Breathing heavily through my right eyelid

So my new friend down the street, Alias Liz Jones, has invited me over for a playdate. But first I must fill out a questionnaire (a.k.a. meme). I’m guessing that I will be screened for mental fitness and rare tropical diseases before an actual outing will commence. In the meantime, I’ve been given a packet of crayons and a coloring book to amuse myself while I’m observed through a one-way glass.

On with the show:

1.Favorite quotable line from a movie:
Just about anything from “Bull Durham,” which is my all-time favorite flick. I’m not even a baseball fan. But everything just clicks in that movie. You can learn all you need to know about life from that movie, I swear. It’s probably Kevin Costner’s only good movie role. Susan Sarandon rocks. The script is top-rate and highly quotable.
Anyone who knows me well, knows I reference this line often: (it’s from a scene where Annie Savoy is coaching one of her rookies.)
“I want you to breathe through your eyelids, like the Lava Lizards of the Galapagos Islands.”

2. Most famous person I talked to:
Jack White when he was dating Renee Zellweger. His right arm had a really heated conversation with my left shoulder at a Dirtbombs concert at the Magic Bag. My shoulder hasn’t stopped talking about it yet. Also, Joyce Carol Oates, which basically featured me drooling all over her life’s work while she muttered monosyllabic responses to my lame questions and dabbed at her book jackets with a tissue.

3. How many bags/boxes of chips are consumed in your house in a month?
Um, does a Hefty bag count as a quantity?

4. What foreign dish do you prepare from scratch?
If I say I’m from the Isle of Vegetaria, maybe a few good meatless recipes, but I mostly leave the cooking of foreign dishes to the experts. My own heritage is one that is sorely lacking in the fine cuisine department, unless boiled cabbage and stringy meat tempts the palate.

5. What’s your favorite section of the super market?
I’m swept away by the produce section. I’m lured by the scents, the bright colors, the artful displays, the pyramids of citrus fruits, the geometric pattterns, the smooth skins and the firm textures. I’m often spotted burying my nose in a bouquet of cilantro. It borders on pornography …

6. What was your high school team’s mascot and colors?
The Blue Devils, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean, and the colors were blue, of course, and yellow.

Well, I hope I colored within the lines and that I was given the non-toxic variety of crayon. All that writing about chips and produce got me a little hungry. Now, I’m supposed to pass this on to others.

So, attention to Humble Origins, Life in Mathews, and Purses and Poop. It’s your turn.
I’ll leave you all with this parting thought:

“The world is not made for people cursed with self-awareness. ”
–Annie Savoy
“Bull Durham”

Blame it on my environment

Isn’t the Internets fun? A while back I learned that if I were a Sesame Street character, I’d be Bert! Sweet, lovable, anal-retentive Bert. He’s such a barrel of fun. In fact, I think the barrel is halfway up his little puppet butt. Well, I’m over it. Where would the world be without Bert?

I ran across another fun little Internets quiz, courtesy of Humble Origins and learned that if I were a hand gesture, I’d be this:

You Are a Fist

Your life philosophy can be summed up as, “Life fast. Die young.”  

Your greatest wish is to have a life of passion and excitement. 

And while you don’t want to die young, you rather take risks than stay home and be afraid.

You are inspired and inspiring. You live each day like it’s your last.




I don’t know, Internets, I’m not sure Bert and the fist go together like peanut butter and jelly, but I can’t argue with a super-fun quiz, can I?

What I can do is blame my environment, where this ubiquitous symbol confronts all visitors and guests and has been a guiding force in our city politics:

Purty, ain’t it? What with all the hoopla surrounding our mayor, Mr. Kwame Kilpatrick, I’m sure work is under way to sculpt a companion piece: The Middle Finger. Can’t wait.

Well what the …?

This is a short post to make note of the fact that at one time in my life I was an independent woman. I worked, I supported myself, I did my own household repairs and dammit, I was proud of my independence.
Then, it happened, as it always does in my life, I meet a guy and just down a whole bottle of stupid pills and chase it with a shot of foolishness.
Little by little I start depending on Mr. Husband to fix this and handle that and pretty soon, I’m left twisting in the wind when he up and goes on a weeklong business junket.
Case in point: I lost my Internet connection two days ago. In fact, the whole computer went haywire. I couldn’t get the scanner to work, the printer was flashing odd messages and I crumpled in a heap on the floor, tangled in wires and cussing up a storm.
Today I tried something different, ’cause this just burned me up to no end that I couldn’t figure it out. And, I did it! Not only did I solve the problem, I also restored my dignity.
Just don’t tell anyone how I confused a tube of cortisone cream for toothpaste the other day …

Still pretty in pink?

