Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I wore my herringbone gauchos with a black Danskin turtleneck and the bright yellow, Marks and Spencer sweater my sister, Caroline had sent for Christmas. Black boots and the Gucci shoulder bag that had been my birthday present , also from Caroline. She keeps me in brand names. Gunning the Fleetwood’s engine up Biscayne, I paused long enough to check out Stephen and Nan’s TH in case Stephen wanted to join me, but there was no sign of activity there. Tim, however, was working on the front door lock at Abigail’s. Tsk, tsk. Didn’t he know I had a master key?
Patterson’s is wide old mansion, white clapboards and gabled roofs with a porte-cochere that linked the main driveway with a circular parking lot around back. The gardens, front and back, bloomed with camellias. In summer, the magnolias would bloom. I saw traces of a rose garden and was pretty sure there would be daffodils in spring and all sorts of other growth whenever it was needed. It reeked of solidity and mold.
I walked in on a cloud of Shalimar-scented flight attendants in Eastern and Delta uniforms, feeling conspicuous but probably was invisible. A sober Kevin, looking trim in a three-piece suit, stood close enough to the open casket to make up a sort of receiving line. Abigail’s family, represented by Susan and her husband (presumably) stood next to him. An older couple with the same pale skin as Abigail’s sat nearby quietly greeting friends their own age. In fact, everyone seemed to be grouping themselves by age and/or relationship. I headed to the casket, greeting Kevin and Susan and was introduced to the husband.
“Thank you for helping Susan with Abigail’s things,” he said, his voice well-oiled with cliches. “It’s been a great relief knowing we didn’t have to rush through such a sad time.”
“My pleasure,” I stuttered. “Whatever I can do.”
“I’ll call you soon,” said Susan.
“So will I,” said Kevin. “And please come by after the service. We’re having a small reception at the house.”
“Your house?” I asked.
“Kevin’s been a dear,” said Susan. Then she thanked me for the flowers from Arborgate. I took credit for what must have been Judith’s gesture and stepped beyond them for a last look at my former tenant.
Abigail, dressed in her stewardess uniform after all, looked as I’d never seen her: elegant and professional. There was no sign of the contusion on her forehead. She was at peace.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
My own parents always seemed unhappy: screaming from Mom met with silence by Daddy. I thought her anger, loud and painful, was coarse and impolite, and his silence, illustrated by a face that always seemed to be turning away, was somehow noble. It wasn’t; he was simply disappearing without a fight and she, starved for a good one, was constantly provoking. I craved loving perfection in every couple I visited. (A search that continued for many years.)
I returned to my chilly and neglected townhouse, its woebegone Christmas decorations and the smell of impermanence. My dining room needed furniture and the weighty scent of dinners cooked and coats tossed on a chair. I needed to live here, fill the rooms with friends and the perfumes of living.
I took a glass from the drainboard, filled it with water and drank thirstily. Too much wine, I thought. Over the rim of the glass I saw Mr. Invalid's poinsettia drooping in its spot by the sliding glass door. I'd thought it would get the sun it needed there but I was wrong. Someday, I thought, pouring the remainder of my water into the base of the plant's foil-wrapped pot, I would learn how to care for something. I would start with this plant, the only other living thing here.
The next morning, December 27, I ran to the office. I hoped Judith would ignore last night’s visit to Abigail’s. If I could play dumb, I would. But she was having none of that.
“What were you thinking?” she asked, handing me a cup of coffee. I’d found her in the kitchen, sponging the counter. Tim had left his usual mess behind. “You have no business going into that apartment and no right letting Nancy and Stephen in behind you.”
“Please. You went there to snoop. Why, I don’t know and I don’t want to know. What I want is for you to settle down and do your job and mind your own business because I will not be responsible if Abigail’s sister finds out you’ve been going through her things.”
“Then what were you doing in there last night?”
“Picking up Nancy’s key.”
“Where is it?”
“She’s bringing it over this morning. Before they leave.”
“It’s not here.”
“I guess they haven’t left yet.”
“They left, or rather, she left, at six this morning.”
“Stephen’s still here. He wants to stay the rest of the month and fly out in January.”
“Really?” This was news to me. “They must have decided that last night.”
“He’s not moving to Seattle.”
She shook her head in gentle disgust. “Nora. Wake up.”
I waited until she’d made herself comfortable in the office before asking for permission to attend Abigail’s funeral. She laughed. “You never give up, do you?”
“I’m sure that’s your feeling right now.”
“I’d kind of like to see it through somehow. Funerals provide closure.”
“Your attitude is very unprofessional. It’s flippant and adolescent.”
“But I can go?”
She lifted her shoulders, her eyebrows and her hands. “Do what you must,” she said.
And may the Lord have mercy on you, I thought.
I have brains, but I am not smart.
Serey and Mike for a weekend at their place near the Toe River in Yancey County, NC. But first, we had to stop in Saluda, just south of Asheville, so I could meet Jane and see shop and workroom that is RandomArts.
We were greeted by Jen who, when I told her I was part of the group that submitted journal pages to Jane's challenge, ushered me into the workroom where Jane and Meg Fowler were busy putting the pages together. All I wanted to do was sit down and work with them but as we had to keep moving, I shopped instead!
What a great store. It reminded me of those dreams I would sometimes have where I'd be shopping and find something, like a purse, and open it and find more stuff and more and more. Those dreams made me very happy. Being in Random Arts made me happy too.
Glad to meet you all and hope to come back in the Spring when Judy Wise teaches her workshop.
Jane wanted to know how I'd discovered Random Arts. Of course, blogging begets blogs. I'd been looking at Judy Wise's blog, wistfully scrolling down the list of her classes and wondering why all the good stuff was in the Northwest. Why, when there's so much art down South, is there no paper arts, journal arts groups in a community like the one I imagine was created in Portland. Then I saw that Judy was scheduled to teach in North Carolina, just one state away. And not, as I discovered on Friday, all that far.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
If you were the woman and I was the man
would I send you yellow roses
would I dare to kiss your hand?
