Who are these silent strangers waiting for me to know who they are?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Serenity and cat boxes

There are many tasks that are viewed by most with distaste. Cleaning the cat boxes is one of these. Yet most onerous tasks will be made better or worse by your attitude towards it. I find that cleaning my cats boxes has actually become a time of serenity. While I clean I am focused on the task at hand. Bills, shoulds and shouldn'ts fade away and all thats left is what I am doing. Its not something that you ever receive thanks for doing but one that has its own rewards. My cats deserve a clean spot to do what they must do. I want a clean and healthy household and cats. It's satisfying to take care of them and makes me feel good. It's an abbreviated version of how good it feels to finish a good housecleaning. I am not a clean freak but when I have just finished sweeping and vacuuming and look around at a clean room it feels good. It gives me the freedom to relax. This last summer I learned about the joys of mucking out a stable. Once again not the typical activity for enjoyment. But mucking gives me the same sense of fulfillment. The horses are not going to thank me but taking care of such glorious creatures is a privilege and their health is reward enough. It was hard physical work sometimes, especially Sam's stall, but as I worked I usually felt that incredible sense of serenity. It was like a bubble of time that left the world behind. When I also got to ride it felt so right to have first taken care of the needs of the equine that would now carry me. Now, far away from horses and barn chores I focus on cat boxes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Tonight is a sad night. I can’t tell you exactly why, but I feel sad. I will be going back to

WV on Tuesday. It is time for me to go but I still feel very sad. I will miss K very much. I miss my son, too. It’s a funny hollow kind of feeling that I have whenever I think of the people I love being so far away. Some how it seems that the meaningless minutia of life takes on greater importance. Feeling connected is definitely strengthened by sharing of these little things. I know that K doesn’t get that. Sometimes I call her just to hear what she’s up to or tell her what I’m doing. Unfortunately, what I’m doing in my life is often just ordinary things. She shakes her head and wonders why I call ‘just because’ and talk about stupid things like doing laundry, or dishes. I admit, that there are times I have absolutely nothing to say except, I miss you. Of course, these feelings are not limited to my kids. I miss everyone. WV seems so far away and so isolated. Not even my husband really cares about my minutia. You know, the simple things like why I hate that TV commercial or why I liked that movie. Nobody wants to hear a quote from a book they haven’t read, and probably never will read, just because it tickled me. I guess those things are now relegated to the blog. My nameless ancestors will hear all the simple things that I care to dump on them without complaint.

Tonight I was just thinking about the tiny still frames in my mind. The cherished memories that have no significance other than their meaning to me. The sweet sound of K’s voice when she was 2 and the expressions on her face when she told me epic stories. T falling asleep in my arms with his little hand clutching mine. The wonderful relaxation of having a cigarette and watching the horses with a friend. Some of my snippets go back to my own childhood. Laughing with my mom at 2 in the morning over some silly thing and sharing a snack. Sleeping in the back of the car with the murmuring of my parents voices in the front. A collage of images, feelings and senses that I wish I could frame and hang on my wall.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011



Across the street the neighbors were watching Johnny Depp on their 5 foot flat screen TV. I wonder if they realize that even through the draperies you can clearly see the TV and anything in front of it. The neighborhood felt restless. It was almost midnight and there were still people out walking their dogs, still traffic on the streets, still lights on in a majority of the windows. And the people across the street were still watching their demi-god. I, myself was infected with the restless need to walk. My brain would not shut off. Since my cortex was being so recalcitrant I decided that maybe a good workout would soothe it. By workout, of course, I meant mental calisthenics. These neighbors chose Johnny Depp, secure in their “private” viewing, to soothe their soul. Depp is not an option for me. Besides, it wasn’t even a good movie. What would make someone want to watch Willy Wonka at midnight? or ever? Well, walking and thinking sometimes does the trick. As I walked I was contemplating their choices. The apartment that they live in looks nice. Nice as milk toast. Big, square building with giant plate glass windows. They drive a grey Ford Taurus and a black Lexus. Their maids come twice a week. Every night they watch TV from the time they get home. I suppose they have very important jobs with a high stress level. Being so very important and with such a high stress level leaves them with a desperate need to vegetate. At night, all they can handle are meaningless moving pictures because their brains turn to swiss cheese. It’s terribly hard to think with so much air and goo in your brain. While I was cogitating about the cheese heads my attention was once again drawn to the blight of # 1619 Gilpin. Mehitabel was once again on the porch. She was eyeing the inhabitants of the Cat House. The cat house literally has a sign posted on it that says “the old man’s cat house”. The “old man” is really a overweight woman who wears a moo-moo. I don’t know what goes on, on the inside of her house, but the outside is a jungle of dog houses and bare trees. Once a day she comes out and tosses a Big Gulp of cat kibble into the lawn and then retreats back indoors. Mehitabel views the whole process with disdain. I think she likes her food still alive and being a supreme ruler, she is above eating kibble from the dirt. That night the rabble of strays were gathering to huddle in the dog houses. Someone over there was talking a little too loudly to suit Mehitabel and she was giving him the severe glare that is reserved for fools and slovenly toad eaters.


