Kibble and Bits

That I am here at my desk pecking away on my nearly naked keyboard instead of being in a holding cell awaiting indictment and a bail hearing is down to having 40 years in the service industry. My conditioning is so deep it’s a little dismaying.

It’s 15 minutes from the end of my shift. A hella busy shift in an understaffed department  (5 people called out!) on a day I don’t usually work and I am raggedly from the extra hours and effort. I need to pee, I haven’t had time to take my break, I’m sweaty and hungry and my work trousers have given way between the legs and are chewing my inner thighs to bits. The sales floor is crowded and clogged and I’m doing my best to thread through the throng and get back to the department with the last few things of a monstrous order so I can bag and tag ’em and finally be on my way home.

SMACK!

My butt is clipped by a cart pushed by a woman who’d come barreling out of an aisle. I jerk upright and thankfully am not really hurt. (She’d struck my right and not my ouchie left side.) I look out the corner of my eye to see who/what hit me and she snarls, “Don’t you roll your eyes at me, bitch!”

What???

My conditioning kicked in and I just kept going. I did not stop. I did not speak. Such is the beat-down of working for tips and commissions your whole life. You NEVER lip off to a customer. Even when they deserve it.

Fortunately the department was empty of customers when I got back and I was able to vent with my coworkers. I was hugged. Commiserated with. Congratulated on my restraint but acknowledged how sucktastick it is to be obligated to such a standard. That woman struck me with her cart because she was heedless and selfish, she then had the audacity to chide and insult me instead of offering an apology as any decent person would and I was supposed to take it if I want to keep my job.

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How has it come to this? Or rather, how is this still allowed to go on? I am not so arrogant and ignorant as to equate the standard for my job to slavery. ShopRite doesn’t wholly own me. I am free to quit and leave. My employer cannot trade me like livestock. Nor rape me nor do any of the thousands of other outrages and indignities the slaveholders did to their human chattel. But the line isn’t as far as we like to think it is or as it should be here in the sci-fi world of 2018.

I can be physically abused.

I can be sworn at.

I can be insulted.

I can be accused of incompetence, rudeness, whatever, and be made to suffer financially with pay docking, suspended work hours, and outright firing without any proof beyond a customer’s say-so.

Plus my employer chooses my attire. Gets to say how I decorate my body be it jewelry or tattoos. They tell me what color I can wear my hair.

And yes, I belong to a union. It would be even worse if I didn’t. Way worse. Been there, suffered that. At least my union assures me of holiday pay and quarterly raises and is there with legal assistance and disaster insurance. Besides, ShopRite is damn decent compared to a lot of other retailers. I’m not singling them out so much as I’m calling out the entire retail system.

And most especially this repellent idea that ‘The customer is always right!’.

Bullshit.

I’ve spoken about this often enough for you guys to know I give and appreciate GREAT customer service. But the customer is NOT always right. Sometimes the customer is a selfish git, a self-absorbed asshole, an overly entitled jerkwad, and being told their behavior is unacceptable is exactly what they need to hear.

 

I know I’m in danger of being Dooced but today I don’t care.

 

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That woman physically assaulted me. She used foul language to berate me. And while I did report it to the manager on duty I have ZERO assurance or protection, even if my union goes to bat for me.

It’s a scary shaky thing to work in a service industry these days.

Be kind, won’t you? The consequence is far bigger than you think.

 

Much love, ~LA

 

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Meme Theory

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If the point of a meme is to simply run a list of questions and answer with ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘?’, ‘who cares?’, and ‘I don’t know’ then I’ve read a ton of successful memes. Frankly I think answers like that are lazy, boring, and arrogant. If you can’t be bothered to reach inside and find the story, a thoughtful response, or at the very least an amusing snappy comeback then why bother doing a meme at all? I have more respect than that. Respect for my friends who ask…and for those who read my answers. If I want someone to yawn in my face, roll their eyes, and make it clear how unimportant I am then I’ll chat up my ex-husband.

Today I am cherry-picking a meme set out by the amazing Hil. Who, btw, was one of the guiding stars recently at a women’s retreat where I had a wonderful time. The actual event was lively and fun, set at a gorgeous garden/artists’ colony/workshop/teaching space where even the rain couldn’t put a damper (ha!) on the day. Add to it puppies, convos which were in turn emotional, enlightening, and hilarious, getting to stay at Hil’s comfy arty home, and a roadtrip with Benna (Hil’s mom and a total pip), plus meeting the other women at the retreat, getting to hang with Sequoia and Bob, and having brunch at a diner in the Skook (not bad, btw) it was a fab weekend from beginning to end. I look forward to next quarter’s retreat sometime in the late autumn.

Now meme ahoy!

