Jostling dreams around

Yesterday, I dove to grab a receipt that flew under my car and banged my head on the rear view mirror on the way back up. I stood for a few minutes next to my car wincing. It was a bone-cracking whack that made my eyes feel a bit shaky and my head start to burn. I checked my scalp and no blood...it was probably all coagulating in my brain I thought morbidly.

Ever the tough soldier, I carried on with my evening plans of gym and then fajitas with Parul. As night approached and I settled into my book and some YouTube videos with Liontamer, I began wondering if I had a welt. I checked around...nothing. I couldn't even feel a bruise! To some, this may be reassuring, to me it was slightly terrifying, like when Frankenstein's monster suddenly discovered his strength.

"Where's the bump! Where's the bruise!" Maybe I couldn't feel it because my skull was numb from a fracture or maybe I actually hurt myself so badly that this is only a dream...the real, me is lying comatose in a hospital as her friends huddle close in corners, quietly weeping.

Then of course, I realized that I had a thick skull. That phrase, "thick skull" is often used to describe people who are intellectually stubborn, despite facts or other evidence that contradict their beliefs. Like George W. Bush or Anne Coulter. For me, it's a biological reality, a conclusion that has been, unfortunately, tested several times with unerring result--so far.

When I was one, a Tallahassee Democract photographer at a park asked my mother if he could take a picture of me going down the slide. I was just a gurggling blob in a diaper so my mom asked if an adult could go down with me. Some dude or chick was recruited or something. Well, I've always been a bit anxious to start things so somehow I ended up heading down before the "adult" whomever that was, could grab hold of me. And man over board! I plopped down probably still gurggling in the grass after a drop of about five feet. My mom, frantic, took me to the doctor and apparently, I was perfectly undented.

Fast forward a few years to when I was 9 and decided it was a genius idea to pretend to be a pilot and ride my stepbrother's bike--which had NO brakes--down the steepest hill in our neighborhood. I would whizz by Brian and pretend that once I passed him I had landed safely.

Of course, another trip later, my flip flopped feet fail to deploy. I am hurled several feet to land on merciless black pavement directly on the top of my head and later on my jaw (I forget which side). I didn't break my head, didn't break my jaw (although I couldn't move it for a few days), and ended up only with a few stitches in my lip.

As a result, I learned how to talk without moving my mandible as well as the vagaries of trying to eat with only your tongue to scrape things on the roof of your mouth.

Perhaps by now, we've established that I'm also perpetually clumsy--perhaps a genetic trait that developed first and necessitated stronger bones for survival. I can see my hominid ancestor now, stubbing his toe on the first wheel, howling at the intense pain, and marveling that he could still move it later.


Waves upon the sand

I remember many years ago, my father and I were walking along the beach. He would be getting re-married soon. My toes were encrusted with sand and my jeans were rolled up at the knees, though they were wet anyway.

This was one of the last times I would talk him like that--with no guilt, no baggage, just me and him on somewhat equal footing.

I remember looking out at the waves and telling him, in a cinematic moment, that "everything changes, and that's the hard part about life." I was 14. I wasn't enthusiastic about my father getting re-married. He had married someone after my mom who had been abusive and put everyone in my family through a great deal. I had spent the years building a tentative but true friendship with my father--getting to know him as a bachelor, whose sheets smelled like cowboy boots and dust; who always had guava jelly in his refrigerator; and who played Beethoven on the baby grand his father had given him when he was a child.

Since then, my relationship with my father has had more downs than ups and we barely speak anymore. He's too busy with his two young children and I fill up my life with my career and friends. We're both at fault for what happened and we've both changed a lot since that day on the beach.

I am at peace with how things are now. It feels a bit like getting to the end of a 1000 page novel and acknowledging that the human psyche is too messy to ever leave anything resolved.

But I see other loved ones changing and growing apart from me and that is more difficult. I don't share their genetic makeup, so all that held us together was a likeness of minds and the whim of fate.

Of course, losing friends is a fact of growing up, so I'm told. At least with your family you always have the opportunity to change things, you always have the chance to build unconditional love if both groups want to--well almost always. And with friends, the chapter remains closed until the unlikely event of one person or another changing again.

