I’ll Trade You A Ceramic Chicken For Him

Sitting at the bar with a drink, a light nosh, and a magazine. Unwinding and looking for fashion ideas that will hopefully deceive the public as to the amount of class and grace i actually possess. Starting to feel all the bad vibes escape through the calamari. I feel a presence, and a body slides into the chair next to me.

At first glance, i was guessing his name was Chet, and he spent his weekends trying to lure 14 year-olds into the back of a panel van.  I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but it’s kind of hard to get past that thought. Home-bleached Sideshow Bob hair, tobacco-stained teeth, and a shirt unbuttoned to show his mangy chest hair… The appearance of a man who sells weed out of the back of an Ice Cream truck.

Why is it always these guys?

But maybe i’m being prejudiced. He might be a perfectly fine man. So i nod hello and go back to my magazine. A minute or so later, he sticks his jaundiced finger on an ad with a young and voluptuous model wearing strategically and provocatively torn jeans and two pasties over her ducks and says, “You would look good in that.”

The fact that it is total bullshit is overshadowed by my disgust at the lechery oozing from his face. Eeeewww. Just eeeewww.

So much for me being prejudiced.

I raise an eyebrow, utter a quiet and curt “Thanks”, and go back to the magazine.

He chats up the bartender, who appears to be about as enamored with him as i am, and in the periphery of my hearing, there is a comment about bitchy and unsociable women. I wanted to say something, but ignored the impulse, lest it start a conversation.

I’m not in the mood to fight.

I’m not sure what it is about me that attracts these people. The creepy; the crude; the crass. The ones who smack of squalid morals and smell of stale hormones. They always seem to find me. Or maybe it isn’t me… Maybe they hit all of us, and we all wonder that same thing. In any case, the only way this man could be more scheevey is if he was wearing a big, ugly scorpio medallion around his neck.

Just about the time i motion to pay my tab and gather to leave, a couple of young blondies take the stools on his other side and he puts his attention there. One of the few times in life i’ve been relieved to be replaced.

But i will give the guy credit for one thing – He was real. He wasn’t hiding his intention, not trying to be sly. He wore his indecency like a signature cologne – as part of his persona as his accent. I might not have liked what he was peddling, but at least i knew i wasn’t being swindled. And there is real value in that. Not enough value to give the man my number, but value nonetheless. And it makes me question what would be enough value, and am i trying to buy a Mercedes on a Chevy budget?

Since value is largely subjective, i don’t suppose there is a single correct answer. There are people in this world that would pay $100 for a ceramic chicken. I wouldn’t pay $5. So what is the value of the chicken? Maybe there isn’t a single value at all. Maybe it’s a range of values. Maybe it’s a three-dimensional graph plot. Maybe it’s a complex trigonometric equation to be expressed in base 7.  Hell, maybe it’s 42. I don’t know. To be honest, i’m not even sure we can know our own worth. “Eye of the beholder” and all that.

It’s probably a good thing. It would be sad to find out that you weren’t worth more than a ceramic chicken.

Letting My Crazy Loose

Maybe it’s just me, but i really doubt it.

You know how there’s this part of you that’s really nuts? Like not eccentric, but truly batshit crazy? And most of the time you are able to keep it under wraps, but every now and then, it rears its ugly head?

I hate those times. They make me feel guilty and embarrassed.

Sort of like how your weedlings are well-behaved in public. “Yes, ma’am,” “No, sir,” “Please,” and “Thank you.” Then you get home and they behave like they were raised by rabid chimps who’d never seen captivity.

I’m a rabid chimp when it’s been a trying week.

Most of the time, i try hard to be pleasant and likeable. Even doing the customer service portion of my job, when the person on the other end of the line is being ugly and flat out mean, i take great pains to be sweet and affable and understanding… While i’m on the phone with them. Once i hang up, the growler comes out.

“So glad i could help. Have a wonderful day, and let me know if you have any more issues,” Click.  “Good grief. Did you get through college on some sort of affirmative action plan for the daft?”  “Oh, no problem. We all make mistakes. I’m glad it all worked out. Have a good afternoon,” Click.  “And thank you for calling me incompetent before you noticed it was your error, you paste-eater.”  “Yes, sir. I understand. I will get this to the right people and let them know you are eager to get it resolved,”  Click. “By the way, sir, have you considered joining a Schmucks Anonymous meeting?”

