Saturday, September 30, 2006

Why I Owe The U.S. Navy $200

When I was nineteen, I worked at a convenience store across the street from the military recruiters. I learned real quick how to relate to recruiters. Come out quick and come out often! If you throw blatant gayness in their face every time they try to mention "the limitless possibilities afforded to you by a career in the military" , they may get the hint and leave you alone. Except for the Air Force guy; he was a pervert.

I got to know the Navy recruiter through a coworker who was trying to enlist. She never did make the weight limit (Hah! I hated her.) so the recruitment process took a long time, and the recruiter came in pretty often. Petty Officer Steven Daugherty was a big guy, pretty soft-spoken, and never tried to recruit me. I liked him. He even offered to look at my car one night after work when it was making funny noises.

In hindsight, maybe that was a bit of a come-on, but I was nineteen and he was in his thirties so it never occurred to me.
So I drove over to the little rental house the Navy gave him and he looked at my car. I don't remember what was wrong with it, but I remember we talked for a while out by the curb and he invited me over to hang out some night. Thus, a beautiful friendship was born. Steve wasn't like the guys I knew. He was a big guy with the lingering remnants of a Kentucky accent, but he wasn't a redneck. He drank wine, not beer. He was a vegan. He lit scented candles to relax and listened to jazz. Yeah, I thought he was gay at first, too. But nope, he was straight, and still is to the best of my knowledge. Over the course of a few months we became pretty close friends, with me often driving straight to his house after work to watch TV and hang out. It was all flowers and puppy dogs until the damned Navy screwed it all up that fall.

They stationed him in Chicago!! At the Great Lakes Training Base in Chicago! Steve would now be working with school kids as some sort of Navy youth outreach program. Chicago is only about three hours away, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been, but still. Chicago! I grudgingly agreed to help him move and on a Friday night in January I left work and drove to his place to do my part.

He had rented a trailer and had it filled by the time I showed up, so I settled in for a three hour drive up and around Chicago, to the suburb of Gurnee. Not that I'm all that great at suburb geography, but to this day as far as I know , Gurnee's only real strong points are a giant outlet mall and a Six Flags theme park. I instantly resented this town that was stealing my friend and cursed it under my breath. Shouldn't have done that, because it turned out to be a rather vengeful suburb intent on drawing blood.

For the next hour or so Steve moved furniture while I handled the light stuff: couch cushions, pillows, his stuffed Roadrunner collection. But eventually I ran out of soft and cuddly things to carry and had to move on to more ominous loads, like framed art and suitcases. And an empty twenty dollar file cabinet from Wal-mart. Like I said, it was January, and by now about 3:00 in the morning, and the walkway from the curb to the door was dark and icy, but I'd walked it a dozen or so times, so I wasn't worried. Not that it wasn't awkward trying to watch my step with my arms wrapped around a file cabinet, but I did it. Never slipped once. But you know that little bump at the thresh-hold to a building, the strip of metal easing the transition from cement sidewalk to carpeted hallway? Yeah, that thing kicked my ass. I caught it with my toe and came down hard on my knees. Luckily though, the edge of the file cabinet broke my fall, on my face.

Steve saw me go down and asked me if I was alright. I took stock and was relieved to note that I hadn't bitten through my tongue and said yes. But, and I don't know why, I instinctively rubbed my chin with the back of my hand. It was at that point that the blood started flowing, dripping down my neck and off the end of my chin to pool on the ground. Steve panicked. I asked him to get me something to hold against the cut and he raced inside. And what does a great defender of our country bring you when you've split your face open? A two by two gauze pad. Yeah. That took about three seconds to soak through, and then Steve got an old t-shirt for me. I told Steve to go ahead and keep hauling in furniture while I cleaned up. I went into his bathroom, wet a corner of the shirt, and applied pressure to my chin until the bleeding slowed enough that I could see the cut. I saw skin, and fat cells, and bone. And then, in the most dignified fashion possible, I burst into tears like a little girl. Not from pain, or the sight of blood, but out of frustration at the absurdity of the situation. I couldn't just help a friend move like a normal person. No, I had to bust open my face and get stitches and make the whole night about me.

Steve found me sitting on the edge of the tub, crying and holding the shirt to my chin. I told him I needed stitches and he asked if I was sure. I showed him my stark white jawbone to convince him (ever see a 200 pound career military officer turn green?), and he agreed to drive me to the hospital.

