Monthly Archives: May 2011

Personally, I love pigs.

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My first experience with a cop in the United States was in high school.  Just like most of you out there, I had grown up hearing, “Ahg, don’t they have something better to do than to give me a ticket for going 5 miles over the speed limit?”  My mom claimed tears as the number one defense mechanism required to escape tickets as a woman.  This from someone who claimed to be a feminist.  “Or lie, tell them you’re on your way to a funeral.”  All sound advice for a child.  Remember, this was before Cops became a huge hit on television, and spawned numerous other hits like “Cops in Snow, Cops in Heat, When Good Cops Attack.”  Cops was our first reality show.  I remember actually seeing someone I knew on Cops, once. The most surprising part of it was that he was not a criminal, he was a cop!

So there I was, in rural New Jersey, with a boy, in a car.   Totally innocent situation, right?  It was probably about one a.m.  We actually were just sitting there talking.  Of course, that was not the case ten minutes before.  But, the cop didn’t know that.  There was a “rat-a-tat-tat” on my window.  After realizing that Jason was not out there with a chainsaw, waiting to hack me to bits, I rolled down the window.

“Well, what do we have here?” said the female cop.

If I hadn’t been so drunk I probably would have been terribly nervous.

“We’re just talking.”  I said, profoundly.

“Well, I need to see some ID. And a driver’s license, sir.”

He actually had a driver’s license.  All I had was my ID card that I used in Saudi Arabia, to get me in and out of the gym and pool area.  I handed it over.

“Well, little lady.  Saudi Arabia?  Huh. You expect me to believe that you are from Saudi Arabia?”

“I am.  I am here for boarding school.”

Hmmm.  The wheels were turning.  My arrogant self could hear them.  We did have a rather annoying school full of kids from all over the world, so she believed me.  Instead of recalling my training from ten years prior, I failed to tear up and reverted to my natural defense mechanism…

sarcasm.

“Okay darling, well, I think we should give your parents a call and see how they feel about you being parked in a car, during the middle of the night, with Bob here (yep.  Changing his name… because I can do that!).”

“Fine.  I’m sure they couldn’t care less.  Here’s their number (I pompously included the country code).  You’ll have to call them in about eight hours though, because it’s tomorrow there.  They are already at work.” (and, yea, there weren’t cell phones back then – imagine a time without cell phones or the show Cops. Weird.)

Can’t you just see the total lack of respect?  My shoulders were moving like I was a Jerry Springer guest; I was feeling PRETTY impressive.  My truth was even more confusing than a lie!  I loved it!

“Um.  Okay.  Maybe I will call them.  Anyway, it looks like nothing is going on here.  Get her home, Bob.”

See, I fared rather well.  But why did I feel so agitated and defensive?  I’m sure that female cop was just looking out for me, making sure I wasn’t being raped in the woods, or kidnapped by some pedophile.  I mean, it was New Jersey.  Strange shit went down in those thar’ woods.  Not quite Deliverance shit, but still some kinda shit.  I mean, Friday the 13th was filmed there for a reason.

Why do we teach our kids to disrespect the police?  Start listening to yourself.  You’ll say stuff like, “Damn cop. Why on earth would they pull me over when there are banks being robbed?” and then five minutes later you’ll say to your kid, “See the police man (or WOman)?  If you are ever in trouble, call them.  If Mommy falls down and doesn’t get up, you want them to come.  If someone almost runs you over on the way home from school, call the police.  If you are lost and scared, find the police.”

Do you see the hypocrisy?  We tell them WE are above the rules of other people.  That WE can speed through a school zone because WE are a parent with a child at that school and WE don’t want to be late.  Of course, WE would never run down a child crossing the road there, because WE are perfect.  How are our children supposed to understand that cops are there to help?  Or to realize their intention is to keep kids safe from some creep in the woods.  (sorry Bob, you weren’t actually a creep.  creepy scenario.  maybe you were a creep.  eeeeek!!!)

No.  All cops are not good.  You’ll see stuff on the news EVERY single night about how crooked they are.  But, just like teachers (see how easily the name Mary Kay Laterno comes to mind?), do you ever hear about how amazing they are?  Do you ever think that every single day, while that one cop is screwing off and giving them a bad rep, there are hundreds and thousands, extracting children from burning cars, breaking up violent domestic spats, being shot at for simply doing their jobs, and saving kids – kids like yours.  When my neighbor’s baby stopped breathing, she came straight to my husband.  He held that little guy, checked for breathing, did CPR, all while I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off – corralling my daughter and my dogs while calling, wait for it… 911.  My husband just kept working.  He didn’t even look flustered.  They are trained for this.  They don’t judge the situation first, they save lives first.  Unfortunately, this baby had not been breathing for too long.  My husband kept working until the “on duty” first responders came.  A woman scooped the baby out of my husband’s strong arms and into the ambulance.  The mother spun in circles, wondering why they weren’t in more of hurry.  You know why our neighbor brought her baby here? Because she knew that my husband is a hero.

