Saturday, October 07, 2006

Can't sleep

Many of my friends and family complain about not being able to sleep. I don't have that problem. Scratch that. I don't usually have that problem, being blessed with the ability to fall asleep anywhere at any time, most while watching television or reading a book lying down. I don't need drugs, those television and books work just fine. Granted, I did go to bed early and fell asleep reading an article in The Writer and I woke up because of a very full bladder, but I don't feel like sleeping and I know from experience that sleeping is now out of the question. I don't get that feeling often, but when it surfaces... On the plus side, I did get about five hours of sleep and caught up on sending out review links to authors, so that is something.

Maybe that's the problem. I have writing and work on my mind, especially since I've been asked to write an article and teach a class on reviewing books, something I have done professionally for one company for 3.5 years. Maybe there's a book in there, maybe not. I have enough on my plate right now and don't have another clear spot anywhere...and yet there is a part of me that would love to earn a little more money teaching what I know.

That's something else that is on my mind. While talking to Lynn last night I learned that my BA in English could lead to substitute teaching and that I don't need a Master's degree or Ph.D. I probably would have to get a teaching certificate, but I have the credentials to sub for $100 a day, average. It would be a nice way to supplement my income but it would also mean buying clothes to wear to work and actually leaving the house to work, neither of which is tempting in any way, shape or fashion. Over the years I have gotten used to working in whatever I felt like wearing -- or not wearing -- and not having someone breathe down my neck or make me conform to more than basic work rules. I like having some autonomy and freedom with a regular paycheck, and I save money on gas and clothing and makeup and any number of items to repair and maintain on my car, which I currently drive about once a week just to keep in practice and give the car a workout. There are worse ways to make a living. I could be working for Wal-Mart like Dad.

And that's another thing on my mind: Dad. I called him last night to let him know I talked to Beanie. After telling him they were in Iowa when I last spoke to Beanie, I asked how he was managing with Mom and about how she acted when they traveled together. I got a shock. She talks incessantly and won't shut up between bouts of rummaging through her purse and bags, both problems Beanie mentioned when she said Mom might not make it here since she would be dead, killed by either her or Carol. Dad mentioned the bad word: Alzheimer's. There is a family history. Relatives on both sides of Mom's family had it. She's terrified of it. She may well have it. I keep chalking up the short temper, bursts of forgetfulness and rambling in the middle of a conversation to hardening of the arteries in the brain or just getting old, but in the back of my mind I hear, "It's Alzheimer's." I'll have a chance to see first hand and suggest some tests when she gets home, that is if she goes home.

Dad said he was having a fine time with Mom gone. It's quiet and she's not nagging or yelling at him while he's watching television or reading the paper. I do see his point, but if this is a sneaky way of dumping her on my doorstep in the middle of the night and making off like sneak thieves and bandits, it ain't gonna work. We discussed this before. She lives in Ohio near her three loving children and not here in Colorado. Suddenly I'm worried. Maybe that's why Beanie caved in and let her come along on the trip. They are planning to dump her here. Don't they know Colorado has laws about dumping? Well, I will just have to educate them.

That's it. I won't be able to sleep until they are gone -- preferably with Mom in tow. I don't care how much she talks or how often she roots and rummages through her purse and bags. I have the law on my side. She has to go home.

And I thought Beanie and I were close, that she loved me. Well, we'll just see about that.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Travels at five

When I was five Dad was stationed in Seaside, California. He was going to the language school there because he had to learn Spanish. We would go to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland after California and then back to Columbus to Fort Hayes for preparations, shots and such before going to Panama. Dad would go first and find a place to live and we would follow. I didn't know any of this at the time. I was only five. It was still an important time for me.

The year I was five we got a dog, a German Spitz, that killed the pastel colored chicks we got for Easter. Even then Dad had a thing for chickens. The dog was sold to a man who owned a furniture store and one day when I woke up Fritzy was gone. I was devastated over the loss of the chicks but even more so over the loss of Fritzy. To a child, everything is bigger.

When I was five my brother was born, a squirming, squalling creature who didn't like having his diaper changed and marked his displeasure, and everything and everyone around him, by urinating on them. He always missed me. Either I was too fast or not annoying enough, but he never hit me. He hit my sister, Carol, in the mouth the day Dad brought him home from the hospital. He also got Dad's chest, arced a spray across my grandparents and decorated the wall in dripping yellow.