Then i’m back to my normal, polite self.

On Friday, i came perilously close to not hanging up first.

It’s as if i am a fully inflated tire that gets closer and closer to bursting as the road heats up…. And some of the air has to be released to keep it from exploding and spreading steel belts across the highway. But last week, the road got hotter faster than i anticipated.

The week was a bit more trying that usual. Issues at work that needed too much tending. SiriDog got stuck under one of my rose bushes and tore off a chunk of her ear. The washing machine is still singing out of nowhere. They upped my escrow payment. I’ve been eating rabbit food for 2 weeks and my favorite jeans are still a bit tight. I tore my favorite shirt, the home renovation is going nowhere, and man, these hot flashes are a bitch. Basically, nothing monumental, but a whole lot of pain in the ass.

Sometimes a figurative pain in the ass is worse than a literal one. Well, maybe only for your anger management.

I did go out after work on Friday to blow off steam with some coworkers, but in spite of my loud, raucous, and crass infusion to the night, i must have still had some steam to blow. Saturday morning found me on my porch in sports bra and lounge pants, coffee in hand, coral-tinted hair probably looking like the Heat Miser, streaming Tim Minchin videos on YouTube… And singing along. (If you’ve ever heard his performances, you can easily understand why the dad from next door, sweet and conservative, moved rather quickly from door to trash bin and back again while giving me the “What the….??” look when he popped out mid performance doing his man-chores…) But hey, the kids were still inside and out of ear range, and i felt so much better after. And it’s not like there were paparazzi taking videos. (Thank you God, Goddess, and Universe!)

I still had a lingering bit of snark this morning. Time to bring out the big guns… Dirt therapy. Two peonies, a rosemary bush, another lavender. Digging holes, hoeing the potting mix, breaking your nails setting tubers… This is the chemo for stress and bad weeks. I dug til my feet had dirt tattoos under the straps of my flip-flops. I dug til my hands felt like sandpaper. I dug til my deodorant wore off. And then i watered it all. Including myself. (Don’t judge me. When was the last time you stood under a water hose set on “Mist”? It feels like the best part of childhood. Really. You should try it.) And then i put my feet up and shared a popsicle with SiriDog. (Seriously, don’t judge me.)  After that, i was too tired to have any snark left.

Anyway, so here’s hoping that by tomorrow i am back to my sweet self. (Quit laughing. I really can be sweet. Sorta.) Back in a place where i can keep my bitchy comments in my mouth until i hang up the phone. And maybe i will remember next time not to let the events of the week build up so much. Even the strongest soda bottle can take only so much shaking. We must unscrew the top just a bit at a time to let all that fizz out in an easy, steady stream… Lest we end up spewed all over people like a mis-timed locker room celebration.

If you are stressed about beach season and swimsuits. If the pollen count is driving you crazy. If work has taken all your patience. If graduations and weddings and all the other holiday and vacation planning have you at wit’s end… Take the time to blow it off. Have some fun. Dig some dirt. Sing as loud as you can til your frustration has been blown into space. Stand in the mist of your garden hose and let it all go. And thank your personal divinity that you have friends who love you even if you explode.

Hello My Baby, Hello My Honey…

 

Yesterday i mowed my lawn. Not terribly exciting, even if i did do it with my new battery-operated mower, which is crazy quiet and so much easier than my old gas mower. Not even notable for how good the lawn looks this morning after a night of rain and a morning sky that odd shade of lavender-grey that makes all the colors really “pop”. But it did make an impression nonetheless.

When i was finished washing off the grime and pollen and dust and clippings, i discovered that one of my fingers had developed an appendage of its own.

I spent the night thinking i had somehow whacked my finger without feeling it. The large hard lump on the side of my pinkie was surely just a little bone chip. It’s only mildly discolored, doesn’t really hurt, and i can still move the finger. Obviously not anything permanently debilitating.

I wish there was a word for that fear-disbelief-anger-embarrassment you feel when you’ve hurt yourself without realizing it. The older i get, the more lumps, bumps, and bruises appear without apparent reason. I can’t decide if our bodies grow numb, or we just get so distracted that we cease to notice things like the pain of knocking an end-table so badly that you leave a hematoma the size of Trump’s toupee on your thigh.

