Monday, May 31, 2010

My Name is Smitty

I crawled into work this morning from a late night of dancing. I don't think I've ever said that before in my life. But nevertheless, I went to Cajun Dance Night at Tipitina's and danced with a half dozen old guys, all who have more energy than most of the young men I know. This is probably because most of my guy friends are fathers of young children and it takes more energy to chase and potty train a two year old than it does to dance for three hours straight.

I went with a few friends, only one of which had been there before. That's Sarah. Sarah's been inviting me to go for a while and I've been hesitant. When Sarah dances she feels alive, graceful, and beautiful. When I dance I feel as graceful as a gorilla riding a bike. But I would like for that to change. There have been times in the past and I've really been able to cut loose and have a great time. If my friend Danielle is reading this, she is probably thinking of some blackmail footage she has of me dancing at her wedding reception. That night I was drrrrrrrrunk. And they played "Highway to Hell!" At a wedding! Who WOULDN'T dance to that? Anyway, when I look back I think that every time I've been comfortable enough to dance, there's been gin & tonic involved. Or vodka. Or Maker's Mark on the rocks.

I'm not drinking now, though. So how was I supposed to get up and dance last night if I wasn't able to drink my embarrassment away? Easy. The guys there won't let you stand still. If you stand there against the wall, they'll come up, grab your hand and pull you on the dance floor.

"I don't know how to dance," I told the old guy who took my hand. He had no hair, a long gray mustache, knee high socks and sparkling eyes.
"That don't matter, sugar," he said. "I'll show you."
Turns out that a lot of the dancers there love beginners because they get to teach. And I suspect that the old dudes jump at the opportunity to lead women around the dance floor, twirl them around, and show them how to waltz.

Sarah took to the floor like a pro, but me, Jan, and Lisa had to be pulled out there. After a dance we'd compare notes.

Jan fanned herself after a dancer kissed her hand. "That was fun, but I'm too dizzy. He twirled me constantly!"
"Mine kept giving me pointers but I couldn't hear him," I said.
"My mom's neighbor dragged me out there," Lisa said, looking grossed out. "I grew up with that guy, I babysat his kids! He's Mr. Frank, but he said to call him Frank on the dance floor! I danced with Mr. Frank! Blech!"

I only had one weird experience with this guy who did not like to talk or smile. He had solid white hair and Harry Potter glasses. The only time he spoke was to order me not to look at his feet.
"Don't look at my feet," he barked.
"Sorry," I said, eyes darting up, looking over his shoulder.
"It'll mess us up," he explained.
"Gotcha," I said.
Two minutes later..."Don't look at my feet!"
My eyes popped up again. "Yes, sir."
"Look over my shoulder!"
"Got it. I'm looking over your shoulder, not at your feet."

There were all sorts of people there, not just crazy old dudes. Couples - young, middle aged and elderly but still spry enough to two-step. There were single men and women cruising for dance partners, moms and dads dragging pouty faced teenagers, kids who looked about ten, tourists who were just there to watch and take pictures. On either side of the dance floor there was a man and a woman playing a washboard on their chests. They seemed to be part of the band, but were in the crowd instead of on stage. Sometimes they took a break and grabbed a dance partner.

Then there was a lady that my friend Jan and I met, the one who was on a date with a guy she met on Originally I started talking to her because she was a few inches taller than me, and I meet women who I have to look up to maybe once a year.

"Shit," I said, tilting my head to make eye contact with this Greek statue of a woman in a white dress. "You're taller than me."
She smiled and shook her head in a way that I was familiar with. It's that, "Yes, I know. I'm tall. Thank you for pointing it out," kind of response.
"That doesn't happen often," I told her. "What are you, about 6'2"?"
"Yeah, around there."
"Well, all right!" I said, and we toasted to her height, my water to her whiskey cocktail.

My friend Jan asked her where she was from because her accent was different. She was from Florida and she was just in for the weekend to meet a guy she'd hooked up with on
She looked over at him across the room. He was talking to two other women. Then she looked back at me and Jan.
"I don't think it's going well," she said. "That's his sister and her friend, and I just kinda feel...I don't know. Out of place. I mean, what am I supposed to do go over there with him? Follow him around?"
"Doesn't seem cool, him not making sure you're not over here by yourself when you don't know anybody," I told her.
"Well, he's a nice guy. We went out last night and had a great time, but today it's weird. I don't know what I'm doing," she sipped her drink and looked at him anxiously.
So she, Jan, and I talked it out and we voted that she go over there with her date, and make the best of it. If it was an awkward night all around, then it would be just that, and she could go home to Florida and not have to dread bumping into him at the grocery store.

"God, I hate dating," I thought watching her walk over to him.
I do. I hate it and I'm not even dating yet. I even hate watching other people do it. Folk dancing with the strangers is good for me right now.

