4.30.2006

Tree. Apple.


Or you could call them the Wedding Cake Crashers. This I took from the driver's seat on the way home from Biggy's uncle's nuptials in South Carolina. They fell into sugar comas outside Augusta. We expect a full recovery. As usual.

4.28.2006

Friday Nostalgia


I was just thinking about Robbie today. Wasn't he dreamy?

4.27.2006

Kelly Renee Duckworth 04/05/65-04/27/89


Today is the 17th anniversary of my sister's death. She held George once, before we left the hospital where Georgia was born. It was the same hospital my sister had been in for a long time and would remain for a while longer before being transferred to Emory. She died at Emory three weeks later, as they failed to get her back into remission from Leukemia. She'd waited nine months for the baby to be born so she could have a bone marrow transplant. I was to be the donor. I was a perfect match.

Relationships are complicated. Seventeen years later, the irony seems more profound. George looks just like Kelly. It must be hard for my mother, loving me after I made the decision to go through with that pregnancy, and loving George, always the reminder. My mother and sister were best friends. When they had to, they could read each other's minds. I learned that near the end.

Whenever I hear the Lyle Lovett lyrics "If I had a boat, I'd go out on the ocean; if I had a pony, I'd ride 'im on my boat" I think of Kelly, who was a wisher--wild and excessive. My mother has that in her, too. It comes out in her garden, which is full of statuary--angels and gnomes, frogs and bunnies. She must have a hundred bird houses and feeders. There are flowers everywhere, real and plastic. She has painted window panes to hang on the picketts of her fence, and the floor of her deck is painted like a rug. She adds to these things all the time. I know it's her memorial.

The best way to honor my sister is to honor my mother today, and to say again how sorry I am.

So here's another poem from Karaoke Funeral, this one for my mom:

ON THE CANCER FLOOR

They’ve paralyzed my sister from the neck down
so she won’t fight the machine that racks breath
into her lungs, the tubes that fill her mouth and throat.
She sleeps, but Mother can’t leave the room
to hold my new baby or talk awhile. Mother
tries to explain, but I won’t be consoled. Our whispers
crack through the sterile halls. I tell her I’m worried,
that her life is a blanket folded at my sister’s feet.
What good does it do, I demand, for you to stay with her
day and night?
And my sister’s eyes open, the way
my mouth is always opening to say something sharp,
and Mother, whose back is to my sister, turns
as if she’s been called, and her flat protests,
waiting among the ones I’ve popped and strewn,
fill and lift into the air.

4.26.2006

The Love Boat



For years I've fantasized about writing a collection of short stories centered on the houses/families in our cul-de-sac, each of which sits along a continuum between odd and downright freaky (I won't admit where WE fall). Perched smack in the center of that range, the new kids on the block, a family of five who moved in three years ago. We believe they breed bikes in their backyard, like bunnies. He's always starting and never finishing projects--a storage building that's been framed for a year with no more progress, an old jacuzzi leaning against the chainlink fence. He'll pull out trash (old Little Tykes toys, boxes of forks, laundry baskets, diaper pails, bookshelves) from his garage and leave it piled up for months in the driveway. Then, while we're praying and waiting for him to drag it back in, he'll rent a pressure washer and clean the driveway AROUND the trash!

And today, as I'm getting home from work, this.


Note to Mamoo: So what, we have a pop-up camper? It ain't parked out front.

4.25.2006

This April Day


I just finished reading this wonderful book of poems by Judson Mitcham, which destroyed me. I've got snot coming out of my ears, to steal from my friend Dianna. This particular poem resonates with me, speaks--again--to the sad affects of our patriarchal culture that discourages men from expressing their feelings.

Here we have: One father dying, one son witnessing, and both with so much left unsaid.




