Sunday, May 31, 2015

500 Words, Day 12: Did That Really Just Happen?

Why no, unctuous hostess seating people for the breakfast buffet, as a matter of fact I would NOT like you to “double check” whether I’m entitled for the senior discount.  Ugh.  That was a sock in the gut that was still making it difficult to swallow my coffee when it arrived a few minutes later.

What is wrong with people?  I try to remember that she is a career hostess for a breakfast buffet in a moderately swanky (but let’s face it, mostly tacky) casino in Reno, Nevada.   I try to remember that she is young, and from another country, and maybe English isn’t her first language.   I can acquit her of malice, but the jury’s still out on thoughtlessness.  I know she meant nothing more than to possibly save me a few dollars, which would free them up for tips (tip big!), or a blackjack bet (double down!) or a pack of the cigarettes everyone smokes around here (inside!  kill me now!) without cease.   

Coming as it did on the heels of yesterday’s massive crippling wave of insecurity triggered by ALL THE BATHROOM MIRRORS and ALL THE FLUORESCENT LIGHTS, it was a blow, not gonna lie.

I’m 52 and, now that my ex has finally loosened the death-grip of his denial, I am a single woman.  <cue angel choir>  The good news outweighs the bad in this situation by a factor of ten.  I’m finally in charge of myself, I’m not responsible for another adult, I don’t owe money, I even have some in the bank.  The din is diminishing, the chaos is beginning to subside.  I can stretch out in the middle of my new queen bed.  I don’t have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I turn into my driveway, I don’t dread coming home, wondering what I will be walking into.  I don’t sit in the car, gathering my mental strength to go inside, rehearsing what I will say, and what I will not (be allowed to) say.   

I’m alone and loving it.   It is an indescribable relief.   I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

But but but I’m 52 years old.   Ain’t that bitch?    1, 3, 5, 7, because I can’t even with the aging right now.   Apparently you don’t have to pay as much for things after you reach a certain age, and you can’t eat as much food, so your portions are smaller on purpose, and you need to eat it sooner in the day, because obviously you need to be in bed by 8:00 in order to get up the next day and take six hundred naps.

WTAF is going on here, anyway?  52, you say?   That’s nothing.  It’s the new forty.  Fantastic.  But I’m nineteen.  Twenty-seven.  Thirty-five, tops.   How can this bimbo (there I said it) possibly mistake me for someone older than that?   So I didn’t wear makeup to breakfast.  I wonder what she looks like without those eyebrows.      

Shenanigans have been called.  As far as the cataracts can see.   With my early bird senior discount.   And stay off my lawn.

500 Words: Day 11 - A Whole Lot of Nope

500 words about waiting for it to be time for my date with OkCupid Dude from where I'm currently traveling. The classic convention hook-up which is just so wrong and horrible and ugh. I wrote them but I wasn’t going to post them because it was way TMI  even for me but then everyone on that group page was like tapping their toes going, "We're WAIT-ing" so I said "All right then, if it's that important to you, you sadistic voyeurs." But I took out the stuff about sex.  I’ma start an anonymous tumblr and park all the NSFW nonsense over there and y’all can subscribe.   (Spoiler: I didn't sleep with him) 

No, this 500 words is all about insecurity, body image issues, false bravado and a lot of nope.  

Nope nope nope.  Nope nope.  Nope nope nope nope.   Like the Morse code of nope.  Ugh.  Why did I agree to meet this guy?  My life is a series of things that seemed like a good idea at the time.  I was so close to texting to say something came up, but that’s chickenshit, and the couple of times that someone did that to me were really discouraging.  Assholes do that and I’m not an asshole.  Well, maybe I am sometimes, but not about breaking dates at the last minute.  So instead of FINALLY getting some ALONE TIME (which I crave and without which I will shrivel up and die), sitting cross-legged on the bed and drinking beer and flipping channels and writing 500 words, and taking a really long shower because we’re not in California any more, Dorothy, I’m looking at my naked self in the three-way mirror (dear god the humanity) and trying to figure out what to wear (from the three outfits I brought and have already worn).  Damnit!  He called my bluff.  I get on that damn website and type away hahaha so funny so droll, but then they call my bluff.  I hate it when my bluff gets called.  Because I totally DID NOT have a full house.  Well, actually, I did, kinda.  I had three diamonds and two clubs.   Tell her what she’s won, Johnny.    Lol.  
No one needs this many mirrors.  I'm just saying.

Those body issues though.   Ugh.  There are too many goddamn mirrors in my hotel bathroom.  Who needs to watch themselves taking a shit?  No one, that’s who.   Ugh again.   Fuck, is that what my ass looks like?  Where did all this cellulite come from?   I always laughed that I would never get divorced because then I would have to date and then I would have to hold my stomach in.    My ex used to say, I love your body, it bore my children, nourished them.  The things that bother you make me love you even more.   But New Dude isn’t going to have any sentimental reasons to love my ugly belly and cellulite and sagging jiggling ugh.  It would just be ugly for nothing.   No good reason.   That’s a lot of nope right there.  