As we drove around Gurnee, aimlessly looking for blue signs with white H's, he mentioned how unfortunate it was that he didn't know where any hospitals were except of course for the one on-base. It really should have occurred to me that the only Navy training base in the country would have doctors, but it hadn't. I asked Steve to please take me to the base, pointing out that if they wouldn't sew me up they could at least give us directions to the nearest hospital. So of we went, at by now 4:00 am, to see if his ID would get me on-base.

It did, and as we explained our predicament to the pimply faced recruit behind the desk, I noticed more recruits peeking out from behind the corner. Young recruits. Male recruits. Recruits who had not laid eyes on a civilian female in weeks. The guy at the counter went to defer with his colleagues and it was decided among them that yes, they would be more than happy to sew my face shut. This decision, however led to a new problem. How to set up an unprecedented billing system. Since the base clinic only treats enlisted people and their families, all for free, there was no program to enter my billing information into. However, the guys with the needles and thread were quite eager to get me behind their curtains and so Steve was left to try to help out the poor sailor who was beginning to realize that thinking with your anchor sometimes leads to rash decisions.

My time behind the curtain wasn't so bad, although when I learned that the only corpsmen on duty were a week away from taking their suture tests I started to rethink the decision to stop by. And when they expressed such shock at the amount of lidocaine it took to numb my chin only to be told by a passing nurse that they were jamming the needle in too far and letting all of the juice run right back out of the wound, I experienced a moment of fear. But with one guy holding my hand to comfort me through the flushing of the wound, one during the injections, and yet another during the actual sewing, it was okay. An hour later I walked out the door with six very carefully places stitches under my chin and one pretty gruesome blood-stained t-shirt to show my friends.

When I went to the ER clinic back home a couple weeks later to have the stitches pulled (the amateurs had made them too tight for me to get my own scissors under), I asked the doctor how much he would have charged for six sutures. He gave me a rough estimate of $200. Eleven years later, I have yet to see a bill from the Navy. But I know that somewhere in the computer system up there, my maiden name and my old address are listed with a balance due, and everytime CNN reports on some military spending expense audit, I wait for a bill to arrive.

Monday, September 11, 2006

My Take On Androgynous Gays

The story is coming soon, but first:

I recently came across this question on an obviously straight man's personal political blog. The post had started out about Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter, Mary Cheney, but went on to conclude:

"This opens up a whole lot of chicken or egg questions. Clearly, the average lesbian is less visually attractive than the average heterosexual woman, but is that because lesbians work less at being attractive because they don't have to compete on looks as much because women are less picky about their mate's looks? Or do lesbians not want to try to make themselves look attractive because that's a feminine thing to do and they tend to be more masculine in persona? Or are lesbians, on average, simply less feminine looking because of hormonal differences? Or are they just less attractive looking overall, rather than specifically less feminine-looking, and find they can attract a better mate in the lesbian market than in the heterosexual market?"

Notice the photo the blogger had up as an example of Mary Cheney's unattractive looks. If you care to google her though, you will find that the man had to sift through two pages of very feminine and attractive photos of Ms. Cheney to find this one. Now that's what I call objective evidence!

Regardless of the biased shown by Mr. iSteve, I find his confusion to be an interesting topic. I have been asked, most likely because of my less than heterosexual (more than heterosexual?) leanings, this very question. Why are gay men girly and lesbians butch?

Well, the obvious answer is; they aren't. It's an overwhelmingly generalized stereotype that doesn't apply to EVERY homosexual. But let's let that go for now. There are Jack McFarlands and Carson Kressleys and even Austin Scarletts out there, just as there are KD Langs and Martina Navratilovas. So why, you may ask, is it that a tiny little piece of identity should have such an impact on a person's appearance and mannerisms? Let's assume for the moment that the two are in fact linked, and that a straight Austin Scarlett wouldn't wear ruffly shirts and eye make-up.

