Saturday, April 29, 2006

clamming 102

Before I get to the new clamming information, I want to talk about lilacs. Our back yard is bursting with them, purple and white (my favorite) and with this rain, they are so heavy with blossoms they are about to snap.

So, here's a new trick about cleaning razor clams: when you get them home, dip briefly (4 seconds) in boiling water, then into ice water, and the shells will pop right off. This beats the hell out of hacking them out of their shells -- shucking. I suppose it is shucking either way. And I can't imagine that either way is easy for the clam.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Gardening with Margaret. It is a silent endeavor, as is much of my day these days. She, like so many others, has lost her words. She can't find them anymore. And I panic with the writer's block that I have allowed for this long, which seem utterly self indulgent in the face of this distant possibility. Losing words. And I can't decide whether it would be tragedy or peace. Peace in not knowing, not having to search the cobwebbed backrooms, the attics and crawlspaces, for just that precisely descriptive modifier that no one would have thought of-- black as a bible, rabid neon halflight, the great flat hand of God -- these words that have entranced me my whole life. If I didn't have them, if they were lost to me, what would be left? Margaret can still pull weeds. "There is something..." she says, pointing to a sprouting bit of green that I overlooked on my side of the waist high bed. I don't make her say the word. I don't even embarrass her by knowing it myself. I just pull it. The something.

I like the quiet of it, the job, and in the words of Graham Nash, "... some of my actions remind me of me."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

day three

I work therefore I am.

They are all named Doris, with halos of white fluff and watery eyes. They can't place me. Whatever they were, this is what they are now: the great undoing. It makes the methodic accumulation of my life laughable.

Ashes to ashes, Doris to Doris.

Friday, April 21, 2006

the weight

I pulled into Nazareth....

My body is my enemy. You could stand me up in front of a firing squad blindfolded and it wouldn't scare me as much as this ten pounds that is preventing me from buttoning my levis. If I had the power that I give this little bundle of unexpressed carbohydrates I could rule the world. And it isn't just ten. Let me be clear if not honest. It is ten on top of ten, which sits resistively atop the twenty I carry on a good day.

I will never be small. I want to disappear. It has been a long winter.

It is not the first time I have faced this demon, but it has been a long, long time. I knew peace for years, and now I am consumed with the desire to eat, to eat badly and in secret. I don't always succumb to my thoughts, but it is not so much the actual eating as it is the thinking thinking thinking. It seems the height of self centeredness, that I could live a blissful life and still find myself wallowing in the toilet of self-pity about am I pretty enough.

What is true:
I have been off work for two months.
I have been in pain for five months.
I can't ride my bike yet.
I eat when I'm bored.
I'm bored.

So, my little asian doctor says what she always says: Whatever you eat, eat less. Whatever you do, do more.

I'm sure she's right, but I am inclined to complicate things. Surprising, I know. I want a rigid diet to follow, something that I won't follow, that I can use like a baseball bat to beat the shit out of myself. It is a vicious and predictable cycle, common as ants. And I so hate to be common.

So, that's my happy thought today.

I am studying my Alzheimer's workbook. Its funny, (not Alzheimer's) each corporation designs a particular product (specialized dementia unit), with cutting edge thinking embedded into a physical setting, then markets it as the industry standard, all to care for people who do not and have not changed. We change. We worker bees. We caregivers. Over time (and I have been around the world of dementia care since I was a teenager) the provision of care has changed slowly. But they haven't --the little shell people, the vanishing, the subtle disappearing act that is Alzheimer's disease. They call it AD now, as though AD doesn't stand for anything else. And I suppose, politically, AD has been replaced by the acronym CE. PC, eh? I'm looking up acronyms for AD and medically, it is the term for the right ear. So, I think the Alzheimer's Association (AA) should keep on spelling it out or people are going to be mighty confused. Now, in relation to time, AD stands for what? Anno Domini? Something Gregorian like that. I don't find it on the list. I found After Death, and Agnus Dei, and a list a mile long that has nothing to do with the death of Christ, or the deliniation of time. What is it now? CE for current era? PD for present day? The lists are long. It gives me Alzheimer's to think about it.

