Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Two Memoirs by Augusten Burroughs

I won’t pretend, not even for a minute, that I had a childhood anything like that of
Augusten Burroughs. He one-upped me, for sure! I could, however, relate to him on many levels. I suppose many of us do it. We hide our pain and suffering behind a crazy mask of outrageous humor, or disappear into a fantasy world inside ourselves and, if only for a little while, it works.
Running with Scissors was a raunchy joy ride through the salad days of the deliciously amazing writer, Augusten Burroughs. I really did laugh out loud throughout the book, although I held the pages as closely together as I could and still read the words (so my neighbors on the train couldn’t see the naughtiness I was finding so savory)! I was repulsed and delighted for 300 full pages ... and then it was over.
And I was sad.
I missed him! I wanted to know more! What happened?! I just couldn’t stand the thought of leaving it like that, so I hurried into the store on my way to work and purchased Dry.

We lost a few years between adolescence and adulthood, but it was rather easy to fill in the blanks. As one would expect, after having grown up the way he did, Augusten became an addict. Dry follows his unsteady journey into sobriety. The humor is still there, although it is far less over-the-top and the story is actually extremely sad. I appreciated the varied relationships in his life and while Augusten chose to publish what the rest of us just sweep under the rug, I won’t tell you which parts I found myself relating to. I finished it just moments ago with many tears and a dab of bittersweetness and ... that familiar yearning for more!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monday, June 16, 2008

Funny Guy

I was driving to work on Friday (Friday the 13th, by the by) and feeling really down. It had been a melancholy morning, so far, and I decided to cheer myself up! I put on my favorite outfit, which consists of white jeans and a funky, colorful shirt, and got in the car for the first leg of my Commute Triathalon. I started thinking about how funny my husband, Jerry, can be and started really cracking myself up!
A few days ago, Jerry and I were bellied up to the bar at King Street Blues just chatting and people-watching. A man came in to order some carry out food. He was indecisive, like that kid on Caddyshack (I want ... a hot dog ... no! ... a hamburger ... no! ... ), the man stepped up to the bar and said, “Yeah .... gimmee ... a Sister Mary (bbq chicken sandwich) ... ummmmmm ... some fries ... annnnnddddd .....”
He was wiggling his fingers like a little kid doing “Gimmee” or a weird back scratch, “ ... annnnndddd .... some coleslaw!”
I did the weird finger wiggle thing to Jerry and asked, “What is that? The universal sign for ‘Coleslaw’?”
Jerry said, “That’s not ‘Coleslaw’!” He looked like he was really irritated about the guy getting his signs mixed up, “If anything, that’s ‘Grabass’.”
That thought reminded me of another time we were ordering food from a little carryout joint near our house. We call it Barbie Q. The woman at the counter had a weird, mewly way of talking. Her voice was whiny and her southern accent seemed painful, each word stretched to the point of nearly snapping. Someone ordered a bbq sandwich and Counter Girl repeated the order into the microphone, “Baaaaaaaah ba que....”
What else could I do, but imitate her words back to Jerry, “Baaaaaaaah ba que...”! Jerry said, “Yeah, it’s like when people think their cats are talkin’!”
Some time ago, we were sitting in my step-brother’s kitchen and my mother was taking some pills. I don’t know what pills, she’s in her sixties and that’s what you do, I guess, take pills. My mother had cancer in the mid-seventies. I don’t remember it all that well as I was just an infant (infant/4th grader - potayto/potahto), but she was gone for a week or so and came back with a scar on her neck. It was never very noticeable to me, but to hear her tell it, one of her many million admirers stalked up behind her and slashed her throat out of sheer love and adoration for her. So she put any number of pills in her mouth, took a tiny sip of water and threw back her head violently as if the back of her head desperately needed to touch her shoulder blades STAT! Her head returned to it’s normal, upright position, and when her eyes rolled back down from their inspection of her brain activity, I must have had a look of pure horror on my face because she felt the need to explain, “I have trouble with pills ... too much scar tissue...”
Jerry, more quizzical than horrified, asked, “Well, then, how do you eat?”
And, it was upon revisiting that memory, that I spit Diet Coke all over my crisp white jeans while driving over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Walking Small

This morning I went
for a long walk through
my gorgeous neighborhood.
Just me and my camera.
I walk a lot, really.
More than a lot of people.
I don’t carry my iPod because
I enjoy listening to the symphony
of birdsong and all of God’s
creatures rustling
through the woods.
I usually walk between
two and six miles a day,
sometimes more
rarely less.
I walk as a mode of
I walk because I like
the time to explore my
thoughts as well as
my surroundings,
I walk because I think
I am fat and it is part of
my admittedly lame workout

But today I walked
simply because
I can.
I was watching the short
promo film clips of
Patrick O’Brien
and when I could no longer
see through my tears,
I decided to walk.
My body needed it ... craved it.
Motion - mobility.
I walked because I have the
strength and energy and
good health to do so.
I walked because I didn’t know
what else to do.
I walked because I am sad
and small and
insignificant in this great
big beautiful world.
I walked because I feel helpless.
I walked because I am
ALS is sucking the life out of so
many incredible, amazing people
and there is precious little I
can do about it.

