Gonna Be Fun!

Yesterday, after I voted in the town election and had my annual doctor’s visit, I went to hang copies of this poster in surrounding towns. It’s for the workshop I’m giving on Saturday at the Maynard (MA) Public Library where, being an expertly unstoppable blabbermouth, I will teach a small group of interested people how to journal – or rather show them that they already know how.

For sure I believe in the practice.  Dark times in my life, journaling is all that got me through I sometimes think. I would drive in my car to someplace quiet, some anonymous outdoor space and just scribble my every thought down on paper. Scribble it down, tear it up. Scribble it down, tear it up.  It worked too. It helped me fish around in every last corner of that messy attic that is the human mind.

And that was just when times were tough and my mind was a toss of conflicting emotions. When times are good inside your head and the livin’ is easy, well who wouldn’t want to write stuff down then?

I have a whole 90-minutes for this workshop during which the audience and I will remember back over our lives, using little starter phrases to get us going. I got a million of those all right. And if you’re not shy about telling your own funny-slash-embarrassing stories you find that your audience isn’t shy either and pretty soon everyone is laughing and slapping their knees, their own if not each other’s and sometimes that too.

I used to be so shy I couldn’t call up the theater to find out what time the movie started but I am not shy now because at the tender age of 21 I got a job where I was thoroughly exposed, right down to my footgear and fingernails. (“Gardening over the weekend, eh Miz Marotta?” No, staining wooden furniture actually.) Or “Miz Marotta! Time for some new shoes!”

You only get remarks like this in the job if you stand between the front rows, among your ‘customers’, so to speak, which is what you have to do if you want them to pay attention and live in healthy fear of getting called on.

You know what that job is now, right? Here are two super-blurry picture of me doing that job many a long moon ago, and along with it some of my ‘customers’ from Sixth Period.

Best job I ever had, I still say. Guess what that job was and I’ll give you a free book on Saturday when a bunch of us will look back together 🙂 (Oh! and the library says “If it’s not convenient for you to register in person, send an email to fmplibrary@gmail.com, include “workshop” in the subject line. and specify which class you’re interested in.”)


I’ve Got Joseph Biden Eyes

Last fall the eye doc peered at my eyes and said, “If these upper lids get to drooping  much more we’ll want you to get a Visual Field Test to make sure you can still see” – and didn’t I have that very thing just yesterday.

The Visual Field Test involves getting cozy with a machine right out of Young Frankenstein where you put your chin here and your forehead up against here and now please look unwaveringly into this bright yellow circle of light in an otherwise grey background and every time you see the smallest flash in the periphery click this clicker.

This I did with the right eye nor problem: three minutes of clicker-clicking went by lickety-split as little pops of light like tiny fireflies winked on and off around that small blinding sun. The left eye, however, they needed seven whole minutes for, during which time I by turns (1) intermittently stopped noticing the fillies, (2) most assuredly stopped caring about the fireflies, and (3) experienced such an altered state of   consciousness I began to wonder if fireflies and  eye doctors and even I myself had ever even existed or if we weren’t just all abiding in this brightly-lit space waiting to be born – OR if we hadn’t already died and were all now seated in another kind of waiting room like the accident victims in the movie Beetlejuice each bearing large traces of the tire-tracks or knife wounds or cigarette damage that had killed us.

“OK that’s it!” they gaily called at last and freed my head and flipped on the room lights, leaving me able to see…. almost nothing. The room was still dark and my vision was blurry. Then to show their perennial spirit of fun they dilated my pupils and sent me out into the world 40 minutes later goat-eyed and wincing at the light with vision that stayed blurry until midnight. I had to write a dozen emails before falling into bed and I just called them up in my “sent” file now: Pure cuneiform. Pure gobbledygook.

