It is just before 9AM, and it is cracklin’ today at Starbucks, This is the smallest one that I go to, and every table and chair is taken. I scored the last tiny table. It feels different, like I am on a Japanese commuter train, jammed in, on high frottage alert. Someone just yelled, “YEAH BABY!” in an Austin Powers voice. I take that as a sign of something.

I am close enough to the other tables to unwillingly hear about 4 separate conversations, all going at warp speed, high volume. Perhaps today was Extra Espresso Shot or Crystal Meth Scone Day. Surrounding the tables are the Three Implacable Overstuffed Chair Men. They are remarkably similar to each other, and in noticing this, I am happy. Each one, mid- to late-30s, clean-shaven, about 6’2”, jeans, brown boots, dark sweater, reading the Seattle Times, drinking an iced beverage. Each has the exact same level of male pattern baldness happening with their mid-brown hair remnants. Are they triplets? I wish they were; triplets unknown to each other, separated at birth through a passionate and traumatic teenage adoption, farmed out to different families, now drawn to the Overstuffed Chairs as turtle babies to the sea. They do not acknowledge each other at all, or my vision of reunion. They sit and hold down the corner of the Starbucks in their comfy velvet ploosh, separate and independent in their minds but not in mine. Somehow, someday, their aging, faded birth mother will find them, and will set up a meeting here. The Men will take the Chairs, and leave her to stand, considering them all. She will ask them for money to repair her uterine prolapse, they will awkwardly fish out random bills from their wallets, excuse themselves, and never return. To this Starbucks, anyway.

What is it about Wednesday morning? Don’t people have to be somewhere? The parking lot is jammed, fancy cars waiting for spaces so they don’t have to walk the 50 feet from the grocery store lot. The three people in front of me are talking work, though. I wonder what they all do, they there in their black leather jackets. More triplets? Maybe that is it! I start to think what if I, too, have triplet siblings somewhere. Oh, how awful. I think I would be horrified and competitive. I would try to convince my new siblings that they were in desperate need of catastrophic plastic surgery. Grr. I would feel like they were out there in the world messing up my deal.

I don’t see women who look a lot like me around. There are similarities, but they are surface: glasses, hair, having teeth, etc. Every so often someone will say, oh you look like so-and-so, and I am always completely depressed and offended by who they mention. Let it be known: a comparison to Mary Travers of Peter, Paul, and Mary is NOT FLATTERING. Jesus. I have to live with that now. Also, never never never never never never call a woman who is 110 lbs, 22, and fit, “stout.” STOUT? STOUT? FOR FUCKING CHRIST’S SAKE!!! Is there any woman ALIVE who would find that GOOD? Stout. It’s been a long time since 22, but STOUT is burned on my psyche for all time. I suppose it could have been “repulsive” or “oily” or “thalidomide-y” instead, so I should be grateful just to have to live with the self-image of Helga, The Swiss Oxen Mistress.

See, you’ve learned stuff by reading this. Stout = NO.

It’s finally thinning out here, all the triplets have moved on in separate vehicles, I have finished my breakfast, and I need to walk over to the grocery store to pick up some organic Ox milk. Yodel-ay-hee, yodel-ay-hee, yodel-ay-hee-HOOOOO!


My mother, who is usually polite and reserved in her language, once mentioned to me after seeing a photograph of my junior-high-school guidance counselor, that he looked like the anus of a baboon.


Today it is nice enough to sit outside at Starbucks. The sun is shining, or shining enough of the time, there is a moderate breeze that does not offend me when the sun is indeed shining, and no one is smoking next to me. All is right with the world for an hour. I order an Iced Venti Latte to celebrate the 60-some degree weather.

My main companion outside is a minuscule Yorkshire Terrier, tied to a table by a long navy leash. He shivers in indignation at being left alone, and has now started yapping a single YAP every four seconds. Exactly. Like a horrible, horrible, horrible alarm clock. I glare at him. He considers me for a bit, sticks out his ungodly repulsive long hot-pink tongue for a moment and begins yapping again. I think for a moment about the physics of a human foot propelling a small, say, 5-pound object into the air approximately following the proportions and trajectory of St. Louis’s Gateway Arch. The dog quiets. Heh.

Because there is sun, a truck drives by slowly with its windows down blaring booming hip hop music. Thank you, sir, for sharing your passion with us all. I feel your coolness lay upon me like a douchebag filled with crushed ice. Please, please keep cruising past, raising the volume so that I can see it shake the windows of the Starbucks. I want to feel what you feel! I promise, in another ten years when you are 30 and STONE FUCKING DEAF, I will remember you, you and your selfless sharing.

A chubby-cheeked toddler with a pink “Las Vegas Loves Me” t-shirt stomps next to her father with the righteous steps of the confident new walker. Her father corrals her, grinning a bit. I smile at them both. She wants to go over to the yap dog, but recoils when the dog faces her and YAPS at her. Stupid dog. What good is a dog that yaps at a baby? Dogs should smile and be compliant with children. They should yap at big black booming trucks. BOOM. YAP! BOOM-BOOM. YAP! BOOM. YAP!

Ah, there’s Yap’s owner now. She looks about my age, but very Bohemian/hippie/cool, with cascades of jet black curly long hair, a heather gray t-shirt dress with sleeves that cover her hands and dark gray striped leggings, with rubbery-looking tan sandals. Yap settles in under her chair, she smiles widely, and begins writing what I imagine is a letter to someone equally Bohemian, perhaps someone taking a year to build a fresh water supply system in Tibet. She stops writing, picks Yap up and sits him on her lap, and begins picking over his fur like he was a small tan and black gorilla baby. His tongue lolls out and she makes cooing sounds at him. I want to barf a little. Just like a little stomach acid. Just that much only.

