Monday, January 31, 2011

“I hate grease and what it stands for.” Vita in Mildred Pierce


One of the headlines on the Yahoo home page one morning is: Are repairs to your house keeping you awake at night. Yahoo knows me inside out and there’s little I can do about it.
This is what I lie awake thinking about my house:  The topmost gutter that is now too scary to reach and is therefore clogged with two years worth of rotting leaves that will eventually totally rot and ruin something called a soffit.  I used to be brave enough to climb out the window of the top floor bedroom onto the slope of the roof, hold on to the projecting gable trim until I reached the flat part, climb onto it, get on my stomach and inch my way like a paratrooper at Iwo Jima to get to the gutter grab the contents and put them in the Hefty bag I had stuffed in my pocket. When I was solidly on the topmost flat part, I even had the presence to survey my entire .16 acre and sneak a peek at a few other yards.   Of course, I had on my best ground gripping sneakers and also my best underwear in case I fell and died.
Last fall I climbed out the window three times and could not summon the courage to continue.  There was about a two-foot spread where I could not reach the gable trim and had to just crawl un-tethered up the slope and I could not do it. I think about those rotting leaves and have climbed out onto the roof several times and climbed back in, locked the window, pulled down the shades and gone downstairs.
The second thing I think about is the state of my eighty year old septic system. When you see that cesspool guy pull into your driveway with that huge barrel-shaped truck and his t-shirt reads:  “your s**t is our bread and butter” you realize that you can pay off your mortgage and lock the door at night but you will never escape dealing with the world. 
We’ve all been led to believe that our responsibility for what’s under our care stops at the kitchen drain.  You think that the government or some municipal department or the universe or some other entity is in charge of the place where all waste goes.  Nobody teaches you about drain etiquette.
The drain, I’ve learned, is connected to an unforgiving eco-system that while it sounds sort of simple and dorky can turn on you like a mad cobra. Everything that goes down either helps it or hurts it. Grease hurts it bad.  Tempting as it is, you can’t pour all your bacon grease down the kitchen sink without eventual disaster.  And, guess what?  It’s your responsibility to keep the system in good health.  Otherwise you have to deal with the man in the t-shirt with that message.
No matter how much further up we arrive on the evolutionary ladder, how much faster we can download a file, how instantaneously we can connect by phone to China, our waste systems are still in the Middle Ages. In fact, they are worse because back then they used waste to enrich the fields.
This is some of the mind clutter I could leave behind if I would just sell the house and be done with it. If I sold the house, I would take the money, put it all in a big briefcase and sit on a park bench for a few hours without one other possession and then begin anew. No pictures of the kids when they were babies, no sentimental knickknacks, a clean new start.  Buy a toothbrush, buy a bowl, maybe a spoon.  When the old house next door to me sold they tore it down and built a big showy house.  The house across the street has been sold and rebuilt twice in the last five years.  In the current phase, they added another wing and a stone chimney and moved the entrance to the side.
I don’t know what my new wealthier neighbors are going to think about my dowdy little house.   It may become a blight on the neighborhood because of its size and vintage. I see the handwriting on the wall – and it doesn’t bode well for my lifestyle.  Maybe Yahoo will tell me what can be done.

On the e-book front there is encouraging news.  I sold twice as many books in January as I did in December and one title “Nothing To Lose” accounts for more than half of the sales.  I did have a small ad for this book in the middle of the month but the sales came much later.  The other title that has surprised me is "Report From The Heart."  As I've said, when I read this non-fiction book about my life as a young mother, I become very uncomfortable.  I never promote it.  This month, the title has been selling despite the fact that I keep it locked up in the attic.  Now here’s the thing about selling books on the internet:  things happen and you don’t know why.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sample Sunday: "Whatever you did, just let it go." excerpt from 100 Open Houses



