Saturday, November 27, 2004

slices of pie life

Well shit. Just lost my whole post. Was talking about pie, and the holidays and all. I baked two pumpkin, a lemon meringue and a huge NY cheesecake which beat out a Costco one by a mile. The taste-test was patently unfair, I'll admit, but my crust is the best:
graham cracker crumbs
brown sugar
real butter
That's it. Use reasonable portions of each. Better than any I've had. I do love pie, and just can't quite NOT eat it until its gone. So my belly is full and I slept in. Carb hangover. Nicole is on the couch and we are lazy today. K went to work early and is doing half a saturday to suck all the leaves off the streets of Hillsboro. Next weekend is the toy run and the Kershaw knife show. Big Weekend. Anything to wear my jacket. I guess I could wear it any time, but it seems excessive. Weighs a ton.
The day was okay (Thanksgiving) and as much as I loved being away from the tensions I always experienced within my family, I missed Marky. We called him and told him that no matter what, next year we would all be together. He assured us he'd have his license by then and would come up here. We had lots of people over, some wanted, some unwanted, but you gotta feed 'em. Tom cooked the turkey. I'll give up his recipe. He'll never know. I doubt he can read. And for the unwanted: I just pictured them as Indians and it was like the first Thanksgiving all over again.
Tom's Turkey
Weber BBQ: get the coals going.
one turkey: 12-16 lbs.
Sit the bird, legs up, in a disposable foil roaster
cover legs with foil
Fill roaster 1/2 full of water
Squirt lemon and lime juice in the body of the bird. (I think he squirted at least half of each little plastic thingy. So, I think probably 1/4 cup of each.)
Tent the bird well
Cover and Wait. Our 15 pounder took 3.5 hours.
Tom says you can use the remaining liquid for gravy. I didn't. I wish I had. My gravy was shit.
There are so many stories I could relate about the holidays. Several for each. My top contenders for Thanksgiving are:
1. The Damn Ham
By now, following this blog, you've gotta know a little about my family, such as, any event was cause for dark and ongoing celebration. The police showed up about half the time to quell our spirits-- all in vain. Eventually however, our spirits, and some of our lives, were quelled.
Anyway, this Thanksgiving wasn't long after I got sober. And in my family, electing not to drink was an act of such disloyalty as to ostracize me for years. Looking back, it is more likely that I ostracized myself out of fear-- fear of the power of family to pull me back, vortex-like, to the center: a bottle of cheap whiskey and a mason jar of water.
So, there we were, me (about three years along) and my son, 12 or so. We had been invited to my brother's home in Gold Hill. I asked, like you do upon being invited, "what can I bring?" "Nothing." came the reply. It was a hollow sound, and the permafrost of my sisterinlaw's mood, the neverending anger at my drunken brother, crawled through the phone line like a snake. "nothing." Hissssss.
So, I made devilled eggs. When in doubt: cook.
I dressed up. This may have been my first and maybe greatest mistake. I was excited to be alive and sober back then. (Oh, hell. I still am.) But it was so new to have clean clothes. To have clean levis that had never belonged to anyone else. I wore a pink blouse. I don't think I ever wore it again. Pink satiny fabric with swiss dots. My skin crawls now.... I know now that being in my family was largely about disappearing. Don't stand out. Don't get noticed. Its why I wear black and little else. Blend. God forbid. (God, don't you love these glimpses into my psyche? Isn't it fascinating?) Anywho..... There we were. All dressed up and nowhere to go. Trapped in Gold Hill with a family who, upon arrival at about 11:00 was already engaged in the favorite family game: "Guess What I'm Mad At." Its that game where you don't get to know the rules until you break them. And they really had a head start on the party favors.
So, in we walked with our shiny pink, squeaky clean lives and a plate of devilled eggs. I could hear cupboards slamming in the offing, my sister in law, no doubt, expressing her dissatisfaction with her lot in life, knowing she could have done better. Its hard to sit down and go throught the pleasantries at times like this. Harder still to brave the kitchen door and face the dragon, but for the sake of the story....
I placed the eggs on the kitchen counter, and pushed through the door to ask the question women are supposed to ask: "Is there anything I can do?" (Pay for three years of therapy?) As you might imagine, there was nothing I could do. In the first place, we were having HAM, a travesty, a departure from tradition, which, in my mother's view, was just further evidence of wrongdoing by my brother's wife, who she despised. My mother, long banished from the kitchen by this daughter in law, sat seething on the sofa with the rest of them. The whole room seethed like ocean waves, resentment writhing below the surface, kept in place only by the thinnest of social norms which were even then being slowly eroded by the booze.
Dismissed, I joined the rest of the family in the living room where all sat in silence. Eventually, my sister in law came out of the kitchen with a small saucepan of steaming corn. (Another demerit from my mother: "The only vegetable that woman ever cooks is corn! Can't she serve anything green?) Now, ordinarily (or rather, in the past) we had done things like: iron a tablecloth, set the table, get some flowers for a centerpiece.... but such is the progression of alcoholism, holiday customs tumbling like dominoes in the wake of the death march.
She set the hot pan of corn on the bare wood table.
We all glanced at one another, waiting, waiting. We are good at waiting. Soon, the main dish arrived. My sister in law burst through the swinging doors into the dining room with a huge ham impaled on a huge meat fork, supported only by her oven glove and slammed it down in the middle of the (bare, wood) table. "There." she cried, and bolted from the room in tears, swinging doors swinging off the hinges.
Most of us hesitated, but not my nephew. Not Tyler. He stood up from the row of spectators and walked to the table, plunged his fingers into the side of the ham, came back with a fistful and started eating. Just another dinner at home.
STORY # 2: What Did You Do For Thanksgiving?
I'm tending bar on Friday night, the day after Thanksgiving. A guy walks up to me. I say, "Hey, what did you do for Thanksgiving?" He says, "Spent it with you."

