Saturday, January 30, 2010
Can’t you just cover up the word with a priority sticker.
But they do it at my other post office.
Just a sticker over the little word? No one will even know.
I’ll have to ask my supervisor.
He then went into the back, probably through three iron doors hermetically sealed, gained entrance with a pressed hand and then a lick on the side for DNA. There, in a little booth, the black-haired worn out supervisor sat smoking a cig, reading a stamp collecting manual. No, that’s too interesting. She sat in the booth smoking a cig and sniffing under her arms periodically to make sure she was still alive. The tattoo guy bowed down before her and said:
There’s a bitch out front.
Yes, can I have a cigarette?
Go ahead but it’ll be deducted from your pay.
Thanks your highness.
She wants to send a priority package in an express box.
Do you have a light?
You want me to smoke the damn thing for you too?
I’m sorry your excellency. So what should I tell her?
Tell her to go fuck herself on a weather-beaten raft in the high seas.
I don’t know if that’ll work.
And why not?
She has the look.
Yes, she won’t take no for an answer.
Let me have a crack at her.
I was hoping you'd say that, my supreme majesty.
So here I am still waiting. There’s a good line behind me now. They’re smiling though. They have good lives. They work hard. They have friends. I’m waiting, and the tattoo guy comes back followed by this black-haired troll, wrinkled, tired, lifeless. The tattoo guy points to me.
Yes? Says the troll.
I wanted to send this package priority.
Oh you do.
Yes but there aren’t any priority boxes this size. Can we just put a sticker over the word express?
No we can’t.
If I do that for you, I’ll have to do it for everyone else.
I can’t do that.
You can’t just put a sticker over the express thing? Cover up the word?
No (stupid) I can’t.
Ok, well can I have a bigger box?
We don’t have any. You can buy one of those.
Oh. No, I can’t.
Ok then, thank you.
Have a nice day.
So I went down a few blocks to the next PO and guess what, they did it. No problem. No questions asked. Covered up the word express with a priority sticker. 7 bucks. Done.
I don’t have a lot of free time but I had to go back. This was important. I stood in a long line. I whistled. I jiggled the change in my pockets. Said hello to each newcomer who stood in line behind me. It was like church. Peace be with you. All right. Amen.
I got to the front of the line.
Can you get your superior off her wrinkled dry ass and tell her I’d like to speak with her.
Thank you Tattooey.
I winked at the lady behind me. A few minutes went by.Not long. The troll reappeared.
What is it now.
Just thought you’d like to know I mailed my box. I mailed it priority even though the box said express. The mail-lady put the stickers on it herself, and guess what, she was smiling. She asked me how I was. She asked me if I needed anything else. She even gave me the cheaper price and guess why, because she has love in her life. She has friends. She cares about herself and others. She is kind and intelligent and will probably live happily for a long time. I’m sorry you’re so miserable, but I had to tell you, you’re not taking me down with you. Then I cleared my throat and started singing "You're not going to take me down, you mean unhappy person. You try to slap me in the face with your anger and hatred but it just won't work". Then Tatooey and a few people in line joined in, "you're not going to take me down. You mean unhappy person. You think it's okay to hate everything but it's not. You're sad because you say no all the time and judge everyone and send your negativity out into the univerrrrrrrsse ", then the chorus came in, "You're not going to take me down" and we all joined hands and swayed and sang to her, and the man with a deep voice in the back had a solo "You just need some fresh air and maybe some healthy foooood and should hang out with children and stop pretending you know everything" and we sang the chorus one more time and ended in a single note, the sound of our voices still ringing in the air.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Isn’t it weird that you feel a certain kinship with someone when you find out he grew up in your home-town. Even though within that town, there were probably at least 100 subcategories and he definitely was not in the same one as you. Even though walking down the same street you probably would not have noticed each other.
Oh my God you’re from Palookaville? High five.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Three steps up lightly on the left side. Skip the fourth. Step to the right, then middle, middle, middle and skip the last. You pause, head down, hand on the banister. It seems like you are safe.
Then the dog barks one sound with his mouth closed; one eye opens a slit. It’s quiet for a few seconds while you hold your breath, until he lifts his head up like an angry man and lets out a loud one in three quick bursts Rarara.
Ssshhhhh, you hiss. Betrayal. And usually he’s so likable.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I can remember walking into my grandmother’s room at around 4 in the afternoon when she was napping. From my perspective at the end of the bed I could see her feet in completely worn out slippers. Her toes bent in ways toes were not supposed to bend. She snored with her mouth open. Her hands were folded on her belly. She looked like she had been asleep for a hundred years, like she was growing roots into the bed.
Gram? I’d say.
The snoring would stop abruptly. Her eyelids would peel open.
What is it? What happened? And then she’d be sitting up, putting on her glasses, her feet on the floor.
