on words

 

 

STICKS AND STONES

MAY BREAK MY BONES,

BUT WORDS WILL NEVER HURT ME.

 

There are several variations on this adage, “names” will never hurt me, words will never “break” me, but the above is how I remember the phrase and it’s the earliest usage recorded, The Christian Recorder, 1862.

 

Of course, words hurt, names hurt, they hurt all the time. Especially in this hurt hurling world we find ourselves in. I’ve hurled quite a few hurtful words myself, but for now make no apologies (a zealous, political, potty-mouth is not the point here). I recently watched a video from actress Mayim Bialik (whom I love) on the word GIRLS, “urging men to stop referring to women as girls,” womanhood beginning somewhere around 18-20 years of age. It’s a very good video, Bialik is intelligent, charming, fun to watch and perfectly on point.

“It matters what we call people, language matters, words have meaning and the way we use words changes the way we frame things in out mind.”

She references the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis which tell us that language influences thought. She addresses the outdated and insensitive misuse of the word. She talks about our male-centered culture (geez, ain’t that the truth), the inferior implications attached to the word GIRL, and that the usage of that particular word leaves one to “assume an insensitive structure of power where men are on the top and women are on the bottom” (a bit heavy-handed, I thought). Bialik makes the point that “language sets expectations,” but I have issues with our “say this, don’t say that” world.

Political correctness is not necessarily going to remove expectations, intentions, or associations. Has replacing the word “stewardess” with “flight attendant” made us respect the women who work on a plane more? “That stewardess was such a bitch, no excuse me, that flight attendant was such a bitch.” Has replacing the word “secretary” with “administrative assistant” created a position of more responsibility, more pay? In reference to Bialik’s bar-story-opener, if the buffoon at the bar refers to the person he is ogling as “girl,” is he suddenly more respectful, more sensitive if he refers to the person he is ogling as “woman?” What will happen to “girl’s-night-out?” (Never really liked that expression, how about “night-to-drink-wine-and-wear-spandex?”) My problem is I always shudder a bit when I hear someone say we shouldn’t use a certain word—censorship aside, in our culture of broken sentences, hieroglyphic communication, dwindling vocabularies and journalistic repression, any assault on words concerns me. Yes, yes, yes, we all need to be civil, sensitive, respectful and pay attention to what comes out of our mouths because words matter. But offensive words and offensive people are not going to go away. While it is admirable of Bialik to bring this subject to our attention and to try and right a legitimate wrong, I suspect that beyond sheer stupidity, name calling, bullying, political incorrectness, are symptomatic of a much deeper problem, probably involving self-esteem. And yes, as Bialik suggested we should point out to others language that we find offensive or demeaning, for mouths and minds have changed. But if we occasionally try to adhere to the sticks and stones adage, if we give the negative words less power over us, the sting of insult will be a little less and our understanding of others behavior may be a little more.

It may all boil down to age; much of what was once important fades with time—virility, beauty, correctness, and I’ve tussled with the concept of “what I should do” for too long. I work in retail and refer to myself as a “shopgirl” as do others in the industry. Yes, it’s a different usage of the word “girl,” but my female co-workers (most of whom are older than me) and I often refer to other women who work in retail as “girls.” There is no sexism, age discrimination, no career agenda or malintent attached to the word. At age sixty-five, I could care less if someone calls me a girl. Frankly, I often find it something to smile about.

 

 

Mayim Bialik on urging men to stop referring to women as girls

 

photo credit: pinterest

 

correction to life without a car

 

 

The cab ride that I take to the Publix is $26. to $30., round trip. I mistakenly put the one-way fare in the post. Still a hell of a lot cheaper than a car.

 

photo credit: I’ve had this photo for a long time and have used it often. Very fun, but I can’t remember the source; a stock photo from somewhere, I’m sure.

 

life without a car

 

 

I have now lived and worked in Key West for six months without a car. Every trip to my place of employment, every trip to the bank, to a restaurant, carry-out joint, coffee shop, drug store, hardware store, post office, tax office, nail salon, hair salon, dentist, or doctor is done on foot or by bike. I rode my bike to get my Florida driver’s license, for cryin’ out loud. Approximately once a month I pay for a round trip cab ride to the Publix for bulk items, but the majority of my food shopping is done at the downtown grocery, my bike basket capable of holding one large bag. While I originally balked at spending $13 – $15 for the grocery taxi, it is still a hell of a lot cheaper than the cost of a car, insurance, gas and maintenance.

Life without a car is not an easy challenge and not recommended for those who lean towards lazy. I don’t ask for rides—my decision to not have a car is not going to be someone else’s burden. Every errand requires route and time consideration. One trip for groceries took 4 hours: it included a bike ride to the bank for cab cash, the cab ride, the shopping, the cab home and carrying the groceries down the lane to my house as my lane is pedestrian traffic only (lesson learned—don’t grocery shop by cab at rush hour).

