Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sidewalks of the City

This song by Lucinda Williams describes my life, 8:45 to 9 and 5:35 to 5:50, Monday through Friday in 2008

As you walk along the sidewalks of the city
You see a man with hunger in his face
And all around you crumbling buildings and graffiti
As you bend down to tie your shoelace
Sirens scream but you don't listen
You have to reach home before night
But now the sun beats down it makes the sidewalks glisten
And somehow you just don't feel right

Hold me, baby, give me some faith
Let me know you're there
let me touch your face
Give me love
give me grace
Tell me good things
tell me that my world is safe

You pass by bars with empty stages
Three o'clock drinkers fall by
Chairs are placed on top of tables
As you brush the hair out of your eyes
A woman stops you with a question
So you drop some money in her hand
She sleeps in doorways and bus stations
And you'll never understand

Hold me, baby, give me some faith
Give me love
give me grace
Tell me good things
tell me that my world is safe


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas, 1966

That was our first year in the Victorian rectory next to the church in Jenkintown.

My grandparents lived in Maine and probably thought they were getting away from snow when they headed south to Philadelphia to stay with us. Unfortunately, a huge snowstorm followed close behind and blew in early on the morning of Christmas Eve.

When it snowed there was a mad scramble for boots in our house, is it possible that we only had two pairs? Both were what we called army boots: calf high, olive green rubber with yellow laces that criss-crossed at the top. (Describing them I think, why they sound quite fashionable. Maybe I should resurrect that design and make a fortune.)

Anyway, I had worn them to school one day and the kids made fun of me...so the next time it snowed I wore my lime green plastic patent leather loafers thinking at least they were waterproof. I remember finding those shoes in the bin at E.J. Korvette's; the pair was held together by a plastic loop and they weren't easy to try on. Taking them to my mother I first experienced that momentary pause when a voice in your head tells you that you are about to make a serious fashion mistake.

Another day walking through the slush in my bright green loafers on the way to school the policeman at the corner of York and West said to me, "hey, where are your boots? You ought to have your boots on!" I just walked on, head down, creating the child's version of "fuck you officer" imagining the sort of future hell that a nine year old can create for a man in uniform: He has to direct traffic naked, wear high heels with his uniform, or carry me to school, walking in bright green patent leather loafers himself.

We were always allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve. My parents probably started this tradition to shut us up ("Will you kids Just Stop Bugging Me? All right, open one present, just one present, that's it!")

Could it be that all I asked for that year was a pair of boots? I knew it would be my biggest present. We had lots of little presents but there was always "the one" which was the most expensive thing we had asked for. And when my parents said we could open one present on Christmas Eve, they meant a small one because the big one had to have an impact on Christmas morning.

The snow outside was deep and we were going to the midnight service. I pictured myself first fighting for, then winning the right to wear a pair of the green army boots. I know that I cried and begged my mother to let me open the box that I knew held the boots. And she let me. Thank you Mom. One more humiliation, narrowly averted. In my mind's eye I see me helping my grandparents through the deep snow to the church next door looking down at the wakes made with my new boots, brown pleather with faux shearling, designed for a girl, my brothers romping in the snow happy in their own green army boots.

And that my dears is why I'm probably so twisted about Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cabin in the woods

Reading Lou Ureneck's story in Thursday's NYTimes made me revisit a dream that I had about building a cabin in the woods. It will probably be constructed shortly after I finish the shed in the backyard, another structure that exists only in my mind.

My mother has a house on an island in Maine. Ooooh, an island you say! Well, it's just far enough from the mainland to be a pain in the ass. It was a farmhouse until the land was flooded and it was made into an island in the 1920's. There's an outhouse which makes you size up invited guests on a totally different level than you'd ever done before. My brother invited a friend up last year and when I saw them crossing the lake, my skinny brother straining to row the 200 pounds-plus guest across, I seriously considered leaving early. My entire family shared a stricken look when he reached for another ear of corn.

The island was part of a boys camp that closed in the 1950's. And there are two sunken boat houses that I dream of resurrecting into simple cabins. I sketched the one above on the way home to Pennsylvania one year. It would be different from the main house that my mother occupies in that it wouldn't have satellite television (it's hard to break an addiction to Turner Classic Movies) and all the stuff that arrives weekly from her forays to yard sales and auctions.

I know, I am a wholly ungrateful wretch. There are two sides to every story. And the better side to this one is that my 77-year-old mother is able to cross that lake daily, sometimes twice a day from late June to late September. This past summer she was bound and determined to make the journey even though her 86-year-old partner is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. She's happiest there, her voice is light when we talk on the phone. Very different than the calls in winter when she tells me she was up at 4 a.m. wondering if she should sell the place.

Hold on Mom, help is coming. My daughters will be finished college in a few years and if I can hold onto my job I'll join my brothers and we'll take turns rowing you across.

Which is why I imagine building my own cabin. It's crowded in that main house. We all have families and when we're together my brothers and I turn into people who are emotionally 12, 11 and 9 years of age. Throw in some children who actually are 11 and 9, spouses, and college students and their friends and it all goes south pretty quickly.

So my cabin would be a stone's throw away from the throbbing noise of the main house. It would be simple and small, a dock for two kayaks, and an outside shower.

It would most definitely have a fire burning toilet. Make that two.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

In my dreams

Last night I dreamt that Jeffrey Blank wanted to marry me. He's been dead for probably five years now.

I babysat for the Blanks when I was a teen-ager. I had a babysitting monopoly going in my neighborhood because a) I loved little kids and b) I had no other life. It didn't bother me, it just seemed to be what I was about at the time.

When I first started to work for them they had a great house, smaller than most in our neighborhood of old stone center hall Colonials built around 1920, but to me it was the perfect size. Their family was fun too, Jill was around 3 and Philip was a newborn. They moved towards the end of my tenure as their steady Saturday night sitter to a huge house on several acres and had added a daughter named Sally. They had definitely moved up in the world but I always thought their cozy Colonial was the better house.

Are you with me so far? I'm feeling a little lost myself here.

Anyway, in the dream Mr. Blank was short and thin (in reality not words I would use to describe him) and he had a soft high voice (which is how I would describe it in reality). Somehow I met up with him and he told me that he loved me and wanted to marry me. I was a little confused in the dream: wasn't he married to Mrs. Blank and wasn't I gay?