Oh, she’d say and then, taking my hand, led me into the kitchen.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
A friend sent this letter to me that was received by a friend of hers that is helping in Haiti right now with SOIL. Thought I would pass it on.
January 19, 2010
This afternoon, feeling helpless, we decided to take a van down to Champs Mars (the area around the palace) to look for people needing medical care to bring to Matthew 25, the guesthouse where we are staying which has been transformed into a field hospital. Since we arrived in Port au Prince everyone has told us that you cannot go into the area around the palace because of violence and insecurity. I was in awe as we walked into downtown, among the flattened buildings , in the shadow of the fallen palace, amongst the swarms of displaced people there was calm and solidarity. We wound our way through the camp asking for injured people who needed to get to the hospital. Despite everyone telling us that as soon as we did this we would be mobbed by people, I was amazed as we approached each tent people gently pointed us towards their neighbors, guiding us to those who were suffering the most. We picked up 5 badly injured people and drove towards an area where Ellie and Berto had passed a woman earlier. When they saw her she was lying on the side of the road with a broken leg screaming for help, as they were on foot they could not help her at the time so we went back to try to find her. Incredibly we found her relatively quickly at the top of a hill of shattered houses. The sun was setting and the community helped to carry her down the hill on a refrigerator door, tough looking guys smiled in our direction calling out “bonswa Cherie” and “kouraj”.
When we got back to Matthew 25 it was dark and we carried the patients back into the soccer field/tent village/hospital where the team of doctors had been working tirelessly all day. Although they had officially closed down for the evening, they agreed to see the patients we had brought. Once our patients were settled in we came back into the house to find the doctors amputating a foot on the dining room table. The patient lay calmly, awake but far away under the fog of ketamine. Half way through the surgery we heard a clamor outside and ran out to see what it was. A large yellow truck was parked in front of the gate and rapidly unloading hundreds of bags of food over our fence, the hungry crowd had already begun to gather and in the dark it was hard to decide how to best distribute the food. Knowing that we could not sleep in the house with all of this food and so many starving people in the neighborhood, our friend Amber (who is experienced in food distribution) snapped into action and began to get everyone in the crowd into a line that stretched down the road. We braced ourselves for the fighting that we had heard would come but in a miraculous display of restraint and compassion people lined up to get the food and one by one the bags were handed out without a single serious incident.
During the food distribution the doctors called to see if anyone could help to bury the amputated leg in the backyard. As I have no experience with food distribution I offered to help with the leg. I went into the back with Ellie and Berto and we dug a hole and placed the leg in it, covering it with soil and cement rubble. By the time we got back into the house the food had all been distributed and the patient Anderson was waking up. The doctors asked for a translator so I went and sat by his stretcher explaining to him that the surgery had gone well and he was going to live. His family had gone home so he was alone so Ellie and I took turns sitting with him as he came out from under the drugs. I sat and talked to Anderson for hours as he drifted in and out of consciousness. At one point one of the Haitian men working at the hospital came in and leaned over Anderson and said to him in kreyol “listen man even if your family could not be here tonight we want you to know that everyone here loves you, we are all your brothers and sisters”. Cat and I have barely shed a tear through all of this, the sky could fall and we would not bat an eye, but when I told her this story this morning the tears just began rolling down her face, as they are mine as I am writing this. Sometimes it is the kindness and not the horror that can break the numbness that we are all lost in right now.
So, don’t believe Anderson Cooper when he says that Haiti is a hotbed for violence and riots, it is just not the case. In the darkest of times, Haiti has proven to be a country of brave, resilient and kind people and it is that behavior that is far more prevalent than the isolated incidents of violence. Please pass this on to as many people as you can so that they can see the light of Haiti, cutting through the darkness, the light that will heal this nation.
We are safe. We love you all and I will write again when I can. Thank you for your generosity and compassion.
With love from Port au Prince,
I'm remembering this with the daily news about Haiti because now I have another image. I can't stop thinking about the people buried under all that rubble. For days. I'm not thinking of a person sort of splayed under a heavy pile of crumbled cinderblocks, even though a lot of the photos I have seen seem to show that. I'm thinking of a person tucked under a stairwell, knees to their chest, head bent over, just waiting.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
How does Pat Robertson know that the people of Haiti made a pact with the devil? Where did he get his information? Does he talk to Satan? Does he have a one-way line to Beezelbub? I don’t know how he came to believe what he believes. I don’t know who taught him these things. I don’t know what his mother said to him at night, long ago, when she put him to bed. But something is terribly wrong, terribly and grotesquely wrong, if his first reaction to seeing a person lying on the ground with a bone sticking through their leg is to think: you deserve this.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I was at the airport with two children, 4 heavy bags and 30 minutes between flights. I had not eaten since toast that morning and had a half-gallon of coffee working its way through my bowels. I was sweating because I still had my hat with the ear flaps on and I was staring at the wall of paperbacks trying to decide which one to settle for. I did not know exactly where my children were, but I assumed it was somewhere near the huge display of $7 packets of gum and candy. There was a lady in a business suit who was stepping frighteningly close to my imaginary circle of privacy. I took a step to the left and picked up something by Stephen King.
