Story Time


Besting the Devil

I beat the Devil last night.

That’s the wrong phrase, I know; no one can beat the Devil. After all, everyone dies.

I was with a friend. I didn’t recognize him, but then I didn’t recognize myself either. I was in my friend’s car, a large SUV beast, entirely more room then anyone who isn’t a logger or parents to sextuplets needs. We had been out for a drive and stopped at a scenic overlook to talk and think and reflect. He was going through a divorce and I was experiencing a rough patch in my marriage.  He would vent, I would question issues and actions, we would be silent.

And then I said something. I almost wish now that I could remember what it was – almost. But when I try to recall it’s as though someone dubbed over my voice. It was hastily erased and then crudely dubbed over in an obvious manner. What ever I did say had depth and weight and seemed to echo or reverberate in the car and change the air itself.

When I went to continue my companion held up his hand to stop me.

“What?”

“Shhh!” He seemed to be listening for something, but didn’t want to look around for its source.

“What?” I demanded, nervously chuckling.

“He’s here.” My friend, visibly shaken, started the car and began barreling down the road.

“…Wha?…” I asked slowly, stiffening as I realized what I had done. I simply felt it, as my friend had.

You see that sentence I spoke, the one I can’t remember, conjured the Devil. Back in the ‘80’s there was a TV series called The Storyteller and one of the episodes featured the tale of a man who could look through a glass of water and see Death sitting at the foot of a person’s bed. I remember thinking about that, thinking if I looked in the back seat I might see the Devil, but if I looked into the rear-view mirror I knew I would see him staring at me. I couldn’t bring myself to do either.

Satan as depicted by Botticelli

Photo credit Fishing

As we flew down the road, destination unspoken, I gripped the side of my seat.

“What do I do?” I asked wide eyed, scared.

“I don’t know, but he’s here for you.”

“What?! What did I say? Will he go away?” I practically shouted.

“I don’t know!” my friend barked. He was scared, too. “Maybe,” he continued forcing himself back to calm, “Maybe you have to be content. You’re looking for new and shiny things to make you happy. He feeds on anger and unrest. Maybe you have to prove that you’re happy with what you’ve got.”

I thought about this as we drove, digesting each word, feeling the Devil’s stare boring holes into the back of my head. What my friend had said was all true and looked to be my only option, for the time being. After all, most times you see the Devil it’s because somebody wants something so bad they’re making a deal with him. I was going to have to figure out something. It wasn’t my pride that made me want to rid myself of the Devil. It was a feeling of being spoiled and desperate for humility.

My friend dropped me off at my house. I stood a moment outside looking nervously at my home. I thought of my husband inside. Though I hadn’t heard him exit the car, I knew the Devil had gotten out of the SUV when I had stepped out. I knew he was standing just behind my right shoulder. And though I couldn’t bring myself to look at him, I knew he was smiling.

I walked to the front door and let myself in. There was my husband: kind, warm, and welcoming. Though he doesn’t normally cook, he had dinner made and was preparing to dish everything out.  And my husband, so naturally truly happy, couldn’t see the Devil as we walked in together.

This is where things get disappointingly hazy. I could feel a malcontent emotion welling in my stomach. I had the sudden desperate urge to shout at my husband while he was setting the table, like I needed to get something out.

I needed more.

The house projects needed to be completed.

We needed to spend money.

He lacked motivation.

My husband didn’t argue, he just listened. Each word I spat made me angrier, I didn’t know where it was all coming from and yet it had all been there the whole time…and at the same time each comment made me heavy with guilt. I had to stop. I stepped back, though a shadow of myself remained shouting.

The guilt; everything I said was needless and wrong. It was then, while watching myself attempt to argue needless wants and justify unnecessary needs with a husband who was willing to give me the world, that the Devil became satisfied. I could feel him content, so sure was he that he had won – that he would be taking me away – that he called his mistress to my home to join in my downward spiral.

I looked at him this time. I needed to see the smile I could feel spread across his etched and leathery face. I could see his mistress merely watching and standing at the door, disappointed in her own existence, but not above watching the destruction of others.

I looked at my husband, who had all the while been trying to please me for no other reason then he loved me. My throat closed so fast I struggled to swallow. I looked down in shame and the shouting shadow was gone.

“No,” I said quietly.

“What?” asked my husband politely. The Devil cautiously dropped his smile and knitted his brow.

“No, Chip, I was wrong.”

“What?” repeated my husband, confused.

“I’m sorry I want so much. We have so much already – everything else is superfluous. I see that now. I want simply because I have nothing else to do. I feel stuck and just want things for happiness, but that’s wrong and I see that. I see what’s created from it. The projects we started will get done eventually. We don’t need anything new. I’m – I’m sorry. I’ve been so wrong.”

The Devil was angry now. I watched him move toward the door. I sat down in my chair at the dining table and took a breath. I closed my eyes believing prematurely that it was over, that the Devil would leave me be.

When I opened my eyes there was the Devil inches from my face. Only now my husband could see him as well and was frozen in fear. Moving so quickly it took all of a moment the Devil shaved my head. I stood up, leveling his glare, not angry for the loss of my hair, but angry for knowing that I had done the right thing and the Devil just wanted to have the final move after the game had ended.

“Went for my head? Miss his?” I tilted my head toward my husband’s shoulder length locks, much longer then mine even before the shave.

The Devil picked up on my sarcasm and seemed nervous. I took a quick stomp toward him taking advantage of the upper hand while I had it. Speaking as wholly as I could, I shook as I told the Devil “Stay away from my home and stay away from my family.” I half shouted, half growled.

Angry now the Devil pounded to the door. With one look back he and his mistress were gone.

And that’s how I beat the Devil, though I know that’s the wrong term.

