BLITZEN NAPPER

Your concert-goer, pre-show:



The crowd:



The band (Blitzen Trapper):



Your concert-goer, post-show:



I had fun and am awl sleepy. Will write about it tamarrah.

MINTY HOT!

Oh, I did feel sorry for them, my beloved Starlight Mints, I did. To play Seattle on the hottest day here EVER in recorded HISTORY, on a Wednesday night too, well, damn. That is some rough luck. I felt sorry for me as well because it was so hot I worried the show might be canceled. This band doesn’t tour very often and I’ve never seen them and I really really like them and and and…WAAA! People here just aren’t used to this kind of 100-degree-plus temperatures and err buddy FREAKIN’. But after getting the kiddies tucked into bed, I figured heading in fashionably late would : A. Let the temp cool to maybe 90 or so, and B. Save me the extra hell of standing in a sauna (The Crocodile Club) for the two opening bands.

Shows what I know. At 9:30PM, after doors opened at 8PM, it was still 95 outside, GOD KNOWS WHAT inside the club, and NONE of the bands had been on yet. AW! Fail. Hey, I figured, like a good suburban mom, that people go to work n’ shit on a Thursday morning and they’d start the show early on a weeknight. HA HA. I forget sometimes, I do. It’s been awhile since I haven’t had to consider any morning responsibilities or not wake up with the puffy eye debauched look from a simple night out.

I had never been to The Croc before, a legendary Seattle club that re-opened earlier this year after being shuttered for some time. The staff were very pleasant folks, there were cool photographs on the walls, the bottled water was only a buck, the bathroom was clean and shiny, and the sound was pretty good. Not a bad space at all. Getting a first look-see, I could see and look that there weren’t very many people there – no shocker. There was ONE FAN in the whole place, and no I am not talking fan-person. ONE ELECTRIC FAN TO COOL EVERYTHING. And that was placed on the stage. Oh, MAN. The air was just dead with hanging humidity and heat. Ugh. It was hard enough just standing there with a few other people; I couldn’t imagine how hot it must be to be up there and playing under the lights in this. Enjoy your fan, musicians. But hey, I was here, some other folks were here, the show was going to go on, and I was going to have me some fun, or pass out from heat stroke trying.

The first band up was a local trio called SilverTeeth
(http://www.myspace.com/silverteethmusic) -- Shane Berry, frontman/vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist, Kyle Risan on the drums, and barefooted Aaron Hilst on bass. Truthfully, I had listened to the two demos they currently have up on their MySpace in prep for the show, and I wasn’t thrilled – too many ‘80s twee sonic references, not enough originality. But as Berry greeted the few of us with a smile and genuine good humor throughout their set, I was pleasantly surprised at how good they were. They have songs! They were well-rehearsed and tight, and had a much more aggressive and interesting sound live than their demos showed. Risan was a very precise drummer and I wondered while watching him if he had played drums as a kid in the school band. I bet he did. Get some more recordings done, guys, and get ‘em out there, and feel free to cast off some of the beep beep boop boops – you sound good all natural!

Next up was JP, Inc. from Los Angeles, supporting the Starlight Mints throughout this entire tour, I believe (http://www.myspace.com/pleaseeasaur). Well. Yes, I also listened to their MySpace work beforehand and I could say VERY comfortably that I was SO VERY VERY NOT up for listening to a “comedy/rock/indie” thing that I did not find amusing or rock, especially in the oppressiveness of the melting club. TIME TO DUCK OUT FOR SOME NOMS. I hadn’t had any dinner, and this was a good excuse to take a walk down the street, get some air, and find something to eat. Thank gawd for their re-entry policy.

Ah, Seattle’s Belltown section and its urban ambience. Hipsters with flame-red hair, a guy on a 6-ft-tall bike, a dude dressed like the Lucky Charms leprechaun, skinny Asian girls in just a t-shirt and very high black patent heels, and everyone smoking cigarettes. A block or so away, a Thai place is still serving food, and there’s a table outside to watch the people parade. I eat some Tod Mun and some teeny tiny little fresh rolls that look like, well, I probably shouldn’t say, but the food was good as was the big Thai iced tea I downed for some energy. Walking back to the club, JP, Inc. is not finished yet, so more gazing at the populace is on the agenda. I am in no rush to get back into the sweatbox.

Two big dudes who are covered in tattoos drive past in an old converted cop car, still with the side spotlights and the cow catcher on the front. I really so don’t want to imagine what they get up to for fun. A hipster and his gf walk by. He looks like he is carrying a baby, but it turns out to be three loaves of baguette bread. A big fat black dude in an Olds and an old rich white dude in Range Rover drive slowly by, having an altercation which consists of slowing, stopping, and giving each other the scary stinkeye.

Uh oh. Here comes a woman, maybe in her mid-30s with reddish long hair, wearing a black long dress and black Skechers. She is talking and swearing bitterly into the air. “FUCK YOU BITCH!” she says as a car of young girls goes by. One girl leans out and replies, “CRAZY BITCH! FUCK YOU!” The Crazy Belltown Bitch yells more foulness, but the girls keep driving. Now she is swearing and trying to pick a fight with everyone going by, and anyone who makes eye contact with her standing outside the club.

I am asked not to make eye contact. Heh. No fightin’ for me, tonight. Heh. She eventually swears her way down the street, followed by a guy who is interested in bagging even a crazy messed up chick. Sweet. Time to go back in!

Oof. Hot. Hot hot hot hot hot. Another water is purchased, and I end up on a barstool to the front and left of the stage, a very nice viewpoint. I am pleased to see a few more people have turned up, and I figure if you are out and here tonight, now close to midnight, you must really love this band, and that is good. I look around. Everyone is a nerd like me. Even The Ruiner, the one guy at every show who has to be a jerk or spoil something, is not a Ruiner at all. He’s just a big white blarby sweaty dude in a soaking wet t-shirt who is jiggling himself at the front of the stage. No problem. He seems very happy and is not throwing too much sweat around.

The band, consisting of Allan Vest (vocals/guitar), Marian Love Nunez (keyboards), Javier Gonzales (bass), Andy Nunez (drums), and Ryan Lindsey (keyboards/guitar) take the stage with a groovy projector screen in the back and glowing neon light poles on the stage. The Starlight Mints have been around in various permutations since the ‘90s, but as I was preoccupied with birthing and cleaning up poop and toys for that decade and into the next, I somehow missed them. But last year I was clued in, got all their releases and am now a big big fan. Ah, they are so good! They have a quirky indie sound – think some kind of combination of the oddness of XTC, The Soft Boys, Jeff Beck’s weirdest moments with the Yardbirds, and their Oklahoma state-mates, The Flaming Lips, and the solid, dramatic, clever pop songwriting of Robert Smith-60s era Pete Townshend-Elvis Costello-A.C. Newman. That said, they have a sound all their own, with very diverse instrumentation, structures, vocals, and keen little riffs that snake around in your brain, little fireworks and bursts of guitar. I don’t know what they do on their off-time in Norman, OK, but somehow it wouldn’t surprise me if they were physicists/indie record store owners.

I don’t give a rat’s ass about the unspoken Stand When The Band Is On Rule because I have EARNED my bar stool over these long concert-going years of mine, and tonight it is just too hot. So I very happily bop and dance on my stool, legs swinging and keeping time to “Submarine #3,” “Natural” and “Zoomba” from their new album Change Remains (Barsuk Records), “Valerie Flames,” “Eyes Of The Night,” and a bunch more. SO SO GOOD! Marian in her little black dress adds lots of energy to the show as white towels mop up stage sweat and the crowd claps and woos and sings along, happy to be there even on the hottest day of ever. After an encore, the show is done and the drenched move to the cooler air outside. Going over the 520 bridge to home, the car windows are open, and I can feel the delicious cooling air from Lake Washington, ears ringing, a smile on my face.

Marian addressed the crowd near the end of their show, “Thank you for having us!” Ah, man. Thank YOU guys for coming here, and for your wonderful songs.

http://www.myspace.com/starlightmints

SOWHATCANAPOORBOYDO?

Times is tuff. There is much argument and bitter dissent about how to ameliorate the current economic situation, with no concurrence likely. The Dems and The Repubs (also known as The Bitchers and The Whiners) will just keep going around and around in their circles, as long as we pay them to do just that. In the meantime, there are people – a lot of people – who are in very serious financial straits. There are people who truly want to find work and cannot, or the work they can get is temporary or pays so little that the regular bills still go unpaid. You can stack those jobs up – take two or three or four of them on – but then you don’t sleep and you drive into a phone pole going to your fifth job at 5AM and you die. Some people don’t have a spouse or family or friends to share expenses with, cannot take on the further time and expense of extra schooling/training, and there are no guarantees right now of good work for anyone anyway, regardless of your expertise or intelligence or effort. Two traditional and perennially-popular options in last-ditch money making are: 1. Sell illegal drugs, and/or; 2. Join the military. Let us examine, the DI way.