He saves lives.  At least he tries.  Which is more than most people do.

He also gives people tickets when they speed through a school zone.

He was in “cop-mode.”  I was in  “loony-chicken-protective-mother-keep-dogs-out-from-under-foot-mode,” which was quickly followed by “smudge-my-house-like-a-crazy-hippie-mode.”  FYI: if you have an emergency, do NOT call me.

Stop being so self-absorbed, people!  Look at what you do all day.  Do you risk your life by sitting in your cubicle?  Are you so important that running over a 7-year-old to get to work on time seems rational?  Would you call the cops if you were in trouble?

Take a minute, next time you’re pulled over for some slight infraction of the law.  yea.  Go ahead.  Turn on that brain.  It still works, even though you’ve been killing it with Kardashians.  Why did they pull you over?  Did you do something illegal?  Accept it.  You made a mistake.  Everyone does.  Who cares?  But this man, or this woman, who is doing this job because they care about helping people (because, trust me, it’s not about the money) is trying to keep people safe.  They are not after you.  That’s like being homophobic and thinking that Elton John wants to bone down on you because he’s gay and you’re a man.  They are not targeting you because you are driving a Mercedes.  They are targeting you because you are driving a Mercedes really fast (probably stalking Elton John) and they’d rather give you a ticket than pull yet another body from an accident.

Get over yourself for a second and be a good person.  Try it.  Thank them.

Thank the police, and set a good example for your kids.  They may need a cop one day.  Are they going to call one if you keep bitching about that ticket?

Cooked Weenies, Anyone?

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Father’s Day.  A time to celebrate dads.  And cook weenies.  I think that’s kind of a funny correlation.  Hot dogs and dads.  What is the reason for grilling meat on Dad’s day?  Is it a reminder of just how hard he works, that he might as well cook something up that distinctly resembles a penis?  Is it a symbol of his devotion to this whole family thing?  Maybe a representation of how he feels (like a cooked weenie?).  Maybe we should switch it up a bit, and Mom’s should grill weenies on Mother’s Day.  Totally makes more sense to me.  Dad’s can go to brunch and visit the spa for that much needed facial.

For Mother’s Day this year, I promptly forgot that I have a mother, and I focused on the fact that I am a mother.  Selfish?  Sure.  But sometimes selfish is yummie.  It was sunny.  That made me happy.  That’s all I needed.  Until my husband had to come home sick from work, then I also needed beer (which I’m sure my thoughtful daughter would have bought for me if she was 15 years older).  Like the good mom I am, I drug her underaged butt into the liquor store with me where we skipped around, finishing our ice cream, buying Mom a six pack.  We returned home to paint bird houses in the sun while my husband nursed a fever and watched the millionth episode of cops.  For lunch I ate chocolate chip cookies. For a snack I had ice cream.  For dinner I had my beer and Sun Chips. See?  I should have grilled the weenies.   At least they have protein.

Back to the next rapidly approaching Hallmark holiday.  I do appreciate my husband (although, I must admit I appreciate him more when he’s not watching Cops), and I want him to feel the love.   About six years ago I planned the pen-ultimate Father’s Day barbecue combined with an admittedly sacrilegious event for my daughter, who was 8 months old:

Our daughter’s BEER-TISM.

We had a hot tub in those days, before my mommy-stincts started giving me recurring nightmares of accidental child drownings.  We don’t have a hot tub anymore as a means of increasing my sleep potential.  We turned the heater off and had ourselves a grand old beer-tism.   I thought it would be amusing and sweet to honor my sister and her husband as the “god parents.”  We went overboard, with guests and friends eating and drinking, kids frolicking in the hot tub.  Dogs stealing burgers and vegetarian inspired fake-meat-products.  Dads enjoying their relaxing day in the sun, cooking their weenies (I can’t help it).

My brother-in-law held my baby girl and we anointed her with beer.  Oh yes, we really did.  We didn’t submerge her in the hot tub, but we did dip her toesies in.  It was official.  She had people who loved her, and knew how to enjoy the occasional brewski.  All would be well in the world.