Should I be this obnoxious on such a nice day? Signs point to YES!


I think maybe I am kind of done with it.

Just now, for the billionth time, I have shut off a tv with no one watching it. Someone on the screen was screeching and yabbering about something and I just went CLICK and it was done. Actually, I think this can add to an excellent dictionary definition:

1. The transmission of dynamic or sometimes static images, generally with accompanying sound, via electric or electromagnetic signals.
2. An electronic apparatus that receives such signals, reproducing the images on a screen, and typically reproducing accompanying sound signals on speakers.
3. The visual and audio content of such signals, including screeching, yabbering, rambling, annoying quick cuts, poorly written and performed dialogue, manipulative Disneyings, exploitative coverage of personal tragedies, Larry King, NASCAR, and remarkably useless weather predictions .

Now, I am no tv crab, don’t get me wrong. I spent almost every second of my youth watching television, and television has many good aspects, like Big Joe’s Polka Party, South Park, laughing at celebrities’ skin in HD, and documentaries showing a 100-year-old Chinese man smoking while squatting next to a hut. Oh, but so much of it is so…mediocre. I think I have reached my psychic limit on “meh.” Something truly horrible or truly great = worthwhile. But so much on there is just nothing. Not funny, not compelling, not thought-worthy, not even mindlessly relaxing. It does not hold my ass to the couch any more.

I do recognize that tv is actually much better than it used to be, probably. I mean, I watched Gilligan’s Island every week and now when I happen to see it, it seems to me like it was written by a pothead chimpanzee. I watched Days Of Our Lives from the time I was five to almost 30. WTF? I finally ended that sick relationship when one of the main characters came back from the dead for, really, maybe the fifth time and a bell went DING in my head and said, THE WRITERS FOR THIS SHOW ARE CYNICAL AND HOOTING AT YOU. I could take it no more. I divorced Days Of Our Lives, and got back an hour of my life 5 days a week. Not that I did anything useful with that hour, but.

I imagine later on when I am ancient, I will be forced back to the tv. My eyes will be too crappy and tired to read, my ears too rocked out to hear music properly. I will lie in my Craftmatic Adjustable Bed, arthritic and annoyed, to channel-surf through what will be by then thousands of specialty channels, like the Malaysian Knitting Network or The Comedy Channel VIII: Sitcoms Featuring Unconventionally Attractive Women! , and I will shout “SUCKS!” at each selection I pass by until I drift off into elder sleep for a few hours at a time. One of my pretty and bold grandchildren will take the remote from my age-spotted grip, turn on “Jackass: We All Died Eventually Just The Way You Would’ve Thought, Cool Heh Heh Heh,” and laugh loud enough to wake me, and I will throw a pill dispenser at his or her cute head.


I have a few.

  • Coffee. Made by a huge corporation at great profit per cup.
  • The Internet. This series of tubes interests me. I enjoy its hilarity and topicality.
  • Shopping. Specifically for low skinny jeans with 1% spandex. 2% spandex stretches out too much in a few hours, and 0% spandex is not kind enough. Oh, and also shoes that make me smile.
  • Cars with very good acceleration.
  • Smart folks. Must also be not turdish or insane.
  • Infants. That YouTube of the Laughing Quadruplets makes me want to have them all. Then I remember some vices you really have to reign in.
  • The Last Word. Mumbled Last Jabs should not count. Neither should kamikaze emails with dramatic log off flourishes.
  • The Smells of Freshly Cut Grass, Lilacs, Gasoline, Brownies, and New Cars With Very Good Acceleration.
  • Swearing. Reigned in 99.5% of the time around Infants & Children, and the Turdish.
  • Did I mention the coffee problem?


Oh, Driver In Front Of Me, the next time you want to drift into another lane or five without using your turn signals, I hope you keep drifting to the Southeast, until you reach the Great Sand Dunes National Park and your vehicle is engulfed in gritty totality.


Today while I was unloading the clothes hampers into the laundry room I found a quarter and a small plastic lobster. WIN!


This morning I went to The Breakfast Place With The Really Good Hash. I can’t remember the real name of the place; it’s changed about 3 or 4 times since I’ve been going there. It’s in a very nondescript tiny strip mall behind a gas station and a grocery store, and is always fairly busy. The food is good, the service generally fast, and they refill your coffee constantly. So I am all jacked up and mulling and pondering and such.

I am thinking about the things that make you pull the good stuff out from inside you. Not in a surgical way or vomit, in a creative way or intellectual or physical or whatever. What or who inspires you to do more, do better, be better? Of course, you could conversely be inspired to do worse or become a career politician, too. But I will stick to the positive aspects of inspiration here.

There is a distinct difference between being inspired and being influenced. Influence shows up in so many ways, but it is more a taking on of another’s idea, style, way of doing things, a copying. I might be influenced to buy a knock-off of a knock-off Hermes bag, or construct a song lyric like Ray Davies, or see a film because someone I liked said it was good (see “Stones” heh). We are all influenced by commercials and editorials and all the things that come at us on any given day. We sort through and take on the things that appeal to us, disregard the rest. We are partially made up of these things, and they have varying degrees of permanence. I will always love the music I do because of the times I grew up in, but I have definitely thrown away every single piece of clothing I owned with shoulder pads.