Surrender

We were ordinary men,
unable to embrace each other fully—
to bury a face in the other man’s neck,
to rock like drunks in the doorway, saying
goodbye. It was always a handshake
and maybe that sideways hug,
with an arm around the shoulders.
In the hospital
you couldn’t understand, didn’t know me,
tried to overturn the rack by the bed, tear
the needles from your arm; searched everywhere,
underneath the sheets and the pillow,
for your clothes, going home; grew frightened
when confused by the purpose of a spoon, angry
when you couldn’t even urinate—failing
to hit the plastic bottle, till I held you.
If I leaned down close
when baffled agitation started up,
and I smoothed back your hair, or I kissed you
on the forehead or cheek, whispered, “Daddy,”
you’d throw your arms around me.

There’s a way a man turns to a woman,
so his lips just barely graze hers, yet in this,
there is everything that follows, each detail
of forgetting where they are.
And today I am trembling with desire, wild
for the years, when my lips feel yours, cool
as gold. One kiss for the infinite
particulars of love, to tell you this:

I will be there with you, in the darkness.

Soul Mates II


Lo and her buddy John. Note the two spoons in the mac-n-cheese.


(Explains why my table looks the way it does.)

4.24.2006

Soul Mates


Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


(From Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach")

4.23.2006

Last Supper


When I was growing up, dinner time was like a Pat Conroy novel or a David Lynch film. My father was a combo Henry Wingo/Bull Meecham, with a little Frank Booth thrown in. He'd warm up on my mother, "Are you going to eat all that?" and proceed to picking on either me or my sister, usually about "that look on your face" or "your tone of voice." Someone always ran crying from the table until, eventually, we learned to assume the flat affects that seemed to placate him. In any case, I was conditioned to avoid family meals, and, once I turned sixteen, I made sure I was scheduled to work every evening. Youth Prison Camp (my job at Six Flags) was preferable to the fish fries at my house.

During my first marriage, I managed to hover rather than sit at the table. I paced back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room, refilling the iced tea, getting more tater tots, never sitting down. I don't think I realized, at the time, that this was an avoidance technique, but now, looking back, I see it clearly. After I married again, and was no longer a stay-at-home mom, mealtimes became tag team events, with only one parent in attendance. Biggy would take care of it (notice I didn't say 'cook') on the nights I taught, and I was able to avoid the full-family experience. In the past couple of years, however, we've tried to sit down together at least once or twice a week for my exercise in minor torture.

These people are completely devoid of manners, as hard as I've tried to teach them. The meal always begins with Lo crying. Maybe she doesn't like meatloaf. Or we've turned off Sponge Bob. More likely, though, JackMan has pinched her under the table or she's bumped her head trying to bite his leg. Then, Biggy will raise his voice and my palms will start sweating. Next, I dissociate altogether. It's not pleasant. But oddly enough, it's like childbirth: I always sort of forget, from meal to meal, just how painful it is.

Not tonight. I'm throwing in the towel. I intend to remember. Here, you see a man who sat down without his shirt, a boy who is preparing to tell his little sister where steak comes from, a girl who just finished burping the alphabet and is currently making aluminum foil animals, and a chihuahua who---does it matter?

(Note the absence of George. Smart girl.)

From this point, they're all on their own.

4.22.2006

Another Saturday Night


Cleaning up dog shit. Don't I look elegant?

4.21.2006

How I Feel Today

A poem by A.E.Stallings

Fragment

The glass does not break because it is glass,
Said the philosopher. The glass could stay
Unbroken forever, shoved back in a dark closet,
Slowly weeping itself, a colorless liquid.
The glass breaks because somebody drops it
From a height — a grip stunned open by bad news
Or laughter. A giddy sweep of grand gesture
Or fluttering nerves might knock it off the table —
Or perhaps wine emptied from it, into the blood,
Has numbed the fingers. It breaks because it falls
Into the arms of the earth — that grave attraction.
It breaks because it meets the floor's surface,
Which is solid and does not give. It breaks because
It is dropped, and falls hard, because it hits
Bottom, and because nobody catches it.

