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Archive for January, 2012

|| January 29, 2012 || 1:57 am || Comments (10) ||

So I worked at this plant where I was a supervisor on night shift. As a completely unrelated (and maybe worthless, I’ll leave that to you to decide) aside, I’d like to tell you that –despite aggressive insomnia that started taking over my sleep when I was in the neighborhood of eight or nine– ten months of working the night shift aged me ten years. At least, that’s what it felt like when I slung my safety gear over my shoulder and walked out of that joint for the last time.

Clock in at eleven, clock out at seven. There were three-hundred and fifty personnel on that shift, busted up into different sections, each section with a supervisor. A couple of the more sizable sections had three to four line supervisors, with crews of anywhere from seven to fifteen people for whom they were responsible. Out of those three-fifty, there were approximately eight women. Only one was a section super. Another was a line super. The latter was me.

The plant floor was always loud. It wasn’t only loud; it was dangerous, too, because we were working with caustic chemicals and we climbed things like monkeys and we teetered on the edges of slick, sharp inclines manhandling equipment that was half our bodyweights or more, high up in the air over solid concrete floors. There was machinery everywhere to bounce off of on your way down, if the thought of cracking your melon on some ‘crete wasn’t enough to keep you cautious.

I had a crew of twelve men. There used to be one woman on it, a woman who had been there for years and never been promoted because, well, she wasn’t. She was diminutive and appalling, because she was yippy like a chihuahua and always aggressively demanding respect out of one side of her mouth but then giving blowjobs in the parking lot out of the other. The kind of girl who, for instance, wanted to wrestle like a man but when pinned would intone in babyvoice, “Let me up, don’t hurt me, ’cause I’m just leeeedle!” Females of the world who are like this: Just give us all one big fucking break, would you? Everybody –male and female alike– pretty much wants you to fall in a ditch and stay there.

(I mean, I don’t give a shit if your aim is to have every dick within ten feet of you in your mouth at one time or the other, but don’t go acting like you’re surprised when none of the males those penises are attached to come to you for your philosophical take on matters. There is slut-shaming and there is poor judgment and we’re all adults here and can tell the difference, right?)

So Yippy was on my crew and her first order of business was to be passive-aggressive with me and Give Me Ten Kinds of Shit because I had all my teeth and two brain cells to rub together and oh yeah, tits. Good-looking tits. So HEY, I must be COMPETITION rather than her BOSS, right? It didn’t help that she was madly in love with my buddy Polack Dave and was convinced surely to all of high holy heaven that I was going to fuck Dave the very minute that Yippy (who yes, had been Dave’s mistress at one point) and DAVE’S WIFE turned their backs.

See? See what I was dealing with? I played poker with Polack Dave and Polack Dave’s wife and they fed me at least twice a week. Polack Dave and I high-fived one another on the way in the door every night and flipped one another the bird going out of it every morning. Why on Earth would I want to mess that up?

However, Yippy was inconsolable. Yippy did a good job, but Yippy was lippy and disrespectful and I did all the requisite you-try-to-fuck-my-crew-up-I’ma-fuck-your-day-up dancing and write-ups and finally I said, “You know what, Yippy? I AM HAVING YOU TRANSFERRED TO POLACK DAVE’S SUPERVISOR,” and so I did. She was (prematurely) gleeful.  Said super promptly hid her in a broom closet in the nether reaches of the plant and everybody was pretty gahdang happy for a time.

Then there was the night that a very large fellow named Howard stepped to me.

See, I think that maybe some people made the mistake of thinking that I had Yippy transferred because she was a female. Not so. I had Yippy transferred because she was a gigantic asspain and I just wanted to do my fucking job and get the fuck out of there in a timely manner each day. When I eventually got my crew hipped to my way of doing things, we were done with our line by four-thirty and could catch two hours of nap in the breakroom so that we’d be rested up and ready to find beers at one of the only two bars in town open for breakfasty patrons. If you work the night shift, then eight in the morning is your six at night and so by ten ay emm you’re good and shitfaced if that’s your aim. Sure, it’s in a scummy dive of a bar, but who is there to judge you? Nobody, that’s who, because they’re either the folks carpooling miles away from said establishments or the guy at the end of the bar with his asscheeks imprinted into the stool that he hardly ever leaves. He sees four of you and all four iterations have a different name, get it?

