Crown Royale (wit cheese)

Hey look Dorothea Lange and Mary Ellen Mark had a baby and it started taking selfies. ACK!

BUT I AM SHOWING YOU MY NEW ROBOT TOOTH THOUGH. Uh, maybe skip this one if you don’t like the inside of people’s mouths. But this is me, post-dog walking and on a pretty nice day here. Also my showers are way too hot, always. I give myself the red face.

Anyway, my poor old six-year molar that had an ancient filling in it finally gave up the ghost and started cracking around the filling. My dentist has been nagging me about changing it out for a crown for years. I was in a contest with myself to see how long it could last for. Answer: thirty-three years.

That brave molar, when it was brand new and still with new-tooth smell and those little rubber nubbins still on the tires, was declared to be rotting away. This declaration was made by a dentist in the new neighborhood we moved to after I came to live with my mother again when I was six. I presume my mother found him by opening the Yellow Pages, closing her eyes, and plunking her finger down on the page somewhere.

My mother had very bad teeth. She blamed them on busy working parents and indifferent babysitters. Parts of her teeth also had been knocked out by some kind of brother/basketball incident and replaced with a bridge. I remember her teeth looking uneven, yellow, and speckled with silver in the back. There were also weird flossing doodads in her bathroom drawers. From a young age, I assumed I would also have parts of my teeth knocked in and that they would go all cattywampus like hers.

I have very good teeth, for the most part, and have very little trouble. This may be in part because my mother was gone a lot, and maybe not able to pass her bad teeth on to me. Also I was raised in that special time when adults chainsmoked around you until you could barely make out what was happening on Guiding Light, but GOD FORBID you were not given a perfectly sterilized bottle full of science milk instead of having to fight the dogs for a half-chewed floor turkey leg or whatever.

So we rolled up to this new dentist, who told my mother I had a tooth that needed a filling. Later, he told my mother she would need four root canals in one afternoon. I suspect he had a boat that needed marina payments. I remember him calling my mother in and talking to her about it. He asked me, “Why do you think you have a cavity?” “Too much dessert,” I shot back. This got a big laugh.

We returned a few days later and I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect from the Novocain, I just knew a needle was going into my mouth. That was the first and last time my mouth had been numbed up until a few days ago.

The dentist got everything ready on a silver tray. I remember he didn’t have any kind of assistant, or front desk person. These were the days when you would spit bloody gobs into a nearby sink. Every time I go to the dentist I still yearn for that sink–there is something so much better about spitting everything out that’s bothering you. I know the sucky straws are much more hygienic but I hate them.

He prepared the shot. I felt the prick on my gums and I was scared. My good, current dentist paused as he was numbing me up, letting the liquid seep in slowly. The terrible, ancient dentist said, “Hold this for me, will you, I have to get something.” I was made to hold the needle in my mouth perfectly still while he left the room for what seemed like ages. I heard my heart in my ears and saw my little hand holding the needle as it stuck out of my mouth. I heard the clock tick. He was gone for a long time. I was scared of being alone. I was scared he would come back.

I don’t remember being drilled out. I do remember pain later, when the numbness wore off. I’ve always had this silver patch in the back, like most people over a certain age.

And then the poor beleaguered tooth, carrying its wide load of oral asphalt, finally quit. I’ve been grinding my teeth in my sleep a lot lately, which is not helping. I’ve been waiting for it to crack open, or fall apart on me someplace inconvenient and with many unwilling witnesses. I’m relieved it was just some cracks, which gave me time to schedule the crown appointments and come back, as well as let the office bill it to my insurance.

A crown with a live root means that you chip out the old filling, and grind away part of the tooth. Then what you you have left is a little tooth doot that they can glue something (circus peanut, real peanut, tiny beret) onto shaped like your old tooth.

My sad short tooth, which I should not have a picture of. I’m getting there….

If you are like me and the inside of your head looks like Jayne Mansfield’s mansion, you get a gold tooth, which they have to send away for I guess, and you have to wait 2-3 weeks.

“We’ll put a temporary on,” they told me.

No problem! I thought. I can roll with this. A temporary tooth hat. I told the dental assistant the temp crown she was fitting me with was too high, and she told me if she shaved it down any more, it would probably break. I kind of shrugged and decided to get on with my day, because she didn’t seem to believe my bite was off. Oh well, I thought. I have to chew on the right side anyway.

What a fucking mistake that was! I had no idea.

Tooth hat #1. If you squint you can kind of see the little brown spot and that it’s kind of already shattering about a day in.

Pain was holding steady through the week, and then at the one week mark my tiny hat popped off as I was watching TV. I had already made an appointment to have it adjusted so I thought I could just cruise through overnight and get there. I ended up calling off work and sleeping most of the day. I had gotten a little cold right after the initial day of drilling, which is my body’s angry response to any trauma, like stress or sleep deficits. I was starting to get Messed Up.

I went back and had a second one put on. That dental assistant was competent and patient, and found the right fit.

By this point my face (especially my chin) was starting to break out, which never happens anymore, and I was developing ulcers in my mouth, including an inflamed salivary gland. It was getting a little weird.

Finally, yesterday, I had the crown glued on. I was straight up with my dentist about how my three weeks had been, and how much pain I was still in. He was straight up with me and told me he knew a guy who took six months before his dentin calmed down after his crown was placed, but the nerve didn’t die.

I had the wretched assistant #1 and I thought, shit, she is going to make a dog’s breakfast out of this awesome gold tooth. Sure enough she couldn’t get it right with the grinders and my dentist helped her fit it. He numbed me up a little for the fitting but it was still intensely painful and sensitive.

I lay back in the chair, biting the cotton roll as the cement set for five minutes. Tears ran down the side of my face. I think that’s the only time I’ve cried at the dentist. At the end the assistant tried to fetch a mirror for me and I was like, “THAT’S OK. I’M OUT.” I just made sure I didn’t need to do anything else at the front counter and then fled. I could feel sleep overtaking me but I had to get home first.

So I am wicked sore today in all my joints and muscles, probably from tensing up. My mouth feels a little better though–mouth ulcers have calmed down, and my face hasn’t had any new eruptions.

Hard-earned!

To all my people that be drug gobblin just to get by

To all my people that be drug gobblin just to get by
Stack your copays till they get sky hiiiigh

Okay, that’s enough, Kan-NAY. How do I summarize a summer in one post? Let’s find out.

A. is for being Motorboated by the Universe’s Anus

I’m just going to say this: I had a terrible summer. I had an awesome summer. There were high highs and then I was crying in the shower again. I am a cat with internal injuries. I say I’m going to walk it off and then crawl under the porch. I have designed my life so that no one can help me. My children will be surprised when I die at 109 because I am nigh invincible.

How did I get back? Why now? I had a tipping point. If I’m working alone, I am usually listening to podcasts, which is a very magical thing about my job. Hand use hammer; brain use ideas. I was enjoying my weekly injection of my NPR boyfriend, Shankar Vidantam, when this episode came up about getting unstuck. I was stuck. I’ve known I’ve been stuck for a few months now. Nothing creative was happening. I had never been to me.

As an aside, work often reminds me of when my girls were small and I would try to have a conversation with an adult, particularly one who had little kids with them as well. The conversations could never progress past the basics because we were constantly interrupted by something else that demanded most of our attention, it was loud, and we were sleep deprived. Work is like this, and as a result there is primarily a lot of Dude Culture happening.

At first I walked onto job sites with a bias. My logical brain told me, “Well, not all construction workers…” but I still thought I would be working with right-wing, unevolved cavemen, who are there because they didn’t know what their other options were. It’s more and less subtle than this. There are some guys, like people everywhere, who are constantly crude, and are not deep thinkers. But for a lot of people it’s a veneer. I work with guys who have college degrees, who have traveled the world, and who are screaming atheist liberals.

There’s just not much time to talk to anyone about anything interesting, and there’s Dude Culture, so the bar is low and it’s mostly dick jokes. Sometimes they talk to me about real stuff if we’re alone, and then explain to me they have to do performative masculinity in groups, or they won’t fit in. Some of them encourage me to act this way as well, but I know I won’t fit in, so I’m just myself, though I keep my mouth shut a lot. It’s complicated. I also keep an earbud in one ear and an earplug in another, so I don’t have to hear a lot of what passes for conversation. *

Anyway. I’d been feeling really antsy and stuck in life myself. Usually I have a bunch of projects and interests going, but I’ve been hyperfocused on the girls and their health for about a year now. I had the multiple whammies of probably 80% feeling depressed about what the girls were going through, which led to the other 20% being about neglecting myself and my interests. And then I had bonus depression because I felt selfish about being sad about neglecting myself. It’s fun in my head, which I have dubbed The Abattoir of Joy. I am a robot who makes medical appointments and does research and panics privately and says out loud: “HOW ARE YOU FEELING TODAY? ANY BETTER? CAN I MAKE YOU A SNACK?”

Long story long, I stepped back on blogging for a while because my personal project was my most personal things on the planet. In April Franny had a huge “mast attack” (I think of them this way now because of the amazing site Mast Attack) and health crack up and spent all of early April in bed. She was missing school and feeling so bad she was pretty checked out on life. I can relate to this feeling after my big break in Maui, and unfortunately it’s not uncommon with mast cell problems. Strudel was generally lagging along and getting worse after turning 12 last spring, which redoubled my resolve to make things better.

So I vowed to read the entire internet, summaries of studies on mast cell disorders (or the papers to the best of my limited abilities), talk to people, email people, march around to specialists until I found some who weren’t assholes, and try things as long as they weren’t magnets or diets involving one color group. You get the picture.

What is happening now? Some improvements and a change in attitude. I kept thinking about unsticking myself and I have a little reserve for that right now. I will drop it like it’s hot if there’s relapses when school starts next week though. It’s my job to launch them into the universe as legal adults running and screaming towards the first day of the rest of oblivion and not just let them go out with a little whimper like I limped out of my mother’s house.