So why would I chose to live this way, you wonder. First and foremost, to save money —cars are expensive, period. I also wanted to live a life with less—less stuff, less responsibility, less stress. I wanted to explore the notion that life can be simpler yet richer, and to date I have found this to be true. And, if I’m to be perfectly honest, I wanted to stick it to my husband, the ultimate car junkie, tire expert, race car enthusiast and total pain in the ass when it comes to anything with wheels. Take that, car jar—I don’t need no stinkin’ Beamer.

And what do I miss as a result of my decision? Not much. I would like to explore the Keys and take day trips up and down the coast. I’m told that lots of folks take daily car rentals for such excursions but frankly, I don’t want to make that trip alone and when the right day-tripper comes to visit, I will rent a car. This magnificent island, which is only 2 x 4 miles, is perfect biking terrain, flat, not congested, scenic, and I can walk to just about anywhere in 30 minutes or less. I mostly shop online which I have done for the past 25 years and only once in six months did I need a cab because of foul weather. And if you don’t know by now that walking is the key to healthy longevity, you have most definitely been living under the coral.

Circumstances will change and I may change my mind sometime in the future. I do see myself in a golf cart taking my grandbabies to the beach but that may be a rental as well. Right now there are two big payoffs—my legs are like steel. I could play women’s soccer or I could crush a man’s head with my thighs should I choose. And I’m ridiculously proud of my mastering the task of transportation. I did this, I made it work. Got wheels? Nope. Don’t need ‘em.

 

 

And a special thank you to the lovely ms. dvd for the basket for my second bike–that’s right, I got two bikes.

 

photo credit: oaklandnorth.net

 

self-portrait

 

 

I’ve been thinking about self-portraits, specifically, what was the original intent, inspiration, motivation behind painting yourself, sculpting yourself? Was it to practice one’s craft, to self-promote, to satisfy something egotistical, historical, to fill in as model when the muse came to visit and there was no model? Should a self-portrait artist happen to be reading, thoughts please, as I’ve not found the answer online, although the link below, a brief history on self-portraits, is very interesting. I’ve been thinking that if I were a painter, which I absolutely am not, I would like to do a self-portrait to mark where I am in time and who I am in time. So being that I am a writer, I will exercise my artistic hand and attempt to paint an exaggerated and colorful rendering of myself in words.

The shape of my face is oval and my skin color is a medium ivory—palish compared to a olive skinned woman, but tanish for the average, white woman. My lower lip is slightly larger than my upper and I’m wearing cotton-candy-pink lipstick. My lips are firmly set but not hard, and my nose is painted wider than it actually is. One eye is distinctively larger than the other but both eyes are a clear, carribean blue, with enough flecks of black to make my eyes look like there are waves with shadows within, but on closer examination you can find no waves. My eyes are where the viewer’s eyes will go first. There is a vertical wrinkle between my eyes, visible only in sections as it is runs behind several strands of hair. My hair is that of a stainless-steel lion, untameable, huge, and I’m wearing a black headband with a butterfly applique, the butterfly wings painted with the blue from my eyes and the pink from my lips. There are wide black straps at my square shoulders, but that is all you can see of the garment I’m wearing. The background is green and brown and black, but it’s not a foreboding, murky combination, instead the crisp and sun-dappled palate of a lush and sculptural tropical locale.

I don’t know what you will see or what you will imagine with my words. They fall far short of any self-portrait ever put to canvas and they are not much more than a clever approach to self-examination. I once owned a pair of sunglasses from the Canon camera people which had their logo of that time printed on the arm of the glasses: Image is Everything. Of course that was a snazzy slogan on Canon’s part but I don’t believe it to be true. Images take on so many forms, ugly, beautiful, other-wordly, all subjective. But perception—and particularly, our perception of self—is just about everything we need to move forward or backward from this point on.

 

art: Frida Kahlo, self-portrait

 

visual arts / self-portait history

 

silver spoons

He laid six, silver, demitasse spoons on the bathroom vanity and left them there for seven of his ten-day stay. A blatant display of his value system that she found increasingly difficult to tolerate, a posturing that she could no longer buy into. She wouldn’t ask him anything about the spoons (a fight would most likely ensue) but suspected his answer to any inquiry on her part would be that he laid them there to remind himself that they needed polishing—even though they were quite shiny.

