Sunday, July 31, 2011


Sometimes a night is so exquisite; the sky lavender, the clouds pink, the air just the right amount of cool that you wonder, have I been missing this? Taking it for granted? Because it's not like it's Christmas, or your birthday, or prom, or anything. It's just a weekend night, and you're out and about with the person who loves you, and the beer is perfectly cold and the waiter is so endearing, and you have to wonder what is going on here? Why is there so much beauty on an ordinary summer night? And at the end of the meal when the fortune cookies come, they confirm everything.
Soon you'll receive pleasant news, yours says.
And his: Look around; happiness is trying to catch you.
"I think that's the pleasant news I've been waiting for," you say. 

And it is. 
Because you want nothing but this very moment.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fear of Flying: the update

Home again.
And thrilled with the seeming miracle of almost fearless flying.
I find that, these days, what I fear most is that my fear of flying will return. But I have been following the advice from a most wonderful therapist who convinced me not to drink on airplanes (Dear Delta and Southwest, so sorry about that massive loss of revenue) because, she said, what drinking does is disable my cognitive abilities for disarming my fears. And sure enough, what I thought about this time when I felt those nasty birds of prey fluttering in my stomach was THIS. Thinking is good. Being able to remain conscious and remember things is good.

The world is full of fearful fliers. I know at least two other people. One refuses to fly at all. On an airplane, I can easily spot my kinfolk. The ones who pop pills to put themselves out. The drinkers. The armrest-gripping pale faced pray-ers. So here, dear airlines, is an idea. You could sell this along with pillows and blankets and snacks and gin 'n tonics: The virtual walk. Now, I'm assuming that if there are amusement park rides that can convince me I am bouncing through a jungle in a jeep or rocketing off into a distant galaxy, that I can also be coaxed to feel like my feet are on the ground when I am really at 34,000 feet and at risk of plummeting to earth like a meteor.

Put a walkers' "menu" in the inflight magazine. Today's Walks: Eastbound flights--Central Park (includes zoo and feeding times for the sea lions.) Westbound flights--The Grand Canyon (choose either the Bright Angel trail or the South Kaibab trail.) This is what I want when I'm flying. Feet on the ground. Feet touching earth or pavement, or at least tile or wood or carpet.

Or maybe a game to take my mind off my petty fears. The Carbon Footprint Game. My inspiration came from this EXCELLENT POST from a blog I like to read. Now that you've bought a ticket on a voracious flying vehicle, you have to figure out ways to offset your sasquatch-sized carbon footprint once you reach your destination--or for the rest of the month or the year or whatever. If you submit proof to the airline of substantially shrinking your print, you get a free flight. I love free things. Getting a free flight would take my mind off flying.

Or at the very least, a scratch and sniff card in the inflight magazine. I drink tonic water without gin when I fly now for the placebo effect. It's pretty fabulous. Read about placebos HERE on another swell blog. Click on the New York Review of Books link after the post. But, seriously, a scratch n' sniff Beefeaters bottle might be just the trick.

I always fly alone. That's part of the problem. I want my people who are down on earth with me. "Have someone fly with you," the fabulous therapist said. "You could afford it, right?" I couldn't actually, with the sky's-the-limit attorney bills. But maybe soon I can after that last bill comes and does its predictable job of canceling out what I've gotten in the division of joint assets. Then maybe. Or maybe I'll start an air anxiety escort business. "Confident congenial traveler with fully loaded iPad ready to escort anxious flyers for the price of a roundtrip ticket. Preferred destinations: Southwest France, Greece, Italy, Hawaii, New York, Nebraska, Baltimore, Twin Cities."

Don't be afraid. Call me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Amy Winehouse, Addiction, Self-Infliction, Taxes, and More...

Even before the siren-voiced Amy died, the word "addiction" was scratched onto the yellow pad where I jot ideas for things I want to write about. This past couple of weeks,  I've chosen other ideas on the list, stepping away from the topic of addiction the way I might if I came upon some poor soul, dirty and bleary-eyed, slouched on the corner of Wilcox and Sunset. Addiction scares me. The mumbling denizens of rough streets evoke a cocktail of sympathy, fear, and revulsion--and the addictive behaviors (notice how I've added the word "behavior") I see in myself and friends and family  scare me just as much.

