Thursday, June 30, 2005
Independent Shouldn't Mean "Alone"
I was behind a lipstick red BMW sports car this morning with customized Virginia plates that said, “Fight Terrorism.” I sat there and looked at it and had that same bland knee-jerk reaction like, “Yeah, do that.” And then I thought, but what does that mean, "Fight Terrorism"?
By making the enemy so amorphous, clumping together a mysterious throng of seemingly fanatical religious killers, and roping them with the tag “Terrorists,” the government is effectively granting itself license to attack, invade and kill anyone it wants to. As evidenced by the war in Iraq that Bush addressed the other night, draped in a suffocating array of patriotic regalia. The Washington Post gave a mealy mouthed response to Bush's speech in their lead editorial because they are afraid, like many other news organizations, of being labeled “liberal” or “biased.” I don’t know, personally I like being called a liberal. It is a compliment. Liberals are broad-minded, not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy or traditional forms. I like that about us.
Okay, late breaking update. The Post redeemed itself in Richard Cohen's op-ed piece today. Phew. But I'm kind of mad about that too because he is explaining how the Iraq war is starting to remind him of Vietnam. It has ALWAYS reminded me of Vietnam, but that seems to be a very scary thing to admit, like no one wants to own that one. Why?
Vietnam and Iraq were two ill-advised ventures that had no direct connection to the safety and well being of the American people, and both were driven by implanted paranoia and fear. Vietnam was based on the fear of the contagion and "domino effect" of communism and the Iraq war was the result of manipulated, massaged and re-packaged intelligence--a shell game--that the American people fell for. I don't really blame them either because the rationale for war was presented in childlike primary colors of good versus evil. The administration also relied heavily, as they do now, and as they did during the campaign, on that instinctual, visceral reaction of collective pain and desire for revenge we all feel (liberals AND conservatives) about 9/11. It's like the red scarf a matador shakes in front of a bull. Any time the administration feels our support wavering or they need to hit a home run, they wave the red flag of 9/11 because they know they will get the same loyal, shared response.
The administration ridicules the liberals' puported desire to reason with the "terrorists" and offer "therapy" instead of a nuclear colonic (shock and awe), all the while waving their flabby Bibles and referencing their inherent moral superiority. But if the Republican party is made up of 82% white male Christians, then why do they conveniently turn their backs on one of the most resonant pacifists of our time, the founder, namesake and reason for Christianity: Jesus Christ? The whole story of the passion of Christ has to do with his horror but ultimate acceptance of his murderers: he forgave them. If he were among us now, conservatives would dismiss him as a weak link--soft on "terrorism" and a capitulator to his own cruel fate. |
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Relentless caper for all those who step/The legend of their youth into the noon
Opening my car door was like opening the gates of hell, all fire 'n brimstone. The glide home, so unfamiliar, what am I doing heading home midday, the sheer decadence and freedom of it. We old Clydesdales don't drift off schedule very often. And like an old Clydesdale, sometimes I just stand in the middle of the field, confused not to have the harness and bit on.
My house was wonderfully shaded and cool--strong air conditioning and all the blinds drawn like a cool refuge in a Tennessee Williams play. Which was PERFECT since "Sweet Bird of Youth" was on. OH MAN.
When I come home early I always make myself a grilled cheese sandwich. It clearly represents some sort of home/comfort/middle of the day treat. I had my tidy li'l grilled cheese sandwich and sat in front of the TV and on came The Bird. Could NOT resist going down camptown lane with the dee-vine Geraldine Page. LOVE HER IN THAT MOVIE. Such beautiful hands and skin--translucent, marvelously o'er the top. Like more fun than Norma Desmond in many ways. She says the most hilarious things. Like at one point she is really concerned about Paul Newman and she says to him, "Chance, the most wonderful thing just happened to me, I just had a feeling for someone other than myself!" Ooooo, there are some great lines in there. They say it's about how you can't recapture your youth and that Tennessee drew heavily from his own experiences and that Princess is based on Tallullah Bankhead. God, what's not to love? The quote for this entry (see above) is from a poem by Williams' favorite poet, Hart Crane. The lines were an inscription to the play. Crane's work focussed on the notion of a "usable past," the idea of using your own personal history as metaphor and material for art. We like that. Write what ya know! Even if you're a fucked up weirdo. No, ESPECIALLY if you're a fucked up weirdo.
Princess--Alexandra Del Lago--is so repulsive and delusional--all the good things we can count on Tennessee Williams for--dragging us through the emotional rot and scourge of faded, wasted youth, delusions of grandeur, selfishness, and shocking weird sexual afflictions and mutilations like venereal disease, unspeakables, castrations, etc.
Let me just say, that any day I can come home during an inferno Washington summer and retreat into my Blanche DuBois cave (lemon Coke optional) and watch a splendid pink hued movie with Geraldine Page gnawing the scenery and Paul Newman looking his most adorable, earnest, pathetic gigolo self, is a good day. Topped with the melted yellow goodness of American processed cheese between slices of mushy whole wheat. Southern Comfort indeed. |
Monday, June 27, 2005
Please Don't Eat the Big Chilled Daisies at Tiffany's
What’s weird is, I recently had my hair streaked blond as a kind of Holly Golightly/Mrs. Robinson homage, doncha know. I saw "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" and "The Graduate" as a youth and that kind of streaked hair/cigarette holder glamour digs deep into the young psyche. I used to just stare at Holly’s hair in "Breakfast at Tiffany’s," a movie I have seen, give or take, 500 times. That’s a rough estimate.
