Qu’est que c’est

24 04 2013

So I dreamed last night that T.’s very laid back dad was a homicidal maniac who chopped up her mom and was now trying to kill us.

Huh.

At least I saw a number of old friends in that dream.

And had a Snickers bar.





Chris Unger Baetzold, 1966-2012

26 09 2012

She was a funny roommate.

Don’t be fooled: she was a Badger, through and through.

Yes, she had a sense of humor—four women crammed into an apartment originally meant for two, you had to be able to laugh—but more than that, she was one of those people who couldn’t hold a frown.

Chris would come home from classes or a stint working food service at Chadbourne and relay something terrible, glare a bit, then immediately burst into laughter.

She was always cracking herself up. Hell, one day someone crashed into her (parked) car and left the scene; Chris ran up the steps into our apartment, yelled Someone hit my car! And then started laughing.

About that car: she let us drive it, as well as her Honda Spree. We drove the shit out of that Spree.

This was not an unusual occurrence in our apartment.

B. had known Chris since the two of them were little. Their families went camping together, and while they weren’t (I think. . .) roommates in Chadbourne, they did both live in the hall, maybe even on the same floor.

In any case, while I knew her before Madison, we became friends there, and, of course, roommates. B. and I were bridesmaids in her wedding, and I gave a reference for her when she became a cop in Connecticut.

About Connecticut: She moved there with her then-boyfriend, now husband widower, John. John lived on the first floor of our apartment building on Breese Terrace and, unlike a previous boyfriend (who had also lived on the first floor of our apartment building on Breese Terrace), was a good guy. He got into the chemical engineering PhD program at UConn, so Chris moved out there with him and became a cop in the meantime.

They married, moved to Minneapolis for John’s job at 3M, and had three kids. Chris and I didn’t really keep in touch after her wedding, but B. kept me updated on her life.

Chris, me, and B. after our Polar Bear swim in Lake Michigan, January 1987.

It fell to B. to inform me of Chris’s death.

She’d apparently had difficulty walking on September 14, went into the hospital, and died this past Sunday. Chris, who was always close to her family, was surrounded by them in the last moments of her good, if too short, life.

May she rest in peace.





It’s too late baby

29 07 2012

I used to be straight—that’s important to acknowledge.

I wasn’t repressing or in denial or running away from myself; before the age of 40, I was straight. After  40, not so much.

When I lived in Albuquerque I used to take my dirty clothes to a laundry a couple of blocks away. I got to know one of the women who ran the joint (damn, what’s her name? I can picture her, long dark hair, broad face, broad shoulders), and we’d talk while my clothes tumbled and I think we may have even gone out for beers a few time. She was a lesbian, was surprised I was not a lesbian, and stated with some confidence that I must therefore be bi.

You’re bi; you are. You know it. She wasn’t bullying or unkind, and said it with a fair amount of humor, but she meant it, too. I allowed for the possibility—I had plenty o’ friends who were lesbian, had lived with lesbians, had even had crushes on women—but it was an intellectual allowance, nothing more. Even my crushes were more emotional than anything else; I didn’t swoon at the thought of these women, and I certainly didn’t want to get naked with them.

I swooned around men. Not all men, not even most men, but if there was any swooning to be done, it was in the presence of a man.

So how to explain the switch? And it did feel as if a switch had been flipped: one moment, straight, the next moment, Holy cow!

I’ve mentioned before my friend M. thought this switch might have been related to a recent burst of creativity: I was still a bit dazed at having completed a draft of my first novel (that would be The Unexpected Neighbor, link on the sidebar) when prior to writing it I didn’t know that I could write it, had been in New York for less than a year, and my life was kinda shitty but not in a shitty way (if you know what I mean, which I’m not sure I do).

Anyway.

She thought I was opening myself up in ways I hadn’t before, and that this new interest in women was all a part of that. I still don’t know that I accept that, but since I don’t have any better story, I figured I might as well use M’s.

That I don’t have a better story, however, does get in the way of coming out to the folks who knew me when I was straight. Stating that I’m bisexual to new friends isn’t a big deal—there’s nothing to explain—but how to explain to old friends that before I was this and now I’m that?

Perhaps the problem is that I feel the need to explain, but wouldn’t you? And if your friend told you that she was this and now she’s that, wouldn’t you want to know?

Actually, when I put it like that, it’s not a dilemma, not really: One of things friends do is hash over what’s going on with ourselves, so this would just be another ingredient in the hash.

