Thursday, April 30, 2009

Not Exactly Burning Up the Road

3:00 p.m. in my little hamlet is a heavy traffic time.  School lets out and the landscapers call it a day, so the mini-vans and trucks with trailers pile into a long row of idling gas gourmands. One traffic light in particular, where the McDonalds drive-thru, two gas stations, a freeway exit and a super K-mart dump into the stream, presents a lengthy process of light changes and traffic folding in on itself.  Our commute is about fourteen minutes, so we accept this snarl with relative good humor.

A disturbing social study presents itself in this little cluster-fuck. Not a quarter mile away are the fire and police stations. So, added to the drowsy chaos of this intersection is the occasional emergency call.  Yesterday, over the dulcet tones of NPR's top-of-the-hour news, I hear sirens coming my way. Even though we're bumper to bumper, I begin my squirm to the side of the road. This is what my Driver's Ed teacher taught me to do some twenty-five years ago, and its an act I've performed out of instinct ever since.  I have some trouble completing the procedure, though,  because neither the car in front, nor the car behind, is giving an inch.  My gaze lengthens and I see that no one, not a single other car in either direction, is moving from their spot in traffic.  All the body-less heads behind the wheels are craning around in an elaborate show of  Gosh, huh? Oh, is that coming my way? Goodness, I wish I could move my car out of the way but I...Maybe I'm hearing things. Who goes there? ooh, I seem to be stuck here because no one is moving...

The ambulance and fire truck are visible and blaring not only sirens but those horns that sound like a full bladder, unmistakably urgent and pleading, downright demanding - GET OUT OF THE WAY, TURD-LICKERS!! - But still, the ignorant heads waggle in rearview mirrors. What me? Surely you don't mean me?  Oh dear, I hope no one is dying...if only my hands could operate this steering wheel...

The fire engine, fifty feet of cumbersome steel, is performing acrobatic maneuvers of agility and haste, as it attempts to advance through the clot of apathy and sloth. I've gone from mild asperity to detonation. My kids love it when I lose my shit and its not directed at them, so they're completely aroused in the back seat. "What is it mom? What are they doing wrong? Are they bad drivers Mommy? Are they going to jail? Are people dying?" They are delighted and hopeful about all of it. I've rolled down my window and I'm yelling at the cars, "MOVE IT OVER DOUCHE-NOZZLE!"
"Mama, what's a doosh-noggle?"

The ambulance has moved into the intersection and plunges into the oncoming lane, where traffic too should be stopped, but instead cars have used the tiny break provided by the emergency vehicle to advance their own position. More blaring of horns and weaseling. 

This conduct represents a fundamental break in the social contract.  Is it not incumbent upon us all to move our fat cans over, because some day it could be one of us hanging upside down by our seat belt in a drainage ditch?  Is this not a most basic act of human compassion? 

How I wish this was an anomaly of my little intersection, or this day, or that emergency call. But I've seen this exact scene play out dozens of  times. Its always the same, the drivers stuck in the tractor beam of their own selfishness. 

Who can be bothered for the hypothetical guy bleeding out into his stomach, or the grandma whose had a stroke in her bathroom, because, well, fuck them; there are roots to be dyed and those videos aren't going to return themselves.

You'd think the post 9-11 doctrine would provide for a basic understanding of emergency etiquette. We're all in awe of the plane that lands on the river and over pumped on hero worship, city's finest and all that whoopdie-shit, but when it comes to scooting over to the right, well that's a little inconvenient and may not benefit me, so its out. God bless America. 

As the fire truck at last moves past me, I notice the most amazing thing.  The guy driving the truck is not the least bit miffed.  He's not banging the wheel or rolling his eyes. He's not flipping the bird or bouncing up and down in his seat.  Nope. He's calm as a librarian in there, moving through what is just another day at the office for him. I feel my hero worship swell.
He's doesn't want to kill these people, he wants to save them.  The selfish, the ignorant, the indifferent, they will all be saved.  

Either that or he's all too glad to let them burn.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

15 Things I'll Never Understand No Matter How Many Times They're Explained to Me

1. Greyhounds. The breed, not the motor coach. Its been made clear to me that these are a bright, loyal, gentle variety, but the idea of stroking a shivering bone rack by the fireplace just gives me jim- jams.

2. Spinning. Great exercise for people who enjoy behaving like tormented hamsters, peddling furiously toward a destiny they will never achieve while being shouted down by fit people. Its painful. Its stupid. I wont have it.

