death

Philip Seymour Hoffman


He will always be Philip Seymour Hoffman to me.

My various dashboards are currently filled with Tweets and excerpts from interviews with people who worked with the man, who knew him personally, who called him Phil.

Phil Hoffman.

And I don’t know what to do with that.

Phil Hoffman sounds like he should be a branch manager for an inter-state credit union. He should be the person in charge of scheduling equipment deliveries to construction sites. He should be the consulting accountant brought in by the local zoo as a temporary addition during tax season, his final paycheck mailed in an envelope thick with parking passes and free admittance lanyards for his kids.

A guy named Phil Hoffman would definitely have kids.

Philip Seymour Hoffman had kids. Three of them. Had a long time partner, a woman named Mimi O’Donnell. He was an actor, a director. He was loved, he was respected. He seemed happy, excited about his work. He was passionate about what he’d found to do with his life. He was an artist. He won awards. It was inspiring.

I hope eventually I will remember him only for those things. They are worth remembering. They are worth lauding. They hold up to the status and the weight of being an all-three-names celebrity.

But I’m not there yet. I acknowledge those things, I am in awe of them, but I cannot divorce them from the subject of today’s tweets and interviews: Today, February 2, 2014, Philip Seymour Hoffman died alone in the bathroom of his Manhattan apartment of a heroin overdose; a partner, a father, and an artist known to his fans by all three names.

I can’t believe he’s really gone.

And I don’t know what to do.

Where They Are Needed: A Dream


“If stories come to you, care for them.” B. Lopez

I dreamed last night I found a fat, white, aquatic ferret with a black tipped tail like an ermine. Its claws were long, its fingers scaly like a lizard’s, and its teeth looked like they belonged in the jaws of a dinosaur we should be glad has gone extinct.

The creature interacted well with my current ferret brood, but kept leaving them injured after playing with them because of its deadly jaws and paws. It scurried in and out of my arms, up and down and around my torso, playful and chittery and surprisingly heavy in my hands. It was used to living under water and alone, but seemed so much to want to stay with us. It grew happier and happier, and more and more playful, even as its fur would dry and it would have to run back into a rocky pool to wet up.

And so I told it I would keep it as long as it wanted to stay.

I tried to create a place for it to live in my home, separated from my other ferrets so it wouldn’t accidentally hurt them, but every tank I found for it leaked.

Before I could find a solution, I woke up.

“Remember on this one thing, said Badger. The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memories. This is how people care for themselves.”
– Barry Lopez, Crow and Weasel

**********************

I fell back asleep and dreamed I was taken- not with force, but not by choice- onto a giant, steel ship. I was lead below deck to a giant passenger hold like a commuter car on a puddle jumper train. There was an empty seat to my left, so I took it and belted in. And then strapped in. And then belted in some more. What was this? Why all the extra safety measures for simply sitting in a seat on an enormous boat?

I looked up, and the ceiling above my head was a window full of twilit clouds and sky. The captain’s voice came over the speakers all around announcing that all personnel should find their seats because we were about to dive.

It was a submarine?

I panicked.

“God?”

I looked up through the window. We dove. I could not determine the angle of our descent, except that I knew it must have been sharp as the ocean around us was almost immediately tar dark through the windows at each row of seats. I checked the ceiling view again. No stars, no sky, not even water. Just blackness. I pictured the window above me cracking and wondered if pressure or drowning killed more quickly.

“God? I love you.”

I gripped my arm rests, ready to die there in the unavoidable rush of an unchosen sea.

The captain’s voice came on again to say we would continue to take on passengers at various undersea docking points. We did so, each time diving deeper down to avoid the subsequent barrage of torpedo fire from the new passengers’ previous vessels. They were refugees of some sort. Were we taking on good guys? Bad guys? I never knew.

Golden Drawing Room of the Zimní Palác

I got up from my seat under the guise of looking for a restroom, and set about exploring. I found myself in an empty great hall with gold walls and vaulted ceilings. An exhausted group of five or so wilting strangers approached me. I assumed they were our most recent pick up, so I regarded them as fellow commuters.

They were heading toward a nearby bench, so I sat down on it to join them. The youngest in the group was a woman with auburn hair who looked to be in her 20s. She sat beside me on the bench, curled up under my arm, and went to sleep. Another woman, who carried herself like the leader of the band, her hair dark and broken, her jacket creased and worn, worked her face into a small smile for me, and leaned back against the wall behind us to go to sleep herself.

The hall was vast and silent, the walls glittering, the chests of the strangers rising and falling. I tightened my arm around the sleeping girl to keep her from slipping. She opened her eyes, thanked me, said she loved me, and went back to sleep. I stared ahead, wondering without care if anyone missed me in the dim tunnel of belted seating I’d left behind.

Suddenly a door to our left burst open, admitting four giant men, skin painted dark as the ocean, makeshift spears in hand, and looking for all the world like they’d just arrived from hiding in plain sight as a mannequin display. The sleeping group woke and leaped to their feet as the men demanded I join them. Not “them” the four men, but “them” the four men and the troupe of sleepers. I realized they had not been picked up, they had snuck aboard- and they were all working together.

“It’s time,” said the dark haired woman. “This is why you’re here. We need you to tell the captain. It’s over. It’s time.”

The painted men had set down their weapons and were changing into black pants and shirts from bags I had just noticed them carrying. “Yes,” said one. “She’s right. We can’t wait any longer. We are all here now and it’s going to work this time. You must tell the captain that this is right, and that you are leaving with us.”

“I love you,” whispered the younger woman. “Come with us. Tell the captain. It’s time.”

I felt the ship shift and dive, faster than before. A look to a window revealed more torpedoes speeding past.

“I can’t,” I said. “It’s not my place. I’m not a part of this. I don’t even know who you are. I’d get in so much trouble, and it will never work.”

I wanted all my excuses to be wrong. I wanted these people to be right. I wanted them to be heroes. I wanted them to save the day while I watched from the best seat in the house. And somewhere buried under fears of death by pressure and drowning, I wanted to be one of them.

“Help us. Please.”

“I can’t…”

I woke up.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
– Anaïs Nin

That which has been your delight


Timmy, Norberto, Anahi, Julie Kurrle

Over the years I’ve shared with several of you the blog of a woman I found in Paraguay, Julie Kurrle, who served there since 2002 with her husband, Norberto, and their 6 year old son, Timmy, as missionaries. (I found her blog around the same time I found that of Christie Hagerman, with whom I would eventually stay during my January 2012 visit to Paraguay).

Julie’s is one of those blogs I check almost daily, getting to know her family through her recounting of their adventures, and of their struggles. It was through her blog that I read about their work with youth in their area, their years long struggle to adopt, their final success in that struggle when they brought home their beautiful daughter Esther Anahi, their adventures in peanut farming, their great love of Paraguay, and most of all their passionate love for God.

Julie’s blog post from April 14, 2011: “Helping Poor, Rural Farmers Increase their Profit Is Easier than You Think. (You can Help!)

Norberto talking last May about the peanut harvest:

This was a beautiful family that loved each other and their fellow man in a way that was so tender and obvious and full of joy that it shined through in every single post I read from Julie. I couldn’t help but want to know this woman in real life!

