Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hope Floats

A reprint, in honor of my upcoming "cancer-free" anniversary…

It was July 4, 1998, just a little more than a week after my mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery, that I got the good news from my doctor.  According to the pathology report and the results of a variety of imaging tests, my body showed no further evidence of cancer. I was officially designated NED. No Evidence of Disease: The best possible outcome to a situation where few outcomes were promising. Thereafter I’ve considered July 4th my personal holiday - my Independence (from Cancer) Day.
Each year on this date I stop and reflect. I feel grateful. I feel relieved. I feel hopeful.  I feel lucky.
But I also feel something else.
I feel ripped off.
With all the technological hoo haa my body has been put through, I should damned well have developed some super powers by now.
Peter Parker gets bit by ONE teensy radioactive spider and turns in to freakin’ spiderman.
Meanwhile, I’ve been injected with chemicals that light my internal organs up like Christmas trees and shoved inside gazillion-dollar pieces of machinery that have bombarded me with every type radio, light and ultrasound wave known to science.
I have had so many radioactive isotopes injected into my body that my pee glows in the dark. Geiger counters spike if I get within 10 feet of them . I can rent myself out at barbeques as a combination street lamp/patio heater/bug zapper.
But do I have heightened senses? Incredible strength?  Can I climb the side of my garage or shoot a web out of my butt? Do my spidey-senses so much as tingle?
All those waves, all those isotopes, all those chemical dye injections, and I got buttkiss.
I’m not asking to become IronWoman or SuperRedhead or SpiderGirl.
I don’t need the dexterity to scale a skyscraper. It would be fine if I could get something off the top shelf of my closet without falling off the stepstool.
I don’t care if I ever have xray vision. At this point I’d settle for being able to read a menu in a restaurant without my cheaters. Or to be able to find my cheaters in the first place.
I don’t need to be able to run faster than a speeding bullet or have catlike agility. It would make me happy to get to and from the mailbox in a reasonable amount of time and to not bang my shin on the side of the bed every morning.
 I’m not asking to be able to bend steel with my bare hands. I’d consider it a major coup to break into a bag of potato chips. And would it be too freakin’ much to ask to be able to open a CD case or “twist off top” bottle without calling for backup?
I’m not looking for genius-level intelligence or phenomenal mental acuity. Remembering where I put my car keys on any given day would be a good start. So would not having to go back into the house three times after I’ve already locked the door because I’ve forgotten stuff. Making my checkbook actually balanced – just once – would be enough.
I don’t need to have six-pack abs or look good in a neon superhero leotard. I just don’t want to have to solder myself into an iron foundation garment to keep from spilling out over the top of my jeans. I suppose my ability to blind people with my lily-white legs in summertime is something, but unless I can distinguish between blinding the Good and blinding the Evil, it’s value is limited.
I'm not giving up. I still hold out hope that I will one day morph in to some semblance of a super heroine and develop some sort of power or ability that will at least make a good party trick.
Until then, I do admit that I haven’t gotten COMPLETELY shortchanged by cancer. It has imbued me with a few strengths.
I’m fearlessly immodest. I will whip off my shirt and allow anyone who flashes a medical credential at me to cop a feel without embarrassment. Ask me about my scars, and you’re going to get to see them for yourself.
While I can’t see in to YOUR body, I’ve got full color images (some of them in 3-D) of all my internal organs. I like to bring them out when people start making me look at photos of their grandkids or their vacation trip to the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. “Look, here’s the world’s largest ball of twine.”  “Look, here’s my liver. I win.”
My man-made side (which I affectionately call the Bionic Boob) is permanently perky and sag-proof. It stands proudly, stoically refusing to succumb to the ravages of time and gravity. While it’s not resilient enough to, say, deflect a bullet, it will serve as a floatation device should the airplane I’m on have to ditch in the ocean. I’m sure that my innate radioactivity will also provide and handy locator beacon to guide rescuers to my location.
I can hear the conversation now: “Um, sir, we’re picking up a radio signal from the ocean – it appears to be coming from a woman.”  “A woman? Is she in a raft?”  “No sir, she’s just bobbing up and down like a buoy. We’re dispatching a rescue boat.”  “Well keep a close watch on her, these waters are infested with sharks.”  “Sir, she’s a redhead. Sharks are leaving the area almost faster than we can follow.”
I can't be counted upon to save you if the bus we're riding ends up teetering helplessly on the edge of a cliff. I can’t save you if the elevator we're in malfunctions and plummets 50 stories. But… if we ever end up traveling on the same trans-Atlantic flight? Well, you might wanna forego sitting beside the emergency exit and take the seat next to me.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

