Monthly Archives: November 2012

Angie’s Visit

My bloggin’ buddy Angie of Childhood Relived is coming to DC next month, and we are going to get together for lunch!  I’m so excited – she will be the first blogging buddy I’ll get to meet.  The thing is, though, that I just can’t decide where to take her for our rendezvous.

Angie, as you may know, writes extensively about her childhood in the 1980s. She remembers everything that happened during that decade.  Angie has a photographic memory for every single TV show and every bit of food she consumed during that decade.  It’s awesome.  Or terrifying.  Or both.  And while I was not a child in the 1980s, her posts always make me nostalgic for that time in my life.  Back when I was young, single, sick and poor.  Ah yes, the 1980s.

I am pretty sure that Angie is (1) Superhuman; (2) will remember each and every detail about the restaurant I choose; and (3) remember every single fact I tell her about Washington, DC, whether it is in fact, fact or not.  I can’t believe I even agreed to meet her.  Can’t I be out of town that day?

Oh, yeah.  I will be out of town that day.  Out of my town.  You see, I hardly ever go into DC any more.  I work across the river in Virginia; I live in the Virginia sticks with the deer.  In fact, I do everything south of our nation’s Capitol, you know, where the Rebs lived (and seceded).  (We will not comment on how a nice Connecticut Yankee like me ended up here.  Please.  It’s painful.)

The tour I can handle.  Buildings are buildings and Angie won’t know if I’m right or wrong when I tell her which is which.  The hard part is deciding where to have lunch.  It used to be that this wouldn’t have been a problem.  Yup, I used to really know the city.  I lived in DC; I worked downtown.  I hung out on Capitol Hill.  In fact, I used to work really close to the hotel where Angie is staying.  But my familiarity with DC restaurants is current only up to 1989, when I moved away.

So rather than sweating it, I decided to give Angie a 1980s tour of Washington!  That’s the Washington I know.  Knew. Whatever.  Wouldn’t that be appropriate?  I’ll start with a 1980s restaurant!  I figured I’d see which of my favorite restaurants of the 1980s were still open and take her to one of them.  Brilliant, right?  Because after all, a trip to our nation’s capital requires a bit of history.  For US history, well, Angie’s on her own.  I’m going to give her some of my history.  Yes Angie, I am going to treat you to a dose of “This is Your Life,” DC Restaurant version.

Of course, there aren’t too many of my favorites left.  In fact, there are only three.  Which do you think she’d like best?

Health Hazard of Hunan:  This restaurant is where I learned to eat interesting spicy foods.  I went there all the time.  Whenever we worked late at the office our clients would buy us wonderful Chinese food from Hunan.  Better still, one night I organized an incredibly fun birthday dinner there for a friend.  A total of about 20 of us had a wonderful meal, where the staff gave us tastes of everything on the menu.  Exotic, delicious Chinese delicacies.  The next day the restaurant was closed for health violations.  Don’t worry though, Angie.  It’s back in business.

Rumors:  Rumors was a meat-market when I was still single, a place to go to pick up men/women for one night stands.  That’s not why I went, actually, because I never was that kind of girl.  Besides, at the time I was attached.  But it had great food and a different ambiance at lunch time.  It’s not at all far from where Angie and I are meeting.

The last time I went to Rumors was at nighttime, though, when the meat-market was in full swing.  At the time I was dating Erik, who at the time (1980), I fully expected to marry, and he and I were there with some friends.  That night began the process that led me to a much better mate.  That’s because Erik excused himself to go to the restroom and came back quite quickly looking rather confused.  He couldn’t figure out which bathroom to use.   “Ummm, Elyse?” he asked quietly.  “Am I a ‘tweeter’ or a ‘woofer’?”  I decided that perhaps I wanted more of a woofer in my life.

The Sex Change:  Actually, the restaurant is called “The Exchange” – but our name was much more fun.  I worked in an office upstairs from the Sex Change.  We actually had a convenient back door into the place that we used when we were supposed to be working.  My friends and I spent many, many lunch times, work afternoons and evenings there. The Sex Change is possibly the first place where I was ever publicly drunk, although I don’t really remember.