Favorite smell – Not an original question and impossible to answer definitively anyhow. I mean, how can you say the scent of baking bread is better than a baby’s head or the ocean? Right? So I will spool out a composite favorite smell, one that’s pretty much gone these days – the Orange County Fair. Before they paved the midways the predominant smell was mud. It always down-poured a few times during fair week. Cork-soled wedgies, high wooden clogs, and platform sandals were both fashionable and practical when navigating the sloppy glop of the county fairgrounds. Wet earth was a biggie but by no means the only smell of the fair. Sausage and peppers and big piles of caramelizing onions on a searing hot flattop griddle, deep-fried zeppole, beer, popcorn, even cotton candy gave off a sweetish aroma. Then add the dirty travel-stained canvas, axle grease, motor oil, diesel fumes, and hot rubber of the rides, and the not-so-subtle body odor and bad breath from the ride jockeys who either took and tore your tickets with utter indifference or leered with discomfiting eyes out of their acne splattered, patchy whiskered faces. Animal smells – comforting homey ones like cows and freshly bathed pigs from the 4-H barns and the sharper more exotic ones of monkeys and giraffes. All the vendor stalls added their bit too. Leather, brass, charred wood from the wood burning guy who made signs. Random things like pickle brine and woolen sweaters. All of it together is/was unmistakable. Blindfold me and stopper my ears and somehow transport me back to 1978, drop me into the middle of the fairgrounds and I’d know where I was instantly. One good sniff would be all it took.

Pet peeve – I live with a picky-pants. My guy has an opinion about everyone and 99.94% of the time it’s negative. Everyone and everything they do is WRONG. How they dress, drive, raise their kids, decorate their homes, mow their lawns, etc, etc, etc. Living with Mick the Mega-Critic has forced me to look at my own peeves and really figure out the ones that matter to me and those that were simply habit.

Peeve #1 – People who stoop and drive their shopping carts with their elbows.

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I know this is mostly down to my job, but I didn’t like it even before I became a professional grocery shopper. People who drive their carts like this are SLOW. They wobble down the center of the aisle leaving no room to safely pass on either side. It’s inconsiderate. It looks lazy as hell and it’s depressing to witness. If your life is so bad you cannot remain upright to pilot a grocery cart perhaps you should be seeking medical or psychological help instead of aimlessly slopping along clogging up the traffic at the supermarket.

Peeve #2 – Seat sprinklers. Your neurosis insists you hover over a public toilet like some kind of weird pee drone, fine. I refuse to argue with you hysterical germaphobes anymore. But for God’s sake WIPE UP AFTER YOURSELF! You whine about how messy and gross public toilets are, yet you are the ones making and leaving the mess! Be big girls and take a wad of toilet paper and wipe the seat you just sprayed with your neurotic urine. Throw the paper into the bowl, grab more paper and push the flush with your hand and stop using your goddamn feet. Drop the flush paper into the trash, wash your precious paws, and begone. Stop leaving your piss all over the toilet! You made it, you clean it! Simple. Easy. It’s polite and I promise you won’t die.

That’s about it for peeves.

Tattoos – As you know if you’ve read back a couple entries, I got my first (and only) tattoo not very long ago. I can understand the desire to cover one’s skin with designs. Whether it’s art or markers along your life’s path or just a whim, I get it. But I still struggle. I got my tattoo for a very personal reason that had nothing to do with art or being thought cool. Yet some wee part of me is ashamed and embarrassed. I feel a little trashy to be honest. I come from a time and place where nice people didn’t get tattoos. Maybe your grandpa had one from his time in the Navy, but like Steve Martin says in ‘Roxanne’, “I, uh, notice you don’t have any tattoos. I think that’s a wise choice. I don’t think Jackie Onassis would’ve gone as far if she’d had an anchor on her arm.” And yet bold as brass about an inch long in the New Times’ Roman font I have a semi-colon permanently etched into the inside of my left wrist and I still can’t be casual about sporting ink. I’m leaving it to my id and my super ego to hash out though. Meanwhile I take comfort in my tat’s message. A reminder that I am stronger than my messed up brain chemistry. It gets really, really rough sometimes, but my ink reassures me I am made of sterner stuff than I believe at the moment. So. Trashy or not my marking serves its purpose.

Favorite Holiday – I could be snotty here and use ‘holiday’ in the British way meaning ‘vacation’. But I won’t. I’m not going to name an official religious or government sanctioned day of whoopee either. What I like is the idea of shared celebration. Pride Month. Arbor Day. Banned Book Week. Juneteenth. Pi Day. I adore the joy of these. And before anyone gets biggety I love the official ones too. Even the ‘Hallmark Holidays’ like Valentine’s Day. The older I get the more I appreciate happiness. If ‘Doughnut Day’ or ‘Adopt a Narwhal Week’ gives you a giggle or feels like permission to do a good thing then I’m so there. I know I’ve felt this way for a long time. Well before I articulated it to myself and made the conscious choice to open myself to the happy I never saw it as disrespectful or cultural appropriation when my atheist children opened presents under the Christmas tree and spun dreidel during Hanukkah. I always taught them where the traditions came from and what they meant. Not every holiday or celebration might be ‘ours’ but we could certainly pay attention and offer good wishes, and when invited join in.

