Monday, December 31, 2007
Last night, my heavy cold breathing became more laboured, and I woke up this morning with a very, very sore throat, an earache, and my upper teeth hurt. I couldn't talk or swallow without a whole lot of pain.
I was really hating that Vick's First Defense.
As the day went on, I simply couldn't rally... cold meds didn't help, my throat was on fire, my ear was painful to the touch, and my forehead was warm.
I was sick. *insert pathetic cough* Oh, yes, and there was the coughing that only served to hurt my chest, not move anything about. I had an entire population of phlemgish living in my chest, and no little bottle of stuff to move them out.
Finally, Loo rang the local doctor and made an appointment for me. With the exchange rate being what it is, I started to panic; what if I wasn't ill? I'd be spending my sad little dollars on nothing. I'd be healthy, and penniless! I've had colds here in the UK, but, I've never been so ill, I actually went to the doctor.... it was a combination of all of my symptoms and the worry of Loo's fiance, who is coming over and isn't in a position to be exposed to any infections right now.
Let's be honest...it was about the raging fire in my throat and ears that did it... I wanted a doctor and a warm blanket.
I filled out forms, and the nurse asked me if I was a citizen of Great Britain. I guess the laryngitis hid my complete lack of dialect. If I had been, it would have been a free trip, with my only having to pay for the medicine. Instead, it was a measly $50, including any medicine that might be prescribed.
I noticed there was a bookshelf of full sized books in the waiting room, rather than the usual stack of magazines I'm used to seeing in the US. This gave me a twinge of worry... I'd heard all the stories of bad health care in the UK, however, if this bookcase was any indication of how long my wait was going to be.... I was in deep trouble.
It turns out, they are sold to help pay for a piece of medical equipment for the practice. I heaved a sign of relief, then coughed and coughed.
The doctor examined me, and said what I wanted to hear.... I was actually ill! Hurrazah!! I! Was! Sick!!
My right ear was infected, with the left one getting that way, my throat is bad, and my lungs sound like little trains, chugging along, she said. Isn't that cute?
I am on some huge antibiotics, 500mg of something or the other, I am to drink large amounts of water, and to take deep English tub baths full of steam.
The English have wonderful bathtubs, long and as deep as a wading pool.... you fill them with hot water from a tank that seems never ending, pull the curtain shut, and-- relax. There is nothing as soothing when you are tired or irritable or sick as an English bath.
The showers suck... they are called 'Power Showers', an oxymoron if ever I heard one.... but, those bathtubs...oh, those bathtubs!
A long soak, warm jammies, more lemon and honey and a sleep in the big bed with the electric blanket helped me start to feel slightly more willing to live.
I've had two doses of my mighty prepackaged UK antibiotics already, and my ears and throat are not quite as consume all of my attention painful as they were...
Isn't it ironic that one of the best things about being sick is how above and beyond skippy you feel when you are better?
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I arrived here to find a houseful of the walking wounded, Loo and MB and HB all snuffly and snotty and coughing with some form of a cold that was sweeping England with a force that put Beatlemania to shame.
To prevent myself from falling into it's clutches, I quickly grabbed a bottle of Vick's First Defense. This wonder drug has adverts that show a happy woman, shoving the little applicator up her nose and squirting this stuff, then inhaling easily, proving it's a safe, easy prevention to the colds that hide everywhere. I opened the bottle, inserted the little applicator, squirted it up my nose, and proceeded to do the dance. The one where you squish up your face and move around going "EWWWW!!! ARUUUUUUGH!!! AHHHHHH!!!!! NAAAAAAAAAAASTY!!! NAAAAASSSSSSSSSTY!!!" I'm sure if they showed her doing this, no one would buy this shit.
I kept up with the directions, however, inserting the little applicator, squeezing off the required amount, doing the dance, and looking smug (and like I'd sucked a huge lemon).
Two days ago, I felt that little nudge that says, "Sucker, you've got a cold."
So I do. I'm furious I did the dance four times a day, and have a cold *cough* anyway. I can't talk in the morning, I breathe heavily at night....Loo calls this breathing 'snores'..... and I am generally pathetic. I drink large amounts of hot lemon and honey in water, thanks to Loo, and I curse the Vick's bastards.
You think you know someone, and you don't.
The B family hasn't seen Heroes yet, so, Loo purchased the box set of Season I for the girls. We've been watching it for the last three nights, with Loo leaving the room every time Syler comes on. What a wuss. I am not afraid of anything that silly... I save my fear for real things, like zombies. We've managed to make her sit down now, and stop dashing out every time he comes in the picture, which is more and more as the series progresses.
Now, she's obsessed with knowing who is going to die. She claims it..."helps her cope." Right.
I am the only person in the household who has seen the entire series, therefore, my knowledge is at a premium. I am also someone who hums and sings when I have a good hand in cards. When I start to hum or sing, they know something is going to happen.
I'm asked to leave the room on occasion.
Yesterday, Loo and I went to Sainsbury's... I have a thing about supermarkets in the UK. Some people visit churches, some go to museums, I go to supermarkets. We had done our shopping, picking up nibbly bits for dinner... and had loaded up the car in our prime parking space. It was that space reserved for two women who are at the point of wanting to kill someone who DOESN'T MOVE THEIR FUCKING CAR NOW!! Loo calls it the PMT space. (translation, the PMS space). She'd unlocked her side of the car, continuing with the questions to me, whinging on, "Just tell me."
I continued to refuse, trying to explain that it would ruin not only this series, but, the next one...she suddenly smiled serenely, and got in the driver's seat... and left me.
She drove slowly at first, leaving me to think she was going to do one of those cute things where she'd stop and I'd go to open the door and she'd drive a bit more.. you know the thing I mean.
No, she drove off totally and left me.
Standing there in the cold, in the Sainsbury's carpark, with no English money, no idea of what the phone number is at the Very House, no way of anyone there to get me anyway... I couldn't call a cab because I don't know our address... then, there was that money thing.
They won't take American money...besides, she had my purse.
I figured eventually, she'd come back... so, I wandered over to the smoker's section outside, hovering over the little heaters they leave. I didn't want to go back inside, as I'd want to buy something again.
And she had my purse, with my little bank card.
I stood there for a bit, scanning for a gray car. Do you have any idea how many gray cars there are in the UK?
A woman came over and asked if I needed help... I was sniffling by then from the cold and my cold. I was also saying my new favourite curse over and over. I'm sure I looked quite mad.
I explained what had happened, and she said, "Oh, right! Heroes! You know, my son gave that to us for Christmas." she paused. "So, tell me... who does die?"
I stared at her. "I'm not telling you either."
She left me to freeze.
Eventually the cow came back and picked me up. There was a bit of help needed to bend my knees to fit me back in the seat, but, I did warm up... then I sneezed on her dashboard.
P.S. When telling of my abuse to the Jarhead on the phone, he laughed very hard, and told Loo, "So, you left Mom? Good job!"
I may have to send him the birth tape again to remind him what I went through.
I have a new curse phrase.
I've used FMD for 20 years or so, it's been there for me, letting me yell or whisper, covering everything from shock to dismay to anger to surprise.
I have a new one.
Isn't it wonderful?
I love English signs, they try and provide for every possible thing they can imagine that might need covering.
We are driving south once again for a big family dinner--I thank god we only eat once a day--and there, as we came upon a roundabout, in the middle of nowhere...not a house, a building, a business, a farm...nothing... was this huge highway sign:
I concluded it referred to those in the roundabout, because I maintain you have to be mad to drive in one of those.
What are they like?
While at dinner, a group at a table near us exchanged gifts.... including something I saw, then fell into *GASP* mode.. gollywogs, they are called, or so I was told.
Black dolls, on leashes, attached to a doghouse.
The children who received them were tickled pink, and proceeded to play away, while I sat in total shock, saying "That's so wrong. It's wrong.... not just the doll, but, the leashes and the doghouse... it's wrong."
Loo expressed her shock, too....and out of respect to her family, who didn't see it, I behaved, not jumping in as I normally would have.
I did say to the man, "Those are wrong, completely."
He said to me, "We laugh at everything here, even tragedy, it's how we've survived. Besides, we didn't have slavery here in Britain, did we? That's a States issue."
I said, "Can you say Bristol?"
Best we left at that point, I reckon. I understand the ability to laugh at everything, I do think that is what gets the English, the Irish, the Scots through all that happens... they can see the wrong, yet still laugh at what is there. They (like me) laugh at funerals.
However, I'm still stunned, to be honest.
It's a shame we don't get UK films in the US.
I saw a wonderful little film last night on DVD, called The History Boys. It was never released in the US, I imagine because none of the actors are known, and it's all based on the UK school system... still, it was easy to fall into, easy to become involved in, and based on a true story.
It was a play, made into a film, and it currently back on stage.
I'd love to see it in the theater... it's sold out, sadly.
If you have a DVD player that can pick up UK films, watch this one.
Moving Day approaches.
