You're So Vain

Riding our bikes home from the Y last night:

TR: You know the woman who lives in that house? The one who was always out digging in the yard, planting flowers and stuff?

Biggy: Yeah.

TR: I saw her the other day, and she was using a walker. It's like she just got old overnight. It was so sad.

Biggy: People need to take better care of themselves. Look at me. I just get younger every year. I'm like Benjamin Button.

This morning, in bed.

Biggy: I need to go see if my chest got any bigger overnight.

TR: Is that really the first thing you do every day--look in the mirror?

Biggy: No, I weigh first.

Friday Nostalgia


Cereals of my Youth

Quisp. It's back on the grocery shelf in our area--at least at Fresh Market. As good as Cap'n Crunch but doesn't tear up the roof of your mouth. Of course, I can't eat it anymore.


Trolls and Such

Because I've managed to acquire an internet troll-bordering-on-stalker, I have to start moderating comments. So sorry for the inconvenience, but there's no other way to deal with this kind of bully and coward.


Happy Father's Day

One happy daddy at Tallulah Gorge today.


The Cleverness of Country Songs

I recently downloaded a big-ass playlist called Recovery Songs, which has music by a wide variety of artists--U2, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Cyndi Lauper, The Verve.... including country artists such as Travis Tritt and Tim McGraw. A couple of the country numbers are of that witty old-school variety that tickle me with tricks of language or twists on an old theme. Like this one:

(Oh, and I also think it's lovely.)


Straight From the Handbook

Sunday night, Biggy and I had a serious sit-down with Jack. We were actually standing in the kitchen while he put about $18 worth of blackberries in the blender to make himself a smoothie, but whatever. We needed to lay down some new ground rules for summer, which included breaking the bad news:

Biggy: You need to find a job.

Jack: How can I work?! I've got summer school, drum line practice, judo...

TR: Hello! We were in band and we had jobs. Not to mention, I ran track, was in Beta Club, kept score for the JV basketball team, and still managed to fit in an impressive amount of binging-and-purging.

Jack: Well, I have a life.

Biggy: Here's your life: First of all, you sleep till 11. And then you go to school, which lasts until, what, 2:00?

Jack: 2:30.

Biggy: Right.

Jack: Anyway, there's nowhere around here for me to work.

TR: You could bag groceries at Publix.


TR: It's good enough for your friend Ian.

Jack: He's Canadian.

TR: Figure it out. You've got three weeks to get a job. Be ready to start as soon as summer school's out.

So, this morning at 7, as I'm getting ready for work, my cell phone rings. It's Jack, calling from his bed: "Could you leave me some gas money?"


Things that Make You Go Wha?

This at Publix on Saturday. Had to take it while her back was turned so's not to get busted. She was at least in her mid-40's. You could say, 'Well, she was probably coming straight from the Y, where she lost her t-shirt,' but then how would you explain the wedge heels? You should know that the hot-pants waist-band dipped into a deep v front and center, and there was a lot going on up top. She wasn't just dashing in for a couple of things, either. She was buying groceries-groceries.



Friday Nostalgia

Here Come the Brides was just one of the shows that shaped my warped sense of what it means to be a woman. But, oh, that dreamy Bobby Sherman. Made my pre-pubescent heart go pitter-pat.


What a Difference a Day Makes

Interesting coincidence that Button and I had the same idea. I didn't see that until this afternoon. And hers was much better executed. I don't even have before/after pics.

But what's important here is that from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. yesterday, I sat in this chair at the Aveda Institute. I got up only to pee once and get my hair washed. That was my punishment for coloring my own hair these past two years.


Quick Neighbor Story

When I was pregnant with my first, we lived on the second floor in an ancient apartment building on the corner of Briarcliff and Briarcliff Place in Atlanta. Across the street lived a crazy old woman and her--that's right--middle-aged son, who looked like a cross between Charles Manson and Goober Pyle.

We were a one-klunker family, so I worked at Stone Soup, a little health food/bakery/deli on Virginia, a short walk from home. My duties there kept me in the kitchen, baking zucchini muffins and stirring the bottomless kettle of black bean soup. Despite the fact that the kitchen was way in back and the powerful aromas of cinnamon and cilantro filled the air, we always knew as soon as Chuckie Pyle entered the store. The smell of moth balls signaled his arrival long before we actually saw him.

