Miz Shoes

Another Day, Another Funeral

The final reports from my family up the coast are in. One cousin lost a section of his roof, another lost merely soffits under the eaves. Still another, who was up in the heaviest weather, lost nothing. My brother lost his pool enclosure, his big tree and his mother in law.

I'm off to her funeral.

Miz Shoes

Storm Stories

As Hurricane Frances bears down on the South Florida coast, giving weathermen* no clue as to where she'll make landfall, I'd like to share some of my family's hurricane history.

1935- Or '34, by the time my father told me this story, he couldn't remember the date. It was the big monster that destroyed the overseas railroad (Flagler's Folly) to the Keys. It was the height of the depression, and there were veterans working on the building the overseas highway. My father was a teenager, and he was recruited in the aftermath of the storm (coincidentally, a Labor Day storm)to help with the clean up. He told me it was horrible. "We were pulling the bodies out of the trees." He always took hurricanes seriously.

1948 or 49 - My brother was a baby, and my parents lived in a little apartment in downtown Stuart. They had to evacuate during the storm. When they came back, the window over my brother's crib had been broken, the lace curtain torn to shreds, neatly braided and a knot tied in the end. By the storm winds. We still have it.

1964 or 65 - My brother goes out after a storm with his buddy on the buddy's motorcycle. They hit debris. My brother destroys his kneecap and is in a hip cast for months. It was the only time he ever got an "A" in phys.ed. He was handing out towels. I'd laugh more, but the only time I ever got an "A" in phys.ed. was the semester I broke a toe and handed out towels. I got the last laugh, though. I later had to have my shoulder repaired due to sports injury.

1969 - I am in marine science summer camp on Big Pine Key. Hurricane Camille passes by Key West on its way to making history and landfall. The camp is almost evacuated, but Camille moves south and west of the Keys. We spend the night in the mess hall. It was great...for us, not so great for Mississippi.

1979 - Still another Labor Day storm, Hurricane David was due to come up the Miami River when I went to bed. I was living in an apartment in the Gables, and had been in a major car wreck the day before. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, I could do to protect myself. I couldn't even put tape on the windows. I just went to bed and hoped for the best. When I woke up, the sun was shining and there were just a couple of tree limbs down. I thought maybe it was the eye of the storm. But no. David had made a sudden, unpredicted turn to the north, scraped the coast, and came ashore in my hometown of Stuart. My friend's parents lost 8 feet of yard from behind their seawall due to storm surge up the St. Lucie River.

1992 - Hurricane Andrew. We were renting a townhouse in what would become known as the devestation zone. The trees on my street were all at a 45 degree angle the next morning. The church around the corner had exploded. The building on the corner had one wall sheared off and desks sticking out of the holes. The 18 wheelers at the moving company were on their sides. The brand new Lincoln Towncar that had been parked in our complex for safety became the Crushed Lincoln Cafe, where we all met and had communal meals for a week or so until the power came back on. I went to work the next day, after the storm hit, and brought ice and water back to my neighbors every day. I also went to Homestead 3 days after the storm, to photograph the delivery of a mobile medical unit to the tent city. The tent city that was next to where the mobile home park had been, up until 3 days prior.

Today, the RLA and I put up the shutters, took in the patio furniture, moved all loose plants against the fences, made sure our hurricane supplies were topped off, bought a couple extra packs of cigarettes, and generally made sure we were ready for the worst. Or as ready as we can be.

These things are monsters, even the little ones, and anyone who lives in Florida and doesn't take them seriously is a fool.
* Sometimes, you DO need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Miz Shoes

Lucky Thirteen

Today is my anniversary. The RLA and I have been married for thirteen years.