"I detest an unmitigated drunk," I said the other day, ranting to my daughter about someone I had recently been at a party with. She insisted that drunks can be a lot of fun if they're happy drunks. As a mother of two twenty-something daughters, I worry about that street corner where a wild good time and addiction intersect. Do we really kmow when we've turned the corner, or do we delude ourselves the way I do in the dressing-room before I come home with some hideous-on-me trendy thing that I can't wait to return? Unless the video goes up on YouTube, we can't see ourselves, and maybe even then the infatuation with our fleeting fame blurs our judgement.

Maybe this is a good place to mention how much I like to drink. I loved the sensation of the room spinning the first time I tried booze with my friend Gwen in the  8th grade. That filched bottle of bourbon paved the way to sloe gin and cornfields and boyfriends by high school. I wasn't an excessively awkward teen-ager. I could have had fun without drinking, but drinking was what my friends did when we thought we could get away with it. Spared by an anti-social phase and a spartan budget, I hardly drank at all the first couple years of college. But as my entry into the "real world," with all of its problems, layered itself on top of my own personal woes, cheap wine was balm in a bottle. In my twenties in Los Angeles doing theater was an endless party, and I just might have been that happy drunk. During the lonely years of my marriage, I often sat in the twilight on my patio drinking alone. Divorce brought on the really big drinking. I'd confess to you the details of my blackout on an airplane, but I don't remember it. All that said, I don't think I'm really at risk for addiction, because whenever I sense that I am about to  physically harm myself, I turn things around.

The people I know and love who are addicts don't seem to have that fear of destruction. My mom, whom I love very much, is addicted to cigarettes; and cancer and two lung re-sections have not deterred her. She's tried the patch, the gum, hypnotism, the graduated filters, and god knows what else. I'm pretty sure if eight days on a ventilator lying at death's door can't make her stop smoking, those more benign methods of quitting don't have a prayer. Maybe Amy Winehouse didn't have a prayer either. She had a voice that Odysseus would have pitched himself, mast and all, into the sea for. She had parents who loved her, and more adoring fans than any of us will ever have, but she couldn't quit--or perhaps, more accurately put, did not survive long enough to get to the point where she might have found the strength to quit.

Addicts do quit. I have a couple of friends who have been clean and sober for years. They stood at that chasm and looked down for a long time and even returned to the brink more than once. While their stories make me weep, I don't pretend to understand how they turned themselves around. And I don't think any of us not addicted should pretend to understand what the pull of the hideous gravity  of addiction is like. Doctors and scientists don't understand it, yet in the political arena all sorts of high horses are trotted out while conservatives (and some liberals) take pot shots at these "self-inflicted" sicknesses, moaning about tax dollars and social programs. 

Tax me, Mr. Taxman. It's too late to save my mother, and even the National Health and a pharmacist parent couldn't save Amy Winehouse, but in the good old USA where we defend the right to do everything to excess, let's put some funding into understanding and curing addiction. Yes, there are worthier causes, but maybe a truly enlightened society should be a place where even the unworthy are tended to.  And who knows, maybe it's not money we need after all; maybe it's just compassion, or understanding, or humility, or courage. But whatever it is, let's find it. Let's find 27 things and let the number 27 become a salvation instead of death knell before another family loses a beloved and talented daughter.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hello hearbreak, I'm a little busy right now

"Make me a schedule," M. said. " I  want something to do every hour." Heartbreak makes some people want to burrow into bed, I suppose--but not her. My broken heart wouldn't let me sleep either.  I paced. Walked the dogs. Had middle-of-the-night Google extravaganzas. Grabbed onto the Blogospere as if it was a life raft. It helped a lot that I started grad school less than five months later, though I suppose grad school might have been more productive if I hadn't been in needy "overshare" mode.

So M. will be busy. The weeks that she works full days will be easier. Of course the brokeness will just do its broken thing from time to time. That's okay. It will fit itself into the schedule when it needs to. 

And then one day, it won't. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Love, Money, and Mink

I recently took my mother back to the apartment where she used to live with her sister until health problems forced them both to move a couple of years ago. Because the place is in the basement of my cousin's house a lot of their things are still there, time-capsuled as if they might someday return and resume where they left off.

