FINALLY I’M AS BRITISH AS MY NAME

Marmalade, where have you been all my life?

I don’t know what I was afraid of this all these years. It is amazing. Easily as good a strawberry, raspberry, or peach. My daughter won’t touch any jelly, not even grape. Lord that’s a shame, shame, cryin’ shame. Jelly is the food of the gods! And I got it right there on some Dave’s Killer Bread, “The Good Seed.” Also some pretty righteous stuff.

Breakfast sorted.

THIS IS A BOOK I PUBLISHED: THE ONE THAT STARTED IT ALL

This book was written by my friend, David Dutton. I never would have met David had I not moved to Milton, and started a writing group. And, had I not done that, I never would have started publishing.

David, more than anything, made me want to publish books. David is a deceptive writer. His books are like good booze, they go down so smooth, and then they wallop you. Things happen in this book, things of the not-good-kind. And if you read this book, you will find yourself complicit, reading along like floating on a gentle river, effortless. And then, you will realize that you just casually accepted things as right and appropriate that you never should have. And you are left to look at your own ideas of right and wrong.

That deceptive writing continues in his new book, DNA, coming out from Out of This World Press late summer of this year. And he has a blog where he is serializing another book, this one a nifty little horror story that you won’t even realize is horror. You will find yourself knee-deep into it in a hot minute though. Perfect if you’re scrolling blogs trying to avoid work. 😉

In the meantime, get yourself a copy of One of the Madding Crowd, DPP’s best-seller to this very day.

BLOODY SNOWSHOES

This fall, just in time for the season of the witch, David Fulcher will release a collection of horror destined to keep you awake each night until the first merciful ray of light seeps over the dark and uncaring horizon. Get yourself in on it now, with his blog, and find out why those snowshoes are sooooo bloody.

THIS IS WHY CAKE IS MY FAVORITE BAND

Sadly I have seen many people, including my next-door neighbor who is also our local nightly newscaster, praising Rush as if he were a saint.

Fuck Rush. May Satan enjoy his new toy. I hope he uses him as a dildo.

What?

Yes. Fuck Rush. I will never ever ever support people who are racist, sexist, bigots, and against same-sex marriage, a woman’s right to choose, immigration reform, Black Lives Matter, and all the usual crap that goes with those beliefs. My neighbor, former sportscaster turned nightly news guy, also cannot stand to see things like the cartoon mascot of the Cleveland Indians change. This is why I am nervous living where I live.

And here is a photo of one of the sexiest men alive after my sexy husband:

What makes John McCrea so sexy aside from his rhymes? His absolute stalwart refusal to accept or ignore injustice. Long may you run, John. Thank you for all your posts. Keep sticking it to the unwoke white guys, and their wives.

PANDEMIC DIY?

This is a post about making, being a maker. Sure it is. Let’s take this idea out for a walk. We’re makers, you and me. Hmmmmm…. so what to make of and with all the empty bourbon bottles?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never truly embraced being an alcoholic the way I certainly should have.

Now smoking…. I could smoke ’em ’till the cows come home. In fact, I quit smoking one day only after having a stomach flu that was so bad that my doctor stopped over the house to bring Dave some sleeping pills for me (so that I could finally stop throwing up… nothing), and I took them, and woke up three days later. And, adding in the days I’d been vomiting my stomach lining, that made just about a full week of not smoking. Because I knew how bad smoking was for my health, and since I figured I had already done the physical withdrawal, I threw away the half empty pack that had been waiting patiently for me to stop puking.

But man I wish they’d invent a non-toxic substitute.

