Shades of Blonde

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Extra Baggage

GrandDaddy peeked his head out from the top of the worn painting. He had been sleeping there when the large, balding business man had entered their motel room. GrandDaddy had to be careful he did not give himself away and allow the man to catch sight of his very long antennae.

He remembered a year ago, in Berlin, his hometown, the death of his eldest son, Cocky. The innkeeper had spotted Cocky's feelers poking out from under a towel on the bathroom floor. He stomped poor Cocky to death right in front of his entire family. They were all hidden, but still witnessed the ghastly scene, as Cocky screeched in agonizing pain, his guts oozing from his virile young exoskeleton.

GrandDaddy fought back a tear, and told himself this was no time for weeping, he had to lead his family to safety. They were bringing in an exterminator tomorrow morning. It was just by luck this room was being occupied tonight, buying their ticket to freedom.

The big man slung his suitcase and briefcase on top of the dresser, and plopped down on the mattress, reaching for the remote control. GrandDaddy hated it when they watched television. He did not approve of his grandchildren watching all that filth humans found so entertaining. And the television kept the people from going to sleep sooner. The light from the television made it easier to be spotted, an extreme vulnerability. But atleast this man was alone, so far, and they might not have to witness the dispicable sexual perversions so many occupants participated in at this seedy motel.

GrandDaddy signaled over to his kid brother, Gregor, dipping his left antenna. That meant it was going down tonight... get everyone ready in a calm and orderly fashion. Gregor nodded and disappeared back under the dresser. He would have to fetch his wife, Rye, who was hiding in the shower drain with her newly laid case containing 12 precious tiny eggs. GrandDaddy knew his own days were numbered. He was almost two now, his feelers whitening significantly, and had to ensure his family carried on.

The man yawned deeply and loosened his tie. He rose from the bed and walked to the sink and reached for a cup. Just as he turned on the faucet, GrandDaddy spotted Sis scurrying from the drain. Sis, noooooo! It was too late. The fat man had large hands and splatted her like the bug she was. He wiped her remains from the counter with a tissue and threw it in the trash without a care. GrandDaddy shook with rage as he witnessed the desecration of his only living sister. He had watched out for Sis all her life. But she had started slowing down in the last couple months, and it was inevitable she would die at the hands of an insensitive human one day. GrandDaddy vowed under his breath to the obese man, "I shall INFEST your home by the THOUSANDS!"

The man rummaged through his suitcase, pulling out an ugly set of green and brown striped pajamas. He zipped his suitcase back up, but left the tiniest crack open between the zippers, allowing enough room for GrandDaddy's family to slip inside. The man began undressing and farted heavily as he bent over finish pulling his trousers off. GrandDaddy wrinkled his nose in disgust as the abominable odor of dead rotten ducks wafted toward him. This guy was really a pig, but the fact that he was so big meant that there would be plenty of food available in their new home.

After what seemed like an eternity, the man had finally gotten back in bed, and fallen asleep, snoring loudly. GrandDaddy stealthily crept out from his hiding place, down the wall, and on top of the suitcase. He motioned to his family, already in position under the dresser, that the coast was clear.

Rye was first, gently, but firmly clamping her delicate egg case between her teeth. GrandDaddy directed her to the opening of the luggage. She slipped inside and burrowed in a dirty pair of underwear that the man would be sure not to look through in the morning. Chito, Poppy, Zilla, and Crispy followed next, with Gregor taking up the rear. GrandDaddy waited until everyone was snuggled safely inside their hiding places and squeezed in himself. He chose a side pocket, and to his delight, found a baggy filled with homemade peanut butter cookies to snack on. GrandDaddy ate heartily, storing energy for the long trip ahead.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Hotels, Motels, & Brothels

Naturally, when I first think of hotels, racy nights spent with a lover come to mind. So I shall have to think of some more innocent moments to avoid offending any gentle readers, or my father and daughter, who have access to this blog page. Of course, Anne Lamott says to never worry about offending any reader, that is the worst thing a writer could do is to hold back. Alas, I won't ever get that contract writing smut for dirty magazines.