Oh my god I just figured out why hotel designers put fluorescent lights in bathrooms full of way too many mirrors:  They want those cute dudes from CSI to come investigate the suicides.  Jerks.

Here’s the thing: basically I want to curl up in bed in my shmattas  and watch a movie and eat popcorn and throw my head back and laugh with someone I like who doesn't smell like bourbon (blech) and doesn't stumble around on Ambien. Cute with a PhD, maybe. And a LOT OF BOOKS that he isn't a pompous windbag about it when we discuss them. Someone who gets it Who gets ME. Hell, I would shoot for a masters and settle for a college degree in something useless but awesome like creative writing as long as they weren't better than me.   But no, I am going to die alone.  Which is totally okay.  At least I won’t have to hold my stomach in.

Friday, May 29, 2015

500 Words, Day 10 - Make the Deadline

OMG you guys I’ve been sidelined on writing today because I just couldn’t shake off the obligations and carve out some alone time.  The forty minutes between the end of the session and the meeting time for dinner was a shower and a power nap.  I was going to try to write then, but the nap whined at me insistently and I ended up rewarding that with a candybar in the checkout.  

I’m intent on not missing a day so I’m just going to type until 11:55 because it always takes me a few minutes to get the posting figured out.  So.  OMG  I love blackjack!   I won a hundred dollars.  That’s on top of the sixty I started with.  Well, I started with forty and lost all that so I pulled out another twenty because despite (or maybe because of) my rule bound, I’m-gonna-get-caught worldview I have these moments of poor impulse control but in this case luck was a lady and I ended up walking away with two watered down (free) vodka tonics in my belly and $160 in my purse.  Awesome.  Ya hit or ya sit.

Okay, if I can write four more paragraphs like that rambling run-on in the next ten minutes I’ll be good to go.  I write run-on sentences without punctuation or editing in an ironic way because it’s the way I think.  It’s stream of consciousness and if it’s good enough for James Joyce it’s good enough for me.  Not that I would ever consider myself on par with James Joyce but to throw in a literary allusion because college although I read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in high school Senior Honors English and you know what I was pretty good at reading and writing and writing about reading and for a long time I wanted to major in Literary Criticism.  Then I realized that I was fascinated by language and what it does and how it happens so I changed my major to linguistics although there really weren’t enough classes to qualify that as a major but they had this cool thing where you could design your own major so I nailed a bunch of ideas together like I do and called it Language and Culture, English and Anthropology and Philosophy all thrown in together so there’s another example of how it’s all happening at once for me, and to quiet that din in my head takes a lot of discipline and solitude and quiet and let’s face it there’s been precious little of that in my life in the last oh I don’t know, two decades or so.

So that’s 442 and I’m gonna wrap this up so I can make the deadline.  #500WordsADay @Kale&Cigarettes

Thursday, May 28, 2015

500 Words, Day 9 -- The Sign Says "Yield," Not "Surrender"

I drove too fast on the freeway yesterday.   

It's merely a suggestion, anyway.
I feel like I need to confess that.  I had the best of intentions.  I do every time I get behind the wheel.  “Okay.  This time I’m going to stay calm.  I’m going to maintain a safe speed with a safe distance between my car and that of the idiot fellow human being whose spirit I honor and respect ahead of me.”   


And every time, I abandon that plan within the first fifteen minutes behind the wheel.  

It all starts when I have to take evasive action.  There are some horrible drivers out there.  People do not know how to merge.  Just so we’re clear, it’s like a zipper.  You drive in your lane as long as possible, then it’s one car from each merging lane.  One from Column A, one from Column B, until we’ve zipped that zipper all the way TF up.    People who merge too soon and are just as bad as people who merge too late and they all need to be taken out back and shot.   

Kidding.  Road rage is a real thing and you have to be careful.   Don't be out there trying to teach lessons in ethics with two tons of deadly metal. That's not your job.

But in this particular case, the trigger for my need for speed was an incompetent merger.  He got anxious and jumped the gun and darted in front of me instead of rolling forward to his proper place with one car from Column A in between him and his Column B compatriot.  

I always like to have an escape plan, an exit strategy, if you will.   I’m always looking around, always aware of the open spaces around me in case I need to take that evasive action.  I need to know when and where I can move my car if I need it to be, you know, NOT WHERE IT IS.   In yesterday’s case, I needed to bolt because the incompetent merger had created that exact situation.  Time to go.  I had been watching behind me and saw a space open up where I could shift left and get past this guy before his mistake turned into a trainwreck.   I stepped on the gas and blew by all the unfortunate potential victims.   

Namaste, bitches.  We out.   

So it was necessary to speed to evade that potentially dangerous situation.  But once the needle was up around 80, it was very difficult to willingly bring it back down.   My resolution to behave myself went up in the exhaust from my tailpipe.  As it were.  I headed for the left lane.   And stopped counting seconds between me and the spirit in the car in front of me.  Slowpoke.  Cue Ludacris.   You know that song, right?

I drove my car too fast on the freeway yesterday.    For about four consecutive hours. I’m making the return trip on Sunday.  I know I’ll do better this time.    