The Sex Change was actually the site of my first foray into public storytelling.  Yes, it was at the Sex Change one winter night, where I stood on a table in the most crowded part of the bar, my third or fourth or fifth beer of the evening in hand.  I told the world of my most shameful, completely embarrassing, life changing childhood trauma.  I stood on a table and told how I ruined my life in 2nd Grade by wetting my pants during Show & Tell, one week after moving to a new town.  It was the story I had never admitted had happened.  Not to anyone.  It was the story I feared would one day come out when someone from my past appeared unexpectedly and let it slip.  And the bar patrons loved it, and me for telling it.  They were there with me, in 2nd Grade.  Of course, they were drunk too.

In fact, it was this story that brought Angie and I together, because it was the heart of the comment I left Angie about a year ago when she wrote this post about embarrassing childhood birthday parties.  The full story, including my revenge on the kid who bullied me in grammar school, is here.  Because there is a god.

So as you can see, it’s a tough choice.  Food poisoning, sexual confusion, or humiliation.  I think that sums up my life pretty nicely.  Which would you choose?

And after lunch, I’ll take her on a driving tour.  I’ll drive her past the White House and we will wave (or gesture in an altogether different manner) to Ron and Nancy.  Reagan and O'NeilWe’ll drive up to Capitol Hill walk right in to her Congressman and Senators’ offices.  We’ll climb to the top of the Washington Monument, get into the museums without waiting through endless security lines.

Yup, a 1980s tour of Washington sounds like just the ticket.  But maybe we should just grab a hot dog.

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Filed under Bloggin' Buddies, Childhood Traumas, Conspicuous consumption, Driving, History, Humor, Mental Health, Traffic, Word Press

Blowin’ in the Wind

I take war pretty darn seriously when it comes, so I try to pay attention to the rumblings and rumors of yet another conflict.  That way, I can be sure to make my feelings known.

That probably comes from the fact that when I was in 9th grade everybody in my entire school got on a bus and drove down to Washington DC to that huge rally on the Mall.  Me and John C were the only two kids left behind.  Spending a day with John C was NOT my idea of a good time, but my parents wouldn’t let me go.  I’ve never gotten over it.

I DID make up for it though.  In 2003 I saw Peter Paul & Mary live on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, singing Blowin’ in the Wind and Give Peace A Chance, just like they had back in 1971.  We were all there to protest the impending invasion of Iraq the next day.  George W Bush flew overhead in Marine 1 on his way back from Camp David.  He hovered over us, just long enough for the assembled protesters to flip him the finger.  I’m sure he returned the gesture.

For this new war?  I got no warning, no notice, nothing from MoveOn.Org or Code Pink or anybody else.  How could that happen?  I’m on every single political email that goes out to special people like me.  And you know what a news junkie I am – I read everything.  Still I missed it.  Damn.  Because this war might be in my living room before long.  And yours.  Or maybe it will snake its way upstairs, into our bedrooms.

It’s The War on Men.

Yup.  At least according to Phyllis Schlafly’s niece, anyway.  Oh you remember Phyllis, don’t you?  She was one of the main spokespeople behind the anti Equal Rights for Women movement.

Why didn’t she just stay home and bake?

So, in keeping with having a family full of non-feminist women who stay home and bake cookies, Phil’s niece, Suzanne Venker works outside of the home.  She “stumbled” upon a bunch of men who are unhappy with women and who say that they aren’t going to get married.  Not no way, not no how.

Why?

Because “Women aren’t Women anymore.”

Well, I’ll be.  Excuse me while I check on my lady parts.

Now Suzie wrote about it (well sort of, it’s an article on Fox).  She claims that men haven’t changed.  Apparently they still have all the same instincts that they had back in the day.  But women?  They’ve changed.  And not for the better according to Suzie.

They’ve gotten uppity.  They want to work.  They want to get paid for working.  They want to use their hearts and their minds.  (And I bet they still want Equal Rights.)  THE NERVE!

Suzie also says that this whole attitude on the part of women, well

“[It] has not threatened men. It has pissed them off. It has also undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family. Men want to love women, not compete with them. They want to provide for and protect their families – it’s in their DNA. But modern women won’t let them.

It’s all so unfortunate – for women, not men. Feminism serves men very well: they can have sex at hello and even live with their girlfriends with no responsibilities whatsoever.

