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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Pleased to Meet Me

According to the scrolling marquee at the front of the bus, today’s date is 10/23/34.

I turn away from it, return to my Springtime Revelry, required of all Minneapolitans, wherein we gaze lovingly at the green, green, green of a well-deserved spring.

It’s October, 2034, you say.

I feel as if I should be more concerned about that.  My bills, for instance.  Am I current?

Or perhaps it’s 1934, in which case I am earlier for work than I’ve ever been. 

I am struggling with which scenario I prefer when the bus comes to a stop.  A young woman settles into the seat next to me. 

I wait.  It’s been a full two seasons since I’ve last seen her.  Does she still do it?  Will she do it now?  I can wait for – I pull out my phone, check the time.  I can wait for another nine minutes.

I got all morning, lady.

And just like that, my patience is rewarded.  She opens her purse, pulls out a small zippered bag from which she pulls out a small bottle.  From this bottle she squeezes perfect, candy-button sized daubs of lotion onto her fingertips.  Dab. Dab dab dab.  The ends of her fingers dance, lightly, across her cheeks, her chin, up on to her forehead and down the line of her nose.  Dab.  She isn’t rubbing.  She isn’t smoothing.  It’s far more delicate than that.  Her fingertips touch delicately upon her flesh.  She is young, she is moderately attractive, and dagnabit, her skin is hydrated and dewy and it’s going to stay that way.

I look out the window.  I want to stop her, want to tell her that she is going to look as young as she does right up until she doesn’t, that with bone structure like hers, moderate attention to her diet and exercise, she will be judged much younger than she is, right up until she isn’t.

I look back, quickly, to see her carefully, oh so carefully, massaging the lotion into her face.  She doesn’t stop until two minutes before I get off the bus.

What year is it?

It’s both sooner and later than we think it is.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Seems Like About 20%; or Yeah, But How Was the Service?

The morning sky is a powdery blue, the clouds edged with a salmon color that really sets off the red in my eyes.

I don’t sleep well, a fact that I feel the need to repeat every now and then. 

Hello.  How are you?  Me, I didn’t sleep well last night.

But I do what I do, as I must, every morning.  Not only does my alarm clock demand this of me, but Dolly Gee Squeakers, formerly of the Humane Society Squeakers, relies on our routines:  the alarm clock, the slap-slap-slap of the snooze button, teeth/hair/lunch/dress/treats for the kitty and then out the door.

Monday through Friday, between the hours of 5:32 and 6:34. 

I cross a busy intersection, imagining that I look crisp and business-like, stepping smartly from road to curb.  I feel urbane and glamorous, no small feat at this time of morning.  Summer is returned, and all things are possible.  The weather has ceased its six-month-long killing spree, the birds have returned and have much to say, the sidewalk is free of ice and full of underwear…

I look down, step over a pair of pink lace and leopard-skin-patterned underwear.  They are neither old nor new.  I decide, for my own sake, to think of them as clean.

They are on the walk way directly in front of restaurant nearest the bus stop.

I stop, back up.  Whose are they?  Does she know they are gone? Were they hurled from an open car window?  Were they left here, in front of the restaurant, in exchange for services rendered?

I move on, reach the bus stop, whereupon I board the stopped bus, waving my scan-able bus card in front of the scan-able bus card reader.  I sit, as I always do, near the rear of the bus and stare out the window at the newly-leafed trees.

Have I been tipping incorrectly all these years?

Friday, February 5, 2016

A Quiet Moment with George and Pearl

I have taken the bus to George’s place, a self-sufficient set of rooms in an old building with high ceilings and interesting neighbors.

The bus line is a mix of people who wear business suits and expensive shoes and people who wear striped socks and miniskirts, ironically tragic velour tracksuits and Rasta hats.

I stare, absentmindedly, at Rasta Mon, thinking about how much I would like a nap.  I do not realize how much I have been staring at him until he de-buses, but not before slipping me his phone number.


George  greets me at the door, leads me to her rooms.

She has been using the lid of a giant tub of laundry detergent as a palette, multiple blues, whites, black and red daubs of dried oil paints have dried in excited, creationist splotches.  I push aside a sweater, take a seat.

George has been creating moods.

“What’s going on here?” I say.

George raises her eyebrows.

“The one on the left looks submissive,” I say. 

George nods.  “And perhaps a bit accepting, right?  Like this is something she’s known all along.”

“Well, look at her,” I say.  “The chick in red, she’s won; and somewhere along the line, the one in the tank top always knew she would.”