Given my present thought process, something really strange happened in church on Sunday. Father O’Connell is on vacation and this other priest said mass.  He was quite old and we could hardly hear him.  
We were prepared to just sit through it, the way we did when we had a substitute teacher.  Almost in a whisper, he began talking about reconciliation – that’s what they call confession now.  He said,  “Whatever you have done, let it go.  You aren’t children anymore with a laundry list of sins – I hit my brother, I told a lie, I stole some candy - in order to be okay with God.  Just get rid of everything – let it go and you will be closer to Jesus. If you’ve had an abortion, if you’ve been abusive to your family – just let it go. Let it all go.  It’s all right. One of you,  “he emphasized, “sitting here today, will be transformed.” 
The entire congregation remained still.  Almost dumbstruck.  We weren’t prepared to actually hear something we could use never mind being transformed.  After church, I saw this young handsome man – not your typical devoted Catholic - go up to the priest and say – “I’m not from this parish but that is the best homily I have ever heard.”  There was a long line of people and they were all saying much the same thing.  They had been longing to find a way to get rid of all the things they were ashamed of doing and this brilliant old priest had told them it was okay to let it all go. He was telling us that he was certain – without a doubt – that this was not only okay, but also necessary.
After mass, I did something I seldom do – something all of us seldom do – I sat in the living room.  I sat on the couch I had bought at the Bloomingdale’s outlet store.  There was nothing to do in the living room except look around.  You couldn’t cook there or eat or watch television. The living room, I have to tell you, is a useless room that we have been told is necessary.  I felt as if I was visiting and all the stuff in there was new to me.   After the “letting go” talk, if you take it seriously, you have a lot of space in your head to think about other things.
It has resulted in putting me in a strange state of lethargy.  I feel all dry and papery.  I’m made of parchment paper. I keep thinking that contrary to my current fervor for staying alive, there might be something to dying.  No more humidifying and dehumidifying.  No more coughing at night or worrying about anything.  If nothing else, the weight issue is moot.
When you send the e-mail down to your psyche saying, “hey, it’s time to open up, we want some life changing moves up here,” it reacts.   I had stated a purpose and begun a plan and although it wasn’t frontal lobotomy or entering a non-speaking religious order, it was change and there’s nothing like change to make the psyche squeeze out a miserly bit of self-revelation.
What was revealed to me on that chilly for June Sunday morning was that no matter what I did or where I lived or if I chose to pitch a tent in the Mojave dessert there was a fist sized hunk of worry smack in the center of my chest and if I didn’t address it, I was not going to really move. 
There was no media noise so I was aware of the silence in the house.  In my Sunday morning clarity, I knew that it was a hunk of heaviness that had been sitting in my chest for a very long time.    I went into my default site of things to worry about, the kids’ safety, my health, mental illness and plumbing problems in a town where plumbers are the new rock stars.   If you’re not going to follow the blueprint for the American Dream, you have to fight hard not to think ill of yourself.
This wasn’t about the kids or the house. This hard impenetrable thing was a hunk of worry about me, Rebecca, and what had happened to her.   I bypassed my instinct to find some quick answer and thought about what my life was like from moment to moment. What I said to certain people and what I said to others.  Was I authentic with anyone? Did I have enough friends? What mattered to me? Did anyone really love me?  Was there anyone who couldn’t live without me?  Do you even want someone who can’t live without you?  No, you don’t!  I’ll give you a profile of that man without even meeting him.  Needy, needy, needy.  And possibly in need of long-term therapy.  You want someone who can live without you but would like to spend some time with you. 
I had an m.o.  As long as I could find the irony in everything that happened, I could make a case for an existence that resided on the sidelines while everyone else was actually living. Being ironic was no substitute for living but so help me I thought it was.   Louise was living all of the time.  She knew at least a dozen couples that she and her husband saw on a regular un-ironic basis.  She had friends she had known for forty years. She played tennis with her friends and went to baby showers.  She had a sequential life.  She definitely did not start over every morning.
I thought about my premise that a move outside my comfort zone would jump-start a new life, a new routine, new connections and a new me. I was definitely ready to re-define myself.  As what?  A spunky middle-aged woman?    Then this British guy was on Oprah and he wrote a book on happiness and he said you would never be happy if you had a destination addiction.  First, why anyone would listen to a Brit talk on the psychology of happiness is beyond me.  But I did take a little interest in his “destination addiction” theory.  He was saying that as long as you thought that your happiness depended on something that was going to happen in the future, you were a dead duck.  Or an unhappy duck. What I got from that Brit was that if I thought I was going to jump start my stalled writing career by moving to a monastic cell in New York City, I was stupid, stupid, stupid. And misguided.  And delusional.   I had to start being happy right here in Huffy The House. And while moving was a good idea, I would already be the committed reclaimed writer when I arrived.
So there was no avoiding it then.  I had to begin thinking of the story I wanted to tell.    What story was I just bursting to tell?  First of all, no writer is bursting to write anything.  Most are bursting to keep from writing.  Writing is incredibly hard and beside it, everything else appears incredibly easy.  But this particular moment, I kept still and continued thinking until I had an “aha” moment that sounded so simple, I didn’t trust it but since I had nothing else, I went with it.  Maybe the story was me!   The routines, the bad habits, the small pleasures, the calls to the utility companies, the yanking of weeds, the phantom tandem life that I was going to live one day.  Not this life but something better. Maybe this was the better life – maybe what I was writing down in my journal would make a fabulous story. Maybe my life was the story of the century.  Every single day of it  – Louise and Shana and the rep for the Dubai place and Itzonlyphil were what was in my life and if I shaped what I was writing in my journal into the odyssey it had become, I could make sense of it for myself and maybe for others, too.  Maybe what was in my head was not the jumbled thoughts of a textbook AADD but LIFE.  
 I had just read an article in the New Yorker about the dictionary of mental disorders (I’m thinking someone is sitting around saying:  there’s stealing and let’s call that kleptomania and there’s unsubstantiated euphoria and let’s call that manic behavior) There was a phrase in the article that I liked.  It said someone had an unruly inner life.  That’s what I had to document!   My unruly inner life.  I would shape what I had been writing in the journal into a book.
 It was Sunday morning and my instinct was to turn on the television and watch Meet The Press. Anything not to test my new theory that, at best, seemed weak.   I went to the computer instead.   I wrote the date and Chapter One – 9-G I wasn’t looking for an apartment…
 I started and before I knew it, Meet The Press was over and so were the McLaughlin Report and even Lydia’s Family Table.  I had just plunged into the story in an unruly way.  I introduced the old priest and what he told us and Ms. DuBois at the bank and KooKoofor$ and also Ben and Harry and even my mother and my fear of the voodoo she might be doing on my life.  When I was done for the day I felt spaced out the way you do when you spend a day at the beach and the bright sun glinting off the water makes you feel surreal.  And the salt air makes the indoors feel too quiet and unfamiliar. And your eyes can’t adjust.  I turned off the computer and had a cup of coffee.  There was no milk so I put some Turkey Hill vanilla Ice Cream in it.  I drank it slowly, in the living room. Just me sitting there.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

