Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I'm Too Sexy For My Blogpost

When I think of the word “maintenance” my mind conjures up so many different images.  What a word, what an assignment, a real task, a chore.  I actually have to “think” and for one who finds it almost impossible to focus these days, that is such a tall order. Why did we chose it for our "Creative Chat" group prompt?  How did we let that happen in the first place.  What a bunch of nit wits we are....or are we?

Maintenance.  Maintenance people.  People who maintain something, somewhere, somehow.  Work.  I’ve always had a respect for “work”.  Found it hard to see work, done by others, abused.  I’m the kind of person who has to tidy up a public restroom.  I tidy it up because I find it hard to imagine being the person who has the job of tidying up the restroom.  That person’s job, not one that we encourage our children to aspire to one day.  Menial perhaps, but all work has dignity, even if the job is flushing toilets for those who thought it beneath them in more than one way.  I always flush.  I always make sure that the toilet tissue goes where it is meant to go which leads me to a very funny memory of my life as a young sophisticate and probably explains a lot about my respect work philosophy
I remember it so well.  Funny, because I've forgotten most of everything but this, I can still recall vividly.  I was wearing a brown dress. Wool.  Fringed at the hemline, straight skirt.  I was all of 17 and was a nursing student.  I was on a train that departed from Boston, going home to New York for the weekend. I can still see the car on the train.  Old. Dark. Crowded.  Kind of narrow.  I got up from my seat feeling oh, so very grown up and elegant.  I was one hot shot on my way to where, I still do not know.  Am I even there yet?  I digress.  Back to the babe in the cocoa brown dress that I was sure everyone on that train thought was amahzzing.  Me.  Seventeen.  On a train from Boston to New York.  An hour or so into the trip I sashayed on to the ladies room for a quick pee.  Oh Jesus, I am really too sexy for my dress. 

I’m on my way back to my seat.  Sexy me.  Sophisticate.  World traveler, all of seventeen.  Alone, of course.  I’m grown up.  I live in Cambridge, not far from Harvard Square.  I’m the envy of everyone on the train and I know it.  They’re all eyes now.  I am rocking my frock and my high heels are taking me back to my seat on the train from Boston to New York.  Dreamy.  I can’t even imagine what life has in store for me.  Oh, I’m sure that life will have to open a whole new store for this tootz in the brown wool sheath.  Box stores were not even on the radar but I know I inspired them.  Really big time.  Soooooophisticated and yet, just seventeen.

They’re all silent now.  They’re bored by the lack of scenery as the train passes into the night.  They’re finished with their crossword puzzles and the newspaper headlines are a thing of the past.  Some of them are even drinking now.  Most of them are men, lots of them, college men, doing what I’m doing…..going to New York for the weekend.  Oh, am I ever glad I wore this particular dress and those pumps.
What?  It cannot be happening.  No, I’m dreaming.  Get me out of here quick!!!  Oh noooooo, it did not happen to me.  Please tell me that the little old lady in the fifth row of seats did NOT just shout, loud and clear, inviting all within earshot to look up and then immediately, down and listen.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Rug Doctor

That big day is here again!  It's the one that comes at least twice a year.  The one that causes me to sit and stare. Befores and afters.  It's the morning of the evening before the morning of the ooohs and aaahs and thank you so much Honey for doing that.  It was so badly needed.  I didn't know how much we needed it. That is.....until.....I see the first full container of filthy, dirty, brackish water being dumped from the rented object of my deepest affection, The Rug Doctor.

It seems like just yesterday that I was doing this dance, singing the joyful chorus to the big, bulky, orange colored machine and the strong, loving husband who shared my need for clean and took it on.  But, the need to do it again so soon was accelerated when I ever so gently hit my coffee-mug-filled hand on the back of the desk chair a week or two ago.  It was a slow motioned, brilliantly executed maneuver.  It was like watching the opening of a Stanley Kubrick film or a documentary on the Milky Way Galaxy.  Particulate of coffee, flying into space, falling on a radius that exceeded an "oh shit!" and earned a full fledged "fuck, fuck, fuck!" as I followed my nemesis from careless start to horrific finish.  The coffee spots, what seemed like hundreds of them, ranged in size, the smaller ones on the outside radius, the largest, I mean really large one, right at my feet. Dark. Wet. Dripping down the sides of the beloved piece of  furniture that was in the upper range of target.  I tried, really tried, to make it all disappear.  I blotted, scrubbed and scrubbed some more over the course of the next week.  I did not ask for help, even though I knew that Joe would be more than willing. He's some kind of god and never as cute as when he utters the words "I'm glad I wasn't the one who did that Lynn". Once in a while, he gets to do just that.

So today is the perfect summer day for getting the job done.  No humidity.  Not too hot. Joe's in his glory.  Not that he particularly enjoys hard physical work after the physical work he does so well all week long. But, we do share the love of a clean carpet and we also love that affirming moment when, during the process of emptying the intake water container, we can turn to each other and say, with love in our eyes....."gee, Hon,what do dirty people do?"