"Do you suppose this gin is still good?" my aunt might ask as she leans down from her wheelchair and peers into the cabinet.

"Of course it's good," my mother would respond, opening the fridge. "But I don't know about these olives." They'd discuss the pros and cons of a martini without olives then, but they'd make the drinks anyway and sit at their table, a cumulous cloud of smoke forming under the low ceiling. They'd sip. And talk about how good it was to be back. 

Could happen. But probably not. My aunt lives in a nursing home now, both legs lost and her memory chasing after them.

What did happen was that my mother opened every drawer and each of her  little wooden boxes (many of which most likely came from thrift store or trash picking treasure hunts.) She looked through her closet and her jewelry box and stood in front of her bookshelves . "Take this," she'd say when I exclaimed over something. "It needs fixing, but..." We found earrings that have been in her jewelry box ever since I can remember. She still had the little golden expandable chignon-style hair clasps that I used to set on top of my head as crowns when I played dress up, her father's watch chain, and the crystal rosary in the pouch personalized with her name in gold across the white leather that her mother presented to her as a wedding gift.

I thought I was familiar with each and every one of my mother's treasures, but there was a surprise. "Is that mink?" I asked. The fur was soft as a kitten's, not marred at all by time, although the satin rose was maybe a bit faded with a hint of fray.

"Your father gave that to me for Christmas the year I asked for a mink coat," she said.  

My parents never had any money. The way I remember it, the only thing they ever fought about was money, and that was because there wasn't  any. I was touched by the story because my father heard what his young, poor-all-her-life wife wanted, and with, I imagine, a rather stylish sense of humor, he delivered mink.

And now the mink and satin rose is with my mother at my brother's house where she lives with him and his girlfriend.  My father has been dead for almost thirty years, and my mother looks back almost as much as she looks forward. Tucked-away treasures bring the past and the present together. I like that.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dear California

I miss you, California. Your cool nights with the scent of jasmine in the air. Waking to wild parrots, the tapping of the woodpecker in my grevalia tree. I miss my patio, my barbecue, my juicer, and my own bed.
Oh, things are good enough here in the land of 10,000 lakes. Pairs of finches on the telephone wire outside my kitchen window. Pristine skies and flower boxes dripping with humid color.
What would it be like, I wonder, to have the people I love most live in the same place--across the street or down the road? What if there could be no future parting?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Full Circle

I stood  under a shade tree on a St. Paul street and watched as my daughter finished up her workday this afternoon. Pint-sized athletes cheered and high fived, then dropped soccer balls into the net bag she held open  for them. Water bottles and backpacks were rounded up. Parents sauntered onto the field and ushered their children to mini vans. A movie of my life--one of those moments when something comes full circle. Fifteen years ago I was the mom in droopy jeans and a drab t-shirt picking the grass out of a little blond girl's hair as she bargained for a fast-food burger. Today I was the coach's mom visiting from California, my daughter behind the wheel chauffeuring  me.

I was not a sporty child. Softball was the playground game during my growing up years.  Struck unconscious by both bats and balls, I was equally afraid on the outfield and waiting my turn to bat. I  was the girl picked last every recess, relieved on the days when red rover was substituted for softball until I was reminded how much it hurt my hands to have someone plow through the clenched barrier. Dodge ball, given my Catholic education, seemed to me to be a sport invented at the Roman Coliseum, an imperfect blend of cruelty and entertainment.

I never expected to have an athletic child--or to have a moment like this morning where the smell of grass and sweat brought that little girl back to me at the same moment that she stood there in the sunshine, a grown woman.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Have Heart; Will Travel

I have forsaken the elderly and the infirm and traveled to be at the side of the brokenhearted. My serene cell-sized room in St. Paul is home base for a few days while I tend to my daughter.

I remember heartbreak. I remember that the morning after I got the news that my marriage was over three friends took off work to take me out for breakfast; that my daughters seemed to take turns watching over me. C. was working in Nova Scotia, but if M. left me alone at home, she was barely out the door when C. would give me a call. The phone rang relentlessly then. Dinner with friends on their backyard deck, the scent of roses on weekend afternoon patios, "no, this one's on me," and "hey, I have an extra theatre ticket," and "how would you like to learn to play poker?" There was an avalanche of care and kindness.