Not always the province of the skuzzy teenager, college entrepreneur, or urban reprobate, drug trafficking is more common that you think (see the popular Showtime series Weeds). Marijuana sales are probably 90% of the illegal drug trade. I think that is probably correct but I am not going to bother confirming that because I am lazy – totally drug-free lazy, mind you. Considering that the general effect of marijuana is something like combining alcohol and tobacco, two legal drugs, I say alright already, stop being inconsistent with your permission slips, U.S. Government: LEGALIZE POT. Again, I think I am coming from a pretty logical position here. There are a WHOLE DAMN LOT of people in this country who smoke up, and the basic bio outcome of that is that when they do they become silly, dull, relaxed, boring, unmotivated, and hungry, and sometimes arrested. If you say whiskey is OK, there just is no compelling reason not to approve pot, with the proper adult restrictions and substantial misuse penalties, of course.

Think of the jobs that would be created! Instead of Mikey selling Z-grade weed to you for a hefty profit and the chance of unsavory Colombian cartels showing up, Mikey could be working at a clean shiny Pot Shoppe for a regular paycheck. His sister Marva could start up a weed farm in Kentucky with a Small Business Administration loan, his brainy brother Melvin could work in a lab synthesizing and refining the plant to have grades of effect, and his mother Misty could relieve her hideous cancer chemo nausea from buying at the Pot Shoppe, rather than waiting for her state to approve medical marijuana use. We aren’t talking the Faces of Meth population here, folks. Pot use is well-integrated in the normal lives of millions of people here, just like the glass-of-wine-at-dinner crowd or the beers-with-the-game guys. They just hide it a little better. Take the money out of the hands of people who are slimy dangerous creeps, boost our economy tremendously with legalization and regulation, and put the money into the hands of slightly less slimy creeps, a.k.a., us all.

Then there is the military. Sigh. Whenever I hear of some young man or woman joining up these days, I can only think that they are absolutely desperate for money, direction, or both. Despite your political leanings or honest desire to serve your country, the wars we are currently embroiled in overseas are, by nearly all estimates, accounts, and opinions, un-winnable. There will be no U.S. style democracies established, the Taliban won’t be crushed, Osama won’t be caught, we won’t get control of the oil resources, introduce feminism or civil rights, keep any kind of peace, or stop families from joyfully sending their children off to blow themselves up in a crowded hotel lobby. When you join the service today, you are trusting that you are doing something helpful and noble, that you will be given the tools and guidance to achieve goals for the world’s good. That is not happening. You will be underpaid, over-deployed, and not given the equipment you need to survive. It is a terrible risk to take for a feeling of usefulness and focus, and for a check that should be an embarrassment to everyone who expects you to risk your life needlessly for the meager numbers printed on it.

Oh, if there were ways to re-direct our money and our valuable human resources to GETTING OFF FOREIGN OIL. When you stop poking at the hornet’s nest, you just aren’t as likely to keep getting stung, no? Sustainability isn’t just a current buzzword – it is what’s going to keep this country strong and healthy, and our world more stable. Stop wasting our money on pathetic foreign wars no one is willing to actually win, ever. Put it towards something that has a chance, something that is a little more economically- and morally-healthy than a war machine. FOR A CHANGE.

So what can a poor boy do, ‘cept to sing for a rock n' roll band? Well, become politically active in the party of your choice, think positive because that will bring positive solutions instead of ENDLESS BICKERING AND SADNESS, and don’t give up. Let your lawmakers know how you feel, VOTE, and be the change, etc.

I also hear Tuesday Morning is hiring for stock clerks.

The Replacements -- "Goddamn Job/Junior's Got A Gun"


WTF 7

How long would it take you to SMASH THIS THING TO MINUSCULE SHARDS OF PLASTIC AND METAL?

ALERT

I served up dinner to the kids last night but didn’t sit down with them at the table – I was not hungry, and was too tired to chat over the blare of Cartoon Network playing in the background, and even too tired to turn off Cartoon Network. So they happily ate their pasta and salad and dinner rolls while some bug-eyed animated child entertained them while I sat and read on the computer.

BRAAP! BRAAP! BRAAP!

BRAAP! BRAAP! BRAAP!

Ah. There’s an alert on the TV. I am usually not alerted by an alert on the TV because it is always just THIS IS A TEST OF THE EMERGENCY BROADCASTING SYSTEM…IF THIS WERE A REAL EMERGENCY YOU WOULD BE INSTRUCTED TO WEAR CLEAN UNDERWEAR AND RUN INTO THE STREETS BEGGING FORGIVENESS FROM ANYONE WHO WOULD STOP TO LISTEN TO YOUR FOAMY MADNESS. Or something like that. Right away, MissSix leaves the dinner table and runs to me. She has tears in her eyes, sensitive to the harsh sound and knowing there is something going on that is bad, but she can’t read enough of the words on the screen to find out what it is.

MissSix:(agitated) Oh! Oh! What is happening?

Me: I’m sure it is just a test of the emergency system. It’s OK.

She relaxes, but I hear unfamiliar words drifting in, more than usual, so I get up and walk over to the television. Maybe there is something going on with the heat wave here – a power outage or something I should know about. When I see the screen, it is black with white words: AMBER ALERT. We all stare at it for a second.

Mr11: What’s an Amber Alert?

Me:(pause, sigh) Well, it’s when a kid has been taken or is missing from their home. They put out an alert to let everyone know so the child might be found faster.

MissSix:(alarmed) Who would take a child? Why?

Ah, shit. I look at her, and at Mr11. I wish this weren’t part of my job. It always feels so sad and uncomfortable.

Me: I think most of the time it is a divorced parent who just didn’t return the child back to the other parent on-time. Sometimes it is just a miscommunication.

MissSix: I don’t get it. Why would one parent have to give the child back to another parent?

Me: In a divorce, the parents usually split custody of the children. That means that the kids spend time with each parent separately, and they have to go to their parents’ different houses. They go back and forth, usually.

MissSix: Do they have to do that?

Me: The kids or the parents?

MissSix: Anyone.

Me: Well, most parents really love their kids and want to keep seeing them no matter what happens with other things. A judge usually arranges the time each parent spends with the kids. They try to work it out. Everyone has to do what the judge decides.

Mr11: How could we even help with the alert? There’s no picture! We don’t even know what the kid looks like!

Me: If you listen, they give a description of the child and whom they think might have taken him.

MissSix: Or her.

The alert screen ends, and the screen pops up to be some blue-suited bore droning on at C-SPAN. Mr11 protests, but in a second or two with some magic pixel action Cartoon Network returns, and all is well again.

As I tuck MissSix into bed a few hours later, snuggling under her pink-and-white blanket with a pink bunny all pink-cheeked from the hot day, she turns her face up to me.

MissSix: What if a bad man comes to our town and tries to take me?

Me: You don’t have to worry. You are safe here. I am here, your brothers are here, we have a good alarm system, and Ellie would bark and bite him, I bet.

MissSix: But what if it happened?

Me: Honey, it is really really rare and very unlikely to ever happen to you or anyone you know. All I can tell you is that you’d have lots of people working to help you, good people who would not ever give up. OK?

MissSix: OK. Goodnight, Mama, I love you.

Me: I love you, too, punkin.

As I thought, the Amber Alert last night turned out to be a parental abduction, two little boys taken by their mother, all found safe in Nevada soon afterwards.

http://www.king5.com/topstories/stories/NW_072809WAB-kittitas-missing-children-TP.87199bb9.html

The kids didn’t ask about it this morning, as Cartoon Network droned on over their breakfasts of waffles and yogurt and blueberries, safe at home.

MC CRAPPE

From McDonald's website, describing their new "McCafe" coffee beverages:

McCafe Mochas, Lattes, and Cappuccinos start with McDonald's own unique blend of fresh espresso beans. This results in a high-impact, full-bodied, dark roast coffee with flavor attributes that enhance its complexity, like spicy and earthy tones, and a slight caramel sweetness.


