Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Covert operation:
Chris took the futon apart and dragged it piece by lame piece into the living room. The pee-stained hay-filled mattress he roped together with packing tape, turning it into a lumpy worm.

I called my sister and told her to wear black and come over after dark. She said she had plans, but that she'd stop over when she was done.

Not knowing what to do with ourselves, we cleaned. I sprayed Oxy-Clean around the base of the toilet while the cat played 'jungle cat attacks the village' with my wrists. Why is the toilet such a magnet for pubic hair? Don't answer that. Maybe the question I really mean to ask is where is all this pubic hair coming from? No, I don't really want to know that either. But Jesus, it's almost like we have an invisible chemo patient living with us whose crotch hair is coming out in clumps.

(I just spoke to my friend Matt and he brought up the fact that when men dry off their legs, often times leg hair, which resembles our sexy friends, will cascade down on the floor. Mystery solved.)

(In case you're wondering why I'm not assigning any blame to myself here, it's because I keep my lower level in check.)

Anyway, Chris was busy airing out his room after staging a Raid party on it that morning. There was a colony of ants, complete with LARVAE, swarming under his briefcase computer, and action had to be taken. Not being able to handle infestations of any kind, I was glad that he didn't share any of this with me until after the battle had been won.

Kristi called me at 10:30 to let me know that it wasn't going to happen.

We did a quick re-con in the kitchen.

It was decided that we would go ahead with our plan, minus a wingman.

We loaded the futon parts into my station wagon and cruised around, scouting out the available open dumpsters. The one we had planned on was overlooked by someone's kitchen, and the parking lot lights were pretty bright. The second one was tiny and was flanked by people standing on their back porch. We drove around in circles.

Chris suggested we just drop the thing in a dark parking lot. But we couldn't bring ourselves to do it. It's one thing to break the law by putting our garbage where it doesn't belong, as long as it's where somebody's garbage should go, but to just dump a crappy piece of furniture in a random location? I'll admit it. I'm a pussy. We're both pussies.

Angry that our moldy problem wouldn't go away, I re-parked the car while Chris ripped the stupid thing out of the trunk. We stashed the mattress in the basement and stacked the frame up on the curb for someone to take. We hope. If no one takes it, we'll have to load it up again and figure something else out.

Anybody want a crappy, dismantled, pee-stained futon and frame? It's not our pee. I swear.

Monday, April 18, 2005

My father had a hernia operation in the early 80's, when I was still running around in a pink Garfield night shirt and my little sister had goose down for hair.

He got to spend a week or so at home afterwards, waiting for the bleeding around his stitches to stop and the general pain in his abdominal region to abate. On the weekend, he and my sister and I would sit in the living room in our pajamas (well, he didn't have any pajamas, and wore this blue, fuzzy robe of my mother's that was comically small for him, and dropped from his sizeable girth like a short curtain, giving him a particularly Muppety appearance, which made me want to hug him a lot, which he tried to suppress because of the pain) and watch James Bond movies on the video disc player and eat bacon and toast. During a nasty little scene in "The Man With The Golden Gun" where James' main lady friend gets shot at a Sumo wrestling tournament, dad abruptly sat up, said, "Holy motherfucking shit!" and then yelled for my mother. He had been resting his glass on his belly, as always, and he had punched through the incision like it was a page from a perforated notebook.

Blood soaked through my mother's Grover-like robe. My sister started crying. I, being a screamer, screamed. My mother arrived and helped my father to the bathroom, where many layers of gauze were applied and the doctor was called, who basically told them to stop the bleeding and to come in on Monday to see what could be done.

I was still screaming.

"Jesus Christ! Keep it down in there! It's just a little goddamned blood!" and then quieter, to my mother, "You'd think she was being ax murdered in there or something. For the love of God..." And then my mother's quiet mumbling, and then nothing.

I stopped screaming and focused all my attention on the dwarf butler on Scaramanga's private island. His voice was funny, and it made me and my sister laugh. She came over and put her head on my shoulder, and the two of us sat there until the credits rolled, and then we sang along with Lulu and collapsed into a smelly little goat pile.