The first time I remember spending the night in a hotel, I was about twelve years old. I was with my father and brother and various aunts and uncles and cousins, visiting family and seeing the sights of the beautiful, rolling hills of West Virginia, where my father was raised. I'm sure we stayed at a Holiday Inn. At night, the adults went to the lounge for cocktails and dancing. That's when my brother and I started our party as well. I smoked cigarettes and applied make-up, two things still hidden from the adults in my life. My brother and I terrorized the place, knocking on doors, and running away. We mostly did it to our cousins down the hall. We called their room, disguising our voices, inquiring if they ordered a pizza. Then we recieved a call, someone claiming to be hotel management, telling us to knock our shannigans off. Thinking it was really our cousins, we called them back, pinching our noses, saying we were the operator, and that they should cease making obscene phone calls. They must have not had much of a sense of humor, because within minutes, a burly security guard with a name tag that read Boris, was standing in our room, threatening to kick us out if we didn't behave. Having the sense to know we had gotten a little too carried away, we diverted our attention to spying on the adults in the lounge. We crouched behind giant indoor plants and watched them laugh, and drink, and dance for a while.

Another cousin, of mine, Michelle, (who wasn't one of the tattling West Virginia cousins), spent a couple years of her life in motels. She did it for love. She and her boyfriend, Rob, were just barely old enough to leave home. They could not stand to be away from each other. The only way they could live together was in motels. They worked all day, every day, scraping their hard earned pennies to spend the nights with each other. When you are seventeen years old, $35 a night, only for lodging, is costly. But they were happy just to be with each other. After a couple years, though, the motel life was starting to get old. They made a plan, though it would almost kill them. They would have to live apart and both move back to their families for six months to save enough money to rent a house. It was excruciatingly painful, but the plan worked, and they were able to get their own place together. Now, twenty years later, they are married, and own their own beautiful home, and look and act just as much in love as they were back in the motel room days.

Once, on the way to Florida, I stopped with my children, toddlers then, and their nanny, FurFur, for the night in northern Georgia. The two day drive had been stressful with miserable, crying tots in the backseat. And it seemed there were no vacancies anywhere. It was getting darker and later. FurFur & I were at our wits end. Finally we found a very pricey hotel that had one more room left, with a jacuzzi. The four of us put on our swimsuits and splashed around for hours, laughing in that hot tub. Until, of course, we got a call, telling us that guests in the other rooms were complaining of the noise. We all passed out together on the biggest and most comfortable bed we had ever slept in, refreshed in the morning to complete our journey.

In the small town I live in today, there used to be a huge brothel, named "The Williard House," left over from the logging days. Badly neglected over the years, the town called a meeting, and voted to tear it down. I felt that was a shame. Despite the brothel's unsavory past, it was still a historic landmark, but others didn't come around to my way of thinking.

While at a Bed & Breakfast in Michigan's Upper Peninsula for Valentine's Day weekend, I had consumed quite a bit of champagne at dinner. Being a silly lush, I decided it would be a hoot to drop small pieces of Valentine's candy in the other guests' shoes as I headed out for the evening to tour the local bars. After a few hours, I drank myself sober and realized it wasn't very good manners to place hidden candy in strange people's footwear. Upon returning to the B&B, I stood in the dark hallway, and dumped all the candy out of every shoe onto the floor. Then suddenly, I heard someone speak out my name and a light flicked on. To my embarassment, all the guests were sitting in the dark by a very low fire, conversing in the living room, witnessing the violation of their shoes. I sheepishly scooped up the candy and slunk up the stairs, making myself scarce for the remainder of the weekend, avoiding dirty looks.

I was just in a motel room last weekend in my hometown, Detroit. My husband, Pete, and I drove there for a cousin's graduation party. We had left the party and joined other family members at a bar, for a fun-filled evening of reminscing about wonderful times. Two of the people there were Michelle & Rob, the motel room lovers. Afterward, I directed Pete to the closest motel I could remember, the "Bahama Mama." Not being from any neighborhood remotely like the one I was raised in, he was slightly displeased with his surroundings. The clerk at the motel was suspicious of us, because we were out-of-towners, and didn't believe we were who we claimed to be, even though we showed him our driver's licenses. Finally, after complaining that were were tired and had a few beers, and couldn't get back on the road, he relented, giving us a key to a room decorated in brick walls. Pete had the nerve to complain that one of his pillows was soggy, and that the towels were the size of wash cloths. There was no coffee or continental breakfast available in the morning. He was leary of the hooker and her john in the room next to ours. I suppose the gun shots we heard earlier in the day didn't help much, either. He sarcastically called the motel a "first class place," and I, ultra-sensitive of my native Detroit, accused him of behaving "snobbily."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Songs of the Seventies

These are some of my favorite songs of my childhood and the memories that accompany them:

The song that taught my brother and I to dance, I mean really dance, in a funky way, was the version of "I Shot the Sheriff" that Eric Clapton had a no. 1 hit with in 1974. It had the kind of beat that you could really get down to, gyrating your hips, and singing along, feeling really cool about yourself, if you were 6 or 7 years old. We never could figure out why he didn't shoot the deputy, perhaps because he was the deputy in question?