“There’s not a whole lot to choose from is there?” the lady looked at the wall while she spoke.
“Hmm”, I said which was a combination polite smile, half-chuckle, and plea to leave me alone.
“This is a great one. I think I gave it to 25 people. I love her,” she said pointing to Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Ok, I have to stop here for a second before I reveal an ugly side of myself. I just want to remind you that I went into specific detail at the opening of this post to explain a little something about my particular state at the time of this incident. I also want to add that I believe wholeheartedly in the power of love and gratitude and forgiveness.
With one single exception.
I do not like Elizabeth Gilbert. For reasons both personal and philosophical, she gives me a serious chafe. She is a woman who leaves. A woman with huge testicles. And no I do not mean it as a compliment.
If any of my closest friends had been in the airport with me at the time of this occurrence, if any of them had heard this unsuspecting traveler recommend this particular book to me, they would have yelled and run and waved their arms in slow motion as though trying to stop a child from stepping onto a landmine. “Noooooooo”.
But they weren’t there.
So when the unsuspecting traveler pointed to that book, made a simple suggestion and bravely shared her personal opinion, she did so completely unprotected.
“This is a great one. I think I gave it to 25 people. I love her,” she said pointing to Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
“I think it sucks and she’s a fuckin LIAR.”
Ok, I didn’t say that out loud, but I did give her the stink eye, enough that she took a step back. And then miraculously and by the grace of God, I felt a little hand patting my arm. “Mom?” His voice was sweet and dear and precious, but not because he had an instinct that he was trying to talk down a gunman from a water tower. His voice was sweet and dear and precious because he was about to ask me to buy him something.
“Mom?” He held up a bag of sour gummy worms in shades of neon pick and green and blue, and put on his best begging face.
Why do millions of women around the world want to read that book? Why does Oprah call her a rockstar? Why do you see entire rows of shelves in Target and Ralphs lined with volumes and volumes and volumes.
On a good day I would tell you: because it’s well-written and because everyone’s had a breakup that has forced them to do some soul searching. On a day like the one I’m sharing with you right now I would say: because the writer is a FREAK SHOW FANTASY, a wolf in sheep’s clothing--
“Mom?” my son, god bless him, will never give up.
--She does things most women can’t or won’t do and we are fascinated. But what really irks me, what really chafes, is that she rides on the coat-tails of feminism and so we’re forced to look at her experience of leaving and self exploration as honorable—
“Mommy?” he knocked the bag into my arm, thumping me again and again,
--when really it has a lot more to do with her total, utter, self absorption than it does with courage.
“What!” I say in a tone that makes the poor woman turn and leave.
“Please can I—“Yes Harry, you CAN” I yell as I watch her put the book down by the rack of neck rests and scurry away, “and I’ll get this book by Stephen King for 25 of my CLOSEST FRIENDS because I LOVE HIM –
“Mom, Can I have one now?”
“—and because he went through really hard times: alcoholism, drug addiction, getting HIT BY A CAR, good old Stephen, and he struggled and persevered and came out on top“
“Mom can I—“
“and he didn’t then GO WRITE A BOOK ABOUT HOW GREAT THAT WAS. Yes honey you can. AND GO ON OPRAH AND ACT LIKE HE CURED AIDS AND CANCER AND STOPPED THE WAR IN IRAQ.”
“Do you want one?”
I looked down at the blue worm coated in crystals that he held out towards me. I looked at his little face with a smear of godknowswhat around his mouth and his tiny teeth now completely glazed in a rainbow of color and I snapped back to the real world. “Let’s go see if they have some carrots at the snack bar.”
Saturday, January 9, 2010
I could hear Dar and her friend Kaya running and sliding in their socks in the other room. They were laughing and screaming and falling down on top of each other. It was a great sound. There are times I hear that sound and I yell like an ogre from a cave. And then I feel bad later. But tonight instead of yelling, I remembered one night with my old friend Susie in the pool in her back yard. A huge puddle in the deep end had frozen and we must have been out there for two hours sliding around and pretending to skate. I was the announcer. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are here at the Kennedy arena tonight where little Susie will attempt the triple axel camel pier back flip halfhold… And here she is, the fans are going wild, she’s looking good, she’s looking confid- oh ladies and gentleman, oh that’s going to hurt, oh wait she appears to be… laughing, … wait, is this right? she is jiggling ladies and gentleman, she can’t stop”…and on into the night until our faces were burning red from the cold air and we were sweating under our clothes .
