Friday, November 16, 2018

Eulogy for My Father

My father was a pain-in-the-ass.

He was argumentative, opinionated and loved to be right.
In this respect, I am his true heir apparent.

My father was an inspiration.

Her left NYC’s Spanish Harlem a poor 10th grade dropout
and went on to get both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

I don’t remember a time growing up that he wasn’t studying
for something.

Education wasn’t some lofty ideal for him—it was a living,
breathing concept.

He read the classics and taught himself proper Spanish
grammar and vocabulary so he could write fluently in his
first language. He wrote textbooks and his autobiography
in both languages.

My father was passionate.

Hardly a week has gone by since I left home almost 40 years ago
that I haven’t spoken to him. Much of our conversations were
about politics, religion and philosophy.

We mostly agreed on things.

My father was a maker.

I learned to love craftsmanship by watching him build or repair
things. Of course, since I was a girl it took him a little longer to
realize that I didn’t
just want to be his go-fer.

I treasure all of the tools he has given me. They are my family

Finally, my father was my friend.

He gave me of the gift of his trust and respect. If you knew my
father, you know what a big deal that was.

The last time I said goodbye to my father, one week before
he died, I took his face in my hands and gently scolded him,
“Now, Dad, you behave yourself, okay?”
Even in his weakened state he managed a classic Ralph eye-roll.

I’ll treasure that look forever.

Te quiero Papi. Voy a extrañarte tanto.

Rafael Leonidas Torres 
November 29, 1934 – April 7, 2014

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Pudenda Puritanica

noun: pudendum; plural noun: pudenda
  1. a person's external genitals, especially a woman's.
mid 17th century: from Latin pudenda (membra ) ‘(parts) to be ashamed of,’ neuter plural of the gerundive of pudere ‘be ashamed.’

The rise of the Puritans in the mid 17th century and the linking of a woman's genitalia with the word "pudere" or "be ashamed"

Coincidence? I think not.

Friday, January 06, 2017

i carry her heart

Happy Epiphany! I nearly didn't make it. Spent this day at St Luke's Hospital while St Barbara went through pre-op tests for an atrial ablation on Monday. It's too much to explain but it's a good procedure that will probably give her a permanent break from atrial fibrillation, no small bonus. Still, I'm struggling with my normal ability to cram all my fear into good data and historic success rates. I just hate that a doctor is going to snake up through her femoral artery, poke her heart and burn the fibrillating parts. I really hate that.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Adulteries and Epiphanies

Independence Day 1985

There’s nothing like being yanked from slumber’s womb because someone left an alarm on. A persistent, jangling alarm poking my eardrum.

“Hello?” in my best I-wasn’t-really-asleep-you’re-not-imposing-at-all voice.
“This is Jane. Please tell Charlie I’m alright.”
“Wait. Jane? What is going on?”
“Just tell him I’m fine.”

What the fuck was that about?
The sleep fog cleared. Oh, shit. Jane. The wife of the man I was trying to end a crazy affair with. The pieces floated out of the dreamy haze and landed with a jarring thud on the floor of my consciousness.

Oh, shit. The exact same phrase I repeated when I “fell into” the affair. Okay, okay…need to regroup. I came home late last night after going to a movie with a friend. Charlie called. He was a little desperate because I hadn’t been home. Jesuschrist, there’s nothing more annoying than a clingy lover.

“Where the fuck are you?” I asked him.
“In the garage.”
“Shit, Charlie, this doesn’t seem like a good idea.”
“Jane’s fast asleep.”

And if the conversation wasn’t a wise idea, phone sex was probably high on the list of truly stupid ideas. But it served two purposes: first, it got Charlie off the phone faster than the endless conversation of why we needed to stop this nonsense and second, I was wound like a top.

I like words; phone sex employed many I didn’t use in my daily vocabulary.
Charlie wasn’t bad either.

And Jane, it turns out, was not asleep.

I still don’t know at which stage of the descriptive conversation she picked up the extension. There really wasn’t a good entrance point. Not during verbal foreplay, mid-crescendo, certainly not during denouement…not even the post-coital chit-chat. It didn’t matter, the whole mess exploded (pun acknowledged) and I was standing there in the middle of the shitstorm.

So was Charlie but honestly I didn’t much care–his shitstorm was his problem. I was at metaphorical center stage for public stoning.


Charlie and Jane were friends of my husband and mine. Actually Jane may have been my husband’s supervisor at the time. That still makes me cringe. (This was the husband I had left some seven months earlier and was on my way to divorcing. This was my husband of seven-and-a-half years who had asked me for an open marriage two years after our über-traditional wedding.) I’d always liked Charlie. 19 years my senior, he had a warmth and genuineness that I found somewhat lacking in my husband’s fellow corporate climbers. He was a throw-back to an era of patchouli and political rebellion. A grown-up Texas hippie with a job. Funny and sweet.

About the time I moved out of the house, Charlie had had a stroke. He was in his early forties. Within our circle of friends, we all took turns helping out. I went over and made him lunch one day. As a student, my schedule had a little more flexibility than others so I got lunch duty. His left side was affected. Or was the right? What difference did it make? He was wearing a patch to strengthen his stroke-weakened eye. It was like he was playing pirate. Oddly charming. He could walk but was not completely steady. He was in good spirits for having had a stroke at such a young age.

I made lunch and we chatted. It was delightful. When it was time for me to go, I went over to the couch where he was resting to give him a hug good-bye. As I turned from hugging him, our lips met. I swear on a stack of scarlet letters, it seemed an accident. How could I have been so naïve? I should have known that the man schemed that. Anyway, it didn’t matter—the fuse was lit and we were covered in accelerant. Oh, shit.

