Tuesday, April 29, 2008

And There it is...

I am so pissed right now I can hardly stand it.

Quiet, quiet. Big smile, big smile.

I want to grab someone right this minute and shake him; shake the everlovin crap out of him and scream at him, ask him why he is setting himself up, why he is believing in mouthy insincere idiots who have never done a damned thing for him but ruin his reputation, make him look the total fool, and disrupt his common sense...

But who the fuck am I to tell him things that he should know already? That he used to know so well? He is blinded by their insincere smiles and happy eyes and deafened by their bouncing voices. He puts his trust in them instead of himself - and lets them decide the direction of his life. Like a captive blind-deaf-mute in handcuffs, they can lead him anywhere and he makes no protest.

What the hell? Who are these people? Why is he falling for this crap?

Because he "needs" them, or thinks that he does. Because he wants to believe that they are his friends, all facts to the contrary. Because his true friends have been told to back off when they even mention these captors' names. He is being played for a fool, and his real friends are giving up and walking away from his insistence.

Big smile, big smile. Bite your tongue. Most people get exactly what they ask for and exactly what they deserve. Anything I say will be construed as an attack. Why bother. Don't get angry. Don't get frustrated. Sit back and watch these grinning idiots lead him down the path of failure and perdition, all the while insisting that they know what they are doing. Know what? They do. Too bad my friend doesn't.

Free agency is a bitch.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Almost Exactly

24 hours later and I am not biting off my fingernails or anyone's heads yet. I am, however, out of cinnamon candy. There may be a bag on the coffee table; I know there's a can of Altoids in my suitcase if nothing else. Still. I'm not telling anyone that there are four packs of ciggies behind the seat of my truck, either, and a tiny brand new lighter hidden in the glove box. Nope. I'm not touching them, either; not even looking at them. I want to see who will win this fight, and knowing that those ciggies are there makes me oddly stronger. I could go grab one, but I'm not. So there.

I went to the health food store and picked up some coffee-replacement, health food, ersatz coffee. No caffeine and it is supposed to be actually good for me. I can't help it; I picked up one can and saw "Chocolate Mint" flavor on it and immediately thought - "Hmmm, Irish Coffee mix?" Bad Wiley! Bad Cat! Oh, did I forget to add I'm not supposed to be drinking, either? Yup, alcohol is one of my triggers, too. Even though I don't do it that much - twice a month, maybe, if that - it still is a trigger. So I bought the regular and the chocolate mint flavor. What the hell, I used to drink Postum regularly, every day, but they don't make that any more. I need something not as thick and cloying as hot chocolate, thin and creamy and hot, first thing in the morning, otherwise my stomach is unsettled and I get so sick. I've been that way since my teen years - hence the Postum - breakfast may be the best meal of the day for some, but if I eat it I sit in the bathroom all day. So I'll try to get back to healthy and whole.

I've had something nagging at me for two years now. It's usually like a small mouse chewing steadily at the back of my brain; every once in awhile, it is in the forefront, screaming uncontrollably loud and high-pitched. You'd never know it to look at me; as the digging gets louder or the screams more piercing, I just simply smile and relax and pretend it isn't there - even though it IS, and it is painfully, agonizingly real. I am about to resolve it, however, and this whole 'healthy alternative' is one of the steps I am taking to do it. Just a few weeks more, and things will really start popping again. So for now I'm taking the down time and using it to my advantage; cleaning out some old and musty corners in preparation for some interesting developments.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I'll try not to Kill Anyone

Really. I promise.

I've been sort of half-heartedly trying to quit smoking for the past two months. Got it down to a half-a-pack a day - which is pretty good for me because I normally light them off of the butts, all day long. But then...

But then someone gave me an intervention. Oh joy. Just what I need. But actually, they gave me a package of some pretty neat ideas, and tools. Like always brushing your teeth with cinnamon toothpaste and rinsing with cinnamon mouthwash... this not only freshens your breath, but cinnamon is one of those tastes that, by itself is wonderful, but when mixed with that wunnerful blue haze of smoke becomes instantly putrid. I have to brush when I get up, and after every meal no matter what. Because eating always rings my next 'bell' to smoke, getting the taste of food out of my mouth helps. I am munching on carrot sticks and celery sticks and drinking lots of orange and grapefruit juice and taking vitamin C... because C apparently gets rid of the nicotine quicker. No more coffee or sweet tea, either - because those are triggers too. Popping cinnamon disks like, well, candy. Wellbutrin twice a day just to keep from wrapping my hands totally around someone's neck and choking the stinking life out of them just for saying "Good Morning" to me. (What the hell did they mean by that, anyway?)

