An old college friend is in town from L.A. with her squishy new baby boy, Wyatt. I went this morning — without my own children, thank you Andy– to hug her/ squeeze him at another friend’s house, out in a very nice part of our city’s edge where there are lots of trees and hills and massive houses and personal space and Baptists and Republicans. And as I drove home, I had a whiny, jealous period that sounded a little bit like meh meh space and meh meh wooded lot and meh meh laundry room and meh meh grown ups, etc. And then I got off on my exit and wiggled my 18 blocks into the heart of my own neighborhood, and came upon a cop directing traffic around a massive gathering of men in red dresses and formal gowns, milling about between fun run and pub crawl. I realized that one of them was our metro councilman, who turned around and waved at me right after I took this picture.
And then I smacked my forehead and said, “this is home.”
Working from Home:
WOW, my friends. It’s everything I dreamed it could be. And I just learned how to nurse in the moby, so YEAH. One sweet month of livin ‘ the dream before I’m back to wearing real pants, remembering my key code and doing my designated week of office kitchen duty. That’s gonna hurt.
She Has a Home
Mystery solved: neighborhood-wandering chicken (who survived the cold snap! aw snap!) is the tragic result of a chicken escape that happened to my corner neighbors. Except the chicken was to be a gift, so the neighbors aren’t exactly eager to get her back, as they never intended to own her. They tell me that the only way to catch a chicken is to wait until it’s asleep and then sneak up on it and grab it, so… not bloody likely. Looks like I’ll be cleaning chicken shit off my sidewalk for a good long while, or until the chicken meets with whatever natural predators a chicken might encounter 18 blocks from the smack-middle of a major metropolitan area. I must say it satisfies my country-livin’ yearnings to see her pecking and scratching around outside the kitchen window every morning.
And speaking of urban living:
My friend J. recently tried to help me understand why in the holy hell one would live 30 miles away from one’s workplace, explaining that he really didn’t mind his super long-ass commute to work, or the traffic, or the fact that he puts in the equivalent of almost one extra work day each week just getting there and back. He said that on that very morning, he had left his subdivision and continued his commute through a stretch of hills and farmland, where a light morning fog was just beginning to lift over the giant, stoic hay bales dotting the fields. And something about a deer or a fox or a magical unicorn that inspired him to turn up the Dave Matthews, sip his Starbucks Mochachino and really JAM.
One morning, I saw a dude gracefully drop trou and take a shit in a garbage can on the Main Street Bridge, like it was nothing. Salut!
Things go missing sometimes:
I almost surely popped a box of granola bars in the library drop box along with my library books by mistake. (Hey, it happens.) Later, there was some discrepancy at the Library about books I had not returned, which I swore up and down I had returned. I defended my honor by stating that I absolutely remembered returning those books, because I returned them with a box of granola bars! See!?! DO YOU NOT REMEMBER MY GRANOLA BARS, LIBARY GUY? WERE THEY DELICIOUS? HUH? WERE THEY?
And then, I found the books under Birdy’s bed. And the granola bars in the car.
And showed my true crazy to the library guy in one short vignette.
Pretty Much What I Expected When I Said I’d Bear his Children:
This weekend I walked in on A. in the living room drinking a bloody mary, dancing around with Birdy and watching the Humpty Dance on YouTube. A true peach, my friends.
I do have an excuse. I haven’t been writing because I haven’t really been awake for 3-ish months. Completely exhausted and sick as a damn dog and hardly able to construct a quick email sentence about whether or not I am available for a conference call. I mostly needed to be in a quiet and more private space for a bit while I wrapped my brain first around surviving the day and on a bigger scale, the impending whiz-bang close to 2009. At which time, I will be a mama to TWO. 12/13/09, baby. I can’t (and won’t) say we’re ready or that we know how we’re going to swing this, but it’s what we want and it’s good. We’ll know what to do when we do it. Things always come together and I’m just trying to pay attention to the signs and opportunities. The excitement is different and more peaceful this time.
