Saturday, December 31, 2005

Great idea clarification

I think I wasn't totally clear about the whole Great Idea Receptacle thing. Well, that's not true, I think what I really did was assume that everyone who reads this knows me.


How cool is that?

Sorry, still getting used to the fun facts of the internet.

So, for those who don't know me and the hoo ha I choose to ineptly juggle in my regular life I have to say that the Great Idea Receptacle is for stuff that's not currently in the pipeline.

For the record, a list (possibly incomplete, my memory is a little odd) of things currently in the pipeline:

1. Susanna Shakespeare

2. A public reading of the Chekhov play to take place in the next 2 months, already cast, having its second rehearsal a week from today...which means I really should have secured a space in which to rehearse by now.

3. Getting and keeping my house clean and organized. I live like a frat boy. No, really. Just ask Alex. Mostly I'm OK with that but I think I'd be healthier and smarter and better off if I could keep from living in something that resembles the trash compactor scene from Star Wars.

4. Losing weight. Or at least getting more movement and exercise in my life. I'm heavier than I've ever been. If I talk to a good looking guy there comes a point when part of my brain says, "You can quit, it's not going anywhere, have you looked at yourself lately?" And I know it's a stupid part of my brain but it's not without a point. I don't have enough money for bigger clothes and I don't like looking at myself so that's silly, I'd like to not be embarrassed when I'm alone looking in the mirror again.

5. This blog and the other one.

6. Fixing my finances so I understand where the damn cash goes and can corral it in some way.

7. Decorating my house, I mean, I've lived here three years (yeah, I missed the three year anniversary post, oops) and I don't have pictures on the walls or enough book shelves or an overhead light in my bedroom.

I think that's it for the moment, although there's always something going on. There are babies being born in my circle of friends and I'd like to cross stitch some bibs for them and stuff like that.

Oh, and yes, I am going out for part of the evening on this the eve of the new year. I've been lucky enough to have been invited to 2 gatherings. I historically dislike new year's gatherings, no reflection on the gatherings just that it's weird to be single and at one and it doesn't end as nicely as it does in When Harry Met Sally. But, I felt pathetic saying no just to sit at home and suckle a bottle of bubbly so I'm going to go for a bit and probably be home in time to soothe the dog who tends to wig out when the fireworks start.

How are you spending your new year's eve? And what about the year to follow?

Friday, December 30, 2005

Great Idea Receptacle

I need to start thinking about my plans for 2006. For life in general after today but, to make it more manageable, about 2006.

In my career counselling/life coaching/not-as-fruity-as-it-sounds-I-swear-sessions we talked about finding a place to store all your great ideas. Since you really can't act on all the great ideas at one time you need a place to put them so you can dip into the well when you're ready to start something new. This discussion happened a couple of months ago. It took me about a month to realize that, "Hey, I have a blog, what better place to keep great ideas. It's always accessible and it means that I'll get feedback, possibly some support and I'll be accountable for having said them out loud." It took another month to get my fingers on the keyboard.

You may have thought I'd be doing a Christmas recap or New Year's resolutions or something, but instead you get this. The plan is to use the subject "Great Idea Receptacle" for any entry I want to add, that way I can do a blog search and, hopefully, find all the ideas easily.

These are the ones I have rolling through my head right now, in no particular order.

1. Carolling with Carolann
It's an annual gathering in a bar or rehearsal space or cabaret where we get a bunch of musicians together to sing holiday tunes. We're willing to go wide, I'd ask MarkyB for Grampa's Seder as well as for something new. Traditional carols and popular songs will get sung and some of them will be in sing along format. Ideally I'd like to end the show with Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. 4 performers can sing up front a la the Roches but the audience would be asked to join in.
To get this going I'd need to secure someone named Carolann to headline, get together a set list, approach and secure musicians, commission pieces, research music for holidays other than Christmas, approach and secure a venue, publicize. Ideally I'd also like to commission someone to do a handout book of SATB arrangements of the sing along songs we plan to do.

2. A Christmas Carol
My dad has a concert reading version of the play that he does every year for the past 19 years. It's been a passion of his for years. Given the hectic nature of the season and whatnot I have passed up the couple of chances I've had to be part of it. I'd like to do a New York version. It would involve asking dad for the script (Hi dad!), actors, venue, timing, rehearsal, plus there's a lot of music to it, too, and I'm not sure how we'd deal with it.