To be inspired is a totally different thing, and the source and type of the inspiration may have very little to do with the outcome in you. Something clicks, and the brain sparks, and a change is made. It is somewhat embarrassing and odd for me to admit some of these in myself. One summer, I watched along with about a billion other folks a teenage Olympic gymnast struggle to complete her routine, injured badly. She powered through the pain, over and over again, to win the gold medal for her team. It was one of those modern iconic moments that I am usually immune to. Something about what she did resonated in me, made me rethink something I had feared doing, put off for nearly 20 years, made me think that I too could power through the pain and just do what I could do. No, I did not take up gymnastics, you putz. But I did something good and important, helped myself and my family. She made me better, and will never know it.

Other inspirations have been more direct. I started running this summer partially because of someone I know who is a bit of a gym rat. The competitive little shit in me thought well, ok, I can do that too, I can get stronger if that fool can. When I nearly had to stop because of chronic shin splints, the fool helped me out with some good advice, I got better, and that kindness helped me keep going. I like running now, and my life again is made much better.

For better or worse, I was inspired to write this crap blog because of the people who liked me, liked how I wrote, thought it was a worthwhile thing to do. I make a commitment to keep hauling things out of me, putting things out there, and see what happens. I am one of the least spiritual people on the planet; the most profound idea of divinity I believe in is that we never know how we inspire other people, and how they in turn inspire others. We are on some kind of nutty grid, intersecting with people that happen to come across our timeline. Some times there is a crash, sometimes the lines run parallel then diverge again, sometimes the lines are linked together, a connection forged for the life of the line. If you keep open to this idea, willing to see the unique and good that comes your way sometimes in the most random ways, you can be open to what you can achieve. It is always more than you think you can possibly do today.

I am inspired by the need to go to the bathroom to stop babbling now. Go on wit yo bad seffs, everyone.


My 16-year-old son claimed to have a study period first thing this morning, so I asked him if he wanted to go to the Pancake House with me for breakfast. He grunted something that seemed to be a “yes,” so that is what we did.

I could’ve called this Pancake 2, as well. Look how I have creative choices here.

We are seated immediately in a booth with springy seats. He does not look at the menu, and proudly denies the coffee offered by the server, pleased a bit to be old enough to look like he drinks coffee. I know he will order sourdough French toast and 2 eggs, over medium. I ponder the menu, even though I too know what I will get. I don’t have that bold no-look thing down yet.

I look at him, across from me. I have been told a few times that he reminds people of a young Jimmy Page, all long-haired and lithe with an evil, devastating, $6000-in-braces smile. I see it. I also see the five-year-old in him, the baby. It is all still there. My little 5’10” science experiment smirks at me, and I smirk back.

Because it is in my contract, I bring up school and college visits and MATH and blather on responsibly. I keep it to a minimum because I see him tense, and hear a sharpness to his replies. I know he has heard me a million times over, all this crap. So I stop. There aren’t all that many teenage boys that will want to spend any amount of time with their mothers, even a kickass mom like me, so I will make the time pleasant. A familiar bass line comes over the Pancake House speakers, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Son looks to me, slowly grins, and we go HEE HEE and make our hands dance and go up on their toes. We determine, as we wait for our plates to arrive, that:
  • Vitiligo does not repigment DNA;
  • The kid was never going to be his son, because, of well, you know;
We snicker, and eat our food, and Son says I eat too slowly and do I want to finish his eggs because he is full. I decline, and suck up my second cup of coffee, in case the “study period” was really “a major test that counts for 50% of the grade.” Before we leave, as I pull the venerable VISA out of my purse to pay, Son imagines his future to me aloud, as a 27-year-old who marries a rich professional 35-year-old woman, and stays home and plays poker and makes eggs for their kids. I tell him best of luck with that, and he smiles that wide Page-smile with the squinty almond eyes, and I smile back as I shake my head. The opportunity is quickly closing that we will have many more mornings to discuss eggs, bizarre celebrities, and just a little bit of math.

Damn you, Neil Young. You made me cry.

Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons,
You can’t be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you’re thinking that you’re leaving there too soon,
You’re leaving there too soon.


It’s never going to happen for me again, is it. I know it. Ah, but SLEEP! How I love you! You, bringer of Unconsciousness and Incredibly Messed Up Hair! Of Fully Relaxed Muscles and Ponderous Dreams! I crave you, I need you, I want you, yet I am denied you always.

How I Am Denied, Specifically:
  • Light coming through the curtains
  • Light coming from the red light on the cable box
  • Light from the alarm clock numbers
  • Actually, any light other than pitch darkness
  • Child knocking at my bedroom door, mentioning something about an elaborate dream with a bird in it and needing to go potty and asking for a band-aid
  • Child running up and down the hall wearing what sounds to be heavy turn-of-the-century lead boots
  • Children fighting about video game remotes, television choices, cereal, whether the earth is flat, etc.
  • Child returning to my door to say it is 5AM, time to get up
  • Child shoving a drawing of a jaunty cactus wearing a sombrero under my door
  • The mumble of the television on at any volume, which my brain insists on trying to make sense of
  • The dog staring at the door to go out
  • Those fucking birds who have the nerve to start singing before it is light out
  • The garbage truck coming backwards down the alley BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP
  • The crows cawing, upset by the garbage truck taking away their spoils
  • The relentless tossing and turning, coughing and snoring of anyone in my bed, including me
  • Caffeinated beverages and copious amount of water, which insist on leaving my body at night, which means I have to get up to put such processed fluid in the correct place
  • Wind
  • Thoughts
  • Too cold
  • Too hot
  • Messed up blankets
  • Annoying hair extensions
  • Rain
  • Extra thoughts + worries
  • Anything that smells even remotely like smoke or gas
  • The furnace coming on
  • Body clock
  • You get my point.

