Friday, December 7, 2012

Really? Have we come to THIS?
A cardboard cutout of a guy wearing a baby-toting contraption - my immediate thought was, "FROOOOOOOOTINESSSS must stop!"

I'm all for dads and their involvement with infants.
And toddlers, and teens and beyond.
But something about this guy's face just made me want to smack him upside the head with a heavy object.


Big Pharma

In Snotty Suburb, one's aches, pains and mental brain-drains are taken ever so seriously by one's doctors.

Once, on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend,  my spouse, my child and I went to the Emergency Room because two of the three of us were burning with fever and the rawest of sore throats.
After consenting to having throat swabs for culturing of the nasty-nasties causing that eye-squinting headache and reflexive head-turning from any food or drink, the E.R. doc handed me two big bottles and two small.

"What's this?" I asked, holding up the small one - because, being brilliant I already reckoned the big bottle was antibiotics.

"Why, that's Vicodin, for the pain."

"Really? We shouldn't just take Tylenol or something?"

"You should take it with you. You'll maybe need it to sleep."

Sixty tablets of Vicodin, total, because two people had sore throats.
Isn't life grand?

I am not at all immune to the pleasures of pharmacological treats.
Some, like  any form whatsover of morphine, cause me to toss the contents of my stomach carelessly onto whatever floor to which I'm attached.
Others, like Adderall, are awfully seductive with that lovely zoom-zoom-zoom feeling, and still others, like Ativan, allow the delicious melting-neck-muscles sliiiiiiiide into doped-up control when things get a little too real.
And finally, only a killjoy would argue against a good bong-hit of medical marijuana every now and again.

Then. . . there are the misfires.

One horrible summer life had dumped roughly one hundred and ninety-five pounds of bullshit directly on top of me.
The bullshit had a long, long tail that, when followed, led to unemployment, work-social death, and the near-miss thank God of the spectre of divorce.
Not one of my best summers.

The worst of it was not sleeping.
Not ever.
Like Christian Bale in The Machinist, only without the messy killing someone part.
I'd end my day between eleven-thirty and midnight, only to have it begin again by one-forty-five or two in the morning.
And that was it for sleep.
Incapable of napping, just grinding by for two, then four, then five weeks on a scant hour or two of sleep.
In the middle of Week Six, I had an appointment for a physical.
After looking me over and reviewing samples of two of the body's humors (gross) the doc asked if there were any questions or requests.
(That's Snotty Suburb code-speak for "Do you need anything to make your awfully difficult life of privilege and entitlement any easier?")

"I'm not sleeping well at all lately. I've got a lot going on right now."

Bingo - and just like that I walked out with a fan of cards in my hand, each card double-folded over two or four samples of sleep meds.

Night one: took sleep med.
Dropped like I'd been hit with a sock full of quarters.
For exactly three hours - after which I buzz-buzz-buzzed like I'd injected rocket fuel directly into my heart.

Night two: took second tablet from card.
Slept four hours, woke up asthmatic and unable to stop crying.
The suicidal thoughts were unrecognizable to me as not my own.
That's some scary stuff there.
Finally the sudden-onset asthma made me interupt the flow of how best to do myself in in order to Google if asthma was a side effect of the meds.
Yes, I found out.
It was.
And right next to it was "suicidal thoughts."


As I'm typing this five years later, it's pretty clear I resisted the urge to sail off a bridge or tall building, or to wash down the sleeping pills in one fell swoop with a litre of vodka.
Yet I came way closer to doing just that than I'd like to admit.

Flash-forward to a couple of years ago.
A respected, long-standing and optimistic  member of the community who worked with children went missing.
All signs pointed to a not-happy ending; the cryptic good-bye note left for the children along with a set of keys.
Wallet, mobile phone and other necessities left behind as well.
No sign of the person for over ten days.

One of the best features of Snotty Suburb is proximity to a couple of seriously breath-taking parks.
On a Saturday morning, early, I drove past the road leading to one of these beauties.
A Search and Recovery state-emblemed vehicle, in a sobering shade of dark olive, sat idling while a couple of official park-ranger types talked over the hood.
The "Search and Recovery" logo said it all; I knew they'd found the missing person.

Well, they found them all right, mouldering away in one of the many creeks that snakes away from the main body of water - a pristine lake so perfect that it has, in case of fact, been used in movie scenes to simulate Heaven.
For two weeks, the body must've been well-hidden under brush, but was finally spotted by a hiker.
Poor hiker.
What a find.
I do hope it was a common-sense type hiker and not a likely-to-be-traumatized hiker.