We went to a holiday dinner at his friends' house. He held my hand in a very sweet way. He told me that it had been his life's ambition to have four children. I knew that he had three. Uh oh, did that mean that if we married I would have to have more children because I am clear that I am done with that, whether I am awake or asleep. I asked him about this. He said oh, no he had four children already. The last had been the result of an affair with a woman at his fitness club. He said the child was now 20 and I was trying to figure out where that child fit in in the birth order of the other Blank children. I wondered if he was a cheater.

Was I in or was I out in this dream/relationship? I couldn't tell. Then an intercom came on in the house of his friends. It said that the R2 was leaving shortly and all those who planned to board this train should get to the station. I got on the train.

I was happily reading when Jeffrey Blank came up to me and said very sweetly he had enjoyed holding my hand and was disappointed that there weren't two seats together where we could continue to do so. He started this whole schtick about it and people started paying attention and this woman in the seat ahead of me told him to shut up and got up and moved to another seat, but others were laughing and when he finally reached the climax of the schtick people applauded. I thought, I could hitch myself to his wagon after all.

The train emptied out around the Temple station as I knew that it would and I said, hey, let's find a seat together. He had a very thick book with him that he was reading and I said, what are you reading and it was a political book and I thought, uh oh, I am going to have to challenge myself to read difficult books if I get involved with him. We went into a special section of the train which doesn't exist in real life and found two chaise lounge looking seats. I thought I hope he doesn't think there's going to be hanky panky here. There wasn't any, just a sweet feeling of holding hands with someone who was kind to me in life and who now is very dead.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tanksgiving

Like Humans Do: the theme song for this year's Thanksgiving.

I'm breathing in, I'm breathing out.
So step inside this funky house.
Dishes in the sink, TV in repair
Don't look at the floor, don't go up the stairs.
I'm aching, I'm breaking, I'm shaking like humans do.

The earlier post describes a scene so lovely and calm. It tanked soon after.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

It's early, my brother is asleep on the third floor which finally has heat. Alice is in her bed. My nephew has moved from the sofa to my room so I can bang around downstairs, starting the green beans, and pie crusts.

Now Pickie has climbed onto my lap. She's become quite an affectionate cat as she's gotten older. For her first 12 years she ignored us. Now she's become almost doglike, greeting me, following me, finding my lap, checking in on me.

I am thankful for this quiet warm house and the people and animals in it. For the loved ones near and further away.

For all the people who have shared Thanksgiving with us in the past and have passed: my father, grandmother, grandfather, Uncle Bev, Aunt Elllie, Aunt Margaret, her husband Dick. For everyone who's shared it with us in the past and will gather around other tables: my cousins Liz, Freida and Valerie, their children; the Wolperts and their children; Mr. Davidson and his son John and his family, who else, Tina, my sister-in-law. One year I went to the Violas for dinner and it remains one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. Each year Carol shares it with her family and that feels fine.

In a little while I'll shower, run out and purchase bacon, eggs and English muffos. I'll come back and start frying it up, hoping it wakes some helpers to get started on pie crusts (they have to chill) and snapping the green beans.

We'll get into cars and travel to my brother Tom's in Paoli and here's who'll be there: Tom, Kim, their children Daniel and Rachel; Kim's sister Kelly, her husband I hope I remember his name before we get there, their children Matthew and Carly; Aunt Ellie, my mother and Bob; John, Chris, my daughters Elizabeth and Alice. There will be laughter and a few jibes, maybe some hurt feelings, maybe not. But we'll gather and give thanks and once again that mix of feelings will fill me: love and gratitude and the hope that we'll all be together next year.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My mother remembers Rusty, the dog who wasn't Lassie

Well. I was crazy about Lassie when I was a child and determined to get a collie. In those days the SPCA went door to door and one day a man brought two dogs to the rectory in Dobbs Ferry. He said one was a purebred Belgian Shepherd and the other was a mutt. I said, which one has more collie? The man said the mutt and that's how we got Rusty.

I took a long lead and put Rusty on one end and walked along the main street of Dobbs Ferry to show off my new dog. The first shopkeeper who saw me said, so you're the one who ended up with that one! Evidently Rusty was well known in Dobbs Ferry.

I told my mother and she said, "From the bottom of Dobbs Ferry to the heights of Zion Church, that dog has traveled far!"

I took Rusty to the golf course and tried to train him to be as courageous as Lassie. That lasted about a day.

Collies were so popular and then they overbred them and they got silly. It's a shame.

My Mother Said (It helps to read Dog Story first)

It wasn't MacGregor who drowned, it was Rebel.

Rebel? There was another dog? God, are there any other dogs I don't know about?

MacGregor was a Sheltie that I had before I married your father. He was the one who ate everything, and one Saturday night he ate one of your father's clerical collars. And he had services the next day so you can imagine the panic we were in.

So what really happened to MacGregor?

He loved to chase cars. The last time the car chased him.

And Rebel?

Rebel was a beautiful collie. Joy Wheatley gave him to us. I think she never liked me after he drowned because she blamed me. It was a Sunday morning and I was getting you kids ready for church. He bolted out the door and I had to choose between going to church and going after him. We looked for him for days. The fireman didn't come to the door, I had gone to the firehouse. And the fireman who told me was terribly upset.

So you had to choose between being a good clergy wife and getting the dog. I remember Joy Wheatley having like a hundred cats.

She had a lot of cats, yes, but she bred dogs too.

Is it true that you don't believe in training dogs?

Oh absolutely, we always believed dogs should be free, live their lives.

And what about Jock, Mom, was that pretty much how it happened?

Scotties were so popular then, everyone had to have a Scottie. I can't remember where we got him, but he wasn't a puppy. But he did get in the car with the kids and the woman didn't realize it until she was across the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Mom, there are holes in that story a mile wide.

I'm sorry dear, that's what happened. It was your father who took the phone call and I remember saying: do her kids love him? and your father asked her and she said yes. So I said, keep him!

But what about us? Did you gather us together to break it to us that our dog wouldn't be coming home? Didn't we love him?

I don't remember getting you all together. But you didn't love him that much.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dog Story


Yesterday on the train I was reading a book by Dorothy Sayers set in Scotland and realized that a dog we'd had when I was a child was named Jock, not Jacques as I had thought for more than 40 years.

