Miz Shoes

When the Phone Rings at 7AM

Everyone knows that when the phone rings at midnight it's either a drunk, a wrong number, a drunken wrong number or really bad news.

When the phone rings at 7AM, it usually isn't a drunk, but it's probably still bad news.*

This morning it was my friend Jeffrey in New York calling to say thanks for the really cool flannel jammy bottoms, he liked them very much and the RLA and I are two of his closest friends, and oh yeah, he'll be killing himself today.

It just doesn't get any better, does it?

* or it's just my neighbor calling to tell me someone's walking their dog

UPDATE: Jeffrey called to say he's going to commit himself to an in-patient program for a while. The RLA is still a little pissy about me calling Jeffrey's girlfriend to give her a little heads up on his plans for the day.
Miz Shoes

Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Soap

A few entries back I said I was looking on the internet for a soap I remembered from childhood. My Aunt Helga brought it to me from Germany. It was shaped like a teddy bear and grew fur. It had a toy inside.

When found, it turned out to be "Fuzzy Wuzzy" soap, and it was selling on e-bay for over $100. Another e-bay search turned up today's brand of the same item, imported from Europe... Germany, in fact. It's called "Soapy Soap" and comes in shapes like kittens and gnomes. It grows fur, and has a toy inside. It was selling for under $10 a bar.

I ordered two kittens, and a squirrel.

My Aunt Helga was a war bride. She was married to my most dashing and handsome Uncle Milton. Dashing is the perfect word for Milton, who was really my cousin and not my uncle. But dashing is an elusive quality, and not suited to this age. I suspect, that had my mother and Milton, who were first cousins, been living in the shtetl, and not America, Milton would have been my father. To me, growing up in the late '50s and early '60s, Helga and Milton were the most glamorous and sophisticated adults I'd ever seen.

Milton took me to my first horse show one summer's day in Newport, Rhode Island. He picked me up in his red convertible Mustang, with white leather interior. The top was down. We were on a date. I was maybe, at most, eight.

Helga, with her German accent, and a father who spent the war working as a "stationmaster", was a bitter pill for the immigrant Jews of my grandparents' generation. Even at eight, you can pick up on that tension. Helga took my mother shopping on Belleview Avenue. The stories of what my mother saw that day were often repeated.

Milton was an "efficiency expert" what ever the fuck that meant. In the early 60s it meant that he worked up at Cape Canaveral, doing something for NASA. He was somehow involved on the Mercury Project, something vague with the space suits. How cool was that?

They had two sons, each as glamorous and dashing as their parents. The older one lived for a year or so in a tepee, a real tepee (15 foot poles and canvas), in their wooded Connecticut back yard. He went to medical school, became a doctor, left medicine and was last heard to be living on a wooded island somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

The blonde one played sax, like his father, and was rumored to be a ski bum, a tennis bum and a few other dubious or vague professions.

The kids both moved west, Helga and Milton divorced, Milton died.

But I have rich memories, an extra bar of Soapy Soap, and an eight year old niece.
Miz Shoes

Slow to Start

I don't know why I'm having such a hard time writing. Yes, I'm still annoyed by damn near everything. Yes, I am still surrounded by stupidity, incompetence and swine-like behavior. So why can't I rant? Have I lost the will to rant?

What a thought. Who would I be, if everything slid off me like water off a duck...

I entered a blog writing contest, the BlogMadness thingy, and, as my entry, submitted, not a rant, but my piece about death and the loss of friends.

And even as I did, the word came around about another college friend who has shuffled off this mortal coil. Bill Kelley, one of the biggest film junkies ever, and in a sorrowful coincidence, the best friend of the late and always lamented Leapin' Larry.

Which reminds me of a joke card about the good die young, and yet you, weenie boy, are still with us, celebrating another birthday. It was too cruel to send, and there was no way I could send it anonymously to the ex-husband, the Anti-Christ.

My good husband, the Renowned Local Artist, entered his first street show in years, and has decided to price to sell. If you are in Miami on February 21 and 22, stop by his booth at the South Miami Arts & Crafts Festival to pick up your own original work of art.

Finally, in this wandering entry, I leave you with a link to the Bush in 30 Seconds web site where you'll see some good ads. Too bad they'll never see the light of media play.
Miz Shoes

Another Year, Another Rant

I wrote this entry once today, just at the time that Blogger went down. It was, as so many of my posts are, well written, and heart-tugging. It moved effortlessly from pathos to wit and back to scathing sarcasm.

Too bad it went the way of the dodo, into pixel oblivion. Or o-BLIV-ion, as Riff-Raff would say.

