Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A double marine mammal morning here in Margaritaville

There were dolphins arcing in and out of the surf this morning. I walked along the sand just a a few feet from them until they outpaced me. A few seconds after I turned back, I spotted two seals, or maybe sea lions, diving through the waves. To the south god-fingers of light spread through the clouds, and to the north the coastline was swaddled in mist. The ocean itself was cellophane--blue layered over green layered over silver. A color without a name. Lucky, lucky, lucky. The word repeated itself and I listened. The capriciousness of the universe sometimes seems most evident in the weather. Superstorm Sandy wreaking havoc and misery while I make footprints in sand so smooth it looks as though some beach version of a Zamboni has whisked across it. There is no reason as far as I can tell.

The misfortunes of the east coast have caused me to pull the "earthquake protection" guy's card from my rollodex. Time to anchor my towering bookshelves and old armoires. Time to think about storing some water, check the batteries in my lanterns, and figure out where the battery phone charger went after last December's windstorm. But I am never prepared, really, when the bad stuff happens. I prefer to dwell on the smooth sand murmuring about luck and marveling at dolphins.

The heroes whose job it is to respond to disaster, the men and women whose jobs require drills to man lifeboats, escort passengers from crippled planes, race gurneys down hallways are as exotic to me as dolphins. Because my daughter C and her husband are both sailors in the tall ship world, I found myself staring at my computer screen in the wee dark hours watching the waves wash over the HMS Bounty after Sandy hit it. I thought of how many times these submerged sailors might have run the lifeboat drill, and I thought of  the hours of training required to be a Coastguard rescue swimmer or helicopter pilot. I wondered what it must be like to be in an upside down canopied lifeboat praying for rescue. Or to be washed under and not make it to the lifeboat. But I couldn't visit that scenario for long.

My daughters and I sometimes talk about having superpowers. All of my children are crazily brave in ways I cannot imagine. It seems to me that they really do have superpowers. My superpower? It might be finding lost babies. I've found three, so far, in my life and shepherded each of them back where they belonged. So, hey, all you wandering toddlers out there......never fear.

photo credit:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Seasonal Cuisine or Hi there, turnips, remember when you were in every root cellar?

French Pumpkin Soup

That's a French pumpkin on the left and a Curry or Kuri squash on the right.

1 TBLSP olive oil
2 leeks, most of the green trimmed off, chopped
3 white turnips peeled & diced
1 medium baking potato, diced
1 can of pumpkin or the equivalent fresh baked with the meat scooped out
4 C vegetable or chicken stock
1/3 C cream
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste

Sauté leeks in oil for 8 minutes, then add turnips and potatoes and cook for another few minutes. Add broth and pumpkin and cook for 15 minutes or so until everything is tender. 
Pureé until smooth. (You know you can't put super hot liquid into a blender, right? So you have to cool it a bit and only put a ladle or two into the blender at a time. Leave the lid a bit loose.) 
Put pureéd soup back into the pot with the cream and reheat gently.

Serve with white wine and crusty bread.

This soup reminds me of my days as an au pair in Paris when Madame had me go to the open air market every morning to buy a turnip, a leek, a potato, and two carrots (unless she was in the mood to make lamb chops.) She cooked the chopped vegetables in a pressure cooker, and served it up sans purée-ing. Into the center of each bowl she swirled a bit of cream and plopped in a fat pat of butter.

My mom loved the soup I made tonight. She said that turnips just don't get their due nowadays. I'm going to serve it again tomorrow night with cheese and green onion quesadillas on the side-- and some sliced tomatoes.

Oh--and that Kuri squash. Not my favorite squash. I'm going to turn it into some kind of dessert.

Recipe from

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Advance Directive and Medical Power of Attorney

It's been a process.

Back in August when my mom and I were staying with family in Iowa, we printed out the Medial Power of attorney form from the American Bar Association. We filled in the signature part and left the rest blank. My sister-in-law slipped it into a plastic sleeve, and the mostly blank document rode in a rear seat-pocket all the way to California.

After we got here it sat in a stack of papers. Handicap placard application. Driver's license/I.D. application. A brochure for websites regarding birth certificates and marriage licenses--so my mom could get actually California I.D. There was a stack of voter registration stuff. Paperwork regarding other calls I had to make for my mom.  If we buried the Advance Directive/ Medical Power of Attorney form deep enough........then nobody dies?  Right? Um.....

Finally, on Wednesday,  I printed out the California Bar Association version, and my mom and I sat down and went through it item by item. I printed out the same form for myself. I printed out two wills. The wills are works in progress still, but my mom's Advance Directive/Medical Power of Attorney form is finished--except it needs the signatures of two witnesses. This rather profound task will be completed this evening.

