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Death Taxes

I have a little thing about death. Call it a phobia or an affliction. I really don’t care. At the crux of it, I don’t like to see dead people. Ever. Period.

This problem has caused me to offend people over the years, I’m sure, as I avoided opportunities to see dead people. Paying my respects and lending my support and comfort to the living almost always required me to look at someone I once knew – utterly dead – and that’s the only way I can ever remember them thereafter.

I don’t like to remember dead people. I like to remember live people, something that surely causes problems for me in my dealings with others.

Going all the way back, I know where these proclivities arose. It is likely the reason why, the one and only time I watched the movie “My Girl,” I sobbed all alone on my sofa, practically unable to breathe over the death of a little girl’s little boy friend.

When I was in kindergarten, I had this friend. His name was Stacy Denham, a slight little blonde creature who loved me. I know this because he told everyone, all the time. Because admitting that I liked any boy would result in my being teased into oblivion, I was rather mean to Stacy on the surface. Down deep, though, he was my friend, and I prized him highly.

In fact, he was practically the only person who felt sorry for me when I wet my pants in front of my entire second grade class. As I sat at my desk crying afterwards, he came by, and I can still see him standing there telling me how much he knew something was wrong and expressing sympathy for me instead of making fun like all the other kids did. He was innocent and sweet and perfect, a jewel of a friend.

Shortly after that episode, Stacy stopped coming to school. His father died of a rare brain tumor, something that was inherited. Stacy was diagnosed with the same cancer, and he disappeared from my class. I was too little to visit him, but I heard that he always asked about me, for as long as he was able, a kindness that I didn’t know how to return in elementary school. I didn’t understand what was going on; I just knew my friend was sick and that he wasn’t around anymore.

When I was in 5th grade, Stacy died, and I went to his funeral. My mom took me to the front of the church, where his casket was open, and I gazed one last time upon the remnants of my pal. His hair was brown instead of blonde, and he had a mole on one of his cheeks that I didn’t remember. Otherwise, he was exactly the same.

Except for being dead; for not moving or breathing or smiling or telling me one last time any tiny thing he thought. For over thirty years now, I’ve lived with that haunting last image of him, when I wish I could just remember his reassuring face from second grade instead, the one that smiled at me and told me everything would be okay, that no one would recall my wetting my pants in front of the entire class by the next day.

Maybe it’s corny, but sometimes when I pray, I say hi to Stacy. It’s the only way I can conjure to let him know that someone remembers him, that he made an impression on at least one person in his all-too-brief life.

When Out of Control Is the Best Control

Sushi has to be one of my favorite things. Those delectable morsels of rice, seaweed and raw fish go down so easily that I can eat them until I am stuffed to the gills.

There’s an order to sushi that has always appealed to the control freak in me. The ideal proportion of fluffy rice; the little dab of wasabi in just the right place; the dash of rice vinegar to hold it all together from soy sauce to my mouth; the cool tenderness of the fish – all of it happens in a uniquely controlled environment that takes years to master. In Japan, some trained sushi chefs spend a year or more just making the rice, nothing else.

Control is a big deal for lots of people: control of friendships; control of career; control of destiny; control of the remote; control of the steering wheel; control of life. Control used to be an issue for me, too, chasing a thousand directions at once just to feel “in control” of the various situations in my orbit.

At my apex, I’d never felt so out of control, careening from disaster to disaster in an effort to stave off the ultimate “bad thing” that I was trying to control out of my life. Control in life is a twisted joke, something that can be annihilated in one trip on the stairs, one grumpy phone call gone awry, or one unfortunate e-mail where “Send” was selected instead of “Delete.”

Sushi is one of those things most people want to control, perusing the menu and selecting the mixture of rolls and pieces that engage and ultimately sate the palate. In Japan, that isn’t how it’s done, though. The chef decides what the diner gets in every course, knowing what fish is the freshest, the most delectable of the day. It’s called omakase, and there is no control.

I knew I’d conquered my control fetish when I ordered sushi at Anzu over the weekend. I scanned the menu and then looked up at the chef and asked for the surprise sushi, a combination of whatever he wanted to make for us. It was obvious that he didn’t often get that request, and he set out to impress, serving up a tasty tuna and seaweed salad; one of the most beautiful rolls I’ve ever seen; orgiastic pieces of nigiri; ball sushi, something I’d never, ever tried; and a seaweed bouquet that was heavenly. I’m convinced omakase is the only way to have sushi for the remainder of my life.

Control, whether it’s in life or in sushi, is overrated. Sometimes, it’s best to just let go and experience life, even if the experience goes something like the video below.

(Note: Anzu did not pay me anything or give me anything free to write this post. I thought it was great, and I’m happy to write about my experience here for nothing.)

Rode Hard and Put Up Wet

Rode hard and put up wet” is a saying I’ve always loved, even though it is derogatory. After all, it is never wise to refer to another female with this promiscuous phrase lest a cat fight ensue.

