June 30, 2018

table salt

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art."
-François de La Rochefoucauld

I don't know why I keep buying them.  Maybe it's the convenience factor combined with how good they look in their ready-made "just toss in the oven for a while and dinner is done" bags.

Each time we stop by the grocery store on the way up to the Lodge, I run in and get something for dinner the next night, and I conveniently forget about how dry and tasteless and nearly inedible the meat always, always turns out, and how fond they are of putting a pound of black pepper into the seasoning no matter what flavor it purports to be, and I grab a bag of beef or pork or chicken mixed with vegetables.  "Just toss in the oven and dinner is done."

The pork is particularly dry.  It's as dry as my mother's pork chops.  We would sit and politely saw them into bites with butter knives and chew.  It was the only meal where everyone asked for a second glass of iced tea.  We chewed the tasteless meat in thoughtful, laborious silence.  Pepper was never an issue.  The issue was the fact that my mother didn't believe in salt.

My dinner table is not my mother's dinner table.  Oh, no.  No.

There is salt.  There is conversation.

Last night, we chewed dry pork and beef cooked in a bag, while my son looked at memes on his phone.  This is as natural to him as breathing.

Me:  "Okay, next time you have to make me swear to not buy these bags.  You have to remind me in the car before I go inside.  They just look so good in the moment."

The Kid:  "Mine's not that bad.  But I can see what you mean about the pepper."

P.J.:  "I wouldn't say the meat is horribly dry.  I'd put it firmly between only slightly dry and sand.  It's right in the middle.  Oh my god, I can't believe you just did that!"

Me:  "iiii uuuhhhh?"

P.J.:  "Put that whole piece of pork in your mouth!"

Me:  "iiii uuunn aaa iiiig!"

P.J.:  *laughing hysterically*  "See?"

Me:  "uuuuhd uuuuub!"

P.J.:  *laughs harder, puts down fork and holds head in hands*

The Kid:  "Hey guys, want to hear a shower thought from Reddit?  Oh.  Why's P.J. laughing?"

Me:  "See ings I ut ooo ush foo im my mouf."

P.J.:  *gasping for breath*

Me:  *chewing furiously to end the moment of humiliation*

The Kid:  "Shower thought:  'Without bats, we wouldn't have tequila.'"

Me:  *swallow*  Where the hell did that come from?

P.J.:  *calms down*  Yeah, that makes sense.  But they'd be fruit bats, wouldn't they?"

The Kid:  "Yeah, because they pollinate agave, and you get tequila from agave."

Me:  "Wait, that's the second time this evening that fruit bats have come up.  Don't you think that's weird?  When we were quoting Holy Grail while ago?"

P.J.:  "So?  Fruit bats are important."

The Kid:  "Yeah!  Super important.  There needs to be more fruit bat awareness."

Me:  "There needs to be more 'y'all are too fucking weird for words' awareness.  Ooo!  Puffin!"

*points to desktop background of computer on kitchen counter*

P.J.:  "Nuffin."

Me:  "No.  Puffin."

P.J.:  "Nuffin."

The Kid and me:  "PUFFIN."

P.J.:  "NUFFIN!"

Me:  "Why the fuck are you saying that?  Stahhhhhp!"

P.J.:  "It's just that Simon Drew cartoon.  Jesus."

Me::  "Whahh?"

The Kid:  "He's cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs."

Me:  "That's not a puffin, dumbass, that's a toucan."

The Kid:  "No, the toucan is Froot Loops.  The puffin is ... wait."

Me:  "Sorry, duh, it's a cuckoo bird.  The puffin is one of those weird-ass organic healthy cereals they put down by the Kashi twigs."

The Kid:  "Why does Kellogg's like to use birds so much?"

P.J.:  "They make good illustrations."

The Kid:  "They're grrrrrrrr --"

Me:  "THAT'S A GODDAMNED TIGER!"

The Kid:  "I know that."

Me:  "TIGERS AREN'T BIRDS."

The Kid:  *infuriating grin of one who knows how to push my buttons*


My as-yet-uncurbed tendency to buy and serve those meat bags doesn't qualify as eating intelligently, but eating together as a family does.  Studies and statistics tell us so.  I think I get a bonus with the kid and P.J. and our eternally weird conversations.  I get table salt.

June 29, 2018

the heart of a bird

This morning I leashed Rose and we set off on a walk up that winding mountain road, the one that pushed me to the breaking point of exhaustion the first time I climbed it.  Today, it seemed shorter, the going easier.  I took that path because of the reward at the top, the vista of distant mountains that go on forever and the breeze that wasn't there a moment before.  I had in ear buds and played Kate Campbell's The K.O.A. Tapes from start to finish, her voice right inside my head.  I've owned the CD for several years but had never listened to it, typical of my bad habit of not letting things in.

As I walked, I was sorry that I had waited.  It's really good stuff.

A hawk passed overhead.  I rounded the final curve-hill and reached the place where I could stand and look out over the Appalachian Mountains.  The breeze ruffled my hair.  And this song, "Hope's Too Hard", began to play.

Thirty seconds later, standing on the side of a road in broad daylight, tears streamed and I was sobbing.  It reached straight into me and grabbed my heart and squeezed.  Her voice right inside my head.


I've been chattering all night lone
Like a crane or a swallow, on and on
I've lost my voice with all this crying
And my will to sing

Hope's too hard and I'm too weak
I don't know if I can keep
Holding on beyond my reach
Love, could you please sing for me?

If I could, I'd fly away
Off into the light of day
But I can't seem to find the strength
To even lift my wings

Hope's too hard and I'm too weak
I don't know if I can keep
Holding on beyond my reach
Love, could you please carry me?

And I wish I could see beyond
Far beyond the far horizon
My eyes are tired from looking up
And mourning like a dove

Hope's too hard and I'm too weak
I don't know if I can keep
Holding on beyond my reach
Love, please don't let go of me.


She wrote the song while thinking about the chatter and flight of birds.  A swallow is not so different from a sparrow.  She understands what the heart of a bird might be.

P.J. and the kid and I are going to go hear Kate tomorrow night at a small cafe in the mountains.  I can't recall if it's been four years or five since we last saw her, but she congratulated us on our marriage in 2015 and wished us many, many years of happiness.

Years of happiness.  I am happy now.  I am all right now.  She will not know about the suffering and suicide attempt and mental illness and all of the pain I have caused my family, but I will smile and she will only see years of happiness.  And the smile will not be a lie, because the deeper happiness, my P.J. who did not let go of me and never will, has been there all along.

Some things are immutable.  Tomorrow night, I will sit at a cafe table and listen to her and that soul-grabbing guitar she wields, with the same mesmerized half-grin that I always wear during her shows.  In spite of thinking I'm all grown up now and beyond such things, I'll revert to the girl in her early twenties who longs with all her heart to be beckoned up to the stage to sing harmony with her.  Sometimes that longing feels like my heart wanting to leave my chest.

All of the ways her music reaches my heart.

Kate, could you please sing for me?

June 28, 2018

my two-year surgiversary

I'm supposed to mark this as a milestone.  And usually, I dig things like anniversary dates.  So why does this day seem trivial?

Having a pouch is so normal to me now that I can't remember life before it.  I don't miss eating big meals because that's a foreign concept.  The candy in shiny wrappers that used to be a source of deep-seated comfort and enjoyment, that once held great power over me, are now random objects with little to no meaning. 

There are things to celebrate, though.  I'm comfortable in my own skin now and willing to do things to protect that.  I haven't inhaled any stomach acid for two years.  I'm not pre-diabetic.  I haven't had physical complications after those first rough few weeks, and I'm finally getting the psychological complications worked out.  I have good care providers.  Things to celebrate.

I don't feel deprived.  I don't feel regret.  My pouch and I, we're tight.

If you're considering or facing gastric bypass surgery, and you feel like a boulder is about to roll over you and smush everything you love and need, please know that it becomes normal after a while and what you feel now, the longing and loss and fear of failure and anger and resentment and regret and all those other things that come with, won't be there forever.  It gets easier.

June 27, 2018

how to import an aardvark

Last month, I set about trying to import an aardvark.

I've seen things.
It began as a harmless search for an image of a plush aardvark to use with this post.  Except that I became enamored of the aardvark in the picture and the jokes factual accounts about my Lunesta aardvarks made me desire this particular plushie with a terrible desire, so I dug in and began the work of acquiring one.

Not just an aardvark.  That aardvark.

Which is out of production and cannot be had anywhere at all.