Holy cow, I digress. Anyway:  In order for me to do my job and get out in a timely manner, there has to be a cohesive team working toward the same aim and doing so at least quasi-jovially. Whistle while you work, bitches, and you will ride the clock for almost three hours for free and nobody is going to yell at you for doing so because you! are Union! and you! have done a bang-up job! that exceeds the specifications laid out for you in the super-big and ridiculously detailed company manual! This is because my aim is never to do just enough to get by; my aim is to have some stracked-out results whose worth cannot be contested. Selah! Amen! Nap! Then beers and billiards after!

An event whose progressive steps looked something like this, so as to save us some paragraphs and get us to the action right quick,

1) “Howard, man, I don’t like that. Can you do it the other way, please?”
2) “Hey Howard, could you do your job x way because your fancy new y way is slowing the flow and is less efficient overall and since my part of the line depends on your part of the line, you are slowing me down, as well.”
3) “Howard, I don’t know why you are looking me dead in the eye and purposely slowing both our jobs down but that’s not cool and I need you to cut it out.”
4) “Howard. Cut the shit, man.”

occurred over the course of about an hour and a half. By the time I got to “HOWARD. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH,” Howard had decided he’d had enough, too, and closed the twenty or so feet between us with a haste that, had it been shown earlier, would have saved us all the ensuing trouble and dramatics.

Howard got all the fuck up in my face. He had six inches on my five-ten and Lord knows how many pounds on my one-sixty. We were in full hazmat gear, but our helmets were magically, manically gone, flipped from our heads simultaneously and he was breathing down on me, enraged, bearing in, face literally two inches from mine. Howard began yelling in earnest and the whole ‘I’ll be damned if I’ma let this fool back me down’ aspect of my personality rose up in all its glory. I was on my tiptoes, meeting him where he was at and pushing back emotionally every bit as hard as he was shoving me and suddenly there was Polack Dave jumping lines to get to us, there were three members of my crew begging us to stop and more on the way. Everyone was afraid to touch us, everything so electric and precarious. They were attempting to shout sense over the clanging and banging of machinery but the fog of rage –not to mention our mutual shouting– engulfing us obscured them.

Howard got one warning from me to back up, then one more warning from me to back up then he told me to fuck off bitch and I gave over to fury. I raised the high pressure hot-hose that had been dangling limp in my hand (hastily shut off during Howard’s approach), put the metal key to it that dangled from a loop in my coveralls and kicked the hose on as I took a step back. A high-pressure stream of scalding water surged forward from that industrial hose and I nailed that fucker square in the chest with it. There was less than a foot between us. Howard went down.

I got reamed for this. Never once, though, not one single day of my life, have I ever been sorry for that moment. Sometimes your crazy is the only thing that you can rely on. Hatred is shameful. Fury is gorgeous. The two should never marry. If it is devoid of hate, sometimes your fury is a righteous and perfect thing with inexact but fitting results.

I want a cigarette. I want to connect my mouth to it and drag deeply from it in a way that could only be described as ‘ridiculously porny’. Of course that’s stupid, especially given these circumstances.

There are guns (‘weapons’, natch)  all over this house: Three down in the shop, five in the office, one (maybe two?) in my father’s room. This doesn’t bother me. I was raised around them; my father took me shooting for the first time when I was five, took me hunting with him as early as my mother would allow it. I loved it. I loved wearing dresses and I loved shooting guns. To me they were equally enticing and I felt just as powerful doing the one as I did doing the other.

Kyle and I are sharing a room, a bed. It’s strange: We didn’t share a room growing up. Hell, we didn’t even share our father’s house at the same time for very long at a stretch. Now everything is halved in equal shares: The bed, the dresser, the closet, the time spent alone in there striving for emotional equilibrium. We have a writing desk and an oldskoo tape player and the window is always open because our father keeps it so godforfuckingsaken hot up in this joint. His basal temperature runs on the low end normally.

Coincidentally, so does Kyle’s and also mine. The things we are learning about one another, the three of us, would stagger lesser mortals. Maybe soon it will crack each of us down our respective middles, who knows? Right now we laugh a lot when the three of us are together.

Kyle and I both have his eyes, his thick and wavy hair, his savvy, his stubborn streak. We put our heads together conspiratorially when he is out of the room, when he is out for a walk, when he is napping (which is frequent now). We compare and contrast what he is telling us individually. We catalog our observations, ticking them off to one another. We review facts, we review feelings, we wish we could rely on our gut instincts because each of us typically boast a strong internal compass. Everything is muddied in this place, though; time stretches out and vibrates with intensity and then accordions back, leaving us running from one appointment to the other, long drives and labs and chemo and shots and scans and then back to the stretched-out quiet of this big house again.

