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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Little things mean a lot...

Yesterday, someone hacked into my computer. Well, not exactly hacked. They were sitting at my desk, keeping it warm until I got back from lunch and someone wanted an answer that was in my computer. A big shot executive vice president. Well, my lunch relief turned into a blithering idiot instead of someone who's grown up enough to hold a damn JOB and tore my reference books apart until she found an old password I had written down because I needed a temp and I, unlike the rest of the universe (or the universe at THIS company) am forced to hand over my password because setting up a benign profile under the name of, or, I dunno, how's "TEMP" sound, is beyond the capabilities of the MIS department here.

We spend hours in security classes where the mantra "NEVER give ANYONE your password" is drummed into us, ad nauseum. We sign papers indicating we understand this. We sign papers indicating that we understand that going into someone else's computer is a firing offense, no warnings, no nothing, just "don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out" firing. We sign papers saying that no one, never, ever, in this company will ever, ever go into your computer for information because that makes your email accessible and that's a HUGE corporate no-no. Unless the company is being sued and you're specifically named in the suit and the suit alleges you sent something via the e-mail. Unless, of course, you work in MY department where security is important to everyone unless you're dealing with me, in which case, what's the big deal?

So she finds an old password, figures out it's probably a pattern and after one or two tried she got in to my signed out desktop so the steamroller executive could have the information she refused to wait FIVE MINUTES for. The idiot who couldn't say "sorry, I don't have her password and I can be fired for signing on to her computer without her permission, she's due back in five minutes, hang on" found the outdated password on the aforementioned copy of a note I had left the temp...a note which, by the way, had BOTH my HOME NUMBER and my CELL NUMBER on it. MUCH better to just surmise a password and fire up someone else's computer than pick up the damn PHONE, no?

THEN came the teary eyed "Oh, I'm SO sorry, I didn't know what to do, she's entitled to do that" explanation. Um, BULLSHIT lady. MICKEY MOUSE isn't allowed to hack into Disney computers.
 No, I don't work for Disney but the point is valid.

Not wanting to get the moron fired, I place a couple of well intentioned complaints to be told "oh gee, that's too bad, have I told you about my sister in law?" which translates to "Uh, lady, don't complain to me, you aren't  entitled to the same courtesy the rest of us give each other so shut the hell up." I went home, made a drink and a batch of cookies and figured it would dissipate by morning. It hasn't.

I am becoming more and more aware of how important respect for others is, and how the smallest thing can destroy trust. I always liked the girl. I'm having trouble being civil to her. SHE knew better. BUT...since is was just ME, she had no qualms getting into my desktop...NOR did the executive who wanted her to do it. Because I'm not worthy of the courtesy the give one another. I'm the bottom of the food chain and have been for almost five years. I have a degree, a certificate and a functioning brain but I'm labeled by my title. Yesterday's small event served to really drive that point home. I know full well that incident would never have happened to anyone but me. I'm the one who doesn't matter.

This morning the hubster got up and went in to work. No, it's not the big bonanza. He was asked by a former employer if he could come in and help with an annual project. This morning, he was up early, showered, shaved, dressed and headed out the door before I did. He stood a little straighter, his hair was a little neater, his whole demeanor a little brighter. It was good to see.

My older son, who I saw at lunchtime was also a little taller. Instead of sitting home all day waiting for something to happen while he watches game shows and listens to the radio, he took it upon himself to accomplish things. I'm getting the occasional call from him..."I'm taking that stack of mail on the table to the post office now" and "I'm going to the store, we're out of milk." Now yes, I fret, he has some health issues and I'm a bit nervous when he's home alone. But he's a young man, of legal age and a couple of years past that, and this little thing, this day with both mom and dad at work, has made him just a bit better, a bit brighter.

Everyone needs a purpose, even if it's just a temp job or going for milk without having someone telling you to. It's like going for a walk. I don't mind going for a walk if I'm going somewhere (and I'm not wearing those gold flats that pinch). We need a destination. When we get there, we need a reason to come home. It's not that much to ask when it comes right down to it. Give me somewhere to go, and give me a reason to look forward to coming home.

It's the smallest things that make the biggest difference. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On the fifteenth of May, in the jungle of Nool...

Earlier this year we were negotiating with the I.R.S. I was attempting to make payment arrangements for our 2009 tax bill. I hadn't done this before and, to give the devil his due, the I.R.S. was being very accommodating, I venture to say even nice about it. Didn't want us to overextend ourselves, offering to make our payments VERY small, much smaller than I expected.

We hit an unknown snag which resulted in the I.R.S. sending a certified letter saying we had to contact them in person. This is never good news. So the hubster took a deep breath, girded his loins and hied himself down to the closest office of the Internal Revenue Service which, btw, does not make appointments for summons like this.

He got there right as the office was re-opening after lunch. He stood in line outside the building for 20 minutes while everyone snaked through the metal detectors and emptied their pockets and had their bags x-rayed and then made his way to the office and got in line at the window. He was number 52.

A breathtaking two and a half hours later he reached the window to be told that we could not make a payment arrangement because we hadn't filed our 2004 taxes. Hmmmmmm. This seemed odd.  In fact, when I called him I said "Gee, that sounds odd...." Okay, I said "Like HELL we didn't!" and, luckily, was able to find the tax file. I was fearful it was in a box in storage, so much of our stuff was thrown in boxes and locked behind the orange door of the local "You have way too much crap for any one person to keep, pay US and we'll let you use our garage" facility where you will have convenient access to it any time between the hours of 6am and 9pm, providing you remember to pay your bill because if you don't you will have liens up your ass.

You know those commercials? Where the happy people drop by storage four times a week, it's clean and organized and that's where you have your wedding dress fit? Yeah, that place. Well, it's been three years, I HAVE managed to extricate the Christmas stuff from it, most of my Desert Rose dishware came out broken and I'm still looking for my kitchen scale. Trust me, no one drops by their organized, brightly lit storage garage, chats with their neighbors and wheels the mountain bikes out for a day of fun.

It took a few minutes to find the right file, while they were in the apartment they weren't in any particular order. I found the 2005 taxes and saw I had declared our 2004 tax refund from the state so I KNEW I filed taxes.   The I.R.S. had obligingly provided the hubster with a printout of all our reported income for that year so we could reconstruct the taxes if necessary. Well, up popped the 2004 returns. The STATE returns. There they were, along with the copies of the W2s and some assorted 1099s. There was NO copy of the Federal return.

Well, shit. I had NO clue why the state was filed and the feds weren't. We had, apparently, filed an extension. Okay, works for me. After spending several days trying to figure out just what had happened I decided the federal return was lost in the mail or something, thought "Oh, what the hell..." and took what I had, and the printout from the I.R.S., and started reconstructing.

Now, to be honest, it was kind of cool to have the list from the I.R.S. because if there was some money we had made and I forgot about, well, the I.R.S. didn't know about it either. And we had a home back then, so there was mortgage interest and property taxes and insurance to deduct. And, lo and behold, there, on the bottom line...a REFUND! A refund that would have taken care of our outstanding tax bill and put some money in our pockets for things like groceries, gas, haircuts and some new jeans.

Because the return was so old I decided to find a licensed tax preparer...just in case? We made an appointment, went over everything and waited. She called just a few days later, everything was ready and yep, there was a refund, pretty much the same one I had come up with. We went in, signed, forked over $275 and left with the taxes and an addressed envelope in our hand. Which was when I started wondering. The I.R.S. had given us a specific address to send the taxes to, because of their age and the payment plan hinging on them. We gave the address to the tax preparer. She didn't use it. Oh well. Then I glanced over the taxes. The $700 the hubster had won in a contest was sitting there as self employment income and had generated a penalty because we hadn't filed as a company. I called and took them back whereupon she explained that, in tax preparer school, they were taught that any money won was self employment income.

This struck me odd -- as there's a freaking LINE on the tax form to declare money you WIN. She told us her boss said that, because of the amount of the winnings we could declare is as additional income. This woman was beginning to concern me. She redid the taxes and I picked them up. She said she felt bad and would offer us a $50 discount on this year's taxes because of the error. I remained unimpressed yet friendly and I think we both knew I wouldn't be back. I double-checked my returns once again. She had my name wrong. I got out the Liquid Paper.

Having waiting patiently for word from the I.R.S. we investigated. Yep, they had our returns, thank you very much and let's put you on a payment  plan. Um, why? The refund MORE than covers the taxes for 2009. "Your return is over three years old. We don't GIVE refunds." After going around and around and getting nowhere we said "Okay, well, what about using that money for the taxes we owe for last year?"

"Nope. You owe those too."

 EXCUSE ME? I PAID in too much money and you're just KEEPING IT?


Well, okay, why did you keep accepting our returns for the past SEVEN years and never, ever, not even ONCE did you sent us a letter saying "We haven't received your tax returns for 2004"?

"That's not our responsibility."

Have you ever heard of someone not filing their Income Taxes and the I.R.S. not bothering to come after them  for it? Me either.

Want to know why I had a refund in 2004 and a bill for almost two grand for both '09 and '10? Because the hubster's company folded and he's been grabbing whatever freelance he could and collecting his unemployment until it ran out. The Feds place a hefty tax on UNemployment. I make less than $30K annual and the taxes that are being withheld, at the highest rate possible mind you, from my paycheck still fall almost TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR SHORT.

That's two thousand dollars more than Exxon-Mobil paid in taxes. 

That's two thousand dollars more than at least 1400 MILLIONAIRES paid.

But there, on a clover named Wall Street, stand the Whos. Rather than remain still while we're all dropped into a vat of boiling beezelnut oil they came together and started chanting, in small unheard voices "We are here!" And soon they were gathering everywhere, in Los Angeles, in Tokyo, in Rome (yeah, that one turned into the end of a soccer match though), in Tai Pai, in London, in Paris, in Toronto...all standing politely, and all yelling as loud as they can "We are HERE!"

And, after three years of being "alone in the universe", after three years of being abused and pushed around and drained of every drop of blood I have and some I don't, I find myself, finally, with a voice. And I want to go to the highest point I can find anywhere and shout to the world, in a voice louder than any ever heard in history: "YOPP!"