The best explanation I can come up with regarding masculine lesbians, and one that certainly has applied to me in my own life, is that being feminine is a hassle. To put it pretty bluntly, smooth legs and flowing hair can be a bitch to keep up with. And other women understand that. So if I don't need make up and long done up hair to attract a man, which lesbians don't generally care about, then why not just cut the hair short and skip the mascara? I know plenty of 100% straight women who often threaten to just shave their heads on bad hair days. And honestly, how hard would it be for any woman to give up shaving her legs,
or at least go longer between shaving, if a man wouldn't complain about it? Not that all 'butch' lesbians have hairy legs, or that all women with hairy legs are lesbians, but some do and are, and that's one reason for it.

Now, as for the flaming gays out there, I can only speculate. Sadly, American patriarchal society is more tolerant of that which arouses men than that which threatens or confuses them, so lesbian chic is a reality. I can only begin to imagine how it must feel to realize that you will never, no matter how macho you try to be, fit the mold the world expects you to. After all, no matter how strong, how successful, how much of a "man's man" you may succeed in becoming, as long as your spouse has a penis it just isn't going to work in a lot of people's eyes. I imagine it must be frightening to wonder how many of the men in your life will distrust or abandon you. But I also suspect it may be more than a little freeing. When you accept that you simply cannot be macho, the pressure to try to be, I would assume, disappears, and with it the taboos against a lot of other things. I mean, after you drop a bomb like "Dad, I'm gay," how bad can it be to announce later "Dad, I style hair," or "Dad, I'm a decorator,"?

I may have married a (wonderful) man, but I can still remember what it was like to come out of the closet. I lost friends, I was threatened, I was scared. But also, being a bonafide "freak" gave me the courage to be myself. All of the ways I felt strange and different before that moment, my taste in music or books or clothes, paled in comparison to what I had just made known. I was lucky, though. I was a girl. The boys at my school eventually discovered how much it could boost their reputations if only they could be the ones to "change" me. I got asked out by a lot of football players that year. And once the girls realized that they could easily take me in any fight, they kind of liked the idea of a girl who wouldn't compete with them for guys. The year I came out turned out to be the best year of high school for me. Of course, all it took was one really hot guy to make me question myself all over again, and come to the conclusion that I didn't need to be gay, or straight, or anywhere in between. I didn't have to fall in love with people based on their gender. I had a freedom not many people have; gender didn't matter to me. Manly or girly, male or female, none of that turned me off. I was free to fall in love with someone based on who they were inside, and I never took that for granted. I have been with hairy legged women and men who wore panties, prissy femmy women and sweaty working men.
And I have learned that it takes a lot more courage to be yourself in spite of pre-assigned gender roles than it does to shave things and fix things and wear things just because you're expected to.

I have a lot of respect for Mary Cheney, and for her father. Sure, I still detest Dick's political views, hunting skills, and just about everything he stands for on a professional level. But in a career field where conservative public opinions can make or break a man, he hasn't denounced or turned his back on his daughter. And out of that tiny glimmer of respect, I will refrain from making the obvious "Growing up with Dick Cheney as a male role model, gee I wonder why she's gay" comment.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Why The Stories?

In case there's anyone out there who reads this thing regularly, I feel the need to explain myself. Somehow this blog has gone from a journal of sorts to some jumbled mix of journal and memoir. Why the format change, you ask?

Well, I kind of just want to see what people may think of my writing, as well as perhaps hone my talent a bit. I need practice and since I have NO clue as to what sort of fiction I want to write, I decided to just try and relate interesting moments from my life, in story form. At least, I hope they are interesting to someone other than myself.

So I will probably still vent my not-so-humble opinions on current events and such, as I was doing when I started this blog. But I will also be putting up more stories.

Here, I'll let the first one to post a comment decide what I write next:
How An Argentinean Frycook Eluded Citizen's Arrest
Why I Owe The United States Navy $200
Escaping Shabubba in Not-Aunt-Nancy's Cabin

Those are the choices. Like I said, the first one to comment gets to pick. Unless no one comments, at which point I will just randomly choose some piece of drivel from my mind and ramble on about it. It's called having a personal writing style.

Saving Jame, Part 2

The voices were muffled, muted. It took me a second to realize that they sounded that way because I had my head stuffed down the corner of the couch, between the cushion and the backrest. I slowly pried my head out into freedom and listened more intently, careful not to betray to whoever was in the room with me that I was, indeed awake. This habit, of waking up without any change in breathing, fluttering eyelids, yawning or stretching of any kind, was one born of necessity. Years of rather bad judgment required me to first discern where I was and with whom before allowing the world to know I was conscious. And it came in handy today.

