Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Traffic Circle of Life

The Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm) rings me up. His brother, with the assistance of a willing woman, had a baby girl yesterday. I'm a former auntie! While genealogists everywhere ponder the improbability of my taking the child for tattoos when she's 18 and what relationship we'll put on field trip emergency forms, births bring into sharp focus one's relationship with time.

In theory, my life expectancy probably limits me to 30 more years on this rock if I quit shining my karma with abrasive polish. Mamie and I have a retirement plan: we buy a go-go bar, dye our hair Easter egg pinks and blues and spend our declining years fluffing our girls' feather boas and drinking scotch with mobsters. Could I contribute more to world peace than hair color hilarity and facilitating thirdhand erections? I doubt it. With a plan like that, I can't wait to be me.

In the here and now, I still cannot find an apartment. My high school dance partner had open heart surgery on Tuesday. In my little henhouse, one of the boyfriends is suddenly being treated at Sloan-Kettering for an extremely rare cancer. My life has come to a complete stop while I wait and wait for...what? I think an omen I understand.

A zillion years ago, I was sitting on a bench outside the library I purport to work in when a white-hot grad student sat down at the other end. Yes, I was young enough then that it wasn't creepy. Anyway, we were sitting there, not talking, when the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile drove by. I said, "Should we just get a room?"

Omens that clear rarely float across one's field of vision. Mostly, I listen to people talk and have no idea what they mean. I see things and think 'That should mean something, but what?' If there's a God, he/she/it could talk riddles all day long and I might give that tune a 75 even though I can't dance to it. Hinting, subtlety and silence never work and leave me staring like dogs stare at ceiling fans. Skip to clarity and bold truthtelling: life is short and time spent trying to figure out what something might mean is time wasted.

Let's not waste time, you and me. Out with it! What are you doing, why are you doing it, and what's on your mind?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Coffee, Vodka Chaser

I seldom sleep for more than a few hours at a time. When I do sleep I have dreams so vivid I frequently ask my friends if events and conversations really happened. For instance, recently I dreamed a handsome, charming man told me I was perfect and that we loved all the same music. It seemed so real. When I woke up, Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, was standing on my ribcage and loudly demanding tuna. Our relationship is almost like being married except I understand what the cat wants.

The family plans a trek en masse to Hyannis in August for Grandpa's birthday. He's a dear, sweet, wonderful man who hangs up on Mom twice a day.

Mom: Take the cab when you go to the VFW Hall. The kids want you to and it's a gift!
Grandpa: Pesty!

My mother clears her throat a lot and changes the subject when we ask what Grandpa wants for his birthday. She has been charged by him with making sure we kids and our kids don't buy him presents; she would drop dead of shame if we showed up without them. This situation produces amusing failures. One year she told me he was growing tomatoes on his balcony so I sent him basil plants FTD. A month later, Mom walked around her dining room for half an hour holding something behind her back.

Mom: He said they were too expensive and gave them to me to take care of.
Tata: Isn't a Basil Problem solved with melted cheese?

Okay, so I blew it. His birthday is a month and a half away and I'm engaging in Preemptive Gift Anxiety.

An aside: years ago, Mamie and I met a man who shouted "Joy!" a lot. Though we feared exuberance might lead him to sprain something, we started labelling our own reasons to be cheerful. When her control freak boss cancels a meeting we have Cancelled Meeting Joy! When extra vegetables show up with her order we have Grilled Zucchini Joy! We sure do sound organized and happy. It follows that we sometimes have Paid Bills Satisfaction, Sick Pet Sorrow and How Could He Grief. So. I have Preemptive Gift Anxiety, and back to the story we go. La:

Daria: You're going to Cape Cod, right?

This is not a question. I am going, partly because I love Grandpa to pieces and partly because were I to not go, no one would ever find my body. Daria would see to it. That's the way it is with us: love and death threats.

Tata: I hate going there, though. Can't sleep in Grandma's house.
Daria: Too many memories?
Tata: Bad, bad, bad dreams. Awful dreams. Hate that house.
Daria: Huh! [Pause.] We'll drink!

My mother's mother and I didn't get along while she was alive. We argued a lot and made vicious remarks that failed to end in punchlines. Now that she's dead, I'm convinced she wants my feet off her furniture from the afterlife or she knows I'm not contributing enough to my retirement fund. Last time I tried to stay overnight at Grandma's house, I took two melatonin and drank two and a half bottles of red wine because someone else drank half the last bottle, and every time I closed my eyes I heard Grandma criticizing my choice of phone plans.

I didn't sleep a wink. Maybe she was right and I couldn't be trusted to make simple decisions like where to buy shoes, let alone know the difference between reality and dreams, a distinction philosophers have pondered for millennia.

