Friday, November 28, 2008

Watch Your Step

This is why I strive to be normal. Like Ethan Allen normal. Anne Taylor, Talbot's, although truly I have never set foot in any of those stores. It's not working for me, this poetry of the norm. For inside my veins pumps blood chunky with glitter. When you prick me, do I not shine?

This is my mother's house. Yes, that is a snakeskin draped on the ceiling, a horn twisting out of the wall. Over there is a thing and a that, a few different huhs? and one very pronounced oh, dear.

This little lady moved in a few years ago. I really can't say if she is dressed for the holiday or if this is her regular attire. She can't really say either.

Oh, that. Yeah. We don't much talk about that.

Dripping candles, dust, dried flowers, curling photos, two turn tables and a microphone. I would not be half surprised to see a wedding cake still on the table. Miss Havisham would be right at home.
Care to watch some tv? I'm afraid the only thing on is a show about a Japanese mask.

To be fair, most of this is Allen's doing. This is where he lives, but my mother's apartment in the city is not much different. Here is Allen with their African Grey Parrot named Huxley. When my mom bought the parrot she said that now my brother and I would get to hear her voice long after she dies. And Huxley does talk in both their voices. He can perfectly mimic the sounds of Allen's wheelchair, the doorbell. He tells the dog to stop barking. Ring ring! goes the phone. Hello? Oh, hi! Mmhm. Yup, okay, ha ha ha ha! For the next 65 years I get to hear my mother's one-sided conversation and the trill of her fake phone laugh.

I agree with this one.

At my mother's house I often find myself thinking about the movie "Being John Malcovich." I liked that movie but if pressed could not really say what it was about. The same goes for my mother's house. Sometimes I leave there confused, repeatedly blinking my eyes to the bright sunshine of the outside.
More. Never less. Not Yes, no, this is the House of More.
My mother's closet. Let's see: this coat with that skirt? The brown sweater with those jeans? But does it clash with the toad mask? Hmmm...

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, the annual holiday of eating with your family and wondering just how the Hell you came to sit in that chair. Happy that. There is no such thing as normal. Because blood flows in many different ways, in chintz and chenille, heavy with dust and thin with regret. Mine just so happens to run ragged with plastic masks, Buddha and the bones of small creatures. This is my family. Welcome.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Today I am thankful. Yesterday I was thankful, and the day before that, the week before even, though to many it probably did not seem like it.
Yesterday a reader called me out. Emailed me to say that lately my posts have reeked of entitlement. My first thought was "well, fuck you very much, dear reader." But then I read it again. And again and then again and once more with feeling. True, she did say that, but she also said so much more. I won't bore you with the details but she was right. Lately my posts have reeked of entitlement, ingratitude, anger, neediness. I sit down to write and it pours out of me like spilled milk and so I emailed her back. After a few emails back and forth my initial reaction of "fuck you very much" quickly turned to "thank you very much." Because she cared to let me know I was being a twit. Thank you, N, thank you.
And then this. Oh, this. It's funny how your heart can just as easily break from the beauty inside of a person as it can from the ugliness of the world. This. Remember way back around my birthday when I had my very first (and so far only) Petunia Face giveaway? Well the winner was an artist named Kristin. I sent her a 350 million year old ammonite fossil and yesterday she sent me something in return:

My scanner is on the fritz so I had to take a photo and the quality isn't great, but man. It's beautiful isn't it? Ethereal? Magical? I think it's going in Zoey's room, way up high where her fingertips can't touch it. To score your very own Kristin original (or to do some Christmas shopping), visit her website here. Her work is phenomenal! And as if the painting wasn't enough her accompanying note almost brought me to tears. Again, I won't bore you with the details but essentially she said that in light of my recent darkness she thought I could use a lift. Thank you, Kristin, thank you.
And then there's this:
I am forever thankful that teachers are still making small hands into turkeys. Gobble Gobble. May your feast be stuffed with gravy, a good pie and love. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Glass

We live on a hill above a high school. On weekends the all-American cheer of football games rises, the coach's whistle, a brass band. At night sometimes music gropes its way up our hill, songs that I am no longer familiar with, voices I have never heard. I sit in our backyard with my eyes closed, remembering slow dancing.
In the past six years five students from that school have committed suicide.

This is not a post about depression. Nor is it yet another post about how my life sucks right now, the economy, my house, unemployment, the last Oreo cookie. Or at least not in the usual sense. This is a post about hope.
If I leave my house at just the right time in the morning, or just the wrong time depending on perspective, I get caught in the traffic of these kids. BMW's, Audi's, awkward girls in tight jeans with even tighter asses making a twelve point turnabout to park a tank of an SUV. The boys, they look so serious in their studied disregard.
What do I think the world owes me anyhow? A good job, a house, nice car, cute clothes. This is my birthright, right? The daughter of a middleclass family raised in a county renowned for its affluence. I was born with brown eyes and brown hair, the keys to a mortgage I cannot pay clenched tight in one baby fist.
For the past few weeks we have been sitting on the floor in front of our fireplace at night, refugees of a lifestyle we can no longer afford. Zoey sits in my lap, her fat fingers playing in the pool of my clavicle. Over her head Bryan and I discuss what to do next. What to do at all, the fire warming our faces.
Last week my town held a forum dedicated to the families of the children lost to suicide. Eat dinner with your children. Avoid overscheduling. Define expectations for success. Parents leaned in closer for the answers. But what do we do?
Soon it will be lacrosse season, the noisiest season of them all. The clack of the sticks resonates up the hill all afternoon during the week, on weekends. Cars line the street like shiny tin soldiers, parents watching the games, watching practice, watching.
I watch Zoey play pirate. Argh! she says to Nacho, her small voice full of gravel. Argh! she says to her mermaid, making a muscle with one arm. Argh! to Elmo, to daddy, to nobody. Argh. The curve of her cheek pitches me forward, plump skin and wet shining eyes. Tonight my dad is coming over and we will eat dinner with her. Tomorrow together we will do nothing. Argh. It is not too late for us, for me. To define our expectations of success. We are 72.8% water, and yet we are born full.
"The Person You Love" poster found here.
I am going to check this book out of the library.

