Saturday, October 29, 2011

Grand D

She remembered how Grand D would keep his big hand wrapped around the remaining deck while he carefully considered the solitaire tableau before him. He played deliberately, breathing in a way that she could hear him from the other side of the room where she sat on the round hooked rug, playing with her paper dolls.

"Hmph," she would hear him say before dealing out the next three cards in a careful fan. His blue sweater smelled like mothballs when she went over to kiss him goodnight, Grandmother holding tightly to her hand as she guided her over to his side. "Well, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite." He didn't smile big because he didn't have his teeth in.

He cheated. He would shuffle the deck when he wasn't winning. She didn't know it was cheating then, only later after he was gone.

But she remembered.

Her pink pajamas were soft and smelled like the sunshine and the salty air coming up from the ocean. She had seen them hanging out on the line that day. There was sand in her bed and Grandmother swept her hand across the sheets once, twice and three times. But she could still feel a little down below her toes when she stretched her leg all the way out.

She went to sleep smelling the cigar smoke that drifted in her window. Grand D always smoked a cigar at night, sitting out on the screened in porch with his glass of brandy. His best customers sent him boxes of cigars when a deal went well. She never got tired of watching him open the boxes. He always looked so excited. Watching him made her dance a little with her own excitement.

Mama woke her up when they came in from the dance. "Alice, dear, we're back. I wanted to give you a kiss." Then Papa came in too. "Let the girl sleep, dear." And then she was asleep again. Maybe she just dreamed it?

In the morning there was oatmeal that Grand D had soaked in milk overnight. It was creamy with big, plumped raisins. Grandmother added a little brown sugar. "Do you want to go swimming today, Alice?" But she didn't. She wanted to play with her paper dolls. How beautiful they were! There were costumes for fancy parties and hats to match. There were play clothes and different shoes. She talked for the dolls, walking them through different scenes, each with a little something that was scary, from which the dolls would always be rescued.

At nap time, Grand D read her a story about a blue balloon and its travels across the world. Alice dreamed about Africa, with its wild animals. But she wasn't frightened. In her dream, she rode a lion and talked with zebras and the zebras talked right back. Grand D told the story so well it was alive in her dream.

Now Grand D was gone, but she remembered.

She remembered.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

strawberry fields forever

United Healthcare declined to cover the cost of anesthesia during the extraction of my #15 molar. As a result, I was offered nitrous oxide as an alternative. I asked questions. Will I still feel pain? No, we will also use Novocaine. The nitrous oxide will relax you. Will I remember? Yes. Do people have allergic reactions? No. Okay, let's do it.

Back went the chair. On went the mask. Breathe deeply through your nose. Try not to talk because it will take longer for it to take effect. Okay. When did you last eat? This morning. What time? 9 a.m. What did you eat? Peanut butter toast and coffee. I thought I wasn't supposed to be talking? Okay, breathe deeply through your nose.

I don't feel anything. I like that radio station. How are you feeling? Fine. Ohhh, what is that? My arms feel really heavy. I can feel my breathing. My heart is racing! Calm down. Strawberry fields forever. How appropriate. In. Out. Whoaaaaaaaaaaa. I want to jump out of the chair and run out of the room. Calm down. They will never know you are feeling whacko if you don't say anything. Is this normal? Should I feel this way? Or am I going insane and just think I'm okay? Are you doing okay? (Nod.) Open. Open wide. Wider. Good. Again. Wider. Annnnnnnnd. There we go.

Is it over? Wow, that was easy. Hmmm. In. Out. Big breath. Strawberry fields forever. How long have I been here? Each song only lasts three minutes. That's the same song, isn't it? I love the Beatles. John Lennon. I feel psychedelic. Giggle. Did I just giggle out loud? Opening one eye: Who is that sitting there? Oh, she's monitoring me to make sure I don't die. That means it isn't over. Oh, you fool, that was just them giving you the Novocaine. They haven't even started yet. Giggle. Did I just giggle again? She must think I am high. At the church. I'm bringing a covered dish. I have to have it ready for the 6 p.m. What? Ohhh, what is that? I can feel my hair growing. Why do they keep talking? Do they know how talking sounds & feels to someone on nitrous oxide? They should shut up. No talking, except about the procedure. I just got off the phone from xcrs7yt (unintelligible). She asked me p9sx63#nw (unintelligible). Can you believe it? (Everyone laughs.) Why are they talking about other patients in front of me? That is unprofessional. And it freaks me out a little. What will they say about me after I leave? Am I a good patient? I wish they would shut up. SHUT THE F UP. Did I just yell that? No, I just imagined it. This is taking FOREVER!!!!

