Cigarettes, Darth Vader, and Crows

Every morning, as I drink my tea on the back porch, I am at one with nature. Today the new neighbor two doors down was out on his porch, too. He smoked his first, second and third cigarettes, scaring away the birds, the deer and the squirrels, as well as chasing away the crisp, clean smell of evergreens. I channeled my inner Darth Vader and used The Force to explode his head. Then the crows came and ate his brains.

Moral of the story:
Watch out for crows. They’ll eat anything.

birds

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Mr Bubble, Boiled

“Why don’t you go home and relax. Take a nice, hot bath?”

“Yeah, no, I can’t take baths.”

“What?”

“Yeah, I can’t take baths. Fifteen years ago I did, I stuffed my hair up in a shower cap, got the Mr. Bubble going, slid in there with a paperback novel… I like the water really hot, you know? Hot. So, after a little while my glasses were streamed up and I was sweating like a pig and the book was getting all soggy so I got out. I put the book on the vanity, pulled off the shower cap and was toweling off when I must have passed out or something – when I woke up I was on the floor and I was all red and puffy.”

“That sounds awful!”

“Yeah. I’m pretty sure I poached myself.”jenny fish

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It Ain’t Pretty, and It Certainly Ain’t Good

Pretty. Good.

Two perfectly fine words, yes? Sure they are, if they’re hanging out at the same party or stuck beside each other in traffic. But should those two words hook up, or say, carpool, then those two words ain’t fine at all, no sir. Put those two words together and you have a harbinger of doom. Let me explain.

The phrase ‘pretty good’ has two meanings. Adjectival. One indicates that the thing being described is acceptable, admirable, close to good. The other indicates that the thing being described is unacceptable, subpar, and no good.

“Pretty good.” The cavernous dichotomy of meaning tied to this two-word phrase is highly problematic. The meaning of the received message depends greatly on the body language and intonation of the communicator.

For example: you are out with a friend and you want to tell her that you think Pizza Hut’s new Stuffed Pretzel Crust is to your liking. You’d smile, turn your face a few degrees to one side and nod. “It’s pretty good.” However, if you think the pizza tastes like rusty nails covered in ketchup but observe that your friend is loving every bite, your response to the question “What do you think?” would be to cock your head slightly to the one side while shrugging your shoulders and offering a politically correct half smile. “It’s pretty good.” See the difference? Same words. The entire message depends on body language. This is why talking to people face to face is ideal.

Another tool in relaying the intended meaning of ‘pretty good’ is tone. Intonation. The way words are pronounced is a powerful indicator of their meaning. “Pretty good”, with a short ‘pretty’ and a drawn out, warm ‘good’, tells your listener that the thing at hand is satisfactory, pleasing. “Pretty good”, said with ‘pretty’ and ‘good’ being of the same length but with a drop in tone that ends in flat-lined silence means that the thing could be, in a pinch, somewhat satisfactory. Try it. Go ahead. Say “pretty good,” and then say “pretty good.” Hear the difference? And that’s just the tone of your voice. This is why talking to people on the phone is only quasi-ideal.

But what if there is no opportunity for body language nor tone? Let’s say your communication is limited to the written word. Now what? You can write paragraphs of exposition, you can state your case clearly and cite examples, but at some point, you’re doomed to use the words “pretty good.” And then, how the reader interprets your meaning is entirely out of your control. Two perfectly innocuous words, put together, could imply only one of two things. It could be “it’s not too shabby” or it could be “it sucks.” This isn’t a big deal if you’re telling a friend about pizza, but it is utterly disastrous if you’re reporting third quarter performance to the board of directors. This is why email totally blows.  jenny phone

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Just Kill The Old Bird

I wonder if, when I am seventy, I wonder if I will be standing at the cashier’s counter of the Wild Bird Store, discussing with Agnes in great detail the benefits of hulled over non-hulled safflower seed vis-à-vis its desirability to the North American Carolina Wren, I wonder if there will be a forty-year-old woman standing behind me, struggling to hold a twenty pound bag of sunflower seed in her arms, and if that woman will be trying to decide if she should smile or if she should not smile when she spins that bag around like an Olympian shot-putter and launches it at my balding, blue-haired head.jenny bird seed

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Crest Fallen

Okay, Proctor and Gamble, I’ve used your “Crest 3D White Luxe” toothpaste in Glamorous White (with Whitelock Technology) three times a day for the last five days and I don’t see any indication that it has “removed up to 90% of surface stains” as advertised.

I went on a couple of vacations last year, one to visit my friend Bridget in The ‘Lu (which, she tells me, is what everyone who is anyone is calling St Louis these days), and then one with my friend Susan to Princess Island (which is what we call anywhere we go on vacation together). These trips both produced copious photographs, all of which were posted to Facebook, Dropbox, Instagram, and Flikr. Many people saw these photos, as evidenced by the overwhelming number of ‘likes’ received (an 85/15 split between friends of theirs and friends of mine).

The photos are nice. They’re black and whites, which are always lovely. In every single shot the sun is bright, I’m having good hair days, and Bridget/Susan and I are smiling widely. However. Bridget/Susan’s face is aglow with the shimmer of their clean white teeth, but not mine. My face, sparing the part of my eyeball that isn’t iris or pupil, is all the same color – except for the darker gray slash between my lips. That’s my teeth. To their credit, my teeth are admirably straight. I wore braces and headgear for five years to earn that honor.

