Saturday, April 25, 2009


That Argentina, my friends, the country in Catholic/Christian-saturated South America and a fucking bank, symbol of capitalism and greed. Amazing.

via boingboing

We haughty United States citizens ought to hang our heads. This is the image of "America" I want representing me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

i'm still here

Everyone I know is posting blog apologies. Blogologies, if you will. Or even if you won't. I don't owe you a post but it's hard not to feel...neglectful. And on a purely selfish level, I miss writing. Just so much flying around in the shitstorm right now. Will be back. Have all sorts of stuff simmering on the burners. Hope the pressure cooker holds until then.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

new technology crab

Twitter sucks up the "real" blog writing.
Facebook sucks up the personal emails.

I miss that shit.

Feel like a tech-loving luddite. An oxymoron if there ever was one.

And someone get those damn kids off my lawn.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

back by popular demand: the easter menu

In response to my friend Martie's request and just in time for the holidays, here is the official reprint of my own...

Evolving Easter Menu
(recipes not included because creation is not a just make it up!)

30 Silver-Dollar Pancakes
Holy Ghost Cinnamon Toast
and the ever popular:
Stigmata Frittata

Crucifix Chex Mix

Son o' God Steamed Cod
with Apostle Pesto
Crucify Stir Fry
Chewed Rustic Carrots
in Stations of the Cross White Sauce
Crown o' Thorn Creamed Corn

Magdalene Cherry Tarts
Resurrection Confection
Doubting Thomas Jelly Donuts
and, of course,

Bonus pic! Years ago another wonderful friend, John Paul, invited us over for the resurrection festival. I said I'd bring an appropriate dessert. Yesterday I looked high and low for these photos. They seem to have been carried off by the dust creatures that squat in my closet. The whole exercise led to cleaning out that gulag–a task I never willingly undertake (and must trick myself by looking for something)–and tossing 85% of the shit I'd accumulated. So here is a reenactment of the brilliant Peeps Crucifix. (Unseen are the toothpicks used to impale the peeps to their styrofoam stations. That's right, kids out there in tv land, there were peep stigmatas all over the place. What good is a theme if you can't beat it to a marshmallowy pulp? Please take note of the Calvary-esque Easter grass.)

Bon Appetit to my friends, saved and damned alike.

diary serendipity, part five (final)

Monday evening, 09/10/01
Rushdie and Fury

Attended a reading by Salman Rushdie sponsored by a writers group here in Houston. He was brilliant. I mean like all the bright, breathtaking, multi-faceted, shimmery things that have ever taken your breath away. Articulate, deeply funny, self-deprecating, right on about so much. A man who has paid for his allegiance to expression and truth in a way that most of us will never understand. Talked obliquely about the fatwa he had survived for writing Satanic Verses but mostly read from his new work, Fury. I am completely taken with this rumpled, professorial man.

Outside [before, during and after] are Islamic fundamentalists protesting Rushdie’s "heresy." There are unexpectedly quite a few of them but they are peaceful and I find their presence disturbing and comforting—their right to disagree is so honored yet his disagreement brands him a blasphemer.

Tuesday morning, 09/11/01

Eight days after I flew out of and seven days after Daughter left Boston for St. Louis, 2 airplanes depart Boston's Logan Airport and are made to crash into the World Trade Center. We watch the news in open-mouthed horror. A live view of the burning towers in the background. The news commentator doesn’t see the second tower collapse until seconds after we do. It’s like nothing I have ever seen.

Wednesday 05/22/02

9 months after diagnosis, Dave died of a brain tumor. He was 46 years old.
And this is where my diary ended. Almost 7 years later, I still find myself wishing I could pick up the phone and talk to him.

Don't get me wrong, the custody battle was 2 years of textbook awful and I'm not one to forget the past in a wave of sentimental eulogizing. Like current relationships, I prefer the messy gestalt to sanitized interpretations. I miss him. I sometimes mourn what this has done to my relationship with Daughter...but I prefer the excising of myth to living in deception, no matter how pleasant the illusion.