I always wondered why my parents had given a French name to a Scottie. Now I know they hadn't. They had given him a traditional Scots name: Jock. And I had thought that he looked pissed at our attempt to Frenchify him. Now I wonder what exactly Jock was pissed about.

He was one in a series of pets that we had in Port Chester. They all met curious ends. There was MacGregor, a collie who drowned in the Byrum River. My mother said the fireman who had jumped in the ice cold river to try and save MacGregor was sobbing when he came to 535 King Street and apologized over and over again about his inability to save him. Somehow I picture my mother exhaling smoke from her Kent cigarette and saying, tap tap ash drop: don't worry about it. She was probably relieved to have one less thing to look after, one less animate object out of her control, running away.

I always loved the Scottie magnets sold in the restrooms of the Howard Johnson's on the turnpike to Maine.

I can remember sitting in the car for what seems like hours and was probably 15 minutes, holding the white Terrier in one hand and the black Scottie in the other and clicking them together over and over again. I like to think that my parents noticed my obsession with the magnets and thought a live one would be just the thing for their precious princess.

So Jock was "my" dog inasmuch as a Terrier can be anyone's dog. And like all our dogs, he ran away a lot. We were taught that it was the dog's fault, like running away was a bad trait that some dogs had and others didn't. It probably never occurred to my mother that the dog needed to be fenced in, walked or taught to sit stay and hang around the house. I imagine her opening the back door, out he goes and oops! doesn't come back. Bad dog Jacques, I mean Jock.

Here's how it ended for Jock:

My mother gets a phone call from a woman in New Jersey. Evidently the woman was driving with her kids in a station wagon with the back down. (That's how we rolled back then, no seat belts and the chance that we would tumble out the back on a steep incline.) Anyway, the woman's children had seen Jock trotting along behind and encouraged him to jump in the car and join them! And miracle of miracles, his stubby little Scottie legs were able to propel him two feet in the air to jump into a moving car! They were across the Tappan Zee Bridge before the woman even realized there was a yippy purebred Scottie in her car! The children loved the dog!

My mom said keep him.

My mom said keep our dog! New Jersey was too far to go to pick him up. The other family loved him. He was always running away. It was turned into a dog fairy tale of how he had run to his true family, a miracle story, jumping into that car, the children there happy and laughing, loving Jock.

But I thought we loved him. Sure we kept opening the door but we always hoped he would come back.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Doing a double dare

I spend a lot of time in elevators. Taking the stairs is not an option in our historic building. Something to do with fire towers and heavy doors and interior offices.

Anyway, this morning I got on the elevator with three other people and as is usually the case, one of them had his i-pod cranked up. The four of us stood there silently riding to a sweet piano trill followed by a heavy metal blast. It hurt. Should I say something? Say something! The doors opened to the fifth floor, my floor and I turned to him and said, that was beautiful and got off.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I love Barack Obama

Especially after looking at this gallery.

http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0810/callie-bp.html

I hope that I can live through the next week without exploding.

Monday, October 27, 2008

File under: OMGOMGOMG!!!!

Yesterday we harvested potatoes.

But let me start this tale by recounting last year's potato misadventure:

My beloved gave me ten potato plants for my garden in the Summer of 2007. They grew and grew until one day I came outside and discovered that rabbits or squirrels had mowed down every last one. Once the process of photosynthesis had been properly explained to me, I stopped watering the stumps.

This year my beloved tossed two plants to me. She'd given up. They were an afterthought.

I planted them and surrounded them with barbed wire and look-out posts complete with alarms, kleig lights and miniature German soldiers that screamed "Halt!" at the slightest movement.

Thus they grew uninterrupted.

Yesterday she convinced me that it was time to start digging. I was afraid. Very afraid. I could only remember last year's Potato Famine and the specter of my hungry, howling children rose before my eyes.

But she was insistent and so she started gathering the vines:
And this is what we found:

We started screaming and saying, Oh My God! Oh My God! Oh My God!

I still can't believe how very big they are. I don't know what the neighbors thought, they probably heard us, looked out the window, lit another cigarette and returned to watching Paris Hilton's New Best Friend.

Digging those potatoes was very similar to giving birth although there was a lot less pain and a lot more dirt. But a very similar feeling.






Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Roasting Chicken

Choose one that's plump.

Leave it on the counter because you read somewhere that it should be at room temperature. Risk your friends' health by doing so.

Turn the oven on to 375 degrees.

Wash your hands.

When you remember it, take the plastic off the chicken, remove the giblet package and rinse the chicken under cold water, inside and out. Think funny thoughts when you see the water come out the other side. Wonder how you can think funny thoughts at a time like this.

Look frantically around the kitchen for the paper towels, trying to remember where you last saw them. Give up and use a paper napkin and pat the bird dry.

Take out a frozen stick of butter. Melt it in the microwave. Yelp when you pull the bowl out of the microwave because even though you have done this 435 times you still like to take a chance that it won't be hot.

If you're feeling fancy, get some sage out of the garden. Rinse it off and wonder if it's really getting clean as the water doesn't seem to be penetrating the leaves.

Add salt and pepper to the melted butter.

Wash your hands.

Loosen the skin on the breast meat and insert the sage leaves on the breast. Only push them so far because you're grossed out by what you're doing. Brush the melted butter all over the chicken. When you flip it over notice that it looks like the back of your infant daughter in her first bath.

Wash your hands again. They're very greasy.

Find the string. Pull off a couple yards of it. Cut it.

Criss-cross the legs and wrap the string around the chicken's ankles. Wonder if that's the right word. Continue to wrap up the chicken with the string, making sure the wings are close to the body. Admire how well you truss a chicken.

Set the chicken aside while you chop carrots.

Lay the carrots side by side across the bottom of the roasting pan, creating a rack.

Place the chicken face down on top of the carrots. Put it in oven and roast for 20 minutes.

When the alarm goes off, don't hear it because you are reading an article on Huffington Post about Sarah Palin. Realize you haven't heard the alarm when you head back to Yahoo to check your mail and go into the kitchen to turn the bird.

Notice that the breast bears the imprint of carrots and wonder if that will change as it cooks.

