A lot gets by me.
I'm a writer. I live in my head. And my pajamas.
I had hip surgery recently, which has nothing to do with this blog. But I was in the gym on the elliptical because I'm rehabbing. And god knows, I wouldn't be on an elliptical unless I had a prescription. So, there I was, staring off into the abyss after 30 minutes, I mean 3 minutes, on that damn machine when I heard this from the giant TV screen over my head:
...after careful deliberation Governor Jan Brewer vetoed…religious freedom act…Arizona…designed to give added protection from lawsuits to people who assert their religious beliefs in refusing service to gays…
I almost fell off.
My first response was disbelief.
Just when I thought American's couldn't get more ignorant.
I guess the anti-gay marriage bullshit isn't bad enough. But, this?
…designed to give added protection…
Added protection? So, is there already some protection?
Do they have No Queer Thursdays? They have to serve those pesky gays except for Thursdays…then they can breathe a big ole straight sigh of relief?
Then I had to laugh.
Think about it.
Refuse service to gays. Or anyone who they suspect might be gay?
How will they know?
If I'm gay and I live in a state that passes a bill allowing ignorant assholes to refuse me service under cover of religious freedom, I'm gonna act like a teamster until I get my stylish and well groomed self out of that state for good.
If you swish a little too much you might not get that lifetime supply of tube socks from Costco? Better get rid of that Liza with a "Z" key chain. And heaven (although I guess you're not welcome there either) help you if your cell phone ring sounds even remotely like a Barbara Streisand tune.
Will there be a written exam? If you can identify any member of the Rent cast you're out? If you can name any of the Golden Girls you're on immediate probation? All four? Fuggetaboutit.
Then I wondered…what about ambulance drivers? Hospitals? Could they refuse services?
My mouth went dry.
I'm the mother of a gay son. He's smart, he's funny, he's a loving and loyal friend, he loves his family, he cares about his community, he gives to the homeless.
You're not gonna let him buy groceries?
Here's the ass kicker- after careful deliberation Governor Brewer vetoed the bill. Well, good for her.
Is that a joke?
What human being would give that sort of bigotry any deliberation at all?
It's that sort of leadership that shoved Rosa to the back of the bus and looked the other way when a 21 year old, gay man named Matthew Shepard got tied to a barbed wire fence in Wyoming and beat to death.
Remember when air travel looked like this?
But, I've seen Mad Men and this is what it looks like there. I know it must be true because Jon Hamm would never lie to me.
I might not be sure about yesteryear, but I'm positive about now.
It's the seventh circle of hell.
It makes hitchhiking from Los Angeles to Miami with the Mayor from Toronto seem like a good idea.
Never in a million years did I think Americans would tolerate the whole airport fiasco…er…process. We're the people who revolted, left England and a monarchy to create a country where everyone is welcome, a democracy. A place where we could do whatever the hell we wanted.
Okay, we didn't do any of that but we've seen it on Netflix.
Still. Its amazing to me that we'll refuse to wear a helmet on a motorcycle but we'll let some felon with an anal probe grope us in our bare feet. Yes, the shoe-less shit really climbs up my ass. Have I mentioned I love my shoes more than life? Not keen to throw them in some dirty bin that just seconds before held a pair of Crocs.
Gotta empty your purse, take off your jewelry, watch, wallet, why don't we all just go nude. The line would go a lot quicker, I can promise you that.
All of this crap before we even get on the plane.
Remember when no one knew what a carry on was?
Everyone checked bags.
Now it looks like this. Go ahead. Check bags. Make my day.
Why do we get into what looks like a gigantic phallic symbol with wings, made of what…aluminum...whatever…that goes, I don't how many thousands of feet in the air, flown by these clowns?
I don't know if I've ever been on a plane flown by these two exact clowns but I've been in thousands of work places in my life. They're full of clowns. Why would the airline industry be any different?
What are they doing back there?
Why is the door shut so we can't see?
Why do they try to talk to us mid-flight about the scenery in that creepy porn pilot voice? You know what I'm talkin' about. Thanks porno pilot, I'll look at the scenery when I'm actually in it. On the ground.
Why don't they just shut up and fly the damn plane?
On a related note…can anybody tell me why the whole plane isn't made of whatever the 'black box" is made of? Seems like a no-brainer to me.
Welcome to your airline experience.
I'm so glad we paid a kazillion dollars for these seats.
Yeah, it's not a big deal.
The flight's only 14 hours long.
That's why we paid a kazillion dollars for these seats.
Because they serve food.
This guy sat across the aisle from us.
And by us I mean hubby. And by sat I mean stood.
He never sat down. He spent nearly the whole flight fiddling with something in the overhead bins. Maybe snacks, I don't know.
Hubby had to lean sideways, toward my side, for most of the flight to avoid a nose inside crack situation.
Finally, my flying pet peeve.
Apparently, along with our dignity, we've lost our hearing. The second you step on the plane the steward…I mean…flight attendant starts yelling at you.
"THIS IS A FULL FLIGHT."
DING DING DING. That's a mysterious very loud noise that goes off for no reason, that intersperses with the Flight Attendants screaming commands.
