I woke up today, after having some odd and disturbing dreams including my dad telling me to put on a bra and my middle son being held down in a pool, thinking about how people come in and out of your life, and why. There was my dad in my dream, dead now 15 years, and I pondered the idea that there is this revolving door that just keeps going around and around, sometimes letting people in, sometimes taking them away. It all seems very random and slightly absurd. BECAUSE IT IS!

When you are little, you don't really have a lot of choice who is in your life. It is pretty much your family, your neighbors, and the kids at school. If you like what they like, that makes a good buddy. I have seen this with my own children as well, especially with the oldest as he is the most socially gifted of the three. How they sort out their friends is yet another very consistent character trait, I am seeing, little changed from early childhood to now. The oldest gravitates toward boys of three types: crazy, smart, or crazy and smart, i.e., Jackass, Einstein, or the ever-thrilling Jackass Einstein. The girls he picks are usually very bright or very not, brave in their personal outward expression, and older. When I look at him these days, I feel like I should be peeking through my fingers and cringing. I really hope Jackass Einstein and Older Bright Pink Hair treat him well.

My middle son is very quiet and dreamy, easily pleased but balks like a mule, stubborn and silent, if there is something he does not want to do or he feels pushed. He is utterly unsophisticated, guileless, and mostly quite sweet, and it is him that I worry about the most. His way has been to have one very very very very good friend, to the exclusion of the rest of the world, someone generally quite like him but a bit bolder and nuttier, someone who makes him laugh. He seems to get along with everyone else, but doesn't really pay that much attention to them either. He never understands why anyone would give him any trouble, but sometimes they have, probably just for that reason. My older son seems to have the revolving door on Super Spin; my middle son has it set on Ultra-Slow. He treasures his One Buddies, with more real appreciation and depth than one would expect from someone of ten. This makes him stronger, and more vulnerable too.

Now, my daughter. It is a little too early for me get the total picture, but this is what I see: BY GOD, you are gonna know if she is in the room. ALL EYES ON. She has had many friends, boys and girls, but no real best friends. She is too volatile, too flighty, and maybe a little too afraid to care for someone that much. She is popular because she is pretty and bright and funny and bold, and shunned because she also has a hot temper and a nasty mouth, hits and kicks in anger, blames everyone else. I see part of her wanting so much to connect with people and please them, and part of her unable to do it. Already, boys bring her little gifts and notes. Already, she sees more at six than she can possibly reconcile or understand. I don't know if her revolving door is on Super Mega Hyper Spin, or stopped dead cold. Yet I see her the other day, as we are leaving school, grabbing the hands of a girl she has known since she was a toddler, and wishing her a good evening, smiling, connecting. The other girl smiles and holds my daughter's hands, and says "see you tomorrow," accepting and kind.

WHOA! It has just occurred to me that my daughter IS Jackass Einstein! HOLY SHIT! Well, that calls for a hot, creamy-rich cup of Arsenic Bean Coffee. Hang on here while I get me some.

My own revolving door is worn and clattery; too many probably let in, plenty shoved right on out. I have dear friends of long long years that I hope never push the heavy door to leave, friends who would like to get in and I can't seem to allow it. Such a wide range of people over the course of a lifetime, many met through common passions and interests, some through sheer proximity. I have tried all my life to be a good and true friend to most, sometimes long past what was smart or deserved, and I am pleased that there are a few people out there who think of me as their friend and that I am as valuable to them as they are to me. I am a combination of all of my children, I guess: friend to all, close friend to just a very few, wanting connection and wanting to be alone.

Ffup ffup ffup, goes the door. By choice, and sometimes not.


Today in the car on the way home from school, my two youngest children and I got in a discussion of dream homes. I smiled and I listened to their wonderful, impossible ideas:

A rooftop garden to grow food, which then would be given to me to cook
A room with a beach and a playground
A machine that would “make anything you wanted”
A movie room with a screen as big as a normal house
Servants to make you food whenever you wanted (gee, that isn’t MOM, huh? Bah)
A bedroom with a bunk bed and a flower garden
A virtual-reality room
A living room with couches that you could bounce on and touch the ceiling

They got me thinking to when I would try to imagine my own dream home when I was a kid. I actually would take the whole thing further, drawing it out and the entire neighborhood as well. I would take a little plastic ruler and carefully draw my own house plan, after perusing the many house plan magazines my dreamer parents always had lying around. There were always plenty of bathrooms with elaborate tubs, a game room with ping-pong, pool, and every pinball game made, a music room with colossal speakers and a stage for my favorite visiting bands and a dance floor, and of course my bedroom would be the biggest room in the house, with a remote control elevated bed surrounded by exotic gauzy curtains and beads. I would draw out curvy roads for my community, with names I thought sounded classy like Brentwood Lane, and Lincolnshire Way, and South Britton Drive, interspersed with plenty of green parks, a big pool with slides and diving boards, a rec center, and shops. I would work for hours on these, then bring them to my dad and announce I wanted to be a City Planner. He actually liked what I did, and liked to look at my ideas, and that was really nice.

It’s funny, then before you know it you are off in the world and you need to find a home. The first house I moved into from my parents was a dump of an un-air-conditioned craphole in Scottsdale, Arizona, an orange brick charmless ‘60s block of a place. It had a pool with filthy green unattended water, copious brown baked weeds for a backyard, and doors and windows that never shut right. But I was young, and it was exciting just to be OUT and SOMEWHERE ELSE. Moving from Wisconsin to Arizona was like moving to the moon, it really was.

Each successive place, for the most part, got a little bit better, less decrepit and closer to some idea of a dream, even if the dream was just to have a functional fridge and neighbors you didn’t want to kill. When it finally became possible to buy a house, the search seemed to take forever. It is such a commitment, such a huge amount of money, you want that to hit as many dream points as you can possibly find. We found in the end the cutest little red brick ‘30s cottage, in our favorite charming neighborhood in Denver, one that would’ve been worthy of my early drawing efforts. It was less than 1000 square feet, but in great shape, updated, with a small but pretty backyard with a nice deck and a big tree that spread out to give plenty of shade. We stayed there until it simply was too small, and impossible to fit another child into.

The next house was a tall mock tudor, impressive-looking and around the corner from a big park. We stayed until again the addition of another child necessitated a move, as well as a need to get in a “better” school district. So we moved to one of the snootiest suburbs, in an “entry-level” Wealthy Person’s house, 6000 square feet on two long levels, with a complicated tri-level yard, packed with flowers and trees. We weren’t there even a year before the move to Washington, and the purchase of the first brand-new home ever, with all the bells and whistles, the granite kitchen, big dual-head shower, a balcony to get a tiny glimpse of the lake, nice neighborhood.

When the kids asked me what my Dream House would be now, I had trouble thinking of what I would like. I don’t know any more. I know big expensive houses are big and expensive to take care of and pay the taxes on, that I know. I know living in a place you feel safe is worthwhile. I know that anything you have will always be more than you need, and less than you want.

My dreams now are not of houses, or things. I have had houses and things and stuff, and they mean less and less to me as the years go by. But this is not important to tell the kids, as they are enjoying their flights of fancy, and that is good. I tell them I think a house on the water would be nice, and they both exclaim, “Oh! Yes!” at the same time, and excitedly imagine more about that as I drive to this latest home, in a nice neighborhood.


I have a painting of a zebra in my house. I am staring at it RIGHT NOW, nicely lit as it is with an overhead halogen spotlight. It is a rather traditional sort of painting, and by painting I mean a print I got from Speigel, of a lone zebra standing inexplicably in a green forest. I was not aware there were any Forest Zebras, but there's the proof.

I do not remember at all why I bought this. I have no particular affinity for zebras or other wildlife representations in my home. I mean, zebras look cool, but I don't think about them all the time or collect them or anything. I find that sort of thing creepy. I once knew a woman, or at least it seemed like a woman a bit, who collected frogs. She was a good 350 lbs., and her rather seriously bloated face was not unlike a frog in full throat. Although frogs to my knowledge do not have disgustingly hairy chins and sound like a bellows breathing in and out. Anyway, she would buy anything and everything that had a frog on it, or was a frog, except no real frogs. I asked her once what was up with the whole frog thing, and she giggled and jiggled and said, illuminatingly," Hee hee! I don't know! I like them!" It got to be that every square inch of her home was stuffed with frog paraphernalia, and the only place left to go was her car. Her little wretched and bottomed-out Ford station wagon become filled with stuffed frogs, literally filled so only the front two seats could be used by non-frogs, and they only view from the rear-view mirror was FROGS. She was an unlikeable person to begin with, and I must say the frog car was the end of the line for me. I heard that she died a few years later, and wondered if she had been buried in a pond.

Zebras must be impossible to tame, or everyone would want one. I don't recall ever seeing anyone riding one. They must be surly; I mean, people even ride on nasty emus and elephants and camels and whales, zebras must just be saying, "WE AREN'T HAVING THAT SHIT, FOLKS, SORRY!" So they have no function to us other than to look pretty, similar to Lindsay Lohan or something. WTF has she ever done for me? I doubt she'd even bring me a glass of water. She should just sit somewhere. Maybe dance a little.

Maybe I got the zebra picture because subconsciously I knew he was an untamable rebel and would stand as an icon of revolution and personal power in my home. Or maybe I thought a painting of a zebra just standing in a forest was funny. Or maybe because it was cheap and a notch up from black light posters. In any case, I guess I am fond of him, my one zebra, standing singularly, absurdly, proudly, lit dramatically, ever still.


MissSix, to her 10-year-old brother: Do you think I'm beautiful?

10: Um...

Me: Brothers don't really think about their sisters being beautiful too much, sweetie.

10: Yeah, it's like...I'm not a beauty dude, I'm a dude who decides if things are cool or not, that's what I do.

MissSix: I'm a tomgirl! I like boy stuff! [giggle]


It is my daughter's 6th birthday today. As most children do, she has been asking HOW MANY MORE DAYS UNTIL I AM SIX since the day after she turned five. I tried to quantify it for her by saying months, weeks, days, or telling her not until the fall, or after you go back to school, then it will be your birthday time. She would never be satisfied with my explanations because the only correct answer and the only one she really wanted to hear was YES TODAY YOU ARE SIX. So today, as I lay smooshed in a dazed heap in my bed, pillows slammed against my head in an attempt to mute the Saturday lawn heroes, she flung the bedroom door wide. She jumped on my bed, started swinging from the black steel frame like a small pretty monkey, and announced MAMA, I AM SIX NOW!

