Friday, October 29, 2010

What Your Grandma Did

I would. Wouldn't you?
I mean, why wouldn't you?
What? Are you- what?
Afraid? Embarrassed?
Please. Your grandmother did it.
I saw her.
Don't act like you didn't, too.
It was after school.
The day we made the face masks
out of paper plates and paint stir sticks.
I was FDR and you were-
who were you?
Go figure.
My mask ripped. Yours was intact. But uglier than mine.
Let's go to my grandma's, you said.
She lives down the street, you explained.
She loves to have company, you lied.
We saw her through the window
silhouetted by light cotton floral drapes.
At first, we weren't sure about what we were seeing.
Is she?
I think so-
But, could it be?
I don't think so-
Right. Wow.
One of us was impressed.
One of us was mortified.
Neither of us could believe it.
(Although all along I suspected it.)

I dared you to ring the bell.
She was your grandma, after all.
Your finger approached the buzzer, then withdrew, then approached again.
Go on, I said.
You pressed it.
The curtains were drawn just enough that if I held my head at an angle
and pressed my nose to the glass
I could see a sliver of your real grandma,
not the silhouetted one.
And I could see the buzzing of the doorbell had startled her.
She wasn't angry. Just surprised.
Not caught, really.  Just interrupted.
For a moment I thought she would continue on
and leave us to fend for ourselves on the porch.
But she stopped.
I saw her stop.

When she opened the door,
I tried hard to act like I hadn't seen her.
We both did.
Nice to see you.
And how have you been?
I see your azaleas are doing really well.
Thanks for noticing.
I was a little afraid to enter the house.
I made you go first.

Inside, we ate stale pinwheel cookies
from the opened package
your grandma dug out of the pantry.
We sat in silence,
listening to the sounds of our chewing
and the ticking of the cat-faced clock on the wall down the hall
and the air conditioner kicking on.
And off. And on. And off.
I chewed and smiled and allowed my eyes
to timidly roam the room.
National Geographic magazines fanned out on top of a marble-topped coffee table,
an orange and brown afghan draped over a scratchy brown recliner,
coasters made of cork and framed in wood, a metal tv stand,
a blue braided rug, a brass floor lamp topped with a shade still wrapped in plastic,
a pair of pink terrycloth slippers near the front door,
a paper napkin folded neatly under a nearly-empty coffee cup.
And your grandma.

At her funeral
the stories sprang from mouth to ear to mouth to ear
Did you know that one time she?
In her kitchen?
At the supermarket once!
Well, that I had heard.
On the way home from giving birth.
Every Thanksgiving.
You don't say.
Doesn't surprise me a bit.
That's the kind of old gal she was.
And your grandma,
visible only from the waist up
in her nicest navy dress with the pink embroidered flowers,
bible clutched in her hands which were resting on her unmoving chest
lay flat on her back in a shiny black coffin.
And when I turned to look at her
I could have sworn she was smiling.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Right There Below Our Eyes

Sometimes I look at someone's nostrils, or mine even, and think, "Whoa...that's weird. There are two holes in the middle of that face. Just right there in the middle of that face." Like straws. Big, old open straws just sucking air in psssssshhhhh and out psssssshhhhhh. Big, old straws with tiny hairs inside (or not so tiny- see memory image of mine from an old man's funeral circa 1994. That man had some massive silvery wires protruding from his nostrils. While in the casket. Couldn't someone have trimmed those things?)

The relationship we have with our noses is funny. I've seen people cradle their chin in their hand and tap their nose with their pointer finger. Tap. Tap. Tap. Helps them think, I think.

I've seen a little kid strapped into a grocery cart, mashed food in his hair, one shoe on and one several feet down the cereal aisle, mom comparing calories or nutrition value or somesuchthing while holding up a box of Kashi in one hand and some name-brand organic shit in the other. I've seen the kid insert his tiny finger into his nostril while staring me down. No shame. I've seen his finger root and root and root even as I squint my eyes disapprovingly, scrunch my nose, and shake my head in a no-no way that surely he must recognize. I've seen him keep on digging, occasionally pulling his finger out and holding it inches from his face. Nope. Still empty. Back in it goes.

I've seen adults do the same. In their car. I've seen the quick pick, the flick pick, the twist and root, the rub side to side, the hold and blow, and the old-school hanky swipe. I've seen it all- exposed by the false sense of security provided by a see-through driver's-side window.  They are see-through, don't you know.