It was my favorite Father’s Day ever, mainly because it was the first one with my daughter, and the first one with my husband in such an important role (Weenie Cooker).  We enjoyed ourselves, fully, except that my sister seemed a bit quieter than usual and her family left our house fairly early.  I thought that was a bit odd for the guests of honor.  I don’t even think she enjoyed a beer (if you knew my sister, you would understand this as a sign of imminent DOOM).  As the smell of various meat and veggie-meat imitations dissipated, I pondered my sister’s odd mood.  For about two weeks.  Until I ran into her mother-in-law.

Following the appropriate small talk about the weather, and the this and the that she asked me a question that confused me a bit.

“Aren’t you proud of your sister?” she asked, innocently enough.

“Um, in general, yes I am proud of her.  She’s great.” (I’m thinking, ‘Yep, she can fart with the best of them.  You KNOW I’m proud!’)

“I just think it’s such a huge undertaking to get baptized as an adult.”

“Ummmmm.  What?  Did you say baptized?  My sister?”  At this point, I am experiencing a severe, premature hot flash.  The sweat is dribbling into my eye a little.  It stings.  I blink and try to look normal, and not like I’m having some sort of Turrets-like facial spasm.

“Oh.  Oh my.  She didn’t tell you?  Oh no.  I’m sorry.  I thought you knew.”

“No, no.  It’s okay.  Really.  She must not have wanted me to know.  When did she do it?”  I asked, crossing my arms, hoping my armpit sweat stains weren’t becoming too obvious, smiling, trying to blind her with the reflection off of my teeth so she couldn’t see my eye twitching from the sweat dribbling into it.

“Well, on Father’s Day, dear?  Isn’t that funny?  It was the only day that the minister could do it.”

Oh.

“Tee hee.  Yes.  Very funny.”

And the non-beer drinking sister behavior was explained.  I managed to not only offend her religion, which was totally nice of me, but I even mocked the experience that she had that very day!  I felt like a big, awkward, insensitive ogre.  Here I was trying to honor her, in my own weird way, and instead I made a joke out of her decision.

So, while it was my most memorable Father’s Day, and I really did enjoy myself in the moment, it was not my best sister-ly behavior of all time.

Since then I have been making it up to her with special hand-crafted beer farts and noon-er phone calls about my Rob Lowe dream.  Soon I will wear her down and she will wish that I still had that hot tub.

We would throw in some scented bubbles.  Cook the weenies.

And then, I could beer-tise her, too.

Poop-hole, Pee-hole, and a Third One, Too?

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My captor handed me a blue cardboard box and told me to read the directions.  I wanted to vomit, not read.  I sat on the cold toilet lid.  I read the fold out directions by the glow of the cheap flourescent light.  I held them upside down. What was this a drawing of?  It was like a Rorschach ink blot test.  I see an elephant, with an inside-out trunk.  Wait.  This is supposed to be my body?  Is this supposed to go in your butt? In your pee hole?  Oh. Wait just a minute.  I have how many holes down there?  That can’t be right.  It was like an entire sex-ed class, completed in 20 minutes, by myself, in my bathroom.  There I sat.  Sweating. Locked in.

Scared.

Disgusted.

Confused.

Maybe more information would have helped?  Like a chat with my mom?

I’m not sure what happened to my parents.  In the seventies they were crunchy, growing their own veggies in Oregon, probably growing other things, too.  They talked to us about our parts.  They showed us pictures even.  And then, I guess they figured we had it because I don’t recall any refresher courses between the ages of 5 and 13.  And, damn, if I couldn’t remember what I’d learned.  Guess I should have listened, instead of playing with my stupid Barbie, the one whose hair we had cut off to make our own Ken doll.  Gender modification at it’s finest. Anyway.  They were plastic and didn’t have to worry about this stuff.

So there I sat.  I drummed up the nerve to give it a go.  It took at least 5 tries.  And then, I think it was only about 1/4 of the way in.  I hobbled around for the rest of the day, doing all I could to avoid eye contact with my dad (I had overheard my mom telling him, “She got her period!” – giggle giggle giggle).  It shouldn’t have alarmed me after the bra purchasing experience I had survived the summer before.   It was like some big practical joke, and I didn’t think it was very funny at all. My sister wasn’t even around to help, she had abandoned me for Catholic boarding school.  Besides, she was cool and probably only had her period at night or something.  That’s how cool she was.

I’d never felt so alone and uncomfortable (mainly because I didn’t have it in right).

I had heard about this evil period thing before.  Girls in junior high told stories of some nameless pathetic creature who had come before us, wearing white pants, and discovering that “Aunt Flow” doesn’t give a crap if you have to stand up in front of the class… she’s coming to town anyway!   I heard about methods, like if you sat up really really straight, it wouldn’t come out.  I had the greatest posture ever in 6th and 7th grade.  I heard that you could get out of gym, weekly, if you made the poor middle-aged gym teacher aware of your “condition.”  I couldn’t imagine telling a soul.  I was going to pretend that I was the first girl on earth never to get her period – not because there was something wrong with me, but because I was amazing.  I could control such weakness with my mind.