We are taking a day off, letting me cough and moan and drink my lemon and honey water... the girls are off with their dad, and we may go see a film. Far better than packing, in my walking wounded mind.
Far, far better.
Packing, buggery fuck!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
1. Name one person who made you laugh last night.
2. What were you doing at 8:00?
3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago?
Drinking tea, gossiping with Loo.
4. What happened to you in 2007?
Moved to New York City, changed flats 6 times, had my work published, made great new friends, met the WeatherGuy, saw some great theater, had a clear cancer scan, saw HRH get married, had my step-daughter, Miss H, give birth, worried for seven months while the Jarhead was in Iraq, watched The Investment move forward in his life, learned a new career.
5. What was the last thing you said out loud?
"SOD OFF, FRANK!! THERE IS NO ONE OUTSIDE!!" Frank is a Belgian Shepard.. Nova is his cousin who also lives here.
6. How many beverages did you have today?
Three cups of tea, a cup of coffee from the evil corporate giant, one glass of pomegranate juice.
7. What colour is your hairbrush?
I don't have one.
8. What was the last thing you paid for?
Four books from Borders.
9. Where were you last night?
Here, watching the first series of Heroes with Loo, HB and MB.
10. What colour is your front door?
11. Where do you keep your change?
An Utterly Butterly promotional ceramic holder I got in the UK a number of years ago.
12. What's the weather like today?
Overcast, cold, damp.
13. What's the best ice-cream flavour?
Chocolate with chocolate and chocolate
14. What excites you?
Depends on the day.
15. Do you want to cut your hair?
Since it's currently 2 inches long... no.
16. Are you over the age of 25?
Yes, but, I have shoes that are 25.
17. Do you talk a lot?
I can...other times, I can go hours and not say a word.
18. Do you watch the O.C?
No. I can't understand why anyone would. Besides, I don't own a TV
19. Do you know anyone named Steven?
20. Do you make your own words?
No, but, I do create my own phrases...mostly by Spoonering real phrases. As an example, once I was telling my kids about a woman I had to work with. I said, "She's so dumb... I mean, she's not the brightest brick in the shed." When they stopped laughing, I realised I'd not exactly made a case for myself.
21. Are you a jealous person?
I don't know. I used to be, but... I've changed, and since then, I've not cared enough for anyone to know if I'd be jealous, so...
22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter 'A'.
23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter 'K'.
24. Who's the first person on your received call list?
25. What does the last text message you received say?
Have a good flig.... (then the battery died)
26. Do you chew on the straw?
27. Do you have curly hair?
28. What's the next place you're going to?
A huge lunch with Loo's entire family at a very posh place in Kent.
29. Who's the rudest person in your life?
Someone I used to be related to, until I realised you can decide not to have people in your life, even if you share DNA.
30. What was the last thing you ate?
A mini mince pie
31. Will you get married in the future?
32. What was the best movie you've seen in past 2 weeks?
Um.... Love, Actually on Christmas Day night.
33. Is there anyone you like right now?
Yes. And, someone I love.
34. When was the last time you did the dishes?
35. Are you currently depressed?
36. Did you cry today?
No... but, I might.
37. Why did you answer and post this?
I thought the questions were interesting, and I thought it was nice DP tagged me.
38. Tag 5 people who would do this.
I promised I'd never tag again... =)
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Sitting here in my flannel pants and my favourite gray tshirt, Loo in a red Christmas nightgown, and MB in her holiday nightwear, all of us watching one of my favourite films, Love Actually (uncut, because it's the UK) it's a good way to end a lovely day.
I'm not a huge Christmas fan...not as a child and not since my children are now spread so far apart. Actually, long before the kids moved about, long before I left Utah, I lost my delight in the season... if I didn't have the kids there, it was sad, and nothing I cared to do... I don't know, it really was about what you felt you had to give, did so and so buy you something and you'd not given them something? I'd started buying things and putting them in a gift closet, to make sure my butt was covered. Where was the fun in that? I hated the entire concept of cards... I felt slighted if I sent one, and didn't receive one in return, and they became more and more expensive every year.
I'm not saying everything was bad, that I disliked it all... I've been lucky with those friends who are family.. and they stepped in to always ask me over, those presents were easy to buy, they were bought with love... just as the gifts for my children are purchased. I never give anything to anyone I've not thought about first, or seen and thought, "That is something so and so would like" and picked it up. I never buy or give with motive... I always do it because I think it's the ideal thing for that particular person.
I did love the tree... it was covered with ornaments I'd collected over the years, antique ones, ones given to me in love by the Ex and the children, and the ones I'd given the children. Every year, I give the FMDKids an ornament, with their name and the year. I fill their stockings with silly things and an ornament.. it's what I do.
The rest, well.... I just can't be bothered.
With things working out as they have this year, and me being here, I found myself actually enjoying the holiday.
We went to Surrey, to Loo's parents..... and had a swell time. I was taken aback by the turkey's appearance, to be honest. It still had it's legs. Not the ones I'm used to, but, the bits with the skin on it, down to where the feet go. Yes, all roasted up was turkey leg skin. I was appalled, gasping and saying 'ew' over and over.
I'm already on the low points side because I won't eat bread sauce.... and parsnips aren't my idea of a fun vegetable... so, this didn't help my cause. What did pull me up in the ratings was my deep, honest appreciation of the brussel spouts grown by Mr. G, my willingness to drink wine with him, the fact I won 15 of the 19 points in the trivia game he and I were partners in, and the pecan pie I had made with almost no ingredients one usually needs for pecan pie, helped along by a good dose of Jack Daniels. This puts me on his left at the dinner table.
And made up for the 'ew' of the leg thing.
We consumed turkey and gravy and those potatoes.... those amazing roasted potatoes they do here in the UK... followed by a Christmas pudding we flamed with Courvoisier and another dessert, both topped with a brandy butter and/or custard. Coffee, tea, port.... chocolates... oh, it was lovely indeed.
The gifts exchanged were given because we wanted to do so, not because someone felt they had to do this thing... and Mrs G received possibly the ugliest thing I've ever seen from her housekeeper, which she suggested re-gifting to me immediately.... why wait until my birthday in July or even Boxing Day, when I could simply walk out of the lounge, and come back in, and presto! she could re-gift! Yes, I really wanted a perfume bottle topped by metal frog prince. Sadly *cough*, she decided she'd best keep it, as the housekeeper would look for it on her next visit.
On the way home, going towards the M47, or some such road, we stopped by the famous 'Dripping Tap' home. These people own a local plumbing supply shop, and go all out in their decorating... competing for a prize in any Americanneighborhood, including a ferris wheel that has Santa, all the Disney characters, and some elves. My personal favourite was the inflatable, moving Santa being helped out of the chimney by a reindeer. Sadly, it looked as if Santa was giving the reindeer an oral sexual act... I'm not sure if it was sad for them, it was just really tasteless, and... okay, it was really, really funny. You can see by the video that it's .....very.
To get to the M47, we drove through Seven Oaks, which is down to three oaks, Badgers Mount (there are signs warning of badgers crossing the road) and Pratt's Bottom. You wonder about what people were doing or seeing when they named these towns.
Half way home, we stopped for a coffee and to use the restroom.
UK bathrooms are a delight to me, they have machines that carry more than the usual condoms or feminine supplies. For 20p, you can buy personal hand wipes, or, for a pound, you can buy a disposable toothbrush complete with toothpaste. Both of these come in small, round containers to fit in your purse or pocket.
A few years ago, I purchased one of the toothbrush thingys, and put it in my purse, never knowing when I might need to use this wonder. Finally, I was going out, realised I had no gum, and pulled it out, opening the small plastic container, popping the plastic bristle coved ball in my mouth and chewed.
It was akin to having a hunk of plastic fir tree in your mouth. A minty flavoured fir tree. You chewed, and you had fresh flavour, and it scrubbed your teeth.... but, it pulled your gums off. Your gums, part of your taste buds, and a portion of the inside of your lips.
I have to say, it did work.... I will never use one again, though.
UK bathrooms also come with reading material inside of the door on their fully walled stalls. Mine was a boring ad for some online company. Loo was able to read all about a product for incontinence.
The problem with reading an ad for incontinence is, you can't stop weeing. You start to wonder; am I incontinent and don't know it? Should I be using one of those things? Your kidneys work overtime, and your bladder panics. This is a great marketing tool, in my honest opinion.... I had to stop her from buying some of these things when we left.
We didn't buy the pads, but, I did make the mistake of ordering coffee. The counter clerk obviously wasn't happy to be working, nor did he understand any accent but his.
"Hi, I'd like a large cappuccino, please."
"A cappuccino. A large one. Please." I smiled.
"A coffee, right?"
"No. A cappuccino."
Loo at this point walked away to buy a water for MB.
He sighed and looked at the espresso machine.
"Not just a coffee?"
"No, a cappuccino. A large one, please."
He fiddled with the coffee maker... Loo walked back, and asked what was I doing. He asked me to walk to the far end of the counter... I walked there, then he walked me back to my original spot.
"Now, what was it you wanted?"
