Saturday, May 28, 2005


As I sit at my computer this morning browsing through familiar sites and sights I came across a picture that brought New Orleans flooding back to me. It could also be the tree-lined street where I now live or it could be the picture I found of New Orleans lit up like a Christmas tree, but it's there and refuses to leave my mind.

Somewhere, packed away in my furniture and mementos of lives past, is a picture of me in a red-and-white-striped jacket next to a cart shaped like a giant hot dog beneath a red-and-white-striped umbrella. Luck Dogs is painted in big letters on the bun and it was the only thing between me and starvation or an ignominious retreat home with my tail between my legs.

Those were the days

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I saw New Orleans draped besides the inky waters of the Mississippi like a rippling carpet of brilliant color and twinkling lights. The window was open and exotic spices laced with a hint of some indefinable yet familiar odor teased my senses. I found the Lee Circle YMCA and checked into a Spartan room, dropped my luggage, grabbed my purse and headed out into the warm and fragrant November night. Everywhere I looked was a feast of light, sound, scent and color unlike anything I'd seen before. An old streetcar rumbled by, clacking and shaking along the iron track sunk into the asphalt on its way to Canal Street, the main drag in downtown New Orleans. Flowers and trees beneath a dark sky glittered with fairy lights. Strains of jazz and the musical sound of Southern voices led me on like a Pied Piper back down toward the Mississippi and the hidden jewel of the Vieux Carre - the French Quarter.

The head of Bourbon Street is a dim alley between two old stores on Canal. At first I wondered if I was in the right place. It is dark and cramped and anonymous, just an alley, but like the tunnel that Aladdin followed to the treasure cave, once I crossed the shadowy lane I stood in awed amazement as a heart of feverishly garish lights spilled out like a lighted Persian carpet before me. The French Quarter. I had arrived.

Each block is a heady and overwhelming mixture of mingled melodies, from rock and hip-hop to Dixieland and smoky sensuous jazz. Street people mingle with tourists and scrawny black children tap dance on pop bottle tops embedded into the soles and heels of their sneakers while street hustlers urge you to follow them inside lighted rooms where infomercials get their start.

You can get anything in the Quarter: Cajun and Creole, French and ethnic foods, condos, vacations, rips to old southern plantations, tourist mementos and even sex. Young girls and boys of every flavor and color sidle up to likely marks and whisper about furtive dates as New Orlean's finest stroll along, each aware of the other but doing their different businesses until the word is given and the sweep begins and ends quietly and efficiently; it's all part of the game. Street entertainers dance, sing, play music, juggle and mime for tips and the living blood of the trade -- tourists -- work their way to Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral where artists, palm readers, psychics and metaphysicians cluster in gypsy formation around the black wrought iron bars while Andrew Jackson sits a rearing horse in an emerald square of grass and riotous colored flowers. Just across the street at the Cafe du Monde the scent of sugared beignets and chicory coffee waft along warm breezes and the Mississippi slides past like an oil slick in the dark beyond the reach of the lighted Quarter.

On nearly every street corner, hot dog-shaped carts offer eight inches of meat with a variety of sweet and savory toppings, depending on the vendor. I was once one of their number: the hot dog lady.

But that is a story for another time.

I'll shut up now.

Blue skies calling

There are puffy clouds on the horizon and nothing but perfect blue skies above. Leaves shimmer in the morning sun and squirrels are busy scampering, eating, playing, doing squirrel duty. The air is cool and clean beyond my dusty windows and here and there people amble along the streets on Saturday errands. John is on his way home from the commissary to a long weekend of chores, a little sad that Suzy has decided she is too much in pain from a little scrape to go bike riding with him. And here I sit hungering for him to ask me to go for a bike ride or a walk or just sit and talk. All I want is an invitation.

I have an invitation. The blue skies are beckoning me outside where birds dip and swoop on cool dawn winds.

The sunlight reaches me here in my window-walled aerie, but it is filtered through dust and screens and double-paned glass. Its warmth reaches me, but does not touch my skin or warm my back as I bend over planting beds and weeds that need to be pulled. When did life get so complicated?