Monday, November 24, 2008


There comes a time in a young mother's life when she realizes that it is indeed NOT all about her. Generally this realization hits the exact moment the baby's head rips through that thin envelope of perineum, or, in my case, the moment the doctors yanked Zoey out from between my sliced open abdominal wall. There I was flayed on the operating table like a glistening Christmas ham, puking into a kidney-shaped plastic bowl from the wallowy drugs of the spinal tap, and Bryan was over in the corner with his back turned to me, weeping over a brand-spanking new Zoey.

Had I been able to see from behind the sheet the nurses had tented around me I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to blame him. Stare at the innards of your wife and listen as the doctors complain about a particularly sticky placenta, or feast your eyes on new life? If you think about it, there was no competition really.
It's been two years and seven months since that day. My scar has shrunk and turned silver, the baby has grown into a little girl. In the mornings now when I get dressed it is with only an obligatory satisfaction. Like, okay, great, good job self, now I won't catch a nipple in the zipper of my coat. However, when I dress Zoey, it is with the excitement of a pre-teen going to her first dance.

Should she wear the smocked sweater dress or the pink one with giraffes? Hat or no hat? Boots with dingleberries or maryjanes? Purse, yes, definitely the owl purse! Who-who!
The truth is it still is about me. I see my reflection in those oversized eyes, in the way that she bites her lower lip before laughing. And I catch myself sometimes, trotting her out for show, presenting Gypsy Rose Lee at the American Kennel Club Classics. Cute dress! And I smile demurely, mmmm, thank you. Because in some ways I am now forever flayed open, my guts exposed and drying from the breeze. And the only way I know how to protect myself--protect her--is with distraction.
But those glasses--oh. Did you see how cute she is in those glasses?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Don't Touch That Channel!

Wait! I just cannot go into the weekend wafting in the echo of that funeral dirge of my last post. Even mortuaries house the sweet heady scent of Easter lilies.
And so I give you this:

Zoey fell in love. This time it was not Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid or Elmo or a pirate or the perfect cherry lip gloss. No, this time it was a bronzed baseball player. And I say fine. Just as long as it's not a football jock.
Happy Friday. May you fall in love all over again.

Dead Reckoning

Growing up I was allowed to get C's. D's even were okay, although I never did get a D. Did you try your hardest? my parents would ask. And so long as the answer was yes it was okay. Just getting by, not getting by, strike three, a thin obligatory smattering of applause, I knew they loved me no matter what, just as long as I tried. And I did. Mostly. Sometimes. When I felt like it. Which was never or right after I watched "Kate and Allie," I swear, I promise, I'm tired, oops, oh well! The problem with being loved no matter what is that in your security you allow yourself to slip. What are the ramifications just as long as you convince yourself and others around you that you tried? What does trying your hardest even feel like anyway? A boulder, stuck jagged deep in your throat? All I ever wanted to eat were Pop Tarts pink and sweet. I tried my hardest to believe that I was forever pushing that rock up a hill, that is all. You still love me, right?
I was in the gifted program in school. Which meant we got to meet on the blacktop at night to crane our thin necks searching for the constellations of Cassiopeia and Orion's Belt. During the day we took calligraphy classes. To this day my handwriting is pretty and I can point out the Seven Sisters in the black night sky but fuck me if anyone asks the value of x in any equation. I did not live up to my potential.
What does anyone need algebra for anyway?
So here I am, 36 and skating, the taste of frosting still light on my lips. Last night I watched "Stylista." But I find myself wishing that somebody had called me out before for leaning against my rock to cop a squat on the steep incline. I wish a teacher had used a red pen, given me an F because now I am failing. There is no more A for effort, no star stickers or smiley faces. Nobody gives a shit that I am trying, no really, I am trying. My hardest. I think. But trying doesn't matter anymore and I am stuck with this boulder in my throat and I cannot seem to swallow.

In the 1500's Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe said that "by looking up we see downward." There, those, that cluster of stars. That is Pleiades. Sailors used constellations as a position fixing technique to cross featureless oceans without having to rely on dead reckoning to strike land. What is the value of x? I only wish now that I had paid more attention.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rather B(l)oggy and Sad

It'll never work. This thing about staying at home. I've re-done the numbers every which way in this House at Pooh Corner and guess what? Shit happens. Even if (when) we sell our house I still need to find a job and that kills me. So close and yet so far. It would seem that my insides are stuffed with sawdust and I have misplaced my tail today. I think I need a moment. A day.
Back tomorrow. Hopefully more Tigger than Eeyore.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Must See to Appreciate!

This is not my house.

Nor is this my view.

However, this is my life: cream cheese on toast for breakfast sitting at my kitchen table wrapped in a duvet cover because it's cold and I don't want to turn on the heater. And no, that's not a wayward speck of cream cheese there on my chin but a dab of zit medicine. It would seem that the recent turn of my life's events has festered into one of those under-the-skin blemishes, the kind that harbors its own beating heart, Edgar Allen Poe in the dark sebaceous world of the tell-tale pimple (out in paperback soon!).

We're selling our house. I suppose it's really only 90% decided, but I don't do 90%. Already I have mentally moved us into a rental, a cute 2br, 1ba with w/d hookups and a grdn. Must see to appreciate! Except, of course, I can't see, it's not real yet, or it's too real, the surreal estate of this new life. Somewhere on the walls of my new home the clocks are dripping time and there is an oversized apple just standing there in the middle of my living room like an awkward, tongue-tied guest. Ceci n'est pas une pipe-dream. Nothing makes sense.