Curious, I waited until I was home alone one evening, looked in my bathroom mirror and grinned at myself. There they were, side by side like little soldiers, perfectly aligned and decidedly yellow teeth. More yellow on the sides than on the front. You know, yellow isn’t quite right. Staring at my teeth, the first thing that came to mind was the weathered, fading slats of plywood that Ben used to build the fence around my tomato garden last summer. Functional, yes. Appealing? No.

Hence, my need for the Crest. I read your label, I felt hope, I brushed three times a day for five days. Nothing. Of course I can go see my dentist for laser whitening, but that’s not the point. You let me down. In addition to being out $6.49, I’m really disappointed. I was counting on y’all.toothpaste

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good googily miss moogily

Just a quick “hi” to those of you who have been kind enough to pop over from that other blog I’ve been posting to when I meant to be posting here.  As mentioned, I thought I was clever having more than one blog but then I figured out I was spreading myself too thin, confusing myself, and possibly befuddling others.  Thank you for coming.

For those of you who have been here from the start, please ignore the preceding paragraph. Thank you for coming.

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Funny Pharm

“Jennifer?”

It’s my boyfriend, standing in the doorway of my studio and speaking softly. “Jennifer?”

“What?” I say. I had left the studio door open. He’s allowed to talk to me if I leave the door open. If I close the door it’s understood that I’m in the ‘Red Zone’ and he has to leave me alone unless the house is on fire. ‘Red Zone’ is supposed to mean that I’m deep in a groove with my painting and shouldn’t be disturbed. In reality it means I don’t want him bothering me. Today I forgot to close the door.

“Jennifer?” he says again, his voice still soft.

“What?” I say, looking up from my magazine.

“Well, I think there’s something you ought to see.” His voice stays soft, but his tone rises in urgency. It sounds panicky, fearful.

“What is it?” I ask.

“You better come downstairs.”

I follow him downstairs to the kitchen. He walks around to the far side of the breakfast bar and points at the counter. “See?” he asks.

There on the counter is a tiny white pill. It’s one of the many pills I take every morning. There are the supplemental vitamins and minerals, and there is the medication for my glaucoma. There’s the blood thinner, the cholesterol lower-er, and the one to stave off my IBS. And that’s just the starting line-up. The really heavy hitters don’t even make sense. First, I’m not epileptic, but the anticonvulsant levels out the swings of my bipolar fairly well. Second, I’ve not been diagnosed psychotic, but it’s an antipsychotic that picks up the slack where the anticonvulsant leaves off.

And there, on the counter, is the latter, the one that kept me out of the hospital last winter. That bad johnny is $125 a month, but last winter the cost wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I really didn’t care if I took it or not. When the shrink said, “But it will make you feel better, Jennifer. Don’t you want to feel better?” my response was sullen silence. Ask a manic depressive who’s scraping the bottom of the ‘will to live’ barrel if they want to feel better and that’s what you get. A non-answer from someone who doesn’t give a damn about feeling better.

You’d think such a life changing pill would be bigger. It’s even smaller than the flea pill we give Mr. Buckles. It’s tiny. So tiny that an extra one could easily slide out of the bottle when I tipped out my dose, so tiny that it could slip right out of my hand when I popped a fistful of meds into my mouth. Either way, the pill had landed on the kitchen counter this morning.

So which was it? Was it a wayward extra that I didn’t need to take? Or was it the one I should have taken? If I took this pill and I’d already taken one, I’d be doubling up for the day. If I didn’t take this pill and I hadn’t had one already, I’d miss a day. There was a 50/50 chance that I’d guess correctly, and my action based on that guess would have serious ramifications. How I chose to proceed would determine on whom disaster would fall. It would be me, or him.

If I took the pill twice, it would be hell for me. The known results of doubling up on this particular drug were well known. There had been medical studies done, and there were warnings on the package. I would experience dizziness, uncontrollable shaking in my extremities, blood in my stool, and an urgent need to pass said bloody stool.

In contrast, if I didn’t take a pill at all, it would be hell for my boyfriend. I would become ‘irritable’. Last time I missed a pill was on Valentine’s Day. I wanted to serve fresh grapefruit for brunch, but grapefruit is out of season in February, so it was impossible to peel. I couldn’t get a grip on it, and the tiny shards of rind got all up under my fingernails. It hurt. It made me angry. My boyfriend walked into the kitchen whistling ‘happy days are here again’, so I hurled the grapefruit at his head. It grazed his shoulder, bounced up, and smashed against the wall above the bay window. I had to pay the maid an extra twenty to climb up on the table and clean up the pulp and juice that had splattered on the glass.

So, my choices were to either inflict bodily harm on myself or to traumatize someone I cared about. It was a tough call. I stared at the pill and pushed it around the counter with my finger. I picked up the bottle and looked into it. I thought about sitting on the toilet all day, and then, as I looked into the eyes of my anxiety ridden boyfriend, I considered the certain end of our relationship. I knew what I needed to do. I picked up the pill, lifted my hand, and

 

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