This Space Available

When you’re excited about the prospect of finding a new home, it’s easy to get bedazzled by descriptions that make rental listings sound idyllic. Before you get excited about that too-good-to-be-true little place on your ‘must see’ list, you’ll want to understand the true meanings behind oft-used adjectives in rental listings. You may wish to curb your enthusiasm until you’ve read this handy primer of descriptive terms.

Rustic – if you died, nobody would find you for weeks. The toilet is outdoors and you will have to fight the bears to use the Charmin.

Quaint – The equivalent of being told that your blind date “has a great personality.”

Charming - big enough for one of the seven dwarves to live in it. But not one of the fat ones.

Immaculate – recently steam cleaned top to bottom because of bedbug infestation and smoke damage from previous client.

Remodeled – We had to fix a bunch of shit or the county was going to condemn it.

Garden apartment – there is some sort of flowery thing covering half of the front door. You are probably allergic to it.

Cozy – If you actually want to sit down while you pee, this isn’t the place for you.

Combination bathroom/shower – The shower is not enclosed. When you take a shower, the whole room gets wet. This includes the light switch. The good news is you can take a shower while you’re sitting on the toilet.

Extra storage  area – there is a big plastic trunk outside the back door. You can use half of it.

Suitable for one person – but not for you.

Lots of history – three people have been murdered here.

Quiet – no one will hear you scream.

A Gardener’s dream – eight years of weeds await you.

Phone and internet not included – But if you going up on the roof, you might get a signal up there.

Close to transportation – you can hitch a ride with the logging trucks to the main road.

Month to month rental agreement – your rent will go up three hundred dollars exactly 32 days after you move in.

Furnished – My wife wouldn’t let me keep my man-cave furniture and velvet paintings of dogs playing poker after we got married. I had to put them somewhere.

Freshly painted – it was the only way to cover the blood stains

New flooring – see above

Plenty of natural light – no electricity.

Unrestricted view – not much grows here since those fires come through every year.

Well water -  mostly in the basement.

On a septic system  Try not to flush.

Grocery store just down the road – but the road itself is ten miles away.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


The world has officially passed me by.

It seems I’ve been spending more and more time just attempting to keep up with it. And really, I’m not even keeping up, I’m just attempting to fall behind-er as slowly as possible. I’ve gotten tired of the losing battle. I’ve given up.

I can’t keep up with technology. I don’t want five remotes to figure out, 500 channels to cruise or the ability to watch three shows at the same time while recording two more. I just want to see a damned episode of HOUSE, find out what the weather is going to do tomorrow, and shut the thing the hell off. It would be nice to be able to pop in a DVD, but the menu of 17 parameters I must choose from in order to play it sucks the fun out of it. Just PLAY it, for god’s sake.

I don’t want a car commanded by computers and co-dependent on electronic components. I’d like to be able to manually open my windows in case said computers go belly up and refuse to let me out of my electronically-sealed vehicle. I’d like to not have to study hieroglyphics to understand the cryptic symbols that randomly light up on the dashboard next to the dials and meters that measure stuff I don’t understand. I need to know how fast I’m going and how much gas I’ve got. A radio would be nice. And build the damned thing so that it doesn’t take a genius with a PhD to change the oil.

I don’t want a smart phone. I don’t own one and hope I never will. Using a freakin’ phone shouldn’t be so much work – and it sure shouldn’t cost so much. I don’t want to surf the net, check emails, look up the answers to trivia questions while at dinner with friends or take photos and videos. I don’t have time to learn all that garbage and I don’t want to. It’s a PHONE, for crap’s sake. I just want it to make calls, get calls, and indulge in the occasional text message. I want to push a button and know that I’m going to be connected with the person I’m calling – not accidentally be taking a video of the inside of my ear.