When I was five someone told me that flowers were good to eat and I made myself sick on some of them and earned a spanking. That was the same year I ran away. For the first time in my life, I got angry and said I'd run away because I didn't want to be spanked any more. Mom told me to pack my suitcase and leave. I did. I remember packing my favorite book, a few play clothes and my hairbrush in my little brown suitcase and carrying it to the sun porch where Mom was ironing. The extension cord she had used to lash my legs a few moments before danced behind her in a brown dipping arc while she ironed the clothes. I told her I was going. She said goodbye. I walked out the door.

I'm sure she didn't think I'd get any farther than the road that went past our yard. She was wrong. I walked across the sprawling green yard, turned left and walked alongside the road. I wasn't allowed on the road and I would never cross it without my parents or grandparents with me. I must have been a sight to behold with my little brown suitcase bumping against my leg, a determined look on my face and red welts crisscrossing my legs. There were no tears in my eyes, just a fiery determination to get as far away from my mother as possible. I walked two miles and right into the next town where I was stopped by a kind police officer who picked me up, talked to me about why I was running away and took me back. I didn't get a spanking when I got home. After all, Mom told me to leave. She just didn't know I would.

We lived out in the country in what I remember as a big house on the outside and a small space on the inside where I shared a bedroom with my sister just off the living room where my father danced with us while Frank Sinatra and the big bands played in the background. On one side of our country house was a high fence surrounding the home of a Japanese man when I was five. Gram took me with her one day when she went to visit. I walked from an open, unstudied wildness into a fairy land of angles and circles of green and brilliant color marked with graveled paths and full of birds and butterflies. As I stood on the deck of the house under a roof walkway I was stunned into silence by the overwhelming beauty of the garden. I never suspected there was such beauty and perfection in the whole world and I wandered along the paths, my fingers bare millimeters from the flowers, trees and statues placed in perfect symmetry along the path afraid to touch anything for fear it would disappear.

My grandmother called me and I followed, reluctantly leaving a paradise I knew in my heart I would never be allowed to enter again. Gram had the cuttings our Japanese neighbor had given her and I had only the memory of what fairy land really looked like. I longed to preserve that vision the year I was five and hoarded the memory in a secret place in my heart, taking it out whenever I was sad or lost or feeling ignored. It was a memory I polished frequently and put carefully away.

That same year Gram and Grandpa got Cheela, a little brown chihuahua they took home with them once Mom was safely home from her long stay in the hospital. They drove from Ohio to California with us when Mom was pregnant with my brother and returned back across the country with their dog. I missed them terribly. I missed the smell of Gram's cooking and Grandpa's pipes and the way Grandpa let me comb his hair and light his cigarettes for him as I sat on his knee. Most of all, I missed the possibility of Gram taking me back to our Japanese neighbor's garden.

It didn't take too long to move into a new rhythm without my grandparents, a rhythm surrounded by family and my new brother and wrapped around with music. As the year spun from summer to fall, the music changed from Sinatra and Harry James to the crashing crescendos and melodious swirls and eddies of classical music. Rachmaninoff heralded Halloween while my sister and I dressed in beggar's rags and Mom painted our faces. Dad taught us a little rhyme we recited at every house before holding out our begging sacks. "Tonight, tonight is Beggar's Night. Don't be stingy and give us a bite." We came home with bright eyes and glowing cheeks spanked pink by the winds, eager to turn out sacks. We shared our booty with Mom and Dad, happily biting into candied or caramel apples and licking our fingers after crunching through popcorn balls. Sated and tired from all the excitement, we didn't protest when it was time to go to bed, dreamily clutching some special treat in grubby hands.

By Christmas we were back in Ohio, my sister and I sleeping on the roll away bed in Gram and Grandpa's living room and waking to huge walking dolls with brown hair for me and blonde hair for my sister and a glittering mound of presents. Our time with them was short before we moved on to Maryland and the snowy mounds and scattered forts at the edge of the long rows of military houses on base.

The last few weeks before I turned six were filled with snowball fights and new friends to make. Our quiet music filled life in the country became a noisy music filled life full of people coming and going, adults playing cards, drinking and dancing on the weekends and days filled with lots of other children and soon school and buses and books and fights and tears and a whole new world.

