Friday, December 09, 2005

A (True) Christmas Story

by Christa Forster

“I’m sick of living in a pig sty,” my mother says. “We’re getting all this crap out of here.” She is standing in the middle of our one-car garage, hands on her hips, surveying the wreck. My brother Antonio kicks his skateboard across the concrete driveway, pretending he can’t hear her.

“Antonio!” I say. "Get in here and help us.”

“Shut up, Stupid,” he says. He scrapes his skateboard on the asphalt.

My mother abhors clutter. Living in a pigsty is not what she envisioned for herself, oh so many years ago.

Where we live on Mission Hill, the neighborhood fences sag under fuchsia and golden Bougainvillea. Hedges of prickly Aloe Vera guard whole front yards. Jacaranda trees, whose fanlike leaves droop with deep lavender flowers, line the streets. And Eucalyptus trees – my favorites -- tower into the blue, emitting their mentholated medicine into every breath I take. To me, our house on Guadalupe Street seems like heaven and smells like the sea, which we can just see if we stand on our tiptoes and look out the picture window at the top of the staircase.

My mother begins directing me amongst the junk: roller skates, broken Barbie body parts, kites, lawn equipment, baseball bats, leather gloves, tool boxes, book boxes, boxes of who-knows-what-and-how-long-it’s-been-in-here. Every few minutes, I hold up an object, confused about what to do with it: an old record player, a stack of opera albums, a lame ukulele.

“Throw it out!” mom says, “When was the last time anyone touched it?"

Sometimes I say “But I want it.”

“Then take it to your room,” she says.

Next door, Mrs. Banda’s goat Mephisto bleats loudly and poops all over her patio. The sound and smell of Mephisto confirms my mother’s conviction that our house is, indeed, a pigsty. Antonio and I love Mephisto. He’s better than a dog because he has horns and tries to butt us all the time and eats the clothes we’re wearing.

“Here,” mom yells, “take this and throw it in the dump pile.” She tosses a large, plastic figurine into the driveway.

“Antonio!” I yell. "Mom wants you to throw that in the truck.” He gives me the finger. “Mom SAID, “ I say.

“I gotta go to the bathroom,” he says.

It's the Virgin Mary figurine from the illuminated lawn Nativity scene that my mom bought at St. Vincent de Paul’s two years ago. When my mom sees me pick it up and hesitate, she yells at me to throw it directly into the back of the truck. “Straight to the dump!” she says.

“Mom,” I say, “you can’t throw the Blessed Virgin Mary away. It’s, like, a sin probably.”

“I got her at the thrift store, for god's sake. I'll get a new one. K-Mart has a bunch of them. I saw‘em there just the other day.”

I look at the Virgin’s face.

“If you want her,” my mom says, “take her to your room.”

Her blue mantel has faded to a hint of its former glory, and her eyes are pretty much gone. “I guess I don’t want her,” I say. I lift her into the back of the Dodge pickup. Antonio appears, zipping his fly.

“Antonio,” my mom calls, “put these in there, too." She’s pointing to the rest of the set: Joseph, Baby Jesus in the crib, the Sheep, the Ducks, “they're all going to the dump.”

“I have to go to the bathroom,” I say.

That evening as she's cutting up carrots for dinner, my mother stops chopping, knife midair, and stares off into space, as if she's forgotten something. Then she turns to me and asks, "Do you think I should not have thrown that Holy Family away?"

On Christmas day, my family sits in the second row of folding chairs set up in the church’s gymnasium for the 11 a.m. folk mass. Father Esparza, standing at the pulpit, retells the famous “No Room at the Inn” story, the one where Joseph and Mary search the little town of Bethlehem for lodging to no avail.

“There is no room at the end,” says Father Esparza. “And Mary and Joseph must stay in a manger on the outskirts of town. Hence, our savior was born in a pigsty.”

Until he points directly to it, I haven’t focused on the Nativity scene set up in front of the altar. This one's colors are bright and the faces detailed, way prettier than the set we had. Father Esparza explains how a member of the congregation -- Debbie Marshall – arrived at the rectory one afternoon with the same Nativity scene in her car trunk. The figures, covered with black gook and slime, she’d rescued from the city dump. She cleaned and repainted them. She was there to donate them to the church.

“She found them there,” Father said. “cast away, like they were 2000 years ago in the little town of Bethlehem. I want you all to contemplate the question: what would you do if the Holy Family came knocking on your door? Would you invite them in? Or would you, too, cast them away?"

Suddenly, my mom pushes my dad and he bumps into me. I look up and see that they are both stifling hysterics.

On the way home from church, my dad says, “You know she killed herself.”

“Who killed herself?” Antonio says.

“Debbie Marshall.”

I don’t say anything because I am never talking to my family ever again.

“She was depressed,“ says my dad.

“She was an artist,” says my mom.

“Maybe she killed herself because she was depressed that someone threw away the Holy Family,” Antonio says, laughing.

“Highly improbable,” says my mom.

“You know, she probably did,” says my dad.

“Warren,” says my mom, “don't say something like that.”

“What?” says my dad. “I think it would be great if she killed herself because you threw away the Holy Family.”

“Oh go to hell, Warren,” she says. She turns around and looks me in the eye. “When we get home, Missy” she says, “I want that room of yours spotless.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Critique of Poetry, No. 2

1. If you don't read poetry, you are missing something essential for soul growth.
2. If you read poetry, you have realized why so few people read it.
3. If you don't read poetry, you watch too much television and have allowed Jon Stewart to become your bard.
4. If you have allowed Jon Stewart to become your bard, it's okay because he is a bard, of sorts.
5. Still, you might try reading some William Blake or some...William Blake and, I promise, you will love Jon Stewart even more.
6. In truth, it takes some training to read William Blake in any way that might make deep sense to you. So if you're gonna read William Blake, read something about William Blake, too, helping you understand why William Blake is the father of people like Jon Stewart.
7. William Blake isn't the father of Jon Stewart, metaphorically, of course. Probably Jonathan Swift is. Proof is they share the same initials.
8. I have been considering getting cable so that I can watch Jon Stewart, but I have been holding off because: would it be worth it? Really?
9. I think it really would be worth it.
10. Nine is my favorite number so I'm gonna stop there.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Every Person in My Dream is Me

A few mornings ago, I dreamt that I was skateboarding up a mountain, wearing a formal gown the color of ashes. I had a windbreaker on over the gown. At the top of the mountain, I found a man-made lake surrounded by RVs full of elderly people; it was like a Good Sam Club Convention. Deciding this was no place for a girl like me, I turned and started skateboarding down the mountain, which was A LOT harder than going up the mountain. I kept having to go off the side of the road to stop myself from losing total control. On one of these forced stops, my skateboard landed in some grass next to a python-length of dog poop. My right front wheel was touching the poop, but I hadn't actually run over it, into it: what a relief. At some point down the mountain, I pit-stopped at a girls' college and picked up Clara, who was a baby still. We went to the gross cafeteria and tried to find some food, but all they were serving was fried catfish and two day old french fries. The cafeteria's ambience was like a Vegas cafeteria -- cigarette smoke-coated carpet, weird 70s chandeliers, and wine red padded wall paper. We left the cafeteria and wandered through the girls' dormitory to find our way out of the college. As we were walking through the the dorm, I noticed that all the girls were fat and just sitting around on their butts getting fatter. "I don't think any of these girls are good babysitters for you, Clara," I said. Then I woke up.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Critique of Poetry, No. 1

Like many other evacuees-who-who-couldn’t-actually-evacuate during Hurricane Rita, I have been suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. My friend Shannon has been suffering, too (30 hours to Lufkin). I know it's pantywaist of me to complain, living as I do in the realm of Katrina victims, so I haven't been complaining. And I haven't been writing.

But in the interim, a bunch of interesting things about me (what else is this blog about? Remember I'm an Aries) have arisen. Some of these things are physically dramatic; some of them psychologically dramatic; some of them spiritually dramatic. Some of them all those things simultaneously.

Note: every other critique I've ever read about poetry inevitably capitalizes on the word simultaneously, annoying me to the point that I avoid critiques of poetry as often as I can. Even though simultaneously is how poetry works in truth. In poetry, all these different meanings about life occur simultaneously. It's uncanny.

That's what has been happening to me: all these different meanings have been occurring simultaneously.

Syllogism: In my life, all these different meanings have been occurring simultaneously. Poetry is meaning that occurs simultaneously. Therefore my life is poetry.

Note: See the John Malkovich/Gary Sinese version of Sam Shepard's play True West. It's unforgettable.

Note: This is not a critique of poetry.

Note: I sort of hate the word simultaneously.

Exhibit !


In high school, I was a varsity cheerleader. There was a football player with hair the color of scrambled eggs who loved me. I couldn't love him because his hair reminded me of food, which was too gross, and because we didn't have sustained chemistry. I did make out with him a few times in my 67 Blue Ford Ranchero, but then I had to call him finally and give him the spiel that it wasn't he, it was I. And that was true. Cliché as it may sound.

Girls who are cheerleaders inspire all sorts of stereotypical thinking, which is why throughout college and graduate school, I kept the fact that I was a varsity cheerleader for two years in high school under wraps. I sat by and listened while people made fun of girls who were cheerleaders; more specifically: made fun of cheerleaders. I don't think they thought so much about the girls, only the word labeling them. Some of the stereotypes I heard included "dumb" "perky" "loose" "fake" "popular", etc. I might have been all of those things at some point in my life, but I was never all of them simultaneously.

Recently, I visited an old high school friend who lives now with her husband and three children in Cypress, TX. She finds herself worrying, like any valedictorian-cum-mom who finds herself living in the Dante-esque world that is a Houston, TX suburb, about her three year old's impending obsession with cheerleading. This is the land, folks, of "Friday Night Lights." It's the home of Wanda Holloway, the cheerleader's mom who conspired to kill another cheerleader. I am not surprised my friend worries.

