Saturday, December 31, 2011

My 2012 Wishes for You, Blog-Followers

31 of you follow my blog. A thankless job, blog-following is, really. As we approach the new year, let me take this time to thank each of you individually, and express my well-wishes for the year to come. 

I wish you'd get a raise. Really. Unless you make a butt-load of money, in which case I wish you'd give some of it to Argel. If the raise comes to you, I wish for it to be in large, unmarked bills. I wish for you to flee the country and have an adventure. Send a postcard to Argel, at least.
I wish for you to unexpectedly have the most delicious meal of your life in the year 2012. Like, you weren't even looking forward to eating the meal. Maybe everything will taste like sawdust for a week or so prior. Then....WOW! Did you taste that? HOLY COW! Like magic. Magical-tasting food. Flavors like you've never imagined. And at that moment, you know what it's like to be Cher.
Amy Hauser,
I wish every part of your body, down to the little cells doing their cell thing, to join together and make for you the most healthy container for your beautiful soul.
My 2012 wish for you is to go on the trip with waterdog and Argel. In a very remote village, I wish for you to be welcomed as the villagers' long-lost leader. I wish for you to enjoy this reign as long as feels comfortable, or until there are no other village women to marry. Then come home.
ryan o'malley,
I wish for you to not experience once single leg-ache in the year 2012.
ian miller,
I wish for you to have a year in which everything is funny. Everything. But you've learned to stifle your laughter so as to not get any dirty looks.
My wish for you is to wake up each morning in 2012 feeling the kind of refreshed you see on cereal commercials. Spinning around the kitchen refreshed. I also wish for you to eat cereal. And be in a cereal commercial. 
In 2012, I wish that one guy would stop bugging you. And that that other guy would start. 
My wish for you is to reconnect with your childhood dream of what you wanted to be. Remember that? that. Just for, like, a day. 
My 2012 wish for you is to open your closet and look way back behind everything. Go look. Right now. There it is! Ah....I wasn't supposed to tell you about it. It's a secret shield, and it makes bad stuff bounce off of it and only good stuff get in. And it's invisible. So no one will make fun of you or try to steal it.
I wish for you to have "lay in the grass and feel the warm sun on your face and forget why exactly you've ever been worried about anything ever in your life because in this moment everything is perfect" moments. Several times throughout the year. 
Linda DL,
I wish for the funny spirits of your old pets to visit you in your dreams.
I wish for you to let it roll. All the mean things mean people say. Blippity-blop-bloop. There it goes. Letting it roll. If that doesn't work, get the secret shield from milena. 
My 2012 wish for you is to experience a funky hairdo of epic proportions. It's just hair. It will grow back. Rock it, jennisess! Make heads turn!
You will be tired, no doubt, from your trip with kniz and waterdog. I wish for you a radiant glow from that last 5-hour energy drink you had in 2011 to last all of 2012.
josie wales,
I wish for you to expand your business idea by hiring the elderly couple that lived on the street when you were a kid. I wish economic prosperity as a result. 
I wish for you to be visited by magical faeries in your sleep. There won't be any evidence, really, but you'll feel slightly faery-ish when you wake up. And that's a good thing for 2012.
Do you know emily? Because there's about to be a shit-load of faeries at her house at night. I wish for you to get an old nikon and have a year of faery documenting. I wish for you to become famous and publish a faery magazine with Josie Wales and her elderly neighbors.
I wish for you to uncover your mad dancing skills. How free you will feel when your feet take sudden flight in the frozen foods section at the grocery store! Twirl, bka925, twirl!
siddharth dude,
May 2012 bring you the joy that losing things and finding them again gives. Or losing things and never getting them back, but finding something even better in its place. The joy of loss is what I hope for you.
When is the last time you went up in the arch, CathyStl? Is it not time? Indeed. I hope for you that 2012 is a year of arch-going-upping and zoo-train-riding and steinberg-rink-skating and crown-candy-malt-drinking and all things Stl. 
That last guy was a jerk. I hope that in all of 2012, you never return to his lame attempts at connecting with another human being. You're better than that. Begone! 
Rochet Huffman,
I hope for you that in the year 2012, your cast comes off and you can finally climb...Rachel's mom.
In 2012, may you never stoop to the poor and immature humor modeled above. It hurt me to write it, even, but I did it for you. Here's to a year of fine-tuning your humor and taking it on the road. Perhaps you can go with Argel and his troupe of travelers.
Queen Dean,
I wish for you a year of momentum. Projects completed. Beds made. 1/2 marathons run. You won't be able to stop. You'll be on fire! Not real fire. Man, that would suck. I'd feel really guilty if that happened. I mean to say, you'll be unstoppable in 2012!
Styrr Cobalt Indigo,
That thing you've been wanting to stop doing? In 2012, I wish for you to stop. Easily! Bam! No more chewing your toenails! Bam! No smoking butts out of the library entrance ash tray. Bam! No more letting air out of the tires of your parents. 2012 will bring great restraint for you!
I wish for your husband to clean every poopy diaper in the year 2012. I mean, every poopy diaper belonging to your baby. Because if it were every poopy diaper, man...he'd never come home. 
Colleen K,
I wish you'd get a puppy in 2012. That's all. 
I wish for you a lifetime movie type of reconnection with a childhood friend in 2012. And not because he/she needs a kidney or anything. Just because, dang, it's nice to talk with someone who has the same childhood memories as you. 
Epiphany of Tiffany,
Seeing as you've already had an epiphany, I feel silly wishing anything for you in 2012. But, I will wish that you forget an epiphany you already had and then suddenly remember it while pumping gas sometime in April. Man, that will be fun. 

Happy New Year to All in the Playground! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Lifetime of Confessions

This is Just to Say

I have licked
the faces
on all the handmade ornaments
hanging from the tree

and which
you were probably
planning on hanging on the tree
next year

Forgive me
they were delicious
so salty
and so forbidden

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the powdered coconut
that was in
the refrigerator

and which
you were probably
for some recipe

Forgive me
I didn't think I'd eat the whole bag
I'll never eat
coconut again

This is Just to Say

I have dipped
your toothbrush
the toilet

and with which
you were probably
planning on
brushing your teeth

Forgive me
you had said something that made me mad
so quick
and so unhygienic

This is Just to Say

I have peed on
your gym towel
that you had hanging
by your gym locker

and which
you were probably
planning on using
when you got out of the shower

Forgive me
I was dared to do it
I tried to keep
one side dry

This is Just to Say

I have stolen
a strapless bra
that was several sizes
too big for my flat chest

and which
you were probably
hoping to sell
to an actual customer

Forgive me
I needed some street cred
something to tell
my sister's friends

This is Just to Say

I have borrowed
the white oxford
that was in
your closet

and which
you were probably
planning on wearing
to work tomorrow

Forgive me
I had to have it to wear with my black leggings
so much longer
than my own shirts

This is Just to Say

I have been buying cigarettes and candy bars
with the money
that you've been giving me
for school lunches

and I've helped myself to a few extra bills that
you were probably
saving to buy things
other than a package of Marlboro's for your teenage daughter

Forgive me
I had to have them
slipped past a habit
and into a real addiction

This is Just to Say

I have stolen
some almond cookies
that were in the jar behind
the register

and which
you were probably
guessing your employees
wouldn't do

Forgive me
they were fresh out of the oven
so crunchy
and so warm

This is Just to Say

I have coerced you
into asking me something
that you weren't ready
to ask

and which
you were probably
for some other woman years later

Forgive me
we had just graduated
and everybody, it seemed, was doing it

This is Just to Say

I have said
things to you
that I'd never say
the anyone again

and which
you were probably
why you were the target

Forgive me
I needed out
so sure of it
and I didn't know how

This is Just to Say

I have shown up
at your doorstep
at night
and delivered a guitar

you were probably
not guessing I'd
ever do

Forgive me
I might have been in a bad place
a wee bit manipulative
and maybe a little psychotic

This is Just to Say

I have perhaps had a little too much of
the alcohol
that was sitting
on the restaurant table

and which
you were asking the waiter
not to give me
at all

Forgive me for a second
I need to go lay down on the bathroom floor
so cold
on my cheek

This is Just to Say

I have threatened
to "kick you in the balls"
if you were ever mean
to any of my employees

probably took you for quite a surprise
as you are my boss's boss's

Forgive me
I've been on a little drinking binge
so bold
and a little without good judgment

This is Just to Say

I have locked myself in
the garage
with the
car running

you were probably
wouldn't ever happen again

Forgive me
I can't figure out how to keep
doing this
and I can't figure out how not to

