It never rains in Southern California: Ten for Today

September 12, 2016

The deserted parking lot on a Monday night at 7:50 p.m., one lone woman standing in an empty store, peering out the window into the low-lit night, it looks like the opening scene of a horror movie. Time freezes as the camera zeroes in on the woman’s catatonic face, drugged with the silent motionless night. The light peering from the cracked-open door leading to the store back room casts menace into the scene.

Will the spell be broken?

The painted prancing orange Corgi silhouette on the dog training parlor next door leaps to no one, nowhere. Odd. No clear launching or landing points for the dog–seems implausible. I’m not sure I’d take my dog there with that emblematic greeting: teach your dog to leap from nowhere to nowhere. Eerie and unsafe.

Seems pointless.

Like paying someone to write lame stories—pumping her creativity, not the store coffers. What should I do? Take to the boulevard with one of those huge arrows to twirl, dancing customers into the store or causing accidents by the distraction?

Who would mind the store?

Perhaps the old man picking through the trash in front of the store could keep an eye on the place while I wrestle up business. Ah, but he’s destroyed the horror movie ambiance with his fruitless search. But no, not picking through the trash (that’s reserved for the 50-something bedraggled woman in the wheelchair right around 9 p.m.), he’s throwing out trash and heading in!

“Did you see it?!!”

“What? See what?! (Yes! Some action heading my way).

“The rain. It’s raining. I even had to use my wipers to swipe it away once.”

 
Pixabay/rain

Fat Knees: Ten For Thursday


September 8, 2016
 
I’ve always had a rocky relationship with my knees. Maybe it was my mother who first brought notice to the knee knocking. She once remarked that she had fleshy knees. I have the same knees. The surrounding knee flesh on the inner leg side puffs noticeably, like a mutant swollen skin tag.
 
Luckily, my era saw the maxi and midi skirts, either ankle length or below the knee length skirts and dresses. I recently emptied a closet full of midi skirts I wore professionally with a smart suit jacket, the uniform I wore to my law office. Like the law practice itself, those styles belong to a bygone era.
 
Now the mini and maxi remain, the latter my preference of course. The knees.
 
I recently wore a mini-ish dress, a sleeveless, painted, loosely-body-conforming sunset dress I bought in Hawaii a dozen or so years ago. I took a long look at my knees peering out from just under the hem of the midnight blue portion of the dress (sunset waters), and still did not like my fleshy knees, especially now that they’re accompanied by crepe-y skin sliding down to meet them. Aging ain’t pretty.
 
But it could be. While I know I’m perpetuating the cultural lore of youth beauty worship by disliking my knees, hiding them most of my life, I still wore the dress–with only a little trepidation. The beauty of aging lies in Helen Mirren style fuck-its. The gorgeous feeling of not giving a shit. But maybe that trite image–the rebel 50-something–is culturally produced too.
 
I’d like to take my fat knee to the crotch of cultural dictates, the media and marketing agencies. This fifty-something raises her age-spotted middle finger and says, “Fuck you!”

Published on Life in 10 Minutes


A Room of my Own, a ten minute write I published here was published today on the site that inspired me to begin the daily habit of ten minutes to drain-write. I’m finding the creative sprints have opened possibilities, even whistle beckoning to begin or finish those bigger projects. 
Read the piece here. Hope you enjoy… Again. 

Peace. 

Room of my own to clean: Ten for Today


August 21, 2016
 
Late summer cleaning: Decluttering my room brings me to well-traveled roads. Everything I touch feels or smells like time: last week, month, year or decade. My room aggregates time.
 
But not just this room. I’ve inhabited rooms all my life, fortunate as I am to have had roofs over my head. Only by choice have I slept outside a room–from camping under the stars, backpacking across the country or passed out drunk on a stranger’s couch.
 
My first room–one of my own–had tan shorn short carpet covered in down feathers slowly de-fluffed from my down comforter through small growing holes. I shared an apartment with my older sister after I left the home I shared with my husband for nearly 9 years. We were on hiatus. Six years of separation. And this room was the first I called my own, having shared all my other rooms from birth to age 29.
 
Though the circumstances of my landing in this room in an apartment complex settled below the hump of a freeway on ramp dampened the excitement of this first time experience, still I marveled at the possibilities: stamp my own identify into the fabric. Finally, I could fill a space with me, pieces of me in art, furnishings, bed sheets and comforters, knick knacks–all my choices.
 
As it turned out, however, I’d only half live in that space and the only addition to the bland, bare tan room, bed and dresser I unloaded moving in was the escaped goose down feather floor covering. Between obsessive work hours and mad dash dating, I hardly spent time in that room I slept in for two years before I bought a house, where I lived for another three or four years before moving back into my marital home, where now, 21 years later, I have my own room–sort of, mostly–to clean.

