Friday, June 29, 2012


I'm having a little get-together tonight, and I've posted this sign on my kitchen wall. My packing efforts have devolved into a ridiculous jumble. There's a box in my car right now with antique bowls, cowboy boots, cleaning stuff, lingerie, sewing supplies, and books. Whatever system I had is gone. I'm sitting here with a beer, digesting my lunch of scrambled eggs and ketchup. I have been eating my way through my pantry and refrigerator since March. This is what it's come to. I have a hug bag of garam masala, some good asagio, and three more eggs. Please somebody stop me.

Tomorrow I'll drive to the new place and empty my car, drive back, and then Sunday I'll drive up again with my friend S. who has volunteered to pack the champagne goblets and whatever else is left in my kitchen. I'm gloating a bit. How many of you have had a Ph.D. pack your kitchen? Joining us will be other members of my personal circle of intelligentsia hauling potted plants from my patio.

And tonight a writer I admire very much is bringing one of her cakes--because she is also a professional pastry chef. Writing that sentence makes me feel like I've wasted my life.

Monday the movers come. I'm using the same company that I used five years ago when my life as a big L.A. lawyer's wife came to an end.  I wonder if the moving company will send the same guys. In any event, I'm picturing this move to be more like a happy-soul-soaring circus with flying acrobats than a Chekovian nightmare.

Here's what I wrote back then about that.

            Moving should not be a complicated affair.  My boxes are packed, stacked and sealed.  Most of the furniture is too big to fit in my new place, and the few things I’m taking, I’ve already tagged with blue painters’ tape.  I’m ready.  But when the movers come on the first Sunday in November, they’re Russian and their accents undo me.  It’s Chekov’s Cherry Orchard here in my living room only its too much money that’s taken my house away.  I think of the character of Lubov weeping as she leaves her estate crying for her youth and her happiness and her trees.  I have pruned, picked and eaten from every fruit tree in my backyard: guava, loquat, lemon, orange, grapefruit, tangelo, plumb, pomegranate, fig. They might as well be chopped to the ground like Chekov’s cherry trees because I know Mr. Ex will neither tend them nor harvest their fruit.  As my great-grandmother’s Victorian rocker and the oak armoire I bought for Mr. Ex's suits right after law school are loaded into the truck, I begin to sob.
 “I need help,” I say when my friend Tom answers the phone.  I’m standing in my front yard barely able to choke out the words; it’s Sunday morning and his voice sounds as if he still has cards in his hand and a cloud of cigarette smoke over his head.  “I’m sorry,” I say picturing him in pajamas. 
            “Sandy and I are just getting up,” he says.  “Give us a little time and then we’ll be over.”  As soon as I hang up, my friend Patricia calls.  She’s getting divorced, too; she might have to move soon herself.
 “I’m coming over,” she says.  I go back in the house, relieved.  But I feel sick and my mid-section is cramping.  My kidneys hurt and when I go to the bathroom, there’s blood in the toilet.  Not a lot of blood, but I’m sure I’m dying.  I go out to the patio and sit by the pond and rock in the glider.  I’m dying. This fucking move and this divorce will kill me.  I call my friends Karen and Sharon who’ve just moved to Portland, and sob on the phone while Karen calls me, “sweetie.”
            “Just talk to me,” I sob, “until they get here.”  I tell her that Tom and Sandy and Patricia are coming.  That I’m sick and might be dying, that C and M will be motherless.  Orphans, really.  The God I don’t believe in is punishing us, I tell her.  Mr. Ex will die of a stroke, and I’ll die right here on my patio, crying.
            “Hold on,” Karen says, “Your friends are coming.”  The movers are loading stacks of boxes onto dollies.  I can see my dining room and living room through the French doors that open to the patio. I can see straight through the emptiness to the bay window past the giant magnolia trees and into the street.  Karen and I talk until Tom and Sandy pull up at the curb. 
Sandy is the sort of person who would never show up for a friend in need without food, and it takes two hands to carry the big pink box she’s holding.  “I brought donuts,” she says in her Kentucky drawl.  Tom hugs me. His beard smells clean like soap, and suddenly I’m hungry. I devour chocolate frosted cream filled pastries, one after the other.  Patricia comes with cheese and crackers, and when the doors of the moving van are slammed shut, our three cars caravan to my new place.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Long-lost longing for the sea

Today a few of the two dozen family photo albums made the move from old house to new. When a matched set labeled "France" surfaced from their long exile in a garage cabinet, I couldn't resist cracking them open. 1985. Paris. The Loire Valley. Bretagne. Normandy. The vacation that yielded our first daughter. I flipped through the pictures not really giving a damn. It occurred to me that I could, right at that moment, toss the damn things into the trash. I love France, but I don't need a bunch of old photos taken by Mr. Ex to remind me of that.

