I know the local economy depends upon summer tourism. I know that good people, people I admire, like John and Gus, will make more money in their diner this weekend than the next two weeks combined. But that doesn’t mitigate my anger as I sit in stalled traffic less than a mile from my home at 10:30 AM on a Friday, while honking Jersey guys vent testosterone at each other. “GO HOME!” I want to shout, but don’t. (Because I don’t come from Jersey.)
Why, exactly, can I not have a pony?
I do not know what that button does.
I’ve lived almost 59 years without knowing.
Who needs more buttons in life?
Will I wake up appreciably smarter tomorrow if I learn about that button today? Or will I just feel vaguely aware that I’ve forgotten yet another bit of knowledge?
Why on earth would you bring up that button on this day out of all days?
Push all the buttons you want! Just leave me out of it!
Once upon a time, there were physical locations where people worked, usually behind glass, and these people answered customer’s questions about basic utilities. I remember these places; I followed in my mother’s wake as she paid the monthly bills in person. There were worn marble stairways, and a heavy lemon polish odor mixed with cigarettes and mothballs.
Today my sister is trying to navigate how to get my mother a phone with captioning. Even with hearing aids, Mom can’t parse much of what comes through the phone receiver. This should be an easy task. It isn’t.
Mom has decided that The Internet is to be avoided at all cost. We’re not clear if this service is a First Class Sin, like Smoking Cigarettes or Dying Your Hair. It may just Lead To Sin, like Movies With Kissing. But Mom refuses to get internet installed, and the simplest captioning phone systems require decently fast internet connections.
This means that my sister is trying to get someone, anyone, to talk about reinstalling an analog line into the house. That should be Verizon. Someone should tell Verizon that, because pretty much no one there knows that.
I want to go back to having Mary Jean, with her tight pin curls and pointed career-girl glasses, peer through the phone company’s window. She could set the world straight, and arrange for a couple of guys to be at Mom’s house pronto. And there would be a lemon sucker for the little girl, if she was very quiet and polite. That’s the way it should work.
NOTE: Yesterday, Spectrum, a cable company that replaced Time/Warner in the upstate market, discovered that Mom could indeed be helped, if she would only agree to accept their “internet assist” package. The Spirit moved, Mom agreed, and she should have a readable phone soon. My sister moved mountains, one damn rock at a time.
I’ve had 59 of these, and truthfully, they’ve never lived up to the hype. At least not since someone else put candles on the cake and let me have as much as I wanted. So, enough.
The use of “exactly” to imply complaint:
Exactly why did I marry you?
When, exactly, did you realize the milk was sour?
Exactly what convinced you to take 611 past the Mall on a Friday afternoon?
When I said that I wanted to run away to the circus, I was picturing myself as a sequined trapeze artist, not the bearded lady.
Dear Mr. Trudeau:
Please forgive us. We Americans knew exactly what we were doing, but we did it anyways. And if things don’t change, we’ll do it again. I don’t trust us, and you probably shouldn’t either. Just hoping that Margaret Atwood wasn’t the last of the great prophets.
A white, college-educated, American woman
I drove ten miles out of my way just to see if the Hot Now sign was on.
(Oh, I still bought doughnuts, but the sadness lingers.)
NOTE: I have no idea if the Krispy Kreme phenomenon is known outside of the US. It’s a southern doughnut chain that has perfected a sugar-glazed, raised doughnut, and if the light is on outside the shop, that means that the hot, melt-in-your-mouth pastries are available directly from the glazing machine inside. A near-religious experience.
From where I started, how in the world did I end up here?
Things I really feel like whining about, I don’t want to talk about. Things that I don’t mind sharing, are barely worth the complaint. I thought this month would be easy, but here we are less than half through, and I’m dealing with whining block.
There is no one needier than my Seneca.
He rubs against my leg. No reaction. I’m typing.
He reaches high with neat, soft paws, patting my elbow. No reaction. He pokes again, and then slowly the claws come out; he snags my sweater, and intentionally pulls a thread loose.
