Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What's that again?

I have this love/hate relationship with clich├ęs, catch phrases and old sayings.

They certainly speed up writing or speaking, assuming everyone understands what they mean, or are in agreement as to what they mean. If you have relatives from “the old country” you know that not all old sayings translate to any culture or time period. Idioms about the broom speaking to the ash can for the donkey carrying the lettuce to the moon require more explanation than what was originally being discussed.

Usually catch phrases annoy me, like having an itch deep in your ear. Nothing makes me shudder like the phrases “24-7” or “ASAP,” whether pronounced phonetically or spelled out.

When you live in the South, phrases tended to stick around longer whether stale or not. Dirtman still uses the phrase, “…than Carter has liver pills” when describing a great amount of something. That Carter has not had liver pills since the 50s (the FDA required the removal of the word “liver” since it neither contained liver nor benefited said organ) and that no one under 80 understands what he’s talking about, makes no difference to him. (Interestingly, while Carter no longer has liver pills, what they had prior to being bought out in 2001, was Trojan condoms and First Response pregnancy tests. I’ll leave the reader to fill in the appropriate wisecrack.)

Not to pick on Dirtman...Oh, why not?

Another favorite Dirtman phrase is “…scared the beejeebers out of me.”

(pause for effect)

What, exactly, is a beejeeber? How many do you have? If they are scared out of you do the same beejeebers come back, or do you get new ones? Do they all go out at once or do you still have some after they are scared out of you? Do you leak beejeebers when you are only mildly surprised? And if all your beejeebers are scared out of you and you have no beejeebers left, what happens if you get scared again right away and there are no beejeebers to spew out of you? Do you die? Can one live beejeeberless? (I can do this all day.) Can you use someone else’s beejeebers? Can you donate to a sort of pool for the beejeeberly-challenged? Do dogs have beejeebers? (I think Stephen King needs to write a Beejeebers book.)

Have TV sitcom writers finally gotten it through their heads that little kids spouting annoying catch phrases drives viewers away? That includes those nasty cartoon sitcoms. The last one I remember was “don’t have a cow” so, obviously, I’m out of the loop on this one. You see, it trickles down even to people who don’t watch when all the rude t-shirts start appearing at Target in the spring.

“That’s do-able…” (…not necessarily by me, but someone is capable of doing it.)

“I’ll pencil you in…” (…so that if something more interesting to do comes along I can erase you and ink in something else. Did I mention my grandmother’s not looking so good?)

“Networking opportunities…” (…because somebody forgot to schedule a speaker.)

“Hi, I’m insert name here and I’ll be your server…” Now this one only bugs me for one reason. It reminds me of those hideously sexist and vaguely pornographic airline commercials from the 60s: “Hi, I’m Shirley! Fly me to Miami!”

“…work outside the home…” Okay, okay. I know this phrase was adopted just for people like me because of the boorish phrase “Do you work?” as though what is done for the family is not work. But could we come up with something other than “the home”? It sounds like some sort of institution. “She’s been put into The Home, you know” or “call The Home and have him picked up.” Instead, the question should be, “Do you slavishly toil for anyone else but your ungrateful relatives?” That’s more to the point, don’t you think?

And, finally, the one phrase that could conceivably lead me to homicide. It is my personal opinion that anyone who ever said (or owned something that said) “git-r-done” should be taken out of the gene pool.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Your smiles are thanks enough

Far be it from me that I should toot my own horn, so I shall merely state the facts of how, in spite of nay-sayers and skeptics, I organized the singular, perfect trip in the history of our family.

Just because the reservations went on without a hitch, I’ll not be the one to point this out. That the meals went smoothly with the minimum of discussion as to exactly where they will be consumed, for this I certainly won’t take full credit.

I merely refer to one of the first e-mail regarding the organization of the Blue Knob excursion which began, “I’m going to take matters into my own hands…” at which point I made reservations without consulting with the family at large.

