Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sweet Shells

 “Do I have to go Mom?”

My whining voice as my mother tried to coax me away from whichever Judy Blume book I was deeply nuzzled into. She had the night off from school and had a “date” with the adulterous man she was seeing. My mother dated rarely but when she did, she went for anything other than what was good for, or could be good, for her. This particular man was one I had a fiery hatred for. First of all he was married and while everyone around us told us he wasn’t, his daughter, that he brought with him on several of his outings, assured me, he was still in fact very married and while we knew of her, his wife knew nothing of us. Even then I didn’t have too many hang ups about that kind of thing. To each their own and it isn’t any of my business to tell grown ass folks how to live. That said, this was my desperately needing mother and I knew….could tell by the way she selected her perfume from the glass tray atop her dresser what kind of night she was hoping for. The kind of knight she was hoping for, and I was sure this black grease wreaking, slow witted, living in a hotel room user was the polar opposite to what she needed.

“Please Mouse. Come with us. We are going to that shrimp place”

The words still a bubble in the air above her head and I was shoving my summer blistered heels into my Keds, standing tall as I ran my pudgy hand over my layingaroundallday shirt and with a slightly defeated snarl replied, “Okay fine! Just make him leave me alone”

So not only was this man a liar, a user and a cheater, he was also cruel in that way that only profoundly stupid men can be. Every time I came to dinner he would call me “Hungry Hungry Hippo” and when he’d call to speak to my mother the first question, out of his tubby face, “So Sam, you still ugly?” so needless to say spending the night with Ms. Blume’s perfectly aged stories were a far better option for me but, well there was that sweet smelling momma of mine, and the promise of fried shrimp, a thing I had only known because of that grease stinking ape, and the only thing I could find pleasure in when he and my mother would start kissing, the sight and sound making my stomach turn….turn right to that bucket of fried shrimp. 

“Nance, you got your wallet? His thick southern accent oozing with a sickly sweet stench as we approached the iron rod covered walk up window. Took us like 20 or 25 minutes to get there and it was in a part of town that my mother would never be caught dead in…the part of town that drew me back years later for its honesty and truth no matter how busted, broken and sad. I looked up, well across as I was nearly as tall as she at this point, at my mother and refusing to make eye contact with me she reached into her purse and pulled out her pocketbook. Dinner on her, again. “Yeah, I have some cash” she sputtered and with that the goon belted out his order.

 “Yeah, we’ll be having 2 pounds of those fried shrimps and don’t cheap out on the ketchup sauce! I also want a shake” like he was a 10 year old getting to pick dinner on his birthday. I was actually ten and while I sat there, thirsty because it was only his drink requirements dealt with, my legs dangling off the side of his oversized van thing that looked like a Frito Lay delivery truck, I listened to the two of them coo and flirt and the only thing that kept me from either retching or snapping my ten year old leg off in his dumb ass, the briny, bready, horseradishy aroma and roof of the mouth scraping of those perfectly fried and cocktail dunked “shrimps”

Fixed coral colored tails fanned out, deeply brown coating squeezing the flat splayed shrimp bodies, hard fried just enough that the crunch of their flesh between my teeth drowned out the ever screeching lies, empty promises and eventual bickering and tears that were coming from the belly of the van. The spent tail quarters and nose expanding aroma of cocktail sauce my music as I sat on the bumper of the van after being pushed out so, ‘the grownups can talk” the grunts and slow rocking of our chariot teaching me how I never wanted to talk in that kind of grown up way. The fragrant briny whiff a comfort as I sat in the dark on a swaying bumper as drug deals, sexual exchanges and toothless homeless folks passed me by, not noticing, for a second, my Keds dangling from the Frito Lay looking van. Never seeing me dip my chin into the bucket to hide my tears of frustration, maybe humiliation as I found the one and only good thing in that moment, becoming once again a submissive to the seduction of oceanic fragrances. That and knowing that my mom would be needing extra hugs that night and I would be the one giving them to her….which was why she begged me to come in the first place. 