I'm hungry.

Monday, April 17, 2006


I'd never seen it before. Like Apollo 13, I should have but didn't know how it ended, didn't know Bogart was Rick Blaine, didn't know the WWII intrigue or the Moroccan setting. Didn't know he didn't get the girl. So we sat around, watched the old movie, stunned that so many lines were so familiar that it pulled me out of the story and made it impossible for the story to take me anywhere. It is the task of the writer to be invisible, and by history, this one has become sadly opaque. We'll always have Paris.

On Good Friday we watched scary movies: The Haunting of Hill House (1950) and the first Poltergeist. As a child, I watched The Haunting almost annually, like The Wizard of Oz, in the days when movies came to town for a week, at the single theatre, when there was no guarantee you'd ever see it again, when the likelihood of a movie showing up on TV were slim to none. But The Hauting did. My mother, my pentecostal mother, disapproved of scary movies. Wicked. The Haunting scared the shit out of me, and I wanted to share the fear with the girls, new girls, urban girls, desensitized by the modern slasher mentality, bored with the genre, interested in what came before. I promised them they'd have to read faces rather than watch special effects, that they'd have to imagine. One of them left, one stayed, and stayed awake. That's good. I love that movie. My favorite line: "My dear, you confuse wickedness with foolishness." I spent so much of my childhood consumed with wickedness, seeing evil where none lurked. Foolishness, that.

Easter Sunday. Mother in Law, children, food. I am learning to moderate my cooking, let her help. Let someone else be fabulous for a change.

Here's the eggs, colored by me and my honey. The girls were too cool to participate in an undeniably mid-american ritual. I searched the house for all of the leftover egg dying kits left from years past and put all the same colored dye buttons in each cup. It went well, except that the kits were so old that I couldn't tell green from blue and got two pots of teal, which I hate, one a little bluer, one greener. I love colored eggs. I don't care who helps me.

Here's the eggs again. Thanks to Nicole for the photos and the graphic work. She's good.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

pre job jitters

It is a quiet weekend. Husband fishing in the rain: in the boat, on the water, water falling all around, no roof. And sadly, no fish. There really are no fish this year.

I am madly shopping for patio furniture in the rain. It is, much like my husband's fishing, an exercise in hope. The sun may come out eventually. I always get ahead of myself this time of year and think I'm behind, but the Law of Gardening is this: Don't plant tomatoes until May first. Period. So it is not May first and there is no need to worry. Yet I do. I have nine more days, or eight, depending if you count today, to lose 15 pounds and finish the back yard. If I finish the back yard, I will lose 15 pounds rain or shine.

Hey. You may have noticed I'm not whining about my shoulder or therapy. It is finally getting better. It doesn't hurt all the time anymore. I have my moments, but they pass and I find that if I stay busy, it is less troublesome. Thus, the shopping. It beats Vicodin.

I found an expandable willow fence, which I love so I bought two. A small patio table which I will probably take back because I really want the wooden one. I should know by now to get what I want. I am searching for pots, large planting pots, and I don't want to pay 70 bucks for one. I just don't. I may try to find cedar pots. That's what I used to have. They dry out fast, but I water every day.

So, I go in Tuesday for my orientation, then off until the following Monday. I am not panicked, but conscious of a potential shift in my world.

Here are some things I'll never know once I go back to work:

1. If the Abbotts ever find out if Gloria secretly tainted the new face cream with cleaning solvent to sabotage Jabot Cosmetics resulting in the untimely death of one of their buyers.

2. If Nick and Phyllis really call it quits, if Sharon forgives Nick for sleeping with Phyllis, of if Phyllis' son Daniel ever forgives her.

