Election 2020 has put an extra five pounds on me. On Tuesday, as I watched the returns coming in, my appetite for salty, crunchy foods hit new highs. We made tacos for dinner, and I ate extra beans and onions and chips and cheese and guacamole, and vigorously shook out way too many drops of Tabasco sauce on everything. I was wound up.
Record-breaking quantities of food passed through my mouth at dinnertime. With every new red or blue state on the map, I headed for the kitchen. I devoured 80 percent of the crunchy food group before moving on to chocolate.
It was fear eating. Like when I’m at the cinema watching a scary movie in wide-eyed horror, barely breathing, putting fistful after fistful of faux-butter popcorn in my mouth with one hand, clutching the armrest with the other, not even aware I’m eating until my greasy fingers scratch the bottom of the bucket.
We don’t get many trick or treaters on our street. Parents drive their kids to clustered neighborhoods of decorated houses where all the lights are on so they get maximum loads of candy with minimum time and effort, like I did with my kids. On our street the houses are darker than a bat in a cave. They are obviously not in the free-candy business on October 31st. Except us. One of us is usually home, or at least we leave a full candy bowl on the porch.
A few days before Halloween I put a few decorations around the house, a witch sitting on a pumpkin with a plug-in little Christmas light in it, an round, orange wicker basket full of dried mini-corn cobs – those kinds of things. For the window by the front door I have six carved pumpkins stacked on each other – about 2 feet high – that my mother-in-law gave me years ago. They sit on the shelf looking out the window. This year I balanced a giant spider on the top pumpkin’s head to look creepy.
I also hang ghosties outside. My kids made a dozen or so of them years ago out of baseball-shaped Styrofoam covered with white cheesecloth and a pipe-cleaner that we twisted under the ball to look like ghosts. By fanning out the “arms” of the pipe cleaner under the fabric, they become fuller and look more lifelike. Each one is about 8 to 12 inches long. My daughter drew happy faces on hers – my son’s look grumpy.
For the final decoration I carve a pumpkin – three triangles (two for the eyes, one for the nose) and a jagged mouth. This year I found a pumpkin at the last minute. He was the right size but had a big gash. I got him for a discount – $1.67 – and figured I’d just carve the good side. But when I started carving, the gash was so mushy I cut it out and gutted him from that direction, rather than the top. A semi-rotten pumpkin is the way to go. The whole thing turned out to be soft and pithy. It was very easy to carve. Plus, it’s extra creepy-looking with the whole back of his head gone, and you can see through it so it gave off more light. I put it on top of my car facing the street, and could also see the whole pumpkin’s face (from the inside) while looking out the kitchen window.
Since we were home because of Covid, we decided to watch “The Shining” as our Halloween entertainment. Neither of us had ever seen it. Boy, that Jack Nicholson can sure look spooky when he moves his eyes sideways, especially with the eery music that sometimes sounds like my heart pounding (or maybe it was). We’d pause the movie so one of us could grab a Milky Way while the other got a little bag of peanut M&M’s that had either 4 or, if I was lucky, 5 pieces in there. Hardly worth the effort to tear open the package.
I got worried around 8pm – not because Jack was hacking through the locked bathroom door with an axe, his lunatic – no possessed – eyes wild. I worried that Covid would keep my one family of trick or treaters from showing up. I’d gone to the kitchen for more food (candy) when I heard the doorbell. By then my nerves were as tight as new banjo strings, and I was afraid that, instead of a sweet family, there’d be an axe-wielding maniac with crazy Jack Nicholson eyes.
Giggles from outside gave me the courage to open the door. “Trick or Treat!” they called. “So glad you came! Tell me what you are.
The boy, who’s maybe middle-school age, had on a black outfit and carried a black bow with arrows on his back. “I’m the Black Bowman,” he said.
“Haven’t heard of him.”
“It’s a name I made up.”
The girl, who’s close to high school, was also in black with a wad of aluminum foil on her right hand. “Are you familiar with Marvel characters?” she said.
“Yes.” I know about 479 Marvel characters and have seen about that many Marvel movies. Tuesdays used to be $5 movie nights (before Covid) and my friends and I saw a lot of Marvel movies.
“I’m Bucky Barnes.”
“I don’t know Bucky Barnes.”
“He’s a fried of Captain America.”
“Oh, okay, cool,” I said. “I know him.” I turned to the adult behind her. “And you are?”
“I’m a hobbit.”
“That’s what you were last year.”
“Yes, you’re right, I was.”
“Good to get your money’s worth out of these costumes. What about you?” I said to the woman beside him, but can’t remember what she said – I think it was a half costume, like when you dress normal and wear a witch’s hat. “How about you?” I said to the woman behind her – making Halloween small talk, I guess. As a kid, I used to hate it when people delayed me with a lot of questions – I wanted to get to the next house for more candy, but figured this was their last stop.
“I’m just me,” she said. “No costume.”
“It’s hard to tell if someone is wearing a costume when we all have masks on,” I laughed. They chuckled at my sparkling humor. “I’m just really glad you came. You made my night.”
“We love coming here,” the girl said. “We love all the ghosts. We call you the ‘Ghost Lady.’
“The Ghost Lady,” I said. “Hmmm, I like it. I have a Halloween nickname.”
“I love your stacked pumpkins,” the boy said.