And that’s where I’ll stop tonight. My darling mannie is making me tea and a toasted bagel as I peck this out. Thanks for reading. Play along as you wish.

 

Love you always, ~LA

 

Dog Days

So, more inspo from ‘Sunday Stealing’. However, I need to vent about summer first.

I hate it. I hate summer even in the depths of winter when the sun’s been AWOL for 9 weeks straight and the roads are a salty gritty mess and parking lots are pockmarked with ginormous puddles of filthy slush and my nose is leakier than Julian Assange. Summer is the worst. I detest being sweaty. The prickly heat beneath my boobs has gone from ‘prickly’ to downright ‘pissed-the-hell-off’. I thought when I stopped menstruating I was finished with blood-stained undergarments. HA! Tell that to my bras and panties. Thanks to the raw meat of my under-boob zone and my chafed inner thighs my lingerie looks like a crime scene. But my physical discomfort is nothing compared to the mental anguish and emotional scarring from the daily assault by…

MAN FEET.

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Look, I try to be fair. I’m a feminist. I truly believe men should be allowed to decorate and paint themselves with the same verve and sparkle that women do. One of my work pals, Nicky, is gender-fluid and despite the receding hairline and facial hair s/he wears nail polish and make-up and away from work favors capris and flouncy smock tops, and I’m down with it. But for the love of all that is pure and holy…men need to put their goddamn feet away! No more flip-flops. No more shower shoes. No more Jesus sandals. Just stop already.

Thank you.

 

 First thing you wash in the shower? My hair. I am a top down shower-er. Along with this seeming the most efficient, when my hair was long I would wash it then leave it packed on top of my head with conditioner while I tended to the rest of my ablutions. My extremely bleached Barbie coif needed TONS of conditioner. My mother once asked me if I washed my hands in the shower, you know, separately as I did my tushie or my feet. I know I gave her my most scornful “How can you BE so dumb?” look and answered with a withering, “I use my hands to wash everything else, duh, they get clean on their own.” Over the years that question has popped into my head again and I ponder what kind of situation would necessitate actual hand-washing during a shower. No answer yet. Do you guys wash your hands in the shower?

Do you plan outfits? I do. A lot of factoring goes into it too. Weather, obviously. Appropriateness to the occasion. Whether I need pockets. Comfort. But sometimes what I need to say with my attire is paramount. “Hello. I will be fabulous at this job!” “I’m doing really well, thanks. How are you?” Once in a while my outfit is a subtle “Fuck you.” For instance a summer gathering at SIL’s. She and her friends are VERY sporty. Golf and tennis all day, boozing all night. SIL and crew all wear tankini tops and skorts over their leathery tanned hard bodies. And I keep my pale fluffy self cool with a floaty gauze dress and shaded with a ginormous straw sunhat.

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I’ve gotten enough ‘tude from that crowd to want to give a little back. Whether they get the thumbed nose at their insular Mean Girl country club gang or not I know it’s there.

 Is there a time of day when you are more likely to buy food already prepared? At the end of my shift, especially if I have to shop when it’s the end of the work week too. I’ve already done dozens of other people’s grocery shopping for days and days and I’m fried. I will totally hit the sushi bar, grab a rotisserie chicken or two, some wraps for Mick’s lunches at the deli, and even pre-chopped veggies from produce if I’m really weary. Plus when I buy a pork or beef tenderloin now I always have the butchers cut it for me. I used to do it at home – peeling off the silver skin and measuring, marking, and cutting all the chops, steaks, and roasts, then wrapping it all in separate meal bundles. Not anymore! I flop that thing onto the window shelf at the butchery, smile nicely and say, “Five and five 1/2″ chops, please, with a 2 lb wide end roast, and the rest slivered for stir-fry. Thanks, Jack!” (Or Charlie or Frank) I am still hella thrifty, but I’ve learned my time and energy have value too. Spend in one way and save in another.

This isn’t a meme question exactly- the other day Mick and I were on the front porch just hanging around. After a lengthy quiet he asked, “Whatcha thinking about, Baby?” And I said, “You know those time travel questions? Like ‘If you could kill Hitler?’ or ‘Stop JFK’s assassination?'” “Of course.” “Well, I was thinking about lunch counters during the Civil Rights Era. What if during the lunch counter sit-ins I was the waitress? What if I just smiled, flipped open my order pad, and said, ‘What can I get you folks?’ Nicely. Would that have changed anything?”

Mick actually flinched. “Baby! You’d have been killed! At the very least drug outside and beaten and arrested!” (Even hypothetical scenarios where I might get hurt distress him.) To which I told Mick that it didn’t matter. What mattered was introducing normalcy to a screwed-up situation. “Look, somebody had to rent an apartment to that first interracial couple. Somebody had to agree to officiate the first same-sex wedding. What if I could go back and be the somebody who took a lunch order at Woolworth’s? How cool would that be?”