Friends lost are like dreams that have died. The memory of them holds so much joy and nostalgia, yet is uncomfortably irrelevant now.

And try as I might to remind myself, that "everything changes," I refuse to accept it. I am on the beach and want to catch that pink seashell, on the brink of being washed away. I stomp into the water seeing a glimpse of the shell amidst the foam and dive my hand into the cool sand and come up empty.



Last week, I was dangerous. I threw caution to the wind and got acrylic nails...After turning down the "Perfect Pink" treatment three times, I finally got what I wanted--slightly rounded tips, a beautiful coffee with cream color. God knows why I wanted them...call it a strange impulse/morbid curiosity that developed while stuck in traffic listening to Lite FM. I chose a clean-looking place near my old college whose sign billowed in the wind "15 Years Experiences, Clean and Sanitized." I was greeted by a Vietnamese man who ushered me to a table. The color scheme was peach and white and posters hung on the wall advertising Mango Heaven and Champagne-flavored treatments that talked in faux-scientific spa language.

The process of making my nails glamorous took an hour of buffing, clipping, glueing, buffing more, and filing. Finally I was done and hurried to meet my friends for dinner. We discussed Michael Phelps and gossipy co-workers, and ate marvelous pizza with pepperoni and olives on it. Yet, my eyes kept traveling downward to my glorious fingernails...my Scarlett O'Hara hands. I gesticulated wildly, tossed my hair, patted the tops of people's hands, and used the word "honey."

Then, I went to the bathroom and realized it was a mite difficult to unzip my pants. Like a woman waking up to her husband's farts after an ill-conceived elopement in Vegas, I realized my nails were not a match made in heaven.

The evening continued and I couldn't pull out my credit card to pay...I got face lotion stuck under my nails as I prepared for bed. And the next day, horror of horrors, I couldn't open a can of Diet Coke without using a ruler as a lever.

Typing at work--and I'm a writer so all I do is type--was complicated. I'd miss letters or my nails would slip to "&" instead of "y." Do you realize how often anyone uses the letter "y"? It's devastating how often I use it and every few minutes "&" kept showing up as if G-d was punishing me for my vanity.

A week later, I was so disgusted I tried to take them off, but found they were glued tight. So I took my nail clippers and hacked them to a more reasonable length, leaving a holocaust of acrylic in the sink, relishing an almost bloodlust coursing through my veins.

Then I realised that they weren't even and I felt a bit like the girl with the Red Shoes. I would never be free of them unless I went back to "15 Years Experiences" or somewhere else. So I painted my stubby acrylics princess pink and put lotion on my hands and an ice compress on my face and thought..."Tomorrow, is another day."


Positively Medieval

I have a confession to make. I read romance novels, the atrociously cheddar kind that have very formulaic characters and plots you could set your watch to. Of course I have standards...

I refuse--or am possibly too embarrassed--to purchase paperbacks with scantily clad people on the cover and/or a title that implies a sex act or body part. I prefer trash that embraces some semblance of "historical fiction." I like to think there's a possibility of learning something about 17th Century France while Xavier, cloaked only in moonlight, pulls the timid Celeste into his arms.

Yet, lately, I have found even these, seemingly modest hopes foiled on my semi-surreptitious trips to Borders' romance section. I tend to go there in late afternoons, and hurrying to the back, taking the long way through the social sciences and gender studies sections, pausing to pick up and put down a few sci fi books just to make myself look curious. And as I turn the corner, I employ my highly honed technique of scanning four shelves worth of books at once--first on the right, then on the left, paying close attention to titles and decorations on the book's spine.

I amuse myself at the irony of the situation. While a heroine in one of my books may be afraid of being discovered as a scholar in say regency England, I am afraid of being denounced too plebeian.

But, alas, I've noticed that I've reached the "M"s before finding even one book I'd consider reading. You see, my favorite genre, historical Scottish romance is dying out. The economy of numbers has whipped out its sword and cut down my Highland Honor in favor of "Undead and Unwed".