He'd study the large sandwich menu that hung on the wall behind the deli case and count his nickels and pennies. I'd hold my breath for as long as I could, then I'd shove a complimentary cookie at him and "run check the pot on the stove," disappearing behind the swinging door. When that sublime naphthalene vapor dissipated, I knew it was safe to come out.

Eventually, Chuckie figured out I was his neighbor. He seemed pleased by this. He'd stand for hours at the edge of his mother's yard, poking a stick into the sewer grate, staring at my window. Eventually he added to this repertoire: pants unzipped. I had to time my comings and goings to coincide with his breaks from this activity. Naturally, this meant I looked out the window frequently, which surely encouraged him.

But because of my habit of checking the street, I didn't miss it the day the police stormed his house, letting loose a naked young woman who ran out the front door, screaming and crying and tearing at her matted hair. She was collected quickly and Chuck was taken off in handcuffs. The girl turned out to be a prostitute he'd kidnapped and kept in the basement.

True story. True, I tell ya.


Another Tale from the Classic City

In the summer of 1984, I was 21. I had been in the yellow house for a year and was suddenly abandoned by my housemates. They''d decided that living with an OCD bulimic with a violent stalker ex-boyfriend wasn't all it was cracked up to be. It had been a hell of a year, full of restraining orders and court dates and the psychic bruising that lingers long after bodily harm, and it made matters worse that the two girls, friends of mine since middle school, had decided that my putting their dirty dishes in the back yard while they were out of town was the last straw. I mean, I'd warned them not to leave their mess for me to clean up!

I was as low as I'd ever been, physically and mentally exhausted, existing on pounds of raw cookie batter and Franzia. I was waiting tables at the Gyro Wrap and Wildwood Cafe and teaching aerobics. One day, my on-again/off-again father came to visit, bearing the usual Honey-Baked ham (I was a vegetarian). He was in the mood to be a hero, and he made me an offer I couldn't refuse: "You need a break from all this. Come live with me this summer. You won't have to work at all. You can just relax, get your bearings."

Now, this was the man who always kept an Ace comb in his pocket and a bottle of Royal Copenhagen cologne in his console; this was the John Birch Society member who had cheated on the woman he cheated on my mother with; it was the same man who, when I'd explained to him that my boyfriend had dragged me through his apartment, beating me from one end to the other, asked me what I'd done to make him do that. So, granted, I should have known better.

But it sounded so nice--rest, a change of scenery, so I agreed. I would hang out with him at the hip swinging singles complex Tahoe North in Roswell. I'd take him to work in the mornings and use his car during the day. I sublet my part of the house for half the rent to a grouchy hippie chick in the Ag school. My father would cover the other half.

The moment I entered his apartment, I knew I'd made an epic mistake: The walls were white and bare, no framed photos or art of any kind--not even the Annie Mueller montages he was so fond of, where the Fox melds into Tara and such. The beds were made with hospital corners and there was nary a drop of water in or around the kitchen sink. Even I was not this compulsive.

Day one, he refused to let me take him to work. He thought I should just walk around, get acclimated, meet some of the neighbors. Oddly enough, the place was deserted. The guys who lived there had to work to pay their child support. I called my friend Ann. She came over with a six-pack, and we sat in the driveway and drank. That night, my father took me over to Cheers, a local bar he frequented enough to have become friends with the owner. He wanted to introduce me; he thought it would be a good place for me to work. And it was in walking distance too!

For the next two weeks, the white walls squeezed in on me. There was always some reason I couldn't use the car, and the job applications were collecting on the counter. I couldn't do anything without getting busted for it. He'd come home from work and ask if I'd sat on his bed while I talked on the phone. There was a wrinkle in the spread. Had I used his razor to cut a thread? (How could he know?!!) I hadn't put it back in exactly the same spot. Did I leave the downstairs bathroom door open? It was unsightly to see a bathroom so close to the kitchen. After he took the inventory of offenses, he'd leave again to charm some woman out of her pants.

Bored and desperate, I agreed to go out with an obvious Lothario I'd met while jogging on the grounds. He was twice my age and wore Jordache jeans. When he came to pick me up in his candy-apple red Mazda, he brought me a half-empty bottle of white zinfandel. At the first stop sign, he informed me that he had a rule: a kiss at every stop sign or red light. The date was downhill from there. I was lucky to get out alive. No doubt, he is registered in every state. I called Hossain in Athens: "Please come take me home."

The next day was Sunday, the third one in June. My father left early to drive a cart around on the golf course and get wasted. I left him a note: 'Happy Father's Day. Don't contact me.'