So my question to you, besides the hand washing thing, is: If you could set something in motion or establish a precedent or invent a thing that just might make a difference now what would it be? 

Answer here or at your own blog or on FB or go do it right now and keep tabs on the results and let me know later, it’s all fine.

 

In the meantime know that I love you lots even when I’m very sweaty and cranky, ~LA

I Need Sleep

It’s just getting light. Had a rough night but also had gone to bed early. I’m still physically pooped but am mentally perky. Perfect conditions for blogging. Especially meme-ish blogging. I’m poking around ‘Sunday Stealing’ for inspiration because y’all know I give good meme.

What do you think of when you think of Australia? Ooo, good one. I think of dust, heat, kangaroos (of course), and cheerfully upbeat outdoorsy people who believe being bitten by sharks is just part of the whole surfing experience.

Birthstone? I’m a January baby so my birthstone is garnet. No quibbles with it, garnet suits me fine. Pretty, not especially rare, looks great when cut to facets. Garnet jewelry rarely requires vaults or insurance, yet it’s sparkly and a rich color. Nice.

Favorite pair of shoes you wear all the time? The shoes I wear most often are my work shoes. Work sneakers, actually. I have three pair and rotate them day by day to take advantage of each pair’s particular comfort and support. A typical pair of work sneaks lasts about a year, roughly equivalent to 1,200 miles. Funny to think that if I walked in a straight line for a year at my work I’d be somewhere west of Des Moines, Iowa.

When is the last time you went to the mall? Two weeks ago. Except for movie theaters malls have pretty much dropped off the destination list. Twice a year I go to the gigantic ugly mall to buy bras at the Cacique store and have conveyor belt sushi. This last trip was to the Poughkeepsie Galleria, Mick needed something from Dick’s sporting goods. We were across the river for other things and the Po’town mall was the handiest.

Do you wash your car or let the car wash do it? I was 5 (?) and my mother’s mother (aka: my Chanel Grandmother) was with us in Mom’s VW Beetle. Why we went through the car wash right then I do not know, but do remember my grandmother’s horrified delight with the experience. Most especially the spinning mop things that she called ‘Hairy Mollies’. The four of us – Mom, Grandmother, Gidget, and me, we all shrieked and laughed as the foam jets and swishing cloths and hairy mollies buffeted the Bug. A singularly happy memory. I’ve had a wonderful time at the car wash ever since. My fabulous high school boyfriend Richard used to take me to the drive-through car wash when I was blue. Nowadays Mick does the same. The start of most of our dinner dates begins with a trip through the local ‘hairy molly’ car wash. That I get such pleasure and joy from something so ordinary makes Mick’s heart melt. Truly, I’m not being adorable, I just take my joy where I find it. Car washes make me happy.

Five ways to win your heart- First and foremost: Be Kind. This is NOT about false equivalence and giving air time to hateful stupidity. It’s about recognizing that everyone has low moments. Everybody screws up. The person who cut in front of you might be a dick. Or maybe they’re hurrying to pick up their kid from daycare and trying to avoid a late charge for the third time this week. A late charge they can ill afford but their asshole manager, Skippy, insisted they do the ENTIRE monthly inventory checklist TODAY even though it’s not due until next Thursday. Will it matter if I get home 43 seconds earlier? No. So shut up and give everyone some grace space.

The second way to win my heart is to Find the Good Thing. Ma from the ‘Little House’ books always encouraged her daughters to believe – ‘There’s no great loss without some good gain.’ Yeah, it’s another way of making lemonade from Life’s lemons. It’s also true.

Be Funny. One of the young men I work with is quietly hilarious. Erudite. Patient. Sly. He convinced his entire World Studies class there was a Kwanzaa dance. A special celebratory dance which could not be performed (thus learned) except during Kwanzaa. I died. ‘Kwanzaa dance’ became a thing with us. I got him this week by asking in my most serious voice if he minded if I showed the Kwanzaa dance to the witch-woman retreat I was attending next week. It took a beat and then we both howled.

Be Curious. Knowledge is sexy. Asking questions is good. Respectful questions are arousing. Do NOT assume your version is the only way to be. Listen with your ears open.

Accept others’ truth. Most of my family is brown. Brown enough by American standards to be suspect. Suspect of what? Oh, anything. Crime. Terrorism. Being ‘different’. This pink skinned, acceptably fine light brown haired, Western standard beauty is from a family of brown people. Folk who don’t make the grade.

I get both. I understand the pass I got. The pass I continue to get as I go about my daily biz. But I also understand that not everybody in my family got the same advantage.