3. The Gift of the Magi
Years ago Kitchen Sink Mime Theatre did a great 3 person adaptation of this O. Henry story. It's simple, it's short and it's a beautiful but lesser used Holiday tale. I've always loved the intimate feel of this particular script and the reminder of how gift giving can be frustrating and rewarding and important to a relationship. That would involve getting permission to use the script and again convincing actors it's a good idea etc.

5. A chapbook
I've got some short stories and I'd like to give them to people or sell them or something. I'd like to put them together in some sort of chapbook and get show them to people. The material is a little, er, blue? Sensitive? Adult? While still having a literary and relationship-based bent. So there are a lot of reasons I think it's a little odd or daunting to show to people. Plus there's the whole thing about not knowing a damn thing about getting one's writing published.

6. Get something published
Short story, article, poem, character sketch, something. No idea how to get that done, no idea what the next steps are, would really like to know.

7. Another cabaret show
Not sure of the theme yet but I've got so many more song options than I had when last I did one, I'd love to get another together.

8. Record a CD
The lovely core of Elizabeth Records tells me it's possible and it'll cost between $10K and $15K. Plus, you know, it might take a while. I'd need to find a producer and a place to record and a recording person and musicians and you know, the aforementioned money. Currently I'm all screwed up about money so I'm focused on that. The list of possible song options (as of now) is as follows:

1. Fly – Patty Griffin
2. Maria – Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story)
3. Johanna – Stephen Sondheim
4. Yellow House
5. Darlin’ Corey - Traditional
6. Because I Told You So – Jonatha Brooke
7. Everything I Wanted – Jonatha Brooke
8. Soon It’s Gonna Rain – The Fantastiks
9. My White Knight – The Music Man
10. Grandma’s Hands – Jen Cohen
11. Not Exactly Paris
12. Just a Housewife – Terkel (Working)
13. Dance With Me – Carolann Solebello
14. James – Billy Joel
15. Recipe for Makin’ Love – Harry Connick, Jr.
16. Travelin’ Prayer – Billy Joel
17. You Are My Sunshine - Traditional
18. Danny Boy - Traditional
19. Poses – Rufus Wainwright
20. Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk – Rufus Wainwright
21. Ice Cream – Sara Maclachlan
22. Little Bird – Fiddler on the Roof
23. If I Were a Man – Andrea Menard
24. I Won’t Mind
25. Your Big But – Mark Berube
26. Red Dress – Jonatha Brooke
27. Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You – The Music Man
28. Ready to Run – Dixie Chicks
29. See With Different Eyes – October Project
30. Woman Be Wise
31. Don’t Ask – Carolann Solebello
32. Love Me Like A Man
33. A Place Called Home
34. The Story Goes On
35. Deny – Jonatha Brooke
36. Shuffleboard Queens – Deirdre Flint
37. Somewhere – Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story)
38. The Lady Down the Hall
39. Somewhere That’s Green – Little Shop of Horrors
40. Moonshine Lullaby - Annie Get Your Gun
41. More Than You Know
42. Red Red Robin
43. You Don’t Know Me – Ray Charles
44. I Love the Boys – Patty Keogh
45. I Kissed A Girl – Jill Sobule
46. Alas For You – Godspell
47. You Move Me – Jen Cohen
48. River – Joni Mitchell
49. That’s All
50. One Flight Down – Norah Jones
51. Could That Be Us – Teddy Goldstein
52. Marry Me – Amanda Marshall
53. Red Magic Marker – Amanda Marshall
54. Dizzy – Amanda Marshall
55. Will the Circle Be Unbroken – spiritual
56. Let it Rain – Amanda Marshall
57. Brand New Beau – Amanda Marshall

9. Write a novel
Er, I have a couple of starts on this. Not sure which one I want to stick to.

10. Develop this blog into something that more people read and continue to use it to improve and explore my writing. Learning how to put links in the sidebar, commenting on other people's blogs etc.

11. Please don't read this one, I feel ridiculous putting it here but it's an idea and it's one I feel I need to keep track of
Next New Year's Eve I'd like to be going to a party with someone that I'd like to kiss.


12. Throw a big party
Live music by MarkyB, Carolann, Red Molly, James, Lara, me...
Lots of yummy food
Big venue, preferably outdoors (so probably not for my birthday, maybe for my half birthday)
Everyone I know there, really, just everyone of all ages and from all places.

