Monday, April 4, 2016


What kind of mother locks herself in the bathroom with the tub running and the fan on so she can eat the last Klondike bar without her child hearing the wrapper crinkling until it is too late?

Go ahead, heap your contumely upon me. I've done worse.

I used to eat spiders. All the kids on our crescent did it at least some of the time. I think there was some sort of mom cult thing going on where they decided in their pointy-bra'd way that if we were busy catching and eating spiders we wouldn't be pestering them for food or attention, so they whispered to us in our dreams that we should really be spending more time eating spiders and less time begging for story-time. That they would love us more than they did our siblings--and since at least half of us were Catholic, there were a lot of siblings to be competed with--if we came home late in the afternoon full of spiders, tuckered out and ready for bed. That spider protein would make us better looking than the other kids, smarter than the other kids, and stronger than any kids in the history of the neighborhood. Spider silk would make our hair fine but so so strong and it might even help parachute us safely to the ground when we flung ourselves from trees. Spider eyes would help us win Kick the Can, even at night. The hemocyanin in spider blood, with its strange blue tint, might fool a prince into thinking we were in fact blue-blooded in that all-important royal way and we would be swept off to live in a castle forever. This was the part I imagine my mother enjoyed the most: helping me fantasize about going to live somewhere else, to leave my smelly runners in someone else's country, to spit toothpaste inexpertly in someone else's sink, to play my never-fucking-ending arpeggios on someone else's fucking piano.

The little grey spider that lives in the upper northwest corner of our shower waves her elegant little legs at me as I sit here on the bath mat licking mint and chocolate from my horrible stubby fingers. She has seen me do this before. I'm going to eat her next and dream of turrets.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Maybe this time

I've thought I was back before. Quite a few times over the past few months/maybe a year, it's occurred to me "Ah, now is the time when I've put this all behind me." "This all" = cancer, cancer, dementia, dementia, overdose, dementia, emotional breakdown....none of it mine (yet). One of those dementias is my dog's, for the love of GOD.

It occurs to me that this is what the second half of life is all about: learning to live without. Without certain beloved people, without certainty, without routine. I went back to work--and failed miserably. I went back to writing--and wound up staring out the window for hours at a time, contemplating (with a depth of contemplation I'd previously never experienced) the ass end of a plastic goose on an overstated plinth in the neighbor's back yard. I went back to yoga--and remained in the fetal position in the dark until they turned on all the studio lights and made "we are closing this building" noises.

But something happened the other day that made me think that there's a new chapter writing itself. It went like this:

Russian mammogram technician: Maybe you have *face* of first wife, but you have breasts of second wife."


I'm back, aren't I?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Just Breathe

Things I thought about whilst lying in the humid semi-dark of the yoga studio, attempting to clear my mind of thought:
  • Wouldn't it be weird to see an owl with no eyes, just a giant glassy mirror at the back of its skull in which you could see the stars?
  • What colour are Janice Parker's eyes? Brown? Blue? 
  • Whoever's feet those are  about 12 inches from my face really needs to give 'em a scrub.
  •  Remember that time the elk stood behind the station wagon and there was no driving for like an hour?
  • Have I been breathing? Am I remembering to breathe?
  • Justin Trudeau: right- or left-handed? 
  • The day I got my ears pierced when I was twelve: Christ that hurt. I think my mom was laughing. Was she laughing? OF COURSE SHE WAS LAUGHING.
  • I like gin.
  • Wonder what Greta's doing. Bet she's breathing and clearing her mind.
  • I am the worst at clearing my mind. 
  • Cocktail peanuts or the ones with the skins?
  • What's tape made out of? 
  • Now is not the time to think about chin whiskers.
  • Turtles are weird. But not as weird as wombats.
  • Wombats would have made Anglo Saxons happy because another w word.
  • Wyrd bith full aread. WOMBAT.
  • onetwothreefourfive. six seven. 
  • At least when my hair was longer I could put it in a bun and not be lying on this wretched elastic knot thing. 
  • I bet my head is too lumpy to rock the bald thing.
  • You know, that Chris Pine kid isn't so bad as Captain Kirk. 
  • But spiders could crawl in my ear and maybe I would be so relaxed that I wouldn't notice and then they would have babies and my brain would be overrun with spiders. How many legs would that be if, say, each of the three spiders that crawled into my ear had something like 42 babies each? 
  • You should breathe. 
  • Janice Parker: blue or brown? 
  • They probably have way more babies than 42. 
  • I never liked Charlotte's Web but it is sure better than the Afghanistan trilogy of terror that made Kid cry every school night for three months. 
  • The Taliban is the worst. 
  • I never saw Palmyra.
  • Oh no! Not the Oakridge Boys' "Elvira!" Kill me.
 This is me relaxing.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

