Panorama of San Bernardino

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My spoken words

I am a child of the 1980's.  Wait, that's not right.  I grew up in the 1970's and 1980's in a time of typewriters and cursive script.  That's better.

I have never been technologically savvy so when I recently had to make a podcast reading of one of my stories for an online literary journal I was flummoxed.  The editor sent an email, but the instructions sounded like some computer kid's ramblings in cypher code.  It made my brain hurt.  Thus, I procrastinated. The recording of the piece wasn't due for a couple of weeks, I had plenty of time.

Whining "help me" and "can you do it for me?" to my husband didn't help either.  My husband has been working six days a week and has had a persistent cold.  He ignored my pleas.

 On the Friday the mp3 was due, I sat in my office at lunch trying to download the app on my iphone.  Apple kept rejecting my password.

"Fuck," I yelled at the picture of Sid Vicious which hangs on my wall unframed (it is a Sex Pistols poster dammit, to frame it would be blashphemous). Lucky for me, cussing out loud in our office is no big deal.  I sometimes find myself muttering a string of filthy expletives in an angry tirade as I walk down the hall.  No one even notices.  I have found a home.

Apple rejected my password a second and third time and wasn't allowing me to reset.  I had wanted to make my recording in the quietness of an office with a shut door, but I would have to do this at home.

That Sunday evening, I was watching TV waiting for Dexter to come on and realized my mp3 was two days overdue.  "Fuck," I yelled at my husband jumping out of bed.  "It's late, it's late," I said sounding like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

Apple finally prompted my password reset and I downloaded the app on my phone.  By this time, I was downstairs and could hear the rat a tat tat of my husband's Call of Duty game upstairs.

I started recording my story with iaudition reading off my iPad.  It was not pretty.  I kept on jumbling my words.  The dogs started barking.  On my tenth try, I did a decent recording of the whole story but halfway through a car alarm went off outside.  I played the recording and debated whether I should just send it and get this whole thing over with.  It wasn't that bad, I thought to myself.  The car alarm gave it a surreal feel.

No.  I had to start over.  And over.  And over.

About twenty tries in, I was halfway through another reading and it was going well.  I had a rhythm.

"What's for dinner?" Adrian yelled downstairs in a nasally tinged voice.

"Fuck," I yelled back at him.  "I'm in my recording studio.  Shut up!"

"What's for dinner?" he yelled again.  "I'm sick."

I am not good at explaining how to go screw yourself when stressed so I just ignored him until his pleas for dinner went away.

Maybe I would have to learn to use the editing feature on iaudition.

I decided to try one last time and finally, bingo! Even though I stumbled on a couple words, I was pleased.  It sounded dramatic and there was no car alarm in the background.  My dogs sat like a quiet audience and watched me while I read.  Golden Ponyboy.  Golden.

I took it upstairs and Adrian and I listened to it together.  I almost fell asleep to the lull of my own words.  Was I dreaming?  Was that really me?  Did I really write that story?

It was a dream, my dream, come true in that digital audio file on my iPad just waiting to be heard.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On meeting David Sedaris and other celebrity interactions

I have had bad luck with meeting celebrities.  One of two things happen.  I go all Lucille Ball on them and become a blithering mess and embarrass myself. Or, I shut down like a human clam and say nothing and stare at them in awed silence.

Last night when I met David Sedairs, the latter occurred and I became a mute.  After his show in Rancho Mirage, I grabbed a spot in the book signing line while my sister Jackie bought our books.  Jackie went first and David talked to her like an old friend admiring her shawl and talking with her about her experience with teenagers as a Special Ed teacher.  Jackie told him her students loved the audio book of "Catcher in the Rye" read by J.D. Salinger himself.  "That exists?" David said in a sweet whisper as he brought out a little notebook and wrote something down.

Jackie introduced me in the only way she knows how, "This is my twin."  David smiled and I choked.  Words caught in my throat.

I didn't tell David how hard his stories made me laugh or that I started writing memoir after reading one of his books.  I also didn't tell him that I describe my memoir as the book that would result if David Sedaris and Judy Blume had a book baby.  I didn't make him chuckle or even notice me.

When signing his book for me ("holidays on ice"), David took out a marker and started drawing a candy cane in red.  I mumbled "candy cane...Santa land", an admittedly confusing reference to his famous story called the SantaLand Diaries which details his experiences working as a Christmas elf at Macy's.  David paid me no mind.

About five years ago, I met another of my idols, George Stephanopoulos, at a corporate law event.  That time, I drank too much and tried too hard and freaked him out by telling him we had coffee together every Sunday morning.  I thought it was funny because "This Week" comes on at 8 a.m. every Sunday.  From the look on his face in our picture together and the fact that he is pulling away from me, he must have thought I was his celebrity stalker.  Which is a ridiculous assumption because if I was gonna stalk anyone, it would be Morrissey (who is number one on my must meet list).

Something similar happened with Mr. T at a party in Vegas in the 1990's. When I saw Mr. T, I started jumping up and down clapping my hands singing "There's Mr. T".

To me, Mr. T is a 1980's icon.  As a child, I loved watching "The A Team" and Mr. T is in my favorite episode of Different Strokes.  

To show my appreciation, I followed Mr. T around the party repeating, "I pity the fool" which I am sure he had heard before but cut me a break, it was an all you can drink of premium liquor kind of party.  I took picture after picture with Mr. T and after a while, he suggested in a gentle voice that I stop pestering him.  I stumbled back to Adrian who was looking on in horror and rubbing his temples.

And, due to my top shelf drunkenness (in those days my favored drink was a B52 on the rocks, a sweet mix of Grand Marnier, Vodka and Bailey's), I lost my camera with all of my pictures of myself and Mr. T.

Which is worse: embarrassing yourself in a memorable manner or not saying anything at all?

I no longer drink so maybe what shut me up with David Sedaris was the lack of my magic elixir.  I suppose I will have to get used to it and get some real balls.