A person IS a person, no matter how small. WE are the 99%. And we're too big to fail.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday, Saturday, ever lovin' Saturday...

I have fleas.

It's Saturday, I look forward to Saturday all week. It's what drives me, keeps me breathing. I can get through any day because there's a Saturday coming. Well, a weekend, but Saturday morning is pretty much a necessity for that.

So I spend the week looking at the paper and "Sunset" magazine on the Internet because have you checked out the cover price on "Sunset"?  My head is full of all kinds of wonderful adventures, all requiring less than half a tank of gas. Especially this time of year, because there's a "Harvest Festival" on every coastline and sand dune between Pismo Beach and the Mexican border. How fun does that sound? Pumpkins and autumn leaves and football and that particular softness in the fall air...the cool breeze that punctuates the warm days of Indian Summer. The air in the fall has no promise in it, it's lazy and quiet as if the hemisphere is dozing, not quite ready to hibernate for winter but not as energetic as the breeziness of springtime.

Just what does this have to do with the fleas? Well, there's a fall day out there and, instead of being out at some festival looking for free parking and getting depressed because I can't afford a fifteen dollar slice of pumpkin pie I'm home, trying to figure out what to do with the damn fleas.

The hubster is wondering where they came from. Um...we have a cat? The cat doesn't go outside. Now. The cat used to go outside 17 times an hour until he decided to start going out and spending two days straight in the crawl space under the building. Besides, we're WAY too close to what passes for a foothill here in the urban village and we have coyotes. The cat is fairly smart, but -- well, let's just say I don't trust his speed.

However...unless the cat had never been outside in his eight years and counting, I think it's a fair bet as to where the fleas came from.  The weather got hot and the fleas woke up. My younger son and I are spending our spare time trying to find the skin between the bumps on our feet and calves. I have no idea WHY the damn things leave my older son and the hubster alone, I've Googled "Why do fleas bite me and not him?" and all I came up with was some doctor explaining the life cycle of fleas which was not only uninteresting but failed to address the question. Rather like my dentist.

So I'm spending today vacuuming and steam-cleaning the carpets. I would probably be okay with this except that I pretty much spend EVERY weekend doing laundry, vacuuming, dusting, cleaning the kitchen and never, ever going to Harvest Festivals.  It doesn't help much that I HATE carpeting with a passion and I especially hate THIS carpeting which my apartment manager deems to be the height of "loser renter" fashion. The carpet, however, is the same color as the dirt that gets tracked in, so it's practical if nothing else. And, believe me, it IS nothing else. We not allowed hardwood floors on the second floor because 1) the owner says that the carpet on the second floors is what stops the leaks into the first floor apartments and 2) the people in the first floor apartments will know there are people living above them if the people in the upper units have laminate with a soundproof underlay. As if the people in the first floor didn't KNOW there were people living upstairs and the paper-thin carpet with the bargain padding muffles the sound of my 6'9" son's footsteps.

I have to accomplish this soon though, it can't be put off and I'm going to a local theater tonight to see a play being stage managed by my son. It's a re-telling of "The Scarlet Letter" except with an even more depressing ending, I understand bludgeoning is involved. While I love watching my son's work, I'm not really looking forward to this. It's being put on by a highly lauded theater company in one of the myriad of small equity waiver theaters in this neck of the woods (meaning Los Angeles). Why can't these companies, as talented and acclaimed as they are, ever put on "Animal Crackers" or "My Sister, Eileen"?

Oh, as to the fleas, I've spent days online trying to figure out how to get rid of them without poisoning myself, or the cat. Apparently I can't. The best I can do is vacuum incessantly, steam-clean the carpets until the backing wears out and wait for them to starve, sometime in the next century.  Like Keith Richards and cockroaches, they will survive Armageddon.

Who knew?

Friday, October 14, 2011

"....failure to communicate."

Last night, or should I say very early this morning, I found myself up, watching something something lame on that "all weddings, all the time" channel and I was seriously considering ordering a pair of pajama jeans. Now, for some weird reason, after about 11:30 the wireless Internet connection loses about 40% of it's power and there's no way to bring it back up. I didn't want to CALL the number on my screen and talk to the helpful operator who would find me the right size based on my regular pant size because I didn't want to admit to a living, breathing person just what my regular pant size IS.  I decided to go on line and order them because I knew that the only person who would know how big my ass is would be the person who pulled my order and shoved it in the shipping bag and, while he or she may well have thought "Holy cow, does that woman have any clue how BIG her butt is?" at least I wouldn't have to know who it was.

After about 20 minutes of trying in vain to get a connection I gave up and went to bed, having decided that I would go to the "As Seen on TV" store in the mall this week-end because what I REALLY wanted was a set of those plastic slats that go under your sofa cushions and prop up the couch so that the next time Sumo wrestlers drop in they can sit down without sinking into the flea infested sleeper sofa frame. I also decided I wanted one of those meat loaf pans that keep the meat loaf up above the bottom of the pan...the one that comes with the knife that has the movable guide on the side so I can slice my meatloaf, and bread in perfectly even slices because the Orowheat Bakery doesn't do a good enough job slicing bread.

I was up late for a number of reasons. First, I went to bed then got up for a drink of water. I told myself it was for a drink of water knowing full well it was probably going to be for another slice of the chocolate cake that was in the fridge. Also, the cat was on a tear which meant he was hungry and wouldn't stop climbing the drapes until he wasn't, he had already knocked the phone off of the table and it was shrieking that awful "I'm off the hook" sound it makes just before it goes dead. The hubster sleeps through all this. He sleeps through earthquakes and will probably miss the Second Coming if it occurs between the hours of midnight and 7am.

I had finished the dishes a little before 8pm, although they were still in the dish drainer. The kitchen had been wiped down and both sides of the sink showed nothing but stainless steel, a surface I hate for sinks, btw, but beggars can't be choosers. I flipped on the kitchen light, grabbed a can of cat food and turned to the dish drainer for a spoon.

Both sides of the sink were full. There were no fewer than a DOZEN glasses, two mugs, two plates, a lot of silverware and a cereal bowl full of the telltale orange powder that denotes someone got into the Cheetos. I put away the dinner dishes and started on the ones in the sink, all the while wondering why the HELL can't ANYONE use ONE glass for TWO drinks? There are FOUR of us. But every time someone wants a drink of water they get a new glass. Not only that, they then, considerately, put it in the sink so I don't have to pick it up off the floor by the chair. Do they WASH it? I think we all know that answer...

I went back to bed and played solitaire on the television, without the pajama jeans. I was at the dentist bright and early for my crown only to discover that a) the office had neglected to tell me that my insurance was maxed out for the year and my co-pay was going to be EIGHT HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS and b) MY dentist still wasn't back and I was going to see Ms. "I work on people's teeth when I had a contagious cold"  and c) they weren't going to put a crown on the tooth that recently had a root canal, they were going to put it on the broken, but otherwise healthy tooth because they had already billed the insurance for that...and been paid for it. I should wait until JANUARY for the second crown since I told them I didn't have almost a thousand bucks to spare right now, and just remember not to use that side of my mouth so the temp doesn't come off.

Well, I said, not mean but matter of fact..."fine, put the crown on the one that just had the root canal and we do the OTHER one in January."

They told me that I had been clear in telling them I didn't care about the tooth with the decay the size of a baseball and the root canal, I WANTED the broken tooth fixed first. I pointed out that my priority was the PAIN, not the cosmetic esthetics's. She knew this because that's what the fresh faced just out of dental school girl had written on my chart. After a discussion about how long today's unnecessary crown was going to take, I ripped off the bib and left. Yeah, I know, again. I'm turning into such a GIRL about this stuff, I know. I'm sure that by now these people think I'm a lunatic. Actually, I'm okay with that.

I got back to work and called my Dental insurance, so see if there was SOME way to change horses in mid-stream. My insurance company was very interested in the fact that they had paid my dentist's office for work that hadn't bee done yet and offered to call the dentist FOR me.

Ten minutes later, my dentist had agreed to refund the money back to the insurance company. As soon as it's received and posted, I will have enough on my annual left to go to another dentist and have a crown put on the root canal, which the insurance company agreed should take priority, in spite of the dentist's office assertion that the broken tooth was more important because it would develop decay and require a root canal sometime within the next 78 days. Which is when it hit me.

There are 71 days left until Christmas.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

" roads are so rough as those that have just been mended"

I have come to the conclusion that being an outsider sucks. I sit here, never really knowing what's going on around me, never being in anyone's "loop" and pretending like I either am, or don't want to be. Yeah, I know, it's my JOB to be outside. But human nature isn't solitary. We crave company. Not every second of the day, but every now and then one comes up against the harsh realization that they've been left out...and it's not just this once, either.

Yesterday we got a check from a settlement that was made on our behalf...and the behalf of millions of other people who had been defrauded by a major bank when they wrote our mortgages (koffkoffWachoviakoffkoff). I should be happy, it's enough to get that new curling iron with the hi-lo switch I've been wanting. Seriously, it's about .000001 of the amount they screwed us out of and that doesn't even count the damage they did to us emotionally. But I took the check because, I felt, it vindicated us. Because all those sons of bitches who told us everything was OUR fault because we were greedy asshats who knowingly took on a fraudulent loan in order to live in a house we weren't entitled to can go screw themselves because LOOK! I have a LEGAL ORDER that says I WAS A VICTIM OF FRAUD.

The check we got was on a national level, the bank was in error and was ordered to make restitution to us, and millions of others as well. There's also a State settlement which finds in our favor as well, that check, we're promised, will be a bit bigger, which means I might be able to upgrade to a flatiron AND get a haircut. Same thing. Vindication! The people who insulted and demeaned us, the relatives, the so-called friends and the millions of strangers, some of them in Congress, well...take THAT. YOU DEREGULATED THE MORTGAGE BANKS, not ME and I got screwed. So THERE!

But you know what? The triumph I should feel isn't there. The judgement and the new curling iron leave me emptier then I was before. Did I win? Sure. I can now insist that my abysmal credit report be altered to reflect that the foreclosure was deemed illegal and unwarranted and I have the papers to prove it. I actually thought it would help. Nope. Made it worse.