It is even less wise to refer to oneself with this adage, even though I use it right now in the sincerest of (not filthy) terms to describe how freaking tired I am. I cannot sleep sitting up – ever. It is a skill I simply do not possess, perhaps engrained in me through years of parochial school education. Sleeping in class was frowned upon, and I never mastered the “I’m awake but not” look.

What’s even worse is finding myself sitting erect in a tightly confined public space, coming to after hearing a dreadful noise, and then realizing that I made said dreadful noise, a loud combination of snore and snort that always happens if I doze off sitting up. Combine that with wild jerking movements, and that equals a person no one wants to sit adjacent to if she’s trying to snooze upright in a confined area.

Caring what I look like while sleeping in public is shallow and stupid, I know, but I do suspect it is the core reason why I can’t sleep on a plane. I am mortified that I will kick the person in front of me while drooling and making idiotic snort noises and then will wake up and not be able to walk because one leg went to sleep hours ago and is now dead.

So, today, I found my perfect Halloween look in plenty of time. I’ll just stay awake for more than 24 hours; try to sleep in public; fail in spectacular fashion; and then go trick-or-treating immediately. It’s a get-up that is guaranteed to scare people senseless.

Aggressively Finding Support

Since I posted the blog entitled “Desperately Seeking Support” several months ago, I have had no luck in finding my perfect Calvin Klein bra. I visited E-Bay, scoured the internet, looked at numerous close-out sites, and unanimously came up sagging. My favorite foundation garment of all time simply does not exist anymore.

Belligerently, I kept wearing the old one, which equals the same thing as not wearing a boob sling at all. I showed the pathetic thing to Leigh Anne, and she pronounced it trash-worthy. The bottom elastic was wavy. We could see through the once iron clad material to the sunlight in the background. I jingled and jangled and may as well not have worn the thing in the first place.

Leading us to decide that shopping was in order. What better way to spend a girlfriend weekend than shopping for foundation garments together? Lord knows, MTM would not want to spend time watching me consider an endless stream of booby prisons, particularly when they would all come up short of my ideal brassiere that is no longer manufactured by Calvin Klein.

We wandered into Macy’s, thinking the vast selection would surely yield an acceptable facsimile of my obliterated Calvin. My first stop: the Calvin Klein section, a monstrous disappointment. All of the bras were fetching slips of lace and lycra, not at all like my ode-to-ugly, pull-over-my-head tank model. Strike number one, though I did reserve two alternates for consideration and gave them to the steadfast lingerie shopping assistant, an Asian woman who kept shouting a bastardization of my name across the floor while she held up possibilities. (It was a sea of underwear, which made this shouting thing extremely amusing.)

I perused other sections, clearly coming to grasp just how bad my taste in jiggle containment is. Every bra was a lacy, wispy scrap of fabric, designed to seduce and be worn briefly for effect. OR, everything looked like granny. While I am not a patient shopper, I wandered through most of the voluminous sections, considering and discarding option after option after option.

In desperation, I dragged my mid-life butt to the training bra section. Lo and behold, I found multiple acceptable possibilities there, all crafted of the exact same Calvin Klein fabric as my beloved model. I grabbed up three and sprinted to find my indefatigable helper and wrangle my microscopic cleavage into the choices on offer.

Aggressively seek, and ye shall find. I exited with four new foundation garments, none of them quite like my original Calvin, but at least they feel like a bra. I high-tailed it to the bathroom and changed right there in the stall, throwing my old one into the garbage.

I forgot what real support felt like, and I’m elated to have found it again.

I Spit on You

Sometimes, I totally wish I could be a kid again. Really. With all of the inhibitions removed and the lack of self-consciousness, it would be a brilliant ride as an adult.

Today, I sat with the sun streaming on me through the glass of a bus stop and watched two little girls who were barely two feet tall. They stood opposite each other, one without any props, and the other with her lavender backpack. Hysterically, they assumed the positions of sumo wrestlers, one facing the other in uber-serious threat mode, lobbing feet back and forth in an absolutely funny pose fest.

These little girls faced off eye-to-eye as they lifted first one leg and then the other in their television mimicry of sumo. In turn, they spat upon the ground and then took their metallic floral sandals and tried to stomp out the spit bubbles, giggling insanely as they splatted each others’ creations on the sidewalk.

As we watched, they started spitting on each other in an effort to win whatever battle they had drawn up in their minds as they passed time awaiting the Golden Gate bus with the green and gold stripe down the length. One corn-rowed girl spat upon the other, running around the shelter crying, “That’s what you get. I spit on you. That’s what you get……” all two feet of her total unselfconscious wonder on display for the world to watch.

I utterly wish I could be two feet tall again, without inhibition, gleefully running around the sunlit sidewalk spitting on people who laughed with me in return.


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