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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Who Turned the Heat On? or Pearl Shakes A Hot Little Fist at the World

I lie on my back in the dark, defeated and, seemingly, baked. 

And before you believe I’ve gone misty-eyed and confessional in my old age, we’re not talking about “baked” in the traditional sense, wherein one’s eyes are, perhaps bloodshot, maybe a bag of Doritos on the coffee table, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida on the turntable for the 11th time, but baked in the heated, suffocating, why-hast-though-forsaken-me sense.

I roll over, check the bedside clock. 

Two o’clock.

Nothing has changed in the last three hours but the time. 

And there will be a repeat of that for the next three.

Life is hard, peoples, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.  One moment you’re just your above-average woman, fighting evil-doers and the creeping cellulite, and the next moment you’re that same above-average woman fighting the urge to stick your head in the freezer whilst weeping.

And then there’s still that cellulite to fight.

I call my friend Pat after work, on my way to yoga.

“I have to tell you about hot flashes, Pat.  I have to warn you.”

Pat laughs at me, as Pat is wont to do.  “Oh, you don’t have to tell me, darlin’.”

“What am I going to do?” I whine.  “I’m uncomfortable!  I’m moody!  I have a headache!  And I’m uncomfortable!”

“You already said that.”

“And I’m repetitious, okay?”  I stop at a red light, wait for the chance to be just another Ped Xing.  “ARGH!” I groan, frightening the young man next to me.  I show him my teeth, and he takes a careful step to the left.  “Remember how annoying I was a teenager?”

Pat laughs.  “No, but I believe you.”

“Well you’re not going to believe this, but I’m annoying again.”


I know Pat is smiling.  She has to be.  We’re friends.  “Yes,” I say, “again.”  The light turns green, and the young man next to me bolts.  “Coward,” I hiss.

“Pearl,” Pat says.

“Hmmm?”  A car passes within feet of me, and I show it, too, my teeth.

“You need to calm down.”

“Calm down?  CALM DOWN?  Me?  Why do you hate me?  Why are you being so mean?”

Pat laughs.  “You just keep that sense of humor,” she says.

“Hey, Pat,” I say.  I am smiling, and I know she knows. 


“I’m burnin’ up, baby.”

Pat laughs at me, with me.  “Ain’t nobody hotter,” she says.

“Thank you,” I say, heading into the yoga studio.

“Any time,” she says. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Well, I Can See I'm Going to Have to Take Back a Lot of What I've Said

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day when the subject of the state of our bodies came up.

Having known each other since shortly after high school, we had a lot of ground to cover, and much of it was freckled.

My friend confides that the picture of her in a bikini in her early 20s and doing the dishes maintains all the lithe detail you’d ever want in photographic proof of hotness and remains a source of pride and inspiration.

Plus it’s evidence that she has, indeed, done the dishes at least once.

Me, I am pleased to report that my ankles continue to be identifiable as separate from my calves and that I can still fit into the earrings I wore in high school.

And that concludes the uplifting news.

The truth is that it appears that the very things we noticed in older women, as younger women, have reared up to bite us on our unthinking and uncharitable asses.

Me? No, I’ve never been thoughtlessly cruel. Unless you count my teen-aged snickering of a rather mountainous woman on a beach in Florida. My sister and I sat on our smug little beach towels and spoke in nasty asides of balloons stuffed with grapes, of large and quaking puddings. I am confident that the woman in question didn’t hear us, asleep and with headphones on as she was; but decades later, as I contemplate the state of my thighs, I can only be glad that we didn’t mock a bald woman.

What were we thinking? Or was it a matter of not thinking? For surely no one ever got toward the head of the age line and said, “I’d like to develop jowls, please. Ooh, and if I could get the weird tiny veins at the back of my knees that would be lovely as well.”

The summer season, in all its flesh-baring and short-lived ways, is a reminder, isn’t it?

Wear that bikini while you can. Autumn is coming.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Liza Bean Has Her Demands

“You’ve ruined a perfectly good cat.”  I say this, in all sincerity, to the mumbling form next to me.

“I have no idea what you’re saying,” he says.  It is dark, but I know he is smiling. 

“This,” I say, lifting a small, striped animal by the scruff.  “You took a perfectly good cat and turned her into the pawing, insistent little creature she is today.”

And tonight, like every night, Willie shrugs genially, gets up and heads toward the kitchen. 

The cat squirms from my grasp.  Shaking herself, she gives me a stern look.  “I heard that, you know,” she says.

And with that, she leaps from the bed.  What follows is the sound of tiny paws galloping across the hardwood floor, through the sitting room and into the kitchen, where the fridge door opens, spilling a yellow glow into the hours between sleep and awakening. 