After ingesting a sample-size McCafe Iced Mocha, here is my critical analysis of its components:

1. Water collected from a rusting rain barrel in Mexico City

2. Gasoline

3. 500 lbs. of sugar, cut with plutonium

4. Plastic coffee beans used for display purposes only

5. An extra 500 lbs. of plutonium sugar

6. Cisplatin

7. A slight diabetic-sweat sweetness.

WARNING

To: Couch Teen

From: Mom

Re: towels

This is official notice to inform you that if you attempt to co-opt my brand-new beautiful fluffy white Waverley bath towels with the satiny scroll inset for your own personal use, I will take said towels and ram them down your gullet with a pre-Civil War musket. Thank you for your co-operation in this matter.

Sincerely,

Mom

CHICKEN

I woke earlier than I had to, just to have the extra time to not rush quite as much in the house, getting dressed, waking the kids, breakfast, packing lunches for camp, sunscreen, water bottles, shoes tied. My mother used to say it was her favorite time of day, right as the sun came up, when there was no one else awake and wanting something from her. I used to think it was strange, her getting up that early for no reason. There was a reason.

The house slowly starts to fill with sounds: cartoons on TV, the dog’s nails on the floor, spoons clattering against Corelle cereal bowls, toilets flushing, teeth brushing, little voices floating and darting in the air. Summer day camp today for the kids, we have to be in the car by 7:30AM. The house rattles and shakes as the garbage truck grumbles into the alley and swings our trash cans up with its metal robot arms, dumps, down again.

Off we go. Kids in the back seat of the car, belts bucked, windows opened, I wait at the stop sign, then merge into the flowing pulse of traffic. The air feels still a little cool and soft, but the warmth from the sun on my arm resting on the window as I drive tells me the day will become hot. I smile. I like the hot weather, the only one in my family who does.

Drop off at camp, sign permission slips and sunscreen forms and write a check for the week. Kiss kiss hug hug bye bye have fun. My wheels crunch on the gravel as I leave the camp, thinking of the day ahead. Iced coffee stop next. I lean back into my car seat, and turn up the radio. The song playing is by some band obviously trying to sound like Weezer. Who would want to copy Weezer? Ah, well.

As I cross over the freeway and stop at a red light, in my peripheral vision I see a huge shiny black pickup truck quickly pull up next to me on the right, its front end dipping as brakes are applied hard. I don’t look over. I know that the driver will be a young man who likely works in construction, already very late for work today. He will be drinking a coffee and talking on his cell phone. He will look over at me, because he looks at any woman.

Further ahead on the road I can see a bunch of orange cones and utility trucks peeking around a curve, and that the right lane closes. The guy in the truck is gunning his engine, rocking the chassis. Chicken. He wants to play chicken. He wants to play chicken with me, a mom in an SUV at 8AM on a Monday morning on a freeway overpass. He wants to pull out from the green light and smoke ahead of me before he loses his lane, and he is letting me know he is going to do just that.

OK. I change channels on the radio. “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club. No. Change. “My Guy,” Mary Wells. No. “Love Game,” Lady Gaga. Ack. “Treat Me Like Your Mother,” The Dead Weather. OK.

I feel very calm and normal as I look over to the turn light at the intersection. I have crossed over this light a million times. I know the timing. I know the timing well enough to know when I can punch down on my gas pedal while my light is still red and – safely -- jump forward, the light turning green as I exhale, little fractions of a second. He won’t expect it, the truck guy. I will keep my left lane. He won’t even get a chance to play chicken with me.

I check for any cars coming late through the yellow. None.

I press down on the accelerator and smoothly move ahead, car lengths ahead of the truck in just a couple of seconds. Ah. He’s not having it. I hear him to my left, roaring behind me. He is catching up quickly with that big engine. Well well well. That really isn’t a good idea, sir. I press down harder on the gas, despite some feeling that this is stupid. I think about what I need to get at the grocery store and if I will get a pump of vanilla in my latte today or skip it.

He is next to me now, but his lane is getting smaller and he doesn’t really have the time or space to move ahead of me, but he is still trying. He is too close to my car. I never look over, just keep driving along, mouthing the words to the song:

Who’s got it figured out
Left right, left right, got it figured out
Who’s got it figured out, play straight

Stand up like a man
You better learn to shake hands
Look me in the eye now
Treat me like your mother.


As we round the curve, I stand on the gas and barrel through the cone zone. Suddenly, the truck drops from my side view and I hear a boom, smashing metal and glass. He cut it too close and clipped a concrete abutment at the end of the right lane. I look in my mirror. He’s still spinning. I hear the screech of tires and horns and the sound of my engine, smooth and clean.

I don’t feel shocked. I don’t feel stunned. I don’t feel scared or sad or freaked out. I don’t feel anything at all.

I don’t stop. The day is getting warmer, and I open my sunroof.

Oh, now I remember. We need paper towels.

You blink when you breathe and you breathe when you lie
You blink when you lie
Who’s got it figured out, play straight.

NYAHNYAHNYAH

video

OBESI-TV

There is an article on CNN.com today on the trend of reality television shows featuring obese people:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/SHOWBIZ/TV/07/22/plus.sized.programs/index.html

The article claims that people watch shows like The Biggest Loser, Ruby, and Dance Your Ass Off because there is an obesity epidemic in America, and that folks like to watch “regular” people like themselves, that people are inspired by them.

What the TV folks don’t dare tell you, but know: mostly complete crap. People are watching these shows for the same reasons they gawk at car accidents, pay attention to pinheads like Bobby Brown, Britney Spears, Bret Michaels, Flavor Flav, love to see the bad auditions on American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, and watch shows on two-headed toddlers or face transplant woman or the political rise of Sarah Palin. Bottom line, even if you the viewer are 400 pounds yourself and wash yourself with a rag on a stick: you are watching a freak show. Train wreck. Taboo. Abnormal. Culturally unacceptable.

Sorry. It’s true. People are watching fat people on TV because they are shocking in appearance or move in funny ways or fall down more than other people. You can look at some other person with 50 chins and think, shiiiiiiiit, I only have two chins, I am doing GREAT! Oh, I am a size 16 and that bitch is like a size 22, I am awesome! Look at that dude’s chafing thighs! HA HA! It is like NASCAR – fans don’t watch that because race cars going endlessly around a track is scintillating. Secretly, in their little beating nasty hearts, they wait for the Spectacular Crash. It’ll come, if you are patient. People watch fat people because at some point something bad or funny will happen, at least on reality TV. There’s no show to watching Ruby sit in a chair all day – there is entertainment value in seeing her apply for a job at a hair salon where everyone else is fit and attractive.

Sorry. Truth.

I saw the promos for the Bachelor-like dating show More To Love coming up on FOX next week. Oy fricken VEY. A 300-lb. dude with a bunch of significantly-overweight potential mates lined up, fat all spilling out of their fancy dresses like rolling lard rapids. He calls them “normal.” Oh sure, the average weight and size of American folks keeps going upupup, but “average” is not the same as “normal.” The healthy range of normal is not shown on these programs. Sure, it is nice that you can see some of the fat folks lose weight week after week, but the intent behind it from the production companies is not compassionate or noble. They are exploiting the people they feature in the guise of “everyone should feel good about themselves and everyone is beeee-uuuuu-tiful in their own way.” If there is a buck to be made by showcasing some jaw-dropping huge person, you can be sure that someone will do it now.

What they are not saying on More To Love and what we never hear from all the “big and beautiful” boosters out there is that being obese is incredibly unhealthy. It’s unkind to the self and unkind to any family, friends, or employers who depend on you and care for you. It isn’t good or beautiful to be sick or be on the fast track to getting sick. Do I sound like someone who just lost a bunch of weight and wants to lose more? Maybe. I’ve been at Plus Size Hell. It’s not normal or average or fun. It’s sad, and I am glad to be out of it. I don’t like seeing anyone else shoving themselves in shiny cocktail frocks and doing perfect makeup and beautiful hair and convincing themselves all is well. It isn’t. You don’t have to stab your fat face with a sooty hot fire poker in shame, but obesity should not be a “normal” lifestyle just because you have so many others like you around these days, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You are going to pay for it someday, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.

Why should I be surprised, disappointed, or angered by anything I see any more? Hope you have some tough skins, Reality Show Fat Folks – you are gonna need it.

The Kinks -- "Skin And Bone"

IAMPRO

Due to the kindness and generosity of a family member, I am now the proud owner of a brand-new MacBook Pro!




Ooh, it is so shiny and awesome and cool! Now I can get back to making some more music to torture everyone with and with the fat 500GB hard drive I can keep all my writing and music and photos WITH ME wherever I go. I LIKE THAT. This is like being a crazy cat lady, but all 2009 and stuff.

