Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Some places

Some places in this world will grab you and take your breath away. Some places exist and, upon first glance, you are home. They take your life and your mind and most importantly your heart, and turn you around and strip you down until you recognize who you really are. Some places recognize you; they've been waiting for you. God is there, and you are there. You're part of the roots, part of the flower. Part of the breeze, and the brick. Some places were home before you even stepped on the soil there - one glimpse and you know. I knew then, the first time. I knew every time I returned. I knew when I lived there. And I knew when I left. It would never stop calling my name, calling back to me.

I'm returning to to the place that has never let go of me. I'm returning tonight.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A face and a name

I couldn't keep my eyes off her Sunday evening; I watched her path with obsession and fear. On Monday, she brushed my life when the stranger asked where he could find a cup of coffee and a meal. He'd just hit Houston after a 14-hour drive from New Orleans. He was just around the corner from his basic request, obviously relieved at the news.

By mid-Monday, my obsession grew. The notices of our office closings in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Mobile were expected. I must have checked CNN every 15 minutes throughout the day.

I went through Alicia in 1983. No one was around to help my father move his boat to and then up the Colorado River. I was picked for the task. It was terrifying when the rains first came, sharp and needling my skin. Hanging onto the rails on the side of the boat while it moved along choppy waters too choppy for my liking, and I inched closer to the Outriggers so that I could lift them and then turn them aftward, my father's voice from the flying bridge above me guiding me, calming me. Still, I was naive enough to have no doubt of survival. It was more of an adventure at the time.

I remember how massive Gilbert was 1988; how it dumped rains all over Texas and Oklahoma for days. Without ever hitting here.

And of course I remember Tropical Storm Allison. I remember how she left, made a slow return and then sat on us. Friends called the morning after, their house was under water. We spent that day cleaning their house and another friend's restaurant. I gained roommates of the two and four-legged kind after that one. The night she decided to stay put over the city, I was with those friends in that restaurant, commenting on the rain. Little did we know.

Today, I look at images of New Orleans, of Biloxi and Gulfport and I just stare, slack-jawed and sick to my stomach. Nature did this? This drunken rampage, this hostile beating, this is natural. It's humbling. These cyclones of such force that we name them, give them a recognition, a reference and a memory. And they show their personality and behavior -- unforgiving, insistent, brutal, ugly, slamming, pounding, drenching, whipping, deadly.

And we stand there when all is done and it's quiet again. The ugliness of the day before betraying the beauty of the day after. We stand among felled trees and debris, among rooftops and chimneys in the street. We look out at cars filled with river mud and saltwater. And always there's a doll or a rollerskate. We gaze outward at views that were not there before, and we struggle to navigate home without our landmarks. And everywhere you look, in every eye you see, you recognize the sameness between you. No matter who you are.

I remember that after Alicia. I remember Alicia ceased to be an adventure when I realized what we had avoided. I have no other point of reference for Kristina.

Only our employees in Baton Rouge are fully accounted for. My unaccounted for colleagues, and all others along Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama - all others- are in my thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Weekend highlights

Friday afternoon: Left work a bit early so that I could pick up Mom and drive out to Conroe in a reasonable amount of time, say two hours at 4:00 rather than three hours at 5:00. Why Conroe? To see my nephew, of course! It's our monthly visit. He's calmer, smarter, more articulate, more focused, and more at ease during this visit. He's working hard. He proudly tells me he made an 89 on his essay on the Illiad. You know, Homer, he tells me. Yes I know. I am proud of him, proud of his learning.

Friday night: Mom and I shared a room at a Best Western that the owners must have gotten quite a deal on interior fabrics because the bedspreads were a horrid color combination of bright pink and green palm trees, which conflicted to a nauseating degree with the dark green and red carpet. When I opened the door for us, mom said, Oh my. That cracked me up.

Saturday: The school had gifted him with a Red Maple tree in honor of my father. We plant it in the afternoon. I watch him slice the shovel into the dirt, opening the ground to receive the tree. He's strong and involved. My brother shows how to build the donut around the tree with dirt and then mulch. We water the tree and take pictures. It feels good to be there, good to plant another tree for my father.

Saturday night: Before meeting friends at La Griglia for a birthday celebration that was to start there and then go from there in a long black limousine to wherever we pleased but dancing had to be involved, I stopped at the McClain Gallery for the George Rodrigue exhibit. Mr. Rodrigue was a friend of my Uncle's and a guest on my father's boat, The Simplicity, on several fishing trips in Cozumel and Cabo San Lucas. I had made a photo album for him of pictures from those trips and hoped to leave the album there for him. I got much more than that once his wife saw me and questioned the album in my hand. At best, I had hoped the he would look through the album with me and share a story or two. I got that. He was both delighted and delightful and I left him with the album and a hug, taking with me his voice and the look in his eyes as he wistfully said in that thick Cajun accent, Oh the times I had on that boat with your father and your Uncle.

The rest of Saturday night involved a surprise guest, numerous bottles of Veuve Cliquot, the Black Swan and, lastly, Absinthe. It also involved a lot laughter and dancing and silliness. And late hours.

