Friday, August 31, 2007

children of the corn er

You never know what you're going to see on Clinton Street. I hope I never move away. Last night we were sitting on the porch, minding our business and that of our neighbor's, when many people began to walk by. This is not terribly unusual for our neighborhood-- it is a walking place, the bike lane and all that-- but there were so many and they began to congeal just short of the corner with a few lingering in front of our place just out of sight. I motioned to K and he stepped off the porch to look. Some of the people looked up at us, so I asked what was going on.

"Nothing bad," came the answer.

Okay. Now we are fully engaged. Inquiring minds and all.... So off the porch we jumped only to see a crowd on the sidewalk standing in a circle, under the streetlight, taking pictures of a girl who was blindfolded and wearing a pointed birthday hat. The flashes continued to go off as the procession passed our house, leading her by the hand.

And me without my camera.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

one luau and a funeral

It is always of great interest to me watching intact families, or at least families that appear to be intact. I attended a funeral today. Not Peony's. I don't think they did anything for her. I think my blog posting was about it. Nope. We'll call this one Eleanor. She passed quickly and was mourned by a large Mormon family, a religion that I find odd, but interesting.

They put great stock in family, and if you join, one of the perks is getting to be in the same family again when you get to heaven. Now I don't want to say in writing that I wouldn't want my same family because I don't like very many people all that much and I already know what's wrong with my relatives, so I'd probably pick them all over again. But still, my view of life after life is more solitary than that.

Anyway, there I was, in the chapel, some bearded guy with a guitar singing "In the Garden" which is my favorite hymn, and he also sang "The Circle of Life" from the Lion King, which I thought was a little wierd, and Elton John's Princess Diana version of "Candle in the Wind" which I thought was very wierd for a ninety year old woman. I mean, that song is all about life cut short. And he sang Sentimental Journey, which was really great. I don't think I'd ever paid attention to that song before. But anyway, there I sat, my view from the rear pew more voyeuristic than not. Most of the time I spend at any family gatherings it is that way for me. I always wonder where they learned to be a family, how they all managed to keep the same beliefs, pass on traditions intact, look similar, speak without saying fuck and finish a gathering without raising law enforcement's interest.

So I sat there, considering family, mine and ours, which is really difficult for me right now, and I know it is just part of the journey, that my step-people will be adults one day and that will be a relief. I remember a time when the only good thing I could say about my son was that he did live to be 18 and I didn't kill him. So, I guess I've never really been great with teen angst. Mine or anyone else's.

We had a luau at work today. Complete with Micronesian dancing girls and MaiTais with little paper umbrellas.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

goodnight johnboy

Peony was always angry. Deaf as a post, she screeched at everyone--her children included. I suspect she always had. The children were awful. Awful. Terrible terrible children. Grown women who wouldn't visit but when they did would scream right back in their mother's face. It was a good thing Peony was deaf. Remember when the car drove through her wall? Well, she slept right through it. She lived out her last days in a tiny room with the TV set tuned to The Hallmark Channel and watched Little House on the Prairie, and Matlock, and they were her company day and night. Her friends. She is the only person in a dementia unit I've ever known to work a remote to the end.

Do not go gentle into that good night (Whitman?). It was a hard road for Peony, and who am I to judge, or even consider, why? Perhaps her body, the Auschwitzy shell that carried her through these last days, was stronger than it looked.

There is so much theory and practice about human death, about grief, about how people find a way to escape this mortal coil and move on or out or up or over.... Hospice organizations swear by people needing permission from the living to die. I don't so much buy that one. I think it is the one thing we do utterly alone. The daughters, one more terrible than the other (not because of her absence but because of her presence) sat bedside, good little new-agers, and said over and over again, "Go to the light, Mother. We'll be fine. You can go. Go to the light." But she wouldn't. Couldn't. Didn't.

I think the daughters began to take it personally when she wouldn't give it up--the ghost--and they stayed and stayed and slept in the room and kept the TV off. And Peony wouldnt' couldn't didnt' die.

So one of the women who took such tender care of her tiny body waited outside her room, waited for the daughters to leave early this morning. When they did, she slipped in and turned on the television.

Goodnight Johnboy, Goodnight MaryEllen, Goodnight Peony.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Saturday, August 18, 2007


There are not enough sofa pillows in the world to make me comfortable on this leather. I fear it will be some time until I adjust to the simple lines, the blocks of neutral brownblack that I sit on these days. I move from piece to piece, testing the view--the red wall vs the windows--and I still don't know. Shall I use the ottoman? Then I consider what luxuries my problems are. I spent the better part of last week shopping for-- no, obsessing for-- just the right carpet to soften the floor for my precious little feet. It is absurd. I used to live in cabins without floors for god's sake. I swept hard packed dirt. I decorated it. I did. And loved it. So, the more affluent I become (or appear), the more absurd the distance. And the more relative the distinction. Simply having does not civilize. I know that is a poor excuse for a sentence. Sue me. But my point is made. Accumulation is not proof of existence. But the way I go about it, you'd think it was.

