Friday, September 30, 2011

Ying Yang River…Part Two Country Roads

I met up with a friend from high school that I hadn’t seen in 36 years!
Now that’s ancient, eh?  It amazed both of us how comfortable we felt from the minute we sat down  together at the corner table in the local Peet’s. 
I found her with the trusty help of Google and then some amateur detective work.  Our conversations flowed back and forth like the ebb and flow of the ocean;
both of us taking turns sharing our trials and tribulations of days gone by since those hellish times of high school.
It was a tad intimidating when, in sharing about our various professions over the years, she humbly listed a litany of jobs that included “City Planner” “ Executive Director of The Girl Scouts of America” and as for her husband,
she just said, “He’s in oil.”
I found an opening and threw in my 7 years as a trailer park manager and she about choked on her double cappuccino.  Then she bubbled with curiosity and I’m sure she was thinking, “Ok, she’s got a B.A and an M.A. and she chose to manage a trailer park; probably aspires to pass Go, collect her 200.00 dollars and eventually get let into the pearly writer’s gates of Heaven one day.” 
Nice goals.  Successful life.

The park life isn’t a bad life.  It wasn’t then and it isn’t now and I’d probably do it all over again for a juicy stipend and a year’s supply of Hendrick’s Gin. 

This picture totally brings back memories; a captured flashback of well lived years.
You know there’s something about drinking a beer and wearing slippers outside that makes a girl appreciate the finer things on God’s green earth.

Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.  
~Author Unknown

I accepted the invitation for tea at Julie’s a few days after our first meeting in my unit.  You know curiosity has been my demise on a fairly regular basis my entire damn life.
When I walked into her trailer; a 1970’s box with wood paneling and burnt orange shag carpet, it felt like a cross between Twilight Zone and Little House On The Prairie.
She appeared to have put on her “Sunday bests” for my visit and giddy, oh was she giddy, over the fact that I had come for tea.
She scrubbed the Formica as she put water in the kettle.
“ Oh! Thank you for visiting…I'm so happy…do you like tea… if you don’t like tea, I can make you something, but I don’t have something else, but I have a ying yang river of tea…Oh! Thank you for coming…let’s have tea and talk… do you like sugar cuz I have sugar…let’s see…where did I put that…”

I noticed a stack about 10 inches thick of albums and I commented on her good taste in music.  Sometimes I’m clueless to the repercussions of saying things like, “Oh, wow…Carole King, John Denver, Simon and Garfunkel, Nancy Sinatra…we have a lot in common.”
F!@*king clueless.  “A lot in common” to a girl like Julie means we're instant BFF’s until Hell freezes over.  Next, she’ll probably get out a sewing needle and want to prick our index fingers so we can be blood sisters.

Oh! What do you want to listen to?…I feel the earth move under my feet.  I feel the sky tumbling down…I feel my heart start trembling whenever you're around...I love Carole King…I know all the words. I bet you do too…Do you want to hear Carole King or I have The Beatles too…I like The Beatles but my sister….she was always so mean to me …and she likes The Beatles but I like John Denver…”

The next thing I knew we were singing, in unison, at the top of our lungs….
”Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River…Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains blowing like a breeze… Country Roads, take me home…”

When you know every damn song, on every damn 33 album someone still owns in 2011, then you actually do have something in common with that person. 
I spent the next hour sipping stale Lipton and belting out every song of my teenage past; wondering if this woman across from me, who was singing recklessly and sipping tea like a Slurpee, wasn’t just a wee bit saner than me.

Julie and my friendship grew as friendships often do…but I wasn’t exactly prepared for the rate of speed.

The phone calls from her increased from 1-2 a day, to about 10 a day in less than a month.
Once I opened my front door to find a gift of tea bags wrapped in tissue paper and a bow, with a note on Strawberry Shortcake stationery that looked like a 10 year old wrote it…

Dear Valerie,

I know how much you like tea and I have extra so I want to give it to you.
Have a nice day.


One day I was making my rounds and saw her peeking out her blinds.  Seeing me, she swung open her front door and came running out into the street before I could hide behind a nearby double-wide…
“Hi! Whatcha doing?”