One time at the beach house, he arrived with his mother’s silver, Russian samovar which he cradled like a baby in a slightly shabby, green bath towel. He wanted Marie to take cell pictures of the piece, with particular attention to the markings, and would she please send them to his very good friend, the most expert of all silversmiths in all the world (Carver had no phone of his own, nor computer, nor credit card nor any money, but he did, or so he said, have a king’s bounty of silver somewhere in France that would become his son’s inheritance). He wanted to make an inquiry regarding the samovar on his mother’s behalf, suspecting that the piece was worth a great deal of money. But when Marie asked him months later what he had heard from his friend the silver expert, Carver said the gentleman’s shop was closed for vacation or it had moved or something equally vague.

Around the seventh day of Carver’s stay with Marie, he took the demitasse spoons to the kitchen and began the polishing with flourish and with far more space than necessary for six, little spoons. Still Marie said nothing, but took a silver teaspoon from her kitchen drawer and handed it to Carver, a spoon so sweet, he had commented on it earlier in the week.

“You know, there’s a “C” on the teaspoon, Carver. “C” from my mother-in-laws maiden name, Chenworth. I want you to have it, to use and think of me.”

He turned slowly, skeptical of her intent, hesitant to accept. And then, upon examination of her face, and just for a moment, he softened. “Thank you, baby,” he said and kissed her. He returned to his spoons and Marie left for work, smiling broadly at the neighbor trimming his ficus tree.

 

photo credit: bed, bath and beyond

 

janis ian 1776

with tremendous thanks to robin scofield*

 

 

Back in seventeen hundred seventy-six
We got tired of taking orders from the rich
So we drowned a little tea, and we made some history
Why did we resist? Just remember this

Everyone in government was white
Women had to fight for every right
The news was full of lies to confuse and terrorize
while the rich stayed rich, and the poor were neutralized

Laws were passed without a rhyme or reason
and when we disagreed, they called it treason

The king began to take away our rights
He taxed us once, and then he taxed us twice
His tantrums were notorious, even when victorious
and nothing satisfied his appetite

Those who said “This ruler is psychotic”
were told “You aren’t very patriotic”

He turned us into immigrants with callous treachery
We went from being citizens to being refugees
But the immigrants became Americans by name
and freed us from the yoke of tyranny
I’m so glad it’s only ancient history
‘cause it could never happen here to me – Janis Ian, 2017

 

* Robin Scofield is a web sleuth extraordinaire and a wonderful music historian and aficionado. When I once asked on FB if anyone knew of a republican comic, a right wing alec baldwin, damn if robin didn’t come up with someone, evan sayet—he’s quite bad, a master of ceremonies for conventioneers with a few you tubes out there. You’ll have to look him up for yourself if interested as I found nothing worth posting. Thank you again, Robin, you know I love lyrics.

 

 

a letter to my mentor

 

 

Dear Mentor,

Your indulgence, please, as I muddle through my thoughts.

I’m lacking direction, my friend and confidant. I’m struggling not with finding my voice, but what to do with it. Do I want to try fiction again, do I want to write memoir, write about this journey that I’m on, do I want to write erotica? Do I want to continue dicking around with this blog and facebook fantasies that someone will share something fabulous that I have written and recognition will be mine? Is recognition what I want? Or do I continue, to forever, fucking continue to seek praise?

I’m stuck, my dear. I’m falling back into bad habits and easy excuses for not writing. Too much gaming, too much smoking, too much idle time where I wonder what it is I should be doing, too many loose ends. Wants are creeping in—new towels, new shoes, home improvements. I hate to say that my Key West honeymoon is waning, but I knew it would come in time. I knew that routine would come with employment, which I welcomed, a steady hum to balance a tumultuous change. But that insidious hum can deafen all creativity, can render me useless and uninspired, uninspiring. After the Ecstasy, the Laundry—a title I always wished had been mine.

I’m airing my brain, dear mentor, doing that stream of consciousness thing you encourage. And courage comes to mind. Not the small to medium acts of everyday courage, but BIG courage action—like getting sober, like moving to a city where I knew absolutely no one, like publishing a story that was in essence my diary. I feel if I want to get serious about writing I’ll have to tap into gargantuan courage one more time. And then laziness and fear come to mind.

Thank you for listening, my teacher. Has this letter given me any clarity, any understanding of what it is I want to write, of what I seek? Sadly, no. Who knew age would come with so many questions, that I would still be grappling with intent and passion? But I’m not desperate, truly, I’m not, tired mostly. I suppose that self-satisfaction comes in fits and spurts, good days and bad days, of course, maybe building up to a steady hum of satisfaction. Diligence is key, isn’t it? Suiting up, doing the work. Courage.

 

p.s. – the beligan is gone!

