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I am sick.

I am blowing extraordinary neon green chunks out nose and lung, and both eyeballs are hot pink and feel remarkably like achy peeled grapes. It is not the happiness, and apparently I need no Dayquil whatsoever to be stupid and noodle limbed and slightly triptastic while ill. Apparently all that daytripping I had previously assigned to the Quil is just my own natural response to a surplus of bacteria. All of my thoughts are very useless and move at approximately the speed of packaged butter in a cold old kitchen. Assuming that said butter has not been tossed across the room in a friendly game of catch; assuming that it is just sitting there like a solid little brick of unspreadable.

So yes. I am sick and everything would be fine if I only had a tv. I got my nintendo and sega out on Sunday and set them up exactly where they will go, in the extreme vicinity of where the tv will also go, and there is no tv. I want to play Sonic. I will even play the Amazon level without complaining. Life is a difficulty. Also there is no soup and while I have no appetite whatsoever I do think it would be nice to play Sonic and eat chicken soup. However I suppose that sitting at my desk drinking actually very amazing green tea and trying to read ledger lines with raspberry eyes will have to be good enough.

Here are some gorgeous little things.

 

 

 

I am

a heartbreaking walk of staggering sweetness

it’s

 

Wells fucking Fargo just charged me an excess usage fee of ten dollars. OH I AM SORRY WELLS FARGO, pardon me for moving my money around in a manner you consider excessive. You’re just pissed because I move it around with such feather fingered talent you can’t charge me overdraft fees or restrict my savings account stockpile.

Fuck you and I am googling ‘credit union’ right this very little minute in another browser window. How’s that for fucking excessive. You enjoy that ten dollar bottle of cheap cabernet; in my bitter little opinion you have just filthy finger swiped it off my nonexistent dining room table.

I am

asleep in cucumber

March 12, 2012

On the morning of the day in which my life changed forever, I awoke to the noise of my beautiful husband Peter snoring. I understand that a flash flood or a tribe of angry children may be worse things to wake up to, but I tell you with bitterness that they cannot be much worse. I kicked Peter in the ankle, which, as I had expected, accomplished nothing, and sat up slowly, peeling the cucumber slices from my eyes. I always sleep in cucumber. No morning puffiness, and they always smell so nice and salad fresh. I put the cucumber in the ashtray on my nightstand, such a sweet little thing from a shop in London for my last birthday within my most recent previous marriage, and lit a cigarette.

Thus begins my daily morning drama, my own personal heart stopping saga of pro and con: will I dawdle and make excuses for two minutes or two hours before finally dragging myself down the stairs to start my aerobics routine? I know that this is 2012, and that aerobics have gone out of style somewhere back in the 80’s. All of my friends are doing yoga or pilates now, and that is all very well and charming, I’m sure, but in forty years the world has yet to produce another body as incredible as the one on Jane Fonda, and I always think that facts should speak for themselves. Besides, spandex is so much more becoming than those floppy, ugly yoga pants.

This particular morning my beautiful husband Peter settled the little matter for me by rolling onto his back and beginning to snore like an asthmatic rhinoceros. I was grumpy not to have at least another ten minutes to smoke and debate with myself, but sometimes life leaves you no alternatives. Bed may be very cozy, especially with a cigarette and the homey smell of dead cucumber, but one simply cannot enjoy it when one’s beautiful husband is making noises like a dying gopher. I set the cigarette down and went somewhat grudgingly downstairs to make my smoothie.

You mustn’t think that Peter is just another one of those husbands who snores. He really is remarkably beautiful. He is twenty seven and Swedish, with one of those dreadful last names that no one could possibly pronounce and that I refused to take when we were married. I am enormously proud of him, and picked him myself off the ski slopes in Aspen last winter. He is not a very good skier, poor darling, which I am sure must be perfectly embarrassing for a Swede, but he truly is too beautiful to live. He has all sorts of wonderful muscles, and a glowing golden tan which he lovingly tends to every day in my TanStar2000. My friends tell me that Peter married me for my money, as though that should bother me, but as I married him for his beauty, I simply can’t see why it would. I just love situations where everyone wins, and a beautiful husband is such a nice thing to have ’round. I picked up the habit after years of a perfectly appalling ugly husband spree. That, of course, takes an eventual toll, and after Amos I swore off them for life. Although, they were all marvelously rich, and they are all four of them the reason I am marvelously rich today, so I suppose some allowances must be made for them. But god’s ashcan! I simply can’t abide a man who smells like bourbon and looks like a limp radish.

