May 24, 2013


Let’s set the scene:

I’m on my way to a job interview, and the closer I get, the blacker the sky becomes.  The wind velocity picks up, shrieking around my car and jostling it back and forth like a child looking for a Cracker Jack prize.  Lightning strikes, just missing my right front fender.
Then again, I could just be projecting.
It is, in fact, a beautiful day out.
But the dark cloud follows me into . . . the job interview.
To avoid lawsuits, I will simply refer to the business as “medical.”
So, in I trudge.  God, I hate job interviews—they are a nightmare come true and I always expect to see Freddy Krueger peeking out from behind a doorway, grinning and flexing his finger knives at me.
I meet the HR person.  He is short, stinks of cheap cologne, and looks exactly like Alfred E. Neuman, right down to the missing front tooth.  He has a piece of egg on his tie. He shakes my hand with two of his own, making laser-like eye contact, then says, “What a beautiful blouse that is,” followed by a blinding smile.
Oh, God.  A Dale Carnegie graduate.  This is really going to be a sleigh ride through hell.  Beware the compliment—it is almost always followed by something negative, unless, as an opening gambit, it is an attempt at warmth.
I sit down, and he pulls his chair out from behind his desk to sit next to me—can’t have a desk in the way—this is negative.
“So, Carson, tell me about yourself, Carson.”  They love to overuse your name, thinking that it makes them appear sincerely interested, when, in reality, they don’t give a crap.
I detest this sort of open-ended question.  “What do you want to know?”
“Carson, what’s your favorite color?”
 “I beg your pardon?”
“What’s your favorite color, Carson?  Let’s start with that.”
“Uh, okay.  Green.”
His face darkens around his eye contact.  “Green, Carson?”
“Yes.”  I had given my first incorrect answer, evidently.
Another blinding smile, as he remembered his training. “How interesting, Carson! All right, Carson, let’s move on.  Carson, do you have any hobbies?”
That did it.  I didn’t want to work there anymore.  “Yes, I have many hobbies, but my favorite is collecting shrunken heads and growing carnivorous plants . . . large carnivorous plants.”
“How interesting, Carson.”  That blinding smile was beginning to fray around the edges.  “So you’re a gardener and are interested in other cultures, Carson.  Carson, that’s just great.  Oh, and I meant to tell you, Carson, those shoes are really nice.” 
Compliments are given even when the negativity is internalized.
“Thank you.  I made them myself from the skin of a Harp Seal that I personally clubbed to death.  Did you know that carnivorous plants are just crazy about seal meat?”
Looking a little green himself, probably dizzy from all the spinning he was doing, he said, “So you’re interested in nature and the great outdoors, Carson!  Fine!”  Blinding, quivering smile.  “Carson, what would you say your greatest strength is, Carson?”
“I can lift 50 pounds.”
“And your greatest weakness, Carson?”
“I can’t lift 51 pounds.”
“Hmmmm.  Carson, I really like your skirt—nice color.  I think you may, perhaps, Carson, be misinterpreting some questions, here, Carson Carson Carson.  What do you think, Carson?”  Eye contact.
I returned eye contact and sat in stony silence.
He became uneasy after a moment or two of that, and finally asked the big question:
“Carson, O Carson, Carson, Carson, Carson, why do you want to work here, Carson, Carson?”
I paused for a moment, then said, “You know, that’s a really nice jacket you’re wearing…”


