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Of Tsunamis and Tiny Tabascos

Mood: Extravagantly Exhausted
Drinking: Liquids

Coming off my episode of utter contentment on Christmas Eve, it’s been a wild and bumpy week. Not all of it has been the bad kind of bumpy, but when you consider that a giant tidal wave devoured thousands of lives and homes and left disease and despair in its wake, and it’s not even 2005 yet… Well, that will put a damper on anybody’s warm fuzzies.

When you have relatives in town, you tend to pay much less attention to the TV…at least my family does. So my awareness of what’s going on in the rest of the world has been lagging a bit behind, but it’s there. And, much like on 9-11, I’m feeling incredibly helpless and inadequate in the face of such phenomenal devastation. Boy and I will do what we can to help, there’s no doubt, but it’s times like these when you feel like such a fortunate and fat American. And you realize, once again, that you are just really fucking lucky. And you feel grateful and dirty, all at the same time.

So I’m going to spend some time researching where to make my disaster relief contributions…where is it most needed, where will it do the most good, etcetera. And I’ll also be searching for tiny Tabascos and miniature A-1 sauces. The explanation is this:

My sister and her shiny new husband visited the foggy city for the holiday extravaganza this week, and it was the last time in a long time that I will see my brother-in-law. He’s heading to Iraq in a couple of weeks. And it’s one of those things that there are just not enough words for. Or not the right kind of words. So I’m focusing instead on the Tabasco sauce.

See, apparently the chow sucks for soldiers. Eating the same thing day in and day out, out there in the middle of god-knows-where, and they can’t just run over to In-n-Out and get a nice fat burger anytime they feel like it. So my sister told me that they (the soldiers) like those tiny bottles of Tabasco, A-1, whatever, because they can pocket them, season their dinner, and then toss out the bottles. It’s genius. And that’s why I’m on the lookout for tiny, tiny Tabascos. Got any?

Okay, I wasn’t kidding around when I said that I was extravagantly exhausted. A week of in-laws and long drives in the California snow (Yosemite-style) and traveling with a 50-pound Boxer on your lap because she thinks she’s a teacup poodle and hearing about home-wrecking Tsunamis has left me without any wits whatsoever. So I’m going now…

-Lo, who has already calculated the distance from beach to home in case of a California tsunami. (I think 36 blocks might be far enough away.)

Twas the night…

Mood: All is calm
Drinking: ‘Nog

It’s the night before Christmas, and I have a secret to tell you.

It’s a secret about poetry, about my kind of poetry, so really it’s not all that scintillating or scandalous. It’s just this: Happiness is bad for business.

What I mean is this…I write better poetry when I am miserable. My kind of thing calls for some anger, some angst, some awful atrocities, whether real or imagined. It just brings out the juice, the muse, the inspiration. My favorite poets had awful lives. They were depressed and drunk and suicidal. They were alone and lonely and had only their genius to keep them company. And they were brilliant. Their words are amazing.

(Rabbit Trail: I remember when I was getting ready to get married, I kept feeling like I was choosing to give something up. Not the “freedom” or whatever of being single, but the possibility of being a Great Poet. Something inside me kept saying that if I chose Boy, if I chose to make my life with a man who loved me and was willing to put up with all the melodrama, all the bullshit, all the darkness that I dream up–and all the darkness that I don’t–if I was choosing that kind of life, I was going to sacrifice something when it came to writing. I was going to have something besides my pen to assuage my pain. I’m not saying that if I had kept on going alone that I would have been this phenomenal genius. It just felt like a very real choice at the time. And I’m not unhappy with my decision. I do have both…my muse didn’t leave me when the ring slid down my finger. And I may write less poems per month than I used to, but I still write. They still come on their little cat feet, and that is all that matters.)

About this whole happy poem thing, though, I will confess that I have written a few of the smiley kinds of poems, but I usually keep them hidden in the drawer. I think I have one or two that actually work, that I’ll let out of the house.

It’s just that, to me, a lot of happy poetry ends up sounding like Hallmark. All schmaltzy and saccharine. And Hallmark might work for a certain type o’ people, but it doesn’t work for me and mine. When I’m happy, I don’t need poetry the way I need it when I’m not. When I’m not, it’s only the mainlining of words, the delicious drowning in ink, that keeps me sane.

So on this tranquil and bright Christmas Eve, I am incapable of writing a decent poem. At this moment, sitting in the half-lit living room beneath a pile of blankets, I am deepy, completely content.

I’ve got my wicked little laptop all glowing at me on the couch and my sleepy dog with her adorable paws smelling of Fritos. I’ve got my beautiful Boy sleeping in the other room. I’ve got a tank full of fishes all lazily floatin’ around and a tree full of white lights and ribbons. I’ve got cool socks that say “Drop Dead Gorgeous”. I’ve got a camera full of irreplaceable photos from the day just spent. I’ve got a tiny bit of sunburn from the beaches at Pt. Reyes and some leftover sand in my shoes.

I’ve got a full moon in the sky. I’ve got the N-train rolling past, full of Christmas Eve-ers with presents. I’ve got a week full of promise ahead.

I’ve got my parents on a plane on their way here to see me. I’ve got my sister coming my way, too. I’ve got my darling little C coming back from Chicago and phone messages full of glee from Miss Diddley-doo to return. (She knows who she be.)

I’ve got an Ugly Doll from S and a feathery red purse from the B’s. They both know me well enough to get a gift that ain’t on the wish list and completely delight me. That’s a rare and wonderful thing.

I’ve got dangly, spangly earrings and the ticking of a grandfather clock. I’ve got shelves full of books and a freshly-painted house. I’ve got everything I need and then just a little bit extra, on the side.