Back in Athens, I had to find a cheap short-term place to live. I'd be paying for half that sublet as well as my temporary residence. I could move back in the house September 1st.

As it turned out, a guy I knew from the gym, Jay, was renting a sublet for the summer. It was a two-bedroom, and he was only paying half the rent (He had the same arrangement hippie girl had). All I'd have to pay, then, was half his half, about $80. It was great, too, a sweet apartment over the old Hodgeson's Pharmacy--hardwood floors and lots of windows. I could see my house from the screened-in porch.

Jay was only 19, but he was the ideal roommate. Our bedrooms were adjoined by the one bathroom in-between. At night, we'd sleep with the doors open and talk through the bathroom. His mother was dead and he didn't know his father. He'd been on his own since he was 16. He had the bluest eyes I'd ever seen. He never bothered me or came on to me, except to say one time in the darkness, "You know if you ever want to come over here, you're more than welcome." When I passed out drunk on the couch more nights than not, he'd cover me with a blanket and leave me unmolested. That is a courtesy I never forget.

He was a good basketball player and a wealthy woman in town had hired him to privately coach her 14-year-old daughter. The woman, Pat, who was married to some big-shot attorney, was specially nice to Jay. Not only did she pay him extremely well, but sometimes she came over and cooked fried chicken for dinner.

Eventually, I'd find her in the kitchen on weekend mornings, making blueberry pancakes. I started to get a little suspicious, but I believed Jay when he laughed off my inquisition. Seriously, why would she risk it? And what would he want with some broad in her late 30's? Anyway, the pancakes were awesome, and I could throw them up with no problem, so I stopped asking.

Imagine my surprise, though, when I got cut early from a shift one afternoon and came home unexpected. I could hear the shower running and assumed Jay was in it. He hadn't shut the doors, so I could see his bed from my room. Pat was lying at the end of it, feet on the floor, skirt over her head, nothing under her skirt.

Next thing I knew, Pat and her husband had talked Jay into joining the Army. I don't know if they did it with threats or money or how. I'm sure her husband had found them out; he wanted Jay far away.

I tried every argument I could think of to stop Jay from leaving, but he was too contrite, accepting it as his fate.. He sent me a letter from basic training. He said he kept a picture of me and told the guys I was his girlfriend. He hoped I didn't mind. That was the last I ever heard from him.


Friday Nostalgia

Who could forget David Soul--Starsky and Hutch, rock dynamo? This awesome-quality video is from 1976.


F'd Up Neighbors I Have Had: A Story in Infinite Parts

I've already written about some of them--Bob, of course, and Sam, and R. Oh, and we can't forget Alan (all these stories tagged, cleverly enough, 'neighbors.'). But my Memory Lane crosses many courts, roads, and circles, so I thought I'd add a couple more:

1. From the time I was 10 until I graduated from high school, my family lived on Forest Hill Road in Powder Springs. Kitty-cornered to the right, across the street, lived an older couple and their middle-aged son, Tommy. He must have been in his early thirties. Tommy liked to do things to get the EMT's to come--overdose on baby aspirin or cut the grass in August while wearing wool pants, three flannel shirts, and a parka. But the very best thing about Tommy was that he'd tape his parents' nasty fights, set the stereo speakers against the open windows, and blast the recordings for everyone to hear. Once you got over the initial panic and realized it wasn't live, it was quite entertaining.

2. When I was 18 or 19, I moved into the yellow house in Athens. I would always hear the most beautiful, haunting piano music coming from the attic window in the house across the street. Eventually I met the virtuoso behind the melodies, Clark, another thirtyish fellow who lived with his mother, or so he said; I never actually saw the lady. Clark's hair was the color of cornsilk and he was as soft-spoken as a funeral usher. He seemed to have stepped right out of a VC Andrews novel. As it happened, he was always leaving the house at the same time I did, so often he'd walk beside me, making small talk. During these conversations I might have mentioned a writing class I was taking or that I was training for a marathon. Then one day, just as I hit the sidewalk for a run, he stepped into formation beside me, in brand new nylon shorts and singlet. Who knew he'd taken up jogging?!

Clark: Mind if I run with you?

TR: Well, I'm doing a long one today, Clark--ten miles...

Clark: That's fine.

TR: I'm really slow, too. I'm sure you'd rather go at your own pace.

(Clark ignores that suggestion and stays in lock-step. We canter along in silence until we're a couple of miles out.)

Clark: I've been working on a novel, you know.

TR: Oh, you're a writer now?