So of course it was to my great delight and privilege that I got to meet Julie and her family in person when I traveled to Paraguay in January 2012, and to spend several days with them at their home in Encarnacion. They opened their house and their hearts to us, fed us an amazing meal, took us out to the pond next to their house to relax, to play with the dogs, to watch Timmy get covered in mud… The next day my hosts, the Hagerman family, and I spent the day with theirs and another family at a nearby beach sweating, laughing, and sharing stories over burgers, potato salad, and plenty of tereré. You just never met a warmer, friendlier bunch of folks. And that love they had for God and each other and their community? Even stronger and more visible in person!

A (particularly adorable) video from Julie on how to wash clothes on a wash board:

Julie updated her blog yesterday saying that the family would be heading into Asuncion to pick up their daughter’s birth certificate and passport. Adoption is a complicated process under any circumstances, and in Paraguay it can become particularly messy, but things were finally wrapping up for the Kurrles with their beautiful new daughter, now one and a half years old.

Anahi’s first steps:

This morning I received a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. It was Christie! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up my phone to text or call her about something, only to remember I can’t because she’s so far away. But I only had a moment to be excited that I was hearing from her, because she was calling with heart-breaking news.

Timmy and Norberto

Some time around 5 am local time this morning, the Kurrles were involved in a terrible car accident on their way into Asuncion. Norberto and Anahi survived the crash, but it claimed the lives of the beautiful Julie and her sweet son Timmy.

My understanding is that Timmy survived long enough for his father to get to hold him and talk to him one last time, for which I am sure all who know the family will be forever grateful. Norberto is a good, good man and Timmy was such a smart, funny child.

And now I hardly know what to say or think.

Yesterday Julie was laughing with the judge who was handling their adoption case, and today- unspeakable tragedy.

I don’t know what is going to happen next. I dare say the family probably doesn’t either. All I do know is it is just sickening to be here so far away, unable to hold my friends and cry and pray with them in person. I rejoice with all my heart that Julie and Timmy are with the Lord, and weep that the world, that this family, that their community, lost such a vibrant woman, and such a friendly, outgoing child in such a sudden and shocking way.

If you have a moment I urge you to visit Julie’s blog: http://kurrles.blogspot.com. Read the posts, smile over the pictures, click through to go back, back, back to watch their ministry unfold in reverse. Click through to be encouraged by the love this family bore for each other. And, if you are a believer, click through to be encouraged and uplifted by the love they bore for God, our Source and Supply, our sustainer not only during the devestating times, but during the beautiful.

"El enjugará toda lágrima de sus ojos, y ya no habrá muerte, ni habrá más duelo, ni clamor, ni dolor, porque las primeras cosas han pasado." Apocalipsis 21:4

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
– Kahlil Gibran

QEPD Julie Ana Beam de Kurrle y Timoti Samuel Kurrle Beam, 18/4/12

*************************

ETA: Christie was able to attend the memorial service at the Kurrle’s church in Paraguay. You can read that post here: Memorial Service for Timmy and Julie Kurrle

Wind may blow, and many miles…


Why, we're for Marty o'course!

Every major metropolitan city in the U.S. has a West Allis. Fortunately for those of us living in the Milwaukee area ours is actually called West Allis. You’ll know you’ve reached your own West Allis when you find yourself surrounded by blue collar Mexican restaurants that serve polish sausage and french fries, no-cover bars with $1.50 tappers, brick paired with warped vinyl siding, and the wrong amount of street parking whatever the occasion.

I visited ours this evening to bid farewell to a friend who’s chosen to shuffle off this West Allisian coil for the damper climes of Seattle. A group of us met him for drinks at Benno’s Genuine Bar & Grill, a 30-tap townie bar with friendly staff, ample seating, reasonable prices, and after a few hours a girl suddenly resting her head on the bar, weeping her eyes out, sitting all alone.

Sweet merciful Jesus what cloying diva hell has descended upon us?” I wondered. But not in quite so many words on account of the volume of the jukebox had me a little frazzled. It probably went something more like “#*@&%. Now what?” The causes of all the tears I’ve seen at bars have rarely elevated their validity above such a response. But then I figured folks don’t cry that hard when things don’t hurt. And even if a cause is unreasonable it doesn’t mean the pain’s not real, right? Right.

So I walked over to her. Sat down on the stool to her left. Leaned in to talk through the hair covering her face. God was she crying. Even over the thumping twang of the jukebox her sobs burbled up loud enough to name themselves.

“Hey honey. What’s’a matter? You doing okay?”

Unintelligible mumbling escaped the curtain of her hair, followed by a “…no…” and more sobbing, this time with a key change.

I put my left hand on her forearm, my right on her shoulder. Rub, rub, rub. “C’mere honey. It’s gonna be all right. What’s going on, huh? You want to talk about it? We don’t have to, but I’m here, you know, if you want to.”

A pause in the tears, a mumble of something akin to “I’unno,” then a return to weeping.

Causes may be unreasonable, but pain is still painful, and sadness has a keen way with conjuring friends from strangers.

“Can I at least get you a water or…” I hesitated. I don’t like to see people drinking when they’re upset. But I forged ahead anyway. “Or a drink? Can I get you a drink?”

If you wink and nod, and then make pinch-y fingers toward the glass, the bartender’ll make the drink weak. I can wink, nod, and make pinch-y fingers. One Sprite, please; on the rocks.

“Yeah. Yeah a drink,” she coughed out. Finally– she speaks! “But just shots,” she yelled to the floor. “I’m only doing shots tonight. I just want to black out. Tonight I just want to forget everything.”

What have I walked into what have I walked into what have I walked…

“Aw no, honey. Not tonight! You don’t want to forget tonight!” I cheered. “We’re gonna have a nice time you and me, and you’re gonna want to remember it! Let me get us some waters, huh?” No reply. I tried again. “So what is it then,” I asked. “Is it a guy?”

It was like my question cut all her strings.

Pain is painful.

And it all poured out.

“I just got a call,” she whispered. “Fifteen minutes ago. I just got a call.” A pause. “It’s my best friend J—-. He killed himself today.”

Her face was still down, her forehead resting in her hands on the bar. I closed my eyes and prayed something like “Oh… God.” I mean, what else do you say? I may’ve also asked for help in not saying something stupid, but I’m sure that part was also fairly short and elliptical.

“Honey,” I whispered at the curls shaking on the side of her head, “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.” I put my arm around her shoulders and squeezed. “Honey…”

“It was over a girl. His girlfriend. She broke up with him a few days ago and he couldn’t handle it.” Shuddering, sniffling, and then a hand drawn sloppily across smeared, wet eyes. There was not a line left on her person that remained defined.

She turned, giving me her face, tears, and story without a hint of her former reluctance. It started with a McDonald’s bill of $21.17. That was how much he spent on food the last time she saw him. She’s from out of town. Mumble-apolis. She last saw him seven months ago. He was in jail, then prison, for DUIs. He was finally out. They went out to a bar, then stopped at McDonald’s on the way back to her house. He got an Angus burger, a large Coke, a large Diet Coke (she has a large Diet Coke, no ice, every day), four McChickens with Mac sauce, a few other random items, and fries.

“$21.17!” she laughed. “Can you believe it?! He was so beautiful. So fucking beautiful. And he just ate and ate and ate. I finally went to bed and when I got up around 4 to go to the bathroom he was laying there asleep on the couch with half a McChicken hanging out of his mouth!” She roared like this was the funniest damned thing in the world, so I laughed too.

“$21.17?!” I sputtered. “That’s crazy!”

I know, right?!”

“He sounds pretty great.” I smiled. Rub, rub, rub.

“Yeah, he was.”

“So tell me about him, girl! What was he like?”