This is Just to Say

I have gotten into
a relationship
before I was
actually ready

and which
you were probably
hoping would last
for a long time

Forgive me
I wasn't listening to my gut
so inconsiderate
and so dishonest

This is Just to Say

I have searched
your internet history
which led me
to sordid sites

and which
you probably 
didn't even know
I could do

Forgive me
I was suspicious
so tempted
and so sure

This is Just to Say

I have pretended
to like
that shitty music
you were playing

and which
you were probably
thinking was
rocking my world

Forgive me
I thought you'd think
my not liking your music
was a sign that we shouldn't be dating
which it probably was

This is Just to Say

I have embraced
the life
that's unfolding
before me

and which
you were probably
for me to do

Forgive me
I had no idea your plans were so much better than mine
so sweet
and so kind

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I Have a Great Capacity for Like

a) I like the way it feels when you smoosh two pumice stones together and they kind of disintegrate into each other with a crunchy sound.

b) I like eating granola and taking one little piece between my front teeth and and biting it in half.

c) I like breaking up dried mud with a stick in the summertime, preferably under a swing.

d) Speaking of swings, I like the way it looks when I throw my head back and watch the sky come close. go far. come close. go far. come close. go far.

e) I like how some babies have multiple folds of skin under their mouth. Chins, I guess. Baby chins. Anyway, I like to go flub-flub-flub-flub on their chin parts with my pointer finger.

f) I like the way it feels when I'm utterly exhausted and sink into my bed for a good sleep.
g) I like a cold pillow on my face.
h) I like to nap with my shoes on.

i) I like the way a Q-tip feels twisting around in my itchy-spot-ear and
j) the way it makes the world sound muffled

k) Sometimes I like to talk to God by rapping my prayers.
l) I like to think God thinks that's funny.

m) I don't particularly like Suzanna Vega, but I like that my brain player just starting playing "My Name is Luca" right now.

n) I like to stretch my wenis and watch it slowly go back to its original shape.
o) I like to say "wenis."

p) I like to look at a dog's tail wagging and pretend that it's a faceless little worm-like animal with a mind of its own attached to the butt of the dog I'm looking at.

q) I like the sting of a tattoo needle.

r) I like remembering how my grandma used to take my temperature by simply placing her lips on my forehead.

s) I like the fact that ears are bendable.

t) I'm not at all a fan of "bow pose," but I like how when the pose is over and we're told to lay flat on the mat with our heads turned to one side, I can hear my heart thump-thump-thumping loudly in my ear and this always makes me feel alive and happy and a little like giggling.

u) I like to giggle at inappropriate times and at inappropriate places.

v) I like the way copies come out of the copy machine all warm-like and
w) I like to hold warm copies up to my face.

x) I also like to hold a fresh serving of a non-buttered pancake up to my face before eating it.

y) I like the sense of accomplishment I feel when I spray Pledge on things. This is mostly because it smells like I spent a lot of time cleaning. But really I just sprayed some Pledge.

z) I like how God is tricky and funny. And how He's all "Oh, really? You think you want that? Okay...I'll let you want that for a while, but that's not really who you are." And then minutes/days/weeks/months/years pass and the ache for what I wanted has detached itself from my gut and gone to seek someone else who has the wantings. And by degrees, I turn and face what is and I'm like, "Holy shit. This is awesome."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I Wasn't Looking For You

I wasn't looking for your help
your shoulder to lean on
god forbid, your company

I wasn't looking for your
your dark apartment
your stink of cigarettes

I wasn't looking for
your dancing hands
to hold my spinning head

your writhing fingers
to tangle in my hair

your twisting tongue
to cut-off my shallow breath

your suffocating weight
to pin me down

I wasn't looking for you

And yes, I cried
I think I did
I felt tears make their way from my
eyes to my ears
filling them up
muffling your sounds

You had me underwater said
like you were soothing a baby said
like what you were doing was kind

I wasn't looking for you

I awoke to an empty apartment
the stink of you
on my skin
in my hair
under my fingernails

I looked around your room
for things to steal
I wanted something to be taken from you
the way you took something from me

I shoved my pockets full of your tips
wads of bills stashed in dresser drawers
change scattered across your floor
I took it from you

I took it from you

Years later, I saw you in a restaurant window
from behind
I knew you from your scar
the place on your head where your hair won't grow
I saw you
and I felt sick

I wasn't looking for you

And now
you send me a "friend request"
on facebook?


So we could, what-
Chat about the good old days?
See what we've each been up to
over the past 20 years?

to be

I thought you were
pretty sick before.
I had

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Brain-Talk

"These are not cockroaches," I say to myself as I'm moving a semi-crunchy chewed ball of oats around in my mouth. My tongue clears the front of my gums like a windshield wiper and adds the collection to the oat ball being worked on over in the left side of my mouth. Crunch. "That's not a bug. It's oats."

"Seriously? Cockroaches? Come on. I'm trying to eat here." I chastise my brain, because it's the one that pops thoughts like this into my awareness. I can't tell it not to do something, or it just does it more. More cockroaches. Louder cockroaches. I try ignoring it like a bratty child.

"Your hair's rolling up like a curtain. Fwop-fwop-fwop-fwop!" Now, that's kind of funny. And I can eat to that. I imagine my curtain hair spooling up to the top of my head. "Neck sweater." Yes, brain. I agree. A neck sweater would be nice. "Made of lard." Um. Well, that doesn't seem very practical. But, have it your way. "And make soap from it." Now, you got that from Fight Club, which you were just talking about today. "Meatball sobbing. Man boobs." More Fight Club. I'm not impressed. "Helena Bonham Carter." Now you're just naming actor-"Johnny Depp." And he wasn't even in Fight Club.

At any given moment, I can hear my brain-talk. "Crab it, maestro!" Most of it makes little sense to me, "Shine it, boys! Mail it right to your momma!" And some of it makes me laugh.

When I was in art school, I was among other brain-talk people. People's brain-talk thoughts were splattered across canvasses and molded into clay and slowly becoming clear while bathing in chemicals and getting tickled by tongs. Brain-talk was encouraged, if not understood, even if the dialects were different.

"Fifi put sixteen eggs in the green drain. Oh, you green drain!"

Then, I graduated. I borrowed a suit from my mom because, as I understood it, retail managers didn't wear art school clothes. I bought a pair of pantyhose from Walgreen's and set out to be the best damn seller of wicker and wax that I could possibly be.

And my brain-talk followed me, as noted by the time I told a customer (while helping her with some mini salt and pepper shakers), "I'm just a sucker for anything miniature!" I'm not. I'm not even sure what that means. But I said it. "Miniature cow plows in the candy corn pasture, Grandma!" is what I did not say. But I was thinking it. Or something like it. Brain-talk never reveals itself with a single thought.

Hark. Listen closely. Lend me your ear. Do you have a moment?

I stuffed cotton in my brain. In all of the empty spaces in which the thoughts which aren't already attached to something float. Here's where I stuffed the cotton. I shook my head to the left. I shook it to the right.


I could not hear the brain-talk.

And this is how I worked for several years, tying papasans to the roofs of cars and wrapping scented candles in tissue. I could not hear the brain-talk while saying, "You're a wonderful person, but you're really not working out here. Good luck to you," or "We have a lot of very qualified applicants. I'll be in touch." Luck be a lady. Workin' hard for the money. Tuh-tuh-tuh-tuh-tuh-tuh touch me. Creature of the night!

Then I left. I left to teach. Kindergarten: gold tooth I wanna be a rapper my daddy sells crack p is for pimps if you wanna know if a gun is real pick it up and do this bang! bang! bang! uhn! she just doodied I got to use it the teacher pooped in the closet? really please. someone help these kids. honey how did you get those marks on your arm your mom what? pinched you? oh my god they are all over your body let's go see the nurse no sweetie I'm taking your bag of sugar because it's not a healthy snack it's okay they aren't saying anything mean about me stop crying it's okay honey, I AM white it's okay.

There was no space in my head for the brain-talk. The cotton was pulled out and the day's events were packed in so tightly that many days I couldn't retrieve the thoughts that said, "Eat." Or "Breathe." Or "Everything is alright."

Three years and goodbye, Latray. Goodbye Sheron. Goodbye and yes I'm leaving you like everyone else has it's just that I can't breathe and my heart is so heavy I drag it around like an albatross and your crack-smokin', prostitutin' parents I can forgive but not those who are supposed to be providing a safe place for you and lending their office out so that you can get whooped with a belt by your auntie while I'm teaching across the hall and SNAP! and SNAP! and SNAP! and SNAP! and Ms Bow-wuh, why you be cryin'?

And I left you because it was inevitable.

And the brain-talk is quiet now so I can sit with that last sentence and see it for what it is. And the brain-talk wants to make sure I see it.

And this is when I realize my brain-talk serves to perhaps busy myself when the thought of what is or what has been is more painful than a dozen jellyfish attached to my ceiling, falling to the floor with a thwap! as they dry up. Thwap!

And I see them.

Thwap! And one hits my head. I flip it over and notice a tiny face inside where its belly would be. (Do jelly fish have bellies?) and I see it wink at me.