I held out the bowl of candy. The kids grabbed handfuls. “Take more,” I said. “Anything you don’t take I’ll eat.” I stretched my arm toward the adults. “Here, you guys, take some. Take it all.” Each of them grabbed a small fistful. I offered it to the kids again. They took most, but not all, of the candy. “Trust me, you’ll want a few pieces tomorrow,” the man said. Of course he was right.
They left, and it occurred to me that, in all the chaos of life, we’ve had this five-minute encounter that I look forward to every year. I know where there live (not on our street), but I don’t know anything else about them. They always come later, probably after they’ve hit the good, candy-rich neighborhoods. We’ve never exchanged names. Every year I’ve had taken my kids out, and in later years walked with my friend and her youngest daughter, or occasionally we’ve gone to a party, but I always try to be home by 8 in case my one family comes. I leave the candy bowl out in case they get here before we do.
When they left I came back inside beaming, an active participant in the Halloween tradition that I have loved ever since I can remember. “Well, they came,” my husband said. “Yeah, they came,” I said. I cozied up under my throw, pressed the “Play” button and saw Shelley Duvall slice Jack Nicholson’s hand when he reached through the hole he’d hacked in the bathroom door to get to the doorknob. The blood. The fear. The horror. Didn’t bother me a bit. I was floating like a, well, like a ghost. The Happy Ghost Lady. That’s me.
I’m on vacation. These are some excerpts from emails I’m sending to friends about the trip.
Already, a few minutes after we left at 7:30 am, we got in an argument. About politics. By the time we got to the Gorge, however, we’d forgotten about it – literally, the plus side of being old. The low fog made the Gorge look mystical, prehistoric – a setting for a Swamp Creature movie – I could picture the Loche Ness monster rising out of the deep.
We pulled over at almost every historical marker on the way to Lewiston Idaho, including this one of the Valley of the Jolly Ho Ho Ho Green Giant in Dayton, WA. If you zoom in you can see the giant is also up on the side of the hill, too.
A couple miles out of Dayton is a historical sight where Lewis and Clark camped on the Touchet River .- the lifelike structures depict the horses, 30+ men in the Discovery Party, and three dogs – the artist wasn’t sure how many dogs there were, but when they left camp they only had one, they ate the others. Dog gone them!
One of the roadside kiosks told of the Nez Perce Indian’s skill at breeding horses – they used natural selection to develop the American Appaloosa horse, probably originally called the Palouse horse after the Palouse River. I like those Nez Perce. Chief Joseph was the one who said, “I will fight no more forever.”
On I-90 in Montana we pulled into a rest area for another potty break. I opened the back of the Tahoe to get a snack – road trips (like everything else) make me hungry. We drove up the ramp and I heard this noise that sounded exactly like a cooler sliding out the back of an SUV, followed by another cooler and a suitcase. “The back’s open,” I screeched. Sure enough, in the rear-view mirror, two coolers, a suitcase, and odds and ends were scattered on the ramp like a tornado had dropped them there. Scott always closes the back hatch but – ooops – not this time. Cars drove around the debris, their occupants shook their heads at us. Dumb Oregonians. We backed up and gathered everything – it was good for a laugh.
Then I looked for a place to hike on the Map of my iPhone – never tried that before. The map took us down a dirt road that dead-ended on some rancher’s property. It was a little creepy out in the middle of nowhere. Barking dogs lunged out from all directions, viscous and snapping. The rancher appeared and said there wasn’t a hiking trail there, but directed us to Ringing Rocks. We drove 5 miles up a rutted, pot-holed, narrow dirt road (thank goodness for 4-wheel drive) to the parking area, then hiked the rest of the way. They have hammers hanging there to beat on the rocks – I think the rocks have iron in them because they’re red, and some sounded just like a blacksmith beating on a horseshoe. I made a one-minute video of Scott so you can hear them – see below.
We hiked around up there a little – lots of cool boulders (see the last picture) and saw elk and deer scat (turds) – so exciting – but no actual animals.
Got to Bozeman late. They’re predicting snow tomorrow, high of 41. Glad I packed all those sweaters!
Talk about cold! We headed out of Bozeman at 8am with those little ice crystals falling out of the sky, and by the time we got up to Bozeman Pass it was 28 degrees and a blizzard. I white-knuckled it while Scott tried to keep up with some maniac Washington driver whose license plate said PNW BOY (Pacific NW I guess). We stalked him for several miles going way too fast especially for the conditions – we were going about 65 – Montana’s speed limit on the freeway is 80, but nobody goes that slow. Even in the snow they don’t slow down much. I started listening to a book on tape to distract me from worrying about shimmying off the road and going over a cliff. Then a lunatic in a semi-truck pulled up beside us and splashed a fire hose blast of slush on the windshield – it rocked the car. I liked to died. Scott squirted water on the windshield to get the slush off, which immediately froze – he couldn’t see a thing. Luckily there was an exit ramp rich there. When we stopped at the bottom of that ramp was the first time I breathed all morning. Once we took the exit for Cody it was a little better. Not much else happened today except that we went through Belfry, Montana and turned down a side street that led to their school. The town is Belfry, and the school’s marquis read, “Home of the bats.” Seriously. I took a picture – there’s a big bat over the sign and bats on either side of the entry door.
Driving out we saw a flock of wild turkeys passing through someone’s front yard. This was the excitement of the day. We checked into our room in Cody, then walked along the Shoshone River for about 2 1/2 miles – snow blowing on us, colder than a well-digger’s ass in the Klondike. I went to St. Anthony’s Catholic Church at 5. The priest had a sense of humor. He said, “It takes a village to raise children, and a vineyard to home school them.” Amen to that! It is 25 degrees outside. We about froze during the five minute drive back from dinner. Debating tromping down the hall in my bathing suit to do a few laps. Nah. I’m hittin’ the hay and snuggling under every blanket I can find.