On Deafness (the Blue Period)

Tuesday morning, prominent local eye clinic. Bleach-blonde receptionists and bureaucrats with tasteful pieces of flair, eyelash extensions and dramatic eyebrows click-clack through the hallways. I've been sitting in a waiting room for over an hour with my aged relative, who is not only a little sight challenged at the moment, but also a little bit (a lot) deaf. For some reason, this clinic plays nature films on smallish ceiling-mounted TVs, the volume turned down low, in a kind of blissful refutation of the challenges faces by at least 80% of the clientele.

Ask me anything about flying squirrels.

Click-clack, goes the buxom blonde in the close-fitting black suit. Click-clack across the waiting room floor. And then back.

Zoom! Flying squirrels!


Scuttle, go the Galapagos lizards.

Whomp, go the birds that cannot land.

Click-clack. There goes the blonde again.

Click-clack, again, but this time from the beaks of beautifully odd birds with blue feet.

You see where this is going, don't you? You do.

I didn't.

Which is why, as the robust blond in the close-fitting black suit click-clacked past me and my father, I found myself shouting to the lovely deaf man: BOOBIES! THEY'RE BOOBIES!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The first step is the hardest

I'm at the mall. I've been pacing back and forth in front of one particular store, a store I swore I would never willingly enter on my own. I swore I would never do this thing.
But it's clear that I no longer have a choice.

My friends tell me that the first step is the hardest, that I'll thank myself when it's over, and that they know how hard it is and will be there for me if I need to talk about them.

I am going into Talbots.

(Post-script: And inside Talbots? My childhood piano teacher, now something like 110 years old, buying the exact same sensibly-hemmed dress that I'm buying, but in a more daring colour.)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

You're that baby

Today as I was checking out at a local bookstore, I noticed the unusual name of the young woman helping me out. "There was a baby with that name at my wedding," I ventured, basically knowing already what was about to happen.

And sure enough, I asked after her last name and discovered her to be, in fact, the 22-year-old daughter of friends with whom we'd lost touch, but with whom we were quite close for a time. The last time I'd seen her, she was peeking out of a sling on her mother's hip as our friends and family toasted our marriage.

"You're that baby!"

At first she was delighted--but then the tiniest, sweetest little crinkle did its best to furrow her alabaster brow at me, whom she'd last seen in a long dress with flowers in my hair and the Whole Thing ahead of me.

"Am I THAT old??" she marvelled.

 Oh yes, my sweet, yes you are. And it's a swift road to where you're headed, believe me. We were both babies, once.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fine and Dry in the Lesser Antilles

One of the things I like best about Al Jazeera is the international weather forecast. Tonight, for example, despite beheadings in the Maghreb, ebola in Liberia, Tomahawk missiles in Iraq, and the sweaty spectre of global warning, I hear this: it is fine and dry in the Lesser Antilles.

And that means the Lesser Antillean macaw is safe.

Beautiful plumage. Good to know that it's not wet and miserable.

This guy, a solendon, is also, at least tonight, secure.
Solendons are venomous and nocturnal--basically, they're poisonous shrews--and apparently are very similar to species that lived near the end of the age of the dinosaurs. They look super scary to me and will probably appear very soon in a nightmare near me, but they are warm and dry for now. Endangered as a species, but individually warm and dry.

Look at those teeth.

The neotropical otters of Trinidad are similarly well set up.

I don't know about you, but that otter's fur is weirdly soothing to me. No conditioner or anti-frizz products and just look at that do. It's perfect. Some of us are made perfectly. 

Speaking of Trinidad, they seem like really nice people; today they're celebrating 38 years as a republic. San Fernando Mayor Kazim Hosein speaks of them as "one large family."If you call this number, 1 868 358 9261, you can pick up some Calypso records for $10. Here's the first calypso song ever recorded, by Lovey's String Band (1912). Nice little pick-me-up as we try not to contemplate what's happening in eastern Ukraine. Personally, I imagine Lovey's players as all being neotropical otters with excellent hair.

If you are experiencing despair in any of its forms as a result of being an informed citizen of the world, take a moment and remember that, for the moment, some of us are doing fairly well. In Trinidad, for example, the million or so people, 450 bird species, 108 types of mammals, 55 reptiles, 25 amphibians and 620 types of butterflies are all warm and dry. God bless them.

And, at the risk of sounding maudlin, or monotheistic, or overly dramatic, I hope he or she or it or they blesses all of us. We could use it.