thriving and people are moving great distances to be together and some of them end up going off course and getting lost and never reestablishing their old patterns.

Now I'm at the end of one relationship and fingers (but thankfully not oceans) crossed, may be embarking on another after a brief period of FREE FREE I'M FREE but have the dumb luck to find the most common with one least close geographically. And proceeding very very cautiously because someone once told him it wasn't real and someone once told me it wasn't real and this one was burned and that one was burned and even though BOTH of us thought it was real with the other now have to check our sonar and radar and cellphones to make sure it's not mixed-signals. And it pisses me off. 

Mixed

I used to work for a bartending academy. Don't be overly impressed; it was just a space in an industrial complex, a business my boss had bought when he was between gigs, not something ivy-covered. He charged people two hundred dollars to learn how to make and serve mixed drinks. He also taught classes in casino dealing, because there were a number of Indian casinos about to open up in the area and they'd be in the market for people who could simultaneously deal cards and not steal. There were no classes in not stealing, though. I'm not sure it would have been right for him to teach such classes, given the Academy's poor graduate-to-job ratio.

My job had nothing to do with teaching. I was the secretary. I took the checks, made up the bank deposit, did follow-up calls with a script for students who had expressed interest but not given a commitment, answered the phone, read library books, and eventually went home before the actual classes began, four nights a week. Fridays were free and there were no day classes. There wasn't much money involved in it for me, which was OK at the time because I had alimony for my actual expenses.

My boss and his wife loved me. This was the second job with this couple. The alimony angle had tipped the scales in my favor both times, of course, but I tried not to give them any cause for regret. There was that time I called in late from a freeway pullout about forty-five miles from the office, on my way hone from Los Angeles. I was a call screener for his radio show and it was five minutes till showtime, but, you know, credit for trying. The bartender academy job hadn't presented any opportunity for that sort of thing. Plus his wife was as good at making up the bank deposits as it turned out she was at call screening. She could have done my job, except she was pretty busy home schooling their kids, and that took precedence. I was OK.

Until the day I discovered they were using real alcohol in the school bottles. Why would they do that? For one thing, how could they make any money? OK, sure, it wasn't really Maker's Mark, but it was skotch (not a typo), said so right on the bag. The half-empty bag that I found in the back, in an open box with my name on it. Then I was suddenly not OK.

[ten minutes]

TODAYS TOPIC IS..........

 MIXED-SIGNALS

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Damp

Floating. So lovely, so pure. Nothing, not even myself, weighing me down. I could sleep on my back in that pool, so luxe, so soft, cradling me, rocking me. Bending my knees a bit more as I relax into it. It was like being supported by an invisible lounge chair, so, so niiiiice. And staring at the blackness of the sky, the bright blue illumination beneath me even prettier for the contrast.

I haven't had a pool for years. I don't live by an ocean any more, either, but the lake is big. It's a Great Lake. I've never seen anyone swim in it, although I suppose people do. I should check into that. I'm sure there's someplace online where you can do that.

I wonder if they let people know when the water is too toxic. They do that with the ocean. Or do you just have to keep an eye out for dead fish because it's just a Great Lake? That's would be another thing to check into. I certainly wouldn't want to be poisoned through my skin. Would there be fumes? All those birds that fell out of the sky - was that over a body of water?

I can't remember. I do remember going swimming with the family one summer afternoon, at Lazy River in upstate New York. Except it wasn't that lazy; I submerged and came up covered with leeches. Well, not covered. There weren't any on my hair or my swimsuit. The rest of me, yeah, but not my hair. Or my swimsuit. Wouldn't have objected to a little toxicity then - just enough for the leeches, not for people.

You need to be able to build up a little immunity to these things. Such a thing as too clean. For example, I myself only take a shower any more when I actually smell bad or my hair is really greasy, because, frankly, I'm terrified to fall in the tub. I do think I could probably drag myself to one or the other of the pull cords for the 911 service, though; they're pretty well-placed, so it's not that part. It's the aftermath, the not being able to get out and get the french toast essentials on my own, you know? Scary.