So here I am. A different sort of St.Paul fix-it trip. Hearts are trickier than remodeling a closet though. Much more complicated than a coat of paint. Taking a door off its hinges is child's play compared to closing up the fissure of heartbreak. Heartmending is like building a ship in a bottle, or painting a cityscape on a grain of rice. It's slow and close, and sometimes the tools have to be improvised.

Meanwhile in Maryland, bones continue to mend without me. My brother can get in and out of his recliner without anyone to counterbalance his walker. He can hobble down his back steps to the gazebo. My mother is buoyed by a visit with her sisters. I'm already planning my next trip back there. She and I will go to Baltimore for her treatments, and if she has the energy, I will treat her to a shiny new hearing aid.

But before any of that, there will be California. Three or four years ago I dreaded each return. When the plane pierced L.A.'s layer of haze, the bird's-eye view of the geography of my marriage had me asking where I could escape to next. The terrain is different now.

In a courthouse in downtown Los Angeles there is a signed document that tells me what is mine, and what I have lost. And in my heart there's a smoothed-over place where loss is no longer the defining feature. There's a little paper drink umbrella in that spot now. Love is dozing under it, humming a tune, feet propped up.

The man who loves me will be returning to L.A. a day or so before me. It'll be him I see through the smog when the City of Angels reveals itself. And some emerald summer when my daughter flies into the Twin Cities she might see that the Mississippi curves in a way she never noticed before, or that a certain configuration of lakes and trees seems different somehow and more beautiful than she remembered.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


When I was seventeen I placed my son in the arms of a social worker at an adoption agency in Cedar Rapds, Iowa and walked out the door. Three weeks later my parents dropped me off at college. The summer after my freshman year, I stood vigil in a hospital while a series of medical dominoes tumbled my mother to the brink. In the middle of my sophomore year, I was the one who lay in a hospital bed for a month. The day I was released, I found out that my niece had cancer. Six months, the doctors said. Three weeks later my father was dead. The following year I had a second back surgery--an emergency. I can't quite remember if that trip back to the hospital was before or after the dearest of friends was taken down by a mental health crisis. Somewhere in that time frame my grandfather and an uncle died, and yet another high school friend was killed in a car accident.

There are times when we just have to huddle on the precipice. It really helps if we're not out there in the wind alone. Back then when I was in that tumbledown time in my life, I wasn't always sure how to ask for help--or how to give it, but now it feels to me that the giving and receiving of love and support is one of the most important things that we humans do.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"That Frozen Concoction that Helps Me Hang On"

It's Monday, and despite the fact that I'm not really having a Margarita Monday, I have another beautiful photo of one of my friend Julie's concoctions.

Sour Cherry. From her backyard tree.

I don't think my friend Julie drinks much at all these days. I might have one or two drinks with dinner or while I cook. So the Monday Margarita is a state of mind. Palm trees. Waves. The bright green flash of wild parrots. Maybe a strolling band of mariachis, conversation with a friend. My checkbook lying idle on my desk, and no more attorney bills to pay.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Published in Work Magazine

I have a new piece out in Work Magazine. Blogging on my iPad, I cannot get links to load, but you may try copying and pasting this into your browser:

And speaking of work, by mom used to build the construction equipment you see in the photo back when she went to work for John Deere after my father died.
One day years ago when I was walking down the street with her in Baltimore (she was probably the age I am now,)there was some street construction going on. "Hey, hey!" she called to the guy in the hard hat who was operating it. "Hey!" When she finally got his attention, he looked at us as if he couldn't imagine what we wanted with him. "How do you like that piece of equipment?" she asked. The guy was still pretty puzzled, but intrigued.
"I like it just fine," he said.
"I built that thing," my mom went on, "and let me tell you, those tires are heavy."
The guy smiled at my mom, and tipped his hard hat.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The moon is full, shining over the Chesapeake Bay, and I am hiding from it. My mom had two martinis with dinner--and that's one too many. We've left my brother's house for the weekend and come back to the place where she used to live with my aunt. I'm staying with her in her old apartment, and if I were to go walking in the moonlight, I might return to find her sprawled on the floor.
I have no sense of humor about drinking or smoking anymore. Two seconds after my family got together this afternoon, I announced that I would walk away whenever anyone lit up. I've been smoking since the day I was conceived. I'm sick of it. At this rate, I may stop drinking, too. The sight of anyone who's walking off kilter, talking too loud, or forgetting what they were talking about makes me want to have a cup of tea. A bucket of tea. An ocean of tea. Strong and black and bitter.


