Miz Shoes

I’m Wearing Fur Pajamas

But only on my tongue. In my steadfast belief that one should always get back on the horse that threw you, I spent last night drinking tangerine martinis with the PDB. I think I got up to five, but who's counting?

I did not get sick, despite the fact that dinner consisted of Shorty's BBQ (ribs, vinegar sauce, cole slaw and an ear of Very Greasy corn). I did not even get to the point of laying on the floor.

We drank and paid homage to our fathers and got weepy. We talked about the difference between art and craft. We looked at vintage magazines and analysed the styles, layouts and illustrations. We had fun, in a way that only art-school refuges can have fun.

Chin-chin, sweetiedarlings.

Tomorrow night, RJ is having a birthday par-tay for herself. I've promised to make a cake. I have no idea what cake that might turn out to be, but she's turning 50 and there seems to be a flamingo theme coming on.

I'm thinking that whatever I make, it will have pink icing. And probably be pink inside as well. This is the perfect time for me to find the ultimate marischino/red velvet cake recipe, but I'm not counting on the universe unfolding in quite such perfect synchronicity.

And for the rest of the three-day weekend, I will be sequestered with my code-writing books and I WILL (she says, shaking her fist at the sky) get this damn blog flipped to Expression Engine, because I am back to about 100 spam messages a day, and that, gentle readers, has gotten fucking old.
Miz Shoes

All My Exes Live in Texas

Long-time readers of this blog know the great disdain I hold for the great southwest, a measured response to the dog-years I spent living there. But now another of my friends has decided to move to the tiny little blue dab of jelly in the huge red doughnut of Texas: P-Roo and her husband have packed the dogs and the car and headed out today to Austin.

P-Roo (a new nickname for my girlfriendgirl) and I have been friends for a million years, since the dark days when we were married to earlier, evil husbands. Those two men were as close to being friends as sociopathic lawyers can be, and every time we'd run into each other at some lame-ass law school function, she and I would be delighted to see one another and we'd beg our husbands to make plans for the four of us to go out. They'd agree, and then we wouldn't meet, and my ex, the Antichrist, would conveniently forget to give me their phone number or he wouldn't know it, or something.

We divorced at about the same time, she and I and immediately became the best of friends. Nothing like losing 160 pounds of inconvenient buzz-kill to lighten up a relationship.

P-Roo is an artist, too. She was a jeweler until health reasons forced her to give up metal working (and red meat, and alcohol and wheat and nuts and bananas and strawberries and pretty much everything that makes life liveable. Except coffee. She can still drink coffee. And smoke cigarettes, and what the fuck is it to you if we do?)

Now she is a quilter, and in fact, it is she who does all my machine quilting for me. She designs all of her own quilting patterns and they are pretty amazing. I particularly love the ones she based on a book of Gothic stonework (that I bought for her at a used book store in Sarasota a couple of summers ago). Synergy, people, synergy.

But today she left for Texas, and the only bright spot I can find in this is that the bitch will finally start reading my blog, just to keep up with me.

Any of you out there in Austin, or quilters looking for an amazing long-arm quilter to do your tops for you, drop me an e-mail and I'll tell you where to find her. Austin may be one of the hippest cities in America, but it still can be cold and lonely if you don't know anyone there.
Miz Shoes

World AIDS Day 2006

A portrait of Scotty Neaill, the first boy I had a crush on, the last boy I knew who got drafted for Viet Nam, and the first friend to die of AIDS.

Scotty was a year older than me, and I just adored him. He had this one eyebrow that sort of curled up on one side, very devilish and twinkly eyes with long dark lashes. He wasn't a blonde surfer, and he wasn't an athelete (like that would have driven me wild, even in those days) and he wasn't the most popular boy in school. He was just Scotty and I wanted to go out with him. Instead, I was his friend, the girl he told about all the other girls that had crushes on him that he didn't like. We'd go to the beach together.