Clark: It's based on my real life.

TR: Fascinating, I'm sure.

Clark: I'm calling it Lucifer.

(By this point, because my intended destination was the botanical gardens, we're in an area where the houses are fewer and farther between. I begin to weigh my route-change options.)

TR: That's pretty funny, Clark.

Clark: There's nothing funny about it.

TR: Holy crap! I forgot I promised Hossain I'd work his shift tonight. I need to turn back.

Clark: I saw who brought you home this morning, and it wasn't your boyfriend.

TR: I don't have a boyfriend, Clark. We broke up. It's none of your business, anyway.

And this was the first in a long line of stalkers...



Neighborhood Menace

It's no secret that in general I'm not big on kids. I'm not one of those women who thinks children are innocent and adorable and should be handled with infinite tolerance and good humor. It might be different if I had a surplus of tolerance and good humor, but I have barely enough to ration on the adults I am required to be nice to. Medication has helped. Things that caused me to dissociate in the past no longer phase me: a baby crying at Publix, a toddler throwing a tantrum at Target, a third-grader picking his nose at PTA...My nerves adequately lubricated with seratonin, I am able to abide these events with a sort of detached fascination.

In any event, those close to me will not be shocked that I'm about to rag on a neighborhood kid.

R has had the run of Hershey Woods since he was about three years old. He was riding his bike in traffic when he should have been napping in a playpen. One summer, Georgia's friend Anna babysat him during the weeks of break, and since George was watching Lo that summer, they got the two together to play. Georgia and Lo reported daily on R's antics--the whirling dervishness of him...his habit of disappearing, along with all the snacks in the house and change from the piggybanks.

When I met him myself for the first time, I was struck by how beautiful and charming he was. He seemed wiser than his years and as buttery as Eddie Haskell. I knew he was trouble. He'd come over to play when I was home, and I'd find him in my bedroom closet, taking inventory.

One morning, a little before 8:00, he came knocking at the front step. I tried to ignore him because I didn't feel like putting on pants, but after about half an hour of his relentless pounding and the dogs barking, I finally surrendered and got dressed. He showed me a collection of drawings he'd done--self-portraits it looked like he'd sketched with his foot and then slept on. He was peddling them door-to-door for 20 bucks each.

I told him I'd spent every cent I had restocking my pantry after his last visit. I offered to call his mother to pick him up at the other end of the street. He lives a good mile away, after all. No minor distance for a seven-year-old. And how he'd managed to evade the neighborhood mutts (I swear there's a doggie bounty on his head) was luck beyond my fathoming. Even I didn't want him to push it.

That happened a few years ago. Now he's in middle school, just finished sixth grade. He still rides his bike like a demon. He looks hopped up on steroids. He has the golden hair, fixed smile and plastic dazzle of a child model. He hasn't lost his talent for appearing out of thin air. I'll be getting the mail and suddenly he's right behind me. 'No one's home,' I tell him, and I was just leaving.'

So Jack told us this story during dinner tonight: Around 2:00 this afternoon, R came a'knockin.' Jack, who was home alone, figured it was one of Lo's friends and saw no need to answer the door. He continued to watch House or whatever marathon he'd gotten sucked into until, like me, he realized that stalkers cannot be deterred. Better my son learn this early, I guess. Jack answered the door:

R: Hey, do you still have your go-kart?

Jack: Yep.

R: Can I see it?

Jack: Not right now. I was taking a nap. I'm going back to sleep.

R: Well, I think we have a new motor you can have for it.

Jack: That's ok. We're fine with the one we've got.

R: Can I just see it, anyway?

Jack: No, you need to go on home.

R: Gosh! I rode all the way up here--just to see the go-kart!

Jack: Oh my god, R, fine! You can look at it.

(R follows Jack down the driveway to the storage shed. R notices spider webs all over the doors.)

R: Can you get those spider webs off?

Jack: You want to see it; you get 'em off.

R: I'm not gonna touch them!

Jack: Stop being a little vagina and open the door.

(Jack finally opens the door. R beholds the go-kart.)

R: Can I have it?


R: Why not?

Jack: For one thing, it's not mine to give away!

R: I thought it was yours.

Jack: It belongs to the family....Besides, who would even ask something like that?!!! GO HOME!

(R is royally PO'd and huffs his way back up the driveway.)

R: Can I at LEAST have something to drink?!

(My son, ever the humanitarian, actually goes inside and gets him a Coke Zero.)

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Writer, teacher, student, mom.

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