Blow Dried

So here I am on the day of Trump’s Masque Of The Orange Death rally, reclining on my bed attired solely in a burgundy-colored terrycloth spa robe, blow-drying my bush.

I suppose I should back up and explain.

I have been a very patchy blogger since the Orange F ck was elected — it’s like fighting your way through a massive depression just to keep going, I live right outside DC, the waves of evil and stupid pulsing out of the government district are like gouts of poison gas — and even more absent lately. See, what happened was, here I am almost all the way back from getting both hips Borged February was a year ago, blowing up a 500 pound sled, four miles of hills daily, and then thank you very much I start going through shall we say a repeat of puberty. The ladies can sort this out. I had been up on the rack for the customary fourteen-point check and oil change in January so this was weird. A month, an MRI and a bravura effort later, from an ultrasound technician who went medieval on my stomach with a — well, you remember the big foofaraw about states wanting women to get ultrasounds before ending a pregnancy because looks like a baby something something? The whole violation element involved? Think of someone using that dingus like a tire lever.

Actually, it looked like a water balloon.

Actually, it kind of was a water balloon, attached to my girl bits, only, not to drop a spoiler, it was more or less filled with (sorry) snot. This phenomenon shall henceforth be known as the “Ephraim McDowell Special,” or Phred for short. It is a young woman’s neoplasm, and I have no idea why it decided to set up shop in an actual Medicare subscriber. Curiously, the riveting tale of the first successful excision of one of these was a chapter in the History of Surgery that I read to tatters at age 10 before I realized I would make a shitty doctor because I actually like taking care of people.

I realize this verges on what my Albino Ex used to call “the organ recital” (he had a friend with an unfortunate habit of sharing the minute details of an annual “Millennium Scan,” before we tied him to a chair and beat him with feather pillows, until he promised to stop before he glowed in the dark). But, well, long silence bears explanation.

Apparently when you are toned and ruthless, you can plow hills with a ten-inch-across oblate thingy inside you and only notice feeling a little as if you’ve been going heavy on the beans. Well, vegetarian.

Anyway, fast forward to the local teaching hospital, a surgeon who looks about twelve, masks everywhere, temperature checkpoints, and a chirpy, excited nursing staff who didn’t even wait for me to wake up all the way before telling me on the trip back to my room: “Everyone’s saying they took like a whole turkey out of you! Wanna see the pictures?”

Bedside manner.

Really most of them were nice. There was the one who would never shut the bathroom door after herding me in there (house rules, no one walks to the can unsupervised). And then there was the Night Of The Long Blood Pressure Cuffs, when all my chitlins coming back online after a double transabdominal nerve block hurt so frickin much that my pressure unsurprisingly skyrocketed. The medical solution to this problem is to wake up the victim prisoner patient EVERY GODDAM HOUR ON THE HOUR ALL NIGHT LONG to check it again. By five a.m. I was screaming fornicatory maledictions and threatening to break the fourth floor window and go out of it.

Does not work and play well with others.

Anyway, they sprung me about 36 hours after that, and I have been chilling at home trying to decide what tattoo to get over the 44-staple zipper they had to open up to get at Phred, who apparently was not an especially hostile alien but just wanted a place to be, kind of like when  you find a raccoon has given birth in your attic. Meanwhile, now that the staples are out and it’s just got tape on it, I am supposed to ALWAYS KEEP IT DRY. Including the part where they clearly realized they were going to have to cut further than anyone expected, leaving the last three staples in an area that ought properly to have been baldicated. Phred was ambitious.

Hence the hair dryer. I like to shower a lot. Also, walking. Supposed to help. I am in the Tidewater and it’s summer. No health club in the area has a steam room because all you have to do is walk outside, never mind walking a mile, which is the current stage. Working up.

Oh, they took my appendix just while they were in there. Thieves. I have no idea what the black market price is for an intact appendix but I’m checking eBay.