Once I went to visit him when I was out horseback riding with another friend. We just trotted up to his house and hung around for a while. When we left, he told his mother, "she's sort of weird, but I like her." She told me that when I made my condolence call after he died.

He took me sailing on his Hobie Cat, and once we were becalmed on the St. Lucie River for several hours until we were able to tack back to the dock at the Sunrise Inn. When I finally made it home, my mother was furious, her mind filled with the horrid possibilities of what a young girl and a young man could do for three hours on the canvas deck of a Hobie in the middle of the river. Nothing much, I assure you, but Mummy was not so easily dissuaded from believing that.

Scotty gave me a strand of love beads, the summer of 1970 or 71. I still have them.

Scotty was drafted into the United States Army, the last of the Nam draftees, but he served his term in Japan, where he fell in love with Japanese landscaping and gardening. When he got out of the service, he tried to enroll in a school in Japan, but there was no room for a US citizen. So Scotty came back to America and moved to San Francisco, where he worked at Horchow, and tried to find local Japanese landscaping classes.

Scotty died in 1988, the first of way too many friends to die of AIDS. He left behind no garden to bear witness to his passion. His younger brother Richard became a landscape architect, perhaps in Scotty's memory, perhaps because he too loved plants and flowers and making them take on the vision you hold in your head. Richard died of AIDS, too, maybe eight years after Scotty.

Remember your friends, and those who are living, tell them you love them. Make a donation today to your local AIDS service organization or national research group, like AMFAR. Light a candle. Say a prayer.
Miz Shoes

Still Life With Waterpik

In the brown bathroom, the one in the hall outside my apricot bedroom, there is a closet. Today is the day that I've decided to clean that closet. In it is the detritus of my parent's failing health. It contains strata of activity and obsessioin. There are two wrist braces, still in their original boxes. One is from the 1960s and shows (in a pen and ink illustration, on a lime green ground) a man, bowling. The other is from the 90s. Its box has a golden yellow band above a generic photo of a generic male wrist wearing the brace. It must have come from a big box store.

There is a black and clear acrylic tissue box holder. It has ended up in this closet after my mother redecorated her black, white and marble master bath. There are many, many, many, many boxes -- some are empty and some are filled -- but they are all Waterpik boxes. There is even a shoebox full of Waterpik replacement heads and brushes. Some, judging by the color of the bands used to differentiate them when more than one person uses the same device, are also relics from the 1960s. Others are pastels from the 1980s.

And then there are two bars of soap, shaped like and painted like ladybugs. Someone gave me them (along with a missing third) the summer I went to Europe. I was 11. It was the summer of 1966. The person who gave them to me was my cousin. She seemed much older than me, and much younger than my mother... could she have been about halfway between us?

But which cousin was it? That is the mystery and memory these two bars of soap have awoken.

I remember that we visited her when we were in New York City, before we sailed. Was it Aunt Ann's daughter? We stayed in Brooklyn with Aunt Ann. But where we went to visit, the house had a real yard. Did she live out on the Island?

She gave me an ice-cream cone, served upside down on a plate, with the ice-cream and cone decorated to look like a clown. Would that have been Aunt Marilyn's daughter?

When we left, she gave me the soap for my trip. Each bar was wrapped in tissue. I loved them too much to ever use them.

Now here I am, 41 years later, emptying them out of my childhood bathroom. One has lost its tissue. The other is still perfect. I wash the cracked paint off the open one and put the soap on the rim of the sink. There is a Waterpik already there.
Miz Shoes

Love is a Burning Thing

I have this phrase running through my head, and I've been giving it a lot of thought. Turning it around, looking at it from all angles.

The phrase is "unconditional love".

I know that I loved my parents unconditionally, but to be quite honest, it took a long time to get there, and a lot of therapy to achieve a place in myself where I could do that. I think that to truly love unconditionally, one has to love oneself the same way, and first.
In the context of my current contemplation of the phrase, I wonder, however, about the difference between unconditional love and enabling. Is there a difference? Is it so easy to mistake the two?

