Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Christmas Reverie


I am un-Christmasing.

I am un-singing the carols, un-decorating the tree, and un-wreathing the door. 

I am going into solitary confinement, concealing myself in a gelatinous cocoon, double-fisting  Zoloft, and emerging in a few days as a born-again Pagan.

Un-Christmasing is a mammoth task, considering that for the past two months, I broke a sacred promise to myself from last year to minimize and simplify, and have been decking the halls, hanging the holly, hauling the credit card, and hurling harsh language – all in a psychotically-motivated effort to make Grandmother’s house look like a Thomas Kincaid painting when the family travels over the river and through the woods to get here.

Why do we women indulge in this annual masochistic ritual of what can only be regarded as the equivalent of bowel strangulation, like a band of conspirators, connoisseurs of human folly? It is truly an exercise for the mentally defective.

I suppose that as matriarchs, we try to preserve mindless traditions with awesomely brainless expectations, which is further evidence of diminished neuron function during the entire month of December.

Honestly, I’m at a loss to explain the phenomenon.  Nostalgia is the opiate of the masses.  It’s also exhausting.

So, in keeping with tradition, I am indulging in my post-holiday rant, a privilege I have earned from the frustrations and festivities of the past 60 days.

Last year, I made a vow and swore an oath, (actually, I swore many oaths) that this year would be different…I would be different.  I would not take on a hemorrhoidal task that would bring a vale of sherpas to their knees.  I would take a sabbatical from the insanity…and simplify.  I would observe the true meaning of Christmas, and resist the urge to indulge in the frenzied, annual, excessive Christmas decorating competition with friends and neighbors.  I would savor serenity, ensconce my mind in a protective Zen euphoria, assume the lotus position, and commune with my inner Mother Theresa.

However, right on schedule, the day after Halloween, as if pre-programmed by galloping dementia and a diabolical demon of depravity, I morphed into “The Noel Nazi,” “The Cherub of Cheer,” “The Ogress of Observations,” “The Deaconess of Decoration,” “The Empress of Entertainment Excess,” “The Matron of Merriment.”

I haplessly witnessed my own transformation from a mild-mannered Grandma into a teeth-gnashing, seasonally adjusted perversion of Lou Ferrigno. I became…THE HOLIDAY HULK! 

It’s like my wobbly-bosomed body has become the host for an alien life-form – “traditionus tyrannus!”

The holidays are snugly nestled between protracted idiocy and prolonged insanity, as if for a space of time, I’m plunged into the vortex of some surreal Middle Earth, and I become a constituent with fellow residents like Bilbo Baggins and a cadre of unusual suspects.  Bags ring my eyes like black-mascara funereal wreaths from too little sleep and too much Red Bull.  And welts as big as anvils threaten to drag my eyelids down to my neck wattles.  Not even mortician’s putty can conceal the carnage.

Why do I expose myself to the yawning mouth of a labyrinth from which, once entered, there is no escape?  Knowing, as I do, that I will eventually have to face the Minotaur? 

Perhaps it’s an attempt to self-mythologize, before time demands that I become surgically modified and prosthetically endowed. 

Of course, on November 1st, visions of myself as the seraphic, ethereal embodiment of beneficence,  Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel incarnate,  dance in my head.  By the afternoon of December 25th, my hair is matted by sleep deprivation, and my eyelashes look the legs of a dead spider.  I’m more “mold, Frankenstein and myrrh-der” than “angels we have heard on high.”

Then there are the inevitable curves that one does not anticipate:

  1.  “Stop peeking in the packages, Necie, and UN-SEE what you just saw!”
  2. “No, Carter, a Thesaurus if NOT a very literate dinosaur!”
  3. “Asher, it’s FIGGY PUDDING, not FRIGGIN’ PUDDING!”

Naturally, I prepared my annual Christmas Eve feast.  I counseled with the butcher about how I planned to cook the ($200!) tenderloin.  At those prices, I wanted to get it just right.  He just looked at me.  Then he informed me that if I proceed with my feloniously arsonistic culinary protocol, there would arise from my oven a great column of smoke and ash, to exceed any volcanic discharge of Mt. Vesuvius.  He asked, straight-faced, if I planned to cremate the beast and scatter the ashes.

OK.  Point made.  I do tend to over-cook things to the point of incineration.  I just have a fear of boccilinus gigantus, and prefer to have the children alive when Santa arrives.  Carpet bombing the roast seems like the best way to kill alien amoeba that could infect the tribe.  The butcher assured me that would not happen. 

On Christmas Eve, we sang the carols designed to invoke the Spirit of Christmas…comfort and joy, peace on earth, good will toward men.  But we sounded less like herald angels rockin’ Handel, and more like the “Farkel Family Singers” on steroids.   

Asher’s seismic activity had us laughing through “Silent Night,” (“Silent night!”  Really???!!!) a blasphemy of such proportion it nearly halted Santa mid-flight.  That child would test the patience of all the Saints and Angels.

Christmas morning was anything but a Currier and Ives rendition.  In a display of overly-muscular gift-opening, fragments of bows and wrapping paper ascended, like projectiles erupting from a missile launcher.  My place looked like the casualty of a targeted attack from grenades, Molotov cocktails,  and Isis.

Definitely not how Dickens envisioned it.

Well, too late came too early, and by 10:00 a.m., the adults were collapsed in recliners, hollow-eyed, grinning foolishly, uncomprehending, staring blankly, stuporous, unable to blink, while morsels of fruit cake drooled down our chins, muttering incoherent soliloquys to no one in particular.  We looked for all the world like a collection of mutant, manic-depressive Mr. Peepers impersonators in an opium den.