I just sniffed it. It doesn't smell like a new car or anything. It smells like metal and HAPPY.

MissSix watched the file transfer from the old MacBook to this one like a little pretty vulture, and then said CAN I HAVE YOUR OLD ONE HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH?

Hmph. Maaaayyyyybeeeeeeeee, I said.

MOONWALK

Mr11: Mom, do you know how to moonwalk?

Me: No. No, I do not know how to moonwalk.

Mr11: It's pretty easy really.

Me: Well, I don't think it's easy to do well.

Mr11: All you do is move your feet backwards and then do a bunch of moves with the top part of your body which distracts from people looking at your lower body, then it is all OK!

Me: (smile)

SKYHIWIFI

I have written this blog several times on an airplane, but this will be the very first time I have posted it from an airplane. It makes no difference to you the reader, of course, but it does make me feel all technological and important and such. Adding to my grandiosity is my $99 upgrade to Business Class, and the over-attention from the tight-smiled flight attendant. As a matter of fact, since no one is sitting next to me, it's like I have TWO business class seats! I feel like I should take better advantage of this very-rare situation and attempt to lie down or spread magazines all over the second seat or demand double beverages and cookies or set up a small but highly-successful business here in the two seats for the duration of the flight. Hey, I figure -- this has been a tough couple of weeks, this is a 4-hour flight, and the 99 bucks seems to be buying me a lot of cheap thrills and comfortable leg room right now. VISA bill be damned. The food in the rehab hospital was really inexpensive; there's another justification.

As seems to always be the case, I woke up about an hour too early this morning at the riveting hour of 4:30AM CDT. Useless to try to go back to sleep, I lie there in the dark listening to the sounds of a few birds, a few cars going by, and a few boat motors on the lake outside my bedroom window. I sort of doze or at least relax for the hour until it is time to rise and see what damage I have to correct with my pots and vials of makeup. Ah. The PUFFY EYES morning. Lovely. At least my hair isn't a total grease pile. Some pink blush seems to give me the outward illusion of vibrancy, so that is something of a win, and I finish packing the last of my things.

I'd like to break in and give you a real-time report here that my laptop battery is now at 71% and that the news is reporting that everyone seems to be upset with President Obama and the stupid officers quip. Oops, 70%. Stupid battery.

A quick cup of coffee is downed, the shuttle arrives on time, and I am out the door with my two stupid heavy bags to check and my one ridiculously-overstuffed laptop bag. I do recommend Timbuk2 bags (http://www.timbuk2.com/tb2/products/home) as they are very sturdy and fairly stylish and have not yet complained or ripped in spite of my severe abuse of said bag. This is mine:

Here is my bag RIGHT NOW on the second business class seat:

I am going to order it a coffee all its own just to fuck with the flight attendant.

Battery update: 64%.

The ride to the airport with two other silent shuttle passengers is pretty swift as is check-in. When I get to the security check, the TSA agent, a gray-haired buzzcutted guy in his 50s looks at my ID and boarding pass, then at my face, then winks at me and says, "You are good to go but you don't have to get on the plane if you want to wait for my shift to end." Ha ha, sir, try and stop me. Well, he could I suppose if he wanted to complain about my six silver bracelets on my right arm or that I don't look much like my driver's license anymore. That picture looks like Helga the Fat Blonde Swiss Miss. Like I should be somewhere toting milk buckets and wearing a dirndl. I cringe and laugh at it regularly. It's good to have a sense of humor, I hear.

Battery: 56%. Thing sucks.

I appreciate that the area right beyond the C-Concourse security has a large sign that says "Recombobulation Area."

Heh.

I find an Alterra coffee kiosk and get a latte and a breakfast sandwich, both yummy. I browse through a People magazine quickly, as I am having trouble caring about anyone in it and they are light on Bradley Cooper pix.

A check at the gate counter gets me my upgrade seat and then I am on the plane. More reading of magazines. I find a dense two-page article on the history and application of red lipstick to be ponderous and am glad I was never assigned such a silly writing task. I also wonder how Gwen Stefani can walk in 5" heels and confidently carry an infant. That is bold, skilled, or stupid.

Speaking of stupid: 51%. I guess I should get a new battery or a new computer. GUESS WHICH ONE IS THE MORE FUN CHOICE? Heh.

This flight attendant has asked me TOO MANY TIMES if I need or want anything. DUDE, I WILL LET YOU KNOW. RELAX. My $99 should also buy me not having to say NO THANK YOU I AM FINE every 10 minutes. Maybe he could go pee for me. I hate airplane toilets, and I have to go.

So I will.

43%.

VISITOR103

You down with Visitor One-Oh-Three (Yeah you know me)
Who's down with One-Oh-Three? (This whole party)


That's me, Visitor 103. Last day at the rehab hospital. Early tomorrow morning, riding into the sun on I-94, I am off to the Milwaukee airport and back to Seattle-ish. My family member is doing well, and will move to another hospital for a few more days, hopefully continuing to receive more excellent care. My job here as cheerleader,companion,comedian,and compadre is not as critical as it was 10 days ago when the injury occurred. With some mixed feelings, I am now excused.

Now I decompress, from my identity as Ever-Vigilant and Vivacious Visitor 103 to just me again. I don't know exactly how that is going to go, when I might relax my shoulders, when I might not startle at the phone ringing, when I might be able to put more trust in people from such a long distance away.

But I will. I have to. Any relative or friend who has been in this situation has to at some point just go back to normal life. Shit happens, eh?

Eh.

Do you know me? I was Visitor 103.

BENTO

“Where do you want to eat?

“I don’t care. Something fairly quick.”

“Yoshi’s?”

Amy hesitated a moment. She felt more like having a burger, but Scott liked Yoshi’s and she didn’t feel like going back and forth about it. “Sure.”

They pulled into the strip mall behind Costco to the small storefront restaurant. It wasn’t too busy, Amy noted, so maybe there wouldn’t be much of a wait. This new babysitter she and Scott were using seemed a little goofy, so Amy thought it might be better to make the evening a bit shorter. The bells on the door jingled as they stepped in, and the very smiley Japanese woman who seemed to live there greeted them and sat them at a table, Scott taking the booth side, Amy the chair. There were a few other couples there, talking and picking up colorful pieces of sushi with chopsticks, pouring out sake into the tiny cups.

“You need minute?” The smiley woman nodded, kept smiling.

“No. I’ll have the bento box and a water,” Scott said, glancing up at her.

Amy fumbled with the menu. “Can I have a second, please?” Scott frowned, and the woman began to leave. “No, wait, wait…that’s OK, I’ll have the Chef’s Choice sushi plate and the house sake. Thank you.” The woman nodded harder and smiled bigger and took the menus. She bounced back to the kitchen where Amy heard her speak in Japanese, a more commanding tone there.

“Why did you get the Chef’s Choice again? Half the stuff on there you don’t even like!” Scott sneered as he flattened his napkin on his lap.

“Because I like to see what he comes up with. That is worth it. It’s interesting to me. What is the difference?” Amy’s irritation grew as she looked at Scott, taking his three measured sips of his glass of water.

“It’s a waste of money.”

“Why do you get the bento box every time? Don’t you get tired of it? The same thing, every single time? Don’t you ever want to try something else?

“I like what I like. Why shouldn’t I eat what I like?”

The woman brought out Amy’s sake and poured it in the cup for her. Amy immediately picked it up and drank it down in one burning gulp, then poured another and drank that. She set the cup down, glared at Scott, then looked down at her hands. Alright, she thought, let’s not do this again. Calm down. This is so stupid. She said nothing for a minute or two, instead looking around at the pink neon “YOSHI’S” sign, a young couple texting at another table, and listened to the sounds of the chef chopping something behind the sushi bar.

“Olivia’s school meeting is Thursday. Did you put it on your calendar?

“I don’t know anything about it.” Scott pulled out his cell phone and opened Outlook, shaking his head.

“I told you about this more than a week ago. You’ve got to be there.”

“I have meetings all day. There’s no way.” He closed his phone with a snap and tightened his mouth.

“Great.” Amy poured another sake and set the cup down harder than necessary.

The food arrived. Scott and Amy both turned reflexively and smiled at the server, a teenage boy who nodded even more than the woman, and thanked him. Amy began to eat her elaborate pretty sushi rolls, pushing the octopus and the roe to the side. There he goes, she thought, everything in the bento box eaten in order: miso soup, then sunomono salad, then California roll, and finally teriyaki chicken and sticky rice, three sips of water in-between every few bites of food. God. Every. Single. Time. She ate a few more pieces of her sushi, but lost interest in the food. She pushed it around on the plate to make it look like she ate more, worth the money. She put down her chopsticks and fiddled with her hands in her lap while Scott finished his food.