"IN THE EVENT OF AN EMERGENCY…"
DING DING DING.
"I WILL BE COMIMG DOWN THE AISLE SHORTLY WITH YOUR DRINK SELECTION."
To add insult to injury drinks are not free.
She leans over to inquire: CAN I GET YOU SOMETHING TO DRINK?
Of course, by this time, you're stone deaf. So, you're screwed.
Hope you had a grand time FLYING THE FUCKING FRIENDLY SKIES.
Funny thing about being a mom. Some of it's not that funny.
Don't get me wrong. A lot of it is joyous, glorious, fulfilling.
Even when you're sleep deprived, at the fraying end of your rope, wishing you'd had your tubes tied when you were eleven, one look at those tiny, precious faces and somehow it's okay.
You have your babies, get to call yourself Mom.
Then they start doing shit. You gotta start kissing boo boos.
They have to get immunized. They don't like it. Sometimes you have to help the nurse keep them still, hold them down. All for their own good.
You tell yourself, Don't cry, Mom.
They get pushed off the swing by the little prick next door. Even though their pride is what gets hurt the most, their lip trembles, their eyes fill. They never want to go to the playground again.
Don't cry, Mom.
They get bit by a dog. Have to have stitches. They hold up pretty well, you're a wreck.
The doctor says, Don't cry, Mom.
They score the winning point, they hit home runs, they get the starring role in the school play.
Don't cry, Mom.
They get dumped by the loser you hoped would dump them. They're devastated. You know it's for the best, you wished for it, dreamt of it. But their heart is broken.
Don't cry, Mom.
Then the worst. They grow up, marry, start having babies of their own. By some cruel twist they want you in the delivery room. It's the most painful labor you've ever had.
Don't cry, Mom.
Then there's more babies. You don't think they need more. You're not that thrilled even though the first baby is among the finest specimens ever born and your love for them knows no bounds. But they insist and before you know it, between them all they've got six all together.
You didn't ask for them, but you've gotta see them.
It's love at first sight.
Don't cry, Mom.
Then one of your grown up babies calls to talk about her baby. The one who's spent 3/4 of her six year life struggling with a still unnamed, Cerebral Palsy like illness. The one who just broke her finger because she can't walk without a walker. And even then...
She says they think something is wrong with her baby's bones, the break is odd. She needs one more specialist. She will probably have to use a wheel chair now.
The air sucks out of your chest. Your fingers grip your phone so hard they might break. Your heart beats so loud you almost don't hear your daughter say -
Don't cry, Mom.
Last year, Hubby and I went to Italy (See September's Blogs). I swore if I never went anywhere else I would still die a happy woman.
There are still several really hoppin' places I'm DYING to see.
When I recite my proposed locations to hubby he pretends he's catatonic.
They're on my bucket list I say.
They're on his too…post mortem.
What about this doesn't look fantastic?
Okay, so it looks a little like a giant petrified dinosaur turd. But, it isn't!
It's the Biggest Ball of Twine. Who is this dork leaning up against it? And why isn't it me? Is that a biggest ball of twine stalker or his wife crawling over it on the left there?
One guy, Francis Johnson, rolled this all by himself. It took 29 years and it weighs 17,000 pounds.
Minnesota is one lucky state.
Of course there're your copycats. Another guy in Kansas started his own biggest ball of twine (who wouldn't?) but croaked before getting very far. So, the town took up his cause. I'm not sure if it's bigger now or not. As far as I'm concerned its an impostor and probably not worthy of my time.
However, we could roll through (that's funny and you know it) both states to see for ourselves.
Then we could say we've seen the biggest balls in the United States.
The Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum in Jamestown NY.
This is a replica of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo's living room in their NY apartment at 623 East 68th Street. Yes, I'm that big of a freak that I know the address and that it's really in the middle of the East River.
I'm an even bigger freak who can spot right away that this isn't an exact replica. The curtains are wrong. No telling what other gross errors I'd find were I to examine it in person.
I plan to take a large purse so I can steal stuff. Lucy'd want me to have it.
Home of Lady Chablis, one of the greatest drag queens, the city where the great novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is set, and the place where a weird guy with a vial full of stuff says he carries enough poison in it to kill everyone in Georgia. He likes to carry it around, keep it next to his plate at the diner just in case his eggs get overcooked. You know you'd do the same.
And this cemetery, The Bonnaventure. Sounds like a swank hotel. Only it isn't. Unless you're dead and possibly fat, like these guys.
Plus, I just like to say Savaannah…with a bad southern accent. And loud. Like all southerners are deaf.
If you're gonna commit to a tacky tour, you might as well go whole hog.
I used to know why this graveyard exists, but now I forget. I don't care anymore.
I just want to see it.
I want to stand in that field with my fists at my sides and say, "What idiot buries Cadillacs?" and pretend I don't hear hubby say "What idiot drives across the country and pays to see them?"
Graceland. Where the biggest mama's boy of all time resided…with his mama.
The mother ship of all tacky vacation spots.
The Jungle Room? Are you kidding? Who could go peacefully into the afterlife without sitting on the same couch where a near comatose Elvis sat slumped over while the Colonel fed him peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwiches?
