Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pain: Part 1

I did it to myself when I decided to turn the garage into a cottage/studio.  It had gone through many incarnations since my parents bought this piece of property in the mid 1950s.  It was a double garage back then, very modern for the time due to its size.  Most garages in those days were single garages in this neighborhood, unless they also contained a "workshop."  But since the entry of our garage was off the ally behind the property and you actually had to walk farther from the garage to the back door of the house than from the street in front of the house to the front door, my parents always parked on the street.  Laziness won out and the garage began its incarnation as very big storage shed.

In the late 1960s after my parents divorce and my mother's taking a lover who was a friend of my current husband's and only a three years older than I, the garage began to be used as a workshop and hideout for asshole men who had been temporarily been asked to go drink somewhere else by their long suffering female partners.  The garage had electricity so the boys could have a huge old fridge and a TV to watch sporting events while they drank beer or "Crybaby" wine. When the gang of drunks began to move away with new women (suckers) to other parts of the state or country, and my mother's very young lover died of a brain tumor, the garage again languished as a big storage pod.

When Tom and I had one of our many falling-outs I decided to remodel the garage and turn it into a cottage/art studio ( I was painting in those days).  I wish I had pictures of the transition.  It was a huge undertaking.  For one thing the garage and the entire back third of the property was situated on a gradual rise full of rocks and deep tree-roots.  There were plantings of antique lilacs and thorny  shrubs.  There are two huge pines back here.  And to complicate things a bit, huge slabs of slate had been deposited by my ex-father when he tore out the original antique mantel and fireplace and made the whole fireplace-room dark as a cave and butt ugly.  The slate hearth  he built was nothing more than a tripping hazard.  When my mother's young lover took up residence, he tore out my ex-father's hidious low acoustical tile ceiling and opened up the bay windows again.  He also tore out the slate fireplace and replaced it with a mantle he and my mother found at a garage sale.  It wasn't as pretty as the original, but it is a huge improvement on the slate slabs which my mother's young lover stashed in random sections of the back of the property (as if they were naturally occurring in this soil).

So when I began the excavation for the bathroom/solarium addition to the garage I had to do several very big jobs with very little help and even less money.  A girlfriend and I dug the utility trench from the main house to the garage.  In a climate like this utility lines (gas and water) are buried six feet under.  And these particular six feet run under a pathway that has been used since the late 1800s.  They also run beside the biggest Green Ash tree in the Salt Lake Valley.  So not only did we have to dig that trench, we had to dig around roots as big as a weight lifter's thigh.  We used shovels until we got to the tree roots and then we used coffee cans.  So we dug a trench three feet wide and six feet underground and roughly eighty five feet long.  We worked from dawn to dusk for two weeks.  If Tom had been doing this remodel he'd have rented a backhoe and dug the trench in a day.

Then my friend and I made the gazebo from a kit she bought ages ago and never used.  The kit itself was simple, but preparing the ground for it was not.  More digging was required along with moving slabs of slate.  Then, once the area had been leveled and the beams in place, we mixed concrete in a wheelbarrow and made five triangular sections of floor.  Putting the kit together was simple compared to the mixing and pouring of concrete one wheelbarrow at a time.  It took three wheelbarrows full for each triangular section.  You do the math.  Just writing this is making my back ache a little more.

It took most of one summer to do this much, and as winter was approaching we used particle board and my friend's table saw to make the fourteen triangular sides of the structure and then wrestle them into place(leaving one side open as a door) and hammer them securely enough to weather the winter and protect all the tools and antiques that had been stored in the garage so the actual remodel could begin. 

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Judith Blue Stories: #2. Junior

While Judith is finishes waiting on the two stragglers from the lunch shift, Junior "borrows" her car keys from her purse in the Beanery basement.  He unlocks the trunk, peers in, and then chickens out.  He closes the trunk and opens the back door on the passenger side.  There's a blanket over some suitcases on the seat behind the driver.  He quickly slips back into the Beanery and heads down the stairs hoping he beats her to it.  No one's there so he dumps her keys in her purse.  He retraces his steps and ends up on the back floor of her old Chevy sedan with the blanket pulled over his shoulder.

When Judith leaves the restaurant she doesn't say goodbye to anyone.  She lights a cigarette as she leaves the backdoor and strides across the parking lot toward her car.  She fishes around in her purse for her keys and comes up with the wad of them in her hand.  The cigarette dangles from her lips and a breeze sends a stream of smoke into her eye.  She's blinking back tears as she unlocks the driver's side door.  She flings her purse in the passenger seat, climbs behind the steering wheel and pulls the door shut.  She backs smoothly out of her parking place and edges into traffic on 7th South then turns right and then left to take the drive-through at the Capitol Credit Union to cash her check.  Then she turns right and right again to ease into the left lane of State Street where she'll  catch the one-way traffic of westbound 5th South onto the freeway heading north toward Ogden, then Logan, and who knows where from there.