And if I ever meet another of my writing heroes, I plan on telling them just how much they move me in no uncertain terms.  I am a writer too after all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been a stressful day for me.  Growing up, holidays always seemed to end badly.  I would wake up on Thanksgiving with a sick feeling in my stomach waiting for the usual bomb to drop.

Something bad always happened.  My parents fought, my sisters and I fought with each other or with my parents, things were thrown, cuss words were used and someone ended up crying in the bathroom.  Those fighting type holidays are ingrained in me and the memories of those times is difficult to forget and too easy to perpetuate.

Until recently, I would try and sabotage my holidays by baiting Adrian to fight with me.  My modus operandi was to scream and yell over anything, usually something petty.  Adrian, who has taken twenty years of this foolishness, ignores it.  If fighting was the soundtrack of my childhood holidays, then the soundtrack of my holidays with Adrian have been more of an instrumental (at least on his part).

My family and I have had mixed results with holidays as adults.  Last year, Annie threw my twin sister Jackie and I a birthday party which was almost ruined when Jackie and I fought over what time she would arrive to help set up.  Jackie and I screamed at each other as my mom paced and swore to herself in the front yard.  Annie was crying and upset.  Jackie and I resolved it within an hour, but the fight seemed to cast a shadow over the day that was all too familiar.

Last year, our Christmas Eve celebration seemed different.  In a Mantz family first, no one fought, screamed or yelled.  It was liberating to start a new holiday tradition of peace and goodwill toward one another.

This Thanksgiving, Adrian and I are taking a break from hosting.  I met my sister Jackie for breakfast this morning.  Jackie was sad that we are not spending Thanksgiving together this year which she expressed to me.  Then she told me in a sweet voice how nice it was to have breakfast together.  I stopped myself from saying something sarcastic because I knew she meant it.  Sincerely.

And she had that same earnest look in her eyes that she always had when we were little.  Looking at her face, I felt a stirring in my chest.  It was the same kind of feeling that the Christmas Grinch must have felt when his heart started to melt.

Today I am giving thanks for my family and the goodwill we have tried hard to create with one another.  The ice is thawing and I am hopeful for the future.  I love you.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Game Time

From a young age, my dad taught us all the card games you can imagine (and some you have probably never heard of).  His favorites were rummy, canasta (and double deck canasta), big casino little casino and others.  My dad was a very good teacher and patiently explained the rules.  He would always say after his explanation, "Just play, you can learn as you go along."

Our family ritual was the weekly rummy game with my dad and my two sisters.  It was usually on a Friday night because the game would go late.  Rummy is played for points and our games would get up to the thousands and last multiple nights.  The older I got, the more I noticed how the winning point cutoff depended on how my dad was faring point wise.

For those of you who don't know, a "rummy" is when a player discards a playable card.  If one of us girls committed such a grievous error, my dad would be waiting to pounce.  He would slap his hand down on the table and bellow, "Rummy!" making my sisters and I jump in our chairs at the kitchen table.

Sometimes, we would have to stop because one of us would be yawning at the table.  Other times, my mom would get home from work around ten or eleven and we would still be playing.

"Time to stop girls.  I am gonna make your mom something to eat," my dad would say.  My sisters and I would groan, but my dad would pick up the scoresheet and put it in the drawer saving it for the next game night.

The memories of our card nights are so palatable and real that I can almost imagine myself there.  I have no patience and it amazes me to think that my dad enjoyed spending his nights playing card games with his three little girls.  I don't remember any annoyance or weariness around us during the card games.

Don't get me wrong.  There is no idealization here.  If he could have, I know my dad would have been at the bar with his friends sitting on a bar stool, his glass waving in the air.  But, my mom had to work and my dad always came home to watch us.

Is that what love is?  Because when I think of those card games, that's the feeling I get.  My dad, my sisters and I, the kitchen table, and a feeling of safety and warmth.

Yes, that is love.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Road Trip

Today I have an appointment regarding my fertility.  A forty something professional woman trying to get pregnant is a cliche I know, but here I am.

We waited too long to try and maybe the time has passed.  "Those are negative thoughts, you have to think positive," my younger sister Annie told me when I expressed such feelings to her.  "Read Joyce Myers," she counseled.  She has kids and seems to think I can will it into reality.

There are so many things I want to do in the next year.  I would love to finish my book.  I will finish my book.  It will be published and be a huge success.  I can picture the book party.  I am standing up reading before a large group of people and barely shaking at all.  The Smiths are playing in the background.  Adrian, my sisters and my mom are in the front row.  The initial reviews for my book are splendid.

Why can I picture the book but not picture myself pregnant?  Is it because I have less control over getting pregnant other than just trying (and we've been trying)?  Or is it because I don't want to be disappointed?

I have written about this issue before but until now it was always theoretical.  Now that I have followed through and finally made an appointment, it feels real and scarier.

What if they tell me it is an impossibility?  What will I do?  Buy another shih-tzu?  Adopt?  Cry?

It seems as if all I have are questions and no answers.  And, as much as I want to sleep away the appointment, like I slept away my senior year of high school, I am getting out of bed, pulling on some clothes and getting in my car to drive to the appointment.

I will just wait and see what happens.  If life is all about the journey then I am ready.

Hopefully, I don't run out of gas.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Junior High and Dolly

Junior high was an interesting time.  Interesting in the way one says interesting when they have no other adjective to use.  I attended Imperial Junior High in Ontario which was about three blocks from our house on Glenn Street.  Our house was on a cul de sac across from the Section 8 apartments where most of my friends lived. 

My parents bought the house new.  Within a couple of years they would lose it to a bank when my dad quit his truck driving job and mortgaged it to buy a bar.  As my mom always said, "a drinker owning a bar is a disaster waiting to happen."  And eventually, that disaster did happen and my parents lost the house.

But in Junior High, my mom and dad still owned the house.  It was the early 1980's and we had just transferred from St. George's, a parochial school in Ontario that we had attended for two years.  My mom couldn't afford the tuition or the uniforms any more so we started seventh grade back at public school.