When I was a child, and even a teenager before I learned to drive, walking wasn't a thought or something I had to plan. I walked. Distance wasn't an issue, although I walked three or four miles to school, and that same distance back, every day and nearly that to the Hilltop Swim Club to bask in the sun, arrow through the waters and dance to the juke box tunes in my bathing suit. I was never too tired to walk and nowhere was out of reach. I didn't need an invitation, just a sunny day like today and the desire to go somewhere.

On the way home from high school I hurdled lines of bushes separating one yard from the next, sprinting up and down the avenues and dancing among the trees in the boulevard in front of our house. I ran and walked and danced for the sheer joy of it and not because it was a good way to exercise and lose weight. It was all an inextricable part of who I was, a part I have lost over the years of driving and city buses and cabs.

The only time I took a bus then was when I was in a hurry or had to go downtown to meet friends or cousins so we could walk all around downtown, in and out of the stores and museums, through the park or just exploring and looking at old houses and buildings and churches. Now I pick up the keys and drive. When did it all change? When did I start ignoring blue sky invitations?

Part of the reason I moved here was because it was close to an old and interesting part of town, and because I love the energy. I'm two miles from Garden of the Gods and about that from Red Rocks Park, and here I sit on a Saturday morning with the whole day stretching before me in front of the computer and wondering why. There is an answer, but it's not a good one. I'm waiting for an invitation from John to go walking, hiking, bike riding or just talking, an invitation that isn't going to come for another two weeks. Still, I wait and the blue skies keep calling.

Outside, as the sun rides higher in the sky and the puffy clouds thin and migrate east, a white-tailed hawk drifts and soars on rising currents of warming air in a Colorado blue sky that calls to a part of me forgotten and sleeping like Rip Van Winkle as the world passes by on Saturday jaunts. There is a daily invitation delivered through my windows, one I am forced to ignore during the week because of work, but an invitation I plan to accept this morning and every morning from now on. I cannot sprint and hurdle bushes or walk for miles without thinking, but I can take the first step and the one after that and the one after that until I can sprint and hurdle and run and walk for the sheer joy of being out where the sun can leave its bronze kiss on my skin and color my cheeks with the pink of joy.

Now is as good a time as any to RSVP with a definite and happy YES!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Do I really have to?

This is one of those mornings when I'm not motivated to focus on work, although I need to focus since work yesterday was sparse and I don't want another small paycheck. It's too pretty and inviting outside for me to be stuck inside lashed to a computer chair with an increasingly full bladder listening to mealy-mouthed doctors who barely speak English drone on and on about intricate and technical operative procedures. I want to get out and walk in the sunshine, dig in the dirt, breathe the fresh air and traipse around in the mountains and foothills. I DO NOT want to work.

This is one of those times that remind me of my senior year in high school when I prayed every night and checked diligently every morning for signs of laryngitis so I could stay home, put on a bathing suit and bask in the sunshine basted in baby oil while reading racy novels retrieved from between the toilet tank and the wall. Every morning I sat up and tried my voice. Every scratchy, breathy whisper was a possible sign of laryngitis, but with each added word my voice cleared and laryngitis was not to be had. if I'd have thought about it I would have sold my soul to the devil for a good case of laryngitis and a free day to bask and baste in the sun. No such luck. I was always healthy as a horse -- and it really irritated me.

Even now, despite the creakings and groaning, pops and clicks of aging joints, the best I can manage is a little post nasal drip. Where's a good case of yarg when I need one?

I wonder how much time I can fritter away writing about stupid human tricks? Like the one Beanie told me about our brother.

Start counting!

A few days ago my brother was driving down the freeway during rush hour in his truck with his old stove, refrigerator and dishwasher on the back, headed to the appliance store to swap said old appliances for brand spanking new ones. The truck is not in the best shape, but it can hold three such appliances with plenty of room left over. However, it is deficient in the tail gate section.

As my brother merrily tooled along at top speed, he glanced at his rear view mirror just in time to see the refrigerator slide off the truck and onto the highway where cars at high speed were swerving and careening around the metal monstrosity, barely avoiding sliding into each other as some cars headed for the grass median in proper Keystone Cop disarray. My brother stopped the truck and backed up.