Next time I see her, maybe I'll ask.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Holding Forth On Holding Out

Last week, I turned on General Hospital in the middle and realized Emily and Sam were laughing and whispering about faking orgasms and I thought I'd have an aneurysm. I cannot believe that women still do this twenty years after Dr. Ruth and while Sue Johanson describes everything on Oxygen's Talk Sex! Never in my life have I faked an orgasm. In fact, I didn't realize it was a thing people did until I was in my thirties because as a product of the public schools I mostly learned about sex by stealing a stack of Dad's Penthouses. In 1994, on CNBC's internationally syndicated show Real Personal with that self-absorbed prick Bob WhatsHisFace I said I'd never faked it - and everyone in the studio went spastic. Faking doesn't make sense because I am selfish enough to want the real thing and if I don't tell the truth, I don't get what I want, do I? Many marvelous sensations and emotions are available to the person willing to take a number at the - shall we say - Deli Counter of Physical Delights, and though orgasms aren't the beginning and ending of the menu, they're pretty good. Sometimes a gal has to say, "Baby, this is fiercely good fun but it's not the way I build a sandwich." I just don't see the problem.

Let's say for argument's sake you're a heterosexual woman - not that there's anything wrong with that. For argument's sake, let's say you sleep with men. You've got a pair of roller skates. They've got keys. Everybody's different and you don't necessarily have dreamy woo-woo sex magic the first time.

Mamie: Ever had sex that went on and on and on and you wished it would just end?
Tata: If I remembered the 1990s, I'm sure I'd say yes.
Mamie: He's waiting for you.
Tata: Not me. If he's naked he already knows he's donning scuba gear and diving for treasure.
Mamie: You might hurt his feelings.
Tata: In this hypothetical hook up, why would I knock boots with a man who doesn't want to actually please me?

The poet Alan Michael Parker told me many times that staying married was work and there was one superhot way to go about it.

AMP: Couples should always fight naked. That way, they remember what's really important.
Tata: Fine for you, with the beautiful wife, but for folks with ugly lovers that might be counterproductive.

In matters of sex, honesty really is the best policy. If you're not interested in a second helping of the soup du jour, do what you want but don't lie about anything except your name - if you must. Be "Xena, Warrior Princess" if you want. Nobody cares. But if you're dating someone and savor his flavors, tell him where to find your rich, creamy center. For everyone's sake, girls, uncross your ankles and go for it. You'll make the world a better place. You'll be in a better mood. You'll like your man a whole lot more when you're thinking about him curling your toes and maybe you'll stop doing bitchy things like giving your sisters family recipes with an ingredient left out.

...So to answer your question, I'll have the house salad with the raspberry vinaigrette dressing and please hold the onions.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Effect Follows Cause Until Cause Hears Its Mother Calling

Poor Brennan Hawkins. He's the Utah boy who wandered away from a scout camping trip and went walkies for four days. Oh, he's okay now. He was whisked from the Uinta Mountains, briefly hospitalized and sent home with the same problem he went started with: his stupid, paranoid parents. I'm not nominating myself for Parent of the Year where Miss Sasha might read up and recall a few things, but - like - the National Forestry Service ought to mail them a report card on their kids' social skills training.

Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins,

You are SO GROUNDED! You ran up our credit cards for no good reason. Tell your children it's a lousy idea to wander around alone at night but it's perfectly okay to ASK FOR HELP. We expect an apology - and make sure your room is clean before dinner.

Don't make me come up those stairs, you two,
Utah State Police


You're about to say, "They were just trying to protect him from stranger-danger." Don't freaking bother. Stranger abductions are so few and far between we should tell our kids about them when we discuss how there's no Tooth Fairy and in the same tones of voice. Try this:

You: Sweetie, don't get in a car with strangers and don't take candy from them, not even if they say I sent you. I'm glad you lost a tooth. Here's five bucks to get started on your My Little Orthodontia Kit, huh?"

No, strangers are there to rescue kids from their parents, school administrators and six-fingered cousins. I've mentioned this before and it'll come up again: we are in the grip of a mania called "Act Your Age While I Act Like a Big Baby." Adults are visiting their fears on kids to such a degree Brennan Hawkins avoided rescuers and children are tasered in school and five-year-olds get cuffed to radiators.

For Christ's sake, calm down. Your terrifying children beyond sense will not teach them to behave sensibly in an emergency. Get this picture soon. I don't know how much longer I can be the Voice of Reason before the tranquilizer dart wears off.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

There's Crazy And There's My Crazy

I hold the phone away from my head and stare at it like the person on the other end feels this and his ear bursts into flames. When I don't hear the distant wooosh! of combustion, and I can draw a breath, I try again. Apparently, I still do not possess super powers.