The blessed Engineer saved my life with oatmeal cookies (hospital food never changes), the divine Azahar, who’s weathered a lot worse, has been my spirit guide, and I manage to have only one hysterical meltdown a day. I want a thirty pound dumbbell so bad I can taste it (currently limited to ten, which is barely worth picking up), and threw arm shots at the mandated home physical and occupational therapists (“Why did they send us here?”), after explaining that those poles were not “mobility aids,” they were Alpine walking equipment. The OT was from the Indian subcontinent, saw my “Namaste” plaque, greeted me accordingly, and settled in to talk about pranayama and daal recipes. Shame he has no need to come back.

It takes my mind off our national creeping crisis, but only intermittently.

Send animal and garden and art pictures.


The Evil “P” Place

Costco is one of life’s necessary evils. Well, fundamentally, it isn’t evil. I shop there two or three times a year — and not at other warehouse stores — because Costco, formerly Price Club, has a track record of treating employees well and good citizenship generally, something that can’t be said for the Wal-Mart affiliates of the world. It’s just that, between the death-trap parking lot and the crush of people and the sensory inundation of acres of fluorescent-lit aisles, I go in there like someone making a foray into No Man’s Land in 1916 or so, not quite with my bayonet in my teeth but damn close. When I was dating my Albino Ex, who loved economies of scale even if it meant keeping a gallon of mustard in the refrigerator for four and a half years, he dubbed it the Evil “P” (for Price Club) Place in honor of my hostile-territory approach.

The place is the size of the Air And Space Museum, for one thing, and about as easy to navigate as the Chartres Labyrinth. Especially now, with a handful of spots in my legs that never, ever stop hurting, trundling that SUV-sized cart up and down is a penitence even when the place doesn’t look like Hong Kong at rush hour. You have to go through complicated rituals with the membership card and the parking ticket and your receipt, and half the time, at my local store, the parking lot exit bar won’t work and an ancient gentleman in a reflective vest has to shuffle out of his fishbowl work station and manually release me. And there is always, guaranteed, at least one wretched infant or toddler in there who starts uttering that hitching, howling, poor-me-I’m-not-happy-fix-it-NOW wail that falls somewhere between a fire klaxon and a pig being killed. This always awakens in me a volcanic, barely suppressible urge to bring a brain-rattling bitch-slap or five right up out of my hip pocket. Not a recipe for inner peace.

But I go there, because for one thing I run a business out of my place and people getting bodywork always want to pee first and the only sane strategy is to go buy a couple of those 48-count pallets of bog roll and hope it lasts till the next time I can face the place. Also, they make my glasses for about a quarter the cost at my optometrist’s.  I just steel myself.

Today was oddly calm for the week before Easter; I couldn’t put it off any longer, but I was gloomily resigned to a demolition derby. In fact it was empty by Costco standards, there was only one screeching toddler, and the card checker at the entrance wished me a good holiday. I had already tried to forget about it, and did a double take.

The cashier wished me a good holiday too. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I always keep my head down until holidays are over.

On the way out, the lady who always looks at your receipt to make sure you haven’t boosted something glanced into my cart at the case of Port City IPA — a nice local Belgian — that was my impulse purchase of the day.

“Only one box beer for holiday then?” she said in a lilting Asian accent.

Go figure. If Easter has become a beer drinking holiday there may be hope.


I have been in a bit of a doldrum, without any particular reason I can give you; I just have not found myself thinking anything that seemed important enough to say out loud. Winter, drudgery, who knows.

But then my Albino Ex forwarded me this, and I found myself sitting at the computer weeping with helpless laughter while an emerging client — a prim, older widow — asked me what was the matter.

Awkward. But therapeutic.


Safety Warning: Consumption of some sugar-free candies may cause stomach discomfort and/or a laxative effect. Individual tolerance will vary. If this is the first time you’ve tried these candies, we recommend beginning with one-fourth of a serving size or less.  

