emma b. says

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Time: rememberence

My mom called to say that he had been in accident, the internet told me he died. I sat at my desk and had a detached conversation with my good friend who had lost her brother-in-law to suicide about death, I said no expects the Spanish Inquisition, and she said and then they show up. So I went about shuffling things as my mind stilled, and Archie, my puppy, tossed and tossed his froggy in the air. The day waned as Autumn does, from that bright/cool sunlight arcing through the last of the racy purple-y red leaves, to fat, fat indolent raindrops falling out of the sky with startling velocity.

I called my brother, driving home after work with his wife and two babies in tow, I reported tonelessly, I used the word "passed" when I should have used "died", I fell into soothing, consequenceless purring, I hated that I said it, yet I did.

My good friend asked about him, I said, he was a big part of my life, once, when we were kids. She asked me if I had slept with him, and I did, more than once, I don't have any particular memory, just that it was, that there were boyfriends and girlfriends and there was a good four years where we were all entangled like the knots in his girlfriend's spiral perm, I am pretty sure that was in 1989.  And all of that got colored by something that happened much later, and for the sake of rememberence I will set it aside, except that I didn't.

My brother said, he was an important friend, and I was struck and saddened, because he was, vital to our youth, to my brother for different reasons, but that doesn't even matter anymore, not when twenty or so years have gone by and the baby fat has melted from your face and you have your heart done in, but good, I should know, I did it to him.

So then remembering. When he tried to fix your '71 super beetle and then your dad made you take it to the mechanic to undo his fixing.

When a bunch of us kids were building snowmen.

When we went to see that reggae show and he held your hair back when you smoked too much weed.

His nimble body leaping from boulder to boulder at the Yuba.

Spending the night in a windstorm. * This is particularly vivid.

My father's various nicknames for him (included feckless), the time he took out our shrubbery, the last fucking horrible accident that he got into with my first love's little brother -  Jesus Christ, wasn't that fucking close enough? How did it not penetrate? How do you slam into the front of minivan farrying a bunch of trick or treaters, jesus, you are 41 years old, and a better artist than most, there is so much life, yet, there is so much life, yet.
I can see your face plainly, now. And it's shiftings from adolescence to manhood. I can see your hair go from spiky to long and back again. I can see your face before you tatooed your new religion on your chin, I can see you scooping up homeless people to shelter in my apartment in San Francisco, and I can see me coming home at 3AM and coming unglued. I can see your uncorruptable guilelessness, and I can also see poor old Trog crapping all over my apartment. I can see that you loved me and you couldn't see that I didn't love you back, and I am sorry for that. I am sorry that I didn't respond to your outreach, you never understood cocoons, or boundaries. I see you again, gone too young, I see you again, but you are gone.

ainsi soit-il

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Time: Love

And in the morning I woke up and I was forty years old, it was a beautiful day.

That was a month and dozen or so days ago.

A dozen and some days backI flew to San Francisco to hang out with old friends and eat, drove out to the Russian River to eat and drink some more, I got really sick on the second day, smoked some crazy ass dope and stripped off my swimsuit in the hot tub surrounded by gay men and a former lover, and a married man who.

And then I knew, what I knew already, I've been gone a long time, and life had gone on in my absence, which we all know happens, doesn't mean that it doesn't feel a little bit lonely when it's underscored. I haven't been in stasis, and they wondered about my clipped speech and portlandisms. (put a bird on it allfuckingready) I had thought for a long time that I had exiled myself, which I had done and was very deliberate about it. And for a long while I was a Californian hiding out in Portland getting frequently kicked in the gut by extenuating circumstances and making the best of it. I've gotten used to crying in airport restrooms, for the piece of my heart left in San Francisco, and this time, stuck for a four hour layover, too sick to drink local beer, I just wanted to be home and home is Portland.

It was before twilight when I got in the cab, and clear, and mountains and flowers and green, and the sun waning in the west when it had already set over San Francisco.

It's easy when you are 21 to fall in love with the biggest metropolis you ever got to know really well, sticking your nose in it's private corners with all of your youthful indiscretion, when you can get away with driving down by those behemoth factories in the dark hours where you have no business being. And faking your way through the low brow and the high brow, because you are young and you are in love with this place, from the crud in the gutter to that glorious skyline, and every crossing of every bridge was a suspended path back to home, back to home.

For me and Portland it's been a slow burn, I was simmering with resentment, shaking with inarticulate fear, that I still can't quite put the right words to. In the end, or rather the beginning, it was beauty that won me over. Not in the skyline, but on the sidewalk. After all the months of darkness, it's the flowers and the effort that people put in to tending flowers, it's the people who plant lettuces in their front yards trusting that no one will come along and pluck them. It's the kids and dogs and kids and dogs, and barbeque's. And the good people that I know and have come to love.