3. Homework. After 7 hours in the classroom and a commute, does a 6 year old really need to come home and do word problems? Mine nearly strokes out with the effort. Trying to help her process, with a 4 year old climbing on my head and dinner boiling over is a word problem in itself. Usually the word is Fuck. Its a "bad" word and there is no solution for it.

4. The removable bench seat. Brought to you by the geniuses at Ford. It weighs 225 lbs. There is no stowing it. No lifting it out without help. McDonalds toys and Chex Mix permanently lodge in its footers making it impossible to get back in. Cheap is one thing. Idiotic is another.

5. Advertising. Really? Does this work? I don't believe it. I've never bought anything because someone interrupted my programming or interfered with my web surfing. Make it go away.

6. Will Smith.

7. Liquor added to baked goods.  Liquor is fantastic.  Baked goods are lovely.  I'll drink with you after I've eaten my cake.  

8. Wanting to be around celebrities.  In my experience celebrity robs the room of oxygen.  Do you want to see people you respect throw up on themselves?  No?  Me either. 

9. What to do at a four way stop. I know the rules. How come they don't apply?

10. Eggplant. Very very baked in a crisp breading, ok.  Otherwise, gross. 

11. Homophobia. With so many things that need hating,we're putting love on the list? Don't bother me with poppycock; I have much less important things to worry about. 

12. The love of old-timey dolls. Freaky. Ugly. Not a toy. Not for grown-ups. What the fuck?

13. People who don't own a cast iron skillet. There are more important things to consider than something not sticking.  Sear baby, then de-glaze.  Non stick pans are for scrambled eggs and cream sauces... and people who eat their young. 

14.   Grits. Or for that matter, any hot cereal.  Hot mucus from a lactating heifer anyone?

15.  Sex in the City. Many smart people I adore loved this show.  For me there were no more perfect examples of everything that is appalling in women. Shawping for things you can't afford. Cunty behavior to nice men. Disproportionate concern for image bordering on the psychotic. Man-obsessed, prolonged-youth-seeking, vein, douche-bags all. 

I know you're all going to tell me how wrong I am.  It doesn't matter how you try to explain, I'll never understand.


Monday, April 20, 2009


I have a friend who once described her husband to me as the kind of man who, when taking a piss, will reach down and wipe the toilet rim with a piece of tissue, just to get the pubes off.

I can so clearly imagine a man pissing, the relaxed posture, hips forward, butt cheeks clenched. Also the way he will stare into his own stream. What I cannot imagine is any man also taking the time to better things for everyone by wiping off any offending hairs.

My husband, Vild, is a big-picture guy. He wouldn’t notice there were pubes on the toilet unless they’d all banded together and verbally offered to make him a sweater.

Vildy is an industrious fellow. He can frame an entire room with 2x4's and a nail gun in a single weekend, without help. But when it comes to finish work, he’ll affix the trim with 3-inch dry wall screws and call it a day. He has big ideas that involve a lot of mess and varying degrees of hazard. He is both brilliant and dastardly in this way. If he decides he wants to save some money, look out, that cheap bastard will attach a bicycle to a car engine and by golly, you’ll have air conditioning. But you’ll never have a car again, or a bike. And you may not have air-conditioning for very long either.

I love that his mind is so unfettered with minutia that it can strike out boldly into the world. And when it does, I play the part of straight man, the loyal Mr. Watson to his Alexander Bell. We live on five acres, three of them wooded. We heat our home by wood that he cuts and splits from our property. He calls me “Sacaga-whiner” in homage to my pioneering spirit and my East Coast Elitist roots, both of which are in play during these rituals. I’ll haul a cord of wood, but I’ll bitch about it the entire time. It’s a deal we’ve struck that we’re both comfortable with. I like to complain, but I also like being out there with him in the woods, the snow crunching out the sounds of our manual labor. Its nice work for the soul, giggling out there with my man, while he teases and cajoles and I kvetch and haul, puffing out white clouds of talk.

There is nothing in my hoighty-toighty private school upbringing that would prepare me for these moments, this life. I never would have thought, growing up in high-falutin’ New York City in the 70’s, that I would one day become so intimate with loamy dirt. Here’s something my York City brethren might not be aware of; when you burn your own wood in a wood stove, dirt ends up everywhere. It trails through the house from the garage, through the kitchen, down the stairs, across the rug, to the firebox. Chips and bark, and chunky bits of flora can be found everywhere. I'll admit, its nice not paying a $300 heating bill, but sometimes I’d like a little more thermostat, a little less tinder.

