Saturday, November 27, 2010


I was born on the move. The result of this mobile life — city-to-city, school-to-school, hangout-to-hangout — is a propensity to feel rather small. While I often feel overwhelmed, as if there's not enough of me to take in this tactile existence, feeling overlooked has it's distinct advantages. Here are some artists whom I admire who act on the concepts of working in the background and toeing the boundary between inner and outer life:

1) Slinkachu

2) Jules Aarons

3) Edward Hopper

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Time for Chickens on this Farm

There is a hole in the fabric of my home that can only be patched by chickens. So, I've been looking into what is to be a major project to celebrate my 40 years on this planet this January ... a chicken coop. Thank goodness for this resource: Wish me luck, please.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Evening Fishing

Last evening was magic -- cotton was wafting through the air coming to rest in whispy peaks on the water, a transient (who looked strikingly similar to a dustbowl-era hobo) was reflectively lazing on a park bench next to a rusted out batting cage, the nightcrawler was fighting me with its imaginary fists, kayaks and canoes with friends and lovers slipped to and fro beneath the bridge where I stood -- I fought a bit with my line not to hook any of these precious things. I was after a fish, after all.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Remote From Denver

Joe Biden's here in my hotel. Woot, woot! Just kidding, really. Frankly, Secret Service make me cranky ... and I'm feeling as though I'd like to bounce tonight. Not possible, I'm afraid.

Colorado Springs tomorrow. On the agenda: Best of the West Art Auction; Jack Quinn's; Garden of the Gods; Pioneer Museum; Fine Arts Center; and much, much more.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Scary Larry In Microfiction

A mirrored disco ball of dental work, his mouth agape and I’m inside hearing that thought-shattering cackle, the malodorous stench tastes of brandy manhattans, giving offense. Why the hell did I say “yes” when Larry asked me to dance?

Larry, the dumbfuck from Hoboken, his mouth in a purse and then, again, jarred open with a mountain more than a touch of wrenching gracelessness. “Come on, baby, quit busting my chops, why doncha!?”

When I quit reaming him out four ways from the middle for stepping on me all the way up the ankle and for even daring to pull his respiration act on me,

he sat down right,
no left,

in the middle of the dance floor.

“Well that there dance step be a new one on me, Scary Larry.”

I could see the vomit of muddled ardor beginning to rise in his craw. He looked philosophically kind and pensive in this moment, completely at peace. He’s in the Garden of Eden instead of this rundown Roseland. Suzie thinks: he’ll be off the floor in about two seconds with his mitts on my ass and his tongue waggling, “I’m really very deep, Baby, you’ll see!” or some other such tripe. He’ll want me to show him how it’s all done by people in the real world. Slinky trips into the cesspoolish puddles in Larry’s mind left me feeling slathered with disgust. Even the saintly medallion is murmuring obscenities from the safety of the nest on his breast; that uber-glint of silver and gold, olive skin, lustrous ebony hair, everything, all, with the green patina of Larry’s life.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Happy Birthday, Piewacket!

I'd like to wish a very happy first birthday to PIEWACKET. Every day is an inspiration ... truly! Unfamiliar with PIEWACKET?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Tavern Life

While wandering about through my old Dell Inspiron files, I found an article I did for my Wisconsin Folklore class at UW (2004). I remember writing this paper around 3:00 a.m. because it was due that morning. I think I'd just gotten off work. It's kind of funny and not very well-written, but here she is:

Tavern Life

by Suzanne S. Album

What Makes ME an Authority?

I am a writer, so I make a practice of observing and noting sociological and physical characteristics of places and things in order to construct realistic characters and settings. I have been a bartender in Wisconsin since 2000, for two locally owned taverns. One tavern is Rusty’s (est. 1963), located in Middleton, Wisconsin [since closed, now a Sonic] where I worked for four years, and the other is Irish Waters (est. 1979) [since closed, sits vacant] where I have worked for two years [left late 2006]. Previous to my bartending in Wisconsin, I bartended in locally owned bars for close to nine years in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and in Denver, Colorado. In my travels over the past fifteen years, I have also been to, and frequented, bars anywhere from California to Canada, Mexico to Florida, and unbeknownst to my folks, several hotel bars across Europe when I was sixteen. Comparing and contrasting my experiences and observations, I find that there are some sociological factors that stand out as being distinctly that of Wisconsin tavern life, some of which are: the prevalent usage of nicknames; Wisconsin’s various uses for brandy; bar sponsorship of local sports/recreational teams; the odd variety of reading materials; and discussions between people that I like to call “What’s for Dinner?”.


It doesn't seem to matter much where these nicknames came from. They might be from grade/high school, the military, sports/recreational teams, bar buddies, family, or friends. When these nicknames leave the social context in which they originated, and find an entry into the life of the Wisconsin tavern, they are carried on.

Let’s start with something that occurs with great frequency when addressing or referring to another person in a bar, the habit that people have of shortening a name, adding a “y”, an “ey”, or an “ie”, and then proceeding to call the person by said construction. When I worked at Rusty’s, I did not work for Daniel Adler and James Passini, I worked for “Danny” and “Jimmy,” two men in their fifties. If anyone called or stopped by asking for them by their full names, they were most like solicitors and I was directed to avoid them. When they introduced themselves to others, it was as “Dan” and “Jim,” respectively.

