Wednesday, December 29, 2004

snowman xmas 04

snowman xmas 04
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry.
A little belated, but pretty nevertheless!

Dante's Nth Circle of Holiday Hell, Revisited

Okay, I'm back. I guess it isn't really good form to boast that I just finished the last of the Christmas dinner dishes, is it? Well, I did, though, and I'm proud. Only three days, and the turkey platter is clean! Take that, Martha! Except, of course, poor Martha, she can't take anything (obligatory bad prison lesbian sex joke here) being as how she is in Alderson, the erstwhile home of Squeaky Fromme and, also, less famously, my completely insane ex mother in law, whose dope growing scheme went hideously awry sometime in the early 80s.

Which would bring me to the subject of family, and why I have been away for 10ish days: my own completely insane family. It was a fam'ly fam'ly weekend, and it was, um, odd. But it's over now, and I'm on vacation, and both of my kids are home, and so I can't use the computer, because M. got Halo, and Battlefield 1942: Secret Weapons of 1942, and some other very famous expensive game II for Christmas, and as a result he has only barely left the keyboard to eat and sleep. Actually he's mostly eating at the keyboard. A. got Sims 2, which you can't use without a DVD drive; this was a dumb buy on her mother's part. Bummer tunes.

These things happen, and so do eccentric 76 year old pothead aunties who turn out to drink like fish. I thought the big substance abuse issues were all on my father's side of the family, but turns out I'm way wrong. Auntie A. got so drunk at Christmas dinner that she took out my pinecone wreath; granted, she's been smoking what she quaintly refers to as "tea" since 1947 on a daily basis and being deprived for the weekend was rough on her. This is the aunt who said to me (in the early 90s) in complete seriousness: "Oh wow, you don't have enough bread to get a better pad? That is heavy. Here, smoke a little tea." I thought she was the most awesome person on the planet when I was a teenager, but (cue music here) I'm an adult now, and I can see why my brother complains now and then about living in the same city as Auntie A. She did, however, have an affair with Franz Kline. This rates some major cool points, after all.

Christmas dinner in general somehow didn't work out quite right. I'm not sure what happened, whether it's the fact that my mother thinks my house is crawling with plague germs, the number of barking dogs, the drunkenness of the aforementioned auntie, the mountains of wrapping paper, or what, but somehow, it wasn't what I had envisioned. I thought it was going to be this wonderful evening, full of family love, maybe some deeply meaningful things would get said, the fire would be snapping away, great food, candlelight, conversation - you know, the whole deal. But dinner wasn't anywhere near ready when they got there, I had to keep running back and forth to the kitchen, which was a horrifying disaster mess which made my mother turn pale and sort of swoon, at which point, or maybe it was later, she tried to lean on the papasan chair and fell over, chair and all. That made my brothers leap to help her, which naturally set the dogs off. Auntie A. had another vanilla vodka and tonic (all I had in my liquor cabinet was Jamesons, tequila, and a fifth of vanilla vodka somebody left at a party last summer) and my AA brother drank a Michelob light by mistake. My other brother, who has a bleak sense of humor somewhat akin to my own, decided at that point that he wasn't going to drink - or talk - just sort of stand back and watch the chaos mount.

Probably telling the whole family about the big dog crisis that had happened right before they got there was also a bad move: Theo ate an entire big plastic candy cane full of Hershey's Kisses. We called the vet when we discovered this, not sure whether to worry more about the chocolate or the tinfoil it was wrapped in. The vet said he would probably be okay (keep in mind that this is the dog who ate a Lexapro last week with NO, I mean NO, discernible effects whatsoever) but to feed him 1 millileter of hydrogen peroxide per 10 pounds of body weight to induce vomiting anyhow. So A went off in my car for hydrogen peroxide and M and I attempted to weigh the dog. This was more difficult than it sounds, because we have this digital scale that starts to freak out if you move it around too much, and handing a large and unhappy dog to a 13 year old who keeps doubling over in hysterical laughter while trying to stay on the scale qualifies as moving it around too much. Eventually we determined that Theo weighs 48 pounds, and then A. got back with the hydrogen peroxide, and we discovered that noone in this family has the faintest idea what a millileter is, or what it might look like. We called the vet back, and he said nearly a tablespoon, so we put nearly a tablespoon in the turkey baster (took it right out of the turkey) and took Theo outside. We congratulated ourselves on thinking of the outside part, or at least I did, because my initial idea was to do it in the bathroom, which clearly would have been a very, very bad idea. So I squirted the turkey baster into Theo. He didn't seem to mind much, and we all waited, while he licked the turkey baster happily. Nothing happened. Nothing ever happened, as far as we know, since we left him outside for a while, but he seemed completely fine. Nearly a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide is as nothing to a dog with a stomach full of hershey's kisses, tinfoil, and turkey grease. He came in and licked the garbage can. Still, telling our guests of this adventure seemed to cast kind of a pall over the evening, since they kept eying him nervously. Not that that's unheard of, since if you sit down in my house, you have to kind of expect Theo to immediately get into your lap and lick your face, and some people take this better than others.

