Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Trying Too Hard

This is a shaggy dog sort of story about what it’s like to live in my head for about 10 minutes in line at the bank.

A friend wrote me a check for some theatre tickets, and I sat on that check for nearly a month, unable to work in a trip to deposit it because the bank is on the left side of the road when I am on my way to work, and it is impossible to get back on once you’ve gotten off. You have to organize east-bound morning errands and west-bound afternoon errands (east bound = dry cleaners, Dunkin Donuts, gas. west bound = liquor, groceries, pizza, bank). Only when I am coming home I have already forgotten all errands, and/or just want to get home.

Preparing for a week off means making a lot of lists, and organizing said lists, and pretending there is gas rationing (because there sort of is) in order to map errands together, and break up the week off by not having long annoying errand days.

Monday was a holiday, so Tuesday is bank day, where I realize I can just cash the check and put it in my pocket to fund the rest of the day. And the line is long because it is nearly lunch time, and no one could come yesterday, so I wait and watch the tellers and wonder if anyone is going to answer the ringing phone.

I have taken off my sunglasses because it is polite, and because they have a big sign about it. And I would rather not, in my kicky denim skirt and soccer-mom sleeveless blouse, be mistaken for a felon.

Sometimes at the bank they call you by name. I have never figured out if this is to be genuinely friendly, or as one last security check (“Have a nice day, Miss Bender.” “Huh?”). Sometimes they call you by your first name, which I do not enjoy, but which I prepare for by checking out the name of the attendant in question. Then, when they say my name, I give theirs right back: “You too, Arlene.” Take that, Arlene.

I use the waiter’s name back at him so I can remember who he is. I have an unfortunate agnosia for faces which is only worsened when everyone is in uniform (e.g., waiters, bridesmaids, the guys down in Sales). I never forget a name, but I always lose my waitstaff.

This is what I am thinking as I am standing in the teller line and the older man behind the counter is working through my papers, and ID, and signature, and NSA screen to give me $100. I see a stack of business cards there on the counter which say his name is “Wen Chei.” And I wonder if I am going to say, “You too, Mr. Chei,” or “You too, Mr. Wen,” because you can never be certain with Chinese names, knowing who has anglo-reversed the order and who has not. And if he calls me by my first name, he should not get “Mr.” in return, because I am the customer after all.

I always want to call my doctor “Dr.” because certainly she has earned it, and I would never be so bold as to use her first name. We should maintain as much formality as possible when some of us don’t have our hands where we can see them. But every time I start to, it sounds too Dr. Kildare, and I am afraid I will laugh.

I am thinking this as well while I wait, when I notice that the teller’s name tag does not say Wen Chei. It says “Go Soxi,” and I sweetly chastise myself for assuming that those where his business cards because they had a Chinese name, and if they had said “Finbar O’Shaughnessy,” would I have immediately dismissed them? Ok, what if they said something more neutral, like “David Smith”?

And how will I pronounce Soxi? Is it “SO-shee”? “so-ZHEE”? Like my college professor with the lateral lisp who couldn’t pronounce her own name, but had a palate tailor-made for Mandarin Chinese?

And there is still the first name/last name problem…

He counts the 20s: 1-2-3-4-5. and again… and…
That’s not his name, you pinhead. That says “Go Sox !” Go Sox.

And he says, “Have a nice day.”

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Summer Shave

At a party last summer, a discussion began about leg hair – pro or con. Specifically, the topic was whether one could go natural and still wear a skirt in the workplace. Miss Bender sits up straighter when sentences end with “in the workplace.” The salon reached no conclusions – no good salon will – but we did agree that if your workplace can absorb it, don’t change yourself just for them, that women who go natural are rarely the same women who wear business suits, but one should always be mindful that one’s visiting client may be distracted.

I went to college with a German woman who wore white stockings. I don’t remember a single thing I learned in the class we shared.

I am against it myself, but I have a general aversion to body hair on anyone.