(Image and text lifted from Amazon via Slightly Viral)

Wait until you don’t have to explain yourself to anybody and go look. Mind you, if you haven’t got an inner eleven-year-old boy, you should probably pass on this one.

The Twat Heard ‘Round The World

I guess you could say that is NSFW.

Some years back, when I was still dating my Albino Ex, in the course of a cheerful argument I tossed a tampon at him. You would have thought it had been a grenade. Apparently the idea of Girl Cooties dies hard, even among centrist Republicans who are pro-choice and pro-gay-marriage.

So you can imagine the threat level perceived by Texas legislators when they received credible intelligence that women attending today’s debate on a nitwit abortion bill (roughly, “making Texas a safe place for fetuses who aren’t likely to survive birth for more than 48 hours”) might throw tampons and maxi-pads at the legislators. A purse search commenced, with security officers confiscating menstrual products for several hours before someone realized how ridiculous this made them look. (No cavity searches have been reported. Yet.) And yes, if you have the required carry permit, you can still take your gun into the gallery. Twitter has gone wild. By tomorrow the uproar of quips, hasty artwork, and captioned photos will have girdled the globe several times.

I wish they still made the old style OB Ultra tampons. Apparently, since I stopped requiring any such commodity, the manufacturer yanked this size (you should pardon the expression), producing  a market panic that was like the Twinkie thing only loads more frantic. They were like the Sunday New York Times rolled up. A woman could squat bodyweight-plus without a qualm; one of them would soak up pretty much a whole Tom Collins or the juice from a can of fruit cocktail. I can only imagine what one of them would do in a direct hit on a misogynistic legislator. Honeysuckle Divine, where is your successor?


It looks like they got him. The younger Tsarnaev brother, that is.

He will, of course, turn out to be a fucked up kid. Then again so was Caligula.

This is not a matter on which I am really an expert, other than that I have known a lot of fucked up people. On the other hand, I have also known Boston.

I think more people read my blog from places like Europe and Down Under than in the States, and the States are big. Let me tell you a little about my encounters with Boston, a lady I have been privileged to know slightly.

I had a best college friend — a gay (he wasn’t really aware of it at the time) pianist and organist from Providence who enrolled at the New England Conservatory. He shared rooms in Jamaica Plain, where I would visit him in the summers, beguiling the hours he was in class or studying with visits to the Boston Public Library or the Common below the State House. There is a memorial there to the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry; you look from the frieze of freed slaves turned Union soldiers to the golden dome of the State House — something that would not be out of place in the Caucasus, it occurs to me — and then down the Common to the skating pond. It is American in a way that not even my hometown (if you count suburbs) of DC is. New England thought the country up, and let Washington work out the details.

Boston’s transit system is complete and embracing; you might say that of New York, but New York is frightening. I passed through New York City in the seventies when I was in college and I swore never to go back; the collision of human passions and goals was like a marble game in your head, to quote my gay organist friend again. But when I stepped onto the Boston T I felt as if I were on a magic carpet that could take me anywhere. Years later I met the man who is now my Albino Ex, a native of Somerville, where big up-down duplexes house families or cohorts of students from Tufts, variably. He loved the T so much as a child that, in his forties, he had its logo printed on his pillow cases.

In Somerville, in the Spring, you walk down the streets past the shingled fronts of the big houses, whose dooryards are more cement than grass, except that lilacs bloom there in the sandy soil. In some of those walkup structures three generations of the same family have lived.

People seemed to smoke a lot in Boston, at least when I was there last. For a place that shelters Harvard and MIT and Boston College and Boston University and Tufts it is one hell of a blue collar town, and these are people who will buy you a beer, but you had better not fuck with them. Seriously. We have learned that in these last four days.

My Albino Ex’s dad was a transit cop. The Ex himself worked for a police department in the suburb of Malden. When he moved down here and got into politics, he marveled: “If I said the things I’ve said around here when I was back in Boston, two guys named Guido would have paid me a visit.”