Sometimes, people do not even have to shorten a name to abuse it. My poor friend Paul gets called “Pauly” on a regular basis. The guy is about 6’4” and probably weighs close to 300 pounds. I would venture to say that close to a quarter of my customers and coworkers over the past six years, upon learning my name, call me “Suzie”, though I have never introduced myself as such, especially at age thirty-five. I've not decided whether I care for my nickname, but as with anyone who has this happen to them in Wisconsin, it definitely won’t matter whether I like it or not because people will continue to use it.

Then, there are some people who are called by their last names or some bastardized form: there’s Don Jensen, who is always “Jens” or “Jensen” (customer at Sweeney’s Oakcrest Tavern, Rusty’s, Sport Bowl, Village Green); Ben Peck is “Peck” (bartender at Irish Waters who can frequently be overheard yelling “Don’t call me Benny!”); and Larry Ostermayer (manager of Sweeney’s Oakcrest Tavern), who for the majority of his life in Madison has been called “Oscar” because his last name sounds like Oscar Mayer. Just recently, there are a few who have taken to calling me “Al” because of my last name. Again, I don’t know quite what to make of this, but I will say I prefer it to “Suzie."

Other nicknames are given for a variety reasons. Again, my friend, Paul, who I mentioned earlier is also referred to as “Too Tall Paul." My ex-boss, Jim Passini, is also called “Wiener” by many, many people (I have no earthly clue where this came from and, when asking about it, no one else could/would tell me either). My friend Spider, who I know from Rusty’s, Kollege Klub, University Bookstore, and the Oakcrest, got his nickname from the way he used to move across the football field in high school. He is now somewhere between sixty-eight and seventy-two years old. I still have no idea what his real name is.


Ah, Wisconsinites LOVE their brandy! The first day I bartended at Rusty’s in mid-October, a customer asked me for a Korbel and Coke. I, of course, replied something akin to “you want CHAMPAGNE in your COKE?” Needless to say, this was but the first of many lessons I would learn regarding Wisconsin’s favorite liquor. I believe that same day I learned how to make both an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan. Not too long after this, I learned of the perceived curative powers of blackberry brandy. Here are some recipes I can do in my sleep:

Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet – Wisconsin Style

1 ½ -2 oz brandy (Korbel, Christian Brothers, E& J, etc.)

3 dashes bitters (Angostura)

½ oz simple syrup (sugar water or corn syrup)

Lemon – lime soda (7-up, Sierra Mist, etc.)


Garnish: orange or green olive

(whole maraschino cherry or grenadine optional)


In a large tub (9-10 oz glass), muddle brandy, simple syrup, and bitters (and 2-3 maraschino cherries, or grenadine if desired); add ice; add soda; garnish with an orange or an olive (ICK! An olive in this always makes me a little queasy.)

Brandy Manhattan – Wisconsin Style

2 ½ -3 oz brandy

½ oz sweet vermouth (or, if perfect, sweet and dry; or, if dry, sub dry)

Ice or up

Garnish: maraschino cherry or green olive (ICK!)


In a small tub (6-7 oz glass), add ice; add brandy; add vermouth; garnish with a cherry or an olive (again, ICK!)

Blackberry Brandy

1 – 4 oz.


May be served on the rocks (ice) or up (no ice) dependent upon preference. Also may be warmed when dealing with cold, flu, cough, chilled hunters, cold fishermen, broken-hearted people, people returning from outdoor sporting events, etc.

Reading Materials

In every bar I have ever worked in, conversations are littered with trivia and urban legend. The difference that I have found with Wisconsin bars is there are so many sources of trivial information just lying around, shoved in drawers and cubbies, and carried in by customers and coworkers. When I was at Rusty’s, you could go into any drawer or cupboard behind the bar and come out with things such as: road atlases, the owners’ high school yearbooks, ten-year-old football stat books, supply magazines, bar photo albums, last year’s football and NASCAR pools, almanacs, joke books, phone books, Trivial Pursuit cards, newspaper clippings, loose fifty-year-old photos of customers’ family reunions, Badger football posters, and all kinds of things to read that keep the trivia going strong and the boredom of a slow day/night from setting in. Customers would often bring in some of these types of materials, as well as catalogues containing items for sale that could be perused and commented on for value. These catalogues often lead to discussions on what local businesses offer and where to get the best deal, what local businesses should be patronized, and which should not.

Many of the reading materials in Wisconsin bars can simply be found on the walls and doors. Local liquor distributors work with the owners on putting up beer/liquor signs and specials signs. Many taverns have newspaper and magazine clippings up that critique their bars or give historical information. Local sports teams get their posters up and bar-sponsored recreational teams’ trophies often sit on shelving where the plaques may be read by the customers. Bar owners have up notices to their customers with information of bar related events and codes of conduct. Many taverns have a bulletin board in the main entry for the community’s use. All of these things contribute to the ambience and décor of the taverns.

Local Sports and Recreation & the Tavern

In my years at Rusty’s, no summer month (really, every other week) would go by without one of Middleton High School’s various clubs and teams doing a car wash in the parking lot. No summer Sunday would pass without the majority of the Middleton Home Talent baseball team coming in to celebrate a win or be console over a loss. Rusty’s sponsored a bowling team, a basketball team, a softball team, a volleyball team and numerous pool teams. Irish Waters has an annual golf outing and sponsors a basketball team. Rusty’s runs a bus to every Badger home game at $5 per person for the ride there and back. They give away a free drink, whatever the customer may be drinking, on every Packer touchdown. The Village of Shorewood adult soccer team makes its home in Irish Waters every Tuesday night during the summer, because we offer them deals and spoil them rotten. I’ve noticed with my visits to several of Wisconsin’s bars, statewide, that these taverns take extreme pride in the role that they play in contributing to their customers livelihood inside and outside of the bar. They display the trophies with pride.