I can remember, the absolute lusciousness of the Perfect Sleep. To be able to go to bed when you wished, get up when you wished, few responsibilities or worries, light and sound distractions minimal. That sinking fabulous feeling, of giving in utterly to the floating ramble of the mind trying to quiet itself as the body relaxes into the smooth sheets and pluffy pillows. Nothing to drag you away from restorative, indulgent sleep.

I blame reproduction. Sleep started to become a compromised commodity then, when I became pregnant. Early on, I would stir a bit, go UH OH, and throw up. Nothing like a good blasting vomit to wake a girl up. Later on, the pressure on my bladder from a growing, kicking alien infant became almost humorous. You think you could not possibly have any pee to pee every 30 minutes ‘round the clock, but you do! Hurray! Sleeping on my back became impossible as it would actually either cause a river of stomach acid to shoot up my throat, or compress my lungs so badly that it felt like Ed McMahon had taken up residence on my chest. Get off, Ed. In the last stages, combine all that with stinging backache, and existential worry about this new child about ready to tear through my body to join the world, and we are set up for not a lot of that sweet, sweet deep sleep.

It was all over, forever, once said alien came to live outside of me. I became The Mom, and we all know that Mothers survive on coffee, 5 minute showers, catnaps while driving, and grim determination. Moms never get sick, eat last, and are poised at any second, even while sleeping, to spring into Mom Action. That was it. My every sense became attuned to the slightest sound, movement. Is that the baby? Is he OK? Maybe I should check. Yes. Oh, and feed him yes, there is that. OK. OK. It’s already morning? Oh. How did that happen? I never slept! How amusing!

Of course, Baby #1 grew, and was supplemented by Babies #2 and #3, who also grew. But the attenuation was permanent. My body became used to getting up at any time for any reason, to wake up at 6AM even on vacation, yet not be able to sleep until late because I am a night owl kind of rock and roll sort of girl.

So here I am. There are many studies on the grievous effects of lack of sleep. They are all true. By the time the kids are gone, I will be Old, and have Old Person Sleep Issues on top of the rest. I know this, and I understand. But that does not stop me from wanting to feel the beautiful silky Perfect Sleep just once more. I feel like sometime, maybe I will be in a quiet place, perhaps off of a secluded ocean beach, with a sweet warm tropical breeze wafting in over my outrageously opulent and overstuffed bed. The mosquitoes will be elsewhere, feeding off drunk college boys in town. There will be no agenda to manage, no schedule to keep, no people to corral, no burning tasks to keep me from being able to smoosh down, and smile, and be freed for a few hours. Just. One. More. Time. Ahhhhhh.


I saw the new Rolling Stones concert film today, Shine A Light. What a pleasure it was.

They sounded great, them guys, they did. If I had been alone in the movie theater, I would’ve stood up and danced the whole time. They are my old friends, The Stones, composers of my favorite song in the world and always the antidote to the trendy, fake, and vapid in rock and roll. You can count on them.

The issue of age is a focus to the film, although shown very quietly and with charm. Director Martin Scorsese, the same age as our cinematic subjects, handles the obvious with humor, honesty, and poignancy. It is inescapable – the heavily-lined faces of Mick, Keith, Ronnie, and Charlie are what you keep noticing, thinking about on that large screen. The bittersweet passage of time needs no other statement other than when early on in the film, a cut is made to a black-and-white interview piece with Mick Jagger from around 1964. There is not a single wrinkle to his face; it is smooth and open and childlike, bright-eyed, pouty-mouthed, yet to know very much of much. The cut back to the present tells the story, no words needed. Forty-odd years of drugs, drink, cigarettes, deaths, women come and gone, children, airplanes, hotel rooms, hangers-on, great success, great loneliness. Being loved, being loathed, the pressure of being responsible for so much and so many, the cruel and sad realities of being self-serving and selfish. Treated as gods, but having to live as people at the end of the day. All written on their faces, bodies, deeper than deep. There is a terribly high cost to being a god.

I have seen all the Stones films, and I believe this one will be my favorite. It lacks utterly what tarnished others: ego, dissipation, distance. It inspires me to no end to see them, these tattered wonderful gods, absolutely loving being onstage, performing the hell out of their songs, smiling to themselves, each other, to the audience. The comfort and confidence and professionalism are there, but never dampens their obvious enthusiasm for just being together and playing. I see a gratefulness in them now, a different level of hunger and joy in them that delights me. They do not take themselves very seriously, but scrap and fight to pull out the best in themselves and each other to make a great show happen. They know, really, now how fortunate they are. There is so much love for music there, for each other, for us. The Rolling Stones get it.

Continuing with the winks at age in the film, there are very funny cuts to old interviews , where the guys are asked by every possible clown a variation of, “When do you think you will stop playing?” The Stones make it very, very clear in Shine A Light: when they fucking damn well want to stop, thankyouverymuch!

Go see.


Find out what it means to me. In a contained, creative comedic nonfiction, under 500 words sort of way.