It’s a little too Lower Primate for my tastes; I like the Space Age atom-o sort of hairless human with jumpsuit and moon boots

There can be no health reason for needing to shave, and it does stop growing at a certain point – these are the arguments for the defense made by the women in our discussion. I don’t argue that with them. I would not be surprised at all to discover this was one more thing invented by advertising, like diamond engagement rings and a woman’s right to smoke.

Count on the good people at The Straight Dope to track down the American introduction to smooth underarms in 1915, when Harper’s Bazaar showed a smooth model with her arms over her head. Flapper alert. Here comes the Modern Age.

By 1922, Sears had ladies’ razors in its catalog. The social requirement of leg hair removal seems to have come later for American women, but Nair appeared as early as 1940. You can’t get butter or sugar, but you can get Nair. Deeper research may uncover that this foul-smelling nonsense is run off from manufacturing jet planes, and riveters found that when it splashed on them, their hair fell off. In fact, let’s just start telling that story as if it is true. Rosie got short-shorts.

The Fab Five are constantly berating their Straight Guy for shaving against the grain. I do not know of a woman who shaves with the grain. Firstly, it is physically awkward to do so (and imagine the freak look of hair that grew up towards your knee. Yeesh). Secondly, the leg is so pliant that the skin just yields under it, and all you do by going down your leg is comb it.

I can not comment on waxing. I have never waxed. My observaton is that it hurts like holy hell and itches while it grows back. Pass, thanks. When they come up with a one-time ever, painless, doesn’t smell, cheaper than a razor method, I will bathe in it.

On the other hand, maybe if we spent more time in a circle picking things off of each other, we’d have a more cohesive troop.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

5-Star Rentals

A new feature here in the Drawing In room. A movie recomendation has been added to the left margin, called 5-Star Rental. Rent it or don't rent it. The link will take you to Roger Ebert's review and rating (he may not agree with the 5 stars). You may also invite Miss Bender's Netflix persona to join your friends list if you have her email address.
Let's get back to our program now, shall we?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Weaning Derek

"Weaning Derek" began around 1992 as a sort of pre-chic-lit urban tale of a pack of friends under the grasp of the needy manipulative friend they can’t seem to outgrow. Studies from those drafts have appeared here before.
A couple of things killed the project before Chapter One. The main thing was the phenomenon of
Friends, which killed what (I thought) was the novelty of this idea. The 2nd was that I hadn’t yet realized that I was rewriting Sondheim’s Company (memo to creators of
What About Brian: look into it)
I did enjoy the characters, who were unapologetically based on my real circle. Here’s an edited blog-digestible section from the opening, where we meet the characters over dinner.

“Party of four?” Even though the hostess knows where to find them, she still hollers at them, the only group waiting outside. The group and their bags work their way to the back of the restaurant, where the lighting is too dim, the ceiling fans too strong, and the music too loud, where the smoke makes it difficult to breath, and a sales rep from Sugarloaf Ski Resort is running some kind of contest promotion from table to table. With four of them, there is no chair for their belongings. Things are tucked under the table, wrapped around chair legs and human legs until they are, it would seem, settled.

“Ok, big agenda tonight,” Karen begins. She stares David in the eye. “You’re on. What’s the scoop?”

He shrinks at the force of them leaning toward him across the table. Keeping up with the girls in this little clutch has never been easy. He is tokenized most of the time, and the rest of the time disregarded as an alternative point of view. And neither approach comes at the times he wishes they would. He is glad they include him, and always has a great time with each of them, but more and more he has longed for another male voice at the table. “I shouldn’t have said it was a scoop,” he says. “I may have mislead you. I just heard from Gary that Derek is moving back from New York.”

Emma calls for Point of Clarification: “Coming back or moving back?”

“Moving back,” he repeats.

Karen sighs and looks smug. “Well, that certainly didn’t take, did it?”

“He just moved down there,” says Maureen. The waiter has appeared at the table with eager posture, pad and pencil in hand. He is the tall boy with the blond braid who enjoys flirting with Emma while she pretends not to know what kind of wine she likes. But he is not even noticed, and just as quickly fade away. “I’d call that scoop.”