I love my husband because he respects that I’ve come a long way from my New York high-rise upbringing, but also that I’m still going to burn some fossil fuels from time to time. His is in no way an environmental consideration. He’s not green and he doesn’t really care to be. He's a paranoid isolationist, in quite the jolliest way you can imagine. He’d go all the way off the grid, as long as he could be sure of Internet access. The man works his ideas through the web... and also, when he’s not completely industrious and goal oriented, he’s a lazy piece of shit, with his laptop resting on his big old man-belly, spraying popcorn across the living room as he watches exasperating right-wing TV. He’s a wanna-be homesteader. He wants to grow his own crops and forgo city utilities so he won’t have to pay for anything. Plus, the guy just really wants a bunker. He wants to cache weapons in there and have cots. He wants flints, and crank flashlights, deer jerky and first aid kits. It’s an extreme, rather literal, man-cave concept. The only difference is, he doesn’t want to go in there to get away from his family. On the contrary, he'd like for us all to go in there with him and hang out. Watch him surf the net in there. I have something a little more above ground in mind. But I admit, that’s my liberal ideology talking. We both know whose bunker door I’ll be knocking on when all my “feelings” have been worked through above ground. It’s in this spirit that I allow him to be a complete fucking slob at home.

This rural way of life has changed me, and I'm not sure for the better. This past summer, Vildy split his head open at work and came home with eight bright blue stitches in his scalp. He’s very casual about these things. He's in no way hysterical or dramatic. He might mention on the phone that he hit his head at work, but it isn't until I see the shaved spot and the surgical thread that I know he's actually been hurt and hospitalized.

The stitches stay in a week and then its time for them to come out. He's not a man who will go back to the doctor for such a task. If he thought he could have glued the thing shut on his own, he'd have done that. In that case, office policy prevailed. But the removal, that's on his terms. He goes into the bathroom with some delicate surgical tools: my cuticle nippers, the tweezers for threading my overlock sewing machine, and a hand mirror. Thing is, no matter how hard a guy tries, its hard to cut out your own stitches while holding a hand mirror. That's why there are hospitals, and trained professionals who work in them. 

Instead, I get called in. I am an upholsterer by trade, so I know something about stitchery. This does not qualify me to be a doctor. This qualifies me to make slipcovers. But just as in the post-apocalypse world he so desires, my skills in this area are called upon, and I become resident doctor. Problem is, medical stuff makes me want to puke. Plus, I have a terrible bedside manner. It’s a trait I inherited from my mother, who, story goes, told my Dad to suck it up when he snapped his femur in the living room. Like her, I am very suspicious of anyone who claims to be sick, and I’m prone to believing that they are faking it to better take advantage of me and make me bring them things in bed. Its something I'm working on, so I follow him in squeamishly, to administer a tentative compassion.

I see immediately that there’s no way I’m not going to be pulling the stitches out of his head, and so I take a minute to give myself a little pep talk about not being such a pussy.  I put on my $15 dollar drugstore reading glasses. Staring down at Vild’s closely cropped head, and with my whole body clamped tighter than a scorpion’s ass, I slip one edge of the cuticle nippers carefully, carefully under the first loop of blue fishing line fastened to his flesh. When I move the angled blade just slightly, it tugs at his skin from the pressure on the suture. I can feel how his whole fleshy scalp is just hovering over his bony skull. Oh, my fucking God!  I feel all the blood in my body drain down to just above my flip-flops and pool there. I might actually faint. I’ve never experienced this sensation before. But I remain conscious long enough to give the nippers a decisive ‘snip’, before I have to run outside and hold my head under the garden hose.

I wish I could tell you that it was possible for me to complete this unpleasant work with some dignity and haste. But this is not the case. It took a shameful amount of shivering and gag suppression to clip and pluck the loose strands of filament out of his skin. On the up side, I can check suture removal off my list, and feel optimistic about never, ever, doing it again.

Married to Vild, I’ve come to see everything for its usefulness of purpose, its ability to get a job done, including myself. His forward trajectory is so resolute, so uncompromising, that he’ll use whatever is handy, in whatever way he deems necessary, without considering failure as a possibility. My sweet, soft-bristled broom was used to apply black top to the rental property driveway. He'll mop up a wine spill with the nice bathroom towels. To him, tool is tool. His take is, “But I saved us a thousand bucks.” While mine is: “Great, now go spend $30 of that on replacing my nice broom, so I can sweep up the sawdust from your last project, building a whole other messy stove that burns sawdust.” By the way, if anyone needs sawdust, we’ve got a 10’x 10’ barn, that he built in an afternoon, filled with it. Come on over and help yourself to a bucket-full. You don’t even need to call first.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Slobbering Bitch

Its that time.  My kids want a dog.  They see the squirming puppies with their sagging pantyhose skin at the park and the universal kid imperative sets in.  "We'll feed it and walk it and you'll never have to do anything, we'll do everything!" they plead together, finishing each other's sentences. 