On Thursday I had lunch with Cory, a 43-year-old Black man I visit as part of a volunteer thing through an organization that builds community with low-income people. I enjoy our visits because he makes me laugh. We meet on the phone now, because of Covid, but every so often I go downtown and take him lunch in the park. This is the first time we’ve gone to a restaurant.
We met at Chipotle. As we waited our turn, I explained that he’d go down the line and tell them what he wanted. While I paid, I asked for some hot sauce – mild for me and regular Tabasco for him. Cory’s told me many times, “I like a lot of hot sauce on my food.” The server handed us two little clear plastic cups filled with about an eighth of an inch of sauce. Poor Cory, what he calls “hot sauce” apparently isn’t Tabasco.
Even though it was chilly, we sat outside. He took a bite of his steak bowl and said, “This is good.” He told me about his pending lawsuit against the guy who ran into him and broke his femur. “The lawyer said the son-bitch’s insurance will pay for me to have a maid if I want one.”
“You only have a one-bedroom apartment with no furniture except a bed,” I said. “Why do you need a maid?”
“Hell, if the son-bitch’s payin’ for it, damn right I’m havin’ a maid. A mother-f-ing butler too. I needs me a butler.”
He took a couple more bites, then remembered the little cup of hot sauce and picked it up, still talking. I watched him pour the whole thing on his food. When I shake Tabasco from the bottle, I count the drops – about 7 is my limit – each drop carefully spread out so I have the flavor without getting excessive heat in one bite. Cory poured that whole little cup on his bowl, and even thumped the cup with his finger to get the last few drops. I figured there were about 250 drops coating his food.
I stopped eating and watched him take a bite. He put the fork into his mouth, pulled it out, did a little shake of his head and said, “Man, that’s some hot sauce.” I started laughing. Anybody who’s ever used Tabasco knows that feeling, the heat, the burning that won’t stop, and he had just dumped enough on his food to belch fire.
“I thought you liked hot sauce.”
“I do, I do.” He paused as if trying to convince himself. “I do.” He looked at the bowl like it was a rattlesnake or something worse, but I could tell he wanted another bite because he had his fork raised, ready for action. Finally he got up his nerve. He aimed the fork, then slowly, cautiously, put the bite in his mouth and deposited the food. He looked straight ahead, his eyes bugged out. “That’s some hot sauce,” he said. He shook his head a little and let out a “Shwooo,” sound. He grabbed his water glass and took a sip. “Wooo,” he said.
I started laughing and couldn’t stop. Not only was it funny the way he said it, but I understood the dilemma he was in – between a culinary rock and a hard place. He wanted to eat, but he was scared to because his mouth was on fire. He also probably didn’t want to seem like a wimp. He’s six feet tall, meaty, with a bushy grey beard and shaved-bald head. A sweet guy in a hardened shell. The times we’ve eaten together in the park, he’ll only eat a couple of bites then say, “I’m going to take the rest home. I wanna put some hot sauce on it.” He had an image to uphold.
So I just watched. He looked at the bowl as if it was now the enemy. He stirred it. Stared at it. Stirred it again. Pushed the food from one side to the other. Then he took another bite. As he pulled the empty fork away he paused midair. “That’s some hot sauce,” he said, and shook his head. I laughed again, actually I guess I hadn’t quit laughing from his previous bite.
He put the fork down and picked the empty sauce cup up and looked at it, like it had betrayed him. He put it down and said, “I called Merry Maid and told them I wanted a maid. I can’t just get somebody off the street. They might rob me. You can’t trust people. Not around here. They said they’d call my lawyer and get it all set up.”
I continued to eat and just let him talk. A couple of times he looked down at his food, like he was getting up his nerve. Finally he loaded the fork half-full and hesitated a split second before putting the bite in his mouth. He chewed a couple of times, shook his head and said, “That’s some hot sauce.” I started laughing again.
I was enjoying this lunch. A lot. It was cold sitting out there under the October overcast sky with wind trying to steal our napkins, and I ate quickly so I could be done and climb back into my warm car, plus all the laughing was wearing me out. I often tell Cory how funny he is, though I’m not sure if he means to be. It’s a combination of all the cussing plus the way he tells the stories. His eyes twinkle and he grins when he sees me laughing, so I know he does some of it on purpose, but not this time. He picked up the aluminum to-go lid and molded it over his bowl and put it in the bag.
“Too hot for you?” I ask.
“No girl, you know I can’t eat much at one time. I’m gonna take this home and munch on it later.”
“Yeah, right,” I said to myself. He asked me to drop him off at his dentist’s office a few blocks away. He made fun of the way I drive, and I thanked him for all the laughs. On the way home, every time I hear him in my mind saying, “That’s some hot sauce,” I start laughing, and it’s a hearty, deep, lasting laugh.
They say it’s better to give than to receive. For the small price of a Chipotle lunch, I enjoyed a lot of entertainment. I also got a blessing that filled my heart, and my soul. Thank you, Cory!
What do you want to be when you grow up? We ask children this a lot. One time my daughter answered someone with about twelve things, all in a row. “I want to be an artist, a teacher, a doctor, (eight more that I can’t remember but I think astronaut might have been in there) and a waitress.” Lofty goals for a five year old!