She wanted to know about my experience as a cheerleader. Normally, I'm embarrassed to talk about it because of all the group-think/resistance around this lifestyle choice. But I talked about it, because Kim was my best friend in High School.

In the 9th grade I found myself thrown into the cauldron of PUBLIC SCHOOL. Capistrano Valley High School, unlike the catholic high school 45 minutes away on the freeway, was a 10-minute car ride up the road. That's where my parents sent me because, they said, it was closer to home; therefore, I wouldn't end up dead on the freeway. Really, they sent me there because it was FREE. I went from going to elementary and middle school with the same 30 characters for 9 years, to going to my freshman classes with 30 different people every 50 minutes. There were so many kids at my school, my graduating class held 754 students. At my high school, the dress code was FREE DRESS. And I learned early on the primacy of first impressions and the power of clothes to speak meanings about one's self to other people. There was an atrium "mall" area in the middle of our classroom hubs, where live plants grew and the buzz of WASPs dominated the lunchtime feedings on chimichangas, soft pretzels, and one another. In truth, I felt the same way Mephistopheles felt when asked by Faust how he'd gotten free from hell; Mephisto looks at Faust in surprise: "Why this is hell [my friend], nor am I out of it." CVHS = Hell.

Note: In The Historical Tragedy of Dr. Faustus, Faust does intimate that "hell" may not be such a bad place to be, especially with a friend like Mephistopheles. It's bad, don't get me wrong; but it's not a damnation to be completely dismissed. There is no love there, true. But there is a lot of diversion otherwise.

Anyway, high school was hellacious. Specifically, it was for me because I had to come up with something different to wear every day. I'd been wearing a uniform for the past eight years; I didn't know how to construct myself yet in a good enough superficial way to communicate truly the meanings that I carried inside me. It required much thought, much artistry. And honestly, I didn't want to care that much about the surface. I wanted the uniform, so I could concentrate on other things, deeper things-- like boys and God and when I was gonna get my first kiss. When you haven't yet been kissed, the question of when you will finally be kissed is an all-consuming question. I don't know what I learned in school until I was kissed. It's like the academics before that moment in high school are a blur....

Syllogism: Cheerleaders wore uniforms; I wanted to wear a uniform; therefore, I wanted to be a cheerleader.

I tried out at the end of freshman year. I didn't make it. I cried for a day.

I tried out again at the end of sophomore year. I made it. I got to wear Adidas sweat pants and my cheerleading polo shirts to school nearly every day for the next two years. And I even learned to like wearing the cute little cheerleading skirts. They made me look cute, dammit. And I had boys I wanted to kiss! So many boys. I knew enough to know that boys know the cute when they see it.

But I was a good girl, which means, I was a virgin well out of high school. I'm glad, too. I think.

Ultimately, I think cheerleading helped me. I was painfully shy when I was young. PAINFULLY. Shy. People who know me now find this hard to comprehend. You can't really be a painfully shy cheerleader. Cheerleading helped me develop my social skills so that I could negotiate things like my virginity. I could use my very large brain to woo the boys, I could use my cute legs, too, but ultimately my very large brain would be the thing they saw, the thing they wanted to know in the Biblical sense.

I could be wrong.

Regardless, now in this time, I am simultaneously all the things I've been in my life: three-year-old, cheerleader, poet, mom.

"The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficult it is to remain just one person," said Czeslaw Milosz, the Polish, Nobel Prize Winning Poet, in his poem "Ars Poetica."

Note: Read Czeslaw (Ches-lahv) Milosz (Me-lohzh). He died last year.

Milosz, too, was a kind of cheerleader. A spiritual one. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


While Hurricane Rita was gearing up to become a category 4/5 storm, our slumlord warned us that we would probably need to evacuate because our house would blow away in such a storm. This was six days before Rita was slated to hit the Gulf Coast. I went to Target that Tuesday to prepare the evacuation kit. I didn't fare too well, because, well, I am Hurricane-retarded. I guess I'm a hurricane retard because I grew up with earthquakes, which, as far as natural disasters go, have the good manners NOT to announce their impending doom.

Retarded: for example, for twenty minutes, I stood in front of the shelf of unaffordable clock radios, looking for something affordable that would work on regular batteries. I was pissed that there were no regular "transistor"-type radios. What the hell happened to transistor radios? Are they obsolete or something? As I'm picking up one clock radio after another to check what type of battery each one uses, this woman walks up to the shelf and grabs this box that was sitting right there -- a portable transistor type radio. All along I thought that the picture on the box was a video camera, so I hadn't looked at it closely. PISSED! I watched the woman handle the box, turning it over and around to look at the features, and I know she could feel my foaming at the mouth for that radio. I wanted to say, "Um, excuse me but I was here before you were, and, like you, I am looking for a transistor-type radio. And, uh, I saw that box earlier, but I thought it was a video camera, so I didn't pick it up, but now that I see that it's a radio -- the exact kind I've been wanting the whole time, the only reason I even came to Target in the first place -- I think you should let me have it."


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Destiny's Child

When I was in third grade, Sr. Mary Roch allowed us to complete our schoolwork at our own pace. When we were through with the assignments, we could go to the classroom library -- a shelf of mostly religious books underneath the windows. Always, I'd rush through my work to get to the books. Handwriting was the main subject of my early education. And even more than I loved the endless handwriting assignments, I LOVED reading. Any my favorite books were religious stories, tales about gods and saints.

I will not forget the day I plopped down on the purple rug in front of the shelf and filed my finger along the spines of books to choose from. I hit upon an arresting title: Superstition. Knowing that the Catholic religion denounced superstitious beliefs (we'd been told religiously during Religion class that superstitious beliefs were "evil"), when I found the book, a thrill ricocheted through my brain. I opened the book, skimmed the pages. A phrase caught my attention: "Hair Color."

The author of the book classified hair color into three categories: Blonds, Brunettes, and Redheads. It said, and I quote: "Blonds are vivacious, friendly, pretty and talkative; Brunettes are deep thinkers, loyal, and they make good wives; Redheads are witches and should be burned at the stake."

I did not understand cliché, nor was I developmentally ready to understand stereotypes. In third grade, I was still pretty literal; I felt slapped, stabbed, diminished and discovered by this verdict. I hadn't CHOSEN to be a redhead. Why should I have to suffer so?

I wondered, "Does Sr. Mary Roch know this is here?" I shoved the book down the front of my jumper and stole back to my desk, intuiting that if Sr. Mary Roch caught me reading it, she would take it away. I really wanted to see what other truths about the world this book held. I would immerse myself in Superstition at home. I sat back down, picked up my pen and resumed practicing penmanship.

I can remember walking home from school or from Shorty's market, and some of the public school kids would pass me and mutter under their breath, "I'd rather be dead than be red." It happened so many times, I now realize the absurdity of the situation (1970s Orange County, post-communist anti-communist sentiment, weirdly enough) Sometimes an older guy -- a teenager -- would ask me as he passed me, "are you red all over?" which sounds totally evil to a 11 year old.

Believe me, I asked God for a lot of help and a lot of forgiveness for my inherent evil nature. Original Sin is a piece of cake compared to the fate of hair color.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Learning to Take a Compliment

Many people have told me that my writing is upsetting, not specifically here in this blog, but in general. I take that as a compliment.

Some people have told me I'm a genius: most vociferously, my mom. I take it as a compliment.

Other people have told me that they hate my work, that they have no idea what to make of it, no idea what it's about. I take that as a compliment.

One time, in graduate school, the writer Rosellen Brown told me that an essay of mine about my dad -- called "Weapons" -- was, for her, harder to stomach than a Sam Shepherd play.

I took THAT as a total compliment.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Here's a poem I wrote in 2000

Pretty, Soon

Pretty soon if we don’t do the thing
we need to do, the windows (they might shatter)
will implode. And all the lights we would
have lit inside our homes will find the shadows
we’ve become. The falls and rises, things
which flipped our hearts, will fail to thrill
us anymore. The winds that spank wisteria
spores around the driveway -- all will end.
Rain corpuscles and cloud-pimpled skies
will cough up helicopter carnage.
Little boys will suffocate and die.
Women’s flesh might melt from bone;
cunts will crumble. There’s a girl named Thursday
downstairs. Her boyfriend lives with her (a whore
the neighbors say, siren, femme fatal).
Hell has a special ring for her, we’ve heard.
Lucky girl. I wonder if she knows
the thing we need to do. Pretty soon
if we don’t do it, they might turn us in
to law-abiding citizens. Why
do they abide? And who are they, besides?
Might they be those whose dumb philosophies
despise the chaos that’s erupting here?
What is there to fear? Every thing
is everything. There is nothing so dear
it can’t be rent and made more beautiful
than it was when it first began. All
my little pretty ones, and ugly ones,
too, take off your shoes and socks, your shirt,
your pants, your underwear. Take off your skin
and peel the sinew from your bones. Go back
to being less than everything you have
become. It must be done. You’ll see.

Damn Bitch

Grace Hemingway disapproved of her brother's foul language. Her brother liked to use foul language to suggest his toughness. But, really, he wasn't that tough. Anyone who's read enough of him, especially the short stories, knows that Hemingway was soft, actually. He ached for sincerity, for passion, for care, motherly care. I know men like this, and they're usually deeply talented. It's as if the art is an effigy for the loss of their boyhood, when they were the center of their mother’s world, the recipient of her sincerity, her passion, her particular kind of motherly care. Sometimes the making of art equals the desperate pursuit of unconditional love.

"Mr. Hemingway," asked the young writer, "what is the key to becoming a writer?"

"An unhappy childhood," replied Mr. Hemingway.

There are stories that Hemingway's mom dressed him up as a girl when he was a young boy.

As Dorothy Parker noted: "He was a woman, masquerading in men's clothes."