Last night Bryan obliged my need to control the situation and we sat down at the computer to look at rentals listed at half the cost of our current mortgage. Duplexes and apartments, cottages, all deemed Real Charmers! by their landlords who pay for water and trash, landscaping, and all upkeep. Then, just for shits and giggles and because we're masochistic this way, we typed in what we currently pay in mortgage and this is what we found for rent in the town in which we live:


Of course we are not selling our house only to rent a UNIQUE DESIGNER HOME ON THE BEACH! For one thing, I cannot stand exclamation points and if I had to live in that house and speak that emphatically I would probably stick my head in the stainless steel gas oven to end the futile existence of living in a house with an actual elevator. And if that weren't true (which duh, it's totally not, of course I would live in that UNIQUE HOME ON THE BEACH! I'm not a complete killjoy) then here's the truth: we are selling our house so that we can return to spending only 25% of our income on housing, not 50%. Also on the (decidedly un-designer) table? Selling my car. Selling our house and selling my car to buy back our lives because maybe, just maybe, if the thousand different Excel Spreadsheet scenarios I have worked on over the past few days are correct, then maybe I can be a stay-at-home-mom slash writer slash me. Yes, you read that correctly: maybe if we downsize I can be the me I'm supposed to be. A better wife, a better mother and a writer, better or not. A writer.
There are still a thousand different things to think about. Logistical issues: healthcare, pre-school, 401k, savings or lack thereof, the future and its endless schedule of a dental exam every six months, the plaque of everyday existence really. And these things cannot be tossed aside for a dream, even if ceci n'est pas une pipe. Still. There is an apple in the living room of a house I don't even live in yet. Oh, sure, I don't own the house, per se. I don't even own the apple. But I can see that apple nonetheless, I can taste it. And oh, does it taste sweet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The below photo is not, I repeat NOT a photo of me wearing diapers. Nor is it a photo of my sister-in-law Morgan wearing diapers. Instead it is a photo of a complete stranger wearing a diaper which in some ways makes the whole thing even creepier. However, the below post IS written by my sister-in-law Morgan. And in the post she does use diapers, as do I. Adding further to said creepy peepee factor...

Depends on who you’ll hear this story from to get to know exactly what went down and how and whose brilliant idea it was for me to pee in a Zoey’s baby diapers (yes diapers plural) on the limo van on the way up to my wedding. Because the thing is, Susannah told us, as guest bloggers that we couldn’t embarrass her too much. My intention here is not to embarrass Susannah but rather share with the www that I think my sister-in-law is the coolest. And if peeing in diapers is cool, (and it is) then we are the coolest gals I know. Thus begins my story…
I believe it was during the wedding rehearsal up at the ranch that everyone started joking about how I would have to pee while saying my wedding vows. See, I have a terrible problem with dehydration. I can go an entire day without a drink of water. It’s bad for me, I know. My bridesmaids are my best friends and they know that I have a huge problem with not drinking enough water. So ALL day long they were giving me water bottle after water bottle after water bottle. It got to the point where I was having to pee every 10 minutes. The other problem I have is that I get so busy that if I do have to go, I don’t. I seem to have been blessed with largest bladder ever. A gene I am hoping to pass onto my kids.
So there we were, all of the families together, all of the bridesmaids and groomsmen together up at the wedding rehearsal and my father-in-law makes a joke about everyone giving me so much water that I will need to wear an astronaut diaper under my dress, like that crazy lady who tried to kidnap here ex-boyfriend and drove cross-country in a diaper. It was funny but what I never saw coming was that the next day I would actually be peeing in Zoey’s spare diapers.

My wedding day was a flurry of activity and water bottles. Before I knew it me and my bridesmaids, my best friends and my new sister-in-law were all crammed in our limo van driving from Santa Monica to the mountains of Malibu in rush hour traffic to get to the wedding site. We weren't even halfway there and traffic was at a dead stop. I still had to do my hair and makeup so you can imagine the panic. There was no time to pull over to go to the bathroom. But I had to GO. Bad. Sunny, one of my bridesmaids is in a band--she practically lives in a van. She’s been on the road so she suggested I pee in a Snapple Bottle. Of course that requires tons of skill, the aim of a sharp-shooter cooter, a skill that I just don’t have. Sunny’s perfected the peeing in the Snapple bottle in a moving vehicle, but she’s had lots of practice and it being my first time, I knew it would be a disaster.
Then my lovely sister-in-law pulls out Zoey’s spare diaper and says I can pee in it. I really didn’t know what to think. I was picturing myself trying to fit into the diaper, taping it around me waist, Elmo in the front, but then Susannah began to tell me the logistics of how to pee into a diaper. Apparently she'd done it before while staying at friend's house in San Diego. She told us how she woke up in the morning having to pee really bad but that the bathroom was occupado. Rather than wait, she grabbed one of Zoey's diapers and peed into it there in the spare bedroom. Which left me thinking about all the times she had stayed with us...
See, you don’t actually put the diaper on, you just hold it against yourself and pee into it. And so there in the limo I crouched in the back and peed into a diaper. First one and when that wasn't enough I asked Susannah for another. And so it was that on my wedding day my new sister in law gave me her daughter's last spare diaper and I peed and peed and beside us on the Pacific Coast Highway someone spotted Jay Mohr and Nikki Cox in the Escalade next to us, dead stopped in traffic, and I peed into the Pampers and thanked god for tinted windows as we all tried to see if Nikki Cox's lips were surgically enhanced. (They were). And I did. I peed and became part of the Petunia Face family. The End.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Where I've Been (Only Slightly Related to Where I'm Going)

Now I get it, that whole denial stage of the grieving process. 'Cause I'm here, right here barefoot in my kitchen in denial and good lord do I like it. So much more comfy than anger, this denial. For one thing, I can eat. Leftover Halloween candy, chocolate covered pretzels, gingerbread, eggnog, tra la la! Bring in the bon bons! The only pit in my stomach is caused by gorging on sugar, but my body has had 36 years to get used to that particular brand of masochism so yes, let me eat cake. Nom nom. Is nom nom overused? I think so, yes, nom nom is so over, like I just threw up in my mouth a little and garden gnomes sending postcards of their world travels. O-to-the-"ohnoshedi'int"-VER.

