A chocolate dipped spoonful of my friend Laura in a mo, but first, I have to tell you that over the last coupla days, I have gotten e-mails from a couple of regs asking if I hate them.
Beloveds, NO! Of COURSE not. I ADORE you. It is not me that hates you. It is TECHNOLOGY.
Now granted, Technology can sometimes be wonderful. For example, because of Technology, the comments on FTK are NOT 4 parts actual comments and 187 parts links to on-line casinos and â€œsuper online drug stopsâ€ where you can illegally obtain prescription pharmaceuticals that will help â€œprincesses not whizgiggle at your member, and stop the fellows from point at your â€˜tinyâ€™ when you unveil in the federal W.C.â€ <---The quotes were culled from three actual ads that Technology has flagged as spam and excluded from the comments. THANKS, TECHNOLOGY!
BUT. ON THE OHER HAND. Technology is fickle and a shrew. And while I love Technology when Technology works, it does not always. And when it STOPS working, I tend to say Very Bad Words and ask Mr. Husband to deal with Technology, because me and Not Working Technology in a room together is one fickle shrew too many.
SO, anyway, at least 3 people have recently been told by Technology that their comments have not been â€œapproved,â€ and they must wait for me to SCREEN them and decide if they are worthy. This is a big fat lie. Comments are not at all moderated on FTK. If you are a person, your comment should appear instantly. If you are a spam spider, Technology bans you. BUT, sometimes you are a person, and technology MISTAKES you for a spam spider, and then Technology LIES and says comments are moderated and bans you and I never even know you are TRYING to comment.
IF TECHNOLOGY is telling you that you are a Spam Spider and you really feel you are a person with free will and an immortal soul, then you should write to my web master --- bob at mcbob dot net ---- and tell him Technology is treating you like a Cialis ad. He can clean Techâ€™s glasses and show her that you are, in fact, not a willie-drug or a virtual roulette table. Just let him know. Because like most bloggers, I live for the comments, oh YA, and I want yours to post.
SPEAKING of free will and an immortal soul, Laura Florand
has BOTH, and I reallyreallyreally double plus like her, and I love her book, BLAME IT ON PARIS so much I blurbed it,
so I am having her back to answer three DIFFERENT questions.
JJ: Your main character seems to have a lot in common with you. Youâ€™re both named Laura Florand, for one thing. And for another, the book is secretly NOT EVEN FICTION, for Peteâ€™s sake. Oops. SO much for â€œsecrets.â€ Is fictional Laura different from you?
LF: Well, as youâ€™ve so aptly noted, we share the same identity. However, Iâ€™ve heard sheâ€™s funnier. That is, when my book came out, one of my best friends, Dwayne, who is IN the book, said, â€œI didnâ€™t know Laura could be that funny on purpose.â€
Maybe I should say FORMER best friend.
JJ: I know you blog yourself over at Laura Florand dot com Why do you blog and does it feed you or take energy from you?
LF: You know, when SÃ©bastien asked me if I wanted to have a blog on my website, I said, â€œWellâ€¦I guess so. It will be an easy space for me to post news and contests, right?â€
But it turned out that I just loved the contact. It is so much fun to be able to meet my own readers and to be able to have a conversation with them. I like to go and visit their blogs, too, as much as I can. And I love the way it gets you observing your own life, the funny or beautiful things you see that you can share.
I share a lot of chocolate. What can I say? I find great beauty in chocolate. And quite a bit of humor, too. But it IS very time-consuming. I have a baby and I also work full-time, plus write a book a year, so I have to be careful not to let too much of my writing time be blog-writing (or visiting) time.
JJ: YES â€“ you sent me the most LOVELY perfect MICE truffles as a thank you once. Mice shaped. Not mice FLAVORED. An important distinction. They had little silk tails. I could hold them by the tails and lower them into my gaping maw. BUT I DIGRESS... What's the best STUPID LITTLE perk about having your book sell? You must here confess what RIDICULOUS dorky thing has pleased you WELL beyond the scope of it...
LF: Oh, oh, somebody sent me the most marvelous BLAME IT ON PARIS handmade BOOKMARK. And someone else sent me CHOCOLATE. And one of your very own blog readers came up to me at a Susan Elizabeth Phillips signing and said, â€œLauraâ€”are you Laura of the Truffles?â€ My joy knew no bounds.
CONGRATS to PATTY H. and LIZ A. You each got ALL TEN RIGHT.
Because I refuse to put two names in a hat, send your mailing addresses to joshilyn at joshilynjackson dot com and both of you will get Sin in the Second City and signed paperbacks of gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia. If you want them INSCRIBED to a particular person say so in your email!
Desi A. got NINE correct, so you too should send me your addy and pick a title, and I will mail you your choice of gods or Between as a runner up prize.
Honorable mentions to those who got 8:
Melisa (yes, with one s)
Chris Tequila Cookies
1) KAREN had the Woobie watch. It was this HUGE leather MANACLE, so unwieldy that when she walked in it, passersby instinctively put up hands to keep her from tipping over. Because of this contest, she is threatening to have it repaired and WEAR it. In PUBLIC. This, by the way, was the MOST frequently missed one â€“ I think maybe 4 people got this right? Up until about a month ago when my friend Anna MADE me a watch out of beads, I donâ€™t think I had OWNED a watch in ten years. Even then, it was a finger ring watch and I took it in the shower the day after I bought it and ruined it and just wore it anyway.
Even now, on days when the one Anna made is looped around my wrist, I ask people what time it is because I forget itâ€™s a watch and that I am wearing it. It seems so unlikely. I also never know what date it is, even up unto the month. And more than once, writing a check, I have had to stop and make sure I had the year right. I am not what you would call Grounded. Karen is, mostly because her OLD WATCH is so huge it could ground a DIRIGIBLE. *rimshot!*
2) Karen can dance. This was a Gimme. I cannot dance. I am so unco-ordinated that I can trip over dust.
3) I own a pair of gauchos. I wear them. Shut. Up.
4) Karen used to be blonde.
5) I do not like the sports.
6) I am the one who says, â€œThis sentence is not right with the Lord.â€ It isnâ€™t just for sentences. Itâ€™s the phrase I use for anything that is borked ALMOST but not quite beyond redemption.
7) I can make a monster-good cocktail from everyday household items. Or so Karen says. I think everything is good if you add enough chocolate, and I am right, so that may be why Karen believes this.
8) KAREN racked up the 650 dollar cell phone bill. My first tour, I did a similar thing, going over 400 bucks. YARG! But with her tour being more recent, I thought most of yaâ€™ll would get this. And you did.
9) Karen is the kamekazi driver.
10) I toodle along all pokey and RRR-brake and never actually MET â€œmy leftâ€ to speak to. In fact, I CHEATED on the left right test in first grade. <--- TRUE!
I was a spacey little kid who always sneaked a book under the desk and read during the boring parts, and one day I looked up from Ramona the Pest and noticed that kids were going up ONE BY ONE to the VERY FRONT of the classroom and being tested on WHICH hand was left and which was right. PUBLICLY!!!!