I hate being a wet blanket. I should probably learn how to just not sweat it so much.

Path Through the Woods

The last time I saw you, we were sitting on my couch eating hors d'Ĺ“uvres.  I'd spent a week agonizing over what to make because we hadn't seen a lot of each other and you had just come back from Sloan-Kettering Memorial with Karl and we were toasting him because his latest labs were so good.

Both of you had little time so we knew it was just a drive-by party and I wanted to make the best of it and I kept playing with your bracelet as you regaled me with stories of growing up in Cuba and how stylish your socialite mom was and how much you loved your nanny and you didn't want to talk about your own lab results so we didn't.

It was late, because you arrived late, which was expected and welcomed with delight like a fancy sparkling midnight snack and we drained the bottle and you kept eating the kalamata olives and one other thing I made but I can't recall and it's making me a little tearful because I want to brand this memory on my heart of hearing your laugh and seeing your bright smile and the way you gazed at Karl and he at you and everything you'd been through together and meant to each other and now I'm standing next to the same couch listening to Spouse play back the message from Karl that you died last night and for some reason I keep thinking, 'Why does Karl keep insisting on calling our business phone in the closet when he knows our cell numbers' and my hands are shaking and my heart is pounding and the rain is pouring down the skylights and filling up the driveway and I look at him and no words come out.

Today is our 9th wedding anniversary which we haven't celebrated in at least four years although we've agreed to go to dinner tomorrow at my favorite restaurant because at the very least we can tolerate each other over good food, the last thing we will ever agree on as long as I don't hug him or touch him or brush against him or complain about what a cheap tipper he is and go back and throw more money on the table but at least we're friend and not mortal combatants and I find my voice and he speaks up and asks me if he should call Karl and I said, 'No. Go over there right now, please. You're a man. He's surrounded by women. Just sit with him. Talk about nothing. Just sit with him.' and he says okay and puts on his jacket and steps out into the rain, closing the door behind him. And now I'm alone with you if only in my thoughts, like a prayer of wistfulness.

You always had a kind of quiet dignity and innate graciousness that I could never hope to accomplish because I'm so much like a big fluffy pedigreed puppy running around in circles, quite entertaining and nice to look at, and smart too (she does tricks!) but at the end of the day exhausting and demanding and your presence was like a tuning fork where my mind would just stop racing and sit politely with my hands in my lap and just listen, just listen and I'm reminded that Beth said she didn't quite understand you and how did I get along with you and I said I didn't see what she meant, no maybe Melinda wasn't the most open person and took everyone in small doses but she had her reasons and we all have reasons don't we, so Beth changed the subject and I remember the last thing Beth said to me was, 'I'll see you at the funeral' which angered me a little even though it was true and the last time I was in that church was because Beth's dog had died and she asked me to go with her because it was Lenten season and she was part of the altar group so she HAD to go but didn't want to talk about the dog to everyone so needed me to be a buffer or distractor of sorts and I thought for sure when I stepped into a church again I'd be struck by lightening or at least smoke would swirl around my feet and she said to stop being so silly and now I have to go again and have no excuse because this time it's not about a dead poodle, but a next-door neighbor and friend and friend's wife so my attendance is required.

I remember when we were having our first annual cook-out and there was a freak thunderstorm and you called and asked if it was still on and I said, 'Oh yes! Rain or shine', and you said you had a problem and was embarrassed and didn't know how to say it and I to just say it and you said you locked yourself into your bedroom and the doorknob came off in your hand and you were literally locked alone in your house and was a little scared and panicky and I said, 'Is your back door unlocked?" and you said it was so I called Spouse and he was angry because he'd just stepped out of the shower and said, 'Why can't she just call the fire department?' and I said, 'Put on some goddamn clothes and get the toolbox and stop being such an ass. Do unto others...Jesus God what the hell is wrong with you.' and he stomped off but did it and eventually had to kick in your door and you were able to make it to the party after all and no one had to know that you were scared and you told everyone that Spouse saved your life and you and Karl did something nice for us and I said, 'See! This is why we look out for our neighbors' and he still sulked but I didn't care.