It’s the women who lose. [Sniff]  Not only are they saddled with the consequences of sex, by dismissing male nature they’re forever seeking a balanced life. The fact is, women need men’s linear career goals – they need men to pick up the slack at the office – in order to live the balanced life they seek.

So if men today are slackers, and if they’re retreating from marriage en masse, women should look in the mirror and ask themselves what role they’ve played to bring about this transformation.  [Emphasis mine all mine.]

Perhaps it is the fact that in the decades that most of us have lived in [and I think we can assume that Suzie has been stuck in a perpetual space-time continuum] well, we’ve been able to make our own choices about when to have children, and a whole mess of other economic issues that earlier generations of women couldn’t because they were barefoot and pregnant.

But fortunately, Suzie tells me not to worry about this war.  You see, I can actually do something about this one.  And actually, you can too.  I’m relieved.  Aren’t you?

Women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.

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Filed under Childhood Traumas, Criminal Activity, Family, History, Humor, Hypocrisy, Mental Health, Politics, Stupidity

My Silver Lining

Thursday, November 22, is Thanksgiving in the U.S.  It is also the 30th anniversary of the surgery I had for what was then thought to be severe ulcerative colitis.  It was a difficult time for me, but one for which I will be thankful for on Thanksgiving and really every day.  Yes, I got my health back as a result of the surgery, but that wasn’t the best part.

The most important part, the silver lining, was that I got to know my Mom, and it started a close relationship that lasted for the rest of her life and that I will feel grateful for for the rest of mine.

Mom was the sweetest woman on the planet.  My friends adored her.  Our house was always open to hoards of kids.  We lived near the beach, and it was convenient for everybody to just hang at our house.  But it was more than that. For years dozens of teens used our house as their home away from home.  There was always room, always plenty to eat, always a welcome.  No one was ever turned away, and the answer to “can So-And-So stay the night” (or “the weekend” or in some cases “the summer”) was always “sure.”

But we weren’t close, Mom and I.  I was Daddy’s girl from the start.  Mom, well, I loved her.  I even liked her, mostly.  It’s just that there wasn’t a whole lot about Mom to make me respect her.  She was completely helpless, you see.  Hopelessly so.  I can’t stand that and never have been able to deal with dependent people.  And “helpless”?  That was Mom in a nutshell.

She didn’t drive.  She didn’t shop without Dad.  She didn’t go for a walk alone.  She didn’t try to take control of family problems and help figure out how to solve them.  She waited for my dad to get home to reprimand, make a decision, to blow her nose, or so it seemed.  She was utterly and totally dependent upon my Dad.  It was incredibly annoying to this girl growing up in the late sixties and seventies during one of the strongest pushes for equal rights for women.  My friends’ mothers were out protesting the Vietnam War.  Mine didn’t even vote.  They burned their bras; Mom ironed hers.  They voiced their opinions ever more loudly.  Mom looked to Dad to indicate which way was up.

After I left home and became more self-sufficient, my irritation at Mom’s inability to do anything without Dad’s help, grew.

So when Mom announced, just weeks before I was to have radical, difficult surgery, that she was going to come to help, well, I panicked.  She was going to help me?  Yeah right.  Her announcement sent me into apoplexy.  It was the worse possible news heaped on a whole ream of really shitty news.  Who the hell was going to help her?

I lived with my roommate, Keily, and my 120 lb. alcoholic German Shepherd, Goliath, in a tiny Washington, DC, townhouse, in a not terribly safe area.  I was sure that Mom would get mugged — she’d make an easy target.  I feared that she would let the dog out and they would both die.  I drove a battered and temperamental VW Bug with a stick shift that Mom didn’t know how to use.  And of course, I wasn’t going to be able to help her because I was going to be recovering from having my guts totally ripped open and reorganized.

I couldn’t believe she would do this to me.

At the same time I couldn’t hurt her feelings and tell her that I didn’t want her.  Nope.  I could never have done that.  Not if my life depended on it.  Which of course, it might.