Once I saw a picture of a guy whose nose froze and fell the hell off.  He was climbing an icy mountain- a big one- Everest, I think- and fell face first into the snow. There he remained until his friends found him. Not really his friends. Because I think he was essentially left for dead at first. But eventually, he was found. With a big burnt-marshmallow looking thing where his nose used to be.

So, he comes back to the states and his doctor is all, "Oh, yeah...I can fix that. I'll just take some of your ear and make a nose out of it...on your forehead. When it's all ready, we'll cut it and twist it around where your old nose used to be."  No shit. This guy grew a new nose upside down on his forehead. 

I'd like to have a nose upside down on my forehead. I mean, not where anyone could see me. Or maybe I would. Either way, in the privacy of my own home, I'd do things like see if I could gargle with it, or make bird sounds like those plastic bird whistles that you put water in and blow into. I'd put little flowers in there, like mini vases (that's "vases" like "faces," not vah-zus, by the way.) I would never let a gnat land in, on, or around my upside-down nose.

I try not to look too long at my nose, say, when I'm putting on makeup. I kind of work around it. Not that I have anything against it- it's just that I don't want to get mesmerized by the weirdness of it, that's all. Not that my nose is any weirder than anyone else's. It's small-ish with an Irish upturn that looked a lot cuter on me as a 3-year-old than it does now. Now it just looks like I might have been holding it up with my thumb, making a "nanny, nanny, boo-boo" at you behind your back and got busted. Only my thumb's not up there. But, that's okay. At least I have one.

I am a bit impressed by the flexibility of our noses. Reach up there and twist it around a bit. I mean to say, wiggle it from side to side. Flatten it. Bend the cartilage and squeeze the nostrils. Now try to do that with your elbow. Ha! Not so easy, is it? That's because the elbow is dummer than the nose. Or at least has less cartilage. I like to take my thumb and pointer finger of my right hand and play nose ski slope. It goes like this: My thumb rests in between my nostrils while my pointer finger is placed on the bridge of my nose- right between my eyes. Then, in one smooth swoop of a motion they're off! and they speed towards one another- the two fingers, that is- meeting at the tip of my nose. This can be done 5 or 6 times in succession and I believe you will find the results to be meditatively satisfactory. At least, I do.

Tonight, when I go to bed, I will inhale deeply through my face holes- the kind of inhaling that makes my tummy quiver. After holding in my breath for several seconds, I'll allow the air to rush back out with such force I may even feel it on my hands resting below. Bizarre face holes, I'll think. And I'll be happy to have them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Automatic Spam Detection

I've enabled automatic spam detection.
You should occasionally check for your comments in my spam inbox.
It's located behind my right ear, although, like loose change, your comment might have escaped from a hole and gotten caught in the lining of my skin.
It's intact. Most of the time.
But shake me. Rattle me. Roll me around and, look!
Out pops your comment about me needing to lose weight. (Spam-1988)
Or yours-what was it?-Who do you think you are? We were just fine before you came along. (Spam-1996)
Or yours-It's not like I'm in love with you, or anything. (Spam 2001)

Other comments are copied and pasted. Copied. Pasted. Copied. Pasted.
And run like a record with the needle stuck and the dj off having a smoke or looking at a dirty magazine in the supply closet.
My daughter says you're her favorite teacher. 
Some comments appear as headlines and billboards and flash on the screen before a feature film.
Curtains are drawn.
You're one of the most honest people I know.
The movie will start in 10, 9, 8...
You're cuddly. 
Don't get up now. The popcorn can wait.
You're cuddly.  You're cuddly.  You're cuddly.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Why Periods Are Stupid

I'm sure there are more reasons than 10, but it's a nice even number.

10 Reasons Why Periods Are Stupid

#1) It's all fine and dandy if chicks of yester-century were poppin' out babies at 12 and 13. I mean, people were considered elderly at 50 and you had to get your family on at an early age. I get it. 14-year-olds were meant to be birthing babies in between cooking dinos, or building log cabins, or knitting tea cozies, or some such thing, so it seems necessary that they would also be needing their periods. But 14 is no longer the prime baby-making age. In fact, ladies are waiting to have babies. Twenties even seem young. Babies in your thirties? That's more like it. So, as I see it, no one should get their period until they're 30. There.

#2) It's stupid to get it every month. Seriously. Think about it. The uterus is all "Oh! I might get to house a baby! I'll get it ready with all of this bloody lining so there's a nice cushy landing spot when the egg Wet Willy's itself down the fallopian chute. Yes! I'll build the greatest lining ever! Work! Work! Work!" And then 28 days later the uterus is all, "What? The egg shot out but it wasn't fertilized? What the hell? What kind of house guest is this? OUT! GET OUT!" And it royally freaks out, throwing both unused egg and all of its hard work lining out the door, if you will. It's dumb. It's like if I were expecting a house guest, and I repainted my house and bought all new drapes and linens. Put flowers out, even. Then the house guest arrives, I'm unimpressed, and in a frenzy, I open the door and start throwing all my shit out. Chairs. Pillows. Velvety drapes. OUT! OUT! AND DON'T COME BACK! Geesh. Talk about moody.