13. Learn to make those little bubble glass magnets

14. Learn to print my photography in a way that I have actual control over
So far what I know about printing and manipulating the photos is so limited that it's sort of haphazard. I want to be able to feel confident about using photo paper and where I place the photo on the paper. Ideally I'd like to be able to print art quality photos of my own taking.

There will be more, count on it. But I don't know what or when you'll see them. Suggestions, comments, loud encouragement - all welcome. Blind dates? Not welcome. (Someday I will explain my complicated position on the whole dating thing, both blind and fully sighted. Today is not that day.)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Striking thoughts

I'm about to get in a rented car and head away from the flow of traffic to visit the fam for Christmas. It took me 5 hours to get the car and bring it back to my house so I've had plenty of time to think about the strike. Lest you think I'm complaining about the 5 hour thing, it's keeping me from having to ask my father to get out of his sick bed in MA and come get me so it's worth it. My father who, by the way, is still waiting for the measly 3% raise he was promised 4 years ago because he's a college professor.

Be patient, I'm going to wack both sides with my baseball bat, don't worry.

1. Vanx, don't disable your car in solidarity, it's fucking cold out there!

2. I've heard, "They work in terrible, dangerous conditions!" Really? That may be so but I haven't heard anything about that. All I've heard is "We don't want to pay into our pension or our healthcare. It's not fair to the unborn transit workers of the future." Yeah, well, I know a woman, a young woman, who's quite probably dying because she couldn't get health insurance at all. When she finally did get it her cancer was clear it was a pre-existing condition and she wasn't covered by the crappy insurance she was able to get. If there are dangerous conditions, if that's what you're striking for, then let me know and I will be bringing you cookies and hot chocolate on the picket line. If you're working in dangerous conditions and your first priority is pension and healthcare pay ins, things that most people in America don't have, then what I'm hearing from you is, "You can pay us enough to work in dangerous conditions, we're more than happy to extort you for that and we don't give a fuck if the unborn transit workers of the future get maimed or killed as long as they don't have to pay into health care or pension."

3. I believe there was an unofficial work slow down before the strike was announced. That I find unbearably stupid. I've lived in this city for 20 years, I don't need another example of how you can do your jobs poorly. I'd get on that bus easily...if it wasn't on strike.

4. The MTA can suck my big left toe. (And my big left toe? Filthy!) How stupid do you have to be to dance around for 2 years in a row expecting us to applaud your budget surplus? If you're consistently posting a surplus then one of a few things should be happening: you don't need state subsidy, you don't need city subsidy, you don't need fare hikes, you have plenty of money to avert strikes. Because as I see it if you're posting a surplus and taking tax money then you're requiring me to pay more than once for the privilege of walking to work this week. And your holiday fare reductions are insulting. They're the equivalent of selling something at a 10% discount in a city where tax is 8.75%.

OK, so those are my thoughts as the crazies go back to the bargaining table after doing some higher math. The deal that'll hit the table will be an equal money saving for the MTA (tell Pataki to stop payment on that check!) but will shift the pay in for union members from pension to health care. And it all has to happen before 11am when Toussaint is due in court and will, quite probably, be put in jail. Which, I'm guessing, is going to put a crimp in the negotiations.

I'm off to NH. I may or may not have internet access or time to post. There's a lot going on up there. Among other things I'll be spending Christmas Eve with my dad for the first time in 5 years. About time, huh? Also baking pie, cooking ham, taking a senior citizen to the doctor and handing out homemade presents that I sincerely hope people will like.

Hope you and yours are having a wonderful season, whatever you celebrate. (It's not a War on Christmas, it's just being polite.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Strike scenarios

1. Let's say that you have a child and there's a transit strike. Your child's school is a few miles East of your home and your job is several miles Southwest of your home. Your child's school, being a New York City public school, has a 2 hour delay per strike contingency plans. The carpool that your job has arranged for its employees leaves your neighborhood 45 minutes earlier than your normal departure time. Double points if you have 2 children who are young enough to need to be accompanied to school but of disparate enough ages to go to different schools many miles apart. Triple word score if you're a single parent.

And what if you have no vacation or sick days left?