No, the dilemma is in dealing with the skepticism that I was ever not bisexual, or that I’m saying I’m bisexual because I’m unwilling to come out all of the way as a lesbian.

I know, I know: tough shit, people will believe what they want to believe. But given that among my many agonies is that regarding what to tell those close to me about me, if I am to reveal something, then I want it understood that I am revealing something true about myself.

What is true may change, but it still matters, and the truth is, I used to be straight, and now I’m not. Don’t know why, don’t know how, but there it is.

There it is.





All things weird and wonderful, 8

25 10 2011

About that last post. . .

Lynda Barry, as ever

I’ve never been a fan of bugs. Ladybugs, okay. Butterflies, yes, and caterpillers, cool (centipedes: not cool) but anything else, nuh-uh.

Some just bothered me, the way they bother everyone—flies, ants, mosquitoes—while others (silverfish: brrr!) seriously freaked me out. (That may have had something to do with the proximity of the attic to my childhood bedroom, and on more than one occasion pulling back the bedspread to find a—brrr!—silverfish darting about the sheets. Nobody wants that.)

Spiders, for some reason, never really bothered me, although I have a memory of getting up close and personal with a daddy longlegs in the crawlspace underneath my cousin’s cottage and seeing fangs. (That can’t be right, but that’s what the data in me old noggin says.) I was offered the chance of ex post facto explanation of this bug-discrepancy when I learned that spiders were arachnids, not insects, but, honestly, I think this is just a glitch in my general bug-phobia.

My friend B., on the other hand, didn’t mind bugs at all. Worms and snakes (or maybe it was just snakes) freaked her out, but she’d pick up a bug and bring it in close and just sort of go, “huh”.

(Excuse me for the break, but there’s one other bug that’s cool. Wait, two. Dragonflies. And praying mantes. THE ANTI-BUG POINT STILL HOLDS.)

We joked that we’d be great in the rain forest: I’d be clutching her screaming about all the bugs, and she’d be clutching me screaming about all the slimy crawly things.

Still, growing up in SmallTown Wisconsin, we rarely encountered any truly egregious species. Hell, I didn’t even see my first live cockroach until I was in Madison, and it was dead. (You know what I mean.)

Roaches, man, I. . . can’t. Let’s just say that living in Albuquerque, with it’s big-roaches-are-the-southwestern-ant was a trial. And the first time one flew off the wall at me, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh, it’s a wonder my eyes didn’t curl into the back of my head permanently.

And no, calling it a “water bug” doesn’t make it so.

(My grad-school friend D. told me of the time he was living near the U of Chicago, stuck his foot into his shoe, and, well, you know where this is going, right? I shook out my shoes before I put them on EVERY TIME when I live in Albuquerque. One never dropped out. Which was good, as I almost certainly would have tossed those shoes.)

I once looked at an apparently nice apartment in Steven’s Square in Minneapolis, and just after the rental agent assured me the building was roach-free, one fell on to the floor between us. We were both mortified.

My completely irrational and outsized fear of roaches actually impeded possible earlier moves to New York. (One of those moves landed me in Albuquerque. Oh, irony!). K. was a fellow grad student who had attended NYU, and she described how she couldn’t keep food in her apartment, for all the scuttling bugs. All those years, and I still remember the story. (That, and K. wore big wool turtleneck sweaters and kickin’ boots.)

And now, yes, I’ve seen the scuttling bugs in my apartment, and I get sprayed, but I have more-or-less successfully suppressed my hysteria at the sight of a roach and have managed to stop my thoughts from galloping toward the if-there’s-one-in-sight-there’s-twenty-thousand-in-hiding multiplier; now, my reaction is a curse, a sigh, a scoop-into-the-toilet-and-flush, and near-instant obliteration of the fact that there ever was a bug.

(Why the scoop-and-flush? You don’t actually expect me to step on those things, do you?)

J., who grew up in Tucson, did help to put the little bastards into context when she noted, at least they don’t bite—unlike, say, scorpions.

So, no, roaches aren’t weird and wonderful and neither are scorpions, but Lynda Barry is and this made me think of B. and J. and that is, if not weird, certainly wonderful.

On a completely unrelated note, B. and I, who volunteered as camp counselors (lifeguards! the best duty!) at Camp Bird in Crivitz, Wisconsin, were walking back from our cabin to the nightly campfire at the waterfront (which looked just like the waterfront in the Friday the 13th movies) and joking about, I dunno, whatever, when we heard this SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMIII IIIIINNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG sound slicing through the cabins just to the right of us.