How are you doing? Are you feeling a little funny? Oh, yeah. It's the 60's over here. (Everyone laughs.) Okay, let's see what we've got here. Open. Open wide. Open. Okay. Little pressure. Good. Suction. This is weird. How many people are in the room? Am I still in the little room where I started? What if I stopped breathing right now? Would they save me? Can I trust these people to save me? They laughed at that other patient. Daddy is out in the waiting room. What would he do if they told him that I stopped breathing? He might have a heart attack. 

Open. Wider. Lot of pressure now. Okay. Good. Wow. Look at that root. Let me ... let's put this chair back a bit more. Can you see that? Yes. That is something. I have long roots. I think I remember hearing that before. Got it. Good. Wow. Strawberry fields forever. I need to work on my presentation for Phoenix. Do NOT start thinking about work right now. No matter what you're doing, you're always thinking about work. Whoa. I feel floaty. Floaty. Floaty. Floaty. Did they pull the tooth? Was that the tooth being pulled? I think the tooth is gone. Good. Oh, I like that song too.

Okay, let's get this laser fired up. No. That's it. Okay, open, let's put a little gauze there to protect your teeth. Bite down. There you go. Good. Gag. What is that smell? That is the smell of my flesh burning. Gross. Annnnd ... all done. You'll feel a little hole in your lip. It'll fill in. We'll send that off for a biopsy, but I expect it will be just fine. I can stick my whole tongue in the hole in my lip. I hope it doesn't look weird. Nothing could look more weird than that thing that was on my lip. I hope it isn't cancerous. What if it is? What if I've been working all of these years so I can have a happy retirement and then I get lip cancer and die? Can you die from lip cancer? Probably. Especially if you wait for almost two years to get something checked out!!! Stop it. Do not yell at yourself.

Now we'll just give you straight oxygen and you should feel a little more normal soon. I can not imagine feeling normal. Okay, you did real good. Laurie is going to go over your aftercare and we'll see you back here next week. Whoa, I feel really funny. I'm standing, but I feel like I floated into this standing position. Should I be up already?

I'll walk you out to the reception area. Loooooooooonnnnnnnng hallway. It's like that scene from Willie Wonka or Alice in Wonderland. I still feel pretty loopy. Do you want to sit in recovery for a while? No, I'm good. Teenagers tell us they like it. Okay, here you are. Susan can check you out. That will be $100 for the nitrous oxide and we'll send the rest to your insurance company. Let me just get your prescription for Vicodin. Look at all the colors on the file labels. The room is small, but laid out just right for the number of people in it. How long have I been standing here? Here you go and you can go right through that door there.

There's Daddy! Are you done? (Nod.) Can you talk? Yes. Ready to go? Yes. How was it? Weird. I feel floaty. Let's go home. Okay. Thank you for bringing me Daddy. You're welcome, my dear.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

epiphany, scintilla, gambol, mondegreen

Does every writer have a love of language? Or are there writers that just write, without any thought of the beauty of the individual word? I love the sound of some words.


My parents were both Methodist ministers, so this word first existed in my life as a day in January on which Christians celebrate the manifestation of Jesus as the Son of God. Throughout my childhood, we listened to the recording of Gian Carlo Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors, the opera that tells the story of a young boy whose home is visited by the three kings who are following the star to the manger where the baby Jesus waits. It was so exciting to imagine each scene as it unfolded.

Later, the word took on a broader meaning for me as I began to read the great authors and noticed that main characters in novels often had an epiphany that would change the course of the story and/or would signal some change in a person's willingness to continue on an existing path. I can remember thinking that I had a choice about each step in my life.

But I love the word most because of the way it sounds in its spoken form. It is an elegant word and one that would typically only be known to someone with some education. Hearing someone use the word would signal to the listener that the speaker was in touch with a thought process that existed slightly above the fray of daily living. I love that moment in conversation with a new acquaintance when it becomes clear to me that the person is a thinker and a reader.


Courtroom dramas often feature someone uttering the phrase "without a shred of evidence". The first time I heard the phrase "without a scintilla of evidence", I instantly understood the meaning. It made me smile, because I love coming into contact with a new word. I often do acrostic puzzles and I love it when this word is included.

