Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tabula Rasa

It seems natural to write about resolutions on New Years Eve. The other night, a friend of mine and I spoke of making resolutions, and he stated that he does not make them. Many folks I know make them, lots of them don't. I'm in the middle-- I make resolutions in a fit of inspiration, then typically don't keep them. This year, I've made a few resolutions I hope I can keep.

1.) Get "healthy".

I look fairly well for a 44 year-old woman, but I could use a bit of improvement. At this age, you either jump on the physical preservation bandwagon, or you watch it drive past and it disappears around the bend, never to return. I plan to quit smoking (again), and I plan to start working out (again). The little band o' fat around my middle isn't going to go away on its own, nor the cottage cheese on my ass. I know-- I sound FABULOUS. Thankfully, my diet is in pretty good shape, so I don't have to alter it much.

2.) Get a job.

No comment needed here.

3.) Write more.

I like to write-- I think it's fun. I believe I haven't found my true voice, so I want to work to find it. Additionally, a writing project that has been haunting me will begin. I only need to think of this project and I become overwhelmed, but if I chip away at it, it'll be beneficial in so many ways.

4.) Live life with grace.

I'll be the first person to tell you that I'm impatient. For example, my Mom needs lots of extra care (even though she lives in an assisted living facility). I tend to get very short with her and I hear myself speaking to her like she's a child. I roll my eyes at her and sigh loudly and do all that stuff a bad daughter does. Over the Christmas holiday, it occurred to me: "You need grace." Listen to the U2 song of that name, and the lyrics describe perfectly what grace really is. I need it.

Happy 2007, everyone.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Winter Poem

Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of white lace.

I shall go shod in silk,
And you in wool,
White as a white cow's milk,
More beautiful
Than the breast of a gull.

We shall walk through the still town
In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
Upon silver fleece,
Upon softer than these.

We shall walk in velvet shoes;
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below,
We shall walk in the snow.

- Elinor Wylie, "Velvet Shoes"

But If You Try Sometime, You Just Might Find, You Get What You Need

After moving to San Diego in my twenties, I looked for a roommate situation on the beach. I found Rene. During our first meeting at her house, she reclined languidly on the couch, as she asked me questions about how I'd come to San Diego, where I worked, if I was a party person, my standards of housecleaning. Our ideas and interests meshed, and she invited me to move in that week, which I did.

Living with Rene also meant joining her circle of friends (which were legion) and to happily participate in the quintessential beach lifestyle of people our age-- sitting in lawn chairs in our front yard, watching the world go by while drinking many, many beers; going to the beach to work on the tan; bar-hopping; nursing hangovers; going to parties; giving parties. Housework- once a week, if that. Venturing out to the livingroom on a Sunday morning and seeing various people asleep on the couch, the floor, the loveseat-- a guarantee.

Rene had an amused and pragmatic view of the world as a result of her upbringing by her mother, a young widow, who prioritized her wants and needs over those of her children’s. Rene realized if she wanted anything out of life, she was going to have to get it herself. Thus, Rene became a Machiavellian character.

For Rene, the primary method of getting what she wanted was keeping a circle of adoring men around her, all of them dazzled by her looks and charm. They bought her gifts, gave her money, took her out for dinner. For three years I lived with her while a succession of unsuspecting men marched in and out of our house. One day they were there, the next day they'd be crying in their drinks over Rene. Poor bastards-- they never knew what hit 'em.

Then she met Mick, a native of London, and he came to live with us. Mick's friends blended with our group. There was Junior, Sean, John, Scottish John, and a host of others. These guys were tough, sharp-tongued, hilarious and a little dangerous.

Mick had been living with us for several months when Rene realized she was really attracted to the dashing and aristocratic Scottish John. They flirted with one another openly, but Mick didn’t mind this. He was confident that Rene wouldn't cross that line, so to him it was a non-issue.

One night, the Brits and Rene went out, and for reasons I can't remember, I stayed home. I awoke late to the sound of the front door slamming. I heard Rene and Scottish John talking out in our living room, Rene's little musical voice and Scottish John's unintelligible brogue. Laugh, laugh, giggle, ice clinking in glasses. Then silence.

Oh, Jesus, I thought. Where the hell is Mick? He's gonna walk in on them. I itched to check on what was going on out there. I got out of bed, opened my door and peeked around the corner into the living room.

Scottish John lay on the floor, zipper down, passed out. Rene was on the couch, unconscious, skirt hiked up, garters showing. I poked Rene on the shoulder. "Rene. Wake up. Mick's gonna be home soon." Rene, eyes still closed, smiled. "Oh well! Not my problem," she said in her little voice.

Just then, the door opened and Mick came in.

"Hey, Mick," I said nervously.

"Hey," said Mick, in a flat, deadly tone, surveying the scene.