Have you met anyone famous? I go to a fan con once or twice a year. At Chiller I’ve gotten to meet dozens of celebs. All made my fan girl heart happy. I do not mind that I’ve paid for the privilege. Bopping around NYC I’ve seen several famous folk too. I did not bother them. Why? Because at the time they were being their private selves. At the cons celebs have willingly signed up to meet and greet fans. Even though we pay for pics and autographs it’s all good to gush and ask stupid questions. Should I have barged in on Sigourney Weaver while she was teaching her daughter Charlotte how to ride a two-wheeler in Central Park? Or interrupt Armand Assante picking up his dry cleaning here in town? (He lives down the road.) I figure if a celeb is appearing at a meet and greet they are on the job and it’s allowed to be respectfully gushy. However even famous people are allowed to be off the clock and go about their day free from hassle.

Do you use cook books or do you try to find recipes online? I do not. I have checked online sources for reassurance when trying something new, but 98% of my cooking is either known through experience or an educated guess. I season with my nose. Cooking times and temps are based on previous trial and error. Dessert recipes and their exactitude are the primary reason I don’t bake much. Baking is a science. Cooking is an art. One is not superior to the other, it’s a matter of style and temperament. I’m a fly by the seat of my pants cook. I do understand the underlying chemistry and physics of how to prepare my dish, but always leave room for improv and chef’s choice when it comes to seasoning and serving.

I push you into a room and lock the door. I leave you there for 6 hours. The walls are chalkboards and in the middle of the room there is a box of colored chalk. What will be written/drawn on the walls when I let you out?  

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This is my go-to doodle. There’d be other things. Triangles. 3-D boxes. Perhaps a self-portrait or two. Sailboats. Volcanoes. But mostly this flower. A five petal daisy-ish bloom.

 What is the best thing about a Barbie doll? I’ve spoken about this before but it bears repeating…Barbie is a toy. Toys are imagination in 3-D. My Barbie did a lot of stuff. She zip-lined down from our 2nd storey back deck. She surfed, swam, went off high dives, dug for treasure, drove a Porsche, dated, learned kung-fu, and disco danced. My Barbie was a spy, dilettante, adventurer, fashion model, and served as stand-in for all the other stuff I couldn’t do because of my age and circumstance. That Barbie was supposed to be this self-esteem quashing uber-feme is absurd. I never expected my dolls to look or act like me. I never considered suicide because I didn’t have yarn corkscrew hair and a candy heart like Raggedy Ann. Why would Barbie’s physical self be any angsty-er? Sheesh.

Enough questions for now.

 

Much love from an utterly exhausted~LA

 

 

 

I Make a Choice

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Anthony Bourdain’s suicide broke me. Aside from pricey purses I didn’t know anything about Kate Spade. But Tony? Him I knew. Lots of people feel connections with celebrities and they’re not wrong to idolize and admire and all that. But to me Tony Bourdain was a guy I went to high school with who’d made it big. The accent. The lefty politics. The smart-ass cynic with a squishy generous heart. The self-destructive impulses. And the belief that no matter how talented you are and how hard you’ve worked and how much you give back that you’re just some shmoe who got wildly lucky and truly didn’t really deserve any of it.

It scared me and it hurt me that the last descriptor finally won.

Worse than that…it made me jealous.

Yeah, I was ill with envy that Tony Bourdain killed himself. Bitterly resentful that he’d had the chops to just fucking end it already. Enough with the being grateful. And the pep talks. And the boot-strapping. And the endless, endless dealing with pain. And finding ever more permissible and palatable ways to self-medicate. He spoke often about his training in Brazilian jiu jitzu and how amused he was to be out at dawn waiting for the dojo to open when he used to be out at that hour waiting to score heroin, but that his need for a fix of something was as persistent as ever. Boy howdy, did I understand that.

Mostly though Bourdain’s exit was One Thing Too Many and I couldn’t manage anymore. Too weary of the hideous onslaught of ugliness and evil. It’s everywhere! It’s all connected too. Take romaine lettuce. Because of my job I couldn’t ignore this most recent outbreak of e coli. Why does lettuce carry plague? Well because the EPA is gutted. And profits reign over safety. And, wow, here we are back at the GOP and the 1% and environmental catastrophe. And who picks the lettuce? Migrant workers, most of whom are here illegally. And the heart sorrow of what’s happening to asylum seekers (whose asking for entry is NOT a crime) and even those who do jump the border, they are still people trying for a better life and isn’t that what this country is for?

So I clock out and trudge out to my car passing any number of vehicles emblazoned with hateful messages – Confederate flag license plates, Trump stickers, argle-bargle about ‘Keeping Christ in Christmas’ and the even holier 2nd amendment. And come home to my ageing incontinent dog who’s even deafer than I am. Poor Princess has to be crated while we’re at work, something I swore I’d never do to a pet, but I can’t let her crap all over the house either.

Home, even without dog crap, isn’t any better.

My baby turned 21. I know I did a pretty good job because Sebastian doesn’t need me anymore. That’s the problem. I’ve been momming so long I don’t know what to do now. The freedom I longed for isn’t anything like I imagined it would be. Once the dog goes I’ll really be at loose ends. There’s always Mick, of course, but we strive to be partners. I had enough of being my husband’s Mommy in my previous marriage.