May 17, 2013


           I am the proud owner of an African Grey named Renfield.  For the uninitiated, this is a type of talking parrot.  He’s extremely friendly, as long as you’re me, and will not bite, as long as you’re me; although there are occasions when even being me won’t help you.
“Where did you get that horrible scar?” I’m asked regularly.
“Which one?” I counter.
         The questioner begins to feel uncomfortable pursuing this line of inquiry; the notion of some form of either current spousal abuse or long ago child abuse rearing its ugly head.  The subject is changed with a quickness.
The truth is, I rather like my parrot war wounds.  As a result of them, I rarely get lost.  Those on the back of my right hand are a perfect road map of the greater Phoenix area.  And, should I ever find myself in Bora Bora, my left hand will be invaluable.
“Why is your parrot so vicious?  What are you doing to him?” you cry, with all the outrage of an animal rights activist who’s just been gifted with an elephant foot umbrella stand.
The God’s honest truth is . . . nothing.  These little guys are the most intelligent of the parrot world, with the brainpower of a seven year-old human child, and a temperament to match.  I’m only thankful that he can’t pick up anything too heavy, or he probably would have shot me by now.
If you think tantrums by children are bad, you haven't seen anything until you’ve experienced a birdie fit of pique.  Parrot tantrums are much less spontaneous.  There’s a lot of planning that goes into a parrot tantrum.  For instance, Renfield will watch me carefully sweep the floor.  He will watch me mop the same floor.  He will wait until I’m almost through, then he plays a game with me.
The game is called, “Let’s Throw Everything in Our Cage Out Onto the Wet Floor!”
After that bit of magic, I have a kitchen floor lined with an attractive mélange of sunflower seed husks, dried corn cob, gifts from his feathered colon, a variety of half-eaten fruits, vegetables, and nuts, and pieces of dead bodies he was saving for later.
I could be the only woman in America who regularly shovels her kitchen.
Another Renfield game is called, “Telephone.”  Again, there’s timing involved here.  He doesn’t just play it willy nilly.  He waits until I am going out and I’m late.  He watches me rush around.  He watches me get dressed five or six times.  He watches me in my futile attempt to do my hair in 5.6 seconds and my makeup in 3.  He’s biding his time.
OK.  I’m ready to go and have just left the house when . . .
Guess who.
He’s insidious.  He knows that I’m one of those people who will drop everything to answer a ringing phone.  You never know who it might be.  Could be important.  Could be bad news.  Could be good news.  Maybe Publishers Clearing House.
Usually, a telemarketer.  But that’s fine.  It’s someone to take my frustration out on.
The minute I rush back into the house, I hear, “Ahahahahahahahahaha!”
He’ll do this to me seven or eight more times before he gets bored with it and goes to sleep.  And he imitates the ring of the phone so well, that I can’t tell the difference.
I’m now over an hour late for the funeral I was on my way to.  Since I’m already dressed for it, I briefly consider having a funeral of my own . . . a pet funeral.
But, no.  I really do love the little beastie, and I’ve found a new way to keep him in line.  Whenever he acts up, I just sidle on over to his cage and, with thumb and forefinger, gently test the firmness of his drumstick.
He gets the point.
Thanksgiving is never that far away, and he knows I can hold a grudge.


May 10, 2013


           Did people ever analyze your drawings when you were a kid?  It happened to me.

        The first Nobel Prize-winning analysis came from my kindergarten teacher.  I made the grave error of drawing a dead black rose in a black vase on a black table with a black drape next to it.  The other kids were drawing their families, their pets, and their houses.

         My teacher, Miss “Sigmund Freud” Spinster, kept me after school.
“Why did you draw that flower that way?” she inquired.
“Because that’s the way a dead rose looks.”
“Why didn’t you draw a live rose?”
“Because live roses aren’t black.”
“Why didn’t you draw your family, like the other children?”
“Because my family isn’t black.”
“Well, what about your pets?”
“My dog is brown and white, not black.”
“All right, then, you could have drawn your house.  Lots of children drew their houses.”
“My house isn’t black.”
A parental conference was hastily arranged behind my tiny back.
After my parents returned from “visiting a sick friend.” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) they sat me down, turned on the hot lights, and the interrogation began.
“You drew a black rose?”
“In a black vase?”
“With a black drape and table?”
“Because I like silhouettes.”
I was so traumatized by this experience that I didn’t pick up art supplies again until well into the second grade.  It was at the tender age of seven that I learned about the political correctness of that time.
I had drawn a monkey . . . complete with penis.  And I couldn’t understand why my teacher wouldn’t put it up on the bulletin board, with all the rest of the drawings.
Rebellion was fomenting in my young mind after that parental conference.
“You drew a monkey?” my mother asked.
“With a penis?”
 “Of course.  It was a boy monkey.  Boy monkeys have penises, don’t they?”
“Well, yes.”
“So what’s wrong with that?”
“It’s just not polite to draw them.”
“I’m sure this will be news to Michelangelo,” I snorted.  I was a precocious little thing.
The compromise arrived at was that, though penises were not shameful, they should be clothed.  I’d never seen a monkey wearing clothes, but, eager to oblige, I drew clothes on both monkey and penis.
So much for realism in art.
My teacher never trusted me again around the crayons, however, so while the other kids got to draw, I was restricted to the finger paints.  It’s hard to get much detail out of finger paints when you are seven, so the rest of the year continued in peace and harmony, though I was beginning to lose my taste for creative pursuits involving pigment.
After that year, I left off the artwork until I reached high school.  Our first assignment was to illustrate a favorite poem.  Some poets whose works were chosen included Emily Dickinson, Rod McKuen (gag!), Walt Whitman, and H.W. Longfellow.
I chose to illustrate Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”
Following that parental conference, I was forbidden to do anything but doodle until college.
For our final exam in Sculpture 101, we were charged with creating a plasticine bust of ourselves . . . a 3-D self-portrait, if you will.  I worked on it for weeks, and finished it the day it was due, just in time.  It was the best thing I’d ever done, and it looked just like me.
On my way to class to turn it in, I tripped and dropped it on the pavement.  One whole side of the face was now mashed to the point that it looked like I had a split personality, half of which was Freddie Kruger.  Unfortunately, time didn’t permit my doing anything but picking it up and hoping that my professor would understand.
He didn’t.
He took one look at my self-portrait and backed away from me...very slowly.
Stop by and visit me sometime, won’t you?  Between 4 and 6 on Saturdays is good.
That’s the only time they let me out of my straitjacket.