They say this works in a week; seven days. I have not had any nicotine since Wednesday nite at 6:30 PM. It is Friday afternoon at 3:13. And this afternoon at noon it kinda scared me - suddenly I started shivering with chills. WHOA! A real withdrawal symptom! OK, I'm not sleeping well, and I have simply functioned on my "American Breakfast" of caffeine and nicotine for 27 years, so I'm sleepy and not at my best or sharpest right now. But I expected all that. DID NOT expect a real withdrawal symptom. Kinda creepy and yet it indicates that something may be changing... My throat isn't so raspy, now, and I'm not coughing as much as I used to... and has this entire area ALWAYS smelled like three day old sewage? GOOD LORD! Spring in the Lowcountry?? I may need a mask with Vick's Vapo-rub on it to survive!

I'm only scared of one thing. I have been smoking for 27 years. 27 years of having my capillaries, veins and arteries contract and narrow due to the nicotine. When they finally relax, could what happened to an old friend happen to me - could a blood clot suddenly break loose and coast down my newly racing InterThrobbing BloodWay and slam into my heart, my lungs, or my brain, turning me into broccoli?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Heritage Backstories

I Hate golf.
Always have. We were hunters and readers and fisherfolk, not golfers in our spare time. Dad built a Volleyball court in the backyard and we volleyed and played badminton. We would occasionally play a pickup game of football (big yard). But that was it.

So yesterday we went out to the Heritage. Woo hoo. I left the group and wandered around and watched people. Watching people is what I love to do, anywhere, anytime. Other people go to malls to shop - I sit and watch the parade of humanity go by. I like to pass unnoticed yet noticing, a wraith of observation.

There was the couple who were walking along a deserted path. They go to the Heritage every year; this past year she had had a stroke and was in a wheelchair. Hubby gently asked her if she wanted to walk up to the course. He eased her out of the wheelchair and walked her off of the path over to the grass. It was a gentle and beautiful thing to watch.

Then there was the German couple I followed past several holes. They seemed to have something in mind - or, he did. They were giggling like teenagers, putting their heads together conspiratorially and mischievously. She seemed reluctant to do whatever he was proposing. They stood at a deserted spot for several minutes... then he darted over to the hole and grabbed the flag and faced her. She started snapping pictures, laughing and telling him to move into different poses. They were in their own private world of fun.

That poor golfer. The young fellow, lagging way behind on the course, obviously struggling with a bad score and his own squashed-down frustration. He had hit his ball into the rough - and not just any rough, but clean out across the path and almost into someone's yard. The guys with the lasers were out measuring distance and line to the hole, everyone stood about in the weeds as the poor boy made his decision, chose his club, and took his shot. Many folk would have given up; he didn't have his entourage and pack of followers like the other ones. But he kept doggedly playing, trying, struggling, even though he knew how far behind he was. He even tried a watery, game little smile after he fired that ball onto the fairway. Totally determined, totally dedicated, totally frustrated, and trying to relax and do what he loved in spite of it all.

Yup, I see lots of stupid people, every day. But these were not stupid people - they were the quiet folk who people the earth and whom few notice. Their lives and goals and dreams are all important to them, but mean nothing to the hustle and bustle of the crowds around them. So like us all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Taxes Bite

Yes they do, and I mean the big one. They Bite The Big One.

Yesterday I did our taxes, swearing and bouncing up in down in my chair, impatient and pissed and angry. I sent them their duly annotated $2700. They can bite me.

But they're going to give me back $1200!!! I'm so freaking honored. They are going to send me back less than half of what they got from me. Thanks. Assholes. After, I am sure, they have collected the interest from it and the millions of other hardworking taxpayers' donations, they'll be able to afford it... maybe in three months or more. Taxes were supposed to go down this year, hunh? My pink hind end. On whom did they go down, and did they enjoy it?

We damned near lost our house last year and we woulda if I hadn't been working two jobs, fighting for every dollar, taking care of hubby who gets the license plate that gives him the upfront parking. Slaving away on the computer for one job, and driving hundreds of miles in all weathers for the other, and all this time I was making too much money. I shoulda been on a cruise - and apparently I could've afforded it. Or at least the Feds think so.

I am getting sick of this crap. Once my three little tax deductions grew up and toddled out the door to make their way in the world, this constant struggle was supposed to stop or at least slow down. Well it hasn't and I am pissed as hell about it.

People tell me all of the tax breaks I shoulda woulda coulda had. Yeah, I tried that. Guess what? Even in itemization,I do not make enough money to invest or donate enough money to file a long form. Nice, hunh?