2. Let's say that you work a minimum wage job, no let's specifically say that you work a job where your minimum wage depends on tips. It's the day shift at a diner in midtown. You live way out in Queens. Now, if you walk it's going to take you between 2 and 4 hours to get to work. What time do you start work? 7am? 6? And then you're on your feet at the diner all day. If you take a car service it will cost you between $20 and $40 to get to work, as well as taking between 1 and 2 hours depending on what time you go in and if you drive in between 5 and 11am you'll have to count on the driver finding 2 other people to make the HOV quota. When you get to work there isn't a lot of foot traffic or work so you make far less than you have on non-strike days, the math on that means you're paying for the privilege of going to work. However, if you don't do all this you might lose your job and you can't afford to be out of work either. Does this job offer you a pension plan or paid healthcare? Do you get to retire from this job at the age of 55? I don't think so.

3. Let's say that you're in the middle of a 4 month every other week chemotherapy cycle. Let's say that your chemotherapy is being administered at a hospital 5 miles from your home. How'd you like to walk home after treatment? OK, catch a cab. Wait through the starting and stopping of traffic and while the driver picks up other passengers. Vomit in front of complete strangers but don't give up the seat in the cab because you don't know when you can get another one.

4. Totally different kind of scenario. Let's say that both sides miraculously reach a compromise and sign a contract right now, 11:04am. Can you get on a train or a bus by 11:30? Or even by evening rush hour? No. Maintenance checks, getting workers distributed along all the lines. Signal people, cleaning, and distributing trains along the route. It will take at least 24 hours to get the system back up and running.

There are reasons that striking by public service workers is illegal. I don't dispute anyone's right to strike. I understand that it does occasionally work as a negotiation tool. This doesn't seem to be one of those times. If anything it seems to have marked the point at which both sides are completely unwilling to talk to each other anymore. There have been no talks at all since the strike began. The sides don't seem any closer to a decision and a strike means that no one can compromise without losing face.

I think I'm getting new sneakers for Christmas. Santa knows what every little girl needs.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Strike Force

So, yeah, there's a transit strike here in NYC. This makes 2 terrorist attacks, 1 blackout and 1 transit strike since I've lived here.

More on my thoughts about this full on bout of idiocy later but before I head out I thought I'd give you a quick idea of my day.

12:01am Wake up and check for news. No strike.

4:45am Wake up and check for news. Strike is on.

4:45 - 5:40: Lie in bed thinking through the plan for my day over and over and over and over.

5:40 Get up, walk dog, shower, dress, pack provisions.

6:37 Call from Pony Express, she gets hot beverages, I get my stuff together and meet her on the street

6:37 - 7:33 In her car we pick up three other people from her place of work within a 5 mile radius in Brooklyn and head over the Manhattan Bridge into the city. Traffic is surprisingly light, we do a small amount of maneuvering so we cover as little of Flatbush Avenue as possible but it's pretty smooth sailing.

7:33 They drop me at 17th & Park

7:33 - 8:03 I walk up to work on Third in the 50s.

I've worked today as hard as I can to clear my desk because, as fun as it was, I'm not doing it again. I've had my adventure, I'm not needed in the office so I'm not going to clutter the streets with my presence. The plan for the rest of the day is as follows:

3:00pm Leave office, check in with car rental place to see what my options are for actually getting my rental car tomorrow to go north for the holidays. Post office for Christmas presents. Walk to Chelsea Market

5:00 Meet Pony Express

5:00 - ??? Sit in car and giggle and fume and discuss until we get home.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I am spoiled

Two things happened after I posted my last list of stuff I wanted. First, people got me stuff. I have 2 offers of help with the handyman stuff, a new can opener and a new timer. Clearly I am so very spoiled. Also grateful, extremely grateful.

Second thing is that I spent a day deep in the suburbs with Pony Express doing holiday shopping. (Yeah, I said it O'Reilly, HOLIDAY, suck me!) I'm serious people, deep in the suburbs, there was an incident with a jug handle and we almost didn't get out. Brrrr! I'm still a little scared. Of course, the problem with going out and shopping is that you see so much stuff that you, yourself, need. I was good, I got some candles and some candle coasters, a pen and a couple of drinking glasses and that was about for me. But I did come home with a list.