Back to the Big Pharma - I do not know this in any tangible way, but I would bet serious money that the no-longer-missing person, described in newspaper stories as happy, secure, but recently faced several very destabilizing setbacks also recently left a doctor's office somewhere in Snotty Suburb, carrying a fan of cards just like the ones I'd carried.
If they'd had asthma, exacerbated by the sleep meds, the story might, just might, have had a very different ending.


Friday, September 17, 2010

I Hate It When My Friends Die.

She lived a couple of houses down the road, an elderly lady with the sweetest smile God ever painted on the face of a human. Her name was Liz - I always called her Miss Liz, both out of respect for her years and also because in the South, where I spent part of my life, that's what you called ladies who were familiar enough to not be 'Mrs. Somebody,' but certainly one never called them by their standalone Christian name. Just not done. Not ever.

Miss Liz walked her little dog at least four times a day; the dog was a rescue critter that had obviously been pretty badly treated before she adopted her. Scarred and ugly, the dog at first stood her ground in front of Miss Liz, daring anyone to get past her curled lip, her bared teeth. Miss Liz gentled the curled lip from the dog, but the fierceness remained. I swear, that dog would have ripped apart anyone who messed with Miss Liz; and when Miss Liz told me she was afraid her dog was "a little unfriendly," I told her I thought the dog was protecting her.

She smiled (oh, that smile!) and said, "I like your version better."

We walked past each other at least ten times each week; on hot days we both walked our dogs on the shady hill just behind Miss Liz's house and on sunny days, we walked the Horseshoe - a path that winds up a fairly steep hill, giving you a view that makes the hike worth the effort. Miss Liz told me stories about the neighborhood - like the old Danish broad in the movie "Out of Africa," I'm one of those 'tell me your stories' types.

I learned that ours is the oldest of neighborhoods in Snotty Suburb, that Miss Liz lived here her entire life, which streets were previously dirt two-lane country roads - that sort of thing. Factoids that don't really make a whit of difference in anyone's day-to-day existence, but I loved knowing them.

At some point, a couple of years ago I guess, I realized Miss Liz was not feeling well - she radiated pain, but never once did she mention it. Then there was the evening The Spouse went out to drop off one of our kids at a nearby school dance, and didn't come home for almost an hour. I knew something was off - and when The Spouse walked in the door, I saw it written across that familiar, well-loved face.

"I was turning the corner up our street and saw Miss Liz lying on the ground. Her dog was next to her. I hit the brakes, put on my flashers and got out of the car. I went to help her up and saw a huge puddle of blood on the ground - she'd split open the back of her head.
"So I told her, 'Oh, just sit there a second while I call for someone to help.'
"She told me she didn't need help, and I asked her sort of jokingly if she was a doctor, and she right away said, 'Are you?'
"Pretty feisty for someone with a split melon, I thought. When the ambulance showed up, she fussed again about not needing this silly attention - but the paramedic told me quietly that she'd talked them out of bringing her to the hospital twice already this week. She'd fallen several times."

I told The Spouse that no matter who it was, lying on the ground, the best face in the whole world to look into was the one belonging to The Spouse. Totally true; if kindness and gentleness were Olympic sports, The Spouse would win gold every single time. I'm glad Miss Liz had The Spouse there to help her.

So the paramedics bundled her into the ambulance; her daughter picked up her dog and I only saw Miss Liz alive one time after that - when she came home to die. At the hospital, the doctors discovered when she'd been hiding from everyone; pancreatic cancer that had been consuming her for quite some time.

She came home in an ambulance and died in her house and for that, I'm really grateful.

But shit, I sure do miss my friend.

Her house is for sale and I'm trying to talk The Spouse into buying it for one of our family members. Fingers crossed. . .

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

McMansion OMG

The family who bought the house just up the road from ours clearly didn't understand the nature of Snotty Suburb.

First of all, the guy drives a metallic blue BMW.


The wife, who we all see being yanked hither and yon by their six-month-old Golden Retriever puppy, is simply never going to fit in.

Seriously - if she can't keep her dog under control, there is no way she's got the right stuff for Snotty Suburb.

No sooner had they were moved in before the tree clearing began.

The buzz of saws (on Saturday, always on Saturday - when the Planning Commish isn't working)didn't stop until the whole damn world could view the enormousness of the house these wanna-bes plunked down their dough for -

live oaks, laurelwood, maples - all mown down to nothing.

Ahem - they didn't receive permits from Snotty Suburb Planning Commisioners for their Paul Bunyon-esque stunt, either.
They're already sued Snotty Suburb over redlining their project.
Way to make friends in the new 'hood, homie!
So now it's time for their POOL!