So now I am 40 years old, possessed of a slanting house with a full front porch. I have no career to speak of. I am making a business with four girlfriends, we specialize in foreclosures, we make time for Zumba and dogs are welcome in the office and I haven't worn make up in I don't know how long.  I keep having dreams that I am dying and I am devastated as I drive myself out to SFO (that is where I die) that I haven't been able to love and be loved in return. I take that as a sign that I need to put myself out there, if I can fall in love with a city, and I can fall in love with new friends, the next logical step would be to crank open my rib cage and fall in love with an actual man. Or a factotum penis. Whatevs.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Powerwashing: Villains

Well after such an explosive jolt of rainbow-flavored saccharine below, what better than to laud/applaud/mourn an assassination.

But first.

I made out with a farmer after a babyshower. My littlest nephew went into the hospital with a viral meningitis, scared the bejesus out of all of us, and came out fatter than he went in. My mom came, I made her pull dandelions, so she took me shopping, no one was murdered.

All week long those in charge of conflating the weather have been touting Sunday as the day we would all fall to our knees beneath that super-shiny disc in the sky and rend our clothing. This almost happened. As it delivered.

E and I went to our fifth consecutive day of Zumba, because we have become those women, and some ladies gravitated towards us as I was loudly lamenting dudes and what the hell is wrong with them, when you have a perfectly willing woman beneath you, let's go! Let's go, already. We shut up and dance.

The morning was still brisk, and I had gone out the day before on a tear..... Found the smokinghottest sandals and sundress, all in anticipation of the glory of sunlight and warmth, to turn off the furnace with a satisfied snap, to bring up the fan from the basement, to blind the public with ghost-white of my limbs.

So then to Portland Nursery for grass seed, organic weed killer and begonias and pansies. And  home again to don the garden gloves and dig and yank and spray, and bend and twist and curse. Get the pansies in, plant the herb garden, seed the front lawn... think about mowing, really need to mow, really and truly need to mow the lawn which has sprouted six inches in as many days.

So I opt to powerwash the porch. I inherited a powerwasher with the house, which my brother promptly appropriated, since he owes me like, forever, since I am captain super auntie, he begrudgingly let me borrow MY OWN GODDAMN POWERWASHER.

It occurred to me when I hauled it out of the garage that I had no idea how this thing actually works, and I certainly knew that I couldn't call W to ask without enduring a shit-ton of guff, and to my astonishment one cigarette and some fiddling later I figured out how to make it go.

And go it did. I felt like a motherfucking captain of industry, or a Hell's Angel or something, PSI something, something, with water! Awesome! I went a little nuts, I was a woman with a (squirt) gun, and the porch! It's like new! So much awesome! I can't wait to do it some more! If I wasn't concerned about wasting water I'd powerwash every gottdam day.

I was so into powerwashing that I made myself late to my J's mom's birthday. And it was on the way home when OPB radio was pre-empted by the President.

Nearly 10 years ago, I stepped into the sunshine in September and hailed a cab to BART so I could make my appointment with my therapist in Berkeley. My cabbie was Indian and sweating, he had some AM station on and at first I paid no heed, so swaddled was I then in the unhappy cocoon of depression, but when we reached City Hall and the barricades were up I pulled myself into the brightness of the morning and listened.

I did not get on BART that morning, I stared down the stairs and imagined a watery claustrophobic fiery drowning, instead I walked home. It wasn't long before that name surfaced, such a melodic name Osama Bin Laden, on every pundits lips, the rhetoric of revenge, blood thirst, blood thirst enough for two wars, two never ending wars, since then elections have been disputed and things have fallen apart, we hoped for a bit, it's hard to hope in the face of status quo and the same old self-serving political gamesmanship, and that melodic name faded into the background, like he was some kind of mythical super-villain, plotting away in some remote mountain cave, sending out poor tape recordings, essentially become benign, like an impotent Lex Luther, past his sell date, much like Britney Spears.

So it was unexpected, then. To be driving along, with the windows down, with blossoms in the air, wine in the veins, steak in the tummy, still light out, but just. Blue hour, magic hour. Indie hour on the radio and then there is the President, the villain is dead, the villain is dead, we have his body in custody, lives lost, so many lives lost in the name of this one man and his madness, not just ours, but theirs, too. Ten years on, I admit I'd forgotten you, I wish you weren't dead, because the world needs a Nuremberg style trial, you should have hanged in a public arena, you should have had all the names of the dead scrolled before you, you, you bastard, shielding yourself with the mantel of righteousness, I hope the first circle of hell burns with a special vigor for hypocritical villains of your ilk.

wow, I am angrier than I thought I was.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pangs and Contentment

Thursday, after our work day we regroup for wine and snacks at AWs, I am feeling flush, and feel the full rush of spring as denoted by my allergies and the tulips and the crocus and the daffies rising despite the dismal rain, so I pick up the Iberico ham and the good cheese at Pasta Works, joke with the charming butcher about not breaking my bank. Jesus Christ, I think those pigs might be magic.