I was a kid.  I had a dog and I loved her.  She was an English Setter named Nina. I was ten, my parents were divorced, I was separated from my only sister, living as an only child, lonely.  Nina and I were like lovers.  We shared a bed.  I didn't care that her paws were muddy, or that she would lay across my legs like a tourniquet at night.  It didn't matter that her giant lips lay gleaming stripes of  drool across my pants leg, and pillow, and sofa cushions and even occasionally hanging from windowsills.  I didn't mind the farting. I didn't notice that her snout, bred for birding into a graceful point, was narrow enough to actually lesson the capacity of her brain pan, causing acute and un-trainable dumbness.  As a breed English Setters will track a bird for seventy-five miles before coming to and wondering where the hell everyone has gone. We could never let her off the leash like we could our Chocolate Lab, who would trot along devotedly at your side for as long as you'd have her. 

I get it about dogs.  And that's why I don't, with every ounce of god given energy I have left, want one.  We all know that the kids wont do "everything". Realistically they'll do maybe a little something, for about six days, and then it will be me.  I wouldn't mind throwing some kibble into a bowl, or pulling burrs out of its matted hair. I wouldn't mind wiping its paws with an old towel each and every time the thing catches the scent of squirrel outside, then realizes its fucking cold and wants immediately to come back in.  I could tolerate the snoring and the farting.  I could endure the hair deposits on my couch.  But what I simply cannot suffer, is another living creature needing me. 

With young children the maintenance list is long: The bathing, the ponytails, the laundry. The lunch packing, note signing, and bus passes.  The vomit clean up, the itchy bum, the enflamed vagina.  The lice checks, homework help and high cabinet reaching.  The worry, the lessons, the guilt.  The squabble management, mean girl counseling, moods and meal prep.   The wanted things they cannot have, the stuff they need they do not want.  The flying Lego, the falls from trees, the bent back fingernail, the running with sticks.  The questions, the many questions. Nutritional hoaxing, fight provoking, one more book, a few more minutes, just one more thing. Can I sleep in your bed? He just hit me in the head. You promised, you said.  The snacks, the endless snacks. Sewing on patches, matching up socks, bleaching out the stanky thermal lunch bag. Pumping up tires, vacuuming crumbs, scrubbing stains, rinsing out the conditioner. Chapstick lips, lotion hands, zipping coats, tying shoes. Haircuts, throat cultures, cavities. Running the lines, learning the songs, making the costumes. Play dates, birthdays, holidays, thank you cards. Can you staple this? Where's the tape?  I don't have any socks.  Reminding them to flush, to wipe, to floss, to toss the laundry in the bin, to clear the plate, to lead with love. Looking for the other glove, the other shoe, the library book, the tedious homework folder. Cutting fruit, pouring milk, remembering to buy the syrup.  She likes ketchup, he does not. The mac and cheese that's shells, not tubes. Closing the window, turning out the light, turning up the heat, leaving the hall light on.  A lap that's never empty, a heart that's always full, a fridge that's always sticky.

If a dog were following me room to room, with its desperate tail wagging out its need for companionship, pressing its snout into my crotch for love, placing its sweet face on my thigh leaving behind a shimmering rope of drool, I can tell you now, I'd have dog hide boots by autumn.  I'm sorry Dog. I'm sorry kids.  Your mother loves you. Now fuck off. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Not Your Mother's Goat Balls

Dinner time shouldn't suck outright. We should all be gathered around the table with joyful bowls of colored vegetables passed with delight from hand to hand, steam fogging the lenses of my husband's glasses as we chat about the day in a state of civilized harmony. But instead of one meal, prepared in klonapin calm, dinner consists of two meals, sometimes even three, prepared in a vociferous clamor.  I do a lot of sighing and clanging of dishes while my children beg and cajole and wrinkle their noses at the smells coming from my grown-up dishes. 

My kids eat a tiny bit of something and a whole lot of nothing. Each has a very specific set of parameters and contingencies that have been established over years of my own desperation and fundamental bad values. I'm one of those parents, who has completely caved to the needs and desires of her children's appetites, and whose will has been crushed by the desire to see food enter their mouths at dinner time. In my house there are three food groups: Cereal, Pizza and Peanut Butter. 

