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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I Just Keep Thinking of Those Gauchos

Some things never go out of style. A black pencil skirt, for example. Buy a good lined skirt, try not to gain any weight, and you’re going to get a lot of use out of it.

But some things kinda came and went, didn’t they? Is there a Nehru jacket in your closet? A dashiki? A pair of gauchos? (Which amuses me to this day, as I believe a “gaucho” is Spanish for “cowboy”, in which case I may not have a pair of gauchos in my closet but would certainly entertain the idea of adopting a couple – for altruistic purposes, of course.)

I told someone once that I would wholeheartedly endorse a work uniform; and I’m still up for it. Hell – I’m thinking of doing it without it being a requirement. Would anyone notice if I were to, say, come in to work every day in a blue skirt, a white blouse, and maybe a scarf around my neck, just for a bit of “look-how-I’ve-dressed-this-up” jauntiness?

But it’s not just clothing. Even foods seem to have eras. At one time in the U.S. every fast food joint had a “potato bar”. Chili on your tater? Cheese? Sour cream? Jellied eel? Hey!  Just how much crap can you pile on a tuber, anyway?

That reminds me:  when was the last time we had fondue? Don’t you think it’s time?

We get bored, I think. How else to explain that this year’s “teal” is different than last year’s “aquamarine” or that the square-toed sturdiness of a Birkenstock differs from the square-toed sturdiness of a pair of Börns?

Or maybe it’s not boredom. Maybe it’s the need to be able to judge others based solely on having the right shade of blue on. Or maybe it’s a way of generating year-over-year profit.

Either way, I’m thinking a nice, proletariat “work uniform” never goes out of style.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I'll Be Awake by Noon -- Talk to Me Then

“Did you have a good weekend? You all ready for work?”

Well, no. As a matter of fact, I’m not.

I would love to tell you that I am. Ready for work, that is. But the truth is, I am woefully unprepared.

I meant to be. I meant to be ready. But there was watching movies I'd already seen on Friday night. And then there was the washing and folding bonanza that was Saturday. There was the writing, the cooking, the refrigerator detailing, the transporting of the cats to their tap-dancing lessons.

Would you believe I completely forgot to leave time to get worked up about being a productive member of corporate America?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m one punctual and competent SOB; but I’m no good at that “You all ready for work?” question. It just doesn’t seem that there’s a good answer to it.

Small talk is not my forte.

I should work on having prepared answers.

“Work? I’m at work?”

“Ready for work? Oh, now, yeah. I can’t remember what they called it, but the doctors said that I can continue with my regular routine as long as I use a hand sanitizer and don't – oh, shoot – have you seen my face mask?”

“Yep! All ready for work! Say, could you cover for me for a couple hours this afternoon? The police – well, the less you know the better; but now that they’ve got the court order they’re going to take that sample whether I like it or not.”

It’s so important to have a good attitude, don’t you think?

Happy Monday, everyone.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bus Stop: 24th and Nicollet; or Turns Out, I Look Pretty Suspicious

Sometimes, nothing happens.  And sometimes, it seems that everything happens at once.  For the next several Fridays, I’m going to be posting on my recent time at a bus stop in Minneapolis.  Having missed one bus by mere minutes – there it goes! – I stood and waited for almost 30 minutes for the next one.

Come stand next to me, won’t you, and we’ll wait together. 

I’d gone to George’s directly after work, part of one of those “I need to see you” aspects of a true friendship; and now, the light about 30 minutes from failing, I am standing on the corner, ready to go home.

I take a good look around. 

This is certainly a savory little area, I think.

A blend of small, home-y restaurants, bars with four-hour Happy Hours, people shouting into cell phones, there are taxis and buses and dog walkers and children. 

It is not until around 6:00 that the demographics begin to change. 

Dressed in an olive-colored pencil skirt, an amethyst shirt, cream fitted jacket and black heels, I do not stand out downtown, but with the traffic beginning to thin on this Tuesday afternoon, I am beginning to stand out at the bus stop in front of the McDonald’s.

A man in a Scarface jacket, pants belted around his knees waddles past me.  He is slender, young, his hair plaited into exuberant braids, a Medusa in the Hood look that not everyone can carry off.  He pulls fries out of what seems to be an endless bag of fries.

I lick my lips.

My visit to George’s had not included dinner. 

I watch his hand dip into the McDonald’s bag.  I watch enviously.

I consider asking for a fry.

I remember that I have a bit of string cheese in my lunch bag.

It’s amazing how often I have string cheese in my lunch bag.

I set my purse down on the bus stop bench, start digging for the cheese.  Out of the corner of my eye, Braid-y backs away from me.

Hmm.  Plastic bag, big Tupperware, little Tupperware, stray dollar bill, the packet of vitamins I had forgotten to take – there it is!

