Friday, February 22, 2008

Spider Detente

(Spoiler: Moderate gross factor. Proceed at your own peril.)

I don’t like spiders.

Intellectually, I understand how useful they are and, somewhat more vaguely, why etymologists get so wiggly about them, but that doesn’t stop the rush of fear based adrenaline that I feel when ever I see one. (Garg!) See, I used to have really scary dreams about spiders. I don’t want to freak anyone out, so I won’t mention that they had largely to do with spiders laying eggs in my eyeballs.

Oh… sorry.

But I have come a long way. Back in the day, I would frantically call to whomever was in earshot and command/beg them to dispose of the offending beast BY. ANY. MEANS. NECESSARY. But then came that pesky Buddhist thing about not harming other creatures, blah blah blah.

So the spider world and I came to an uneasy détente. I stopped commanding their destruction and they continued to be utterly unaware of my existence… Except in those little spider meetings where they talk about where to put the egg sack and all of that. Then I was prime real estate.

So I was hugely impressed with myself for living peacefully alongside a particularly creepy looking spider that took up residence in my bathroom. He (I say ‘he’ despite having no idea or desire to know what spider boy parts look like, but just because I thought it looked like a he. Look, I don’t know. OK?)… HE settled into a high corner of the slanted ceiling where it seemed unlikely that any spider molecules would fall on my toothbrush or anything, so I thought, “Fine. You just be sure to eat any skeeters if you see ‘em and you can stay.”

By the third day, I was feeling a little benevolence toward my eight legged buddy. I found myself looking for him each time I went into the bathroom – and not in an “is it going to bad-touch me” kind of way either. We were coexisting. Beautiful. Yay for me.

On day four, I was a bit taken aback to find that he had repositioned himself over my shower. Suddenly he was the unwelcome settler in my little porcelain Gaza strip. I showered uneasily, never taking my eyes off of him and almost hurling myself bodily out of the tub when he appeared to stumble at one point. Great. Nothing like being naked with a clumsy spider lurching around over your head.

But we made it through without incident. Wow. I was really getting good at this whole compassionate abiding thing.

The next morning, as I pulled back the shower curtain and my eyes traveled up to the ceiling…

(Insert here: screeching violin theme from Psycho)

… I saw two spiders. Or, really, the desiccated remains of one spider and another spider standing fatly over them.

(Skree! Skree! Skree! Skree!!!!)

Now I know as well as the next person that female spiders mate and then kill and eat the males. Or something. So either my spider had just had his innards sucked out of him or he was a she who was now joyously expecting the patter of a squillion little feet.

It didn’t matter. I had come so far.

I grabbed a broom and squashed her all by myself.

Ain't gonna be no egg sack, byotch... Ain't gonna be no egg sack.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Bungalow of Perdition

Somewhere in the vicinity of Dante’s Seventh Circle of Hell is The Bungalow of Perdition. This is a special hell for obsessive types. It’s unspeakable.

If you want to torture a perfectionist, I mean really torture them, stick them in a badly painted room with a can of Pratt and Lambert and a linty roller. Come back three days later and you will find them writhing in agony and sanding miniscule bumps off the ceiling.

In a funny coincidence, just yesterday I was sanding miniscule bumps off my own ceiling (I have a sander that hooks up to a shop vac so there is no dust!). Of course, I realize that this is a bit over-the-top, hence there was some rather spirited self-talk in the process.

This is ridiculous. I need to get down off this ladder and walk away… Oh. My. Gawd! That crack over there! Where is my Dremmel tool???… Just put the sandpaper down already… OK, just this one more little bump… and this one…

In my defense, I have to say that the people who owned this house before me (bless their hearts, etc.) were not exactly crack home-maintenance types. I imagine it was they who are responsible for the very sloppy paint jobs that are the source of my torment. I’m serious. They painted over EVERYTHING. Door knobs, switchplates, lint… I fully expect to come across a spider, sealed forever in mid-skulk in some LaBrea tar pit of cheery yellow latex.

Anyone remember the old décor idea of jamming candles into an empty bottle of Chianti and letting the wax drip down the sides? Yeah. That’s about what my walls look like (at least through the filter of my obsessive personality). Seriously, they are drippy. And don’t get me started on the trim. I’m mystified that anyone could do such a bad job. Were they wasted? Grossly sight impared?? Why, God, WHY???