But once she dropped that bomb, I stopped worrying about the surgery, about the recovery, about everything except how I would take care of my caretaker.  Thankfully, my brother Fred came to help too.  He could drive my car; he could help with Mom for the week he took off from work.  My roommate, Keily, was a star, too.  (That’s a whole different story.)  But Mom came for what was a very long recovery, 2-1/2 months, so felt like I’d be pretty much on my own in taking care of her.

It wasn’t long after she arrived before I realized that Mom without Dad was a different person.  Dad loved the caretaker role, and she was happy to let him play it.  Without Dad, Mom had opinions on stuff, could make decisions and could give savvy and sage advice.  I decided quickly that maybe she and I were related after all.

And as soon as we got to the hospital, I was incredibly glad she was there.  I was admitted and headed up to my room, sending Mom and Fred to get settled in their hotel.  It was about dinnertime, which didn’t matter to me; I’d been on a clear liquid diet for about a week.  And while I was starving, I knew I couldn’t eat.  I had my instructions from my doctor:

(1) Do not eat; (2) Continue taking your medicines just like you are now; (3) Show up to the hospital.  (Always pay attention to the details when your guts are on the line.)

Now Hopkins is one of the best hospitals in the country and it was also one of only two places in the country where the operation I was to have could be performed.  The surgery was brand, spankin’ new – just a smidge beyond experimental.  It was dangerous.  It was highly specialized.   My doctors were to take out my large intestine, rearrange what was left of my plumbing so that things worked normally, and close me up.  Two surgeries were involved – they had to give me a colostomy (ewwww – a bag) in between the two surgeries while my innards healed.  Only 100 of these surgeries had been done in the world.  I was my surgeon’s 7th.  I was scared shitless which is saying a whole lot for a girl with bowel trouble.

But when I got to the hospital, everything went wrong.  They tried to insist I eat; they tried to give me the wrong medicine; they forgot about me and left me hanging out in my room where I fell asleep for several hours before someone wondered who I was.  The grand finale came when two nurses wheeled in an EKG machine, hooked me up and turned it on – and the machine started smoking.   The nurses, trying valiantly not to laugh, had to quickly unplug it and get it out of there.

“MOM!!!!”

I called her at her hotel in a complete panic, hysterical.

“I am not going to have this surgery.  What kind of a hospital is this?  They can’t even get an EKG machine to work.  It was smoking Mom, SMOKING!!!!  I’m not.  I’m not. I’m not.”

How is it that Moms know just how to calm down the most hysterical daughter?  I was and she did.  And she didn’t need Dad one little bit.  Yup, she calmed me down, and then, I heard later, called the nurses’ desk and chewed them out royally.  I’m pretty sure that was the first time she’d ever chewed anyone out.  But she wasn’t going to let anybody or anything upset her daughter or get in the way of the surgery that her daughter desperately needed.  And whatever she said worked.  Nothing else got screwed up.  They paid attention to her daughter.

In fact, Helpless Mom became SuperMom.  She corralled doctors when they didn’t come in a timely manner, she sweet-talked most of the nurses and they seemed to come around more and more often as they laughed and joked with Mom.  She was on a first name basis with all the residents and interns, knew if they were married, where they were from.  They got a little bit of mothering whenever they came into the room, and she charmed the lot of them.

She was always full of laughter, encouragement and fun.  Except when her sixth sense told her that I was feeling sorry for myself; then she’d tell me to stop sniveling.  Sometimes I needed that.

Back at home, she was great too.  She found the grocery store and walked to and from, lugging bags of food.  She fed me and Keily, gave beer to the dog, helped me get upstairs and downstairs.  Helped me do many things that were totally disgusting.  She helped me be independent again.  We laughed our way through Christmas together and then my birthday in January.  We laughed for two months, barely coming up for air.  We talked a whole lot, too, about everything.  We became fast friends.

There is one incident though, that made me realize that I’d never really known her before.  Could this crazy woman really be my Mom?

We’d driven my VW to Baltimore for a pre-surgical checkup before the 2nd surgery, scheduled for the 9th of February.  It was late January, and there were several inches of snow on the ground.  On the way back home, the VW died in the center lane of a busy highway.  I managed to coast to the side of the road, where the bug sighed once and died.  Shit.  I was still not at my best, and the promise of a long snowy walk was not a pleasant one for either Mom or I.