Archangel Michael slays Satan (Raphael)

Photo Credit Logoi

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This is a dream I had this past Autumn and my reasoning for it’s clarity, yet bizarre aspect was this:

I blame that funky dream and others I’ve been having (like the cupcake-jello race car from two nights ago) on the heat.  I am from the Northeast, but have lived the last few years in Texas. At halfway through October I am really bitterly against the 90 degree days and I’ve found us both “willing” the season to actually become autumn. I’ve been burning candles called Fallen Leaves, Chip has been drinking Pumpkin beer and we’ve been trying to sleep with the windows cracked instead of using the AC. I hate the AC, but sleeping without it means I wake up at 1am, both Chip and I drenched in sweat, the blankets kicked to the floor and the thermostat reading in the mid 80’s.

So it must be the heat.

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I Don’t Believe In Ghosts, But…

“I really wish you hadn’t told me that.”

I stared at the ceiling. Nothing makes your fear escalate like finding out that the person who is normally the voice of reason in your life is also very scared.

Mark Twain once said “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I am afraid of them.” An excellent sentiment indeed.

My boyfriend’s father owns the original West Redding train station, and lives in it. It was built in 1852 and it’s beautiful. Converted into a home decades ago, it still contains the original flooring, paint, and various items and debris in the basement. I won’t enter the basement, but that’s most likely because I’ve been groomed as a child of the ’80s and ’90s to associate basements and attics  with horrible secrets and misdoings (thank you Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, War of the Worlds, etc). The basement contains the original foundation of hand laid rocks, all wet and moldy, and the cat box was down there at the time of this particular story, so it smelled awful, though I prefer the term “foreboding”.

The house, a few years ago.

The main floor consists of a living room and a large kitchen. The upstairs contains two large bedrooms and a bath with a gorgeous claw foot tub, which my boyfriend hates. Not because the tub is haunted, but because when he was fifteen or sixteen he had to carry that beast up the narrow 1852 stairs. There is a short narrow hall that ends with stairs that continue up to the attic. The house isn’t huge, but it’s wonderful.

I had not experienced any kind of super-natural anything in my life time. Not up until this particular night, anyway. It happened in the hall of the upstairs area. I had spent countless days in this home up until this and was never worried, never scared, never nervous. So when I woke up one evening to use the bathroom it hadn’t even occurred to me to be the slightest bit frightened about anything.

I climbed over my sleeping boyfriend. I didn’t even pause to turn on a light as I squinted toward the outline of the bedroom door. There was no need. I knew this house well. I padded softly toward the hall in my striped pajamas and quietly pulled open the door.

The next thing I knew, I was on my back on the floor, the wind completely knocked out of me

Photo credit ForkParty

I honestly have no idea how to describe what happened. I had opened the door, which didn’t even make the slightest creak, when I saw a thin man staring down at the boxes of things piled by the attic stairs just to the right of the doorway. Or rather the silhouette of a man. A black, but perfect shape of a man, thicker than smoke, but not any more tangible.

Then suddenly it was like someone socked me powerfully – yet softly – in the stomach, knocking me onto the floor and crushing all the air out of my body. I wasn’t hurt, but I was shocked.

And there I sat, my heart pounding, breathing, trying to comprehend what happened. My boyfriend didn’t even stir.

And I still really needed to pee.

I must have been mistaken about what I saw…right?

I stood, closed my eyes and sprinted toward the bathroom. I’m positive I made the Guinness Record for fastest pee in the dark, washed my hands without looking in the mirror, closed my eyes and half sprinted-half groped my way back to the bedroom.

I climbed back into bed as quickly as I could, smooshing myself between my boyfriend and the wall. That way if whatever I saw was going to come back and come into the bedroom, it would get my hubby first.

I calmed myself. I must have still been dreaming, I must have fallen out of bed, I couldn’t have seen what I thought I saw. I eventually calmed myself enough to fall back to sleep.

But I didn’t stay asleep for long. And I wish I could say the experience ended there.

Photo credit AimeeLikesToTakePics

I woke up about an hour or so later and my boyfriend was no longer in bed. I sat up. There were no lights on, no lights coming from the hall, and I couldn’t hear him in the bathroom.

I didn’t mean it when I said that what ever I saw could get my boyfriend first if it came back.

I forced myself out of bed. Eventually I made myself stride confidently to the door. I could take down a ghost. Sure I could. I had muscle and pent up anger from working on my bachelor degree while working full time. I could muster rage to take down a super natural being.

I opened the door. There was nothing in the hall. This was good, because that’s right about the time any confidence and courage I had mustered left me.

“Chip?” I squeaked. “Chip!?…”

“Shhhhhhhh……”

Thanks, honey. A disembodied shushing wasn’t super creepy at all. I turned to see at the top of the stairs was the very solid silhouette of my boyfriend. I moved toward him.

Then I heard it.

Clink.

Clink.

Shuffle.

Shuffle.

Clink-clink.

The wooden grind of chair legs shifting on the floor.

I froze. If I hadn’t peed before I would have peed then.

Shuffleshuffle.

Scrape on the wood floor.

Clink of silverware and glass.

“Come to bed,” I whispered. I begged.

I went back into the bedroom and crawled as deeply under the covers as humanly possible. After a few moments, my boyfriend joined me.

“It’s just mice,” he lied. What a nice gesture.

I swallowed.

“I saw a man,” I blurted it out, like saying it would release me. “Before… I went to pee and – In the hallway. I saw a man in the hallway and he knocked me to the floor.” The words tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop them.

I heard my boyfriend sigh deeply. He waited what felt like an eternity before saying something I thought for sure would comfort me.

“I really wish you hadn’t told me that.”

That response did not comfort me.

He was already scared of the “mice”. He didn’t want to hear that there was more going on in the house that night.