Peace, Angelenos.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
The road will open and traffic will
Flow like water.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

With Apologies to My Friend Carol

"Would you remind me to read your blog?" she asked when we talked a couple of weeks ago.
"You should subscribe," I said.  "I don't post every day, and my posts are usually quite short."
I didn't know then I'd be marooned in the suburbs of Baltimore  for such a stretch.  But I'm needed here for longer than I'd planned, and I am going to be blogging like a maniac unless someone builds a sidewalk from this mobile home park to the nearest Starbucks. Walking on the road with traffic whizzing by, up to my ankles in weeds and a stand of timber edging the road, I could be hit by a deer or a Chevy Suburban. My evening inventory of lawn ornaments and figuring out which trailer I would choose as my Maryland fantasy home keeps me entertained for an hour or so after dinner, but I need conversation about books and the theatre, too. And it just so happens that I brought a stack of New Yorkers. I'm pretty certain I would bore my family silly with talk about either one.
Here's what captured me today: (sorry, it seems I can't post links from my iPad) "Mouth to Mouth --Sarah Ruhl on attraction and artifice" by John Lahr from the week of May 30th. Lahr reports this from a conversation with  Ruhl: "Lightness isn't stupidity. It's actually a philosophical and aesthetic viewpoint, deeply serious, and has a kind of wisdom--stepping back to be able to laugh at the horrible things even as you're experiencing them." 
And here's this bit Lahr quotes from her new  play, which is called  "Stage Kiss,":
"Marriage is about repetition," Harry says to his wife in the finale. "Every night the sun goes down and the moon comes up and you have another chance to be good. Romance is not about repetition."
He also says, "Once a week I can be whoever you want me to be, and you can be whoever I want you to be. Kiss me in a place with no history and no furniture."
Of course because I haven't seen the play, this could be horribly out of context. I just know that Sarah Ruhl's "Euridicye" was, for me, one of the high points of a dozen years of New York theater going. 
And I know that I seem to have found some amazing convergence of romance and repetition--though I am intrigued about this business of kissing in a place with no history and no furniture.

Yes. The answer is yes.

Yes. The division of joint assets has been accomplished. Yes, as a writer, I know that's a crappy passive-voiced sentence. But I love that sentence. It's the best damn sentence I've ever written.

I'm equally fond of this sentence: "Petitioner shall refrain from publishing Internet blog content related to..." That is a fucking brilliant sentence. And because you, my fabulous readers, are equally brilliant, you know what it means.

Maybe now my brain can cast off its chains and do a little writing. In the active voice.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Pardon me, is this Margaritaville?

I got an email from my attorney today. The email that I've been waiting years for. 

I'm not traveling with my computer because there's no wireless here at my brother's house. I have my iPad though, and when AT &T deigns to send me a signal, I get online. The one tiny nubbin of a bar increased long enough for me to check my email around 4 this afternoon, and there it was--complete with an attached document that held a very familiar signature. I had to go out to Staples in order to print it, and afterwards in the sprawling Arundel Mills shopping center, I found a Starbucks. Over an Americano, I read every word.

I hope I understand the legalese thoroughly. That there's no hidden snake pit I'm stepping into.

So I'm here. Where I've been wanting to be. And while it's true that "Margaritaville " is nothing like the way I'd originally imagined it, say two or three years ago, I think I'm lucky to have gotten here in one piece. It's perfect and lovely. A little overcast today, but sky has a strange sheen to it. I'm predicting a rainbow.

My Various Nutty Internet, Facebook, Blogger, Word Press, email, and iPad Woes

Dear Evil Cybersquirrels,

Oh you minions who guard the gates of Internet land, let not my pleas fall upon deaf furry ears. 

