Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pussy Montana

Our room with a view.

This is the corner of Cape Cod I have known since 1964. In the distance is the Provincetown Inn where my grandmother would stay each summer when she came to visit us. My mother the mixed media artist would insist we spend every August in Provincetown so she could paint and study with a local artist. It was a luxury I didn't appreciate until much later. In fact, for most of my Provincetown childhood I kept a calendar over my bed on which I would cross out the days each night before I went to sleep. Only 29 more.

Anyway my grandmother would fly from Newark to Boston and then brave the tiny Ptown-Boston plane to land in the dunes. We'd settle her in to a musty room at the Provincetown Inn and visit her each morning for breakfast. This was back when the Inn served breakfast in a beautiful sun-room, pancakes and waffles and french toast. We'd swim in the indoor pool alongside Marvin Hagler's boxing ring (now what was he doing spending all those summer in Ptown?). On rainy days we'd run from one end of the Inn to the other, back and forth all day long. There was a sauna and a spa and dinner theater.

To the right of the Provincetown Inn is the Red Inn. I always promised my mother I would get married at the Red Inn. Oops. Of course, it was she who wished to be married there. Drinks and dinner work well too, and involve far less planning.

To the right of the Red Inn, in weathered gray shingles, is the house my parents tried to buy sometime in the 1980's. It's a great sprawling beach house with a painter's studio and two floors each with walls of windows over looking the bay. They could have had it for $300k but someone got upset about a septic system and that was that.

To the right of the house-that-almost-was is a sliver of Marc Jacobs new massive expanse of private property. That's what's happening to Provincetown; beachfront property is being bought up by private parties who turn the entirety of a three, four or seven unit property into their own private compound.

The hill my mother used to take us to to pick blueberries is now peppered with condominiums. The Dairy Queen is an apartment complex. The aquarium to which I once delivered a hermit crab the size of a basketball is now a mall. There is a store called "Wa" that sells $650 wind-chimes and $1200 Buddhas.


Norman Mailer is gone.

Robert Motherwell is gone.

Stanley Kunitz is gone.

Still. There is land even a rich homo cannot develop. And Lucy and I saw whales off the shore at Herring Cove Beach and then in the harbor from our bedroom window. And Mary Oliver and her dog Percy remain.

We picked mussels off the breakwater. Rode bikes through town and bought presents for the children we left behind for 48 hours. Wondered endlessly how it is that some mammals remain in the water and others of us walk on dry land.

Back in the real world, children are being ripped from their mothers in Texas because of teen pregnancy? Because men have married more than one woman? Maybe there is something more sordid going on, but I can't help but recoil. If you can steal children from one group, why not another?

And poor old Miley Cyrus, sexualized by an entire industry and then punished for it.

Lucy says it's a slow news week, that's why Miley is big business. I say, just don't tell Betsy her 15 year old idol was photographed in a sheet with her parents blessing.

I suppose a parent's got to make a buck. But look out Billy Ray, there's a new girl in town and she's not wearing a sheet.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cat Got Your Tongue?

I'm taking this antacid for my stomach woes and it's left me with nothing to say. I catch myself at times totally silent - sitting at dinner with Betsy, on the phone with a friend - and realize I'm not speaking. I'm not depressed. And actually it's not simply that I have absolutely nothing to say. It's that I forget to speak. I just sit and think.

I have to remind myself, "You should be talking. People talk."

And then I think of something to say but soon drift off again. Bye bye.

It's kind of nice in other ways. My stomach feels better and I'm less anxious and can get things done. Probably because I'm not talking to anyone. What a perfect time to go on a silent meditation retreat.

Instead Lucy and I are heading to Provincetown for a couple of nights. It's an annual tradition. Every April we stay on the beach, pick mussels from the breakwater, jog alongside the ocean, shop, and eat, eat and shop. Leaving Betsy is complicated and hard but she is steeling herself in incredible ways. Choosing to take advantage of my absence to grow herself some more.

She's only once chosen to go on a play date without me - the homes of friends and family not included - but sure enough she wants to go home with a girl from her class one of the days I'm gone. If I were here I'm sure she would have wanted me to join her. So off we both will be on our separate adventures, me and the baby who just left my body.

When Bets made her announcement I was reminded that when I was her age my mother used to force solo play dates, send me off sobbing to the homes of friends. No surprise I was so traumatized I wound up in therapy by the ripe old age of 7. If it's not one thing, it's your mother. If Bets needs more time she can have it. I've always known I never would repeat my mother's mistake. Not that one anyway. I've got enough of my own to make.