Except my own little gnome took her first plane ride this past weekend. Here's a postcard of sorts of Zoey flying the friendly skies:

Nom nom, right? So delicious you could eat her up? So cute you just threw up in your mouth a little? Oh, yes I did. Please forgive me the hackneyed 2008 and beyond-isms, but honestly. She laughed during take-off, during the beverage service, at her tray table and the air sick bag. She laughed at the lady in the lime green jacket who gave her a dirty look for singing Bah Bah Black Sheep just a might bit louder than socially acceptable, she laughed at her small package of dry roasted peanuts and she laughed when we landed. And when she laughs? I laugh. O-to-the-VER, because she kills me, that girl, she kills me just by being so alive.

All laughing aside, I know what you're thinking: Just who do you think you are, you dirt poor well-educated upper middle class unemployed people who still suscribe to expanded cable? Who do you think you are jetting off to somewhere that looks awfully craggy and warm? Well here's the thing: remember when I first got laid off and Bryan's grandmother passed away? And how we went to the funeral and came back and looked for jobs but there were none and so we had mac and cheese for dinner even if it was the organic kind with the pouch of creamy white cheddar and not the cheap kind made from a packet of fluorescent orange powder? Well we're still eating mac and cheese and there are still no jobs only now it's Bryan's grandfather who is sick, very sick, so off we went to Arizona to visit him with the family and who knew that de Nile flowed through the rough-hewn canyons of the Arizona desert just so?

But it does and I am flowing with it, a prickly pear cactus following a petunia faced girl as she grows in the direction of the sun. Stress? What stress? Today I am donning my boots with the fuzzy pink dingleberries and just riding it out. Today.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mangez Ce Bebe Ici

The dark side of me right now thinks ooh la la! Aren't we special? Only cinq years old and speaking zee french! But then of course the human side of me kicks in, the part that loves chocolate milk and unicorns, and I think mon dieu! But that is one cute child with eyes large and wet like a velvet painting. It's Friday. Listen to the way she says crocodiles and have a grand weekend.

Once upon a time... from Capucha on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Can't Even Afford to Free Fall

I shouldn't be posting right now. I shouldn't be writing, I shouldn't be public, I shouldn't think or breathe or eat or sleep. I shouldn't be angry, but I am. Pissed off and disenfranchised, bitter, resentful. Ugly, that's what I am. I feel ugly inside.

Inconsolable Grief, by Ivan Kramskoy, 1884.

The stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It's not as if I have woken up, hopped in my car and driven to work in denial that I am unemployed, but I have certainly felt the rest and right now I am firmly esconsed in anger. Motherfucker. Almost every one of my thoughts these days either begins or ends in motherfucker or some such derivation of said term. Motherfucking Bush. Motherfucking banks. This entire Land of Opportunity is a real motherfucker, Milk and Honey, my ass. Mortgages? Mortgages can go fuck their mothers. See? Ugly. My insides are a tangled fibrous web of dank thoughts and motherfucked-up-edness, a mirror looking into a mirror looking into a mirror of the same mean thoughts repeated into infinity. Motherfucker, titty sucker, two-balled bitch.
These are just some of the things that make me angry these days: Christmas. People who have money. Starbucks seasonal coffee cups. The hum of my refrigerator. Spam emails urging me to claim my UK Lottery Winnings Right Now! So I can go to the Theatre, maybe! And see Colours! And cram shopping bags into the Boot of my car! Facking Brits. Right now I hate the following days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. I detest waking up. Zero Inbox. Refresh sucks ass. Oprah. I sneer at the design blogs on my Google Reader. Oh yes, those are pretty shoes, that is a swank fireplace, oooooh, yes, I must, I need, I crave that sweater! That bracelet! That house! Because, really? Really people? Is this the show that must go on?

The Scream, by Edvard Munch, 1893.

But the thing I hate the most right now, what makes me the most angry is myself. I am the biggest motherfucker of them all. Nobody owes me anything and yet my insides burn with entitlement. This is happening to so many people, people in worse financial situations, people who are alone, people in poor health, but all I can see, all I know is myself. And I did everything right: I went to college. I got a Master's degree. I worked my ass off from 9 to 5 and I got married, had a family, bought a house, paid my taxes. I haven't had a traffic ticket since I was twenty, so why did I lose my job? Why am I going to lose my house? My savings? The last ten years of my life? Why, why why, and WHO CAN I BLAME?
U. G. L. Y., you 'aint got no alibi, you're ugly! Hey! Hey! You ugly!

The Impossible Art of Li Wei, here.

I shouldn't have written this. I shouldn't hit PUBLISH. I shouldn't be angry, but I am. Honest and raw and hateful and for this I am sorry. But I don't know how to be any other way.

If you're still reading this, if you haven't wandered off to look at other blogs posting about holiday frocks and baubles (which normally, I totally would have done. I love me some purdy purdy, but right now I am just not my normal self)... if you're still reading this, please reach out to me as I fall out the window. How is this dismal economy affecting you? Your job? Your stability? Your spirits? And if it's not, please god, tell me what you do and how you do it. I've got you by the pinky now and I'm not letting go.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In and Out of the Garden of Tomoots

Ladies and Gentlemen of the www, once again, I present the literary stylings of my dad:

I was born rich. There was nothing I could do about it, so get over it. If it makes you feel any better, I am not rich TODAY. Today, I only want to glance at a moment of how it was back THEN …
... back to the long-gone gardens of Tomoots. Of sweeping green lawns, old trees and, best of all, a path through high hedges holding a maze of formal flower gardens of delicate color, home to butterflies and bunny rabbits, almost tame to the touch.

Tomoots, the gardener, lived over the garage with his wife, Therese, of gold teeth and big breasts in black. When I was four, maybe five years old, Therese would often pinch my cheeks with butter-greased hands and press me between her big breasts smelling of garlic and her almost-famous home baked bread. I sort of liked it but not for too long. A far greater attraction for me and my big brother, Fafu, age six, was Tomoots’s trick with an armpit. Dark and ropey in a sweat-wet strap T shirt, Tomoots would cup his hand under an armpit and pump out some mighty fine armpit farts. Now that was a trick you could take to the bank.

It was on a warm summer day in the maze of formal flower gardens that Fafu and I were practicing our armpit farts, dressed, no doubt, in matching Brooks Brothers caps, initials embroidered on white shirts and gray flannel shorts for young gentlemen. Now I can tell you for a fact, this sort of fart does not come easily to skinny little boys pumping hairless pits poofing talcum powder.