"A. Large. Cappuccino." I dropped the please and the smile.
"Cappuccino. Large. Now."
He gave me my drink, which he'd made from the dregs from the last four espresso's he'd made, not grinding new beans, nor using fresh water, from the flavour.
I drank it anyway.
I was desperate.
Still, we made it home... we're comfy, and the holiday is almost over. Tomorrow is Boxing Day, which is a nice name for Digestion Day....although here it's like the day after Thanksgiving when it comes to sales.
We may go to a film, we may sleep in, or, we may just Digest.
Then... there are those sales.... and the dollar did rise .02.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
The heating systems. To know the UK is to freeze in the UK. It is seldom...if ever...that I am warm in this country. Heating is restricted to the aforementioned teeny tiny white radiator units attached to the walls in the rooms. Currently, I am in the lounge, a room that is approximately 10x15...and there is one lousy radiator. The air that is within 6 inches of it is moderately warm.ish.... everything else is chilly. Loo has discovered the electric blanket, which she puts under her sheets... I've never thought of that, and may consider buying one when I go home.
The lack of ice in drinks. Yes, I know... it's so cold, why do I want ice in my drink... because it's a drink, that's why! I've been to pubs where there is a little bucket of ice, and when that is gone, it's gone. I've learned to like warm beer...although I miss cold beer on a hot day (I remember a hot day here.. it was in June of 2001)...I am used to room temperature beer now, and will drink it..still, I do like my mixed drinks with ice...at least more than one cube of it, thanks.
The vast array of strange foods that are really good in the stores. I don't need the temptation, thanks.
Crisps.... potato chips to we Americans. Not crisps themselves, because I am a Walkers whore, but, flavours you can't even imagine. Red Onion and Vinegar? Roast Chicken? Prawn? Why?
Marmite. Everything you've heard it true. It's vile. Beyond vile. It smells, it tastes like vile...I assure you, I will eat haggis with a smile on my face... I will not touch Marmite. This is a food that is delivered in tanker trucks. Tanker trucks! Now, ask yourself, what can be worse than Marmite? Marmite flavoured crisps. Why?
Roundabouts. I fear them. I don't understand them, and I fear them. I believe you drive into a roundabout by blindly entering them, screaming, and looking for a way out. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Blood Pudding. Need I say more?
Tea. I don't drink tea at home, I'm a coffee drinker. Here, I consume it in vast quantities, feeling I simply can't do anything until I've had my morning cuppa. This worries me... I become an addict. When I go home, it's not the same, and I have to go though withdrawals.
Keys. They still use those skeleton keys. Now, they are quaint, fun to look at, and I love to see them on a key chain. However, using one when you are in a hurry is a pain in the arse. You have to jiggle it about, then remember to also use the other turn lock. The turn lock causes you to lock yourself out of the house on a regular basis, not that I ever have... *cough*
The dollar. It's useless here. I continue to expound on it's pathetic value, but, let's be honest... you start to look at things, and think of them in dollars.... Loo takes them from my hand and says, "What are you thinking, woman! Double that amount!"
The vast array of soaps. Again, I become addicted, and can either stick to the basics, or fill my case with what are now overpriced soaps that I will bathe myself with, delighting in primrose or fresh lemon or any other exotic scent all mine at the local stores.
Translation. Wind is gas. Crisps are chips. Chips are fries. Bugger is a number of things. Four legged creatures are not always sheep, they might be ponies or cows. I do speak English, and some Irish and a smattering of Scots, still, I do get confused on occasion, such as when the 20 year old clerk calls me "Darling". Why?
Toilet handles. They are on the opposite side, and in the middle of the night, when I go to flush, I have to move both arms, since I try first with my usual elbow, then, I have to use my English elbow.
Mains switches. You may plug something in... it doesn't mean it will work. You have to have the mains switch turned on. I often forget to do this, cursing whatever electric object I am trying to get to work as defective until I remember to look at the switch plate to see if the mains switch is on or not.
The Metric System. Please. I don't understand it...and don't want to.
Chocolate. This alone will kill me, there is so much of it, and all of it wonderful. Add to it fresh bakeries, cream everything, Devonshire cream, Brandy cream, short pastry pies, and I'm a goner.
I can live with the rest, the coins for a pound that cause your pants pockets to weigh down and eventually throw one hip out of joint, people who keep saying "Wot?" when I say something, being called 'Yank', eating parsnips, even remembering to not get in the car on the right hand side as a passenger....
These things, though... these things I've struggled with, and always will.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
I've been one since I was a small child... my grandmother was Irish, and although she hated the English for the horrible things they did to her family back in, oh, the early 1800's, she was lace curtain Irish, so, she had quite a few English habits.
I went to a boarding school where my house nun was English, so, it was enforced upon us that all things English were good and true and proper. My pen of choice is a fountain pen, I still use 'u' in words that American's drop it in, such as colour and favour, I take cream in my tea, I speak English fluently. My children have always had crackers on Christmas Day. I make an amazing roast dinner on Christmas Day... yes, I am an avowed Anglophile, and I've been coming to the U of K since 1997 visiting friends.
I have a Love/Hate relationship with the country.
I love pubs. I love pub food. I think pickled onions are a culinary masterpiece, and a friend of mine, Mel (who used to live in Malmsbury), told her dad of my love of them... so, he made me some. We bonded over those. One of the upsides of our bonding, along with marvelous onions, were his stories of working for Prince Charles. His comment about Camilla? "Oh, yes, well... the photos are kind."
I do love the radiators. You can wash your clothes in the teeny tiny washing machines that hold one pair of jeans, two shirts, a pair of underwear and a small towel, then you hang them on the little drying hangerthingies that hook onto the radiators. Presto! Dry clothes in no time at all. You also put your towels there during your shower, and your pajamas at night before you go to bed... hang your clothes there during the night.... all of these things will provide warm comfy things to put on your freezing cold body, making you content for at least five minutes.
The markets. Tesco. Asda. Sainsbury's. The people in the U of K know their food. You buy ready made pizza with buffalo mozzarella cheese on it. Or smoked artichoke hearts with pecorino cheese and lonza. There is Winter Soup, which has white onion, Stilton cheese and white port in it... just there on the shelf. We have been making mince pies... I'm not a fan of mince pies, but, Loo has a recipe that is to die for. You heat them up, and pour brandy cream on them. Brandy cream you buy in the dairy case. Imagine! The cheese case goes on for miles. There are 470 different kinds of cheddar alone. Fresh breads and nice veg and the meat is great. We went to Costco, which made me laugh. Where else can you buy 47 pound bags of tea and haggis but in a UK Costco? For the record, I love haggis.
Chocolate. Real Cadbury's. Entire aisles in the market given over to chocolate. Cadbury's Flake. Bury me there, when I die.. do.
The little local markets are lovely, too. You pick up your paper, some bread or cheese or milk. Everyone stands about and gossips... they all know you. They remember me from my last visit, "Ohhh, look! It's Loo's Yank!" They know my name, I'm just called the Yank.
The Countryside. What you see in the costume dramas is true... it's rolling and pure green and dotted with sheep or some other kind of animal with four legs. I once pointed out the sheep to Loo only to be told they were ponies.
I live in the city, what do I know?
Gossip magazines... they are amazing here. I don't read them in the states, not even People, the news magazine for the illera...illir... people who can't read. Here, I consume them. I won't read a decent newspaper, only the trash ones. Great fun, really, they are...and they are full of pure, delightful over the top gossip. I'm currently reading Heat.... bliss.
I love how they don't fool about with cigarette warnings. None of this small print, with a little, "Well, smoking might hurt you, you know." No, here in the U of K, it's flat out on the front, "SMOKING KILLS YOU, YOU WANKER". Nothing subliminal about that.
People are friendly, with a deep desire to talk to me when they hear my accent. I had a following in Costco, one woman saying to her son, sotto voce, "Ohhh, look.... there's an American!" I felt as if I should do a trick or something. One came over and said, "Right, mate.. sorry about your dollar." Since I was sobbing over the exchange rate on a travel shop window:
Friday, December 21, 2007
Pixie Blood bedroom
Cat (a 30 lb Maine Coon Cat) trying to escape the red banisters and yellow walls of the landing as he's watched by MB.
The kitchen tile... holding all of the colours of the house, except Pixie Blood. Please note the uneven wall plug.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Loo and the girls used to live in this wonderful old home, build in 1750... like most of those wonderful old homes in the UK, it had a name. When you wrote her, you put their name, and the name of the house... no street address....it would be delivered properly.
We called the house "The Old Parsnip", a play on it's real name. It was put together from three cottages, and although it looks nice and even from the windows, inside, it was a rabbit warren of stairs and rooms. Not a single room was even with another. You went from a central hallway upstairs down a different number of stairs into the various bedrooms or bathroom. It gave it charm, character.... it was flawlessly decorated. The downstairs bathroom had a Victorian toilet of Delft china. There was an Aga stove. It sat behind a huge stone wall, and behind it was an enormous garden, with listed trees, which meant you couldn't do anything without special permission, they were that old.