This is happiness, pure and complete. This is contentment. This is the moment. And I will relish it and wallow in it and tuck it away in my pocket so I can pull it out and stare at it when things look a bit more grim and gray.

Christmastime. I used to dread it for so long. It always seemed to be so lonely and disappointing and terribly futile. And here I am all grown-up and giddy and full of good cheer. I definitely cannot write a poem tonight.

-Lo, who, in addition to peace and tranquility, seems to be really into alliteration this evening, as well.

Mine Are Real!

Mood: Candied-out
Drinking: Water

We attended a memorial service for Dennis on Friday. It was sweet and sad and bizarre, all at once. Never been to a memorial service in a dog park before. I think the worst part was seeing Dennis’ dog, Nika, who was very depressed and in a week’s time had already lost a lot of weight. She’ll never have another guy like Dennis.

Neither will we.

In the midst of all the mourning, there have been holiday things to do. My parents are coming to California for Christmas, so Boy and I are all a-flutter trying to get the place ready for parental inspection. Not that they’ll white-glove it or anything. But still. There is a list, and things must be checked off! (Slightly obsessed with the list-checking, that’s me.)

The Christmas tree itself has been crossed off the list rather triumphantly. It’s all green and woodsy-smelling and fabulous-looking. And it looks perfect as seen through the window from the street. (I am so loving the new house, have I said that yet?)

When I was growing up back in Illinois, we always had a fake tree. I’m not sure if it was about tree conservation or reluctance to spend money on the real thing or what, but every year, our Christmas tree came out of a dusty box that had been hibernating in the attic all year long.

For some reason, it became the Witmer family tradition for my Dad and I to put the thing together. In the early years, that wasn’t so hard. All the branches were color-coded and I could just hand them to Dad–first the blue, then the green, then the yellow and finally red. But then the paint got all scraped off and from then on it was a guessing game. We could have made a hilarious-looking inverted tree if we wanted to.

The housecats (who had better manners than the barncats) would always make little nests for themselves among the lower branches. And some of them–the dumber ones–would eat long silver strings of tinsel off the tree. A day or so later, they’d be running around the house with Tinsel Butt. (Which is really funny and very disgusting all at the same time.)

Other Witmer family traditions: Dad did the lights, then the girls (me and Jo) would decorate with various handmade and sometimes hideous ornaments, as far up as we could reach. Mom would always top the tree with the angel at the very end. Oh, and there were real candy canes that were hung on the tree, but they never lasted long, since my Dad and I are peppermint fiends. There was the Christmas Card Door, also. Every single card and picture we received was carefully scotch taped on the living room door (which led out to the front porch and piles of snowdrifts, so it was always closed off with plastic and duct tape during the winter.)

During the years when there was snow, Mom would make snow ice cream from the tallest, freshest snowdrift. Once I learned in science class that snow particles formed around dirt, the concept of snow ice cream became instantly less delicious, but still. It’s hard to resist fluffy, cold piles of sugar.

Boy and I have made an effort to establish our own Christmas traditions since we’ve moved out to the coast. For the past 4 years, we’ve spent Christmas Day alone, just the two of us, (and last year, LeeLoo, too). We open presents in the morning and then drive down the coast until we find the perfect abandoned beach. We do some beachcombing and ocean-gazing and just generally meander about. It’s the most peaceful kind of Christmas I’ve known.

There were a whole lotta years in there where I hated/dreaded/tried to ignore the whole depressing holiday rigamarole. But now that we’ve found ways to make it our own, it’s not so bad. Especially when you can watch your pup tear the wrapping paper off a stuffed penguin while it sings an obnoxious, tinny, christmas carol. When the Ler is around, it doesn’t take much to entertain me.

-Lo, who never once played the virgin Mary in any of those Sunday School pageants.

No Turkey for You!

Mood: Is it Thursday yet?
Drinking: The usual poison

My Thanksgiving this year was impressively un-American. It involved a complete lack of turkey and some trash-talking about the Puritan Pilgrims. *gasp* There may have been a big jug o’ red-hot-flavored alcohol, courtesy of C, as well.

You see, our original, traditional, decidely acceptable Thanksgiving plans fell through at the last minute and we all said, “F*%# the turkey! We’re having pizza!”

The only problem: All pizza places are closed on Thanksgiving because they are good turkey-gnawing American people. So then my other friend C, as in the website guru Christopher Brown, he says, “Hey, why not a Mexican Thanksgiving!? I can make chile rellenos!” and then M dubbed it the “Gracias-giving” and away we went.

Much home-made Mexican food was consumed and although none of it was nearly as good as the tamales that my first boyfriend’s mother used to make, it was pretty damn good. (My contribution? Good old white trash Dirt Cake, complete with plastic flower. I am a good friend.)

Boy and I pretty much spent the whole weekend huffing paint fumes while we completed agonizing house project #43: painting the living room. It is finished now, and I am coming out of my paint-fume-withdrawal with only a mild headache.

I’ve been working on a poem and we’re coming up on a video shoot for our newest project (as soon as the weather warms up and the fog rolls in), so i haven’t been a complete slacker, in spite of my conspicous lack of posting here. I have been very busy and productive elsewhere, and you can thank the lack of turkey for that. (Because every good American knows that after you consume the carcass of a dead bird for Thanksgiving, you must lounge about on the couch watching various forms of boob toob entertainment for at least 24 hours and then go to the Wal-mart and fight with a toothless fat lady for a RoboSapien. It’s what the founding fathers would have wanted, after all. Life! Liberty! Pursuit of Wal-mart Crappiness!)

-Lo, who really needs to get over this I-didn’t-have-turkey-nah-nah obsession, already!