You know, Taller-than-me-lady should have danced with Smitty. He would have cheered her up. Smitty was my favorite dance partner, and though I have a hard time remembering names his stuck with me because he said it a few times.

He placed his hand on the small of my back and stood up straight.
"My name is Smitty," he declared. "What's your name, honey?"
"Well, Miss Genevieve, I'm gonna show you how to waltz."
Smitty had white hair under his cowboy hat, a red bandanna around his neck, boots, blue jeans and a volunteer firefighter T-shirt on. I did my best at following his steps without looking at his feet. I let my arms go loose so that he could guide them in whatever spin or twist that the dance called for.
"We dance every Thursday at Rock n' Bowl, and every Sunday right here," he told me, while he twist me around. "My name is Smitty, and you can always dance with me."
What's funny is that Smitty hadn't asked me to dance with him. He'd told me he was. He waltzed passed me with another lady around his age, and as he spun around he pointed at me and said, "I'm coming for you next."
Ordinarily a statement like that would have me digging for my pepper spray. But this was Smitty, so I took it in stride.

At the end of the dance before he bowed he said, "I hope whatever man you fall in love with is a dancer and I hope you never stop dancing." Then he bowed and kissed my hand. "Come on back, I'll give you another lesson some time. My name is Smitty."

Am I at the point where I need validation from old men I don't know? Old men who dance like Gene Kelly, but can't remember what they said three minutes ago so they repeat themselves? Yes. I do. My name is Genevieve. And dance lessons from harmless old boys who like to flatter young women was just what I needed. I'm not ready for Just beginner dance steps.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Writing in a stream of consciousness

I'm at Z'otz, the dark coffee shop uptown. The girl behind the counter has her hair swept back in a blue bandana, she's wearing an undershirt that has a gray, worn look like maybe it's been washed too many times, or maybe not at all, she's got glasses, black pants and a wallet chain. She's playing punk music that has a harmonica intermingled with it. Somehow those two sounds work, like a funny couple that you wouldn't imagine being good together. There are condoms in a fishbowl on a side table by the front door, and there's a panda bear sitting on top of it. So to get a condom you must move the panda. You must want it that bad, the protection. Or you must really want a panda.

I don't know how to describe this building. I wish I could. I wish I could describe everything I see in a way that would make every detail fascinating and graceful, like the hand I saw resting on a open car window the other day. This truck passed me and I didn't see the passenger's face, just his hand resting on the window. The color of his skin and the cut of his forearm muscle made me think that he worked in the sun, and that hand had been working all day, and maybe had been waiting for hours to rest itself on the door of the truck and feel the breeze of the open window. Such a small beautiful thing a man's hand can be.

It's the next day. I had to leave the coffee shop last night because the wallet chain girl and a friend went outside to smoke and the urge to bum a cigarette was so great that I couldn't think about anything else, couldn't even write anymore. Fucking addiction. So anyway, I took myself out of the situation entirely and felt better when I took deep breaths before I went to sleep last night.

The kids are at Chris's house for two weeks. What am I like without them to take care of? I don't know. I think I'm going to write a lot and go to a lot of meetings. I know, I'm a bucket of rad. Actually, I plan to take super, uber care of myself and try to have a good time. Without smoking, drinking, or sex (this is to be followed by delirious laughter). There will, however, be lots of dirty Rock N' Roll, swearing around the house, and watching of rated R movies.

I started a story a while ago, and the characters are Michael and Betsy. I don't know where it's going, or if it'll be a short story or a book or what, but I like writing it. I just started writing about Michael sitting outside a coffee shop between two smokers. He's the character I've always had in my head, the one with dark hair and Hershey brown eyes, and who's name changes depending on how I feel - the one who's grown up with me and who I've had the hots for since I was seven. Michael's told himself that he wants to stand outside for the fresh air, but the truth is he really wants a cigarette and he's just quit.

So has his friend Betsy. She walks across the parking lot, lighting one up, not realizing he's there. She's a pretty thing with long, strawberry blond hair, wide hips and a sideways smirk. Michael sees her and shakes his head. Somewhere inside he knows that he's in love with her, but he's not thinking about that right now. Right now he only knows that he wants a cigarette.
"You suck," he tells her when she gets close enough.
She frowns, not knowing where the insult has come from, but then she sees him, and rolls her eyes. She takes a drag. "I had a stressful morning."
"It's always a stressful morning before coffee." He sets his latte on the ground and holds out his hand for a cigarette. "If you're cheating, so am I."

There's more to this. That morning Betsy helped her sister who's a single mom, who just had a garage sale hoping that she could make enough cash to cover her electricity bill that's overdue. And her exhusband showed up and began taking things saying that Betsy's sister couldn't sell them. I don't know who this story is about yet. Is it about all of them? Is it from Betsy's point of view or her sister's? Or is it from Michael's point of view? Right now it's all over the place. Something will emerge from it, I think, some sense of order. This is all very rough.