Thirteen years ago, right about this time of day, we stood under a chuppah, held up by our friends, in the courtyard of the temple where the RLA had grown up, and pledged our troth. It was a magnificent summer Sunday morning in Rochester, New York. There were little birds chirping, and the grass was soft and green. The sky was blue. The RLA's hands were cold as ice, and I thought "Better you than me, being scared as shit."
The chuppah we used, I had made in graduate school, before I was kicked out. It was woven on an antique loom, with pearls and tea-dyed lace and all sorts of ivory and white threads. I was at the nadir of my life, and I imbued that piece with all the hopes for love and happiness that I could muster. The temple in Miami shipped it up to Rochester. The poles were lost in transit, so the RLA and I went off the local Home Depot equivalent and bought poles. The only things we could find that fit the holes in the corner grommets were tomato stakes. Metal, coated in green rubber, and with thorns, to help the tomatoes cling.

We had a reception at the Faculty Club on the University of Rochester campus, where the incomparable Father-In-Law had been a professor. The wedding cake was chocolate, with a dark chocolate ganache icing, and mocha buttercream swiss dots. I wanted the baker to put silver non-parielles, like chrome studs, on the dots, but there wasn't enough time (or money, one suspects) for her to do that. Our little cake topper was a pair of old gnarly gnomes, so dark and brown that people thought they were also chocolate.

Of all the people there, only one was a friend and not a relative, of mine. There were friends of ours, but only Andy was there for me, alone. He (Andy) immediately figured that out, and went around all day introducing himself thusly:

"Hello. I'm Andy. I'm L's ONLY friend." This is still how we refer to each other. Even the secretaries at his office know who I am when I say I'm Andy's only friend.

Tonight we'll go out to a French restaurant. It was all part of my plan, when I chose this date. Bastille Day. I always get a decent French meal, once a year. There's usually champagne flowing like water, and a few times during the evening I get to stand up and pretend to know the words to La Marseillaise. Depending on where you are, there may be fireworks. Sooner or later, I'll even get to spend an anniversary in France.

Magic happens. Happy anniversary.
Miz Shoes

That Grief Thing

It's been one month, to the day, that my father died. For some reason, I'm just not feeling really productive today. So it's a good thing that tonight I get to go to my soul sister's adult Bat Mitzvah. Nobody will notice if I sob uncontrollably.

At the meeting the other day where the Senior VP told us our jobs were on the roof? He also came up to me to do some serious managerial touchy feely with this particular wage slave. He said, "I understand you had some kind of death in your family?"
Some kind. Yeah, specifically, MY FATHER. Fucking idiot. So I mouthed a few appropriate mumbles. He signed off with "Good luck with that grief thing."

That grief thing. He must have gone to the George Herbert Walker School of eloquence. You remember, it was his fumbling of the vision thing that got Clinton such a leg up in the American psyche.

If I could make this shit up, it would be so much funnier than it is, being reality and all.
Miz Shoes


In the immortal words of Firesign Theater: How can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at alllllllll?

I took my car in to the shop to have them check out the randomly soft brakes. My regular mechanic wasn't there, and so nothing could be done. Came to work, got my computer booted up and then all hell didn't actually break loose so much as it just started oozing out around my grasp on life.
The RLA's lung cancer (he was sure) turned out to be a strained muscle. But then, he once thought his newly-developed lats were tumors. He'd never seen lumps there before.

(Update) The RLA insists that he never said it was lung cancer. He says he merely said that he felt a "dead spot" in or on his lung, which he says (now) was maybe something swollen and pressing on the lung. He says that maybe he thought it was his heart. Pleuresy, or something. Maybe. But that he really, really didn't think it was serious. Which is why he really DIDN'T say something to the effect that he'd clean the kitty litter after his doctor's appointment, if they let him come home and didn't check him into a hospital for x-rays and tests.

The phone rang again. It was my mother's neighbor. She's sure that mummy's caregiver is abusing her. I called mummy's case manager to discuss the matter, and my brother called in, very upset, having just had the same conversation with the neighbor.

The Senior VP of Human Resources has noted that there is old and crappy information on the hospital's web site, and has made it their mission to force PR to supply new. Which they are now doing. Stacks and piles of it. And I'm trying to keep both the existing site up to date and do the conversion to the new site, at a rate of 100 pages a day.

