Okay, getting a little fancy with the slideshows. Let’s see if this actually works…
06 Nov 2012 11 Comments
Most of the country is, of course, preoccupied with election returns, but I’m far too distracted to pay any sort of attention. I got a call on Friday from my realtor. We had made an offer on a house literally weeks ago. I mentally moved in and completely redecorated the place, but since the seller seemed intent on playing some sort of sick cat-and-mouse game, pitting us against another bidder, I wrote the place off, mentally packed up my imaginary boxes, and proceeded to torture myself by pretending to live in at least two other houses I’ve seen since then.
But about this call on Friday: Evidently the other buyer on that long-ago house also got tired of the seller’s gamesmanship and pulled out of negotiations. Suddenly we could have it—at our original price—if we still wanted it.
That was Friday. I had both an inspector and a contractor at the place on Saturday morning—and accomplishing that small miracle of scheduling serves, I feel, as an affirming omen about my future at this place. Furthermore, these professionals didn’t find anything catastrophic, only the problems which my realtor and I had already spotted on our previous visits. Those problems are too many to list, but none of them appear to be beyond the repair budget that we had figured into the deal. Long story short? We close a week from Thursday. I’ll be moving in as soon as the place is minimally habitable—probably soon after Thanksgiving.
This is a bittersweet development and stage of life. After 25 years, my husband and I will be living apart. I don’t wish him ill, but I can’t continue in the circumstances that I’ve been enduring for too many years. Ironically, the only hope that things will ever change is if I move out and force him to decide if we are to pull together or pull apart. Otherwise, it will just be the status quo until death us to part, and I just can’t face that possibility.
I am, however, terribly excited about the new possibilities of this place, be they temporary or permanent. Unfortunately, I’m unable to share that excitement around any of my family at the risk of hurting someone important. But I’ll tell you all here. I am. Excited. I hope some of you can be excited for me.
28 Oct 2012 6 Comments
Each of the photos in the attached PDF represents a biography that I either have written, am in the process of writing, or intend to write (sometime before I die, but that’s as precise as I intend to get regarding the timeline). Here is the question. Looking at the photos and knowing nothing about these people, which story would you be the most interested in reading? (Yes, this is all an elaborate way to help me end procrastination. Thank you for your assistance!).
19 Oct 2012 2 Comments
I wrote about Soile almost two years ago, back when I nurtured the illusion that there was such a thing as an anonymous blog. Ha! Not long afterward I had a message from my friend Hoss in my email inbox. He had deduced that the post had been written by a Washington based, female Esperantist. Knowing that it wasn’t Ellen, that pretty much meant it had to be me (we are a microscopic demographic, we are)! So, at his suggestion, we reworked that post into a version for more polite company, and he published it in American Esperantist Magazine (did I mention that Hoss is the editor?).
Be careful what you write, people. You never know who might be listening…
09 Oct 2012 1 Comment
I spent Saturday morning looking at houses, because I don’t have enough frustration in my life. Same old story: the houses available were drunk and derelict and listing badly to port—buying one of those would be as foolish as marrying a man in the hope that you could change him. The best of the bunch had the sort of ugly-puppy-in-a-shelter appeal that’s hard to resist. I could work with this, I thought. But that one, as it turned out, already had an offer on it.
The only house that was both truly available and livable was the sort of soulless 70’s rambler that was so generic as to make the Brady Bunch house (the seminal icon of 70’s architecture as far as I’m concerned) seem as ornamented as an Italianate mansion. The only visions it brought to mind were of television commercials for prescription depression medications. The cessation of joy. The extinguishment of the will to live. “So that’d be a no?” my still hopeful relator asked. That would certainly be a no.
Isn’t this supposed to be a buyer’s market?
I’m not ready to give up the hunt yet. Something is out there, waiting to be found.