Oh, ‘Retha. ‘Retha, ‘Retha, ‘Retha. I saw a picture of you yesterday and you reminded me of Divine. I might add here that the mermaid dress you had on was not helping things. Aretha, you talented mofo, you have disrespected your temple a bit. OK, a lot. It’s easy to do. Food is everywhere. Turn around, there’s a plate of biscuits and savory sausage gravy. Look over there, luscious caramel-swirled brownies. And under your car seat? A Big Mac and a large fries.

Food = ?

A healer and a destroyer. It’s hard to take food for what it is sometimes, life-sustaining nutrients to be totally enjoyed in a healthy way. Which means not shoveling it down your pie-hole until you have to shop at Large N’ Lovely or something. This should tell you to BACK OFF. Ah, but it is not so easy. Food can be used to relieve stress, comfort the weary soul, an indulgence easily come by. Food is yummy. Food is complicated. We know this, it’s all been Dr. Phil-ed to death. FAT FAT FAT FAT FAT America. Fat Baby Boomers, Fat Kids, A Nation Of Slugs. Corporations Causing Corpulence.


Much to blame is that we are bio-designed to be much more physically active than most people are now. It is hard work, getting up and figuring out how to kill a buffalo to eat and make a cool vest from as well. Try to imagine that. Tomorrow you get up, and a man comes to your door and says don’t bother going into work today, the rules of life have been altered. Here is a stick for you to sharpen, some rocks, a large gourd to hollow out to hold water, and the untanned hide of a cougar to wear. No Pop-Tarts. No Diet Coke. No “Grey’s Anatomy” with a Jethro-bowl of Chunky Monkey ice cream. Oh, you’d slim down, all right. You’d lose 10 pounds in the first ten minutes from dehydration weeping.

People who work out more than me annoy me. They are better, more disciplined, thinner, therefore more worthy. I comfort myself by noticing the stringy neck of the woman who runs several more miles than I do, or the smelly onion sweat from Mr. Leg Press Man. Petty, yes, but dammit I really like food. I don’t like to make mud huts or hunt for berries or kill a turtle and scoop it out and call it lunch. I want to eat and not have to work so hard to reshape so little. But then I rethink my whine and realize I do like to be active. It reminds me of being a kid, when children were able to actually leave their homes and play outside together long ago, and the fun of going fastfastfast. I like feeling strong, with some idea that I could beat someone in arm wrestling. I should practice that on the dog. Yes.

Ar Ee Es Pee Ee Cee Tee. ‘Retha, it would be nice if you could get healthy and stay with us a bit longer, ya know. If you don't respect yourself ain't nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na. Respect yourself, respect yourself.


I really should’ve had stock in this company.

It is very quiet at 8AM this morning at Atrium Starbucks, noticeably so, which is a nice surprise. Of course, it is never dead quiet in here, but at least I got a table where I could plug in my laptop. It is these small victories that make up a day. And the defeats. So far, my only defeat of the day is that my shoe keeps coming untied. Not bad, beats an earthquake or something.

There is a tall tall man on a laptop across from me. His victory, too, was getting the other table next to an electrical outlet. I bond with him about this, but he does not know or care. He is so tall that his legs are splayed uncomfortably, one to the front and one to the back, as he hunches over his computer. He seems like the kind of guy who might have been embarrassed about his height and has been stooping for years. He is reading from his screen more than typing, and seems frozen in egret-like repose, finger moving over his touchpad while resting his chin in the palm of his other hand. A man calls out, “Mark! You need anything?” and he cranes his neck (ha ha see what I did there?) to look where the voice is coming from as the man behind me answers his friend, ‘No, I’m good.”

Marks. Heh.

Two elderly ladies who look almost like twins except for one having gray poofy hair and one having faded red poofy hair, cheerily talk to the barista. Old people seem to like to talk a lot. God knows my mother can keep talking even if you set off several small nuclear devices near her. Perhaps it is a remnant of the times when people had to actually speak to each other to like, live. You had to go out to the shops, go to school, ride the bus, milk the cows, ream the chickens, etc. People were expected to be good and friendly, God-fearing and helpful. Now, I can logic that all out and know that people have always been people, freaky and violent and selfish and miserable, but maybe for a time they were less so or at least sucked it up a bit more. The serious hardships of the Great Depression followed by a Nasty Nasty War called on people to ask for help, humbled by their circumstances and terrible need. It seemed that one way or another, those who needed a hand got it, usually from folks that could scarcely afford to give.

In the ensuing 70 years or so, through cycles of prosperity and bust, progress and tragedy, this feeling of community and compassion seems to have been washed away. The world is too open, we see too much. It is too much to give to, to fix. It is not so overwhelming when your world is only your backyard and your neighbors and the one-block downtown. Anywhere else, even the next town over, seems as far as the moon. You stayed in the town you were born in, you were known. Even those who broke away could come back sure they had a place somewhere, even if it wasn’t a place they could stay. We make efforts today, sure, and people can do remarkable things, but it seems rather seasonal and event-related rather than a way of living. We all retreat. There are so many ways now to disconnect.

The Poofy Hair Ladies have seen much. They are the mothers to the Marks, and the Marks send their mothers flowers for Mother’s Day from the internet. They are the same flowers, of course, but there is a difference. The Marks live in the vastness of El Mundo Total, with all the heaviness and opportunity that this implies, and The Ladies can still remember when no one locked their front doors and you could lay on the grass and watch the stars in the dark night sky without hearing the roar of the freeway or worried about the unkindness of human beings.

My second victory of the day is I was able to complete this before my coffee got cold.