But tonight is Miss Aretha. And tomorrow morning, I get to meet my new trainer at the gym. He looks like Nic Cage in "Con Air". Tats. Ripped to the nines. Hubba, hubba. If that can't motivate me, then I'm dead and shouldn't be taking up space in the weight room, anyway.

More news as it happens. Maybe.
Miz Shoes


Katie is an angel, and she led my father up the golden path and into the light. He was surrounded by people who loved him. I'll be back.
Miz Shoes

All Ya Can Do Is Do What Ya Must

The Bob said it best in "Buckets of Rain"

"Life is sad, life is a bust
all you can do, is do what you must
You do what you must do
and you do it well."

But then, when doesn't, or didn't, the Bob say it best?
Today is crazy, hectic, madhouse, insane, busy. Tomorrow, I go back on the road north. With a box full of Dylan and Bruce to keep me company in the car.

I have a commission to finish, and I can't because I'm never home long enough to sew a seam. I have a tree full of mulberries, or it was before the rains came, and I can't pick them to make a pie. Assuming I'd have the time to bake one.

My office is in full-tilt boogie mode, meaning that my boss has left, but not before giving me a stack of work to do. Actually, he's been handing me stuff a page at a time all day, and asking where I am on the stuff he gave me before each time he hands me something new.

Not where I would be if you weren't handing me new crap and asking me how it's going... How's that for an answer?

Unacceptable, most likely. I must run, sweeties, there was someplace on the other side of campus I was supposed to be 15 minutes ago.
And thankfully, it was only a test. But when a crusty old fart like my father calls before 9 in the morning to tell you that he wants his family at his hospital bedside, and that said family means you, your husband and your dog, well you just better believe that tracks were made, rubber was burned, etc.

By the time we were crossing the bridge over the South Fork of the St. Lucie (what, three hours after the call?) the old man was grousing that he couldn't understand why we came up right then. Tomorrow would have been fine. Jeez, the way he and my brother were carrying on, we didn't think that there'd be a tomorrow.

By the time we left, yesterday, the old man was giving all of us shit. He's feeling better. The more that he griped, the happier we were.

And now I'm back at the office, grabbing my ankles and saying "Thank you, ma'am, may I have another?"
Miz Shoes

Show Me the Love

Actually, what I really mean is, give me the money.

I'm going to do something I never, ever do on this site: I'm going to show you my face.
show me

That was me and my film school buddy Nick. I've written about him before. The photo was taken in New York City in 1985. Six years later, Nick would be dead of AIDS. He never told me he was sick. In October of 1991 I received an invitation to a "celebration of his life", which I thought odd, since his birthday was in January. Slow, but not dumb, I figured it out.

Later this month I will be participating in the 2004 Miami AIDS Walk. I do it for Nick. And Shel. And Scotty. And John. Among others. I always repeat those names, but this year I thought I'd show you a face. Let you know, like I do, that they were real and vital and important to me.

If you lost someone, or if you didn't, if you can find it in your wallet, this close to tax deadlines, then please, help me raise money for the cause.

Thanks. I mean it.
Miz Shoes

Why is This Night Different?

Because this is the first Passover where my father will not be attending a seder. Even when he was in the Philippines in WWII, there was a seder. He won't go tonight because he says he can't focus on the haggadah. He doesn't feel up to the reading. He knows the food will be good, and it would be good to be with family, but he just won't go.
I remember sitting in Pumpernick's on the beach (63rd and Collins) one year when I was in college. My folks brought me back to school after spring break. I got a car my senior year, so this had to be earlier, maybe '74. The waitress brought the usual basket of rolls and dishes of pickles and cole slaw. It was the seventh day of Passover. We looked at the salt sticks with caraway seeds. We eyed the pumpernickel onion buns. We looked at each other. My mother said something to the effect that it was close enough for government work and took a roll.

Daddy and I sat frozen. Passover wasn't over, yet. How could we possibly eat a roll? My father said he had never, ever broken the bread rule early. I looked at him. He looked at me. My mother continued to butter her challah. He took the pumpernickel onion. I took the salt stick. The guilt we both felt overwhelmed the deliciousness of the rolls.