1. Wooden toast tongs (not the $18 ones I saw at Williams Sonoma because I think that's a stupid amount of money for tongs, even if does keep you from getting electrocuted)
2. Music, so much music Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, John Prine, Hank Williams, Harry Connick Jr., Patty Griffin (except Flaming Red, which I have)
3. A goddamned pair of flat black fucking shoes that are comfortable and not stupid looking on my big feet that I can wear to work and not feel like a dick
4. Pretty sage green patterned fabric to make doorway curtains for my kitchen and entryway
5. A new Parker fountain pen since mine leaks all the time
6. An evergreen wreath
7. A trip to somewhere that's warmer than here
8. Did I mention a ton of movies, Kramer vs. Kramer, Bring It On, A River Runs Through It, A Little Romance...
9. Like, every book ever written practically
10. Every shade of of Burt's Bees lip balm/lipstick stuff
11. A bunch of this cool rubber sheeting stuff from the VT Country Store (and yes, I think you're right, my prediliction for recording even shit like this in a public forum probably is why I'm not getting a lot of dates)
12. A pretty billowy cotton nightgown
13. That table that's in my dad's storage space
14. A nice key hook rack thingamajig, something pretty and not weird but kinda cool

OK, I'm out, although I'm sure there's a ton more. Kitchen Aid mixer? Bread pans? Proper rolling pin made out of something other than plastic?


"You really never read my blog."
Neil Patrick Harris in How I Met Your Mother

Yes, I blog and I watch bad sitcoms. How do you like me now?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

December 10, 2000

I promised I'd tell you a story about five years ago today. However, the story actually begins five years and 2 days ago.

Five years and two days ago I was house and dog sitting for Carmencita. I got the call from Mama Kizz that I should come to Maine. This might be it.

It. My mom is big on the whole "this might be the last time we..." thing. Me too, I guess, not sure if I was born with it or I got it from her.

But there were dogs and tenants and oh god. So I said I'd leave the next day. Sometime in the evening it became clear that there was no heat in the house. I couldn't reach Carmencita to tell her that I was leaving earlier than I thought and I couldn't reach the heating company. Eventually I gave up on her. The heating company I called every hour or so all night long. Their answering service was really pleased with me. Didn't make it a degree warmer, though.

Finally, five years and a day ago Pony Express showed up with her car. There was no packing, despite being only about 6 blocks from my own home I didn't bother to go through the important packing process. I don't know whether I was being lazy or superstitious but I went with one pair of jeans, one pair of sneakers, a couple of turtlenecks and probably 3 or 4 books. Oh, and the dog.

Straight through, 7 hours to Winslow, ME. I stopped to pee once, just over the line into NH but I didn't even let the dog out I just got back in the car, apologized to her and kept going. I don't know if mom was at the house when I got there or at the hospital but I dropped my things, talked to her somehow (phone? in person? probably in person) and she said she'd buy me dinner at the fancy lobster place. So we went and got my dinner boxed and went to the hospital so I could eat the yummy lobster roll and the passable fries in front of my grandmother.

I also got some back story on this little outing. Apparently my grandmother had been diagnosed with kidney failure around Thanksgiving. When asked by her son what "we" were going to do about it her reply was, "We're going to keep on trucking." If you ever met my grandmother you will know how fucked up that is. The not doing anything about it is her to a T but the phrasing? So very wrong. She was like...oh god, like Marion Ross on Happy Days I guess. Yes, that's the closest. I'd go with Mrs. Doubtfire but she wasn't as chatty or quite as warm as that. Anyway, no dialysis, no new meds, nothing special, she was just going to ride it out. Much later it came out that she had promised her sister that she would stay through Christmas. Here is my request to you, please do not lie to people that count on you in your dying days. It means that your legacy is a rippling pool of anger and pain and I really don't think that's what you're going for.

Upon arrival at the hospital I felt a little duped. She was conscious, she was chatting, she had a visitor, there was even some music playing. So we sat and talked and listened to the music. She looked pretty good considering. She'd finally decided to call the ambulance the night before because she couldn't breathe but she had oxygen now and she wasn't very chatty but she was clearly present. I scoped the room, figuring someone would have to stay the night and since I was the last one in and the youngest it'd be me. Imagine my surprise when Mama Kizz got us both ready to go. So we said good night.

I thought that was weird. I figured it was what Grammy Fern had asked for so I went along with it. I don't know if it was the right thing to do. But it's what we did.

Aunt Rena thinks it was the wrong thing to do. She has passed up no chance to tell us that, if she'd known we were going to leave her sister alone for the doctors to kill her, she would have insisted that we take her back to sleep the night in a stiff hospital chair. I will say that I don't think it would have changed anything for anyone to be there. I am not in the camp that believes that the doctors dosed her up and killed her. It's a small camp. Rena is the Queen and the Publicist. That little Queendom has a fabulous press corps.