I understand some people actually got their homes back...because the bank couldn't sell them. The new owners of mine were waiting in the driveway as we left, a tribute, I suppose, to my good taste in dilapidated English Tudors. I'm not sure I would want to move in again, although the thought of going back into my house with NOTHING in the attic or garage or laundry room is enticing...there was a LOT of baggage left there, literally and figuratively. The house was my mother's, I had never really LOVED it but after many, many years of struggling (serves me right for marrying an artist) I had a house of my own. And THAT'S what they can't give back to me.

They took my back door. My own washer and dryer. My lawn and my windows. They took my sunny little breakfast room and my hallway and my linen closet. They took the big wood door with the rounded top that I could lock and keep people out with. They took the holiday meals and the marks on the wall that showed how tall my kids were. They took my garage and my piano and, on a day like today, I keenly miss my central air. They took my pretty little bathroom with the Mickey Mouse sink and they took my dining room that I could put eight people in.

They took away my autumn days planting yellow and gold asters in the little flower bed by the front door. They took the brilliant line of red roses in the summer. They took the sound of rain on my rooftop. They took my grill and my fireplace and my dog. They took the Christmas tree in the front window. They took my driveway.

They took my self-esteem and my sense of security. I find myself increasingly unable to make a decision, never sure it's the right one, the smallest thing suddenly signals to me that I've done something wrong. Again.

My head knows that this wasn't entirely my fault and it also knows that I could have done things differently and, perhaps, a different outcome would have resulted. I thought what I did was right and I thought what I did would work out. But now I sit here, with a check that probably cost more to issue and mail than it's worth and a moral victory of sorts. It won't change the minds of the people who said the mortgage banking meltdown was MY fault because I was a selfish pig who didn't deserve what I had or the people who said we should have been able to predict the hubster's company folding and throwing him out of work and not tried to raise the kids in a two bedroom house in a decent school district because people like us weren't entitled to a life like that.

My head knows that, if the President of the United States put me on the dais with him and announced that "This woman and her family were defrauded, lied to, were victims of forged documents and stolen mortgage payments and we want you to know this. We're giving her her house back and all her belongings and we're putting $100 million in her 401K" they would still think it was my fault. My head knows that yes, eventually I'll recover and my sons will flourish and I won't starve, which is more than many people who had the same thing happen to them can say. My head knows that I survived and my head knows that I won.

My head knows that the people who made my life richer -- and then walked away from me -- weren't worth being in my life anyway. They were fakers and phonies and they tricked me into believing they wanted me in their lives as well. My head knows that I'm better off now. 

Now...if my heart would get on board, I'd be all set.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"...all made out of ticky tacky"

I spent last Sunday running an errand I had been putting off. I didn't mind the errand but I had to go through Corona, California to do it and you have no idea how much I dislike Corona. It's made up of slightly more than 150,000 white people who have sprawled over about 2 million square miles of Riverside county in a wasted attempt to make themselves look like some sort of burgeoning urban metropolis, an oasis in the Inland Empire and a safe haven from all the undesirable folk who populate the city of Riverside, California, which, btw, is nowhere near a river.

The fine folks in Corona think that their (insert noun of your choice here) doesn't stink because they were smart enough to stay away from places like San Bernardino and Riverside which have areas populated by people who live in neighborhoods that look like neighborhoods and not Monopoly boards. I'll admit the people of Corona, and planned communities like it, think they're smarter than the rest of the denizens of the county and they may have something there. Because one really has to be alert at all times in order to distinguish one's own home from the 40 other homes on the block, all of which look JUST like yours right down to the Navajo White exteriors and the annuals planted in the matching flower beds nestled underneath the identical oversized picture windows in the cathedral-ceilinged formal living rooms. These powers of observation must take some skill. Sure, one can continually read the address and find one's home that way, but, after awhile, I would imagine one's neighbors would start laughing as one slows to a crawl and peers nearsightedly at the identical address plates looking for the ONE digit that makes your home stand out from all the others.

I was in a house like that know, Plan B in the "Master Community"? The owner had attempted to inject some of her own personality to the interior, the only place she was able to decorate without getting a variance from the community board. She spent a lot of money (I imagine, I didn't check the bill) painting her rooms a sort of dusty green. Except for the walls she accented with a greyish purple. I think it was stylish at the time but I couldn't help thinking, every time I was alone in the guest bathroom (the one with the cat litter box in it) that the place resembled a bruise. Oh well, there's no accounting for taste, as my granny always said.

A corona, in case you didn't know, is the gaseous stuff that surrounds the sun, and stars. It's also a cigar, and yes, a beer. The people in Corona like the sun and stars analogy and ignore, en masse, any reference to the gaseous part, which, as far as I can tell, is pretty much what defines them. But I don't have to live there, more power to them. There's a Lowe's and several Applebee's and absolutely no charm anywhere and that is why I don't like having to do business in Corona. I'll take Riverside, thank you, even through there are a few neighborhoods you don't walk in at night. At least they LOOK like something. They have the Mission Inn and a lot of wonderful old California buildings that have been there since the late 1800s and they LOOK like Old California. I'll take San Bernardino, with its amazing train station and gravel roads. Of course, those places are populated by people whose native language was NOT English...and thus, the existence of Corona.

Well, I finished quickly and we stopped at the National Cemetery in Riverside and inspected my FIL's headstone (or grave marker, as he was cremated and how does one call it a "head" stone?) and left with mixed feelings. While his burial was handled better than my MILs was (she was cremated, my SIL held no services of any kind and then took the urn with the ashes and dumped my MIL off the side of a party boat on the Colorado River. You think I'm kidding? I'm not even exaggerating!) my FIL did have the aforementioned Memorial Mass and was then unceremoniously shipped to the VA cemetery where he was interred with no further thought. He rests in a newly excavated section (although I know grass WILL show up when it's full) under a standard G.I. marker. It bears no cross, which, I assume, would have cost, as opposed to the government freebie. Now, my FIL may not have been the most honest or ethical guy you ever met...but he was very Italian and very Catholic and his Italian immigrant parents are spinning like lathes at the lack of any religious notations. It's not like the government doesn't allow it, almost all of the stones there have a simple cross in a few styles, or Star of David, sometimes a crescent or the Masonic emblem (what is that? It's a tool, a carpenters level?) and every now and then, something that, while I can't quite describe it, is obviously the Angel Moroni. religious mark. And no tag line. You know "Beloved husband and father,"  "Have another drink," that kind of thing? Every time anyone asked him how he was he always answered "Never better" which would have been a very cool thing to put. I've got a hunch that would have cost extra too. In fact, I'm not sure anyone even specified what should have been on the marker, I don't think they gave it that much thought.

We made a stop at the Indian Casino and then headed for home. We decided to conserve precious money and just go straight home and eat late. And THIS is where my day got better. We made a stop for cat food and milk and I grabbed stuff for spaghetti and meatballs, which would cook up quickly.

No, there was no gourmet grinding of the Kobe beef meatballs, I did NOT make fresh pasta nor did I start roasting heirloom tomatoes with the fresh chervil I hadn't picked up at the Farmer's Market I hadn't bothered to go to because I was sitting on my sofa drinking a Sam Adams and watching the Notre Dame-Air Force game. We carried the bags up the back stairs directly into the kitchen. My sons started unpacking the few things. One grabbed the pasta pot and was filling it with water, the other one flipped on the oven to preheat and was dealing the frozen garlic bread slices on a cookie sheet like a poker dealer, someone passed the cat's dish over and I filled it. The three of us worked in a line in my tiny kitchen, grabbing, warming and in 15 minutes we sat down to fettuccine with pre-cooked turkey meatballs simmered in sauce from a jar served with pre-grated Parmesan, a Caesar salad from a kit and the garlic toast from the freezer section. It was hot, we were starving, we were all together, if only in the living room with our feet up, our plates in our laps while we watched a re-run of "Big Bang Theory" and waited for "Pan Am" to come on.  It was wonderful.

I didn't ask anyone to help. My sons, both old enough to drink, did as they have done for years, they simply pitched in. They know their way around a kitchen and a grocery store. The fact that I wasn't alone in the kitchen, the fact that it never occurred to them to go in and open their laptops while I made what was a very simple supper but stayed to help suddenly made the entire day worth while. I realized with absolute certainty, that I had actually done SOMETHING right. 

It's the small victories that mean the most.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Explore. Dream. Discover."

In front of 1 Infinite Loop (coolest address for a computer company - EVER) there are a bunch of flowers, candles - and apples. Some of them with bites taken out. It's the same in front of every Apple store in the world...literally the world, including Beijing which, btw, I managed to call Beijing and not Peking and that's not easy.  It's still Peking Duck. Anyway, here's what I'm thinking.

The last few days there's been a lot about Steve Jobs, it pretty much eclipsed every other news story except my tension headache which is hardly news and will continue until it bloody well decides to stop anyway. Steve Jobs is being mourned for, well, I'm not sure why, Not that he's being mourned, (most of us hope to be mourned, in spite of the hubster's family and their penchant for throwing their loved one's remains off the side of party boats)  but why are we all mourning him? Apple will continue, in spite of that lackluster Tim Cook at the helm, and we'll upgrade our iPhones to the damn 4-S because so many of us have the 3 and Apple doesn't support it anymore because, well, hell, it's OLD. We all made fun of the iPad (next model? The Max-iPad...) and yet, within six months I saw them everywhere and I watched my company's sales force grab iPads and carry bulky presentations around in their pockets. Okay, they were BIG pockets and no, they're not going to make it into a phone but wow...the iPad is pretty much stabbing Power Point in the heart and good on it, I HATE Power Point. It's a slide show.  The iPad can pretty much do the rumba. If only they could do something about Outlook...

Now, except for my iPod (which, btw, is a PINK MINI, how many years have I had THAT?) I don't use Apple products, mostly because, while they're hella cool, the data plans AT & T gouges you for to operate them are way beyond my financial capabilities at the moment. I mean, how do you call your landlord and tell him your rent is going to be late, again, when he can plainly see you're calling from your iPhone, which cost you $200 (face it,  no one in their right minds pays the $649 ticket on that phone, or any other phone for that matter, this is why God invented the "TIME TO UPGRADE" email) and is costing you at least 70 bucks a month to maintain? So I stick to more modest means of communication.