One of my to-do lists currently includes the item, “list of demands.” I have no idea what I meant when I wrote that, but I like knowing that, at some point, my demands may be met if I would only submit them in list form.
I shopped at a grocery store in the college neighborhood on Monday. It was heaven: clean, bright interior, landscaped parking lot, well-stocked shelves and Fage yogurt availability. I was asked –MORE THAN TWO times– not for change or cigarettes but if I could be helped in my food search (the staff must have sensed my wide-eyed wonder). There was actual eye contact as my food was passed over the scanner by the kind hands of a Harris Teeter associate, and polite conversation, even an offer to help me to my car with my seven very manageable bags– an offer that, admittedly, first tripped my initial “DO NOT follow me to my car, M*f*kr” defense before I realized there is also a HELPFUL kind of following, not just the creepy, “can I have a ride” kind. The icing on the cake? This particularly well-lit, friendly grocery is open until ELEVEN o’clock– hardly noteworthy to some, but the dingy yellow ghetto groceries close at 9pm due to the sometimes unsavory late night patrons, and visiting at 8:30 leaves you waiting to pay for your mealy, pink tomato in the one open checkout lane, inhaling the scent of a 7-pack per day smoker as she unloads an entire cart of Hungry Man dinners onto the belt while behind you, a ferociously strong person gives you the crazy eye, all of us prepared to accept complete indifference from the disgruntled check out girl with tattoos on her neck who will hear the sound of a dozen eggs being crushed under a watermelon as she bags your items, and throw your tortilla chips in the mix, just for good measure.
Shopping until eleven, like it’s the most normal thing in the world. The luxury of it! After a lovely dinner out with old friends, I entered the friendly and well-lit grocery at 8:30pm, childless and free to roam about among the micro-brews and the bok choy, the non-sticky floors and pleasant, non-gaggy smells. It was like a past life. It was like checking into a spa. A spa with more than one kind of yogurt.
So Wednesday, as I pull in to my driveway and prepare to unload the massive amount of shit necessary to sustain me at work and Bird at daycare, my 10-year-old neighbor, Littel, comes running into the yard.
“You still got my litterbox?”
I don’t even have one foot out of the car yet.
“I need my litterbox back. I’m getting a new cat next week.”
Oh, right. Littel’s former cat, Brownie, ran away last fall. Being a sweet kid at his core, he brought over Brownie’s litterbox, all cleaned out and ready to receive more disgusting cat shit.
He wanted to know if we might need it for Thomas.
Having used the same litterbox for nine years, we accepted.
“Littel, that litterbox is full of poop. I don’t think you want it.”
“Can’t you just clean it out?”
“Do you have the cat right now?”
“No. My friend has it. I’m getting it in a couple days.”
“I’m just going to have to get a new one for you. I’m not cleaning that thing out. Besides, we don’t exactly have another litterbox on hand.”
You know, since I wasn’t aware this was a loan. CAT BOXES ARE NOT LOANER ITEMS in my world.
“Well, okay, but I need that litterbox back.”
Littel ran back down the hill into his house. I got my nine bags of various shit plus preschooler plus the day’s preschool artwork out of the car.
Two minutes later, he was back, knocking on our door.
“I need my scooper back.”
“My scooper. I need it back.”
“Littel. I’m telling you. It’s covered in poop. I don’t think you want it back.”
“Wash it off, then. I need it.”
“DO YOU EVEN HAVE A CAT??”
“Not right now, but I’m going to. My mama says she can’t find that same scooper no more at KMart.”
I tell him to hold on. I grab the shit-covered scooper and hand it to him as-is, caked with stinky, vile cat shit.
“There’s your scooper. I’ll get you a new litterbox tomorrow.”
“Well, I’m not getting the cat for a few days.”