I slept on the couch in my grandmother's living room. The other options were not good since with three bedrooms and we had Rena, Mama Kizz and Mama Kizz's Old Man Friend. I felt better being on a different floor.

Five years ago today at 7am the phone rang and at that point you kind of know. Mom came down and told me they suggested we get to the hospital. So, unshowered for 2 days, I grabbed a sweater, put on my sneakers and we went over in 2 cars.

She was unconscious and, of course, not expected to regain consciousness you know, ever.

I just don't know how to paint this picture accurately. You're in a hospital room, a private one now, not the semi-private from the night before. Clearly the nurses have decided what's going to happen now. Your company in this room is your 80+ year old great aunt who is pissed at everyone for not watching over her sister all night, your mother who has a tendency to begin to quiver from her toes to her soul when things get overwhelming and your mother's boyfriend who is closer to your grandmother's age than your mother's. Your grandmother is making a sort of a noise. A very ungrandmotherly noise. It's somewhere between a wheeze and a moan. Rhythmic, since it's defined by her breathing pattern. It's fairly loud. There's a TV and it's on but the sound is extremely low. There are chairs and a big window and at some point a big nurse brought in a coffee cart. The room is too big, there's too much room around the bed. There's nothing to do but wait. So you do. You have to make conversation with this group of people. And what the fuck do you talk about?

My uncle was called. We figured he'd get there around noon. We didn't know if he'd make it before she died. That discussion took about 5 minutes.

No one had eaten. We spent a good 10 minutes discussing whether to eat. Didn't want to leave Grammy alone. We could go in pairs but how would that work? I was scared to be left alone with Aunt Rena, she was mad and a little crazy and nothing anyone could do was right. If my mom and I went as a pair then it left the two oldsters to negotiate the cafeteria by themselves. And, while they are each capable of such a thing solo, in these circumstances, putting them together just wouldn't work, any idiot could see that. Final choice? Me and the OMF. Um, no. As the youngest and the last to arrive I know I don't get many privileges but that's where I draw the line. I'm not dredging up polite phrases with a Republican ex-Navy man while I wait for my grandmother to die. I did what I do best, I said they should all go and I'd go alone when they got back. We got at least another 5 minutes out of, "Are you sure?" "Yes, I'm sure." "You'll be OK alone?" "Yes." "Do you want us to bring you anything?" "No, I'll go get something when you get back." "Are you sure?" And so on.

I know I'm in the minority here but for Christ's sake, I'm OK with being alone. Really. Particularly in high emotion situations giving me a solo job is possibly the kindest thing you could do for me. Or at least a job where no chatting is required. You know, just in case you, dear reader, happen to be with me when emotions get high and shit needs to get done.

So, I sat alone with my grandmother. I watched the TV. I have no idea what was on. I didn't turn up the volume. And I talked to her. Only I felt like, being alone in the room for all intents and purposes, it would only increase the crazy quotient marked on our chart if I spoke out loud. I employed a technique first perfected when I needed to talk to my stuffed bear and wanted the crazy quotient to stay low. A technique, I might add, that proved effective with that bear until about last week. I thought what I wanted to say in sentences and paragraphs...very, very loudly. I remembered some things that ET said, about how it's important to let a dying person know that it's OK to go if they need to. So I told her it was OK to go and it would suck but it was better for her to do what she needed to do and thank you for waiting for me to get there and even that I was sorry that I hadn't stayed the night before and I hoped that was all right with her, too. I held her hand. It was cold. My brain split in two. One half knew that it was cold because she was nearly dead and it wasn't going to get any warmer no matter what and kept replaying that monologue by Mistress Quickly in one of the Henrys where she talks about the cold creeping up Falstaff's body as he dies. The other half just had to put a blanket over her hands, I couldn't stop it. So there we sat.

Then they came back and I went and ate from the salad bar, I put peas and ham on my salad which I really like, and blue cheese dressing. It was good. I thought about having some ice cream or pudding as dessert but I figured I ought to get back soon.

My uncle arrived. He's not a fan of open air, of silence in a group. He's a salesman and sort of a politician. He is someone who, most definitely, would not like to be given an alone time job in a time of stress. So he did (what I consider) the heavy lifting.