There’s a Woman (Ten for Today)


August 2, 2016
 
I used to have so much fight in me, so much conviction, indignation, righteousness and determination. I was ambition. I was striving.
 
Now I’m heart-fatigued, deadened by weather, watches and people, so I can’t be bothered with so much of what bothered me. My ambitions are quieter, steadier now. And while before everything turned to anger–contradiction, injustice, oppression–now those conditions are met with a profound sadness that shatters my steady, moves my once immovable tears from the dammed up reservoir of hurt, pain, disappointment, fear, shock and panic to come, future furies and frustrations.
 
For example, I know someone who takes advantage of my inability to say no, sometimes. She plays me, and I know it and accept it. I allow her to do that–use me for her own gains and pleasures. I can only surmise I permit her to take advantage; otherwise, I would simply make her stop.
 
That slight, that injustice, that unfairness, how she treats me, would have enraged me in younger days. I would have ached to avenge my pride, my dignity, scraping my imagination with retorts, come-backs, equalizing actions and humiliating reconciliation.
 
But today, I observe her making me uncomfortable, forcing me to vocalize the dirty rotten truth between us. And I watch myself watching her watching me. Awaiting the courage and the words, I witness her machinations, manipulations and movements, and mull the situation over, slightly anxious, confident the solution will find me.

I got the last order of halibut tacos: ten for today

July 19, 2016
 
I’m having trouble. I stayed up too late and ruined my sleep. Those sleep-deprived days hit hardest, most difficult to bear. The world seems scary, like one giant acid trip gone wrong that I cannot come down from, no matter how much I talk myself through it. My feet feel as if I am walking in the bounce house.
 
Morning came too quickly, the doors opening and closing to my bedroom. Communal showers suck. I worked late into the night fixing my article for the new French client, only to awaken to stern reprimand from someone half my age, probably. I did not follow directions, too worried about meeting deadline and not the specifics. Certainly my fault but can we just treat each other kindly? Even editors?
 
Hard pressed to inhabit the Zen of it all, I fought all morning with myself. “This is the life of a writer. This is life. Don’t be afraid of rejection, judgment and criticism.” I had to keep myself from diving over the cliff of “I fucked up.” Forgiveness.
 
My nerves still sore, I taught class, guilty that I wasn’t fresh, alert and sharp, but that turned out to be a lie I told myself. The class discussion meandered through colonialism, prejudice, Black Lives Matter, censorship, profanity, the sub-prime mortgage debacle, the abc’s of finance, medicine, medico-legal ethics, euthanasia, and stories, lots of anecdotes, for a breezy four and a half hours. At least it seemed that way. Summer school. Beautiful students.
 
Rounding out nicely with a particularly grapefruit citrus-tinged IPA and halibut tacos ordered at my local hangout–family members all working (except for dad glued to the t.v.)–this day wanes okay, citing my own research on French proverbs (my maybe rejected assignment)–apres la pluie, le beau temps (Every cloud has a silver lining). I’m about to chomp down on my halibut tacos silver lining. Cheers and Bon appetit! 

Ten Minute Write for July 13th: the divinity of detail


July 13, 2016
Writing to, from and down the bones sounds simple enough–the detail, the divine detail–but the word fount must be vast and strong. Specificity takes knowing the names of things, everything. I can hardly remember my own. Names.

I lack an honest pen. I am just learning to live with things as they are, not according to my vision and story, but as they are. I’ve embellished on life, added color, flexed the edges of pathways and tables to make them fit a certain slant in my sight. It sounds like fabricating–lying–but I think it’s appropriate to call it crafting. Yes, there is a line, a circle too. But crafting is legitimate, carving stories from wood and steel. I do it. We all do. Ultimately we are the stories we write ourselves into from everything we deem real, lived and experienced.

There is a rolled up tube, wide and tall as my thigh, slightly taller, that stays tubed by a rubber band, awaiting a frame as it sits vertically atop my desk, white, serene, divided in half by that serpentine rubber band. Inside, I have seen the cow skull atop the man, sitting in the foreground with powerful arms and lean body, brown man in the heat, in the background a rustic desert cafe one sees in dusty towns off long, leaning highways into the horizon. He wears a skull as ritual, in his town, an African town, somewhere outside Johannesburg. 

The line sketch print, presented to me as a birthday present, one I asked for after spying this piece at a friend’s house art gallery opening, pleased me softly and widely. Perhaps the cow bones spoke the truth in human animality, like the Native American mask that hangs above the fire place: antlers, fox skins and painted man. They came to be as someone’s vision. My husband bought both pieces for me, witnessing the missives sent without reading them. Perception. Vision. 

That is my story, my detail of notice and narration, memory and matters. 