I hadn’t told anyone about this until Chip made me tell his father. His father was very unconcerned and didn’t seem surprised in the slightest. I was thankful for his calm manner regarding the story; it wasn’t a reaction I ever thought I would receive. If whatever I saw was in fact real, I don’t think he meant me any harm. I think I maybe surprised him as much as he surprised me. And I think he was fed up with the clutter of stuff in that house, as I often was.

Since this has happened I’ve told this story maybe three times, because I feel so silly about it all. But it’s a good story nonetheless.

Photo credit AllFromWeb

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Mani, Pedi, Puke: A Christmas Tale

I tend to find myself in awkward, uncomfortable situations on a semi regular basis. I don’t mean to do this, but rarely am I sorry that I did so after the fact. I simply don’t seem to fit in. And naturally I blame my parents for this. It’s every time they said “Just be yourself.”

A family photo when I was 8 years old. I’m sure they asked I just be myself for this, too.

There’s a song by Wilco called Hell is Chrome. It’s about finding yourself fitting into a wonderful, clean, handsome world where you really feel you belong. People like you and help you, and there’s order and organization. That world just happens to be Hell. When I hear that song I don’t think “It is because I am a heathen that I would fit into that place” as the action of being a heathen itself fits into the normal ideas conjured by the word Hell. What I hear is the story of a place that translates into ‘What is one person’s heaven is another man’s Newark. One man’s hell is another’s Oxford.’ That is to say, this world doesn’t necessarily work for me. People pretending to the point of making situations uncomfortable. It’s not that I don’t fit in to Greenwich Village or L.A. or anything like that. It’s just that sometimes it feels like I don’t think I fit in with other humans. Any where. Yet I live here and I do my best to be pleasant and ordinary.

The day before Christmas Eve a few years ago my cousin and I went to get holiday manicures. I like getting manicures. I don’t get them too often because I feel weird paying the equivalent of 2 or 3 hours work to someone who is more often then not an immigrant to my country just to clean my filthy hands. The same applies for pedicures. There’s something that seems uniquely American in having immigrants scrub the dead skin off your feet.

Megan and I went down to this place in Stamford, Connecticut and signed in for manicures. The woman I was placed with quietly asked that I take off my coat and roll up my sleeves to which I complied. Once I settled myself into her chair she begins to scrutinize my nails. In doing so, however, she judged my entire character.

“You…have…uh… very hairy arms,” she forced, choosing each word carefully as she was obviously only recently subjected to English, and smiled genuinely up at me.

“Yes,” I said. When I am insulted I save the emotions for later rants when I’m alone or surrounded by loved ones who have learned to ignore me. The thing was, though, that I wasn’t really offended. Besides, what do you say to that? I knew I had hairy arms and for her to be new to English and correctly identify that fact was pretty good. And I didn’t know where she was from; it could be that in her land a chick with hairy arms was hot shit, in a good way.

I smiled back. She spoke very quietly of the weather and holidays with vast expanses of silence in between. My cousin yelled something to me from a few seats over confirming our plans later in the evening.

“She….your sister?” my nail person asked after Megan and I finished our brief itinerary check.

“No, she’s my cousin.”

“Oh,” my manicurist chuckled. “I thought she your sister, but you would bethin.”

Awesome. No matter how new to American culture, one can apparently always master fat jokes immediately.

“I wish”, I answered dead pan. Of course, if I was her sister I’d probably have some other issues; I like to tell myself there are trade-offs to being hot.

Again, she continued filing my nails in silence. Silence. Nail filing. Nail buffing. It goes on forever. Barry Manilow played off in the distance, singing some ever repeated holiday song that was supposed to get us into the Christmas cheer while visions of Baby Boom–aged woman throwing panties on a stage played in our heads. Right when I was beginning to be lulled into a false sense of security my nail person jumped up, hand over mouth, and ran away. To me it’s obvious that in the incredible glory of my chubby, hairy arms she simply could no longer take being unworthy and left to return to her homeland.

About ten minutes passed, in which I continued to sit in at her chair. I guess other American women would have said something, but I like sitting, and if I’m sitting away from other people it’s even better. Finally another girl came over.

“I’m sorry,” she said, also somewhat new to the language, also speaking quietly.

“She…uh…throw up.”

Well, awesome.

“Megan!” I shouted to my cousin across the room. “I made my nail chick throw up.”

“You would,” Megan explained.

The new girl, still standing, was looking at me nervously, almost as though she were a little afraid. I never ever mean to be an offensive person and I take hygiene to be of upmost important, above all else except maybe booze. I smiled politely, sympathetically at her, as if to say “I will not bite, am not mean or angry, and just want someone to peel this wax crap off my hands.” I also made an attempt to smell better, through shear determined will, just in case. After a very long, very uncomfortable few seconds the new girl did this quick sigh-smile-shrug maneuver, something I’ve since tried to mimic toward my boyfriend at times when I’m not listening, don’t care, and just want everything over with. It was a great move.

Then the new girl sat down and deftly finished my manicure.

In silence.

And that’s the story of my first, and last, Christmas manicure.

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Celebrating Life in Death in the Worst Way Possible


Let me tell you how my grandfather died.

Old man Johnny died before he should have, yellowed and translucent skinned, in a bed of Stromboli, butter, and excess that had taken on the form of leukemia and other ills. It’s frustrating to see someone leave who wouldn’t have to go if they ate better and took better care of themselves. No, it’s not fair to have to go through life constantly restricting your eating and craving foods you shouldn’t have, but it’s not nice to die that way either. Did this make my grandfather a bad guy? Not in the least. It just made him gone too soon.

I never really knew my grandfather, and that’s not from a lack of spending time with him. My brother and I spent plenty of our childhood days in his care, though his guardian duties ceased when he got into a car:

“I don’t care what you have to grab hold of, but don’t you let Grampa get you in the car.”

“Why, Dad? Is he a bad driver or something?”

“You know how bad the Nazi’s were to people? Well, that’s how bad Grampa is behind the wheel.”