Tata: Did you just say I was normal?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Dining Room. The Outhouse.

Week One

Mamie is the belle of this Tuesday night ball. We've moved to our natural habitat: Doll's Place in New Brunswick, only Doll's has moved from its well-worn home on one side of French Street to the other and just beyond a train trestle. We spent many scandalous nights in the old Doll's. There are Polaroids. The new place is The dining room ceiling is too high. When Mamie and I arrive, a party of townies like us but in their fifties has pushed together a bunch of tables. They could not be less interested in anyone besides each other.

Eventually, Mamie and I sit across the table from Trout, Lala and Crease; Bob and Nita pull up a two-top. I can't hear a blessed word my friends - no blushing flowers - are shouting. We resort to referree-like use of giant gestures, which helps less than you might think from one end of the table to the other and of course, Bob's visually impaired and can't see us walk like Egyptians. Everyone wants the same low-down.

Crease: So what'd you do? And whom?
Tata: That's what I like about you: straight to bodily fluids.

Conversation at the other table is so loud this sounds like:

Crease: Aaaa, waaa ooo oo? Nnnn oo?
Tata: Ass wa I liii bou oo: straaaa oo oois.

I express my frustration in a series of unmistakable gestures. Another oppressive peal of laughter from the other table makes me stand to leave. Mamie claps a hand on my shoulder. I sit before she decides to shove me back into my chair. She bats her eyelashes at me.

Mamie: Why don't you tell them about Wisconsin?

I shout so loudly the sound of my voice should ricochet off the ceiling and disrupt any conversation at the other tables. With the increased volume comes license to make stuff up. The trick is to avoid spitting on each other.


The other party breaks up.

Week Two

Another Tuesday night at Doll's. We're alone with twelve of our closest friends, some of whom we've just met. After our mutual friends leave, it's Mamie, Crease, Lala, Trout, me and two very funny people who've never seen us outside of bars and galleries.

Tata: As outhouses go, it was relatively pleasant, but I was sure all along I'd have an XFiles moment there. I just knew. I waited for it. I was sure of it. And then it happened.
Mamie: WHAT are you TALKING about?
Tata: Remember the episode with the flukeman? He lived in the bilge tank on the freighter, then in the sewage treatment facility in Newark and the public outhouse.
Mamie: I don't remember that episode. Possibly in self-defense.
Tata: So one day I open the outhouse door and I see an unexpected swarm of flies in the high-tech outhouse. I'm standing there, holding the door open long enough that my friend Nick walks up and says, "So...ya goin' in?" And I say, "Nnnnnnnnnnnnnnooooo. No, I'm not."
Mamie: Didn't you have to go?
Tata: Evidently, not so much.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Primal, Animal, Portable

Margot's summer, inside and out:

I haven't been doing much work wise, but I did manage to rearrange my plants on the balcony where the napping pavillion was. It is complicated stuff and sometimes takes hours, because they like certain things...I repotted a sword fern, and rearranged everything so that it is private and cozy. Over the weekend I bought a 6x8 rug of astro turf for the front patio (no more splinters) the green color takes getting used to, but it's loads better than chaos!

I cannot recall if I told you about the hilarious meeting of bambis and Smoochie. That deer family was feeding in the back again and Smooch was interestedly watching, and worked her way closer and closer to the grass. By the time she got to the shrubs by the grass the deer were about 25 feet away. It was delicately taking a dump in the ivy, with its tail obscured in the leaves. Right then it noticed Smooch and bounded excitedly over to her. It was the young male, his antlers just starting to make bumps on his head (like those implants that were briefly de rigeur) and he bounced over to check her out, curious as perhaps a cat might be. At one point, he got too close, maybe 3 feet away, and Smooch jerked back, and he jumped back a tiny bit at the same moment, each unsure. It was pure Disney, until the young female came over to check things out and Smooch sauntered off, not wanting to appear outnumbered. She sat under a shrub and watched them from there. For my part, I snuck off to call Paul before I burst into laughter and scared everybody away.

This morning, I had one of those recurring dreams that makes me want to check myself into a bakery for gateau therapy. Over the winter, I saw a Discovery Channel program about archaeology in the caves near the Dead Sea. Excavations at one site were very interesting but to my horror, workers had to crawl on their bellies through a long fissure in the rocks. The thought of the first desperate people through these fissures and the horror of unsuccessful searches for caves scared me silly. Since then, I have this dream over and over, with little variations here and there.

I am crawling through this tiny split to get to a place I have to go every day. The hole twists and bends and sometimes goes straight up and though I am tiny and barely fit, somehow people of all sizes and shapes greet me at the other end of my journey, in a wide-open space. This morning's variation: one of my young co-workers carried me upward through the narrow caves. It is completely impossible. And now the path is so well-worn there are cheesy metal handles.