I used to reply with only one response: a singer. I loved to sing, but I also had the ability to make up songs on the fly because of all the practice I got with my older brother. We were very competitive, and when he wasn’t beating me in foot races, high-jumping, basketball shots, ping pong, or, as big brothers often do, just plain beating me, we’d have rhyming contests. They went like this:
Me: You’re fat.
Him: You’re a rat.
Me: At least I’m not a splat.
Him: Well you’re a brat.
Me: I can’t agree with that.
Him: You’re as ornery as shit under a couch from a cat.
Me: You stink like liquid toe jam in a vat.
Him: Not bad – I’d call that tit for tat.
As you can see, we didn’t make Shakespeare jealous. The object of the contest was to not be the one who couldn’t come up with a sensible rhyme (not just jibberish) right away. If you paused too long to think of something, you lost that round. This could start at any time – walking to Dairy Queen, sledding in winter, riding bikes. With all that practice, I gained the ability to knock out songs that were, admittedly, awful. But they rhymed. I’d sing them to a slow, syrupy melody to give me time to compose them while I sang – picture a soulful love song sung by Barbara Streisand or Adele. They went something like this:
My dog has fleas,
He’s weak in the knees,
So I feed him peas,
Because he loves…….me.
My dog is kind
He’s here all the time,
Licking his behind,
But I don’t mind
Because he loves……me
My friend Carole and I used to get in verbal skirmishes a lot, probably from being together all day long in the summer heat. Most were those “are too!” “am not!” fights like: “You’re cheating.” “Am not!” “Are too!” “Am not!!!!”
With Carole, it escalated to one of us getting so mad we’d shove the other one. We were about eight years old, bored, in the hot, muggy, Tennessee haze, plus both our birthdays were in December, on either side of Christmas, so people were always giving us just one “combined birthday and Christmas present,” which caused a smoldering current of aggravation to pulse through our veins year round, and is probably what made us so cranky.
We were like a pressure cooker about to blow, and one of us took off running, knowing the other was about to strike. We both had long, skinny legs and she was exactly as fast at running as I was. We’d chase each other all through my backyard, and finally the person in front would falter – out of breath, legs tired – and the one chasing would catch up and swat her in the middle of the back, then pivot 180 degrees and start running. It was a little like two-person tag, except on the anger chart we had reached 11 on a scale of 1 to 10, so instead of tagging, we’d swat. Seriously, we chased each other like this until we were exhausted, red-faced, sweaty, and laughing.
One time my brother came out with two pairs of boxing gloves and said, “All this running around is stupid. Put these gloves on and just duke it out.” We tried but it wasn’t the same just standing there looking at each other, she in her long brown braids and me in my sun-streaked pigtails. After all, she was one of my best friends! I don’t think either of us even threw a punch.
In peaceful times we’d have singing contests. She sat on the grass and I stood up in front of her and sang as I made up a song – a really excellent one like the one above. Then she’d stand up when it was her turn and fumble around. “No, you have to make it rhyme. A song has to rhyme.” “Does not!” “Does too!” “Does not!!!!” She’d start chasing me and I knew if I ran out in the open area of the backyard, I might step in a gopher hole or trip on a croquet wicket or get clothes-lined by the cIothesline, and she’d catch up and deliver a soft whack between my shoulder blades, so I kept circling the two trees in the middle of the yard that had a thick bed of iris’s between them. Round and round we went until I got dizzy and darted into the open area, slowed down from exhaustion, and got swatted.
I never performed my little concerts for anyone but Carole, and she told me I was too good at singing and it wasn’t any fun. She probably meant rhyming, not vocal ability, but I took it as a huge compliment and pictured myself as a star.
Now I’m old (Am too!), and that dream has been in the fog of my memory all my life. In case you haven’t noticed, I not a star yet, haven’t ever tried to be one (what a yellow-bellied coward I am, plus I’ve rarely had any encouragement from any sane person that I should pursue singing, or even do it in public), and rarely ever sing around others except in the pews at church or when a group is bellowing happy birthday.
My dream has been with me all these years, and even though I’m old, I’m still working at it. If you pass my house early on summer mornings, when the windows are open, you’ll hear me practicing, “Corina Corina,” or “At Last,” or “Speeding Cars,” or even “Like a Rolling Stone,” although Dylan stuck a lot of words in there and it’s hard to remember them all.
Everyone has dreams. Kids don’t have the monopoly on them.
What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s not too late, you know.
Gifts is misleading – a gift is something someone gives you, not because you deserve it (although I do, especially on my birthday because I, like many children born in December, got short-changed back in the day and would only get one box with the feeble, “Here’s your birthday and Christmas present,” mantra that, to a child, did nothing but break my heart. I didn’t know the pecuniary value of the gift, all I knew was that there was only one box to open, and that box didn’t even have balloons and streamers on it, but reeked of Santa’s and pine trees and red and green do-dads, so where’s the birthday present? – the cheapskates), but because of the person’s generosity.
