Monday, December 29, 2008

Chestnuts and Rockettes 12/29/008

My mother and step-dad took me (and later me and my half-sister from their union) to see the Rockettes in New York City every year around Christmas time. Radio City Music Hall was grand and glorious-- with impressive stairways leading up to the bathrooms and balcony seats. The Rockettes themselves were beautiful and they were my first exposure to dancing in-sync.

We also went to watch the ice skaters and see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Square. My step-dad would stop at one of the street vendors to purchase a brown paper bag of roasted chestnuts. He was rather fond of them I remember. I like them also.

My dad used to take me to the parades in New York City. I remember one in particular-- being young enough to sit on his shoulders so I could see the floats. We also watched the Macy Day parades on teevee when we didn't go see them. He also took me to a football game once. The guys in front of us had a bit too much beer and a fight broke out between them.

My mother always had a fake green tree. Dad's tastes ran to silvery and so his tree was more sparkly.

One of Dad's sisters used to have us over for Christmas dinner and she made lasagna. When I was little I refused to sit at the kids' table in the kitchen. As I got older though, the presence of two younger cousins who had grown up down south made that table attractive to me and fun.

sapphoq on life

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Chemistry Set and Christmas

One year, my dad got me one of those Gilbert Chemistry Sets for Christmas. My mother threw it out with all of the other presents from my dad as usual.

Dad was given visitation on Sundays, a two week summer vacation option, and holidays.
Sometimes the holidays didn't happen. My mother would go to the front door and mutter "sick" to my disappointed Dad and then he would leave. I wasn't sick. My mother was a fairly rude woman when it came to my dad. The idea of calling him to say don't come today because spike is supposedly sick was not an option ever.

I left my mother's house when I was 17 to go live with my dad after a particularly vicious public beating (which led to her being banned for life from a nearby town) and that Christmas my dad had insisted that I buy Christmas gifts for my mother and deliver them. "She's still your mother," he told me, demonstrating a courtesy that he held for her in spite of her spitefulness throughout the years. I was still fairly traumatized from the events which had preceded my leaving. I snuck into the house with my key and left a bunch of presents on the radiator in the hallway. I didn't call my mother until almost a year later.

I called my dad today to wish him a Happy Christmas. He in turn questioned me as to my intentions regarding my mother and extracted a promise from me that I would call her today. I grumbled to myself a bit. This is my elderly dad who has been divorced from my mother for many years, who endured things at the hands of my mother that no living being had to endure. He wanted me to call her.

Yes, I called my mother today. I wished her a Happy Christmas and inquired as to the well-being of my half-sister (who does not pick up the phone when I call there) and her growing family. Two strangers talking at a bus stop. Some things don't change.

My mother is a very sick woman. She has always been spiteful, always played head games, always had a serious mean streak. My mother is a woman of violence. Only in my own journey leading to adulthood have I been able to protect my self from her abusiveness. I am sorry that she may be a product of her environment, sorry that she may be active still in her addictions, sorry that she is getting old now and that our relationship cannot heal. I no longer have to sacrifice my well-being for an adult whose own deficiencies demand such a sacrifice. Nor will I. This is not about forgiveness. My mother is not asking my forgiveness. This is about my life and my disengagement from that which threatens to kill me.

sapphoq on life

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Farm

I was not a farm kid. My grands purchased their dairy farm in their retirement. I was there two weeks out of every summer and maybe once or twice a year for a day trip when the family went up to visit. I did not get to drive a tractor the summer before my sixth grade or any other year. I never milked a cow. I didn't ride horses up there (my grands didn't have any), didn't go for walks in the woods, didn't sleep out under the stars. I didn't even go fishing in the pond by the barn that was full of geese and their green shit. No doubt about it. I wasn't a farm kid.

I did gather eggs, watched a rooster and a chicken do it outside my bedroom window one Sunday morning, learned to curse the rain, got to ride in the hay wagon while it was being baled, catered to a duckling named "Lucky" one summer for a few days (before he was given to the farm kid up the road), went to a country fair or two. I ate cow meat-- my grandmother knew the name of every cow that the slabs of brown beef came from stocked up in the freezer. She would put down the plate of meat, mashed potatoes, green beans, mayo for my grandfather to slather all over his green beans. Then she paused for attention. "This is Pet," she'd say with a grandness I never even seen in the theaters off of Broadway. "This is Clarabelle...Daisy...Red." I wasn't a farm kid but I was rather earthy and so the naming of our sustenance didn't bother me.

My mother was an entirely different story however. She wouldn't stay overnight. When we came for a day trip, it was a very long day trip. We were in the car traveling far longer than we got to visit. My mother got chased by the geese who hated her with fierceness. She refused to help out in the barn, turned her nose up at the smell of fresh manure that lay glistening on the fields, wouldn't stay for dinner. She insisted that any bacon be cooked beyond recognition, got grossed out at the occasional egg which revealed a pulsating fetus in the fry pan, would not use pepper. "Pepper comes from stones," my stepfather would proclaim. I was earthy. They were practicing to be in the sideshow of insanity.

I looked forward to my two weeks without the parental units every summer. I was a pro at taking buses back then; one of the practical skills that my mother actually bestowed on me just as soon as I displayed any interest in going downtown. And so, on the appointed day I would pack up my brown shopping bag with clothes and lunch. I'd head off to Grand Central Station to buy my round trip ticket. I sat in the front quietly behind the driver eating my food and looking out the window. Once in awhile, an older lady would sit next to me and we would talk. One time, the conversant was a German teenager whose first name was Theda. We became pen pals for a few months after that trip.

And so I got to do things like hold a cow's left leg with a rope during an almost breach birth. My grandmother was installed at the right leg cursing vigorously in a couple languages. My grandfather reached in with one hand, a fist, an arm and succeeded in turning the calf around. I also picked tomatoes, fed the chickens, went with my grands and the two farm dogs every evening to call the cows home from the fields. I studied the chart in the barn showing what traits in a dairy cow my grands could select to breed for. (Milking speed was one of them). I got to watch the vet inseminate a cow. I helped clean up the barn before the inspector came. I remember the old milk pails rattling around the back of my grandfather's red truck as we brought them to the dairy. I remember when the truck began coming to pick up the milk instead. And I remember when hay wheels began dotting the fields and square bundles of hay became passe. But I didn't get to go to public school up there.

That honor was given to one cousin who got to live at the farm for a whole year because of some unexplained school problem back home. She got to ride the school bus with the real farm kids, fell in love with the boy down the road who had gotten custody of Lucky the duck, went to a real public school wearing regular clothes instead of uniforms. I was jealous but I told no one. It wasn't any use. I wouldn't have been allowed to do the same when it was my turn to go to high school.

My high school sucked. Or at least my time there did. I wore uniforms from first grade right on up through my senior year graduation day. But that wasn't the worst. Nor was the addition of nuns and lockers and late bells. The worst thing about high school was the amount of time spent trying to get us to conform. I wasn't a farm kid but I wasn't a conformist either. I was earthy. My classmates for the most part were rich city kids with rich city kid problems and racing sex drives. Most of them were good at mouthing the prayers that began and ended each class, parroting the expected answers, following the directions in chemistry class. The girls I hung out with were unwilling or unable to blend in. My lab mate and I wondered what would happen if we mixed the contents of test tube A with those of B. "Don't d---" the chemistry nun stuttered as a small smokey fire began burning at our table. She got out the fire extinguisher. A scar remained as a mute testimony to our experimentation.

I was quiet, not athletic, not wanting sex. I was the quietest in our little group of misfits. I wondered at things. I asked questions which felt vital to me but which did not make sense to people like the chemistry nun. When I did speak up, it was to say things like "I learned that I don't want to be Roman Catholic anymore" in response to a query on the last day of freshman religion class. "You're a pisser," a girl wrote in my yearbook senior year, "in a quiet but earth-shattering way." I suspect that I might have done better in the public school surrounded by farmland than I did in suburbia, even though I wasn't a real farm kid.

After high school, I went to live with my dad. My grands' phone number was my motivation for consenting to speak with my mother again. In-between visits to the farm that I now drove myself to in Daddy's car, I became proficient at drinking and drugging, gotten raped during an aborted attempt to sell reefer, and mourned the fact that I was born too late. Too young for Woodstock. By time Woodstock II rolled around, I had quit the drugs. I had also gotten raped by a shrink and flirted with being a lesbian.

Sometime after that, my grandfather sickened and died. My grandmother worked the farm alone until she could sell it. The family she sold it to couldn't make a go of it. They sold off portions of the fields first. The house sits empty today, a badly painted relic of its' former glory that lives on in my memories.

I found frogs, found bisexuality, found a mate. My grandmother got very old. She sickened and died, taking a piece of my heart with her. My stepfather died and my mother didn't tell me until ten days after the funeral. Then came my car accident caused by a guy who thought he could smoke one joint safely and drive. He couldn't. I saw the accident coming. Still, his car ran my car into a house, leaving a hole in the cement foundation. The hole was large enough that one could see into the cellar. I thought I was going to die during the accident. But I didn't. That accident altered my life. That accident was my personal introduction to traumatic brain injury.