MMMPPHHH, I said, fuzzily gazing at her without my glasses. Yes, sweetie, yes you are. Now get out. HA HA.

It was not easy to get Miss Six on her way to the planet. Months to get pregnant, months on extra progesterone, months laying dizzy and sick on the couch while my brother-in-law and husband took the two older kids to school and back. Months where I had to ask the 11-year-old to make a peanut butter sandwich for the 4-year-old because I was puking and couldn't leave the bathroom. Then, when I felt better, what? Gestational diabetes! OH YAY, RESTRICTED DIET AND FOUR TIMES DAILY BLOOD CHECKS! WOOOOOOOO! But you know. You deal. Some women have it worse. You just go on, and wait.

She was the only one of my kids to be induced, which was a vastly different experience than the previous ambulance and desperate-car rides to the hospital. It was so civilized, just checking into the hospital on the appointed day, six years ago today on a sunny Friday morning after the boys went to school. A veteran by now, I was used to the poking and prodding and indignities. Let's just get ON with it.

The morning passed, as did the afternoon. Nothing much happening. Bored, I watched the TV hung across from the uncomfortable birthing bed, read some magazines, talked on the phone. COMEONCOMEONCOMEON! When you are anticipating hideous unbearable pain, it's hard to wait and wait, like you are Granny and any moment The Big Bad Wolf is going to knock politely on your door, ask to come in, then chomp you into bloody pieces. It's best just to get it over with.

Irritated, I watched the sun go down over the hospital parking garage. Calls were made to have the boys collected from school, fed, and babysat. The contractions had started, but they were bearable. The med student looking at my chart said, wow, you are like 6 centimeters and you aren't asking for drugs or yelling? Wait, I said, just wait. There will be no drugs, but there will be screams. Of this I am certain.

My husband was hungry and asked if he could be excused to go get some dinner at the cafeteria. Yes yes, go, I said, I am fine, go eat, nothing to see here, people, move along now. After he had been gone for about 10 minutes, my daughter's evil sense of humor then kicked in, via serious contractions. These are the ones where you close your eyes and the world goes black and you imagine this is what a kind of death feels like, being pulled apart by horses, or having a small grenade in your stomach. Yet millions of women over thousands of years have done this. WTF is what I have to say 'bout that.

My husband made it back in time for the ear-shattering decibel festival that started arising out of my primal life-giving guts. The med student looked pained, and that made me smile a little, when the contractions eased for a second. I got to that point where I said I couldn't do it, I couldn't take it anymore,whimpering like a mewling kitten, begging for it all to JUST STOP. But back in the recesses of my mind, way way back, and even stronger than the piteous kitten was the core of me, knowing I could do this, and soon enough it would be over. I roared in fury and effort, and pushed my daughter into the world, along with other less attractive bodily items.

She was born, she was here, asking in her mind I bet, WHEN WILL I BE ONE?

Happy Birthday, Pretty Monkey.


In general, I think I am a pretty good person. Of course, most people think this, probably even really truly unredeemably terrible people think, "Hey! You know what! I AM AWESOME!" as they spend their 22nd year denied parole and secretly whittle a shiv. The probable reality is that all of us are both good and terrible, we just spend a little more time on the good side. Usually. Every so often, we do something just so mean. And when I say "we," I mean "me" and this story.

When I was little, I had a friend whose home I played at quite often. It was a truly marvelous place: a huge white Victorian mansion decorated with period furniture, on the lake, in the woods. My friend was an only child, had a suite of three rooms and her own bathroom, a playhouse outside, and every toy you could imagine. I soaked up everything she had. I was the dominant one in the relationship and pretty much ran the agenda of whatever we would be doing, whether it was dress up or play pretend vet office, play Beatles LPs, or whatever. We were even allowed to take out a small rowboat by ourselves on the tiny, deep green, weed-choked lake. We would have parades with wagons and toy trumpets, swing high on a rusty squeaky blue-and-gold-and-white swingset, make elaborate pretend dinners from weeds and wildflowers and dirt and pebbles and serve them on tiny doll china to our wary parents. I would play with her massive St. Bernard, Silly, and watch "Soul Train" and "American Bandstand" on Saturday mornings, followed by the local scary "Creature Feature" movie.

Around the time I was 8 or 9, a new family moved in next door to my friend. They had a little boy of about 4 or 5, a sturdy little pink-cheeked sandy-haired boy named Casey. Casey was always coming over, barging into our playdates, always curious about what we were doing, asking lots of questions. He was prone to stomping fits and crying if we didn't include him or do what he liked to do. When I look back on it now, I see that he was just a normal kid of his age, and pretty nice at that. But at the time, I found him frustratingly obnoxious and intrusive, and I wanted him gone from my friend's house, and from me. He was stopping my show.

I had been reading some kind of historical novel at the time, and had come across the concept of "tar and feathering." Wow, I thought, wow. What would that look like? How would that feel? How barbaric! What a very strange thing to do! Strange, and evil, and powerful, and nasty. And effective.

One day at my friend's house, after another meltdown and stalk off by Casey, I looked at up at the cottonwood tree by her driveway, shedding its fluffy white seeds in the air, some branches dashed to the ground from a great wind the night before. I looked, and a horrible idea came to me, making my brain spin and an evil smile come to my lips.

"Let's tar-and-feather Casey!"

I explained the concept to my friend, and she eagerly and nervously agreed to the plan, giggling conspiratorially, eyes widening. It was obvious what the "feathers" were going to be. We picked up some of the biggest and most seed-laden of the cottonwood branches from the ground, and set them aside. But what would we do for the "tar?" We didn't have real tar. A quick look around the garage produced a nearly-full red metal can of gasoline, and after some discussion, we decided that was maybe not the best choice. We rummaged through the kitchen pantry, found a container of thick black molasses. Yes. But still, that was not enough, and it would take too long to pour. What else?

We went outside again, and sitting near the porch a large rectangular plastic container just caught the corner of my eye. AH. OH MY. OHHHH.

The very very well-used cat litterbox.

I pounced on it, lifting it, laughing madly. My friend howled in hyper agreement, strident now. The litterbox smelled horribly of ammonia, cat logs sticking up from the wet litter like some hideous crap crop. We poured the molasses into the litterbox, grinning at the awfulness of it. But still, not quite enough. I glanced toward the lake, at the bottom of a steep slope, and thought of the gross chartreuse-green algae blooms currently in residence by the pier. We grabbed a couple of plastic buckets from the sandbox by the swingset and made our way down to the water. Leaning over, risking falling into the disgusting lake water, we both filled our buckets full of ugly smelly lakequid, scum and weeds and algae included. We poured the contents into the litterbox. I took a long stick and stirred the evil mixture. It was ready. We discussed the strategy of attack, making sure my friend's mom was safely busy deep in the house. My friend went inside and telephoned Casey to come over, while adrenalin coursed through me, my heart beating in anticipation.

We took the tar-mixture litterbox, each taking a side because it was so heavy, and crouched behind the cottonwood, waiting to hear Casey's little cowboy-booted footsteps on the driveway. When I peeked around and saw a flash of his pink face, I whispered, "GO! NOW!" In one fluid movement, or so it seemed, we stepped out from behind the tree, swung the litterbox up, and poured it over his head. As his face turned instantly from pink to bright red, and as he stood there completely covered in brownish-green cat shit, lake water, molasses, and granules of litter, my friend and I both grabbed the cottonwood branches and shook them over him, dancing around him in excitement. We finished, stood there as he lifted his head and cried out in shock and misery, further decimated by the cottony fluffs, and we laughed at him. After a moment, he bolted towards home, screaming and yelling for his mother. Uh oh. Up until that moment, it had not really occurred to either my friend nor I, unbelievable as it seems, that we could get in trouble over this. We ran into the woods to hide out, not coming in as we heard my friend's mom angrily call for us a few minutes later.

Well, of course we eventually had to slink back in. Never one to admit anything, I told my friend to stick to the story that Casey fell in the lake. No one bought it, of course, but other than having to hear how hurt and angry Casey's mother was, that she was crying on the phone, nothing else really happened. I went home soon afterwards, and nothing more was said of it. Our playdates continued, and eventually a much more reticent Casey sometimes came by to play.

I am sorry, Casey. I hope you don't remember it. I have never forgotten it.


Simple enough. What I wrote/what I thought.

SYMPATHY: I am so sorry for your loss. I know there is nothing that I can say to ease your pain right now, but please know I am there for you./'Bout time. He was an old fuck. I bet that sucked, huh?

BIRTHDAY: Hope you have a great day and have fun!/You still admit to celebrating a birthday? Jesus. Well, congrats on breathing in and out for another year, anyway.

CHRISTMAS: I hope you have a wonderful holiday season filled with lots of love, peace, and good family times./ Oh fucking hell, it's Christmas again, huh? Shoot me. I am not kidding.

EASTER: Happy Easter!/Why am I sending a card for Easter, anyway?

GRADUATION: Congratulations on your great accomplishment! I know you worked so hard and I am so proud of you. I will look forward to your next great thing!/Whoopee for you for jumping through some hoops. Hope you enjoyed all that beer and grade inflation. Your slightly-better-paid job will still suck.

THANKSGIVING: Happy Turkey Day!/Have fun cooking for a bunch of trough-lickers. Your turkey is always dry as dust and your stuffing is boring. Enjoy your 5 pound weight gain in a single day.

MOTHER'S DAY: Happy Mother's Day! I love you!/Yes yes yes, I realize this does nothing whatsoever to make me a better daughter, but it also does nothing to erase all your parenting mistakes. HA HA.

FATHER'S DAY: Happy Father's Day!/Oh, whoops! YOU'RE DEAD! HA HA!


I like diners. Well, generally, I do. I do not care for diners that are filthy, smell too much like diesel, are overly fluorescently-lit, or that serve burnt watery coffee. But most of the diners I have been in, I have enjoyed. There is something comforting in knowing that anywhere you go in the United States, somewhere at any hour of the day or night, you can get a good greasy breakfast or a kickass patty melt. With grilled onions, of course.

The first diner I can remember ever going to was Woolworth’s, sitting at the counter on a sparkly red stool that I would obsessively turn around and around, legs dangling nowhere near the floor. Way way way in the recesses of my mind, I see a plate with a hamburger, hot fresh hand-cut golden fries, some dark green lettuce, a slice of red tomato, and a long garlicky pickle for garnish, and a small glass of Coca-Cola, in the Coke glass with the white swoosh, and a white bendy straw. If there was time, a tiny hot fudge sundae after with a maraschino cherry on top. I would watch the counter waitress in her green and white uniform take the orders, writing on a green and white pad, then post the ticket on a revolving metal order holder, which I also wanted to spin around. Steaming coffee would be poured into thick white mugs, people coming and going. I can still feel my legs slightly kicking, moving the seat slightly back and forth, listening to the pop music on the radio sitting on the back counter, sucking the last bit of the Coke up, then bending the straw up and down, stealing a sugar packet when my mother wasn’t watching and pouring it on my tongue, little devil.