This previous run-on sentence is an homage to William Faulkner, whose book, The Reivers, I’m reading now. I read it in one of my literature classes decades ago but probably only skimmed it enough to write a satisfactory analysis. Woo-wee, Faulkner is hard to follow. He writes like someone rambling along, one thought jumping in on another, going back and forth in time the way we say, “No, wait, that happened first, not after, he got out of the car. Now I remember. He was driving along and then that’s when he said…”
That’s how my brain works, a song drifts in and I sing a couple of lines in my head and then a thought bursts in (kind of like my husband does, banging open the bathroom door when I’m relaxing in the tub, just for a laugh), “Oh shoot, I forgot to put those green beans in the refrigerator. Crap! I’ll have to go back. They’ll go bad. They’re in vinegar, won’t they be okay? I don’t want to turn around. You’re an idiot. You’re almost to the mall. Just do your exchanges real quick and go back. I hate this. I wanted to go to Fred Meyers. I wonder if it would hurt to leave them another hour? With all that vinegar? They’ll be fine.” And then I sing out loud, really belt out the last stanza of the soulful song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, putting all my heart into it. “Oh shoot. You just missed your turn. What an idiot.”
The book is delightful, but I don’t know if modern readers could get past the couple of chapters to get hooked, even if they knew it won the Pulitzer Prize and got made into a movie starring Steve McQueen.
The gifts I’m talking about are the ones I get from God. Some people would call them miracles, but I know miracles. These are on a much smaller scale – like stocking stuffers or party favors, but no less appreciated.
The gifts I get most often have to do with me running late for everything. I can’t leave the house at the scheduled minute and hour because I think I have time to put the water glass in the dishwasher, and hang up the dish towel, put the magazine on the pile around the corner. I’ve got time – I know, to the nanosecond, how long it takes me to get somewhere – IF I don’t get stopped by too many red lights. When I make it through a few in a row I smile and say to myself, “It’s a gift.”
I get premonitions – not like someone who sees the future, but I get a feeling that I should do something. Like pick up around the house when I’m not expecting someone to come over. The place is usually technically clean, but I leave things lying around, drawers open, coats hung on the backs of chairs, an open umbrella drying in the great room, dirty clothes in the basket in the middle of the floor headed for the laundry room or folded on their way back to the bedroom, pine needles and leaves on the carpet, cups and plates in the kitchen, recipe book, colander, measuring spoons, pepper grinder and fresh dilly green beans in jars that should have been put in the refrigerator. Saturdays I do toilets, vacuum, sweep, dust. The place is nice for the weekend. Weekdays it’s a hoarders paradise.
Sometimes I take a notion to pick up around the house even when I’m not expecting anyone, who knows why, I just do it. And then there’s a knock at the door and it’s someone like my mother-in-law. “Come in, so glad you dropped by.” As I lead them into the tidy kitchen, “can I get you a cup of tea?” I smile and think, “It’s a gift.”
I’ll make plans to do something when I’m too busy or it’s not my favorite activity, and then it gets cancelled. “It’s fine,” I say, “it gives me a chance to get this mess picked up. You should see my house.” I hang up, smile, and think, “Another gift.”
No, it’s not coincidence, because these aren’t things I’m praying for, they’re little surprises that come from subconscious hope. I don’t want to pester God with trivial things like red lights (although I do sometimes when I’m desperate). I know where my gifts come from, and I know who to thank.
Even picking up that dog-eared, water-stained, frayed, crackling paperback from Survey of American Literature 403 was a gift. Thanks Mr. Faulkner, for giving me some smiles and forcing my brain to focus pretty darned hard to figure out what the heck you’re talking about. You really did understand the human heart. Maybe someday I will too. “It’s a gift.”
It’s funny what sticks with you – the famous quotes of days gone by. When I first came to Oregon my brother took me to a Portland Beavers baseball game. They were a minor league team, part of the Pacific Coast League. We’re sitting in the bleachers at Multnomah Stadium, eating hot dogs and popcorn, watching the game, when a big man with a bushy black beard stood up behind us and bellowed, as loud as he could, “Nobody…..Licks….Our….Beavers!”
For a few moments the earth stood still. The wind ceased to blow, there was no crack of the baseball bat, no “batter, batter, batter” chatter on the field, no crunch of the wad of popcorn I’d just put in my mouth. Silence. Shock. Did he really yell that? Did he know what he was saying? Did he understand the double meaning?
Then the earth started rotating again. Laughter rolled over the crowd like ocean waves. We elbowed each other, “Did you hear that?” “Did he really say?” All through the game we could hear chortles of laughter from pockets of spectators. Here. Over there. Through the remaining 4 or 5 innings. Spontaneous laughter. It’s something I’ll never forget – a quote I’ve shared with just about everyone I know.
I’ll always remember the time my friend Clark and I picked up our friend Mary one Friday night in 11th grade. Pretty soon we found out that she was drunk. “Pull over,” she said, “quick.” We did, and Clark and I hoisted her out of the back seat and stood on either side of her, supporting her as she threw up. Her shoe came off and got filled with barf. Clark and I kept going, “B-lah, b-lah,” about to throw up ourselves. “What the heck have you been drinking?” I asked as we returned her to the car and tucked her into the back seat. She looked at me with big round innocent eyes and slurred, “I only had a little bit of Daddy’s cough medicine.” Yeah right. Turns out she’d gotten in a fight with her parents and snuck into her dad’s liquor cabinet to drown her sorrows. Every time I drink too much I say, “I only had a little cough medicine.” People don’t believe me either.
Another quote I remember came from a boyfriend I had when I was 19. We’d encountered some spooky characters in the remote hills of Virginia (think of the movie Deliverance). A few of them had some teeth, but nobody had a full set. We were able to talk our way out of trouble, but it was scary and I was relieved when we got back safely to the car. I said, “Hey Steve, what would you have done if they’d had designs on me way out here in the middle of nowhere?” He laughed and said, “I would have told them, ‘Have fun with her boys, I did.’” It took me a lot of laughing before I could start pretending to be mad at him.