4.19.2006

Home Away From Home





Yesterday, I was at Portfolio Center from noon till 9:30, and I was right back again today for The Master of the Universe's 5:30 a.m. History of Design Class (I was one hour late). Then I was at PC until 6:30 this evening, working on a project with Hank (aka the above). I told him this afternoon that my idea of hell is being on the other side of his desk from him for all eternity.

Mostly, though, I'm just lucky. There are no students like PC students. I fall in love every day.

You know those screwy Emerald Nuts commercials--with Santa, the Easter Bunny, and a unicorn? Done by once-my-students. Those cool HP commercials where the people put their heads through the photos? Yup--PC grads.

These photos are from from this morning (Most of these guys stayed up all night preparing).

This is where I live when I'm not in Marietta.

4.18.2006

Right Up There With Loch Ness and Sasquatch














It arrived yesterday for fitting--the dress for her great uncle's wedding at the end of the month.

She's the ring bearer, though, NOT the flower girl.

Hope we can lose the tattoo and the farmer's tan by the big day.

4.17.2006

No Bonnet


For all the family who've written, asking me to send them pictures of Lo in her Easter dress.

PS. She's wearing boxers.

4.16.2006

Easter Thought Bubble


I haven't forgotten--Valentine's was bad. Shots and IV's, that vet with his ridiculous Garfield sweater and his little thermometer. I'm lucky to be alive. And the four hundred dollar emergency bill!

Really, I won't eat it. I'm just gonna stay right here and make sure no one steals it.

4.15.2006

The Face of Evil


Imagine it's sunny and clear. You've already had a nice jog by the river, and your teenaged daughter has actually invited you to go with her to get a pedicure. Now, you're fresh from the shower, feeling a little saucy in your skirt and sandals, getting ready to leave for Lili Salon, where you'll have your toes done in Bubblegum Pink and get a leg massage with mint sea salts--O' beautiful day! You breeze into the kitchen to grab your keys off the counter, and in SHE comes.

She takes one look at you in your sweet frock, and in a practiced falsetto, begins: "Oooohhh, I'm SO pret-ty. Soooooo preeeeeeetty...I'm going to get my naaaaiiiiils done....pretty-pretty-pretty....Ooooh, I broke my nail...boo hoo...I'm soooooooooo pretty."

Then, about-face, she marches out of the kitchen, just leaving you standing there, broken.

Head Transplants



Okay, I'm the last to know. But oh-my-god, who told Kenny Rogers trading faces was a good idea? There's not the slightest remnant of the man he used to be. What's up with these guys--like Burt Reynolds? They should take their cues from Paul Newman and Robert Redford--grow old gracefully and beautifully. I don't know if those two have had any "procedures," but they both look their ages and like THEMSELVES, for crying out loud. And Paul or Robert, still today--any time, any place. I mean, if I weren't married...

4.14.2006

Easter Bunny Comes Early Via Grandma


Awww, looook...isn't that adorable? She loves it so much, she fell asleep snuggled up with it.

Puh-leeze! That thing's got money in its egg. She ain't taking any chances.

Recommended Reading


While at the beach last week, I read both Terrence Real’s How Do I Get Through To You: Reconnecting Men and Women and Jane Fonda’s biography. It was serendipity, really, an interesting coincidence; she actually cited several passages from his book. Fonda’s life is a vivid illustration of all Real has to say. So is my own life, so much is it like Fonda’s—only without the money, glamour, or fame.

Real’s premise is that our patriarchal society has damaged not just women, but men as well or more. In the forty years that women’s roles have been changing, we’ve come to need and expect a level of communication and intimacy that men have not been prepared to give us.

