About Me

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Los Angeles, California
I am 47 and thriving in Southern California. One day at a time.
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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

American Discretion is Advised

[WARNING: this blog is for the nostalgic Canadian only. American discretion is advised.]

i am t.i.r.e.d.

it's nothing like what the body on the other side of the bed must be feeling, but this is my blog.

[sorry, world'sgreatesthusband.]

this second transplant is tougher; i am older, and recovering. if you don't know what from, you've got
2 years of blogs to catch up on.

this morning i just lay there, struggling to get up. i suppose it doesn't help that we are back into our beloved late night ritual of addictive, multi-episode TV-watching. DAMN you, Dexter! i have to seriously debrief from watching a serial killer have hot sex with a sociopath by reading a couple of chapters of Kathy Griffin's biography before i can turn out the light at 2:45 am.

yup. getting up ain't no easy task. so i reached for my other Higher Power—the one i should not grab before i pray—the Almighty IPHONE, and did a quick scroll down the Facebook news feed. i don't know what i thought i would be able to read. i was half asleep and my glasses had fallen on the floor somewhere between the Trader Joe's "Some Enchanted Cracker" i'd been munching on before i drifted off and my plastic mouth guard with the back right molar section broken off. trust me. you want to get with THIS in the morning.

but something did catch my eye. this.

"10 Things Canada Does Better Than Anywhere Else"


the first one on the list to catch my eye was #1.—"apologizing". i rolled my eyes. "oh, here we go again," i thought, "making fun of Canadians for saying "sorry" too much and the funny way we say it! sooo freaking original CNN!" but then something inside me started to twitch—like the singular feeling when the first snowfall of the season flutters down...

so i continued to scroll.

on November 18th, 1996, when we climbed into our cherry-red Toyota Tercel and crossed the border from Windsor, Canada into Detroit, U.S.A., i was DONE with Canada. D.O.N.E.. at age 28, i slapped my hands together with a few dismissive claps, and never wanted to admit that i missed Canada in any way, shape or form ever again.

from my very raw, unpolished perspective, everything Canada had to offer was gray—which is the unfortunate default on any given day in Toronto in November. the only way you will catch "a drop of golden sun" is by flipping through a travel magazine.

my small family had dismantled—to Death, Denmark and that City Where it Always Rains. i had known Disease and Disappointment. it just felt like Canada had nothing left to offer me. All Roads Pointed West to The Golden State. 

[i didn't know then that all roads point inward.]

this morning, all roads pointed toward Facebook.


this is true. we apologize A LOT.  i actually observed a friend of mine microwave a Tupperwear container full of chili too long, then apologize to it. i'm not kidding.

my own experience with apologizing runs more along the craftier lines observed by the article's author. in the past, i often apologized because i wanted to get something. now, i apologize because i want to give something.

overapologizing isn't not annoying. that is to say, it's TOTALLY annoying. but, would i rather have the woodpeckering, abrasive "you know what i mean? you know what i mean?" that peppers the American vernacular? or the insistent humility that drops too easily from every Canadian's mouth?

um, the latter. 



it's a running joke in my wee family of 2: 

"well, my dad died when i was 10." 

cue the rolling of Kevin's eyes.

it was my trump card over it ALL. before the trumpee's kidney donation trumped the trumper.

[you follow?]

because even though i went to private school until i was 13, we were not rich—my mum, my brother and i. the "where do you SUMM-AH?" question was answered with a quizzical tilt of my head and an awkward, "uh...my brother and i had a picnic in High Park?"

we never had a boat, a yacht, a cottage...or a lake.

but, as i mull #2., i remember. i recall my first boyfriend and the way his family referred to their "farm." it was no "farm." there were no crops, no migrant workers, no glue strips littered with flies hanging over the breakfast table. it was a cottage three hours north of Toronto, near a town called Parry Sound; a stunning lake front property they shared with another family. it was escape from humidity, florescent lights and the subway at rush hour. it was long talks on the rocks by a water so still you swore it had frozen. but our summery teenage dream was alive— with warm breezes by day, and sultry hot air by night, that refused to release us until dawn.

ah, now i remember Cottage Country. 


well, this is easy. i was in some of these.

with Melissa Gilbert in ""The Shari Karney Story"
with Dana Delany in "The Margaret Sanger Story" 
and with Kate Jackson in "What Happened to Bobby Earl?"

[to name a few.]

every one Toronto posing as various American locales.

but what WAS a trip—literally and technologically—was kicking back to watch a movie while visiting my mother in Denmark. suddenly we're screaming, "there's AM! there's AM!"—my dear friend AM from Newfoundland, whom i'd met in Toronto, appeared on the TV screen in a movie shot in Vancouver, posing as Seattle, as we Canadian ex-pats living in Los Angeles, watched it in a living room in Copenhagen.

oh, the magic of television.

#4. AIR

when we first told everyone we were moving to L.A., the reaction was one of two pressing concerns:

"aren't you afraid of the drive-by shootings???"


"but, what about the SMOG???"

well, the irony is that Kevin took allergy tablets every day he lived in Toronto, and hasn't taken one tablet or puff of an inhaler since we moved to Los Angeles. me? i don't notice a difference in either city.

i think it's fantastic that Canada ranks as having the third cleanest air in the world, but if that means i have to live up in the Arctic Circle to enjoy it, i'll pass.

i don't need to work on my lung capacity. i'm looking for the deflate valve in my hot air tank.

on both sides of the border.

[maybe this round goes to the Americans.]


i used to LUUUV to brag about how many funny folk hail from the Great White North. 

and i was never shy about recounting the 2, count 'em 2!, times i co-starred on "THE KIDS IN THE HALL."

[Dave Foley loved running around in a dress!]

because let's face it, living above a country that is convinced you want to become the 51st state, you have to develop a serious sense of humor.

that and all that fucking snow.


don't get me started. don't even get me started.

at one time i could arise at 6 am and knock out 40 newspapers before nibbling at my anorexic-tendencies breakfast of 8 orange segments before school. i adored my paper route. it was nostalgia by nostril. my route, by bicycle, would take me with leisurely pedals past the Cadbury Chocolate Factory along Dundas Street West. the wafting elixir of chocolate, mixing Wonka-style with the burgeoning blossoms of spring, was too much for this teenager who was already on the edge of some EMOTION by 7 am. 

the chocolate was the thing.

there's a reason we smuggle Mr. Big's back from Winnipeg. there's a reason why i savor the Caramilk bar like truffles from Northern Italy. and there's a reason why messing with the size of Smarties almost constituted a "NEW Coke"-type, country-wide anarchy.

and then there was the meltdown i had in front of our refrigerator when Kevin returned from Scotland with 20 Cadbury bars stashed under his kilt.

"well, we'll just freeze them." he rationalized, head cocked in confusion.

[hello. have we met? i am your wife.]


4 chocolate bars and one stomach ache later.

i warned you. just don't get me started.


i've had one experience skiing.


i was 11 and went up to Blue Mountain, a ski "mountain" [read: very big hill] north of Toronto—nothing compared to the Whistler's and Banff's of Canada—with my friend, C. and her family. they were pros. i was not. in fact, i had no experience, but was pushed down the slope by my friend's dad who told me to "use my poles". as i gained momentum, i became absolutely terrified. i had no idea what to do. i wanted out. before i reached the edge of the first crest, i deliberately keeled over onto my right side and fell onto my snow-pant cushioned bum. 

i did not use my poles.

traumatized, i never tried skiing again.

in 1988, when i had my first transplant at age 19, it became official.