Emma says, “He took the train down New Year’s Eve, and that was the whole thing, because he was going to ring in the new year in Connecticut or something, wasn’t it?” She looks to Karen, clarifier of all facts, who gives a silent nod that yes, it was indeed Connecticut.

Karen waves for the waiter back to them, but never looks for him, just beckons an arm in the air. “So what’s his problem? It didn’t work out in six months? I need six months to get over a bad haircut.”

When the women get catty like this, David prefers to back down. Karen’s acid tongue in particular is only for her own amusement – misdirected anger from having to be sensitive to everyone’s feelings all day.

To the waiter, Karen says, “Club soda. No fruit,” and immediately releases her eye contact. Maureen asks to be skipped while she thinks a little longer, then later requests an iced tea. The waiter predicts David’s Sprite before he can order it, and David does not find this efficient or charming. He knows that the waiter is rushing them so he can use more time reading the wine list with Emma. When he has gone, they sit quietly for a moment, having lost track of where they were in their discussion.

Finally, Maureen says, “Well, that’s too bad. When’s he due back?”

David starts to say, “I don’t know,” but before he can, Karen has snorted a laugh under her breath. He says it anyway, adding that Gary had spoken to Derek on Saturday, but the details were missing. Gary doesn’t tell a story well, so David hasn’t learned much.

Karen bites on her thumbnail and stares at the front door. She is thinking about the night Derek left and how glad she was to see him go. She says, without hearing herself, “What a nightmare.”

“What?” Emma asks loudly, over a guitar solo screaming from the speakers.

“One of the best things about this city is that when people leave, they stay gone. At least you could always count on that.”

Mo helps the waiter hand around the drinks, “Remind me not to take a vacation.”

“I just didn’t expect to see him again.”

“You probably won’t,” David says.

“Sure we will. You know we will.” She picks up the lime wedge floating in her soda and places it directly on the table for the waiter to collect later. “It’s the one thing you can be sure Derek will do.”

Monday, May 22, 2006

Reunion Weight Loss

or... How I got over that

It didn't last long -- a fleeting thought as I rested a beer bottle on my belly and stared through my toes at the Sox/Yankees game. I should tighten that up, I thought. That on its own is not unusual; I think about tightening it up far more often than I do it. What surprised me was the added clause, "before the Reunion."

We Old Gals capitalize Reunion. We also use words like parietals, cotillion, and aspic. We are not really that old, but our college is, and Reunion is a capitalized holiday held every year. One is always welcome, but is only invited once every five years. This year I have been invited for the fourth time.

In that second that it took Schilling to blow into his fist I remembered some information that brought me to my senses. It wasn't that I had lived much of my four years there barefoot in a single pair of jeans, or squinting behind Ray-Bans through a hungover haze. Or that no amount of pearl strands (and I have 2) had ever made me a Belle in anyone's eyes. That all came later.

What killed the idea as quickly as it was born was the recollection that I actually weigh 30 pounds more than I did when I was 23. "Well that's just ridiculous," I said aloud.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

First They Came For the Immigrants

…and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t ---wwoops.

Mine is a special kind of immirgant status. The white privileged kind. The foreign-born of American parents kind. The citizen with voting rights. Most of the time, I forget myself.

When I went to City Hall to register in 1988, I forgot to bring my Naturalization papers with me. I filled out the registration form, wrote out my place of birth with its official name Federal Republic of Germany, checked the US Citizen box, and handed the form across the counter. “Do you have your certificate with you?” asked the City Hall desk clerk. I mentally kicked myself for having wasted my own time. Reaching for the form back, I admitted, “No, I am so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’ll have to come back.”

She said, “Oh, I’m sure it’s all right. Just bring it by some time.” And she registered me to vote. This does not happen when your name is Luz Hernandez. Still, the Constitution is clear on my inability to become President, and I have just come closer to having to carry an identification card.