“Oh, just doing some things around the park.  I need to get back and wash my car while it’s sunny.”  I kept on moving, as I wished her a great day.

By the time I finished my rounds, she was down at my trailer with a hose, bucket, soap, a large sponge and 2 towels.

“I love washing cars!  When Grandma Cooley’s car needed washing she’d call me and I’d come running faster than the ying yang river…I’d be at her house in no time and I’d wash her car and I’d dry it and she’d be so happy she’d tell me it looked great except usually I forgot to dry all of the hood and she’d show me and then I’d do it…no problem…”

Sometimes I’d pick up when she phoned.  Sometimes I’d let the machine get it.

What seemed to be a harmless initial gesture of making copies for her, was taking a sharp veer south.
I actually was finding myself feeling like the lead character in some horror film where the heroine slips deeper and deeper into a weird entrapment abyss that demands a super hero to rescue her sorry ass.

Most of you would have changed your number by now or let her down gently, but not me, friends. 
No.  Me, the Mother Teresa of the trailer park, in a spontaneous moment of insanity, offers to take her to Costco.

People unravel privately it’s true, but some folks unravel in public.

When I picked Julie up, she was again dressed for a church function. 
She showed me her list, her pocketbook and her keys to her unit. 
Why the keys, you ask? 
How the hell should I know!   Why the offer to go to Costco is a more intelligent question!

When inside Costco, it became quickly evident that she didn’t get out much.
She frantically pushed the cart ahead of me, which put me into a full-on sprint to catch up with her.  She filled her cart with these items and these items only: a new broom, a new mop, a giant-size bottle of Clorox, Ajax, Comet, economy-size bottle of hand sanitizer, laundry soap, and Lysol wipes.
I thought we’d head to the produce and cheese sections, two of my favorites,
but she informed me she was done, ready to go, and made a beeline
for the check out stand.

In line, the unraveling began.  She frantically fumbled through her purse searching for her wallet and I was literally sweating directly above my upper lip. 
In her ‘special’ way, Julie was drawing quite the audience, and I was mentally guestimating the cost of her f!@*ing  Martha Stewart cart…

“It’s here somewhere…and I have coupons too…lots of coupons that I cut out…don’t’s here…I put it inside the envelope so I wouldn’t lose it…you shouldn’t lose things and I don’t…”

When she finally found the envelope, I breathed a monstrous sigh of relief, as I’m sure the newly formed line did also. 
Julie was sweating.  I was sweating.  We drove back to the park in complete silence.

When I pulled up to her unit, I helped her unload.  My compassion meter was off the charts as I almost tripped over her heavy heart and embarrassment.  A simple “Are you okay?” would have been sufficient, but instead I say,

“Hey…do you like pancakes?”

She perked up.  “I love pancakes and lots of maple syrup …or strawberry…I like strawberry syrup too…” she exclaimed like a second grader.  She was a glow.

“I’ll pick you up in the morning around 9:00 and we can head over to IHOP!” I said.

You know what people? 
I hate IHOP!

…to be continued
John Denver  Country Roads

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ying Yang River... Part One

Last Chance Mercantile is this cool second-hand, perhaps fourth-hand store next to the dump in Marina, CA.  I am a thrift store whore from way back and consider it quite nifty to be thrifty.  
Besides, you can really do a make-over on a mobile with the treasures you find, especially on the free paint aisle or the outdoor open-air area which includes rock/ lumber/furniture/crap.
Anyway, I found myself there yesterday, buying scraps of high-quality Astro Turf remnants from some athletic field or miniature golf course I suppose. Hey, do putt putt golf courses still exist in 2011?             I was a little golfer girl queen when I was a kid; kicked my bro’s ass at our town’s course which also included the popular skating rink (where I learned my cool backwards moves), the bowling alley and a run down motel. (Where I’ve never stayed, btw) So, I dig synthetic grass.  Sweeping the stuff is quite therapeutic and takes me back to 29B, which then unleashes all these silly and dangerous thoughts that were born in that pre-fab province that will always be home. 
So, let’s allow me to take you there!  It’s either that or go ballistic about capital punishment and you probably don’t want me to go there.
This little ditty is part one of three; I suppose a trilogy of the most personal kind…

Might we not say to the confused voices that sometimes arise from the depths of our being:
“Ladies, be so kind as to speak only four at a time?” 
~Madame Swetchine

In a little less than 2 months, I became so involved with the woman in space 17 at the trailer park that my drinking increased by 50 percent.
It took a significant length of time for me to figure out, what most of you would have figured out in a half second; that I was about to get in way over my pretty little head.