"you have one kidney. no contact sports." i was done with skiing. 

this was fine. because, clearly, i wasn't meant to be a skier. 

clearly, the "apres-ski" scene was more my thing for a while, if you catch my [snow] drift.

but now i'm just content to watch my countrymen hit the Sochi slopes at The Olympics.

[i just hope they can see my gay pride flag from here!]


it pops like a bleach blond walking the crowded streets of Shanghai.

the Canadian Maple Leaf.

it is not the cross of Switzerland that the neutral hide behind like a shield. we wear it turbo-proud. we tattoo it, paint it across our faces, stitch it to bags so you can't miss it.

because we don't want you to.

never does its veiny skin pulsate with more vibrant life than when it flutters to the autumnal ground in cascades of orange, pumpkin and red.

in the red is our secret.

you think we are apologetic, humble and meek. like celery.

but in the red we hide our truth.

our leaf doesn't just call to the world, it roars— robust and ready. 

we are simple, strong. spectacular.

we. are. canadian.


ok, get me started.

In 'N Out is awesome. there is no denying the awesomeness of the Cali burger 'n fries combo that incites impatient lines of fuming vehicles at all times of the day and night.

but before i met In 'N Out, there was Harvey's. Harvey's, as the jingle went, "makes your hamburger, a beautiful thing."

and it is. it really is. 

i mean, it's just a burger, but it's HARVEY'S! like, Tim Horton's donuts are just donut holes, but they're TIMBITS! and Swiss Chalet is just chicken but it's SWISS CHALET! 

C'mon. Even the Barenaked Ladies had to croon about it's deliciousness in their hit "One Week."

of course, it is not the food itself that is so magical, it's the sense memories they lead me back to—like opening a "scratch 'n sniff" book from middle school and smashing my nose up against the page, impossibly inhaling myself back into the past. that's the payoff. the pickle from the Harvey's hamburger can take me back to giggling with a gaggle of girls at the corner of Yonge and Eglinton. or scarfing a chocolate glazed Timbit and i'm embarrassing my niece and nephew at Polo Park in wintery Winnipeg. 

but did i mention the chocolate? 


when we first moved down here, the onus was on me.

fair enough. i had entered 'The Hollywood Zone."

if i was to become "successful" in television and in the movies, i had to lose the accent. and the "funny" things i said.

well, i was lucky. 

it wasn't cold enough to wear "toques", i never called my underwear "gitch" and there was not a great need to reference the letter "Zed".

but, the "EH". i could never quite lose the "EH."

apparently, i still say "pasta" and "salsa" in "funny" ways and i still haven't mastered the silent Hispanic "j."

after 17 years in California, i have been called out on a Valley Girl accent and my husband often asks me how many "A"s there are in "Mexico."

but i am nothing but proud when caught with those 2 little letters in my mouth.

[insert softly falling snow.]

i love California. it has saved my life—with a newborn "kid" and a glorious 12-step waltz.

my friends are family.

and when i woke up this morning, i knew it was going to be 84 degrees. 

i did not think i would be missing Canada in any way, shape or form, much less write a multi-page love letter to Her.

turns out i'm not done with Canada at all.

not by a snow-covered kilometer.

[like i ever was.]


Friday, December 13, 2013

it's friday the 13th and that's alright with me.

december 13th.

today was the day my Daddy died 35 years ago. it still hurts.

today was the day i got out of rehab 2 years ago, after 60 days. it's still hard.

there are no coincidences.

there is no such thing as "closure."

life is unfair.

but it can still be fun making a list about it.


40. it is unfair that Christmas has always been a season of melancholy for me. i do not need to watch "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" ever again. The Queer Elf, from The Island of The Misfit Toys—who just wants to be a Dentist—throws me over the arctic edge. and can i watch "It's a Wonderful Life" once, just ONCE, without completely losing it? [is this possible for anyone?]

39. it is unfair that i will never taste Daddy's tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches again.

38. it is unfair that U2's last album was kinda shite. [it really was.]

37. it is unfair that there exists no such career as professional groupie. [which is ironic considering the last statement.]

36. it is unfair that there are no words to describe a California sunset.

35. it is unfair that i can't appreciate running water more.

34. it is unfair that Daddy didn't get to walk me down the aisle.

33. it is unfair that i can't hug my niece, nephews and godsons whenever i want. [living in Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Tennessee—except for the ones in Pasadena!]

32. it is unfair that you post pictures of food on Facebook.

31. it is unfair that i burst into tears whenever i hear Dick van Dyke sing "Hushabye Mountain."

30. cellulite. [enough said.]

29. it is unfair that black licorice and coconut popsicles are not Superfoods. [like that ever stopped me.]

28. it is unfair that "Breaking Bad" ever had to end.

27. it is unfair that Fiorinal is addictive.

26. it is unfair that kidneys don't grow on trees.

25. diseasepovertyracismdiscrimination

24. it is unfair that i will never have tea with Bedstemor and Bedstefar again.

23. it is unfair that some people are paid well for doing nothing and others are paid nothing for doing well.

22. it is unfair that lilacs don't bloom all year long.

21. it is unfair that i cannot eat up my basset hound with a spoon. [because then she would be gone.]

20. it is unfair that i really couldn't have children.

19. it is unfair that i still have guns of steel and a belly of pudge. [and what the fuck is this back fat?]

18. it is unfair that "they" dared to remake "The Sound of Music—LIVE!" seriously. shame.

17. it is unfair that i have still not found the perfect pen. [this is my inner "Anne Shirley" plaintive cry.]

16. it is unfair that the Kardashians won't go away.

15. it is unfair that Daddy and I will never sing "Yellow Submarine" together again.

14. it is unfair that i cannot be alcoholic one day a week, a "day off" like Sundays,—like on the "Body For Life" program.

13. it is really unfair that orgasms don't last for an hour. [although the multiple thing is pretty rad.]

12. it is unfair that anyone is on dialysis.

11. it is unfair that no-one sings "Hallelujah" like K.D. Lang.

10. it is unfair that we just discovered "Dexter". [no spoilers!]

9. it is unfair how much i have grown to love and defend the bagpipes. ["they really are accomplished, talented players! and sexy! dead sexy!"]

9a. it is unfair that Daddy never heard Kevin play the bagpipes.

8. it is unfair that there does not exist a street named in Kevin's honor. [although i hear his mum is working on it.]

7. it is unfair how much i love you, E., for those 60 days.

6. it is unfair how much i love my in-laws for those 60 days.

5. it is unfair how much i love writing.

4. it is unfair that anyone pushingashoppingcart/living underneathabridge/beggingbythefreeway/livinginabox is ever judged or dismissed or ostracized. i am the same. i am exactly the same. but for the grace of god.

3. it is unfair that Kevin ever has to know another second of pain.

2. it is unfair that i will never go to an AA meeting with my Daddy.

1. it is unfair the amount of peace and love i hold in my heart today. on december 13th. today of all days.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

when it rains, it explodes

when i woke up at 5:30 am yesterday morning, it was raining.

i lay there, thinking, "my husband is in the hospital."

it is my last thought at night, and my first thought when i wake.

you've heard about heart transplant recipients—how their taste in music, fashion and food will change. apparently, it's like that with kidneys too. i now pee every hour like my husband, and as if we weren't joined at the hip before—now joined at the kidney—my inner worry went off at 5:30 am, because something was wrong with him.

his body was exploding with heat and sweat—a fever of 102.7—impossible foreshadowing of what was to come.

my immunosuppressed body had crashed into a wall of sleep and my emotionally-suppressed brain had ignored my alarm.