After many years of thought, reflection, talking, therapy, vodka, ad marzipan the killer in the relationship with my mother wasn’t necessarily the mean, or the crazy, or the (later) blackout drinking/memory lapses. It was the lack of care. The universe dealt her a sick kid, and ignoring that didn’t make any of my problems go away, but it did make me go away. I’ve said this before but I will repeat it: I care about my girls, and more than that, I want them to feel cared for and believe their lives are worth improving and saving. And I want them to emerge into adulthood with the feeling that I tried my hardest for them.

What does all this yammery hand-waving mean on a practical level? I got Franny into physical therapy, with a recommendation in hand for Strudel. I’m just waiting to find out what her school schedule is like this year, and then I can start taking her. Franny was diagnosed with scoliosis for a second time, which can be a secondary effect of Ehlers-Danlos (connective tissue disorder). Her carriage has already improved and she’s feeling a lot better overall. Nutritional support via the ND is working out really well for both girls, with an emphasis on things that axe histamine in the system, like vitamin C and B-5. We’re still doing antihistamines, rescue inhalers, and histamine blockers.

Here is the attitude adjustment. Our NP left to join another institution after many years. She was always nice and well-meaning, but I was relieved to see her go in the end. She saw me through some of the hardest times and did very little for me except the same basic blood panels and puzzled shrugging. I had a visit with the NP who replaced her, because I still need quarterly follow ups to get my tired, narcoleptic mitts on Adderall. I don’t know what to do without something artificial to keep me awake and get me through a day.

For a while I was kind of dithery, like, “I think? This might be mast cell problems?” Now I’ve had the tests and enough confirmations to know. I’ve made the decision that we just go into places now like “WHAT? WHAT WHAT? We have mast cell disorder so that’s a thing you need to know.” So I did that with the new NP and she was like uhhh ok. If anyone’s ever again like, “that’s made up” I am walking out mid-appointment. I told the girls I am dealing with their medical stuff this way as well.

Okay I need to stop or I never will stop. I’ll be back to this, I know.

B. is for food that will make your teeth all grey

As always, I went to Twin Peaks with Franny and Morgan. I have a friend deficit right now, some of which is my fault, and some of which is drifting due to life and sickness. I remembered last summer that I also miss volunteering for things. So Franny and I volunteered at the Twin Peaks Festival. We worked the merch table and the banquet (since we can’t eat there), and I handled a celebrity.

I thought I would meet some people and talk with some people and just generally be in the world, and I was. I think I made beginning friends with one of the other volunteers. I’ve been kind of a ghost everywhere. A long time attendee introduced himself to me and asked me if it was my first festival, and I was like, “no, fifth.” He was amazed. Ha! Even Kimmy Robertson talked to me this year, and she doesn’t talk to many people overall. So I think I was being there.


Franny and Pete with camera obscura

Late one night in the Airbnb at Twin Peaks I told my sister all my stress and cried, it was just cracking open out of me. I try not to do this because I was raised to be a martyr and the family hero and she’s the baby, but she was very supportive and encouraged me to get back to myself and things I like. I feel like a gong went off when she turned 30 in July and now I don’t have to worry about her anymore. I threw her a surprise party in my backyard.

THEN, CHRIST, shortly after that, I saw her father (my stepfather) and his wife who I haven’t seen in 12 years. We spent about a day and a half hanging out and they met the girls and saw the house. Things ended so, so badly with my, well, childhood, and I just didn’t think I would see him again. Morgan had been telling me for years that he’d mellowed out a lot from the days of the epic fights he’d have with my mother, and that he felt terrible about what had happened. She kept telling me that she thought it would be good for me to see him.

To be brave I told myself a story, which was that my sister wanted me to see him, and I could do anything if it was important to her and I wouldn’t be scared. I think that was partly true, but that she was thinking about me as well. And it was a nice time and they thanked me for taking care of Morgan so much after our mother left her third husband and lived with me for a while. It was a little heartbreaking to leave home when she was six, and have her arrive at eleven, and see how messed up she was. For some high school summers Morgan was at my house every day and even spending the night on the couch.

When I saw him walk in, I felt my cells popping. I went cold, my skin crawled, my ears rang, and I got dizzy and I was dizzy for the rest of the day. The second time I saw him I was fine, but the damage was done. I crawled past it though, and now we can be back in each other’s lives again. I was pretty sick the day they left, so work was murder. Even my boss commented on it. “You gonna push through this?” he said. He probably thought I was hung over or something, which in a way I was.

“Fuck yes I will,” I said. “Things will be better tomorrow.”

“We didn’t know how bad things were until later,” Morgan’s stepmom told me at dinner. Understandable, since Morgan kept it pretty quiet. For one, like me, she thought weirdness was normal, but also didn’t want to rock the boat and be forced back to Illinois. She was taking root in Seattle.

And it turned out! Morgan has a career she loves and meaningful relationships. I was so happy to spend a bunch of time with her friends and coworkers and her birthday weekend to see how much they love her and how they are like family after so many years. Morgan did most of the heavy lifting herself, and she is really good at Showing Up and Giving it 110%, which is like most of success, but it was really nice to be acknowledged for the part I played too. Literally no one else on the planet understood what that meant or what I was doing and could say that. Except Morgan, and she does sometimes, which is sweet.

Now that I can downshift on FIXING ALL THE THINGS for my own girls, I’m going to work on patching myself up some. I’ve got some cool medical stuff happening I’ve been tolerating, as usual, but I don’t have to. My dentist has been nagging me forever to get my one thirty-three year old silver filling removed and have a crown put on. I saw him a couple of weeks ago and he said, “Welp, your tooth cracked finally.” I wasn’t surprised, since I’ve been clenching my jaw like crazy. I AM READY. But sad. I don’t want a crown.

There’s something else too. Strudel had a very minor cavity (as in, literally a deep natural depression in her tooth, not decay) and my dentist wanted to clean it and fill it. She didn’t need numbing but felt pretty crap after, and has been been sick and sleeping almost constantly for the past couple of days–her mast cells degranulated. I’m worried I’m going to get sick too even though I don’t need a root canal. I may just have to suck it up and be out of work for a couple of days.

I’ve been wanting to pick up painting again (a practice that predates this blog), but I go blank every time I think about what to paint or even how to start. I decided to take a drawing class this fall at a community college, so I hope that’ll knock something loose. One thing I remembered from vacation this summer is that it’s worth it to take the time to focus on something else for a while.


Orcas Island score

* A few days ago I was up on a lift, way up near the ceiling working on duct. I could hear some mudders in the hallway. One, a white guy, was talking loudly. The other guy I could sort of see on his lift was Mexican. This is relevant because in my experience Mexican guys on a site are either SUPER polite and friendly to me or ignore me. Either way, they are very aware of me and move aside if I’m coming through (as I would for them) or say hello.

It starts: “SO THIS GIRL KEEPS TEXTING ME ALL THE TIME. I’M SO TIRED OF IT. (Stupid girl voice) ‘I STARTED SCHOOL TODAY!’ YOU KNOW WHAT, I DON’T FUCKING CARE.”

My break alarm went off and I lowered my lift and climbed down. The Mexican guy glanced into the room and saw me coming, and said nothing.

“YOU KNOW WHAT MAN, I JUST NEED TO GET INTO SOME NEW PUSSY. THIS ISN’T WORTH IT. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? NEW. PUSSY.”

I stepped out into the hallway and snaked between their lifts to get to the stairs. I gave the Mexican guy a little nod, since he moved his lift to let me out of the room. I glanced at the white guy, who looked like a 50-something Sam Rockwell, but busted. Sam Elliot mustache. Grizzled.

“Uhhh sorry,” he said quietly. I pretended I didn’t hear, and I didn’t CARE. I know what NEW PUSSY is. I’m married. I have children. I have a PUSSY. Christ. Own your no manners or shut your mouth.
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Further adventures in getting my shit together

1.

Now that it is winter, a small brown hawk (or hawks) is visiting our yard and scaring the shit out of the chickens. I came home on Wednesday to do a quick Thanksgiving grocery/flowers drop off and bounce back out to a doctor’s appointment when I realized there were two chickens hiding under my porch shoe rack (very weird), but none of the other chickens were in evidence.


our lackluster decorating this year

I forgot the girls went downtown to have lunch with Pete, so no one had been home for a couple of hours. I called the chickens how I do when I want to feed them scraps and there was no movement. I have a pariah chicken that hides in the coop most of the time and I found her, so that made three of the eight. Then I saw the girls and Pete walking down the street from the bus stop and I asked them what was up. Nothing, they said, the chickens were there when they left.

I had to go but the girls said they would look around the neighborhood in case they had jumped over the fence. As it turns out, within an hour Franny was able to find them all in the yard, very very silently socked in to small crevices and under thick hedges. The good news is that they are bin Laden-level hide and seek experts, but the bad news is that if they hide like that and we don’t find them, they are likely to get picked off by a raccoon that night.

I suspect this is the same kind of hawk that struck Death Ray dead last winter, but Pete and I finally saw it recently. He saw it swooping into the yard and we saw it later being chased by crows. It’s too little to actually carry a chicken off.

This is weirdly frustrating. Could you at least eat what you terrify?

2.

We had a very quiet Thanksgiving. I dithered on the menu until I ended up in the realm of completely traditional and boring and I was very okay with that. I butterflied and spatchcocked the turkey again this year. Apparently I did this last year and have ZERO memory of it. I do remember the car crash and that an entertaining was a Herculean effort due to feeling generally shitty and being depressed. Whee.


another year, another turkey. But, it was delicious again.

This year I super enjoyed myself for no real reason. Everything came together very easily and I didn’t make a schedule in five minute increments like I usually do, and I didn’t forget anything. I think I was also less interested in over-the-top food weirdness like I usually am. I’m starting to feel like I can direct my energy where it counts now, and save it sometimes when it doesn’t.