You’re always waiting for that friendly, trustworthy man to be in the upstairs apartment (or the next office). Someone you can unload all your neuroses onto in a loveable fashion. And I do mean this platonically, don't be daft. Anyway, George was marvelously calm and polite and responsive, traits we don’t often find in the world o’ work. But he had a deeper layer—like I actually wanted to converse with him and have an exchange because I knew it wouldn’t be canned. He asked me questions about myself—regular questions like, "How was you birthday"—but it seemed like he wanted to hear the answer. It’s the absence of the perfunctory that I am revelatory about.
What’s also weird is, on Wednesday of last week there was an absolutely torrential downpour, the pink granite building was shuddering with the wind and the sheets of rain traversing across the goose haven. And I wondered, where do the geese go when it rains like that? Do they instinctively fly somewhere else in advance? Because there wasn’t a goose in sight.
I needed to pick up Nick from camp, so I had to go out into the deluge. It was coming down in flash flood proportions. I ran out and my feet were instantly immersed in dammed up rain water and my black sandals dyed my soles black. Indelible. I got in the car and thought: This is my "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" moment. I just have to go find my cat in the rain. Have you ever felt like you respond to certain films because they are premonitions of small moments that will be recreated in your life? No? I think about it all the time. Gotta go part the Red Sea now….
I lost George but I gained "The Big Chill" over the weekend! The "Big Chill," "Please Don’t Eat the Daisies" style. Karen and Eric tooled in on Friday afternoon in their mini-van laden with bikes, car seats, hippie woven surfer blankets, a pack ‘n play and all the other beach/kids/road trip detritus.
I got home from the most epically horrendous week of my professional career and was immediately enveloped in a convivial, nostalgic world of old friends. Daisy and Ian were running around, splendidly happy to have a cohort in Ryan. Nick played on the computer with a reverential Jordan. MZA grilled burgers and dogs. The kids played on the play set and then watched DVDs in the family room. We all sat out on the deck and drank copious amounts of pinot grigio, relaxed, with a flowing conversation, covering life, happiness, topics. The genuine unforced fluidity of a multilayered dialogue.
Next morning, we packed up two family vehicles and stopped to get a dozen and a half bagels and slipped into Rock Creek park at the field next to Peirce Mill. We had a breakfast picnic with Karen, Eric, Roy, Moira, MZA and all the younguns. It was a lovely, hot day and we had water guns leftover from Nicks’ birthday to slake the heat. Moira brought mimosas and so we sat on picnic tables in the shade and watched the kids run around, playing ball and squirting each other, while Nick mastered his new bike. He was elated to make it across the field on his first try.
We left around 1:00 and MZA and I got ready for the big BBQ that night to celebrate all of us getting together on the fly and my birthday. MZA marinated boneless chicken breasts in sesame ginger teriyaki sauce and I prepped tomato, basil and mozzarella for Karen to put together. We had fresh corn from the Eastern Shore—mixed Silver Queen—and Moira brought one of her famous salads with mixed lettuces, pine nuts and her perfect homemade dressing. We had Boursin and crackers, tzatziki dip with crisp pita chips, guacamole (again!), natural corn chips and the Caprese, then the fresh steamed corn, chicken and green salad.
MZA and Moira set up a birthday cheesecake in the dining room with my colored etched hock glasses (wedding gift from my mother) and ice cold champagne. All the kids and adults stood around the dining room table. The candles glowed and the pale yellow walls radiated softly, as the light rippled around the room onto the gold Russian icon, the faux Impressionist landscape, the trio of gold Japanese bowls my mother had framed into a shadow box, the Italian oil painting of olive trees and the gilt edged mirror. I made a WISH and blew out the candles. I gave a toast. Got choked up when I got to MZA. Talk amongst yourselves. Then we took our dessert back out to the deck and some people made individual toasts—like they do in Uzbekistan—and it felt nice. There was a surge of lovely energy, I think.
The kids watched “Monsters Inc.” and so we had plenty of unfettered adult time. Our neighbor Robin and our new neighbors Barbara and Marie came, and they were excellent additions to the party. It was all very impromptu—not planned, not a birthday, not an anything--that all just came together as its own entity. It accentuated the happiness of having another year instead of all the corny canned apprehension of being a year older.
I’m a year older. I am the age my mother was when she had me. I feel the same as I did when I turned 20, 30 and (gulp) 40. Except happier, with each year. That’s nice. I wished for that on many occasions and thought it would never happen. |
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
I Heart My Colleagues
Monday, June 20, 2005
The Meaning of Life
Friday was the excitement of “movie night,” when MZA, Nick and I take in a film after the bambini go to bed. “The Bourne Supremacy.” It was good, Matt Damon’s cute, but it lost me when it got all tangled up in Moscow. Suffering from the “Mission Impossible” over-action syndrome. Like the filmmakers thought, “We haven’t given them enough somersaults on this one—here we go.” Zzzzzz.
Saturday was the full tilt Costco gate crash, in anticipation of lunch with an old family friend. Gorgeous, dry, breezy day. Nick comes with me to scope out possible bike options as his 8th birthday present from the ‘rents. People are lined up already, a throng of basket pushers, an Asian man sits meditating in the lotus position near the door. I lean down and tell Nick, “Look, he’s meditating.” He says, “I know.”