The company, Dowman, is English, so after coming up empty-handed on Amazon and eBay here, I hopped the pond and searched toy stores all over the U.K.  Completely in vain; many had it listed but they were all "not in stock, click here to be notified when Hell freezes over because then maybe we'll have some more of them on the shelf."

I got excited when I finally found one on Amazon.uk from a third-party seller that claimed to have three of them.  I ordered; I paid.  I got an e-mail almost instantly refunding my money.

There ensued a conversation that went something like this:  I wrote asking what the fuck, and they replied you have messages turned off and we tried to let you know, and I replied whatever but why can't I have the aardvark, and they replied it turned out they had one aardvark left and it had proven defective, and I replied in what manner was it defective, and they replied a thread had come loose along one of the seams, and I replied would they sell it to me anyway because so what, and they replied they were not in the habit of dispatching defective merchandise.

And that's where it stopped, because I couldn't think of a retort that wasn't "fuck the spavined nag you rode in on, you know one of you wants it for himself, because otherwise what are you going to do with an unraveled special-needs aardvark, when I'm offering to buy it anyway and sew it back up, you assholes one and all?"

My annoyance at being toyed with only fueled my search.  And that's when I found one on eBay in France.  I don't speak French at all, at all, so watching me squint and mouth the words while trying to read the listing, which they do not offer to translate into other languages unless the part offering to translate it was also in French, would have been pretty comical.  But the aardvark was real, and existed, and I won the auction and paid them some money and got a shipping notice.

So began the trek of the international jet-setting Aardvark of Mystery.  There were global shipping centers and dispatchers and multiple arrivals and departures in various exotic locations that aren't between France and here.  This is a well-traveled, cosmopolitan, multilingual, imported aardvark*.  

[*Dear Andy: I just employed an Oxford comma, but this in no way, express or implied, represents a reversal of my position on the matter.  I maintain the Oxford comma is for people who cannot be trusted in matters of discerning context.  So just don't, okay?  Thanks.]

I didn't let Sunovion Pharmaceuticals know that I'm onto them about the Lunesta aardvarks and have taken matters into my own hands.  I did tell Walter he doesn't get to follow me around any more, but he just shrugged and walked off.  I think he's more upset than he's letting on.

Jacques arrived today.  He's posing in this pic with No-Name Dog.  No-Name Dog was a stuffie that I had as a toddler, and I honestly have no memory of what happened to his real ears, and suspect a neighbor's dog was involved there, but I felt sorry for him and came into the house carrying him with tears running down my face and said, "Puppy can't hear!"  My mother sewed him some new ears out of scrap cloth and attached them so I would calm down.  I was satisfied.  I think they're kind of groovy, those black flowery ears.  No-Name Dog is showing Jacques around the place.

My aardvark dreams tonight are going to be out of this world.

it gets into your head

This StepBet gig is making me walk.  Really walk.  With sneakers on.  The three-months-ago me would roll my eyes at me.

Yesterday, I wore this ankle-length flowery prairie dress to work, in firm keeping with the gay agenda of conforming to the stereotype of a raging dyke.  When lunch time came around, it occurred to me that the dress probably wouldn't comply with the "wear appropriate attire" sign appended to the treadmill upstairs.  The treadmill would grab the hem of the dress and suck me into one of the belts and something undesirably orthopedic would happen.

I decided to brave the threatening rain clouds and go outside, into nature and stuff.  There's a street near my building that I'd never walked nor driven, so I headed that direction for the sake of variety.  I passed a few generic brick office buildings and rounded a corner, and very nearly gasped in surprise.



I am enthralled by canopied roads.  I remember them from when I lived in Florida and drove under Spanish moss.  I remember them from Chapel Hill.  They form a safe tunnel of woods, wrap around and protect and shade and shield.

I wandered beneath the elm branches bent from gnarled trunks.  My steps were light.

I went that way again today, this time with my phone and ear buds and Spotify.  My steps fell in time perfectly with "Et in terra pax hominibus" from Vivaldi's Gloria.

That is when I realized why headphones and ear buds are appealing.  I had always imagined a person was trying to be courteous to others in the vicinity, or shut out external noise, or make up for a lack of speakers, and maybe some of these things are true, too, but there is more.

The music was in my head.  Not coming from over there, or over there, or even around me during a performance, although that experience comes close, with the orchestra mere feet away on the stage.  But the ear buds put it right inside my head, with left and right ears indistinguishable.  The violins and cellos and boy choir and low bass notes and oboe and harpsichord were sounding in the middle of my brain.

It turned my thoughts to music.  My steps were the beat and pulse of a union of body and mind.

June 26, 2018

the free air

'Now, lord,' said Gandalf, 'look out upon your land! Breathe the free air again!' ....

... Suddenly through a rent in the clouds behind them a shaft of sun stabbed down. The falling showers gleamed like silver, and far away the river glittered like a shimmering glass.

'It is not so dark here,' said Théoden.

- J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers


I probe and prod.  It lived in the back, in a seedy neighborhood.  I search under rubble, in hovels and shacks with doors banging in the wind.  I check the back seat of the car.

It's gone.  The wind blows a tumbleweed down the abandoned sidewalk.  The wind brings a refreshing breath.


Even at the best of times, before the lithium, suicidal ideation maintained a tiny presence in my brain, in the back, where it quietly made its presence known through a small, persistent voice that whispered and couldn't be silenced.  It was like living with a mild itch, something easily but consciously ignored.

And sometimes, not so easily.

Sometimes, it roared.

It's gone.

June 25, 2018

p.j. always gets stuck holding the pissing baby raccoon

6:45 p.m.

I just shat in your planter.
P.J.:  "Why does this kind of shit always happen to us?  Why not the neighbors?  We have neighbors.  Why not them?"

Me:  "Because this is our lives.  Remember looking at puppies today?  Two cute puppies?  The Universe sent two baby raccoons instead.  It's that fucked-up sense of humor thing."

P.J.:  "Oh, yeah.  That.  Conservation of mass."

Me:  "The bacon turned out pretty good.  Crispy.  Want some more soup?"

5:58 p.m.

P.J.:  "HE FELL IN THE HOLE.  Oh my god, he fell in the fucking hole.  I moved them over there so they wouldn't fall in the hole.  Okay, so there's a smart one and a dumb one.  Darwin has spoken."

Me:  "It looks like an abandoned burrow.  Jesus, it's huge.  But he should be able to get out.  Hang on, let me look."

P.J.:  "Don't!  The ground is soft.  You're going to fall into the hole, too.  Stop!"

Me:  *carefully peering over the edge and feeling the ground start to slip under my Birks*  "Nah, part of it is slanted.  He can get out when he's ready.  If he could handle that bucket, he's fine."

P.J.:  "Would you get the fuck away from the hole?  There's a seriously pissed-off raccoon down in there that probably wants to eat your face now."

Me:  "Fine.  See?  I didn't fall in."  *omitting how close I came to falling in*



5:54 p.m.

Me:  "Holy shit, he's able to climb out of the bucket!  Even though it has slick sides.  Fuck, he got out."

The Kid:  "Here, use the cardboard!  The cardboard!"

Me:  "Get ... back ... in ... there ... got him!"

P.J.:  "This little guy is furious.  I've got a good hold on him.  Bring the bucket."

Other Baby Raccoon:  *hiss*  *chirp*  *growlllllllll*

P.J.:  "It's a really good thing he doesn't have teefers yet or I'd be in a world of pain.  Hurry up!"

Me:  *running with growling, hissing bucket*  "Did he eat the turkey?"

P.J.:  "A little, then I had to grab him so he wouldn't dart.  And he's pissing all over my gloves!"

Me:  "Okay, here, I'll move the cardboard ... put him in ... almost ... got him!"

The Kid:  "That is one bucket full of seriously pissed off raccoon.  'Two raccoons pissing in a bucket'.  It could be another Cards Against Humanity card."

Me:  "At least they've been finding water.  Obviously."

P.J.:  *mumbling*  "I don't see why I couldn't be the one holding the bucket."



5:51 p.m.

Me:  "Okay, I'll hold the bucket, and you put raccoons in it."

P.J.  "Wait, why do I have to be the one to put raccoons in the bucket?  Why can't I hold the bucket and you put raccoons in it?"

Me:  "Because you already have gloves on.  Duh."



5:44 p.m.

Me:  "Hey, kid, c'mere.  Shhhh, just be quiet.  Follow me."

The Kid:  "What the fuck?"