In the morning would I caress you
as the wind caresses the sand,
if you were the woman and I was the man?
If I was the heart and you were the head
would you think me very foolish
if one day I decided to shed
these walls that surround me
just to see where these feelings led,
if I was the heart and you were the head?
If I was the woman and you were the man
would I laugh if you came to me
with your heart in your hand
and said, 'I offer you this freely
and will give you all that I can
because you are the woman
and I am the man?'
The song was composed by Michael Timmins and is from the album "Black-Eyed Man" by
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Blind and can’t find it.
The house I lived in growing up and out
The doors of high school is torn
Down and cleared
Away for further development, but that does not stop me.
First in the heart
Of my blind spot are
The Buckhead Boys.
If I can find them, even one,I’m home.
And if I can find him
catch him in or around Buckhead, I’ll never die:
it’s likely my youth will walk
Inside me like a king.
title: Searching for the Buckhead Boys (first stanza)
by James Dickey
Nancy heard male voices in her apartment but can’t identify anyone except Tim. And she won’t be here long enough to audio i.d. Ken. Mrs. Mason? Mr. Invalid? Tim might know.
I want to know if he was here when she fell and if so, did he leave her in need of help. He can’t just get away with that.
“ All I know is someone was with her the afternoon of the 23rd and that’s the day she died, right? I heard her fighting with someone and I heard a crash,” said Nancy. “Then I heard the front door open and close but I was in the hall closet under the stairs (which is why I was able to hear them so well, there’s less insulation there.”
“There’s a twelve-inch cement wall between the units. It’s for fire protection but it helps with sound.”
“Maybe so, but I tell you I was emptying our closet and could hear two people arguing in her apartment.”
“Her closet door must have been open, too,” said Stephen, dubiously.
“I bet you heard them through the kitchen windows. Didn’t you say they were in the kitchen?”
“At some point, they must have been because they made drinks,” she insisted. “But I heard them in the living room and I heard the man leave.”
“How do you know it was the man?” asked Stephen.
“Well, who else would it be? She never left.”
“You can’t be sure of that,” said Stephen. “We’re assuming she moved to the couch after she fell and died there, but she might have roamed around the whole complex.”
“But remember Tim said he saw her---“
“No, he saw her with Ken when he opened the door.”
“There you are,” said Nancy. “Tim saw her with Ken around the same time I heard them. I’m sure it was the same time. It was afternoon.”
“That tallies with when I was expecting George and Ken and only George showed up,” I said.
“What are you trying to do, anyway?” asked Nancy. “Figure out when he was here?”
“When he was here, when he left, if he was the only one in the apartment after she hit her head.”
“But what are you getting at? What do you want?”
“She’s trying to make him responsible for Abigail’s death,” said Stephen.
“No, I’m not,” I said, too fast to have considered the idea.
“Aren’t you?” he persisted. “Isn’t that what you’ve been trying to do since you found out they knew each other?”
“I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out how she died and if someone could have saved her. She was calling me. If I’d been in the office, I’d have reached her. Tim was right there. What if he’d come back instead of stealing her car? And Ken. What if he hadn’t left her alone? What if he’d taken her to the hospital? And you, Nancy. You were home.”
“But what if she was fine when he left?” argued Stephen.
“What if she kicked his ass out?” asked Nancy. “That’s what I was hearing. They didn’t sound like they were going to see each other again soon.” She swallowed the dregs of her wine, rose and walked to the kitchen. I heard her wash the glass and the light-hearted ping of the crystal against the faucet. Stephen and I exchanged looks. He rose and took my glass, which was half full, and downed the contents.
“You know what,” she said, returning with a tin of Christmas cookies. “They sounded like we do, Stephen, when we argue about leaving Atlanta. Like the fight’s been going on forever and nothing’s going to change.”
“Like they were bored?” he said.
“Yeah, but can’t stop picking at it.”
Monday, November 17, 2008
“Whatcha got?” asked Stephen, hurrying in with Abigail’s high school yearbook.
“Look what I found behind the bulletin board.” I was chanting with glee, waving a well-worn, slightly smearing envelope in which were tucked a half dozen photos.
“The happy couple?”
“In better days,” I nodded.
“You guys are real sensitive,” said Nancy. “Let’s see.”
I laid the photos down on Abigail’s glass-topped table.
“It looks like they were in Cape Cod,” said Stephen, examining each snapshot.
Abigail and Ken Eberhard sat at the same small table we’d seen in the missing photo.
“Only in this one there’s no shadow.”
“Her girlfriend’s a better photographer,” said Stephen. “They didn’t even know she was there, much less taking their picture.”
“They do look very involved.”
“That’s putting it mildly,” I said. Ken and Abigail were so hunched over the table heading in each other’s direction, they had to be readying for a kiss.
“Wonder where the next frame is,” said Stephen. “Even if there were only twelve shots on the roll, that’s a couple missing.”
“Four,” said Nancy. “Four are missing.”
“Maybe Ken has them,” I said. “Or the buddy here. Maybe they took a few of her—"
We were so engrossed in speculation, no body heard the front door open or Judith walk in, “Hello! Is anyone here?”
Quick as a black jack dealer, Stephen scooped up the photos and collapsed them into his the pouch of his sweatshirt.
“Excuse me, but do any of you have a reason to be here?”
“My blender,” said Nancy.
“I said it was ok if they took their blender.”
“Abigail borrowed it last week,” said Nancy.
“She had a daiquiri party,” said Stephen. “It was fun.”
“Mnn.” Judith wasn’t buying it but I was impressed with their quick thinking. They were like something in a Saturday Night Live skit: Jane and Chevy.