Some people hold the attitude that Hemingway was somehow an asshole. He wasn't really. But there's no doubt that he was a total bitch.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


My mom and her husband are returning this very moment from their vacation in Germany. They're flying in the air above me, on their way to California. They were in Bavaria for two weeks, at a miliary resort near Garmish. My step-father, The Colonel (which is all my siblings and I have ever called him, and with much love), was stationed in Germany in an earlier life, and he loves the area around Garmish. I have never been to Garmish, but I sure do enjoy saying the name: Garmish. Gaaaaarmish.

I have only been to Germany once, a Frankfurt airport stopover on the way to Barcelona.

"So this resort," my mom says, "it has a spa, three restaurants, entertainment centers...."

"Sounds pretty nice. Could David and I stay there sometime?" We're not military, but I wonder if it's like USAA auto and property insurance, which is the BEST, meaning anyone connected to the military in any familial way can benefit from the perk of a military resort. The price is what makes it so desirable: $75.00 or less a night. David and I were in Europe last October (David photographed a wedding on Mallorca, and I was his assitant! Clara was there, too, in utero), and it was freaking expensive! We paid $75 a night for a run down, but uber cool and well-located -- corner of Ave Diagonal and Paseo de Gracia -- two star hotel in Barcelona. That was cheap, too. So a resort, well that sounds pretty swanky for the price. Although, it could turn out like the "five star" Texas Hill Country resort where David and I spent our Honeymoon, which shall remain nameless because it was a wedding gift. The one restaurant only served a bowl of demi glaze with some type of meat in it for dinner, and for breakfast they served cold, reconstituted eggs. We had to leave the resort by the third day to find something to eat. We were starving.

Plus, "military resort" isn't an oxymoron, but it's close. Sounds like a little slice of hell, doesn't it?

But then you don't know the Colonel, my mom's husband, who is probably one of kindest men I've ever known. He's also full of great stories (about the military), treats my mom like a queen, and tolerates her crazy children. More than tolerates -- cherishes.

My mother likes the military men. My dad was a military man, too, and like the Colonel, he went to West Point Academy, too. However, my dad defines himself as a West Point Grad, and this fact means everything to him, maybe even more than his children. Just Kidding.


My point here is that the military, besides using our tax dollars to subsidize the lives of the people who join it, besides serving the purpose to train people to kill other people, is full of wonderful folk. Like the Colonel. And, okay, like my dad, too.

"I don't know. Maybe you could stay there," says my mom. Her tone means exactly what she says, which is her normal tone of voice, in general: Sincere.

I love that about my mom.


I've just coined a new word: to clink. To clink is to "click the link," as in clink the title of this blog post to see photos of Clara on her summer vacation. The first photo features Clara just moments after Lou let fly the pee onto her ankle.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Naked Time

I remember hearing somewhere that it's necessary for babies to have naked time every day. It allows their skin to breathe, which is important, it being their biggest organ. Ours, too, for that matter.

Baby skin is so sensitive, and its regenerative power amazes me. Whenever Clara lightly scratches herself (because no matter how hard I try, keeping her nails short is a Sisyphean task), her skin repairs itself, flawlessly, in less than 24 hours. For a deeper scratch, it might take the cut as long as 80 hours to heal. Still, her SKIN! O.M.G. Gorgeous.

Naked time is a concept my sister-in-law, Celine, reveres. It was she who reminded me of the importance of naked time while we were visiting at my mom's house in Southern California.

David and I were aimlessly wandering around my mom's house, normally bored, as all parents vacationing with a new child for the first time are bored -- occupational hazard. It was around 3:30 p.m., the devil hour, and, of course, we could not figure out WHAT to do. I looked through the sliding glass door, into the back yard and saw Celine and a naked three month old Lou playing on a blanket under a tree. The sky was blue; the grass was warm; the shade was cool.

At the sight of them, I perked up. "Let's go play with Celine and Lou!" I said.

David, Clara and I tromped across my mom's back yard lawn, the ocean breeze caressing (I swear) our arm hairs. "Can we join you?" David asked Celine.

"You have no choice," I said, plopping Clara down on the blanket beside Lou. I took off her clothes and set her on the quilt a couple feet from her cousin.

Celine and Lou might have been bonding, but they were gonna have to do it with me, David and Clara, too. This is exactly the attitude that David would call my clueless one. Like maybe Celine wanted to be alone with Lou? I assumed she didn't want to be alone, which is what David might call my teacher attitude.

Anyway, we had a great time, the five of us. Clara and Lou sunbathed in the So Cal sun/shade, in their birthday skins. They looked as adorable as two naked babies on a heirloom quilt can look. Believe me, the look is the epitome of adorable.

Lou peed, and it got on Clara's leg. Celine wiped it off with a blue baby washcloth and Evian. Adorable. A memory for family gatherings in the future. Love it or leave it: That's family. My family -- we're of the loving-it/hating-it genre. It's an awesome mix -- the love/hate duo. Simultaneously those two feelings. Feels better than drugs.

Lately, I've been giving Clara naked time in her crib. She loves it and always chooses that time to let fly the pee. I don't think it hurts anything, really. But today David said, "You mean you've been letting her pee all over her mattress?"

"Yeah," I said, "but it's okay. There's a mattress pad waterproof underneath and the mattress underneath it that is plastic." Even I hardly understood what I'd just said. "Plus it's baby pee," I continued. "Baby pee's so pure you can drink it."

I guess I convinced him because the conversation went no further.

I've never actually tried baby pee, but I've contemplated it. And, I only let her pee in the crib three times before I make sure to remove the sheet and wash it. Oh yeah, and she doesn't actually sleep in her crib; she only plays in it. She sleeps in the king size bed with us...or in her swing. She's gonna grow out of this swing, soon, and I need to break her of the habit anyway. I'm sure that the swing has a narcotic effect on her. CAN'T HAVE THAT, now can we? No narcotic effects! VERY, VERY BAAAAAAAD.

Anyhooo. Soon we're gonna have to use the crib for sleeping. At that point, I will make sure that Clara has taken care of business BEFORE naked time in the crib rolls around.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Queen of the Swallows

In eighth grade, I was voted Queen of the Swallows.

Queen of the Swallows meant that on Swallows' Day, the biggest annual event in my hometown, San Juan Capistrano, I got to dress up in a long white dress, don a red velvet cape with a faux ermine collar, and more importantly, wear a CROWN. I presided with Luis Aguilar -- the King -- over the festival celebrating the return of these small birds with the wedged tail to their North American home. Every year on March 19, the swallows came back to Capistrano from Argentina, where they wintered.

And Capistrano partied: had town barbeques, parades and communal drunk-ins.

March 19 is also St. Joseph's Day, a big feast day for Mexican American Catholics. On this day, the Mission courtyard was decked out with a platform stage in the center of the rose garden. The Old Mission School children performed a variety of folkloric dances for the locals and tourists, from rhythmic Juaneno Indian stomps to colorful twirls around a Mexican sombrero. Locals gathered around the stage, as an Irish community might around a boxing ring, gawking at the children earnestly dancing in celebration for these mudhut feathered twerps. And for St. Joseph. And for the public -- tourists from Nebraska Idaho Wisconsin Argentina Australia Germany, etc.

In my day, all the spectators had to stand; but the Queen and King of the Swallows got to sit at the top of the only bleachers in the courtyard. No heads blocked our view. Best seats in the house, as it were. And the spectacle lasted three hours. Fucking Royalty! It was awesome.

All my life, I'd dreamed of this moment. I'd spent the previous 8 years of my K-8 Catholic education longing to sit at the top of the bleachers wearing the crown and the red velvet cape. I didn't dream it was Mario Gonzalez next to me, though. Mario  lived in the section of Mission Flats that smelled like lard and beans. The streets in Mission Flats smelled that way; the houses in Mission Flats smelled that way, and all the Mexican kids from Mission Flats smelled that way. However, the way they smelled was better than the way WE smelled -- my brothers I. We smelled like shit, literally. Given my family's affinity for flatulence, this should be no surprise. It seemed like everyday I'd have to fluffdry my red plaid polyester uniform jumper in the dryer just to TRY and rid it of stale farts fumes, pre-pubescent sweat, and whatever lunch detritus had dribbled over it at the picnic tables that day.

To console myself, I'd spend evenings fantasizing that I was the most popular girl in the world, as popular as Dee Dee Mechmachen. Dee Dee was blond, tan, nice, and she wore black horn rimmed glasses, and blinding braces in her mouth. When I was in second grade and she was in eighth grade, she was the Queen of the Swallows. I tried to emulate her look -- first by crossing my eyes for 10 minutes every night so that I'd have to get glasses, and then by creating my very own homemade set of braces.

I fashioned my braces from the wires inside the "twisty" of an Alligator plastic sandwich baggie. Each morning in Sr. Grace's second grade classroom, I'd reach into my desk, pull out my lunch, undo the twisty on the sandwich baggie, and proceed to denude it, pulling all that gummy paper off until only a thin, flimsy wire was left. I'd wrap the wire around my two front teeth so that it stayed there. Then I'd turn around and show my best friend Mary Young my "braces."

"Those aren't braces, stupid," she'd say (honestly, I did this more than once, and IN EARNEST.)

"Yes," I said, "they are. They're a new kind of special braces. I have an overbite."

Dee Dee had an overbite, whatever that was.

As stupid as I might have been, Mary still loved me -- loved me so much, she'd grab my arm and interlock it with hers, pulling me all over the playground during recess and lunch. I felt guilty when, at about the time I felt I might throw up, I would have to yell: "Mary: Let. Go. Of. Me!" I wanted to go play kickball or butts up with the boys, and she just wanted to gallivant around and CHAT.

Kickball and Butts Up were where I'd find Robby Mitchell. Robby Mitchell Robby Mitchell Robby Mitchell. Robby Mitchell.