I had a job, when I was in college, with North American Publishing Company, a place so dysfunctional it would make the Trump administration look well-run. I don’t know if it is still around today, or any different than it was, but, at the time, added into the heaping disfunction and downright misogyny of the place was a complete disregard for clean air or one’s fellow man. And I loved that second bit. I smoked in the elevator. I smoked at my desk. I don’t think I smoked in the lady’s room, but I am certain Bernice did. It was the kind of place where all the women wore dress pants and blouses, probably both made of polyester, that were just a bit too small on them, but clean and professional enough to count, because they didn’t have the income for any better. And the rare and coveted offices were actually cubes with half-height sides, scattered at the edges, along the walls of the open plan floor, walls that met the baseboards that mice ran over after dark. No one kept snacks in their desk at NAPCO. In between the walls and the offices against the walls were the desks, about twice as wide as a school desk, lined up in neat rows facing whichever wall the exit was on. And I sat at one of those desks, on a half broken hand-me-down office chair, with a stack of pens and pencils of every sort, and spent my hours filling in subscription cards to make them pass an audit to show that people were, legit, signing up for these free magazines NAPCO published. Free to the reader, but paid for entirely by ads, as long as the reader fit the profile. (And if the reader did not properly fill out the tear-off card, then I was there, bubbling in the bubbles they forgot, and adding anything else they forgot too: hunting down addresses and phone numbers in the stacks of phone books piled in the mailroom.) And while I sat at my desk (or in the mailroom) and diligently worked, I also diligently smoked, along with the much older black woman, Monique, who sat on my left and ate Roy Rogers every single day for lunch, and was 300 pounds if she was a single pound, and Bernice, the much older white woman on my right, who probably weighed 85 pounds fully-dressed and in her winter parka who lunched on a half can of Campbells soup daily. My lunch was all over the place. One day a half dozen oranges from the fruit stand. Next time a piece of spanakopita from the Greek lunch truck, or bagel and whitefish from the bagel hut, or fried plantains from the Ethiopian truck, maybe Mulligatawny soup today, and you get the idea. Monique and Bernice were fond of me, and completely bewildered by my food choices. But while I could never get them to sample a plantain, they were often kind enough to empty my ashtray, or loan me a pack of matches. The three of us were a united wall of fumes in front of the office of our boss, Claire, who used to tell us dreamy stories about her wonderful husband who still called her his bride, though they were in their… late 50s. Claire did not smoke, but she never seemed to mind us constantly lighting the next one from the previous one as we listened to her stories. Claire was kind, and someone’s bride, and in a sort-of office. She was impressive. Monique would tell stories of card parties she hosted to help people pay rent, and she could do card tricks as well, and she would do them for us, but never revealed how they were done. I remember Bernice was always sprouting an avocado pit on her desk, though there were no windows within 300 feet of us, and once the leaves would emerge she would give it away, and be back the next week with a new pit. People lined up for those plants. I had to work there over a year before I got one. Claire lived in Bucks County. It sounded fancy and expensive and none of us had ever been there. Monique lived in North Philly. North Philly was not great, but Monique made it sound wonderful. Bernice lived in Camden and made it sound God-awful. I lived in the suburbs, and living there was like being stuck living in a social studies textbook when I really wanted to live in a Tom Robbins novel. Claire, as I said, was kind, but not funny, but appreciative of humor. She could laugh well. Monique and Bernice and I were all very funny, in our own unique ways, Bernice the driest of us all, and we got along really well, as smokers and their allies often do, and both the camaraderie and the cigarettes made time at a mind-numbingly useless job go by more quickly. Back then the owner of NAPCO was reported to live in the penthouse on the Delaware River by New Market, and I longed to make enough money to live in a hip part of town like that, but never ever did. And I’m gonna say that nothing’s changed much for me. I’m still working dumb jobs, still thinking I’m funnier than you, and still wishing I lived in a cooler place. Everything’s status quo.

Except the smoking. I let that love go. And I still carry a torch for it. Old habits …

But drinking.

I mean, in the NAPCO days I was of substantial frame, but in a cheesecake sort-of-way that was not too frowned upon, and the extra I carried made me pretty immune to the effects, of booze. I was either Fine, or Fine, or Yep, still fine, or Please excuse me, I need to go home and lapse into a coma now.

My brother drank way too much, like, “What year is it?” too much. And my father taught him everything he knew, but I never made it over the bourbon bridge.