On trips to Indiana, we would pull over at the highway oasis stops, the ones that hung over the freeway, a big concrete block floating over the traffic. I would press up against the big floor to ceiling windows and wave at the cars and trucks as they just kept coming, then disappeared under my feet. My most vivid memory of the oasis was usually how badly I had to pee by then.

Later as I became a teenager and started going out to clubs and concerts in Milwaukee or Waukesha or friggin’ Stone Bank or something, it became a tradition for us to stop at a diner on the way back and get breakfast. This was always a complete riot. We’d laugh and smoke and gossip about the cute guys in the band, ears ringing, dressed in whatever goofy rock and roll clothes, oblivious to the truckers and old folks and rolleye waitresses. The coffee would kick in, counteracting the night’s beers, and we would sit and yabber, sometimes until it was almost light out. To this day, I don’t feel quite right not going to a diner after a concert. It’s just the thing to do.

Diners I do not like: the pseudo-'50s theme diners. I mean, I like the food usually but the whole set-up depresses me, the fake nostalgia, the tin signs, and the wiseacre waitresses. God, what a horrible job, having to chew gum and call yourself “Trixie” and take the order of some family with a screaming baby, when you were born in 1988 and could give a shit about some old ass crap. Ah, well. There seems to be no limit in the money one can squeeze out of sentimental baby boomers.

I wish I could remember all the diners I have been to around the country, but for the most part I guess I have forgotten. I remember one in San Francisco where there was a long line to get in for breakfast, and once you got in the door, you were treated and seated with military precision. It seemed like they were timing you – OK, sit, order, eat, out in 30 minutes, next! They did have really good crepes, though. I sat in a diner in Houston and allowed someone to convince me that grits contained pork grease, while he laughed convulsively. I remember one where we talked and talked and talked as it rained outside, until the free refills of coffee stopped and the bill was long paid. I remember another in Columbus, sitting next to my favorite rock star, and being slightly taken aback at how fast and sloppily he ate, and how he hesitated just a second before picking up the check.

I think what it is that I really love about diners maybe isn’t the food or the atmosphere or even a fabulous chocolate malt, it’s the people I have been with and the good times I have had in them. No amount of shiny new tin Coca-Cola signs can capture that.


I am white. Very, very, very, very white. I admit this, freely and easily. I have no particular ethic or racial interest to me, and I sound and look like Helga the Oxen Mistress crossed with Swiss Miss and an elf. I dance and sing with no grit or swagger, and I am sexy like a moose in pink panties.

I have no soul. But that is OK. There is a place for everyone, even the soulless white moose.

I got to thinking in this very roundabout way about soul by listening to Underground Garage on Sirius this morning. They often play one of my favorite songs in the world, “Fool For You” by the Impressions, featuring the wonderful Curtis Mayfield, of course. I sing along to this song, and although I can hit all the notes, how I do fail. There is so very nothing I can do to give the feel that Curtis does to the song, something indefinable to me other than to call it soul.

I then think of two other singers I admire, Al Green and Marvin Gaye. They, plus Curtis, make up my Holy Trinity Of Soul for me. They are the cream of the crop, effortlessly talented, endlessly enjoyable to listen to. They take me somewhere else, a deep delicious place that I can almost feel in my chest, not quite, but close enough. I listen, from my distanced moosey glade, and I feel a kind of love for each of them, for what they give, what they can do.

They are distinctly different as singers, my Trinity. Al Green is the most funky of the three, bending and reaching, swooping into notes, unafraid, grounded in rich fertile soil of his religious roots, confident, beaming. Curtis Mayfield’s impossibly-smooth signature falsetto has something of a sadness to it, as well as an intelligence and a fire, smoking and smoldering underneath. Marvin Gaye sits somewhere between those two, able to reach to the sky, then come down again to earth, clean, dirty, smooth, rough, commercial, street, sexual, pure.

All three men, lives either damaged or lost through unimaginable tragedies. Green suffered third-degree burns when a girlfriend scalded him, and she then killed herself. Mayfield had a stage scaffolding collapse on him while playing a concert, paralyzing him from the neck down, and died nine years later. And Gaye, shot to death a day before his 45th birthday, by his own father. What loss. Senseless, stupid loss.

Well, I take it back. Maybe I have just enough soul to recognize what soul is, and to appreciate what Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, and Marvin Gaye left to us, richness beyond and unrelated to million-seller records and critical appreciation. They sang with their hearts wide open, souls shown, lives exposed. Marvelous.

My favorites, by my favorites.


My 14th year was such a depressing mess. There are years, we all have had them, when it just seems shitstorm after shitstorm keeps raining down, and all you can do is try to cope and then clean up the disgusting smelly mess.

That summer was when teenage angst really hit full force. I was pissed and disappointed in everything: music, clothes, my parents, my friends, my school, my stupid town, and most of all, me. I was getting a big reality check: I wasn't as pretty or smart or powerful I as thought I was, and I didn't know what or who I was anymore. I would look at my plain, pale, unformed face in the mirror, knew what I wanted to say but still didn't yet have the elegance or ease or experience to express myself the way I wanted. And I knew there was nothing to solve it but time. Long, dragging teenage-years time.

On top of that, I kept getting sick from yet-to-be diagnosed food allergies, and missed months of school. A ski accident knocked me out cold on a freezing winter night, and the boy I was crazy about had eyes for some sweet extremely-boring black-haired donut-faced girl. I was hopelessly lost in math, never to recover, missed too much. Boston, Styx, Kansas, Supertramp. Fucking hell.

The killer winter passed, and I once again returned to school after another two weeks gone puking and crapping up a storm. It was one of those early spring days where the air smells green and of wet fresh dirt, the sun peeks out to warm you enough to forget about a coat, and you can feel the waking up all around you. I was so happy to see my friends again, so tired of being alone at home all day watching soap operas and game shows under my avocado green pilled blanket.

As usual, I was running around loose at school, probably blowing off a drum lesson or study hall, and I found myself with a few buddies, including my boy crush, fooling around in the choir room. The day was so nice that the double doors had been propped open, and I went through them to the sweetness of the air and sun. I was feeling so giddy and silly. My boy crush seemed to be paying me a lot of attention, seemed happy I was back at school again. On impulse, I walked over to a silver railing at the side of the concrete stairs that led to the sidewalk going around the school. Underneath it was a deep window well, a good 15 feet down or more, that contained the tiny windows to the basement band room, gravel, and a few pieces of broken glass.

All filled with happy, I grabbed the railing and pushed myself straight up, bringing my hips up slightly past the top edge. That was my mistake. Suddenly,with my arms still locked into place, I tipped forward, losing my balance. I had the presence of mind to hang on, but in turning over upside-down, my mouth hit full force on the lower railing -- BAM! I hung there for a second, until I dropped, face-first into the gravel at the bottom of the well. I laid there for a second, stunned. I looked over to the windows, looking at the 7th Grade band stop practice to look at me. Oh, hell.

I went to stand, ignoring the band kids, and looked up. How the hell was I going to get out of here? As I raised my head, I felt a rush of blood go down my throat. I wiped my mouth. Red. I spat out an ugly liquid bloody mess, including what I thought were pebbles, but were in fact most of my two front teeth. I ran my tongue, the bottom sliced and bleeding heavily now all down my pretty pink gauze shirt, over my teeth, jagged and rough.


I yelled it as loud as I could, and started swearing up the ugliest blue streak the world has ever heard. I was furious. Not this! Not today! NO NO NO NO NO! I just got back!

Appearing like the White Knight above me then, was my boy crush. I felt so horrible and embarrassed, not sure what had even happened to my face, how badly it was wrecked up. He didn't hesitate for a second. He climbed down into the well, upset on his face but also a look of a calmness and determination, something of the man he would be someday. While the band watched, he bent down and had me stand on his back, then told me to balance against the concrete wall as he slowly stood, shaking with effort, until I could reach high enough to grab a railing. My other friends by now came to the top of the well, and pulled me through. I looked back at him, in the pit, covered in my blood. "Go," he said, waving me away. "Get help. I will be fine. Go!"

I went into the choir room, caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, turned around, and slammed a window shut in sheer fury, exploding it into shards of icicle glass.

There's nothing creepier than walking around and seeing people look frightened by you. My friends took me to the office, where the horrified staff had me sit alone in the Vice Principal's office until my mother could pick me up, a white gym towel soaking up the blood. She arrived, and we went straight over to the dentist's, another 10 miles away.

My dentist, I have realized, was a weirdo. He never used novocaine on any of my fillings, didn't think kids needed it. One time he pulled a loose baby tooth of mine out with his bare hands, shocking me utterly. So he looked me over, said the nerves to the front teeth were still good, and told me to stay home from school to let them rest so the teeth would not die. Two weeks. I was despondent.

My dear mom, seeing me so sad, all broken-toothed and swollen, told me she would take me to my favorite record store across the street from the dentist's, so I could buy some music to listen to while I was at home. This perked me up considerably. We were not wealthy, and I always had to really push to get a new record.

Like a kid in a candy store, I started scooping up albums, looking over at my mom to see what my limit was. She stopped me at 10 -- that was fifty dollars! This was unheard of. We had bills less than that we couldn't pay. I took the records to the guy behind the counter, all happy again. He looked up, and his mouth literally almost dropped to the floor in horror. I had forgotten. My shirt and hands and hair were still caked in blood, my two front teeth looked like a broken bottle edge, and my face was swollen and badly bruised. I looked down in shame, had my mother finish paying, then slinked out.

Walking back to the car, clutching the brown paper bag from Mainstream Records, my mom started laughing. "Did you see that guy's face? I thought he was going to pass out cold! Ha ha ha ha ha!" I looked at her, and a smile spread over my face, tight and painful as it was. That was damn funny. I started to laugh with her as we walked down the sidewalk in the late afternoon shadows, laughing harder as people passed me by, double-taking, whispering.


Is there anybody going to listen to my story
All about the girl who came to stay?
She's the kind of girl you want so much

It makes you sorry
Still you don't regret a single day.

Ah girl!

