Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I feel like crap and I am annoyed at people who come to work when they are sick. Especially salaried martyrs who don't have to show up, who overestimate their contribution, and who, working in the aging industry, create marketing havoc as residents drop like flies in august in the wake of their snotting, blowing show of work ethic gone mad.

When I get sick, I get really sick. It scares me. Thus, the attitude.

a. and asia were in town and we had a nice visit. Soon, asia and I will be a force of two. Soon. a. took many pictures up in my attic, unescorted. I took a chance and left her unchaparoned. Her daughter just shakes her head. Check out the sites. It looks like a. caught some angel making a break for it out the attic window. Just to be clear: those are not my wings. I am no angel. I only live in the garret and type. The harp is incidental. When you see the angel of death, she will not have my face. I take the stairs like anyone.

And speaking of the harp, I liked Jewel, but had to come back to reality and take lessons from someone closer. Elizabeth Nicholsen. will be my new teacher. Jewel lived over an hour from our house, and had a driveway steeper than the back of God's head. I made it, and would have opted out of the country girl club if I hadn't (when in doubt, go fast) but I did. I flew up that hill. It was a beautiful setting, and she has concerts there, so hope to make it back out there one day. I hope I didn't piss her off by taking one lesson and bailing, but biz iz biz. It was a sweet view from a far hilltop, Chehalem Mountain, and I'm glad I went. It was the typical rich hippie dwelling: lots of bare wood, all original art. Very nice. Elizabeth, on the other hand, lives in the hood.

I am practicing. I took my harp to work with me and there is no better audience for a beginning harper than Alzheimer's patients. Tiger Lil' made me pick out "Danny Boy," which I did, and she accompanied me in high soprano. Perfect pitch at 96. It was like typing with one finger because I don't know the fingering for it, but I found the notes, and made the music. But even harp practice is beautiful.

Well, I will lay my body down, and wait for the family to come home. I hope I don't get bronchitis.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Recent photographs of my new harp. It is a Dusty Strings FH26, maple. Beautiful. I can't play it, but am learning. I am taking my first lesson today from Jewel somebody. I hope I can take her seriously. Dancing Trees or something. But I just really want to learn to play this properly before I form the bad habits to which I am prone. And, I hope I don't completely neutralize her abiilty to help me because I am so judgmental.

That being said, here's my harp. I am now a harpy.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I am interviewing potential new caregivers to work on the unit. I tend to look for nice -- willing to teach the rest. But sometimes nice just isn't there, and sometimes nice is all there is. Like today. Her name was Bellaria. Nice name, huh? She was nice. A volunteer eucharist minister in her spare time when she wasn't caring for her dying parents. Now I'm not sure what a eucharist minister is or does, but it sounds nice. Selfless. A value that I deny, personally. I mean, if you are being a minister of any kind to preserve your mortal soul, I dont' think you can really set all of that down to altruism. Not even a little bit of it. That being said, she was very very nice. She looked like a mexican postcard of the freakin' madonna.

So you can probably tell by the direction of this story that it ends poorly. My caustic wit won't go unnoticed. Its a giveaway. I don't care. I'm not trying to be opaque, here. And don't go licking your chops thinking she was some kind of wolf in a lamb suit. Like I said... she was nice. So I interviewed her for a fucking hour. A fucking hour of my precious time. I told her everything I've ever known about Alzheimer's (which, if I can tell you in an hour, ain't much). And then, just when I'm ready to close the deal, offer her the job, she says what so many say prior to one of two things: an outright lie or a dealbreaker.


She says, "I have to be perfectly honest with you."

I pause, wonder to myself which will it be? lie/dealbreaker--dealbreaker/lie as I look upon the mother of Christ in her radiant latino-ness, and wait for the sword (that has been hanging over my head, I just hadn't seen it prior to this very moment) to fall, and I wait.

She goes on to explain the depth of her honesty, why it is so important to her, how she has come to a point in her life where relationships, even one that is only an hour old, matters more to her than money --and suddenly I feel like I'm talking to a drug addict who is helping me look for the wallet she only just now stole from me--

But in the end it isn't like that at all. It is much more superficial than that. She says: "I really can't stand dealing with bodily fluids."

You're laughing. I can hear you from my garret window.

I was banking on this chick. She was Christmas morning.

So I take a deep breath (all the better to blow her off) and try to explain in my nicest possible voice--because dammit I'm nice too--that if you're considering even the barest of an avocation among the elderly HONEY you'd best plan on being at least knee deep in shit.

Of course I didn't really say it like that. Of course not. I wouldn't do that.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I got a bean bag chair for the garret. A craigslist special. Worth nothing and not all that comfortable, but it will work until I find something and then I can sell it again on craigslist for more. I am upstairs typing and the wireless connection is good. I am happy.