At the California roll point, Scott looked up and spoke. “Martin Thompson?”

“Um…at your work? The tall guy with the beard?”

“Yeah. So, get this: he’s moving to Hawaii with a woman he met at the gym.”

“What?? Martin Thompson?? The shy Mormon who can barely look anyone in the eye? Get out!”

“Yeah, everyone thinks he’s lost his mind. He has lost his mind. It’s sure something. He’s babbling to anyone who will listen.”

“No shit! Wow. Ha. He is married, isn’t he?”

“Yup. Two kids too.”

“Whoa. That’s pretty much the last person I would have thought. What is his wife doing?”

“Wants them to go to counseling. I think he’s already booked his ticket to Maui. Ha.”

“Man.”

“Yeah.”

Amy looked down at her hands and realized she had taken off her wedding rings and had been rolling them around in her fingers. A moment of sadness came over her as she looked up again at Scott, now eating rice. He chewed, looked at her, and looked down again for a piece of chicken. Amy nervously put her rings on again as he wiped his mouth, then took a final three sips of water from his glass.

The smiley woman rushed by. “Could we get the check? Thanks,” Scott called after her, as she nodded. Amy stared past Scott to the ceramic smiling sushi cat sitting on the bar. The texting couple was smiling and laughing, another couple was smiling and sharing food from their plates, a Japanese model kept smiling down at them all from a Suntory beer poster on the far wall.

As they left the restaurant, the woman and the chef and the teenager all called out, “Thank you! Come again!” and Scott and Amy smiled, nodded, and waved as the bell on the door jingled again. A light rain was falling, making their car look shiny, new again.

“Hawaii,” Amy thought, “Wow…Hawaii,” and touched her rings with her right index finger, unaware of the gesture.

HELP

Progress at the rehab hospital today; so much so that it looks like my family member will be discharged on Saturday. Throughout this incident, I think of some of the people who have helped -- the six handsome paramedics, the very kind male ER nurse, the physical therapist who cared enough to get involved past her duties, the social worker who even asked how I was doing. Dozens of people involved in getting one person well again, and they will likely never know the full outcome of their efforts because my family member lives elsewhere, as do I.

Late in the afternoon, I take off for a break to the local nail salon, now across the highway from where I used to live in 1965. Back then, there was a pizza place, the Dog n' Suds drive-in, a dubious little motel, and a tavern named BAR, or at least that is what the big sign on it said. Now all the big box stores and chain restaurants are there, covering the path from the decrepit ski lodge to BAR that we used to walk with my dad and the dog.

I pick out my color -- Tangerine Tango again -- and settle back. The ABC nightly news is on, and the last story of the day catches the attention of everyone in the salon:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/07/21/milwaukee.rescue/index.html

Captured on video, a horrific car accident in Milwaukee today, where a mother, infant, and 4-year-old boy were trapped in their SUV, which had rolled over and caught on fire. Immediately, passers-by went to their aid, desperately trying to smash the windshield and window open to free them. The fire was substantial as was the risk to all. The mother and the baby were freed, but the boy remained stuck, belted in his carseat, screaming. No one gave up, not even when the tires blew and the fire got bigger and hotter, and reached the child. People found pipes to pound with, a knife to cut the seatbelt with, a hose. Two off-duty firefighters were finally able to free the child, badly burned, but he is expected to make a good recovery. He is alive.

The father appeared on TV, holding back tears, saying how very grateful he was to everyone who saved his family. They are also in the area temporarily, from Tennessee, also dependent upon strangers for help through an unexpected tragedy.

It is very important to remember -- very important -- that there is caring and good and brave out there.

Thank you Pewaukee and Delafield and Waukesha paramedics.

Thank you Waukesha Memorial Hospital and RHOW.

Thank you, Wisconsin.

Help!

JERRY

At the rehab hospital:

Jerry (age 78, in wheelchair): Irene?

Me: Me?

Jerry: Yeah.

Me: I'm Marianne.

Jerry: So, Irene, what do you do?

Me: Well, I like to write. What was your job, Jerry?

Jerry: Oh, I do taxes. Still do. Keeps the Alzheimer's away. Keeps it workin' for ya. (taps head)

Me: You are a numbers guy.

Jerry: I like photography too.

Me: Oh! That's a great thing. I used to be a photographer. What kind of pictures do you like to take?

Jerry: Everything. I have a Canon D40.

Me: Nice! I have the 20D.

Jerry: Just got Photoshop CS4. State-of-the-art.

Me: You are doing way better than me, Jerry. I still have CS2 and it's all corrupted.

Jerry: Just got a new program too, takes the stills and makes 'em move.

Me: Jerry, you are a numbers guy and a technology guy.

Jerry: That's how I roll.

Me: They are gonna roll you right out of that chair here, Jerry. They are gonna work ya!

Jerry: Better than new, Irene, better than new. Irene?

Me: Yes?

Jerry: You have fun now, OK?

Me: I will. Thanks.

LATMAN

"'He who knows how to fear, knows how to proceed with safety.' Loosely translated from Latin."
Adam West, Batman.

MONALISA

I sometimes like to play little mind games with myself. I have a busy brain and it gets irritable when not fed, watered, and played with on a regular basis. So to shut it up on occasion I try to fool it, or outsmart it, or occupy it with something until I have some other cranium-filling task to do. If it is bugging me, I want to figure out why, and what it needs to return to stasis or at least not best me on a regular basis.

Today's Stupid Mind Game was attempting to sing along to Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa," playing on my iTouch as I finished putting on my makeup for the day in the bathroom. It is not notable for me or anyone else to sing along to some music, of course, that is pretty normal. What irritated me today was once again realizing that I cannot, absolutely cannot, sing this song without crying. What the hell is that?? This is unacceptable, and there is no reason I can think of that justifies this strange response to a piece of music, written and recorded in 1950, well before I was even born. It's not really my style of preferred music, although I do love the song and its gorgeous melody.

So. Hmm. I try to break down the components to this. It is not the melancholy lyrics, I think. I even try to sing and substitute my own dummy lyrics:

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, see this turkey
All these wild turkeys stupid on the road
Is it only cause they're dummies they are roadkill?
For they cannot judge the speed to cross the road?


No luck. I still get a massive lump in my throat and tears fill my eyes. Dammit!

It is not because I am under some amount of stress. This has been my response to this song as long as I can recall, even when I was very little. Is it Nat King Cole's rich and beautiful voice? No, I can listen to all his other songs without becoming a weepy baby. It is the sweeping symphonic arrangement? I don't think so; I don't as a rule get all emotional over violins. I find them more irritating and cheesy, really.

The hell. I want an answer for this, and I want to BEAT IT!

Alright, I say to myself, you are gonna sing this song. DO IT, YOU BABY! I steel myself as the last verse comes around:

Do you smile to tempt a lover, Mona Lisa?
Or is this your way to hide a broken heart?
Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep
They just lie there and they die there
Are you warm, are you real, Mona Lisa?
Or just a cold and lonely lovely work of art?


Oh, this is pathetic. It is not hard for me to sing the notes; that is not it. I can easily sing this except for the lowest note in the song. But as I try to make my way through the verse, not at all focusing on the lyrics, just trying to push the notes out clean, I start faltering and wavering. Lump, blinking eyes. DAMMIT. GRR.

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa

With those last words of the song, the title repeated twice, I choke completely and cannot finish the notes. I did not win; Brain did.

Or maybe Brain doesn't have anything to do with it either. Maybe it is the heart, in response to the simple, soaring melody itself, pushing some internal response that doesn't have any logic or reason to it. It just is.

Well, if I keep playing this game, I am never going to be able to get my mascara on, so I let the song finish, wipe my eyes with my fingers, swallow hard a few times, and shake my head and smile at myself. You big silly.

PIECES

The pieces of me, I realize as I sit here writing, are scattered about. My injured family member, back at the rehab hospital today; my children waiting to board a plane to take them back to Seattle-ish. They all need me, but I cannot be in two places. It is not an unusual story now. It is now more the expectation that families will in some way be split, by divorce or distance or indifference or opportunity or tragedy, than stay all Walton-ish in the same house or town.

