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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mary and Peggy go to Florida; or Small Bar, Anytown, USA

Did you miss me incur the pudgy-fingered wrath of airport Security?
Did you miss Mary actually get detained at airport Security?

It's not too late to catch up.  Go on -- take a click or two!  I'll go get a coffee and meet you back here in just a few...

In many ways, it’s a bar like any bar in the United States.  A pool table, a juke box, the smallest stuffed deer head I’ve ever seen.  It’s Florida, though; and this means that the bartender is 12, maybe 13, and the average age of the clientele is 70. 

Mary is seated next to a man in a silk VFW jacket.  He is grizzled.  Perhaps he drinks a bit.  A veteran of the Korean Conflict, Ken has a sparkle in his eye.

“I wasn’t always an old man,” he says to her.

“I’m not sure you’re old now,” she says.  “I see ya lookin’ at me.”  Ken has the look of the rake about him. 

“Ya see that guy over there?” he says.  “The one checking you out?  I could kick his ass for you, then write a song about it.”

Mary laughs, takes a drink of the Diet 7-Up in front of her.  “You’d do that,” she says from around the straw, “for me?”

“Damn right I would,” he says.  “That’s the kind of guy I am.”

I have been silent.  My ears on Mary and Ken, my eyes on the TV at the end of the bar, the drinks keep piling up in front of me. 

If that fluffy headed idiot thinks he can buy me off with drinks…

“Why don’t you just go ahead and drink them?”

I turn away from an episode of King of the Hill.  “Because I’ve got my own.”

“Well, I’ll take ‘em,” says Ken.  “Mary?  You want a couple of these?”

Sober for five years, Mary shakes her head.  “Uh-uh,” she says.  “But I’ll take your popcorn.”

Ken slides the popcorn over and then stands, places a hand on Mary’s shoulder.  “How long you here for?”

“Just a couple more days,” she says.

He nods briskly, removes his hand.  “Then I’ll say my good-byes now.  And I’ll give you this.”  He holds out his hand.  In it is a hundred dollar bill.

Mary looks at me; I look at her; and after the briefest of pauses, we nod at each other.

She smiles at him tenderly.  “Sorry, Ken,” she says.  “We are women of independent means.”

“It would make me happy,” he says, “to know you two had a good time here.”

“Man, meeting you is what makes it a good time.  You know that.”  And Mary, not one for extravagant displays of affection, puts her hands on his shoulders and kisses him on the cheek.

“You’re a good-lookin’ man, Ken.  Don’t you go forgetting me now.”

Ken tips his hat.  “Not likely, ma’am.”

Wait.  What fluffy headed idiot?  Come back tomorrow if you dare..

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mary and Pearl Go to Florida; or I Don’t Know Anyone Who Thinks of Them as True Liquids

Balancing on one foot while re-shodding myself, stuffing my laptop into my carry-on and briefly marveling over the way my left leg sets off metal detectors yet contains no metal, I have made it through Security with a minimum of indignities. 

I am trying to figure out what to do with my winter coat – do I put it back on?  Do I try to cram it into my already cram-full suitcase? – when I glance up in time to see Mary shoot me a look of dismay.

“Ma’am,” says a man with a badge on his chest.  “Please step out of line.”

Mary points to herself.  Me?

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Is it what’s in my bag?  I thought I could pack anything in the bag…”

My head swivels from speaker to speaker, my jaw open, a dog watching a game of ping pong.  “What’s in the bag, Mary?”

“Ma’am,” and now he is addressing me – in the credits of this particular scene, I am, apparently, Second Ma’am – “Please step aside.”

I step, as instructed, aside.  “What is it?  Mary!  What’s in the bag?”

And Mary, a woman whose skin tone is settled comfortably between alabaster and Cream of Wheat, has gone azalea on us.

And for just a moment, I have visions of prisons, of ill-fitting clothing and garbage-bag wine. 

“What’s in the bag, Mary?”

“I – I – well you know how I go on my kicks!”

Bright spots appear before my eyes.  A humming goes up in my ears that experience tells me is a precursor to fainting.

“What kinda kicks, Mary?”

The security guard, mirthless as Death’s dad, is unzipping the suitcase.

Should we start running? I mouth to Mary.

But Mary’s eyes are not on me.  Large, bright blue, they are on the guard who is now removing the clothing from her carry on.

“Nice undies,” I say to her.

She looks up and smiles.  “They’re new.”

And that’s when he holds them up.  Not her undies, oh, no.  There are more subversive things in store for this trip than Mary’s brand-new undies.

“You can’t bring these in a carry on,” says Security Man.  Now surrounded by a supporting cast of other Security Men – all grinning – he holds aloft the offending items.

A squeeze container of Top The Tater.

A large bottle of Western Dressing.

The men in blue shake their heads.

And I am practically speechless.