"i have to get to Cedars" was the only thought i could grasp in the fog of morning brain.

i stood in front of the bathroom mirror, contemplating the effort it would take to cover up my puffy eyes, dehydrated from the hour-long drive home the previous night. bawling your eyes out is oddly romantic as you cruise home from Cedars-Sinai against the Friday Night Lights of Sunset Blvd., then turn north towards your Valley ranch. in one hand a makeup brush hovered over a brow scrunched in worry. in the other, my cell placed a call to room 8122, tucked against a shoulder carrying the burden of worry and wait.

and then i heard it. BOOM.

was it a car accident along Sunland Blvd. echoing up through the canyon below me? the garbage truck dropping the plastic bin with a careless thud?

and again—BOOM.

was it the thudding of my heart as my beloved updated me with the surgeon's report?

2 explosions in a row.


i whirled towards the sound, and through the bathroom window saw a thick tongue of flame lick 30 ft. high against an ominous plume of smoke. black. frightening.

"omg. our neighbor's house is on fire!" i gasped and hung up, racing to our yard.

FIRE. unbelievably, FIRE. at the top of our property, it raged. i could hear its coarse munching as it devoured a shed-like structure, even as the sirens began overwhelm the soothing California drizzle.

denial had me in a chokehold. i stood there in disbelief.

"i guess i call 911", i gasped to no-one.

"911. what is your emergency?"

"my neighbors ! their house! it's on FIRE!" more sirens began to fill the air with their soothing screeches. help was on the way. i was transferred to "Fire and Somethingorother Services" and put on HOLD. just for a minute. just The Longest Minute Of My Life. and then a voice. and again, i stated my panic.

"my neighbors house! it's on FIRE! it's like 50 feet away!"

"ma'am, calm down. it's raining."

REALLY? REALLY. i'm not sure what was worse. being called "Ma'am" or having him sass me for being freaked during my first 911 call ever.

i didn't know what to do. did i evacuate my house with a bag full of immunosuppressives, his bagpipes [he would never have forgiven me otherwise] and our shockingly chill basset hound, or attend to my husband lying helpless in a hospital bed and take my chances?

so i went into our bedroom, and made the bed.

one of the gems i picked up in rehab, was to always make your bed in the morning. this, was not something i ever had to be encouraged to do. i seemed to innately know from birth why this was important. rumor is i tidied up Mum's womb before i left.

we make our beds, because it's pretty much the only thing we can control in our day.

and outside my home raged the proof.

chaos seems to follow us around like a puppy, nipping at our heels wherever we turn. maybe it's because we love dogs so much, but because we would never, ever kick an animal, the only way to get through this is to accept it as it comes—bit by crazy bit.

because all we really want now is peace.

the metaphor is not lost on me.

my husband carried the weight of our world around on his shoulders for years. and now his back is broken.

i can't fix it, but it is my greatest joy to be able to shoulder the load now. mine. and for a time, his. until he is strong enough to take it back again.

our house, unbelievably, is still standing.

"neither rain nor hail nor sleet nor snow nor heat of day nor dark of night..." can take us down.

kevin, its my turn to carry you, my love.

i am going to bed thinking, "my husband is in the hospital."

but, the fire is out.

and it has stopped raining for tonight.

Friday, December 6, 2013

things i noticed at cedars-sinai today

everyone is tired at 5 am. everyone.

i love the smell of hospital food in the morning.

when your husband is being prepped for back surgery, you CAN keep it together until you round the corner past the exit sign.
never underestimate the power of coffee. never.

every member of my husband's OR team was female: nurse, anesthesiologist. administrator. coincidence? i think not.

my husband's surgeon totally checked out my rack. twice. so touche.

men really, really, REALLY don't like catheters.

the oatmeal in The Ray Charles Cafeteria is bitchen.

you say a prayer in the chapel and find peace under The Star of David.

you are not above squatting on the floor of the waiting area next to a power outlet to charge your IPHONE. #addictedtosocialmedia

reigning in your inner Shirley MacLaine in "Terms of Endearment" [GIVE MY HUSBAND THE SHOT!!!] is oddly satisfying.

your husband is adorably sentimental when medicated. ["See Kevin, I TOLD you Dilaudid was awesome"]

when willing to sign up for the bone marrow registry, you can't because 1) you have had a whole organ transplant and 2) you have left the box [age 18-44]. broken and old? OR saved and set free? discuss.

whatever you do, SANITIZE.

how come i never looked that hot in a hospital gown?

the words, "i think my neck and legs feel better" sound like, "we have achieved world peace".

when you feed your husband ice chips, it's the most romantic thing on earth.

32 years as a patient did not prepare me to see my husband in pain.

we are overwhelmingly, ridiculous loved.

hey, McIntyre! The Elizabeth Taylor Suite AGAIN? geez, how many Cedars-flier miles has a girl gotta rack up to score da crib?

[and I can't wait to do it all again tomorrow. i love you, Kevin.]

Sunday, October 27, 2013

they say it's your birthday

i'm not a fan of birthdays.

there's a brief period as a child when the hole inside you is still small. it can be filled with presents and balloons and cake. of course, nowadays it's gone beyond filling. we stuff our children. gone are the days of one "big" present and a few little gifts - oh, and the token present thrown at your sibling to keep him in his place. if your teenager's birthday party doesn't end up as an episode of something on MTV, you've failed as a parent.

i am not a parent, so i don't have to worry about this. but filling that hole has been a shopping trip of constant browsing, looking to acquire a lifetime-supply-of-something that would keep me satisfied.

the truth is, it's never been THINGS. i've never subscribed to the idea that material things would satisfy anything. i've been perfectly content to be a thrift store junkie, giddily digging for hidden treasures hanging somewhere between the polyester muumuus and "Poison" t-shirts.

"I love the smell of mothballs in the morning!"

not unlike a little girl with lipstick smears of joy, i happily and heartily accept hand-me-downs for my dress-up box.

i really don't know what to do with myself in a mall. the blitz of franchised names feels like a light show at the planetarium -it's supposed to be galvanizing, but it just throws me into an epileptic seizure; it makes me want to hang out behind the Orange Julius and shake in my leatherette boots. fake or fabulous finds, i've known for a while now that spending big piles of money gives me an intense case of buyer's remorse. almost immediately, i break out into anxiety, spreading like a rash as i scratch my head in confusion. i arrive home, the conquering heroine busting through the front door with my bursting bags of bargains. i unpack, try everything on and strut in front of my husband, parading with the secret knowledge that 5' 3", 40 year-olds are now all the rage in Paris. i then meticulously fold and pile everything away into my closet.

twenty minutes later, the rush is gone and i am limp with said remorse.

retail therapy is like eating Chinese. you pick and choose, graze and gorge on eighteen different items, but after half an hour, you're suddenly hungry again.

when my husband asks me, "What do you want for your birthday?", it's not an easy question to answer. when a husband gives a wife a kidney, the wife ain't in much of a bargaining position anymore. ah, gone are the days of my endless Trump.

"at least you have 2 kidneys..."

not only does he no longer have two kidneys, but he gave one of them to his wife.


[although, i'm still a girl, dammit! i concede! the robin's egg blue box still makes my heart flip like a freakishly-fit, stunted teenage-girl on the balance beam.]