Your "family," as you get older, turns out to be more than the people you are related to. You add and subtract, those you trust and love come and go. A few stick around, and you form some kind of rag-tag mismatched group around you to take along with you, proximal to you or halfway across a continent. You piece together, with luck and mindful work, your family, even though it may only consist at times of you, a TV, your dog, and a cheesecake. It's something.

Most days I accept that my family is here and there, only a phone call or email or plane trip away. Tonight, I will feel better when I know that my kids are back home, tucked in and sleeping, the dog has a fresh bowl of water, and that there are no unexpected calls from nurses who don't know me and my family at all.

Bishop Allen -- "Tiger Tiger"

Today, you are unlucky,
And that's the way to be.
You know at best,
It's just a test of your tenacity.
Answer with a mumble,
That's good enough for me,
For I am a mumbler too.

So imitate the action of the tiger,
Or imitate the action of the snail.

The greatest of the slouchers,
Whispered in my ear,
"Keep it in your notebooks and keep your notebooks dear".
"Write that down," he said
"Borrow my pen if you need
For you are a sloucher too"

So imitate the action of the tiger,
Or imitate the action of the snail.
Snap your teeth and smile a little wider,
Or leave behind a lovely silver trail.

PHONECALL

Phone calls in the very early morning, one learns as you go along, are never good news. Someone is drunk and needs a ride, there's some weather emergency. or someone is sick or worse. The phone rings, you are startled out of sleep, and there is a rush of adrenalin as you come to consciousness. You always hope for a wrong number instead, so you can just hang up, swear, and go back to sleep.

No such luck this morning. Back to the ER we go at 6AM, heart trouble. Stabilizing, and waiting, lots and lots of more waiting. More tests to answer more questions. Admitted back up to the cardiac unit, more new nurses and techs and doctors who seem to be unable to pull the previous day's records from their own system. Wondering why, and why now, with no hope of getting an answer, but wondering anyway.

I am supposed to go home tomorrow.

I am not going home tomorrow.

Nothing I can do but stay and wait, and avoid more wondering. So now I make the phone calls, to change my flight and cancel my own appointments and events back home.

Nothing I can do but that.

CHEERLEADER

I never was a cheerleader in school, for several reasons: 1. I was not cute and perky; 2. I had zero school spirit; 3. I had the gymnastic ability of a cow; 4. I was generally pessimistic overall, and; 5. I did not want to wear those incredibly short skirts to school every game day. Lots of my friends were cheerleaders, and there was some part of me that thought it would be kind of fun to join with them, but not enough to actually feign pep and vim nor make those cheers come out of my mouth. If I had been a cheerleader I would have been in low-rise wrecked-up jeans and a t-shirt featuring some kind of beer, and my cheers would have consisted of giving the holy stinkeye to the opposing team and their fans while giving the finger and shouting:

ONE TWO THREE FOUR! YOU'RE A BUNCH OF JOCKY BORES!
FIVE SIX SEVEN EIGHT! YOU'RE THE PEOPLE I TEND TO HATE!
EIGHT SEVEN SIX FIVE! YOU COULDN'T WRITE A SENTENCE TO SAVE YOUR LIVES!
FOUR THREE TWO ONE! THIS SHIT SUCKS AND NOW I'M DONE!
GOOOOOOOOOOO ASSHOLES!

It would have been a singular performance, ending with an escort off the field and a 3-day suspension. But it would have been fondly recalled years later by my classmates at high school reunions, through the haze of time, alcohol, and Rogaine.

I don't think of myself as a cheerleader, but I find myself in the position now. There is so little I can do to help my family member who is hurting and facing probably the toughest physical days of a lifetime in the next few weeks. There is much fear and worry, some anticipatory and needless, some sadly very valid. What I can do is provide a steady and positive presence based on the real accomplishments and real strength that this person already possesses in abundance.

Sometimes we all need a reminder of the good and strong things we have already done, things that may seem like nothing, but are far from that. It is important to hear, specifically, from someone else, yes, I saw and I know and I appreciate and I believe in you.

I can't provide the therapy that will hopefully bring my family member back to independence. I can't prescribe the drugs, I can't evaluate the x-rays or incisions or evaluate range of motion scales. There is nothing I can do to take away the pain and sadness and exhaustion. All I have to give are my honest words, my genuine conveyance of belief that things are going to be tough, yes, but are going to go very, very well. They already are, according to every doctor, nurse, PA, tech, and care coordinator, which is why after the injury on Monday night, the move was made today to the rehabilitation hospital, two days ahead of even the best outcome originally predicted.

It is entirely possible that I may, oh yes I may, I JUST MAY before I leave to return to Seattle-ish, rustle me up a cheerleader costume and some pom-poms, compose a custom cheer appropriate for the situation, and perform it for my family member. I may still be an un-perky inflexible pessimistic cow, but hey, anything for a laugh.

BEEPBEEP,BEEPBEEP,YEAH

Another night on the couch in the hospital, repeatedly lulled to sleep and then awakened by the symphony of sounds from the whirring, clicking, buzzing machines.

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.

Ah, shit. You gotta keep your right arm down and straight or the IV machine goes off.

DOODOO DOODOO DOODOO DOODOO DOODOO.

Oop, that is someone else's bed monitor. That is a sound that makes the nurses jump. The BEEP BEEP BEEP can go on for QUITE SOME TIME.

PUM PUM FFFFFFFFFSSHHHHHHHH FFFFSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

The machine that is supposed to prevent blood clots. Yes.

RRRRRRR FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF RRRRRRRRRRRRRR FFFFFFFFFFFFFF.

Blood pressure check again.

DEET!

Temp check.

TICK TOCK TICK TOCK TICK TOCK TICK TOCK.

The big wall clock above my head.

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.

YOU HAVE TO KEEP YOUR RIGHT ARM DOWN AND STRAIGHT.

I watch the nurse reset the machine so I can just get up and do it myself next time.

Then it is morning.

Close to noon, I come back to the house to grab some blissful uninterrupted sleep.

It is dead quiet, but I can't sleep.

I keep hearing BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.

I get up, and watch the sailboats on the choppy windy lake instead.

HOSPITAL

Discipline (or compulsion) leads me to apologize for being tardy with this post. When I say I do a "daily creative dump," by god, I mean it, and I expect that every day, no matter what I come up with something to hand you, whether it is weird, dumb, funny, serious, dull, or YouTubes of screaming goats. Actually, if I had a different screaming goat to post every day, that would please me very much. But yesterday, the day took a different turn, as Mr 11 and I headed off to the little medical clinic to get checked out for some annoying rashes. As we returned with assorted lotions and medications, we found out that another family member had just been seriously injured. The injury required surgery, which was done today. It is a life-changing event, with some difficult recovery ahead.

So that is where I was the past 24 hours -- the hospital, 2000 miles away from my home.

Anyone who has done the wait knows -- time becomes meaningless in the confines of the beige-walled long corridors of the hospital. Endless streams of nurses come in and out, one shift flowing into another, checking blood pressure and temperature and oxygen levels and pain medications. Their faces differ but their voices are all sort of the same: that long Wisconsin accent, softened and further drawn out by their words of concern. The gurneys clatter along, voices chatter, machines beep and pulse and heave and blink, good numbers, bad numbers, good numbers again. Tests are ordered, blood and urine and CAT scans and ultrasounds, more people coming in asking questions, some business-like, some friendly and joking.

The hospital room chair folds out and a nurse brings me a pillow and a blanket to try to grab some sleep. Dozing was the best I could do. I look up to the TV, and Sonia Sotomayor has on blue. When I look up again, she is wearing red. A day has passed. I hear they had some loonies yelling during the hearings. USA.

More waiting for the surgery to finish. I was not worried, or perhaps would not allow it. My job was to be calm and strong and positive. There will be time to process my feelings later. A young woman is also in the waiting room, her husband in surgery for a back injury that cost him his job. She rambled on about her life, nervous and tired, glad to have someone to listen and to keep her awake. I am barely awake myself, but I listen to her tale of kids from this marriage and that and how good food is so expensive and she gives the fruits and veggies to the kids first and how she hopes her husband isn't one of the 20% with a poor back surgery outcome.

We head up back to the regular room and wait some more. A Diet Pepsi and a scone and a banana are consumed. "Cash Cab" is on the TV; everyone is winning.

Surgery is done and went well. I take off for a bit to come back to the house, grab a shower and a hot meal, and write this. It is time to go back, for a few hours or maybe another day, depending.

Lives started, lives ended, things tested, things fixed. I return to the vortex of the hospital, shifts coming in, shifts going out, all of them the same, so many people living out the same detours -- shifts -- to their stories, huddling in antiseptic-smelling rooms.