We had garden pumpkins saved from summer and I baked them for pie, like I sometimes do. I’m sure there’s a ton of traditional pumpkin pie recipes out there that don’t contain evaporated or sweetened milk but I didn’t feel like hunting one down. I took a peep in the Joy and found something called Pumpkin Chiffon Pie. It called for a custard, egg whites, and gelatin as a thickener/fluffiner, and it was nice and light without being at all rubbery. I had the last piece for breakfast Friday morning.

What I REALLY was looking forward to was the Gilmore Girls revival that dropped on Friday. I had a little party with the girls, my sister, and a friend, all of whom are superfans. I don’t have a ton to say about the show here. I think you have to accept Amy Sherman Paladino products for what they are. As many recappers and reviewers have pointed out when the show was on the air, it had plotholes ahoy as well as time and other logic problems. That pattern wasn’t really resolved in the revival. I was happy to spend more time with the characters and we all laughed and cried.

I made a Gilmore-inspired buffet and my guests hung through the first two episodes, which was three hours of viewing. I made pizza, Chinese food, a cake, and Pete made The Rory, which is a very pink cocktail that Emily had concocted for Rory’s 21st birthday. I made some deviled eggs benedict, as a nod to Emily’s fancy parties but also the episode where Lorelai and Rory devil egged Jess’s car. Franny made whoopie pies because they are chocolatey and marshmallowy and good.

My sister captured the “before” better than I did because I was buzzing around finishing things up, but I did get an after.



3.

For the first time ever, I seem to be able to successfully use list/task software consistently and well. I’ve always kept a calendar, and I kept a datebook while I was in school so I could turn things in on time, but other than that I was a little random and would struggle.

During my decline and fall in the corporate world, I tried kanban-ing and task listing and bullet diary-ing and anything I could think of to make sure things didn’t fall through the cracks. I would also spend time reading the bon mots of productivity gurus and then being annoyed by them and hating them and then hating myself. Then I realized I wasn’t always using my apps consistently or even remembering to update or even open them. Pretty disheartening. But now I find that if it goes on my task list, it gets done, if not day of, then the next day.

I’m using Epic Win at the moment. It’s simple, but good for me for recurring tasks (monthly dog and cat flea treatment) as well as daily ones like flossing. Yes, my task list includes flossing, something I often forgot or put off. Some day I hope it will be so ingrained I can take it off again.

I include one-offs on my task list as well. I decided today would be the day I would clean off my rain lamp so I can consign it.

I enjoyed owning a rain lamp for a short time until I realized that oily surface = dust nightmare, and it always smells like a melted crayon when I run it. Also, in the summer when it gets above 80 the oil starts to evaporate and leaves specks on the wall, table, pictures, the statuette in the lamp, and so on.

I told myself that if I cleaned it and made sure it was running well, and consigned it, I could begin the process of looking for a TV lamp. A few months ago I found the book mentioned in this article about the history of TV lamps. I thought it would be fun to replace the rain lamp with one. Just a little spot of tacky decorative light on the credenza and a lot less maintenance.

But anything like this was an uphill battle a couple of months ago. Please excuse this terrible metaphor, but I felt like much of my life was spent paying off blackmailers rather than going to the hideout and kneecapping the source of the problem. I had a lot of inertia going. I was sad my lamp was dusty and partly clogged, and making a mess on the wall in the hot part of the summer, but didn’t have the energy or organization to deal with it. My list kept getting longer and longer. Today it rolled up on my to-do list, I found that motivation lever and dealt with it in less than an hour. It’s still very weird and something I’m trying to get used to.

4.

Last week I had trade school for the first time. It was a mix of classroom time with basic math review (area, radius, fractions, decimals, etc), OSHA training, and some shop time. I found the shop time the most challenging because I knew what kind of metal bends or folds I wanted to produce, but not always which machines did what and how to use them.

We had to make a useless duct, which was kind of a nightmare on the first go round and turned out very poorly!

My teacher said, “Write your name on your duct!” but I was embarrassed so hedged a little.

By the time Friday rolled around I passed the written test since math, history, vocab, and so on is not my hurdle. I was nervous about the final shop project since all we had was a spec sheet, but it finally clicked. I finished last, but I did fine and finished well within the time limit.

On one hand school was WAY easier to sit still, pay attention, and focus on, than it was from first grade through grad school. On the other, I was not ready for the feeling of being back to something I haven’t done in over ten years. Fortunately it’s only a week at a time and they really want you to succeed.

This week I talked to a cool journeywoman who was doing trimble work on my jobsite for a couple of days. She remembered me from the women’s meeting in October. I told her about my shop challenges and she said, “Oh yeah, I remember that. I’ve told them how hard that is for shop newbies!” She said she was organizing some shop time for the women’s committee to come in and build small objects like toolboxes for outreach programs in high schools. She told me that is a great time to come into the shop and take pictures of the machines with a note about what they do as reference for later. GREAT IDEA.

Work’s going well. Life’s going pretty well. Drugs have been like a switch going on in my life. There’s a daily “FLICK” when they kick in and my thoughts get orderly and calm, but even when they wear off (by midmorning) my mood still stays pretty good over the course of 24 hours until I take another one. After they wear off, though, I feel my brain getting skippy and sludgy again, which makes me bored and grumpy. I’m working out what a second midday dose will look like.

My doctor wants to put me on something really low dose and reasonable for a second dose so I can get to sleep at night, which I think is a good idea, since I treasure my restful, unanxious sleep now. I have an interesting reaction with these drugs. I’ve discovered I can take speed and immediately go to sleep if I need or want a nap. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME. I don’t think it’s going to interfere with my sleep. What fucks up my sleep is not being on drugs and being out of work. I used to need to be exhausted, like utterly destroyed to stay asleep or fall back to sleep after I’d snapped awake at 2 or 3 a.m. But ideally I do need my brain happy and my body at least tired.


me unmedicated

I’m still not pushing myself super hard to take on big projects or new hobbies or even get back to writing…yet. I want to motor along for a while until being happy and getting things done feels normal and not novel.

Assholes can do anything

“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.”
–Douglas Adams

Have you ever been part of a group and have just known you’re despised by the people who are in some way responsible for or are otherwise forced to interact with you? I’m not talking about being a libertarian, or a vegan, or a mommyblogger, either. My pre-apprenticeship is going down in FLAMES, people. IN. FLAMES. It’s open revolt, except it’s not us, it’s our keepers. Everywhere we go everyone knows what a terrible group we are and how awful our attendance is, and we were told with a month left to go that absolutely NO ONE will qualify to receive recommendation letters.

It’s rather freeing, actually.

It’s freeing in part because I know it’s absolutely hooey and none of this really matters. I’ve gotten a lot of skills, and have made a lot of contacts, and have learned so much, and as far as that goes, it’s been completely worth it. I’ve learned about trades that I never would have known about or applied to, and have learned that I really like volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, especially when they let me run the nail gun.

But what these people think about me and my classmates, who are actually an awesome, capable group of women? It don matter none.

Today we went out to Kingston where the laborers are. I didn’t know until a couple of months ago that laborers are a trade that do almost everything but licensed work (like electrical and pipefitting). Mostly we talked to women there, but a guy came in and talked to us and said things several times to the effect of, “Despite what everyone says about the laborers, we work really hard/are very skilled/are constantly working” etc. Finally I took pity on the poor man, who seemed to be getting crushed under the enormous chip on his shoulder about his chosen profession and interjected: “Actually, no one has anything bad to say about the laborers. It’s mostly the ironworkers people talk smack about.”

“Ironworkers! Well, those guys are REAL ASSHOLES,” he said. We all nodded.

Due to a typical lack of communication on the part of our unwilling stewards, I didn’t know I was supposed to park and walk on the ferry to be picked up on the other side, and so paid and drove on. Finally the thousands-of-tons ferry made its gentle and miraculous kiss against the rubber of the dock (how is that even possible almost every time?) and I drove myself to the site, parked early in the back lot of the training center, and pulled out my trusty book.

Currently it’s Anybody Can Do Anything by Betty MacDonald and BOY HOWDY is it speaking to me. It’s memoir by the Mrs. Pigglewiggle/Egg and I lady about her 12 jillion jobs she held during the Depression, mostly engineered by her psychopath sister.

So I’m sitting there and I hit on this phrase that MacDonald drops about the ancient-by-1930 house she lives in with her mother–she says it has “elastic bedrooms.” What is this, some kind of 19th-century magic? My mind raced. Did they change size? Was it some kind of terrible wall covering? I’d heard of coin-operated heaters….

I was distracted. And my smartphone is DRAWERS. If I tell it to go on the internet it just has an aneurysm, wets itself, and wakes up with 3% battery, claiming it has no idea who or what I was talking to it about. It’s your selective-hearing granny. So I texted P.

>Do you know what an elastic bedroom is? Depression era

P: No, but I can look it up.

HOLY SQUANCHY, IT WORKED. I am actually interrupting this busy important guy who is at work solving real problems and he is looking up something stupid for me.

>Thanks Poogle I am desperate reading my book here

Later, P.: Best I can come up with is that they hold as many people as need be.

OF COURSE. MacDonald had a large family and they crammed into a three-bedroom. Ask a librarian indeed.

After dinner, Franny’s birthday came up and I was trying to get out of her what she might like to do, since she’s not keen on parties. I told her she could go to the mall with her little friends and I would even kick in a sawbuck for a virgin mangorita.

“What is a sawbuck,” she AND my sister (over for Monday night dinner) said, almost at the same time.

“You know, a ten?”

I had to explain I was reading a Depression-era memoir and I was enjoying some of the slang, old and new to me. I think I probably picked up sawbucks in all the noir trash I am often reading or watching. I started telling my sister about the memoir, thinking it would be of interest to her since there’s many mentions of the Seattle streetcar and the Public Market and they live in the University District and at one point she works out past Skid Road. I told her I’d texted P. earlier that day about something in the book.

