Saturday, May 07, 2005

In the sewer

Why is it that when someone decides to sink to flinging obscenities at someone they barely know and the person responds in educated language and flowery sentences they are wrong? I write the way I speak, except when I'm writing a character who doesn't speak the way I do. My words sound nice but they have no feeling is the next accusation. Have people become completely unable to communicate without smilies and emoticons?

One of the men I dated used to go into towering rages: screaming, cursing, flailing his arms, pacing and breaking things. My response was always calm and quiet and that just made him angrier and more flamboyant in his cursing and flailing and breakage.

Rage and screaming obscenities -- even in print -- is a waste of energy and emotion that does nothing but create a negative atmosphere. I gave up the rage a long time ago and I seldom use obscenities. My vocabulary is quite rich enough without them. Does that make me unfeeling or in some way deficient? To some people it does. I have one thing to say to them:

Get over it. I will not change the way I communicate to make you feel better or make you feel less like I'm looking down on you. That's your problem, not mine.

And now I return you to your regularly scheduled posts.

That is all. Disperse.

Careful: icy walk

Ever notice how people walk on ice?

Some people slide their feet as if on skates. Some people tip toe across as if afraid to wake up the ice demons that pitch you down. Some people walk forward unafraid to fall the way they walk everywhere else. Some people avoid the ice, walking into the street or onto the snow-covered ground, anywhere but the ice because there is no guarantee they will not fall or make a fool of themselves. And some people carefully watch where they place their feet before taking a step.

How we walk on ice is how we walk through life. Want to know someone? Watch them walk on ice.

A group I belong to has been building to a huge explosion but once again the leader (although the person claims they didn't want to be the leader while they remind everyone who started the group) has pulled the fat out of the fire by redistributing labels and proudly announcing their new found path in life. By casting off the original label and using another label everything has been deemed changed. It's just another label.

We all are most comfortable when we are able to put a name to everything, paste on a label. It's how we communicate. However, this practice leads us to believe that we must label everything. Ever see someone who has a new label maker? Suddenly everything gets a brand new label. It's fun and there are lots of colors to choose among, colors that will match the decor. Then the labels get old. The edges pull away, creasing the neat label, curling up and getting ratty and dirty. Pull off the label and the stickum is left to gather lint, dust, dirt and everything in between. Some people scrub the stickum off and place a new label. Some let it get dirty and scrabby and leave it even when the label is hanging by a sticky thread. Some clean off the surface and leave it bare, the label making mania either too much effort or something that has run its course. It's like walking on ice.

For a long time I have wondered if I should continue with the group. I can still see the people and spend time with them. I don't need a label or a group to do that. I might even walk away and continue as I have always done: without labels, without names, without need for either. And yet watching these people walking on the ice is fascinating. Maybe it's the need in me to get out the microscope and examine the bugs up close, like an amateur psychologist or sociologist or anthropologist. In many ways I am all three and none of them. I really don't care for labels.

I admire anyone who reinvents himself, adapts to the prevailing environment. I have less admiration for anyone who controls others by changing the labels without changing who they really are. It's like putting up a sign near the icy walk that says glass or shiny paint. It's still ice. Take a few steps on the ice and you'll know the truth, but it's too late because you're already sliding and falling.

No matter what the sign says, it's an icy walk.

Friday, May 06, 2005


I finally found out why the docs haven't been giving us much work; they've been on strike. And here I thought they were just religious. Not a chance.

There is a disagreement between certain doctors and the administration of the hospitals about doctors cleaning up their files and dictating reports they should have dictated 2-3 years ago. And these educated, schooled and (one would hope) intelligent physicians decided that going on strike and not dictating any reports is the answer. Yes, that's the kind of thinking that made this country what it is today. That's taking responsibility for your actions.

This is an extreme example, but taking responsibility seems to be a disease that no one wants to catch these days. No one is immune, although everyone thinks everyone else should bite the bullet and be responsible. Used to be called passing the buck. Now it's called business as usual.

Responsibility slapped me hard yesterday and again this morning when I realized that certain aspects of my life could be better if I had just recognized what part I played in making them turn out the way they did. I reacted out of hurt and the result is I hurt someone I care deeply about. Didn't realize it at the time, but when I did realize it I knew what I had to do -- give him time to see that I wasn't a raving lunatic. And there are other instances.

A group of friends and acquaintances have reached meltdown and had I been paying attention instead of worrying whether or not I had the right to say anything, it might not have ended so. I was too wrapped up in my own troubles to see they needed me to say something, anything. Doesn't mean things might not have turned out the same way, but at least I would have done the responsible thing and put in my two cents' worth. As it stands now, the rats are leaving a sinking ship and probably don't understand why. Yes, it was fun for a while but the group has turned into a social club and not a group that could and should use their strengths to bolster each other and learn how to work together. They think that different ways of doing things equal different paths when the truth is that we are all on the same path and by working together we all gain strength, knowledge and understanding. I am partly responsible because I didn't speak up; I was too busy and felt I was too far outside the loop to be effective.

