Friday, February 20, 2009


This past week was a busy one at work. Not only did we lose Lulu--rare treasure-- but the cook walked out. The chef. So I had to make pancakes for one hundred people. One hundred twenty-five, including the staff. Also, we are having a Mardi Gras celebration on Fat Tuesday, and in our exuberance, decided we would make papier mache floats. Oh god.

My own very special design was to be the head of a joker. I always say yes to creative projects. Always. Yes is the answer. Do you know how to make papier mache? Sure I do. Do you know how to bartend? Sure. This is how I've gotten through life, one lie at a time. I did cover part of a balloon with newspaper and glue in the 5th grade to make a pinata, and I have poured beer from a keg, so where is the big fat friggin lie? Huh?

The trick is scale.

I said, in my wisdom and experience: "You just get some chicken wire and make a form. Its a snap." And I'm sure it is for someone with leather hands. So there we were, unrolling wire that much preferred to remain rolled. I needed fencing pliars and a cowboy in the worst way. I needed help. But I was the expert. I WAS the help.

I managed to created a sort of cylinder with the unweildy wire, about four feet high and three feet in diameter. I gathered one end of the cylinder together so it looked something like the bottom of a two liter plastic bottle, and formed a nose out of baloons and paper, a pointy chin out of cardboard and more paper. To create the jester hat of flopping points, I cut segments along the top edge. Over a three day period, I painstakingly covered the entire object with miles of newspaper strips and gallons of glue. I stood back and smiled:

I had created Bart Simpson.

I'll get a few pictures of him before he goes into the dumpster.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


There is a new sign, or a sign heretofore unnoticed by me, on Powell Blvd. at about 33rd. It says:

Maltese or Whatever

I had to drive around the block and make sure I'd read it right. I'm crazy for bad signs, and this, in my studied opinion, is among the top ten. Its a legitimate sign, backlit, acrylic, set high on a pole between other real signs in a small shopping complex. I wonder what kind of food they serve. Or if they serve food to dogs. I'll have to do some sleuthing to figure out this mystery. I don't think I want to eat there, but I'll try to get a look at the menu. Stay tuned.

Lost another one today. Lulu went to heaven. She was great -- from my neighborhood. Her "family home" was on Division, and is now one of the many trendy thai restaurants in the area. She told me that a streetcar used to run up and down Clinton Street back in the day, and she knew everyone in the neighborhood. She was a great lady, dignified, wealthy. This past year I had to print paper money for her because she thought she should have alot of it laying around. Thank god for the internet. You can download damn good money. Now I have a drawer full of it at work and nobody is interested. But Ernie is moving in next week. Maybe he needs some. Its one-sided, but Lulu never seemed to mind. They found Ernie sleeping in the laundry room and wandering in the parking lot, so sounds like his time has come. Heaven knows we have a vacancy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

the take

The last few weeks have been akin to carrying mud uphill in a bucket, but today is Valentine's day, and I am happy to be home, feet up, husband out shopping for flowers which are all I need. Flowers and a card. Did I say flowers? I meant white flowers. Nice white cut flowers, impermanent as snow. And the card: thoughtful but not mushy. My favorite Valentine so far showed a small dog sitting on a red pillow. Inside, it simply said, "Sit. Stay. Be mine." My husband is an uncomplicated man.

The clam trip did not go off as planned. Gwen, my sweet but unprepared friend, came along for the first lesson. She said it best: "If I am going to be standing in the ocean, I will probably get wet." I should have insisted she have waders. I love mine. Nothing like chest waders to give a false sense of security. There we were, wading out with the lessening tide, further and further still, in search of the elusive razor clam, when WHOOSH in comes a three foot wave. I'd call it a sneaker wave, but I don't think it was being sneaky. I think I just wasn't paying very close attention. I grabbed Gwen and we stood fast against the pull of the outgoing water, butt-high, and waited while her knee-hi boots filled with icy saltwater. Truth be told, we went out too early and the sea was rough. When it is like that, wave after wave pounding the sand, the clams pretty much stay down. We got a few nice ones, and I'm not sure what she did with hers, but we've had chiopino and fried clams. Chowder for Haley's birthday tomorrow.