He had a friend named Adrienne who was quite smart. One day Adrienne said, “Can I porif some of those potato chips?” “Can you what?” I said. “Porif,” he said. “It’s short for porifera, which is a sponge.” It became the verb that replaced the words borrow, bum, hit up, purloin, mooch, glom, and sponge. We never used those words again when the group was together. It was always, “Quit trying to porif my candy. Get your own.”
Growing up, there was a guy in our neighborhood named David Roach, a tall, skinny kid with a quick sense of humor who hung out with a bunch of us on my street – he lived a few blocks away but in those days all of us were free-range kids and would walk to wherever there was a softball game or four-square in the street or croquet or ping pong in somebody’s backyard. I was probably in 6thgrade. He was a couple of years older. One summer day a bunch of us we were standing around in the street, riding bikes, trying to decide what to do next. Someone saw a dog walking toward us and said, “Here comes a shit-eating dog.” David got a scared look on his face and took off running. We laughed and laughed, repeating, “Hey David, look out, here comes a…” To this day I can’t remember names or dates or what I went in the bedroom to get, but I will always remember David Roach running away from that shit-eating dog.
My friend Clark, whose first name is Pryor, named after his dad as many of us were in the South – first name for a family member but everybody called us by our middle name – Clark got a nickname somehow, I don’t know who gave it to him or why, but whenever my cellphone buzzes and I see it’s him on the caller ID, I answer like this: “Pryor T Coon Type Dog Liar Makes His Rules Up As He Goes Along.” To me, that’s his name. That’s what we called him when we were kids. In the middle of a conversation, when I want to make a point for emphasis, I don’t say the whole name, I just say, “Now look, Pryor T, you need to take better care of yourself.” I haven’t called him Clark in decades.
On a serious note, the world has lost a wonderful human being with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We’ve respected her strength and her bravery as she stood up for America’s constitution, equal rights and justice for all people. I wanted to close with one of her memorable quotes. There are many wise and profound ones, such as: Every now and then it helps to be a little deaf….That advice has stood me in good stead. Not simply in dealing with my marriage, but in dealing with my colleagues.”
The one I think that fits best here, however, is the one she said after someone mentioned that she’d dozed off during the State of the Union address: “I wasn’t 100 percent sober.” This is the one I’ll remember, and surely use, even after dementia has warped and gnawed my brain until it resembles porifera. In the nursing home I will shout out, “Nobody licks our Beavers!” followed by, “I wasn’t 100 percent sober.”
Thanks for everything, dear Notorious R.G.B. May you rest peacefully with the other angels.
We’ve all had wardrobe malfunctions. A couple of days ago I was visiting my 90+ year old friend when her daughter walked in the room, saw I had on one of my house dresses, and said, “Are you wearing underwear today?”
“Some,” I said.
I’d told them that during the summer I wear cotton dresses around the house to keep cool and comfortable. To enhance the experience, I sometimes go without one or both of the typical undergarments worn by women. I don’t usually wear the dresses in public, but will fetch the mail, do yard work, or visit female friends, so I like my house dresses to be all cotton, have pockets (for my cell phone), and either have a busy design, thick fabric (like denim), or chest pockets because I don’t want my neighbors to see that I’m not wearing one (or both) pieces of underwear.
“On Tuesday, that really hot, windy day,” I said, “I wore one of my dresses over to my garden to water and was praying that the wind didn’t whip up the skirt. It would have given people nightmares. You can’t un-see something like that.”
My friend’s daughter, who’s my age, leaned against the kitchen counter and said, “Did I ever tell you about my first date with my husband? I had on one of those dresses with the stretchy stitching on the top.”
“Strapless?” I asked, picturing the dress.
(This type of dress probably has a name but I’m too lazy to look it up. Oh, all right, hold on a second. I’ll be right back..Okay, Google calls them a tube top stretchy dress. Back to the story.)
“I had this dress on, with tall high heels. I was gorgeous. We were going out for a fancy dinner at that restaurant up on the hill in Sellwood – it looked like a castle.”
“Was it in Sellwood or Milwaukie?” I said.
“Yeah, could have been Milwaukie – near Sellwood.”
“I remember that place, I don’t think it’s there anymore.”
“I don’t know. Anyway, the maitre d’ seated me, but off-center for the view. I just wanted to scoot over a little, so I raised up in my chair. The hem of the dress got caught in the heel of those high heel shoes.” She paused for a beat, so we could picture it.
“When I raised up to scoot over, the dress stayed put. It came down and both my boobs popped out the top.”
“Were you wearing a bra?”
“Of course not.”
We all laughed. “No wonder your husband fell in love with you,” I said.
It reminded me of swimming at a motel pool with about eight or ten friends the summer before 9thgrade. I think one of the boys knew the owner and that’s why we got to swim there. Typical of those motel parking lot pools, it had a shallow side and a deep end with a small diving board. For some reason it also had a foot wide ledge to stand on at the deep end, maybe so little kids could go down there and still hang onto the side and stand up.