Recently, I marked the five year anniversary of that accident. Some things changed. My taste in reading changed drastically from science fiction and fantasy to almost exclusively computer books. I am no longer working. I have become more practical. My mother and I barely talk anymore. We have too much between us now. I've had to insulate myself against her in order to save my own tenuous grip on reality. I am watching my dad become an old frail man. In my heart of hearts, I recognize the betrayal of his brain and I am devastated. I do not know if my dad is earthy or not. I do know that he has experienced his own brokenness of spirit. There is a younger brother he still mourns. "Pray for your uncle," Dad choked on the words as he spoke them into his cell phone across the miles. I don't have a cell phone. In spite of that, I feel myself to be very much his daughter. During the two months that he came to live with us, I discovered how much alike we really are. Even my traumatic brain injury was not powerful enough to alter that.

Some things haven't changed-- I still like frogs and I am still earthy and I still don't claim to have been a farm kid. I still hate my high school and reject the things the nuns had tried to instill in me. I miss my grandmother, mourn my stepfather. I still have intense questions, although they are different questions now.

How shall I end this collection of words? I am tempted to tell you that I discovered my inner ruggedness. But that's bullshit. How shall I define my essence? What am I? In a world that is ill-equipped to deal with my battered brain, in a place that fears any differences, the words of that classmate long ago are oddly comforting:

"You're a pisser in a quiet but earth-shattering way."

sapphoq on life

Monday, October 27, 2008


I've been absent from blogging because I've been dealing with issues with my father. Dad moved up here at the end of August "for awhile." At the time he was in the middle of a divorce. He lasted barely a month in an apartment which was carved out of a garage. He called one week asking me if he washes his hair with mousse or if he applies it afterward. He called the next week asking to move in. Husband and I went to get him. The landlady suggested that I drive on our way out of the driveway.

Dad's driving has become an issue over the last several years. With three reportable accidents in one year and numerous fender benders, his almost ex-wife and my half-sister began to express their concerns. But he kept on driving. One day he arrived home with a brand new car and a two year lease.

Dad has always hated or distrusted doctors. He is also fairly stubborn about the things that he will and will not do. Dad went to doctors at various times over the past decade. Dad threw out any medicine they gave him to take.

Up here, Dad refused to go to a doctor for almost a month. He agreed first to go to my special eye doctor because his glasses haven't been right for several years (and various eye doctors where he used to live). My eye doctor agreed to report him to motor vehicles in Dad's home state as an impaired driver based upon Dad's "confusion." The glasses turned out well. With the addition of prisms, Dad is now able to read again. He can read out of books and newspapers and menus and can now in fact see the road signs.

Then I got Dad to go to our primary care doctor. I told him that if he were to have an appendix [attack] or a broken leg while visiting, it would be better for him to be established with a doc up here. I took Dad to our primary care doc who was absolutely wonderful with him. Doc got Dad to admit that one of the many medicines he had thrown out was a blood-thinner. Doc gave Dad a short e.k.g. which showed atrial fibrillation. (The treatment of choice for a-fib is a specific brand-name blood-thinner which can prevent many strokes). By the second visit, Doc had convinced Dad to take a prescription inhaler for his c.o.p.d., a low dose of an anti-depressant for the unspecified anxiety state that Dad won't admit to having, and the blood-thinner for the a-fib. Doc also got Dad to agree to a full blood panel and to go to the heart doc. (Doc also diagnosed dementia and aphasia, both of which I had suspected. Without neurological studies, we do not know what kind of dementia yet).

The heart doc is a very sharp young woman who knows absolutely shit about dementia. Dad got a full e.k.g. and an echo heart done. Heart doc informed me (but not Dad) most emphatically that Dad should not be driving. She was unwilling to report him to motor vehicles in his state, saying only that it wasn't her job to do so and adding something about any of his accidents being a liability.

Research on the internet revealed to me that docs are reluctant to report impaired drivers in any state-- even in states where docs are mandated to report-- because they are afraid of being sued by the impaired driver and/or the families of the impaired driver. A couple of visits later to our primary care doc and Dad agreed to go for a driving evaluation.

Dad and I went to his driving evaluation this morning at Sunnyview Hospital where I had gone for cognitive testing after my brain injury. (Schenectady New York if anyone has a burning desire to know where Sunnyview is). He did some sit down testing first which I got to see. He passed vision acuity with corrected distance vision of 20/40 but failed totally a bunch of other tests. He remembered two out of three simple words, failed serial sevens, failed connect-the-dots, failed drawing a clock showing a specific time of day. His reaction time was good for his age. The problem was just about everything else that shows how well his eyeballs are (not) working with his brain. Specifically, Dad failed things labeled as attention, distractibility, impulsivity, visual scanning, visual discrimination, color discrimination (to the point where the evaluator asked if he was color-blind, something I have been suspecting), and peripheral vision.

Dad left with the evaluator for a 45 minute test behind the wheel. When they came back, he said to me, "I failed." Then he added that he was only joking. But in fact he had.

Once back in the room, the evaluator asked Dad how he thought he did. He gave himself two or three demerits for several things. Then the evaluator gave her account of things. She had stopped him from turning in front of another car (that was the worst). He had gotten distracted by an unmarked police car, stopped too far away from lights and stop signs, driven fifteen miles under the speed limit and a variety of other things. She told him point-blank that she is recommending that he quit driving and that the time to stop driving is NOW. He decided that "people just want everyone over the age of 65 not to drive." Drat this denial shit.

Once back home, I fired off an e-mail to the half-sister so she and her mom would know how it went ( Dad's almost ex-wife (the divorce had been canceled) called then. The upshot of the whole thing is that the lease company would only offer a chance to buy out of the lease (almost ex-wife says she is not doing that) and that Dad has agreed to go back home to the almost ex-wife on Thursday. He will be driving himself and some of his stuff as he would not agree to any other arrangement. She will attempt to curtail his driving.

It is what it is. I cannot control any of this. As it stands now, that is what is happening. So we are back to where we were in July. Except maybe now Dad will take the blood-thinner for his a-fib, the antidepressant, and the inhaler for his c.o.p.d. And maybe his almost ex-wife will be able to get him to go to a primary care doc, a cardiac doc, and a neurologist who knows dementia and is willing to get involved with patients who have dementia. Maybe she will even be able to get him to agree to allow her to go in with to the doctor appointments. I hope that she will be able to curtail his driving somehow. That in itself requires divine intervention from divine beings which I don't believe in.

Everyone has financial problems now with the economy being all frucked up worldwide. We are no exception to that. And I am on disability. I cannot afford to buy his way out of his car lease. Dad's almost ex-wife is also having severe financial problems which dictate that she cannot do this either. I can't really blame the lease car company. Business is business. Folks who get leased cars are offered the opportunity to get stop-gap insurance in case they have to break a lease. Dad said no to that.

Dad's almost ex-wife doesn't want me to report Dad to the motor vehicles as being an impaired driver. She is against that. I have my own principles. Too late for that advice. The report was sent quite awhile ago. The eye doc also reported him. Dad's home state hasn't acted on the information yet. Dad's dad died in an accident when I was in second grade. I don't remember my paternal grandfather at all. I do remember the adults talking about it when he died. What I remember is that it was a head-on. Dad's dad was on a bridge, the long one in Miami. I may not remember what I heard accurately. Dad says his dad had gotten sideswiped or runned into. Dad says his dad had been a heavy drinker but had quit in Florida by switching to pitchers of orange juice. So "drunk" was not in the equation. Dad told me this morning that his dad should have quit driving. But that he himself does not have a driving problem. I hope Dad doesn't kill himself, get himself killed, or seriously maim or kill another human being while behind the wheel of a car. I have my own principles. I am responsible for what I know. Dad's home state will be getting another report, this time with copies of the driving evaluation included. It is hard to deal with the thought of Dad being angry with me, harder still for me to deal with the thought of Dad killing another human being behind the wheel if I do nothing.

I tried my best to get Dad to quit driving. I could not do it. No one else could either. Now I have a bill to pay (I decided that I would pay the bill rather than have Dad use that as an excuse not to go for the eval) and I am losing my Dad's company. I really love having Dad around. It has been a pleasure to have his company really. I learned quite a bit about politics and some of his memories of his life. To my credit, I got Dad to go to the eye doc and he is now able to read again after four years of messed-up glasses. I also got him to take medicine. I provided a safe place for him to live when he found that he could not live alone and did not want to live with his almost ex-wife. I would not have missed having Dad here for the last two months for the world. Dad's almost ex-wife wants him back. He wants to go back to take care of her, he told me. She misses him and she cries. They love each other still. I believe in love. I hope it will be enough this time.