FYI: I went into childbirth with much the same ignorance.  But, at least by then I had learned about that other hole.

I had a great friend who I would visit with in the states, every summer.  We would watch MTV and talk about boys, tell ghost stories, and snuggle with her dog.  And then one summer all of that changed.  She brought this book in for us to read. I was so excited, we had flashlights and comforters and I was expecting a great Edgar Allen Poe type of scare fest.  Bring it!  And then she started talking about “Menstruating” and “Puberty.”

A big piece of my heart died right there, on her living room floor, twitching and gasping in the glow of our flashlights.

“I can’t wait!  I am so excited to get my period,”  said my friend, who I was starting to think was actually one of those aliens from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

What.  the.  hell?

“Really?  It sounds gross and awful,”  said ME, in my infinite wisdom.

“No, no.  It’s so cool.  Once we get it we will be WOMEN!  We will have boobs and boyfriends (I guess those two – or three – things were connected somehow) and it will be amazing.  We’ll fall in love and get married…. SIGH!”

“Um.  Do you have any other books?”

“C’mon!  Let’s look up questions we have.  It will be fun!”

Suddenly, that summer, I realized that we were really different people.  We were both blonde.  That was where the similarities stopped.  In their tracks.  She was boy crazy, for REAL boys!  I was only crazy for the ones in movies.   She was starting to look more like Julia Roberts, and I was starting to look more like a dork.  She was looking forward to this woman thing, and I was totally denying that it would ever happen.  Some people always want to grow up, and sure I had my moments where I fantasized about being Simon LeBon’s wife (or even mistress), but I really had no desire to go through puberty.  I was terrified.  I thought I’d just pass on the boob option, too.  Those seemed like a lot of work.  I was my father’s daughter.  I was going to be tom-boy forever!

Well, guess what.  No one asked me!  I begrudgingly became a “woman,” that day, sweating in my air conditioned bathroom, working harder than I needed to – and I wasn’t happy about it.  I wanted to stay  a kid for a while longer.  I think that’s where I could have used more than a pamphlet.  I would have loved for someone to tell me that even though I was growing up, I could still be a kid.  Just because there was a hole that I hadn’t been aware of before, didn’t mean that I had to suddenly act all grown up and stop reading Trixie Belden, suddenly switching to Glamour questionnaires and worrying about getting married.

I could still be a kid, even now that I knew where the tampon was supposed to go.

Super-hero Grampa, a.k.a. Fast Frankie

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I grew up with a super-hero.  Well, mostly we just wrote letters and saw each other over summer vacation, but still, there he was.  My own super-hero.  His name was Frank.

Fast Frank.

The owner of Frankie’s House of Ale Repute.

My grampa.

This was a man who I could sit in a boat with for hours, trolling along the lake, hoping for a fish to bite.  I’m sure we talked, but mostly I remember being quiet, and being comfortable with the silence.  It was like fishing with Buddah.  I know, that’s a bit of an oxymoronic thing to say.  Buddah would have kissed the fish and put them back in the lake, we ate them.  But we ate them with love in our bellies. Does that count?

When we lived over seas, we were pen pals.  He would write my sister and I, diligently.  He was the best letter writer of them all.  After he died, we found a box of love letters that he had written to my gramma, and I thought that she must’ve been the luckiest woman in the world to have such a romantic pursuing her.  In the summertime, we would go back to Washington State and play in the sunshine (yes.  Another ironic statement, I know) and the lake.  He bought an ancient motor boat to teach us how to water ski.  He found us an old-fashioned surf board for us to play on.  He built a fire pit and we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows religiously.  Since we always missed the Fourth of July in the U.S., he would buy us mass supplies of illegal fireworks, and we’d shoot them off, driving the neighbors crazy, in the middle of August.

He called me Blondie.  He called me Liver Lip.  He called me Bubble Head.

He loved to tease me about my obsession with Michael Jackson.  While my sister and I poured over Star Magazine, laying out in the sun on the lake, he’d whip up chocolate coladas for my parents and anyone who was stopping by to visit.  He always had friends, and best stories you’ve ever heard.  He was a creative, optimistic fella.

He only made me cry twice.

One day, we were walking in the woods.  I was in college.  He told me he didn’t want to be old.  He felt like in his mind he was still only twenty-one.  But his damn body was not keeping up.  I didn’t know what to say.  His radiant blue eyes were sad.  I wanted to tell him to live forever and to keep loving me because I couldn’t imagine a planet without him on it.  He was a giver of unconditional love, and I didn’t want to ever be without it.