Thursday, November 25, 2004


It's not that I liked being the boss during my former life, its just that I didn't have to do so much when it was up to me. I am lazy, after all. Nowadays, I kind of tow the line for a really nice person who is in charge of me. If you don't know me, really, really, know me, I'm a little hard to be in charge of. Its not an ego thing so much as it is a matter of attention, or more precisely, inattention. Remember: I don't care. And now, in this job, I have a buttload of shit to do all the time. ALL the time. Not a moment passes that life doesn't hang in the balance for some little gray headed elder who is counting on me. Now, those guys... I do care about them. But the rules? Not so much. I attend to what I care about. So, I'm adjusting to life in real time, life in the nursing home. Seeing the humanity of it all. We admitted a poet the other day. Nobody really knows this but me. And when someone says they are a poet, its potluck: you never know what you'll get. But she is a good poet. She let me read one of hers, a beach at sunset thing. And while it was ordinary, there were some nice images and I could feel the wind in my hair. I told her so, and honored her poet-ness. We shared, commiserated actually, the rarity of gifted folks like ourselves, and I moved on to the next new one, coccooned in the electric bed of old age, hair no longer coiffed, reduced to the lcd of what it is to be an old woman. skin and hair. Those things we cherish too late and too little. The things that do not keep.

Monday, November 22, 2004

on my own again

First, I decorated the office. Then, I could work. I hung the usual wall hanging where I can see it, colors that soothe me, soft textures that remind me of home. I began the uncertain task of organizing. I can't begin to explain why it doesn't work for me. Well, I'll try. You know the whole thing about short term memory. Well, I don't know if it was all the drugs and staying awake from 1976 until 1987, but somewhere along the line, I lost whatever thing it is that enables filing. For instance, one day I'll file an employee accident report under A for accident. The next day, I look under R for report, then E for employee, then the mindfuck of it all is that everything is a report and its all about employees and then I think screw it, I'll file everything by the first letter of the first word unless its "The" and then I won't have to remember one word, but then I forget I decided that and it all starts over. Then, I make one giant E file and try to put everything about Employees under THAT tab, and then I realize there are too many employee-related things, that, in fact, all things are about employees, and I'm screwed again and have only an E file and no others, and then what to I do with the bazillion color-coded file folder with contrasting plastic tabs??? WHAT???? Then I try to go by topic, but once you start splitting hairs, there is no end to that shit and there's not enough tabs in the world to sort it out and there is only one piece of paper in each four-dollar folder. And the old learning kicks in and the memory of some driven bitch in a red suit and cropped hair is standing in front of a too hot/too cold/too big conference room in the basement of the Windmill Inn with burgundy tablecloths folded into fans and pitchers of ice water and she says: if you only have one piece of paper, you don't need to file it. Oh, great. Its like making an outline: if you have a A you have to have a B. Well I never do. I always end up with A I a i .... you get the drift. So, I don't know how in the hell I'm going to organize this office. What I ended up doing the last job was hiring someone who hadn't spent the better part of the seventies and eighties in a coma. And the sixties. Let's, at the very least, be honest.


