Friday, January 1, 2021

 DAHLIAS OF THE STORM

(reprinted by request)

It's New Year's Day. I SHOULD have recovered by now from a traumatic scene that takes place during every November's first big storm.

Typically I'll be lounging on the sofa, peacefully watching a favorite Marx Brothers movie. I'm eating Frito Scoopers with tahini, and thinking how it's almost time to put the three-cheese ravioli on the table. The windows are lashed by icy rain or some variation of huge record-breaking dumpings of snow driven by gale-force winds. I think how cosy it is inside, all warm and comfy.

But as I stare hypnotized at the sleet flowers on the window, very slowly I realize that the storm is sure to bring about the season's first hard freeze. And at these words, the hairs on the back of my neck slowly rise. Surely I didn't forget, once again, TO DIG UP THE DAHLIA ROOTS AND BRING THEM SAFELY IN?

Five minutes later a puny figure can be seen in the garden, through the blizzard, frantically digging. She is alone, since she tried to persuade the family dogs to come out with her, but they were too smart. She spades furiously, trying to separate the dahlia roots from clumps of ice forming around them.

Swags of snow cover this figure and turn her into a shoveling snowwoman, or perhaps there's no snow but only sleety rain under a thunderously swollen black sky torn by zigzags of lightning, striking close. No matter; she digs on, cursing. She has to.

Finally the roots are chipped and gouged out, and rushed to the house in a bucket as the snowwoman trips over ice chunks and loudly screams "Shit!" It's painful to recall that only a week before, on a honey-scented fantastically warm afternoon, she sentimentally admired a late rose.

Six months pass. Spring comes. I put it off, but the day comes, as it always will, when I have to go to the basement and open the bags of dahlia roots I'd sealed shut on that storm-driven night in November.  I look at them hard. They look dead as nails: dried, shriveled, unpromising. They haven't made it, and it's all my fault. While I was indulging my craze for Marx Brothers movies and Frito Scoopers, the fragile dahlia orphans were perishing in the storm.

But then I take another look. In the cold, dark basement air, it almost seems as though there's a tiny red ember on one of the roots. When I keep looking, very close, I gradually see that each root has one or two minute red fronds. 

They are sturdy, alive, and seeking the light. And that is all it takes.




Friday, November 13, 2020

 WINTER QUARANTINE COMING UP,  MY BUNNIES. WHAT SHOULD WE DO?

Seven months of ice and snow, except for unnatural places like California. Our North country December has no people in slingshot bikinis. Oh Jeeze. What can we do to fill the time and stay chirpy as our butts slowly numb? The quarantine was bad enough in GOOD weather. Some were driven by solitude and boredom to eat grass like crazy kings in the Old Testament. Some were throwing bags of Domino Sugar over themselves.

Growing our hair out is better than pulling it out! Stop cutting your lavish locks. Let them whip!

By spring, women would discover for sure if they have the soul of a Victorian bride or Mata Hari.


Some men will have refined and gentle beards like Chinese sages.

Others will be old sea captains with the ship's cat nestling in their human fur.

Watch out for the guy with hypnotic glittery eyes who doesn't wash much. He's turned into a mad monk, like Rasputin.
In April under the cherry blossoms we can gather, and Ooh and Aah and compare, and see what we've become.

So, starting in November, with the first snow: let it flow.💓

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

WATCHER/STALKER: THE BAD OLD DAYS BEFORE #MeToo

Years ago a new couple moved to our neighborhood. Let's call them Brady and Betty, not their real names. Betty was a devout, well-liked member of a local conservative church. She had a brother who struggled with addiction. She came from a close family, and they had done everything they could to help their brother. But they knew they were losing him.

Brady exploited their grief. He used it as an excuse to form a sort of wildcat, no-rules Watch Group. Betty would galvanize church members to take part. Betty's motives were innocent. Her only fault was in trusting her husband's motives.

Since the peaceful, woodsy neighborhood had always been crime-free and drug-free, the rest of us weren't sure what they would find to watch. We were naively #MidwestNice, and it hadn't occurred to any of us that a Watcher with a good-guy mask might have a very nasty personal agenda.