I myself have learned some things while Dad has been here. Dad helped me establish a cleaning routine-- something which I have been unable to do on my own. I learned to eat slower and to eat grapes instead of junk food. (Yes, I am having a total life change and in the process am beginning to slowly lose weight!). I learned that doctors do not always do the right thing because they are afraid of being sued. I learned that I am responsible for what I know, even if acting on my knowledge is difficult. I learned again that it is not weakness to ask for help. I hope that I will be able to graciously quit driving when the time comes for me to do so or perhaps even before the time comes. Public safety trumps anyone's personal "right" to keep driving when they are a loaded weapon behind the wheel with no safety stop.

Dad was the one who taught me how to drive when the driver's ed instructor at my high school could not. Damn it all. The driver's ed instructor spoke in a flat monotone voice, probably through no fault of her own. She could not teach me. She reacted to my driving inability with obvious nervousness. One time that I remember specifically is on a snowy morning, I had turned into the sewer at the end of a block instead of turning right onto the next block. The car got stuck in the snow. She had me rock it back and forth and then proceed to turn. She insisted I go around the same block three times. Each time the same result occurred. I got the car stuck in the sewer grating. A more rational driver's ed instructor might have handled things differently perhaps-- hey we can try a right hand turn on a different block-- but not this one. Looking back at it now, I don't think it was all due to my right hand turns. I think it was the weather.

At any rate, I told Dad what was not happening in my driver's ed behind-the-wheel instruction time. And I had failed the first driving test for my license. Dad then borrowed a different length car every Sunday and had me drive in a variety of conditions. We drove all over. I even drove in New York City amidst a bunch of irate cabbies. Dad came with me for my second attempt and I got my license that time.

Emotionally I still assign blame to the driver's ed instructor for being unable to effectively teach me. Intellectually I now know that my learning style was vastly dissimilar to what that poor woman was used to dealing with.

In many ways my dad and I are alike. We both have sensitivities to a variety of tastes, sounds, and textures. For example, Dad finds the texture of yogurt to be disgusting. While I will eat yogurt, I refuse to wear the polyester fleeces which he relishes. Dad hates the loud tick-tick sound of his car blinker. That doesn't bother me. What I can't stand is the sound emitted by those white noise machines that some people get to block unpleasant sounds. And neither one of us care for fluorescent lights. We can both "hear" them.

I have a traumatic brain injury from my car accident. Dad has some kind of dementia because his brain is puking on him. I have wondered several times over the past couple of months if his dementia is actually an undiagnosed brain injury from one of his many accidents. He will not admit to hitting his head, having a concussion or whiplash. Neither will his almost ex-wife. To me, having brain damage from a car accident is preferable to having a dementia. When I've suggested that Dad may have a t.b.i. either instead of or in addition to dementia, Dad's almost ex-wife reacts with horror. Dad's almost ex-wife doesn't really think he has a dementia. Dad still knows his social security number. And he can dress himself and have rational conversations about politics. Dementia involves more than rote memory. Rote memory is not terribly complex by nature. Dad can remember his earlier life. He cannot remember what day it is today. He has difficulty forming new memories. That is dementia.

I could get lyrical here and write shit like, "Dementia is not losing oneself, it is an enfolding and a transformation." Those words make me want to puke. They aren't true. They hide pain. Pain is painful. Much better to face the pain than to hide behind words I think. My heart is broken a thousand thousand times. Those words are true.


p.s. Many of the problems that Dad has with his eyes working together with his brain are similar to what some of us with traumatic brain injuries have.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Tooth Fairy


The tooth fairy came for me and all I got was a lousy quarter!

sapphoq on life

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Roman Catholic High School Crackers 7/13/08

I was forced to attend a Roman Catholic High School.
At that school I was introduced to drinking, drugging, groping teen sex, and hosting hostaging.

I had a best friend there.
One day, the Pegasus (*real name has been changed) showed me some communion wafers.
"I know where they are kept in the chapel," she told me.
We proceeded there directly.
That was the first time of many that we snuck in there and grabbed some of the white crunchy wafers.

We always had snacking food.
If you object to this memory, be sure to visit: where you will find more to object to.
Oh yeah, and the statue of limitations has long since expired on this evil little crime.

sapphoq on life

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tongue 6/23/08

When my grands had their dairy farm, every so often (when I got to be an adult living on my own) my gram would send me some cows' tongues and calves' brains.

She said it was "for the cats" but I ate it too.

With the tongues, I would split open the thick outer covering and then boil them until the cats were all gathered round the stove going nuts. Then I would eat one plain or add it to any recipe, notably at that time was I ate lots of pasta and sauce.

I don't remember how I fixed the calves' brains except that they usually wound up being served on toast points.

Both things were very good.
My grands had a dairy farm, not a beef farm. But the meat was meat and I was hungry. Gram always told us which cow we were eating. That never really bothered me as much as it bothered other people in the family.

sapphoq on life

Friday, June 13, 2008

Raisin-Carrot Salad

One time my gram and I went to a department store and then sat in the restaurant in the back for lunch. She had some sandwich meat left over which she had the waitress wrap up, explaining that it was for her little dog. The waitress had wrapped up the raisin-carrot salad which came on the side instead of the bit of sandwich and meat.

"I wouldn't eat this myself," said my grandmother in disgust to the waitress, "never mind feed it to my dog!"

sapphoq on life

Friday, May 30, 2008

Face to Ass with the Past

Mate and I were at the registers at the bookstore tonight. This in itself was unremarkable, considering that both of us are obsessed with bookstores and that our combined obsessions require our presence at some bookstore or other at least once a week-- even on vacations. I am not on vacation. I just haven't worked in over four years due to the car accident I'd had while on a lunch break at Running Sores, my last odious human servitude employer.

I walked past her backside. She was at the register closest to the exit. I sighed inwardly. I had no desire to say hello to this particular witch daughter of Abraham, chronically unhappy woman boss of the bosses. Her smoldering coal-colored eyes were concentrated on the associate as she was handed her own purchase in a crisp green package with gold words on it. I noted her hair, still the color of the darkest charcoal but now with a sprinkling of a gray storm sky. She held herself the same way as I remembered-- stiffly. Her torso gave way to her chunky rear end a bit too soon as her spine suddenly ran out of space. A certain indentation at the boundary of back and posterior was missing. She didn't see me or was doing an excellent job of pretending not to see me. I found that I did not want her to recognize me. A rash of swear words sprang to my throat. I held them back with the gravest of difficulty.

Mate was dawdling. I swept past both mate and my former adversary and sprang out the door to freedom. I continued my deliberate breakaway to the dark burgundy mundaneness of mate's car. As we drove away, I saw her getting into her own fiery steel machine. I did not deign to offer another glance. After all, two can play that game of non-recognition. Strangers. We were strangers after all and perhaps always had been.

The memories came crashing back. Boss of the Airhead boss, chronically unhappy woman with short practical fingernails that belied her poisoned fangs and a way of being. It was she, witch daughter of Abraham who didn't give two shits when my grandmother lay dieing in the sterile hospital room but who expected me to sympathize with her on the loss of a fat spoiled pet dog with which I had no natural or unnatural bond. It was she who had insisted on those dreaded Monday morning meetings weekly. Under the guise of concern about my performance as the house manager of a residence with three permanent staff out of a slotted twelve and thirty six on-calls filling out the difference, she harangued me over things like someone being two hours late on a Saturday. That particular on-call knew she was supposed to be there at six. That particular on-call sauntered in at eight, claiming that was when I had told her to be there. Obviously, I was the one who had to held accountable. There was no question about that. The on-call woman could not lie, would not lie. It was I who was responsible for all of it. Never mind that in spite of the chaos of scheduling staff, my people got to go out into the community and got to go on vacations.

I had just come from the hospital that morning. I was at the hospital every morning, every evening after work and sometimes dropped in at night. I had to make the end-of-life decisions for my beloved grandmother that my aunt turned out to be incapable of. I fought with the doctor who wanted to give her a C-T scan for cancer of the lung-- what treatment did he reasonable expect to be able to offer a ninety two year old woman even if it came back positive? I fought with a cousin who thought that a shot of B-12 would fix her right as rain. I fought with the nurses about the necessity of the morphine pump and the futility of a feeding tube.

My grandmother was screaming through the morphine that particular Monday morning about not wanting to live anymore with such physical pain. I informed the boss of the boss that I didn't give a shit about the on-call woman being two hours late on a Saturday under my current circumstances. I walked out. Back at the house, she called me on the phone and sent me home for a week with pay. I didn't want to not work that week. She said it was her last inch of compassion and me going home would eliminate the necessity of her gossiping about me. "I don't care if you talk about me," I told her bluntly after having screamed at her on the wireless phone in the parking lot of the residence about the fact that I didn't fucking care about staff being late on a Saturday with my gram in the hospital and all of that. "You do anyways," I said. "So what?" She was angry. I was angrier. My day staffer-- one of three permanent staff-- hid in the medication room, saying nothing much at all to me as I hurled the phone back onto its stupid black receiver and left.