We stopped dead on the trail. Whatthehellwasthat?! Was that a naked bloody screaming boy running through the woods with an axe?

We stood there. And stood there. And stood there. I don’t think either of us had a flashlight. And we stood there some more, until someone else with a flashlight came by and said something like, Hey.

We later told ourselves it was probably just a loon*. They had them there, and didn’t it sound like the screaming went over the lake? A naked bloody screaming boy with an axe couldn’t fly over the lake, could he? Could he?!

A loon, yeah.

_____

*Click the tremolo—that comes closest. And if it wasn’t a loon. . . oh, come on, it was. It had to be.





Hello hello

14 09 2011

I don’t usually read my comments.

I mean, I do, but as appended to posts, not in the dashboard. (No, I spend my time in the dashboard cleaning the gunk out of the Civil War page. All those links just attracts the spam like, um, flies to spam. Or something.)

Anyway, when I did happen to note that BJ was responding to some old posts, and was working her way through my archive, I was delighted.

BJonthegrid, you see, is a regular commenter on TNC’s site, and despite Miss Emily‘s best efforts (thanks, Emily, for the TNC blogroll and your many exhortations to check us out!), I don’t get many of those folks strolling through my site.

So here one was! Excellent.

Except.

Except there was that comment about saving her a ton of money on food. Huh? Maybe she has me confused with someone else, but, whatever. She’s here, she’s reading my blog, she’s reading my novel—it’s all good.

Except, well, why is she using BJonthegrid there and BJ here? Eh, maybe she’s more comfortable going with the short name over here, away from the main drag of the Atlantic site—kind of like slipping into flip-flops rather than bothering with real shoes.

And then there was the comment on my Sound of Music post about DW retiring. DW? Who? What?

OH! That DW! As in, D-Director, formerly of SmallTown’s high school theatre program. (She was also an English teacher, but, uh, let’s just say her talents were better served on the stage.)

How the hell would BJonthegrid know about DW? That would mean she’d have to know about SmallTown, and theatre, and one or three other things about me. Which would be strange, since as far as I know, we’ve never met.

Whooooo-oooooo, choo choo pulls into the station: This BJ is not, as I put it in a post at TNC’s place, that BJ.

No, this BJ is an old, old friend, one who I kept fed at Madison’s food service (don’t ask how), but haven’t seen since. I think I recall my sister telling me that he worked at SmallTown High School was her daughter’s volleyball coach; was that how he found me? Or is it that he now works in the same school district as that niece?

Back to whatever: it doesn’t matter.

I’ve stated repeatedly that I have no desire to set up shop on Facebook, grumping that I don’t particularly want to make it any easier than all this dad-gum technology already makes it for people to find me. And I’ll go on harrumphing about privacy and what’s past and whatnot.

Still, allow me my inconsistencies: I remember that BJ was a thoroughly decent guy, and I’m as delighted to have him here as I was to have that other BJ.





Where never is heard a discouraging word

16 08 2011

So I went away for awhile.

Surprised my mom for her 70th birthday. Made her happy.

And I saw old friends, of course, which meant I drank and ate (cheese curds!) and laughed and drank and ate and laughed. That was good. Made me happy.

I walked all over town, down past the dime store and up and around the old elementary school and junior high (now just a middle school) and over to the athletic field.

It seemed so big, back then. Now, it was just quiet.

And T. and I walked amongst the sand dunes  at a park we call Terry-Andrae but the state calls Kohler-Andrae:

When I was a kid my family regularly camped at Terry-Andrae, along with a group of my parents’ friends. (I smoked my first cigarette at 9 with B., who was 11. Coughed. A lot.) We’d tear around on bikes or go tromping along the dunes or thread our way through the trees—anything where we could pretend we were completely on our own.

Anyway, I remember the dunes as more sand than green, and there were no wooden pathways through the ups-and-downs, but, y’know, folks nowadays are much more concerned about preservation than anyone was back in the ’70s.

We used to launch ourselves off the tops of the dunes, counting on the sand below to give and slide down with us. That lower part of the dune, looking out over Lake Michigan, is still sandy (didn’t take a shot of that), so it could still be done.

You might get yelled at by park rangers, though.

No ranger in sight at the park below the falls in town:

The river is brown and muddy; it’s been brown and muddy for as long as I can remember.

My mom, who grew up in town, remembers when the dyes of the woolen factory (pictured below; now converted into apartments) would turn the river green or red or blue.