We go in and it’s like one of those contests where you can win everything you manage to shove into your cart in 30 minutes. We’re on a tight deadline, Mary, our guest, is coming at 11:00 a.m. Nick says, “Tell me what you want and I’ll go get it. You keep going.” So this becomes a fun challenge. I tell him, “Go get Charmin toilet paper.” And he runs off, delighted to be entrusted with these tasks, and comes and finds me next to the apples. He’s carrying a lifetime supply of Charmin in a package bigger than he is. Next I ask for Fuji apples. We get Turkey roll sandwiches for lunch from the prepared aisle, bread, oatmeal cookies, guacamole, natural corn chips and supplies for the week. Then we look at the bikes and they’re lame so we blaze for the door. The line is staggering: I forgot about Father’s Day weekend, which has now taken on Christmas-like Hallmark proportions. “Nick, grab that tub of cashews for Daddy, will ya?”
Get home and do the Red Cross bag to bag emptying of the car. Nick mans the basement supplies and gets all that put away in our downstairs makeshift pantry. Mary arrives right on time and I quickly get lunch pulled together. She walks in and says, “How do you cook in this tiny kitchen?” It’s OK. I still like her. It’s her personality. Which doesn’t stop me from wondering, in some small part of my sensitive heart, why people say stuff like that. Because over the course of the next 24 hours I keep looking at my kitchen—my beautiful kitchen that I picked the talavera tile backsplash and ceramic tile floors for—and wonder how I can cook in such a tiny kitchen. It’s hard to explain to people that the kitchen is actually really large, but it hasn’t been built yet. MZA and I live in our imaginary additions to the house really well. We know all the dimensions and enjoy the views from the new, perfectly conceived rooms. Other people don’t seem to see what we see, though. Too bad.
After lunch, I take Nick to a real bike store in “groovy” Wheaton. Yes, the stepchild suburb is getting an aura about it—an Adams Morganny feel of Salvadoran restaurants, bike stores and lots of other ethnic representation. Bike Store is manned by tattooed muscular Bike Guy. Bike Guy is taking apart bikes and hides his irritation at being interrupted with the necessary evil of working in a bike store: customers. Nick picks out a wicked blue Mongoose bike and is so happy. He comes home and washes it carefully (it was "gently" used) and wipes off the water with an old towel.
That night we get a babysitter—oh yeah—and go to a different Mary’s house in Mount Pleasant for dinner. Dinner at Mary’s is like getting to star in your own version of “Babette’s Feast.” Welcoming bohemian house—all warmth and lovely furniture, imaginatively painted with fleur de lis accents on the stair rises. Her bedroom is a newly transformed “Moroccan love den” with a filmy yellow princess veil over the bed and Benjamin Moore glitter glaze on the walls.
Dinner is a magic Indian soup made of pureed carrots and cumin with a cream accent woven through it; next course is a Thai shrimp salad cupped in endive. Mary has matched a wine with each course, something I have never been good at or patient enough to follow. I listen to her and amazingly the sweeter white wine is a perfect accent to the rich, but delicately flavored, exotic Indian soup. The wine opens up and brightens the palette. There! I said it. It was one of the first times I really “got” an elusive element of haute cuisine. Another was at a five star restaurant when we had a chocolate explosion sort of dessert and there was a sprinkling of coarse salt in the corner. The waiter said it would “bring out the caramel” in the chocolate. And it did.
The next course at Mary’s is a boneless leg of lamb marinated in yogurt and coconut and other spices. She grills it and serves a lovely red wine with it. Between courses, we go out on to her small deck overlooking an alley and smoke like prison inmates let free for the night. Moira, Martin, Mary, Susie, MZA and me. Back at the table during the lamb course, we get into Deep Throat and the ethics of his decision to fink out his agency but ultimately save the country. Then it’s on to the war in Iraq, the Downing Street memo, Clinton, abortion, everything. We can’t stop talking and arguing and baiting each other and laughing and then getting intense and frustrated. And laughing. The next thing I know it’s 1:30 a.m. and we are horrified that we told the babysitter we’d be home at 11:00 or 12:00. We quickly kiss everyone goodbye and sail home, back up Rock Creek parkway, to our house. An evening of liberation and maturity, with discussion that makes me feel like my brain had a session of calisthenics after a long hibernation.
Sunday morning is the pool with les enfants. Sunny, breezy, lovely. I am watching Daisy, making sure she is holding on to the sides of the middle pool, and Ian looks at me earnestly and says, “Mommy, I love you.” So that I’ll break my concentration on Daisy and focus on him. Small moment of fratricidal longing, in its own kiddie way. He uses the “I love you” often because he loves the instant response. He doesn’t have to keep saying “Mommy, mommy, mommy," or "Daddy daddy daddy…” He sees us turn every time, quickly, happily, toward him to say, “I love you too, Ian.” He is hooked on the immediacy, connection and power of those irresistible words. |
Friday, June 17, 2005
Downing Street Memo Redux
All I can say is, please, oh please, oh please, let someone finally shout from the mountaintop, "The Emperor HAS NO CLOTHES and he lied and got us into an unforgivable morass while we were all still numb and dumb after 9/11. He capitalized on our national skittishness and fear following 9/11, but what he really pulled was a shell game. He characterized the "terrorists" as an amorphous band of dangerous towelheads and knew that Americans, with their insular, self-involved nationalism, couldn't tell an Iraqi from a pig in a poke, much less an Al Qaeda operative.
The administration chose to act at precisely our most vulnerable "let's git 'em moment" and made out like bandits because no one bothered to say, "Um wait a minute, there wasn't one Iraqi hijacker in the bunch." If we were TRULY going to "get" the people who did that to us, we would have bombed the hell out of PAKISTAN, Egypt and Saudi Arabia a long time ago. Go rent "Fahrenheit 9/11" all over again, rekindle the rage, and say after me, A vote for Bush was, and always will be, a character flaw. |
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Take two toddlers and call me...