Betsy pulls a cigarette out of the pack and holds it out for Michael. She watches him take it and thinks about what a small beautiful thing a man's hand can be.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

L'endroit sur or The Safe Place

Today I tried to spice things up in the office by sending my manager emails in different languages. She needed me to scan two or three things and send them to her, and each time I time I would write "For you" in Italian, French, or Dutch or something like that. "Per voi," and "Voor u" and "Para usted." After para usted Lisa came up to my desk and said, "What are you calling me?"
"Nothing," I said.
"What are those things you're calling me in your emails?"
"That's 'for you' in different languages."
Awareness clicked. She smiled. "Ooooh." Then she looked confused. "Why?"
"Because it's more fun than sending emails that say 'scan 1' and 'scan 2,' don't you think? And I think the office could use some cultural diversity."
"You're weird."
"I could insult you in other languages if you want me to. I've been getting all of this off the internet anyway. Shall I write, 'For you, camel breath?'"
She walked off. I did some super speedy quick googling of English to French.
"It's 'pour vous, souffle de chameau!'" I hollered.
"How do you say 'you're weird?'" she called back.
I typed away again. "Vous etes etange."
"I was being sarcastic, Genevieve."
Type, type, type. "J'étais sarcastique, Genevieve!"

I love this place. Today, I was able to bring Claire to work. She had a follow-up visit to the doctor because she sprained her wrist last week, so she just spent the day with me. Everyone is so awesome to kids here at the hospital, probably because they're happy to see one that's healthy or one who's not bleeding from the everywhere. Claire spent most of the day reading the 4th Harry Potter book and texting one of her friends who had a half day of school. The big boss and my manager have brought her softdrinks and set her up with a movie to watch. Then the Vice President of our whole department came in, the really REALLY big boss who is not only big in his standing here at the hospital but also stands over seven feet tall, brought her a new pack of cards and a couple of unopened, girly Christmas ornaments that he had lying around in his office for some reason.

Have I mentioned before how strange it is that I tried for months to get a job, just praying that where ever I found something it would be a safe place for me and the kids, and I ended up in the Safety and Security department? Well, in case I didn't mention it before, it is weird. Het is bizar.

And they let me be weird! I once asked the big boss what I was like during my interview.
"Did you know I was quirky?" I asked him. "Could you tell?"
"Oh absolutely!" he said. "That's why I picked ya."

That's funny, I remember trying to act as normal as possible during that interview. Maybe my quirkiness just seeps out. No wonder it took me so long to find a job then. But finally I found a place that takes to my kind! All those other places that rejected me didn't know what fun they were missing with all the confusing emails and the bring-your-daughter-to-work-on-a-day-that's-not-bring-your-daughter-to-work-day! Che cosa imbroglia!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Brain Transplant

Since I work in the hospital, do you think they'd give me a brain transplant if I asked them real nice? Maybe if I went to fetch them all coffee? The people here are big on coffee, you know, like there's the blood bank and then the coffee pot in the cafeteria, and both can be hooked up by IV.

I'm thinking a brain transplant might be good so that I never say anything stupid or embarrassing ever again. This THIS is a foolproof idea. There must be a brain out there that they can tweak, polish up, make nice, clean and, shiny and stick it in my head. Conversations will be a breeze! And awkward ones will never happen! Over thinking will never be a problem! Inappropriate jokes will be appropriately placed in the overhead compartment in an upright position!

Sure, you're thinking that life would be boring, but you'd be WRONG! I'd have the first ever brain transplant! I'd be on the cover of on-line newspapers! There will be tweets about me! Google will have one of their "o"s in the shape of my brain on a day that is a tribute to me. There will be nothing boring about this gig, trust me. Now just to find the right brain. Abby Someone. Abby...Normal (my heart goes out to the ones who just got the "Young Frankenstein" reference).

"Geeeeen," you're saying. "Have you embarrassed yourself recently?"
My eyes dart back and forth, and I start biting my fingernails. "No."
"Everybody does that."
I take my fingers out of my mouth and raise them to make a striking point, "That's because no one's had the brain transplant yet!"
"I thought you were working on your self-esteem problem. Remember your blog from the other day when you said stuff like 'I love my heart,' 'I love my hands,' 'I love my pancreas?"
"Yeah. So?"
"Don't you love your brain? Even with its imperfections?"
"Not so much that I wouldn't be willing to trade it in."
"I'd be upgrading. Like with an iphone."
"You're not an iphone!"
"Not YET!"

