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One benefit of growing up a tomboy, challenging myself to climb trees and conquer jungle gym equipment, became clear this weekend. The exterior of our house was in dire need of paint. Throughout August, I dabbed away one gallon at a time, anticipating the rebate sale that occurred over labor day. Fourteen gallons of exterior, a four inch brush, and rented scaffolding greeted me early Saturday morning.
Never having dealt with scaffolding before, I found it quite functional and easy to assemble. This, only because I have the requisite strength, agility, and fearlessness to assemble and work from the structure.
Why is it that I enjoy painting structures? My mother also was content as she painted our home in Pullman. Her father-in-law, a commercial painter at one point in his life, taught her. So is it genetic?
I know that I experience a sense of accomplishment as a walll, a section, a side is completed. I know that this work is very different from that which provides my livelihood and security. Also, I understand that I cannot afford to have someone else do this for me. And, I delight in touching every surface of this beloved home of twenty-two years.
Sitting on the deck; freeway roar’s elevating. Thursday last I couldn’t even hear the pond waterfall, thirty feet away. Suspect it will be like that again tonight. For now though, I’m content. Though the house painting is still in process, I’ve accomplished much. And, tomorrow is the first day of classes at Union High School.
I haven’t written much about it, but I’ve been living it four weeks. In the morning, one of the most important days of this adventure unfolds. Tonight I paint my toenails, prepare my day kit, and bless the spirits that contrived to get me here.
For the first time in twenty-five years, I left work on the first day of school, “on time.” Incredible. Though the day was intense, it wasn’t grueling. Smiling, I left my office with plenty of energy to take care of home needs. Wow.
The lyrics of David Byrne’s song, “Watching the Days Go By,” keep running through my brain; “and I ask myself, how did I get here?” Way back at the beginning, when Grey and I were teaming on so many projects and presentations, there was positive energy in my work. ”Same as it ever was...” almost, not quite.
There was one moment in my life when everything seemed perfect. Before, some component always was missing, but on this particular afternoon, midway through my four mile run, a sense of complete calm, optimism, and joy filled me.
In my early thirties, I had a job I loved, I was as fit as I’d ever be, my marriage was solid and loving, sex was consistently satisfying, we owned a house, a car & truck, had enough money to make ends meet AND go on vacation.
I wanted the moment to last my lifetime. It couldn’t. Always, something’s missing; wages of age.
Plump and plenty, windfall pears charmed me from their roadside perch this morning. This wonderful old orchard, still thriving though tangled by overgrown blackberry canes, produces lovely fruit. Protected by its location under the BPA power lines, it is a reminder of the rural, agricultural history of this region.
This past spring I noted that the rains held off during pear blossom time, allowing the bees to pollinate, so I anticipated a healthy crop. And they are lovely; no bugs, natural bumps and bruises from their Newtonian fall, and freshly sweet and crisp. They are a gift from the universe.
As teachers from the Visual and Performing Arts School chatted over their lunches and enjoyed the pear crisp with vanilla ice cream I’d invited them to consume, I realized how important it is to provide a reason to “sit down” together.
The expression, sit down, overused in contemporary American parlance, has become a cue that significant verbal exchanges: did, are, or will occur. I find I’m chuckling at myself as I realize that a simple, homemade pear crisp gave people a reason to be together. Reason to laugh, share ideas, celebrate creativity, commiserate; to begin forming a union within Union.
Lydia sensed it in his voice that afternoon; a certain tension in his phrasing, a flatness in his tone, a cold edge in his words. Like bird tracks in the sand or a wisp of smoke in the chilly air, over the years she came to recognize the signs. Still, the suddenness of his snap, from a smile at one moment to a glaring sneer the next, always caught her by surprise.
Blaming her for his rage, he would emotionally and verbally freeze her out. Lydia responded with anorexic dieting and exercise. She was never thin enough to please him.
In October. He worked an archeological dig 300 miles away He wasn’t sure if he’d come back. She’d better lose some weight.
All day, snap back goes that taut band of thought
Saturday - arrival and departure day
And where is he?
And who is he?
And who am I?
Questions without answers but
with wide open beaks
ah - waiting
which is what I get
The big fat answer in nothing at all
No messages waiting for me.
Featherless, naked hope
washed up on the shore
like a cast away dream
Two obsessions have me now: painting the house and building a web presence for UHS counseling. Eighteen hours I painted this weekend. Though sore and bruised, I’m elated to be close to finishing. Each side has a section that I couldn’t get to, so it’s still a patchwork quilt with most sides bright and fresh, and only a few drab panels left.
Although I’ve not had technical training in this venture, I volunteered to take on maintaining a counseling webpage presence at UHS. Hacking my way around the site, I use trial and error to determine what works. Scientific method!