Sunday: Necessarily quiet. Some Advil. Lots of sleep. Pizza.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I dined with my future, and she recognized my way there

She's little, and frail. She's so frail I wonder how her body holds the strength that's there inside. She is grace. I sat in her glow at dinner tonight. She lost her husband fifteen years ago. Fifteen years. She keeps him with her, talks of him as though he'll be there when she gets home. She knows he won't but she can't help herself. She knows he's gone, that she's bringing him forward through her memory, consciously. Still, it's slippery. She knows it's her trick.

She asks me, How are you?

I put on my clown suit, smile at her, squirm and glance up at the ceiling and across the crown molding, and say, I'm fine. Really, I'm doing okay, I'm fine.

She has years on me, she knows better. She waits for my darting eyes to return to hers, says It takes a long time. She stretches out the very short word, long. In five words she tells me the truth.

Oh, no, I understand that, it does. You're right, it does take a long time.

She puts her worn and delicate hand on mine. It feels like lace.

Alison. She stops there, waits for the air to swirl around my recognition of my name in her voice, says it again. Alison, it takes a long time. Slowly she says it, firm and positive. It stays in the air between us. I hear her now. There is no response. There's not meant to be.

On the drive home I think about her touch, her words. I feel young. Foolish and young. I do not know. I think I do but I've only the slightest idea, a tiny seed of it. This path I'm on, it's only just begun. She knows.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What do I know?

Time moves on and I turn back to see the day I lost him, disappearing like the tail of a kite. He's been gone for over half a year now. I never thought myself capable of going this far without him. It's not something that gives me relief or pride. What I am is stunned by the ultimate strength it requires, and that I could come up with it, that I can come up with it. It was days, weeks, then months, and now I've put year into the sentence. Still, take it all apart and every day takes work.

There are doors I hide behind, blankets I stay beneath. I can't bring myself to remove "Dad" from the saved numbers in my cell phone. Though it shocks me to see it, sometimes I look at it and I desire to dial it. Just to see.

I've taken bits of him and made them my life. His memberships in particular. His Coastal Conservation Association membership, his United States Equestrian Team, Arbor Day Foundation and Ducks Unlimited memberships. These are in my life now. My money follows his for causes he taught me to believe in and support. My memberships, previously giften upon me by him, are now turned around and continued in his name. Still, envelopes arrive in the mail and I recognize the logos but I search out his name.

I take him to work with me, take his hand on my back to meetings I'd rather not be in because I have to take the lead and I'm not sure I can. But I do, because I've taken his hand with me.

I take him on walks with me. I take him down the street and around the corner. I pick up the bits of paper and discarded beer cans in the park. He leads me to it; he asks me to make things clean again. It's what he taught me: clean up the messes you find.

I kiss his picture on my dresser each night before going to bed. I say goodnight to him out loud after I pray. I need to talk to him still, to hear "Dad" from my voice, to him, not about him. So I talk to him.

I'm as handicapped at saying goodbye as she is. If you walked into my parent's house, you'd not know he was gone, save for the urn on the bar. She can't remove him. I understand her. His sunglasses are on the hall table. His reading glasses are on his bedside table. His shampoo is in the shower and, yes, his toothbrush is in the holder beside his sink. I don't know how she does this, but I know exactly why. His camel hair coat hangs in the hall closet. His shirts and jackets hang in his closet. His closet. His saved quarters, dimes and nickels in coffee cans on his shelf. His business cards on his dresser as he had placed them, his bulletin board with drawings from the kids. His hats and his shoeshine kit. His luggage and his shaving kit. All there and waiting for him to make them useful again.

The photos, the kisses, the memberships, the clothes. Is this how it is? I do not know. Do we hang on to things that were his in some mad method to keeping him here? Is that really him standing in my dream? I do not know. Is that really him nudging me forward? I do not know.

An early gift

There are many mornings when everything in the world shines. I usually do not find that in August. August is slow and lazy and full of a thick heat in the air that is stifling. August has a pulse that slows my own. But this morning was different. This morning, the air was a bit cooler than normal, giving the slightest hint to fall. I was out before the sun rose, so of course that's the night air, but it was enough to inspire me and put a lift in my step. Currents in the air stirred a fragrant scent around me. Seeing the dawning and growing light in the sky stirred my imagination and stretched my awareness of the very simple beauty around me. It was a joy, both a quiet moment and a high point, an amazing way to start this August day.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

True Confessions

  • In today's crossword puzzle, backtalk = guff. If I hadn't gotten all the ones across, I wouldn’t have guessed that to save my life. But what really got me was that Rough up = Maul. Oh really? Isn't that throwing cold water on Maul? Maul is the emergency room; rough up is a bandaid.
  • In my head I have a list of songs that I like but I’m kind of embarrassed about. Perfect example is Elton John’s Nikita. I’m not proud of it, but I do like that song. So when it came on the radio this morning, I turned it up and started singing. And I realized that I was driving down the road singing out loud to Nikita and I honestly rolled my eyes at my own self.
  • The commercial for back to school supplies that uses the Spinners’ song, Rubberband Man? I love it. I love that they have introduced a "Rubberband Man" character, and that he is so funky and has that huge afro and pushes that cart or drives that scooter all around giving unsuspecting children everywhere their school supplies. It makes me miss the days when late August meant new pens, pencils and notebooks. And a new wardrobe that someone else was paying for.
  • Also musically related, I just today realized that Kawlija was a wooden Indian standing in the door. I’ve liked Charlie Pride for years, and I’ve always liked this song but apparently not enough to pay any attention whatsoever the lyrics.
  • I’ve recently discovered a whole new meaning to the hook ‘em horns sign. But I can’t talk about it here because a certain someone would read it and drop what they were doing to come over here and kick my ass. And by that, I do mean maul.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The w is for work, not wait