Namaste. Again. Pinky swear.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

500 Words, Day 8 -- OkCupid: Shenanigans All Day

Pink and blue for the babies you're going to have together?
One thing I find particularly awesome about this #500WordsADay nonsense is that when I’m out of ideas, I go back and find something I started that wasn’t quite ready to go up at the time.  This piece is from last spring when I had just joined this online dating website that rhymes with “oh hey stupid.”  I was pretty obsessed with it at the time although now I’m kind of over it except for the galvanizing effect it has had on my comedy writing.  Blog fodder plain and simple.  I did meet some nice guys though, and I drank a lot of awkward Starbucks lattes.  I realized I’m not really ready to date when I found myself on first dates talking incessantly about my ex and The Nightmare Years™   Nothing says “check please” like a middle-aged divorcee with tears streaming into her tiramisu.  Okay, it wasn’t that bad but damn, that’s a funny line, 

OKCupid.  Or as I sometimes think of it, "An Excruciating Trip Down Memory Lane.”  I log in to my profile aaaaand I'm instantly transported to the middle of my sophomore year in high school.   All the same types, guys and girls alike here.  Let's start with the type of guy I call the Triple A Special:   Amazing,  Arrogant, and Aloof.   These guys remind me of cats.  And I don't like cats.  I can feel shitty about myself without their help.     These guys would clearly never be interested in me so of course I throw myself at them because who can resist that kind of self-esteem greenhouse?  I am drawn to them like a bad writing to a cliche.   Judging by the pickings on my side (yes I do visit the ladies’ profiles too -- it’s for the blog, remember?), maybe I stand out because let's face it, I'm amazing too.  Right?

Except for maybe not.  

I'm thinking of starting a new profile to watch over my real profile:  eleanorrigby will be her name and she'll keep her face in a jar by the door.  Ah, look at all the lonely people.   She's the one I can use to peruse the Triple A Specials without revealing my true fake identity.   OKCupid is free, but there's this premium service called "The A-List" that you have to pay for.   Then you can visit profiles without them seeing you were there.  It's not stalking per se but I love what you've done with the baby's room.  Also, people rate you by giving you stars (ugh trauma again) and four or five stars means you like the person.   If you like them and they like you, it’s time to head to the tree in which you'll be doing some K-I-S-S-I-N-G.    In other words, "It's a match!"  Uh-oh.  Awkward Starbucks Latte No. 147.

According to the "Staff Robot,"  the faceless benevolent machine driving this Hellbound Express, over 200 people like me, but I don't get to see who they are unless I pay for this "A-List" shenanigans.    But honestly.  Um, no.  I refuse to open my wallet to an online pimp who is cockblocking me and holding me hostage (Can a woman say it's cockblocking or do we have to get junk-specific?) Anyway. Fuck you, OKCupid.  You and the algorithm you rode in on.  I bet you couldn't get a date in high school and this is your revenge on the rest of us.  


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

500 Words, Day 7 -- Dubs or Subs

The Gamer is setting up the PS4 to play Netflix on our, well, it’s not a TV exactly, although it’s meant to be one.  We don’t pay for access to cable channels, and broadcast TV basically doesn’t happen anymore, so essentially what we have is a very large monitor.   When we moved to the new place back in January, The Gamer, who will be 16 in a few weeks, said to me, “Mom, I don’t care about cable.  Everything I want to watch, I stream or YouTube.  If we could just have some stupid fast internet that won’t cut out on me, that would be great.”  

So I took the monthly cable bill down from $165 when I tried to manage The Spendthrift Family, to the low low price of $55.67.  Guess what I’m doing with the other 100+ bucks?  Don’t know?  ME NEITHER.  I haven’t decided yet.  Maybe join a wine club.   Those Santa Barbara Pinots.    Come to Mama.

The Gamer has decided that I am good company when it comes to watching his favorite genre, anime.   I am over the moon about this, because I don’t really know what the cool kids are into these days.  Or the nerdy ones either, for that matter.   I do know that I need to tread lightly, because if I suggest movies or music that I think he would like, that’s the kiss of death.  Kids have to discover this stuff for themselves.   So I nudge little tidbits towards him with my toe very subtly, when I think of a movie or some music he should know about if he wants to be as cool as me.  And I’m bowled over when he plays stuff for me that he figured out was awesome all by himself.  #toolforexample  #alsomemento

So now he’s looking at me with the controller in his hand, and he says, “So Mom, what’ll it be?  Dubs or subs.”  For a long moment I’m silent, while I try to think of this could mean.   Suddenly I realize he’s asking me to choose between dubbed voices or subtitles for the Japanese show we’re about to watch.  For regular foreign films I prefer subtitles because I can often look past them if I semi-know that language (español por ejemplo, or français peut-être).  But with Japanese I have no fucking clue.  And the screen with the subtitles over animation looks just cray so, no.

“I don’t know, dude,” I say.  “Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me.  What do you prefer?”