“He was my Best. Friend!” she gushed. “Like, okay: We went to a bar once and these haters were there and when I came out of the bathroom after we’d only been there like 15 minutes, they were like to him ‘Wait, you’re here with her?’ and he was all like ‘We’re leaving. Now.’ And I was like, whatever, you know, because I know I have a big ass so I don’t even listen to that noise so let ’em talk!” She laughed. “But he was all like ‘No. We’re leaving. Now.’ He was always so good to me like that. He called me beautiful. He was so beautiful. He was just 25.” Still laughing. Cackling, almost. “His girlfriend was beautiful too. Like, super beautiful and everything. But he was gorgeous. And then she left him. Dumped him on Facebook. Can you believe it? Facebook?”

I nodded. Facebook.

“And he told her a few days ago he was going to kill himself, you know?” Still laughing, somehow, but wildly now, and with tears. “And he told her, and she didn’t go over there. She didn’t even go! He told her and that [impressive but forgettable series of expletives] didn’t even go to see him and now he’s dead!” The wildness turned desperate.

“Oh honey…” Rub, rub, rub.

“It’s her fault. It’s all her fault. He was a good guy. He had a good family. Like, his parents are still together, you know? They had three daughters after him. They’re 9, 7, and 3. They’re so pretty. And now he’s gone, and it’s that [similarly impressive string]’s fault! I would give anything if they could have resuscitated him! Anything! But that would only be the best thing for me. Not for her. Not for her.”

A loop of curses, flashing blue. A cry of pain. Her face returned to its hideaway in her hands.

I don’t remember what I said then. It couldn’t have been very good. It couldn’t have been very much. I’ve never experienced something like that myself. And even if I had, so what? What is my pain to you? It’s a mist to your rain, a suggestion to your thundering reality. What would it matter that I had ever suffered then when here you are suffering now?

I curled my arm through hers and we sat there in silence for several minutes, her tears eventually flattening out to match the beer taps, the paper napkins, the wood paneled decor. I asked if she needed a ride, if I could take her anywhere, if she needed to just get out. No, she told me. She has a ride. Her boyfriend is here.

I’m sorry–did I hear that right? Your what is here and you’re crying alone? He hasn’t walked you out to the car? Held your hand? Taken you home to cry and talk this out?

But I didn’t ask these things. I held my tongue. Angels must’ve been runnin’ them some mad interference.

“I think I’m ready to tell him I want to go home,” she mumbled, and rose from her stool. She found her boyfriend in the corner, was roundly ignored by him, shook off her tears, and donned armor of solid Brash. The last thing she said to me that night was a lyric from a hip-hop song on her way out the door. Something about being a bitch and having a big ass. Her group stumbled out into the cold and she was gone.

Oh honey… your mascara.

I wish I could fix it.

*******

“Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall, and wind may blow,
And many miles be still to go,
But under a tall tree will I lie
And let the clouds go sailing by.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

Paraguay Blog #8: Maybe it’s something in the (ice) water


Paging Dr. Freud. Paging Dr. Freud. Your assistance is requested in the F Wing…

Last night I dreamed I was watching a football game on TV.

Good grief…

© Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images North America

So anyway, I was watching this football game being played in Wisconsin during the dead of winter, so I suppose it would be safe to assume it was a Packer game. The field was covered in ice and several feet of packing snow, and was surrounded by tens of thousands of spectators filling the stands while two balding announcers  in outdated neckties commented on every last detail from their overhead vantage point in their special booth.

I was ready to “change channels” on this waste of a dream when the announcers began shouting excitedly about a football player who, upon being run out of bounds during a play, had fallen into a frozen pit at the edge of the field. Overhead cameras zoomed in, filming straight down into the abyss. The pit went down a good thirty feet before curving slightly, keeping the floor of the hole just out of view. There was a flimsy red, metal ladder hanging down into the hole, but it only reached down ten feet or so. Beyond that, anyone in that hole would be on their own.

Cheers erupted suddenly from the crowd as the football player, using nothing but adrenaline and pure strength, climbed up out of the pit and ran right back into the game. That is a person who knows the terrain. That is a person who belongs there. That, friends, is a hero we can count on.

Cue the National Anthem.

Click the image to read about a group of scientists who climbed into ice pits ON PURPOSE.

I had begun wondering what the point of this dream was when the announcers started snickering into their lapel mics, laughing and joking as the crowd pointed and hooted, rolling their eyes. It seems another man, a man working in some capacity along the sidelines, a man whose other job was as some sort of art teacher, had also slipped into the pit of snow and ice after being told by one of his superiors to jump across it.

“He’ll never get out of there!” The first announcer’s tone was shocked but gleeful.

“You’ve got that right,” responded the second. “So ah- what would you say those temperatures are like down in the pit there?”

“Oh I’d say it’s gotta be at least below zero, eh?”

“Oh you betcha. At least below zero. Maybe even less than that, eh?”

“Oh yeah. Yeah, at least. Or more. Yeah?”

“Yeah. Probably more. I just hope he can get out in time!”

More chuckling.

“Yeah, I hope so too. ‘Cause there’s no way they can get a rescue crew down there fast enough to save him before he dies from that cold. He’ll die down there in that ice pit, wouldn’cha say?”

“Oh yeah. Definitely. He’ll definitely die if he stays down in that snow too long. And all that ice? Yeah. I’d say he’ll probably be trapped down there too long and there’ll be no saving him.”

I wanted to wake up. It was all too uncomfortable and my brain was getting all squirmy. But I couldn’t. Not yet. I had to know if the man would ever escape the ice pit, so I carried on dreaming, refusing to let things go lucid and shuttering my conscious mind from whatever my subconscious mind was trying to work through.

Though God only knows that by this point I was pretty sure I had a lock on that “great mystery”…

The crew of the Endurance playing football out on the ice (© Frank Hurley)

The crowd was beginning to give up on the man in the ice pit, the man who was a mind finding its way in a world of muscle in an attempt to make ends meet, trapped in ice and snow so foreign and so lethal that it was already taken as a given he would not- could not- survive. The cameras were zooming out, and retreating. The players were lining back up to resume the game. The announcers were laughing their way back to more interesting banter about subjects like how far someone had thrown a thing, or how someone else had failed to catch it.

And then we saw him. Me, the crowd, the announcers– we saw an arm from the man in the pit as it clawed its way into view before the last camera finished moving away. The crowd held its breath. The man’s other arm inched higher up the wall of the narrow pit. He swung a leg out as he gained on the narrowest part of the pit near the top, pushing his back against one side and his feet against the other. Rescuers could have helped him at that point, but they didn’t even try. He had been as good as dead in their eyes. All this was just a bonus, just something to watch, his struggle mere filler before a commercial break during which he would be forgotten.

His hand flew up over the top of the pit, ice melting under his fingers before refreezing to his skin. Another moment’s struggle and he was free. Above ground. Safe.

But the crowd did not respond.

I wanted to tell the man to run, to get away from the pit, from the field, from that world where he did not belong, but of course I couldn’t. I was just a spectator myself, as guiltily silent as the tens of thousands watching these events take place in person. Maybe the people in the stands were holding back because they, too, felt powerless in their position as spectators? Or was it because for them it was all simply something unexpected they were only casually trying to figure out?

Whatever the reason it soon didn’t matter, because just as I reached that moment of wanting to warn the man to leave, someone on the sidelines pushed him back into the pit. The announcers resumed their babbling. The crowd returned their attention to the field. The players locked their eyes back on the ball.