"i didn't ASK to be born!"

this is a standard complaint voiced by children preparing to run away and bitter old people who never win the lottery. it's also a great attention seeking device.

another great attention seeking device is being a teenager. hair mousse was not the only trend to take off in the 80's. full-frontal drama began to expose itself during my '83-'87 birthdays. i LOVED to tell the tales of the crises my beleaguered self had to endure upon the date of my birth.

when i turned 15, i awoke in my closet - no, not because of some sexual identity crisis - i had slept there overnight, flagellating myself with extra-help math notes and shoe boxes full of "Dear Diary" over my behavior the night before. and...scene. my mother had dared - DARED! - to now restrict the length of my phone conversations after a moon fest with my bf went into overtime. and i had dared - DARED! - to tell her what i thought about that.

never challenge a Viking.

[ah, the 80's. a time of neon shoelaces, skyscraping shoulder pads and the single-phone household. the time it took to dial a number on the rotary! the time it took to find a pay phone and feed it a dime! the time you wasted answering the phone and taking a message! you kids have it so good today. you save so much time. you must get so much more done, like, have entire conversations by phone without talking to anyone.]

when i turned 16, i cut class and spent the day walking up and down Yonge St., Toronto's main drag of head shoppes and record stores. i purchased a glamorous pair of "gold" earrings - long, thin strands of metal, two on each side that hung all the way down to my shoulders. they were stylin', but completely impractical, dangerous even. one false move, and i would've pulled a Van Gogh. but i felt empowered enough to tell the vendor that it was my birthday and how old did he think i was??? "17?" he guessed. oh, the heart-pounding excitement!!! like front row seats at a Duran Duran concert!!! he thought i was an entire year older!!!

[the irony is seriously painful.]

when i arrived home with my bff, N., i was dressed head-to-toe in the day's score. black leatherette pants, a white, angular, New Wave shirt, and a cocksure attitude that skipping school was totally tubular when you were 16. oh, my god, it was not even tubular! not at all. my mother went narly on my bitchen ass, i'm sure. i went upstairs, bagged my face, and had a full on meltdown.

[where is your "Relax" shirt when you need it?]

when i turned 17, our basement flooded. 'nuff said.

when i was 18, i decided i HAD to have lobster for dinner when my mother asked what my stomach's desire might be. despite a heritage high in herring, being Danish and all, i don't ever recall having HAD lobster before, but i knew i HAD to have it. cut to my poor, relentlessly appeasing mother, who'd plattered what looked to me to be a gigantic orange spider. "I CAN'T EAT THIS!, wailed the arachnophob, and the evening was flushed down the garbage disposal to the sounds of crunching claws and babyish blubbering.

so much for fine dining.

and when i was 19, my kidney function was at 8%.

i could go through the years. but the kidney-transplanted-Hollywood-cliche-alcoholic-addict thread is getting old.

like me.

when you celebrate your age, you are actually marking the END of that current year. when you turn 21, you are actually marking the end of 21 years and moving into your 22nd year of life. it's an unfortunate anecdote often overlooked. no-one is born and gets a "Happy "Zero" years!" party. so technically, i'm moving-on-up into my 46th year of life. admittedly, there's a part of me that's freaked about moving up into a new box - leaving the age 39-44 box, for the age 45-49 box - boxes you see on shopping surveys, job interviews and government census forms.

it begs the question. do i care about growing older?

i look at it two ways. from the outside in. and from the inside out.

from the outside in, i check off, not unlike the surveys found at the bottom of receipts, the following hot mess:

Unemployed. [Successful Hollywood Cliche.]
Kidney Transplanted. [Does Not Qualify For Life Insurance.]
Alcoholic. [Talk To My Husband.]
Addict. [See above.]
Discovers New Pockets Of Cellulite Every Day. [Can See From Space.]
Cannot Get Rid Of Relapse Belly A.K.A. The Minus-Six Pack. [Bring On The Spanx.]
Should I Get Botox? [All The Housewives Are Doing It.]
Must Dispose Of All Concert And Ironic Catchphrase T-Shirts. [What Not To Wear.]
Called Ma'am Over Miss At A 10:1 Ratio. [Youth Is Wasted On The Young.]
Must Retire All Selfie-Taking Activity [For The Young And The Desperate.]

but, when i look from the inside out:

Unemployed. [Unblocked Writer At Last!]
Kidney Transplanted. [Not On Dialysis.]
Alcoholic. [Sober.]
Addict [See above.]
Discovers New Pockets Of Cellulite Every Day. [More Of Me To Love.]
Cannot Get Rid Of Relapse Belly A.K.A. The Minus-Six Pack. [Makes For Lovely Hound Pillow.]
Should I Get Botox? [Bacterial Toxins Found In Spoiled Beef? SO Not My Drug Of Choice.] 
Must Dispose Of All Concert And Ironic Catchphrase T-Shirts. [Opportunity To Transition Into Wrap Dresses and Chanel Suits Like Madonna.]
Called Ma'am Over Miss At A 10:1 Ratio. [Am Officially A Cougar. Can Now Flirt With Starbucks Baristas and College Freshmen.]
Must Retire All Selfie-Taking Activity [Unless It's My Birthday :-)]

today, all my needs are met. i have a working kidney. i am sober. i am married to a wonderful man. we have the sweetest hound. i have family and friends. i have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, gas in my car and a dream in my heart.

but, best of all, today the hole is filled. i spent most of my life feeling adrift, unmoored from a place where you all seemed to frolic and thrive.

today, i know that place isn't out there, it's been inside me all along.

and that's worth celebrating.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

rehab revisited

2 years ago today i went into rehab.

fogged, in what they call a "benzo-coma", i protested limply, like an overcooked noodle.

i was cooked all right.

121 pills later, i was "FINE!...I'M FINE!", assuring my husband, as he paced on the phone with my neurologist. "She will die from the withdrawal. Bring her into Cedars-Sinai". oh, my sweet, tiny, Jewish neurologist, my co-dependent clinician, so delightfully prodigious with his prescriptive scribblings, who confessed to feeling guilty when next i saw him.

[guilt. such a useful emotion for the addict.]

i was fine. i don't remember a thing.

or much.

there was the slumped back of my kidney doctor walking away. my apathy, a cold shower dousing our friendship in confusion and pain. his newly-transplanted prodigy back in the ER for more, because she couldn't care less.

a shadowy shape in the corner, surreal in his stillness but for his eyes. a shimmering lake about to crest the levees and drown us all. a friend patiently waiting for me to wake up.

and anger, His anger - volcanic hot - surging through the hospital halls as he marched and marched, building to canter, to trot, to gallop away. a Prince ready to retire The White Horse. anger like an air popcorn machine gone turbo, spraying the halls with kernels of his rage.

it would be accurate to say i was scared, but in a self-eating, zombie kind of way. too flaccid to focus on my prey.

i just lay there.

"You deserve this." that Voice would nag sharply, like an old shrew demanding her rights in the "15-items-or-less" aisle. "That yogurt pack counts as 4 items! To the back of the line!"

to the back of the line.


i arrived at night. it looked so pretty. white shutters. bright twinkle lights. canopied couches. like a Napa Valley bed and breakfast welcoming me for the next 60 mornings.

only without the complimentary Mimosa.

i stood there, wobbling like a bowling pin ready to be knocked down, in front of who came to be my 2 favorite techs, S. and C..

"How do you feel?", they asked.