“We wanted to ask for it sooner, but it just never seemed like a good time,” said Nancy.
“So tonight it just seemed the better part of discretion to just take it back and let them move on.”
“You’re leaving for Seattle tomorrow, then?” asked Judith.
“First thing,” said Nancy.
“I know it’s awkward,” said Stephen, “but is it okay with you if we just take it now?”
“ I suppose,” she said, raising her eyebrows at me. I’d never seen Judith hold her temper so tight.
“It is their’s,” I said. “I’ve seen it in their apartment.”
“I’m sure it is, Nora,” she said. “You and I will talk tomorrow and set up some processes for the future.”
“Sounds like a plan,” I said. “You got it?” I asked Stephen, who was in the kitchen replacing the photographs behind the bulletin board. “Having a little trouble with the plug,” he said, ripping it from the wall with a brisk yank. The blender was a brand new Hamilton Beach. Ah well, I’m sure Susan would never miss it. What I didn’t know was why he replaced the photos. I wanted to take them with us.
“Evidence,” he whispered as we followed Judith and Nancy out the front door. Judith waited until we were into the townhouse next door before pulling Abigail’s door to and locking it. “Can’t remove it from the scene.”
Friday, November 14, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
Here’s how it’s just like the training months: No matter how many people are cheering and honking, by 2:30 p.m., you want to be finished. Walking 20 miles is a full day’s work and, as such, represents the full-time jobs needed by researchers, fundraisers, care givers to develop a vaccine, find a cure, raise the money, support the survivors and comfort the bereaved.
Here’s how it’s like it always is: An old friend who rejoices in my dark side just called. “You haven’t blogged yet,” she said. “Was it what you expected? When you first told me you were doing this, I thought: How clichéd.” Well, yes and no. One reason it’s taken me five days to gather my thoughts is because I’m still thinking in a mix of clichéd (but true) emotions: Amazing! Inspiring! Wonderful! Unbelievable – and snarky (but true) Grissy-isms: “By late Day 2, I was mowing down survivors and refusing to wave.” “My God, I’m still a bitch, only now I want be applauded constantly. Non-stop cheering was the heroin I discovered in St. Petersburg. Uh oh, now what?”
Here’s how it’s just like high school: How proud I was that I and my three pacing cohorts came in each day ahead of much thinner and much younger women. But oh, how I wish I’d done a Clinton & Stacy when outfitting myself. It took a candid shot by Channel 10 to show me what a Glamour Don’t knee-length shorts really are. Believe me, if I’d only looked in a 360 mirror, I’d have lived with a little chafing. Ah well, next year.
The unexpected grace: Gratitude. By day 2 I realized just how strong an impact our crew was having on my enjoyment and comfort and, therefore, how much a cancer survivor depends on the kindness and willingness of others to serve their basic needs.
The unexpected souvenir: I picked up every pin, necklace, washable tattoo and pink shoelace offered me. What’s hanging on the corkboard in my cube is this: My 3Day lanyard. Why? Because all I have to do is look at this to know the most important lesson I’ve learned this year. It’s a lesson I’ve had unarticulated in my heart since my friendship with my old friend Lindsay Dirkx Brown (who died of breast cancer in 1991) began back in 1972 but which I saw on a sign at camp and attributed to Paulo Coelho: “When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”
How I’m different: I haven’t had a drink since Monday’s after party. I’m quite the post-work wino. No, it’s not that my two glasses a night is such a lot of wine but that it’s so hard for me not to have them. But not this week. A new kind of hangover? Too soon to tell.
More to come, but the above is my one arty photo. Probably sucks, but there's something true in its bleary run of colors. Essentially, this is how camp looks through the tears of a walker grateful for day's end, her team's enthusiasm, the cheering groups along the way who urged us forward with myriad high-fives and constant thank-yous, lively music and standing ovations. Bless the little girls who, if Tampa Bay's $4.5 million in contributions and 1,500 or so walkers have anything to say about it, will never know a round of chemo or the unwilling skull girdle of a bad wig.
Thanks to Katie T., Atlanta route trainer who over-prepared me. Not a single blister!
Friday, October 24, 2008
Once inside, I closed the Venetian blinds. Stephen turned on the table lamp next to the couch.
“Look for her address book,” said Nancy.
“Too late, her sister took it to call people about the funeral."
“Which is?” asked Stephen.
“Photo albums,” said Nancy. “Scrapbooks.” She directed Stephen to examine the books on the living room shelves. I moved to the kitchen where I examined the photos and memoranda mounted on the refrigerator. Nancy ran up to the second floor where I could hear her in the small bedroom, opening drawers.
"Hey, wasn't there a framed picture in here?" asked Stephen, standing in the doorway.
"By the couch, Abigail and another woman on a dock."
I looked around the room, dropping to my hands and knees to search beneath the sofa.
"Maybe Susan took it," said Stephen.
"I don't think so, unless she was back without me, which is possible."
He shrugged. "It'll probably turn up."
"It wasn't a very good picture, was it? There was a long shadow cutting down the middle. The guy who shot it, I guess."
"Maybe that's why she framed it. It's a picture of Ken."
"That's a great idea. They were probably having a secret affair and that's all she could show off."
"But who took it? There are plenty of other pictures around, so I don't think Susan, whenever she's been here, was packing up the photos. There are still albums and year books on the shelves.
We seemed to get the same idea at once. If the photograph was out in the open all this time, what else was in plain view?
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The cemetery took a serious hit during the March tornado. Lots of graves had to be repaired, then the monuments and plantings and most had to be completed by professionals. In the last couple of months, regular volunteers with TreeAtlanta and Oakland's own, were able to help.
If you visit Atlanta on a pretty day and want some history, come to Oakland. The docents are knowledgeable and all the better dead are here or at Westview on the othe side of downtown.