What are the differences? Unconditional love means accepting the flaws of the other. Enabling means, maybe, ignoring them. Or... or what? Approving them?

Is youth a flaw? Is it possible to be young and not blame your inexperience on others? At what point does youth become adulthood? Is it age or knowledge or experience, or just a mental switch?

Are you an adult when you think you are? Or when others look at you and say you are? The late, great Satchel Paige said "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?" By that accounting, my own age is somewhere around the mid-twenties. But the calendar tells me otherwise. My bank accounts, my responsibilities, my life-style choices, the amount of time I have left in the workforce, all tell me that I am fast approaching senior citizen status. And yet, in my head? I still heart rock and roll. I still like to go out and shake my groove thang. I have no understanding of the fact that my knees won't let me ride my bike for 20 miles at a clip.

I graduated college on my 21st birthday, and had no doubt that I was an adult. I had a degree, I was of legal age in any country on the planet, and it was time to leap into the world and see how strong my wings were. In hindsight, of course, I was still green and in many ways still the child I had been when I entered school. But I didn't think so then.

In going through my parents house, I have found letters that I wrote them from that far away point in my life. I told them not to worry about me. I told them that I believed that my wings were fully fledged and that I would fly. I told them that I knew I was green, but I was hopeful. I believed in myself. (God only knows why. Maybe I was high when I wrote the letter.)

I still believe in myself. The world has never shaken that belief out of me. It has tried, it has shaken it to the core, but it never shook it out. I love myself unconditionally, which means that I know my flaws. I even try to improve them. But there are things about myself I cannot change. There are other things I could, but would not. The rest? It's all just smoke and mirrors.
Miz Shoes

Rain Fallin’ On My Shoes

We are into the home stretch, hurricane-seasonwise. September is the month of heaviest storm activity. So far this month, no actual storms here in Miami, just unrelenting rain. Which is actually kind of nice. Everything gets very green, and all the shrubbery gets extra-thick and the grass grows so fast you can almost watch it get taller. If it weren't raining too hard to see across the yard.

There is a newly named storm out east in the ocean. Florence. Tropical Storm Florence. There is a very dark part of me that considers this a bad omen. Florence is my mother's name. I have this uncomfortable feeling that that Florence, should it change course and become a hurricane, could take my Florence away.

I went to visit my mummy this weekend. She can usually make one coherent sentence per visit. It's sometimes a sad thing, like when she announced "I don't know where that is. I'll have to ask Max where he put it." Sometimes its a wonderful thing, like the day she looked around and said "Life is beautiful."

This weekend, though, it was a mean thing, and it made me cry. She wasn't opening her eyes. She didn't seem to know I was there. I held her hand and talked to her. Then I petted her head and she pulled away from me and snapped "Don't do that with my hair."


I'm going to make myself a cup of hot tea and consider the piles on paper on my desk and what options I have for dealing with them.
Miz Shoes

The First Cut is the Deepest

I have a brother, Biggus Dickus (he has a wife, you know). And regular readers of this blog know how rocky that relationship is. Love|Hate|Indifference|Resentment... and that's just how he feels about me! I also have a brother-in-law, the wonderful David Lee Roth clone, or as I like to call him, David Lee Cohen.

David Lee Cohen is in the hospital, having gone in exactly a week after his brother, the RLA, came home from one. He's been in there 6 days, and had at least 3 surgeries. Because of HIPAA, I can't get information from the hospital about him, and his poor wife is so fried by his hospitalization, her two little kids, and a currently invalided mother (who is also in residence) that I can't reach her to get any information, either.

The RLA and I are Very Nervous about David Lee Cohen. I keep calling the RLA and asking if he's heard anything, and that just makes everybody more nervous, because the answer is no.