Too often we are all guilty of believing that one voice, one person, cannot make a difference and so we watch from a distance or focus in on our own little world without realizing we are responsible for how things turn out. There is not guarantee that anyone will listen or change what they're doing, but there is also no guarantee they won't. Responsibility means taking the chance and speaking up even when you feel like your voice is lost in the storm. The point is that you stood up and said your piece. If only one person heard you and really listened, it was worth the effort.

The lesson for me is to look outside myself and my own problems once in a while and see that I do have a stake in what goes on around me. To put aside my own hurt and listen when a friend is hurting, just listen. To be involved without wondering or worrying whether or not I will be heard. You never know where the wind will carry your words.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

You want to what?

I'm progressive. I can handle new fads and styles. When my oldest son decided to pierce his ear, I didn't see a problem. When he designed and had his body tattooed with his designs I chose to look at his choice as art on a living canvas available to the masses, a sort of traveling art show. The fact that all the images were demonic didn't bother me; it was a phase he was going through. Granted, it was one that he would -- and did -- live to regret, but it's his body, his choice.

When my youngest son decided to shave his head and came to me to help him finish the job, I cringed inside silently and without saying anything as I lathered shaving cream on his scalp that looked like a mangy dog's hide and skived away the rest of his thick beautiful hair. (Some people really don't look good bald.) I didn't scream or yell or criticize his choice; it was his choice.

I have adapted to trends and fashions and the curve balls of life without complaining too much, but I think I have found the point where the rubber meets the road and it's really not a pleasant smell at 500 mph. More like the odor of burning rubber and baking road kill on a blazing August day in the center of Death Valley when you're staked to the smoking reek.

Anal bleaching.

I have been far too isolated from the rest of the world. I see movies where the actors are little more than advertisements for third world hunger campaigns, except they have much smoother abs. I cringe at news of people with nothing better to do injecting lethal bacteria into their faces to erase laugh and frown lines and the etched road maps of life just after, or often before, they have fat sucked from their buttocks and thighs and injected into their lips for that bee stung, got-my-lips-stuck-in-a-drain look that has become so popular since Angelina Jolie stopped wearing diapers. I have shook my head in restaurant restrooms at the noxious sounds emanating from the stall down the way where someone is disgorging their burger, fries, milk shake and death by chocolate cake while they calculate the cost of porcelain veneers for their stomach acid etched teeth on their cell phones while they check their email and surf the net with bile dripping from their plump bee stung lips and digitally record their surroundings for their friends.

But anal bleaching?

Having diapered a few bottoms in my day, it never occurred to me to check the natural anal color with paint chips from Home Depot and wonder what combination of bleach, peroxide and water in what quantities would be best to render their puckered orifices acceptable in fashionable society. It never occurred to me it would be necessary. Braces are one thing; bleaching your butthole is another, and they do not belong in the same ball park.

It's not enough to sanitize, deodorize, perfume and otherwise render our personal space -- and the space of anyone within 500 feet -- a nature-free zone, but now we're supposed to worry about the color of our nether sphincter. I guess it could become an issue now that butt floss is the accepted apparel for summer and bending over might give some unwary stranger a glimpse of the pink bits, but I really doubt that a proctological inspection would be in the offing -- unless of course a proctologist was the passing stranger. But really. Haven't people gone a bit too far?

Bathing and clothing I can see. I can even understand coloring your hair; I do it because nature has been unable to change my hair color from its normal brown to glistening silver overnight and leaves me in the in-between land of amorphous gray. I get the need for braces and glasses. I have even contemplated the possibility of having my birth and nursing ravaged breasts lifted into a more upward gazing prospect. I trim my nails weekly and brush my teeth. I wear contacts (no, not the kind that change my eye color, thank you very much. I rather like my own chameleon-like blue-grey eyes) and I scrub my skin with sea salt and oil weekly to remove dead skin cells and lavish hemp oil body lotion on my soft and supple, although stretch mark and surgery scarred, skin. But I have to draw the line somewhere.

I don't wax my pubic hair and I only shave my arm pits once in a while (I don't have much body hair). I don't shave my legs at all, but no one can tell because I have soft nearly invisible hair on my legs. I don't douse myself in perfume and suffocate friends and strangers who pass too closely in my wake, or eradicate all bacteria from my hands and body because I need them to keep my immune system strong and healthy. I don't do a lot of things that are considered essential to be fashionable and indistinguishable in the modern day world and some day I'll probably be seen as the strange old witch who didn't keep a stock of genetically engineered and cosmetically enhanced clones in storage, ready for the exchange, when botox, chemical peels, surgery and DNA cocktails will no longer work to twist my natural looks into acceptable youthful proportions.