He would be forgotten.

But not by me. Not even after I woke up.

***************

Incidentally, when Googling the phrase “ice pit” the first result was for a place in Wisconsin where one can intentionally climb ice

The Cart and Bull Fall Down


Wesley's interest in helping with laundry extends only as far as emptying the bag. Kids!

I’m trying to get my ferret Wesley to come sit by me on the couch.

“These fingers could be scratchin’ yer itches!” I promise, waggling my fingers at him. He is not impressed, and waddles away to redouble his efforts at destroying the carpet behind my couch.

Dig dig dig…

Oh ferret.

Dig dig dig…

The landlord will have to replace it all whenever the boys and I move out. It should be replaced anyway since I’ve been living with this carpet for almost five years now. Surely they wouldn’t pass it on to the next tennant? No, it will be replaced. Replaced, and with some reason why my security deposit should be used to foot the bill. Fine. Let them keep it. It’s been worth it for your  special company, weasels. (See: “Things I Never Thought I’d Say To a 1 lb. Carnivore.”)

I thought I’d lost one of the ferrets yesterday; Brodie, my skinny boy, my hyperactive climber, my sable.

I was in the living room watching a show on Netflix when Wesley trotted in. He ducked behind the couch where I was sitting, and immediately began to whimper. Was he hurt? Was he sick? What’s going on?! I paused my show and pulled the couch away from the wall to find Wesley pawing at the face of a suspiciously inert Brodie, who lay on his back, legs splayed wide. I swooped down and picked Brodie up, his body cool and limp in my hands.

Oh no.

Ferrets are notorious for going into such a deep sleep they can seem comatose, or even dead. It’s important to know this before bringing one home because at some point, probably at multiple points, you will witness this condition. It’s not unusual, it’s not dangerous. It is normal ferret behavior. But this time? This time it shook me. Brodie’s oddly low body temperature, his uncustomary position, the whimpering and pawing from my other ferret… And mustelidae lover that I am I of course immediately assumed the worst: That Brodie was dead or dying, right there in my hands.

I cradled the pound of fur, teeth, and claws to my chest, trying to find a pulse, trying to find any sign he might simply be deep, deep asleep. His tiny, chilly body was so relaxed I could barely keep him from slipping through my arms as I played out worst case scenarios in my critter loving head.

After pushing the bottle around for an hour with his face, a neck-lick was apparently in order.

Wesley padded over to us and crawled onto my lap where he began sniffing at his fellow troublemaker, alternately pawing at his belly and licking his face, a new behavior couplet. I held Brodie tighter, trying at first not to cry but almost immediately giving up on that plan in favor of weeping openly and praying aloud that I would be able to keep this bounding, thieving, sneezing, pooping, hopping, climbing, giggle-inducing beast a little longer.

Eventually one of his eyes opened slightly, but then rolled back. He was still completely limp, folded almost in half against my chest as I pulled him in closer and closer toward my face, unwilling to let go in case he really was on his way out.

I would rather die while being held, wouldn’t you?

I rocked him, rubbed his cheeks and head, trying for several minutes to wake him. It had never taken so long before. And as I sat there blubbering I knew I’d feel so stupid if he turned out to be okay, if it turned out I was just overreacting to a common situation. But when it’s your own pet? And everything is a few degrees off from normal? And your other pet is exhibiting unusual behaviors too? And you’re all alone?

I freed a hand to phone my mom and asked her to come over so I wouldn’t be by myself, just in case. She said she’d be right over. I love that woman. I hung up and dragged my sleeve under my nose. I was a wreck.

I rolled the pound of dead weight over in my hands, rubbed my little guy’s face, and thanked him for being my buddy for the past two years. And then? His eye flickered open again, this time followed by the other… A hopeful sign? There came a head shift, a paw wave, and finally a sigh from him as Wesley decided we were fine and lumbered away to find something crinkly to crawl in.

We made it! All three of us.

Brodie came to slowly, resting peacefully in my arms. My hope grew less cautious. A minute passed, and then another, each making me feel happier, and more ridiculous, my babbling grin catching tears I no longer needed. My little guy, for now, would remain my little guy.

My dudes, fast asleep.

I knew I’d let myself freak out. I’d let my fear of losing my fuzzy pal overtake me. And the worst part is at some point I realized there might be nothing to worry about, even as it was all still happening. But what is my head to argue with my heart? I will almost always laugh with you, cry with you, sigh with you long before I will even attempt to reason with you.

I’m trying to figure out why I’d want to share this story in such a public way. It makes me seem over-dramatic, I think, because in the end it turned out I’d been wrong and so was upset over nothing. And to anyone without a similar type and level of appreciation for a pet I’m sure it sounds downright silly.

I think– and don’t quote me because I’m still not sure– but I think I just wanted to share a time when a feeling of loss was replaced, quickly and completely, by a feeling of joy.

That’s it.

If I were a master story teller I’d do the same by inventing some clever tale involving not-overly-beautiful people in a loss/joy cycle in a universe of my own design. I’d O. Henry an unexpected heart-string-tug readers would be able to relate to, and they’d share it with their friends on Facebook. I’d submit it to a literary magazine, they’d publish it with watercolor illustrations painted by a tenured biology professor, and over the next three years my characters’ names would climb to slots 7 and 8 on “Most Popular Baby Names” lists across the web. It would span so many forwarded emails it would eventually earn its own page on Snopes from all the people asking if it was true.

But it wouldn’t be.

Maybe that’s why I’d rather swallow my pride and tell you about a pet that didn’t really die, no matter how foolish it makes me look. Because foolishness is believable. As believable as loss. And almost as believable as joy.

What’s good for the goose…


A killdeer chick

A killdeer chick

Birds of a feather

According to Wikipedia, the killdeerfrequently uses a “broken wing act” to distract predators from the nest.” According to every summer since my family moved into our home in Waukesha, WI this is 100% true and incredible to witness firsthand.

I don’t know how many killdeer nests my parents have in their yard as I’ve only ever seen one of them and I don’t know how territorial they are, but I do know there are usually between 4 and 8 adults living on their property every year, and every early summer they’re accompanied by baby killdeer that are just about the cutest winged things you have ever seen in your life. Love those long stick legs!

Killdeer nest on the ground (we mow around them) so they’re regularly low enough for the casual observer to take a good long look at them, plus their long legs keep them high enough off the ground that they’re easy to spot running around, and they pull that “broken wing act” any time you’re within 20′ of their nests so they’re perfect for seeing Nature’s brilliance in action. They’re great birds. Move near some.

I was at my folks’ house this past Wednesday afternoon when my brother came home and said he’d just run over a baby killdeer on the driveway. He hadn’t seen it in time to avoid hitting it and clearly felt pretty badly about the whole thing. I surely do love that young man. I didn’t want the dog to go bothering the body, so my brother and I walked down the driveway with the intention of moving it into the bushes to either decompose in peace, or to become the meal of something a bit more used to hunting than my family’s spoiled shitsu bichon.

When we reached the chick we discovered it was still alive but had a badly broken leg. I scooped the bird into my hands. He was warm and soft, and so young he didn’t have feathers yet, just down that looked and felt like fur. He opened his beak the tiniest bit, a piece of brown grass still in his mouth, to let out a few quiet chirps as I checked his body with careful fingers. His right leg was fully dislocated, and bleeding.