Oh, jellyfish. You little flirt.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Seemed Like A Good Idea to Me

My 8th grade students are writing children's books to demonstrate the concepts about light/color that they learned in science class. We were doing a little bit of plot brainstorming the other day, and it became clear that without some intervention, I was setting myself up to read 40 similar (and painful) children's books:

Fluffy, the bunny, wants to know how rainbows are made but he doesn't know, so he sets out to find someone to tell him.

Johnny and Daisy want to know why we see color, but they don't know, so they ask the teacher and she takes them on an adventure to find out. 

Bob, the student, didn't know how prisms worked so he asked someone who did and he found out.

I imagined sitting in Starbucks, the stack of completed children's books piled on the table, and while grading the 28th one, standing up on my chair and yelling "I'M MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!" I imagined tearing the book apart with my teeth and throwing bits of it up into the air, where it takes a gravitational turn down onto the heads of those waiting for their lattes. I imagined using my foot to kick the rest of the books from the table's surface and letting out a terrifying "HEEEEE-YOP!" while doing so. I imagined my hair, sticking to the sides of my face with sweat- the sweat formed from grading so many bad pieces of writing, and I imagined my red grading pen being crushed in my uber-powerful teacher hand, the ink dripping down my forearm.

I imagined the shock on the faces of both baristas and coffeenistas and I imagined making it all come clear for them by yelling, "THESE BOOKS! THEY'RE ALL THE SAME!" I imagined shocked faces turning to faces of concern and empathy as the baristas and coffeenistas understand how terrible it must be to grade the same horrible plot over and over and over. And over.

I snapped out of it and suggested we brainstorm a little more, pointing out that each proposed story was basically like the one before it. And the first one wasn't even that good. Boy doesn't get concept so boy finds someone to explain it.

Students were nodding their heads in agreement, but seemed unsure of how to come up with anything else. "Tell your brain the concept and then see what it does with it," I explain.  "Don't work so hard at it. Just toss it up there and see what happens."

Students started looking upwards, as if trying to see into their brains. The brains appeared to be momentarily inactive.

"Ooh! Ooh! I've got it!" I shouted. "Feel free to steal this one. Okay. So two teenagers are on a date at a drive-in. And the movie is black and white, but has a color component. You know, like "Pleasantville" or "The Wizard of Oz."

"We saw that last year!" a kid yelled.

"Right. Wait for it...So, they're watching the movie and the guy goes' 'Kind of cool how it went from being in black and white to color.' And the girl goes, 'What do you mean?' And he says, "You know, color! When it turned from black and white to all of those colors.' And the girl is all confused and doesn't know what he's talking about."

"Okay," one student said. "I'll use that!"

"No, wait. It gets better!" I explained. "So they get in a big fight about it and the guy ends up getting out of the car and slamming the door and leaving her. And when he does, he says something to the effect of 'I didn't want to go on a date with you anyway! You're a real dog!'"

"Ooooh!" (This was said collectively. In the "you just called to the office" kind of "oooooh!")

"No. Here's the good part," I continued. "After the guy is gone the girl reaches up and, like, pulls her face off. She just reaches under her chin and peels away her face and under it, she's a DOG! An actual DOG! Which makes sense! Because dogs only see in black and white!"

(Silence in the room.)


(Stunned faces.)

"Anyone want to use that story idea? It's a good one, right?"

(More silence.)

Then finally:
"Um. Ms. Maret? That's kind do you come up with these ideas? That's...."
"Disturbing!" a kid shouted out.
"Just...weird," another kid muttered.
"Really, Maret? Really? She peels her face off? Seriously."
"Yeah, Maret. That'"

"Too much?" I ask. "Okay. Oh! I have another one! How about this: There's this weird substitute teacher guy who is obsessed with plants. Like, plants are his only friends. He's named them all and talks to them all each morning and even dresses some of them."

"Dresses them?"

"Wait for it...So, he gets called in to teach a science class and he's so nervous about it that he brings one of this plants with him. A little potted one. Named Lucy."

"Okaaaay," they mumble, skeptically.

"So, he gets to class and sees in the sub plans that he's supposed to teach about light and energy and stuff- you know, you guys studied that. But he doesn't know anything about it and the kids are filing into the classroom and he's really starting to freak out."

"We had a sub like that once!" a kid exclaims.

"Okay. That's neither here nor there. But, anyway, the kids are all seated now because the bell rang, and with a very nervous and shaky voice he says to the class, " will be learning....about..." and he hears a tiny voice shout out 'photosynthesis!' It's the plant! Lucy! It talks but only he can hear it! And because she gets her energy from the sun she's able to explain it so the guy is able to teach the lesson."

"Um," a kid says.

"Right? The PLANT talks!" I say, enthusiastically.

"Well, it's better than the girl who peels her face off, but it's still kind of...weird."

"Seriously, Maret. I mean....seriously."

Huh. Seemed like good ideas to me.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Trip to the Grocery Store

The other night I was in the grocery store and I spotted a large yellow banner hanging over the fish department. In capital black letters were the words "SALMON SALE." "SALMON SALE?!" I thought, having no real interest in salmon but being caught up in the boldness of the sign and the urgency implied by the capital letters.

Turns out I didn't just think it. I must have said it out loud. And not with my "inside voice." Those nearby pivoted to face me as if I had just yelled, "Hey you! Over here!" A slight feeling of embarrassment caused me to shrug my shoulders and point to the sign. "Salmon," I half-whispered. "It's for sale." Awkward silence. "Right over there."

As I slinked my way along the row of wrapped meaty parts, it occurred to me that the non-stop chatter I hear in my head while at the grocery store may actually be coming out. You know. Into the ears of other shoppers. About 50 years too soon, I have become the crazy lady who talks to herself from the store entrance to the checkout lane. How could I not have realized this before?

I decided to not let my thoughts know I was onto them, but rather just listen to them the next time I went shopping at my local grocery store. I'd just kind of go about my shopping business and hear what, if anything, comes out. Maybe the salmon sign produced a surge of excitement that my normal thoughts don't do. Maybe most of the thoughts stay in. Maybe I'm a thought whisperer.

I've observed other teachers and students and know how to record just the facts. I'd probably be a pretty good police officer. Just during the "just the facts, ma'am" parts of their police officeriness. The other parts I'd suck pretty bad at, but I can take down some facts. Below are the facts as I observed them:

Wheels cart towards the produce section. Stops in front of bananas. 
"Okay.....nanners. I need some nanners. Hi, little nanner bunch. Want to go home with me? Of course you do."
Puts bunch of bananas into cart. 

 Wheels over one aisle to the croutons.
"Croutons. Croutons. Croutons. I see you whole grain croutons!" 

Wheels back towards the wall of produce.
"Yellow peeeeeper. Peeeeper. You a squooshy peeeeeeper. No, no, no. Here's one. Oh, aren't you a pretty little peeper? I cut you up, you little peeeeeper. I cut you up and put you in a- oh, look! Beets. I like it, the beets. Why you all tied together, beets? I will eat one of you and set two free."

Seems to forget about yellow peppers altogether and plops a bundle of beets into the cart. Rolls cart over to the apples.
"Foooooo-geeee. I'm gonna eat you up, fuji apples." 
Picks up an apple and squeezes it.
"Girl! You all mushy and shit! You nasty! You know you are. Don't act like you ain't."
Puts apple down. Picks up another.
"That's better. I'll take you! And you! And you!"

Puts three apples in a plastic bag, ties it up, and places in the cart. Wheels cart past the salad bar, through the liquor aisle. Thinks about the time she drank some Malibu Rum with a friend in high school and afterwards thought it might be a good idea to remove the friend's father's antique sword from the wall and run around the house with it. Remembers getting busted. Feels like her choice of not drinking is a good one. Heads past the magazines, and takes a right at the soup aisle.
"Soup. Soup-PAH. Soupy-soup-soup. Where are you zesty chicken? CHEEEEE-kin. Cheeky-cheeky-cheekin. Cheeeeekin soup-PAH. Oh, you funny soup. I see you behind your buddy. Move over buddy, I'm comin' for the cheeckin." 

Does a u-turn in the aisle. Nearly runs into another shopper. Stands on the back of her cart for the final roll

and makes it to the cereal aisle.
"Gruh-NOLA! I'm gonna get me some gruh-NOLA! Granola in the brown package. Coooome to me! Ah! I see you! You can't hide from me! Get on over here, you little sucker."

 Puts granola in the cart. Wheels down the aisle and turns left towards the dairy section.
"Small package of eggies. A lil' bitty package. Naw, naw, naw. Don't need that big ol' package of eggs. Who eats those many eggs, anyway? Where aaaaare you, little eggs? No little eggs? Okay. No eggs for me!"