05 Oct 2012 1 Comment
30 Sep 2012 4 Comments
Well, that was fun! For me, at least. It was good to reach into the dust-filled depths of my brain for those handful of memories of Deen—to pull them out and polish them up before they become hopelessly lost in the dryer lint and Beatles trivia that has otherwise claimed all unoccupied corners of my long-term memory. They are valuable because they are the only things that make me at all cool to my nieces and nephews (although they don’t rise to a level that would make me cool to my own children, oh no!). I was gratified to see that they could even be strung like beads onto a necklace of connecting narrative in a way I would not have predicted. We, Deen and I, overlapped in school for just a single year and I haven’t seen him in person ever since. That doesn’t leave much room for storytelling, but those memories, coated with a liberal dose of the reinforcing glue of hyperbole, seemed to have done the trick!
No….no hyperbole here! NONE.
Anyway, you’ll notice from the date stamps that the last episode of the series took a painfully long time to publish compared to the first episodes, all of which flowed from my pen as unimpeded and easily as idiots going over Niagara Falls in wooden barrels. That last episode, however, I literally got to within two paragraphs of the end before September dropped me down a well of stultifying despair, as September often does. Writer’s block was the least of it, really. For the first time in my life, I ended up seeing a counselor—an experience every bit as rewarding as having to endure a weekly root canal. But that, coupled with some casual light therapy, seems to have made a difference. I’m feeling so much better. Finally I tapped out those final sentences, baked the resulting batter at 350 degrees until a toothpick came out clean, slapped it up on WordPress, and called it a day.
The Deen Castronovo Chronicles: Part 6, in which we learn that “Drumming is Usually Best Confined to Actual Drums”
27 Sep 2012 Leave a comment
What you have to picture here is a 1970’s-era, two-door Datsun B210 crafted from the finest grade Japanese tinfoil—a car that had been knitted together Frankenstein-fashion from the totaled remains of at least two previously wrecked Datsuns to create a whole new car. Yes, such a car might sound dodgy to your modern sensibilities, but my parents, I’m sure, got a hell of a deal. That was the car I drove during my senior year. And I loved it.
Did Deen voluntarily climb into the back seat of my little Datsun that day? Or did I, still in the habit of viewing Deen as some sort of hyperactive adolescent sheepdog, tell him to sit there? I can’t remember, but either way it made no sense, especially since he ended up in the back seat on the passenger side. If he had been directly behind me on the driver’s side, he might actually have had some leg room. Instead Deen, all six-plus-feet of him, ended up behind the long-legged, skinny clarinet boy who was sitting in the front passenger seat. Deen was folded up behind him in the back like origami gone wrong.
Once everyone was buckled in and ready to roll, I leaned across the backseat to address Deen directly. “Okay, Deen, before we go, here’s how it’s gonna be,” I said to him squad-leader fashion. “If I hear either the word ‘Neil’ or ‘Peart’ from you, I will put you out on the curb. I don’t care where we are.” Having said the two magic words, I had Deen’s full attention. “And if I hear both words together? Along with any mention of the man’s divinity? I will take you down to the river and drown you like a sack of kittens. Don’t think I can’t.” In the rearview mirror I could see the skinny clarinet player to Deen’s left raise his eyebrows and nod as if confirming the legitimacy of this possibility. Deen said nothing, but his expression suggested that he assumed everything he’d ever heard about stranger-danger in his young life might be about to play out in the back seat of my Datsun.
Luckily, Deen recovered quickly, probably because his attention span didn’t allow him to dwell on threats and unpleasantries for long. Deen was, in fact, the living embodiment of attention deficit disorder in all ways except one: drumming. He could, and did, concentrate on drumming to the exclusion of all else, in all circumstances. He drummed constantly—even when no drums were present, even when he had no drumsticks in hand. The actual hardware of drumming, if available, was merely prop equipment that could be used to channel the drumming that was going to come through him regardless. Its presence didn’t cause Deen’s drumming and its absence didn’t prevent it. Deen was soon happily drumming on the back of the car seat headrest in front of him as soon as I had the radio turned on up front. Order had been restored to his world.
