Author Archive | susie

Already gone

“You can’t take a picture of this. It’s already gone.” – Nate Fisher to his sister Claire in the final episode of “Six Feet Under”

It was a great finale, wasn’t it?

Nate’s final words really hit home; I’m always telling people not to get so caught up documenting things with a camera that you’re not experiencing the actual moment.

But I had a sudden shock of recognition tonight when I realized it’s what I always did with words. For most of my life, I kept journals and boy, despite some highlights, they were often an odyssey of pain. Every time I’d go through them again, it was like picking off scabs: Susie’s Greatest Hits of the worst moments in my life.

When I was packing to move into this tiny little apartment, I got rid of all the old ones. (Boy, there were a lot.) I ripped the pages out and shredded them; I felt lighter for it. Out of habit, I started writing in the current journal again, although nowhere near as much.

I finally realized why it made me feel so bad: Not to brag, but I was such a good writer, I could relive my most traumatic experiences with a few well-turned phrases. While many people feel better after writing about their feelings, it mostly made me feel worse. It amplified things, somehow.

I asked myself: Why was I so much better at writing about pain than living in happiness?

Once I had that epiphany, I pretty much stopped using the journal. (The last time I wrote anything of any real significance was when I found out my father had cancer.) Now I make occasional cryptic notes: “So damned hot, can’t wait until it rains. Dinner with X tonight.” Or: “Had to get battery jumped. $10.” Nothing, really. I go weeks at a time without writing a thing.

I love it that there’s nothing intense in that journal these days. Because when I have a bad moment now, I simply feel it and let go – instead of carving it into a stone monument. I’m trying to have a life, as opposed to writing one. I breathe now.

I think that’s why I’m in such a good mood these days; I’ve forgotten all the reasons I should be unhappy.

Beach day

After our lovely day at the beach (the water was very warm and there were no sand fleas, flies, jellyfish or sharks to ruin things), we decided (okay, Partner in Crime insisted and as you already know, I’m a complete doormat) that we stop by Atlantic City and have drinks at one of the beach bars.

The first place we stopped had a live broadcast from one of the Philadelphia classic-rock stations and the DJs were holding a trivia contest (“What’s the name of Rocky Balboa’s dog?”) with various categories. They mentioned something about military trivia, and Partner In Crime turned on the barstool, brandishing a marguerita and intoning in a deep announcer voice:

“For a free weekend at this fabulous hotel, tell me this: How many U.S. troops killed in Iraq?”

“Why, that would be 1,846!” I said.

“And for the bonus round: How many troops killed since George Bush went on vacation?”

“”Forty-seven troops!” I shouted.

It was funnier than it sounds. Hey, sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying…

Small world

So I’m sitting outside at Drinking Liberally with Brendan’s foot in my lap, trying to work out the tightness in the back of his knees. Somehow, we fall into a discussion about local music, and thus, local musicians.

A friend of his wrote a song for the local minor-league ice hockey team, and he says it’s getting played on WIP sports radio. This reminds me of former Flyer Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, who had a hit single with “The Penalty Box”, and then of Kenn Kweder, who wrote and performed the classic “Ballad of Manute Bol.”

“Do you know Kenny?” I say. “We used to play the same coffeehouses when we were kids.”

Brendan does. In fact, he says, he knows him well. I grin and tell him to tell Kenn he knows me, too. This is one of those things that, even though we don’t see each other often, and haven’t seen each other in a few years (the last time, he was opening for Jim Boggia at the North Star), it will be as if we saw each other yesterday.

Brendan gets very excited and says Kweder is a genius. I do not disagree. By now, I’m done working on his legs and we are pounding on the table to emphasize our strong approval of various Kweder tunes.

We finally agree on a favorite song, “Heroin”. We are singing enthusiastically:

But then I met you
I met you
I met you
I met you at the meeting
I met you at the meeting
And I thought that you
Were at the meeting
For the same reason
That I was at the meeting too

But then I lost you
I lost you
I lost you,
Lost you at the meeting
And it left me feeling totally
Black and blue

I said doctor,
Doctor
Doctor
What can I take?
What can I take?
He said hey, Kenn
Why not take some heroin?
And I said heroin!
Heroin
Heroin
It is the only way
It is the only way to get back
To you!