A Time for Mary

 


I have this watch. A client gave it to me at the start of my law career. He was grateful for the care and concern I gave to his affairs, business and personal. I was hired to develop and negotiate contracts, defend his interests in litigation or sue people for wrongs committed against his business or person. He was my second client, the first being the one on whose behalf I sued him, the second client.

Mr. M, I’ll call him, was probably impressed that I successfully sued him. We settled for my client’s costs and damages, and at that time I could boast that my success record was 100%.

I worked for Mr. M for 7 or 8 years. He paid me a monthly retainer to do jobs small and large. Once, nearly thirty years ago, he called me at 4 a.m. at my apartment. I lived with my sister then and she answered the landline (all there was then). He said he needed to talk to me right away and to meet him at a specific address. When I got there, I found myself at a dock in Newport Beach–on a yacht.

I spent the day with Mr. M, talking him down from an alchohol-induced craze about a fight he had with his wife. We mostly talked, then navigated a dinghy to the club across the bay for more drinks. I did not drink. He later thanked me and insisted on paying for my time. A few months later, he gave me the watch.

The watch had belonged to Nat King Cole, according to Mr. M. There was a story about the meeting that I do not recall. Honestly, I don’t remember whether it was Nat King Cole’s or belonged to someone else in the story about Nat King Cole. It was so long ago.


On the back of the watch is an inscription that has nothing to do with Nat King Cole ostensibly. I believe it reads: “Agie Trembly From Mary–April 20th, 1944.”

Each time I wear the watch, which still keeps time near perfectly, I think about Mary. Who is she? What was her relationship with Trembly? She did not engrave “love” as in “Love Mary”. Were they ever lovers? She is just Mary but he has a first and last name. Was Trembly her boss?

So much war and destruction on this date, the SS Paul Hamilton, filled with ammunition having exploded, killing all 580 aboard. A German-launched torpedo blew them up in the Mediterranean. The war would not end for another five months.

What did Mary think of the tragedy? What did she hope to impart, gain or express in giving Trembly the watch, a Rolex, no less? I imagine her giving this gift with hope in her heart during such desperate times, men off fighting in wars and she left behind to read about it in the papers. She must have worked to fill the jobs men left open, or she came from a family with means, whether earned or inherited.

I imagine her longing and pensive like this:
14768258411_1c11427801_n
Perhaps the image is older than she, but the hint of forlorn in her posture, her gaze, might very well be the same.

There was a time when Mary had hopes or gratitude or platonic appreciation for a man, who might have returned from the war or never gone at all, being too young or afflicted in some way.

Mr. M died of esophageal cancer. Actually he died of an allergic reaction to the chemotherapy to treat the cancer some twenty odd years ago. He was a chain smoker and a drinker, a charitable man, a big man turned frail by disease. I saw him last at the court house, his brother in law prosecuting a case for him. I had since broadened my practice to 50 or 60 cases by then, and he had fallen to hard times.

For a long time after his death, I thought I heard or saw him. His presence haunted me for about a year, speaking a phrase or tossed word only he would have spoken. I remember the time he told me that I was not brilliant but a good, hard working lawyer. That stuck with me.

The man was a colorful client, an old time door to door salesman grown successful in the peripherals of the music business of the 70s and 80s. I credit him with founding the footing of my practice and sustaining it for years.

We were not close, not friends, but his unsolicited gift speaks to me, arouses mystery and memory, recalled in time-worn haze, our lives intersected in cloudy images, like the flattened engraving on the back of a Rolex watch–from Mary.

Love is not a plenum

image

I have the most difficult time imagining let alone explaining the Big Bang. There is this thing to which there is no outside but contains everything–all space, time, motion, light, life, stars, planets, galaxies, moons, atmosphere, gravity and imagination. I can only envision a balloon expanding that captures a portion of its essence, its configuration. But balloons are plenums of sorts.

ple·num
ˈplenəm,ˈplēnəm/
noun
1.
an assembly of all the members of a group or committee.
2.
PHYSICS
a space completely filled with matter, or the whole of space so regarded.

I refer to the second definition when I think of the universe’s (or multiverse’s) origins. But no one knows whether the universe is a plenum. Our minds can only understand to the reaches of our imaginations.

One day, over 17 years ago, I lay with my then 2 and 1/2 year old first born curled in fetal sleep. To this day, I can recall so crisply the angst I felt with another life brewing inside me. “How could I possibly love another child when my heart is so full with this one here?” I thought in a painfully probably hormone-induced teary-eyed moment.

Though quite illogical, the angst grew during my second pregnancy. Today, as that second born turns 17, I reflect on the framework of her arrival–as a storied gift to her sister and an ill-conceived mathematical challenge to my miscalculated quantity of allotted love.

Like the Big Bang theory, the mystery of beginnings, dimensions and edges to inside and outside belong to love–which is definitely not a plenum.

Happy birthday to my brown-eyed wonder.