She pulls into a 7 Eleven just off the freeway in South Ogden to fill her tank and get snacks.  When she comes out of the store after pre-paying her gas she sees a man sitting in her car.  She stops in her tracks and yells, "Get the fuck out of my car!" He opens the passenger door, leans out and says, "It's me, Junior."
"I don't care if it's Jesus Christ himself, I'm not taking passengers.  How did you find me?"
"I was on the floor in the back."
"Of my car?"
"Well, I'm not taking passengers.  So get out.  You can hitch a ride back to Salt Lake."
"I'm going with you."
"No you're not!"
"Yes I am!"
"You don't even know where I'm going.  Do you have any money?"
"I have my paycheck and I don't care where you're going.  I'm going with you."
"What about school?"
"I'm their star pupil, they'll let me finish my degree from anywhere so long as I publish something."
"I'm not taking you back and I'm not taking in strays."
"I'm the guy who loves you.  I don't treat you like shit.  I'm going to be famous and rich.  I'll take good care of you."
"Oh Christ!  Why are all the men who insist on being in my life such fucking babies?  You said you'd never had a job before the Beanery dishwashing job.  And in the Beanery case your sole motivation getting that job was potential pussy?  How old did you say you are?  I don't want to raise you.  I chose not to have adolescent kids."
"Wow!  Have any of the men in your past been feminists?  I don't have a great opinion of my gender either, but I'm not those guys.  Gimme a chance to prove it."
"That's what they all say in the beginning."
"No they don't."
"Open the glove box and pull out the maps, will you?"
"I have contacts in Boston."
"Do you now? What kind of contacts?  Are we just talking drugs?  What's with you and the smack?"
"Most of the time I'm bored.  Heroine lets me drift, peacefully.  I feel normal then."
"Normal, huh.  Pump $10 worth of gas and then let me know the next time you feel normal so I can dump you on the side of the road."  She takes the maps and sits in the back seat looking for an easy route east.  There isn't one.  And why is she considering taking him with her she wonders.  And what's in Boston for her?  And why not?  Her hand is massaging the tight knot of muscles between her eyebrows. She has the beginning of a headache.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Judith Blue Stories: #1. The Contessa

Junior saw her the first day of the seminar on the plays of Harold Pinter, and made sure to get a seat directly across from her. Junior was the English Department's only Woodrow Wilson Scholar. He also had a special grant from the Creative Writing Department, so he didn't really need to work. He could be a TA, but why? It cut into his free time. He had a William Morris agent--had since he was eighteen. First story he wrote got published in a collection of the Best Short Fiction, 1966. He's been trying to find a better place to sleep. He doesn't worry about the deadline for a collection of stories, he writes fast. But he does need a place to flop. He also needs some blow.

Junior doesn't have to say a word in this seminar. The famous playwright is teaching. They drink beer together in the afternoon. They laugh together at the foolish things these Mormon kids say in class. They dish babes. The famous playwright has a new lover every semester. He's been married to the same woman almost thirty years. Imagine that. He has a son he doesn't talk about much. The famous playwright likes to gamble.  Junior knows way too much to worry about his grade in the famous playwright's class.

Junior starts to think of the beauty across from him two nights a week for three hours a night as The Contessa. He starts referring to her as The Contessa. Pretty soon other men are calling her The Contessa. She is the most vocal and confident of the students even through she's auditing the seminar. She is always prepared and perfectly willing to take on the Mormon grad students. The Contessa makes it easy on the famous Playwright. He only has to get her started and she runs the seminar for him. Soon there is a regular Tuesday night beer drinking group that takes the seminar into the late night. She is often there, sitting beside the famous playwright. Her name is Judith, but he finds himself still talking about her when she isn't there, as The Contessa. Judith doesn't seem to see him. He wonders if she's this semester's lover. He also finds out that Judith is married.

One early afternoon Junior pops his head into the famous professor's office on his way out for an afternoon of shooting smack. But his famous friend invites him to go have lunch with him, "My treat," he says. Junior is disappointed that his high will have to be postponed, but smiles and says, "Sure, thanks."

