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My swollen cranium has caused me no little difficulty today. Forbidden from sleep, tortured with awakeness, I've been watching the only reality show I could ever possibly tolerate, "Manor House" on PBS. I know its degree of differential from "Survivor" is measured only by its snobbery factor and by British accents, but still I'm finding it pretty fascinating. It has drawn welcome attention away from my throbbing injury, thick tissues and missing membranes. It feels at times like something fundamental is seeping quietly forth from the wound, but it is nothing more than a bit of blood, scabbing obediently, incessantly.
‘Tisn't like me to gush (not much!) but the PBS reality program
was really quite remarkable. It was no surprise to learn the downstairs domestics were worked like dogs, but it was revealing to see the immense social pressures exerted on the upstairs folks. Of course, the servants were infinitely more appealing: the handsome footmen; the lascivious antics of the hall boy and the scullery maid; the tempestuous chef, who looked like Mr. Bean; the weepy, sensitive lady's maid; the stern butler and the warm, nurturing housekeeper; and the Indian tutor, a raging, screaming queen unto the end.
I blame it on genetics. My maternal grandfather was born in Torquay, England (unbelievably, while Abraham Lincoln was still President – he was an elderly man when he knocked up Gran). I am a card-carrying Anglophile. Superficially it explains my requiring a towel over shows like
. Tonight it was the wonderful Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. Similar to comfort foods. Fried ham cheese sandwiches and bubble and squeak. Anything to draw attention away from my itching scalp, a noxious, screaming gash that Tylenol with codeine cannot quiet. I dreamt I raised the bandage and thousands of maggots writhed forth.
Has anyone seen this scarifying commercial for some power drink in which slowly falling drops of water land with an audible plop and instantly turn into tiny people who are in the midst of doing something magnificently athletic? I don't even know the name of the product this advertisement is trying to sell. By the time it flashes up, I'm feverish and in the fetal position, rocking back and forth and babbling incoherently, "Please Mommy, don't make me watch
again… I'll be good…" Who in hell thought this ad campaign up?! David Lynch channeling Salvador Dali? It's positively spooky.
I'm living in self-imposed bachelor squalor. One would think it easier to keep a much smaller space clean, but it isn't. First of all, I have no room to put
thing. If I bring home a single piece of paper, it becomes a major project to find its proper place. And my upright vacuum cleaner, which whizzed and sanctified so efficiently in my old house, is far too large and clunky for such a tiny apartment, and its roar completely demoralizes the cats. Ergo I am living amongst unruly piles. And dust bunnies the size of the former Soviet Union.
Growing up in a small mill town, my siblings and I have been surrounded by eccentric characters and seamy individuals all of our lives. There was Beedie Beaner, the bald, toothless, lady school bus driver. There were the old lesbians, Miss Frier and Miss Bush (honest), who romantically died within three days of each other. And then there was Super Duck, the retarded product of an incestuous relationship, who rode his bicycle everywhere, often spotted 35 or more miles away. Supe was struck by a semi today, departing this world on his beloved bike. Like E.T. sailing across the moon.
File this under another ad campaign that gives me night terrors. Have you seen Arby's new spokesperson? It's a talking oven mitt! When it's not doing sit-ups with some steroid-riddled muscleman acting as its personal trainer (who, by the way, bared his steroid-riddled butt on an episode of
Queer as Folk
last season), its fabric face is entered into a smack-a-thon when its thoughtless bearer gives all of his many, many colleagues enthusiastic high fives. Slapstick oven mitt humor at its most lurid. And some ad exec is making a bundle off this. Have you no decency, Sir?! No DECENCY!
Let's get one thing understood. I couldn't care less how much Bill Bennett dropped at the gambling tables (over $8mil!), although I was relieved to hear from his own mouth that he "doesn't have a gambling problem" and that he never played with "the milk money." But after having this shrill virtuecrat wagging his self-righteous finger at the rest of us and smugly sermonizing how we should live our lives, I am delighted to see his credibility undermined by his own hand and hope this teaches his band of mindless lemmings something about listening to a sanctimonious prick like that.