There is some sort of field here that makes our compasses obsolete but offers the respite of long and thorough naps in place of intrinsic knowledge. So odd that I have never slept so well and so deeply as I have here, in the middle of trepidation, during three-hour naps. Trading knowing for rest isn’t as easy as all that, though….I have a lifetime of Just Knowing and Not Sleeping to get around, see? I’m having to do an awful lot of adjusting and feel as if I’m seated just exactly four inches to the left of myself. Anything I might perceive as True North is a complete lie, and I’m fully aware of this, thankfully.

Kyle has dreamed him shooting himself in the head more than once now. The other day I went in to vacuum his room and noticed his nine mil on the lip of his platform bed, right up there by his head, not down further where his hand would fall instinctively if he was sharply woken. I looked at it dumbly, thinking of her dreams, but not appalled or filled with dread. I don’t have it in me to think he will do such a thing, I guess. Also I guess that it is probably not much of my business if he chooses to. He has a softball in his chest, for Chrissakes. How do I know that I wouldn’t entertain a much more drastic, sudden completion to that softball, as well?

I don’t think he means himself ill and I tell her this. Kyle reminds me that he waited a year to even get diagnosed, waited almost three more months before seeking conventional treatment(s). She has had the dreams. In them we run innocuous errands, we buy milkshakes, we come back and our father has removed himself from this, all of it, the tedium and the lethargy and the pain. Thus, she listens carefully to the things he says to us before we climb into the car, watches well his demeanor.

Yesterday he hesitated, he didn’t know if he could finish this. Today he ate cookies all day and laughed. I think there may be more cookies and more laughing.  I know there will be more days where he doubts his ability to follow through, too. I’m not keeping count of either one, because something inside me says that is the way to madness.

We are here, our hands are knit together, we look one another in the eyes when we speak. I want to be more present than I’ve ever been in my life. The outcome is just an aside.

I don’t expect anyone outside the Cancer Bubble to understand.

|| January 6, 2012 || 2:22 am || Comments (10) ||

“You aren’t so strong, you know.”

My head dipped; I was grinning and I didn’t want him to see. Sometimes my amusement was just for me and to explain it was worse than trying to justify it and God knew I hadn’t needed justification for a fucking thing since about the age of three.

I crossed my ankles primly; I waited for the grin to dissipate because I didn’t want him to hear it in my voice when I told him what I needed to tell him. He was a white boy –technically a muddy blend of Irish-Italian, like me– but the local Kings had taken to him when he was small, at a time when hearing himself referred to as cholito swelled his bony chest with pride. His coloring and build let him pass as Rican, but his swagger was all Guappo and of course, I loved it….until it was aimed at me.

“You don’t get to tell me who I am, Tony. Not ever.”

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

The first time he saw me I had bows on the backs of my socks. It was at my cousin Nita’s birthday party and he told my cousin Jonno that I would love him one day. I was visiting Chicago, being made over by the extended family because I was full of yes sirs and no ma’ams and drawl-tinged smarts. I was leggy and blonde with peach-bronze skin, completely unaware of the males that would have eagerly dipped into me if I had only given them the merest indication of want.

There was a wall of fully street Italian cousins between me and any summer romances, with me suspecting as much; it was the same with my towheaded Delta cousins, so I knew the routine. Some of the Chicago boys’ friends had started sniffing around me that visit and been promised beatings if so much as an “I think you’re pretty” tumbled off their tongues. Anthony had not been warned because he was accepted as family, and as such was an acknowledged part of the Wall of Cockblock. Jonno had laughed when Tony predicted I’d love him.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

The first time he slid into me some five years later, he whispered into my ear his early want of me, his dreams over the years where I would sit in a dim room unmoving and say just one word –his name– while my eyes, big in their sockets, stayed fixed on his.

Frustrated, he knew I’d be back.

“Anthony,” I said in return, and my whole body exhaled into him, grasping, trying to push us further into one another, “yours.” It was all I had and all Tony needed. He put his hands flat on my ribcage and rocked the cries out of me, murmuring the whole time, the murmurs words of devotion because we were young and that’s all we knew. When you’re young you have not learned the power of filth yet so desire alone is potent and overcoming enough.