Strangely the famous playwright takes them downtown to a nice little hole in the wall restaurant called, "The Beanery." It's packed. They stand outside and chain smoke, waiting for a table to open up. It takes almost twenty minutes. But once seated he sees The Contessa walking toward them smiling, with menus in hand. Her hair is twisted into a loose chignon at the nape of her gorgeous neck. She is tall, willowy, graceful.  She has pale olive skin, dark hair; she has big almond shaped hazel eyes She's wearing a long skirt and sandals with straps that wrap around her ankles. She has beautiful feet. Is she wearing a bra or not? He's not sure, and so makes a study of watching her across the room. She is flawless and usually a bit aloof, yet now, oddly warm. When she approaches a table she smiles, she seems patient, bends over a menu to point things out. She makes notes, smiles, turns away, and the smile is gone. What remains is a fierce, strong, beautiful woman in rapid, meaningful, fluid motion. Focus is what you see when she's not smiling. She comes back to take their order and calls them by name, "Junior, Henry, who let you boys out?" The famous playwright beams and says, "It's like a visit to Greece, and then having Melina Mercouri wait on you at a small cafe." She smiles and says, "I think more Anna Magnani, but then, who am I?" Junior blurts out, "You're The Contessa." She looks at him then and says, "Junior have you decided what you want?" He leers at her and says, "I'll have a Rose Tattoo." She turns and says over the shoulder, "Play amongst yourselves, and when you're ready to order food, let me know." The smile is gone.

 Junior starts hanging out at the Beanery. She is not playful when he's with Whitlock. She smiles perfunctorily and takes their order. States plainly that she gets paid to work here and can't hang out and chit chat with them. Whitlock has a part time dishwashing job at The Beanery and deals drugs a little on the side. Whitlock has heard Junior call her The Contessa, but when Whitlock says it, it becomes The Cuntessa. So now, around the Beanery, she's called The Cuntessa by all the male help. One day when he and Whitlock come in for lunch, she walks to the table to take their order, Whitlock says, "Hi, Cuntessa," and she turns to look Junior straight in the eye and say, 'Thanks Junior, you little prick. Whadda you assholes want?" She smiles without any warmth at all. Junior tips her a twenty on a five dollar lunch.

Junior takes over Whitlock's job suddenly. Now he's working Whitlock's shifts and trading shifts with the other dishwasher to work all Judith's shifts. He does a much better job washing dishes than Whitlock did. He buses her tables and resets them, too. 

Sonnets start to appear on the Beanery bulletin board. It's in a public area, and is used mostly as a notice board of rooms for rent, dogs lost, cars for sale. That kind of thing. But when the poems start appearing addressed to The Contessa, she knows who wrote them, and as soon as they appear she takes them down, reads them, and tears them up.

One night in August they were closing up The Beanery, when Junior asks the cook, who has just finished the last order of the night, "Want to take a little break downstairs? I've got smack or blow." Kirby doesn't hesitate, "How much, man?" "My treat." And Kirby is gone for a half an hour. Which leaves Junior and The Contessa alone for fifteen minutes once the last customer is gone and the door closed and locked. So Junior asks her "What do you like?"

"What do you mean what do I like? What kind of a question is that!"
"I brought you a present, and wanted to know what you preferred, heroin or coke?"
"Presumptive, aren't you?"
"I see you step out back to smoke your joints. I know you're no virgin."
"What the fuck do you think you know about me!" This is not so much a question, as an accusation, almost shouted. When Kirby opens the basement door he asks, "Is it safe to come upstairs? Judith shouts, "Why the hell wouldn't it be, Kirby! And don't you ever call me The Cuntessa again! My goddamned name is Judith. Do you both understand? If I ever hear another male employee of this place call me The Cuntessa or Contessa, I'll get both your asses fired."

It was a week before she came back to work. She and her husband, Jack, had gone camping. She didn't seem like the camping type. Junior asked and was told she was taking a scheduled vacation. But still he worked two shifts--almost eighty hours a week. He gave up going to classes. He slept in the basement of The Beanery.  This first job in his life was now paying for the blow he was doing in the basement.  And his coke supply was making him one very meticulous and fast dishwasher.

Junior was built like Judith. They were about the same height; he weighed a little more, but not much. Junior had a mane of curly black hair that he usually kept in a pony tail when he worked. His face was angular. He had hazel eyes like Judith's, nice eyebrows, too. But his beard grew fast and very black, so even though he shaved every day, the lower half of his face always had a bluish cast to it. He was slight and pale skinned.