He looks at me out of the corner of his eye.   “Well, I like the subtitles because the dubbed voices are lame, and listening to the dialogue with the English running along the bottom of the screen is really helping with my Japanese.  So we could just watch Attack on Titan episodes all day, and it would be like studying.”

“Seems legit.  How about some popcorn?”  And I walk into the kitchen to fire up the microwave.

That kid.   The one who doesn’t need cable, and wants to watch the movie with subtitles so he can improve his Japanese.    Did I say “wine club” with the cable money?  I lied.   There’s a school trip to Japan next spring.  I’ll sip Two-Buck Chuck while he tells me all about it when he gets back.   

Streaming.  With subtitles.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

500 Hundred Words, Day 5, 6, and the Bulk of 7 -- In Which I Drain My Car Battery Charging My Cellphone

When I get a spare couple of hours, I like to hike.   I call it hiking but let's face it, it's really more like walking.  There are hills involved though, and the footpath is not paved. I have learned to take some ibuprofen before I start which is just humiliating even to admit but fuck it I’m 52 and life’s too short to be proud about such things.    So let's just call it strenuous walking and tell hyperbole to take a hike.  Haha.   

Memorial Day, May 26, 2014.   It’s a day to honor our war dead, never forget, and I do honor and I don’t forget.  I've always said that I may not agree with our reasons for going to war, but I have massive respect and admiration for people who make the decision to put themselves in harm’s way for a cause they believe in.  And supreme sympathy for those whose government wrestled away their right to make that decision for themselves.  

Now, imagine the (station) wagons circling

I figured the best way I can honor these patriotic men and women of principle is to spend the day in Nature.  Thousands of my affluent suburban homies (the former two terms being redundant and the latter two oxymoronic) appeared to have had the same idea.  The parking lots at the Nature Preserve (five of them, because overkill and unintentional irony are the hallmarks of affluent suburbs everywhere) were full to capacity, and when I arrived, the second or maybe even third wave of the day's cars are circling, watching, waiting to pounce on the elusive parking spot.   I spied mine open up and secured it by recklessly shooting into the lot through the exit, something I would never ordinarily do because, and you may not know this about me, I’m incapacitatingly rule-bound.

You would think, having jostled and maneuvered and finagled my way one step (haha again) closer to my objective, I’d have jumped out of the car and laced up my walking slash hiking shoes (they’re called “trail-runners” actually, to further confuse the nature of this activity), eager to be on my way through the unpaved but well-worn trails of the Open Space.  
What the flip would you call these, then, eh?

But you'd be wrong.  

Social media addiction is a killer disease.   “Oh look a notification, let me just take a quick sec to see what’s doing in my online world.”   I began to scroll, smirking at Facebook, giggle-shuddering at OkCupid (MrCunnilingus4U omg are you serious right now?), scowling at email from my not-even-close-to-being-my-ex-yet.  

Oblivious to the other would-be hikers who must have been peering, then glaring at me through the windows of their minivans and SUVs.

(hey lady why are you sitting there in your car when you’re supposed to be hiking or maybe walking hey lady are you leaving or waiting for your ibu to kick in or what)

Engrossed in my phone and how it transports me to a world where people think I’m hilarious and inspiring and to whom I relate better than virtually (haha) anyone I know IRL.  

Aware that the battery was low when I left home, I had hooked up the car charger for the perhaps twelve-minute drive to the Open Space, figuring that some’s better than none, which is a guiding principle for life if ever there was one.   However, I had failed to notice that I had only partially executed that task, and that the key was now merely pointing to the place on the starter marked “Access” which means “Hey. Dummy. That’s not all the way off.”

But a phone charger won’t drain the battery in and of itself, you may be protesting.  True, but let us not forget that in addition to being compulsively rule-bound, I also am a slave to routine.   Which in this case included turning on my headlights even in the daytime because (more irony) the trip from my house to Nature involves six minutes on the freeway, and I like to be safe.   

Add to this incipient clusterfuck the fact that when engaged by something that particularly interests me, I can hold the breath of my attention and swim under the water of absorption for upwards of an hour without noticing.   In this case, the car battery gave out before my metaphorical lungs did.

I heard that funny noise my phone makes when it begins recharging, and somewhat more important, when for whatever reason, say oh I don’t know, like THE CAR BATTERY HAS GONE COMPLETELY DEAD, it stops.   The phone battery was full to capacity, but the car battery was the collateral damage.  Once again, Irony, never far from my heart, was on the spot with a rueful grin:  I had a ton of charge available to call Triple-A (for a jump in an Open Space Nature Preserve on a Federal Holiday), to call my son to let him know I would be late picking him up (from the tutoring session that I had forced him go to on a Federal Holiday), and to call my ex (gulp) to confess what happened (gulp) and ask the favor (gulp) of picking up our son in my place (gulpitty gulp gulp gulp).

In what can only be described as cinematographic timing, the couple who had parked their car in the spot next to mine returned seconds before the arrival of the Triple A guy.  This to the consternation of the family in the waiting minivan who had had their signal on and everything (dear god please let them not be the same people from an hour ago how did they seriously not either find
Don't forget to ground yourself from all that negativity
a place to park or give up and go home).  The Triple A guy, a BAMF and a mensch, as those dudes tend to be, jumped my car with a sympathetic smile, and gave me the obligatory spiel about driving around for at least 20 minutes to perk up my electrical system and nurse it back to health.  

