Sunday, July 6, 2014

The First Time

A First Kiss is supposed to be pretty important, but I really don't know how to decide which was my first. Was it Mike Staffler in sixth grade in that capture-and-kiss game we played on the asphalt between the two churches? Like all the girls, I'd been longing for Danny Chastek to catch me, but he never would.

So the First Kiss must have been with Bill Handy, right? Or jeez, was it Terry Washburn?

The First Dance was on a Friday night after the basketball game. I was in seventh grade, it was the twist, and the song was I Want to Hold Your Hand. I don't remember who I danced with, but I know it wasn't a boy.

I'm happy to report, amongst all this not-remembering, that I do remember the first time I Went All The Way. Thanks, Steve!

The thing is, we don't ever know when we've had our last. The first might be a big deal, but surely the last is an even bigger deal. But when is it? And how will we know?

It's entirely possible that I had my Last Kiss twelve years ago, and that seems sad. And what about sex? Am I done? Have I had all the sex I'm ever going to have? Waaaah!

And no more dancing? I went to the club last night where you could find me every Saturday for about a decade. But that was another twelve or thirteen years ago. I had to peer through the years and the fat and the grey – but not the cigarette smoke, not these days – to recognize some of the other former regulars. There was a beat I like, but I couldn't find anyone to dance with and I couldn't go out on the floor alone. So I went home, undanced.

Undanced. Unkissed. Unfucked. So are these the Golden Years?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Voodoo

Here's Jack. I'm not even going to add "in a box" because you've already done that and are feeling pretty darned self-satisfied, aren't you?

There's a long sad tale about the leash law for cats in Pinellas County, Florida, and about the old woman a couple houses over who called Animal Control against my beloved critters. I've spent a week trying to protect them without forcing them indoors where there are no trees, no lizards, no breezes or gusts, no rays of sun, no blasts of rain, no unexplained noises, smells, or movements to explore.

That is, I've spent a week trying to figure out how to go against the ordinances without getting caught.

The most radical strategy was to relocate Jack. He was probably the culprit, if indeed any of my cats are. There's no proof that it's my cats who so upset the woman. I don't think she could pick them out from a lineup, not that anyone could get a clowder of cats to line up.

My buddy Mike met Jack when the kitten was less than a day old, along with his six siblings and their one exhausted, remorseful teenage mother. Mike's got a huge heart, as anyone knows who's met him, so he was the perfect recipient of the transfer – of the return actually. He'd had the whole litter for its first six weeks, and he's got other cats, including Jack's mother who has blossomed into a strong, healthy, spayed adult with many interests both inside and outside the home.

So on Thursday night, I wrestled Jack into a carrier. He objected, hissing at me for the first time in our three-year history. I didn't hiss. I sobbed.

Jack handled the integration into Mike's household by spitting, growling, and swatting at everyone until he was finally let out of the carrier, at which time he engaged Rico (or was it Bullet?) in fisticuffs, causing Mike to oust all but Jack and his mother (whom Jack refused to acknowledge, despite her early sacrifices). The cat had calmed down by the next morning, so he was allowed to go outside again.

And he never returned.

That's where the voodoo comes in. I'm as rational as the next one (ahem), but when my heart's involved I'm bobbled and thrashed along on a tsunami of emotions that has me begging to overpay for any bottle of snake oil.

So when a friend reminded me of the principle of feng shui that reduces negativity by aiming a mirror at the source of negativity, I hung a couple of mirrors facing both the complaining woman's house and that of her cohort, who has only used anonymous letters so far. For good measure, I'm going to buy another one and aim it at the cell-phone tower which is way too close to my house.

Another friend told me to smudge the property with sage. I'm all for that, except (1) I can never get up a good head of smoke and (2) it's embarrassing to walk around outside like that, where everyone can see me. Telling you about it – that's different. You might think I'm just being wise or funny – or insane. If you see me do it, however, you've got your answer.

I consulted my spiritual adviser, who told me to put the cats in pale green and yellow. I'm assuming she meant light, not sweaters. She told me to repeat I trust. I trust. That, actually, has helped a lot. I'm to push fear away, and to not even think about what might happen. I suspect that's a sneaky way of telling me to stay in the now.

A friend in Minnesota reminded me about the giant lump of rose quartz she'd given me. That helps ease an aching heart.

I chanted the St. Anthony prayer for lost things, even though referring to Jack as a thing seemed ... cold.

All this time, I was alternately crying like I hadn't cried since my parents died, big rib-cracking wailing ... and breathing deeply, thinking of pale green and yellow, stumbling along, trying to follow instructions, trying to be hopeful.

Men, too, have their voodoo. An emailing man checked in often to inquire how I was holding up. That felt good. That meant I had allies, which was hard to remember when I felt so persecuted. Mike came over with Ben & Jerry's and Girl Scout Cookies. That had a calming effect on me.

