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Catcalling season is here. As it has been for 30 years, if I had a dollar for every man who’s already said something sordid and gross to me, I could get 10 people dinner at Peter Luger’s today. 30 years.  Since I was 11. Guess how young I looked at 11? I would be a multimillionaire with all those dollars.

Two days ago, some guy talked about my bottom for an entire city block. “C’mon, girl, gimme dat azz!” He was serious. I almost felt sorry for him.  And he was about the 7th or 8th rude man that day.

Perhaps you think that at my age, I’d feel complimented by men loudly talking about my body as I go along, minding my own business. “Listen, old broad, you should feel flattered”, right? Imagine your wallets, fellas, in clear view to passers-by; your money exposed, no matter how modest you were being with it. Every few yards, some woman loudly remarks about your money, how she’d like to get with your money, and “Ooh, baby, you know you wanna give me that money!” Would you consider her for your next date? No? But why not? She’s only complimenting you on your money!

Is there no other way for these dudes to feel manly other than trying to assert some masculine privilege on strangers? Do they somehow really believe they can roll up and get sexual favours from women? Not. Happening. Idiot!

I won’t look back on it at 82, thinking, “Damn, I was something in my day.”

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There are no two more different people on earth than my sister Lenya and myself, according to people who assume they know us well.

She is stunning. I am plain; such is the basis of all other assumptions about us.

And also of strangers. One day as we were walking, I stopped to tie my shoe on a busy city street and told her I would catch up. As it was, she loped ahead and I didn’t meet her until shortly after this:

The hot dog seller, the construction workers at lunch on the kerb, the university students; they all stared at her in awe of her litheness, her long, shiny chestnut hair, her perfectly proportioned oval face. One man’s jaw dropped. None spoke.  As I strode to catch up, I was greeted with vile cat calls from the construction workers.

“Yo, baby, shake that fat ass!”
“Hey, smile! Smile!
“Ungh! Ungh!”

I wanted to burst into tears, but dared not. I didn’t want to embarrass my sister or myself. When I finally did catch up to her, the innocent look she’d been wearing for those men dropped as she smirked at me.

“I’ll bet it really sucks to have to deal with that.”

Why do people think that just because someone is beautiful that they are all other good things? That biological indicators of symmetry, fitness and health equals honesty, intelligence or compassion?

I am a good person!

I must stop allowing the bitterness to take over.

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For almost three months in 1985-1986, my aunt/guardian worked at Patrick Cudahy, a meat packing plant in Cudahy, Wisconsin. They’re the “home of sweet apple-wood”, as the animated pigs on their commercials sing. I’ve never gotten how animals, no matter how domesticated, were supposed to sing happily about their looming demise and consumption by humans. Dissociation? I digress.

She worked the second shift separating fat from pigs and came home reeking of pork. I was unfazed. Her despair at how much money it cost to care for me was always palpable, and this job paid a lot better than doing laundry for Goodwill Industries, which was what she was doing previously. I hoped that more money would lessen the extreme stress for her. From the uptick in earnings, she could finally get a used car, real leather shoes for herself and buy decent food from the “good” supermarket.

After three months was when she, like all new hourly workers, joined the union. At the time, they were on strike.

One day in January 1986, two days before her membership would’ve begun, she got a call that she was being “laid off”. She ended up working in a hospital’s laundry. I don’t blame the union, which even today battles the management of the plant, and the plant still has “surprise” lay-offs. What I didn’t understand was why management was so reluctant to pay $14/hour. How can one expect people to do such hard and dangerous work for so little pay? Dissociation?

Go, unions!

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Green shoots! I didn’t expect to see those for a few more weeks. This is the first winter ever that I became thoroughly sick and tired of it, it was so damp and cold. It’s too bad, really, because for hurf-durf-burf years, I have reveled in winter, including the sloppy, slushy New York City ones. After all, Mother Nature was just doing her thing. But this year, around about 26 February, I thought, F this. Seriously. Just F Winter! even though I knew Spring was on its way and I reckoned that, for all intents and purposes, I was relatively assured of sticking around long enough to see it arrive.

I wondered at first if things felt out of whack because of the job-or-lack-thereof. Impending mid-life crisis? Existential angst? Then I realized: Every year, there’s a hint around the end of February that hits me by the nose, just for a second and then it’s gone, and then I feel better. That didn’t happen this year. I suppose I somehow need that little reminder of what’s to come to stave off the Seasonal Affective Disorder.