There were two voices, one male and one female. I recognized Jame's instantly, but who was the guy? Jerone, the Able twins' little brother? I listened for a second and decided it wasn't him. Jim then, Jerone's friend who also lived there? Nah, not him either. It wasn't until I heard the speaker called by name that I realized that right here, in this room, was Jamie Drolema. But still, I stayed "asleep".

The conversation, very hushed so as not to awaken me, went on undisturbed. "Where the hell is this coming from? I'm getting married today."

"I always liked you. I just never told you because there was supposed to be time."

Oh dear. Jamie was trying to talk Jame (yes, it was a complicated sentence for me too) out of marrying Charles! And since I was her best friend and the only person who apparently even knew Jamie Drolema was here, the responsibility for saving her fell squarely on my very hung over shoulders. I rolled over onto my other side, as if in my sleep.

"Shhhhh! Is she waking up?" He sounded almost panicked.

"I don't know but who cares if she does? I'm not the one who snuck into the house to ruin a wedding!"

I did that smacking-the-mouth thing people do when they start to come to, both as a sign that I may soon sit up and also because strawberry wine coolers produce a particularly nasty sort of cotton mouth, and resituated myself so that my feet were pressed squarely against the back of the couch. I had no plan, but I would have to save Jame soon. It was clear that the appeal of Jamie was wearing her down.

I laid still just long enough to hear Jamie say a few more words and then mumbled. Then I mumbled again. "She talks in her sleep," my best friend explained.

"What?" she asked me.

"Am I asleep?" I mumbled.

"Yeah," Jamie answered. "You're dreaming."

At that point I opened my eyes just enough to take aim, pressed against the back of the sofa with both feet, and launched myself vertically to where Jamie was crouched in front of the chair Jame sat in. Although I hit him full force, he didn't go down as expected. I ended up flat on my back on the floor with him towering over me with a look of shock. I said the first thing that came to mind.

"I can't be asleep. In my dreams you don't duck."

Jame burst out laughing, Jamie snorted in disgust, and I attempted to untangle my legs from the blanket that had flown with me from the couch so I could stand up and maybe be of further assistance.

"Hey, could you leave us alone for a minute here? I kind of wanted to talk to Jamie," Jamie said to me from his new (safer?) spot behind the chair. I saw Jame shake her head and knew that I would have to sacrifice even more dignity to get her out of this mess.

"Um, actually, I wanted to ask you a question." I had wanted no such thing. What I wanted was to see those white shorts on the floor, but the odds of that happening now that he knew I was awake were akin to the odds of me winning the lottery without a ticket. "Uhh, er, could I have your autograph?"


"Yes, well uh, I was wondering if I could have your autograph. Here, let me get a pen." I ran into the kitchen wondering if I could have possibly come up with anything more lame, and grabbed a pen and the front of a friend's birth announcement out of my purse, then rushed back into the living room as fast as I could. Unfortunately I had slept in my socks and so I slid across the hardwood floor and fell, for the second time that morning, squarely on my ass. I reached up and handed the paper to Jamie with a solemn look on my face that was supposed to convey dignity but apparently only added to the oddity of the situation. They both burst out laughing and he signed my paper.

"Hey Chuck have a nice dream." How sweet.

I spent the better part of that morning shamelessly coming on to Jamie, rubbing his shoulders and complimenting him and otherwise sacrificing all personal dignity to keep his attention OFF of seducing Jame. All in all, it worked. Jame married Charles that day at the courthouse without incident, I got Jamie Drolema's autograph which I still keep in a hat box in the top of my closet, and Jamie got the much needed foresight not to pull over when flagged down by singing drunks on the street.

I mentioned to Jame a few weeks ago that I still had the autograph from that morning. She told me that Jamie lives in a small town about half an hour north of here and that someday we should go up and find him. I don't know. I saw him at a local Walmart a few years ago. The years hadn't been that good to him and his eyebrows had fused together. He just wasn't the Adonis in white shorts that he used to be.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Saving Jame, Part 1

1994 was the year I turned eighteen. It was also the year most of my friends got married. Not that they were all the same age, it varied by a year or two, but it seemed like that summer more last names changed than in any single summer before or since. The most important of these weddings was, of course, Jame's.