If it’s two things we knew as kids it’s that Nazi’s were bad and my grandfather was a death trap on the road. I look forward to the day I get to warn my own kids about my father’s driving. If he’s still around.

It wasn’t a lack of trying on my grandfather’s part that I didn’t really know him. I just didn’t get him. I was my grandmother’s girl, the only granddaughter, and Gramps was a real man’s man. Tattoos of anchors and other unrecognizable servicemen symbols lay distorted and blue on his forearms, a stint in World War II under his belt, and a temper that his grandkids rarely saw. When I asked him how he met my grandmother he told me he accidently blew up her house while flying over England and had to rebuild it. Close enough, I’m sure. I couldn’t even begin to get into the subconscious metaphors posed in that short little twisting of the truths, but they’re there. Trust me. He loved is grandsons, and there’s no doubt in my mind he loved me to. I don’t think there was ever a time I looked at him and he wasn’t smiling back at me. I loved getting sick as a kid because I got to spend the day at grandma’s & grandpa’s. That meant huge slices of country bread lightly toasted with so much butter on one side that it soaked straight through the paper towel it was delivered on, as well as giving my cheeks a glossy shine. And the Price Is Right was always on TV, turned up to a million decibels. I don’t think my grand folks were hard of hearing, but if they became so I blame people who insist upon looking to the audience for answers. My grandfather would just watch me watch the show and get a kick out it. I wouldn’t even know what the Price is Right was if not for him, because he loved the show, too, but he liked his grandkids happy even more.

So there. I’m mad he was sick, I’m mad I wasn’t there, and I’m mad he didn’t stay a little longer. Though, I can’t promise I would have had any more patience for him if he had. Death does that to you. Nothing acts as a better “I told you so” then death.

I see a lot of my grandfather in me. I see more of him in my own dad each day. This scares me more then anything else. I need my own father to not go through what his dad went through. I need my dad to play with my kids, to not be allowed to drive them around town, and to watch them watch the Price Is Right, without getting sick, without dying before he’s supposed to. I don’t know how to get that through to him.

So, my grandfather died. Just like that. We all saw it coming a long ways off and knew the signs and it happened in what seemed like 7 seconds. That was it. I should really get around to visiting them, but I’m busy with work and school, maybe he should diet, why does he keep buying silly things, the family is arguing again, and Grandpa’s dead. Just like that. There always needs to be a little dark in light, that’s what makes the light parts the best. In fact, the best part of grandpa’s death was disposal of his ashes.

Grandpa was cremated. A hulking man of war time, indulgence, and chest hair incinerated to the softest gray powder. If you’re on the fence on what to do with your body after death this may help you make up your mind. I for one am all for corpse compost, but that’s a different story.

We probably would have gotten around to scattering Grandpa sooner if it wasn’t for his demise bringing to evidence Grandma’s newly developed Alzheimer’s. It was a nauseating one-two punch, but when you knew these people it kind of made sense.

So, Gramps got cremated and came back to us in a biodegradable urn, as specified. The urn was bright anything-but-manly-man teal, not as specified. It was big, one size fits most, I guess, and looked like the largest Easter egg you could ever imagine. Only there was death inside of it instead of candy and sunshine. And, aside from being a remote yet possible consideration for new age art, no one wanted it in their house. Aunt Lisa didn’t want it, too many emotions, my parents didn’t want it, too sad, and Grandma, too many memories (both there and missing), didn’t want it. The only thing to do was to scatter Grampa’s ashes or bury the urn itself.

It was months before I got a call from my father resolving this. He said that he’d come up with a plan and the family had agreed to it and he’d like me to be there. Absolutely, not a problem, way to go, Dad, for taking charge. People say something about “it’s the thought that counts”, “the best laid plans of mice and men”, etc. None of those people had a grandpa to scatter.

So the our little clan piled into various vehicles, my parents, my aunt and uncle, my cousins, my brother, my boyfriend and I, and we drove North. We headed to this park about an hour or so from our home. Once we arrived at our destination my grandmother chose to stay in the car. This particular area happens to be a beautiful place and we had all been many times growing up to enjoy the beautiful grounds, waterfalls, hiking trails, sunlight glinting through the bows of the trees. You can all but hear mother nature humming contentedly to herself, and it’s all very, very public.

It was a Sunday and people were enjoying this day same as we, with their loved ones, and smiles, and nature. Well, not exactly same as we, what with the human remains in my dad’s backpack and all, but pretty close. The waterfall, as always, was beautiful and thunderous, but completely surrounded by people and we wanted privacy, due to the emotions we were all about to share. We also didn’t know if what we were about to do was exactly considered legal.

By the time we found a nice shady spot away from people, the river spewed forth by the falls had become a stream, but nervousness has a way of making people stupid, and we felt it was good enough. My father’s trepidation made him tiptoe to the center of the brook, set down the backpack, and remove my grandfather’s ultramarine cocoon.  We all watched, quietly, thoughtfully, sadly as he gently placed the urn into the water and waited. And waited. There, in the shallows, the urn, my grandfather, was stuck in a misjudged mere two inches of water and mud. Any reverence we were feeling as a group began to fade into nausea and panic. And not a sadness induced nausea either, a full blown uh-oh nausea with a side of fear. Our drawn mouths gained the company of our furrowed brows. In short, we went from saying “Goodbye” to all, but sceaming “Oh, shit.” Luckily, my father is the captain of our hoard and knew precisely what to do.

As if reading our newly turned Neanderthal minds, Dad picked up a stick and proceeded to poke Grandpa. I don’t know if you know, we certainly didn’t, that biodegradable urns actual crumble in water. Especially when poked with a stick.