I think, by most standards, this Christmas was a triumph.

But I am starting my New Year’s Resolutions early.  Next year, I do solemnly swear to decorate less, simplify…focus on the TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS…fa la la la la…blah…blah…blah…blah

Happy New Year!

 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Circadian Arrhythmia

How can it be November already?  Didn’t  we just have August?  Time is passing with ruthless abandon, which coincides in the macabre realization that ruin is the destiny of all flesh.  

And speaking of the macabre, the nation has just been carpet bombed by the ubiquitous campaigns of candidates being willfully obtuse, aglow with cleanness and looking chipper, while trying to smite their opponents dead with a log.

We voters morphed into stuporous zombies, morbidly fascinated by the potential of disaster, as we’re wheeled into intensive care for the criminally skeptical.

Without pausing for a commercial break, the politicians and pundits, those spongy-minded severely foolish who populate the airwaves, are grandly sprinting toward the 2016 elections, positively radiating predictions and prognostications.

I think I’d rather be savaged by a rabid congressman with a flea collar and a medical history.

The whole campaign circus becomes ludicrous at some point.  I find myself out of rhythm and out of sorts.  But to be fair, it really is not about the elections.  I’m frequently saucer-eyed and confused even when not being assaulted by narcissistic candidates with flaring nostrils and gleaming teeth, oozing oily sincerity.

I think I’ve figured out why.  The universe just shifted its paradigm from Daylight Savings Time to “night-by-4:30 p.m., fuzzy-bunny-slippers-before-6:00-news” Standard Time.

That shift was violent – Big Bang colossal “I want my Mommy” kind of upheaval.  And the consequences are pronounced.  I violently dislike disruption.  Routine is difficult to establish.  I “sprang forward” in March, and nearly fell flat on my face.  And just when I have adjusted and stemmed the constant warming squirts of my adrenal fluid, I have to “fall back,” right on my doughy gluteal landing pad.

I like to think the universe is well-ordered, predicated on logical sequence.  But twice a year, it seems as if a coup d’etat  by some chaos demon with a mutant Ninja army of Pee Wee Herman cross-dressers have realigned the system and created planetary havoc by disrupting the precious circadian rhythm of the world’s inhabitants.

Of course, there are those who insist that predictability is the enemy of drama.  Such people lead lives of wretched despair.  I HATE DRAMA.  Predictability is not a transgression.  Leave drama to the Kardashians, the uselessly attractive, and the benignly idiosyncratic.

Oh, I know what ails me.  I suffer from chronic circadian arrhythmia, (aka circadian confusion, circadian chaos).   For a sizable portion of the calendar year, I resort to bizarre and erratic behavior. I become moronically obsessed with recalibrating my system and getting all my circadian in a row.  
Naturally, profound lack of human dignity is something I suffer in silent humiliation.  I feel all purply and Barney-like inside.  I’m half a Rorschach, one hand clapping, with all my participles dangling. 
My words collide with each other, and I fear strangers can see thought bubbles floating above my head.  I shamble through my day in an orgy of befuddlement, with a mind severely and arrestingly wrenched from its hinges.

There is no pattern to my sleep because I awake at 3:00 a.m. craving cheeseburgers and dirty diet coke.  I resort to reciting the periodic table of elements or conjugating irregular expletives just to soothe erratic brain waves. On top of all that, I’ve gone viral – I think I’m coming down with a cold.   

In short, I’ve become FECKLESS.

Short of indulging in reverse engineering, or conjuring the Oracle at Delphi, I’m not sure what the answer is.  I suppose, as I go through yet another period of adjustment, I should be guided by the first rule of medicine:  “First, do no harm.”  Yes, I rather like that.

Maybe that concept will restore order to the universe.  The more I think about it, the more I think it should be tattooed on the forehead of every politician in the country.  First, do no harm.  It might not change the world, but it could possibly eliminate a whole lot of drama!


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Reunions and Homecomings, Boomer to Millennial

There are certain rituals to autumn.  Of course, with cooler weather, one gets the nesting instinct, and is tempted to begin bottling fruit and making soup.  I have successfully resisted that particular urge, opting, instead, for pizza delivery.  It’s simpler and cleaner. 

Autumn is also the season of reunions and homecomings.  We seem to gather when the air is chilly and the apples are crisp.

As grandma to six millennials, I am deeply vested in everything that concerns them.  This includes a code of behavior.  It’s simply the stuff grandmas are made of.  Can’t help it. I am greater than the sum of their parts. 

And so it was ironic that my high school reunion and Abram’s first-ever date to high school homecoming were just one weekend apart.

Oh, the memories that have been made, and were about to be made.

There was so much I wanted to tell him, so much wisdom I wanted to impart, so much counsel I wanted to dispense, all accumulated since I was a was a sophomore. 

I wanted to share with him little essays on Time, Beauty, and The Meaning of Life.

I wanted to advise him to look beyond assumptions, that kindness is power, and to decorate his soul with goodness. 

All of which was well-intentioned, but apt to produce auditory hallucinations.  The kid would have become stuporous with boredom…just as I did when I was sixteen.

Well, I get that.  It’s just that I was still aglow in euphoric rapture following my reunion, encapsulated by memories that become more precious as time passes. 

Reminiscence has a particular texture, a patina, that is the result of time. 

Now I don’t want Abram to genuflect at the altar of adolescence, but I DO want him to savor these fleeting moments that are oh, so brief.

But this kid is a sophomore and an athlete.  So instead of erudite rhetoric and eloquent poetry, I opted for a paroxysm of blunt commandments, at times indelicate, and occasionally profane.  This is known as “bubba-izing”  the true meaning of life.

So here, in no particular order, are my rules for successfully getting through one’s first date.