My vituperative entry yesterday may have sounded a bit "shrill" in itself. It isn't because I deny Bill Bennett's right to gamble or his right to free speech. But the Bennetts of America scare the bejesus out of me. If the opportunity was ever afforded to him, Bennett would rule this country based upon his strict religious beliefs. I have nothing against Christians, but there is a reason our founding fathers separated church and state. Forcing children to pray to a Christian God in schools is a first step towards a Taliban-like regime – the difference a mere matter of degree.
Siphon. Cipher. Cider. Eiderdown. Geiger counter. Counting. Count Dracula. Count Sore Throat Pain. Insane. Inane. Innate. Inflate. Berate. Gyrate. Contemplate. Consecrate. Masturbate. Abate. Bait. Bite. Bison. Byzantine. Bizarre. Busy. Biz. Zebra. Zealot. Xylophone. Homophone. Homophobe. Homogeneous. Genetic. Gentry. Gesture. Gesticulate. Articulate. Masticate. Matriculate. Curate. Cure-all. All-cured. Allure. Force majeure. Horse manure. Source secure. Routine tour. Dour. Floor. Flood. Fled. Delft. Dinnerware. Have no care. Sinecure. Cinnamon. Sin of Man. Manson. Swanson. Swan song. Swanee. Over knee. Oversee. Seer's orb. Mont Sea-at-Sea. See Dick run. See Jane read. Run Dick run. Read Jane read. Redirect. Reinstruct. Reinvest. Vestibule. Vestigial. Vestments. Sacraments.
Situated in a cozy dell off one of our local roads resides a chapel with the name "Little Church by the Side of the Road," a nomenclature I have always found sweetly New England. I've never ascertained the denomination of this diminutive house of worship, but it always struck me as peaceful and happy. Its welcome sign always bore a few gentle words, like "Blessed are the Meek!" and "Jesus is Your Best Friend!" Today I rode by and decided there's a new preacher in town. The sign now bears the legend, "Are You God's Promise? Or THE DEVIL'S REWARD?"
Ironically, in my final days working for The Company, I am doing a lot more driving, as I am often required to travel to the main campus near Boston. My route takes me past a burgeoning complex of luxury condominiums called "Stonybrook Fields." It's a great marketing gimmick to reel in prospective tenants. The name conjures the sight of friendly Tudor townhouses amidst flowering, bird-sung meadows and babbling streams. It does not betray housing that faces dingy storefronts and crumbling strip malls, tired car lots and heavily trafficked roadways. More like a site fraught with rusty water and septic issues.
A mercurial day weather-wise. The sun would burst out bright and strong for a bit, then rapidly give way to overcast and sullen skies. A patch of blue would be suddenly covered by a cataclysmic black cloud, threatening and imperious. I had to have external stitches removed from my head this afternoon. Most of them dissolved, but apparently a few did not. I won't say that it hurt, exactly, but it was gruesomely uncomfortable as the recalcitrant threads reluctantly relinquished their spot in my scalp. There was a little bubbling and oozing, but the wound is now settling into scardom.
Jesse Helms came crashing through my doorway, feather boa trailing behind him. "C'mon, Girlfriend!" he commanded with imperial finality. "Bill Bennett is out of control, and we're staging an intervention!"
"I don't think I believe in interventions," I demurred. "How is Billy out of control?"
"He's gambling his savings away, constantly high on crack, and he's hiring hustlers round the clock!" Jesse responded promptly.
"I don't know, Jesse…" He put his bejeweled hand up into my face. "One more thing." Jesse's voice broke with emotion. "He's taken to wearing paisley."
"My GOD!!" I screamed. "Let's pray we're not too late!!"
We were aboard Jesse's private jet, en route to Vegas. Jesse generously allowed my new boyfriend, Ewan McGregor, to come along. Jesse, foregoing his usual bright colors, was conservatively dressed in a navy blue suit jacket and matching skirt, in deference to the grim mission at hand. "Bill Bennett has gone way over the edge, and it's our duty to save him," Jesse advised. "But it's not going to be pretty. So screw your courage to the sticking place. This might resemble the ending of
Requiem for a Dream.