Jame had been dating Charles, a guy she met on the riverfront and initially talked up only because she thought he looked like Tom Cruise (remember, he wasn't crazy back then), for almost a whole year. He was the perfect catch for an eighteen year old small town girl. He was attractive, relatively nice to her, and her parents hated him. Naturally, she had to marry him. I got the call as I walked in the back door of my father's house. When Dad handed me the phone and said, "Jamie's torturing some guy," I knew instantly what he meant.

"Get into town. I'm getting married tomorrow and the bachelorette party's tonight out at the twins'." Of course, I had to go.

An hour later I sat in the living room of Nicole and Noralene Able's mother's farmhouse, a wine cooler planted firmly in my fist, wondering what constituted a bachelorette party where no one was old enough to buy alcohol or enter a strip club. It turned out that I wasn't the only one pondering that particular subject. After an hour or so of watching Eddie Murphy Raw, we got bored and decided we needed a stripper.

Now, at the advanced state of genius reached only by newly adult drunken females, we knew this to be a very easy task. If you want to see a penis all you have to do is ask, right? So I ran to the phone, looked up a number, and called the single most attractive guy in town; Jamie Drolema. And since, befitting his status as such, he wasn't home at ten p.m. on a Friday night, I left a message on his answering machine.

"Hi Jamie. This is Charlie. Jame's getting married tomorrow so we kind of need a stripper out at Ables' place tonight. Call us when you get this message. We're pooling our money right now as I speak." How could he possibly turn down the chance to stand naked in a room full of women and make some money to boot? Yep, a fool-proof plan.

Except, he never called. And we ran out of wine coolers. And since we weren't old enough to go buy any wine coolers, we had to find someone who was. And in town, at Jame and Charles' apartment, there were men having their own pre-wedding party. Men who could purchase booze. So we all hopped into Jame's car and headed into town.

Now, Jame and Charles were living in an apartment over a bar on Main Street at that time, and they had no phone. So there was no way for us to let the guys know that we were there, and for some reason the idea of knocking on the door was too taboo to consider. A woman couldn't just barge in on a bachelor party. But the window was open, so we decided to try to get their attention that way. So we sang. Loudly. And very very poorly. You've Lost That Loving Feeling, sang by four drunken teenage girls on a deserted street in the middle of the night. It must have sounded pretty distinctive, because soon ALL of the windows of all of the apartments over the bar were full of people watching us. By the time we got to "Now it's gone gone gone, whoaaaaaa" and started in on the shaboom shaboom sounds, Charles came running out into the street to try to convince his future wife to stop embarrassing him.

As I mentioned, this was a very deserted street, but being Main Street in an "Official Illinois Main Street Town" there were plenty of newly renovated antique-looking streetlights, so when one lone truck came rumbling down the road, I noticed it pretty quickly. And in the unashamed manner found only in towns so small that everyone knows one another, I looked to see who was driving it. It was Jamie Drolema, our preferred amateur stripper. So I flagged him down. He pulled over and I explained how the occasion required male public nudity and since he was the best-looking guy in town, could he volunteer his services for an hour or so? Chuckling, he promised to think about it and then drove off to wherever it was that he had been headed to before I flagged him down.

Charles agreed to buy us more alcohol, Jame drove him to the store and back, and all of us girls returned to the farmhouse north of town to resume drinking and watching vulgar stand-up on VHS. We were doing a pretty good job of pretending we weren't bored an hour later when a figure emerged from the shadows behind Jame's chair and stood in front of her.

With his long dark hair down over his shoulders and his arms crossed against his naked chest, wearing only a pair of brilliantly white shorts against his very tan skin, Jamie Drolema was sex incarnate. And between his height and the height of Jame's chair, eye level was a very good place for her to be right then. Jame's mouth began to move, but no sound came out. "Take it off. Take it all off," she mouthed.

"What? Speak up," Adonis said as another figure emerged from the shadows. This one wore a look of amusement on his face, a face that looked more than a little bit like Tom Cruise.

"Jame!" I said a little too loudly, trying to distract her. I didn't want to piss off Charles, but I also didn't want Jamie to get in trouble with her fiance the night before their wedding. "Jame! This is funnier than you know. Trust me, this is funnier than you know."