I just
... walked.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Mistress's Daughter

I want to be very careful about how I review this book. Apparently A.M. Homes is a well-known American writer. I don’t know her work. Part of me wants to read it, and part of me doesn’t. It’s hard to explain, I guess. The Mistress’s Daughter is a memoir and, honestly, rather dry. Not even dry humor, which I love, just dry. I can’t say I loved her style or the story itself. Perhaps I would feel differently if I had read her previous work, if I did know her. But, while I admire her tenacity and desire to learn, to dig deeper, it just seemed so sad to me. And not a grief-like sadness, not a my-dog-just-died sadness, not the sadness that accompanies a tragedy ... just that slow, profound despondency of life.
I don’t think I loved this book.
However, I am glad that I read it. I probably won’t take much away from it, but while reading, I did explore some of my own feelings, and I suppose that is a good thing.
Again, I want to be careful how I say this. I believe that people who adopt children are the greatest people on earth! (This also goes for people who adopt pets and love the mixed up breeds as much as the purebreds.) I think it is far greater to reach out to a child who needs love and needs protection ... a child who doesn’t have a home and desperately deserves one.
Unfortunately, when a child grows up not knowing one or more of their parents, there are always questions deep inside. Even bigger questions than, “why?” and “who?” Questions about what makes me me. Especially if your only source of information is biased on some level. And while these children, may have questions, may be seeking a greater sense of self, may feel an emptiness or sadness somehow .... this certainly doesn’t mean that these children (and eventual adults) have ill feelings or regret or disconnect with the parents who did raise them.
It’s just never all that black and white. And sometimes we need to explore our feelings. And we should be allowed and encouraged to do so. And sometimes we don’t want to know the answers.
Sometimes we just need some time to think.
I don’t sincerely know what I am trying to say. Maybe read her book. She doesn’t really get into the complex, involved thoughts and mysteries ... but perhaps following her journey will help you along with yours.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Fiberglass Pond

For as long as I can remember wishing for things, I have always longed for a swimming pool! We lived on Lake Kampeska for many years, and I loved it! I was in the water from sun up 'til sundown ... swimming, floating, skiing, diving. There is truly no more refreshing tonic than immersing oneself in cool water!
While having a pool has moved from a fantasy to a five-year-plan, still, it's hot!! And I just can't stand the idea of vegging in front of the air conditioner all day on the rare Sunday that I don't have to work.
Now, I'm a South Dakota Girl, and we're nothing if not resourceful and creative when it comes to entertaining ourselves! So, although I don't have an actual swimming pool, I do have a hot tub! And the heater on the hot tub can be turned off and, if we keep the cover on it, the water is actually extremely and exhilaratingly cool! Add a nice little air mattress from the Dollar General, and you've got yourself a pool party!
Granted, as I looked down at myself sipping on my can of beer (yes, I said can of beer, and not just a can, mind you, a 24oz can), nearly dropping my cell phone in the water more than a time or two, floating on my cheapo air mattress in my 5x5 swimming pool, it did occur to me that I was just a cigarette dangling out of my mouth away from being Pure White Trash!
And we're not even going to talk about the 3rd Degree Sunburn I am dealing with today!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Too Hot to Move!

"Did you know that more murders are committed at 92 degrees Fahrenheit than any other temperature? I read an article once. At lower temperatures, people are easy-going, over 92, it's too hot to move, but just 92, people get irritable!"

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Spanish Ankles

I met a couple of Air Force guys in the bar last night. We were on our way out when the conversation started, so we stayed for one more beer and gabbed a bit. I mean, we didn't really bond or anything, but it was chatting with them that reminded me of some of my favorite stories from the Air Force. That's another great thing about joining the military: Lifetime Guarantee of Great Storytelling!
When I was about 20 and had been in the Air Force for close to a year, I suppose, I was sitting in my office one sunny afternoon. I worked in a Personnel position, so I wore a skirt and pantyhose 4 days a week. I was stationed in Spain, and some of us girls noticed that the Spanish girls wore pantyhose with everything! The problem being that, in Spain, the pantyhose came in a one-size-fits-all package, so on the thinner, younger gals, it created an unattractive pool around their ankles that we liked to call: Spanish Ankles.
So, I was sitting at my desk one day, admiring my patent leather shoes. (I like to refer to them as Pat and Leather, as if my shiny black pumps were actually an old, gay comedy act with Pat being the androgynous, sarcastic wisecracker and Leather the rough and tumble "straight" man.) So, while enjoying a little Pat and Leather routine, I noticed that my pantyhose were kind of loose around my ankles!
Yikes! Spanish Ankles!
I said to no one in particular, "Oh, I feel like a Spanish girl today." My boss, SSgt Torres, who happened to be married to a Spanish girl, was instantly offended! "Why is that, Airman Harrison?!"
As God is my witness, I meant to say. "Because my pantyhose are sagging." But what came out of my mouth in the most matter-of-fact way a person could say anything was, "Because my panties are soggy."


Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea Chelsea Handler

I like pretty girls who are funny. I mean, really funny! The girls who don't mind sacrificing a little of the pretty just for a laugh! That's why I have always loved Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Julia Louis Dreyfus, Goldie Hawn, Kathleen Madigan .... the list goes on and on ....
Chelsea Handler is one of those women who looks very attractive, but doesn't mind revealing her hilarious faux pas and naughtiness. I look for this in my friends, as well! Because more than I enjoy looking at pretty people, I enjoy laughing at everyone else!! While I certainly enjoyed reading Chelsea's book, I think I would rather just hang out with her!!