Thursday, August 4, 2016

Living in the French Quarter

Spoke to a girl and potential new client in NYC yesterday…she’s an event planner looking for help with her marketing campaign... “I’m your girl!” I said, naturally. She told me some other stuff about how it is to live there. She says one night her and her husband came home from a party at 8pm and he had to drive around till 11pm looking for a parking spot…so 3 hours looking for a parking space!!!


That reminded me of New Orleans. I had a little upstairs apartment on Royal, next street over from Bourbon Street. And there's no parking around there except on the streets. So if you get off work and get home by 5pm, you can usually find something. What I always did was go upstairs to my apartment, take a shower and lay down for 20 minutes. We always worked 12 or 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. Lying down for 20 minutes, you can kind of catch your breath and relax all your muscles for a few minutes.


Then when you wake up, you’re starving so you got 3 choices:
*soup warmed in microwave.
*walk somewhere around the neighborhood and find a café.
*Get in your car and drive somewhere.

The problem with that last one is that, say you leave at 5:40pm and drive to a good restaurant. I know where there’s a really amazing Mexican place. Also, there’s Café Dumond-Love that place! Its 3 blocks down Royal to Decatur. The café faces the Mississippi River, an amazing area where you’ll find lots of a good jazz musicians, open porticos that serve jambalaya and crawfish pie. They have plenty of seating, like picnic tables and those old tables with chrome metal legs and Formica top - Retro looking!


So you get seated by 6pm, eat then get back home at seven to find NO PARKING AT ALL!! Every possible place to put a car is gone. You drive around and around. Finally you park down close to Verti Marte. That’s only 2 blocks from where I lived, not bad. If you drive out of the neighborhood to eat, it’s a hassle to park when you get back home.

Miss those days! Don’t miss Katrina at all.

One night I walked to the store, Verti Marte. They have ready-made sandwiches, a few small round tables with cheap plastic chairs. Not a very clean place but busy. So I ordered my dinner and sat down across from a strange man and his cat. The guy was dressed like a cross between a clown and a homeless guy. 

The cat was scruffy, dingy white. He was sitting in a chair at the table like a real person with a plate of food sitting in front of him on the table. The cat and the man were eating dinner together and everyone pretended it was normal for a guy to take his cat out for dinner.



So I ate at the next table and enjoyed polite conversation with the man and his cat. They were nice folks. It was a pleasant evening and I didn’t have to worry about losing my parking spot. Plus I got a relaxing walk. Its very common to see strange things and strange people in the French Quarter. I enjoyed my time there.




Monday, July 4, 2016

Clever Things to Do When You’re Bored

All those people who make up holidays like Christmas, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Easter, Valentine’s Day and New Years are folks who have lives. I mean, they got the REAL thing complete with a spouse, 2.3 kids, a dog named Joey and a cat named Mr. Farts. They’ve got 30 year mortgages on a piece of the American Dream....


Look, just up ahead, it’s a 3/2/2 on a quarter-acre lot in a track housing developing located in Middle Suburbia. The kids all wear striped cotton tee-shirts and the dads all wear white dress shirts to work. Of course, mom drives a mini-van so she can take sis to ballet on Tuesdays and little Johnnie to baseball practice on Thursday nights. 

When you see families like these, and you DO see them very often these days, you wonder how they got that way. Holy Crap! How does anyone work on the same job for 22 years? How is it that mom NEVER gripes about taking people all over the place for various school-related activities? How is it the kids always have the right friends and the neighbor is a great guy?


How come your spouse didn’t cheat on you 4 years ago? Why didn’t your kids get in trouble all through high school? Cause mine sure as hell did! How come your boss likes you so much? I was a much better employee than you and they fired my ass after I’d only been there 14 months! I’m still pissed about that!


I wanna know what lonely people with no family are supposed to do on holidays? Why haven’t we all signed up to go somewhere and do something Splendackerous together on the holidays? Even if we just sit around my place and play board games while we finish off a fifth of Scotch, a quart of Rum and 2 bottles of tequila, we’d still have more fun together.

 

We could make nachos with lots of gooey cheese, then get shit-faced and say stupid things that only one of us will remember the next day. I’ll let you guess which one. We could sit outside and watch the moon rise and tell scary stories about that time we got lost in the woods for 2 hours and were sure some guy was chasing us but it only turned out to be a rabbit who was even more scared than you were. Poor devil!


Somewhere around 4 in the morning, we’ll get hungry, then have a lengthy discussion about which one of us is sober enough to drive. No one will win, but we’ll finally choose YOU because you have always seemed to be the most level-headed one of us. Everyone agrees on that. We get in the car, roll down the windows. It’s a cool summer evening…temperature’s about 85 degrees. There’s a slight breeze.