Returning to work the following week, my gram died on that Wednesday before Memorial Day weekend. I left work, curtly informing the Airhead boss over the phone of the one hole in the schedule that Saturday and would she please take care of it. She didn't. The following Tuesday, the boss of the Airhead boss, chronically unhappy bitch harangued me about that hole in the schedule. "I told the Airhead about it before I left. I had to leave. My grandmother had just died." The chronically unhappy bitch witch daughter of Abraham raised her eyes slightly at the Airhead boss. True to form, the Airhead boss did not admit her own lack of responsibility that day. No surprises there.

When the Airhead boss ran into me at a gas station several months after the accident, I deliberately turned my back on her and walked away. "Don't turn away from me," she yelled after me. Bloody hell, she had turned her back on me. Which was worse I could not tell. The pretend recognition by the Airhead boss or the cold iciness of the bitch boss of bosses. I've had to decide not to care as I bit back the curses that waited for both of them. It hurt too much-- this loss of my career coupled with the insulting demeanor of the professional helpers over at VESID sucks.

I was not blameless. The two of them-- the witch boss of bosses chronically unhappy woman with her snooty way of being and the Airhead boss who was resentful because I would not go out drinking with her and the rest of her underlings my co-managers of group homes-- knew there was a problem but they were picking on me about the wrong problem. I was burnt out. I needed a change, a different job, a new start. I resisted that knowledge. I took out my hostility at Running Sores with the computer that suddenly appeared in the medication room one day. I spent hours on that computer instead of balancing the residents' money ledger or attending inane meetings at their various day programs. I'd send my day staffer to the meetings instead-- instinctively knowing that she would take over the reins of leadership for that house when I would be gone-- and I would kick back with a diet soda and the computer. The techie who was responsible for the running of the computer network failed to install any safeguards against what staff might do with a house computer. On that computer I learned things that I could not admit to anyone at Running Sores. It was not the staff scheduling that I should have been in trouble for. My real sin was left unnoticed. When pangs of guilt hit me, I would go to the local office supply shop and purchase another ream of printer paper to replace the paper purchased by Running Sores that I was using at a furious rate to print out my latest discoveries.

We had made an unholy triad during the last year of my employ at Running Sores. The witch bitch boss of bosses and the Airhead boss and I could not see eye to eye about much of anything at all. It was madness, this intricate dance of ours. It is madness still that in spite of everything, there are days when I want to go back to working at Running Sores. This madness should not be a surprise. Even the VESID sucks literature on-line admits that those of us with traumatic brain injuries may need a return visit to the last job as a way of excising the demons that insist that what we previously knew could still work, would still work. The nice man who did my neuropsych testing wrote in his report that I may need to be reassigned at Running Sores and that VESID sucks should provide me a job coach. VESID sucks would do no such thing. It was the shrink who saw that I was incapable of returning to the madhouse of Running Sores, even without knowing of the details of my last year there. I am glad that the shrink is familiar with the machinations of traumatic brain injury, that he could see what I could not see and cannot admit to even now.

"Doing more of what doesn't work doesn't work," is what I remind myself of ala Nathaniel Branden on an almost daily basis. I cannot bring myself to be civil to the various bosses of Running Sores on chance meetings at a bookstore or a gas station. I am flunking out of VESID sucks due partly to my own twisted hostile hotheadedness caused by my traumatic brain injury. I remain unemployed and unemployable. As yet I cannot forgive the players at Running Sores for being human. Can I forgive myself?

sapphoq on life

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Her voice is papery thin, frailer than I remember, like her bones where shining out of her blanched skin last time I seen her. The message is the same. You have reached this number. Talk to the machine. Because you sure as hell aren't going to talk to me. You are my first-born. I despise the man who contributed the other x chromosome. You are grown. I cannot scream at you or beat you into submission. My legacy remains, tainting you forever. For that I thank all of the demons in hell and a few of the angels in heaven.

I manage to choke out a proper greeting. Say something inane. Here is my phone number. You can call me. I am grown. You are still my mother even though I have rejected your legacy and moved beyond it. I love you. Maybe I will come see you sometime. It's been awhile. Happy Mother's Day. I hang up. Mother's Day is a day of mourning. For what could have been.

She wanted. She always wanted. She wanted my love, demanded it, could not recognize it. I was a terrified child. I could not name the terror to my own self. I told anyone who would listen for a minute that my mother drank too much. No one listened. And she drank on and on. The scotch. After marrying again, the wine. The pretensions. She wanted to be Italian. She really tried. The only spices she knew were salt, oregano, parsley, and sometimes a bit of basil from the garden. She doled them out sparingly. She said pepper was made from little grounded up rocks. We didn't have a pepper shaker. Bacon had to be burned to a crisp in order to be rendered edible. I was a child. I did not always remember everything I had to get at the store. By sixth grade I was doing the laundry at the laundromat and all of the supermarket shopping. I learned to ask the produce man or a lady customer who looked nice to pick out the ripe tomatoes for me, to tell me which of the bunches of bananas I should bring home. I was a child. I didn't know how to do many of the things that were required of me.

When she was angry, her voice took on a vibrancy that is gone now. She screamed. She yelled. She threw a bottle of tonic water at me once in high school. She threw me down some stairs once, after dragging me on my stockinged knees across the carpet. She was the queen of humiliation. She pretended to call my nursery school teacher and screamed into the phone the horrible thing I had become. Years later, I realized that the nursery school teacher had to be dead. She called me a frig. Frig was her favorite word, a baptized substitution for the word fuck. You are a frig. Frig frig frig. Hit her Tony. I always thought of him as a jellyfish, yielding to all of her orders. He was. I was too. Not to be, well perhaps I would not have survived my childhood and adolescence.

She baked cookies. Sugar cookies from a recipe torn out of a magazine. They were good. She made drop cookies and cookies with melted chocolate pieces too. Mainly though, it was the sugar cookies. With lots of butter in them. She made a Polish rum cake once. She dumped an entire bottle of rum over it after it came out of the oven. The cake was so thick with rum that pressing the fork tines against it would yield a flood. In my blackened innocence, I thought an alcoholic drank wine at home. So as soon as I could, I drank beer out. I had forgotten about the beatings, the vindictiveness, how she made my poodle disappear one Sunday when I was visiting my dad. I'd forgotten how at restaurants she would delicately eat the seafood or spaghetti and delicately lift the elegant shining stemmed glass to her painted lips, pretending all was right with the world and that she had two shining daughters from the same father and those two daughters loved her more than life itself.

Every year for two weeks we went down the shore. There would be a house near the ocean, or once a cramped motel room which I hated for the lack of privacy. There were other kids there, down the shore on vacation with their parents. I learned to walk barefoot on the hot tarry street, how to smoke a cherry cigar once, how to dig under the overturned lifeguard boat at night and have a child's seance. J.F.K. if you are here, give us a sign. And the candle would blow out and we would dig back out of there with a quickness. We went to Bingo as a family, to the beach as a family, to a restaurant, to the boardwalk. My little half-sister and I rode the rides, were treated to custards, walked and walked and walked holding hands in front of the two parents who were busy weaving a public fantasy. I learned how to panhandle on that same boardwalk with a younger summer child vacationing down the shore. Mister, I need a dime to call my parents to come pick us up. And so we would collect enough money for a five dollar bag of weed. Then we would walk the three miles back to our beach along the shoreline, avoiding the gate where we were supposed to pay. The beach where we stayed lacked the rides or the matrons of the gates demanding payment. The cars at our beach had parking stickers instead. And there were gazebos instead of rides. And the overturned boats.

I swam out once, way beyond where I was supposed to be. The lifeguards sent a boat out after me. I was fine though, a strong swimmer in my element. The saltiness and the fresh air and the sun invigorated me. By time the boat got to me, I had already turned around and was halfway back. They did not insist that I get in the boat. They didn't yell at me for doing such a stupid thing when I'd arrived back on the sand. My mother hadn't noticed, or pretended not to. A small crowd had gathered to watch the aborted rescue. My mother continued sunning herself, reading a paperback all relaxed as if nothing potentially dangerous was happening. She didn't say a word to me when I got back and flopped on the beach towel. The music pouring from the tinny transistor radio didn't miss a beat. And I learned that silence can be as fracturing as a beating.

If I had to choose one word to describe my mother it would be vindictive. My mother is still vindictive, even in her senior years. The thing inside her that made her give away or abandon my dog and call me a frig and be late for the wedding pictures still exists. I do not pretend to know how it got there. That doesn't matter now. The knowledge of her vindictiveness does not comfort me. Yet it is better to know an unpleasant-- even cruel-- truth than to ignore it and pretend. I do not pretend that everything that is wrong with me or toxic about me is purely the result of her essence. I will not pretend that there weren't good times. It's just that the good times always ran into the bad times, that there was never any escape. After my physical escape, there were years of learning how to escape mentally.

When my mother dies, I will mourn. I will mourn for what could have been and not for the woman she was. I will grieve for a long time and I will carry on. Life is like that. Happy Mother's Day.

spike q./sapphoq remembers

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Restaurant Noise

It is almost officially Mother's Day. One of the things I specifically DON'T remember is people drinking a whole lot on or around Mother's Day. Sometime within the past several decades that must have changed. Either that or the restaurant where mate and I took my mother-in-law for dinner exists in a time warp.