SampleSunday: "Yes. Uh huh. That's the way it goes." excerpt from One Hundred Open Houses



Le dernier semaine

Yesterday I spent four hours getting my taxes done at the senior center.  Once I heard that the senior center did taxes for free and did them immediately, I headed there without a qualm.   The preparer assigned to me had once been the chief financial officer of a multinational conglomerate.  He now helps comatose seniors to sort out their tax returns.  Why does the government bother these people?   Leave them alone. They’ve done enough for you.
While we were all waiting for our turn, there was inter-taxpayer conversation.  One tall man who had that gait where the legs go out to the side in a kind of cowboy walk, said:  “They raised the property taxes big time. I see the supervisor gave himself a nice raise.”  The full figured woman across from him who had on a green nylon warm-up jacket with the New York Yankees’ logo on the back, said,  “Yes. Uh huh.  That’s the way it goes.”
I don’t know if what he is saying is true, but it gives him a platform and an opening salvo to establish himself in the group.
I went to get a cup of coffee in the senior center dining room and there was a worker handing out bagels. I put my hand out and received one of the bagels. This place was probably in my future so I looked around and it was one continuous surprise.  They offer a lot of free stuff and free services.  Free yoga to begin with and then free transportation and free home repairs.  Free food, too, or hot meals delivered for a couple of dollars. The only deficiency I could see was the excess of laminated plastic in the d├ęcor. 
 I had my coffee and bagel to nibble on and I got to listen to all the seniors bitching about this and that.  It was pleasant. A new arrival, a man, came in and he could not find tax forms anywhere.  “Mind if I sit here,” he asked the woman with the Yankee jacket.
“Be my guest,” she said. 
He told her he had been to the library for forms and they were all out and the library sent him to the post office and they were all out. 
“Yes.  Uh huh.  That’s the way it goes,” she said.  I thought, this woman knows how to attract men.  She just says ‘yes, uh huh, and that’s the way it goes’.  Maybe I should try that instead of talking so much.  The other thing I realized about senior life was that you could make continuous conversation about what had just happened to you that day and it was okay.  You didn’t have to be witty or ironic.  In fact, it was preferable to be a little dull. You could just barge in and talk as if you had known these people your entire life.  It was also okay to whine because the seniors considered themselves a unit of solidarity and were not judgmental about each other.
 Imagine being able to whine to your heart’s content?  Everybody whines.  Winston Churchill whined.   Just read the letters to his mother during the Boer War. “Can’t make sense of the foxholes, my clothes are damp…”. The only person I can’t remember whining was Mary, Jesus’ mother.  The only time I remember her saying anything was when Jesus’ stayed behind on some trip.  I think she said, “Why did you do that?” which is almost exactly what I would have said.
So this was senior life and it was not unpleasant.  You could spend the entire day at the center and participate in many activities. From what I could see, you didn’t even have to be a senior.  There were people in their forties having taxes done and having their children’s taxes done, too.   I wanted to tell my friend, Delores all about this bonanza so she wouldn’t be so harsh on the government. She used to call the former president an inchoate mass of deception.  “Look, Delores.  Look at all the free stuff the government is going to give you. You think they want to take everything away but it’s not true.”  They even have a Sunshine Club although I don’t think I would join that.
If Delores went to Capitol Hill and they did everything she asked them to do and she was suddenly living in a country that carried out her ideals to the letter, including making animals more important than people, I don’t think she could adjust.
It took two hours to do my return because of all the stock shenanigans.  The guy was tired and distracted and kept saying, “Wait a minute.  That’s not right.” I started chatting about his life.  I didn’t want him to send me home without finishing.  He told me a story that was really an eye opener.   He said his mother had four boys.  She wanted a girl and kept trying but the last time she got twin boys.  “Me,” he said. 
“You’re a twin?” I asked. 
“Yes, but my brother died.  At eighteen.  I can’t talk about it.”
I thought he was going to cry like the woman one street over that can’t have a satisfying conversation with her mother. 
“My mother loved her boys,” he said.  “Once this woman was over and she said, ‘I love my girls.’ My mother said, ‘well, I love my boys.  My boys are all I want.’ And the woman said, ‘My girls are the best.’  And my mother said, ‘My boys are the best.’ They got into an argument and the woman left.  I heard all that."  
When he finished my return and I got to work there was a drama going on in the office.  The hardest worker was having a meltdown because someone was sending letters with no return address threatening to destroy her son’s reputation at his job.  This had been going on for a week. Estera, a former language teacher, (her real name is Esther but she now likes the Greek version) the woman in charge of transportation introduced something very interesting.
“When things get worrisome or have no solution,” she said, “the best thing to do is to turn them into a French translation exercise. Then she encouraged us to cobble together French words that would approximate the tribulations we had just heard. Everyone strained to remember their high school French and weigh in with a word or two.
Alors.  Le dernier semaine nous avons to bear une mal homme sending les postes tres mal avec pas de return address. Et il dit les choses mal de le fils de Suzanne. You get it. That’s how it went. 
Even though this was the weirdest mood changing solution I had ever heard, when she was done, everyone was on to something else and she had completely replaced the intensity and discomfort in the room with a whole new set of brain waves.  I’m definitely going to do that when things get tense.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Twitter Nation, Social Media, Followers and Me


The Internet has made miracles obsolete. The internet is an overreaching miracle. If you Googled “How do you turn water into wine?” you might have 50 or more answers.