I can hear someone on the stairs. I wonder who it is.

I have very little furniture up here: a bookcase, a small end table and a mirror. And a small heater. No phone. No running water. Its just like living on Yale Creek only with electricity. I didn't mind living without electricity, I liked wood heat, cooking on a woodstove, and kerosene light is lovely, but I really didn't like carrying water uphill or down. It is one of those things that you can look back on and tell your children about. I know the exact weight of five gallons of water: 45 pounds. I lived in the woods. The actual, way out beyond where anybody else lives, woods. I lived in a beautiful cabin made of graduated logs, each hand-peeled pole smaller than the next, bottom to top, with paned windows and railed loft and porch, with a notched pole to climb into the second story. It was a beautiful place. I know I have posted this poem before, but it reminds me of the price of solitude.

yale creek

i strung pressed leaves and snake grass
on sewing thread
and hung them in the windows
to rattle in the wind
transparent in the light
filtering through the pines
i decorated around the old blood
running down the hand-peeled log wall
just to the right, inside the front door.
i never thought to wash it off -- that little bit of history--
proof that things had happened
without my consent
beyond my control
in that beautiful cabin
of wood
and blood
and handmade lace.

american idolatry

I admit many of my shortcomings here on the blog, and TV is one of them. Since I moved to Portland I have watched American Idol. I refused to watch it before, but it has been standard fare for... this will be the third season. It is my decision. I time my life around it. I tape it. But it has changed. Used to be there was the occasional crappy singer in the mix of people who were really trying, or an occasional geek that was seeking national attention with some schtick of some kind, but now... now the line-up is nothing but retard after retard trying their damnedest to belt out some hot new song like "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?" I mean really. It is easy to take potshots at the idiots who are passing judgment, and they certainly bear some responsibility, but it is me, it is us, we, the viewing public who thrive on train-wreck TV, and the trainwrecks are getting worse. I know, and my husband is quick to point out, that there are larger issues on which to take the moral high ground than reality TV. He is absolutely correct. They are easy targets, those poor retards. And admittedly it was hard to see Jewel doing something for money and being a part of it. But shit, she could be a 24-carat asshole and I wouldn't know it, she sings those pretty little songs and I assume she has some integrity, that she is Sarah-fucking-McLauchlan. She may or may not, but there she was, knee deep in it, making fun of nutbags.

I wrote a letter to the editor of the oregonian thanking her/him for putting an article on the front page.

If one of them ends up on top of a building with an uzi, firing at random, it is very unlikely they will hit Simon-- who is only the most visible asshole telling them their sad little lives are even less liveable now that they have been told they are ugly and they can't even sing. How mean is that?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

weather, interrupted

I know this will shock you, but the crack team at First Alert Storm Team 8, Winter Blast 07--didn't call this one. So, as they cry "eminent domain" and usurp my taped episode of The Young and the Restless for an endless forcast, which is really more like the weatherperson's version of a late birthday card, I am annoyed, but not surprised. Five days ago they had the entire tri-county area on call, forced overtime, for a storm that never showed, snowplows at the ready, schools closed in advance, just in case the little kiddies might get wet.

Score one for weather! Sneaking one by the team. Go, God.

Driving this morning at 6:30 was silent and beautiful. Driving home, not quite so lovely, although it requires a certain level of meditation to stay with it, 15 miles an hour for 15 miles. It always surprises me that people really don't get how to do it-- how to drive in snow... to just go real slow and cruise on through. Avoid hills. Avoid steep places. Avoid using your brakes or, well, pedals in general. Its kind of like a stick-up: Just aim the vehicle and don't make any quick moves. When I got home there were cross-country skiers on Clinton Street.

I am a little surprised that no one has commented on my garret paint job. I will assume it means no one likes it. Well, that's okay. Nicole says it looks like a shabby child care center. She has a point. I love it. I still do. I am ordering a fatboy because I can't really get anything else up the stairs (see previous posts) and I'm not sure I could force it up, but it is more likely. And I must have something to sit on.

It will look better with furniture, and carpet.

Monday, January 15, 2007

misplaced grits

The cook at work decided to recognize the day with catfish, hushpuppies, johnny cakes, mustard greens, black-eyed peas and missippi mud pie. The thing is, I work in possibly the whitest part of Portland with ninety-some-odd, ninety-year old people who stood in line asking if there were any peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches to be had.