When you're five, everything seems more magical and wonderful, bigger and brighter. Even at this distance the views have lost none of their bright glitter. The rooms don't seem smaller or the land less grand because they remain only memories in this traveler's mind.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A writer's life for me

I have been so busy with work I have not had a lot of time to write and I have a ton of writing to do. I have articles to finish and books to read and review and more books come in each day. I wonder how all these authors got my name and email. It's probably due to being a reviewer for Author Link for the past 3-1/2 years and now reviewing for The Celebrity Cafe. I review for other sites, too, but I've worked with Author Link the longest. Good thing there is a library close by because I donate the books authors send me to the library. Some of the good ones I share with friends.

The funny thing is that I try to discourage authors by telling them how long my review list is but they are willing to wait -- even when I cannot in good conscience give them a good review. Reviews are only a small part of my writing but they do help pay the bills. In fact, my boss at Author Link emailed me on Monday with a laundry list of books she wants me to put on the fast track. That means putting the other books on hold until I get these done. Good thing I'm on vacation next week so I can catch up on my reading. Hopefully, I'll be able to catch up on my writing, too. I need to finish four stories for anthologies I've been asked to contribute to and I have to finish the editing on my book or I'll miss my deadline. I also want to finish writing the current book and get a little sleep. At least I don't have to drive anywhere next week since my mother and sisters are renting a car. I can sit in the front seat and read, especially if Carol is driving, so I don't have to worry about getting hit until after it happens. Nothing like an impending crash to unsettle my concentration.

I feel a little harried these days with everything on my plate, but I keep thinking about the pay-off. No more life as a wage slave.

Last week, I took a walk down into Old Colorado City with Pastor because I needed to get out and away from work and writing and everything else. I needed to smell the roses even though they are blown. Bancroft Park is just two blocks from here and it's a little haven of trees and grass and flowers no matter what time of year it is. Old Colorado City has quite a few little festivals throughout the year and October is the month for Scarecrow Days. Tourists from Iowa with their dead daughter's dog, Muffy were more interested in the ice cream at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory than in the beautiful pansies and flowers. I was more interested in the sights and sounds and a closer view of snow-capped Pikes Peak than I had when I was at the grocery store staring at its beautiful snowy face in the Indian summer sunshine.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Constant change

I have noticed that since I got the digital camera I write less about what I see and take more pictures. For the first time in my life my pictures come out pretty good and I don't have to wait for them. Every time I look up from my computer monitor and look outside something new catches my eye and I run for the camera. Even last night, lying on the couch watching the original animated series, Aeon Flux, I glanced out the window and the clouds were purple and the sky was darkening and full of rose and copper fire. The colors changed from moment to moment as more charcoal and darkness muted the colors until the final blaze was a glorious mix of red, pink, purple, lilac, lavender, rose and copper, the clouds smudges over the fire filled horizon like the sun did not want to give up the sky and fought a final battle before sinking below the hills. That line of golden coppery fire in the deeps between the peaks beneath the clouds and the deepening blue of the night sky glinted off the stars as they winked into view. This morning, as every morning, was the same in reverse with the sun blooding the horizon and turning the skies and clouds every pastel shade every dreamt.

I notice light more than I did before and probably not as much as I once did when I painted, but light changes everything from the clear greens and yellows and oranges in the full daylight to deepening shades back lit with fire as the sun goes down the sky and slips below the horizon. Just before the sun disappears from sight the colors are richer and deeper from that last hint of fire as the sun goes down making everything an intricate tapestry of color and textures different from the morning or daylight views. Everything I see fills me with wonder and I run for the camera to catch the moment and freeze it in time, knowing that the next moment it all will be different and that moment lost.

I don't know if the camera makes me more aware of my surroundings or just makes it possible for me to capture it all. I do know I love taking pictures and seeing what I've captured when I upload it all to my laptop. I even took my camera downstairs to get a picture of the landlady after she finished candling my ears.

When we were out on the deck I saw Eddie puttering around in his yard and asked if I could take his picture. He said no and then turned around and showed me his overall covered backside and said, "Take a picture of that." He laughed and turned around, posing for a front side picture. He has such a great sense of humor and nothing ever gets him down, not even the lumbago that sometimes pushes his head toward his knees when he walks. Even then his smile is evident through the salty pepper tangle of his beard.

When my mother and sisters get here I will take pictures of them to remember them by -- or to make into dart boards. You just never know. I know I do want to show them the beautiful skies and hills and the purple mountain majesty of Pikes Peak and the Continental Divide. Did you know the "purple mountains majesty" of "America the Beautiful" was written about Pikes Peak and the Rockies? Now you do.