All things come to those who wait. That’s not a new sentence, certainly not a new thought. Or teaching. Or sermon. Though it is something I think only true to a degree. I understand the patience aspect but I don’t understand the sit back and do nothing picture that somehow “wait” paints. As if we have no say in the matter.

I don’t understand this because I recognize it. And I recognize it in myself. And I don't particularly like it. There are certain pieces of my life that I’ve not pulled into the present, and certainly not lived forward. I’ve held onto the past so much so that at times I’ve pitched my tent and stayed a while. Stayed too long.

It makes much more sense that things come to those who prepare for them and work toward having them. It’s like waiting for happiness to run you down and force itself upon you. Doesn’t happen. I think you have to push up happiness through all those day-to-day things in your life that would otherwise be content to keep it down, keep it from flowing. I think that even happiness has to have a little nudge now and then. And even an invitation.

I woke up this morning from what seemed like an entire night of dreams that I could remember. Dreams that were comforting and all over the place. My first thought while Cheyenne was dancing around the bed with excitement and face licking was how happy I was. And how good that felt. Before getting out of bed, I decided to encourage it and keep company with it. I’m taking my own happiness by the hand and I’m walking with it. I’m learning about it and blessing it. Because I’ve found that I have waited long enough.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The farmer and his tart

We spent the morning at the park before the temperatures crawled so high that not even the insects would dare to move. The dogs ran around like guinea hens on a mission, sniffing the scent of dogs that had walked before them, rolling around in the grass, running from clump of grass to clump of grass in obsessed discovery as if it were an Easter egg hunt, and playing chase with a couple of new dogs whose butts apparently smelled like friend, not foe. After about forty-five minutes, they collapsed side-by-side on the grass for a bit of a rest. And then this. She's about to spring back into action and he's about to break into some woeful country loved-her-and-lost-her song. Which is apropos since sometimes when I look at him I see a farmer in overalls whose young wife just left him for a boy in the city, and he's sitting on his front porch with a broken heart and no help at harvest time.

Friday, August 19, 2005


While my Alka-Seltzer fizzes like madness in the glass, I've got a minute to write.

Met two friends for dinner last night. Two friends I have not seen in quite a while. We tend to make it for birthdays though, and this occasion was for mine.

We also tend to stay out too late when we're together and I could see it coming when after dinner, one of the friends said, Let's go somewhere and have a drink. She always does this; I had forgotten.

We ventured down the road a bit to a little bar that looked absolutely packed from the outside so I was cringing with my anti-crowd attitude as we walked through the parking lot, but when I opened the door there was only a handful of people there. I did cartwheels of joy across all that space in the room.

Suddenly I was hit with the desire to hear Hollaback Girl which is weird because I've never been struck with that before, but believe it or not there was a dj set up at a table (seriously, a table) so I walked on over there to ask about it. Well, faster than you can say, Are those real because they are unbelievably perky?, I found myself hanging out at the dj table talking up all the Drag Queens who were apparently there for Ladies Night but this was not a gay bar so I never quite understood that but, what the heck, they were good fun.

Was it time to leave? Of course it was. It's always a good sign that you should leave if you find that your new best friend is a man named Robert who is wearing knee socks and a private school uniform of plaid skirt and white top, has better breasts than you do, and goes by the name of Suzy. Absolutely.

Did we leave? No, no we didn't. Not for a while.

My Alka-Seltzer is now ready, so I'll leave it at that.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


CNN/Money has published their review of the HUMMER H3. The writer is of the opinion that the new H3 is the "best looking Hummer yet." Excuse me? I say that since best is superlative, then one other would have to at least be pleasant looking. Where is that one?

The reviewer also says that the H3 has "ultra-truck-like ride and handling." What does that mean exactly? To me, that says as bumpy and uncomfortable as all get out. Don't get me wrong, I like trucks. I grew up with trucks, having ridden in many a cab while hauling horses around the country during summers spent on the show circuit. But I like them for their purpose, not for the ego extending, machismo crap. Ultra-truck-like? Is that like ultra suede?

Something else in the review I found more than a bit discomforting: "Visibility, especially out the side and back, is sacrificed for the sake of the tiny-windowed armored-truck look."

I think that speaks for itself.

I know this is just one woman's personal battle with the Hummers -- it's laughable how worked up I get over those things. I also know that one of the best phone calls I received last year was when my friend called from her cell phone to tell me that she'd just passed a Hummer on the side of the road and a couple hundred yards past that was a guy walking towards it with a gas can in his hand. (!!!!) The only thing that would have made it better would have been if she'd had a camera with her. Still though, just thinking about it brings a broad smile to my face.