It seemed like a day not to work. I was reminded of the days when I, a child of 13, campaigned for Bobby Kennedy on the steps of Medford Mid High School. I have read that Decency died with the Kennedys. I don't know. I know I live in an indecent world, with cameras recording heineous acts with disturbing nonchalance, distributing unspeakable images for the masses to devour at their leisure. We are hyenas. All these centuries of evolution gone for nothing. Nothing at all. For leisure. I remember this bad movie -- a Jack Nicholsen movie called "The Crossing Guard". John Morris (I think) played a drunk driver who got out of prison after a long stint, and when asked at a party if he missed freedom, said, "if all freedom means to you is entertainment, then its over-rated." We have sold the collective soul for entertainment.

So, I worked... on this day of mourning for a womanizer who had a good speech at the right time.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I decided to do a catch-up posting and get all the pictures out. Hope you enjoy them. I've finished painting the garret, pretty much, and I love it. We put some carpet down just to cover the floor and will find some pieces to go with the new look. So far, it is so frigging cold up there that I can't move my fingers. And the stairs are so narrow there is nothing to sit on. I'm considering bean bags. They make huge bean bags now. Sumo bags. Fat boy bags. Look it up. I think that would work well for me. Lounging is my natural position. I am supine.

New additions to the monkey clan

My new harp. I just got it today. I'm considering a career change to thanatology. Actually, my husband found it for me. I love that he sees me that way.

Sid makes the catch

The landing

Sid trots away with the only thing that matters to him

Haley and Sid on the way to the park.

Looking down the stairway from the garret

The attic

One corner and the door

The window.

the opposite corner

The window again

Thursday, January 11, 2007


As I walk away from the unit, I usually take the time to say goodbye to anyone who is paying attention, kiss Alene, hug Rosita and make some hysterically funny remark as I type in the secret code that gets me through the keypadded door and out of there for another day. Last week, I did what I always do, and upon leaving, turned to Bonny and said, "You're in charge."

It was a joke.
She has dementia, you see.

She can't remember that the clothes she is wearing are her own unless they are red, or that the fruit rotting in her little apartment isn't treasure (oh, poverty... thy shadow is long) but she remembered that she was in charge. And she's been complaining ever since.

Or is it every since? Ever. I think I say ever since.

At any rate, Bonny's been showing up at my desk each morning, exhausted from keeping an eye on things. She tells me how lazy the girls are when I'm not there. I know this already. Job security, I figure. For both of us. But then her daughter called and said Bonnie is distraught. Worried sick. Too much responsibility for her. So, tonight, I led her to the med room, introduced her to the med aide and told her that Jeanette is on duty and if she has any questions, Jeanette will be in charge until I get back in the morning. She was relieved. She didn't want to let me down.

I hope that when I stop working, I stop.

I went to my writing group, and will likely go back. It is of some value. It may work. I am not inspired. I have not written. I was criticized, which I love, and she had a point. One. Two women showed up, and were serious about writing, although neither write like me. They are more like real writers. Not just liars with pencils. And there was a point in the conversation when I knew I was not like them, a point at which the difference between us narrowed to one bright point. They were talking about retirement: how long have you been retired? Since 02. Oh, I've just been for two years. They turned to look at me. I looked back and forth between them, knowing a comment was required. I couldn't just smile and nod. This was get to know you day. Show and tell on the first day of school. "I'll work until I die," I finally said. And the clincher was this.... they said, in unison: "Why?" And I, other shoe ready to drop at any minute, think to myself: I could lie, say I love to work. I love my job. It gives my life meaning. Instead, I went with the facts. The fact. One.


I said it simply and with as little shame as I could muster. I will work until I die because I have to. Because you, you retired ladies, are looking at the working poor-- a fingersnap from under the bridge. I know the distance between me and the shopping cart women and I know that they are cold tonight. I was one. No. I wasn't. But I've lived in the back of a pickup truck and in a burned out cabin and on my brother's screened porch next to the train track and in Joe Estramada's logging yard. (I didn't tell them all that last stuff. I just said money.)

And that separated the haves from the have nots in one fell swoop. But I'll go back anyway.

I was listening to a woman this evening and she said when she writes, her soul opens-- or her core or some such shit-- and what I know is that it is very difficult to write a lie on paper. Not without an eraser nearby. I know this because I am a fiction writer, and the truth leaks out around even those lies. It can't be helped. It is especially difficult to commit untruths to paper if you are a criminal trained in the old school: where men were men and women were scared... (you thought I was going to say sheep... but you didn't go to my school.) where you don't cop to shit, baby. Not on paper. Not in your outloud voice you don't. So lying is best left to the wind, the unproveable singular voice. If a lie is told in the forest and nobody hears it, can it still be used against you???