"Scared", i answered.

was that the right answer?

it would be wrong to say i wasn't scared.

it would be right to say i felt like i'd stepped into my own episode of Intervention. finally! maybe now i would understand why junkies shooting up in abandoned warehouses looked good to me. "Why?", i wondered. why didn't i clutch and shake my head exclaiming, "OH MY GOD! WHAT'S WRONG WITH THEM?" no, i still wanted to try it. 

i want[ed] to try it all. 

i sniffed as they pillaged my open bags, seizing hand sanitizer, perfume, hair spray. Ambien. "But how will I sleep?", i wailed. "I'll give you something, honey", S. soothed.

i stood hunched, my soul like loose skin hanging off the bone, too flabby to feel. i couldn't muscle up any emotion, not even tighten a pretense. it dangled, like a freak benign tumor that serves no purpose, weighing me down under. as i drooped off to a tiny twin bed, defeated, head hanging, heart hung, i was ready, in the City of Altered Angels, to have it all snipped away.

it would be too easy to quip about the Grammy-award winning tune Amy Winehouse would croon with Stoly-crack-fueled resistance. the song that ran on a track around my brain, as i chased her defiance as my own, huffing and puffing 'til i collapsed in a pile of smelly old sweats and fresh new regrets.

"They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, no, no, no..."

but it would be a lie to say i never fantasized about doing the karaoke with Amy, belting out her hit together, testifying with pursed pouts and jutting hips that,"you don't know! you just don't know!"; teenage BFF's flipping birds skyward from unshackled arms stretched long and lean, pumping our venom outward, always outward.

towards you.
towards them.
towards all.

oh, yes, i was hard done by, don't cha know. i was in rehab.

it would be wrong to say i remember when the fog lifted. it took a long time to physically stabilize. my detox was long, and the cravings longer. it took months for them to subside. like water bubbling over on the stove, they calmed from a righteous, spiting boil to a low-grade simmer, and finally, cooled enough to slide to the back burner.

but never, ever off.

for 4 solid years, my disease palmed me into a desperate diner waitress, broke and broken, the heat, the pace of Its kitchen wearing me down into a sweaty, greasy mess.

"Order Up!". Its spinning metal rack of orders never ceased to turn. It squeaked orders from the moment my eyes cranked open with rusty resistance.

i didn't want to get up. i never wanted to get up. i didn't want to open my eyes, ears, heart, because The Orders kept coming.

"Get up. Take Your Pills. Buy Alcohol. Order Pills. Con Doctor. Manipulate Pharmacist. Lie to Husband. Hide Alcohol. Take Pills. Drink Alcohol. Ignore all Mirrors. Ignore Everyone. Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.

amidst a perfect storm of events, i had given up and poured the remains of my life down a funnel of fear, lubricating the journey with a backsplash of booze and dissolving baubles, anything to speed it up. it couldn't be stopped up with silly ideas like hope or serenity. i just shoved and flushed hard.

the invisible line between catch and release had been crossed. i had been caught by a disease i could not name, even though i had lived it from the other side as a child. a father's daughter who could not reel this one in without a little help from her friends.

it would be right to say i smiled when i got to rehab. i laughed. i flirted.

and it would be wrong to say i didn't feel relief.

after 4 years of holding my breath, i could finally breathe.

i had tea with the pharmacist who didn't take pills, rap with the gay son of a Texan and skip down Robertson with a suburban boy blue. and all our conversations were the same. our frequencies in sync, no feedback, crystal clear. invisible to the eye, we all wore the same uniforms. through sleet and snow and dark of night, we had all weathered the same storm.

and nodding. oh, the nodding.

to a 3/4 beat, i'd nod.

"i'm not/ a-lone/ i'm not/ a-lone/".

it would be wrong to say i didn't love them.

for the first time in my life, my hand was held, nay, grabbed as i attempted to navigate the landscape of insanity that sprawls between my ears. my brain untamed is hazardous to Your health, not mine. i was comfortable living inside the tornado, my delicious default. as You prayed for the Eye of The Storm to land, for calm air to descend, hot and moist, and wrap You in a blanket of peace, on all fours i'd position, angry and aroused, ready for the storm to carry me away again.

chaos, my cherub. my sweet spot.

where i could hate and hate loud and never hear the replies.

we drink because we are happy.
we drink because we are sad.
we drink because we get a job,
we drink because we are mad.

there is no answer to be found.
this riddle will not be solved.
we cannot change but with acceptance,
we drink because we are alcoholic, and that is all.

i used to HATE it when that old adage floated around like second-hand smoke; i'd hack on the esotericism of it all  - "everything happens for a reason." EGADS. who are YOU to know this? HOW do you know this? and why don't I understand?

i left rehab on december 13th, the day i lost my Daddy to this disease, 35 years earlier.

there are no accidents.

and when i understand this, i am empowered by something greater than reason.


rehab did not fix everything, but a soul is not to be fixed, it's to be freed.

it would be right to say the fog has lifted.

and it would be wrong to say rehab didn't save my life.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

what [not] to wear

we met when he was 18, barely out of diapers. couldn't even legally drink.

he was The Gap boy to this thrift shop junkie.

he had barely outgrown the Sears threads all the rage in Winnipeg, mandated at home by a fabulously frugal matriarch, and was beginning to spread his cottony wings into Franchise territory.

yes, The Gap, Club Monaco, Banana Republic.

and Kinsk. let's not forget Kinsk.

the boutique clothing store where Kevin worked was tucked away in a teeny, tiny corner on the 3rd floor of the Eaton's Center. he was their reliably unreliable cashier. flipping the "Be back in 5 min.!" sign and leaving for two hours to go to an audition. you'd leave too if you were inundated with ignorant Americans asking questions about our "funny money" and "why is it so many different colors?". but it all ended ceremoniously when the owners showed up in a panic, declaring a "bank run" type clearance on all merchandise, as Eviction appeared on the horizon marching steadily towards the store holding sickles and scythes high, ready to clear out the merchandise with an economic slice.

"Take what you want and run!" the owner whispered in a panic. i'm not exactly sure what happened, but i know i got a sweatshirt out of it.

i, on the other hand, was a fabricated fashionista, stitched together from rags and resources.

one part resourcefulness and two parts necessity, my wardrobe was borne from a material mish-mash of bargains from The BiWay bin and hand-me-downs from my mother and godmother.

i'm not sure when my mother allowed me to dress myself independently; she was pretty great about creative expression. i'd always had my color of choice on my bedroom walls, even when that color became, at age 15, grape juice purple. but at heart, my mother was a pragmatic lioness, dressing her cubs appropriately. so when the time came, she ditched all fashion sense in favor of practicality as any good mother should. "did you bring a jacket?", "are you wearing a vest [undershirt]?", and especially in Canada, "where are your mittens?".

i concede, the invitation probably clearly stated, "Play Clothes, please." and this was where my powers of manipulation vanished.

"But, MU-MMYYY! I don't WANT to wear pants."