The other night my son and I sat with two very real loves of my, of our lives, and we all crunched away madly on old school breaded shrimp, this time the submission of their crunch covered flesh nearly silent compared to the boisterous energy and welcoming exchange and debates spinning around the table. My voice, his voice, our voices all bouncing about as the hedonistic tug of thick cocktail sauce, heavily flecked with serious tatters of horseradish and sweet tomato ketchup were wrapping me up in a kind of embrace  that I so longed for 35 years ago. I might not have noticed how powerful the moment had it not been for the nights spent on that Frito Lay bumper and the resulting tight hugs and hair stroking, another one of our role exchanged moments that taught me to be just a little stronger.

Can’t smell the ocean, oysters, clams or fried shrimp without feeling nostalgic and a bit taller. It’s that kind of observation that reminds me, there is plenty of bad but if you can, somehow, find some tiny bit of hope, strength, power or courage in them…someday those bads will smell and feel a whole lot like a much needed embrace.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


After 6 weeks of broken legged house arrest, the ankle bracelet has been removed. My beginning of the year crust has been cracked and all the while I sat dormant, still, not washed enough, bored, lonely and feeling both physical and emotional strain and pain, I kept thinking, "I want my normal life back" but now, with this, still stiff but promised flexibility and mobility I feel something else entirely.....I want more than a normal life, I am gnawing for an exceptional one. Dammit. 

I want


 Lie on the grass and let the little flicks of windblown hair land upon my forehead like tiny kisses

 Spend more time pressed against bare skin

Drink at least one bottle of grower Champagne a week. For $35-$50, what we might spend on a lazy ass stop in for dinner at like Chili's or something, I can instead feel the bead of brilliance and let the power of Billiot, Suenen, Vesselle, Saves, Agrapart or Gaucher stain me so deeply that I shan't ever get clean

Master the art of frying artichokes 

Find myself sloshing about in the pool, on a Tuesday at like 9:30 PM

Never sit upon that section of the couch that was my prison for a month again

Forgive myself a little for my fatness and go clothes shopping a little more often

Buy more big white t-shirts, cut to collars off of them and wear them around the house with a pair of ripped up and faded jeans. A look that drives my husband wild and the fact that that is even possible after almost 22 years is something that ought to be pet and paid attention to

Give up one of my trash television shows

Eat with my fingers and lick myself clean

Find a new writer to fall deeply in lust with, and devour their every word

Spend even more time in my kitchen

Make myself understand Bordeaux

Find a signature necklace, a fearless one and own it

Make someones life just a tiny bit better, even if it is only for a few minutes *

Chip off another layer and expose my inner sponge....soak more in so when I'm squeezed I ooze experience, humanness, passion, bright colors and the aroma of curiosity

Use more anchovies

Write like no one is reading.....


Be here, once a week at the very least whether I have anything profound to say or not....just be here, talking, find and feel my voice come pulsing through me again....it's beyond want, I need it

Little more healing to do and then starts the beginning of my first, well I guess it is technically the second if you count the breaking of my right leg, big adventure of 2016. I will be soaking in Paris, Beaune, Lyon, Normandy, Jura, Nuits-Saint-Georges and Reims. From virtually no travel last year, (in part a contribution to my lack of luster) to a full immersion in the crave inducing, beloved France. Cannot believe it....and cannot wait.

 Thanks so much for your patience and I cannot wait to see both of you here more often. 


* I nearly cried when I was able to really wash my hair, face, neck, breasts and thighs after several days not being able to due to my cast and getting the non-accessible bathroom and shower just a little more accessible. Feeling the warm water running from my oil soaked scalp, over my face and down my back....the smell of soap as I lathered and scrubbed, the silky caress of wet hair floating across my shoulders as I washed the conditioner out. In those few minutes I was able to wash away hours of disgust and misery, just feeling and getting clean. I began thinking about all the people on the streets, especially women, that have no access to a regular bathroom let alone a regular shower, broke my heart...made me want to help just a little if I can. So I've asked all my friends and family, especially those with heavy travel schedules, to gobble up all the extra soaps and shampoos from their hotel stays, maybe ask for a couple extra if they can, and send them to me. I'm willing to pay shipping and for any/all packing material, but I want to make little wash sacks for the homeless women of Long Beach. Just bags or old purses with travel sized toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps, shampoo, sanitary products and wet wipes. Just something they can have to wash their yuck away....if even for a moment. Anyone interested in sending me soaps and such, please feel free to contact me here or at The Wine Country https://thewinecountry.com/