We were playing tag. My best friend, Christine, was it. All us boys and girls were focused on her to see who she’d come after next. She’d chased us for a while, swimming underwater, sneaky, trying to tap somebody’s leg. I think she was probably ready for a rest. She sprang up from the deep end, pushing off from the bottom fast so her long red hair back would be back off her face when she surfaced. She swam to the ledge, stood up and faced us. The water, as she’d swooshed through it, had pulled down one side of her bikini top. Her left boob, big for her age – big for any age – hung completely out.
As soon as we saw it, after a couple seconds of shock, all us girls shouted at once: “Duck down! Your swimsuit! Go under! Get down!” We didn’t want to say whatever word we were using at the time – I think the word boob came later – maybe we were using breast then, but we didn’t want to say it out loud. Up until then we’d only swam with our girlfriends. We’d just started hanging out with these boys, probably because one of us discovered they had access to the pool. Those were prudish times.
Christine thought we were hollering because she was it. She thought we were taunting her. She didn’t realize we were hysteric. She just stood there – that boob big and white, framed with swimsuit lines and her tan, freckled skin. The more we shouted the longer she stood there like some half-naked Grecian statue with a puzzled, cranky look on her face – an eternity in the lives of fourteen-year-old girls.
The boys, of course, never said a word.
Finally the closest girl swam to her and pushed her under. “You’re it!” Christine said she sprang back up. There was that boob again. Law have mercy! The girl pointed, Christine looked down, threw her arms over her chest and ducked under water. She stayed down there until her breath ran out, embarrassed to death. The incident earned her the nickname, “Lefty” with the boys. By the end of summer we’d abandoned them and gone back to the public pool, they got so annoying.
Ahh, well, there’s nothing like wardrobe mishaps to get your mind off of everyday worries. Today in Portland the fires are raging 30 miles away in the national forests south of Estacada. The air is smoky thick, the sky yellow-grey. I can barely see the fuzzy outlines of houses across the street. Even though our windows and doors have been closed for three days, the smoke smell has seeped in. The air quality at 8:00 this morning is the highest it’s been – 516 – Hazardous. It’s listed as Beyond Index on the Air Now website, which only goes up to 400. www.airnow.gov
Remembering Christine and picturing that stretchy tube top dress have brought me a chuckle this morning – a good thing in worrisome times.
How come I can go into a department store where there are more than a million bras and not one of them fits me?
My apologies to the men reading this, I know you don’t like us to talk about women’s underwear. Maybe just compare it to something that has to fit a particular part of a man and, like a bra, also has a cup. Maybe it’s hard for you to find the right size. Male athletes, especially baseball players, are constantly fiddling with it – seriously, they are spitting and nudging their crotches the whole game. Perhaps some of you even wear bro-bras. I remember a Seinfeld episode about that – a bra for the well-endowed man. Kramer and Mr. Costanza were trying to get rich with their Manssiere.
Back to women and this huge stumbling block to our happiness. All we want is a good, everyday bra that cradles the girls in comfort while preventing jiggles, sags, headlights, and squashouts – that flab that squashes out on our backs from under the bra lines. It’s as unsightly as panty lines.
You men say, “Just go braless.” You’d love that look on the young ones, no doubt, but gravity tugs at us older women. There’s a greeting card with an old man at a bus stop who says to an old woman, “Show me your tits,” and she pulls up the bottom of her dress. You wouldn’t be so excited to see us braless.
No, we need bust trusses, especially the well-endowed, full-figured ladies of a certain age. That’s not me, by the way. My problem is not finding anything small enough. Even the teenage bras don’t fit. I just received two of them from Kohl’s online delivery. The cup size was okay, but I’m too big around. It’s like trying to fix a monster truck flat using a bicycle tire. The bras felt like straight jackets, only not as comfortable.
My friend got a new sports bra and we played golf a couple of weeks ago. Every time she swung the club the bra rode up under her armpits. After each of her 80+ swings she had to grab hold of the bottom and tug that bra with all her might to get it back in position. She was chapped from all the friction.
I bought a workout bra one time. Just getting it on was the workout – I didn’t even need to go to the gym. I had to wiggle into it over my head. It was like a thick rubber band with only so much give – once it reached the limit of its stretch that was it. I had to pull down an inch on the left and then an inch on the right until it was in place. It made me look like a penny from one of those penny squishing machines – the ones you put a dollar in so you can get a three-inch long skinny penny that says “Seaside” on it. Flat as a board is too flattering for what that bra did to me.
Another frustration to add to our woes – when a company stops making the style of bra we’ve been wearing for years, which the company always does, it’s like losing a close friend. Most older women, especially the married ones, don’t go in for all those new fancy girly bras taking up space in the store. We buy ones that work and only replace them when the straps start falling down. Once that strap elastic gives out, the bra is worthless. If you see women constantly pulling up their straps, it’s because their bra has been discontinued and they’re still hanging on to it in denial.
My mother in law is 87. She can’t get her bra anymore. She tracked down the manufacturer and talked to several levels of higher ups before they convinced her that her bra is no more. She told us this sad news with trembling lips and a tear in her eye. Deb, her daughter and Laura, her friend, and I sat at the dining room table and comforted her, then started sketching out ideas to keep her straps up in such a way that still allowed her to get into the bra. After several hours we had a diagram and a pattern. I sewed a prototype, attached it to the bra, and it worked! She’ll have another few weeks with the bra until the hooks wear out. Then they’ll be fresh tears.
They’ve also discontinued my bra – the Maidenform T-shirt bra with a racerback so the straps wouldn’t show in my sleeveless golf shirts. They’ve replaced the whole back with lace. What the? I don’t want lace. It’s flimsy and scratchy. Nope. No lace on my back. Plus golf shirts are thin – I don’t want that lace pattern showing through. Why, oh why did you do it, Maidenform? Why?