Margot sends me sun-drenched idylls and I am wedged into the cold and dark.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Volcanic Night Sky

We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We. We.

All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out. All in. All out.

You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You. You.

Face me.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Ripples Across the Gene Pool

Daria calls from that Sherman tank she drives, on her second return trip from the pediatrician in two days. Her children are squawking. Though Daria's voice cuts out often, the kids' complaints sound like they're beamed via satellite straight to my living room.

Daria: I now understand why there are songs about housewives taking drugs.
Tata: Boy, you are a slow learner!
Daria: The baby had an appointment for shots but Tyler had a fever and we were going to the pediatrician anyway. So the baby feels wretched and Tyler's got Fifth Disease.
Tata: Fists' Disease?
Daria: Fifth Disease. First. Second. Third. Fourth. Fifth.
Tata: You made that up!
Daria; So we've all been exposed to it and it's harmful to fetuses. We couldn't go to the reunion, which I've been looking forward to for months. And this morning, I found a spot on Sandro's back and back to the doctor we went. He's got Lyme Disease.
Tata: You're in Hell!
Daria: Specifically, a McDonald's drive-thru with my diseased children. It's medicinal. Don't say a word!

Far be it from me to advise. Since Miss Sasha was born a great deal seems to have changed in the sport of childrearing. For one thing, "parent" became a verb. Also: electricity was discovered and signals from the Law & Order planet are received on mysterious talking boxes in our living rooms. Miss Sasha and I became two separate monograms in Hartford, Connecticut - at that time, one of the three poorest cities in the country, where I lived with street kids, landscaping rent boys, and the very elderly during a recession nobody remembers anymore. The three days I was in Hartford Hospital were three days I had enough to eat. Until Miss Sasha was four and I got a state job, taking her to the pediatrician depended entirely on whether or not I had enough cash to pay the doctor. So when I'm standing in Daria's kitchen and she spills another nutty edict issued by the pediatrician, I'm always shocked that she listens.

Daria: Babies cannot sleep on their bellies.
Tata: What?
Daria: The pediatrician said. There's a special pillow. Babies have to sleep on their sides now.
Tata: You had to go shopping to comply with that rule, didn't you?
Daria: I had a coupon.


Daria: No raw fish during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Tata: What?
Daria: Mercury. No tuna, either.
Tata: Aren't millions of pregnant Asian women eating that every day? If they're lucky?


Tata: What...what are you doing?
Daria: I'm writing down everything the baby does.
Tata: At this age, they...don't do much, Dar...
Daria: Every sip, when she sleeps, diaper changes.
Tata: What if you had a job outside your home?
Daria: I'd have to quit.
Tata: Don't you have enough to do without obsessive record keeping?
Daria: The pediatrician said!


Daria: I wish I could have a glass of wine with you.
Tata: What? Why can't you have a glass of wine?
Daria: I'm PREGNANT.
Tata: European women drink wine during pregancy.
Daria: There's NO EXCUSE.

In my brain, the doctor looks like Russ Tamblyn in Twin Peaks. Too many rules! Half make life harder and the other half make life less sensible. I couldn't be this kind of parent. For one thing, I didn't have the attention span for a second pregnancy. For another, I'm more of a "Bring Mommy the scotch, darling," kind of parent. In fact, when Miss Sasha turned 21, Mamie and I sent her out for booze and porn.

After the divorce from the Fabulous Ex-Husband(tm), Miss Sasha spent Sundays with me and a then-internationally syndicated college radio comedy troupe. The comedians took an active interest in Miss Sasha. They quizzed her on geography. They taught her to roast a chicken. They explained vocabulary conundrums like what 'blow job' and 'turning Japanese' meant. She asked. They explained. I was grateful for the help. Their children should be grateful the comedians had an unspoiled little psyche to practice on.

Tata: So, what did you kids do while I was recording in the basement?
Mamie: I taught her to play cards for money and drink Zima.
Tata: That's practically vocational training!

I may be an annoying Mommy, but I will make the best Grandma.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Fiercely, Madly, False Mustache-y

This weekend, most of my relatives pile into SUVs and head to Moscow, Pennsylvania for a reunion of my stepfather's family. While I would love to compare Jell-O mold recipes with distant relations I usually only see at funerals, I'm staying put. Last night, I started throwing away stuff in anticipation of moving. That means I have to find a place to move to. This afternoon, I'll see a studio apartment in Highland Park. If it works out, I can stop grinding my teeth and my friends - to a fine sheen. I like my friends smooth and attentive. And smooth. Yes.

Horoscopically speaking, I've been keeping secrets from myself. How that is possible for a mental blabbermouth I do not know, but I decided to sit myself down and demand the truth.