When Judith returned to work, he gifted her with an ounce of pretty good pot. She took the gift and said, "Thanks Junior, is this an apology?"
"What did I do I need to apologize for?"
"You got every man in town to start calling me Contessa. I hate it. I want it to stop."
"Didn't you ever see the movie The Barefoot Contessa?"
"Yes. So what?"
"Just take it as a compliment. Ava Gardner is the star, and it's a great story. I think it might have won some Oscars. Anyway, I think you look like Ava Gardner, and you have beautiful feet. It just came to me in a flash of inspiration."
"What are your intentions, with all the flattery and the gifts of drugs, the poems, the busing my tables, the working two shifts to work with me? See, I did notice. But what is it you want?"
"I thought fathers were supposed to ask that question."
"Well, since I'm married, I have to ask this question myself. Or would you rather I have Jack ask you?"
"I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
"And what are your prospects, young man?"
"I'm a talented writer, and I have a William Morris Agent."
"Bring me a story. I want to find out how talented you are."
"At your service.  And as long as your sampling my talents, I have others."
  She lifts one eyebrow and slits her eyes at him and she turns to walk out the backdoor.

The next day Junior arrives with a story. It's called The Gates of Oxford.
Judith reads it on her break as she smokes a joint. It's funny in a dark kind of way. She thinks the main character is based on Junior, but the character is married to a real nut case, and she wants to know if Junior has been married.

When she comes up from the basement where she was smoking her joint and reading, Junior is in the dish room working like crazy getting ready for the lunch rush. As Judith gets to the dish room, Junior turns and says, "Well?"

"I have some questions." Junior puts his hands on his hips and sings, "I'm a little teapot short and stout, just tip me over and pour me out." He does the whole routine with the gestures and coyness of a kid performing for a grown up. She is delighted with this bit of childish spontaneity. She laughs and then says, "Well for starters, what would you call your style."
"Autobiographical Realism."
"That's a real literary style?"
"Are you married?"
"Not anymore."
"Did the cat live?"
"Was that your child?"
"Nope. She informally adopted the baby from an Indian girl who was going to jail."
"So, she stole the kid."
"Pretty much."
"And you went along with this program?"
"Well... I guess."
"What does, I guess mean?"
"It means, I guess I loved her, so I guess it didn't matter what she did. She was a speed freak. That didn't bother me either."
"Are you ethically challenged?"
"Not when it comes to love."
"Then why are you no longer with this crazy woman?"
"She left me for another man."

Later that afternoon, Judith's husband and three of his drinking buddies show up at The Beanery, and they're drunk on home brew and irritably hungry. She and Junior haven't set the tables for dinner yet, and are just getting ready to start when this quartet of drunks arrives and loudly demands service. Benny, a friend of her husband's, who spends more time at her house than she does, and never fails to piss all over the bathroom, shouts, "Where's The Contessa?" All four men have a fit of sniggering that isn't quite under control when Judith arrives with the menus and the cutlery. Jack demands water. There are no glasses on the table, and just as she turns to get glasses, Junior comes up behind her with glasses and a pitcher of ice water on a tray for the table. "Oooh, what have we got here, a waiter?" This from Paul, who is almost too drunk to talk. Junior ignores the taunt and goes about his business. Then he disappears into the dish room. 
Judith says, "You boys have the menu memorized, what do you want to eat?" Jack orders an omelet. This will piss Kirby off, and ruin his end of shift buzz. The other three order sandwiches and fries.

When Judith walks into the kitchen, Kirby is already bitching. He's cleaned up and is planning on leaving the second the evening shift comes on, which was due to happen in ten minutes. "Fuck! Man!"

"I didn't invite them Kirby. I'm not exactly thrilled myself."

When she takes the rowdy group of drunks their late lunch or early supper, they grouse about how long it took to get their food. Benny says, nastily, "Tardiness doesn't help get you a big fat tip."
"Benny, you cheap bastard, since when have you ever tipped?" Judith turns from the table and heads for the back door to await her replacement and have a smoke.

As she passes through the dish room, she says to Junior, "Sorry for the assholes." Then she pushes the back door open, and heads outside to suck down a quick cigarette. Her lighter doesn't work. "Shit!" She turns to head back inside as the door opens and Junior comes out to join her for a cigarette. He has kitchen matches in his apron. He whips one out and strikes it with his thumb nail close to the end of her cigarette.  It explodes in her face and the burning tip hits her open, startled eye. She drops her unlit cigarette and puts both hands to her eye. It burns wickedly. He is horrified and tries to get her hands away from her eye so he can see it, but it hurts too much, and her eye is streaming tears. "We need to get you to an emergency room."
"That would be a good idea, but I can't see to drive."
"I'll drive. Got your keys?"
"No, they're in my purse in the basement. Grab my coat, too."

He's back in seconds with her coat and her bag and they head to her old Chevy sedan in the parking lot behind The Beanery. He opens the passenger door for her, and she gets in. He rounds the front of the car and is seated behind the steering wheel in a couple of seconds. She's still rummaging around in her bag for her keys. She grabs the wad of keys and finds the Chevy's ignition key. She hands the keys to Junior and puts her head back against the head rest. He can't find the keyhole. She grabs them out of his hand and inserts the key in its slot. He turns the key and the car lurches forward and dies. She say, "Put the clutch in, and try it again." He says, "I don't know how to drive a stick shift."