Local NPR radio newscast; “report of airplane hitting WTC in NYC.” Eyes pop open; all senses alert. Up, I turn on TV news. Shit-oh-dear-my-God. Watching, in real time, oh-my-God; another tower hit. Body won’t move. Must tell Creighton. Will make him crazier. Or maybe not. Must let him see it. Standing together transfixed, gaping, stunned, shocked.
negative burned into the brain,
spirit unable to absorb.
rippling, rearing, roaring,
sneaky snake bites.
new moon anxiety;
elevation of all senses,
mule headed will emerges;
clatter of hoof on baked shale
Money penny, honey money, henny penny, mony mony, mony’s moaning, mony’s horny, horny hottie, hottie toddie. Pussy pussy, kitty kitty, galore glamoré, glamour clamor. Hey, hey, hey. Tink , tink, tink...signals Odd Job, Korean hat man, kills with efficiency. Oh my,, girls with galactic tits. All are blond, wasp waisted. What’s the deal? Brunets are smarter. Can’t t be easily typecast.
Fngerdigger, golddigger, “Goldfinger beacons you to enter his web of sin, but don’t go in. He loves only gold.” So why am I watching? Should have gone to bed already. Such disinginuity, oh god, I just want to sleep.
Thirty-eight years ago, September thirteen was a Saturday. At 7:00 p.m. Creighton and I were married. My parents hosted the reception at our farm home that evening. Alcohol flowed freely, and the newlyweds outlasted many guests. Dearest friends of my mom and dad were treated to an early morning, sober-up breakfast; steak and eggs.
Creighton and I arrived near midnight at the rundown Ridpath, with no reservation. Sleep, not sex was our urgent desire. On Sunday we met our hippie friends at Priest Lake for the first ever Zoom & Zonk festival. Zoom=drugs, Zonk=drugs, wine, intensity; naked hope.
Zonked on mescaline, I became one with the cool wind which swept me across a grassy meadow, agitating golden hued leaves against a cerulean sky. The men, most high on acid, circulated joints and cheap wine “to take the edge off.” A beach bonfire sparked into twilight, framing the Zoom & Zonk flag, gently flapping from a driftwood pole.
Agreeing to a skinny dip, judi and I stripped, then meandered to the lake shore, where we splashed laughing. Startled, the men focused on the coals.
I remember feeling terribly self-conscious about my body then. Funny, I wouldn’t give a shit today!
Lydia knew better. Still, she obeyed an internal voice which prompted her to do the right thing: hold him - he’s hurting, do as he asks - you’ve no choice, lose weight - you’re fat, stop blubbering - no one cares.
Maturity allowed her to dissociate from the voices. She named the negative one “Lucy.” Lucy loved to mess up Lydia’s self esteem, instill self doubt, and watch her cry. Lucy was a true bitch.
“Shut the fuck up Lucy,” Lydia growled. “Life’s hard enough without you mucking around in my brain all the time.” Lydia endured Lucy’s tantrums, and strode beyond their power.
They opened the record store on Main Street, December 13, 1972. Lydia worked at a restaurant to make ends meet. Six days and four nights a week she strived. For a while things were good, but when “Big Bankrolled Tapes and Records” opened around the corner, the little store faded, then closed on its second anniversary.
Ice encrusted the U-haul truck’s lock, as they loaded their few remaining possessions. Broken and bitter they retreated to the west. Only Lydia’s family waved good bye. All the friends they’d counted on were living their own lives, doing their own thing; truckin’ on.
They were able to stay at his parent’s house, where his mother grieved over the loss of her marriage, the potential loss of her things, and spun in a self-created cocoon hour after hour.
His dad entertained them with scotch and dinner in the local motel where he’d established temporary residence. Bleak. From bitter, broke betrayal, to bleak, biting blame.
Bright and intelligent, with a BA degree, Lydia’s internal hackles raised as she knelt to clean a refrigeration display case in the sandwich shop where she earned minimum wage. Too much, too little, too crazy. She began planning her suicide.
Model thin, and stunningly handsome, Lydia donned her just above the knee skirt, and tucked in a blouse. In stylish platform shoes, she walked into every upscale establishment in the mall, applying for jobs. A massive recession meant few were hiring, but the jewelry store manager, noticing her education and experience, gave her hope.
She started in the stock room; unpacking boxes, placing merchandise on the right shelf, and nicely wrapping expensive purchases of customers. Soon she was moved into table and giftware sales. Though uncertain at first, she quickly gained confidence, and soon began her rise into management roles.
Attending a hosted reception (by invitation) sponsored by the New York Mercantile Exchange, Lydia knew she was nearing the pinnacle of success. The little girl from podunktown, gazed down into the Manhattan nightlight from the 30th floor of the recently opened World Trade Center.
Nurtured and mentored by one of the best giftware buyers on the west coast, her knowledge and self-esteem had blossomed. Still, as she drifted among the unknown faces, while observing her mentor gladhanding many, Lydia was alone. When an arduous and distant young man moved her into isolation, she countered with what always worked, “very married.”
Grey called last night. Hyenas are running wild; chaos and dissension rule. Fearing for his life, he’s checking on an escape route. Go for it, I encourage, they can’t refuse when your doctor mandates it.
Teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, Creighton and I bravely fight off one financial curve ball after another. We’re wearing thin, running short on options. More assets than cash...hard rock in today's climate.
Looking around, I still have a sense of optimism. Crazy girl that I am. Something in me refuses to give in to doom and gloom depression; must be that daily SSRI.