#3)The uterus is tiny. Must it really take 4-6 days to clear it out? That's ridiculous. That's like taking a week to pick a single booger out of your nose. I can wring out a washcloth in under 30 seconds. And I'm not even that strong. The uterus is strong enough to push out an 8 pound baby, so, it's not fooling anybody. It's just being lazy. Lazy, lazy uterus with its poor, poor period pushing.

#4) But it cramps like it's working overtime. Nothing needs to hurt that badly on a regular basis. Seriously. If you're a dude, let me try to explain. Ever have explosive diarrhea? I mean the kind that drops you to the floor and makes you break out in a sweat? Yeah. That's the feeling of cramps, buddy. Like explosive diarrhea without the diarrhea. Which isn't exactly true, because some ladies actually get explosive diarrhea with their period. Why? Because Mother Nature is seriously pissed off about something, that's why. Anyway, I've heard it hurts like nobody's business if a guy gets a swift kick in the balls, but here's what I have to say: Just avoid getting kicked in the balls, then. Try telling a lady to just avoid getting periods. That will go over well.

#5) Getting periods when you can't even get pregnant is dumb. If a lady is infertile, or is married to a dude who is infertile, periods should stop. That would be like having to pay for gas once a week for a car that's incapable of running and is just sitting on blocks in your garage. It's dumb.

#6) Women in tampon commercials run around in white pants and look like they're having the period-free time of their lives. That's not possible, and therefore is dumb. No woman wears white pants or skirts when she's having her period. Do you wear a white dress or suit to a bbq rib-eating contest? No. Why? Because that's silly, that's why.  BBQ ribs are messy. As are periods. Women don't also swing from a tire swing, while wearing white pants, and throwing their heads back from sheer joy of being alive, swinging, and menstruating. (I hate that word, by the way.) I saw this scene in a tampon commercial. Perhaps it was a douche commercial. Either way, it was dumb.

#7) Women can't get grumpy when their having their periods, or else people think it's their periods causing the grumpiness. First of all, try running around with explosive diarrhea feelings while trying to protect your expensive under and outer garments and see if that doesn't make you a bit crabby. Second of all, crabbiness happens. I sound a little crabby right now and I'm not having my period. Too much information? Well, yeah, perhaps it is. But I just want to illustrate the point that ranting is not always period-induced. (By the way, I happen to be giggling right now. Not in a maniacal I'm-30-seconds-away-from-crying-or-screaming way. Just in that life-is-funny-and-I-enjoy-it way.)

#8) Going on a float trip while you're having your period sucks. Because everyone pees in the water. We all know it. Don't act like you don't. The only reason you'd traipse off into the brush is to go poop. And then everyone knows you're going poop. That's embarrassing. So, if you have to run off to change a tampon, what do you say? "Hey, I'm just going to run back here and change this tampon?" or lie and look like you're going to poop? Either way, ladies lose. A float trip pariah is formed. Who wants to canoe with a bleeder or a pooper? No one. That's who. 

#9) If 12 is too young to have a baby, 50 is too old. If someone's already had kids, there's no need for the body to keep acting like something's going to happen when it's not.

#10) The fact that you don't know when it's coming is stupid. How would it feel if someone called and said, "Hey, can I stay with you? I'll be coming sometime this week. But I won't call to say I'm on my way. I'll just pop in, okay?" You may be in someone's car, on a long car trip. You may be on a ride at Six Flags. You may be standing in front of the classroom doing a lesson on punctuation. Periods, perhaps. You may be making out with a datey-partner for the first time. Periods don't care. They don't care at all about ruining even your nicest plans. Robert Burns can suck it, as far as I'm concerned, when he wrote that "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" (I modernized it for you, actually)- because men's plans have never gotten effed up by sudden and painful bleeding from their penises.

My Favorite Part of Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron"

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood.
I am the Emperor!
Do you hear?
I am the Emperor! 
Everybody must do what I say at once!
He stamped his foot
and the studio shook.
Even as I stand here 
he bellowed
crippled, hobbled, sickened - 
I am a greater ruler
than any man who ever lived! 
Now watch me become what I can become! 