"It says play clothes, so you must wear play clothes. You must be sensible."

sensible. ugh. SENSIBLE. is there any word worse than sensible? i'm not sure if my mother pictured private school princesses rolling around in puddles of mud, and french kissing the family poodle, but there was no talking her down.

pants. that's right, PANTS, to a little girls' birthday party.

it was a nightmare. when i arrived, i might as well have been strutting a catwalk naked for all the finger pointing and tittering my "silhouette" created. amongst the frilly frocks i stood out like a stained doily, head to toe in brown. BROWN. dark chocolate brown. brown top. brown pants. a unitard of poo. born to stylish European parents, this 1st gen. Canadian probably looked fairly Micheal Kors chic in a 70's-disco-pantsuit-y-kind-of-way, but to my 7 year-old mind this humiliation was beyond description. not only was i in PANTS, but they were the color of POO.

i was mortified. MORTIFIED.

then there was the first day of school. high school.

is there ever a day in your life when you are more scrutinized than the first day of high school?

and believe me, for as much as i wanted to look like Molly Ringwald in every John Hughes flick, i could never quite master her pouty, effortless chic. if she wore a hat, it tilted ever so "avant-garde". when i wore a hat, i got lice. [true story. another blog]. when she patted on lip gloss she was divine angst, when i patted on gloss, i looked like a porn star. and when she wore pink, she was...pretty.

when i wore pink...

after 11 years, emerging from the bubble of private school fashion is daunting. every day it's the same routine: oxfords polished? check. shirt ironed? check. toothpaste washed from tie? check. - it's predictability a boring bliss. so entering high school at age 13 with no clear vision of my style was a recipe for disembowelment - of the Mean Girl kind. on that first morning in 1982, pumped up in a personal huddle, THIS was my best line of defense; The Outfit that would plow through the line of scrimmage and score the game-winning touchdown...

[enter the pink.]

a hot pink terrycloth [yes, the fabric of towels] polo shirt, bright white terrycloth short shorts, those ankled white tennis socks with hot pink pompoms flirtatiously hanging off my heels and white Keds - the generic kind. they were probably called Kedz. my outfit was a winnah! i knew it! i matched! i was stylin'! i was Phat, before Phat existed. i was Vogue before the song, before the underground dance. i had arrived! until SHE walked by. the ubiquitous Mean Girl. she scanned me quickly, the studied once over through Maybelline blue-shadowed lids, flipped her Aqua-Netted floppy locks back with disdain [why didn't my hair bounce like that?], and quipped...

"where's your tail?"

she burst into uproarious, scornful scoops of high-pitched laughter with her superiorly dressed minions with whom i simultaneously wanted to hang and cast upon some teenage version of a voodoo curse.

i thought bubbled, "bunny? bunny. omg, bun-ny. tail as in bun-ny. she thinks i look like a playboy bunny!!!"

which was funny because i am literally missing a couple of qualifying elements. read: big boobs.

i was mortified. MORTIFIED.

until theatre school.

all bets were off in theatre school. we lived the permanent performance of the musical, "Anything Goes!" there was the girl who shaved her head. the "workshop" where my 3rd years, covered in mud, ran around naked in a circle, reciting something or other to Lou Reed. and then there was the NIGHT. I. WENT. TOPLESS.

theatre school's version of The Prom was called The Bunny Ball, i think because it fell around Easter, or maybe because we were all going at it like rabbits. i had purchased a sheer, read: see through, black shirt with brass buttons laddering up the front. one step up from the mid-80's fishnet fad, it was meant to be classed up with a tank or lacy camisole underneath. i don't know what i was thinking, but i know what i was drinking[!] because after the champagne toasts in my apartment, the "should i, or shouldn't i?" banter in my brain had stilled and i yanked off my bra to the enthusiastic hoots and hollers of "IV-A-NANS!".

just file the evening in triplicate:

"What Was She Thinking?"
Blackwell's Top 10 Worst Dressed List
The Wardrobe Malfunction Before It's Time

i was mortified. MORTIFIED.

it is noteworthy that as i described this blog to my husband, this was the first example of my fashion senselessness to blurt from his mouth.

then one day you wake up and realize you are wearing a "Princess" shirt. you think, "am I too old to be wearing this?" - a baseball-style shirt with navy sleeves and a lighter blue torso with "Princess" scrawled across the front in glittery raised letters. that and pigtails. at age 30. "How long can I pull this off?", you think. sure, you're getting carded everywhere you go, but you don't want to wander into, "WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME!?!?!" territory.

the boy can't win.

"Does this make me look fa- ?"

"- NO."

don't pause. don't think. just answer.

"You didn't even look!"

"Yes, I did."

"Well, now I don't know what you think."

"You look fine."

"But do I look fa- ?"

"- NO."

"Yes, I do."

yeah. the boy can't win.

but, as the boy becomes a man, and you make peace with your scars and satellite cellulite [they can see this from space!!!], you make peace with your wardrobe. even when you hold up a new top and he pauses.

[tilt of head. silence.]

"Well, I like it! Just don't call it a Russian tablecloth!"

"It's more like a Ukrainian Easter Egg."


no. you're even proud.

busting to the couple on the beach who love your new top -

"thanks! i just bought it at a thrift store!"

why, WHY do you feel the need to announce this to the world? is it a mini-ego trip? "See! I conned you! You probably thought I paid a fortune for this fabulous shirt that in no way resembles the national flag of some unknown African nation."

"That woman at the meeting like my shirt", you boast.

"Oh, she liked your bandana shirt?"


if he can't win, you can't win.

some things never change.

and ain't that FABULOUS.

Monday, October 14, 2013

i shot the tariff

it's that time of year again.

no, not to make merry with Santa's Elves, 'cause, btw, those merry making days are long gone.

it's less fun than the dentist!, but more fun than a knock from The Grim Reaper!

the taxman cometh.

but, ah, i blog this in the afterglow of an empty table, cleared of the papered detritus of another year in our life.

they reveal a lot. those typed-up tales of our financial safari through the current economic wild ravaging America.

as i sort each and every receipt, i travel back in a time capsule wallpapered with very thin anecdotes, some boldly typed, some barely visible - numbers fading from an unchanged cartridge pounding out it's last few gasps of ink. i stack them into categories, like patchwork, and when sewn into a sheeted quilt they read like a scroll from medieval times heralding the announcement of "Ye Old Sob Story." indeed a story calls from every page of this unbound book, papers now bound together, organized by theme, not poignancy, with a large plastic clip, leaning by the door in a recycled "Brookstone" bag patiently waiting for tomorrow's appointment.

it's like reading Braille. our story is all there, you just have to learn how to decipher it.

there are the numbers that made me flinch.

did we really spend $4395 on gas? cry me a river. and make it a diesel deluge. i hear you get better gas mileage that way.

the $367 on bank and foreign transaction fees.

"Hello. Welcome to Bank of America. Please remove your pants and bend over."

and "who-the-fuck-is-getting-rich-off-these? parking charges. ouch. 276 ouches to be precise.

there are the numbers that made me ache.

call it our "May-September" period when we were, ahem, "exploring our options" - separately.

as i sucked down hard on Trader Joe's Lime Fruit Floes night after night, alone in my studio apartment with Tiffany-blue walls and a RainShowerHead in unsexy Glendale, Kevin should have been kicking himself for not taking stock in Subway. i crumpled up more Subway receipts than a 13 year-old boy crumples up Kleenex. i could smell the processed meat and enriched flour stench flutter up as i rifled through the evidence of his feral fast food habit.

and then there were the fun facts.

the cost of one "Maggie May McIntyre the Basset Hound" inflated from last year's veritable steal-of-a-deal at $2 a day to $6.11 a day. More than a gallon of milk! Less than a large rotisserie chicken! Maybe we should have been placing her 16 extracted teeth under her pillow at night, and whatever the canine equivalent of The Tooth Fairy might have floated translucent above her floppy ears and cold nose magnanimously waving away her/our medical bills with one generous swoop of her sparkling wand.

oh, and speaking of medical bills.