“…Poogle, because it’s like ‘Google,’ GET IT?” I was saying when P. came in from the kitchen where he was doing dishes.

“What book is this?” he asked.

Anybody Can Do Anything.”

“Is this about that–”

“Elastic rooms, yeah.”

“Oh, that was the book I found that I was using as a source to answer your question,” he said.

CONTEXT! Go figure! I’m running off to my first test at a union tomorrow. I am VERY TIRED so I think I will sleep long as well tonight. And then…MATH.

Today’s fun fact is that iodized salt contains dextrose


Thetans! Thetans errwhur!!

Weird week. I had really vivid nightmares all week, and night sweats, and just generally woke up a lot. I realized partway through the week, once cool lesions started opening up on my scalp and my lymph nodes started raising again, that I had gotten corn from somewhere. The list of symptoms is long, and it’s unmistakable now.

I’m discovering more and more that things I buy are often cut with or cross contaminated by something, even if there’s no listing. I’ve been reading about the adulteration of honey, and olive oil, and the practice of adding (corn-based) glycerin or HFCS to some red wines. This made me think about why, even if I was making every sauce and meal from ingredients that read “contains 100% whatever this is called,” I was still having adverse affects sometimes.

So this week it was tamarind paste–I happened to be at a Whole Foods, which carries a different brand than my home store. It said 100% tamarind paste so I bought it and added it to a chutney, which was nothing else but fresh herbs, a little safe seasoning, and whole dates. I made it to go with some onion pakoras that were a terrible fail in the fryer (not enough batter). I salvaged them by mounding them like drop biscuits and baking them on a high temp. Strudel and I ate the chutney for a couple of days with leftovers and she got sick too.

“How are you feeling?” I asked her when she came home. I had gotten a call from the nurse earlier that day, who said she had fallen, knocked her loose tooth out, and swallowed it.

“Well, pretty bad. And dizzy. Which is why I fell down. Also my throat is sore from swallowing my tooth.”

I poured out the leftover chutney.

At this point, I think my best bet is to compile a list of brands with the reactions they cause (and more importantly, brands that do NOT cause reactions) and make it accessible by phone for shopping (I’m about to pull the trigger on a new smart phone so it should do more than just make calls and send texts that my janky old grey mare has been reduced to).

I woke up this morning feeling super hungover (no booze for the past two days) and in theory I am supposed to be running in a 5K on Sunday. I felt marvelous last weekend when I had a houseguest and was wrangling bees. Now I have not been running enough and have been falling into bed exhausted. P. keeps asking me about the race and I am so demoralized right now I don’t even want to think about it. It felt completely attainable last week. Maybe things will turn around by Sunday.

Franny was hanging onto corn for the past few months. She told me she wanted to see how she did, to see if maybe just cutting out wheat and most dairy would do it. She had a pretty serious crash over spring break on a day when she treated herself to a giant Arizona Iced Tea “juice” (HFCS). She came home and tried to do the crossword puzzle in People, of all things, which could really be worked out by a moderately clever grey squirrel, and got frustrated and was going all dyslexic in the letter spaces. Then she wandered around the house for a while, and cried for what she admitted was “no reason.” She was in bed by 8 p.m. that night.

I used to get these odd narcoleptic crashes after lunchtime sometimes where if I was sitting my body would shut down as if I’d been drugged for about ten minutes. Things would literally start to shut in on me and go kind of black–aggressive unconsciousness. If we were on a road trip I could stop midsentence and then come back to life about ten minutes later, snapping awake as if I’d never been asleep, and finish my thought. I used to sleep on the commuter bus from Microsoft daily a few years ago.

So it was all kind of familiar. I talked to her about it the next day after she’d slept it off. “Sooo, I noticed you had a large corn drink earlier that day, and your crying for no reason and brainfog and tiredness seemed familiar….” Later that day she said she was going to try to deliberately cut out corn.

“I have no idea what I’m going to eat at my dad’s house now,” she lamented. “He already gives me a hard time. ‘Don’t you get tired of no variety?’ he says. My choice is to feel like crap or eat nothing sometimes!” She eats a lot of rice there.

This is…kind of frustrating, but kind of just silly. We have a ton of variety here, in the world of spices and flavorings, and every kind of seasonal veggie, and loads of gluten-free grains. As I’ve written about, we make gluten free breads or cookies sometimes. From what she describes, there’s not much chance for “variety” over there because ingredients that don’t work for her are in most meals. I don’t like that she’s being treated like she’s making a strictly moral dietary choice or is being a picky teenager for no reason. She feels her stepmother still has no understanding of what she’s dealing with. (“What is Celiac anyway?”)

P. and I put our heads together and asked if it would help to have some kind of grocery list. Her dad takes her to the store every Friday that he picks her up, which is nice, but expecting a 14-year-old to meal plan on the spot, not knowing what is in his pantry, is challenging. I didn’t really get good at weekly meal planning until I was in my late 20s (and finally had a fixed, consistent cashflow and budget that was barely above the poverty level I’d been living at for years, that was key).

So I sat down with her and made a short list of staples that she could prepare as sides with little fuss or cost, like baked potatoes, or putting fried eggs on rice. I winged a really simple beans and rice recipe for her. I told her to take Kind bars out of our pantry as backup. We tried to think of things her little sisters wouldn’t want to raid–not to be stingy, but so Franny’s “special” stuff would not get eaten, leaving her with things she could not eat.

Okay, okay, so I admit that I am often overzealous about hacking my kids’ lives so they will run better and smoother. It’s definitely an overreaction to having zero help with things when I was a child. Sometimes my brain goes, “Hey, you came out of it fine”…except those times that I was unsafe, or underfed, or hiding the fact that I needed medical attention because asking for a lift to the doctor was a bad idea. I am trying not to do everything for them. I know they will go out into the world and step on 28 rakes on the first day, but I want them to have a shot at realizing that there’s more than one way to solve a problem. And that it is okay to ask for help with things.

Anyway, I am happy that most of the time I can go for a run, especially in light of the fact that I was laying in bed most of the time a year ago, and that most of the time my scalp is not covered in lesions. (HA. There’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever write. wtf) I’m happy that Strudel is kicking ass and taking names most of the time now as well.

P. and I “worked” the bees midweek to see what was happening in there and to see if the queens were out loose from their cages. We took the tops off the hives and straightened comb out as much as we could. I didn’t see any eggs yet, but if things are going well we should see larva tomorrow. I will bring my camera for that. I wouldn’t say we were in a rush on Tuesday, but the sun was setting and it was rather cold and miserable. It has been thrilling to see foragers bringing in their fat pollen legs on the nicer days this week. P. says he can feel his brain crinkling because there is so much to think about.

And, for posterity, here is Shan and I on Sunday in my yard after she spent the night. HER phone will deign to take pics. Unfortunately for her she was swamped with monitoring posts for her site/various social media on Saturday night, so I said HEY LET’S BE VEGETABLES. I turned on a few episodes of Flight of the Conchords and we just kind of giggled and had a glass of wine and didn’t talk exhaustively to 1 a.m. or anything. It is nice having the type of old friend who you cannot see for a year and a half and then just sit with them. I am very grateful to her. If she hadn’t gotten in my face on my blog in 2003 or so, I never would have gotten to know her. I get my head pretty far up my obtuse, increasingly introverted ass sometimes, so I am happy that some people have decided to B&E into my life.

In Sickness and in Hairballs; Or, My Harballz Will Go On

Poor little Goethe! We think she fell off the roof last night. She lost three canines and cut her lip up pretty badly. The emergency vet thought it was a fall in part because she has “front claw trauma”–probably trying to scrabble for a hold before eating cement.

She was swirling around my legs around 5 like she does and then disappeared–the cats usually disappear around dinnertime, probably because of all the noisy flurry of people activity in the dining room and kitchen. Dinner took a long time because like a dummy I was trying to make french fries again. Of course half the fries disintegrated in the boiling water and then the oil boiled over…I really suck at them.

“You should get a Cornballer, Mom,” Franny said. (I have just introduced her to Arrested Development, because she obviously needs more sarcasm in her arsenal.)

I think I will get a Cornballer. I miss greasy fries.

So at 7:30 I retreated to the bedroom to put on comfy pants. I was really sore because I took the dogs on another death march yesterday, all the way to a Jewish cemetery hidden in Shoreline and back. I super wanted to lay down and hopefully be asleep by 8:30 or so, for serious. My sleep schedule has been weird because of my unemployed hobo lifestyle right now. Then I saw Goethe on the bed, panting and with a bloody mouth.

Anyway, Gert’s doped out of her mind now on some kind of “opioid” substance that we squirt on her gums. The e-vet said our regular vet would probably want to remove the canine roots, and that will be that. I will have a kitty that will no longer be able to behead birds and leave them in the laundry room (silver lining). Of course being a cat, she will still probably kill them slowly in the yard anyway.

My cat flap is locked to “in only” this morning for Goethe’s safety right now, and her mother is being a huge tool about it, per usual. She will scratch the flap and meow, an activity that is very popular with her. I let her out into the backyard, making sure her injured daughter isn’t going to try to make a break for it, and Mere comes back in about 10 seconds. Then she goes back into her “I DEMAND TO SEE MY LAWYER” routine. SO TEDIOUS. There is a litterbox downstairs, lady.

Mere does this scratching routine pretty much every night on Strudel’s door. She has bonded with Strudel, of all people, who calls her “MYYY CAT.” (Just like Goethe is MYYY cat, which is why I think she retreated to my bed when she was hurt.)

I’m off to the vet in about an hour. We’ve been really lucky for the past few years. All the animals are pretty young, so the vet bills have been low.

I thought she was geeking out on this outlet in my dining room after I drugged her again (“I can see the music, man”) but then I realized the attraction was probably the sunbeam.