When he got out he found the stove had followed the refrigerator and lay in the midst of the road. I'm sure there were several drivers, once they found their way back onto the freeway splashed with mud and covered in clumps of grass and roadside debris, who greeted my brother with the appropriate birding signals and shouted greetings as he stood wrapped in clouds of tire smoke and smoldering brake pads and attitudes.

One good Samaritan stopped and helped my brother load the refrigerator and stove back onto the truck next to the much lighter dishwasher that sat innocently and firmly on the truck bed. He pulled off the road and waited for his son to bring him a rope to tie the appliances firmly onto the truck to at last make up for the lack of tail gate.

In the meantime, he called his wife to report the mishap and she burst into tears, weeping and wailing and gnashing her teeth, while my brother attempted to explain through the cacophonous outburst that it was the OLD appliances that had met the pavement and not the new ones, thankful his eyes and throat were not within reach of her grasping venomous claws.

You see, dear reader, my brother is an idiot. I love him dearly, but I have long recognized his deficiencies and his place in the All Powerful's Idiot Factor that allows him to continue breathing and procreating despite his quick brushes with other winners of the Darwin Awards.

The Idiot Factor is the All Powerful's cadre of stooges, misfits and fools. It must be very tiring to be the Creator of Everything and humor is necessary to keep Him from raining annihilation, death and destruction on all created in a fit of pique. These idiots provide him with endless hours of belly laughs, guffaws and undignified titters and us with continuation on this planet.

Think of them this way: If there were no idiots in the world there were be no world and we would not know how truly intelligent and worthwhile the rest of us truly are.

Okay, so I'm reaching, but he is my brother and I'm pretty much stuck with him.

Unless of course someone would like to do a little horse trading. I'd be more than willing to trade him for a good avocado, crisp thick peppered bacon, mayo, alfalfa sprout and tomato sandwich on dark Jewish rye bread.

Any takers?

Do you really need to see... boink?

Friday, May 27, 2005

WASHINGTON - Federal health officials are examining rare reports of blindness among some men using the impotence drugs Viagra and Cialis, a disclosure that comes at a time when the drug industry can ill afford negative publicity about another class of blockbuster medicines.

The Food and Drug Administration still is investigating, but has no evidence yet that the drug is to blame, said spokeswoman Susan Cruzan.

This type of blindness is called NAION, or non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. It can occur in men who are diabetic or have heart disease, the same conditions that can cause impotence and thus lead to Viagra use.

The FDA has 42 reports of the blindness, 38 among users of Viagra and four among users of Cialis. There were no cases reported among users of Levitra, the third impotence drug.

"We take this seriously," said FDA's Cruzan.

The FDA is in discussions about the reported cases with the manufacturers of the three drugs in case there is a problem with the class of medication and to see if changes need to be made to their labels.

Eli Lilly & Co., which manufactures Cialis, refers to vision problems as an uncommon side effect, including seeing a blue tinge or having difficulty telling the difference between blue and green. "These are not all the side effects of Cialis," it says on its Web site.

Viagra manufacturer Pfizer Inc. also refers on its Web site to some vision issues: "Less common are bluish or blurred vision, or being sensitive to light. These may occur for a short time." That language had been available before the current inquiry.

Pfizer spokesman Daniel Watts confirmed Friday that the drugmaker was in discussions with the FDA about adding a disclosure to Viagra's label to say that in rare cases, men taking Viagra had developed blindness. However, he said there is no proof that Viagra caused the blindness. He said that men who take Viagra often have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are also associated with the conditions that can cause blindness.

Levitra is sold in the United States by GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Bayer AG.

Viagra was approved by the government in 1998. It may aid in the treatment of enlarged hearts that can result from high blood pressure, tests on animals indicate.

Levitra was approved in August 2003, and Cialis in November of that year.

There have been no reports connecting Levitra to blindness, said Michael Flemming, a spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline PLC. "We are confident about the safety of our product," said Flemming.

Levitra, Cialis and Viagra all work in the same fashion, but Flemming said that doesn't mean they all have the same side effects. "Every drug is different. Every drug is unique," he said.

Analyst Jason Napodano of Zacks Investment Research Inc. said he doesn't think Viagra sales will stumble because of the new reports because the number of cases is so small. "It is too early to say that Viagra is causing this (the blindness) and look how small the numbers are," he said.