I'm infuriating to argue with, aren't I? But not once my transplant is complete! Just wait! It'll be beautiful! It'll be...oh crap. There's a $30 copay. I'm going to have to stick with the outdated model.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Sit and Sew

Yeah, I know I stole that title from the poem by the lovely Alice Dunbar-Nelson, "I Sit and Sew." Hers was about how helpless she felt as a woman watching the men she cared about go off to fight World War One while she sat and, as the poem implies, crocheted something. Mine will be about what I'm doing while awaiting Agent Sarah's review of my book.

I'm writing. Yay! And the day before yesterday I sent off a short story to The Genevieve Cancienne Journal of Rejected Art & Letters. It's all fiction and essays as written and rejected by Genevieve Cancienne, and I think my material fits. I'll probably still get a rejection, and the letter will read something along the lines of this:

Dear Writer,

We thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, your work doesn't fit our needs. Genevieve Cancienne's needs are coffee and a night out, like maybe dinner and a movie, and she doesn't need an essay about how your kids won't eat the pancakes you cook. Try again when you've got something with an actual plot, like the forbidden love story of a zombie and a firefly.

Keep writing!
The Editors

Oo. That's not a bad plot idea. The zombie would look longingly at the bright firefly and groan, "You're so alive!" and as he reaches for her his rotting arm will fall off. The firefly will see this and say, "OMG! That's gross" and fly away, and the zombie will cry, "Rhoda! Come back to me!" And the firfly will say, "No way, Gerald!" This thing is practically writing itself!

Anyway, I sent a short story to The Oxford American. I know. You've never heard of it. No one hears about the names of these magazines except other writers and they long to print in them so that other writers will read it and go, "Damn. I wish I was published," and not to impress actual readers who just read for the joy of it. Ok, well that's why I long to print in them.

The good news is, though, that I'm sending stuff off again. It's good momentum, and it gives me something to do rather than sit and sew and check my email every day waiting to hear back from Agent Sarah.

So what are some other publications that I'll be trying to impress with my unrequited undead love stories? (hee hee, unrequit-dead) Well, I checked out this site called Duotrope's Digest that lists hundreds of publication and these are the titles that appeal to me, that I must look into: "Hobo Pancakes," "Dark Comedy Review," "Laughter Loaf," "Girls With Insurance," "Asinine Poetry," and "Bust Down The Door And Eat All The Chickens." Those I must check out because their titles intrigue me more than say, "The Oregon Review." And then I'll find out which places might actually be interested in my stuff.

There are a few titles I'm curious about, but don't think that my work has a place there. For instance, I don't write murder mysteries and "Short Fast Deadly" sounds like short crime stories to me. Also, I don't write porn or erotica so "Sleep. Snort. Fuck." is out. But "The Rejected Quarterly?" Yeah, I need to check that out.

And now, as a tribute to the lady Alice Dunbar-Nelson, her poem:

I Sit and Sew
by Alice Dunbar-Nelson
I sit and sew—a useless task it seems,
My hands grown tired, my head weighed down with dreams—
The panoply of war, the martial tred of men,
Grim-faced, stern-eyed, gazing beyond the ken
Of lesser souls, whose eyes have not seen Death,
Nor learned to hold their lives but as a breath—
But—I must sit and sew.
I sit and sew—my heart aches with desire—
That pageant terrible, that fiercely pouring fire
On wasted fields, and writhing grotesque things
Once men. My soul in pity flings
Appealing cries, yearning only to go
There in that holocaust of hell, those fields of woe—
But—I must sit and sew.
The little useless seam, the idle patch;
Why dream I here beneath my homely thatch,
When there they lie in sodden mud and rain,
Pitifully calling me, the quick ones and the slain?
You need me, Christ! It is no roseate dream
That beckons me—this pretty futile seam,
It stifles me—God, must I sit and sew?

Monday, May 17, 2010


Ok, so I tried it. After reading about Jeanne Calment the French chick who lived for 122 years I took her advice and covered myself in olive oil. This wasn’t my first choice. At first I considered moving to France. Maybe it was being French that did it, kept her alive until she was a thousand years old, but I googled it and learned that French people generally live to be the same age as everyone else, dying of the usual things. Then I googled the expense of airfare to France and compared it to the price of a bottle of olive oil, and decided to go the cheaper route.

So how was it? Oily. Even more so than I thought it would be because I started off by accidently pouring too much. Even though I’ve been cooking for years somehow I forgot that pouring oil, be it vegetable, olive or other, is a delicate business. You tip the bottle ever so slightly or it gushes out coating everything in its wake – the measuring spoon, the floor, you, the dog. Poor dog. Victim of my frequent kitchen oil spill disasters.

Anyway, I tipped the bottle over my forearm like it was a tube of sunscreen, like I could squirt a little bit on and spread it around my skin. But sunscreen is slightly more pasty than olive oil, and in my defense I do have a lot more experience rubbing on sunscreen than marinating myself in an ingredient that I have mostly used for sautéing spinach.