My father emerged from the trailer's bathroom wrapped in a sheet, toga style, and put on "The Spy Who Loved Me."
I was with a guy for a long time who never went near his ass crack with a bar of soap. I know, I know, this sort of thing would be a deal breaker if it was readily apparent. But he also went to great lengths to keep me away from his backside in general. When I realized what was going on, it was too late. I confronted him in the bathroom.

"You seem to be neglecting your poop chute. I just watched you suds up everything except, you know, your butt. What's up with that?" I had been brushing my teeth and noting his procedure with mounting disgust.

"It gets clean! The soapy water runs down there. That's all it takes."

"I hate to break it to you, but that's not 'all it takes.' You need to make contact. Here, I'll hand you a washcloth."

"Get out of here."

And it was never spoken of again, although I was very aware, from then on, that I probably just wanted to avoid his butt and his dirty laundry forever.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Chris and I do our best impromptu communicating through issues in the middle of the night. His insomnia will often send his mind reeling in an ever-growing spiral outward from his original prickly thought. When he can no longer pretend that he will get to sleep if he just tries a little harder to relax, he'll turn to me and say:


Sometimes he will shake me a little. Mostly there is just the solid sound of my name in a normal conversational tone.

"What? What is it?" I usually am jarred from a deep sleep, pulled snorting and worried into consciousness. I generally panic, fear the worst. And who doesn't, at 3:30am?

"I was just thinking..."

From here we will have deep, meaningful, if somewhat groggy conversations about everything, from trouble with friends and exes, to the meaning of pets and how we feel about each other. Recently, the conversations in the dark of night have centered around our purchasing of a house in deep southeast Portland, and how and what we will be sacrificing to make this investment. This is a real griller, because it is a big deal, this joint purchase well above the dollar/committment level of the French press we bought together. And so it is discussed.

The other day, while I was napping in the afternoon and Chris was watching cartoons, I heard the tell-tale siren call.


I snorked and lifted my face from the drool puddle it had been resting in.

"Wha-huh? What's wrong?"

"I was just thinking that I am glad you're alive."

These rocky starts at conversation are not always emergency grade explosives. Sometimes they are just good, warm, and fuzzy.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Our father to my sister via phone:
"It's amazing! You can get anything down here. Do you like...giraffes? Because there's this store called Pier One where you can get any damn giraffe thing you want. Yeah, they import this shit from all over the world. You can walk around in there for hours and never see the same damn thing twice. Do you like books? Cause they have this place called 'Borders Books' and I tell ya, I've never seen so many goddamn books in my life. They've got a book for everything. They have these sale books, they're only like, two dollars. Yeah, I bought some art books from that sale table and I just ripped out some pictures and hung 'em up on my walls. You put 'em in a frame and you can't even tell."

I just thought you should know how Dad is adjusting in his third year of "big city livin'."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A little thought for Chris on this morning after a night of little sleep:
"He who angers you, conquers you."

And with that, I must say(in a hypocritical manner) that waiting for our loan broker to call is a particularly exotic torture. I'm trying hard to chill and just let the water roll downhill, but like an idiot, here I am struggling against the current, attempting to climb the Mount Everest of Patience while wearing only a tablecloth knotted under my chin.


Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Financing for the house is becoming painful to wait for! I'm not flipping out though. Okay, I'm flipping out. I can hardly type. Oh, the waiting!

I have virtually no patience for this as I need to use it on ridiculous conversations such as this:

"Hi, I'm 369."
"Oh! I mean, computer 369. I have some prints to pick up."
"Oh, certainly, it will be just a moment."

(Patron wiggles and mini-paces back and forth in front of my desk. Giggles like a little girl, although he is about 250 pounds and looks something like Barry White.)

"It will probably be a few minutes as it appears that you have a number of pages."
"Oh that's okay. I'm just addicted to flesh, you know, there's just something about it. I don't know what it is."
I smile and nod, as if I know what the hell in the hootenany he's talking about. And although I try hard not to notice what patrons are printing, it's impossible to not see the all caps http://BIGGEST_BLACK_DICK_IN_THE_WORLD_!" come up on the printer release screen. This among other, more imaginative titles.