This morning I had barely wriggled into my favorite red leotard and began a warm up when I was interrupted by another noise: Flutie Rubens was barking. Flutie Rubens is my Pekingese, and I just adore her beyond all reason. All of my husbands have told me so, anyhow, and I have heard that if something is told to you five times by five different people it must be true. However, Flutie Rubens is certainly worth any unreasonableness. I bought her from that whiskery Mr. Rubens who runs the grocery down on Fourth Avenue, and such an odd man he is! He insisted that Flutie keep her last name, so that she would always know her roots. Nonsense, I call it – who would want to remember roots in such a nasty, fluorescent lights and bare concrete little place as that? Not to mention the ratty cardboard box I rescued her from. But there – he does sell the very nicest cucumbers, and I suppose that much must be said for him even if his whiskers do make him look like a condescending walrus on most afternoons.

Currently Flutie Rubens was sounding more than a little put out. Usually she is simply my little golden angel, and I was rather alarmed to hear her so upset. I ran up the stairs, and discovered her hopping up and down outside my bedroom door and barking up the devil fit to kill. And small wonder, I have to say.

I will always be ever so embarrassed, it really was unforgivably thoughtless of me, but then, I do have a history of absent minded cigarette disposal – my husband Cedric, who was an ungracious humbug if I say so myself, once told me that Smokey the Bear was invented and employed a crew of two thousand for my sole benefit. Cedric was never very nice. And he chewed with his mouth open. But anyhow, what had happened, apparently, was that…well, apparently, when I set my cigarette down, I set it…on the pillow.

I was not surprised exactly, I mean, as I said, it had happened often before, in fact now that I think about it perhaps Cedric was rather justified in being so beastly that once, as at the time he made that very snide Smokey Bear comment I had just burned down the summer house. I really don’t think we needed the summer house anyway, we had only used it once that summer and naturally that had to be the time I put my cigarette away in the bookcase…but what I am saying, I think, is that these things really should not be allowed to happen to me. Someone should get me a cigarette secretary, I think. My husband Marco had a secretary to monitor his use of barbiturates. Or maybe she was a nurse. I forget. But anyhow, she wore thick stockings and ugly shoes, and she had a voice like a trumpet.

Oh. So we stood there, Flutie Rubens and I, actually I guess we kind of hopped up and down and yelped for a moment or two, simply wondering in a frantic sort of way what to do. The bed was in flames, of course, and the walls and carpet were going fast. Peter was dead, I could see at a glance, at least he must have been, he had finally stopped snoring. Also, he was dreadfully black and smoky. My problems just seemed to rush all around me and nip me at the ankles and rib cage. Would I be hauled away to jail and have to fix up a cell like Martha Stewart? I did not think I could stand this. Everyone made such unkind fun of Martha Stewart. Maybe everyone would believe it was an accident…although it was hardly likely. The Hills had been trying to get a decent headline on me for years. I was really intolerably vexed at Peter. Who doesn’t wake up and run for it about the time he is being burnt to death?

Suddenly, everything became horribly clear and ever so much worse. There on the nightstand, glaring at me with its melting amber plastic and charred paper label, surrounded by flames I had no doubt it would outlive in a medicated little clump, sat a bottle that I knew well. I knew what was in it, and I knew what it was for, and furthermore, I knew who had picked it up for Peter at the QuickRx yesterday. If I possibly could have reached it, it would have done me no good. They keep these things on file now. I could just see it in the weekend edition: ‘Zoey Parnell, at the age of forty, sedates and cremates current beautiful husband.’

I sat down for a minute on the fast disappearing floor, and Flutie Rubens sat with me, apparently resigned to die if I was.