“What?!  Mary!  No taters?  No salad?”

The red in her cheeks sets off the blue of her eyes nicely.  “We have a room waiting for us with a fridge and a microwave,” she says.  “And I heard you can’t get these in Florida.”

“Can’t get --?  What are we, traveling back in time?”

But Mary is undeterred.  She shakes her head, firm in her understanding that she must travel with her own condiments. 

Security Man #1 is back.  “Ma’am, do you want to put these in your bag and then check it?  You’ll have to go back through Security.”

And I already know the answer, know it just as surely as I know Mary.

She will check the bag.  She will go through Security again.

And I tie my winter coat around my waist, take a seat on a bench leading out of Security.

“I’ll be here then, shall I?” I say.

Is there more to this?  Of course there is!  Come back tomorrow!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mary and Pearl Go to Florida; or First, Let’s See if They Make it Through Security

If there’s anything better than a ride to the airport – one that is accompanied by a delicious and utterly free coffee drink – then I don’t know what it is.

Electric socks in the winter, perhaps.  Or a personal hair-brusher on someone else’s dime. 

I don’t know – I’m just speculating.

Nevertheless, it is early Friday morning and I am doing some light shoveling when Nancy and Mary pull up to the door.  Nancy, a delightfully energetic soul, has volunteered to drive us to the airport. 

“Ready for Florida?”

Am I ready?  I haven’t been able to feel my toes since early October.  Lead on, my good woman!

Nancy is exuberant.  “I wish I was going with you!  It’s going to be so much fun!”  Mary leans over from the passenger seat, grins at me in the rear view mirror. 

“I hear,” she says, “that there are people in the South who are not wearing long underwear.”

“I’m not sure I believe that,” I say. 

And in less than 20 minutes we are hoisting our bags out of Nancy’s trunk.  There are hugs all around, and in no time Mary and I find ourselves in line at Security.

Mary has probably flown twice, perhaps in her lifetime, and I fill her in as we go: 3.1 ounces of liquid, plastic bags, taking our shoes off.

“Are they serious?” she says.  “How often do they clean the floor around here, and with what?”

I shrug.  “I have a friend who has a friend who caught hoof-and-mouth disease in First Class a few years ago.”

She laughs.  “I don’t know how I feel about hooves,” she says, “But you know I’ve always wanted a tail, right?”

I do indeed.  We both do, although for different reasons:  Mary wants to show the world how happy she is – I just want to make a killing as a stripper with a tail.

At the head of the line, the TSA agent is ready for us.  He has been listening for a while, it appears.  I smile at him and hand him my boarding pass, my ID.  He takes this opportunity to level a pudgy, blunt index finger at me. 

“Don’t think you’re going to be making any jokes about bombs,” he says.  “We’ll take you out of line.”

I turn to look at Mary, who frowns at me. 

I turn back.  “What?” I say.  “What are you talking about?”

“We don’t take bomb threats lightly,” he says. 

“Good thing no one mentioned anything about that,” I say.

“Well just remember that,” he says. 

How did he know we would be trouble?  How was I to know what Mary had up her sleeves – or, more importantly, in her suitcase?

I guess you’ll have to come back tomorrow!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Wherein My Body has a Good Talk with my Brain

My body has had quite a lot to say recently.

It started talking last Thursday, when I developed the headache that I now carry with me at all times.  Oddly enough, this headache, while making me squint and periodically push my fingers into my eye sockets until  colors explode with black and red abandon, has not put me in a particularly bad mood. 

“I’m the same way,” my sister says.  “Why let pain get in the way of a good time?”

Still, I’ve been subconsciously reaching for my temples for days.

“Kinda expect to find a vise there, don’t you?”  This from my body. 

“Yes,” I admit.  “I reach up, expecting to find a bolt, a set of calipers perhaps.  And yet, I find nothing.  I don’t know what’s going on. ”

“Wait’ll tomorrow,” my body says.  “Hoo, boy.”

Hoo, boy?”  I frown.  “What does that mean?”

My body shrugs, snaps open a newspaper and pretends to be deep in thought.  “Hmm.  Says here we can expect falling temperatures.”

My brain squeezes itself past the pressure being applied to my eyeballs and barks a mirthless sound approximating a laugh.  “Ha!  You do realize it’s February in Minnesota?  You can repeat the words “falling temperatures” until March.”

The brain, she squints at the body.  “Are you, sir, toying with me?”

And for the first time since puberty, my body sets down its paper and looks my brain square in the face.

“One,” it says, “I need you to drink more water.”

“But I’m not from –“

“For cryin’ eye, Brain, if I hear that tired old line about not being from water-drinking people one more time, I’m going to take you to a strip club.”

“Well I shan’t go,” the brain says.  “It’s exploitation.”

The body shrugs.  “Some of them are nice to look at.”

The brain purses its lips primly.  “Do shut up.”