Perhaps I should have paid closer attention on that day she called my home for the first time in the 7 years I resided at and managed the park.  When she phoned that day, she was seeking help in the advertising of her new cleaning service.  

(To be read as fast as you can without taking a breath)

“Hello, this is Julie in space 17.” she began at a rapid, manic voice that hit me like a verbal locomotive.   “Sorry to bother you... so sorry to bother you... but I am going to clean for everyone... I know these are hard times so, I wouldn’t charge anything, hardly anything... Maybe oh, I don’t know... maybe two dollars an hour... I just really want to do it because I really want to help people... I have Comet... lots of Comet and I have paper towels and I have all the cleaning supplies so I just want to know about these flyers and where I could put them and maybe you need some cleaning done and I know you are the manager and everything so you probably already have someone… someone who cleans your house but maybe I could help someone I really want to help someone.”

Me too, Julie, pathetic as it is.
That’s exactly how our friendship began; the first interaction I had ever had with a woman who evidently had lived in the trailer park for two decades, whose mother mailed her rent each month from out of the area; a woman who, in that moment, I couldn’t tell you what she even looked like.  

When she paused to inhale, I heard myself saying, Two dollars an hour would be selling yourself short.” 
You see, compadres, I wear this f*@#ing bleeding heart liberal hat with a fat stamp on my forehead that says, “ I can help you, fix it, fix you, give you my heart, soul, cash and favorite pair of Doc Martens. Let me save the world and you too.  Oh, and guaranteed, I’ll put myself last.” 

When I finally got a word in “edge-wise” somehow I had invited her down to look over her flier, offered to make 34 copies and place them in each resident’s mailbox.  I even offered complimentary, standard-size envelopes!
She arrived at my door just minutes later.

She had a nervous way about her; couldn’t stop fidgeting, combing her pixie hair, which she repeatedly tucked then untucked behind her ears.   She wore boots from ‘the day’; perfectly shined and a lavender polyester sweatsuit with an appliqué of two kittens and a ball of yarn.  Her attire and style threw me as to her age, but I guessed 48, which later I found I was only off  by 3 years.
I noticed she rocked back and forth and spoke in pitches, ranging from high screeches to descending, low mumbles and the conversation took more roads than are in the entire state of California.                  Within 3 minutes, I had learned about her 7th grade teacher, her love for ponies except Brut; the one who bucked her off when she was 10, her Grandma Cooley, who had hair as long as the Ying Yang River, and of course, her new cleaning business.
All this before I had a chance to offer her a seat in our 12’x12’ living room; which felt like 6’x6’ box 
at that point.
I made us both a cup of tea.
She seemed most oddly honored and excitedly uncomfortable, as if she were in a palace and I, the queen.
I took her ad, hand-written on a torn piece of lined binder paper, to our back office where I began making the copies. Her presence seemed to follow me down the hallway.
When I returned with her copies,
“Oh, you are so nice! You are such a nice friend! I am so sorry there is a rip in the paper... So sorry... I didn’t mean to rip it… Maybe I was in a hurry while I was writing… Grandma Cooley used to always say, “Slow down… Take your time… haste makes waste.” And she was right…haste does make waste… She was always right and then she died… She died and left me and she died and I was the only person in the house and I cried “Wake up! Grandma!”” Wake up!”  but she didn’t wake up and I didn’t know what to do and I was all alone and I called 911…that’s when the ambulance came... and I cried and cried even though she was with Jesus.” 
She paused to rest from the word marathon she just ran.

In some weird, dysfunctional way, I thought this was all “good for me.”
Maybe this person sitting in my living room, with the perfectly combed hair and the spit-shined boots, had entered my life for a reason.  

Girls like me look for reasons in life; underlying meanings sent via people, places or experiences.       Those that teach lessons, help us blossom, grow, become dynamic park managers or American saints. 
Girls like me probably just need more therapy.