Sigh of relief.

When I complete Medical Power of Attorney/Advance Directive form, I'm going to use the "special instructions" section to say that I'd like to die outside under the sky--as close to the ocean as possible.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Get Wet. Get In. Ride the Wave. Get Frosting on Your Clothes.

I've wanted to live by the ocean, I said, probably ever since I first saw the ocean in a movie.
And you just got here, she said. After all those years. Well, a person just can't do everything.
But you, I said, managed to live in Baltimore during the 40s. There are people who'd pay a million dollars to hear the music you heard.
Oh, yeah, she said.
Ever see Cab Calloway? I asked.
Sure, she said.
Louis Armstrong?
Oh, yeah.
And on we went. From the Inkspots to Glen Miller. The Dorsey Brothers. Bennie Goodman.
I heard about the clubs where she and her sister worked. The Club Charles. The Band Box and the Chanticleer.
And she told me about a crazy Martha Raye act. After she sang her set, she threw a cake at the audience.
People loved it, she said. They didn't care if they got frosting on their clothes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Let's not talk about pills, and doctors, and tests....

Let's talk about dessert.

mini cantaloupe with vanilla ice cream, topped with a raspberry and chocolate shavings

And tomorrow, perhaps, we'll discuss squash.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

You Test Me/I Test You

We've all had  them--one sort or another, right? Blood tests, mammograms, bone density scans. Recently, my mom has also had an electrocardiogram, a test of her carotid artery, and a test of her pacemaker. These tests are all fairly straightforward. Present the order from the doctor and done! The next thing you know you are home petting the cat and having a martini.

Except when you're marooned on planet ultrasound for 4 hours.

My mom had an ultrasound of her legs today. She was referred by the podiatrist who perceived some circulation issues. This is a good thing. But some information would have made it an even better thing. Forget that we showed up yesterday (because that's what the form said) and the ultrasound place had her on the calendar for today. Human error. I get that. What I object to is not informing the patient that this a long test. At least 45 minutes minus any waiting time. And that afterwards there will be a consultation with the vascular surgeon. And he's way behind. And the bathrooms are a mile down the hall, and the key is fucking impossible to work. And there should be a picnic lunch, goddamn-it, if you keep an old person in your office for over four hours. I asked for glasses of water. And a blanket because apparently global warming and how it relates to excessive use of fossil fuel is unknown to the medical profession. Not to mention that older people are often chilly--and who is likely to visit a vascular surgeon?  You know the answer.  The next words out of my mouth were going to be, "We'll take two pastramis on rye and be sure to include the pickles," but right about then the doctor walked in.

And he was a great guy, the doctor. Attentive. Not rushed. Answered what questions we could muster with our blood sugar in some cavern near the center of the earth. He apparently read my post yesterday--and looked at my mom when he spoke to her.

And probably my mom will have an in-office procedure to improve the circulation in one of her legs. We're gonna sleep on it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Elderly Woman Literally Buried by Avalanche of Paper

After completing the following rant. This is what I will drink.

My mom has been to seven different doctors since she arrived here in Margaritaville. She's had her pacemaker tested. She's had a bone density scan, an electrocardiogram and a test of her carotid artery. Tomorrow she'll have an ultrasound of her legs, and it was filling out the paperwork in advance of this upcoming appointment that has pushed me over the edge. Eleven pages to fill out. Much of it redundant. All of it completely redundant when you consider that each doctor's office has required the same information over and over again. Why? Couldn't there be a universal form that one fills out with the primary care physician? Couldn't a copy of that form be given to the patient and then carried to the next doctor and the next, etc, etc? What if the patient had a flash drive? Oh, wow. How long have flash drives been around? For fucking ever. So why oh why are the elderly being abused with reams and reams of paper? A lot of these folks already wear glasses, hearing aids, false teeth, and are strung with a  "I've fallen and can't get up button." What if they also had a cool little bracelet or key fob or necklace with a fucking flash drive that contained all of the relevant medical information?

In addition to my own pre-printed list of my mom's meds (there are 14 including the supplements) that I give to the doctor's offices to copy, I have now created a pre-printed list of her surgeries (9) and her diseases and conditions (14). AND, HEY, DOCTOR'S OFFICES OUT THERE, IT WOULD BE FUCKING FABULOUS IF THERE WAS A COVER SHEET WITH THIS SIMPLE QUESTION: Is the patient hard of hearing? Letting the doctor and staff know that right off the bat could be an immense help, dontcha think? And then maybe there could be some fabulous continuing education classes on how to talk to a hard-of-hearing person. Or maybe doctors and their staff could follow this one little rule. LOOK AT THE HARD-OF-HEARING PATIENT WHEN YOU SPEAK TO THEM. Look. At. Them.