Robby Mitchell was the third son of Maureen Mitchell, my mom's dearest friend. Robby and I had grown up together -- we were in cribs together, so say our moms. The intimacy we shared as a result of spending so much time together was palpable to me even at the tender age of 5. There was an erotic energy between us, I swear. One time in his bedroom at La Casitas we handcuffed ourselves together while our moms were having coffee downstairs. We were four years old. We weren't thinking as we did it; we just did it because the handcuffs were there. I remember this feeling of darkness descending when I realized that we might be stuck together for a very long time. "WHERE IS THE KEY?" our moms yelled. Key? What's a key? We searched the condo for over an hour, and we could find no key. Finally, Mrs. Mitchell called Old Mission School and asked the secretary, Sr. Cleo, if she could talk to Tommy, her second son. The handcuffs were Tommy's. Tommy was lean, wiry and hyperactive. And tricky. The key was on his keychain, which was in his pocket. Apparently, Tommy not only knew what keys were, but he OWNED some. Mysterious, for sure.

After three hours of being handcuffed together, Robby and I were finally unhooked. Mrs. Mitchell had driven to the school to get the key from the hoodlum Tommy. I remember that when the darkness lifted, with it went a small part of my heart. It was my first inclination that darkness could be sweet.

Mario Gonzalez was the opposite of dark.Mario  -- King-to-my-Queen-of-the-Swallows -- was jovial, sweet, and little boy cute. His only problem was that he smelled like beans and lard.

Robby Mitchell left Old Mission School in the sixth grade and went to Marco Forster Junior High School, the public school named after my grandfather. I felt like we were still connected somehow, even though I never saw him again. Which is weird because my mom and Mrs. Mitchell stayed friends throughout all these years.

Robby was a "surfer boy," although in actuality he mostly boogie boarded. He had sandy blond hair, dark brown eyes, dark eyebrows, smooth tan skin and high cheekbones. Even as a boy, when he pulled his wetsuit off after getting out of the water, his sculpted hipbones gave way to defined groin muscles. The thin white line of untanned skin peeking over the neoprene suit was enough to drive me to distraction for years. Throughout elementary and middle school, I included him in my "I'm the queen looking for the right king" fantasy that I played out before bed each night.

In my dreams, it was he sitting next to me at the top of the bleachers. In truth, he disappeared, got swallowed up in the darkness of real life.

I wonder about him sometimes.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Pinky Hurricane

My friend Raquelita, aka Pinky Hurricane, started a blog that I think is totally groovy. It's called My Pointy Ears Are Up. Check it out if you have the time.

Pinky and I met in San Francisco in 1989. We bothed worked at the Exploratorium there, the Museum of Science and Technology that Frank Oppenheimer (the lesser known brother of Robert) founded in the 1970s. What a great job it was, too. Not only did I meet one of my dearest and most favorite friends, but also going to work was like going to play on the playground everyday. There was one exhibit called "the tactile dome," a geodesic dome designed by August Coppola (another lesser known bro) that sat inside the Exploratorium and was open for "tours." A tour meant you showed up at a prescribed time -- reservations were required -- entered a pitch black atmosphere where you made your way through entirely by using your sense of touch. There were chutes and ladders inside this thing that you had to climb up and then fall down (without warning!). My favorite chute was the rope ladder one climbed up only to fall down at the top of it into a bin of pinto beans.

There were rumors of Exploratorium employees going through the dome after hours, in the nude and tripping on acid. I never did, but I wish I had!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


By now most everyone knows about the danger of anti-biotics: that if one overuses them, one builds up resistance to the very thing one was trying to resist -- bacterial infections -- and the infections ensue with a BRING IT ON! attitude. This bring-it-on attitude is the phenomenon known around the hypochondriac universe as the "super virus."

It's also big news that anti-bacterial soap is bad for you.

Hahahahahahahahaha. Joke's on us, I guess.

Anyway, Clara has been on anti-biotics for an ear infection that cropped up over a week ago. When I told her that I'd rather not put Clara on antibiotics, the doctor said it was better to be safe than sorry. "You never know what it might develop into," the doc said. What am I supposed to say to that?

I'm not even sure Clara is "on" anti-biotics since whenever I try to give her the teaspoonful of Amoxicillin twice a day, 3/4 of it ends up on her onsie, because she spits it all out, which sucks because now all her clothes have pink Amoxicillin stain swaths all over them.

It's an exercise in futility -- this medicating against the unknown -- and I just hope my daughter isn't developing resistance to that which is supposed to help her.

Friday, September 02, 2005

There But for the Grace...

There is a serious fucked up psychic energy swirling around the region. A hurricane of stress -- category 5. We certainly don't have to be reading and constantly watching the network and cable news in order to feel viscerally the morass of tragedy that thousands and thousands of people are suffering through right now. Or not suffering through, because maybe they've just died.

My normally angelic daughter Clara feels this fucked up energy, too; she's projectile vomiting, screaming because of ear pain, and passing out from stress.

Calamity creeps into us through our skin cells, our nostrils, our eardrums. Our subconscious sponges it up. And we're just sitting here: SO FUCKING LUCKY.

What to do, what to do. Volunteer, donate, take in people who need shelter. Pray, if that's your inclination. My primary inclination is to keep these people in mind and keep asking the Universe to work in their favor -- let them have health, safety, peace, love, joy. Those last two requests -- love and joy -- may seem like luxuries right now, but when better to be praying that the refugees may have these things? In my mind it's the best thing I can do for them while they're sitting in a hot school bus, in a line of hot school busses, in a concrete field of diesel fumes, waiting to enter the Astrodome, where they'll be living for the next several months next to thousands and thousands of other traumatized people. LOVE and JOY are things that we can't hand them in cans, can't drop off in boxes or donate over paypal.

Even though I'm not "religious," I believe in the power of prayer. Prayer is another way of saying "mind over matter," which I firmly believe works. It has in my own life over and over. Not 100% of the time, but then nothing works 100% of the time, does it.

George Wwwwwhatthefuckiswrongwithhim Bush is, as usual, at a loss for how to act in the best interest for the people he's supposed to protect. So it's up to us.

Do what you can do, but consider asking the universe for help, too. Please.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Heaven Begins at Home

I am a certified minister of the Universal Life Church. My friend Joel, himself a Universal Life minister, ordained me so that I could minister his marriage to Sharon. I'm about to perform my second wedding ceremony, and I'm looking forward to it.

Over the internet, I was certified as a legitimate UCL minister, which meant that I could, if I so wanted, start my own church -- either an internet church or a bricks and mortar version. I laughed, "Ha, ha, ha, wouldn't that be funny -- me with my very own church!" I closed the email from the ULC and went on to the next email, which was a request for a letter of recommendation from a student's mom. Her salutation was "Dear Christ."

I had a good friend in graduate school who for a while believed I was the second coming. She was diagnosed with manic depression and temporary schizophrenia soon after this belief blossomed, but nonetheless, SHE WAS CONVINCED.

The other day, headed south on Highway 59, I passed the new Lakewood Church in what was formerly the Compaq Center -- once the home of the legendary Houston Rockets. Christians now flock to the refurbished arena, where their shepherd, Joel Osteen, leads them in their worship of a "God of Restoration" (from the As I drove past, I thought, that guy Osteen is making bookoo bucks. My next thought was, I could do that, start my own church.

L. Ron did it. J.C. did it. L. Ron Hubbard said the way to make millions is to start one's own religion.

I admit now: I want to make millions. Nay, squillions.

But Jesus didn't necessarily want to get rich. He hung out with the poor folk. I hang out with poor folk too, come to think of it: artists and theater types, teachers and writers. J.C.'s earthly dad was a carpenter. Mine was a NAPA auto parts salesman.

The Universal Life Church isn't about Jesus, though, which is fine by me, because I'm not really about Jesus either. I am about divinity, though. And my lapsed Catholic soul DIGS the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe. I choose to believe that there is a greater power, a higher power (I need to say it here: I'm not an AA advocate). I consider that higher power a sort of spiritual network -- an ethereal intelligence, a circular cosmic order. This higher order is the sum of all the individual consciousnesses and energies in the universe, which is why I believe it's important for people to be nice to one another, that being nice to one another and offering love and peace to one another is, in deed, heaven on earth.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

For All the People Suffering Because of Hurricane Katrina

May you have health.

May you have safety.

May you have peace.

May you have love.

May you have joy.

Clara Has A Cold

She does, and there is mucous everywhere, all over her face. All over me. I watched David kiss her hands this morning and shrieked: BE CAREFUL! SHE'S A GERM FACTORY!

Her whining has penetrated my soul, and I can't remember a world where there was no whining.

Last night the cry/whine escalated into a mysterious wail that would not cease unless I were dancing to Wilco and Billy Bragg's Mermaid Avenue. I tried a couple other CDs, like the brilliant bossanova album Elis and Tom, but she wailed even louder. Since it was late at night, I couldn't dance around to Wilco and Billy Bragg for too long because I was tired, and David was in bed because I thought I could do better than he could at calming her down -- breasts and all that -- so he wasn't any help. I finally gave her some baby tylenol, thinking she had a headache or something. As soon as the tylenol was in her mouth, she fell asleep, like she just KNEW it was gonna make everything better.

Drugs. What else can I say?

This morning I called the doctor to make sure that I shouldn't be bringing her in, to be reassured that this is only a cold and will pass like all colds do. The nurse who returned my call -- my new friend Sherry -- said that yes, I do need to bring her in, because she may have an ear infection.

S H I T.

I want to explain to Sherry that I can't just be bringing her in for every little thing because, according to my new insurance, I only get four doctor's visits a year, but I keep it to myself because Clara's ears are super important and her health is worth anything.

But I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm how much I HATE THE AMERICAN HEALTH INSURANCE INDUSTRY, and point people to this recent article by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker: THE MORAL-HAZARD MYTH

Monday, August 29, 2005


As a graduate of K-8 Catholic education, my best subject when I was 13 was Penmanship. And I knew how to diagram a sentence like nobody's business. The nuns, fierce Franciscans, were all about handwriting, diagramming complex sentences, and teaching us alternatives to cussing. "When you feel upset, just say MICHIGAN!" suggested Sr. Mary Alexandra.

