Monday, June 21, 2004

When Life Intervenes

When Life Intervenes

Goddess, I've been busy the last few days... one damn' thing after another! Which usually happens when I have two or three things I want to do which are time-consuming... like writing, and laundry. Someone famous (though I can't be bothered to find out who) once said that Life is what happens while we're busy making other plans; for me, a person who avoids, abhors, and otherwise eschews the wasteful practice of planning, Life is what happens when I have other things I want to do, like writing, or laundry.


So there I was, trying to figure out how to do about seven overlapping but completely unavoidable activities all at the same time. Friday was my nephew's high-school graduation, you see, and though I knew I was going to said graduation, my usual lack of curiosity prevented me from finding out that the graduation ceremony was to be held on Friday at 3 p.m. (an irrelevant little infonugget that didn't get passed along to me until Thursday evening). One would think, since I would be required to take time off work, that the whole Friday-at-3-p.m. thing would have been mentioned early enough in the proceedings that I could schedule my work-life around it, but no.

Y'see, there was this thing about tickets... each student was allowed a certain number of tickets (four, I think); but some students would not be using all of their allotted tickets, so other students who needed extras could put in requests for them, or trade them amongst their friends. This is fairly standard practice, as far as I can tell.

But you should never get tickets involved in my family: we just get confused. Matthew ended up with seven tickets, for his mother (my sister Suzie), his sister Ariel, Grandmother, Daddy (his Grandpa), our uncle Junior, and me. But then the drama starts: for some reason, Ariel went to her father Tommy's in Clear Lake for the week and wouldn't be coming, leaving us a surplus ticket; and then Grandmother is taking care of my cousin Kellie's two kids (Jessie and Alex) over the summer, and we might have to bring them... leaving us one ticket short; and then there was Matthew's father Bruce (are you keeping this straight? try working it out on a piece of scratch paper), whom Matthew did not want in attendance and who kept calling Grandmother and bugging her about it; and then there was Suzie's friend Renee who wanted to come, and that left us with the right amount of tickets; there were further complications of handicapped seating, whether or not children had to have tickets, and how we would all be arriving at the ceremony, in how many cars, at what time, etc.

So during the last week, Grandmother was talking to four different people, trying to figure out who should have how many tickets, getting all involved in the various psychodramas that attended the disposition of each and every ticket, and she became so wrapped up in the tickets that she quite forgot to mention the time and date to me (though she badgered me with the the chronicles of her conversations with Suzie, Matthew, Kellie, and Bruce, in excruciating detail).

Anyway, come Thursday evening, I'd already had my Friday activities plotted out... along with a regular day's work, I intended to print and mail my General Service newsletter, get the acrylic on my right thumbnail repaired (it was badly chipped and kept catching in fabrics and my hair), and buy some gifts and cards for the various events of the weekend. But suddenly I had to do all of that before two p.m. so I could come home, pick up Grandmother, and get over to Encinal High by 3 o'clock.

I am fairly adaptable... I figured I would get the newsletter printed, but then put the folding and mailing off to the evening; I didn't have a lot of office work to do, certainly nothing that couldn't wait until Monday; getting a thumbnail repaired shouldn't take too long, and I can always expedite the gift-and-card exercise simply by not giving it too much thought.

Alas, it was not to be. First, I woke up groggy, and it took me a long time to pull myself together and get dressed and all; then Grandmother detained me with a rambling dissertation on her conversations with Bruce and Matthew, particularly dwelling on how inexplicably angry Matthew is with his father and how uncomfortable she was having to talk to Bruce without telling him anything about the graduation ceremony... which put me about half an hour further behind on my day.

When I got to the nail salon, and after waiting fifteen minutes with nothing but Woman's Day magazines to read, I held up my one thumbnail that I wanted repaired and then said in a very clear voice "I need this thumbnail repaired"; but I was apparently too vague for the manicurist, who started giving me a full fill treatment before I could stop her; and so my fifteen-minute-max repair job turned into an hour's meticulous manicure (though in all fairness, I have to say she did a pretty good job).

Once done there, I went to the card shop and trolled around for Graduation cards, Father's Day cards, and Housewarming cards... I figured I'd go to the small artsy place (Papyrus) instead of the big Hallmark place two doors down because the fewer choices would make my selection quicker. So silly of me... first of all, Papyrus has all sorts of nifty things that I like to pick up and look at (interesting picture-postcard sets, beautiful picture-frames, and stationery sets that I can fantasize about using, like a box of cream stock from Crane's with gold edges on which I could write gracious thank-you notes in burgundy ink with a beautiful fountain-pen); second, their cards, though fewer in number, are not arranged in such a way as to give you an idea what the inside is like (such as the "Humorous," "From Wife," "From Group" tabs at the Hallmark stores that let you skip over huge sections), so I had to read every card in the Father's Day, Graduation, and Housewarming sections.