Thinking back to an incident from twenty-eight years earlier, Lydia wasn’t sure whether the hotel room was in Dallas, Atlantic City, or New York. She remembered precisely what happened. The internal video rerun which riveted her brain constantly thereafter, appeared only occasionally anymore.
Why did it return today, she wondered. Outside, sheltered in her own home grounds; what brought that memory back into her now?
Her respected and admired mentor invited other members of the buying guild to his room. Lydia brought a bottle of acceptable port, and waited for him to pontificate. He didn’t. Other’s left. She was last.
“Close the door,” he said. Lydia wanted that damned bottle of port, but realized she was in a compromising situation and would have to leave it. “Close the door,” he repeated. Standing erect, face forward, her eyes in direct contact, she replied: “I will, I’ll close the door behind me as I leave.”
And she did.
She determined to find a different path, one less fraught with men wanting her, demeaning her. She determined to follow a path where men and women were equally remunerated. She decided to follow a path of earned power. She worked hard to get there.
Lydia felt her brain grow, expanding as she devoured information, knowledge, and synthesized concepts through all her senses. She consumed texts as a parched person would drink deeply and long. Dedicating herself to excellence and mastery, Lydia rose to the top of her class.
With a master’s degree and renewed self-worth, at thirty-three Lydia launched into a new career; one in which salary was based upon degrees or education level attained, plus number of years service in the system, regardless of sex.
Tapped by her peers to lead, Lydia’s self-confidence consolidated as her skills increased; she epitomized “power of person.”
She was particularly troubled that he would never apologize; never see that he had any responsibility for the rift, for the breach of trust. From his perspective, it was always her fault that he got upset; that he yelled at her; that he cooled and drank excessively; that he had to smoke himself into oblivion. Always, Lydia’s fault.
Something snapped inside when, raging, he spewed at her; “You and your ilk!” Like there was something subhuman about being female; like because someone had been untrue to him in his youth, she and all women were to blame; like original sin.
While he was working the dig, she enjoyed her daily routine. Still attending undergraduate classes, Lydia swam daily, and earnestly changed her eating habits. Borrowing the book from a girlfriend, Lydia scoured the early edition, “Women’s Almanac.” Reading about self-stimulation, she decided now was the right time to explore her sensuality. At first trepidatious and guilt-laden, gradually she would relax with her body, recognize what stimulated her, and give herself permission to enjoy.
Almost every morning, her radio alarm awakened her with the same country song, “easy lovin’, so sexy lookin', life with you’s like living, in a beautiful dream.”
Unswervingly; it was in their vows, to honor, etc. unswervingly, till death did them part. She trusted that he wasn’t swerving. Yet, upon his return, he accused her of having an affair in his absence. Any swerving she’d done had been with herself, and that didn’t count.
He pestered her to coerce a confession for something that hadn’t happened. Creating his own mythology, he behaved as though it were true. Eventually she confronted him. “I can only conclude that you must have had the affair, since you’re obsessing about something I didn’t do, you must be projecting your own guilt.”
For years, when depressed or angry, he’d flash the infidelity accusation at her, using it as reason for his irrationally cruel, emotionally mean conduct.
Thirty-five, confident, skilled, and fed up, she calmly and assertively confronted him. “I find your persistent doubt about my fidelity to be extremely insulting. If you want to continue to have a relationship with me, you will change this obtuse, offensive behavior.”
Every-once-in-a-while, he’d regress. With flared nostrils, Lydia’s eyes would narrow, meeting his in a black flash. Jaw tight and shoulders squared, she’d remind him “in no uncertain terms” that he was out of bounds.
As he drove home, snow continued to accumulate. Cresting the only down hill slope left, he confronted potential disaster. An SUV, towing children on a saucer, had stopped at the bottom of the hill. A car in front of him, hugged the curb; neither car could stop. Knowing contact was unavoidable, he calculated the trajectory of both cars, and successfully maneuvered his to insure the line of each would miss the children.
Taking the blow on the driver’s side door, the damage was minimal to both vehicles. The damage to his structure would play itself out over the ensuing years.
A break in the rains, allowed me to complete the exterior painting today. A wonderful sense of satisfaction fills me knowing I’ve touched every outside surface, and our home is protected again. Just in time, as the weather has definitely turned. Time to clean out the gardens, get the outdoor furniture under cover, and stack dry firewood on the patio. Warm wood fires; my favorite part of the upcoming season.
For two Friday’s, I’ve worked the Union football game ticket booth. I’d hoped to see the game, but though I hear the band and crowd, I face the parking lot.
After the Zoom & Zonk festivities, they drove to the Oregon coast. His parents had invested in a vacation condominium in Gearhart, and had given the newlyweds a full week free. It rained, and they stormed.
Given her theatrical perspective, and with her mother and older sister’s assistance, she’d acquired two peignoir sets. “Must make a grand entrance into married life.” The white one pleased her most. Standing in front of her bedroom mirror, modeling to herself, she imagined his eagerness as she graced the bridal suite.
What a blow. He didn’t want her chiffon or fantasy. He wanted her cunt.
The Tip Jar