Thankfully, Jame realized that if I was doing anything to keep Jamie Drolema in his clothes, something must be going on. She turned around and saw Charles, the tension was diffused, and the guys left. The twins gave me some grief about ruining Charles' joke, but I didn't care. I was just sad that I hadn't gotten to see those very white shorts sitting crumpled on the floor.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I Am Not A Tiger

Yes it's true, I am not a Tiger. And no, this is not in any way, a reference to my lovestruck cat nightmare. This is about my own pathetic unspoken dream to discover within myself an as yet untapped talent and thus spend quality time with my husband.

Tom golfs. Gee, you say, a white republican approaching middle age who golfs? How can such a thing be true? But it is true, take my word for it. He golfs and so I thought perhaps I could learn to golf too. This is not an unprecedented idea. I used to work with a woman ( horrifying woman, always picking on me) who met her second husband, went to the driving range with him one day during the early "Oh I can't stand to be away from you for a minute, Snookums" phase of their relationship, and somehow ended up hitting 300 yard drives consistently.

So leave it to me to think that if Skari Shari can do it, I can do it too. After all, I have no known talents so I must have hidden talents, right? But alas, golf does not seem to be one. I do, however, have the unsurpassed ability to hit the tee out from under a golf ball, all the time swinging my entire body around in a full circle, and all while carefully keeping my knees slightly bent and my hips bent but not too bent. I have perfect form, I just can't hit the damn ball. Well, I can hit it some of the time. I can hit it into the creek ten yards away. I can hit it into another ball only three yards away (which would come in handy if only there were a golf / billiards combination sport). And I can hit it between my feet and behind me some thirty-odd feet. But I cannot hit it anywhere near the cute white signs marking where a decent drive is supposed to go. I can't even hit it in the right direction.

I had visions of Tom standing behind me, his arms around me, his hands over mine, teaching me how to follow through with my swing. What I got was grabbed from behind only once, and told my grip was all wrong as he twisted me like an owl's head, leaving my bra crooked when he let go. The rest of the time he ignored me to hit his own bucket of balls, only watching me long enough to snort at my attempts to HIT THAT DAMNED BALL! Yes, he snorted. At me. His wife. His loving and supportive wife who only wanted to play this damned game to be closer to him and who became increasingly frustrated and ended up digging little hamster graves four inches behind the tees.

My dream of being part of a husband and wife twosome, golfing our way across the country by way of beautiful expensive PGA approved courses, has been dashed. At best I can hope to be the half drunk bored housewife who takes lessons twice a week from the local has-been club pro. Too bad I have morals too high to hire some hot young blond stud to teach me.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Just One Reason I Am Not A Cat Person

I am not what you'd call a cat person.

It's not the old excuse that they're aloof, or that they poo in a box indoors, or that they scratch up the furniture. It's not hairballs or unprovoked extended-claw pounces from around corners, or even allergies. I don't particularly want a cat because cats are biologically unable to distinguish between that which is alive, and that which is dead. Also, cats develop romantic attachments to other cats, similarly unencumbered by the ability to determine presence of life, and enamored cats like to bear gifts.

Now if a cat were to try to impress me with a bottle of wine, if some horny tomcat in the neighborhood wanted to ask for my cat's, err, paw in mating with, say, a lovely flower arrangement, I would have no problem. But no, it's always something disgusting, usually a mouse in some state of decay. But even that isn't the worst possibility. No, the worst is what I was given, long ago, by a little furry suitor of my pet's.

A little backstory here. I was nineteen, working second shift, and living with my father. My father's attitude toward home repair was not to fix anything unless it specifically inconvenienced him. So when our cat, Pixel, attempted to let itself into the house one afternoon by running and leaping headlong through the porch screen, he left the hole there for her further use. Also, to cut down on air conditioning costs, he would turn off the unit and leave the back door open when he went to work at 4:30 a.m. This never really bothered me, since we lived in a pretty safe neighborhood, so I never asked him not to leave the back door open while I, his teenage daughter, slept peacefully until noon.

Anyway, back to the cat. Pixel had eyes for a neighborhood stray. Obviously the stray had once been a pet, as he had no problem with walking up to my father and I, rubbing against our legs and tangling himself in our ankles should we attempt to go inside. He would even follow Pixel in through the hole in the screen, but had never ventured through the door into the house proper. He was a polite, or vampiric, sort who would not enter unless invited. We approved of their union.