“What’s For Dinner?”

The interest that bar patrons and workers show toward what is being eaten and how food is being prepared at home, at celebrations, at local restaurants, and during holidays, is absolutely astounding. Everyone seems to want to know what your having for dinner. Many a time have I sat at the Oakcrest discussing food with various employees and fellow customers. Vernie likes to talk with me about how her husband makes “Beercan Chicken” or “Deep-fried Turkey." Motts (or many call him Mottsie) makes it a regular habit of inviting me over to see the renovations he has done on his home, luring me with barbeque duck off his new Weber gas grill. At Rusty’s, Geno used to bring in tastes of his mother’s peanut brittle. He started bringing it so regularly that I had peanut brittle coming out my ears. I finally asked him for his mother’s recipe, so that I could tell him that I was making it at home. People in taverns trade recipes, giving each other advice on preparation and enjoy discussing food.

One of the funniest incidents that I ever heard about with food at its center involved a man named J___. It was New Year's Eve, 1999, at Rusty’s. J___’s mother, R___, was well known in the bars for her deviled eggs. For any special occasion involved with either Rusty’s, or the Oakcrest (two old family haunts for R___’s family), R___ would send J___ with a huge platter of deviled eggs. J___ has a little drinking problem and this was really late at night when he was sent on his errand that required so much pomp with presentation. J___ decided that he would come in the bar dressed (or undressed) as “Baby New Year." But, it was awfully cold that night, so he left his boots and flannel shirt on. Needless to say, he was escorted back to his van to retrieve his pants, undershirt, and underpants, but the eggs stayed in the ba. No one bothered to watch the comedy of him being redressed in the parking lot by a disgusted bartender. Everyone was afraid they’d miss the eggs. The deviled eggs had all been eaten before he got back inside.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Your Job Is a Privilege

I took a digger on the ice this morning while walking the dogs and now have two swollen/scraped knees and a very sore wrist. In honor of the occasion, I'd like to make a request of you, my friends ... please spare me from your needless whinging about having to work at a "boring, stupid, effed-up" job. For those that are familiar with my situation, I have been unemployed since July and not by choice or for lack of trying. Your complaints are painful to me and others in my situation, no doubt. Reevaluate and get back to me when you realize how fortunate you are. While you do have the right to opportunities for gainful employment please understand, as I now do, that there is no such animal as a "secure, sure thing." In this economic climate, maintaining and retaining your job is a privilege, not a right.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Yesterday, Shmesterday

Yesterday, I had only two minutes of hot water.

And, speaking of hot water,

My fish, Rover, croaked.

And, speaking of croaking,

My throat was very, very


Yesterday, the weather was too crappy to walk the dogs.

And, speaking of crappiness,

I had to flush him,

By him, I mean Rover;

He spun wide-eyed in the bowl,


Yesterday, there was nothing in the fridge that sounded good,

To eat, I mean — to snack on,

to make for breakfast,

Or lunchtime, or supper —

My nachos were no bueno,


But, this was all yesterday,

And today is,



Yesterday is shmesterday.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Prep for a Night At Madame Fortuna’s

Troy drops his pen and reads over what he has written of the side of himself he calls Tanya. He is not gay or even bi-sexual. Crouched in the chair with his sternum straddling his right arm and his forehead on the edge of the desk, Troy is in pain. Where did it all go so terribly wrong?

Tanya’s personality development started innocently enough. They had thought it would be a kick to go to Sarnia for the “Canadian Ballet”, or strip clubs, which none of the Port Huron crew had ever attended for a variety of reasons, among them age and transportation. It was to be a bachelor party where every one of them would play the bachelor at some point in the night. This scenario was kind of like being in any restaurant and saying it was your birthday when it really wasn’t, but getting the song and dance. They ALL wanted the promise of a song and dance — at least that had been what Troy had thought he wanted, in theory. With every sip off Mike’s flask of rotgut whiskey, Troy actually lost confidence. With every tuck of a $5 bill into the cord of a thong, he had found himself beginning to wrench. The undulating bodies, so much skin, heaved forward with the acid in his esophagus. The strippers seemed to have sensed this in him and had retreated down-line to Paul’s agape and smiling eyes, or Axel’s woo-hoo’s and Kyle’s constant repositioning on his seat. From one strip haven to the next, Troy silently debated with his friends. He mutedly pled his case with them, wordless telling them lie after lie: his stomach was upset from their dinner, and maybe he had food poisoning from the Shrimp Scampi he had inhaled at the Fogcutter; he was tired because he had not slept well the night before from all the excitement of their plans, imaginatively crossing the Blue Water Bridge into the collective destiny that they had talked about for the past few years; he was bored because the women were not “hot” at all, at least not in the way that he had thought they would be, like the Victoria Secret models they had pored over in the catalogues in middle school and high school; and he had to get up early for a job interview that he could not possibly reschedule because he was thinking of finally leaving his high-paying Tim Horton regional assistant management job for an even higher-paying management job in Detroit with Fishbone’s. His lies had become more and more elaborately detailed as they molded themselves into anything he deemed believable to them.