It was all really too unfair. I only bought that longwinded sleeping pill for Peter to try and stop that dreadful snoring. It was better than a divorce, I thought, and I was only trying to meet him halfway. It’s not as though I tried to clip his nose with a clothespin. They were really quite expensive also, as though one was paying for each letter in that ridiculous overblown name. I remember thinking to myself that if only I hadn’t a snoring beautiful husband to meet halfway I might be buying a new mad hat just then. Of course I went out and bought a new mad hat anyway afterwards, but what I am trying to say is that no good and selfless deed goes unpunished, apparently. Now all because of my thoughtfulness as a wife and my small carelessness as a disposer of cigarettes all was rapidly becoming lost. And really, I hadn’t meant to put the cigarette away on the pillowcase. The pillowcase was just there, and the cigarette was there, and everything had seemed to go so logically together. Things should not be flammable, I think. Now I would be an axe murderer, or something, and someone would be sure to write dreadful things about me for all the stupid ugly persons to believe. I would never be welcome at another house party.

I stood up suddenly. The time to hesitate was not now, with a house burning down around my ears. With speed and courage I ran around the flames to my closet and began throwing things into my luggage. Flutie Rubens, on the other side of the fire, waxed apoplectic. I considered taking the ashtray, so sweet, for my birthday and all, but decided it mightn’t be in good taste. A bit too ironic. The ceiling was beginning to fragment now, but still I wavered between a pair of magenta leather stilettos and the sweetest blue satin Baby Louis’s. Flutie Rubens nearly expired right there, and finally in a rush of decisiveness I threw them all in together and sat on the case to fasten it. No sense in packing with moderation when one is flying for one’s life. Once again I evaded the flames, much more difficult when one is flush with luggage, let me tell you, and joined Flutie Rubens at the top of the stairs.

We looked at each other in silence for a moment. We both knew that this was the end of an era.

Flutie Rubens and I walked bravely down the stairs to do the best we could. I must warn you that managing a running for your life amount of luggage down three flights of majestic Beverly Hills staircase is no walk in the park. I am afraid I never recognized how very helpful ugly and beautiful husbands alike are when it comes to carrying one’s luggage, and that was not fair of me. They deserve medals, or something. Flowers, at least. Well. I did buy Marco roses that one time, but I am sorry to say that it was because he pouted for them. Marco always did pout so. Now, though, there was only me to get that luggage safely away, and although Flutie Rubens, who is the littlest soldier, carried her own leash in her mouth, nothing more of course could be expected of her. I went puffing and sweating down that smoky stairway like Jane Fonda never dreamed possible. The entire house was filling with smoke now, and I was sure that the fire department would be there at any time.

I quickly washed in the bathroom furthest away from the fire. I was amazed at how fascinating I looked, wearing nothing but that bright red leotard and covered in soot and smuts. I took the leotard off and dropped it regretfully into the trashcan. It had been my favorite. That was the closest I came to crying. When I was decently clean, I just pulled out the clothes that were on top in the suitcase and put them on. I felt woefully mismatched but there is apparently an incredible thrill to be had when one’s jacket and shoes are in an appalling clash; this must be the reason that so many young women with hairy legs and paintbrushes in their patchwork bags wear floral patterns and plaids all at once.

Flutie Rubens and I took one last look around our smoky home, and left. We went into the garage, and I was struck by a whole new problem. When one is running from the law one cannot very well just hop into any of one’s own cars and expect to remain fancy free for long. I was stumped for a moment. There was no way in god’s ashcan I was walking any distance with all this bag and baggage, not to mention Flutie Rubens, who cannot walk very far at one time. A taxi would have been quite perfection but although I was not certain I was under the distinct impression that using one’s own credit cards just at the onset of a flight from justice was not the wisest course of action. Something about a paper trail, although I would assume in this day and age they are calling it a plastic trail. Good old paper currency I think is mostly reserved for tipping one’s espresso artisans and exotic entertainment. Of course a bus was simply out of the question. Nasty, dirty things with noisy children inside them. The last time I was on a bus was twenty years ago and a truly horrifying individual with both lapels full of cigarette holes had accosted me in the most unpleasant manner. I had to get off a whole stop before I had intended just to avoid further conversation about his little modeling agency down in some scrubby little corner of San Francisco, and this resulted in my being quite lost for an unforgivable quantity of time. I have never really liked tweed jackets since this day. No, a bus was quite unacceptable. I was nearing hysteria as I counted off mode after mode of transportation and tossed it aside as lacking in some vital part of its construction or another.