Viagra, approved to treat erectile dysfunction, should not be used by men with heart conditions whose doctors have warned them not to have sex. Also, patients taking drugs that contain nitrates have been warned not to take Viagra because of sudden, unsafe drops in blood pressure.

The drug's label also warns of erections lasting longer than four hours, painful erections lasting longer than six hours, headache, flushed skin and vision problems.

Pfizer Inc. said in its most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that sales of the drug rose 5 percent - to $438 million in the first quarter of the year. Pfizer also said at the time that Viagra had a 68 percent worldwide market share.

Viagra sales have been under pressure from new competitors Cialis and Levitra, with revenue sinking 11 percent last year to $1.68 billion from $1.88 billion. Pfizer shares fell in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Doctors and patients have become increasingly wary of the downsides of prescription drugs after Merck & Co. yanked its pain reliever Vioxx from the market last year because of its potentially lethal side effects.

Merck potentially faces thousands of lawsuits over Vioxx and analysts have estimated its liability may reach $18 billion.

Pfizer was asked to remove its pain reliever Bextra from the market because of its side effects and sales of its other arthritis drug Celebrex are falling. Vioxx, Celebrex and Bextra all fall into a category of drugs known as Cox-2 inhibitors.

Industry critics have been demanding that drug companies conduct more post-marketing studies in order to do a better job of discovering side effects once drugs hit the market.

For more than two decades, Americans have mostly pressed for quicker approval of what they hope can be lifesaving drugs for such diseases as AIDS and cancer. But many now are wondering if medicines - a $200 billion industry annually - are coming out too fast and doing too much harm.

Viagra also is at the center of controversy over Medicaid's payment for prescriptions of the drug to convicted sex offenders in New York and other states.


On the Web:


Associated Press writers Theresa Agovino in New York and Elizabeth Wolfe in Washington contributed to this story

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Hostage situation

Dave brought the cheesecake over last night right on time -- to the second. I had warned the landlady it was coming and to be prepared. She was. She was at the door the minute he started up the walk with that special cheesecake eating gleam in her eye. Dave couldn't stay long, but he was very nice and polite as he offered up his plain white wrapped box and left. I handed the box to the landlady and told her I'd get her mail while she scurried inside with the prize.

By the time I got into her apartment she was in the kitchen ready to unwrap the box. I said hello to Pastor and petted and scratched him for a couple minutes while the landlady fidgeted with a really big chef's knife. After washing my hands, I found the end of the plastic and unwrapped and unboxed the cheesecake.

It was a pristine white and delicately brown around the sides. A true work of art. It was a shame to cut into such perfection, but I hefted the knife, plunged it into the glass of hot water, wiped it off and gored the unblemished perfection with a precision cut. Dip, wipe, cut and serve one perfect triangle of cheesecake. Dip, wipe, cut and another perfect triangle rested on its own plate.

Resisting the urge to plunge the triangle into my mouth with my bare hands, I took the knife to the sink and began cleaning it up. The landlady said not to bother while she splashed coffee into a cup and offered me a glass of milk. No milk for me. I don't really care for it and cheesecake was waiting. I had lingered over the foreplay long enough.

We sat down at her table, took up the forks, smiled at each other and slowly and gently forked off the end of the triangle, anticipation thick in the air. We hesitated with the pieces trembling on the forks, giving an almost imperceptible salute, opened our mouths and placed heaven on our tongues.

Not too sweet with a considerable yet light cookie crust, the cheesecake melted on our tongues and began an orgasmic display deep in our stomachs. YES!

The rest of the piece didn't last very long as we prostrated our tongues in humble adoration of each orgasmic bite. I didn't need dinner after that. Anything else would have been anticlimactic.

The landlady was going to a birthday party for a friend and I had errands to run so I agreed to leave the reboxed cheesecake -- sans two pieces (one for her and one for her birthday friend that she decided would be unfair to the other ladies and kept for herself) -- in her refrigerator. She promised to leave the door unlocked so I could retrieve it when I came back home. We parted, having shared a life changing experience.