This tragic event was juxtaposed with a critical stage of parenting, a visit to my past, a brilliant writer, a brush with Islamic fundamentalists, a horrific attack on our country by another group of fundamentalists and subsequent horrific war launched by our country on Iraq. Difficult to tease out which parts took center stage in depression, rage, hope, healing and mourning. Like a sticky ball rolling down a painful hill, the time period contained so many terrible and wondrous components.

[It wouldn't be honest if I didn't add that Dave's death was indirectly responsible for the birth of this blog. The insurance money did help us stay afloat during Daughter's final 3-4 years of college. A part of it also helped me to achieve a childhood dream: to study Spanish in Spain. That was why this blog was born. As a way to communicate with friends and family from one central point while I was there. I never envisioned that I would continue posting after my exchange program ended and I didn't for a full year. Then, the urge to write compelled me back but I couldn't have anticipated it would mean so much to me...all of which is, in part, a result of his passing.]

So Dave is gone these 7 years. My son has grown to a man I am deeply proud of. My daughter graduated from the university and is amazing, complex and beloved. They have to deal with grief in their own ways. My lovely St. Barbara steps back and lets me deal with mine and this is how I do it.

part one part four

diary serendipity, part four

Thursday, 8/30/01—Monday, 9/03/01
The Visit (continued)

Little brother wakes us up before 8am, full of running chatter and sporting a pirate costume.

I am anxious to visit with Dave while the day is young. He calls me “my dear”, ”my darling”–expressions, like all terms of endearment, that he could not abide while we were married. I am unnerved and moved. Fleetingly concerned that he is mistaking me for his wife.

Dave’s younger brother arrives. It is so good to see him and visit. I really liked my brother-in-law when I first met him (he was 16 to my 18), before he turned into an arch conservative. Time and experience seems to have mellowed him. I’d forgotten how strikingly good-looking he is. I am grateful for his presence.

We spend the day moving boxes and furniture. All is chaos, but somehow we manage to help organize things a bit.

Dave becomes fatigued by early afternoon and naps for a long time. A glimpse of him asleep on his younger daughter’s bed while she reads beside him is poignant. I quell the rising grief and tears and try to keep busy. Daughter periodically escapes to nap in the attic room. I am sympathetic yet mildly irritated–she is here to help and I want her to stop being the carefree child. But I say very little, godknows she’s going through enough.

In the unpacking I come across an album filled with photos from Dave’s and my early years of marriage. He kept most of our photos and doled out a lean portion to me during the divorce. I haven’t seen many of these for 17 or so years. I am hungry for the images and memories that part of me feels are mine. I want desperately to take this book, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

Before I left Houston, I called a couple of old friends of Dave’s and mine and ask them to contact some others. I am not very popular with that group after leaving Dave (and having affairs with a couple of them). Their reactions are both cordial and cold. I am glad I contacted them, but just as glad to be done with that.

It turns out that two other people from that group end up coming to see Dave the same weekend that I’m there. Old home week. It’s all so strange and right. I find myself comfortable with who I’ve become.

Another old high school friend of mine picks me up for dinner and I am relieved to leave the bustle and noise of guests and children. I am nervous about reconnecting with my friend but it all turns out well. We eat, talk, drink, and look at photos. Each day is hard work and healing. She takes me back and I am grateful for the now quiet house and comfortable bed.

Sunday morning is cool and sunny and beautiful. Dave's wife runs to the bakery and I have a few moments with him while the small children are still sleeping. Every moment is precious. We reaffirm our love for each other. We talk about how happy we are with our respective partners. We talk about our children and how much joy they have brought us. He says “wife” “ex-wife” “daughter” and “son” as he refers to people. He cannot always call up our names.

His wife has removed his stitches (so handy to have a nurse in the house!) and he has dressed up a bit this morning. I am tickled to see this small vanity. I show him some of my projects and he is so happy that I’m enjoying my work. I wince inwardly as it hits me again that he will never hold another job.