In any case, i woke frustratingly early for a Sunday morning today. As i lay there in bed, listening to the rain, and trying to devise a plan for my backyard, a different theory of the lump starting to evolve.

When i bought this house, there was a fire pit in back that had a single bench made of cement blocks piled together. The other three seats were made from tree stumps. As i was mowing by them yesterday, i noticed that they had become severely rotted.  I pulled one apart and knocked it over, just out of morbid curiosity. I’m not a big bug fan, but the idea that a single old tree stump could house any number of things was more powerful than my fear and disgust with palmettos. My curiosity was rewarded. The stumps had become a kind of condo for ants, worms, and some remarkably beautiful speckled slugs, among other creepycrawlies. After the mowing, i went back and poked some more.

You know those Italian villages that appear to be carved into the sides of rock faces? That’s what this reminded me of. As i peeled back the bark, a textured brown, tan, and grey cliff with holes/doors of various sizes carved into it began to emerge. The slime from the slugs left an iridescent path reminiscent of water and ice coming out of split shale. The sight both filled me with wonder and made me gag. God/Goddess/Universe is a freaking genius…. But She is also kind of gross.

So as i lay there listening to the rain, i started to plan my attack against the insects’ urban sprawl. I’ve been in this house for almost three years, but have never gotten around to lighting the fire pit. (I’ve been busy. And lazy. Don’t judge me.) The yard work that has been done has created quite a pile of sticks in the concavity, and i’ve a large back stock of logs besides.  I need to burn the sticks first and then somehow manage to get those big stumps onto the fire. They are twice the size of my own trunk, but i could probably pick them up if it weren’t for the bugs…

And that’s when it hit me. That lump on my finger is probably a bite. How the hell i managed to get bitten without feeling it seems strange, even for me. And it’s not like it’s itchy or anything. I slept all night without an allergic reaction. And it is no worse this morning.

Oh hell… What if something laid eggs in my finger? Daenerys is sexy as the Mother of Dragons, but i will be much less so as the mother of rhino beetles. Or fire ants. Or whatever hatches out of my hand.

Naaahhhh, i mean, what is the likelihood, right? Those stories of people hatching insects under their skin are myths, or bare minimum, rarer than nerdy Klingons.

(Can you picture a Klingon accountant? Carrying a badass pen in a snake skin pocket protector instead of a weapon in a sheath? Me neither. But there must be some, right? Someone’s gotta keep the books.)

Anyway, back to the bite theory. I went back to the stumps earlier today to take some pictures. And now i have that phantom infestation like you get when someone says the words “head lice”. I can feel ants crawling up my pants leg, even tho i am certain it’s my imagination. I feel the tickles of beetles and the damp of slugs on my toes, tho i can see there are none.

Apparently, phantom insect bites get my attention more than the real thing.

Of course, that’s assuming it is a bite. It could still be a bone chip.  It could be a torn pinkie ligament. Hell, it could be an alien, poised to pop out and deliver “Ragtime Gal” in a very high and tiny voice. That would only be slightly more surprising than the fact that i didn’t feel it when it happened.

If i didn’t notice what caused this, what else has passed by me without catching my attention? It’s not exactly on the same level as missing Liam Neeson smacking my bottom and calling me sweetheart; but it is still a bit disconcerting. Like, maybe, walking right past a $20 bill on the sidewalk. Or going the whole day with your shirt inside out. I’m too young to be that absentminded already.

Not really, but that’s what i tell myself.

In any case, i’m sure it’s nothing exciting. I’m more just miffed with myself for not knowing how it happened. Especially since there was no alcohol involved. Just my own aging brain. Tequila would have made for a better story. And if whatever is in my finger ends up on a nasty youtube video, that’s exactly how i will explain it. Unless it’s a little singing frog in a top hat. Then i’m gonna make millions.

A Day Like Today

It’s so green today.

Green and bright.

The sky is clear, and the breeze blows warm into the early Spring day.

I walk to the cemetery.

The soft rolls of the hills, covered in star creeper.

Sweet and innocent.

I sit and rest and

Think of you.