Doesn't mean I'm not going to sit up and check up the iCloud though, which, apparently will allow me to store my pictures in Kathmandu or something. It'll be expensive and probably require a data plan but hell, it's totally the future and, when the next earthquake hits and the walls and starting to crumble, maybe I won't be running around looking for my shoe box full of pictures because I won't need 'em anymore...I'll have everything on an iCloud. With any luck, there will be some sort of cool, Apple cyber scrapbook which will make scrapbooking obsolete and all of those God awful Creative Memories consultants with them. We can hope.

Frankly, if Steve did nothing in his life but put Creative Memories out of business I'd send flowers to his grave twice a year, but I digress...besides, no one has found it yet (nicely done, Jobs Family), including the idiots who call themselves the Westboro Baptists and really ought to change their names to the "Phelps Family Church and Asylum" because, frankly, those idiots have only formed a church for the tax breaks - they're all lunatics, and stupid ones at that. This combination, btw, makes them dangerous. Just saying...

So, back to the apple. While there's a portion of my extended world who are mourning the loss of the guy who invested in Pixar (I didn't say I hang with them any more, I realized I'm getting too old to waste my time on tunnel-visioned idiots) I think those of us whose brains are still firing mourned Steve because he was pretty much the embodiment of what we all want to be, self-effacing and able to spend his life in jeans, turtlenecks and New Balance sneakers and look good doing it. BUT...he also was one of the most imaginative sons of bitches who ever lived. My 3000+ record collection in my POCKET? Get outta here. A computer and phone, all in one in my PURSE? Dude...that's not a purse, that'll be a steamer trunk. And yet, here they are. Not to mention the seriously coolest thing about the Mac, which is that grab and drop onto your desktop thing. Damn, I do LOVE that, I mean, I'm okay with copy and paste but I'm nothing if not technologically lazy.

So here's the question. People are coming in droves to honor the most imaginative inventor of this, or the last century and how to the honor him? By leaving apples. Apples, apples, apples. Somewhere, Steve is looking at all those bitten apples, rolling his eyes and saying:

"Apples? That's the best they could do? Y'know what I would have done? ..."  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I'd rather have a root canal...

I sometimes get to the point where there is way too much and not enough, all at the same time. It's an information glut, most of it not at all important, at least not to anyone except myself. In the last few weeks the hubster's unemployment has run out, I had a root canal, Wall Street has begin to resemble Tahrir Square (with some images that evoke some unnerving memories of the late 60s) and Steve Jobs died, possibly pushed over the edge by the October 4th announcement of Apple's long awaited, completely ordinary iPhone 4s, the "S" standing for "so what?"

The unemployment speaks for itself. We're of an age that makes us too old to hire (as if there were that many jobs to be had in California) and too young to retire. I've got two sons still at home. One would think that, as one approaches the big 60 next year that one would be in a position where begging and borrowing are signs of a callow, misspent youth. One would be wrong. I find myself working all week to find my paycheck (which is on the convenient auto deposit plan) hasn't even covered the negative balance in the account because the only way to pay the bills to to write checks that the bank will pay and charge us for the privilege. But the gas and lights are on, at least. I fear for the rent payment this month but that's for another day.

The root canal was interesting...being in pain for several weeks I finally broke down and called the dentist. I had a dentist I liked, she seemed very pleasant and had televisions in all the little rooms so I could watch TCM while she drilled, which I liked. Apparently, however, SHE was also watching TCM instead of my teeth. The "little crack we can get to later"  turned into a root canal and a crown three years ago and, after a satisfactory trip to someone I got from 1-800-Dentist I promptly stopped going all together. The 800 dentist was nice but verbal on his politics and, as I was in the process of moving out of my bank seized home and he was voting for McCain, well, I sort of drifted out of dentistry.

As I had developed a VERY sensitive tooth and it wasn't going away I spend two weeks trying to figure out what to do about it and who to go to and, in the long run, I called the Republican. I got in the next day, which struck me as odd and fortunate as he always seemed to be booked up before. When I got there I discovered why...Dr. "I voted for McCain" was out on medical leave and someone I'd never heard of was taking over until he got back. I wasn't real pleased, seemed to me they should have told me that when I called for the appointment and not when I walked into the waiting room. The dentist was a young women, fresh out of dental school, who cleaned, took x-rays, found the noticeable source of my discomfort and told me about how I would have to have my gum cut away and part of my jawbone removed after a root canal but I should come back in two weeks and she would see if she could just drill and fill.

I thought of running to the next guy on the list but at this point it had become an insurance issue and I sort of had no choice but to go back. She shot me full of whatever they use instead of Novocaine nowadays and set to work. I'll spare you the details of how my teeth smelled as she drilled the hell out of them. Also my emotional distress at her grinding down and prepping a broken tooth for a crown, THAT tooth was perfectly healthy and COULD have waited but not now and, um, lady? Did you freaking ever stop to ASK me if I could AFFORD THE CO-PAY on this crown that, while necessary, wasn't an immediate concern? It's not like the tooth was smashed or broken in half, it was, for all intents and purposes, chipped and had been for several years.

Well, she gaily sent me off for the root canal. Sent me to my dentist's other office deep in the valley...the one next to the Ralph's. I arranged a day off, took a deep breath and went.

Have you ever had to take a dog to the vet's? You know how the dog stops moving and you have to coax and plead and the eventually drag him across the vinyl floor of the waiting room while he trembles and barks? Well, that was me. The receptionist handed me a consent form and, after I got to item 11 which said that my tooth could turn brown and I might never be able to taste anything ever again I literally ran screaming from the storefront and cried my way home. The hubster, btw, was NOT especially sympathetic. My unofficial boss and several of my friends were, however. After a week I called the dentist back and got permission to go to the endodontist I had been to the first time. They thought it would be a good idea as this guy has nitrous oxide and sedatives and such.  The root canal was done on Tuesday morning, the endodontist looked at the mangled mess that was passing for my tooth and said "straight up root canal, no more, no less, want to get started?" and, 75 minutes later, with nothing more than a LOT of Novocaine I was in the parking lot and ready for the crown. I have a prescription for Vicodin which I filled and never used as I had virtually no pain except for the ache where the needles had gone in.

I debated going back to a different dentist but again, there are insurance issues as well as the nasty inability to meet my co-pay and I decided that Miss Just Graduated From Dental School and look what I can do couldn't do any more damage at this point. Oh, did I mention, she gave me a cold? While she was drilling she was telling me about her sore throat and cold symptoms. I mumbled something about her staying home but she seemed to think it was fine. I thought, well, she IS wearing a mask and gloves. Didn't help, four days later I had her damn cold, but I digress...

Anyway, I called the dentist a few hours after the root canal was done to schedule the appointment for the crowns. The first available time is a week from this coming Friday, which tells me that Dr. Right Wing is back. I'll take him.

I have spent the last several minutes meandering around my root canal on my PC. No, I don't use a Mac, although most of my family does, I'm a Windows girl, it suits me fine. But even those of us on PCs owe it all to Steve Jobs. Computers existed when I was a girl. They required entire rooms to house. Steve Jobs took that Univac and put it on our desktops. He took that desktop, folded it up and stuck it in our backpacks and briefcases. He put it in a portable phone and, for the last three years, we've held all the information in the world literally in the palm of our hand. It matters not what operating platform you use, every time you fire up your iPod, power up your laptop or pick up your email from your smart phone you owe it all to the imagination, the enthusiasm and the vision of Steve Jobs.  It didn't matter that you didn't use a Mac,  you still sat up and took note because, when the man in the mock turtleneck and jeans stood on the stage in Cupertino, the WORLD wanted to know what Steve was going to show us now.

Steve Jobs was a combination of Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers and P.T. Barnum, except, unlike Barnum, he wasn't selling us baloney.  He was showing us the future. A future we didn't have to wait for. Steve never said "This is what we CAN do." Steve always said "This is what we've DONE."

Even though we all saw this coming, the entire world, from ages 8 to 108 stopped dead for a split second yesterday. Our lives won't noticeably change because Steve Jobs died. But, like the long awaited announcement of the next iPhone last Tuesday, they will be a little less interesting.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Circle of 3D!!!!

My sons and I went to see Hamlet this week-end. The one in 3D with the lions and the happy ending, where Hamlet, Ophelia and their new little Danish Prince,  Rosencrantz and Gildenstern and Polonious stand in a row on Pride Rock looking benevolently down on the Danish Savannah. Because, in case you hadn't noticed, "The Lion King" IS "Hamlet" except that the King is some sort of  heaven channeling Darth Vader and the Queen doesn't pour poison in his ear. Claudius is still a conniving, power mad little shit and still gets what he deserves. Everybody wins.

First off, we went the the first show so we could get the really cheap ticket prices which would enable us to see the limited run 3D and afford the myriad surcharges that come with this. We saw "Cars 2" in 3D and, quite frankly, the best thing about that movie was the trailer for "The Lion King" in 3D that came before it. Because they didn't put together a lot of clips, they ran "The Circle of Life." In 3D, 'cause we all had our glasses on by then. And, being "Cars 2" the theater was full of little kids so what better time to run another Disney trailer so another 300 kids could holler "DADDY! I want to SEE THAT!"

So there we were, and there was the baboon lifting the little cub up in the air and the phony African rhythms as interpreted by Sir Elton John came up and the little Simba hung there, looking EXACTLY like my cat looks when we pick him up under his front legs and let him dangle there except we sort of raise his legs up and down while someone sings or, occasionally, plays something through iTunes. The last time it was "Rock Lobster." Yes, we made the cat dance to the B-52s. And the cat has the same look on his face as the lion cub as he's being waved in the air by a baboon. Come to think of it, my cat probably thinks he's being waved in the air by a baboon.  Maybe it's not a baby thing as much as it's a cat thing, I never really thought about it.

Well, anyway, we saw the trailer and the "for two weeks only" which we didn't really believe but we all went "WOW. I want to SEE THAT!"