I kissed the air above his head and wondered if I could kill him myself to put him out of his misery, but I knew I couldn’t do it. What if I made a pig’s ear of the attempt and just ended up injuring him more? And even if I was able to do it quickly and efficiently… I just don’t have it in me. So I said “Thank you Jesus for birds” and laid him in the bushes near his nest so the mother would at least have all her brood accounted for even if one was going to die.

I went inside the house with my brother to wash the blood off my hands and to find my dad to “take care of” the bird, but he wasn’t home so we did nothing with it. I felt equally sick at the thought of killing it or just leaving it be when it must’ve been in so much pain. Accidental deaths of innocent animals just breaks my heart.

All these terrible things going on in the world- war, famine, disease- and this is what makes me cry? But those other things– they’re just so big. So enormous and distant that I can’t wrap my head around them. And if I could, what then? Stop weeping over wounded animals because it’s not the worst that can happen? I am so glad there are people in this world like my Mimi or like my friend Stephen who have a heart for those who are suffering, who have the strength to do more than just weep, and who have the guts to actually do something about that suffering. And me? I guess I’m just the type to love the people I’m near, and get all teary-eyed over broken birds.

When God closes a door he opens a window to let the geese in

I was at the park today with friends when we overheard a woman who works at the park telling a coworker about a Canada goose nearby that sometimes follows her around and whom she had named Geraldine. My friends and I saw the goose to which the woman was referring, but we assumed it just liked to be nearby to catch fallen picnic fare and continued on our way.

We stopped at the end of a sidewalk near the park’s primary boat landing to get a better look at the water’s edge, when I noticed “Geraldine” peeking out as us from behind a lamp post. We stood watching her pecking away at the grass beneath her feet for a moment before picking some leaves ourselves and holding them out to her. She seemed a little unsure of us at first, but that didn’t last long and soon we were sitting on the ground testing different types of greenery on a very friendly, hungry Geraldine.

Feeding Geraldine

Feeding Geraldine

We offered her wide stalks of water grass, but she didn’t seem to care for it. We tried flower pods and thistle blossoms, but those were also a no. She seemed to enjoy the round leaves (read: weeds) that grew throughout the lawn, and the long blades that grew up between the sidewalk cracks and in the gravel along the river’s edge. She was also a big fan of our shoelaces. And pant legs. And bracelets. And leaning against our legs while looking us straight in the eye. And having her sides and belly rubbed. She even let me slip my hand between her wings to give her a nice long scratch after she’d done so first with her beak.

We must’ve sat there with her like that for at least an hour, feeding her grass, rubbing her belly, and studying all her weird little details. Her feet? Feel like leather. Her tongue? Edged in sharp grooves like a serrated kitchen knife. Strangest thing. And she never once hissed or tried to bite, though if we offered too short a piece of grass our fingers were likely to be included in her delicate little chomps. And she was personably vocal, offering sweet barking sounds when she wanted more grass, quiet honks as she wandered between us, and kind silence while we stroked her beautiful back. Another surprise to me was how wet her mouth was. I don’t know why I expected her to have a dryer tongue, but whenever she’d catch an errant finger it would end up dripping with goose spit. Who knew?

A little girl of about 5 or 6 and her brother of about 4 were out walking in the park with their grandparents when they spotted us. We invited them to come pet Geraldine, which they loved for a solid 2 minutes before running onto the pier to chase ducks. About 20 minutes later, while laying in the grass with Geraldine’s warm body nestled in the crook of my armpit where she sat munching on leaves, a girl and her boyfriend rode by on bikes and stopped to ask if this was our pet. The guy stayed on his bike, but the girlfriend was only too happy to come down and pet and feed our new pal, an enormous grin on her beautiful face. There is just nothing like something feathered and friendly to bring a smile to people’s faces. Just nothing like.

Thank you, for Geraldine.

“My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in everyplace give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you… you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains for your thirst, and mountains and valleys for shelter, and tall trees for your nests. And although you neither know how to spin or weave, God dresses you and your children, for the Creator loves you greatly and He blesses you abundantly. Therefore always seek to praise God.”

– from Fioretti di San Francesco d’Assisi

Death by Kohl’s


Kohl’s

Who got a 30% off coupon in the mail for Kohl’s Department Store’s President’s Day Sale? ME!

Who instantly regretted entering the Kohl’s Department Store off of X in Waukesha on Wednesday? Me. :(

From the moment I walked in the store until several minutes after I left, my ears were ringing from the LOUD high frequency buzzing/ whirring/ chirping sounds from their various security and tracking systems. Oh my God. Ridiculous. Every time I came near an entrance to the store itself, a fitting room, or a check-out register, the mosquito-in-my-ear-canal noise became so loud I literally had to walk around the store with my fingers pressing my ears closed.

It’s not the first time the buzz of Big Brother has pained my hearing near department store doors, but this time was downright intolerable! The weird thing is my hearing isn’t particularly spectacular. In fact it’s downright *meh.* I’ve got annoyed friends tired of repeating themselves for me who’d vouch for the overall mediocrity of my hearing, in fact, which makes the whole thing even stranger to me.  I also really have to wonder how it was that I was the only person who seemed to be affected by the CONSTANT ringing if aurally bionic I ain’t.

No, guys. It really was That. Bad.

And then I got two pairs of pants and a skirt for under $20. Woo.

The end.

Don’t Dress for Dinner

We’re only a week into the rehearsal process so far- just blocking and stuff up ’til now- but it’s already looking to be pretty darn funny and I’m very happy and thankful to be a part of it. And courtesy of the generosity of a few fellow cast members I now find myself in possession of an unusually large number of comp tickets for the show’s preview night in mid-March. I’m hanging on to a few for the fam. As for the rest of the comps: Any takers?

The following is a quick run down of what’s going on with the show, including a chance to listen in -but not watch because that kills the magic ;)- on a rehearsal, and a brief overview on how the auditions from my last video all panned out. The best part? I kept it under 5 minutes! Woo hoo! I prefer to keep it under 3, but 5? 5’ll do…

Sorry about that vertical blue line in the video, by the way. I don’t really have any way to see that things like that are present until I’ve got the footage uploaded to my computer and I’m ready to edit. *shrugs* I can live with it.

ETA: The show has undergone major changes. Please disregard the comments above and the contents of the video. Related tags have been removed from the video. Thanks!

Torch Song Trilogy

I feel kind of bad that all I’m writing about this amazing production (“Torch Song Trilogy” by Harvey Fierstein at Spiral Theatre in Milwaukee) is this teeny little snippet. I took notes during the nearly sold-out opening night performance and intended to write a full review of it but kept not getting to it, and now the show closes this Sunday so I feel even less inclined to really dive in. Bah. I’m a jerk- I know.

I will take at least a moment to say, though, that Mark Hagen in the lead role of Arnold is worth seeing the show for all by himself. Beautiful performance, real, funny, sweet, honest. The role could’ve been written for him. He’s got this great knack for easing into the levity of Fierstein’s one-liners in such a way that you don’t feel jolted from the emotion of the moment. And some of the moments? Phew! Very emotional.

Another actor bringing in a fantastic performance is Brian Richards. I’ve seen Brian in a few other shows and have had the pleasure of working with him once myself (also with Spiral) and have always enjoyed his performances, but he found something new and different in this part that I’ve never seen come out of him before and I have to say: I loved it. Particularly his first scene with Hagen. There was a confidence there that just– it worked.

The two of them are so enjoyable to watch- charming, romantic, heart breaking, human. Their relationship speaks to so many relationships and so many truths about dealing with people in and out of the bounds of *significant other-ness* I found myself giving my “I totally know what you mean” nod to every other line the two spoke to each other.