 

We hold our heads out the car windows and make weird sounds that penetrate the wind. After a few minutes, we put our heads back in the car, then point and laugh at each other. Everyone looks frightful. We have wadded up pieces of hair going in unnatural directions.

Okay, I’ll put it like this…if we don’t do this stuff I’m talking about, we’re all going to spend thousands more days sitting in our homes, watching Netflix and eating snacks. We’re going to miss out on so much of LIFE!!! We won’t laugh as much. We won’t learn as much. We’ll get dried up in places that matter. Pretty soon, we’ll find ourselves actually listening to the commercial about the new Sears Lawn Mower and then we’ll go get one and spend our free time mowing from then on.


Activities like these signify that you may be closer to the end of your life than you think!! What you need is a big ole dose of Modern Technology. It now comes in 3 delicious flavors: orange, strawberry and peach. Pick up 2 this week and we’ll give you 25% off! Yes, it’s true…and this is our biggest sale of the year. Prices will never be this low again!


Speaking of technology, I like much of the new technology but some of it is kind of weird. For instance, if all I've got to do is take pics of the inside of my frig and washing machine, then just take me out back and shoot me! Who cares what's inside your frig?

Let's see if I can get a little clairvoyant here...I'm seeing a jug of milk…hmmm...some butter, some eggs, a jar of mustard, a bottle of ketchup...Ah-Oh! Do I see some beers? Get to church and repent, sinner!!! And of course, the obligatory jug of water. Does water go bad?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Being on Top of the Food Chain

I remember this one time when we lived out in Rockwall, basically a rural area, I got a pet lizard. I found him on a parking lot and he was about to get squished, so I rescued him and brought him home. We had a lovely home on one acre with a pond, fish, ducks and stuff so my house seemed much safer than a busy parking lot.

 

So I took him home, bought a cage for him, fixed it up nice and we were really doing well. But then I thought, “Well, it’s so lovely out here in the country, I should just let the lizard go and he could run and play and have fun frolicking in the meadow.”

So I took him outside one day and let him go in my front flower beds. An hour later, a cat ate him. So I was really sad about that but after all, that is the cycle of life. One species is fed by another and thank God, humans are at the top of the food chain.

Another time, we had a plague of crickets so me and my neighbor Saundra went to the local feed store to see what they recommended. They told us to buy ducks or chickens. They said that birds eat crickets so that would be an all-natural way to deal with the cricket plague and not use harmful chemicals.


So we both bought about half a dozen ducks each. I had a nice pond but she didn’t so she bought a kids swimming pool. They also told us to buy chicken feed for the ducks because they could NOT live on insects alone. The feed had the nutritional balance they needed to be healthy. We both bought sacks of chicken feed.

So one day, I was out in the yard picking up trash and her ducks raced to the fence and screamed (Yes, I can speak to animals), “We’re starving! We’re starving! Please help us. She won’t feed us!” They were all in quite a panic.

So I knocked on her back door and said, “Saundra, why aren’t you feeding that chicken feed to your ducks?”

She answered, “Because I want them to stay hungry so they’ll eat more crickets.”

“Your ducks are starving to death. Give me that feed so I can go feed them right now and promise me you’ll feed them twice a day like the feed store lady said.”

So she went and got the feed and handed it to me and I fed them. They all raced over there and ate like they were dying. “How did you know they were starving?” she asked looking at me funny.

“They told me,” I answered.

She just shrugged and went back in the house. Whether you believe I can speak to animals or not, she had no choice but to believe I knew those ducks were starving because they clearly were.


Next time, I’ll tell you about how I used to sit on the edge of our pond in the country and sing to the fish. They rather enjoyed my singing though I admit to not having a great singing voice. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why I Love Summer

The reason I love summer is because I grew up in a home with lots of yelling, cussing and fighting. Me and my two brothers, Sonny and Curtis, were so scared and nervous all the time, that we quickly developed coping habits…BAD habits like drugs, alcohol, sex, nail biting etc. The only time of year we ever got away from this terror was summer.

In the summers, my parents would ship us off to my Gran’s farm in East Texas. There were plenty of tall oak trees, fresh air and green grass. We’d run and play, laugh and just be regular kids. Those are my best memories of childhood. I would go out into the corn field and walk through warm sand barefooted.



One time, I sat down in the potato field and dug up potatoes with my bare feet and toes. We’d catch grasshoppers and go fishing. My little brother Sonny started running after a big frog. That frog was hopping in a hurry with a tousle-haired little boy running after him. Finally the frog hopped up under the wood floor boards of the shed and Sonny couldn’t reach him, so he sat down in the dirt and cried like a baby.