My younger son had an unexpected windfall and he and his girlfriend went to see it on Friday. They couldn't stop talking about it. Amazing. Of course, I realized that neither of them had really seen it when it came out. Neither of them had reached the age of 10 and, as "The Lion King" proudly carries on the grand Disney tradition of scaring the living crap out of young children and getting a "G" rating while doing it. Not only does Simba's father get trampled to death by a canyon full of stampeding wildebeests, we get to WATCH it. Then we get to see Mufasa'a carcass lying on the dusty canyon floor and, for good measure, Jeremy Irons tops the entire thing off by sending the kid out to die in the middle of the Serengeti. At least we didn't have to WATCH Bambi's mother get shot.

And he was dying to see it again and so to our Sunday morning cheapo matinee which, when added to the 3D upgrade brought the tickets in at 11 bucks a head which is still outrageous.

Breakfast consisted of a bucket of popcorn, a hot dog, a pretzel and three drinks which came to 30 dollars even. Seriously? Don't START me on that. But we were having fun and my son really wanted to give me and his brother a good time.

The movie started. Not a bad crowd considering. There we were in our funny glasses. And I come one lens looks dark and the other doesn't? Okay, one lens WAS dark and the other wasn't, I know that...but we were watching a 3D movie and I'm thinking..."this shouldn't look like this, I've seen this scene in 3D before." I raised my glasses. Raise, look. Lower...look. No difference. I was getting concerned, because most of the theater was sitting there watching the movie with their glasses on and I couldn't see any difference. I noticed my son was beginning to adjust HIS glasses too. He said "I'm going to go tell them." He left and came back, looking disgusted. "they said they'll look at it later." Well, I noticed three other adults get up, leave and return so it wasn't just us. My older son, btw, continued to view the film through his 3D glasses until I told him to stop before he got a headache.

About 10 minutes in the digital frame froze, the house lights came up and a very nice young woman from the theaters came in and explained that the 3D projector wasn't working and they were going to continue running the film in it's regular form (and, thankfully, told the rest of the idiots sitting there to take their 3D glasses off) and they would give us all passes to come back to any movie we wanted to see, any time, any location, 3D, IMAX, whatever.  It's the super duper pass. And, while I was glad to get it, I still want to see the damn Lion King in 3D. Except I don't want to have to go PAY the extra to see it in 3D, as I've already done that once. And I don't want to use my spiffy ticket to go back and see a movie I just saw on Sunday morning, seems like kind of a waste when I can use it to go see "Sherlock Holmes" come December. No, the movie isn't called "Come December," that's the kind of thing my grandmother would say instead of "when it's released in December." So there's my dilemma.

As I figured, the two week engagement has been extended. The fact that "The Lion King" has been the #1 movie in the country for the last two weeks had something to do with that, I frankly, figured it would do pretty well but it never occurred to me it would beat out "Moneyball" AND "Contagion." And, while they're milking this limited run the fine folks at Disney are drawing up blueprints to turn yet another unvisited section of "Disney's California Adventure" (now known as Pixarland) into Simbaland. It shouldn't take all that long, the last time I was there it wasn't much cooler than the Serengeti...and had about as many trees. The exit corridor already resembles the canyon of the stampede at closing as every single "guest" in DCA makes a frenzied charge for the gates of Disneyland, otherwise known as the watering hole. And Lord knows, there are plenty of baboons there already.

The mere fact that, in the dog days of the movie year (which are now) when the summer blockbusters are fizzling out and the onslaught of "LOOK at US, Academy!" pictures that will glut the December movie screens in order to remain fresh in the minds of the parking lot attendants who will be accepting cash, checks and credit cards in payment for your Golden Globe nomination, a SEVENTEEN  year old animated film that's been hauled out of the vault and rejiggered for Blu Ray and 3D viewing is making money hand over fist says a lot about the sad state of movie making today. It also say a lot about the sad state of Disney Studios, where they are currently dancing in the streets of Burbank knowing that they finally came up with something to get the taste of "Mars Needs Moms" out of everyone's mouth.

Maybe if the people who MAKE movies actually LIKED what they were doing stuff like this wouldn't be an issue and people wouldn't bitch about how you can buy a car for what it costs to go out to a movie anymore. During the First Great Depression the movies flourished. They were fun, two hours in a dark room that you could actually TELL people about. People could scrape up the nickel. Now? Frankly, I RESENT having to fork over close to 100 bucks it costs for a family of 4 to go to a mediocre film after work and pay for parking and popcorn.

Which, in all honesty, I do NOT recommend for breakfast. Next time, I get coffee and that really cool looking iced cinnamon roll pretzel. Live and learn.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"The language of Shakespeare"

I have been involved lately in a series of communications with someone who can't seem to put a coherent sentence together let alone spell it correctly.

Her thoughts just come tumbling out, which, in and of itself, is not necessarily a BAD thing. But when you find yourself reading along and suddenly coming to a screeching halt with the thought  "What the hell are you talking about?" well, maybe it's time to go back to the beginning and read it over to yourself.

There's always the possibility that she's been doing just that and it makes perfect sense to HER, which opens up a another subject which, if I follow my normal thought processes, usually ends up with me coming to the conclusion that she's psychotic, bi-polar and probably drunk. I just KNOW her fingers are shaking as she types because she has read the first two, maybe three words of something, decided it isn't complimentary towards her and then goes up like Mt. St. Helen, having NO CLUE what was actually said. "I'm upset because..." translates to "I hate you because you're fat and stupid and I was bored and decided to kill time be insulting you" instead of "I'm upset because Uncle Bob called my son a girl." Sometimes I think she has a guilty conscience and lives in fear someone will actually call her on some of the things she's done. Lord knows, I'd LIKE to...but that won't accomplish anything at the present time.

Somewhere, in one of these tirades, she made a derogatory comment about my grammar...and the fact that I actually USE it. I'd go back and find it but that means I would have to wade through five or six of these epistles and I don't think I'm quite up to that. I ignored it when I responded but managed to use the word sycophant which, if I'm perfectly honest about it, wasn't exactly ignoring it. For what it's worth, I didn't call HER a sycophant, not that she'll make that distinction. For some reason, she tends to reduce me to new levels of profanity and, for a natural born potty mouth like myself, that takes some doing. Also, phrases like "you arrogant, self-absorbed lunatic" seem to spring unbidden from my keyboard, sort of like Athena emerging fully formed from the forehead of Zeus...but not as esthetically pleasing.

I admit, I have a SERIOUS problem with people who misspell and ramble on incoherently and put words in the wrong place and then complain that the people who make comments are snotty asshats who just want to show them up when we all know fully well what they're saying.

Not always. Ever tried to have any kind of logical debate with someone on the opposing team when they're writing arguments like "yesh, well, so yhou isn't just readidnz stuffs and itz not that." Say WHAT? In the first place, spell check, while not what it could be, WOULD have cleaned up most of that. I'm not sure I DO know what that means and I'm damn sure I have no idea what "THAT" is let alone why "itz" not that. I spent enough time with people who debate over the internet like that to know, believe me. Instead of allowing one to sort out the point that some conflicted gay Westboro Baptist is trying to make because maybe (not likely, but maybe) they have something to offer, one gets a warning from the dreaded "MODERATOR" who says, basically, "you're a jerk, we're a family friendly board and you aren't allowed to use good grammar here because your nose isn't far enough up out butts to tolerate something like that and, oh, by the way, we're closing your account because someone said you don't like me."

HOLY CRAP! It just dawned on me. The Mouse board is moderated by my sister-in-law! Damn, why didn't I see it before???   But again, I digress...

I try to be tolerant, I really do. I don't point out typos, unless they're funny. I've made more than one myself and we've all run spell check to discover, sometimes after the letter has been sent, that we typed "if" instead of "is" and no one caught it. THIS type of event I am perfectly willing to see as "I knew what you meant." without pointing it out.

In an effort to appear a rational, sentient human being when my sister-in-law wrote me an anguished "We're Orphan's now!" I refrained from commenting on her changing the word orphan to a proper noun and making it a possessive, because my first impulse was to ask: "you're an orphan's what?" but instead tried to address the issue.  The issue being that the Oliver Twist image is unbecoming to a woman in her 50s with married children.  Okay, I didn't phrase it quite that way, I asked her how old she was and made reference to "Food, Glorious Food" along with suggesting she expand her movie repertoire.

My parents sacrificed to send me to college. One of the things I learned there was that using a capital letter separates a common noun from a proper noun (and that words like "orphan" are not proper nouns unless one's name happens to be "Orphan"), putting an "s" at the end of a noun makes it a plural (as in more than one orphan), and putting an apostrophe before that same "s" turns it into a possessive (as in "Hey! That's Orphan's car!). No, wait, that was high school. No...sixth grade. Never mind. College was where I gained the confidence to use words of more than two syllables in everyday conversation. However, people like my sister-in-law and most of the idiots who attempt political debate on Disney boards seem to think that using proper spelling and grammar is an option exercised by the undesirables and meant only to show superiority and if people were really nice they would "dumb it down" for everyone.

Why would you want to go down if you're not on an escalator heading for the parking lot? Why not up?  Why didn't my SIL just look up the word schadenfreude instead of insulting me for using it? I'd didn't make it up and I'm hardly the first person to ever use it...I'm hardly the first person who didn't claim German as their native language to use it for God's sake! I look things up all the time...I'm almost 60 and I still can't remember whether or not there's an "e" at the end of Shakespeare. There is. I just looked it up.

Eliza Doolittle spoke better English sitting on the curb in Covent Garden than most Americans do today and, not only that, they're defensive about it. But that's another day.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the cemetery...

My sister-in-law recently told me that their family "puts the D in dysfunctional." Truer words were never spoken and I offer into evidence, the very fact that she's proud of that statement and uses it ad nauseum. She thinks it's a hoot.

Earlier this week, she let fly with a publicly placed post about her father's interment in a local Veterans Cemetery. "Gee" I said "I wish someone had told us that you were BURYING the hubster's FATHER." This was cause for text messages about guilt (apparently I'm not feeling enough of it - or any at all for that matter) and how we're just a couple of selfish, egotistical asshats because anyone knows that people routinely bury their parents without telling their siblings and do we really expect HER to take any initiative and call US? 

Well, actually, yes. we do.