Poor dear Peter, the cause of all this bother, redeemed himself by presenting a solution to my dilemma. In the corner of the garage he had been working for the past several months on some dreadful old contraption – an Aston Martin, maybe? No, no, that is something else entirely. Ah…an Austin Healy. I had been very excited at the idea originally, thinking that when he fixed it up we could take it to auto shows and be very fashionable and win prizes, but he had been very poky about it and insisted on working on the engine first. I have no patience with such a man. As if anyone looked at an engine.

I ran over to it, hoping with every little piece of me that the keys were in the ignition; I would never find them in all that smoke business upstairs. They were – I almost peed in relief. The ridiculous car had apparently no trunk, at least not that I could see, but it had just had a paint job. It was no longer that terrible gray color with patches of odd colored gunk; it gleamed bright red and white, and I felt suddenly so sorry for Peter. I wish the poor boy could have taken it out at least once in its new coat of paint. The inside was still ragged, unfortunately, and the blasted thing having evidently no storage whatever to speak of, the luggage went into the passenger side and I sat down carefully in the driver’s seat, avoiding the larger holes in the upholstery as best I could. I put Flutie Rubens on my lap and buckled us in, and rather dubiously turned the key in the ignition. It started perfectly, although in my opinion it ran a bit loud. Poor dear Peter. How I loved him at that moment, for insisting on making the engine just so.

As the garage door began to rise, I became aware of sirens somewhere outside. Probably at the front gate. Well, that would hold them for a while, bless its little soul. The gate was one of those tall, forbidding cast iron affairs with some multitude of locks and bricks on either side and a bothersome very long passcode. Of course, the fire and police departments have that code on record, but I hoped that it would take them a long while to remember that and even longer to figure out how to use it. I lived here, and it had taken me several years and as many husbands to finally figure out how to open it without assistance. Cedric had been so put out by what he called my utter lack of a cerebral cortex that he insisted whenever I was out that I call from my last stop to let him know I was coming home, and he would send someone down to start the gate opening process by the time I arrived. The firemen would not have this sort of assistance, and they would probably try to hack through the locks with an axe or something first. I knew quite well that this would not work because the gate was specifically designed to laugh off such amateur attacks. Once when Cedric came home drunk quite late at night he forgot the passcode and I couldn’t find it and we stood on either side of the gate yelling quite nasty things at each other for a long time before he began to hammer on the locks with a bit of cinder block from the driveway. Nothing came of this of course except that he stubbed his little finger, and eventually the police had to come and let him in. Certainly my old friend and foe the gate would not fail me now. I felt quite smug, and I felt quite wise in the ways of the world and its security barricades, and I felt a little sorry for the fire department as they shouted and sirened and hacked away at the front drive and Flutie Rubens and I drove quietly out the back.

I feel the frustration of each side. In a land without wars of death over matters of the heart and mind, I don’t know if persons of either persuasion can truly feel the helplessness and fear of the other. Most of us are simply hellbent on living to the best of our ability, while the underhanded tug of war between those in seats of power sends quakes through the core of anyone with a stake in the game. I do feel that the majority of people from any walk of life are content to simply lead their own lives so long as things they hold dear are not threatened. But it is hard to live in this one world together sometimes. Although the overlying mantra is live and let live or perhaps more aptly prosper and be damned to ye, when there are such different belief systems in place within the same living space there will always be difficulties to be overcome or overwhelmed by and differences to be surmounted or to despair of. We none of us are capable of understanding how the other group(s) can believe what they believe when we feel so strongly that they are deliberately closing their eyes to the glorious light of truth. We get so fired up in our sundry circle shaped discussions because, I think, we truly want to connect and feel that current of mutual respect and understanding run between us. Humans are always looking for common ground and I think it enrages us more deeply than most things when we make an earnest and intelligent effort at it and are repulsed by more of the same spoonful we didn’t like the taste of last time. I feel like theists and atheists of all demographics fail most consistently at finding a middle ground. This is not to say that I personally do not fail at this every single time I take on a fundamentalist. I do, and it is one of the most disappointing, confusing, frustrating and pointless types of failure I am capable of. After hours or days of sincere, wide eyed attempts at self disclosure and hope for a stray concept or logical cornerstone to catch on from the other person(s), I am inevitably dropped by some senseless bit of cruelty or stubbornness that brings tears of instant anger and outraged justice to my eyes, and at that moment I acknowledge defeat. ‘Never the twain shall meet’ sounds through my head for the millionth time and I bow out of the conversation with a subdued ‘thanks for all the fish’ and ‘sorry about the mess.’