Lucy and I planned to return on Saturday with just enough time to get to the airport and greet a dachshund corgi mix from Puerto Rico but lo and behold our furry friend couldn't get a flight out of San Juan. It's come to this: searching the Caribbean for a dog.

Betsy almost had me convinced we should get a rat instead. We were at the animal shelter for the 78th time and the only available dogs were an 8-year old poodle with epilepsy and the loudest hound I'd ever heard. So off we went off to look at the rodents. Rats are fine until you see their tails. It's that bald, ringed tail that makes a rat a rat. But she almost had me.

At least I found the words in me to say "no" to the rat. Then she wanted a bunny but we agreed we couldn't tell bunny poop from bunny food and that would be so confusing that maybe a bunny wouldn't be a good pet either, besides the kitty would kill and eat a bunny.

Until a dog comes our way we are going to break the law and steal some tadpoles from a pond in the Arnold Arboretum. If you are from Boston and find this reprehensible just take a Prilosec and shush yourself. It's a science experiment. We want to see if we can keep them alive long enough to watch their metamorphosis into frogs. It's unlikely we will succeed. But that's not enough to stop this research team.

A friend of mine who works for PETA says real animal activists believe there should be no domesticated animals, no pets. I cannot imagine they would like our tadpole caper. But why they would have a problem with the cat who is snoring next to me in bed I don't understand.

And that's enough talking for one night.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Feeling Groovy

Adopting a dog is proving to be harder than getting pregnant as a 40 year old lesbian. Here in Boston people will cut you down in order to beat you to the small dog that's up for adoption. They'll run you off the road, force your car into a ditch, elbow you in the ribs.

"It's my bichon poodle mix, mine!"

I'm just trying to rescue a damn dog. Trying to avoid a puppy mill. But it's like the vitamin aisle at Whole Foods where a woman once literally shoved me out of the way to get to the wheat-free/soy-free/dairy-free/all vegan multi-vitamins: do-gooders out for bear, or dog, as the case may be.

A friend of mine used the phrase "fascist hippies" to describe a family we knew who lived in this huge rambling Victorian house in a funkadelic part of town. One was an artist, the other some kind of world-saver. Their two kids ran naked around the house, pooped in the back yard, nursed until they were seventeen. But dinners were communal damnit and if you weren't there on time or didn't take your clothes off in the hot tub you were berated.

These are the vegetarians we are up against in this dog rescue mission, well-meaning liberals in tattered old Volvos who opted out of the rat race but are still racing. Granted every day we don't find a dog is one more day without one which is fine by me.

Meanwhile, Bets has been practicing her lines for the kindergarten play which is about the cutest thing in the world. She's as excited by the prospect of being on stage in a costume as she is about walking around the house saying, "I have to practice my lines."

She's invited Faith and I of course and Lucy and Phoebe. We all went to the circus together yesterday. What is more unlikely: a man on stilts being catapulted into the air onto the shoulders of another man, or a woman and her ex-partner, her girlfriend, and all their children sharing cotton candy?

The fascist hippies would have approved. They would have insisted we embrace and then take our clothes off and jump in a hot tub. Damnit.

The dog of my dreams likely lives in Arkansas. There's a freedom train (no offense, no offense) carrying stray dogs from Arkansas to New England. Actually it's a bus. And it's our only hope. You pick a dog online from just a few questions asked of its foster family and then it's put in a crate to journey several days to New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, or New Hampshire. At each stop someone who has been trying to adopt a dog in the northeast but has not been able to because every time they get to the shelter all that's left are ferrets, rats, and pit bulls that bark loudly enough to rattle the fillings in their teeth, stand waiting, groovy leather-free leashes in hand. Dog is released and hopefully not too traumatized by its journey. Family takes dog home. And then everyone takes off their clothes and jumps into a hot tub.

Something about the whole process makes me want to eat red meat, let the water run while I brush, ask for plastic instead of paper or a reusable bag. It makes me want to drop cash at a breeder so I can bring a puppy home for my child already.

Oh but I won't.

I'll adopt a dog for crying out loud. Not because I'm a fascist hippy. But because I need a dog who is housebroken.

But I'll take the kudos. A girl's got to wrap herself in something when she's naked in a hot tub.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Bike and The Breast Exam

Bets woke up yesterday morning and said she's had her training wheels for long enough would I please take them off her bike, which I did. Two hours of practicing later she was riding a two-wheeler. Next stop college. She did this with her pacifier too, crawled into bed one night and said she was done with it and that was that.