I go out back and Ian is behind the massive oak tree with his hands over his eyes. MZA and Daisy are hiding on the other side of the yard. Ian finishes counting and runs straight for where they are. MZA puts Daisy down and she does the back-forth clown toddler run, squealing with fear and excitement, in circles, as Ian holds back his pace so he can "chase" her without overtaking her. Daisy comes to me and I get the full knee hug treatment. I feel reluctant to let myself be sucker-punched by an Oprah moment of "what truly matters," then I succumb.
Daisy's in a lime green bloomer one piece. I ask them if they can go down the slide and they sturdily climb the faux rock wall of their playset and Ian bolts down the tall green slide. I put turtle wax on it to make it fast, and it is like lightening. Daisy sits at the top of the slide, smiling, expectant, a little nervous, but so game. I say, "You ready?" And she smiles and shakes her head, "yes." She holds on to the sides of the slide, not wanting to hesitate, wanting to match her brother, wanting the applause at the finish line. She releases her grip and watches carefully for my outstretched hands to catch her.
I wrote this a coupla years ago. Daisy reminded me of it, with her smile and her game face.
one way street once was
shattered glass car windows around the corner
(unsolved young mystery) &
stinking moss we stick in our ears just to say
we hear voices
the cracks in the sidewalk rattle our child cages
past the fragrant park with eight thousand bushes
and the red slide
with a magic tunnel where,
if you hold onto the sides of the red Fiberglas long enough, you
slip through |
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Monday, June 13, 2005
Existential Page Turner
Friday night was an outdoor movie night at Nick's school. It was the last day of school and so the evening had a definite summer blissfulness about it--warm, a little breezy, pregnant with the promise of a slower schedule, more freewheeling, unplanned. Tech Daddy set everything up--he of the van and mondo stereo/video equipment. I am sure he was the guy in college who was on the spring party committee, securing the mega tweeter/woofer ensemble, the cool bands and head of the joint rolling committee. Moms were on the grass with lawn chairs and the younger siblings. This year, finally, I know some of the mommies and so I shared bugspray, Nick's friends greeted Ian, and Daisy ate free popcorn on her blanket. The trees were epic, full and gently stirring, like models for sweeping 19th century American landscapes. The babies got restless so I took them home. MZA stayed with Nick and his friend.
The next morning was massive preparation for Nick's 8th birthday party. One of those "life is what happens while you're making other plans" kinds of mornings. 7:00 a.m. at the Safeway with Ian, buying sherbert punch, ginger ale, brown bags and Mylar balloons: Sponge Bob, Rugrats, soccer and a general "Happy Birthday." The cashier didn't charge me for the balloons. Happy moment of semi-stolen serendipity. Thanks Mr. Safeway Man. Forgot the ice, back into the store holding pudgy Ian hand. C'mon! Back at the hacienda, MZA is feverishly mowing the lawn, clearing the walkway, Daisy lights up when she sees the "boons." She carts them by their strings all over the house, "Boons. Boons. Boons."
Trying to get ready for a boy's birthday with two toddlers is like peeling your sanity away with turpentine. Daisy is in a full time mommy knee hug, I'm walking around the house like we're father-daughter dancing--she's on my feet, trailing me around the house as I do cleaning triage and determine the family room can slide--the deck is more important.
Transparent duct tape to apply the hula grass "accents" to the deck, Hawaiian flower tablecloths, matching cups, and then I realize we don't have any snacks. Not one. I start making microwave popcorn and put it out in a festive blue glass bowl. Hostess emergency solved! The cooler is packed with ice, Capri Suns, bottled water, and a coupla Daddy Sierra Nevadas, just in case.
The boys arrive--all sweet boys and one beautiful mermaid in a blue bikini--armed with massive water weaponry. One kid has a back pack arsenal to feed the weapon, another one has a "cooler" that the water feeds through so ice cold water comes out. I said to his mom, "At least there's not a boiling hot water feature!" The moms stand on the deck and chat and...I like them. I feel communal. It feels weird in that my "newest" friends are people I have known for 12 years.
Nick wears his Hawaiian "Punchy" hat. He's in his "Italian" surfer bathing suit--a black affair with flames and Asian surfer/zen artwork. He asks me to put on his silver chain and religious medal before the guests arrive. Nick likes his birthday parties. He's stylin'. My husband, MZA, is down on the grass with the boys, hurling water balloons and shooting the water guns. The boys run around the yard, climb up into the fort, and have a great time. I bring out platters and platters of pizza, which disappear at an alarming pace. Nick opens his presents and is delighted--a mummy kit, a radio controlled space ship, giant Bionicle, lots of stuff. Cake, abbreviated pinata--the boys hurl themselves on to the pinata and, with their wet bodies and primal screams, it is a "Lord of the Flies" moment. Quickly lightened by their bright faces scooping up candy and cheap trinkets to add to their goody bags.
Sunday we take the kids to the pool and it is a langorous morning, sunny, light, breezy, hot--all summer. Watching Ian and Daisy in the baby pool, mouths open, splashing, screaming, rays melting into me. For their break, all three kids sit on individual long lounge chairs on the grass eating gourmet kettle chips from Trader Joes. MZA reads the Sunday paper. I paddle back and forth in the big pool, squinting up to look at them on the grassy hill.
Dinner al fresco that night. Pesto fettucine, pinot grigio, garlic bread, nice salad. Share birthday cake with neighbor. Fulfillment level: high. Nightly prayers, repetitive, thankful. Sleep comes down.