I am riding a large PMS wave and feel even more emotionally torqued about the already emotional situation. Can’t even think about saying good bye to him. Again and again, I feel myself hoping for a miracle and know that my hopes are unrealistic. The results of the biopsy are inconclusive but it doesn’t matter—malignant or benign, this tumor is going to kill him. But first, it is going to rob him of his brilliant mind, destroy his ability to communicate and steal his memory. There is no focal point for helpless rage.

I prepare to leave. Daughter needs to be at the airport for a 3pm flight. Dave is visiting with friends. So much activity is exhausting him. I wish they would leave or let him rest. I go in to say good-bye and don’t care that the room is full of people. We embrace, weep and kiss each other’s cheeks. I tell him that I love him and he says the same. I will probably never see him again. If I do, he may not even know me or be able to communicate with me. It is too painful to contemplate. I leave as quickly as I can.

Thankgod I have given myself plenty of time to get places all weekend. I continue to be plagued with travel problems.

I need to find a gas station and fill up the rental car. United Airlines couldn’t find Daughter’s name on her flight because, as it turns out, her flight doesn’t leave until the next day. I drive her back to West Newton, then turn around and drive back to the airport only to discover that the rental car return place was relocated (during massive airport construction) offsite. Gas up again, find the Thrifty place and take the van to the terminal. Just before walking through the electronic detectors, I reach into my pockets to empty the change and find the damn rental car key. Jeez. I call from the airport free phone, then track down the next van driver to arrive and hand him the key. A comedy of errors. Only it's not really that funny.

Finally, I arrive at my gate with more than an hour to wait. Tried to call my sisters with no luck. Ended up calling my friends M & T at their lake house west of San Antonio. I had been able to contain the bulk of my sorrow for three days and now the damn dam was breaking. Thank goodness M was there. After we talked I felt calmer and sat down to write this rambling account.

It’s odd how conscious I’ve become now of normal memory “blips.” When I can’t remember something, I’m keenly aware of the process by which we, usually, successfully retrieve words and concepts.

Dave's wife told me today that he woke her up in the wee hours to tell her that he was so grateful that I had come to see him in spite of the fact that he had behaved so badly toward me. Old wounds and residual bitterness fade further away.

I feel scrubbed pure…bruised from the vigor of the cleansing and fatigued. Drained by the rigor of these past three days, I want to lie naked between cool fresh sheets and weep until I have no more tears. I want to sleep and sleep and sleep, quietly in Barbara’s arms.
part three part five

Saturday, April 04, 2009

diary serendipity, part three

Thursday, 8/30/01—Monday, 9/03/01
The Visit

Waiting for my flight home in the Boston airport. The past three days have felt like ocean waves breaking on rocks: steady, crashing, and concussive…beautiful, frightening and exhausting.

Where to begin.

Thursday afternoon I arrive in Boston. It’s beautiful. Didn’t realize how homesick I get for the green, for the older neighborhoods, for the sounds of the Northeast.

I’m running on three or four hours of sleep and functioning as both navigator and driver, but it’s oddly exhilarating to find my way. Find a local folk music station and could swear I hear the DJ say something about Michelle Shocked performing in Cambridge. How odd, because I’d been wondering recently about whatever happened to her.

Get to my hotel and I am childishly delighted with this little studio suite. I settle in and look longingly at the bed. I’m waiting for a call from an old high school friend but she must be running late, so I lie down and fall into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Two hours later she calls and we decide it’s too late to get together that evening so we’ll see each other tomorrow. I verify that Michelle Shocked is in fact performing at 10pm that evening and worry briefly about the irresponsibility of spending money while unemployed…then I head over to the House of Blues in Harvard Square (one of these things is not like the other).

I am braced for an emotional weekend and grateful to begin it with music I love. I find my way (poorly) through the Boston labyrinth.