3. If Meg and Paul ever get together, if Dusty lives, if Emily is convicted for kidnapping him, and if Paul's fake marriage to Emily is ever consummated.

4. If Dr. Phil ever shuts up about his role in Scary Movie 4.

5. If daytime TV actually diminishes intellect.

You see the lengths I'm willing to go to to make a living? And give up all this???

Friday, April 14, 2006


I think Russian gypsies painted this house and I'll tell you why. You may have been worried that I wouldn't explain myself, but not to worry, I'll get right to it.

I am not attempting to sterotype anyone. I don't even know if there is such a thing as a Russian gypsy. I know there are a damn lot of Russians around here, and that Russians painted this house, but I don't know if they were gypsies. They dress kind of like gypsies, painted scarves and long skirts. I haven't seen any gaily painted wooden wagons or be-ribboned tambourines and mad dancing around a blazing camp fire, but I happen to know they hide their camps.

My husband saw them paint the house and said they did a shitty job, but that was when the old German woman Elizabeth owned the house and he lived next door. What could he do to stop them? All I know is that gypsies are known for fly by night work, for summer driveway repaving that washes away with the first rain, and this house was painted with a thin coat of yellow waterpaint. Not laytex. Just flat yellow paint. I know this because I've been scraping it off for the past couple of hours. It isn't difficult. There is only one layer. It peels off easily, really only yellow dust when hit with the wire brush. I'm not complaining so much as commenting. I hate hard work, and paint that falls right off, well all the better. I said I'd never paint another house, and here I go. I am limited, happily, to one area, about 10x10, that was never completed by the Russians. They stopped when they got to the climber rose. Not me. I ripped it down, wound it up and laid it on the ground. There is only one way to paint: thoroughly. You can scrape a little here and there -- hit the bad spots, but eventually, if you're me, you end up going back over the whole damn thing three times, and I'd rather just do it right the first time. I'm probably breathing lead based Russian paint, but its a small job if I keep to my boundaries. I've inhaled worse. Pam spray. That's way worse. Airplane glue. I remember this guy named Tom Brown who always had bits of brown paper bag stuck to his face and gold paint all over his hands. Huffers. Whaddaya gonna do?

So, I'm doing my project to the best of my ability, weather be damned. My husband is having white Hammerite paint tinted "not quite white" for me. It makes me nervous to leave color decisions in his big rough hands, but there was little else I could do. He went to the paint store yesterday and asked if they could tint the rust proof paint. The guy said no, it only comes in these colors. I didn't like that, so I called the 800 number and got a guy who said the same thing. So, I looked at the swatches, called them back, and said what about if I tint the gloss white with the almond to get off-white? This time I got a woman. She said, yeah you can do that no problem, but also, you can tint it, but you gotta use this certain kind of pigment.

So I call my husband back, who was at the paint store, and in the meantime the guy has admitted that you CAN tint it. AHA!! I knew it! So he's having it tinted.


gainful employment

I got a job. I got the job. I am employed. When they asked me when I could start, I gave myself one more week off. Ahhh. Springtime. I start the 24th.

I am scouring nurseries, finding the clearance rooms. At 7Dees, they used to sell wire hanging baskets that were really wire, not kitchy little wannabe cast iron numbers with scrolling and ivy and shit that are already lined with coconut matting that sheds like Sid and never looks like anything but coconut matting. I just want wire baskets I can line with moss and plant flowers. I found them finally in the 40% off shed out back for a buck apiece and the moss was out there too. I got two leyland cypress for a visual barrier between us and the homeless shelter next door.

The dog house is gone. A big thank you to craigslist and the tasteless bastard who bought it. My husband kept the money. a. wondered if I'd split it with Sid, but I never saw a dime of it. That's okay. I'm certain he is the one who paid for it. Fair is fair.