He continues to jiggle and twitch, and I pretend to straighten the returned reference books.

"I've just got to look, you know?"
"Sure, uh huh."

I love the library.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Originally uploaded by schmangela.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Things from this week:
-Little Portly the cat ripped a one inch hole in my sister's left ear with her claws as she was climbing on her shoulders and batting at her pony tail.
-House buying anxiety roller coaster as we go through the motions; race to put in the offer before anyone else, hold our breath while the seller's flaky agent takes her time to present said offer, freak out about the acceptance, worry about the inspection, which goes off with only minor repairs needed (no dead bodies in the crawlspace like we imagined), and finally, in the home stretch, we get to play the exciting game "Will Our Loan Fall Through (At the Last Minute, Baby)".
-Having spent every last cent we have, and a few extra, actually, Chris purchases his first crappy 99 cent beer and toasts the upcoming financial drought upon our house.
-My allergies take a turn for the better, until I acknowledge that fact out loud to a friend, and then they come back in one big happy fiesta group: itchy eyes, chronic fatigue, death rattle cough(!), sinus pressure, and mucus, oh the mucus!
-A guy flips out at the pharmacy counter where I am patiently waiting to get my steroid inhaler, flabbergasting the attendant and making everybody stop, yet no one does anything. Basically, all I caught of the interaction was the flipper yelling at the flippee: "Just give me the goddamn bag! It's like you don't trust me!"
-Our realtor confides that she could never be on "Fear Factor."
-Library patrons continue to print out an enormous amount of color pornography!
OCD Central:

Every night I put my lunch out on the table in the same arrangement: banana curved outward to the right, orange and apple nestled next to it, tea bag on top of the orange, granola bar underlining everything.

Often I sat bolt upright in the middle of the night, breathing hard and wide awake from a recurring nightmare in which the bathroom linen closet did not have at least four, preferably six rolls of toilet paper neatly arranged beside the carefully rolled towels.

Getting myself out of the house in the morning was a path fraught with obstacles, from getting exactly 13 plaits in my long braid to "just checking" to make sure that the lights were off in every room. I went like this: I'd turn off a light, get a few steps away, and then a scary, insistent version of my voice would pipe up, asking me if I was really sure that the light was off. How did I know? So I'd go back and run my finger over the switch, in the down position, room dark, and then leave the room again. I'd get down the hall, or maybe even make it to the kitchen, and look back, sure that I could see the light on, and have to trudge back to check again.

I'd put my wallet in my backpack, push it securely into the bottom, zip it up, and the whispering question would waft through my brain. "Hey, there Angela. Are you sure you put your wallet in your bag? Maybe you should just have a look see." I'd look, and there it was, just like I thought. I'd rezip, head out to the car, then have to just make sure one more time, foot on the bumper, keys dangling from my mouth.

In spite of all this checking and rechecking, I still managed to do the things I feared the most. I locked my keys in the car with the car running. I left my wallet on the table at the restaurant. I didn't write down to whom I lent my favorite sweater. I lost things all the time. Fate intervened to bring disaster. Our toaster oven spontaneously combusted and had to be thrown out the back door, still flaming, into the rainy parking lot. Our dog pulled my used tampons out of the garbage and spread them in an artful display all over the front lawn. And still I worried, had to have things done my way.

If my husband left any dishes from his hastily consumed breakfast, they had to be rinsed and stacked in neat piles; plates to the right, silverware to the front, glasses on the left, faucet turned slightly toward them before I could try to leave the kitchen, running my finger over the light switch as I did so.

I'd scrub the tub that I just watched my husband clean, wipe down the counter right behind him, even though he'd done an admirable job.

"I just cleaned that."
"I know, I'm just...finishing up." A cheery shrug and a helpless smile.

He'd walk in on me scrubbing the grout between the tiles in the bathroom with an old toothbrush, sweat pouring into my eyes, hair stringy across my face in the sweltering summer heat.