I really don't know or care how you guys feel about prayer, but all the healthful, healing energy you can spare, I would appreciate you sending on to my brother-in-law. He's more of a brother to me than the one I was given by my parents, and I really want to see him up and around and yanking my chain again.

Miz Shoes

Blogging Under the Influence

I wrote this last night, but upon sober reflection in the clear light of day, it's worthy of publication.

It was hardly Proust's madelaine, but after a Very Difficult Week, I poured a stiff apple martini. I poured a hot bath, and added some bath salts and a brand new sea sponge. I treated myself to a mud mask and a foot sanding by micro-bead glass "lava."

Drink in one hand, I sank beneath the water and with the other hand scrubbed my face with the wet sea wool.

And then...

"What IS that stench?" he asked, the first time he smelled it.

"Newport. In the summer." I replied, with absolutely no hesitation. "Isn't it wonderful?"

Mix two parts red seaweed, one part each of salt and mildew and hot summer grass, and you have Newport. At least the way it is in my memories.

And morning fogs. Salty. When my brother and I and our grandfather would go and pick wild mushrooms for our grandmother to fry in butter for our breakfasts.

And Daddy, taking me to the wharf, where he'd buy fried clams in little grease-stained paper bags. It was our secret, something we could never tell Grandma, who thought she kept Kosher. Or at least more kosher than anyone else (sharp look at my parents) in the family did.

And then I see my cousin Milton, from the vantage point of the front steps, looking down into the street. He is in his candy apple red Mustang convertible, with a white leather interior. There is blue hydranga in the immediate foreground, just at the lower left edge of my peripheral vision. He has come to take me to a horse show. I remember the pink and white ribbons. I didn't know that there were any colors besides blue, red and yellow. Who'd want to win anything below third place, anyway?

And of course, there are the gardens. And the raspberries. But that's another memory, and not one to be found in a sea sponge.
Miz Shoes

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now

I can't afford to buy out my brother's share of the parental units' home.

The insurance company no longer wants to insure it.

If I put the insurance in my name, I lose the homestead exemption on the house, and the only policy I can get would be state pool insurance, which would also mean that I couldn't afford it anyway.

If we put the house on the market, it is a dead market and we'll be looking at who knows how long until we see a sale.

If we put the house on the market, it would need to be completely emptied, a job which would take a couple of very hard weeks of labor. I don't have any more vacation time, and I can't ask my brother to do it, because it would be very, very bad.

So. What the fuck do I do now?

I'm going around in circles like Conan on the wheel of pain. I can't see any way out of this, except to sell the house (unwillingly) and take two weeks (at least) of unpaid leave to get the house ready.

This is not the scenario my parents planned for. There must be another option. What it is, I have no idea.

On the upside, however, this seems to finally be the stress level at which I stop eating. I should be down to a size 4 by the end of the year. A suicidal, anorexic, miserable and probably chain-smoking, two-fisted drinking size 4, but a size 4 nonetheless.

Wish me luck.
Miz Shoes

Happy Birthday, Dimples

dimplesTomorrow is my mother's birthday. She'll be 88. She won't know it. She won't know it's her birthday. She won't know that she's 88. She won't know that she's in an assisted living facility. She won't know that I've come to see her and brought her a cake. She only knows... what?

In some ways, I think, Alzheimer's Disease is like severe autism. The person with the disease has an interior life that nobody else will ever know.

I've said before that I think Mummy is in the store, taking inventory, or changing the displays. I think that because of the words I pick out from the neurological static that comes out of her mouth. There are numbers, and colors. Sometimes she'll tell an invisible assistant to put something there, where people can see it.

But who knows.

She's been saying the names of dead people for the past couple of weeks, and pointing. At them? I don't know. I've asked her if she sees her cousin Milton, who was her favorite relative. I don't get an answer.