Smiles at a woman who was inspecting a carton of eggs.  Heads over to the yogurt.
"I like it the vah-NEELA. Two-a-those, please. One! Two! Let's see. Dog treats. Dog treats. Dog treats. Par-DONE!"

Says, "pardon" to a woman in the yogurt aisle. Zips right over to the pet aisle.
"Someone's in the kitchen with dooooog treats. Someone's in the kitchen I knoooooooow. Someone's in the kitchen with- what the hell are these? Lil' bacon bits? Uhn. Those look nasty. Narsty. Narsty bits. No narsty bits for my dog!"

Picks up a box of dog treats and plops it into the cart. Continues down the aisle. Passes light bulbs and display of pink breast cancer awareness merchandise. 
"Light bulbs? No, don't need 'em. Buh-REST cancer pinky stuff. I see y'alls display of Buh-REST cancer stuff. No need. No needy. Sorry, cancer peeps. No needy the bag or the water bottle. Oh! Look at those fuzzy pink socks, though. I like to wear 'em, wear 'em. I like to wear 'em, wear 'em. I like to wear 'em, wear 'em. I like to....WEAR 'EM! But I don't need them. No need."

 Turns left and left again to the snack aisle.
"Get me some almonds. Comin' for you, almonds. There you are! And-uh-one. I gots ya, almonds. I gots your almond backs. Your little almond backs."

Makes a u-turn and left again in the frozen foods aisle.
"Okay....veggies for the stir fry. Gon' stir it up. Steer it up! Little darlin', steer it up! Schteer. Shhhhteer. Shtir-fry. I said shtir fry. I like me the water chestnuts, oh yes, I do. I'm gonna crunch you up, little crunchy watery disks of goodness. Come to me!"

Catches the glance of a fellow shopper who appears to be staring at her in an odd way.

"Got some veggies," she announces to the shopper. "For some stir fry." 
The shopper nods her head slowly and back her cart up a few inches.
"Stir fry and veggies," she continues. "Veg-uh-tuh-buhls."

Another u-turn and she's headed towards the check-out, past the magazines and candy.
"Okay. To the check out. Hello, Demi Moore! I see you. I see you, gum. Don't need it.  Don't need your gum. Don't need your fuzzy socks. Gummy socks. Socksy gum. Gummy-"

She's interrupted by the cashier who says, "Hello, ma'am, and how are you today?"

"Pretty good," she replies, piling her items on the conveyer belt. She refrains from saying "Pri-TEE, pri-TEE, pri-TEE, pri-TEE, pri-TEE good," ala Curb Your Enthusiasm, because, let's face it. That would be weird and she wouldn't want the cashier to look at her in a funny way.  That would be embarrassing.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's Gettin' Hot in Herrrrr

NOTE: After an iliotibial band injury caused me to give up running for a bit, I agreed to try out "bikram yoga," a form of intense yoga that takes place in a room heated to 105 degrees. The class is 90 minutes long and runs through 26 different postures. I am assured that you need not be skilled at yoga to try this. Below are a few initial thoughts after this morning's class. 

"I haven't been this scantily clad in public since the 1980s."

I know you're supposed to wear, like, next to nothing when doing this type of yoga, but it's just weird to be wearing that little around strangers. I mean, I'm more covered up when a stranger is looking at my hoo-ha, what with that paper dress and all. This morning, as I put on my black I'm-a-boy-swimmer-in-the-1940s shorts and my bright green you-know-as-well-as-I-do-that-this-really-is-just-a-training-bra looking top, I had a moment of doubt.

A few actually, but the one I could identify was this: Remember when it was "Wacky Wednesday" or something of the sort when you were in middle school? And you'd get all dressed up in wacky clothing? And then, as you walked out the door toward the bus with your dad's shirt on backwards and your mom's pantyhose dangling from your head, you'd have this sudden panic, like- "Oh, no. What if I got the date wrong? What if there's not even a Wacky Wednesday and I made the whole thing up in my head?" A million what-ifs that all end in you showing up at school looking like the jackass you've suspected you are all along.

That's how I felt, standing in my kitchen in my boy trunks and training bra and knowing soon I'd be in a room full of strangers in the very same outfit. But I threw on some sweats and headed out the door just the same. It can't be any weirder than a bike meet with all of those clippity-cloppy shoes and spandex shorts and helmets that look like penises. Right?

"Oh, man! I forgot my yoga mat at home! I'm going back for it."

Now, here's the truth. I never imagined I'd ever be one to own a yoga mat. I mean, I'm just not yoga-y. At all. For one, I have hamstrings the size of a toddler in legs the size of a grown woman. This is to say when I bend over, I consider it a great stretch if my palms reach my knees. So, the only thing a yoga mat would do is sit under my bed and mock me each night as I went to sleep.

The one and only time I did yoga was with my beautiful friend Maud. She's yoga-y. And she had her own mat. And while I unrolled my loaner mat and attempted a downward dog to mask the fact that I was sniffing it for foreign and unpleasant odors, Maud rolled her mat out and confidently got right on it. Because it only had a Maud smell. Which she, on some level, identified as her own and kept her from recoiling and choking the vomit back each time a position brought her nostrils to the mat's surface.

I bought my own mat.

Which I left at home, unrolled across my kitchen counter to get rid of the overwhelming scent of paint fumes that I discovered after pulling it out of the package.

"Don't be a mat-snob," I thought to myself as I pulled into my parking space at the yoga studio. "Just rent one. It's, like, $2. Big deal." The $2 wasn't the big deal. It was the fact that I suddenly imagined Ron Jeremy and his hairy, sweaty butt dripping Ron Jeremy sweat all over a mat and then hanging it up for the next person to use. And that next person being me.

I threw my car into reverse and went to retrieve my mat much in the way Nicholas Cage's character went back for the diapers in "Raising Arizona." It was epic.

"Hey. It's not so bad in here. In fact, it kind of feels good."

I made it back in time for the 10:00 a.m. class. I registered, tossed my things in a little cubby, shed my sweats and walked into the studio like it was perfectly normal for me to be walking around in my skivvies with other adults who were also walking around in their skivvies.

The studio itself is a rectangular carpeted room, large mirrors running the length of the long wall in front, and a little mini-raised stage for the instructor. Already there were a good 25 people laying with their backs on their mats, staring at the ceiling. Talking's a no-no in the studio, so it was completely silent. Had there been an ocean nearby and a bright sun overhead, I would have just taken the mat-layers for a group of anti-social tanners, but as it were, they were just adults laying in a room together in their skivvies. I unrolled my mat and joined them.

The heat was...nice, actually. "I'm not sure what everybody's talking about," I thought. "This isn't bad at all. It's like a nice summer day. My friends must be heat-sissies."

10 minutes later:
"Okay. I guess it is a bit warm. But this is totally do-able. No problem."

15 minutes into class:
"Um. Okay. Wait a second, here. This doesn't seem right. Did somebody turn up the heat?"

30 minutes into class:
"I can't...think...straight...mouth in lungs...eyes die now..."

At this point I am totally drenched. Sweat rolling into my eyes. Sweat dripping on the towel under my feet, which is now completely soaked in sweat. Salty sweat rolling down my arms as they're pointed toward the ceiling and sweat making its way into my mouth each time I turn my head. I can't believe my body had this much water to lose. "Well, just get a drink of water, dummy," you might be saying to me through the computer screen.

I would. But we were instructed to only drink water when the instructor says, "Party Time!" which was once. Other than that, we could take a sip in between poses, which amounted to about a millisecond of time. I'd reach for the bottle and..."LIFT YOUR ARMS ABOVE YOUR HEAD AND LOCK YOUR FINGERS..." Dang it. Missed my chance. Next break in directions and I'd reach for the bottle again. "GRIP YOUR ANKLES AND LOCK YOUR KNEES..." My fingers would just touch my pink Camelback water bottle (now filled with warm water) and I'd be directed back into a pose. If I were a yogi, I'd invent the "water pose" which would just look like holding a bottle of water and drinking from it. But, as it were, there was water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

"You want me to put my what? Where?"

I think it is interesting, if not a little impressive, that some people can contort themselves into a shape not unlike a bowl of wet noodles. I really do. And if you can bend over backwards and then grab your ankles and, oh, I don't know, walk up the side of the wall with your super-yoga strength, I will think that's pretty neat.

I'm just not made like that.

So when the yoga lady said, "Get into tree position," and then folded her leg over the front of herself and grabbed onto her ankle, I thought two things: (1) I've never seen a fucking tree hold onto its foot like that, and (2) There's no way in God's green earth I can get my body to do that.

But I'm determined. And I don't want to be the only tree in the room not holding its foot, so I give it a go.

Grabbing hold of my super-sweaty limbs proved as easy as trying to catch a hyper-active baby that you just lathered in vegetable oil. I might get a toe or part of a heel, but I couldn't get a good grip on any part of my body. Everything was slipping and sliding and begging for mercy. "Well, why didn't you just wipe the sweat off of yourself, dummy?" you might ask.