It went everywhere. Wrist to elbow was coated in the stuff. So, in keeping with the sunscreen mentality, I tried to spread it around a bit. You know when you accidentally squirt too much sunscreen on your leg or something and you use the excess to cover the rest of you? Dude, I am six feet long. And there wasn’t enough of me to use up everything I had spilled on my forearm. Not even my whole arm, JUST HALF OF IT. I stood in my bathroom, looking like a toddler who’d gotten into her mother’s pantry, arms held out to the side because I was so oily and icky and I said, “Jesus Christ, what was this chick like an oiled up wrestler or something? She did this EVERY DAY until she was 122? Fuck it, I’m having an embolism at 75 like a decent human being.”

It took the rest of the day before I finally stopped feeling like a slimy reptile. I guess it finally all soaked in, or rubbed off on my clothes. And, me being me, I began to feel depressed.

I haven’t been taking very good care of myself in the last few weeks. Until Friday night, I hadn’t gotten to any Al-Anon meetings, taken my medication, continued my step work, or anything like that. I go to Al-Anon because I’m the adult child of two alcoholics, so while it’s technically ok for me to drink while I’m in the program because technically I’m not the one with the addiction problem, I’ve noticed that in these last few weeks I’ve been drinking more than usual. And being the child of two alcoholics, it’s not really a good idea for me to drink at all. According to research of an institution that I have forgotten the name of, when you are the child of one alcoholic the likelihood of you suffering from the same addiction is 60%. What could that percentage be when both of my parents are alcoholics? Hmm. My math is rusty. I was a Liberal Arts major. AHH! I was a Liberal Arts major! My chances have gone up 123%!!! So for many reasons, it’s not a good idea for me to drink.

When I stopped to think about it the other day I noticed a pattern. Before I started Al-Anon, I numbed myself from reality with denial and self-torture. When I got into the program I numbed myself with cigarettes and food. I was finally facing truth and reality, but still dealing with problems by causing other ones. When I stopped smoking I started overeating. When I recently stopped overeating (and finally stopped having the occasional post-quitting cigarette) I started buying wine at the store. Just one glass a night.

“Just one glass a night,” was what my mom told my aunt, one night when she was over. I was seven years old and my parents had just separated. Mom was single with three little kids, working and going to school full time. “If I have one glass a night I’m ok.”

That’s how it started. My parents were separated for two years before they got back together, and getting back together didn't cure the other problem that had started. And now as a single mother with three kids, working full-time, I totally understand how it became a problem.

I want to numb myself and forget. I don’t want to lay down in bed and remember how a man’s arms once held me to sleep. While we didn’t have a healthy relationship, that was one of the sweet memories. I don’t want to tuck my kids in at night and have them ask me complicated questions that I can’t answer, or worry about what I’m going to do if I get into my car tomorrow morning and it doesn’t start when I can’t afford to buy a new one. I don’t want to tell the kids to take showers and brush their teeth and then have them argue that it’s not the way they do it at their dad’s house. I don’t want to be awake at all past 6:00 in the evening because that’s when the hard questions start, that’s when the memories come, that’s when all my insecurities sink in, and when I finally get in bed, if I’m awake enough, that’s when I start crying. I don’t even think anything when I cry, it just happens like a natural purging. Like a spill from an overflow.

I think it is natural for me and the kids to be this way in the evening because we’re grieving. All four of us. And when I look at myself with compassion, it’s natural for me to not want to deal with it. This is fucking painful. It’s not the kind of crying I used to do when I was feeling stuck, afraid, helpless, and hopeless, with no sense of who I was anymore. It’s the crying that results from growing pains. And when I numb it with booze or whatever the hell I’m using to put myself to sleep with, I’m not growing. I’m not moving out of this place, I’m just keeping myself there by starting another problem. I’ve watched my parents suffer from this disease all my life. This is not a problem that I want. My children will not wake up to empty bottles of booze in the kitchen, pools of vodka spilled on the counter from clumsy pouring.

My last drink was May 13th.

So how have I been dealing with the questions and the growing pains? I’ve been talking to my sponsor (who is an Adult Child of An Alcoholic AND a recovered alcoholic) every day, and taking very good, gentle care of myself. Physically and mentally. I’ve picked up my step work and started taking my medication again. I started exercising and eating healthy, AND making sure that I do eat. When I overeat, I feel guilty, starve myself, and then get so hungry I binge again. Sound sane? No, I don’t think so either. Also, today I’m going to a different kind of 12 step meeting to see how I feel about it.

Ironically, hours after I’d resolved to try out an AA meeting, one of my friends called and said, “Me and a few other of the girls are heading Madigan’s for 9:30! You need to come!” Madigan’s, for those of you who don’t know, is a bar.