I was thinking about the girls who came to stay in my head, those from my childhood, the girls I wanted to be like. I guess I never really thought consciously about being like my mom, although she was nothing but sweet and funny and loving and kind as I was growing up. I guess I was looking more for something of my own time, something youthful and exciting, very similar to how I attached to The Beatles, et al. I was really too young to know what cool was -- I just know what I was pulled towards, like a magnet. And that just happened to be WAY WAY COOL. Hee hee.

How I wanted to be a MOD!! How beautiful those girls were, I thought, with their shiny long long hair, and BIG black rimmed eyes, and pale lips, skinny-limbed and colt-gawky. I wanted a long blonde flip, a Mondrian-print dress, white go-go boots, and fishnet tights. I still do, in my heart, oh I still do. I spent hours with fashion and music magazines, LIFE and LOOK as well, soaking it all in. I was a fabulous teenager in my mind, wearing Mary Quant and Rudy Gernreich and Biba. I couldn't WAIT to be old enough to buy some Yardley white lipstick and giant false eyelashes and pout my way down the street. Of course, by the time I was a teenager, fashion SUCKED SO BAD that it hurt my heart. Everything was long and plaid and ugly as holy hell. I just didn't know when I was little that things changed, until they did.

I think the first girl I thought was just so beautiful was the British model Jean Shrimpton, soon followed by Marianne Faithfull (she had MY name! swoon!), Dusty Springfield, Twiggy, all the go-go girls on Hullaballoo and Shindig and Where The Action Is, Elizabeth Montgomery, Julie Newmar, Jane Asher, Edie Sedgwick, Julie Christie, Tina Louise and Dawn many. I wanted so much to be beautiful, like they were. It took a long long long time to get over the fact that that was not going to be the case, so ingrained they were on my mind, how much I thought their beauty was the only beauty worth having.

I think it wasn't until two things happened, that I got OK with me as me: seeing my beautiful icons change into a more realistic kind of lovely over the years, and having someone else think that I was beautiful. Sometimes you can see yourself through someone else's eyes, instead of the relentlessly cruel bathroom mirror. Sometimes, you can see what they see, even if it is just for a second. Who is not made more beautiful through love?

I will leave you with a video of the teenaged Marianne Faithfull, before things changed for her as well.


Listen, you blockhead idiot, no one wants to hear you yell "FREEBIRD!" at concerts ANY MORE. It was funny 30 years ago, now it is as tired and dull as your clacking, grinding synapses.

The only situation I would enjoy hearing "FREEBIRD!" shouted would be at the televised arrest of Osama bin Laden.


Ah, this morning I am eventually waking up – not quite there yet – and my hair is askew, my feet ache from hours of standing on a cement floor, and I can literally feel my puffy eyes expanding further. I sit here typing in black pajamas, all rocked out from last night’s Raconteur’s show. For a number of reasons, it was disappointing: a peculiar crowd with too many creepy asswipes, an oppressive security force, and a very short set with too many extended songs from the band. They are a talented bunch of guys, very much so, but I ended up bored, leaving before the end of the show. I also wanted to avoid the dude I kicked. Heh.

Anyway, I woke up thinking about the show and what I had been hoping it had been, and what in particular I liked. Of course, the star of the Raconteurs is Jack White, better known to some of you from The White Stripes. He is a musician I admire greatly, for essentially the same reason I appreciate Beck and Elvis Costello. All three of them are musical historians, and freely integrate all types of influences into their work, in slightly different ways.

Costello, from a different generation than the other two, grew up with a father, Ross MacManus, who was a reasonably well-known British bandleader, big band, standards, pop. I can’t really think of a musical genre Costello has not used – opera, classical, blues, punk, soul, pop, country – to varying success, but explored nonetheless. He’s a smart man, that Elvis, and it is easy to see how he needed to keep expanding his writing and performing to keep his own interest going. The commonality in all his work and through all those styles is his dense lyrical wordplay. Elvis likes words, oh yes he does. At best, which is pretty often, his lyrics are incredibly clever, with multiple meanings and layers that sometimes take repeated listenings to pick up fully. When it doesn’t work, he is alienating and obscure or the words come off punny and throwaway. I have seen Ol’ El in concert more times than I can accurately remember, beginning in 1979, and he almost always delivers a fantastic show. My only real complaint is that sometimes he likes to hear himself emote a little too much. Repeating the line “say you wouldn’t KID ABOUT IT, say you wouldn’t, say you wouldn’t, say you wouldn’t…” 8 MILLION TIMES at the end of the song became a running joke. SAY YOU WOULDN’T! SAAAAAAAY YOUWOULDN’TTTTT! Ha ha, oh Elvis. I love ya.

Beck and Jack White, who have actually done a little work together, seem to be very kindred souls to me, although Beck leans more to urban influences and White to garage/rock. Both of them have a strong fondness for country, blues, folk, and soul as well. Both are humorous and quirky, but also have great depth and range in their lyrics. Beck’s “Sea Change” album is very beautiful, very sad, speaking of loss and endings; White often writes about the realities of love and the painful outcomes of seeing with clarity as in “A Martyr For My Love For You.” Both are passionate performers who obviously love to play, love music completely.

They, along with Costello, cleverly integrate musical and lyrical nods to other performers and genres in a way that makes me smile. These are three guys who have spent hours and hours and hours listening to music, digging into the vaults of musical history, and know how to bring it to us in a way that is unique. Bands like Oasis and Green Day are also musical historians in a sense, but bring nothing novel – they directly rip off the artists they so admire to such a degree that both might as well be cover bands. Why not just write “Lucy In The Pie With Diamonds” and change a couple of chords?

So, despite my disappointment in last night’s show, I am glad to have seen it for the flashes of the Jack White I dig. Dig these vids.


I am.

But this I can tell you.

Today, I:

1. Finished the laundry.
2. Got into a fight at a rock concert and kicked a dude in the nuts.
3. Came home and worked on some photos and drank some bottled water.



After a run to the stultifyingly dull post office, I went over to the OOGCP for a refresher latte. Ah! There's the Hollywoods! And Mrs. Hollywood is wearing the tattooed jumpsuit again! AAAHH! This time she has a tan rabbit fur vest over it. Oh my goodness. But for whatever reason, maybe the clouds coming in and the temperature drop, the Hollywoods are very quiet and subdued today. They sit silently at a table, Mrs. Hollywood writing something in a notebook, while Mr. Hollywood stares sadly out the window. They both look older today. Maybe they miss Hollywood. Somehow, I feel a little sad for them. Maybe I have become kind of fond of them.

And here's to you, Mrs. Hollywood,
The Internet loves you more than you will know.
God bless you, please Mrs. Hollywood
Heaven holds a place for those who dress,
Yes, yes, yes
Yes, yes, yes.

We'd like to know a little bit about you for my blog
We'd like to know just how you see yourself.
Look around you, all you see are underdressed hipster kids,
Stroll around the coffee shop until you feel at home.

I couldn't stay, but I did peer just a little into their TOYOTA OF HOLLYWOOD car, which I didn't even notice was parked next to me until I returned to my car. The passenger mirror is still dangling, outrageously. There was a deck of cards spread all over the backseat floor, a bottled water there as well. On the dash was a small stuffed cheetah. That made me think about the lingerie of Mrs. Hollywood, which is surely 90% animal print fabrics. Maybe 95%.

I wonder if someday soon they will return to Hollywood to follow the sun, driving the Toyota down Highway 1, mirror clanking against the side of the car, looking for a good place to get a cup of coffee.


I notice light. Likely it is the photographer in me that makes that so. I always seem to be judging the quality and characteristics of light, even though I am not taking pictures 99% of the time. Light, or lack of it, has infinite characteristics, and it interests me, pulls me, makes me feel.

I am always a bit surprised to notice how light changes from place to place. One of the first things I can remember about moving here was the absolute blinding intensity and angle of the sun at sunrise and sunset, of course conveniently timed for rush hours. It’s like the sun is aimed straight at your eyes, head on, where sunglasses and the window shade in the car make little to no difference. I forget how far north this is sometimes, until it is summer and there is still decent light at 10PM. And then, now, beginning in the fall, the angle softens and the shadows lengthen, and soon the sun will be gone, replaced by low gray-white clouds that will rarely clear. Sometimes it becomes as dark as evening in the middle of the day, and you find yourself needing to turn the lights on. In the best outcome, it makes you want to put on a sweater, make some cocoa, read a book in front of a warm fireplace. In the not-so-best situation, you realize you have not smiled in days. The darkness brings a somber feeling, a closing-down, hibernation. It is no shock that Seattle is known for coffee, heroin, and suicide. What a lousy place for Kurt Cobain to be from, huh? Poor sod.

Maybe his compensation was stage light. My favorite place to shoot a concert has always been from behind the band, looking out into the audience. Normally, photographing from the front of the stage, a good shoot means you have taken some pictures that make viewers feel like they were in the audience, feeling that sweaty rock n’ roll energy and passion. But shooting from the player’s position, oh man. Seeing what they see through the lens of a camera, yet distanced enough to take the whole view in. You see why people give their lives to being onstage, how it feeds them. It’s a daunting thing, having a big bright white spotlight trained on you, waiting for you to do something wonderful. Of course, some people glow underneath the lights; they come alive, soak it up like a sponge. Some people, you can see a momentary cringe, but then they deal. Others won’t even look up.

I can remember being onstage once, alone and just standing there. I looked into the big white light, squinting, letting it blind me, trying to imagine things. Did you know that when that is shining, you really can’t see any further than the first few rows? So when someone says, “HOW YA DOIN’, CLEVELAND? AWRIGHT?” they are nodding and pointing at pretty much nothing. That amuses me.

I stared into the light for a while longer, and I stepped back, and looked at the steady bright beam catch dust and smoke in the air. I could see more away from it than in it.


How can something like this turn up after 39 years????

(I would embed that here for you but I am not allowed, durn it.)

This made my day day day day day. I saw it and went WOWOWOWOWOWOW and it rang around in my heart like a bell. It's hard to explain. I love those guys. Some things never change.

The first time I met Ray Davies, I was 17 years old. I never ever thought anything like that would happen, but I had met someone who knew him, and the opportunity was handed to me, me that lived in Wisconsin in a town of 300 people. It never occurred to me before that I could do that, it seemed so impossible and remote. I went to Chicago -- The Big City! - and waited, as told, for him to appear out of a stage door from behind the Uptown Theater after a soundcheck. And then there, OMG, it's RAY! Of course it was. Ray looked just like Ray, but in 3D now, in a blazer and sunglasses, and short punky hair, cut from the long hair he had the year before. His craggy face slid into his crooked grin, the same one I had seen in so many pictures, and I could see his eyes crinkle up even under the sunglasses. He was ridiculously charming, and not even trying.

