Monday, May 29, 2006

decoration day

A long weekend of nothing. I love nothing. I'm good at it, have had plenty of practice. I am meeting with an editor friend this morning and hope to uncover the origins of my writing discontent. She may not know this, but I am. I know it was always good to connect with other writers before and she is one. Just published another book on fiction writing. Due to my near-death-experience, which we will heretofore refer to as my NDE, I am invigorized, as those things are prone to get you. I am common.

But alive.

I hate writing about writing, but here goes.

I live in a house with other people and cannon find sustained time or space. It is not their fault--as much as it would delight me if the problem were that simple. It is logistic. It takes me four pages of crap before I even begin to hit my stride, as these pages prove beyond doubt, and that takes time, and they use the computer. So, do I get my own computer? A simple fix, but the house is small and the same troubles apply. Do I learn to write in the basement? Its coming along -- kind of an open and more inviting space -- do I write amid the camping gear to the sounds of the tumbling dryer? Which reminds me, I need to put the clothes in the dryer.

And a. will say, "Fuck the clothes. Write." and she is absolutely correct. I will. But I am a better housekeeper than I used to be, and it is not as easy to fuck it all off. I have witnesses, remember?

So I am writing. And the good and the bad thing about a blog is that it does maintain the flow-- does hold that energy. But it is also like a steam vent for a volcano. It never really blows because of the continual release. Not that my productivity ever reached volcanic levels... but the metaphor is the thing.

I can't seem to get next to a storyline. They all seem idiotic. And I am a fiction writer. I am also a poet, but poetry, while rich, is a vent. Do I write about all of the crazy people I've cared for? One? Do I travel back down one of the dark alleys I've been down and illuminate the rubble for the sake of posterity? Do I -- gasp -- make something up? I've said many times, I'm not a writer, I'm a liar.

So, my coffee is ready: french press with tons of cream and it is Memorial Day.

Used to be that Memorial Day was called Decoration Day. At the nursing home a bus would come to take people out to the cemeteries, bouquets of picked or purchased flowers, some with flags, some not so patriotic, just remembered. I don't think it was about memorializing only the war dead. It was celebratory. It was the reason for family plots. Nowadays you'd have to have to spend days finding the various cemeteries my family is buried in. My father is in Coosbay, brother and mother in Eagle Point, one brother floating eternally down the Applegate River where we played as children. He wanted to be sprinkled in the Rogue River, but my mother was afraid of the undertows. I didn't have the heart to point out that he wouldn't drown. A mother shouldn't have to bury her children.

Decoration Day. It was a nobler time and I'm not sure why. Maybe because it was before the Gong Show and the end of civilization as we know it.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

conspiracy theories

On wednesday night I was in the bath and noticed a strange spot on my right breast.
As I began to write my eulogy, which I will discuss later, a long couple of days ensued.

Its funny what you imagine, and, how if you don't say it outloud, it isn't real. I didn't tell my husband right away, and that is one way to keep it away. Once I said hey look at my this, it was on. He made me go to the doctor. I am so happy to be married to a pushy man. Most of the time. So, I am fine. It was just a wierd thing. But mortality... quite another.

My bio says:

"judybluesky writes."

my eulogy would be as follows:

"judybluesky wrote."


So it was a wierd day. And got wierder. I don't know if I can tell this story, but I'll try. Its pretty x-files.

To preface -- my husband's son David is in trouble sometimes. Currently, he is trying to outrun the trouble by heading south and staying with his grandfather. At first, these are seemingly unconnected phone calls.

First call: Tracy (to my husband) from the police department saying they had Dave's ID. He tells them Dave's down south but can he pick it up. Tracy tells him he can. When he got there, no ID, no Tracy that had made the call.

Second call: (to me on my cell while I am at work. I don't know about the earlier call) Someone looking for grandpa's phone number. I tell them Grampa lives off the grid, no phone. Can't help them. They tell me they need to give him medical information. I can't help them.

Third call: (to my friend Lorretta at her work number at a hospital down south.) They tell her they are looking for David, that they need to deliver a medical package to him. She emails me this information, thinking what an odd coincidence that someone looking for David would randomly call her number at work. and I still didn't make any real connection...

...Until we started reviewing the day. We got home. We talked about our day. Husband tells about the first call. I say, oh by the way, tell about the second call. Then Lorretta calls, tells about the third call. We are beginning to sense a pattern developing.

Next morning... call #4. My ex-sister in law calls. The same people have called her telling her they need to deliver the medical stuff -- this time for David. They give a call back number and a tracking number, but there is no website.

We ask sis in law to go off the grid to see grampa, tell him what's up. Haven't heard from anyone since.

I don't know if you can follow all that. What is so random is that there would be no way to connect David, my friend and my ex-family unless they had my phone records.

Creeps me out.