GRANDMA’S MANIFESTO
PROLOGUE

Civilization is the mastery of violence, the triumph, constantly challenged, over the aggressive nature of the primate. 

Resist your own nature

Try not to imitate or perpetuate the conduct of the great ape.  (Great start, Joan.  Keep going.)

RULES FOR CIVILIZED SOCIAL BEHAVIOR:

1. Do NOT scratch any region that itches if the irritated terrain lies south of your belt buckle.

2. Do not scratch any area remotely near your underarm.
And, PLEASE, do not simulate flatulent emissions with your hand cupped over said armpit, tempting as this might be.

3. Do NOT insert fingers, digits, or foreign objects into any facial orifices, especially your nostrils.  The guys will guffaw, but the girls will gag. 

4. You may be the apex predator, you may be at the top of the food chain, but do not beat your brains out with your tongue trying to retrieve a morsel of food that has inadvertently found its way to the top of your head.  (This is why you are routinely provided with a white foldy thing we, in polite society, call a napkin.)

5. Remember, sweat has a shelf life.  I understand that perspiration has a certain “trophy” value, but there is a definite infamy to underarm rings. Shower after soccer practice and apply deodorant liberally before you call for your date.

6.  Do not engage in rigorous insult bombs with “da guys.” 

7. Do not resort to the “jaws of life” to extricate the last chicken wing from your partner. 

8. Don’t forget.  There is a specific neuronal wiring that distinguishes us from other animals.  Ergo, do not touch, squeeze, puncture or otherwise pop pustules.  LET IT GO!

9. As admirable a performance as it may be, refrain from belching the entire Olympus High fight song with your buddies.  I’ve witnessed this phenomenon, and I’m so proud of the “Burp Brigade,” but heed my word, this is NOT a chick turn-on.

These young men are the perfect synthesis of form and youthful good looks – just like we were when we were sophomores – before the clock altered our abdominal contours and disrupted our proportions and unity of space.

I know I sound like a refugee from feudal times, but I do know about amenities, and what chicks like.  If you observe my advice, you will always have the illusion that you’re in control of your world.
Remember, “carpe diem” (seize the day) all too soon becomes “carpe dentum” (seize the dentures). 

‘Nuff said.    

Sunday, September 14, 2014

How We Roll at West High

I asked Brodi to create a flyer I could take around to neighbors to let them know our circle would be filled with cars for a luncheon I was hosting for our West High Panthers reunion.

Here's what she came up with. I'm trying not to be offended.

Click on the picture for a larger version.



nuff said








Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Now and Then

Every now and then I get lulled into reverie.  That stands to reason.  It is, after all, nearly autumn, that singular season of nostalgia and recollections.  Of course, too much nostalgia can evoke too much sentimentality, and one is in danger of being overwhelmed.  One must proceed with caution.
This rush of memories, no doubt, is triggered by the fact that I am on the reunion planning committee.  Now that is an exercise in recall that un-calcifies recollections as we retrieve archival data.

Ah yes, reunions – that time-honored tradition when we all become born-again adolescents and once more defiantly reject the inconvenient truths reflected in our own mirrors.  (I personally feel that delinquency is wasted on the delinquent.)

Old names and faces emerge from the mists and corridors of time, and everyone is exactly as I remember them, refreshed and revitalized…regardless of the brutal process of atrophy and cellular breakdown by which time permanently alters all our landscapes…and our vanities.

“Those Were The Days” is our anthem, and we reminisce with old friends who recall the times when we had no need for techno-gadgets like a GPS – all roads led to State Street!

(Of course, a few of our more infamous alumni had cell numbers long before they had cell phones.  Did I mention we went to West High?)

No reunion is without its stories…and specters, that act as a Greek chorus.  Memories are like webs- it is impossible to touch one silk strand without causing the others to vibrate.  I suppose that’s what gives one the sense of the whole.

Gatherings allow us to rediscover who we were and who we are.  And each attendee views our common history through lenses that are somewhat autobiographical.  That makes sense.

To the casual observer, we may appear to be biological oddities, perhaps a little waddlesome, a little asymmetrical.  But the casual observer would be wrong.  Way wrong.  When old friends gather, when they reunite, Time ceases to have meaning…or power.  Casual observers lack lenses with benevolent distortion.

The geometry of our forms has been softened, and we note with melancholy the loss of the physical definition we had back then.  Now, by virtue of residing atop the food chain, some of us are circumferentially challenged around our equators.  Eh, who cares!

So much to celebrate.  Possibly some things to un-say, and  un-see.  It’s remarkable how our lives spill into each other’s. 

However, in spite of the ravages of time, we are not exactly primal man squinting at extinction.

No sirreee!

Without reminiscing, memory atrophies.  It’s crucial to remember the visions of pompadours and beehives that danced on our heads.

I’m not sure if I’m remembering or hallucinating.  But I recall that back then, as young girls, we were symmetrical creatures, crafted of just the perfect proportion of blood and bones and skin.  Heck, I
remember when we only had one chin!

Time was irrelevant.

Summer was a verb.

Then, we girls talked endlessly on the phone (rotary dial, of course) like Sandra Dee stunt doubles of make-up, mayhem, dating, and men.

Now, we carry smart phones and text of mortician’s putty, mayhem, CARBON-dating, and men…opause.

Through the years, we have become unified, we have become one:  the women, uniboobs; the men, unibrows.

We girls have sprouted facial fur prolific enough to render us contenders in the beard growing contests of yesteryear.

And the men are swaddled in their own nasal hair.

Ah, such is the capriciousness of rogue follicles.