This was February. By April his obsession had cooled my passions and I was looking for a quiet exit. Well, that ship had sailed and sunk. He wanted to marry me. I promised him that the very last thing I was interested in was another marriage. If he left his wife, he’d better be ready to live alone because I had no intention of filling that void. In May, we had a moony, candlelit rendezvous in Taos under the guise of his going on a Buddhist retreat or somesuch bullshit. It was supposed to be our affair farewell.

But things dragged on. Until the July 4th explosion. Then, I told him, we were completely done. Over. Finis.

He started showing up on campus just as my classes would let out. Then, one day he waited for me outside my job. I threatened him with a restraining order and that threw some cold water on the crazy. He was no modern stalker. Just a lovesick, impulsive, relentless, self-absorbed man. A real pain-in-the-ass.

Saint to Whore

The simplest backstory to all this was that I was raised Mormon. It’s complicated but safe to say I was the most straight-laced girl to emerge from my high school class. Pristine. Prudish. I didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs and I was Acolyte to the Goddess of the Intact Hymen.

Engaged to marry as a college freshman, my fiancé’s clarion call was “Marry or Burn!” Nice. I followed the letter and the spirit of the law with zeal. I didn’t just avoid sin—I avoided even the “appearance of evil.” At 18 I went to my wedding bed with my Girl Scout Virginity patch sewn on. Tight.

I loved my husband. I did. Three days after my 23rd birthday I gave birth to our second child. By that time, the concept of happily ever after was seriously tarnished. One day not long after, I woke up and thought: I saved myself for this? Still, I loved being a mother; my life was quite traditional, more like my mother’s than my peers’. So I went to therapy to bridge the widening gap between my dreams and my reality.

When I left him almost 3 years later, my halo took a solid hit. Then, eight months after that, on July 4th I completed the transition that had terrified me as a young zealot: I went from Saint to Whore. In 24-hours. The news was out. I was a double-home-wrecker.

The most amazing thing about the crossover was the relief. Not just relief but all-caps RELIEF. Suddenly, people viewed me as a Jezebel. I would never again have to hold up that façade (equally flawed) of perfection. Accepting that people saw you as contemptible, however untrue that felt, was intoxicating. I was okay with being judged and misjudged. I was free.

Silly postscript: Of course, the names of the cuckold and the cuckolder have been changed because this is thinly veiled enough.

Friday, April 22, 2016

politics and time passing

It is a political season without precedent in my life. The drone of rhetoric and issues has become deafening the way sitting near the engine of the plane fills your ears. Politics is passion and passion is by definition volatile. Lots of people are feeling the fatigue from angry substantiated and unsubstantiated epithets hurled. It's too much today.

Work is not much of a relief. My inspirational and energetic leader of 2+ years is gone. Can't talk about why or how but it is painful. Inspiration and energy is in short supply. Candor and sincerity are even rarer. I depended too much on her enthusiasm and feel compelled to create it/find it/nurture it within me to give to the team. There's a black hole of escapism that keeps sucking it out. And there is understandable confusion/stress in the current leadership void.
Of course if tomorrow some real tragedy should strike, I would chide myself for puling over these small issues. That is me trying to get perspective. Well, I make myself climb out of this hole every day so I can help the people I work with because they are outstanding.

Time Passing
Over the past two years or so, there have been dramatic changes in the microcosm of my life.

  • My father died. 
  • We queers won the right to marry. (I am marrying the love of my life here in Houston in six months, on our 30th anniversary.)
  • Our daughter started renting our garage apartment. I will look back on this time in our relationship as one of our happiest times.
  • Barbara got a long-overdue, well-deserved promotion. 
  • I became a creative director. 
  • Barbara was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. It is under control with medication and exercise. 
  • Our city has morphed into an L.A.-style traffic snarl.
  • Property taxes are out-of-control. 
  • I have been in a whirlwind of making. 
  • Finally finished a goddamned table after years of stalling. It's a beauty. 

  • I've been knitting. 

  • And baking. 

And dreaming of the day that my life will consist of hopping from one project to another.

Monday, December 10, 2012

the silly old maid

If we find the thing which makes us content but avoid it because of prejudices deep in our history then we are fools.

This season of football in a tv-less household has sent my love off to watch that enigmatic, crashing game at a dear friend's house. It is good on a deep, solid level to see her choose to enjoy herself and "leave me" behind because that has always been hard for her. I assure her I know she loves me no less...and that I need, need, need this time. It's so good for each of us.

After so many happy and companion-filled years I now have regular periods of solitude. I find that I am drawn to the same activities that delighted me as a young girl. (Except for the cooking, that's clearly an activity connected with adulthood for me.) I read. I listen to someone (okay, it's Garrison Keillor's craggy bass) read poetry to me. I do crossword puzzles. I write. I make things. I think about stuff. I make lists and plans.

It's even the fleeting self-consciousness that surprises me. The occasional awareness that my activities seem the choices of an old maid. First, why would I even care? Second, the charm of these things has been with me all my conscious life. Silly, silly woman/girl.

But it is fleeting and it does not change a thing. Dickinson and Milton and Angier and Gaiman, crossword clues and project drawings. And silence. Such lovely, velvety silence.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

that project of which I whined

Some months back I was kvetching about a project I was working on. Well, this is the project and it's finally complete:

While the music grates on me a bit, I'm immensely proud of the final product both from a data standpoint and a graphic communication standpoint.