 

art work: Harrison Howard

 

additional thoughts on the iguana story

 

 

  • I bleached and scoured my bathroom twice, and 5 days later, I still look for reptiles under the vanity.
  • I’ve been told by locals that I can get fined for calling 911 with a non-emergency. Clearly, the definition of emergency is highly subjective.
  • I felt a physical release of tension and fear when the iguana left the house—the move from danger to safety, which I have felt 3 or 4 times before that I can remember, and which I’m sure the iguana instinctively felt as well. Animals, reptiles, birds, etc., must surely know when danger has passed and how is it possible for them to move into safety mode without feeling a shift on the inside, without feeling? Is that possible? I find it hard to believe that that critter did not let out a sigh of relief when he hit the dirt.

 

photo credit: drawingimages.com

 

 

back to the erotic

 

 

 

“Sometimes I think of myself up in a satellite, and I’m looking down at America, or anywhere, really, but I usually imagine America, and all these little lights are blinking on and off, and each one represents a woman’s orgasm. That’s what ‘simultaneous orgasm’ really should mean – the awareness of of all those women’s orgasms simultaneously going on. Maybe the women who are reading while they come create a sightly different flare of  infrared color than the ones who are imagining something or coming in their sleep. I see them all.” – Vox, Nicholson Baker / Vox a gift to Bill Clinton from Monica Lewinsky

 

I started this writing journey with a piece of poetry and a dirty and poorly written novella. My writing has evolved into whatever it is my mind feels the need to say, but I’ve strayed from writing erotica (the exception being a short story I’ve been trying to get published for some time) and I want to explore the genre more while continuing to write in a 60 year old voice. With that in mind, and with the outrageous Nicholson Baker as inspiration (I recently lost my muse), I want to let my readers know that old chicks masturbate. That’s right, I masturbate. And I have orgasms while I’m reading–with a slightly different infrared.

 

“Don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.”Woody Allen

 

photo credit: unknown

 

the whole fucking iguana story

 

 

I don’t know why I dislike reptiles so much. Perhaps because they’re ugly—there’s no soft, furry face, no whiskers, no floppy ears to caress, no long lashes on big brown eyes. They crawl on the ground, they’re limbless, or as in the case of the iguana, equipped with tiny, Trump hands and hideously long toes. They are slimy, spiked, suspicious. They’re all poisonous, right? And iguanas have long, sharp teeth. Eco-system be damned. No reptile hugging activist, no truths as to their nature, their purpose, can change this girl’s opinion.

I live in a relatively bug-free environment (in part, due to heavy mosquito spraying) and leave my exterior doors (6 of them in a 700 sq. ft. space!) wide open. The breeze through my home is amazing—cooling, calming, just what one expects and appreciates on a tropical island. And I leave several of these doors open when I go to work, as I’m able to lock an entry gate into the property. Not any more. A VERY large (this was no lizard), green, spiky, monster of an iguana found his way into my bathroom, and lay in wait under the vanity to presumably eat me while I was pissing.

I had been home for several hours and in and out of the bathroom many times before discovering him. Why, I even cleaned up some unidentifiable slime off of the floor that I later learned was iguana shit; apparently, his pathetic, little limbs incapable of the climb to the toilet seat. But I’m running long; here’s what went down after I saw the bastard’s black and green striped tail sticking out from under the vanity. Oh, and it’s midnight and calling friends was not an option.

  • There’s an exterior door in the bathroom but it was locked from the inside. There is no key to open it from the outside, which meant I had to go into the bathroom and open the door so the little fucker could get out. One bowl of weed, two cigarettes later, the courage to go into the bathroom. Door open, wait outside and see if he comes out, 20 minutes, nothing.
  • I decided to prod him out with a broom, but one broom length was not enough distance between me and the critter so, fortunately, I had a second broom which I taped to the first. I now had at least 10 feet of broom, barely enough for my comfort but he had to go, this was my nest, this was home invasion. I swiped under the vanity, I knocked down the trash can to give him exit room and the bastard started to climb up the wall. Enough of this shit, called 911.
  • “There’s a very large iguana in my bathroom and I’m freaking out and I need someone to come over and get him outta here.”
  • The dispatcher paused. “I’ll call animal control, keep your phone close.” She knew, she knew what a horror this was.
  • Waiting outside again and finally, finally, the son of a bitch slimes his way out the door and into the night.
  • Called 911 again—all clear.

Sleep did not come soon or easily. First, there were doors to lock and re-lock and every conceivable hiding place to examine for additional iguanas. One never knows what size posse they travel in. Then, of course, with lights out, Where the Wild Things Are played non-stop in my brain. You think this is funny? You think iguanas are misunderstood, harmless, plant-eating creatures? Ha! Just wait till you’re sitting on the toilet and one starts eating your toes. Paradise my ass. More like Jurassic Park.

 

photo credit: swifty.com / NOT my toilet and my iguna was a little bit larger and fatter. Disgusting, right?