I called my ex back to give him an update, it was a good thing I did.  It turned out he had lent his car to our daughter, Troubled, although I had forbidden her to drive as a consequence of a some pivotal events of The Nightmare Years™, the story of which involves drug trafficking and pathological parental irresponsibility, and can be found elsewhere in these pages.  The 50-Teen Formerly Known as Mr. K. had only remembered after he went out to the driveway to discover, with what I imagine was much head-scratching and consternation, that the vehicle in question simply wasn’t there.   

With a stab of resentful glee, I un-gulpitty-gulp-gulp-gulped.  Yes!  Vindication was mine.  Every single time I have ever needed that man-boy-person ever in the history of evereverever, he has let me down.  Once again, the bad news was that my son would be inconvenienced, once again, the good news was I could be the hero(ine) who saved the situation I had unwittingly created in the first place.  

I pulled into the parking lot of the tutoring center (noting with a rueful grin the enormous selection of spaces) and, leaving the motor running (good remembering!), texted my son that I was here to pick him up after all.  He came out to the car and I explained what happened.  He didn't ask why I was there instead of dad, and I didn't volunteer because I’m nothing if not magnanimous.  I dropped him at home, told him to enjoy the rest of his Federal Holiday, and headed for the freeway where, with my headlights on in the daytime, I spent the rest of both the afternoon and a tank of gas breathing life into my old tired battery, and regretting, but only for a fleeting moment, the waste of a perfectly good dose of pre-ambulatory ibuprofen.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

500 Words, Day 4 -- Does This Facebook Page Make My Narcissism Look Fat?

That would be a great name for a Facebook page, btw.  I better go create that right now before someone else thinks of it.  More fun with self-reference.  

This 500 Words a Day thing though.  Setting the expectation of writing a certain amount every day changes the game because the excuse of "I don't have time to write,” (external constraints), shifts to "I don't have anything to write about” (internal inadequacy).   

Awesome. I think we're getting somewhere.  

Picture time as a fire hose and your writing as water.  When that hose is coiled up but there’s writing to be done, it feels pretty damned important to get it said.   Crisis writing.  And some of that turns out PDG if I do say so myself.   The urgency of it crackles on the page. Snap crackle ka-pow.  But if you roll that fire hose out on the daily as a requirement, then that same writing, leisurely now, affable almost, rolls around inside it very limply, like, well, like something very limp and ineffective rolling around inside something much larger and loose.   (Ed:  Coy ellipsis here or a winkie, I can’t decide.)  

Sitting down to write your vegetables each day is an uncomfortable prospect.  If you come up empty, you have to consider the possibility that you really are an undisciplined dilettante who occasionally manages to scrabble together a paragraph or two in between pithy tweets and relatable Facebook memes, like Scheherazade or something, but not even remotely like her, on second thought actually.  But I went to the trouble of googling “Scheherazade” to make sure I spelled it correctly (I did) so it’s staying in.    Especially because, you’re not really a writer, yanno, just a Nutjob with fast internet and a big vocabulary, and attempting writing exercises and joining groups and whatnot are merely pathetic indicators of that terminal wannabe-hood.   

Let's face it, I have a fantasy that, despite my ham-handed use of Blogspot, despite the amateurish font choices and layout disasters that betray my ignorance of HOW DO I WORK THIS, somehow the quality is there and a kindly publisher recognizes it and takes pity on me (yeah, I know, but it’s my fantasy, remember?) and just when we’re getting to the good part, when they fly me to New York and go over the contract and I’m getting ready to sign and then <needle across the turntable>  I remember:

Can’t get famous till everyone’s dead.  As if.  

I tiptoe around this illusion that my family doesn’t know I write about them, or even that I write about myself.  Or even that I write.   There are exactly seven people who know me in real life who know I write The Klonopin Chronicles.  And three of them are friends from an online (of course) parenting board fifteen years ago.  (And one is my therapist.  I know, right?)  

That feeling when you reach 500 words and stop even though you’re not done,  or reach 500 words and start looking around for ways to carve out some to save for later because maybe you could get two or three days’ worth of posts out of this idea if you play your cards right.  

Those artificial requirements, those self-referential impositions.  

Awesome. I think we’re getting somewhere.  


Saturday, May 23, 2015

500 Words, Day 3 -- Hitting a Wall Already?

Conclusion: There's a reason I don't write every day ordinarily.  I basically have nothing to say.  Looking back over half-hearted half-started pieces, thinking I can cobble 500 words together and call it meaningful.  But all I really have to go with are notes from The Nightmare Years.  Do people really want to read more about The Horror?   Am I getting boring?  Yes, Mina, god, we get it, your ex is a drunk, your daughter is an asshole, her boyfriend is a monster.  Enough already jeezy freezy lemon squeezy.  Isn't it time to be moving forward?  