Well, Sid is growing like a little weed. He tears the shit out of anything red. He loves to play. He can sit and is learning to lay down. Sort of. He's pretty manic right now. More fun than I've had in years. We take him to the dog park and he just gets rolled by the big dogs. He runs up to me, hides in my shadow, then takes off again. He helps me understand love. He comes into the room and finds me, first with his eyes, then launches himself through the air in my general direction. Once we've made contact, he can do anything. Once he knows I am here, or there, as the case may be, he can run with the big dogs or lay in his favorite spot next to the heater and be away from me. But first, he has to know he is loved. I helps me see who my son is, and why it took him so long to go away from me. But he has. Finally. He is a good man, and all the better for the love he can be certain of. He knows who he is. He runs with the big dogs. I miss him so much.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Monkey See

It was Monday today. I know it was Monday all the world around, but it really hasn't been Monday in my world for a long time. And even over the past week as I went the distance back to work, it was new, and a little fun. Now it is just Monday, and I am expected to perform like a trained monkey. I am trained. The 23 year old who is training me is so pleased when I get it right, when thirty years of training (do the math) perform their alchemy and I know stuff. Stuff she didn't even think to tell me. Its magic.

She is very good at her job. She is the best there is. Ever was. She is so good, no one can take her place. And she has made certain that is not a secret.

I remember being the best there ever was. I remember making it my business to be better. I remember Mable Butts and her bedside table full of mints; and Cleve Walker, a drunk who got caught and landed in a nursing home, and when confronted by the resident zealot, said, "if people in heaven are like you, I don't wanna go." I remember Eudora Hood and her poem, "Those Golden Years Are Really Tarnished Brass." I was the best for them and to them. No one could do what I did. No one could do what it is paid people do for old people, which is to live their lives for them, like I did. I won prizes for it. I got employee of the month. Of the fucking century.

Then I quit my job. And I didn't even try to tell them how someone could take my place. I'd spent years convincing them no one could. They believed me. I forgot to tell them I wasn't staying. I forgot to tell them I mostly didn't even want to be there, would rather have been at the bar. That's how good I was. Liar Liar pants on fire....

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Well, it finally happened. My laziness caught up with me. It seems so innocuous while its happening. I make coffee in a french press almost every morning. Sometimes I use the drip pot, but usually we prefer the thick, high powered muck of caffiene, water just squeezed past, black as a bible. But the thing is this: there is no filter -- no tidy paper to catch the grounds in, to package them up like a soggy christmas gift and toss away neatly in the trash. So, in the morning fog, my own personal fog, it just seems too hard to take a spatula and scrape the grounds into the trash, or harder yet, the compost bin outside in the cold back yard. So sometimes, some very foggy mornings, I take a risk and rinse them down the sink. They usually go. Its intermittent reinforcement at its best. Sometimes its a little sketchy, a little lag time passes, but then the water goes on down the pipes to wherever water goes, and I am still free. No one knows.

Well, they do now. I am so busted. To my credit, I admitted it right off. "Honey," I said, "I plugged the drain with coffee ground. I know you'll be mad. But I fixed it." He asked, like any man would, "Why do you do that?" and I told him that was not a conversation we were going to have. Just leave it that it won't happen again. He did, bless him. He stormed around a bit. I said, "what can I do to help?" He said, "whatever I tell you to do." So, I was a guilty servant. Then, in the midst of my nearly overwhelming guilt, he makes a phone call and says, "Yeah, between coffee grounds, grease and the chew I spit down the drain all day..." and I was released. Released. It was his fault as much as mine, which I, of course, was quick to point out. I didn't belabor the point, but it did get me off the cross.

He got it fixed. I love men. Have I said that? I love their willingness to climb up on the roof and stick that nasty old snake down drains of unknowable destination and drag muck out with bare hands as I stand gagging in the background.