It is time for Wordstock in Portland. A 3 day or maybe 2 day extravaganza all about words. Whoopee. I'm excited because Chuck Barris will be here. I don't know if he writes, but I just want to know where all the lost Gong Show tapes are. If I could get them, I would. I spent the better part of the (I'm guessing here) 70's? Watching that show: Gene Gene the Dancing Maching, the fish out of water, the singing chinese lady, the birth reality TV. I loved that show. And if you haven't seen Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, you should. Maybe he was a CIA assassin. How would I know?

Now that the deck is done, Sid can get a better look up into the tree next door and can finally make eye contact with the squirrel that has been fucking with him. I don't know if Sid has poor depth perception, but he seems to think the squirrel (and birds and low flying planes) are within his sphere of influence. He launches into the corner of the yard as if... as if this time it will be different. Sid and I have alot in common. He seems to like the deck. I think he was as glad as I was to see the plastic doggie condo go. He much prefers my furniture.

So, I have one week to finish the back yard. This involves scraping, primering, and painting a wall of the house, putting the big trellis back up, re-winding the climber rose into it, potting the plants, hanging the baskets, installing paving stones, finishing the edges of the deck, making a flowerbed off to one side with the dirt that comes out of the paving stones spot, which will be a buttload of dirt, painting the blue chairs white. Off white. Not quite white. Creme. Cream. And there is some kind of industrial strength paint called hammerite that covers rust -- no questions asked -- and it only comes in white white, and I want to tint it, and I guess it is some kind of industrial sin to do this. But I don't want gloss white chairs. That wouldn't do.

I can only do this project if it stops raining, so the good news is, I may get to lay on my ass for a week.

Monday, April 10, 2006


We have one now. A deck in the backyard. A deck in one day. I carried lumber, slowly, methodically, carefully. That was my only contribution. I wish I could have done more, but had to consider my shoulder and the impact of hammering or lifting giant concrete blocks would have had on my general well-being. That he finished it in one day is a mystery to me, as is carpenter-like ability in men overall. He eyeballed the whole thing. He says it isn't perfect, but it looks good to me. After the top was on, my husband pulled my vintage metal patio chairs down off the fence and placed them carefully around Sid's plastic dog house.

As I attempt to edit this post -- get the words in the right place -- I look at the photographs and it occurs to me that someone, albiet someone with poor taste, might object to my vintage chairs. I intend to paint them after I figure out how to remove the rust, but the words of Antiques Roadshow linger in memory: don't fuck with the original finish. (They don't say fuck. You probably know that.) But I love these chairs. I stole them fair and square. Two words: they bounce.

Here's a closeup of the doghouse, so you can feel my pain.

Form vs. Function. An age old conflict. I think it is the basis of the battle of the sexes: It still works vs. it is made of plastic. If you go to craigslist, portland, pets, you'll find it there. 20$. Please buy it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

day to day avoidance

I am avoiding my shoulder terrorism. I need to go to the bank. I need drain cleaner for the kitchen sink, but the way I see it, I don't have to do dishes until it is fixed and we can eat at Clay's Smokehouse on Division. I have to get concrete blocks from Home Despot so we can build the deck this weekend. And lumber. I didn't know until I was married that it mattered that they were straight. I mean, I knew that, but I didn't know they sold bent boards, warped. Like me. And that you have to pick through them. You don't just go get some. I need some boards please. I can't lift anything anyway. One armed bandit. That's me.


Sid is staring at me, knowing we will go somewhere today. He heard me say the word "go" on the phone this morning, and he does not forget. He will stare at me, lay at my feet, follow me room to room until we GO. He will not become manic until I put on my shoes. That is the giveaway. He has become my daily travel companion, sitting in the passenger seat like anybody, watching passing motorists, keeping his balance. He watches TV. He likes Drew Barrymore, probably because she is blonde and he thinks she is me. HE WATCHES TV. When TV laughs, he looks at us to see if we get it. I have ruined my dog. He is not a pitbull at all, but mommies still run strollers to the other side of the street when we go by, and pro-pitbull people ask if they can pet my dog, like they are doing something dangerous and heroic. They are not.