“No!” I attempt to push him away, but he slips under my hand, expertly deflecting my motion into a caress. No cat has ever been this soft, his green eyes blink slowly at me. No cat has ever been so necessary. No cat so patient.
No cat fights dirtier. He reaches up again, this time with both paws, drumming wildly on my arm. He stretches up until he is almost stroking my cheek. I look at his perfect face; the emeralds dilate slightly, and he is such a sweet little kitten again, just look at him! I start to pick him up and he leaps onto my shoulder, his tail wrapping around my neck. Seneca needs this, yes, he does.
First a complaint: earlier this year, the benighted elected officials of Mount Pocono decided that they needed the Amish farmer who rented the town’s pavilion to more than double his liability coverage for his farm stand. This farmer, who is a savvy businessman, and who runs stands in other communities, felt the requirement was unduly high and moved a couple of miles further down the road. “I don’t think they like my kind,” he told my husband, with a rueful smile.
We can easily drive the extra distance, but the original stand was a short walk, on safe sidewalks, for two senior apartment complexes. The change leaves these elderly people with no choice for produce other than the delightfully plastic stuff that Shoprite sells. Bravo, you pie-faced mud-woggles who run the borough!
And now a rapture, a dance, a lifting of hands to heaven: the Amish farmer had tender, young shell peas! And new potatoes! And the right size of summer squash – no longer than my hand!
My only complaint: I had to pass by the table of perfect greens – collards, mustard, swiss chard, kale, lettuces – because I still am working through what I bought on Wednesday. I need more people at the table each night. Cooking for two, even with bits for Rufus, means that I can no longer go crazy at the farm market. This seems terribly sad, right now. I coveted the greens.
My parents never had a deck. There was a covered front porch for sitting on, in the cool of the evening. And in the back yard, shaded by two pine trees, was a picnic table. At any time, there were folding aluminum chairs, and a lounge chair for sunning somewhere in the lawn.
So they never sprayed fungus/mold eradicating cleaners, power washed, sanded, and sealed a fucking deck. (A deck that has been chewed by every critter in these woods, and will likely fall down with no warning someday, right after we’ve fired up the grill, and poured ourselves a drink.)
They were smart people, my parents.
My 85-year-old mother is sick again, with a terrible cough again, and her doctor can’t get her in for an appointment until the end of July. Welcome to the state of medical care in small town America. She has been to the ER several times this year, as well as to the new Urgent Care at the hospital. She never sees the same person twice. My sisters help her as best as they can, but what the woman needs is Doctor Harkness.
He delivered half the babies in Wellsville. He ran his practice with the same saintly nurses year in and year out. House calls were regular practice, and he often ran into the dark of night making them. His rude bedside manner was legend, but what counted was that Doctor Harkness was a great practitioner. He did not suffer fools, but he would be listening, right now, to the rattle and creak of my Mom’s lungs, and he wouldn’t tell her to go wait for hours in the hospital’s ER. His only flaw: even mean old coots die, as he did in 1992.
Right now, I’d consider resurrecting his zombie form, if only he would see her now.
She went to her doctor with a cough months ago. He started treating her for allergies and ran tests for various heart ailments. The cough continued. He prescribed a stress test and made her wear a monitor to check her blood pressure (she passed both). Her cough worsened, and he gave her a antihistamine shot of some kind. She spiked a fever, and he called in an antibiotic to a pharmacy (it took six hours for his office to do this) and FINALLY requested that she get a chest x-ray. Then she spiked another fever, and the ER looked at the x-ray and diagnosed pneumonia. I wonder how long my mother had pneumonia.
How can this longest day fall on the shortest night of sleep? I should be celebrating, and instead I’m plotting how to nap with Rufus, who is responsible for waking me up before dawn.
Happy Midsummer to all. Please go frolic elsewhere. I need to sleep.
A skunk walked by my open window in the dark of night.
I leaped out of bed and frantically shut all the windows, alarming Rufus.