Friday, August 16, 2013

Have Flip Flops, Will Travel

There's a new gang in town and beware, they just look sweet and inexperienced. But, trust me, they are a lot older than they appear and they are a force to be reckoned with.  They're the Roadhouse Writers and they're simply fabulous.

My story starts on a Tuesday morning, two weeks ago.  I'm at my gal pal Loie's house, having coffee while Modpodging my Keds with three other fabulous women who are also cutting and pasting.  Nothing unusual for us.  We do this from time to time.  From behind my shoulder comes a swoop of the Red Lion and the words "HERE, this is for YOU" as she places the newspaper ad she's clipped for me down in between the "stuff" on my corner of the table.  Why, it's another "Lois" and, be still my heart, this one's offering a writing "bootcamp", calling to action those who love flip flops.  So, first of all, I'm flattered and delighted that my friend Loie validated my love of writing classes (maybe she thinks I really need them?) and then, I'm all eyes for the tabloid  clip that is now sitting on my empty scone plate. I'll go anywhere as long as I can wear flip flops.

By that very same afternoon, I found myself with a fait accompli.  All signed up for Lois Cahall's "Bootcamp in Flip Flops" and raring to go.  How could I have resisted?  Lois was a local gal gone BIG and she came back to town just in time.  I needed bootcamp very badly but had no idea how very much I did at that time. I sent my payment, got a nice note from Lois and polished my flip flops.  How bad could it be, and even if it were, the opportunity to meet new writer friends and to actually see the inside the Roadhouse restaurant, overtook any doubts that would have prevented me from following this impulse.

I've just completed my nine hours of bootcamp.  Day One.  Six of us seated at a table in a dark and somewhat stuffy, otherwise empty bistro.  We looked like we had all assembled for a mutual friend's memorial service.  Our future teacher told us to be there at 9 A.M. sharp and so we were.  But where was she?  We took the time to introduce ourselves.  I wrote their names in my notebook so that maybe this once, I would actually remember them before the last day of class.  Cursory introductions.  We've all been writing,  We all knew that it was just a matter of hours before the "real" introductions would come.  They always do. We'll go from "Hi, I'm Lynn and I live in South Yarmouth" to visceral, gutty stuff that brings tears and tissues to the table.  Alas, I have digressed (I rarely use that expression so indulge me)......Five minutes after the sharp starting time, Lois Cahall entered the room and the new pages of my life started to turn.

I came to the conclusion by the second day, that Lois is a gal who likes grand entrances.  She is a teller of stories so it's hard to tell if she is telling the truth about her delay or if she simply cannot help herself when it comes to an audience of potential admirers.  I'm not sure I like her at the end of the first day.  She had us go around the table and introduce ourselves.  Long introductions that were both who I am and who are you.  She probed and drew conclusions.  She interspersed lots and lots of details about her own life in ways that most women, were they at a social event, would have found cause to visit the ladies room and not return.  It seemed that for every detail she got from the new students, she had the need to "top" that and everything else and we, the group, weren't quite sure why. But, she was open and honest.  No, I'm not going into details.  Words that are spoken or written in such a circle stay withing that circle and that is the essence of why it is safe to write, if only as an exercise for healing a wound. Openness and honesty are key.

By Day Two, we had completed the three hours of introductions and we were starting to discover why we had spent a third of our tuition on this exercise in the first place.  Not sure if it was intentional, but it seemed that Lois gave us "identities" on that first day that we were determined to prove wrong on Day Two.  The stories now found ways to jump off our pages and wow!  She was a tough task-master but she did succeed in getting to the viscera and we all accepted the challenge.  Off to the slaughterhouse we went and there we remained. More life stories from the teacher.  We slowly accepted her authenticity and embraced the fact that she also was a woman in a group of women.....tissues for issues.  More life stories from the students and time to blow their covers.  No "ordinary" group of six were we.  We're all sworn to secrecy but each of us deserves at least one chapter in a future beach read.

Day Three brought pages to the table that were amazing.  Some of us got huge smiles from Lois who delighted in having brought it all home.  Some got hugs. We all got lessons. From not so sure I like her to I love this adorable woman.  She's a keeper.  A new friend.  All the qualities.  Sincerity and honesty.  Cheerleader in sexy summer wear.  Lovely inside and out.  But then, so are my five new friends.  Talented writers.  Experienced in the art of life and willing to share in spoken and written words.  Sincere, open, honest.  No coincidence that we were together.  It all worked so well.  Writing groups have to click or they don't work.  Group members have to trust each other or they won't write.