I simultaneously realized that 1) I had no idea which way was left, and 2) we were about three kid away from my turn. My blood stopped, insta-congealing in my veins, because I was about to publicly fail something SO BABY EASY, and everyone would laugh at me and point and I would DIE. In a blind panic, I began to recite the Pledge of Allegiance under my breath, and was delighted to find a hand I ASSUMED must therefore be my RIGHT put itself up obligingly over my heart. Before I could forget which it was, I grabbed my pencil and drew a dot on my right shoe. I stared shyly at my toes during testing, and passed with flying colors.
Today the kitten came out of the bedroom. It's kitty integration day, and the air is thick with stress-shed hairs and silent tension.
I am not sure Schubert knows this little thing is another CAT. For now Boggart still has four limbs, one tail, and one head. All attached. In other words, it's already going better than I might have hoped.
There is a contest/game/thing one entry down â€“ Scroll! Scroll and play!
So with dinner at Saraâ€™s we each injested what I would call a modest amount of Champagne,BUT I have to say we DID get a little giddy from MASSIVE PILE FRIED CARBS WE GOBBLED. OH! OH! Poutine!
Anyway, after dinner, I was still SO excited about the possibilities of riding in the morning that I begged carrots and we all trooped down to the stables so I could make friends with Fancy, the spare mare.
Giddy with carbs, Sara decided it would be a VERY GOOD IDEA to have a little midnight bareback ride on Tia, her horse. Giddy with carbs AND the intoxicating smell of HORSE, I thought so too. Yeah.
Now. Tia is a BUNNYâ€“ sheâ€™s like 14.3 hands, which for the non-horsey, means she is just a HAIR over pony. Sheâ€™s spunky, and sheâ€™s got such a PRETTY face and is a tidily built and an altogether nifty little horse. LITTLE is the operative word here.
MY horse, the Parker, aka Parker Posey Pony Horse, was a green broke gelding I share-boarded for a goodly span after we moved to Georgia up until I fetched up pregnant with Maisy. At that point, I realized if I did not stop ATTEMPTING to leap tall hedges in single bound (and I say attempting because Parker, Lord love him, did not always make it) Both Maisy-fetus and I were going to end up broken. Parkerâ€™s coat was red dun --- very flashy ---a strawberry blond color, and though he had the QH requisite huge round apple of a behiney, his BACK was 50 feet long â€“ very bad. He was a big genial boneheaded dumpling. BIG is the operative word here. He stood 16 hands in his sock-hooves.
For the non horsey, this would mean Parker is to Tia as Michael Jordan is to Billy Barty.
SO. I gave Sara leg up, which means, basically she gathered the reins and crooked her leg and I squatted and made a sling for her leg with my arm and then, straightening from the knee, I threw her onto the horse. Or rather, I threw her onto A horse.
Unfortunately, the horse I threw her on was PARKER.
TIA was CONSIDERABLY under the space that Parker would have occupied, and Sara CLEARED the top of Tia like a HURDLE, at which point gravity intervened, and Sara went splatting down onto the ground on the far side. Tia., THE DARLING, who could have made things bad by stamping on Saraâ€™s face, looked down in faint surprise and then twitched her head in a horse-equivalent of an EYE ROLL and stood waiting for us to be JUUUUUUUST stupid enough to try again.
Which, of course, we were.
IN MY DEFENSE, Sara is a slight little thing, maybe five four, and she weighs about as much a bag of kittens. We DID try again, and this time, I tossed her into the general area of Tia instead of, you know, space, but she was a little borked from the fall and went slithering off again and ended up flat on her back.
At which point, with a mare ROLLING HER EYES AT US for the SECOND time in 40 seconds, even we figured out this was a double plus ungood plan.
You know, I am DEADLY serious when I say weâ€™d had a modest amount of champagne, and weâ€™d eaten ENOUGH CARBS to successfully feed a locust plague of BIBLICAL proportions which you would think might soak it up, and Sara is fit and rides that horse alla stinkinâ€™ time --- and yet truthfully, NEITHER of us had any business operating heavy machinery, even heavy machinery with a heartbeat. And YES, kids, this is me doing another DESIGNATED DRIVER public service announcement, because cars do not roll their eyes and love you and decide not to stamp in your face when you make a bad judgment call. Just saying.
ANYWAY, next morning I DID ride Fancy, and OH LORDY how FUN, but MAN I am SAD AND RUSTY. I barely had enough leg to get Fancy to the rail, and our circles got smaller as she got tireder. I could hear my friend Lydia in my head (she trained Parker) hollering across the ring at me to â€œGET THOSE STINKING HEELS DOWNâ€ and â€œDO YOU THINK YOU MIGHT WANT TO, I DONâ€™T KNOW, CLOSE YOUR FINGERS???â€
This morning I have a long, slim stretch of muscle running down my inner thigh that feels as tight and twangy as a guiar string â€“ a muscle NordicTrack and hiking with the dog cannot touch. Itâ€™s a purely HORSE muscle, and every time I get up to refill my coffee and feel that pleasant and familiar ache, it reminds me how much I miss the whole-body conversations you can have when youâ€™re sitting on a good, good horse.
I will be doing book things later today, but for NOWâ€¦.I AM SO HAPPY TO BE SNIFFING HORSES. I think I am going to ride today, and I am SO excited. I have not thrown leg over leather since I fetched up pregnant with Miss Maisy. Also, there is an ENORMOUS silver Main Coon living here. He has two eyes (but his ears are totally BORKED, and somehow this makes him more Schubertlike in my head ). I may have to pack him and bring him home. TOTAL love match, me and this cat. His name is FRITZ, he slept on my butt last night, and I am going out as soon as I post this to carve his name in a tree and moon.
For the release of my friend Karenâ€™s first book, I promised her I would do her a 100 things like have done in the past for various folks I really like. I even had a title. It was going to be called, â€œ99 Non Scatalogical Things About my Friend Karen Abbott.â€ I sat down to write it twice the week of her release. I crapped out. Both times.
I couldnâ€™t think of 99 non-scatological things. Sheâ€™s a scatological kinda girl.
SO we spent yesterday in the Van-tastic Mom-mobile, road-tripping toward arterial strangulation via Poutine (OOOOOOOOOOOH! POUTINE! I think I ate 4,000 calories worth last night, and I if we hadnâ€™t LICKED the platter like wolverines until it we could SEE ourselves in its shiny surface, I would be eating 4,000 calories worth MORE for breakfastâ€¦) and so we decided to do a 100 things list together, alternating back an forth, half things she knows about me, half thing I know about her.
THEN I realized it has been a LONG time since I had a CONTEST. SO here are ten random things, culled from that list.
Some are about Karen.
Some are about me.
You have to guess which is which.
Who ever gets the most right, wins.
Email your entry to joshilyn AT joshilynjackson dot com
Note: ENTRIES IN THE COMMENTS DO NOT COUNT!!!!
PEOPLE WHO ARE MARRIED TO US OR WHO OTHERWISE KNOW THE ANSWERS SHOULD NOT HINT AT THEM IN THE COMMENTS!