Then there was the freak blizzard and my car got stuck on the hill and a new neighbor reluctantly drove me to my driveway and I slipped on the ice under the snow just as he pulled away not even bothering to check if I made it to my front door and I couldn't get up no matter how much I tried to get traction and I was crying and screaming in the dark and my fingers were turning blue and Karl came out of nowhere and went into the garage and got a piece of cardboard and helped me up and after a few hours under a blanket, by the fire I was fine and I was able to say YOUR husband saved my life and we'd joke about it whenever we'd get together.

You loved my chili and eggplant parm. I loved your green bean casserole and fruit cake. We could hear each other laughing from our decks and I was thankful that yours was the only house I could see through tree cover because you laughed as much as I did and would climb up the little incline between our back woods to say hello and slap mosquitoes and also talk about one day making a path between houses and now I'm sitting here and I can't type anymore because one more person I love is gone and my eyes are filled and I can't see nor do I want to.

I'll see you at the funeral and I love you.

New Ten Minute Topic.

It's Wednesday, it's pretty much raining everywhere on the planet, and today's topic is water.

GO!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Orphans and Heirloom Tomatoes

I hand the phone to Spouse. I won't even answer when I see him on the Caller ID. I just say, 'Here. Talk to your brother,' and he gets up and starts talking (he paces when he's on the phone) and after the agreed upon hour or so, I rescue him by saying loudly that his presence is needed in the kitchen NOW RIGHT NOW and he says. 'I gotta go. The wife. Yeah well. Okay talk to you soon. Bye,' Then he ends the call (we don't say 'hangs up' anymore, do we? There's nothing to hang up, is there?) and throws himself on the loveseat. He looks exhausted and takes a deep breath. He tells me how his brother spent the entire time complaining about a life he refuses to live and a woman who is conveniently unavailable and then starts in on Spouses's legion of flaws. This irritates me to no end. Although  what remains between Spouse and I is irreparably broken, I still am slavishly loyal because in spite of everything we are friends and his brother, his only living blood relative never fails to remind him how he doesn't measure up.

Which is ironic. He survived being violently assaulted as a small child, then he was orphaned and what remaining family existed didn't want him so he, not being adopted, went from foster home to violent foster home (the last was best but by then so much damage had been done), aged out of the system and yet found the inner strength and drive to complete an education, look ahead enough into the future to see a skill that would both appeal to his enjoyment of gadgetry and be most useful in this computer age, have a wide range of friends and interests and managed to date and marry twice. He made mistakes and still does but he lives his life. In spite of everything. He deserves respect for that much but his brother wasn't having any of that.

By comparison, the man who is older than him by five years has never had an adult relationship, romantic or otherwise, (except for fixations on women who don't return his fascinations) yet tried to dictate to Spouse how to 'deal with' me when we were dating. Spouse was wise enough to dismiss the equivalent of a priest offering marital advice (yes, I do find it ludicrous, no, I don't care if it worked for you). He is attractive and can be quite charming, so does attract lovely women whom he readily dismisses with impunity. He says he doesn't want to be bothered with any of that stuff and yes that's his choice but I loudly respond that means he is not allowed at the conference table when Spouse and I are in negotiations even if it's over waffles or toasted English muffins.

He also went to chiropractic school and became quite enamored with the whole holistic homeopathic new-age thing, some of which I do appreciate and agree with. I'm opening minded enough to read the pamphlets and mini-articles he did for the campus newspaper at the college in Seneca Falls, NY and too admired how he applied some of this to his own routine, well except for the time we were visiting and he suggested we all go for a little walk and ended up footing it all over for about five miles and I realized he hadn't even intended to slow down. I stopped a few times to pretend to examine a lovely flowerbed or an ancient cemetery or gaze at one of the finger lakes the area is known for but I reached a certain point where even fantasizing about doing a tasting tour later of all the local wineries was not going to stop my thighs and ankles from screaming in protest so I stopped in the middle of a desolate road and said, 'I'm done.'