In the end I put the albums in a box in my new garage. C can have a look. If she wants a bunch of pictures of her dad in a beret, she can have them. As for me, the only photo I want out of the bunch is this one. I loved the ocean even then.

Monday, June 25, 2012

It was a busy day in Margaritaville. Roberto the painter and his crew arrived early with pistolas and paintbrushes to caulk and paint the new moldings that went in after the floors. Night stands for one of the bedrooms were delivered.

I began a wall of old family photos in the alcove next to my mom's room, and I talked for a while with my brother's girlfriend about the doctors my mom will need--cardiologist, pulmonary specialist, neurologist, etc., and whether or not there's a smaller version of her oxygen machine that can make the move with her from Maryland to California. I called the utility companies, and the phone company, and made plans to cancel my old homeowner's policy, and my internet, and changed my address. There was more unpacking, and my kitchen island is heaped with things that go here and there and who knows where.

The swallows are still nesting above my patio doors, flying in an out, tending and rebuilding, and I feel they are kindred spirits as I feather my new nest. Come September when their nesting season is over, and they are no longer protected by law, I will encourage them to go elsewhere by having the old nests washed down, and a "bird slide" installed. It seems that it's impossible to have just one or two nests, and the bird poop is currently raining down a little too liberally.

The reality of this move is raining down, too--that I'll be more than an hour away from the man who loves me. That I'll be the point person for my mom without any family nearby to serve as back up. That my traveling days are done. But every time I step outside here and smell the ocean air, it feels like what I've been waiting for--that this spot is a destination.

I'm picturing a patio full of friends. Walks on the beach. Kayaking. The blender will be working overtime. People will be too tired to drive back to L.A. The extra bedrooms will be full, and we'll have to break out the air mattresses.

I'm ready. I've got toothbrushes and  razors. Sunscreen and aloe vera. Q-tips, cough drops, and Dramamine. Tequila. Coffee. Open arms.

Mercy Tipping

I took myself out to dinner tonight. A walk on the beach led me to Capistrano's in the Embassy Suites Hotel and Resort. "A restaurant in a hotel, not a hotel restaurant," their website says. A noble goal. But if there were movie called National Lampoon Dining Out, tonight's dining experience could serve as the treatment--heck it could be the movie because it took a full two hours to get an appetizer and a dessert. The dining room wasn't busy. There were four or five couples besides myself endeavoring to have dinner.

I'll have the oysters, I said after the waiter listed the specials.
Oops, we just sold the last ones, he said.
The lobster bisque then.
We're out.
The crab cakes.
Okay, just bring me the glass of wine while I take another look at the menu, I said. I could see the ocean through an opening in the dunes from where I sat, and I didn't mind the pace at first. But after ten minutes or so and not so much as a glass of water, I stood up to peek around the corner to see if I could spot the waiter....or anyone. The man at the next table chuckled. We're having the same problem, he said. I got up again and managed to snare a different waiter. After a few more minutes, the original waiter appeared with the wine. And so it went. Various waitstaff, so young they were practically trailing umbilical cords appeared at our tables, and were then kidnapped by aliens--or perhaps doctors who detained them to check their Apgar scores. Only one of the four waiters materialized in the dining room at any one time. Perhaps there'd been some sort of uniform crisis, and the blue dress shirt and navy trousers had to be shared amongst the entire staff. These things happen. Back in the 70s, I had a misunderstanding at an Athens laundry, and my three traveling companions and I had only two sets of clothes that we took turns wearing for days.

Given the time frame, I might have drunk a bottle of wine while waiting for my scallops, but I would have had to search out the bartender to get it. As for the scallops, I savored them, though they were far from the best scallops I've eaten. Meanwhile the patrons at the other tables were fighting their own battles. The wrong wine. The wrong salad dressing. We began to bond. When I saw the desperate look in the blond's eyes two tables over, I wolfed down the last scallop and snagged my waiter for some cobbler and coffee. The coffee came. No cobbler. No offer of a refill. When the woman at the table across from me got up and helped herself to more coffee from the coffee and water station, I did the same. Anyone? I asked with the coffee pot in my hand. Can I refill anyone else's cup?  We were all giddy by then. The next time my waiter ambled by, I asked about the cobbler. I'll check, he said, pleasant as could be. The blond rolled her eyes.