Not me, my friend, not me.
Will I get even a glimpse of the white bedazzled polyester jumpsuits he sported in Vegas where he looked so hot with drool down his chins, his gut obscuring the view of his Karate belt buckle, tossing sweat soaked cheap scarves to the fanny pack wearing masses?
And to be so lucky as to see at least one of the faithful, prone on the grave, wailing in her puff painted sweatshirt, "He was so misunderstood!" I might die of happiness right then and there.
And let me tell you, If the Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love really died on the porcelain throne, I want to see it, touch it, and take its picture. At all angles.
Jesus Theme Park.
I shit you not.
This place really exists. It's not called Jesus Theme Park, but it should be. It's called The Holy Land Experience, in Orlando, Florida (of course).
I shit you not.
I would've loved to have heard the conversation the family standing in the background of this photo had while discussing their upcoming vacation plans.
Mom: We're in Florida…how about Disney World?
Dad: Roller coasters? Mickey Mouse? The happiest place on earth?
I've got an even better idea.
Let's pack up the kids, load up the RV and head on over to that place where they can see a flogging and a crucifixion!
A good time was had by all.
The next time you see those kids they'll be face down in a trailer park wearing handcuffs.
Hubby REALLY doesn't want to go here.
I shoulda kept my big mouth shut about the photo I wanted to take while there to use as our Christmas Card. One similar to the pic above, but with us in the front holding signs reading "Just hanging around, wish you where here."
Okay, this place doesn't really exist. As I was dismayed to discover.
Hubby and I went to Pennsylvania to see our kids and new granddaughter. What better way to top off the trip than a stop over at Amish Land.
What? No such thing? Is that a joke?
The airport in Harrisburg has rocking chairs in it - you guessed it - made by the Amish. They don't rock in them though because they won't let them bring their horse and buggy in and they don't fly. Plus, we saw a herd lined up at the Dairy Queen.
So, Amish Land wasn't much of a stretch in my mind.
I thought we'd take a nice drive to the country, pull up some place where they all gathered to make quilts, darn socks, bake homemade pies, can fruit and make motor home interiors.
My son in law, Paul said, "You mean, like you thought there'd be a place you could observe them in their natural habitat?"
"Are you gonna give me a shot?"
"Well, what we're gonna do is put a mask over your face, give you this really yummy syrup to drink, and it'll make you sleepy like you're in the clouds…then when you're sleeping we'll put the I.V…."
"So you're gonna give me a shot."
This wasn't Adelia's first rodeo.
Even though she suspected a shot was in her future…this is Adelia. Smiling, going with the flow, saying thank you even when it hurts. Reassuring us that she's good, she's got this.
This was our UCLA sleep over. Adelia underwent brain testing to try to get a handle on her illness.
"We think its Ataxic Cerebral Palsy. We don't know for sure. We think it's Ataxic Cerebral Palsy and something else. We don't know what else. We don't know why. We think she has hundreds of mini seizures a day, but we don't know."
After multiple MRI's, CT Scans, genetic testing, blood tests, x-rays, physical therapy...
We don't know, we don't know, we don't know…the mantra.
"We don't think she really needs to be put under for this procedure. It doesn't hurt that much and she's been under anesthetic a lot."
It never hurts them…every time they do it to someone else they never feel a thing.
Kayla says. " She can't hold still long enough. She has hyper sensitivity so even if it doesn't hurt, she thinks it does. She has a long road ahead of her and I don't want her to feel more terrified than she already does every time she comes to the hospital."
"Let's ask her. We can always stop and sedate her if it looks like its not gonna work."
Adelia goes along. She nods yes, she can do it, she's got this.
Like an Olympian, she persevered. Held still for 45 minutes while they did this. One plug at a time.
Part of the process is holding an air gun over each taped plug to dry the glue for ten seconds.
Adelia did the counting.
Half the time in Spanish.
Yeah, she's got this.
Kayla and I made soothing sounds, talked to her. But, as always, Kayla did most the heavy lifting. She let Adelia count her freckles, measure her fingers with a measuring tape, played number games, letter games, held her hand. It was almost more than I could take, which is why there are no photos.
There's nothing worse than seeing your child sick, scared, in pain. To see your child's pain as she watches her child 's pain is a double dose of the most abject misery.
But, like Adelia, Kayla's a thoroughbred who can pull it out when the stakes are high. And she did, all the way to the finish line.
This cool pirate turban almost made up for the torturous drudgery. But the peanut butter and the graham crackers sealed the deal.
Now we're talkin.'
Are there any words to describe the relief when its over?
No. So I won't try to find any.
Mimi and Mom getting their Hungry, Hungry Hippo asses kicked.
Yeah, those are my sock monkey jammies. Don't judge me.
First thing this morning after sleeping all night with those brain plugs.
Smiling her big Adelia smile, letting us know all is well with her.
She looks happy, content, without a worry.
So why does it still feel hard to breathe?
Kristen's birthday is this week. She's daughter #2. The second daughter to turn 30.
In time, I'll forgive her.