Friday morning I leap out of bed with a rose hang-over to escort KBs daughter to school, there is frost on my car, but the sun is shining, after a month of rain, it's enough to make me kick up with a nearly religious joy, indeed I mouth a word of thanks to the Universe and put on my sunglasses. CB is nine, she is lovely and delightful, as happy to see me as the noodley dogs are, her mom departs for the airport and I let her, except that I don't, kick my ass at Uno after I quiz her on spelling and then we walk to school. We greet her friends and other parents loitering on the playground and as I walk away beneath the magnolia blossoms by the red brick school, I get a pang, or that's inadequate, it's more like mourning. I am bereft that I have no kid to walk to school, or something, I am not sure.... All these fantastic kids I have in my life, including my two nephews, and not so much as a twinge, but the walk to school - didn't exactly break my heart, more like it filled up my heart, and never have I had that kind of nostalgia or yearning. It might be too late, then again it might not be. Even this morning I was at my brother's to give some respite, bouncing like a madwoman on the big purple ball with an infant in my arms, OK he does smile like the Buddha, but he will open those tiny lungs to the sky if you stop bouncing, and all I could think was I love you, but you are making my back ache, and your mom squirted breast milk in your eyes, and I was all ew, just ew.

So I took Theo to the park so J could get groceries and W could grade papers in peace, and we went nuts on the slide, and the love I have for this creature with my dad's ass and my crinkly eyes is astonishing, because I don't think I have ever loved anyone so unconditionally. Parents and siblings aside, in my mind that's an absolute. And since I am being so very saccharine, let me throw in a word for J, who is less my sister-in-law and more of a sister.

So then, contentment.

Friday evening we convene at our local tavern for the Blazers v. Lakers, yet another unexpected pleasure. In that Portland, with all of it's DIY ethic and nonconformist fanaticism is fucking gaga for the Blazers (and the Timbers, but that's a whole 'nother tale) and I am gaga for that Young French Thing, so the sight of the hipsters and the bewhiskered cheering for mainstream sports is somehow cheering, we drink dollar beers and eat nachos, and I go to bed early.

Saturday. Team Zumba Zombies checks out a new club - we all have upgraded our 24 Hour memberships to all club access, and we go to the new McLoughlin facility next to La Carreta, the dance room overlooks the river. We get there super early and fiddle around on machines, dance our pants off and steam, sauna, pool. It's like a spa, it's most excellent. By Sunday I will be aching from all of those fancy-ass machines. I come home and immediately head out for a family birthday party, J's family, who are my own, now, thanks to their inclusion, chat with my college roommate who is my sister-in-law's sister's neighbor, drink some beer, eat some cake, the usual. I am inexplicably happy to be shivering in the wind tunnel at Overlook Park, where I have never been before, looking onto the river and the West Hills, tagging after toddlers belonging to extended family and chatting with J's parents who I adore. I have a long conversation with college roommate's longtime husband that I first met when I was 18 years old, we take notes, we chat with my brother, everyone bonds over bands, and that is life in Portland, you bond over bands, beer, kids, bikes, dogs and the best butcher.

Later I head over to J and A's - J is assembling pizzas, there is money down on Connect 4, their daughter catches me trying to filch a cigarette from my purse and questions then upbraids. I come home early, and I am content until I pass under the lintel and am again reminded of the emptiness of my home, and mostly I am unbothered by this, especially when I am craving silence, but the juxtaposition is so stark sometimes, and even though the television is on and I've got my headphones on, it's a poor substitute. Sunday. After I leave my brother's house I come home and do some Spring cleaning, think about digging up some dandelions, but don't. Instead I head downtown, I haven't been since January when I was laid off. Haven't crossed any rivers, stayed solidly on the East Side, so I venture across the river, dodging bikers, to Nike Town in pursuit of dance shoes. They don't have my size, but they are on sale so I purchase a size 6 1/2 and the cashier asks me if it's for Zumba, uh huh.