That is all.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Good-Night, George

Imagine a world without the Viet Nam war. Where idealism is stronger than cynicism. Where decency trumps lying and cheating. Imagine a government that nurtures those values. Imagine a world where no one is hungry, where the only war we are waging is on poverty. Imagine a world with less pollution, fewer gas-guzzling cars, and efficient railroad systems connecting commuters to their jobs. Imagine a world with less strife in the Middle East. Imagine a compassionate government, a thriving educational system with equal opportunity for all, and an environment not doomed by climate change and a myriad of other pending disasters. Imagine a world where the word, "Watergate" refers only to a complex of buildings on the Potomac River. Imagine a world where George McGovern won the 1972 presidential election.

George McGovern was my choice in my first presidential election. It wasn't until this evening when I finally brought my iPad downstairs so my mom could read the paper while I began to prepare dinner that I learned he had died. "I want to read that," she said pointing to the headline announcing McGovern's death. She scrolled through the article slowly then shook her head. "The world needs more like him," she said.

While I pondered an alternate history for the past few decades, a play I saw some years back came to mind. "Bunbury," by the wonderful L.A. playwright, Tom Jacobsen, is subtitled as a "trivial play for serious people," and seems like lighthearted meta fun for most of its playing time. Bunbury brings to the stage characters that merit only a mention but never appear in a number of famous theatricals. Rosaline, Romeo's love prior to Juliet, the young husband of Blanche Dubois--as well as characters that were, like Bunbury himself, mere theatrical fictions--characters that were made-up by the "real" characters to suit their needs. These never seen creations unite in Jacobsen's play and change theatrical history. I can't quite remember how the playwright transitions us from the world of theatre to real life, but near the end of the play, after being well-entertained with all of these alternative theatrical histories, I believe there's a scene where perhaps Algernon and Bunbury are watching TV, and we hear Robert Kennedy being inaugurated as president. There was the collective gasp that makes going to the theatre so worthwhile. As I recall, that was pretty much the end of the play. There we were, an audience spun around from laughter to tears just as the lights are coming up.

For George McGovern, the lights have gone to black. A lot of different things would have had to line up to fulfill McGovern's hopes and dreams, and no doubt not everything he envisioned would have come to fruition even if he'd been president. But it's something to imagine.

Apologies to Tom Jacobsen if  my memory of "Bunbury" is flawed.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Feathering the Margaritaville Nest

The latest bit of cushy creature comfort has been installed on my balcony. It took an unbelievably long time for me to assemble the three Home Depot fake wicker chairs that I've aligned to form a sofa. I seem to be unable to complete a task these days without diversion. It's just too boring to keep screwing in the same bolts over and over again. So I do other little jobs in between. By the time I finished the balcony project, I had about two minutes to stretch out before it was time to start dinner.

I proclaim it insanely comfortable. A perfect place to watch the water turn to liquid gold.

Classic Margaritaville Mishap

No, the blender isn't on the fritz. But I did blow out a flip-flop just as I got to the sand today. Not a problem for the beach walk, but of some concern once the walk on the sand drew to a close.  I hate going barefoot on the street. If there's a shard of glass to be found, it's a pretty sure thing I'll be the one who  ends up bleeding. Maybe the little antique shop that also sells souvenir shells and t-shirts would have some flip-flops. Maybe the proprietress would let me have a pair on credit because just a couple of weeks ago I purchased a vintage napkin holder shaped like a bunch of bananas. Or maybe the salon across the street would give me a pair of those flimsy pedicure sandals. And hey, maybe that pair of socks was still lying in the sand.

Some weeks ago I noticed a neatly arranged pile of belongings stacked where street meets sand exactly where I begin my beach walk nearly every morning. A pair of navy athletic shorts, a pair of dark socks, and some sunglasses. The sunglasses looked expensive. Weird how people lose track of their stuff on the beach, I thought, remembering how during the summer I noticed that it seemed to be a local practice to place found shoes with the toes rammed into the sand and their heels upward. Presumably the lost footwear would be easier to find if/when the owner came back to look for them. Monday mornings in August, it looked like "Shoehenge"on the more popular stretches of sand. But no one came back for the pile of stuff on "my" beach. After about a week I noticed the sunglasses had finally tempted someone. But the next morning the sunglasses were back on top of the pile--wrapped neatly in paper towel with a rubber band securing the package. A couple of weeks later the sunglasses really did disappear, but the shorts and the socks remained, unfolded now, looking more and more like litter than lost belongings.

