Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hey, hey it's the monkeys!

Nearly every Saturday morning for the last eight weeks, I've been on a bike ride with a couple of guys from the band at church. It's been a Saturday ritual with them for about a year now. They don't ride in the streets, though, smooth blacktop roads and few inclines. No, they ride on the nature paths that wind through the woods down by the river or on the six mile trail that's winds around Chimp Haven. You read that right, Chimp Haven. It's a very cool place that provides homes for chimpanzees that have been retired from the medical research field, entertainment industry, or chimps that have been kept as pets but are no longer wanted. The guys I ride with, Ryan and Greg, refer to it fondly as the Monkey Farm. Yesterday was my first day to ride the trail at the Monkey Farm. It kicked my butt. Five and a half miles on a narrow, winding, hilly, root-infested trail. I think I almost died.

The guys have been very patient, stopping with me when I need a moment to catch my breath, or I don't know, just to make sure my legs are still there because I haven't been able to feel them for the last five minutes. During these breaks, the conversations are the highlights of the ride. Yesterday, during one of these breaks, we could hear the chimps loudly screaming in the distance. It was actually kind of scary, they didn't sound happy. Greg said sometimes that sound makes him keep riding when he feels like he can't pedal another inch, must less four more miles. He imagines one of them crashing through the woods chasing him.

Me: This place isn't open to the public, right, like a zoo?

Ryan: No, it's a sanctuary for burned-out chimps, basically.

Me: Wow, that's pretty cool.

Ryan: I think once a month they let the public in to look around around and see the monkeys. Last time that happened, we had to leave and ride somewhere else. You couldn't even get in here because of the line of cars.

Me: I'll have to check it out the next time they open. I'd love to see what they're doing here.

Greg: (somberly staring off into the trees) I don't like to look at monkeys.

(pause...Ryan and I look at each other questioningly, and then at Greg)

Ryan: Did you have a traumatic experience with a monkey or something, Greg?

Me: Really, I mean, who doesn't like to look at monkeys?

Greg: They just make me uncomfortable. Seems like they should be wearing pants. It just ain't right.

(Ryan and I, looking at Greg like he's insane)

Me: Pants?

Greg: Yeah. Or maybe overalls.

Ryan: Or a three piece suit?

Greg: Nah, that would be strange.

Me: Right.


I love Saturday morning bike rides. You just can't buy this kind of entertainment.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Maybe I'm a Slacker

Today, I had an unexpected break from watching my grandson. I'm having one of those rare days when I'm completely alone. I crave these days but I find when I have them, I'm lost. When everyone leaves and the house is empty, I stand in the middle of the living room and absorb the silence. Then I start to think about all the possibilities that lie before me and my free day! Free! I can do anything I want! My first thought involves Starbucks, a comfy chair and a book. Then I think maybe I deserve something new and consider going to Target or TJ Maxx in search of a new top that will make me look like Gwyneth Paltrow. Or maybe I'll work on my novel (snicker) for a while or write some more angst-ridden poetry. Maybe I'll call Diahn. Or Lisa. Or Troy. Or hey, why not visit a museum or go for a bike ride?

Instead, this is what I've done the entire morning.

1. Decide to eat some Blueberry Muffin Oatmeal @ 9:30am. Make more coffee to go with the oatmeal because I've only had three cups. More.
2. Check my blog for new comments which leads me down a rabbit trail of blogs I've never read before for at least two hours.
3. 11:30am, decide I need to re-watch last night's Glee episode which oddly enough, featured Gwyneth Paltrow. She rocked.
4. Need a good snack with Glee, so I finish off a bag of Zapp's Potato Chips (Mesquite Bar-B-Q).
5. Channel surf for a while and end up watching the last half hour of The Wedding Singer.
6. Do an intense google search which asks the question "How many movies have Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore starred in together? (Answer: Two, plus she had a small bit part of the swedish receptionist in Big Daddy)
7. 12:30pm, consider getting dressed in something besides polka-dot pajama pants and old t-shirt and flip-flops.
8. Nah.
9. 12:30 pm, time for lunch, tuna in a pouch and wheat thins. And maybe some Zapp's dill pickle flavor chips. And Chips Ahoy.