If multiple folks get the same high score, weâ€™ll put the names in a hat, pluck one, and the winner gets a signed HB copy of Sin in the Second City and signed paperbacks of gods in Alabama and Between, Georgia.
You cannot play if you are married to, related to, or RL BFF with either of us. Because you have pre-cheated by knowing us. This is for the internets: my best beloveds, Karenâ€™s pretty friends inside the computer.
Letâ€™s say this runs through MONDAY, so the folks who donâ€™t read blogs on the weekend have a chance, tooâ€¦
1) SHE used to have the ugliest watch on the planet. She loved it so much she called it her â€œwoobie,â€ but it looked like what would happen if some bondage equipment got over on a Timex and they reproduced. It was so unwieldy that it didnâ€™t look like she could lift her hand up. The band tore (or a merciful God tore it or caused it to be torn) or sheâ€™d be wearing it to this day.
2) SHE can dance. I mean, full-on 80s, bust-a-movinâ€™. She can out-hammer MC and sheâ€™s so shameless about it that she somehow manages to pull off even the running man without looking ridiculous. For Christmas, she is probably going to get some of those long-crotch parachute pants. Canâ€™t touch dis.
3) SHE owns a pair of gauchos. She knows VERY well that The Gaucho CANNOT come back and more-over, it SHOULD not. But she has them. And she WEARS them. And then she calls me on the phone and says, â€œIâ€™m wearing gauchos. Are you judging me?â€
4) She used to be blonde. No, REALLY. Platinum blonde with a big teased up hump of bang-splosion coming out the top. Viva la 1991!
5) SHE doesnâ€™t give a rotten fig about any sort of activity involving a ball. All sports are simply, â€œa sport,â€ as in, â€œHey guys, what are you doing? Oh YAWN, are you watching a sport?â€ We once went to grab a quick salad in a sports bar. She glanced up at the TV, which was showing the World Cup, and said, â€œUgh! Do they seriously have golf on?â€ She was completely unfazed when the entire bar turned to glare at her. When a friend became excited about an upcoming sporting event in Atlanta, she asked, earnestly, â€œOh, are the Braves playing the Eagles again?â€
6) When someone in our writing group perpetrates a sentence that has huge structural problems, SHE will write, â€œThis sentence is not right with the Lord,â€ and you KNOW that this is a sentence which must be rewritten from the ground up, if not removed entirely.
7) SHE can make a monster-good cocktail from everyday household items. Sheâ€™s so talented at mixology, in fact, that she could make a Comet Windex Bleachtini and it would probably taste so great you would still be sipping it on the way to the emergency room.
8) On book tour, SHE racked up a 650 dollar cell phone bill. Her husband had a coronary, and we will all miss him. Now, if I call her cell phone at a time when happens to be at home, she will pick up the phone, and instead of saying â€œHelloâ€ she will scream, â€œDUDE! MY MINUTES!â€ and hang up on me.
9) When SHE drives, she takes to the road like Mario Andretti on crack. Itâ€™s a battle to the death: she will win, she will win, she will win. All lanes are her lane. You need to move. The earth trembles, the sun turns away its face, and the little deer run deep into the forest to hide. I close my eyes and think of England.
10) When SHE drives, she doesnâ€™t know the difference between right and left, or red and green, or gas and brake. She will put her foot on the gas and go RRRRRR forward a little fast, then put her cautious foot on the brake and TAP it back down. RRRRR, tap. RRRRR tap. If you want her to turn, you cannot say GO LEFT --- if you tell her to go left she will turn in a random direction that could be left. Or right. Or north. Or UP. You have to say â€œGo YOUR way.â€ To get her to go right, the person in the passenger seat must say, â€œGo MY way.â€ I close my eyes and think of England.
August in Georgia. By the time I leave the house for car pool, itâ€™s 104, maybe 106. Breezeless. The streets have softened into black butter and the still air feels tacky, sticking to the lungs as if the tar has evaporated up into it. My brain does not want to write words. It feels done, done, baked through. I have to turn a chunk of book in to my writing group this afternoon, and my brain says it would prefer to go play with the kitten in my icy cold air conditioned bedroom, thanks much.
Waiting out the dog days, I am allowing myself a SLEW of delightful pleasures to make time go faster and get us all safely to the orange-warm days of lovely, lovely September. Iâ€™m going to LIST for you these pleasures as you may want to indulge in a few yourself, but first let me digress and say HOW MUCH I stinking love FALL. Here in Georgia, it wonâ€™t start in September, not really, but I will know itâ€™s coming,. I work best in Fall. I am happiest in Fall. I love the CRISP edge the air gets, that sharp, clean smell of snow that will never come, not here. It was a winter month in Florida, but it SMELLED like fall, the first time Scott kissed me out in the gazebo behind my parentâ€™s house.
Here are my pleasuresâ€¦
1) The 13th Tale on audio. I imagine I would like it JUST FINE in print, but the audio is SO well acted and the story so gripping and unexpected and hooky and beautifully told that I NEVER wander and have to rewind. I am actually LOOKING FORWARD to long drives and sitting in carpool so I can hear a little more. I HURRY to my car, even though that first hideous contact of my flesh onto the superheated egg fry surface of my carâ€™s seat makes me release a noise like a shrike on fire might make.
This is one of those books, you know, like Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell or Water for Elephants, that blows out like MAD and itâ€™s not because of hype, itâ€™s just really, NO really, so good that everyone who reads it has to tell two friends. And itâ€™s PERFECTLY realized on this audio version.
2) Power Lady Summer TV.
I tape these and watch them while on the Nordic Track. FFing through the commercials, each show lasts about 45 minutes, which is how long the routine I do lasts. I notice when Damages or Grace is on, my workoutr seems to last 10 minutes because I am so engrossedâ€¦ALSO I GO SO FAST! Watching Damages, I pedal like a monkey on crack who thinks he is competing in the Tour de France because itâ€™s so TENSE and EXCITING and OH! WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT!.
Then I ALSO pedal like mad during Grace because Holly Hunter spends most of the show naked and HOW HOW HOW does her body LOOK like that? She HAS to be pushing 50. She looks SO good, and she doesnâ€™t have that creepy, rubbery too-much-surgery look, either---just toned beyond all mortal ken.
I also am still totally digging THE CLOSER.
Pedalling aside, another late summer pleasure isâ€¦
3) Just staying as fat as I can possibly can. Any fatter at all and I would be in belted hefty bags because none of my pants would close. And if this was Spring? Or even EARLY summer? I would be all up ons, you know, getting ready for bathing suit season, but oh, best beloveds, that ship has SAILED this year, sailed, sailedsailedsailed so far across an ocean and foundered off the cape and sunk, crew eaten by carnivorous whales, barnacles picking out choice real estate on the hull. And you know what? FINE! In about the time it would take me to peel off 10 pounds, I will be segueing into my more forgiving Fall wardrobe ANYWAY â€“ did I mention I love Fall. So.