If the socks were still there, I'd abandon what little fashion sense I have left, I decided, and wear them for my walk back to my car, which was parked in the gym parking lot. If the socks weren't there, well I'd find out just how friendly and trusting the local merchants were.

The socks weren't there. But next to the  half-buried navy shorts was a pair flip-flops. Yup. I took 'em. I think, according to the Margaritaville code of ethics that's been taking shape in my head, I ought to return them. Tomorrow I'll take some cash with me for my beach walk and hope that I can buy some new flip-flops from the shop on the corner.

And incidentally, the flip-flops that suffered the blowout were these. I have to say I'm somewhat relieved that they are now in a beach trash can.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Turning Californian

"I am who I say I am, goddamnit." My mother made her proclamation when we were back in the car, thankfully. The clerk at the DMV had rejected her application for a California I.D. Turns out you can't just hand over your driver's license from another state and expect to be turned into a Californian--even if you have no intention of operating a motor vehicle. "I have a Medicare Card," she said. "If I can get one of those, I ought to be able to get a plastic I.D.  card."

A California I.D. Card requires a birth certificate----and if you've changed your name since the day you made your grand entrance in your birthday suit, a second document is required to reflect your new legal name.

We had my cousin mail us some of her important papers that still reside in the basement apartment in his house, where my mom once lived with his mom. That stack yielded her decree of divorce from her second husband which restored her previous married name. I wasn't sure that would do the trick, and she still needed her birth certificate anyway, so I ordered her marriage certificate, too-- which reflects her current legal name-- from her first marriage--her marriage to my father. Two state bureaucracies later, we were ready to do battle with California.

Today, exactly a month since our first attempt, the clerk at the window poured over my mother's birth certificate and her marriage certificate and then took them to a supervisor sitting at a big wooden desk at the back of the room. They conferred, and then the two of them walked to yet another person at a desk where the threesome hovered over these ancient midwestern records. I have to admit I was praying a little because my mom's sore toe was killing her, and I didn't want the the DMV to be the place where her last nerve gave out. But two thumb prints and a photograph later, my mom is now a pending Californian. And it was free. That's right. If you're over 62 and you want a California state I.D., you pay nothing.
California: the gold rush, stardom, a plastic surgeon on every corner, and free--I tell you--freeeeee I.D.s here in the Golden State.

And the bonus? Her birth certificate says that she was the first of the twins to be born. The birth order question has been unanswered for years. Now we know. But if I'd had to place a bet on it, I would have gone with my mom, for sure. Looking at the photo at the top of the post, which twin would you bet made it out first? (see answer below)

ʇsɹıɟ uɹoq sɐʍ (ʞɔɐlq uı ǝuo ǝɥʇ) ʇɥƃıɹ ǝɥʇ uo uıʍʇ ǝɥʇ

And, incidentally, the picture is from 1988--some months before that Medicare card kicked in.

What the Yoga Teacher Said

"The surrender is the best part, " she said. "Surrender to the pose. The surrender is where the party is."


The best thing anyone could have said to me today.
Well, so far...
Maybe there'll be more partying later.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Once Burned, Twice Shy

I fell into my typical post man-who-loves-me-visit/Sunday funk the night before last. Headlong, down the the rabbit-hole fell. My life. What happened to it. I would never travel again, and even if I did, it wouldn't be with the man who loves me--who can never get away. I would never go anywhere. Wouldn't there be some advantage to having remained married? At least I could travel. Have at least a half-assed-pretending-he's-listening husband who would show up at some point every evening, and we could go somewhere fabulous on vacation and do our separate things when we got there. Oh, but wait, he left me because he didn't love me. This was the mood in which I let myself be carried off to sleep.

At 2:00 a.m., I woke whimpering from pain. My left hand was on fire. Fire. When I was fully awake, I began to panic. I spilled bleach on it, didn't I? Well, yes, a little--but I rinsed it immediately. Was it a reaction to the flu shot I got on Friday? Saturday my arm was so sore I skipped yoga. But now the arm was fine. I was fine. Except for my shitty mood and my blazing hand. The hot peppers. I painstakingly peeled and seeded them after I roasted them. The right hand wielded a knife, but the left hand held the peppers. They lit the squash soup on fire. I had an urge to creep downstairs and soak my hand in a bowl of milk, but I was afraid of waking my mom, so I submerged my hand in the sink and then coated it in aloe vera. An hour or so later I woke in pain again and repeated the remedy. The hot water from my shower the next morning ignited the burn all over again, and I drove my mother to her Miracle Ear appointment with my left hand in front of the a.c. vent.

Today the hand felt merely warm when exposed to hot water. The bleak mood, however, stuck with me. Tai Chi, beach walk, doing stuff for my mom, household chores. Everything felt off. After I went out to McGrath Farm to pick up my box of vegetables, I made fresh juice.