Times change... the world moves on, and so did Loo and the girls. While waiting for their new home, they moved into....
I was warned about the rental, where they would be living for a month. "The colours are a bit...very." she said.
She was being kind.
I've never seen shades this... very. There isn't a single room that has a colour that matches a single colour in another room in the house.
Her bedroom is done in what can only be called Pixie Blood and purple. The office is in two shades of, well... well worn swimming pool blue. Problem is, the corners are in a different shade of the same blue.
The kitchen is orange. The dining room had someone who was on acid and decided to stencil... and really, really shouldn't have. The family bathroom upstairs is done in dead fish. MB's bedroom is tasteful, however, in this house, that's not saying much.
Not a piece of carpet matches anything.. in fact, the only thing that matches anything is the rainbow of badly picked out and laid tile used as a backsplash in the kitchen that has managed to hold every single colour with the exception of the Pixie Blood....
In a word, it is... very.
My room is patriotic. I have a deep blue with red carpet... and a white ceiling. This would almost work if you had a large room... mine is at most 9x10. It's scary, really. You find yourself sleeping with earplugs, the colours are so loud.
Then, there is the non-existent heat.
Everyone knows English homes don't have central heat. You have these clever white radiator things on the wall that are great for hanging towels or drying your clothes, and we all pretend they heat the house.
They sort of slightly keep the air from completely freezing your ass off, but, keeping it warm?
This place doesn't even fake it. We stand in front of the little white radiator things, and nothing.
They are just... there.
The pretend fireplace is that... pretend. The lighting fixtures flicker. The outlets are uneven, making me twitch when I see them. There are splotches of paint on every bit of white. There are gaps in the fake wood in the front hall. When the carpet was cleaned in the front room, it shrank, so, now it doesn't meet the walls.
And these are the good points.
For all of this, you can rent this gem for $3800.00 American a month.
Oh, and the taps in the bathroom don't work, and the kitchen faucet is male. How do I know?
Because it's prostate is bad.... every so often it leaks for no reason.
Soon, we'll move to the new, new house... clean, perfect, beige. I never thought I'd love beige. I can't wait to see it.... beautiful, beautiful beige.
I miss The Old Parsnip, bless it. The heating wasn't perfect, you could lose your way in the middle of the night, and it required a good deal of upkeep.
In the end, personality is worth the trade off for a new house, I think...and the Parsnip had that in spades.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
It depends on where I am, but, they are standard to the place I am, the person I am with, and the thing I am describing.
During my time at the WeatherGuy's, I say, "My gosh!" a lot. When viewing the lights, going to the C word, eating dinner... I say, "My gosh!" Dealing with life, I say "FMD!" (not the letters, the actual phrase) in a variety of tones.
While viewing the paltry number of lights here in the U of K with Loobell last evening, we used the phrase, "Um, yes, they are, um, very..."
Very was the 'key' word.
Very scarce, very odd, just very. Very sums it up in one, you know where you are in one.
There was one place, a semi-detached (translated to American, a duplex) that has set out to out do each other in pure bad taste. There is no rhyme nor reason to their decorating design. It looks like they got pissed, went to Tesco's, bought a bunch of shi..stuff and threw it up. Then, they threw up afterwards from the bright light patterns on the house.
The up side is, they can't complain to the council about the other because they are both in violation of the Poor Taste Act passed in 1434 when the codpiece was invented.
Folk here in the U of K haven't really sunk down to the level of decoration we have in the US. There are the occasional home where you find it over top in lights and design, but, they are the exception not the norm. Where you find oddles and oddles of lights are in the council houses, better known as the areas where people are on government assistance.
The other new fad over here is to stick your holiday tree out of the side of your house at a 45 degree angle and decorate it.
I don't know why, but, it's done.
It seems it would be hard to put your presents there, but, that's what glue guns are for, I reckon.
In the end, there is no real comparison.... we did see the local factory that has something that is supposed to be Santa's feet going down a chimney. It actually looks like a slice of toast popping out of a toaster. It's around three stories tall and you see it from the large roundabout before you get on the M5. I understand last year's contribution was the sleigh and reindeer, however, the bulbs burned out on part of it, so, it looked more like a penis.
Somehow, I don't think the burned bulbs were an accident.
Monday, December 17, 2007
The Godmother is home again, pumped full of antibiotics and morphine, held off on her chemo for a bit, however, she's on the mend again, and sends everyone her thanks for prayers and good thoughts. She's been told that four to five weeks recovery means four to five weeks recovery... stay in bed and rest. She'll listen this time.... I hope.
I flew home on Thursday last, took the airtrain to the A to Nassau to the 2 to Chambers to the 1 to the Ferry to blah blah... meaning I arrived at JFK at 6.30 and shut my front door at 11P.
Gotta love New York.
I'd considered a car, however, my usual car service advised against using them... there was at least 2 inches of snow on the ground, grinding all of New York to a halt. They said I'd be better off using the train rather than taking a car. meh. They were canceling flights out of JFK when we landed, putting one poor couple I met into LGA the next morning... they asked if I knew of a hotel in the Bronx... I suggested they just sleep at LGA.
I unpacked, repacked, opened mail, re-inflated the Titanic to sleep one night in my flat, and set out the next day for the WeatherGuy's house... it's easier to get to JFK from there, especially since I'd be leaving at 5AM on Sunday.
Little did I know another weather front would be arriving early Sunday morning...
Before then, we had errands... and he gave me a special treat;
We drove around and looked at holiday decorations.
I am not one to decorate for the holidays anymore. I used to do the garlands inside and put up a tree when the FMDKids were at home. I give them an ornament every year with their name on it, it's a tradition. I made stockings for them, and we hung them by the chimney with care.
It wasn't about Santa, it was about keeping them occupied for an extra hour to give the Ex and I some more sleep when we'd been up all night wrapping gifts and putting together bikes with no instructions... It made sense.
I put out a Nativity set every year, following the Catholic tradition of hiding the baby Jesus... he wasn't born yet, was he? He made his appearance on Christmas morning, along with the gifts... no presents were ever under our tree until Christmas morning, either.
One year, I misplaced Baby Jesus. I searched high and low... I had no idea where I'd hidden him. What was I going to do? You can't have the Wise Guys bringing stuff to an empty manger? There were no milk cartons to advertise a stolen Jesus.... no Amber Alerts.... I was stumped.
Then, I remembered Polly Pocket.
Our manger was complete on Christmas morning... Mary, Joseph, the shepards, the Wise Guys, the donkey, the camels, the Angel... everyone stood around and admired Polly Pocket lying there in the straw filled cradle.
Hey, it worked. She fit perfectly...
Now, I do nothing... but, I'm a sucker for bad holiday decorations. This means I adore one neighbor in my new neighborhood who has filled her front yard since early October, starting with Halloween moving into Thanksgiving, and currently, we have a plethora of Christmas decorations.... she has everything from moving vampires to the blow up snowglobes. Even the house is outlined in lights to match the season. I anticipate Kwanzaa, St Patrick's Day and Easter with an excitement bordering on heart tripping joy.
I walk past, wondering if her basement is set up with bins and closets marked for each holiday, how much her electric bill is, and if her sofas are covered with plastic.
Somehow, I know they are.
We piled into his car, and headed into the cold, damp air to have a look around his area... and my desire to be properly overwhelmed by bad taste was filled.
There was the palm tree all lit up... the yard so filled with a cornucopia of non matching decorations, there was no room for grass. Houses that had so many things, you know when they flipped on the switch, the area dimmed.
We saw the house that had the cartoon characters, all with Santa hats.... sadly, Scooby Doo was only semi inflated, and his head rested on the grass. He resembled the office drunk, after too many glasses of punch.
There was the house with the wire deer, who had the lights in their heads burned out.... Santa's crew were decapitated, frightening to any child who walked past.
Some homes had absolutely no rhyme or reason to their decorating... you just had to look and say, "Well, my...." Mostly, I laughed and clapped my hands together in pure glee. We fell into pointing out the glowing light filled yards, trying to outdo each other in finding the best of the worst.
It was a wonderful hour that was even more fun than our time at the C word, which was my other treat.. he knows me well.
Blow up decorations, pretend snow globes, hanging electric icicles, mismatched lights, bobbing reindeer, Santas next to Nativity scenes (without Polly Pockets in them), candy canes, North Pole Villages, Santa and the reindeer balanced on rooftops....outrageously poor taste abounded.
I love it, each and every tacky bit of it.... it is, indeed, beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The Godmother is currently resting back at the big hospital in Denver, where she awaits surgery tonight. It seems her insistence on being 'normal' and her refusal to listen to anyone *coughMEcough* along with the massive amounts of acid in her stomach has caused an abscess on the resection done two weeks ago.
They are having to open her up, and do the yucky things they do to take care of this matter.
I insist on staying, new job be damned.
She refuses to have me here. A blood kin will fly out for a bit, it seems, and tag team me out. We'll discuss the chemo time later... all of that is on hold for now.