Reset the timer and forget to check at half hour intervals. Know that it really doesn't matter.

Baste it when you do remember.

Revel in the beauty of the browning bird every time you check it.

Go outside to look for the dog who has escaped the yard. When you bring her in enjoy the smell of the roasting chicken.

Overcook the chicken because that is how your beloved likes it.

Take it out and let it rest. Wonder if it hasn't been resting the whole time anyway.

Cut off the string and if alone, suck on it briefly and then discard.

Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a small platter known only to you as the Chicken Platter.

Wrap it in aluminum foil.

Drive while your beloved holds it on her lap.

Realize that you are one pair in the history of the human family that is traveling some distance to comfort someone with the gift of food. Imagine sorrowful couples coming on foot, by camel, trains, coaches, cars and horseback to visit grieving friends.

After her husband opens the front door and you see your friend who has lost her son hold her for a long long time. Offer her the roasted chicken.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Beautiful Boy

Spencer Barnett was the kind of kid that you knew would go on to do interesting things.

He paid me the highest compliment by once calling me cool.

He used words like haberdasher.

I knew him because his mom and I are friends.

We saw the Gates in Central Park on its last weekend. It was cold and he stopped on the street when we were almost there because he was out of breath.

We bought hats for a dollar each from a street vendor because we were so cold. His looked jaunty, mine looked dumb.

I thought he was brave when he wore a throw-back flowery shirt in high school.

He made me laugh.

When you made him laugh it felt like you had achieved something.

We had a dance off at a party at his house.

He liked to play games that require paper plates and pencils.

He patiently explained to my family how to draw five squares across and four squares down without acting like we were stupid.

He was handsome.

He loved the Phillies, Project Runway and Barack Obama, maybe not in that order.

He knew a lot about music.

He was a theater kid in high school.

He was into Queer Theory in college.

He played Helen Keller's father in The Miracle Worker.

He had a big imperfect heart.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I work for a wack-job

So that you don't have to.

I have a slightly twisted parenting method. My life is a series of lessons that my daughters are to learn from and the lesson is usually Don't Do What I've Done.

I've worked for a series of crazy women starting when I was 16 and a mother's helper for a woman named DeeDee. She said jump, I said how high. She said clean the bathroom twice a day, top to bottom, I did. She said make the beds, do the dishes for the family of five and a dinner party for 12, I did, I did, I did. Make coffee for my husband, let me sleep in, take the kids to the beach, okay okay okay and cheerfully too what's with the attitude. The kicker was that I was doing her job oddly enough though, never to her satisfaction. At the time I thought it was about me. I was disoriented, edgy, waves of adrenalin washing throughout my day and a sick feeling in my stomach.

Today I have a meeting with DeeDee version 2008. I'm still jumping, higher though and in a different way, the dishes have become events, the beds, public relations, and the family of five the company I work for. And the whole time DeeDee stands off to the side, judging my performance and surprise, it doesn't quite measure up.

DeeDee died by the way, of breast cancer when she was 45. And her husband, this handsome, engaging man, dropped dead of a heart attack shortly after. But don't worry DeeDee, you live on, reincarnated in my life with each new job.

Sometimes I listen to her voice in my head and realize I've heard it for so long I often mistake it for my own. Maybe that's why I've never quite been able to kill her off.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

SEPTA Song

I get on the 8:07 train from Ardsley each morning and here's what I want to say after I've hauled myself up those high steps to the train and face my fellow commuters:

Hello people! Why so saddy?

Everyone looks so down. Just a big bunch of depressives riding backwards into the city at the start of another new day. Some day I plan to step into the car and just start flinging little bright anti-depressants into the air! But I imagine no reaction, the shiny pills bouncing off them and falling on the dirty dirty floor.

The train starts moving pretty soon after I get on so I have to lurch down the aisle and scope out a seat. There's always an empty next to this one guy and I only take it occasionally so that he doesn't think I'm stalking him.

Oh look, here's someone who has a two-seater, all their stuff piled around, their feet up, headset on, pretending to be asleep. I feel a little sadistic thrill when I say, excuse me, may I sit here? Translation: party, over!

Just when they've finished pulling all their stuff onto their side I pretend to look further down and say "never mind!"

I could take the seat at the end where I'll be facing backwards, my knees hitting the man's across the aisle from me but instead I make a twosome in a three seater make room.

The response goes like this: they look up at me. I smile and slightly shake my head, acknowledging that I have just ruined something good, like coming across a kid about to take a big bit out of a candy bar they thought they had all to themselves. They sigh. Then, the crucial moment when they reveal that they are either generous or an asshole: a generous person will simply slide over, take the middle and let me have the aisle seat. An asshole will get up, move into the aisle so that I have take the middle and then sit down on the aisle. Me, I'm a welcoming slider and hope that I never become a greedy aisle hog. When I do say thank you to the aisle hog I make it sound a little like fuck you.

Once in the middle I take out my newspaper and oh my I have to fling those arms wide as I turn the page. "Sorry!" I say cheerfully. But we both know I am really saying fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou.

And we continue our happy ride backwards into the city on a bright and shiny new day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What's important

The blue sky edged with pink at its horizon.

The smell of woodsmoke when I step outside to walk the dog.

The dog.

The tangle of yellow chrysanthemums in the yard of the house at the corner.

This house.

The last mow of the lawn.

The children next door who know me as their neighbor.

Coffee.

Unsown squash growing out of compost.

Forgiveness.

The call before sleep.

Sleep.

Monday, October 6, 2008

In these times of economic crisis and personal peril

I hunker down with a slim volume by Miss Read. I join her in the infants class where the narrator teaches and walk with her in the little English village of Thrush Green or Fairacre or Caxley. I enter an alternate universe where people experience collywobbles and talk to their neighbors over hedges, gather together when a tree falls on the church to raise funds, relax in front of a fire with tea and approach everything with a sense of humor. Things work out, the world is a gentle place, people are realistic but kind, life is centered around community and church.
It's how I envision my life in Maine in a small village, my future self toting a pie to the parish bake sale, greeting my neighbors by name, getting my groceries at the general store and knowing that others will help dig me out in a snowstorm.
My neighbors here will dig me out but there's no tea afterwards. (Everything that is missing in my life can be traced back to not having a fireplace in my house.) I brought gifts to neighbors who had babies early in my years here but I've gotten distracted and tired and the last time I gave a pizza kit to the couple next door. I couldn't even get it together to make a casserole. I don't know some of the neighbors' names.
So I settle down with Miss Read who takes me to a world where people aren't as harried as me and take the time to walk down the lane, visit their neighbors and start the fire together.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Walking Down Market Street, 5:45

Step aside sister, I have a train to catch.