Bostonians are tough, in a splendid way. I salute them.

Crispin’s Day

As the 9/11 anniversaries stretch past the 10-year mark, I find myself feeling like one of the veterans of Shakespeare’s young King Henry Bolingbroke — one that managed to loiter at a distance from the thick of the battle, but stayed close enough to give a vivid report.

    He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
    And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
    He that shall live this day, and see old age,
    Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
    And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’

When I was first dating my Albino Ex — in the twilight of the Nineties — we used to walk from his rooms to a hillside East of an unlovely row of buildings collectively known as the Navy Annex, already on their way out now, blind boxes full of clerical offices. On a cool autumn evening like this one, the summer haze swept off by a few good storms, the air thin and kind, you could see the lights of Washington receding in delicate perspective, the illuminated shapes of the Washington Monument and the other memorials, the Capitol, the Libraries of Congress. We took visitors there.

They made the hillside into a memorial garden for the dead of 9/11, a bench with the name commemorated for each.

People went a little crazy in the days after the plane hit the Pentagon. They besieged the fire houses round about with more homebaked cookies, flats of bottled water, crude posters of gratitude, you name it, than anyone can imagine. I, remembering well the carol of the Little Drummer Boy, called up Arlington’s Station Number One,  a short walk from my house, and offered to come stand by with my portable massage table and unknot those who had been working double and triple shifts. For about ten days it became a second gig: I would hammer out a stiff back, and  hours later hear on my Ex’s emergency scanner the same man I had worked on, checking in from the Pentagon roof where the jet fuel had reignited. One night I went down to the fire station closest to the Pentagon and wrung out a bunch of police officers, most of whom didn’t want to take off their Kevlar because getting out of the gear is such a dick-dance; I suspect I am in a small minority of massage therapists with experience in working around bulletproof vests.

Today it is all very quiet and ordinary, where all these things happened. Station One responds to old duffers who have fallen and can’t get up, or cross streets where moving vans have taken down power lines. The bus and subway transfer points at the Pentagon have been fortified, and emit a deserted sodium-vapor glow that can be seen from the highway as you drive by.

Neighborhoods in Iraq, for example, are not so normal. I think of that when I get too reminiscent about Crispin’s Day.

It’s still strange, sometimes, to see that first luminous, aconite-blue sky of autumn, smell the scoured cleanliness of the September air, and detect in it not a trace of burning. For an afternoon and an evening you could step out onto my screened porch and breathe air that probably had tiny molecules of dead people in it.

I never want to get any closer to history than that, thanks very much. Even nicer if history stops meaning large numbers of dead people. I don’t hold out much hope for the human race, which seems addicted to stupidity, but wishes have to count for something.

Shoozies With Toesies

Yea back last summer around this time my Albino Ex wrote and asked if I wanted to go try on shoes. What this meant was that he wanted a ride, since he’s too blind to drive, and he knew I’d be interested (clearly whoever he’s dating now would not). His favorite exercise class leader had been waxing eloquent about the new Five Fingers (fingers?) shoes marketed by Vibram. He has the flattest feet in the world and mine are made of spare parts, so any innovation in footwear is interesting. We ended up trying some on, couldn’t quite decide if they were worth eighty bucks, ate some charred tomato soup at a pretentious Irish bar and decide to think on it.

Fast forward to last week when my favorite online shoe store put everything on 35% discount. Including the Five Fingers, which by this time had added some trail models with solid, rugged outsoles.

They feel like the Bomb. Hill speedwalks are on Saturday. I can’t wait.

Air On A G String

My Albino Ex was (and may still be, though he is dating fancier women now) a man of few inhibitions. I believe I won his heart the first time we went out to view the Independence Day fireworks — 1998, think of it — and he ripped off a sonorous fart, about a G sharp above middle C, to which my only reaction was “Good intonation but needs more diaphragm support.” I’m a hornplayer’s daughter; fart jokes were in the air I breathed as a child, if that’s the way to phrase it.