4) ROAD TRIP! Karen and I are heading out tomorrow for some book events/book club things. We are going to stay with a friend I have not seen since last time I was in New York! And she will let us SNIFF HER HORSES!!!! And have PIMMS CUP! AND! She is making us Poutine!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Yeah. I am really going to eat that, even though it makes my own fat potato fat-fat casserole look positively HEALTHFUL. I plan to eat POUNDS of it. And I am NOT sorry. See number 3). Also, I am taking the fixings for making and drinkingâ€¦
5) White Trash Cocktails, aka Dextinis. Okay. *sigh* You wanted the recipe. Here it is.
One shot Stoli Vanil
One Shot Amaretto
Fill rest of glass with 1% ice cold organic milk mixed with Nestle Quick as per box directions.
The Dextini of the person you wish to beat at cards (assuming this personâ€™s husband is the one driving):
Mix EXTRA Nestles Quick into a good 2 shots of Stoli Vanil. Add at least 1.5 shots Amaretto, fill up the rest of the glass with the original Nestleâ€™s and Organic 1%. Mixture.
WARNING: You may lose at cards ANYWAY. *grrrrrr*
In theory, the kittenâ€™s name is Humphrey Bogart. Of course, in APPLICATIONâ€¦
He is hairy and has sticky little sharpened feets and kitten-chow breath. He clambers all over my head trying to nurse my earlobes when I lay down to sleep, and he murders any limb foolish enough to move while under the covers, pouncing each shifting arm or leg endlessly no matter how subtle the movement, no matter how close to the edge of the bed the limbs try to flee, so his name has already degenerated into Boggart. If you only know the Harry Potter Boggart, you can love the Wiki. He is our little household pest, and I am SO SMITTEN with him!
Meanwhile, we have all had plague.
It was a HORRID plague. It seemed like we didnâ€™t have it, because we felt FINE â€“ bored really â€“ as long as we lay around or, at best, sat in a slouch. Any amount of activity, say, STANDING UP or WALKING DOWN THE STAIRS, and our knees would begin to tremble, our joints would ache, we would flush into slight fevers and have to lay down, at which point all these symptoms would subside, leaving usâ€¦bored. And, in the case of the children, extremely CRABBY. The disease came with a stuffy nose as a bonus, and as yesterday unfolded, we spent about 2 of every 4 hours that day sleeping. Even SAM took a nap, a shocking turn of events. Sam has not napped since the summer of 2001.
The day was complicated by the fact that sleeping takes place in a bed, and my bed is where THE BOGGART lives. I indulged in a wavery sort of in and out nappage. I would pass out, exhausted from my trek to get a glass of water, and thus be only partially aware of The Boggart scaling my slopes and peaks and trying to burrow down into a choice little crevice made my neck and arm.
If Love is a kitten, then Love is very poinky.
I feel myself again today. I am going to go finish this chapter I am working on, and then FURminate all the animals who weigh more than a pound. At a mighty 12 ounces, The Boggart is, alas, still too small to be FURminated. The tool is bigger than HE is. So I will FURMinate the others, then work out and then catch up on my wildly neglected e-mail and then and then and thenâ€¦
OH but we had poker night before the plague hit, did I tell you?
Chuck and Karen came over, and we grilled enormous slabs of MEAT and they brought asparagus and fresh cherries from Whole Foods, and I opened the GOOD wine to kinda SOFTEN EM UP, you know, for the FLEECING, and we feasted, and post feast, I made for Karen (and maybe me, as well) a DESSERT cocktail I have invented. It is called the Dex-tini, because it has 1 MILLION calories and Karen has a VERY fat parrot named Dexter.
SADLY I cannot tell you what is in a Dex-tini.
Not because I do not know. OH I know, alright. I could make them for breakfast right now if I so desired. I cannot TELL you because it is too humiliating. It HURTS to even admit that I invented the sorry thing. To give you an idea of the NEW COCKTAIL LOWS we have hit since we have been unable to find PIMMâ€™S CUP, I will confess that ONE of the ingredients is Nestle Quick. Itâ€™s SO trailer-park-in-Florida that the BEST use of the foul brew is probably to throw it down the front of your pants.
And yet, to paraphrase Jane Eyre: Reader, We DRANK them.
I made my Dex-tini a LEETLE light and I made Karenâ€™s VERY VERY NOT LIGHT, and Karen became quite jovial and relaxed and was obviously NOT THINKING WELL, while I, crafty and spiderlike, cackled inside and prepared to take her for all she had.
AND THEN!!!!! I freakinâ€™ LOST again.
Beloveds, we have a very simple and fun way to play poker:
Everyone puts ten bucks into a pot.
Everyone gets identical piles of chips in white, blue, red and black that represent 5, 10, 25 or 50 cents respectively. (You have to call the most valuable ones â€œFitty Cents.â€) Or maybe they are worth 5, 10, 25 and 50 dollars. Or 5, 10, 25 and 50 MONKEYS. Who cares. They are representative of the pot.
We play no limit Texas Hold â€˜Em until someone has lost all their chips.
That would be me.
Then the person with the most chips takes the pot.
That would be Karen.
OH, every now and again Scott has taken the potâ€”he is quite good at cards. And I think Chuck has won in the past. BUT MOSTLY THAT WRETCHED KAREN ABBOTT WINS. And ALWAYS, I am the person who loses ALL the chips. Every night we have gathered to play, I have lost all my chips. EVERY POKER NIGHT.
And FAR BE IT FROM ME to CRITISIZE the INIMITABLE MS. ABBOTT, because, admittedly, she has many, many good qualities. Many. For example:
She is kind to animals.
She writes truly great books.
Even though she weighs about as much as the Boggart, she can drink a SERIOUSLY poisonous Dex-tini and keep her head.
I have never personally witnessed her robbing banks or shoving old people into traffic.
BUT SHE HAS TO BE SOMEHOW MAGICALLY CHEATING.
It cannot be that I am not very good at poker.
I am SURE that is not the problem.
I think she has marked the cards and has aces falling out her bra, and ALSO she may have traded a chunk of soul to darkness for her LUCK. How many times in a single evening can a person end up with FIVE HEARTS, I ask you.
(Answer: Four. Assuming she cheats.)
Also, again not to criticize. But some of us are not very good winners. *ahem*
I do not intend to point fingers and name names, BUT I will simply show you some pictures that may or may not have been taken in the post poker bacchanalian frenzy of BAD WINNER VICTORY DANCING. The person may or may not have been crowing I OWN YOU, YOU PUNK B******S or some such while doing these moves:
The unnamed someone was SO INTENT on prancing in ecstatic IN YER FACE victory, that she MAY HAVE spilled her entire Dex-tini directly into her crotch. Which, as I stated above, is probably the best use of the foul brew, but still, those of us stewing in TOTAL ABJECT FAILURE may have enjoyed her accident a LEELTE more than is strictly kind or proper. But itâ€™s not like a little thing like a Dex-tini in the pants could stop joyous MC Hammer inspired gyrations like these:
Hey! DANCEY LADY! I MAY NOT be the very best at poker. But. You know what I am good at?
Thatâ€™s not his name.
Scott is lobbying for a name from the comments that he REALLY likes: â€œBogartâ€
Sam wants to name him, â€œKitty Overlord.â€
Maisy wants to name him, â€œIsabel.â€
Me: Maisy, he is a boy.