I was so flummoxed that after I was introduced to him, and he said, "Marianne, hmm?" and smiled that Cheshire Cat Ray smile again, that I immediately turned right around and walked into a brick wall and stood there, all hot-faced and freaked out, heart beating wildly. I cursed myself silently, bitterly, for doing such an idiot thing. I WALKED AWAY FROM HIM! WHAAAAAA??? HOW COULD I HAVE DONE THAT? I was usually a cool customer, not fumbly or silly at all. But I loved this band, this guy, had literally grown up to his songs, and then THERE HE WAS, smiling RIGHT AT ME, no more than a foot away, shaking my hand, kissing me on my cheek! My brain exploded. I had blown it. How does one, at 17, salvage the embarrassment of such a supreme failure moment?

I waited until I heard him get into his limo, and I turned around. Out of the window he was grinning at me, a big grin, and he waved. I meekly waved back, and smiled some kind of lame smile from my stupid teenage face.

"Bye, Marianne!" he said as the limo pulled away into the late-day sunshine from the theater.

From then on, I didn't have any problem speaking with him. He had given me a pass to be silly and 17 for a minute. He understood.


When I am out, driving about and just looking around as I go on my little predetermined rut routes through town, I like to watch the people who are not in cars. I miss walking around. When I lived in Chicago, I pretty much walked everywhere. I did not have a license to drive yet, and half the time it was faster to walk than wait for a bus. It is such a different feeling. In my car I am insulated, with other insulated little metal bullets surrounding me. On the street, you are more conscious and conscientious because if you are not you will probably step in front of the late bus and die. You smell the smells, feel the energy and the rhythm of your fellow pedestrians, navigate uneven sidewalks, all that. The car is a numbing thing. Walking energizes me.

When I moved to Denver, the West, I attempted to keep walking, but everything was so spread out, with buses that really never came (every 45 minutes? why bother?) and a lack of places I wanted to walk to in the first place. After my first son was born and for a few years after, I would push him in his stroller the few blocks to the little one-block shopping street, or to the Pour Le France to get a coffee and a cookie, sometimes to the tiny branch library, or the ice cream shop, or the park. Two more kids, walking became like herding cats, and I pretty much stopped. I liked walking our dog, but got spooked after she was attacked by a loose dog. I got my license, became A Car Person, insulated.

Today I saw two young boys walking home from school, about 9 or 10 years old, backpacks bouncing on their thin shoulders. Suddenly, they both broke into a run down a steep hill, grinning. A race. One of them jumped up to touch the bottom branch of a tree as he passed it, as boys do. I passed them, silent, faster, coasting down the hill in a long stream of cars. I glanced in my rear view mirror as I turned off; they were still running, happy.

The last time I broke into a run down a hill, it was nighttime, with the tall orange-yellow streetlamps glowing brightly, a light rain coming down. I just felt like running and I smiled and burst down the wet sidewalk, stride lengthening as I picked up speed, my flat Nikes going bap bap bap on the concrete. I wanted to keep going, run faster and faster, but the Car Person in me said slow down now, it is wet and you could slip and hurt yourself.

I bap bap bapped to a stop, and leaned against a tree, catching my breath, looking up through the black silhouettes of the leaves at the rainy mist floating, caught in the glow of the streetlamp, feeling the wet little drops on my face. Conscious. Happy.


Why is it, on a beautiful warm sunny day, when it is utterly perfect and I am sitting on a pier watching the sparkling lake, that all I think about it that it is going to cloud up and rain in a few days? Dammit.


This is the 200th post here.

When I started writing here in late February of this year, I didn't know exactly what I was planning to do, just that I was going to try to write some stuff. It didn't really matter what it was. I figured if I did better than "aslkdfhowienovnpef" it was OK. Maybe my next blog will be "" No, maybe not.

Fairly quickly, I thought, OK, if you are going to bother, have the discipline to get something new up every day. It would be too easy to let it lapse and get sucked into doing nothing. Again. I realize that nothing I do here is really valuable other than to me, but hey, go me. So, every day, I do something. And today there are 200 things that didn't exist before, and I LIKE THAT.

My goal is to continue here for a full year, ala my friend Mike Long, he of YouTube dancing fame. If he danced every day for a year, I can write every day for a year. At the very least, I can say I completed a project. There will be some stories written down for my family to keep. And maybe I have made a few people laugh or cry or think or get angry or feel something. I really like that, too. I might continue on after a year, or not, or just move on to something else. We Will See.

This goofy place is a snapshot, a repository, a refuge, and if Diarrhea Island were a real place I would put on my hazmat suit and settle right in, put my feet up, and watch the seagulls crap from the sky while sipping a Venti Iced Latte through a straw.


There are all kinds of stories from the world of rock n' roll.

Many years ago, I went to a suburban Chicago club to see one of my very favorite bands. I had gotten to know them all, and we became good friends. They were all so much fun and nice and talented, and we hung out whenever they were in town, or if I traveled to see them somewhere.

I knew that the leader of the band had recently gotten married. His wife, a former beauty queen, had gotten pregnant, and had recently given birth to their son. She had told him, he told me, that she had been told by doctors she couldn't have children. Hmm. I worried about this situation. My friend was a good man, good-hearted and sweet, but such a bohemian and scattered it was hard to see how he would deal with being a father.

We got to the club about an hour or so before showtime. The club's backstage area was essentially the office area, which wasn't bad because it was large and well-lit, and we all were just delighted to see each other again. I met the Beauty Queen. She was indeed a very good-looking woman, tall with long lean legs, a natural blonde, a fine-featured face with high cheekbones and glinting jade green eyes. But my heart sank. I could see in her, call it intuition or whatever, a coldness, a harshness, that went bone-deep. I didn't even have to ask; the other band members faces told me I was right, in sad-eyed looks and faces turned to the floor. Multiple stints in rehab had not saved her pregnancy from drug and alcohol use.

My friend, bouncing around as always like a giddy, clumsy puppy, brought the baby over to me, and told me his full name while I sat in a chair and held him. The Beauty Queen watched me, as she smoked a cigarette. The baby was no more than a few weeks old. He fell asleep as I held him, and as the band prepared to go onstage, his mother told me I could just put him back down in his portable crib and we could all go watch the show. We?? All?? I asked her who would be taking care of the baby. She pointed to a baby monitor next to his crib and told me if he started crying she'd come back in. I must've looked appalled, because she laughed and said that's what they did and it was fine. The baby would be fine. She clipped the other part of the baby monitor to her jeans, and walked out, lighting another smoke.

I stood there. There was no one else left, just me and the baby in his crib. The band began to play and it was incredibly loud, even in the office. The baby stirred and frowned. I looked to the door leading to the club. I looked at a door, unlocked, leading to the parking lot. The baby began to fuss in a tiny voice, fists flailing. I looked again to the club as he started to cry. Of course she wouldn't be coming back to get him. She would never hear him in there. The monitor was a prop.

I picked him up, awkward and unsure, feeling so helpless and sad. I bent down and with one hand rooted around in his diaper bag until I found a bottle half-filled with formula. I took him back to the chair with me, and he drank and drank until the bottle was gone. I rocked from side-to-side with him, and tried to cover his little ears with his blanket, not really knowing what else to do, not a mother myself, little experience with babies. He fell asleep again, and I thought, I will hold you, someone will hold you this time, if just for tonight. I listened to the show, blaring through the walls, and I looked at the baby's face and wondered what would become of him, and my friend, and the Beauty Queen.

Twenty-two years later, the baby is a tall and handsome young man. My friend still plays music, living most of the year out of the country now. The marriage fell apart pretty quickly, the Beauty Queen struggled greatly with her addictions, and I do not know now where she is or how she is. I know it was a hard struggle for this boy to grow up. I know his dad loves him dearly, grew in his love for him, and did the best he could for him.

I don't worry about the baby anymore.


It's a curious thing.

Everything has changed, and nothing has changed.


Later today, I was determined to grab some of the late afternoon sun, and did so. I went out to my backyard around 5PM, sat on a fairly dirty patio chair, put my legs up, and closed my eyes. I thought this: the wonderful feeling of the gentle sun shining on my face, warming me, that is the second-to-last thing I would like to experience at the time of my death. I already know the last thing I experience will be me yelling “HHHHHNNNNGGGHHH!!” so that’s that.

I don’t have anything to do for a few minutes other than relax and listen to the sounds in my suburban neighborhood. I hear a slight rushing sound of cars heading home from work, a few slowly wandering down my street with a whooshy/gravel-y quiet. The birds are twittering and tweeting, occasionally getting all excited about something, then become more random. A garage door goes up, a car hums in, door shuts. I hear speedboats roaring and bouncing on the waves, probably over a wake from another boat: rrrRRRrrrRRRrrrRRR.

I sometimes think it is quite sucky, living so close to the lake, but not on it. The only view I have of it from my house is accessed through the upstairs playroom balcony, where I can see a sliver of blue and part of Seattle. Other than some added humidity and much higher housing costs, I am not sure what I am getting out of my current location. I hear the boats and the seaplanes, all the time, but I don’t see them. I can walk down a steep gravel walkway about a block from my house and there is the lake, but it doesn’t feel like my lake. Close, but not quite. I toss a few stones in anyway.

I have lived in tiny rural towns, and in one of the biggest, greatest cities in the world. I have lived on a semi-arid plain and in an arid wasteland. I have lived amongst millions of people and in places where you could lie down on the road in front of your house and safely take a nap. I have lived in the quiet, family-friendly suburbs, trying to make a bridge between city perks and country safety. I am a Midwestern girl who couldn’t waitwaitwait to go gogo and get to the cities of the world, to finally be me, be free, do all the things I wanted to do at last. The City Girl, lacking money and focus and needing a change again, moved to smaller big city, then to that city’s suburbs, then to another’s, three children in tow, born Westerners.

I have moved so many times and thought about moving so many times.

After I go “HHHNNNNNNGGGHH!!!” and if I were to have a tombstone, it probably should read, “Close, But Not Quite.”

HA 7

Today I had lunch with my teen at the Mexican place across form the OOGCP. He ordered a veggie burrito and a Sprite; me, a quesadilla and a water. The sun was streaming into the windows, as we listened to a plaintive warbling man sing something about "mi corazon, mi vida," and we crunched on the free tortilla chips. I looked around the place, the decor, with lizards and sombreros, and serapes, and Mexican flags, and Aztec-ery, then looked back to our table. Next to a plastic-encased mini-menu, there was a card in bright bold colors. It read,"ENJOY JAMAICA!!!"