Me: What is it you're not telling me?
Me: I can't tell you.
Me: You sound like half my Exes after visits to the Lower East Side.
Me: After an unnamed event I can't hint about that will change something you're not aware of I won't need to tell you anything and we can forget all about this non-moment.
Me: Will you tell me after it happens?
Me: Nope.
Me: Tell me!
Me: No!
Me: Tell me!
Me: No!
Me: So what is the purpose of telling me you won't tell me?
Me: Are you worried now?
Me: Yessirree, Bob!
Me: Were you worried before?
Me: Not...that I recall.
Me: I give you focus. Now, sit up straight and fret like you mean it! last night I started throwing things away. Who needs copies of CMJ from 1999 still in the mailing plastic? Who needs paystubs from 1996? Out they went! It got a little dicey when I found drafts of poems I didn't remember writing because the 1990s have disappeared from my memory. A bunch of crumpled up napkins I guessed I could keep. All the rest: out!

Tonight: maybe I'll get to the closet with my costumes and the old bottles of body paint. It's not like I'm going to slather myself with bronze goo and stand on a pedestal again in public anytime soon.

Not until your check clears, anyhow.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

On the Mental Jukebox

"I don't really miss God
but I sure miss Santa Claus."

Hole, Gutless

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

On Patience

People ask you for things all the time. You ask for things. These interactions form parts great and small of daily life. You may not even notice these sticky obligations.

Tata (on your answering machine): You have the idea you could have something more important to do besides call me back. That's so...misguided...

I am not a nice person. I am a good person - sometimes - and there is a big difference.

Tata: Are you going to ask out that girl who no longer works for you? The one who quit this morning and did everything but tell you where she'd be holding a menu at 7:30 tonight?
Shocked Co-Worker: I...I can't...I can't ask her out...
Tata: And that, my friends, is why God gave us email.
Shocked Co-Worker: What...what if...
Tata: She will absolutely do you. Pick up the check and she's yours. Bon Appetit!

Some people need a shove and my hands happen to be free; some people need patience. On my best days, I can be patient with small children, the elderly, the infirm and hapless local drunks. If a guy on the street tells me he needs $3.85 to get a train home and I have a buck, I'll give it to him - the first time. The second time, I lose patience when his imaginary plight fails to entertain me. He needs a new story! I need a new harrowing tale! It's selfish, and I don't care.

Recently, a friend asked me to be patient with a Difficult Situation(tm) while he worked out what to do. I'm just a bystander, here. I agreed to try keeping my trap shut on the subject for a while, which you might think would be as simple as hanging up the phone - except I obsess. So. I didn't say, "HAVE WE MET? I'm the least patient person you know without an assault conviction." I didn't say, "Tick tick tick time's up." There's nothing I can do about that Difficult Situation(tm), so I am trying to go about the business of preventing other Difficult Situations(tm) from compounding my worries.

1. I need a microscopic apartment I can afford LAST WEEK, ALREADY.
2. My driver's side door seems intent on bashing itself shut permanently. How can my mechanical nemesis despise itself through and through?
3. Do I need a land line anymore?
4. It's back to the Wonderful World of Multiple Jobs for me! How will I do it?
5. Audrey proposed a book of themed poems. The project appeals to me. Hmm.
6. Miss Sasha and the new Mr. Sasha moved to Pensacola last week. Perhaps I'll knit them a rowboat and a GPS transmitter.

Fortunately for me, there are only 24 hours every day I can be sick with fear. At least that hasn't changed. Developing patience is no fun but having it might be helpful. So. Can I keep my hands so busy I don't shove myself off a cliff?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Q: Boo! A: Eek!

The other night, I said, "I am a terrible judge of character." Six people rushed to assure me that yes, I was a fine judge of character! I wasn't fishing for compliments and wouldn't accept any on the subject.

Tata: No. Statement of fact: I am a terrible judge of character and you as my friends should suspect yourselves of having monstrous character flaws.
Friend 1: I'm a drug addict.
Friend 2: I watch the Travel Channel to disguise my xenophobia.
Friend 3: I teach second grade.
Tata: Arrest each other immediately!

Johnny and I met when I was 14. Though that's 98 in dog years, it's mighty young by human standards. His last wife hated my guts so this one will probably never meet me. This shouldn't be funny but it is:

They have roadrunners here. Actual live ones, running across the, as you would imagine, road. And tarantulas. And foxes. I think I already mentioned that they have coyotes.

Miss Sasha, not impressed with the season's first hurricane on Pensacola, sets in motion a linguistic storm of her own:

Soooo, how was ur trip? did it go great? what did you do in WI? Oh, by the way, the website I used for the wedding now has a new cite for newlyweds. I have been setting up my blog and new webpage the last couple of days...I will send you the link when I finish updating everything.