 Maybe I felt a little better.

Then I made carrot salad as a side dish for dinner tonight.

Better. Somewhat. Then my mom spotted a new bird for us to i.d. She was excited. I got excited. Over a bird. By the time the Belted Kingfisher took off, my bad mood had flown, too.

I'll be more careful the next time I handle hot peppers.

And I hope to never again entertain any wishes of still being married to The Someone. If I do, may my ring finger spontaneously combust.

Bird of the Day:Belted Kingfisher

Spotted by my mom on the neighbor's boat dock.
We keep the binoculars on the end table these days.

The funk I was in has, coincidentally, flown off.

photo credit: Wikipedia      Having never seen a Belted Kingfisher before, I couldn't get my camera because I was too busy looking through the binoculars making my inventory, i.e. long straight beak, russet feathers on breast, white band around neck, short tail, really short legs, plump body....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What I Made This Weekend

A chocolate cake whose secret ingredients are beer and sauerkraut. (My mom found the recipe in a newspaper in the cardiologist's office.)

Saturday night dinner. Guests were the man who loves me and my friend Nancy, who brought peppers from her garden. And a bottle of champagne.

The peppers were stuffed with couscous and cheese and then covered with marinara sauce doctored with cinnamon, cumin, and dark chocolate. If I were breathing my last, I might request a cup of this sauce before departing.

Tonight's dinner: Kabocha squash soup garnished with roasted red peppers, which unfortunately turned out to be hot peppers. I had to fish them out of my mom's bowl, but enjoyed a rather pleasant glow from them myself.

I also made time to nap, walk, and read a bit. And the effort I made to get out and do something fun with my mom worked out swell. Friday afternoon after picking up her new glasses we went to a thrift store where she snagged two nice tops and two pairs of warm pants for $5.39. Saturday we went to the Seaside Games to hear my friend Nancy play with the Scottish Fiddlers. Completely enjoyable.

This morning when the man who loves me and I awoke, I could hear my friend, Nancy, and my mom chatting on the patio. A sort of music that was, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sticks and Stones Can Break My Bones and Paper Slashes My Heart

Whew. There it is The divorce paperwork neatly stashed back into its box. A bunch of lavender atop it to deodorize its stench. I stayed up late last night organizing it...until I felt "divorce sickness" come over me. Perhaps the box will never be opened again, so does it matter if it's not in chronological order? Hell, no.

And the check came today. A man of his word.

Once upon a time he was my everything. I'm not even sure where that phrase comes from...a song, a movie? Not important.

These photos were on my camera (my son and his family were here this past weekend) and I loaded them onto my laptop with the one above. They tell a story that could begin with "Once upon a time," too.

The princess looks a bit wistful, doesn't she?

Maybe because her sweet prince turned out to be an evil sorcerer, and he's going to grind her heart to bits.

Oh dear sweet children, I wish you the minimum amount of heartbreak in your lives. If grandmothers could cast spells, maybe that would be the one I would choose.

Or does heartbreak make us more compassionate?

I'm glad to be still basking in the hugs and the love from their visit, as well as  the afterglow of my weekly sixteen-hour sojourn with the man who loves me.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I think I'll run all the way to the bank.

Report from Pillville: the Podiatrist, the Cardiologist and Miracle Ear Part V, etc. etc.

The Podiatrist:
Doctor+ power tools-general anesthesia=thank god, I'm sitting down on a chair that has arms because I began to sway. My mom was a trooper, though. Corns removed on the outside and inside of little toes. Toenail fungus ground into near oblivion. Plus, I acquainted her with some spiffy new shoes from Arcopedico. I discovered what a miracle these shoes were for my backaches when I was walking to and from the train before I left the City of Angels. They're easy on the toes, too. Mom has the blue ones and the hot pink ones. I now have three colors--hot pink, orange, and green. The red ones are tempting....don't worry I can stop at any time. Uh, but what I really need is a pair of Arcopedico some nice colors.

The Cardiologist/the carotid artery and an echocardiogram of the heart:
"I've never had any tests like those before," she said.
"Are you sure? You have a pacemaker.....wouldn't they perform these tests before installing a box in your chest?"
Hmmm. Who knows? Maybe it's one of those past memory fragments that's just fallen away. In any event, now we await the results--the doctor will call if there's anything scary to report.

Miracle Ear:
5 appointments=1 working hearing aid. The only thing good I have to say about Miracle Ear at this point is that the technician who has been taking care of my mom and the her receptionist are the sweetest. There's a little hug fest every time we say good-bye. Really, these are nice, nice people. The hearing aid tech had tears in her eyes on the last visit when she had to break the news that one of the new hearing aids arrived not working. Hellooooo people, can you hear me? Floss, wear sunscreen, and take care of your ears. Hey, you with the ear buds and the music so loud that I can dance to it, turn it the fuck down.