Funny how I took songs at face value when I was little and thought they revolved me and my family alone.
For instance, the lyrics from "Black Water" by The Doobie Brothers:
"I like to hear some funky Dixieland
Pretty mama come and take me by the hand
By the hand, hand
Take me by the hand, pretty mama
Come and dance with your daddy all night long"
I truly thought my mother was going to take me by my hand one day, (I loved holding her hand), and show me some big happy place named "Dixieland" where everyone was having a blast, and she was going to dance there with my father all night long.

I greatly admired B.J. Thomas for keeping his spirits up and never crying, even though those raindrops kept falling on his head.

I felt terrible for Charlie Rich, who was searching for the most beautiful girl in the world. I always kept a watchful eye in case I might see her walking around somewhere. I wasn't exactly sure what she looked like, only that she was thee most beautiful girl, and I would surely know when I did finally see her. I was going to let her know in no uncertain terms how sorry he was and that he did indeed love her.

When Lynn Anderson begged your pardon because she never promised you a rose garden, I thought she was a most foolish woman. To make her man happy, how hard would it be to plant him a few rosebushes?

"Fly, Robin, Fly" was a very uplifting song with a great beat to dance to. I still drop everything and crank up the vloume if I am lucky enough to catch that song on the radio station.

My dad used to love listening to music such as Gladys Knight & the Pips or Dinah Washington. When I noticed the singers were black on the covers of the 8 track tapes, I asked him why he listened to mostly black singers. His reply was, "They've got the rhythm!"

Being an animal lover, I thought Maria Muldaur was pretty cool since she knew someone who actually owned a camel and needed to put it to bed. I saw her on television once and decided she was beautiful, but not that great of a singer.

I also felt sorry for Roger Miller, the King of the Road, when he complained he "ain't got no cigarettes". I picked that song to dance to in a talent show for elementary school. Participation was voluntary, and would help our Music grade. Not being a very musically inclined kid, and a terrible singer, choosing to dance was the only option. I got up on that stage all by myself, and played the record on the phonograph. I hadn't practiced at all, and made up the dance steps all the way. My music teacher and class had to sit through five minutes of my cavorting around onstage, advertising a trailer for sale or rent. I was thrilled to have their undivided attention. A few clapped when I was finished. I got an "A" in music, probably for bravery, and was teased unmercifully by kids for the rest of the day.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bedtime Lullaby

(or Night of the Living Bedbugs)


Just when you fall asleep,
they come closer,
creep by creep

Sneaking out of a mattress tuft,
or maybe from the pillow you fluffed

All the little guy's need
is one small prick
to make you bleed

Their favorite area for a snack
is around your waistline
or the middle of your back

but they will dine anywhere
if they must
on your rump
or even your bust

Tomorrow you'll want to scratch that itch
sitting at your 9 a.m. meeting,
you'll try not to twitch

wondering if maybe you caught something
from that one-night stand last week
you met at the bar, dancing..

After five gin & tonics,
she looked pretty hot
but was she worth the critters?
I think not..

Just before the nosh
they appear flat and thin
but with only one bite
from your sliky smooth skin
the little bugger bloats from within

It will waddle away
fat and sassy
nourished from it's slumbering
lad or lassie

and return to a secret crevice or crack
until tomorrow night
after you turn out the light
when everything will be just right
for another midnight bite

(some of you may think parts of this lullaby are bad,
blame it on the bugs!
they're driving you all absolutely raving Mad)

by the thousands they will multiply
go ahead and stop them
just you try

bedbugs don't give up
without a fight
your flesh is their one and only true delight!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Mystery of the Pork Chop Thief

We had all sat around the table and eaten our pork chops, mashed potatoes, and homemade applesauce for supper that evening. There was only one pork chop left. While clearing the table, I tossed the pork chop back into the kettle, vowing to return to clean the kitchen in a few minutes, after I had my coffee and after-dinner cigarette.

A few minutes turned into twenty. Still with a full belly, I finally trudged into the kitchen and began scraping and rinsing plates. Working my way to the range, I grabbed the kettle, and reached in for the pork chop to wrap for a future snack. It was empty. This really surprised me since everyone had made an absolute pig out of themselves at dinner, and I couldn't fathom how anyone would have room for one more bit of food in their stomach. As I finished washing dishes, I wondered who ate that leftover pork chop.