I wasn’t sure if the tiny chinese woman was walking the dog or the dog was walking her. They almost could have been twins. They were both wearing tiny little blue sweaters with fur collars. Both of them had that peculiar trot of short legs and wide bodies that makes them look like they are swaying. They walked at pretty good pace until they to Mehitabel. Once again ensconced on the porch of Bates House, Mehitabel was demanding recognition from the foreigners who dared cross her path. She hissed so loud I could hear it 3 houses down. The waddling pair stopped in their tracks. The one on the leash took one look at the menacing presence of the Queen and back away. It almost looked like he made reverance. The taller one scooped up the other and huffed away without a word. I watched Mehitabel wash her paws as if she had sullied them in the encounter. Down the lane I could just make out the cat lady returning from her grueling endurance walk to the 7-11 a half a block down. She had her jug of milk and bag of whatever secured in the crook of her arm. I could almost feel the ground shake with her deliberate steps. She looked like she was trying to punch a hole through the side walk with each stride. She is mighty force. As she approached her fence the milling feline herd became increasingly agitated, running back and forth. From their behavior I surmise she had not yet launched the kibble. It was at about the same time that she reached the gate that Mehitabel shrieked. My heart leapt into my throat. Cat lady dropped her bag and everything seemed to stop for a count of 2 or 3. What the hell?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Next night

That night, however, I bypassed the first couple of houses in favor of the one with the barren sticks whimsically called bushes. The king had left a good size hole and a spray of dirt. I prodded the dirt gingerly with my toe. What was his prize? I had thought. Was it a bone? I was scraping some of the dirt back into the hole when I began to feel eyes on me. I glanced up right into the face of Mehitabel. If that dirty little thing is the king of Gilpin, then Mehitabel is the Imperial Ruler of the Universe. She is a long haired sable Burmese mix of some sort and she was sitting on the bricked front porch. Her green eyes were at that moment fixed on me. I blinked at her innocently just to let her know I would never dream of disturbing her. Behind her loomed the vacant house with its peeling paint and air of neglect. Mehitabel, must have decided that I was not a threat and released me to began her grooming. Thus dismissed I turned my face to 7-11 and continued my quest.

I achieved my goal and returned with my coveted brand of cancer sticks. When I came to the derelict once again I paused. Mehitabel was off somewhere chasing down dinner or commanding her minions. I gazed at the blank windows and wondered whether I dared cross the line, step into the litter strewn court and find out what’s behind those filthy panes of glass. What’s in there? Maybe the previous tenant was a serial killer and the basement is filled with bodies. No. I think perhaps that the furniture is still sitting laden with dust and the desiccated bodies of his 12 victims. Yes, I sure if I just peer between the blinds I see them. Perhaps, its the owner who is the serial killer and the previous tenant was just his last victim.

I was satisfied with my conclusion and not willing to cross the line yet, in the middle of the night. So, I finished my smoke and went to bed.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

drunken post

Being totally drunk right now due to the beer that TB insisted I try I thought it would be a good idea to try a post. So - here it comes. The beginning of a story.