I laughed loudly, started coughing, and had to drink my water to recover.


Have I mentioned that I think that children's homework does nothing whatsoever but cause incredible needless stress on families that, for the most part, are already seriously stressed out?


Let us have a few hours a night to talk and chill out. Who the hell wants to do their job all day, then continue it at night? Why do that to kids?

Fuck homework. There, I said it. I mean it, too.


Stuffed up and sluggish, I headed out on this apparently very sunny and pleasant afternoon to go and pick up the kiddies from school. Driving down the road, even I realized that I am not myself, as I am actually going under the speed limit. This will not do, and I drifted, sort of literally, over to the OOGCP to ingest a Grande Latte to help ameliorate some of the side effects of my cold, and late night out.

Ah ha!!! Who is sitting on a chair by the entrance to the coffee place? Our friend, Mr. Hollywood! I am glad to see him, and smile a tiny smile, and try somehow to up my observational abilities though my haze brain. He looks rather subdued today, in light gray pants and a plain white shirt. Again, his longish white hair is slicked back somewhat. He is talking to his Assumed Grandson, today’s barista. I place my order in my ripped-up voice, and stand over to the side to wait for my delicious, life-enhancing beverage to come up. But… wait…

HOLY SHIT! Out from the bathroom walks Mrs. Hollywood! Oh man oh man oh man oh man! She has outdone herself today. At first I thought I was hallucinating; there is a chance considering my altered condition that I did, but I really am sure I saw what I saw. At first I thought I was looking at someone naked with full-body tattoo work. Mrs. Hollywood today had selected for her sartorial offering to the world the tightest, sheerest, pseudo-Pucci-print jumpsuit ever made. This is a jarring thing to see on a 20-year-old model; Mrs. Hollywood is 70 if she is a day.

Well. Whoa. She stands there, talking something at Mr. Hollywood, and I cannot even hear what she is saying because I am so focused on taking in her garment. The print is in swirly muted colors of pink, purple, light blue, and white, the pattern vaguely mystic India-meets-finger paints. Although Mrs. Hollywood is in good shape for her age, we are seeing way way way way too much of her here. Her stomach pooches out like a 5 month pregnancy, I can see her underwear in detail and, most disturbingly, she has a giant camel toe thing going on in the crotch area. Oh, dear. She stands tall and proud on her high high purple patent strappy heels. I glance over at Grandson, who seems fine. He just must be used to this.

I am still staring at her, incognito with my own sunglasses on, when Mr. Hollywood rises, reaches for his cane, and shouts over to Grandson, “We’ll see you on Friday! Friday! OK!” My coffee comes up and I quickly put a black plastic lid over it, and head out the door a minute or so behind them.

Their maroon car with the TOYOTA OF HOLLYWOOD plate is close to mine. There are other stickers on the car window that also say something about Hollywood, but I can’t quite make out what they are. They must’ve really liked living there or something. Mrs. Hollywood slowly backs out of the parking space, and I see that their passenger side mirror dangles by the smallest of wires. Oh, man. I imagine Mrs. Hollywood driving around in that jumpsuit and running into all kinds of stuff, and never admitting that it was her fault. Maybe I will head over to the OOGCP on Friday. I totally don’t mean to stalk them, but damn. This is pretty good stuff.

I slug down half the coffee by the time I arrive at the school, and find my daughter covered in dark blue finger paint. Ha ha ha. I help her wash up while my son gets his backpack. On the ride back home, I am once again driving at my proper speed, 5-8 miles over the speed limit. “A Punk” by Vampire Weekend comes on the radio, and my daughter’s tiny voice pipes up.

“Oh! I remember this song! I like this!”

“Yes, I do too,” I agree. It is a short song, and the next one is by Beck, one I haven’t heard for a while and am glad to hear again.

“Mama? Can you find a song with a girl singing?”

“No, I like this one, I’m going to leave it on.”

“Dammit!” she says cheerily.


I finished out my trio of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club shows last night, this one on local turf at the Showbox at the Market in Seattle. It's the sister club to the Showbox SODO where I saw Ray Davies in July, and I again I was impressed with the quality of the place and the nice folks that work there. I guess over the years after being in so many filthy venues with surly pinhead staff it is now always a nice surprise to find somewhere that is run well. And that has toilet paper in the bathroom.

I came in early to get a good spot in line, found there was no line yet, so I could grab a bite to eat in their little basement cafe/bar. An ice water and a turkey melt with fries was my Rock Dinner. It was the perfect amount of food, I noticed -- not too big of a sandwich, and only six or so big steak fries. I appreciated this and the club's clear intent on offering value without supersizing my stomach before a show. Or maybe they are cheap, I don't know, but it was good. Time to get in line now.

You know you are back in Seattle with a crowd as diverse as the one that surrounded me at the Showbox. There were boys wearing BRMC t-shirts that could not possibly be 21 years old, no way, no how, with scrubby brush hair and baby skin. It made me think of my early club days, when I had THE WORLD'S WORST fake I.D. that I ordered from an ad in the back of CREEM Magazine when I was 15. It had absolutely no resemblance to a real Wisconsin I.D., just a state flag plastered on it and my blurry child face staring out, trying to look mature. But it worked, mainly I think because the legal drinking age was 18, and no one actually cared all that much. I bet the kids' fake I.D.'s are SO much better now. Progress!

There were old bald guys and their mom-jeaned spouses, pretty young things in boots and miniskirts, serious-looking alternadudes with scruffy beards and all in black. There were two impeccably-groomed young gay men who were so thin as to disappear when you looked at them from the side. There was a hulking transgendered person in a cheetah-print dress, alone, clomping around on giant heels. There were giant portly dudes who said, "man" a lot. Lots of 20s/30s young white bright eyed fans. A blonde girl in a tight black silk Chinese dress who fascinatingly walked on the total outside of her stiletto boots, and I have no idea how she was able to do that without breaking her ankle. A kid that was talking to his buddies how he's still gonna party when he gets old -- 35 -- someday.

Ah, but what did I see when I hurried to make my way up to the front of the stage? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! Oh, man. One of the Classic Rock Sights I hadn't seen for awhile: The Gaggle of Drunken Women Fans. Oh oh oh oh. This became obvious to me standing behind them, as they made everyone aware this was Their Spot, Their Show, and I knew how it would go. It reminded me of when I was a teenager and attended some shows where Cynthia Plaster Caster and her Chicago buds were ruling the roost; you've seen something like this in the movie "Almost Famous," just that in the movie all the groupies were young and good-looking. So they cackled away, loud and braying, hugging each other with flappy arms, oblivious, taking pictures of themselves even when the bands were on! I noticed the painful reality that the view the bands would have if they dared to look at the stage front, was a line of women in their 30s/40s, with crappy hair, glasses, not hot in any way, and this seemed unfair, and I actually laughed standing there as I counted myself in that as well. It's not easy being a rockstar sometimes.

One of the women turned around and made a comment about the Kings Of Leon t-shirt a nice young guy from Everett was wearing. Her voice was scarily similar to my dreaded Safeway Customer Service Girl, high and drawn out, with odd upward inflections. Her entire point to getting his attention was to ask if he had the leak to their new album, and to brag that she did, when he said no. As she spoke and he asked some questions, I realized HA!, she doesn't have it at all! She couldn't mention a single song title, other than "Sex On Fire," which has already been officially released, and the only thing she could say about it over and over, was that it was "amaaaaaaaaaaaaazing." She kept implying that she had some kind of "in" that she had the album and couldn't possibly tell where she got it. Ma'am, I call bullshit on you, and I'd bet a hunnerd bucks and a Demonoid invite I am right.

A three-piece band called Hazelwood Motel opened, with a sad-faced blonde bearded guy on a weedy Epiphone guitar, a quiet young plain-faced woman on synth, and a drummer who clearly played percussion in his high school band (who else would use tympani mallets and bells?). He was good-looking and the Gaggle upfront waved and yelled at him throughout their set. He was good-natured about it, although declined to give one of them his "BRMC - SUPPORT" pass plastered on his shirt when she loudly asked for it, during their set. They certainly were not the worst opening act I have ever heard, but were thoroughly unremarkable, with the only spark of life coming from the drummer. It was hard to tell what compelled them to write and perform music. Sorry.

BRMC arrived onstage with a roar of delight from the crowd, missing them after a year's absence. They tore right into their set, and it built beautifully, with great power and energy, throwing in some lesser-played songs like "Salvation" along with fan-favorites "Six Barrel Shotgun," "Berlin," "Weapon Of Choice," "Spread Your Love." It was hot, and it didn't take long before my hair was wet, and sweat ran down my back, but that is all rock and roll and such, and at least I didn't smell bad. I cursed the Gaggle's stupid waving blarby arms that kept getting in the way of my camera. Feh.

My only complaint on BRMC's wonderful show was that they included a very long acoustic set, with Peter and Robert taking solo turns. I truly like hearing a range of material from them, not just the harder stuff, but it surprises me that with their experience they do not see how this stops the flow of the show cold. People get restless, start talking, go to the bar, go to the bathroom, and the energy is lost. Robert's choice of singing Bob Dylan's "Visions of Johanna" is curious, and truthfully seems indulgent -- an exercise in showing off his voice and that he can remember what seems like 30 minutes of dense lyrics lost on a crowd that is not prepped to actually hear it in that context. I thought they did not regain that enthusiasm from the crowd, fully, after that, not quite. It seemed that Leah the drummer struggled afterwards, lost her timing on one song, made some clear mistakes, and seemed exhausted. I felt bad for her and wanted to give her a drink of my water.

But let me make it totally clear, I had a wonderful time, again, and felt lucky to see the band, and would feel lucky to see them again if they played the Showbox tonight. They have something, some kind of "it" factor that I think is felt, and I hope they continue on to have the kind of artistic and remunerative success they desire. I can't wait to hear what they do next.

After an encore, I walked as quickly as I could over the plastic cups thrown to the floor over to the bar at the side, and ordered two bottled waters. The bartender said "Four bucks," I tossed him a five, he smiled and said "Cheers, babe, have a great night!" and I downed one of those suckers in seconds flat.


