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.








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