So, I am on a plane tomorrow, wishing I could stay another week or six. Even with us nitpicking each other, even with her snoring in the next room, even with the snow that never ends... I wish I was going to be here.
She said her doctor was still laughing today about a comment I made last night... The Godfather had been in the room with her, I'd been sent out to buy something. He then left to have a cigarette, I took his place in the room... Dr. Blueeyes popped in, and looked startled to see me. I said, "You leave for a while and people change. It always amazes me, too."
I keep asking, please have her in your prayers.
Thanks... I appreciate it.
We have been sitting up, talking, laughing, catching up on old times. The last three nights, though, I've found myself getting up to check on her, because she was sleeping more and more during the day, somnolent, waking up long enough for me to force her to eat a bit, take her pills, and then she'd drift off again.
Yesterday, I finally browbeat her (and, no, I'm not joking, this woman has a head of solid granite and micromanages everyone) into calling her doctor... she was asleep 20 out of 24 hours, and was very warm to the touch... she called and babbled she was a little in pain, then hung up, saying he said she should keep taking her pain pills.
I called him back.
I explained she had a temp of 102... "It's 101.9!" she insisted. I told her that sounded like a radio station, and stuck with my 102. I told him she slept all the time, that her pain meds weren't really working, her pain built before it was time for them to wear off... that she was becoming a zombie, and even with my short hair, I was concerned for my well being.. and it is all about me.
That made her laugh.
He told The Godfather and I to rush her to the hospital. I drove though the piled up snow, in the snow, to the local hospital, only sliding on the ice once. I did make the mistake of listing to Miss MicroManage once, getting us stuck in some goshforsaken unplowed neighborhood until I had the car turned around... for not driving in some time, I was doing pretty good.
I did even better for not shoving her into a snow bank. I mean, it would have cooled down her temperature.
We sat in the ER for a long time, they gave her a quart of really yucky stuff to drink, the ER doc flirted with me (always nice) and in the end, they sent The Godfather and I home, put her in the hospital, and discovered after hours of tests she has an abscess on her internal incision.
She's being shipped down to the Denver hospital in order for her specialist to deal with the matter... we don't know if they will open her up again, or see if meds will take care of the issue.
Everything is on hold. Chemo, radiation, cancer treatment.
I am due to fly out tomorrow... I can't change plans this close to Christmas, the cost is beyond belief. I have a job waiting for me in London, one I've had set, one that allows me time with my Loo. Again, changing those tickets would be far too expensive.
So, we'll get the diagnosis today, I'll carry on with my current plans, and I imagine when I return from the U of K, I'll pack up my little flat, and move here for the duration of chemo.
The Godmother could care less right now... she's on morphine, and having a good old time.
At least it's stopped snowing... here.
Fingers crossed this is dealt with by meds, not another operation... and she'll gain enough weight we can start the chemo when I return.
Until then, she'll micromanage everyone around her.... proving she's on the mend.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The man has it going... he's hot, he's got a wife he adores, and he's loaded with talent. His blog always amuses me, he's never at a loss for good, kind words for other people, and he's loaded with talent.
So much so, I had to say it twice.
Now, if you want to see how much talent, I direct you to Mr. Bud Buckley, and his newly released CD.
Buy it. Go to the site, have a listen, then BUY it.
Oh, and demand a BUBU shirt.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Saturday, December 8, 2007
The Godmother, The Godfather and I go back years. Decades. We go long periods of time and not seeing each other, then come together again as if it's only been hours since our last meeting.
With The Godmother feeling better, drugs in place, movement easier, a sense of she will beat all of what is ahead, we have slipped into our old ways....our usual places at the table set years before when they dated and she and I were roommates. The same places when we watch TV, only the chairs and sofa are different, and it's a much larger screen. We comment on the program, discuss the actors, bicker over what kind of pizza. Our voices rise and fall in the same patterns as years ago, familiar to us all, comfortable, soothing, especially now.
We shower in the same rotation, first her, then him, than me....each waiting for the bathrooms to be free. He and I have our coffee, she nags me to put the milk away, he and I share the paper, and discuss local news. The only change is there is my dog Sherman, is no longer here to nudge bowls to be filled...
Old stories are told, we laugh as hard now as when it happened. Some could be told here.. some are best told only to each other.
I walked to the local store yesterday, there since I lived here aeons ago, the same storekeeper in place. It's snowing, the dry flakes of the high country settling on my coat, on my Canal Street hat and gloves, on my Macy's coat. They move off the sidewalk with the movement of my passing, something that would never happen in the city. There, they would stick cold and wet to everything, making the day miserable. Here, they add to the beauty of the area, the crisp cold of the clean air, the mountains hidden behind this veil of white.
People are different... a sense of hippiness that hasn't left many... I call them 'hipnoids', they've not accepted that the 1960's are over.
You walk the Pearl Street Mall, where Boulder closed off the old main drag and created a pedestrian mall, where I used to hang out in my high school days, and what seems to be the same group of people still hang about in front of the Courthouse.. and when you walk past, you walk through a cloud of smoke that will let you be chipper for a bit.
You can't smoke cigarettes in Boulder, but, this is okay.
When I lived in this little community, north and east of Boulder so long ago, it was minute, now, it holds enormous, expensive homes. Godmother's house is small, exquisite... inside and out are a testimony to Godfather's craftsmanship with wood and carpentry. You feel immediately at home; comfortable, content, warm.
Today, we drove into Boulder proper, fighting the storm that has moved in, heavy flakes falling, building up on the roads, keeping the wipers busy on her car. Errands done, we head to the infamous Target store, and I keep her far from the picture frame aisle.
Her pain built, so, we came home... her to nap, me to shovel the driveway of the inches deep powder. Although it's not the wet stuff of New York, it still took a shovel to move the still coming down mass of white, inches on the drive, on the sidewalk... falling fast enough that it had coated everything after I'd cleared it off. By tomorrow morning, I'll have a few inches to shovel yet again.
I love the snow here, it crunches quietly when you walk on it... a lovely sound beneath your feet. When you walk around the downtown area, people are en masse, yet, there isn't the fast hustle of the city. I have to slow my feet, not just for The Godmother, but, to not walk up the back of those in front of me. Voices are soft in the snow muffled air... cars crunch by on the streets... it's soft, serene.
Now, I have seen Boulder in full swing, and even then, it's not sharp, jagged. It's unique. People here are on the edge of all that is New Age. I've always said people in L.A. are in training to move to Boulder. Mork would never have been noticed in this town, it's why they set the series here. You see students who drive cars that cost more than I've made in a year, and you see people who live in Nederland who still live in the same cabin they moved to in 1967... and still don't have running water.
She's settled on the sofa, the drive is shoveled, The Godfather is cooking one of his famous steaks on the grill along with some crab legs the size of his arm. I try and pretend the crabs have little peg legs to replace the ones we are eating... I feel better about it that way.
The snow falls faster, we are inside, surrounded by old wood, rich fabrics, and the laughter of old friends who complete each other's sentences.
Life can't get any better than this sometimes.
Friday, December 7, 2007
If you are one of the carriers of this story virus (i.e. you have been tagged and choose to contribute to it), you will have one responsibility, in addition to contributing your own piece of the story: you will have to tag at least one person that continues your story thread. So, say you tag five people. If four people decide to not participate, it's okay, as long as the fifth one does. And if all five participate, well that's five interesting threads the story spins off into.So, here goes:
I woke up hungry. I pulled my bedroom curtain to the side and looked out on a hazy morning. I dragged myself into the kitchen, in search of something to eat. I reached for a jar of applesauce sitting next to the sink, and found it very cold to the touch. I opened the jar and realized it was frozen. (Splotchy)
My first idea was to put the applesauce in the microwave. Hey, I was still tired. Could I scoop some out and put whipped cream on it? No, too solid. Why was it so damn cold in here? I walked over to the thermostat and saw that the heat hadn't clicked on all night and the temperature had dropped substantially overnight. Now, tired and hungry, I opened the access panel on the heater. There's the problem: why was someone cooking a duck in here? (SamuraiFrog)
I bent down and scooped up the uncooked duck carcass. There was no way I was going to let it go to waste, especially considering I had applesauce on hand. I placed it in a roasting pot and went back to reset the heater. As I continued to wake up, I realized that my roommate had spent the night at his girlfriend's place and couldn't have put the duck there. "How the hell did it get there?" I wondered. Just then, an already odd situation became even stranger. The lifeless duck animated, flapped its featherless wings, and began to speak. (Some Guy)
"Zal-pinga, zal-pinga, zow-zow-zow! I am the ghost of unrequited meals and you will be haunted by three more meals, tonight!"I folded my arms, my face and body language conveyed equal parts doubt and skepticism.
"What?" asked the duck."Shouldn't you be an ex-business partner or friend of mine that has passed away?"
"What?""Marley, you know, you should be like Marley."
"What are you going on about? I am not a reggae duck."
"No, if this is anything like the story, you shouldn't be a duck, you should be someone just like Jacob Marley...I don't know, maybe, uh, Dwight Holstein."