Friday, October 17, 2008
I could say my life is changed because my ass is a little higher this October than it was back in March. I could say that because it's true and comes with it evidence of exercise and the spiritual archeological dig I'm on to find something in the mirror remotely familiar to the face and body I once admired.
I could say my life is changed because I know how competitive I am. Again. But that would not be as true as the next time I say it. Because the next time I say it, I'll have taken up tennis or another competitive sport. Or joined a theater group or participated in a contest. No change, but a shift in point of view. Something I once called angleslide.
I could say my life is changed because I belong to a community now. Not the inner circle, not a vocation, but in the door, a middle pew.
Just as a passion for art means, at last, showing up every day --- without hysteria --- simply because there's nothing else you'd rather be doing, changing your life means movement from one to another. Small change or large. Change is change.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Team Captain, Sheila sent the transfers for us to decorate our own white T-shirts (so much easier than having to choose one shirt everyone can wear, (and let this be a hint to brides choosing dresses for their attendants). I've completed several back to back weekend training walks over 17-19 miles and very regular b2b sessions below that. What I decided not to do was walk a full 20 until I was in St. Pete and walking the walk.
Last weekend, I walked a couple of 8 and 10 milers. Gosh, they were so easy, but I could easily remember the shank of the summer and how hard it was to get to 10, 13 and 15...my most difficult milestones.
Our team leader did a great job. We are all overtrained and looking forward to a great time. One woman has already finished her walk in Detroit with her niece, who is being treated for breast cancer, and her sister (who didn't train so well....) "It was like being on a cruise," she said. "Without the amenities."
I'm relieved that my fundraising is complete and I've gone over the minimum. I owe my friends and co-workers for making this happen. For the longest time, raising the money was the hardest part. Then, I was truly "challenged" (don't you hate that word?) with balancing my dormant competitiveness against the need to protect my feet and find my own pace. This took weeks to overcome and a lot of conversation, but it, too, is over and done with. And I have won. No, I'm not the fastest and I can't keep up with the 20, 30-somethings (or some of the 60-somethings) but I'm okay with it. I know I'm okay because it doesn't bother me anymore.
I used to dread the challenges of life. I even dreaded the opportunities. I anticipated nothing with pleasure and looked only to get through it and look back. I racked up memories the way alcoholics rack up empties. Consequently, I have many that are not quite real, not very deep and open to debate. But not this one.
The metaphor participating in the 3Day provides seems to go only so far, or so I thought when I realized that no matter how hard it was to get up at 6 to join a training walk, it was NOTHING to chemo or the anxiety of fighting the illness day in and day out. I'm right, of course. The comparison is just that and a pale pink one at that. Still, the lessons I've learned and the shifts I've experienced in point of view have certainly changed my life and will probably continue to do so in the next few weeks.
I can't wait til October 30 to meet my teammates and Oct 31 to attend Opening Day ceremonies, but after that, it's going to be one step at a time, one breath at a time and I will take in all the minutes of the days before me. And I will love every one.
Friday, October 10, 2008
“Now there’s a coincidence worth looking into,” said Stephen, setting down a plate of Christmas cookies. “Girl lives in one complex, then the other. When did he buy Arborgate?”
“I’m not sure. Judith never said it was sold when she hired me. It seemed to happen quickly. I’d been here a couple of weeks and all of us sudden we had an interested buyer. George, from Trust Company, brought him over one day. I thought it was his first visit, but maybe not. I was still trying to figure out what I was doing.”
“Of course, Arborgate’s been on the market for a year at least. Poor Mr. Invale went into foreclosure not long after he got sick.”
“And Judith started managing things for him last spring, I think,” said Stephen. “That’s when I started giving her the rent check. The bank came in around 4th of July and started refurbishing, put in the model and cleaned things up. Place has been going to hell ever since.”
"And now you're leaving," I whined.
"But first we're going to solve the mystery of who was with Abigail the day she died," said Nancy. "Her former landlord, or was he her lover?"
"Patty might be able to find that out when she goes through Abigail's file tonight."
"Or we could see what the townhouse has to say," said Nancy. "She's probably got something with his name on it."
"Maybe she kept a diary," I said. "Unfortunately, Tim's got the copy of her deadbolt. I watched him locking it."
"Oh, we exchanged keys weeks ago," said Nancy. "In fact, you should probably get mine while we're over there. I'm sure you don't want them floating around."
Thursday, October 9, 2008
“Yeah, I thought he was one of the founders.”
“Maybe not,” said Stephen.
“I’m sure they’re not all gay,” said Nancy. “Another slice?”
“Poor Judith,” I said. “I wonder if she knows.”
“I don’t think she misses much,” said Nancy. “Do you?”
“Not really, but we’ve all got our blind spots.” I was thinking of her and how it seemed to me that Stephen did not want to move to Seattle. Naturally, I wasn’t thinking of the things I didn't want to see. Poor Judith. What did it feel like for your husband to prefer a man? “It might be better than another woman,” I said aloud.
Stephen bent to pour more wine in my glass. “ Who knows?" he said. "I couldn’t figure out what Abigail saw in your new boss.”
“The guy buying this complex. Isn’t he your new boss?”
Now this was more than I could take in. Ken and Abigail?
“What are you saying?”
As I watched, Nancy and Stephen exchanged a long and significant look of the sort married couples exchange when one brings up a subject they have both agreed to bury. Stephen sighed.
“Stephen thinks he saw them together more than once,” said Nancy. “And I definitely heard them in the townhouse before Christmas. Right around the time Tim brought the car back.”
Monday, October 6, 2008
The door to Stephen and Nancy’s townhouse opened to reveal Nan with a wine glass in one hand and a bottle in the other.
“Are you coming over, or not?” she called. “The pizza’s getting cold.”