I was reminded of a conversation that X and I had a long time ago with our very excellent therapist, Margie:

Margie: “So, you’re a bit of a perfectionist then.”
“I hardly think so”, scoff I.
Margie looks at me quizzically.
“Well, if I were a perfectionist, wouldn’t everything I did be perfect??”
Margie and X exchange glances.

There is a little known legend about Vampires that they are obsessive counters. I have often wondered if someone at the Children’s Television Workshop knew this or if it was just Sesame Street Serendipity that they came up with Count Count. Anwyay, folklore says that if a vampire were to come upon a bag of rice, it would have to count every grain before resuming pursuit of its now long-gone victim. Me? I can be suitably paralyzed with that can of Pratt & Lambert.

Anyway, I gotta go. Lots of sanding to do. My god, these people were savages.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Frivolous Friday. Why not?

I can write music!

Hawaii Five-Oh
Ba pa ba pa BAH bah ba pa ba pa baaaaaaa
Ba pa ba pa BAH BAAH, ba pa ba pa baaaaaaa!

SQUEET bwe de zoop dee bwee da de daaaa
BRREEET doodley-adah bwe da da da
bum pum ba pa baaah BAAAAH, zoop da da da DAAAAA!

Yeah. I can scat. What about it??

My cat can paint.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Words to live by

Someone sent me one of those sappy e-mails today.

You know the ones - toward the end, there is inevitably a line in which the author "had to hold back tears" due to some gesture or words from a noble stranger, preternaturally benovelent child, etc, etc. They always strike me as contrived and sacchrine.

O! Drippy Internet Wisdom! O! Chicken Soup for the Soul of the Glassy-Eyed Keyboard Kommando!

This stuff just grates on me. Apparently the writers who gave us "A very special episode of Blossom" now have too much time on their hands. I, on the other hand, am incredibly important and busy and have no time for this dreck ( no attention to the hypocritical woman behind this blog-o-curtian).

So I got this dopey e-mail. Not sure why I actually read it but, after I waded through the corny- corn of its literary manure, there was a kernel of meaning, and it was this:

Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain

My hackles went down a bit. I exhaled. I...I liked it!

I thought about so many friends old and new, and all of their storms, large and small; the Mayor's broken arm; Liv's Really Really Bad Week; M's marriage; my own marriage; friends who have lost spouses, parents and grandparents recently; the list goes on.

It's raining like hell out there, people.

That's it. I'm trading in my umbrella for some tap shoes. Who's with me??

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Feeney and the Cheese Man

One of the things I do obsessively is rescue animals. Dogs, typically. I don't do it on purpose, I swear. I think I have some infrared bat-signal that serves as a beacon to any stray dog within a 50 mile radius. I can't even go on a road trip without picking up a mutt off the side of the highway... (see Benny, right).

Usually they are adopted out fairly quickly. I had mister Ben for almost exactly one month before he was placed.
Whew! Now I only have FOUR dogs in the house again. Mm-hm. God bless you Swiffer company.

Then there's Miss Feeney, AKA Feefer-Neefers, AKA Fi-nay-nay, AKA Feestie Beastie, AKA Queen Feefertiti... you get the idea. She's more of a hard case. Perfectly sweet dog, but she's a pit bull, so everyone assumes she's just lying in wait to eat their children.

Everyone, that is, except the Cheese Man.

The Cheese Man lives next door with his wife. They are a very sweet, old-school southern couple of an indeterminate age (Paleolithic, I'd wager).

The Cheese Man, like all respectable old-school southern types, spends a prodigious amount of time sitting on his front porch in a standard-issue white plastic lawn chair. He always wears suspenders despite the fact that his pants go up to his armpits. Needless to say, I like the Cheese Man.

His wife, Missus Cheese Man, looks - and I say this with the deepest affection - like the dad from Frasier in a pink, quilted house coat. She has an impossibly small Yorkie named Cassie. So small, in fact, that Missus Cheese Man picks up Cassie's elfin "leavings" with a piece of Kleenex, invariably produced with a flourish from a pocket in the aforementioned house coat. (As a point of reference, I typically have to use a full-sized plastic shopping bag to clean up after my puppers.)