In my parent's house growing up, this kind of thing would never have been tolerated or even been considered possible.  My own mother was a cooker of wonderful, healthy meals, who exposed us to all kinds of food, simply and elegantly prepared.  I have memories of eating artichokes when I was seven, at first just sucking the melted butter off each leaf, but later accidentally scraping a molecular amount of the pulp with my teeth. Later still I  hoarded the heart and circled back on piles of tooth-marked leaves, looking for one more scrape of matter, the fronds translucent from repeated bite marks.  My kids watch me eat an artichoke now with stupefied looks of horror and disbelief.  How could someone eat a medieval mace dipped in butter? And furthermore, when all those leaves are picked off, if there isn't a plastic Pixar prize in there, why bother?

Where did I go wrong?  I love food.  Let me say this again. I LOVE food.  I'm an imaginative and dedicated cook.  I enjoy the ritual, the preparation, the offering and the devouring of meals. There isn't a food I wont try.  Sure, I don't want to eat goat balls, but if some guy in a head wrap offered me a goat ball in the desert, by God I'd try it.

I recently wept over a squid ink risotto in Paris.  I'd never had squid ink, and was basically unschooled in risotto, Trader Joes brands notwithstanding.  When I saw it on the menu, violins played in my cerebral cortex and I vowed that my delicate squid would not have inked in vein. When the first bite hit the front of my tongue, my eyes misted over, and my friend reached out and touched my hand.

I remember a peach I ate in front of a train station in 1985. 

I really, really love food. 

I've read all the material on getting your kids to eat well. Reintroducing foods dozens of times. Not preparing special meals.  Not harping on them to eat. Presenting variety in their diet. And perhaps most importantly, leading by example.  In all but the last I have failed every test.  I know the advice is sound, but I think it is offered by assholes. The people who recommend you covertly mash squash into the pancake batter are not people who really understand what's good about pancakes. If you can't convince me that it tastes the same, then you certainly wont convince the tiny Sherlock and mid-sized Poirot sitting at my table that its the same.  Those little bastards can sense something good for them from 50 yards. They're having none of it. 

I also wonder about the people who can so devote themselves to the repetitive and soul-crushing tasks of preparation and rejection.  My soul simply cannot endure seeing another beautiful bite of my life being scraped into the trash.  Thus the 2o pounds I've gained in the past seven years.  Yes yes, reintroduce.  And watch those introductions steam in my cinch sack yet another night? I can't bear it. Will these dietary geniuses be there to pay for my therapy, or my groceries for that matter?  

The only cure I can see for this disorder is age.  Already things are shifting, and it gives me hope.  Lily will eat a pile of broccoli.  Louis will guzzle a liter of "green juice" (that costs more than a gallon of fuel oil). Their taste buds are mellowing, growing more curious.  For this I am grateful. But I've also decided that in this area, if they want to squander their youth on bagel pizzas and mini-carrots, be my fucking guests.  In the meantime, I'm going out to find me some goat balls.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Guided by the Dark Side

I’m not a geneticist. But I’m pretty sure they’ve got a gene for everything. So, it’s hard for me not to feel somewhat pre-disposed to the 14% of my genetic material that makes up what I call my Pure Evil.

I’m 14% pure evil. Of that total, 3% is devoted to schadenfreude, the delight in other people’s misfortunes, 6% is devoted to my desire to seek personal pleasure, state by-laws be damned. 34% is devoted entirely to self-pity and its manifestations and the remaining 57% is a free-floating evil that can alight at any moment, coating my emotional terrain with a light dusting of negativity and general clumsiness of character. The rest of me, the other 86%, is happy and warm, but that tiny percentage can really get in the way.

Here are some evil thoughts I’ve had only today: That I’d like to take the Department of Motor Vehicles and insert it in some unsuspecting congressman’s rectum. I thought about taking all the dirty dishes out of the sink and smashing them on the driveway. It’s only 10 AM, so it’s early yet. I thought about throwing my cell phone under the wheels of my mini-van. I thought long and hard about buying a pack of cigarettes. I had bad thoughts about Christians, my tenants, Target and the PTA. Is there a rosary non-believers can recite to abolish their surliness? I’d finger it.

I think people should talk about their evil more, and I’m on a campaign to get people to do it. I have a friend who has a website devoted to finding out what’s “working” in people’s lives, their “beautiful things”. I think this is a terrific idea, and I contribute to the sight when my 86% is behind the wheel. But I think equally valuable would be a web site where people could really excavate their evil and give it voice.