And tonight, he insists he will nuke a little frozen Tabachnik's matzoh ball soup, and have a little Manischewitz. When I tried to talk him into at least going to the local deli for fresh, he yelled at me.

I can't even bring myself to make soup today, and yet I am home for that express purpose. To prepare my own family's seder. We will use the RLA's grandmother's silver. My grandmother's depression glass dishes. The silver platters were wedding gifts to my parents. The matzoh cover was made by hand and embroidered by my father's mother, and when my Auntie gave it to me, Daddy reminisced about using it when he was a child in Newport. Elijah's cup is the kiddush cup my husband received on his Bar Mitzvah. We will be comforted by ritual and surrounded by physical memories.

The youngest children will be in Disney World this year, on spring break with their mother. The oldest will be at Hillel at her college. To supplement the holes in our numbers, number two daughter will bring some friends.

Last year, my parents came to my seder. It was the last time my mother was able to follow along, sort of. The RLA's mother died just after Passover almost 20 years ago. She insisted on lasting long enough to have a seder with her family.

And all of this change and death just sucks, because Passover has always been my favorite holiday. I feel the continuum of Judaism across time and space. I can feel my ancestors in the rituals. I know that, where ever they are, my Jewish friends are doing the same thing I am. We are all connected on this night, in ways that are for me, more meaningful and real than when I sit in shul for the High Holy Days.

This is religion and ritual on a personal level. Like the haggadah says, on this night, G-d brought ME out of Egypt. On this night I need to let go of what ever is enslaving me. I need to be aware of those who are with me on this night, both in my home and in my heart.

Why is this night different? Because on this night, all is right with the world.
Miz Shoes


Thank you for your kind wishes and e-hugs. It helps.

Fafhrd passed easily into the next life, and I held him until he was gone. The girls at the vets office cried, too and even the vet got all sniffly. The RLA stayed with us, and kept sticking tissues under my nose.

I think I'm going to get an addition to the tattoo of an angel cat that I have on my shoulder. An orange-tipped star, under the cat. Small. Tasteful.

In other news, the weather here is magnificent. Limpid. Tropical. Ideal. And also, outside, where I am not.

But spring training has started, and I ask you, what else is needed for all to be right with the world?
Miz Shoes

Fafhrd Firefoot

Fafhrd is my flame-point siamese. He used to be so fat, I called him a siamoose. Now he is skin and bones. We have had a great weekend together. In twenty minutes, I will take him to the vet for his final visit. My vet will let me hold him as we open the door to the always-sunny meadow, where the mice are fat and slow.

This sucks. And the alternative sucks worse.

Thanks for listening.
Miz Shoes

Desolation Row

I was nine or ten when my father's mother died. I remember that he was upset because he'd taken her a bathrobe to the hospital, and what ever color he'd taken, she'd preferred another. He was terribly upset because he felt that he should have known that she would have liked pink more than blue. Or blue more than pink. Whatever.

I think of that often, these days.

This morning I started out at the vet's trying to negotiate when we would put down my cat. Is it too soon? Is it too late? Is he suffering? Is there more I can do? My cat and my father are both dying of leukemia. What I would do for my cat the government will not let me do for my father.

I told my dad about the cat, and he said, don't let it suffer. I know what suffering is.

I ended my day with a phone call from my cousin, telling me that my father needs another transfusion, but refused it because it might have kept him from being home when my mother came back from her day of cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is the politically correct term for what you do with someone suffering from end-stage Alzheimer's Disease. It means that she spends her days doing flash cards so that she can remember her name, remember what two plus two is.

Years ago I saw a cartoon that I thought summed up my life. It was a solitary person sitting in an auditorium under a banner that said "Adult Children of Normal Parents." My brother, the therapist, doesn't agree. He says that what ever you grow up with is normal, even if it's not.

But he's wrong. They were normal. They loved us. They cared for us. They cared for their parents. We belonged to a country club and took summer vacations to a family home. They worked. Our mother cooked meals. Our father mowed the lawn. We were the archetypical 1950s family living in a small town. I grew up -- we grew up, in a Norman Rockwell painting. That is, if Norman Rockwell had painted Cisley, Alaska.