We have been imbibing formaldahyde like fine wine in hopes of preserving what physical remnants we have left, and boost mortality, inhaling Aqua Net fumes and channeling our inner bouffants to stimulate memories of the by-gone years before we aged out of our feral tendencies; those long-ago times when “60 Minutes” was a full hour, and long before incessant reminders like carpet bombs to call a doctor for anything that lasts more than four.

And who can forget the music?  If music defines us, what does “Who put the ram in the ramma lamma ding dong?” say about our generation?  Back in the day, we listened to Mick Jagger wail his complaint “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Now, we’re all too tired to care.

Brylcream and Ipana toothpaste were products that spoke to our vanities.  And we bought.  Now, we are demographically in the cross hairs of advertisers pitching hearing aids, medical alerts, and spot faders.  And we buy. 

Vanity is a constant.

My grandkids never tire of listening to me tell stories straight from the pages of history.  However, asking if Tutmoses was a member of my graduating class is enough to send me scurrying to my therapist for high-voltage anger management techniques.

But the beat goes on.  And it looks like we made it.  WE…refugees from the “pre-googleization” era, a collection of implants and transplants…WE. MADE. IT!

Reunions allow us to have an out-of-body experience.  For just a moment, we can forget that we’re casualties of predatory shrinkage and tissue ejection.  We can forget that due to gravitational pull and multiple planetary rotations, we have morphed into physiological punchlines, clich├ęs we used to mock.

We can forget that our medicine cabinets are stocked with controlled substances like Lipitor, digitalis and over-active bladder remedies.  And we can celebrate our latest, greatest discovery that Pythagoria is not an elimination malfunction we will eventually have to be medicated for.

Our angle of repose is, at present, more angle than repose.  But I don’t think that disqualifies us from the planet.  We have a lot of living to do.

An interloper, without prior acquaintance, who may inadvertently wander into this event, might see what he perceives as a collection of compact garden gnomes, comprised of volcanic debris and congealed gelatinous substances spun from life’s centrifuge.  He may even observe doughy thighs and trophy wrinkles like fault lines, metaphorical subterranean survivors of decades past.

Time is the great leveler…and healer.  Actually, so is hair.

While I rail at Time, rage at its tyrannical transformations, I guess it’s simply the human experience.
Indeed, Time has eroded our physical terrain…and, thankfully, our wanton hubris. Certain laws are immutable.  And liberating.

My personal blueprint for the evening of the reunion is to hermetically seal myself in Spanx and a burqa, nothing too revealing, (a humanitarian courtesy to my fellow classmates).  I will view old friends through truer prisms, see the beauty, and dance the night away. 

Memo to alumni:  Anyone planning to split your britches busting a move in frenzied break-dancing, I have only two words:  Don’t!

Relationships are living entities.  We are soul siblings – more alike than different.  We are imprinted with our own identity, individually and collectively. 

Yes, Time is immutable.  But time cannot blunt our senses.  We will occupy pleasant mirages, where things may be altered, but nothing has changed.

There is a universal tribal law which dictates that dignity and honor be accorded those who have been through fiery furnaces.  We have all been transformed by the heat.  But we simply emerge hotter now that we were then.

All memory conspires to a single story.


Now and then time collides with memory…and memory wins.  It always does.  It is, after all, the highest form of intellect. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Costa Rica

At Sunday dinner in the dead of winter, my lovable but maladjusted tribe decided an excursion to Coast Rica, where the sun is warm and the soft trade winds blow in gently from the ocean, would be just the remedy we needed for the winter doldrums.  As with everything our family does, we were playing with a full house, if not a full deck.

So, on the fourth of July, we assembled our posse of misdemeanors…everyone who shares the same genes, chromosomes and last name…and virtually stampeded to paradise.

This was a feat in itself.  In order to simplify and expedite our travel time, we swore a sacred oath of carry-ons only, and solemnly vowed that if #1 Matriarch got lost, everyone would try to find her.  

(These matters must be decided prior to departure and notarized legally before anyone packs a tooth brush!  It’s rather like a living will of retrieval sealed by a blood oath. Matriarchs can’t be too careful.)

Family.  Costa Rica.  What more does one need?  (Dramamine, Ambien, and a good supply of anti-anxiety meds come to mind.)      

We rented a van that could harbor 12 people plus luggage, “canned Ashtons,” bade farewell to solitude and any shred of privacy, and, grinning idiotically, we were off on our excellent adventure.

The roads in Costa Rica are narrow and very winding, and we would often round a corner just to find ourselves in the midst of a herd of bulls.  These animals are colossal, and inadvertently hitting one would cause a bovine holocaust.  The creatures seemed docile, in spite of their staggeringly large horns and other physical endowments that would most assuredly qualify them as serious contenders in the annual testicle festival, held each year in Wyoming.  I am not making this up.  I saw multiple billboards proclaiming this festival when I thought I was in Idaho last month.  Brodi informed me I was actually in Wyoming, which accounts for my confusion.  It caused me to wonder just who is eligible to compete in this celebration, and if there was discrimination based on gender.  Something to ponder.  Nowadays, such biases are politically incorrect and constitute unlawful discrimination.  There needs be equality in all things, especially testicle festivals.

Ah, but back to Costa Rica.  On our way to our first residence, it was exceedingly agreeable to be out in the open, warm woods of a new country…the open, unfamiliar, unnerving woods.  However, it was a dark and stormy night, and our GPS had directed us to a rough, uphill, unpaved road that was baffling, contradictory, and slightly spooky. 

At one point, we all disembarked from the van to prevent the vehicle from tipping over an embankment or sliding down a mud slick.  My keen peripheral vision detected movement of unknown origin in the nearby underbrush, but I was able to maintain enough composure not to revert to my usual bizarre and erratic behavior.  Instead, I tried to divert the kids’ attention to higher landscape, where we were less likely to see small furry animals and denizens of the dark.