"Fuck. Get out and go back inside and tell Jack I injured my eye. Tell him I did it with an exploding kitchen match. I'll be home later. And then just ignore those assholes, they never tip anyway."

Holy Cross is close, and it's a hospital where her grandfather used to be Chief of Staff. She drives mostly one handed, with the other hand covering her injured eye. She comes to a stop in a parking slot outside the emergency room. When she gets inside, the waiting room is empty. This is a good sign that she won't have to wait long. When she checks in, she drops her grandfather's name. She only has to wait a half hour. They check her eye, rinse it over and over, then put some ointment in it, put a patch over it, and write her a prescription for more ointment. She thanks them and heads out to the parking lot. Jack is leaning against her car. "Well, how's your eye?"
"Not too bad. I have a prescription. Will you take me by the pharmacy to fill it?"
"Sure, I'll drive you. Benny dropped me off."
"Why does Benny have to treat me like shit?"
"Benny likes you, you know that. He's just teasing."
"Benny's an asshole."
"Well, I'm not that crazy about some of your friends, either."
"My friends don't spend all their time at our house, pissing all over the bathroom. Next time Benny pisses all over, I'm banning him from using our toilet."
"Where's he going to piss?"
"In the gutter, for all I care. Maybe he should piss before he gets to our place, and not stay so damn long."
"You're sure being a bitch."
" My eye hurts. My feet hurt too. I'm tired, and you knew I was a bitch when you married me. And just for the record, I don't like being called the Cuntessa or the Contessa, so tell your fucking friends to knock it off."
"What bug crawled up your ass?"
"Maybe you and your friends and your drunkenness, have crawled up my ass, as you so poetically put it."

Judith uses the burned eye as an excuse to stay home a day and sleep. She sleeps a
deep cottony sleep round the clock.  A sleep like she imagines death. A nothing. A nowhere. She knows this absence of feeling. She has finally detached and drifted off. In her dreamless sleep, she has come to the understanding that she can take no more. Next time she wakes to pee, she eats some yogurt and a slice of toast, sips a cup of tea. Then she starts packing. When she has the essentials in her two bags, she takes them to her car and locks them in the trunk.

Next day is payday at The Beanery. She goes in and works her shift as if nothing has changed. Junior is already there. He asks how she is and she says, "I'm fed up, that's how I am."
"What are you fed up with?"
"Are you shitting me?"
"Well, for starters, my asshole husband and his posse of drunks, this place, this town. I'm leaving tonight after my shift."
"What do you mean, leaving?"
"I'm packed and leaving, at 4:00. And keep your damn mouth shut about it." She pushes past him and down the stairs into the basement, puts her crap in her locker and heads upstairs with her apron.

After her shift, when she thinks Junior and Kirby are downstairs getting hammered, she calmly walks to her car.  She decides to head north toward the Idaho border. She figures she'll stop for the night in some small Idaho town and then make her decision whether to head East or West.


©2009 Peggy Pendleton

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tom's Oldest Son

(In order to understand this post you will need to read the comments from my last post, Crazy Heart)

I first saw Tom's oldest son when he was an infant.  Tom and his first wife were living on the Avenues in Salt Lake in a lovely old house that Tom was remodeling.  Tom's first wife and I had been friends in Junior High and High School.  We had  much in common, but the most striking thing we had in common was bad daddies who used us for their sexual pleasure.  Odd isn't it that two of the first women in Tom's early life had that in common?  We were smart girls, talented girls, pretty girls.  We were very barely holding it together to keep our craziness from being our undoing.  She was a dancer and a very talented one.  So Tom's oldest son got his father's musical genes and his mother's musical genes.  Is madness passed in the blood?  It depends on the madness.  I'm guessing not in this case.  But what might have been passed to Tom's oldest son is great sorrow that his father left him (when he was still a very young boy) and his mother in a small northern California town to go to LA and make is fortune as a Rock n Roll musician.  I call that abandonment.  I don't know what Tom calls it.

Tom moved into an apartment building in LA next door to Pamela Courson's sister.  Pamela was Jim Morrison's wife.  That's a pretty good contact for an ambitious rock n roll musician looking to make his fortune and a name for himself.  Tom told me that he fell in love with her and in very short order had built a door in a wall to make their apartments adjoining.  He was pretty handy with all his tools.

