October 30, 2005

Trick or Treat ... Screw the Sweets ... Bring Me Little Kids To Eat

Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year! I think I can still recall most of the little-kid costumes I wore back in the sixties as I trotted from doorbell to doorbell around the neighborhood ~ my sack of goodies in tow. To me, this bag was … “the precioussss.”

In honor of this special day of remembrance for all hallows, I present a brief story in rhyming format, to describe my own special way of celebrating.

Come to my house little witches and warlocks
Bring with you bags to fill
I shall greet you with passion and ask you inside
But it won’t be just run of the mill

I will show you my friends who are anxiously waiting
To treat you to goodies and cider
Don’t worry ‘bout grandma who’s dead in the closet
We’ve practiced at ways we can hide her

We’ll dance down the hall and we’ll dish out the sweets
We shall taunt you and scare you to tears
But if you’re real fast you can turn on your heels
And alleviate most of your fears

If you don’t play along and if you don’t quake
I will take a more serious measure
You see little one at the end of the day
It’s beheadin’ that I truly treasure!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

When all’s said and done and the hour is nigh
And I’ve let you back out through the door
I will start to transform to the normal old Hag
The one who’s a simple old bore

Happy Halloween all!

Weary Hag

October 25, 2005

Beneath the Roof

There was a certain smell in this place. It was a combination of old lace, age-worn books, pitted metal and musty wood. It wasn’t obnoxious ~ in fact, it beckoned. This was the first place I can recall feeling independent from the rest of the family; the first place I ever felt empowered. This place was my attic.

The first thing I recall about the attic in my childhood house is that it was a bit darker than the main living space; just two bare lightbulbs dangled precariously from the rafters - one toward the front of the house and the other toward the rear. This space held all of our things that were dear enough to keep, but were rarely if ever needed. Oh what things there were! It was probably a typical looking attic to millions, but to me, it was all about the family and all about our personal history.

Every time I opened the door and walked up the full set of stairs leading to this wide open sanctuary, my imagination would stir; not only because of all that I played with during my last visit, but also because of what I might discover this time around. Peering into boxes and old dresser drawers was just the greatest fun!

Long, satin evening gloves and velvet, toeless high heeled shoes transformed me instantly into any of the marvelously beautiful movie stars of long, long ago. If I felt giddy, I could be Doris Day. If I was feeling all huggy, I could be Veronica Lake or Rita Hayworth. In my little girl’s eyes, Miss Lake was a huggy type. If I felt sassy, I could even be Marilyn. Dad used to say she was sassy – to me, it meant she was pretty and charming, and sometimes rather cheeky.

Mom had saved many of the old dresses and gowns she wore during the 30s and 40s (this is still my favorite clothing era). She stored them in zippered, plastic garment bags. The bags were yellowed and crackly, but once opened, the clothes were like new. What I wouldn’t do now for some of those vintage gowns, bedecked with sequins and strips of velvet and satin! They were truly glorious dresses. It’s odd that I never really saw them as “old.” They were just way too big for me and I knew if I handled them too much, something might fall off or break. I simply stood back from the bags and admired them for many moments at a time.

There was a section of the attic that was clearly reserved for dad’s old stuff. He too had a garment bag. In it hung his old army uniform and jacket, a handsome suit or two, some expensive looking ties and some old, well-worn hats. But the best of dad’s stuff – the absolute, knock-my-socks-off best, was the day I found his old mandolin and ukulele. There was also a lute, but its strings were long gone.

It thrilled me to sit there on the hard and dusty floor, plinking away to my little heart’s content, and knowing full well that this was an instrument my grandfather had surely played back in his day. Oh I wasn’t making real music back then … or was I?

Moving away from the old dressers, behind the chimney wall, there were two metal cabinets with shelving. The contents of these cabinets transformed me quite quickly into teacher; some days, librarian. Books. Wonderful, wonderful story books lived inside of these cabinets! There were books for all ages, some that I couldn’t even understand as yet. Dick and Jane books, Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Bobbsey Twins, Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn stories, old school text books, brown-paged dictionaries and encyclopedias ~ these books gave me so much pleasure because as I “taught” from them (my dolls and stuffed toys made wonderful students), I also learned from them. Not a whole lot, but more than I would have, had I not played with them.
Nobody bothered me when I went to the attic. It was like a private retreat. I could play up there for hours and sometimes, simply enjoy the view from the front or rear full-sized windows. I remember how unique everything looked outside. It was all about perspective, though I couldn’t figure that out at the time. Everything outside just looked different and new. Cars were smaller, I could almost see the tree tops, and there was absolutely nothing intimidating about grouchy old Mr. Farrigano next door as I looked down on him from up in the attic.