He says, The patriarchal norms families live within are profoundly skewed against emotional sensitivity….Intimacy is our natural state as a species…our birthright. And yet, as a culture, following strictures we have all been raised within, we force our children out of the fullness in which they begin their lives. We teach boys and girls to bury their deepest selves, to stop speaking or attending to the truth… ‘We enter life as children,’ the poet Wordsworth tells us, ‘not in entire forgetfulness and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory…’

…It is not uncommon for those who enter my office to present themselves initially as victims, but I see them as just the opposite. In the core of their dissatisfaction, their refusal to adjust, lie unrecognized seeds of resistance. Angry, lonely, bruised, addicted, they carry within them intimations of passion once possessed like clouds of glory, no matter how dimly recalled. And they share this in common: They want it back.


That’s me, in a nutshell. I, who was raised that little girls should be seen and not heard; who got the message from my father and from our culture that my value lay in physical perfection and in acquiescing to a man, not in being my authentic self, and certainly not in speaking the truth. I learned that speaking at all can lead to a man’s rage and violence. I kept the secret of my own sexual abuse for more than ten years, and when I finally spoke up, at fifteen, and the earth didn’t crack open, I determined I’d never keep silent again. That, my friends, has led to all kinds of trouble. And I know I’ll stay in trouble until things change.

I want real intimacy and equality. I want to speak without fear and to be heard. I want tell--and to be told--the truth in all things, always.

Hell yes, I want it back!

4.13.2006

Cruzin'


Look Darlings, something to put your Fresca's in.

4.11.2006

Between the Lines



Tonight I had the great privilege of being on a panel of four Georgia poets interviewed by Valerie Jackson for WABE's Between the Lines. It was an honor to be among Tom Lux, Opal Moore, and Ralph Tejeda Wilson, all of them writers I admire. They were so lively, funny, and smart that I kept waiting for someone to whisper there'd been some kind of mistake--that I should be in the next room serving punch.

You can hear the show for yourselves next Thursday, April 20, at 7:00 pm. It will also be available for podcast.

4.10.2006

'Young and the Restless' Kiss


Blue & Lo: Their visits are always too brief; their partings, always the same.

4.09.2006

Homeward Bound


Due to some BS called 'Access Anywhere/Daytona' that overrode the T-Mobile log-in at Starbucks and robbed me of my $8.95 24-hour fee when I gave in and signed up, I was unable to share the blow-by-blow of my vacation, as you must know I'd intended. I was prepared to give you the full experience--the mullets, the cheerleaders, the Denture Tours, all of it. But it was not to be. In fact, Access Daytona screwed my computer up so badly that the last operation I was able to perform was sending Minus Five the info to post the last blog. After, I couldn't even send emails. Nothing. Complete withdrawal. (We should talk about blogging DT's--no one warned me.)

Instead of the whimsy of the Tropical Manor, then, I offer the ride home. Lo on a chocolate-donut-turtle-high. Dad bought the pet, even after I swore--having been caretaker already to Lo's goldfish, dwarf frogs, garden snake, house gecko, hermit crab, and parakeet--that I would not feed it, water it, bathe it, clean its cage, buy it treats, kiss it, sing to it, clip or trim anything on it, spray-mist it, give it vitamins, check its temperature, paint smiley faces on its shell, take it to the vet/park/show-n-tell, or find it if it goes missing.

Father and daughter were not deterred.

I mean it, though. I'm sorry I even took its picture.

4.06.2006

O-Phil-Ya


Note the boy's swim trunks she insisted I buy her.

4.05.2006

In Memory

In honor of the fact we're at the beach, and in honor of my sobriety, and--most importantly, in honor of my wild and beautiful sister, who would have been 41 today, and for whom the 80's go on without end, an old poem from Karaoke Funeral:

PANAMA CITY BEACH, FLORIDA

I know you are here, Kelly, for as sure
as sway-backed rednecks and big-boned
girls in string bikinis haunt these bars,
I can feel you in the wasted air.
These were your stomping grounds, this gulf
a potion making you so dissolute
you had to rise from wave-foam,
pull yourself together just to make a ghost.
Whose idea, anyway, to throw you to the fish,
when it was beautiful dumb boys you liked best?
We should have scattered your gold flecks of bone
on the Spinnaker dance floor, where you’d’ve
out-mingled the sand and hopeful dust, gone
home on some blonde lifeguard’s boot heels
to whoop it up and sleep it off.
So what kind of guardian angel can you be?
We never got along. I despised the simple
vocabulary of your friends--the man
and coowul, GED and DUI, your culture
of drugstore haircolor and cat fights.
I paid a fortune for my red hair, my friends
went to colleges nowhere near the woods
of West Georgia, and that made me better than you.
We went to Destin, Sandestin, where
my then-husband could loll on the golf course,
return smelling of sweet grass and nonchalance.
And now, the years turned inside out
like an air-brushed t-shirt, it’s me in Panama City
because suddenly I can’t stand my kids or the boyfriend
who felt fit to announce after eight months,
I’m not in love with you. But it might change.
I’m the woman whose roots are showing
like an oil-based stain that can’t be covered.
What have you done with him—Tad the Frat Boy,
twenty-three year-old I picked up at the Barefoot Bar
just to prove, at thirty-three, I could?
What’s happened to him, turned hostile at no,
since he put me out in the street—trashed
and stumbling down the strip as well as ever
staggered any tattooed girl named Tammy?
And from where did you send it, the white stretch limo
I didn’t call, too drunk to dial a phone,
the one whose driver knew my name
and where to take me home?

4.03.2006

7 Crazy Years: Celebrating With Baton Bob



Not to give George short shrift, but today is ALSO mine and Biggy's anniverserary (yeah, I know. I LIKE that spelling). And this was my gift to my husband--a few moments of joy in the office plaza, courtesy of the Ambassador of Mirth.

Thanks to Biggy's boss, Kevin, who helped me pull this off, and to Bob himself, who honored my request for bridal apparel and stayed "on call" today until the weather cleared. (Unfortunately, the wind did NOT, and my beskirted ass became part of the show.)

Anyway, it was everything I imagined and then some.

Don't you wish I were your wife?

Happy 17th Birthday George!




MIDDLE CHILD

She brought home the tomato plant in a paper cup,
rooted it among the tiger lilies.

Straight off the school bus, she tended it,
lavished it with rain and rhymes: potato, play-doh
and for the greedy blooms she knew to pinch—tornado.
The vine grew like mad, had to be staked, staked
again, then tied and caged.

By summer, the plant sagged
with the color of rage. She gathered the fruits
delicately into her shirt tail, lined them up
like quiet children on the window sills.

4.02.2006

Sunday Fun


Stella's first ride on the Monkey Bike. She liked it!



Collin tagged me to answer these questions, and I don't wanna let Collin down. (Anne, Sarah, consider yourselves tapped.)

7 THINGS TO DO BEFORE I DIE:

1. Get my second book published
2. Write another one
3. Write and sell a country song
4. Write a screen play
5. Meet Jane Fonda
6. Learn to play the mandolin
7. Own a Vespa

7 THINGS I CANNOT DO

1. Have sex with Collin
2. Skydive
3. Eat onions
4. Sing karaoke
5. Pee in front of my husband
6. Keep my house clean
7. Forgive without being asked

7 THINGS I SAY MOST OFTEN

1. Be home by 11:00.
2. We're out of milk.
3. I'll find your damned socks.
4. You're not hearing me.
5. No, not Tan-ya--it's Ton-ya.
6. How can we be out of milk?!
7. Fuck him/her and his/her mother.