Every week in 7th grade, Sr. Alexandra would make us practice our handwriting. After 30 to 45 minutes of working on our cursive, she'd pick the three best examples and send them to Sr. Doreen, the principal, to have her judge the VERY best. I got chosen as one of the three often, along with Ya Lin Chu and Gregory Zenzina. Periodically, Sr. Doreen stuck the gold star on my sheaf.

From the moment I learned the Palmer Method in the second grade, I'd been "the one to watch" when it came to cursive. I had been writing for years -- loops and loops of jibberish -- but once I learned the actual letters, I could communicate things. More importantly, those beautiful letters felt so good to write. I practiced X over and over -- two sixes having sex, almost 69ing. Q was a mystery: why was it like a 2? Or a backwards L? Those things had nothing seemingly in common with one another.

Over the years, I spent hours trying out different ways to write letters cursively. When I noticed that a friend's G was impressively formed, I'd absorb what I liked about her G into my own G. I wrote lots of notes to my friends, not because I had so much to say but because I loved the act of writing them. Most of them were along the lines of "What's up?" Or "Do you like John DiGiovanni? He likes you."

In sixth grade, a little black cloud in a plaid uniform jumper, named Ya Lin Chu, joined our class. Oh, did she rain on my parade with her exotic and perfect penmanship! Ya Lin, just off the boat from Viet Nam, wrote in an inimitable style. Try as hard as I might, I could not mimic her script. Soon enough, the class thank-you notes to guest speakers were being hand-written by her, where before they'd been my domain, practically my birthright. I had real trouble containing my jealously and being nice to Ya Lin. But I did my best. After all, she was an immigrant who had just crossed the Pacific Ocean in a LIFEBOAT, for god's sake. I seethed and scribbled for hours at night, consciously judging whether I was as impressed by my own handwriting as I was by Ya Lin's. I was not. I'd been surpassed. I had to make peace with being one of the best handwriters in middle school instead of THE best.

Recently, I've been involved in a discussion about the relevance of learning cursive in elementary school. There are some people who argue that it's an unnecessary skill these days, given that most children are now learning keyboarding as early as fifth grade. Many people curse cursive because they were never good at it. Probably they felt weak in it because they were taught to learn it AFTER learning block printing, which is an unnatural order given the way the brain functions develop.

I've been reading a book called Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All In Your Head, by Carla Hannaford, Ph.D., and she has this to say about learning cursive:

"By age four or five children naturally love to 'write' stories -- very elaborate stories. They usually write in a pretend cursive style, because they are mimicking grown-up writing, and because they enjoy the natural rhythm and flow of it. This process is anchoring learning in a holistic way and could be an excellent point of departure for new learning....[An] unnatural challenge has to do with learning to print block letters as the first step in writing. Printing is a highly linear process that takes us away from the more continuous rhythmic flow of language, both as it is experienced in the mind and as it is expressed through the hand -- as in cursive script....At [five years old] children have to work very hard at printing since it defies the natural development of brain functions. After age seven, when the brain is developed enough to accommodate the discrete and linear operations necessary for printing, we then teach them cursive. It's a crazy game that only serves to maintain high stress levels in the child and leads to 'learned helplessness'" (Hannaford 84-85).

Maybe my excellent cursive skills have something to do with what David calls my "teacher attitude," by which he means not the fact that I am indeed a teacher, but rather that I have tendency to order him around and act like I always know what I'm talking about as well as more than he does. Maybe there's a connection. You know how teachers most often have good handwriting? Well maybe the reason they became teachers is BECAUSE they have good handwriting -- they have to help all those helpless people who never learned to master cursive.

Someone needs to do a study on this cursive/know-it-all temperment, stat.

Friday, August 26, 2005


I get sick -- SICK! -- of society sometimes. When I think about it at all, it sickens me. So I find myself not thinking about society, not thinking about being a citizen in it, most of the time. I sort of operate unconsciously, which is bad in general and, in this case, bad for the environment, I'm sure. Because I don't recycle (crucify me), for example.

If my neighborhood waste managers offered recycling, I would recycle. I have recycled diligently in the past. It's not like I'm completely insensitive to the global warming situation. However, in order to recycle, I have to litter my house with old bottles, cans, cardboard, newspaper (can anyone say R O A C H M A G N E T S), lug it all downstairs in the heat -- and it's insanely hot here most of the year, probably because of the greenhouse gasses; vicious cycle, I know -- to drive to this very hard-to-find recycling center somewhere on Westpark Street or Lane or Whatever.

It doesn't seem like the City of Houston cares very much about my recycling. If they did, they'd offer their citizens those three types of trashcans -- regular waste, green waste and recyclable waste -- like they have in California (yes, I'm a California chauvinist!)

I don't even have to try to complain about something like this; it just comes naturally.

Here are other things about society that sicken me on a fairly regular basis: politics and politicians, noise pollution (especially leaf blowers!), credit card companies, bank charges, pollution, junk mail, bad water quality, noise pollution (Clear Channel Radio), the cost of housing, "fashion", stupid television, traffic, greenhouse gases, oil costs, noise pollution (did Robertson really say that thing about Sizzler?!), ozone holes, ADHD, drug companies, concrete jungles, "quiet genocides," trash, trash, trash everywhere.

I realize that my anti-social attitude makes me part of the problem. I'm conscious of that much, at least.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

S H U T U P ! ! !

I'm not sure that there's a noise I hate more than the noise of a leaf blower. The noise is worse than the mounting cries of a colicky baby. Right now it's ridiculously loud on my street in Midtown Houston: there's an 18 wheeler "resting," its generator wheezing, on the curb in front of Zorca's townhouse, a collection of sirens screaming over some misdemeanor or fire somewhere, a leaf blower on MAXIMUM POWER!, and a car alarm going off. And horns -- lots of car horns. This racket completely unnerves me.

I've just been reading about how stress results in the body's becoming vulnerable to disease. This noise creates a mounting stress level in my body. I want to tear that leaf blower person's head off!!

And just like that: the 18 wheeler's gone, the cops or firemen have apprehended the problem, the leaf blower's exchanged his menacing mechanized dragon for the rake (a comforting scrape, scrape against the concrete sidewalk), the car alarm quits, and people drive nicely again.

City living...Urban living, I think it's called now. There's a real estate company in Houston with this name: Urban Living. The agents should record this noise and play it for prospective urban livingites. Just to make sure these people migrating from the suburbs can handle it.

If all the suburbanites are coming into the city, maybe it's time for the urbanites to head for the suburbs.

Then again, I bet there are way more leaf blowers in the suburbs. In fact, I think leaf blowers were invented for the suburbs.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Welcome Back

Today is the first day of school at the school where I taught before I decided to become a SAHM (a super-awesome-hot-mama, or, in other words, a stay-at-home-mom). I admit that I feel a twinge of nostalgia about school starting without me. Yesterday, I was on campus to interview some teachers for a freelance writing gig I'm doing for the school website, and the bustle of teachers going from meeting to classroom to copy room to bookstore back to classroom felt organic to me, even though I was no longer doing those things. Rather, I was searching for the art teacher so that I could interview her for a feature about her, and, of course, I couldn't find her. I'm sure she was at some meeting or other. How many times as a teacher had I kept some parent or student waiting because of a faculty meeting or the line at the copy machine, where a host of other teachers waited to xerox their assignments for the next class, caught in copy room gridlock?

When I finally found the art teacher, she seemed inordinately calm despite the litter of students about to descend into her life for the next nine months. As I interviewed her about what inspires her and how she inspires her students, Clara (whom I'd stubbornly brought to work with me -- why else stay at home if you have to hire a babysitter?) decided she wanted to breastfeed RIGHT THEN AND THERE. Luckily the art teacher is also a mom, so when I asked if it was okay for me to breastfeed my daughter during the interview, she said "Of course," without thinking twice. There I was breastfeeding my daughter with one arm and taking down notes and quotes with the other.

How awesome is that?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Paradise Lost

Just back from visiting my family in Southern California for two weeks, David proclaims how good it is to be home, back in Houston, TX. I wonder: What is it about Houston that would cause a person to prefer Houston to COASTAL Southern California?

Point: This is Houston, Texas, and Texans prefer ALL THINGS TEXAS over ALL else. Hailing from California, I understand, because Californians prefer California over all else, although they are more open minded and tolerant of the benefits of other states. Blue State v. Red State type of thing.

David has a point, though. I, too -- a Californian -- prefer Houston over Southern California, specifically Orange County, where I grew up -- breeding ground of Nixon, Mary Kay LeTourneau, Gwen Stefani and Walt Disney. And a bunch of other people. Like my Dad's family.

My dad's family is old, old California -- known as Californios, the "o" ending signifying people who were native to the region before the Americans took over. My dad's ancestry includes Don Juan Forster. Forster was a Brit who became a Mexican citizen in 1832 when he married Ysidora Pico, the sister of Pio and Andres Pico, the last Mexican Governors of Alta California, before the state entered the Union in 1848. The Picos, being in charge of the area at that time, "owned" a lot of land. Forster began buying land in Southern California in the late 1830s and early 1840s, including the San Juan Capistrano Mission for $710, where he and his family lived for 20 years before Lincoln gave all the California Missions back to the church in the early 1860s.

And blah, blah, blah. I'm supposed to be working on this story -- the novel, the screenplay -- but there's always something that gets in the way. Or else, the story's so big it gets in my way. Something like that.

Here's one thing I know: as I drive the freeways in Southern California, specifically the 5 and the 405, I regard the surroundings from LA to Oceanside as a sort of mythic landscape -- California Pastoral -- even cities like Westminster, even Compton. Once much of the land along those freeways was my family's land. From Saddleback to the Pacific, they owned -- Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores. I don't know how to characterize the kind of psychic regret a child feels when, while riding in the car on freeways, she comprehends the reality of the paradise her ancestors lost.

