Saturday, August 18, 2007

Another exercise...

This particular exercise included not only a starting line, but also an ending line. The start was:
I graduated from high school in 1974 and dreamed of living the bohemian life." and the ending was supposed to be "Why?" I am asked.

This was hard. Never mind the tense issues (the start is past and the finish is present), the piece is supposed to end in a question -- leaving the reader hanging...

I tried, though, and this is what I came up with.


"I graduated from high school in 1974 and dreamed of living the bohemian life." he said as he put the only visible remnant of that dream - a faded tie dyed shirt, torn and dirty with the kind of dirt that will never come out no matter how many cups of TIDE, Cheer, or whatever the detergent du jour you use - into his dresser.

"What happened?" I asked, noting that the rest of his apartment - a co-op albeit in the Village - was an homage to Kloss an upscale Danish designer; and that his hair was the comfortable mess that was due to a very expensive urban hair stylist.

He shrugged "I grew up. I learned that I needed to actually earn money. That smoking hashish under glass wasn't nearly as wonderful as baked Alaska or fresh tuna fillets. I learned that I liked what I could create when I thought, and hash just wasn't conducive to thought."

"Was it sudden? Like a bolt of lightening? Or did you discover this on mini-breaks from your hash haze?"

"Pretty much a combination. I started going clean so I could get a job and I started staying clean so I could work during the week. Then, one weekend with my buddies, we spent the entire weekend in a thicket in Central Park -- most of them were vets made homeless by the craziness following 'Nam -- anyway, we were smoking, dropping acid, tripping. The following Monday I stumbled to work, retched in the toilet and again in the sink when I put on my smelly clothes after shaving in the loo down the hall from my desk. I looked at my face - haggard and gray - in the mirror and thought 'I hate this feeling'. I struggled through that week but the next weekend I met up with the guys. Same thicket, same game plan, and I told them I was done.

"They were pissed - furious that the one who could afford to buy the stuff was leaving. But I did leave.

"The next Monday I went into the office and went up to Personnel - it wasn't called HR then - and I asked to speak with the Vice President of Personnel. When I went into his office I blurted "I'm a drug addict and I need help." Instead of firing me on the spot, he helped me stay clean."

"Wow! What a story!" I said. "He must have been pretty cool. Is that where you still work?"

"Why do you ask so many questions?"


See I didn't quite get there but I did end on a question... and in the present tense so I guess that counts for something.....


Wine.... and Whine....

"There's no such thing as 'good wine'. If you think it's good, then it IS good." she said. "What???" I replied. "Just tell me what I should buy--what would be good. I don't know these people--what their tastes are. I know...." I paused. What exactly did I know?

Don loved his grandsons, owned his own business, owned a scooter -- one of those two wheeled dealies that were supposed to revolutionize travel but really haven't lived up to their hype -- Kate drank wine. They had grown kids, a second marriage and a hot tub.

But here I was in a grocery store in Lincoln, Nebraska talking to the florist-cum-wine somalier asking her for direction as I faced the store's meager - but still too daunting -wine selection.

She looked at me and sighed. "Honey, how much do you want to spend?"

"$50.00 max"

"How many people are you buying for?"

"Two" I breathed deeply. This was getting easier. I could do this. My confidence rose and then she stumped me with "Foreign or Domestic?"

"I don't know" I wailed once again thrown into the depths of overwhelmed-ness (is that even a word?)

"Please," I was on the verge of begging for direction, "just tell me what you like."

"Honey, I like cheap and sweet - $4.99 for a bottle of Beringer Zinfandel is my style."

Shit, I thought, I picked up a bottle with a cool label. Shiraz from Austrailia. Hmmmm... Austrailia is cool, but is their wine any good?

At least, I thought, the label would look good on their shelf. That was my mode of operendis I decided. "There's no such thing as good wine - If you like the label, buy it."

First read....

Although my life is filled with honesty today, there is a past which is kept buried. The dichotomy between the two is stark and I try not to fall into the crevasse too often - It leaves me disoriented for days.

For example:
now: partnered rural lesbian living on a farm breeding horses and dogs.
then: suburban McDonald eating, van driving, soccer mom
see what I mean?

The past does come in handy sometimes. I still know my way around city traffic and I can drive on the four lane freeway without too much road rage or disorientation, but my life; dog food, stall cleaning, grooming and the care taking of animals (who don't yell "I HATE YOU" and "You're MEAN!" when I won't let them have an extra ration of oats) is much simpler.

The honesty, I think, comes from letting the feelings that I tried to stuff in my previous life, percolate and steep until they are as rich as the compost I dig into the garden each spring. My needs - for companionship, conversation, caring warmth and food, are met in a myriad of ways -each one healthier than those in the life I left behind....

I sighed as the dream left my head and I glanced at the clock in the van. "Amy's got dance in 15 minutes" I said to the back seat occupants as I pulled away from the curb.....

Warm up...