So then we got dinner on the table, and everybody ate, and all was cool, except for the part where I had to make new gravy, since the original gravy was heinous, and the part where Auntie A. fell off her chair, and the part where my lovely daughter A. suddenly allowed her inner sullen 15 year old to spring forth. . . but then, thank the gods, dinner was over, and my whole family beat a hasty retreat. I personally retreated to the fireplace, where I smoked a lot of cigarettes and drank up all the wine they had brought for dinner, which resulted in a truly classic hangover on Sunday: I didn't even get out of bed until 4:00.

They did however give us some really fabulous gifts. My younger brother gave me books on raising chickens and goats in your backyard! and my older brother gave us all gift cards, always terrific, Auntie A. gave cash in envelopes printed with a somewhat shaky hand, and my mother gave me LL Bean boots and a pair of, I kid you not, black fleece overalls, which will come in handy for feeding those chickens I'm going to go out and get, now that I have the book, and we gave them some great and wonderful things as well. I gave my younger brother a porcelain Chinese acupuncture head, and M. gave him a big standing water bubble tube complete with plastic fish. A. gave my older brother a book on heroin and the CIA, which he quite liked, and gave my mother a book about Jackie Kennedy's clothes. Present wise, I think we did very well this year. I gave the kids socks and underwear, and $50 bills in their stockings, and M. got a pirate laundry hamper from Archie McPhee and an Indian poster on bad behavior for boys, and A. got moonstone earrings and clothes and a gourd candleholder I made. She brought me beautiful jewelry from the store where she works and two pairs of slippers, and my friend J. brought me pink slippers with martini glasses on them. All in all I got two robes (M. gave me a big fleecy one) and three pairs of slippers, so I guess we pretty much all accept the fact that I only leave the house to go to work these days.

So it was a nice Christmas, all in all, and thank the gods it's over.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Bathtub is Full of Feathers and I Can't Find the Christmas Cards

When I got home tonight, there were feathers in the bathtub. Lots of feathers, small gray fluffy ones and some longer gray pin feathers, like quill pens for very small people wearing tiny frock coats and minuscule wigs. There were also little muddy footprints all around the toilet seat, but I know what those are. Those are there because Mr. Bill, when he comes inside with muddy feet, likes to go and wash his paws in the toilet. Seriously. I know it sounds insane, but I watched him do it this morning, which should right there have clued me in to the fact that this was going to be a slightly more than ordinarily surreal day.

There were feathers in the kitchen, too, and feathers in my room. I know what this means. This means that Barbieri has caught another bird. The last time he did this my friend D. had come home with me to fix a kitchen drawer, and thank the gods he was there in all his reassuring maleness, because when I walked into the kitchen it looked like an avian abattoir. It was horrible; 3 inches of feathers all over the floor and an artistically laid out bloody wing complete with entrail portions by the door. D. cleaned this up for me, which is as it should be, because for one thing he owes me like $300 and also I cook vegan meals for him, which is over and above the cause of friendship.