["should i?...i really shouldn't...oh, who am i kidding...", she thought bubbles, dragging her soap box across the stage, plunking it front and center.]

the stack, make no mistake, it is a STACK, of medical bills towers over the comparatively flat terrain of hilly sheaths below. it's shadow, appropriately casts the year in dark, not black. it stands a Goliath to our David, only we are still trying to find the right slingshot, never mind a chink in The Medical System's armor. it's like throwing a pebble at The Great Wall of China and praying centuries will suddenly collapse. or flying into Death Star with Luke Skywalker, only you've already taken your best shot.

[you get the idea.]

i've always said that pain is relative. and i believed it.

until 5 years ago.

no, i will never know what it is like to walk miles every day, barefoot, under the hot African sun for a bucket of water.

but, i do know what it's like to live the story of chronic illness for 32 years, wake up in the middle of its darkest chapter, turn the next page and read that i am also an alcoholic.

so maybe there's a teeny, tiny part of me that wants to roll around on the ground, jaundiced fists pummeling the air, legs kicking an invisible foe as i bellow with cheeks plump with rage,


["and in the category of "MEDICAL EXPENSES: H. and K.!" - today's clear winner at...!"]

$21, 621.

give or take a few bucks.

[i will now abstain from comment over the Republican shutdown or any joyous trumpeting of Obama's policies that not only saved our house, but will reduce my health insurance premiums $300 a month except to say "recess is over you big bullies. stop fucking around, take your seats and get back to work."]

i choose to look at money 2 ways.

how much we can get with it. or how much it gives us.

money is a means, not an End.

because the only End is Death, when none of this will mean a thing.

money can't buy you love.
money can't buy you happiness.
and according to The Countess, money can't buy you class.

we will be forever in debt to Cedars-Sinai, even after the bills are gone.

after the scars are healed. and as new trauma is torn.

the memories from that time are not like the song..."like the corners of my mind"...they are front and center, cobweb-free.

but today i choose to pluck like paper petals, memories that yet blossom, and gather them into a tissued bouquet tight to my heart.

Vons. $9.99. Roses.

[Paid by: Debit Card/Kevin McIntyre]


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

thank you for being a friend...

insomnia for me is like a swarm of killer bees.

not just annoying, but frightening.

that ominous building buzz. from far away a mild drone, like the comforting hum of a jet plane engine that lulls you to sleep on a transatlantic flight. white noise as ambien.

but the engine would rev from mild, medium to red hot as i crashed and burned, electronic screams filling my ears; my soul.

withdrawal, the DT's, dope sickness. all euphemisms for what goes up must come down. hard.

in the past, this buzz was my anti-buzz.

i'd take the assigned position.

which was a sweaty child's pose: a) cramped over the toilet, b) fetal in the bath, c) drenched on our memory foam pillow top or d) all of the above.

but last night, it was none of the above.

it was only Mistress Migraine deciding to pay a visit after 3 months off on a meditatively-mandated sabbatical, arm-in-arm with a simply gushing Aunt Flow!

"we're so happy to see you!!!"

[wish i could say the same.]

so this morning, taking the assigned position meant taking up residence for several pre-dawn hours on the couch.

they are always on.

[what is that saying?]

if i threw a dart at the television guide, i would hit an episode of The Golden Girls.

anytime. any station.

and thank god for small favorites.

what a sight for my squinted, swollen eyes.

from underneath my ice-drenched washcloth and through the pungent fumes of Tiger Balm wafting up from my shoulders, as shimmering icy heat, i saw them.

in all their sophomoric, sitcom silliness.

Rose, Blanche, Dorothy and Sophia.

i didn't bother to surf. i knew all i would find would be infomercials and early morning news broadcasts. i was not in the mood to contemplate erasing the fine lines emerging around my eyes like tree rings. not in the mood for any more news about the Republican shutdown or i'll virtually vomit all over Facebook and beyond. and so not in the mood for some histrionic declaration of why "THIS. PRODUCT. WILL. CHANGE. YOUR. LIFE!!!"

nah. it was all coasting from here.

Dorothy. the Dominatrix of comedic timing. slaying us with her triple takes, her deep-throated quips and those sly nods to her perfect imperfect masculinity. the fucking hilarious way she whacks Rose with a newspaper. and oh, isn't it just the best when she slams the door after, "Hi, it's me Stan!"

Blanche. clip, clip, clipping her perma-hotandbothered buttocks all over the lanai. her mules pounding as metronome to her ferociously accelerated sex drive. the train of her bold-80's-patterned, poly-negligee sets, billowing around her from the heat between her "loins" or the wind from the revolving kitchen door of comedic declarations and misunderstandings. and oh, isn't it just the best when she oozes the word "bosoms!"

Rose. The only one who never got lost on those long and winding tales through St. Olaf. her enthusiastic delivery! the pained looks on their faces! and the moral that somehow always made sense around a kitchen table overflowing with junk food and joviality. and oh, isn't it the best when they scream, "Oh, SHUT UP, Rose!"

And Sophia. Picture it. the tales from Sicily. the tales from Shady Pines and the snappy one-liners that brought the house down. "Rose, that's cause you're an idiot!" and "Blanche, that's cause you're a slut!" and "Dorothy can't get a date!" and oh, isn't it just the best when she holds Dorothy's hand and croons, "I love you, Pussycat..."

and cheesecake. lots and lots of cheesecake.

like "Friends" and "Seinfeld", it was lightning in a bottle. the chemistry a potent potion that flew off the shelves of television's apothecary. a fountain-of-youth like elixir we drank, delivering bright eyes, light hearts and that warm and fuzzy feeling as we snorted and snickered over lines we'll forever quote.

after 2 episodes, i dragged my heavy head and shoulders back to bed, the washcloth dripping down my back, the Tiger Balm fumes stripping my nostrils raw. and as the freeway kick started into the rush of morning, my head still screamed in pain, but the ringing had changed.

from buzzing to laughter.

not canned sitcom laughter, but the real thing.


most of the time, when i look in "The Box" there ain't nothin' but dark.

and sometimes when i look, it's bright, shiny.


thank you for being a friend.

Monday, September 23, 2013

mirror, mirror, off the wall...

so i'm doing this little thing called writing a book.

and i'm trying every which way but lewd to tap into my creative chi.

[is tapping into your chi more like mining for gold? or drilling for oil? OR searching for a vein?]

prayer, meditation, books. oh, and popsicles. LOTS of popsicles.

Twyla Tharp's book, The Creative Habit" is a stroke of genius. or in the renowned choreographer's case,  a "pas de bouree" of genius. she cuts right to the heart of an artist's agony with her opening line,

"i walk into a large white room". it could, and does apply to any medium along the artist's spectrum.

i walk up to a large white page...i walk upon a large white stage...

i'm in a large white daze...

[you get the idea.]

the white, the space, symbolizing the emptiness that grows exponentially with every second you flail, mired in a bland, beefy stew of mystery meat and unseasoned vegetables; stuck in a traffic jam of creative roadblocks, unable to put any miles between you and your creative destination.

your journey has come to a grinding halt.

[and you've got the skid marks to prove it.]

it happens. we can't all be brilliant, all the time.

so Tharp gives you exercises. fantastic, "what-kind-of-tree-would-you-be?", theatre school-esque exercises. writing letters to your dead parent, rehab-esque kind of exercises.