I don’t have time for all the social media stuff. I have no desire to post my every move to Facebook or Twitter or TwitSpace. And I don’t want to have to wade through posts about your kid’s runny nose, or hear your religious or political rants just to be able locate some actual conversation I was having. It’s too damned tedious and steals minutes of my life I can’t get back.

I can’t keep up with computer and software upgrades. It would be a full time job just to keep abreast of all the advancements and changes in the software I use every day. My computer is now too outdated (at just a few years old) to upgrade the operating system and graphic design software further. I’d have to buy a new computer and all new software and spend about $5000. WTF!? I have a perfectly good computer and perfectly fine software. Why must you keep changing and upgrading and making it more complicated and expensive? Is it REALLY necessary to change the entire interface and all the toolbars EVERY SINGLE UPGRADE? There’s no way I can keep up financially or intellectually. I got a life going on here, I can’t devote the hours it would take just to wrap my brain around the latest thing, especially when I know what I learn is going to be outdated in a few months when the NEXT thing comes out.

I believe we have officially reached the point of diminishing returns with technology. Technology is supposed to make life easier and save us time. It’s gotten to the point where it instead sucks away our time and makes us RUN to keep up. We are slaves to technology, instead of the other way around.

So put down the gadgets once in awhile. There’s a whole real world out there. You oughta take a look at it sometime.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lookin' out my back door

One of my very favorite things to do is sit outside on my deck – that is, in fact, where I am as I am writing this. Though I’m in the middle of a neighborhood, the backyard is so densely foliated that I’m essentially invisible. Acacia, Eucalyptus, Willow, Pine and other trees keep me shielded from view. One of these trees, a large Acacia, leans over the deck at a precarious angle. It sheds annoying seed pods most of the summer, but also provides lovely afternoon shade. Alas, it’s scheduled to be cut down, as the angle of the lean is reaching the edge of what the laws of physics will support. Afternoon shade will become the responsibility of the smaller trees behind it. The shade won’t be as rich, and will come later in the day, but at least it won’t be raining seed pods.

The deck itself extends the complete length of my garage studio. It’s populated by pots full of jewel toned petunias that grow and bloom with abandon but that don’t play well with others – they’ve all but choked the poor pansies, marigolds and lavender out of the pots. But they take the heat, the rain, the fog, the cold – they just TAKE it, and claim their space and hold their ground and bloom brilliantly where they are planted. If only we all had that sort of resilience.

The morning glories I grew from seedlings are starting to flower. Anybody who knows my sleeping habits knows how useless it is for me to have a plant that blooms in the morning and whose flowers have faded by afternoon. In retrospect, I’d be better suited to moonflowers, as I miss most of the glory. But when I get up to pee at 6am, I peek out the window and am greeting by brilliant red and blue blooms among emerald green leafy vines.

The rightmost railing of my deck is home to a big, prolifically flowering star jasmine vine. Densely populated with tiny white star-shaped blooms, it is a magnet for hummingbirds and honeybees. At night, the sweet heavy scent of the blossoms wafts through the open window and fills my sleeping area with its perfume.

The yard, a rambling, eclectic collection of grasses, wildflowers and fruit trees, grows as nature intends it. The underground stream keeps the water table high, and the entire yard is self-maintaining. The plum tree becomes laden with plump purple fruit at the end of July. Two kinds of apple trees and a pear tree bear fruit most of the summer. The walnut tree has seen better days, but it graces me by dropping a few nuts each fall. The persimmons turn flaming orange in the late fall, and remain on the tree long after the leaves have fallen. Nature’s Christmas ornaments.

Surrounding one side of the property is a blackberry thicket about 30 feet deep. Blackberry thickets are nature’s ultimate home security system. Nothing larger than a small fox can creep through that thorny mass without having its flesh stripped off the bone. You'd have to wear chainmail to get past unscathed - it’s more effective protection than a moat filled with piranha. The downside of the blackberry’s protective nature is that it thinks it owns the place. Left unattended, the bushes would take over the yard and consume the house inside of a year. In consolation, the bushes offer up succulent, sweet, delicious berries in abundance. As with all things, it’s give and take.