And let's not go into how many times I cried while reading the more sentimental cards. Have I mentioned that I was a little depressed at the beginning of the weekend? A trifle overemotional and rather irritable? Every time I think of Matthew graduating from high-school, every time I think that his childhood is officially over, every time I think about him going into the Army this summer while there's a war going on, I get worked up and start weeping. Throw in a few sappy Father's Day cards, the ones that described the fathers I sometimes wish I had, as well as the cards that fairly well described my own tangled feelings about my father, and I was a bit of a wreck.

Then it was on to Juniper Tree to pick out something nice and smelly for the housewarming party I would attend on Sunday; and of course I had to touch and sniff every single object in the store before I was able to settle on a verbena candle in a pretty box and a set of goat's-milk-and-honey bath bars wrapped in fancy Japanese paper. I also bought myself a pair of earrings and a new bottle of Voluspa #4 (the last bottle came open in my car and spilled its contents all over the papers in the door-pocket, affecting an impromptu and rather expensive air-freshener).

By the time I got to the office, I was almost two hours behind... aside from checking the messages and email, I had no time left to do any work; I did do my newsletter thing, but it took longer than I thought it would, with several surprise edits presenting themselves, and the copy-machine moving slower than I'd expected.

I was able to make up much of my lost time, though, and was only thirty-five minutes late getting home; with a few more cut corners and ruthlessly hustling the Grandmother out the door, and then driving like a bat out of hell all the way across town, I managed to be only fifteen minutes late to meet my sister at Encinal.

I'm not sure I should use this forum to bitch about my sister, but she has been driving me nuts lately... she makes plans and then changes them at the last minute without telling everyone involved, she goes through wild contortions trying to avoid certain family members, she talks too loudly about things that don't make sense, and has been just drama-queening all over the place... in any number of ways reminding me far too much of our Mother (so much so that I often find myself wanting to punch her right in the face).

And as emotional as I was about Matthew's graduation, Suzie was just an absolute basket case... alternately crying, giggling, snapping, raging, joking, guilt-tripping, or displaying combinations of three or more. One should never have more than one overemotional person in any given situation, and I tried to understand that she should have first choice of emotions (being the mother, and all), but I still wanted to strangle her.

I would also like to take a moment out to bitch about Grandmother: if you ever get a chance to live with an old woman who refuses to admit she's going deaf, I would recommend instead that you stow away on the first tramp steamer headed for southeast Asia that you can find, and never look back. I was already irritable from the depression, the delays, the wind, and the Three Faces of Suzie... throw in having to repeat everything I say twice, as well as repeating much of what other people are saying (and having to listen to further recounts of the confusion over the goddamned motherfucking tickets), and you've got a recipe for multiple aneurism and spontaneous combustion.

So anyway, the graduation ceremony eventually got started. We were right on the water, in full sun and wind (which makes me grouchy and tired); the ceremony was fairly snappy, but rather too light-hearted, planned by and for the graduates themselves rather than by adults for the audience; I had Suzie doing her Sybil routine on my left and Grandmother sneering judgementally at everything on my right, and the friends and families of popular graduates screaming with inhuman volume and air-horns behind me; then afterwards, wending our way through the crowds trying to find Matthew and the restrooms and each-other: it was a bit of a trial.

We went out to eat afterward, and then home, where I got into bed with a book and didn't show my nose out the door until I was calmed down (which I expect occurred during my sleep... though, rereading the above, I'm not sure I ever did really calm down, I just moved on to other things). No writing done, no laundry done.


Instead of my usual sleep-in, I woke up fairly early (but had no time for laundry or writing, though I did manage to get through all of my blogs) and got my newsletter folded and labeled and ready to go, then drove down to the post-office to get stamps and mail the newsletters, then stopped at Ladyfinger's bakery to pick up some cookies and a tart to take to parties over the weekend.

Once back home, I had to get the Grandmother and Ariel into the car, and then out to pick up Daddy in Concord, and then to Tracy for (you may need another piece of scratch-paper to work this one out) my cousin Jamie's husband Steve's parents' annual Jazz & Art Fest (though I wouldn't call the music jazz, nor would I call the various tchotchkes on display art, but the barbecue was good).