I involuntarily shivered, and Ewan gave my hand a reassuring squeeze.
After arriving at Caesar's Palace, Jesse promptly disappeared, so Ewan and I went in search of him, stumbling upon Bill Bennett in the process. It was a sad sight. Bill was at the craps table, dice in hand, a wild gleam in his eyes and drooling in febrile excitement. Just then a nebbish man walked past, with a statuesque hooker on his arm. "It's a sin!" Bill admonished the startled couple. "You're slouching towards Gomorrah!"
"You don't say?" Jesse suddenly appeared on the scene, lipstick smeared, pill box hat askew. "And I just returned from the lovely land of Sodom!"
"Your friends are too bizarre," my boyfriend Ewan McGregor shouted at me during the throes of our first fight. "They're so flamboyant and contradictory – they're preachy moralists and out of control hedonists. Take that ‘intervention' we got dragged into – after awhile I wasn't certain who the intervention was for, Bill Bennett or that bigoted lunatic, Jesse Helms!" I sat silently throughout his barrage. I couldn't deny any of it. Jesse had ended up even more addicted to the gaming tables than Billy. But Ewan was simply letting off steam… I could tell he was settling in for the long haul.
In the day. Prior to cell phones and the internet. Once upon a time there was this movie called "Jaws." I would awake early, hearing my parents' radio in the kitchen. WBZ and Dave Maynard and ads for "Jaws" commingling with lyrical pitches for Heineken:
‘Whenever I see a windmill turning, against the Holland skies so clear: Suddenly, I get this tremendous yearning for the special taste of Heineken beer! Of all imported beers, only one is number one…'
So many years later, I still love "Jaws" and Heineken and films with a music score that becomes an elemental character.
Today I saw a speeding car leave the far left lane of the highway, become airborne and then, after rolling several times over the grassy median, come to a halt with a final, sickening crunch. I and several other motorists immediately pulled over and ran to the hissing vehicle. My face must have mirrored others rushing to the scene – pale, shocked, wide-eyed, afraid what we might find. As I neared the car I heard what I thought was a shriek. It dissolved into laughter, followed by some raucous "woohoo!"s. Three teenagers. Drunk beyond belief. Incredibly unhurt. Mind numbingly stupid fucks.
While waiting in line today at the busy veterinarian's office for Chloe's medicine, I flirted with a basset hound named Maggie as well as with her bearded, blue-eyed, sexy smelling owner. Maggie demonstrated her approval by vocalizing a kind of yodeling howl – Maggie's master, by flirting back. Still, in the crowded office it was awkward to exchange much information, and when Maggie was called into the exam room, Mr. Pheromone waved a regretful goodbye. I left the building to continue my day, neither one of us knowing how close we may have come to connecting in a more meaningful way.
I step outside into the backyard and the air is enlightened with the sights and fragrances of lilac, dogwood, dumb cane, blue hibiscus, and various other blossoming hybrids. The unavoidable downside to all this beauty is that they attract every kind of stinging hymenoptera known to God. Since I was nearly stung to death as a child, I have earned the right to this singular phobia. The only bee that doesn't send me into an embarrassing squealing panic is the gentle bumblebee – it's fuzzy black and yellow and black body, corpulent and languid, seems to me innocuous and almost friendly.
In the supermarket I encountered an elderly gentleman whose visage seemed to be the quintessence of the unrepentant curmudgeon, except that, atop his balding pate, existed a grotesquely large lump, the size of a shiny doorknob. What I thought at first was a reddening scab on his cranial peak was, in fact, a scrap of bloodied felt that, when lifted, exposed a zipper. At the old man's request, I loosened the fastener, and tiny stars spilled out, twinkling, scattering, magical. "You'd make an awesome piñata!" I exclaimed. He suddenly zipped his head shut, shouting furiously, "Fuck you, you little faggot!"
We have several mockingbirds in the vicinity, but one very special bird perches in the tree just outside my bedroom window and sings far into the night. Some might find it annoying, but I loved the sounds it made as it launched through its astonishing and lengthy repertoire. Interested to learn why this species would need to evolve such a refined talent, I did some research – only to learn it is the unmated male who cries at night. Now my heart aches whenever I hear it, warbling and calling and wanting. Maybe because its sad song is a familiar lament.