Brady was a frustrated bully who'd never had such a great chance to abuse a bit of power and get away with it. He began having the time of his life. He swaggered around the neighborhood, securing the perimeters. He showed strange interest in following the young. He, a male stranger, offered his personal protection to little teenagers. He said he was "keeping an eye on things." He sure was. He was spotted cropping up on people's lawns in the middle of the night, peering through bathroom and bedroom windows.

Brady treated the police department's Anonymous Tipster phone line as his personal toy. This was a special feature which allowed him to safely lie about others. He encouraged his buddies and his wife's churchy friends to "report" neighbors who seemed eccentric, or different, or whom they just had never liked. He himself reported women he'd pursued, unknown to his wife, who rejected him.

The police hate being treated like fools. They hate malicious false reports, which waste their time and resources.  When the same people keep doing this, the police often figure out who the liars are. And they don't forgive.

Since Brady was underemployed and had plenty of time on his hands, he also wrote down the license plate numbers of people who'd lived blamelessly in the area for years, and followed women who were jogging or biking. He leered at them and took pictures of them with his camera phone. Did anyone call the cops? Nope. In those days you were supposed to just ignore a creep.

Some of the more troubled people in the area copied him. One man, a psychiatrist, trained his toddler son to shout abuse at longtime residents the psychiatrist couldn't get along with.

A teenage pothead harassed married women. His mother was told, and refused to believe her darling baby boy could ever have done anything naughty. "Good luck provin' it," she sneered, ambling away. She never forgave his victims for daring to speak up.

A lawyer stood behind bushes and took pictures of little children playing in their backyard.

A very ancient, very demented church member, who went to Mass every day, would stand on the sidewalk after this holy hour and shriek obscenities at her "enemies."

Interestingly, many of those who showed the most gung-ho witchhunting talent belonged to this conservative church. It was almost as though they'd been waiting for the opportunity, and Brady gave them the excuse. 

Mister Felonious Malicious Harassment invented nasty gossip about those who questioned him. He boasted about using a radio scanner, invading email accounts and forging messages, installing Malware, installing tracking devices in cars. Since Brady was a notorious braggart, it's possible he didn't do all of these things. But he certainly did some of them. 

Finally, hopped-up on delusions of power, he began uttering threats. Parents discussed getting a restraining order against him. Within a week, he and his wife moved away. But that was not the end of him.

According to his acquaintances, Brady had also been a Peeping Tom who captured, and shared, intimate images of his neighbors without their knowledge or permission. The dude was allegedly all but hanging off rain gutters with a video camera dangling from his butt. In our state, this is a felony. So are defamation and stalking.

In the end, Brady was exposed by something he could never have predicted: the rise of the internet. Suddenly, anyone who could read could look up personal histories, and many did. It turned out that the people Brady had targeted had never been in trouble in their lives. Not then, not now, not ever.  Neither had their friends or relatives.  

Brady, however, and some of his followers, had very interesting and spicy histories. And they became more interesting the deeper you searched.  

Brady was the slippery type. It's doubtful he'll ever be punished for past events. Maybe in new situations he'll even get away with masquerading as a good guy who walks with Jesus. But it would be safer if he doesn't bring up the old neighborhood. There are many who remember him all too well.

Friday, September 20, 2019

A FACEBOOK "FRIEND" HAS BEEN MOCKING ME...


for posting hearts and doting messages on baby elephant links.
Well, I can't help it. I never saw a baby elephant I didn't
like. They are sweet darlings. I also like when the whole
village turns out and with saintlike cooperation and heroic
labor pull the little things out of some dire situation
they've gotten themselves into. Meanwhile, "Friend" has been
posting tiresome pictures of a Bentley her grandmother owned
about a million years ago. Big whoop. I'm SO impressed. It's
a dang car, it goes from A to B. I COULD remind her of her
Gogol ("The carriages of the past will take you nowhere")
but I'm far too much of a lady.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

"HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU"



LET'S SAY THAT ON A GORGEOUS FLOWERY LATE SUMMER DAY
you're browsing in the bookstore, and sneering at a
vintage bestselling self-help book:
HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU. Corny and shallow,
right? Except you read some of it, and embarrassing
to say, it makes a lot of sense about
things that happened long ago with a certain kid
during student days. At the time, you didn't under-
stand. But now, the ceiling gently parts and reveals
a huge blue firmament bulging with suns and moons and
an angel with a trumpet, tooting:
"HE JUST WASN'T THAT INTO YOU."