When the president called recently for an identification card for “every legal foreign worker,” he touched on the modern American point of view that Good people don’t mind rules that don’t (appear to) apply to them. [Let the record reflect that I did not use the word zeitgeist just now].

We have an identification card for legal foreign workers already -- we call it the Green Card. The presidential address made this rhetorical argument: people sneak over the border and Americans hire them without checking for the proper authorization, which we should change to be more space-age to prevent illegal employment.

Even if you accept the premise that there is Green Card graft going on, would a new kind of card will change? Or is there Executive Order 9066 again. The majority of interred individuals were American citizens.

All week long, I have heard news reporters ask people “on the street” if they were disturbed by phone tapping, record seizures, biometric ID cards, face-recognition software. The ones that make it on the air tend to say something like, “if you have nothing to hide, it shouldn’t bother you.” The issue is not what they are looking for, but that we allow them to look for it.

It is too easy to use Nazi Germany’s patch-color taxonomy in a discussion like this, and lessens the scale of the Holocaust to ever compare it to anything. I offer instead a series of 1948 laws which began by defining “legitimate” marriages, then racial designations, and ID papers which validated the bearer’s employment, residence, and authorization to travel from one to the other. By the time the government of South Africa was ready to relocate all of its Black citizens, only 6 years later, there was plenty of infrastructure to support apartheid.

When our own government has similar ideas, about immigrants, homosexuals, people with mental illness, women, and other threats to “our” way of life (whoever “we” are), I hope we’ll make it difficult for them. Any society can slip backwards if those at the back of the line let go of the end of the rope.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rules of Engagement for War With Mexico

"one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory." - Ulysses S Grant (Mexican-American war veteran)

Speaking of illegal border crossings…

Based on the president‘s (small "p" intentional) latest position on US/Mexican relations, it is advised that you brush up on your Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which -- as the readership expects – the drawing-in room will pull together for you.

The frustration in the president’s voice is clear: they just won’t stop coming over! And… working. And setting up households. Maybe because they thought it was still Mexico.

Isn’t Manifest Destiny more than a little bit embarrassing?

So set the facts in order:
the wet (pause) backs in 1846 belonged to the 4,000 US Troops who crossed the Rio Grande expecting to claim Mexico, after that government turned down a $25 million offer to buy all of present-day California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming, and what was left of the land the Republic of Texas (by then US territory) hadn’t gotten.

("come on, Ese, the French were cool with it.” )

By the way, México was being offered top dollar in comparison to the 15M 1802 dollars Jefferson paid for Louisiana. Pay attention to that figure; it comes back later.

The thing to do, when you offer to buy an entire country and you are told to take a hike, is to simply take it over. After all… it is your destiny.

The war was settled 2 years, 50,000 dead, and $15M later, with Mexico, as we know, losing the land after all. (click here for the most interesting story of this war.)

Which brings us back to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, all ante-bellum (the other one) flowery and gentlemanly, which includes an Article on the rules of re-engaging if “god forbid” (real quote) it should come to that. This is like making up with your cheating spouse by telling him how you will set his bed on fire next time.

Here’s how it will go down:

merchants of either republic … shall be allowed to remain …to collect their debts and settle their affairs; during which periods they shall enjoy the same protection …as the citizens…of the most friendly nations… Upon the entrance of the armies of either nation into the territories of the other, women and children, ecclesiastics, scholars of every faculty, cultivators of the earth, merchants, artisans, manufacturers, and fishermen, unarmed and inhabiting unfortified towns, villages, or places, and in general all persons whose occupations are for the common subsistence and benefit of mankind, shall be allowed to continue their respective employments, unmolested in their persons.

Nor shall their houses or goods be burnt or otherwise destroyed, nor their cattle taken, nor their fields wasted…if the necessity arise to take anything from them for the use of such armed force, the same shall be paid for at an equitable price.