"He's too busy haunting Louise Barret, because she stood him up on prom night. At any rate, tonight, you will be visited by three meals."
"But why do meals walk the earth and why do they come to me?"
"Will you shut up already? I am freezing walking around here, with nary a stitch of clothing or plumage-"
"And why should you be cold, you are dead already?""And why do you think we ghosts are moaning all the time? It's bad enough being dead, but...you are getting my sidetracked! Tonight, you will be visited by three meals!" (Write Procrastinator)
"Three meals? Visited by three meals? Is that what you are saying?"
The duck glared at me while wrapping my best kitchen towel around his plucked body for warmth. "You don't listen so good, do you? Watch my beak and I'll say it slowly. T-h-r-e-e meals. The belches and gas of meals past, the taste of meals present and the dreams of meals future. Got it?"
I tried to focus, wondering if this was indeed a plucked duck wrapped in my Williams-Sonoma cotton dishtowel, now puffing on one of my hidden cigarettes, telling me of the ghosts of three meals that would come to visit, or, if that blotter acid I took back in '89 really did cause flashbacks.
"When your kitchen timer clicks off 60 minutes, the first ghost will appear." he continued. "I'd suggest you lock your doors, you really don't want guests tonight...the first one may be...unpleasant."
While he spoke, I realised I kept referring to him as a him, and from the drape of the dishtowel, the struggle to keep it under the wings, over that plump, juicy breast meat...he was a she... and I hadn't eaten... yet. ~Quin
Tagged are: GolfWidow, Bee, Loo, Peter and Greg
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
You fly in, the Rockies breaking the skyline on one side, the flat plains leading out to Kansas (where there are bad writers) and the farmlands that grow winter wheat. I always look out that way, thinking of the wagon trains that came that way... how I'd have hated it, the long, long trek, dust in my hair, in my skin, in my clothes... the never ending walk West. Wondering when it would end, then coming face to face with the Rockies... soft foothills that rest against purple mountains capped with snow even in summer. Sheer rock cliffs, that you can see go on for hundreds of miles.
You've walked forever, given up your home, your family, perhaps a child along the way... suffered so much, to be faced with the Continental Divide.
Denver was founded for one reason; wives took one look and said, "Jack, I ain't moving. Let me know how that California thing works out, okay?"
I spent teen years in the Land of Coors and Boulder. I worked in Denver, Boulder, Loveland and Longmont. I've lived all up and down the Front Range... loving every town. I spent my summers working in tourist towns, and my winters skiing... back when ski passes were reasonable, and skis were 185cm at the shortest. It was a good time to be in this state.
My kids were born here, grew up here, three of them live here. My oldest and dearest friends live here, I worked with them, we saw each other get married, and have children. I've had my good times and bad, and I love this place.
It's changed, some of the art work is...um, odd. Sadly, I don't know how to move a photo from my phone to the blog, or I'd post the art of the pinto horse on the huge red chair that stands in front of the Denver Art Museum, something that so caught my fancy, I had MissH drive around the block in order for me to climb out and take a photo.
It would stand out, even in New York.
The hospital room was full of flowers, and held The Godmother, who decided with my presence, she was ready to come home. Shame, really... their menu was amazing. I felt a cough coming on, and told the nurse I felt I should be checked in.
We packed up her things, hobbled out the to car and drove the trek northward, her wan and pale as only she can do wan and pale, going to bed early. The Godfather and I ate and talked, I found myself restless, worried, and sending emails out...those kind you think..."Um, maybe I should have waited on that."
I spent the night on a fold out sofa, with one eye open....The Godmother was home, and even though ill, I know her penchant for scaring me in the middle of the night. Sure enough, this morning, a perkier woman greeted me, saying, "I heard you get up at 3AM, and was so tempted to stand outside the bathroom door and scare you...but, I was afraid I'd laugh so hard, I'd tear my stitches."
I'm glad she was thinking about her, and not the fact I'd have done my usual response perfected when we lived together, when I'd walk into the dark hallway, hear her say, "Well, hello there!" and fall over in pure fright, twitching and gibbering partial words, as I have in the past when she's done this particular trick.
I'm also glad she's feeling good enough to even think about torturing me.
Today, we head into Boulder, to see a doctor or two, I'll hit up Einstein's for their wonderful Holiday Blend coffee to bring home, and then I'll make her take a nap.
I'll take one, too... with my door locked.
You can't trust TheGodmother... you really can't.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
I'm on that big jetliner, leaving on a jetplane, I'm stuck for bad song lyrics at this point.... but, I'll be putting my life in the hands of some Russian driving a gypsy cab (I can't help it, I love Gypsy cabs!) to get me to the airport by 7AM in order to catch a Delta flight.
Why Delta, after the horrific time I had in July? Um, well, um... they were cheap. And, a direct flight, that's why. I can be bought for a cheap direct flight.
At that point, I'll be off and ready to spend time with TheGodmother, as she recoups from her operation, as we deal with her issues... while we sort out her life for a bit.
Journals from the Rocky Mountain High. If Bee can do it, so can I... after all, I lived there for a number of years....
I can breathe with no problem.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
I did, and, although it didn't show a negative, it certainly didn't show what the positive photo did on the pamphlet enclosed with the new fangled pregnancy test I had purchased. The Ex and I peered closely at the test tube I had weed into hours before... nope, the little blue circle at the bottom didn't match either photo... we were still not sure what I was. What we did know was I had tender parts, I was late and I was grumpy
Well, the grumpy part is somewhat part of my nature... let's say I was more grumpy than normal.
A trip to the doctor confirmed the almost full blue circle... I was indeed with child.
My first. My first that I'd actually give birth to, that is... I already had TheSlumlord forevermore known as Zenmaster, as he requested I find another moniker for him, more fitting his personality...and not based on the fact he is building a housing empire. and MissH. This, this was to be the first child I'd grow large with, the first one I'd buy maternity clothes for... the first one I'd travel to the doctor for, find myself unable to sleep comfortably over, the one I'd eventually be unable to walk beyond a waddle, unable to eat anything with garlic because of, the one we called JJ, because said Slumlord announced it would be Joe if a boy and Jenny if a girl... names I wasn't too wild about.
We, the parents, had decided on Justin. A good name. A solid name. A name liked by 2 out of every 3 boy parents of 1982. We'll get to that in a minute.
Time passed, my stomach grew, I found myself in increasingly ugly maternity fashions. Clothing was not cute then... it was mostly ducks, and cute items. I was fortunate to have a few classic clothes, and I wore them out. I was not big from the back, but, I turned around for days.
By October 19, the doctor said the baby was engaged... in position, would be born any day. It was due November 19, but, he felt it would be okay if I had it a month early... they'd keep an eye on me.
A month passed.
Thanksgiving came and went.
Grumpy became something the Ex wished I was, it was such a nice emotion.
We bought a house in the interim, something to pass the time. I sat on the sofa and packed boxes, grumbling. I made a quilt for the baby who felt as if it hung between my legs. I didn't want to discuss names. I did want to do things like take long rides at high altitudes.
We signed the papers on the house, and the next day, the Ex puttered around the apartment, missing his bus to Denver. "I may stay home." he said. "I mean, we need to clean the new place so we can move in this weekend." I snarled something from the bathroom, causing him to change his mind. He left, and I had my first contraction.
No cell phone. No way to reach him. I called his office and left a message.. "As soon as you get there, come home."
I waddled out to the truck, and wedged myself in... and drove to a friend's house... feeling myself becoming giddy with excitement, this was it. I was in a cute outfit, I had on makeup... the contractions weren't bad. Hell, this was going to be a snap.
NN was my friend and my boss at the Big Bell I worked for. She was a dear, sweet woman who succeed in a man's world. She took charge when I came in the door, making another call, sending her husband ahead to get things going in the office, and, as she walked behind me in her darkened living room, she tried to grab me as I did a Dick vanDyke and tripped on her ottoman, falling flat on my face.
I hit so hard, you couldn't tell I was preggers.
Well, wasn't that fun.
We rushed to the hospital, me hee hee hooing, her telling me not to panic (noooo, of course not... just because you CAN'T SEE MY BELLY ANYMORE) and we screeched into the hospital in record time. They threw me into a wheelchair, careening upstairs to maternity where I was attached to a unit to monitor the baby's heartbeat... and then I heard it...
....Jarhead's heartbeat... strong, and steady.
I did cry then, knowing he was okay. He was shoved into my spine, but, he was okay.
The Ex showed up... concerned, worried...and happy to hear the heartbeat. We were a team, and we were going to do this.
Cut to hours later, I'm not pretty anymore, my makeup is gone, I'm in labour for 14 hours by now. I. Want. Drugs. A lot of them. Whomever invented Lamaze is a sick bastard. Whatever man insists on a wife using it to deliver should have to pass a kidney stone at the same time, using Lamaze.
The Ex tried to get me to HeeHeeHoo... I told him to Fuck Off. He's a smart man sometimes. He backed off.