Their SPA!


And it is hella G already.
(Which is exactly what I plan to say if ever forced to hold a conversation with them.)

Whether they realize it or not, now begins the social shunning.

They never were part of the neighborhood, after all.

Just this morning the wife drove past as I walked up the road.
I kept my head down - and didn't look up till she was several houses past me.
When one of their more immediate neighbors stopped to chat the other day,
he told me, "Yeah. They're the 'Pimp My House' family."
I'm pretty sure they have no idea how huge the impact of those words, coming as they do from one of the friendliest fellows on the road.
After all, this is an area of quiet confidence, not splashy ego.
Ain't nobody else around here driving a metallic blue anything.
Not even a mountain bike.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Clipboarding or Waterboarding?

 I rolled into the driveway the other night at just after seven. Left home at six-thirty a.m. and it had been a productive day -- but twelve and a half hours is twelve and a half hours no matter how you slice it. So when a guy materialized from the dark shadows of the enormous hedge across the street it was with a  certain amount of grudging politeness that I said, "Yes?"

He waved a clipboard. Not a good sign. Magazine sales? Dear God, no. Petition? As it turned out, yes. 

"Say, I'm the property owner at Number and Street. I'm collecting signatures to present to Snotty Suburb Town Planning Commission for a small increase in the size of the house I'm planning to build. Your wife/husband told me to come back."

Mental note to thank my wife/husband for that, I thought. By now I had my house key in my hand. I'd heard about this guy. He bought the property up the street a year or so ago, knowing it was zoned for a house of microscopic size. Went ahead and laid down the foundation for a place half again as large, probably thinking no one would notice.

Foolish, foolish fellow. As if no one would notice! In a suburb where the Planning Commission told one of our neighbors that he couldn't have a garden bench on his front porch -- when, and this is what makes it particularly rich -- his entire yard is surrounded by a tasteful wooden 6' fence. You can't even see his house from the road. But the Planning Commission sees all. Sort of like that giant eyeball in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. 

I know someone whose spouse was on the Snotty Suburb Planning Commission. One of the resident Academy Award-winning actors introduced their bad self to the Planning Commission member, who looked coldly at the extended hand before nodding and turning away. Okay, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but not much of one. 

Our heavy-lifting yard guy (the one we call when the job is beyond something I can do) gets it -- he's worked Snotty Suburb for years. I wanted him to pour concrete between the railroad ties of a seldom-used set of steps up one side of our property. He stashed the unopened bags of concrete behind an azalea that dominates the side yard and mixed the stuff in small batches using a hose snaked through the laundry-room window. At the end of the first day, I checked out the job he'd done. 

"Thanks," I said, gesturing at the covert mixing operation.

"I work this neighborhood a lot," he told me. 

Back to Mr. Clipboard. He'd crossed the street and was now standing in a pool of golden light from the single streetlight, arm extended for me to take the pen. Not on your tintype, buster.

"Look," I said to him. "See that door? I have no idea what is going on behind it; I've been gone all day." (My suit might've tipped him off that I was just getting home from work, but if nothing else, Snotty Suburbanites in a Snit are consistent about not seeing any viewpoint but their own.) "I'm going in. If my wife/husband wants to come out, that's up to them. Good night." And I went in, shutting the door behind me. 

Don't know how long he stood out there. I do know that's one guy who severely underestimated the Snotty Suburb Planning Commission -- and his house ain't getting approved for enlargement. If he builds it anyway, they'll make him tear it down. And there's a legal precedent -- because it's happened a couple of times. 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

This Time It's Personal

"My father needs money, my mother needs money, my sister's as thin as a reed -- but me, I'm sitting pretty; I've got all the money I need."

Snotty Suburb residents are divided between the two places the Emcee of Cabaret described, it seems. Some pockets are deep enough that the market drop means only moving a couple of accounts around for protection; other pockets have fingers picking at the lint along the seam at the bottom, hoping for a thread-tail to pull to keep the pants from dropping to ankle-depth.

The Republicans Whose House Has A Name Given It By Them (soooooo new money) have to sell because, Mr. Republican confessed to a neighbor, they simply can't afford it.
Shocking! And to add to their loss, their family dog who they ignored and only allowed in the garage to sleep on the coldest of nights was run over, squishing blood on the road, deaddeaddead. In full view of a yard full of children, the youngest just turned three years old, all of whom saw the entire scene. All because the Republicans Whose House Has A Name Given It By Them couldn't be bothered to protect the dog by keeping it on a leash. (See "Feral Children" post for how this attitude translates to Snotty Suburb child-rearing practices.)