Triumphant, I pull the cheese out of the bag.

I look up to find the young man with the braids staring at me, a cluster of fries in his hand, forgotten.

What had he thought I was digging for?

I grin sheepishly at him, hold the cheese up.  “String cheese,” I say. 

Smiling, the man with the fries shakes his head, wanders to the other end of the bus stop.

There’s some weird people waitin’ for the bus. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Shhh. Everyone Will Want One.

The Sturgis Motorcycle Run was a good couple months ago, but still...

Ring!  Ring-ring!

“Good morn – aftern – um, morning.  This is Pearl.”

There is laughter on the other end.  “You don’t know what’s going on, do you?”

“I don’t have to know what’s going on.  I’m at work. “

“Oh, you workers,” Mary  chuckles indulgently .  “Guess what I’m doing.”

Thoughts ranging from “walking the dog” to “pooping”, a long-running gag between us, run through my head.  A group heading into a meeting pass my desk and I decide to play it safe.  “I don’t know,” I say.  “Walking the dog?”

Mary laughs, a tad giddily, if you ask me.  “Packing for Sturgis!”

The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally begins this weekend, and Mary and Jon and another couple have tuned up their Harleys, cleaned their leathers and are heading west.

“That should be a pretty light luggage rack.”

I can hear Mary grinning over the phone.  “Nope,” she says.  “This year I’m going to bring shirts and a bra.”

“What, and buck years of tradition?”

“The people of South Dakota have done nothing that would result in being forced to gawp at my aging breasts.”

“You’re too hard on yourself,” I say.  “Your breasts don’t look a day over 47.”

“I’m 46.”

There is a brief, if staged, silence.  “Those were some hard years,” I say.

“Why you little…”

“Why I oughta…”

We grin at each other.  It’s over the phone, but we’re professionals.

“So why did I call?” she says.

“You want to stop by with dessert tonight.”

“Hmmm.  No, that’s not it.  Oh, I know!  Remember when I lost a fingernail in the turkey that one year?”

Who could forget?  Half-way through a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Mary’s house some dozen or so years ago, Mary announced that she had lost a false fingernail.  She believed it may have become part of the stuffing.

Amazingly, no one found it.

“I still have nightmares,” I say.

“Well, I did it again.  Only this time, I lost a Band-Aid.  At a cleaning job.”

I laugh.

“Yep,” she says.  “It could be anywhere.  Do you think I should call?”

“And what, tell them you believe you left a used Band-Aid somewhere?”


“Maybe they could put it in the mail for you.”

“Hey, now, we don’t talk like that.”

There is a moment of silence.  “Maybe I should call her on her lunch hour, just to let her know that if she finds a mystery Band-Aid that it’s mine.  It’s probably best to be honest about it.”

“It’s hard to know what to do when you’ve left something like that behind.”

The line goes silent as we consider the social ramifications behind a lost Band-Aid.

“OK,” she says, conversation over.  “I gotta go.”

“Gonna walk the dog?”

“Nope,” Mary says.  “I gotta poop.”


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

“It” Was on TV

It is 1990.  My hair is huge; my car gets 14 miles to the gallon; and thas a remote control in the shape of the  14 miles to the gallon, and t my neck.  ""nd the dramatic pronouncement of his " his fhe TV, a thick-bodied, multi-dialed contraption, has a remote control in the shape of the three-and-a-half-foot, blue-eyed, blonde-haired child standing in front of it.

The Boy.

His right hand on the channel changer, he turns to me, a look of willful mischief on his face.

I narrow my eyes at him, and he mirrors the expression. 

“What’re you doing?”


I narrow my eyes a bit further. 


“I don’t believe you,” I say.

He smiles.  “I’m gonna too-en the channel.”

“You are not,” I say.

He laughs.  “I am!” he says.  “I’m gonna too-en it.”


He shrugs, suddenly nonchalant in an ice-cream? what-ice-cream? kind of way.  “I dunno.”

I lean forward, pull the TV Guide from the coffee table.   I flip to the day’s page.

“Stephen King's classic novel made for a terrifying mini-series about seven childhood friends whose lives are threatened by a demonic creature known as IT and how they try to put a stop to the killings he commits in routine. Twenty-seven years later, they must face him once again as they discovered that IT was not killed after all.”

I look up.  “You gotta be kidding me.” 

“Othew people ah gonna watch it.”  We are in the precious phase between the start of speech therapy just a week ago and the dramatic pronouncement of his “r”s just two weeks from now.

“Other people, sure,” I say.  “Just not other kindergartners.”

He nods at me emphatically.  “They ah too,” he says.  “Weally.”

“Dylan,” I reason, “Stephen King writes scary books.  This is a scary movie based on his scary book.”

He smiles the smile of a well-loved child.  “I’m gonna too-en it.  I’m gonna do it!”