I love this photo and not just because my grandkid's in it and she's too adorable for words with that red, curly hair. Nope. I love it because it reminds me of one of the many things I admire about Kristen.
She's a loving and nurturing mom. She's cautious, but not overly so. She cares a lot about how her kids will turn out. What's the thing to do now so they'll be in good shape later? She thinks beyond today.
I think Kristen would be surprised to know that she is one of the women I most admire.
For one thing, she is very different from me. In all good ways.
I'll stir the pot. I'll beat the dead horse. I'll jump into any fray. I'll run with scissors.
Kristen is much smarter than that. She somehow sees to the end. She knows up front what it'll cost her, how much energy will get expended, and if it's worth it. Her time is precious and she isn't gonna waste it on stupid shit.
I will. I have. I'll do it again. I admire that she won't. I often ask myself...would Kristen go there? I often ignore the answer too, and am usually sorry.
Kristen is quietly convicted. She does what she thinks is right without announcements, fanfare or drama.
She went back to school to get her master's degree when she was pregnant with her first baby.
I had my doubts.
If she had any, no one knew. And, in her typical laid back style, she got the job done. She accomplished what a lot of people don't without having a baby, a family, obligations.
She gets that life is a marathon and not a sprint so she'll forge ahead at a measured pace, eye on the finish line, no matter how distant.
She is much more together than she thinks she is. She's cool, she's steady, she's got a wicked and smart sense of humor.
When I grow up, I want to be Kristen.
This is another favorite photo of mine. And not because my crows feet have been photo shopped out (although let's not kid ourselves, it's one of the reasons). I love it because it's "daughters in stereo." And I'm reminded how lucky I am to have two, that they're really on my side, they have my back. And they are both in charge of unsightly hair removal when I'm in the home.
Kristen wasn't always my daughter. As I've blogged about before, ours is a blended family. When I met Kristen she'd just gone off to college. She was gracious, poised, and welcoming. I don't think she knows how scared I felt that day, and how thankful I was that she made it so easy for me, despite how she might've felt in those early, painful days.
We could've had an "okay" relationship. One bordering on apathy and tolerance. I can't speak for her, but I didn't set out to have any particular kind of relationship with her at all. I only knew I didn't want whatever we had to feel forced, or fake.
She means the world to her father and for that reason alone I wanted us to at least get along.
But in getting and going along, something happened. There wasn't an ah-ha moment, no lightening strike situation. Just a slow reckoning.
My heart expanded and made a place for her and there she resides like she's always been in it.
Despite good intentions, I wasn't perfect. I made mistakes.
But Kristen kept giving me chances and I kept taking them.
Another thing she probably doesn't know...my relationship with her is one of the things in my life I am most proud of...because I earned it. We earned it. It's the best kind of relationship to have - one that's chosen.
And now, when she texts me to see how I'm doing, or calls to ask, "what do you think about..." or when we have our girl talks, I get a lump in my throat. When she sends me some gloriously tacky gift, I get teary. Not because she bought me something, but because she knows who I am and what I'm about.
So, when I get asked, "How many daughters do you have?" I say two. Without thinking, without a doubt.
Like all my kids, I love her. I worry about her. I want the best for her.
And, I'm grateful. For her.
I've been brain deep in my malingering manuscript so I haven't blogged in a while. Well, that's one reason. The other is I can't think of anything to blog about.
I don't know how daily bloggers do it. I'm not that clever.
Anyway...my mind has been taken over by most things dark and usually when I blog it's about things that annoy me. Or, things I'm trying to figure out.
I decided to shake it up and write about things I love. Like, really love. Like, couldn't live another day if I didn't have them, love. Things I love so much they put that weird expression on my face.
Besides, I can't think of anything better.
The Bad Seed.
If you've never seen this, your life is not what it could be.
Originally a book, then a play, then a movie...which was made even better because the theater cast played their roles in the movie so their performances are over the top to say the least. Their dramatic, back of the house, approach to acting only adds to the creepy campiness of this fantastic film.
Rhoda, Rhoda, Rhoda. What to do about Rhoda.
One of the first, if not the first, fictional work to explore the nature vs. nurture theory. Are psychos born or made? Is there a serial killer gene? If your mother was a serial killer are you destined to make lampshades and door knob covers out of your neighbors, or perhaps enjoy them with some fava beans and a little Chianti?
According to The Bad Seed - of course you are.
Rhoda is an 8 year old force of bad genetic nature. She kills those who don't give her what she wants. Clearly, it's not her fault. If that brat Claude Dagle would've given her the award that he won, but she obviously deserved, he'd still be alive today and not floating on the rocks in the lake with tap shoe marks on his forehead.
Only Rhoda could make "If I give you a basket of kisses will you give me a basket of hugs?" sound like, "Don't turn your back on me bitch or you're next."
It's worth seeing if only to watch two mothers', one the killer's and the other the murdered boy's, mutual meltdown. Mesmerizing.
Every year I try to make this a Christmas tradition (aren't we sick of Elf already?) but it never takes. Usually hubby is the only one I can corral to sit through it annually. The egg nog helps.
So, I saw the original of this in the LA Times.