I walked outside this morning and there near the entrance of my building, the shoots from the daffodils and tulips were poking out of the soil in the planters that are so carefully tended by resident volunteers. All my anomie fell away. For all my feelings of coziness during winter, my adoration for autumn and my excitement for summer, there has always been  something about spring.

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Alexis, the “Boy Wonder” of the office, was firm. “Well, obviously, since this budget needs to get done, I know you can stay until 8 to help, right, Tab?”

Tabitha mumbled her half-hearted consent to the 27-year-old.

“Good old Tab! Always the trouper!”

Tabitha wanted to go to the movies to escape her wasted life for a couple hours, ignoring the fact that she lived this life as if she were still being judged by powerful authority figures and aggressive schoolmates, except now she was 49.  She knew deep down that she hadn’t done anything with herself, not even in her off-hours, to realize and use her talents, to give some sort of service, or to put herself out there among people, but ideas of changing her beliefs or doing things differently than she did as a child she forced down as swiftly as her mother had shoved lima beans down her throat. Actually having to change those beliefs, and take responsibility for using whatever she had, would put her in unknown territory. Someone might dislike her, though she wasn’t married and had no friends to test out the theory. She might “mess up”, somehow, and then where would she be? She’d always had a horror of public ridicule and humiliation. It was better to be safe, quiet. There were enough Wonders in the world. Nobody wants or needs my two cents, she reasoned. I’m not worth much.

Tabitha sat down and opened the Quickbooks ledger. She knew “8” really meant “10:30”.

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With the click of the door’s latch, Adrienne knew instantaneously it was Sanderson.

“Miss, the munitions transfer point was raided 10 minutes ago. We have to leave immediately. We’re next – if not yet, very soon.”

“Oh?” Adrienne remained seated.

“Taylor escaped to tell us.”

“Casualties?”

“None of the Partisans have been able to get near enough for a good count, but Taylor reports that anyone who wasn’t killed on the spot was taken away as far she could see.”

Adrienne knew that the Foundation would immediately spin such a raid as if they were protecting the people – yet no news. They knew the first story was the accepted story and they’d waste no time in a situation like this; she knew that about them because she herself had been hand-plucked by the Foundation as a poor but extremely bright child to be trained by, and subsequently expected to serve, them. She calmly regarded her deputy, who hadn’t had anything near her experience on either side.

“And only Taylor escaped to tell us. Lucky, faithful Taylor. Let us see her, then.”

Adrienne watched as Sanderson rapidly proceeded towards the door. All of us are connected, she remembered her mother telling her, before the Foundation took her from her home. Like with wires? she’d asked. Invisible wires, Mother had replied.

Time for a snip.

So, Sanderson had his own deputy now. Adrienne would bring Taylor in, if not yet, then very soon. She followed Sanderson very closely, knowing just which nerve to pinch.

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It wouldn’t be classed as the wisest decision Murphy ever made, but any decision was better than none.

He would leave. He would take the money. It wasn’t his. Oh, dear, as Grandmother would say, Oh, dear; oh, dear…

Well… he couldn’t help that. For fifteen years, O’Malley, Riegart, Skilling, de Gallo and Chuck had had their fun at his expense, hadn’t they? The rude names. Smacking his head repeatedly. Sometimes misdirecting him so that he’d be late for a job and get in trouble with Mr. Stone; not often enough to get him in real trouble, but enough so that ‘Murphy’ was the synonym in the group for ‘stupid’.  “Ha! You pulled a Murphy, eh?”

Should they try to chase him down, why, they’d be exposed for the frauds they were; their skimming over the years built to a very comfortable stash, indeed. He knew where it was. He wouldn’t be sharing. They didn’t know that he knew now, but they’d figure it out shortly thereafter, at which point, Murphy was going to be in Reykjavik under an assumed name, the dollars traded out for Euros. The muscle would fall off once he stopped working out and a beard wouldn’t be too hard to grow.

It was that travel show, the one that featured the teal blue geothermal spas that sold him on Iceland. So peaceful-looking.

Those ugly mooks. They’d never find him there.

Except they probably would.

Even a few weeks of freedom would be better than none.

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