1) Hasten to hasten my AT&T 3 G connection. Baltimore and its environs is not the moon. It's a major city. People who work in Washington live here.  C'mon.
2) Allow me, oh powerful ones, to comment on Word Press blogs. I am not a troll. 
3) Allow all worthy readers to comment on my Blogger blog. Encourage
 not a Blogger-Word civil war. We wish to be bloggers united, free to comment across the great divide and will divulge the location of secret caches of nuts if you tear down the impediments that mute us.
4) Allow my iPad to drag and drop....okay I'm begging now. Pleeeeeeeese.
5) Allow my outgoing emails to my divorce attorney to GO OUT or upon my return to the land of scraggly rattish-tailed squirrels, I will commence much mayhem.
6) Desist immediately in your misguided attempts to coax me to type upside-down foreign-ly accented words into a silly box every time I want to share something on Facebook. Sharing is nice, oh evil cybersquirrels. Sharing is nice. Nice. You little rabid assholes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Do Not Collect Frogs

Lawn ornament inventory at the mobile home park where I am staying in Maryland:

Sea captain at the helm
Cherub reading a book
Coy pot-bellied little girl grasping the sides of her skirt
Plastic pink flamingos and their up-town verdigris metal cousins
Little Dutch boy and little Dutch girl
Donkey pulling a cart
Plastic tulips
Light house
Big white geese
Birdhouses and bird feeders and bird baths
Eastern looking goddess (not quan yin)
Family of skunks
Bears wearing floppy hats
Gazing balls of all sizes and colors
Fairy holding a basket of flowers
Fairy holding a flower petal
Flower fairy lying on her stomach
Little farmer boy in big hat
Devout angel with hands folded in prayer
Pinwheels of all stripes
A variety of gnomes
Snow white and her dwarves (seems like mischief could ensue. I would be tempted to exchange a dwarf for a gnome every so often)
Wishing well
Basset hound
Lion with flowing mane
Blessed Virgin
St. Francis

I've had a few lawn ornaments myself. I was partial to frogs. I think it started with a frog door bell. Then a seated frog with his "hands" over his heart that perched on a ledge near our front door for a while before I moved him to a large rock in the back yard. I also  indulged in a series of little metal frogs that sat on a stone in our pond. I think birds hunting for a local happy meal may have carried them away because they disappeared.
The large warty stone frog that sat in a cluster of reeds near the stream was like an enchanted creature out of a fairy tale. He was my favorite--or at least tied for favorite with the classical looking androgynous head whose skull was hollowed out to serve as a planter.
I think there may have been pool towel hooks with frog-shaped brackets. And I confess that I nabbed some old party favors of my daughters out of a drawer--colorful plastic frogs with brightly contrasting dots and moved those here and there on the patio. I left them all when I moved. Other people are enjoying them now...or not.
I had a large stone cicada outside the French doors of our dining room. A nod to Provence--a place I love. Left it.
There was a gazing ball for a while. I think it had an accident involving our rowdy pit bull. Which was okay because I didn't really like it. And I believe a blue glass pinwheel met a similar fate with our dogs Lola and Layla. 
I was into bird houses, too. A white church with a steeple and a classic red barn perched on a tall wall next to a six-foot farm style windmill formed an out-of-scale homage to the Midwest. I didn't take any of it when I left. I don't miss it. Well...maybe that warty frog. But remember, I do not collect frogs.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Grapefruit, Lime, and Sweet Yellow Pepper Margarita

Courtesy of my friend Julie. Good behind the bar and behind the camera. Just an inkling of her talents.

If I ever make it to Margaritaville, I'm going to have one of these.

"Trailer for sale or rent...I'm a man of means, by no means, King of the Road..."

I hate the uppity descriptor "trailer trash." In a society where consumption is king, there's an innate prejudice against people who make do with less.  

My sister lived in a trailer for the first several years of her marriage. I was twelve years old; not too far from having packed away my Barbie dolls, and to me, the trailer was like a Barbie Dream House  on wheels. The wheels are a key component, I think. Mobility is the antidote to being tied down. Who the heck doesn't want to pull up stakes and head for the highway now and then?