“On my way,” I said, turning to Judith, who was already following Nick, now coasting toward the pool. “See you guys in the morning.” Tim nodded at Nancy, swiveled his hips and headed toward his apartment, a sub-level unit impossible to rent. He had a wife in Mableton, where he’d presumably spent Christmas. Mrs. Tim was supposed to be living in the apartment, but hated the city and kept herself and their two children in the house she grew up in near Six Flags Over Georgia.
“He finally bring home Abigail’s car?” asked Nan, closing the door behind me. The aroma of a much better pizza than Patty and Ricky had eaten competed with the elusive fragrance of cardboard boxes and household cleaners. Trust Nancy to ensure her damage deposit. Theirs would be one less bathroom I’d have to clean next week.
“Said he picked it up from the mechanic.”
“Not today, he didn’t. I saw him driving it last week.”
“Both. He took it up on Monday and was driving it back on Wednesday. Well, he drove past, parked it, knocked on her door and then left without going in. Then he set off again.”
Wednesday. December 23.
“What time of day?”
“Sometime in the afternoon. I was packing and getting ready for Christmas at the same time, you know? I had a lot of calls from the office too. People saying goodbye and inviting us to parties.”
Their living room was a warehouse of boxes, taped, labeled and stacked along the living room wall.
We picked our way through it into the dining room where Nancy, an efficient mover, had created an oasis of sanity. Here, she had tucked a Victorian sofa picked up the Flea Market and reupholstered in red velvet and a coffee table from the Roosevelt administration. “Are you taking the sofa?” I asked.
“Oh, yes. It’s going in my new office.
"Rats. I could use a sofa. A bureau, too."
“Have you talked to Abigail’s sister about her stuff?” asked Nancy.
“Haven’t had a chance,” I said, accepting a glass of wine from Stephen.
“That living room is all rented,” he said. “But the upstairs looked all right.”
“Not that bedroom! Mirrored naugahyde.”
“At least she didn’t have a water bed.”
“Actually, I’m hoping Susan will sell me this little desk I think her husband picked out. It’s really cute, and I miss my antiques,” I said, thinking of the furniture I’d sold to fund my trip down here. “I miss having drawers.”
And I would miss these almost friends. They were, I realized, the only people near my age and education that I’d met since moving to Georgia and now they were leaving. I would have to make new friends who would, I couldn’t help thinking, leave as well. Or I would leave and that would be life.
“I saw a great neighborhood in Midtown the other day,” I said.
“We know some people there,” said Stephen, handing me a full glass. “You’d like it. It’s very eclectic. Lot’s of old ladies, gays, hookers, students. A real mix. It’s cheap, too.”
“Lot’s of creatives from McCann live there,” offered Nancy. “Are you thinking of leaving Arborgate?”
“No, I want to live here,” I said. “But I liked it and I liked Kevin.”
“Ooh, who’s Kevin?”
“Ex-husband,” said Stephen.
“Not quite, they weren’t actually divorced.”
“So now he’s a widower,” said Nancy. “Something more respectable about that.”
I laughed. Stephen snickered.
“He took me to a place called The Pleasant Peasant.”
“Now that I’ll miss,” said Nan. “It’s really gay, but it’s great.”
“What do you mean,? I asked.
“Gay,” she said. “Homosexual? The owners are gay.”
Mnnnn. I took another sip of wine and re-thought Christmas dinner. “I wonder if Kevin knows that.”
“He does if he lives in Midtown.”
Lately, I’ve been taking advantage of the respite between our long summers and reasonable but chilly winters to open every window and leave them open. After all, I’m up so high, there’s no danger of someone coming in. Or so I thought.
On the night in question, I entered, dumped my bag in the living room and headed through studio toward the kitchen with my box of leftover Fritti pizza when a fluttering of wings startled me as much as my entrance must have startled the pure white pigeon now poised on the kitchen counter and eying me nervously.
(NTS: never leave condo without clearing counter for possible photo op.)
And by the way, isn’t it nice to arrive at a point in life when curiosity outweighs fright? The first thing I grabbed was my camera.
I’ve given respite for birds that stun themselves on the plate glass windows and doors on the ground level, and once lost a parakeet named Weego to an insufficiently closed door and open window, but I’ve never been visited from on high, as it were.
I really wanted the bird to stick around, but despite posing for me quite patiently, it was clear it wanted out. The shot of it on the bookshelf is my last. I “shepherded” it, unhurt, to the now fully opened studio window where it stumbled out.
White pigeons, which are doves, represent peace, ascension and forgiveness. What a gift.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
"You're not my boss," he snapped, emphasis on the you're.
“I didn’t say I was,” I said. “I said-”
“I know what you said, just hush.”
I looked to Judith to intervene but she seemed to be enjoying watching us square off. Right, she doesn’t get in the way. Hush. So much softer than its New York equivalent, 'shuddup,' yet he still managed to infuse it with a threat.
“I said ‘again,’ Tim. As is, ‘over at Abigail’s again’ ‘cuz you’re there a lot and it looks like you were the one with her car when her sister was here looking for it .”
“What’s it to you? It’s none of your business.”
Tim was probably right about that but I couldn’t stop now. “It’s her sister’s business and I was trying to help her.”
He glared at me. Tim’s ferocity comes from a pair of furious blue eyes set far back under a shelf of thick brows. He had a nose like a drawbridge and a heavy, dirty blond mustache that hid his upper lip but not the snarling shape of his mouth. I don’t know why he disliked me so much but he had from the start. Judith said I didn’t know how to talk to him; I was too direct and too bossy. I was a snob. He scared me with his sinewy fury and I panicked just a little every time I spoke to him. Lately, I’d learned to hand him the work orders as if they were love notes left by the good witch of the south and had stopped trying to prioritize them.
“Pete Levine had her car,” he said at last, his snaking mouth stretched to a grin. He loved the upper hand as much as I did.
“Who the fuck is Pete Levine?”