And then Sunday morning, behold: Jack was at the kitchen window.

So Jack is back and the old woman is still a threat, but I've got my fingers crossed. We had a big wind come through last night. I worried about my mirrors breaking, but not about seven years of bad luck. Please. I'm not superstitious.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Power of Now

One of the reasons I finally gave up smoking pot (on July 7, 1984, but who's counting?) was because I felt so pressured when I used it. I felt as if everything had to be done right now. That did not feel high or mellow. It felt horrible.

It still does, feeling rushed and pushed, and that's one thing I don't like about this culture of electronic speed. I have allowed myself to be sucked in to this stance of no waiting, of instant refunds and rebates, of self-checkout and ten-item lanes, of speed-passes for gas and tolls. If I have to wait five seconds – literally – for my computer to "warm up" or for Netflix to load, I feel ... indignant.

Yet I live in this world and am affected by it. Therefore, when my car's odometer started getting close to 200,000, I geared up for taking a picture of it – not for my own pleasure, but so I could put it on Facebook or, um, here in Nattering Chatter. At one point, I glanced down to see that I was a mere six miles from all those zeros.

And then I got to my destination and all was forgotten and, as you can see by the above photo, life went on. And on.










So last night, when I saw this Christmas light still up, I was delighted. Talk about not rushing! It feels like a secret, a hidden bauble in the knot of a tree. The Spanish moss is on both sides of the sparkling ornament, so it would be hard to see in the daytime. I love that the city workers didn't find it, and I hope it stays up there all year long. I'll be waiting – but not anxiously – to see if it does.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

O Come, Let Us Abhor Her


I was at Publix yesterday when the woman ahead of me made her purchase, pushed her cart out of the way, and starting singing this Christmas carol as if a choir of angels were behind her.

The girl at the counter rolled her eyes, two other shoppers nudged each other, and I wondered what was wrong. Of course, January's three-quarters over, so I guess Christmas tunes are passé. Would it have been better if the woman had been singing a Negro spiritual in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? Or maybe A Bicycle Built for Two for the upcoming Valentine's Day?

"What the–?" another customer started. He apparently didn't know how to finish, so he just wrapped it up with, "Whatever."

By then, of course, I realized that it wasn't the woman's choice of song that was so wrong. It was the fact that she was singing in a public place unabashedly.

I'm incapable of witnessing an anomaly and acting as if it's not there, so I said to her, "You're clearly a soprano. I'm an alto myself."

She stopped singing long enough to say, "Oh, I can sing alto, too," and began again, only in a deeper voice.

I left then because the winning lottery ticket was in my pocket, but I did wonder why we treat people singing in public as if they're loony. Would a whistler have been more welcome? I think so, yes, as long as he was whistling to himself, quietly, absentmindedly. That's the key, I guess. We can hum and mutter to ourselves, but we can't do it out loud for all to hear. In fact, that's what continues to be so annoying about cell phone usage. It's the out-loudness about it, the to-othersness instead of to-yourselfness.

On the other hand, aren't you moved when watching a flash mob? I sure am. Man, what a wonderful surprise! Such cooperation! Such community! At first, though, when the first singer or the first violinist or the first dancer starts up, people turn and frown. It's only after a couple others join the first that the joy begins to show in people's faces. So yes, as long as an entire group is doing something out loud, it's okay. It's when the loner does it that we think something's wrong. Eccentricity is only okay if a crowd is eccentric ... which sort of defies the definition of eccentricity, doesn't it?


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Discomfort Zone


















I don't know if it's Age creeping up on me with its arthritic knees and shaky memory, or if Depression is trying to drag a dark blanket onto all my activities, or if it's just Winter nudging me toward the fireplace, toward a nap, toward my interior. Whatever it is, I don't want it.

I didn't want to go with Gale to hear Ann Patchett speak at the Writers in Paradise conference, even though I did want to. I wanted to stick with my comfort zone: dinner with Mike and Ruth on a Saturday night, like always. Except that I didn't even want to do that, and so I didn't.

One of my New Year's joys is to note everyone's birthday and anniversary in my new datebook. When I get to May and don't note Mom's birthday, I stop and add up how many years she's been dead now and maybe I tear up and maybe I don't. I'll see that my niece will be thirty-seven in August, and I try (and fail) to imagine my having a thirty-seven-year-old child. It's a pleasant stroll down soon-to-be-Memory Lane.

I expect to be slightly busier this year, and decided to get a datebook with more appointment space. I got it early, too, when the selection was best. This new one doesn't waste any pages on pretty pictures, knowing, as it does, that so many of us mean business. But when January came, I found I just couldn't get used to this new format, so I went back and got a different desk calendar. This one, it turns out, is smaller but has lines drawn in. Ah, that'll help.