That rusted-brown bridge in the back? That was an active railroad bridge back in the day (since decommissioned, although there is talk of bringing it back), one which we would cross as kids.

Weren’t supposed to, of course, and you had to screw up your courage to do it the first time, but after awhile it was second nature to skip across the ties rather than take the sidewalk on the “regular” bridge.

Yeah, that’s all closed off now, too, though I bet kids are still finding their ways across that bridge.





More stuff from my bulletin board

9 08 2011

J. Solomon, from an old (late 1980s) Daily Cardinal. This is the waxed version, lifted off the page (after it went to print) one of the nights I served as night editor.

I gave a copy of it to my therapist at the time; she was amused.

From a mid-1990s trip west with L., S., and J. Sally told us about her son in Minneapolis, and encouraged us to get our own coffee (which we then offered to other diners at her fine establishment). Other locals regaled us with tales of stupid tourists, which we, as presumably not-stupid tourists, greatly enjoyed.

S. thought she had a tick and asked me to check her head. I saw something, but didn’t think it was a tick. I told her to check it out. (Later, when I found out that ticks aren’t always black or brown, I thought, Oh, that might have been a tick.)

Dubois is on the way out of Yellowstone Grand Tetons National Park and is, of course, pronounced Do-boys.

Self-explanatory. Don’t think I ever wore it, though. I think it’s only ever been on my bulletin board.

I think this one was pulled from the Madison weekly—The Isthmus, I think.

Or it coulda been from the Twin Cities Reader.

Either way, I was full of mental anguish at the time.

Really wish I hadn’t cut off the person quoted. I think this is from the Village Voice.

First time I heard this basic philosophy expressed in so pithy a manner.

I do like it.

From L., I think.

And, just because.





It was twenty years ago today

10 04 2011

I was standing in the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, chatting with my sister-in-law and nephew, when I was thrown back in time.

There was K.

K. is the sister to B., who led the choir in which my nephew sang, and for which he and twenty or so of his classmates and a few parents flew to New York to sing. I mentioned something to my sister-in-law about B., who I hadn’t seen for over twenty years, when I last saw his sister.

“There she is,” s-i-l, said.

Where?

“There, in the black sweater, standing next to him.”

Holy shit.

It took a moment to recognize her, but, yep, there she be. I walked over to her group and stood there for a moment, waiting for someone to finish talking. K. looked over at me, kinda squinted, then her face and eyes and mouth and arms flew wide open.

Oh my god!

She lives in Jersey, with her wise-ass husband and their three sweet kids and four cats (“never look at kittens when you’re in a bar drinking”), runs a school for the performing arts, and occasionally performs around town.

(I’ve mentioned K. once before: She was Maria in our high school’s production of The Sound of Music, and she’s one of the reasons that I hang on to that memory.)

Oh, and that JG Wentworth opera commercial? She sings all the female parts for that.  I think that’s the right one; maybe it’s all of the commercials—I don’t remember, what with being a wee dazed and all.

I never thought I’d see her again.

I don’t know that I will. I mean, I gave her my number and e-mail and we talked about meeting up in the city and her giving me a tour of her school but, honestly, who knows.

It would be lovely, I think, to see her again.

And if not, it was lovely simply to see her again.





I’d like to stay and taste my first champagne

30 12 2010

The hills are quiet.

Agathe von Trapp, eldest daughter of George Ritter von Trapp, stepdaughter to Maria Augusta Kutschera, older sister to 9 siblings, companion to  Mary Louise Kane, died Tuesday at the age of 97.

Her alter ego, of course, was Liesl, memorably played by Charmian Carr from the 1965 version of The Sound of Music.

Here’s her signature scene from the movie (skip ahead to the :30 mark)

I never liked Rolf, even before I knew what Nazis were—he was a smug prig. And, of course, a Nazi. (I don’t even much like this scene—those lyrics!—but it would be a cheat not to show this.)

Agathe was not Liesl, and The Sound of Music was not a documentary; it also just possible that life was not as idyllic for the von Trapp children as was suggested by the movie.

I don’t care.

I love The Sound of Music. Love love love.

I saw it for the first time when I was around 6; it was playing at a cinema in Sheboygan, and my mom and grandma took my sister and me to see it. I was opposed going in—a musical? where they’ll be singing the whole time? how awful!—but boy oh boy was I a convert coming out.