While he had kicked lies about the confines of his overtaxed digest system, his friends led him from one place to another, each place getting successively seedier and dirtier. The fresh-faced, French-looking girls turned into stretch-marked, low-breasted women. The brass poles and stained pine stages turned into PVC pipe and Formica. Troy didn’t even look up anymore. If he kept his eyes on boards of the deck of the boat of their shared experience, and not on the swelling and ebbing lake water of his revulsion, his seasickness would abate. His friends (Kyle the Shy One, Mike the Secret Stash of Swedish Porn, Paul the Metrosexual, and Axel the My Favorite Word Is Fuck Dude) who might normally have had great concern for his physical state had been concentrating on their own desires. So, Troy had ended up The Child On the Leash to Keep Him from Running Away. Each friend took a turn at slipping the loop end of the invisible leash that had been attached to Troy over his wrist. Troy had toed each crack on the sidewalk. I wonder if this really will break my mother’s back. I wonder if this really will break my mother’s spine.

They had come upon a pulsating place. The music was a heart throbbing Donna Summer out into the arteries of the street and the neon flew blue through the veined limbs of the night. Troy looked up to see a star-and-crescent-moon-littered sign that read:


SHOWGIRLS extraordinaire

Troy leaped into the lead and pivoted toward the entrance dragging Kyle behind in his wake. Axel exclaimed, “What ya wanna go in there for? I don’t think they take their clothes off! Come onnnnn!”

Before he could think, Troy blurted, “I want to check it out.”

Paul piped in with, “Axel, you shithead, we can do whatever Troy Boy wants. He hasn’t had his lapdance yet and if he wants his chick to be decked out in a tutu, who are we to question why?”

Mike patted Troy on the ass with a go get ‘em, Tiger, sack ‘em, divide and conquer in the pressure of the pat, pushing him into the field, into the game. “Yeah, Boy, go get your Tutu Tootsie.”

Kyle merely tugged back on the invisible rope that bound him to Troy, but Troy already had his wallet out to pay the doorman the entrance fee. “Loonies or dollars?”

Troy pulled out a $20 from his wallet and the doorman said, “I’ll need another five. It’s five apiece.”

Kyle exclaimed, “Hey guys, at least we can drink in here and lay off of my whiskey for awhile.”

The platinum blond, rhinestone chokered, sequined siren had been just finishing the final lines of “The Woman In Me” (That I’m feeling so free/To be the woman in me/It’s so easy with you/To be the woman in me) and Troy was wrapped around the song. The singer’s cheekbones were high with blush and her lips were pink and pouty, parted with the notes that gushed from her breast with the vamping style he had so longed to have in his life. Her arms opened wide and invited him to peek into her secret soul as an intimate friend or a prodigal lover who has found that what he really wants he cannot buy with money. Troy longed, pined, ached to enter those milky and slender arms, to tenderly stroke her back and whisper, fatherly, you will ALWAYS be the woman of my dreams.

For the first two months, Troy had found himself at Madame Fortuna’s nearly every Saturday night. Near the third month, he began coming to the club on Friday nights, as well. At first, he only spoke with the person who took his drink orders. I’ll have a gin and tonic with very little ice and a lemon instead of a lime, please … thank you. He always sat by himself at a high-topped table just to the left of the stage. From this vantage, he could observe every angle of the performers without calling too much attention toward from the other patrons. He watched how the performers would lean forward and sing out the songs in a compressing wave of notes that would flow around the room rocking, padding and lulling the listeners into niches of happiness and well being. The performers had been well aware of Troy’s attentiveness to their performances and they began to join him, one-by-one, at his table for a little conversation. Sometimes, he found little presents of a caricature of himself on a napkin leaning on an elbow at the table and smiling, or once there had been a couple of handmade cufflinks with Frankenstein’s monster on one link and the bride of Frankenstein’s monster on the other. These were always left for him either in, or propped against, the ashtray and they made him warm with pleased amusement. Troy enjoyed these chats and gifts immensely. He had begun to feel comfortable with asking these men questions such as, How long have you been cross-dressing? and Did you ever take voice lessons?

Renata, a willowy, brown-haired man of thirty or so, stood with Troy before performing a little Ella (My old flame/ I can’t even remember his name/ But, there’ll never be a gent/ So sophisticated or elegant/ As my old flame) and said, “Just so you know, Troy, I’m not gay. I just really enjoy this. I suppose it’s kind of quirky, eh, but come over here once and listen. There’s something so liberating in becoming another person for the night. I’m not gonna tell you where I work during the day … or even what I do. But, you’d just never believe me if I told you … ‘cause you wouldn’t recognize me. That’s all. You just wouldn’t elsewise. Hell, my own mother probably wouldn’t even recognize me until I said ‘Hey there, Ma’am.’ Even then, I’m not so sure that’d work. She might say ‘and who might you be, young lady?’ Wouldn’t that be somethin’? I think about that a lot. I must admit … it ALWAYS makes me laugh.”

Around the end of the fourth month that Troy had been going into Madame Fortuna’s, the guys were grouped around Troy’s table when he arrived. At first, he developed queasiness in his gut akin to what one might feel if one were approaching an intervention. But, all the fellows were smiling with good-natured welcome and an obvious readiness to ask him some question, “So, Troy, our ‘Ever-present On Any Given Friday or Saturday’ friend,” Simone lisped, “how’s your singing voice?”