***Post edited on July 24 to include photos****

Last night I stayed up really late to watch the reissued version of “Pretty in Pink,” the ’80s classic featuring teen icon Molly Ringwald.
Two things:
First, I miss John Hughes movies like I miss my youth — his movies were pretty true to the times without being overly cynical or sappy. I love the characters, the soundtracks, and the milieu that seemed to mirror my life so well at the time.
Second, I realized a girl with whom I graduated high school had a bit part in the movie. How did I miss this before? In fact, despite having owned the movie soundtrack and playing the cassette to the point of unravelment, I’m wondering if I’d ever watched the movie in its entirety. (I think it was a ‘date movie.’)
Third, OK, I lied about it being two things. The ’80s need to stay in the ’80s. I think it’s great that my teen daughter wants to see all the “Brat Pack” movies of my youth. I think it’s fabulous that the storylines are timeless. But those fashions need to stay in the vault. Girl from the West came back from her month in Europe with a suitcase and boxes packed with ’80s fashions and a interest in Molly Ringwald movies. She is obsessed with all things ’80s. The big belts, big shirts, big glasses, tiny little boots and the ginourmous earrings.
Her wardrobe is a mirror of mine 20 years ago minus the REALLY BIG HAIR. Yeah, at least that hasn’t come back yet. What did we do to our hair in the ’80s? Look what I did to mine:

This is me, now, no longer inhaling perm solution:

After the movie ended I couldn’t sleep. I felt a pang of sadness about the past. Had more than 20 years passed since that movie came out? I think the last time I was in Kohl’s I heard the Cure playing on the piped-in Muzak system.

WTF people, the Cure? In Kohl’s? That’s enough to make you want to slash your wrists right there in the hosiery department.

Finally, the reissue DVD featured interviews with the cast today. Let me tell you, none of those fresh-faced teens looked so pretty in pink anymore. Molly Ringwald least of all. I barely recognized her without her short ‘do and angular figure. She looked more like a suburban soccer mom than a Hollywood sensation. Both Andrew McCarthy and Jon Cryer just looked like typical middle-aged dudes. Biggest shock of all — John Hughes is now a semi-recluse? Refuses interviews? What is this about? Is he creating a mystique about himself or did he just fade away?
Ah, well, better to fade from shocking pink to pale purple than to take the Botox Express to Freakville.

Paper or plastic?

This is crux of the existential crisis I am in right now. Am I made of paper or plastic? 
If you have read my rants of late, you may have deduced that things are a wee bit sucky. I have tried, oh, I have tried to remain positive. But the road of positive thoughts for this woman is a short stretch of pavement.

More often than not lately, my mind drags me on journeys down deeply rutted tracks, up the sides of treacherous mountains, sends me dangling over the lips of sheer cliffs and then tumbling into dark ravines. And that’s just while I’m waiting for the coffee to brew.
I sometimes don’t know which way to turn.
I would say our family is in the worst possible position we’ve been in ever. It’s all relative. The husband half would cast things in a different light: He’d say there are many in worse shape than us. But this isn’t his forum. Seeing someone passed out in the gutter doesn’t make me feel better about my station.

Most of it is sheer bad luck/timing. A lot of it is the economic toilet our city and state has been in for what seems like years.

These are the times when you see what you and the rest of your clan are made of — are you tough as steel, able to deflect the hard knocks? Or are you composed of thin paper, easily shredded and scattered?

I’d like to be this right now:


But I’m feeling more like one of these:

I’m not a rock, but I’m tougher than paper, by God. I’m feeling easily perforated these days, a little shredded around the edges and prone to melting under intense heat.

So, it’s a good thing I found these folks, hanging out with their cool shoes and freshly manicured toenails over at:

Reading their various and sundry posts has me feeling more like this:


Check it out for yourself.

Meanwhile, if you’re on the interstate and you see one of those discarded plastic bag thingies from the local pharmacy or Target impaled on a tree branch or bouncing along the shoulder like an urban tumbleweed, well, kindly think of me, won’t you?

What part of gay don't you understand?