Good question. But we were told not to do that. You see, the sweat, which at this point is making everyone look like dejected losers in a hillbilly wet t-shirt contest, is supposed to cool us off. No wiping the sweat off. I cheat and use my fingers like a squeegee a couple of times. Other than that, I grab at my toes and ankles and heels the best I can, as instructed. When I finally get a hold of, say, my toe, it's all I can do not to yell, "I GOT IT!" And then like the pop sound in the Chordette's song "Lollipop," my toe slides from my grip once again.

"Savasana= sanskrit for "Haha! Just kidding suckas! You don't get to rest!"

So, picture this: You've been forcing your body to stand in the most unnatural of poses in stifling heat. It's like you went into your granny's attic in the summer- your granny who has no air conditioning- and then stayed up there for over an hour trying to dislodge your arms and legs by wrapping them around your body. No. Let's say someone was forcing you to do this. Like you're in prison or something. A yoga prison.

Then, just when you think you're actually going to die, the prison guard says, "Oh, just kidding. You can lay down and rest." This is called "savasana," you're told. The resting pose. 

It takes about 3 seconds for you to lay down and about 5 seconds later you're snapped out of it with instructions to do a quick sit up and immediately get into another pose. I guess we could all mutiny. We could just lay there and refuse to get up, like when your mom would tell you to go up for a nap and then you'd fall to the floor and weave your arms through the dining room chair and then she'd drag you up the stairs with your arms still woven through that chair and it would thump thump thump all the way up the stairs but, by golly, you were not going to give up.

You could do that.

But you don't. And neither does anyone else. We're all slaves. Slaves to the yoga. And these little "savasana" periods only show us what resting people do. We are not resting people.

"My last thoughts before I (almost) died."

About two-thirds of the way through, I thought about dying. I mean to say if I could have chosen to do it right then and there, I might have. A quick look around the room told me I wasn't alone. Several people were down for the count, sprawled across their mats like bodies on a Civil War field. Chests rising and falling in rapid succession and looks of defeat on their faces. 

We were told we could sit out a pose if we absolutely needed to. Many people absolutely needed to. And I wasn't far behind them. 

But, hell. I ran a half-marathon two weeks ago and found it a delightful experience. "If you can run a half-marathon," my friends assured me, "you can definitely do bikram yoga." Really? Because the half-marathon was no test of endurance like this 90 minutes was. I've had kidney stones. Twice. I tried to think about that as I was in my final leg-wobbling, sweat-producing, dignity-stealing poses. This can't be as bad as kidney stones, can it? It was. I've never had a baby, but I imagined giving babies might be more unpleasant and a greater test of endurance. I began to imagine I was giving birth. To a little sweat baby. That seemed to help.

When finally the last pose ended and we were told to get into the non-restful resting pose for the last time, I crossed my arms over my chest and felt my heart pounding in its cage. I swear I could hear my heated blood swooshing through my veins. Every part of me was covered in sweat and had the world tilted slightly, I imagined I could just slide my way down Clayton Road to my home, without any trouble. My lungs took in the hot air in shallow breaths, not unlike what it feels like to wake up in the middle of the night to find you've accidentally wrapped your head in all of your blankets and have been gasping for air for God knows how long. Others began stepping over me and making their way out of the room. I could feel the cool air rush in and slap the bottoms of my exposed feet each time the studio door opened.

"I did it," I thought. "I did it."

I'll be back.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How to Dance at 6 a.m.

It's best to wake up with a crabby attitude. Trust me. It will make the transformation even more amazing.

Upon getting out of bed, stub your toe on your bed frame, if you can. Utter something like, "Fucking bed frame!" and as you bend down to inspect the damage to your foot, look up to the ceiling and wonder what God has against you. A little victimization will go a long way in preparing for your 6 a.m. dance session.

Take your dog outside to pee and unleash your short temper when your dog gets too sidetracked by a squirrel. "Oh, for chrissake! Just pee, already! Fucking squirrel!" Look over at your neighbor's house and judge them a bit. For anything. It doesn't really matter what. "Seriously. How the fuck can you stand to have curtains like that in your windows?" Use the word "fuck" a lot. And feel superior. Feel superior for using the word "fuck" three times before 5:40 a.m. Briefly look up at the sky and feel God judging you for your bad language. "What? What?! Well, if you didn't want me using foul language, you should have made me a bird. Or a fish. Or something." Consider for a short moment that God may have heard you and is currently planning on sending you back as a bird or a fish. Become angry about that. Feel a little picked on by God. "Stupid fucking fish."

Take your dog back inside and feed it. You may want to say something like, "I don't know how you eat this shit every morning" as you deposit a scoop of dog food into your dog's dish. Remember for a split second how you, too, ate dog food once when you were about nine. You ate a lot of it. Pick up one of the pieces of dog food and sniff it. Scowl and drop it back into the dish with a clink!

5:46 a.m. Hop in the shower. While in there, read the text on your shampoo bottle: "Hello Hydration," "I'll have a moisture-tini," "Drinks on me!" Become irritated that your shampoo is trying to get you drunk. Feel superior to the shampoo because you no longer drink and it's too dumb to realize that. "Stupid fucking shampoo." Briefly picture the advertisers for this company in a board room, high-fiving each other for their clever use of words. Curl your lip in disgust. Accidentally get the taste of shampoo in your mouth.  Spit it out while shouting "Are you fucking kidding me?!" only it will sound more like, "Ah you fuhk-uh kihh me?!"

Drop the soap on the same toe you stubbed and gauge it with your toenail. Pick it up only to find hair wrapped around it. "Oh, that is just fucking gross." Look up at the ceiling and picture God laughing at you. With a group of famous dead people who are also laughing at you. "I'm in the shower, for chrissake! A little privacy, PLEASE?!"

Nick yourself with your razor a few times. On the ankles, if you can.

5:52. Dry off. Battle with your contact lenses and they flip inside out and leap from your fingers onto the sink. Brush your teeth with such a frenzy that you accidentally jab yourself in the gum with the end of your toothbrush. Entertain your resentment about having to brush your teeth each and every morning. "Being a human is stupid. Stupid fucking teeth." Dress yourself if you're up to it.

Grab your hairbrush and head into the kitchen where your portable cd player sits on your kitchen counter. Hair dripping wet and face like a pasty zombie, hit play.*

*Note: While there are many appropriate song choices, the following have been proven to work for the purpose of this how-to:

-You Should Be Dancing (Bee Gees)
-I Wish (Stevie Wonder)
-That's Not My Name (Ting-Tings)
-Everybody (Rock Your Body)- (Backstreet Boys)
-Root Down (Beastie Boys)
-Girls and Boys (Blur)
-Harder Better Faster Stronger (Daft Punk)
-Rio (Duran Duran)
-Shining Star (Earth Wind & Fire)
-Breakout (Foo Fighters)
-Been Caught Stealing (Jane's Addiction)

For the purpose of a shared experience, let's use the Stevie Wonder tune.
I'd suggest pausing here to open a new window on your computer. Search the song. Begin to play it. Continue reading.

Okay. Back in the kitchen. Still crabby.
Hit play.
Quick bass-like notes introduce the beat: bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum.
Stand still, but let your eyebrows bob up and down to this part. For the first 16 notes.

Unmistakably, feel the energy of the bobbing eyebrows travel down your cheeks, around your neck to the top of your spine, down the spine to your now wiggling backside. The music has reached your backside. At the same time your shoulders begin a back and forth counter-movement to your hips and your toes, even the very one that was stubbed, begin their own little individual dance moves.

All of this happens very quickly.

By the time Stevie Wonder starts to sing, your hairbrush is raised to your mouth. You've dramatically looked this way and that. Your number is about to begin You're ready.

"Lookin' back on when I- was a little nappy headed boy!"
You fling your wet hair back and forth.
"And my only worry- was for Christmas what would be my toy!"
This, you direct to the refrigerator.
"Even though we sometimes- would not get a thaaaang,"
Your toaster is pointed at.
"We were happy with the- joy the day with bring!"
Your hands (and hairbrush) are raised to the ceiling.

The next verse has you really cutting loose. Perhaps you circle through the house, the building joy too much to contain to one single room. See your dog curled up on the couch. Sing a line or two to him:

"Tryin' your best to bring the- water to your eyes. Thinking it might stop her- from whoopin' your behind!"
Playfully pat your dog's butt. Kiss him on the head. Oh, you love this dog!

By the time the chorus comes, feel free to hop onto the couch. You may find that with the continued hopping, it's hard to catch your breath and sing at the same time, but it's totally worth it. Sing. Sing at loudly as you can:

"I WISH THOSE DAYS" (hip shake/head turn) "COULD" (hip shake/head turn) "COME BACK ONCE MORE! WHY DID THOSE DAYS" (hip shake/head turn) "EH-" (hip shake/head turn) "-VER HAVE TO GO?"