“Her mechanic, you moron. I took her car up last week and left it while she flew where ever she was going.”
“And you’re just getting it now.”
“That’s what it looks like to me. Look like that to you, Judith?”
“Why don’t you two make a new year’s resolution to learn how to work together?”
What? And put an end the Civil War? Involuntarily, Tim and I exchanged glances and tiny grins. No way.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Why do some people insist on treating family like servants and strangers like honored guests. Everyone at the Oaks is always telling me how much they love my mother but she is so mean to my sister in law. All I hear are complaints; complaints I know have no merit. In fact, the complaints are all accurate descriptions of herself, e.g., inconsiderate (refuses to call, refuses to fix answering machine, refuses to carry cell phone). What crime did my poor s.i.l. commit? She couldn't get a whole day off to carry the Knuckle to a funeral. She took three-four hours off but that just wasn't good enough.
What is the lesson here? What does my mother's death-defying grip on a life she doesn't seem to value have to offer?
- Embrace gratitude as the pure energy form it is.
- When she hits the rant re-play extend your arm. You won't hear her and she won't notice.
- Evaluate and pick your own retirement home so it is your choice.
- Don't blame other people for your failure to communicate
- Get a mirror
I feel better now, do you?
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
SparringK9 and her softer side: chickory (she taught me how to do this)
Now to pass it on:
1.Put the logo on your blog
2.Add a link to the person who awarded you
3.Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4.Add links to those blogs on yours
5.Leave a message for your nominees on their blogsI'd also like to draw everyone's attention to artomat.org for a look at a very very cool art project centered in Winston-Salem and created by Clark Whittington. If you can make art that's a scant 2x3 inches on a block or to fit in a box of the same size, you can show and sell your work in vintage cigarette machines all around the country. do check it out.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
“Are you okay?” she asked. “Did your battery die again?”
“No, it’s fine. Mr. Eberhard jumped it.”
Judith grows her eyes wide. My own are big but while I work them to show off how smart I am (or want to be), Judith does just the opposite. She's a disarmer.
“Because I thought you’d be right behind him,” she said .
“Really? I just needed to drive around, charge the battery.” She nodded, letting the subject drop.
“That land yacht of yours die?” said Tim, looking up from a handshake with Nicholas, who Judith was training to be as polished as herself.
“Just the battery,” I said, giving him a look that said I wouldn’t be busting him in front of the boss but wanted to know where he’d been while I was here fending off EMT workers and curious policemen. “Have a good Christmas?” I asked, unable to keep the acid from my voice. He scowled. “It was okay,” he said.
“You took Wednesday off to pick up your mother, didn’t you?” said Judith, her own tone twice as coy.
“You knew he was gone? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I forgot,” she shrugged. Tim grinned at her.
Judith wasn’t a divide and conquer boss and she didn’t take sides, either. I’d come to appreciate that quality but still find it annoying when I wasn’t getting the respect I wanted from the handyman. Judith would say Tim was the most important person on the complex and I knew she was right but he never seemed to be around when I needed him. And what was he doing in Abigail’s townhouse?
“What’s going on at Abigail’s?” I asked.
“Got a call her fire alarm was going off,” he said. “It was just the battery giving out.”
Very plausible, but Tim was glib, I’d give him that. Probably no one knew the units like he did. He wasn’t above spending more time than he needed in apartments where single women lived. And he knew where everyone kept their stash and what they liked to drink. He’d spent a lot of time at Abigail’s. In fact, I think he’d just fixed her fire alarm not two weeks ago.
“Again?” I asked. Of course what he was really doing, I would bet a month’s rent, was returning Abigail’s car keys. The little MG was back in its usual parking space.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
We’re well into our training. Deep enough to know our hotspots (both big toes and a chronic half corn/half callus along the bottom side of right foot) and so far into fundraising that we couldn’t turn back if we wanted to... or would we? It’s clear that I will make this walk, it’s equally clear that not everyone will. I’m not training with my team, which is based in Tampa/Clearwater, but the Atlanta women I see every weekend, who represent teams in this city, in Washington, D.C., in Detroit and San Diego, have become a kind of surrogate team for me. We egg each other on, discuss fundraising goals met and not met and share ideas for raising more money. We have by now shared abbreviated, or not, life stories and have developed, through the weeks, a line of gossip that runs like a soap opera.
We are all very nice women. By and large. But we have ranged ourselves into two packs: front and back. And a pair of friends who show up every weekend for a five-hour stroll. I walk in the back and lately, I walk alone.Last week, I cheated. As I was walking alone, trying to convince myself that the pace I was setting was just fine (indeed, it was; for the first time, my feet didn’t hurt), I reached Monroe just north of Ansley Kroger where I knew the front pack was probably already gathered. I hooked a left and caught up. No one noticed.
A little later, I paced with the leader of the second pack and and her team past the golf club on Montgomery Ferry but instead of bearing left for a steep hill into Sherwood Forest, I offered a short cut to my companions. They all agreed and we beat the walk leader and the rest of the front pack on to Friar Tuck Drive.
“Cheaters!” they cried. We just laughed, joined forces and for about 15 minutes I kept up with the fastest walkers, losing them on another hill near Peachtree. Along Peachtree I foundered until one couple, passing me, asked if I was okay.
“No,” I gasped. “I’m falling behind.” Metaphorically speaking, this is the story of my life.
“It’s not a race,” one reminded me. “The last thing you want to do is injure yourself.”
“I don’t want to get left behind,” I panted, surprised by the honesty only 12 hot miles could yield.
“Just relax,” she said and forged on ahead at a stroll. Of course, she and her companion were both over six feet and a good 20 years younger than me. but still...
If it’s not a race, why won’t you slow down? Another hour of salty self pity.
How pathetic. One of the first things I’d learned during the 3-Day training is the importance of finding your own pace. Walking too slow is as bad as walking too fast.