But I do still believe that we could all try harder. That we hold to and fight for such radically different systems of living and dying still by no means obscures our common humanity. I know that we are all brothers of the same mother, if not all daughters of the same deity. I know that the blood that propels some of us to church on Sunday is the same blood that boils within others of us as we march to protest the values those same churches would impose upon us against our will. I just feel that if we could sit face to face and really hold each others’ hands within both of our own, gently, purposefully, and look into each others’ eyes carefully, patiently, as we discussed these matters of the heart and mind and soul, the outcome could not help but be different than it is when we none of us have anything but a computer screen to touch and see and relate to. If we could start these conversations with ‘I know we’re scared, the both of us, because each of us wants a thing and loves a thing and believes a thing and would bleed for a thing, and we don’t see how the other can possibly help us keep that safe when it goes against the thing they hold within their own heart,’ I feel like we might make some more headway. Like, has anyone ever really thought about how to protect the rights of the other mindset? Has any fundamentalist decided that that particular bone of gods bone and flesh of his flesh over there needs some help in procuring her contraceptives so as to avoid her hellbound abortion? Has any atheist ever really wondered if that church over there could use a helping hand with its biblebanging soup kitchen?

I am absolutely certain of course that some and hopefully many from some or the other camp has crossed the lines of distrust and put their shoulder to a wheel they may not feel the need to push, simply because they can see the glow of improvement it casts across the face of another human being. I just wish there were more of them. And I wish they would do it more often, and I wish they would talk about it, so that others might take heed and take heart. It is a scary world when one is at enmity with one’s fellow man. Sometimes I wish there were aliens, just so we could all realize how little our philosophies matter to one another when we’re standing together against a common enemy. I wish it didn’t take a common enemy. I hereby resolve to believe that it doesn’t. Although I will admit that I have no idea what that looks like.

I am

it is well with my soul

March 8, 2012

I have a hard time believing in a god. I consider myself an agnostic because I am completely open to the possibility of a god sort of thing out there, I suppose, but that is simply because I feel that one can never really know for damn certain what goes on beyond the three miles or so one can see from one’s own office window. Not that one could even fathom all of what goes on in that three mile approximation, I bet. All the life and death and grit and plush I have experienced and studied in my twenty something years as an information gatherer has curled itself into a long smoky hand of fingers, beckoning me gently down the path of continuous discovery, but it has of yet never shown me anything that makes me think the world and all that’s in it was created just as it is on purpose by a personage. I think of the ways in which all things have come to be as they are, and I think about how everything is constantly evolving and changing and adapting and mutating, and I cannot imagine for an instant that all things have just always been this way, each within its own god given shape and title.

I am however an utterly self aware squatty little midnight tinted pot.

I cannot believe that there is an earth sculptor or nebula splatterer, but it is just as impossible for me to get through a single day without talking to everything exactly as if there were. This has caused me some consternation in the past, and I was hard driven to consider the roots of my stream of consciousness conversations. I arrived at the conclusion that I simply must have something to thank for how beautiful and wonderful and functional everything is in its own peculiar brilliantine shine. Perhaps this is just an emergence of my own need to discuss absolutely everything that I love so that it can hear with its very own nonexistent ears how much it is appreciated; perhaps it is because I was raised as a Christian and got used to having someone to share my every little joy with as a matter of course. One of my earliest memories is of discovering a patch of tiny blue flowers and running all around the yard like a crazy person yelling up at Jesus that it was so awesome that there were blue flowers in existence. (blue was always my favorite color, and there is a sorrowful small amount of blue flower in the world). So maybe I just got the gratitude jones in my bones from the beginning of my time and there is simply nothing I can do about it now. For certain there is nothing I can do about it. As an adult I monitor myself in public places to ensure that I will not go skipping like a pebble over a rippling lake to every mysterious oak or virginal birch and fling my arms around it in a gush of ‘you so fine;’ but that has nothing to do with the fingertips I trail surreptitiously over each bark nor the thanks that seeps out of each digit.