Perhaps this happens in the Arts more than I'm aware. Where once there was a plethora of reality tv shows offering multiple opportunities to cackle wit glee at a character's downfall, today there remains only a handful of settings in which to do so--obnoxious people live/sleep together, obnoxious people work/sleep together, and obnoxious people survive/sleep together on a deserted island.

At the height of the romance novel's golden age there was tremendous diversity--cowboy romance, chick lit, Native American romance, urban romance, regency romance, mystery/thriller romance, Civil War romance, pirate romance, viking romance, Arabian locale-themed romance, vampire romance, Danielle Steel books, Nora Roberts books, medieval romance--now, risen from the ashes is vampire romance, chicklit, and nora roberts.

Perhaps I should simply wait it out. There plenty of pretentious novels and compendiums that serve far greater social purposes than my two-dimensional, costumed fantasies.

While having coffee with frenemies, I could start waxing euphorically about Joe PhD's "fabulous dissertation on post-Czech modernism's influences on cubism." Before even half of their latte is finished, I'll have thoroughly bombarded them with my practiced snippets of intellectual oneupmanship.

Within weeks I'll have built a reputation for being a very deep, thinking-type person who knows what's going on in the world. This has its advantages, if only to make one feel better at cocktail parties about not weighing 30 pounds less nor making $30K more.

But on lazy Sunday mornings when I want to lie cocooned in my comforter and ratty PJs on the couch, with Liontamer immersed in the Internet, I want something easy on the mind.

Liontamer once said that romance novels are porn for women, because of their contextual sex. But I beg to differ. I'm not into erotica and aside from the casual, analytical interest in how many pages and rescues into the book the feisty virgin loses her, ahem, virginity, I could honestly skip it all. After all, there are only so many euphemisms one can use in the most compromising situations and they all become fairly ridiculous with time. "She used 'shaft of his manhood'? OMG, that was so 1999!"

Perhaps this is a clue to the female psyche--the majority of us (at least the majority of those who buy romance novels) may be more into the plot than the climax, so to speak. That isn't to say that the modern 8 buck chuck romance novels represent, in my mind, an ascension in sexual equality for females. Sure the arousal is there if we want it--no matter how ridiculous the metaphors are-- and I'm sure some women would rather use a book than anything that requires batteries. But most readers will tell you that their primary reason for reading these books is the , emotional satisfaction derived from a happy ending. --> I don't know what you're reading, but that's what I read. ;P

I'm sure there are a few extreme feminists out there who vehemently oppose romance novels, saying they degrade our gender. --That more often than not, romance novels perpetuate princess mythologies and male-dominated sexual encounters that result in a legions of women who do not take control of their own independence and equality within and without the bedroom. As for me, the feminists say, I need to ascend to a new dialectic, that will result in my full empowerment in the Goddess's image.

Now, I believe fervently in female power--whatever my secret indulgences may be. That's why Liontamer is making me dinner right now while I blog and tell him about my day at the office.


The Hard Sell

Fundamentally, most of us want to be liked. We don't need to be loved per se--though perhaps some psychiatrists would disagree. We need to be in on the joke, picked first for dodge ball, someone that people want to high-five. This is, I think why salespeople can be so insidious. After all, they not only sell us things we want and sometimes need, but more importantly, they play to our most deeply rooted insecurities about our intelligence, our beauty, and our like-ability.

"I want you to know, Chuck," says Jim Bob as he sweeps his arm across the used car parking lot, "that we get a lot of folk in here lookin' to buy cars, but I can tell that you've got more business sense than most of them, so I'm going to make you a deal."

Or Marie at the cosmetics counter who compliments your beautiful eyes and tells her comrade-in-arms, Jameka, that she wishes she had your eyelashes. Jameka, of course, agrees enthusiastically.

A few salespeople might tell you that relationships are a key part of their business--that without trust and mutual affinity they would not be as successful as they are. It's not about the numbers, they say, it's about the difference their product can make in the lives of people they care about.

Imagine the time you could save and spend with your family if you purchased Ginsu knives or used the Hawaii chair to exercise while at work!