We’re pounding so hard on the metal table, Somegirl’s beer glass vibrates across it and crashes to the sidewalk. Oops. (It reminds me of the electricNFL football game my brothers had when we were kids.)

Just then (no, really – just then), Brendan’s cell phone rings. It is his mother, telling him he left his Kweder CD in their car when he visited, and that she and her husband loved it, “especially that ‘Heroin’ song.”

Talk about synchronicity. When Brendan gets off the phone, he insists on calling Kweder to tell him this tale. Kenny doesn’t pick up, so he leaves a message.

Kweder calls back, Brendan tells him the story of his parents becoming Kweder fans and then tells him he’s “sitting here drinking with Susie Madrak.”

“He says he loves you,” Brendan reports.

“Tell him I love him, too,” I say. He hands me the phone and we talk briefly. He promises to come down some night soon.

Philadelphia – a small town in a big city.

Blogging drunk

I got drunk tonight to celebrate because I’m not going to work tomorrow.

I’m not going to work tomorrow because I was forced to call 50 people today and pretend I was returning a call they never made in the first place. All day long, I had people screaming at me and hanging up. They said it was sleazy and insulting, and they wouldn’t deal with a company like this. They had a point.

“Why do I have to do this?” I asked my new boss.

He said it was a “pattern interrupt” to keep them from terminating the call once they realized it was a sales call. And yet, they kept terminating the calls! Go figure. (My boss said I “wasn’t credible enough” when I lied.)

Uh huh. Finally, for the 50th call, I said, “Hi, we’re a company that does sales training and consulting. How are you handling that now?” The owner opened up, told me everything that was a problem and I made an appointment – by ignoring everything my boss said to do. Hah.

Then my boss told me “by the way,” he had another salesperson starting Thursday – “but he’s not an employee like you. I just want to see how he does.”

In other words, I’d be competing for my own job. Nice.

My best friend took me out to a nice restaurant after work to celebrate my new job. “So what, exactly, are we celebrating again?” I said.

“I can’t see myself doing this fucking awful job for another twenty years. This is our Independence Day,” she said. We’ve been talking about starting a business together, and tonight we decided it was time to go for it. We set a deadline.

Once at Drinking Liberally, I decided to drink heavily, especially after everyone started ribbing me about my work clothes. And after a few gin & tonics, I knew just what to do.

“I’m not going to work tomorrow,” I announced. “That’s it, I quit.” Clarity.

Are you serious? people asked, admiring.

Oh yeah, I said. And then I talked to a prominent local blogger (not the sweaty one) about working for him until I lined something up. He said he’d email me.

Then Somegirl and Jim Capozzola joined me in singing show tunes at the sidewalk tables. We covered most of “The Sound of Music,” “West Side Story,” and a few selections from “Hair” and “Company.” I felt a lot better.High on the hill was a lonely goatherd, lay ee oh a lay ee oh a lay hee HOE.Or: A boy like that wants one thing only And when he gets it He leaves you lonely One of your own kind Stick to your own kind.

So that’s it. Of course, I still have to return the phone calls I got from my mother and sister, congratulating me on my wonderful new job. But what the hell, life is short and why waste any more time than you have to, letting a soulless suit suck out your soul?

I’d rather stock shelves.

Posted in My So-Called Life | 17 Comments »

Blogging drunk

By on August 3, 2005 in My So-Called Life

I got drunk tonight to celebrate because I’m not going to work tomorrow.

I’m not going to work tomorrow because I was forced to call 50 people today and pretend I was returning a call they never made in the first place. All day long, I had people screaming at me and hanging up. They said it was sleazy and insulting, and they wouldn’t deal with a company like this. They had a point.

“Why do I have to do this?” I asked my new boss.

He said it was a “pattern interrupt” to keep them from terminating the call once they realized it was a sales call. And yet, they kept terminating the calls! Go figure. (My boss said I “wasn’t credible enough” when I lied.)