So off we went down South Commercial Street to McDonalds and through the drive thru as promised. So far, so good. I soon had my soda in the drink holder, and America’s finest top-forty pop music coming through any one of the five pre-programmed buttons on my car’s Japanese transistor radio. I can guarantee that Rush was not part of Portland’s AM lineup. Journey, on the other hand, probably was. Their album Departure had just been released (and Johnny and I had been listening to his copy in secret every chance we got–information best kept from Glenn and Craig). Who knows? Whatever was playing, Deen was drumming along on my car as if he’d played it all a thousand times before; in fact, he probably had.
The timing would have had to have been perfect, and, of course, it was. Just as Skinny Clarinet Boy up front leaned forward (for reasons that remain mired in the dust of history—if there even was a reason, that is), Deen nailed the headrest in front of him with a hit almost certainly intended for an imaginary crash cymbal. Without the ballast of Clarinet Boy’s body to counteract that force, the paperclips serving as Japanese automotive car springs gave way, forcing the entire seatback (which was designed to pivot forward partially for the sake of access to the back seat) to break forward and down, clamping Clarinet Boy in its jaws as if it had transformed into some sort of toothless Asian alligator. Clarinet Boy reflexively pushed it back toward Deen, but the stays had been so thoroughly broken that it landed across Deen’s lap at an angle that would have been appropriate for Deen to perform dental work if he had been more sadistically inclined. Deen instead pushed the seat back into Skinny Clarinet Boy who was, by then, laughing his skinny ass off even as he got nailed—again—in the back of the head by the seatback.
I didn’t have to try to imitate Deen’s dad that time—the volume and outrage just came naturally. “Deen! The hell? You broke my car!” Deen had raised his hands beside his ears as if I were holding a gun on him, shaking his head and sputtering as if he had no idea what could have possibly gone wrong while Skinny Clarinet Boy remained bent over and cackling.
31 Aug 2012 2 Comments
I had, by that time, become the undisputed Queen of All Truancy at our school. It wasn’t my fault. It started the first week of the school year when some misguided Social Studies teacher tried to put the Fear of God into us as we reviewed the Rules & Regulations portion of the syllabus. I remember a severe glare and disapproving tone as she warned us, “…and it doesn’t matter if those absences are excused or not—if you have eleven absences in a single semester, you WILL receive an incomplete.” Clearly, we were meant to hear ominous organ chords from the wings as the soundtrack to her dire words. Oooo! The dreaded incomplete—run for your lives!
But that’s not how I received the message. Instead what I heard was, “You can have up to ten absences in this and every class before any meaningful consequence will kick in. Even taking music classes out of the equation, this means you can enjoy at least forty unauthorized field trips over the course of each semester. And, if you fail to utilize them, you will have squandered the last golden opportunity of your senior year. Now get out there and enjoy life!” I left that Social Studies class whistling Zippity-Do-Dah while imaginary woodland creatures danced in choreographed Disney precision all around. It was, indeed, a hap-hap-happy day!
Not that I was irresponsible about my frequent absences. I kept careful track of them on a calendar I maintained for that very purpose. I wrote all my own excuse notes to save my mother the bother of having to concern herself with my alarming attendance record—because I’m thoughtful like that. And I never missed a test or a critical assignment. I had my standards. I’d always find out what was happening in class before I’d make a decision about skipping. If something was due, I’d be there. If I was instead told something like, “Mr. Manual intends lecture on the early twentieth century existential playwrights,” my response would be something like, “Really? That’s awesome. Tell you what, let’s bring this handful of nails to class with us and take turns driving them into each other’s skulls with this here ball-peen hammer while he lectures. Because that’s the only way I’m going to feel even better about spending an irreplaceable hour of my life listening to Manual drone on about the early twentieth century existential playwrights.” Next thing you know I’d be out the door.