The suspects showed themselves at different intervals during the evening.

My daughter, Katie, sat down at the dining room table to start on her homework.
"Honey, did you eat the last pork chop that was left on top of the stove?" I inquired.
"Ummm, no. Mom, do you think I'm a pig or something? Are you trying to say that I am fat?"
"No, not all, I was just curious who ate it."
"Whatever..."
("Whatever" was Katie's pat response to anything for several years of her childhood.)

Nick, my oldest, strolled into the kitchen, ripped open a box of Twinkies, and inhaled three. Of course it must have been Nick, he was a bottomless pit.
"So you're the one who ate that leftover pork chop."
"What are you talking about, Mom?" he sputtered out in between bites.
"Nothing, I just wondered who ate the last pork chop."
"Wasn't me." he walked away, shrugging innocently.

I realized it couldn't have been my husband (currently my stupidest ex-husband EVER) because he had gone upstairs to watch the Sci-Fi channel immediately after dinner and hadn't come back in the kitchen since.

Just as I was returning the cinnamon to the spice rack, I stepped on something cold and rubbery. Looking down, I found the missing pork chop. It was half it's original size, and looked as if it had been mauled by a hungry wolf. As I bent down to pick it up, I noticed Woofy slinking guiltily away.
Woofy is our old Golden Retriever. She earned her name by woofing down food and slinking around like a wolf.
But the range was pretty high, and I always cook food on the back burner as a safety precaution. Unless she pulled up a step ladder, there's no way Woofy could have possibly managed her snout into that kettle.

As I lay in bed that night, I pondered over and over how Woofy could have done it. Just as Cougar, my 25 lb Siamese, jumped up on the bed to sleep in his rightful place in between my legs, it suddenly dawned on me.

This is my theory, though we'll never really know exactly how it went down:
After the coast was clear, Cougar must have leaped onto the range, reached his Siamese head into the kettle, and pierced the prized meat in between his fangs. Looking around cautiously, he jumped down, and began to make a break for it across the kitchen floor. He was probably headed for the basement, where he could shred his kill in some dark corner unnoticed. But Woofy cut him off, foiling his grand plans. I'm certain there was a momentary stand-off. Cougar would have stared at her and given his meanest low-kitty death growl. Woofy would've almost thought twice. But being the wolf she is, (and outweighing Cougar by 50 lbs.) would've snapped the sharpest, nastiest wolf snarl, and quickly snatched the pork chop from Cougar's mouth. I'm sure Cougar held on and got one good bite before Woofy started gulping it down right in front of him. Then, she heard my footsteps padding down the stairs, and dropped the meat on the floor, knowing the jig was up. Her and Cougar retreated to different corners of the kitchen, lying in wait, watching me do dishes and interrogate the household.

This is all mere speculation on my part. Cougar has since passed, so the only one who really knows what happened that night is Woofy. She will take the secret with her to her grave.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Karl and I

Most earliest memories involve my first real friend, my older brother, Karl. They are extra-special to me because they are all I have left of him, losing him to suicide when he was just 19 in 1985.

Every so often, Karl and I would catch simultaneous nose bleeds. Thick and dark, the blood slowly oozed from our noses like a twisted ketchup rope. Our mother would run to the bathroom in a frenzy, rustling through the closet, looking for old towels. We couldn't use the good, white ones. My brother and I would cup our hands together, trying to catch the blood before it hit the carpet, so our mother wouldn't have to clean that up, too. I don't remember feeling scared like our mom. We were not only fascinated by the peculiar coincidence, but tried to outdo each other on who could get their nosebleed closest to the floor.

Karl and I had been sent our to our Grandmother's lush vegetable garden to weed one day. We had to fill an entire bushel basket with weeds. Working our way to the tomatoes by the time boredom set in, we started bickering about who was doing the most work. I became irritated and picked up a nice dirty clump of weeds and flung them at Karl. We soon began throwing weeds back and forth. I was laughing at the game we had made out of work, when suddenly I felt a large tomato splatter on my cheek. Before I knew it, we were gathering all Grandma's prized tomatoes and running through the garden pelting each other with them. By the time we were discovered, we were covered in tomato puree from our hair to toes.