Uh huh. Finally, for the 50th call, I said, “Hi, we’re a company that does sales training and consulting. How are you handling that now?” The owner opened up, told me everything that was a problem and I made an appointment – by ignoring everything my boss said to do. Hah.

Then my boss told me “by the way,” he had another salesperson starting Thursday – “but he’s not an employee like you. I just want to see how he does.”

In other words, I’d be competing for my own job. Nice.

My best friend took me out to a nice restaurant after work to celebrate my new job. “So what, exactly, are we celebrating again?” I said.

“I can’t see myself doing this fucking awful job for another twenty years. This is our Independence Day,” she said. We’ve been talking about starting a business together, and tonight we decided it was time to go for it. We set a deadline.

Once at Drinking Liberally, I decided to drink heavily, especially after everyone started ribbing me about my work clothes. And after a few gin & tonics, I knew just what to do.

“I’m not going to work tomorrow,” I announced. “That’s it, I quit.” Clarity.

Are you serious? people asked, admiring.

Oh yeah, I said. And then I talked to a prominent local blogger (not the sweaty one) about working for him until I lined something up. He said he’d email me.

Then Somegirl and Jim Capozzola joined me in singing show tunes at the sidewalk tables. We covered most of “The Sound of Music,” “West Side Story,” and a few selections from “Hair” and “Company.” I felt a lot better.High on the hill was a lonely goatherd, lay ee oh a lay ee oh a lay hee HOE.Or: A boy like that wants one thing only And when he gets it He leaves you lonely One of your own kind Stick to your own kind.

So that’s it. Of course, I still have to return the phone calls I got from my mother and sister, congratulating me on my wonderful new job. But what the hell, life is short and why waste any more time than you have to, letting a soulless suit suck out your soul?

I’d rather stock shelves.

Validation

By on August 3, 2005 in My So-Called Life

I just got a phone call at 10 of 7. I thought it was my recently-discharged-boss, so I didn’t bother to answer. But then I saw the caller ID and it was my friend and first sales mentor, Holly.

“Where are you, in the car?” she said.

“No, I’m home. I quit,” I told her, still not quite believing it myself.

“You can’t afford to quit, you dumb fucking asshole!” she screeched. (She’s known me for almost twenty years and she worries about me. And like me, she’s a blue-collar kid born and raised: You never, ever quit a job – unless you have another one.)

So I told her what had been going on. “Oh. You’re right, I would have quit, too,” she said. “Guy sounds like a real asshole.” (She uses the word “asshole” a lot.)

“When he called me for your references, I told him you had the intelligence to do this without a script; I told him to get out of your way and let you do your thing. He didn’t listen to me.”

“Nope.”

“Well, fuck ‘im,” she said. “You’re better off not working for someone like that. What a jerk. Why don’t you come over today and go swimming?”

“We’ll see,” I said. “First, I plan to spend the morning sleeping off my hangover.”

Hangover?” she said, sputtering. (She’s only seen me drunk once, many moons ago; it involved a dinner party at her house and I was the date of the alcoholic judge. I slammed a Waterford goblet down on the table so hard at something he said, the goblet broke. Despite that, when the two of us split up, Holly and her husband dumped the judge and kept custody of me.)

You? What, were you out with your friends last night, celebrating?” she said, starting to laugh again. “Good. Well, come over later if you want.”

“Okay,” I said. “Maybe after the room stops spinning.”

The writer monster in me

By on August 2, 2005 in My So-Called Life

My best friend called me to see how my first day of work went. (She of course wanted to taunt me.) “Did you make your mark on the corporate world?” she said.

“I threw up,” I said. “I got a migraine. From the fluorescent lights.”

Silence. Then she started to laugh so hard, she was practically choking.

“Only you,” she finally said. “Only you.”

If nothing else, I do provide high entertainment value. The problem, as I’ve mentioned before, is that I’m a writer and we’re prone to some strange compulsions. For example, there’s a marked tendency to do and say things I don’t necessarily believe – but I do and say them anyway because they make a better story. (Or snappier dialogue.)