"I can help you with that." He'd poke his head in and dangle an open beer above a section I just finished.

"No, I'm good," I'd say, hoping like hell he'd back the fuck up before he dropped the bottle, because if that happened, we'd have problems.

"You're good alright. Good and crazy."

And in this way, without formal discussion, I nudged him out of the household chores altogether, although to his credit, he never stopped trying to help me.

I might have been a nutjob in just my personal life, but no, it had to spill over into my professional life as well. As the manager of a trendy coffee shop, I would often be unable to delegate cleaning jobs to the rest of the staff, and if it was a slow night, I could often be found on my hands and knees scrubbing the coffee stains off the floor or scraping boogers off the underside of tables. Everything had to be sparkling and put away properly before I could leave for the night. My boss loved me.

It was physically impossible for me to walk down the sidewalk without counting the number of steps to a square. If my gas tank was less than half full, it would consume my thoughts until I dropped everything and got it filled up. Drinking a martini was a complex affair; five sips, one olive, five sips, one olive. If I ran out of olives before the end of the drink, the whole night would be shot.

I took Prozac for my obsessive-compulsive behavior for almost three weeks before I woke up one day and walked to the bathroom without running my finger over the hall light switch to make sure it was off. After I put toothpaste on my toothbrush without hearing even a whisper of my internal voice's painstaking aesthetic qualifications, I caught my own eye in the mirror and smiled. Tonight, I'd let my husband wash the dishes.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Chris spoke first:
"I just had to get out of that Bermuda Triangle of idiocy."

The single mom with two toddlers told everyone in our train car the story of her unfair life. Her children fussed and force-cried for the first half of the night. By the time she had them both properly spanked and sniffling, "Get away from me, you're a bad mommy!" the overweight gentleman across the aisle was able to fall asleep and promptly start snoring like a javelina. After a few hours of negotiating a limited version of rest, one of the kids woke up after snoring guy emitted a particularly loud snorkeling sound. She whined a mysterious phrase over and over, "I want my bat seat," or an equivalent. Her exasperated mother matched her volume in explaining(everytime the little girl finished her sentence) that she couldn't give her the "bat seat" because she had lost it and that she was "going to be" responsible for waking up "everybody on the damn train" and did she really want to be that rude?

What kind of adult tries to reason with a four-year-old in the manipulative way usually reserved for adult-on-adult guilt trips? I mean, it is not going to work to tell a toddler that other people are going to hate her if she doesn't stop making noise, or that she will not receive any of the Easter presents promised to her if she doesn't stop poking her sister.

After the "bat seat" fire had been tamped down to a few stray whimpers, snoring guy fell right off the end of the sleeping pier and started in with his bubbly-sounding snorts. I ground my teeth together and fought, I am not kidding, to keep control of my left leg, which wanted to shoot out and kick the guy in the lumbar region.

Chris got up and stormed to the observation car with his Game Boy, where, presumably, it was quiet.

I stayed clenched in my little ball of fury until I realized that, zoo noises or not, I wasn't going to fall asleep any time soon.

I wrapped my scarf around my face and spread out over both seats.

I love the train.

Further into the night during a snoring volume spike, I went to the bathroom and walked in on an older lady in a state of undress. Wearing only a deep purple bra and some sort of control-top garment, she didn't even notice that I had flung open the door and went on digging around in her suitcase.

Even later, Chris came back to our seats and tried to snuggle up to me, but every position on the seat's incline meant one of us got smooshed and some limb went numb.

Just before sunrise, he crawled under our seats and stretched out on the floor.

"Is that good down there?" I swung my face over the edge of the foot rest and eyeballed him. My scarf was twisted around my head like a lepers bandages.

"It's luxurious!" He pulled his hat over his face and went to sleep.

Soon after, as the sunlight burst into the car like the Kool-Aid mascot in commercials of old, snoring guy shut down his log-sawing operation and almost immediately started making calls on his cell phone to a number of people to tell them that some airline had lost his luggage. It couldn't have been more that 6am.