Me:  "Just come on.  It's worth it.  Nature moment.  Wait, grab a couple of slices of turkey first."

The Kid:  "No, really.  What the fuck?"

Me:  "And I need that really big orange bucket."



5:37 p.m.

P.J.:  *sets down hose she was using to rinse the soap off the car*  "They're small for raccoons, aren't they?  They're babies.  Older babies."

Me:  "Um, shouldn't they be running away?  Why aren't they scared of us?  Wait, is he ....?"

P.J.:  "Yep."

Me:  "Okay, he's taking a shit in our planter.  Fine.  Now he's coming over toward us instead.  Do you see them?  They look absolutely emaciated!"

P.J.:  "We can't feed them.  That's, like, Rule One with wild animals."

Me:  "Shit, what do we do?  Look at the other one, up on the porch railing.  He's actually trembling.  Jesus, he's terrified.  What should we do?"

P.J.:  "I guess we need to get them away from the house and into some woods.  They need to be able to forage.  I mean it, we can't give them food or we'll have two pet raccoons.  Hmm.  Woods across the street.  Let's put them in there."

Me:  "Yeah ... they look too old for wildlife rescue.  Wait, I'm going to get the kid.  He needs to see this."



5:32 p.m.

"Pssst!  Lille!  C'mere ... come outside, quick.  Two raccoons are up here by the house."


June 24, 2018

you don't want to go back again

You would fuck it up.
Trust me on this one.
Fantasy operates as a strange mechanism in me.  I heartily suck at traditional forms but have others that fit neatly into the cubby of mental illness.  People have fantasies, widely either sexual or about winning the lottery jackpot advertised on billboards.  I don't have the capacity for either.

Lottery fantasies quickly devolve into watching every lawyer and charity appear on the doorstep with Dysons to draw out the resources.  I try to revel in all the good I could do, all of the wonderful things I could buy and utilize and give to loved ones and to dogs, lots and lots of dogs, but after thirty seconds the lawyers show up.

My brain can't run with the good stuff for longer than that before the over-developed muscle-rippled corrective, logical bit walks in like a protein-powder commercial weightlifter and points out all of the flaws and couldn't-possiblies and makes-no-senses.  He keeps Lille safe, but that motherfucker could crash any party you care to name.

Lately, I've been taken with that universal fantasy wherein one gets sent back to childhood knowing what he or she knows in adulthood.  "Boy, I wish I could go back and do it all over again, knowing what I know now."  If you haven't heard that one, move out of your cave.  The damp isn't good for your lungs and the delusions aren't good for your psyche.

Also, that idea is unadulterated bullshit.

Edward Lorenz gave us the butterfly effect glimpse at chaos theory.  Something as simple as a butterfly flapping its wings could, if conditions were right, create a tornado a continent away.  Cause and effect.  Change one thing in history, like a conversation or buying a different mule or having to go back for your car keys, and the effects are widespread.  Different children are born.  Things don't get invented, or do get invented.  Minute effects, catastrophic effects.  Unpredictable as the weather.

In this fantasy, I return to age nine.  I'm Lille.  During those delicious first thirty seconds, I marvel at how limber and energetic I am and make plans to become a runner right away so that I won't grow up with a weight problem.  I can sleep on my stomach with my limbs spread.  I can sleep without medications, and without Cocoa, who hasn't come along yet.  I can unravel the mysteries of what it was like to teach back then, see my teachers as working adults, relate to them.  I'm not just smart; I'm prodigal.  I act like an adult and know things and speak differently from the rest of my peers, and everyone marvels.  I show up at a Messiah rehearsal at some large church and impress them so much that they let me sing with them.  I'm the star of the show.  I go far in life.  I go to college at fourteen.  My supply of need-meeting specialness is as seemingly infinite as the ocean.

I would see my Teacher in two years' time.  So long as I didn't flap my butterfly wings too vigorously, it would happen.  My heart would beat faster at the thought.  This time, I could do things right.

Muscle Man shows up and the nine-year-old hears the record-ripping sound.

It would actually play out like this:  I would instantly be ontologically and culturally shocked.  I wouldn't know how this happened and even if I survived the cognitive dissonance, I couldn't leave my bedroom because I wouldn't know how to act nine years old again and it would be super-obvious that I'd had some type of mental breakdown and needed help.  My mother would notice and fret; my teachers would notice that I didn't even remember where my seat was in the class and that my behavior was paranoid and markedly different from one day to the next.  My peers would notice, and while they were already used to me knowing things and speaking differently, instead of bullying or ostracizing me, they would simply stay away and stare when they didn't think I'd notice.

None of that would matter.  Because next, I would leverage the perception of a mental breakdown and somehow maneuver things, through using the phone book at the library and making a long-distance phone call and begging, such that my mother would drive me from my hometown to this city for evaluation.  I would get an appointment with Therapist Gumby because I know where he was working back then.  My former therapist was in the same building, so I'd walk in to my first session and convince him to go get her, and we'd meet together.  He would close the door and sit down, and I'd start in.

"Listen, we don't have much time and I have a lot to tell you, so this isn't a traditional session, okay?  It's critical that you listen.  I have to tell you something that you will not believe and then I have to somehow prove it so you will believe me, and that just has to happen.  It has to.  I know I'm nine, but I'm actually forty-one.  I've been sent back to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, and yeah, everybody says they wish they could do that, but they're stupid bastards and that's bullshit - yes, I know I'm not supposed to curse, but I'm forty-one and I happen to know that both of you aren't prudes, so accept it.  Keep listening.

"You.  Gumby.  I can't prove things to you nearly as easily as I can her.  You grew up in the Midwest and played baseball and you ran fast and you were the star outfielder.  You always caught the pop fly.  You had lots of sisters.  You're married and have two young children.  I know your middle name.  None of that is enough to go on."  I'd turn to my former therapist.  "You I can cinch.  Toward the end of your master's program, you stumbled across a book while writing your thesis and it completely revolutionized your outlook and understanding of why you were doing what you were doing.  Schizoid Phenomena, Object Relations, and the Self by Harold Guntrip.  It was green with gold lettering.  We discussed it in depth and its model using the anti-libidinal ego was quite helpful at the time.  We called him Harry.

"Okay, now I have your attention.  Listen to me.  I don't know how this happened and I clearly remember that one of you is open to some mystical stuff and the other is a panentheist and not closed-minded.  I'm stuck here, have been for three months now, and I'm forty-one and I don't know if I'm going to get to go back to where I belong and I don't know if I'm going to get to see my wife and son again.  I've lost my family.  I'm grieving.  He was almost fifteen and what if they're still going and I won't get to see them again?  Am I still there, too?  Do they know?  Did I disappear?  Will I ever even meet her?  Will he be born?  Why is this happening?

"You can see how much I need to be able to talk to you both on a regular basis, to get to be myself to someone, and I'm already being selfish and changing the course of your futures by sitting here talking.  Please, please forgive me.  But I need you to go out there and convince that woman who is my mother, through whatever creative means you can come up with, to keep bringing me here.  She hates the drive, so it has to be really good."

Notice how much more elaborately the realistic bits have to get themselves sorted before the fantasy can continue.  And I have no idea why I'm having this particular line of thought, except maybe it's one of those middle-age things that starts happening, when you're the pivot of the see-saw.  Maybe it's the meds.  I like blaming the meds.  They don't argue.

Or maybe it's that continued need to feel special, even though my brain wrecks the fantasy without fail.  The fantasies that always succeeded were about sating that need.  A teacher or authority figure I was preoccupied with would watch me do my homework from outside my bedroom window, watch me get the answers right because I was smart.  Everywhere I went, I imagined they were watching.  I couldn't dance like no one was watching, so to speak, because someone was always watching.  Always watching, admiring, appreciating.  Always serving to anchor my worth as a person.

I wouldn't go back again for anything.  Not even to spend a year gazing upon my Teacher and be given an opportunity to prevent the fissure.  I am here, and now.  I love, and I am loved.  I am gratefully bound by the commitments of maternity and the tender, unyielding vows of marriage.  To go back and erase much of the negative in my life would be to forfeit treasure that would always elude me.  The butterfly wings would flap into the chaos and I would live in want.

I am fantasizing about something that I would never in a million years desire, because fantasy is safe.

I still need to learn to dance like no one is watching, to provide my own fountains, rivers, oceans when a craving for specialness emerges.  I have never mastered this trick.  I learned too well, too early, to take in the ersatz worth as my sustenance.  I do not know how to convince Lille to go hungry for a time while I tap into other waters.