And now, another side-kvetch: what the hell was with all the traffic this weekend? Everywhere I went all weekend long, the traffic was crowded and backed up all over the place. Where in the name of God were all of those people going? And why did they all have to get in my way? All I can say is I'm glad I have air-conditioning.

Once we were done in Tracy, I drove Daddy back to Concord and various children back home to Oakland, I picked up my tart (blackberry, delicious) and headed off to the Verbal Salon, a monthly get-together where we read from favorite bits of literature, share our own work, and read out interesting little plays. It's always a lot of fun, but it is usually scheduled on evenings where I already have some kind of a commitment, so I can't go as often as I'd like.

I finally arrived home at eleven, and though I was filled with the Muse to such an extent that I felt like I could sit down and bang out the rest of my chapter... but the creative energy didn't translate into physical energy, and I was too tired to even read, much less write, so I just went to sleep instead.


Okay, I admit it, I've been in a bad mood all this week; I mean, people can't be nearly as irritating as they've seemed all weekend. I don't know how many times I wanted to clock Grandmother, and there must be more to it than that she's a fucking irritating old bag... I must be bringing a good portion of irritability to the party on my own.

So when we got the children and the Grandmother into the car (though I forgot my Father's Day card and gift in the rush) and off to church, picking up Daddy on the way, we found ourselves in the midst of an impossibly vast crowd... not only were a lot of people visiting their fathers from out of town, but the staff of Opportunity Camp, most of whom were from Texas, were visiting before going home, so the church was packed to the rafters.

After church, my sister was supposed to meet us for lunch, but Daddy told me that she'd changed her mind about coming at the last minute (giving me only a small and evanescent headache). After being turned off from our first and second choices of restaurant by the crowds, we ended up eating lunch at The Buttercup; it was nice, and Daddy was pleased with the extensive omelet menu, but they were understaffed and over-busy so the service was a bit brusque.

Once finished there (my God, this story is getting long and boring), I flew back home to drop of the children and the Grandmother and pick up the housewarming gift and Caroline, then flew (very, very slowly) across the Bridge to John & Nick's housewarming party.

I love John and Nick, they are so calm and nice and centered... one gets a cozy protected feeling just being around them. And their new home is gorgeous, one of those typical 20s/30s townhouses that proliferate in San Francisco, with the big living room in the front and two bedrooms at the back, with long kitchens and bathroom arranged along light-wells in between; they have all the rooms decorated with great warmth, beautiful colors (from the Martha Stewart Collection) and and homey mix of modern and antique furniture.

We ran into Shiloh, whom I haven't seen in months, as well as other old friends and acquaintances... and we ate like pigs (though Caroline ate more than I since she hadn't just come from a Father's Day brunch and therefore had more room inside to stash food), and had a really good time.

After we left there, we stopped at Marlena's to see Cookie and Lorraine Dubonnet (and others) performing at the Drag Marathon to raise funds for the Castro Lions Club. I walked in right behind Cookie and Lorraine, but didn't get to talk to them, as they were intent on getting to the dressing room and unloading their stuff; I did get to chat with Vince, and Tom, and three or four other people I didn't know but enjoyed meeting anyway.

I was only able to take an hour of that, though I enjoyed that hour like you wouldn't believe (Trauma Flintstone's "Titty-Fuck Me" was a scream, and then there was Kielbasa, the Queen of Poland... a drag queen with an accordion is always worth seeing), and I was back on the (jam-packed) freeway by eight-thirty, and back in my tacky, messy little room before ten.

Too tired to write, of course, and too tired to do any laundry, I just watched a couple of videos I found earlier in the day while waiting for our table at Buttercup: The Adventures of Sebastian Cole starring the delicious Adrian Grenier (it was quirky and sweet, but not amazing), and My Boss's Daughter starring the also-delicious Ashton Kutcher (it was just stupid, a waste of four dollars and ninety minutes of my life that I'll never get back, but then I hadn't expected much more of it than to watch Ashton Kutcher's mouth moving... in which I am never disappointed).

And so to bed, and here we all are, completely caught up with the ennervating minutiae of my inconsequential little life.

Perhaps, like the viewers of The Jerry Springer Show, you will feel better about your life, having suffered through a little bit of mine. Like I always say, if you can't be an inspiration, you can at least serve as a warning to others.

Mille bacci!

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