Her: I donâ€™t WANT him to be a boy!
Scott: In another 4 months, the vet will oblige you on that.
I want to call him Hooky-do because his hands are made out of Velcro.
We are sleeping on it until Sunday and going BACK through the comments (THANK YOU! THANK YOU! So many AWESOME suggestions!) and talking and all I can tell you FOR SURE rigth now is that he IS NOT going to be named Kitty Overlord or anything from Pokemon. I feel I am on SOLID maternal ground because I let Sam name Bagel.
NAMELESS KITTEN!!!! HE IS SO HAPPY I GOT HIM. HE BURSTS INTO PURR every time I see him already. YAY!
You know, I have not had a kitten since I had GOMPERS, who was also yellow, LO years ago, when I was in college and was walking home from my part time job. A lady down the street put pans of food out for feral cats, and Gompers was in a litter a wild eyed little starvey mommy cat had dropped. Gompers saw me, picked me, left his family, and followed me up the streets peeping that he wanted to go to MY house, not back to the dumpster. He followed me all the WAY home, and I opened the door and let him in. I've never had a better cat in my whole life.
As you may have guessed, THE FURMINATOR IS ALL IT WAS ADVERTISED TO BE! Sara was proved RIGHT! and thus logic dictated that I should go and get me a kitten. Memories of Gompers made me wish the kitten was yellow...
I did not want to go to the same cat shelter I went to last time. I KNEW what would happen. I would end up NOT getting a kitten. Last time, I went for a kitten and came home with a five year old one-eyed clinically obese misanthropic PIRATE with a skin condition. His name is Schubert and I ADORE him, but he is not nor has he EVER been a kitten. I donâ€™t think he was even BORN a kitten. I think he sprung full-blown from the mind of some dark feline version of Zeus. Whenever I go to a shelter ... I KNOW someone will take the kittens, but I see all these adult cats who need a home, and I look for the one with the most diseases and missing body parts and get THAT one.
Today on the internets, I saw my chance to get a GUILT FREE KITTEN, as TINY as I wanted, because I saw this ad on Craigâ€™s list.
All the local no kills are full---kittens in peril. I drove two hours to the state line to snatch up Sir Isabel Bogart the Kitty Overlord of Hooky-Do, and if you live anywhere near Franklin and need a kitten, PLEASE go get one. They donâ€™t have room, and the kittens do not have long--there are many and they are very tiny and wee and hopeful.You need one. You really do. Maybe you need two.
Sir Iz was a steal, too --- a mere twenty-five buck adoption fee, plus of course I took him IMMEDIATELY to the vet because I wanted to make sure he didnâ€™t have feline luek â€“ gotta protect my old Pirate. My vet got him distempered, tested for Schubert-killing diseases, unwormed, de-fleaed, and pronounced DARLING, all for 75 bucks, so. 100 dollars, a life saved, and a TEENY ORANGE FRIEND for life.
A good day.
I feel saner already.
Sara says I SHOULD get a kitten. Right there in the comments. She says I should get a kitten because they are cuddlier than hedgehogs. Itâ€™s not a non-sequiter. I have, in Saraâ€™s presence, recently THREATENED to get a hedgehog INSTEAD of a kitten as my cat does not hate hedgehogs with the same fervor that he brings to hating other cats, and ALSO I have a great name for a hedgehog lined up. Are you ready?
Pigling Bland. Isnâ€™t that marvelous? My friend Jill told it to me. A name that good DESERVES a hedgehog to hang it on, I say. Butâ€¦
Kittens are therapeutic, Sara says.
She recently got two kittens and named one Possum ïƒŸ-best kitten name I have heard in ten years. The name POSSUM deserved a kitten just the way Pigling Bland deserves a hedgehog. Karen just got back from a visit to Saraâ€™s, and she walked around DRAPED in kittens, she says, just threw them around her shoulders like they were stoles and soaked up their beneficial mental health rays. Honestly, Karen returned more than she has been in WEEKS.
Meanwhile, I talked to my editor yesterday.
Me: *panicked blabbering*
Her: Wow. This is the most mentally unstable you have sounded in months.
So. Hang tight with me and follow my logic, because it FEELS irrefutable, BUT my mental illness number is WAY high. I MIGHT need a reality check. Then again, I might NOT. I might ONLY need a good kitten nameâ€¦
You might want to put on some sunglassesâ€”I am about to release some BLINDING SYLLOGISM MOJO.
1) People with a high mental illness number need therapy.
2) I am a person with a high mental illness number.
3) Sara says that kittens ARE Therapy.
4) I need a kitten.
The ONLY shaky part is Saraâ€™a assertion that kittens ARE therapy. It sounds like PURE WISDOM to me, but I think we should test her credibility.
So the very next thing Sara said was that I needed to get a FURminator.
Speaking of therapeutic: Basically you can take this tool and peel it over your dog and pull out a WHOLE ANOTHER DOGâ€™S WORTH of hair. The FURminator costs 30 bucks. ZOUNDS!!! That is a LOT for a dog brush. But this is SCIENCE. SO.
IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE I am going to go out this afternoon and GET a FURminator, and IF the FURMINATOR peels a whole another dogâ€™s worth of pelt off my dog, then Sara MUST be accepted as a credible pet witness and kittens therefore ARE therapy and I MUST HAVE ONE.
Now since my mental illness number IS so high, I feel I can righteously dispense with segues, and just say, SPEAKING of guns, while Karen was lolling around at Saraâ€™s, positively COATED in kittens and getting her sane on by the virtue of their therapeutic value, they got, in the e-mail, the VERY BEST AD ever. Itâ€™s SO great it almost makes me sad my spam filter is so ceaselessly vigilant. It said --- I am changing 2 words so as not advertise the actual product --- but it mostly said:
Princesses always whizgiggled at me and even youths did in the civil WC!
Well, now I laugh at them, because I took *SNAKE OIL*
for 3 months and now my penis is terribly largest than world.
TERRIBLY LARGEST THAN WORLD, you say? Eek! Maybe thatâ€™s the thing I am seeing on my office TV right this second, looming over earth, and Nicole Kidman is running down the road away from it?
Also, I am now calling the downstairs half bath The Civil WC.
Also, I want to name my kitten Whizgiggle.
Or possibly Pigling Bland.
We will do the FURminator test this PM, results to follow, and in the meantime, I am waiting for one more email from Sara. I hope it tells me I NEED to go eat some southwestern eggrolls, RIGHTNOWNOWNOW, then we wonâ€™t need the FURminator test. The need to eat southwestern eggrolls is SO EMPERICALLY true --- I REALLY do --- and Saraâ€™s recognition of this obscure but TRUTHFILLED fact would be the FINAL CONFIRMATION I NEED to decide that Sara is absolutely right about everything eternally and then I will go get a kitten.
What's the best kitten name you have heard in ten years?
I took both my kids to school today.
First time in TEN YEARS I have a WHOLE DAY with had no baby/toddler/pre-schooler in the house alternately crying and nursing/trying to eat poison/seeing what happens if you jam a fork in the electrical outlet. I got ten pages drafted and am about to go hit the elliptical for 45 minutes and then clean out my closet and I am so FREE and NOT HAVING TO MULTI TASK and the day stretches before me long and luxurious with HOURS before car pool and so naturally I canâ€™t stop bursting into teeny flurries of weep every fifteen minutes.