The show is sold out…but the lovely young man in the ticket booth sold me a ticket when no one else was around. One of the many, many strangers who unknowingly showed me great kindness this week. Intuition? Like pheromones for sex, does our body produce crisis signals to which others respond? I’m skeptical about the new agedness of it all, and am pretty sure that my usual isolationist façade is just subconsciously wearing thin.

Michelle Shocked is wonderful. Her voice and band are tonic to my soul. Home very late.

The next morning I can’t seem to get a hold of Dave's wife to get directions to their house. End up calling L at work and she mapquests me over there. I find the house, Dave's wife (on the phone working out one of the innumerable red tape issues in her life) smiles, waves me in and asks her four-year-old son to show me where “papa” is–working on setting up his computer.

The little one leads me through one room and into another where his father is sitting. Dave stands up, I walk over to him and we embrace. And, somewhat surprisingly, both of us begin to weep. Can hardly let go of one another. The left side of his head is swollen and stitched up from the biopsy. I am awash with relief and grief at the sight of him. He holds me and says he is so grateful I have come to see him...he seems sincerely happy to see me and says “I can’t believe you’re here; I’ve been such an asshole.” In those few words, years of jagged, painful exchanges are blunted.

We sit and talk and past conflicts fade into pale background images. His speech is at once thoughtful and halting and abrupt. He speaks with difficulty about this growth in his brain and how he is so angry and trying to come to terms with this “thing” that is robbing him of his mind and life.

People and places and concepts. The names are adrift in his head. He struggles to describe things with his hands/with image associations.

He is stymied by complex tasks that used to be so easy and rote for him: their tax returns, hooking up his computer or organizing spaces.

His vocabulary has been decimated.

He can no longer read.

He has some good periods–mornings mostly. His balance is off. Because of the deadly swelling in his brain, he is on diuretics and steroids and is only allowed to drink very small quantities of fluid. He repeats himself and needs simple things repeated to him.

My heart breaks for him. I want to bribe the gods. I want to damn the gods.

His wife is amazing. Unpacking, tending to Dave, their 8 year-old daughter, and wild four-year-old son; greeting guests; running interference with insurance companies and hospitals. She gives Dave and I the gift of time and privacy to reconcile. I am forever grateful.

She is a hard woman to comfort and help, however. I make her “give me an assignment” so I can be useful in the massive unpacking [they had just moved into this new home]. They easily own twice the shit that I do and their new house is only about one and a half times bigger than mine. Seems like a gallon of substance poured into a juice glass of space. Still, she is undaunted.

Goddamn. So much happened–so hard to express it all.

Mid-afternoon I leave to visit an old friend, check out of the hotel and then, later, pick up Daughter from the airport. Dave and his wife really want me to stay with them…of course it’s all surreal, staying in my dying ex-husband’s home, but it seems to mean so much to him and I want desperately to spend time with him each morning while he’s alert.

Driving around is crazy. Traffic and not-quite-accurate directions have me u-turning all over creation. Finally arrive at my friend’s house. We reminisce, share photos and catch up on twenty-five years of history. An unexpectedly warm and comforting time.

Having been warned about the Boston airport’s construction confusion, I leave early to pick up Daughter, and am unable to check out of my hotel.

Arrive, with plenty of time, through the formidable maze of Logan airport only to discover that her flight is delayed more than two hours. So I leave, drive all the way back to my hotel in Waltham, check out and turn around and go back. (This logistical mess is absolutely characteristic of the entire weekend. I am pleased that I’m able to roll with the punches.)

I feel Barbara’s absence keenly; her presence calms me like nothing else.

Daughter walks out of the gate and I am delighted to see her. We pick up her bag, head over to West Newton and proceed to get lost another three or four times. Pretty much our standard in new places.

We arrive at Dave’s late and go up to Daughter’s attic room. We both sleep soundly.
part two part four

Friday, April 03, 2009

diary serendipity, part two

Wednesday, 8/29/01
Saying Goodbye

Am leaving in the morning for Boston...couldn't bear the thought of Dave* dying without saying goodbye face-to-face.

