With Bells On

 

With Bells On

 

The season continues, as do I. To boost my own spirits, I’ve attached some bells to my old (old) army boots. The jingle-jangle of each step brings joy to my soul.

 

There’s no tree at our house this year. About the only things signifying the holidays are the cards on the mantel. Those and the array of colorful cans from the Beer Advent Calendar. Just last night I pointed out to Mister how the mantel area has become quite the mix of sophistication, quirk and frat house. Some things just leave a gal shaking her head.

 

Anyhoo – if you see me out in the world over the next couple of weeks, keep an ear open. I may very well have shown up with bells on. I do love to jingle-jangle.

I Made It For Myself

 

Savory Cheesecake

 

This is a savory cheesecake I made for a holiday party. I’m not blogging the recipe. I’m just letting you know that I got up early to make it, took my time and tried to make the final dish not only presentable but also festive.

 

This is the damned social season, whether we like it or not. And that very often means bringing something to our hosts. Some folks specifically ask that we not bring anything. Some request a contribution to the table. Some attendees (such as myself) struggle with walking in empty-handed, no matter what our hosts have requested. For us, if we’re bringing a bottle – easy. If we’re bringing treats for a friend’s beloved pet – no problem. If we’re cooking something, well, that isn’t always convenient. And sometimes it can be stressful AF.

 

So when making the savory cheesecake, I finally learned something that’s escaped me all these years: I made it for myself. That’s it. Yes, I was gifting the dish to the party I was attending. But I didn’t need or expect praise. I wasn’t trying to garner appreciation for the preparation and steps I’d taken. I wanted to make that cheesecake because I wanted to eat that cheesecake! Plain and simple. And y’all – some things are meant for a group. Gi-normous, savory cheesecake is one of those things.

 

During this holiday season, as you go about your harried, hurried way, please don’t knock yourself out to try and impress others. You don’t have to lose sleep and you don’t have to stress. Not over attending a party, for cry-eye. Store-bought is not only acceptable, it can also be fabulous. And if you choose to make something that takes time, blood, sweat and maybe even tears, do it for yourself. View it as art. Create something you appreciate. The joy you glean from your experience will more than satisfy.

 

One last thing… When you do create a delectable dish that makes you happy, it’s easier and more fun to make than if you’d felt pressured and strained in completing it. Because of all your positive energy, it’s also bound to be well-received. That savory cheesecake? Oh yeah. It was devoured.

One Beer in My Pocket

 

One Beer in My Pocket

 

This is what happens when you don’t plan your walk, people. You end up standing before a fancy, new beer fridge, 5 miles from home, and there’s a limited release just calling your name. And even though you’d super-like to pop the top and enjoy it there (where it’s not only allowed, but encouraged), you don’t – because you know you’ve surely got some drinking ahead of you. Not to mention Day 7 of your beer advent calendar. And you’ve still got to get home. Dag.

 

I believe this falls under the heading of first-world problems. I am grateful.

Trapped in a Trailer

 

Note: I’m working on a book and it’s got me road-tripping back and forth across my childhood. One road led to this post.

 

The Forest and The Trees

 

When you’re 12 and locked in the bathroom of a trailer in the woods, a lot of crazy stuff runs through your mind. How did she lock the door from the outside? Why is the window so small? How the hell do I use this tampon?

 

My mother had told me the month before that she was done buying pads (“sanitary napkins,” for the technically inclined) and that I would have to start using tampons for my periods. She said pads were too expensive and she didn’t like them, so I shouldn’t like them either. (Can you say “textbook narcissist”?) When that month’s period rolled around on the calendar, there were no pads to be found. She pushed a box of tampons into my hands, shoved me into the bathroom, somehow secured the door from the outside and yelled, “You’re not coming out until you know how to use those Tampax!” That’s how I found myself in that trailer’s locked bathroom, sobbing.

 

I banged on the door, tears flying, for a full 10 minutes. I begged to be let out. I begged for help. (Seriously – how was I supposed to use a tampon?) I begged and begged until I realized that my mother had probably left the room and wasn’t even listening to me anymore. Sometimes even a 12-year old is led to wonder how in the world her life could have turned out this way.