The relationship between the hubster and his step-mother was contentious at it's best and this was no secret. One might expect that, knowing this, his sister might send an e-mail, knowing full well that the wicked witch of the MILs didn't even speak to us at my FILs funeral but no...WE'RE out of line in being pissed off. Besides, Miss "crying my eyes out my daddy's gone and I'm only 52" thinks that wanting to know when one's father is being buried is overrated and the hubster is way out of line for thinking otherwise.

In an effort to be conciliatory, I attempted to explain to my SIL exactly WHY we were upset. I was fairly gentle, tried not to place the majority of the blame on her (because, I must admit, most of it didn't belong there) and recounted to her, sans profanity, how we felt to be treated with such public disdain at a parent's funeral. I did this in attempt to let her know just WHY the hubster was reacting with negativity to her story of the hilarious hi-jinks that took place in getting her father's ashes to the cemetery and the wonderful ceremony with "full military honors" when he finally got there, which was the first we knew that the guy had been interred.

She responded with her usual letter B ( I think she keeps templates) which stated that I was out of line, she NEVER, EVER, EVER said she wanted to be friends (I admit, she was drunk when she made that call) it was ALL about HER and HER grief because she's going through the mostest worstest time ever (this since the LAST mostest, worstest time ever) and she's already had to suffer through her first golf game without "Daddy" and frankly, if I had the nerve to bitch that she and her step mother couldn't be bothered saving ONE effing seat in the family section for her brother I really need to get therapy as I apparently have fallen victim to a new psychological malady which is temporarily being called the "failed to kiss my ass" syndrome.

This from a woman who, every time I see her, tells me how her mother hated her because she was "daddy's girl." Every damn time! For the last TEN years. Her mother's been dead for the last EIGHT. She even recounted that again in yesterday's "Nothings my fault, how DARE you" email. Just in case I hadn't gotten it the first 420 times she told me because, well, yeah, I'm not too bright.

We paid a visit to the cemetery yesterday, it's an hour and a half away, most likely because my MIL made sure she found one as inconvenient as possible for us. Not to mention that, as my FIL was a veteran, it was free...this is a BIG decision maker for her. We ended up the day with a drop in visit to MY father, who was actually happy to see us. That alone was a 360 degree turn from the events of the last few weeks. We dined at a lakeside McDonalds and after returning to his home, adjourned to the kitchen table, where I was recounting the events of the last week.  The hubster joined us. At which point my father said to him: "This has got to be bothering you, we can talk about it later. I'm sure it's still be hard on you." The hubster was momentarily flummoxed until I explained that this is someone being considerate of another person, something he had never experienced in the presence of his sister or step-mother.

I just don't understand people who NEVER think of anyone else and don't see the problem with that. Not ONE of them would even, voluntarily, say something like my father did. Not ONE of them would ever say "we should call Bob and tell him to meet us under the second tree from the corner and be here early so we can all go in together." They say "WTF is YOUR problem? Was it MY responsibility to tell you what my plans are? Well, I was busy thinking about myself so shut up and get the hell away from me."

I'm mad at myself because, after over 30 years, I have ties to these people. They're the hubster's family and I admit, I STILL wish they would pick up the phone and say "I'm sorry, you were treated like crap and that shouldn't have happened" because, deep down, I'm a sap and I like people and I especially like family and I truly enjoy being together with the people that all threw into the gene pool that made my kids what they are today. I think sometimes people mistake my practicality for hardness because I'm WAY too soft on the outside to get involved in this kind of stuff, I lack the gene that allows one to walk it off. My grandmother was the same way. Didn't do her any good either.

I'm pushing 60 and, while my head tells me to walk away, my heart says "maybe she'll realize that we have a voice too." Because that's pretty much all any of us want in life...a voice.  I know it's not gonna happen but I keep hoping. Like Professor Harold Hill says in "The Music Man"..."I always think there's a band." Which, with any luck, is playing a Gershwin tune.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Imagine all the people..."

Vice President Joe Biden announced this morning that "We are the 9/11 generation." Now personally, I like Joe. I think I'd enjoy his company for dinner or a cup of coffee. His wife appears interesting, nice, intelligent, well-read and a damn fine example of what women can and should accomplish. I have GREAT respect for educators, more than I have for politicians but, well, who doesn't? Oh yeah, the government, I forgot. Well, okay, I think MOST of us have more respect for educators than politicians.

Anyway, back to the Pepsi 9/11 Generation. I don't mean to belittle anyone, or anything but I take issue with today and the excessive coverage. Bear with me, I'm not all THAT much of a hard-hearted bitch, in spite of what my in-laws have been telling people. And if we are the "9/11 Generation", God help us.

Yesterday afternoon my younger son, the one who's going for his teaching credential and gets no government aid because of that now thank you very much, asked me what I thought about the 9/11 anniversary hoop-la and yes, sorry, it's hoop-la. Well, it was a damn good question, and I had to tell him "Not much, I think it's ridiculous." A successful terrorist attack on New York and Washington D.C. certainly DOES merit attention, don't get me wrong. In many ways, I think it served as a wake-up for the fat, complacent cats in government who have continued chugging along all these years secure in our borders being safe from everything but poverty stricken Mexicans and the occasional rogue Canadian because of our geographical isolation...let's face it, there's a LOT of water between us and the rest of the world. There was a sense of arrogance, of entitlement, of "we're America, we're impervious" attitude which I personally find disquieting.

It's kind of like those Disneyland freaks I talk about every now and then, but I digress...

Prior to the events of 9.11.01, we wandered in and out of airports as if they were our own backyard pools. We're subject to the random groping of the TSA, yet another subject. The groping, not the TSA. Well, maybe both. The same people who were screaming about their personal space being invaded by a metal detector and a grammar school drop-out with an x-ray machine at his disposal are the SAME people who approved of the "Patriot Act." Now, we travel like the rest of the world has traveled for YEARS. I used to pop in and out of London back in the early 80s, you want to see airport security? Ever travel though Ben Gurion airport? Okay, neither have I but I do know people who have and none of this was initiated 10 years ago, What made people mad was the fact that now we had to live like the rest of the world.

But back to the conversation I had with the kidlet. He asked me why I didn't think much of all this. "Because," I told him, "I saw a President get his head shot off. I saw Martin Luther King, Jr get blown away. I saw Bobby Kennedy get blown away. I saw Medgar Evers and Malcolm X get blown away. Maybe it's an age thing, but this 9/11 thing just strikes me as excessive." "Has anything happened in your life, anything at ALL, that compares to living through the 60s, just in general?" he asked.

I thought about that for, oh, a heartbeat. "No."

Growing up in the 60s shaped my generation in the way that growing up under that idiot Reagan shaped a generation to come. These things affect us, they play as big a part in forming who we become as our parents do. And maybe, because I have seen far worse in my life than those two towers falling down, as horrifying as it was, is why I think we're going WAY overboard today. Black ribbons, three and four hour blocks of programming...if we felt so strongly about this we would do it every year. We don't. Remember Oklahoma City and Timothy McVey and the Federal Office Building that he blew up? And how relieved we were to find out that some nut job within our borders had done that? And we moved on. We always move on.

But today, we're mired in the past. I looked at my Facebook, briefly, this morning, and saw all the avatars changed, all the 'We will NEVER forget!" status lines and I can't help but wonder...WHY? I think I know.  This is fueled, not by regret, not by sorrow, but by fear, and hatred. We're making a big, big deal out of this 10 years later because we're thumping our national chests and screaming "Up yours, Middle East, look! We're STILL making you a front and center issue!" when we should be having a dignified memorial (which, btw, should have been finished EIGHT years ago) and showing the world that we survive and grow and live in as much peace with one another as we can muster.

We should be taking the money wasted on the New York Memorial and putting it into the pockets of the asbestos filled survivors and responders.

We should stop wallowing in past attacks and screaming we're the freaking 9/11 generation and start changing the way we live, play and do business. Instead of searching Google images to find a picture of a flag washed light coming up from the Manhattan sky go to your local 7/11, buy a Slurpee and SMILE at the guy in the turban who takes your two bucks because HE didn't do this to you.

We live in a violent world. It's always been a violent world. The cave men fought and killed woolly mammoths and each other in order to survive. Medieval society routinely disemboweled their enemies, the Aztecs sacrificed the living, Benedict Arnold was a spy, Nazis tortured Jews for fun, more men were killed during the American Civil War than in all the succeeding wars we were involved in (combined), and Salome asked for, and received the head of the Baptist. On a platter. All of these were senseless acts of aggression, cowardice, hatred and survival. Just like terrorist attacks. They're nothing new...we just thought it wouldn't happen HERE.

Well, it did. You want to send a message to terrorists? Don't stop the damn country to celebrate an act of terrorism. Acknowledge it, take a moment of silence, play "The Rising"...and finish your Sunday.

In Hiroshima, there stands the wreckage of a domed building, looking very much as if it was the remains of some building destroyed be fire - which, in essence, it was. It sits in what is called the "Peace Park."

Today, someone will stand there and fight back the tears(and lose) as they look at what man can achieve - and destroy. This will happen today, it happened yesterday, it happens on August 9th and April 20th and June 2nd and February 12th and any other date you can think of. The city of Hiroshima and the collective spirit and pride of the entire country of Japan was destroyed, at our hands. And yet, instead of declaring war on the U.S. (which, I suppose, they figured "been there, done that") they cleaned up the mess, they rose from their own ashes and spent the last 65 years kicking our technological butts.

While we still wallow in hatred they moved on, thus proving that moving on does not go hand in hand with forgetting but in taking history and holding it and adding to it to make for themselves, a life almost as capitalistic and filled with wretched excess as us. We are using the events of 9.11.2001 to inflame. This is a disservice to the victims who died. They died because of intolerance, nothing more and nothing less, and their memories now live to fuel even MORE hatred.

Shame on us. Have we learned NOTHING in the last million or so years? Doesn't look like it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Stuff. And a lot of nonsense.

It's seriously hot here in the urban village. Oh hell, it's hot everywhere around the urban village too but, frankly, the heat in the valley doesn't bother me. Mostly because I'm not there. The heat that's got me up at 3:30am is the heat that surrounds me and not the heat that surrounds people I may or may not know 20 miles to the west. I'm sorry they're hot, but not as sorry as I am that I'M hot.