At some point I took another alone moment. I went to the chapel and cried, quietly but with as much ugly as I needed so I could go back into the room and do the weird half normal thing we were doing.

I was sitting in a chair, the OMF was in a chair next to me, Rena was standing near the foot of the bed, Uncle was leaning over sort of oddly to hold Grammy's right hand and Mama Kizz was on the other side sitting in a chair and holding her left. After the big nurse had brought these oddly minty smelling hydrating swabs to swab Grammy's mouth her breathing had lost the wheezy moan. It got very quiet. We spoke more quietly and with more breaks in the conversation. It went on longer than I thought it would. Also shorter, but longer, plenty of time for me to wonder how much longer it would be. And then one time she just didn't breathe in again. It was just over. No shudder, no twitch, no sign from the heavens.

I would have waited longer. I would have listened to the silence some more. Uncle would and did not. Maybe 10 seconds after that moment when you know it's just...over, he said, "I think that was it. I should go get someone." And he did. The nurse came and checked the nonexistent vitals and said it was over and we should take as much time as we wanted.

I don't think we stayed very long. There were papers to sign, and decisions to be passed along and all. Rena was mad. Violently angry. She is (was?) only 11 months younger than her sister and had not spent a moment in this world without her. How do you face something that different from the rest of your very long life? I felt bad for refusing to take her down to lunch so I sucked it up and I offered to take her back to the house while the rest of them did the other work.

We had a surprisingly nice ride. Inasmuch as something like this can be nice. For about 15 hours she liked me best. What happened when my 15 hours were up is a whole other post. On the car ride home she told me about hers and Grammy's mother. Rena had taken care of her while she was sick and dying. There were a lot of stories and they were all bad. They all involved Rena having to do the scut work of watching someone decline while other people came in and took the glory or told her she was doing it wrong or forced her to do things against her better judgement. The last one, though, was about the night her mother died. She slept in the same bed with her mother in case something was needed during the night and Grammy Allen's breathing was bad. We were driving over the railroad tracks and going through the one significant traffic light as she told me this. I was concentrating on the road so hard I could almost tell you where the words fell on the pavement outside. She lay in bed with her mother and counted her breaths. 8 in. 8 out. 8 in. 8 out. Then 4 in. 4 out. 4 in. 4 out. Then a pause. 4 in. 4 out. Then a pause. And the pause kept getting longer. And finally it was the only thing. And there they lay. It's no wonder the poor woman is afraid to go to sleep at night.

More stuff happened. But that's the story. I think it was a privilege to be there to help someone die. Assuming I helped at all just by being there. It was also, oddly, helpful to me. Much better than just hearing what happened like we did with Robbie. I wasn't so pleased that we viewed the body later that night but I was glad to have been there when she went.

And there's not really anything else to say about that, is there?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

This one's for Pony Express

According to Blogging Baby, human implantation technology has been approved by the FDA. You know those chips that are like Lo-Jack for your pets? This is the same thing only for Alzheimer's patients.

It's not exclusively for Alzheimer's patients. Given that it's a computer chip you can put all manner of information on there, so if you have a serious medical condition that might cause you to be unable to communicate when medical personnel arrive then they could scan your ass and find out what the trouble is.

The writer on Blogging Baby speculates about how long it will be before people want to use the technology on children (I'm looking at you TomKat) in the event of baby snatching or running away or I guess even getting misplaced in the supermarket. They just run your kid over the scanner and call mommy and daddy's names over the loudspeaker.

Pony Express was crushed by the elimination of subway tokens. She was sure that Big Brother was tracking her travels. At one point she even came up with a genius but difficult to implement system where we should get a small group of people together and all buy the same type of metrocard and then switch them before we activated them so that the purchase info wouldn't match the travel info. We never actually made the swap but much was made of it at the time.

I'm pretty sure that as soon as she reads this her number one fear will be replaced with a recurring nightmare of being implanted with a tracking chip without her knowledge. Now she'll be going off the grid for sure.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Line

So I went to see Walk the Line tonight. I really enjoyed it. Interestingly and well acted, a capitivating story although if I had to articulate what captivated me it would sound shallow and ridiculous. I'm sure people more eloquent than I will say all that really needs to be said about the movie as a whole. And, of course, since a blog is all about the writer, let's talk about what happened to me in the movie.