Continue in this manner, picking up your dog at one point and bounce-dancing him around the house. If you'd rather continue jumping on the couch for the entire song because it feels good and it's making your stomach feel fluttery, do that. If you feel compelled to try out some robot moves or even drop to the floor to see about spinning on your back, well, you can do this, too. Maybe you'll want to experiment with different frozen facial expressions every 4 beats of the song. This you may do while stopping in front of the mirror in your front room. This will make you love having a face that moves and you will be happy for your face.

Look up to the ceiling and manage to think "Thank you God for my movable face!" while continuing to sing the lyrics. "Thank you, Stevie Wonder, for this awesome song!" Continue dancing. "Wheeee! I have my own house to sing and dance in at 6 in the morning! Thank you, Universe!" Dance and sing. Sing and dance. Feel the sting of your earlier razor blade nicks and look down at your ankles. "Wheeee! My ankles are making me dance! Dance ankles! Dance!" Thank God for giving you ankles. Ankles are cute. You never noticed that before.

This song has a fade-out, as opposed to an abrupt ending, so you will most likely find yourself giggling and dancing and spinning and out of breath before you notice the song is over.

Look up to the ceiling, and past it. Up and up and up, where you picture God looking down on you. Smiling. Laughing. High-fiving a group of famous dead people. And non-famous ones that you once knew and loved. "Hey, everybody!" The next song starts. "Welcome to my 6 a.m. dance party!" The beat begins and off you go again.  

It's going to be a great day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chances Are Good

 I used to like baseball.

Back when Ozzie did back flips. And Keith Hernandez was dreamy. And large red "#1" foam hands were fun to slip over my own tiny hands and wave around. And Fredbird was hilarious.

Now, no one does flips. And if they did, I'd be that person twisting the bottom of my t-shirt and scrunching my face in worry, pleading for him to stop "before you really hurt yourself!"

And I google-imaged Keith Hernandez recently. What I crush I had on him! Let's just type this name in and.....WHAT? Oh, no! That can't be right! This guy is sporting a 1970s pornstar mustache. That's him? Really. Um. Ew.

And those foam hands make my own hands sweat. And they're itchy. And there's nowhere to put them when you get home.

And Fredbird pisses me off. Not as much as Matthew McConaughey. But pretty close.

 So, sitting through nine or more innings of a baseball game has become a challenge.

Around the second inning or so, the game loses my attention. I've eaten my hot dog and am now waiting, on cue, to do my little human tricks, like clapping along with the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale song. For a minute, I'm reanimated, clapping with glee. "Look! Look what I can do! Oh, indeed! You are clapping, too, fellow monkeys!" We are trained well. We are proud of ourselves. Spit glistens from the corners of our mouth, so wide are our smiles.

Once the song is over, however, I'm back to using my binoculars to spot odd hairdos. Then, even that loses its charm after awhile. Here's where I start thinking of the odds.

First, thoughts like, "I wonder how many people have upset stomachs right now. You know. Like, they'll have to leave their seats to rush to the bathroom." Things like this. And it usually starts with something diarrhea-related. Or "I wonder how many people were late to the game because of diarrhea."

From there, it takes off.  With a seating capacity of over 46,000 the odds seem pretty good.

Somebody in this crowd has a venereal disease and doesn't know it yet. 

Someone cut their legs shaving while getting ready for the game.

Someone is keeping a secret from the person they're with.

Somebody once ate dog food from a bag on their neighbor's porch, and liked it. And they ate more of it. And a little more. And then they went home and said to their mom, "Mom? What would happen if someone ate dog food?" And their mom said, "Well, I guess they'd feel a little sick." And then they assessed how they felt, which was not sick at all, but they figured they should feel sick because their mom said so, so they wailed, "I FEEL SIIIIIICK!"

I know that one's true. Because that was me. But probably other people in the stadium ate dog food, too.

It's not that I'm comforted by these thoughts. It's more of a "I know something you don't know" although I don't know who the "you" is, so really it's "I know something one of you, and I don't know who, don't know, so this really does neither of us any good, but man, people are fun to think about."

The larger the crowd, the more satisfying the thoughts are. Lessen the numbers, lessen the odds. On an elevator of 6 people, it's possible someone didn't fart at work that day and hope no one attributed the foul odor to him/her. Take 46,000 people, and the chances are pretty darned good that this did, indeed, happen to at least one of them.

At least one person is missing one of their toenails, and there's a good story to go with it.

Someone is getting close to breaking up with the person they're with, but that person doesn't know it yet.

Someone accidentally killed a family pet sometime in their life.

Someone is waiting to get their period.

Someone hit something with their car this year.

Someone will come home to some very bad news. Someone will come home to some fantastic news.

Someone won't go home.

I don't have to match a face with a thought. In fact, it's better if I scan the crowd until everyone is a tiny blurry dot of a whole image. A close up view of a Chuck Close painting. Here, I keep the anonymity of others intact.

I wouldn't want to intrude.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Unwinding the Strings

Your stuff was already gone: the clothes you wore that were in the closet, including the tan linen suit, crisp white shirt, and dark blue tie that you wore on our wedding day; the computer where you filled out your invoices (but not the desk and the chair- those were still here for me); the leather sofa and chair we had moved from the house we owned, to the apartment we didn’t want to move into, to the house we were now renting; the tools that cluttered up our small garage and made it hard for me to park; the silverware (my grandmother has extra); the plates (my sister has a spare set); all of the glasses except for 4 (I don’t need much); your shaving cream and razor (although there were still a few bits of stubble around the edge of the sink); your shampoo; your soap (I always insisted on having separate soap bars); the television we couldn’t afford when we lived in the house we owned; the artwork I was willing to part with; the dining table and chairs that your mother bought for you as a birthday present before we married; the boxy and modern lamp set; tubs of various knick-knacks and belongings that were packed up moves ago and never unpacked.

This was my last night in what was our house.

Standing in the middle of the living room, which would be completely empty except for a stack of framed prints and a single bench, I wondered how we had gotten to this place. It was like moving day in reverse. Everything had an uncomfortable echo to it- the clock ticking in the kitchen (had it always been that loud?), the sound of the air forcing itself through the vents, the rhythmic beating of my heart.

It was late, and I needed to get some sleep. For me, moving day would be in less than 12 hours. For you it had been the day before.

I walked into the bedroom and studied the bare queen-sized mattress (I had agreed to letting you take the bedding) and the small sofa that we had to cut the legs off of to get it to fit through the bedroom doorway. (Where had we put those, anyway?) I dug through one of the three plastic tubs sitting in the middle of the room until I came up with several towels. (That would have to do for now.) I fashioned one into a makeshift pillow and spread the others out for a blanket. (How long had it been since we had both slept in this bed? How long had it been when, so much heat being generated from two bodies, we’d had to pull back the blankets altogether?)

I flipped the overhead light off and flopped down on the bed, reaching for one of the towels as a cover. (This isn’t so bad. It’s kind of like camping, somehow. Only quieter. Much quieter. So quiet that the noise is almost unbearable.)

My mind drifts to you sleeping for the first night in your new apartment. Will you wake up in the middle of the night and, for a moment, think you are back here? Back and back and back before now, the time when we learn to unwind ourselves from ourselves. Undo the knots that years have made. Take turns working on the stubborn parts while the other fills out new address forms at the post office or announces the news to a friend not seen in months or shops for a new spatula.

Here we will begin the process of getting to un-know each other.

Photos in piles: Keep. Keep but look at later. Put in the mail in a padded envelope addressed to an apartment you will call home and I will most likely never see. Throw away.

Photos in frames are switched out.  A tiny you and me on our wedding day for my new dog in the backyard of my new place. Our trip out west for my trip out east.  This frame I'll keep empty.

Back in my bed our bed your old bed, I am watching the blades of the ceiling fan whirl. If I move my eyes quickly to the left and the right, I can- for a brief moment- see each blade clearly. I can even see the lines of dust and the cracks in the paint. I make myself look for longer than I want to.

And my mind goes back and back and back to-freeze- when we were getting to know one another. Banking the memories for the un-knowing. Tying the knots and making patterns of our messiness. To this moment here, when everything I said was funny and everything you did was endearing. And here, when we drank in each other's lives and our bellies felt full and we had visions of being old. At the same time. At the same place.

I unwind slowly at times. Quickly at others. I skip over some of the knots and leave them there. But, here. Here is the thread loose and ready to be wound up with another's. I give it back to you.

With love.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What the poo?

Some people collect salt and pepper shakers. Some like to listen to talk radio in the morning. Some people like the way it feels to close their eyes and rub on their eyelids really hard and then watch the little yellow floaty things go round and round until they disappear.