I've had to turn the ceiling fans off because, after about three days straight my sinuses rebel and I begin to feel as if there's a tennis ball sitting in the back of my throat. IF I catch this early enough I can, through the noisy use of saline nasal spray and salt water gargle, nip this in the bud, thus enabling me to haul it out to work while the other three people I support either go to school (an acceptable alternative) or sit around the apartment running up the power bill by using a box air conditioner that has needed a new filter since we moved in three years ago and only blows tepid air anyway.

I also don't dress well in this kind of heat, I look like Jabba the Hut when I wear short sleeves and it's too oppressive to wear anything BUT short sleeves. My older son had a birthday yesterday, it comes around this time of year every year, go figure, and we're usually too hot to do much of anything, which disappoints him greatly but he claims to understand. Yesterday morning I had to tell the hubster to wish the lad a happy birthday, the hubster had forgotten. He's been too busy sitting around brooding about a memento of his father's that he had always wanted and, it turns out, is now in the possession of one of his brothers and has been for several years now.

His brother has had it for years and the hubster didn't even know it was missing from his father's wall. Why? Oh, maybe because he never freaking visited his father? Because for years I dragged his sorry ass to their house once, maybe twice a year when we got an invitation and the rest of the time the hubster spent complaining about what a witch his step mother was. Now granted, I don't think she's a witch. I think she's a LOT worse than that, I can honestly say that she is one of the meanest, petty and hateful people I know but that's not really the issue, is it?

The ISSUE is that the hubster has spent the last 40 years on a campaign to show the bitch up. Like THAT'S gonna happen. While his sister and brothers figured that she wasn't going anywhere and dealt with that, the hubster refused to do anything of the sort. While they picked up the phones and called their dad now and then, just for the hell of it, the hubster continued to sit around and complain about his step mother.

So, she's still here, not that we'll even see her again (and it's not like that bothers me) his dad is gone and his memento is in another state with a brother he complains about only slightly less than he complains about his step mother. I'm sort of conflicted about this actually. In the first place, if the hubster had spent any freaking TIME with his dad that ugly wall plaque would have been hanging in my dining room right now. Or else it would be shoved in a box sitting in the storage garage we pay monthly to maintain because, God forbid, we actually get RID of the 100 sq feet of JUNK we shoved in there three years ago and never go near now. In the second place, well, what good does this crap DO anyone? It hung on my father-in-laws wall. One day, my father-in-law went to the hospital to have his gall bladder out and subsequently died, never again returning to the home and family he loved. Okay, that part is a private joke, I'm not that maudlin and I write a hell of a lot better.

But my point is (and yeah, I have one) that plaque didn't do anything for anyone. It was a company logo. A company, btw, the hubster worked at for as little time as possible and hated while he did. My father-in-law, just like my mother-in-law (the hubster's mother, not the witch) and my own mother, had houses full of crap. And I had a house full of crap because a) the hubster can't leave anything, he has to bring every freaking piece of detritus home with him including furniture we neither needed or wanted but it wasn't nailed down and b) I sort of felt like it was what I was supposed to do. I kept this shit because my mother kept this shit.

And in the end, my mother died and all that crap was just sitting there, doing no one any good, taking up space and accomplishing nothing. Does that dirty teddy bear dressed up in the lace dress and holding a parasol hold any memory of my mother? It was hers, yes, but if that thing ends up in the dumpster will I suddenly forget what my mother looked like? Those stupid baskets of porcelain roses I felt compelled to keep hold nothing dear to me, it's just stuff, and most of it is in boxes in a storage facility by the airport which costs me more money than I can afford.

Every now and then, something happens to an item, a table gets scratched, a plate gets broken and the hubster goes ballistic. OMG, there's a scratch on the table! This strikes me funny in a way, had he cared half as much for my heart as he did for the coffee table I wouldn't have so many empty spaces in it where the breaks never quite healed. Not to mention that the tables are usually a foot deep in junk that the hubster has deposited there and never goes through, I cleaned the entire apartment last week because I knew my father was coming over to see my birthday boy and left the dining room table to the hubster, as he uses it as a desk. After a week of whining and asking, we sat here last Saturday, in a clean living room and a dining room knee deep in papers and mail and magazines, some of which the hubster threw a table cloth over while my step mother tried, in vain, to sit down at the table and failed because I actually trusted the hubster to take a little pride in his living space and freaking TIDY UP THE TABLE. He uses "tidy" as a verb, by the way, I don't. It's not an action, it modifies a noun as a rule, thus making it an adjective. As in "the room is tidy." The hubster, however, insists on "tidying" a room. I think that's weird. But I digress...

Anyway, I think it's extremely annoying that he goes ballistic about a scratch on a table he piles with junk. Now, I have, every once and again, tried to soothe this tirade with the explanation that it's just a table, no one was hurt, it's a scratch and it's not going to affect anything. This is ALWAYS greeted by him going off on how, since it's just a thing, we should just take an ax to it and destroy it good and proper.

And then he accuses me of hyperbole.

I don't know if this is a guy thing or what. What I do know is that my son's birthday is more important that railing about someone leaving a fingerprint on the spine of a book. I know that the time that's been wasted mourning a metal plaque could have put to better use shopping for a birthday card, or going through the mail and finding the disconnection notices or just standing in the front window early in the morning while it's still cool outside and watching the pink streaks of dawn meander through the ever lightening sky.

The things that are of value are intangible and untouchable. Last night my younger son gave his brother a birthday card and a lottery scratcher. It was all he could afford. The grin on his brother's face when he got that ticket was worth way more than the five bucks his gift cost. Someone remembered him. And it made him happy. And no plaque in the world, no porcelain rose, no perfectly sanded piece of maple could have come close to the feeling he got when his brother remembered his birthday, and the feeling I got watching him.

The twenty-nine bucks he won on that ticket didn't hurt either.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The house of cards collapses.

I keep telling myself that things could be worse, and they sure as hell could. Have you even reached a point though, where a TON of small things pile up and up and up and up and suddenly one little thing just comes at the wrong time and you find yourself up in the middle of the night because your freaking BRAIN woke you up?

Haven't slept in about three nights now. I go to sleep for a couple hours and I wake up, mind racing and I can't seem to get it under control. How can I pay the bills? How can I buy groceries? How can I support all of these people on the lousy salary I make, why have I worked FIVE years to be told that, oh, sorry, too bad, now you have to work SIX years to get that extra week vacation, sorry, anything else I can help you with?

I sell Avon on the side, which no one buys because we're in the middle of a freaking DEPRESSION and, while it's cheaper (and better in many ways) than Lancome it's still an expense no one can afford. Hell, I'M out of foundation and can't afford to replace it.

Well, anyway, it started with my father-in-law who went in to have his gall bladder out and then died. This put me at the mercy of my remaining in-laws, most of whom have raised selfishness to an art form. The day after my FIL died I packed up the requisite food basket and hied myself to my MILs home. We all went and oh, how we were welcomed, how happy to see us, oh my, let's open a bottle and talk about "Papa". Yeah, well, SHE called him "Papa" and kept signing cards from "Papa", my kids called him "Grandpa" and the hubster called him "Dad" but yeah, whatever. It went well and I thought, okay, she finally got smacked upside the head for once in her petty, privileged life and her shit, as the say, is together.


Now, as I see it, when someone dies everything rises. Like cream. And, as Lew Harper observed, shit. My FIL, for all his good hale and hearty smiles and party atmosphere and jokes and sports and good company was, for all intents and purposes, a LOUSY father. This isn't something that has come to me in the last two weeks, I've always thought so. However, I kept it to myself. The hubster loved him (of COURSE, I would expect nothing else), liked him and blamed most of his failings on the second wife.

I had a pretty fair relationship with my MIL, one that got closer as she got sicker and I had other information regarding that, but again, I kept that to myself too. He was the hubsters FATHER for crissake and, well, hell, he's dead now, what's the point?

But I've stayed quiet these last few weeks, which really isn't like me. My FIL was friends with everyone and close to no one. He lapped up his simpering daughter's fawning and left everyone else in the dirt. Oh, my SIL knew how to get what she wanted. Always arms draped around "Daddy", always snuggling, always pushing everyone else out of her way and making sure "Daddy" was there for her and "her girls" and no one else.

"Daddy" had no problems with this. "Daddy" had a full social calendar at all times and, on the rare occasions the hubster (or any of the other boys) felt they needed the advice or time of their dad well, yeah, let's see when we can pencil that in, there were parties and trips and tee times that had to be honored.

I never ONCE saw that man drop anything for his son. He gave him NOTHING in life, not his time, his advice or anything else. You ever had to just stop what you were doing, or wanted to do, because your kids needed you? Not him. Not ever. I suppose I really do give my SIL props for demanding his time and affection, because, when it comes down to it. if she hadn't she wouldn't have been simpering about how was she going to survive without her daily dose of Daddy?

Anyway, we got to his funeral Mass...the one we were told about by E-Vite? On time. Right on time, traffic was abysmal but yeah, right on time. Three rows reserved for family up front. The hubster, always the optimist especially after the wonderful, warm welcome he was given right after his father's death, kept walking to the front. The hubster needs to get his eyes checked. I could see that the family section was full. He thought, no, or course there's room for us there. Ha. And may I say HA! There was SIL with "her girls". MIL, wearing off white and drawing all eyes in that see of black and navy blue, much like Bette Davis wearing the red dress to the cotillion in "Jezebel". And her brothers and her nieces and nephews and their kids and spouses and some neighbors and friends...

Did she allow room for the guys oldest SON? Not even hardly. I grabbed the hubster by the suit coat and got him into the first pew with room for 4 of us. There WERE 6 of us, but his stroll towards the front which, I admit, was justified if overly optimistic, sort of put us in a pickle as the service was now starting and we were going to have to turn around and go back which I frankly thought was just too embarrassing, even for me. We grabbed 4 on the end, my father and step mother right behind us and a cousin, the deceased's nephew in front...he had been TOLD about the reserved seating for family and told he was to sit there but he, too, was shut out. Have a mentioned my step MIL is a pretentious douche bag?