So did the so called lowered taxes help any working people, or did they just benefit the non-working and the CEOs? Inquiring minds want to know. Did YOUR taxes go down on you? Did you like it? Were you kissed?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What World Do You Live In?

Lots of people live in this world; the world of high speed internet, not knowing their neighbors, racing back and forth from home to kids' school to work to store to school to home again, never taking the time or the trouble to step outside it. They are frustrated and too tired and never know it. They emotionalize instead of think rationally and reasonably. Some are educated, most are not, but they all react and act and think the same way - gotta do this and that and the other as quickly as possible, gotta gotta gotta... Their friendships are surface acquaintances, their joys fleeting, their anger and frustration and general ennui always below the surface like a roiling lava flow struggling to burst forth if it can only find an outlet.

I stepped into two different worlds the past few weeks.

In one, I met real cowboys and girls. They are not the ones in John Wayne movies or Brokeback Mountain. They are all ages, all sizes, all shapes. They wear scuffed and worn-down riding boots; because, well, they actually ride. One fella actually wears spurs. All the time. They do not dress in "Western" clothes; they dress in jeans and layers of shirts - the short-sleeved, then the long-sleeved, then the coat or vest. All are smudged and dirty after a long day. They smell of leather and dust and different flavors of sweat, but it is workin' sweat, not old drunken or unwashed sweat. The smell that overrides it all is the smell of - poop. Good, rich, hay-infested cow poop. The sun bakes it during the day and the odors rise. The snow falls during the night and the smell diminishes but never goes away. Oddly, it is a clean smell; a smell of natural things and fresh air and sunshine baked into the hay that has been processed in cow and bull bowels.

They eat Rocky Mountain Oysters, cut into strips, breaded, and fried, the way you eat mozzarella sticks. They don't laugh if you order them; they encourage you to try them the way you might encourage your friend to try cheese sticks. The "Oysters" taste like steak fingers, only without the gristle and fat. Really.

The bars are always quiet; no booming music, just folks talking and drinking and sharing stories of the day. The music in the background is an inoffensive mix of rock and country and techno and yes, a little rap; but never loud, never invasive or permeating or foul. No drunks. No disagreements. No loud voices. No rudeness. "Pardon me, would you pass the _____ , please?" Young and old, there is respect for even a stranger's space. They will only sit down if invited. They will only ask questions if invited - but they will answer questions quickly and openly and honestly. Ask them about their horses, or their cows, or the weather, or the growing seasons, or anything at all. They do not hesitate.The streets are peaceful and the cars sit running with the doors unlocked. The police are not omnipresent - they do not have to be. No one tolerates lawlessness or even loud music - people will walk up to a car at the stoplight and tell the occupants, "That's a little loud, please turn it down." In a land where guns are prevalent, there is no aggression, no reaction of violence, only a simple - "Oh, I'm sorry" and - they turn it down.

The second world I entered was quite a different world. It is a world of tarpaper covered wooden and cement-block shacks, of chimney pipes jutting through broken walls, of trailers with walls missing where people still live. It is the reservation - one without a casino, without a goobernment subsidized or financed income, where the horses and cattle are well fed and fat and the children are rangy and skinny and active. Where all the dogs run free - and walk up to strangers, expecting to be petted. Not for them the endless games of Wii or Nintendo. They are working their family farm, and they are busy - cutting wood, feeding up, milking, herding the animals from pasture to pasture, even hunting. They are desperately poor and do not know it. They are quick to talk, quick to laugh. They can tell you about their history, are quick to introduce themselves, instantly friendly and open when met with a smile. Casey BlackBear sat and talked with us; her face etched with wind and sun, her long black hair softly whipping in what seems to be the endless wind, her lips smiling across jagged teeth, totally unselfconscious as she shared her area's history, and her family's history. She asked for nothing but our interest and attention. She gave me a bead and buffalo-bone necklace she had made, with a tiny blue turtle hanging from it, to give me a woman's strength and power.

Open hands, open hearts, open minds, eager to share their lives, rich and poor, all hardworking but all with an hour or two to make a new friend. Proud without being obnoxious and offensive. Polite without being false or phony. Quick to offer help and advice; yet not supercilious or rude. And no one locks their doors. Ever. Walk up, walk in, sit down.

Two worlds, both totally different, both the same; in a land constantly blown by wind, covered in snow, and kissed by sun - all in one afternoon. Does a hard and vital land make for a tough and vital people? Does all of the instant gratification around us here make us superficial and grasping, demanding and rude and loud and impotent? Does the soft and invasive and ever-present overwhelming growth of both plants and buildings make us feel less, and demand more instant gratification?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Taste Much Sweeter than Wine

I have never been a water drinker. Ever. It always tasted flat, corrupted, even nasty. I would boil it for coffee or boil it for tea, and drink that product, or drink bottled flavored water if I had to. I hate sodas (except as mixers) they taste like sweet corrupted poison to me, acidic and cloying and thick like swampwater.