“DO I OWE YOU A LITTERBOX OR NOT”
I close the door. I tell A. to buy the f-ing kid an f-ing litterbox, and vow never, ever to exchange goods– even shitboxes– with a ten-year-old again. And the thing is? It was undoubtedly Crazy M that sent him over to take back his litterbox in the first place. This is the same woman that sent him over to bang on our door at 11pm because someone was parked in “her” parking spot on the PUBLIC STREET, the woman who “gave” A. a pair of sneakers for Birdy, which were ugly and unsafe but which A. accepted so as not to hurt her feelings, and then sent Littel over the next day demanding $10 for the f-ing things. Gah. I could go on.
I know, I know. If we lived in nice, sterile, non-ghetto suburbia I’d still have a crazy neighbor, probably some busybody all up in my business or ferociously wanting to sell me some Mary Kay or wanting me to remove the one-winged gargoyle from the front porch (true) or getting all concerned about my country backyard clothesline*. But I live in a colorful little “emerging” neighborhood, and I have Crazy M and Littel, Drunken Teacher, Big Marvin, Friendly Hispanic Mechanic, and the Flower Sisters. And truthfully, I’ll take them over a buttoned-down cul-du-sac any day of the week. Even if it costs me a cat box every now and again, I guess. But I’m going to be pissed off for a while. And it doesn’t help that Littel just picked about 8 gorgeous-but-still-very-green tomatoes from my garden.
*Still diggin’ the clothesline, by the way. Most people I’ve told about it seem very excited, though maybe they’re just being kind. When a very senior-level person at work heard about it she said, “like, in your backyard?” Like I was slaughtering chickens in a voodoo ritual in the alley or something. Which I am not. Because I am vegetarian, and because I would not risk getting chicken guts on my crisp, clean sheets as they’re hanging out to dry.
With Birdy strapped into her “drive bike” we pedaled to the library to pick up a book A. had requested, to the bike shop to get a new helmet for the now-preschool-sized head, and to the old-timey hardware store with the lazy cats in the window for a big honkin’ bag of clothespins. And that was a pretty good time.
During one of my epic whines to A. about moving to the country, he explained that while he loves the big green leafy peace of the rural midwest/ southeast as much as the next guy, he feels more comfortable as a part of a big living breathing community where the constant motion and contact of the parts keeps the whole thing sputtering along, taking care of itself. And you know, I agree with that just as much as I want to can vegetables and let my dogs and children run their little legs off without a fence or a sidewalk in sight. And yesterday satisfied my need for urban opportunities and small-town insulation, all within 7 blocks.
Welcome to my life: it’s all indecision and restlessness and greener grass just around the corner sometimes. Admittedly, it’s when I’ve got ants in the pants about some other, separate issue.
AND. To the anonymous donor who turned over his/ her bread machine to the Goodwill where it was sold to me for $12 :
Thank you, thank you, thank you for donating the instruction manual as well.
Look what came to my backyard this weekend!
Want to hang your spouse’s skivvies up for your neighbors to admire? One super awesome feature of this little beauty is that you only cement a little plastic sleeve in your yard, giving you the option to pluck the whole thing out of the ground and store it when you’re not using it. Also awesome: comes fully assembled. Thanks to my most greenest C.S. for the recommendation. (And to my most helpfulest A. for the cementing.)
Conversation with my nine-year-old neighbor from across the street:
Dude, did your uncle just drive up and give you money?
Man, that’s the easiest two dollars I ever made. All I had to do was get up early and pee in a cup so he could take it to work.
Conversation with my daughter over breakfast:
Birdy, watch out! You almost spilled your milk.
Mama, don’t freak up.
What I saw today down the street at Wayne’s Unisex, the haircut place that hasn’t changed one bit since, oh, about 1979, and is probably the last place you’d think to take a two-year-old for a haircut, but it is so cheap and just so awesome in there:
Skinny old droopy guy, pretty tall, with paper-white hair.
Cut in the most fabulously long mullet I have ever seen.
A six hundred year old woman was trimming the “party” part straight across, which came almost down to his non-existent old-man butt.