That's a wrap.
The answer may or may not be "yes on all counts."    BUT WAIT.  THERE’S MORE.  

I repeat myself when under stress.  Thank you, Adrian Belew.

Exhibit A
Shakily, her hand moves the phone around the room, peering into the corners, throwing light on the wreckage that surrounds her.  She narrates.  Here, Your Honor, is the garage.  Clearly a fire hazard.  The junk piled up against the door.  Someone who needed to use this for an escape route wouldn't have a chance, would surely perish.  And here, Your Honor, see how the furniture bars entrance to the bathroom, see how the paint cans keep the door from shutting.  Do you see a toothbrush here?  No, you do not.  Neglect unto abuse.

Her therapist has advised her not to re-enter the house because exposing herself to the wreckage will trigger what she considers to be PTSD.  Except it's not clear when, if ever, there will be a P to this T.  Nevertheless, when (dear god would he please sign the papers so he can officially be) her ex travels overnight on business, she is of course eager to return, to put everything back to normal for her son, for at least the time that they can be together without HIM.

Curiously, it's not neglect in the sense we normally use that word.  It's not as though he was out gambling, or smoking crack.  It's not as though he left young children alone for hours with nothing but the TV and a box of Cheerios.  More an almost moral neglect.  Benign neglect they call it.  Just through his clueless inaction, through his passive indifference to the mundane details of basic living, he has turned their home into a frat house.    One of his favorite movies has always been "Animal House."  And there you have it.

I’ve been farting around on the dating website called “OkCupid” and it’s been a great comedy-writing workshop if I do say so myself.   Many many many sets of 500 words.  Big plans, big dreams.  But the reason I bring it up today is this:  You’ll be reading someone’s profile and come across something that makes you say, “um, no.”  So you hit “hide” -- and the message you get is “Well, they can’t all be winners.”  And three more profiles of guys EXACTLY LIKE THE ONE YOU JUST HID.

Sometimes social media is like real life on steroids.

Friday, May 22, 2015

500 Words, Day 2 -- Missing Person's Report

Troubled left her Facebook up when she went to the bar, and I didn't log her out.  I am a horrible person.  But I'm a rabid mother, wrathful and indignant, searching for validation even as I recoil with horror from the notion that I'm right about what's been going on.   I read every single PM.  I take screen shots of the conversation with Juvie, the one where he's seems rather indifferent, almost accepting, of her insinuations that he hit her.  Where she seems almost apologetic about mentioning it.  She loves this monster, she is desperate to keep him in her life, despite or maybe because of his reluctance to stay.   

While I'm at it, I PM that guy from Google.  I thought she was lying when she told me he walked her home at 4 in the morning the last time she went AWOL.  I told her I would lock the doors at 2 a.m  and if she wasn't home by then, she'd be out until I left for work the next day.  But she would show up at 4 or 5 and I would let her in because I am conflicted and inconsistent and back-sliding, just like my now-ex-husband-finally.  I read the conversation that they'd been having, she and the guy from Google, and it was clear that she hadn't been lying.  Turns out he's my age, married.    I send him a message from her account:  "Hi, this is Troubled's mom, she's ill, she's struggling, we are trying to help her, if she contacts you, please let me know."

Twelve hours later I check back.  He deleted his account.  As it should be.

Idea:  Write a vignette about texting with potential OkCupid suitors while I wait for the shrink she loathes to finish lecturing her on mindfulness and a healthy lifestyle. That was fun.   Do I have latent hostility?  Make that blatant hostility.  That'll be another 500 words and then some.  Oh yes.

Write about having to cancel a promising first date to make the 6 pm appointment with that same sanctimonious shrink, an appointment she will probably miss because she's AWOL again.  She took off a couple of hours after I dropped her off this morning.  "Is it too early to file a missing person's report?" I ask my ex.  He wrings his ineffective hands, surreptitiously does a shot behind the liquor cabinet door (oh please), and heads to bed.  I get my phone and hit the button titled "non-911 police."  I explain to the dispatcher what's going on.  I give all the pertinent details.  Automatically, almost by rote.  Yes, I'll be up when the officers get here.  Yes, a recent photo.  Okay, thank you.

That was 45 minutes ago.  Now it's just after midnight and I'm getting sleepy.  I would like to take my own head meds and go to bed, but I keep myself awake at the dining room table.  I have to keep it together because, let's be honest, the common wisdom is that the madness inside my head is the same madness that caused the clusterfuck that now swirls around us all.

So done.  So done with this nonsense.  So, so done.

@Kale and Cigarettes #500WordsADay

Thursday, May 21, 2015

500 Words A Day: An Experiment

Flannery O’Conner wrote, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”  This is about the most brilliant and relatable statement I have ever read.  

I saw another quote that stuck with me recently:  “The biggest lie I tell myself is 'I don't need to write this down. I'll remember it.'"Ugh.  So many amazing ideas came and went.  At least, I thought they were amazing at the time.  Too amazing to forget.  But we’ll never know now.  I hope they come back some day.  I will totes write them down this time.