After visiting all of the rug dealers, I found a white rug. Cream. Not quite white. Shaggy, but not like the shedding one that is now back upstairs in the garret, home of the unwritten novel. It is an uneven shag. I bought two of them, a mute attempt to hide the gold carpet that underlies the entire room. It didn't work. The gold is there. And there to stay.

I know this is crap. I know this doesn't matter. One time I bought a going away card for somebody and it said, "Remember all the trouble I've caused you?"

and on the inside it said, "I'm almost done."

Well, I'm almost done. I'm almost done bringing home sofa pillows and table runners and dolls without heads and carpets and copper pots and red paint and copper paint and shamelessly returning anything I don't love. Almost.

Until next time.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

one red wall

It has been a busy weekend. I painted the wall, after twenty years of saying that red is psychologically the worst color choice. But, psychologically speaking, who gives a shit? Its the only color I loved. Terra Cotta Tile by Hewlitt-Packard or something like that. Benjamin Moore. That's it.

So I painted the wall. I am vascillating about sofa pillows. And all of this is meaningless. I hopped on my scooter this morning. Husband off doing the Bridge Pedal. The Burnide bridge was closed because of all the cyclists, so I had to cross the Hawthorne Bridge and I hate going across that metal grate on my scooter. It feels like I am driving on Wesson oil. It is terror. And terror in slow-motion this morning because everyone else in the world also had to use the Hawthorne. So, I lived, and drove on up to 23rd for a little tiny bit of shopping. NW 23rd, where the homeless girls wear perfect tatters and smell of Shalimar.

I found one great thing, but couldnt' bring it home on my scooter, so left it in the hands of the merchant and will go back with the truck later. Now, does this mean I wasted gas? Dammit. I am certainly wasting money, but I have wandered shop to shop for weeks now, since the furniture came, to find just the right thing to fill a vacant spot in my living room. And I finally found her on 23rd. No surprise to you shoppers out there. But I have to see everything before I am sure. It is a rusted metal doll manekin. Is that spelled correctly? It is only about two feet tall, so not like the real thing. But she is bald, and almost scary. I love her. I can make hats for her on holidays. I'll work up a little two-inch tall witch hat for halloween. Just you wait.

So, there's my wall. It brings the room back to some kind of life after killing it with coffee bean black furniture.

I posted the picture of Ida on that post if you want to look back.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


there is no way around but through

A tunnel on Highway 20 near Diablo Lake.

The pool is up, the sarongs out of the summer box and hanging in the closet, the air conditioner in the window, and I am ready for summer. I think I missed it. I think it was summer here while we were away on that road trip. It has been mostly cloudy since. Hardly warm enough to use the pool, haven't used the a/c at all, my hot montana tan has faded to Portland white.

Our camp at colonial creek on Diablo Lake.

Olympic rain forest. Don't stand in one place for too long.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Raised by wolves, it is in me to ride in the rain, to ride, no matter what. To endure. To get on the back and shut up. And now, with my own vehicle.... You bought it, you ride it. You made your bed, you sleep in it. What a crock of shit. Bikers.

I'm not a biker anyway. I'm a scooter-er. I'm a nearly legal, nearly adept, nearly safe, scooter rider.

I don't even like to be cold. I got up yesterday morning to a weather report of possible drizzle and I was taking no chances. I drove. Don't get me wrong... I love my scooter. A woman at work asked me if I'd named it yet. I haven't. I hadn't considered it. It has Milano stamped on the side, so why would I give it another name? I think that is a teenage girl thing. Name your vehicle. I remember Billie Bohannon who named her olive green Pinto "The green Burrito." No.

The advantages of driving, so far: NPR, heat, metal surrounding me, and a clock. I'm surprised at the number of times I want to know what time it is. It doesn't matter. I don't need to be at work at any certain time. I can do whatever I want whenever I want to. But seems I like to keep track of things like the passing of minutes from home to coffee shop. Oh, and coffee. It is hard to get coffee on a scooter, and impossible to drink it. I can eat CrackerJacks while riding, but that's as good as I've got so far. And I can't talk on my cell phone, but not for lack of trying. The helmet gets in the way. But I know I know I know, I don't need distractions. I need to keep my eye on the side streets and parked cars.