And I will never bleach my anus.

More and more I understand why one friend aspires to be a hobo. I think I'm just about ready to join him.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

A question of polarity

Ever notice how everything exists in opposites? Left and right. Up and down. Here and there. Positive and negative.

The negative and positive electrical charges in an atom hold it together, give it shape and determine what, in large enough amounts, it will end up being. Lead. Gold. Silver. Helium. Methane. Hydrogen. In nature polarities work together to create all the elements that eventually became us -- humans. It's not really a matter of bad and good, but rather a matter of matter. There is no right or wrong way to put things together, just different combinations, different truths, if you will. But add a human element and suddenly it's a matter of bad versus good.

People need to label everything, to give everything a neat niche into which it can be stuffed. Who is to determine what is right or wrong? You? Me? Better it should be no one because what is right for one is wrong for another. Simply put, two people live besides two different lakes and both have been taught that water is necessary to continue life. However, one lake is poisoned and the other is sweet refreshment. Does that mean water is not necessary to life or that one of the lakes is wrong? Or does it simply mean that one lake is different and will kill a human while it supports life of a different sort?

Both lakes spring from a common source of sweet and pure underground water, but the poison lake bubbled up through layers of rock and sand that tainted it and made it poison. Both lakes flow to the sea and in the sea the poison in the lake water is rendered harmless by being dispersed in a much larger body of water.

Water is still necessary to live, but sometimes it's necessary to find that point in the lake water's existence where it can support human life. To eradicate the lake just to keep it from killing someone with its poison is to kill the life that lives on the poison. The poison is fatal to humans but it is necessary to another kind of life. Does that make the lake bad or just bad for humans?

Tap the water at its source before it can be poisoned and it is drinkable. Take the water from the lake and it is drinkable. The other lake is drinkable at any point along its course. But neither lake is bad or wrong, just different. Then again, the human who lives on the shores of the poison lake may only be able to live if he drinks the poison water because water untainted by the poison will kill him.

To polarize choice and life into right and wrong or good and bad is to divide people and provide a means to keep them apart. Sometimes it's better to find out what works for you and let everyone else find out what works for them. No right or wrong. No good or bad. Just different.

Monday, May 02, 2005

I have a secret... you?

New numbers and old friends

Last week I gave Mom and Dad my new phone number. I haven't moved, but I do know what my new number will be and when they will set up my DSL. Mom gave me their new number. It feels strange. I'm always the one with the new number. They've had the same number for nearly 30 years. And yesterday the rest of the family gathered to help them move the first load to the new house. Mom said Beanie knew just where everything was, moving through the place as if she owned it or had built it, pointing out all the conveniences and special features, comfortable and capable. And she's the baby.

Mom called today to talk. I knew it was her when I picked up the phone. "Didn't I just talk to you yesterday?" I smiled when I said it. "No, that was the day before," she quipped.

My sister-in-law had surgery Friday. Mom wished she could have had all her surgeries laparoscopically with just a few puncture holes in her body instead of the crosshatching of shiny silver and puckered flesh that crisscross the stretch marks, the proof of her childbearing years. "I just can't remember what kind of surgery she had." I hear the fear in her voice. "You know all about this stuff. Tell me some surgeries."

Gall bladder, exploratory lap, ovarian cyst removal, tubal ligation, hysterectomy, fibroid tumor removal, bowel resections. I kept going. She couldn't remember.

"I need to get ready for church. It's after six."

"Mom, it's five till six."

"It takes time. Your dad doesn't like to wait. I'll call you later when I remember what kind of surgery she had. Don't understand why I can't remember." She hung up still dithering about her memory.

"Gall bladder. She had her gall bladder out. Jimmy had to take her to the emergency room. She couldn't breathe. She has asthma. Do you remember she has asthma?"

Yes, I remembered. But she doesn't remember all the time and she is terrified. Images and memories of grandma flood her mind, images of vacant smiles and wordless screams of pain when anyone touches her or tries to straighten the arms and legs that force her back into a fetal ball. Images of her fragile skin tearing, bleeding, gaping raw and red with any soft caress. Images of tears and the memory of her own hot tears falling on her mother's twisted body and broken flesh and the wordless cries. Alzheimer's.