I was happy because my best friend Melinda and I would be reunited again.  Duran Duran and Wham were all the rage and I remember my outfit on the first day of school: black leggings and a florescent pink oversized sweatshirt like the one in Wham's video.  My mom bought my twin sister Jackie the same sweater only in yellow and I begged Jackie not to wear it the first day. 

The first day of school I realized that Melinda and I didn't have any classes together.  All of my classes were GATE classes.  I remember Melinda commenting on it and I just shrugged my shoulders and said, "We will still eat lunch together."

My first class was English and I sat in the front of the class as usual.  A girl sat down next to me and said, "Hi, my name is Dolly, what's yours?" in a thick Southern twang.  Dolly and I became fast friends.  She had moved from Arkansas and lived with her parents in the condos next door to Imperial Junior High.  She used the word "fixing" as in "I am fixing to turn on the lights."

Dolly had curly blond hair and she wore her bangs over her face on a slant.  "It's new ro", she told me.  I pretended I knew what she meant, but later she explained that new ro was short for the New Romantic music phase.  I remember that she wore the coolest white overalls that had splashes of florescent faux paint splattered all over them.

We used to go to Dolly's house at lunch and watch movies on the cable channel.  Her room was covered in pictures of Duran Duran and we would always argue over who would get to marry John Taylor.  Simon Le Bon was always our second choice.

Dolly and I were close.  I would spend the night at her house and her mom would get us take out.  Her mom's bathroom cabinet was filled with medication for her "issues".  "She takes Valium to calm her nerves," Dolly told me one day her voice twanging on the word nerves.

My friendship with Dolly eventually faded.  I wonder what happened to her.  Did she move back to the South?  She didn't go on to Chaffey with us.  Where is she now?

It is interesting to go back in time and dredge up memories.  It can also be frustrating.

Dolly's story is one that that I don't have an ending to.  In junior high she was a huge part of my existence and now she is just a somewhat vague recollection.

If I had to imagine an ending, it would go something like this.  Dolly moved back to the South and graduated from high school early and went on to study film at NYU.  She changed her name when she became a famous filmmaker.

Fiction can be liberating.  I wish memoir was that easy.



Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Importance of Being Good

A couple of years ago, I read a book by Nick Hornby titled "How to be Good".  The story centers around the conversion of a man from angry to good.  There is a spirtual healer and a lot of other issues involved (that don't matter for this story), but it was the concept that was most interesting.

This morning I was thinking of how hard it is to be good.  I equate good with nice and maybe that is the problem.  Maybe they are not the same thing.

Truth be told, I am not a very nice person.   I am bossy, irritable and I love to get up on a soapbox and voice my opinion even when unwanted.  My sister Annie calls me on it sometimes.

"Don't use your lawyer voice on me", Annie will say in her usual diplomatic but forceful way (yes, reader, she is an Aquarian).  She knows I can't help it.

My husband, after twenty years, also realizes my nature.  And, when I am (insert air quote here) nice, he is perplexed.  "Why are you being so nice?", he will ask in his usual droll Piscean manner.  "Are you ill?"

My clients seem to understand me as well.  I work hard for them and they seem to get it.  Lawyers can be nice and not be good.  They can promise you the moon and then screw you over (legally speaking).  I pride myself on never giving up.  "I am not Harry Potter," I sometimes tell people.  Yet, I always try to work some magic.

We public defenders get a bad rap.  We make next to nothing relatively speaking, have large caseloads and are called "public pretenders".  It is an uphill battle to get our clients to trust us.

My friend Tracy also understands me.  Tracy has known me since high school and she is so nice that she would probably say I was nice if I asked her.  But, I would know she was just being nice as opposed to truthful because bitch can be an understatement when I am in one of my moods.

The question is whether it is worth it for me to try to be nicer.  I will never be nice, but perhaps I could be less gruff, more patient and less bossy.  Is it possible?  The answer: possible but not probable.

The problem is that I like myself, bossy, annoying and opinionated person that I am.  I don't want to be a doormat, I think (actually I know) my opinion matters and I hate waiting.

It is JEM's world people and you are all just living in it.




Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Perks of a being a Ghost World Girl

I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower (a film based on the screenwriter/director's acclaimed young adult novel of the same name) a couple of days ago and it brought back many memories of my high school years.  The only other movies that have touched me similarly are movies from the actual 80's era itself, namely, the John Hughes cannon of 16 Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club.

And I can't forget about Ghost World, a movie about the post high school existence of a goth girl and her best friend.

The angst of high school was so prevalent in The Perks of Being a Wallflower that you could almost taste it.  I sometimes forget how beautifully bittersweet those years were for me.  Much like Charlie, the male protagonist of the movie, I felt like an outsider during high school.  My home life was so chaotic and upsetting that it impacted my ability to see a future and a different kind of life.  As a result, I tried to sabotage it.  The two things that saved me, just like they saved Charlie, were music (specifically the Smiths for both of us) and my two best friends.

Music for me was a salve to everything at home.  The Smiths changed my outlook on life.

The Smiths were not just a band, they were a lifestyle.  Morrissey was not just a writer, he was a poet and he touched the loner outsider in all of us.  He spoke of unrequited love, of longing and of loneliness.

"That music is so depressing" is what some say of it.  But, for someone struggling with depression, the Smiths was a kind of cure.

My two other favorite bands in high school, the Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees, were not just music to me.  The bands were style and substance and a view of the world that didn't accept that everyone had to look or be the same.

My two best friends, Tracy and Melinda, were my other salvation.  We had adventures that I will always treasure and cherish in my mind's eye.  The memories of those adventures are their own book, one I hope to publish some day.  We were our own little world together.

Ultimately, that was the perk of being an outsider.  I found other outsiders and created a life and a world for myself out of dust.

And it was beautiful.




Sunday, September 30, 2012

On being Belinda and other fantasies of childhood

When I was in the last stages of elementary school (circa 1981), the Go-Go's were my favorite group.