While I was smoking my last cigarette, puffing away in the silver light, I noticed a little dog a few houses down sniffing at some bushes. It was scrappy little bastard with the scars to prove it. It was snuffling and scraping at the dirt with its dirty white paw. In the distance I heard a train whistle and glanced fruitlessly through the houses towards the tracks. I glanced back just in time to see the king of Gilpin Street huffing away with his hard won prize. He must weigh all of about 9 lbs with 4 of it being his dangly bits.

It’s a creepy old house. Nobody lives there and the owner comes by only when he is forced to tend to something.

After I put out the butt and left it smoldering in it’s own ashes I decided that, that just won’t do. I thought I’d better hike on down to the 7-11 and get myself a pack. The walk is really short but sometimes I like to take the long way. That is, it’s still the very same amount of steps, I just walk them slowly. I might as well enjoy the walk, you know. At each house I stop to imagine what it’s like on the inside and who lives there. It changes with every walk. That’s what makes it so interesting.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Late nights

Late nights and I are on familiar terms lately. Sometimes it is the only time that I can think without interruption. During the long stretches of silence it is hard to ignore the things my soul wants my brain to know. I have heard people talk about the harsh light of truth but I'm here to assure you that the truth in the dark is just as relentless, just as revealing and just as vital. It is also during these times that all the niggling little thoughts worm their way into my consciousness and take a death grip on my brain. Try as I might I cannot block out the stray thoughts of strange and incomprehensible things that my son has told me, and the specters of what might come to pass, and the panic of events beyond my control.
So, in bold black and white, what bothers me the most is all the nasty details and bills that I may have forgotten to take care off before I left my home. My plan is to take out a piece of paper and one of those nice pens (the kind that just are just smooth and have a good weight) and make a list. My list will include every tiny little thing that nags me because I need to do something. From paying bills to groceries. I will make a separate list of everything that bothers me that I can do nothing about. That way when I freak out I can look at my lists. If It's on list A, then I will take action. If it is on list B, I will let it go. Paper boats - let them go.

Howard and Bernadean - The continuing drama 3

Sept. 13, 1933 - postmarked Sept 14 from 1539 North Cheyenne Ave Tulsa, Oklahoma

Dear Howard,

If this looks any funnier than you expect it to just remember that I’m propped up in bed reading (excuse that’s what I usually do awhile before I go to sleep) writing this. Awkward but decided I had better write tonight as tomorrow evening I have dancing class and after an hour’s work out with routines I don’t feel so energetic. We are working on three dances at once for a show later in the winter. Friday we are having company for dinner so no letters that evening.

These day are typical of Oklahoma - never know whether the sun will shine or if it will rain or snow. We usually have hot weather until the first of October.

I told my mother about meeting you alright but not about waiting until so late. I will, though, because she’d understand. I’ve only talked to her a little while that one day since I’ve been back.

I suppose you’ve been to lots of shows. I have only been to 3 or 4. We have nothing but pictures. The radio is fixed now tho so I can play it. A tube burned out while I was gone and the company pilot promised to fix it for me but it took him nearly two weeks to get around to it. However I try to practice the piano every day so I don’t have much time to radio.

I’ve had a big evening this evening and a miserable day. Everything went wrong until I got home. I’ve cleaned out dresser drawers (hunting a picture) and did various other acts of cleaning. Then baked some pies and cinnamon rolls. The woman next door brou’t my dinner to me and it was the kind of food I can really go for when I’m hungry. She’s a grand neighbor.

Helene (tall dark girl with us in Chi) called and said all the pictures she took there were good. Even of the water when on the boat to Milwaukee. I’m anxious to see them. She’s going to bring them to a t? Sunday afternoon so I can see them. Last Sunday Louise (blonde girl) came over and she and Barbara (my pal) laid around and read aloud to each other from Don Marquis poems about Archy, the cockroach Mehitabel, the Alley Cat

and then from Townsend’s “Earth”

. Not much contrast, huh?

I know, Howard, that you are extremely interested in all these details of my daily living!