A newlywed blog? The April-freshest of fresh Hells! Yesterday, we had a mother-daughter discussion of hanging laundry outside and the perils of folding flying insects into one's sock drawers. I can't wait to read more about what my advice sounds like to Miss Sasha.

What I Might Actually Say:
Baking soda softens hard water but you should look into the condition of the pipes in your house or apartment. Salts corrode. Maybe. Or maybe plumbing disasters have all been a terrible coincidence. We should ask someone who knows.

What Miss Sasha Might Hear:
Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels.

We don't know! She could be listening! But we don't know! I'm a terrible judge of character.

Monday, June 13, 2005

In This Future, You Demonstrate Great Courage

Yesterday, I was standing in a friend's foyer discussing the current furor in the reality-based blogosphere. If you don't know what happened or is happening at this moment, it's not likely that linking to the participants' blogs will help. On Saturday, when the first shots were fired, I was at the bottom of a pile of refreshing beverages and cats with medical conditions and catching up has proven remarkably difficult. Mamie joins us in the foyer, takes one look at me.

Mamie: You're talking about Shakespeare's Sister?
Tata: Yeah, how'd you know?
Mamie: That's the expression your face gets everytime.
Tata: What? I have a look just for a person I've never met?
Mamie: At least she makes you think!

Life is short, unless you're in prison. A gal's got to pick her battles and fewer of them as age creeps up and metabolism slows. For instance: that I get to work in the morning is a daily miracle; there's no way I'd have the time or energy to pick a fight with a bigtime blogger and pin him to the mat. So I'm watching the fracas with the expression on my face that says, "Look at that girl go! She's gonna run out of stomach lining before she runs out of opponents." This is how I know I must be nearly old enough for a red New Yorker and the early bird special: the fire that drove me for decades has burned down to embers.

Plus, Vanessa Marcil is on the cover of Maxim. And I love Vanessa Marcil.

The initial fight was over an ad on a progressive website, and that degenerated into the bigtime blogger calling feminists tired, tired insulting names, dismissing the point, and backing up so, so close to dismissing women altogether. What I see here, and what the dozens of women participating in the story see is nothing new: many men, no matter what they say, want women to stop challenging them.

Personally - because that's where the political stream meets the ocean of day-to-day results - I have watched affection and interest disappear from the eyes of men who chased me when they realized that what they caught was just as smart as they were. Men who really liked me tried to keep me a secret from their friends because I wouldn't shut up. I have seen men who loved me lose their nerve and break things off, and I hate them for being such cowards because the only love worth having is brave love.

Personally, I have a band of female friends who say the exact same thing. We have a mantra: "Maybe this one is different. Maybe this one is brave." Over and over, we find that no matter what his politics, the new man is terrified of vivacious women with their own opinions and ideas (the utterly fearless Paulie Gonzalez being one exception.) The more single women I meet, the more often I hear this story.

Menfolk of the Left: women are watching you, and every. last. one. has heard some form of the old horseshit about spreading her legs for the Revolution. You are not slick. You have to take us seriously whether you like it or not. We simply will not behave for you. We will not be quiet. We will not go cook you something.

The best thing you could do is cultivate a shiny-new steel-reinforced spine where your smart female counterparts are concerned. Plenty of us are going on with lives without you because you've lost your nerve. Wouldn't it be better for everyone if you grew the hell up and we could go on together?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Dear God! Don't Try This At Home!

Warning: This true life adventure contains a lot of breasts! I mean lots of 'em! If this is a problem for you, please go directly to the phone book and pick a therapist for a long-term relationship.

You met my thirteen-year-old sister at the wedding. Her name - as far as you're concerned - is Dara. Dad's third wife - also as far as you're concerned - is Darla. Sister #1, sixteen months younger than me and preceeding those other two on the dirt path we call family life is named Daria - as far as you're concerned. While you're sick of being concerned, Dad, whose fault this is somehow, realized the error of his ways in the produce aisle of Kroger a few years ago.

Dad: This is my wife Darla. These are my daughters Daria and Dara. Oh my God.
ThreeDs: What?
Dad: That sounds like a set of plate-spinning Italian triplets.

Daria calls me at work.

Daria: Did the airline deliver your luggage?
Tata: Yup. My bedroom looks like it snowed clean laundry.
Daria: I need the bag back. I'm going to Aruba on Saturday.
Tata: With a brand new baby?
Daria: The boys are staying with their Long Island grandmother who currently has no air conditioning. Maybe I'll call and ask if she wants to stay at my house...
Tata: You're taking a brand new baby on an airplane?
Daria: Yes, I'm taking my brand new baby on an airplane. What are you getting at?
Tata: I just flew from Milwaukee to Newark two rows from a squawking troupe of Christian children who made me nearly homicidal with their chatter about how microbiology flew in the face of God's Creation.
Daria: Children?
Tata: Earnest teens.
Daria: Ooooooh.
Tata: Good thing your husband's a Marine.