I’m interrupting myself here because I’ve just now recalled something – as I’m typing this. I recall wanting to live there – right there – in our attic! I remember pretending it was “my place.” Christ, I couldn’t have been more than five or six years old, possibly even younger when I first discovered this haven.

There was a good sized blackboard with little pieces of chalk no bigger than my fingernail. I got the most out of those little white chunks – drawing images and pretending to teach math. I’m laughing to myself a little because I even remember hollering at my stuffed toys if they misbehaved during class! That was a direct result of being taught by the nuns in real life ~ I'm sure ~ except I didn’t smack my toys with the blackboard eraser.

It was also in my attic that I first picked up a hairbrush (microphone) and belted out a tune. I knew darned well nobody could hear me two floors below in the main of the house. My little mind placed me on the grandest of stages and while there, I could sing out all the way to the back row without being hushed.

The antique record player I used to spin the 78s (thick yet fragile LPs that were once my father’s) would play out a scratchy tune by Hoagy Carmichael or Glenn Miller, and not knowing the words to these wonderful old songs, I’d simply make some up. My stuffed toys transformed as well – from students to audience – in a heartbeat! And oh how they would applaud me. Mmm, mmm, mm. I must have been pretty good.

As I grew older, I started to bring some loose leaf paper to this sweet asylum. In the cabinet with the books, there was a tray filled with old pens and pencils. (I have inherited my mother’s quirk of saving writing implements – help me!) I’d situate myself in a corner against the chimney wall, randomly pick out a 78 and play it while I wrote. I cannot imagine what I wrote back then. My guess is, it didn’t look much like this stuff – but it always felt so damned good while I was doing it.

It was an awfully sad day when I came home from school to find my parents boxing up much of the old stuff and putting it out to the curb. Oh they held onto things like the instruments, many of the books, and the larger furnishings, but I don’t even like to think about all that got tossed. I was sixteen years old by then, and we were moving.

I miss the old attic. When we moved away from that house, I so much wanted to take it with us. I wondered what place I would go to next, to access that precious sort of uninhibited me time. You know something? As comfy and secure as I feel in our home today, as lovely as it is to have some time to myself and also to share my life with my loved ones, I’m not sure if I ever quite found that sort of sanctuary again.

Oh wait. I believe I just did. It’s within me.

[the photos I carefully selected to use here were Google Images - I just converted them to black and white for effect. Though they closely resemble my old attic, I have no attic photos of my own]

October 19, 2005

Fast Times at SS "High"

I don’t write very much about my “special” sister; mostly because a beast, uglier than you might care to imagine, would surely emerge from its seething pit beneath my aged skin. On occasion, however, I feel as though I must release this monster in little spits, to prevent certain implosion. The monster lives in the form of wretched childhood memories, and mostly, I prefer to write about the brighter ones ~ those that bring good cheer and cozy feelings.

I’ll continue to refer to this sister as “special” in many of my writings, but for now, let’s just call her (and appropriately so) “SS.” It can stand for Special Sister, or anything else that comes to mind.

The SS and I were closest in age of all the sisters. When we were very little girls, we’d play outdoor games together, splash around in our pool together and share our toys on the living room floor on rainy or snowy days. We also shared many friends, but I learned rather early - when it was time for just the older kids to hang out together, go to a concert, or talk about older-kid stuff. Little siblings were not welcome to be in on such events, and yes, I was the little sister.

Little sisters, I’m sure can be real pests sometimes; especially when mom instructs older sister to drag the young one around and keep an eye on her. Of course, this wasn’t my idea of fun either … I knew what I was in for … but back then, you did what mom told you to do and there were no negotiations. There wasn’t any of this “time out” stuff back in the day. Instead, we had “time to kick your ass from one end of the house to the other.” *

On many, many occasions throughout our childhood, my sister saw fit to make an utter shambles of my life – I’m sure, as punishment for my very existence. She was clever with her schemes, and in many cases she waited years to exact revenge.