 

Looking back, I can see how complex and fractured that day was. How afraid that young version of me was feeling, how belittled and disrespected she was. I can also see my mother’s ignorance and shortcomings as a parent. How unprepared she was, how her own fears outweighed the well-being of her daughter. I won’t claim to not judge, because I do – in spades. But the thing I think about most is how I wish I could have helped my young self. How I wish I could ease her through that day and help move her forward, beyond it.

 

So in my mind, I’ve decided to send her some help. And I’ve done it in the only way I know how: I’ve replaced those janky paper instructions in that box of tampons, the instructions with the anatomical renderings that benefit no one except those with medical training. In their stead, I’ve left a handwritten note. It reads:

 

Dear Little Mikki,

 

I know it doesn’t seem like it, but you’re going to be okay. I promise. I’m gonna take you through this, step-by-step, so just follow along.

 

First, make sure you’re sitting on the toilet seat, like you’re ready to use the bathroom, while reading this. Take out a single tampon and tear the paper away. Throw the paper in the toilet. Now look at the tampon. See the end with the string? Notice how that cylinder fits inside the slightly larger cylinder on the other end. Place your index finger over the string-side opening and press. See how the inner cylinder presses the tampon through the outer cylinder? Neat, right? Drop that tampon and the cardboard cylinders into the toilet.

 

Now, with your fingers, reach down between your legs and find where the pee comes out. Once you find that, slide your fingers back just a bit to where your vagina is. That’s right – the “hole.” This is where you’re going to insert the tampon. (Stay with me. You can do this.)

 

Take another tampon from its wrapper (tossing the wrapper into the toilet) and practice pressing the string-side and pushing out the tampon. Do this as many times as you need, until you feel like you’ve got it down. Throw all those practice tampons, their wrappers and their cardboard cylinders into the toilet.

 

Take one last tampon from its wrapper (yep – wrapper into toilet), and place your index finger on the string-side opening. While holding the cardboard cylinder, and keeping your index finger over the string-side opening, place the other end of the tampon into your vagina. You only need to push it in about an inch. Once the cylinder is inside your hole, press the string-side cylinder and push the tampon into your body. If it doesn’t quite work, it’s okay. Just try again.

 

Once it does work and the tampon is inside you, that means you did it! You figured it out! Oh – and that string? That’s how you’ll pull the tampon from your body, once it’s time to replace it. (You will get the hang of this. I promise.) Wash your hands, make sure you’ve thrown all the various tampon wrappers and cardboard cylinders and practice tampons into the toilet, put the lid down and have a seat.

 

Now. I know this has been hard. But there’s still some ugliness to get through. When you leave this room (when you’re allowed to leave, that is), you’re in for a bad surprise. Your mother has invited a former boyfriend over – the one you never wanted to see again. And she’s done it today. Right now. He’s out there, with her, waiting to see you. And it doesn’t matter how puffy and red your eyes are from crying, it doesn’t matter that you’ve been held hostage in the bathroom. None of that matters, because that woman is going to make you go out there, sit down across from that boy, and act like everything’s fine. Little Mikki – everything is not fine. So here’s what I think you should do. Dry your face. Go out there and sit. But you don’t have to talk to that boy any more than you want to. You may have to sit in a room with him, but you don’t have to pretend you want to see him and you don’t have to pretend you’re happy.  You just gut through this visit, and I promise you – you’ll never have to see him again. I swear to beans.

 

You did good today. And you really are gonna be okay. Hang in there. I promise you’re gonna get to grow up and live far away from this trailer and these crazy people and you’ll get to decide the kind of person you want to be. No one else will ever get to decide that for you. Okay?

 

Now, flush that toilet, go out there and sit across from that boy until he gets bored and leaves, then go right outside for a walk in the woods. You do not want to be here when your mother finds that stopped-up toilet.

 

Love,

Big Mikki

Beer Advent Calendar!

 

Beer Advent

 

New month, people. Here at the homestead, that means a beer a day!

 

When I spotted this beer advent calendar, my soul would not allow me to walk away. So I bought it and now Mister and I get to drink our way through it.

 

I would like to thank the baby Jesus for getting born and all, so that advent calendars exist. Hallelujah, peace be unto you and namaste bitches!

This Beautiful Ride Called Living

 

Christmas Cheer!