My dad had a huge laser disc player, a precursor to a DVD player, and each disc must have weighed five pounds.  The laser disc came in a huge sleeve about one and a half times the size of a vinyl record.  My dad took my sisters and I to a place in Pomona to rent the discs.  On one such trip, my dad surprised and excited us when he bought the laser disc of the Go-Go's live in concert.

The concert was of the Go-Go's singing their first album "Beauty and the Beat".  Although I am not a music critic, I think it is undisputed that "Beauty and the Beat" is an album that still holds up today.

The album is pop punk.  The album has a host of great songs including "We Got the Beat" (every school kid's anthem), "This Town" (life in the big city), "Fading Fast" (the consummate bad relationship song) and "Our Lips Are Sealed" which was the theme song of my sisters and I who were constantly mortified in front of the neighbors by my parent's fighting.

"Can you hear them talk about us, telling lies, well that's no surprise. Can you see them, see right through them.  They have no shields, no secrets to reveal.  Doesn't matter what they say, in the jealous games people play."

As if it was a minute ago rather than thirty years, I can picture myself in the living room of our house on Glenn street in Ontario, California.   I am singing into a hairbrush and dancing wearing a long skirt with a loose shirt.  A silver bangled belt is slung over my hips.  My hair is curly just like Belinda Carlisle's (the lead singer).

My twin sister Jackie is playing guitar on a tennis racket mimicking the moves of Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey and Annie is playing the drums off beat (unlike Gina Schock who was always on beat) on the end table with silverware. Melinda, our bestie, played Kathy Valentine.

We had a tamborine and I would always use it on the song "Automatic".   I would shake my head like Belinda and shrug my shoulders in time with the music moving the tamborine up and down at my side while I mouthed the words,  "Inside fire burning bright...  Time stop.  Automatic."

Being Belinda was my way of imagining that another life existed.

At age six, I used to read my mom's Harlequin romance novels and dream of being a heiress or a ward.  This scarred me for life romantically and caused my first grade teacher to wonder aloud why I knew the word "ravished".  Later, I daydreamed myself into being Scarlet O' Hara.  Then Belinda.

Everyone wanted to be Belinda.  She was the epitome of coolness.  Of course, as a child I didn't know her dark side: the drugs, the insecurities and the rabble rousing.  Or maybe subconsciously I did.  Aren't all cool kids at least a little bit dark?

When I hear a Go-Go's song it transports me quicker than any time machine could.    I morph from a forty something lawyer to a tween lip syching with a hairbrush in her hand.

It brings back the good memories of my sisters and I rocking out and it brings back the melancholy memories of sitting in the park with a book wondering when my dad was going to get home and if my mom was still screaming.

I think that is why I love the Go-Go's so much.  Their music while up tempo is very bittersweet most of the time.

Just like life.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Greater Fool

I just finished watching season one of HBO's show "The Newsroom".  The show is about believing in the pursuit of truth.  Will, the anchor, is called a greater fool for doing so.  A greater fool is defined on the show as someone who thinks they will succeed where others have failed.  Think Don Quixote (the ultimate literary fool).  It is about going for your passion and doing what you believe in, no matter the cost.

It made me think, am I a greater fool?

Some would say by being a public defender I am.  Being the voice for the voiceless is one of my passions.  I love and believe in what I do.

Yet, I have to ask myself, is it my greatest passion?

I think not said the cat.

When I was five, I used to dream about being a writer, not a lawyer.

When I was the editor-in-chief of Mt. SAC's newspaper "the Mountaineer", I considered applying for a degree in journalism.  After looking at the average pay I changed my mind.  I could make more money bartending and waitressing.  I applied to UCR and chose English Literature as a major because it seemed more practical.

My newspaper professor Gina, who was a former journalist for the Washington Post, never spoke to me after graduation.  Gina had higher hopes for me than I had for myself.  Gina had entered my story in a national journalism contest and when it won second place, she told me she thought I should be a journalist.  She urged me to apply to the journalism school at Columbia University.

I couldn't visualize it.  New York?  It seemed impossible.

Sometimes we make choices in our lives and it takes us down a different path.  Would I have found my greatest passion earlier if I had went down the scary road rather than the safe one?  Where would I be?

You cannot second guess your life.  I cannot change the past.  But, what I can do is visualize who I want to be and what I want to be.

And, I have realized that I want to be a greater fool, no matter how desperate and foolhardy it may be.

My pen is my only sword.  Wish me luck.




Tuesday, August 21, 2012

If humilation is good for the soul....

If humiliation is good for the soul I am set for life.  A couple of Fridays ago, I had a hemorrhage at a conference in Irvine.  From my butt.

That's right.  From my bunghole.

The blood poured my asshole as if I had hit a vein.  The truth is, I had.  Hemorrhoids are a type of vein and as I learned later from a kind rectal surgeon, my hemorrhoids were at the stage four thrombosis stage.  Stage four didn't sound too bad until I learned there are only four stages.  Stage four equals surgery.

Earlier, right after lunch, I had to use the bathroom and as I sat down I saw the toilet was filled with blood.  I stood up and blood splattered on the floor in a puddle.  After ten minutes of me trying to staunch the flow of blood, the hotel bathroom looked like a murder scene from a slasher flick.  I am going to pass out and someone is going to see all of this blood and think someone tried to kill me.  Eventually, they will realize it was just my butt bleeding out.  

I was at the Hyatt in Irvine for a Veterans' Court Conference and had tried to ignore my worsening bathroom issues all week.  Every morning, I would wake up and use the bathroom and see blood filling the toilet.  I would grit my teeth through the pain and put pressure and the bleeding would stop.

But this time the bleeding didn't stop and I grabbed paper towel after paper towel and stuffed them in my jeans. 

I called my husband crying and told him I was going to leave the conference and drive home.  "Are you fucking crazy?' he yelled at me.  "You're hemorrhaging, call 911.  It could be internal."

I walked back out to the conference room and sat down with a grimace.

One of my colleagues, a female probation officer, asked, "Are you OK?"