Worst of all is my body. The pain from my kidney is fierce. There’s no escape. I am exhausted. Nobody should have to battle on this many fronts. A lifelong struggle with Depression. A body that is just a misery to live in. A dying dog. A grown-up child. A disappointing ‘career’ that beats the crap out of me and leaves me depleted and bruised. The world is on fire and it feels like this has come to pass.

I am saying here that the last month has been the blackest, most difficult of my life. All I wanted was OUT. I struggled and floundered and damn near drowned.

No miracle happened. No epiphany. No hosanna. I am still heart-scalded. Still weary to my bone marrow. But I made a choice. And to make certain I am right in my choosing I did a thing.

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Yes, that is a tattoo. LA the Inkless is gone. If you don’t know the meaning of the semicolon tattoo you can look it up HERE

Horrified, sad, angry, envious, exhausted, I’ve made the choice to continue my story. Not looking for praise, I’m just telling my tale because you guys are my friends and deserve the truth. It’s really fucking hard sometimes and maybe hearing that someone else gets it might help.

 

Much love as always, ~LA

 

“It’s a twister! It’s a twister!”

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You heard that in Bert Lahr’s voice, of course. If you didn’t…

 

Tornadoes! In the Hudson Valley! If you are still doubting the reality of climate change  – its rapidity and just how strange and scary the weather has become, ugh, you begone as well. Two (!) tornadoes touched down less than 5 miles from my house last week. The storm hit while I was on my way home from work. I made my driveway, tried to park clear of the thrashing bending trees and wildly wiggling power lines, and waited out the deluge in the Rogue with the engine running. No point trying to get to the house – the power was already out and there was too much debris flying around.

This is a bit craven, but one of the things I’ve always loved most about where I live was its freedom from outrageous natural disasters. Aside from the (very occasional) destructive blizzard we were safe from the things that plagued other parts of the country. “We are the Hudson Valley. No mudslides, no earthquakes, no wildfires, no lava eruptions, no desiccating droughts. And absolutely NO tornadoes.” From our snug berth we watched the news and wondered at folk who lived places where their homes were routinely ripped off their foundations by winds and were drowned in floods and disappeared into sinkholes. Now? Now we are no longer immune. Sigh.

We were without power for two days. Mick HATED it. He’s a city boy at heart and when the taps don’t flow and the lights don’t glow it unnerves him. It’s a control thing, my guy doesn’t like being reminded he’s not in charge of every bit of his life.

I honestly didn’t mind too much. There was enough jugged water to flush with and I could wash myself. Over the years we’ve amassed quite the assortment of battery-powered lights so in the evenings I settled on the front porch with a lantern and read. When Joe Barky wasn’t running his dopey generator the quiet was astonishing, and with my lantern off the darkness was absolute. I got a glimmer of why some people like to go camping. Not so much that I want to grab a tent and head out, but camping in my house wasn’t too bad.

By Friday morning life was mostly back in its groove. I went off to work showered and fed. Just by chance I pulled even with a crew truck from Central Hudson at the light by the Hess station. I motioned for the driver to roll his window down. “Hi! Thanks for getting my power back on!” He beamed. “Sorry it took so long!” I waved him off. “You guys are doing great! Thanks again!” I rolled away as the crew in the truck waved and gave thumb’s up. I don’t believe in stinting praise. Real praise, not that hideous “You breathed in AND out! Great job, Jaxon!” crap they dish at kids. The work crews aren’t responsible for the shakiness of our grid nor do they create the weather. Some thanks are in order to the ones out there busting their buns getting things going again.

You know how people feel about veterans nowadays? Grateful and anxious to acknowledge their service? I’m feeling like that about everybody lately. If there’s vanity mixed in like, “Ooo, look at what a terrific person I am!” I believe it’s small. Mostly it’s about paying it forward. And the Golden Rule. I can’t do much. Can’t afford my own congressman, and anyway I am sick of divisiveness of every sort. I used to march, and even got hauled to the pokey a half dozen times. All the noisy contentious methods and petitions and boycotts – been there, too tired to do that anymore. So praise it is. This I can do. I understand compliments wig some people out, but I can’t worry about it. If a sincere bit of appreciation is a problem perhaps you should work on that. In the meantime I’ll be over here doing my wee bit to push back the ugly.

To sustain myself (and emotionally soothe against the constant sorrow and outrage) my media consumption has been curated for maximum happy distraction. The Royal Wedding! Even more David Attenborough! Maeve Binchy! ‘Shrek’! ‘Gwendy’s Button Box’! Heather Blake’s ‘Wishcraft’ cozies! ‘The Special Needs Hotel’! *, ‘Class Swap’!’ *, inane but adorable Hallmark channel movies *, cooking shows in eight different languages *, plus the current repeat read rotation: ‘The Cheerleader’ by Ruth Doan MacDougall, ‘Heidi’ by Johanna Spyri (Magnum Easy-Eye edition), and as always a Stephen King.