The next time he made me cry was when he died.  Do you remember a time when not everyone had a cell phone?  But business people and cool people and drug dealers had PAGERS.  That seemed like the wave of the future.  Maybe they were right.  With the texting we all do now, we could have probably done just that with a $25 pager.  Hmmmm.  Anyway, I was not a drug dealer, but I did have a thing for being cool.  Nah.  I was a business owner, running my wee massage practice.  I had a pager, and absolutely no one ever paged me.  So, I never had it with me.  I left it in my car when I went to see Titanic with Kate and Leo.  Ah, the cheese ball Celine Dion song.  “I’m the King of the WORLD!”  The iceberg.  It was an emotional roller coaster, for sure.  I dragged my weary ass out of my movie seat and walked through the snow back to my car.  I had fifteen pages.

My grampa had suffered a massive stroke.  He was still alive.  I hated that movie. I hated my pager.  I bought an overpriced ticket and my sister and I flew back to Washington.  I hated Washington.

We arrived at SeaTac and looked for my parents.  They had just flown in from Saudi Arabia.  We found a rental car and wouldn’t you know it, it was snowing like mad – in Washington!  It hardly ever snows in Seattle.  Of course, this wasn’t a light snow either.  There was about 6 inches and we had to find this hospital on a steep Seattle hill.   Once we had slid around and parked the car in a precarious location, wondering if it would slide into Puget Sound while were inside, we ran in to see my grampa. He was still talking, but he wasn’t opening his eyes.  I put my hand on his head and it was the hottest head I had ever felt in my life.  Not even super-heroes burn that hot.

This was not going improve, I knew it right then.

While everyone else was chatting, he said to me, “I don’t want to die yet.  I’m not ready to die.”  I was trying not to cry because I didn’t want to make him feel worse and I just said, “Well, maybe you don’t have to.”  It was a stupid thing to say, but it was all that would come out.  I just kept holding on to his hand.  I wanted to see those baby blues again, but he just didn’t have the strength.  We all told him we loved him and we’d see him in the morning.  The doctors talked about options for survival, and care, and what part of his brain had been affected.  We pretended to play with those ideas, building them up like claymation people in our heads about what this new direction of living would look like.

I wish we had stayed.  Just to have that whole night in his presence would have given me ten more hours of Frankie.  I would love to have ten more hours with my super-hero.

I slept with my sister, like we were kids again and not married people.  We giggled like we did fifteen years before, both of us nervous and uncomfortable with what was happening and what we couldn’t stop.  We slept with our contacts in, ready to go at a moments notice.  As we thought, 7 a.m. we were on the road because he had taken a turn for the worse during the night.  They kept him alive while we drove there.  My sister hit some sort of speed vortex and we made it from Bremerton to Seattle in less than 45 minutes (in rush hour).  This is an impossibility, so I know she’s magic.

Pure magic, that girl.

We arrived and stood vigil around his bed.  It was our family and my uncle.  We all touched him somewhere.  I was back at his head when I realized my dad didn’t seem to know what to do.  We made him stand there, and I held onto his feet. As they turned off the machines that were helping him breathe, we all held on and told him we loved him and it was okay for him to leave, because we would always remember him.  But, it wasn’t okay.  Who was going to love me with such pure goodness?  I wanted to be a kid again and throw a tantrum, but I didn’t.   I looked over at one point and realized that at another bed were two teenagers saying goodbye to their dad.  I realized I was being so selfish.  I had him in my life for so long.  But, if you met Frankie, you would see.  Those blue eyes of his had the power to warm the coldest toes.

His body was much smaller once he was gone.  That is not a myth.  He shrunk. Without that big personality inside of his body, I realized he was a pretty little guy.

Who would’a thunk that those superheroes were just humans.

I missed that unconditional love for so long, other than the sweetness of my doggies.  Then I had a baby.  I had a baby that has my grampa’s barrel chest.  She has his slightly shorter than average arms.  She has my nose.  She had her daddy’s chin.  And she loves me with the ferocity of a child.  Only a child can do that.  Or a grampa.

I did get a few more minutes with him, years ago.  I had a dream that we were all together to celebrate his birthday.   I knew he wouldn’t be there long.  I cried and hugged him and cried some more.  I told him how much I love him.  I think that was a second chance to say goodbye.  Everyday without him, my eyes get a bit bluer.  The more I see, the more they look like his.

I miss you Fast Frankie.  I wish you could meet this kid who reminds me so much of you.

life in the gutter