“Cut his hair and watch it grow”

“But Sidley Park is already a picture, and a most amiable picture too. The slopes are green and gentle. The trees are companionably grouped at intervals that show them to advantage. The rill is a serpentine ribbon unwound from the lake peaceably contained by meadows on which the right amount of sheep are tastefully arranged – in short, it is nature as God intended, and I can say with the painter, ‘Et in Arcadia ego ‘Here I am in Arcadia,’ Thomasina.”

–Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

Like 99 percent of the Northern hemisphere, as I mentioned I had a couple of colds during November and December. My lingering cough stopped sometimes after New Year’s, and loosey goose that I am right now, I realized I could take some of the pot if I wanted to. Ever since it was legalized here I’ve been mentally bemoaning my lack of time and energy for it. Not a huge thing, but I was like, wow, I am now such a boring adult I am too busy and tired to do this thing that was once (briefly) a pretty major part of my life.

I was making pot brownies for a hot minute in the spring just to get to sleep, and would sleep through most of the experience. I would take a little chunk before bed and it seemed to help put me to sleep and keep me that way. If I did wake up to pee at 2 a.m. I would realize I was high as a kite, stumble to the bathroom, and then put myself back to bed quickly. I woke up refreshed and not groggy or spacey. I abandoned this as soon as I found out that making up for missing vitamins and minerals in my diet would do the same thing and even better.

Recently I decided it might be fun to spend part of the afternoon stoned. I had maybe two hits and went back indoors, and I felt it coming on. Well. I had kind of a terrible afternoon. I was high for a while and felt okay. I don’t smoke myself to puddle-on-the-floor incapacitation levels anymore–again with the lack of time and energy and really, interest.

When I was a kid all that was available was weak ditchweed. I’m sure they were already doing interesting things with cross-breeding for potency in California, but not with the scrag I was getting in the Midwest. You could maybe bet that you’d be kind of giggly for about a half hour, and then would be kind of tired and would need a bottle of mango Snapple, STAT. It’s a commitment now. As a friend of mine once said, “new” pot is like a couple of steps away from acid. So I stop with a small hit or two.

I had a realization the other day, though, and I felt kind of silly about it. Once the high had kind of died down, what I was left with was mental fuzziness. The “brain fog” that I had been experiencing from food on a regular basis for the past five years or so. I never minded it before, because I was always fuzzy, and didn’t notice additional fuzz. But since I am clear most of the time now, this was intrusive and unwanted. I felt like the stereotype of the dumb cartoon giant or troll. Mad, but confused, and not sure where the arrows are coming from. I kind of stomped around my house for a while, crushing villagers in my mind, and then had a lie down.

So I think I am done with jazz cigarettes, at least for now. Maybe at some point the memories of the brain fog will fade, and I will want to be altered like that, but for now I am enjoying the clarity I have most of the time. Now that I feel this chapter closing, I am inspired to write another of my pointless series on my history with pot and some things that happened when I was stoned or trying to get there.

IN OTHER NEWS

I had my camera on some weird setting that made everything a little blurry in the dim lights of my living room last night…


Twelve down, eight more to go


Kennel up!

About a week ago, Death Ray the silkie discovered that she could squeeze herself through the gap in the chicken fence. The other girls are too fatty von fat fat hens to fit, which was the point of the design. Death Ray is now about 6 years old and has survived many chicken incidents and a small handful of drive by raccoonings.

She has greatly outlived all of her peers that I purchased with her and at this point she doesn’t really fit into the pecking order at all. She completely stays away from the other hens, which started about three years ago. I have wondered if she would develop more homies if I got some more silkie chicks, but I am currently at the legal limit of hens. Also, every winter now we assume it’s her last…but nope. She lives through everything somehow. She sleeps in the egg laying box presumably since she is so old and creaky, and even survived when Strudel left the egg-retrieving flap open a couple of years ago. That really should not have happened since the flap opens into her bed directly.

Anyway, I figure she has earned her retirement and a respite away from the other hens, who often peck her if they remember she exists. Poor little pariah. I like to look up and see her noodling around on the lawn all day though.

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

I have an in-person interview on Friday with multiple people. Never has one person had so many interviews for a short-term contract that doesn’t pay that well. Sadly, that’s probably not true though. If I get this it will spit me out on the other side in June, which is slightly into Farmer’s Market season. Hollerrrr!

I noticed I was using all caps again for my title and I went to change it, and then I was like, Hey, this is my blog, I’ll do what I want.

So briefly* I will mention that I went to a fancy restaurant with regular, gluten-free, and vegan menus on Thursday. In my dreamland this is ideal, because I am kind of like a vegan…who eats meat. So if restaurants are geared up to leave the dairy out anyway, but are willing to serve meaty dishes as well, I am good to go. I had a nice talk with the server who is very used to the Care and Feeding of the Modern Seattleite and she walked me through everything. It was just like at home: meat and veg! That I did not chop myself. Natch I got glutened and hit the bathroom as soon as I came home, and kept hitting it for a couple of days.

P. had a day of fallout after I did. He was SUPER CRABBY on Saturday, which was bad timing because I was out all day and he was with the girls. I refer to him and me as Captain(s) Asshole now on those bad days. My bad day was Friday, which was better because I was alone and forced myself to take a walk with the pooches, which helped. But by Friday night I had drunk the house dry (not very much, actually, I think half a bottle of wine and a can of cider…) and was rolling around in bed DYING for a baguette with brie and jam smeared on. I could see it my head, like those cartoons where they are starving and suddenly someone looks like a walking, talking, ham.

What the fuck is this shit. I get glutened, and I want more of what is poisoning me. WHY, BODY, WHY?? In the past I would have just gone for it, and then passed out and woke up with a terrible headache. Instead I made myself some socca and spread jam on them, kind of like a crepe layer cake. I yelled at P. as he attempted to straighten the quilts around me so I would be warm and comfortable. I am lucky he didn’t “accidentally” put the pillow over my face.

So Saturday was my business class and I was nervous because I thought maybe I wouldn’t be able to pay the best attention. But I was really focused throughout it and it answered a lot of little nagging questions I had. It was nice to talk to someone who has actually rented space in commercial kitchens and could answer my questions about that–namely, is it possible to do gluten free preparation in a shared space? The answer is that I am going to have to buy my own equipment, which is not going to break me. We’re talking things like immersion blenders, funnels, and bowls.

Most of the students appeared to be over 30. There was a guy sitting in front of me who was an oddball. He came back from one of the breaks and this wave of booze smell came with him, and after lunch he fell asleep for a while at his table. Seeing people sleep in class took me back to my 8 a.m. class days in community college, but obviously this guy had something else going on.

I’ve done a lot of the research on my own. I understand that I will need various licenses, that for my product I will need dedicated kitchen space outside my home that’s been approved by the health department, I know mostly what supplies I’ll need, so the teacher didn’t drop any unexpected bombs on me. It was nice to have some dots connected by someone who has run a business like this in Seattle.

But I left the class and felt kind of deflated. I thought, oh, I’m just tired, I’ll feel better tomorrow. But I didn’t. I felt anxiety, was sure I would fail at having this tiny business–why bother starting? This is after a few weeks of doing research, taking frank looks at the administrative parts of this challenge as well as working on dressing recipes two to three times a week. Okay, I know that isn’t a very long time, but this is also after 15+ years of knowing I want to work for myself someday (having an inn or B&B).

The voice in my head came back, the one that comes back when I am feeling ill. It said, “You’re a lazy person and you can’t really expect to set goals like this.” And I was exhausted. I slept for a long time on Sunday and Monday, and my body hurt a little again. My “tennis elbow” which was improving, felt worse again. I didn’t want to run errands or talk to people. I imagined myself telling my sister that I had changed my mind about this venture and seeing the look on her face. (She is very excited for me, thinks this makes a lot of sense, and has even offered to help me fill bottles on her one day off.)

I walked Strudel to her before school yoga class this morning, since I had to sign releases and meet the teachers, and on the way home my head finally started to clear. This isn’t me, I thought. Well, it was for a long time, unfortunately, but if I am eating right I have sick amounts of energy and can make plans from start to finish. I bet…thought the slowest, thickest person ever….I am still having fallout from gluten. I last got hit on November 17 and I had to call off work and had a really hard week. It takes me about six days to come back to “normal”–happy, experiencing a normal amount of worry about real problems, but feeling like I have the power to accomplish things.

SO FUCK THIS SHIT I am not quitting ANYTHING. I am going to the Man again with my hand out and will take their filthy lucre so I can make my own business. I will feel better. And next time we have a date night, Captain and Mr. Asshole have resolved to eat at home and then go out for drinks or to a bookstore AFTER we eat.

* Did not happen, forgot what else I was going to write about instead.

Lush: For a Day or a Lifetime

A couple of nights ago on the bus I was at the nadir or apogee of being completely out of it (considering how you rate these things), I’d just started my period and my brain felt soft and soupy. One of those nights where I came home and took my thermos out of my bag and put it on the counter, and then tried to do it again a few minutes later, and wondered how I’d forgotten my thermos at work.

I didn’t expect to be alone on the bus; I’d forgotten that P. had a haircut so I left my book and mp3 player at home. As always it was crowded at first, and as it lurched on to my hinterlands, we were all able to disperse and get a proper amount of West Coast space bubble between everyone.

I moved to one of the high seats in the very back and center and stopped focusing on my cramps and tiredness. I stopped being cross that there was nothing to do but think, and remembered that’s a thing I like to do, even if I’m not always great at it. It was cooler in the back. The windows were closed, but the vent in the back was ruffling my hair slightly. I looked straight ahead out the front window and pretended I was traveling on some kind of crappy, noisy litter or flying carpet. I wondered where I (and my teeth) would end up if we stopped suddenly.