This is what she's become: an empty shell, a blown-out egg. Fragile and hollow, with only a hint of what was inside before. Let me show you something else:

This was the hottie who did her part for the war effort by dancing with sailors at the USO. She drove them wild. Check her out, in her sailor's cap and her peacoat. I still have that peacoat. It had her name written in indelible ink on the inside label, where the sailor's was supposed to go. She always giggled a little when she let me wear it, and told me it was a REAL peacoat, one that a sailor had given her, and they weren't supposed to do that.

The old dame had some set of pins on her, didn't she? And she still has a trim pair of ankles, even if she can't really walk.

I wish she was still on that beach, smiling with those dimples at whoever took the picture. I cropped it, but his toes are in the shot, at the bottom. I wish she were dancing with the sailors, and not counting pairs of shoes.

I have to believe that she is where she was happiest in her life, because to believe otherwise is too cruel. For me, for her, for anyone who ever loved her.

Happy birthday, Momma. I love you. I made your recipe for macaroni and cheese for dinner tonight. I'll bring you some tomorrow.
Miz Shoes

Why Is This Night Different?

Because tonight I'll have a seder for three, instead of the usual three tables. No kids. No widows and orphans, no lost souls swimming in a fish bowl.

Just me, the RLA and Star. Instead of a whole leg of lamb, studded with garlic cloves, a standing rib roast.

Instead of three types of charoset, just one. OK, two, but does it count as a separate dish if you only use a single apple?

I made Sephardic eggs, a whole dozen of them, but instead of hiding one so it can be my lunch tomorrow, there will be a bowl of left overs, and I'll be bored of them before they're finished.

Sigh. Passover, and particularly the seder, is my favorite Jewish holiday, but this year seems so pitiful with only three adults.

On the other hand (what, you thought I wouldn't be able to find another point of view?) we'll be able to put down some GOOD kosher wine, and in quantity, we'll still be able to play with the box o' plagues, and nobody will complain that the service is running long, because it won't and my brother in law won't show up late and make everyone crabby and hungrier.

In fact, we'll probably be done in time to settle on the couch with a slice of Star's most amazing sponge cake and a cup of coffee and ridicule the hamsters on ANTM.
Miz Shoes

He’s Dead, Jim

How many father figures did you have?

Yesterday, I lost another one of mine. My sistergirlfriendgirl's dad passed away. I spent so much of my childhood in her home, that her parents were a second set of parents to me. But, unlike my own, hers were larger than life. They had a pet lion for a while.
Her mother was tall, with an armful of gold bangles half way to her elbow. She had a huge laugh, a talent for flower arranging, and another for needlepoint. She made her own needlepoint patterns. She smoked and wore gold flowered sandals and long Hawaiian mumus. I was in awe of her.

Their home always had a jigsaw puzzle in progress on a table in the living room. There were shelves and shelves of books, and dishes of shells and found objects; there was always something new to discover on a shelf, or a new photo in the collage of family photos in the hallway.

Her father had lily and chysanthemum farms. Acres and acres of purple, yellow, rust flowers under the black shade cloth. In the 60s, if you bought a potted Easter lily, or wore a chrysanthemum corsage, it probably came from their farms. He became a bee keeper by accident when a swarm built a hive in an empty lily bulb crate. He fished and hunted and swore and cooked. Like my own father, he could (and did) build a bbq pit out of an empty oil barrel, some cinder blocks and a piece of wire fence.

Do they even make men like that anymore? I don't think so. Nor women like her mother, although I do my best to emulate her. My home has a lot of elements that I remember or think I remember about hers, too.

Anyway. It's a good thing that I'd put down the better part of a bottle of red when I got the news about her dad, because a couple of hours later the Apple store called to tell me that my laptop was unrecoverable, and they'd had to put in a new hard drive.

It's all gone. All of it. Fuck me blue.
Miz Shoes

One For My Relatives

This is for my family. I know you are out there, reading this blog, even if you never comment. You know who you are. Yeah. I'm talking to you.

The rest of you guys, just skip this one, OK?
I went to visit my mom the other day and she managed to make a whole sentence. Now, while this may sound good to you, it was a heartbreaker to me. What she said was:

"I'm afraid to look at you because I don't know if you're really here."