I like to talk about poop.

I don't know why. It's not like I'm obsessed with actual poo. (Note: I will interchange the words "poop" and "poo" because they are both equally fun to say.) I don't have t-shirts with little cartoon poos on them or cross-stitch "I heart poo" lids on jam jars in my kitchen. I abhor the smell of poo and would rather look at my grandparents making out than actually look at poop. But, hot damn if I don't find myself bringing up poop-related topics. Often. Even when my higher-self tells me it's not such a good idea.

Here's an example. A few years ago, I was on a run around Forest Park. (Insert "oh no! she's not going she?" comments from those familiar with the Forest Park running story.) Okay. So, I was on a run. And runners, you will no doubt have a similar story. If not, keep running. It will happen to you. Here I am, at about mile 5, just a bouncin' and a hoppin' down Skinker Blvd, when a sudden cramping attack led me to replicate Jamie Lee Curtis's frantic front-door-knocking scene from Halloween, only instead of trying to escape a chainsaw-wielding psychopath, I was desperately trying to get to a bathroom.

No luck, and moments later I found myself squatting in broad daylight behind the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center. A failed attempt at turning nearby crunchy leaves into toilet paper led me to a painful walk of shame for the 1 mile back to my car, swearing I would NEVER tell anyone about this as long as I live.

By the time I pulled into my driveway, I had called two different people. They listened in awkward silence, and then encouraged me not to share it anymore. Once was enough. Twice was two times too many.

But, I keep bringing it up. To my mother. At social gatherings. To a friend's wife. To someone who is a runner or used to be a runner or knew a runner once. I can't stop. "This one time, I was running around Forest Park..." Those nearby who know the story get wide-eyed. "Noooooo!" I can almost hear them saying in slow-motion. But by the time the last "oooo" of "noooo!" is out of their mouth, the room is already pin-drop silent and I'm continuing to dip my ridged Ruffle chips into some sour cream n' onion dip and commenting on how good and salty it is.

In college, I developed a nice case of IBS. Irritable bowel syndrome, or "Gee, we're sorry you keep nearly shitting yourself in public and after ruling out Crohns disease, we're not really sure what's going on there, so we'll just tell you that your bowel is irritable." Yeah. That's helpful.

So, about 3 years of always having an exit strategy, always knowing where the bathrooms are, nodding my head during dinner conversation on a nice date but really thinking, "Get to the end of the story, fella. Little lady's about to blow! *(And not in the way you want.), running red lights to fly into a gas station and pray to the good Lord above that no one was in the nasty-ass bathroom stall,- the end result is I became, understandably, a bit poo-preoccupied.

Today if my bowel were cast on the Muppet Show, it would be less Statler and Waldorf, as crabby old balcony dwellers, and more Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, as precise and in charge. But still, my reoccurring question when travelling somewhere new or thinking about nearly any activity is, "What if I have to poop?" Getting onto a bus with 80 middle schoolers? "What if I have to poop?" Doing a back flip off of a boat attached to scuba gear? "What if I have to poop down there?" Getting buckled into a death-defying ride at an amusement park? "What if I'm at the top of the ride and I have to poop?" Lacing my shoes for a long run with a friend? "What if we're 5 miles in and I have to poop?"

It's one thing if I thought these questions to myself. Seems normal. Even appropriate. But I tend to vocalize them to my company. "Well..." they usually say, "then you just...poop." Really? Seriously?

This also happens when I'm watching others. Say I'm at a baseball game. I may, while watching the pitcher, lean over and say, "What if he has to poop when he's out there?" Or while watching a talented Russian pair ice skating on tv, "What if one of them has to poop in the middle of their routine?" Or while watching the president address the union. "What if he has to poop right now? Like, an emergency-poop? What is he going to do?"

"Um. I've never given that much thought," is another response I tend to get. I think this is polite-talk for "Will you PLEASE stop talking about poop?"

And then I try to stop. Really, I do. But the trying seems to bring about even more poop scenarios, and I find these, too, must be said out loud.

It's amazing I still have friends. And I have a lot of them. Really, I do. Real ones who seem to like me a lot, despite my poo talk. Then there are the little related poo things.

I giggle each and every time I hear the name "Pujols."

I like when someone says "do" followed by the word "do," as in, "These seemingly useless contraptions shouldn't be thrown away. They do do something."

I like the way the automated voice on says "poop" with a little exhale of air after the last "p"- "poo-puh."

I think a dog pooping is funny, with its back all hunched over and its eyes darting around in doggy shame, like, "Oh, for pete's sake. Do I really have to do this in front of everyone again?"

The dung beetle fascinates me.

The idea of dingleberries, especially on rodents, is entertaining.

I don't think I'm alone in being entertained by most-things-poo, but, quite honestly, as Groucho Marx and Woody Allen both said, "I wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member." Poo-talking clubs, that is. Although, I come by it naturally, I guess. Among other things clipped to a wire crossing the length of my grandfather's bathroom was a daily log about, well, his daily logs.

And that's really gross.

I mean, a girl has to have some standards, right?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Um...Can I Ask You Something?

If you've recently had a baby, I'm going to ask you about it.  (Did you poop on the table? I heard you poop on the table.) Vasectomy? I've got questions for you. (So, like-it's a totally different tube than the pee tube, right? But, it's all in the same spot. Right? So do you pee yourself for a little bit during recovery?) Monitor your glucose with one of those blood pricker things? (So, do you ever just poke it in random places to see what it would do? I mean, like not on your finger, but say, your elbow?) Glass eye? (Can you take it out? Can I see it? Can I tap on it with my fork?)

If it's related to the body, and I haven't experienced it, I'm deeply fascinated by it. My exploratory and sometimes socially awkward/seemingly insensitive/crowd-gasping questions are really just an indication of my curiosity. To a gay friend: "So, um, I totally get what goes on with a man and a woman, you know- with sex and all that business, but when you're on a date with a guy, and things seem to be going in that direction, do you just come out and ask who's going to be in what position, or like, do you both kind of charge and see what happens?" To someone with dentures: "So, do you really put your teeth in a glass next to your bed, or is that some horrible stereotype? Do you brush them? In or out of your mouth? Flossing? Yes? No?"

Perhaps I ask the questions other people are already thinking, but have too much tact to verbalize. I can't be the only one thinking these things. Or maybe I am. Either way, I'm fascinated.

The other night I was at a party and was seated next to a young, attractive woman who had a clear IV tube leading from the top of her shirt down to a brown purse on the floor. I'm guessing most people kind of do this: "Hi, lady. I'm going to totally NOT look at the plastic tube sticking out of your shirt and pretend like it's not there. See how accepting I can be of people with plastic tubes attached to their chest? I don't even NOTICE it!" I do notice it. Not in a bad way. In a I'd like to know more about what's going on there way.

I've been told that a gentler approach to my line of questioning might make others feel less- I don't know- like they want the ground to open up and swallow them whole. After a polite exchange of names I said, "So, do you mind if I ask about what's going on there? With the tube?" She seemed surprised, in a shy way. But willing to answer. Her body can't take in water and she has to be given IV fluids through a port in her chest throughout the day. And night, I guess. I didn't ask about that. Damn.

"So," (I'm beginning to notice that all of my questions begin with a sing-songy "Soooo.") "So, you have an IV bag right there in your purse?"


"Can I see it?"

"Um. Okay." She rummages through her brown leather purse like she's looking for car keys or a lone stick of gum, and comes out with a nearly depleted plastic bag of clear liquid. "It's almost out," she says.

"So, you have to change it?"


"And, where do you buy them? The bags, that is."

"I go down there and they give me a few at a time." I forgot to ask where there is. The hospital? The IV Shoppe?

Questioning went on in this manner. "So, do you sweat? What happens to all that water? Do you just pee it out? Can you exercise?" Somehow I ended up asking if it was possible to put solid things into the port on her chest. Pills. Or small pieces of food. "No. Um. Just liquids." Although she did tell me that drug addicts with ports have used them as a place to inject drugs right into the bloodstream.

Which reminds me about a line of questioning to an ex-heroin using acquaintance that ended up with him telling me how he used his drug stuff to crush up aspirin and cook/shoot into to his kitty when it was sick once. See? Even drug addicts have a soft spot.

Back to my IV friend.

"Well," I concluded, "I think it's nice. Not that you have it, I mean. Just like. It's like having a puppy. Only not as cute. Well, right now I'm picturing a little face on the bag in your purse, and that's kind of cute. But, you know what I mean. It's something to talk about with strangers."

"I hadn't really thought of it that way," she replied. "I'm kind of shy, so, yes- I guess it does give me something to talk about. If people ask me about it. Which doesn't happen that often."

Maybe I made the last line up. I don't remember. I was picturing the clear tube protruding from her bag to be wagging like a dog's tail.

She was a great sport.

