Why Not Friday Round-Up

Why, Arizona can be a question or a place depending on whether you use a comma. The first time we came through “town” I saw the official sign for Why that included when it was established and how many people live there. So the whole time we were somewhere else I thought about how clever it would be to Instagram a photo of that sign with the caption, “This is Why,” but we couldn’t find the sign coming back without making a dozen U-turns to check out signs which you don’t want to do on AZ 85 when the sun is setting.

We’ve been gone for much of March, first to Alaska and then to Arizona. In both places we drank their local beer and we came home fat from thinking every night was a special occasion. We live now in the land of corporate beer and an unforgiving scale which I constantly adjust to make sure the line is exactly on the zero before I weigh myself. I lost half a pound that way this morning.

I stopped writing for a week and it felt good. It felt like I was out from under for a while, free of practically every obligation (being out of town and on the road a fair amount of time will do that), and free from thinking about whether anyone was reading what I had written. I quit the constant checking of my phone, turned off the reinforcement faucet for a while. I decided not to write anything until I missed writing which I did, finally, this morning. In anticipation, I started to make a list of themes last night but I forgot them until now.

Being physically present is no accident. We took a bit of a detour on our way from Phoenix to Organ Pipe National Park to see our grandkids in San Diego. And their parents. But mostly the grandkids – 5 year old twin boys and a 14 year old girl. It was six hours each way which is a lot for most people but not really for us because we like being on the road so much. The next morning while I sat watching TV with one boy, the other one, slow to wake, came out of his room, climbed up on the bed  and hugged me. I sat feeling his blond head resting on my back, his little wordless morning self. I didn’t want to breathe or speak lest he quit to run off and begin his day.

I delivered 4,379 tampons and pads and 60 pairs of women’s underwear to the Salvation Army today. This was after lunch with a good friend who asked me, quite pointedly, if delivering menstrual supplies was my end game for my Time of the Month Club effort or was there a bigger agenda and I told her, yes, that collecting menstrual supplies for homeless women gives me ‘talking rights’ on policy and programs which is true but also true is that packing my pink bags with boxes of tampons and pads and new underwear for women I don’t know and will probably never meet is weirdly the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Don’t even ask me why. I have no clue.








February Friday Ice Hell Round-Up

I made a cheese sauce yesterday that had three pounds of cheese in it. It was lovely and smooth without a hint of scorch. I once scorched an entire Nesco of mac and cheese that I made for my son’s theater rehearsal dinner.  I pressed on, figuring they’re just kids and they won’t care. They did. It marked me for life so I do a lot of stirring.

Last night, a local warming room, open because it was below 20 degrees, rejected a woman who was intoxicated so she had to go back to sleep under the bridge from whence she had come. Maybe there’s something to add to that but I’m not sure what that would be.

I swam for an hour today with my old friend, Karen. We took the two far lanes in the deep end of the pool, the part with the diving well so it feels like swimming in the ocean above a reef for me but she likes it. She always wants to race but I say no except sometimes I let her get a head start and then I make it my goal to get ahead of her which I do but mostly because she is unaware I decided to race.

Amy Klobuchar once ate a salad with a comb because her aide neglected to get her a fork. Two questions here: who carries a comb anymore? and how would one actually eat a salad with a comb? She should have just used her hands.

I’ve discovered the key to getting older is developing multiple identities. You can’t be what you were when you were younger, so you have to quit pining for that person. It takes $10 to buy 500 business cards. Go be somebody else or a couple of somebodies. Who the hell will ever figure it out? It’s like Rockford printing up business cards in his car when he wanted to impersonate a water meter man, people believe stuff when it’s in print. Tell them you’re Queen Elizabeth, they’ll never know the difference. And then go be her.





For the Love of Leon

I’ve taken to wearing a hat indoors.

It’s part of my ruggedness wear. You know, how Stitch Fix sends you snazzy, coordinated tops and shoes and accessories? I don’t have that. I have two boxes in the downstairs closet with a remarkable array of souvenir hats and hats no fool would wear.

One of them is a black felt winter baseball cap with earflaps like Elmer Fudd used to wear but not plaid. Elmer’s was plaid and he would wear it when he went wabbit hunting. “Shh. Be vewy, vewy quiet. I’m hunting wabbits.”

I wore my black Elmer Fudd hat for years until I caught a serious look at myself in the mirror and was just utterly chagrined at the sight. It was hideous but it felt cozy, that hat, sweet like Elmer because even though he was armed he never really hurt anybody. But the mirror caused a reckoning that resulted in my EF hat being shifted to the bottommost layer of hats no fool would wear.

For weeks in Milwaukee, we have had snow alternating with a polar vortex and freezing rain. I have shoveled a lot, I actually like shoveling snow but as I read about younger people keeling over from shoveling I feel like I should scale back. The other day, my doctor asked me if I’d had any chest pains when I shoveled and I told her, no, I try to stop just before the chest pains start. It’s a joke, don’t come running.

A few days ago I was driving by our house when I saw a man with a shovel over his shoulder. I convinced him to shovel our driveway for a ridiculous amount of money. He shoveled in long strips, stopping every few minutes to lean with both hands on his shovel. Maybe his doctor told him to do that. But he was done in a quarter of the time it would have taken me and he lived through it. After I paid him and I was walking down the street to our truck, he yelled at me. “Leon,” he said, “My name is Leon.”

