In 1970 or thereabouts, the musical Hair came to Seattle. My boyfriend and I got tickets. My boyfriend was an amateur musician, and had done his own guitar arrangements for Let the Sunshine In, which he thought was pretty good – he often played it at parties. I loved to sing I Met a Boy Called Frank Mills, and although I had been told I had a good voice, I wasn’t as confident as my boyfriend, so I only sang at home, never at parties.
The night before we went to see Hair, I washed my own hair, and when it was still wet I braided it in tiny braids all over my head. At that time my hair hung nearly to my waist and it was my idea to have a huge honey-brown “Afro” type hairdo. Sure enough, the next day when my hair was dry and I undid the braids, my cloud of hair stood out about a foot from my face. It was a statement – of what, I’m not sure, but I was pleased with my appearance, which I augmented with dangly beaded earrings, a peasant style long dress, and a leather vest with fringes. On my face I wore no make-up, but I did wear my John Lennon-type wire-rimmed glasses. My boyfriend wore a headband around his hair, which was already curly and unruly, and hung to his shoulders. His vest had fringes too.
Arriving at the theater, we stood in a huge crowd of excited hippies, most of them stoned out of their heads. I was totally straight and sober that night, because I thought I might be pregnant, and although I certainly didn’t look it, at heart I was responsible. It was a lonely feeling. But I loved the musical although its storyline was weak, and the famous nude scene was anti-climactic. The next day my hair wasn’t quite so beautiful so I washed it and thus ended my Afro style – way too much trouble. I wasn’t pregnant, either.
I’m going “long in the tooth,” which is a metaphor for aging, because your gums recede as you get older and your teeth seem to grow deeper into your head and reveal portions of themselves formerly hidden. Now that I’m long in the tooth I can reveal the truth – I hate dentists. I hate being constrained in the dentist’s chair, strapped in by tubes running into your mouth with the dentist looming over you. I hate the uncomfortable position they make you assume — head too far back, poor leverage making escape difficult – there’s no way you can get out of this unless you are willing to make a huge scene and reveal yourself to be a coward. When I am in the dentist chair I close my eyes and run a beautiful scenario through my mind. I see myself ripping the tubes out of my mouth, kicking the dentist in the groin, and sweeping all the implements onto the floor. Then I leap out of the chair and scream “F&*(* You” except my lips are numb so it comes out “Fuboo” while saliva dribbles down my chin. But they know what I mean, and then I run from the room and sweep past the receptionist and all the other poor souls trapped in the waiting room. And I never ever go back to the dentist again. I’m a grown-up now. They can’t make me.
spend the Earth's last days
making your peace with her gods
beg their forgiveness
They say green is the color of jealousy, but I think jealousy is a sickly yellow, like diseased urine. Green is the color of American money, but money isn’t what I think of when I think of green. Green is the thousand different layers on the earth – fir needles and maple leaves and dark cedar branches and soft pale lilac leaves. Green is the fire at the heart of an emerald. When I’m green I am healthy and alive. When I’m green I dance around a group of standing stones, and the sap of a thousand lifetimes courses through my veins. I would paint green spirals on my skin and hope for love in my next infinite lifetime. I wear a green turtleneck and I am powerful beyond time, standing rooted to this earth, my green living home.
here she comes knockin'
singin' the bag lady blues
rotten teeth and all
evil men are fools
they think it they get power
somehow they won't die
As a young child in the 1950s, I thought Eisenhower was the most boring man alive. I couldn’t understand why my parents talked about him as if he was somebody important. I’d seen him on TV, and he looked about as boring as anyone could. He reminded me of the accountant who worked in my father’s office, a little old man (he was probably 50) who looked and smelled like he polished his bald head with Noxema. When I came to visit my father at work, this man would tell me stupid knock-knock jokes and then laugh at them himself.
And I knew that Eisenhower, or “Ike” as my father called him (like they were best friends or something), would behave the same way, if I was ever unlucky enough to meet him. But my father liked Ike. Dad disapproved of Democrats because he said they spent too much of his money on things people should do for themselves. He liked Ike because he was prudent and frugal and never got excited about anything. My thoughts exactly.
Ike’s wife Mamie was just like him. Really if you’re lucky enough to be the First Lady, should you be allowed to be so dowdy? Mamie wore stupid hats like my grandmother, and when she smiled she looked like she wished she didn’t have to. I was sure that Ike married her precisely because he didn’t want to be excited.
For many years I equated the word “boring” with Eisenhower and it wasn’t until I was a grad student in history that I realized there was a little more to the man.
listen to yourself
down where the ancient fish swim
the truth lies waiting
Before I got my new puppy, I resolved I would be firm. All the doggy experts say that crates are good things – they make the puppies feel secure. So I piled some soft blankets and towels in her crate for her to sleep in. No dogs in my bed!
I was going to put the crate in the kitchen, but she was so little – and so cute, with her soft floppy Beagle ears and her shining puppy eyes. It wouldn’t hurt if I put her crate in my bedroom. That way she could hear me breathing, and smell my smell.
Yeah. I put her in her crate, shut its grate, and climbed into bed. Said “Good night, Goody.” Turned off the light. Whining. I will just ignore it, I told myself. Right. Whining turned into whimpers. Alone and lost, the sounds infiltrated my ears as if someone poured warm honey into them, all sticky and gooey. How scared she must be. Where’s her mom, her brothers and sisters, that warm puppy smell?
Whimpering continued, and I got up and knelt down before her crate. I murmured “it’s okay, it’s okay” as I pushed my fingers through the grate, where a little tongue licked them desperately.
Who makes these firmness rules, anyway. I unlatched the crate and took her into bed with me, where she snuggled contentedly at the crook of my shoulder and neck, and where she still sleeps, every night, ever since.
My father bought me an electric organ when I was 7. He liked organ music, but this is not my fault. I was initially disappointed, for I had really wanted a piano, but I learned to love the electric organ. I especially loved manipulating the stops and sounding like a trumpet or a violin, or whatever instrument I chose. I guess it fed my need for control.
My mother found me a teacher. She was old and smelled like old lady perfume and bologna. She gave me baby music, which I resented. My parents let me practice whenever I wanted and never ever complained of the noise I made while I learned – indeed, they often requested me to play for them, even when all I manage was Twinkle Twinkle.
When I was 13 it became uncool to play the organ and I wanted to quit, but my mother found me a new teacher. Her name was Ellen and my interest in the organ renewed, because Ellen was young, in her early 20s, and passionately dedicated to music. She thought I was cool because I played well, or at least she said I did. She gave me cool pieces to play, not stuff from the 40s and 50s like old bologna woman had. Instead I played Bobby Darin songs and Elvis songs and even – very daring for 1963 – Beatles songs. I still remember playing “Michelle” for my father and trapping him into saying he liked it – and then wanting to eat his words when he found out it was from the Beatles. Ha. I caught him.