There was a bunch of drunken people at the bar. During our dinner there became a bunch of drunken people at the restaurant. I have noise sensitivity now cuz my hearing is back up to supersonic. Plus I do remember the days when fancy restaurants were quiet. I remember learning as a child to SHUT UP in a restaurant along with which fork to use when.

At any rate, after dinner we took the m.i.l. out for ice cream. The ice cream shoppe was much quieter and there weren't any drunken idiots in there. Next year if we skip the whole dinner thing and just take her out for ice cream instead, we will save both money and aggravation.

spike of

Thoughts about Looks and a cousin

I've been fiddling around on SecondLife (tm owned by Linden Labs) as of late and thus have virtually disappeared from the blogging world in favor of a virtual one. On SecondLife, my avatar is young and thin and blonde and works as an exotic dancer (stripper) at a club raking in lots of Lindens. In my first life, I have never worked as a stripper. Quite frankly, I am fat and dumpy. In high school I was thinner but after high school, I blew up along with my weight. When I was younger, I was naturally thin. I could eat anything I wanted to (and did). As I aged, I forgot that I couldn't do that anymore. When I am ready, I will get up off of my dead ass and lose the weight. Until then, in my SecondLife I am hawt.

At one time in my 30s I lost 80 pounds through no fault of my own. I got more looks from men when I was thin. I didn't have to deal with those ramifications for long because within a year, the weight came back. I'm sure there is some kind of feminist brilliance rattling around in my battered brain just waiting to be expressed about that observation but I don't care enough to dig it out.

A younger bro of my dad lived with his family in South Carolina. We went to see them one summer for a week and I had a blast. I had two cousins who were pretty neat. We liked each other. There was a third on the way when my dad's younger brother got killed in Nam. He was in Special Forces. My aunt married an older brother of my dad and moved up north. One of the cousins went with me and my dad and his second wife to Post Farms in Lancaster Pennsylvania for a few days. We had lots of fun, my cousin and I. We went swimming (at the Army pool in North Carolina as well as at the Post Farms), sang along with "They're coming to take you away haha..." on the radio, and shared the secrets that two young pre-teens would.

Recently, mate and I went to meet my dad and cousin for lunch. She is grown now with two kids of her own, divorced, lives in a townhouse, has a dog, writes, and has a career. Over the years we kept in touch via christmas cards. It was great to see her again!

We all ate at a Japanese restaurant. My cousin eats no meat though she will eat fish. Fish gives me a headache. She managed to retain her skinniness. I am fat. She is working. I am disabled. She is divorced. I am married. She believes in "everything happens the way it was meant to be." I left that behind years ago. Yet through the superficial differences, she remains my cousin.
I love you cuz!


Friday, February 15, 2008

Grooving with Akai Senshi

When I was young right up until the summer before seventh grade, I didn't know much about rock. The stuff being played on the radio gave me a headache. I was aware of the Beatles although I didn't understand why the girl around the corner was swooning over them. I hated opera music that had too many high notes although I liked the "E-vee pai-ah-chi. Laugh, clown laugh" stuff that my mother was obsessed with. I liked "Oklahoma (with the wind rushing down through the plains)" and the West Side Story album. The classical music I was exposed to in music appreciation classes was alright. Thanks to my step-grandparents, I appreciated Lawrence Welk and his bubbles. I loved the Shel Silverstein tunes my dad sang to me. My mother's father was a Johnny Cash fan. I could sing "I Walk the Line" and "A Boy Named Sue." He watched Bonanza too and so I knew the theme music from that show. Glenn Campbell crooning "See the tree how big it's grown and friend it hasn't been been too long since you've gone..." was what qualified as a love song for me. I knew all the songs that my father's first girlfriend liked. I sang "Fool on the Hill" with feeling, stumbled through "Quanta la mayra" or whatever it was, and wailed through "Leaving on a Midnight Train for Georgia." Tons of jingles written for commercials rounded out my musical repertoire. I liked elevator music too-- that tuneless stuff most people refer to nowadays as dentist office musak.

I think it was the summer before seventh grade when I became convinced that I had to start liking rock or else. I forced myself to listen to the tinny stuff on the radio. (Or maybe the radio was tinny). I spent Saturday in the Park, grooved on a Sunday Afternoon, memorized Steppenwolf's "I'm not your stepping stone," and did a passable rendition of "The Monster Mash."
I tap-danced to "Singing in the Rain," solo'ed the Beatles "Yesterday" on a stage, and wished they all could be California Girls much to the disgust of my friend the Beatles fanatic. W-ABC became my mantra. Later, it was 92-FLY. I was a quick study. A couple years of piano lessons had me eager to learn "Moon River," "The Swanee River," and "Shenendoah." Underneath the plastic hippie exterior, I was anything but.

In high school, I learned to play guitar. I had a few lessons and then I picked it up on my own. I liked to play folk music-- Peter, Paul & Mary, Simon & Garfunkel-- and I fooled around with things like "Dueling Banjos." I was in the Liturgy group and learned a bunch of perky little Roman Catholic post-Vatican 2 songs. I discovered John Denver and Bob Dylan. I fooled around with flamenco and old protest songs. One of my favorite memories was playing guitar along with a guy playing his mandolin on the train. After the five dollar bag of oregano came pot. One of my daily get-high buddies introduced me to The Allman Brothers, Aztec Two-Step, Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Chaka Khan, Rufus, Purple Haze, Jethro Tull, David Bowie. There was more I am sure. Those are the ones that stood out and I still love them today.

In college, I had some get-high buddies who were into Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, New Riders of the Purple Sage. I got into Walt Disney's Fantasia, The Moody Blues, Santana, Black Sabbath, Maria Muldare. There was also blues for the first time, jazz for the first time, and German Beer Drinking Songs. I liked the German Beer Drinking Songs. I didn't know any German but that didn't stop me. More folk music, more rock, Chick Corea, Disco and House, Grease. I was a music whore. The student radio station contributed to my madness. A bunch of old records were being discarded and I got to have them free. And there were Polkas. And fun little Polish songs like "In Heaven There is no Beer" and "Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Ice Cold Beer." Old songs, new songs, obscure songs, stuff no one else wanted to listen too-- I wallowed in all of it.

After college there was the Bob Marley and the Wailers concert, the blues fest featuring Z.Z. Top, the jazz fest featuring Chick Corea and me jamming in the park with a guy who said he played with Larry Correalle who played with Chick Corea, two Marshall Tucker concerts, Tina Turner concert, Bob Dylan concert, Fred Small in concert, The Hooters concert, Two Nice Girls at an old hall, The Indigo Girls twice or maybe three times, Jimmy Buffett (he was drunk and so were we!), the bluegrass fest, and Steve Marley at the Golden Gate Park. I found John Prynne, Long John Baldry, Joni Mitchell, B.B. King, R.E.M., The Clash, Talking Heads. I was introduced to Phillip Glass, Hikari Oe, Holly Near, Ronnie Gilbert, Jeff Ampolsk.

Then came Sirius satellite radio. I listen to Jimmy Buffett's station Margueritaville, the alternative station, the punk station, the techno station, two jazz stations,
the non-vocal classical station, and blues, along with Raw Comedy, Blue Collar Comedy and the electronica spaced out stuff. I don't listen to opera except for once in a great while (I still hate really high notes and fix my stereos so that the bass is loud and the treble is hardly existent), haven't watched Lawrence Welk in years, and have left the post Vatican 2 ditties and Glenn Campbell in the past. The rest of it I still like. And there is more. I've got lots of music, although I lost the stuff that the college radio station gave me in a bad house fire. I haven't picked up the guitar much since that house fire. Perhaps I will now. I still got the music in me and my hands are itching to play much in the same way that my feet itch to dance.


For Merlin Won

One time when I was working the Thruway, I told another part-timer (toll collector) that at ten p.m.every night, a woodchuck and the ghost of an old trucker who got killed on the Thruway fifty years ago come out to visit. It was to be his first time there at night alone. I told him that the woodchuck and the old trucker had made friends.
The part-timer asked me if I could see the ghost. I said no. Then he asked how I knew the ghost was there with the woodchuck. "You feel kind of chilly," I said.

A couple of hours later, a car came through with a Utica ticket. Utica is where one of the State Hospitals is for those unfortunates who aren't able to get themselves together enough during a ten day stay at the local nut wards. Some of the patients settle in Utica near the mental hospital after getting out.

A guy was driving the car. His passenger, a woman, leaned over him and peered up at me. "Do ya ever see flying saucers out here?" she asked me. "Naw." She then told me, "The toll collectors in Utica tell me they see them all the time." I had to keep myself from laughing. "Ya can't believe anything a toll collector tells ya," I replied.