Everything is changing so quickly as time speeds by. The golden leaves are nearly off all the trees but a few trees are valiantly hanging onto their green skirts. Tangled branches and twigs once covered with verdant green are now bare, still reaching for the sky. Even the tree the tree hating orc wench who used to live next door was full of leaves and branches this year. With all the rain we have had, everything has been a lush and luxuriant green -- and there is more rain on the way.

Wouldn't you just know there would be rain the whole time my family is here? Even with the rain, I know the skies will clear and that brilliant Colorado blue will sport a few mare's tail clouds among the con trails before the clouds hunch over the horizon and spread their gray rags over everything before bringing the rain. I don't mind. Change is good and one thing is certain in life and in the weather around here -- lots of changes.

That is all. Disperse.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Closer now

I don't understand why people planning a trip expect the person they're visiting to finalize their plans. Doesn't make sense to me.

Beanie didn't even know when they were supposed to get here on Saturday and it looks like Carol is making all the arrangements, at leas that is what it looks like. They don't have any idea what hotel they'll stay in when they get here or what rental company to use for their car. They know when they're leaving on Thursday and how long they'll lay over in Chicago, but everything else seems a bit fuzzy. I called the bus terminal here to find out if there was a rental car agency near by (Enterprise just three blocks down) and called around town to find good rates on a hotel. It isn't that I mind, but you'd think since they have known where they're going and when they'll get here they should have figured all of this out, Only four more days until they get here.

At least we solved the issue of the oatmeal cake. Beanie makes the best oatmeal cake with broiled coconut-walnut-brown sugar topping. She was going to surprise me and bring it with her but I convinced her it would be better to buy the ingredients here so it would be fresh from the oven (the apartment will smell like oatmeal cake and spices) and Mom wouldn't have snitched the corners already. She can make it when Mom and Carol are at the motel.

Mom informed me yesterday that as soon as she gets here she wants to go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients for me to make her salmon patties with horseradish cream sauce. I knew that was coming. I also promised Beanie I'd make crab cakes and gumbo for her since she hasn't had them since I left Columbus, and that was seven years ago. You'd think the only reason they're coming to visit is for me to cook for them, not that I mind. Almost everyone in our family has a specialty.

Mom makes the best crazy cake you every had, which is definitely old fashioned death by chocolate. She has a special pan for it. She's not so hot when it comes to baked beans. They're good, but inconsistent, sometimes soupy and other times dry and nearly burnt. Mom's specialty seems to be desserts which is a feat when you consider she couldn't boil water when she married Dad. Now Dad is a chef extraordinaire and everything he makes is excellent. I can't think of anything that he doesn't make well or any one special thing; everything is special. Thanksgiving is Dad's day to really shine though. His turkey is always moist and flavorful and the dressing absolutely superb alongside Mom's baked beans (the bacon on top is always good no matter how the beans turn out). Mom usually adds a side of candied yams to the mix that turn out much like the beans, inconsistent but tasty.

My brother makes a really good peach cobbler. It's not nearly as good as Gram's but it's definitely close. He also does home baked breads that are surprisingly good. Beanie, of course, is the queen of oatmeal cake, which leaves me. Basically, I'm a really good cook and can make anything, except for Grandpa's homemade vegetable beef soup. I haven't cracked that recipe yet. Beanie would say my specialty is crab cakes and sausage-smoked turkey gumbo and Mom would say it's salmon patties.

The funny thing about the salmon patties is that about 25 years ago I had Mom, Gram, Aunt Joan and Dad over to dinner and salmon patties were part of the entree. I also made a lemon dessert souffle that had my Aunt Joan scraping the bowl when everyone had had their fill. Mom said she wouldn't eat salmon patties, that she hated them because Gram made her eat them when she was a kid. I asked that she try them and for the sake of being nice she did. The result is that she ate four of them and took the leftovers home, along with the horseradish sauce. Since then she has asked for them every time we have a family dinner (or when she comes to visit) and she maintains that if I would make salmon patties for the men I date they would all ask me to marry them. Maybe that's the problem; I haven't made any of them salmon patties, but there have been guys who have tasted my food and said they'd marry me sight unseen because of my cooking, which is a pretty decent compliment.