My, aren't we the pretty pretty princess, all sparkly in silver.

You made a PROMISE not to run in front of buses.

Crap here comes the Lanyard Brigade, looking for City Hall.

Must, push, through, Lanyard Brigade.

He has no legs and seems insane, should I still give him money?

I just don't think he would spend it responsibly.

Why am I here?

Passing on your left!

Do I have time to check my balance?

Why doesn't the market stay open past 6?

Shit! I have yoga tonight.

I'm not going, no time for dinner.

Yoga dinner yoga dinner yoga dinner.

I have to run.

I am running I am running.

They're looking at me so what.

Yoga dinner yoga dinner yoga dinner.

Channeling Gayle Sayers.

I loved Brian's Song.

How come I don't have a piano?

I miss playing the piano.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Girding for Battle

First scrub clean and shave until surfaces are smooth. Remember that everything will be scrutinized.
Brush your teeth. Battles have been lost early by dismissals of "she's got bad breath."
Put on Spanx. It helps to show that you are lean and hungry.
Wear your best clothes. It will help you feel strong.
Your face is important. Pluck every stray hair. Stray ones make you look foolish, not wise.
Apply the mask. In this case, Origins Ivory.
Eye brightener. It makes you look like you have slept soundly.
Don't forget the lipstick. It will help you smile.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

One of My Tribes

I went to the Bi-Annual Meeting of the Former English Majors of America also known as the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Stanhope, New Jersey.
Getting there was half the fun or half the misery depending on which of my multiple personalities answers the question. Lately the directions from Mapquest have been a little lacking, but as I drove along yesterday I imagined that they were created by a 21 year old woman stuck in a cubicle who was very very stoned. They sent me on the most obscure back roads of New Jersey that I had ever been on...go .3 miles on LeatherBucket Lane, turn left on Doe Run Drive, .1 miles, 3.9 on route 513. There must have been 32 turns and nothing was on a major road.
But I traveled rural roads I'd never been on past streams and farms and fields of pumpkins. There was lots of mist, some deep ravines and at one point a hawk dove in front of my car. Thank you stoned girl in the cubicle.
But once I was there I saw

Maxine Kumin!Gerald Stern!

And lots of other poets...but the most important poet there was my friend Penny. We've gone to the festival together three times. There was lots of tears and laughter, all crammed into the too short hours of the day. Her favorite poem is "Morning Swim" by Maxine Kumin. And we were both in the tent when Kumin said that she wanted to recite a poem from memory and she closed her eyes and took us all on a morning swim.
As for the ride home: Route 206 to 80 to 202. But those Mapquest directions are safely tucked away.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm churchy

I come by it honestly. My father was a minister. My mother's father was a minister. So were her three brothers. And I'm sure that she would have been one too if ordination had been an option when she was a young woman. As it was, she was the best minister's wife I've ever met, but I might be a little biased.
I am not completely open about my churchiness to everyone in my multi-dimensional life. It's just not cool to believe in God, or go to church, or pray so I put in a little compartment called Sunday morning. I sometimes stop in a church near my office for noon services and it feels illicit, stepping out of the bright street in that dark building with its familiar musty smell. It would surprise the people I work with as much as telling them I had two drinks at lunch.
I like the hymns, the language of the Book of Common Prayer. I posted a golden oldie yesterday because it summed up what I wanted to pray for my friends going through a dark night that's lasting more than a week. I like coffee hour after church where I catch up with people like sweet Marjorie Davison, 93, just a little crushed out on me because I think I remind her of herself when she was younger; or Rob who sells cars and likes to trade stories about our kids; Catherine and Bill, the Immortals of our parish. We talk about nothing and everything and really, they don't know much about me but we do gather once a week, say words in unison, sing hymns and hug. Sometimes I think that's all it takes for good to happen in the world.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Prayer

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Saturday Night I Dreamt of Sarah Palin

She was my new boss. My current boss, Andy and his assistant, Daryle, had been let go. I wondered if it was because they are Democrats. (Andy still has a poster from John Kerry in his office window. Daryle's office is my first stop each morning because she remains optimistic about Obama and can usually find the silver lining to my gloomy, pessimistic, loser mode mood.)

Anyway, they were gone. I didn't know how I had not been fired, but I knew I had to save my own ass. I immediately felt bad that I hadn't kept up with my monthly reports and wondered if I could recall all that I had done in the past six months.

She came into my office and was wearing a brown jacket and black skirt. Looked sharp. And looked sharply at me and I knew that I was toast. I tried to brown nose her by saying, "I thought you did well on the second night of those interviews with Charlie Gibson. The first night, not so well." It was a mix of honesty and criticism that doesn't work too well when I'm awake either.

She just looked at me like I was so gone. I'd like to say that I woke up screaming but I just woke up scared.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Me in a Meeting

The hunched position, the legs crossed, the suit, the nice make-up. The push back question: in what sense? That's me in a meeting that I didn't prepare for...ouch.

I don't know what the hell the Bush Doctrine is either, but I know that it must be evil because it has Bush and Doctrine in it.

I remember when I would be getting ready for a tough conversation at work and would call my brother Tom for help. "Always return a question with a question," he would say and I would be completely flummuxed. Like how? Or I could do it once, sit back and relax and they would come at me again.

"Where is the money that was here a minute ago?"

"Why would you ask that?"

"Because I want to know."

"Oh, well, uh, there are forces out there, forces that are hellbent on stealing the very same money that you are asking me about! And it's my job to protect that money! Is that the money over there?"

"Where?"