As you'd expect, I had to have it and I tracked down a copy.
This is hanging on my wall, in my house. I don't know what I love about it more...the fact that it's hilarious and tacky, or that everyone who sees it looks at it, then quickly away.
Once, the pizza delivery guy asked if he could take a picture of it.
If the pizza delivery guy loves it...what more do I need?
I wouldn't want to spend another day in a place with no presents.
I'm not one of those "it's the thought that counts," kinda gals. Especially if it's "the lack of thought that counts" sorta presents.
I make a list, including website and item number information so hubby can SURPRISE me. Although, he gets surprised too...when he sees the price. But, he's a sport. Or, he's so relieved not to have to come up with something that he'll absolutely know I'll love that he goes with it.
This list comes in particularly handy at birthday time. And no, I don't celebrate my birthday week. What kind of chump do you think I am?
I celebrate my birthday trimester. No, that is not a typo.
It's 3 months of fun and games at our house. We (and by that I mean hubby) do it up right. For 3 months it's all about me and my presents.
I don't make him watch the Bad Seed for nothin'.
I Love Lucy.
If there's a heaven it's at 623 East 68th Street and Lucy and Ricky still live there and Fred and Ethel come in without knocking and mayhem ensues.
Whenever I'm in a jam, I think...What would Lucy do? Then I usually don't do it to avoid an even bigger jam.
I own all zillion episodes and never tire of them. I laugh like I've never seen them before every time. I can recite dialogue. I have my favorite episode (no, not the candy making one). It's the Ethel Goes to Her Hometown one. Look it up and watch it. You won't be sorry.
I love Lucy not just because she makes me laugh, but because Lucy was gangsta. She had creative control over her show (unheard of for a woman in the 50's) and she was the first woman studio owner (RKO became Desilu Studios).
Not to mention Desi Arnaz, who originated the concept of re-runs, who gave up salary at the front end to own the show outright and got all the residuals, and created the 3 camera method that is still used today to film TV shows.
Yet, he couldn't recognize his own wife in a moustache and a sombrero.
Home Town Buffet.
Any restaurant with "All You Can Eat" on their sign is my kinda place. Especially if there's 37 tables groaning with every kind of preservative loaded, calorie laden, and artery plugging food imaginable.
I love to eat the fried chicken, pasta, tacos, mashed potatoes and corn dogs all on one plate. Some call it gluttony. I call it carb loading. After all I am in physical therapy.
I love it that I'm usually one of the only one's there under 400 pounds. I love the old ladies that take huge bags and sneak everything they can out. Including the sugar packets on the tables. I love it that people come at lunch and are still there at dinner. I've heard.
Word to the wise: Try to avoid going on crab leg day. It's a life risking proposition. You know you're in deep shit when a brigade shows up wearing headsets so they can put out the call when they find the seafood table. And those big MOFO's can move fast.
Run for your life. If you can get your pants buttoned back up.
Tasteless Religious Chotchkes.
This is Sock Monkey Jesus.
Although, Woodstock Sock Monkey Jesus is more apt. Love the Jesus Christ Superstar 'do and the beads.
This was a gift from our son.
He knows how to get on his mama's good side.
Action Figure Jesus.
He has wheels on his sandals. If you run him up and down a flat surface really fast and let go of him, he takes off.
It looks like he's walking on water.
Another gift from our son.
He's in the will now.
I don't even have to hunt any of this down. It comes to me.
This guy was found by our gardener. Buried in the yard, in a plastic bag, upside down.
If you're up on your Saints (which I am) you'll know that Saint Joseph is the patron saint of property, more specifically houses. If you want to buy or sell a house, you bury him upside down in the lawn of said property.
This find was enough to make me take up gardening. Or, give the gardener a tip. Whatever.
Freida Kahlo cross.
Those are coke bottle caps painted with her image.
Including her mustache. And unibrow.
Need I embellish?
I don't know if Voo Doo counts as a religion.
I don't know why not.
This was a gift from our daughter, Kristen. Another one in the will.
At any rate, whenever I see this I say, "Oh MY GOD! I LOVE this thing!" So that makes it religious.
This is an hors d'ouerves platter. The pins are to stick the finger food with.
I've used this at countless dinner parties.
Not one person has ever taken the stick out of his crotch.
And finally, this photo, even though it's not very focused.
This is me and my mom at my book signing, two months before she died.
That's her. Holding one of the book marks that were made by my good friend Mary Beth in honor of my book.
There's something so perfect about my nearly 80 year old mother holding a 13 inch Rob Rhino dick book mark.
She said she'd seen better. My mom was the last of the old school broads.
I loved that about her.
“How hot is it in this hell hole dump anyway?” I sounded a lot like a bitch, but so what?
The fat guy behind the counter looked over the top of his bi-focals, silent, sweating, letting that one pass. We stared each other down. He was this close to calling me little lady. They say things like that in the Heartland. Just one reason I hated it. I didn’t have time to pick a petty squabble, so I carried on without pressing.