Remember that during all this time he was still married to his first son's mother and they were still living in a little town north of San Francisco, waiting for Tom to come home or send for them.  Who knows what anyone wanted, expected, imagined, longed for, but Pamela's sister got pregnant.  Jim Morrison got dead, then Pamela got dead, and Tom divorced his old wife to marry a new, pregnant wife.  So Tom's oldest son might very well have begun to feel like "the forgotten one" very early in his life. 

That second child of Tom's was a daughter.  Then there was another pregnancy and another son was born.  Were any of these children planned?  Maybe by Tom's second wife.  I don't know.  I know the first pregnancy was not planned.  They were nineteen when Tom's first son was born.  They were unmarried until the boy was born.  Tom proposed in the hospital where his first boy was born, just after the birth.  I don't know the exact details of any of this.  I only know what Tom told me.  But I can see damage in children.  I can recognize the psychic wounds of children who feel used and/or abandoned.  So can certain kinds of men.

By the time Tom and I were together again in the early '80s living in Tom's house up Emigration  Canyon,  he was divorced from his second wife and I was divorcing my third husband.  He had summer and Christmas holiday visitation with his two youngest children, a six year old girl who seemed very sullen and sad, a girl who read obsessively (a girl I recognized, since I had been that kind of girl) and a four year old boy (a robust and good natured little boy).  We took them to baseball games in the summer and skiing in the winter.  And most nights Tom went off to honkytonks to play Country Western music and I stayed with the kids.

There were a few years when Tom's oldest son joined us during ski season.  He was a delight.  He was so smart and funny and talented.  He did bring his own pot.  He always offered to share a joint with me when we were outside away from the little kids and Tom.  Did I wrestle with myself over the inappropriateness of smoking dope with Tom's teenaged son?  Probably not enough.  Was I a good role model or mother substitute for any of Tom's children while they were visiting us?  Probably not. But I was kind to them.  I did love them.  I still love them more than I ever loved Tom. I had made the choice early in my life that I was not going to have children of my own.  I didn't want to pass the crazy on.  I didn't want to be tied to a man because I'd carried his child to term.  My parents were crazy.  They'd done terrible things to me.  How could I know how to be a good parent?  How would I know who the bad men were?  They all seemed pretty bad to me, in one way or another.

There was the occasional year when Tom didn't exercise his parental rights to visitation.  But not only did he not see his kids, he didn't call them or write them or send them Christmas presents.  This seemed cruel and selfish in a way I couldn't comprehend.  Whatever Tom wanted, Tom got for Tom.  New skis?  Sure, why not. A new and better guitar?  You bet.  A Christmas card or call for his kids?  Not a chance.  I told him how I believed this neglect might make his children feel.  I'd felt that way.  My mother and my biological father divorced when I was five.  I never saw or heard from him again.  No birthday card, no Christmas call, nothing, ever.  I hardened my heart against the man who had no use for me.  I know how a father's neglect and abandonment affects a daughter.  I can only imagine how it affects a son.

Will Tom hate me for writing this?  Probably.  He will have rewritten his memory of his personal history.  Don't we all do that?  He will have forgotten certain details.  Like I forgot the detail of having his oldest son drive me home from Park City after one of Tom's gigs and my needing to pee befor we made it back to the house.  It made a very bad impression on Tom's oldest son to have this woman, this drunken woman pissing on her shoes as she squatted beside the car.  I was taking antidepressants even that long ago, and my nightly antidepressant knocked me out.  That would have been the "sleeping pill" he remembers me taking.  Did I force him to smoke pot with me?  If he believes I did, I must have.  We did smoke pot, but I don't recall ever having to talk him into it. Was my behavior appalling?  If Toms children remember it that way, then it was appalling.  And I'm very sorry I wasn't a better person, a better role model, a better example of how grown-ups behave.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Crazy Heart

Nick took me to see Crazy Heart last week. It was a weekday matinee, the only time I'll go to a movie. I like the empty theater at a midweek midday matinee. Nick and I usually talk politics, but for some reason neither of us had much to say. Politics is making me sad these days. I feel very sorry for our President. The country is weary. War weary, sad and losing heart along with the good job and the new house. No one can afford to get sick. Even if you have insurance, you can't afford to use it. I'm almost afraid to talk politics for fear I'll just breakdown in tears. I was in the mood for a good movie, a distraction from one reality to take me into another reality.

But Crazy Heart took me into the one of the saddest failures of my life; it took me back to the days of living with and loving Tom. When I first met him, when we were teenage kids, he was just learning to play the bass. He was into Jazz then. But when we got together in midlife, after our divorces, he was playing Country/Western music which I didn't entirely appreciate since I was still into Jazz. When I first knew him he played an acoustic bass. When we were in midlife, he was playing electric bass and guitar. I'm not a big fan of amplified, electrified instruments. But I fell hard again for Tom and since I had run from him the first go round when we were kids, I maintained in midlife that I didn't want to be a couple, I just wanted us to have fun. But when you've always been in love with the man and he gives you the key to his house, it's hard not to become a couple.