 

How the hell did it get to be December already?

 

I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m just surprised. And honestly, I enjoyed November so much I wasn’t quite ready to see it go. I didn’t enjoy all of it. The fires were terribly awful. And then there was that one crazy thing that happened, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Mostly, it was a pretty good month.

 

The Broad Mikki Outside

 

A couple of weeks ago, Mister and I spent an afternoon at The Broad and it was aces. For some reason, I thought there was a new Ed Ruscha exhibit and I was all hopped up about it. Only we got to the museum and I was hopping for no reason. There were a few new-to-me pieces on view, and those pieces were awesome, but my expectations were not met. Not by Ruscha. But then we wandered into an installation of Ragnar Kjartansson’s The Visitors and I no longer wanted to hop, as I was floating. If you’re in L.A. and get the chance, please go. I cried through a smile so big, my cheeks still ache.

 

Ed Ruscha Works at The Broad

 

After the museum visit, we walked toward the train and found this young man on the sidewalk…

 

The Broad Poems for Sale

 

I immediately started digging in my pockets for cash, as there was no way I was gonna pass by a guy with a typewriter, selling poems, and not make a purchase. I didn’t get the feeling Jacob was one for talking too much, so our interaction was mostly limited to transaction…

 

The Broad I Bought a Poem

 

The very next day, I walked from DTLA…

 

DTLA_11.17.2018

 

 

to Santa Monica.

 

Wendy and Mikki at Sunset

 

Because I can. And because why the hell not? And because I had two friends along and one of them is a freaking light in the universe and the other was celebrating her actual birthday.

 

Route 66 Wendy and Amy

 

Hey – there’s nothing like a 17-mile stroll to make you feel young. This was my 3rd time participating in The Great L.A. Walk (GLAW) and I have to say – it was my personal best. No blisters or crazy soreness after. I felt pretty damned good, in fact. It was a beautiful day, the walk was smooth and the company couldn’t be beat. There was also that moment when we crossed paths with Bono (for reals). This is L.A. Shit like that happens.

 

The Broad - Metro Station

 

Before I tell you this next part, I’d like you to remember that I am fine and safe. I mean – I’m typing this and all is well. Um-kay? Okay. After the walk and subsequent GLAW celebrations had ended, when I took the train home from Santa Monica, there was … an incident. A young woman on the train was being harassed by a dude and it was one of those moments when you have to decide if you’re gonna be a stand-up person or not and all I could hope was that if I had to stand up for the woman that others would stand with me. The train was crowded and a whole lot of us were all too aware of the situation and again, I just hoped decency would prevail.

 

This particular young woman was seated directly in front of me, as our seats were in an L-shaped arrangement. Next to her was a young dude who, for whatever reason, decided to lean against and talk to the young woman. Never mind the fact that she was wearing gi-normous headphones and clearly not interested in talking to him. She tried pointing at the headphones, as if to indicate she couldn’t hear him. He was not deterred. After leaning against her for a bit, the dude stood up and – no shit – took off his shirt. Like that was in any way attractive. Or normal. Then he began leaning against her again.

 

Someone seated next to me moved and the young woman immediately asked if she could sit beside me. I nodded and she moved to my side. I leaned slightly toward her and removed one side of my headphones. She removed one side of hers. I said, “I’ve got your back.” She said, “Thank you.” We put our headphones in place and tried to act as if nothing was going on, all the while keeping watch on the dude three feet in front of us.

 

He began shuffling things around in the bags he had brought on the train, and that’s when he pulled out a knife. He held it in his hands and looked it over, turning it to admire the blade. That blade appeared to be around 8 to 10 inches. The dude just held it, studying it, and the young woman turned to me, terror on her face and I said to her, “Okay. You go.” She moved between people, ending up somewhere behind me on the train. I had already looked for the car’s emergency call switch and located it – behind the dude with the knife. That was out, as it would have put me in direct contact with him. I was holding my phone and as the train was still above ground and I had service, I called 911. I cupped my hand over the phone, to try and make myself audible over the train’s noise. I smiled and laughed a bit while talking with the emergency operator, trying to appear as if all was right in my little world. I gave as much information as I could and was told police would be boarding at the next stop. I told myself to breathe deeply.