In the middle of my labour, in which I thought I was passing a bowling ball, The Godmother poked her head in, carrying roses. She told the nurses she was my sister. I threw her out, too. My mother called 47 times.
I had a hard time, didn't dilate... but, I kept trying. We kept HeeHeeHooing.
Finally, they decided on a C section.... I turned to the nurse, and said, "Find drugs. Put them in my back. I will give you money."
She was kind, and did it gratis.
At 9.11P, a 22 3/4, 7lb 6oz baby boy was born. He wasn't Justin. We weren't sure who he was. He had blonde hair and eyes the colour of the sky.... He was alert and snappy from the beginning.
He was my Jarhead... six weeks after they told me he'd be born any moment. He had been in position for so long, he had a conehead... seriously, a conehead.
After I was sewn up, and he was cleaned up, they brought him to me, and later, the nurse said, "Don't you want to unwrap him, count his fingers and toes?"
I looked at him, asleep in that tight wrapping that keeps them safe and happy, and said, "Why? If he was missing something, or had an extra appendage, you'd have told me by now."
It was days before we finally named him, days of them telling me I had to name him, days of being told I had to come up with something... and, eventually, we did.
You were my first, the one I practiced on, the one I learned how to love from the beginning. The one Dad dropped in the hotel out of the Moses basket, and we didn't notice until the lady said, "Excuse me, you've dropped your baby." and you didn't hold it against us. The one that sucked on Zenmaster's filthy fingers, the one MissH pulled around like a puppy. Our personal toy.
We moved into that house with the multicoloured carpet, the stuff that was so bad, we had to pull it up, with me in stitches, and 8470 boxes the weekend after you were born. We stayed there, with our great neighbors, the ones you sold the Gold C books to for double the price, because "If you had to go sell them, you were going to make a profit."
You did Cub Scouts, and wore your white suit to your First Communion, you went camping with your PaPaw, and went to California with your uncle to learn about the film business. You've learned how to strike out on your own, finished college, become a chef... joined the Marines because that is what you needed to do. You've done things I've not been pleased about, however, I've always been proud of you, as a boy, as a man.
You are home in 17 days, home from that place where I worry, home where I can call you and hear your voice, where I know I can see you if I want to, home from your duty, and you are this man... who is always my boy.
Happy Birthday, Son... I love you forever, I like you for always. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be.
Friday, November 30, 2007
I don't. It's part of my rent with my landlord, so, when his router dies, I find myself at the public library, doing all of my interweb stuff watching a clock because I only get 45 minutes of time and there is a line of people waiting to use the computer.
Hopefully, I'm back tomorrow....
Saturday, November 24, 2007
The snow was piled up higher than the car doors, higher than our hips...it was...deep.
Even Godmother and I knew what we needed to put on; chains. She had chains, something I didn't.
Snowchains are the devil's invention, horrid, loud clunky things that you attach to your front or rear tires, depending on the drive thingy of your car. We knew that much. That, however, was the extent of our knowledge. Cigarettes in hand, we pretended to read the directions while JL and Sherman sat in the warmth of the house and we huddled in the driveway, looking at the chains, at the tires, at the chains...
Finally, we had it figured out. She carefully rolled backwards over them and I hooked them on. We were ready. She loaded the trunk, I went to the bathroom again, child and dog packed in and we were off!
One thing was missing....an iota of common sense.
We drove west towards Boulder, to hit up the closest grocery store, liquor store and bank. The drifts were piled 10 feet high on the sides of the packed roads. We made good time, the chains clinking merrily on our tires, chatting away, pleased with our smart selves.
Albertson's parking lot was awash with waves of piled snow, we soared over them in the good ship Mustang, laughing hard, me giving a running commentary of our trip, JL chomping away on one of 10 packs of BubbleYum, the dog's nose pressed to his window on his side of the car, Godmother in her usual driving position of seat pushed all the way to the wheel, her mousefur coat (a purchase from a catalog, the coat bore a strong resemblance to the texture of mousefur, and in damp weather had a slightly rodent smell), sipping from her Pepsi can in the holder in the console between us. I had the big Tupperwear of homemade chocolate chip cookies at my feet, a few books, our many packages of cigarettes... we stocked up on goodies and schnapps--yes, we were good to go.
A news report said the roads to Denver were packed with cars... we'd spent a bit more time than we meant to at the store, and when we arrived at the bank, it was closed. No ATM's then, we had around $10 in cash between us, no time to go back to the store and get extra cash... making the decision to drive to the airport, we stopped only long enough for me to call my dad and tell him to call E and let her know we were hustling down to get her sacred daughter, whom she'd entrusted me to care for.
MM was E's pride and joy. She'd never traveled alone, she was cushioned, protected, cherished in ways I'd have sold a kidney for in my childhood. The only time she'd ever been abandoned was when the Great Ghost appeared during the Scarefest that summertime in Monroe, when G and I scattered with the rest, leaving her and D to fend for themselves. She'd been put on a plane and flown off to me, her older cousin, her only female cousin, to enjoy Thanksgiving.
She'd never been on her own before.
We sorta zipped down Hwy 36, to feed into I-25 to go to I-70.. oh, yes, we were happy campers. We smoked and gossiped and listened to the radio. We wondered what the loud clipping and clanking was from the chains, but, we knew they let us drive at 65mph on that snowpacked road, and we were happy!
I guess one of us should have rtfm at some point. I mean, fully read the fucking manual.
The traffic jam started 3 miles from the airport. Three stinking miles. Three. It took us three hours to go three miles. Of course, with the clarity of 20/20 hindsight, I should have walked it in, grabbed MM, and hoofed it back to a parked car. But, walk three miles? Where did I think I lived, New York City?? We stayed in the car, slowly starting to panic. JT read his comics, snapped his gum, I stealthily ate the cookies, and Godmother continued to sip on her Pepsi.
Knowing we couldn't afford the time nor the parking garage fees, she pulled up to the arrival gates, and I ran in, faced with 82,473 people. There, in front of me, was MM.
The gods were good.
We dashed back out, opened the trunk, and shoved her broken suitcase into the car, horns honking, people yelling... throwing ourselves into the Mustang and squealing out, the chains a happy tune to our careening car as it moved into the flow of traffic.
It was now 2P.
We drove a bit, found a payphone (remember those?) and called E, telling her all was well, she passed the word on to Dad ... who still expected us by 6P. It's a 4 hour drive... we had decided to not stop in Glenwood Springs...shame, really. We'd looked forward to that. But, we felt that hour or so would be better spent driving to make up for the silly traffic jam at the airport.
We glossed over the fact the entire Front Range had been slammed.
Godmother was the epitome of calm. She drove, refusing my offer to spell her in the task. We moved on the plowed, yet still piled with snow and packed with other cars, I-70. When we could, she moved her precious six month old car up to 60mph, otherwise, we crawled along. MM chatting away, JL talking to her, the dog sleeping, me eating cookies, Godmother sipping that Pepsi.
The roads continued to worsen. Going up towards Loveland Pass was horrific. We moved at a crawl, sliding even with our sturdy chains. I ate more and more, the kids grew silent as she and I continued to glance at each other.
MM hadn't brought any cash, only a check to give to my Dad for funds. We had enough money for gas, and that was it. Godmother and I live on the edge. The snacks were gone, and, like the Donner Party, we started to size each other up as the first meal for the group.
The dog huddled down under the coats to make himself a smaller target.
"I don't think those chains are working properly.", she said, when we slid for the gazillionth time. "I think we should stop and get them checked." as we careened down the west side of the Eisenhower Tunnel, a Ford tobaggon, barely missing other cars that had on chains and were in control.
We found a gas station that was still open at 10.00P.
To this day, when I pass this particular gas station, I let them know I think they are #1 in my book.
The 'attendant' had a look about him that said, "When my parents divorce, they will still be able to call each other sibling." He was playing with the air compression hose as, "Larry", the manager, directed us to the hoist.
"Chuck" (the names are changed because I've managed to block them from my memory) had Godmother pull the car onto the hoist. He never mentioned we should get out of the car. Never. Not once.
I won't even entertain the thought that neither of us, intelligent women in jobs that required us to think and wear suits and attend corporate meetings and where we made decisions that cost huge amounts of money that didn't belong to us ever said, "Gee, should we get out?"
Uuuuuuuuuuuuppppppppppppp we went. It was fun! It was exciting! We started to tip backwards!
"LEAN FORWARDS!!" I said in a calm voice. If you believe I was calm, there is that beach front property in Utah I have for sale.
All of us quietly leaned forwards including the dog. Imagine, if you will, a dark blue Mustang, on a hoist, in a cold garage stall in Dillon, Colorado... inside, two women, two kids and a dog... all leaning forward... beneath it, someone who should have been playing a banjo in the film, Deliverance.
"Well, looky here, here's your problem... you didn't put on the rubber holders for the chains!", he called out.
Godmother slowly opened her electric window, still leaning forward...and, no, I'm not kidding here. "What rubber holders?"