I am BEREFT.
Signing up for motherhood is like AGREEING to cheerfully become a complete loon for the rest of your span on earth.
But I am not dwelling. *PAUSES TO SOB INTO HANDS FOR 20 SECONDS* Oh no, not at all.
I think I should get a kitten.
My dad and my brother are taking me to shoot LONG GUNS later in the month, but I have already been out with my brother to shoot pistols. Oh MY. I looked at this big box of assorted pistols Bobby had gathered, and I was kindaâ€¦terrified of it.
My brother made me sit down before we began for a safety lesson. We basically had to go to a room, alone, with the box of guns. We sat down and waited until a quiet had settled around us and he could see he had my full attention. He picked up one of the guns.
Bobby: Okay. See this hole? At this end? Donâ€™t ever. Ever. EVER. point this hole at anything you do not want to see utterly destroyed.
I nodded solemnly.
That was the end of the safety lesson.
We took 2 liter bottles full of water out to a field behind a friendâ€™s farm. The field is empty and low, a small valley, so our targets were set up low down by the rise of a hill. Our bullets would go through (or past) the bottles and bury themselves harmlessly in the earth. We put in ear plugs and shot and shot and shot. When I picked up the first gun, I felt like I was holding some sort of awful alive cool reptile thing that might turn and bite me. Then we started. When I set down the last gun, I felt like I was setting this warm alive and mighty creature who did my bidding. I found the hot after-smell very pleasing, tangy and metallic. I liked the ghost of kick I could still feel in my palm.
I want to go shoot MORE things.
First I shot with my brotherâ€™s Saturday Night Special, a little .22 which he said is useful only to terrorize clerks at the convenience store you are trying to rob. POP, it said, and it jammed every third bullet. Bobby said it is NOT a good gun for actually killing people--- even IF you managed to hit someone, you would likely just make them angry.
Then we shot an ANCIENT revolver that belonged to my grandfather. It was missing a pin, so the barrel would plop into my palm whenever I released it to reload. No safety. You load the thing and you are ready. I LOVED this gun. LOVED it. My character will have a gun like this. We shot it until the barrel got too hot to reload from all the shooting.
The 2 litre bottles began to have a bad time.
Then we shot my dadâ€™s .45 automatic pistol and HOLY COW but that black beast has a kick. I loved to just point it and go BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM. I did pretty well, though I tended to hit MORE when I actually AIMED. Go figure. One bullet blasted a huge visible crater right through the center of Coca-Cola Classic. Then Bobby shot Fresca in the neck, and his head popped off and sailed away over our heads.
No soda bottles survived to tell the tale.
Hereâ€™s a quick weird little thing I noticed â€“ you may draw your own conclusions
The night before my brother took me shooting, Karen and I went to a book event in the middle of Birmingham and then out to have a drink with a buncha folks we like from the Alabama Booksmith. I told several people that I was going shooting the next day. These were all urban folks who live in downtown and midtown.
They all gave me the same quizzical look overlayed by faint shades of either horror or disbelief and asked WHY I was going to go shoot guns.
â€œResearch,â€ I would say, â€œfor the book I am working on.â€
And their faces would clear and they would not, satisfied. It made sense to them, and we clearly had good reason to do this dangerous, slightly distasteful thing.
I went and picked up my brother at his office way out in the green hills of Alabama, far from the city. He works for himself, sculpting, as you may remember, but he rents a small office at his church so he can escape his children/television/phone/neighbors and actually put his head down and WORK. We ambled around the church gathering all the 2 liters we could find in the recycling bins and having coffee and meeting people who worked there or went to church there. Local folks, all.
We would tell them we were leaving to spend the lunch hour shooting things.
They would just nod,as if we had said, â€œWe are going to the mall.â€ I couldnâ€™t figure it out. Why wouldnâ€™t they ask WHY we were shooting things. WHY would they not ask? Then on the way out, we told the last guy who asked where we were heading and he looked at us wistfully. â€œOh. I wish I could go with you. Have funâ€¦â€
Researching again. I need to learn guns. I need to learn them inside out and backwards. I shot a BB gun as a child, and later, I may have taken a few potshots at a trashcan with my brotherâ€™s pellet gun, but thatâ€™s about it. You may remember what happened the one time my dad and my brother let me go hunting with themâ€¦ (If not, see #90 - # 94) So. Calamity Jane does not need to move over.
Althoughâ€¦once, at a local fair, they had a ROOTINâ€™ TOOTINâ€™ SHOOTINâ€™ BOOTH <----not kidding. They lined up 5 Miller and Bud cans, handed the next guy in line a BB shooting pistol with sights so wonky that attempting to use them to AIM would likely end in you shooting your own eye out, and told him he had six shots knock all five cans down. It cost fifty cents to try. Winners got five silver dollars.
The boy I was with got tired of waiting to see if we would leave rich---we had purchased a square in COW FLOP BINGO <----once again completely NOT kidding. The available games should indicate to you that this was not the state fair or even a county fair. This was a FAIRLET. A thirty booth hopeful carnival-wannabe with a livestock show and a single exhausted Candy Floss machine slowly grinding out strings of cotton candy in simple pink. They had no Ferris wheel, but plenty of homemade JAM competitions, right? They had one creaky old death trap of a carousel imperiling the lives of children, and a dunking booth, and a guess your weight guy losing money hand over fist.
So anyway, My Boyfriend---letâ€™s call him Jim--- got bored waiting for the earth to move over at Cow Flop Bingo, and the Rootinâ€™ Tooâ€”etc booth was right next door.
By the way, I said letâ€™s call him Jim not to protect his anonymity, but because I canâ€™t remember his name. It may well have been a Jim. A LOT of them were named Jim. Most of the boys I dated in high school have sort of RUN TOGETHER into an amalgamation, a floppy haired decent gent with slightly buggy eyes. In actuality I changed boyfriends about as often as I changed shoes; I dated a lot without ever really falling in love. I liked having a boy friend, but I wasnâ€™t the sort of girl who knew exactly what one DID with one after you had him, and so I would switch out and hope the next one might know what to do with me.
My MO was to crush hard on a boy and then date him a few times, make out a little, and then Iâ€™d blink at him, puzzled, not sure what boys liked to talk about and not willing to let things progress any farther in the backseat. So Iâ€™d put him back where I found him, like a fisherman who is VERY excited about making his own lures and trolling, but who doesnâ€™t know how to clean or cook anything. Most of the boys I dallied with WERE named Jim or James, though there was a Trevor and a Dillon and a Damien (Yes, really --- he must have been born BEFORE the made the Omen? One hopes?) and I think a pair of Michaels, and one I had for several months running with dark red hair and puffy lips â€“ I remember him specifically because he had a black Mustang, was a dern good kisser without being too handsy, and often drove me through the Krystal Burger for a cheese off the grill and a coke after school; these three things combined made him last an inordinately long time for a boyfriend of mine.