The Band |
Thursday, June 09, 2005
The Young Turks
My husband just IMed me: "I got the guns. They are small but the guy said they are better quality and shoot farther." It took me a second to process that. Water guns. Nick's birthday party Saturday. I had to take him to an appointment yesterday so took the afternoon off and we went to the party store afterwards. We got a bunch of Hawaiian-themed luau stuff including a sign with a parrot on it that says "Luau Party." We also got a table skirt made of hula grass, festooned with lei flowers, and a Hawaiian Punch Guy--Punchy to you--hat. The hat is hilarious.
Anyway, back to the Young Turks. They intimidate me with their youth. I have this strange disconnect of really, really not being able to understand that I am older than they are and have a much nicer office. They approach me with this youthful reticent reserve, because I am not one of them. I am a grownup, an adult, an office iguana. I have become an iguana. When I was a young office gal I used to call all the bosses "iguanas" because they looked like wizened old reptiles. Color me iguana.
I broke the ice with Summer Lambchop with a spectacular June Cleaver bellyflop. We had a "pizza day" and the young brooding lad was in the kitchen, his hands buried in his rich brown curly locks. I wanted to say, "Excusez moi, je parle pretentious intellectualle aussi, vraiment!" But instead, since I am such a suave interlocutor, I said, "Did you get some pizza!" and stood there like a cheerful second grade teacher, beaming effusively. He said, "I don't eat cheese." Okay then! I said, "Where's the fun in that!" And walked off diminished, marginalized. Vegan intellectual. Be still old reptilian heart. |
Downing Street Memo
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Presidential and Musical Love Quandries
Sean Daly, the Wash Post music critic, has a grudging "good" review of Coldplay's new album "X & Y" today. Oh goodness, Coldplay has so many things to set the pretentiorati agog. There is a certain strata of man-cool who will never, ever, admit that they are a great band. But they are. Sean Daly has a friend who compares them to the Moody Blues. Wrong. My friend says they are not Echo and the Bunnymen for this age. That's OK. I don't want Echo and the Bunnymen back. That was then, this is now. Besides, I liked the Cure better then, still do. But let's not get locked into a music coolness pissing contest. People bandy about band names like they are coolness talismen--a coded way of communicating how "in" we are and what level of cool hip inner pretentious swagger we possess. Let's make it interesting. Let's talk about the deep dark secret music we would never, ever want anyone to know we like. For me, my two biggest embarrassments are George Michael and--brace yourself, no I'm serious--Lionel Richie. TAKE A DEEP BREATH. Of those two absolutely ruinous admissions, I like George Michael more--the music only, not the butt. Lionel Richie is one of the most heinously vile, unattractive, wretched, smarmy......well, you know what he is. But I am here to say, in the privacy of my car when a Slimy Lionel song comes on, I don't change the station.
On to music I readily admit liking. Someone once said to me, "I've never really liked the Rolling Stones." I don't know what that means, like I literally can't process something like that. Because if you don't like the Rolling Stones, you don't like sex. Or you don't understand sex. Or something. Right now I am worshipping at the altar of Jeff Buckley. He is singing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." Jeff Buckley did something profound to me. He changed my DNA. Because the first time I heard him singing this song, I was never the same again. I went on a daylong Google odyssey, beginning with his breathtaking picture. I fell in love with him instantly, then found out he was dead and went into a freak rapture, then read interviews with his mother, who kept a snot filled Kleenex of his. And you know what? I was jealous she had that damn Kleenex because that is how weird Jeff Buckley can make you, and his whole story--of drowning, being carried off like a gorgeous myth, along the muddy banks of the mighty Mississippi. Carried away in some weird delta undertow. His song, "Dream Brother" sounds like the Cocteau Twins (another fave). And guess what? The Cocteau Twins loved him. Before they ever met him they had coincedentally covered one of his father's songs. His father was another bright, prematurely extinguished, light, Tim Buckley. The Cocteau Twins covered his "Song to the Siren" for This Mortal Coil's "It'll End in Tears" album. Odd that Jeff Buckley was carried off in the water to his end like a god drifting helplessly toward an irresistible musical summons, like the words to his father's lovely song, "On the floating, shapeless oceans/I did all my best to smile/til your singing eyes and fingers/drew me loving into your eyes/And you sang 'Sail to me, sail to me; Let me enfold you'." |
Monday, June 06, 2005
La Vida Loca
[Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of my imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincedental.]
Jupiter's Battered Moons
Jupiter's innermost moons, Thebe, Amalthea, and Metis, are oddly shaped worlds battered by meteorites and bathed in intense radiation. Amalthea reveals a 31 mile bright streak. The origin of the feature, called Ida, is not known, but scientists theorize it could be debris from a meteor impact......
Sshshs, I am busy not living up to my potential. I am here at a receptionist's desk watching the world go by. Sexetaries catapult by me all day like actors in a play, tilted forward with great purpose wearing various different musky and jasmine scents. Orange hued stockings are the rage and little pinched "professional" suits are the attire. Spun rubber (polyester) shells hide demurely beneath the gray synthetic jackets. I am rude on the phone but polite in person to all the managers so they won't believe it when someone complains. "Gladys was rude? No, that's not possible. Someone must have been sitting in for her! Gladys must have been at lunch." Sometimes they get indignant defending me. Those are the ones who clearly observe the otherworldly moons surrounding me, revealing my true aristocratic nature. I think about Princess Diana a lot.
I really admire Princess Diana because she did something very few women can do. She made herself perfect for absolutely any angle of a photographer's lens. She could be running toward the camera and still look fabulous. She could be photographed eating or wearing riot gear or bending over or flat on her back with her legs apart pushing weights together and she still looked good. Sometimes when I am feeling persecuted and chained to this desk I think of Diana having lunch at a Kensington restaurant with a chilled glass of white wine and a baked potato topped with black caviar and I feel a lot better.