Some puzzling events of decades back unfold in
golden light. It wasn't because you should have been
more glamorous, smarter, more mysterious,
had longer legs, hilarious repartee. You were good
the way you were. The lad just wasn't that into you.

Some of the young have such stubborn faith in their
own powers of enchantment. The object of desire
could come shimmying up to such a girl
singing Dylan's "It Ain't Me, Babe" every time they
meet, and she would STILL not believe it.
Believe it, babe. He's not serious.

"What? Not smitten senseless over me?" Yes. Not you.

Student days. It happens.

Now, time to amble out to the flower stalls and put
together an enormous bouquet, then hunt down
the best cappuccino.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

SPOILED AMERICAN WOMAN


TODAY I LEARNED I"M A SPOILED AMERICAN WOMAN. I'd always
thought vaguely that I'm a socialist, sort of, although
others said no real socialist would be so fussy about
coffee. But I admitted a bourgeoise weakness for the old
vintage Coach handbags. These are the cool kind where
you can see the mark the bull made on his hide when he
scratched against a shagbark oak.

Today I was trolling eBay, because sometimes bored rich
ladies sell their barely used castoff handbags for a
good price. I spotted a wine red Coach beauty with a
lovely patina. I studied the pictures, nose to screen,
and suddenly screamed aloud in horror.

"NO SLIP POCKET IN BACK?? Just what the HELL am I
supposed to do, lift a damn flap every time I want to
put my sunglasses away? What...the...F**K!"

So, it's definite. Not a socialist. Instead, a Spoiled
American Woman. I'm really embarrassed by this,
but what can I say? I like slip pockets.

(signed) ABASHED

Sunday, January 20, 2019

DEFANGING THE VAMPIRE BULLY


"Never allow yourself to be bullied into silence. Never allow
yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life.
Define yourself."
HARVEY FIERSTEIN, writer

"A bully is a big a.hole with a little bit of man attached."
Mickey Rourke, actor

"I was the kid who used to get shoved into lockers by school bullies.
Because of that, I have never felt like a star in my life."
WINONA RYDER, actor

"I paid a worker at New York's zoo to open it just for me and Robin."
(Mike Tyson's then-wife.) "When we got to the gorilla cage, there
was a big silverback gorilla there just bullying the other gorillas.
They were so powerful, but their eyes were like an innocent infant.
I offered the attendant $10,000 to open the cage door and let me
smash the silverback right in the snotbox. He declined."
MIKE TYSON, boxer

"He seemed to delight in his ability to frighten me...a bully is an
emotionally retarded vampire. He is not entitled to your blood."
MARLENA DE BLASI, writer

"Stalking is bullying. One of the hardest jobs a cop will ever face
is getting it through the head of a real sleazebag that he can't
dog, follow, threaten, defame, or otherwise torment a woman he
wants, who won't have anything to do with him. Quite often he's
married to somebody else, or got a girlfriend. He'll lie to them
about what he's doing, lie to his own mom.
It's not rocket science, ladies. Is he following somebody around?
Trying to access her email, Facebook account? Maybe spreading
nasty stories? And she's made it clear she despises his guts?
The guy is a liar and a creep. He thinks we don't know about him?
We know. And we don't forget."
A POLICEWOMAN

"All bullying should be met by steel."
GYPSY SAYING

"When I was six years old, I went and complained to my Mom
because I was being punched around by kids. She gave me some
of the best advice I've ever had. She said, 'If someone is pushing
you around, find a way to drop something very heavy on his head.'
To this day, I find a way. Worked then, works now."
JOHNNY DEPP, actor

"I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid-a-hand-on.
I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same
from them."
JOHN WAYNE, actor.

John Wayne always said that this last quote, from his movie
THE SHOOTIST, expressed his own ideas of human dignity and strength,
and the way people should treat each other. I think he was right.