So it was with amazement that I took my first sip of Niobara water. The Niobara is a river that runs in Nebraska through hundreds of miles of pure sand, which cleanses it of all the tainted residues. It is formed in ice and snow, but its main source is the Ogallala aquifer that runs underneath six states; in Nebraska the aquifer is about 6 feet down and endlessly available in its sandy caverns. Wells on the aquifer in Nebraska never run dry.

Grab a glass of that stuff when you are thirsty, and all of your previous perceptions about water disappear. Cold or room temperature, it is sweet and as pure as a snowflake, untainted by additives and governmental regulations. No metallic taste. No industrial or social corruption. No whitely cloudy cast or yellow or orange tint. Nothing floats on or sinks to the bottom of the glass, even when it sits. It is as translucent as starshine. Dance it across your lips, and they are instantly humidified. Let it roll over your tongue, and you will experience an amazing thing - no taste. None. Water that pours down your throat, that you can feel re hydrating every cell, without taint, without corruption, without that scummy feeling or nagging aftertaste of unknown sediment.

Go out to the river, and stand on a bridge span and look down. Even now, when the melting snows have turned the river into a passionate thundering tumble, look down twenty feet deep and you can see the bottom sand and rocks as if they were reachable. The water isn't blue or green or whitely foaming - it is clear, clear like nothing, like air, like water. The folks who tube down it in the summer say that it is that way even when its dervishly dancing passions have been banked by drought or heavy drafting use for the cattle or irrigation of hundreds of ranches. Clear and pure. No odor at all - nothing to smell.

Elk and antelope, turkeys and mountain lion, raccoon and deer, leave their prints in the mud around the river. Prints as large as my own foot - size 8.5, nothing to sneeze at - or larger. No water snakes whisper in the trees above it or wallow in darkened muddy depths - too cold, too clear. Rattlesnakes make their homes in the bluffs around the falls, big sidewinders that bother no one but the foolishly invasive. Stand next to one of those roaring falls and you can hear the incredible silence like an undercurrent - the animals move quietly here, back and forth, to drink and to depart; even the birds are silent on the river. Ten feet away and their cacophony begins again, but the river seems to be a reverent spot, silent except for its own roaring majesty. Standing next to the clamoring falls, with one's foot next to a huge cat's print, one feels a delicate shuffle along her backbone, a frisson of fear that in this noise that cat could be anywhere, watching - and one feels at sunset the eyes at one's back, watching and waiting for the intruder to depart so that the natural flow of life on the river can begin again.

Out of this Darwinian, prehistoric atmosphere comes the clear cool tastelessness of the purest and sweetest water with which I have ever satisfied a thirst. The absence of corruption, nature in its purest form, and I can put it in a glass and drink it, be a part of it, let it be a part of me.

Monday, April 7, 2008

They REally Are EVerywhere

Sitting in the Atlanta airport Saturday - a three hour delay on a 40 minute flight; I coulda rented a car and DRIVEN for crissake. But, as usual, people talked to me.

This guy HAD to get to California; a town was running on a backup generator and it would fail by Monday. He flew into Atlanta from Mobile Alabama on Friday morning. Friday afternoon the storms came in, and his flight was cancelled. He got another at 8 pm, got on the flight, started taxiing out - and then the pilots came on the intercom, said that there had been a miscalculation, and that they could't fly because they had too many hours in. So the plane taxis back to the airport, everyone has to get off. What happens next? Delta decides that the weather is "an act of God" and that all they owe these folks is a $7 voucher for Saturday breakfast. So this engineer spends 38 hours in the Atlanta airport. When I left him he was supposed to fly out in 15 minutes - at 9 PM on a Saturday night. All of the motels in Atlanta were booked, of course.

OK, so - WHY doesn't the airport have motels around for airline use, or at least block rooms when this sort of thing happens? WHY are they allowed to say that their incompetence at 1) not knowing what their pilots' hours are and/or 2) not having backup pilots is AN ACT OF GOD?

But you don't dare say a damned thing. Since 9/11, the airlines have ceased to become a service industry; now they are an arm of the Federal government, which means that the only service you get is the type a stallion does to a mare. Say something, and they will shut the ticket office down and walk off the job. Get the least bit testy, and they can have you arrested and Federally charged. Think that you still have rights and freedoms, and this is still a free market enterprise system? Go into an airport.