The dog finally went poop which meant I could go in out of the rain. I stepped inside, rain streaming from the baseball hat I'd had the presence of mind to slap on my head before heading out with the poodle. Not that my usual 3:00 a.m. 'do was anything I needed to protect - rather I'd had the sheets of my warm, comfy, and dry bed in mind. I hung the coat and the hat on the hook by the door and turned toward the steaming poodle. He looked woefully bedraggled and smelled of wet dog.

From the Atlantic Magazine....

"Celibacy had never been a problem, thank God" I thought as I pushed the cart which now contained all of my worldly possessions. "I must be naturally celibate"....

I started up Bergh's hill toward Robby's place. Robby had digs at the top of the hill in an abandoned garage. No heat, but a roof and warm companionship with cheap wine thrown in. The hill was steep and, something I hadn't noticed when I'd thrown my stuff into the cart, the carts right wheel was locked. It hadn't been much of an issue on the flat ground but now every few steps I was forced to kind of hitch it along.

I carried on; Me: step - push - "UH!" the cart: slide - stick "BANG!" up the hill.

The view at the top of Bergh's hill was usually nice but today the sharp fall air tore my breath - what breath I had left - from my throat and teared my eyes until they ran.

I blinked looking for the trail into the overgrown ditch that would lead to Robby's.

When I finally found it, the trail was even worse than I remembered causing me to curse the stupid cart. I kicked it, cutting my shin through my jeans on the sharp edge and that was it. I grabbed the cart and began pushing, shoving, throwing and shouting "f*ck YOU, you STUPID CART!!!! I F-nnnn HATE YOU!!!!

I shoved it with all of my might and it tipped over - spilling my black garbage bag protected belongings into the overgrown weeds at the edge of the forest. I was crying in earnest now. No longer blaming the bitter wind for the tears streaming down my face. I kicked my black trash bag and my things flew out of its mouth -- retching my life all over the place.


This piece is actually inspired by a novel I'd read a few years ago called "The Longings of Women" by Marge Piercy. If you want a good read about becoming homeless and relationships we find ourselves in as we age, pick up a copy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Shit! Shit! Shit! That's triple shit if you're counting. I could not believe I'd been so incredibly naive. How could I have trusted her? She always told everything to mom. Now mom knew and there would be that special kind of mom-hell to pay. When, o when do I get to be an adult?????

I glanced at the calendar. Two weeks 'til finals, then a week of exams; one last bash with my buddies and then it would be time to board that bad boy and fly home.

Oh why had I told Ali about Ernesto? It was a FLING!!! The fact that Ernesto'd taken it so seriously and had bought me that ring was....well, to my mind, so totally inconsequential.

I went back to that call. Ali and I'd been chatting. My younger sister - my only sibling - was fresh out of high school. She'd taken a year off to work and was finally - to my graduate study addled brain - showing some signs of maturity. During that call - where we were commiserating about the goofiness of men -- well the men in our lives anyway -- I'd felt some sort of common bond. Kind of like the way I'd felt the summer I was 10 and she was five. I'd fallen off of our horse and given myself a broken leg and one hell of a concussion. She'd taken care of me and kept me company while I was bed ridden and for the first time in her short life she wasn't a complete PITA (pain-in-the-ass); she was actually funny - and good company.

It was that feeling that led me to relate the Ernesto story. Shit! Shit! Shit! Why had I forgotten that she still lived at home? Why had I forgotten that she couldn't, wouldn't, keep anything about me, my life, to herself?

Mom, I supposed, would be already planning the wedding shower. Expecting Ernesto and his brother Alois to come back with me to meet her, my dad and the chatty aunts that made up my family.

I had to nip this in the bud. I pushed the [play] button on the answering machine again. My mother's voice filled the room. "Hi Honey! Just calling to see if anything is new?" I grimaced. Yep, she definitely had heard....Shit! Shit! Shit!

She was confusing me....

She was confusing me. This was my tragedy, and I didn't know why she had to take ownership. I wanted to tell my story -- not sit back and let her take over. I stopped, drew a deep breath and said aloud "Stop!"

She looked at me as though I dropped my trousers or something. I looked back at her and said " this isn't about you. I wanted you to hear my story - I need to tell it myself"

Jen's eyes slid away and then she put her head down. "sorry" she whispered "I just get so involved...." her voice trailed off.

I understood. I knew how that felt. I often had owned Maggie's angst all those years ago. I pulled her into my arms and held her. She was much smaller than I'd imagined. Her head came just under my chin. I murmured into her hair "I love that you care" and then I realized that she was crying.

See. She always makes it about her!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Writings and musings

so this is where I'll post the stuff I write during our writing groups. I want my stuff to get read, but I don't want to clog my regular blog with it... so here it is.

How the writing group works:
We meet weekly at the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. Jen, our leader, gives us a line to start with -- a lead. Sometimes it's "Shit!Shit!SHIT!" or "Celebacy had never been a problem, thank God." and we, the writers, take it from there. As you'll see, my story that came from the Celebacy line had nothing to do with sex or sexuality. Go figure.

Anyway, postings will happen weekly if possible....