Is it any wonder that I feel at home in this intimate inferno?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Stomach Pain

My stomach has undergone major surgery twice now in under six months: first for the C-Section, and the other day for an emergency appendectomy. "Emergency appendectomy" is redundant, because the only reason one gets an appendectomy is due to an emergency situation -- like the thing is gonna burst or something.

My stomach is sore!

And Clara is a kicker -- when she nurses she wiggles and kicks with glee. "Don't kick mommy!" I keep pleading with her, but she doesn't yet understand these words. I'm gonna have to duct tape a pillow around my waist or something to keep the OUCH down.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Remember Toulouse-Lautrec

One year before I moved to Houston, I dreamed:

I'm a cabaret singer in an LA soup kitchen. The food line is full of preppy boys dressed in plaid bermudas and college sweatshirts. I'm standing at the grand piano in the corner, dressed in a purple lamé gown, singing "New York, New York." The piano player is an older man, balding, with a beard. Suddenly, one of the boys breaks out of line and accosts me. He throws me to the floor and begins assaulting me. The piano player jumps up from his bench, storms over to us, and yanks the boy off of me. He says to the boy, whom he's got by the collar, "Do not touch her. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH HER. She is sacred." Then the piano player looks at me and says, "Remember Toulouse-Lautrec." Then he looks up and announces to the soup kitchen patrons, "Remember Toulouse-Lautrec!"
I woke up with "Remember Toulouse-Lautrec!" resounding in my mind, although I didn't know how to pronounce his name properly at that point. It sounded in my head like "To-Louise Lautrec." Likewise, I can't say I knew conscioulsy who he was at the time. I had to ask the cafe manager when I got to work that morning, "Who is To-Louise Lautrec?"

"You mean Too-Loose La Trek," she said. "French Painter."

"Oh. Huh." Why was I supposed to remember him?

Later that Fall, I moved to San Francisco, one day after the 1989 earthquake. My housemates-to-be were still stuck in their old house in Santa Cruz, where the main street had caved into the ground.

I pulled up to the curb in SF's Richmond district and went searching for a phone to call and find out when my housemates would arrive with the keys. The Richmond showed signs of damage -- sidewalk corners buckled up like giant termite mounds, yellow caution tape draped across doorways -- though it wasn't devastated like the Marina District, where whole city blocks had collapsed.

The truth is, the quake shook me up quite a bit, even though I had missed it by a matter of hours (I've told stories of how I was in the shower at the time of the quake; they were fictions, I have to admit now) The ruin cast a palpable vulnerability over the city, and the pall heightened my senses, set me on alert for signs.

I found a cafe around the corner on 35th and Balboa, and went in to use the pay phone. "We'll be there this evening," my roommate-to-be said.

I hung up and went to use the bathroom. Sitting in the closet-cum-watercloset, I worried that I'd gotten myself into a mess. I had no plans except vauge ones "to become a writer." I had no job. I had no family there. I had a place to live and a car, but I had no idea how I would support myself. I'd moved to San Francisco after flipping a coin to decide between there or Seattle. SF won.

Through my worry, another feeling started to emerge: this strange sensation of familiarity and at-homeness that I couldn't quite place. My breast expanded with that feeling one sometimes has that "everything, EVERYTHING, is O.K." Gradually, I focused on the wallpaper. When I recognized it, I started: Toulouse-Lautrec's lithographs of the Moulin Rouge surrounded me as I sat on the pot. "Remember Toulouse-Lautrec," I heard the piano player say. An omen, I thought. A good one.

It was Tolouse-Lautrec that guided me to Houston,TX.

By spring of 1990, I was sick of San Francisco. I had a great job at the Exploratorium Museum, a trove of artistic and thrilling friends who dined and danced together almost every night, an obsessive crush on a robotics artist who actually had a crush on me, too. Life was sweet. Life was fun. Nonetheless, I was depressed.

Fatefully, I applied to graduate schools in Creative Writing. My main criterion for choosing a school was money: whoever gave me the most money, that's where I was going. I had an offer from New York University, which came with 16 points of tuition (whatever that means), a one-semester teaching assistantship (for $1500!?) and personal phone calls full of praise for my work from Sharon Olds and Galway Kinnell. I was rejected by Iowa. Montana and Arizona accepted me, but I didn't want to live in those places. Then Ed Hirsch from the University of Houston called and offered me fellowship on top of fellowship and three guaranteed years of teaching undergraduate comp and lit classes (that once actually sounded like a good thing). I didn't know who Ed Hirsch was at the time, but I knew that I could live richly in Houston on what they were offering me. Ed Hirsch invited me to Houston so that I could check it out before making my decision. They flew me here in April, during Azalea Trail Week. Cheaters!

One of the best advertisements for Houston was the lineless face of the 45 year old hostess on Wroxton Street with whom I stayed. "It's the humidity, honey," she drawled when I looked stunned by how old she said she was. My last afternoon in Houston, I still hadn't made a decision. Mr. Hirsch asked me if it were likely I'd accept their invitation. Not knowing how to make such a decision, and lacking a coin, I went to my hostess's library and randomly pulled a book out of her bookshelf: the 20th anniversary edition of Antaeus Magazine, a now defunct literary journal.

Using the lit mag as one might a Bible, I closed my eyes and flipped open the book to a page, any page, stuck my finger to the page and thought, "This page will help me make my decision." When I opened my eyes, and this is the honest to goodness truth, I saw my finger pointing to a poem by Richard Howard, who taught in the U of H program at the time. "If this isn't a sign, then I don't know what is," I thought. But just in case I had doubt, here is the kicker: Howard's poem was titled, "An Homage to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec," and the poem mentioned in it a dream.

Who knows what might have happened had I gone to New York, New York? If my dream was any indication, it might not have gone well for me in the Big Apple.

I'm not sure if I should love or hate Toulouse-Lautrec for leading me here. I feel a bit of both, really: love/hate.
I am stunned at the beauty of my daughter, and I wouldn't have had her without my husband, and I wouldn't have met him without Houston.

Right before I graduated, I wrote a poem for Toulouse-Lautric that I liked. I included it in my manuscript. Ed Hirsch, who was somewhat of a mentor to me during my graduate years, praised it during my thesis defense as the best poem in my collection.

I don't necessarily agree with him, but it was a poem that came out whole, as if I already knew by heart and was simply catching the words on paper.

I like to believe that life can be like this, too; what we have in our hearts -- our dreams -- can be captured and realized with minimal effort. That maybe by letting our lives live us, we get out of our own way and live more gracefully, more magically.

Friday, July 15, 2005


Our "crazy" neighbor lady just rang the doorbell and slam-knocked on our door. I was finishing nursing Clara, so I hooked my bra-shirt shut and carried Clara downstairs, imagining Zorca standing on the doorstep, bearing food. (I knew her by her salutation.)

"I brought you some excellent spaghetti!" Zorca yelled on the other side of the door.

I undid the deadbolt and opened to her holding a black electric pot in her hands. She smiled huge. "It's really good."

Because my arms were full with Clara, I invited Zorca to bring the pot upstairs.

"Thank you for the food, Zorca," I said. "And thank you for the last time, too." The last time she rang and slam-knocked, she bore pork with peas. This was her first time upstairs, however.

"Your husband loves you SO much," she said as we climbed the stairs.

This isn't as out of the blue as it sounds. During lunch, David told me about how this morning, while I was at my annual well-woman exam, Zorca came over to borrow a can opener. He lent her one. She came back 10 minutes later to ask him if he could come over and help her open the cans. "You know how cans are different on the bottom than they are on top, so you can't open them from the bottom?" David says.

"Uh huh," I say, although prior to his telling me, I'd no idea that the bottoms of cans were different from the tops.

"Well, she was trying to open them from the bottom."

"Huh," I say. "What's her house like inside?"

Last year, I called the cops on Zorca, before I knew her by name, because I could have sworn she was going to run her White SUV over her grown-up son one overcast afternoon. Could have sworn because I saw her jump into her Ford Explorer, yelling "I-ma gonna keeell you!" Then she gunned her car in the direction of her son. Her son jumped in his own car and gunned back toward her. They played chicken like this for 20 minutes in the empty lot next to our house. By the time 911 arrived, Zorca and her son had retired to her townhouse across the street. This was not the first time I'd seen and heard them fight, although the chicken-fight WAS a first. But it was the last time I called 911.

"Her house is nice inside," David says.

This woman traded two prime lots in Midtown Houston for a new corner townhouse. It might have been a good deal at the time, but now the trade seems ridiculous, what with current Midtown prices per square foot, Zorca having received the short end of the deal. Regardless, she loves her townhome; every day she spends an hour watering her roses and her band-aid width strip of grass. Through the downstairs, street level window, the one with a "nice room for rent" handwritten sign taped to the inside, I've spied a wicker shelf system filled with knicknacks like porcelain white rabbits, fake (or real?) IIadro, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, Spanish Dancer Dolls, ceramic Buddhas. On her balconies, hibiscus and plumeria florish. A windchime with 4 foot long gongs hangs from the lower balconey.

"Zorca wants me to make her a website," David tells me.

"What for?" I ask.

"She's a psychic."

"SHE IS?!" This is interesting news. "I wonder if she knows that we didn't eat the pork and peas," I say.

I think she really IS psychic. She couldn't have picked a better time to come over and tell me how much my husband loves me because I had been reading this sad short story by Charles Baxter about a dissolving marriage, and, while reading, I was worrying about the dim attention I've been paying to David whenever he tries to talk to me lately.

"Thank you for telling me that, Zorca."

"You're welcome," she says. She puts the spaghetti on the countertop. "You wanna do some writing for me about gypsies?" she asks. Rumor from the slumlandlord is that Zorca is, herself, a gypsy.

"Maybe," I say.

"You know, nobody knows about the gypsies. They think we are either thieves or robbers or steal the babies." She kisses Clara's cheeks. "Oooooh you such a cute baby."