Recent conversation with person of older generation regarding behavior patterns of the younger generation, as moderated by a middle-aged zombie:

Me: Girl from the West has a gay friend. I think that’s great that kids today can be out and open.
Older: Gay friend? She has a gay girlfriend??? (Subtext: Are you telling me your child is GAY????!!!!)
Me: No. I said: She has a gay friend. It’s a guy.
Older: Ohhh, they’re dating. Do you allow her to date?
Me: No. They are friends. He is gay. That means he is not interested in girls.
Older: Then why are they friends?

Trying a new tack, I steer the conversation toward my middle school days. I say that back then kids were beaten to a bloody pulp in the alley if they were even suspected of being gay. It was one of the ultimate social taboos, next to being poor. I told of a high school classmate who committed suicide when he came out to family and friends and was subsequently rejected. It broke my heart.

I told her I live in a predominantly gay community, have many gay friends and neighbors, although I do not refer to them as that or introduce them as such. I’m merely using the label to make a point. I raise my children to judge people by their actions, not their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

I’m met with a long silence.

Older: Oh, so that’s why you don’t send her to school here.

Hear that noise? That’s me bashing my skull against a brick wall.


This post may appear to be funny, based on this:

But, it’s really not so much. 

Because it represents this person who’s no longer in my life. This person who was once such a huge part of my life we may as well have been married. A best friend, like a sister kind of person. A talk-to-on-the-phone-every-day kind of person. A person who leaves a big, gaping hole in your life when she is no longer in it.

I have written about her struggles and how it has affected me. Maybe I’ve blabbed too much to the Internet. (We all know how well Ms. Internet keeps secrets.)

The friendship has been over for a while, but I was too busy paddling against the current on the River DeNiAl. When I finally fell overboard and the shock of reality woke me up, I went through a whole range of emotions: anxiety, anger, mourning and finally acceptance.

After her own personal efforts to seek help failed, family and friends intervened. After two months, it was apparent our efforts were less than effective. She had played us. She had outwitted us all, the dimwits that we are, I guess.

This outwitting really stung and hurt. However, it appears cosmic justice has banged her gavel. Just desserts have been served on a cold, hard platter. By this time, I have learned how to live without her. No e-mail. No phone calls. I’ve had one exchange of mail, which included a small card featuring the above odd carrot character and this message:

The cure of an ill is not to sit still,
or frowst with a book by the fire;
But to take a large hoe and shovel also,
And dig till you gently perspire.

Rudyard Kipling

No wheels/new wheels

Tidbit of the day: If you think bringing a wriggling toddler into a car dealership, one prone to squeezing out deadly loads of noxious poop at key moments and tossing crackers at the receptionist’s head will hasten a great deal — think again.

Hoo boy. This living with one car thing hasn’t gone as planned. First, the plan was based on summer weather — sunny, dry days — very few of which we’ve had here this season.
And then there’s this:

Which, in one loud bang, killed our plans to save up for a second car while paying off the first, thereby putting us in a nice financial position.

Shit happens, right? After waiting as patiently as a two-year-old for insurance settlements and then car shopping with a toddler in tow (see above), we’ve found a replacement vehicle:

I won’t say I didn’t wake up in a cold sweat last night realizing I BOUGHT MY FIRST FOREIGN CAR. Kinda felt like the first time I bared my tattoo in front of the mother. Naughty.

This is nearly a mortal sin here in THE MOTOR CITY. The car, not the tattoo.

All my life I rode in American-made cars. All I’ve ever driven are American cars. I come from a UNION FAMILY BACKGROUND.

Slowly, though, I’ve noticed more friends and family members slinking around in foreign models. Friends from out of town don’t think twice about getting a Japanese car.

But what American-made car is truly 100 percent made in America anymore? All have this part and that system produced outside our borders. Even my Pontiac Vibe was a sister vehicle to the Toyota Matrix.

We shopped and we researched and we discussed and labored over this. The American car we wanted we could not get in our price range with what we wanted. Period. The only other options were too freakin’ small for a family of four that travels all the time.

The foreign market was ripe with options for us. In the end the car we found had everything we wanted and more at a very affordable price, good gas mileage and good crash-test ratings. Bottom line, the American car companies are not offering much beyond the behemoth gas guzzlers. Been there, done that. Over it.

So, I should sleep at night, right?