So here's the thing. Tonight I will be in a safe place, far away from any windows when the midnight shooting-guns-into-the-air festivities begin in Miami. We seem to have the third world aloha* down. I will be indoors, my pets will be indoors, and the windows will be covered. The laws of physics still apply, friends, even if you are drunk. Goes up: comes down.

The only resolution I will make this year is to help regime change begin at home, in America, where I hope and pray with my whole Yellow-Dog Democrat soul that anyone other than Bush gets elected this fall. Really elected, as opposed to selected, if you know what I mean. And if you don't, then you deserve what you got.

I will drink myself silly tonight and toast friends missing, absent or dead. I will revel in maudlin emotions. I will not let anyone other than my husband see or experience that, however. And I'm not going to detail it here, tomorrow.

I'll end this by paraphrasing another pop-culture hero of mine, Ford Fairlane (aka Andrew Dice Clay) and say: 2003? I fucked it.

* the third world aloha: shooting guns into the air as an expression of a) satisfaction b) dissatisfaction c) violent disagreement d) violent agreement or e) any and/or all of the above.
Miz Shoes

Back Home

Thanksgiving was uh, well, I gave thanks. I gave thanks that my father is still with us, despite his illness. Crabby and fussy and, in his own words, "sharp as a rat's turd and twice as nasty." I gave thanks that my nephew has the sense and sensibility to come to town and visit his grandparents. I gave thanks that my brother wasn't at the actual dinner which allowed me to scarf down all the fried turkey skin by myself, since the rest of the family has fat and cholesterol issues which make poultry skin repellent.

But mostly, I was thankful that my mother got released from the nursing home/rehab back to her own home. She recognized it as her home. She knew me, and she knew my nephew. On Sunday, she looked at me and asked when I was going back to my home.

For maybe ten minutes, I had my mother in the room. After that, she went back to babbling non-stop about things that no one in this world can comprehend. But. For ten minutes, my mother was there with me.

Alzheimer's has got to be the most cruel disease inflicted on man. Jackie, at the needlework store where my mother used to buy her supplies said to me: "Her light shone very brightly, for a very long time." Jackie, I know you'll never read this, but thank you. It did. She did.

Maybe because of that sentiment, and my own recognition of how her light has failed, I'm taking up knitting again. For years, my mother made me a sweater for each birthday. I haven't gotten a new sweater in maybe eight years. I bought yarn from Jackie, and a pattern, and this morning I cast on 70 stitches and began a turtleneck.

Also this morning I read the obituary of a senior girl from a local high school. She was on the crew team. She was a friend of my surrogate daughters. They are destroyed. This is the first death that they've experienced of a peer, and not an elderly relative. They are gobsmacked by the suddenness of death, its random nature. How could it happen? Why? There is so much she will never know...

For all the joys they list in their blogs, I think of the other things this unknown girl will never know. She will never have her heart broken in first love. She will never discover that the person she trusted has stabbed her in the back over something as insignificant as a job promotion. She will never worry that the world is no place into which to bring a child. She will never look in a mirror and wonder what happened to her youth, her innocence, her love of life. She will not live to see her parents die.

And it's World AIDS Day, the day that I think of my friends who are gone. My peers who will never bring children to the world, never find love or happiness, or sorrow or fame. My peers who died senselessly and randomly.

I wrote to my daughter-by-choice and I told her, from the vantage point of age and repeated loss, what I know of sorrow and death. I said: Say their name aloud. Remember them. Don't ever let a moment pass where you know they would have found joy or amazement or sorrow and not say their name. Wait for them in your dreams. Eventually they will come to say goodbye.

So in memory of the men I loved, who died because they loved other men, I say their names: John Borella, whose sisters disowned him, and who died in the arms of kind strangers. Nick Cannon, who was so bright, and so funny, and who was my college friend, and who never told me he was sick. Shel Lurie, who was an artist of amazing talent, and a man of such brittle and bitter humor. He stood by me and wrote my letter of recommendation to graduate school. His pride was such that he never let me visit him in the hospital to say goodbye. Scotty Neail, who was the first boy I ever had a crush on, who took me sailing on the St. Lucie River, who was the first to die. Scotty's little brother Richard, who was my friend, too, despite being so much younger. And Rick, and Mark, and Ken, and Adam, and Robert, and all the others. So many. Too many.
Miz Shoes

Blow Jobs Are the Gateway Drug of Sex

She asked me if I was angry with her. I told her no, that I was merely disappointed. But what you don't know at that age is that there is no such thing as "merely" disappointed. Anger, even hatred, passes, but disappointment and regret last forever.