"I am not OK at all", I whispered back.  "Can you go with me to the restroom?"

We had went to the fair the night before and danced our asses off to "No Duh", a "No Doubt" tribute band.  She could never have foreseen what getting friendly would mean the next day.

I walked out of the conference room and ran to the bathroom.  The paper towels were soaked through.  I felt dizzy as I watched more blood splatter from my anus to the bathroom tile.  

My probation officer friend handed me some more paper towels over the bathroom door which I stuffed in my underwear.  Hobbling out of the restroom, I said, "I am going to pass out.  We need to call the paramedics."

The District Attorney on my team was waiting outside the restroom for us.  He said, "Let's go sit down."

I replied, "I can't sit down."  The face he made showed his confusion and I said, "That is where my problem area is," I said.  He nodded.  The hotel staff walked over and told us that the paramedics were on their way.

Within three minutes, a paramedic who looked like a cross between Owen Wilson and Bradley Cooper was taking my vitals.  His partner, a Matt Damon lookalike (I know paramedics are cute, but these Orange County guys were ridiculous looking!) asked me what the issue was.  

I was so exhausted and dizzy that I was blunt.  

"My ass is bleeding out."

The humiliation did not end there.  I was rushed to the hospital where I had to tell multiple nurses, an ER doctor and a rectal surgeon my hemorrhoid issues.

The rectal surgeon stopped the bleeding with table sugar.  My husband said it is the osmosis whatever that means.  

Today, I am on my way to the hospital for a colonoscopy.  The first step to treatment is to make sure that there is nothing else wrong.  I drank two liters of a vile liquid yesterday.  And fasted.  That may account for why I am stupid enough to blog about this.  It is not bravery or a need to share, it is food deprivation.

In the end, what I have learned from this experience, because as all my readers should know, my goal is always to make this blog like an after school special on ABC (cough, not!), humiliation is relative.

It just depends on your threshold and after a month of (finally) dealing with my hemorrhoidal issues, I no longer care what people think.  It is my issue.  We all have them.  And the scary part is, I suffered for ten years because I was too embarrassed to talk about it.    

But, fuck it.  I am a bare ass, sugar on her butt hole (aka sweet ass) girl who has thrown all caution to the wind.  

Go ahead and stick your scope up my butt and look inside.  Just be gentle.   

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The absence makes the heart grow fonder conundrum

I am in Irvine all week on a conference for work. And, I am homesick. Very homesick. I am homesick for the sweet smell of my dogs and my husbands thick head of hair lying in our king bed beside me. It may seem odd to focus on his hair, but you haven't seen my husband's thick black head of hair which only grows more shaggy and floppy with age while mine gets thinner and more brittle. Does absence really make the heart grow fonder? I don't know if it is the absence so much as the longing for that person or animal (which are one and the same in my world as my animals are people to me). It is the remembrances of the day to day ordinary rote routine which seems compelling in its absence in a way that is not compelling in reality. I even miss the way my husband hogs the shower in the morning. He is six foot four and taking a shower with him is like taking a shower with a huge tree in the way. His frame blocks all my water stream and I have to wait until he is done. I miss that. I lived by myself for many years and when I was in law school in Los Angeles, Adrian and I only saw each other on weekends. When I moved to Texas after law school, we saw each other once a month for three years (not including a few extended vacations). While in Houston, I was used to sleeping alone, going to the movies alone and being alone. I am not happy alone anymore and that is scary. That is not to say that I don't like some alone time now and then, because I do. As a feminist I think it is important to be happy on your own before you choose to spend your life with someone. It is nice not to need someone, but to want someone. I went to the beach and boogie boarded Monday night. I swam in the ocean and sat on the beach and read my book. No one bothered me, but on the other hand, I had no one to tell how much the face of the water moved me or how much my arms hurt. Well, that's not entirely true, I told Facebook, but that is a sad friend to have. I guess even if I don't want to admit it, I need someone and want someone and have someone. And for that I am happy.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hit Me Baby One More Time

I had a miscarriage once.  Probably about sixteen years ago, I was working at a steakhouse and went into the bathroom.  After I went to the restroom, I saw a red blob in the toilet.  My jeans were soaked through with blood.

The week before the incident, Adrian's mother (who more than a decade later would become my mother-in-law) had a premonition and told Adrian that I was pregnant.  We laughed it off.  We were always careful, super careful.

Did God punish me?  Did he think in his infinite wisdom that I would be a horrible mom or that my childhood was maybe too rough?  Or maybe it had left me too scarred and doomed to repeat my parent's mistakes.

Maybe God saw me for who I was at the time and knew I wasn't ready.  An over drinker, immature and unappreciative of Adrian.  Someone not appreciative of life.

I think of that blob and wonder who it would have been.  Would he or she have had my curly frizzy hair and Adrian's soft brown eyes?

Adrian and I have been trying to get pregnant for over two years and it is almost too late.  I know it is almost too late for me.   After all, I am forty. 

I have been praying for a miracle.  Sara in the Bible got pregnant at ninety so the precedent is there.  The probablity is not so clear.

The thing is, once you want a baby, and yearn for a baby like you once yearned for a nice boyfriend, babies are everywhere.  I was never the little girl who played with dolls or wished to be a mom. 

That has changed.

A couple of weekends ago, I went to the Crystal Cave, a new age shop in Claremont.  Crystal Cave is one of those places with lots of crystals, incense and books about chakras.  The shop is owned by a wiccan (aka a white witch).

I usually don't mess with magic, not because I don't believe in it but because I do.  But this time, out of sheer desperation, I made an exception and had the owner make me a special candle.  She put some oil and a moonstone in a long candle the color of cotton candy.  She said a short chant as she handed the pink candle to me with a slight, knowing smile and said,

"Light it at eight p.m. but not after eight-thirty.  Tonight is the super moon."

As I lit the candle that evening, I tried to will it into being.  Will a being into being.

I tell myself that if it doesn't happen, I will be ok. 

I have to be ok.