Finally, in a hallelujah moment, we emerged from the woods and reached our destination.  In unrestrained jubilation, I perkily blurted out, “It’s like the Garden of Eden!”

And right on cue, a snake, yes, a green Biblical serpent, hung down from the roof, aloof, motionless, observant.  In fairness to serpents, this one seemed more curious than ominous.  Nevertheless, in the dark, all snakes are anacondas – hefty and hungry.

However, not wanting to alarm the children, (they can smell fear), I said it was a sign, an omen that we would not have to fear rodents…or small dogs…or horses…

It was our guard snake, our protector.  We all felt safer, except for one of us.  I kept one eye open and some fig leaves nearby, in case we had to evacuate quickly.  My daughters quipped that a couple of pine needles would amply cover my nakedness in any emergency.  I warned them not to make me get out my thong bikini, and they immediately ceased their mockery.  (Even my sons-in-law cowered at that threat.)

Costa Rica is beguiling.  And we all decided to practice our Espanol.

Fact:  “Donde esta el bano?” will not produce a burger and fries.  It only makes one appear to have bladder issues.

The ocean was 12 steps from our front door, and we swam, boogie boarded and body surfed.  I loved it.

We also did the zip line through the rain forest.  After my initial and slightly imbecilic inquiry of the guide – “Am I going to die?”  to which he replied, “I hope not.”  - I was absolutely exhilarated by the experience.

In broken Spanish, I gushed, “I. LOVE. IT!!!”  Our guide seemed somewhat taken aback, and rather perplexed he answered, “Gracias.  I love you, too.”

Dang!  Obviously, in Spanish, I am pronounally impaired.  I suffer from pronoun dysfunction. (Not enough blood flow to my pronouns.)  The side effect is acute humiliation, relieved by a son-in-law fluent in the language, who doesn’t seem to mind rectifying his mother-in-law’s impotent Spanish by explaining to the natives that she’s a shingle short.

Perhaps the true measure of a successful family vacation lies in the editorial comments of the clan members themselves. 

Upon hearing of a family in Houston whose members were all murdered except one, Erin said, “I would not want to be the only survivor.  If one goes, we all go.” 

Brodi replied, “Let’s always take our vacations together.”

This was at the END of the trip, after we had turned in the van, and I, as per tradition, had been “randomly selected” for extra security procedure.  (@&*$!!!)

Separate entities…one Soul.

So, in the vein of “all vacations, all together,” we headed to Cedar City for our annual trek to jolly old England and the Shakespeare Festival, where we swapped Espanol for iambic pentameter.

I suppose where family is concerned, it’s the journey that matters most.  We all must go into the woods.  But we must also go the distance. 


It’s best to go together.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Amazing Race



Not long ago, a motley crew of friends, family and neighbors gathered together to watch the final episode of The Amazing Race on a large movie screen at Jordan Commons.  Now this was not just an exercise of happy, mindless people assembling on a Sunday evening to collectively break the Sabbath or provoke the wrath of heaven by engaging in felonious activities that are profoundly unbiblical. 


Quite the contrary.  Our dear friends, Dave and Connor O’Leary, were among the three final teams competing for the million dollar prize and bragging rights for enduring a series of wild and dangerous stunts that were deeply unnerving and left the participants without a recognizable center of gravity…or bladder control.  For some of us, this is a perpetual state of being.

Because of a 10 million dollar confidentiality clause and an unspoken threat of a contract on their lives with Guido, the “Thumb Breaker,” Dave and Connor took a vow of Omerta followed by a pinkie swear, and maintained a code of silence as to the results.  They divulged nothing. I know. I personally tried all manner of dopey tricks to get either one of them to hint at the outcome, including channeling the Oracle of Delphi. It was eerily reminiscent of trying to seduce a smile from the guards at Buckingham Palace.  Alas, to no avail.

So the congregation sat together in the theater, on the edge of our seats, biting nails, and erupting in a chorus of frenetic cheering at the conclusion of each leg, and groaning at the inane comments of the severely emotionally arrested couple who whined incessantly about needing the million dollars to have a baby.

NEWS FLASH  to those who failed Human Reproduction 1-0-1:  No monetary intervention needed for conception.  I know.  I had two children, and we didn’t have a dime!

That night was infused with such comaradery and unity, all of us caught up in the thrall of the moment.  I think we had intuited the outcome, but when the O’Learys won, there was an eruption of cacophony  and jubilation, comic book noises, simulated armpit flatulence, copious hugs, high fives and majestic silliness of fellow human beings connected by a single joyous mindset.  Shared moronic hilarity is a peculiar ritual and monumentally noble tradition of mankind. I was a privileged participant and noise-maker.

Now the O’Learys winning this competition is really no surprise.  One expects extraordinary things from extraordinary people.  The Amazing Race is not the first time they have embarked on a perilous journey.

When Dennis was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the first call we made was to our bishop, Dave O’Leary.   He was on our doorstep before we heard the dial tone.  As our family gathered together, he administered a blessing upon Dennis and our household that resonates to this day.

Our lamps were lit, and we could see the light.  Our hardship was easier to bear, because he assumed a large portion of the burden.  Dave O’Leary counseled us to put on our armor, and he promptly joined us in the trenches.

The O’Learys travelled our journey with us.  They went the distance, and we began not only to believe in miracles, but to expect them, and ultimately, to make them happen.

One should never embark on a pilgrimage alone.

The O’Learys have permanent residence in the Holy of Holies of our hearts.