I’ll say this about growing old and falling apart: every day there’s a new adventure. 🙂

From Toes to Bustline and Beyo-o-o-o-nd!

stripe Pity us over 50s:  we have these little spider webs around our anklebones that make us look like bad gremlins have been gnawing on us.  I know this. I worked as a massage therapist for six years. I saw a lot of feet. I also know the cosmetics industry is poised to offer us makeup for all parts of our bodies which sounds GOOD TO ME. Look as good today as you’ll look in your casket! Makeup so richly hued you’ll be mistaken for a Hollywood star! So full-bodied even your 3-D moles won’t show! So cleverly made that yes, even the Milky Way of your exploded blood vessels will be safely hidden from view!

The heck with these youngsters who think they don’t need pantyhose. All winter they go about with bare legs and wonder why they’re cold. and they probably think they look prett-ee fine with the tanned legs in the summer but hey,:They don’t get the kind of tans WE used to get, no-siree Bob. Baby Oil I’m talkin’, with Tincture of Iodine to give us that real Oven Stuffer Roaster look! Baby Oil, and a sheet of tinfoil to reflect those rays upward to the face and chest – which may be why we have now have these curtains of pleats running along our chests and upper lips.So hmmm come to think of it when will they give us aging Boomer women what we really need?  Hosiery for ALL the body-parts, starting at the hairline and going right clear down to the toes!

old lady face (at least we’ll always have scarves!)

You’re a Mess (But We Like Ya Anyway)

(No, this is NOT two gay guys sneaking into the Kama Sutra. It’s a picture of the first two cervical vertebrae, our friends C-1 and C-2, called Atlas and Axis by the folks who know ’em, the atlas because he shoulders the world, get it? The atlas bears the weight of that big old HEAD we all have wobbling atop the broomstick. Anatomy baby! There’s nothing cooler!)

Three days ago the doctor explained my recent MRI to me. “The joint degeneration in your neck is much worse!” he said with a great big smile and sent me to have an X-Ray, where one of the jauntiest guys in the business was doing the honors. I explained to him what the deal was: “Next week this doctor’s going to inject stuff in there, then make me have these huge boring amounts of physical therapy. First, though, he wants to see if I can even bend my neck without having my head fall off. There’s trouble in there I guess.”

“Wo, I GUESS!” he exclaimed when he looked at the image of the vertebrae in question, that little pile of Pop Beads.

“Sucks to be me, huh?”

“What did you DO to this neck?”

I sighed. I thought about telling him I fell out of a tree like my cat did, leaving her with a limp like Walter Brennan as Stumpy the Cowhand but said nothing.

“Long story, huh?”

Later, when he had the pictures actually in front of him and let me peek at them real quick I tried to get him to SAY what HE thought looked so bad. Was it the bony growth that Osteoarthritis deposits, or was it the silly putty of the bulging discs squooshing out between the Tootsie-Roll segments of this uppermost part of my spinal column?

But darned if he would say. “We can’t say a WORD,” he told me, going all businesslike.

So I was disappointed but I’m still glad I’d made him so happy earlier. I had stood in the EXACT RIGHT WAY for the magic X-Ray eye to take a picture of Pop Beads One and Two, which can only be done by opening your mouth REALLY WIDE and holding your head at just the perfect angle because IF YOU DON’T, your lower teeth and jawbone or your occipital bone in back obscure the view by trying to get in the picture too.

But the shot he took of me? Perfect in every way. See?

Dorks on Segways

I came to DC for the AARP 50th birthday bash and convention Thursday night because I knew I’d get the chance for a bargain-price Segway tour. That was my secret REAL reason coming here but then two things happened: (1) I found out that a tall athletic way-younger-than-me fellow columnist shattered her pelvis riding one and (2) I saw what dorks people look like traveling in them.

So thus far I’m grounded but I’m still having fun. There are thousands upon thousand of people here in the gargantuan Convention Center, and not that many with grey hair either since the organization starts romancing you the second you turn 50. I invited my friend Pat to come with me. Her registration fee was 30 bucks and mine was just $20, so never mind that they make it ridiculously easy for you to come to this annual wingding but you also get all kinds of deals on hotels, rental cars, insurance, airfare, etc. etc. 365 DAYS A YEAR. (I read recently that 40% of the population will be over 50 by something like 2011 and how frightening a thought is THAT, kids?)