Twill's Film Corner.
Tonight I watched
Far From Heaven
. As an homage to 1950s director Douglas Sirk, the film's goal is fully realized, while exploring themes that could never have been approached forty years ago. Julianne Moore positively glows in this movie, despite the fact that her character's perfect little world begins crumbling around her. And Dennis Quaid's portrayal of the homosexual husband is palpable with sexual confusion and conflicted emotions. Dennis Haysbert is wonderful as the handsome, black gardener who befriends Moore. Elmer Bernstein's score is sweet and moving and faintly reminiscent of his
To Kill A Mockingbird
For as long as I can remember, my Mom has surrounded herself with scraps of paper filled with scribbled lists, reminders, and arithmetic. Today I picked up a few groceries for her; as usual, her list was scrawled on a recycled sheet, consisting of older memos and other graffiti. One cryptic entry on the back carried the reminder, in her still neat handwriting, "Do Breathing Exercises." When I asked her what that meant, I learned she had been diagnosed with COPD several months ago. She had told no one. And not one of us has noticed her labored breathing. God.
My attempt to avoid hearing the playing of "Taps" this rain-filled Memorial Day was futile, as I should have suspected. The cemetery next to the historic town square is less than a mile away as the crow flies, and following the thundering 21-gun salute that interrupts our otherwise wimpy parade came the ethereal strains of that heart-wrenching melody. Not only prompting thoughts about David, I also recalled my Dad's funeral, a veteran of WWII, the gunfire over his coffin, and, as the bugler plaintively blew "Taps," my uncle handing my elderly, frail, shattered mother the flag, folded in crisp regulation.
I was jolted from a sound sleep last night for reasons unknown. As I lay in bed, wide awake and wondering what the hell happened, a pulsating ball of light came through the wall near the ceiling and started floating slowly towards me. It was approximately the size of a grapefruit, and its electric blue color was stunningly beautiful. When it was directly overhead, it paused, and I felt as if it was "watching" me. Then it continued on and disappeared through the wall behind me. Because the light was so lovely, I didn't find the experience frightening, just odd.
I had a similar experience to the "blue light episode" several years ago, when David was still alive. I was in the laundry room folding clothes, when I suddenly became aware of three grayish-silver spheres, roughly the size of ping pong balls, floating slowly towards the floor. I couldn't describe them as "falling" because gravity had little to do with their movement. I watched, dumbstruck, as they gradually sank through the carpet. These types of odd sightings are unusual but not unheard of in my family. I'm either psychic or my brain tumor is active again, perpetrating another hilarious mindfuck.
I took my Mom to what on the outset was a routine doctor's appointment this morning; it rapidly degenerated into a crazed day filled with blood work, chest x-rays, and an echocardiogram. The symptoms of her COPD, the malady we only just learned she had, has considerably worsened, resulting in a weakening heart. She balked when the doctor mentioned keeping an oxygen tank on hand at home, and, although I want her to comfortable, I also understand her reluctance. It would represent an accursed crutch, a tangible concession to the disease which will most likely take her from this earth.
Well, it's official – I am now among the rank and file of the unemployed. I had to turn in my badge, beeper, cell phone, and all other work-related impedimenta this morning, and bid my career a final adieu. I marked the occasion by heading to a local hot dog stand and knocking back seven steamed babies (the owner was impressed, but advised it was by no means near the record – some guy devoured thirty one a few years back). I then drove for over an hour to ride a rollercoaster several times. It somehow seemed appropriate. I'm not sure why.
My nephew Matthew is going to be twenty years old tomorrow. Last night I found myself on the telephone with him, unleashing a volley of nearly insensible chatter about how I'm worried about my Mom's health, about being alone and drinking too much, about losing my job and how odd the last day felt, about scarfing all the hotdogs and riding the rollercoaster. As if I had earned my carping rights, and it was his duty to listen. Afterwards I found myself sobbing in a chair because absolutely nothing seems right with my life. And I barely remember being twenty.
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