I do not kid.
You know, for being a pretty handsome guy, he’s not very photogenic. So I picked the most bizarre shot (a little Picassoey with all the legs, right?) to give you an idea of the Bear’s new summer ‘do and the distinct line between head (not shaved) and body (totally shaved).
This is a somewhat terrible photo of what we like to call “the curler.” When Big D gets nice and worked up, like during a thunderstorm as in this case where he nearly tried to climb into the bath with Bird, he curls his ears up in this super bizarre way, like little bat wings. The vet says he’s never seen anything like it.
So this was the plan for today: Wake, eat, shower, daycare drop-off, cat to the vet, purchase dog food, home, do dishes, studystudystudy. And while some of those things did indeed happen, it didn’t exactly go that way. Once I found myself out and about in the world with no real agenda, a day to myself just seemed too good to pass up. And even now, I’m sitting here feeling kind of guilty about it, because I didn’t complete my list, because I parked my kiddo at daycare so I could spend the morning tra-la-la-ing around doing nothing. But hey, today was Music Class for the toddlers AND share-box day (think show and tell), and she was all jazzed up to go. While I was still full of good intentions about my planned Friday accomplishments, we stopped at the bakery down the street and sat at the window while we ate our sweet treats and talked about cars and dogs and I was instructed to USE BOTH HANDS, MAMA when taking a drink of my coffee. Um, every time. And there was pointing.
2. Also from Bird a few long rants about someone named Jason and how he “Just can’t stop,” an emotional description involving large hand gestures with her palms out toward you in a “stop right there” kind of motion. No idea what she means, but she means it.
3. An excellent impromptu Girls’ night with three of my favorite ladies. (Okay, that wasn’t weekend, that was earlier, but still worth a mention.)
4. Falling in love with my city a little bit more at our Public Library, stopping in to check out some books for Bird and happening upon a really fantastic puppet show adaptation of John Updike’s A Child’s Calendar. I know– you’re thinking of people crouched down with hand puppets behind a little red box making stupid voices, but our downtown library has a really wonderful children’s theater staffed with professional puppeteers and everything. Running commentary for everyone’s learning pleasure during the performance was provided by Bird:
“It’s dark now. There’s the guy. There’s the other guy. The guy is talking. There’s a squirrel!” And so on.
5. Falling in love with my neighborhood a little bit more at our new fab Wine Merchant just right over there around the corner… un-snooty with the friendly wealth of wine information and un-ghetto with the absence of crack addicts and lotto ticket sales/ check cashing services. A true first in liquor stores for our patch of the metro area.
6. My husband knows all (and I mean ALL) of the words to Skid Row’s I remember you. Still. And I got to hear every one of them in the car Saturday afternoon while he pointed out a new hole in his jeans:
A: Hey, check this out. (in bad-guy voice, as if he were leaning up against the side of my high school, showing off a full pack of smokes and a fifth of Jack Daniel’s.)
Me: Your pants? What about your pants?
Me: Is that the corner of your pocket sticking out of a hole in your pants?
A: Yep. check it out.
And that? THAT is what a Skid Row song can do to a person, almost twenty years later.
7. Falling in love a little bit more (or at least making up) with our house. It sounds so simple, but removing a rug that smells like a dog’s ass can make the biggest difference in your desire to want to spend time in a place.
8. Last-minute dinner with friends on Saturday further confirms that we don’t need to move to Indiana to be close to family, that our chosen family here in Tennessee– while not a substitute for our nearest and dearest– is pretty near and dear in its own way, and in some ways even nearer and dearer.
9. Bought the teensiest tree at the Farmers’ Market, put it up, decorated it. It’s tiny but fits just fine, considering we’ll spend so much of this Christmas holiday on the road.
10. Three solid days inside my real life makes my work life look pretty unappealing by comparison.
Almost failed Nablopomo on my second day, but look at me! Not failing!