I don’t know why I never crossed over. Maybe because I don’t need to be drunk to dance. I mean, I’m not dancing exceedingly well, or with rhythm or anything, but I just will do it, get out there, sober. Except for things like the Electric Slide, and when it comes to things like the Electric Slide nothing is going to help me. There isn’t enough hooch on Earth. but shit, yes, I’ll dance sober. I’m an introvert, such an introvert, but I love dancing.

So, if I drink, it’s not to dance. And it’s not to get brave, or wild. I might get a little giggle. I definitely get a sinus headache. If you drink sitting near me I’ll get a sinus headache. My sinuses hate booze.I have a beautiful nose, but it’s trouble, like a dame. You know what I mean. And I can get wild and brave while sober. Booze just makes me do it faster and with less accuracy. It’s not a given that brave only follows booze, not for me.

And yet, it’s relaxing that alludes me, the chilling out. I guess that, sometimes, grownups need some external force to aide in the pursuit of de-stressing. Which is why, if I am ever elected president or crowned queen, every adult will be entitled to 4 Valium/ month, purely for stress and other inner disturbances, and these pills will be paid for on the taxpayer’s dime too, and come in a pretty and re-giftable box.

And so, here we are in a pandemic, and I am not the president, so there is no free Valium for you and me, so what the fuck you gone do some nights when the stress rolls in off the sea like thick fog?

Well, of course, you rage journal and bitch-knit; I mean, don’t we all? And you take therapeutic baths, and long walks off short piers into the sunset, and you always have your various and sundry pets, and herbal concoctions, and goddess beads and mysterious things, like eyeshadow. But, seriously, booze. Am I right?

And so, having just poured the last half inch of the Maker’s Mark into my glass, and added ice and (my second favorite beverage after coffee) Q ginger ale, I am left with: a slight relaxing of the muscles, a slight sinus disfunction, and one beautiful and empty glass bottle.

Which is what you and I have gathered together, in this safe distanced way, to discuss.

I hate, hate, hate, throwing away glass. Call the bin on the right recycling if you want to, in my little corner of the world I think it all becomes just trash no matter which bin you stick it into, & I don’t want to waste glass. Lovely, beautiful, useful glass.

So, long story short, all you other people out there making clinky trash, what’s your idea for repurposing this glass? What are we going to do with all of these beautiful pandemic bottles?

FRUSTRATION

Did the election reveal any of your frustrations to you?

It did to me.

In general, do you have anyone you love, you spend time with, in your life, who is also a source of election frustration, or downright anxiety? Who, perhaps, watches the “wrong” news channel, and listens to the “wrong” guy on the radio, and so knows everything already? (Which is not like me listening to NPR. NPR is golden. And it’s not my fault if it’s made me a bit of a Cliff Claven. It’s good to be Cliff.) So do you have a person for whom ABC, CBS, NPR, and etc., are not good enough? A person who needs to have secret inside information, rather than the regular information the rest of us get, and has this secret conspiracy information, and so refuses to do most logical and helpful things because he or she knows better?

I believe, to begin with, this troubling tendency is found more often in people without good self-esteem. That is my main thought. These folks must just lack an inner voice that tells them, in so many words, you don’t have to think about you, because you’re basically okay; you may not be the richest, or the thinnest, or the most important, or the … whatever, but you’re basically okay. Of course, were I to tell my people I feel they lack stable self-esteem, and that their basically okay, and so don’t need to have Q’Anon lock down gay people or whatever, well, the volume would get right past 10 to 11, and they would tell me how PERFECT their own self-esteem is, and at least one of them would say a few things to knock my own self-esteem, and try to get me defensive about myself. They would tell me I can go to wherever un-needed people go, the less pleasant a place the better. And, of course, as often happens, would refuse to cooperate with any ideas that weren’t theirs. Ha! And these are the folks Biden has to try and build consensus with. Good luck Buddy.

How about the pandemic? Has it made you take a long (continuous? ’cause you’re stuck with you?) look at yourself? Do you feel okay with you? Has it made others frustrated with you? I think I’ve become a source of frustration for one or two in my life.