Before she left, a departure nothing short of over-the-top, she smothered me with gratitude and before I could see it coming, she wrapped herself around me on my front porch and with a hug that smelled of moldy camping gear, she sang (Yes, sang, as in musical), Good-bye my new friend…thank you my friend, the manager!”
There was pep in her step as she headed down the street to her trailer.
I closed the door, still somewhat clueless as to what was to come. 
The smell of mold on my collar remained.
It was early, but I tossed the English Breakfast and poured myself a stiff one.

To be continued…

Saturday, September 17, 2011

“What the Fresh Hell Can This Be?

I'm happy to just blog in a sea of random abandonment this morning; hoping to just float around with ease and keep my head above water. 
You see, when you lose a guy who made you laugh as often as he pissed you off, it’s rough.    A guy who, with his sharp tongue and undeniable wit, left you wondering if he wasn't in fact the male reincarnate of Dorothy Parker.  
Sometimes only a bumper sticker on a truck can truly sum up the man...
Wife And Dog Lost
Reward For Dog

I’m hoping to simply blog with abandon and maybe someone in charge, out there in blog cyber galaxy, will raise an eyebrow and place me at the Top Ten on the Blog Blacklist!  The term “blacklist” got me thinking of all our compound words in the English language that include ‘black’ and of course, the negative conations that go along with many of them:
n. - Any of several human or animal diseases characterized by dark urine resulting from rapid breakdown of red blood cells
n. - Extortion of money by threats to divulge discrediting information
n. - The act of excluding someone by a negative vote or veto
n. - Partial or total loss of memory (Certainly nothing positive, especially if alcohol is involved)
n. - A list of people who are out of favor

I’m thinking of switching it up, but keeping the current meaning: whiteout, whitelist, whiteball, whitemail, whitewater. (Oh, damn, already been used in Arkansas)

There’s a annual list of Hollywood’s most liked, unproduced screenplays (I'm hoping to make that list as well) called appropriately, Hollywood’s Black List.  Many outstanding, cool films are recognized and awarded from this list.  Of course, the dark side is the word in the description: “unproduced.”

The blacklist begins (1947)

As you probably already know, in October 1947, a number of persons working in the Hollywood film industry were summoned to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which had declared its intention to investigate whether Communist agents and sympathizers had been surreptitiously planting propaganda in US films.  The hearings began with several Hollywood professionals, including Walt Disney and Ronald Reagan, president of the Screen Actors Guild, testifying that the threat of Communists in the film industry was a serious one. (Personally, I think Ronnie, Walt and the others should have been more concerned about homosexual activity in Hollywood not Communism)
The blacklist, of course, was rarely verifiable.

Whenever there was a knock at her door, Dorothy Parker would yell, “What the fresh hell can this be?”   Since she is one of my all-time 'crushes' and I so adore lingering in her numerous, interviews, poems, shorts and quotes, I had to investigate if she in fact was blacklisted back in the day.  Well, not surprising,    hers was in fact verifiable…

Blacklisted in Hollywood
Parker helped organize the Screenwriters Guild, joined the Communist Party, and took up with equally aroused lefties like Lillian Hellman. She even had an FBI file more than 900 pages long. (Right on, Dorothy!)  She was blacklisted in Hollywood during the McCarthyite ’50s.

In the 1920s, she became a regular member of the Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel; the watering hole of New York writers who relished in three-hour lunches and liked to dazzle each other with their wit.

But the thing that satisfies me the most about Parker, besides her writing, was her leftward drift. In 1927, she became outraged at the imminent execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, the Boston anarchists. Amongst the 20,000 who protested their innocence were Edna St. Vincent Millay, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells.  Parker was arrested and fined for her critical maneuvers preceding the execution.
Would you believe that Dorothy Parker willed her modest $20,000 fortune to Martin Luther King, Jr., though she had never met him, and dedicated her literary rights to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People? Indeed, when she died, family-less, on June 7, 1967, Lillian Hellman saw to it that Parker was cremated with dignity.
But then Lillian forgot to collect Parker’s ashes. (What the hell?) After an erratic series of removals from one business desk to another in New York City, her remains were safely ensconced at the Baltimore headquarters of the NAACP in 1988, 21 years after her death. 
Her entertaining literary remains, however, can be found in The Portable Dorothy Parker.