 

This day should be grey and dreary

With the sky crying slow, wet tears.

But it never is.

Your day is most often gay

And colorful

And delicious

And perfect.

It defies my insides…

My heart is angry and it aches.

But you

(I know it’s you)

Causing your day’s splendor and radiance to tell me

All is well.

 

Don’t be sad, Momma.

Don’t be sad.

Look at all this glorious day and see me.

See what i became.

I am the chartreuse of the grass,

The soft rustle of the leaves,

The scent of first blossoms of Spring.

I am here.

At the beginning,

Before you knew me.

Back where we all start and end.

And i will be here when you get here.

I will be here always.

You will hold me one day

On a day like today

And we will be this Spring day together.

 

 

A Jar of Confidence

I was watching an ad this morning that had Isabella Rossellini, with only a hint of makeup, talking about a face cream. Normally, when an ad pops up like that, i hit “skip” as soon as it lets me. But i adore Isabella, and what she was talking about really piqued my interest. There were no claims that it took years off her face. No percentages of improvement. It was her talking about how much she loved the stuff because it felt luxurious. Because she loved the scent. Because it felt special. And then she made the comment, “(I don’t want) youth. I’ve had that. I’m done with that.” And she smiles and laughs.

Oh, how i wish i could attain that level of security in myself.

It’s not so much that i want youth. There are so many experiences i never want to go through again. So many years of confusion and self-doubt. And then the years of growth, facing the parts of myself that i didn’t like and needed to change. (Not that all that work is complete yet…) I would rather spend a week getting daily root canals than go through all that again! But there are definitely things i don’t like about getting older.

Ok, ok…. You knew that already.

It made me feel so good to see Isabella – a woman who, in spite of being widely considered one of the most beautiful women in the world, was dropped from a campaign because of her age – talking about it in a positive way. Granted, she doesn’t look her age. She looks MY age, even tho the has 10 years on me. But even that means she has some wrinkles and sags… And she is stunning anyway.

It sounds trite, but i really think it has to do with her infectious laugh. And her sexy voice. And the way she projects herself. She is comfortable in her own skin. Aware of both her age and her own inner beauty. All things that you wouldn’t expect to sell a face cream. But it works.

Because after watching that ad, i actually left the house for the day in nothing but mascara and lip gloss. (Yes, and clothes. Sheesh.) If i had to estimate the last time that happened, i’d say it was no more recent than the previous presidential administration. But i figured, if Isabella – who certainly has a beauty mystique to maintain – can go confidently minimalist, i should be able to as well. I mean, it’s not like i have a cosmetic contract or reputation to maintain. So i left the majority of my makeup routine behind, and didn’t even add any extra cleavage to distract from it. I went out, ran my errands, and came home to a day of spring yard work without any penalty for skipping the color corrector or eyeliner.

I feel like i got away with streaking naked thru the park.

Yes, you could say that if the ad had really worked, i’d have run right out and bought that face cream. And i might have, if i didn’t already have more face creams, serums, and treatments than your average department store. I have creams with precious oils, serums without any oils, and bottles with vitamins and antioxidants and essences of the Amazonian rain forest. I’ve got a treatment whose selling point is that it is made with real Irish peat moss. I’ve got scientific breakthroughs that smell like Dow Chemical, and all-natural creations that smell like a goat’s ass. And in spite of all that, i still never leave the house without spackle and Bond-O.

I’ve spent enough years and dollars accumulating my skin care arsenal to know that no cream is going to bring a miracle, even Isabella’s.

But i still think it’s a successful ad. It will draw in women who are sick of the bullshit thrown at us by other companies that promise, if we use their products, we will wake up looking like Cindy Crawford. As she once famously said, even she doesn’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford. So we know the claims are false. In spite of the fact that we sometimes (far too often) fall victim to wishful thinking, women aren’t stupid. If there was a lotion that would carve away the years, it would have been invented by now, and we’d all know about it. So the refreshing bit of honesty that sometimes a cream is good just because it makes you feel decadent might just be a game changer for the company. Maybe even the skin care market. The basic ingredients of a decent face cream don’t change much from brand to brand, so pick the one that makes you feel special.