Isn’t that civilized? I am so glad to be a woman, continuing my respective woman-type employment. If you are not, I hope you are at least an ecclesiastic.

The text goes into some detail about prisoners of war, and deadlines to depart, but there is no real worry of conflict. After all, the treaty also promises

the said Governments… promise to each other that they will endeavour…to preserve the state of peace and friendship in which the two countries are now placing themselves, And if… they should not be enabled to come to an agreement…[they will not resort to] hostility of any kind… until the Government [which] deems itself aggrieved shall have maturely considered, in the spirit of peace and good neighbourship, whether it would not be better that such difference should be settled by the arbitration of commissioners appointed on each side, or by that of a friendly nation.

So we’re ok.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I am Not Flooded

Thanks and much love to all who are asking.
Yes, we are still in a state of emergency.
The news footage you see is real...just not near here.

Flooding on the north shore of Massachusetts, Cape Ann, Charles River, and New Hampshire Rivers. Incessant rain. May stop Friday.

Friends on the salt marshes say that that the wetlands really do help prevent flooding, so go plant some reeds where you are.

Farther west, our 200 ft hand-laid dam holds back the state's 2nd largest body of water, and can all the rain that falls on it. [Also the last hand-laid dam in the US, and 100 years old. So...]

I can't call you back because I am in a training class that lasts about 12 hours every day. (blog yet to come) Your kind thoughts are very much appreciated.

For local flooding info (Not the Fox News -- gee whiz -- get a load of this type of footage you're seeing), click here. or here.

For too much information about the reservoir, click here.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The President's Council on English Only presents...

...the new list of State Names

Vegetation Gatherers
Little Springs
The Fabled Island
Beside the Long Tidal River
De La Warr’s land
Traditional Home
Goobelygoo [sources agree…the word “Idaho” is made-up]
Superior Man
Land of the Indians
Beautiful Land
People of the South Wind
Land of Tomorrow
Louis’ land
Big Hills
Great Water
Milky Blue Water
Big River
People of the Big Canoe
Mountainous Region
Flat Water
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Charles’ land
Northern Friend
After the River
Red Peple
Birch-bark Dish
Penn’s Woods
Rhode Island
South Charles’ land
Southern Friend
That Village
Hill Dwellers
Green Mountain
Virgin’s land
West Virgin’s land
Red Stone
Large Plains

this will not boost tourism.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

How I Took Back My Life Through the Miracle of Outlook

I promised to let you know how one could get 8 hours of material out of an Outlook class.
The headline would be: Glory glory hallelujah.

A few things to put out there. You must already have a certain obsessive disorder, a need to categorize, and a thrill at following orders to use the techniques laid out in this class. If you don’t already have that in the toolkit, you might want to stick to something gentler, like regular updates from Flylady.

We got a bit of a late start, and nothing sets a tone like your Time Management instructor being late, but he had us at “log On.”

Here are the rules:
You must not use your Inbox as a storage device.
You must not fear deletion.
You must get off distribution lists that deliver mail you don’t read.
You must turn messages into tasks and tasks into appointments and you must keep your appointments.

From there it is really just a matter of doing it. And you’re thinking, if I can’t do the ONE task, which is empty my mailbox, how do you think I can do all that? And, honey, I don’t know. But I never worried less about my unread mail since it came in manila envelopes tied with string – 1995, to be precise.

It means giving up an hour a day (an HOUR? Who has an HOUR? That’s me, quoting you.) to manage mail and you have to promise yourself not to bother with it the rest of the time. Oh read it, if you must, you big coward, but if you can’t DELETE it and you can’t DO it in under 2 minutes, you are supposed to leave it alone until your mail handling time.

When it is mail handling time, ask yourself what you have to DO in response to this silly message, and if you can actually delegate it to someone else (you know who you are). But if you can’t, and it exceeds the 2 minute rule, then right NOW, right THERE, put it on your calendar.