When the band he was playing in rehearsed, they did it mostly at Tom's house and I was there. I don't know why so many musicians are hard drinkers, which seems to lead them into all sorts of other bad behavior, but in the bands Tom played with, that seemed to be pretty universal.

Tom's two youngest children were age four and six. They were lovely kids and I did enjoy their visits when it was his turn to have them. And because Tom always had gigs during the holidays and on New Years Eve it was I who took care of making Christmas away from their mother and their real home as much like a real Christmas as possible, with a tree and shopping trips and presents under the tree and hot chocolate and popcorn at night watching a rented movie. I was home with them when he was gone every night playing in some honkytonk or toilet in BFE. And I quickly grew to love his kids. And I grew to see him as a neglectful and insensitive father. He became a man who drank too much almost all the time. I know he had his reasons. I know they all did.

And in truth, I was much too crazy to really work out the other problems in our life together. I knew the root cause of my craziness, but Tom didn't want to hear about it, wanted me to get over it and move on without having to talk about it and the way the present reminded me of the past.

Crazy Heart reminded me of the past and the only man I really ever tried to love. Crazy Heart was a little too close to home, a little too real. And near the end of the movie I wanted to get up and run. I wanted to flee my past again, like I did when things got too bad with Tom. I used to decide in an instant that I couldn't take it anymore and throw all my things in garbage bags and leave without a word. The only real sound I made was when my tires were squealing out of the driveway and I was headed down the canyon road away from Tom and his insensitivity to my needs.

So when the movie ended I was ready to cut and run; before the credits even rolled I was trying to exit the darkened theater as fast as I could and I fell in the dark, hard. I didn't really hurt myself, but it all hurt, and I couldn't hold back the tears. And even now, even all this time later, I still can't think of Tom without getting a lump in my throat and fighting back tears.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Play it Miles

And for those great lyrics, Sting does it very nicely.

Friday, February 12, 2010


For years after my psychosis and hospitalization I was on a cocktail of anti-psychotics which made me unable to dream.  I would drop into sleep like a stone in a still pond and sink without a ripple.  For all those years of antipsychotics I was dreamless and depressed.  It took years to convince my new Shrink to let me go back on an antidepressant that would allow me to dream.  Why did I miss dreaming so much?  Because I never had nightmares.

When I was a child I had recurring nightmares.  I had good reasons.  And if I'd been seeing a shrink then, my dreams would have provided clues to the living nightmare of my young life.  But once I moved out of my parents house my dreams got good and I looked forward to dreaming.  I lived a better life in my dreams than I did in my real life. I took my good dreams for granted.  It was only during times of deep depression, when I was so depressed I couldn't read that I might have dreamed but couldn't remember my dreams.  Then, during the terrible years of caring for my horrible mother, as I began to disintegrate, I had my one and only psychosis, so far, knock wood.

Last night I had my first nightmare since childhood.  I dreamed I was in the main house with a man who, in the dream, was a friend. I have no idea in real life who he was, but in my dream we were close friends.  We were sitting in the kitchen talking and he left the table to retrieve something from his jacket in the hall closet.  I heard the voices of two other men and then a sound like a mellon splatting, as if hit with a baseball bat or dropped from a height onto concrete.  It was a sickening sound, and I knew that it was my friend's head that had made the terrible splat sound.  It was immediately clear to me that I was the next victim.  I raced for the stairs and locked myself in the upstairs bathroom, the only room in the house with a solid door and a good lock.  I could hear the men looking for me.  I had no way to call for help so I tried to squeeze out of the bathroom window onto the steep tile roof.  This is when I woke up.

It was cold in the house.  I always turn the heat very low at night.  I sleep better in a cool room.  It was early (7:30) for me.  I know the dream woke me up. Marly was snuggled against my back. She made a soft whiney sound when I got up.  I went to the bathroom, turned the heat up, and then got coffee.  Cyrus watches my moves when I get up, and only when my coffee cup is in my hand and I'm heading back to my side of the bed does he haul himself out of his bed and lumber to the door.

Yesterday my doctor asked me about my eating habits.  I was in for my once monthly clotting factor test.  Testing my clotting factor takes seconds but we always talk for at least half an hour, often about politics.  Well, among other things, politics is depressing me, I've become a shitty blogger, and now that the novel is out there in the world and on it's own, I have nothing to do but start working on something new.  And I got nothin'!  I'm uninspired.  I feel empty.  And the life I've led has left me with few friends and the few I've kept, are dying or dead.  How odd it is that I'm outliving the few women I've kept close. I never saw that coming.  Never imagined I'd live this long.  And until recently I was delighted with the small life I've created.  I keep thinking I've grieved for Zelita, but her absence has left a tattered hole in the fabric of my little life.  And nothing can mend it or fill it or make it all better.