June 23, 2018

list of allergies

I'm exhausted and about to indulge in a nap.  I already got my steps in today and I've been exercising.  Exercises in futility are still exercises. 

I bought modern, sleek brushed nickel light fixtures from Home Depot about a year ago to replace the 1985 brass boob-lights in the hallway.  New fixtures of any kind have to sit in a closet in the dark, under a pile of other good intentions, to properly age before being installed.  This is well-known.

Today, I decided that they were ripe and the step ladder was already upstairs for some other reason that happened weeks ago, so in the interest of continuing my efficiency streak, I rolled up my sleeves and broke out the screwdriver and boxes.  Most of my steps came from running up and down the stairs to the garage to test which breaker needed to be off.

I uninstalled the boob light by unscrewing the nipple, removing the brass areola, and carefully lowering the heavy glass tit and setting it aside.  I untangled wiring.  I got the new fixture out of its box and re-tangled the wiring, fit the screws, and attached the sexy-looking square light.  I ran downstairs and turned on the breaker, came upstairs, saw that I'd accidentally bought the ugly bright blue-light kind instead of the warm, ran back downstairs and turned off the breaker, and came back upstairs and switched the fixtures back.  So much for ceiling mastectomies.

Home Depot is a library.  I love them for this.  Everything is tidily back in its box and I'll go exchange them next week.

It was during this fruitless activity that I learned I'm allergic to whatever they put in popcorn ceiling nubbly-spray stuff, or at least what they put in it back in 1985.  It hit me in the face and arms and went down my shirt, and everywhere that it touched me, I had a red itchy spot for about thirty minutes.

So now, my medically documented list of allergies looks something like this:

Popcorn ceiling nubblies
Cucumber
Anti-inflammatory medications
Latex
Intrusive trauma-resolving therapy techniques


Four of these make me break out in either a rash or hives, and one is listed as an allergy so doctors will not give me NSAIDs.  They will give a post-Roux-en-Y body a stoma ulcer with a snap of your fingers.  

My son reacted to amoxicillin when he was seven.  I had to rush him to the emergency room when his toes started swelling and he broke out in welts.  He had refused the amoxicillin shot the day before in the pediatrician's office, in spite of my pleas, and insisted on taking the oral medicine three times a day for a week.  I'm glad he's as stubborn as I am.

He experienced cold urticaria for several years afterward.  I have this vivid memory of him pulling up his shirt on a morning that was far too cold for his soccer match and showing his coach a welt-covered stomach.  We were in a nice, warm car five minutes later.

I also appear to be allergic to reading instructions.  I see now that if I'd just read the side of the box, I would have seen that the light fixture was clearly described as bright instead of warm.  There's a slider arrow and everything announcing this.  

My pillows and blanket and Peter the Hedgehog and Monkey and Sealy await me.

June 22, 2018

excuse me, but you're out of paper towels

Statistics as a concept is toying with me today.

The day was slated for a marathon of doctors' appointments, to get absolutely everything medical done and dusted without having to take time off work.  I woke early, stretched, and brewed a fragrant cup of Brazilian coffee, in which a gnat promptly died of happiness.

It must have been happiness.  Many, many gnats seem to love doing this.  Word must get around.

Last summer, we had an outbreak of gnats that drove us to the edge of everything that has edges.  I littered the kitchen with traps made out of plastic bottles, banana chunks and soap.  They worked well, but the gnats thrived until, weeks later, we finally realized we needed to bleach some pipes to within an inch of their lives, and then suddenly the gnats packed up and disappeared.

During our stay in Gnatland, though, we observed something undeniable that we still cannot explain.  If P.J. made a cup of coffee, or had a cup she was drinking, or even left a cup of coffee sitting out for hours, forgotten, it was unmolested.  Any cup of coffee that I made, however, had a gnat in it within ten minutes of brewing.  Once, there were two gnats, though I had only turned my back to the cup for a moment.

We can posit things, things like "gnats love coffee" and "there are a lot of gnats and only so much surface area so it was bound to happen eventually", but this happened to me over and over, and it's starting again.  Never her coffee.  Always mine.  We use the same pods, the same sweetener and amount, and the same creamer and amount.  It's the same fucking coffee.

This morning, I just poured it out and made another cup.  In a travel mug with a lid on it.  That was closed.  Tightly.

I dropped Rose off at Angela's house for some social dog time.  Angela runs a doggie day care business out of her home.  Here, "out of her home" means the dogs come stay in her house, play in her back yard, and if they're staying overnight, sleep with her kids in their beds or anywhere in the house they feel like sleeping.  It's boarding combined with the world's best dog park.

The coffee had run its course by the time I reached the first doctor, the one who was going to weigh me post-Holy-Shit Diet.  This enabled me to capitalize on caffeine's diuretic effect and use the restroom there before I was called back for my appointment.  The lobby restroom there is decorated with homey items made of wicker that complement metal wall art.  I washed my hands.  They got points for having foaming soap, but the motion-sensing paper towel dispenser was empty.  I had to wipe my hands on my dress.  I hate when that happens.

I was six pounds down from my highest holy-shit weight.  Mission accomplished.  Unfortunately, my blood pressure was 90/60, so allowing caffeine in that home stretch left me unwisely dehydrated.  I did still seem to have a pulse.  And I did tell my doctor about the Holy-Shit Diet, which made her laugh, because at the end of it, I still lost six pounds, and that's all to the good.  She ordered a thyroid panel since I've started lithium and said, "See you in six months!"

The next stop was the gynecologist, everyone's favorite place to be.  I've honestly never cared much about what goes on, except for the excess of babies in the lobby.  After all these years, I still bristle a little because of my first son.  I used the lobby restroom because the coffee was continuing to squeeze all of the water from my body.  I washed my hands with the generic orange Dial soap.  They were out of paper towels.  I wiped my hands on my dress again.

My favorite GYN retired last year.  We spent four years in a row discussing his wife's Keurig machine during the examinations.  It was a running thing, picking up the conversation where we'd left off the previous year.  Before I nabbed him, I was stuck for years with a P.A. who is very conservative and anti-gay and asked me every visit if I still had the same female partner.  I finally snapped a few years ago and politely asked her if she questioned every other patient each visit as to whether she had the same husband.  Then I switched caregivers.

Today was a new guy, nice enough if a bit too talkative.  I didn't give a shit about the examination.  It's just a speculum and a cotton swab.  Meh.  What I gave a shit about was the art hanging in the exam room.  The time between donning the front-opening gown and inadequate sheet and the doctor's arrival always seems like a small eternity, so one is forced to look around at whatever informational posters and old magazines happen to be there.  But this print ... I couldn't tear my eyes away.  It seems generic and harmless until you really look at it.



They didn't have Photoshop when this was painted, but that straw hat is a fake.  It cannot possibly be touching the top of her head.  The painter plastered it there as an afterthought and did a terrible job.  All I could do was stare at the train wreck of that floating straw hat.  I'm asking for a different exam room next year.

I ate a protein bar on the way to my eye exam, full of myself for being a paragon of efficiency today.  I sat in the parking lot and made important, productive phone calls.  Then I had my eyeballs air-puffed, dilated, temporarily blinded, tested, analyzed, and declared to be almost the same eyeballs that I had last year.

The optometrist's office abuts a store that sells all manner of glasses, so I puttered in there a bit.  My prescription was only marginally different but they had a good sale going.  An employee offered to help me and I told him I wanted to pick out two pairs of frames and get glasses.  I found what I wanted in what constitutes record time for me (less than a full hour) and went over to the service table.  The employee said, "I'll be right with you, let me just take care of these folks first," and helped three people up at the main counter.  I stood and waited.  Then he scurried by and said, "Let me just help these folks real quick," and sat down at a service table with a man and his daughter who arrived after I did.  Fifteen minutes later, he was still "helping them real quick".

This kind of thing happens to me a lot.  I'm short, my hair is plain, I wear cute little dresses, and my posture and behavior cry out "don't worry about me, I won't make a fuss."  Today, I wasn't having it.  I set the frames down on his other table and walked right past him and out the door.  I didn't even need fucking glasses.

I spent that glasses-ordering time across the street at the mall instead, wearing sunglasses indoors because I still looked like Cartman with huge pupils.  Why were you at the mall, Lille?  You hate the mall, Lille.  Remember?  That would be because one of my new strappy sandals had broken during the course of the morning.  The same way that a new sandal broke in the same spot three weeks ago, while I was at work.  I want to know if this has happened to anyone else, because right now, I'm convinced Statistics is messing me around.