He wasn’t my first, but his was the first lover’s shirt I’d slipped across my back and stirred awake wearing, alone in the bed and drunk on the chafing of my vulva and the bitten spots on the inside of my lip. I delighted the first time I found the bruises that the dig of his hipbones had left on the meat of my inner thighs. I wanted his signature all over me in any fashion I could garner it. That he would never be so reckless as to mark me intentionally made those painful purple blooms prized possessions.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

“I’m staying.”


“I’m staying. Nita is joining the Corps and I can have her room; I just have to convince my Mother that it’s a good idea. That shouldn’t be so hard; my aunt and uncle love having me here and they’ll help.”

“No fucking way.”

“Yes!” Now I smiled.

“No,” he winced, “no, what I mean is that there is no fucking way you stay here when you can go back down South and be safe.”


“Jett. If you stay here then it will eventually get around that you’re my girl. If it gets around that you’re my girl then there are a lot of things that can and will happen, fuck! You have to go home. I’ll come see you.”

That would never happen. Everything in me told me it would never happen. You didn’t run with the people that Tony ran with and just pop in and out of town on a whim. You held down your x amount of square blocks and only ran across town or across country at the express direction of key individuals.

“Leave them, Tony. Leave  them so you can be with me.”

“I will. It takes time, but I will, I swear.”

He was dead before my Christmas break that year. I still have the taste of him on my tongue if I think about him at long enough a stretch, all these years and all these loves later.

Instead of doing something that makes sense for a person of a writerly  persuasion and, oh, writing a bunch of things about the massive changes in my life over the last four months, I’m gonna catch you up to right now (because, oh trust me, right now is a Pretty Big Fucking Deal overall) with a timeline done in an annoying ‘100 things about me’ style.

Here we go!

1) My estranged father called me from Nashville in mid-July telling me he’d be there the next day.

2) I spent the whole of that day Losing My Shit before deciding, all zen-like, that I’m happy with who I am and screw anybody who didn’t think I was enough, even if they were the lender of half my genetic material.

3) That visit went well. Remarkably well.

4) In August, through twisty-turny strangeness, my job came to an end.

5) Both my boss and I cried, admitted we didn’t understand why this was  happening, but that it was supposed to happen.

6) He made the transition from paycheck every week to no paycheck every week pretty comfortable for me, all in all.

7) That first day I was out of work, Maxim texted me one word: “FREEDOM!!!”

8 ) I began to set my sights on writing and making art as a means to, you know, feed the people that live in my house.

9) I just so happened to win a full pass to the Summit of Awesome put on yearly by Hello Craft.

10) It was held in Baltimore.

11) I had about twenty-five bucks in my checking account when I won the pass.

12) My father was diagnosed with an aggressive, inoperable lung cancer.

13) I knew the whole ‘reunited comfortably’ thing would have a catch.

14) Oh Universe, you’re sofa king cute.

15) Through a timely combination of some small miracles and some people’s generosity, I got to go to Maryland.

16) I got to sit down with a couple of really savvy, really influential people and pick their brains.

15) I came back motivated as fuck.

16) So far,  so good, but I’m not where I need to be by a long shot.

17) I’m getting my ducks in a row and hanging out my ‘official’ shingle soon.

18) Until then, I’d like to announce that I am your girl if you need a writer or editor. Plus some other things. I’m good at lots of things, I swear. Just ask me.


20) My father decided that chemo was a no-go for him and that he’d like to try the homeopathic/naturopathic route toward ridding himself of cancer.

21) His oncologist pissed him off by pushing-pushing-pushing him to start chemo yesterday.

22) He told his oncologist to never contact him again.

23) My sisters immediately called me to shriek and to rally me toward Bossing my father.

24) I opted to tell them to mind their own business and to support the man’s right to live OR die how he saw fit.

25) I’m not The Boss of that man. Nobody is, really.

26) Everyone decided to make nice and let our father go about this cancer business in his own way.

27) Fancypants herbs and complex teas, it is!

28) Life rocked on for a minute or two.

29) I worked on BlogWorld Expo’s Virtual Ticket in the fall. It was a cool gig.

30) In case you do indeed want to HIRE ME, HIRE ME NOW, I have swell references from that whole deal.

31) My Etsy businesses, Pretty Gritty Things and 256 Eclectica, started gaining steam.

32) Commission work! Steady sales! I may not have to panic about money after all, right?