Oh, back to that review. The last sentence says that the new Hummer is designed for true Hummer fans. If that is true, then I say that the H3 is sure to get the blood boiling of true Hummer foes. Trust me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

One of these things is not like the other

I overheard a bit of conversation this morning that got my eyebrows all furrowed and my head shaking.

Woman 1 to woman 2: Was he a foreigner?

Woman 2: Yes

Woman 1: Well, that's how they are, you know, all foreigners are rude to women.

All foreigners? I don't think so. The statement was so ignorant, and such a wide-sweeping generalization that I felt like giving her a lecture right then and there, but I also felt like ducking as I passed them in case someone else had overheard and was aiming big rocks to throw at them. Instead of either, I just walked past them with the scowl on my face but also giving acknowledgement to the inner voice that said maybe all foreigners she has crossed paths with have been rude to her. Unlikely, but I do not know so I certainly can't say.

If you've read the previous post, then you know that I too have been guilty of my own generalizations as of late. It's been on my mind this week, so maybe I drew myself to that first-hand experience, not sure.

What I am sure of though is that I do tend to think that people in certain groups share at least a few sets of characteristics befitting that group. For instance, people who donate to the SPCA are people, I assume, who care for animals. Likewise if you go on the MS bike ride, I assume you are concerned about wiping out the disease.

But these wristbands, these yellow Livestrong wristbands are baffling to me because I cannot categorize the masses wearing them. I cannot find common denominators of connection. For instance, in the past week in the Houston Chronicle, I have read two very different stories that were accompanied with photos in which the subject was wearing the yellow bracelet. Besides the yellow on their wrists, what does the woman who shot the life out of a guard in Tennessee so that she could free her convict husband have in common with the Jewish man being forcibly removed from his home in Israel? I cannot fathom.

These two people who lead such vastly different lives across the world from each other, have they both been touched by cancer? While they go about their regular lives, one fighting to keep a homeland, and one plotting a murder to free a criminal, have they otherwise joined an effort to raise money with with cancer research? I would think that one wouldn't have the time and the other wouldn't have the care. And yet the wristbands were worn, so I guess that would be me making assumptions again.

Monday, August 15, 2005

People are happy to take your money, but that doesn't mean you can just give it away

I worked over the weekend so that I could spend today with my niece doing the fun things that come with being a college freshman -- buying stuff! We did the necessities first, the requisite campus parking sticker and student ID. Then we went to the campus bookstore and bought an ungodly number of required textbooks, and even though many of them had those yellow USED stickers on them that apparently are 1) universal, and 2) never change, we still spent the kind of money that would be sufficient down payment on a house.

Then we headed to the Apple store in the Galleria, and that's where the real damage to the credit card began. Even though she had her student ID and we saved $475.00 with that, her Powerbook and upgraded memory, Microsoft Office, three-year warranty and Apple dot com something-or-other that allows her back up her files to the internet, well that grand total was just about two mortgage payments. And that student ID came in handy again since Apple was giving away a mini-iPod with purchase of a lap top. You know, so that she can go to class and listen to music instead of her professor.

While we waited for the Apple staff to load the software on the computer, we went to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch. Two sandwiches and sodas later and the now limp credit card was hit with $25.00. (For lunch??)

Right when we stepped outside, I noticed him sitting in his wheelchair, just at the doors of the Galleria entrance next to the Westin. My first thought was that he was a smart guy to place himself there because it's not cheap to stay at the Westin, and if you step one foot into the Galleria, you're either going to spend $25.00 for two sandwiches or you're going to hemorrhage your credit card, but either way, you have to have some money. (Unless you're going there to ice skate, but although I have not checked prices lately, I would still wager that even that doesn't come cheap.)

He had a bright American flag affixed to the back of his wheelchair, and I could see that he was missing his left hand and struggling with the portable cassette player in his lap. I felt bad for him and at the same time felt guilty for the crazy expensive lunch we just had while he was sitting outside in the heat, having to rely on the sympathy of strangers. As we approached the doors, I stopped to hand him some cash I'd pulled from my wallet.

He looked at the money, then up at me in surprise, "Uh, no, no thank you, I'm just waiting for my ride."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Cotton in the tool shed

In a house like any other house, in a line of houses on a street in a row of streets that form a neighborhood, a house on a cul-de-sac of well-groomed lawns and air infused with the heavy scent of magnolia blossoms, a house with a driveway to the side and a trashcan beside the gate leading into the back yard, in that house, as a four-year old I stood behind the curtains at the big bay window and watched her walk down the sidewalk on her way to school. And cried. Because she was leaving me for a world I didn’t know, couldn’t see and didn’t have but I wanted it and her to be mine and was crushed by those morning reminders that they were not.

While I can remember that house in tremendous detail, I cannot remember her room. I cannot remember her bed, her walls, or her anywhere at all in the house beyond the kitchen. But she’s everywhere outside. She’s in the driveway and in the front and back yards. She’s in the tool shed taking off her slip and her white socks that she disliked so and took into her own hands to remove and shove beneath the lawnmower before she walked to school each morning.