I bought the new pair of sneakers I needed.  They're black and silver with rainbow-colored soles and laces.  My son says they're totally gay.  I like them.  I sat on a bench in the mall outside of the shoe store and swapped my sandals out for these screaming-bright new shoes and walked proudly around the mall once, to get in steps.

I was just as proud of the shoes when I walked into my ex-monk's office.  I took a deep breath and did what I was obligated to do, which was to thank him for his gentle persistence, because the lithium is magical and I want more of it and he was right and I was wrong.  He smiled, but it wasn't smug.  It was a real smile.  I left holding a prescription bumping me up to 300 mg and stopped by the restroom.  I washed my hands.  They were out of paper towels.  My dress once again doubled as a hand towel.

Between the gnat in my coffee, the broken sandal, and what appears to be the receiving end of a national paper towel distributors' strike, I feel statistically harassed by the Universe.  We can throw in the spider web face thing, which is impossible but happens anyway.

Why are there patterns here?  That's not how Things work.  I should not be this thoroughly adept at distinguishing between a floating gnat and a floating coffee ground, and my oh-I-don't-mind little shift dress should not be damp.

June 21, 2018

my daddy got a smartphone

It was less than two months ago he was sitting at the table at Ruby Tuesday, going on and on about how he was still a proud owner of a flip phone, because it's a known fact that no one needs a phone for anything other than calling people and being called.  Flip-phone owners are vocal about their disdain for smartphone owners.

Earlier this week, I called him to check in, and he told me he could text now.  I asked what happened to the texting prohibition, given that it cost him twenty-five cents per text, and he said he had a new phone and it was all free now.  My daddy was holding a smartphone.

He asked me questions about texting etiquette, how quickly a person expected to hear back from him, whether they'd be offended if it wasn't immediate.  I explained that this is the beauty of texting.  It keeps the recipient from having his or her life interrupted by a phone call in real time and allows for a delay in responding, whether they need to obtain information first or aren't by the phone or just don't feel like communicating with people at that moment.

I didn't expect that his texts would be like his birthday and Christmas cards.  He can't relate in real life the way he can in writing.  He never has gotten the hang of e-mail.

A treasure trove has opened before me.

So began our foray into texting, earlier this week:

Daddy:  Good morning my darling daughter!  I guess texts are usually open ended.  Love you.

[He has always been amused by florid, formal language.  It's a form of humor for him.]

Me:  At least I won't send you inane pictures partaking of the inscrutable form of humor enjoyed by the current young generation.  That is what the kid spends all day doing.

[I wonder what he would say if I sent that pic of the King James Version Bible with the "Signed Copy" sticker on it.]

Daddy:  Feeling old.  I just realized your age is 101001 in binary.  Is it still lol or some other abbreviated phrase?  Love again.

[He's one of those new-to-texting parents who botches LOL, isn't he?  I wonder what he thinks it means.  This is going to be rich .... ]

Me:  That is, I think, the most endearing text in the history of mankind.  Remember that there are only 10 kinds of people in the world, those who can read binary and those who can't.

[Yes, I stole that from a t-shirt.]

Daddy:  Have a capital summer solstice.  14h37m of sun.  It is futile to explain why this occurs to my fellow beings so I'm glad to have a sponge for a daughter.  I love you.

[Okay, putting love at the end of every single text is unnecessary, and I have to find a gentle way of conveying this.  Maybe pointing out that the very fact we're texting now is that love.]


This ties in to my earlier explanation of the complexity that is my daddy.  I might be the only person he can talk to like this.  I'm not sure about my stepmother; it's possible, but I think she mostly just shakes her head about it.  I have to wonder what his daily thoughts are, as he works as a custodian in a manufacturing plant.  His shirt is blue with an oval patch that says "Tommy" and he probably wears Dickies navy blue pants with it.  He'll retire in a few years.  He has poker buddies and golf buddies and I'd lay one down with his bookie that none of them would understand the expression "capital summer solstice."

He was complaining about them, in fact, during our antiquated telephone conversation.  He said that when he's had a couple of beers, he gets even more obstinate and calls their shit.  He'll tell them something and they won't believe it, and he'll push the issue and say, "You got a goddamn phone, look it up.  Look it up right now.  You can look up anything any time you want to.  It's right there."

I don't know how he sees the screen with his poor vision.  Maybe he stopped breaking his cheaters and wears them now.

It's a new concept to him, this portable window into the world of knowledge.  I can't help but be amused by his accelerated leap forward into bafflement that others perceive it as ubiquity instead of epiphany.  It's old news to them.

I hope he never gets there.

June 20, 2018

walk

Dear Therapist Gumby,

In your extended absence, I went for a walk.  I hooked my dog to a leash and went up my street and back down my street.  It wasn't to ward off suicidal ideation.  It was to get in the last of my daily steps so my Garmin would stop beeping at me.  But now I know what it is like to take a walk down my street.

I didn't feel prying eyes from house windows like I expected to feel.  I hadn't noticed before the spot where the power lines leave the air and go underground, near the top of the street.  And I had never realized how loud it is in the summer, the patch of street with woods on either side, with falling twigs and seeds and small, scurrying animals and all of the summer insects.

I had to walk in my sandals because my sneakers are up at the Lodge.  I need new ones.  P.J. bought me those for my birthday two years ago, for walking with good support, but I've ruined them with grass stains and the weed whacker.  I didn't take good care of them and I wish that I had.

I didn't feel any endorphins or connection to nature.  But I want you to know that in your absence, I went for a walk.

Love,
Lille

June 19, 2018

the holy-shit diet (tm)

I've lost almost five pounds during my two-week implementation of the Holy-Shit Diet, the one you go on when you've got a doctor's appointment coming up and you know you're going to get weighed, and she's the one who is monitoring your long-term post-surgical weight maintenance.  I gained eight pounds since the last visit six months ago.  Sometime back in late April or early May - it's vague - I decided I had time to slough the spare six pounds and decided that yes, I should do that.  It completely failed to happen.  I gained two more instead.  I panicked last week and hit the keto lifestyle, paired with this StepBet gig, and it's paid off.  

So I'll go in Friday and she'll be all "way to go, you maintained perfectly" and I'll smile and say "yep" and that will be all that happens.  

I keep telling people that I'll go celebrate with a high-calorie, high-carb, decadent breakfast - like a country ham biscuit slathered in butter from Biscuitville - but now I'm not so sure I will.  I'm on a roll here.  And I'm tolerating those low-carb bagels that are sorcery contained within rice fiber.  They're good if you can rip the outer bits with your incisors.  My bread knife has difficulty slicing through them.  They're not ... natural.

I could write a book about the Holy-Shit Diet.  It could be the new fad.  The title is bound to piss off Christians.  

And if when you come off the diet, and you don't live in North Carolina, and you don't know about Biscuitville, your life is a little less rich for that.  It's like Tudor's Biscuit World in West Virginia.  When you dedicate a small restaurant chain to mastering Southern biscuit-making, the result melts in your mouth, every single time.

I'm tormenting myself.  Staaahhhhp.  I'm supposed to be focusing on low-carb "alternative" foods, because there are only so many eggs a person can eat.

Did you know you can make this stuff called bullet-proof coffee that uses a tablespoon of butter instead of creamer?  Don't laugh - it's undisputedly delectable and who doesn't want an excuse for drinking butter?  Yeah, okay, there's a lot more to it than butter, and I can't afford to keep grass-fed ghee and high-octane brain oil and shit like that around, but the principle is solid.  I like my Harris Teeter creamer, but it still has a bit of corn syrup in it.  High-fructose corn syrup is the bane of the American diet.

I've been using almond milk as my creamer.  The very idea of this once made me gag, but I did it out of desperation one day and found that it isn't bad at all.  Now I like it.  I also like a quart of heavy cream in my coffee, but that isn't Holy-Shit Diet conducive.  Stick with me here.  It will be in the book.

The paleo-friendly ProGranola you can get on Amazon ... it sounds good, but don't.  It's just odd.  You end up with a tiny bowl of Odd with some almond milk splashed on it, and you have to eat the Odd for breakfast.

Oh, except now they're making caffeinated coffee-flavored ProGranola.  Hmm.  I take it back.  I need to go online and get some of that right now.  P.J. and I ... no, wait.  Caffeine is a diuretic and I'm on lithium now and caffeinated granola on top of coffee is the last thing I need.  I'm using old thinking.  Well, fuck.  I don't take it back.  And it would still just be a caffeinated version of Odd.