My son gripped my sweaty hand with his sweatier one. We looked a sight. I was too young to be his mother, but still I was. He was too smart to be only a four year-old, but still he was. We spent all our time together, just the two of us – so we made the best of it. There we were, new in town (again), poor (still), and shopping for shoes on the only street with stores. Freakishly, we looked exactly alike back in the day. I was taller.
The August humidity beat us down, its assault relentless. I wanted to get out of the blistering store, quick. As usual, I had more need than money. But, I’d grown skilled at account juggling when purchasing anything that couldn’t get eaten or didn’t keep the roof over our heads. What bill would go unpaid so I could buy shoes?
My son had no such worries. Happy to be out of our basement apartment with no windows, he talked a blue streak, his still dimpled hand tight in mine. We lived like moles. We’d hit daylight, blink-blink-blink, hard and fast, getting used to the sun. It occurred to me this was not, necessarily, a normal way to live. I knew there was a better way. Just not for people who couldn’t keep the phone turned on because they had to buy Payless shoes.
Daniel was a shoe guy, even at four. He led me, arm stretched out like a leash, up and down the aisles. The bubble gum smashed on hot rubber aroma crept up our noses. We sped through the cheap inventory like K-Mart Dollar Days veterans.
“Mother (he always called me Mother, but would’ve preferred first names), you won’t believe it.” He hopped up and down, his floppy, worn sandals almost mute on the cheap carpet. He lunged, grabbing up the shoes his dreams were made of like they’d been surrounded by a pack of pleather loving, bargain hunting jackals.
There they were – tacky in a lidless box – two toned, brown and white cowboy boots with fringe.
Ecstatic, Daniel whooped, elated, pogoing like a jumping bean. Wondering about the ruckus, the fat man behind the counter waddled over. By the time he lumbered down the aisle Daniel yanked his sandals off, leaving his socks on pulled up to his knees (that’s another story) and jerked the boots on both feet. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d seen him so happy, his cocoa colored eyes took up most of his face, glistening with wonder at his luck.
“Well, Mama, looks like you gotta little Roy Rogers on yer hands there,” the fat man winked. They say things like that in the Heartland.
I smiled, nodded, my face blank as rice paper. Roy Rogers? Dale Evans, maybe. They don’t say things like that in the Heartland though, so my lips stayed sealed.
Daniel swiped at his damp brow, skipped, then ran and kept on running, up and down every aisle.
“Daniel, stop,” I hollered.
Fat man put his hand on my arm to shush me. “Now, Mama, boys will be boys and he’s gotta try out them thar boots, get ‘em broke in.”
Boys will be boys - unless they want to be girls.
Wouldn’t this porky cowpoke choke on his beef jerky if he knew?
Daniel loved those boots because they were the closest things to high heels he could get – boy pumps. He loved their look, the clack-clack sounds, and the added height. Not to mention the fringe that swung in hysteria every time he moved - the closest he’d been to heaven.
Even at the tender age of four, it was clear that in the poker game of life my son had been dealt a full house, queens high.
But, they don’t say things like that in the Heartland, or anywhere that I knew of, so no one said it. But, like all elephants in the room it weighed a ton or two (tutu and pink feather boa notwithstanding) and we ignored it. Daniel and I pulled it around like the frozen pig fat Oprah plopped down in the wagon on her first weight loss show.
It was our secret.
He was too young to know much about it, other than he thought other boys acted dumb and he’d rather try on his mother’s clothes than play with guns. He had masculine toys. He loved the He-Man action figures. But, Princess Teela was his favorite. He’d gotten the Castle of Doom for Christmas and Teela always beat the shit out of He-Man and sent him to the dungeon. Daniel knew, in his little boy gut, that I didn’t mind and wouldn’t discourage him.
Maybe it was my youth, my blissful ignorance, but I didn’t expect he would be someone else. I didn’t know that I should try to influence his personality, lucky for us. I didn’t love him less or feel disappointment. That was our bond, and the way it went, for years.
From the bottom of my scraggly purse, I scraped up the $6.00 to pay for the boots he still had on and we left, fat man grinning and waving us out. Still on his boy pump high Daniel kicked one of the several metal poles holding up the awning running the length of the sidewalk…then the next one…and the one after that.
It was unlike me not to stop him. I was hard on him. I didn’t have the slightest clue what to do with him. His wicked intelligence made him seem older and I expected him to act it. When he behaved like a child it annoyed and embarrassed me. After all, at seventeen, I was a child when he was born. If anyone was going to act like a baby, it was going to be me.
But, for those few moments, I let my son act like a four year old.
A four year old in boy pumps with fringe.
He galloped down the sidewalk kicking poles. All dark hair and eyes, plump fists at his sides, his round face broken by his smile, legs askew, kicking up and out, fringe flying.
His giddy happiness made us both forget about the stupefying heat. Soon the poles lost their allure and he moved on to the parked cars. First he kicked a couple of tires. Not such a big deal.
“Daniel, don-” I couldn’t finish the admonishment. What I wouldn’t have given to kick stuff. How did I get here? Well, I knew how I got there. The problem would be getting out. Dwelling below the surface of the earth, eating Rice-a-Roni only on special occasions, and watching Eight is Enough reruns every night was the same life I’d rebelled against and here I stood, living it. Good move.