Dorothy's poems are mainly reflections of her own disappointments and frustrations. She had a sad childhood, losing both parents at an early age. This shadow followed her throughout her life. Her lovers and spouses only seemed to add to her distress. Parker attempted suicide 3 times, eventually took to alcohol, and died alone in a New York hotel, aged 73. The New York Times printed one of its longest ever obituaries as a tribute.
According to an interview with Vanity Fair in 1925, Ms Parker wanted her epitaph to say, EXCUSE THE DUST.

From a Book Review
"It may be that this autobiography is set down in sincerity, frankness and simple effort. It may be, too, that the Statue of Liberty is situated in Lake Ontario.”

I have a plethora of “Dorothy Quotes” that I like to use in the same way I like to blog, babble or drink...with abandon.  Here’s a child-size handful…

"Ducking for apples -- change one letter and it's the story of my life."

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” 

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.
There is no cure for curiosity.” 

“I don't know much about being a millionaire, but I'll bet I'd be darling at it.” 

“Heterosexuality is not normal, it's just common.” 

“Tell him I was too fucking busy-- or vice versa.”

 “I hate writing, I love having written.” 

“I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three I'm under the table,
after four I'm under my host.”

And of course, “What the fresh hell can this be?” which you’ll hear me yelling from inside my abode if you ever pay me a visit.
I’m thinking of taking a Thelma/Louise type road trip today, 
         except I’ll skip the cliff.  

Enjoy the scenery today!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ed...Tough As Nails

Do you ever wonder what makes us different? The same? The human essences that we share, and yet the distance between us all? 
I just did some proofreading and I must say I’m pretty damn ashamed of my judgmental attitude.  Sometimes I feel like Sybil.  Yet, it is what it is; simply the world as I see it.   Perhaps you hold hidden prejudices, and as much as we try to hide them, sweep them under a rug or cover them up with politically correct comments and donations once a year to fantastic non-profits, they’re still there.  
For me…it’s rednecks.

September 5, 2011
Dear Lord,
Please forgive me for I have sinned. 
Please know that in my heart of hearts I intend rednecks no harm.
I need your help and guidance, Lord, so that I might live a life free of this horrible judgment.
Pardon me for one brief moment, Lord, as I just spilled Kalamata olive juice between my ‘L’ key and my semicolon key…
I appreciate the fact that I can come to you, anytime day or night, and I thank you for the wisdom you have bestowed upon me, Father:  to never ever live in Redding, California.
Your most trusted disciple,
~Trailer Park Girl

…Sitting in the main lobby of Shasta Regional is like sitting at the national premiere of Deliverance.  It’s 1972 and it’s a sold out crowd.  Outside, an old mountain man, wearing coveralls and a gray beard down to his navel, sits in his pickup truck, smoking a stogie.  He is attached to an oxygen tank.  Even though his windows are closed, Sweet Home Alabama is blaring out of the cab and out into the hospital parking lot.  It’s too early to be amused. 
Inside, to my right, is a family of 6; 2 men, both missing lots of teeth and reeking of cigarettes, and 4 women all unduly eating. The family’s weight totals approximately 1,800 pounds.  One woman, who weighs about 1/3 of the total, began eating around 8:10 a.m.   What began with Hot Cheetos and a 16 oz Pepsi, which she crammed in at record speed while intermittently licking her flaming red fingertips between gulps, continued with complimentary graham crackers, which she dipped in complimentary hot chocolate, yogurt, a large chicken salad with three dressing packets, more Pepsi and a cheese Danish. 
While taking it all in, I decided to Google both the calories and the ingredients of a super size bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos, which in turn, led me to the Frito Lay website where I found a complete guide to all our nutritional needs.  Hey, did you know that Flaming Hot Cheetos are gluten free and that all Frito Lay products are made from “natural” ingredients?

Mother of God!  Next thing you know some Republican President will reclassify Hot Cheetos as an accepted vegetable on hot lunch programs in our public schools. (Do you recall the ketchup as a vegetable proposal by an unnamed president?  Thank you again, Mother of God, for it was never was implemented due to outrage by nutritionists and the Democratic Party.)