Single mom woke up and started complaining to snoring man(after he was through telling his missing luggage story about five times) about how behind schedule we were(about two hours), why we didn't stop for a goddamned cigarette break, and how they were "never taking the train again in life,"(?) and how much of a refund they were going to demand. This was punctuated by proclamations of how poorly they slept, how unfair and unacceptable it was that they were going to be late meeting her new boyfriend, and returns to her previous story about why she left the father of her two children.

Even with my scarf pulled over my face, the light got through, the conversation permeated.

"My kids hate the train. I couldn't fly out of Portland on Thursday or we would have done that. My boyfriend insisted that I come home for Easter or we wouldn't be here. On the way up to Portland, the bathroom broke in our train car and we were running two hours behind then too! I have to go live with my parents because I'm having a house built. My husband and I got so stressed about how long it was taking that I left him around last Halloween." She was up and pacing, talking snoring guy's ear off. Then she called her boyfriend and her grandmother and told them the whole story we had just heard.

Oh: by now it was 6:30am.

I started to think about how the only reason I was having a bad time was because of her and her mucus-y offspring. The screaming, the spanking, the loud complaining. Oh my god!

Chris called in the delay to his parents, who were awaiting our arrival in San Francisco. I went to brush my teeth. We gathered our things and sneaked away to the lounge car, noting, on our passage through five other passenger cars, how serene they were. People were still slumbering all around us. My head throbbed.

Chris bought some horrible coffee that only resembled it's label in that it was hot and in a styrofoam cup.

We talked about the Bermuda Triangle of Idiocy in our car.

I replayed the punishment scene from the night before: the older child of single mom wouldn't stop forcing herself to bawl. Huge hitching sobs came from this fairy-sized being. At this point I still had patience. Snoring guy offered to be "surrogate daddy" for a while. Whatever that meant. She told him(and the rest of us) her woes. He told her(and the rest of us) that his own fiance was pregnant, and that he wasn't sure if she really wanted to be with him.

Oh, the drama!

The kid was wailing through all of this. Eventually, I figured, she'd wear herself out. They always do. But her mom cracked first. Warnings were issued and ignored. Tiny four-year-old punches were thrown.

"Alright that's it!" and mom got up and stuffed her two-year old under her arm like a sack of flour, dragged her other screaming child by the wrist down to the lower level, where for a moment we heard nothing.

"Somebody's in big trouble." Chris whispered.

"No kidding."

Then, a solid-sounding WHACK! followed by a thin, reedy wailing as the whackee reacted in exactly the way that got her in trouble in the first place.

"I hate you, Mommy!" she caterwauled and tore back up the stairs, dove past us to hide under her seat.

Late breaking news flash:
People around us confirm we will be even longer delayed due to a medical emergency that is happening in the full view of the observation car. I thought we had been sitting here for a while. Some lady(we hoped it was Single Mom) had an anxiety attack about how late we were and opened one of the exit doors and tried to get off the moving train. An ambulance has been deployed, and a fire engine; train employees are all over the place. Evidently, she wants Amtrak to rent her a car so she can get to where she is going on time. This is not going to happen. They are sedating her and driving her away in the ambulance, which is good, because if she got back on this train, an angry mob would surely kill her.

Some little kids down the car from us are playing "No means yes and yes means no."

Chris seems to feel vindicated having predicted that Single Mom's head would explode at some point during the trip, and if the medical emergency lady is one and the same, he would be right.

Things I have seen from the train:
-a sign on a shed door reading: "Keep locked or stay the fuck out"
-a crusty, hardened glove
-a stallion taking a pee (his stream was as thick as a towing chain!)
-a really really bad wig
-hundreds of abandoned appliances
-frat boys
-ditches of sludge
-Chris asleep on the floor under my seat

Things I have heard today on the train:
-shrill screaming
-more shrill screaming
-a child singing a song phonetically resembling "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" but sounding more like "Twittle Twittle Butter Bar."
-repeated threats of spanking
-I say again: shrill screaming of a pitch and sustainability only utterable by a human under 3 years old. Jesus, but that girl puts her lungs into it. And with a Nuk in there, too!