I roll to one side, check the clock next to me.  Twelve-thirty.

It wasn’t always like this.  At one time, the cat – a smallish, dainty-pawed animal known to us as Liza Bean Bitey – was content to sleep in the crook of my knee.  How simple life was then!  Just a couple of humans, a cat on one end, another cat on the other.  We slept, then; and outside of a playful bite at my earrings, as my grandmother would say, ever so often, we led a quiet night-time existence.

Then came the cream.

“Just a touch,” Willie’d say.  “The kitties only live for such a short time.  They deserve treats.”

And so began the nightly insistences, and in no time at all, Liza Bean had penned, usually somewhere between midnight and 1:00, the words “Demand cream” onto her calendar.

“Calming cream,” Willie’d say, grinning.

“She’s trained you to get up in the middle of the night,” I’d say.  “And when you won’t wake up, she bites my ears until I have to threaten her with gas-station sushi.”

“But they’re only here for a bit,” he says.  “You gotta love the kitties while they’re here.”

And so there he goes.  12:37 on a Monday night and, like every night, Willie gets up to pour a modicum of cream on to a thrift store china saucer.

Because you gotta love the kitties while they're here.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Just Another Zombie Sunrise

I wouldn’t say I was a paranoid woman, a suspicious woman or even a woman with grave concerns.

But indication that the zombies are gathering was apparent on my ride to work this morning.

There are three steps, up and into the bus.

The bus driver has been the same person for several months now.

“Good morning,” I say. A crotchety, pinch-faced individual, he continues to stare straight ahead.

This particular driver has not once, since taking over this route, responded in any way to my greeting and I now say it while mentally calculating the number of people he acknowledges a day, a number I place, having seen him every morning for roughly four months, at zero. I wonder if he knows that I now say “good morning” without any real wishes that he actually have a good morning.

I refuse to let the crabby fart stand in the way of my being friendly, however, and I scan my Go card and proceed toward the back of the bus.

The light at this time of morning is high and diffused, and despite getting sun on both the walk to and from work -- that's a good 15 minutes of sun, people!  my summer tan is fading quickly, leaving me mere shades from my original and in-the-box condition.

From the looks on the faces of the people around me I am not the only one for whom this is true.  It is 6:14, and while mostly awake, the faces around me are slack, eyes unblinking,

I settle into my seat and touch my cheek, checking for similar slackness.

I turn to my seat mate. “Does anything seem different to you today?”

She smiles and holds up her hands, palms up. She doesn’t speak English.

“Zombies,” I say, smiling. “Think any of these people might be zombies?”

She continues to smile, shakes her head, and resumes staring out her window.

It occurs to me that, when the zombies come, they will take public transportation. I can see it now.

“’morning, Jim!”


“What’s that, Jim?”


“Well that’s true, but they have just as much a chance as any other team. Don’t let anyone tell you differently!”


“Well, here’s my stop. See you later!”


Who will notice?

I look around the bus. So many zombies already: on the bus, in the elevator, standing in line at the bank.

Ever vigilant. That’s me. Ever working, ever tax-paying, ever vigilant.

Do I look pale to you?


Friday, July 18, 2014

A Moment on the Bus; or I Also Found a Stick of Gum in the Bottom of my Purse

Early-morning Pearl is a simple creature, a woman who dresses, gathers her things and heads to the bus stop without thought of why but with the knowledge, only, that she must.  

I’m not saying that you should, but if you were to, say, ever require a favor of me, early morning is your best bet for a favorable outcome.

While a bit slow in the morning, I am also observational, my mind a clean slate upon which the early-morning commuters leave tiny, crabbed notes.  Sometimes those notes are about interesting smells, sometimes they’re about the advisability of wearing spiked heels in a snow storm or giving a baby Diet Coke in a bottle. 

This morning's observation boards the bus four stops after mine, sits across the aisle and several rows ahead of me.  She is young, with fine features.  Dressed in nothing you would be able to recall later, she is wearing no make-up. 

As a woman who does not leave the house without lipstick, I note this in particular.

I watch as she digs through her purse and pulls out a tube of lotion.

And for the next 15 minutes, I watch as she applies lotion to her face.  With tiny, delicate fingers, she is almost artistic, blending the lotion in concentric circles across her cheekbones, down the line of her nose, blending up and out in every conceivable direction.

The woman across the aisle from me watches as well, frowning.  She self-consciously reaches up and touches her own cheek before returning to her book.

I away as well, look out the window, but I can’t help but look back, again and again, as the young woman continues.  Fifteen  full minutes of patting, pressing, fluttering ministrations done with the very tips of her fingers. 