Those two teenage bras are going back to Kohls, and I will begin the search again. Someone told me that Soma bras are good, so maybe I’ll try those. They’re spendy for me but after all the time and money I’ve racked up going through thousands of bras at hundreds of stores, I’m to the point that I’d pay anything to have a nice comfy home for the girls. Bless their hearts. They deserve it.
I get this question a lot from my friends and family back in Tennessee. They want to know why people are rioting in Portland. Who’s stirring up all the trouble?
Here’s what I tell them. We’ve got four groups on our streets here. The first group wants to change the world for the better – they’re the people who leave their comfy, air-conditioned homes in the summer heat and walk the streets to support Black Lives Matter. They hope that demonstrating will alert police to the reality that we don’t want them killing unarmed black people. It’s a pretty good reason to hold demonstrations.
The second group wants to use the cover of the demonstrators to vandalize and loot. They are opportunists, criminals, thugs – the cockroaches of society. They’re thrilled that people are demonstrating because they lay low until the focus is on other groups, then break a store window and steal what they can. They destroy property so they can profit. Black lives don’t matter to them. They need to be sent to jail, the sooner the better. Almost as bad are the vandals and scum who spray paint our buildings and everything else with their stupid giant letters. It’s ugly. Just stop it. Put them in jail, too, after the judge makes them remove their awful graffiti.
The third and fourth groups are vigilantes here to fight each other. One is the white-supremacists, the Skinheads and Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer and other modern-day fascists. They want every race except whites to be somewhere else, preferably dead. Let me refresh your memory about fascists. They were in charge in Germany during the 1930’s and 40’s. They called themselves Nazis, and Hitler was their leader. He started World War II. In the meantime, the Nazis practiced their white supremacy by killing six million Jews in Germany’s concentration camps, not to mention anyone they deemed inferior, such as handicapped people.
Today’s white-supremacist, fascist, hate groups in America call themselves Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer and other names, because the word Nazi has such inconvenient connotations. I call them Profa – short for Pro-fascists – they are the opposite of Anti-fascists, or Antifa.
Antifa is the fourth group here in Portland. They oppose white-supremacist, fascist groups, for, what I think, are obvious reasons. (See paragraph above about Hitler, Nazis, murdering innocents, and World War II).
The question is, why are these two groups, Profa and Antifa, in Portland? Pro-fascist groups are okay with the police shooting someone as long as the victim is not white. They certainly aren’t here to support Black Lives Matter. Antifa is here to stand up to the white supremacists. Antifa is like the kid in school who gets between the bullies (white supremacists) and the kids being bullied (everyone who isn’t white). So Pro-fascists and Anti-fascists clash. Violence ensues. Opportunists break into stores and steal. Demonstrators keep marching.
I’ve heard people say, “Antifa is a terrorist group. They’re bussing in people and paying them to riot.” This makes no sense to me. Antifa, remember, are anti-fascists, the far left – they’re on the side of Black Lives Matter. They are against police brutality. The only people they’re fighting are the white supremacist fascist groups.
What makes more sense is that someone is bussing in the pro-fascist groups, the far right. But who would want pro-fascist groups in Portland? Hmmm, the Proud Boys and all the rest of the pro-fascists have Trump’s name plastered all over their banners while they parade through Portland. Maybe that’s why Trump keeps calling the anti-fascists, Antifa, a terrorist group, but sympathizes with the white supremacist pro-fascist groups.
If I were a president whose ratings are down, I’d spend some of my millions or ask my rich friends to rent a few busses so the Proud Boys, Skinheads, Patriot Prayer and other fascists can come to Portland where they make Black Lives Matter demonstrators angry. Anti-fa comes to stand up to Pro-fa. Fights break out. People get hurt. It’s cheap advertising. It’s almost the only thing they talked about at the Republican National Convention – IF YOU DON’T RE-ELECT TRUMP THE WHOLE COUNTRY WILL BE LIKE PORTLAND. What name is on the banners of the fascist, white supremacist, hate groups as they parade in Portland? It’s not Biden.
If a person wanted to stay in power, wouldn’t it be in his best interest to stir up trouble, to manufacture fear, to pit people against each other? And then spend day and night Tweeting that the whole country will be like Portland if he’s not re-elected?
But wait. Isn’t he the one in office right now? And isn’t the country already like this? Right now? Could it be his “divide and conquer” strategy? Divide us to the point that we’re so angry we can’t even talk to our own family members or our best friends from high school without getting into a shouting match. We may have disliked other presidents, had political debates, agreed to disagree, but we can’t even talk now. He has definitely divided us.
But will he conquer? Not if we vote. Actually vote. Not just not vote. Many people didn’t vote in 2016 because they thought Trump was a joke, but they couldn’t support a Democrat, or a woman with a trumped up email scandal. Hilary won the popular vote, but Trump ended up in the White House. Please don’t let it happen this time. I know he’ll whine and cry and say it was rigged and we’ll have to endure his pouting, vengeful tweets about how he’s a genius and everyone else is a loser and blame it on fake news and on and on and on, but who knows what will happen to Democracy, to America, if he gets another four years? If you don’t vote for whatever reason, or vote by writing in the name of someone who can’t possibly win, Lord help us.
What’s happening in Portland? Who’s stirring up trouble?