A key component of the Holy-Shit Diet is staying busy.  Eating from boredom is one of my weaknesses.  The past two weeks have kept me busy enough to forget snacks, so that my caloric intake hasn't suffered.  Find something to do.  Anything.  Clean out your closet.  Replace light fixtures.  Wash your trash can.  Wash your light fixtures.

I'm going to make muesli, as soon as I can get my ass to a store that has seed bins and sells pumpkin seeds out of season and flax seeds and hemp hearts.  (What the hell are hemp hearts?)  It has coconut in it, so it has to be good.  P.J. says this is bird seed, and I remind her that I am a bird.

I'm going to feel dishonest in front of my doctor and knowing myself, I'll probably blab the whole Holy-Shit Diet thing.  P.J. points out that doing that will defeat the purpose of the entire endeavor, so why the fuck am I even doing it?  I say that's not the point at all, except it is the point, so I say, "Yes, dear," and change the subject.

P.J. is the sensible one in this enterprise.

I also know myself well enough to predict I probably won't stay on low-carb for long.  Carbs have a way of creeping in, like heroin.  Okay, heroin doesn't creep in, but you have to make a concerted effort to obtain it, and that's no different from the grocery store and the bagels they keep making half-price.  Hey, that can be a byline for my book, and a running theme for the Holy-Shit Diet:  "Go from Heroin to Heroine!"

But that's sexist.  And embarrassingly hokey.

June 18, 2018

the unthinkable things a person will do to belong

I'm doing the Bariatric Foodie StepBet this time.  It's her second one, and she convinced the company to re-work its algorithm so that the goals aren't astronomically high and unreachable.  My biggest weakness will be remembering to wear my Garmin Vivo.  I am only allowed to forget it one day each week.  The step goals will be no problem this time, even in the heat.  I just walked around the parking lot of my office building and sweating did not set in.  I passed a lot of planters filled with large, smooth stones and found myself wondering how to steal some, just one at a time, to use at home.  This was not a very nice thing for me to think, but if the medical community is going to advocate exercise, they're encouraging idle minds that might get up to didoes.

They're good stones.  But there are probably cameras.

I could walk on my own any time, and I've gone on several rants disavowing this kind of group thing, but in the end, what got me was the sense of participation and belonging.  I'll never meet or talk to these people, but ... I'm tied into something.  As irritating as I find the idea, that is a powerful motivating factor for me to do a Thing.  I'm not the self-sufficient island I like to think I am.  I need to plug in, to belong.  I'm a sucker for it.  On some level, I crave it.

Apparently, I'll even exercise for it.  But when Therapist Gumby says, "It's about damned time," I am going to scowl at him and cross my arms.  I have a reputation to uphold, after all.

June 17, 2018

my english professor's checkbook

Dr. Sylvia Little's didactic mastery drew us all to English class, with perfect attendance.  I was afraid to nap after my bleary-eyed early-morning math course for fear I would miss it.  Gears ground and minds opened.  Sometimes she just sat on her stool at the front of the room and read to us from our assigned novels.  All that she brought to life when she was reading taught us more than any lecture about idioms and protagonists and salient features could have imparted.  Much of it was local literature ... Sharyn McCrumb, Lee Smith, Clyde Edgerton, Fannie Flagg.

We did a fair amount of responsive writing to movies like Places in the Heart and The Color Purple, holed up in A/V library carrels with a checked-out VHS tape and well-loved headphones.  

Our writing was her other passion.  She made us want to give it to her, and it was her bread and meat, watching her students grow and occasionally experience a light bulb moment.

She's a dignified Southern lady.  She's in her eighties and is still spreading her contagious passion for literature.

I only had the privilege of studying under her for one semester, and at the end of that semester, she summoned me to her office for tea and a chat.  There really was a tea tray, a proper one, parked neatly in front of towering stacks of books in front of shelves of books, peppered with folders and photos of a daughter.  We talked for two hours.  I was delighted but baffled.  How did she give this kind of lengthy, individual attention to each of her students?  She was at the time one of my minor heroes and objects of fascination, so I drank it all in like sweet tea.

I shared a concern.  I had recently started having writing ideas in my car while driving the two-hour rural trip home each weekend, only to lose them.  I couldn't pull over and write them down because I was working three part-time jobs and sometimes barely made it to work on time back in my hometown.  I certainly couldn't scratch them out on a napkin while driving.  One goes into a trance while driving roads that long and boring, and the ideas came while I was in that state of mind.  I couldn't recover them while making junior bacon cheeseburgers a few hours later.  They were lost.

She listened closely, with her head slightly tilted and a far-away look.  And as we talked, her motions as casual as reaching for a tissue or jotting down a quick note, she opened a desk drawer and produced a checkbook, and begin writing out a check.  I put it down to eccentricity, and as she continued what could only have been paying a bill she had just remembered, she told me that she was friends with Pat Conroy and several other notable writers.  She elaborated on those connections and her voice carried the heavy implication that I in turn had connections through her.  She was saying this to a girl who was seventeen years old and had only ever written some papers in her class, so I set my cup down and nodded politely and considered the depths of that eccentricity as I listened.

Our class had just read The Prince of Tides.

She tore the check out neatly, then turned and fixed her gaze on me in a way that transformed that second into a Moment.  "This is not a gift, because I am not allowed to give gifts to students.  Do you understand?"  I nodded.  Captivated.  "This is an investment.  A personal one.  I am asking you to use this to buy a small tape recorder for your car.  It should pay for some batteries, too.  This way, you can record those ideas when they come.  Never stop writing, Lille.  I ask only one thing in return:  Promise me you'll dedicate the first book to me."

My mother taught me to reflexively reject gifts.  Well, more sort of damaged me into it, an indirect lesson that nevertheless has always permeated how I handle receiving them.  There was nothing in my personal history that had prepared me for accepting an investment.  But in that Moment, all I felt was bewilderment at her thinking I merited this, and awe, and I reached out and accepted the check.  It wasn't a gift, so I didn't say, "Thank you."  It was an investment.  I looked her in the eye, an eye that saw a writer, and said, "I promise."

She hugged me.  I smelled like her perfume for the rest of the day.

I bought the microcassette recorder over Christmas break, and some miniature blank tapes for it, and some batteries.  Everything I needed.  And I don't think I used it to capture a single idea.  Ever.  Even with it faithfully sitting on the seat in the car beside me.  At that point I had just become obsessed with Handel's Messiah and the small recorder sat next to the full-size cassette player borrowed from my grandmother, which used up those batteries playing my "Messiah Highlights with Vivaldi - Gloria" bargain bin cassette tape.  I was singing.  I wasn't in a trance any more.  The creativity had stopped flowing.  I didn't have a Dr. Little in front of me each day to keep those gates open.

And that's what that little blurb up there on the right is about.  I've written her to tell her about this blog, but I don't know if she's received the messages because I haven't heard from her.  I want her to know that even though this is the closest I will ever come to writing a book, even though I'm twenty years late, to the extent I have been able, I have kept that promise.  I'm trying to give a good return on her investment.

Press the tiny "FWD" button ....

Last night, we were digging through a box that P.J. asked me to stick in the back of my son's closet eleven years ago, because we were moving in and he was only four and wouldn't protest and we had run out of space elsewhere.  It was an "I'll get to that stuff at some point" box with unknown contents.  A decade went by and I always had to shove the box out of the way when putting sheets and board games and toys on that shelf in his closet.

Then yesterday, we were moved by the Holy Spirit of Eschewing Clutter and decided to do a clean-out, mainly of the basement and our walk-in closet, which had become more of a squeeze-in closet.  It was almost bedtime when I remembered that box and thought, "I should go get that.  We can add some stuff to the Goodwill pile."  I brought it downstairs and set it in the kitchen.

Ten years had transformed it into a box mostly full of junk.  A coaxial cable coupler, two elderly VOIP boxes, old phones, various wires and objects that have long been surpassed technologically.  "Toss the lot," we both said, and I was about to tip it into the garbage can, since we needed the empty box itself, when something caught my eye and I fished it out of the bottom.

It was the recorder.  I thought I had lost it over the course of all the moves during my twenties.  But I also knew that I'd never been able to bring myself to discard it, and last night, I held it in both hands, and thought about this blog, and tears welled up.  I regarded it with a mixture of knowing how silly it would be to hang on to an object I will never use and a desire to consider it a holy relic and enshrine it.