So I'm disappointed at bad life choices. But it's not my life.

For the record, I said, oral sex is still sex. Let's set the record straight. Penetration of any orifice, with any object, for the express purpose of individual or mutual gratification, is sex. Are we clear now?

You've let the genie out of the bottle, I said. Yeah, she shrugged, but you don't have to always rub the lamp.

Except that blow jobs are the gateway drug of sex. You do this, you do that. You want more, better. More. And where is there left to go, but all the way.

I told her a long time ago that the best sex you'll ever have is the sex you never have. Kissing. Petting. Longing until you literally ache in places you never knew had the capacity to ache. That's the best sex. Because we all know that it's all in the head anyway. I told her, wait. Wait, because no matter what you think, no matter how hard you believe that this one is different, that this guy is your friend and still will be after you give in to the desire, he won't be. It'll be different all right. It will destroy your friendship. Or at the least, alter it forever in ways you cannot imagine or comprehend.

When you are an adult, sometimes you can still be friends after you've had sex with a friend. But not often. It is an end, not a means.
Miz Shoes

Can I Get Frequent Driver Miles?

The distance between my front door and that of my elderly parents is 132 miles. I have driven it four times since Saturday. On Sunday, on the drive south, I went through a thunder storm of biblical proportions. There was lightning. There was thunder. There were raindrops the size of figs pounding down at a 45 degree angle. There were entire flotillas of cars pulled onto the shoulder, waiting for the deluge to lessen before they attempted to drive. And then there were the idiots with their hazard lights on, driving in front of me. Just to clarify, once and for all, for you morons who think hazard lights are for moving vehicles, hazard lights are for use when your vehicle is stopped, and on the side of the road with the hood up. All you need in the rain is a decent set of wiper blades, and your headlights. Not your parking lights, but your headlights. Putting on your flashers while you are moving makes for unnecessary confusion in the person driving behind you. And that would be me. Believe me when I say that I don't need to be any more confused than I am.

Yesterday's drive south was beautiful. The storms stayed in the west, over the Everglades. The vistas of flat green land and clear blue skies butting up against walls of purple-grey cloud walls were breathtaking. I saw hawks along the border canal, with the Glades shining behind them, but still haven't identified the species, because I haven't located the Audubon Guide.

Now I'm back in the office, unsure what day it is, unsure what I'm on deadline for, and very sure that I'll be doing the drive again next week. If the sun's out, I'm going to take the convertible.
Miz Shoes

Stormy Weather

It's been raining, but then, this is the rainy season in the tropics. One may as well complain that San Francisco is foggy. It is the nature of the beast.

The nature of my own personal beast is this: I hate my job. I really, really, hate my job. I hate sitting in front of a computer. I hate working in an office. I hate dressing up and wearing make up every day.

Today I had my headphones on and listened all day to a little compilation of MP3s I call "easy for ME to listen to". This is so it won't be confused with the concept of easy listening by anyone else. It is heavy with Bob Dylan boots, but there are a smattering of cuts by Frank Sinatra and Billy Joel and John Lennon. Mostly though, it's boys with bad voices singing about bad relationships and crummy life choices.

It makes me feel better. What would really make me feel better is a vast quantity of very, very cold vodka with a splash of vermouth and a matching large quantity of olives.

Another thing that would make me feel better would be for my father to accept that my mother's Alzheimer's has reached a state where we would all be better off if she were institutionalized.

This has to be one of the most horrible diseases to inflict man. Everything I read could not prepare me for the reality of it. I can deal with her not recognizing me for the simple reason that I can no longer recognize her. This mean and bitter creature is not my mother. My husband has a much easier time than any of us dealing with her. He says it's because he knew so many acid casualties back in the day that he can talk to someone who is so totally in the now, so completely owned by their paranoia and hallucinations and delusions.

I never liked dealing with burnouts. That's probably why I have such a low tolerance for Deadheads and alcoholics. And now, for the person who was my mother.

This entry started out about work and weather, but like everything else my mind touches on these days, the spiral just goes around the drain to the sucking vortex of my mother's dementia.

Drinks, anyone?
Miz Shoes

What the Beach Means to Me

I wrote the following as a comment on The Tart Speaks' site. But maybe it bears repeating. Sheila was talking about the beach and in passing said something like if you don't get the beach, skip this part.

Well boy howdee, I get the beach. I spent major chunks of my life, sitting on it staring out into the distance wishing I were elsewhere. I spent other major chunks listening to Jimmy Buffett, an artist who definitely gets the beach.