So they've listed their house at bargain-basement pricing which is even more shameful since it indicates to everyone just how close to the margin they'd been living. These days, Mrs. Republican and the children can only be seen backing out of the driveway on school run mornings; the station wagon windows rolled up, the garage door closing on the packing boxes inside. And pretty soon the children's school will change, since no one goes to Snotty Suburb Public School unless residency is fully verifiable by the Town Clerk. Who knows. Trust me.

Incredibly Beautiful But Damaged Goods young man stopped to say hello to me the other day. He looked better than I'd seen him looking in a couple of years -- relaxed, not stoned (maybe half-baked, but not the deep disconnected stupidity of his darker days) and his hair was clean, pulled back in a ponytail held by a leather thong.

"You're looking great," I told him. He and I share a tacit understanding about boundaries. When his days are dark (it's obvious by his posture) we keep our exchanges to a quick nod and smile (mine.) On so-so days, we say hello and keep going. The last couple of times I've seen him, he's looked on the upside of so-so; bordering on happy. I chalk it up to the young lady he's had with him consistently for the last few months.

He told me he was moving back home from his nearby apartment. And that the family was selling the second home with ski-in access. Oh, and probably the Snotty Suburb house as well.

Knowing how much the parents lean on their status as identity -- part of the reason the kid is Damaged Goods -- my shock registered on my face obviously enough for Incredibly Beautiful But Damaged Goods to hastily supply an explanation.

"It's the financial stuff -- the markets and all," he said.
"I'm sorry to hear that," I told him. "That's a tough thing to do."
Tough thing to do. Four words to capsulize offloading a combined several million dollars worth of real estate where the kid and his sibling grew up.
All gone.
"Yeah, well," and he shrugged. His mouth twisted in a half-smile, ironic but not cruel and showing his dimple. He didn't say anything else, just stared for a second or two and shrugged again.
I put out my hand to shake. "Take care, man," I said.
His handshake was utterly correct. "You, too."
I watched him as he left -- cotillion dance-class trained, god-like good looks, his family's fortune tumbling downhill. The damage inflicted by his parents in their grinding of his gentle nature to force conformity to the social position he was born into protected him from caring about the loss of it.

He clearly didn't give a shit about the future lack of Snotty Suburb residency, the spectre of being dropped from invitation lists, the open snubbing at the Don't Ask For Membership You Have To Inherit It Tennis Club. The pain it caused his family bothered him because of the sweetness of his character.
As for his own pain, it was born of those institutions.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

And So We Become What We Are Surrounded By. . .

There's a house on the market up the street from us. It's one of the small, grand homes -- the listing realtor probably used "showcase" somewhere in the description; that or "showstopper." So, yeah, it's a nice crib. 

In Snotty Suburb, realtor signs must be, by Suburb Statute, smaller than anywhere else in the region. (I'm not kidding about this.) The diminished, discrete little "For Sale" stands in the middle of the manicured front yard -- but thank God it's a "for sale" and not like the (shudder) "For Lease" sign posted up the way. 

Fewer events strike the chill of fear into the inner souls (where the dollar signs sit) of Snotty Suburbanites than the prospect of Renters. Renters, with their connotations of recent divorcees and their children, the cast-off wives of the wealthy, desperate to maintain the connections formed in the Snotty School District. Eventually, of course, the divorcees either pack it in and go back to whereever they came from if newly arrived, or wait out the settlement and then buy their own Snotty Suburb property. The culling process is so cruel, isn't it?

Or, worse yet, Renters who Aren't From Here but would like to be; those who can't afford the entry ticket to Snotty Suburb but think (oh, foolish posers) they can fake it. Faking it might work to impress their own friends, but no one in the Snotty Suburb is fooled at all. Ever. 

Back to that little "for sale" sign, which in this lousy economy still dangles -- the other day, driving past the place, I saw a family standing out front with the realtor. Not the current family; these folks were looking at the property. Their little girl was twirling in circles on the lawn while Dad watched and Mom stood with her arms folded, watching as I drove past. I'm pretty sure the thought balloon over her head would read, "OMG, I've overdressed!" (dead right -- that khaki twill skirt down to mid-calf and the little blouse and espadrilles? too North Shore -- Snotty Suburb is W-A-Y past that) 

Dad's thought balloon: "Driving that? They must be long-time residents -- secure enough NOT TO CARE," followed his own realization that the pink starched oxford-cloth button down is as subtly wrong as Mom's twill getup. Loafers without socks? Getouttahere!

Don't know if they'll buy the place or not. Time will tell. Meanwhile, their little girl twirled on the lawn, oblivious. Bless her heart.