And, no, for the record, none of this interfered in any way with my GPA or my ability to graduate on time. Of course, I had the sort of mind that could fasten
on a literary plot in much the same way a pit-bull can fasten on a geriatric chihuahua, with or without Mr. Manuel’s illuminating comments. It’s a curse really. I envision a day when I’ll be in the old folks’ home, unable to remember my own children’s names, but I’ll still be able to recite a synopsis of the plot (wait—there was a plot?) to No Exit. You want to talk Jean Paul Sartre? How about Eugene Ionesco or Harold Pinter? Bring it. (Of course, your mileage may vary. Obligatory disclaimer: Kids, don’t try this at home).
Looking back, even with these many years of hindsight, I have no regrets about my high school attendance record. Well, except for one. I do regret what a terrible influence I was on every kid I ever pressured into cutting class with me. Truancy, in case you were never a practitioner of the art, loves company, and I was hanging out with straight-laced band kids—clearly the wrong crowd if I was looking for co-conspirators. My fellow seniors would flat turn me down, always with some high-pitched, whiny excuse about having to complete graduation requirements—wimps. I got good traction with the juniors for a while, including my four saxophone boys, but by spring I’d worn out my welcome there as well. Times were getting desperate, so I found my sights slipping ever lower, ever younger. Perhaps you can see where this is heading….
So there they stood, two skinny little clarinet players who had endured the misfortune of being in my marching band squad at the beginning of the school year. The only reason these boys were even candidates as co-pilots for that day’s illicit excursion was that they had been trained from virtually the moment they entered high school to follow my instructions without question. Marching band was long over for the year, but if I said, “Jump,” they’d still do it automatically—a novelty that has failed to repeat itself at any time in my life since. These days you can guess what I get if I try to tell a man Jump—I get, “Van Halen—I love that song!” Then it’s a twenty minute dissertation comparing the relative charms of David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar—while my will to live slowly gurgles down the drain. So, yeah.
Under the circumstances there was no need for verbal abuse. I simply said, “Ima go to Mickey D’s—drive thru—big soda—you’re coming with.” They looked at each other, shrugged, and started marching out the door in perfectly measured twenty-two-and-a-half inch steps, per their Marching Band training. And as they departed, who did I see standing there in the conversation’s slipstream? That’s right, our friend Deen.
Now, unlike these two defenseless clarinet players, Deen had certainly not been trained—in Marching Band or elsewhere—to take my subtle suggestions as orders (as he proved every time I tried to get him to ride in his folks’ car with me and John on Jazz Band trips). In fact, I have no memory of Deen from Marching Band at all. He must have weaseled out of it somehow because if I had ever seen Deen Castronovo in a marching band uniform, complete with spats, arm braids, and one of those tall hats upholstered in powder blue teddy-bear fur, the image would have been indelibly burned into my memory. That image—that would have been tattoo-worthy if you want to know the truth, so, having no such tattoo, I’m confident that it never happened. Besides, can you imagine being the squad leader tasked with teaching Deen Castronovo to march? It’d be something like trying to teach your house cat to fetch a stick, and really, isn’t there enough futility in the world already?
But on the other hand, I had just completed an apprenticeship learning all about voice inflection and projection at the feet of the master—Deen’s very own dad. Hadn’t I studied under both of the senior Castronovos in their own family car on all those trips to Jazz Band competitions? If you couldn’t learn something about controlling other people through the mere power of the human voice under those circumstances then you would have had to have been in a coma. Looking at Deen, I remembered all the lines I had ever heard barked at his brother Vince by their parents. I was thinking if I could reproduce them accurately enough, swapping the word “Deen” for “Vince,” I might finally realize some tiny measure of success in running Deen.
“DEEN!” I barked, doing my best to channel his dad. “Get in the car. Let’s GO!”
Now to his credit, Deen paused for a moment, trying to decide if he should listen to me or to his own better judgment. Ultimately, however, he was powerless to resist the tone of parental authority that I’d conjured up from my study of his mom and dad. He turned and followed the two skinny clarinet players out the door.
And for what happened next, I have no one to blame but myself.