Maybe we were on candid camera? Maybe there was a wedding reception in another room, and management had forgotten to hire waiters and our crew was doing double duty, I suggested to the man at the next table. He was on the verge of a laughing jag, but didn't find that idea amusing. Then management's not doing their job, he said. I poured myself a third cup of coffee and a minute or so later the cobbler arrived. The waiter, in a burst of efficiency, brought the no longer laughing man his check on the same trip. The man sighed and shrugged as the waiter disappeared again. I'm going to give him a mercy tip, I said, explaining that I'd gotten quite a few of those myself when I waited on tables.

I was an awful waitress. But I remember my customers in that supper club on the Sauk River the spring of 1975 as being mostly kind. Those mercy tips added up to just enough money to get me to California.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Humiliation: It tastes bitter--like that taste in your mouth when a filling goes bad

Me to the person behind the desk at Triple A:

"I need your help transferring the title of  a car to my daughter. Both the car and the daughter are currently residing out of state, and the pink slip for the car is lost, and the registration is expired, and the registration requires a smog check." There I was again with my final decree of divorce in hand. "I have a new name now, see?" I say, pointing to the bottom of the first page. "Is that going to make things more complicated?" The guy behind the desk was unfazed. "I'm not sure how much backstory you need," I say. Much of my divorce narrative  has lost its punch for me, and it bores me to go too far into that dark tunnel. Rather than the terror I felt a few years ago, the darkness lulls me into a stupor.

"Let me roll with what you've told me so far," he says, clicking away at his desktop. It's L.A., after all, and we need our cars to breathe. He has, no doubt, heard a milliion stories of vehicular woe in the Naked City. The less prvileged stand for hours in line at the DMV, knowing that the loss of wheels means a loss of livelihood, or a lifetime of busstops. My Triple A membership bumps me up to a comfortable chair and a five-minute wait.

After a brief discussion of the timeline, and how long my daughter has to resolve the citation for expired registration in her new home state, I opt to pay the portion of back registration that has not been garnished from Mr. Ex's state taxes. I consider this a win. M's nascent career, through the good graces of the cop that stopped her, has not been derailed by being charged with a misdemeanor, and in a short while she'll have a scan of the new tags on her iPhone. In 48 hours she'll have the actual tags in hand. Next week I'll have the not-really-lost pink slip replaced, and I will start the process of transferring title.

Meanwhile, I have to admit to myself that Mr. Ex has pushed my buttons. The courtesy of a reply to my email? No. The one word required to reply to my text? Of course not. 

Well, maybe it's better that way. There are no pretenses. He and I were finished a long time ago. It will have to be a matter of life and death for me to ever contact him again.

And meanwhile, my tongue probes my gums searching for that bitter taste, that hidden pocket of decay.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Eight Prius loads of stuff, and there's still more...

While it's true that I have moved several boxes of stuff for my daughters, and the largest roller bag in the world and a couple more boxes for my mom, I would have thought that eight carloads might have done it. I'm predicting that unless I really give away most of what's in my garage, there are a half dozen more trips I must make if I truly want to leave only the furniture for the movers.

On a more positive note, I'm feeling rather comfortable in my new place.

Quite like a queen despite the paired down shoe collection. With such a nice closet, who needs shoes? Though as you can see, I still have quite a few pairs.

The rest of the place will no doubt be cozier once it's fully furnished......

And I'm not rattling around there all by myself.

I'm not exactly sure what the prince and princess are up to in this picture. My grandchildren set up these little scenes when they were visiting. It might be that the princess is throwing the prince from the parapet. Or maybe they're dancing in the moonlight. I hope to be dancing at my new place with the moon reflecting off the water later this summer.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Brief History of the Later Years of My Marriage through Shoes.

Good-bye velvety black shoes with the fetching bows--you were pretty enough for theatre going, yet comfortable enough to hike blocks through mid-town Manhattan. Good riddance white lacy shoes, remember that law firm party and a not-very-flattering vintage dress? When's the baby due? a partner's wife asked. I had a miscarriage two weeks ago, I replied. See ya, high heeled brown sandals. On that trip to Belize, dressing up for dinner after those sweat-drenched hikes felt extra glamorous. Good-bye satiny grey evening shoes, you were meant for dancing. Little green princess heels, I'll miss you way more than I miss him. Get out of here, green suede mules and black clogs--I met you on the rebound. And as for you, brown shoes, did we ever really know each other?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day

I'm not afraid of ghosts. It's an honor--a sort of miracle--those visits from the other side. Call them what you want. Visitations, hallucinations, hauntings. If I could call them up at will, I would. I've often tried to dream of the dead, but with little success.