One guy I dated for a couple years told me once that he would marry the woman who could crack the recipe for his aunt's family dinner treat -- almonds. The first time he told me about them he got this gleam of naked desire in his eyes as he described the way they popped softly in your mouth with just a hint of salt. I asked him how they looked and if he had tried to crack the recipe and he had. He had also had both his wives work on the recipe but they couldn't get it just right. I have finally cracked the code. Of course, I can't tell him that because he's in Cleveland and I'm here and neither of us is budging, but I think for the holidays I may send him a tin of almonds anonymously. I don't need to know if he liked them because I already know I have figured out the recipe and I will not reveal it to him. It's really fairly simple if you know about food and how different methods affect ingredients -- and I do.

Food is on my mind this morning because of the landlady's generosity yesterday. She invited me down for grilled hamburgers (no hormones, no antibiotics, free range and organically raised) with melted Havarti cheese, sesame seed buns and salad. When it was time for me to go back to work she loaded me down with hamburger patties, pork chops, French baguette, caponata and some of her homemade vegetable soup. The smell of cooking pork while I typed was too much for me and so ...

Anyway, it's time for me to get back to work since the little baguette piece and pork chop are now gone and there is work waiting to be done. The air is scented with spicy smoked scented autumn coming through the windows mingling with cooked pork chop and almond dish detergent (I did the dishes while I cooked) and I'd rather curl up here on the sofa and drown in the scent but work calls. I have to get the jobs before the sharks back in New Jersey and New York beat me to it. No work, no money and thus no food in the house or a house to cook the food in. Funny how that works.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Shadow love

I watched Memoirs of a Geisha. The story is of the geisha houses in Gion and love between a poor young girl sold to an okiya (geisha house) and a wealthy and powerful man she meets as a child.

One of the things that struck me immediately is the description of geishas as shadow wives. They are an alternative to arranged marriages, an acceptable choice for men of money and power who must marry as their families dictate, not for love but for privilege, money, land, etc. These men find love with geisha, the wives of the evening. In many countries, it is acceptable to have a mistress, or several mistresses, when trapped in a loveless and/or arranged marriage. Even priests, cardinals and even popes had mistresses, although their religious vows dictated they must be chaste and celibate (not married). Kings, dukes, and all the royalty, unless they were lucky enough to fall in love with their chosen brides, kept mistresses. Even men lower on the social and financial ladder kept mistresses and it was acceptable. In America that is different.

You would think a country that began as a penal colony, land for sons who could not inherit and haven for people seeking religious freedom would be more tolerant in their views of liaisons outside of marriage. The Puritans certainly didn't have a problem with mistresses, although they were more into wife swapping than keeping mistresses. The only taboo was getting another man's wife pregnant, and vice versa. Many of the religious groups throughout our country's history believed in free love. Louisa May Alcott's father was minister to a group of such religious separatists who founded a colony based on free love, not unlike the hippie communes in the 60s.

However, as Judge Roy Bean once said, there is none so zealous and pious as a reformed whore. We seem to go through these free love purges from time to time, but it's like sticking a lid on a boiling pot. Eventually, the lid flies off and the boiling water overflows. We go from one extreme to the other: free love and then no love.

Many look at the decadent Europeans and other "barbaric" countries and their social practices of arranged marriage, pleasure districts and shadow wives and sneer. We should embrace these practices and allow men and women trapped in convenient marriages or financial marital liaisons to find the love they so richly deserve. It need not bother their wife or their children but should instead be seen as a healthy alternative to a difficult problem. One spouse retains social position and financial stability, as well as the name, and the other spouse spends time with the love of their life.

Mistaking lust for love and fearing loneliness, too many people marry without really taking the time to know the person to whom they pledge their life and fortune. We don't have arranged marriages, per se, but they are arranged all the same, for financial gain, financial stability, procreation and many other bread and butter reasons that are mistaken for love. Then lust fades, along with the endorphins and raging hormones, and all that is left is a deteriorating relationship between two people who are disillusioned and forced to ride it out or sneak around. There are children now or responsibilities and there are the wedding vows: Until death do you part. No wonder there are so many spouses murdering each other. It's that boiling pot again.

There are too few options and too much stigma attached to finding solace and love outside marriage. Maybe it's time we took the lid off the boiling pot before someone gets hurt. The ideal of love is attainable and can be sustained, but often it is not within the marital state. It takes maturity and experience and having lived life to realize the true meaning of love. Like rice in the boiling pot, it takes time and water to turn those hard kernels into soft, fluffy, edible rice. Without the right ingredients and sufficient time, you end up with rice flavored water full of hard kernels of rice or a mess all over the stove.

That is all. Disperse.