Here’s my recent miraculous experience on Twitter.  For several months I had one follower on Twitter.  It was someone related to me. Two Sundays ago, I participated in a group effort suggested by one of the Kindleboard users.  It is called #SampleSunday.  It was his opinion that if we used that hashtag with a link to a sample of our writing on our blog, and if we re-tweeted all other SampleSunday participants, we would have more muscle as a group than if we just tweeted on our own.  
Nine days after beginning #SampleSunday I have 68 followers and the views of my blog have jumped threefold.  I amass more followers every day.
Sample Sunday has given me some insight into my own value system.  Most of the people who choose to follow me are strangers and although I always re-tweet my known colleagues from the Kindleboards, I re-tweet strangers on a case by case system:  I re-tweet the bald, the overweight, the lost cause, the earnest, most females as long as they don’t say “cute” things.  Go figure.
Facebook is a mystery to me.  The new Facebook is an annoyance and a mystery.
Facebook is very good for two things: pix of my grandchildren and connecting with long lost friends.  I have connected with two good friends through Facebook.  Okay three. Oh, wait, four.  I seldom tout my e-books on Facebook.  It just seems tacky.
I could begin another Facebook page for my books but I am overextended as it is.
Just this week, in a fit of solidarity, I signed up for something called digg.  I have a vague idea of what it is but no idea how to use it.

What I know for sure is that reviews sell e-books.  Nothing To Lose has three good reader reviews and it is my bestselling title.  If you’ve read any of my books and feel inclined, please add a review on Amazon.  It needn’t be long.  A couple of sentences will do. You don’t even have to use your own name.  My reviewers  are “luv2read,”
“act3” “L.C. Evans.” You get the idea.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sample Sunday: The Obesity Study. A short story from Spellcheck Nation