I didn’t go to the bar. Instead last night I took a bath and looked at my legs and my stomach that I was once ok with punching, burning, and cutting. “I love my legs,” I said. Then I rested my hands on my stomach like there was a baby inside and said, “I love my stomach.” Then I listed all the parts of me that I loved, parts that me that I have been hating, poisoning, polluting, cutting, burning, and scratching without caring about what it did to me in the end or how ashamed it made me feel. “I love my hands,” I said, “I love my lungs, I love my heart, I love my brain, I love my throat, I love my nose, I love my teeth…” I was like Whitman, singing a song of myself.

And then I took the cap from my shaving cream, dipping it in the tub and poured a stream of it over my hands, just because it felt good. Have you ever stood in the shower letting the water run over you just because it felt good? That’s what I was doing, only I focused on this one small part of me with a capful of water instead of the gush of a showerhead. One thin river of water streaming down my index finger, over my knuckle and cooling my wrist. I was pouring water on myself like a kind lover, one that knew that I didn’t need sex. Just affection, drop by drop.

After I got out of the tub I went back into the kitchen and got the bottle of extra virgin olive oil out of the pantry. I poured a drop of it into the center of my hand and rubbed it into my shoulder. I repeated it, massaging the oil into my skin drop by drop and when I was done I didn’t feel sticky, just soft. What I needed wasn’t a thick coating, like I was a plucked chicken ready for the oven. Jeanne Calment must have known this, that to keep her body and mind healthy she needed moderation, a gentle pampering every day. Not a bucketful of oil. Just a thin layer, as I discovered.

Then I got into the car and went about my day feeling like a lady. Because I had treated myself that way. And then I popped in a Beach Boys CD and danced in my seat to "Surfin' USA." Surely Jeanne Calment did this too, to prevent taking herself too seriously. Though by the time The Beach Boys were hip she was probably dancing to "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Well, I never! Wait, yes I have

That was weird. When I tried to log in a minute ago a message popped up that told me I couldn't because my "cookie functionality" had been disabled. My cookie functionality? Now wait a damn minute. A person can accuse me of being dysfunctional in a number of ways, but when it comes to cookies, I'm good. Completely cookie functional...and I am not using cookie as a euphemism for anything. At any rate, the Internet has obviously taken notice of my cookie functionality and deemed it healthy enough to carry on.

But that's not what I want to talk about. What I want to know is why every time I step into the shower my floozy of a shampoo bottle has to say suggestive things to me. When I was washing my hair this morning I noticed this written on my bottle of Herbal Essence, "Let me soak it to you." Then it said other brazen things like, "tousle me softly" and "What are you doing next Friday?"I was appalled. Never have I been spoken to in the shower in such an inappropriate manner. Well, not in a long time anyway. Which is exactly my point, here I am, a single person just trying to wash her hair so that when she gets to work people don't look at her and wonder if she combed it with buttered toast, and what does my shampoo bottle decide to do? Make me feel sexy, that's what. And in the end, will it transform into an attractive human? Noooooooooo. In the end, I will be clean yet untousled, softly or otherwise. Fucking tease.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about either. I wanted to talk about Jeanne Calment- the oldest living human ever from France. She lived to be 122, took up fencing at 85, and rode a bike until she was 100. "She ascribed her longevity and relatively youthful appearance for her age to olive oil, which she said she poured on all her food and rubbed onto her skin, as well as a diet of port wine, and ate nearly one kilo of chocolate every week. (Wikipedia)" Chocolate? Fencing? Port wine, which is my favorite wine because of its intense sweetness? Olive oil bathing? I think I could live like that. I don't know what a kilo is, but I'm sure I could reach whatever chocolate quota they threw at me. Fencing at 85?? Who would fence an 85 year old woman? Maybe she challenged her friends at Bingo games, suddenly drawing a sword when there was a disagreement. Do you think her bottles of olive oil ever said anything suggestive to her like, "Tousle me softly with shrimp and fresh cut vegetables over medium heat?" This woman is my new hero. Or, she was. She died in 1997, but had her wits about her to the end.

Whilst in Wikipedia, reading about Jeanne (insert French word for awesome) Calment, I noticed that the word "olive oil" was high lighted, meaning that it wanted to know what I was doing next Friday. I didn't want to tell it that I already had a date with my shampoo so I clicked on the word and sidestepped what was sure to be an awkward rejection. I found out that the Mediterranean region is the Poppa Bear of olive oil. They're swimming in it, they put it in everything - food, lamps, old ladies. And while I was reading about olive oil's health benefits and medicinal uses I realized that an oil spill in Spain would be completely different from the oil spill that just happened in the Gulf. One is much more delicious than the other, and animals with an olive oil coating would get protection from UV rays and live to be over 100. Chefs might wash the oil off the little crtitters and use it in a pasta dish, but that would be the extent of the damage. Oh sure, the olive industry would take a hit for a while, and people would have to switch from martinis to port wine, but apparently that's not a bad thing.