At least the witch TOLD him. Once we left the cheese ball at her home we never heard from her again. Never. An e-mail regarding the service was responded to with the answer "check the website". The website was password protected, btw, had to beg for that. Calls were not returned, by my step MIL OR my SIL, who, while her father lay dying, drunk dialed me in the middle of the night and I, fool that I was, spent 90 minutes on the phone buying into her damn "oh, I want to make sure you're in my life, oh, we're family, oh, we're doing a spa week-end, oh, I love you, Deb" BULLSHIT.

And I, sap that I am, momentarily bought into it. Because I'm a softie and I always buy into this crap.

We were sent an email telling us that the reception following the service was to begin, not at 2 as originally stated but at 2:30. That was, apparently, just for us. We got there at two to find that everyone else had been there for half an hour and we had to park a mile away and hike it, including my step mother with her cane. We RSVPd promptly as the RSVPs were, supposedly, to ensure there was room and seating for everyone. Not even hardly, my step-mother AND her cane, stood most of the time while the privileged class of the greater "we don't really live in Bel Air but we use the name in our community name so you poor folk will THINK we live in Bel Air" sat on their rich asses and watched her.

We finally found an abandoned table outside, in a corner, we pushed aside the uneaten food and half drunk beer glasses and got her seated. Every bee in Los Angeles attended. Open Mike night was being held inside the clubhouse but there was no room for us, nor did anyone ask about or even make room for the guy's SON to speak. There was a 20 minute slide show running, about 500 pictures of my FIL with my step-MILs relatives and my SIL and "her girls". There was exactly ONE picture with the hubster and my sons in it and a second picture taken at our wedding which did not include us.

MIL spoke not a word to us until we made it a point to say good bye. SIL acted in the same manner, said oh, so busy, sorry, like your hat. Come to Arizona an visit me, when I came here I'm way to busy to work you in so come to me. She actually said that.

Between that and the drunken cousin who came home with us the next day but didn't want to stay at our place and wouldn't LEAVE and I ended up driving him up to the Bel Air wannabe at 1:30 am, having been up since 5am, well, basically, I haven't slept. I can see why he was avoiding going back to MILs place, she woke him up on Sunday morning, told him to get dressed and drove him to the clubhouse where she hosted my FILs farewell reception and put a vacuum cleaner in his hand. Yep, she made him go over with her and CLEAN UP.

I assume this is why the little things have me ready to collapse. Not a joke, I'm actually kind of afraid of what's happening to me. Oddly enough though, this last debacle with these people (and I DO mean last) has angered me but not hurt me. I think I've spent too many years being hurt by these people, there two faced "promises" and their offers of family and friendship that are offered only because they want me to to something for them and they know that I'm suck a fucking SAP that I buy their bullshit every damn time. And then I feel bad and cry but what the hell do THEY care, they're on their way by now.

I feel bad because I DON'T feel all that bad. There's been stress and tiredness and frustration but, as it's all said and done now, I don't feel remorse, or even loss. They've taken advantage of me for the last time. I have no warm feelings for any of them. They publicly embarrassed my husband, shunned my kids and abused my tendencies to let bygones by bygones.

For all the friends and neighbors who could speak of little else except that he was fun at a party and hated USC, well, my MIL thought it was a wonderful tribute to a flawless man. But neither his sisters nor my brothers-in-law bothered to come to his funeral. I know why his sisters didn't come, there's no love lost there. The other sons? One said he didn't have the plane fare and the other one went to work. And we, basically, invited ourselves. I'm not sorry we did, it's the right thing to do. We dressed properly, my father and step mother were there with us. I spent most of Mass literally praying for the grace and dignity to act with a little class, I settled on just shutting up.

God, what a sad end. A lot of superficial friends filling up the spaces where one's family should have been but chose not to be. And the saps that DID show up were shut out, shoved to the back in favor of the more comely and overtly successful. I find myself wondering if she didn't hire dress extras to pad the crowd, which wasn't, btw, as big as I had been led to believe it would be.

We took our cousin to the airport yesterday morning and I realized that last night was the first night my step MIL had been without a house guest, the first night she had been alone in her home since her husbands death. I thought about calling her, seeing if she was okay because, in spite of everything, no one can ignore the fact that she really loved the guy. I thought about it and decided not to waste my time.

I've never really experienced schadenfreude until that moment.

I think I like it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Do not bring the dog."

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out just what to wear to the "invitation only" funeral. It keeps me busy. I decided to go to my standby on most things, Mark Twain, who wrote, in a brief essay about proper funeral behavior, "Do not bring the dog." It's not helping much but they ARE words to live by and I fully intend to leave the dog at home. I don't actually HAVE a dog but if Twain had suggested I bring one I would have rented a pup.

I find myself getting increasingly nervous as this occasion approaches. In the first place, it's being held in a very snooty place. Very. It's SO snooty it's the only Catholic Church (possibly the only church period) in the State that never has to give the "We need money" sermon. They can keep running on the change that its congregation drops in the padded pews. They also have no parking. There's a lot which accommodates approximately 20 cars. I know this because we drove over there and scoped the place out last weekend. There's a possibility of valets, we're not sure yet. All the street parking is restricted so we'll most likely be using the public parking garage across the street from the Church and next to the Cartier's. You think I jest?

In anticipation of this, I went looking for appropriate funeral attire. Appropriate RICH people's funeral attire. Well, not really rich people. It's been my experience that most legitimately rich people are quite nice, very friendly, accepting of all your Payless Shoe Source-shod relatives, VERY generous with their gin and they usually think your car is really cool.

NO...this is a service for people who are well off, having become well off not by hard work but by throwing other people under the train, and think their crap doesn't stink. Ever been to a rich persons home for a meal? Hors d'oeuvres are plentiful, wine flows and food is wonderful. They actually invite you into their homes.

The pseudo rich book the club house at the gated community which is named as if it's a really, really tony area and hopes maybe you might confuse the two. Sorry, but calling your apartment complex the "Upper East Side lofts on the Hudson" won't negate the fact that it's a co-op in the Bronx. But the people who paid inflated prices for their living area THINK it's as good as, if not better than, the Upper East Side and they expect you to treat them with the appropriate reverence. They also tend to feel that you're too stupid to know the difference, being part of the unwashed masses that work for a living and live close enough to your office to walk.

What the "clubhouse" is, is a big, square room which will be punctuated with round tables, folding chairs and the contents of my step-MILs refrigerator which include the bleu cheese ball I made and brought over to her last week. I can picture it now, a small round table, a paper tablecloth and my cheese ball with a stack of napkins and a box of Ritz crackers.

Well, what does one wear to such a pretentious gathering? I bought a simple navy blue suit. On sale. BIGGGGG sale. One of those "Take 50% off the last marked price because we only have one left" sales. Sheath, matching jacket. I planned to pair it with a pair of black pumps, a black church-type hat and the tourssade of freshwater pearls the hubster gave me when our second son was born. Simple earrings and a nice pin for the jacket. The pin is the important part. It's an enamel pansy, obviously vintage. Vintage is a nice way of saying the paint is chipped off the edge. But this really IS old. There's a nice size real diamond in the center.

It's important to wear this pin. It was a gift from my mother-in-law. No, not the one who is planning this tacky event, my ACTUAL mother in law. The hubster's mother. The lady who married my FIL first. In the very church that's been chosen for the funeral.

It doesn't GET much better, does it?

But...I am on the horns of a dilemma. My step-MIL is the woman who wore a sailor suit to my mother's funeral. No, not like the kid on the Cracker Jack box, although all it needed was the hat. Blue and white striped slacks, a buttoned up sleeveless white vest with no shirt under it and wedge espadrilles. Because, as she kept saying to all of the black- and navy blue-clad people who were in attendance, no one wears black to funerals anymore.

I own a just above-the-knee length skirt in a jaunty print of white sailboats on navy blue which, I'm thinking, would look nice paired with my Bellagio Las Vegas souvenir t-shirt. The shirt is white, btw, with a big gold sun on the front which should enhance the overall regatta theme. I think that and a pair of flip flops might be in order. I'll even get a pedicure. I wouldn't want to be accused of appearing slovenly.

I'll end up in the navy suit I imagine. As the hubster said, given the choice of doing the appropriate thing and getting skewered for it or telling someone to go to hell I'll do the appropriate thing every time. Lesser of two evils and all that. I won't feel good about it, I will resent it and I will have been badly used in the process but every family needs a doormat and that's MY job. I also think I'll end up leaving off the pearls. I subscribe to Coco Chanel's advice on accessorizing. Less IS more. Besides, they might detract from the pin, and I'm so looking forward to saying "Thank you! I just love it, it belonged to the hubster's mother."

IF anyone asks, from what I gather my FILs children aren't "family", the widow's brothers, nieces, nephews, ex-wives and caddies are "family." Says so. Right there in the obit. He was loved, admired and adored by HER family, all of whom are named, along with their spouses, kids and trash collectors. He was "survived" by his four children and some assorted grandchildren, four, five, something like that. I don't really anticipate being seated anywhere close to the area the important people will be, I'm frankly surprised we're being allowed in at all. It took me a WEEK to find out where the funeral was, I kept asking and was told "just check the website or your e-mail." Really? You couldn't just SAY "The Church of What's Happening Now"? No, I have to wait for my invitation in the mail.

I'm reminded of the time my step-MIL threw a rehearsal dinner for one of her stepson's weddings. My niece had RSVP'd for herself and her significant other. At the last minute her significant other was bumped off his flight and couldn't come. My step-MIL loudly berated the girl, outside, in front of people, yelling at her that the dinner had already been PAID for and she couldn't get the MONEY BACK and how terrible this was and it was all my niece's fault for being rude and inconsiderate. Apparently both the airline and the National Weather Service should have given her guarantees of the boyfriend's availability for said dinner. She then followed this up with a lecture on manners via e-mail which my SIL, God love her, chose to share with me. That was 8 years ago, I still have the email.

We may be leaving early (depends on how long this soiree goes) because we're going to a wedding in Laguna. We had already said we would be there and they gave the head count to the caterer and then we had to say "Well, sorry, I could have told you this a week ago but no one would tell me where, or when the damn funeral was." They responded with heartfelt condolences and told us to come when we could, we would be welcome on-time or late, they would just be happy to see us and they would keep our dinner warm if at all possible.

For my money, that's the way REAL rich people act. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the balance in their checking account.