People, birds, and miscellaneous four-legged critters enjoy the fruit. The deer love to munch the fallen plums and apples. Birds adore the blackberries (although I don’t enjoy washing the resulting purple bird poop off the deck.). The raccoons will strip the persimmon tree bare if I don’t get to it first. I don’t know what the little grey fox eats. But it loves to come out in the late mornings and sun itself at the edge of the blackberry thicket.

At night, a symphony of crickets and tree frogs provide background music. During the daytime, the soundtrack is a combination of natural and manmade. Birds. Rustling trees, and the neighbor’s collection of wind chimes – the tiny, tinkling ones when the breeze is light and heavy, deep-toned ones when it’s gusty. If the wind is blowing the right way, the voices of children on the nearby school playground can be heard. Sometimes the evening breeze will bring me a muffled high school football game, complete with marching band. The neighbors to my west play music outside some afternoons. They listen to classic rock, which is my favorite. Not all the sounds are soothing; today’s playlist includes the chainsaw and woodchipper symphony in F major .

One of my neighbors has chickens. I can’t see them, but I can hear them. It makes me smile; I have an affinity for chickens. I do not have an affinity for roosters, so I’m happy their menagerie doesn’t include them.

I have a little side yard too that’s kind of a mini-version of the back yard. It’s got its own star jasmine bush and blackberry sentries. Lovely, climbing red rose vines bloom all summer long. My additions include more petunias and morning glories, and snap dragons. There are all manner of leafy vining plants covering the fence – if the fence is even under there any more.

There are big garden spiders that build enormous, intricate round webs suspended by threads strung from one side of the yard to the other (a 20 foot span) and from the ground to a tree limb (8-10 feet). I have no idea how they get these supporting girders strung. But they do it with no building permits, no committee meetings, no unions, no blueprints, and no assistance, using only materials that they shoot out of their butts. If the web gets knocked down, it’s completely remade in 24 hours. The spiders only come out at night. Sometimes I come out after dark with a flashlight and watch them work. If humans could be that single-minded and focused and resourceful, imagine what they could accomplish. I hate spiders, and these spiders are among the creepiest, ugliest varieties I’ve seen. But I have so much respect and admiration for their ingenuity and work ethic that I leave them alone.

I love my place. When I’m away from it, I can’t wait to come back. When I take a ‘vacation’, this is where I want to be. But since I live here, that kinda makes every day its own vacation. There is beautiful, peaceful energy here that is sacred to me and essential to my well-being. I’m protective of this beautiful space and selective about whom I invite in to it. Though I’m only a renter, we’re all nothing more than renters on the planet in the grand scheme of things. I don’t own the property, nor does it own me. We’re all here solely because we want to be. And that’s really the only reason to ever be anywhere.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Lately, I’ve lamented the demise of romance in general and romance stories in particular. So-called “romance” novels are nowadays filled with explicit sex, graphic violence and cocky, arrogant men with bad, bad manners. Sex has replaced love and romance (um…they’re not the same thing. Not even close.). Gone is the deliciousness of sexual tension. Instead, stories are filled with explicit sexual encounters that are contrived, add nothing to the story, and often commit the cardinal sin of jarring the reader out of the story. Additionally, “romance” novels now often include graphically violent plots told in far too much grisly detail.

Is this really what people want to read?? The prevalence of such novels on bookshelves suggests that it is. Must we continually up the ‘shock value’ to reach an audience? Yes, apparently.

It’s a sad, sad commentary on society. What in the world has happened to good old fashioned romantic love stories, told with metaphor and innuendo that leave the specifics to the reader’s own glorious imagination? That is sexy. Spelling it out in porno-graphic detail is a complete, eye-rolling, close-the-book-and-don’t-bother-reading-further, turnoff.