I feel like I should make a blanket apology to the few who read this about my tone lately. I need a week off to remember that life is life and death is death. It is hard to take anything seriously when it is all so fucking serious. Sometimes I wish I worked at the coffee shop, complaining about customers and coworkers, blissfully unaware of gravity.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

will and the living

February in the dementia unit and they drop like flies in August. Only not so fast. They live and live and live and live, hanging onto each breath like spoonfuls of honey. We say things like, "Here's your purse, you can go now." And, "Mike isn't coming from Alaska, you can go now." and we sing and strum harps and some who didn't know her very well will pray at her bedside and I can see her shushing them, sending them to holier beds. We mutter just beyond her hearing, whispering things like, "I hate to see her linger like this." But this lingering, this thinly tethered life, is all there is for her. It is the only thing. Lyla was born on Friday the 13th. One of her boys was born on her birthday, on Friday the 13th. Her sons expect she will die tomorrow. I think they've known this all along but didn't have the heart to tell me because they think I think I know what I'm doing. Lyla knows when to die. She'll go when she's good and ready.

On the other hand, Etta's children won't leave. She is two weeks dead and they are hanging around, retelling the story of her passing to anyone who will listen for the third fourth fifth time. It is as though Etta's ghost, and the ghost of her husband so recently passed, are still here. I saw them coming toward me this morning -- not the ghosts, the children-- arms flung in grief, tears still rolling, ready for a great big hug and the retelling of the retelling of how precious it all was... and it isn't that it wasn't precious, its just that for me, it wasn't. Little is.

"Its hard to leave, isn't it?" I asked. They stared at me as though I'd given voice to a secret. "When you go," I continued, "it will become real and you can get on with things." I wanted to say, "They're not here." That's what they needed. But I had said enough.

I'm tired. Survivor starts tonight. Time to lighten up a tiny little bit.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

clamming for four

Off we go to Seaside. Four pairs of waders, four clam guns, four clam nets (three nets and one cut-out plastic bottle) four pounding sticks, four hats, eight gloves, eight boots, and one dog. We have grapes and cheese and apples and salami and sweet-hot mustard.

If the shellfish gods are with us, we will limit within an hour, bringing home 60 clams. The most clams I've cleaned at one time is 45, that was on our anniversary one year when we each got a limit and hubby changed his hat, put on sunglasses and went back as someone else to get another limit. It is quite a process to clean razor clams. They are nasty little things.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


It is sunny today. Tomorrow it will rain, or so they claim. Today I buy bulbs: a daylily I've never seen before, bright blue iris, anemones, daffodil and one other I can't name and although it is sunny, it is cold and I don't want to run out to my car to find out. I bought a big big bowl and will plant my bulbs in layers to have color all the way through summer or at least until we go on vacation and nobody remembers to water them. But first, must drill a hole in the bottom of the bowl, making it into a pot.

It is my first act of gardening, premature as always, but the sun comes out and I find myself at nurseries, wandering through row upon row of baby plants. They seem to be thriving, so why wouldn't mine? A clerk at Dennis' Seven Dees gave me a bunch of daffodil bulbs. She knows I'll be back with the big money come April. Last year, if you'll remember, I waited patiently for the Canby Master Gardener's Faire. It was beautiful but disappointing. This year, I won't wait so long. I've been to that rodeo twice now, and it is not really worth waiting for, except for the walk and towing my new garden cart around.

Also on the landscaping front this year: Dog management. Excrement. Lawn-killing urine. I intend to fence Sid out of his current territory, re-seed, and create a little wood chip-covered area just for him. I'm sure he'll adjust.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Lyla is almost gone. Etta is gone. I am sleeping poorly and dreaming of the dead.

Yesterday, I sat in the room with Etta's body, listening to the harpist sent over by hospice but who arrived just a little too late. No worries... her children figured harp music could accompany their mother's soul as it finally rose to join her husband and just in time for Valentine's day. This is what they thought was happening, so how do I know? When they invited me, I joined them so as not to appear rude.


Had I any humanity in my threadbare bag of tricks, I would surely have leaned back in the chair and allow the music to wash over me. I would have taken in the gravity of my situation. But all I could think was: I really must tune my harp and start practicing again.

Selfless? Not this girl.

But Lyla? This is different. Mother to four wild boys, wife of a cop. She carried her purse everywhere, every day. It was the only thing left that made her a woman. The only thing she could remember needing -- not shelter, not sustinence. She kept all of her bingo winnings in it: squashed bits of chocolate and grimy poker chips -- the token economy of the dementia world where money means nothing and is as useful to wipe your ass with as it is to spend. Every night when I left work, I'd call to her as she sat watching television: "You're in charge," I'd say. She'd laugh and wave me away. She was cool. She never lost it. I should say she IS cool, in the present tense, because she is still alive, this moment she is. Still breathing, still small and adorable, still Lyla.