May 3, 2013


            Almost no one understands my fascination with spiders…big spiders.
At one point, I had a collection of 42 different types of tarantulas.  Not only are they large, but most of them a quite beautiful, with colors running the full spectrum.
“What kind of a pet is a spider?” people often ask me, with fear-tipped scorn.  “What do they do?”
“They tap dance,” I reply.  “There are nights when I can’t sleep at all, for the clicking.  And keeping them in tap shoes isn’t cheap, let me tell you!”
It is a common misconception that tarantulas are deadly poisonous.  They aren’t.  Their bite is no worse than a bee sting.  Of course, if you happen to be allergic to bee stings, it’s a different matter.
However, the fear that these beautiful arachnids inspire can be turned to one’s benefit, if one is creative.
For instance, when tiresome people (a/k/a “relatives”) drop by and stay on interminably, I tell them I’ve just bought something I’d love to show them.  I then wheel out the tank containing my largest spider.
A flatulent tele-Evangelist couldn’t get rid of them faster.
Though I don’t live in the best of neighborhoods, I’ve never had the problem with break-ins that my neighbors have.  There is not a single bar on any of my windows, and I rarely lock my door.  I just put a spider cage on each windowsill.  My viewable spiders apparently lead to speculation as to what else could be inside and out of sight by the prospective miscreant, and voila, they’re someone else’s insurance headache.
My hobby has gained me a reputation in my town for being, shall we say, “eccentric.”  The Welcome Wagon ladies warn those new to the area about me.  The closest any of the townspeople will come to my abode is the sidewalk in front of it.  I don’t get UPS deliveries.  I get UPS drive-bys.  This is when the article I’ve ordered is flung from the cab in the general direction of my front lawn.  I’ve learned not to order anything breakable.
Spiders can be helpful around the house, though.  They really like to work.  My largest one has a paper route, and had absolutely no problem collecting.  The others do things like type, file, and run errands.  They’re good at clearing up after a meal, since they can wash and dry at the same time.
They are sensitive creatures, and will take immediate offense at the singing of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and recitation of “Little Miss Muffet.”  Like everyone else, all they want out of life is a little love and respect.  They are upstanding, concerned members of the community who, after a molt, will drop their used skins in a Goodwill box to be distributed to the less fortunate.  They tried delivering meals to the poor and shut-in, but after the first heart attack, they were forced to seek employment elsewhere.  In my opinion, this is nothing more than specie-ism, and attorneys have been consulted.
Spiders have been on this planet for over 350 million years; with many insects going back even further than that.  So what this tells me is that these creatures have adapted to, and outlived, every adversity thrown at them. 
In short, if the bomb dropped tomorrow, the survivors would be bugs and Keith Richards.
Well, at least the bugs will have something to eat…