Inspiration is contagious.  And as I watched Dave and Connor flinging themselves off cliffs, leaping out of airplanes and throwing themselves under the wheels of passing cars, I had an overwhelming desire to likewise gain enlightenment through reckless living and wild abandon.  I vowed to  DREAM. THE. IMPOSSIBLE. DREAM!  CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN.  FORGE EVERY STREAM.  CONQUER EVERY FOE!  MASTER MY SPHINCTER.

Yessiree.  I decided to accept any opportunity that comes my way to show my valor, bring home the ultimate victory, and wreathe myself in a crown of laurel leaves.

So, when I was asked by a stewardess to sit in an exit row on a recent flight home, I recalled the courage of Lancelot, the nobility of Don Quixote, and the permanent make-up of Kim Kardashian, and resoundingly answered the call to serve for all my fellow passengers to hear, “What the crap!  OK. “

The officious stewardess then provided me with a laminated card of instructions regarding how to proceed in case of extreme turbulence or danger.

Feeling the weight of such responsibility, I studied diligently in preparation for the possibility of hostile conditions.  The plane was a tiny world, a microcosm of humanity, but I was duty-bound by honor to focus on the inhabitants of this cocoon and do all my power to guard their lives.  I was determined to be the epitome of efficiency without obstacles…an icon of fluid motion.

In some mysterious transformation, I became everyone’s mother, (without lactation), and I embraced the mission. 

Now, according to the cartoon characters on the passenger safety card, in case of danger, the first thing NOT to do is use my cell phone or light a cigarette.

Check.

Then, as the plane hits land or water, I’m supposed to bend over, grab my ankles, and puke.  This is actually a maneuver I’ve mastered over the years. It is good to be one with your emesis basin.

OK so far.

After that, I try to figure out how the plane is constructed using my extensive knowledge of the first three letters of the alphabet.



Right.

Then I open the door, remove it from its hinges, and fling myself out the exit, which I locate by rapidly firing hyphens from my eyeballs.


Gotcha.

Finally, I just bob in the water with a frowny face and a seat cushion and wait for a baby to float by.


No problemo.

I guess we are all nomads on this planet. Life presents many sojourns.  Each destination is different.  We travel together.  

But, the next time anyone embarks on an amazing race, take me along.  I’m ready.  I’ll just review the instructions on my safety manifesto, grab a barf bag, locate my ankles, and replenish my supply of eyeball hyphens. 

I CAN DO THIS!

BRING IT ON!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

From Time to Time




Our family speaks proficient “soccer.”  It is the mother tongue.  And we consider ourselves articulate and bilingual (trilingual if you count fluent expletive a legitimate second language).  The World Cup is akin to the Second Coming, and when we speak in tongues, we utter names like Borchers, Messi and Beckham.  This prologue will be important later.

Experience has taught me that Grandmas seem to have a different relationship with time.  Now, that doesn’t exactly disqualify us from the planet.  We just view the world through our own peculiar lenses – with all the inherent distortions.

I am a fervent admirer of still lifes.  I guess that’s because basically I want a suspension of time.  Watching grandchildren grow up seems to violate my own larger order.  Time imposes this violation with dispassionate efficiency and offends the premise of stop-motion freeze frame.  Of course, this dispassionate efficiency frequently collides with my own sentimentality. Sometimes the collisions are violent, which compels a return to my third language (see prologue).   Time is a tyrant.  Time and I have an adversarial relationship.  And I notice a significant imbalance of power.

Ah, but I digress.

Almost every grandma I know tries to create a snakeless Eden for her tribe, so we can all be together all the time.  And then she must re-calibrate her mind as she wonders if she is capable of stepping up to the unavoidable inevitability…namely, kids must leave the nest, and she must let them go.  But I ask you, who would want to leave Eden?  Apparently, everyone.

As a grandmother, I can hardly grasp the concept of the grandchildren’s relentless drive to emerge from beneath my protective arm flab.  I suppose I fear they will grow into their own pre-destined design and rocket into their future, leaving us all in the Grand Suck of immense force.  But the Offspring seem to trust the purpose of their wings.  OK.  I’m cool with that.    

Coming of age is exhausting for all of us, but there seems to be a Grand Scheme in place.  That’s comforting.

Our oldest grandson, Abram, is a soccer savant, a phenom.  He plays on the JV Olympus team, even though he is still in Junior High. 

A while ago, the coach called him over to the sidelines and asked him to play the second half of the varsity game.  (Did I mention the kid’s in 9th grade?)

Well, for Abram, it was a terrific opportunity.  For me, it was a bladder check.  He stood, lanky and composed, with his velvety blond hair slightly wind-ruffled, and waited till the ref signaled the subs to enter the field.

I, in contrast, sat in the bleachers, midgety, like a citizen of a tribe of twisted aborigines, with tangled hair and a web of wrinkles spreading tentacles under my eyes, muttering unintelligible wordless growls, wheezing vocal punctuation, feeling slightly seasick, and praying I wouldn’t fling a tantrum if one of the brutes named Caligula and Vlad on the opposing team made felonious contact with my grandson! 

My heart was in freefall and rattling against my ribs.  I was a hunched bundle of mushy entrails.

Attempting some degree of sensory deprivation, I allowed myself only one liquidy eyeball to observe the action.  The other I kept hidden behind my coat.  In case of catastrophe, I could hide one eye quicker than two.

You don’t emerge from such episodes thinking clearly.  But as I watched, the kid was amazing.  His cheeks were pink and oxygenated.  He was confident, soldierly, and at ease with himself.  So I decided it was safe to unveil the second eye, exit my blankety cocoon, and amend my posture so I wasn’t scraping my knuckles on the ground.  I watched.  Abram delivered.  We both survived. 