I understand the beach. I grew up on the coast. When you face the ocean the world you know is behind you and the rest of the world (that is to say, infinite possibility) lies before you. I would stare at the Atlantic and think about what was across the water. I imagined Paris, but it was really the Ivory Coast. Does it matter? Periodically flotsam would wash up to toy with me. A champagne cork overgrown with barnacles. A glass globe from a fishing net. A wine bottle from Portugal. A piece of lava from some unknown and unseen underwater volcano. Fragile purple mollusks that only appeared after a hurricane, brought from some great depth or distance.

And you, gentle reader, do you understand what draws us to the shore?
Miz Shoes

Well, It’s Alright

One of my favorite Traveling Willbury's tunes. Played it on the way to the 'rents' house and found there a pleasant surprise.
Daddy is looking a little better, and eating a little better. Mummy could string a whole sentence together, coherently. Of course, it was totally delusional and angry, but it was a sentence. By the evening, we were back to disjointed words, strung out to sentence length.

I also got to go out to a movie with my brother and sister in law. I figure I haven't seen a movie with my brother since we were teenagers. He couldn't remember the last time, either.

We went to see "Pirates of the Caribbean." What a hoot. Now I love swashbucklers, anyway, and I'd watch Johnny Depp read the phone book, but this was just a delight.

There's humor, of course, and fabulous special effects, but it is Depp's movie.

What an underrated actor. Everyone talks about how he can play the odd characters, but nobody recognizes his gift for physical comedy. The opening scenes are reminiscent of Buster Keaton. (And I will never forget the compelling version of the "Oceania Rolls" (Charlie Chaplin, Gold Rush) he did in "Benny and Joon".)

Where was I? Right. Physical comedy. Depp's said that he fashioned the character of Jack Sparrow on Keith Richards and Pepe le Pew. It is clearly so. From the squared shoulder, lead-with-the-pelvis, I'm not-so-drunk-that-I-can't-walk walk, to the dangles of beads in his hair, to the smudgy eye-liner all the way to the squint and flopping wrists, Depp has Richards pegged. And it works, beautifully.

Orlando Bloom, the bleached blonde Legolam (whoops, sorry, Legolas) from "Lord of the Rings" makes a lovely, and I do mean lovely, straight man slash love interest. Geoffrey Rush does a fair turn as a skanky bad pirate. But the movie belongs to Johnny Depp. There are times he's not on the screen, and you just want those moments to end, so you can watch Depp some more.

Definitely a see-more-than-once flick.

And then, yesterday, I got to spend time with my cousin. We went shopping, which was more like an improv comedy routine as we trolled the clothes.

All in all, it was a good weekend. And I've been promised that this weekend coming up, I can just hang in my own home and not answer the phone. Can it get any better?
Miz Shoes

On the Road Again

Having had a long weekend with only a short family visit with the other side of the family last week, it's back on the road for us tomorrow. Going to see the 'rents.

I really don't want to go into this here. But. My mother was one of the smartest women I ever knew. She ran the family business in partnership with her father and brother and my dad. She could tally an inventory sheet in her head, faster and more accurately than anyone else could run it through a calculator. She did the New York Times crossword in ink. Over breakfast. With no mistakes. She was a volunteer (in her "spare" time) at the library. She read voraciously, and taught me to do the same. She taught me to cook, and was as skilled in that as anything else she turned her hand to.

All of that is past tense now, but she is still with us. In body, if not in spirit. My mother has been stolen by Alzheimer's disease. She can't read. She can't cook. She can barely feed herself. She is mean. She is a pod person, but she lives in my mother's body.

I have to go visit her this weekend. I'll take my husband and my dog, because she remembers them and loves them both. Although, to be honest, sometimes she thinks the dog is a cat.

For those of you who have been, or are being affected by Alzheimer's grip on someone you love: my condolences. It sucks. I read a great book this spring about one woman's struggle with her mother's case. I recommend it, but be forewarned, it is a hard book to read. Eleanor Cooney's "Death in Slow Motion."

And my father is ill, too. When I was a kid, there was nothing he couldn't make. Nothing he couldn't do. Nothing he didn't know. I'm not in the least bit sarcastic when I tell you that I worship the water he walks on.

He taught me how to fish, and how use shop equipment, how to read animals tracks, how to make an orange into a squeezable juice container, and how to figure out almost any mechanical problem.

He was never a large man, but to me he was (and is) Paul Bunyan. And now his disease is turning him into a frail little old man. That, more than anything is what makes me sob into my pillow at night.