Each night at about the same time, I go for a walk with Feeney and my son (who, I hasten to add, is still in possession of his entire face and all ten fingers). Each night, the last thing we pass before coming home is the House of Cheese.

The Cheese Man loves Miss Feeney. When he was a younger man, there was a company dog named Copper at the lumber yard where he worked. She was a pit bull too and everyone there loved her. This was back in a time when pit bulls were America's dog. When their images were used in advertisements for everything from shoes to soap flakes.

Petey was a pit bull.

Sometime since then, pit bulls became Public Enemy Number One. They were stripped of their canine-ness much as victims of bigotry and hatred were stripped of their humanity. Sometime since then, they were relegated to the "Horrible Things We Have No Control Over" category along with the Ebola Virus, Terrorists, Tabloids and Space Aliens.

In most cases, pit bulls get a lot worse from us then we get from them.

This is the life that Feeney led before I got her. She was living on a chain in a mud-soaked holler surrounded by forty other dogs, also chained. She was half starved, scarred, mangy, in the advanced stages of heatworm disease, and had clearly been popping out puppies faster than a cash machine can dispense a pile of twenties (girlfriend got her some NIPS!)

Still, she absolutely loves people. She's a shameless flirt.

When I walk her in certain neighborhoods, as she looks optimistically up at an approaching family and gamely wags her tail, the parents will clutch their children and flee in terror, looking at me as if I were brandishing a shotgun.

But not the Cheese Man. Everytime we see him, he breaks into a big grin and says, "Now there's that bull dawg!"

The Cheese Man loves Miss Feeney. Miss Feeney loves the Cheese Man. As soon as we round the corner, she abandons her sterling obedience training and hauls me up the lawn. I trail behind as helpless and insignificant as a tin can tied to the bumper of a Mac Truck.

As if on cue, the Cheese Man bellows "Becky! Bring me a slice of American Cheese for that bull dog!" (In the local patois, it sounds like "Beggeah! Brang meah slahs ah Umericun chayz fo' that buuull dawg!").

Feeney's eyes light up. She hurls her little body into a sit with her chin poised millimeters from the Cheese Man's knees. She vibrates with joy.

And, as Missus Cheese Man pads up to the door to produce a pristinely wrapped slice of American Cheese, the Cheese Man gets a happy, far-away look in his eyes and asks my son and me if he's ever told us about that old bull dog, Copper.

Miss Feeney

Monday, February 11, 2008

Finding My Voice

When I fired up my cell phone Sunday morning, there was a text message from X which was clearly not intended for me, but for his shiny new girlfriend. “I MISS YOU, etc” (caps and all). Whaddaya fekkin kidding me??

I’ve spent the past two days sorting through our stuff in the basement and recoiling every time I came across a couple-y photo, an “I will love you forever, I promise” note, and sixteen metric tons of wedding crap (where did this stuff all come from??). X’s text did not come at the most opportune time.

Oddly, I was initially more bemused then upset. When he called later to see if he could come pick up some stuff, I mentioned his little faux pas. His response was a consternated, “Well, the phone didn’t tell me it did that.” Way to step in and take responsibility, pal. Hey waiter, send over a compassion salad for this guy!

So I stewed.

I grumbled.

I festered.

I took what was left of his crap in the upstairs closet, jammed it into a couple of boxes, and dumped it by the front door.

Finally, after he had come, collected his things, and was getting ready to leave the house I turned to him and said, “I need you to do something for me. I know that text message was a mistake, but would you please tell me that you’re sorry?”

“I didn’t??”

(shaking head)

“I’m so sorry. I know you didn’t need to see that.”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

It was a little thing, but it was a big thing. It was nice that he apologized with what seemed like real sincerity, but what mattered more was that I spoke up for myself and simply communicated what I needed. I was still sad after he left, but I wasn’t wound up anymore.

I realized that I had found something else. Something I have missed terribly. My voice.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Divvying for the dumped

One of the inconvenient things about breaking up with a live-in mate is divvying up the stuff. I had no idea I had so many photos... of him. Argh. And a squillion cards and letters from him professing undying love and so forth. BLARRRGGGGGHHH!!!