Nine times out of ten, our conversations include whole rapid-fire sections of no words at all. This would be unintelligible to anyone with fewer than three Jersey sisters.

Tata: And then I read the words "I'm lying" across his forehead.
Daria: [full-body Jersey chick gasp, manicure at high air-flutter, if she were driving she'd be in a ditch.]
Tata: Shaaaaaaaaaa!
Daria: Uh ahhhhhhh.
Tata: Mmm hmmm!

In person, it's as if we read the Times Square news crawls across one another's foreheads. There is no possibility of lying or pretense. Thursday night, I drove over to her house and found our Mom's unique vehicle parked in front. Daria lets me in. Her hair is flying all over the place as she leads me upstairs to the master bedroom where, as I enter, nearly all Hell breaks loose. The new baby is crying her eyes out. Mom's changing the baby and changing her and changing her - Mom generally moves slowly and deliberately and thoroughly and though babies usually like that, this one's not having any of it. Daria's two boys are floating in the bathtub and squealing delightedly. Bathtime is their favorite. They are hooting like monkeys on two-for-one banana day. The TV's on. Daria's vast wardrobe fills a walk-in closet, covers her bed and spills from the expensive luggage on the floor. This room is so busy I walk laps around one side of the bed just to keep up.

Tata: Hey Mom! Show us the battleship!
Mom: What?
Tata: Your new tattoos! Show us the battleship!
Mom: Truly, you were raised by wolves...

Current radiation treatments involve tattooing little dots on the patient. I hadn't heard of this before yesterday, but now Mom and I finally have ink in common. Mom hands the in no way calming down and now irate baby to Daria, who stops running in tight circles, plunks down on her bed and hikes up her shirt. Apparently, the baby's hungry. The boys continue splashing each other and pretending to be invisible. Mom checks to see the boys can't see her and shrugs off her tank top to show me the dots. And then, my lecture begins. Look closely. You see me standing in front of a chalkboard in Daria's closet, whacking the chalkboard occasionally with my extended pointer.

Tata: Mom! That bra does NOT fit you.
Mom: It fits me! I want it to fit me!
Daria: I saw this on Oprah...
Tata: That bra does NOT fit you! Remember we used to go to the corsetier in East Millstone?
Mom: Yes...?
Tata: The back of your bra should be -
Daria: - Even with the front! That was on Oprah this week, too!
Tata: And while this is a nice design -
Mom: See? This is a good bra!
Tata: - it gives you four boobs, and that's two too many.
Daria: What are is she talking about? Turn around, Mom, lemme see.
Mom: Um...the boys...
Daria: You're right! The boys will never bring home -
Mom: - Girls. "I trace this back to the moment Grandma..."
Daria: I will never have grandchildren because my sons were emotionally scarred by three women in ill-fitting underwear. "I thought my sons' girlfriends were so nice. Turns out they were their long-term therapists."
Tata: Sometimes your weight redistributes. That happened to me recently after I stopped lifting weights and my ribcage narrowed.
Mom: Really? I've always worn either a 32 or 34 -

Mom and I freeze. Daria's pointing urgently down the hallway. Oh. My. God. Her husband's home and no one heard him shut the front door! The chalkboard disappears. I dart around Mom, grab her shirt, turn it right-side-out in one motion and put myself between her and the doorway.

Tata: You have the Stealth Husband? How is that possible? He's much too big!
Daria: He is in fact the Stealth Husband. See?

I turn the corner. There he is. I decide seven people in one bedroom is at least one too many. On my way out, I tell Daria I left a couple of recent issues of International Gymnast in the bag for her, should she miraculously have a minute to flip some pages. Daria likes that idea. we know that writing imaginary dialogue and talking to the narrator is a family trait.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Was It Something I Said?

Poor Impulse Control, this modest endeavor, this vibrant equivocator, is the kind of blog you read because I am engaging, and you haven't yet found a way to give me jewel-encrusted gifts. Let's face facts: I amuse you, and I'd be a bargain at twice the price despite the many moments I tick you off or leave messages on your cell that'd make sailors blush. Or perhaps because of them.

So. There we are: Me, me, me. It's all about me.

Thus, I have been surprised and perturbed to find myself staring at PIC's stats and noting that someone has added the 12.23.04 entry Pointy, Bitey, Sharp Sharp Sharp to their reading list. Several smart people I trust to tell me the absolute truth because they fear my ability to find cutlery anywhere have been unable to track down who's linked to this causerie. The strange, silent attention is creepy. I can't tell whether I should bake brownies or boobietrap my kitchen window - though anything involving boobies is bound to be fun, isn't it?