George tilts her head to one side, scrutinizes the painting.

“Are they a couple?” I ask.

George shrugs.  “I don’t know,” she says, finally.  “Red Dress seems to be kind of possessive of her.  Makes ya wonder.”

I squint at George.  “You didn’t know if they were a couple when you started painting?”

George shakes her head.  “I start out with an idea, but I can’t control where it goes sometimes, you know?”

“But what’s it all mean?”

She shakes her head again.  “I’m not sure yet.”

“That happens to me,” I say.  “I start writing something, and where it ends is rarely how I thought it would.”

“That’s interesting,” George says.  “I would think that someone who works with words would have some sort of control over them.”

I laugh.  “And I would think someone who works with oil paints would be using something other than the lid of a detergent bucket as a palette.”

George shakes her head.  “Sometimes,” she says, “I wonder if I’ll ever be fully self-aware.”

I nod.  “I know exactly what you’re saying.”

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hey -- What's with the Holes in Your Ceiling?

Eight inches of snow, a cough that won't quit, and YARN!  Have I told you about my new YARN and newly found love of crocheting?!  I haven't?  Well, rest assured that I will.  In excruciating detail, coming in at roughly 300 words...

Until then, relive this, won't you, from 2012?  Because nothing says "winter" like chili and plans to remodel the bedroom...

I sat at Mary’s house the other night. Bowls of home-made chili and slabs of freshly baked bread comfortably downed, we sat in the living room, her dog T-Bone, Black Lab of Incredible Sincerity, at our feet.

“Did Anna friend you?”

Anna was someone from our past, a woman with an insanely cheerful and ambitious sexual history. She told crazy stories, sometimes backed up with the craziest of photos.

“On FaceBook?” I asked. “Yeah, but we don’t talk.”

“You remember the sex swing?”

Well who could forget something like that?

The sex swing figured prominently in Anna’s stories, and Mary and I found ourselves wondering aloud as to why we didn’t own one, why we hadn’t been telling stories about the sex swing.

I could post a picture, of course, but a wink, as they say, is as good as a nod.

It took several off-color jokes and a colored-pencil-and-glued-macaroni diagram (we couldn’t find the glitter), but we've come up with several ideas as to why we have never owned a screwed-into-the-ceiling sexual-enhancement device.

In no particular order:
  • After finding a stud in the general populous, we’d have to find a stud in the ceiling. Have you seen me hang a picture? A nail pounded into a wall with the heel-end of a dress boot is my specialty.
  • Speaking of which, I’m going to need a full-color, instructional brochure on how to use such a swing. Perhaps something frame-worthy.  I have those walls in the sitting room to fill...
  • What about the amount of exercise that would have to take place prior to getting into the swing? I mean, who knows where those straps will cut? Control of the jiggle factor, to my mind, is crucial.
  • The drawing up and signing of the legal documents, holding me blameless and giving me rights to the story should anything untoward/amusing happen whilst strapped into the swing, would be prudent.
  • I would need to give ol’ Ron at Nationwide a call. Will my homeowner’s insurance cover enthusiastically-incurred injuries?
  • And speaking of insurance, do I have the money set aside to cover my medical deductible – and what are the odds of ending up in a Horrors of the Emergency Room video?
As you can see, Mary and I have put a lot of thought into this.

What can I say? That was some really good chili.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

You Should See The Cake They Give You When You Reach This Age

It started innocently enough.

Several weeks into December, and after an unsatisfying encounter of the political Facebook kind, one in which a man in his early 20s proffered the “known fact” that Minneapolis was the home of “people who hate America”, I became concerned that I was too readily find-able.

“I’m going off the grid,” I told Mary.

“Hmmm,” Mary offered.  “You do realize you have the kind of last name that people believe you’ve created just for its Scrabble possibilities, yes?”

It’s true.  My last name, a hyphenated concoction thought in some circles to be a Klingon declaration of love, is unique.  Richly, densely, even drunkenly unique.

But I was on a roll. 

“I blocked him,” I said,  “And I think I should change my birthday, too.  I mean, even if he can remember half the name, I want to make sure he doesn’t…”

I trail off.

“Doesn’t what,” Mary prods.  “Send you a birthday card?  See if you’re compatible on one of those Chinese animal zodiac things?”  Mary chuckles softly to herself.

“Hey, now,” I say.