I'm getting better at the scooter. I can almost release my deathgrip to wave at other scooters. There is, apparently, a sisterhood: Hell's Bell's. I won't join, but its nice to know they're out there. Actual motorcycles don't wave at scooters, and scooters don't wave at cyclists. We have our standards.

So according to Gwen, I don't have to tough it out and ride in the rain. I don't have to do anything I don't want to do except work, and truth be told, I like my job. I like working. I'd have little to complain about otherwise. They give me money and I need money, so it works out.

About twenty years ago, a little more, I made my first counseling appointment. (Yes, this will be a tiny little peek into my psyche. Hold on. It'll be great, really.) She asked me a bunch of questions. I can't remember what I was twisted up about at that time, but based on my answers, she asked me to write down the higher moral code I (apparently) was thinking I lived by. It went something like: (drumroll)

Blood is thicker than water
Don't cop to nothin'
There is honor among thieves
Walk tall
Don't blink

And this crock of shit included things like riding in the rain and wearing dead men's clothes.

Why do I mention all of this? Because it bothers me when I feel like a big baby for driving my truck in the rain, which is what any normal person would do. Right? Any normal people out there???? Hmmmm?? Higher moral code my ass. It was a man's list that women were supposed to live by that included learning to take a punch without flinching.

Remember flinching?

Well I do.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


The furniture arrived. Out with the old and in with the new. The problem is, everything is old. I do know enough not to buy a new house to go with the furniture, but it is dramatic, and dark, and oh so yummy, and I just want to look at it and little else. I call it the "dentist office" phase. Nothing but the sofa and a coffee table book.

During the garret project ("a [garret] does not a novel make..." see ashabot) I bought a fuzzy white rug to tangle my toes in while writing that fucking book that will not write itself. Yesterday I gave up and brought it downstairs for some contrast. Fuzzy is fuzzy. It sheds worse than Sid. I'm pretty sure its going back upstairs in a lower traffic area. Much lower. I haven't been up there since the monkey clan took over. They scare me.

So, now I'm trying to bring some color into our life. Menopause beige with espresso brown is putting me to sleep. Add to that a white rug and not much happens. Subtlety is over-rated. I'm looking for Mexican vases. I may have one around here somewhere. Why wouldn't I? I have everything else. The sign says, "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" but I do -- and it won't even sell at yard sale prices.


I am the angel of death. I signed four people up for hospice last week. I was upstairs in one of the storage rooms (in a nursing home the storage room takes on new meaning) looking for Hawaiian flowers to put on a bulletin board. You really never know what you might find. I noticed an old suitcase, falling apart, old photographs and ivory baby brushes spilling from tattered edges. You know how I am about old photographs. So, I peeked inside, which was wrong, but not that wrong. And I am prone to wrong behavior in case you didn't know.

I was looking at the handwriting, that perfect, calligraphic penmanship typical of the twenties and forties, and soon realized it belonged to Ida -- one of mine. You might wonder why, if she is still living, why her belongings are squirrelled away in the storage room. Why?

When people come to live in a dementia unit, as a rule they do not come unwillingly but rather unknowingly. They come with medical records and a social history. As you might imagine, they have not written this history with their own palsied hand. The story is a mash of questions that do not accurately describe that life, that ninety year span filled with horses and hay bales and dances at the grange. It is a regulatory requirement and little else. It skims the surface of memory. No. It doesn't even do that. It is someone else skimming what they think are the important elements of history.

Favorite food
Favorite kind of music
Morning person or night owl?

The worst thing I can think of is someone else telling my story. Well, again, I exaggerate. The Minneapolis bridge thing is worse.

So, Ida has this history, and this short list of numbers, and it is easy to say that nobody cares, but something happened in her life, something that estranged a daughter and cut off a son. There is a brother, but he is so old he probably stopped keeping his own pictures. Old people know better than I do the transitory nature of memory, and of memories. They understand the boxes of photographs left at yard sales.

I remembered, then, asking her brother what to do with her things when we had to clear clutter out of her room so she could have a roommate. So this was the clutter I had removed. I didn't realize. And he had told me to give it away. Don't sell it. Give it to someone who can use it.

So I took a picture back to Ida.

I held it up in front of her and asked, "Who is this?" because occasionally, if you sneak up on Alzheimer's, it gets the answer right.

She said, "It has my face."

I cried. The picture, which I will post, is of a young woman at the absolute height of her beauty, running through a hayfield holding the reins of a huge Percheron horse.

Ida was so alive. I said, "I can still see that beautiful face."

She said, "I can see yours."

And the moment passed. Ida was one of the four.