I recently instituted a new policy: When a guy asks for my phone number, I, um, well, okay, I admit it – I use my Dead Ex-Husband’s last name. I never used it when we were married, but it occurred to me it could now provide handy protective cover. I mean, who wants some strange man having the upper hand from the very first date? All he has to do is Google me, and I’m at a distinct disadvantage. (Not to mention, he’ll make the all-too-common mistake of confusing me with my writing.)

I mentioned this to my friend. “You know what really scared me about that, though?” I said. “I realized something about myself: It isn’t even the Google thing, although that does bother me.

“It’s that if a guy knows who I am, I can’t write about him.”

“You know, you are a really sick person.”

“I know.”

I am truly going to hell. I just know it.

Global warming

By on July 25, 2005 in My So-Called Life

My part of the globe, anyway. Jesus, it’s miserable out. I just walked down to the mailbox and it’s so stinking hot and humid after a rather lengthy thunderstorm this morning.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my mailbox? All the apartment mailboxes are lined up on a shelf, they have little red flags (I’m a city girl, I never knew what they were for) and there’s a cute little shingled roof over the whole thing.

When I first moved here, I kept looking for regular mailboxes. I finally asked a neighbor where I could mail things, and she looked at me as if I were crazy. “Honey, you put it in the mailbox and put the red flag up,” she explained carefully.

Oh.

When I first lived in a house with mice, I went out and bought a lot of traps. I’m such a city dork that, trained by years of watching “Tom & Jerry,” I thought the traps would snap shut on the mouse’s tail, I’d take the little critter outside and let it go.

Hah. I got over it, though. When my kids saw all the squished mice with the bloody, bulging eyes, they started crying: “Mommy, why are you killing God’s creatures?”

I explained my position. “When they’re outside, they’re God’s creatures,” I muttered. “When they’re in here, they’re on my turf.”

Kind of the opposite of the Bush Doctrine, now that I think about it.

Survivor

By on July 22, 2005 in My So-Called Life

My sister, God bless ‘er, is, well, a bit of a control freak. She admits this, and of course I and my rather twisted family members take every opportunity to remind her.

Well. She’s taken the lead role in my father’s treatment, keeping track of the details, scheduling rides, asking questions of the doctors and basically staying on top of everything. Between her and my oldest brother, they have all that stuff covered. All I do is follow orders.

When I took Dad for his checkup yesterday, I had a list of questions she wanted me to make sure he asked the doctor. As I was sitting in a traffic jam on I-95, I realized I’d left the list sitting on my table. Damn! I called my brother.

“I forgot the list,” I said ominously. “She’s gonna freak if she finds out; you have to go over this stuff with me again.” I discovered that my sister, being my sister (and knowing me), has also made my brother write all this down – “just in case.” So I was covered. Whew!

The traffic jam is a little more persistent than I’d like, so I call my father to tell him I’ll be a little late. No answer, so I leave a message. I get to their condo building and see my mother in the lobby. I laugh to myself, because I know what this means: My father was waiting downstairs and never got my message.

Bingo.

It turns out my mother is accompanying us, which slows things down a bit; she has trouble getting in and out of cars. But we’re finally settled and on our way to the doctor’s.

I am five minutes late.

“Now let me ask you something,” my father says, with a certain annoyed tone I recognize. “Did you leave yourself enough time, knowing there might be a problem on I-95?”

I sigh. “Yes, Dad. I left fifteen minutes early in case there was traffic.”

“Oh, you had to ruin it by saying that,” my mother chimes in. “He was all ready to tell you what you should have done.” Oy.

Anyway, after we all shuffle into the doctor’s office, my mother says, “I’m going in with him, you don’t have to go.”

“Hey, I have my orders,” I tell her. “I’m not going to have her mad at me, I’m going to do what I’m told. Sorry. I’ll tell you what, though: If you ask the questions yourself, I won’t have to.”

As my brother predicted, we sit in an examining room for almost an hour before the doctor comes in. (The doctor does not wash his hands.)

While waiting, I note there is a framed certificate of attendance from a conference called “Medical Ethics in the Third Millenium: Christ’s Healing Love through the Gospel of Life.”