I don’t mind the backwoods hic sounds coming out of the toothless mouths of the multitudes here, but it’s the “Amen’s” and the “Praise the Lord’s” vocalized each time someone in the room agrees with the commentator on FOX News (which blares from the TV. in the waiting room 24/7) that really gives me a rash.

I have seen more McCain bumper stickers on more Chevy trucks in this parking lot than are probably found in the entire state of Arizona.   More tattoos too.  And more people who remove their oxygen tubing to smoke a cigarette.   I am now very aware of a woman across the way, clinching her jaw and grinding her teeth, as she stocks up on “food” at the waiting room counter…shoving packets and packets of hot chocolate, stir sticks, non-dairy creamer, saltines and beef broth in her purse, she yells across the room to the candy stripe volunteer,
 “How do these crackers taste in this soup?” In a saintly voice, the volunteer answers and offers a polite smile.
After 'Ms. Lady Snow' leaves, I say to the volunteer, “Looks like she cleaned you out this morning.”
“Ah, yes it does, but that’s why we are also an outreach here at Shasta Regional.  It’s the Christian thing to do.”

I swear I don’t know if I’ll make it through this, but Ed will because he’s as tough as nails. I’m certain of that.  This is his fourth time here in four weeks and he cracks me up everyday.  I told him we’re taking his act on the road when he gets the hell out of here.    During his better moments, here’s some direct Edweirdo Quotes, most while under mild sedation:

To the attendant that brought the gurney to transport him for a variety of scans…

“I’m not going to hold it against you or anything but if this test doesn’t go right; I mean if I don’t pass, nothing against you or anything, but I want you to know I’ve got a 45 Magnum here next to my bed.”

To his fav, Linda, the best damn ICU nurse this side of the Mississippi…

“I’m taking you to dinner at Jack’s when this is over…Order anything you want…money’s no object…steak…whatever you like.”

To the night nurse that rarely cracked a smile or checked on him…

“Hey… How much you think one of these rooms goes for a night?   There’s boo coo bucks in this place.  Probably ain’t cheap.”

While Ed and I were enjoying the follies at Shasta Regional, the women of the family were out doing what they love and what comes naturally: yard saling.  This is a national pastime for a huge number of Americans and my mother-in-law, and her fearless flyer of a sister, are no exception.   Today was a bonus day as my aunt-in-law could hardly wait to show me a certain treasure that she obtained at a sale held by two elderly women on the north side of Redding.  There, a paperback laid waiting, priced at fifty cents, though she did try to get it for a quarter, but the crones held their ground.  The book, written by Dr. Richard Jacob and Reverend Owen Thomas, is entitled How To Live With A Huge Penis.  No joke. 

So basically it’s 8 chapters, plus a glossary, an About the Authors section and Acknowledgements and it’s filled with advice, meditations, and wisdom for men who have too much.  They state, and I would imagine it to be true, that bigger is not in fact really better and that men with huge genitalia experience issues such as discrimination, shame and even pain.

 I'm sure Emily Dickinson would be thrilled to see her quote on this page.
Frankly, I think 50 cents was a good buy for the book, as it is in excellent condition, and I intend to read it.  Not because I’m hiding something from all of you, so don’t get any ideas, but just so that I feel well informed.  Oh and btw, Dr Richard Jacob is kind of like Dr Phil; his credentials are questionable to say the least, but hey, this open minded, redneck hating girl from a park is going to give them a chance.  We all deserve being given a chance; and some of us require more than one please…
You, Edweirdo, me, strangers on this strange planet, the woman in the lobby of Shasta Regional…
I remained by Ed’s side all night last night and we had these incredibly real and telling conversations; he high on meds and me delirious from lack of sleep. 
He said to me at 3:00 a.m., “ Val, You gotta get me out of here. You gotta spring me.   I wanna go home so let’s give it a chance…  Let’s roll the dice.”
I want that for him.  I want him to be given his dignity and the choice to roll the dice and hope the gamble pays off.   I want him to go home to his porch, to his kitties, to his routines.
His words hold meaning for all of us.
Yesindeedee, let’s all roll the dice!