Tonight there seem to be nothing but feathers. This has also happened before, and I'm not sure what it means. I really really hope that the rest of the bird isn't somewhere, dead or maybe dying, but basically I approach this problem by not thinking about it. At all. I decided to leave the feathers where they were. I was mad when I got home anyway because there were no packages on my porch. I have ordered all these Christmas presents online and they should be here by now, but, of course, they aren't. This is a drag, because M. is coming home tomorrow and half these packages are presents for him, and he is totally, completely, incapable of ignoring a package on the porch. At the least he will shake them to smithereens and more probably he will open them; he won't be able to resist. Damn you, Oriental Trading Company, Archie McPhee, and REI! You all suck!

However, because M. is coming home tomorrow, I had to get Christmas presents for his houseparents today. I got them two okay looking if cheap handmade mugs from the Appalachian Craft Center and a pound, well 12 ounces, of organic fair trade coffee, because, well, they are just those sort of people. So after work, I bought the mugs (while I was there I also bought an awesome face mug for Auntie A., the Queen of Bohemia, which is great except it was expensive as shit, like $32, and now I have to get something else for my mom, so that the balance of power doesn't shift too far. If anyone is trying to square all this spending with my oft repeated tales of financial woe, all I can say is, Citibank was dumb enough to give me another credit card, and I was dumb enough to accept it. My current plan is to pay Christmas off with my tax refund in April. Yeah, right. Anyway.) and then I went to the gym, since I'm on a big health/fitness/alcohol free/hardly smoke since it's too damn cold to go outside/use special wrinkle reducing moisturizer every night kick. Then I went to Earthfare, where I enriched the hippies by some 100 of Citibank's dollars, and got some hippie food. Then, of course, I came home. It strikes me that this whole paragraph is stupid and inconsequential to the main point of this post, which is, of course, that I can't find the fucking Christmas cards!

About 10 years ago or so I bought a couple packages of Christmas cards. They have a beautiful moody photo of some wintry trees on them, by some Japanese artist. Very minimal, stark, tasteful - obviously not me. Possibly the me I would like to be, but not, actually, me. So I have never sent any of them. This is due to three main causes: 1) I feel guilty sending anything but homemade cards (after all, I am, theoretically, an artiste). 2) I am not really organized enough to send Christmas cards, let's face it, and 3) I can never, ever find the damn things in the winter. I find them every summer, sure, in July when I'm rooting around for oil pastels and watercolors, I find them behind the art supplies. I look at them, think, wow, those are gorgeous, this Christmas I'm sending those, fuck this handmade shit. Then December rolls around. December 14, to be exact, today, when I need a tasteful Christmas card to tuck into the tastefully wrapped, ecologically friendly, local artisan supportive gift I have just gotten ready for M.'s houseparents. The Japanese cards would be perfect. Can I find them? No, of course not. I found a bunch of last years cards, which were a hideous color xerox of a very scary Christmas drawing I did incorporating collage elements of all the freaks in the Weekly World News (the tattooed wolfman, the reptile king, the world's fattest transvestite) saying Happy Holidays. I sense this would not be the right card for the houseparents. I sense that they already think I'm deeply weird. There was that little contretemps over the Anarchist's Cookbook. . . namely, that I have no problem with M. owning it, since I have total faith that his intrinsic laziness will win out over his fondness for explosives and thus prevent him from ever actually concocting one of the recipes.

So, in my quest for the cards, I have emptied out the junk cabinet, finding 3 polaroid cameras which may or may not work (noone will ever know since the film is so ungodly expensive,) untold envelopes of negatives, a big box of oil pastels, my college sketchbook, more of that glow in the dark paper (that's a good thing, this year's Christmas card is glow in the dark collage), two xeroxes of an article on Arts & Crafts architecture, a xerox from a 16th century Islamic book on astrology, a bunch of faded construction paper, the blank watercolor cards I was looking for last summer, and on and on. It's all on the floor now, in merry little piles, except for the cut out Japanese prints from an old calendar that I've been looking for to glue on the bookcase, which are now on the table, on top of the wrapping paper, on top of the cut paper elements for the new Christmas cards, on top of the pine cone debris from the pinecone wreath I made last weekend in a moment of total madness and on top of the African violet I'm repotting into a high heeled black pump that belongs to my friend J, and which my dog Theo ate the mate of one evening. I think this will be a thoughtful Christmas gift, although she'll probably brain me with it. She was very understanding about the other pump, but it's possible this will revive sore memories. Yet art must out, right?