"What about my other meetings?" (that’s you again. When I do you, I make a pouty face and whine. That is so like you.) What about them? When you put this task on your calendar, show time as “Free,” then people can still schedule a meeting in that spot, and if you need to accept the meeting, then you drag your task to some other empty spot in the same motion that you accept the meeting.

Rigid, right? Whose blog is this anyway?

My email handling hour is now my favorite hour in the workday, except the weekly calendar review, which is like every email handling day in the week happening at once. Says a lot about the job, I realize. But I found 6 hours where I feel productive and in control, have the time to reflect on my workload, plan for the future, and organize my thoughts. 34 more hours to go.

Have a great week!

Saturday, May 6, 2006

What Happened to the Dream Ballet?

All hail the big, bloated, high production values of the American musical. Ever since Oklahoma hit Broadway in 1952, with a bright golden haze on its medder, we have loved the spectacle of the big show.

When Stephen Schwartz’ Wicked blew through town this month, as the vaudevillians used to say “it killed the people.” Generally speaking, the happy musical plays better than one about domestic violence, so it is not surprising that Gregory Maguire’s dark novel is staged for laughs.

And there is plenty that you pay $100 a seat for: colors, costumes, breath taking lighting design, special effects, sets, smoke and crashing symbols, (the literary kind) and belted out numbers of the Merman/Streisand variety (no offensive to you, Mary Martin and Shirley Jones).

A show with two female leads who are both given interesting things to do, and symbols you know by heart, make up for some of the unjustified character twists -- the kind where the nice character turns inexplicably mean, or the enemy is suddenly a friend. These twists are gentler curves in the novel, where the middle act occurs very slowly and there is more back-story to get you invested in these characters. On stage, things must be more stylized to make their points quickly. (and loudly).

The music is only fine, compared to so much else Schwarz had written – most notably, Godspell, which still mesmerizes, in spite of its 60s era corniness and the fact that you know how it all turns out. Schwartz has more range than Wicked suggests, and the score feels Andrew Lloyd Webber influenced (and not for the good) in the absence of sweet Schwartz monologues like "Day by Day" or "No Time At All," from Pippin.

The most noticeable absence, however, was dance. It’s been many years since new shows incorporated real choreography as a story-telling device. Webber’s Cats, victim of its own dance era, presented aerobics as dance, then came Phantom’s “Masquerade,” until now all the audience requires is some posturing – tableaux in wild costumes that are so geometrically interesting to watch that we think we saw a dance number. But there is no real dancing in Wicked, and that is an unfortunate oversight.

Agnes DeMille’s great contribution to American theatre, the Dream Ballet, has been filed as history. Once so central to the dramaturgy, dance stars and vocal stars literally shared a character through the course of the show, and the audience followed right along. Louise Bigelow’s adventure with the carnival people on the beaches of Maine tells us everything we need to know about her character, and when the Snow family marches past, we understand how far Billy’s widow and daughter have fallen in the eyes of the town.

A dance number introducing Fiyero’s arrival at Wicked's Shiz University would have been far more artful than the song that holds that spot. Dance could have expressed the hierarchy of Oz’s many cultures, including the fading glory of the sentient animals. Both Elphie and Galinda could have danced the conflict between their inner feelings and their outward appearances. Both could have fallen in love with Fiyero before our eyes in a way that felt more genuine than simply declaring that they did. And the kids in the chorus could have had more to do.

So here’s to you, Agnes DeMille. Gene Kelly, Bob Fosse, Tommy Tune, Debbie Allen, Twyla Tharp.

And here’s to the kids in the chorus. Kill the People.

Friday, May 5, 2006

from "Territory Folks"


There is a second before the curtain rises when the surge of adrenalin is enough to make you scream, and keeping yourself from doing it intensifies the feeling. The stage manager is counting down to Curtain; five…four….three… and when she says "Three" – right at that moment – you feel powerful enough to create the world all over without needing a day for rest. You know then that the people out there came to see you and you are the only one in control. There is still time to bolt and leave them hanging, but you don’t. The count goes two… one… and there you are, singing over the orchestra and the applause.