Lately I have been re-listening to the "Let It Be" album by the Beatles. I listened to it a lot when it came out, over playdates with my friend Beth. It's a tough record for them to have ended on, released last even though it was recorded prior to "Abbey Road." There is so much sadness and dissipation there, the sound of things falling apart. It had to happen; there was no chance any four people could've continued on as a working creative unit with that kind of astonishing pressure and the changes they went through. I was brokenhearted the day their "official" breakup was on the evening news, truly so sad, I think I may have even cried. In retrospect, they gave us everything they had, I think, maybe more than what they had. "Let It Be" in all its untuned hippie sloppiness, its indulgence, grimness, is still the Beatles making an effort, making something of struggle, trying to connect with each other, and with us.

The song in particular I have been playing is "Dig A Pony."

I dig a pony
Well you can celebrate anything you want
Well you can celebrate anything you want
I do a road hog
Well you can penetrate any place you go
Yes you can penetrate any place you go
I told you, all I want is you.
Ev'rything has got to be just like you want it to

I pick a moon dog
Well you can radiate ev'rything you are
Yes you can radiate ev'rything you are--
I roll a stoney
Well you can imitate ev'ryone you know
Yes you can imitate ev'ryone you know
I told you, all I want is you.
Ev'rything has got to be just like you want it to

I feel the wind blow
Well you can indicate ev'rything you see
Yes you can indicate ev'rything you see--
I dug a pony
Well you can syndicate any boat you row
Yes you can syndicate any boat you row
I told you, all I want is you.
Ev'rything has got to be just like you want it to

It occurred to me, nearly 40 years on, that this song exists for one reason, one line:

All I want is you.

Beatles pundits can and have and will keep trying to figure the rest of the lyrics forever, but they are just Lennon word babble, as he was wont to do. Those are just words that fit the music, for all I know pretty much made up on the spot. They wrote things like that sometimes, just to fill up records or because they knew we would listen to it anyway or because they were goofy sometimes. But listen to the song, how everything builds to this one line. It stands out, and it is the only thing Lennon wanted to be heard. Even the next line -- "Ev'rything has got to be just like you want it to" -- feels more like syllables that fit the syncopation of the music, rather than a continuation of the previous line's message.

All. I want. Is you.

I hear him, and I think I know where he was then. He had everything, and it still made no sense. He was ready to give up the Beatles, something he created and wanted so badly, give up so much, done with it. Yoko was "you." For whatever I or the world thinks of her, hear the power and the longing in his voice. He meant it.

I dig "Dig A Pony," and marvel that I can still find new in these songs that have lived in my heart and mind for so long. The best.


Despite my best hygiene practices and the use of Airborne, which YES I KNOW LOST A CLASS ACTION SUIT AND IS SCIENTIFICALLY BEREFT, I have a cold. It's not (it snot?) a terrible cold, the kind where you can't even get a snirt of air through a single nostril, your head pounds and throbs, mucus flows from some never-ending sinus production well from Hell, your body aches, you cough in fits so severe as to frighten people, and you have a fever of 150. No, it isn't (isn'ot?) one of those, luckily. It's just enough to make me very tired, with a scratchy dry throat, and a somewhat-stuffed up nose that occasionally needs emptying. Just annoying enough to write about. Annoyingly.

A dual-nostril blast from the wonderful expired bottle of Afrin I hunted up late last night got me through the night OK, and I pretty much just sat, dull and immobile, on the computer most of the day. I tried to take a nap, but this tired wasn't that kind of tired, so I decided to take a bath. Yes, yes, a lovely lovely warm bubbly comforting bath. I would make the water a perfect temperature in the deep soaking tub, add some delicious fragrance, and sink down. Oh. Wait a minute. Hmm. I was really getting into the idea of feeling so enveloped in the warm, soft bathwater that I could easily imagine drifting off into Bath Dreamland, smiling like some sort of sleeping clueless happy fetus. Then I remembered that the reality of falling asleep in the tub would have one result: my face eventually hitting the now-cold bathwater, which would cause me to snort up a great quality of it into my gasping nose and mouth, which would be alarming and disgusting. So I decided to take a shower.

I remembered that we had some new crap for colds in the bathroom cabinet -- some tablets you were supposed to put at the bottom of the shower that would dissolve and act like a Vicks vaporizer. I ran the shower, opened the package, which looked too much like a urinal cake for my taste, and set it on the shower floor. It started bubbling and sending groovy blue waves of color all around my feet. It didn't really smell all that much, which was disappointing, but I think my feet will be breathing well for quite some time. The coolest thing about it was that it disappeared completely at the exact same time I finished with my shower routine: wet hair, wash hair, rinse hair, put on conditioner, wash body, rinse body, wash out conditioner, wash face. How do you time something like that? It was someone's job to figure that out -- how to make the shower tab last until the end of an average shower. OMG! I must be an average showerer! That's not good for the aquifers of the world.

While I was showering, I thought about colds, and I could only think of one I had specifically. I was in 5th grade, and that year had a MALE teacher, and he was good-looking and very bright. He took no shit from anyone, and he intimidated me, me who was never intimidated by anyone. Having not been able to whine my way into staying home that day, I sat in his class with my gross cold. The room, with the desks all aligned perfectly and his desk at the front of the room, was dead silent, because it was Dead Silent Reading Time. My nose kept running like a fountain and I kept loudly sniffing it up, because it was just too embarrassing and uncool to blow your nose in public in front of EVERYONE. I didn't even have a kleenex on me, or even more unbelievably uncool, a handkerchief, which my mother still tried to make me carry. I just kept snorting and sniffing at a ridiculous rate, trying desperately to keep the water-like mucus miracle from dripping out my nose onto my desktop. I kept looking up to the teacher, and noticed that he would look up at me and frown every so often, which just made me even more self-conscious.

As we have previously learned from the post "SNOT," you really should not not blow your nose and expect anything good to come of this behavior. As I sat in misery, the booger factory in comic overtime, out of nowhere and with no warning, I sneezed an epic sneeze. As I flung both my hands to my face to somehow try to cover this loud and obvious shame, all the sinus secretions that I had been holding back valiantly, plus a cup or two more, came blasting out of my nose and completely and utterly covered by ENTIRE FACE AND HANDS. OH GOD. I froze, hands on my face, covered in such a copious amount of clear goo that I could not figure out what to do. It was like a horrible snot bomb had blown up in my face: PFFFBPBBB! My mind raced, what, WHAT do I have to clean this up? I thought about getting a piece of notebook paper, I thought about smashing my book in my face, oh god NO. There was really only one choice.

Without daring to move my hands one tiny bit off of my face or risk drippage and further and TOTAL HUMILIATION, I did the Walk Of Shame down the aisle to my teacher's desk. It felt like it took days. His face, or what I could see through my fingers, was a mix of shock and disbelief.

"Mr. McCollum, mm I guh to th baffroom?" I muffled through my hands and snot gel.

Wide-eyed, slightly slack-jawed, he answered.

"Yes. Of course!"

"Ffank you."

I quickly walked out of the room, and to this day I cannot recall any of the reactions of my peers. I assumed I blocked that out. I went to the girls' garish red school bathroom, washed off my face and hands, dried them with a smelly brown paper towel, and sat in there until the next class period, wondering how I could ever face my teacher again, he of the curly longish brown hair and dark flashing brown eyes, and pointedly liberal political stance.

At the end of the day, he caught me alone for a minute.

"Marianne, it was OK for you to ask to be excused to go to the bathroom if you needed to go. You didn't have to wait. You can go anytime you need to. You don't have to ask if it's an emergency. It's OK."

I mumbled some kind of relieved and grateful response, and he smiled and gave me a small hug with an arm around my shoulder. As he walked away, I pulled out some of the girls' bathroom toilet paper I had stuffed in my pocket, dabbed at my nose, and decided that it was silly to be embarrassed about having a cold, and I should just blow my nose when I needed to.

So that's just what I am going to do now.


Come on, can’t I dream for one day
There’s nothing that can’t be done
But how long should it take somebody
Before they can be someone

‘Cause I know there’s got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I’m feeling like it’s now or never
Can I break the spell of the typical

Ah, yes. The sound of the Angsty Young Man. These are lyrics from a song I like called "Typical" by Mute Math. How long should it take somebody before they can be someone? I guess that depends on your definition of "someone." Ideally, you should always think you are someone, pretty much from the time of your cognizance of being a separate being. Infants and toddlers and preschoolers always think they are someone. Maybe it's the first time you hear "JUST WHO IN THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?" that causes a questioning of your personal value. Who who, who who.

"Someone" in this case, probably means being different, standing out, making a change that is noticed and admired by many. Or maybe just enough to get lots of groupies. Either/or. I get it. Been there. Feeling like the everyday usual job, usual life was not right and never would be, waiting for something to happen.

Because it’s dragging me down
I’d like to know about when
When does it all turn around

I'm just the typical
I'm just the typical

Another level, the other side. Grass is greener. Sometimes. Mostly not, though. You can achieve all kinds of things in life and still feel like you've never done a thing worthwhile. You can toil away in your cubicle and feel very fulfilled and productive. The outside stuff is just that. Anything of any meaning, your "someoneness," comes from only you. However, let us not get carried away, as our friend Mr. Rogers did:

I think you're a special person
And I like your ins and outsides.
Everybody's fancy.
Everybody's fine.
Your body's fancy and so is mine.

Now, I'm sorry, but Fred Rogers, as much as I like him, did not have a fancy body; in fact, he was pretty weedy. He was not fancy, although he was fine. Someone who is 800 lbs. and cannot get out of bed because he has someone BRINGING HIM FOOD ALL DAY LONG is neither fancy nor fine. This would also be a misuse of the word "special." Everything is not beautiful in its own way, nor fancy. Gimme a break. I blame "I'm OK, You're OK" and "Free To Be...You and Me" for the start of this blather. Stupid narcissistic 1970s.

But again, yes, I get it. The repressive cultural climate at the turn of the 20th century carried on through the 1950s, began the turn in the 60s, and went totally the other way beginning in the 70s through the 80s. Going from "you are an unworthy piece of crap" to "everything you do and say and think and feel is wonderful" is quite the interesting process to examine over the course of a lifetime or so. Of course, neither view is correct. LOL zeitgeist.

I won't take all that they hand me down,
And make out a smile, though I wear a frown,
And I won't take it all lying down,
'cause once I get started I go to town.

'cause I'm not like everybody else,
I'm not like everybody else,
I'm not like everybody else,
I'm not like everybody else.

And I don't want to ball about like everybody else,
And I don't want to live my life like everybody else,
And I won't say that I feel fine like everybody else,
'cause I'm not like everybody else,
I'm not like everybody else.