33) My father came down and brought a trailer full of tools and materials.

34) We collected even MORE materials, salvaged from various sources.

35) We went down to Butch Anthony’s farm on Poorhouse Road to build a shack for the 2012 Doo-Nanny.

36) It’s most of the way finished. I still have to put some siding boards on, but I can’t wait for you to see it.

37) I have an art shack at the Doo! It’s gonna be called Story House. I have some ideas on how to finish it out.

38) Scout had her gall bladder out. Goodbye, carefully-saved Christmas funds. Hello, Scout’s comfort.

39) Life is never dull. NEVER dull.

40) There was some peace. There was a little bit of quiet.

41) My father wanted all us girls to go to Missouri for Thanksgiving.

42) Most of us did.

43) I spent the first Thanksgiving ever since we were married away from Maxim.

44) I did not like it, but it was a necessary evil.

45) He got all sorts of cool stuff done around the house in my and the children’s absences.

46) Hmmmm, I may have to consider this leaving-on-Thanksgiving thing again.

47) The visit was AMAZING.

48) I learned that I have two cousins that are published authors and one great-grandaddy who was a bootlegger.

49) (I fucking well KNEW we had one of those in the family somewhere!)

50) Missouri roads are swoopy and well-maintained and just basically fun to drive.

51) I got a ticket on the way home.

52) I won a scratch-off for one-quarter of the ticket’s value on a bathroom stop shortly thereafter, so there’s that.

53) I unpacked, slept a couple of nights and then re-packed.

54) I went with three really amazing writerly people to my Delta homeland.

55) As I predicted to myself, there were ghosts waiting for me there.

56) ….but there were stirrings, too.

57) And laughter. Holy Ghost and the Father also, what laughter.

58) My soul got shook. I won’t speak for anyone else’s.

59) (but theirs did too, der)

60) My brain was set to ‘fog’ for a week upon my return….but not in a necessarily bad way, see?

61) I decorated the Christmas tree.

62) My father called.

63) He talked of going out west for a few weeks.

64) Two weeks prior he’d said firmly, “No more road trips for me. I smoke more and I don’t stay as rigidly to my program when I’m away from home.”

65) I understood.

66) ….so when he talked of going to Nevada for a month or so, something started to not feel right.

67) Other things he said also tripped wires on my insides.

68) I asked pointed questions back to back.

69) He had no time to dance around them nor wriggle out from under them.

70) “Do what you want,” I said, “but I’m going to respectfully insist that you get the second scan you promised us girls before you get on the road.”

71) He was going to drive out there, you see; never mind his waning health or the potential for things to take a turn for the sudden worse.

72) He got the scan.

73) I saw it.

74) It is the sort of thing that makes you go, ‘Fuuuuuuuhhhhhhck.’

75) Impressive yet terrifying, I guess is the apt decscriptor?

76) He told me not to come.

77) “Not time,” he said, promising to tell me when it was indeed ‘time’.

78) Psh. Yeah, right.

79) Likewise, he told my sisters not to come.

80) Fuck what that fool says: I’m grown and I do what I want.

81) My whole family came in for Christmas.

82) It was a grand time, what with my parents and all the kids there.

83) For the first time in twenty-five years, I didn’t bake a single Christmas cookie.

84) My heart was seized.

85) I tried and tried and tried to bootstrap some Christmas spirit.

86) Didn’t happen.

87) No, you don’t understand the profundity of this: I am an ay-number-one Christmas dork.

88) Christmas Day was beautiful and peaceful and rich.

89) My aunt called, Don’t wait to come. Come now.

90) I met my baby sister in St. Louis a week ago.

91) We went out and got shitfaced.

92) Dear Tony the Hotel Shuttle Driver, Thanks so much for your patience and understanding and also stopping at Schnuck’s so that two drunk girls could shop for breakfasty foodstuffs. Love, Jett

93) The next day my Uncle Ron fetched us from the big city.

94) My father cried upon seeing us.

95) That was only the third time I’ve ever seen him cry in my whole life.

96) He patted me for the first half-hour we were here.

97) He started chemo.

98) We are caring for him in whatever manner we can, in any which way he will allow .

99) He’s starting to feel terrible physically.

100) We are in this Cancer Bubble, my father, my sister, and me.

And that’s the last four months in as brief a fashion as I know how to convey them. Now you’re up to speed. Now I can start writing here about all these things. Lord knows I’ve been writing everydamnwhere else about them.