I called my daughter and said, where are the Japanese Christmas cards? Behind the art supplies, she said. No, I said, they're not. Then they're in that cabinet full of junk, she said. At that point I decided to leave everything on the floor and write this, and so, now it's 40 minutes and one long phone call later, and I still haven't found the Christmas cards. And the bathtub is still full of feathers.

The Hysterically Funny Email from my Brother

I sent my brother the following, with the subject line NSFW Question:

Do you think it would be unimaginably weird if I got Auntie A. a dime bag or a couple joints for Christmas? I mean obviously not to open in front of the whole family (now THAT would be worthy of its own short documentary film) but as a sort of auxiliary gift? I have no CLUE what to get her but I am assuming that she is still a total stoner?Would it get her busted flying back to NY or do they not care about pot in domestic travel, just explosives?

and he sent me back this, which caused me to practically ruin my keyboard by spitting coffee all over it.

Gee, haven't you heard? Why, George Bush has legalized pot for anyone travelling on planes, especially senior citizens! His new "Get High Before You Fly" campaign is really taking off (pun intended)! Gosh, do you live in a cave? I mean the sign before you go through security has an X mark through tweezers and nail clippers, but a smily face on a pot leaf that says "THC AOK" must not have flown in ages. Why airport security would never think of throwing an old woman in jail just for a few joints. No, they'll save that for old women who justy look at them funny. "Stoned, maam?" the guards usually ask. "tee hee, a little" is the reply. "Have a nice trip," the guard answers, ushering her through. I must have seen this on countless occasions. So, sure, feel free to load A. up with pot--hell why stop at a dime bag, line her clothes with the shit--while your brother escorts her through security. I really want to spend my holidays bailing my aunt out of jail.

P.S. Look, if you really want to be like mom and stock up on stuff before we arrive, make sure there's beer in the fridge.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

merry xmas 04

merry xmas 04
Originally uploaded by mygothlaundry.
Last year's photo, in a convenient snow shower. Merry merry, y'all!

Alcohol, hormones, men and stuff

I have been on this horribly formatted emailing list for a couple weeks now and I had pretty much decided that there was nothing they could teach me until tonight, when I drank too much like the fool I am. This whole week I was thinking, you know, what I have is, like, a hormone problem, given that when my period starts wending it's way around, I tend to get drunk as a skunk, and that' s uncool, but okay, it's hormones. Most of the time, I thought, I am fine.

TMI but at the moment I am in the middle of my cycle, and by the time I got off work tonight all I wanted was a beer or 6. So I went out for a couple of drinks with my friend D and then my friend J met us there - at the New New - and I drank, over the course of not so very many hours, 5 beers. Which is not moderation no matter how you want to cut it.

And it wasn't okay, because I took the drunken opportunity to tell J the grisly truth about her horrible boyfriend. He IS horrible, and I am so tired of hearing her defend him, when all that is happening is that she is making like the proverbial rug and he is dutifully walking all over her. It groweth, forsooth, old as shit. But I said some stuff I would just as soon as not have, being that I am a conflict avoider of major proportions, and the stuff I said was incendiary, since I told her that he comes on to any woman within eyesight, including me. It's true, of course, but probably I shouldn't have said anything. Now she will go home and tell him what I said and he will deny it and she will believe him and then he will call me and ream me out and then she will call me and ream me out and all in all it isn't worth it. I shouldn't have said a word. She hasn't believed me yet about any of the foul, utterly foul, things he has done and said, so I should just learn to keep my fool mouth closed.

Angst and etc.

M. has been diagnosed: ADHD and a classic goddamn case of it. I can't argue. I wish I could; I've spent half my life vociferously denying the very existence of ADD or ADHD and here's my son, a poster child. Not much you can say, really, when the kid displays every single fucking symptom in the book.
And sitting there in the psychiatrist's office it was actually kind of obvious, as M. by degrees turned himself upside down, juggled balls, made cathedrals of his fingers and peered through them, wiggled his shoes off his feet, and on and on. Stuff I have always chalked up to him just being a boy, or just being M., or just, well, just. The shrink asked, well, what was he like as a small child? And I said, wonderful, he was wonderful, except of course that he never stopped moving, climbed everything he saw, was a small tornado moving through all environments. I laughed and said, this is the kid I found on top of the refrigerator when he was 10 months old and he couldn't even walk yet, this is the kid who climbed before he could crawl, who did this and this and this - all stuff I am absurdly proud of - and I watched, then, the shrink scribbling notes and exchanging glances with the coworker and realized, oh. This is ADHD.