But, while each of these little finds causes immediate and momentarily paralyzing apoplexia, I am also finding lots of endearing letters from the second-to-last love of my life. Huh... Funny how time will do that. As a result of this little revelation, I haven't pitched all of the most recent ex's letters (and remaining posessions) into a firey heap in the backyard and danced around it, half-naked and covered in war paint. Well, that and the home owners' association. I think they would frown on the whole primal-screaming/bonfire thing.

The little lagniappe, no, the big hot chocolate fudge sundae of this process is that I have miraculously unearthed a trove of letters to and from some of my dearest - and funniest - friends from circa 1992. This is back when some of us had crappy desk jobs and lots of time to entertain each other.

Here's a sample passage from a letter to J, Febuary 18, 1992:

OK, so it's not like I never pig out, but one thing I do exclusively when my hormones are not in conjunction with my rising venus is buy fashion magazines and take them very seriously. I knew it was going to happen. I was standing in line with a few simple items: cat litter, toothpaste and sandwich bags - very safe - when, and I swear this was
beyond my control, I saw an article in the March Mademoiselle about the six steps to fitness. The hairs on the back of my neck started to rise as, with dawning horror, I saw my hand lash out and snatch it right off the rack! In front of everyone! I begged it to put the magazine away and pick up something respectable, like the Reader's Digest or the Enquirer, but then I heard the pages whispering sweet nothings to me, promising that I too could be twelve feet tall and have yards of legs and go to important parties in bustiers and not look udderly ridiculous. I was helpless.

Fashion has always tossed back its impressively quaffed head and laughed its lusty laugh at the seersucker voice of Reason. Then it gives Reason a makeover.

Interestingly, two things that have not changed - ok, make that three - fashion magazines are saying exactly the same crap, I still get that pinwheel-eyed drugged out response when I actually pick one up, and I'm STILL buying cat litter for and scooping the copius poop of the same obnoxious (and shockingly old) cat.

Tomorrow: The Cat From Hell.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The fast train to enlightenment

And then, as suddenly as it had all started, it was over. The eleven white robots ascended through the seething cloud in a tight formation, and with a few last flashes of flame entered the bowels of their hovering white ship, which, with the noise of a hundred thousand people saying "foop", promptly vanished into the thin air out of which it had wopped.

-Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Welcome (she said, conspiratorially rubbing her hands together). The statement above could easily be paraphrased to describe the tail end of my marriage. In retrospect, it was clearly coming, but it ultimately arrived much more quickly and dramatically than I could have expected, as if the train flying toward me through the tunnel was not very far away after all, but in fact simply a miniscule headlight mounted on a massive, impressively fast, and very solid engine. This realization would begin form in the brain about two nanoseconds before it was pulverized by said train.

The world is a wibbly-wobbly place for the recently dumped, in which a person's state of mind can very quickly be yanked from its philosophical, Zenlike state of compassionate abiding (ok, so I'm not really Zenlike, but that's what I'm shooting for, OK??) into God knows what extremes of emotional weirdness and ick.

I got The Yanktm tonight in the (racka-bracka micky ficky) card aisle at Target. In my version of the story, the aisles were packed to the seams, like something out of a Terry Gilliam movie, with soppy, sweet Valentine's day cards that actually whispered to each other and smirked at me as I innocently walked by.

Damn you greeting card companies! Damn you all to hell!!

I was unsuccessful in finding an appropriately Bitter Party of One card, so I left in disgust, wheeling my 30 pound box of cat litter ("5 pounds free!") off to the checkout. Existentially speaking, not the best moment.

But I am tying oh so hard to be mature and philosophical about the whole thing. As I said to a friend of mine, whose wife pulled the rug out from under him just weeks before my husband did it to me, "I'm reading a lot of Pema Chodron. It helps me enormously. Ohmmmmmmm."

His response made me laugh. Hard. "I'm impressed at your positive attitude and studious reading. I cannot begin to claim to be that profound as yet. To paraphase you, 'I am drinking alot of chardonay. It helps me enormously. Blarhfhfyidjgj.'"

So many paths to enlightenment.