Yes, except that I can't get use to it, either. It's too, too ... I don't know. It's just too small or too large or too tall or skinny or plain or something. Today's mail brought me my familiar and beloved Engagement Calendar from the Sierra Club.

I feel better, thanks.



Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Delicate Balance

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, birthday. I'm aware of this because I made an appointment with a black friend who said we'd meet on his birthday, and because I at least skim each day's Writer's Almanac and it was mentioned today. It also noted his assassination. That's pretty much what I think of when I think of Martin Luther King – his death.
(http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/

I remember when Watergate was ... doing whatever it was doing. I thought, "Man! I hope my grandkids don't ask me about this because I don't even know what Watergate is!" And that's because I've never been interested in current events. Happily, I've never been interested in producing offspring, either, so those theoretical grandchildren have never queried me.

It was sixth grade that introduced me to the phrase current events. We were to bring in newspaper clippings about what was happening in the world. I don't remember ever cutting up a newspaper. I'm pretty sure I didn't listen to anyone give a report. I definitely don't recall enthusiasm on anyone's part.

I maintain that ennui to this day. I can get crazed about presidential elections, but only if someone around me starts it. Left to myself, I tootle around, never caring one way or another. Or I'll get an email from Amnesty International, become appropriately outraged at the injustice in a middle eastern country or a midwestern state, click on the TAKE ACTION button, and get back to my life.

I don't mind this sort of purposeful ignorance when it comes to pop culture. Who really cares about that? How is it ever actually important? Television comedians have to care, since they have to make jokes about current events in all the categories. I can't think of anyone else who should care.

My friend Ruth is eighty-five. She subscribes to People magazine, just so she can "keep up." With whom? Why?

Today, however, I feel really bad that I haven't kept up. It's all James Earl Ray's fault. Had you asked, I would have floundered, but at least his name would have been familiar. I would have come up with the fact that he's a black guy from the sixties or seventies who was either a politician or a musician – or maybe both.

In fact, however, he's the considered assassin of Dr. King. And he's white. Some time after a televised mock trial, according to Wikipedia, the King family concluded that James Earl Ray had had nothing to do with MLK's death.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Earl_Ray

Fine. It's moot by now, isn't it? although it sure wasn't then. Still, I should have known. But I don't want to keep up. I don't want to be aware of current events, unless they're events in the lives of my friends – and they never are. I'm much more interested in Andrea's father's visit from the Amish man who performed chiropractic on one of his horses.

Still, when someone knocks me out and the EMT asks me who's president, I want to get it right.

◘  ◘  ◘

It's true that a photo of my cat Ruthie may be misleading since she doesn't think balancing on the fence requires any special skill. Still, she is gorgeous, isn't she?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ain't Love Grand!

My new friend Paul is a furniture-maker, but he'll take other jobs, too. He came here to look at my fence, which is  s-l-o-w-l-y  toppling over to the east, threatening to crush the biker's grandchildren when they visit.

Alas, Paul he won't be mending and replacing the fence any time soon. The furniture always takes precedence.

I called him today, though, because my nine-drawer chest needed some professional help. The drawers weren't sliding in and out properly. That had been the trouble when I'd first brought the piece home, but by putting the drawers out of order, things worked well enough.

Then I brought the thing to Derrick Johnson (www.stankinstudio.com), and he put the drawers back in their proper order again and now they don't fit again.

It took Paul less than an hour to methodically figure the drawers out. Some required the removal of thumb tacks someone else had tapped down long ago. Some required the shaving of paper-thin curls of wood. Two of the drawers had to trade places. I myself would have applied some cursing hammer therapy, but that's why he's a furniture-maker and I'm, um, retired.

Then he leaned against the filing cabinet and we chatted. When it was time to go, I pulled out my cash and asked him how much I owed him. "Just give me a smile," he said.

Oh my. Do you know how long it's been since someone has flirted with me? Me neither: that's how long. I felt as if I were blushing and scraping the floor with my toe, but I hope I just acted like my own self.

Still, when I walked him out to his car (of course I did!), we stopped by my poor murky pond, another chore he's going to do as soon as the furniture-making lets up. He told me in clear, easy terms how to rig a filter that would sift out the algae in a couple of hours. And because I was still breathless about my smile, I listened to him.

Please understand, Gentle Reader, I don't "rig" things. I don't fix things. I don't figure them out. I either get someone else to do it, or it doesn't get done.

But as soon as Paul was gone, I was off to Home Depot. I bought things I didn't even know existed. I don't think the pond will be pristine in just a couple of hours, but I believe it will get clean.

And it's all because of ... not love, of course, but something akin: the first step of affection perhaps. Love lifts people up. It really does. It inspires. It makes us want to do better, be better. And humans must want that sort of encouragement or those sappy Christmas movies wouldn't last a single season.

I got that today, and now the fish – providing they still exist – will be all the better for it, and so will I, and so will you.