“Oh sonny,” I told him sitting down beside him, “You don’t need that frog. He’ll give you warts. Plus he has to stay out here around the pond. He has to be where he can swim and he can’t swim if you take him in the house.”

Finally, Sonny stopped crying. “Okay, I guess you’re right Carolee. I won’t chase him no more.” Then we’d go back to playing. Sonny had a bunch of those little metal cars. Some were tow trucks, others were police cars, one was a yellow taxi. We sat down in the dirt and scooped the dirt out to where we had roads. We’d make little villages out of rocks and sticks. Then our cars would zoom, zoom, zoom through the neighborhoods.



Sonny could literally play for hours. He never seemed to get tired of pushing those little cars along the dirt roads he built. 

There was no screaming or cussing for the whole summer, just the sounds of hawks and dove, owls and crickets. At night, we’d sleep outside on a mattress in the front yard and tell ghost stories till we fell asleep. The sky above us was black and filled with billions of twinkling stars. Our world was full of wonder, quiet beauty, cool grasses and lush green trees. In the morning, granny would wake us up for breakfast, “Hey, you kids get in here and wash up. It’s time for breakfast.”


Rubbing our eyes, we’d wander into the house and wash our faces using water from an old porcelain bowl. The water was cold, having just been drawn from the well. Breakfast was good. Grampa would help out in the kitchen. He and Grandma made scrambled eggs, sausage, sliced tomatoes fresh from the garden, and toast with coffee. This is still one of my favorite meals today.

But then summer would draw to a close and we’d have to go home and get ready for school to restart. The yelling started up again. 




Summer was the time when we could get far away from all that yelling and drama. At Gran’s farm, there were cows, pigs, horses and chickens. We could go out every day and help gramma feed the chickens and gather eggs. “Be real careful, honey,” granny would say on our way to the chicken house. “You reach your little hand in there real careful, because sometimes you’ll find a chicken snake resting in that nest.”

“Okay, gramma, I’ll be careful…I promise.” But I never was. I was the type of person who went through life at a careless pace, always sitting my cup on the edge of the counter so that it teetered between safety and crashing to the floor. That was my life too. It teetered between being happy and meaningful to being chaotic. It never was solid, full and blissful. It always felt like I was born to do something important but never did quite achieve that.

Us kids grew up. Sonny moved away from all of us. He tried to have a happy normal life. He married a widow woman in Poetry Texas and helped her raise 3 young-uns. His old ghosts and demons from childhood never left him though. He finally drank and smoked himself into an early grave. He had a heart attack and died 2 years before mama died. 


Curtis became a drifter and a gambler. He got pretty good at it and could con anybody out of anything. His drug use led him to a life of never really having a home or family. He lived out on the streets and died in some unknown town.

Me? I like to think I’m the one who made it, although looking at my life, you might feel sorry for me. I have a place of my own and a good job but I’ve closed my life off to people, love, feelings, emotions…anything real. Right after the divorce, I dated for a few years, but I always chose men that I knew weren't right for me.



I traveled for 8 years working for FEMA doing disaster relief. In every city, even New Orleans, I’d find some guy. We’d have a meaningless relationship and I’d move on to the next city. The last guy in my life? We saw each other for about 3 years and I never learned his last name.

I KNOW the danger of caring, of loving, of being invested in any type of relationship. I can’t bring myself to risk it again. I’d rather go to my grave alone.

But I still love summer! It’s my favorite time of year. I sit out on the porch, close my eyes and dream I’m a little girl again with curly locks of hair hiding sad, dark eyes. I’m wearing that little white dress with pink flowers. I’m sitting in warm sand, my bare feet pushed down into the dirt, toes searching for baby potatoes.


Grandma steps out onto the back porch just at dusk and yells, “Carolyn Lee! Get in this house right now! Night’s coming and the wolves will be on the prowl.” So I get up, dust off my dress and go inside. Grandma has made a chocolate pie and I get a slice and go to sit on her old hard couch.

My life didn’t turn out like I wanted it to, but life never makes any promises. It just is. You live it trying to make your best decisions and then deal with the consequences. You dream things will be better tomorrow but you wake up in the same lousy world every single day.

For me, writing about it all has helped a great deal. It’s been better than therapy, really. Plus, I try to look around me and see what others are going through. It seems like everyone has a really sad story to tell and your heart breaks for them because you understand their pain, having gone through something similar.


Perhaps that’s one of the major objectives for our journey here on earth. It’s simply to learn empathy for others and make a meaningful difference in someone else’s life. I’ve been there and done that. I know the pain of losing everything. I know what it’s like to be rejected and unwanted. But I also know how to survive.

When everyone left me, including beloved family members, God gave me the courage to get up and go on. After losing everything I loved and cherished, I learned how to start over from scratch and build a new life.

