Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Unwashed Horde

Tonight I received another lesson in humility, wherein my path joined that of the White Trash Horde.

After washing my filthy laundry at the coin-op, I went to Wendy's and ate a cheeseburger with fries, chewing away in a desultory manner while Dexie's Midnight Runners played over the loudspeakers. Afterward, I drove to Wal-Mart, where I bought some crappy produce and fought crowds of tired, grumpy people. I made my way out to the car and loaded my groceries in the trunk. I drove home while smoking a ciggy. Once home, I hauled my laundry and groceries up the steps to my apartment.

With tonight's "events", I've been reminded I'm no different than those folks at Wal-Mart-- the everyday people who live their lives under the radar, the men and women who lead their lives the best they can. No matter how smart, special and clever you think you are, how dazzling you look, what a nice shiny life you lead-- at one point or another, you're going to wind up living a bare bones existence, and you wouldn't recognize yourself, even if someone held a mirror up to your face.


He awoke in a black room, not knowing where he was or why he had woken up so suddenly.

His mind accelerated, making order of the maze of events, working backward to the phone call he received less than 24 hours ago. His breath caught in his throat and his stomach ached with dread.

He then remembered with terrible clarity where he was and why.

My Grandma Esther had sister named Betty. Being the much older sister, Grandma loved Betty as her own child and for all intents and purposes, raised her.

As a young woman, Aunt Betty married a man named Bob, and they settled in the Detroit area not far from my grandparents. Grandma Esther had since married and was raising two sons-- my Dad and his brother Bill.

Betty and my father weren’t far apart in age, and Dad was very close to Betty and Bob. After my parents met and became a serious item, the first family members to whom he introduced Mom were Betty and Bob.

I’ve asked my parents about Betty and what she was like as a person, as I barely remember her. I still have a stuffed animal that she gave me, which I loved. I remember Betty and Bob had clover in their front yard. I remember playing touch football with my cousin in their lawn. Most of all, I remember Betty being very sweet. Mom and Dad both describe her as very shy, sweet, soft-spoken. Betty and Bob shared many interests, most of all hunting, camping, and fishing together. Overall, Betty led a traditional life in that she was a wife, mother and homemaker.

As the years went on, Betty and Bob had a baby boy, and my parents had us three girls. About the time I was entering school, Bob was offered a good job in Indiana and much to Betty’s consternation, they moved away from Detroit, buying a house in Indiana. Betty’s family being her world, the move away from her sister and her family in Detroit was, in my parents’ view, the beginning of the end for her.

Mom and Dad have both told me that during our final trip to see Betty, Bob and my cousin, they didn’t notice a difference in Betty’s demeanor. She was as kind and sweet as she had always been. However, she was hiding a sadness that hounded her.

A few months following this visit, my uncle and cousin went to church. Betty normally accompanied them, but she begged off that day. After the service, Bob and my cousin came home, where Bob found Betty dead in the bedroom. She had shot herself with a .22.

The next day, we all drove to Indiana. I remember only snippets of that trip. We girls stayed at the neighbors’ house—the twins, Melody and Harmony (I kid you not)—which was exciting to The Redhead, The Brunette and me because the twins had canopy beds in which to sleep. The rest of my family stayed at Betty and Bob’s. I remember how sad everyone was, particularly my Grandmother. I remember being led up to Aunt Betty’s coffin by Uncle Bob’s sister (who was married to a mobster and had, according to another aunt, a ring with a diamond in it “as big as your fist”). She told me to touch Aunt Betty to say goodbye, and not to be afraid to do this. I did touch Betty’s hand and remember thinking that it did not feel like her skin, which I knew was soft and warm.

Over the years, Betty’s life and death have churned around in my mind, because I hate there isn’t an answer as to why she killed herself. I try to imagine the depths of agony that a person must be experiencing to commit suicide, how trapped a person in a situation must feel, that the only answer, the only relief from the poisonous, creeping, unrelenting thoughts, is death. The duplicity of her life strikes me-- this soft-spoken, feminine, thoughtful, sweet woman-- harbored another woman inside, a person who ended her life with such violence and finality.

Years later, I asked my father if Betty had left a suicide note and he said yes, but he had not read it. He said that Grandma had it, but oddly, he didn’t find the note among Grandma’s things after she died. I asked Mom if she knew the contents of the note, and she said no, but she did tell me that after Betty died, my father stopped speaking to Uncle Bob, as Dad thought that Betty had killed herself not only as a result of moving from her family in Michigan, but also because he thought Bob was having an affair. This idea does make a certain kind of sense, knowing the things that Betty held close to her heart. Actually, Bob did get married quite soon after Betty’s death, but this doesn’t prove anything.