The tumor is completely untreatable. It's not localized...more like a snake with tentacles than a mass. I talked to him last Friday. Profoundly upsetting—the cranial swelling is affecting his communication/thought processes. He can't find words...or remember his children's names. Jesus Christ what a tragedy; he's such an articulate man. He has periods of greater lucidity between bouts of confusion. And he's completely aware of his condition.

The doctor said he could live 2 weeks or 2 years...but his ability to function may be seriously compromised before too long.

Feel like I'm throwing out disjointed pieces of a horror story. Can't even begin to express the pain my children are experiencing. Their brave/numb/stricken responses would thaw the most jaded heart. Washington University will defer Daughter's scholarship till next semester—she's moving to Boston in the next week or so. My son will be going there in the fall instead of moving back here as he'd planned.

And all you can do and look around and find yourself ass-deep in clichés...because clichés are just common-sense truths that have been beaten to a pulp.

*I'm using his fairly common name instead of constantly referring to him as "my ex" which seems too, too...cold.

part one     part three

Thursday, April 02, 2009

diary serendipity,* part one

I don't keep a diary. Except for this odd blog thing. When I was young, I kept a hand-bound diary. Full of weepy, dramatic, romantic childhood effusiveness. My sister found it and that turned out pretty much how you'd expect. Mockery is a sibling's job and bless her heart, she did it well (although I'm much better at it now than she is...overachiever that I am). I swore I'd never chronicle my life so nakedly again.

Of course, sometimes I did anyway. In fits and starts. More like random scribbled pieces of my life. The way you find bits of paper with notes or lists years later. Okay, the way I'm always finding bits of paper with notes or poems or wordplay or cryptic observations that are no longer decipherable. Even though they were mine.

Almost eight years ago I had one of those brief journal periods. I recently rediscovered (and transcribed it from handwritten to digital) but hesitated to publish it. It's so much information. However, I think it's worth it and the retelling comes just before the 7th anniversary of these here goes Part One of Four or Five, I'm not sure yet.

Friday, 8/17/01
Driving to
St. Louis; Taking Daughter back to start her second year of college

The entire Natural State was under highway construction. Isn't that a contradiction? Added almost 2 hours to our 13-hour drive. I love that truck but a comfortable place to sleep, it's not.

Paul Simon's Graceland playing. Pair of billboards that read:

JESUS/Denny's 4 mi. ahead
Donate Your Old Shoes for Orphans' Souls.
(Really? A whole soul for one pair of shoes?)

Picked up keys to Daughter's first apartment. It's in an older neighborhood of converted brick buildings about a block or two north of campus. Lots of trees and diverse architecture. Appealing.

Saturday, 8/18/01
Garage Sales

Up early to catch the dozens of garage sales; taking advantage of the influx of fall students. Can't leave truck with items in open bed, so I stay put whilst they peruse the offal. Praisejesus. I hate garage sale shopping.

Morning and evening weather is blissful. In the 60's and breezy. How DO we survive summers in Houston? I sit in the cab with the windows open, listening to the Blues and writing. Don't care how many garage sales they want to pillage. Daughter and her roommate keep coming back to place their treasures into the truckbed. They are delighted with the bargains. So much shit for so little!

After unloading two truckfuls (including one FREE dining room table--missing only one leg!...looks like my project for the evening) we go to campus where these sweet, unorganized girls have storage bins full of projects and possessions that need to be loaded and unloaded. Stuffed animals trailing their stuffing, barbed-wire-wreathed furniture, materials of every kind waiting to be transformed. And everything in little inefficient clumps. Ay.

Exhausted but done with local foraging. On to Target and groceries.

Called home for phone messages, hoping one of them holds the offer of work.

Instead, my ex-husband's wife's voice is on the phone. She has a timbre to her normal voice that can be hard to listen to, and it seems moreso this time; I hold the receiver away from my ear a bit. Hard to understand at first but then the disjointed phrases assemble: my ex-husband is in the hospital/brain swelling/large inoperable brain tumor. The sound of panic in her voice and my intake of breath have Daughter sitting up in alarm.

