Amends

Had an unexpected encounter yesterday with someone I’d wronged in the past, and got the chance to offer my sincere apologies. She was so gracious. She thanked me and told me she didn’t really blame me, she knew someone else had influenced me in an unscrupulous way.

It felt great to get that weight off my conscience. I don’t want to get into details (it wasn’t one of my better life choices). But I did want to mark the event.

‘Ashamed to be an American’

My tradition is to spend the day after Thanksgiving with an old friend and her family. We were sitting at her sumptuous spread of leftovers and talking politics.

Her husband, a retired NYC cop and Vietnam vet, was shocked when I told him we were using napalm and white phosphorus on civilians during the seige of Fallujah.

“They’re using jellied kerosene instead of gasoline, but yeah, it’s napalm,” I told him.

He shook his head. “You know, I dropped white phosphorus on my boot once and I couldn’t get my boot off fast enough,” he said. “You should see that stuff. It burns right on through, real fast. When you use it on people, it does the same thing. It’s like putting dry ice on someone’s skin.”

“Fallujah was like a recruiting program for terrorists,” I said. “The things we did to civilians there have guaranteed them volunteers for decades.”

“It just makes me feel ashamed to be an American,” he said.

“Yeah, I know. I never felt this way before.”

I have. Once before,” he said.

Talking turkey

“So I was talking to this girl on the phone, and she says ‘Happy Turkey Day’ and I’m like, that’s the final strike, you’re out,” Joe said. He is drinking beer and doing shots of tequila for his sciatica pain.

“You actually said that to her?” I say. “The final strike?”

“No, I didn’t say it out loud. But that was it,” he says emphatically.

“You sound like the man-hands episode of ‘Seinfeld,’ ” I tell him. ”

“I was dating this 42-year-old,” he says. “She kept wanting to talk to me. Like, she was telling me about her 13-year-old son, how he was excelling at something. I just didn’t want to hear it. And she always had chardonnay breath, because she was always drinking chardonnay.”

I wouldn’t say Joe is fickle, exactly. It’s just that, like a bee, he flits from flower to flower.

Despite large quantities of beer and tequila, his sciatica is only getting worse, and he shifts in his chair, trying to get comfortable. A couple of us point out that caffeine and alcohol will only dehydrate him and make the problem worse.

“I really need to change something in my life,” he says, agreeing. “Maybe milk and cookies instead of beer, something like that.”

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The Tao of Steve

By on November 24, 2005 in My So-Called Life

A bunch of us were talking the other day, and two of them had wonderful boyfriends/husbands named Steve.

All Steves are great,” one of them enthused.

“Oh, come on, not all of them,” I said. But then I started to think: my oldest friend is married to a Steve, and she says the same thing. (Although she was married to another Steve before this one, and she hates him. But still.)

“Don’t write about this in your blog,” the other one said, eyeing me. “I don’t want him to get a swelled head. I liked it when he was still grateful.”

I thought some more and came up with three more Steves, all nice guys. (Not even counting my godfather, Uncle Stevie.) “Damn it, that’s it,” I said, slamming the counter. “I’ve seen the light. Get me a Steve!”

Nice guy named Steve wanted for compulsively creative and slightly wacky blonde politicial blogger. You should be geographically convenient to Philadelphia and emotionally available. No Republicans, smokers, substance abusers or Pee Wee Herman speeches,* please. You should be equally good at getting and giving. Transparency a must.

Thank you, thank you, thank you

By on November 24, 2005 in Higher Ground, My So-Called Life

Writer Anne LaMott says there are really only two prayers: “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

This has been one of those “thank you” years.

I got a job, a real one. My dad’s stable and doing well. I have such great friends, and things look pretty good. I’m rebuilding my life from the ground up after several hard years.

And the American public is finally waking up to the true nature of the Bush administration. Hallelujah.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Posted by Susie in My So-Called Life, Higher Ground ( at 11:57 am)

Writer Anne LaMott says there are really only two prayers: “Help me, help me, help me” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

This has been one of those “thank you” years.

I got a job, a real one. My dad’s stable and doing well. I have such great friends, and things look pretty good. I’m rebuilding my life from the ground up after several hard years.

And the American public is finally waking up to the true nature of the Bush administration. Hallelujah.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Ahhhhh

By on November 14, 2005 in Politics As Usual

WXPN is having a musical tribute today in honor of Neil Young’s birthday Saturday – which was also the birthday of my friend Mike – and King Britt.

Okay, so here’s my Neil Young story.

When I was about 15, I went with a friend to see Neil Young and Crazy Horse at the old Electric Factory. (Admission was $2.50. Minimum wage was, I think, $1.25.)

Anyway, we got invited backstage. We stood around, watching the band. Some people offered us drinks; we declined. Finally, we said we were leaving.

“Leaving? What do you mean?” a shocked roadie said.

“It’s a school night. We have to go home,” I explained.

We had no idea we were invited back for, uh, a specific function. It took me decades, but I finally figured it out.

No business like show business

By on November 10, 2005 in My So-Called Life

I was just telling my boss how happy I am that the transit strike is over and my train actually leaves on time. Hah.

Well, it did leave on time. But when we were about ten minutes from my stop, there was a flash of light overhead, the train ground to a halt and the emergency lights came on.

“Shit,” I said to my friend on the phone. “Shit, shit, shit.”

The conductor made an announcement: They weren’t sure whether it was a problem with the SEPTA power line or Amtrak’s. It would take a while to find out.

“Probably Amtrak. The government can’t do anything right,” I heard someone say behind me. So I started speaking loudly into the phone. My words were loud and clear in the now-quiet car.