I am at the Pancake House this morning, full with a nice plate of corned beef hash and poached eggs, although I could whine a bit that the hash was mushy. The clientele here is distinctly different than the Starbucks just a few feet away. Here, it seems to be regular families and couples, rather than lovely people scurrying off to work with a five dollar coffee and a pumpkin loaf. Folks are here to talk, and not rush through their meal.

There is a father and son sitting nearby, obvious to me anyway that they are so related. Both are tall and thin, nicely dressed, with the same face and body with the strawberry blond hair of the son turned to silver in the dad. They sit very straight and upright, mirroring each other with their upper bodies. They look like a set of bookends, with one slightly more worn than the other. I wonder if the son looks at his father sometimes and observes as I do: “In 35 years, this is me.” He might find great comfort in that, or, great horror. Son probably is just thinking about his Swedish pancakes with lingonberries right at this minute. He finishes his food well before his father, who is eating precisely and slowly, and leans forward to talk. He has a lot to say to his old man this morning, and Pops is quietly attentive. This seems positive to me.

There is a long table to the side of me filled with about 10 high school kids. They are completely unobnoxious, which tells me that they get good grades, never smoked, will get into their 2nd colleges of choice, and will generally do well in the world. They have a thin sheen of nerd to them, like they might belong to Future Business Leaders Club or something like that, but they are not screeching and swearing and tipping their chairs so I am good with that here. Other places, I like to hear the screech and swear, and hope for the crashing tippage of chairs. This place is just too sweet and old-fashioned for that. I imagine they all will carpool back to school after their breakfast together, will be on time for their classes, and my kid will roll his eyes at them.

Ugh. I ate too much. The portions are huge here.

I like pancakes pretty much. I never make them at home because it is too messy and time-consuming and we seem to always be in such a rush. So for twelve bucks I get my hash and eggs and three pancakes made for me. I wonder if the people who work here hate the smell of breakfast now. They probably like to sniff diesel fumes just to get the odor of omelets out of their sinuses. Do you always end up hating the thing you are close to? If you have the most awesome job ever, like training monkeys to be on a VH1 reality series, do you end up just hating monkeys and television? Not that anyone should like monkeys and television to begin with. Good god.

I am the only person here eating solo. The only person sitting with a laptop. The only person with red extensions in her hair. I think one of the fry cooks in the back might be thinking about monkeys and television, though.

I should probably go now and free up this booth. I see a mother and daughter coming in who need it more than me.


How do you explain that shit to someone who wasn’t around to know? You can’t really. All the words, all the films, all the thousands of photographs, all the music even isn’t enough.

It was like grabbing on to the end of a kite tail, hanging on as it rose higher and higher into a big blue beautiful windy sky, dipping and soaring in the sunshine. Pure joy.

I was getting it straight into the core – too young for any other experiences to color my thoughts or block the magical. Straight in. I consider this to be by far one of the most fortunate things in my life.

How do you explain? If I could give that gift, I would. But it lives in me and maybe I give it out in a different way. Love is love.

I don’t look to make any sense of it any more. There’s sociological blather enough on this. I’m just going to be grateful and happy, like a whole bunch of other folks. Thanks, Beatles.


I am lousy at figuring what goes together with what. I know there is an art to this, making something appear finished, polished. I read articles that specifically instruct me how to, say, drape a scarf casually across my shoulders to look perhaps vaguely French and confident, but when I try someone looks at me and tells me that I look like a TWA stewardess from 1978. The scarf, once jaunty and Euro-cool, melts into a slump of fabric despair, and I take it off for another three years or so until I again forget I cannot accessorize.

I make attempts to buy saucy throw pillows for my couch and they look stiff. Like if you put pillows propped against a building or something. Just there. I don’t buy paintings because it seems like too much of a commitment to match things in the room to them. And coordinating paint colors? Oh, forget it, just forget it. I tried that once and I thought I really got it down – a combo of a rich red, a warm creamy white, and a khaki. The khaki turned out to be the very exact shade of newborn poop, a sick greenish-brownish-yellowish horror that was patently unsuited for the dining room it now covered. What do you match with that, HUH? Candles the color of beer piss? “Welcome, Guests, to The Fecal Room, enjoy your meal!” Fail fail fail.

I see fabulous shoes at Nordstrom, truly wonders of art in shades of pink or orange or with 4” heels and maybe their own wireless port, and my heart beats a little faster, and I examine them in my little hands with excitement. They seem like the ticket to some sort of really good fun. I get tantalizingly close to asking the salesperson to grab me a pair to try on, then my reality hits. WTF am I gonna do with these? Really, what? I’d have to have something to wear with them, clothes worthy of such gorgeous uniqueness. Then I would have to find the perfect matching purse, which currently is perfect by not matching perfectly but still has to be the perfectly offhand. The simple silver jewelry I wear is way too plain for such a grand concoction, so off to the jewelry counter for some artsy necklace I can’t even figure out how to get on. So, the shoes, the outfit, the purse, the necklace. I’m probably in for about $700 at least here. Then I have to have the good makeup and hair to live up to all this – that’s another few hundred. Then – then!—I have to have somewhere to GO in all this. Where am I going to totter off to? Starbucks? Yes, Starbucks. I would get my coffee and breakfast sandwich, too fabulous for words and tall at last, then I would go home and start the dishes. The dog would be frightened by my clatter of heels, jewels, and heavy mascara blinks. As she shivered, the dishes clanking away in the dishwasher, I would sit like Jackie O on a chair, all fashioned out and ladylike, and would realize I now have a raging blister on my heel from the fucking shoes.

