Monday, October 25, 2010

Face Value

"Not on my face, Henry! Not on my face!"

That's what I was yelling this morning at two-thirty. I'm glad that I live in a house now and not in a duplex whose wall I shared (for sixteen years) with various people. I suppose what my erstwhile neighbors would have thought of my outburst would have depended on their own experience in life, coupled with what they could glean of my life, living, as we did, bedroom-by-jowl, but without being friends.

I knew, for instance, that Sharon arose at six each day and went through a ritual with her two very large dogs. First they chased a ball. Then they leapt into the air. Then they wrestled over a toy. Sharon would clap her hands again, and it would be breakfast time. Face to face, though, she and I barely spoke. She silently disapproved of my rolling-in-the-dirt Benji and the sprawling, wandering Sunny. She'd stand at the corner of the building, her giant canines at her side, waiting for us to tumble and bumble past before they began their orderly, educational walk.

Wes, my first and favorite neighbor, was never home.

Nadia herself was quiet, but had a short-term boyfriend who crowed like a rooster each morning. He was very good at it, and I was out of work by then, so I didn't mind the disruption at all. In fact, I liked it. It's an exuberant start to the day.

In the house next door was a couple about my age with a grown daughter who had some kind of mental illness. She'd be fine for months and months, but then there'd be a sort of breakdown and she'd get out the lawnmower. She'd mow and mow and mow, furiously churning the dust – this is Florida, remember – first muttering to herself, and then yelling to herself, and then finally sobbing. I was always so impressed that they'd discovered mowing as a way for her to release her steam.

One time I went out to my car and found the father and daughter tinkering with the mower. She was still hiccuping with sobs, her mascara mixing with dirt, but her dad and I chatted about the weather as if an hysterical nutball of a daughter were the norm – which it was, after all.

Of course, I provided some entertainment, if not consternation, for my neighbors, too, but it seems to me that people who live in groups – that is, us – simply must pretend that they don't hear and see what they hear and see. That's part of being a good neighbor, like not using the chain saw too early, or taking packages inside when it's raining.

So I don't know if anyone heard me last night when I yelled at Henry. He's one of four six-month-old kittens. I remember vigorously wiping something off my face a couple of times, and then I woke up to find him stepping on my face. That's when I yelled. Three of the cats flew off the bed, but Henry stayed. He probably thinks he's showing me acceptance and tolerance, whereas I'm wondering if someone had dropped him on his head when he was little – and if not, why not?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Super Size: Me!

At about seven this morning, I bagged up the garbage and brought it out to the Dumpster. I returned forty seconds later to find the trash container full of kittens. At first, Ruthie was just sitting in the bottom, but then Henry joined her, which tipped the thing over, and battle ensued. Jack joined the fray but Luca, ever the lady, simply watched.

Happily, they were distracted by breakfast, so I was able to right the container and put in a fresh liner. I have four boxes of Glad ForceFlex Medium Garbage Bags in my cupboard. Tall and Small are on every store's shelves, but Medium are hard to come by. Whenever I find them, I buy them. Let's dismiss Small as too small to do the job as a main garbage container in a kitchen, even for a single woman who doesn't cook. That leaves Tall, which is too big to fit under the sink. That leaves Medium, which is my size, but, as I said, difficult to find.

That means that people have their kitchen garbage out in the open? Or their countertops are taller than mine, and a Tall can fit under the sink? I really don't know. I just know that it's getting more and more difficult to stay Medium.

Look at this beautiful cup and saucer Kimberly gave me for a housewarming gift! I love it! I collect blue-and-white teacups, although I am not a serious collector. That is, I don't know jack about the cups. I just like them. Still, I noticed that this cup is especially large. I checked out the writing on the bottom. It was designed by Ralph Lauren (or a minion thereof). Ah, so it's modern. I think my next most modern piece is at least twenty-five years old, a blue-grey by Mikasa. Ralph's is eight ounces, while the standard teacup is only six. I have a couple that are five ounces, but beyond that, they move into the realm of the demi-tasse. Apparently in the teacup world, bigger isn't necessarily better, but it is newer.

The other day, Olga and I went down to North Port to Warm Mineral Springs (dot com). That's the catchy name of a warm mineral springs that maintains a steady eighty-seven degrees, and which Ponce de Leon mistook for the Fountain of Youth, because of its fifty-one chemicals and stinky nature, I guess. In any case, "warm" is misleading – at least in my world – but in the world of springs, it is warm. There are cold, warm, and hot springs, and their standards are different from mine. I, for instance, would have named the place Chilly Mineral Springs.

On the ride there, I put my twenty-ounce bottle of water into the cup-holder built into my 1990 Toyoto Corolla. It just barely fit. In fact, before the trip was over, I just put the bottle between the seats, and let it bobble around on the parking brake's handle. Twenty years ago, no one was driving with twenty-ounce cups.

I, too, am getting bigger. I hit a milestone the other day. I had the perfect over-medium eggs at the Kopper Kitchen. When I stood and looked down at the check, I saw instead a lovely glob of golden yoke on my shirt. As my party pictures showed, but which I had been able to ignore, I've become one of those middle-aged women whose, um, chest has broadened and sunken down onto her stomach, which has also grown, until her whole torso is just this, this wobbling barrel of doughy flesh. And that chest has become a sort of table for all manner of things, starting with, on that fateful day, egg yolk. Instead of the 36 C of my youth, I'm a 44 Long.