I dialed the number seventeen times before I got through that’s how determined I was to join.  The ad said: Eat three meals with us. Earn $100 dollars. I ran to the medical building, no make-up, wearing my worst shoes.  Here was God picking me up on a bad calorie day and saying:  How’s this for reclaiming your life?
The Obesity Center is quiet as church.  If they knew my thought processes, I’m the last person they’d want for a scientific study.  A woman with beautifully manicured squared off nails fills in my name, address, age.  She takes a survey of my preferred foods. Preferred, that is, as long as they are on her list.
What’s your favorite yogurt? Soft or regular?
None.
Soft or regular?
Soft.
Strawberry, banana, apple, blueberry?
Blueberry.
Meat or fish?
Fish
Potatoes or Rice?
Rice.
Carrots or string beans?
String beans.
Ice Cream?  Flavor?
Chocolate.
When you’re hungry, how do you feel? Anxious, depressed, neutral or happy?
Anxious.
Do you know when you’re hungry?
No.
How do you feel after you eat?
Anxious.
While you’re eating?
Anxious.
If you overeat?
Depressed.
If you eat just enough?
Anxious.
If you leave food on your plate?
(yeah, right) Anxious.
Anxious?
Yes, anxious. Anxious.
She gathers up her materials. Come back tomorrow at eleven.
Next morning, I’m put in a narrow cubby enclosed by velvet curtains.  There’s a table with a cardboard bucket (the 36 piece size they use at KFC) the top of which is covered with foil. An oversized straw is sticking out.  A voice from beyond says: you may begin at any time.  Signal you are finished by putting your straw on the napkin.
I know there’s a load of soft blueberry yogurt in the bucket. My psyche is already in disarray.  I’ve just called a potential date that refuses to drive.  He wears a shirt that says: one less car.  One less bottle of Johnny Walker is more likely.  The two events make me rebellious.  I was bullied into choosing the yogurt and now I’m sure as hell not going to sip a gallon and a half of it.  I can leave.
In the depth of my psyche I hear Sister Francisca from my convent school: You’re about to ruin a serious study because, young lady, even though God has allowed you to have three children, you are still not a serious person.
This place is for people like Walter Hudson, the morbidly obese who eat two dozen eggs at a clip.  My throat seals shut.  I feel the kind of insulin rush that produces cold sweat.  I think of the previous day with nostalgia.  Twenty-four hours ago, I was just sitting around, almost carefree.  Eventually, I fill my mouth to the limit, sprint to the bathroom and spit out.  All done, I tell Ms. Square Nails.  She administers the after dinner questionnaire.
How did you feel before you ate?
Disappointed in myself.
You must choose from anxious, depressed, calm or happy.
Anxious.
We go through the litany.  She tells me to return the next day at 12:30.
The following day…Oh, my God, anybody, help me. In the velvet-enclosed cell, a banquet spread the likes of which I’ve only seen on the AMC Channel in Sampson and Delilah or Henry the VIII.  Excess.  A cubic foot of rice, a yard of overdone frozen fish fillets, a trough of iceberg lettuce, a small mountain of Oreo cookies – frozen string beans, a sheet cake with blue icing (when did I choose the sheet cake?).  The voice says: Eat as much as you wish.  Signal you are through by placing your fork on your napkin.
I stash eight Oreos in one pocket, a fistful of undressed lettuce in the other.  Four fish fillets wrapped in the napkin go in the change pocket of my purse. I can carry it all safely to the receptacle outside the building.   I wait five minutes so as not to arouse suspicion.
Sorry about the fish, says the attendant.  My limbs are rubbery with relief.  She might not know.  I choose “neutral” for some of the responses.
One p.m. tomorrow, she says sweetly.
Next day, three gallons of Breyers chocolate ice cream cut in inch squares and piled in a perfect pyramid are in a bowl large enough to bathe a six-month-old child.  My subsequent behavior is possibly exactly what’s expected of a demented overweight person.  I’m probably a textbook case.  Without dawdling, I make it to the bathroom with 12 squares of Chocolate ice cream with hardly a stain in my handbag.
When we’re done with the questionnaire, the woman extends her hand.  “We’ll be doing follow ups,” she says.  Something about her tone creeps me out.
“I won’t be around,” I answer.  “I’m moving.”
“Oh, you won’t need to come in,” she says. “We are after all a psychodynamic facility. We can track you in many ways.”
The next morning, as I’m getting ready to leave for work, my handbag feels very heavy.  I look inside and neatly nestled in the generous inside pocket are a dozen fish fillets.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sample Sunday: Floating in a boat of "crazy" An excerpt from One Hundred Open Houses