"Over there," and I beat it the hell out of there.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Deep in Palinville

I have finally read so much about the whole Palin thing that I feel a little ill. I had drilled deep enough into the blogosphere where I was watching a wobbly video of Sarah Palin speaking at the Alaskan Republican Convention in March (it looked like a very small gathering of balding shoe salesmen in a Westin Hotel). The video was purported to prove that she could not have been pregnant. "I couldn't walk in heels when I was eight months pregnant" said one commentater. She kind of wobbled! I could see that!
See why I feel ill? When McCain announced her as his candidate I have to admit that she hit that sweet spot that Hillary never did. Hillary reminded me of a couple of bosses that I have had, the kind that would make me stay after school, I mean work. Sarah Palin on the other hand, hunts! fishes! has probably camped out! Of course I could never vote for her because A) she's a Republican; B) believes in abstinence only education; C) believes creationism should be taught in schools; D) is against abortion and choice; E) looked into banning books; F) just a guess, but don't think she likes homos; G, H, I and J) is a Republican.
Why is watching her go down in flames so compelling? It is bringing out the worst in me as a woman. But, but, the twists and turns are fascinating. Someone (not me, I'm ill, remember?) has to find out when that episode in Desperate Housewives aired and see if it might have provided the light bulb moment for Sarah Palin. I picture her in the governor's mansion, a quart of Ben and Jerry's ice cream on her lap to dull the pain that she feels now that her daughter has told her she's pregnant. To escape reality she tunes in to a little Desperate Housewives. She sees Brea with the false pregnancy pillow and has an a-ha moment! Suddenly her problems are solved...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The perfect morning

The light went on in my car. The light that says it will explode in 30 seconds if you don't get help. I finished my early Saturday morning errand and then came home. There isn't much to do about it. I'll drop it off at the service station at some point this weekend, daydream about buying a new gas-efficient car that doesn't break down much, re-examine my college payments and soldier on with this car.

But the morning got better because I put the air in the tires of my bike, put the helmet on my head and did the few Saturday morning chores I could on my bike. Coasting down Weldon Avenue to the center of town I felt a sweet joy. I pulled up to the first bank and locked it up and went inside, did my business and rode to the second bank and again, did my business (I won't say exactly what I do, I know it sounds like I either rob banks or use their rest rooms) and rode to the Glenside Farmer's Market, didn't get the raw milk (too late), got the eggs (last ones), a couple of ears of corn and the sweetest peaches (only four). Packed it all up, got on the bike and rode home.

On the way home I saw my future self: a thin elderly woman with white hair wearing a pink striped seersucker shirt dress and comfortable shoes, carrying an empty grocery bag, headed to the fruit store. I followed her for a while on my bike until I got close and mugged her.

Of course I didn't. I said hi and my future self said hi back. I thought about saying, why are you walking to the cheap Asian fruit store when there's a Farmer's Market right there, closer, but I imagine my future self has reviewed her budget, considered what she has and decided the Farmer's Market was a little too expensive for her. Poor future self. Start saving more present self and keep riding that bike. Future self looks like she's in pretty good shape.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Screaming Sweet Peas

Over the years I've tried to grow sweet peas. It was an idea that I had about a life that I wanted to live that included a garden with sweet peas and butterflies, tea in mismatched china while beautiful children danced in the dew wearing white linen dresses. One year I tried to grow sweet peas along the hurricane fence and I had one flower. I had Elizabeth in my arms and showed it to her and she touched it and the one flower fell to the ground. I screamed at her until she cried.

Not really.

This year they grew in my best patch of dirt. They grew and grew and grew until I started to think it was time to take them out and grow something that perhaps we could eat.

This is what it looked like before the Sweet Pea Massacre of 2008:


I look at that photo and think, isn't that just the raggediest looking garden?

Here's the last harvest of sweet peas:


Here's the rest of it:


Maybe I won't feed the earth, just have a few nice meals.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I feel bad

for the people who deliver my paper. Sometimes it's a man, sometimes it's a woman but it's always a big old gas guzzling car. The price of gas must be killing them.

Friday, August 1, 2008

R U Ded?

That's the text message I sent to my adult daughter who went out last night and wasn't tucked in her bed when I woke up this morning at 5:30. Oh it's pretty funny until there's a knock at the door and Mariska Hegarty is there, flipping open her badge and asking me to come down to the station to talk.
"What about this text message ma'am," she says and it dawns on me that I am a suspect!
"Were the two of you getting along?"
"Well, mostly," I say, remembering the crap I gave Elizabeth the last time I talked to her. "Okay, I nagged her a little about doing a few chores around the house before she went out to her party," I confess.
"And where were you last night?"
"Returning the dehumidifier I bought last week, and uh, a meeting and then I watched a little Law and Order," I stammer. Mariska looks at me when I mention Law and Order and I know that she knows I threw that in to butter her up. Why do I lie Lord, even in my fantasies?
"What kind of meeting?" she says with that hard, non-smiling look she does so well at all hours of the day on television.
"An anonymous meeting" I say.
She seems to think better about questioning me further. "Here's your daughter ma'am," she says, opening the door to a dreary little questioning room and I see Elizabeth sitting at the table, rolling her hands nervously, her mascara streaked down her face. "Evidently she's been caught up in the web of a sexdrugandrockandroll ring. We'll have to keep her here for questioning."

Oh my, I have to get ready for work. I'm glad it's Friday. Sort of.

Cue the tears

It's Friday, I'm puttering in my kitchen, the eggs put in to boil, one for me and one for the dog, she's doing her click click pause impatient dance, waiting for the timer to go off when I hear the first few chords of the Storycorps theme and think, cue the tears.
I start crying as soon as the announcer says Storycorps. It's as Pavlovian as Winnie getting agitated when the timer for the eggs goes off. Even when the stories are funny, I cry.
In September I am going to Grand Central Station to record one with Jim Wolpert, my father's best friend. I'm sure I'll cry right from the start.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Beet seeds and basil

Twenty minutes in the garden and I will have the resources to survive a difficult meeting at work. Dead heading basil and holding the smashed little balls to my nose and inhaling them will get me through the false smiles and handshakes at the start. While the people around me are debating how best to spend the money in my budget I'll think about the wet beet seeds I dropped into the soil. I'll imagine raking the weeds out of the lawn, those brats that keep setting down roots all over the place. I'll puzzle out the fencing that I want to put up, imagine the lumber, the wire, the paint color, the gate. They don't even know where I am when I put my fingers together on the conference room table, forming a steeple, imagining these hands making pesto in just a few hours.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Going Down, Down, Down

I need a new heater. It started in November when REIT Fuel came out on a service call and said that my 37 year old heater needed to be replaced. The man even wrote on the heater "Heater needs to be replaced." And it wasn't in nice tidy handwriting either. It looked like God had written it after a few drinks.