I don’t buy the shoes.

The ultimate accessory for a person is another person. Sometimes that is all another person is, a thing to complete the look. I see plenty of the Trophy Wives around here, who all all all all all goddamn have the accessorizing thing down cold, and their husbands, coolly smug in their size 2 purchase. He looks not to her, ever, but to the faces of others to see them look at her. That is his payoff. Sometimes, they will have Accessory Children with them, adorable and beautiful, in clothes and shoes that are also matched with perfection. If the children are well-behaved, they may receive some polite chatter or a small smile from their parents. If they are unruly, the parents’ irritation is smoldering, contained, focused, cold. The embarrassment to them is too high. Something is whispered to the children, not heard by anyone else other than a harsh, sharp, hissing jab of syllables. The unacceptable behavior stops. The children look lost. There is something so sad about this that I have to look away.

If I examine my true feelings about accessorizing, I realize I really do not want to get it right. Some other creature in my head would like to be that girl every so often, but I’d rather come up with the things that go together effortlessly, and reflect dumb old plain me. I should get rid of all those stupid scarves, someone else will take them and make them look fabulous. If I look in my heart, I just want to be perfectly imperfect, surrounded by things and people I love for their dumb old plain imperfect fallible qualities, who love me back for my D.O.P.I.F. qualities too.

With my awesome silver leather rock and roll purse thrown in, of course.


Is really depressing.

Miserable parents slumped at booths watching frenzied unsmiling children run from arcade game to filthy climbing tubes to plastic smiling rat icon to long anonymous tables stained with pizza grease.

Then again, I got 41 points on the basketball game, so maybe it rules.


I found out today this kind of writing is called "creative comedic nonfiction." WHOA! Fuckin' A!


I went to dinner last night next to a table of nerds. I was excited to see this live in nature. I was kind of giddy about it, but tried to be not too nerdish in my excitement, in case I would blow my cover and they would spot me and offer me a seat. I have to keep my observational distance. The party, made up of two young men and two young women, quietly ate their Mexican food, and sometimes snorted a little and giggled, which I think counted as a “total party riot” in Nerdworld.

It was even better than it normally would’ve been because it was the birthday of one of the nerds. He was a Nebbish Nerd, with messy short curly black hair, an indifferently-groomed beard, black heavy glasses, and a bright red t-shirt with a bleach stain. He was short and skinny and hunched over the table like he was constantly looking for a contact. He seemed to never quite look anyone in the eye. His eyes darted back and forth like a pigeon trying to cross the street. Not that I have really been that close to the eyes of a pigeon crossing the street.

Sitting next to him was a chunky girl with strawberry-blonde hair, oddly pulled back so it looked like she had a small Star Wars ship on her head. She wore an oversized black Rocky Horror Picture Show t-shirt and unflattering pants. She seemed very passive and bland, and put her hand over her mouth when she laughed or smiled. I felt very strongly her asexuality.

Across from her was the other nerd girl, fine-boned with thick dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, who was just thisclose to being cute, except for a face-ruining beak and a lazy eye. She seemed to enjoy raising her glass frequently into the air, but never said anything as she did it. Way up, then down. Maybe it was a tic.

Next to her was a Pudgy Nerd, the kind of guy who will never enjoy clothes shopping because he will always be surrounded by a pillowy cloud of jiggly white paunch. He wore a puke green polo shirt, also had heavy nerd glasses and curly unformed hair, and seemed terrifically uncomfortable in his chair, constantly shifting and hunched over and rocking. Perhaps he had terrible hemorrhoids from never leaving his computer chair. Or maybe he was really excited to be next to and across from A GIRL, and had issues about that. You know what I am saying.

Of course, it had to occur that a group of scarily-cheerful wait staff arrived to make a tremendous amount of noise to announce that it was Nebbish Nerd’s birthday. He smiled bleakly, and hunched over even more, until his chest was touching the table. His face turned as red as his shirt, until he looked like a small black-haired volcano. I was hoping he would throw up or cry or pee himself, but I was disappointed. Although I could not actually verify that he did not pee himself. Let’s say that he did, then. Just a wee bit. Heh.

I am glad that the Nerds were able to band together to enjoy a meal and celebrate the birth of one of their own. I ceremonially clean my glasses toward them, and say good on ya. I think Nebbish Nerd and Beak Face Bad Eye will eventually marry and produce dark-haired children with high IQ’s and halitosis. Pudgy Nerd and Rocky Horror No-Sex Girl will awkwardly kiss one day, decide it was far too embarrassing to continue, and instead form a technology company that will do well enough to afford them some overly-complicated digital watches, a canoe that will never once be in the water, some unfashionable sneakers, plus a Corvette.

Not too bad.


Today, it is pleasant enough to sit outside with my Iced Venti Latte and Strawberry-Banana Yogurt Parfait. My appreciation for the temperate weather is possibly obvious, as I intermittently smile to myself, or perhaps I just look like a fairly-well-dressed lunatic. It matters not, as no one is looking at me. I think. I would be terribly amused if the dude sitting about five feet away from me wearing a Che hat and looking at some elaborate art book was actually stealing glances and would write later in a blog about the woman in the black dress sitting tapping away and smiling into a yogurt.