Regaining one’s dignity is a mammoth task.

Life is a current of human experience.  And sometimes I feel like a camel on ice.  But I have decided not to waste time regretting the passage of time.  I’m calling a truce with the enemy.  Easier said than done.  I’ve held that image of Abram stepping up to the line when the coach called his name, and recorded it in my archival collection of memories.  That way I by-pass time and score a small victory over my nemesis.

Grandmas embody the sum of the experience of civilized man.  We are pilgrimage partners.

Years ago, when we got the news of Abram’s impending arrival, it seemed time went by so slowly, its passage was barely visible.  So while we waited, Dennis and I wrote a letter to the person whose four cells were already saturating our minds and hearts.  We didn’t know then who was on the way, so we addressed the epistle to the Wee Zygote.  He eventually entered the world with cacophonous lungs and gossamer hair.  He still has that hair.  He assumed the place we had saved just for him, and so far, the arrangement seems to be satisfactory for everyone. 

Nowadays, time passes so fast, it is barely visible.

Remembering takes us places where we should linger and forget about everything but the deepest things.

Of course, there are certain rituals to be observed where memory is concerned. As grandmas, we take an oath to forget certain things and make a promise to remember others. 

Therefore, history is usually agreed upon by mutual consent.

That’s how we put things in order. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Simplicity


Walking a road already travelled is not always easy.  Retracing steps often makes it difficult to contain one’s feelings.  I guess that’s the nature of memories.  They can arrive with overwhelming clarity, or in fragments, with smudged colors and contours, lacking distinct definition, untidy, but with fresh shock and frequently appalling weight of tenderness.

We all carry memories on our individual pilgrimages that bear witness to our joys and unique pain.  This is good.

I find I’m more reflective in Spring than I am even in Autumn.  And always when there are lilacs, with those noble blossoms that belie their delicacy.

Roses are mighty.  Lilacs have a compact dignity. 

All lives are governed by rhythms of their own.  I try to resist pacing mine by dates on a calendar.  But this weekend marks the second anniversary of Dennis’ passing.  We really have no protocol for such things.  Life isn’t nearly as stable as we might wish.

I acknowledged the occasion by arranging for our grave stone. It was not as unnerving as I had anticipated. No arches or columns.  It’s simple and unremarkable. It will do.

It is good to remember.  It fills the hollows. 

I understand things in a way I never have before.

That’s strangely liberating. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Person of Interest


Ok.  Question:  What is it about being blond, diminutive, antiquated and dilapidated that inevitably alerts the TSA that I am a nefarious terrorist with plans specifically engineered to annihilate the universe? 

What is it about my particular body plan – namely, a heartbeat and a full set of limbs – that piques the olfactory properties of airline security agents to sniff out the exceptionally delicate distinction between a grandma going on a road trip with friends and an emotionally disheveled, menopausal  bipedal hominid whose binary code includes a propensity for kamikaze suicide missions?

Now I realize I’m just one small part of a Sublime Whole, but maybe it’s what life is all about – you attract what you dread.

And I dread flying.

This is all prologue to an incident that took place recently when a friend and I were to fly to Palm Desert for a girls’ retreat. 

Sounds benign enough…four women with charge cards unleashed on Paseo Drive.

We could hardly wait for the flight to be over and the shopping to begin.  And I figured that with enough planning and forethought, things would go smoothly, and I just might make it through security without incident. 

WHAT WAS I THINKING???

My traveling companion is truly the sum of her parts.  Every joint has been bionically enhanced with titanium steel fashioned from the fires of Vulcan himself.  She is built for endurance rather than decoration.

I, on the other hand, have all my original equipment, derelict though it be.  However, my appearance suggests a life of deprivation. In addition, I am careful to observe cleavage protocol, although that is more a condition of circumstance than choice. Basically, nothing to attract undue notice.

In short, I was ready for my close-up.

I tried to reassure my friend that when her joints triggered the nuclear reactors, I would stand vigil over her belongings while the feds conducted a cavity search.  Humiliation minimizer.  That’s me.  What are friends for anyway?

Oh, how could I be a casualty of my own self-deceiving blindness?  Eileen passed through the featureless machines with nary a blip on the radar.  She emerged unscathed.  It was slick and unremarkable.  The gods were smiling.

And then it was my turn.  I was in a different line.  No need to fear.  Hadn’t I spent the past month preparing through meditation, medication, and meticulous packing for this very moment?

The instant I entered the time capsule, the entire alarm system was triggered, the whole airport went into lockdown, and the Navy Seals appeared with AK 47’s.  I stood in a warm squirt of adrenal fluid and a superabundance of secretions, as every saucer-eyed passenger knew with irrefutable surety that I, the anatomically threatening, was a strange and palpable menace.

An employee, looking cross and officious, with a name tag that I’m sure said ”Festus,” announced that they would have to do a “pat-down.”  I replied, “Don’t touch my junk, bro.”  But a woman was available to do the honors, which gave a whole new meaning to the term “drag and drop.” 

Meanwhile, Festus methodically unspooled the clothes from my bag with fevered delirium, checking for hazardous mascara and jammies that might indicate relaxed morality.  No offense to Festus, but where do they get these guys anyway?  He obviously wasn’t feathered with diplomas, and while not exactly hostile, he knew I was not a source of peril.  Talk about character assassination.

Then they dusted my hands for explosives residue.

I was mortified.  Why me?  Apparently, the guy in front of me with the dreadlocks tied back with a bungee cord in the shape of a noose, a mouth grill studded with spikes and inlaid with shrunken heads, and a tatt that read, “I know where the body is,” was no cause for alarm.  He moved through the system without skipping a beat.