My therapist once told me that your brain and body respond when you do something for them. Exercise, eating right, getting sleep – definitely. But also occasionally treating yourself to something extra yummy. Sleeping in on a Saturday morning. Things that are good for your soul. Your body responds positively. I think this ad feeds into that theory. Don’t buy it for a bunch of claims that can be made about nearly any moisturizer. Buy it because you like the feel of it, the scent, the fact that it makes you feel special.

Your body will likely respond to the honesty more than it responds to ridiculous claims.

As for me and my toiletry addiction, i won’t be buying the cream – I have too many already. But i will be buying the premise. And if i gain half of her sexy self-assuredness, i will be more than happy with the results. I’m sure i won’t be successful every day, but even if i manage it half the time, it’s an improvement. Maybe not to the lines on my forehead, but definitely to my psyche.

Let the Sunshine In

I’ve been working more on my infamous book lately, and i have to say, i’m getting excited about writing again. This winter has been a tough one for me – and a lot of my friends as well – and so i haven’t had much of a creative bent. It has been a dreary winter with far too much rain, but last weekend, things brightened up and we had reasonable temps and some sunshine. I spent a day out in my yard, raking and digging and clearing branches, and that seemed to snap me out of it a bit. (Isn’t it amazing how much Mother Nature can affect us?) I paid for it for days after, walking like a 90 year old man, but it was worth it. I managed a painting and two chapters last week – More, i think, than i accomplished the whole month previous.

Depression is a bitch. And it makes me terribly unproductive.

But i’m grateful that i have learned over the years what makes me feel better. An enjoyable day outdoors is always good medicine for me. Yard work, hiking, or even just sitting on the porch with a cup of tea and a good book… Just being exposed to life outside four walls is better than any anti-depressant alone. (An anti-depressant with outdoor time is my personal magical mix.) If i really need a boost, a hike with a picnic is unbeatable. A scenic trail full of wildlife and the scents of the Earth followed by a bounty of cheeses, some soppressata, olives, tomatoes, fruits, fresh bread, some wine or Italian soda… It’s like it opens the space between every atom of your soul, and the Universe takes advantage and fills you with positive energy.

When i do this with SiriDog, i actually make her a plate as well. A hard boiled egg, a bit of cheese, a slice or two of apple, a doggie biscuit…. Other hikers sometimes look and laugh at the two plates on the picnic cloth, but why shouldn’t she get to experience that same infusion of God/Goddess/Universe? She is a being as much as any human. She loves a good hike and good food as much as i do. And she has been a steadfast companion. She deserves a picnic too.

Laying on the ground after the meal, staring up into the sky away from the city, the sounds of birds and breeze… That is bliss.

But, no hike today. And no picnic. It is back to raining. Before the cold snap comes this week, tho, i’m on the porch, listening to the rain, watching bluebirds scope out future nesting places, enjoying a cup of tea with Siridog. I have chores and baking to do in a bit, but it will wait until i’ve been soothed by Mother Earth. Watching her drop her miracle liquid onto the moss that has become bright green this week, watching my lawn ornaments spin under the drops, wind chimes tinkling, daffodils and iris starting to burst from the ground… It will keep a smile on my face through the mopping and dusting.

If i’m lucky, it will last me through cleaning out the fridge. But i’ll definitely need a booster after.

****

Fast forward a few hours. The temp has dropped significantly. It’s colder than Machiavelli’s heart out there. It’s still raining, and even the birds have hidden away. It’s ok, tho. I got my boost. I’m ready to tackle the housework.

Side note: I would love to see one of those silly Facebook articles on which crazy-rich people still do housework. Martha Stewart may write articles on the best way to do laundry, but you bet dollars to donuts that she hasn’t done any in a long time!

*****

Fast forward again. So, i did some of the chores. The rest will wait. It was just too perfect of a day for curling up and relaxing. Soup bubbling on the stove. SiriDog curled up beside me. Life is good, folks.  Get some Mother Nature. Curl up with your pet. Or your spouse, if you prefer. (I have better luck with pets.) Make some soup. Don’t spend the whole day being Suzy Cleanfreak. Life’s too short. As long as you have clean undies, the rest of the mess will wait. Live a good life. Enjoy it.