A couple of years ago I offered to bake a cake for my dad for his birthday. I asked him what his favorite cake was. He couldn't tell me. This is a man who has lived his entire life in the service of family. He hadn't a clue what his favorite was. I made an old-fashioned coconut cake. He loved it.

His birthday is coming around again. I have no idea what cake I'll bake for him this year. I have no doubt, however, that whatever comes out of my kitchen will be, for that day, his favorite.

There are no words to tell him how much I love him. There is no end to the pain I feel. Why don't they tell you how hard it is to lose a parent? Why don't they tell you that there is a hole that will never be filled?

I think because if we knew, none of us could go on. And yet, we must. I pour through my book of Bartlett's Quotations, looking for the verses I'll read at their funerals. For my mother, I have chosen Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night." Do you know it? It's required reading in almost every English Lit class.

"Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

But for my father, I need something else. Something that will make clear what he is/was to me. For my father, I have chosen W. H. Auden's "Funeral Blues."

"Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood,
For nothing now can ever come to any good."
Miz Shoes

Things to do Today

1. Take 15 year old cat to the vet for follow-up (possible feline leukemia)
2. Random errands: grocery store, bank, tobacco store, drug store
3. Pick up "Masked and Anonymous" at the DVD store
3. Try not to think about cat
4. Prep for the RLA's show

This time tomorrow we'll be out in the street, hawking art. Working as an artist is dancing the tightrope of constant rejection. I'd say that is particularly true of the RLA's work, which has gone in this past year, from photo-realism to a surreal jazzy sort of dreamscape. Will the audience be able to relate to it? Will the audience buy it? Is it too far removed from the literal to be accepted by the crowds at a street show? Will it sell?
I don't think that any of that matters to the RLA. He is true to his art and his vision, in what ever direction it takes him. Sell or not sell, it doesn't have any influence in how he wields his brush. It's one of the things I love the most about him.

Because I work, and have always worked, in the realm of the corporation, my graphic design work is, well, safe. It is clean and easy to read/understand. I use paper with a nice tactile element, type faces that are well-designed and highly legible. I would even go so far as to say that my style is no style. That is to say, I have no identifiable style. Whatever is best for the client and the job at hand is what I do. Graphic design-wise, I am a ghost.

My fiber work is just as safe and commercially marketable. Is this shallow? Is this bad? I don't know. There are times when it makes me feel like less of an artist, but is that insecurity or valid self-criticism? Again, I don't know. I know that I can make things that I like, and that stretch me as a craftsman, and people will buy them. But I never stretch too far. I never take that leap that the RLA can take, off the edge and into the unknown.

For me, the bottom line is always the bottom line. That's why he's an artist, and I'm just an artisan.
Miz Shoes

Free Floating Anxiety

I woke this morning to a general feeling of unease. Malaise. Free floating anxiety. I'm waiting for my phone to ring with bad news.

I don't know why this is, but I've been off balance since last weekend when I went to visit the 'rents. My father is disappearing, but my mother has already left the building.

She denied ever being "that woman's mother." That woman being me.

She knows that my father is "the man who takes care of [her]" but not what his relationship is.

She is blind in one eye and can't see out of the other.

She barely remembers how to eat, or walk. She can't follow a simple order, like "pick up your foot."

I have to go back this weekend. Do I know how to show myself a good time, or what.


I won the first round, and the excellent SeaDoc is in the runoffs. I begged shamelessly and repeatedly for votes in the first round, and although, to judge by the other division scores, I wasn't the worst offender, the judges made bad tsking sounds over that. I feel guilty, and I don't even know if the rant was directed at me. But, well, it's a cultural thing. Guilt? I got it.

Nevertheless, I will note that I'm in an elimination round, and would deeply appreciate any and all votes I might get that would allow me to keep playing. Again, I'm #18, the entry is Back Home, and I'm up against an Open Letter To Atari.

Thank you. And if you can't feel it in your heart to vote for me, would you just sign the guest map?

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