I don't think Diana had a bright streak but she certainly had some tragic moons that all came together at once. I didn't know Diana died until a full three days after the fact. That was after a man in Pakistan had already killed himself over the news. I figure if a man in Pakistan had the time to kill himself and I didn't find out until the third day, I must have truly been the last person on earth. Even people climbing Mount Everest found out before I did. They read it on e-mail. I was on a different sort of journey.
Sitting at this desk with all the stupid people walking by, I can feel my battered moons radiating like little lighthouses begging someone not to crash into me. Our office manager is psychotic. I think that is a prerequisite for the job. I call her Cerberus. Her name is Cecilia but she is one of those people who defies her melodic name. They should have named her "Shrub" or "Fireplug" but names are not always onomatopoeic. My name (this month) is Gladys and it has always reminded me of cabbage. I have a recurring nightmare that Cerberus chases me around with a straight razor. A monster chasing you is supposed to represent a fear you have not confronted. I feel like I have confronted this fear head on. It is called: fear of failure.
I paint my nails a color called "Cosmic Corn," which is a pale yellow with glints of glitter. They told me to take it off and so I went in to the bathroom and took a razor blade out of my purse and cut my lip in two places as sort of a silent protest. Friday nights I like to get in the Oldsmobile Cutlass with my girlfriends Betty and Jane and go to Harley's Tavern and drink 2 for 1 draft Pabst Blue Ribbons in honor of ladies night. All the Goldfish you can eat. I smoke long brown More cigarettes and look ominously at the men. If they try and talk to me I have a patented glower down. One time I walked outside and sat on the sidewalk and threw up in the gutter. A man named Wild Bill followed me out and tapped my shoulder and said, "I just want you to know I still think you're beautiful." There's something to cling to when you think you can't sink any lower.
I have to share my printer here at the bank with a correct little guy with reddish hair named Paul. Paul is certainly a misogynist. I can tell by the curt little smile he has that just screams, "I hate women. (Especially women I have to share a printer with.)" He says, "Gooood morning Gladys," in a clipped fresh tone that belies none of his contempt. I smile at him and my cut lip cracks with the burden.
"My gosh! Gladys! How did you hurt your lip?"
"Bramble," I say, leaving a lot to the imagination. He scurries off in his crisp white shirt and over-pressed blue slacks.
The international loan manager is named Mike Nazareth and he is a devil prep. He wears school ties and talks about Scotch, Bloody Mary's and cigars an awful lot. His pants are highwaters and, if it is possible, he hates women more than Paul. I think Mike sees my aristocratic moons but gets a thrill out of kicking me when I am down at this temp job. He breezes by my desk and says, "Gladys, Senator Van Buren's office will be dropping by some tickets for Cosi Fan Tutte tonight. That is an o-p-e-r-a. Can you please call me when they get here? Thanks!" He winks and trots off with his smug leaping gait.
What no one here knows is that the weekend Diana died I was in the nuthouse. They don't like to tell you about royal tragedies when you're on a suicide watch, so I missed the whole thing. I am living in a halfway house now and I put the razor blade under a bush two blocks from the house every night when I walk home from the bus stop and pick it up every morning on my way in to work at the bank. It just makes me feel better to know that I am not completely cured. The doctor that I saw at the nutfarm said, "I just want you to get to a point where you can have your cake and eat it too." Whatever that means. I smiled earnestly and said that was my fondest hope.
One of the managers here called me in for a two week evaluation and said, "Gladys, you are one of the best receptionists we have ever had! I think the best part is, you're such a normal person." I thought of my concealed blade and about a thousand secret memories and smiled inwardly. "Thank you, sir," I said, "that means a lot to me." I wondered if all the crashes and collisions in my life had yielded a bright streak across me that deflected all the battered moons. I decided that in my next job I will call myself Ida, in honor of the puzzling radiant mass on one of Jupiter's moons.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Yesterday he woke up and said he wanted to go to the zoo. For some reason, I felt that he absolutely must go to the zoo, no matter what. I guess it's because, as he approaches three, his requests are now based on a fond memory of something, he remembers the last time we went and he had a good time, it was something he enjoyed, he really liked, and he wants to do it again. So many things munchkins want to do are just random, demand type things, (this applies directly to Ian--Demand Central), but because this was such a specific desire, not grounded in toddler manipulation, testing or jousting, I wanted to meet it.
Things were not going in our favor. Daisy, baby sister, woke up with a slight fever and a mondo 'tude. My husband was fretting, Eeyore mode--we're doomed, it's too late, we'll never make it--and all the while Ian had that toddler, optimistic beautiful oblivion of "We're going to the zoo!" None of the obstacles or my husband's black anxious cloud were affecting him, and that made me even more determined that we were going to Get to the Zoo. Ian kept repeating things, "Daddy, we're going to the zoo! Daddy? Daddy? We're going to the zoo. Daddy?" And we were running around madly shoving things into the black diaper bag (goes with everything!)--sippies, Ziplock bag of toasted whole wheat pita bread (yum!), diaper wipes. I have to go to the bathroom, my husband shoots me a dark and disapproving stare. Cheerful! Mother Duck is in charge!
My husband and older son Nick opt out of the trip but decide to come with us to CVS so we can buy some Motrin to transfuse into Miss Daisy to knock out the fever and her 'tude for the trip. As we're loading up the car, my husband shakes his head, "By the time you get there, you'll just have to turn around. It's going to be a disaster." But I just keep loading the car. It's going to be great! Car's on empty, pull up to the back of CVS, run in for Motrin, husband and Nick bail, I hastily tip bubble gum flavored Motrin infusion into Daisy's unweildy toddler mouth, she sticks her tongue into the elixir, doesn't drink it, but dallies with it, toys with it, laps it, so that the sugary pink goo slips down her chin onto the 3D flower on her shirt.