"Ayuck.. M'am, you must be funning me. The ones that keep it all tight against the tires, m'am. I'll fix them for you."
Inside the car, Godmother said, "Pass the cookies."
"Ahh, there are no cookies."
"You made cookies, I smelled them last night. I want one of your fucking cookies."
I brushed the last of the crumbs, and with the solemness of Peter to the soldiers at the crack of dawn, denied their existence. At the same time, I shoved another well chewed piece of JL's BubbleYum into the, what I thought was by now, empty Pepsi can.
Godmother sipped and growled, "And, what the fuck is in my schnapps??"
Yes, we'd been driving with bad chains, and a woman drinking schnapps. No wonder she'd not been touched by the drama that had driven me to eat three dozen chocolate chip cookies. Cookies that now placed me at the top of the 'eat her first' list.
Chuck lowered us down, leered in at Godmother, and didn't charge us... in fact, he quickly waved us onto the highway.... later, we found out why.
"What a nice man!" MM said. MM is one of the happiest people I know. I don't know how we share DNA.
JL started to snooze. We carried on, still driving at whatever top speed we could reach, the roads dry now, chains clicking away, cigarette smoke again carrying words to the back seat that held two children. A bit like the road trips of my youth, only this was a car with laughter and jokes and tales of Godmother growing up on a farm, going to a one room schoolhouse, her way of dealing with the tragedy in her life makes her a keeper in anyone who has the great good fortune to have her in theirs.
11P. Clear skies. Clear roads, at long last. We top Vail pass, and see that valley below us. Once the summer pastures of sheep ranchers, now, over priced homes of the rich and famous sprawl about. We are on the downhill side, the storm is behind us, never having reached this far. Another three hours and we should be there.
I see something go flying by us down the hill, flashing in the full moon just as the car starts to make an odd sound.
"Godmother, you have a flat."
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you do, because that was the hubcap shooting ahead of us on the road."
The poor, dear car jerks then, hopping over to the side of the road, jerking in her hands. We pull over in the -15F weather, crisp, freezing weather that lulls you into thinking it is much warmer.
We have coats in the car, everything else is in the trunk...
I open the trunk, piled with MM's loose clothing, our cases, her skiis... I open it, and lose my held in temper.
Clothes fly, cases, skiis.... I am yelling into the dark night, "ARRRRRRUUUUUUUUUUUGH!!! FUCK ME DEAD!!!!! BUGGER ME BACKWARDS!!!! JESUS. MARY. JOSEPH AND ALL THE SAINTS IN IRELAND!!!!!" Yes, I covered all my bases.
It got worse...how? The trunk light was broken by a shoved in ski. I take a lighter, looking for the spare, pulling it out. Okay... jack. Jack... jack... there is no jack.
I also couldn't find gloves or scarves after my fit... I have socks on my hands and long underwear wrapped around my neck in the cold.
Rapping on the driver's window. "Godmother? Where is the jack?"
"Oh, I took it out. The skiis wouldn't fit." She has this smile. You can't kill her.... you want to, but, you can't.
I started to flag down a car... it's 11P. I've got socks and long underwear on... who is crazy enough to stop?
A guy who has been smoking some major weed, that's who. He picks me up to take me to the nearest exit.. when I climb in, JL takes down his plate number, in case I don't return. This is a smart child.
Stoner and I return, rented jack in hand, to the Mustang where my posse awaited us to fix the tire.
Now, how I ended up being 'Dad', I'll never know, but, Dad I was, and Dad I continued to be, socks and long underwear in place, albeit on the outside of my clothing.
Stoner placed his car so the headlights shone on the driver's side of the car, allowing us to see the flat, and what had to be done. He allowed his slight...totally high male chromosomes to take the jack and place it under the back bumper in order to raise it to change the flat tire. Rickety--Rickety--Rickety He worked that pump handle hard to lift the car up and get us on our way.
"WAIT!", my voice screeched though the night air. I grabbed his arm stopping the manly process of changing our flat tire.
"Dude," he said, falling into my Dad trap, "what's the problem?"
"Um, the bumper is coming off." I pointed, showing how the heavy duty jack was merrily pulling the bumper up and off the car, leaving the car itself still in place on the ground.
We both surveyed the damage and jointly said, "Fuck."
Moving the 47 lb jack to the side of the car, we carefully placed it and started to jack up the car... it moved up and the side of the car started to cave in.
Yeah, well, at least it moved up.
As I'm standing there, holding the lug nuts for Stoner, the engine starts up.... the exhaust blowing into our faces. "What the fuck?" said Stoner, glaring at the exhaust pipe.
"I'll go check, hang in there." I replied, noticing he really didn't mind the exhaust in the least. I moved towards the driver's window and knocked politely. Godmother lowered it two inches exactly, blowing a plume of cigarette smoke out as she did.
"Yes?" she said, smiling that smile.
"Um, Godmother... did you notice we're back there, near the exhaust pipe?"
"Well, yes. But, JL is cold, you see, and he wanted the car on." This made complete sense to her.
"Tire. Driver's side. Exhaust pipe. Our side." I was speaking slowly, one word at a time.
"Ah huh. Well, I was smoking, and I had to air out the car, and then he got cold."
"Um, I'm out here in a FUCKING PAIR OF SOCKS AND LONG UNDERWEAR WRAPPED ON MY HEAD AND YOUR FUCKING CAR CAME ON IN MY FUCKING FACE WHILE I'M CHANGING YOUR FUCKING TIRE!!!! TURN! OFF!! THE!!! CAR!!!!"
The car shut off, and we finished the job, throwing the tire that has an embedded tire chain in the back side of the tire (thanks, Chuck!)in the trunk, piling in the skis, the luggage, the loose clothing, all of it on top. Stoner left, leaving me to remember we had the chains on one tire. They had to come off.
I struggled to remove the little rubber thing put on by Chuck, then managed to get most of the chain off.
Most of it... not all of the it.
We had to then drive to the exit to return the 47lb jack, and see if they'd remove the chain... which was attached to the axle, and thus whipping across the highway like some Road Warrior weapon, taking out a Volkswagen and two Harley's as they tried to pass us.
The nice man at the gas station undid the wrapped around chain and didn't chide us, letting us go, seeing the pain in our eyes and the anguish in my face, patting us on the back, not charging us for the damage to his jack.
We arrived at my dad's at 3AM, shattered, tired, wanting nothing more than a drink and a warm bed. Dad provided us with both.
The rest of the weekend went swimmingly, my best friend and my father bonded, becoming life long friends, that Dad loved dearly until his death two years ago today. MM had a great time skiing with Godmother, JL found a Marine to tell him about life in my Dad, all of us had a great time that weekend.
The trip home was exciting in a lesser sense.... we left and had to go back... cars were upside down from the inch of black ice on the road. We made green chili and spent another day in Grand Junction to the thrill of JL who basked in the attention of his hero and the anger of our boss who had two of her three marketing people gone. We drove home Monday, slowly, carefully, using our the last of our cash to fill the tank and finally arriving in our beloved Boulder, where we stalked though the aisles of Albertsons, eating food from the cans (we had a thing for kippers) moaning in joy.
We drove the back roads home, chattering away in the darkened interior of the battered Mustang, grateful to be almost in our comfy home, a new Duralog ready to be burned... and Godmother remarked we were lucky to not have had an accident.
"Well," I said, "You know most accidents occur within five miles of your home."
With this, we spun out and into a ditch.
I'm not a good person to have in your car, I guess... and should change my name to Cassandra. Luck was still with us, Luck with a broken leg, perhaps, and a bad case of leprosy, but, luck nonetheless... and a guy with a big 4x4 stopped by and pulled us out.
The wrong way.
The Mustang drove at an odd angle on the last two miles home, battered, bruised, the wheelwheels eaten up by the abusive chains, the entire back panel bent in from the industrial jack, the rear bumper lifted up and away from the frame of the car, missing a custom hubcap. The front end was now totally out of alignment. I'd gained ten pounds from the chocolate chip cookies, and Godmother gained a liking for sweetened schnapps. JL grew to hate car trips, but, not for the same reason I did.
We slid into the garage, adding a final scrape on the passenger side, opening the house door to the sound of the phone ringing. Godmother scrambled to answer it, sure it was Godfather, checking to see if we'd finally arrived home.
It was L, a friend, doing just that, and Godmother settled into a chair, these horrible chairs on pedestals, that were in the kitchen... a kitchen that has since been redone, but back then was wallpapered in silver and bright green and yellow.
Not a place to be when you were hung over, I assure you.
She sat down, lit up, and proceeded to tell L of the trip, getting into the groove, warming up to the tale, settling into the story.... when I sat down, weary of it all....
....and my chair broke, throwing me onto the floor.
It was a tale to remember. The best of times, the worst of times. A story I've told a zillion times...and never embellished. How can you possibly embellish this story?
This was for Godmother, whom I'll see in a week... her husband, Godfather... two friends who have always been there, for the last (mumble a number of years here) and, for my Dad... who died two years ago today.
Miss you Daddy. Every day.