I’m watching her from the bathroom window upstairs because she leaves from the front door and walks around to the back of the house, with me following her through the house, up the stairs and into the bathroom, standing on the toilet so I can watch her go into the shed, wondering what she is doing in there and when she comes out I don't notice for several days that something is missing. Finally it clicks clear in my eyes: her socks were gone.

The day I realized that, I snuck out of the house, away from my mother who was sewing and unaware that I was leaving my wooden puzzles on the living room floor for something much more puzzling. Turning the metal latch on the door, I stepped into the heavy scent of paint, oil and dried grass. Scanning the shelves, and moving my eyes across the hanging tools and hoses, poking behind the toolboxes and paint cans on the floor, I finally landed on the odd shock of white cotton beneath the dirty blades of the lawnmower. I put my hands on the fabric of the slip that was also there, but I didn’t move it, for fear of what she might do if I did, fearful already that she’d know I was there, that she’d somehow sense my presence.

When she returns from school, when she walks in the back door with the socks on her feet and I assume the slip back on her body, I’m there and I’m watching her because I know something about her now. I know that she has been in that shed and re-dressed herself just as mom insisted she do in the slips and socks argument between them every morning. I know this about her now, that she only lets Mom think she’s won the argument. Mom is sewing again, blissfully unaware. I lean against the kitchen counter and watch my sister make a sandwich and throw the knife in the sink but leave the bread out and crumbs all over the counter.

“What are you looking at?” she barks. I'm afraid she can read my thoughts, get inside me and read me, as if I couldn’t hide my thoughts anymore than I could hide the crumbs on the counter.

“Nothing,” I snap. Then add in defense, “Leave me alone.”

She raises an eyebrow at me, amused but also annoyed, and tells me to get out of the kitchen, which of course I do because I’d do anything for her at the time. But I do not walk away without my knowledge of her, carrying that with me to sit on the couch and think of nothing else but my first curiosity about her planted and growing in my mind, in the image and memory of the house, of the day I first discovered a secret of hers.

That she did this, that she made her own decisions and had secrets about dressing as she pleased, that she was different, already leading her own life, although she was a mystery to me, these things only made me adore her more.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The basics

Over the years I have made and kept many friends. I've also lost a few. I can honestly say that both success and failure are and were due in part to controlling or not controlling the spoken word. No matter how close we are to someone, it does not give us right to say whatever we choose, whenever we choose.

Words should be chosen and spoken with care, but they should be spoken. There are right things to say and right ways to say them. Equally, there are right things to say and the wrong way to say them. Not to mention, wrong and wrong.

All of this is because today I am wondering why communication is so hard. Why do some people struggle with saying how they feel? Why do people keep their feelings locked inside until they build and build and ultimately explode, and usually at the most inappropriate time so that the explosion draws more attention than the feelings expressed? I'm not at all sure the answer to these questions but they are on my mind due to an explosion I was hit with recently. And yet explosions like that are something that I'm wholly conscious of and try to avoid in my life. Especially this year. Because, like it or not, right now my life is filled with some very real family problems and emotions that call for a great deal of my time and energy. And leave me without the patience for, or energy necessary to bounce back from, being ambushed by unexpected emotional explosions when all along my door has been open for the very level of communication that the lack of which planted the minefield in the first place. Completely unnecessary. Completely exhausting.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Why I say life is good

Woke up at 9:43 this morning because my champagne-soggy self last night decided that I should close the bedroom curtains and forgo setting the alarm because sleeping in would be a fun thing to do.

Arrived at office at very tardy hour of 11:00.

At 11:30, a woman from our accounting department walked into my office and handed me my pay stub from direct deposit - something that usually goes through inner-office mail - and says, "I'm delivering the ones that have checks with them," as I notice the paperclip.

I open the envelopes and one does in fact contain a check, a very large check. Made out to me.

I call back to her, "What is this?"

"Oh it's your extra bonus, didn't anyone tell you?"

No, no one told me. And although I find the term extra bonus to be absurd, I must say it's also very nice.

We're having a party!

The Party of the First Part was at one time dating the Party of the Second Part. They broke up. They got back together. They went back and forth.

The Party of the Second Part started dating the Party of the Third Part. And lied about it to the Party of the First Part, at first. The Party of the Second Part got confused over feelings between the Party of the First Part and the Party of the Third Part but decided to stay with the Party of the Third Part.

The Party of the First Part moved away. Parties One and Three - who had known each other a long time and really weren't that surprised to be on opposite sides of yet another Party - started writing each other and sharing common interests. Parties One and Three became friends.

The Party of the First Part moved back. Parties One and Two got confused feelings again. The Party of the Second Part left the Party of the Third part and started dating the Party of the First part. Again. The Party of the First Part felt like hell because she realized that she really damaged the friendship with the Party of the Third Part. The Party of the First Part also felt like hell because she realized it would never ever work out with the Party of the Second part no matter how much Party One cared for Party Two, which was a great deal. Parties One and Two broke up. For good.

The Party of the Second Part then high-tailed it back to the Party of the Third Part, but the Party of the Third Part had moved on to her own party. And is still there. While the Party of the Second Part fought this for a while, the Party of the Second Part also found another party. And also is still there.