WHAM! The sound of a plastic cowboy boot toe hitting the metal side of a car door rang loud. Probably time to act like a mother – something I struggled with. Still, I couldn’t fake anger. I hated this town, this life. I had no idea who owned that car but I felt sure I’d hate them too. What did I care? He whacked two more doors before I grabbed him by the arm and went through the discipline motions.
“Mother,” Daniel’s gaze bore into mine, tears about to run over. “Are you mad at me? Don’t you like my boots?” He searched me. Like always, he tried hard to read me, gauge my moods to intervene with a quip, a joke or a kiss if he saw sorrow. He hadn’t gone to school yet but he made me laugh harder than anyone I’d ever known.
“No, I’m not mad.” I always spoke the truth to him. Another not good parenting plan. “I’m happy for you. And yes, those boots are…fantastic.” He grabbed my hand again. When he held it he really held on, and seemed as he rarely did, like a little boy - at my mercy and small. Like we were the only survivors on the island and he knew for certain holding my hand was the right thing to do, that I could save him.
Didn’t he know I was the one who needed saving?
When he got older, and things changed, his hands could still break my heart. When his words were bitter, his hands were still sweet.
I held his palm up to my mouth and kissed it a bunch, loud cartoonish kisses. He laughed his belly deep, little boy laugh and galloped ahead toward our mole hole, me a little lighter than when I started and Daniel thrilled to wear the most hideous boots this side of Liberace on the 4th of July. Every few steps he’d check behind to make sure I was still there. He feared I’d get lost or fall and hurt myself. He was a worrier, a thinker. I’d smile, nod, and he’d skip on, comforted that all was well.
I couldn’t see the future that day, or any other, and I’m not sure what I would’ve, or could’ve changed if I had. But it was all before…the drugs, the alcohol, the disappointments, and the heartbreak - his, mine, and, ours. Before the better angels of his nature got their asses kicked by the darker ones, before our bond severed, brittle and worn, our relationship swirling into a tailspin, both of us in freefall, without the aid of the other.
I had my opinion, he had his, and they were not the same.
I didn't know what an objective observer would say because I was not one. But I knew this - on that one sweltering day in Junction City, Kansas Daniel was the best little boy in the world and I was his mom.
Laziness is my most marked characteristic so I don't do New Year's resolutions.
At least not for myself.
This year, I decided to turn a new leaf (which is totally different than making a resolution) and make some...for other people. And I'm so lazy that even this is late.
What could be more helpful than pointing out everyone else's faults?
I consider this a public service.
1. Women of a certain age. Meaning, I'm certain you're still living so stop dressing like you're dead. Age appropriate and giving up are not the same things. Yes, I realize you can go too far (see my earlier post NYDJ). But, you won't die if you wear a high heel now and again.
No, it's not easy. It can be painful.
Who cares? Have some vanity for Christ's sake.
I don't want to hear it. I wear them on crutches.
I realize there's an argument to be made that perhaps I wouldn't be on crutches if I wasn't a life long stiletto wearer. I can live with that. At least I didn't go down without a fight.
Birkenstocks, elastic waist pants, pantyhose (they don't look good on Kate Middleton, they don't on you either), sweat pants if you're not sleeping...yoga pants if you're not...you get it. Back away from the sale table at Sears and get yourself a Vogue subscription.
Come on ladies! We've still got it and we've gotta show it.
2. The entire Medical profession. THINK before you speak. I'm an authority on this. Here's snippets of my recent conversations as proof.
Nursey: Do you prefer Kathleen or Kathy?
Nursey: Okay, great...Kathy...can you spell that?
Dr. Doogie Howser: The last time you had a bowel movement was it in shapes?
Me: You mean, like animals?
Nursey: Do you have a DNR?
Me: Ummm...I'm only 51. No.
Nursey: So, Kathy, if you go into cardiac arrest and your heart stops you want to be revived?
Me: I'm thinkin' YES.
Nursey: On a scale from 0-10, 0 being the least, where would you like your pain level to be?
Me: Is that a joke? Does anyone say, If you're all out of NO pain...I'll take excruciating? That would be ZERO.
Nursey: Sssssss....well...okay...hmmm...how about 5-10?
Doctor Doogie: Wow. Alot of these drugs don't work for you...
Me: Well, it is the 21st century, there's got to be a lot of choices, right?
Doogie: Any suggestions?
3. Annoying dog people. Keep your four legged friend to yourself. I'm allergic to dogs. But, I don't hate them. What I hate is those dog owners who assume you love their dogs as much as they do, so you won't mind at all if their furry beasts jump up on your cocktail dress, or wipe their snotty snouts on your pants.
I adore my grandkids. But I wouldn't let them sniff your crotch, wipe their chocolate covered hands on your jacket, or lick your suede shoes.
Please, show me the same courtesy.
4. Traffic controller drivers. Just drive. These are those folks who slam to a stop to "let you in" their lane or sit through their turn, two or three times, at four way stops to wave everyone else through.
I'm sure they mean well.