So one day, as I was snoozing peacefully, I heard a screech. Not a scream, not any sound I had ever heard before (or since for that matter), but a screech. I woke up and glanced around the room in time to see a vague blackish blur race under my bed. Under the head of my bed. Under my head! I grabbed my glasses, put them on, and gingerly bent to peer under the bed, imagining all the time a cacophony of voices yelling "Don't look under the bed!" like every horror movie audience since silent films. And under there I saw, quite clearly despite being upside down, what I can only describe as some avian demon rushing toward my face, screeching at the top of it's little bitty lungs.

I bolted upright and glanced at the doorway, in the general direction of a hissing that had, up to then, been drowned out by the death squawk of a mangled sparrow. The boyfriend cat was crouched, hackles up, tail fat, ready to pounce. I jumped out of the bed and rushed the door, frightening the cat into running through the kitchen, out the open back door, and through the cat-hole in the screen. However, having been awakened from deep slumber by a Sylvester and Tweety reenactment, I was not at this point thinking clearly. I DID have the foresight to shut the bird in my room, but not to grab any clothes on my high-stepped flight from the bed. I quickly summed up the situation. I had a possibly rabid definitely defensive bird trapped in my bedroom, I was too cowardly to do anything about it, and I was naked. I did what any logical nineteen year old girl would have done. I called my ex-boyfriend and told him there was an angry attack bird under my bed and would he please be so kind as to come rid me of it. He would? Great, I'd be waiting for him naked in the kitchen.

Whyever would he have doubted my sincerity?

Despite his unfounded doubts, he showed up a few minutes later, and I told him the entire sordid tale while leading him to the bedroom. I had had enough time between the call and his arrival to piece together what must have happened before the bird got to my room that day. A trail of feathers led throughout the house, with a noticeable larger grouping in the living room. I figured this was where the bird had regained consciousness, since I doubt the cat drug it struggling through the porch screen to impress me and/or Pixel, and began the merry chase which ended with me being forced out of my bed at the crack of noon.

As my ex surveyed my room and found no bird, I was faced with a new fear. What if he couldn't find it? What if he decided I'd simply called him as a pathetic attempt to seduce him and win him back, and he left? What would he think of me? What would he tell people? Who then would get rid of the bird?! I had to join the hunt.

After looking everywhere, behind each shoe in the closet, under the dresser, in all the corners, I moved a chair out from against the wall, and heard the screech. I jumped three feet back into the wall while my hero of choice threw MY FAVORITE bedspread over the bird, carried it outside, and set it gently on the ground. I thanked him, sent him off, and took a loooong hot shower to wipe the fear of bird germs off me.

After Pixel ran off with her Romeo a few months later, I never got another cat. I never wanted another cat. Dead mice laid at my feet are bad enough, but the thought of one more maimed bird rushing my face in the morning is enough to keep me from ever being a cat owner again. Ever.

Writer's Block

I know, I know. Two posts in one day. In one morning, in fact. But I don't care. This isn't a diary, all pink and fuzzy with a Hello Kitty applique on the front and a tiny gold lock on the side (too visual?), so I don't have to limit myself to one entry per day, or more importantly force myself into one entry every day.

I have writer's block. There, I've said it. "My name is Charlie and I have writer's block." I've had it for about, oh, fifteen years. I want to write something that will be printed, in someone else's chosen font, and bound with glue, not staples or paperclips. But you see, aside from this blog and the occasional psychiatrist-assigned journal, I can never think of anything to write. The task is too daunting, too overwhelming. Write something other people will like. How can I do that? I have a hard enough time piecing together an outfit other people like. I always did well in school with writing assignments, because the teacher gave me a topic. All I had to worry about then was characterization and setting, getting the people through the prescribed situation. But on my own, I can't choose a plot. I can't even choose a genre. I have too many possible ideas running through my hypomanic possibly ADD-riddled brain and once caught and inspected, they all seem to kind of suck. Coming of age novel? Sure, but coming of age where, and how? On a beach, in a city, in a box, with a fox, I cannot do it Sam I Am! Romance novel? Sure. I can write flowery prose and euphemistic smut. But then I imagine that I get published, and my book is out with a shiny cover and sepia toned pages, and so naturally my family reads it. I mean, I'm a published author now, what kind of mother would she be if Mom didn't read my book? And how can I write three page love scenes, how can I pen the words "quivering member", knowing my mother is going to be reading it? Or my brother's girlfriend? Or any number of assorted individuals from my life? So I nix the romance novel idea. Comedic Adventure? I think about that one most of all. I loved Dave Barry's novel, and I think I could write one as well, but then comes the plot question. Just what exactly is the adventure. Crazy characters I can do. Bizarre situations are no problem. But having it all come together in a cohesive pattern? That could be more difficult. That's what I'm hoping the writing classes will do; teach me how to slow down and organize my thoughts.