 “There’s a vanity to candor that isn’t really worth it” Richard Greenberg

I felt crazy today.  I was so at my wits end I didn’t know how to talk to anyone. Thank god Louise left early to get her car fixed.  Everything I said felt superfluous or worse, untrue.  Not that I mind lying.  I think lying has its place.  Maybe I am crazy.  It’s like the crazy you feel when the phone company has you on hold for forty minutes and then cuts you off.  When you get them back you don’t even know where to start.  You voice -respond your problem to an electronic person.  When you finally scream:  this faaking phone doesn’t work, they answer,  “ I think I heard you say,  ‘order premium package.’ “  They stick to the script and even if you tell them you’re going to come after them with a ball peen hammer, they say : “All right then, thank you for choosing A T & T and you have a good day now.”
Suppose they’re right.  Suppose relentless civility would fix everything. Richard Greenberg, the dramatist says, “I appreciate people who are civil, whether they mean it or not.  I think:  Be civil.  Do not cherish your opinion over my feelings.  There’s a vanity to candor that isn’t really worth it.  Be kind.”
Once when I was at the point where life was out of control. I couldn’t raise the kids. Couldn’t! Couldn’t! Couldn’t! I remembered this book on Foreign Service etiquette.  Mostly it dealt with the language of letter writing. Your Esteemed Excellency:  We have noted that you are sending guerillas into the neighboring country and killing the indigent people and taking their land.  We would urge you to cease and desist or the good old U S of A will blow you up.  Your humble and obedient servant.”
I thought maybe it would fix us. I would leave notes addressing four children under ten and out of control as “Your Esteemed Excellencies,” and sign off as “Your humble and obedient servant.”
The second boy, who was a sort of genius, said “Why are we always so non-conformist?”
“What’s non conformist?” asked Maggie, third in line.
“Someone who wants to do things differently from most people.”
“I don’t want to wash my hair,” she said.
“That’s not it.  It’s like grandpa and grandma.  They go to the Presbyterian Church and drive a Chrysler and use Hamburger Helper and eat three-layer cakes made from a mix and put their garbage at the curb.  That’s conformist.  But your father and I, we drive a Toyota Camry and eat tofu and compost our garbage.
She looked confused and I felt ashamed for talking like that to a five year old just to be ironic. “I’m sorry,” I said to my little girl.  Just forget everything I said.  Mom’s crazy.”
“Ok,” she said.
This is how crazy I feel today.  I went to church to sort things out and I’m certain they’ve tampered with the gospel.  The apostles are fishing unsuccessfully and Jesus appears and tells them to cast their nets again.  This time the nets come out bulging with fish.  The priest says there were one hundred and fifty-three fish. That sounds bogus.   I had imagined thousands of fish and one hundred and fifty-three is a disappointing number for a miracle.   For the rest of the mass, all I can think of are those squirming, writhing fish.  While they were in water, they had never been touched and now they were squished against each other.  I couldn’t decide what made the fish most anxious: gasping for breath or being touched for the first time.  I told you I felt crazy. 
I had started out the morning with a calorie overload.  The bowl of oatmeal was fine. I made enough for two days (you can! – just microwave the next morning) and shaved an entire Fuji apple into it and sweetened it with Splenda.  It tasted so good I ate both portions but that wasn’t the end of it.   In the second bowl the Splenda just wasn’t doing it so I plopped in two teaspoons of Polaner Apricot Preserves.  There’s nothing that makes me feel more disoriented than overeating.  And hopeless, too. And then trapped in a black hole.