The most disturbing trend in the “romance” genre is the “paranormal” romance story – in which the protagonist or his/her love interest is some sort of sub- or non-human creature-zoid. People are having rampant sex with vampires, demons, werewolves, and a host of other un-dead or non-living entities as though it’s business-as-usual at the neighborhood hookup bar. Okay, I readily admit that pickins’ in the human realm can be pretty slim sometimes. It’s bad enough having to weed through the smarmy drunks with beer bellies and receding hairlines and their cliché come-ons…now I also have to worry about whether they are actually human? That adds a whole new layer of complexity to dating.

I have a rather extensive ‘laundry list’ of qualities I seek in a man. I am willing to negotiate on some of them. But if it’s too much to ask that the guy in question at least be human, I’m screwed.

Until the world comes to its senses, I suppose I’m going to have to amend my list of dating criteria to account for the possibility that a suitor may not be entirely…well, human.

  1. I am a lady and expect to be treated as such. No uninvited groping, kissing, biting, or showing of fangs. Now, maybe you and your Therapist attribute these tendencies to the evil influence of your psycho-undead-creator-mentor, but from where I stand, behavior like that means your mama just didn’t raise you right. I’ll have none of it.
  2. Please don’t be part of a Special Ops team who has pissed off some underground demon faction. It’s a real downer when our waiter at the restaurant shape-shifts into a banshee and comes at us with the salad tongs.
  3. Eat normal food. If you order a glass of O-negative or a side of brains (thereby forcing me to add this restaurant to my “list of places I can’t go back to”), you are NOT getting a second date.
  4. Practice full disclosure. I don’t wanna find out you’ve got a forked tongue, fangs, scales, or any extra body parts after I’ve invited you home for a nightcap.
  5. If you can’t go out in the daylight without spontaneously combusting, walk beneath the full moon without morphing in to something wolfen, or walk past a church without convulsing, our dating options are severely limited. You’d better at least be able to cook because we’ll be staying home a lot.
  6. Maybe money isn’t necessary on YOUR alternate paranormal plane, but it comes in pretty handy down here, bub. You’d better have your own ATM card; I’m NOT paying for everything.
  7. You WILL learn to drive, hail a cab, and navigate public transit. I am not FLYING anywhere with you.
  8. The fact that your parents are dead doesn’t bother me. The fact that you still want me to meet them does. I politely decline.
  9. Please don’t be offended if I don’t pet your doggie. It’s not that I don’t like dogs. I’ve just never seen one that has three heads and breathes fire. As for YOU; please stop looking at my hamster like it’s some tasty exotic appetizer.
  10. I don’t care how many cool supernatural powers you have. If you can’t fix a leaky faucet or unclog a toilet, you’re of no use to me.

Too restrictive? I suppose I could loosen a few items if you’re particularly charming and good-looking. Having a sense of humor (especially after having the life sucked out of you and being condemned to an existence of half-living) will also get you huge bonus points.

Mostly, I’m just looking for the same thing everybody else is looking for; the chance to live happily every after with somebody who won’t run at the first sign of conflict – whether it’s arguing about the position of the toilet seat, who folds the laundry, or who walks the three-headed hellhound.

Is that too much to ask?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

All I want for Christmas....

The characters:

Nervous little overweight bank teller.

Redhead, with a gun and an attitude, on a mission.

The scene:

A petite redhead in long black coat, wearing dark glasses, walks in to a Wells Fargo bank. She approaches the only available teller; a short, bespectacled, slightly overweight middle-aged man in round glasses who is wearing a tie with a commemorative Wells Fargo ‘ten years of service’ tie clasp.

Teller: How many I help you?

Redhead: (producing a bag and a small gun which she discreetly levels at the tellers’s tie clasp) Do exactly what I say, Mr. ‘ten years service’, and nobody has to get hurt.

Teller: oh my. (reaches for cash drawer)

Redhead: Don’t do that!

Teller: Don’t do what?

Redhead: Get your hand out of the cash drawer! Now!

Teller: What?

Redhead: You heard me.

Teller: You don’t want money?

Redhead: No. Keep your stinking money.

Teller: You want a cashier’s check?

Redhead: Don’t get cocky.