The opening night audience was wonderful. They were right there with the actors all the way, laughing, clapping, wanting to dance along. Curly and Laurey teased each other through Scene One, and right away the audience knew how they really felt about each other. Walter’s sinister portrayal of poor Jud Fry caused those sitting close to the front to draw away from him. And Peggy, the liveliest of the Aunt Ellers, played off her audience with asides and knowing glances that stole the scene.

In the darkness backstage, where only the experts could navigate the people and clutter, the heat was stifling, but it didn’t feel so bad to sweat for a crowd that appreciated them. Kate stood by the stage right door throughout the first scene, where she could see Rachel when she stepped up for her solos.

The door was giving way behind her back and when she turned, she saw Holly standing inside the door she had just opened. “Hey, what are you doing?” she asked, meaning it as a greeting, not a reprimand. “How do we look?”

Instead of answering, Holly began to cry. Kate steered her back out into the hallway and handed her a tissue from the wad she had in her back pocket. “It’s hard to watch, isn’t it?” Kate asked.

Holly looked sophisticated all dressed up for the play. She was getting tan already, and had bought a dress that flattered her new figure. But her heart was breaking and back here, among friends who knew her from her Toughskins days when she wore blue Keds and drove a bike with a banana seat, could she let the pieces fall. "I wanted it so bad. I didn’t know how bad until I was out there… watching. I could have done it, couldn’t I, Kate? Could I have done it better?”

Kate had to hold her close, smelling the cologne she herself had given Holly for Christmas. “Of course you could have,” she insisted. “But you did the right thing.”

“I had thought so…”

“It’s still right. It will be right on Sunday. And on Sunday it won’t matter anymore. There will be other shows.” She dried Holly’s eyes and hissed her cheek. “There is always another show.”

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Hookman Pays a Call

1:30am. Why I am awake, and wearing shoes.

The house made a new noise this morning, just a few moments ago, which shot me out of bed and into the hall. Is my water heater failing? Is a plane crashing? Or is the intercom connected to my doorbell, whose speaker is outside my bedroom door, ON, playing static and hard rain?

In the mod’ren design of this intercom, it is “hands-free,” meaning that you press it once and it is open for about 30 seconds without having to hold it. As a one-armed maniac you might find this useful.

It shuts off.

At this point, I am now on the landing, staring out into the night, wondering whether someone could actually be at my door, but I am not going down to find out. I turn and see the digital clock radio in the living room is blinking. Oh, brown-out. They happen often here, in the town that thinks it has the infrastructure to return commuterrail service to Boston. I steel myself to come down another level, where I might be seen through the narrow window by the front door, and press the clock’s button to reset it. Except I didn’t push that button; I pushed a button I had never noticed before called “Sleep,” which turns the radio on, even though the switch is off, and now it won’t go off no matter where I turn the switch. Just creepy ominous classical music (to set the mood). I yank the cord out of the wall.

I have to make a bathroom stop, and once comfortably poised… the

Darkness. Static through the intercom. So this is how it ends, I think.

Throughout my home everything possessing an alarm sounds off, to tell me that the electricity is off. And that I am about to be slashed to ribbons.

I was the first to report the outage. This is the thrill one feels right before running for condo board trustee. I should have asked the friendly operator to stay on the line with me.

Because now I sit here choosing to use my battery power to write my final words rather than watch a DVD because the DVD I have is 6 Feet Under, and frankly, something’s got to give. I have put on my shoes because one must be ready to escape, and I have to stay in the living room to maximize my egresses, though I can easily be seen by Bad Ronald who is standing in the treeline, cupping his hand over his cigarette.

(That is not helping.)

I won’t light a candle because then you could fall asleep and burn the house down. And if you don’t know of my highly irrational fear of fire, then you have wandered here from outside the inner sphere.

I am wide awake wishing I had showered before bed because now I know I will be off my game in the morning. The mantel clock is an hour fast, but proudly ticking about it.

Hope to see you in the morning.