Maybe I just have to take Joe The Peacock's advice. Write because I love it, not because I want to sell it. Maybe I should take my iconic cousin Chandos's advice and start with a short story. Maybe I could just write a bunch of stories randomly and then send them out as a compilation. Ahhh, but then again, I'm thinking of the publishing.

EDIT: Chandos, don't hate me for calling you iconic. Really, it's a good thing.

The Frightening Nature of Architecture

I have always hated new schools. I can't remember my first day of kindergarten, but I'm sure I threw up. I think I was born with a genetic fear of being that one lone kid walking into the class after the bell, being stared at as I search for an empty seat, getting that disapproving glare from the teacher. I shudder at the thought to this day.

In my hometown, the schools used to be set up in three age groups: K-5, 6-8, 9-12. I vividly remember the feeling of dread that filled me for most of fifth grade. In fact, fears of losing my locker, forgetting the combination, not finding my classes, (not to mention changing before gym class) got so bad that I developed a stress-related off-shoot of OCD called trichotillomania. In layman's terms, I got so stressed I pulled my hair out.

The transition to high school was made easier by the knowledge that I wasn't the only one intimidated by the prospect of navigating three floors of hallways and stairs in the three minutes between classes. But the summer before my senior year, I moved. I, like so many other children of divorce, moved from one parent's house to the other's, and ended up in a much larger school. By this time I was seventeen and old enough to kind of disguise my trepidation. And I was sure that I could find my classes simply by looking at the room numbers on my schedule. I was wrong. This was a very old school, one which had been built on to and remodeled several times. This school had wings, odd little hallways that shot off at strange angles from the main building, and hidden stairways that led only to one or two rooms per floor. Take the wrong turn and instead of Algebra, you could end up walking out of the supply closet in the Art room. But I made it, with plenty of odd new-kid glances, and graciously offered directions from fellow students which more times than not led me to freshman remedial PE rather than the Political Studies class I'd asked for. And when I finally walked out of that school for the last time, I swore I would never be a new kid again. I would never, ever, attempt to navigate the halls of a new school for as long as I lived. This is no small part of why I never attempted college.

But now, out of a desire to find some direction for my life, I am going to break that vow. I am going to take some classes, in not one, but two, separate colleges. It's only two classes, and they offer no credit hours toward any sort of degree (in fact, I found them only in the paper flyer that comes mass-mailed every fall offering yoga, basketweaving, and "E-Mail For Seniors"), but it's enough to revive that dormant hibernating beast that is my Fear of Educational Architecture.
I have a theory, and I have no proof to back it up aside from my own intuition. But I believe that the same architects who design hospitals and clinics also design schools. Those are the only two sorts of places where walking out of a room presents you with a hallway which looks identical in both directions at the same time as looking nothing like where you were when you entered the room! I could add government office buildings to the list, but they usually come with little placards on the walls, written in no less than five different languages, complete with arrows pointing toward various departments. In fact, if you're lucky, English will only be the second or third language from the top. (Is it really that hard for Hispanics to figure out that POLICE and POLICIA mean the same thing?)

So here I am, trying to figure out how to sign up for two classes on the one 5x7 sheet of newsprint in the Personal Enrichment Courses flyer, and wondering if at thirty I will finally be capable of finding my way to one class in a community college. After that, I'll worry more about the hundred mile drive downstate to find one more class in a different community college. All this is in hope of refining my writing abilities to the point where I'll be able to read my own work without cringing.

Ahh, to be half the writer Joe The Peacock is.

Edit: My mother has decided to take the same local course I'm taking. Apparently it bothered her having her drop-out daughter proofread her college papers and find so many errors. So I guess she can help me find the classroom.