The urn broke into many large, bright pieces, obviously not natural to the surrounding wood. A portion of Grandpa got caught in a breeze and swirled over the stream. By that point we were far more appalled then reverent and it seemed we all thought the same thing: Hold your breath, lest you choke on some hunk of Grandpa! The rest of his dust drifted in chunks down through what little current there was or sunk lazily to be mixed with the rest of the mud.

And we all just stood there. There was once a man who died, was burned, remains packed up in a hideous oblong vessel and was totally fumbled by his family.  It became intimately clear to us, no longer tearful, but embarrassed, that we all had botched this man’s entire afterlife. And if he could have watched us all on this day I think my Grandpa would have roared with laughter.

I don’t think my grandfather had ever had so much fun. I’m not one for the after life and God and metaphysics, but I think, on that day, when the ashes of my grandfather floated down stream, in broad daylight, in a public place, much to the horror of his loved ones, that it was better then any episode of the Price Is Right.

I learned many things from this experience, but one lesson sticks out in particular. I know that most people have the feeling on more then one occasion that they don’t want to be seen with their family, that they simply don’t want to be associated to their kin.

Those people got nothing on me.

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Are you there, Spock? It’s me, Katie.

2010 Editor’s Pick on OpenSalon.

When I was fourteen years old I got my first job at a recycling plant for the town of Danbury. I made ten dollars an hour at that time, which, at twenty eight years old with a BA and an MA, is pretty close to what I make now. After the summer gig at the recycling plant I started work at a coffee shop at the age of fifteen. I was underage, but they hired me anyway, and that job really helped shape my high school life. Well, it shaped my extra-curricular high school life anyway. I also worked at clothing stores, and while looking cute was an integral part of my persona, folding clothes was not.

My mother worked for what we’ll refer to as Cashline.com at the time and got me a job doing receptionist work and IT Help Desk stuff. When I worked the Help Desk I would help the technologically inept (“My computer froze. I hit Ctrl-Alt-what?” and “How do I change my background?”) and I would wait on hold when the Help-Desk itself needed help. When I would work the receptionist desk I would…I won’t say I would do my best because that would be lying. I couldn’t slack off too much because my mother would have my head if I gave her reason to be anything but proud of me. I was, however, adequate and did well for a kid. There was this one regular caller in particular who really made up for any slacking off or fooling around. For legal and mental health issues I’ve forgotten his name.

As these days predated Caller ID (or personal cell phones for that matter) I never knew when this individual would be calling. On the evenings that he did get through I imagined he was calling from somewhere along the Pacific border. I don’t know why, I guess because he called each evening, after 4pm, and I just thought his type of call was better suited as a middle-of-the-day activity. So he would call, and I, a now sixteen year old, ego maniacle punk would answer, “Thank you for calling Cashline Executive Offices. How may I direct your call?” And he would respond “I want to speak with William Shatner.”

Me 'n some friends.

I enjoy the Geico commercials, or at least I did when they first premiered years ago during a Super Bowl. It would never occur to me, however, to call Geico and ask to speak with a caveman or British lizard. Be that as it may, in my few short years so far on this earth I have learned that reason and logic elude many. Many.
“William Shatner does not work here, sir,” I’d respond.
“Yes, he does. I’ve seen him in your commercials.”
“I know he does our commercials, sir, but he doesn’t work here. We don’t even film our commercials here.”
“William Shatner DOES work at Cashline and I demand to speak with him!”

At this point the guys voice would be at the level of making a sixteen year old girl cry. A weak sixteen year old. Being the opposite of weak I was merely an ass and, it should be noted, less articulate then this recreated conversation may imply. This call would happen almost every day and after time I knew what he looked like. Well, my teenage imagination did.

I always imagined this particular gentleman older, but not OLD, maybe in his mid-sixties, sitting in a 1970’s a corduroy Lazy Boy that had seen better days, duct tape on the sides and arms, an over used and beaten seat he referred to as his captain’s chair. I imagined he wore the same outfit every day, stuffing far too much flesh into far too little polyester, black pants with a red top, of course, and an embroidered or even hand drawn communicator just above and to the left of a probable by-pass surgery scar. A pale, hairy and slightly pink gut desperately trying to escape the confines of his get-up would be exploding from between pants waistline and repressive shirt. That’s what I thought, anyway.

On and on he would ramble: Cashline did this, his flight was awful, the Captain rescues people – never works WITH the bad guys! Shatner working for Cashline was like him cohorting with Klingons. I didn’t watch the original Star Trek series at this time and this experience may be some of the cause behind that. My favorite part of his calls always came after he started yelling:
“THE CAPTAIN OF THE ENTERPRISE WOULD NOT ALLOW SUCH SCAMMING TO OCCUR. YOUR COMPANY SCAMS PEOPLE AND I INTEND TO ALERT THE CAPTAIN!”

Well, Sir, why don’t you just hit your communicator and ask to meet him in the Halodeck? There you can reveal the evils of Cashline over a Saurian Brandy or a Romulan Ale.

Did I ever actually say that? Nah, I wasn’t that cool. I, in all honesty, would nod as if he could see me and “Mmhmm” like I had been there. I always got him of the phone calmer, but, then, he did always call back.

So why is this important and why does it matter? Because every day as a teen I learned that people are different and you must have patience. Granted once I know you I have no patience for you and you’re finished in my book, BUT every day I would get a little more evidence that either the world is crazy and I am fine or that there is simply no sanity and we’re all screwed. Either way I learned patience every day, in one way or another, and even get  chances to demonstrate such patience, brief as those moments may be, every once in a while. When you’re young you first learn of differences from sight, you visually see that others are different. But this, this, taught me that people may have skeletons – not in their closets, but in their mind – and they seem all “normal” and you think you’re making ground and then – THEY GET YA! And that’s just the way it is, I guess.

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Paying For Batteries in Cash & Dignity

September 2010 OpenSalon Editor’s Pick

“Okay…8 pack of  double A batterieeeees…Anything else?”