Despite lagging behind along Peachtree I caught up with Bridget and Lynn at Colony Square and continued eavesdropping on their chat. Lynn is a lesbian and mother who is divorced from her son’s female legal co-parent. She was talking about this woman’s controlling ways. We bent her ear from Peachtree and 12th to the Publix on Spring and 9th when I think my lecture on power allowed her to find her own faster pace...away from me
She’d been talking about how she lets her ex take her power and leave her vulnerable. “You’re the birth mother? You have the power.” As if that was the easiest thing in the world. No, not easy. But simple and so basic. But because the co-parent was not the birth parent, Lynn, in the hopes of easing that inequality, was giving up many other equally basic rights: schedules that were convenient to both, choices of where to live and others.
When you’re used to giving up power, whether it’s because you’ve been long trained to it (Mommy’s little helper) or because you’re too polite or guilty over being the one with the real power that you think giving up the lesser stuff is what a nice girl would do (piffle), you’re giving up power. You are distracting yourself from what is real. You are not respecting yourself or what is. I know this. Now.
Wasn’t I, by fretting over everyone else’s pace, not giving enough respect to my own? After all, I was 12 miles in and for the first time in weeks, my feet weren’t hurting. Isn’t that the balance I had to find?
Giving up your real pace, whether by walking too slow or pushing too fast, is similar to giving up power of another kind.. Actually, it’s identical. It’s lying about who you are and what you have in the world to make someone else feel .... what? Less lonely? Less like a loser? Less slow? The problem is, when you’re in the throes of the walk, whether it’s the 3-Day, the cancer or the god damned daily hump, to limit yourself for the sole purpose of creating an illusion for another is wrong. It’s a lie and that hurts both.
Friday, August 29, 2008
I left before the pizza arrived. My car, to my intense relief, started at once. I drove home quickly navigating the easy turns from Buford Highway to Piedmont and Lindbergh, making a mental note to return to the flea market as soon as possible.
The rain had stopped and low and behold, our missing maintenance man appeared to have returned. I slowed down when I spotted his El Camino in front of the model.
Stephen, struggling with yet another overstuffed cardboard box approached. I lowered the fleetwood’s automatic window.
“Can you use some more stuff?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said, unlocking the back door. “I’ll take it now.”
“Come by when you get settled,” he said, settling the box behind me. “This is just some miscellaneous stuff Nancy’ll want to replace anyway.”
After changing into jeans and brushing my teeth, I took a peek inside the box. Next weekend, I figured, I’d sort out all the crap they’d dumped on me and keep what I wanted. Look at this, I thought. Shirts, a clock radio, a pair of worn Frye boots? Good God, was he moving in?
Judith was too far ahead to hear me call her name, nor did little Nicholas, circling her on his new bike, seem aware of anyone but his mom. She looked more tired, yet younger in her tight jeans and oversized sweatshirt. I'd never seen her from this perspective, a mother and a lone woman, not the velvet and steel professional whose pronouncements had begun to infect my conscience. I realized how tiring it must be to be so on all the time and wondered just how disappointing the weekend in Big Canoe had been for her.
She didn't see me until Tim, sauntering out from Abigail's townhouse --- after locking and pocketing the front-door key --- saw us both and called to us both. Then she turned around with a start and smiled at me feebly.
"Your back," she called. I hurried to catch up.
What, I was thinking, was Tim doing in Abigail's?
Thursday, August 21, 2008
“I was interested in you,” whispered Patty.
“Me? You mean my job?” I was feeling the early stages of a bummer, a flicker of paranoia mixed with disassociation. What was I doing here?
“Not your job. Well, sort of. I wanted to know what it was like to, you know, find a dead person.”
“Because she used to live here?”
“I guess. And because I live in her apartment here.”
“You live across the hall?”
She nodded. “I moved in about a month ago.”
“No wonder there’s so much filing to do,” I said.
“Yeah, I remembered her name when Barbara told me about the accident.”
“But you were shopping me before Abigail died,” I reminded her.
“That’s true. That was for Barbara. The next day was for my own curiosity.”
“Pepperoni okay with you girls,” Ricky called.
“Sounds great,” said Patty. I said nothing. I was leaving. But before I left, I took a chance.
“Patty, I’m trying to figure out whether it mattered that Abigail lived here before she moved to Arborgate or if it was just a coincidence.”
“Why? Why wouldn’t it be a coincidence? She just fell and hit her head.”
“You think she was pushed?” asked Ricky from the doorway. He’d stretched the phone cord as far as it would go trying to reach for his wine glass. “You think someone hit her? Why? Was she bleeding?”
I handed him his glass.
“She wasn’t bleeding. If she’d bled, she cleaned it up, but I didn’t see a cut or anything. Just a bruise on her forehead.”
“You’re just trying to make something of it, aren’t you?” said Patty. “You’re just bored.”
“I'm not bored, just curious. I didn’t get a chance to read her whole file. Why don’t you finish the filing and let me know what come up with? She had a visitor drinking vodka with her the day she fell. I’m wondering who it might be. If it was someone she knew from here.”
"Don't look at me," said Ricky. "I don't do hard liquor."
“I don’t think her drinking buddies are going to be in her file, but what the hell, it can’t hurt to get that job finished.” Patty snapped her fingers and pointed to me. “You obviously didn’t get much done.”
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Patty/Patsy and I held a good long staring contest completely ignoring Ricky, who, taking advantage of hosting a possible cat fight ran to the kitchen. I know that because he emerged moments later with a bottle of burgundy and three heavy-leaded Mexican wine glasses. There was an unlit joint sticking out of his mouth and a shit-eating grin in his beady brown eyes. It was the joint that distracted me.
“Uh,” I said.
“Oh, Ricky, we’re kinda working here,” said Patty and then looked my way. “Aren’t we?”
