Friday, April 17, 2009

In the Pink of an Eye

She had very rigid standards for other people. At first I thought it was cute, endearing, charming, but I was a prisoner in the Kingdom of Poor Judgment. I was falling in love.

Pink disgusted her. Made her need to vomit. I almost didn't notice I had stopped wearing it; when I felt strong and independent I would slip on a pale pink t-shirt. Nice shirt she'd snarl, but didn't want to seem rude so she'd say she didn't mind it as long as it was mostly covered. When something pinkly-pigmented crept into her own wardrobe, she'd clarify that it was mauve. Dusty rose. Salmon. All names for Butch Pink.

I suppose we should have known it was over that shopping day. I unloaded bags, boxes, bundles. Pink socks, pink boots, pink slippers. Seven pairs of pink panties, all embroidered with Any Damn Day I Please. Not a molecule of rose in the lot. Mauve? For pink-lovers who are still in the closet. This was straight-up, in-your-face, Mary Kay pink, and I had come out.

The garish pink rose swag went up in the living room, over the bedroom door. Just a reminder that through this door lies a lot more pink. "I hope you sleep well on the pink sheets. Bon Ton was having their yearly Pink Sale."

"Oh hon, you feel nauseous? Let me get you some Pepto-Bismol. A Canada mint? Cherry Rolaids? Strawberry Starburst?"

I came home one autumn day, just after noon. She was sitting limply on the Candystripe slipcover, shielding her eyes from the suffuse glow of the Baby's Breath Pink wallpaper I'd hung from three walls. The fourth was a tasteful Ice Pink accent paint (from Sherwin-Williams' "I Adore Pink!" collection). "I tried to start dinner," she mumbled faintly, "but the cookware made me feel weak."

"You have something against Cooking For the Cure?" I sniffed.

"No, I just ..." and she pulled the opalescent throw pillow over and curled into a fetal position. I suppose it was foolish to have installed the new Petal Pink bathroom fixtures, and I did feel a little guilty later when she had to be sick in the petal-y bowl. "Poor dear," I cooed, "think of the toilet as Dusty Rose."

One night, as I brushed my Didi Conn-pink hair she asked, looking away, if she was sensing hostility. "Don't be silly, dear. Tell me if my Hello Kitty jammies match my Cotton Candy bathrobe."

She seemed to be growing more fragile, and one evening she barely managed to climb the stairs. She unlocked the door and fell onto the Peppermint Stick carpeting, tossing Jungle Pink seat covers onto the Ice Cream Shoppe Formica tabletop. "I ... can't ... use these. It was a ... nice ... " and she rested there a while until she found the strength to get up.

"That's okay, Gumdrop. Just relax until supper is ready. We're having borscht."

By the start of winter, she could barely rise in the mornings, and would have stayed home, I suspect, but for the healthy glow of the bedroom. Personally, I liked it.

Just after the New Year, she begged me to meet her at a sports bar. When I arrived, she began. "I've been thinking we're not getting along. Too many of my needs aren't being met. I don't think my standards are unreasonable, and if you can't meet them, maybe I should go."

"Go? Really?” I bit the tip of my Pink Passion pinky nail.

“It’s really for the best. Our relationship isn’t good for me.” She handed me back the rose gold band inlaid with Forever Pink cubic zirconias. I saw it had burned her ring finger.

Tears formed behind my Swiss-made fuchsia contact lenses. What else could I do? I hugged her and dropped the circle of pink Kryptonite into her back pocket. She’d be dead by morning, if she didn’t find it first.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I am born and there are vaccines for everything and I am safe. I get measles, but everyone gets measles and that's okay. I get strep throat and then scarlet fever which reminds me of Gone With the Wind - such a pretty name.

But, before that, my parents were married twelve years, and did they wait until it was safe? My mother never talked about polio, or parents dreading summer or staying out of the water or hearts in mouths when a child stumbled. And today, right now, I wonder if polio viruses still frolic in streams and ponds and wonder why no one respects them anymore. Or, did they vanish into laboratories to live forever in a cell in a bottle, giving smallpox the idea? I had a teacher who survived polio, but she was so old I thought it was a Civil War disease.

But, before that, what did my grandmother worry about? I know some things about her, but they're not about her, they're about my mother. I know the picture of my grandmother, Vera, whose caption is "Mom at 212 pounds." I took a snapshot in my head yesterday at the doctor's scale: "Me at 213 pounds." A family history of chub, a genealogy of our war with numbers. My mother's numbers are small; she stands in history between fat women.