Advice From the Trenches

Last week, i was asked by a friend who is recently divorced if i had any advice for the middle-aged and newly single. Once i realized they were serious  – I mean, helloooo, my social calendar looks like death valley in the middle of winter – I got to thinking about what i could offer in the way of advice. I have learned a few things in my lifetime. They may not keep my social calendar full, but at least they keep me from making a lot of dating mistakes. And on the whole, i am able to enjoy my life. So here goes… A few things i have learned about being single and silver:

 

~ It sounds trite, but learn to enjoy your own company. Find a place you like – A restaurant, a wine bar, a park, a bookstore… Whatever.. And frequent it by yourself. Bring a book or magazine and take some time there on occasion. Other regulars will eventually notice you and will likely have something in common with you since they frequent the same place. And if not, well, at least you got to spend some time out of the house in a place you like.

~ Don’t feel obligated to say yes to every offer you get. Sometimes we need time to ourselves. Sometimes we just think they are icky. You don’t have to accept. And you don’t have to make up an excuse. You just say, “No, thank you,” or “Some other time,” and move on. Don’t concoct a story. It is false and unnecessary.

~ While it is true that not all toads will turn into Prince Charming, it is also true that sometimes a bad book jacket can hide a really good story. Physical attraction is a good thing, but most of your options aren’t going to have wrinkle free faces and 6-pack abs. And guess what? You probably don’t either. And it’s ok. Don’t be afraid of it. He may be shorter than you expected. She may have dirt under her fingernails. Those are silly reasons to turn away good company.

~ Conversely, if they aren’t good company, cut bait and move on. I don’t care how handsome or beautiful they are… If they aren’t enjoyable over a cup of coffee, they won’t be enjoyable anyplace else, either.

~ Extrapolating on the above: Don’t sleep with anyone that you can’t enjoy coffee with. No matter how good the sex is, sooner or later they are going to open their mouth and say something that makes you want to smack them. It’s just not worth it.

~ And speaking of sex… I know you miss it (Don’t we all???), but settling for someone who is annoying as hell the moment they open their mouth, or whose hygiene habits make you wince, does serious damage to your self-worth. There’s a reason your hands reach to your pink parts, and that reason is to keep you out of trouble and from undercutting your own value. Take advantage of it.

~ One last note about sex – Just because we are silver-aged doesn’t mean we are disease immune. If you are venturing out into the dating world, in the name of all that is holy, get yourself screened and make sure your partners do too. There is no shame in it – Hell, the young staff at the doctor’s office will likely find hope in the fact that us older folk still have reason to! Don’t forgo testing out of embarrassment. You are only hurting yourself… And everyone you sleep with.

~ Don’t take a first date to a movie. It is useless in getting to know someone. You can’t talk to each other. You can’t get to know them. Find something else to do – An exhibit, a walk, a meal… Anything but a place where you have to be silent for 2 hours.

~ My personal favorite first date is Sunday brunch. The atmosphere alone makes it laid back and easier to handle. Menus are usually varied enough so that everyone can find something to eat. If the date doesn’t float your goat, you still have time to improve your day. And if they do strike your fancy, you can suggest another activity without having to cross the late-night-line.

~ I know traditionally we are told not to discuss politics or religion, but i disagree. Maybe not on the first date, but soon after. It’s important to see if they share similar values. They don’t have to be exactly the same, but you don’t want to be wrapped around someone, all sweet and warm, and have them say something that forces the words, “Are you that stupid?” out of your mouth before you are able to catch them. Better to find out they’re that stupid before you get naked.

~ And lastly, be honest. If you don’t really know what you are looking for, say so. If you know what you want, don’t be afraid to share. If something or someone isn’t working out for you, let them know. If you feel uncomfortable with someone or about something, speak up. Don’t lie about who you are, nor accept lies in return. We are adults and should be able to handle honesty presented in a polite manner. (If the polite manner doesn’t work, that’s a different matter entirely. Do what you have to do to keep yourself safe.)

 

You aren’t going to like everyone. Everyone isn’t going to like you. You will meet nice people who don’t strike your fancy. You will find people who you think are amazing, but don’t feel the same in return. And you will meet schmucks and people who still behave like children. But chances are, even if you don’t meet the partner of your dreams, you will make some friends and have some fun.

Fun is underrated. And at our age, we have earned it. Let’s not leave it all to the young ones.