“Well,” I shrugged, “a glass of wine might be nice.”
“It’s Christmas!” said Ricky settling onto the couch. Patty joined him. I took the chair opposite, dragging it up to a dinged coffee table.
The trick for me was to get through the next hour without letting Patty know I’d pilfered her filing cabinet so when she asked me what I was doing here, I said Abigail had listed this address in her Arborgate application and since I’d been working here I’d come over to see… “Whatever there was to see. It sort of feels like I’m paying my respects somehow,” She nodded, swallowing wine with a thirsty gulp. I wondered briefly where she had spent the afternoon.
“How did you like our office here?” she asked, stretching back against the leather cushions, letting herself slide down against the smooth surface. Not leather, naugahyde.
“Seems friendly.” I turned to Ricky. “Did you know Abigail?” I asked, picturing them on the couch watching Mary Tyler Moore on a Saturday night.
He nodded enthusiastically, but that might have been caused by his attempt to hold in a mouthful of smoke. He flattened his lips and let it escape. When he leaned in my direction, arm extended, I took the joint and held it, letting the damp end dry a bit before helping myself to a polite toke.
“Nice lady,” he said and stopped, catching a meaningful look from Patty. If it was supposed to shut him up, it worked. If it wasn’t, well, Ricky wasn’t saying more about Abigail.
“Are you coming back tomorrow?” asked Patty.
“I’m supposed to. There’s a lot of file---office stuff to do. You have a lot of move-ins for January?”
“We do.” She took the joint and inhaled.
We sat quietly for another round of passing and sipping. Finally, I asked, “What were you doing at Arborgate, anyway?”
“Oh, just shopping the complex.”
“Who asked you to do that?”
“Barbara. She’s afraid Judith’s going to get her job.”
“Judith wouldn’t live here on a bet,” I said. Neither would I if it came to that.
She flushed. “I believe you, but Barbara thinks this place is great.”
“It is great,” said Ricky. “It’s got a pool and lots of women. It’s close to 85.”
I ignored him. “Are you afraid of losing your job?”
“No,” said Patty. “But if I do I’m moving to Buckhead.”
We were at an impasse. I’d kept my secret but I had a feeling she had kept her own. What her secrets were I don’t know, but they had to do with Abigail. Without revealing that I’d seen the her files I didn’t see how I could learn what her interest was in Abigail. Unless –
“Did you know Abigail?”
“No!” she coughed a lunger of smoke.
“Then why were you so interested in her apartment?”
Monday, August 4, 2008
date due slips
* other slips of paper
* homework assignments
* sheets of toilet paper (clean, thank goodness)
* Kleenex (clean and used)
* library cards (we scan these into the computer to check out materials and the patrons are supposed to keep them!)
* actual bookmarks
* a surgical clamp
* a bobby pin
* a notification that someone had received a raise
* an assortment of bills and letters
* a season pass to Worlds and Oceans of Fun in Kansas City
* a band-aid
* a leaf
* wedding pictures
* other photos
* the receipt from a visit for psychoanalysis
* thank you cards
* drivers licenses
* a packet of tropical punch flavored Kool-Aid
* a yellow 3-inch rubber snake
* bird poop
* creepy crawlies
* a dry flower
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
The apartment was on the ground floor. As I was going through a pile-up of old mail, including a Penney’s catalog addressed to Abigail, a door opened to (and there’s no other word for it) reveal the boy next door.
He could have been about thirty going for something younger and yet more sophisticated: WKPR meets McMillan. From his blow-dried do to his high-waisted tight jeans he was giving the look his all. In one hand he held a glass of red wine. He fingered his mustache suggestively. Or maybe he was checking it for dribbles. In the dim light of the entry way I really couldn’t tell.
“You're back early,” he said, then stopped when he realized I wasn’t whoever he was expecting.
“Hi!” I squeeked.
“Looking for Patty?” he said. “I just saw her up at the model.”
I swallowed and smiled.
“No. I’m here to see Abigail.”
Secure about his mustache, he now leaned against the door jamb, giving me a peek into his living room, a temple of macramé and leather.
“Oh, he got rid of her months ago. Patty’s the squeeze these days.”
“He?” A man in Abigail’s life was something new. Could he have been the vodka drinker?
“The man himself. Here’s Patty pulling up right now.” He grinned. As grins go, it wasn’t bad. He might have been a beautiful baby.
The woman stomping up the cement path looked awfully familiar to me. “Holy crap,” I said, looking around frantically for a way out.
“Hold on, sweetheart, I’ll introduce you.”
“No, thanks,” I said, and slipped under his arm, into his apartment and through the kitchen where I stopped, confronted by a solid wall. Where the hell was the back door to this place?”
I could hear the sound of Patty opening the building’s front door and what must have been their ritualized and flirtatious greeting.
“Friend of Abigail’s just left,” I heard him say.
“Abigail? Really, who?”
“Didn’t say. Little Yankee girl with red hair, ‘bout your size.”
I held my breath to pray, please God, I’ll find a Catholic Church in Atlanta and come back just, oh what the fuck,” I thought, “What’s she gonna do to me anyway?” And with that brave thought, I swaggered out.
“Miss Appleton? I understand you’ll be moving to Buckhead?”
Jaws do drop. Hers, elongated by inbreeding, fell about a foot.
“Uh, what are you doing here?”
“Oh, just checking references,” I said. “That townhouse you were so interested in might be available sooner than you think, so I thought I’d buzz by after my day with Barbara and Tina to let you know.”
“Very funny. Ricky says you were looking for Abigail, not me.”Right.
The class was great! I'd forgotten how exciting it is to teach to students who are not necessarily interested in writing but who are artists and therefore interested in the same/similar passions. For many visual artists, words are simply more pictures; agreed-upon symbols and yet another tool for seeing.