Forty-some years separates that Kinks song from the Mute Math song, but it is the same expression. Breaking away, breaking apart, creating something...else, but what that is might not be clear. There is something particularly wrenching about knowing you are unhappy, but not knowing how to change it, or knowing what "it" is, even. Just knowing something is not right. Why is it that so much of the creative process seems borne of this? I'll tell you something that is fancy and special and beautiful and different: taking that and making something out of it. To struggle and still bother; that is a worthy and good thing.

When Ray Davies does "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" in concert, he will stop singing and let the audience sing the chorus. The humor is not lost on me.

How long should it take somebody before they can be someone? How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

The world may never know.


Me: So, what was interesting at school today?
10yrold: Well...we had a big presentation about government. There is going to be an election for President this year.
Me: Yes.
10yrold: So we all decided that we all would vote for Barack Obama.
Me: How did you decide that? Do you know anything about what he stands for?
10yrold: Well, he wants to protect the environment.
Me: That's a good thing.
5yrold: No one is going to vote for John McCain.


For you bettors, the call from the principal came in today, 10AM: bloody nose + kicked boy in the 'nads on the playground after he kicked her first.

Told ya.


“Hold the car door for Grandpa!”

My mother’s command, directed towards me from the kitchen window of Grandpa’s house, shook me out of my microscopic focus on a furious ant battle on the gravel driveway, and I looked up. Grandpa was almost to his garage, single-car, detached from the house, mistaken.

“Grandpa, I think we are taking our car.” I said it slightly louder than I normally would, as he was hard of hearing, but not so loud as to be considered rude. He walked slowly, shuffled really, tremors visible even feet away. It seemed to be all the old people I knew – the frail neighbor Mrs. Pierce, the pastor’s father, who was the pastor before him, the retired principal who now spent his days in the library, and Grandpa – had the same set of Old to them: they shook; they were mostly deaf; they seemed to be in a foamy cloud, a daze of some sort; they liked to sleep a lot; and they always had food stains on their shirts. There wasn’t any sort of diagnosis or talk of what was wrong; they were just Old. Grandpa stopped, turned his head to me, his eyes meeting mine as I absently brushed away pebbles that had stuck to my legs.

“No. My car. He won’t be as nervous.”

Well, it wasn’t my place to argue with him, ever. I let him continue to the garage and I sprinted over to the back door of the house, letting the screen door bang behind me, taking the forest-green painted stairs to the kitchen two at a time.

“Mom! Grandpa says he wants to take his car! I don’t want to go if he is driving!”

My mother, finishing up the dishes from lunch, wiped her hands with a red-and-white checkered dishcloth, quickly wiped the sink edge down, and folded the dishcloth over a bar underneath a cabinet. She looked pretty, almost elegant in a way with her hair pulled back and a crisp periwinkle-blue shirtwaist dress, but tired at the same time, a time-pressed look to her face, a few strands of her dark-brown hair falling in her flushed face. I searched for signs of Old in her, and only found a small gravy stain on the pocket of her dress. She looked at me, pursed her lips and frowned, then shouted out the window again.

“Grandpa? Go ahead and sit in the backseat. More room there. OK?”

“Alright! I ride shotgun!” I exclaimed excitedly, immediately regretting it as my mother turned to me from the window and frowned again. My joy in getting a very rare front seat ride was depressed by the reality of what we were actually headed out to do. We were taking Grandpa’s Old dog, Mutt, to the vet to be put to sleep. I was old enough at 10 to know that “put to sleep” meant that the dog would die, but I had no practical experience in death in such an immediate sense, unless you counted Grandma dying when I was 4. I didn’t remember anything of her death or the process of her dying; she was there one Sunday at Grandpa’s and Grandma’s house, then the next Sunday she wasn’t, and it was just called Grandpa’s house from then on. Walking into the dining room now, still smelling good from lunch, I tried to think of her, and accessed the only vague, blurry image I had: her smiling at me with fat pink round cheeks, like mine, in a powder blue and pink flowered dress with a white apron. No one took little children to funerals then, so on the day they buried Grandma I went to a friend’s house. We watched TV all day while my friend’s mom gave me sad eyes as she checked in on us and another rerun of “Mr. Ed.”

I walked through into the living room, where my dad sat in Grandpa’s big tweedy Barcalounger. I guess he is riding shotgun too. He’d never get to sit in that if Grandpa were still in the house. He is watching some car race on TV, doesn’t look up at me, just says, “Help your mother get the dog in the car.” He has a gin-and-tonic in one hand, and will finish that and three more by the time we get back, meaning he is then to be avoided and my mother will have to drive us all home. The cars go ‘round and ‘round on the TV, and my father’s jaw looks tight. I say nothing.

“All right, let’s go.” My mother speaks into the room just before briskly walking in, glances at me, then at my father, then back at me, the same jaw-tightness seeming to jump from my dad to her. She and I go over to the small rug by the porch door where Mutt is sleeping, his rattling breaths loud and uncomfortable to hear. He is 16 years old, a Beagle, comically overweight . He has sores and bumps all over his skin, cataracts that have made him blind, and long black nails that scratch you when you pick him up. He is not an affectionate dog, and when not sleeping either barks incessantly or pees and poops on the carpet. Looking at him, I felt guilty for not liking him. I thought to myself, well, there you are, asleep, and you don’t even know you are going to die now. This filled me with some kind of chilly, horrible ache that I had trouble pushing away, so I just tried to think of all the times he growled at me.

After a good three years of argument with my parents, my Grandpa finally agreed it was time to have Mutt put down; it was simply too hard to deal with a blind incontinent dog – Old – when Grandpa was getting increasingly Old himself. My mother would worry about Grandpa tripping over Mutt and “breaking a hip,” while my father just grumbled, “you’re not doing that dog any favors letting him go on like this.” My parents’ next project, they agreed, was that after Mutt was gone they would try to convince Grandpa to give up his car. He had become a scary driver, weaving and too slow, banging other cars while parking and not even knowing it. I didn’t know why the police didn’t ever ticket him; somehow they always let the old drivers be, it seemed.

My mother opened up an old flowered bath towel onto the floor next to Mutt, patted and smoothed it. She raised her head to look over at the Barcalounger at the back of my father’s head, looked down at the dog. “OK, Mutt, time to go.” She gently stroked him awake and he startled, growling and sniffing. She picked him up and before he could scratch her, wrapped him in the towel like a big ugly snorting baby. I thought he would fight her, but he didn’t, as she rose to stand. She hesitated for a moment, and I thought she was going to ask my dad if he wanted to say goodbye to Mutt. When she didn’t, and simply walked out of the living room with the dog in her arms, it felt like something broke in the air. I followed her out, silently taking her lead. The only sounds were of the roaring race cars, and the clink of an ice cube, melting and falling in my dad’s drink, and the click of my mother’s heels on the yellow linoleum as she entered the kitchen.

“Get the door for me, don’t let it slam this time.” I ran ahead of my mother and did as she asked, carefully closing the screen door behind her and the Mutt bundle. Grandpa had already opened the garage, and was sitting in the backseat of his Impala. It was as old as I was, but might as well have been a Model T to me, stodgy and square with shiny red vinyl upholstery. Grandpa had already sheared the doors off it twice backing out of the garage, but his small-town mechanic seemed to magically repair it to new. My mother nodded at the door handle to the back, which I opened. She awkwardly handed Mutt in the towel to Grandpa, whose arms shook even before he felt the weight of the dog. Mutt barked then, maybe knowing it was Grandpa who had him now, or maybe just that he was in his car. My mother shut the car door, opened hers, while I ran around the back of the car to get in the front, happy again, touching the dashboard, looking out the wide windshield as she slowly backed out of the garage, tires crunching on the gravel. I hoped she hadn’t driven over the anthill.

I had once asked my mother how Grandpa and Grandma got Mutt, since he was in existence before I was. It was my father that had bought him, for Grandpa’s birthday that year, when my parents had just started dating. When my dad was a boy, Grandpa had had another Beagle that he took hunting, whom he loved and treated well. By all accounts, Grandpa was despondent when the dog died after being hit by a car in front of their house. My dad, trying to please his father, researched the best Beagle breeders in the country, trying to find a dog that most matched the qualities of the previous beloved animal. He paid a great deal of money for the puppy, more than he could really afford at the time, my mother continued. With great excitement, my mother and father brought the new Beagle puppy to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the birthday celebration, a surprise. When Grandpa opened the red-ribboned box, he didn’t smile. He just looked up at my father and gruffly said, “Where’d you pick up this mutt?” My mother said my dad was crushed, tried to explain what a fine pedigree the puppy had, but my Grandpa just didn’t seem to care. So Mutt became Grandma’s dog: untrained, overfed, coddled, with Grandpa never paying a moment’s attention to him. That changed when Grandma died. It was just Grandpa and Mutt in the house then, and Grandpa softened towards Mutt, began to treat him as Grandma did, a link to her in a way. Maybe that was why it was so hard to get him to agree to put him down.

“I don’t know why the vet couldn’t have come to the house. Is it so much trouble these days?” Grandpa’s voice sounded rough and angry. My mother tried to soothe him, but I wasn’t listening to what she was saying, instead messing with my unused seatbelt buckle, playing with the radio, staring out the window at the farms and cornfields as they rushed by in a green blur the ten miles into the next town. Mutt had fallen asleep again, rattling, snoring, laying on Grandpa’s lap now, the towel half unwrapped.

We pulled up to the vet’s, a small nondescript yellow brick flat-roofed office building, with a sign outside that had a smiling cat and dog on it. I thought, I bet the animals that come here wouldn’t be smiling if they could smile, and was glad I thought not to say that aloud. “Well, this is the place,” Grandpa uttered, a bitter tinge to the words.

“Hold the door for Grandpa, then stay in the car.” As I began to protest having to sit and wait in the weird old Impala, my mother shot me a look that told me there was no argument, underlining her words. I helped Grandpa get out of the car after Mom took Mutt from him. The dog began to bark again and struggle, and I wondered if he knew somehow, now. I ran ahead again to open the door to the office, but a woman in blue scrubs from inside beat me to it, smiling and cheery. I backed off, stared at her and her happy face. Did she understand that this dog was going to die now, today, here? That he would go in and never come out?

My mother paused in front of me with Mutt, still barking. She looked Older. I raised my hand, and gently patted Mutt on the back. “Goodbye, Mutt. I’m sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say, or do. My mother, and Mutt, and Grandpa went into the building with the Happy Death Lady, and I went to sit in the driver’s seat of the Impala, twisted and turned the red steering wheel in my hands, imagined myself driving through town, waving out the window like a beauty queen.