 

The next stop came and went, y’all. No police. The dude was still one seat away. I thought maybe the next stop would bring help. Or the next one. Or the next. When the train moved beneath the city, I knew I could no longer call anyone for help as my phone service had ended. I was the closest person to the dude now and I was just trying to keep it together, hoping we’d pull into that last station without something going terribly wrong. All I could do was wait. That was all any of us could do.

 

When we reached the final stop, passengers were hustling to get the hell out of there. I stood calmly, picked up my pack and walked to the exit. Once I stepped off the train, I saw around 15 uniformed officers. I made eye contact with one and pointed toward the dude. About 3 of the officers nodded and headed into the train car.

 

Now – I needed to transfer to a different line to get home, but fear had caused me to just about pee myself. So I walked upstairs to a fabulous, familiar restaurant. The first person I saw was a busboy. I walked up to him, in my sweaty walking clothes and said, “I’m not here to order anything. I have been here many times and I love this place. But I just had a terrifying moment on a train and I really need to calm down in your ladies room.” That guy sweetly smiled and said, “Sure! Right this way…” and he walked me back to the loos. I think I peed for twenty minutes, then splashed some water on my face. I headed back downstairs to catch my train.

 

As I was walking down the escalator, my phone rang. It was one of the on-scene officers. He asked me some follow-up questions and I answered. I told him I was coming back to board a train and could talk in-person if he wanted. He acknowledged seeing me and suggested we keep it on the phone, so that I wouldn’t be identified during the arrest taking place nearby. I didn’t argue. I told the officer I had seen the dude place the knife in one particular bag. He said, “Oh – we found the knife and everything else.” Da fuh? Our conversation ended and I got on the next train headed my way.

 

I can’t tell you how fast my brain was processing everything around me that night. Where were my exits? Where was the emergency call button? What was the train car ID number? The upcoming stop? Why the fuck was this happening at all? And why was it happening after I’d walked 18 miles and needed some friggin’ sleep? But my brain did process. And I somehow stayed calm. I wasn’t called upon to fight anyone or to put out a fire or to be a hero. I was simply being a human in this city. My city. I did my part.

 

I didn’t see the young woman again, the one who’d been subjected to harassment and terror. I hoped she would be okay. As for me, I rode that second train to my stop, where Mister was waiting to pick me up and drive me home. I was safe. Tired and frazzled, too, but definitely safe.

 

Some of you reading this will admonish me for ever taking the train at all. Some of you will tell me to avoid crowded places, to shelter and hide from the dangers of the world. I get where you’re coming from. I do. But I’m not ready to give up this beautiful ride called Living. Not yet. I’m not ready to miss out on unexpected art. Or an introverted poet on the street. Or Bono, for cry-eye. I’m also not ready to give up being there for someone who’s decided to accomplish something on her birthday. Or someone who needs a stranger to have her back. Or Bono, for cry-eye. I mean – come on.

 

The world can be crazy. And parts of it have gone bat-shit mad, I admit. But in my city, the good still outweighs the bad. And I intend to do all I can to maintain that balance. That includes Living my Life. For as long as I’m able. God knows, I love being alive.

 

Yes.

 

Love

November Sunsets

 

Sunset on Thanksgiving

 

This is a photo of the sunset on Thanksgiving night. Mister and I were at the home of friends in Santa Monica, and we all took a stroll after our al fresco dinner. Mister had fried a turkey for the table and the bounty was amazing.

 

We’re entering that time of year when our sunsets come earlier and earlier. May they all follow lovely days. This one certainly did.

Too Many Turkeys

 

Turkey Day Table

 

Last year at about this time, I was at the grocery store, near the dairy case, when I overheard a grown woman yelling at the grown man by her side: ”Because Bob! You don’t get to tell people where to buy their food!” Bob looked fairly unfazed. He also looked unconvinced. I’m not sure what had preceded the bit of conversation I heard, but it didn’t look like their Thanksgiving week was off to a good start. And it sure didn’t look like Bob was gonna be happy with whatever it was someone would be bringing to his table.