I have plenty that needs to be done.  My house needs a good cleaning. The winter ravaged yard needs a bit of raking~debris falls from the trees during storms and now litters the walkways.  But all I want to do is go back to sleep and dream a different life.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Last week was too jam packed and way too stressful for me.  Every day I had something to do that meant I had to pull myself together and get out there in the world.  I'm not crazy about "out there in the world" and no matter how simple the trip seems, interaction with strangers and some friends is loaded with possible emotional land-mines.  By Thursday I was depleted but had made arrangements to take Susan to CostCo.  I have a lot of nerve complaining about doing anything with Susan and calling it tiring and stressful.  She's delightful, but she has MS and it's getting really bad.  Moving around out in the world requires so much more attention and so much more effort for her; I'm ashamed to admit that I was spent when I got home, needing a long nap that I didn't allow myself to take.

Friday morning, way too early, my new tenant (the male one) called me.  After I struggled to consciousness and got to the phone, he'd hung up.  I used caller ID to call him back.  He had pocket dialed me.  It was the fault of the new phone.  He was sorry.  But I couldn't go back to sleep.  So Friday began cranky and sleep deprived. Friday was the day I was supposed to finish the rewrite of my novel and get ready to enter it in the ABNA contest on Sunday.  My brain was useless and angry that I was attempting to make it function at all.  No use arguing with your brain.  It makes the whole show run.  Best pay attention to what the brain is saying.  So I limped along doing a bit of this and a bit of that.  But real writing was out of the question.  That left Saturday.

Fortunately Saturday saved my ass.  I wrote and edited all day.  I finally got the whole book put together again in an entirely new way.  It was exhausting.  I skimped on meals and ignored my personal hygiene.  Fortunately the dogs only care about what they eat; they certainly don't mind me smelling like me and not soap, so no harm, no foul.  I did get to sleep at a decent hour and got up pretty early Sunday morning when Ms M dropped off Roscoe (we're working on a custody arrangement).

I read the book through again Sunday morning taking breaks to skim through the Sunday news shows (which I tape).  I still hate David Gregory.  Then Sunday afternoon I put myself through the hoops of the entry forms, and despite the fact the my San Francisco friend Phillip was on call, I did it all by myself.  I was jubilant.  Then I was depressed.  I sailed up to the ceiling and then I hit the floor.  I tried to watch the Super Bowl.  I was rooting for the Saints, but when the Colts scored twice early on, my energy sagged even lower.  It felt like the aftermath of a huge sugar high.  And then I realized I hadn't eaten anything.  I fixed myself a bowl of oatmeal.  Meh.

The Saints won; that should have made me feel better but it just made me feel less bad.  I cooked a boring dinner.  I watched Big Love.  Meh.  Still I couldn't go to sleep.

So today, I'm going to do a little housework, take a hot shower, and then I'm going to read and nap the rest of the day away.  Pretty exciting, no?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I've been told over my long life as a model and small time actress that I looked like one famous woman or another.  When I was young it was Capucine, Audrey Hepburn, and, I'm horrified to say, the young Joan Crawford.  The sales women on the couture floor at I Magnins told me that.  I was a favorite of theirs just for that one reason.  Most of the time they sat around gossiping about their socialite clients and the young Joan Crawford who had once been a regular, or so they said.  When I wasn't actually modeling all the little black dresses for some San Francisco matron with a party to attend, I was lounging around in my bra and girdle and hose in my own little fitting room.  It was a strange job in many ways but it financed my trip to Italy, so who's complaining.  But the old broads on the couture floor called me The Chameleon because I had the ability to inhabit a dress and a fur and make them irresistible to the aging socialite who imagined she looked exactly like me and in so doing she looked exactly like the young Joan Crawford or Audrey Hepburn or Capucine.  This was 1964.  Already I hated the comparison, but if the old broads love me because of my resemblance to a once beautiful actress, well who was I to object.

I've also been told I looked like Anne Bancroft, Susan Sarandon and oddly enough, Dianne Keaton.  I like the comparison to Anne Bancroft and Susan Sarandon best since I admired Anne Bancroft a lot and I still love Susan Sarandon.  But do any of these famous women look like each other?  They all have broad shoulders and strong features, but that's about it.  So this must make me a bit of a chamileon.  And for a bit part actress that wasn't a bad quality.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010