* –  Amazon Prime.

I’m flinching because next up on the ‘new’ pile is an Anna Quindlen. A beautiful storyteller, for certain. Oh, but her stories bite! Hard. Emotionally, I mean. She’s not a sob sister and yet I get knocked sideways and cry at least once (usually more) when I read her novels. Anna Quindlen’s fiction is picked at sometimes – belittled because her settings and characters are most often in the affluent nicey-white burbs of NY or Boston. I object! In Anna Quindlen’s world privilege is no insulation from violence, tragedy, stupidity, or heartbreak. Maybe I’m not woke enough but I’ve never found her characters expecting extra patting or sympathy because they were too WASP-y to deserve tough times.

Then again I am also partial to Nancy Meyers’ movies. I watch and think, “Maybe right now I don’t have spotless beige linen furniture…but I could.”

beige sofe

Speaking of living spaces, I’ve been sleeping on the front porch. I love it out there. There’s an old but still springy and comfy twin mattress and box spring that we pretend is a daybed, and screened windows and an efficient ceiling fan. I crashed there the first time because of the power outage. My room was an airless sauna without the a/c and on the porch it was cool and breezy. I had a really good sleep that night and have been there since.

Living on the porch (mostly, I’m here in my office now) has added real-life experience to my tiny house daydreams. I know I could do it now. Before using the porch my tiny house living was an HGTV zipless fuck. It was all about the layout and decor. I had no idea if I’d actually be content in such a wee space. Question answered. Yes, yes I would. Add a galley kitchen where the boot shelves are and tuck a bathroom in somewhere and I’m all kinds of good. The zipless part, of course, is the mysterious financing of my tiny personal nest and the alternate timeline without Mick or my kids but also no grief like they died.

One very important detail I knew even before moving onto the porch was the bed has to be on the main level. NO loft bedrooms. Too impractical for me, not only am I very tall and don’t do 3′ ceilings, I pee at least twice a night and I refuse to clamber down a ladder at 3:00 am to use the potty. In my tiny house the loft would be for storage. Out of season clothing, cleaning stuff (ever notice on tiny house shows there’s never a visible broom or vacuum?), and all the rest of the unlovely but necessary goods I need for a whole life. Books, holiday decor, table linens, movies, and accessories. I have a minimal wardrobe, even now, and without scarves, hats, jewelry, and an army of nail polishes and lipsticks I might as well be Amish for all the pizzazz my actual clothing has.

Amish-clothes-0

Though I did punch things up today. I went shopping for myself.

GASP! Say it isn’t so, LA!

Please, it’s me. The clearance mojo was strong. My retail spidey-sense called me to the weird little ghost mall. Three stops and I was on my way home with two dresses, a gorgeous top, earrings, and two pair of sandals. You’ll hurt yourself when I tell you how much. $68 and change. For all of it. Everything was clearanced already then an additional 40% off. Who buys earrings for 83 cents? I do.

I took Terri T’s advice and am trying to stop punishing myself. I MUST get over that I’m fat again. So. Got a super short haircut. Toe and finger nails are a lovely orchid. Clothes. Pretty ones. Casual swingy dresses in a soft jersey- princess seaming, scoop necked, short sleeved. One is a navy and white floral paisley and the other an abstract of brushstrokes of blues on a white background. For the top I did retreat to black, but this thing is cool. Gauze, pin-tucks, lace inserts, bell sleeves – Stevie Nicks would approve. The sandals are mega-casual. Leather flip-flops, and a pair of faux Tevas. I am definitely a woman in comfortable shoes*.

*This used to be a euphemism about a certain style of lesbian but nowadays it refers to any woman who follows her own lead.

Which, unfortunately has to be on my own time, I’m not sure of the exact thing that pushed management over the edge but there was a big notice posted at the time clock about dress code violations and consequences thereof a couple days ago. All kinds of blabba about tats and piercings and hair colors and styles and appropriate footwear. The last I can see because it’s a safety thing, but ain’t nobody going to storm out of the store and start a boycott because their cashier had purple hair or an accent nail with glitter on it. I loathe how little faith corporate types have in people. They are so risk avoidant its pathetic. ONE crankenpuss complains and it prompts an entire new policy. How about the other thousands of people who managed to do their shopping just fine? Why not ask them how they feel? It’s the shoe bomber approach- one asshole tried to light his shoe on fire and now EVERYBODY has to take off their damn shoes to go through airport security. ONE asshole complained the deli clerk didn’t cut her low-sodium turkey breast thin enough and now it takes an hour to get your stuff at the deli because every clerk has to cut a slice and get the customer’s approval for every single meat and cheese they order. EVERY ONE. You know how long this takes? Especially when the thickness has to be debated? Multiple inspection slices – “Um, maybe a tiny bit thicker this time?”. GAH! So it goes until you want to grab a salami and commit an unnatural act on the picky-pants customer. You know how much business they lose because some folks won’t wait? But this truth never enters the sanctum where the decisions are made.