I’m still a work-in-progress. I have a feeling that we’re all meant to be that way until the end of our lives. Humans are never meant to get to a place where they no longer need to learn anything, where they no longer need others. We’re all on this epic journey together that takes us to new and uncharted territory every day.


The lessons are hard sometimes. The journey almost killed me but I learned that I don’t need anyone but Jesus in order to make it. I can live fine without a family, home, money or even my health.

When I look back on my life, it feels like a very personal, but greatly extended version of the TV show, Survivor. I came to this “island” with nothing. I will leave with nothing. Along the way, I learned to feed and care for myself. I made a few alliances, but they all fizzled out at various points and I was left alone to figure it out or die trying.

Many of my teammates died along the way. I was puzzled by this because I knew they were stronger and smarter than me. But it’s not always the big, fierce guy with muscles who wins the game. Sometimes, it’s the frail girl with frizzy hair who manages to outwit, outlast and outplay everyone. I hope that will be my epitaph.

Life … the epic game of Survivor!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Never Love A Cat!

Everyone knows how risky it is to love something. How many times have you fallen in love with a car, only to total it on the freeway or lose it in an ugly divorce?

We fall in love with everything from a pair of red 4” stilettos to our hairdresser. We grow attachments, easily sometimes, to favorite baseball gloves and easy chairs.

Inanimate objects are easier to love for their lack of personality. They can’t disappoint you like a kid who won’t pay attention in school and flunks out. They can’t tear your heart out like an angry ex-wife who doesn’t mind using your kids to get back at you for infidelity.

But people are the best to love. There’s so much more emotion involved—the thrills and chills of falling in love; the enormous adoration you feel for your first child. We humans enjoy our relationships, often even the ones that don’t work. We develop our lives around these people. We become changed as a result. What we are is transformed by the people and relationships in our lives...parents, children, favorite aunts, amazing lovers.

And anytime one of these relationships falls apart or fails, it’s usually painful. In the past, people have actually killed themselves over failed relationships. So it’s risky business to love someone. A great amount of grief and sorrow has been generated over the centuries from someone losing someone they loved deeply.

Yes, you take a risk each and every time you make that decision to love someone, to let them into your heart. Whether it’s a child or an adult, you take a calculated risk.

Why do it then? Because we’re all human and we need to give love and receive it. Often love disappoints. It frequently breaks your heart. But you still do it in spite of knowing this.

I loved a cat once named Fluffy. She was a black long-haired cat that had come to us in an unusual manner. At first I had little to do with the animal. It was the first cat I’d owned since being a child. My mother spurned all animals and thought they were too much trouble. So I guess I had unknowingly adopted her philosophy regarding pets.

But here comes this tiny bundle of black fur. I opened my heart to this little kitten. We fast became friends. Fluffy had the softest bed and the best food money could buy. I bought pink salmon for her. And tuna—not the store brand either. She got the best. She had a box full of toys. She went to the vet at 6 weeks old for her shots and was spayed the moment she was old enough. She was a lucky little kitty.

Then one night right at dusk, I let her outside. I was busy doing laundry and cleaning out the cabinets over the washer and dryer. You know how junky those cabinets can get. They’re a catch-all for everything you can’t find a good place for. I got totally involved in the project and wound up cleaning the entire utility room. God! Was it ever dirty!

When my husband came home from work, he ran into the house wide-eyed. “Where’s Fluffy?” he asked.

I didn’t like the anxious quiver in his voice. “I let her out earlier. I haven’t seen her in a couple of hours.”

“I think she’s been run over,” he said. Now his voice was shaking.

“Are you certain? I mean…”

“It’s her. I’m sure of it.”

“Maybe she’s still alive. We could take her to the vet.” I was beginning to be covered up with an awful sense of dread.

He shook his head and dropped his shoulders.

“What should we do?” I asked still stunned.

“I’ve got to go take care of her body.”

“Should we have a funeral?”

He just shook his head and went to the shed to get a shovel. I watched from the window as he scooped up her broken little body and took it out back where he buried her.

Later when he came back inside, I made coffee and we sat down in the living room both very quiet. Finally, I just started sobbing. He broke down too. We sat there for a good 10 minutes and squalled like babies. I couldn’t believe how attached we had allowed ourselves to get to that cat.

Afterwards, I told myself I’d never love another cat. They get killed too easily. Dogs don’t get run over that much. But cats are very difficult to see. And they’re always darting out. They have a bad habit of darting out at night in front of oncoming cars. I could never figure out why they do this. But they do. And they often get run over.

So just like that, I made the decision to never love another cat. They die too easily. After all, it would be stupid to make the same mistake again, wouldn’t it?

Next time, I’ll tell you about Seven. She’s a short-haired gray cat who loves to play hide n seek.