Speaking of late night television infomercials....One late night at my mother's house in Ireland, I was flipping channels because I wanted to avoid "The Mighty Boosh." I get a headache after watching that show--too much existentialist, surrealist, da-daist nonsense for a Britcom.

There are children dying of hunger in Ethiopia and Ireland--former Celtic Tiger and one of the richest countries in Europe--has an entire channel devoted to selling greeting card making kits! ((I have since been corrected that this channel comes from England, but nonetheless...)) Someone has invested potentially hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of pounds in staff, equipment, rent, and merchandise just to sell CDs with graphics on them and packages of fancy paper.

And so...back to my darkened room, I was surrounded by books, had a radio, and even could simply look outside my window to contemplate the moon's reflection on Youghal Bay. But I was transfixed by the people on the telly, so happy, so calming, so carefree. In their world, Ethiopian children don't exist...just the smaller every day problems of remembering Aunt Tabitha's birthday and determining what this year's Christmas letter should be printed on.

It may sound morbid, but I've often wondered if I were ever hospitalized for long periods of time whether I would become addicted to euphoria of QVC--the pleasant, blond people there who always have their nails done and seem to get along so well.

Indeed, being so insulated from the suffering of the world--perhaps from your own suffering--is a tantalizing proposition.

BUT--I'm not a lonely middle-aged woman living in a trailer with baked beans for supper whose alcoholic husband jilted her and who barely makes ends meet!

I have more for which to be grateful. I have a graduate degree, plenty of people I love and who love me--no alcoholic ex-husband--and thank goodness, enough food on my table and money in my bank account. Why am I not immune to the hard sell?

Am I fundamentally insecure? Do I need EVERYONE to like me? Or am I simply too passive, too easily sold something before I can firmly decline?

Some people say that prostitution is the oldest profession, but I think it would be more accurate to say sales is. Not to say that working at a gift shop is the same as selling your body. I know plenty of wonderful, genuinely good people in retail and I am sure there are many "fallen women" who have fewer character flaws than myself. But whether in a brothel in Nevada or a bookstore, most people have a dream larger than a lifetime at the till--even if that dream is being the head buyer for Gap or a regional manager for Borders.

I suppose my real beef is actually the relationship between consumerism and personal satisfaction--a problem that I think is considerably less worrisome in the slums of Venezuela or India. For those of us who have satisfied nearly all of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, there remains that elusive requirement for feeling whole--feeling worthy. And in America today, it seems we're more interested in buying that feeling than figuring out a way to feel it for free.


Making Pancakes

Character flaws often reveal themselves in the most benign and un-trying circumstances. For example, this morning I was making pancakes with Liontamer and I grew very impatient wanting to flip the pancake over. Perhaps if I had mixed the batter from scratch, rather than added 2/3 cup of water and stirred, I would have been better prepared mentally to wait for the signs to flip.

Maybe for some, there is a visceral pleasure in watching the sides of the pancake harden and brown, and the middle batter begin to bubble and pop. Like the hunter waiting and watching, camouflaged by the shadows of the forest, there is a moment of anticipation that exceeds the pleasure of pulling the trigger. It is a feeling to fuel any megalomaniac--a taste of the divine. "I am the instrument of change in the universe," the hunter says as the sweat begins to trickle down the brow, below the cheek bone. And so, up comes the spatula, an eager instrument of Khali, dirty with the remains of all the pancakes that came before, poised to become dirtier still with its latest victim.

Yet, I am sadly lacking the control, the inner strength of the great warriors. I break too soon, and so does the pancake, goopy in the middle, leaving half of the batter still stuck to the pan. My feast will not be one of celebration, of triumph--it will be one of resignation and failure. I will eat my thin and crumbling pancake, massacred as it was with my desire--the burst blueberries open wounds of a desperate cook. I consider the prospect of buying the frozen pancakes and simply heating them in the microwave--I am ashamed of myself. I have given in to the wild and allowed it to defeat me.

I hand the spatula to Liontamer, heart sick, and ask him to finish. He slides one, two, then three pancakes onto my plate in rapid succession. All perfect, all trembling as I uplift my fork. I have lost this battle, but I take heart. Liontamer is helpless when it comes to grocery shopping.