I got to live in a trailer my junior year when the enrollment of my college skyrocketed. In a stop-gap measure a dozen or so trailers were hauled onto campus complete with gas barbecues installed in the tiny yards. My front windows faced a stand of giant evergreens, and the kitchen, dining,  and living rooms were wide open to one another so the place seemed spacious. The bathroom was set up like a motel bathroom with the sink in its own separate alcove in the hall outside the toilet and shower. Perfect for  four college girls sharing one mirror. Even then I would have liked to hook my little home up to a truck and pull it down the road just for the adventure.

Nowadays, trailers are known as mobile homes or manufactured homes. My brother has lived and worked in a big mobile home park for decades at a fraction of the cost it would cost to live in a regular house. My mother lives with him, and its narrow hallways and efficient layout are perfect for a somewhat frail 86-year-old. As my brother recovers from hip replacement surgery, the compact floor plan is good for him, too. A narrow hallway  less than the width of your wingspan is great if you are unstable or hurting. Too much space is the enemy of the old and the impaired, but the American  dream tempts us constantly with more and more as if down-sizing were an admission of defeat.

I visit my brother's place regularly now that my mom lives here. During this stay I've resolved to walk in the evenings and traverse every street in the mobile home park. What has struck me so far is that within the confines of the park, there are neighborhoods with their own character. I've already picked out my street--where I would live if I lived here. For some reason, I have fantasized  about living just about every place I've ever been. I sometimes wonder if it's some kind of disorder. Promiscudomilcilitis is how I think of it.

One of the distinctions between neighborhoods here has to do with lawn ornaments. I'll write about that tomorrow. If I haven't hooked this place to a truck and pulled it off somewhere.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


And I suppose a clean heart is a happy heart. My heart feels a little grimy today. I lost perspective last night. It took hours to get my brother released from the hospital yesterday. The ineptitude made me suspicious and grumpy. If they can't do paperwork and are so bad at administrative stuff, maybe they didn't do a good job with the surgery either. And what the heck--should a guy who's just had some of his thigh bone sawed off and some artificial parts put into his body really be going home on day three post-op?. The hospital had no on-site pharmacy, and it was 6:00 on a Saturday night when we began the process of easing him and his new hip into his truck. By the time we got him home and realized he needed his meds, we remembered oh yeah, the prescriptions we couldn't fill at the hospital needed filling.
So dinner was late, really late, and that was my job. My mother had her two martinis on an empty stomach, and by the time the cheese sandwhiches and the chicken soup were on the table, it was as if the alcohol had performed some kind of reverse lobotomy, and agitation became the name of the game. I felt as if we were all on a boat as I watched my mom listing to one side. I wanted to be the man overboard then. I went to sleep clutching my cell phone to my chest thinking of all the things I wanted to tell the man who loves me--how I was feeling awful, and that I just wasn't up to this whole scene.
Only it really wasn't all about me. I guess I finally remembered that this morning.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What I know about total hip replacement surgery:

1) Ouch

2) The doctor said it's like an "internal amputation."

3 If putting weight on one of your legs is impossible, upper body strength is key for doing just about anything.

4) My brother is really pretty amazing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Looking Behind Me

I whittled away the day at Baltimore Washington Medical Center where my brother had a total hip replacement on Wednesday. Today my mother joined him there as an outpatient for a pulmonary function test. I spent a couple hours shuttling between the two of them, remembering two years ago when I wore a path down the hallways while my mother was a patient there after a lung re-section that excised a cancerous tumor. BWMC was my mother's second hospital that July. By the time she was admitted she could barely swallow; she had trouble keeping food down and was in constant pain.

Today I recognized the hallway where I once stood at the window looking out across the parking lot at the trees while I talked on the phone with some cubicle-ite at Aetna Insurance. I was begging for confirmation that my new insurance policy would be activated before I was dropped from my ex-husband's policy. I had already had my chiropractor and dermatologist provide the minutiae Aetna had requested. "You already know everything about me," I explained. "I've been covered by Aetna for the last twenty years.  All I'm trying to do is change from my husband's Aetna policy to my own Aetna policy." The new policy department could not access the records department, they told me. The conversation didn't end successfully , but before I made it to the elevator to go back up to my mom, my phone rang again. It was my friend Suzanne.

I sobbed into the phone. "Go back to your mom," she said. Then she told me she'd call my ex- husband and ask him to keep me on his insurance policy for a few more weeks--which she did, and he agreed.