I am always at least a little wary of professionals who tout their personal beliefs; I suspect at least some of them may slack off, telling themselves, “Oh, what the hell, it’s God’s will,” much as the BushCo fundies have happily trashed everything they could because the Rapture’s just around the corner.

Maybe I’m wrong, but you never know.

So the doctor switches Dad from insulin to oral diabetes medication, I ask about his hoarseness, we’re done and we can head off to the neighborhood diner – where, like Cheers, everybody knows their name. There is much talk of hospitals, illness and death with everyone they meet, and I begin to understand that, at this age, everyone’s just a contestant in the game of “Survivor.”

My father orders liverwurst on rye with a slice of onion; the Greek proprietor, who brought Dad food while he was in the hospital, takes exception. “What for you want that Depression food?” he chides him. “I got nice roast chicken.” But Dad’s firm.

By now it’s almost 1 p.m., and I’m a little cranky from not eating. “Why are you so hungry?” my mother says.

“I eat breakfast at 5:30,” I say. It’s been…” I start counting off… “Seven hours since I ate.” No wonder I’m so cranky.

***
I cook dinner. Hot dogs, baked beans, applesauce, corn on the cob. My father doesn’t eat much; it’s the first time I’ve known him to leave food on the table.

The phone rings. It’s my beloved niece, my sister’s daughter. She’s coming over to see my parents. “She told me to tell you not to leave before she gets here,” my mother says. I really like this kid, so I hang around.

When my niece gets there, it comes out that, even though she was coming to see my parents anyway, her mother is, um, a tad anxious that she hasn’t gotten a report from me. (She didn’t specify that in my orders.)

“I knew it!” I say, laughing. “We’re going to have to make something up.”

“Oh, good,” my niece says. My parents look bemused; they’re used to this sort of thing. As I say, we’re a little twisted.

“Let’s see. When Grandfather asked the doctor about the oral diabetes medicine, the doctor screamed at him. He said, ‘I’m the doctor, you’re the patient. If you need to change something, I’ll tell you.’”

We are all laughing as my niece writes it down. “Aunt Susie, how about this? The doctor said he’s drinking too much water.”

We’re all convulsed with laugher, because my sister is always chiding my father for not drinking enough water. “Brilliant,” I finally get out. “That’s great.”

“Hey, I know my mother,” she says, shrugging.

I grab the list and add, “TOO MANY BOWEL MOVEMENTS” We all get hysterical again.

I know that I am going to hell.

Pretending

By on July 20, 2005 in My So-Called Life

Ever since I read about the nanny blog, I’ve been thinking what a strange thing it is to write for public consumption. Because while I love to write, I (and most writers I know) would rather pretend no one actually readswhat I write.

I was the same way when I was a newspaper staffer. It got a little strange at times; I wrote a political column with 150,000 readers a week and people would stop me in the supermarket: “I know you, you write that column in the newspaper.” (My picture ran with the column.)

“Oh no, that’s not me. People ask me that all the time, though,” I’d say. I just hated it.

It’s not as if I don’t actually know I’m writing for an audience. (And it’s not as if I don’t have an ego, God knows.) There’s just something about meeting people who’ve read all this personal stuff about you – and they actually acknowledge it. It’s embarrassing, like someone pointing out you just farted. I mean, you know you farted; you just want everyone else to pretend you didn’t.

Sometimes it’s fine, especially with other bloggers. (Because then it’s just shop talk.) But other times, I cringe; it’s a visceral reaction and I’m not sure why I have it with some people and not others.

Like last night, when someone introduced me to this new guy as “Susie.” Then one of my friends chimed in, “She’s the Suburban Guerrilla!”

And he looked, um, impressed. Which made me uncomfortable. I mean, come on, it’s just me. You know? Little old unemployed, chronically-underachieving me. The one who really, really needs to change the sheets and do some laundry.

Is this what they mean by “fear of success”? I don’t remember. It’s been so long since I had any.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite grateful to have readers. But the Uberblonde is the Suburban Guerrilla, not me. I’m just the writer. Writers prefer to be invisible, hovering at the edges of other peoples’ lives and taking notes. The other one? She’s the one who likes all that celebrity stuff, and I try to sneak out of the house without her.

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