Don't worry. Tonight I'm going to Painting with a Twist with a friend so I'll be exposed to some culture. That is, if you consider painting the same picture with a room full of middle-aged women while drinking multiple glasses of red wine, culture. And I do.

Happy Friday.

Monday, November 15, 2010


In my mind's eye, I see you.
Your head in your hands,
sandwiched between a salesman
and a movie producer.
You are 35 and this is your first time.
What should have been a
great adventure is instead,
a heartache,
a grieving repeated.
A shot of five dollar whiskey
to calm your shaking hands,
the sound of your father's voice,
then the lift...


stomach dropping,
ears popping,
and your heart,
You can hear him clearly now,
Real men don't fly...
This is not our way, you think.
Better to be behind the wheel,
on the blacktop, window cracked,
your cigarette glowing amber,
and Axle Rose singing about Patience.
You hear his voice again,
your father's, and you start
to strap yourself in,
batten down,
man up.
You start to anyway, until,
you glance out the window,
as the plane breaks through the
storm clouds, into the light,
and you forget.
You lose yourself in a halo of color,
beneath the wingtip of the plane.
It's ghostly, ethereal,
but still you snap a picture with
your fancy phone, hoping to catch it,
and send it to me,
miles away.
Do you see it?
I do.

This is for One Shot Wednesday. A weekly communal writing event. Go, read, enjoy.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

For Grandma, Queen of the Piggly Wiggly

My first reminder that the holidays are quickly approaching is the festive Starbuck's christmas cup. And with the approaching holidays, my thoughts always turn to my Grandmother. She's been gone for a while now and the holidays just aren't the same without her. When we were kids, Grandma was the center of every holiday. Imagine a house, a tiny house at that, with about 12-15 adults, and about 20 kids, all crammed in, all talking loudly, all eating. Did I mention eating? Grandma cooked enough for a small army. And even though we could probably pass for a small army, there was always food leftover. After we ate until we were in induced into a carb-coma, the men and boys usually got together for a game of football down at the local high school. Sometimes my cousins and I went exploring. We had a fondness for the "drainage ditch" down the street from Grandma's, which we were forbidden to explore. It never stopped us. We always got caught. And we always got into trouble. Sometimes, my cousin Troy and I (we were the oldest) would stretch the cord to the rotary telephone into my Grandma's room, lock the door, and make prank phone calls. The old school kind like, "Is your refigerator runnining?" and "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" At the end of the long, tiring day, Grandma would always let us spend the night, all the cousins. We would stay up all night, climbing over her furniture, playing quicksand. Our feet could never touch the floor as we worked ourselves from one end of the tiny house to the other.

I miss her so much. She was a true Grandma, always trying to feed us and always telling us, each and every one of us, how special we much she loved us. She treated us all equally.

This is a piece that I wrote about her about 20 years ago in my first creative writing class. I wanted to post it here, in her memory. I love you, Grandma. We all miss you.

Queen of the Piggly Wiggly

When Grandma slipped, it happened in slow motion. First her short left leg, clad in white support hose, went out from under her, and then the other. She landed with thud right in the middle of the produce section of Piggly Wiggly. "Oh, Lord!" she said, mashing down her perfectly sprayed, rinsed-brown hair. I thought she was really hurt until she started rocking and moaning, then I knew she was all right. She loved an audience. She told me to find the manager, which I did. He was just a kid, with a middle-aged man aura, like he was put out when you spoke to him. He wore a short, thick moustache that sat on his thin, top lip like a Chihuahua. When we finally got to her, she was still sitting there, dress properly pulled down over her puffy knees, legs straight out in front her, feet pointed towards the ceiling and toes tapping together. There were three of four blue-haired women standing around her, leaning on their carts, listening to her like she was Jesus as she told them the story of how she fell. The nervous, boy/man manager rolled his eyes and cleared his throat and asked, "Are you okay, ma'm?" My Grandma looked up at him and I thought she had never looked so beautiful, sitting there on the green-and-white tiled floor of the Piggly Wiggly with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables surrounding her and I swear I almost told her that, but what I said was, "Get up, Grandma" and that's what she did.

I should have told her how beautiful she was.