It was then that we heard the resonate blap of a mature armpit. Sitting in the open doorway of his tool shed behind the garage, Tomoots waved us over. …. And right there, whoa, whadiya' know and would ya' believe, Tomoots had a large wood rat in a HavaHeart trap at his feet. The steel cage featured a spring door that slammed shut once the bait was touched, the animal safely inside. I tell you, Fafu and I were thrilled. We loved wild animals and this was as close as we’d ever been to a real-live wild animal. So, excited, my big brother was already planning outloud where and how we would build a house for Mister Woodrat.

The wood rat was not so excited. Still and soft. Brown eyes rimmed in red knowing nothing known by name, he looked up at me, then up to Therese lowering her almost famous, home-baked bread from the second story window. You can imagine for a little boy, fresh bread and a new pet is hard to beat. Therese then lowered a kettle, maybe cocoa, the lid dancing hot on top. I ate some bread and stared some more at the wood rat. The bread was still warm and so good. I was learning to share at the time, so I broke off a piece, unsure how but ready to bend down and offer a bite to my new animal friend.

Tomoots stepped in front of me with the kettle. He was laughing as he poured the boiling water onto the rat that screeched immediate pain and panic bouncing in a tight brown ball around the HavaHeart trap. The epileptic clanging cage bucked and hopped toward me. Tomoots roared louder with delight as did Therese laughing gold teeth from the second story window. Laughter competed with shrill shrieks of pain, sounding like broken glass against metal, followed by louder howls of laughter. The cage clanged and bucked with the fur pinball of boiling rat until it was still. The steaming water made a hollow sound against the carcass smelling musty like wet flannel. Slack-jawed in my matching Brooks Brother outfit for young gentleman, I felt the bread inside my mouth, wet and dead.

That was THEN …

TODAY, a doctor pours poison into the veins of my big brother, Fafu and nobody is laughing. Today, I want the poison to boil away the cancer cells in Fafu so that my big brother will live.

Why do I tell you this story and what does it matter? I don’t know.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Just Want to Bang on the Drum All Day

All my life I wanted a sister. Not to say that my brother wasn't great, but, you know. He had a penis. And all the things that come along with penises: he hocked loogies in the shower and left glasses of milk on his bedside table for weeks at a time until they turned to curd. No, I wanted a sister to share clothes with and swap magazines, a sister who could straighten the hair at the back of my head. And what do you know? My brother with the penis finally came through and gave me one. In August he married the awesomest girl, my sister-in-law Morgan. She just might kill me for this picture because her eyes are red but it's the only pic I can find. All of their official wedding photos are secured or some such tomfoolery and I cannot cut and paste. So here you are: my beautiful sister Morgan whose eyes, I swear, do not glow red in real life:

Morgan is our guest poster for today. As you can see, she wrote this piece last month but it is particularly timely for yours truly now. Presenting Morgan: the sweetest, prettiest sister, even if she does live 600 miles away and thus the hair at the back of my head is still wiry.
It’s 5:30am on Tuesday, October 21st and I am leaving the office. I actually started work on Monday, October 20th at 7:00am. I worked 22 ½ hours straight and I get paid on a flat, which means I get the same rate for 8 hours as I do for 22 ½ hours. What benefit did I get out of working 22 ½ hours? None. I was this woman’s bitch. I am a slave. I am what’s her name. I am not appreciated by the woman who is making my life a living hell. So what am I doing?
I'll tell you what I'm doing: I am sitting in a production MOHO (motor home) right now, typing up this blog. I have to tell people who come through my “office” that want to use the clean bathroom that they CAN NOT go #2. I was a bit bored so I made a sign that says NO DUMPING PLEASE. And I found a picture of a dump truck and I put a red cross over it. I’ll probably have more free time between being ordered around to do bullshit stuff, so I thought I’d laminate the sign. I get such pleasure from laminating. And yes I travel around with a laminator in my car, just in case someone wants or needs lamination.
I went to college for what it is I want to do--not laminating exactly, directing. But I found myself at the bottom of the ladder and I’ve been very successful at working my way up. But at what cost? I’m already tired of working in production. I get the glamorous job of managing a crew of 60+ people, making sure every single part of the machine is oiled and ready to make some Hollywood magic. I spend most of my time sitting in a MOHO on a walkie talkie and a cell phone in the other hand. Fielding bullshit stuff. For instance, the same woman that kept us at the office until 5:30am just so happened to bring her shnoodle dog with her on this business trip. I had to find a PA that was strictly on doggie duty. It was my job to make sure that this PA takes the dog for a walk, picks up its shit and that the dog occasionally goes to a top of the line luxurious doggie day care where at the end of the day the dog gets a progress report. I had to spend HOURS researching the best doggie day cares in LA.
I absolutely love the art of making films. I love that every day is a different day, a different set, different people and everyone coming together to make this one thing. I love coming to work on sets and seeing the big 10 ton trucks parked along the street and all the gear being downloaded. I always get excited on shoot days. There is something about seeing it all come together. I have no problem working long hours if I am shooting, and a normal shoot day for me is a minimum 14 hours anyway. But at least I get the feeling of accomplishment. But when it’s a prep day and the agency producer is incompetent and needs to be spoon-fed and is fully taking advantage of the film shoot she is on… that’s when I find myself thinking that I want a career change.
I want a zen job.
I want a job that is little to no stress. I don’t mind responsibility. I can do responsibility. I want a job where I have normal operating hours. I want a job with health benefits and a 401 k. I want a happy job.
What is a happy job? I was thinking I would be completely happy working in a flower shop. I love the smell of flower shops. It’s still creative and they have normal hours. Besides the flower shop, I needed some back up ideas, so I put the google search engine to some good use and this is what I found: a website that lists the happiest careers. Editor's note: Dude. I'm totally going to become a hairdresser. Even though the only haircut I ever gave Bryan resulted in me having to then shave his head.
I can’t say how accurate this is, because I can’t imagine an accountant having the happiest job. As for the advertising job, well, I know for a fact those people are NOT happy. I felt the evil wrath of a tired, single woman who I swear sold her soul to the devil because I overheard her say I miss my dog more than I miss my children, that’s why I brought my dog with me on this job.
Oh, this is good. My producer just walked in. We’re shooting in Santa Monica just a few miles from the beach, and it’s 88ยบ out, hot. We’ve got crew standing around carrying heavy equipment, so my producer comes in and tells me how freakin hot it is out there and that she wants me to send a PA to go and get 60 sarongs for the entire crew, so that we can all take our pants off and wear sarongs and get cool. What the hell!!!??? But I can’t say this. I just have to do it and try my hardest not to make a face that reads this is the stupidest idea ever. So now I have to end this blog and go online and find a store that carries 60 sarongs. At least I’ve ended this post on a perfect note.