How do you tell a 19-year old these things when at 42, you can hardly bear the thought of losing your own parents? She is an oddly stoic creature, this daughter. Refusing comfort until the reality sets in later when the enormous pressure inside her escapes in barking, staccato sobs. Then, abruptly she pulls it back in.

Sunday, 8/19/01

We hang around a little later than we'd planned to help set up the place and maybe make arrangements to send Daughter to Boston. I drill holes, assemble beds and make a damn good "peg leg" for the gimpy table. Daughter had tickets to go to Boston over Labor Day, so we defer flying her out for the moment. There is too much swelling for them to do a biopsy yet, so no real information forthcoming. He's always had migraines, but for the past year (we learn) they've become incapacitating.

We say goodbye to Daughter at around 4pm. Decide as we pull out to get a sandwich and some coffee before the drive. After eating, we sit in the shade in front of this shop while St. Barbara has a cigarette. The late summer sun is perfect, and a breeze is blowing. We read our books (flaunting good sense and the voice in my head that keeps saying, "shouldn't you be on the road by now?") for the next three hours. Spontaneity and Impulse. My new apprentice muses.

It's been a little while since a book has been so compelling. Bone People (Keri Hulme). I am enchanted with it.

Finally, we climb into the truck and start our journey back.

Relationships seem to work like tectonics. When you try to fit the plates together there's bound to be edges that crash/break off/need filling in. When you're young, the borders seem less clear, foggy and unexplored but certainly more pliable. As you get older you know the shorelines of your own peculiar personality, but they're more entrenched...less likely to re-form and mold to another. My relationship with my ex reads like a geographical history of how just how much work it took to erode so many areas and build up so many others. And that was when I was much more flexible.

Yet, I am shook by how desperately I don't want him to die.

My mind drifts to money and how I can cover Daughter's college costs without him. Thoughts of insurance policy coverage come unbidden and I am nauseated by the sense that there is comfort there.

[Side note: The closing chapter of marital history with my ex was fairly predictable, I'm afraid. My sexual orientation–which, by the way, sounds like I'm some sort of human compass pointing the way towards deviance–gave him the leverage to threaten, then fight me for custody of our two children. His wealth and my decided lack of it, made for the kind of unbalanced battle that left terrible scars. On all of us. I retained custody only because I am tenacious and stubborn...and godforgiveme, because he had spent all he had planned on spending on legal fees...information I learned the ugly way–from an ex-girlfriend of his who decided to spill her bitterness in one surprising and disturbing late night phone call.]

More billboards. Outside a Baptist church:

Trouble often starts out as fun.

Goddamn those lifeless christians. Suck the marrow out of everything and hand you the dry husk of self-righteousness.

Then just before an adult bookstore:

Pornography Destroys; The Citizens for Decency.

Would that I could take out the semi-colon. Perhaps I've misplaced my sense of humor.

Monday, 8/20/01
Home at last

Stopped to rest for a couple of hours in Arkansas and didn't get back to Houston until after 2pm. Read some more. Reminiscent of how I felt reading Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction (and I don't like it JUST because the main character is a Puerto Rican-Irish woman, though we are damn few and far between) and Skinny Legs & All. Not that Hulme is really like Robbins, just that my level of enjoyment is so similar.

Tuesday, 8/21/01
Progress and Hope

Somewhat recuperated. Got a call from my team leader. Looks like I have at least a one-month reprieve from Corporate Cubedom! A good-sized job has come through, although the time frame is really crazy so I am probably going to be nuts until mid-September. But, like a good friend once said, the only thing worse than too much work is not enough. I'll try and keep that in mind.

My ex's wife calls. They're doing a biopsy today.

* serendipity as in unexpected and fortunate discoveries, such as finding these journal entries at this particular time; I'm not sure the adjective "fortunate" feels right...just couldn't find anything that came closer.

part two