"You and your husband should go out and let me babysit," she says as I walk her to the door. "I'm right across the street, you know. But you probably won't do that."

Psychic. She is.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Ruin Came in a Trap (American Puritan)

Today's blog title is the name of a poem I wrote a long time ago. Like in 1993. The first part of the title is an anagram for the second part of the title, the part in parentheses. When I wrote the poem, I wasn't thinking about the Middle East, of bombs bombarding Baghdad, of the dissolution of Babylon. But I like that the poem is prescient this way. I feel good when I'm prescient. Or else, I feel scared.

In my opinion, anyone who supported this current war of George Bush's in the Middle East before it started, and anyone who supports it now, is stupid. Not paying attention to anything but his or her own butt. Anyone who supports this war is not thinking critically. Too much "Dancing with the Stars." Too much "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

I'll never forget when my dear friend F. outlined the idea for "Who Wants to Be a Millioniare?" for me, before the show existed. F. was developing shows for ABC (nee Buena Vista), and this was one of the shows in development. It was 1991. I listened to her, aghast at what she was describing. Then I told her "it sounds ridiculous. I wouldn't watch it."

As it turns out, this was the beginning of my career as the "negative psychology prognosticator" for F.'s shows in development. If I hated the sound of them, they were sure to be hits.

*** *** ***

Ruin Came in a Trap (American Puritan)

In the beginning, a trick of light: the serpent
coiled around a branch. Eat me,
he whispered, and you shall live forever.

Eve ate, and in her eating, Hunger grew
a womb. She swooned toward Adam, bathing nearby
admiring his symmetrical reflection. Stunned,

he growled, What are you doing here?
With stuttering hands, she offered the apricot,
half-bitten, golden, red veins sweeping outward

from a wooden heart. Though she desired the demon
commanding the garden, she spoke so that breath
could gentle itself, bore this breath deeply; gave air

a body – infant, girl, woman. Kin lived, fought, died,
leaving Eve empty, never sated, never still.

Life is so long.

You, whores of Babylon,
with diseased tongues—thrush-coated, black and blue,
stippled with sores, loving what they lick,

happily wagging and prehensile -- vomit disorder
into our hearts, so that we will remember
the stones beneath Babel and the forgotten ladder.


Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Whenever I have to make a decision, and I'm no good to myself on my own for advice, I flip a coin. I've found this to be a reliable method. I do two out of three, just to be sure that the coin is telling me some sort of truth. I don't know if this method would work for ALL decisions to be made. But it's as good as my opinion, which is as fickle and as sturdy as any coin.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


I'm so fucking happy. And I mean that 196%. The remaining four percent I reserve for my morbid inherent depression (comes with the model); my fascination with the perverse (She taught me to love it, Jael); my deep despair in the state of the world (not the universe, the universe -- like it or not -- is cool); and "other." "Other" being the Mystery, for which I reserve awful amounts of respect.

What more can I say?

To paraphrase my friend Diana (Now-My-Character-Is-Going-to-Kiss-Your-Character Diana), paraphrasing our friend, or hero? Walt Whitman:

Do I contain multitudes? Very well then;
I contain multitudes.

That's how I heard it from the cosmos.

There's a rain storm, a thunder storm, here in Houston, Texas. Thunder over Lightning. It's not frightening.

It's like Thunder (Thunder), Lightning (Lightning).

The way you love


is frightening.


Originally uploaded by xtaforster.
Just so you know: I'm a satisfied woman.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

We Rent

Behold the house: an early 1900s Victorian, shabby on the outside -- to the point of looking haunted -- palatial on the inside. We live in the second-story apartment: Three bedrooms, three bathrooms (one the size of a Manhattan efficiency apartment); 14 foot ceilings; crown moldings; hardwoods with inlaid parquet borders throughout; built-ins, built-ins, built-ins, including beveled mirrors, armoires, and a wall of drawers in the 30x20 foot bathroom. Water-glass windows, central heat and cooling, gas stove, washer/dryer. Location, Location, Location: Midtown Houston (smack between the rival Vietnamese restaurants); one block off the brand new Light Rail; celebrated restaurants replete with interesting drinks, a Saturday organic farmer's market, and world famous soul-food breakfasts less than a five-minute walk away.

All this for less than $1200.00 per month.

Were you to visit us, you would be stung with envy, and I bet before leaving you'd say, "let us know when you're gonna move."

Only, you don't want to live here, really.

First there's our slumlord, who lives in the apartment below us and has the annoying habit of crashing our parties.

Second there are the plagues that come with the house.

Last summer it was the month-and-a-half flea infestation that our slum landlord would not properly deal with until I told him I could be pregnant. I wasn't pregnant, nor did I want to be pregnant at the time, but -- go figure -- it worked to tell him that I COULD be. Or maybe it was the mention of "lawsuit" in the same conversation. Within hours, a certified exterminator was in the house, and that afternoon the fleas were gone.

In an ironic twist, I became pregnant that very same day. I thought I wasn't ovulating, but, as it turns out, I was. Nine months later, Clara and I lay in bed together, recovering from the trauma of giving birth and being born, suffering the rancid stench of a rodent who was decomposing directly beneath the master bedroom floor. "Only thing we can do about the smell," said our slumlord "is wait till it goes away."

After the rodent fully decomposed, there was the fly infestation. "Must be the spring hatch," said the slumlord. Two flyswatters and five days later, the flies were gone.

Then there were the ants -- the millions of them that swarmed out of the stroller undercarriage bag as I was carrying it and Clara to the car one morning. Miraculously, I only got three ant bites (did I mention they were RED ants?) and Clara was unharmed. But by the same afternoon, the red ants had migrated to the red couch in the living room. The slumlord brought up some homemade organic ant killer -- citrus and coconut based -- which was actually very considerate of him, and after a few days the living room was ant-free. But the house wasn't. The ants had surreptitiously traveled to the bedroom. "They like to eat foam core," the slumlord said, when I showed him how they were crawling in between the mattress and the box spring.

My husband tells me our slumlord is scared of me. He should be. I may just slip some biocontaminant into his Brita as payback for all the pain and suffering his negligence has caused my family.

Lest you think "house of plagues" too strong a term here, let me assure you that there was even a flood. Memorial Day Weekend, I lay in our king-size bed with Clara, drifting into sweet, necessary sleep after returning from an overnight in Galveston. Outside, "gale force winds" raged. Buckets of rain began pouring over our city. I thought to myself, "wow, that rain is so loud, it sounds like it's raining inside." I turned to look toward the bedroom door, and, lo and behold!, it WAS raining inside. POURING! Through the attic pull-down stairway door.


Turns out, a bunch of shingles blew off the roof (which the slumlord had promised to fix a year ago) in the gale force winds.

You may be wondering.... the answer is yes, we're looking to move. Our two-year lease is coming to an end. We'd like to buy, so we're assessing our financial situation. It may take a while, but sooner or later, WE'RE OUTTA HERE.

You can start putting your names into the hat now.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


This morning is a typical Houston July morning: before 9 a.m., it's 84 degrees, but it feels like 92, according to There's a breeze out there, but it's not helping: I'm still bathing in my own sweet sweat from walking to the farmer's market two blocks away. Humidity is only in the 70s right now. Weatherman said the humidity will reach the 90s, with 99 degrees predicted as the high temp for today.


I won't forget the day I moved to Houston: August 10, 1990. The first morning I walked outside and felt the heat, the humidity, I bellowed -- to no one -- "YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!" Walking to the convenience store down the street, the air around me felt like a wet wool blanket slathered in mayonnaise.

Weather apologists try to sell the "yeah, but living in Houston is great for one's skin!" story. That's bullshit. Any benefits of the moisture in the air are obliterated by the blistering sunshine plus the appalling air quality (most polluted city in the U.S.!), both of which contribute to the gaping hole in the ozone layer above Space City. If you don't wear sunscreen here, you are taking your already jeopardized life in your own keratoid-covered hands.

I grew up in Southern California, in a mission town, located on the balmy shores of America's answer to the Mediterranean -- the South Pacific Coast -- known for surf spots like Trestles, Doheny and T-Street. In the early 1900's, Laguna Beach was home to the California Plein Air school of painting. This group was inspired by the verdant arroyos stocked with lazy eucalyptus, the breathtaking cliffs racked with fuchsia bouganvillea, the unbelievable blue expanses and, on clear days, the views to Catalina Island.

Today's high there will be 77 degrees.

Why don't you just go back there, then?

Because I love to suffer, and I'm good at it, too. I'm a lapsed Catholic, which means I don't have the church anymore to flog my soul. Nature abhors a vacuum and all that. The Houston Summer is my hairshirt.

But the weather isn't the only thing that keeps me here. I love how no-zoning laws result in streets that go like this: church, convenience store, adult bookstore, seeded lot, restaurant, elementary school, candy store, single family dwelling, church, convenience store, adult bookstore....

It makes no rational sense, this city. What reason-minded type of folk build their lives in a swampy, croc-infested, floodplain rife with mosquitoes and cockroaches the size of Ford Fiestas?

People like me, I guess.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Clear, Bright and Famous

Originally uploaded by xtaforster.

What's In a Name?

Here's the short list of names we had for Clara while she was still in utero: Alice, Helen, Ysidora, Clara and Ruby.

My husband and everyone else I know called her Ruby before she was born. Consequently, I ruled Ruby out of the running. I don't believe in naming babies before they're born. In another life, I lived with some nomadic tribe or another, and we firmly believed that if a baby were named before it's birth, the evil spirits could find it and harm it while it was still in the womb.

Nonetheless, people kept calling her Ruby, despite my protests.

I wanted her to have the chance to announce her name when we met her that first day, provided that she chose one from our short list.

After the nurses cleaned her and wrapped her, they set her swaddled body on my breast. I asked David, who was right there with us, her name. He said, "I think it's Clara." I looked at her. "Clara," said her soul. Without a doubt.