I have a picture of my family taken on the day of Betty’s funeral. We are standing on the front porch of Betty’s house. My sisters, my cousin and I are in the center of this group of sixteen people. My sisters and I wear sweaters, tartan skirts and half-smiles, and our knee socks are pulled up over our skinny little legs. My cousin wears a black suit, probably bought for the occasion. His face is without expression. Grandma and Grandpa flank us girls, and Grandma’s arm encircles my right shoulder. My parents, my aunt and uncle, Bob’s sister and her husband, the mobster, are all there. The pain on Grandma’s and Dad’s face is plain, and his hand grips my sister’s shoulder.

Although he was wide awake, his wife slept deeply in the bed next to him. He felt the hair rise all over his body, as if a low electrical current was coursing through him. He knew someone else was in the room with them.

He saw a faint glow in the vanity area where Betty had died. In the gloom, a form took shape and it moved to the bedside where Dad lay. “Betty?” whispered Dad, as she leaned over to peer at him, staring, with no expression on her face. Silence, then she faded away.

Dad said years later, “I think she was saying goodbye."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lost Weekend

Saturday- up, breakfast, pets, beautify, out partying re: Mardi Gras until approximately 3 p.m., home, sleep, up, movies, bed.

Sunday- up, breakfast, pets, job hunt via computer, movie, nap, errands, home, movie, movie, movie (all very unsatisfying), dishes, write this, perform bedtime ablutions, sleep.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Walking the Minefield

As I've mentioned in previous entries, my Mom has Parkinson's Disease.

This mysterious unnamed thing that was taking over her body was finally diagnosed a few years ago. The disease then became vaguely manageable, in that we (Mom, my sisters and I) had an idea what to expect as far as its progression, the medications Mom could take to ease her symptoms, etc. Truth be told, Mom is handling the slow deterioration of her body with much more dignity and calm than any of us girls.

However, despite our efforts in trying to out-think and out-manuever the illness, a minefield lies before us. This minefield is littered with situations that could explode-- such as emptying bank accounts, the possibility of a nasty fall, the spectre of moving Mom to a nursing facility. None of these situations are sure things, but the possibility of these things are there, buried under the dust of this minefield, waiting for one of us to step off of the trigger.

One mine we could not and did not plan for is the ferocious Stupid People Mine (SPM).

The SPM isn't easily detected. In fact, sometimes we're not aware when one has exploded. The only way we know a SPM has been detonated is afterward we will feel annoyance, betrayal and utter confusion. Other residual effects of the SPM include a sudden rise in body temperature, an elevated heart rate and roiling intestinal trauma.

Here are a few ways SPMs have recently hit their target (i.e., Mom and us):

- SPs will stare at the afflicted person (in this case Mom). Apparently they've never seen a little old lady in a wheelchair before.

- SPs will avoid talking to Mom directly. Rather, they will speak to the person accompanying Mom (me, my sisters). Examples: a restaurant during dinner. The waiter comes over with a pepper mill. Waiter looks at me and asks, "Does she want fresh ground pepper on her salad?" During a recent bridal shower, the hostess asked me, "Does she (Mom) want cake?" My standard answer to these idiotic questions is, "I have no clue. She's sitting right there-- why don't you ask her?"

- Due to pride, embarrassment or other murky reasons, SPs will refrain from asking Mom to repeat herself, as her speech is slurred and she is difficult to understand. Rather, SPs will pretend they heard everything Mom had to say, then give her a nod or say a bland "oh really?" and look away. Particularly amusing is when Mom has asked them a question. Example: Mom asked a person, "So how's everything going at the condo?" The person smiled faintly, nodded sagely, then looked away, unaware of what Mom just asked, but tried to cover it all up by nodding. This is when I piped up: "Mom just asked you how it's going at the condo." "Oh!" said the SP brightly, "Just great." Mom looked over at me, her eyes saying, "Boy, is she a dolt."

- SPs will decide for Mom whether she should attend parties, weddings, and other social functions to which Mom has already been invited. Recently, a woman I know disinvited Mom from her daughter's wedding. This woman felt that Mom's attendance at this blessed event would detract from the attention that should be directed at the bride and groom. This hurt my mother deeply, and I'm still astonished that this woman felt it was the right thing to do.