Teller: Well, what do you want then? We’re running out of choices.

Redhead: I want a Pony.

Teller: What?

Redhead: Do you have a hearing problem? I want a pony. Put the pony in the bag.

Teller: I can’t give you a pony

Redhead: I’m sorry, WHAT did you say?

Teller: Ponies are for customers who open new accounts only. I can’t just give them away. Do you want to open a new account?

Redhead: NO, I don’t want to open an account. I have THREE accounts here and I’ve been a customer for fifteen years. I deserve a damned pony.

Teller: (Leaning in closely so nobody hears him) Look, the ponies are limited issue. I’m not allowed to give them away.

Redhead: I. Have. A. Gun.

Teller: You don’t understand. If one’s missing, my boss will have somebody’s head. I can’t give you a pony

Redhead: You’re not giving me a pony! I’m stealing a pony! It’s not the same thing.

Teller: Oh. Well, you have a point there. But….no, I can’t. I’d get fired. I’m just a few years from retirement. I can’t risk it.

Redhead: I’m losing patience. Put the pony in the bag. Tell your boss I had a gun. He’ll understand. I’m probably on your security camera footage. You’ll have proof. You won’t get into trouble.

Teller: I’ll give you a hundred bucks.

Redhead: What?

Teller (digging into his pants pocket) A hundred bucks. Of my own money.

Redhead: I don’t want your money!

Teller: Okay, two hundred. That’s all I’ve got on me at the moment. I can write you a check if you want more. You can go buy any stuffed pony in town!

Redhead: I don’t want any stuffed pony. I want THAT stuffed pony.

Teller: You don’t understand. The last teller that gave away an unauthorized pony disappeared. We have no idea what happened to him.

Redhead: Look around you. There are ponies everywhere. You really think they’re going to notice ONE is missing?

Teller: The ponies are numbered. They’re counted and locked in the safe every night. I think they might even be microchipped.

Redhead: I’m not leaving until I get a pony.

Teller: (tapping on computer keys) Do you know you don’t have a money market account with us?

Redhead: That’s because I don’t have any money. Hence, I’m standing in the bank with a gun. See a pattern?

Teller: You don’t have to have money to open the account. You’ve got up to 90 days to make a deposit before the account goes inactive.

Redhead: Look, little man. I don’t want a money market account. I want a pony.

Teller: If you open a money market account, I can give you a pony.

Redhead: What?

Teller: You don’t even have to use the account. Just let it expire. You get a pony, I keep my job. Everybody wins. (Pause) I’ll put a hundred bucks in it for you. (digs out a Ben Franklin and lays it on the counter.) Here.

Redhead: Um….what do I have to do?

Teller: Do you have your ATM card with you?

Redhead: Sure.

Teller: Just swipe it in the little machine, there.

Redhead: Er….okay. Hold this. (Hands gun to teller).

Teller: Um. Oh my. Okay.

Redhead: (swipes card) Okay.

Teller: Type in your PIN please.

Redhead: Okay.

Teller: (hands gun back to redhead). Thank you. (types a few entries on his keyboard.) There. That’s it. Your account is set up. You’ve got a hundred bucks in it. And I added the customer appreciation bonus of $5.

Redhead: Do I get a pony now?

Teller: Yes. Do you want a receipt?

Redhead: NO, I just want the pony.

Teller: (hands redhead a pony). Here you go. Oh, and here’s another hundred bucks cash because you had to wait so long.

Redhead: Gee. Thanks.

Teller: Lightning.

Redhead: What? That better not be a code word to call security! I’ve still got a gun!

Teller: It’s the pony’s name. Lightning.

Redhead: How do you know the pony’s name?

Teller: All the Wells Fargo plush ponies are modeled after real horses that used to pull the old Wells Fargo wagons.

Redhead: Really?

Teller: Yes. You can look up the history of all the ponies on our website.

Redhead: Wow. Thanks.

Teller: You’re welcome. I hope you’ve had an outstanding experience at Wells Fargo.

Redhead: I’ll put in a good word for you with your boss.

Teller: Can you not mention the gun thing, please?

Redhead: Oh. Sure.