Monday, May 7, 2012

Heartburn Part II

Marriage is hard.  So hard.  I struggle to be a good wife.  Truth be told, I don't even know what the term "a good wife" means.  Does it mean a good housekeeper?  If so, I am fucked.  If it means a good cook, again, I am screwed. 

If being "a good wife" means being independent and self absorbed, I am golden. 

My childhood provided me little to model myself on.  My mom and dad fought loud, hard and often and if you drove by our house in Ontario, you would often see red and blue lights swirling in front of our house to signal our dysfunction to the neighbors.  Plus, on the housekeeping front, my dad cooked and the house was a mess. 

If I compare Adrian and myself to my mom and dad we probably come out well in the wash.  I rarely scream and yell and we try not to let our arguments turn to fights. 

Most days, I am just trying to keep my head afloat.  It is all I can do to deal with Adrian, the two moms, our three dogs, my job as a public defender and my mandatory workout regime.  Lately, I have been selfish I admit.  I have to be.  Being unselfish and giving it all at work and home resulted in me gaining one hundred pounds.  I have lost most of that weight and look fabulous (note: humility has never been my strength). 

If I have the choose between being a happy fat wife or a trim and healthy divorcee, I will choose being the divorcee.  But the questions is, does it really have to come to that?  I think not, but who knows?

Truth be told, there is no one else in the world for me.  But, sometimes, I think Adrian would be happier with someone else.  He says no but there are times when I think yes,  Yet, if  Adrian is masochistic enough to want to put up with me and my crazy family, then who am I to stop him?

It may be a cliche, but it is truth to say that marriage is full of hills and valleys.  The last weeks have been hills if hills are rough and valleys are smooth (I can never quite figure out that analogy) but yesterday Adrian looked at me with tenderness in his eyes as opposed to annoyance and I could see the valley emerging.

Whew.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Leopold the Cat

I first saw Leopold in a Houston high rise.  I was on lunch from my corporate law firm gig at Texas’ largest law firm.  He was small and black and mewing in the corner of a cage. 

There was a mall attached to our law firm’s office, most everything in Houston is enclosed due to the hot humid summers. 

Most days, my colleague Nancy and I would sit at Starbucks and talk about all the bullshit at work.  But on that day Nancy was busy and I walked around the mall deciding on what to eat.  Chic Fil A was a typical choice. 

The mall was sponsoring an adopt a pet day and as I walked by the Humane Society table a young volunteer said, “Wanna get a cat?”

I looked in the cage at the small black cat.  Due to my goth girl leanings  I had always wanted a black cat.   He mewed when I picked him up and I stared into his bright green eyes and it was over.  I had always said that I would name my cat Leopold after Leopold Bloom (the main character in James Joyce’s Ulysses). 

When I brought the cat up to the registration table, the young girl said, “Oh you picked Leopold”.  When I looked at his tag the name Leopold was scrawled in blue ink.

Leopold Bloom Mantz became my confidante.  He weighed in at twenty pounds and was more dog than cat.  Whenever I got home from work at the law firm, I would walk into my house and say, “Leopold where are you?”  Leopold would bound down the stairs two at a time and meow at my feet.    I would pat my bed and Leopold would jump on the bed and snuggle in the covers with me purring in my ear.

When I moved to San Francisco I found out UCSF housing didn’t allow cats so my mom and dad took Leopold in.  “He’s like a big monster Jenny,” my dad would say on the phone.  “He sleeps on my recliner and won’t get off.”  My dad complained about Leopold but I could hear the affection in his voice.

When Adrian and I moved to an apartment in San Francisco that allowed cats, my mom and dad drove from the Inland Empire to bring Leopold to us.  As they drove up Ninth Street in their beat up car, I could see my mom shaking her head.  Leopold sat in the back of the window.   My mom pulled up to our apartment and got out of the car pulling at her hair. 

“That stupid cat, he got out at the rest stop.  Your dad and I had to chase him down.” 

My mom picked up his cat carrier and said in an anxious voice, ”He’s not in there where did he go, god dammit!”

“Mom, he’s in the back window,” I said with a laugh and reached in the car and picked him up with a grunt.  He had gained at least five pounds.    

When my dad was sick and I was down from San Francisco taking care of my dad, he would always ask, “How’s Leopold Jenny?  That cat’s crazy.”

After my dad died, Leopold came home to the Inland Empire with me.  Poor Leopold was forced to stay with my mom in her senior apartment until I bought a house.  Leopold would sit in the front window at night when my mom was asleep.  One day, my mom’s next door neighbor told her, “Un diablo en un casa (a devil is in your house)”.

Soon, Adrian and I bought our house in North Fontana and Leopold moved again.  He loved the new house and roamed the rural neighborhood. 

About a month after we moved in, I went to the LA Fair with my friend Tracy and before I left, I let Leopold outside to prowl.  When I got home from the fair, I couldn’t find Leopold anywhere.  I tried not to panic.
 
I put up flyers in the neighborhood.  I chose my favorite picture, the one of Leopold in his superman Halloween costume.  I offered a five hundred dollar reward.  Adrian drove around the neighborhood for days and looked in all the storm drains. 

Adrian tried to console me, “We’ll find him, don’t worry.”  But I knew.  I could feel it in the pit of my stomach.  He was gone.

One night, about four days after he disappeared, I woke up in the middle of the night and swore I could hear Leopold meowing.  I ran outside in my pajamas and followed the meows next door to the empty for sale house.  But, I knew there were no meows. 

It was just my memory of Leopold’s meows echoing in my head.

Monday, April 2, 2012

It's just a microwave

My microwave is keeping me up.  It broke today.  It seems like everything is breaking.  Our washer broke recently and then the television downstairs (both for the second time).  We haven't fixed the television yet.  We didn't have a choice with the washer and decided to just replace it.

My ten year old Mercedes is in desperate need of repair.  I can't go over sixty on the freeway without the steering wheel shaking.

And now this.  That piece of shit microwave.