The New Medication (Namenda): 
So far, so good. I've been watching and waiting. Yesterday, I heard a little freakout outside the laundry room (smoking area #2.) It was the first thing in the morning and I rushed downstairs, half gym clothes/half pajamas, to check it out. She had a ball of lint in her hand the size of a mouse. It startled her. But the same thing has been happening on the patio with spiders all along. She's always had a big reaction to things that scare her. I swear I can still see her and hear her screaming in our kitchen as she fashioned a dish towel into a sling the day my brother broke both the bones in his arm 45 years ago. Blood is even worse. I won't churn those waters. And the morning shortly after my high school graduation when she figured out I was pregnant? Oh, if I ever self-publish my book, you can read about it.
I asked her at dinner last night if she noticed feeling any different from the new drug. She shook her head. "Not at all," she said. But the only thing she was really feeling right then was the gin.
The real trouble is that whenever I want to think of the name of this drug...uh, I can't remember it. I got it now though....Amend+Namasté.

Bone Density and the Density of the Demeanor in Doctors' Office Staff:
Call to office #1: Hello again, you little bitch, I'm not asking for your first-born child, I'm just asking if you could ever-so-kindly double check to see if there is a bone density scan in my mom's records that maybe didn't get sent to her new doctor.
Call to office #2: Oh, hi, gosh thanks for calling me back so fast, wow, yes, please fax the scan to my mom's new doc. Oh, and you have some of the doctor's notes and you want to fax those, too? You have a nice afternoon, too.

The Calendar:
There's some white space in front of us. I told her last night that the only thing we have on the calendar for the rest of October and November is an appointment at Miracle Ear. Of course, that could morph into a series of follow-ups, but maybe not. "You might need to start going out to do other stuff," I said. "Fun stuff." She likes staying home, she said. Watching the birds, and the boats. Crocheting. And she has a stack of books that the man who loves me gave her for her birthday.
And yes, she should see a gastroenterologist. The Beano has been an utter failure. Flatulence and poor hearing is a comically cruel combo. My son laughs about it---says it's an awesome  way to proceed with life--giving up that bit of self-conscious propriety. He's got a point, but I'm not signing on to that yet. Farting just doesn't match up with those cute pink shoes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Brief Journey Back to Divorceville

I awake with a vague awareness there's something I need to remember about October.

Yes, yes. In a matter of days, it will be 12 months from the entry of the final judgment in my divorce.

In a hour, I nearly destroy my bedroom looking for the hard copy of the paperwork that I am certain is stashed in a handy file in my cabinet---but isn't. The dreadful black file box reveals only page 1. I tape it to the window sill so as not to lose in the flurry.

Why do I need this document? Two words. "Credits and reimbursements."

The black box yields nothing but a memory of heartbreak. I feel it all again. Muted yes, but it rises up as I touch attorney bills, bank statements, copies of motions. I feel the disbelief layered over the knowing. The grief and betrayal melting into sickness and hysteria. I feel it in my stomach and my chest. The anger. Still there.

In the end, I find an electronic copy on my computer. I print out three copies. While they are printing, I email The Someone. And formulate a plan. When he doesn't get back to me in 48 hours, I'll email him again. I will contact my attorney 24 hours after that second ignored email. Because yes, it will be worth the stress and the expense. One daughter in grad school. The other going back to school after the new year. But wait. As I'm about to ignore the mess and go on with my day, I see his name in my inbox. A check in the mail today, he says.

Maybe when it arrives,  I'll tape it to the window sill for an hour. Let it wave a bit in the breeze while I put the mess back into the box. If I can stand to touch any of it just one more time.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Waltzing 'Round and 'Round We Go

They went to dances, she said. Local bands at a dance hall run by two brothers. They were only in 8th grade, she and her twin, but considered nearly grown-up. After graduation, they'd be getting jobs and earning their own way, but for now, they danced. Sat at the bar and ordered mixed drinks. There was no such thing as being asked for an i.d. But they didn't drive. Their uncle chauffeured them. Another uncle and aunt went to the dances, too. This uncle was a marvelous dancer, she said. And there was an immensely fat man. Maybe 300 pounds. Oh, but how this fat man waltzed. If you could get a waltz with him, the evening was complete. One night there was such a snow storm that the dance hall brothers had to take them in until their father could make his way to retrieve them the next morning. Her mother aged ten years that night, she said.