One such example of a perfect SS payback was as follows:

After having worked a long and trying nine hour shift at my answering service job, I drove home in the pouring rain around eleven at night, looking very much forward to a hot bath and my cozy bed. As I walked into my apartment, the phone was ringing and I ran to answer it. It was the SS.

SS: Hey, what are you doing?
Hag: I just got in from work. Why?
SS: Look, you HAVE to come over. Tony is on his way over here and he’s bringing his friend. I PROMISED him I’d invite you so his friend wouldn’t feel like a third wheel.
Hag: (thinking “oh cripes”) But it’s late already… I have to work again tomorrow. I don’t want to drive clear across the Island just to entertain some guy I don’t even know so you can see your waste-of-life boyfriend.
SS: (offering no argument about the boyfriend) Come on. It’s not that late. Just stay for an hour or so. Just come as you are… you’re going to love this guy – he is really, really good looking, and smart, and he’s a musician in a great band.
Hag: (thinking, “She's lying but how bad can it be?”) Okay but I will not stay for more than an hour. And DON’T leave me sitting there with this stranger and go off somewhere with Tony.

Now I wasn’t far off the mark with that last statement. The SS was famous for this type of thing. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I got roped into babysitting her daughter while she took off for half a day with some loser.

So against my better judgment, I showered quickly, threw on some face (make-up) and went back out into the driving rain. When I got to the SS’s apartment, it was already after midnight and I was completely exhausted.

I walked into the house, up the stairs and knocked on her door. When she opened it, a huge plume of smoke circled around her as she stood to the side letting me in. I took one breath and was stoned off my ass already; there was enough pot in the air that I’ll bet the old lady next door had the munchies. Mind you, this wasn’t my thing … but it was very much the SS’s.

Her living room screamed with the sound of the Rolling Stones, and as if the leftover pot wasn’t enough to dull my senses, there was a heavy stench of incense wafting through the hallway (HAH! Probably patchouli – knowing her).

“They’re in the kitchen … WAIT till you meet this guy – what a hot ticket” she slurred into my ear, "Oh, and at least undo your top button." Looking up to god, I said, "It doesn't undo... it's sewed on that way." And I should have turned around right then, right there - but did not.

We walked through the living room and down the hall and I spotted Tony sitting in a chair at the head of the table. There was another figure standing with his back to us near the sink. This is very similar to what I saw as he turned to say hello:

Okay, this is Ozzy (who I happen to adore). But you get my drift.

This guy was wearing black leather pants so tight that I could see everything he owned in one quick glance. Below the pants were high heeled platform shoes. He had more bracelets on his wrists than I had in my jewelry box back home. His hair was bottle black, and so were his fingernails. His lipstick was perfectly drawn; that black too. And what could be worse than all that? I already knew the guy, and I never liked the guy.

We had gone to high school together a few years earlier, and let’s just say we did not hang in the same circles.

After being introduced, the SS, true to form, took Tony by the hand and announced that they would be “putting on more music” in the living room. Off they went. Bitch. I sat down thinking a mile a minute just how I could escape this hellish nightmare. The Ozzy-wannabe took a seat as well.

I tried hard to make conversation about how I remembered him in high school, but judging from his responses, I don’t think he even recalled having BEEN to high school … this was going nowhere – fast.

After a dreadful silence – he looked me dead in the eye, flipped his long hair behind one shoulder and said “Soooo ya wanna like - get together or somethin?”
I looked straight back at him and without skipping a beat, said “Ya know what? I left my cigarettes in the car, I’ll be right back.” I was a non-smoker then.

I walked through the den of iniquity that was the black-lit hallway and living room, making paths in the low lying putrid smoke, completely ignored the SS sitting Indian-style on the floor in front of the stereo, and escaped this night from hell as I slammed the door behind me.

I never ran so fast to my car as I did that night. I drove straight home without blinking. The only reason I stopped for red lights was because had I gotten pulled over, no one would ever believe (with the pungent smell stuck to my hair and clothing) that I wasn’t higher than a kite.

I did two things before getting between the sheets that night ~ I unplugged my phone and I wrote in my diary; I was afraid that one day, I might forget this awful experience. Thirty years later, and as it turns out, I’m still trying to.

Thank you SS.

*We never actually got hit in our house. Well, I can’t say never, but it was only on the rarest of occasions, and only a swat on the backside by mom. Mostly, it was enough to just give us the evil stare of death, followed by loud tones and the obligatory “Wait till your father comes home.” Of course, that only meant more evil stares and his reaching for the belt buckle. If you got “the reach” you beat tracks to your room as though it would be the last run of your life.

October 14, 2005

Turn-On ... Turn-Off ... Turn This

While browsing around this morning, I discovered that I had been tagged by Ovedya whose blog I don’t get to frequently enough – as is the story with many others. He has a tidy space over there, filled with lots of goodies for one and all, and it’s more than worthy of a visit. You won’t be disappointed.

I’ll use this good timing to announce, here and now, that I’m not thrilled with the whole tagging practice. For some reason, when asked to cover a specific topic, my mind sees it almost instantly as “Okay, you won’t think of a damned thing to say about this.” Something happens to the normal cross over of my optic chiasm, leaving the poor little axons and dendrites perplexed beyond all reason.

Okay, so that was all a load of hooey to put off spitting out that I just don’t like to do memes. I don’t mind reading them on other’s sites … I would just prefer to remain an observer. In this case, I’m the girl at the dance who hugs the wall but enjoys watching the moves so I can take them home and practice them in a mirror.

This tag, however, is simple enough ~ lends itself to introspection and has allowed me to make my point ~ not bad for free, right?

In any case, thank you for thinking of me, Ovedya.

Top Ten Turn-ons (non sexual and not in any particular order)

  • The aroma of coffee brewing first thing in the morning (I don’t drink it)
  • That cool feeling of walking into a room in which the furniture has just been rearranged after a long, long while
  • Christmas morning (hot cinnamon buns in the oven, presents begging to be opened, and hearts filled with love – no matter how sleepy they are)
  • Thunderstorms ~ the more obnoxious the better
  • Cheese ravioli parmigiana (this one, for me, is borderline sexual)
  • Joni Mitchell’s voice and lyrics back in the 70s and 80s
  • The smell of gasoline while filling my car
  • People who are wise and say things that make me think, “Damn, I wish I had said that.”
  • Playing board games that test my vocabulary, my memory, or my creativity
  • Staying (and using room service) at hotels. This is a tough one because I hate to go away from home, I just like hotel rooms!

Top Ten Turn-offs (in no particular order)

  • Having to stop making a list of top ten turn-ons just because the ‘rules’ say so
  • Being mistaken for someone who cares at times when I really and truly do not
  • That nobody ever asks me to get in a picture just because I’m the only one who remembered to bring a camera (Ed not included; he usually does ask)
  • Being put on medication number two just so that it will offset the way medicine number one affects me
  • Bureaucratic bullshit (in the form of seemingly endless red tape)
  • People who go around saying the Yankees suck just because it’s the sexy thing to say at the moment. Keep your opinion to yourself about the Yankees; I doubt they care and I know I don’t. Come tell me all about it the day your team wins their 26th World Series. No really, I’ll make tea and pie. We’ll talk.
  • The Red Sox. [made myself snicker on this one]
  • People who say nucular instead of nuclear. It’s phonetic. It’s really not that hard. There’s only ONE ‘u’ in the word. (sorry Ed … you know this is a pet peeve – hadda say it)
  • Getting into the shower only to realize that my new shampoo and conditioner are sitting in the closet down the hall.
  • Anything or anyone scented with that smell from hell – patchouli. It’s offensive. It smells like (I would imagine) the inside of Lance Armstrong’s sneaker after a bike-a-thon. It shuts down my sinuses and initiates a migraine faster than anything else. It smells like decomp on a hot, humid day. It could make a skunk hurl his lunch. There is nothing pretty or pleasant about this stenchification. If you got it as a gift, toss it and never speak to the giver again. If you bought it by mistake, you can be forgiven - once. If you like it – there is little hope. (sorry best friend Betty – but yuck)

Now I’m supposed to tag five people. This is the part I hate the most; choosing. How about anyone who is up for it, offering one turn-on and one-turn off in the form of a comment?

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!

October 09, 2005

A Regular Hag-agerie

As some have noticed, this post is later than usual (even for the Hag), and that stems from a writing block I’ve experienced in the past few days. I think I would prefer to have influenza; I swear. With fingers crossed, I’ll try now to get something into writing. {wishing myself luck}

I have often made comments or statements attesting to the fact that I love animals. I’ve never shared with readers, however, any information about the animals that I’ve called my own. I may as well start at the very beginning…

Peanuts was my first dog. My parents got her about the time I was born. I think they figured “in case the kid doesn’t pan out too well, we’ll have the dog.” She was a terrier mix; white with some black around one ear … from this photo it’s hard to tell, but she greatly resembled the RCA dog. I didn’t even know life without Peanuts until we had to put her to sleep at eighteen years old ~ she was my pal and I recall feeling quite detached when it was her time to go.

This dog loved to get out of the yard. All it took was for someone to forget and leave the gate unlatched … and we just knew Peanuts would be wandering the neighborhood. Running after her always proved to be an exercise in complete buffoonery. She’d sit calmly, waiting till you got about three feet from her, then bolt down the street again without even looking back! This could sometimes go on for an hour. Everyone in the neighborhood knew Peanuts, and it was often one of our friends who could finally grab hold and bring her back.

Toward her twilight years, she lost her hearing (for the most part) and part of her sight as well. Back then, you didn’t take a dog to the vet unless they seemed in pain or you had lots of money, which we did not. She never seemed in pain until the very end when she had grown an inoperable tumor in her belly. So, she went along without hearing or seeing very well ~ and my sister Lynn and I would laugh like hell when she’d suddenly walk into a wall or step in her own water bowl. We were kids ~ it was funny, and we’d always help her out in the long run.

During the Peanuts years, we also had a bunny. Frisky was the coolest rabbit! She was dark brown with a neatly placed wide, white stripe just around her neck; a small Dutch breed. We kept her in a large pen that my dad had built. She lived in the basement. It was cool in the summertime because it was underground, and toasty in winter from the warmth of the furnace; a perfect home for her. She got tons of attention from all of us, and I got the biggest kick out of holding half a carrot while she chomped on it, or putting on her leash and walking her around the neighborhood. She loved this activity! So did the neighbors. We would often bring her up into the house and let her run loose, as long as someone (me) was willing to follow her every move and scoop up the little round presents she left all about. She wasn’t supposed to live for more than four or five years, but she made it to eight ~ a very well cared for bunny.

Throughout my childhood years, there were also parakeets, frogs, dozens of turtles (still one of my favorite creatures on earth) that we won at church bazaars, and of course, the occasional lightening bug or grasshopper in a jar. Oh gosh yes, and of course, what house wouldn’t be complete without a goldfish? They never liked us very much though ~ to put it nicely, they didn’t “stay” long.

Sometime after Peanuts died, we got Delilah. She was a gem of a dog; a long-haired, purebred Saint Bernard. We had since moved into a small house and to stand at one end watching her barrel down the hallway at you was almost frightful! Glassware would rattle as she passed through the kitchen and dining room … and if you were clever, you’d brace yourself against a wall because Delilah was a massive creature who enjoyed giving dog-hugs. We were lucky that she didn’t drool as much as most Saint Bernards do.

The saddest thing I remember about Delilah was that she had a brother named Samson, who ended up being a gas station dog. Samson was killed when he laid sleeping beneath a hydraulic lift – unbeknownst to the mechanic on duty who released the thing lowering a car. By the time he realized Samson was there, it was too late – hydraulics are like that. It crushed his back, and he never made it to the animal hospital. Why did I throw this into my story? Because say what you will, but before we ever found out about Samson’s fate, we were all quite confused as to why Delilah lay moaning all afternoon; not eating nor greeting any of us at the door – she seemed to know, and I think that’s pretty amazing.

Years later, when I met my second husband, we decided to adopt one of the pups born to his brother’s pair of miniature beagles. We chose the runt … a female with near perfect markings. I’m not one to follow the stats on whether beagles are supposed to be smart or stupid dogs, but I can assure you that Tamara was quite bright. She had developed epilepsy and had to take dilantin most of her life, but she was just a barrel of fun to have around. After husband and I parted ways, she came to live with me.

I was quite proud of myself when I was able to train her to stand at full attention (beagle attention, that is; tail pointed and front paw lifted slightly – snout reaching forward) whenever this man with a red hat walked by the apartment building. She never liked the guy’s scent for some reason and used to growl and bark long before he would even come into sight. But I taught her “RED HAT, TAM! RED HAT!” and she’d stand and point at full attention… as though she was stalking him for the kill. This was so comical because she was a small shit of a dog and yet she thought she could take on the world.

I also trained her to get all riled up if someone came to the door, unexpectedly. She would always bark to a knock at the door, but I got a kick out of saying, “KILL, Tam, KILL! Show ‘em whatcha got!” and she’d go nuts and attack her chew toy like it was a rabid mouse. Have I ever mentioned that I hate the “pop in?” If you come to my house unannounced, you just never know what’s in store.

Tamara Melissa Taylor was her full name. The Tamara part I pulled out of my ass, but the Melissa was for Melissa Manchester and the Taylor was for James Taylor. Music was huge in my life back then. Her alternate name (why the AKC used to ask for this, I will never know) was Tamara Messina Mitchell. There’s a prize waiting for anyone who can guess who those two names were taken from.

Anyway, Tam got special treatment at all times. She was my child before my child; my parenting practice-run. I even put her on a plane and flew her out to Las Vegas (because while planning my cross country trip, I wasn’t keen on cleaning doggie vomit throughout the entire drive). She liked it out there, except for her first jaunt in the desert when she nosed into a yucca and got nailed by a scorpion. That wasn’t fun. Her nose looked cartoon-ish for three days, but a trip to the vet and a shot in the hiney and she was good to go again.

I hated myself for a long time for putting her to sleep, but she lived to thirteen which wasn’t such an awful life-span for a miniature beagle with epilepsy. She ended up with some sort of colon issue, and stomach cancer. It wasn’t pretty. She had been a truly faithful companion for me and I’ll forever miss her.

While I had Tamara, I acquired a snapping turtle and a box turtle. The snapping turtle was named Basie because I got him a year after Count Basie died, and the box turtle was CT because I got him in Connecticut so you could say it applies to the postal abbreviation or simply, to “Connecticut Turtle.” They each required different care and it was a challenge – sometimes a smelly one at that, oh but I loved my turtles. I no longer have either. I also had a German shepherd named Sheba, but lost custody of her during a divorce. She was definitely a man’s dog.

And then there were cats.

Never in my life did I like cats. I just didn’t know how. To me, they were sneaky ~ devious ~ aloof; just too independent. But, as fate would have it, I moved into a house where the community didn’t allow dogs. My young daughter wanted a pet. She deserved a pet. I wanted her to learn a bit of responsibility, but also, I missed having an animal around.

I tried giving her a goldfish, but she couldn’t hug it. I even tried to convince her that all the birds at the feeders were her pets. That didn’t fly (nudge nudge, wink wink). So down to the Humane Society we went and one black and white cat was saved from certain death.
He wasn’t a little kitten, which was what we wanted … but he was still under a year old and quite a little rascal.

Gatito (left) Jazzman (right)

It took that little bastard only three days to turn me around. He had me at … (no, no … I will NOT say it. I hate that phrase). Let’s just say that the first time he reached out and swiped my ankle turning it into a bloody mass of tattered skin, I was in serious ‘like’.

Two more cats later, and I’m now hopeless for these stealthy creatures. Given the opportunity, I could easily become that cat lady we all hear about on the news. Thank God Ed stabilizes me. He, unlike me, knows right from very, very wrong. Oh he loves the cats ... the two that will go anywhere within three feet of him, that is. The other one got knocked in the head as a kitten and I’m afraid he sees me as his great protector … never allowing anyone else to cuddle him.

Looking back, I’m happy that my parents involved me with animals as young child. I’m not sure what I would have done with all that extra film if I didn’t have my animals. I think I could take the prize for boring animals pictures; dogs sleeping, cats staring, turtles … um, being turtley, and birds perching.

I do love having an animal in the house - and aside from doing the hokey pokey, I have a feeling that’s what it’s all about.