 

That little run-in said it all really. The holidays are here. Some folks are overjoyed. Some folks are overwhelmed. This time of year can be tough. Maybe there’s no getting around that, but I like to think Bob’s route isn’t the only way to get over the river and through the woods. I mean – wouldn’t it be nice if we could just set aside the drama? Wouldn’t it be lovely if we just broke bread together instead of breaking spirits? And if we really just don’t like someone (whether they’re family or not), do we honestly have to spend time with them?

 

As Turkey Day approaches, I wish you peace. I wish the same for Bob. And I wish the same for myself, too. Trust me – we deserve it. Gobble, gobble.

Cool Like That

 

I’ve been a fan of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” for ages. For the life of me, I don’t know why. Rape, murder, assault – that’s not my bag, y’all. And yet I’ve watched the show, year after year, cast change after cast change. I even got to meet a writer from the show and I completely nerded out. I’m not proud.

 

But when this current season rolled around, I just – couldn’t. The world is so fucked up and the weight of everyday life is almost too much. Adding the ugliness of reel life to the ugliness of Real Life isn’t always the best idea for me. SVU fell by the wayside.

 

Until this past week. Mister decided to catch up on the season and I watched with him. The show is the same, good or bad, and my love/hate relationship with the characters remains.

 

I’m telling you all this because I had a bit of a personal epiphany while watching the show. During an episode, as one character showed disdain for a specific gender, I thought about my own feelings surrounding gender. And I realized I don’t trust a single sex more than another. Then I thought about that, and dug into my childhood and acknowledged how both my parents had screwed me over. And how their poor behavior, while inexcusable, had given me a gift: I see females and males as being equal. Both genders can be complete fuck-ups. Both genders can choose to be less-than-decent. Both genders can suck.

 

And while that point-of-view may seem defeating, bear in mind it also provides a flip-side. Both genders can opt for kindness. Females and males can choose wonderful humanity. Both genders can be amazing, brilliant souls. Neither of my parents showed those traits to me, so they don’t get credit for my positive view. I take full credit for that hopeful stance. Yeah – I’m pretty cool like that. And I’m grateful as fuck for that part of myself, to boot.

 

So I’ll keep watching SVU and will surely catch up soon. The show, for me, reminds me of something I’ve carried with me through all of life. The bastards can’t keep me down. You can’t see me as I type this, but I assure you, I’m smiling so much my cheeks hurt.

 

Sono Grata

My Lower-cased life

 

On Friday morning, I took this photo in Santa Monica, looking north toward Malibu.

 

Fire Up The Coast

 

At that point, the fires had been burning overnight and not dying down. I say fires – plural – because Los Angeles is dealing with multiple burn areas. As of this writing, none of them are slowing and fire fighters are struggling to achieve any containment.

 

After snapping the pic, I went into my friend’s place for a painting session. Turned out my friend was providing shelter for a family who had been forced to evacuate their home due to the fires. I’d met this family before, so they were familiar to me. The kids joined in during the painting session and that bit of time was fun. Ordinary. The kids didn’t seem to have any cares and all was right with the world. Later, when I talked to their mom, it became clear that she didn’t know if their home was intact or not. She couldn’t find out much of anything and just had to wait. And wait.

 

The fires have exploded now and though I live in an area that isn’t in danger, the smell of smoke is everywhere. I’ve heard from other friends who’ve had to evacuate and for so many people – so many friends – waiting is all they can do.

 

I was supposed to go beach-camping this weekend, up the coast. The fires put an end to those plans. I’m okay with that because Life isn’t about my plans. Lower-case l is my world, not upper-case L. That world is bigger than how I roll my eyes when I’m out of half-and-half for my coffee. It’s bigger than how I wonder where I might get take-out when I don’t want to cook dinner. Or how I have to wait to buy shoes, until they’re on sale. Or how I sometimes have to choose one social event over another, because I’m too lazy to attend multiple outings. My lower-cased life is pretty damned good. I have struggles and pains and wants and disappointments and still… My house is standing. My middle-aged health is tenable. My will is strong. Pretty damned good.

 

More and more people are being displaced by the fires. Lives have been lost. Property, too. Folks are doing their best to get through this, to survive. Some are even managing to shield their children from the uncertainty, to help them to see this day as being as ordinary as any other. I’m amazed.

 

Wendy Friend on Painting Day 2