“Nope, that’ll do it.”

“Okay, phone number area code first?”

“Excuse me?”

“Your phone number, area code first.”

“I just want to buy some batteries.”

“Yeah, we have to enter everyone’s phone number for every sale.”

“Why?”

“Um…Cuz.”

Luckily, like most girls, I’m practiced in the art of giving out a fake number when need be. I just never thought I’d have to do it to buy batteries.

I am thankful for the Information Age. We’ve got dating sites and this new thing called “social networking”. We’ve got twits doing tweets and we never have to leave our house for Christmas shopping. Amazon.com is my personal savior.

I love online shopping. Buy those shoes you need while on your lunch break, without even getting into your car.  I only buy from sites I know, sites with those security insignias all over, long established sites and only sites that promise my information will not be sold. But I often wonder if these sites can be trusted. I only ever enter information when I’m purchasing something and I only enter the information necessary for billing and shipping; I generally don’t have a problem with it.

I do have a major problem, however, with stores that request personal information when I’m checking out in person. If it’s not being mailed to me I don’t understand why any of my personal information is necessary or why I should be expected to give it out.

After my trip to Radio Shack, to which I gave the number 867-5309, and received both my batteries and a dirty look, I went to Payless Shoes, where I was requested for the same information.

“I don’t give out my phone number.”

“Not a problem,” replied the sales woman and continued with my purchase.

At least she was able to finish without having to enter anything false.

At lunch my boyfriend and I went to a chain Japanese restaurant.

“Two for lunch, please.”

“Sure! First and last name and zip code.”

“Is there a wait? It looks empty.”

“No, no wait. Name?”

I raised an eyebrow. Had I missed a memo? In an age when identity theft is both relatively new and on the rise, why are we so pleasantly expected to give information everywhere we go? Perhaps there was a criminal on the run, the local authorities only knew her name and that she liked to frequent fake sushi places. Surely that’s the only reason anyone would need personal information to sit you at an empty restaurant.

“Kate Doe. 78704.” The hostess typed it in.

“Birthday?”

“I don’t give that out.”

“Would you like to give your email to rece-“

“Actually I would just really like some lunch.”

“Oh.” She paused. “Okay.”

Lunch? In a restaurant?!? What a novel idea!

Though I was asked for information when ordering, it was just salad dressing preferences and type of rice, data that actually had relevance to eating. At the end came the bill and… an info card, which we received a full debriefing on by our waitress: Give them our information to do whatever with and we’ll receive coupons periodically…amongst other wank in our email box.  That was the last straw.

I just laughed.

“What?” My boyfriend asked me. “We’ll get coupons and it says they won’t sell our information.”

“No, they won’t. But the third party that holds our information, archives it for them, does.”

I used to work for a bookstore while I was in college, we’ll call it Edges. Shortly before I quit, they implemented a customer card system. I watched coworkers get fired because they did not push this card enough. Edges’ policy was that there was no reason why anyone should leave the store without one. I watched customers get into fights with managers that wouldn’t drop it, I watched people complain and scream to workers young and old  – and make them cry – during the heart of the holiday season because Edges forced their employees to push this past the point of “No.” According to them “no” never means “no” because “there is no reason why a customer should leave the store without this card as it saves them money for free”. This policy means, of course, that Edges has the personal information of everyone who has ever shopped there.  And, sure, as stated, Edges doesn’t sell the phone number, name, address, and email of those shoppers who signed up for the card. But the company who handles the information sure as hell did and does. That’s what’s known as a loophole.

Part of the problem is that we live in the age of corporations. I went to Payless because it’s all I could afford. I went to Radioshack and the lunch place because they were near the other locations we had to visit. We could dive into facts, conspiracy theories, etc. denouncing the faceless corporations for feeling entitled to the personal information of those it keeps living in hovels. I know my information is out there and it makes me nauseaous. The fact of the matter is that I made the decision to shop where I did on this day and if I want to keep my information private I now have to consider that in where I buy the days necessities.

It’s an acknowledgment of a ridiculous truth and it’s completely infuriating.

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In Which a Nut-Job Buys a Fruit Basket 11/10/2011
Picture

I had* to run to Best Buy yesterday afternoon to pick up a DVD my boyfriend and I wanted. I was there alone, my favorite way to shop, as I can do so in a “Seek and Destroy” manner. Surgical Strike: Get in, get the objective, get out.

Best Buy is in the same parking lot as a giant Crate & Barrel, and after living in Austin for about four years I had never allowed myself to step foot in there. Crate & Barrel is evil. I don’t want to think about the people they exploit to make and sell their overpriced, pretentious goods. But I have a friend who is getting married and is registered at Crate and Barrel…and I love everything on her gift list.

Particularly a two-tiered fruit basket.

No one ever needs a fruit basket. Not ever. There is no reason to ever buy or own one. No one’s home is so cluttered with fruit that they have to purchase a specially made, just-for-fruit container for their over abundant melons and citrus. I have never met a person who felt their produce out of control and disorganized that their life just demanded a fruit basket to ease their fruit related mental suffering.

That being said, I had* to have this fruit basket.

I couldn’t wait to get it home and display it – did I even have any fruit? It didn’t matter. A fruit basket this nice doesn’t need to be all messed up by holding fruit.

I got it home and placed it on the counter…and discovered an double tiered fruit basket dilemma.

Our cupboards are too low; it wouldn’t fit where I wanted it to. Being a sane adult of sound mind I proceeded to rearrange the kitchen. Just because of the basket.

I moved the microwave on top of the fridge.

And our different catch-alls to different places.
And our cooking bowls to different shelves.
And decided to reorganized all the paperwork in the office while I was at it.

And then Spouse came home…

… and stood in the doorway…

… not moving and silent…

due to fear of the sudden changes made by the Crazed Wife.