Troy was a bit taken aback until he noticed that everyone was still smiling at him. Their eyes delved into his psyche. It was not too difficult for him to answer, although he had a little trouble getting started, “Well … I … uh … I guess it’s pretty good … I mean, I sang in a chorus in middle school. I sang in a classic rock band in my first couple years of college. I still sing in the shower, of course, but doesn’t everybody?”

Everyone laughed and CeeCee chucked him lightly on the shoulder and said, “How ‘bout a little test drive … a little dry run shall we say there, Tanya?”

At this point, Troy really had been thrown off kilter. CeeCee had called him Tanya. He could not get a grip. He had felt vertigo and confusion. He looked down at the floor past the pearly buttons of his light-blue oxford shirt, over the knees of his khaki Dockers, finally resting on the tips of his cordovan tasseled loafers. He took a deep and lasting breath and looked back up to find all the guys wide-eyed and expectant of an answer. Something welled up within him that made him shiver. Troy was excited. Something had been stimulated and he didn’t understand it. He tried out a small smile that stretched into an enormous toothy grin and blurted, “Yeah! Yeah! Okay! Sure! … uh … When?”

The guys all gave each other waist-level high-fives and other such physical contact signs of success as a team and moved to herd Troy into the back room, “Why NOW, of course, no time like the present!”

“Oh no, I couldn’t, or do you mean I’m gonna sing for you all back there? I could do that. That’s fine. Happy to. What do you all want me to sing, huh? I’m not too shabby at Chris Isaac’s stuff, or maybe some Tom Petty, how about that?” He questioned them, eyeing all the while the bait they had been trolling across his sense of reality.

Gina grasped Troy’s elbow with a playful squeeze to the funny bone, “Why, Tanya, now you know those two you just mentioned are men. We just CAN’T have you singing the likes of THEM in HERE, now can we. It’s simply IMPOSSIBLE.”

“Yeah, Honey,” Noelle said, kicking the back of Troy’s right loafer with the toe of his left silver sling-back, “we were all thinking more along the lines of hearing from you the more contemporary artist … possibly some Norah Jones … or Diana Krall … now there’s a voice, wow!”

Troy blushed a deep crimson and tried to halt the crew just before entering the area backstage, but he was swept into the space previously off limits to him and the other patrons. The guys quickly dispersed to their respective stations against the walls and left Troy frozen in shock by a rack of silky and satiny ladies’ things. He reached behind his back and began rubbing the cuff of a satin blouse between his thumb and forefinger. He had started to sweat profusely and was lightly hopping from right to left, left to right, knees bending forward and back and his eyes snapping from the door to each face of the performers and back to the door again. He had already agreed to sing for them, so he knew that there was no possible way to back out of his promise. After all, they had given him gifts and friendship. What harm could it do to humor them a little? We’ll all laugh about it years from now, anyway. I don’t know any of this Jones girl’s songs. Who the heck is Diane Crawl? I’ll just have to hurry up and come up with a female singer I like. I like them all. Oh God, help me figure out a goddamn female singer NOW! Oh God, all I can think of is Karen Carpenter and hate Karen Carpenter. Didn’t she die of anorexia? I don’t want to sing a dead lady’s shit. Oh God, oh help! Think! Think! Okay, I got it! How about Madonna? No. Cher? No. Ah, yes, got it. Shawn Colvin.

Shawn Colvin. He LOVED Shawn Colvin! (Sunny came home with a list names/She didn’t believe in transcendence/“It’s time for a few small repairs,” she said/Sunny came home with a vengeance) He had known from previous shower time experience that he could get his voice high enough to emulate this folk/rock/pop diva. He cleared his throat, closed his eyes, and let loose at a tamped down volume. By the end of the song, he had opened up full-throttle and was swaying around and gesticulating dramatically while remaining close-lidded. Following the finish, he opened his eyes to a nodding and clapping audience. Natasha kept yelling, “Fabulous. Just superb! But, you need to open up those baby blues, darling. Those eyes! Don’t let ‘em know you’re scared!”

He laughed, bowed, and was basking in the glow of their compliments until Simone and CeeCee began grabbing garments off of some of the racks around the room and holding them up to his chest. Involuntarily, he had started hopping back quarter-step by quarter-step from their limbs that dripped various fabrics like the canvas of sails. Troy tripped backward over the lower crossbar of the clothes rack behind him and tore the elbow of his shirt open as he went down on a loose screw jutting out of the rack. Gina and Simone helped him back up and made a show of dusting him off and smoothing his hair back down. Whereas, if these had been his high school buddies, they would have been laughing at him, but when Troy looked around him, all he saw was concern in the faces of these good-natured people. “Oh, Troy, we’re all so sorry!”

“We really didn’t mean to scare you! We just thought … well … you know …”

“You’ve just always seemed so interested … and well …”

“We just wanted to help …”

“You have a fantastic voice …”

“But … if you’re not comfortable, we really understand!”

He caught his breath and resisted the urge to flee that place forever. Why am I still here? He could not answer any of his own questions. He simply began uttering in a mild voice, “It’s okay. I’m all right. I wasn’t scared … I just … I hope you all understand that I didn’t expect this. I think I just need a drink now. If you all don’t mind I think I’ll go sit down. Thank you for the compliments … really … thank you!”