I have noticed that it is ok to talk to inanimate objects when you are mad at them; no one bats an eyelash at a dude yelling at his car for keeling over on the side of the road or some dreadful woman mashing the buttons of the elevator with a laughable stream of verbal abuse. Just find a girl who promises her car a glamour shoot and a new paper rose or who thanks the elevator for working this morning, though, and you have a weirdo. It’s normal to kick offending objects but questionable to caress them.

I find that to be strange.

Anyhow, god. I don’t believe in one, although if one ever wants to change that for me I will be quite happy to entertain their thoughts on the matter. But that does not mean that I live a life void of magic and conversations with my own version of the imaginary friend. It’s just that my imaginary friends all reside within something tangible and beloved, like the end of a candle or the skin of a petal. I am just as crazy as Christians, I will say it right now. But I think I am doing it better, because I am not scurrying around requiring everyone else to say good morning to that rhododendron.

This morning I was sitting at a red light in a patch of sun and after a while I realized that no thought had crossed the hamster wheel for a certain and indefinite period of time, and my head and each eye were off to one side or another in the blissful vacuous lilt of a body part whose every function has given way to supreme sensual occupation. I just sat there in butter yellow sunshine and all my consciousness danced out my right ear unnoticed as a whisper along a current of piano metal. One finger on the wheel, one fist of fingers senseless on the stick shift, eyes slid far apart and seeing worlds yet registering nothing. And then the light changed and my brain acknowledged all of this with a sudden sheepish start, and I threw the car into gear and peeled out. And ever since I have been absolutely tingling with gratitude for my senses. Right now the keys under my fingertips are smooth and warm and slightly slick around the raised edges; the ravines between each key tantalize with their ticklish lack of plastic. Coffee sits colding in a beloved old avocado green mug, smelling like the touch of flannel sheets on a pine tree morning and tasting like productivity on paper.

God I am just so glad to have the fully functional use of my limbs and senses. I feel luckier than is probably sustainably possible every time it occurs to me that there are persons in the world who are missing one or the other or several. I feel then that all I ever want from my life, really, is the sweet singing ability to run and jump and bend over backwards. Nothing brings me greater pleasure than the sharpened velvet secrets my eyes find. No one moves my soul right out my self like an excellent melody. This is what I mean whenever you hear me say that I love my body: it WORKS. It works SO WELL. It rocks me like a hurricane, it folds me in the silken embraces of horizon lines, it makes me roll with laughter until my ribs ache and it forms gentle fiery tears in the nooks of my eyes. I am so fucking grateful that it works, and I am so damn glad that I get to have it for the duration of this peregrination.

In a somewhat related color scheme, I am now moved to share with you the beautiful work of my friend Matt. For as long as I have known him, which is actually verging on an impressive number of years at this point, he has been studying and researching and working long hours with gorgeous intent. His larger dream is that his research will aid in the war against cancer, and he has to the best of my comprehension been pursuing an understanding of the origin and function of cell development in general so as to better understand the spread of cancer. Recently he has been studying a group of stem cells in embryonic development that have the potential to become one of three different types of mature cell. They will develop as either the sensory and support cells of the inner ear, or the bundle of nerves that relay information from the sensory cells of the inner ear back to the brain, or a population of nerves that relay sensory information from the taste buds, throat and viscera back to the brain. It is so fucking amazing that the thrill of every magical sense begins at some small point and unfolds into a specific, pristine mechanism intelligently selected and perfectly formed. Matt’s research is focused on the question, how do the developing stem cells in this scenario decide which of these three different possible fates they will choose?

Here are some images that he’s made on the confocal microscope in his lab. They are of the developing cranial region of early zebrafish larva. The oval shaped structure in the first image is of the forming inner ear, and the bundles of cells surrounding it are developing peripheral nerve relay centers. The second image has all cells of the larva labeled in blue (a DNA dye) then in green are the forming nerves that help process the sense of taste as well as the status of the heart and viscera.

we are all