The more stuff you have, the more stuff that can break.  And, the nicer your stuff, the more expensive it is to fix.  As my husband said before he went to bed, "that's a thousand dollar microwave." 

Should any microwave cost a thousand dollars?  Maybe my husband's exaggerating.  Maybe not.  It's a pretty nice microwave.  It's built into the cabinet and fancy with all the bells and whistles.

I think back to my first microwave.  I bought it at a garage sale for ten bucks.  On second thought, maybe someone gave it to me for free.  I am speculating here, but it doesn't really matter because the point is, a microwave breaking should not be a calamity.

Except it seems like one right now. 

It's late, I have to work tomorrow and I need to wake up early so I can work out at six a.m. and all I can think of is the microwave.  We need to fix it because we may be moving soon with my mother-in-law to her house in Hesperia and renting out this huge monstrosity we call a house.  Who needs 3700 square feet?  Certainly not I said the cat. 

My husband and I were happy in five hundred square feet when we lived in UCSF's dental school housing on the hill with Sutro Tower.  I could barely fit into the bathroom, but it was enough.   Just barely enough, but enough.  And we popped our popcorn in a small white microwave we bought at Walgreen's.

Fuck, I can't get that damn microwave out of my head.  It just stoppped.  No power.  We tried the breaker, but that wasn't the problem.  I was watching my favorite show "Smash" and I went downstairs to make some popcorn and tried to turn the microwave on.  Nothing.  The microwave died without a cause.

You take a microwave for granted until you don't have one. 

I really want some microwave popcorn.  Actually, what really sounds good is the old fashioned kind of popcorn you make in a big pot with kernels and oil.  The kind my dad used to make when I was little.

My dad would pop the popcorn and throw it into a Stater Bros. brown paper bag.  He would melt margerine on the stovetop and pour it on top and grab the Morton's and shake it all over. 

"Watch this girls," he would say as he shook the bag.  Me and my sisters would fight with one another to grab a handful of the delicious, buttery mess.  It was the perfect combination of salty and sweet.

Maybe that's what I miss.  The simple happiness of popcorn from a brown paper bag.  Nothing fancy, kind of like my dad.  Simple, but sweet.

Unlike my fucking microwave.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Taming of the Shrew

The other morning at seven a.m., I had a meltdown in the driveway.  Afterwards, images of my mother screaming at my dad in the front yard when I was little flashed in my head like sugar covered plums on Christmas.   

My morning had started out hectic as usual.  I woke up at five a.m. and went to the gym.  After running the treadmill for an hour I got home by six and walked the dogs.  I rushed my shower reducing my usual fifteen minute shower down to five minutes and blow dried and straightened my hair.  I looked at the clock and hissed when I saw that it was already seven.  Parking has been horrible this last week so in order to get a "free" county space, I must be in the parking lot by 7:45 a.m.  It usually takes me about twenty five minutes to get to work so I was cutting it close.

I threw on my clothes and ran down the stairs.  I watered and fed the dogs and grabbed my keys and jumped in my car.  7:15.  I had just enough time. 

When I looked to my right, I saw my neighbor's trash cans on the curb.  Fuck.  Wednesday is trash day. 

I ran back in the house, pushed the button to open the garage door and pulled the trash cans to the curb one by one cussing under my breath. 

When I got back to my car, Adrian was sitting in his car warming it up.  He doesn't have to be at the dental office in Hesperia until 9 a.m. on Wednesdays but he usually goes early and hangs out at Starbucks.  How relaxing.

Double fuck.  The garage door was still open and I lost my remote last week.  I looked at Adrian sitting in his car and motioned toward the open garage door.  No response.  I turned off my car and looked at him.  He shrugged. 

"This is bullshit," I thought to myself as I slammed my car door and walked back into the house to close the garage door. 

As I walked back outside Adrian was still sitting in his car and something inside of me snapped. 

"Fuck, you need to help me more Adrian" I screamed like a possessed banshee and flipped Adrian off not once but twice.

I pulled away tires screeching and saw my next door neighbor and his kids standing by their front door. 

On my drive to work, I called Adrian on my speaker phone.  "What is wrong with you?" he said in a perplexed voice.  He had no clue. 

I feel like I do everything.  And, instead of just letting it go, i.e. letting the trash sit in the garage for two weeks, I push myself to get it all done and then bitch about it.

I know screaming isn't productive, but sometimes I feel like us shrews get a bad rap.  When people nag others it is because shit isn't getting done. 

And I get shit done.

So fuck it, this shrew won't be tamed, although I will try and confine her to the interior of the house from now on.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My romantic side

I am watching "You've Got Mail" for the umpteenth time.  There is something about romantic comedies like this that gets me.  Especially romantic comedies by Nora Ephron.

Ephron's "You've Got Mail" is essentially a remake of the film "Shop Around The Corner", a 1940's film involving a letter writing romance between James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.  It also overtly references the Jane Austen classic "Pride and Prejudice" and the main characters of Austen's classic strongly influence the characters of Kathleen Kelly (played by Meg Ryan) and Joe Fox (played by Tom Hanks). 

At the end of the movie when Kathleen finds out that Joe, her arch nemesis, is the man she fell in love with over email she starts to cry and Tom Hanks wipes her eye and says, "Don't cry shop girl."  To which she responds, "I wanted it to be you.  I wanted it to be you so badly."  It gives me chills just to write that scene's dialogue.  It is perfect.  And it helps that "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is playing in the background.

The referential nature of "You've Got Mail" is similar to another of my favorite Ephron films, "Sleepless in Seattle" which also pairs Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.  "Sleepless in Seattle" is heavily influenced by the film classic "An Affair to Remember."  Even though it is embarrassing to admit, I had never seen "An Affair to Remember" and only rented it after I saw "Sleepless in Seattle" for the first time. 

The first time I saw "An Affair to Remember" I cried like a baby.  The final scene where Cary Grant realizes why a wheelchair bound Deborah Kerr couldn't keep their appointment atop the Empire State Building turns me into a weeping mess.