I began this blog three and a half years ago because writing helps me to specify the feelings that constantly wash over me, to capture and contain the thoughts that rush at me, that bounce off my brain and ricochet around my consciousness like pinballs.  (Editor -- is this cheesy or brilliant?) I’m still processing the events of the last couple of years.  And I guess the last couple of decades.  Let’s face it, I’m still processing the event of the last couple of lifetimes, because that’s how I roll.  All the moments are right here all the time.  It’s exhausting.  And exhilarating.  

<stops to count words, stops to google word-counting apps>  

200 words more or less.  Do the four words in the title count?    Do hyphenated words count as one word or two?  A few people wanted to know whether this or that “counted” for doing this project.  “If I write the words but don’t post them, does that count?”  I’m guessing the answer is “absolutely,” because I think the guy at @KaleandCigarettes who offered this experiment (not a challenge, remember, but an experiment, because Science) gives zero fucks about how you do it, zero fucks about what your criteria are for success.    Hell, he gives zero fucks about whether you even participate, although I guess he would feel gratified to know that you had.   I will certainly feel gratified if you join me, because maybe that guy will notice me if we tag the fuck out of this dealie-o.  He’s supah cute even if he IS probs young enough to be my son.  A girl can dream.    

<stops to count words again, even in the part I already counted in case I missed some>

FACEBOOK BREAK  <By-the-Hammer-of-Thorsday.  And the Giants won.>


Dude.  I got paid!  My payroll AND my bank both send me emails when the eagle has landed.  Too fucking much.  I love it.  I watch that bank balance like a hawk because after 25 years of dealing with other people (cough Mr. K. cough) and their spendthrift ways, I get to manage the budget for myself.  If we go over budget it’s because of spark plugs or therapy, not trips to Disneyland and spontaneous sushi for five.  (And we’re not talking the lunch special either.  Nigiri a la carte.   Kill me now. )

Word count again.  It’s 500, but just barely.  And word count isn’t that important.  I say that now that I know I reached the goal.  It’s not a competition.  Unless I won.  In which case it’s the fucking Olympics of whatever.    Another cool thing someone once said is that 90% of life is showing up.    So I showed up and wrote 500 words.  I showed up!    And the Giants won.  And I got paid.  But not for writing this nonsense.  And that’s okay.  

I may do this experiment every day for a month.  I will let it be okay if I don’t.  I may or may not post the results each day.  I will let that be okay if I don’t.   

The point is to write because, like Flannery O’Conner, I don’t know what I think until I see what I say.  

And because the biggest lie we tell ourselves is “I don’t need to write this down, I will remember it.”

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Flipping through Facebook today, I'm struck by the love and warmth and depth of emotion in the posts about Mother and Her Day.   I don't want to negate that, nor deny my sisters in motherhood their due.   I promise I'm not going to ruin your Mother's Day by complaining about mine.   It's just that for me, it's another in a series of Hallmark Holidays that remind me (as if I need reminding) how much I've failed.  Valentine's Day wants to remind me that I suck at relationships.  Christmas wants to remind me that I suck at family.  And Mother's Day completes the trifecta by reminding me that I suck at being a mom.  

Yeah.  I should probably stay off the internet this weekend.

I see all the things you post about how Mom is your best friend, Mom always supported you, had your back, loved you despite all your mistakes and failings, and I want to weep.   I can't say those things about my mother.  The best I can say is that she loved me in her own limited way, that she did the best she could with what she was given.  I forgave her long ago.  But there is an emptiness inside me where I imagine everyone else has a pink puffy heart-shaped mug of hot cocoa.  And a kitten.  Blech.

What will my kids say about me, as adults, on Mother's Day, when they look back?  Will my daughters think of our relationship as the tightest bond they've ever known?  Or will I be the bane of the stories they will tell?   Oh my god my mother.  Horrible, mean, angry, hypocritical, manipulative.  She made Dad miserable.  She ruined our lives.  

A friend of mine posted about that Samsung commercial called #TextsFromMom, saying that she would welcome a text from her mom, who was distant and unresponsive at best, and downright adversarial at worst.  I quaked inwardly.  That is probably how my daughter feels about me.    That is a narrative she probably tells.  How much I internalize it on any given day depends on a combination of that day's neurochemistry and the prevailing weather pattern.   Today, for example, all signs point to GUILTY AS CHARGED.

It's pretty unfair, actually.  Joni Mitchell sings, "I told you when I met you I was crazy."  In a similar fashion, I told my ex when we first got together that I didn't want to have kids. I didn't like children, I didn't really understand them.  I was born this little adult who lived among adults and never really connected with other children.  I didn't want to mess up my kids the way I felt my parents messed me up.   I didn't want to be responsible for the way another human turned out.  I didn't trust myself.  Clearly, no one else should either.

Mr. K. said he had similar reservations but had come to the opposite conclusion.  He wanted to create a nurturing home life full of love and great memories as a way to heal himself from those early traumas.    He wanted a houseful of kids -- six!    Yikes.   All righty then.   Luckily, I was able to distract him after the first three and he forgot about completing the set.