Meanwhile, I thought I was some kind of fruit-basket-super-hero.

How could he not be thrilled about the new fruit basket? Didn’t he see how it miraculously made our lives instantly better? I didn’t ask him these things out loud, of course. We stared at each other silently.

“Has she completely lost it?”

“Does he totally not get it?”

I hid my excitement, as it was becoming glaringly obvious that my fruit vessel enthusiasm was ridiculous.

Acting as nonchalant as possible, I initiated a joint jaunt to the gym and carried the evening out in normal fashion.

I’m not very feminine. I’m not particularly fond of girly girls and I have no time for damsels who can’t pick up a sword and take care of their own damn selves. But every once in a while a little bit a female hormones burst forth from me and manifest…in the shape of a fruit basket.

I gushed about my fruit basket to women at work the first chance I could this morning. Some were so excited they demanded they be sent internet links to said basket and twittered delight and approval like I had shown them pictures of a newborn baby.

And the OvertlyFemale in me was appeased. At least until next time.

I figure I have (or maybe I should say my boyfriend has)  about 3 months until the Lady Beast within me rears its head again.

And next time, I’m thinking it will be for a Cuisinart food processor…

*By “had” I mean “I did, because I could”. There was absolutely no actual need for this DVD or fruit basket other than entertainment purposes. The combined purchase of the fruit basket and dvd was under $3o.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, if you are so inclined, at @AlmightyKate .

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12/02/2010 OpenSalon Editor’s Pick

Politically Christian Correct Holidays

Jewmas

I’m not particularly religious.

I grew up outside of New York City. You were either Catholic (i.e. you celebrated Christmas, but may or may not have attended church), Jewish (a full 35-42% of my area was Jewish), Muslim, or you were probably Greek Orthodox. Greek Orthodox is like being regular Catholic, but I think their church leaders wear bigger hats.

You never said “Merry Christmas” in my area unless you were speaking to your own family on Christmas Day, and maybe Christmas Eve. Blue holiday lights indicated a Jewish household, a household you would wish Happy Holidays or Happy Hanukkah to. It was never an issue sharing December; there are many religious holidays this month, not just Chanukah and Christmas. And it’s the whole mentality of the holiday: share the love.

Share and share alike.

But now I live in Texas. I don’t know if you know this, but there are only Christians in Texas. Primarily Baptist. At least I think that’s the case. I haven’t met anyone who even knows anyone who is Jewish and they certainly don’t seem to recognize anything that isn’t Christian.

I don’t know much about Baptists. Coming from a very Catholic area Baptists were shrouded in myth and mystery. The term “hardcore” comes to mind as well as visions of teased-high blonde hair. But this comes from a pseudo Catholic, taught by her family to morn their faith, and who’s dark in both mood and hair.

I’ve become more sensitive to religious holidays from live shopping.  I’m not a person that shops outside of Amazon.com. But when the holidays come I sometimes find myself being forced – in person- into a store. And here’s what I’ve noticed in Texas:

“Merry Christmas!”

No question. No variance. Simply “We are all of us Christian, so happy Christiandom.”

I’m not hugely politically correct. I think Americans generally take themselves too seriously. But every time I’m told “Merry Christmas” by a complete stranger in a store I feel a twinge of irritation. I’m not religious. I lost faith as a young child from repeated bad experiences that occurred in a church, but I don’t hold that against God. It just made me skeptical of those selling religion; that’s my own hangup and something I have tried and will continue to try to let go. The holidays just make it more noticeable. I often tell people I celebrate Santa’s birthday, or my father’s birthday, as my father (Chris) was born on Christmas Day. I happen to take Christmas Day as a time to show my family how much they are loved. I don’t attend church, because I’d hate to call myself Catholic and then only participate at Mass when it’s convienient, causing those who are truly religious to be unable to get parking twice a year. To me it’s both disrespectful to make assumptions about something as personal as religion and to claim I’m religious just so I get presents.

I’m a chubby athletic tom-boyish brunette. Throughout my life there have been times when people have assumed I’m a lesbian. I’m not. I would go insane for a multitude of reasons if I had to date a woman starting first with the needless boobs and the erratic crying, needs, and emotions (a generalization, sure, but one that includes even a bit of myself). It was an annoyance to me that every once in a while people would make snap judgments about my sexuality. Assuming someone’s religion is akin to that. It’s as disrespectful as mispronouncing a surname because you’re too lazy to ask it’s proper elocution.

When I’ve asked Christian friends about the whole Merry Christmas only issue, they say things like “Well, there’s a lot more of us [Christians], so whatever” or “A Jewish person shouldn’t take it personally.”

Yet when I’ve responded to a clerk’s “Merry Christmas” with a pleasant “Happy Hanukkah” I’ve received an almost appalled “Oh, I’m not Jewish!”

Well, I’m not a lesbian and you sure don’t know whether or not I’m Christian, so can we just keep the pleasantries to “Happy Holidays” and drop the possibilty of disrespect on both our parts?

At the same time I don’t remeber the last time Christmas was actually about Christ for me or my family and I’m fairly certain I’m just an American taking things to0 seriously. Hope you had a giggle, too.

Happy Holidays and love to your kin, no matter how – or what – you celebrate!

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Betty Crocker is Pissed.

“Combine brownie mix, 2 tablespoons water, and melted butter until smooth.”

Every once in while I like to bake on Sunday afternoons. It’s a nice way to wind down before the start of another week, it makes the house smell good without having to clean, and when I’m done I get a cookie. It was during one of those baking sessions that I saw Betty Crocker’s rage right out in the open, in plain English.

I was making brownie-cookie bars from a box mix when I received a stern talking to from the queen of quick cooking.

Resentment in print form.