I have a lot of frustrating flaws I wish I could fix. I am working on some of them, but there’s only so many hours in the day, and so I have to go forward and live on with my damn flaws. But, I can say that this pandemic has made me realize that I am Jim-dandy okay with myself. Like, I can hang out with myself all day. I can hang out with my husband, and my daughter, and I find them fascinating, and they don’t bore me, though we do occasionally have our dust-ups. And I can think of things to do with my time that don’t involve household chores or TV or doom-scrolling on my phone, though I like a bit of all three of those too. And I think that I can (usually) be calm in the face of chaos. For example, we three made ravioli from scratch last night, with the very pasta roller my mama purchased for me for my birthday, and, yes, we had a little dust-up in the middle… three cooks can be a challenge, but we worked through it with grace I think, in the main, and had a good time and fabulous ravioli. And this morning, the counter is still covered with flour, and the mixer is not put away, but this early time, before my other two awake, is my time for writing, and so I did not clean up (which would be noisy and wakeful for the others anyway). I made coffee, and here I sit,  philosophizing, at the kitchen table in a (frankly) dirty kitchen full of flour-mayhem. This is a bit of being okay with myself, and this would frustrate the hell out of some people in my life. I know my mother does often remark on me being sort of calm and happy and comfortable to be around, though she absolutely hates it that I’m always saying some version of, “I’m fine.” Do you want me to make more coffee? No, I’m fine. Do you want me to make another side for dinner? No, what you have is fine. Do you hate having so many cats? No, they’re fine. Is Dave angry that he has to empty the litter from so many cats? No, he’s fine. Do you want the temperature up, down, sideways? No, it’s fine. Stop at the gas station; let me put gas in your car. No, it’s more than half full; it’s fine. OH, FINE! YOU’RE FINE; EVERYTHING’S FINE! ISN’T IT GREAT TO BE YOU?! Yes, I am fine. I don’t know that’s it’s so great to be me, or why that drives her so bonkers, but it does. And yes, I am fine.

Another thing that I think frustrates some of my near and dear is the homeschooling. I have some friends/family who, for whatever reason, want to hang out with me. Which makes me a very lucky person. And they also happen to be people who are not working due to age or health or whatever. And so, they would very much like to hang out (socially distanced when necessary, none of them are reckless) during the weekdays. And I am teaching my classes for two colleges during the weekdays (with all that entails… live Zooms, grading, the like), and I am also homeschooling my daughter. The second is harder to justify. People think That’s not a real thing, or, That’s an optional thing. And it actually isn’t. People also think, So you’re one of those nutters. HA! Yes, I guess I am, this year. I’m homeschooling, and I have to refuse my friends/family my afternoons or lunchtimes because I’m teaching my kid during them, which seems like a fake or optional thing to them.

Has anyone got a friend or two who tells you what your level of lockdown, bubble, or mask wearing should be? People who tell you they’re okay with hanging out when you’re not at their level of “eating together in a restaurant is fine?” Or are you the one who wants to go out, and your more cautious people are frustrating you?

Being on “lockdown” has given me less frustrations than, perhaps, it has given other people because it has helped me have an excuse to say “No.” I’m in the bubble of three seniors, and so I am not okay with hanging out in most situations. I don’t want to be the weak link that brought Covid home. While this has been hard, it has helped me to prioritize and to do the things with my time that I want to do with them, and, still, with the extra time this has given me, there is not nearly enough time to do all I want and need to do if I am going to homeschool my daughter, make DPP a success, and finish my own damn novels. As we can all see the light at the end of the lockdown, I see an end to more time than I’ve ever had, to more freedom than I’ve ever had, to more autonomy than I’ve ever had. My frustrations yawn before me, like the great vista we can all see through the end of the tunnel. So, yeah, the “stay-at-home” part of this pandemic year+ may almost be over. And I don’t want it to be, and that frustrates me. Must. Get. More. Done. Before. It. Ends.

How do you tackle your frustrations?