“Don’t do it,” I say.  “Don’t do it.”

“I’m gonna!”

I shake my head.  “Listen to your mother,” I warn.  “Don’t turn that channel.”

“I’m gonna do it!”

And so now it’s my turn to shrug, which I do.  “As your mother, I’m advising against this.”

He smiles, shrugs again – and turns the channel. 

And it is in that very instant that the hideous face of a grinning, maniacal clown fills the 19” screen, lurid and horrible.    

“AH!”  The Boy jams the off button; and the screen goes black.  He launches his body across the room and onto mine, knocking me back in the rocker.

I hold him tightly as he whispers into the side of my neck.

“What’s that?” I say.

He turns his head slightly, his small, vulnerable forehead pressed to me.  “I said that you wew wight.”

And it seems wrong, but I smile.  

And I hold him tighter.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Guy on Ninth

The guy on 9th and Nicollet looks at me.

“The world is getting louder,” he says. “In all kinds of ways. “

And I know exactly what he means. 

It’s not just the sirens.  Not just the dogs and the airplanes and the birds at dawn – for cryin’ out loud, what are those birds doing?! – but even our personal loudness.  The phones and the iPods and the devices we hadn’t ever thought we’d need, ever be surrounded with.

I was in the elevator the other morning with four other people.  This is not uncommon.  Uncharacteristically, I was not wearing headphones at the time.  But the other four were – and they were all checking their phones.  Heads down, fingers caressing the screens.  And this struck me.  I mean, six-thirty in the morning and there is already something we just have to know, have to check in with?  I’m not saying we should all be fully present or be speaking to each other.  It is, after all, six-thirty; but as a friend, should we be hunched over our phones already?  Hey! I’ve got 45 seconds before the elevator doors open.  I wonder if my freakishly angry political friend on Facebook posted another rude comment?

I can’t help but smile.  It’s six-thirty in the morning!  Really:  is this good for us? 

It’s ridiculous.


No one on the elevator notices.

Has the world always been this loud, so distracting – so petty?  A thousand years ago, did someone stand out on the prairie, look out over a herd of buffalo and feel a hole in his life left by the lack of something to pull from his pocket and play with? 

How were we so easily trained?

I worry about this, about the stolen silence. 

“The modern man is being led by the nose, man, to just shut up and be distracted," the guy on 9th says.

And I pretend to check my phone to discourage him from asking me for money.

But what if the guy has a point?

What would happen if we weren’t distracted?  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mary Thinks I Should Go Lay Down

I had meant to write about the weekend, the serving job, Mary’s ridiculously large truck and her parking prowess.

But all I can think about is how sick I am.

Settling into my throat and chest roughly an hour after the serving job, its now found a home just behind my eyes, right there, where it colors both how I look and how I see things.

I’m crabby.

Want to talk?


Want to watch a movie?


Think I should get up, maybe brush my teeth or fix my hair?

No.  You.

I press the heels of my hands into my eyes, a fight-pressure-with-pressure move that results in an explosion of black and red checkerboard that not only doesn’t feel as good as hoped for but results in shooting pains.

The phone rings.   I close my eyes. 



It’s Mary.


She laughs.  “You sound funny.  You sick?”

“Yes.  No,” I say.  “I don’t know.  Shut up.”

She laughs again, the sound of elves stealing the good silver. 

“What’s wrong with you?”

“My head is imploding.  Or possibly exploding.  It hurts to talk.”  I sigh.    “You’ll just have to wait for the pictures.”

“Sounds messy, either way,” she says.

I nod.

“So here’s what you do,” she says.

“Mary.  I’m a grown woman.  I know what to do.”

“Shh.  Shh,” she soothes.  “Let me do my job.”

I go quiet.  Sometime it’s just best to give Mary the lead.

“First you get some tea.  Do you have tea?”

I nod.

“I’m gonna assume you just nodded,” she says.  “You have honey?  Local honey is best.  And lemon.  You got all that?”

I cough several times, resulting in my eyeballs shooting out of my head and falling onto the carpet.

“You okay?”

“I just coughed my eyeballs out.”

“Run ‘em under cold water,” she says.  “They’ll be fine.  You got Nyquil?  Cold tablets?  A hot water bottle?”

“Mm-hmm,” I say.

“OK.  So you take the Nyquil, take the cold tablets – oooh, take ‘em with orange juice if you have it – and then crawl under a heavy blanket – no, four heavy blankets – and sweat it out.”

“Can I take a bath first?”

“Of course,” she says.  “And then you go lay down.” 

I close my eyes, let Mary’s voice wash over me.

“Yep,” she says, “that’s what you do.  You go lay down.”

I smile, lay back on the couch.

“Shh.  Shh,” she says.  “Everything’s going to be okay.”