The room is coming right along. One of the walls is done. What my husband doesn't understand (and doesn't really care about all that much except that my ways with paint are curious to him) is that each wall is a separate painting. It is as fun as it gets for me. The first wall is terra cotta paint with a mocha wash over it. Gorgeous --like my bathroom down south only richer color. I bought a turquoise vase made of papier mache and a small turquoise bird with its head tucked under its wing. I will bring in the entire monkey population of this house when I am done. We brought in two new monkeys over Christmas: a cowboy and a cowgirl. I really need to post some pictures to photobucket and load them so I can get to them from this computer. We have some shots of Sid actually in flight, catching the frisbee.

Nicole dyed her hair purple today and cut it in a pixie cut. I couldn't get away with it. She looks just right.

Friday, January 05, 2007


A woman came into my office today to discuss her sister in law moving onto the unit, and when I asked her what she usually wears, she said "waltz length gowns." I'm not sure what that means, just like I'm not sure what "tea length" means.

What does it mean? And when did the length of things relative to mealtimes and dance steps stop mattering? Go go boots, for example.

It sounded elegant, spending those golden years lounging around in waltz length gowns, sipping mint juleps on the porch. I picture waltz length as very long, sweeping the floor, dustballs forming at the hem if you are in my house. But I think I am wrong. I think it is nearly ankle-length. Same as tea length.

Oh god. Who cares. Sometimes it seems like it is all just a death sentence. They all die. And we all die. I know this.

But in the give and take of it all, on Tuesday I got to throw one back. Audrey. I liked Audrey, loved to have her live with us and hated to let her go. She is very anxious and fixated, but she is not demented. Not yet. She shows some wear for 93, but all in all, she is still more organized than I will ever be. So I sent her to the other side.

Picture this: An assisted living facility with 90 some-odd, 90-something people on the one side, blissfully imagining that life will continue much the same as it always has, that leisure has meaning, that death will come in the night, "on little cat feet," like winter or fall or dark of night that Sandburg described, leaving a tidy corpse; and that madness will remain on the other side--my side--mannered and forgiving, touching only strangers and the unclean.

So they don't visit us very often--the 90-somethings--because they fear what they could easily become... are in fact becoming... but occasionally, one of them loses her mind, slips through the crack and stays with me. They cluck among themselves when this happens, those who remain, and they make sense of it all, and bring her leftover donuts from bingo for a week or two, and blame her daughter in Texas for visiting only at Christmas. Then they stop coming and repair the crack so they can't see it anymore. But it is still there, yawning and hungry, waiting for a single missed-step.

So it isn't often that one returns from the dead as Audrey has. She returns to the living with the stain of the untouchable. The old ones point and stare as though dementia were contagious. It may be.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

my bad

I'm ba-ack. My fault for loading the computer with msn. I told them, No, I didn't do anything stupid, but I had.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


The laptop died. It'll be back by close of bizness tomorrow, or so they tell me.

I have finished the primer coat up in the garret and it sucked up almost two gallons. Gallons. But I slopped it on good and heavy.

I fired somebody today.

My husband is playing Moonlight Mile on his acoustic guitar in the background. I love that song.

She didn't see it coming. Not one bit. A real managerial coup. Bummer that it feels like shit to do that. I shouldn't be a boss. I should be bossed. I need bossing.

Monday, January 01, 2007

another one down

For those of you who may have seen it: I took my picture off. It was too wierd. I never let anyone take my photograph. Well, hardly ever. That one was okay, but I am too self conscious. Blessed anonymity. I do not seek fame. Infamy is more my style. Happy New Year to y'all jus the same..

We didn't do much. Just the trip out to the island and a couple of gatherings. I brought cookies in an attempt to rid the house of sugar. There are a few lingering and I guess I'll have to eat them myself to get rid of them.

Excuse me for a moment.

Okay. So this laptop is pretty nice, but it takes 10 freakin' minutes from the time I push the start button until I am here and typing. That is actual time. I am unfamiliar with wireless, but is it that slow? Once I'm on, I think I have regular DSL speed, but hooking up takes too long. It may be the computer. I'm still working out the bugs.

I am avoiding painting. This is nothing new. I bought the colors I want: turquoise, cornflower blue and terra cotta. Perfect. It will be a tribute to Diego Rivera, Frieda Kahlo and Mexican art in general. I am typing and the letters aren't showing up very fast. Is that wireless also? Fuck this. The icon says "signal strength good." Okay. What do I know? So, I will paint an undercoat of all those paints I mixed together, let that dry, then decide if I want to go with a colorwashed wall or straight paint.

You'll see what I decide. And soon. Very soon.

New Year's Resolutions: Quit saying fuck out loud, but it is still okay to write it. Spend less money-- after I am done turning the garret into Havana Northwest. Lose the same 15 pounds I have been losing every three months for the past year. Paint the outside chairs ivory and the underside of the tub copper. Water the yard when it is hot without complaining. Think of others. Write a book.

Oh, did I say write a book.

Great. I'll get right on that.