Evidently my chimney liner is just gone because he also wrote "Chimney bad." It's the crooked chimney from the nursery rhyme "there was a crooked man and he had a crooked house."

So I got a bunch of estimates. The first was from a man who had worked with the Daleys, the matriarch and patriarch of my church.

Another from a neighbor who does this on the side. He came out to look at it and never got back to me. I thought it would be awkward when I ran into him while dragging the dog, but oddly enough, he's never outside his house when I walk by.

Another was recommended to me twice. He was the most persistent and there was that weird sort of attraction that happens between a helpless homeowner and a know-it-all contractor (He can save me! Fix everything!) but after my experience with the Third Generation Arborist, I thought it best not to contact him this go-round.

Then there were the two Russian guys who were so eager and seemed a little young "Yes, we will be there tomorrow and it will cost $2,000." I said, "whoa, whoa, whoa...tomorrow? I need to see something in writing." I never got that thing in writing.

Anyway, I took a long look at all my options and tried to eliminate any that had a crazy edge to it (like the Third Generation Arborist) and decided that the guy who had worked for the Daleys was the way to go. Let's call his company Edwards Plumbing and Heating. We'll call the contractor Ed. He seems like your solid, reliable guy who will show up, not necessarily save me, just do the job.

In the time that he sent me the original estimate and now when I am ready to get it done the economy has tanked, things cost more and the price has gone up. He came out yesterday and we went down to the horrible basement, reviewed the job and ended with me promising to have the one side of the basement cleaned out.

"Including the cat shit behind the current heater?"

"Yes Ma'am," he replied kindly, tipping his baseball cap.

Actually that conversation didn't happen at all. I only discovered umpteen years of cat droppings later after I started removing the piles of detritus that had accumulated after 23 years in this house. (23 years! I am that woman. Another woman I am surprised to find that I have turned out to be.)

I found the groupings of many tools for the various projects I have accomplished or have underway, tiling the bathroom floor, re pointing the foundation, painting rooms, conquering mosquitoes, gardening, gardening, gardening. I do not have to buy one more thing.

I also tackled the bureau that was the last remaining shrine to the ex-husband and his labors in the house. When he went through that front door for the last time, worn out and overdone on fixing up this house (in only Year Four) he left all the tools and equipment in an old bureau we had moved to the basement from the kitchen. In the beginning I would go to it and claim the most basic tools but after that, I wouldn't even go near it. Yesterday I emptied it. I felt sad, so much was rusted, and there were his old gloves, t-shirts he had torn into work rags, the bits of locks and door knobs that he had worked on, glass glazing points in a jar. He and Bob, my step-partner, re glazed every window in this Victorian house. They've held up well for 19 years. Thank you.

The bureau came out, as well as two little flexible flyer type sleds, an old red wagon, a broken old red wagon, tomato cages, boxes that had collapsed, cans whose contents had evaporated and about 20 pounds of cat droppings.

At first I didn't know what they were because they had calcified. But after shoveling a pile I finally put the shape together with other shapes I have seen in my life. "This looks like what?"

Evidently Pickie had claimed lots of places as her own. An especially lovely spot was behind the heater. I wonder whether the good men who had cleaned that heater over the years debated whether to tell me. Maybe they have some kind of code that you don't mention to the homeowner that they might want to look behind the heater sometime. Maybe back at REIT Central they called my house the Cat Shit House. "Oh no Glenn, don't send me to the Cat Shit House, I went there last year."

I hope that I haven't gotten some kind of illness from shoveling that up. But more than that, I hope that Pickie can forgive me and that Carol will forget it.

The basement looks great.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

End of Story

The day after I got back from Prague I asked the neighbor if the Third Generation Arborist had returned as he had promised.

"No he didn't," she said, "and to tell you the truth Anna, it doesn't surprise me. We're still going to send a letter through our attorney. You know, it's the principal of the thing."

It did surprise me and disappoint me. I wanted to believe the guy. So I called him. He said that he had been out, my neighbor is insane. He said, "ask her what her husband thought because he came out and told us what a wonderful job we had done." Who do I believe, the insane neighbor or the insane tree guy?

A few days later I was digging in the garden and Heidi, the neighbor on the other side, called over and said hey Anna, I wanted to tell you how much I like the trees!

I staggered over, it was hot and I was wearing my gardening attire which is a holey, long sleeved t-shirt, old khakis and a straw hat. By the look on her face I could tell that she hadn't expected to see such a fright up close.

I asked if the arborists had been okay.

"Oh yes," she said, "they were great! And they even came back the next day and cleaned up the yard again. And then he came to the door and asked if I would come out and tell him if he had done an all right job and I was in my pajamas so I sent my brother out and he told them what a wonderful job they had done."

Oh.

I ran over to the other neighbor and said, hey, funny story! Turns out they went to the wrong yard!

Those &*(@# idiots! she said. What %&*(@ idiots.

They made a mistake! I said.

It went on from there, too tedious to tell except that now we don't talk about it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

In my head on 16th Street

Nice dress!

What are you looking at?

God I need a hair cut.

I wonder if Elizabeth had fun last night.

Why didn't I get any sides with my main?

Gay.

Not gay.

What are you looking at?

Why don't you just run me over?!

Maybe I'm incapable of having fun.

I forgot to bring an apple.

LIKE the outfit!

Excuse me, I'm trying to get to work here.

Should I stop for coffee? God it's hot.

I think I'm late.

It's not easy to carry iced coffee with all this Crap.
What the hell is in this bag anyway?

I like her shoes. Should I ask her where she got them?

She didn't have to be so rude.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wedding in Provincetown


Joy and Tina were married on Sunday. They were so happy it makes even this jaded divorced woman believe that hey, maybe they'll beat the odds. They rented an amazing house with the bay on one side and Commercial Street on the other. There were exactly 25 people there because that was a house rule. Among them were siblings, a sister-in-law, three children, one dog, six lesbians (two couples) and that's not counting Joy and Tina, a nephew, a stepmother, some parental ghosts, a minister, fish in the ocean, people on the beach, tears, dancing, laughter, a broken glass, lots of flowers, sand, sun, wind but no rain.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

13 things about Dan Laster

I'm back from my ten day adventure abroad. Prague, Vienna and London. I left on Thursday night June 26 and my feet didn't stop moving until I got off the plane in Philadelphia on Sunday, July 6.