Scintilla feels like a feminine word to me because it sounds curvy. So it's appropriate that one of the X-Men female characters is named Scintilla. You won't have heard of her unless you are a comic book reader or collector. Scintilla had the power to shrink herself, which came in handy during battle. (Where'd she go?) She served as a member of the Imperial Guard in the Shi'ar Empire.

I-Scintilla is a band out of Chicago, Illinois that offers up a driving beat and loud guitar riffs, coupled with a gyrating female vocalist who is prone to heavy make-up and tight clothing - just the thing for young males who enjoy listening to electric-techno-rock. I am NOT a fan of this genre of music, but even I have to admit the appeal of Prey On You, the lyrics of which sketch the story of a leader who leads with lies. I wonder who ...


I can't decide whether this word sounds like it is moving because I already know the meaning or whether it is similar in nature to words like gallop or cruise or tumble, which each sound like the movements they describe. The image that comes to mind when I hear this word is that of a grown person skipping & dancing about in a merry fashion, without a care in the world and without a single worry about how he looks or how he is being perceived. I fairly hear the "la-la-la" singing that must accompany the movements.

But of course there is more. Gambol was also a powerful character in the Batman comic series. He was a crime lord in Gotham City, leader of a Black mob. You may remember Gambol as the character who the Joker holds a knife to as he tells the "why so serious" story, explaining how he got the scars around his mouth that create his signature grimacing smile. EEK!

Gambol is also a lesser known game application for the iPhone or iPad which features a ball-shaped critter navigating courses and obstacles. It is similar to Sonic the Hedgehog, but not nearly as awesome in my opinion! It has not achieved the fame of Angry Birds, for instance. Chances are you haven't even heard of it!


And now we get to my favorite word, although it isn't the actual word that appeals to me this time. This word doesn't trip off the tongue like the previous three words do. It is the meaning of the word that carries the delight for me. It describes a word or phrase that is misheard, often to comic delight. The origin is from a 1954 essay written by American writer Sylvia Wright, who coined the term based on a poem she had misheard as a young girl. When her mother read her the poem, which featured the phrase "and laid him on the green", she heard "and Lady Mondegreen". So she proposed this new word to describe situations in which we mishear poetic verse, which later included song lyrics.

One of the most famous lyrical examples of which you will no doubt be aware is from the song "Blinded by the Light", which features the phrase "revved up like a deuce", which has famously been misheard as "wrapped up like a douche". I absolutely remember sitting with friends, playing that part of the song over and over again, discussing it and giggling. Then there was also the famous Jimmy Hendrix lyric that was misheard by so many. He sang "excuse me while I kiss the sky" and many people heard "scuze me, while I kiss this guy".

There are so many other words that I love, but I will stop here. What are your favorite words? Why?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

brick layer, cake maker, indian chief

Years ago, I imagined that I would retire at the age of 50-something, then embark on a journey that would call on me to do a different job every year. I would start my new job on January 1st or 2nd of each year with the plan to work until the end of the calendar year. For some crazy reason, I thought I wanted to spend one of those years as a bricklayer and one in a bakery shop. I have no idea why those two jobs popped in my head, but there they were and there they have stayed.

My plan included a fantasy to write a small book about each experience, which would lead to a book series, which would lead to appearances on Conan and Letterman (never Leno, although let's face it, I would so do that show if it was the first one to come calling). Naturally, the publicity would lead to increased sales which would end up where all of my fantasies end up - with me not having to work for a living.

At the rate I am going now, I will be working until I drop into a grave. There will be no bricklaying. (I'm sure a bricklayer would read this and think - she really thinks she could learn bricklaying in one year?) Also, one day working under a blazing sun would probably lead me to run as fast as I could in the opposite direction from bricklaying.

But a girl can dream, can't she?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


My friend Alice is trying to make a major decision in her life. She wants to stop working, but really can't afford to do so, unless ... she lives in a double wide trailer in a 55+ community. She is not the type to live in a trailer, but she can't stop thinking about it.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful," she asks me, "if we could use our days to help others? I'd be the youngest person living there. I could really make a difference in the lives of the people around me."

"But how would you pay bills without an income?" Naturally, I am stuck on the idea of how I would eat without income. And how will she survive without the Internet? Cable?

"I can cut back on food. I survived college with next to nothing to eat. And my daughter will have me over for dinner every now and then. And the clubhouse is wired for Internet. I could carry my laptop over there every day. And do I really need HBO?"

No HBO??? This is survivalist mentality. I'm trying to be supportive, but the thought of missing Boardwalk Empire ... is that a fair trade for not working?

"You could buy the unit next to mine. We could have a lot of fun!"