Today, Bird had her first real haircut– a little buster brown hairdo, cute as a button. No pictures yet, because she was awarded a tootsie pop by the beauty shop lady, and therefore had no nap because she was high on sugar, so I had no shower. Which matters not. I didn’t take pictures because she has been a grouch.
I visited a patient in a very small (and CUTE) town in Kentucky on Wednesday, and I started feeling my small-town itch (contrary to popular belief, the small-town itch is not something that gets passed around the cheerleading squad and the football team). I’m from a little burg, and sometimes I feel like I should be again. Like my family should be from a small place, because in my life, that’s where families come from.
But then I start looking around for kids’ haircut places online and get all caught up in some Sniparoo chain out by the mall where you pick from a menu of haircuts and they distract/ overstimulate/ snack your child into submission while they cut the hair. And I decide, “fuck it, we’re going to Wayne’s Unisex Salon on the big street across from Mrs. Winner’s.” And we walk in to a true, old-style beauty salon, where everybody’s gossiping and sitting under helmet-dryers, and an old lady named Elaine pulls out a big padded booster seat so Birdy can sit in the special chair while she darts in and out of Bird’s wee blonde mop with her scissors (with lightning accuracy for an old lady and a moving target, I might add), and everybody coos and pokes at Bird and makes a fuss. It might as well have been Littlesburg, Indiana, population 4000, where I grew up. And I think about the nice Egyptian guys that run the corner market and give me shit for smoking, and how I can walk to the post office, the grocery, daycare, and the library. And I realize I DO live in a small town, smack in the middle of this bustling city. And Birdy might actually get to be friends with a non-white child before college. AND I can buy beer on Sundays. So I’d say we’re doing pretty well.
A couple of days ago, while I was in the office by myself for a long and boring day, I turned around to look out the window behind me and saw a giant turkey staring at me from the back yard of our building. He just walked around for about an hour, stretching his wings and pecking at the grass.
The next day, I saw a very large hawk in the backyard, flying from tree to tree and swooping around between them, sometimes standing on the fence or in the yard.
The next day, I saw the turkey and the hawk together in the yard. Not playing croquet or anything, just both at the same time.
What does it all mean? Because those are both large birds, and large birds are harbingers and omens. A sign of something. A sign that I will be job-free by summer, perhaps? A sign that I need psychotropic medication to stop the hallucinations?
I’m going to give you a glimpse into the un-glamorous world of living in an Urban Neighborhood. For all its cute shops and hipster bars and internet groups and community gardens and Priuses, my neighborhood still has its unsavory residents, and I do live across the street from a row of duplexes that some might find… er… shady. So the other night, around 4am, a car alarm goes off. I look out the window and see the lights flashing but nothing else, so I say a whole rosary of “mother fuckers” and go back to bed. In the morning, I saw this:
Obviously it wasn’t random, and there have been some yelling matches and the cops over there on occasion. And the woman who owns the car seemed barely bothered the next morning, which I found a little shocking. I don’t feel personally threatened by it, though I don’t like the thought that people were being so malicious so close to my peacefully sleeping family. Welcome to the ‘hood, y’all.
Bird is up to three and four word sentences, like “baby. clothes. off” and “keys. door. go.” and “cat. box. poop.” She can also count to four and sing bigger and bigger chunks of her songs by herself. She stands on a chair in the kitchen and helps me make quesadillas. And so many milestones I envision off in the future somewhere are played out right before my very eyes when I go to pick her up at daycare and she is scooting around in circles on a tricycle. Propelled Fred Flinstone-style, but still. I had no idea she was so big. And she has her own life, in a way, which is so strange, and even stranger is that I am not completely heartbroken about that part of it.
The Clubhouse Climber that my parents bought Bird for Christmas has arrived. In two gigantic boxes on a pallet taking up half of our garage. It is frickin huge and it is going to be frickin sweet.
Now, here is a picture of Bird having a lovely breakfast conversation with Thomas, added to this post to make up for the picture of the Hoe car: