Saturday, March 18, 2006

Breakfast Today

Breakfast, she chuckles, riiiight. I say "breakfast" but since I dragged my keester out of bed today at 11:51 am I guess I mean "lunch". I think noon (which is what time it was when I had gotten up, rubbed my eyes, peed and put on water for coffee) is too late to even be talking about brunch, isn't it?

[Yes, I know, howling protesters, that I had promised a post about my new tattoo next. The fact is that I don't have any good pictures yet and keep forgetting to get Ramon to photograph it. Mea culpa. I have some bad pictures - I took them right after I got it and it's all puffy and raw-looking, the arm-hair's shaved off and my whole wrist is shiny from smearing the most excellent Burt's Res-Q Ointment on it, which is Serena's (my Tattooist For Life) highest recommendation for after-care. Call me vain. Go on...I've been waiting for my arm-hair to grow back.]

For breakfast I had French-press coffee - my favorite - and twenty magillion pieces of sourdough toast with butter (Earth Balance, actually, which I prefer). The Last Two Pieces, which I would've liked to have devored at the speed of light and thus taken me from Pleasantly Full to Wishing I Were Dead, I saved. I saved them because I am a wonderful wife and Ramon might want a lovely grilled-cheese-on-sourdough sandwich when he gets home from work. And my grilled sandwiches are matchless (unless I burn them, which is never my fault. They burn only when the cat throws up inside the VHS player or the toilet overflows or an atomic bomb goes off outside our apartment or the burner's being tricky), especially because the fact that those last two pieces of sourdough have been ripped from my grasping, trembling hands and I swear Ramon can taste, along with crispy buttered bread and melted Colby Jack cheese, the love and self-sacrifice the went into putting that damned sandwich into his hands.

This is my favorite sort of Saturday, messing around on the computer or reading a book, nibbling fruit, sipping various caffeinated beverages and watching the cats blink in sunbeams. The only sounds are my own breathing, the cats moaning and huffing as they wake up and stretch from time to time and the music I play. Poor Ramon works every other weekend and while I prefer him to be here (if he were here, by the way, we'd be up by 10 and browsing in used bookstores by now) I also love the days when it's me, B'Elanna and Simone watching dust dance in the sun. The only hitch is that if I don't eventually get dressed and working on laundry (or dusting, come to think of it) I'll suffer the moral discomfort of A Day When Nothing Is Accomplished, which, though I admit to being a pretty chronic slacker, still makes me break out in hives.

Happy Weekend to you all.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sweet old Dad.

...did I mention that I got a new tattoo? Did I?

I didn't. Next blog entry.

Shut off your engine and sit in silence for a moment to contemplate the following earthshattering bit of information: my Dad and I are starting to get along. Yes, you read that right. We're getting along.

He and I have been at loggerheads since I came out of the womb. The reason? We're so alike. SO alike. If you take my Dad, make him female, give him Boomer parents (instead of the grim Depression kind) and the benefit of modern psychology (for all the good it's done me) he'd be me. We're the same right down to the slightly crazy eyes and toes that tend to rise up off the floor when we walk. The laugh, the petulant temper, the generous heart, the constant snacking, the intense and chronic personal insecurity. All of it. We both [demanded] needed the same emotional care from each other and both totally had no idea how to supply it. This made for a lot of yelling on his part when I was a scared kid, which evolved into spectacular screaming matches when I reached adolescence and braved up a bit. And then onto 20s adulthood where I learned that scornful anger could shut him up quicker than anything else. He didn't win many arguments during that decade.

Now, at 30, I've come from "how can I get this guy to leave me alone and give Mom a break while he's at it?" to "evidence suggests that this man is actually a human being of worth and respectability. People like him - look up to him. How do I figure out how to get along with him?" Seriously - I've spent most of my life thinking I have the most screwed-up guy in the world as my Dad and it turns out that there's nothing wrong with him, or at least, nothing's more wrong with him than anybody else. You know how one step in the right direction can sometimes cause the whole problem to open up like a flower? My whole life Dad has reached out to me - has needed kindness and sympathy and a listening ear and respect, and I've given him none of it. None. Or at least the barest minimum. Poor man. No wonder we couldn't stand each other. He was walking around disappointed and confused - wondering why his daughter didn't adore him like children do in the movies. In my defense, I was a kid. It's not a kid's job to nurture their parents emotionally. It's just that I'm not a child anymore (more later on the fact that only at the ripe old age of 30 have I actually thought about casting off childhood, or at least the stupider aspects of it). I've just realized that as an adult I have no business brushing my poor, demonstrative father off like he's nothing to me.

OK, I sound like an ogre. He was never nothing to me. I've always loved him - you can't not love a man who has the best laugh in the history of the world. In the good times he was the best father you could hope for - empathetic to an almost harmful (for himself) degree. He loses himself in other people's hurts and problems and joys. That made him a pretty screwed-up missionary - a good one, one of the best, but he literally came very close to losing his mind trying to singlehandedly deal with two different cultures, bring them together, and patch all of their hurts. Must be a mechanic thing, hey? He loves so generously - I knew from the womb that he'd move Heaven and Earth to give me what I asked for. Ask anybody - this man will go to bat for ya. Take a bullet for your ass. No matter who you are. And I've figured out why I brushed him away with such coldness (always a mystery to me. If you know me, you know I'm NOT cold). I felt entitled to treat him that way. Ever since I woke up from childhood and realized that he had yelled too much, spanked in anger, put demands on his children and wife that we could never satisfy and in some ways really screwed me up I've felt it my right to silence him in any way I could. Not to mention make him feel guilty for what he did. But recently I've realized four things about Dad:

1. Everyone royally screws up their children in one way or another. It's unavoidable.
2. No parent has ever put more effort into trying to do right by us than my dad.
3. He was not raised well - his parents, my beloved late grandparents, also tried their best but were too distracted, too enmeshed in all the wrong aspects of mid-nineteenth-century culture (you know what I mean - the rural, tough, "good for what ails ya" philosophy), and too depressed to give Dad the love and emotional support he needed. He'll tell you, and I'm just like him: we're high-maintenance. We require a lot of love, attention, affirmation and second chances. His parents were good people, but these things they did not give him. At least, not enough.
4. [see above] There is nothing more wrong with him than me or any other human on this planet. Except maybe my husband and the Dalai Lama.

So, now that I've established my Dad as Not Sane and myself as a total effing churl, let me just get back to that step-in-the-right-direction-problem-opens-like-a-flower hooey. I don't know how it happened...wait, yes I do. Ramon (my own personal Kundun) has listened to and watched many interactions between me and my parental units, and has long observed (and has only recently gotten up the nerve to tell me) that I can get preeeeetty impatient with both my parents. Like I'm still a teenager whose mission in life is to roll her eyes, tsk, and huff that her parents are so lame. Eek. Back to the being almost 31 and still acting like a child thing.

So I've been really, really making an effort (now that therapy's helped me to Be Kind to Ramon) to Be Kind to my parents. Tell them I love them before they say it. Hug them or whatever [Dad's head is good for petting, since he's got this sweet halo of fine grey hair that'll just stand on end more as he ages] without needing any particular reason. Tell them what I like about them, tell them that I like them, for that matter. (And hearing from them that they like me in return - you want a thrill? Exchange "I really LIKE you"s with your parents when it's been just "I love you" up until this point. I was inordinately pleased to find out that I'm one of Mom's best friends and she feels like she can really talk to me - wait a minute...hanky needed. Shut up.) Really SEE them, and tell them what I see. Dad had never heard that he really looks scary when he's mad (so do I); our faces get red, I swear we get taller and our eyes - a bit mad-looking to begin with - look like we've launched into another dimension of rage. When the phrase 'piercing eyes' came out of my mouth this weekend he looked inordinately pleased both at the fact that his reticent daughter had made an observation ABOUT HIM that was not un-complimentary and the knowledge that he looks like a bad-ass when he's mad. Anyway. Onward.

Back to the tattoo. He HATES tattoos. Loathes them. Wants to send everybody with a butterfly or Tweetie-bird or whatever on their fannies straight to the Sheol. When I told him over the phone that I had a new one, a visible one (can't wait to see the pictures? I thought not) - and couched the revelation with the fact that I loved him and didn't want to make him feel disrespected but it IS my life and I figure that we're so close that this little ol' thing won't kill us - he actually took it...pretty well. And when we visited them in Spokane this last weekend, he pulled my shirt sleeve up, observed my wrist, said "huh" and then we all showered him with praise for being a modern, easygoing Dad who could totally take what his kids dished out. He still hated it, but liked being a Modern Dad more than he hated the tattoo. It went OK. And he and I didn't fight or even bristle once. Not once. Mom, for the record, said the tattoo is pretty - if she's wigging out that her oldest child now has two tattoos (one of which is readily available for perusal by the public at large) and her youngest is seriously contemplating getting one, she's letting Dad do the kicking and screaming. Which he isn't even doing. And I'm not going to be the one to tell them that I have two more designs ready for the needle...

So, OK, so I'm sometimes a high-maintenance, petulant, highly-strung bitch, right? My Dad knows that I think he's the shit, and I'm my Mom's best friend. How awful can I possibly be?


Saturday, March 04, 2006

Bacchus Grinned

Thursday night a week ago was one of the better evenings I've experienced since our move to Seattle nearly 3 years ago. The author of the entire experience was sweet Evan, a good new friend of ours, who had already given us a couple of evenings of his excellent company at our apartment and had used his extensive connections to get us into the dress rehearsal for The Wedding Singer, the movie-based musical that tore up Seattle with its sly humor, clever dance numbers and overall gorgeous 80s-inspired, early-Madonna style. His partner, the luminously beautiful Marc, a founding member of the Washington Ensemble Theater, was in a production called "Swimming in the Shallows". Ramon and I decided a week ago Thursday to attend that night's production, since it was just a quick bus ride away. WET's little theater seats about 50 and abuts a wonderful little coffee shop where we had the best Americanos I've ever tasted while waiting for the house to open. The play - an amazingly quick-paced, clever little comedy about one woman trying, with little help from her bewildered hunter-husband, to buck her own latent Western consumerism; two women in love trying to get the nerve to take the plunge into marriage; and too-quick-to-give-his-heart-and-body Nick (played by Marc) who finally falls for the right guy - an intimidating but, in the end, perfectly congenial shark. Clever and funny don't begin to describe the talents of this little cast of 6. Our little audience laughed enough for 200. I've missed going to plays - someone said that even a bad play is better than anything currently gracing the shelves at Blockbuster. And this was no bad play. I'd missed, without even realizing that I had, the energy, the inevitable interaction (they performed practically in the laps of the front row) between audience and cast, and - I'd forgotten - the almost-awkward voyeuristic feeling of watching two live humans share a hot kiss not 25 feet from where you're sitting. Wow.

So, the play ended to thunderous applause and we filed out to the tiny foyer where Evan waited to hear how it went (he'd already attended twice and planned to go again that weekend). After we hugged Evan, hugged Marc, met the cast and waited around a bit, Marc, Evan, Ramon and I slipped off to Canterbury for a pitcher of what we suspected was Budweizer hefeweizen and a lovely talk. We covered Evan and Marc's love story, Marc's dreams for WET's future, Evan's plans to soon actively take a hand in turning a beloved family member's destiny and then, at length, Ramon's anxiousness for his artistic future and immediate need for a shakeup in his life. Two more lovely and kind (and intelligent and articulate) men were never born.

We then took a chilly walk several blocks to join the rest of the cast at Chez Gaudy. Chez Gaudy is a charming, hard-to-find restaurant on the ground floor of a local apartment building. Indeed, we've lived not 5 blocks away from it for a long time and never discovered it. We were met, as we walked in, with beery cries of greeting; you know the kind of yell that's kind of between a "heeyyyy" and a "helllloooo" and just morphs into a slurry sort of "eeyyyoooo" with a few "there they are!"s mixed in? Yes, that's what we were met with. All very cozy. We even got some hugs from cast members (people we had never previously met) and then, once the four of us had drinks to hand, everyone launched into a long, convoluted and very intersting conversation encompassing pretty much every subject under the sun. Even Ovid got mentioned, I remember. Ramon, Evan and I were crowned the three founding members of WET's newest fan club: The WET Dreamers. The name was Ramon's idea - I voted for the Bed-WETters, but he's better-looking than me, so I got voted down. I feel no bitterness. What a conversation. These bastards are freakin' smart, cultured, knowledgeable and armed with up-to-the-minute knowledge of everything going in Seattle that's inexpensive and worth looking into. Eventually everyone drifted off to their homes and Ramon and I walked arm-in-arm back to our apartment with something like seven new friends, a closer relationship to Evan and Marc, and I think a couple of party invitations.