A little green Sentra stops at the light and the driver, who appears to be about 11, is blaring through her open windows what sounds to me like a Beyonce song. It could very well be some other young woman musical star with a vocoder effect and a substantial hip area; I am not sure. I could yell to the young driver and ask, but she would not hear me anyway, and I would not want to make her late for 5th grade recess.

A cute skinny man with a fade and fashionable stubble wearing a vibrant green t-shirt and brown shorts keeps getting up and down from his seat. He seems to be waiting for someone, and alternates between cool disaffection and irritation. He is glancing around, until his gaze settles on a chattering sparrow. He flicks his cigarette ash toward the bird, and me by proxy, and gets up again. Maybe he stays so skinny by getting up a lot and smoking. He should write a book and get rich.

Coincidentally, a very very very corpulent man whizzes by on a bicycle. He should be smoking.

The sparrow, nonplussed by the ash, brings some sparrow friends over to pick at a piece of Cranberry-Orange Scone that was probably baked just hours ago. I wonder if the man or woman whose job it is every morning to make and bake scones thought, “I have just made a tasty breakfast item that will be soon by tossed to the ground to by eaten by a bird.”

The skinny man’s person never showed up, and he walked away for good, smoking.

You never know how things are going to end up. Unless you are Beyonce. I think she’s got a handle on things.


This is something you do not want to hear coming from the cockpit when you are sitting on an airplane: "TERRAIN! PULL UP! PULL UP! TERRAIN!"


The summer I was 13, I had a singular pursuit. I was determined to get a deep bronze tan like my friend Margaret, who slathered herself with Johnson's Baby Oil and laid on a blanket of heavy-duty tin foil laid out on the grass. In a single afternoon, she looked perfectly tan and remained so for months. I would oil myself up until I looked like some slimy Irish potato, suffer and sweat in the stupid humidity of Wisconsin, curse the clouds that would hang over me and laugh, swat at the mosquitoes, and end up just as pasty with a pink burned nose. Hopeless.

September was looming, ungodly depressing for the idea of another year spent in the Junior High Monkey Cage and the imminent delivery of 9000 feet of snow, which would remain until at least April. Time was running out. I would not fail.

There was no need, advertising told me, to suffer any longer. I could instantly look like the lovely blonde and evenly-tanned California girl that I believed I should have been and MIGHT STILL BE. On our next trip to the drugstore, and over my mother's brow furrowing and clucking noises, I bought a bottle of QT (Quick Tan) and a bottle of Sun-In for my hair. Who needed the damn sun? Not me, said my new friends, the bottles. OVERNIGHT!, I would turn a rich shade of brown just by anointing my skin with QT. And all I had to do was spray Sun-In all over my hair, apply the heat of a hairdryer, and I would have beautiful blonde highlights. I was SO EXCITED. Before bed, I went into the bathroom, squeezed about the whole bottle of QT all over me and waited about an hour for it to dry. I soaked my hair with Sun-In and torched the hell out of it. I was almost too excited to sleep.

Morning came with the sun sparkling happily through my bedroom window. I pulled back my covers to examine my newly-tanned, lithe, wonderful, perfect legs. What I saw was a pair of white legs that looked like a preschooler finger-painted them with a bucket of iodine. NOOOOOOO! My arms! My stomach! Dark orange patches and streaks everywhere. I wet my finger with spit and scrubbed furiously at one of the rusty lines on my leg -- no luck. It would not come off. I stunk, too -- some awful, sweet, heavy chemical smell. I ran to the bathroom mirror.


Everywhere. My face is blotchy orange. My neck, my chest...the palms of my hands and my feet and my knees and elbows were superstained. OH GOD. MY HAIR. My formerly mousey brown very long hair. EVERY STRAND a horrible brassy shade of yellow-orange. THIS IS NOT A CALIFORNIA GIRL!!!!! This, this is a monster.

My failure was complete. I jumped into the shower, not even caring that the water was not yet warm and scrubbed myself raw. I washed my hair four times. As I stepped out, I saw that it had done nothing except added a layer of pink skin irritation over the orange and intensified my split ends. I fled to my room and contemplated my fate. I could not actually go out like this. But maybe I was overreacting. I pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and walked out into the kitchen for breakfast. Maybe this would not be so bad.


Thanks, Dad.

School started the next week. The QT orange had faded somewhat, but I still looked off. And the hair, well. It stayed orange, with ever widening brown roots. I refused to cut my hair short, so I stayed with the bi-level orange/brown look for my 8th Grade year. Only once did someone say anything to me, on the bus home after the first day of school. An older tough girl, who never spoke to me otherwise, was sitting behind me.

"Marianne, did you use Sun-In on your hair?

"Um, no, I just spent a lot of time out in the sun this summer."

"Really? Because it looks like Sun-In to me. Are you sure?"

"Yeah, yup, this is just how my hair looks blonde. A heh."

She smirked and we both knew I was fooling no one. I figure I got out of this pretty easy, not being called "Orange Head" or "Sun Failure" or "Irish." I bet Tough Girl had used Sun-In once, and some tiny piece of her felt just enough sorry for me that she did not take that opportunity to beat me up.

I still cannot stand the smell of sunless tanners, I get my hair colored by professionals, and the first place I moved from Wisconsin was Arizona. I stayed in the sun until I did eventually get somewhat tan, then I got bored with the sun and went inside.


The guy who let me return Classic Ivory for Buff was nice, so I resurrected him in honor of Springtime. I'm powerful like that.


Today at Walgreens I bought the wrong makeup color, Classic Ivory instead of Buff. So I killed a guy.