I type up descriptions of ensembles, write directions for auditions, and other informative notes for a website at work. So, when I saw “…melted butter…” twice in italics on Betty’s box I didn’t read it simple as melted butter. What I saw was the following:

“Combine brownie mix, 2 tablespoons of water, and MELTED butter. That’s right, people: MELTED. Because if we here at Betty Crocker receive one more phone call or pissed off email about your brownie-cookie bars not coming out right just because YOU used butter that wasn’t melted, we’re going to be pissed. And we’re probably going to tell you exactly where you can shove those brownie-cookie bars.”

This is not my photo and I do not take credit for it.

I immediately picked up on it, because it’s how I wish individuals would read the informative sites I create. Yet the important bits always manage to be missed. What Betty used is attitude in language. There are different ways to use this attitude. For example there’s a shop near my home that uses the most pretentious punctuation that I’ve ever seen and it annoys me every time my eyes are accosted by the billboard:

Come. And get it.

Read: “Come shop here. And see why rich people are cooler then you. Buy something you don’t need. And get why we’re awesome. Shop here. Stupid.”

For fuck’s sake. I just can’t stand it. I’ve never wanted to punch fragmented sentences in the face so badly before.

Advertisements are a whole other animal these days. In fact, I ditched cable just to purge our house from commercial demons. But it’s attitude in type face and punctuation that can either work for you or back fire.

I’m never going to Come. And get it. until you Come to my house. And clean it.

But Betty Crocker’s message? I felt instant sympathy for the Lady and her staff. I not only read that message loud and clear, but I felt for her, and learned something. Next time I’m editing informational explanations and procedures on our website I’m going to use italics on the important and often repeated bits.Maybe then somebody will get it.

After all, using italics seems to be much more effective than, say, “Combine mix, water, and melted butter, Ass.”

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OCTOBER 22, 2010 OpenSalon Editor’s Pick

Driving Miss Katie

When I was 16 ½ I got my license. I passed the test on the first try…though I think that it was partially because at one point my instructor climbed out of the sun roof to yell at a bus driver. As he was unbuckling his seatbelt to do so he looked at me out of the corner of his eye and breathed “Don’tworry – youpassed” so quick I almost missed it. The swears, shouts, and honking of the ensuing argument between my instructor and the bus driver were a million miles away as I grinned to myself:  “I PASSED!”.

So the only thing to do upon receiving my license was to get a car. I had been working for years by this point, but I was a teenager who loved clothes, doin’ stuff, hangin’ out, and other common extracurricular activities (WINK), i.e. I had no money.  Suddenly I had to save.  Or, rather, I had to have frequent mental freakouts that I had to save all money, every cent ever minted, collect every bottle, do every chore: I had to have a car in the next five minutes or I would explode.

Needless to say, the four months after I received my license until I got my first car were easily the worst of my parents’ lives.  And in the end the car only cost me a dollar.

My grandparents had this blue Oldsmobile POS. Never taken above the speed limit, only driven to the Quickie Mart on Saturdays for lotto tickets.  It was dirty, smelled of old people, was rusty from lack of use and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I paid my Grandfather a buck for it. That’s all he asked for. I learned within weeks that a dollar was a fairly good estimate of its actual value.

When I first brought it home I parked it in my mom’s side of the garage and, because there was a bit of a drought in CT at the time, washed it with rags and Windex. I went everywhere in that car. Well, provided “every where” was within a 50 mile radius of my parents’ house. After all, cell phones had just caught on and there was only one or two old style Nokias per household, back in the days when humans survived without instant telecommunication, Blackberrys or i-anything.

Within about two weeks the drought let up. While driving home one night with a friend it began to rain. We had left a diner, where it was super important as a teen that we were seen chillin’, having coffee and generally wasting waitresses’ time, and were driving through downtown Danbury. Suddenly every single on-coming car began to honk at me. Huh…that’s weird. I wasn’t going over the speed limit. I wasn’t driving erratically. What was the deal?!?

“Maybe they think we’re hot,” offered my friend Jacqueline.

Yes, that had to be it.

I dropped her off at her house a few minutes later. As she turned to wave she burst out laughing.

“Turn on your headlights! You don’t have your headlights on, Idiot!”

I laughed and waved, and went to turn the switch. Except that the switch was already in the ON position.

Shit.

As carefully as an almost-17 year can, I drove home in the rain for the first time, lights out, people honking, me waving.

Okay, I get it, I’m not hot, I’m just dim. I got into the house, threw my crap wherever, and grabbed the phone.

“Helluh?”

“Hi, Grandpa, it’s Katie.”

“Katie! How’s thu cah workin’ for yuh? It’s good, huh?”

“Yeah, Grandpa, but I have a question: Today I was driving and the car’s headlights went out. What do I do?”

“Ya headlights went out? Nah, nah, tha’s not ‘sposed tah happen. What were yah doin’?”

“Well, tonight I went to the diner with my friend, and when we were driving home a little while ago – “

“Ahhhhh.”

“What?”

“It was rainin’.”

“So?!”

“Well, did you get ‘em wet?”

“What?!?”

“The headlights – did ya get ‘em wet?”

“Well, yeah, it was raining.”

“Well, there ya go.”

I paused.

Teenage Epiphany: You can’t use headlights when wet, ergo people couldn’t drive in the rain.

Wait a minute…I paused again.

No!

Bigger Epiphany: People drive in the rain with their lights on all the friggin’ time and Grandpa is a crackpot!

Needless to say this car didn’t last long. After breaking down for the millionth time, forcing me to walk home at night in sleet in winter, my father had the thing incinerated. Or just towed away, but it was far more dramatic in my little 17 year old head. When the Oldsmobile finally went to the Great Car Graveyard in the Sky a friend gifted me a box of metal pieces. I spent most of my time at this friend’s house and even picked her up each morning for school. Apparently a piece of my car would fall off in her driveway with every single visit. And each day her parents would collect them.

Most of my car was in that box.

I buried it in the backyard.

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