But, I often find myself in weird, Marcel Marceau type pantomime conversations with someone who can barely see me through their windshield. Using jerky hand motions and contorted facial expressions I struggle to let them know I don't want to turn into their lane. I want to go the other direction.
By the time they get the message they've stopped a line of cars two blocks long. Honking, name calling and middle finger salutes commence and I'm still there, trying to turn left.
Grrrr...if everyone just follows the rules of the road we'll all be fine. Really.
5. Hoity Toity Restaurants. Call a spade a spade. When did eating out get so complicated?
Pan seared? Really. Isn't that just...fried?
Charred bread? I can burn my own bread in my toaster at home.
Waiter: Our popcorn has an aura of grapefruit essence, rosemary mist, star anise dust and black sea salt.
Get out. Do we seriously need popcorn that takes a Walter White style laboratory to make?
Or this jewel...Slow baked organic Scottish salmon with Yuzo-koshu crust, baby green vegetables, glazed gnocchi, and smoked bonito flaked orange broth. Huh?
Of course it all arrives in a Leaning Tower of Pisa shaped cylinder on your plate which explodes as soon as you try to fork your way through it. It's about 3 ounces of food for $45.
And, why are my scallops covered in two kinds of sauce, one a heinous shade of green, on top of a now inedible soaked and soggy bed of lettuce? Couldn't I have had them...pan seared...or at the very least...charred?
Don't worry though, you can bring your own bottle of wine...they'll only charge you $25 to uncork it. And don't even try to bring your own opener. I've heard they're not amused.
Happy New Year. Get it together.
Surgery, of any kind, sucks.
Except maybe something like a facelift. Which is probably no walk in the park, but still. Come on, you're getting a new, hopefully better looking, face.
Anyway, when you have surgery, there're things that you know are gonna be horrible.
The standard stuff. Going under anesthesia, pain, inconvenience, rehab, shitty insurance, blah, blah.
Well, I'm here to tell you, that's just the start of your long careen downhill.
First, there's the cheerful phone call you get from the admitting nurse the day before.
Nurse Ratchet: Oh...do you have a living will?
Ratchet: Advanced health care directive?
Ratchet: Can you bring them with you?
Ratchet: Well, in the event you're unable to make decisions for yourself, we need to know who can...you know...decide.
Me: I don't plan on not being able to decide.
Ratchet: No one does, dear. No one does.
They apparently need to know who can unplug you before you're even plugged in.
Then there's the surgical outfit.
Although I hesitate to say I wouldn't be caught dead in it, because I might, I take great offense at it, for several reasons besides the obvious ugly factor. Here are two:
Why do I need a hairnet? I'm not frying chicken at KFC. And why does hubby insist I look absolutely precious as he's taking my picture with it on?
Why, in the name of Marcus Welby, MD, does the gown open in the back?
Are immediate anal probe situations common?
Will they need emergency access to my ass?
I'm no doctor, but it seems to me that any medical crisis would involve things like your heart...which is not in the back last I checked.
The more I think about it, I'm not sure why it has to be open at all. Everyone who's ever watched an episode of ER knows that if you're in the operating room, you're at home plate. All they'd need to do is use one of the many sharp implements at their disposal to cut it open if need arises.
I am convinced this whole set up is for their amusement only.
I've seen Seinfeld. I know what goes on when you're sedated.
And speaking of open back gowns...even though you've been under a general anesthetic, had an epidural and are pretty much dead from the neck down, they will give you a laxative.
This needs no more commentary.
The drugs might not be as good as you hoped.
There are actually several that didn't work for me. This can take hours, perhaps days, to figure out.
And that red thing on your remote isn't a call button for a cocktail bearing waiter. In fact, they don't allow liquor of any kind.
Is this a shock to anyone but me?
When they insert the catheter, you're anesthetized.
When they take it out, you're not.
Your surgeon might be the orthopedic specialist for the Nuggets.
If he is, he might mistake you for a professional, or at the very least, a wanna be - athlete. Amazing, considering the open-in-the-back gown situation that's proof positive you have no fear of atrophy.
Never mind that, your rehab program starts when you're still sedated.
Unfortunately, you don't stay sedated.
Hubby assures me that the counting sequence when doing reps is NOT one, two, ten, seventeen...
Then there's the swelling.
Anywhere that anyone got near during your hospital stay swells to twice it's normal size.
In my case that was my left foot, leg, and ass.
The upside is...there is no upside.
They tell you to bring comfortable clothes to go home in. Not clothes three sizes bigger.
The outfit you have to wear at home is worse than the surgical duds.
As I type I'm wearing an ice pack diaper and have my leg in a machine that's right out of a Saw film. Up until yesterday, I wore blood clot prevention boots.
At least I'm allowed to wear pants. Big pants.
My surgeon's initials are in, apparently, indelible ink on my left thigh. This is creepy.
Think about it.
Finally, Hubby says I'm mouthy, cocky, and uncooperative.
This doesn't count as a surprise though, since that's what he said on our first date.
The joke's on me. I get to do it all again on the other side in March.
IF YOU LIKE THE BLOGS YOU'LL LOVE THE NOVELS IN HER TWISTED CRIME SERIES