I love Leon. I prayed for him to come back today and he did, this time charging me somewhat less because the snow wasn’t as heavy or deep as before. I paid him happily and briefly considered offering him room and board if he would just stay through winter and shovel. Last night, I watched two trucks pull up to my neighbor’s across the street. One truck plowed their driveway and four other men snow-blowed their sidewalks. I just prayed for Leon.

Unbelievably, we are going to Alaska next week. But somehow the snow there seems exotic and thrilling, not endless and overwhelming like here. To prepare, we have watched several episodes of Ice Road Truckers which is weirdly gripping and somewhat skill-building. In the last episode, two semi-trucks carrying enormous loads drove across a frozen lake with the second semi-truck driver radioing the first that she saw new cracks in the ice developing as he drove his rig to the shore. She was still behind him when she said this.

I’m not a sissy, not about snow anyway, so I am prepared for Alaska although I do sort of wish that Leon was coming along. Just in case.

Deep Winter Friday Round-Up

I can’t be in a clinical trial because I have a magnet in my head. I wrote about this a few days ago – being offered the opportunity to be in a research project testing the efficacy of an Alzheimer’s prevention drug. But regular MRI’s are part of the research design and because there is a magnet in my head that attaches to the magnet on my cochlear implant receiver, my head would blow up. So that’s the end of my lab rat career.

I decided not to find out if I have the dreaded Alzheimer’s gene. It’s knowable without much effort but it seems ill-advised to me, like buying a cemetery plot and having picnics there all the time, afraid to wander too far from the plot, you know, lest I get lost and can’t find my way back to my final resting place. Too bleak, in other words.

It is a terrible thing that it’s possible to continue a conversation while the TV news is talking about another mass shooting. How is it possible that we could become so inured to violence that the murder of five people becomes background noise? I feel it a moral duty to be outraged each time and not let such horror become pedestrian but I know I am failing. It’s sickening.

Ernest Hemingway’s advice to “write one true sentence” is the best writer’s advice ever given. Just say the first absolutely true thing and go from there. Don’t equivocate, preface, or hedge. Or apologize. Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket, my mother would say, oh, no, put your sentence on a platter like a fine smoked salmon that you bought against your better judgment.

Yearnings are just that. Sometimes they aren’t meant to become reality because if they became reality they would become pedestrian, common, and without the glow of the possible. It’s what’s possible that keeps us alive.

Valentine’s Day 2019

Love isn’t a mystery.

Loyalty, resiliency, and kindness are mysteries. And humor. Humor is definitely a mystery. And a gift.

I have been in love with many people who weren’t funny. They were thrilling at first but ultimately gave me a headache.

If two people are in love they will be happy for a while. If one or both of them is funny, they will soldier through the giant snow drift of life like it is fresh popcorn waiting to be eaten.

I know this to be true from laughing with my husband in emergency rooms and other places where people are silent or crying.

We would leave the hospital’s circle drive to have a milkshake, one thinking the other would be cheered by the chocolate, and it reminds us of times in the summer leaning against the car with the big neon sign giving our faces a slight blue hue and how we joked about coming there with all the other people who had no other place they’d rather be.

Writing Therapy

They didn’t “fall in love” with it. That’s what the editors at the famous journal told me in an email about my essay “The Fall.

So I right away started making plans for submitting it to the next tier of journals. Simultaneous submission it’s called, meaning I could send it to a dozen places at the same time and wait to see which, if any, said yes.

I’ve been trying to ramp up my writing life, get out of the minor leagues, no, out of little league, and submitting is a big part of that. You know, the 100 rejections challenge – if you don’t get 100 rejections a year, you’re not trying hard enough.

It was on my way to the bathroom, though, that it hit me. “Fuck it,” I thought, I don’t have time to wait for somebody to fall in love with my essay. It’s like sitting in a metal rowboat in the hot sun watching a single bobber sitting perfectly still atop the water. If there were fish down there, the bobber would be moving. You know that and I know that but yet we sit and watch the red and white bobber just existing as if it wasn’t complete and utter folly to think a giant pike is circling below. There is no pike. That is the truth.

So, no, I’m not going to let my weird little essay with its aging angst get the side eye for months while I sit here in my metal rowboat and wait like the world’s dumbest fisherman. I’m 70. I could be dead and buried before somebody falls in love with a piece so odd, so reeking of melancholy and envy, and agedness, especially that. Or not, I don’t know. I could be completely wrong. It sometimes happens.

I decided to give “The Fall” a home right here, share it with people who would understand the point, appreciate this peculiar and rich time of life, and I wasn’t disappointed in the response. It was lovely.

My ambivalence about ‘being published’ remains. Minutes after I swore off the hunt, someone sent me a notice about an upcoming anthology. What is it, I wonder, that is so alluring about being published. I had a piece, a beloved piece that took a dozen revisions to get right, that was published last year in a book that sits on my coffee table and I haven’t opened it since the day it came in the mail. Six people have probably read it.

Writing this I realize that the same comeuppance I gave myself about another topic fits here. I need to stop being such a little flower. They didn’t fall in love with it, can you believe that? Incredible.

Thank you for hearing me out. You all are such great therapists.