The middle name was harder to assign. I wanted it to be "Forster," my last name. Not a bad name in general and kind of cool for a non-surname name, too. David argued against it because, he said, he didn't want the baby to have two last names.

"But it wouldn't be her last name, it would be her MIDDLE name," I insisted.

"Doesn't matter," said David. "It's still a last name."

"But not if we make it a middle name."

"I don't want my baby to have two last names," he said. Obviously we weren't understanding each other's logic on this one.

I decided to go a different route.

"How about Ysidora?" David hadn't liked this name previously, but it was a Forster family name, and I loved it.


"Why not?" I knew I could get him to cave on this because of his secret guilt about not giving me Forster.

"Too exotic."

"Come on, sweetie. Please?" I had the upper hand here anyway, as I was lying on the gurney in the recovery room after being cut open (My husband, previously a chef, used the verb "filleted") during Clara's delivery. Also, I was being super sweet, due to the excellent anesthetic cruising my veins.

Clara Ysidora Brown was born Februray 21, 2005 -- a little fish girl with a lion rising and a lion moon.

Clara is a form of the Latinate CLARE, meaning "clear, bright, famous." Ruby is the name of a gemstone, or it's a derivative of the Hebrew REUBEN, which means "behold a son."

As it turns out, Ruby was a good foil. Even if the spirits had come looking, they would have been looking for a boy.

Way to go Clara!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tomorrow Is Another Day...Without Sleep

Cumulative Sleep Loss:Early Parenthood::Compounding Interest:Investment Funds

Probably that analogy doesn't really work, because the effects of compounding interest on investment funds are awesome, whereas the effects of cumulative sleep loss on a new parent are awful.

My fatigue has cracked my foundation, allowing my depression to surge into consciousness like sewage backing up into the bathroom.

On regular days, when the cumulative sleep loss hasn't yet hit its tipping point, when I feel like I'm just able to keep my shit together, I can deal.

I celebrate the end of such days by sitting on the porch with David, smoking my ONE cigarette and drinking my ONE beer with ice. And please don't give me any crap about THAT.

But days like yesterday, when every word someone says to me serrates my soul, when the grey in my hair signals how washed up I am, when I spy my four rolls of back fat in the mirror, when I realize I have no friends who REALLY care about me (except one, who is as depressed as I am), and when I am SO poor I'm one step away from sitting under the freeway with a cardboard sign that says, "Hongry and Homless"....Those, those are the days that are difficult to deal with.

On those days, I can't even console myself with the idea that "tomorrow is another day," and get on with it. Rather, I remember that "tomorrow is another day....WITHOUT SLEEP," which only makes matters worse.

* * *
Currently, I'm teaching a summer writing workshop that prepares high school kids for the new SAT essay section. The Educational Testing Service has rid the test of Analogies (Don't tell me how much you liked that section, nor how good you were at doing analogies, okay?), and they have added a 25 minute essay and some multiple choice questions about grammar in the analogies' place. My job is to help these kids internalize the formula of the "academic essay," i.e., the five-paragraph essay, well enough that they can write an outstanding one in 25 minutes or less.

Writing a great essay in 25 minutes or less is really hard to do, by the way.

Yesterday, I was the worst teacher in the world. Brandon, whose warm-up writing was about how much he hated people misspelling and misprounouncing his name, became "Bronitor" when I called on him during the grammar review. Carter's question -- "what is a gerund and when do I use one?" -- I answered with a swift kick to my own teeth. "A Gerund is a noun that acts as a verb," I said without blinking.

"A verb that acts as a noun, you mean," said Brandon with a smug little laugh.

"Yes, that's right Bronitor. Thank you for correcting me," I said.

When I couldn't explain how to fix the grammar errors on the quiz I gave them, I had to send them out for break so that I could get my head together.

As they left the classroom, I could hear their thoughts: "THIS is our TEACHER?"

I drove home from the workshop, repeating in my head that speech from Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth:

Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.

And the cardboard sign in my mind said:

I am that sweater with the fraying sleeves
I am the woman who longs to die
I'm the mind oozing like an open sore
And I'm so so HONGRY

Any sleep will help.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Madam I'm, Adam

Yesterday morning, I walked Clara in the Bugaboo to Randall's Supermarket to get some half and half. I can't drink coffee without it now, since Clara was born. Must be some evolutionary thing going on there -- the half and half shielding her from the violence of full-on caffeinated breastmilk. I'm hungry as I'm walking to the store, so when I get there, I'm looking for something to appease my hunger. The Apple Fritter will do. I pick one out, along with two croissants, and head to the check out line with my breakfast items.

One thing I hate about the Randall's near my house is there are NEVER enough checkers. The store has 11 checkout ailes, but no more than one or two are ever open -- the same one or two, too. It's like the other checkout aisles are ghost ailses. And they don't have a DIY U-Scan machine either, so one has to wait and wait and wait, no matter how many items one has in her basket.

Yesterday morning -- Sunday morning -- I had to wait and wait while two young ladies checked out with a mountain of stuff ahead of me -- Crest toothpaste, boxed Waffles, a log of Jimmy Dean sausage, a case of Diet Coke, packages of cheese, Jello pudding cups, Lucky Charms, Lean Cuisines, bobby pins, hairspray, etc. The young ladies looked like they might have just gotten off work from a gentleman's club. One of them had long, long blond hair that smacked of Barbie. She wore black wide-leg pants, a chiffon variety, with a big rhinestone belt buckle, a black plunging halter top, black stiletto sandals with three rhinestone circles adorning the top part of the shoe. She weighed not more than 97 pounds. The other girl was a brunette, wearing short pink shorts, a baseball tee that had ambercrombie in cursive across her tiny little breasts (perky, no bra) and pink slippers. She had nice muscle tone in her legs. I wondered if they looked as skinny when they were on stage. Like maybe the stripper stage adds 10 pounds, like the t.v.

They appeared to be on their way home, this Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m.

The young ladies discussed the Blue Laws in Texas as they waited for the checker to finish her work. "Not all states are like Texas about alcohol, are they?" the brunette asked the checker.

"No alcohol before noon on Sundays," the checker answered.

I might have piped up and added, "In California, you can buy Sky Vodka and Johnnie Walker at the supermarket 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," but I didn't feel like talking.

After they were gone, the checker gave me a "knowing" look, as in "did you see those ladies? We know what's going on there, don't we?"

I felt guilty letting this checker think that I held the same disapproving attitude toward the young ladies that she did. I might have told her that I've no real problem with strip clubs except that the owners are mostly sleazy men who have no real respect for women. I might have told her that one of my fantasies is to own a strip club and be the best owner/madam in Houston, TX, the sex-industry capital of the U.S.A. I'd treat my women so well, making sure that they were respected and honored as the sacred goddesses they are. (Somebody has to do this work!) I would provide them with excellent health benefits, including mental health coverage, should they want or need it. And I would provide child-care services at a facility next door to my club, which would have one qualified and loving caretaker for every two children.

But I didn't feel like talking. It was too early in the morning, and I hadn't had my coffee yet.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Paranoia, Self Destroyer

Today my therapist left a message on my cell phone because Unicare has asked her to release my records. She has NEVER been asked for anyone's records before, she says, and she just doesn't like it. Call her back, she says.

Actually, she has had records summoned before...mine. That was the first time David and I applied for insurance with Unicare, before we were pregnant.

(I can't even THINK about the insurance industry without going feral. Did you know that pregnancy is a pre-existing condition in Texas? and if you don't have insurance you WON'T get it if you're pregnant. There's just no way. Don't even try, Missy, as the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance rep told me. "And you know why?" he asked. "It's all Hillary Clinton's fault.")

I call my therapist back and she answers. I remind her that when the insurance asked for my records before, she called them and refused on principle to release my records. The principle being, I think, that my pyschological state is not necessarily linked to my physiological state. Ahem.

"They can't summon records!" she says indignantly. "Not unless they're subpoenaed."

What the fuck does she have in there?

I ask her to please refuse to release my records, and she adds, "Yes. You don't want your records out there, especially in times like these."

Am I a revolutionary? Or, what.

* * *

News Flash: The 10 o'clock Channel 13 News is reporting on Mad Cow Disease. The only craving I consistently indulged while pregnant with Clara was BEEF.

The reporter just read the laundry list of symptoms; top of the list: Paranoia.

This is happening in real time, people.

May we have Health; may we have Safety; may we have Love; may we have Joy; may we have Peace.

Please. Seriously.
* * *

These are sinful times.

Just now, I am watching 20/20, typing, too. I have an open word document up on the screen, to check spellings and definitions as I type these blogwords. When I tile to the open doc to type what I'm hearing, I see the word S I N F U L blazing solo on the white page.

My breasts had opened up with open sores about this wide in width." – "Tammy" from 20/20, imitating the width of a quarter with her fingers.

Tammy has a history of infection after surgery, even at home. -- voice over of black lady reporter on 20/20.

One question, Tammy: Why you having surgery at home? Oh! Maybe it's because you don't have I N S U R A N C E.

I don't think that's what the lady announcer means -- the part about Tammy having surgery at home -- but the modifier is misplaced.

I'm an English teacher, too.

"Young people out there, enjoy your youth. Because beauty, sadly with age, fades….But not vanity." -- Jon Stossel, 20/20 reporter.

20/20 is running a series about "The Seven Deadly Sins." Tonight's Clown: Vanity.

"From Medieval Times, Vanity was a sin..."

I hope y'all have read Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe and The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, especially if you're watching things like ABC's 20/20.

Now my favorite part of t.v.: the drug commercial. "Do not use sleep medicines for an extended period of time without talking to your doctor” -- ad for Unesta

Isn't that sort of saying, do not commit suicide without talking to your doctor?

Oh, I see why my records shouldn't be out there.

* * *

News Flash: "The baby born in the parkinglot is doing fine." -- Channel 13 News.