Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 1 New York

Laurie and I are being treated to a trip to the city with Cousin Sally. Not my cousin. Not Laurie's cousin. Sally is Lynn and Diane's cousin. Lynn and Diane are high school friends of Laurie's. Girlfriends cross all boundaries. We're off to dinner somewhere near Times Square.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lent and Repent

Lent and Repent

…by kate carey

Elvis would understand, she thought as she sat in her Suburban in the dry cleaners parking lot. He knew pain. The sleet dropped steadily from the sky as she took the last puff on her menthol. Why the tobacco companies didn’t fight harder for their God-given rights to provide Americans with one product, just one single product, that wasn’t made in China, she would never understand. Her Uncle Phil was out of work since the plant in Winston-Salem laid off workers because fewer Americans smoke these days.

Last night she was just fine, but today with the wind, the rain, and the leak in her carport, she felt lower than a pregnant pot-bellied pig. Dorothy felt low about once a month. Not that week, but the week after. Her mother tried to tell her she didn’t eat enough protein. Well, who has money for protein when the government takes its bite out of every paycheck?

Dorothy swore and stubbed out the cigarette. She really should quit one day. She adjusted the rear view mirror to look closely at the tiny lines around her mouth and decided she’d quit before her 40th birthday. That gave her some time to work up to it.

Everyone in her office smoked. Her boss was a cigar man. He chomped on it between client meetings in his small pigeon hole office. Bill was an old-time accountant. He hardly knew what the Internet was, but he knew tax code so well that the IRS banned him from their workshops. About five years ago at a session, he grilled the IRS guy about a code change for so long that the supervisor interrupted, took Bill out back, and threaten to revoke his CPA license. Bill stormed back into the office that day and declared a jihad on the IRS. Clients have benefited every since.

The cigarette wasn’t her only problem this morning. The damn ice made her truck skid and her most prized possession – her Velvet Elvis -- was now damaged. Maybe even damaged beyond repair. Hell, she would just get it cleaned and worry about the tear just above Elvis’ ear on Monday. Or better yet, she’d stay quiet today. Blame the damage on the cleaners and get them to fix it free-of-cost. But this is Good Friday. It’s the weekend of Great Redemption. What’s a good Baptist to do, she wondered?

Walking into the cleaners, Dorothy replayed last night’s conversation with Brandi in her head. Is she right about Bub? She called him a jerk who stole her stereo, sold it, and then lost the money playing poker with Bob Booker. Brandi reminded Dorothy that Bub slept with Mary Ellen Fitzheart, the floozy from Forest Hills. She smiles at the name she and Brandi bestowed on Mary Ellen. The others couldn’t be used in public, so that was the name that stuck. Brandi is her best friend and will go with her to the Wal-Mart after work tonight. Brandi works as a fitness trainer in Gold’s Gym. She’s always up for a trip to Wal-Mart. They have the largest selection of Champion athletic wear and in her business, Brandi felt she needed at least one new t-shirt a week. Wal-Mart was her store. Bub’s grandfather is a Greeter there and the last thing Dorothy wants to do is run into him. She could try to avoid him but how do you ignore a 6-foot, 300-pound man who looks like Santa Claus on a bad hair day?

earHear Hearing “ready on Friday” brought Dorothy out of her head and into the world. Somehow she daydreamed through the ripped velvet dilemma and is now backing out of the Cleaners heading to her truck, dry cleaning slip in her hand.

Interesting how some things just fix themselves if you don’t mention them, she thought driving to work. She didn’t have to mention the tear to the cleaners. She just knew they would fix it for free. She never mentions her father’s drunkenness to her mother and everyone is always cheerful at the breakfast table. Her mother never mentions her bruises to the minister, and he sees them on Sunday, when she serves his cake at coffee hour.

Maybe she doesn’t have to ever mention Bub’s name ever again. Maybe she’ll meet someone new tonight who takes her mind off Bub. Maybe Brandi is right, she thinks braking for the traffic light.

“Bub Sawyer is a jerk who stole my heart and broke it,” she says aloud. “He stole my stereo and sold it. He has become unmentionable!”

Across town, Dorothy parks, and walks into her building. She sighs, turns around, and leaves. She needs sugar. The gas station mini-mart has fancy coffees. English Butter Toffee is a far better use of calories than a ham sandwich no matter what her mother says.

A horn honks and Dorothy jerks her head back at the two trucks at the pumps as she opened the door to the mini-mart. Bam! Dorothy smacks into him. Her forehead bounces against his broad chest.

“Bub? Bub Sawyer, you lyin’ sack-a-shit. Get out of my sight. This is my gas station and you cannot be near me today. Or any day. Or ever. Move. Did you hear me? MOVE!”

With each word her voice grows louder and shrill enough that her own hair stands on end. By the time she says “move” everyone in the store is watching them. Without thinking she smacked Bub in the stomach. He doubles over, spilling his Big Gulp on her white shirt, and lets out a large oomph of breath. She bursts into tears and hits him again. Her second smack sends his ball cap across the floor faster than an NHL hockey puck. It lands in the middle of the potato chip aisle.