Another memory on our grandparents farm with Karl, was the time he told me to open a big barrel to see what was inside. Karl knew beforehand that there was a beehive in there. Doing whatever my older brother and best friend said, I dutifully lifted the lid. A swarm of bees flew out, and one stung me in the eye. Karl and I ran screaming, as they chased us back to the farmhouse. No one could get the stinger out. I was taken to the hospital. They put a yellow dye in my eye to help locate it. At the age of 5, this was a very traumatic experience for me, and I remember crying on the hospital bed, thinking I was going to die. My brother stood over me, holding my hand, apologizing, but admitting that my yellow-dyed eye looked pretty cool. He didn't really think we'd get stung, and just thought it would be fun to get chased by the swarm. I forgave him. And it was a good thing he wasn't stung himself, since he was deathly allergic to bee stings!

Grandpa sent us out to the apple orchard one day to pick apples. We were to fill every crate. It seemed as if there were a thousand. After an hour or so, I became bored and hungry. I decided to take an enormous bite from each apple I picked off the ground, and then throw it in the crate.
Karl noticed and warned me that Grandpa would not be happy about selling half-eaten apples. Feeling rather carefree, I replied with, "No big deal, this is The Land of Plenty!" He must have been amused, because soon he was doing the same thing. A bite here, a toss there. Work was play. I do remember Grandpa finally checking on us and catching us, with quite a few choice words. That was one of our most favorite memories and all we had to say to cheer each other years later was "The Land of Plenty."

I have so many other many memories of Karl, too many to write down. A few more are.. running through sewers in Detroit and popping up in a golf course, being chased by club-weilding golfers.. sitting in our plum tree, pegging kids with rotten plums as they walked past our house, skipping school to play Chess and exasperating Karl everytime I called the knights "horsey-guys." We definitely weren't angels, but hopefully, he is one, now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

1st Love: the ChinaMan and the Spaniard

I was six, and so was he. We were in the First Grade and sat right next to each other in Mrs. Pelton's class. His name was Roy Chow. You got it... a Chinese kid, for this tall, blonde, white girl. Looking back, the mystery of someone different and foreign must have been the attraction factor for me.

I flirted shamelessly with him. He seemed to like it. One day, while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, I saw my perfect chance to get away with a kiss. I leaned over quickly and smooched him on the cheek right in front of everyone! But no one seemed to notice, their eyes were all on the flag. The public display of affection enhanced the kiss even more. Six years old, and already an exhibitionist!

I couldn't stop smiling, and looked over at Roy as he and the class finished with "liberty and justice for all." His normally porcelain complexion was the deepest crimson. He would not look at me for the rest of the day.

I was still grinning the next morning as I approached the desk next to my future Chinese husband. He boldly lifted his face up to mine and said in the most matter-of-fact tone, "My family said if you kiss me one more time, they will KILL you."

I was crushed. Duped by my first love and my life threatened all in one breath. I had visions of being karate-chopped to death by the Chinese Mafia. Love quickly turned to terror. I didn't look or speak to Roy for weeks.

One morning, Mrs. Pelton announced she designed a new and improved seating chart. I was moved to the back of the class. This time I sat next to a good-looking Spanish boy named Jose' Oxholm. He was much more fun than grumpy old Roy. And he flirted back! I soon began writing notes and poems professing my undying love for this dashing Spaniard. I would giggle as he softly read the notes back to me.

Mrs. Pelton came over one afternoon to see what all the girlish laughter was about and snatched a freshly written "I Love You" out of Jose's hands. She read the note and yanked me up by my arm, dragging me to the front of the class. I was flipped over on her knee and recieved a severe paddling in front of my peers. It did not thrill me to have an audience this time. I had been publicly humiliated and sulked even more when I was moved away from my beloved.

Later that night, I started to dial his phone number. My father asked me who I was calling. When I told him it was a boy from school, he took the phone from me and hung it up, telling me to never call aboy again, that I should wait for THEM to call ME. Not daring to defy my father, I begged Jose' every day at school to call me. It was the only way I could talk to him. I would wait by the phone night after night. Finally summer came, and Jose' soon became a memory.

One lazy afternoon, while I was bored enough to put on a puppet show for my disinterested Siamese cat, Jose' called! He invited me over to play. My mother was taking a nap. Not wanting to wake her (or be told NO), I quickly jotted down a note saying I went for a bike ride. I raced all the way to Jose's house and we spent a wonderful afternoon playing in his tree fort and running through his backyard. He took me inside his house after a while to play in the cool basement. It was dark and we were alone. We were older now, both seven. Having more romantic thoughts than the average seven-year-old girl, I saw my chance for a secret kiss. I asked Jose' if he wanted to kiss me. He was completely shocked. After all, we were friends. Friends don't kiss!

Instead of feeling rejected, I was happy he considered me such a friend and played with him the rest of that glorious summer afternoon, ridng my bike home with a smile on my face.