There were times when he really pushed the envelope, but I have to admit his method for keeping civic meetings brief — which involved a preliminary meal at Hard Times Chili Cafe, with extra onions and habanero — might be profitably emulated by the US Congress.

I still send him things like this, which a comment over at Daddy Papersurfer’s caused me to recall.

The music is actually Rimsky-Korsakov, not Bach, but I claim poetic license.

Full Circle

On the morning of September 11, 2001, my Albino Ex — who was then just my beau of three years’ standing — called me to ask if I’d been listening to the news. I hadn’t. “Someone just flew a plane into the Pentagon,” he said. Since the Pentagon is three miles from me, this got my attention; so did the shaken disbelief in his voice. The Ex is a red-white-and-blue Obama Republican, a Federal worker with a security clearance and a Boys’ Own Paper brand of naive, disarming nationalism that calls to mind a World War Two-era poster. We had no idea what was going to happen next, of course. I think it crossed both our minds that we might not see each other again; it’s easy to forget, as rapidly as things developed, how uncertain those first few hours were.

He walked home from downtown that day, an hours-long march under a cloudless late-summer sky that left him poached like a lobster. We spent our spare moments in the next few days listening to the emergency services on his scanner.

We remain on good terms, he and I, though he drop-kicked me in 2003 and weeks at a time go by without our communicating. These days I wouldn’t normally think of calling him at nearly eleven on a Sunday evening, but I know he’s not someone to keep the TV on or monitor a Twitter feed.

I dialed the number. He sounded alarmed and groggy.

“The news outlets are all saying bin Laden is dead and we have his body,” I told him.

He has an unsettling, gleeful tenor laugh. It started on a light note of disbelief while he turned on the cable television, then mounted to an operatic buoyancy. He managed to get a news update from Al Jazeera, of all things, and after a few seconds I left him to it.

America closed an account tonight, whatever anyone thinks about the cost. I am not sure what it says about our country, or human nature in general, when Twitter updates from everywhere are extolling the uniting, inspiring effect of a man’s death, even a diabolus like Osama. I just remember the shattered inflection in that first unexpected phone call, and the surreal perfection of the September sky.

I gave tonight’s news back to the man who called me that morning.

Account closed.

When Plushies Go Bad

A probable indicator that something is wrong with me is my habit of rescuing plushies. You know how it is: every so often, you find a plush toy that some thoughtless kid has let go of, lying in the roadway or in the middle of a public lawn somewhere. These days I would probably get twitchy about bedbugs, but especially over the years of my marriage, my late and ex being more tender-hearted than most men, we both saved a number of abandoned and often slightly battered plushies which I put through a refined rescue system, involving submersion, oxygen bleach, gentle scrubbing, sun drying, sewing and grooming (including new eyes and noses, when necessary). Webster Morse-Griffin, a forlorn teddy bear who looked as if part of his muzzle had been pulled off by some rotten child or overzealous puppy, received a smart-looking graft made of a piece of inside-out athletic sock and a velvet button nose off an old blazer; a tiny pocket-size rabbit who had lost both eyes, being pure white, got little red sequins and looked quite dashing. Capodilupo, a wolf cub plushie that I found in the gutter, possibly after a night of carousing, seemed intact though one friend suggesting steering him into rehab.

Now it seems like the rescue concept has seeped over into merchandising. You can get these plush toys with psychiatric illnesses; they come with a treatment plan and an explanation of why they are depressed and so forth. If you click the “Spiel” (story) link on the website, it will take you to an interactive video that is possibly the creepiest goddam thing I have ever seen associated with a cuddly toy.

My Albino Ex, who has a predilection for dinosaurs and cuddling pillows, sent me the link. I really am worried he might order the alligator.

I’ll stick to field rescues.