After quite some time and lots of conversation and apologies, the Party of the First Part and the Party of the Third Part mended the damage and became very good friends. Same goes for the Party of the Second Part and the Party of the Third Part. They became friends, and even became friends with each others partners.

There's one thing missing from this party though. The Party of the Second Part is not friends with the Party of the First Part. The Party of the Second Part still blames the Party of the First Part that the Party of the Second Part lost the Party of the Third Part. Romantically speaking.

The Party of the Second Part cannot quite believe that the Parties of the First and Third Parts are as good of friends as they are. The Party of the Third Part cannot believe that the Party of the Second Part won't cease talking about it and still blames the Party of the First Part. The Party of the First Part cannot believe that the Party of the Second Part is still stuck there.

The Partner of the Party of the Third Part cannot believe this is still going on almost a decade after all was said and done between all parties above. I have to agree with that.

I needed to get that off my chest. This is Party One, signing off.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I've been hit

Sass, has invited me or tagged or memed or whatever you want to call it but it involves my answering the questions below, and sending it on again. While I'm not crazy about these things, I'm going to do it because today I'm sort of in the mood for an on-the-spot assessment. And, since I was born with a red pen in my hand, I've edited these questions by adding some (four) questions at the end that I feel provide a nice round-off to the list.

Ten years ago today
I was on the cusp of international travel, and a broken heart

5 years ago today
I was in London

1 year ago today
I was making up for the two weeks vacation I’d taken that ended the previous week and left me with so much work on my desk that it took me a month to get caught up and made me re-think ever again taking that many days off in a row.

I had dinner with a woman who was recently beaten by her husband. Her left hand was swollen to the size of a grapefruit, her arms were covered in bruises of dark purple and blue, and a smattering of scratches and cuts. Her bottom lip was swollen and her walk was unsteady. I didn’t have to wonder how she’d gotten so gray so fast.

Is another day, another chance to get it right.

5 snacks I enjoy
Popcorn, Nectarines, Ice Cream, Wasabi Peas, Cheese

5 bands I know the lyrics to most of their songs
Fleetwood Mac, Cowboy Junkies, Stevie Nicks, Chris Isaak, Everything but the Girl

5 things I would do with $1,000,000.00
Faint. Buy a jeep (old, not new). Take care of family financial needs. Invest. Go back to work.

5 bad habits
Soap operas, day dreaming, not asking for help, driving while on the phone while changing the CD and brushing my hair and putting on lipstick, and okay I’ll confess: smoking

5 things I like doing
Walking Cheyenne, waking up on Sunday mornings and taking all the time I want to read the paper, walking barefoot in the grass, taking pictures, seeing my country by car

5 locations I’d like to run away to
Upstate New York, London, Texas Hill Country, Puerto Escondido Mexico, or Durango, Colorado

5 things I would never wear
Colored hose, blue shoes, ponchos, animal prints, blue eye shadow

5 tv shows I like
Will & Grace, 7th Heaven, 20/20, CBS News Sunday Morning, Today Show

5 movies I like
The Sound of Music, I am Sam, West Side Story, Big Fish, The Hunger

5 famous people I would like to meet
Bette Midler, Stevie Nicks, Kate Millet, Tony Blair, Bono

5 biggest joys at the moment
My health, my niece, Cheyenne, today’s sunrise, the manicure that I got four days ago that still looks great

5 favorite toys
The boat, my cameras. That's it. I guess I need more toys.

My additions:

5 things on your bedside table
Three framed photos, a rose, pen and paper, a stack of books, and a flashlight

5 things you save
Flowers, ticket stubs, champagne corks, matches, phone messages that make me laugh or smile (like the time my friend was leaving me a message and also placing a bottle of wine in her wine rack when the thing collapsed and so the message was her screaming while the phone was being dropped, and the bottles hitting the counter and the ground and then her screaming some more and picking up the bottles while cursing under her breath.)

5 things you won't travel without
Henry Bendel travel candle in Verbina, camera, laptop, face powder, hairbrush

5 CDs in your car at the moment
Fleetwood Mac, David Grey, Tom Jones, Bee Gees, home-burned compilation of 70s songs

If she's made it to the bottom of this list - Reading, tag, you're it. And, to help her get started - Jackson, you're tagged as well.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

In those steps to a stress-free life, the one that suggests learning to laugh at yourself, I say don't be selfish - let others laugh at you too

For most of us, life is a courtship of things we want or fear. For me, life is a courtship of things that will embarrass me.

Take this morning, for example.

I decided to get my coffee and paper and take Cheyenne to the park for a while because it was actually fairly cool in comparison to the boiling hell that the afternoon would become.

Then I thought about breakfast tacos, and drove to the restaurant around the corner, El Rey. My friend pointed out to me earlier today that I should cease going to El Rey because I always do something to embarrass myself when I’m there. (I’d like to say right here that I love her for supporting me by putting at least some of the blame on the location.) She was referring to the last time I was in the drive-thru there, when I stumbled upon one of my friends in line on a scooter ahead of the car before me. She was with someone she wasn’t supposed to be with at a time she was supposed to be at work in the first place, and I decided the best thing to do would be just own up to my presence there. I called out to her, but she of course ignored me because she was mortified to be caught. But I pressed on because I was mortified as well and just wanted to get it all out in the open that I was, you know, in the know. So I called her name a bit louder, but only when I honked my car horn did she finally turn around to acknowledge me. Sadly, the moment I realized she was a complete stranger was when she looked at me with eyes that not only shouted that I was a public nuisance but also that I needed to stop calling after her with a name that was not her own and stop honking my horn because if I didn't do both those things right now, she would be more than happy to get off that scooter and kick my ass.