After all my searching the evil-assed picture isn’t so hot but its the best I can do right now. You see, most of the pictures I have show me with long hair and of course that’s not the way you saw me. I had real long hair for about 3 years. I just cut it this Spring. The other girl is my sister - Maxine. Last year was our first snow in 3 years. The brick house shows the two front windows to the apartment where we lived. It looks like I have protruding teeth but perhaps you’ll recall I didn’t. So much for that! Can I help how I look, anyway?

Howard, dear, It’s quite alright for you to call me Deanie. My mother does sometimes as she and my step father call me Dean almost exclusive. My father calls me “Bunny.”

Honey, I shall be anxiously waiting another letter and your pictures. You’re a dear.

Sincerely Bernadean

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Howard and Bernadean - The continuing drama 2

Frank Howard Sexton was born April 10, 1911 to Julia Peterson and Frank A Sexton in Chicago, IL. Frank was a young architect and Julia came from a wealthy family of Swedish immigrants. Her father owned three barbershops in Chicago. He as the first grandchild for the Peterson's and an only child of Julia and Frank. Looking at his early photographs one could easily imagine him as a bit spoiled. He was a happy, easy going child with an apparent love for cats.
By the time Howard was in High School, Julia and Frank had built their own home in Evanston. He attended Evanston Township High School. In 1929 the Evanston Township High School took a trip to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Howie was popular with the young ladies and from the letters he received from many of them I believe he was a good friend and confidante. In December 1929 I also found a curious receipt from the Evanston Cradle (adoption agency) thanking Howard and a young lady named Morrell for their donation. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that on his High School trip he and Morrell became familiar with each other. (a little too familiar)
Following his graduation from Evanston Township, Howard enrolled in Kemper Military School in Booneville, MO. Howard's father wished for him to study architecture and indeed he did but did not wish to make this his career. He instead, developed a deep love for the Arts. He was enamored of all things concerning theater and the new theater - movies. So after a short course of study at Kemper he graduated in 1930.
Following Kemper, he enrolled at N.U. (Northwestern University) in Chicago. During his University days he studied writing and decided to go into the advertising field. Upon his graduation he pursued a career in Theater. Initially he worked at a small theater in Chicago, a job he procured through his grandfather - Charles Peterson. During those early adult years he also worked at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. It was during this time that he met a young woman, Bernadean Jones, who he would later marry. It was also during this time that his parents divorced. It was an ugly, drawn out divorce. Frank was a womanizer who met a younger woman (secretary at his office) with whom he had an affair. Of course, Julia divorced him leaving her destitute. Frank in turn, promptly moved away without a forwarding address and refused to pay any alimony.
Back to Howard and Bernadean. They met and began a long distance relationship. She had come into Chicago to attend the World's fair and met a dashing cashier named Howard. Alas, she live in Oklahoma and after returning to her home there she wrote to Howard.
"I hope that you write back, I wanted assure you that I am not in the habit of meeting strange men for lunch." Howard does write back and thus begins a new chapter of his life.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Maybe I'll look out the window

Today I am preparing to fly out to Denver. I feel an odd sense of peace and agitation. The house seems so quiet. I can hear the traffic noises in the back ground but inside I can only hear the gentle creaking of the baseboard heat and little clacking noises from one of the cats playing with a bottle cap. My peace, I think, comes from a sense of empowerment. I am doing something. I am doing something in the face of what seems like a situation which often leaves me feeling frustrated, powerless and at the mercy of fate. I feel agitated because there is so much that IS beyond any control. But then, I always feel that way when I have to fly. Flying, for me, is an exercise in facing my fears. When I am in the air, I am usually struck by wonderment. It doesn't seem possible that something so big, heavy and hopefully solid should be able to be aloft. The earth below is beautiful and foreign yet I try not to look at it too much. It's like the power of gravity will become stronger if I am looking at the ground. I know it's crazy. The same thing applies when KL is driving. If I don't look over the side of the mountain, then the car will not plummet down, over the edge of it to a horrific end. Instead, I spend my time on board thinking about anything that does not remind me of the fact that I am in a big, heavy metal object at the mercy of the pilot and the laws of gravity. On the other hand, I am looking forward to landing safely and seeing my daughter. The funny thing is, I don't fear possible death half as much as I fear pain and terror.
So, the sense of peace I feel is uncharacteristic for me. Maybe I'll even look out the window.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Sitting amongst the books is like spending an afternoon with your best friend. Here one takes you off to a distant land and entertains your child within and there you have sage advice given without prejudice or sarcasm. Laugh, cry, scream, nothing phases the books. There are particular volumes that are just plain irresistible to hold, their warm leather smooth in my hands and the pages of fine linen with crisp images are compelling. There’s a specific thump a nice heavy tomb makes when you snap it shut. Never underestimate the tactile experience of running your fingers lightly across a page of text printed on letterpress. Gilt edges on the pages and marbled end pages add to the visual orgy.