After breakfast, I saw Jim Carey on the Today Show. I first became interested in Jim Carey when I read that he had carried a check in his wallet made out to himself in the amount of twenty million dollars while he and his family were living in a ten-year-old car. That’s how he imagined his future.    It isn’t hard to see that Jim is tortured because despite his job success he suffers from sequential relationship failure.  His one on one record is so off kilter he married one woman twice.  Jim is comfortable being “on” but when he’s “off” he probably doesn’t feel real.  I suffer from the same “not feeling real” disorder.   Even when I say something somber about my life, people don’t take it seriously. Maybe it’s my delivery or the pitch of my voice.    Dr. Spock used to warn mothers to act casual and cheerful when they entered a sick room so as not to scare the children into thinking their illness was serious.  Harry would have a fever of 105 and blood was on the pillow near his ear.  I’d say, “Hey Harry, what’s going on?” even though I was trembling and could hardly dial for the doctor   When people make light of my enforced life choices, I make light of them, too.  Like Jim Carey I’m most comfortable in an emotional limbo, unable to differentiate between casual loss and real loss.  I think this is what is at the bottom of why I want to write and get it all down on paper.  It’s the only way I can find out how to behave in a really human way.
The stock market is crazy right along with me.  The new Fed Chairman Bernanke is definitely more chatty than Alan Greenspan and did not get the memo that no matter how tempting it is to be in the spotlight, he can’t just indulge in idle speculation because it causes wild moves in the market.  He dropped the “I” word (inflation) casually at a cocktail party and put the averages in negative territory for the year. The WENG I bought a couple of weeks ago was going up nicely but no more.  I will have to work forever.  I’ll be on a walker and trudging to some dreary job.    In my overfed fog I begin to question every choice I’ve ever made including the newest one. This is the worst part.  The worst, worst, worst.  If I had eaten sensibly this morning, I would not feel like this. I would feel in control and even optimistic. Where is that moment where I still have a choice? A moment when I can calmly evaluate whether I really need to put all that extra stuff in my mouth.
 I had Max give me computer help over the weekend and even though he was cranky and impatient and kept sighing as if I had held his head in a vice for two months, we set it up so that the journal writing was segregated and I could access it easily.    If I hadn’t eaten so much, I could probably think very clearly and at least begin.  If I don’t do something, I’ll feel worse than I do now so I’ll just write anything that comes to mind. I won’t even try to make it sensible. Anything.   I felt crazy today. I made oatmeal, not the quickie kind but old-fashioned oats and I cooked them in 2% milk and shaved some Fuji apple into it and even scraped a cinnamon stick and added Splenda.  I would have loved to add raisins because of the contrasting textures. I would have soaked the raisins in water until they were plump and easy to chew and not get stuck in your teeth, but I knew raisins would make the calories jump sky high so I left it alone. I cooked the oatmeal slowly, stirring constantly so it wouldn’t burn and when it was almost done, I turned the heat off, covered the pot and let it rest. 
I served myself a generous portion and spaced my bites instead of just swallowing thoughtlessly.  I took the time to cool it with an ice cube after I burned the roof of my mouth with the first bite.   When I was finished, before I was aware of it, I had scraped the rest of the oatmeal that now had had time to really cook and was all shiny and sprouted into the bowl and dressed the second ruinous portion with a dollop of Polaner Apricot Preserves.  Within several seconds, the oatmeal was inside me.   The rest of the day was just bad, bad, bad. Nothing really evil happened, but I was carrying around this dreadful fullness plus anxiety.   I couldn’t think clearly and it was hard to move with any agility.  You either know what I’m talking about or you don’t.
This journal is not about eating or weight.  Eating and weight are a manifestation of a life that needs fixing.
Even while I was writing this, I knew it probably wasn’t true – it just sounded better.  It was just about eating and weight.  That was my first journal entry and it helped to lift my mood.  It helped to put it down exactly as it happened. A mild electric current went through my system and zapped some of the fullness.