I know Vera had high cholesterol because she liked the fat from meat. I don't know why I have it. I know she died from being 212 pounds. But, fifty years later, my father's siblings die, round and 90. They didn't get the memo.

Before me, before my mother's first makeup or first date or first husband, Vera was a Spiritualist in Freeville. She saw things and read tea leaves and divorced her husband and broke his nose. He was not 212 pounds. She built a house and raised wild children and ran a business and took no shit. She got married twice and lost a young husband who laid down sick one day and died the next, one of Tioga County's flu statistics. Her second husband lasted longer.

I didn't meet these people and I don't know any true thing about them. I know what my mother said and the stories, but those stories belong to her. I am writing down stolen lives. But, before me, Vera had a boyfriend and the kids didn't like him. There is a story about pudding and X-lax that ends and he never wore those pants again.

After that, my mother and I visited the nursing home Vera ran; the current owner was pleased to show us around. Oblivious to possibilities, she showed us a tiny attic room painted midnight blue, and who would paint a room that color? But, before us, Vera would.

Now I make Vera what I want her to be, because I can, because my stories belong to me and so does she. Four dozen years I've looked for me in my mother's face, but I'm not there because she doesn't belong to me. I have to look past her, through her, to the other side. Biology insists I have half her genes, more or less, but which ones? I don't say this in scientific company, but I think Vera bundled hers in a sack and tossed them to me, right over her daughter's head. Monkey in the middle.

But first, Vera was a lesbian. [This is my story.] Sure, she married a man or two, but I made the same mistake seventy years later. It's okay Grammy, I get it. I never broke his nose, but I broke his heart, which was just about as gristly and hollow. I see things, like which way the wind blows, and I read signs, like writing on the wall. And now, I tell stories and they're as true as yours, as true as they need to be.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fooled again

His pharmacy sells Yankee Candles and Gund stuffed animals and Precious Moments figurines. Such a handsome young man, and I think about my single friend John who is also cute, and would they hit it off? and it's none of my business really, but I can't help thinking. The pharmacy is small and the Yankee Candle smell is everywhere at once, Apple Pumpkin Spice Pine French Vanilla Pie. He flashes that beautiful smile at me and the gorgeous woman behind the counter is his fiancée and I'm stunned. The candles lie.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


The gin mill was dark and smokey, but here was nothing wrong with my peepers. My eyesight was 20/20, and all forty were on her. She was a looker. I mean to say, she was one hot little dish. Curves that make you want to speed up when you ought to be hitting the brakes. My shutters met her baby blues across the room. They wandered all around the rest of her and made their way back into my mug. She moved like a half-mile of the French silk she was wearing. She was TNT, and she was lighting my fuse. There was something about her ... but, hey. I figured I was goofy.

She flowed my way. But, did she really, that was my question. She lifted my fedora and my hair fell around my shoulders. Put my hat on her own noodle and smiled. Yeah, maybe she does flow my direction. Maybe I'll make it into the boat.

She asked my name. I played coy, I played shy, but she was playing a different tune. A tune I recognized. A tune I couldn't stop humming. "Middle initial?" My head was already spinning, but that seemed dizzy. I told her. She asked me who I liked in the fourth and I got a chill. A dame who looks like this and plays the ponies, too? Easy does it, I told myself. You've been taken for a ride before. A great set of sticks, a gorgeous button and I was off to the races. Not this time I said. This time, I'm keeping it in the starting gate.

She slid her warm hand under my jacket and I froze. She'd already felt my roscoe, and I knew I was getting sloppy. "You got a buzzer?" she asked.

"Private dick, since you asked."

"Can I see your ticket?"

She was one smooth operator. I whipped it out. She snatched it and ran it through her pearly whites. She's queer, this twist, but she's standing between my uprights so I don't mind so much. She starts chinning about cases I've solved. Tells me I'm smart, tells me I'm a pip. Tells me I'm cunning. I tell myself I'm not so smart right now, but it doesn't matter. She could pull my rod right now and I wouldn't mind. Might not even care if she plugged me.

She leaned into me, close. A litle trickle of sweat rolled down into her plunging neckline, and I wanted to be that drop. I wanted to ride the rapids through that valley and end up in her ocean. She slipped my wallet out of my back pocket. I didn't care. She could take my last fin. She left the cabbage alone, though. My papers, that's where she was.