All in all: I can honestly say I believe this is director Mark Hooker’s strongest show to date. He packed it with powerhouse performances from an eclectic cast that gels the way a cast should, and because he’s got a soul he cut it down from its original four hour run time to a much more manageable two and a half(ish) hours. It’s at Plymouth Church in Milwaukee by UWM. Tickets are only $10. Go. You’ll dig it.

And whatever you do? Dig it fast! As of right now there are only two performances left… (Saturday 2/14 at 7:30 and Sunday 2/15 at 2:30)

*yaaaaawn*

It’s 1:25 am on a Friday night and I’m sorry if this revokes my youth cred but I have *got* to call it a night. Alfred’s in his kerchief, I’m in my cap. It’s time to settle these brains down, y’all. Nighty night…

What would you trade for weight loss?


Okay folks, here’s the hypothetical deal:

How much time would you give?

How much time would you give, Ms. Aniston?

Scientists have discovered a way to melt away fat from the human body using computers/ lasers/ pills/ cream made from asteroids/ whatever. To test this new technology (for the sake of this post let’s assume we know the procedure isn’t dangerous) they’re currently offering this service free of charge. They can do an all-body slim down, remove predetermined amounts of fat from only certain areas, whatever you want, all with no messy side effects, follow up visits, bruising, scars, or stretch marks, and any possible *excess skin* or anything akin to that will also disappear. It’s your body. It’s your weight. It’s your call.

The single catch? Undergoing the process takes time off the end of your life.

That’s right. You want to shave off a li’l pre-wedding blubber? Want to ditch the muffin top before hitting the club? You can do it instantaneously! But it’s gonna cost you time…

So assuming you’re one o’ the millions out there who wish they could drop some poundage: how much would you be willing to pay? And what if the fat can return via normal weight gain methods (ie. poor diet, lack of exercise) after it’s been removed? Would it be less worth it to you in that scenario, or would you just have them slice off a few more days, weeks, or years when you noticed the return of the bulge?

And what would you trade? An hour per pound? A day per pound? A week? A month? Or would you be willing to give up even more than that? A year? A few years? Would you be willing to give up a significant chunk of time from the end of your life- whenever that may be- if it meant you’d receive a full body slim down to your weight of choice, knowing that future weight gain may result in your having to make this decision all over again when the pounds pile back on and you want to return to that thinner version of you?

Can’t think of this in terms of time? No problem! These are magical scientists who are more than willing to let you sacrifice other intangibles instead. Knowing this, what thing(s) other than time might you consider giving up if doing so meant you were to instantly reach your goal size? And it’s got to be something legit, here, folks. A skill, a memory, an opportunity– whatever.

And if not weight, what else would you consider giving up something for if doing so meant you were to instantly achieve some other goal? Significant muscle development? Regrowth of hair on your head? Becoming taller? Better teeth?

Or would you only trade intangibles for other intangibles? Say– a year off the end of your life in exchange for being a better singer? A prized childhood experience and all accompanying memories in exchange for being a better athlete?

Tawk amongst y’selves…

Ruth’s Eye Movement: A Dream


There were a few months in college when my first class wasn’t until 1 pm, so I used almost every single morning to write down the previous night’s dreams. During that time I was able to dream very vividly, and to remember the dreams quite clearly, so I was able to pour  into Word page after page of plots points, characters, and Technicolor story arcs.

It was awesome.

It’s been a long time since I’ve remembered my vivid dreams as frequently as during that semester, and when I remember them now I’m usually lacking the time or the energy to write them down.

Except for last night’s dream. Unfortunately I only remember the last portion of it, but I’m glad to have at least retained something, because this one– this one I needed to record.

***************

I was me, I was my own age (26), it was now, and I was here in Waukesha.

zac-efronI was dating this “cute” boy of about 19. Not cute in any way that makes any difference to me, but cute in the way 19 year old boys try to be cute these days. Tan, muscles that look out of place with such baby faces, long, side-swept brown hair over the eyebrows. The kind of guy who’d never turn my head in waking life. The kind of guy who’d only register on my radar if he jumped out in front of me in the crosswalk, and only then because I’d think what a shame it was that some mother just lost such a soft looking child.

Teenage Boyfriend would regularly come over to visit me, his cute but pudgy 19 year old buddy ever in tow to play Back-up Idolizer in the event no one else could be found to fawn over Teenage Boyfriend’s eyebrows and vitality. He’d sit on the couch next to me and make a show of draping his arm broadly around my shoulder, but then never look at me. Never speak to me. Just while away the hours gabbing and showing off his conquest to the chubby friend who so adored him. He’d brag to his friends that he had a 26 year old girlfriend as though that was some great feat, and I’d endure his being 19 and mentally absent around me because he was cute for a young’un, and it was nice to have the company.

One day- the day of the dream- he asked me to give him a lift to go see this girl he knew. He kept insisting it wasn’t a date, even after he showed up at my place in his best shirt and oceans of cologne. He told me how great this girl was, and how pretty. How much alike they were, how much fun she was. He told me he was taking her out for dinner, and how they had somehow gotten hold of some alcohol and were going to get drunk together later that night. He kept telling me nothing was going to happen, and then winking and nudging me while saying that if something did happen how could I blame him because “both of them are so hot.”

Wink.

Wink.

I agreed to give him a lift. I even encouraged him to ask this girl out if she seemed interested in him. I was a 20-something cougar and he was just a joke to me by this point. A mere presence. An embarrassment. A body warming a seat on a couch I don’t really own in a living room that stopped being mine as soon as I awoke. He told me no, no– it’s not like that. It’s not a date, I’m not trying to get her to go out with me. I just nodded, joked that no one could resist him, and walked out to the car. Attractive men live on the reassurance that they are irresistible, and for better or worse I live on the reassurance that I fill a need.

ford-15-passenger-van“The car” I drove him in turned out to be one of those large, white, passenger vans they use at schools and day-care centers, with several long rows of seats, all equipped with shoulder strap seat belts that came down from the ceiling. When we got in to drive to this girl’s house I discovered Chubby Friend was already in the van to tag along. As was my mother. My real mother. My waking life mother. She was smiling and cheerful; happy to see me and to have my company as we drove the tangled streets of Waukesha. I don’t recall feeling shy that she saw my laugh of a kiddie boyfriend. I just remember being glad she was there so I wouldn’t feel so alone in spite of all this other company.

I drove us past the park by the library, up the street past the apartments where Kate and Janet, Rachel and Arielle, and Sean and Tish used to live.  Teenage Boyfriend rattled on about how cute the girl was that we were about to go see. Chubby Friend listened intently. Mom smiled graciously. I came to full stops and used my turn signals.

In one of those shifts you only find in dreams, we were suddenly out of the van and walking to the girl’s house. And the streets were no longer the streets of Waukesha. We were someplace else. A small city. No litter in the gutters, no dirt on the sidewalks. Everything was clean and quiet. Every alley was wide. Every building was the color of a coffee shop I couldn’t afford in a neighborhood I’d never visit. And the sun was almost set.

Teenage Boyfriend was getting nervous. He said he remembered how to get to the girl’s house– a few more blocks down, and then a few blocks to the left– but that he couldn’t remember what her house looked like. He started getting anxious about the falling darkness, too, as the scent of his cologne began to wear off. I turned to him on my right and suddenly– dream shift– he was a girl. A short, small-framed, dark haired, olive skinned girl of about 17.