“Wait, wait,” she says.  I hear her move the phone from one ear to the other.  “Maybe he’s thinking of adding you to his Friends and Family bundle, get ya a good deal on an extra phone line.”

There is a thudding sound, and I know without asking that she’s just fallen off her chair and is laying on her back, tears of laughter in her bright blue eyes.

I sigh.

There is no end to my suffering.

I let her work her way through her enjoyment, and in no time at all she is coherent again.      

“Changing your birthdate is a dumb idea,” she says.”Just remove it.”

Oddly enough, however, I could not figure out how to remove my birthdate. 

In the end, I simply changed it to January 1, 1905.


I received over 130 posts, texts, and offers of gin and tonics on New Years Day, all filled with warm messages of love and dismay that they’d never noticed before that I had been born on New Year’s Day, which I had not.

Most disturbingly of all, however, was that no one mentioned how good I looked for having just turned 111...

Friday, January 29, 2016

Next Up, The Inner Jackass

So I was laying on my yoga mat Tuesday, pressing my forehead into the ground, as is my wont, when it occurred to me that I have entered a new stage in my life.

The stage?

The stage wherein I successfully cage my inner monkey.

There we were, in the yoga studio.  The temperature in the room is this side of “Bake”, the humidity just short of awakening the vestigial gills I’ve been holding on to for just such an occasion.  Perspiration rolling off us, we are contemplating the next move (“you will plant your hands on your mat, shoulder-width apart, tuck your knees up into your armpits and simply lift yourself off the ground”). We are inches from each other, breathing deeply and rhythmically.

Breathe in.

Yessiree, Bob, there we are: just me and 49 of my favorite people (between the hours of 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.).

And it wasn’t long ago that my brain would’ve chosen this very moment to ricochet with distracted, babbling thoughts. It’s too hot! Too hot! What’s the temperature in here? How much longer before I can lay down and play dead? Have I mentioned that it’s too hot?

Indulging my inner monkey is not why I go to yoga.   She has to stop.

The monkey casts a sideways glance at the tepid moat of sweat surrounding the mat of the man eight inches to my right and begins to work on the comment that will keep me from concentrating.  I successfully fight her back into the same corner of my mind where I keep Metallica lyrics and the closing times of local fast food joints. I promise her that we’ll look for trophy-sized cigarette butts on the way home and watch Cops after my shower.

The monkey loves Cops.

Don’t get me wrong. The monkey keeps me entertained, says terrible and amusing things I cannot repeat about the woman in the gold Spandex and the odds of finding loose change in the folds that make up much of her topography.

And it was the monkey who suggested I turn off my iPod Monday morning and listen in on the disagreement between Pookie and Boo.

Frankly, Boo’s trippin’.

This is the same monkey, however, who makes obscene references during solemn moments and encourages me to eat uncooked cake batter. The same monkey who likes to inline skate drunk and quit my jobs.

She’s had a good run, that monkey.

Hey. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy her chattering.  I’m not even saying that there isn’t room, now and then, for the way she stares at my fellow commuters.

I’m saying that sometimes, she gets in my way.

And so I’m harnessing my inner monkey.

I welcome this new stage.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Chore Monkey Revisited

Let me just step out onto a limb here and say that one thing I think we can all agree on is that what this country needs is a good Chore Monkey.

Tired of scraping your own dishes? Don’t think you should be the one to run to the gas station for cigarettes, even if you’re the one planning to smoke them? Are you thinking that even a monkey would do a better job of painting your toenails than you just did?

See? This is what I’m talking about.

The Chore Monkey.

Sure, sure, I can hear you now. Chore Monkey? Isn’t that why I had kids?

Well, sure it is! But I challenge you to put a four-year-old boy and a four-year-old chimp in a race to the corner store and you tell me which one makes it back first. My money’s on the chimp.

And let’s not even get started with how Child Protective Services views a Chore Baby. Sure, you put a monkey in a pair of painter’s pants and a cap and hang him outside the second floor to clean your windows and it’s cute; but you dress up your toddler like that and let him clean the windows and suddenly there are vehicles equipped with flashing lights and sirens in front of your house.

No, no. Let’s stick with a Chore Monkey. I can make up that weird little room under the stairs, clear a shelf in my fridge – he can even borrow the car as long as he puts gas in it.

And lest you think me unfeeling, I’m offering four weeks’ paid vacation a year. And sick days. And a 401(k) retirement plan.

Wait a minute. I’ve just gotten a very uncomfortable feeling here.

Is it possible that I’m somebody’s monkey?