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness
like wet tissue paper,
tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.
His scrap-iron handicaps
crashed to the floor.
Harrison thrust his thumbs
under the bar of the padlock that secured
his head harness.
The bar snapped like celery.
Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles
against the wall.
He flung away his rubber-ball nose,
revealed a man that would have awed
Thor, the god of thunder.

I shall now select my Empress! 
he said, looking down on the cowering people.
Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet 
claim her mate and her throne! 

A moment passed,
and then a ballerina arose,
swaying like a willow.
Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear,
snapped off her physical handicaps with
marvelous delicacy.

Last of all he removed her mask.
She was blindingly beautiful.
said Harrison, taking her hand,
shall we show the people 
the meaning of the word dance? Music! 
he commanded.
The musicians scrambled back into their chairs,
and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too.
Play your best,
he told them,
and I'll make you barons and dukes and earls. 

The music began.
It was normal at first-
cheap, silly, false.
But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs,
waved them like batons
as he sang the music as he wanted it played.
He slammed them back into their chairs.
The music began again and was much improved.
Harrison and his Empress
merely listened to the music for a while-
listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.
They shifted their weights to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands
on the girls tiny waist,
letting her sense the
that would soon be hers.

And then,
in an explosion of joy and grace,
into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land
but the law of gravity
and the laws of motion
as well.

They reeled,
and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high,
but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.
It became their obvious intention
to kiss the ceiling.

They kissed it.

And then, neutraling gravity with
love and pure will,
they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling,
and they kissed each other
for a

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers,
the Handicapper General,
came into the studio
with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun.

She fired twice,
and the Emperor and the Empress
were dead before they hit the floor.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Buzz Book, An Asshole, And My Sister

Yesterday morning, I walked my new puppy before work. I was joined by my sister and her dog. For those of you who knew Beatrice (the dog I put down recently) you can imagine what a freeing experience this was- what with my new dog not (a) attacking my feet, (b) mauling my sister's dog, (c) gulping down various carcasses at a frantic pace and (d) darting out into the road in an attempt to bite the shit out of any tire or pedestrian passing by.

This was a normal walk with a normal dog.
A puppy, really.

The worst behavior I've seen from this dog is getting sleepy in the middle of the walk and plopping down on the sidewalk, legs shooting straight back, and eyes shutting tight. He's chomped on a dried leaf or two and bounded through the grass in playful arches. That's about it. He can hardly be classified as aggressive.

So, you can imagine that when Crabby McCrabberpuss, aka Sir Jogs-a-lot, trotted down the street where my sister and I were walking, and yelled out, "CONTROL YOUR FUCKING DOG!"- well, I was both amused and surprised. There was nothing that needed controlling, really. Was he having some Nam-like flashback? Did my gopher-sized puppy morph into a vision of a rabid frothing-at-the-mouth pit bull while Mr. Grouchy-pants jogged on by?

I'm not sure.

While I was ready to laugh it off and repeat it as a good story at work, my sister became irate. "GOOD MORNING TO YOOOOOOOU!" she sang to the man as he jogged farther and farther away. She used a particularly you-were-just-an-ass-to-us-and-I'm-going-to-out-chipper-you voice. Warbly and sing-songy. Almost early morning KETC programming. My sister could have had her fist shoved up a cute little lamb puppet. "GOOOOOOD MORNIIIIIIIIIG!"

Certainly Mr. Douche-for-Manners heard her, but he was clearly unimpressed. He jogged on.

"Did you hear that asshole?" my sister barked. "He called your dog a FUCKING DOG! A FUCKING DOG! Did he SEE your dog? It's a PUPPY! What kind of asshole calls a little puppy a FUCKING DOG? I draw the line right there. That guy's an asshole."

I was semi-enjoying my sister's rant about Mr. Potty-Mouth and was curious to see if it would fizzle out or continue for the duration of our walk.

"I know that douchebag!" she continued. (We both seem to favor the word "douchebag," by the way.) "He's a parent at [call my sister to find out the name] School! And he was a total dick to his daughter once. Seriously. He told her to 'get out of the goddam car' one time. She was in kindergarten! Now he's calling your puppy a fucking dog?! That's it! I know where he lives!"


My sister is definitely the outspoken sibling in our little family. Our great-uncle says she's never had an unspoken thought. And she knows this about herself. If she's thinking it, she's saying it. And she was thinking this guy needed to be told what an ass he was.

At the top of the hill and past the park, my sister and I parted ways. She walked down towards her house, and I towards mine. I had getting ready for work to do. The sky was becoming lighter. I'd have to hurry to have enough time to drive through Starbucks on the way.