"Would you like me to fix you a cup of tea?" I asked impotently.

Mick walked over to the prone Scottish John, dragged him out into the front yard, and proceeded to give him an old-fashioned ass-whipping. Rene stumbled over the coffee table, launching herself out the front door to stop the fight. Mick yelling, Rene crying, they came back into the house and retired to Rene’s room, where they argued for a couple of hours.

The next morning, Mick tenderly nursed Rene's hangover. You do the math.

A couple of months went by. Mick was a household memory and Rene, who was facing some financial difficulties, decided she needed a boost to her income. To do so, she set her sights on Navy John. After a whirlwind of three or four dates, they traveled to Vegas to make it all legal. Rene figured as a Navy spouse, John would get extra money each month, then give it to her off the top (which he did, faithfully). “It’s purely a business arrangement,” Rene explained airily. They kept separate quarters for over a year—Rene lived in our house, and John lived on base. They saw each other a couple times a week. It was an ideal arrangement.

Bored with San Diego, Rene decided to take a trip to Hawaii to visit friends. She was gone for two weeks. Upon her return, she said, “I’ve met a wonderful guy! I’m in love! I’m moving to Hawaii!” She and Navy John got a quicky divorce, she sold her belongings, packed her clothes, and left. She sent a picture of she and the groom on their wedding day. Rene wore a black evening dress, white gloves and carried a bouquet of orchids. The groom looked happy too-- considering.

Today, Rene has three beautiful children with D., the nuclear engineer, and a lovely home in California. Rene doesn’t work, of course, because she never has. Rene has what she always wanted—a beautiful life, a beautiful husband, and together, they've had beautiful children. I'm certain she's the coolest mom on the planet. She used everything she could to get these things. It being Rene, I never-- EVER-- doubted for a moment that she would go without.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Puke Armada

I lay in bed one hot summer evening and I hear the unmistakable crescendo of voices from the bar down the street, letting loose its patrons after last call. The drunks pass beneath my bedroom window on their way home, and bits of their conversations float up to my window.

"Yeah, well you know what? FUCK THAT."

"Don' say that. You know he dint mean it."

"Yeah, he did! Tooooootally meant it. I'm gonna call him when we get home..."

Fading voices as they walk up the street. Then a couple more drunks. This time, they stop beneath my window.

"Jesus Christ, dude! Gimme the keys!"

"Nope, I'm good. I'm gonna drive."

"You're not good! Lookit you-- you barely keepin' your eyes open, you're slurring--"

"You're just as fucked up as I am. You had jussa much ta drink than I did!" A beat. "Uh... shit. I think I'm gonna be sick."

Oh no, I think to myself, I hate hearing people barf. It makes me want to barf. I swing my feet onto the floor, go to the window and peek down onto the sick guy. Retch, retch, retch.

"Shit. I shounnna had that Mexican food."

"Yeah, you shounnna drunk all that fucking Jager either."

"Okay. I'm good to drive." They climb into the Jeep, start it up and careen down the street.

I lay in my bed, horrified. There's a big pile of Mexican-Jager barf in the gutter directly in front of my door downstairs. What am I going to do? If I go down there to clean it up, I'll get sick. Just the idea of the potential smell alone made my throat close up. If I try to clean up the puke, what do I do with it? Throw it into the middle of the street? Toss it onto my neighbor's lilac bushes? So I decide to pull a Scarlett O'Hara: "I'll think about it tomorrow."

Several hours later I awake with a start. The sun is rising and the temperature is already climbing. My bedroom is like an oven at 5:30 a.m. I realize with horror, "THE PUKE HAS DRIED AND NOW IT'S GONNA BE THERE ALL DAY." I jump out of bed and look out the window. Sho' nuff-- the puke was still there, a stiffened, lumpy mound. Well, I'm sure as shit not gonna clean it up NOW.

Impatiently, I wait for 8 o'clock. I call the City. "This guy puked in the gutter outside my front door. I'm in a high-traffic area and all the tourists are going to have to walk around it today. Is there someone who could come out here and remove it or something?" I felt like such an asshole for asking. The City Puke-Removal Dispatcher said cheerily, "Sure! I'll send someone right out!"

Which they didn't. The hours drag by, the heat rises, and the puke still has not been removed. It sits there, like an ill-mannered, smelly and unattractive guest who won't leave. I poke my head out the window every quarter-hour, like a cuckoo, checking on the status of the puke removal. The tourists step gingerly as they approach the repulsiveness outside my door.

Finally, a lovely bouquet of black storm clouds move over the mountains. Thunder and lightning, but no rain. Rain, goddammit, I think to myself.

While on puke check, the rain starts to fall in sheets. The gutters quickly fill. The mound of hurl is lifted by the water and sails off to distant shores. A Puke Armada. Thank God.