His name started with a T and I THINK at this fair, I think it was him. It was a double date, so we must have been with Jennifer and her main squeeze, Billy, or no, my boyfriend was old enough to drive so maybe by then she was dating Len? Or maybe the others my boyfriendâ€™s friends, and it wasnâ€™t T, but one of the Jims, the one who went to a different high school? You see how it is.
Anyway, there were four of us, and we got bored at Cow Flop Bingo and My Boyfriend laid two quarters down at the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Shooty and picked up the pistol and through sheer animal will made a couple of the cans fall down. He couldnâ€™t have SHOT them down because the sights were worse than useless and he was actually aiming instead of, you know, just pointing and hoping. AIMING made it harder with sights like that. He tried three or four times, protesting that he actually wasnâ€™t a bad shot, before giving the gun up as a bad job.
Him: You want to try?
He paid the fifty cents, and I picked the BB pistol up casually, pointed the end with the hole in it at the cans, and squeezed the trigger rapidly, six times, so fast it was like blinking with my finger.
All the cans went down.
My Boyfriend: NO WAY! NO WAY!
Me; *casual shrug* My dad was in the Army.
My Boyfriend: NO! WAY!
I got my five silver dollars, and then they all wanted me to repeat the miracle, and of course I could not, but the four of us must have spent another ten bucks between us trying. Over at Cow Flop Bingo, the cow chose to grace a square that wasn't ours, so we stayed and we shot, and I donâ€™t think I ever knocked more than one can down again. The best anyone else did was three. But it left me with the inexplicable belief that if I ever WERE to take up a gun, I would monstrous-superlative at it. Or monstrous-lucky, which can look a lot like the same thing.
ANYWAY â€“ I am out of time, but..I find it interesting that I set out very deliberately to talk about SHOOTING and ended up accidentally talking about BOYS. Hrm.
Moral: Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but a gun is NEVER just a gun.
BLARG! I hope everyone brought their tiny violins to todayâ€™s blogâ€¦
So on Friday, after a week at my parentâ€™s house, I flew to Mississippi for their inaugural writerâ€™s conference. It was quite, quite awesome, but now, home againâ€¦..wow. I feel like I lost the last half of July. Imagine your calendar for the next month, now just take ten or twelve days away and imagine that those things STILL have to be done, so you must distribute them evenly over the next three weeks, and while you are at it, imagine that your husband is out of town for two of those three weeks, and imagine your kids start school in the middle of that, your youngest for the FIRST TIME. Thatâ€™s my August. Would anyone like to mail me some Percoset?
Ha ha! I kid, I kid! That would be a terrible federal crime, to send Percoset through the mail. You will need to send it by private courier. HA! No, no, I KID. Mostly.
I COULD use a dirty martini, though.
Hopefully by September I will be back on track, as, you know, Iâ€™m startingâ€¦and restartingâ€¦and restartingâ€¦ a new book and I have to do all my usual mentally ill dances, and these are quite time consuming. This will be the SIXTH novel I have written, and at this point I KNOW the process, know what my mental illness numbers are going to do, can practically GRAPH their looping trajectory, and yesyesyes I KNOW itâ€™s silly HAVE TO BE SO CRAZY, and WHY, I say to myself, WHY should I do the whole OH I CANNOT WRITE A BOOK thing, and yet, if I do not do the I CANNOT DO IT thing, it seems it instantly becomes true, and I actually CANNOT.
Itâ€™s like the pink monkey club â€“ to get in, all you have to do is go stand on the corner for a half hour and NOT think about a pink monkey. That club has no members, and I canâ€™t write a book unless I really believe I canâ€™t write a book. If I try to skip the crazy and just write, it feels like I am willfully cutting butter intoâ€¦nothing, insisting if I do it long enough I WILL SO end up with pie crust, flour be derned.
So. I am giving in and becoming a complete loon. I will be flopping around the floor like a gigged trout, wailing and masticating my carpet should you need me. *martyred sigh*
While I am being HIDEOUSLY self indulgent and throwing myself an ENORMOUS catered sit down dinner of a pity party --- Canapes! Live Music! Cage Dancers! Raffles! Magicians! Pony Rides! ---- Why donâ€™t you talk to a DECENT HUMAN who is funny and nice and not foaming at the mouth? Also, I have to say, this decent human gives good interview.
Ellen Meister is the author of Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA. Whatâ€™s it about? You say. GLAD YOU ASKED. When a Hollywood location scout comes to Applewood, Long Island, and announces that the local elementary school might make the perfect backdrop for an upcoming George Clooney movie, the PTA's decorum crumbles like a cookie from last week's bake sale.
Enter Maddie, Ruth, and Lisa, three women who become the glue that holds the project together, forging a bond of friendship stronger than anyone could imagine. And not a moment too soon, as marriage woes, old flames, and scandalously embarrassing family members threaten to tear each of them apartâ€¦Library Journal says, in a starred review, â€œMeister's debut novel is heartbreakingly funny, her characters facing life's dramas and disappointments head on with wit and spunk."
JJ: What do you think of your cover and how does it compare to the cover you imagined when you were writing the book?
EM: I love my new paperback cover! I think my publisher did a brilliant job with it. The apple works on so many levels. First and most obvious, it says "sin," which there is quite a bit of in the book. Also, it reflects the name of my fictional town, Applewood. And finally, since the story revolves around an elementary school, an apple is a great symbol.
JJ: Can you talk a little about the significance of your title and how you came up with it?
EM: There's a story behind the title...
The book was originally called GEORGE CLOONEY IS COMING TO APPLEWOOD. Some folks raised an eyebrow, asking if it was really okay to use his name. But when I pointed out that Al Franken wrote a book called RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG, FAT IDIOT, most agreed that it wouldn't be a problem. My editor and agents were unconcerned.
Alas, the lawyers at HarperCollins weren't quite so mellow, and put the brakes on at the last minute, saying I couldn't use George Clooney's name in the title without his consent. I was given 48 hours to get approval from Hollywood's most sought-after super hunk. Easy, right?
Fortunately, I'm married to a researcher, and he was able to get me the phone number for Clooney's agent in minutes. So I called the office and they barked out his publicist's phone number before hanging up on me. Then I dialed the other number had this conversation:
Hello, my name is Ellen Meister and I got your number from George Clooney's agent. They said you were the people to call to--
Talk faster. I have people holding.
Gimme your phone number and he'll call you back.
I blurted out my phone number and tried to explain the nature of my call, but she hung up before I could get it out. This was bad, because it was likely she got the impression that I was looking for a publicist. So I called again.
Write us a letter.
WAIT! I DON'T HAVE TIME! I'm in a terrible time crunch and--
Here's our email address. Good-bye.
So I wrote his publicist an email and got a quick reply saying it was a long and complicated issue and George Clooney didn't have time for it. I couldn't let it go at that without a bit of groveling, so I wrote back explaining that the book had been my life's work for so many years and that I'd heard that George Clooney was so accessible with a great sense of humor about himself and would he PLEASE pass it by him? The reply was quick. He DID pass it by George Clooney and the answer is no.