I'm going to go now. I'm going to draw myself an olive oil bath with a side dish of chocolates.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Donuts and conversations

The problem with not blogging for a week is that so much material builds up that I don't know where to begin. Do I want to share kid quotes? (Christopher, after my sister told him that she loved him & asked if he loved her, " is a strong word.") My gripes about leaky airconditioning? (me, staring at the dripping air unit with a blinking red light on it and asking my sister, "Hey, Steph? What do you think that red light means? You think it means everything's ok? Maybe it only blinks when everything's ok.") Or maybe the latest awkward divorce question thrown at me and my exhusband? (Emma, sitting at the table with me and Chris earlier in the week, "Dad, if you marry Michelle [his girlfriend] will she be my new mommy?")

Let's talk about donuts.

One of the traditions I grew up with in my family was that we got donuts for breakfast on our birthdays. Like most people, there are things I grew up with that I've chosen to keep as tradition and others that I've chosen not to. I've kept all the ones involving donuts. Today is my sister Stephie's birthday and so, like a good Rheams, I set out in the predawn hours to get the first box of donuts fresh out the fryer.

The place I went to is the same place that we've been getting donuts for almost 25 years - Take Away Donuts on Highway 90, the little shop with the helpful sign that boasts, "Take Away Donuts - We serve donuts." In my mind the only way to improve that sign would be, "Take Away Donuts - We serve donuts. Take them away." What I love about this place is the other customers. They're all men and all truck drivers so every time I walk in there I hear conversation similar to the one I heard this morning.

A trucker dude swiveled his stool to lean back against the counter. He pointed at the guy next to him with his mug of coffee and in a gravely voice said, "Heeeeeey, Super Cooper! Where you been?"

Super Cooper sipped his coffee and said, "Hmm. Where you been?"

"Woo wee!" he exclaimed, thrilled at the question. "Everywhere. Dallas, Florida..." then low, to himself, "Super Cooper."

The best conversation I've ever overheard was the one at a grocery store near my parent's house. I recently rediscovered this when I was cleaning out my inbox. Some of you guys might remember this from an email I sent years ago:

This middle aged woman and what appeared to be her teenaged escort were standing next to me in line. I couldn't tell what their relationship was. The way she talked to him didn't suggest that she was his mother or his aunt, unless their family is just THAT messed up. He looked about nineteen and she looked old enough to be his mom, but then she also looked like one of those women who could be thirty but looked fifty because she hadn't been kind to her body. Tanned fat rolled over the sides of her jeans, and hung below the edge of her shirt. Her shoulder length, frizzy hair was bleached blond at the tips and dull brown at the top. Her voice cracked in a way that not only told you that she smoked, but suggested that she might actually have a cigarette lodged in her throat. She asked the teenaged boy, who kept a steady expression of no expression at all, about where he went at night and what he liked to drink. The kid had black hair and a wispy mustache. He was only slightly more attractive than the woman who wanted to know all about his night life. After she spotted a bottle of Tequila Rose behind the counter, she said, "Oo!" and poked him in the side. "Tequila Rose, you ever drink that? That's some delicious shit."

He moaned, "No."

"Next time you come over to my house we'll have to get you some. What about you, baby, you ever drink you some Tequila Rose?" she asked the teenaged cashier.

The girl said, "Naw. A stripper cameback to my house once and got all messed up on it. She threw it up and I've never been able to get the smell out. I drink Jaegermeister, me."

I stood in line thinking, "I need to start bringing my notebook with me everywhere I go. This is fantastic."

And do I bring a notebook with me now? No. I've learned nothing. Except not to serve Tequila Rose to strippers, truckers like Dallas, and cashiers dig Jaegermeister.

But more disturbing than that conversation was a talk that my friend had with her son about love. You recall me saying that Chrisopher told my sister that love is a strong word? My friend's son said something similar. She has twin 8 year old boys and one of them, Ben, has decided that he hates love, hugs and kisses. I guess that's pretty typical for a little boy. But Ben's response is not typical.

When tucking her boys in the other night she told one of them, "Good night, Craig, I love you."

Craig dutifully said, "Good night mom. Love you too."

Then when she said, "Good night, Ben. I love you," Ben said nothing.

"Beeen," she sang. "I love you. You love me?"

"Mom," said Ben, exasparated because they'd been over this a hundred times. "I don't know how to love."

"Ben doesn't know how to love, Mom," Craig reminded her.

"Oh," she said, remembering. "That's right."