From his doubled over position, Bub looked up at her, puzzled. Must be that time of the month he thinks, but knows if he says it, he’d get another smack. He straightened up and turned toward the door forgetting his need for caffeine

“I still love you, you know. You kicked me out and changed the locks.”

“You slept with Mary Ellen,” she hissed, feeling the stares of the other customers waiting in line to buy coffees, chips, and the morning paper.

“So she says.”


On Saturday, driving to Lowe’s to pick up flashlights, rope, and a crow bar, Dorothy suggests they get pedicures before breaking into Bub’s trailer. If they get caught, and she has to shower with other women, she wants a fresh coat of Saturday Night Passion polish on her toes. “No sense in looking like Forest Hills floozies in jail,” she says grinning.

They cruise to the mall. At Nails Plus, Lavern is the only nail tech available.

“Out of the question and you know why,” Dorothy huffs as they by-pass Nails Plus and walk the length of the mall.

Brandi sighed. Like the floozy from Forest Hills, Lavern slept with Bub, according to the bathroom wall at The Barn. Bub may have slept with every girl in the county if you believe everything written on the wall at The Barn. At least, that’s what April, Bobbi, Cassie, Doris, Elaine, Frankie, Gerri and about six other “authors” wrote. Bub gets around. Of course, you can’t believe everything written on the wall at The Barn. You can’t even believe what you hear at The Barn, but Dorothy passes on the pedicure and decides to take her chances in jail.

Brandi drives as Dorothy broods. “Take your cat and leave my sweater’ Keith Urban sings. The DJ tells sick color jokes involving cats and Chinese food that offend Brandi and Dorothy who love both cats and Keith Urban. It’s a typical Saturday afternoon in late winter. Grey slush lines the road side as skies hang low with heavy slate clouds. Dark thoughts and little conversation follow them up Route 20.

Both women stare at the Big Boy restaurant near the Lowe’s and decide to get a burger since they can’t get pedicures. “Food is bigger than life anyhow,” Dorothy said looking at Big Boy.

“Food is art,” Brandi replied.

“Not Big Boy food. It’s just big. Like my love for Bub used to be.”

The bouffant blonde hostess looks at them. “You girls must be talking about a man,” she says smiling.

They sit in a turquoise booth across from each other eating Big Boys, the original double decker hamburger, says the menu. Their window overlooks the parking lot and Lowe’s sign on the corner of Freeway Drive. Lowe’s customers hurry in to the store with their heads down against the winter wind. They struggle out with paint cans, plumbing supplies, and an occasional piece of sheet rock.

“Looks like it’s getting colder out,” Dorothy says, munching a French fry covered in catsup and watching the Lowe’s customers.

“Not a great day to be poking around places you don’t belong.” Brandi slurps the last of her chocolate milkshake dragging the straw around the bottom of the glass.

The grey sky begrudgingly allows a sliver of sunshine to slip through. Lowe’s customers continue their in-and-out patterns, heads down against the wind.

The waitress walks by, slapped down their check, and moves on to take an order at the booth behind them. As they pay and walk toward the door, Dorothy spots Bub sitting at the counter with his back to them.

“Get out. Now!” she hisses.

They scramble around the back of the restaurant. There it is -- parked diagonally near the trash bin in all its 4-wheel-drive splendor. It’s fresh from the car wash. Water still drips off the rear bumper.

Dorothy jams her hand in her purse and pulls out the truck keys. She smiles triumphantly. They look at the Big Boy as they open each door and climb up into the cab. She turns the key, pushes in the clutch, and puts the truck in gear.

“Guess we don’t have to break in now,” says Brandi sighing with relief.

Dorothy smiles, “It’s better than breaking-and-entering. It’s Grand Theft Auto.”


Published Spring Street 2008

Beijing Here We Come - Ready, or Not

I'm frantically trying to add music to my ipod for the long flight to Beijing on Monday. I've not learned a word of Chinese, nor have I finished a single guide book, memoir, or historical novel. I'm well prepared for this journey, she says with a grin.

I have, however, packed and repacked my suitcases, been to the bank for a wad of dollar bills, had my hair cut, and purchased gum and candy for the flight. I've packed books, (Thanks Susan!) and magazines, set the away message on my work email, stopped the newspaper, and arranged a ride to the airport (Thanks Jon!). After the one-day trip to Washington that turned into 4 days in Raleigh, I have a ditty bag with me that has the overnight necessities. That is one travel mistake I won't make again!

I've warned everyone to watch my FB posts as there are so many Internet cafes and access places in China. I promise not to post anything controversial. Now, if you are one of my FB friends, you know that in a regular week several days pass between posts. I spend about 12 hours a day with a computer near my typing fingers, yet I my posts are less than daily. Oh well, I am sure that this trip to China will prompt me to share more broadly. And i have renamed this blog as a travel blog. With the vast amount of travel that I do, I'm covered. One blog entry, a trip every three or four years. Yes, I think I can handle that commitment.

Friends and colleagues ask "Are you excited?" and they seem so disappointed when I say, "No. I have too much to do." International travel does take some preparation. I think today most of it is mental. I'm off to go exercise my mind.