After returning with a new shower curtain, bath mat, two pots of lavender and one of rosemary, some health food choices and various sundries, I tried the door to the landlady's apartment.

It was locked.

My cheesecake was in there...

...held hostage.

She lied to me. She intended to keep it all along.


I played it off for my next door neighbor, saying she probably forgot, but deep down in my soul I knew there would be excuses and ransom notes and bad feelings over this hostage situation.

A still small voice said, "It's not hostage. It's gone. You'll see her tomorrow with sour cream frosting ringed lips and crumbs of the cookie crust on her top and dusting her fingers. It's gone!"

Oh, well, I thought. It's only cheesecake.

RIGHT! It's NOT only cheesecake. It's WAR!

About 10 o'clock, while I was laboring at my computer in the darkened sun porch and singing dirges to the departed, I heard a voice. It was the landlady and she was at the door. I plucked up my indignation, ready for the excuses and lies to begin, and went into the darkened living room. She stood there with the white box in her trembling hands.

"I forgot to leave the door unlocked."

I smiled gently at her and took possession of the still heavy white box. "It's all right. I understand," I said as I brushed off her apologies and small talk and nodded and smiled, holding my cheesecake to my bosom.

Good night, landlady. Sleep well.

I certainly did. My cheesecake was safe in the fridge. It was home and unharmed.

Aah, cheesecake.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Welcome to the Springs

Since I moved here a little more than a week ago, (but really just one week and one day ago when I didn't have to go back to the cabin) people have been really wonderful to me. One of the guys at a friend's office makes killer cheesecake and I ordered one from him for a moving in gift for my landlord and Nell across the hall. He emailed a little while ago to tell me it was ready and he'd deliver it tonight, but couldn't stick around to chat. I was looking forward to talking to him. I emailed back and told him I was disappointed and I'd have to put the BBQ back in the fridge. He emailed back and told me the cheesecake is a "welcome to the springs" present and he was sorry about the BBQ.

There's a great BBQ place a couple blocks from here in Old Colorado City (Front Range BBQ) and I think I'll make a date and take him there to thank him for the free cheesecake. It's the least I can do. Besides, it will boost my social life and add one more person to my "people I like in the Springs" list that is growing longer every day.

I just love cheesecake, but free homemade cheesecake is the best.

That is all. Disperse -- and get your own cheesecake. This one's taken.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Out of the shade

I was having a perfectly lovely morning when my landlady called me from downstairs in the driveway. She knocked on the door but I can't hear anything with my headphones plugged in when I'm working. I heard her call from the driveway though. She wanted to talk to me for a minute. Never good news and never a good sign.

I was right. It wasn't.

I went downstairs, partly to stretch my legs and partly because I felt like I needed a break from work.

The woman next door on the east decided to cut down all the trees in her yard and have the roots dug up. These are beautiful and healthy trees that give lots of shade and oxygen. It's a shame to cut them down just so she doesn't have to clean the gutters and hates the squirrels dining at the all you can eat gutter buffet. The landlady told her she was cutting down my shade and that it would make it too hot in my office to work during the day. She didn't care.

I'm sad not only because of the shade but because of the trees. They give such a lovely ambience to the neighborhood with their graceful limbs and waving leaves.

Luckily, she can't cut down the trees on public property.

She is going to regret having the trees removed because they shade her house, too. Without their leaf canopy protecting her house from the burning sun, she is going to cook inside her house, especially since she keeps her shades closed and her curtains drawn. Her electric bills are going to go sky high and I don't have a single tear for her.

The trees have been here for nearly 100 years and they deserve to live. I'm not so sure about how much she deserves to be cooked, but very well done would just about do it.

Tree killing orc wench.

Back to the grindstone

My first full week here was full. I'm still not in that groove where everything runs smoothly, but I abhor ruts. I like to shake things up too much.