At which point I scooted as far down in my seat as I could because I didn't have a rock in my car that I could climb under.

So, yeah, that’s what happened the last time I was at El Rey.

This morning I put in my order, drove up to the window and handed over my money. And then settled down for the wait because there is always a long wait at El Rey and if you want to be exact, it's really in the space of that wait that I get into trouble. Eyeing the pink ribbon that I bought yesterday to go on my friend’s birthday gift later this month (yes, Shannon, that’s you), I picked it up and looked at Cheyenne who had no clue what was coming next.

Wrapping the ribbon around her head, and tying it into a big loopy bow, I kissed her nose and told her how very pretty she was and oh my goodness you are just bootaful in your new bow, pretty pretty girrrrrlll, mmmmmmmmm yes you are, oh yes you are. And on and on with other pathetically gooey stuff that only drips from my mouth when we are alone because it’s full blown baby talk and I believe I’ve already stated here that I cannot stand baby talk. And yet this is my confession that my membership card to the hypocrisy club is a platinum one because although I can’t stand it, it is how I secretly speak to my dog.

Until this morning, that is.

I turned to check where my order was and what I saw was the cashier holding my change out her window, looking into my open window and cracking up. My smile quickly fell from my face and I felt the redness appear in my cheeks. With my left hand I took the change while simultaneously reaching over and pulling the ribbon off Cheyenne’s head with my right. The cashier shut her window and walked back to the kitchen shaking her head. I could tell by the movement in her shoulders that she was still laughing.

Let me say this about her laughter, it was not what you would call with me.

Pretty girl

Monday, August 08, 2005

Need directions?

In case you're ever lost in Angleton, Texas, this street sign might prove helpful.


What gets a bit confusing (at least it did to me) is that while there is This Way, and S. This Way, what should logically be N. This Way is actually That Way. I'll date myself here, but I'd love to hear what Cheech & Chong would do with this. Or that.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Sundays then

Touching the water is a way for me to get back to him. There is a pulse there that slows my own pulse, and memories there that tranquilize the pain.

I'm setting off for Surfside Beach today. I'm returning to Bridge Harbor Marina, the place where I spent the summer Sundays of my sixth year, more than happy to be my father's captive audience. He'd work on his boat and I'd spend the day running up and down the long dock, making friends with whoever was there on their boats.

Hi, what's your name?

He'd holler out, Alison, don't bother anyone.

I'm not, Dad.

They'd holler back, She's fine Ed, we'll keep an eye on her.

Or I'd try to catch crabs off the side of the dock with string and a piece of bacon, or drag across the water my green plastic turtle tied to a string, creating all sorts of adventures for him. I spent endless hours in the world of those boats and that long dock.

And when I'd momentarily tire of it all, I'd return to our boat and check on Dad.

Hi Dad, what are you doing?

Hi Funny, are you having a good time?

I'd give him a report on what was going on along the dock, someone was going fishing, someone was returning from fishing, someone had brought their dog down. We'd share lunch, which at the time was the sardines and crackers he loved so much, and apparently I had not yet developed any tastebuds yet because I loved them as well.

When his work was done, we'd take the boat out for a run to the end of the jetties. I'd let my turtle bounce about in the wake behind us, absolutely positive that this was how it was and always would be in the world, Sundays with your Dad and boats and the water.

Before going home, he'd drive across the big bridge over the intercoastal canal to Surfside Beach. Right when we were at the top of the bridge, I'd sit up as high as I could to see the blue of the Gulf and the beach suddenly before us, and explode in excitement. He'd drive a bit on the beach and then we'd take a walk and pick up seashells. He'd talk to me of tides and magic dragons. Then we'd sing.

I'm going back there today. To the marina, to the beach, to these memories.

Friday, August 05, 2005

A bouquet of daisies

It's no secret - because I've been writing it down and putting it out there for the world to see - that I've been, say, pensive and sad lately.

But that doesn't make me closed to the joys that are around me, or the gifts given me.

Yesterday I had a BIG SURPRISE that presented itself in the most common sort of way: in person. At work, staring at my computer screen and tapping away on a report I've been in such complete denial about that I'll be working on over the weekend, I hear Working hard or hardly working?

I can't believe that voice is in my ears. I turn to see him standing in my office door. I can't believe he is here! I fly from my chair and wrap my arms around him in a hug of happiness that now reminds me of a child hugging a puppy.

My ex office neighbor, my old colleague, my favorite pen pal, my friend. The only one in the world who will talk for 30 minutes with me about the color of a sunset, or the sound of a morning. Here he is, paying me a surprise visit.

We chat fishing and sunrises. We chat photos and vacations we've recently been on. We chat about his sons. One's his buddy, the other his mirror. We worked together when these little guys were born. He shared his concerns then on the enormity of the role of Father.