"An Affair to Remember" is a close second to my favorite movie of all time "Gone With The Wind".  I read "Gone With The Wind" when I was six and used to dream about running away with Rhett Butler.  When I saw the movie for the first time, at somewhere around seven or eight years old, I remember thinking that Clark Gable was the same image in my head of Rhett Butler after I read the book.  This rarely happens.  Usually when I read a book and become invested in the characters, a movie casting is a pale comparison to the image of the characters in my mind's eye.  "Gone With the Wind" is the exception (and Matt Dillion as Dallas in "The Outsiders"). 

I used to sit in elementary class and daydream about writing a sequel to "Gone With The Wind".  Of course, Rhett and Scarlett would end up together.  They would have another little girl and they would grow old together and laugh about all the drama in their past.

Isn't that how all great romances are supposed to end?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Funny Girl

Some may find this shocking but in some ways, being the fat girl was more fun.  There was no pressure.  You could talk to someone and be funny and witty and there was never more than a hint of sexual undertone. 

It was as if the layer of fat that covered my belly and thighs, at least eighty pounds of which I have lost, insulated me from the male gaze.  That has changed and I am not entirely comfortable with it.

More accurately stated, I am downright uncomfortable with it.

So there lies the rub.  To be thin, and in turn meet society's definition of "sexy", you have to give something up.  That something is a certain freedom of being and existing.  And, while I would not put back on the pounds, I do wish I could somehow escape that rub.  No pun intended.

I want to be the thin, funny gal pal type, just like I used to be the fat, funny gal pal type.  There are strategies I could use I suppose: dress more boyish, wear my glasses, pull back my hair, the list goes on.   But why should I have to ugly it up to escape the unwanted attention? 

And, I have to admit, in a weird way I do crave the attention.  Do my contradictions make any sense?

In Vegas this weekend, I was sitting at the bar waiting for my friend to finish at the blackjack table. I fidgeted in my bar stool trying to pull down my too short sequined dress.

A guy sat down next to me and smiled and said, "Are you waiting for your sugar daddy?"  I looked at him with a scowl and said, "No, I make my own money."  His friends walked up shortly thereafter and handed him a hat to match their own green baseball caps.  I looked over and gave a sarcastic smirk and said, "You looked better without the hat."  His friend laughed and said, "Oh you're a funny girl."

I nodded my head and said, "Yes I am."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pictures of You

(Myself, Kenny G (my date for homecoming), Kenny B, my bff Tracy, Gene and Chrissy

Pictures are strange,  They bring back so much.  I saw the above pictures and I was instantly transported back in time to the 1980's.  My husband saw the same pictures and commented in his usual droll way that the pictures were like something out of a more punkier John Hughes movie.

High school was an interesting time for me.  My parents had lost their house and we were roaming from rental to rental like a band of nomads.  I had morphed from preppie geek girl to punk rocker between freshman and sophmore year.  My once light brown hair was dyed blue black, I pierced my nostril and wore a uniform of all black with monkey boots on most days. 

When the homecoming dance came around, my friend Tracy and I went dress shopping.  We idolized Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees and wanted to emulate her.  I found the perfect dress: all black with a sheen to it to match my hair.  Tracy found a black lace dress that hugged her waist.

I don't remember much from that night.  I am sure I drank too much and I remember that Kenny G wore a shiny silver suit and Kenny B carried a cane and top hat.

What is also interesting is how my perception of myself that night was so warped.  I remember feeling fat.  Yet, looking back all I see is a curvy, young rather Goth looking girl with fabulous blue black hair who had style.

Even though I may pretend, deep down inside I am not the staid and lawyerly type.  I am still a rebel.  So last night when my hair stylist asked me, "Are you sure you want to go that dark.  That's really black."

My head moved up and down and I said firmly, "Fuck it.  Go for it."

All I need now are some combat boots.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

How Did I Get Here?

Someone recently told me that my blog makes them think about the source of happiness.  I think that is an accurate depiction of what I am trying to do with my writing.  It is a discovery of my own self.  The age old query stated so succintly by the Talking Heads, "How did I get here?"

Life can be surreal sometimes.  Looking at my life, I am amazed that I made it here.   When I was in my late teens and twenties, I was trying to survive.  Rent and transportation were my two biggest concerns, and going to dance clubs.  I was not an adult in the true sense of the word.  I never looked into the future and planned.  Getting by was enough and I was more of a child pretending to be an adult.

Thinking back to my twenties, I remember one time, my mom and dad came to visit me in my apartment in Upland where I lived with my younger sister Annie.  I was around twenty one and Adrian and I had been dating for months.   When my parents arrived, Adrian and I were in the shower and Annie told me through the bathroom door.  I came out in a towel and yelled at them for coming over.  They left in a huff and afterward I saw that they had left a couple of bags of groceries on the kitchen table. 

I know I hurt their feelings, but I never saw my parents back then.  All of my chaotic and crazy childhood had come home to roost and I was angry and pissed off.  I blamed my parents for everything I thought had gone wrong in my life:  my decision to drop out and get my GED, my decision to move out into an apartment and my constant struggles financially. 

The reality was much more complicated.  Yes, it's true that my mom and dad raised me in a crazy house.  But, my mom taught me to read when I was three and always stressed education.  Yes, my dad was an alcoholic, but he also was a hard working and loving father who taught me a love of movies and Gin Rummy.   Yes, when I told my parents I wanted to go to Claremont McKenna and they told me they could not afford it, I went from straight A student to dropping out within the year.  I think back and realize I could have researched financial aid and my dropping out had more to do with a bout of depression then my parent's inability to comprehend federal student loan programs.

Now I know that I was a self destructive brat.  When I dropped out at seventeen and took my GED just ten credits short of a high school diploma, my mom said I could continue to live with my parents if I went to school.  She desperately wanted me to go to college.  I wanted to waitress and party.  And I did just that for many years.

So, how did I get here?  Luck?  Maybe.  Determination?  Sure.

Through the grace of God?

Yes.