Being scratched up and beat all to hell only makes it
more meaningful, because I've kept it and kept it.

I asked P.J., "Am I a writer?  I've only touched a few people with my words.  Is there a threshold?  How do you know when you're actually a writer?"  She said in a soft voice, "Only you can answer that, but I think you know the answer, love."

Thank you, Sylvia, for the preserved memory of seeing an office stacked with loved books, for the tears I know you shed when Conroy died, and for investing in the likes of a floundering seventeen-year-old girl whose mind and future you keenly pierced.  Thank you for watering the seeds.

I've kept the recorder.  I wish I'd kept that canceled check and framed it.  And I hope, oh I hope, that I've kept my promise.

June 16, 2018

congratulations, sir, you got a new high score in Candy Crush or something

And the reason we all know this is because you have been playing it at your phone's highest volume for over an hour.  In a crowded lobby.  Oblivious to the glares.

I live in the Toyota dealership customer courtesy lobby.  It's my third home, because the Lodge is my home-away-from-home, but if you can't find me at home or Lodging, come by Toyota's service area.

We can share a cup of coffee.  Or five cups.  They have one of those industrial-grade Keurig machines with a water line and the thingie that flips the last person's pod backward into a void so you can put your new one in, along with a decent selection of pods and enough Splenda to suit me.  There is always one imaginary person (one of my cucumber friends) watching me put Splenda into my paper coffee cup and thinking, "God damn, what the hell?  How many packets can you possibly use at one time?  Seriously, even more?  Just you wait until they discover what the terrible health effects of it are.  You know aspartame basically turns to formaldehyde in your bloodstream, right?  Splenda's bound to fuck you up down the road.  They make it with chlorine, you know."  To which I glibly respond, "Do you eat table salt, you idiot?"

The lobby is divided into two sections by an inadequate jut of wall.  One area, the larger one, has two large-screen TVs mounted on the wall.  I was sitting right under one of them this morning until an employee walked up with two remote controls the size of military walkie-talkies and turned on some blaring morning news talk show discussing Trump this and Trump that.  It wouldn't have mattered what was on, though.  I was intentionally conspicuous as I got out of my club chair and packed up my laptop, unplugged the power cord, picked up my coffee cup, and aggressively relocated to the other side of the lobby, where there is complete visual obstruction of the screens and some measure of auditory relief.

Once, they had the Dora the Explorer channel on.  I kept waiting for my ears to bleed.

I settled in, taking the far corner, behind a display of what worn brake rotors look like and why you should replace them with the shiny new ones at the top.  Roughly ten minutes of peace.  I spent time doctoring photos and posting things for sale on Craigslist and eBay.  (If anyone needs Boy Scout shorts, size 10 men's dress shoes to go with a tuxedo, a cello, or a gaming desktop, hit me up.)

Then it started.  Blip-blip-blip-click-click.  Obnoxious upbeat female voice.  "Amazing!"  Clink-clink-click-slide-WHOOSH-tinkletinkletinkle.  "Way to go!"  Blip-blip-blip .... I stared at the man who was immersed in his phone.  So did everyone else.  Clink-clink-clink-clink-slide-slide-WHOOOOOOOOSH-tinkle.  "High score!"  Click-click-click ....

Why hasn't his phone battery died?  Die.  Diiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeee ....

In the South, we say, "He ain't know how to act."

Once, my son attended his fifth-grade school dance (yes, fifth grade) and while all of the boys had gone off to play soccer outside, the girls squealed when "Let It Go" began.  They danced with abandon and the gym was full of spinning, arm-flinging Elsas.  I fished around in my computer bag and son-of-a-bitch, I found an ear plug.  There was no reason whatsoever for an ear plug to be in the bottom of a computer bag.  This is another of those things that contributes to tinges of agnosticism.  I had to break it in half but it worked well enough to keep my soul from melting like a green glowing blob in a 1982 Dr. Who episode.

(I might be gay, but I would go back in time and have Tom Baker's babies.)

I just fished around in that very same computer bag, and there is fuck-all in the ear plug department.

I used to filter things out with ease.  I earned my entire college degree in the local laundromat, because I studied best when surrounded by chaos.  Those days are over.

I'm just here for an oil change.  Is it ready yet?  Is it ready yet?  Is it ready yet?

June 15, 2018

dear harry, i don't hold it against you

Harry's heavily-advertised mail-order razors finally convinced me to try them, by means of a small flyer placed in our not-small-at-all box of coffee ordered from Keurig this month.  Three bucks (shipping cost only) to try one razor with kit.  Okay.  I'll bite.  My current razor is about as effective as a cheap spoon.

The foaming gel that came with the kit was poisonous to me because it contains cucumber extract.  I know of five other people on the planet who are allergic to cucumber like I am, and they all happen to be my imaginary friends.  The gel is probably amazing.

The razor, though ... okay, #Harrys, @Harrys, here's my official review.


Pros:

I love the way it feels in my hand.  Just the right weight, solid, easy to grip, ergonomic.  You were right about all that.  I even love the shade of blue, but I have to say I'm impressed by this:




You put out a Pride razor!  Good for you.  Major points.

This razor gives an incredibly good shave.  I think it will last three days instead of two.  This is good because local temperatures this weekend and next week are supposed to be in sidewalk-egg-frying territory.

It gives such a good shave because it is sharp.  Very sharp.


Cons:

This razor is sharp.  Very sharp.  Way sharper than any other newly-out-of-the-package razor I've encountered.  I was being careful, but it only took a slight errant movement of my wrist and I ended up slicing open a long wound across my left leg, just below and behind my knee.  The blood was copious.  I finally got the bleeding to stop and I'm thankful to 3M for making its NexCare, the only liquid bandage that does not burn at all.  Seriously, get yourself some of this stuff.  Nothing else on store shelves compares.

Also, the razor head popped off three times without my pushing that little release button.  Maybe it was just trying to save me from further blood loss.  For a moment, it looked like Psycho in there.


Conclusion:  I respect this razor, and I respect the company, but it isn't for everyone.  If you're a man shaving your face and you're experienced and well-seasoned, I recommend it.  If you're just learning, stay the hell away.  If you're a woman who doesn't have stick-figure legs, forget it.  This is an Advanced Razor.

June 14, 2018

my brain is coming back omg omg omg

 
There is no possible way that a dose of 150 mg of lithium could be doing this.  No way.  It's just a trace amount.

But ....

My mood has already stabilized rather a lot.  It's settled at a baseline of a little more on the depression side of things than I'd like for it to be, so the dose needs to journey upward, but my mood isn't a ping-pong ball in a tile bathroom any more.

That isn't the biggest thing, though.  My brain is returning.  The fog that has clouded my memory abilities since beginning Lamictal appears to be significantly mitigated by the lithium.  I don't know what else could be causing this resurgence, other than sun spots or magic.  I do not believe in magic.  I do believe in sun spots, but they're not the likely culprit.  Probably.

My memory is the closest I will ever come to having a superpower.  I can remember things again.  Phone numbers and names are sticking.  Dates are back.  I don't have to ask my son to help me find words.

"What are they called again?  You know.  Those guys.  Stupid hats, Pabst Blue Ribbon."

"Hipsters?"

"Yes, that's it!  Hipsters."


All my life, I have depended heavily on having a solid, reliable memory.  I know that earlier I was on about learning to write things down, and I still do, and I still plug everything imaginable into Google Calendar and will continue to do so.  But I just remembered someone's phone extension and I couldn't do that a month ago, and it woke me up and I realized the fog is thin now and I can see almost all the way into the distance.

That doesn't mean everything is perfect.  I'm experiencing a major disinclination when it comes to answering e-mails and socializing in general.  I'm way less talkative at work and they're missing their class clown.  I don't care.  Ideation has abated and I can remember things.

If this ends up being a wonder drug for me, I'm going to be very pissed off, because I'm going to have to apologize to my ex-monk and admit out loud that I was completely, glaringly wrong on every front.  I don't think he'll do smug-face, though.  I think he'll celebrate with me.

I have hope again.

June 13, 2018

the stupid pointless death of pourable quiche

After this week's quest to obtain a perfectly normal carton of Pour-a-Quiche or Redi-Quiche proved fruitless - and we are speaking of my visiting four different stores, including Target, and stomping out of each one dejectedly so that it would make a manager ask me if there was something he or she could help me with and then I would say, "No, no, no one can help me," and leave without explaining anything - P.J. sent an inquiry to one of the companies:


"Dear Pour-a-Quiche:

Could you please advise if Pour A Quiche has been permanently discontinued?  Hope not... it's an excellent product, delicious and convenient. Thank you. P.J."