“Did you know they fired the president of Amtrakyesterday?” I said, raising my voice. “See, he kept telling them they had to spend money on the infrastructure and why it made sense to subsidize it. Of course the Bush administration would rather just sell it off, so they canned him.

“So yep, I’m sitting here in the dark, thanks to everyone on this train who voted Republican.”

I never pass up an opportunity for a little street theater. After all, it’s educational.

Auld lang syne

By on November 8, 2005 in Arts & Music, My So-Called Life

Just got back from seeing my friend Colleen’s World Cafe show. Not only great music (do check out local songwriterChristine Havrilla and Nashville’s Joe Rathbone, who were also on the bill) but it was quite the reunion – lots of musicians I haven’t seen in a couple of years.

“So where have you been?” someone asked.

“Oh, I was in a dark hole. I’m out now,” I said.

Caught up with Bob Beach and Gina Kaz, too. It was so much fun, I suspect it won’t be too long before I start performing again.

Funny note: no one there was a blog reader; most of them don’t even know what blogs are. It was fun to be just another musician and not a blogger.

Oh, and it turns out a few people I know have already moved to Mt. Airy, the part of Philadelphia where I’m planning to move this spring. So I’ll have friends in the neighborhood – a nice change from life in the Hellmouth.

A visit to a big box store

By on November 5, 2005 in My So-Called Life

My friend Somegirl has a big credit she has to spend at Best Buy by the end of the month, and she insists on me coming along in case I need anything. Plus, South Philly has the best pho restaurants and she wants to go to lunch.

So we meet at the new store on Delaware Avenue (or, as you carpetbaggers call it, Columbus Boulevard). I don’t see anything, and she keeps bugging me. “Do you want a CD?” she says. I say no, but I tell her I wouldn’t mind a new telephone – either a speakerphone or something with a headset.

“Yeah, but I have one you can have when I leave,” she says. (She’s leaving right after Thanksgiving for Venezuela, which makes me sad.)

“Oh. Then never mind,” I said.

She starts looking at a portable speaker system for her iPod. “This would be good. It’s small, it’ll be easy to travel with,” she says. She squats down and starts pulling the packaging apart so she can get a better look. In less than a minute, she has the box open and all the styrofoam pieces and plastic bags all over the bottom shelf. She’s methodically taking the thing apart when one of the employees comes over.

“Excuse me, miss, do you need some help with that?”

“No,” Somegirl says, not looking up. She’s still squatting, still intent on getting this thing out of a hundred layers of packaging so she can look at it. “I just want to see what it looks like before I buy it.”

“You’ve removed the security device,” the clerk says. “And you can’t be opening the packages, you’re not allowed to do that.”

“I have to look at it first.”

“Now, you know you’re not supposed to be doing that, or you wouldn’t be down there on the floor like that,” the woman says.

Somegirl looks up at her, dark eyes flashing dangerously. (I know that look.) “Where am I supposed to look at it?” she says with a tone dripping with utter disdain. She then proceeds to ignore the clerk, who finally walks away.

She decides on a different one, and pulls that one apart, too. This time, she hijacks an employee to help her.

Finally, she pays for her purchase and we go to a Washington Avenue pho place.

She calls me tonight and says, “I suppose you think I was a terrible person for the way I was with that woman today.”

“Hell, no. It was funny as shit,” I said.

It was.

All things must pass

By on October 30, 2005 in My So-Called Life

Sunset doesn’t last all evening
A mind can blow those clouds away
After all this my love is up
And must be leaving
It has not always been this gray
All things must pass
All things must pass away.

“All Things Must Pass,” George Harrison

Daylight savings time shifted this morning, and I was up before the dawn, listening to music while I took in a pair of too-baggy jeans on my sewing machine. This song came on, and I got all introspective and shit.

Maybe it’s the time of year, or just getting older. But lately, I have such a strong sense of my life as ephemeral, a pair of jeans that don’t fit anymore. Sure, I can pretend the crotch doesn’t hang to my knees or that the ass isn’t sagging – but it is and it was time to do something. Since I know how to sew, I took them in. But I’m still losing weight, there’s only so much I can do and sooner or later, they have to go. And I accept that.

I wish the other decisions were that easy.

All things must pass.

It’s gotten slightly easier to let go. (Not “easy,” mind you, but easier.) And not of things or places so much as people – whether by death, divorce or decision, time accelerates and people you thought or hoped would be around forever are suddenly gone.

All things must pass.

One of the things I love about middle age is the perspective. I always think of it as finally being high enough on the mountain to see the lay of the land. And while I suppose it’s a New Age cliche, situations that seem pointlessly painful while I’m going through them do invariably land me in a better place. Whether it’s losing a job or going through a breakup, it seems to me I always got a better deal as a result.

Is that reality, or simply my perspective?

It has not always been this gray.

I remember my first plane ride. It was a dark, gloomy day and when the plane nosed its way up past the clouds, I literally gasped – because up there, it was sunny and the skies were still so blue. Sometimes I think of that and remind myself clouds aren’t as permanent as they seem.

I don’t have many crippling dark times anymore. Here and there, but extended periods of gloom are no longer welcome in my life.

A mind can blow those clouds away.

I’ve always been a dreamer, a person with big ideas. And I always thought it was funny, how scornful the “sensible” and “practical” types are of people like me. They point to my failures as proof I shouldn’t have tried in the first place. Which is interesting, because they seem to think being paralyzed and knotted up in fear is somehow preferable. “Don’t expect anything, and you won’t be disappointed,” one ex used to chide me.

What a silly thing to say. What a sad way to live.

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