7 BOOKS I LOVE

1. What the Living Do, by Marie Howe
2. Poetry as Survival, by Gregory Orr
3. Disobedience, by Jane Hamilton
4. Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs
5. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
6. The Great Gatsby
7. The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lampiri

7 MOVIES I CAN WATCH OVER AND OVER

1. Napolean Dynamite
2. O' Brother, Where Art Thou?
3. The House of the Spirits
4. Blue Hawaii
5. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
6. Heartburn
7. The Big Chill

4.01.2006

Feeling Not-So-Mellow


Because Miss George will be on a cruise with Mamoo Monday (No tattoos this time, Mamoo. What if you want to wear a strapless gown to the office Christmas party?), we had to celebrate her 17th birthday last night. She let me know early on that she wanted to go out to dinner but she'd be working until 8:30. That meant we'd have to go somewhere close, in order to eat and get Lo home to bed before she turned into Rosemary's Kindergartener. Since we couldn't go into Hotlanna proper, and the pickins in The Land O' the Stripmall are slim, I asked GareBear, her bo-friend, where he thought we should go. He recommended Mellow Mushroom or "anywhere really, really expensive"--THAT is how well he knows our girl. Pizza it was.

Now, I 've always loved the place, myself. I mean, it's groovy, right? We've been going for years, since the days I used to suck down a few pitchers and cry all the way home in the minivan. Where else can I get tofu AND Italian sausage on a pizza without being judged. And Biggy has wet dreams about their salad dressing.

Alas, Friday night, March 31, was to be our last visit.

It started out okay. The crowd was light, due to all the kids headed to the orgy in Panama City Beach. We got a nice big table in the middle of the room, and I didn't even have to sit by Lo. Great, she could spill her tea on someone else (she did). Then our waitress--let's call her Crystal--came to take our order. She was looking all Joni Mitchell, but Joni would have been smart enough to carry a note pad. We've got six persnickety people. It ain't gonna be two large pepperoni pies and Cokes for everyone. The salad order should have been her first clue. I won't bore you with the variations we came up with on Greek salads, but--trust me--you and I would have gone to get a pencil. Most important, the birthday girl and I were sharing a veggie special--NO ONIONS and NO MUSHROOMS. I must have said it five times, how much I hate onions, how I'd rather juice my dog's anal glands than eat onions. I kept asking, "Are you sure you don't need to write this down?" She said, "No, you'll see."

I should mention that I waited tables for eight years as an undergrad (yeah--eight years--that's what I said), and a large part of that experience happened in Athens, GA. I've suffered every kind of pain-in-the-ass customer, including REM in their hobo days. They and their furry-legged groupies would camp out at my tables and drink coffee all day, stinking up the joint with B.O. and patchouli. After 900 refills, they were good for about a nickel. (The Red Hot Chili Peppers were even worse; they'd bring their own tea bags and order hot water and lemon.) Anyhoo, I UNDERSTAND. I'm a nice patron--generally pleasant, patient, and generous. I'm also CLEAR about what I want and try to avoid any miscommunications that could cause THEM grief down the road.

You know what happened.

It's not like I could have simply picked them off either, so complex is the veggie concoction, with its broccoli, artichoke hearts, moose feta, twice-baked rice cakes, silken tofu, miso soup, etc. etc. etc. Besides, I TASTED onion long before actually I bit into one.

Next:

I go to the counter, where Crystal is so busy counting her money she evidently can't see me, hear me, or smell the onion on my breath. When her co-worker finally asks me if I need something (?!), I tell her I need to talk to Crystal. We're standing less than two feet apart, but Crystal still can't hear me. It appears she needs to find out if she's raised enough money for the operation.

The co- nudges her till she finally looks up. "Crystal," I say, "my pizza has enough onions on it to make Hannibal Lechter cry." Blank stare. Then a flat "Do you want another one?"

Birthday Girl and I sat there while they made a wholenother pizza. In the meantime, I got to watch the employees at the counter whispering and casting dirty looks our way. And when they picked up the mistake-pizza and took it back to the kitchen, I observed as they dug through it to see if it indeed had onions on it. As if I'd just tell them that so my daughter and I could watch everybody else eat while they made another one EXACTLY like it. Like that's my idea of fun.

I don't joke about food, people.

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Writer, teacher, student, mom.

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