I am surprised that many people I know-- and liked-- are stupid. Mom's illness has been a real eye-opener in many unexpected ways.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Jesus-- He's My Friend

Reminisce of a Halloween party that Rene and I threw one year:

We held it in the courtyard of our apartment complex, which had a high brick wall surrounding the front and back of a common area. There was one way in and one way out. We were charging a small fee to each partygoer, and Rene and I worked the door for the first several hours (before the cops showed up). There were approximately two hundred drunken revelers milling about in the courtyard-- Spaceman Spiff, a drum major, Cat in the Hat, Cat Woman, a murdered bride. The party was in FUUUULLLLLLLL swing.

Soon, a long white limousine pulled up slowly in front of the complex. A chauffeur got out and walked around the limo to open the back door.

Rene and I stood there on pins and needles. First, a tiny woman got out, dressed as the Virgin Mary, cradling a toy Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. "Cool," said Rene.

Then a guy dressed as fat Las Vegas Elvis got out. We both squealed, "Ooooh!!! It's the king! It's the king!"

Then a guy dressed as Jesus got out of the limo. With awe, I said to Rene, "Oooh. It's The King! It's the King!"

Jobs 'n' Shit

The burst of optimism I was feeling last week in the afterglow of scheduling two interviews...has faded.

Law Firm: Ms. Partner and The Other Partner decided to hire someone else. Got a phone call on Thursday from one of their paralegals who had the dirty job of calling the rejects to inform them of the bad news. "I'm just curious," I said, "But could you tell me why they decided not to hire me?" "Gosh, I'm so sorry," she stuttered, "But the attorneys made that decision and I'm just calling people to let them know." "Lucky you!" I said.

Sheriff's Office: I was given a spelling, grammar and typing test last week, which I passed, and the HR department called me that day to set up an interview. I met with the (female) division commander and the assistant commander last Wednesday. Suffice to say, I was unfocused, nervous and intimidated by Ms. Commander who, as you could probably guess, was a tough cookie. My words flowed like sap and my feeble mind short-circuited, rendering me unable to form a clear thought, let alone verbalize the fucking thing. I failed the interview miserably. Afterward, I went out to my car and I cried.

So! Time to recoup, refit, replenish, reflect, reflux, rehabilitate, reincarnate, etc., etc. and all those other re- words. I wish I could retire.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Anna Nicole

Well, she's gone.

A surprise at such a young age. But then again, maybe her death isn't so surprising, as the poor woman was a train wreck. To those who think a person cannot die of a broken heart, I would strenuously argue your point. I believe her life was shortened by trouble.

The circus has already begun, a little over 24 hours following her death. Three men are claiming the paternity of her daughter- one being Anna Nicole's lawyer/handler, another is the photographer/ex-lover, and finally, Zsa-Zsa Gabor's husband, a prince from some obscure royal family.

You know, I have an idea that Anna Nicole will become an American icon, along the lines of Marilyn Monroe. Soon teenagers and gay men will have pictures of Anna Nicole on their walls. There will be countless websites dedicated to her life. There will be conspiracy theories surrounding her death. A new wine will be concocted and on it's label will be Anna Nicole's picture. Elton John and Bernie Taupin will write a song about her. Actually, that one probably isn't going to happen.

I would watch Anna Nicole on E!, in interviews, in print, and I always had the impression that she was a little lost, a little dotty, but overall, sweet. Frankly, I'll miss her.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cold Mountain

While frozen to my couch these last several days, I've been rereading "Cold Mountain".

With this book in existence, why would anyone say, "I hate to read"?

Every conceivable human emotion is examined in its pages. One becomes lost in time reading its words. Every kind of person you've met in your life is represented in the tale. Love, revenge, tragedy, death, survival, hope, faith, beauty, cruelty-- all are in there.

In rereading this book and in the current state of mind I'm in, I won't read the last chapter. Instead, I'll close the book. This way, Inman and Ada will always be in their cabin by the creek, making plans to take their grandchildren up on the mountain and show them the arrowhead buried in the bark of the poplar tree.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Brief Update

I won't be writing anything of interest to you over the next several days, dear readers. I am in the midst of brain-lock, wherein my mind cannot focus on anything except "Will I get one of the goddamned jobs or not?".

Meanwhile, I'll once again be frozen on the couch next to the telephone, afraid to go to the bathroom, to eat, to take out the trash, lest I miss a VERY IMPORTANT PHONE CALL. I figured that staying on the couch next to the phone worked last time, so maybe it'll work this time, too.

Light a candle, keep your fingers crossed, pray to God, whatever-- just keep me in your thoughts so this will soon be over.

Oh, Delaney-- I'm thinking of you while you're sitting on your couch north of here.