I was there to celebrate my friend Dan Laster's birthday. I have known him as Stan for our entire relationship which has existed mostly on air (phone lines) for 30 years. Ten years ago we spent a weekend together with two other friends and his amazing wife. Before that I had only seen him very sporadically over 20 years. Stan is the friend I could call in the middle of the night and the one who always seemed to call right when I was ready to jump off an emotional ledge. He's pulled me back many times.

Here's a list of things I learned about my friend Stan, probably the most successful person I know.

1. Stretch your body every morning (and do this for 30 years.)

2. Don't drink soda (for 30 years.)

3. Run 18 to 35 miles a week (for 30 years.)

4. Whatever you are doing, it is the best. That whole thing about positive self-talk? He does it. Our adventures were the best. It was the best museum, the best meal, the best conversation. I was the best. By the end of the week I started believing it. (The trip really was the best though.)

5. The financial tips offered by waiters mean that particular strategy has run its course. For example, flipping real estate. When the waiters start doing it, it's done.

6. Be generous with your friends and family.

7. Be frugal about your own stuff though.

8. Take the stairs even if the elevator offers a cooler view.

9. Think the best of people and believe their intentions are good.

10. Become a vegetarian. And stay one for uh, 30 years.

11. Re-invent yourself every ten or 15 years. Either professionally or personally.

12. Do what you say you'll do (see soda, running, and stretching.)

13. Remember your roots. And then pinch yourself. (His are Palisades Park, N.J., and a view of the turnpike from his bedroom window, believing he'd travel that road some day. He's gone much further.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tree down, angry neighbor, angrier arborist

I could not wait to get home and see how the yard looked with the tree down and the front trees trimmed. I had a special sweet secret all day that gave me happiness and that was it. I was saving my joy about Prague for the next day.

Taking that tree down was the culmination of years of staring out the window, hating that tree, living in fear that a branch would fall off into the neighbor's yard and cause injury to one of the screaming children who run around the yard.

It looked fantastic. The trees in front trimmed looked regal instead of sad and droopy, half dead and waiting for the final lightening strike. And the yard looked strange, open, you can see the wires above the track more clearly, but I liked it. I was glad to see it gone. I called the Third Generation Arborist to let him know how totally happy I was. Okay, there were a few thorns next to the rose of my happiness: one of my rose bushes had been taken out and put back and looked positively shocked about the experience. Same with an ancient orange blossom bush but still I was happy.

I ran out around 8:45 to get some quart baggies for my trip to Prague. When I came back my neighbor Nancy came out and I said, "isn't it great?" and she said, yeah, but what's not great is what they did to my yard.

Uh Oh.

"They jumped the fence I didn't even know they were coming they scratched my fence and when they dragged the limbs out it dragged out all the gravel from my driveway and it was all over the sidewalk and I've swept and Bill said you know what's going to happen Nancy when I mow I'm going to hit a rock and it could kill one of the kids and they moved the edging from my pond I asked Bill did you move the edging no I didn't he said and you should see the saw dust all over everything I hope that you haven't paid them because Bill's a contractor and he wouldn't pay them he couldn't believe the way they left it and I'm sorry it's Not Your Fault and I know you're leaving tomorrow but I thought you should know and if you haven't paid them..."

She said that she had called him and she said he had told her, "you're barking up the wrong tree lady, pun intended." And that he had a real attitude.

I went inside and called the Third Generation Arborist.

He said that he had done an exceptional job and "between you and me she's overreacting. I'll come over now because I want to get that check."

It's 9:37. I have to pack people.

Highlights of our discussion:

Him: If you don't pay me tonight I will put a lein on your house and by next week we'll have the lawyers at it and it will drag on for months.

Me: I thought you did an excellent job and I just want to be able to get along with my neighbor.

Him: In 15 years no one has not paid me.

Me: I guess not if you keep threatening to put a lein on their houses.

Him: We did not jump the fence, those scratches were there and that edging on the pond was not moved by us.

Me: Here, take your money.

He wrote this out on a piece of paper and gave it to me: I, Third Generation Arborist, will return tomorrow morning between 7:45 and 8:15 and clean up the yard at XXX XXXX Avenue. Signed, Third Generation Arborist.

My trees look great.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Trees down


Right now the tree in my backyard is coming down. Timber! I feel so light and happy I've wanted that tree down for years. It's a random tree that grew from a seed that fell upon the ground, it wasn't planted with thought and desire for beauty or nourishment. It just grew.


It's blocked the light out of my vegetable garden and true, it's given shade to my neighbor because it's hanging over her yard but at the same time every time it thunders I think that the next shot of lightening will bring it down into her yard or maybe one day a branch will just fall when one of her kids is playing ball and tragedy and lawsuits will ensue.


I'm a little nervous about where the ants will be going.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My crash


A week ago Monday I almost got hit by a car. Then the car hit a pole and the pole almost fell on me. All week I've been thinking: I would have been dead now. My funeral would be over by now. The girls would have found my diaries by now. I wonder who would help them clean that house out.

I was walking down 15th Street and had just crossed Sansom. My happy little feet had just skipped up onto the curb when I heard behind me the screech and then slam of a car hitting another car. I thought, mhmm, an accident happened behind me. I turned to look and one car was pushing the SUV towards me. I scooted and kept scooting when the SUV hit a pole and then the pole started to fall over. I sort of ran but the whole time I felt foggy and disconnected, the way I have felt about my life in general lately. Then a crowd of people gathered around me asking if I was all right and saying that the sign had missed me by about an inch. "You better play the lottery sister" said one guy. A woman that I work with had been ahead of me by about ten yards and had turned and seen the whole thing and she was shaking and hugged me and we went on to work and all day I kept thinking, I wouldn't be at my computer. I wouldn't be calling Elizabeth or Alice or Carol or my mom. I would be dead dead dead. I'd like to say that I had an epiphany but I'm still sleepwalking a little.