Waiting in a blue johnnie for my annual physical today I of course sat contemplating life and death. Johnnies do that. Put them on, open in either the back or front, and instantly you're sifting through your life insurance policies, your social security benefits, the pros and cons of cremation over burial.

I've been feeling lately that we are all just insects in a huge ant farm. Working in a hospital is a lot like being an ant in an ant hill, a bee in a beehive. There're lots of critters walking purposefully from one place to another. Going going going. That's what the hospital is like. We're all always going from one place to another with our cell phones and pagers. It wouldn't surprise me if one day a giant foot came down and squashed us all.


A nine year old medical student saw me first. The good thing about having a nine year old medical student evaluate you is that they spend an awful lot of time deliberating and probing and discussing. They are just so earnest. My physical lasted 45 minutes, what with my actual doctor having to come in and listen to the nine year old's report of my corporeal life. Had I rejected the medical student experience, I would have been in and out of there in 15 minutes.

The most baffling and annoying piece of my physical existence is my stomach. I was unexpected hostess of a stomach ulcer last year and once you get one you're prone prone prone. So these days I can ingest no caffeine, no alcohol, no citrus (couple this with my having both a partner and a woman I co-parent a child with and I'd say I'm a stone's throw from becoming a full-fledged mormon). The nine year old had quite a time with all this: a lesbian with a stomach ulcer and a child. She reviewed with me the results of the tests I've had done in the last year: two endoscopies, a colonoscopy, a CT scan, an abdominal ultrasound, a pelvic ultrasound - all negative. No h. pylori. No celiac disease. No real reason why I should suddenly host a stomach ulcer. But there you go. The nine year old furrowed her brow.



No more dairy.

No more soy.

I've tried them all. What worked was the milky stuff I had to drink before the CT scan. For some reason after two bottles of that my stomach was great for three months.

Go figure.

Anyway, thinking about death always gets me thinking about my mother. As if death were a state somewhere in the midwest, a vague place I've heard of all my life but only have flown over and never visited. And then my mom moved there and provided us with no forwarding address or telephone number. Death? Oh, I wonder how mom is.

There was a woman in the waiting room who was so thin my legs quivered to look at her. I heard her tell her husband she lost two more pounds, "I weigh 96 now."

Oy vey.

My mother was deathly thin in the end. Literally.

I'm a firm believer that anyone over 50 should carry an extra 10 pounds on them just in case they get sick. You need weight to lose.

So there are sick people and dying people and you have to go in and have your own body evaluated to see if it is sick and dying and meanwhile you have a 6-year old entirely dependent upon you and it's all almost too much to bear. Living in a body is sometimes like a bad joke. Our minds are housed in these temporary flesh sacks. Geez. It's incredible we accomplish anything given we're all going to die one day.

And so we go about our business, back and forth, back and forth, busy little bees.

My doctor gave me a prescription for a low dose antacid she thinks I might need to take for the rest of my life (i.e., until I move to that town in the midwest). The nine year old and I bid each other good-bye and good luck.

When I got home Lucy and Bets were practicing the 2-wheeler. Moments later, Bets was off and running. It was 70 degrees. We had the first barbecue of the season. I got to sleep in my own bed. I got another day. I hope the days are as sweet in that town my mom moved to, the place where we all are going.

Until then, I will sip my ginger tea. Tell myself it's wonderful to never have to worry about a hangover, or to have to choose between pink and yellow lemonade. My daughter will continue to be the most determined person I know. Next week we meet a cocker spaniel named Cricket.

Life goes ever on in such a sad sweet and tender way.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Roses are Red Or Yellow Or Pink Or White Or...

It's national poetry month. This I know because I receive daily poems from Knopf thanks to their Borzoi Reader or a poem-a-day series each April (http://www.randomhouse.com/knopf/poetry), which is national poetry month, but this you know because I just told you.

The poem-a-day email used to be torture for me. I could barely manage receiving, reading and then figuring out what to do with a piece of writing someone spent hours or days or weeks toiling over. I need a quiet space in which to read poetry. I need time to digest a poem. Time to think. Time to cry. Time to write. Then I need to know what to do with the poem. If it's a poem in a book or a magazine I can save it - put the book on a shelf, put the magazine in the rack by the toilet.

But email poetry blew my mind. Do I print it out? Do I delete it? It left me breathless.