He could not keep his mind on his friends’ performances the rest of the night. He kept envisioning himself on the stage under the celled lights and the cold microphone mesh so close to his lips, singing Shawn Colvin and rocking back and forth. Even in the daydream, he could not open his eyes. He could not see himself as he was garbed, nor could he see the reactions of the audience to his performance. He had been completely unable to envision himself dressed in women’s clothing, wearing makeup and high heels. He had, however, thought about how he would have to shave his face so very close to the skin and how the chest and leg hair would have to go. He had owned a linked bracelet for a while, but had removed it after it had painfully torn half of the hair off his wrist. He had never felt that he had come off as particularly masculine, yet he did not feel especially feminine, either. His main concern had revolved around the variety of persons who would most probably notice the physical change he would inevitable have to undergo to make this work: Tim Horton’s management, employees and customers; his family; his buddies Axel, Kyle, Paul, and Mike; and so the list lengthened.

Even with the list of concerns also growing ever lengthier and more explicit, by month number seven in the thick of the winter snow, Troy decided to “go for it” and develop Tanya. He knew that he would have to leave Tim Horton’s in order not to have to explain the slight physical changes to his facial features that were inevitably to occur. Troy knew that he would have to abandon hope of seeing his high school friends as often as they, too would notice anything different and would be much more likely to say painful things to him. He avoided his immediate family almost entirely anyway, but he had known that he would still have to go through a little extra effort not to bump into them as he sometimes did while out and about.

Friday, February 12, 2010

try as i might, they just won’t come to me. i call them, lightly, distinctly, though with a slur of sorts, but they elude me. all my words seem negated by the undertones of Her words. i try to speak for myself and Her words are emitted from my mouth. i do not like Her at all. She is wicked, vindictive, mean, and so thoroughly wrong i cannot comprehend what goes through Her head. my battle is always lost before i can throw up the white flag.

She is an alcoholic. She spends money unwisely. She judges people for their outward appearance. She gossips. She tells lies to Herself. She lives alone. She cries. i now understand frida and her two hearts. it was not just because one was sick with heartache; she was torn between her two selves.

every day should not be a battle with Her. i want to be me. i want to understand and love those around me. She won’t let me. She buries them beneath contemptible thoughts. all She ever seems to want to know is how She can get back at them for the wrongs they commit that affect Her. She is the blight of my life. She’s holding me back from all that i might accomplish. damn Her! i want to expel Her, but how? She loves me and loves to ruin my good things. She has tunnel vision. beyond what is good for Her is inconsequential. what is good for me is invisible. She conducts invasive procedures upon my relations with others.

always, when i believe that i have conquered and won my territory, She rears Her ugly head and busts my chops. everything becomes breakable in my life when She is around. She pulls the skin around my eyes so tight that i cannot keep them open to new possibilities. She yanks downward on my hair so hard that i cannot keep my head up. She squeezes my neck so restrictively that i cannot speak with clarity. She hobbles my ankles so completely that i cannot walk without Her as a crutch. She socks me so hard in the stomach that i am unable to digest all that i perceive. She is abusive and cruel.

if there was a way i could tell Her to leave, i would. but, i can’t do it; She defines me. She is the only one who can show the world how good i am by comparison with Her. my sweetness, sympathy, and care shine forth after She’s been around. She is my life and i lead the barest existence.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Crawl into a hole. Crawl into a hole that slowly refills itself with sand, so you won’t die. This is a desert bunker and also serves to protect you from the sun. Do not remove your camo, no matter how hot you are, no matter how much sweat is under your body armor. Removal of your weapons is also prohibited, while outside of designated weapon removal zones. Do not remove your weapons or armor to medically treat any other individual, even if that individual is an officer, even if that individual is screaming at you to do something. Help them the best you can with your rifle around your neck, the handgun strapped to your thigh, the other strapped to your ankle, and any other weapon you have managed to confiscate. You won’t be doing anyone any favors by getting yourself shot in the head, neck, chest or family jewels. You do want kids, don’t you?

Stay away from the local tea. It may be poisoned, no matter how sad the kid looks when you say “no,” no matter how much he cries for you to feed him because he’s an orphan or put shoes back on his shrapnel-cut toes or a clean destasha on his back. Let him get his own freakin’ gutra for his damn punk-ass head. He just wants to see you dead. For him, the only good American soldier is a maimed, bleeding, tortured and, eventually, killed American soldier. You are proud to be serving your country in this capacity, aren’t you boys?

That goes for the food, too. Those kitchens are something your mother would bomb herself, given the opportunity. There are all manner of diseases that you could contract out of one of those pits where they eat on the fucking dirt floor. I don’t feel like having to spoon feed or shoot you up in the arm or butt with some Grade-A penicillin to counteract your stupid ass Grade-F appetite. You be happy with what Uncle Sam provides you. Just pretend it’s your mama’s cooking and suck it up.

And, don’t go putting pictures of all the shit-stained underwear of the guys on the internet, either. If I even catch wind of anything even remotely like this going on with you, your video camera, or your laptop, I’m gonna make sure that America sees YOUR head chopped off on Iraqi national television. I’ll shove your desert blog right up your ass. Got that? Have I made myself perfectly clear?