Fifteen minutes.

And then it is over.  She pulls the cord and the bus pulls over at the next stop, and the young woman departs, taking her tiny fingers and her moisturized skin with her.

And early-morning Pearl stares out the window, and wonders about the people on the bus. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Eueueuchchch; or The Monkey Loses This Time

Right off the mat, as one might say, if one were to say such a thing, I can see that this guy’s gonna be special.

It’s yoga time.

There he is, pre-class, legs spread.  He swings his arms back and forth, back and forth.  Uh-uh-uh, he grunts.  He twists his torso to the right, then to the left:  Uh-uh-uh.

I lie back on my mat and close my eyes. Surrounded in my new job – at least by my ears’ understanding – by far-flung malenprops and four-to seven-spindled farquardts running about three clicks below harmanfletcher, the hour I spend at yoga is my buffer between work and home. 

I leave everything, as we like to say, on my mat.

The monkey in my head, the one that makes fun of women in five-inch heels and regularly suggests that I go ahead and eat whipped cream by the fists full, has other ideas, however, and is already slapping his big heavy palms against the inside of my skull.  Get a load of this guy, he chortles.  How you gonna ignore this galoot?  This guy’s gonna ruin your whole class!

I wave the monkey off. 

I don’t come to yoga to talk to monkeys.

But the monkeys, apparently, have come to yoga to talk to me.

Aside from rhythmic, steady breathing, and the sounds of music and the instructor’s voice, the room is silent. 

“Oh, hell,” the man whispers. 

“Well I can’t do that,” he mutters.

I twist from one position to the next, sometimes looking at the front of the room, sometimes the back.


I shudder.  Someone has just either cleared a long-standing clog, or the man on the mat to my left and back a couple feet has a sinus condition.

“Eueuuchhhhhh.”  The next position moves me to look back, in his direction, and I do so in time to see the woman just behind him give a look of revulsion.

She sees me. 

Our eyes meet, and we grin.

The monkey in my head had hoped, of course, for so much more.  But like I keep telling him: Yoga is not a competition. 

But if it were a competition, that woman and I just won. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I Wonder If He Remembers Me

My downtown bus stop was moved recently from Nicollet Mall to Hennepin Avenue, a street known for figuring prominently in Prince’s movie “Purple Rain” and inspiring Tom Waits’ song “9th and Hennepin”.

Hennepin Avenue is an “iffy” place, a place with an upscale hotel that features a seasonal, outdoor bar made entirely of ice on the one hand and bars that feature transgendered folk lipsynching to Cher’s greatest hits and shouting at slow-moving vehicles on the other.

It’s a grittily friendly area, the average crimes being panhandling and visual assaults from dubious, toothless individuals in stained sweatpants and slip-on track shoes.

As blemished and low-rent as areas of it may seem, however, Minneapolis cares about its downtown citizens and boasts a contingency of green-jacketed ambassador-style folk who give directions, pick up garbage, and offer general assistance.

The people in the green jackets weren’t around in the 80s.

Hennepin Avenue in the 80s: The Replacements were at First Ave., wet tee-shirt contests were titillating the opportunistic, and the city had yet to start the “Block E” renovations that would transform the street from truly seedy to just mildly seedy.

It was in this part of the city that I had found myself following a job interview.

Nineteen years old, hair curled in a I-can’t-quite-get-over-trying-to-be-Farrah-Fawcett sort of way, I had borrowed my sister’s dress, a flowered, summery bit of happiness with cap sleeves, a belted waist, and a hemline that stopped just above the knee. My mother’s nylons, a friend’s high heels, and suddenly I’m Mary Tyler Moore.

I've wowed my interviewer with my ability to type 40 words a minute and speak goodly English, and now I wait on the corner, wait for my boyfriend to pick me up.

I pace.

A red convertible pulls up. It is just past noon on a Monday. He is in a suit, possibly in his 30s, quite handsome.

“Hi!” he shouts at me, smiling.

“Hi,” I say, smiling.

“You workin’?”

“I wish!” I say.

“You waiting for someone?”

“Yes,” I say.

“Well hop in!” He pats the seat next to him.

I wander closer to his car, frowning, my head cocked to one side in unconscious imitation of my mother. He has a six-pack of beer on the floor of the passenger side. “What?”

“Jump in,” he says. “I can have you back here in under 30 minutes. You got somewhere we can go?”

What in the world was this guy talking about?

And then...

Simultaneous light bulbs appear above our heads. We stare at each other. In shock, our respective eyes widen, our mouths gape.

He’s looking for a prostitute.

He’s found a teenager.

“Oh my God,” he says, and he tears away from the curb and through a red light.