A long time ago I was hanging out with the Spiritualists-- it's a church of people who believe in One G-d see, but they also do seances weekly-- and we were all into giving messages and channeling at these seances. I trance out fairly easily. That is probably due to the trauma that I've lived through rather than any great psychic gifts or whatnot. And I didn't need much encouragement. People were giving messages from all sorts of dead spooks and channeling all kinds of teachers with fancy names and origins. And so I tranced out and "channeled" a being from the dogstar Sirius. This happened on several Sundays. I don't remember any of the "messages" now and I highly doubt that the garbage I was "channeling" was from an alien from Sirius flying around in a spaceship. Nothing I ever said in those seances ever changed a life. Nothing anyone said in those seances changed my life either.

I had a gay friend who was a regular dude for several years but then he had a break (what people might have used to call a nervous breakdown). Before winding up on the local nut ward, he had hand-painted his car. Included in the sprawl was the word "Believe" and a badly drawn picture of an alien head. As things turned out, my friend was diagnosed as having an active case of paranoid schizophrenia and it was advised him among other things to quit going to science-fiction/end of the world/aliens are taking over type movies. Those kinds of things would trigger off his symptoms. Genuine paranoid schizophrenia can be rather dangerous and I understand some of the why behind the advice. Eventually the guy had an option to go into one of two businesses-- food catering or house painting. Someone must have seen the job he did on his car because he was encouraged to go into the catering company. He did so and he found he was a real good cook. He is doing well today. Luckily for him the meds work well and he has enough insight to listen to the shrinks about the alien movies and stuff.

I don't believe in aliens or spaceships. All of that stuff has been rather fabulously debunked. I think if there are intelligent life forms living in other galaxies, they are doing their best to stay the hell away from us. At times in the past-- influenced by my experience "channeling an alien"-- I was rather taken with the idea of spirit aliens [read: dead people] cruising around in spirit spaceships blasting out some good tunes and jamming with the atmosphere. Now I figure that is a good fantasy; although if they do exist, that is how I would like to spend my afterlife. Cruising around the intergalactic highways with some spook friends jamming to the music-- that would be a cool thing to do after death! If there is a reincarnation, then stick a fork in me. I am done. Ain't coming back here. Had enough.

spike q.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bozotkutya's Question 2/14/08

Out of courtesy to my Jewish friends, I elected to omit the first vowel out of the words g-d, g-ds, g-dess, and g-desses in this essay.

Shortly after getting born, I got baptized as a Roman Catholic. I was a baby then and thus I don't remember anything about it. I saw a picture showing me in one of those little white christening gowns being held by my mother's mother with my dad's brother-in-law hovering over her and a priest pouring water over my head. Some other relatives were there too, including my mother's sister. She'd been married to a difficult man until he finally got the cancer and died. The story I heard as an adult was that my aunt was supposed to be my goddess mother but my uncle the difficult man wouldn't let her. Of such is the stuff of soap operas and dysfunctional families.

At any rate, since the priest didn't drown me that day and my mother didn't succeed in drowning me later on, I grew up Roman Catholic in a manner of speaking. In first grade, I got pissed at G-d for the first time, wondering why He didn't save me from the crazy lady that was my mother. I saw quickly that there was no hope for it until I became eighteen at which point I could get the hell out of there. I don't remember going to church until I got shoved into an after school program with a bunch of other public school kids in second grade. The classes I took were supposed to get me ready for my First Holy Communion. I don't recall seeing a nun or a priest before that time. The nun who was in charge of the state of our souls had a long habit down to her feet and a nastier habit of hitting kids on the back of their hands with a wooden ruler if they didn't do their lessons right. The nun inflicted upon me the uneasy knowledge that I would have to "confess my sins" to a priest. I understood that sins were bad things that I'd done. What I didn't get and couldn't ask was exactly what bad things I'd done. I settled in my mind that I would tell the priest that I had stolen a river bank. I figured a river bank meant that a bank was near the river. I'd figure something about a slope in there too leading to some murky water like the kind that existed in the Hudson outside of New York City.

Thus fortified, I went to my First Confession. I knelt, waited for the funny hidden sort of small door with the holes in it to slide open indicating that it was my turn. And so I opened my mouth, and began marching to my doom. "Bless me Father for I have sinned and this is my First Confession," came out quickly followed by, "My sins are: stealing a river bank, one time--" "Are you lieing to Father?" the priest asked in a very solemn voice. "Yes Father," I stammered. If I was to be a liar, I'd be a dammed polite liar at any rate. He gave me my penance-- five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys. I got out of there as quickly as I could and went directly to the white marble altar to make my First Act of Contrition. I was a serious little girl, quiet and shy, and determined not to have G-d be any more pissed at me than he already was.

I remember thinking as I was walking down the side of the church in a careful rows of two heading for the too-long Mass that would lead to my First Holy Communion something about nuns getting to be Brides of Christ and cuz the girls had to wear these white dresses and veils and hold little white rosary beads, we were little Brides of Christ. That bothered me because I was figuring that the boys in the class couldn't be miniature Brides of Christ so what was left for them? Why would Jesus want them to wear their pressed pants with tucked-in white shirts and ties? I hadn't heard anything about them getting to be Husbands of Mary so that couldn't be it. And only a priest got to be Christ somehow. Little boys got to be altar boys though and maybe G-d would call some of them to be grown-up Christs. That was certainly more glamorous than being a Bride of any sort. Vatican II hadn't happened yet. Only boys got to be altar boys and girls maybe would get to sing in the choir. The Mass was in Latin in those days but I could follow along in the little prayer missile that my step-grandmother had given me. The church smelled pretty good to me with all the incense waving done in those days. There were cool statues too and a bunch of votive candles that I could light with a punk stick for a quarter apiece in case I wanted some kind of perpetual praying.

After my First Holy Communion, I was again left to be unchurched until I was in fourth grade. My mother and step-father got married in a little Episcopal chapel (my mother was divorced, thus ex-communicated. To be ex-communicated in those days meant not attending church unless there was a special thing going on and certainly never to take communion. My dad functioned under different rules-- I don't know why or how. Perhaps he figured correctly that the average priest would not be checking a master list to see if his name was among the Damned). The little Episcopal chapel was plain and lacked the stained glass windows and the statues and the incense. The pews were there though. My step-father's cousin's daughter (who was six years old and a couple years younger than me) got to be the ring-bearer and her brother a ring-bearer. I got to sit next to my grandmother in the first pew wondering why I couldn't be a flower girl too.

My mother and I moved to the bottom floor of a converted three-family house. My step-father's parents lived on the second floor with his younger brother between trips to jails, prison, and secret adventures. Another brother and wife occupied the third floor which was actually a very small refinished attic. As it turned out, my mother had married the man with whom she was cheating on my dad. I knew this almost instantly upon moving in because I remembered learning how to walk in that house up on the second floor while my mother was at work. My future step-grandfather was the guy who had encouraged me to let go of the coffee table and walk without holding on to anything. I put together that my mother had hired my step-grandmother to babysit and fell in love with her son.

My step-grandparents were a decent sort from The Old Country. Actually, my step-father had claimed Roman lineage. I don't really know if that is true since I never did check. It might be. My step-grandfather worked the old PATH trains. He retired with several less fingers than he had been hired on with. They'd given him a gold clock which sat on top of their television set. My step-grandmother was a housewife. She continued to watch over me when I had days off from school or when I was sick. Somehow or other, it came to pass that I was introduced to the notion of going to church on Sundays. She and I would walk to the 8:30 a.m. Mass in a different church than where I'd received the Body of Christ (I don't remember any wine though I suppose there must have been). The church was bigger. There was a choir up on the loft, stained glass windows, statues, altar boys, incense, long candles, votives, confession, Latin, The Stations of the Cross, and a mixture of priests of different ages. And a Monsignor who had a fancy black cossack with a burgundy stripe.

A year or so later, an older neighborhood girl named Cora-Jeanne (we all called her COR-Jean though) would walk me back and forth to church. My mother paid her I think. My step-grandmother I guess wasn't going anymore or something or maybe I just wanted to go to a later Mass. When I first started high school, I was thoroughly indoctrinated into the One True Faith. I know that others existed who didn't believe the same way. My dad had taken up with a Jewish woman. Our fifth grade was taught by a woman who was the wife of a Presbyterian minister. And in sixth grade, the daughter of two atheists became a classmate. Carolyn was pretty cool and she was my first exposure to scientific thinking and the theory of evolution. At home, my step-father would swear that we didn't come from apes from Africa and my mother was teaching my little half-sister who could barely walk or talk to refer to the little black kids in strollers being pushed up the street by a parent or sibling as "chocolate babies."