She's begged for death, doesn't want to out stay her welcome. "Take me now, Lord," she begs in the silent darkness after Dad has gone back to sleep. He found her cold and unmoving on the floor again, half dressed, unknowing, unable to halt the creeping grasp of another misfire in her brain. "Lord, I want to go home." But she can't say the words, won't even whisper the doom looming over her with avid greed, clawing at her mind. Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's. Silent devouring torture worse than a clean death, more insidious than dying on the operating table. No wonder she is so anxious for the knife. A swirl of chemicals in her veins and her eyelids droop. A whiff of gas and oblivion. Maybe this time she won't wake. Maybe this time the specter that has haunted her family, that old unwelcome friend, will lose his grip on her brain and let her go without a struggle.


Sunday, May 01, 2005

Who screamed?

It's Sunday and I worked last night so I felt entitled to a day of dozing and reading. Between snoozes I have been visiting Australia with Bill Bryson In a Sunburned Country. Like most Sundays when I feel lazy and there is no one to help me quench my erotic fires, I read, doze, read some more, answer nature's call when absolutely necessary and snack in bed. Probably why I don't have anyone to quench my erotic fires, but they shouldn't knock it until they try it. I'm getting off topic. Back to the snoozing and reading.

I dozed off again somewhere around Adelaide and its beautiful parks and idyllic streets when I was awakened by a shrill scream. I don't think it was me. It sounded so close, so much like a soul in dire peril. I went from warmly snoozing and floating on sun bright images to wide awake, mind churning, gut wrenching attention.

Outside frosted tree limbs tiredly drooped under a heavy white burden and the steady drip, drip of melting snow on the roof rained past my bedroom window as it looks out onto more trees with more frosting and a weakly lit dead white sky where what sunlight broke through the clouds sparkled off rainbow gems of snow melt caught between pine needles before they shattered in prismatic falls of broken jeweled light. No errant tracks in the snow or furtive shadows peering from behind tree trunks or car or corners of the house. Nothing. No one.

As I headed back to the warm nest of tumbled sheets and fake fur cover, a slow banshee wail spiraled down from above me, getting louder and higher pitched as it came nearer. It was the scream of heavy snow clinging with crystalline fingernails to the tin roof as it avalanched from the peak to the mountain of snow piling up beneath my bedroom window. It was time to get up and stay up even though I'd rather slide back under the covers and slip back into Adelaide and all points Australian.

Most of the email, as always, was spam, but a few messages were worth reading. I loaded more of my CDs onto the hard drive and listened to Gloria Estefan, Pat Benatar, and some really old nostalgic music from my younger days. Finished reading an article on writing slipstream, which I'm not quite sure I quite get, but I'm figuring it out. I agree with some of the choices, but not all of them. Slipstream seems to be a slippery not-quite-genre slope. I read an LJ post about lilies of the valley and that reminds of glycosides and the poison that lurks in those delicate little white bells and green stems, which reminds me of White Oleander starring Michelle Pfeiffer and murder and anger and what to do about it.

I don't do anger. I don't do vengeance. I don't do vendettas or make elaborate plans to get even with people. I don't have the time or the energy I want to waste on such pursuits. I used to blow up in one spectacular explosion and after that I was fine. I don't waste energy that way any more. But somewhere in my mind is a little dark room full of murderous thoughts and schemes and plans that fester into story ideas. Little ideas and plots in that room wait for just the right method or idea to mate and bear fruit in dark and insidious ways. One of those was the bittersweet brownie story. There have been others.

Movies like Gaslight with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman and The Life and Loves of a She Devil, and even Basic Instinct, gave me ideas that blossomed into stories. Movies and books like that have taught me that it is better to use a poison pen on someone than to actually murder them. That way you can keep murdering them to your heart's content.

I'm not a murderous type. I could tell you stories of just how murderous I am not. However, every once in a while a fleeting thought will slip through the keyhole in that dark room and give birth to nastiness. I highly recommend having such a room where you can play with your darkest fantasies and maybe even earn a little money in the process. I know Alfred Hitchcock had such a dark room, but his was much bigger. Horror writers have those dark little rooms and so do writers who specialize in murder mysteries. And it's not just writers. Think of all the directors who create such dark fare, sometimes improving on a writer's dark vision with an even greater darkness of their own.

That dark little room isn't just for writers and directors and actors who get to carry out the bloody plots, but for anyone who has been angry at someone and wanted to get even. Put it on paper. Play in the dark room and give your enemies and adversaries what you feel they deserve. Just remember to close and lock the door when you're through. There are some visions that are meant to remain in the dark and not see the light of day. One thing is certain, killing off your enemies on paper can make you feel a whole lot better, and by letting them live another day you can kill them again as often as you like without anyone ever knowing. Your hands stay clean and you never have to worry about getting caught and it helps to purge the negativity and demons that shatter your contentment. Works for me.

Unpleasant nightmares.