I live in a community where secrets are kept. Where its inhabitants believe in putting their best face forward. They hide their drinking problems and depression behind a lot of flagrant consumerism and over-gifting. They suppress with cookie-exchanges what could be so handily purged with some foul language and a joint. I’m always searching to find the women who are crying in the parking lots of their life. The ones who yell a little too loud, swear too much and eat exotically. My world is filled with store bought dip and people too busy to read. I had to start a book club so I could collect, like rare orchids, the few people willing to read books and talk about them. I’ve had some bad thoughts about those non-readers, their holiday cards and their secrets.

My Evil, though small, takes many shapes. When I enter my son’s school gym for pick-up I am always, always, the least bathed person there. I don’t wear makeup. I don’t have good sweaters. I don’t want to bake anything for the school and I often resent being asked. I’m not a joiner, though I long for community. I do my part, but I bitch about it to myself in a muttering way as I shake colored sprinkles on the cookie tops. Statistically, there must be other bitter women shaking their colored jimmy jars like hostile maracas, but they don’t reveal themselves to me. I fear I’m completely alone here.

I have an evil past, and it pollutes my polite present. After I lost my virginity in high school, at a liberal boarding school where students were allowed to wear capes and top hats to class, I had sex with everyone. Dozens of guys and one woman. After I tried pot, I smoked it for the next twenty-five years, right up until, oh, say, yesterday. I tried a litany of drugs and not just the cute ones. Dangerous ones. Scary ones. It’s not that I’m proud of these events, but they are my facts, and I don’t regret them. Besides, no amount of polite conversation will negate them. I can’t wipe the slate clean with agitated passes of my credit card. I can’t replace my past with presents.

Sometimes when my husband asks a favor of me I blow a giant lip fart at him and tell him to go fuck himself. Sometimes when my kids leave their crap on the floor in a heap for the ten-thousandth time, I ball it all up and stuff it under their bed. That’s what I mean by free-floating evil. I don’t know where it comes from, but as a mediocre man once said, “whoops, there it is”. What do you want me to do about it? I’m through with therapy. Come out the other side of some terrible stuff. This is what I’m left with.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sort Me, Stack Me, Make Me Behave

I'm not a woman who has bought too heavily into the beauty myth.  I'm really ok with the fact that there are 15 year old girls with better bodies than mine. I'm not lured by the shimmer and sway of advertising or tempted off the cliff of low self-esteem by scented magazine pages.  I'm 41 years old. I've carried two 10 pound babies and had them cut from an impromptu sun roof in my uterus. I've suffered a few injuries, taken some self-inflicted blows and managed to stay on the heavier side of good looking for a long time.  Where my self image is concerned, I'm cushioned by realism and bolstered by the long view.  

But I never feel smaller, more ashamed, more flushed with envy, more resentful or yearning than when I turn the pages of a Container Store or Hold Everything catalogue.  These taunting publications play on my deepest desire, the promise of a better life brought about through rigorous organization of my unsavory crap.

I am lured to this organizational porn like a teenaged boy to smut.  I am nothing but a dirty little whore who wants the clutter to be spanked out of me by nesting baskets, my nipples pinched in the firm velcro clasp of a Filofax.  Big bins make me hot. I'm am nothing more than a naughty minx, baited pink by the prospect of color coding, alphabetized spices and label-making.  These are the forbidden fruit of a clutter-bound woman living in chaos, surrounded by slobs. 

Every day is a fruitless attempt to sandbag against the levee breach of clutter that is raising a family in America.  Public school is responsible for a tidal wave of useless paper. Crappy fundraising magazines offering twice-baked potatoes and frozen pot pies accumulate faster than I can curse them. Homework reminders, lunch calendars, coloring pages, book-ordering newspapers, volunteer requests, costuming instructions, permission slips and spelling words all arrive, an unruly rainbow of paper, pouring endlessly from bookbags and folders. Piles teeter on counters and flutter under the furniture.  Is it any wonder that I stare, aroused,  at a center fold of recycling bins, glistening on their smooth stow-away track systems?

Children grow at speeds that are, by their very nature, environmentally unkind.  The clothes that fit them for nine minutes ball and collect in every drawer, behind every door, drip from hangers bent under the weight of their obsolescence.  Closet systems that offer boot camp order bring out the bad girl in me, longing to be corrected. 

Toys, videos, books, socks, garbage, bills and stuffed animals - all demand the firm hand of elfa mesh stacking systems, punctuate pencil cubes, airtight translucent totes and stockholm dividers separating them from unauthorized mingling and attempt at escape.  If an ultra hold clamp system doesn't make my garden tools stand at attention, I don't know what will. 