Their prompt reply:

"Yes, we have discontinued Pour A Quiche.  We will forward a suggestion to our Marketing Team that you would like us to bring that product back!
Misti, Consumer Affairs"


My commentary on this development:

"Dear Misti,

When will the tantalizing amateur shoot of you with the entire Marketing Team be available?  Or will that, too, be unavailable?  Also, do you draw the dot over the 'i' at the end of your name as a heart?  Is it in pink?  Thank you.

Sincerely, Concerned Customer"


I'm a little angry here.

P.J. likes quiche because we use pourable quiche because - and this is the clencher - pourable quiche from a carton doesn't taste like eggs.  P.J. loathes eggs but will eat this quiche.  It's damned tasty and turns out perfectly fluffy and uniform, and also the amount of work involves taking a frozen pie crust out of the freezer and pouring this into it, then shoving the lot into the oven for an hour.  The worst part is having to remember to thaw it.  That's all.  It's the queen of easy meals.

Do not tell me to prep the mixture the night before or I will come to your house in the night and tie all of your shoe laces together and spit on one of your family's toothbrushes.  I won't tell you which one.

I think --

Wait, another thing:  Do not send me recipes about this quiche that you make that you totally swear doesn't taste like eggs because your kids will eat it and your husband said so and you posted it on Facebook and all of your friends loved it and liked your post using a heart instead of a thumbs-up.  I promise you it tastes like eggs.  Lots of eggs.  They just said that because they like you or love you or want to keep you appeased.  No offense.

Anyway.

This just follows the pattern of something disappearing from the store shelves simply because we like it.  I hear this is a universal phenomenon, which doesn't make sense because the store is obviously still full of things.  The peanut butter Captain Crunch left several years ago, but before that, there was this Blueberry Toast Crunch that was like Cinnamon Toast Crunch except they laced the flavor powder with blueberry cocaine and we would burn through a box of that shit in a day and a half.  That lasted about three months; then they stopped manufacturing it altogether, which was not the fault of the person at the Harris Teeter headquarters in Indian Trail, North Carolina who received my enthusiastic phone call.

And then there is the matter of the caffeinated Swiss Miss hot cocoa mix.  Honestly, ConAgra ... what the fuck?  Did you even see the second-hand market on eBay for that stuff after you yanked it from shelves?  And then how much Amazon was charging for a dozen boxes in bulk?  This should tell your marketing department something.  Get them to look into it after they finish with Misti.

June 12, 2018

let's bond by talking about cleaning toilets

My mother wrote again.  She did this before, after I came out and just before she cut me off for five years; there was a season of chatty e-mails peppered with requests to keep writing, keep in touch, write back, please.  She knows when the wire has been stretched too thin.  She knows when I hold the power and she's opened a gulf.

What do I even do with this?



RE:  KEEPING IN TOUCH

"Hi.  Hope things are going well for you both and that you're dealing with the loss of Chester as best you can.  It's never easy.

"Your sister has asked me to keep her dog the last week in June while they are at the beach on vacation.  I'm looking forward to it, as she is a very sweet golden retriever/chow mix.  And she has been to obedience classes, which is very nice.  Only problem is that I have to give her back when they return home (Rats!!).

"I'm so glad to see the rain go away for a while and these past few days have been so beautiful and just make me want to stay outdoors as much as I can.  Mowed and trimmed today and picked up sticks and pinecones from the yard......then got right back to painting.  It keeps me very busy.  I have to try and fit everything else that needs doing wherever I can.  Sometimes, when what I've painted needs to dry for 20 minutes or so, then I go for a quick walk, or clean the toilets, or whatever...........

Please write.
Mom"


My first thought about this e-mail was:  Pine cones is two words, not one.  And stop shouting in all-caps.

As an aside, the birthday card she mailed me this year made me literally shake with anger.  The shaking was short-lived but I cried for hours.  It put me in a very bad place.  It was saccharine and full of things that have nothing whatsoever to do with her and me.  The only thing worse than thinking she didn't even look at it twice before throwing it onto the counter at the register and paying for it is thinking that she did look at it and consider it to be appropriate.  I'd prefer the quick whatever-this-one-will-do scenario, the one where no thought was involved.  That one's comfortable.  That one's customary.

P.J. came into the room while I was crying and saw me holding the card out with one corner between the tips of two fingers.  The phrase that comes to mind is from Adams:  " ... like a fish that had three weeks earlier winged its way to the Land Where Fish Are Eternally Blessed."  I wanted to burn it.  It so happens that last night (before the e-mail arrived) I was filing away papers and bills and such, and this card and my daddy's birthday card were together in the pile.  I decided to keep them both for the sake of contrast.  My daddy might be stubborn, infuriating, incorrigible, bone-headed, and impenetrable, but I can call him up any old god-damned time and be myself.  And he really does write the best cards.  His cards act as a window into his real mind.

Seriously ... toilets?

Who the hell actually wants to be outdoors in the summer?  The spiders can just find you faster that way.

********

Update:  I sat on this e-mail for a number of days because I really didn't know what to do and I did not want anyone's advice, even P.J.'s, even that of friends, so that I could have mental space to consider all angles.  And in the end, I did decide to write her back instead of ghosting her.  I took the third path:

Please forgive the delay in my writing.  I've had a lot to process.

We're doing okay re Chester - it gets easier every day.  I'm glad you'll be getting some dog time soon.

I've started lithium so it is going to take me a while to get used to it.


She responded:

I understand.  Please don't hesitate to write when you're feeling better.


No, lady, I don't think you understand.  You missed the first line entirely, and your response sounds like it was drafted by an attorney.  (The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork ... "Don't let me detain you.")

I opted to play the mental illness card, and decided that my contact with her will become less and less frequent, a sort of slow-motion, time-release capsule approach.  She won't like it, but hey, I'm mentally unbalanced, so she can and will blame it on that.  She holds the nigh-universal opinion that lithium is big-guns crazy medicine and now thinks my condition is way more serious than she realized.  And it's deteriorating.  Oh, terribly, yes.  Another god-damned shame.

Even if I get better and the lithium works wonders ... well, she doesn't need to know that, either, does she?  I'll just let her know that my toilets are shiny and clean.

June 11, 2018

how to paint your dog

I call this "Lazy Dog".  She
can't even be bothered to
reach eight inches for the toy.
Rose is black Lab mix, and is completely black except for a milk mustache.  She prefers lying in a dark room on a dark rug to sleep, and she gets stepped on and kicked a lot, and I think all of us are wishing this could get worked out so that her ribs and our toes aren't always so sore.

We decided one way to accomplish this would be to make her glow-in-the-dark.  So we Googled "how to paint your dog".  (Notice we didn't even bother looking at collars, because who the fuck wants to do something sensible like that?  Not us.)

Google insisted on returning page after page of tutorials about how to use a photograph of your dog to paint a realistic portrait on canvas, and services that will turn said photo into a painting, but nothing about how to paint your dog.  The dog.  Not a picture of your dog.  Your dog.

Googling "put paint on your dog" was a bit more productive, but yielded endless pages discussing why you should never paint your dog because paint is toxic and horrible and bad and will probably give your dog fur cancer.  But there are paints out there that toddlers can paint on their faces, and if you think the toddlers don't lick it off, you do not spend time around children.  They make non-toxic stuff, even glow-in-the-dark paint.  So now we were getting somewhere.

Then we went off on a tangent and started looking at photos of these black dogs and horses where their people had applied incredibly artistic glow-in-the-dark skeleton patterns.  This was interesting to us.  Even though it would mean massive face-plasters of spider webs, we secretly want to take her for a walk in the dark, maybe around the mountain roads at the Lodge, painted like this.  Which is funny, because we are not attention-seekers, but the inclination to do weird things often overrides that.

We couldn't paint a skeleton, though.  With Rose's greasy fur, our attempts at painting her would more likely produce some vague smears.  Plus overachievers like those horse-painting people make us not even want to try.

All of this led to a nightmare last night wherein Walter, one of my Lunesta aardvarks, talked me into painting my toenails with glow-in-the-dark polish, except that made the nails fall off because it was toxic and there was blood everywhere, and Walter was entirely too calm about it, and I don't think I trust him any more.  Aardvarks are assholes.