On the one hand, I'm tempted to think that was a prime example of a million monkeys with typewriters, eventually banging out something that makes sense. On the other hand, it makes a little too much sense for a million monkeys.

The real question, of course, is who did she think she was seeing?

Anyway, the RLA took some photos of us together. I love this one. You can imagine that she's aware of me in this.


In other family-related news, an astute reader sent me a copy of a letter published in the Stuart News, advocating tearing down the old Stuart Department Store to build a parking garage for downtown.

Here's the letter I wrote in response:

My grandfather, Oscar Kanarek, built the Stuart Department Store in 1954, replacing his earlier building (originally Kitching's store). It was built across the street from the railway station (gone, just like passenger service on the FEC railroad). For thirty years, the pink building was a landmark in downtown Stuart (closed with the opening of the Treasure Coast Mall). Many of the other businesses of my childhood are gone too: The Seahorse Drugs, The Pink Pony restaurant, Gay's Jewelers.

I know that my family no longer owns the building, nor do we have rights to the collective memories of the town. However, as a resident of Miami, I now watch as, daily, the historic buildings of this city are bulldozed to make way for bigger, larger, more. One hopes for more sensitivity to history in Stuart.

The Stuart Department Store was a beautiful example of what architectural historians call MiMo, or Miami Modern. It was a particular style, derived from Art Deco, and very much of its time (Mid-Century) and place. The low, horizontal concrete eyebrow was both ornamental and useful in keeping the windows shaded from the tropical sun. The original interiors had organically shaped ceiling areas, wonderful daisy-shaped flourescent lights, terrazo foors. The original exterior had both strong verticals and wide expanses of glass, both elements of MiMo. And, it was pink.
Miz Shoes

Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment

This is going to be a clusterfuck of a year, I can just feel it in my bones.

The RLA got a spider bite last week, and with diligence and a course of antibiotics has kept the necrotizing whatever at bay. He only has a small swelling and a little crimson spot on his drawing hand. But it was a nail biter.

My mother is drifting deeper and deeper into the waters of Lethe. Now and then she pulls a name or a complete sentence out of the ether and that makes it even worse. Yesterday she blurted out the real name of my brother, Biggus Dickus.

I have a confession to make. I am completely unable to focus today. I know that there is a pile of work in front of me, and yet, I cannot make myself attend to it. I've been looking at Today's Kitten, reading the recap of Project Runway (and don't get me started about Nicky Hilton and Santino—a perfect match of stupidity and arrogance if ever there was one), idly filing papers, and rummaging in the break room for bacon.

Not as random as it would seem, the rummaging for bacon thing. There is a week-long training session going on next door, and the breakfast leftovers have made their appearance in the break room. There were sticky pecan rolls, too, if you must know, but I was able to muster enough self-control not to eat those. Bacon, on the other hand, is a primal force against which I am no match.
Miz Shoes


Today is World AIDS Day. I am wearing a scarlet dress, and my White Party pin. I am thinking about my friends, and I'm going to do something I never do on this site: name names.
I lit a candle on the virtual candle site for John Borella. I didn't try to light more, one for every friend I miss. And anyway, unless I go to another computer, the site won't let me. But for every candle that's lit, Bristol Myers Squibb will donate $1 to HIV/AIDS research.

Let's light up their map, shall we?

Here's to my friends:

John Borella
Nick Cannon
Shel Lurie
Scotty Neail
Richard Neail
Ken Cutthoff
Alan Mark Wayne
Rick Whitley

and to the celebrities: Rock Hudson, Alexander Godunov, Liberace, Freddy Mercury

Oh, I know this isn't a complete list. How could it be? But it is a list of people I loved or admired, and who are now gone.

Jewish tradition holds that as long as you remember them, people live on. It's one of the reasons we name our children after our dead.

Today, I name names, because that's how people live on.

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