The promise of organization is so alluring, so deceiving.  It makes me believe that the path to enlightenment is paved by homework centers with canvas in-boxes.  My marriage will be made more lasting by hidden entertainment armoires and bill paying vestibules.  Piles of laundry will clean themselves with sorting stations and soap dispensaries. I will be a better mother with a wall-mounted  synchronicity folder holder.  Toilet paper will never again run out, nor be out of reach - with tank-mounted side cars for extra rolls, even our anuses will be tidier.

But, like any decent fetish, the same lust that arouses me with its promise of release, brings shame and humiliation when the greedy page-turning reaches climax and I am left only with the damp upper lip of spent desire and the reality that I am nothing more than dirty woman, in an average house, with dust bunnies and clutter clamoring for attention. The lurid fantasy of  the pristine is sullied by flaccid reality, and there is no system for filing it away.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring Shhpring

Its nearly spring here.  I can tell because two days ago I watched a Cardinal make sweet sweet love to himself in my van's side mirror.  He hopped up there, as he had the day before, pecked and fawned over his own reflection, until he was sure the foxy bird staring back was picking up what he was laying down.  It was quite a show, tail feathers lifted, bobbing and weaving. This was an 
R-rated hoochie-coochie dance that was, frankly, starting to work on me.  My side mirror he had at hello.

Last week, when I took Lily down the driveway to the bus, the grass was all crystalline with frost and the sun shone down on it making the whole yard look like the emerald city.  Across our road, in the orchard, ten dear froze at the sounds of us, then shot off into the woods, tails flicking white as they ran.  Its all very miraculous and Walt Disney , and if mushrooms could sing I'd really have something.

The downside of spring here in Ohio is that everything is laid bare in the melt. Seven months of McDonalds wrappers, beer cans, road kill and rot has been indelicately plowed under, and now that the snow has melted the scourings are revealed in muddy heaps on the side of the road.  Everything is brown and flattened and soggy.  Winter winds have blown our asses sideways and we have to begin the tentative process of rebuilding a fair season life.

This is not an easy process. Not when you live on five acres and not when you grew up in a high rise in New York City. Spring here is a lot of work. You don't just jump outside in your skort and prance around optimistically; that would be an amateur move.  

You have to harden off, like a new green shoot.  Start by taking off your scarf and hat, but don't go storing them away. It can snow in April, and it may well do that tonight, though is was 70 degrees here last week and 60 today.  Don't plant anything, not outside and not until May shows up after about seven weeks of April.  This, if you know what's good for you.

Get a good rake.  Metal.  That plastic thing is fine for your postage stamp in Glendale, but it ain't gonna cut it here in the hinterlands.  There are about three inches of pine cones under that leaf hummus and those plastic tines don't take kindly to the bulbous nodes and small branches that have fallen under the weight of winter. 

A power washer is not optional.  You ever want to see those lawn chairs again, you're gonna have to blast about 2200 psi of hose water at them.  Gasoline fueled.  You need enough power to blast the bad attitude off your soul and electric is pure weenie; your soul is very very dirty and its going to take some fossil fuels to get it clean.

Prepare to shovel some gravel.  The snow plow will have shoved that to either side of the driveway in long drifts of rock.  You'll have to get that back on the two-track, or you'll be picking it out of your bent lawn mower blades before too long. 

Spring is wet and your septic system is overtaxed, so hauling a few bales of hay in the van is a good idea if you want to stay on the top side of planet earth.  You need to sprinkle that around to create a little terra firma from the yard to the front door. 

Anything you built last spring out of wood, you'll need to rebuild this spring out of a complex polymer. Raised beds, stair treads, trellis - start thinking about materials that will withstand a nuclear winter, because that's next. 

Your gutters, filled with pelts of flora that peel out like sod, will be hanging off in places.  You'll need to get up on the roof with some big aluminum gutter nails - try not to slip off the shingles covered in the green slime of decomposed tree droppings - and bang those fuckers back into place. 

Pick up a lot of windblown trash, move a mountain of leaves over there, throw away your "perennials", plant something else, straighten your mailbox, pull a few trillion weeds and maybe by July you'll be able to sit down and enjoy a glass of lemonade before you have to start cutting wood for next winter. 

Ah spring.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I Love You Stink Bug

Yesterday was Lily's first grade music program.  Lily LOVES music class.  She loves her teacher, her teacher loves her, and Lil just has a bad case of the jams.  So music class really rocks her 6 year old world. Incidentally, this makes her liberal arts educated mom very very proud. 

But school performances in the early grades can run the gamut from tedious to soporific, often punctuated by spontaneous student barfing.  Louis' Christmas program was tainted by regurgitated sour milk and temperatures in the gym above 90 degrees.  I couldn't take my eyes off his teacher, who conducted the balance of the program with a splash of undetected hurl on her pant leg.  