Please if you know of a zen or happy career, share with us! And tell me where I should send my resume. Editor's Note: Me, too. Tell me where to send my resume, as well.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Rest Stop: Closed for Winter

Let me save you the trouble: if you're looking for an epiphany, a direction for your life maybe, a small sign if epiphany comes off as too weighty, you're not going to find it by driving to San Diego. Or back again. Because it would seem that the flat ribbon of Interstate 5 is not the Road Less Traveled of which the ubiquitous Oprah Aha! Moment is made. Believe me, I tried. Really, I did. Give me a sign, I whispered to the steering wheel while Bryan and Zoey slept in the backseat, two identical jaws slack wide open, mouths dry and silent. Pssst! Come on. Anything. Pea Soup Andersons whipped by me. An Oldsmobile with a RETIRED sticker. Harris Ranch and the stench of a thousand cows.

But there was nothing but a semi beside me and a bag of Doritos in my lap. What does it all mean? I thought later as Zoey watched The Little Mermaid for the jigabillionth time in a row. I don't know when... I don't know how... but I know something's starting right now. Watch and you'll see... Somebody I'll be... Part of your world! You know you're in bad shape when you find yourself wringing meaning from a Disney princess cum mermaid who doesn't even know the word for legs and then goes and gets herself married at sixteen. Bah! Why I hear even Disney is laying off its work force.
Today I emailed out maybe a dozen resumes. Hit SEND and off they went into the void of maybe. Tomorrow I will email out a dozen more. Need a PhD? Dude! I can totally do that! CPA? LINUX developer? HVAAC repairs? MSW, DDS, AIA, LMNOP? I like titles in BOLD! I can DO titles in BOLD! ME! PICK ME! Always the girl raising her hand, the annoying one who couldn't stand it when other kids stuttered while reading outloud. uh, uuh, uuuunnn... UNEMPLOYED! UNEMPLOYED! THE WORD IS UNEMPLOYED! And then the teacher would give me a stern look and I knew, just knew, that I would not be called on then. That my arm would grow achy raised up high overhead.
But I'm still sitting here. Sure my head has dropped to my desk and my eyes are closed, but my hand is up, one arm supporting the other. Me, me. Pick me. I have no freaking idea which exit to take but I'm still pretty sure I know the answer.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Notes From a Seven Year Old Boy

I remember my brother with an asthma inhaler wedged deep into one striped tube sock. Playing left field in Little League. Way, way, way left field. I remember my brother hucking rotten plums at my window when we were little, the Rush poster on his wall when we were not so little. I remember when I was six and I pushed down as hard as I could on a pen to write FUCK YOU ANDY but the d was backwards so it really read ANBY, how I folded and folded and folded up the paper to hide underneath his bed. I remember how he let me sleep on his floor when I was scared, up until I was sixteen. I remember the first time I knew we would be friends. But what I do not remember is the first time I realized he is fearless, the boy with the asthma inhaler in his tube sock. Because he is. Always has been. He writes and directs screenplays, as well as directs commercials. Because he can. He is good and he is fearless and he is my friend and if he still lived in the room next door I'd probably still be sleeping on his floor. Introducing my brother, Andrews:

That's him on the bottom right with the whiskers. I'm the evil child in the middle wearing the pinafore and a grimace.

Memories are not what you think.
Or rather, what you think is not your memories.
After serious study and countless corrections, it would seem to me that the only accurate thing you take away from history is a feeling.
Ever been asked about an early childhood memory? So vivid in your mind. But then your parents chime in, No, no, that was actually Uncle so-and-so. That was really Christmas at blah de blah’s.
Your memory seems so strong. You know it so personally. But think about what that memory is. Is it a time or place filled with facts?
Or is it more specific in a less specific way?
If we un-think about it for a moment, memory is fairly fluid. Our childhood memory even more so. People often remember an event but when questioned the places, the people, the color, the time, the details of a memory are more often filled-in blanks than cold hard facts.
So what’s the filling?
Not facts or figures. More like shades of sensations: warmth, love, protection, fear, wonder.