So that was it. I had to go back to the drawing board on titles, which was a long, frustrating process, as the one I liked best kept getting rejected. But at long last we settled on one we all liked, SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA.
JJ: Secretly? I do NOT believe he passed it by George Clooney. I think he just SAID he did. I donâ€™t even think he passed it by George Clooney;s actual publicist. I think he was an assistant named Maurice with a supercilious mustache. FURTHERMORE, I bet GEORGE HIMSELF would have TOTALLY let you. Oh well---Tell us about your experiences with upscale Long Island soccer moms---are they as snotty as George Clooneyâ€™s Publicistâ€™s Assistant?
I think Long Island women get a bad rap as being full of money and attitude. I can't honestly say that doesn't exist, but it's a distinct minority, and gets blown way out of proportion, even right here at home.
I remember one time a friend of mine was asked to participate as a model in the fashion show fundraiser for our PTA. She's very attractive, but was afraid to do it. "Those women will tear me to shreds," she had said. I replied, "Name three." She stared blankly for a moment before getting the point, which was that the vast majority of women in our PTA had hearts just like ours.
One of the reasons I wanted to write SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA was to blow the myth apart. I wanted to show the honest heart of these suburban women, to explore the very real pain, passion and joy that often gets overlooked. Most of all, I wanted to do it with tenderness and humor, which was why it was so important for me to make the book more of a friendship story than anything else.
This is what happened: Monday about a week ago, my dad had some weird chest feelings. We all --- â€œweâ€ meaning the Jacksons--- have esophagus weirdness conditions that mimic heart attacks, so speaking as a doctor, he decided it was that. Oh wait. He is NOT a doctor. He is a former airborne Army ranger, so speaking as a former airborne Army ranger, he said, â€œMeh. Probably not my heart, and anyway, I EAT PAIN FOR BREAKFAST. ROWR!â€ and soldiered on.
Aside: I donâ€™t; know how much of this â€œOh whatâ€™s a numb left arm and some chest pains between friendsâ€ attitude comes from ARMY TRAININâ€™ SIR! And how much from justâ€¦being a Jackson. We are all of us extremely mentally ill when it comes to our own mortality. Very willful. When Death comes for a Jackson, we tend to piffle at him and say he needs to come back later, for we are very busy. Death, startled, has obliged more than one of us.
By Friday, the pain was bad, and he thoughtâ€¦ â€œHmmm,â€ to himself. He called his doctor, who met him at the hospital, did a few tests, and said, â€œUm, yeah, this is not your esophagus,â€ and admitted him to the hospital.
Dudes, donâ€™t get sick on Friday. Basically he sat in the hospital having little tests and waiting to have big tests until Monday. There were no private rooms, so he was put in with a man named Mr. Crazyhead. <---not his real name. But it should have been.
Mr. Crazyhead was thirteen years younger than my dad, but looked five years older. He liked to take his teeth out and put them in a mason jar, and this, combined with his small, hunchy build and the way lounging in his hospital bed made his long tufts of side hair (the only hair he had, really) puff and hump outward, made him look like a pale, insane Yoda. Mr. Crazyhead took absolutely every pill offered him and buzzed the nurses every few minutes to say, â€œPlease, sir, I want some more,â€ like an Oliver already so overmedicated his pupils were spinning. When my dad passed on pain pills, Mr. Crazyhead offered to eat them FOR him.
At one point, Mr. Crazyhead went to the restroom and I said to daddy, â€œWhatâ€™s he in for.â€
Daddy shook his head sorrowfully and said in a dry voice, â€œOh, he has TERRIBLE hypochondria.â€
Mr. Crazyhead would perch on the side of his bed as we talked to Daddy, head cocked, waiting for one of us to say a word that coincided with a random thought that was pinging around in his brain, and then he would interrupt and yodel and holler the whole thought at us. The thought would be several disjointed sentences long and he would say it quickly, as if he had run out of punctuation marks. Then we would nod at him in a friendly manner and go on talking until a word said by one of us made him ululate out some more thoughts.
They kept trying to release Mr. Crazyhead on the basis that there was nothing wrong with him, and Mr. Crazyhead kept declining to be released. Meanwhile, I would say to Daddy, â€œCan I get you anything,â€ and he would cock a hopeful eyebrow at me and say, â€œA ride home?â€
They tried to give him a stress test, but Ranger Bob is in such good shape that they couldnâ€™t get his heart to GO over 130. They kept upping the speed on the treadmill, and daddy would speed up, and his wounded heart would just shrug and adapt and STILL stay under 130. Not that it was a competition---but he is a Jackson, you see, so it probably WAS secretly a competition---not that it was a competition, but every other stress tester in the hospital---even a guy in his early twenties --- got up over 130 before Dad. The nurses kept dragging doctors and other nurses and orderlies in to see this guy in his mid sixties win the Olympic Treadmill Stress Test Gold Medal. And NOT that it was a competition, BUT MY DAD COULD TOTALLY KICK YOUR DADâ€™S BUTT ON TREADMILL. Just sayinâ€™.
At last it was Monday, and they did the dye test weâ€™d been waiting for, and instead of open heart surgery, which was the big spooky option, they said he needed a stent, which was the milder less spooky option, though not as unspooky as, â€œYou need some medicine and to go home.â€
To put in a stent, they go up through the femoral artery in the leg, threading their sneaky way up through the circulatory system to the heart, and they put it in whatever piece is closed up and not working properly. Itâ€™s not hugely invasive and they said he could come home the next day. Dad had ONE 80% blockage and otherwise looked super.
Here is the part where your credulity? She is going to feel a tiny strain. Dad declined anesthesia. He got a LOCAL and sat there and WATCHED them do this, fiddling his thumbs as they cut his leg open, and watched on the screen as they threaded up to his heart to put in the stent.
When I heard he had done this I said, â€œDADDY? Are you DRUNK?â€
And he said, in his usual mild voice, â€œOh, it was very interesting. I wouldnâ€™t have wanted to miss it.â€
Heâ€™s home now, and perfectly fine, Thank God, except for being irritated by his docâ€™s orders to take it easy. Mom and I spent the back half of last week trying to keep him from climbing ladders and marching willfully up and down the stairs. I have no doubt that the man would be PAINTING THE HOUSE right now if Mom would let him.
Once, almost forty years ago, when Dad was in Vietnam, he came around a corner of a building right in the middle of their home base camp and saw an enemy soldier had snuck into their perimeter and was standing four feet away, aiming a pistol right at the center of him.
BANG! Went the pistol, and Dad leapt back around corner and started feeling all over himself for holes and blood, wondering where he was hit, because the massive dose of adrenalin his brain had released was overriding any pain he might have felt. But he knew he had to be hit. Four feet away, the guy READY for him, pistol up and aimed before Dad ever appeared. So. The only questions were WHERE and HOW BAD. He felt around, and felt around, andâ€¦everything seemed to be in order. There he was, alive and whole inside of the undamaged envelope of his skin.
The guy had missed, MISSED, From four feet away! And so Daddy got to come home a few months later and then about a year after that I was born.
This feels much the same to me.
Ranger Bob, dodging another bullet.