Friday, May 26, 2006


There is a time and a place for everything. Even Haldol.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Granny and Irene

They call each other
"that old woman over there"
and I know I will be the same way
never as old as I am.

They wear beads and bangles
strings and strings of shiny things
terrible beads that don't go together
over layers of sweaters, flowered dresses
small wool blankets
that someone threw in the dryer
but didn't throw away
like gray-headed doll babies
wandering in and out of each other's rooms.

They feed each other
bits of sweet cake and cantaloupe
with ginseng root fingers
that remember everything
but cannot find the way home


Saturday, May 13, 2006

yard sale

We sold the farm. The cheesy yard art john deere green windmill, everything. I sold shit all day, and I am sunburned and my load is lighter. When we went to drop of the remnants at Goodwill, I stole two pair of shoes out of one of the bins. What's wrong with me? L. they will fit you and I'm sending them down. We sold the old girlfriend's set of black dishes and the red hassock. The signature item. I'm ready for a new bigger one. I'm lazier than ever and need more area on which to prop my feet. I sold the printer cabinet.

Its a story.

I bought my house in Talent, and a. came over to visit me. Have I told this story before? Anyway, she comes over, takes one look at my printer's cabinet, and announces, "That's mine." I disagreed, but she was right. It had been hers. a. had apparently started an indie newspaper long before indie was a word. Cutting edge.

So, I sold it. It is still here, but I have the money. An odd man with an antique business called "the Needle" bought it. He seems to be a conspiracy theorist, but who knows. It could be a conspiracy.

So, lots of shit is gone. It is remarkable how much crap accumulates over two years. I knew, when we had the first post-wedlock yard sale that more would come, but this much. The sidewalk was lined end to end. Books and blankets and clothes. Even the outfit the nearly homeless lady next door gave me. She thinks I'm a snappy dresser, so one day she brought over a white denim pants suit with gold buttons and open weave braided denim down the arms and legs. Elvis in Las Vegas. Nobody bought it. It would have been a great Halloween costume.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


It is Mothers Day. I am three hundred miles north of my son, but never far. Last week he called to scold me for not sending him an easter basket. He'll be 29 next year. It never ends. I rise this morning to anxiously await some form of recognition which is as likely to come as not.

In my family, it is so difficult to celebrate. I'm sure this is true of many families, but for us, the Drunken Waltons, the air was permeated with expectation of a life and familial bonds we just couldn't keep up with. We were too busy lowering our standards to raise our children.

So, I raised a boy who feels the weight of yet another generation of children, umbilical, wanting, and not knowing how to be part of something that has fractured, that is lost. They avoid celebration. They dread. And sometime's the phone call comes, and sometimes it doesn't.

I love my son. He is the best of me. I was cleaning out an old purse (yard sale...) and found this poem. There was a time it seems I didn't:

Ending Motherhood

Cutting what's left of the cord
not cord to my belly
not cord to my heart
cord to the phone
the MTV set
the fridge
the lights
the heat
the comfort of all that I provide
for him
and me
but not for us
not for a long time now
If he would only come home
I could tell him he doesn't live here anymore
and womb screaming rage could replace
the emptiness of this unfinished severance

Happy Mother's Day

Sunday, May 07, 2006

another katie story

Katie thought I was the greatest. Her brother, also a Russian-doctor-turned-lab-rat, thought I was great too. Katie lived at the end of Portland Street in Medford and I was homeless, pretty much. I had lived out my welcome at Renee's house, good old Renee, Renee who didn't even see me coming. It took me, oh, 25 years to pay her back, but that's another story for another time. Anyway, I needed a place to live, and as luck would have it, Katie had a house she didn't need. She told me I could live in it. "Aiee dunt ci vhy naat," she said. That's what she sounded like. Her brother thought I should be rewarded for my good deeds as a caregiver and they thought it would be a good idea for the house not to stand empty while Katie was in the nursing home. They thought it would keep out "de badt paypl."

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I'm the bad people. And in so many ways you are right. But that's not the point of this story.

So the brother, we'll call him Ivan, takes me over there to check out the house. It sat at the end of a quiet street with two huge cedar trees in the front yard. Centinels. Ivan tells me its furnished. Good, I think. I need stuff. What he didn't tell me is that it is furnished with priceless Russian antiques. "Are you going to leave all of this?" I ask. "Aiee dunt ci vhy naat," he answers. I could think of a million reasons why not. I hadn't the foresight to count my brother Doug among those reasons.

I know I haven't talked much about my broher Doug. Ever, really. He's my eldest brother, the only one still standing, and his drinking problem was one of revolutionary proportion.

So, when I found out about my new house deal, of course I wanted to share my good fortune with my family. They'd be glad because I didn't have to sleep on the couch anymore. Doug was especially supportive. He thought it was great. He asked where it was. The part I forgot to mention -- to Doug-- is that the deal wasn't quite done. I wasn't to move in for a couple more days.