And just like that we were in danger and on the run. I took her by the hand and we darted quickly down an alley. A car curled around a corner to our left, its headlights shining on us. We made a mad dash for the alley across a street we’d come to and ran as fast as we could. Two blocks down, one to the left. We hadn’t gone far enough to get to the home of the girl we were seeking, but we were at least still heading in the right direction.

The dark haired girl whose hand I was holding was suddenly back to being Teenage Boyfriend again when we were back on track. When we knew where we were going. As long as everything was going according to plan he was himself. But the moment things were in chaos, the moment we lost our way, he shifted back to this small, frightened girl younger than himself and latched on to me for help. This didn’t bother me. I’d rather baby-sit youths than date them.

Mom and Chubby Friend found us catching our breath on a sidewalk and, reunited, we resumed our trek to the home of some nameless, attractive young girl so much more appropriate in every way for my boyfriend, but who he still insisted he was just going to go visit. I began to grow annoyed with him for thinking I was as big a fool as I’d have to be to accept his protestations as being remotely likely. I said nothing. I didn’t care. I didn’t want him. He was a child. But it was like I suddenly wanted him to want me, at least a little, at least for show, at least for now, because I wanted him to be worth all this trouble.

We reached a street we thought could be the girl’s. Teenage Boyfriend told me he was unsure if this was it or not. I looked ahead and there on the right was a white bridge that looked like it had been made from pieces torn from the wings of the Milwaukee Art Museum. It was beautiful all lit up against the sky, which was now completely dark. It was beautiful and white and sturdy. It was beautiful and clean.

main-drapeDo you remember crossing this to get to the girl’s house before, I asked young Boyfriend. But before he could respond, an enormous Main Drape the brownish color of strawberry preserves dropped swiftly and silently into place on our right between us and the bridge, hiding it, and the street it was on, from view. The only direction we could go was to the left. We turned.

To our left was a house-lined street you cannot find anywhere but in a Stephen King novel set in a carnival and made into a movie directed by Guillermo del Toro. I felt like I’d walked into one of James Roland‘s nightmares without the “James Roland Guide To Waking Oneself Up.” Each house on either side of the street wasn’t so much an actual house as it was a N’Awleans mausoleum, a booth, or a tent. Yes- I could see that now. They were ragged backstage circus tents back from their final tour of the universe. And in an instant the street itself wasn’t even a street anymore. It was a waterway.

Stringy men on floating platforms poled their way up and down this sudden canal, as stars winked on high above our heads. Strings of bare bulbs buzzed as heat fell onto the tents, each decorated like the temporary encampment of some displaced Vodun priestess. Collages of religious figures, chains of beads and mud, canvas wilting in the heat, rocking chairs immobile on front stoops extending cautiously over watery lawns out to the waterway ahead; it was like death. Like so much rotten, floating death.

I knew we had to walk down this street to find the girl’s house. No longer to bring my boyfriend to her, however, but to save her. To rescue her from this place. I’d share my couch with her, my kitchen, my bed, my locks on the front door. She could even have my boyfriend; anything to get her out of this place.

voodootombI looked down the sidewalk comprised entirely of rickety front stoops and began planning how to cross them. Each one was made of odds and ends tied together and floating on the murky water of this hellish bayou, and none was more than 3′ square. Some stoops looked like sections of fencing attached to the base of the tent’s front entrance via bits of cord and wire. Some were more like single fan blades, or the arm of some unlucky chair that had fallen into the water and been spit back up after whatever lurked beneath the surface realized chairs are not as good for eating as people are. As we are. As we would be if we took even a single misstep while making our way across this floating walk.

I turned back to my group to warn them to be cautious before we began jumping from one floating, disconnected stoop to the next, when I noticed my mother was no longer behind me. I turned back around to face the walkway in front of me and there she was, already blazing a trail atop the floating “bridge.” She was picking out her steps slowly and carefully, her arms out for balance, her head down, her eyes scanning the wet boards around her for which ones looked least likely to tip her into the water and deliver her up to the dangers beneath its surface.

She hadn’t gotten far, maybe 10 feet from us, when she reached a section of the path where every piece floating around her looked too narrow for even a single foot, or too disconnected from the other stoops, or too wet and slippery to bear her up if she lept onto it over the great distance between it and the step before.

I opened my mouth to cry out to her to tell her to stop, that she didn’t need to go on ahead, that we’d find some other way. But it was too late. Her foot slipped on a wet, rocking piece of insignificant wood, and the water between the stoops of two of the tents swallowed her up with so insignificant a splash the water could have been made of damp bread.

There was no motion beneath the surface, no bubbles, no splashing. I frantically scanned the walkway for the best path to reach the point where she’d gone down, but could find no way to get to her without getting into the water myself.

I spotted one of the rafts lazily patrolling the canal like a crypt keeper in a town where there are none left but the dead. I called out to the sun worn man atop it and begged him to take his tiny craft to where my mother had gone under and rescue her. His taut, tan face wrinkled into a grin as he rasped something to the effect of “No.”

I jumped. From one slick board to the next I jumped. I screamed. I cried. I didn’t look to the canal to my right, nor to the tents to my left. I just looked down. Down at the rickety path bobbing below me as ripples of the bayou washed over it and over my sliding feet.

I got to where my mother had gone under. So much time had passed with no movement from that place, with no hand coming up above the surface, with not a single bubble of air. Perhaps 10 seconds? Perhaps 20? It felt like days.

I didn’t want to reach my hand into the water. I didn’t want to be dragged under. I was in a nightmare. I was in hell. I was in this town doing something I didn’t want to do for someone who didn’t even care about me, and in the process I was losing one of the people I love the most in the world. And on top of it all, here I was on the verge of losing myself to save her when I didn’t even know if she was there anymore to be saved.

But I couldn’t leave without trying to bring her back. I couldn’t run away not knowing if she was alive and if I could have saved her. It was like being stranded indefinitely in that moment in a horror movie where everyone in the theatre is screaming for the protagonist to just go, just run, just leave the others behind to be killed so at least one of you will live to tell the tale and warn others. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t leave. Not my mother. And whatever I did I would have to do it alone while Teenage Boyfriend and Chubby Friend cowered together on the last bit of real sidewalk at the entrance to this horrible place, immobilized by their fear.

I dropped to my knees on the stoop beneath me; the boards comprising it began to break apart. I thrust my hand into the water in front of me and waved it around, half hoping to feel something, half fearing it. What if I did feel my mother and it was just her body? What if I didn’t feel her at all?

What if I felt something else?

I felt nothing. I got nowhere.

I dunked my head into the water in front of me and to my surprise I could see. Not much, and not well, but I could see. It was like the water had light of its own. Dim light. Dirty light. My field of vision was awash with brown and muck and floating debris. Bits of leaves and broken boards floated past me. Gnarled branches nearly struck me as more and more things I couldn’t identify swam in front of me in a current that didn’t seem to exist at the surface.

I picked my head back up out of the water and caught sight of another man on a raft. I called to him. No response. I had a vision of my mother. I thrust my head back under the water along with enough of one of my arms that I was likely to tip into the water myself any second.

And then I did.

There were no bubbles. And though I kicked and thrashed at dangers I could not see and could not guarantee existed, I knew somehow that my movements were not disturbing the surface above where I went down.

And then I saw her.