TALKTALK

In the car, heading to Le Duc's for lunch today:

MissNine: (watching Mr11 play his Nintendo) What do you think Mario is trying to do there? Why is Level Seven always the hardest level? On every game, seven is always the hardest. Who is that, Kirby? If you jump over that then Mario can advance. Is that Kirby or what?

Mr11: You sure do talk a lot.

MissNine: Yes, I do. I am a talkative girl. I have a lot in my mind and I say it.

Mr11: I don't have anything in my mind.

MissSix: You don't want to know what's in my mind.

LAKE 2

It is always a little jarring for me to come back to Wisconsin. I moved away in 1984, and I guess I always expect everything to be the same as it was when I was growing up. Of course, there have been significant changes, but my brain still stubbornly persists, and re-images the landscape even as I stare at it. That's not a Target, it's the decrepit little ski lodge I lived in for months while our house was being built. Truthfully, I prefer the Target -- the ski lodge's roof leaked all over, was chilly, and was decidedly un-homey. Target is much more satisfying, if far less unique.

But a few things haven't changed at all. Today I spent a pretty sunny afternoon out on one of the lakes I used to hang out at as a kid. Outside of some new houses here and there, it really is just the same. It is a very low-key place; the lake culture here is all about the neighbors hanging out, all chillin', everybody sort of watching out for one another, the pontooners and the tubers and the jetskiers and the steadfast fishermen. There are wealthy people and not-at-all-wealthy people, but this is no Lake Snooty -- it doesn't seem to matter here so much what kind of boat you have, more that you are friendly and courteous. And like beer.



The water was a little chilly for me, but it didn't bother the kids at all. We plopped out the anchor near a skinny little peninsula (for sale if you have a spare 1.9 million bucks) and they jumped in, screaming at the cold water, delighted at the same time. There were waterbugs to catch, swim strokes to practice, and a 21-year-old cousin to chase.



A very kind neighbor offered to take Mr11 out tubing. He tubed until they hit some very big air, throwing the neighbor's niece off in a fabulous wild spiral in the air. He hung on but bashed his nose and decided he had had enough. He's a city kid, after all. The neighbor told him he did a great job, and even offered to take him out again tomorrow. "Anytime, buddy, you just say when, we'll be here."





Another neighbor give the OK for MissSix and Mr11 to use his giant bouncy float, and we enjoyed watching them jump and wipeout, repeat until giggled out.



After a couple of hours it was time to motor back in to get ready to grill some steaks. The climb up the steep hill to get back to the house is much easier this year. Thank you, treadmill.





We have a nice meal, enjoy the pretty flower garden surrounding the patio, planted with such care every year. We chat about the family, Adam Lambert and Michael Jackson (my violent opinions are stand-alone on these issues here), and eat the Jello cake that MissSix and her Grandma made the day before. A broken sewer pipe in the basement cuts short the evening, but some neighbors come over to survey and advise, and I am sure it will be fixed soon, without a call to the weekend plumber.

Things stay the same here. It is probably why I left, but also why I love to return.

SOULBAND

Watching my daughter bash away at Rock Band, I thought: where are the R&B/soul tracks?

HMM?

Helloooooo?

This seems like a no-brainer for sales. An all-Motown game or older tracks mixed in with newer pop and rap/hip hop? Yes? Right? Someone hanging on to the licensing there?

I mean, if the Beatles are coming in, this seems to be a great compliment/addition to the series. Rock Band should be more than "Hard Rock White Rock Band!" Look, these people WANT IT ALREADY!







I am all for full exploitation of the franchise, even though it's gonna cost me 50 damn bucks a pop for these things. D'oh.

PSYCHO

MissSix: (drumming to the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" on Rock Band) Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa!

Me: Catchy, eh?

MissSix: Watch out, here comes the French part.

ARTYPANTS: MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM

Today I had a very pleasant afternoon, spent at the beautiful Milwaukee Art Museum. Now I know that when one thinks of Milwaukee, one does not usually think of the finer cultural things in life, more beer, cheese, the Brewers, just another run-down Upper Midwestern Rust Belt town. But Milwaukee, like the rest of Wisconsin, has its surprises up its plaid flannel sleeve, with some amount of well-deserved pride and a bit of a sly wink.

I had not been to the MAM since I was a teenager, and was excited to go back to see its stunning new building, situated on a beautiful piece of land with an expansive view of Lake Michigan:



It was so calm and clean and architecturally lovely. What an amazing place to view the wonderful collections, ranging from Picasso to Pissarro to Wyeth to Miro to Monet to Warhol to unknown folk artists, a photographer with a beautiful exhibition of portraits of high school students around the country, Craftsman furniture from the early 20th Century, ancient Egyptian and Chinese pieces...just a well-put-together collection and certainly something for everyone to enjoy. It is a gem, and gets my highest recommendation to visit if you are ever there.

What I will share with you from my visit today, however, is a very small sampling of something that stood out to me as I went from room to room, staring at the paintings: The Gratuitous Small Bizarre Dog. In many paintings, there seems to be a subject that is either holding a weird canine, or the artist just decided to throw one in there in some corner for fun. For example, look at this one:



Look at those human eyes on that thing! It looks like he is all YEAH YEAH BUDDY I HEAR YA, NOW PISS OFF AND GET ME A BONE. He also has an odd brainiac forehead that could start pulsing at any second. Fido, you are creeping me out there.

Here's another weirdo:



He looks to me like he is made out of toothpaste, is wearing lipstick, and that at the last minute the artist decided to give him an evil twin monkey on his face. I don't know about you, but if I see a dog covered in toothpaste with a monkey growing out his head, I am going to scream until my throat explodes and/or someone shoots it dead.

Oh look, it's Spike The Lizard-Tongued Mutt, the perfect playmate for your hoop-rolling, bagel-topped-socks-wearing child:



Look at his gnarly teeth and his hair all up on his back. Spike is clearly planning on taking someone DOWN, or perhaps catching a fly for dinner.

WHAT. THE HELL. IS THIS.



That is NOT A DOG. That is a bloody-mouthed, lop-eared RAT. Look at those legs and paws! RAT RAT RAT RAT RAT! I bet someone sewed on the ears and fur to a gutter rat to make a pet for this girl holding it. Rats were more plentiful than fancy dogs back then. It probably ended up biting her and then she died from the plague and the Dograt ran back to his clan as a King, all fancied up with ears and such.

My last art dog to show you is Pal, who seems to suffer from Graves' Disease:



Time came to head out and get on the road again, all the strange and wonderful dogs and frozen painted people locked in time and space and left behind until another time. The rush-hour traffic was slow and ponderous, but I knew Milwaukee had some further surprises somewhere, and when I switched on the car radio, I hear "Here Come The People In Grey" by the Kinks. Ah, wonderful WMSE. You are still there. I smile conspiratorially at the dashboard. I was born here, and though I long since moved away, I understand all the funny, weird, and beautiful pieces that make up this place, and helped to make up me too.

THEBLOB

I woke up thinking this morning that the movie "The Blob" reflects not only 1950's-era Cold War paranoia but the perils of the new American consumer society as well.

How 'bout THAT shit, huh?

MARYMURPHY

Good f-ing GOD already. This woman!



MissSix: (watching So You Think You Can Dance)I hope all the dancers do a poor job so she will stop yelling.

Right on, kid, right on.

Where does one get such a horrendous shriek like that? Did she grow up in a hen house? Did no one ever take the time to PUMMEL HER MERCILESSLY WITH PAINTBALLS TO MAKE HER SHUT UP?

Can you imagine her family gatherings, maybe a few drinks in her? OMG. OMG.

Oh, if only her Costco-sized Botox needle would have slipped and hit her vocal chords.

CASHKET

The whole time during the Michael Jackson memorial service, amidst the platitudes and tears and yells from the crowd, the musical performances, the parade of family members, celebrities, religious and social leaders, the larger-than-life video projections and song quotes, this is what I thought:

No one really knew him at all.
No one. Not a single person in his life.

I think people tried, or thought that they knew him, or knew him once, or thought they knew enough. I think some attached meaning and depth to him that he did not internally possess, although I suspect he desperately wanted to be that person, more perfect than anyone in intent and character, divine, royal, special.

But he knew he wasn't that, never could be, and the dissonance in his head became a clanging relentless nightmare. It was unlikely that he ever formed any kind of a real personality at all. There was no "Michael Jackson" for anyone to know.