Now two summers later, I'm amazed and grateful that I still have my mother--and as I think back on the four years since my marriage ended, I'm so thankful for all the things that my friends have done to help me.

I am fond of symmetry. Synchronicity floats my boat, too. Round numbers are good. Ducks in a row. I liked having two daughters, two dogs, and two cats. I still have the daughters, thank god. And one lonely cat.

I like patterns, too; my birthday is the 24th, one daughter the 23rd, the other the 25th--though all in different months.

I was married on December  29th, 1976.  My marriage ended on July 30, 2007. The final decree of divorce was issued on July 31, 2008.  See the pattern? Could it be that my lucky day is nigh and the division of joint assets will at last be completed? July seems like the month in which "divorce-y" things happen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Read My Lips

When I am deaf as a post, I will wear a hearing aid.

It started with my uncle Leo, as I recall. He got hearing aids, but didn't like them. After his death, his wife gave them to my Aunt Millie. She didn't like them either. Now when anyone mentions hearing aids to my mother, she says that Leo and Millie hated the ones that they had and if she got some, she probably wouldn't like them either. And they're expensive. And Medicare doesn't cover hearing aids. Which makes me want to cup my ear and shout, "What??!" Insurance for old people doesn't cover one of the things they need most? Turns out it doesn't cover glasses or teeth either. "Whaaaat?"

So I'm going to start saving my money. Now. When I find myself smiling and nodding in a crowded restaurant, or talking in non sequiturs, I'll be ready to shell out a couple thousand bucks so I can rejoin the party.
And that's what I want for my mom.

Rejoin the party, Mom. No.... My joints aren't smarting. They're fine. I don't really have arthritis yet. Tight ass?! Well....that's not what I said, but now that you mention it...Yeah he was, wasn't he?

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Bible's Most Dysfunctional Family?

Saturday night was an outing into L.A's NOHO district for dinner  and theater
In that order. 
Digression first: When viewing any version of "Salomé," one wants to eat before the performance and allow a bit of time for digestion. And I'd advise against ordering anything like suckling pig or one of those platters of crispy Chinese whole fried fish. Lifeless eyes on your dinner plate are only going to come back to haunt you if the New Testament's most famous femme fatale figures into your evening's plans. 

That said, the sauce in this Fabulous Monsters Performance Group production was quite a bit milder than   in previous productions of theirs that I've seen. Oscar Wilde's "Salomé," the source material for Strauss's opera, is inherently problematic as a play unless you're just craving spectacle, and while the Fabulous Monsters do spectacle better than just about anyone, there's usually the sense of a bottomless deep in their productions. 
The characters in "Salomé" are historical and thereby come to us with a set of  preconceptions--Biblical preconceptions. John the Baptist, King Herod, his wife, and his wife's daughter are known to us through the gospels. Except for Jesus's sidekick, John, their bad reputations precede them. The sainted John is not onstage long enough, and is not written with adequate complexity to rise to the level of protagonist--and I suppose if he were, the play would be a yawn of predictability. I'm not sure what Wilde was seeking for himself and his audience by leaving us with the dysfunctional evil people at the center of the drama. Salomé's step-father, Herod, has intentions toward her that are not at all fatherly. Her mother resents those intentions and inveighs against them. Salomé, the product of a complicated broken home (her mother divorced her father and married his brother) is obsessed with the seduction of a holy man, and ultimately causes his grisly demise. Herod then commands Salomé's bloody end. Mother bereft. Family destroyed. Kingdom traumatized. River of blood. The end.

Which is what, oddly enough, might make this qualify as a patriotic 4th of July post. The only characters I really cared about in "Salomé" were the soldiers and their young commander. Through a stroke of genius on the part of director Rob Prior and/or his costumer, Carol Sigurson, the military uniforms were modern-day. The soldiers had smart phones, too, completing a  juxtaposition that put this somewhat stale Bible story into a current context. When the young commander slits his own throat at the horror that is about to occur, I uttered my only gasp of the evening. For the remainder of the play despite the gore and the glitz, the dancing and the drama, I found my focus traveling to the commander-less soldiers, minor players in their combat fatigues, haplessly caught up in a bloodbath beyond their control.