Note: this excerpt is from my e-book original: One Hundred Open Houses  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0042P5ES2

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Concierges and Destinations


Sometime at the turn of the century (this century) an industrious copywriter decided that the word “concierge” was more elegant than “information desk” and suddenly there is an embarrassment of “concierges” all over the United States.  What exactly is a concierge?
In olden times (1999) a concierge was a cranky stout middle-aged French woman who answered your tourist questions with a frown.  She lived full time in France and was installed in almost every French apartment building. A concierge was the manager of information. She might receive packages, hold keys for guests and (if in a good mood) dispense building gossip and give you romantic advice. You were scared of your concierge and grossly dependent on her.

The term “concierge” here in the U.S. is mainly a marketing tool.  If you want to live in the Park Millennium or buy one of the condos in the old Plaza Hotel or possibly in any of the Trump buildings, you probably get a “concierge” for your $6 million dollar one bedroom.    At the Plaza, you not only get a concierge but “Benny the Butler” who will wake you in person, pull the drapes open and draw you a bath. Uh huh uh.
Like everything else (including hot sauce) the concierge concept has been terminally corrupted. The majority of concierges are now virtual.  Instead of dealing with the cranky stout Frenchwoman, the exchange is conducted online or over the phone. Services provide concierge “solutions” for condominiums, corporations, hospitals and individuals. Yes,Your Highness! (do I smell sarcasm here) Concierge Services puts few boundaries on what they are willing to do for you. We lug furniture, arrange flowers, source insurance quotes, reorganize pantries, fly in overseas friends for the weekend, ship cheese to Hong Kong and pay your parking fines in person.

I don’t have any room left for talking about destinations except that the word has been corralled into adjective land as in “destination wedding.” I live in a destination and if you want to have your wedding here I will gladly be your concierge.

BTW a very generous man on the Kindleboards helped me to re-format two of my books after I re-edited them and got rid of some errors.  Thank you, Jeff.  If you want to read a free excerpt, click on any title to the right or leave me a message in the comment box with an e-mail (I'll keep it private.)  I now have five followers.  E-pubishing is the best thing to happen to writers since the printing press.
Yes, think about it.  This week I will get back to my new book and soldier on.