And scale? How wondrous! To be a woodland child in the immense forest of towering Redwood adults.
Irrelevant details? Magical! I can tell you more about the space beneath my father’s roll-top desk than the man who owned it for longer than I had been alive.
And feelings? Those are the priceless collector’s first edition notes we send to ourselves. From a 7-year old me to the adult I am today.
Today I’d like to read to you from the biggest book in the library of little me. It’s a great work called: Mom v. Fear. (I know this is a blog post, so my Homeric epic will be the abridged version. Don’t worry, I’ve got excellent Cliff’s notes.)
In Chapter I – My Mom sits a very young me down and tells me she is going to magically make my favorite freckle on the back of my hand disappear. (Yes, I had and have a favorite freckle.) Abracadabra, 1, 2, 3... with a wave over the hand, I disappear thee. Gone! Holy crap it’s gone! (more like internal dialogue) A witch! A God! All powerful and VERY scary! I want my freckle back!!!
And seeing I’m clearly upset, she immediately makes it come back. Ah, nothing to fear, she says and the magic is undone.
Later editions footnote this chapter by adding the protagonist used skin concealer make-up to make my freckle disappear. Regardless, the moral of the story becomes a major plot point: Nothing to fear and anything is possible.
Chapter II- Three very large leather-clad bullies linger on a street corner. NYC. The mean streets. The movie “The Warriors” is still in theaters. Oh, this is bad. Very bad. Bad bad bad. I won’t ever walk past this corner. These guys are dark angels of hell. Hell’s Angels! Maybe literally, yes, I'm seven, I know.
Mom sees this, me, them. Senses my fear like only a mother can and employs her super-power Southern genetic gift for gab.
Will we gain passage past the evil Tri-leather-clad-clops?
Hey, watchya guys doing? Yeah? That’s cool...
More of this, more of that. Gab. Gab. Gab. Soon those big guys are all laughing and telling us the way to the David Copperfield show on Broadway.
Magic! Poof. Or an act of illusion? History reveals the antagonists may have been more like “The Village People,” their evil biker leathers more like ass-less chaps. But the plot point?
Stunning! Fearless! You can walk up and disarm an entire street gang with easy-going banter? Brilliant!
Chapter III (Then time for bed, young man) – Evil corporate giant goes toe-to-toe with my mom. Battle royale.
The details are sketchy because almost no one survived to tell the tale, but this eyewitness recalls a small boy playing with a toy inside a massive multi-national corporate giant’s headquarters only to be lambasted by the CEO of said company. Authority incarnate vs. the little guy. Hurt and humiliated, I tell my mom.
And what does she do? She goes AFTER the evil corporate giant! How dare you scold a little boy for playing with the toys. This is ‘Toy World’ after all!
The nuanced logic may have been lost on me at the time, but the essence wasn’t.

Get up. Stand up. Stand up for your rights! (SING IT!!!)
I was never more proud. My mom defeats authoritarian fear itself!
The moral of the story? Honestly? The moral is: the book of my memory is a bad read because the details and accounts are sketchy at best. I took scant notes for this book report, yet somehow the meaning has been fused to my soul. And to this day, those memories are the sole notes I’ve sent to my adult self.
Be fearless.
And when in doubt, use concealor. Fake it 'til you make it. I remember. And I am: fearless. And with an overly heroic sense of self, I’ll throw myself into anything. Without fear. Why not? There’s nothing false about bravado! I learned from the best. My mom. She wrote the book.
And that’s a perfectly accurate memory as far as I’m concerned.
You see, the “real” facts only trivialize the story. They aren’t important. The better editors of our imagination cross them out with red ink. History may be made by those who write it. But reality is made by those who feel it.
So, for today’s Petunia Face guest blog I humbly ask my sister’s readers to take one moment to look at their child. Right now. And try to imagine... What are they remembering from this very same moment?
It’s probably not what you think. And exactly how they feel.
These are the notes they’ll send to themselves in the future.
And this is your chance to be a Ghostwriter.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The First One's Free

For the longest time I thought I was supposed to buy my father neckties. Socks. I thought fathers wanted to watch football, King of the Hill. I thought fathers loved to barbecue. But my dad has worn just one tie since his wedding day and I have never seen him with spatula in hand. My father is not like those in commercials unless of course the commercial is for Nicorette or the next Indiana Jones movie. My father is different, he is mine. He taught me to love joy and melancholy in equal measure, to love travel, knowledge, curiosity and quiet. He taught me to love words and throughout my life I have always known that above all he loves me most (you know, along with my brother and mother). So without further ado, here is my father:

My name is Edgar. I am an alcoholic and addict. Take my word for it. I don’t lie. Well, …. I only lie when I have to …. and that’s almost the truth.
I have dropped acid on the ice flows of the Artic while Polar bears cruised the cracks looking for lunch. I hopped, slipped and skipped from one creaking, groaning electric green slab of ice to the next. Some the size of The Taj Mahal, fierce frozen blue …. In fact, one of them WAS The Taj Mahal … I think it was, maybe, not totally certain.
With my little brother, a cocaine shooter, I have gobbled gobs of peyote buttons in The Painted Desert of the Navajo. And years later, clean and sober for one sad day, I scattered my little brother’s ashes from a cliff in that desert.
Pills? …. Hardly ever met a pill I didn’t like, ‘though I am more partial to the speedy pop over the soporific. I smoked marijuana every day for 30 years. Enough to support one Jamaican growing season, a purely spiritual inquiry into the void of nowhere and inertia.
Of course, I snuffled white powders, contents unknown. Not my thing really. I preferred yellowish powders of contents more certain. Speeeeeed! M-E-T-H-A-N-P-H-E-T-A-M-I-N-E!!! I could type, type, type, all night rushing past dawn into A Legend in my own mind as synaptic connections snapped and neurons popped like kernels of corn on a hot skillet and IQ points fluttered to the ground like confetti at a wedding that never should have happened.
My alcoholic pedigree is impeccable. Mother, father, brother, two uncles and one step father died of the “disease” or related causes. At about the age of 12, I nicked into a drop or two of demon rum and never looked back …. or ahead …. into full tilt, wild-in-the-streets and gutters drinking from the age of 16 through college and beyond.
Later, in the early years with a young family to support, my drinking and drugging slowed to steady-on cruise with occasional spikes of aberrant gluttony, a major contribution to the wreckage of my 25 year marriage. The damage to my children, I can only imagine. I was there for them …. That is, I wanted to be but wasn’t. That they have grown into wonderful, seemingly happy human beings of astounding grace and accomplishment is nothing short of a modern day miracle.
Three years ago, clean and sober for 13 years, I crossed the Turkish border into Northern Iraq with a small film crew. We were greeted by our mysterious fixer, four hundred Germanic pounds of sweating Big Ziggy sporting a gray goatee and two Gloch pistols tucked in his belt surrounded by a Kurdish covey of machinegun-toting Pesh Merga militia.
Before we could even offer up the customary “Salaama Aleukum,” we stood, jaws dropping and watched as Big Ziggy yanked a cranked-out Ratso Rizzo cabbie and small-time smuggler from his cab. With another hard yank, Big Zig bounced Ratso off his chest. A puppet without strings, Ratso settled down after that.
I rode with Rafik, a rock-tough Kurd, husband to two wives and take-a-bullet-for-you body guard in a black Mercedes sedan leading our high speed caravan of Toyota Land Cruisers across spring green waves of wheat fields down an empty black road, 300 hundred miles to Sulamanya. The Syrian border of guard towers and concertina wire flicked by off my right shoulder as I slumped in the passenger’s seat nodding off with sleep deprivation.
Over a rise, Rafik slowed. Something on the road up ahead. Two cars blocking the road. A breakdown? Traffic accident? Or, ….? At fifty yards, Rafik was leaning on the horn and yelling out the window …. Nothing. …. No response …. No action from the stalled vehicles …. Twenty five yards away, Rafik stopped. Grabbing the slick black machinegun at my feet, he leapt from the Mercedes. Walking quickly toward the roadblock, he shouldered the weapon, tensed ready and set to spray a whole bunch of bullets per second at the offending vehicles …. Very quickly, the offending vehicles parted and rolled off the road into a ditch.
No-big-deal-cool Rafik climbed back into the Mercedes as if he had just stopped off at a 7-11 for a pack of cigarettes. Matter of fact, back on the road, he pulled out a pack of Parliaments and offered me one. I hadn’t smoked in years. I had been a runner for years. …. I smoked the Parliament.
Six weeks later, I boarded my flight from Istanbul to San Francisco wearing a nicotine patch. The strongest patch sold in the States is 21 mg. I wore a Turkish model delivering 52mg. of sweet nicotine. In spite of three Excedrin PM, one valium and a solid shot of Nightime Nyquil for blessed sleep, I rode the long hours to San Francisco behind my sleep mask, eyes as wide open as Zoey on a happy day, pressed against my seat pulling 10 Gs, stiff as an astronaut on take-off.
Today and once again, I sport dueling nicotine patches, two # 2s, a 14 mg. infusion of sweet nicotine on each upper arm. I want to kick this son of a bitch addiction and breath again. I do not want to die just yet. For awhile longer, I want to be there, really there, for my grown children. For awhile longer, I want to be there, here and now for my granddaughter, Zoey, our Petunia Faced Girl.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And Then It Was Night