Mountains! Singing! Adventure! A lake in the backyard! Julie Andrews! Bad guys! Escape from bad guys! Mountains!

Really, what’s not to love?

What cemented this adoration, however, was my role in my high school’s production of the musical. K. was Maria, M. was the Baroness, and I (eek!), I got my first speaking role as Brigitta, the daughter who makes her entrance reading a book.

(This matters because one night F. (Liesl) and T. (Louisa) and I went out for a little pre-rehearsal nip. By the time we made it to the auditorium, we we all roaring drunk—F., the driver, the drunkest of all. I was lucky in not having to march and march and march and hold the line, but even when I did finally make my entrance and take my place in line, I had difficulty (as did F. and T.) remaining erect. Some time later (and while rehearsing a different scene) F. was ordered off the stage by the D.-the-director, and when she refused to leave—screaming “I”m not drunk!”—D. high-heeled her way up to the stage and threw her off. T. and I thought it best to leave the auditorium at this point.)

I had a ball in this play, and not just because of the drinking. Play rehearsal was 6-10 MTTh, and after school until 6 on Wednesdays; as the opening approached, we had Friday night and Saturday rehearsals as well. All that time together, on stage and down front and in the green room and the wings and hallways and on the catwalk and in the way back of the auditorium, it was cozy and liberating all at the same time. The whole place was ours.

M. and I were already friends, but K. and I became quite close, as I did with F. and T. Since all of them were older than me, we didn’t have much to do with one another during the school-day, but the intimacy of the shared work remained. Almost all of us in the cast were theatre kids, weird, slightly disreputable (well, except for K., who was unimpeachable), and if we didn’t swagger like jocks, we did delight in our performing selves.

It was a wonderful time. Not perfect (see: F. getting tossed from the stage), and not without the drama of both adolescence and the high school theatre scene, but oh, we were all so alive, so willing to give ourselves wholly over to this production, and to one another.

I can’t live like that, not all the time, and maybe, now, not at all. But I’m glad I was there, I’m glad that it’s all still with me.

So Agathe, even though The Sound of Music was only barely your story, still, thank you, and rest in peace.





Love me, love me, say that you love me

26 09 2010

Love isn’t really my thing.

I don’t have anything against it, and it’s not that I don’t believe that it exists (whatever that means), but love and I don’t have much to do with each other.

I’m thinking about this because I referred to love in the comments to my last post, asking if someone were told that her belief was hated but that she was loved, would she, in fact, feel loved?

It was not so much the definition of love I was after so much as the question of being, but, nonetheless, it felt a bit. . . odd to use the term.

People have told me they loved me. My parents. My friend M. (who knows how it discomfits me). And I would guess that at least some of my friends would say, if not to me then at least about me, that they love me.

I don’t disbelieve them: if they say they love me, then okay. But I don’t feel it.

And I don’t feel badly about it. A little bad, insofar as I don’t say it back—this is one lie I can’t quite manage—but I don’t feel this great gaping and gasping pain of the absence of it in my life. Perhaps I can say that I feel the absence, but it is simply absence, something I register, and nothing more.

Have I ever felt love? I don’t know. I remember as a child telling my parents I loved them, and I think I would have said that I loved people (I certainly loved my pets) and meant it, but I also remember feeling that there was something obligatory in the saying: It was always tied, always. . . crimped or stapled into some line of duty.

I don’t remember it ever having been—although it must have been, once, it must have been—free.

And because it wasn’t free, because there was always that stitch in the side of any profession of love, it felt like a lie, a compulsion in order to reassure those around me that. . . oh, christ, I don’t know what. That I belonged? I can’t remember this, either, can’t remember why I felt guilty for saying it, only that I did, that I questioned whether I meant it.

This isn’t about conditional versus unconditional love: conditional doesn’t equal coerced. But I did feel compelled, for whatever reason, felt that there were certain things I must feel about certain people, and that I had to rank these people in a particular order—family before friends, parents before all others—and that to break ranks was a kind of betrayal.

And I betrayed.

Again, I don’t know where these feelings came from. Parents are the usual suspects, but they did (do) love us, and they did (do) try to be good parents. Perhaps it was a matter of their uncertainties and my sensitivities colliding in a way no one intended, but leaving us all damaged, nonetheless.

Damaged, hm. No, I’m not pained, but I do recognize that this absence is, indeed, an absence. And I wonder what its presence is like, and whether I, so long used to living without it, could even ever know what love is.

I don’t know what I’m missing, which makes me wonder what I’m missing.








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