[i can dig it.]

one of her nuggets is attempting to do without certain things for a week. she has 4 suggestions:

speaking, newspapers, clocks and mirrors.

well, immediately i nixed suggestion #1. it would have given my husband waaay too much satisfaction, and quite frankly, i ain't yet that humble or serene.

suggestion #2  i pretty much do anyway. it's not like i'm floating around, all silky clean, in some soft, soapy bubble of denial about "the war of the worlds" out there; walking around like an alien who's just landed, ignorant to your earthly ways. no, it's popped virtually every day with a simple click, scroll or touch. by virtual osmosis, i can't ignore the crap out there if i tried. and i've tried. ever since the crash of '08, i've tuned out all talking heads whose only credentials for hosting the "news" seemed to be their 1/2 inch layer of orange, oompa-loompa makeup and voices so grating, dogs howl all the way down to San Diego - zealots suspiciously excited about Americans! losing! everything!

[uh, yeah. i know. livin' the dream...]

suggestion #3 was a bust, too. i haven't worn a watch since - well, honestly, i can't remember. there's always a clock on the dash of l.a.'s ubiquitous mode of transportation - your car. your cell. and even back in the day when i was barebacking the toronto transit system, every station had an advertising board with a clock, tracking my E.T.A..

about 20 years ago, k. gave me a lovely watch for my birthday. it had a gold face and a brown leather braided strap. i thanked my sweet boyfriend and laid it to rest in my jewelry box. you've heard of "the girl who can't say no!", well, meet "the girl who can't say WH-OA!". i am a barely disguised nudist at heart. jewelry is like bondage. i cannot deal with bras, as many of the friends i've flashed over the years can attest. if i'd wanted to be "lifed" into a corset, i would have become a re-enactor at a Ren-Fair. i am a free-floater. literally. even thursday, my beleaguered man had to remind me to don panties under the black shift that kept floating up around my thighs; the l.a. heat wave breezing hot, twirling my dress up "7-year-itch", subway grate style. and socks? socks are for athletes and men over 40 who wear sandals. i don't need anything tight around my permakankles, nor do i want a layer between me and my Viking heritage.

nothing gets between me and my Danish clogs.

but, mirrors. hmmm. now that sounded interesting. to go a week without looking in the mirror. the objective, according to Twarp, was to "see what happens to your sense of self...instead of relying on the image you see reflected in a glass, find your identity in other ways."

there was a period of time in high school when i thought i was a cross between Molly Ringwald and the fedora-wearing bassist from Duran Duran. yes, once i discovered midnight blue kohl eyeliner and colored mascaras, there was no going back. kinda like my infatuation for pills. eyeliner was to my 80's as Percocet was to my 2010s.

more is more.

no, even after graduating from The Sunset Gower Makeup Academy in Hollywood, i never really spent excessive amounts of time in front of the mirror. don't get me wrong. i am a girl and periodically, i really like being a GURL. i luv gooping on the lip gloss, sashaying through a wall of perfume and tottering out the door on my knock-off mules.

but, strip it all away and that's where i'd rather stay.

i get my groove on splashin' in the Woodstockian mud puddle. let me roll around free, hairy and bare, caking it on thick, covering myself up from the waxing and shaving and cutting. i could never, ever work under those migraine-inducing florescents, clocking in with a manicured punch, smiling with pageant-like precision, straining my glossy grin as i reach under my pencil skirt to adjust the pantyhose mummifying my legs, cutting off all circulation to my crotch and beyond. the upkeep is too tremendous. as soon as the drapes are dyed and hemmed, you're returning to brazil to remove the carpet. it's like weed whacking a yard fertilized with radioactive waste. it's keeps growing and growing...and glowing.

and you can still see my unibrow from space.

so, no. i do not have an office job. but if i did, perhaps Tharp would forgive a quick morning glance in the mirror - a brief survey of my landscape lush with pillow lines, eye boogers and cowlicks. conveniently, my hair fell out again - a side effect of over 32 years of medication - so my peter pan shag works really well for this exercise. quite frankly, i barely wash it, never mind check it. and yet, somehow, this woman can always find a way to incorporate hair products into her life.

what are those addictive scents they add, anyway?

strawberries? the rare fruits of Guam? opium?

yes, i felt ready to go out in the world without hair products, makeup and nothing Narcissus would fall into. ready to rely on the kindness of strangers to point out the piece of spinach stuck between my teeth or the toothpaste smear on my chin.

so i went forth. to boldly go where my ego had not gone before.

the timing couldn't have been more perfect. i was slammed with a Grade B chest cold [be damned, Ye Ol' Pipers of Pleasanton!]. a bug you'd be over by sunset, set up camp in this immunosuppressed chest for a couple of weeks. no, not sick enough to stay in bed all day, but frantic for 10 hours of sleep a night, leaving Halls like Easter Eggs scattered all around our house, and convinced my red nose could be seen from space.

i admit, i had a Mrs. Roper moment.

[step away from the visor, Jackie O. shades and moo-moo.]

but after my hands stopped twitching in the direction of my makeup case, they clasped and folded into stillness.

i'd wash my hands in public, and not look up. i'd brush my teeth and not look up. and i'd pass buildings [yes! i walk in L.A.!] and not look up.

on day #1, i happened to escort a dear friend on a trip to the ER. what a trip. i don't know that i've ever been the supporter and not the supportee of an ER experience. either way, it's nothing like Gray's Anatomy. no-one's fucking in a supply closet, no-one looks gorgeous after brain surgery and no-one remotely resembling McDreamy takes your blood pressure. although, there was one cinematic moment when my friend's attending physician answered his cell mid-diagnosis and barked, "Kish!". for a second, i thought it was a new medical term like "Code Blue! or "STAT!". no. just short for Kishineff, but long on impact.

["Kish" will soon be appearing as a character in Marmaduke 2: Look at the Size of his Poo!]

when my friend and i returned to his condo, his wife greeted me with a huge and happy hello, exclaiming, "you look beautiful!". really? i'd been deep-throating lozenges all night, was cross-eyed with exhaustion and was sure i had a soy milk stash.

and so it went.

the Starbucks barista called me "miss". score one for Starbucks. it's pretty much a 50-50 deal now as i round the corner into the home stretch towards age 45. half the time i'm a "miss" and i want to skip out of the store like a kilted girl in pigtails. which means the other half of the time i'm referred to as "ma'am" and the charlie brown theme of despair starts playing in my head as i duck and run.

but this was not an exercise in vanity alone.

i always wear even the tiniest bit of makeup. even to the gym. the "made-up-to-look-natural" look favored by most women of a certain age. even though no-one, to my knowledge, has ever flung their forearm across their eyes in horror at the sight of my naked face, i always felt i looked like Oprah without makeup - bare, startling, and quite frankly, kinda scary. but, when unmasked, Queen O becomes a face in the crowd, persona become person, a soldier joining rank-

-without her war paint.

and we like her even more.

"i walk into a large white room."

there was a physical freedom to not looking in the mirror. more time, less dress.

but the spiritual freedom came today.

as i dressed for a seminar on dialysis and kidney transplantation, i layered on the colors and creams, and a doll-face emerged, rainbow brite. and i looked like someone gearing up for war, smearing black under the eyes, answering the battle cry not of the "war of the worlds" outside, but of my "war of the worlds" inside.

there's a reason they call it war paint.

i would cover it all up and i still couldn't stand to look.

always fighting, never winning.

so, maybe it's all right to be a face in the crowd. bare. bold. free.


i don't have to stand out, to stand tall.

and the only one who has to like my face, is me.

and guess what.

walking into a large white room doesn't scare me anymore.