The last time I was in DC it was to sleep 30 to a room with a bunch of teenagers who jumped over every parking meter they saw and kept chinning themselves on the ceiling rails of the subway, so the company is different this time but the spirit’s still great.They’ve got Martina Navratilova and Magic Johnson, Cal Ripken and the agelessly crinkly Shirley McClaine. The last two nights there were concerts by Natalie Cole and Chaka Khan and Chicago and tonight the big headliner is Paul Simon who I sometimes think is my cool older cousin so familiar is his every song to me.

Barack spoke to us by live feed this morning and 5,000 people were clapping and stamping their feet. And Maya Angelou and Quincy Jones who are having a little visit with us in the auditorium that seats like 500,000 are just plain bringin’ down the house.

I say ‘are’ because I’m in this auditorium as I write. ‘She’ just asked ‘him’ if he enjoyed doing Killer. He was up all night flying home from China so so didn’t quite catch the reference.

“Uh, Killer Joe?” he said.

“No NO!“ said Maya in that deep school teachery voice of hers. “I’m talking about that big album you did with Michael Jackson!”

When she realized her mistake she laughed harder than anyone and slapped her knee besides and I thought HERE’S a person that would NEVER worry about bring thought a dork and I’m just wondering now: is it too late to scare up that Segway tour before my flight home at tonight?

Watching the Watchers

“Pull Me Up,” which is what I called this week’s column, is about vigilance; about who looks out for the one who’s looking out for the rest of us.

I am married to Mr. Vigilance. Personified. When we travel I’m all the time talkin’ to little kids in the food line or jokin’ around with the smokers in that walled-off leper colony of a cement room they’re forced to use.

Not David. David is practically testing the instrument panel on the plane. He lies awake the whole night before a trip and worries. Boards the plane and worries. Lands and worries.

It’s not because he’s a seasoned traveler and I’m some neophyte. For the last 23 years I’ve been flying all over the map, comin’ in to Tampa when it’s 93 degrees and soaking with humidity to be on some dumb magazine show for 90 seconds; screeching in to Tucson and taking a wrong turn in the desert at midnight; climbing into some little rental car just as dusk is settling over some godforsaken rustbelt city whose newspaper I’ve made arrangements to call on…. Wherever I am, I just look at my little map and set right out, full of delight and happy expectation, assuming some stranger will take care of me, get out of his car to draw me a better map than the one I have; offer to lead me to my destination even because this has been my experience. I expect cheery good will on the part of the universe if not big affectionate pats to the head.

David must just expect something else, though we don’t talk about it at all – maybe because he’s so busy looking after me. I say this because I….. lose things; I drop things; I walk out of the kitchen thinkin’ I’m done in there for the next five hours, totally not noticing the six-inch flame still doing the Hula on an empty burner. And there’s more: Once I put a five pounds of flour down the garbage dispose-all, causing it to become instantly constipated. Once, while easing the baby into her carseat I put my purse on top of the car, off of which it instantly slid the second I accelerated, to be  picked up by a Bonnie-and Clyde style couple who the cops then gave lights-and-sirens chase to through three towns in central New Hampshire…

The other day was a real low point though: the other day I came trotting down stairs with my Innisbrook tote bag just as David was getting ready to leave for work. “Oh nooooo!” I shouted with dismay because inside this nice leather shoulder bag that he had won at his latest golf tournament everything was suddenly soaked.

Patiently he set down his own pile of stuff and took it from me. Out came the diary and the daybook, the three New Yorkers and the Time magazine, the nectarine and the cell phone,  all of which I clucked and mourned over and tried to dry off.

“WHAT have you GOT in this bag?” he was just exclaiming – until he came upon the full cup of coffee that had tipped over inside it.