It made me think of all the time I spent riding the bus back and forth downtown six years ago, when I was working holiday retail. I had come to the hard decision of picking up some kind of retail work after a few months of looking for a 9-5 contract. I’d been freelance editing and writing, working for our preschool to cover tuition, and I had my tiny writing gig at Blogher, but it wasn’t really the same as 40 hours a week at a tech gig, or even something like retail or coffee, which is at least steady.

No one in the tech world was biting, and I was getting increasingly desperate. I got home from a trip to Fred Meyer and flipped over the receipt and glanced at it without thinking about it. “WE’RE HIRING FOR THE HOLIDAYS!” it announced, among the ads and coupons for local restaurants. I could do that, I thought. I hadn’t worked retail for over ten years, but it comes right back, I figured. Like a herpes outbreak.

I tried to be sensible about it and apply to places where I actually would appreciate a discount, which is why a department store like Fred Meyer made sense. Of course I was scouring craigslist at the time, and widened my net to include the retail help wanted section.

I saw Lush was hiring for Christmas. They noted they were having an open house in the store, bring resume. I quickly scrubbed my master’s degree off my resume and put on something kooky–loud jewelry, red Fluevogs, blue velvet blazer. I had been a customer there for over ten years, when I could afford it, way back to when they were Canada-only. This would be perfect. At least I could be surrounded by smells I enjoyed, and maybe score some discounted lotion and some free broken bath bombs.

I went downtown, clutching my resume, not expecting much. I figured I was five or ten years out of the age range they were looking for. I walked in and got verbally accosted by the shrill and peppy woman who was the assistant manager, Janelle. She was in full-bore weekend mode, which I would get to know well. This involved, in part, shouting at everyone who walked in, and smearing stuff on people. I’m pretty sure she was smearing a cocoa butter bar on a hapless customer when I met her, a popular trick she used to brighten up aged tattoos.

Janelle was one of those people with no volume control, which helps in a shouty profession like Lush’s desired brand of pushy, in-your-face retail. She had a hooked beak of a nose and no real chin to speak of, giving not only the obvious first impression of a bird, but after working for her for a while and seeing how she would go for days without washing her greasy hair, she looked more like a heron who had been caught in an oil spill.

I also met the top dog: the store manager, Lisa, who was able to carry on a conversation in a normal tone of voice, much to my relief. As a company, Lush is known for its sometimes extreme activist stances and funding fringe groups, like people who chain themselves to whales and whatnot. As a dabbler in nihilism, I knew my philosophy didn’t really line up with that face of the corporation, but I knew we had capitalism in common, so the marriage could probably stick. Lisa lavishly complimented my leather shoes when we met, so I was a little surprised later that she had somehow decided I was a fellow vegan, and amused when I found out it affected her decision to hire me.

I got a call back later from Janelle that was so loud I remember holding the phone away from my head. I forced myself to match her level of enthusiasm to accept the job loudly and gleefully. It’s just for Christmas, I told myself. Christmas, downtown. At one of the busiest malls in the city. It was better than wearing a Fred Meyer polo and nametag, if not as practical.

We were told to report somewhere for orientation, for which we would be paid. Janelle gave me the time, and the date, and a name: “The Moore.” I knew it as a music venue, which I thought was an odd place to hold an orientation, but the economy was in the pooper and maybe they were renting space during the day? I met another girl there, Gina, hanging around outside the door, and guessed she was a Lush temp as well because of her confused look and adherence to the dress code of black and/or white, which was already being enforced. She and I conferred and were both confused, and tried knocking on various doors and looking for signs.

A few minutes later I got a phone call. It was Janelle. “WHERE ARE YOU?” I cringed in pain and held the phone away from my ear, so it was effectively a conference call.

“I’m outside the Moore Theatre,” I said.

“Me too!” my new friend said.

“Gina is too,” I added.

“WELL GET OVER TO THE MOORE HOTEL, YOU SILLYS! GEEZ! WE’RE WAITING FOR YOU TO START!”

Having rarely stayed in a hotel in my own city, I actually had never noticed the Moore Hotel existed and was relieved to see it was catty corner from the theatre. As Gina and I were hurrying across the street, I realized was one of those moments, when, if I was younger I would have felt stupid for days and probably would have fallen all over myself trying to apologize, but I knew this wasn’t really my mistake. I think it also set up how I felt about the job in my time there, and set up my attitude about jobs like this in the future: I was going to hit the due diligence mark, but I wasn’t going to get too wrapped up in the job itself, either.

I walked into a room of about 15 women, as I recall, all in the proscribed black or white clothes. Mostly black, because what kind of moron wears white to work retail, let alone in a shop that is full of brightly-colored hunks of beauty potions that would explode when dropped or stared at too hard, or melt if exposed to the sun? I vaguely recall Janelle saying something awkward and shamey to we derelicts when we walked in, and Gina looked chagrined, but I thought that if Janelle could manage her way out of a tatty, repurposed bath bomb bag, she probably would have just started the orientation. I noted that Lisa the store manager was nowhere in sight, so we were at the mercy of Janelle.

We were informed about the structure of our day. For the first part, we would learn about the many products Lush offers, with an emphasis on limited edition Christmas product and gift boxes. We were hired right after Halloween, so we were to learn the theme for that year which tied back to Halloween (and moving leftover Halloween product). This year’s theme was: SUUUUPERNATURAL, Janelle intoned dramatically, writing it on the white board in the room.

It somehow reminded me of what I imagined summer camp was like when the crappy counselor was left in charge for the evening while the cool teens went off and got drunk: “Ghost stories, kids. SPOOOOOKY!” There is nothing like a watching a power-mad person finally getting that juicy leadership opportunity they so desperately crave, and then being captive audience to an entire day of their grandiose over confidence. I knew that we could expect a day of watching lines Janelle had practiced in the shower falling flat.

Of course I had worked Christmas retail in the past (Best Buy, Tower) as well as at Safeway as a checker during the holiday rush. I knew little enraged customers more than clueless holiday help who cannot answer basic questions about products or know where anything is, so I tried to really commit what Janelle was emphasizing to memory. The top enragers for customers were 1. waiting. For anything and 2. being told that something was out of stock. Dealing with bumbling holiday temps was often a precursor to a full-blown customer tantrum, because first they had to deal with a 19-year-old girl going, “Do we have face lotions…ummm…” before being told that the lotion they want is out of stock and then being made to wait in line to buy a second or third choice.

Once I got the basic product lines breakdown, it was pretty easy to think about how to sell the product. Lush follows the typical conventions of the world of product fragrancing, and you could chuck all the products into bins in your mind. The olfactory experience of walking past or into a Lush store is a lot like that of a perfume truck crashing into a whorehouse, but there are distinct categories. There’s my favorite world, which is citrus anything, especially bergamot. There’s kind of weird-fruity beyond citrus, like blackberry or apple. I thought of these products as being targeted at children and someone who never met a Katy Perry perfume they didn’t like. There’s the floral categories–rose, jasmine. There’s the foodie/vanilla/chocolate/honey products. Then there were “green” or herby-spicy concoctions that were meant to smell like you’d been rolling around in the woods making out with Stevie Nicks (SPOOOOOKY). These herby scents were especially emphasized in my Supernatural holiday season.

You can break all these categories down into further patterns. If rose is involved, you can be pretty sure that they are going to add some citrus or carnation to it, too. If there is jasmine, either vetiver or or ylang ylang will probably be involved. And so on. In spite of their we’re-so-wacky image, Lush usually sticks with the tried and true combinations, which is just good business sense. It’s incredibly convenient for me, too, because after working there and smelling, and smelling, and SMELLING vials of essential oils and all the products over and over again, it’s pretty easy for me to eyeball a “new” product via the site and immediately know whether or not I will like it.

This was just one facet of how we were expected to sell products. The other major facet was the benefits of the healthy and natural ingredients. It was distasteful to witness some of the regular staff selling products with purported anti-aging benefits with a touch of the “let us save you from disfiguring wrinkles” fear-mongering. I believe that sunscreens (which Lush products do not contain) delay the aging process and do cool things like reduce skin cancer, but beyond that wrinkles are inevitable, of course.

I avoided this tack all together, and even had some women try to suss out my beliefs about “anti-aging creams,” which I thought was interesting. I never once had anyone walk off in a huff after I said things like, “aging is inevitable, but this cream could make your skin type feel nicest on the long, drying march to the grave.” It always seemed like a test, and as soon as these rare individuals twigged to the fact that I wasn’t going to try to scare them into buying something with a bunch of anti-feminist claptrap they warmed to me and seemed to trust my opinions and recommendations more. It was a funny dance.

There was also a lot of beneficial factoid stuff we were supposed to spout about the ingredients of every product. Janelle recommended we memorize three facts about every product. A tall order in a store with dozens of product lines, with anywhere from two to thirty products in each line! But I had always been interested in fragrances and perfumes, and was actually looking forward to learning about essential oils and principles of fragrance composition, thereby sewing another badge on my World’s Dilettante-iest Dilettante sash.

The afternoon after lunch was spent focusing on gift boxes, roleplaying various customer needs scenarios, and being quizzed on products, scent families, etc. Then we were all given our individual first week schedules. There is no commission at Lush, but it was strongly implied that capable (meaning high-selling) and flexible workers would get more hours as the season wore on. Then it hit us, as we looked around the room at the new colleagues were had gotten to know that day: theoretically, there were slots available for all of us to work, but some of us would get more hours than others.

In the weeks before Thanksgiving, we lost some girls right away. I say “girls” because that is what most of us were: very young, and we were working in such a feminine environment. We pedaled flowery products that looked like cakes and hearts or bears or what have you. 99.9% of customers who walked in were women. We were always addressed as “girls” by Janelle, who was twenty-five to my thirty-one. I think the only people in their 30s were me and one other woman who thought everything was pretty much bullshit as well, but wanted to make a little extra cash over the holiday and score some cheaper Christmas presents. I rarely worked with her, because unlike me, she had a real-deal day job and was only available at night.