All right then, let’s get on to the last order of business for tonight. Stay away from the freakin’ hooka. It’s up to you to figure out which I’m talking about depending on where you are. If you want to stick your dick in it, DON’T. If you want to stick that stupid pipe in your face, DON’T. There will be no drugs and no pussies on the front line ... EVER. Got that? GOT THAT? All right then, see y'all tomorrow bright and early. Fuck y'all very much for listening to me. Fuck you, Lansing, get your sticky-ass feet off my cot, you douchebag!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Outside, Inside, and Never Together

The ceremoniousness of it all was understated by the fact that it had to be done. All their plans to place and accentuate the table were superseded by the inability to get it through the door. This was to be the table where Rita and Karl were going to hold bohemian dinner parties for eight or more; on this they would place Karl’s grandmother’s depression glass fruit bowl with its milky green, pocked look that was so very retro, thereby, so very “in” according to the papers; their 2.4 children that they were going to attempt to have in a couple of years were going to necessitate the need for plastic dinnerware, miniature utensils, and lidded drinking vessels encompassed in various cartoon characters. This table could make it all happen for them. Their dreams for the dining room seemed plausible if, and only, if, they could get this particular table inside.

Rita and Karl were “The Couple” of the block. People felt discriminating. People loved them, and people hated them, because their house was perfect, their teeth were perfect, and their bank account was perfectly suited to the lifestyle to which they aspired. They hosted homeowner’s meetings. Rita made the perfect lemon squares. Karl had the perfect swing. No sand traps for these folks. In the eyes of their neighbors, they were mired in nothing but the bliss of their existence. For all of this the neighbors cared. What they cared for was distinct in that it was defined by the envy they felt when these people showed their faces. They didn’t even have to speak of their plans for people to rant and rail against them. People felt crass, as a condescending couple will have the propensity to make people feel.

William, next door, had been scooping up the oil slick in the gravel of his drive when the Lexington delivery truck had pulled to the curb of his neighbor’s home. He leaned on his shovel and watched the deliveryman unlock the door to the back of the truck and lower the ramp. A second deliveryman hopped down from the cab and joined the first in the back of the truck. Will made another half-heart scoop at the gravel that he leisurely let tumble into the wheelbarrow.

Karl came vaulting through door of his Victorian with Rita seconding his motion. He halted at the top of the stairs and clasped his hands. Rita met the end of her sprint at the porch column and caressed it lovingly, peering coyly at the truck as though it were a date arriving. They were not quite prepared to meet their fate, so they left the steps as a barrier for one final moment.

Anticipation overtook them. Rita made the first move to descend the steps, gingerly stepping down one, then another. Karl bound down two in order to meet her stride — an escort to a debutante that had somehow been lax in his duties. Together they met up with the deliverymen at the rear of the van, tiaraless and crownless. The table was a royal decree that would instill upon their lives their status that they believed they so richly deserved.

“Hey Fellas. Thanks for being so prompt.”

“No problem.”

“Did you have any trouble finding the place?”

“Nah, we had a map.”

“Good, good. Now did they put the base on like I asked?”

“Nah. We need to put the base on inside ‘cause it’s too heavy when it’s all together.”

“Now, look, I specifically asked that the base be put on before you delivered it. You’ll have to put it on in the truck.”

“Sir …”

“You can call me Karl …”

“Well … Karl … the top of the table weighs about three-hundred and fifty pounds, and each base weighs close to a hundred-fifty apiece, and if we put it all together it’s gonna break the ramp.”

“You guys that deliver have got to deliver furniture that’s heavier than that?”

Karl stood with his hands on his hips, eyes widened, and his head cocked upwards into the bed of the truck. Rita stood behind him staring at the curb and nodding like a wooden lawn bird. The deliveryman was stone-faced and introspective while his partner had retreated into the depths of the truck as though it was a hive.

“OK, Sir … Karl … then with just the two of us … it’s gonna break us.”

“Don’t you have a gurney back there?”

“A gurney won’t get it up the stairs, Sir.”

When Olivia spied Karl out the window of her garage apartment that was directly across from his front door, he was spinning like a gyroscope. She picked up her watering pot, her small pruning shears, and her gardening gloves. Her intention was to water her strawberry pot that she had filled with various herbs, and to get a better handle on what was going down across the street.

Flapping and pacing, Karl delved into some place within himself that the neighbors had never known. This place’s visit had outward consequences. MR. CALM, COOL AND COLLECTED Karl, MR. I’M GOING TO HANDLE IT Karl, MR. EVERYTHING IS PERFECT ON MY SIDE OF THE FENCE Karl had been replaced with MR. SNARL.

The Robertson’s paused in their fraudulent excavation of their mini-van to watch the show, while their son stopped his excavation of the flowerbed to run to his parents and ask “What’sa madder wid Mister Track?”

Rita began to whimper, “My floors … my beautiful floors …”

Karl stamped his feet down on everything in his elliptical path. He muttered snatches of words that seemingly had no connectivity, “one and one-half inches … solvent … throw the rug down … flagstones … I called … I know I called … three times … can’t throw the rug down … eight-thousand bucks … eight thousand bucks … Saturday … Christ …” and he spun himself down to one point on the sidewalk where he stood with his limbs beginning to tuck themselves back to his body. He brought his palms up to his eyes and pushed as though to pull down the valances of his eyebrows and rip down the curtain that shaded the outside world from his view.

“All right … look, Fellas … here’s the deal ... I didn’t want the table put together inside because we have hardwood floors in the dining room and I don’t want them scratched; I just don’t want the mess … I’m sure you can understand that, can’t you?”