Today I read a headline that said “Unruly passengers cause two flights to change course” and I thought to myself, oh now what, and took a look at the article. Turns out the passengers were making bomb threats after the plane was in the air. I had to pause. I don’t know if I would call that unruly behavior. Unruly is a ten year old shooting spitballs during math class. A kid you grab by the back of the collar and march down the hall to the principal’s office. Isn’t it? I read the rest of the article; there was no further detail about the passengers. Nothing to make you think:oh they were drunk and pissed off that they couldn’t get an extra pillow. Or a bag of nuts. I mean if that’s what really happened (that’s what the word unruly implies) shouldn’t there have been mention? So really then, what is the point of the article? Why did I need this information?
I have three children, two jobs, two dogs, a cat, ferris wheels, a marching band, deadlines, fog horns, schedules, chainsaws, church organs and enough distractions that trigger every possible emotion on an hourly basis. Can’t whoever it is that’s dishing out this sort of news get an EDITOR?
And speaking of airplanes, I listened to a guy on the radio yesterday say that all the extra security at the airports now is an invasion of our privacy and rights as free citizens. What? What good are privacy and rights when the airplane you are in is flying into the side of a building? Full body xray and anal cavity search? I am in.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Today at the Metropolitan Courthouse, a guy ahead of me in line peed into a coke bottle.
I first need to mention that I was there because I had three tickets for talking on the phone in the car. I know, it sounds idiotic, why don’t I have the ear phone head piece thing? Well I don’t. I’m not defiant. I’m just in denial about many things, and talking on the phone while driving being illegal is one of them. I would like to add though, that I got one of the tickets in a parking lot and another when I was stopped at a red light and the person I was driving to meet called me.
What? I know. It’s hard for me to follow rules. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. I don't have feelings of entitlement. I care about things. In most cases I am extremely lucky, but I have to confess I do get a lot of tickets. I’m realizing this may be one of my issues. I’m not exactly sure about the root of this particular disorder but part of the reason I don’t address it is that it has always felt low on the priority list. Still, I realized recently that I probably could buy a pretty nice used car with the amount of tickets I’ve paid in my lifetime, so maybe it’s something to think about.
Anyway, back to the guy peeing into a bottle. I was at the courthouse getting my fines in order, and there he was, maybe the fifth guy ahead of me. At first I thought he was drinking scotch but then I realized the liquid was flowing in the wrong direction. And his penis was out.
Oh hell no, the lady behind me said.
I guess he was exhausted. He was old and we had been in line for over an hour. He was wearing shorts and slippers and only one sock. I noticed there was a yellow pus stain on the side of the sock. I’m pointing this out not so you’ll be grossed out but so that you can see that, in his own way, he was tending to things. I think most men, if given the opportunity, would pee in a bottle rather than get out of line. At the very least, I think, most men are only a step or two away from crossing that particular barrier. However, I can say fairly certainly that I, and all the women I know personally, are many, many, many more steps away from peeing into a bottle in the middle of a long line, inside a court of law, than two.
This could be on a top ten list of differences between the sexes. But I’m not sure it means anything.
The lady sighed and said Mm.
Oh yes he did, another lady said, as the guy tucked himself back in and then delicately put the lid on the bottle.
I wanted to join in with them, but it felt wrong. Like them, I have had the thought on many occasions that women are simply more evolved. That we know certain things without ever having been taught. I too have felt superior. But here I was in the Metropolian Courthouse on Hill Street in Los Angeles. I am poor and often disorganized. I say bad words in front of my children. I have not had a fulfilling relationship with a man in a long time. I cheat and lie and steal. How could I judge? I know what it’s like to break rules. I know what it’s like to convince yourself it doesn’t matter. But the thing is, even though there are times you feel invisible, you never are.
Tonight I was walking home from Bob’s market with the dogs and I heard someone crying loudly. It was dark out but I could see the person across the street talking on a cell phone, walking and crying. I think it was a tranny. She was crying the way a clown or a three year old would, dramatically and for an audience. Waaaaaaaaaaa. It was sad and funny. I wondered what happened. I had literally stopped and was openly staring when, like a zombie who suddenly catches the scent of its next victim, she turned and headed right for me. She was still wailing away but there was definitely a dark and evil trill to it. I walked quickly in the opposite direction and thanked god the dogs were barking their heads off.
When I think of harp music, I think of a 50 year-old woman with long hair and birkenstocks near the electronic hair removal kiosk at the back of a mall. But I can’t think of a better alarm clock sound to wake up to. My cell phone alarm clock setting is harp music and honestly, this morning when I woke up, I felt like I was gently floating on a cloud all the way into the bathroom. I highly recommend it.
Also, as far as sounds go, if you are sitting in a completely silent room with only the faintest sound of wind in the branches outside, I highly recommend the one that happens when you drag an old document into the trash on a mac computer. Very satisfying.