Vaguely offended at the whole preposterous incident, I asked why I, in particular, had been selected from the herd for such scrutiny.  Why me?  Why did I trigger the alarms?  Why am I a POI…a person of interest?

Festus replied with cryptic clarity, “You didn’t do anything. It’s random.  Purely random.”

Random.  Really???  Just random.  OOOHHHKKKAAAYYY!

Well, sleep deprivation working on weak minds sent us into spasms of hysteria.  We laughed without shame, restraint or Depends all the way to Palm Desert.  It was the perfect beginning to our vacation.

There are still more days to travel in this life.  I guess one could do worse than be a “person of interest.”

 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Bull's Eye


It’s been a busy week. I’ve been trying to discover the secret of life and the origins of the universe, solving for quadratic equations, and contemplating the Theory of Relativity.  I’ve observed Fat Tuesday, Pudgy Wednesday, Tubby Thursday, Flabby Friday, and Corpulent Saturday in an effort to purify my consciousness, plump my hippocampus and find the meaning of life.

Not as easy as it sounds.  As a member emeritus of the Boomer Generation, this is our constant quest for enlightenment.  Personally, I think it would be easier to sign on for Odysseus’ voyage to Ithaca than to become enlightened. I just want to take a nap.  Trying to manage all the stress coming at us inhibits the flow of our life force, shifts our energy from vital organs, and makes us REEEAAALLLYYY irritable.  However, just recently my accountant said I am “radically diversified. “ That’s a positive. (I think he was referring to my finances.) 

But I am training to be calm.  I am embracing my inner crabby as a means to cosmic wisdom.  

It’s easy to become emotionally eviscerated.  That’s life.  The other night I saw “Les Miserables” for the fourth time in a year.  Good ole Victor Hugo.  He says in his book, “Nobody knows like a woman how to say things that are both sweet and profound.  Sweetness and depth, this is all of woman; this is Heaven.”  WhatEVVVEER.  I set aside my book of social graces after the performance, and drove home entombed in a veil of tears and mucus and emitting decidedly UNheavenly guttural articulations.  From now on, I’m only going to watch brainless comedies, like presidential debates or the Oscars, those models of banality, whose main components comprise a checklist for depravity. Sporting facial orifices that are clammy and sodden is not the stuff of fascinating womanhood.   

Of course, changing the clock ahead and becoming sleep-deprived by the omission of one hour of rest each night is not exactly triage for ill temper.

I have a cartoon on my nightstand that keeps me focused on what is essential.  It says, “Life is simple.  You’re born.  You have birthdays.  You shrink.”  So far, I’m right on track.

At the moment, I’m involved in the planning of our class reunion.  I hope the event is as fun as the meetings.  We gather regularly to upload memories and reminisce.  Someone will recall an incident that is flash-blinding and leaves after-imaging of an event that had lain dormant for years.  I guess time puts a halo on a lot of things, but our memories are who we are.  The past comes again to the present.  Reunions, gatherings, are crucial to our identity, individually and collectively.  It’s how we measure our progress through life.

And all of us working on this committee are going through the stages simultaneously:  We were born.  We have birthdays.  We have shrunk. The fire within is often obscured by the waddlesome flab without. Being part of this informal clump makes for good fellowship.  We still have teeth in the sockets, if not the bite force of years gone by.  So far, there is no evidence of reduced autonomy in any of us…maybe a little automatic inertia.

However, my darling daughters, in order to preserve their places in my will, announced that the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) is coming to Salt Lake, and they purchased tickets for the tribe.  I am THRILLED!  In an instant, all their past crimes and misdemeanors were forgiven. 

These girls realize the glorious “divine bovine” is my passion, and making the arrangements to attend will be forever engraved in the Great Ledger of their recorded decisions. 

Mick E. Mouse and Asteroid are animal athlete superstars.  But Bushwhacker is on a par with the stallions that pull Zeus’ chariot.  This 2,000 pound parcel of hostility is dark, defiant, and belligerent.  He snorts and bellows menacing oaths reminiscent of a mother under stress, and can render cowboys perfectly stupid and acutely angled when he unceremoniously dumps them at a dizzying trajectory into the dirt, little pieces of wreckage, long before 8 seconds have ticked off the timer.

Bushwhacker owns the universe.  He is arrestingly handsome. This bull’s eyes are enormous and brown and  rimmed in long lashes.  His horns are precisioned brackets and crown his head like a laurel wreath for the Olympian god he is. 

Unlike his more infamous predecessor, Bodacious, Bushwhacker has no inclination to kill.  Oh, no.  He simply wants to eject a presumptuous cowboy from off his haunches, inflict some gratuitous bodily harm, (mangle, dent, wrench limbs from hinges, tear off lips, rip out tongues, and other vocal apparatus, etc.) and slowly swagger out of the arena with characteristic majestic disdain, irksome in his hubris. 

AND I CAAANNN’TTT WAY-ATE!!!

Bushwhacker is the perfect experience for the person, who, in fevered delirium, wants to experience it all.  How exhilarating.  And we have tickets on the third row, where the seats are up close and personal…if a little odd smelling.

Maybe that’s what life is all about.  In spite of the despair, the stress, the difficulty, there is beauty and lovely memories…and odd moments when you have the illusion that you’re in control of what is happening around you. Maybe the theory of relativity is, ultimately, about relationships – that Victor Hugo was right when he said, “ To love another person is to see the face of God.”  Perhaps  life can be even more adventurous and triumphant than 8 seconds on a bull named Bushwhacker.  That’s what we aim for.  That’s the bull’s eye.

Something to think about – and clasp to one’s bosom.