'Oh nooooo. We still have a long way to go. It's good for you.' Says he. Spouse has a 'worried' face and I look up at him and say, 'Go get the truck now, please.' Brother is hovering and starts gesticulating wildly and pacing (family trait I just realized) and is spouting something about hearts pumping but at this point and the way I feel, he's more of a really big dragonfly, while quite nice to look at, and a little scary if it sneaks up on you, is just a giant mostly harmless loud buzzing irritating as fuck insect that I'm about to pick up a cobblestone and brain. Spouse sees the look of murder in my eyes and wordlessly makes back for the campus to collect his pick-up. That night I sleep soundly. The following morning he tells me that his brother doesn't approve of him having a fat girlfriend/wife. I tell him I'm not telling him to choose but his brother is never ever ever going to give him oral sex so he better think long and hard about any decisions he might be making in the future. He considers my point and decides to cut the visit short by a few days.

That was when we were dating. Then comes time to meet 'his friends' and we all gather together at an Outback in Danbury, CT and out of the blue, brother shows up. They're thrilled to see each other but it's evident something has changed. The dynamic has shifted ever so slightly. And as a non-sequiter, while we're all standing outside waiting for our table, cold bursts of air in plumes of conversation, Brother stops and says incredulously, 'You don't flinch anymore when I raise my hand.' Inside my blood boiled but I felt a little triumphant too. These were all Spouse's friends and we'd all like to make a good impression on each other and once again Big Brother has to pull rank and comment on Baby Brother but he's finally realizing that they're not kids and that an expiration date for this shit is looming because we are engaged to be married and along the way, his younger brother's backbone is getting stronger by the day with a little help from 'Vitamin E'.

Then we're married a year and living in our new lovely home. We're proud of it. It's unique, I've turned out to be a great decorator and Spouse is picking up 'chasing squirrels out of the basement effectively and with minimal self-injury' quite well. I am cooking lots of delicious healthy dishes and he has gained 30 lbs. and we are the picture of domestic bliss except for one thing. His brother will not visit our home.

Every phone call, every conversation, I hear the plea in his voice, although the request is dignified and light-handed, 'Hey when are you coming down? Hey, you should see what I'm doing in the basement;' 'Hey why haven't you come over yet?' and he hangs up dejected and hands me the phone and I hang it up and rub his arm. I tell him I'm sorry. He shakes it off. I said, 'I think it's me. He doesn't approve of me because I'm fat and because he can't tell you what to do anymore.' He turns on the TV but I can see on his face that he's thinking about it.

Soon after I walk in the house to hear him arguing on the phone. 'How do you think it makes me feel and how do you think it makes my wife feel that my only flesh and blood refuses to have any kind of relationship with us? You disapprove and she's my wife, goddamnit. I love her and she's never done anything to deserve this.' I slip out before he sees me. Then the conversation turns to Brother dictating to him vitamins he MUST take and some enzyme in some soy sauce thing and some kind of water diet he has to do, man, but it's also been decided that he will visit that weekend, so we go out and get some groceries and I'm delighted that Spouse is delighted. I don't really care if Brother doesn't like me. Lot's of people adore me. My family worships me but Spouse needs to be shown a little love too so I want this to work.

The day of his arrival (he was to spend the weekend) I got stuck in horrible traffic on I-80, so they were there together hanging out in the living room when I walked in. He gave me an awkward hug and kiss on my cheek and they both asked what was for dinner and I laughed and said, 'Uh guys, it's hot. let me take a shower first and then I'll make something good' and ran upstairs for a quick one.
I made steak strips in cream sauce over buttered parsley'd egg noodles and some veggies and we ate like little piggies and satisfied we all went back into the living room to talk, the TV on low because I love background noise from being raised in a home where yelling and barking are preferred forms of communication so silence unnerves me.