“And sleep,” the body goes on, “I want more sleep.”

Silence from the brain.  The brain likes to stay up.

“And the neti pot.  You said you’d use it more often.  It’s a very dry time of year, and my nasal passages are aching.”

The brain nods cautiously.  “I found myself cogitating on this just the other day, that the headache may, perchance, be the inadvertent result of self-created dehydration.”

The body snorts in disgust.  “And I’m cogitating,” it says, “of giving you a swirly, you keep that kinda talk up.”

“A swir—“

“I’m gonna stick my head – full of you, brain-face – in the toilet and keep flushing until you shut up.”

The brain blinks slowly, rises, clears its throat.  “Upon further reflec – um, I’m thinking that perhaps you know best in this case, my dear body.  In bed tonight by 9:00, I promise.”

“And water?  You’ll drink more water?”

“I shall make a concerted effort.”

The body heaves a sigh of relief.   “You’re a good brain when you try.”

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Graffiti! or Free Tibet (With Purchase of Large Coffee)

 I gave myself a case of Vandal-Fighters Thumb this morning.

My stance on vandalism is well known in these parts: I’m against it. And there, in my three-sided, glass bus enclosure, a moron and a green felt tip pen collided in a semi-literate display of self-satisfaction.

First there was a phone number listed below the phrase “For Free Heab”. Heab? Free heab? Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re out this weekend and someone suggests the possibility of free heab, I suggest you proceed with caution.

Free heab may lead to free biseases.

I’ve rubbed it out, of course; and I have the green thumb to prove it.

I also rubbed out Taylor loves – well, we’ll never know who Taylor loves, now. Both Taylor and the object of her affection have been rubbed off the bus shelter, the memory of which lies only with Taylor and my stained thumb. The script was hard to read, anyway, a convoluted series of squiggles and dots. Judging by the penmanship, however, Taylor is young and will no doubt proclaim her love for future beaux in similarly public ways.

And I will be here, sacrificing my thumb nail and skin color to do it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why Hello There, Comrade

A repost, as I recover from a weekend with Mary.  Stay tuned for stories on the state of airline security, men who absolutely MUST play pool with you, parking lot hos, and curbside meat distribution.

What a strange and wonderful world we live in.

I used to hang out with Russians.

Growing up, I had an impression of Russians gleaned entirely from the news strips shown in Social Studies during the 70s, wherein squat women in unattractive coats and scarves stood in mile-long lines hoping for shoes.

The kind of shoe, the size of the shoe? Unimportant. Once they had the shoe they’d worry about what to do with it.

Soviet Russia’s shortages were no joke. But my belief that all Russians were squat people in scarves certainly was.

Now, personally, I consider myself reasonably attractive. I’m not heavy, but not skinny; I fix my hair, even if “fixing” it just means brushing it; and I never leave the house without my lipstick.

Call me old-fashioned, but there’s nothing a little lipstick won’t cure.

Headcold? You’ll look better with a little lip.

Heartache? Maybe a little lip color will make you feel better.

Just running to the store to pick up cigarettes? Hey – maybe a little lipstick, huh? You never know who you’ll run into…

The Russians in my life at that time were all met through the people I hired several jobs back to clean an office building, and to a man were physically fit, attractive, and elegant.

And that’s the other thing a little lipstick can do for you – convince beautiful immigrants that they should include you in the festivities.

And so it came to pass that I was invited to join in a celebration. A party of 16 people met at a local Russian restaurant for a couples’ 10th wedding anniversary. I was the only native-born American at the table.

Have you partied with the Russians? They leave their worries at the door. The men wear suits, the women wear dresses, and everything is pleasantries and vodka. The table is laden with the pickles, potato salad, marinated and smoked herring, hardboiled eggs, cold cuts and brown bread consumed between shots.

There will be dinner much later.

The first toast is to the women at the table.

The second is to the men.

The third one is open.

We have just finished the third toast when I am tapped on the shoulder.

I turn to see a handsome man in a suit.

He hold his hand out, says something in Russian which I am willing to bet translates as Would you care to dance?
I push my chair away from the table and smilingly hold my hand out, and he guides me on to the dance floor.

The band, consisting of drums, accordion, saxophone, and violin, plays music I don’t recognize; but he is a good dancer, and arm around my waist, we move among the other couples.

He is talking. I imagine that he is talking about the band, about the restaurant, about the beautiful evening. There are no questions, just him talking; and abuzz with vodka and the ease of being paired with a good dancer, I smile.

At the end of the song, he guides me back to my seat, and for the first time, asks me a question.

“I’m sorry,” I say, sitting down. “I don’t speak Russian.”

His mouth drops open, and then he recovers and closes it. He smiles, lifts my hand, and kisses it.

And I rejoin my table.

Was there a point to this post? Not really. I just wanted to relive that night. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

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

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.
  • 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.