It's taken three and a half years, but I know now that this is where I belong.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The thing about Serendipty and Zumba So the addage goes something like this, when a door slams shut in your face, a requisite black eye, ego wounded, another door is allegedly supposed to open to fill the void, some sort of special door for the pundits and the mystics that real people worth their salt sort half-heartedly cling to, or barge into without any hindsight. So I did. So I went underground, so I have been underground, I surface for few and only when prodded, I don't know how to describe this mechanism, I certainly can't defend it, I get chastising voicemails from the people that I love the most and chafe like a surly teenager, even when it's my 90 year old grandmother calling to see that I hadn't surrendered the gimlet gin gimlet before she had. Because then she'd really be pissed. So, doors. It happened, fortuiously, that I had a friend in need of some work, and it happened that there were several of us floundering on the open seas of unemployment, and so it coelesced and we are a wee company specializing in foreclosures, privately I refer to us as the ethical vultures, well someone must, someone will, why not a bunch of girls who rocked the shit out of "Simple Minds" radio based on a text from my brother. I figure, who am I the fuck to judge, when I have the last threads of solvency wrapped firmly around my index finger, and it's turning purple. Sometimes you just fall, but I have been falling into things............. That is not what I want to say, exactly, I have let serendipity guide me, in a thousand and one directions, which means that my resume is chalk full of disparate things, means that I have been steering by the stars, rather than charting my own course, means in real terms, in equitable terms I am a 39 year woman without a partner and without any prospects, how terrifyingly fucked up is that. It's kind of terrifyling fucked up. Which is where Zumba comes in. When I lost my job, and started with the girls, I joined a gym, hounded, really. Zumba four days a week, four women, music we mostly hate but know the lyrics to, two step, samba, salsa, I fucking love it. We fucking love it, with all the freaks and the spazzes, happily heating up the room past the point of barebility, dance it out, it will make it all better, dance it out, it will mitigate all of that ache, it will give you the strength to deal with the absentee homeowner, it will give you the strength to confront all those demons in the bathtub. And you will be alright, you will be alright.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Auntie Emma Welcome to the world little man, you me and your big brother are going to have a swell time of it. I saw you when you were almost ready, and your mama was bent double, and your papa was unshaven and nervous and I spent the night on the couch shooing off the dog and dreaming of giving birth. Your big brother was none too happy to see me in the morning, but an aunt's perogative is to bribe and cajole, and on the evening of the second day all were home and all was well. I held your tiny person in my arms, your tiny limbs still folded frog-like and your long mandarin nails on the hands you don't quite own yet, you stink prodigiously for something so wee. Your neck swings and swivels, you mewl, and yet, godlike, out you spring into the world, fully formed, a good pair of fresh lungs to express your monumental displeasure with the air, with the world, we rock, we bounce, we rock, you give in a little until you must have the breast. Sorry, dude. Your brother is talking up a storm, he's got a low rasp, he's not altogether sure that you are welcome, yet. I put on a movie when I was pretty sure his little heart was breaking because mama wasn't there, and he snuggled into my side, and I wished for a moment that I would have a child of my own. Bite that thought, bury it under the daffodils, throw it up to the thunderclouds breaking in the sun. I thought, my house is so empty, my brother's house is so full, wife, two boys and a dog, and total chaos and sleeplessness, but maybe there is life and beauty in that. I think perhaps I should start with a dog. Maybe the rest will follow, good luck, good love, a long, torpid drive on the trip to bountiful, all my loves swaying on dandelion heads, scattering on a fortuitous breeze, my young nephews and I ready to turn sommersaults with all of their grandparents, and their parents, and their greatgrandmother, and the ones that have already gone, shimmering like mirages to tumble through. I think that Dolly and Bill and Morrie would like that. Hopefully decorum is meaningless in the afterlife. So tiny Louis, welcome to the world, we love you so much already, your whole big family, your back is watched. I love you, I love you, I can't wait to know you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This woman's work, again.

I am sorry you left, I am sorry he left, whichever side decides to champion the loser's role, I am sorry and neither of you are villains. It just hurts, I remember.

I am sorry that he wasn't everything that you wanted, I am sorry that you chose to go, but go you did and that decision you seem to not want to shoulder. I get it more than you know, you retort that I haven't been here long enough and that I haven't seen. But I did, and I do.

Men and women, separate, secretive, open wide, private martyrs, bold, terrified, capable of the sublime, unintentional destructors. Reckless defilers, all in the name of someone else's love. Oh yes, I remember.

You want to parse heartache to heartache, I will go toe to toe, because you think you are the only one to have the one you once loved and then not so much show up at at a wedding with his current girlfriend, you honestly think you are the only one, at least some of us put on our war paint and our best foot forward and showed up, and made a concientious effort not to say anything too embarrassing, or drink too much.

You are in for one hellava heartache, he will marry the young thing, and then they will have a baby, and you will cry in the bathtub for a while and have to, I mean, you will have to let it go.

And so you do, without breeze or tide, even without that twinge of regret (and the boomerang, and the boomerang, and the boomerang)

... and the boomerang....

and all of them they lay their heads, and all of us hide our heads in the sand, noncommital, awaiting the next disaster. And then it happens, you can hide, but you can't really run, you can't really run, you can't really run. You can't really run., not from the property wizard not from his consory Square Footage, but we can at least pretend.....................