Underneath the flowers, inside the bronze-and-gold casket, lies the battered and pathetic remains of a human being, who like icons before him, did not have the physical nor emotional strength to survive the burden of what others wanted and expected from him. I imagine his mother remembering the day she gave birth to him, a perfect lovely baby in her arms, and now sitting in a generic arena in California 50 years later, staring at his casket. No amount of money or fame or acclaim can replace that baby, and can never change the reality of the tragedy that his life was in the end. That is seen in the tight faces and dulled, hopeless, resigned eyes of the mourners, having given up on him long, long ago.

ELVIS 'N I

One of the best concerts I have ever attended was by Elvis Costello and the Attractions on the "Armed Forces" tour in at the Uptown Theater in Milwaukee in March of 1979. I was a month shy of 17 years old, and yes, I wore red shoes. My main recollection of the show was that it COMPELLED me to get up from my seat and MOVE. Everyone was up and dancing and singing and shouting and bouncing. There was so much energy in the room -- hard, raw, good energy -- something you see at only the best of the best shows. The happy crowd even coaxed a few smiles out of the mysterious Costello, at that time known mostly for his intelligent acid-tinged lyrics and moody behavior. I left the show sweaty and thrilled, still laughing and dancing on the street outside the theater with my friend Margaret, and we kept talking about it in superlatives on the ride back on I-94 in her mom's car, headed back to Waukesha for the night.

So 30 years and 4 months later, I find myself again seeing Elvis Costello in concert in Milwaukee, and this pleases me tremendously. During those years, I saw him play all around the country, wherever I was at the time, with whomever he was playing with, in whatever musical style. I never missed a tour and he never let me down. I have seen him play so many times that I truly cannot recall how many exactly, but considering that he is quite prolific and seems to enjoy touring, over 30 years it must have been a whole lot.

Last night, as he strode upon the stage at Summerfest in a natty dark suit and a purple fedora, I smiled at my old pal. At least he feels like an old pal to me in that way that you relate to someone whom you have seen over a very long period of time, how you can mark changes in your own life with his music, his changes. I kick off my heels to stand on the skinny metal bleacher bench so I can see him -- I have not gotten taller in 30 years, I am sorry to say. I stand balancing for the 2-hour show, ready to guard my space from interlopers, drunks, fiends, assholes, and pushy bastards who want to take my prime 2nd row place. Not tonight, retards; Elvis and I have this 30-year-anniversary date going on and if you bother me I will elbow you so hard that your eyeballs will pop out and some giant-ass bitch from West Allis will put them on a stick, cover them in melted cheese and call it SNACK TIME.

The show was excellent, and I particularly enjoyed Elvis' nastay electric guitar playing, loud and jittery and endearingly quirky, like how I would like to play lead guitar if I were a competent guitar player. I would like to do a lot of things as well as Elvis Costello does, as he is aces in my book: smart, funny, clever, talented, thoughtful, fearless, musically rich. Out of all the musicians I admire, Elvis holds two "Most" spots: Most Intimidating To Meet and Musician I Would Most Like To Sing With. I have actually met El a couple of times over the years -- nothing more than brief introductions and exchanges -- and he was always completely gracious. Silly me. I don't know why I have this thing about wanting to sing with him, but I do. I don't at all go around wanting to sing with anyone, but this has always been something in my brain. Who knows, maybe someday I will get cancer or something and the Make-A-Wish-For-Old-Bitches will coerce him to sing with me as I croak out one of his lovely harmony lines, hairless and decrepit but smiling.

I like that as Elvis and I motor around the globe living our lives, doing our things, we happened to meet up on a lovely July night in Milwaukee once more, the consummate performer and the very grateful fan, and the giant-ass bitch from West Allis who, as in 1979, could have kicked my ass but good. Thanks El. See you in August back in Seattle-ish!

ISSUES

When my daughter was 28 months old and still in a crib, she created her personal Family Story of Legend, the one that is oft told over the years. I heard her cry in the middle of the night and got up and went into her room. There she was, standing and holding onto the rail of her crib, with little sad tears running down her face.

Me: What’s wrong?

MissTwo: (sniffling) I have issues.

Me: (stifling the loudest burst of a laugh possible) Ohhh. (burfpfffff) Well, what are your issues?

MissTwo: (big lipping) I. Don’t. (sniff)Feeeeeeeel welllllll.

Me: Oh, I am sorry. I will get you something.

So, waiting until I was out of her sight to giggle at her word choice, I got her some infant cold medicine for her little fever and runny nose and her issues were solved, at least for a few hours. If all issues were so easily dealt with.

I have an opinion about issues. Actually, I have many opinions about issues and I think I will combine those opinions here into an Issues Theory/Plan Of Action. I am glad to make some use out of my undergraduate-level Psych degree, which in the real world only qualifies me to attend to the drooling: infants at day care or elders at end care, for minimum wage. College for the win!

Everyone has issues, of every conceivable kind and level of severity. Life is odd and complicated, no matter where you live or what you do, and at some point you are going to have to attend with the fallout of Complicated Life overtaking your everyday ability to DEAL. There’s no shame in that at all. Even cool laid-back wise cats like the Dalai Lama and Barack Obama have to deal with the outcome of their issues (Mr. President, I am looking at you with the SMOKING). So, if we accept the fact that we are going to have issues, then we must realize that issues have to be dealt with, yes? But, because people are people and issues can be painful and overwhelming to think about, Not Dealing With Issues is more common than Dealing. And the outcomes from Not Dealing are often not recognized either. But your brain, that awesome powerful thing, will one way or the other, make you accountable for whatever you are not consciously working out, whether it’s generalized anxiety, insomnia, headaches, sadness, weird anger bursts, a sore back, Republicanism, you name it. So be pissed at your brain, not me. Bah.

Actually trying to resolve/fix your issues that negatively affect your life is a process. I will outline this process now:

1. Accept: You have Issues, and are not as happy, healthy, or fulfilled as you would like to be. Accepting this is recognizing that YOU have to take responsibility for them, and not blame whatever it is on anyone or anything else, no matter the unfairness that has been dealt to you. You cannot escape getting crapped on, but you don’t have to just stand there and whine about it, or ignore it while it stinks worse and worse over time. You should clean your damn self off, for all our sakes’, Smelly.

2. Commit: You can absolutely accept that you have issues, and then absolutely never DO anything about it, too. This is where people languish, for years or a lifetime. You know something is wrong, but it seems too daunting to make things better for yourself. You may not even know where to start, just that things are wrong. Fortunately, people have two other qualities that also are as universal as having Issues – Hope and Resiliency. Even the crustiest character will have some spark of these, the things that keep you going, even if you don’t know that either. Mine those qualities in you, and you have the strength you need to commit to working on your issues to solve them, no matter how long or difficult the process. There is no one else that can do this for you, no “if only” situation that will change YOU.

3. Process: The meat of the deal. There are a lot of different ways to get at a problem, and I mean truly get at it, not gloss over it or medicate it or substance it temporarily away. It depends on who you are and what the problems are. You have to identify, deconstruct, and keep digging away until you get to the bottom line of why something has caused such a problem for you and why you have allowed it to control part or all or your life in a negative way. It is my completely unqualified opinion that you must ATTACK issues. Do not wimp out – go straight for the THROAT and hang on until it DIES. DIE DIE DIE, ISSUE, DIE! If you do less than that, this all takes so much longer. I don’t know if you can meander your way through problems. For me, going into traditional psychoanalysis is just committing to 10-20 YEARS of meandering and depleting your bank account, which could cause more issues for sure. Life is short. Find your answers faster and enjoy the time you have left, MO BETTA. Take the harder hit to the self-image, and move on. Talk to a shrink, a patient and wise friend, or to yourself. Read some books, stories about how others have dealt with issues like yours, and their good or poor outcomes. You can find your answers. You must keep at it. Don’t give up.

4. Change: Steps 1-3 should have set you up to at least know what is going on with you, where it came from, and how you let it get to you. But unless you commit to changing things, inside your head or outside in the world, your issues will keep bubbling back like a pesky lava-spewing volcano, burning your hair at times or consuming you when you least expect it. You are indeed doomed to repeat your history unless you consciously change the way you are thinking and dealing. But it is never too late to do SOMETHING. I promise.

This might seem overly simple and pat, because it is. This is a blog, not a book, damn you people. And it’s time to go to the drive-in for dinner. But think about it, will you? 'Cause it’s all true and stuff.

MissSix’s issue now is finding a pair of sandals to wear that match her dress. I can't assure she won't have an anxiety disorder later in life, but I can help her find her shoes. College, for the win.