I pulled into work the next day, happy to be 22, happy to have a place to live. When I got to Katie's room, Ivan was tapping the toes of his Russian shoes, looking at the floor. "Der vas a man in de haus."

I was horrified. A MAN? In MY HOUSE? "Oh, no!" I exclaimed in utter disbelief. "That is terrible!"

Well, as the truth descended on me like Russian shade, I realized de man was de brudder. Sacked out on the priceless sofa, drunk as a dog.

So much for the freebie house. But then, that was just one in a long line of near misses. For me and for Doug. I may still be mad at him.

Soon after, I began having what I call "the moving dream." Its a recurrent dream where I have agreed to give up the place I live and rent a different house. It is perfect and full of priceless antiques. It seems too good to be true. As I move from room to room, however, it seems as though something is wrong. The rooms run into one another like one unfinished room with half-walls and suddenly the ceilings are too low and it is dark and I notice things like an old hairbrush and a silver mirror: things that belong to old women. And I realize I've rented a house that is already occupied and when I get to the last room, there is an old woman in a rocking chair wearing red long-johns.

Any dream interpreter would tell you I fear death, that the old woman is my crone, but I know better. It's just Katie.

chuck barris

I almost forgot to post about Wordstock, the fabulous writer's wet dream. It was really not fabulous at all, just a bunch of book sellers and vanity publishers and actual publishers and none of them were selling MY book so why would I care? Anyway, the point is that Chuck Barris was there.

I loved the Gong Show. Try as I may, I can't remember when it was... I think it was the mid-seventies, but I was there and it entertained me, loaded as a rat. So, when I saw that Chuck Barris was going to be there, of course I couldn't pass it up. I saw Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in the theatre, which means I was really happy to pay money to see it. Anything about the Gong Show interests me. And there I was, sitting in the middle of a bunch of empty chairs waiting for the host of the Gong Show to entertain me one more time. The creator. The first reality TV. Blamed in large part for the decline of modern civilization.

There are predictable questions that an audience of would-be writers asks of established-if-not-really-successful other writers on the speaking circuit. One is: why did you become a writer? If they are honest, they say, "Because it looked easier than having a real job." But they usually claim to be motivated by a higher force-- they write because (in the immortal words of Rilke) they MUST. Barris answered honestly, to his credit. Another question often is: What do you want to be remembered for? And typically, the author will speak about a certain book or selfless act like childbirth as though giving birth were selfless. Chuck said this: "Hands down, I want to be remembered as an author, but I'll never be remembered as anything but the guy who created the Gong Show." And this is where I lost my question. Because I am guily of remembering him as just that. And I am sad that it is not his best memory. Mine is tainted because of it. If I had created the Gong Show, I'd wear a t-shirt that said it every day.

My question was going to be, "Are there any Gong Show tapes?" But obviously, it would have been a crass thing to ask in the face of his need to be seen as an author. The book he was promoting was a reprint of something he wrote in the seventies. See? Not memorable.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Friday of my second week.

I remember when I used to work in an activity department in a nursing home. Years and years ago. I remember Katie Bolhivitzen. She was a Russian doctor who imigrated during the cold war and her credentials only allowed her to work as a nurse. My job was to make old people have fun; to create the illusion of gaiety, of propriety, life in the face of marching death. It was not an easy job, but to do it at all one had to believe in it and I did not. Could not. Had seen too much by then. Too much by far. When I finally told Katie she didn't have to do anything anymore -- didn't have to come to the party, didn't have to make the macaroni-covered bleach bottle vase -- it wasn't really my idea. She just said, in her little Russian voice, "I'm ninety six. I shouldn't have to play Bingo." And in that moment it was over for me. I could no longer, for the sake of the daughters -- because it is always the daughters and never the sons who pick up the pieces at the end of a life -- stall.

It is always like that for me: okay one day, gone the next. I don't think its because I'm not paying attention and I just look up one day and everything has gone to shit, and I don't think its because I have a low tolerance for crap. Quite the opposite. I believe I am tortured with certainty, and once I know, I can't unknow it. And the terrible thing is that it keeps changing. Which, in retrospect, makes me look like an idiot. Or it is as simple as this: I am willing to do just about anything for a buck for awhile, then, not.

The work is different this time, but is never different, not really. They are still dying and we are still hanging on. We no longer insist that old people have fun, but still we cannot endure the silence, the disengagement, the paper crackling absence that is the sound of life ending. We want music, dammit. We want cake. We want cheese and crackers and slices of spicy salami, we who have teeth. It makes us feel better. But those who cannot see and cannot chew and cannot hear and do not care... what of them?

Oh, who cares? I dig this job, and think I am probably old enough to finally appreciate the notion of stalling death, of masking the grim reaper and letting him pass them by for one more day. I won't let him in the locked doors. Not just yet. Not on my watch.