Ladies and gentlemen: Holy Shoosh. Me thinks this election day stands next to September 11th as one of the most memorable days in history during my lifetime. Only, of course, this is a day to celebrate.

Regretably, tomorrow the fam and I are hitting the open road to say goodbye to Bryan's grandmother so I will not be personally posting for the rest of the week. In my absence, please enjoy a few guest posts from my very own daddy-o and big bro on Thursday and Friday (more relative Petunia Face to come throughout the month).
As for now: I am happy. I am hopeful. I am full and I am out (of here).
Pedal to the metal,

November 4th, 2008

This photo goes out to all of those that say blogging is narcissistic.

Because, dude. I only took 32 shots before I got one that didn't make me look too cockeyed, too old, or too come-hither. What can I say? I was going for just the right amount of an old, cockeyed, come-hither stare.
In other news: I have fallen in love. With you. And you and you and you. It would seem that I am a slut and it's true. Me + the football team, sure, as long as there is a me + you, too. As I sit here at my makeshift desk/kitchen table I practice writing my name if we were to get married: Susannah Clay MaggieMay, Susannah Clay Melissa, Susannah Clay BeachBungalow8, Susannah Clay Anonymous 1 through 9. If you don't see your name on that list, never fear. My heart belongs to all of you and I'd totally let you feel me up beneath the bleachers if you so much as tried, True Love Always and Forever, over or under my bra, it's no matter. Because it is you I will look for on the dance floor when they play Stairway to Heaven. It is you.

You who pulled me out of my funk, you with your comments. You who offered me a place to live, a publisher, an idea, a ((((hug)))). You who made me smile. You who gave me hope.
And that is what I felt today when I went down to vote. Shit, you all know for whom and what I voted, it's no secret. But what I didn't know is that I'd also be voting for myself. Susannah Clay Me in 2008, X marks the spot. I cast my ballot for change. Yes We Can, Yes I Can, Change We Need and Change I Must.
Happy Election Day.
With Love from the Other Side,

Monday, November 3, 2008

(Untitled) & (Undone)

The funny thing is I was going to take the month of November off from my blog to take part in NaNoWriMo, a month dedicated to cranking out a novel. I had lined up my family to guest post because god knows I'd be much too busy to write a novel plus a blog, what with working full time and raising a daughter and life. Funny, right? If you like gallows humor. Which I usually do but not right now, no, maybe not. Right now the only thing I find funny is watching people fall down on the dance floor on reruns of America's Funniest Home Videos. That there is some funny shit.
But now there's this. This life, this worry, this storm, this this this this this. And I cannot get my head to stop spinning from this. I'm sinking, people, no two ways about it. My head is full of mush and my tummy has turned sour. I feel helpless, hopeless and that whole thing with pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? I'm too tired right now to even reach down.
I tried not to post today because really, who wants to hear the small voice of gloom? But hi. Wobbly smile. You're it. You and a handful of weak jobs posted on Craigslist. You're my glimmer, my maybe, my tomorrow, my yes. And I cannot thank you enough.
I am giving myself a reprieve on the novel. A week. I need a week to remember how to breathe. Because on top of it all, Bryan's grandmother passed away so we will be going down to San Diego for the funeral. In the meantime I will wake up, feed Zoey, do the laundry, shower (maybe). I will go through the motions until I get swept up in the momentum of it all and my body moves on its own accord. Because right now all I want to do is sleep. To stop. To fall down on the dance floor and stay there. To get away from this.

My apologies for the disjointed post. See now why I have no business writing? My brain, I tell you. It's a house of sand and fog. God, how I wish I'd written that book. But I didn't. I haven't written any. So let me ask you this: what should I write? Any ideas for me? I was going to write about being a working mother but, well, *snort*, gallows humor. Not funny. Somebody else suggested I write about my relationship with my mother, but do people really want to read that? How would I structure it? What should I write about? Please, tell me. Tell me something. Tell me about the rabbits, George. I'm listening.