My parents rarely attended my school performances, I had no local grandparents,  and I vowed I would never let my kid stand on the risers, looking out into rows of parents without finding one of her tribe sweating with pride, suppressing their own gag reflex. 

So yesterday I went to Lily's school and took my place among the whirling video cameras and shutter clicks, to watch the show, Bugz, which featured the entire 1st grade, girls as ladybugs, boys as army ants.  

Bugz is the parable of a picnic to which all bugs are invited, except the Stink Bug, who is excluded because of his entomological  body odor problem.  Even the Maggot gets invited, because, though he's nasty, he's got no stank. Every time the Stink Bug walked on stage, the 1st grade held its collective nose.  Haughty bumble bees made him feel bad about himself.  Beetles ignored him.  Cliquey caterpillars whispered behind his back.  

Disturbing as it may have been to see dozens of 6-year old boys dressed in camouflage, marching in step and saluting as part of their ant choreography, they had it down, and looked impressive doing it.  I especially liked the part where, despite the millions of tax payer dollars, the army couldn't find their way to the picnic without the help of the mild-mannered fireflies who, with gym lights dimmed, twinkled their flashlights to light the way.  

But the real moment came when I realized that I had so identified with the Stink Bug that I was muttering things under my breath like, "Aw poor stink bug, I'll be your friend" and "You're a horrible, fat bee and I am going to swat you with my blog." and later, "Die horsefly, die!"

Then, when things were really desperate, when I was about to run on stage and embrace the stink bug with my totally overblown and inappropriate empathy, the cast breaks into the tender lyric, 'Rainbows do appear, but one thing's very clear, People Change. Things change..." as visual embodiment - a wee little 1st grader struggled dramatically under five yards of sweltering green felt. By the end of the song, the velcro scratched apart and out she came, a beautiful, sweaty butterfly.   

The power of change having washed over all the lowly bugs, they decide each to carry a giant flower with strong perfume to override the redolent tang of the offending creature.  Stink Bug attends the picnic!

It was emotionally exhausting. I'd laughed. I'd cried. I'd experienced redemption on the pedals of a lapel flower.  I'd relived my entire childhood and much of last week.  

They really must keep music programs in public schools alive.  

I'm heading out to buy flowers.

A post about posting

Dear Friends,

I've had a lot of email telling me that you can't figure out how to leave comments on the blog, which, by the way, are the light of my life.  So here's a little lesson.

1. Scroll to the bottom of the post you'd like to comment on.  
2. In tiny light blue lettering, it says comments, in a mere whisper.  
3. Click on that inconsequential word.  
4. Scroll to the bottom, again, where a blank square longingly awaits your thoughts. 
5.  HERE'S THE TRICK.   Click preview first, then post.  

This seems to work.  And I'll love you for the effort.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Such an Unfortunate Creature

Its been grey here since October.  This is not hyperbole.  Grey... since October. All my readers in Portland, and Finland, you know what I'm talking about.  My California friends, you just have to accept what I'm telling you.  There are a lot of things that can happen to a person who hasn't seen the sun in seven months.  

Here are a few of them:

Your lips turn white. Its true, blood rushes to your extremities to keep them from falling off, and your lips can, and do, go to hell. The portal of love that was once my mouth is now just a jagged gash into which I shove the pie of despair.

When I stand in front of a bright light, you can see my internal organs.  

My skin is so dry and flakey I leave a flesh trail behind me you could ski on.

My hair, also dry, grows long and wide, sort of triangular, starting darker and lank close to my head then flaring out at the bottom in a geometric tangle of dead ends and once optimistic highlighting. 

My fingertips have spent months in the meat grinder of my mouth. My cuticles are sharp and dangerous. I cannot slip a synthetic top over my head without getting my hangnails and flesh hooks caught in its extruded fibers. 

The bottoms of my feet actually abrade my sheets, causing shorter life span for my fine linens. 

My Vitamin D levels are so inadequate I may go blind and develop rickets, if the depression doesn't kill me. 

My zits, when they gather their strength and make a run for the surface, show like bas relief against the scrim that I call my complexion. 

But the worst thing about no sun is the fact that there's no fucking sun.  Its grey as a dead hamster around here and its hard not to take it personally.  Wisconsin gets a little sun, even St. Louis, but somehow the earth's rotation is unkind to Cleveland, and the sun, when it shines, is swallowed whole by lake Erie.  

I'm right now sitting on a grow bulb.  And by its light, I can see I need to eat more vegetables.