I had just hopped out of the shower when my cell phone rang.

"B? It's me. Your sister. I did it."

Oh, God. She's killed a man. Holy shit. I'm not lying for her. No way. No how.

"Did what?"

"I called that guy. I looked him up in the buzz book and called him. His answering machine came on and I said, " name is Amy Hauser? And I'm a mom of a kid who goes to the same school as your kid? sister and I were walking our dogs this morning? It was our first walk with my sister's new puppy? She put her dog down last week. Anyway, as you jogged by, you yelled out, 'CONTROL YOUR FUCKING DOG!" and...And then he picked up the phone. He said, 'Ma'am?! Ma'am?! I don't know who you are, but you are calling my house at 6:50 a.m.'"

My sister was spilling the story out almost faster than she was able to form the words. She was giddy with excitement and I knew there was more to be revealed.

"He kept going on like that. 'Ma'am? Ma'am?' Oh, like now all of a sudden you have manners and call me ma'am, when minutes ago you were calling my sister's dog a FUCKING DOG! What an asshole. So, I said, "Listen. I've seen you before." She said seen as if she were squinting her eyes knowingly. "I've seen you before. Up at school. And you were verbally abusive to your daughter. We all saw it. And this morning you were verbally abusive to my sister's dog. If you want to be an asshole in your own house, that's your problem. But once you take it out on the streets," (she actually said "take it out on the streets") "it becomes the community's problem. And I want you to know that next time I see you doing that to your daughter or my sister's dog or anyone else, I'm HOTLINING YOU!"

I imagine her phone was covered in spittle, such was the fury of her words.

"Then, do you know what he said?"

"Uh. No."

"He said- get this- get what a douchebag he is. He said 'Your dog tried to bite me.' He actually said that. I mean, did he see your dog? A tiny puppy?"

"What did you say?"

"Well, I burst out laughing. You know. The kind of laugh that's so loud you say it hurts your ears?"
I do know that one. It hurts to think about, even.

"Yeah. I burst out laughing, and then I yelled 'PUSSY!' and hung up."

"You what?"

"I told him what he was. A pussy! Only a pussy thinks a puppy is going to bite them!"

"I guess so."

"It felt so good. You know. Like I was standing up to every bully there ever was. Pussy. What a pussy."

"Yeah, I guess he is a pussy."



That was about the extent of our conversation.

This morning we walked again.  The streets were dark and empty.  There were no thumping sounds of running shoes rhythmically hitting the pavement. I think he got the hint.

"I saw that man's wife yesterday afternoon," my sister told me. "I felt like going up to her and saying, 'Hey. I guess you know you're a lesbian, because you're married to a pussy." She had a point there, as well.

Here's what I know: If you're not prepared to have my sister call you and tell it like it is, I'd suggest removing your name from the buzz book. And the phone book. Perhaps you could move in the middle of the night and forward your mail on, too. Because she will find your ass. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

And So It Goes

Bite             Snort         Scratch       Cuddle
Rip              Grunt         Dig             Nap
Tear             Chomp      Pull             Run
Scream        Gnaw         Shake         Lead
Blood          Snore         Guard         Lick
Growl          Lap            Claw          Nudge
Hackles       Gobble       Chew         Whimper
Snap            Nibble        Sniff           Love

Quiet        Spaces        Empty       Places          Leash Hanging           Collar Sitting

Bedding (to trash)          Food bowl (to basement)          Food (to sister)   
    Mop (the floor)

Keep the blanket. Musty blanket. Ball it up and breathe it in.
Fold it over. Draw it near. Nap with it as though she's inside.

(Did you hear that?) I swear I heard that. (Time to go out?) I'll be right there.

Here's what I know: the rough black paw pads. the tiny skull under my hand. the snaggle tooth like a piece of broken marble. the places where the fur swirled. where it wouldn't lay down quite right. where it was black and where it was white. where it grayed when it used to be black. how the eyes glowed green in the dark. how the lips stretched out when pulled from the sides. how the whiskers were long and wiry-thick. the waxy black cracked lips. the tiny eyelashes. the tufts of white fur inside of her ears. chain jingling. head shaking. (can't you see I need to go out?) paw scratching. scratch-scratch-scratching (pay attention to me. screw your grading.) rope brought to my feet. frantic tail-wagging. downward dog. (i'm ready to play.) hop on the couch. the couch where i'm reading. spin once. twice. several times over. plop down in a tight ball and exhale deeply. (let's take a nap.)

(Did you hear that?) I swear I heard that. (Time to go out?) I'll be right there.