I've met me. In fact, most of the time I recognize me right away. Who're you?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Plum and Plumber

Hi, honey. I'm home!

My manicure's a wreck, my luggage returned from Luggage Hell, my inbox is stuffed with suggestions that my erections could be just like when I was twenty-one. If by that spammers mean those erections are someone else's they may be onto something. Where do I sign?

Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, cried the whole time I was gone - so says Paulie, who apartment-sat and cat-sat while I was camping in the Midwest. A three-year-old beagle decided she was my best friend. Cats, big busybodies, know all about who you've slept with, so Larry wouldn't speak to me last night. Today, he's much friendlier, having forgiven me for bedding down with with dogs even if I didn't get up with fleas.

The thing I wanted and needed was a week away from TV, phones and computers, not to mention blood relations waving guest lists or co-workers issuing demands as my employer takes away money it promised - but why should I be special in this Fuck You, I've Got Mine economy? There's only so much a person can do for simple peace of mind when the mind in question is in endless pieces.

Where's the express line for a new life?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Shoe the Children

A few years ago I went to Pennsic War with ten thousand of my closest friends. We all walked around in silly costumes for a week or two, doing silly things and eating starchy foods. As vacations go, it was what I could afford - provided I never got arrested for annoying the locals while wearing a clown suit. This went on for a few years in a row while I was in a deep, dark depression. With Medieval clowns.

So one sunny afternoon, my visually impaired friend says he has no idea what's going on outside of our campsite, what the craftspeople are doing and what's going on at all.

Tata: You haven't seen any of this?
Bob: Nope.
Tata: Let's fix that right now.

For the next few days, we crawled all over every inch of fake battlefield, fake castles, portable churches, merchants and their merchandise. The guy selling knives looked particularly nervous when Bob wanted to "see" his wares.

Tata: Hey! Knives!
Bob: Cool!
Tata: Here! Catch!

Okay, we didn't actually play catch, but the knife guy spent one sweaty half hour handing some really beautiful knives to Bob so carefully you would've thought Bob was made of boiled ham and we were standing on a field of provolone. Sort of. Later that night, we had a different kind of cheesy excitement.

Tata: Yeah, I was walking back from my tent and I found this lying in the grass.
Bob: What is it?
Tata: I dunno. Free-range lawn gouda?

Our adventures in examining every little thing included fabrics, garments, kites, footware, jewelry, furniture and food made in most cases by hobbyists of tremendous skill, passion and with much too much time on their hands. Most of the merchants really enjoyed the attention we paid to the detailed work. When clothing caught my eye or seemed like it would be interesting to touch, I stopped people and asked if Bob could feel something. Though most people were initially skeptical, every person explained something about stitching or the origin of the fabric, or what court established what tradition. Touching everything was breathtaking good fun. People take this Medieval recreation business so seriously that when I accosted a man with interesting headgear while he was eating lunch I felt a gasp sweep through the circus tent. Ah, screw 'em.

Tata: Can my friend - my friend is nearly blind - can he see your - would you show him that -
King: My crown?
Tata: Yeah yeah. It's very handsome!

He stopped eating, took off his crown and placed it in Bob's hands. I narrated until the king got the idea and described the engraved scenes as the seasons in his kingdom. It was a brilliant bit of equal opportunity mischief. We thanked him and ran back to our camp, where a dozen or so friends listened aghast.

Bob: Then she ran over to this guy and said, "Can my friend - can he see your - would you show him your crown?"
Crowd: Oh my god, you're supposed to leave the tin hats alone! When you see them get out of the way! Don't talk to them!
Tata: Fuck that! He took off his hat and explained the whole thing to Bob!
Crowd: NO!
Bob and Tata: Yes!

If we'd had a dog we would have been dangerous.

These few days of searching intently and joyously for the most fascinating bits of life served as a turning point in my depression. I remembered that I was - before - interested in absolutely everything, and I'd forgotten that, and forgotten what I was like. When I got home, I took out my sketchbook and filled page after page with things I now remembered about myself. No, I am not the same person I was before I fell down the well in 1996; neither am I that dead thing wandering around with my face. This is why we take vacations and get out of our routines and environments.

Tomorrow morning, I'm leaving for vacation. Paulie will take care of Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, and the tiny apartment because when I have a breakup it's not like anyone else's. Unless it is. Anyway, after a year and a half of Miss Sasha's wedding stress, I can't wait to be out in the woods, reading my email by the campfire and avoiding bears on the way to the fur-lined outhouse. I'm due a satori or two and clown suit or no, I'm in a table-turning mood, possibly on myself.

Hopefully, on myself.