Fast forward twenty-five years.   Marriage over.  So much for healing ourselves.  My relationship with my oldest child is broken, possibly beyond repair.  As is the case with parent-child relationships, it is up to me to reach out to fix it.  I've been stubbornly refusing even to consider this.  What kind of monster does not want to repair a relationship with their child?    What kind of monster just sits there, tapping their metaphorical toe, with their metaphorical arms folded grumpily?  Who waits for a child to start behaving like an adult?  Who does that?

The child in question is 22 years old.    She broke my heart, she and her dad both.   The story of how this all went down has been documented here over the last couple of years.  But do I really get the luxury of that broken heart?   Who allowed that heart-breaking behavior?   Who is choosing to remain wounded? And who is preventing the healing by stubbornly resisting the impulse to reach out?   Who is the grown-up, acting like a child?

That would be me.    Yeah.  I need to do something about that.  Remind me on Monday.  


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Road Trip! Rekindling My Affair With My iPod and Recycling Blog Posts Like a Boss

We like to keep things green around here, and that means the three R's -- reduce, reuse, recycle.  I wrote this post a couple of summers ago and I'm proud to dust it off and present it anew.   (This is how I got through school, in fact.  I took essentially the same paper every year and rewrote it with a different focus, changed up the sources, and turned it in for a different class.  Boom.  Honors.)

So here we go:

Summer is the time for travel and this summer, I actually got to travel.  Seven hours round-trip to take my son to his friend's for the week so that he could play video games at their house instead of making me look like the shitty parent that I am by playing them unsupervised at my house.  Anyway.  I resurrected my iPod to go on a road trip.  I don't know where I had lost it (that's why it was lost, duh) but somehow I found it and I plugged it into my car's sound system and off we went.  I put the iPod on Shuffle and five days' worth of music lined up at my fingertips.  What on earth was on this thing?  I mentally rubbed my hands together.

I was alone in the car, which was a good thing because there was no one there to hear me say things like, "Oh my god I love this song!"  And then answer myself, "Of course you do, Klonnie, it's your own goddamned iPod."  In a different voice.  That was creepy, even for me.  Danny's not here, Mrs. Torrance.  Redrum!

Here are some songs that I heard and the random thoughts that ran through my head when I heard them: 

1.  No Sleep Till Brooklyn, Beastie Boys.   Cranked up so high that the music resonated in my chest.  So loud that I didn't really hear it, you know?  I just sat back, feeling it thump the floorboards and pulse from the speakers in the doors.  No!! Sleep!! Till Brooklyyyyyn!  Duhn dahhhhhhn duhn.  No!!  Sleep!!  Till Brooklyyyyyn!  Nuhr Nuhhhhr Nuhr.   Good thing I was alone in the car.  My kids would have turned that shit off in a heartbeat.  How's that for irony?

2.  Lazy Eye, Silversun Pickups.  Cup of coffee in my hand + that hypnotic track on a loop +  me behind the wheel.  I've been waiting for this moment all my life.  There are two kinds of people in the world:  Those who thought the lead singer was a woman until they found out he wasn't, and those who are lying when they say they could tell right away that it was a dude.

3.  Work Me,  The Black Keys.  The Black Keys cover Junior Kimbrough.   Baby, work me, till I want no more.  I'm melting, sliding down under the steering wheel because I'm weak with lust.  Squirming in my seat, I can't lie.  "Chulahoma" is the sexiest album I have ever heard.  Barry White?  Al Green?  Forget about it.  These two white boys from Akron, Ohio, ladies and gentlemen.  Give it up.

4.  Dancing Nancy, Dave Matthews Band.  I have a live version of this song from Red Rocks in Colorado.  The spring that my mom died I would get in my car and play this album and just drive for hours and cry.  That was the year I discovered Starbucks and I would get the caramel macchiato and just suck that puppy down while I drove.  Something about that warm sweet milky coffee soothed me.  I was worried that people would see me crying at stoplights so I had to drive on the freeway.  Crying while driving 75 mph is probably right up there with texting while driving on the danger-o-meter, but but God watches over fools and mourners.  Could I have been anyone other than me?

5.  Beautiful World, Colin Hay.  Remember Men At Work?  Mildly entertaining 80s band from Australia?  This guy is the lead singer.  And a brilliant songwriter.  Acoustic version of "Overkill?"  Raise your hand if you first heard that on Scrubs.  Beautiful World is a song about getting older and looking at your life.  It's uplifting.  But the middle of the song picks you up and dumps you on the ground, emotional-reaction-wise.  Still this emptiness persists.  Perhaps this is as good as it gets. Suddenly I am sobbing.  Gut-punched.  I've heard this song 200 times and I still never see it coming.   Thanks, Colin. Jerk.

I pulled in the driveway and turned off the ignition.  I had to pee, but I needed a moment to pull myself together.  I was spent, wrung dry.  I took such a deep breath that my bangs blew back a little on the exhale.  Batshit crazy emotional chameleons like me should not be allowed to have iPod shuffles.  We do enough shuffling as it is.