Tomorrow I'll go and visit for the weekend. I would rather be on the beach. I would rather be in Paris. I would rather eat fucking glass. But I love these two people more than any words could ever begin to express, and so I'll go and listen to the person who is not my mother anymore tell me the same stories she tells me every time she sees me. I'll spend the day in the kitchen, cooking and freezing food. I'll spend time with them, because in the end, that is all we have left, and a precious fucking little of it, at that.
Miz Shoes

Not Dark Yet

My mentor, Eugene Massin, has died. I am, of course, consumed by guilt for not having visited him at his studio for a couple of years. I am, of course, consumed by guilt for not having called him lately, either. This was the man who taught me, well, frankly, he taught me everything that was ever of use to me after I got out of art school.* He taught me the difference between looking and seeing, and I don't believe that there is a more essential skill. He taught me how to draw. Really draw. How to make a line that was lush and delicate at the same time. How to lay a pencil mark on paper that spoke volumes about light and shadow and texture and skin. How to draw.

He taught my husband how to teach art, although neither of them knew it at the time. He taught us all to respect our work, to see the majesty in our calling. The first time I told him to keep his marks off my drawing, he tousled my hair and told me I was going to be an artist, after all. He taught us to question everything, to absorb it and to process it and to put it back out with the marks of our own hands, our own souls.

He was a giant. He truly loved to teach and to be surrounded by his students. They kept him vital. And he gave us something that cannot be put in words.

Physically, he was huge, or seemed to be. If Michelangelo was around the Grove in the 70s and had needed a model for Moses, he would have chosen Gene. He was patriarchal in the biblical sense of the word. His presence was such that it filled any space he happened to occupy.

And now, there is a vacuum. We, his students, must strive to fill that void with our own works, in Gene's memory and honor.

Another memorial service. Crap.

* OK, I learned one other thing of value in college, and this from my film professor: The action goes where the interest lies. Yeah. That'll straighten everything in life out, if you just think about it and follow it.
Miz Shoes

My Hot Weekend

Two funerals. Need I say more.
Miz Shoes

Only the Good Die Young

I seem to remember that this was a snotty English poet's way of dissing the religious of his era, implying that the virtuous suffered from a particular type of sexual dysfunction. Popular usage, however, refers to an early or untimely death. Right-o.

I am so angry and so saddened by the news I received last night, that my friend Joy was found dead of no apparent cause. She who had finally begun to live as her name implied. And then that got me thinking about all my other friends who are no longer with us. I'm not yet 50 years old and I have more dead friends than living ones. There aren't enough fingers and toes to count them all. Anger and sadness.
Scotty, Richard, Rick, John, Nick, Ken, Shel: AIDS. Sharon, Gary, Carol, Jeannie: Cancer. Sherri: survived cancer, died of a brain embolism. Leapin': helicopter crash in Bahrain. Chip, Joy, Bob: causes unknown. Jay: suicide. Bill: pneumonia.

Anger, pain, and sadness. Fuck it. Fuck it all.

"I got your letter yesterday, about the time the doorknob broke,
when you asked how I was doing, was that some kind of joke.
Yes, these people that you mention, I know them they're quite lame.
I had to rearrange their faces, and give them all another name.
Right now I don't read too good, don't send me no more letters, no,
not unless you mail them from Desolation Row."
Miz Shoes

Crazy. But That’s How it Goes.

The other day I was sitting in the train across the aisle from a couple of young female students. They were talking about high school life and the attendant traumas. The gossip. The backstabbing. The malice. And I tried to hide my smiles, but they saw me and said "Oh, we were just talking about school." I said "Yeah. How sad that you could just as easily have been talking about where I work. It never changes." That got them a little saddened, I think. Contemplating that pettiness continuing until retirement or death. It certainly saddens me.

One of them was telling the other how she hated her nickname: Crazy Natalie. I gave them my card with this website address on it. I don't know if they've ever come to read the blog, but this is for Natalie.

That's always been my nickname too. Not Natalie, just crazy. People are afraid of things and people who are different, and they will always label you in an effort to make themselves feel better. You told me you are a design student. Well, then, embrace the label of crazy, because no true change, no true art has ever been created by people who are safe and think the same as the rest of the sheep.

It doesn't make it easier to hear. It doesn't make you feel better, either. But just know, that crazy isn't bad, necessarily. It is just different. I sit on a board of directors where I am valued for my ability to see outside the box. In fact, they tease me that I don't even see the box. What box. That's a kind way of calling me crazy. But a valued crazy.

Don't give up the crazy to be the same. It will only hurt you worse, in the long run, than the names people call you.

Crazy? But that's how it goes.

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