Her glasses were still on her face, which had turned pale. Her eyes were open and glassy, her mouth wide. Something mechanical looking, something about the size and appearance of a tarantula’s leg, peeked out from inside her mouth where it gripped the left corner of her lip.

I suddenly didn’t know if I wanted us to live anymore or not. Perhaps it would be better if we both died so this would be all over than for me to get us out and revive her so she had to remember this horror for the rest of her life.

kraken450I reached for her and pulled her to myself. I tried swimming to the surface but it was rougher going up than down as the water thickened like refrigerated grease. I pushed her head above the surface, and then my own. I called to the boys to come grab her, to get her out of the water. I felt like something was coming toward us, something worse than thick water, debris, and mechanical creatures with bodies I couldn’t even imagine.

But they didn’t come. They dropped to their knees on the sidewalk and cried. They screamed. They held each other and pointed towards us. They called to the river men and begged someone to help us, but their cries went as unnoticed as mine had.

I began losing her beneath the water again. My face dipped and I saw something black, shapeless, and violent with ugliness move toward us with a painful slowness from far below. Something evil. Something the size of a house. I reached my chin up and out towards the night air one last time, and then she was gone from my grasp.

***************

And then I woke up.

I don’t really know if I’m glad that I was able to remember that to write it all down or not, to tell you the truth. I don’t have many nightmares, nor have I ever, really. But would it have been better to have forgotten this?

Flattery and Harrassment, and RIP: Don LaFontaine


Don laFontaine, voice of movie trailers, dies

“Don LaFontaine, the man who popularized the catch phrase “In a world where…” and lent his voice to thousands of movie trailers, has died. He was 68.”

And now to change gears COMPLETELY(!), I was Stumbling and came across an article on FinallyFeminism101 by Jennifer Kesler (of The Hathor Legacy, for those of you who follow that blog) called “Why, if you think women should be flattered by your harassment, you are stupid.” The FF101 site looks pretty cool so far, and Jennifer Kesler is always a good read, so I don’t want to infringe on their traffic by copying and pasting too much from the article, but if you’re not into clicking around you’ll miss the author’s message and approach to the topic, which I found refreshingly clear, so I’m including a short segment of the article below.

For whatever reason I’ve somehow randomly Stumbled Upon a ton of articles on feminist themes lately and more often than not they’re bogged down by so much intellectual posturing and “Hear Me Roar” name dropping that I can barely make it through the opening paragraph without yelling at my computer screen that *this* is part of why people can’t make heads or tails of New Wave feminism! It’s too bloody hard to understand what it’s about or why anyone should care!

Sorry. Little diversion there. At any rate, a few excerpts from the FF101 article (bolded emphases mine):

I recently wrote a post to explain the difference between street harassment and sincere flirtation. Unthinkingly, I wrote it to an audience of women. I guess I unconsciously assumed any man who would yell sexual remarks at strange women would not come to this site in an attempt to figure out why “that uptight bitch” glared at him, told him off or called his boss and damn near got him fired!

She may have a point there…

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write that version all the same, so here it is. If you’re a man who has been rebuffed more than once by women you thought you were flattering, this article is for you. (I say “more than once” because misunderstandings could account for the occasional incident.)

I appreciate that she allows for the reality that sometimes it really is just a misunderstanding, that sometimes it’s something totally out of your control that makes a situation go awry.

The first problem with thinking a woman should be flattered by your behavior and getting irritated when she’s not is that flattery is subjective. Some people are flattered by comments about how smart they are. Others want to hear how good they look. And some of us react warily whenever someone seems to be attempting to flatter us because we assume they’re buttering us up for a favor.

A-men. And now for the self-referential bloggy part:

If I really break it down for myself, I’m more likely to be flattered by positive comments about my appearance, and more likely to be empowered by positive comments about my abilities. The logical, responsible side of me will take empowerment over flattery any day. But, slippery Piscean that I am, that logical side often loses out to the side that wants nothing more than to see that black shirt with the ties in the back fit again like it did when I first bought it and anyone who says it still looks good on me is automatically bumped up to BFF status.

To make matters trickier for would-be flatterers, if you catch me in the right (wrong?) mood I’ll take compliments on my appearance as a threat and high tail it out of that conversation as quickly as I can. I don’t know what you’re after and I’m not in a state of mind to figure it out so: better to be gone than to be praised! And if I’m in the right (wrong?) mood and you say something positive about some project I’ve worked on, some job I’m done, I’m just as likely to assume you want me to do something similar for you and to doubt your sincerity since for all I know you’re just trying to buy me off with oohs and ahhs.

And it’s not that I advocate cynicism; I don’t. In the words of Peggy Noonan, “Cynicism is… unrealistic and kind of cowardly because it means you don’t have to try.”

I’d rather feel encouraged, empowered, and proud than flattered and blushing, but in the end it doesn’t matter what external or internal quality you’ve focused on: there’s always a tinge of fear there. Does the person giving the compliment really mean what they’re saying? Are they putting me on? Are they trying to get something from me? Do they expect me to compliment them back, thereby giving them the idea I’m equally interested in them when I know that I’m not? So in my individual case, it’s pretty darn likely that any flattery directed my way is most likely not going to come across to me the way you intended.

If a woman doesn’t take what you intended as a compliment the way you expect, the correct response is to recognize you’ve had a communication problem, and it might be that she misunderstood you but it might also be that you don’t sound like you think you do. To think of her, call her, or later describe her to your friends as an “uptight bitch” is an attempt to feel superior to her – to label her as defective. Because that is the real reason you’re yelling at her – to, in some way, make yourself feel superior. If that weren’t true – if you really just found her appealing and were hoping for her phone number – you’d be anxious to correct the communication problem and, with any luck, actually get that number.

So so true.

Is it possible that the woman really was being an “uptight bitch”? Of course! Some people are just inappropriately negative and callous in otherwise benign situations and we should probably consider ourselves lucky when they don’t respond favorably to our flattery because if that’s not dodging a social bullet then I don’t know what is.

But that’s not the particular context the author of this article is connecting with at this time, nor do I think it’s neglectful to not focus on it here. This isn’t an article about how to deal with genuinely irritating people who are irritating for no reason. It’s an article about what you may really be seeing when things don’t work out the way you’d expected.

If you’re into someone and the way you express it doesn’t translate for them, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with them or with you, (unless you’re an “uptight “fill-in-the-blank” of your own), so to berate them, or yourself, in a situation like this just doesn’t follow logically. If they’re worth the initial trouble, they’re worth respecting after the fact regardless of the outcome, so a lack of respect on your part betrays your own idiocy and inability to properly judge people and situations. And if they weren’t worth the initial trouble then you have no good reason to poison the waters around them and should probably find some other way to occupy your time than flattering people who don’t interest you.

Like learning to shave in a grocery store bathroom using generic KY.

RIP: Isaac Hayes


Soul Legend Isaac Hayes dies

(CNN) — Soul singer and arranger Isaac Hayes, who won Grammy awards and an Oscar for the theme from the 1971 action film “Shaft,” has died, sheriff’s officials in Memphis, Tennessee, reported Sunday.

Relatives found Hayes, 65, unconscious in his home next to a still-running treadmill, said Steve Shular, a spokesman for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department.

Paramedics attempted to revive him and took him to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after 2 p.m., the sheriff’s department said.

No foul play is suspected, the agency said in a written statement.”

Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac just finished filming a movie with Samuel L. Jackson called Soul Men which is currently in post. Jackson had better watch his back. If I were him I’d be shakin’ in my platforms.