But I may be visited by three ghosts: GM, Ford and Chrysler. To them I say, yeah, exactly, you are ghosts.

thanks, jack

A while back I wrote about Detroit, my love/hate relationship with the city on the strait and the White Stripes. I lamented the departure of Detroit native Jack White of the White Stripes and Raconteurs and wondered who next would put the D on the map in a positive light.

This morning, I opened up the Detroit Free Press to find this unexpected gift:

‘Courageous Dream’s Concern,’ by Jack White

I have driven slow,
three miles an hour or so,
through Highland Park, Heidelberg, and the
Cass Corridor.
I’ve hopped on the Michigan,
and transferred to the Woodward,
and heard the good word blaring from an
a.m. radio.
I love the worn-through tracks of trolley
trains breaking through their
concrete vaults,
As I ride the Fort Street or the Baker,
just making my way home.

I sneak through an iron gate, and fish
rock bass out of the strait,
watching the mail boat with
its tugboat gait,
hauling words I’ll never know.
The water letter carrier,
bringing prose to lonely sailors,
treading the big lakes with their trailers,
floats in blue green chopping waters,
above long-lost sunken failures,
awaiting exhumation iron whalers,
holding gold we’ll never know.

I’ve slid on Belle Isle,
and rowed inside of it for miles.
Seeing white deer running alongside
While I glide, in a canoe.
I’ve walked down Caniff holding a glass
Atlas root beer bottle in my hands
And I’ve entered closets of coney islands
early in the morning too.
I’ve taken malt from Stroh’s and Sanders,
felt the black powder of abandoned
And smelled the sawdust from wood cut
to rehabilitate the fallen edifice.
I’ve walked to the rhythm of mariachis,
down junctions and back alleys,
Breathing fresh-baked fumes of culture
nurtured of the Latin and the
Middle East.
I’ve fallen down on public ice,
and skated in my own delight,
and slid again on metal crutches
into trafficked avenues.

Three motors moved us forward,
Leaving smaller engines to wither,
the aluminum, and torpedo,
Monuments to unclaimed dreaming.
Foundry’s piston tempest captured,
Forward pushing workers raptured,
Frescoed families strife fractured,
Encased by factory’s glass ceiling.
Detroit, you hold what one’s been seeking,
Holding off the coward-armies weakling,
Always rising from the ashes
not returning to the earth.
I so love your heart that burns
That in your people’s body yearns
To perpetuate,
and permeate,
the lonely dream that does encapsulate,
Your spirit, that God insulates,
With courageous dream’s concern.


Already the Internet has unleashed the vipers to attack his writing, which I find sweet and true. I’ll not know the true motivations behind the words, but for this Detroiter, all I can say is Thank You.

Slow lane has its bumps, too

There’s nothing like a few close calls and scares to bring a family closer together.

We’ve had quite a run in the last few months: Girl from the East’s big fall (translate: big hospital bill); the Mammogram-O-Rama (again, hospital bill); the dangerous bed recall; and finally the Smash-Up. We decided to move in the slow lane, where it is safe and quiet.

 I thought I’d take baby girl to the park to play. Within minutes of our arrival, a girl of about 9 attempted to run up one of those huge corkscrew-shaped slides, lost her grip and tumbled to the mulch below. It’s hard to call a fall like that. She landed on a soft surface, but it was from about seven feet. She was bleeding, but not profusely. 

But both her reaction (hysteria) and her caregiver’s (horror and panic) set off a wave of fear and nausea in both baby girl and myself. They refused offers of help, didn’t want me to call 911.

Instead the man whisked away the girl from the play area and into a nearby building to wash off her cuts. In the process, he left behind the other child in his care. After a little coaxing, she followed us inside the building, where I deposited her at the reception desk. As the echoing howls subsided in the adjacent restroom, the man and girl emerged.

He had calmed somewhat but the girl was still hyper ventilating and clutching at her right arm and shoulder.  After a quick thanks, the man ducked out of the building and into a waiting car that sped away. I have the feeling that guy was working on his story as they headed toward one very angry/scared mom.

The images of that wailing girl’s twisted body on the ground and the rising panic in the man’s voice as he scurried around like a trapped squirrel are hard to shake. So, too, are the what-if scenarios we’ve run through following our accident.

We were spared. LIfe is good. But it is fragile at these moments,  when powerful jolts snap us out of our zombie states of routine, boredom or simmering anger over a stew of trivial complaints.