I left the party shortly thereafter and felt like I made a new friend. I have no idea what she does for a living, what her last name is, if she is married/ever been married/has kids, if she grew up in St. Louis. But I know that it was about time to change the bag of fluids that was making her able to be out of a hospital and socialize with the rest of us.  And I liked knowing this.

If I'm thinking about it, I'm probably going to ask it. "Are you afraid to die? Do you think about it?" I've asked those questions to my grandma (since deceased) and my Great Uncle Joe- Joe was in his 80s when I asked and my grandma was over 90.

I've talked about it with my fabulous Aunt Patty, after her breast cancer came back with a vengeance. Sprawled out across her bed, noticing how her once comfortably doughy frame was now small and bird-like, I asked her about it. I mean- it was there. In the room with us. Not asking her about it wasn't going to make it not happen.  We weren't on her bed because she was having a sleepover. I didn't wake her up from a normal nap. She was dying, and everyone knew it at this point. I asked. "Are you afraid to die, Aunt Patty?"

"Hell, yeah, I'm afraid to die, Bridge!" Not what I expected. For once I didn't have any follow-up questions. Not "Where do you think you'll go?" or "Can you come back and do things like make my curtains move?" or "If you really do go to heaven and see famous people, who will you look for first?"

Instead, this is what happened: Our faces on the same pillow, inches apart, we stared at each other in the truth of what she had just said.  We held hands and let our fat tears fall into the fabric of her new pillowcase. My questions, normally swirling around in my head, fell to the floor like a box of pins and I only had one left.

And I kept it in.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My New Phone: Or, How I Made an Ass of Myself at the Phone Store

I just traded in my old-school flip phone. It's the one that flew out of my back pocket while I was riding my scooter and still worked. But it's also the one that took a lesson in zen patience to text with: 3(D), 8-8(U), 6(M), 2-2(B), 7(P), 4-4(H), 6-6-6(O), 6-6(N), 3-3(E). And it was one of many reasons my middle school students make fun of me. When they're not busy pointing out how my arms flab about when I erase the board, how the food I brought for lunch "looks nasty," or how the running man is not a dance anybody does these days. What do they know.

My phone contract (seriously? contract? I've been committed to the 2 cell phones I've had in my life longer than most of the relationships I've been in)- was up this summer, so I took it by the local phone place for an upgrade.

The following shitty thesis goes out to the one or two students who read this blog:
In this paper, I will tell you about how I don't know much about today's phone technology. And also how I make an ass of myself. Often.

"Hello, what can I help you with today?" says the Sprint guy. Normal question. Deserves a normal response, like, "Oh, I'm ready to upgrade my phone." That's all that's needed, really. I'm apparently sometimes incapable of delivering all that's needed. I give unwanted garnish (like verbal parsley) or sometimes the wrong dish altogether.

"Yeah...uh...." (while I dig in my bag for my old-school flip phone) "'ll see what I need help with here in a sec" (Phone dude stands still, eyebrows raised. I locate the phone and pull it out, flipping it open.) "BAM! Check out this old-school business. I'm only missing the big ol' bag that holds the battery and plugs into the car. Right? Right? Remember those? No, you're too young. Check out my texting skills." (I go into a pantomime of pressing buttons over and over while making a face that, I think, says, "Damn! This is taking a looooong time to text my message.") All unnecessary things, I see now- in the light of day.

"Well. Yes. I can certainly help you with that."

We go to the counter and he takes some basic information, including asking for my driver's license.

"Yeah. That was my soccer mom phase. See? In the photo? Don't I look all, 'Hey, neighborhood kids! Get in my minivan and I'll take you to practice!' Yeah. I do. And I was like, 20 pounds heavier. Right? Isn't my face puffy? You know it is. Don't lie."

Phone guy probably thinks to himself, Um. I'm not lying. I'm not even talking. I'm just trying to enter your information into the computer.

"For security reasons, what is the street that you grew up on?"

"SHAF-tes-burrrry. Shaftesbury. Sounds like England, I know. But it's in U. City. Uuuuuu City. I love U. City."

At this point, I'm aware that my chatter is on hyper-drive, and I really have no idea why. I don't do speed. I wasn't, like, ridiculously excited about a new phone or nervous about talking to a stranger. I did just have a big cup of coffee, which is like speed. So, I guess I do do speed. (I said "do-do.") Anyway, sometimes I talk too much. Quickly. And not anything of particular substance. I've been told this.

"Okay. Come over here and take a look at a few of these phones."

"Alrighty then."

We walk about 15 feet to the display phones. I manage to say nothing, nor do I adopt some kind of wacky gait. I do no dance moves. I appear almost mature and normal.

"This one is the one I have. It has wireless capabilities Over here. Don't touch that."

I've begun poking at nearby screens with my pointer finger because they're there. I can't tell you the restraint it takes me not to press all buttons on an elevator. It's only because my desire to have strangers (say, on an elevator) like me is greater than my compulsion to touch all elevator buttons that I don't do it. Anymore.

"Sorry. It's just- okay. Sorry. What were you saying?"

"This one has 4 Gs."

"I'm already G enough! I don't need no 4 extra Gs, homie!" (Yeah. This was definitely funnier in the split second it lived only in my head and not out loud. And it certainly didn't need to be said with my mock gangsta hand motions.)

"Oh. Ha. Right. No. This gives you instant connection for your internet." He snaps his fingers. I wonder if they taught him to do that in cell phone selling class. I used to wink my right eye and make a clicking noise at my customers when I was in retail. I have no idea where I picked that up, but it was about as creepy as you're picturing it to be.

"Okay. I'll take it!"

"Wait. Do you have any questions about-"

"Can I do facebook on that thing?" (Oh, man. I'm an idiot.) "And locate Starbucks? Because I really only want to get on facebook and find Starbucks. And maybe text some people." (Wow. How to make yourself come off as the biggest moron. And I somehow know this, but I can't keep my mouth shut. My inside thoughts become my outside words in a split second. *snap*)

"Yes. It can. I'll go in the back and get one for you. Hang on a sec."

I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure he cocked his head to the side and squinted his eyes in that parental, "I'm going to leave you alone for a minute but don't you touch anything, missy" kind of way. I touched things. Just to spite him.

Out came my new phone in a box, and as he sat behind his computer and did more computer-y set up things, I proceeded to take the phone out of the packaging and begin poking around. I'm holding it like it has cooties and turning it over and over in my hands.

"Where's the talky part?" I ask.

"The what?"

"You know. The HELLO! HELLLLLOOOOOO! IT'S MEEEEE! part." (I'm yelling into the bottom of the phone.) "There is no talky part. With holes. Little holes. You know, like 'HELLLLLO!"

"No. It's fine. Put it up to your-"

"HEEEEEELLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOO!" I'm yelling and flipping the phone around. My phone guy's manager has come out from behind the little divider and is looking at me.

"Hi," I say to him. "Where's the talky part? Remember on the old phones, the rotary ones, I mean, how you could unscrew the talky part? Yeah...The cell I'm getting rid of had the holes. You know. The holes that I'd talk into. The talky part."

"Ma'am," the manager explains. "Just hold the phone up to your ear."

I oblige.

"And talk."

"HELLLLOOOOOO! Like that? Where's the talky part? Seriously. Like, where does my voice go into the phone."

They both sigh and I decide that I'll save it for someone else. Lucky someone else.

In 45 minutes or so, my phone purchase is complete. I have a little guilt over abandoning my old phone, just like I did when I traded my last car in and then drove away all teary. I hate to think I'm hurting anyone's feelings. Anything, I mean. Anything's feelings. Because we all know how sensitive cell phones are.

So, now I'm at home. I've figured out how to download "apps" (the word irritates me) and can now locate a Starbucks no matter where I am. I've refused to download "Angry Birds" for the same reason that I refused to see Forrest Gump when it came out: everyone said how much they liked it and that somehow fundamentally pissed me off. (I did end up seeing Forrest Gump, by the way, and I liked it. But I'm not giving in to "Angry Birds.")

I skipped over the parts in the manual that might actually help me understand my phone better, but I did read all of the caution parts because I find them entertaining. I now know not to pour liquid on my phone. Or go into a grain bin with it, where I might explode.  Or give it to a kid who might chew on it and choke on the chewed off parts. It didn't tell me not to take the battery out and put my tongue on it, but I'm going to pretend that's in there, too. Because I kind of want to. And I think it might not be good for both the battery and my tongue.

I also know to "take lots of breaks to stretch and relax" while texting to avoid injuries. This caution was my favorite. I'm taking a break from texting right now to write this blog. And it is, indeed, very relaxing. Perhaps I'll text someone about it when I'm done.

So, I'll return to school with a piece of new technology that my students both recognize and know how to operate. By the time I catch on, it will be outdated, no doubt. And that's okay with me.

I still have the running man.