Each and every time I take a class, I learn something.  I hope that one day, the cumulative efforts will pay off and I will have all the skills that I need to write effortlessly.  Maybe one day, I will take the information I just learned about writing a pitch letter to an agent or a magazine editor.  I'm not sure that will ever happen but for now, I'm writing for the pure pleasure of it and I know that the "Roadhouse Writers" will stick together and continue to share what validates each of us.  Secrets are safe but I will tell you this......Lois was a full ten minutes late to the last class.  She'd love nothing better than my saying this....

"Lois Cahall, you're such a NAUGHTY girl!!!!"

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Rights and Wrongs

The other day, as I was completing one of my "projects" that involves an old pair of Keds, a lot of glue and the funny pages (photo later), I needed to find two simple words that would be cut out and glued.  So, I skimmed through about a dozen print publications, looking for these two words with the hope that they would perhaps appear in a title or somewhere in the body of an article and be large enough for my need.  The words?  "Right" and "Wrong".  How hard could that be, given that I had selected a variety of magazines and back copies of The Wall Street Journal ?  Well, it took me two days.

I guess it is no longer politically correct to use the words I was seeking.  Am I surprised?  Not really.  New age reasoning does not allow for the use of the word "right".  The word implies that there is a correct manner in which to do something, God forbid.  Ooops....I just used the "G" word.  Rules?  Dream on.  That brings me to the word "wrong".  Out on a limb I go here.  Look out, I'm going to jump off the cliff.  Yes, people, there are some things that are "wrong", despite what your children and grandchildren are telling you.

It used to be so "right" to say "thank you".  I've just about given up on this one.  Have you ever thought of the "perfect" gift for a friend, found it, ordered it and presented it only to have a grunt that might,  if you really try hard to hear it, sound like the word "thanks"?  I saw my husband deflate when he presented a friend with the perfect tee shirt for his 60th birthday and got the grunt.  How about the basket of food items we hand selected and had made up for another friend's 80th birthday party?  Let me tell you, it wasn't the cheapest of gifts and we put a lot of thought into it.  Party was in February and we're still waiting.  Oh, that reminds me. The word "perfect"?  No more.  Nobody is whatever this word means, according to the new-age parents.  In case you haven't learned yet, the words are "good job".  I'm so glad we're done with raising children because I would not be able to stomach too many more trips to the playground with all the "good job Jack!" outcries from the weekend warrior parents who roll out of bed and bring their kids to play while they talk on their cell phones.

Raising children is no easy task.  Never has been.  But, the basic premise is still the same.  People, no matter what age, have to learn right from wrong.  It's what makes a society work. For instance.....the list of rules at our swimming club are there for a reason.  For starters, personal safety and regard for others. Right ways to conduct yourself, protect yourself from drowning and allow for others to do same.  The signs clearly state that it is wrong to dive in this particular pool, that it is dangerous and there aren't any lifeguards.  There are four of these signs, strategically posted.  One cannot miss them. NO DIVING.  Okay, if the kids can't read (forgive me for assuming that if they can swim and dive, they can read) their parents might be able to (here again, I'm making an assumption). Oh, wait, yes, the parents certainly can.  I know this because most of them sit poolside reading their smartphones. The club management, they're afraid to offend anyone so they don't enforce any of the rules. You're on your own.

I live in a town that has experienced major economic problems.  Teachers have been let go from schools, programs for kids in the schools have been cut due to lack of funding.'s a good one, they walk away from hard cash.  Yes, that's right folks.  Every day, the town loses hundreds of dollars that they could have collected on the spot, no arguments, hands down.  The signs at the beaches clearly tell us that dogs are not to be on the beach at any time whatsoever between Memorial Day and Labor Day. That means 24/7.  The signs go on to tell us that if we violate this rule, there will be a very hefty fine.  Now, how hard can it be to find the violators?  Dog.  Owner.  Beach.  Hand over the hundred bucks.  But, no this does not happen.  Every time we've been at the beach in the afternoon, a good five hundred dollars worth of folk who don't know their rights from their wrongs, parade past us. Never, ever, do we see them holding anything that would hold dog poop.  Maybe they ask their dogs to hold it until they return home?  Beach sand.  Don't do the research on the bacteria counts.  You'll die of heat stroke before you go near the water ever again.

Finally, while I am on the subject, I have one burning question.  If a four year old with a Junior Shopper Shopping Cart  in a supermarket rams you in the ankles,  who's "fault" is it?  Why do I have the feeling that it would be difficult to determine this?  Don't be too shocked when you hear "Good job, Jackie" from the parents as they round the corner and catch up with the tiny consumer.  You won't win.  He's never "wrong" and you only think you are "right". And the store management sees you dying in a few years and that little nipper, he's the future.  I know.  I was told that in so many words when I voiced my complaint at Trader Joe's recently.

P.S. You don't actually have to pay for a membership at our club.  While it is the right thing to do, apparently there is nothing wrong with just walking in, bringing your entire family, and enjoying your day.  Nobody checks anyway.  They don't want to violate anybody's rights by asking if they can prove they are members in good standing.