My mother, who lives in a small house with one bathroom, has eleven bottles of toilet bowl cleaner in her basement. I don’t know what kind of Armageddon she is preparing for, but her toilet will be spotless.
Writing for hours a day since he was 14 years old. That makes a poet.
He described it:
I sat myself at the desk
for this day’s lifelong
engagement with the one task and desire.
When I was 14, I wrote maudlin, angst-ridden crap. Once in a while. When I was upset.
I have never managed to approach the work with enough desire, enough hours of my life.
Not really whining, I’m afraid. Just looking at lives, and feeling the urge to write something maudlin, as usual.
Gigglers. Sister-huggers. “Twirl me fast like the time I threw up!” Shrieks of laughter rising through mezzo range. Ariana and Tasha dance through Mary’s living room, slender, sun-browned girls, aged nine and six. They twine around Mary; Ariana holds her hand and Tasha squeezes her face, steals her sunglasses, and mimics Mary’s laugh.
Girls. What would I do with girls? I’ve always deflected with this question, me, the mother of boys. What would I do with girls?
Dance. Sing. Weave flowers in their hair, and trace our faces with war paint. Twirl them so fast that the tire swing blasts into hyperspace. And laugh until we are rolling on the sweet June clover, holding our sides, tears running off our faces, until “Enough! Enough!” is all we can say.
But I did not have girls.
In a house with thirty knives, not one is sharp.
“You told me not to sharpen it when you gave me this one,” she says, waving a huge chef’s knife at me.
“Maybe I was being a jerk,” I tell her.
Deaf and dumb*, also.
Cue the band; the Titanic is taking on water.
* Unfortunately the court’s decisions can be heard loudly and clearly, so the intention here is that the court is fucking stupid.
There was a mouse in the Christmas tree. A mouse on the shoulder of my coat hanging in the closet. A mouse under the stove. A mouse in the bedroom’s radiator. A mouse eating barley in the pantry. A mouse leaping down the dark basement stairs. So many captured mice hauled away from the house in cardboard boxes (or perhaps the same mouse, relocated over and over without success). I scolded the cats for their short-comings.
Today, I returned from almost a week away, and when I shut the front door behind me, I saw a small figure between the rug and the wall. A little, still triangle. “Rich,” I yelled, “One of the cats knows how to kill a mouse.” I made him pick it up, afraid that it would be only mostly dead, which would mean having to do something. The wee body was brittle, so then I wondered how long Rich had walked past it, how many days it might have been there. We’ll never know.
I wanted the mouse problem cured. That’s what I said, what I told the cats.
It was a cute little fellow.
ActBlue knows about me. Every time I’ve signed a petition, every time I sent money to a local Democrat, ActBlue took note. Today my junk email file overflowed with dire warnings regarding women continuing to control their own bodies, air and water continuing to support life, and young brown and black lives mattering. Senator Kamala Harris needs your help! NRDC is counting on you! Sign our petition!
And then two pages in, how much will you give us?
I understand that money runs the machine, and I desperately want better people to be driving the damn machine, but for every donation I give, I get twenty-fold requests all from ActBlue. If I had more money to give, wouldn’t that last donation have been larger? And I live in a swing state, a big fat swing state, so why would I help Senator Harris’s friend win a seat in California, when my own representation needs every penny I can send them?
And when, sweet Jesus when, will those leading the DNC read the writing on the wall and embrace grassroots organizing, discarding the money-first model while embracing a people-first plan? Didn’t they pay attention to what happened in New York this week?
I’m waiting today for the true sound of a summer heat wave: the thin whine of cicadas piercing the humidity. Perhaps it is too early in the year yet.
Still nothing but bird song in the woods, and the distant hum of traffic on route 80.
In August, cicadas will be the daylight musak. The nights will belong to the katydids, who definitely should have been named REECH-CHEE-CHEECH because there’s nothing in their deafening song that speaks of Katy at all.
Still waiting here. No whine at all.