“You put COFFEE in a tote bag?”

“Oh hmmmm… well I thought I had sealed it.”

Then he turned the whole thing over to shake out the pencils, the gum and the pacifier, the toothbrush, the carrots and the lip gloss – and found something that embarrassed even me: a half-eaten ice cream cone, the cone part anyway, now a soggy blob of waffley goodness still wrapped in its protective paper napkin.

He cleaned it all up anyway and handed it back to me after like ten whole minutes, and I couldn’t understand why he was smiling.

“Wait, I made you late for work – AND your hands smell like coffee and rotten Maple Walnut,” I said. “Aren’t you mad at me?”

“Nah” he said.

“Really? Why not?”

“Because the kids and I are gonna have a REAL laugh over this one!”

How grateful am I for the one who watches over me while in my manic way I attempt to watch over the whole known world? Really grateful – of course.

And hey: getting laughed at behind my back is a mighty small price to pay.

So thanks for all the vigilance, Davey Dave… NOW WIPE THAT SMILE OFF YOUR FACE!

Talon Show

(that’s me on the left)

The hands go first, that’s Aunt Grace always said when I was a kid living with her. She used to make me do my Latin homework for her every morning at breakfast and then forbid me to write down what I’d puzzled out. It worked though: I got to where I could read just about whatever scrap of Caesar/ Cicero/Virgil you set down in front of me like it was writin’ on the ol’ cereal box. She was a Latin teacher herself and she knew her stuff. She always spoke of the poor kid reading aloud his own earnest translation of a passage in which he had somebody or other arriving at the palace not ‘with one bare foot’ but rather with a naked foot soldier. (Uno pede nudo: you can see it. Plus hey, it got lonely way out there in Western Gaul!)

But to get back to hands, the story she liked best to tell was about the day her Latin One class was working on a passage about some magical vat whose waters could make youthful even the most decrepit old soul when a shy boy in the first row peeked up at her where she stood beside his desk. “They wouldn’t have to do that for YOU, Mrs. S!” he whispered admiringly – until his eyes fell again toward the book she was holding: “Well maybe just for your hands.”

Ah your hands: once we girls could practically earn our living modeling them; then the day comes when we look down and they look like the hands of Ma Joad from The Grapes of Wrath. I look at my photo at the top of my piece two blogs down  and all I see are my hands. Where are those hands with their tapered fingers and their long oval-shaped nails?

When I took up massage in the year 2000 I had to cut my nails clear down to the quick and even below but I didn’t look back. Let me do good with my hands now I thought because this is what they are for: work and not display.

Then I saw this close-up just the other day: (of my right hand, on the baby’s tummy.)

and so for the first time in my life hurried to my neighbor’s nail salon. “Make my hands look like Mary’s hands!” I said, Mary seen here below holding part of our cherry tree which when it died in the summer of ’06 we ritually took down and saved parts of (part of a part of which she is holding in those gorgeous paws of hers.)

I wanted paws like that too I decided and so after 70 minutes emerged from her nail salon with…. absolute talons, plumped up in some ungodly way to render them thicker and rounded, with that white rim that makes them French-style.

I felt great, if a little fraudulent – until Saturday night when I tried to go to sleep, which I couldn’t seem to do with my new appendages: They smelled too freshly of their chemical components when I brought my hands close to my face. Plus they’re so weirdly thick, they feel like the claws of an eagle when I try scratching my nose or scalp or ankle.So there have I lain, and for two nights now, sleeping only fitfully and waking to think WHO IS THIS PERSON IN THE BED WITH ME? WHO THE HELL’S HANDS ARE THESE?

The fact that they’re mine I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to.

I’m kind of a Woodstock girl is the thing so I don’t know… It’ll go one of two ways I expect. Either I’ll break all ten nails in the next 48 hours or grown too annoyed with how funny and foreign they feel, get out the mini-guillotine we use for the cats’ claws, lop ‘em all off and go back to being Ma Joad with the scary work-worn hands.