But that's not today.

Today I was at D's shop. Nobody. Nobody. Cheryl calls. Mindless talk and gnashing of teeth. Nobody. Nobody. More nobody. Karl shows up bearing the vileness that is McDonald’s. Nobody. I browse a lewd book called “Pissing in the Snow” by Vance Randolph. Then two women come in. One is young and blonde. She has glasses and a hasty ponytail. The other is older, maybe her mother. She has red hair and a purple thing on with a brown vest. She also has glasses and spends a great deal of time looking at the dishes. The young one looks at the books. First she looks at the vintage children’s books and then moves onto the religious books and the cookbooks. They convene in front of the religious books where they confer on the ridiculous titles. Like – ‘My Shining Jesus’ and ‘ Life without a guiding light’. Much whispering happens over by the classics along with a few yawns and head scratching. Finally the young woman buys a small bible and one of the classics, “Tale of Two Cities.” About this time I notice how dark it is getting outside. It is snowing steadily with alternating brief gusts of blizzard and tiny peeps of sun. Traffic is also fairly steady. Punctuating the gusts with slushy swishes and rumbling from the plow. It is 2:30 p.m. I am to be here until 5 p.m. but I really want to just go home. The radio is playing “She’s a lady”. Tom Jones can get on one’s nerves, Ya know? I’m sorry, I misspoke, ‘Uptown girl’ is much worse. Well, now the man with the big white dog has stopped to sit on the bench outside the window. This man never smiles and never acknowledges a nod of wave or salutation. Maybe he’s a deaf mute with limited vision. Maybe that’s really just an unruly seeing eye dog. Yes, and on top of that he’s spy. The whole thing is just a fa├žade. In real life he’s a friendly kind of guy. Not on the job though. (Never on the job.) Big white malmute kind of dog is now barking viciously and pulling the man off the bench. With his arm barely in the socket he follows the beast, as he must. Of course, it’s all in the plan. The woman with the little ball of fur on the end of her leash is actually a terrorist, which the hell beast is trained to sniff out. (Residues of stuff left behind from making bombs) They have all gone now. There’s nobody. Oh, there he’s goes again. The beast is dragging him back the way they came. The phone is ringing – oh thank god.

Back at home. So what city is this. Which capitol dome is the back referring to? AND What is KL's great grandpa doing with that axe?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Miss Horse

I have been mindlessly entering data on the computer and sorting mountains of photos. I decide to take a break and look through my books so I can put them up on Alibris. I randomly picked , Since You Went Away by Margaret Buell Wilder. Part of listing a book is to leaf through it and check its condition, read a bit so I can describe it and . . . that's when I read this passage:
I . . . got on Miss Horse. She felt limber and hot under the saddle, not the way she feels on cold winter mornings with a hump in her back, but pliable, bending this way and that with your knees. The soft little wind suddenly became taut against my face and the sun brighter. It was like sailing, settling down in the saddle, letting her out in great bounds across the flat polo field. Then we found some jumps behind the club and she went at them, snatching at the bit a little and not changing her stride, but just pouring over, as if she'd been tipped out of a jug. It was so smooth and light I didn't even feel when she took off or when she landed; it was lovelier rhythm than even flying could be . . .

It is a novel of a woman's letters to her husband during WWII. Its rough going and finances are hard but she decides she can't give up her horse, her sanity and her daughters dream. Well, now I'm going to have to read it before I sell it.