When my older daughter was a few days old, and I was woozy from lack of sleep, I saw my father, fifteen years dead,  in our kitchen. I was getting some orange juice out of the refrigerator. When I turned to reach for a glass from the cupboard above the sink, my father was sitting at the table. I stood there with the empty glass, "Never saw your son," he said. “I wanted to see your daughter.” He got up, looked down into C’s cradle, and then, with the smell of his Chesterfield’s lingering in the air, he was gone.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Well, hi there, Residual Anger. I thought you'd left town.

It took me a while. But I figured it out. After a litany of "Fuck this, fuck that, why do  always have the worst timing when buying or selling a house, and why is my computer so slow, and why when I think I'm so organized, can't I find the piece of paper I'm looking for, and why do I have so much stuff, and why are cat litter and cat food so expensive," and...whine, whine, whine until I realized that I don't really hate the potential buyer of my house, or her real estate agent, or Apple Computer, or my cat, or the whole wide world.

What I have here, I think, is a bit of leftover anger at Mr. Ex--who was essentially responsible for the first of my two moves in this past five years. There was that lovely Sunday afternoon conversation in July of 2007. The "our marriage is over--I'm in love with someone else and we're getting married--and we'd like raise our new family in this house" conversation. Because she'd already slept in my house--probably in my bed--I was pretty damn fine with leaving it all behind since I figured I'd end up in prison if I burned the place to the ground. But yeah, moving is a lot of work, and I think I was wallowing in a little resentment last night. And okay, I'm wallowing now too. But I think I'm almost done. Yeah. Thanks, blogosphere, for letting me disburse that anger. Whew.

And who knows, maybe there'll be a little more. I've told Mr. Residual Anger to pack his bags, but he's standing there with his hands on his hips staring me down.

photo credit:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I didn't die, but maybe I'm delusional (see previous post)

I didn't die from eating the inedible gill of a rock crab (see previous post,) and while I am completely annoyed with the pending real estate transaction in which I may or may not sell my house, I did find a trillion dollars lying on the grass outside my condo complex today. HOORAY!

And while the IRS still hasn't let me off the hook for a teeny weeny misunderstanding, which I was sorely reminded of this afternoon when I paid my quarterly taxes, I was not carried off by pelicans during my five-mile walk on the beach the evening before last.

And while I may soon begin to introduce myself at parties as a failed writer, I have for some inexplicable reason been invited with a nice personal note to resubmit to the literary journal that I regarded as the creme de la creme on the list of journals that comprised my last batch of multiple submissions (all but two of a dozen have sent rejections, and one journal actually rejected the same piece twice.)

And while I am currently shuttling between  two half-furnished houses where I never seem to have what I want or need, I am fully aware that this is a problem of the 1%.

And while manufactures of nice lingerie, do not seem to understand that a woman my age might actually want to buy and wear such undergarments, I have succeeded in finding a couple of matching ensembles which have underwear that conceal about 80% of my stretch marks, though the enthusiasm regarding that success was mitigated by reading recently in a New Yorker short story a description of an unattractive older woman who wore "lurid lingerie."

And while I am tired and unusually cranky this evening, I am counting my blessings.
Margaritaville is a much better locale than Divorceville.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to Eat a Rock Crab or How NOT to Eat a Rock Crab

"You're not going to drink the juice are you?" the woman behind the counter asked.
"Hmmm. Probably not," I said.
"Then order a male," she said. "They're bigger. More meat." I'd already asked her if I would need instructions to eat the local fresh rock crabs touted on the sign in the window. She'd told me no, that they would crack it, and all I would have to do is pick out the meat.

With the plastic forks that the restaurant uses, that was easier said than done. Three large dinner napkins later, I'd forsaken the fork and resorted to using my fingers, sucking the smaller bits of manna-like meat right out of the shell like a shipwrecked castaway. Around the time I finished the legs, the woman (it's her husband who catches the fish) stopped by my table to see how I liked it. "It's fabulous," I said, wiping my chin. "But is all this edible?" I pointed to the stuff swimming around in the body cavity.
"Oh, sure," she said. "Some people eat everything." I didn't quite believe her, but tried one of a pair of meatier bits. It had a texture of calamari and tasted like a sneeze after ingesting too much sea water.  This bit of information on the web claims those are the gills, and that they are the only part of the rock crab that's inedible.