Of course, I've had people telling me this since he was 3 and I've refused utterly to listen; is my current determination to agree to call it ADHD and say it can be treated just the obverse of my stubborn then refusal to call it anything? Maybe there's some happy medium here I'm missing entirely? And what about the health food store stuff; I did try some of that when he was in 2nd grade and the teachers were saying they couldn't have him in their classrooms anymore; it maybe helped or maybe it was just that he agreed to try so hard. . . he was miserable all that year, it was horrible for him, trying as hard as he did and not, really, getting anywhere. ANd, of course, it was 3rd grade, the next year, when they started all the testing and discovered the learning disabilities.

The ongoing rollercoaster of M. Who is, by and far and large, the sweetest, coolest, most genuinely wonderful kid you might ever hope to meet.

The Orphan Club

The whole damn thing that I meant to get to, in that long post about death, was the orphan club. Once you lose a parent, you join the orphan club, and death is never that far away from you again. You connect with other people on the weirdest things.

For me, it will forever be the memory of arranging my father's funeral - before he was dead. My younger brother and I were sitting in the funeral home, waiting for the funeral guy to show up, and when he did, took his seat behind his desk, and said, in his total funeral voice, I'm so sorry, when did your father pass? It was all I could do not to break into a) manic laughter and b) total Monty Python: He's not dead yet! I couldn't look at my brother because I knew the same damn scene was playing itself out in his head, and I knew if I looked at him I would be lost, we would both dissolve into hysterical laughter, and, obviously, you can't do that in a funeral home. But there we were, arranging a funeral for somebody who was still clinging, albeit tenuously, to this mortal coil.

My friend D, whose mother is dying, is in this boat right now.

Maybe it's just possible that objectively things are a bit bleak around me at the moment. Perhaps overdrinking is, in fact, a rational response to my current environment. Go figure.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


My boss' father died on Thanksgiving morning, after a long miserable 6 weeks of going downhill, and inevitably, it's made me think a lot about my own father's death in June 2000.

My boss' mother came by the museum to pick some things up a couple weeks ago, when they were first beginning to acknowledge that he was going to die, that the fight was coming to an end, that it was time to take away the machines. I spoke with her briefly and she said that it was harder on P (my boss) than it was on her; that it's different to lose a father than a husband, and also that P and her brothers had not been around their father 24/7 and thus hadn't realized how weak he had become. Emphysema . . . *she types, sighs, considers another cigarette*

It is true, it is different, obviously, to lose a parent rather than a partner. And when you do lose one, you join a club, the orphan's club, or the half orphan's club, and nothing is ever really the same again. You cross a line. And this is true whether, like P, you have a great relationship with your father, or, like me, you have a not so great and in fact sometimes downright shitty relationship with said parent. But all this I think is missing the point: the point has to do with age, and our differing perceptions of death and loss at different ages.

I think that when you are in your 60s and 70s you begin to accept death. He goes from being a stranger, a terrorist, someone to be feared and avoided to being a neighbor, someone you know. Death starts coming over once in a while for snacks. He plays croquet with you, he hangs out for a beer. You get to know him. Your friends get to know him. And you begin, for the first time in your life, to really grasp the inevitability of this death thing, that one day he will come and take your hand and you will walk away with him forever. You recognize that fighting him is not valiant anymore and that sometimes it's downright stupid. All you can hope for is a good death, a dignified exit: you don't want to draw out the curtain call. Dylan Thomas ceases to reverberate for you: forget raging against the dying of the light, you want to go gently.