So, as I said, we began losing some girls right away. They couldn’t handle the high-pressure sales tactic style that was expected of us, or the kooky singing or dancing or yelling or endless product demo offers. We were constantly pushed by management to offer little impromptu hand treatments to anyone and everyone who walked in the store, and some girls shied away from that. There were some who had bad attitudes or problems or could not hide their contempt for Janelle, which was the death knell for any temporary clerk there.

Lush was at the end of the mall, sticking out into the public plaza adjoining the mall, and was always full of shoppers, protesters, proselytizers, hobos, criminals, police on horses and bikes, horse-drawn carriages, nut vendors, and assorted other rabble. The store really did jut far out like some kind of verruca of a weird architectural afterthought on the building itself, and was basically a glass-walled box on three sides and was nicknamed “the fishbowl.”

Occasionally men were attracted by the display of girls in tanktops and aprons, dancing around in the fishbowl like fools to Off the Wall or Lady Gaga. The ladies’ club atmosphere in the store would change very abruptly and clerks would try to dodge men who we all knew had no interest in actually buying anything. They used us as a captive audience to mack on. There was one guy who claimed to have xray glasses and could see us naked, and would chortle over the bath bombs and how they looked like “tittays.” Other men who showed up, thankfully, were either gay, and so were part of our clubhouse vibe since they were just there to smell good and feel nice, or they were husbands/partners and had been indoctrinated or resigned to coming along.

We were told over and over again than men were repelled by Lush because they had a stronger sense of smell than women, which never sounded right to me, and seems isn’t true anyway. I always thought it was, to oversimplify things, that women are socialized to fragrance their person, their home, their clothes, and have been sold things via fragrance for many years. Imagine these stock photos/ads with all men. Oh, I did that. Here’s men enjoying smells. Women enjoy the smell of cleanliness (which should really be the absence of smells but that is a rant for another day), fruit, flowers, food, babies. I think men are supposed to enjoy smelling meat, brandy, and pussy. Lush does not sell those things, and is indeed very PETA-friendly, so I think meat is out and maybe even pussy unless it’s being humanely sourced.

One night when we were closed, doors locked, I realized were were still a captive display even after hours when a man walked up to our doors that opened to the plaza and exhaled the most enormous lungful of pot smoke that I think I have ever known to come out of a human into the crack where the doors met. Was that harassment? Intended as a gift? A response to the fumes that were emanating from the store? I was irritated and hoped it wouldn’t make me sleepy, since I still had about an hour before I could even make for the bus.

There was a barista who worked across the way who liked to come in when the youngest, bosomy-iest girls on staff were working. He had what seemed to be a legitimate phobia of glitter, which is an ingredient in many Lush products. When we were slammed and I found myself alone on the floor, while watching him attempt to cadge an arm massage from one of the other clerks, I would approach them both, slathering a shimmer bar on my forearms casually. He always fled with a nauseated look on his face. I got to know him better when I picked up hours at his shop as well, in an attempt to patch together forty hours, and he confessed that glitter really made him feel like he was going to vomit.

The mall itself was a funny community, and I missed it when I left. There was a Waldo who walked through the mall regularly. There were bomb threats and fights and shoplifters being hauled out by bike cops. My barista friend would keep me in the loop about who was sleeping with whom, and what a creep the Rosetta Stone kiosk guy was. Sometimes he would take me to spend my paltry barista tips drinking at PF Changs, or I would stop at the Buckaroo on the way home, my children long asleep after my late hours, and spend my money on one beer.

In the food court, the bubble tea people got to know me because I would come for half price, day old banh mi on Sundays, which I also loved, because I would treat myself to free street parking instead of the horrors of the bus. They knew me at McDonald’s, too, because this was the only time in my adult life where I was that desperately in need of cheap quick calories. At first I often packed a healthy and thrifty lunch, but it would sit in the jumbled morass of the one closet in the store where we were allowed to keep our coats and bags, and by the time my break rolled around, everything tasted like perfume, which made it really hard to choke down. Far better to spend a dollar on a burger, which my body would rip through after standing for eight hours. Like the kids I worked with, sometimes I just said “fuck it” and had a bubble tea for lunch.

When I was really getting into the groove of working there, I remember being in the aisle popping and locking to Justin Timberlake or something when a group of ladies walked in. That thing happened where you are glancing at someone right before the moment of recognition and it happens slowly, because you are both out of context for each other. Then we had it, at the same time: library school. She had tried to help me get into the PhD program a few years before, and I knew she had dropped out of it herself since then, but was working as an information professional somewhere. People who did not think I was a chucklehead assbiscuit in library school seemed to think I had some kind of bright future somewhere (still waiting on that one, ha ha) so I wasn’t to surprised to see her look of total confusion as she took in my apron and my sick dance moves.

“SJ…what are you DOING here?” This was said politely but with a sense of genuine bewilderment, as if she had caught me clandestinely smearing myself with feces.

“I’m working,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. She literally turned kind of red and did sort of an awkward lurch-step backwards out of the store again, without so much as a “goodbye” or “I’m sorry.” Her friends followed her. It was like a Victorian novel, and not only was I smearing myself with feces, but I was doing that while being a disgraced heiress who was now a three-penny upright in an alley.

In order to avoid reminders like these that I once had had a promising future as a corporate drone, I aggressively lobbied for day shifts. A side benefit of this was that I now had ample opportunity to work with the regular, non-seasonal staff. I was known as a go-getter who could connect with people, was a hard worker, and could move a lot of product. All of the clerks liked me and a few decided to take me under their wing, which of course involved talking much smack about the other regular clerks.

My favorite clerk quickly became Aoife, who confounded some things I thought I knew about people. First, she was an African-American woman with an Irish name that was challenging for many Americans to spell, let alone pronounce. She was a single mother who spoke in a particular accent that I had previously associated with African Americans from the South. If I had to guess, I would have assumed she was from Georgia. Nope–Alaska. Something else unexpected, since a common American stereotype/belief is that there are no black people in Alaska. When I met her and she told me she was from Alaska, she said, “Yes, that Alaska. The state.”

Janelle and Aoife hated each other. Janelle told me Aoife kept a gun in her bag in the terror pit that was our personal belongs closet. Somehow I managed to tactfully ask Janelle what her opinion was on why Aoife carried a gun and Janelle looked at me meaningfully and said something like, “You know–ALAAASKA.” (Spoooky.) Whoever came in to work would stack their coat and bag in the closet, and by the time your shift had ended, of course a bunch of ladies had put their stuff on top of yours, so you had to fish your stuff out from the bottom, which would send everyone else’s belongings flying and shifting! Woe betide you if you’d forgotten to zip your bag all the way. Every time I had to get my things after clocking out, I thought of Aoife’s alleged gun shifting around in there and I hoped the alleged safety was on.

Aoife told me that Janelle had bipolar, and was on and off her meds, which she said explained a lot of her erratic moodiness and various states of hygiene competence. “That girl just smell sometimes,” she told me flatly, and I could not disagree with her. Janelle usually stank of old pot smoke or hair grease, which seemed to conflict with her forcing me to listen in great detail what bath she had indulged in the night before, using about seven different products. If only she would dunk her head. Janelle would prescribe me various baths and send me away with homework and a promise to give her a full report about exactly what bathing with an Avobath bomb AND a Sunny Side bubble bar was like.

The mall was a clusterfuck and my bus stop and bus was downright dangerous sometimes, but there was something that was working for me about the job, and it had one huge advantage over other, theoretical future jobs: I actually had it and knew how to perform my duties. I was surrounded by mostly women and the two delightful gay men on staff all day. I had whole weeks where I rarely interacted with any men at all, beyond P., which was exactly what I needed then. I would come home and rub balms and face masks all over myself and just relax and smell good, which was nice.

But the downsides (besides the customers, ho ho)…I took a LOT of inappropriate boundary crossing from Janelle, from hearing about her sex life and her finances. She touched me a lot, too. She was fascinated by my breasts too, and asked if she could touch them. They are fine boobs, but really, they are just boobs, not made out of powdered unicorn horn or anything. Aoife told me out of the blue that she thought Janelle “had a thing” for me. I prayed that “the thing” was a raise and some defective product. I don’t think she was into me.

One day I was working the register and she was admiring my chest tattoos, which, fine. “YOU NEED MORE!” she declared, and began drawing on me with a Sharpie to create a piece in the middle of my breastbone that would link the two flowers. It sort of looked like a constipated sun. I couldn’t really run off the floor and scrub this off in the bathroom, so I endured questions from customers about why I had let an uncoordinated child draw on my body with magic markers. It was ironic to me because I knew she fancied herself an artist and had previously worked as a sign painter, which I didn’t know was even an actual job anymore.

Janelle took credit for this masterpiece every time, and I think the customers saw the “dear god, help me” look in my eyes, but Janelle thought we were bonding, I think. She implied that the young girls were twits (they weren’t really twits, just young) and the older girls were trying to backstab her for her job (they were) and I was the only one who “got her.” It takes me a ridiculously long time to tell a person I like what I am thinking or feeling, or anything beyond the barest thumbnail of what my life is like (I think a nicer way to put this is to say I am a bit “guarded”) so it occurred to me that she, a real freakazoid, probably knew next to nothing about me, really. I just spent hours listening to her ramble inappropriately while keeping a poker face, something I learned from dealing with my mother.

I was still relentlessly applying for jobs anywhere, everywhere else. I had a promising phone interview for a taxonomy contract at Nordstrom that went nowhere, and a few other false starts. Christmas was right around the corner and I knew that we remaining clerks (there were fewer than half of us left) would be cut loose and let out to wander the world looking for the next horrible retail gig, unmoisturized and no longer smelling of ginger or lilies. I had heard a rumor that sometimes really good temp clerks would be invited to stay on and convert to permanent, but I have had my dick pulled with that one in almost every temp job I’ve ever had. It’s usually just something they tell you to entice you to behave, like “Santa is watching” or “the IRS still has enough funding to do audits.”