In 1968 or 1969, I had found a Time-Life magazine article about the off-Broadway Play "The Boys in the Band" at my aunt and uncle's house (the uncle who was my godfather, not the difficult man who was married to my mother's sister). That was where I had learned the word homosexual. I thought to myself that I must be a female homosexual since I liked girls. (I didn't know the word "bisexual" nor the word "lesbian"). I had grasped somehow from my churchly indoctrination that homosexuals were going to hell. I thought that was rather unfair. Especially as I knew very early on that I had feelings for girls as well as for boys. I didn't think I had done anything sinful to make myself that way. I began to think about the religious stuff I was being taught. In seventh grade, I threw caution to the wind and announced that I was in love with another girl. Thus the doors of heterosexuality which were threatening to close slammed shut forever. There was something else that happened in seventh grade. Two black girls became our classmates; and against parental strictures I befriended them. I quickly realized that what I'd been learning at home wasn't necessarily so. I was afraid at first that one of the teachers would rat me out to my mother and step-father about the color of the skin of my two new friends but the teachers never did.

I got sent to an all-girls Roman Catholic High School and that sucked. I hated it. I would have rather gone to the public school a couple of miles down the road where there were both boys and girls but that wasn't to be. Instead I was packed off in the other direction. Two buses and an hour is what it took for me to get to the school. Then two buses and an hour or so back. We all had to take a religion class-- even the one Episcopalian girl who later became a party buddy. She didn't seem to mind it as much as I did. For the first time, I became truly aware of the teachings of the Holy Roman Catholic Church and I didn't like some of it.

The priest who taught the class tried really hard. He did. One of the things we argued about was some doctrine about how a woman delivering a baby and who should die if only one or the other could get to live. The priest say the woman was supposed to die and the baby's life was somehow more important or something. I thought that was pretty stupid and I (the quiet withdrawn one) told him that. Finally he said, "If someone came into a room and was to shoot you or your mother, who should be shot?" I gathered that the correct answer was that my mother should sacrifice her life. I wasn't seeing it that way. "I wouldn't let my mother die for me! My mother has responsibilities," I told him fiercely. "You must love your mother a lot," he said, quite taken aback. At the end of ninth grade, the priest asked us what we had learned that year in religion class. I told him I learned that I didn't want to be a Catholic anymore.

That was the summer that I began sneaking into other churches or sometimes just walking instead of going to my own. I went to the plain Episcopal Church up the street, the Spanish Pentecostal Services across the street, and during tenth grade to a funky hippie Jesus people sort of commune in New York City with a classmate who had also decided that she didn't want to be Catholic anymore. Add to the mix a Christian Missionary Alliance gym teacher who spoke in tongues (even though the Christian Missionary Alliance folks were not supposed to do that), another classmate who had gotten saved courtesy of the gym teacher, and the Biology nun who became Charismatic yet remained opposed to me getting religion of any other sort that the one I'd been brought up in. I alternated hanging out with the Jesus freaks and the dopers for the rest of high school. For many years, it was either Jesus or dope. I didn't figure I could do neither. My senior year I got wheels and so I was able to sneak off to an Assemblies of God church. The folks at the Aggie Church had something against playing cards and something else against rock-n-roll. And masturbation was evil as was dancing and sex with boys. (Sex with girls wasn't talked about. During high school I dated boys exclusively). I ignored those strictures. I wanted to get sexed up, with or without liquor. (The boys were better at petting without the cheap beer but they didn't seem to know that). I wanted to dance and I liked solitaire and gin-rummy. As far as music, I wasn't giving that up either. I knew something about the Roman Catholic Church at one time condemning classical music and thus the composers began writing Church music, courtesy of my dad who tried his best to relieve me of some of the more blatant superstitions which were the domain of my mother's family and my step-father. So I continued to listen to rock and to struggle with my very pronounced feelings about women.

The first year of college, I kept to my Aggie ways. My mother and step-father had driven to the Assemblies Church one Sunday night in that September and found me there. In a drunken rage, my mother dragged me out of the church on my knees (the scars from the carpet burns on my knees lasted for years afterwards) and threw me down the church steps onto the sidewalk below. My step-father was driving and he was drunk too. The people in the church began pleading the blood of Jesus in loud voices. I was escorted into the backseat of the car, terrified that either my mother or my step-father would remember they had a gun in the house in the linen closet and shoot me dead. After the service was over, a deacon called my father to tell him what happened. I didn't find that out until afterwards.

There were beatings that night-- around six hours of beatings. I can still hear my mother directing my step-father to hit me with the umbrella that somehow came to be in his hand. I screamed for help. I saw the neighbors' lights come on but no one came to help me. Way after midnight, I got to stumble upstairs (my step-Uncle was away in prison at that time so I was sleeping in his room) to bed. The next morning, my mother came upstairs demanding that I apologize to my step-father because he didn't "remember any of it." Defying my mother directly was very dangerous but I did anyway. "I am not apologizing," I told her and rolled over away from her until she went back downstairs to get ready for work.

My step-father had left for work while I was still in bed. My mother left at 8 o'clock as she did every morning. I heard the door slam and I got up. My step-grandmother came in and she was telling me that she thought I was going to move out and she didn't want me to go. She really did love me. In those days, very few cases of child abuse got reported. What happened behind closed doors was to be kept in the family. I went downstairs and my dad called me on the telephone. He asked me if I was okay. I started crying and said no. He insisted I come live with him until I finally said yes. Over the course of the next three days, I moved out secretly.

My dad wasn't crazy about my becoming a Pentecostal but he wasn't the kind to try to beat it out of me. He didn't understand why I hadn't told him about what was happening at my mother's house (It was the second beating and there was lots of other abuse throughout my childhood). I couldn't explain it really. The pastor of the church had gotten someone in the police department to write my mother and step-father an official letter banning them forever from the town the church was in. My father's lawyer had also written to them, though I don't know what that letter said other than that I was living with my dad now. I was free to go to church and to hang out with my church friends. I was also free from abuse. I began instantaneously to get better grades.

The next year continued in the same way up until sometime during the second semester of my sophomore year in college. At that time, I chucked Jesus for drugs. I had learned that masturbation was a natural event by then. I wanted to have another kind of fun and that fun involved things like going to parties and getting stoned and drunk. I figured that if I couldn't believe the Bible literally, then it was just another collection of books. So I got drunk and got high and hung out with other college kids who were also getting drunk and high. I'd had my first black-out in high school and my first drunken throw-up. That pattern of blacking out and then throwing up or throwing up and then blacking out was a steady thing whenever I was partying. Even with all of that, from my sophomore year in college onward I made the Dean's list every semester until I graduated.

I'm skipping some time now as there was quite a bit of drunken and drugged out behavior on my part and very little organized religion until September 8, 1980. It was on that day that I was getting ready to take a drug that I didn't like and didn't want. I'd been offered some Black Beauties in the break room at work by a co-worker turning pusher. I hated speed. (I was quite literally immune to cocaine
-- crack wasn't around yet, would take different color pills on occasion, loved pot and hash and the opium that I had gotten to smoke only once). I'd been going to 12 step meetings for nine months or so before that day but I wasn't willing to give up smoking pot. I drank again a few times. I thought I had a mild drinking problem and one hell of an acid problem (there'd been a rush of Mr. Natural and I took it nightly for a week and a half until The Bad Acid Trip) but no problem at all with marijuana. When people go into business for themselves, the first hit is always free. I was being offered a drug in that break room that I didn't like and I had actually said no but my hand was reaching out for it independent of what I had just said. That was the first time I'd seen myself for who I was and I was going backwards, not forwards. From that day to this I have not had a street drug or a drink of alcohol.

The people in the rooms at that time were all into this higher power stuff and I'd been away from any sort of church. I didn't want to go back to the Aggie church (they're everywhere!) and Roman Catholicism was in my past and I intended it to stay that way. I decided upon a civil male g-d for several years. When that began triggering my previous fundamental obsession too much, I backed down to The Force courtesy of Star Wars. I then settled on Dog. My dog certainly had more sense than I did when it came to getting high or drunk and I figured he knew more of how to live than I did, in spite of having a sponsor, working the steps as written, and doing service work. At some point, I found the g.l.b.t.i.q. (standing for) gay-lesbian-bisexual-transsexual-intersexed-queer community and became involved in gay 12-step meetings. Somehow I hooked up with a bunch of g.l.b.t.i.q. folks who were meeting at an Episcopal church and began going there with them. The priest there let me bring my three dogs and they got to march around the church with all of us on a Palm Sunday. They were very attentive and well-behaved dogs. One week, the priest and his lover would do the Episcopal thing; the next a gay drunken Methodist minister would do a Methodist service.

There was still a sickness in me that connected to the sickness in the Methodist minister and we became a non-sexual item of sorts. He had totaled his car and lost his license because of driving drunk. I became his wheels. He became my confidant. We went to gay bars together and I was his transportation to the liquor store. At that time I was calling myself a Methodist. I finally got myself into a 12-step group which helps people deal with co-dependency. I decided that I had to break away from the Methodist minister. In order to break away from him, I had to stay away from the gay church services. I was entirely too heterophobic then to be interested in going to any sort of regular church so I didn't. My higher power began to shift to the rooms. Eventually, I had to admit that I didn't believe. So I stopped saying that I did.