"Ooh, you drive!" and she ran her tongue across my license. "You got a boiler?" I wanted to tell her I'd drive her anywhere. We could leave tonight. She mentioned a speeding ticket I'd had fixed. She was good. She should work under me.

"I love a woman who reads," she purred into my ear as she slid my library card over her lips. I was reading her loud and clear. I read between the lines. I read her like an open book, like a book with one chapter. I wanted to dog-ear her pages. She asked if I liked Fitzgerald, if I'd finished The Great Gatsby. This doll is my Zelda. If I could just crab what it is about her ...

That was six months ago. I'm no sore loser - she looks great in my suits. She's a top-notch dick, and I'm proud to work for her. She likes the way I look in a tight little dress, says I'm a tomato and I know my stuff, besides. I ought to know it; it used to all be my stuff. I sit up on her desk and take her dictation, all of it. It's hard, but it's not a bad lay.

Still, something's whacky, but I can't place it. Something missing. Or something too much there. You'd rank her and tell me I'm bing, but I can't help it. Like, when we work late; I'm so joed I could croak, but she just keeps going. Like she never has to bunk.

I miss using my old moniker, though. She uses it now - I'm just Sally. She let me pick my new name; I guess she's a right gee. It was the name of my ... the business, too. She changed that. Seemed to think it was some swell gag, this new name. She calls it Uncanny Valley Private Eye. What's so funny about that?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Things I Know.

Shunning won't kill you.

Shunning has killed people. Don't do it.

Speed is overrated. Settle for getting there.

Winning is overrated. Settle for playing.

Say something kind - it's a win-win.

More is not always better. Two cats is a good number.

Avoid drama unless you're an actor.

Staying in your head is boring.

Staying in your pajamas is wonderful.

Staying in your bed makes your back hurt.

Listen to older people - they know stuff.

Enough is enough. Notice when you've had enough, then leave.

A dog's uterus is not shaped like yours.

Wheat germ is a bag full of embryos.

You can have a bag full of bats. Some of them may have rabies.

Don't get too close to a fresh mammal carcass.

Chicken pox virus is like a stalker.

You could be run over by a Prius and never hear it.

Cats lick furniture.

Even a nice neighbor can be too much neighbor.

Even nice towns can get small.

There's no such thing as Reefer Madness.

Steve Don't Eat It is funny and gross at the same time.

Facebook will make you think your friends are idiots.

Twitter will confirm it.

A cat's teeth can chew through solid oak.

Getting rid of things makes you feel light.

Dr. B. will give you drugs and she's cute.

Getting laid off is a lot better than being fired.

American Sign Language is different from Signed Exact English.

When you introduce yourself in ASL, always declare your hearing status. "I'm hearing."

Deaf culture does not consider deafness a disability.

Online catalogs are easier than paper ones, but they're not as much fun.

Sometimes reading on the bus will make you queasy, and sometimes it won't. You never know.

Ithaca has 115 sunny days each year.

Flagstaff has 255 sunny days each year.

Vitamin D can fight depression. lets you volunteer for cancer studies.

Good mothering is not instinctive.

You can curdle egg white with alcohol.

When you drink tea, you have to choose between milk and lemon. You can't have both.

You can compost cat waste, but eventually your neighbors will complain.

You can compost human waste, but eventually your family will complain. Plus, it makes it harder to sell your house.

People dream in color.

A pint's a pound the world around.

Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.

Not everything can be autoclaved.

Listen to your gut in a job interview.

Don't try to boil your toothbrush.

Microwave a sponge to sterilize it.

Microwaving metal doesn't always cause a spark.

Stainless steel is easier than silver. That's why it was invented.

Not everyone will like the movie Brigadoon. Reference it for fun on every foggy day.

Scott Adams is funny and smart.

Douglas Adams was funny and smart.

Don Adams was funny ... and Smart.

Jean Smart is funny.

Someone else's idea.

I love this idea: Start a SwapLuck to Share the Things You Make and Do.

How do you think it would work? What if no one wanted my jewelry and I had to Gypsy Rose it home with me? What if three people got into a lather over Ernestine's lavender-sage bar soap and we had to take the hose to them? What if I offered to write something funny and everyone laughed?

I want to do this. At your house.