My hazards are on, people pull around me, huffy, but they are no competition for Hassled Mommy. We gas up, hit the road, and gently enter the hallowed lush verdant swath of native preserved land known as Rock Creek Park. That's one of the best parts of going to the zoo, driving down from the connected suburb I live in (close in!) and gliding into Rock Creek, which takes us on an uninterrupted journey down a smoothly paved road that gently hugs a meandering creek the entire way.
It's our first real summer day, 75, sunny, with just a hint of the famous Washington humidity in the air (it's not the heat, it's the stupidity!). The closest parking lot is full--hints of foreseen disaster beging to surface--young park worker approaches car, directs us to Parking Lot "C." I am sure this will mean the hinterlands, but it turns out to be OK. We park, ascend the wooden walkway that cleverly leads to the middle of the zoo, right by the Panda Bears. Not that the Panda Bears are there, mind you. They are sort of a phantom exhibit, like many of the "exhibits" at the National Zoo. But it's OK. It is my hometown zoo, it's the only zoo I know and I am very affectionate and protective of it, even if it is probably technically one of the worst zoos in the world. It is still beautiful, tucked as it is, above Rock Creek amid all the abundant, fat green trees of Washington.
We begin the walk up the hill to the elephant park--got to start out with a toddler bang. Everyone can say "elephant," everyone is Very Excited. We get there and the elephants are actually there! Caked in yellow mud, eating..."What are they eating Ian?" "Hay!" "That's right!" Daisy stands up in her stroller. "Do you see the elephants!" She shakes her head and smiles. Next, on to the giraffes! Oh, that "exhibit" seems to be under construction too. No giraffes. Unbelievably, Ian doesn't freak out and we move on. "Do you guys want to see the seals???" "Yes!" I love walking to the seal area, it's down a hill, deep into the wooded landscape, all cool and damp. We come to a very small pond with a couple of rocks in it and Daisy stops stock still, puts down her sippy and says, like Marilyn Monroe, all girly, sultry and reverent, "Woooow." This is why toddlers are fun, because an empty pond is just as exciting as a gigantic Asian elephant. Then we come to two scruffy, bored, depressed, once-majestic eagles. And it's on to my favorite exhibit, the seals and sea lions. We come to Mr. Seal first, who is a crusty, lumpy, misshapen old guy who makes the same diagonal trajectory in the water over and over again. "Ian! Do you see the seal!!!!" Ian stands, against the glass wall overlooking the chlorine pool, and watches the greenish creature with a surface like the moon slice through the water with an unlikely grace. He silently observes the seal. Then he says, "I love him."
We move on to the sea lion who is lying in an alarming sort of dead bloated way on a rock. He langorously raises a fin(?), and that's when I know he's alive. All the strollers are parked in a semicircle around the stone steps of the amphitheatre that surrounds the blue sea lion pool. Daisy walks up to a sparrow on the steps and marvels at it. She turns to look at me, delighted. A sparrow! "Hi birdie!" We swerve up one of the terraced walkways toward the lion's den. Toddlers about Ian's age (I have noticed) have a weird instinctual fear of the big cats. They know they are not fun, fuzzy animals lying harmlessly in the sun. He gets a little apprehensive when I lift him up to observe them. I remember my nephew pulling back the same way. I put Daisy back in the stroller and Ian says, "You ready to go home now, Mommy?" And I say yes. He says, "It's time for lunch. How 'bout macaroni and cheese?" OK. Let's go to the car. And then go home and gloat to Daddy about our lovely outing. "Goodbye lions!!!"
Friday, June 03, 2005
Summertime at the Goose Preserve
In the summer our office becomes magically populated with a vast army of young college helpers. There's a tall beautiful red head and a brooding lad with gorgeous brown curly locks who reads "Faust" on his lunch hour. Scrumptious! I can see the looks of horror on their faces as they take in the absurdist wasteland of officiana, making silent pacts with themselves to never become a part of this soulless, wretched world. I recognize the looks on their faces because it's the one that was frozen on mine for so many years. A Munchian scream of "NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Don't let this happen to me!" They look at us old workers like we're animals who've been in the zoo too long, who pace back and forth with an insane determination, to make the hours tick by faster and bring an end to the cruel vacant days.
I walked down the hall, the office equivalent of vogueing, to look "purposeful," and ran into Ms. Lago who was wearing an unthinkable pale green fedora. I guess because it's raining outside. Nothing stands between Ms. Lago and her lunch hour. I had to quickly avert my eyes from her haughty gaze so I wouldn't slip up and betray myself staring aghast at the green fedora. She reminds me of Albin in "La Cage Aux Folles"--the really effeminate one. She is built like him and they dress the same--sort of Big Person camouflage gear comprised of large shirts over outfits and way too much coordination. Red snakeskin belt with matching shoes and a red snakeskin patterned shirt. Clothes you don't find in nature sort of thing. And she has the same kind of feminine affectations as Albin that are all the more preposterous given her size and lumbering manner. She says, "I don't do boxes. Get one of the boys to move them." Which would be fine if she were a dainty little thing, but she's not, so it doesn't translate too well.