And that is because I have a significant touch of OCD. It's not like I ever held a mint gently on my tongue without sucking it for the entire 30 minute ride from work to home lest it dissolve and a loved one receive poor results from her oncologist like someone I know and love once did, but I do engage in various other acts of magical thinking on a daily basis. When Faith and I lived together (for over 12 years) I was aware at all times which items (clothing, books, CD's, towels) were hers and which were mine and which we had purchased together. I can tell you the make and model of almost any car from only a glance at its headlights. (I thought this freakish until a friend of mine simply smiled and said, "I can do it from the door handles.")

Such a relief.

And of course I'm frequent host to any one of an infinite number of inappropriate and intrusive thoughts during the most mundane moments like while driving behind a green truck I might suddenly think: imagine a terrible infection that scarred and mamed a face in an instant you could contract it it could begin with a headache Betsy had a headache yesterday i hope it wasn't meningitis today seems good but anything could happen.

"Stop," I tell myself. To my brain at least once I day I have to say, "Ssh." On other days it takes, "Would you please shut the fuck up."

Anyway, with poems from last year still saved in my in-box. I'm trying something new this year. This year I am reading the poems immediately - no matter where I am - and then deleting them. This is huge and radical for a girl like me but what it means is that I am reading poetry, not hoarding poetry. And this is part of my new life mission: to live rather than to think about living.

I say this in light of lesbian divorce and upcoming dogs and imminent presidential elections and the price of gas and Eliot Spitzer and hypochondria (many of OCD'ers are also hypochondriacs which makes us even more fun to be around). Life for an OCD club member is like a Medusa's head of options, infinite avenues we can go down ad nauseum and ponder and analyze until the cows come home.


So much goes on inside while all the while we simply are standing still.

So I'm trying to act a bit more, not obsess over every last nuance of every little thing, just jump. The writer Elaine Soloway (http://thedivisionstreetprincess.blogspot.com) once wrote an essay entitled "Leap Before You Look." It's true, when leaping doesn't cause you to be killed or mortified or destitute, it actually can get you places.

Relationships might end, Hillary or Barack or Johnny Jet Plane might be president, the righteous will fall (come on where's the surprise in that?), a dog might poop or pee or chew up the house, and one day an ache or pain is going to be the last, and still it's okay to act, to make a mistake, waste money, or delete a poem, to be happy.

This actually all began last year when I made the conscious decision to stop thinking about which way to hang the toilet paper and paper towel rolls. One day I decided to just put them on whichever way they were facing at the moment and use that mental energy for something better like memorizing the headlights of the new hybrids.

I'm lucky, I can turn my brain off without the help of pharmaceuticals.

"Enough, brain."

What I'm trying to get at is, Happy poetry month. Geez. I always take the long way.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Dog And The Blind Cat

I can't believe I missed my opportunity to blog on April Fool's Day, my absolute most favorite day of the year. I come from a long line of April Fools revelers. My grandmother used to call me every April Fools until she was 91 years old and say "There 's a bug on your head." That was just the beginning. My mother once feigned her own death. For five and a half years she pretended she was dead and then one April Fool's Day she came back and said "Got ya!"

April Fools.

Oops but I'm a day late.

Here's life in gay Boston: Bets has lost another tooth - this one in an apple at school without blood. It was all very exciting and then I forgot to put something under her pillow. Fortunately it was April Fools Day morning so I could call it a Tooth Fairy April Fool.

And crocuses are waving from the back yard while Bets and I have become regulars at the animal shelter. We visit a few times a week hoping to catch a new dog. Mostly the shelter is home to pit bulls and enormous barking bull dogs. I'm not sure who we're waiting for, but we're waiting. Meanwhile we hold kitties and pet bunnies. I think every visit has ended in tears ("Why can't we get a bunny? I want a kitty who sleeps on your lap not a kitty like ours. Let's get two dogs. All I want is a hamster."). Still we go. It seems the best way to land a canine companion.

Our current creature suffers from feline herpes which is as awful as it sounds only it's not contagious to people. She is however contagious to other cats so, given that she is three, we can't get another cat for, say, 17 years, which is hard to imagine not only because Bets really wants a lap cat, but because the herpes is causing Cookie to go blind. So that means 17 years with a blind kitty. And dare I say we let her out, because she loves to go out and otherwise would destroy our home. But when her vision is gone she will likely have to be kept indoors.

"Maybe Cookie's sickness will make her die soon," said Bets who loves Cookie as much as I do but shares my frustration.

Fortunately Cookie is not contagious to dogs and even likes dogs. So we will have a dog and a blind kitty. It sounds like a band. Dog and the blind cat.

The family band. Name the source of this quote and you win my eternal admiration: "It really came together when mom sang along."

This is Lucy's favorite quote of all time.

Because everything is so much better when mom sings along.