So, Judas has a new book out. Cool. I want to read it.

(Jan, if you are reading this blog, send me your email. Get mine from Lorretta. I miss you.)

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Snowdrops, poppies. More of each. Its like The Wizard of Oz. This year I've decided on poppies. I keep trying different flower combinations to see what I like in front of the house. This weekend, we begin to build the deck in the back yard, then I can decorate that.

I'd decorate Sid if he'd hold still.

I have some job hooks in the proverbial water. Had an interview today and one tomorrow. The nursing home I went to today didn't even use computers. I couldn't work like that. I have to be able to email if not blog on my breaks.

The other job sounds better: managing an Alzheimer's Unit. That sounds like fun. Now that the industry has evolved to the point where they have stopped trying to control the residents. Controlling Alzheimer's patients is like teaching a pig to dance: it doesn't work and it annoys the pig. It's like herding cats. Now, they just build nice soft rooms with low beds you can't fall out of; group closets and big playrooms. I suppose the families would be the most difficult part. The parent/child relationship morphing into something much more fluid than most families are comfortable with... that's hard stuff. As Mother librarian rediscovers her long lost (if ever found) libido and dear old repressed Dad finds new uses for his tools .... acceptance takes on new meaning.

But losing my mind early in life, I have little to look forward to.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Fuchsias, lobelia, begonias, poppies, snowdrops.

So far.

I love dirt. I buy it new, use old stuff, pick through leaves to get the real shit. I wear gloves now, protect my shattered and splitting nails. It wasn't always like this.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

fuchsia saturday

I missed it! Aargh. One saturday each spring Fred Meyer has the big event: free dirt if you buy their fuchsia starts. I'm so bummed I missed it. My dirt from last year will be fine, I'm sure. We got buttloads last time. I think we may actually have spurred them to set a limit. We had BIG pots. Huge. And they grew so well. So, this year, they should be fine.

I'm headed out to get flowers. Nothing will stop me. Not my therapist, not pain. Yesterday I thought I was well again, but no. She tortured my scapular area (isn't this interesting?) for the first time, and I was fine after, but shit. By evening I was in worse pain than ever. But I'm okay now, and headed out. I'm going. I'm bored to death. I've applied for jobs -- that's how bad it is.

Monday, April 03, 2006

prose house

unstrung thoughts
days run together
marking time with minus tides
weather is shifting sand
dark clouds gather like gossips
fat bellies hanging low on the horizon
ripe with rain for another town
not this one
not this time
sun slips away
fingers of silver light
rays like heaven
escape evening's grasp for a moment
as night falls
on Prose house


So, maybe all I needed was time at the beach. It is always a crapshoot, renting a beach house online, but we really lucked out this time. I only picked Prose house because Sid could come. He loves the beach. We crabbed. He crabbed. I drove the boat, more successfully this time. I maneuvered it slowly beside the marking bouys, and pulled and pulled the rope. No crab. All girls. K crabbed non-stop, and finally got five, which we ate up last night like little piggies.

Prose house had a crate & barrel kitchen, very go mod, and all new cabinets with swing-out wire shelving, round and shiny, nothing hiding in the back. Not yet anyway. Made me long for new appliances. new yard. new house. new stuff. I can have anything I want, so my honey tells me. I will. But it, like anything, will all be obsolete one day.

There was an old photograph of the house at the top of the stairs. When it was built, it was the only house around, and two narrow lanes between it and the beach. Now, there are other houses, and one of the roads has been taken by the sea, or global warming, or erosion, or whatever. I guess if I live long enough, this will be oceanfront property. Not long if you listen to the worriers. I know, I know. It is bad.

I wrote that poem in the guestbook. Everyone else wrote exactly the same thing: Hey, thanks! Great kitchen! Great view. I guess it just took me more words to say that same thing.

I am verbose.

I am not verbose enough.

You pick.