One night shortly after Christmas I closed with Janelle and after the last of the earlier-shift clerks had left (it was usually just two of us after seven or so, a key holder and a little minion like me, who was expected to do most of the stocking and cleaning). It seemed that most of my compatriots had been given their last week of shifts and would be cut loose before New Year’s Day. I had not been given mine. Janelle locked the doors and turned up the music. She seemed a little shakier than usual, but I knew she routinely stayed up for days at a time, so I figured she and her boyfriend had just been up on another one of their sprees, which would involve another horrifying story about his Burner friends or insinuations about polyamory while I just swept the floor going, “Uh hah. Interesting.” (Not pictured: My soul dying just a tiny bit more while the outside of me earns $9.25 an hour.)

But no! Tonight she was excited! She had very exciting news!! “WE’D LIKE YOU TO STAY ON AFTER CHRISTMAS!” All I had to do was sign the paperwork. I knew in my heart of hearts that this was not the end, that I could find a different job that paid better and didn’t involve doing the electric slide while wearing a blueberry face mask, but I still felt my chest collapsing a little. The store manager would discuss it with me during my next day shift and would have the papers.

Sign away I did. Later that day, I kid you not, I was cornered by two dogs, one off leash while I was jogging through Greenlake, and the other in the store itself, and I had a panic attack. This was when I developed my temporary dog phobia: the day I signed on at Lush. Of course I think it was more complex than that, and would not have developed if I also wasn’t experiencing escalating health problems (anxiety related to malnutrition, etc.), but it was interesting timing.

Things got very rote after the holiday madness died down, and there was surprisingly low turnover at that store, so I was the new kid for the rest of my tenure there. The other clerks were very welcoming, and even the ones I couldn’t read well confessed that they were very happy I’d been picked and voted for me. I stayed three more months at the standard 30 or so hours a week so they didn’t have to provide benefits, and then in March I found a tech contract that more than doubled what I’d been making at Lush. I hung on to a few evening shifts, just to keep my hand in and keep in touch with a group that had been a mini, temporary, very dysfunctional family during a very difficult period, but eventually it was all too much, working more than forty hours a week, and I gave my notice.

Every time I go into a Lush store and am assaulted by the rabid employees and I see the trepidation and desperation in their eyes I am reminded of my time there, as I gently tell them, “It’s okay, I used to work here. I know the deal.” The really jesusy ones push on anyway, “WELL DO YOU KNOW ABOUT OUR NEW SPRING LINE?” and remind me of the “pep talks” from the managers (“WE NEED TO MOVE 6K BY NOON LADIES!!!!”). The normal ones look relieved and say, “Oh, okay, have fun then” and leave me be. And I am relieved that I get to leave without clocking out, covered in stale sweat and glitter and regretting all my choices that led up to this point.

“I don’t always take damage…but when I do, I drink a potion.”

Let’s get this out of the way: I’ve been sick for almost two weeks now. It’s NBD, just a really annoying cold. I’m excited to say that, perversely. My hands aren’t falling asleep and I’m not covered in lesions or anything. Just a cold! Ha ha! *clicks heels together*

Anyway. Like 99.9% of all people on the planet, being sick makes me less creative, even along the blogways. I haven’t been working on my awesome bullshit writing project either. It’s SUCH a shame too, because my job is RIFE with opportunities for time theft. I am to the point where I am often out of work by 10:30 in the morning, and everyone knows it. What can you do? A: read a lot of blogs and sigh a lot.

However, something jogged the writing impulse today. Over the loudspeaker as we neared downtown, our morning bus driver made a very stilted announcement about the potential of protests blocking roads or delaying traffic this afternoon. In part he informed us that “Metro would do its best today to transport people even if those people [protesters] decided to…uhhh…exercise their constitutional rights today.” Please don’t let him say something crackery racist, I said to myself. I felt like he was teetering on the edge of something awkward and was not used to making impromptu, required announcements like this. He did okay, though.

“What if he is transporting protesters downtown RIGHT NOW?” I asked P. “He keeps calling protesters ‘they’ but what if they are right here?”

“Are you planning something today I don’t know about?” P. asked.

I was planning to go to work and waste space and oxygen at my hourly job. But WHAT IF I thought, looking around at all the white people on my bus in their North Face jackets reading their Kindles. Maybe not.

I didn’t think about it again, really. After work, P. and I were walking to the bus together when a man darted out from a bus stop shelter, away from two other people, and made a beeline for me. He started giving me that kind of hostile patter designed to harass and get a reaction. And when you do react, the person often acts indignant and/or swears at you.

One of my tattoos was barely visible above the neckline of my shirt and he began rapid-firing about that. I darted ahead, instinctively moving faster and leaving P. behind, in part because there was a clump of people waiting for the bus at the stop the man emerged from.

“That’s a nice tattoo girl can I see it I got tattoos on my neck what is that tattoo of…”

I decided the best course of action was just to keep walking, quickly, as I always do and not react at all. I assumed P. was right behind me and would pop up next to me as soon as we left the crush of people.

I was wrong. The man started yelling.

“Man, get your HANDS off me, DON’T TOUCH ME!”

I was shocked to turn and see that he was addressing P. with this. I didn’t see what happened. The next thing I knew, the man lunged at P., grappling him and taking him down with an arm slung around his neck. P. fell on his backpack. They tussled on the ground and I froze for a second: go for phone? Start yelling? The man’s ribs were exposed and I considered kicking him with my rainboot to get him off.

Several thoughts flashed through my mind, layered on top of the “what to do?” thoughts. Did P. hit his head? He went down so gracefully. He has this incredible dexterity and he used to salsa and ballet dance. He even fell beautifully when attacked in the street by a random miscreant. It reminded me of seeing Patrick Swayze jumping over the fence in The Outsiders. Swayze was not capable of doing anything but jumping gracefully, like a gazelle. Was P. going to die? Were the man’s friends he was with at the bus stop going to jump in? HOW WAS I THINKING ALL OF THESE THOUGHTS IN THE SPACE OF ABOUT FIVE SECONDS? I settled on yelling.

“GET OFF HIM! LEAVE HIM ALONE!”

After a few more moments they broke apart. The man turned himself over on the ground like an upended turtle. I realized he was cupping a joint in his hand and it was still smoking. It seemed so absurd, launching into a fight with a joint in your hand!

A few more words were exchanged, and the man called P. a fucking asshole, and taunted him, gloating about taking him down. In the next breath he told us to call the cops, and that he would tell them that we started it. None of it made any sense, but when do these things make sense? In addition to the weed, he smelled like alcohol and like he didn’t have much else to lose.

“What is WRONG with you?” I said, standing over him. He just stared at me. We turned and started walking away quickly. By some incredible luck, a bus we could get home on was loading passengers. “Let’s take that one,” we decided, immediately.

Once I ascertained that P. was okay, and that he hadn’t hit his head, I had to ask him. “Did you touch that guy?” It seemed really wrong and super out of character. P. is NOT any kind of fight-picker.

“He went after you,” he said.

“Yeah, okay, but you could have kept walking with me, it would be okay…”

“No, I mean, when you walked away, he lunged and hit his head on your shoulder. You didn’t feel it, did you? I just put my hand on his shoulder and pulled him back away from you.”

“He tried to…headbutt me?” I asked. This was getting weirder. “I guess he got what he wanted–a fight.”

Obviously it could have turned out much worse, but it was very troubling. The man was African American, and once I calmed down I felt afraid for him, especially considering the political climate and the sad current events in the U.S. As one anonymous, unnotable white lady I don’t think I have all the power in the world, nor do I want it, but sometimes I say a little atheist prayer to myself both that I won’t get hurt and that other people, especially black men, won’t get hurt on my account. I had just listened to Jay Smooth’s latest at my desk the day before and cried a little. These issues were on my mind.

A couple of years ago, well before things came to a boil in Ferguson, I was gassing up in one of Seattle’s dodgier neighborhoods in the late afternoon, well before sunset. I was standing behind the car, as is my custom ever since I had a gas tank overflow on me once years ago, while I stood right near the tank. The girls were in the backseat, facing forward.

A young black man, probably midteens, cut through the gas station parking lot towards a bus stop, a fairly common occurrence with pedestrians in that intersection. I didn’t think much of it. He passed very close to me and muttered at me loudly, as I was probably studying a tree or a cloud or something: “Fucking white-ass bitch, I could beat your fucking ass.” He kept moving and I kept my eye on him, and he crossed the street to the bus.

I wasn’t scared or mad. I didn’t really react at all; I recognized impotent rage when I heard it. I’ve experienced it many, many times myself. That was the first time I had that guilty, unpleasant thought: if you laid a hand on me, there would probably be a special serving of trouble coming your way since I’m a middle-class, white mother gassing up my Honda, and you are a young black man in America. I don’t know how to speak or write about this, and I am aware I am klunking all over the place. I know I keep this blog pretty apolitical, save the occasional feminist screed. So I am going to sound vomitrociously sanctimonious saying this, but the awareness of my privilege made me feel sick to my stomach. Not the fear of him. Fear for him.

In a weird way I admired his brashness, since I had been young-angry once, not understanding targets or consequences. Was I the right target for his rage against white ladies and what they represent sometimes? Maybe not. It made me think a lot though. I hope the kid finds peace and an outlet, but I am also weirdly grateful to him for kicking my bubble like that.

When I said “What is wrong with you” to the man on the ground today I meant “why would you attack someone in the street like that?”, since I have apparently become the cliche of the scoldy, middle-aged white lady, someone’s future grandmother, smacking mashers with her handbag and waving her umbrella and being SHOCKED, SHOCKED that anyone would behave without at least modicum of decorum. But also, I meant please don’t let this end badly at all, for you or for us, but especially not because of the color of my skin and the color of your skin.