What is it with this new generation of boys and their complex responses to "I love you?" In my day, if you kissed a little boy they spit and ran. They didn't come back with answers like, "I don't know how to love," or "love is a strong word" or "Mom, I think we need to take a step back and re-evevaluate this relationship."

But bring up donuts, and suddenly you're both on the same page. Usually, getting Christopher out of bed is as easy as scraping old gum off the sidewalk, but this morning all I had to do was say, "I got birthday donuts this morning," and his eyes popped open. He was at the table in a matter of minutes. He sang "Happy Birthday" to Stephanie with us. He answered her when she told him she loved him! Suddenly he knew what love was and how to love in return! And all it took was one fresh chocolate covered sprinkle!

Donuts! The miracle food! I'll set a few on top of my leaky air conditioning unit!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Daily Recommendations

When the US Health Department recommended a daily allowance of 8 fruit and vegetables a day, do you think they were talking about coffee? Maybe in some veiled way? Because if so, I'm covered.

Today, I think I did a damn good job of staying as healthy as possible. A banana/peanut butter sandwich for breakfast and a tuna salad for lunch WITH low fat yogurt for dessert! I can say with all certainty that am the poster child for some kind of health network that uses posters! And that network would be called, "The Department of People Who Eat Well One Day and Use it as an Excuse to Eat Reese's Peanut Butter Cups For Breakfast The Next Morning." I would be all over that poster.

The kids have been asking for fruit gummies as snacks lately. I don't usually keep them in the house because it's one of those foods that if left around, the children will refuse to eat anything else. It reminds me of that experiment they did on an innocent, fluffy creature, it was either a mouse or a rat (the authoress hopes that no steady reading mice or rats are offended by me not knowing the difference between them and hopes not to receive angry letters) where scientists put food pellets in one dispenser and heroin in the other, and the rat/mouse would always go for the heroin, and the real food came second. Further into the experiment, the heroin was taken away and the rat/mouse refused to eat the food. It only wanted the heroin.

I know what you're thinking. Scientists serve heroin in a dispenser? In tiny nibblet forms? Am I sure this wasn't cocaine they were talking about or maybe crack? Well no, I'm not sure. It was some addictive drug served up to an experimental rodent. So does my comparison hold water? Yes, because the point still stands that if my children were in a scientist's lab and there were only three dispensers, the first one containing healthy food, the second one heroin and the third fruit gummies, they would hit the fruit gummy button until it broke. And once it was broken, they would not serve themselves fruits, vegetables, or heroin, they would just whine until the scientist finally broke down and drove to the store to get gummies shaped like Spongebob Squarepants.

So yesterday I thought I would fool my children. [a note to those here without children: this can not be done] Ha, ha! I bought "healthy" gummies. "Healthy" gummies aren't really healthy, they're just not as bad. These things are evil because they seduce parents with all sorts of empty promises. They whisper things like, "No gluten!" "No artificial flavors!" "No transfats which we all know will turn a child into a transvestite upon adulthood!" What this box really seemed to say to me when I read it was, "Buy me. I am not as bad a real gummies, your kids won't know the difference, and my dye contains 3% of the daily recommended amount of riboflavin." I bought it and felt pretty good about myself.

Until Claire bit into one. She made this face I can't exactly describe. It didn't seem to say, "This is gross," so much as, "What have you done to me?" Then followed this stupid conversation:
"These aren't gummies," she said, chasing the snack with a glass of water to drown out the unbearable taste. Perhaps it was the riboflavin.
"Yes they are," I told her. "It says so on the box."
"No. It's healthy food," she explained.
"No, it's not!" I argued.
"Yes it is, Mom. If these were real gummies they would be shaped like fruit. But they're just little squares."
"Hey, you know what else is shaped like fruit that you can have?" I asked her.
"That's right!"
"MOOOOOOM!" she moaned, like a lab rat denied heroin.
"What? What's so wrong with real fruit? It's shaped like those gummies you like so much."
"Why can't we just have real gummies?"
"Because you are a hyper psychopath when you eat them."

I made up that last line. I didn't REALLY say that. But I REALLY wanted to.

Earlier today I brought the gummies to work with me. I figured that I might as well take a stab at them rather then let them go to waste. And yeah, they're horrible. they have the most bizarre aftertaste, and I can't compare it to anything else, but I can tell you that I think it's what phoniness tastes like.

Sigh. A snack ruined. That's ok. There are other fruit shaped objects around here, ones with stems and seeds and everything...I sound like I'm talking about marijuana. No, really, there are apples, oranges, and bananas in the cafeteria. Kiwi too! And when I've had my fill of those, there's always my own version of heroin. It's not a pellet, it's a hot liquid but it IS also served in a dispenser and when I am denied a regular dosage of it I squeak in pain.