I'm hoping for pleasant sea-faring hallucinations (where I imagine myself as a selkie or a manatee or a mermaid) rather than a liver transplant. Meanwhile, I've had a bowl of yogurt.

And I'm wondering about the juice. Is the juice better in a female crab? Why the question about drinking the juice? And how does anyone eat these things with a plastic fork? If I live, I'm going to fashion a little carrying case for a cocktail fork and carry it in my purse. There's a reason Neptune carried a trident, I guess.

The image at the top of the post is the painting "The Apotheosis of Washington" from the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Boat Naming Contest

I am determined to buy a boat.  A somewhat laughable boat, yes, but a boat. And I will learn to drive my little boat.

Here in my marina beige-world community, the boat docks have outlets. I'm going to buy a little electric boat. I might buy a Duffy. Or I might buy an Electracraft. There are quite a few of both of them in the neighborhood.

I wish my name was Virginia so I could name my boat "Ginnny's Tonic." But it's not, and another name change is not in my future,  so other boat names under consideration are:
Moby Dink
The Lucy-Tanya
Non Liki
Mighty Slow
Naughty Us

Morning Becomes (if I buy an Electracraft)

And of course, there's always:

Feel free to send your suggestions. And in fact, I declare this to be a contest--the very first here in Leaving Divorceville! The top 3 contenders will receive a book of essays.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


My brain is jet-lagged, ragged with real-estate transactions, hopped up on anxiety, loopy with love. I have no attention span. I want to lie in bed for hours or days next to the man who loves me with the Christmas lights on, listening to music, drifting half-in, half-out of sleep. Wait...I just did that.

I feel like I've jumped into the deep and can't quite get to the surface.

New house, old house, freeways, planes, motels, a wedding, a road trip, having house guests, being a house guest. None of that is earth-shattering.

Maybe I'm not drinking enough water.
Maybe I need more ketchup.  Catchup

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


In the hug-fest that constituted the departure from my ex-mother-in-law's house, she explained that, in her day, hugging was pretty much verboten. "I never even hugged my own mother," she said as we clustered around her waiting for our turn to be folded into her arms. "Not even once?" someone asked. "Mama always said that we should keep our hands to ourselves," she said. But the hugging continued. Both my daughters, my daughter M's girlfriend, my niece, me. "I've had to learn to hug," my ex-mother-in-law said, "but at 92, I think I'm getting pretty good at it."

There's a lot to ponder there. I've been a huggy person my whole life. This makes me wonder about my ex-husband. Did he learn to hug from me? Or was it a generational thing--the fallout from the summer of love-make love not war-love is all there is-free love zeitgeist of our generation? My parents hugged me. My parents hugged each other--though they would have given the ix-nay to the free love stuff. Somehow down this long and winding road, it seems that a hug is both hello and good-bye with all the people I care about.

The reason I had a chance to hug my ex-mother-in-law this weekend was due to a family wedding in Nebraska. When I arrived at the party the evening before, the entire group of ex-in-laws stood up to hug me and my daughters. There was so much jockeying around, it's a wonder none of us backed into the pool.

There was hugging as a prelude to the in-law hugging, too. I met my daughter's girlfriend for the first time prior to the drive to Nebraska. Dinner was arranged and the young couple met me and the girlfriend's mother at one of my favorite St. Paul restaurants. We mothers arrived first, and via our cellphones the daughters coached us mothers into recognizing one another. We hugged--a bit awkwardly, flailing between outstretched arms and extended hands. Maybe we're prepping to be mothers-in-law.

I am a fan of the hug. Being the Francophile that I am, I might go for the double-barreled cheek kissing, but Americans are awkward at that. And of course hugging can be awkward, too. Mr. Ex was at the wedding and at his mom's house the next day. We didn't hug. Not hello. Not good-bye. That would have been awkward. The vibe I get from him is that he finds me despicably revolting. I've discovered that I don't really care at all about him anymore. In fact, I found myself recalling the philosophy of the man who loves me more than once this weekend--"at the time, in that place, you did the best that you could." In this way he gives the benefit of the doubt to almost everyone. When we first met, I scoffed at this tolerant idea as I mourned my own past mistakes and railed against those of Mr. Ex. This weekend as I watched Mr. Ex, I thought those very words. But I'll save my hugs. The hugging door between Mr. Ex and me is closed.