I want to tell him that I believe he has become the father that he always wanted his father to be. I'm proud of him, and happy for him. I also want to thank him for stopping by my office. It's a gift that lifted my spirits all the way through yesterday and into today.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

It's not white, that towel she's throwing in

Mom had invited us to the club to celebrate the birthdays (Kathy's, which was yesterday, and mine). At her house earlier in the evening she didn't seem right but it's hard to tell what's going on. Is she sad? Has she been drinking? Is this the memory loss from hydrocephalus? It's impossible to be a single thing. She's struggling with her words. She doesn't fight it, just shakes her head and stops talking.

I notice an elderly man two tables down. He has big eyes and big eye glasses and he's watching the conversation at his table like a tennis game. Before I even see the cane hanging on the back of his chair, he is reminding me of Dad. It is his birthday and they are here to celebrate. I can't keep my eyes off of him. A small cake is placed before him. He looks at it a long while before making the move to blow out the single candle. I think that he's looking at that cake like it might be his last. A part of my heart leaves my body and wraps around him.

At dinner, she's unsure how to follow the conversation. Or how to join in. She sits on the edge, watching, trying to keep up. She cries, says she misses my father. She wonders why we sat her backwards at the table. (Frontward would have been facing the piano, not out the window.) She tells us the song is my father's favorite. Then she wonders why they always serve her salad before dinner. She says she does not understand how some people always think everything is beautiful and without trouble. She doesn't agree with that. She has another drink.

During dinner she gets up. And stumbles forward. The waitress is there to catch what surely would have been her fall. I jump up and take her arm, thanking the waitress. We walk to the elevator. She tells me she's a little tipsy. I see on her face she's frustrated and confused. Why is it taking so long? She's leaning on me hard.

She bangs the closed elevator door with her free hand. Mom, the elevator is coming. Be patient.

In the bathroom, I hear her.

Help me, I can't get the bathroom off.

You're in the bathroom, Mom.

But I can't get it off. Please help me.

She sounds little. And lost.

I open her door and see she has her words mixed up. It's her pants. Taking care of the zipper, I then shut the door and wait.

I hear her crying again. She can't get the zipper back up.

She tells me, I wish I was dead. I've thought about it, there's nothing left for me.

I rub her back and tell her I love her.

We walk out but I can see by the way she's walking that we cannot go back upstairs.

Then she asks me, Where is he?

Where is who, Mom?

Your father. He was just here, where did he go?

I wonder how to answer this question, what words are both true and soft.

He's gone, Mom.

What do you mean he's gone? He just left? He'd never leave me here. Are you sure?

Yes, Mom, I'm sure. He is gone.

Why would he leave me here? How are you sure?

I don't want to tell her how I'm sure. I don't want to throw water on her moment of thinking him still alive. But she's thinking he walked out on her tonight, and she needs an answer.

My left arm is around her, guiding her, and my right hand on hers, I tell her. Mom, Dad died.

Hearing me tell her, she starts crying again. She sobs that she had forgotten, can't believe she forgot. She sobs that she misses him.

I'm ready to die, she tells me.

Kathy has gone to get my brother. Mom and I sit on the bench outside. I have my arm around her, and with my other I'm holding her hand. Again, I tell her I love her. She tells me she loves me too.

There is nothing any of us can do.

Kathy returns. Mom looks up through tears and tells her she misses Dad. Kathy is gentle, says we all miss him, says she's sorry. Mom says she's glad Kathy feels that way but there's nothing Kathy can do.

We get her into the car. She's tired. She's confused. I place my hand on her window and say my Goodbyes.

A loud storm had passed through while we were inside. Walking to my car, I realize how silent the night is now. I wonder how in the world her pain will heal. But I know that all my wondering is just my spinning around the answer that's already there. I know that her pain will not heal. And I know that she is telling us the truth: she doesn't want to be here. I know that she is starting to leave us. I can see it coming. And I cannot stop it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Right there on the horizon

There is a day out there, and its coming at me fast. I don't want to see it, and I don't want to know it. I only know I have to be in it. There's a day out there, and it has hold of me already. I can feel it pulling me forward, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. I feel myself running, but I know it's going to catch me. I can live through it, I just don't want to wake up to it.

He's been in my dreams again. Colorful, and walking. In school. Across the lawn. In the back yard. Always a surprise, how did you get here? In the last dream, he was startled to see me so happy. I couldn't explain to him that he's not here anymore. Instead, I touched his cheek. When I woke, the scent of him was on my hand. The happiness of seeing him lingered, but faded with the light.

It will be six months that he's been gone. I have no idea how I got here.

One Safe Place

One Safe Place

How many roads you’ve traveled
How many dreams you’ve chased
Across sand and sky and gravel
Looking for one safe place

Will you make a smoother landing
When you break your fall from grace
Into the arms of understanding
Looking for one safe place

Life is trial by fire
And love’s the sweetest taste
And I pray it lifts us higher
To one safe place

How many roads we’ve traveled
How many dreams we’ve chased
Across sand and sky and gravel
Looking for one safe place

Mark Cohn