The infamous brownie story has been accepted for publication by a print magazine and I'm still deciding whether I want to sign their contract or hold out for Ellery Queen or Alfred Hitchcock. I have three days to decide. I could also hold out for Zoetrope, too. Still, money in the hand and all that. The brownie tale is the first one I haven't had to flog for ages (years sometimes) to get someone to notice and that's good. Means I've finally hit the right combination of description, inner and outer characterization, place and pacing. That took a while -- or at least it seems that way. It is good enough to scare the bejeezus out of a friend and make them wonder if I'm capable of murder. All the story proves is that I'm capable of concocting a murder not following through with one. In fact, I told the landlady about the story and some of the interesting facts I've learned over the years about how to commit the perfect murder and she was a little taken aback. I can hear her telling the police, "She was such a nice, quiet person. Most of the time I wasn't even sure she was up there."

Isn't that what they say about all serial killers?

Then again, isn't every murder/mystery writer a serial killer -- on the page? The difference between writers and real life serial killers is impulse control. And most of us are pretty squeamish when it comes to committing the actual bloody, messy, smelly and need to hide the corpse kind of murder.

If everyone who ever said, "I'll kill you for that" or "I hate you and I wish you were dead," were rounded up and tried for their crimes, I doubt there'd be anyone on the bench or in the jury box, let alone at the attorney tables. Everyone would be in jail. Well, maybe one or two perfect souls who think happy thoughts, but most of those are on Prozac or in rehab centers/nursing homes in a persistent vegetative state. In the back of their drug hazed minds they're thinking, "If I ever get out of here, I'll kill you."

Time to sharpen my knives.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Graduating to senior

For a moment, while checking movie times and prices, I thought I was almost ready to graduate to the senior tickets. I checked the policy. I have 15 years to go.

So why is the AARP sending me information all the time?

I'm at that awkward age -- not old enough to get the senior discount at movies or the senior meal at Denny's and not young enough to get down with the def crowd. I thought the awkward age was that bubble between childhood and my teen years. Is there another awkward age in my future?

I don't feel any different, except for those first few minutes when I get up off the floor in the morning and am forcibly and painfully reminded I'm still here, alive but not kicking so much. I still feel like I did when I was 17. The mirror sees someone very much older, someone well past the age to get cheaper movie tickets and cheaper meals at Denny's -- at least first thing in the morning.

As the day progresses and I go to the bathroom, I pass the mirror and I age backward, younger and younger, but not quite to the age of 17, hovering somewhere around 30 on a good day and let's not talk about how old I am on the bad ones, but at least a few seconds younger than past it.

I talked to a 27-year-old last night -- a girl, if you worry about those things and think I have found a phone sex lover (I'm so bored with phone sex and have been for decades) -- and she said I don't sound the way she thought I would. "How did you think I would sound?"

"Old like my Mom."

I decided not to pursue that any farther. I remember how old I thought my mother looked and sounded. She has aged considerably since then. No one questions her right to senior privileges or her Golden Buckeye card. "Everyone tells me I sound young."

"It's not just your voice. You act young, like one of my friends."

Okay, we're in better territory here. I'm not down with the street talk and I don't know Spanglish or hip-hop or any of the current idioms that pass for language. I have never marched gladly into the pro-Ebonics camp and never will. I don't deny my age, although I do dye my roots to match the darker hair still lingering among the shimmering silver strands I wouldn't mind having in toto, not just enough to make my hair that awful gray. I think of myself as ageless -- except first thing in the morning when I'm getting used to that old person staring back at me in stunned, hurt silence as I studiously glance past her in the mirror. Then again, maybe my youthful heart is writing checks my popping, cracking and creaking body can't cash. Stranger things have been known to happen.

My memory is going. Where was I?

Oh, yes, the awkward age. I'm there. I managed the last awkward age and I'm sure I'll manage this one, but is there another awkward age yet to come? Will I still have to worry about that time between being a senior at last and moving into decrepitude or Methuselah time? I guess I'll have to muddle through now and wait to find out because I plan on being here a very long time.

When I hit 150, will there be more discounts on my horizon? Will Denny's give me all my meals free just for having the strength to heave open and walk through their doors? Will the movie theaters let me walk in boldly without buying a ticket and let me choose whatever I can still gum and swallow without choking to death at the concession counter? Of course I'll have to sit down in the first row to see. By then they might even put in geriatric reclining chairs to keep me from getting a crick in my crepey neck from staring up at the screen where I can still make out misty water-colored shapes and tag them to fleeting memories of movies gone by.

I guess I'll see...

...or not.