There was a boyfriend named Bill. He wanted to marry her, she said. A marine, he was, and he asked her to to move to San Diego. No. She couldn't imagine it. Too far.  He was snatched up by a classmate. Came back from the war, wounded. A long recovery. Her sister kept her apprised. Years later after my mother was married, Bill happened into my father's business at a moment when my mother happened to be there. You, she said. You, he said.

Two decades later, my father dead. My mother remarried. And the dancing uncle and aunt give dance lessons to my mother and her new husband. Who didn't know his left foot from his right, she said.

Four decades later, my mother living in California with me. The second husband, the dancing aunt and uncle--all dead. Her sister in a nursing home on the east coast. The live music in a country dance hall, long silent.
And Bill. Unaccounted for, but still dancing in her memories.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

In Which I Revisit the Apartment Where I Lived With Mr. Ex for 12 Years


“Look mom, do you remember when I used to live here? This was the bedroom, remember?”  My friend Sandy, my mother, and I are edging carefully around shelves that are crammed with nick-knacks now that the ground floor of the building houses an antique store. Yes, she remembers. All the interior walls have been demolished, but we pace off the lines where they used to be. Living room, kitchen, the little dining nook. Isn't it a shame they banged out all the pretty tile? “Stupid fuckers,” I mutter under my breath.
“You're absolutely right,” says a person behind me. She says she used to live in the building, too, but I don’t remember her. I’m somewhat taken aback by my confusion.
“Did you live here, too?” I ask Sandy, feeling that perhaps everyone has passed through this building at some point in their lives. Somewhat distractedly, she tells me no. She is busy ooh-ing and aah-ing over various things in the shop while scooping the little treats from the candy dishes into her purse. Full of energy, Sandy is giggling, loving everything she sees.

As we are about to walk out the door, a woman from the back of the room says that this will sound weird but that Sandy really reminds her of her husband Randy.
“Oh, that’s the way it is,” I say. “Sandys and Randys are practically interchangeable.”

Once we're out on the street, driving away, we see my friend Carol striding down the sidewalk. She’s dressed in peacock blue and her blouse is open revealing a peacock blue bra. “Should we offer her a ride?” I ask Sandy. No, we decide.

Later it seems as if we are checking out of a motel, but it’s my old apartment again in a new incarnation.

After the motel, I’ve left Sandy and my mother, and I’m in an immense white truck. It’s taking me to a boat. Or, rather, it has a boat attached to its side, positioned to be dropped into the water. There’s a man driving it, but I don’t know who he is. He’s a large bear of a man, dark haired with several piercings. This man is kind enough to stop the truck for a moment when I ask him to. My door is open and my seatbelt isn't on, and he stops simply because I ask him to—which I find rather remarkable. I expect him to grumble about having to stop, but he’s friendly. We talk briefly about the boat. We don’t want the boat to drop into the water upside down. He's the inventor of the device that holds the boat to the truck, and he’s worried than when the spring mechanism releases the boat, it will flip over.

I'm not there to see the outcome. I have to rush to a rehearsal. I have snacks that I took from the antique store, which is good, because I'm hungry, and there’s no time for dinner.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Maybe I want a DNA test

While at a salon today getting spruced up a bit for the first time since my move to Margaritaville, the aesthetician asked me what portion of my heritage was Japanese. She, herself, is mostly Vietnamese--and one-eighth Chinese. It was my complexion, she said. And there was something about my eyes.

Decades ago when I was auditioning for anything that came my way--foreign TV shows, industrial films, educational stuff, there was a spate of Japanese projects. I never got cast, but the Japanese men involved in the projects seemed more than a little taken with me.

The only make-up base that's ever really worked for me is Shiseido.

Uhhh...I was a geisha once for Halloween.

I've always liked real silk kimonos.

I once hosted a Japanese foreign exchange student.

The man who loves me is...Korean.

I was mistaken for an Asian? By an Asian?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pillvillian I'm Sick Blues

(with apologies to the inestimable Bob Dylan)

Mama’s in her bedroom
Mixin’ up the medicine
I’m on the telephone
Talkin’ ‘bout Primadone
The man in the white coat
Good doc, paid off
Says he’s got a bad cough
Wants to get laid off
Look out, Mom
You’re on Klor-con
God knows how,
But you’re havin’ some fun
You better run to the boat dock
Lookin’ for a new friend
The phlebotomist 
In a cubicle
Wants eleven vials
You only got ten

Fleet foot optometrist
Old Pulmonologist
Hearing heart beats, but
They put you in bed, called
The Cardiologist anyway
Medicare says that many say
They must have hearing aids
Orders from outer space
Look out, Mom
Don’t matter you’re too thin
Walk with a cane
Don’t try your brain
Stay away from assholes
That push Pantoprozole
Keep a clean house
You don’t need a pacemaker
To know which way’s the undertaker