By this point, both deliverymen were simply staring down at Karl from the truck.

“The only thing I have that’s large enough to throw down for you guys is the Persian rug and I just can’t take the chance that it’ll get ruined. You can understand, right?”

“We have tarps … massive tarps …”

“Well … that’s just not going to be good enough!”

Lillian had been lingering on the corner with her spaniel, letting her sniff and lick at the storm drain grate far longer than she might otherwise have had patience for at any another time. She tugged at the leash, pulling her dog back up onto the sidewalk and into motion. She jibed, stopping and starting to avoid the full wind of the situation, until she was about fifty yards from the spectacle. “You could … maybe … have them put your table together on the porch, Rita,” she piped hesitantly.

Karl side waved in Lillian’s direction encompassing the lot of them with a palm-up gesture, “I know you’re trying to help, Lilly, but I asked for this to be done before they got here. They owe me the service that I asked for.”

Rita slipped two fingers into the crook of Karl’s elbow and lifted her chin level with his secret, trinity knot tattoo that was just under the cuff of his polo shirt, “Karl, Honey, we better let them put it together on the porch.”

“Fine … fine …if that’s the only way we’re going to be done with it, do it … just do it!”

The table top, wrapped in tarp and strapped to a sturdy handcart, came down the ramp with one delivery guy in front stooped guiding the base end of the cart, while the other simultaneously pulled it back and let it roll downward with the gravity. Once in the street, they grabbed either arc of the handle, pulled it over the curb, across the flagstones, and up each step where the wheels made a kakunk sound each time it hit the face of the step in front of it until they reached the flatness of the porch. Each deliveryman took a turn at retrieving the two bases with the cart. They removed their back belts, returned to the van, grabbed their tool belts, and reentered the porch.

“Maam …?”

“Please … call me Rita.”

“Uh … Rita … may I please have some water?”

“Yeah … Maam … uh … Rita … me, too … please.”

So the men got to work at drilling and dowel pounding. Karl stood at one corner of the house with arms crossed in the manner of a foreman, excavating the job, like the Robertson’s, with a characteristic thoroughness while Rita stood at the other picking dead leaves off her hanging geraniums, emulating Olivia across the street in haphazardness and inattentiveness. William swirled gravel with his shovel, unaware of the designs he created while Lillian was hunched petting her dog, and unaware of the designs the dog’s fur fell into.

Lillian stepped, with her spaniel in tow, up William’s drive, taking him slightly by surprise.

“Kinda weird, huh?”

“In two years I don’t think I have ever seen them act like that.”

“Me, either.”

“Kinda weird.”

I’ll say!”

The table was whole, in all its inlaid, select hardwood, and six hundred and fifty pound glory. It was gorgeous; the varnish of it shown mirror-clean. It was spectacular, and so was Karl’s show that followed when everyone (except the deliverymen) realized, collectively, that there was no possible way that it would fit through the front door. It was not going to fit if they took the door off its hinges — it would not even fit if they took the door's frame off.

Karl imploded. His arms dropped to his sides and he seemed to slump. If one got up very close, one might believe that they saw his eyes beginning to roll into the back of his head. He sat down on the porch swing and put his head between his knees with his hands grasped at the back of his head and with his forearms covering his ears, whispering, “What … God! … What did I everShit!”

William dropped the shovel and walked to a spot below Karl’s porch level with Karl’s shoe, all the while suppressing the adolescent urge to start giggling, “Karl, may I make a suggestion?”

After a brief pause where Karl glanced sideways from his perch on the swing, he responded, “Yeah … what?”

“Take it through the bustle-door!”

“Will, I hate to ask, but what the hell is a bustle-door?”

“Well, it’s that door on the side that the Victorians made wider for the ladies … the one that leads into the Ladies’ Parlor … to fit their bustles in without dirtying themselves … your table’s kind of like a bustle now, isn’t it?”

Everyone started laughing. Karl sprung off the porch swing and the deliverymen sprung into action to unhook it, so they could walk the table around without obstacle. The deliverymen took the back-step end of the table, Karl and Will took the front-step end, and Tab Robertson came from across the street to help guide from the middle. They all could see themselves huffing with exertion in the reflection off the tabletop. Rita swept through the interior of the parlor (living room) clearing nonexistent debris from the path destined for the table. She swung the door open and hugged herself with relief. The table easily cleared the doorframe and was set down for those toting to catch their breath. Congratulatory glances were thrown generously to all. Rita ran to get the boys some refreshments and, on the way, attempted to open the other side of the double doors leading into the front hall. The second door was stuck.

“Look, it’s got no hinges.”

Karl grabbed the floor lamp to the right of the sofa and swung with a force hefty enough to embed its base into the façade. The action had been taken so quickly that everyone ducked. The aftershock was astonishment, even Karl, most probably at his own action.

The table sat calm, cool, and collected for many weeks. Rita had pulled a chair up to it, using it as a sorting table for her scrapbooking. Karl had pulled a chair up to the opposite side to watch her clip and paste upside-down images of himself windsurfing or hiking up mountains on his head, all the while formulating new plans, master plans, where his home would not get the better of him.

The neighbors now had their chances to host homeowners meetings. Rita and Karl did not want anyone in their home until they could move the table and repair their wall that once was viewed as a door. The neighbors no longer loved, nor hated, Rita and Karl. But, they all got the distinct impression that “The Couple” did not care for them all very much.