But a blue Honda Civic two-door driven by a big burly guy pulled up along the roadside next to us.  He rolled down the window and asked if we needed a lift.  I was about to explain that my car had just died and would he please call a tow truck, when, well, Mom jumped into the back seat! I stood there with my mouth flapping. Because I could hear her voice from my childhood talking in the back of my head:

NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GET INTO A CAR WITH A STRANGE MAN.

THEY ARE ALL RAPISTS

But there she was, the woman who taught me never, ever, to get into a car with a rapist — she was in the back seat of a stranger/potential rapist’s car.  WTF?????  What the hell was she doing?

I didn’t know what else to do, so I got into the front seat.  And there on the floor was something else that shocked me:  A  teddy bear with a green t-shirt that said “I’m Going To Steal Your Love.”

“Wonderful,” I thought, “a rapist with a sense of humor.”

As it turned out, the guy wasn’t a rapist — really!  He took us to a reputable garage where they agreed to tow and fix my damn car.

But the adventure wasn’t over yet — we still needed to get home.  The hotel across from the garage had a shuttle bus that went to BWI Airport.  From there, we were told, there was another shuttle bus that could get us back to DC.  It sounded perfect.

Perfect except for the fact that we had hardly any money left  The shuttle to DC only took cash.  No credit cards.  No beads.  No chickens.  Cash.  Shit.

We didn’t have enough for the fare, and couldn’t have come up with any more money.  But that didn’t stop Mom.

She walked up to the shuttle driver and chatted her up.

“Do you think you can let us both on for $16.50?”

“Sorry M’am, the adult fare is $10.”

“What’s the child’s fee?  I mean, after all, she’s my little girl.”

The driver let us both on, shaking her head and smiling at Mom.  Feeling like she’d done a good deed (she had).

Mom was there for my second operation, and then she headed home with Dad who had come up for it.  When he arrived, Mom didn’t just let Dad do everything as she always had before.  She showed him around — showed him her turf.  She had realized that she really liked feeling in charge, and doing things on her own, for herself and for me.

For the rest of Mom’s life, she and I had a whole different relationship.  I had always loved her, always liked her.  But her care for me, and her resourcefulness and sense of duty and just plain fun let me develop a respect for her I’d never had.

I’ve always felt lucky in a way to have had these health problems.  Because they gave me my Mom.  I would never have known her, never have laughed with her so very much.  I wouldn’t have heard the stories of her life, told with love and humor, the way she did everything.

So on Thanksgiving, I will raise a special toast to Mom, my SuperMom.

Could you say “no” to this woman?

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Filed under Childhood Traumas, Driving, Family, Health and Medicine, Humor, Mom

The Well

Today I am hanging out over at Le Clown’s — at his serious site, Black Box Warnings.  Come on over.

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Filed under Family, Geneva Stories, Health and Medicine, Mental Health

He’ll Never Guess

This year, John and I are toning way down on gifts.  Money is a bit tight, and we have a house full of the junk from Christmases past.  We really don’t need any more.

So I’ve been trying to figure out something fun and different to give John this year.  He’s so hard to buy for.  He has plenty of clothes, electronics, crap.  He’s asked for a few nice books, and I’ll be glad to get them.  But I’ve been trying to figure out something different.  Unusual.  Unique.  A gift he’ll never forget.

You’ll be happy to learn that while reading the news today, I found it.  And it’s to die for.

I’m getting my husband a calendar.  Well, not just any calendar.  Nope.  He’s getting:

The Linder Coffin Calendar 

A calendar of coffins and cuties.

Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?

Have you ever seen anything like it?  I didn’t think so.  Here’s a link to the rest of the 2012 lineup.

Surprisingly, there’s apparently quite a ruckus over in Poland about this calendar.  Would you believe it, the Catholic Church is peeved.  They think that it is disrespectful.  The article I read said:

A church spokesman has said that human death should be treated with solemnity and not mixed up with sex.

 You know, I’m beginning to think those bishops and cardinals just don’t get sex!

Still, we’re not Catholic, so we don’t have to worry.  Beside’s I’m pretty sure John will love his calendar.  He certainly won’t be able to guess what it is.

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Filed under Books, Family, Fashion, Health and Medicine, Humor