Get old, get bold,
Hang around, get told
If anything’s gone to gold
DNR, no car
Bacteria, Hysteria
Look out, Mom
You’re gonna get hit
Oh, Medtronic
Gin and tonic
Hang around the pill eaters
Man with the oxygen
Wants a new pathogen
Don’t follow leaders
Eat Egg Beaters

Ah get born, keep warm
Nice pants, romance, learn to dance
Potassium, Calcium
Try to be a good mum
Please you, please me, buy gin
Don’t steal, don’t sin
Twenty years of Plavix
And they give you Coumadin
Look out, Mom
They keep it all hid
Better slug down some alcohol
Lower your cholesterol
Don’t wear anger
Try to avoid the cancer
Don’t want a genie
Just a martini
Microwave don’t work
‘Cause the Namenda’s in the blender.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What the Hell?


I was still in his bed while he stood in his miniscule kitchen making coffee. "The cops have been watching me," he said. I wanted to ask if he wasn't too much of a small-time dealer for that, but I didn't know if it would insult him. "It's not just the pot," he said, as if mind reading was just one more thing he could manage to pull off without even trying.
"What then?" I said.
"Welfare fraud, bad checks, dozens of traffic tickets. And the Feds want me for tax evasion."  He pulled the sheet away from me and gave me the look that told me he thought I was beautiful, then waited for me to sit up and handed me my coffee. 
"Well, you ought to get the hell out of town," I said, plotting my own escape. Damned if I'd go down with his sinking ship. He was full of bullshit about being the captain of his life, not bowing down to the man---well, I was just a deck-swabber, cleaning up little catastrophes here and there, enjoying his pot and his bed. I had no qualms about jumping overboard.

It was later that night when I realized I had nowhere to go. I asked my friend Diane if I could sleep on her couch. One night, she said. The next day I went to look at apartments in a building that had a unit I had seen some months ago and liked. But when I pulled up in front the face of the building was sheared off like a dollhouse.  The apartments looked like empty boxes flimsily stacked on top of one another. It seemed indecent somehow, this wholesale peeking inside. No draperies or rugs or furniture. What the hell is happening here, I wanted to know. 

Later, driving around in my car, the cops called my cellphone. I barely know the man, I said when they asked me about him. Friend of a friend. I was couch surfing. Nothing more. I knew it would be trouble for me later, but I called his cell phone to warn him. "Get the hell out of town," I said. 

"Come with me," he said.

I was already driving up the coast. Betrayal, betrayal, my tires sang as they whirred against  the pavement. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Escape from Pillville

Thanks to the presence of M who has been a regular weekend visitor, I drove away from Pillville on Saturday afternoon. The man who loves me and I met for dinner wherein we devoured a stack of panini and went to see my friend, the famous actor, peform in a show. I then had my typical anxiety attack while driving at night, nearly hyperventilated on the 2 South, and was actually relieved to be lost for a quarter of an hour in the man who loves me's hillside neighborhood. Nobody died. And I strengthened my complex love/hate relationship with my nav unit. "Turn right," she said.
"Are you fucking kidding me? I am not turning on that dark and narrow winding death trap of a miserable excuse of a city street. Figure out a different way to get me there, bitch."

I got there eventually. Nobody died.

When we were first dating, the man had to come get me after I'd tried to drive to his place and ended up on a street called Valley of the Moon or something like that. It was on the edge of a cliff and had no guard rail--and may have actually been on the moon. I was so freaked out that I felt as if I was bounding, gravity free, around those hairpin curves.

But it was a lovely respite, this Saturday night and Sunday morning, despite the hyperventilating and the getting lost, though I think the man who loves me would have, these three and one-half years later, come to retrieve me again. I believe he told me this very weekend, that he not only loved me, but that he liked me. Which is nothing short of amazing because, if I may be so retro as to dip my toes into the waters of Divorceville for a moment, it's worth noting that Mr. Ex neither loved me nor liked me.

But I no longer live in Divorceville. And I'm not sure I could even find my way there from here at this point. And if I tried I would, most probably, hyperventilate.

My respite also included breakfast with excellent coffee, perfectly toasted toast--which is always more of a miracle when someone makes it for you. Why is that?

I returned to Margaritaville/Pillville late Sunday afternoon to find everything in good order. There was leftover homemade lentil soup that M had made for dinner the night before. I heated it up, added quesadillas, and smoked trout, and there I was back in the rhythm of my regular routine. Just like that.

Today M left to go back to school. "I miss her," my mom said tonight at the dinner table. Yes, Monday is brim full of missing. And this particular Monday is also full of moon.