I've watched this process with my mother, now 77, and it has scared and astounded me, because, you see, I'm not there yet. I'm 40 and I still want to rage, I still want to fight, I still refuse to acknowledge that inevitably Death will be my partner too. My father died of liver cancer; he refused treatment after the diagnosis, and he stayed home, and at last he slipped into a coma and died. There were things that could have been done: feeding tubes, respirators, more chemo and radiation (he had a bout a year before with throat cancer) - it would have availed nothing, we could have dragged the whole thing out longer, but we didn't. It was awful, it seemed so incredibly wrong to at the end not even offer water, just listen to his harsh breathing which finally, finally stopped. It flies against all your instincts, everything that you believe in your 20s and 30s and 40s and 50s. But it isn't wrong, it is right, it is a basic and inalienable right, to die with dignity, on your own terms; to let yourself go.

I don't know, of course, if any of this is really true. My mother thinks it is, but I won't know it, can't know it, can't feel it in that deep down way that you recognize things on an instinctual level, for a while. And yes, we're the lucky ones, the ones who get to find this out, who get to go through all these stages, reach that age where Death comes for tea, to hang out and watch a movie, becomes a companion before he is a consort. I hope I'm right, that age and time will prove me right, and that I'll get that chance to find out. You do find that about other things: that gray hairs aren't the end of the world, that the beginnings of menopause, while not wonderful by any means, aren't unthinkable, that not having any more children is okay. We move through these stages as surely as anything on the planet, chrysalis, reproduction, rebirth: rings on a tree.

So my heart is sad for P, and for me, for one more irrevocable step into another world, the orphan world, where you begin to recognize that life ends for all of us.

Stepped Off the Wagon

I didn't fall, I stepped gently off and I will probably step gently right back on. Went out and had a couple beers with my friend D. and then we were joined by Jf, one of my best friends, and D's girlfriend R. (These initials are, like, super annoying. I need to come up with another system of preserving anonymity. Maybe I could give them each a code name, using things found in my refrigerator as the code! Yes! I shot pool with Mayonnaise, and then Carton of Eggs showed up! Wait. No. That's worse than the initials.) Anyway we shot some pool and drank a couple beers, and then I left, went to Kmart, came home, read and went to bed. I'm okay with it actually; I have to watch myself constantly with alcohol, not let it start to fill up my days and nights, not rely on it, and remember my triggers, remember what makes me go over the edge (parties and my period, to be exact) but if I'm careful, it's okay. I think. I hope.

At any rate though, I didn't fall far enough away from the wagon to have a hangover, although my head did hurt at 4:00 am when I had to get up and let Barbieri in. I wish he wouldn't tomcat around outside all night but he is, after all, a tomcat. If a somewhat poofty one since his, um, operation.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

No More Hangovers For A While

Sorry to disappoint my loyal nonexistent public, but I'm on the (gasp) wagon. Roll, roll, rollin' away, six days and counting. I'm tired of hangovers and I'm tired of getting totally fucked up piss drunk once a month (sometimes more) and making a fool of myself. Thanksgiving was the last straw, ugh.Also, I want to get skinny, and this cannot hurt.

So I signed up here where they don't, unfortunately, have a forum. They have an email list, so I signed up for that, and now, in two short days, the format is driving me completely insane. I'm getting, like, 60 emails a day, and I can't keep track of any threads. I tried it in digest version and it was just as bad if not worse. So I think I'll drop that, which is a pity, since I like the concept and I'm hoping it works. I am going to try not to drink until Christmas. . . I may or may not succeed, but I'm treating it like a diet: if I fall off, I'll just get back on. And I will try not to fall too far. I wish someone would make these people a forum, or a community blog, or something, but that person is not going to be me.

The only issue with sobriety, as far as I can see, is boredom. What do people who don't drink do all night? I have no clue how to socialize without alcohol or bars so I'm just staying home, surrounded by books (will update books list, you won't believe it, I can't help it, it's true) and going to bed early. This is working great so far - but I can see if I keep on like this I may get a little spooky, proverbial hermit in the cave kind of stuff.

M. is back at school, having tried to make me a carpal tunnel splint out of toilet paper, flame orange police caution tape and Q-tips. He played about 40 straight hours of Battlefield 1942 Secret Weapons and Warcraft, ate tons of turkey & sugar, so he went back to the hippies in good shape. All this kept me off the computer for about a week, which should have helped my arm, but doesn't actually seem to have done much. Damn.

I'm broke and it sucks, I haven't been laid in months and months and THAT sucks, so, in other words, same shit, different month. Happy December. Wahoooo!