Feh. I believe in common sense marketing like I believe in common sense everything. I do believe in great service. But perfect service is impossible. Nor is it desirable. Perfect service means everything and everyone is so watered down and homogenized that ‘bland’ is considered racy.

 

Golly, I’ve been adding to this for days now trying to bring it back to tornadoes. No pithy callback forthcoming though. Nor a summation. Guess I got no spin. Heh.

 

Much love, ~LA

 

“No Easy Way To Be Free…”

The title, of course, lifted from the lyrics of one of The Who’s shoutier anthems. The line suits even if the rest of the song does not. Freedom is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit recently and there is no easy way. There’s all kinds of freedom too, it’s not static or wholly one thing or another. Lately I’ve been thinking about physical freedom. Despite best practices two things have taken over my bod – chronic pain from that carved up shriveled sack of gravel pretending to be my left kidney and, just to add to the pelvic festivities, I have IBS. Diner Butt in the extreme. I eat, I go. Usually within minutes. Feh.

occupied_toilet

As for the latter I am still on the journey of figuring out my worst triggers. Thanks in advance, you’re very kind, but what works for you might not for me so I’ll go it alone here. The right diet is important. So is not being at war with myself. Stress, oy, my physical self has been manifesting my stress since childhood. No more with the ulcers and hives and such. Going to work this out before I know the location, cleanliness, and amount of privacy of every ladies room in the county.

The kidney pain? I know Dr Hoffman would be upset if he knew just how bad it is with me but it wouldn’t change his mind about more surgery right now either. A patient can live with pain. A patient can’t live very long without kidneys. He’s correct but it’s tough not busting into his office and punching his mensch, good to his mother face right out the back of his skull. My right kidney is strong, stony and strong. And that’s the problem, the right-side kidney stones. Remove the trouble-making, barely functioning left kidney and the other one will wear itself out. So he plays a waiting game. And I am snappish and very tired.

There’s financial freedom. Nah, too easy. Everybody has Lotto dreams. Somewhere between the villa in Tuscany and the “Whoo! I have enough space on my Visa card to get BOTH tires!” there used to be a huge chunk of Americans living comfortably. They had enough and a little more. Not terribly inclusive and certainly not fair, but that white bread American dream set a standard that was beyond scorn. Not asking for the moon here, simply enough and a little more.

I committed an act of electronic freedom twice this week. One, I changed our phone plan to unlimited everything and put Sebastian on it partly so he and I could take advantage of a BOGO on Galaxy phones. His was dying and I still had a Galaxy 3. We chose the Note 8, btw, and sometime before the end of the year I’ll have figured out how to use the damn thing. And two, I fired my cable company today. Well, I fired the two/thirds we didn’t really use much and kept the internet. I will miss having TV in my room. If I miss it badly enough I’ll get a newer model TV and use a Firestick. It was for certain my son needed a new phone, especially since I was killing the landline. Funny how in the 25 years since I got my first cellphone (a blocky grey thing the weight of a brick) I’ve gone from feeling imprisoned by an electronic leash to feeling vaguely unsafe without my phone. And if I feel like that imagine how shaken up my kid would be! I mean, jeeze, the fingers on his left hand have fused together in a bracket shape and both his thumbs have gone pointy from all the swiping and scrolling. So with a new plan and healthy new phones I am reassured about safety and accessibility, Mick the data hog can update his chess games from anywhere, and Sebastian can breathe easy knowing he didn’t miss anything on Twitter.

Speaking of my kid, he’s turning 21 next month. 21 isn’t as old as it used to be. I am grateful for this. There’s a lot of quacking about millennials and the Gen Z-ers and their ‘extended childhood’. Yadda about their ‘lousy worth ethic’. The latter is debatable – every generation has its slackers and hobos. And having done it myself, there’s nothing particularly worthy about “18 and out” either. I made absurd decisions in my late teens and early 20s. Life altering decisions, and then compounded it by making a whole brand new person and making all the decisions about his life too. Married and a mother at 21, brilliant. My younger son’s slower rise is allowing him time to do things differently. He has freedom. To learn. To try. Most importantly he has the freedom to screw up and it won’t blow his whole life to bits. Sebastian won’t have to live in his car (as I did) or stay in a painful messy relationship (as I did). Trapped because I didn’t have the chops to be a single parent and didn’t want to risk turning Alex’s life into a complete shit show. (Heh, if only I’d known earlier how much he hated me anyway! I totally would have divorced Mike at least a decade sooner and moved my elder son into that cruddy apartment over the laundromat in the lousy city on the river and let him go to gang schools. Might as well have valid reasons to be a malcontent, you know?)

Ah, yes, I see my annual hissy about Mother’s Day is upon me. Time to wrap it up and take my bad mood elsewhere.

 

Much love, ~LA