Throughout my life, I had been exposed to astrology, Sybil Leek, the Seth books, weatherology (I have no other word for it), reading playing cards and tea leaves, interpreting dreams, little charms, planting with the moon, and a Rosicrucian correspondence course courtesy of my mother's mother who remained an unchurched Roman Catholic with room for occult stuff. She was not a witch. [N.B.: I am not a granny trad kid.] She was more of a believer in ghosts and things of that nature. She never went to a seance that I know of, never paid for a reading, never sought out anyone else of a magical or psychic nature in person, never took up with any sort of circle work or healing stuff. She let me read whatever books I found in her house from early on. Being a voracious reader, I read everything. I read the dairy farm management magazines laying around, the astrology monthlies, the Gypsy Witch's Fortune Telling book, Seth and Sybil, and the Farmer's Almanac. This was before McLlewellyn was popular. I didn't know anything about Scott Cunningham, and $ilver Rabid Wolf hadn't yet made the scene. Many of these things my gram was into weren't real scholarly. She wasn't a scholar. She was a strong hard-working woman who was living in a farmhouse that was haunted by her account. She and my aunt (the one married to the difficult man) saw some ghosts in the house at the same time once. And they both claimed that a ghost would turn the door handle leading from the pantry to the kitchen. I don't ever remember seeing that my own self. Could be. Could be not. Who knows? My gram certainly was in tune to the earth and some other stuff which I hadn't learned in Sunday School class. (At the Aggie church, everyone goes to Sunday School-- even the adults). Again I say, she wasn't a witch and would not have claimed to be one even if that sort of thing was popular and out in the open the way it is today.

Sometime before I cleaned up from all the dope and drinking, I acquired my first teacher. Drive-by wicca wasn't around yet. She didn't talk about gods or goddesses. She concentrated on teaching me how to protect myself psychically, candle working, bath salts, oils, herbs, and things like that. She wasn't a voudon queen or anything, but we were living down South in the swamplands of Louisiana and influences in that direction were strong. From her, I learned about reading Tarot and I acquired my first deck from the bookstore that also stocked the oils and herbs and incense and stuff. I also learned what she referred to as dream-walking and how to get what was then called astral projection under my conscious control. My journey into solitary folk witchery continued throughout my recovery regardless of what I was doing about church.

After I found the g.l.b.t.i.q. community, my second teacher came along (this was some years later) and from her I learned more circle stuff. It was the second teacher who clued me into the idea that polytheism still exists along with animism and pantheism and all those other isms. Both of my teachers were primarily solitary-- though the second one lived in a house with roommates who had some rather colorful names-- and I learned quite a bit from them. Book-learning wasn't emphasized but I wasn't encouraged to make things up either. Both of them were of the style of "Here's how to do this. Now you try it." From the second one I learned real meditation and that became very useful to me.

There was a third individual who claimed the title of being my teacher or mentor but I discounted that rather quickly. What I learned from the third individual was along the nature of what I didn't want my practice to be like and who I didn't want to become. In the end and even in the middle of our way too long acquiantance, I lost respect for him because of the fraud he was perpetuating in his life. He said he was a Correllian and he said some other stuff. The Correllian part might be true since he was a Witch School mentor before the Split; however, the rest of his claims in regard to his initiations were blatant lies. This man said he was a bunch of stuff with a bunch of initiations to go along with it and one doctorate. The people he named as initiators won't vouch for him. The college that he claims he got his doctorate from is non-existent. The public "circles" that he ran were frequently attended by drunks off the streets, including one who was vomiting as he sat in a chair during the circle. I couldn't deal so I had to go.

I've tried the one g-d and one g-ddess thing very briefly with a separate bunch of Correllians but I hated that. They were too hokey. I found them to be a cross between spiritualism and new age wicca. That wasn't me. My life wasn't all love and light and Lord and Lady. At least there weren't drunks coming in off the streets and vomiting as they sat in circle. I gave up on the Correllians altogether and haven't looked back. I tried the Druids and they were a fun bunch. I didn't stick in spite of the fact that I do like Ike's books. I hung out with the Spiritualists for a bit but they were too monotheistic for me. I have quite a few acquaintances who are Satanists-- both theistic and the other variety. I think Aleister Crowley was a nutcase of a man who wasn't very nice to his women and who had some rather strange ideas. In spite of that, I get along well with my Satanist acquaintances and I find them to be intellectually highly stimulating. They are wonderful when it comes to a good debate too. My personal philosophy lies somewhere among the satanic camp and the secular humanist camp. I don't follow the Wiccan Rede and haven't ever. Neither one of my two teachers talked about the Rede. (And I hadn't heard about the Rede until several years ago. The third non-teacher was wiccanish and Rede-oriented). I have different ethics that inform my magical and other decisions.

Where I'm at now is that I do not acknowledge a traditional male g-d. Nor do I acknowledge the sort of bastardized duality that has taken over Wicca. Nor have I ever considered myself to be Wiccan. (That was a sticking point with the Correllians I tell ya). . I don't cotton to astrology or to the western version of karma or affirmations. Those things leave me cold. I don't care about reincarnation. I am not looking for a coven and I don't take on students. I'm not quite domestic enough to be a kitchen witch or trance-y enough to be a hedge witch (if they still exist these days), not scholarly enough to be a recon, not into blending stuff like the eclectics do. I am not a granny trad kid, not a psychic with great powers, claim no initiations or lineage or degrees or shamanistic insights.

Today I define myself as a witch with options. Sometimes I tend toward polytheism and sometimes toward atheism. Even during the more polytheistic phases, I believe that any g-ds and g-ddesses who exist are like us rather than higher or lower than us. I believe that life is sacred. I believe we are all sacred in and of ourselves. I endorse interdependence. Scientifically I am an evolutionist with no room for a First Cause or The One or any Universal Intelligence Factor. I do place some importance on my ancestors, consider myself to have been "called by The Old Ones" while leaving that phrase undefined, and my altars acknowledge the four elements and guardians who I know as Ancient Spirits of the four directions. I have developed a certain fondess for the art of Austin Osman Spare and the zaniness of Discordians as well as for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorn (bless her holy hooves), the Church of Google (unless Google ever sells out to the accursed Micro$oft), and Bob the Dinosaur.

I am spike, a solitary folk witch.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


She was a small puppy waiting for me on the floral couch on Christmas morning the year I was in fourth grade-- the same year (in April) that my mother and step-dad had married in a small chapel-- and I was delighted. I named her Fifi.

Fifi was a miniature poodle, a mini-poo for short though I didn't learn that bit til much later in my life. She was a jumper. She jumped over any concoction of gates and things build to keep her confined to the kitchen when we weren't home.

The following spring, my school had a "pet show." Every pet got a prize. It was really a feel-good pet show. Fifi won a blue ribbon for having the "brightest eyes."

Summer came and one Sunday my mother had insisted that I take Fifi with me on my day visit with my dad. The next Sunday, I didn't want to take her. When I came home that night, Fifi was gone. My mother said she had given her to my great-grandmother.

That was a lie. When we went to see my great-grandmother some months later, I was expecting to see Fifi and Fifi wasn't there. My mother never told me what she did to my dog.

Fifi was my first dog. And I will miss her forever.

sapphoq on life

Monday, January 21, 2008

Phone Phreaking

Some years ago now, I had a friend who was a phone phreak. As a juvenile, he had gotten caught with a blue box. At court, the phone company offered to pay for his college if he would promise to work for them after. He declined. He said it would be like working for the enemy.

sapphoq on life

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Principal vs. Principle 1/13/08

I was having a problem remember which principal/principle was which. My mother told me, "The prin-ci-pal of the school is not your PAL." It worked.

sapphoq on life

Thursday, January 03, 2008

sapphoq's predictions for 2008

or, if Jeanne Dixon and can do it, then dammit so can I...

JANUARY: Part of downtown Jerusalem will be destroyed by bombing.
FEBRUARY: Pakistan will become a bloodbath. The elections will be fixed. People will riot and be shot to death by the militia on the streets.
MARCH: Pope Benedict will make some asinine proclamation about all scientists who are Roman Catholic must follow his dictates at their jobs and not engage in stem cell research or genetic research.
APRIL: An outbreak of botulism will occur in Atlanta, Georgia.
MAY: President Bush will have surgery for inflamed hemorrhoids.
JUNE: Jimmy Carter will die in his sleep.
JULY: O'Hare Airport in Chicago will be forced to close for three days shortly after the fourth of July due to a bomb threat and the finding of a suspicious substance by a bomb dog named Boozer or Hoosier.
AUGUST: Britney Spears will die from blood poisoning. Traces of heroin will be found in her system and five empty bottles of whiskey in her hotel room next to her bed and in a drawer.
OCTOBER: News of the impending divorce of Hill the Pill and Bill will be leaked to the public in spite of precautions to keep it a secret.
NOVEMBER: The Republicans/Conservatives/Dominionists will win the election which shall be close.
DECEMBER: Sinead O'Connor will get married and no one will give a shit.


I remember reading Jeanne Dixon's predictions at the end of every year for the next one in the newspapers. Her track record wasn't all that good and I suspect mine won't be either.

sapphoq on life