One of the nice things about plumbing problems is that I got to clean out under the kitchen sink.

So, life goes on here in my new world. I can't imagine living anywhere else.

late pumpkins

Just another day in paradise. I forgot to mention our pumpkins. We downloaded patterns from, the kind of patterns that are not carved all the way through the flesh. K carved one of Frankenstein and one of Gollum. They got lots of attention from the passing parents with kiddies and my favorite was when I asked one woman to guess who they were and she said, "John Kerry and Ghandi." Well, close. I don't know about you, but carving a Ghandi pumpkin seems somehow wrong.

But that was then. This is now. Still sick, still working at the new job. My head is clearer but I miss my mind.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Sunday morning

All the girls were here last night and the Rocky Horror thing is becoming a weekly event. The sisters aren't speaking to each other, so they each bring a friend they are speaking to, and it goes fairly smoothly. So, it is a quiet morning, kids laying everywhere, forcing us to have breakfast at the kitchen table for a change. I slept in. I have been so sick, and am on the last dose of antibiotics now. I hope it passes soon. I have the kind of head cold that is alot like having one of those sand windows in your head, you know, the layers of colored silicone that shift like thick water trappepd between thin panes? The sludge moves with changes in elevation, like, if I bend over to pick up a towel, I stand up and spin for a minute. It isn't a bad or unfamiliar feeling. When I was a very young child I liked to spin around and around until I fell down. The whirlies, we called it. And just so you know, if you have children who truly enjoy the whirlies... its a bad sign. Its sort of the same feeling as when you mix wine with, say, tequila, and do that for awhile then lay your head on the pillow (or the floor, depending on your level of organization or where you find yourself landing for the night, or day) and the whirlies begin. Typically a precursor to puking in my experience.

Wow. what was that about?

Anyway, back to my head cold: it's kind of like breathing through a straw in a thick milkshake, there just isn't any air exchange.

Anyway, I'm sure there is alot to write about, but I really can't think right now. I am over the election. The hopelessness in the wake of all that is considerable, and I don't want encouragement or hope for the next guy. This is America. The land of the mediocre, home of the mundane. Maybe Prozac? It is depressing.

Thursday, November 04, 2004


I hear the four horsemen of the apocolypse are resigning: Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Powell and Dopey. I barely wonder or care. Honestly, I'm having a hard time caring enough even to watch the Daily Show. I think I'll just turn off my brain, erase my education and become a moral republican. I could use the morality, honestly, and that education really hasn't been all that beneficial. Maybe they would reverse my student loan debt. That would be nice. Then, I could ease into the last half of my life slowly and without the uneasiness that comes with knowing how truly dangerous this country has become. I consider how my day to day life is relatively unaffected, and how innocuous the religious right is. It is the analogy of the frog in boiling water. I'm sure I've told you that one. The story goes like this: you toss a frog in a pot of boiling water, he jumps out. Put a frog in his own pond water and heat it to boiling and he'll stay there and die. The water is boiling.

I got a Wilson (Castaway) volleyball for my 6 month anniversary. I love it.

Monday, November 01, 2004


He called. George W. He called me. It was chilling to hear his voice over my phone assuring me he had the enthusiasm to go the distance. He refers to himselves as "BushCheney", as though it were one person. And it is, I suppose, as much as anything. It is a multi-headed beast for certain. Cut off one head and two more pop up. I don't know if Good Ol' JK can bring it to its knees, and if he does, what net effect that will have.

Well, the first day of work was fine. I am an employee again, not a boss. I have to show up and I accrue time-off slowly, like in the old days, not the 4 weeks a year of my recent past. I will adjust. Not running the world has its down-side fer shure. But the trade off is there. For me. I can leave work at work. I don't care. And now, it can be not only the theme of this blog, but the theme of my life. I was interviewed by about ten women and two men. One of the men was a blind priest. He has a working dog that we don't get to acknowlege as a pet unless he is off his harness. The priest, Frank? Fred? was asking why we didn't have donuts at the meeting. The maintenance guy said maybe we did. How would he know? So, there is hope. Its a pretty seriousl outfit, and I will adjust to the solemnity of a nursing home as opposed to my life in a nuthouse. As always, grist for the mill.