There was this one small repeated moment between Cash and his guitarist. They set up early on that the guitarist tells Cash how to tune his guitar and play certain specific chords. So, at least twice during performance shots Cash will start a song then hit the break and turn to his guitarist. It's very slight but I read a glance of encouragement from the guitarist and then Cash turns back to the mic and the next chorus is always stronger. We don't see a lot else of the relationship between the two of them but it spoke so directly to me. I loved that we could see how important the support was to Cash and I love that feeling when you're collaborating. When you try something and you're not sure of yourself and you have someone you trust to just give a glance to and they bolster you.

The other thing was the performance at Folsom Prison. Man, I miss working in prisons! Not that I've done a lot of it but I've done a few things and you really can't ask for a more honest audience. Teenagers are a tough audience, they'll really help you hone what's worthwhile in what you're offering but they aren't exactly honest. When I was in college I did a short internship with a last chance high school, playing theatre games with trouble makers. The outfit also took all of the interns to a women's house of detention to do a workshop there. Then, when I was at school in London we performed a set of Shakespeare scenes at Wandsworth prison. We were all nervous, and the best actress in our group was completely undone but I really liked it. I think part of it is the nothing to lose aspect of it. I mean, if they don't like you well, whatever, no professional critics in the audience, you aren't going to run into these guys on the street any time soon. The flip side is if they love you they're going to let you know and not with any polite golf match clapping, either.

I don't know if I'm going to do anything about this, I feel like it'd be a lot of fucking work to get back into performing in prisons, especially in this state and I've got a few irons in the (ring of) fire already. But I was so fucking jealous of Cash while I watched it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hippie Long Hair problems

I don't know how many of you are or have been or have lived with a Hippie Long Hair so I don't know how many of you will relate. I'll be as descriptive as possible then so you can work with me.

I'm a Hippie Long Hair these days. Except for the hippie part. I won't eat tofu, I work in an office and I don't camp unless forced so my application for a hippie membership card was rejected out of hand. I've got the long hair, though. I'm not having to tie it up to keep it out of the commode or anything but it's the longest it's been in many, many years.

For most of my life I was a long hair. And around the time I started keeping my hair closer to the shoulders I decided it'd be a good idea to live with a long hair. (Whole other post to explain how wrong I was about that and the hair had very little to do with it.) So it's only been the last 6 or 7 years where my living space has been long hair free and it seems I've forgotten some of the, er, issues, of having long hair in the house.

Long hair is tenacious. Fortunately my hair is blonde (and gray), thin and fine so it isn't quite as noticeable on everything as the ex's was. The man had curly, wiry, red hair and that shit got everywhere. You could never take a shower without either spending 10 minutes peeling 15 slimy long hairs off the soap or rubbing yourself down with a follicle-suds exfoliant. Then you'd go dry off and it'd be on the towel so you'd finish and discover you were wearing the world's thinnest hair shirt. Everywhere I tell you!

In the past few weeks my hair has somehow gotten to just the right length and strength that I have rediscovered my two least favorite parts about living with long hair in the house.

By far the very worst of all time is when you have a hair in your mouth but when you try to pluck it off your tongue you discover that you've already swallowed a significant length of it so your choices are to a. figure out how to swallow this devil's own spaghetti completely (ewe) or b. manage to repress your gag reflex long enough to hork up the initial partial strand (EWE!). With hair like mine you get through probably only half of the wretchalicious retrieval process before the hair breaks and you can just wash it down with a beer and try to forget. With the ex's, though, you'd have to hork up the whole thing. You could do emergency sutures with that stuff, I'm not kidding. Doing some deep sea fishing, maybe looking for a prize winning Marlin, and you run out of line? Not to worry, a couple of hairs off this guy's head and you're back in business.

Now, the other one isn't so very bad but I find it happening to me all the time now and I have no one to blame but myself. You know that phrase "a wild hair across your ass"? It's a wild hair up the crack of your ass! I know, it's so too much information but it has to be said. And you can't leave it there because it's tickling your tender bits and that's just distracting. The alternative, though, is that you have to find it, grasp it and then gently slither it out from between your cheeks. Let's say you work in an office. It's not overly stuffy, or overly dignified really but there is a certain level of decorum and the ladies' room is quite small. How does one keep from giggling as one performs this delicate maneuver while thinking, "Does this happen to everyone? It must happen to everyone with long hair. Why does no one ever talk about it? Because it's silly. Why do you feel the need to talk about it? Ah....there."?

Thank you for letting me share. Now go put on a hair net.