I'm definitely in an offiacious torpor. A ceaseless rainy Friday afternoon, existential horror mirrored back to me in the fresh young faces of the temporary vital gorgeous staff, rubbing in the hopeless reality of my lot in life. Must be time for another soda, vogue down the hallway, terse expression, convey intense ruthless commitment to job at hand. Back to desk. Pace, ignore visitors, lap up some water. Bite my keeper. Try to erase green fedora image permanently from brain. |
Anyhoo, back to Ratalie. She is a fetching lass, despite T's reservations. Rat has a great body, and really that's all that matters. She's got the stems, the faux orangey Anita Bryant tan (oh GOD, does she maintain that faux tan!), the 36D headlights, streaked hair, a beak, swollen eyes and a nascent double chin. Ooops those last three things just slipped outta the catty bag. Ratalie is a combination of Natalie Wood and a gigantic rat, hence her name. She has a sister who lives in Boca Raton and she is always going to visit her. Boca Raton=Mouth of the Rat. Perfecto.
Ratalie made my life a living hell because she is one of the most mercurial moody bitches who ever lived. I have Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome because of her. Sometimes I think I hear her voice and I involuntarily shake. She is best friends with Retro Slut. They are both a coupla tough, street smart chicks who, like a cockroach after a nuclear blast, could survive for a year on the the back of a postage stamp. Cockroach Girls. They dress like 'ho's and the power they wield over men is that they dress provocatively as a challenge, as in "Here are the goods, fetchingly packaged, but you can't have them." It is a popular ploy among young women these days. Hence the ubiquitous spaghetti strap camisoles and the popularity of 'ho divas like JLo and Paris Hilton. Fuck-me magnets who don't deliver.
She and Retro Slut are smart, in that scrappy 'ho with a hearta gold way; they have bartended; first person in the family to go to college; that sort of thing. They also both live in "fringe" neighborhoods that they insist on calling "Adams Morgan," but that are not "Adams Morgan." They are proud that they live in DC and, of course, talk about the suburbs like all proud city dwelling tough trash divas do, in disparaging tones. Rat almost had a heart attack when I told her I was a native Washingtonian. She said, "But they don't exist." I said, "Well you're looking at one." That's when she stopped trying to convince me her shack on 14th Street was in "Adams Morgan."
Ratalie was all about the drama and all about the Ratalie. She talked about herself incessantly and never, not once, asked me a question about myself. She had a rigid script of things she would talk to me about: politics and the Jon Stewart show. She liked The Onion magazine and would try to bond with me over that, but I don't think it's funny, so we couldn't connect there. I think the problem was that she used to be a Republican. And you know what they say, once a Republican always a Republican. She talked a good liberal game, but I know her heart lies with the provincial, nibby-nosed world of the Other Party.
Alas, all good things must come to an end and Ratalie, who was also a painfully transparent liar, finally got a job somewhere else. Someone had an idea to put together a "goodbye book" for her. It was all I could do not to write, "Don't let the screen door hit yer ass on the way out." Instead, I copied this cartoon from the New Yorker with the caption, "What is this endless series of meaningless experiences trying to teach me?" and pasted it in the book. Next to it I wrote, "I hope you find some happiness one day." |
Thursday, June 02, 2005
Working Hard or Hardly Working...
I don't so much get dressed for work as I get into costume. Each outfit is a carefully put together talisman against the day and certain people. I recently got a pair of glasses that are serious face armor. Not that I didn't have another pair of perfectly good $500 glasses (bought with my husband's excess cafeteria plan money--use or lose, doncha know) with rimless lenses and a sassy green bar across the bridge.
You need lots of hardware to complete the ritual of dressing for work. The make-up: a trowel and spackle from Clinique meant to create a perfect even plane of "Ivory" surfaces; loose face powder (also from that make-up god, don't let anyone tell you different--Clinique) that comes with a helpful brush that seals the spackle into a delicate concrete layer over all eruptions and imperfections. Then the mascara. Despite what I said about Retro Slut, I have long since graduated from Maybelline Great Lash. We in the Mascara World know that is the touchstone of make-ups, however it was trumped during the 80's and 90's by the godlike Lancome Aquacils. It's been discontinued. Further postings will deal with the Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance of having your signature makeup discontinued. Anyway, when Lancome couched the best mascara ever and replaced it with a sorry substitute, the mascara slut was forced to go to L'Oreal Lash Architect, which is sold in drug stores. Here in the DC area that means "CVS," a vile cacophony of "seasonal" gear, badly stocked shelves, and an unbelievably inept and surly staff.
Because no one likes to work hard, but pity the fool who admits it, we find lots of people scamming the system with a faux array of surefire "work hard" lies. In Washington that means the army of people who pepper their talk with "twelve hour days"; "eighty hour workweeks"; missed dinners/birthday parties...fill in the blank. Emphasizing how busy you are is, in effect, emphasizing how important you are. Which brings about the dilemma: I am now so damn busy, but I don't approve of talking about it, but I am. If you are a habitual slacker, as I have always been, or someone who has a hard time ballyhooing their latest endeavors to the moon, as I have often been, it's hard for people to take you seriously. I still have old, old friends who think I am a secretary because I think it's more comfortable to compartmentalize someone into that. It is called the problem of Not being Taken Seriously Because You Don't Market Yourself Accordingly.
It's never really been important for me to be taken seriously at the professional level, because I have never taken the professional level seriously. I have always thought/hoped/dreamed that there was another calling for me. In the meantime, I kept working and natural selection did its thing. I became a grownup worker, in contrast to what my friend M. called us in our twenties, "workfakers." Now we're "lifefakers," carrying on with this delusion that certain life accoutrements make us impervious to mortal sin. Like having babies and a husband and summer plans. |
Cynicism is another word for reality