For some reason, perhaps because he was so disconcerted by this picture postcard of peace and happiness that he unexpectedly began to berate Spouse and bring up what he was doing wrong in his life and what he needed to do right one of which he was very worried about was Spouse's poor eating habits. His eating habits stunk, per him. This man just inhaled three bowls full of beef stroganoff and he was shitting all over it and you NEVER EVER talk shit about MY COOKING in MY HOUSE to MY HUSBAND and I lost it a little.

Inside.

I considered that I had wanted them to have a healthy relationship and camaraderie but I had no more control over that that I had over the weather. Their relationship would NEVER be like mine with my siblings no matter what I wished and dreamed for him. I couldn't wrap it up in a pretty package and make it so. I was so disappointed to come to this conclusion sitting between them and reading the openness, the wistful wishing on Spouse's face. He just wanted to be accepted for who he was imperfect as that might be and even if you have a million friends, to realize that the closest one to you doesn't think you're amazing is devastating. That his brother was jealous was immaterial. Everyone is damaged, just by different degrees. 

I lifted up my chin and said, 'YOU there. You don't ever talk to him like that again. This is his house, he is my husband and he's done a damned good job making a life for himself.  You have a degree in chiropractic and yet you prefer to stock shelves at a department store because touching women is 'icky'. TRUTH. There's a new sheriff in town. ME and you don't get to pull rank ANYMORE. You don't get to tell him what to do. *I* tell him what to do. Got it?' He answered by picking up his backpack and going upstairs to bed. I was done for the night too.

The next day they went on an outing and they came back with a carrot cake from Trader Joe's for me. If you've never had this carrot cake, I urge you to run right out and buy it. It ain't called 24 Carrot for nothing. The raisins are so plump they're like little juicy zeppelins and the icing so thick it could and does stand up on its own and salute itself.  I was making dinner and his brother leaned over the pot and started to talk in earnest about...well..about nothing...but he was talking a mile a minute and I was in kitchen mode so I was in my usual trance-like state and performing feats of magic with eye of newt and toe of frog and some fresh basil and I handed him a wooden spoon and instructed him to stir while I turned around and emptied the dishwasher and he never stopped talking. Not once.

At one point he said to me, 'My aunt wouldn't take us in when our folks died and when my grandmother died and left the house to us, my aunt took the money because she reasoned the state would get it and kept it for herself. Once R had to beg her for money for a used pick-up and she treated him like a beggar even though she took our money.' I said  distractedly offhand and matter of factly, 'There's a special place in hell reserved for people who steal from orphans.' my back to him while still putting away plates and cutlery, and he was suddenly struck dumb. Spouse walked in and broke the spell and they walked off discussing something else and I continued with preparing a feast for my men, because they were under my roof and that's what I do, even if they do ignorantly insult it and me and again there was a shift but this time it was between me and Brother.

The next weekend he arrived with a bag of heirloom tomatoes he thought I'd like and brought me a flourless chocolate cake from Trader Joes.  We made a key for him and sometimes when we come home from somewhere we find his car in the driveway and the lights on and there he is swinging open the door with a leftover chicken leg in his mouth and asking what's for dinner. He still gives Spouse shit about everything but there is a grudging respect now too. It may not be perfect but they do love each other and drive each other crazy too which is what siblings are supposed to do anyway, except sometimes, whether at 5 or 50, you have to keep them in line.




Discipline

Arise! Thy couch has clasped thy butt enough!

And soon there will no longer be a worm ~

The early birds are tugging at the rough,

The tardy ones must settle for wheat germ.

Now take thy quill and scribe ambitious lists

Of groc’ries, household tasks and lofty goals.

Then focus on the ones above the mists

The other crap, consign it to the coals.

How many days begun with fragile trust?

How many hours are burned up in the flame

Of obfuscating Vampire Wars and dust?

See clear! My friend, forget that online game!

Achievement comes to those who know the score,

That doing gives the strength for doing more.