No…no…the happy, content countenance on everyone’s face is thanks enough for me.

Even though the trip caused great personal trauma to me, it was certainly worth it to see the unbridled joy rippling through my family. (Who put the freakin’ alpine village so stinkin’ high up via an icy, winding road with only a yard of guardrail? Like for what we paid for the freakin’ condo they couldn’t find a way up that didn’t involve the danger of careening off the side of mountain and bouncing off rocks to a fiery death in the valley a bajillion feet below?)

I don’t even expect gratitude for the myriad of hobbies since taken up that were inspired by this trip. Why, as we speak, Dark Garden is busily assembling a scrapbook of pictures of every Sheetz in the greater Altoona area! They may all forget the perfect skiing, the glorious weather and the breathtaking scenery, but they will forever hold near to their hearts the images of corner after corner of glittering red convenience stores.

And no, no, John Boy, you don’t have to thank Dark Garden and me for spending an entire morning visiting every bakery and grocery store in Pennsylvania looking for a birthday cake with the very specific wording of, “Yappy Dib, Art.” And that the cake just happened to have Barbie on it, well, what are the odds?

I won’t even point out that the pre-selected restaurant for The Last Dinner was precisely the type of establishment for which we search in every town we visit. The complimentary tiny meatballs and garlic bread were mere kismet, for which I cannot take credit. (And if Spicy McFace, a.k.a. Heir II, doesn’t take that stupid hat off his head and stop making Harpo Marx faces, he’s going to find himself…well, it has been suggested we strap him to the roof of the car…)

As he is my spouse, it is only natural that Dirtman has come to expect such luxuries resulting from my organizational skills. (I wasn’t the one who claimed to know exactly where the stupid restaurant was. Nor was I the one who, when calling for reservations, was too proud to ask directions. So getting off the interstate two exits too soon and driving aimlessly around Altoona hoping we’ll just happen by was not my fault nor my doing.)

And it is only part of a wife’s duty that when aggressive ski clothing takes hold of her husband, that she leap to his aid. No thanks are needed under such circumstances and, of course, she can be excused if this situation should cause her to lapse into helpless laughter. She is not made of stone.

I would like to point out, however, that I am of the opinion thing went smoothly simply because I presented very little in the way of options. In other words, the more control everyone hands over to me, the happier they will be.

I like the sound of that: The More Control Handed Over To Me, the Happier Everyone Will Be.

Words to live by.

It may have come to your attention that I selflessly hid my disappointment at the lack of Oompah Bands, yodeling and Lederhosen in the alpine village. There were no happy villagers, only drunk college students. And one very tired waitress.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A very merry unbirthday to you...

The following was to be posted Jan. 28. Unfortunately we were not anywhere near an internet source at the time. So this is a Very Merry Late Unbirthday to you...

He absolutely hates birthdays, so I need to tell everyone that John Boy’s birthday, which would have been today, has been cancelled.

So remember: Today, like yesterday and tomorrow, is not John Boy’s birthday anymore.

So here is the post I would have posted if today had, in fact, been John Boy’s birthday, which it is not.

Of the three of us, Dark Garden, John Boy and me, John Boy is the oldest. In spite of this, last summer at the wine festival he got carded. Then had the nerve to draw attention to it.

Because he is the oldest, I have no recollection of the day he was born, since I wasn’t born yet because he is older than me.

Family legend has it that the sun was shining and all the world lifted its voice in song at the moment of his birth. My mother’s sisters immediately fell upon him and whisked him away on vacations and one of them signed her car over to him.

Another family legend has it that when the aunts took him to see the Broadway show Bye, Bye Birdie, John Boy brushed against Dick Van Dyke’s arm. This is confirmed in Dick Van Dyke’s memoirs: “Was touched by John Boy today. I am renewed.”

When John Boy was a child he had to gather dew drops off the leaves to keep from dying of thirst. The rest of us just used the kitchen faucet.

When I was four and John Boy was eight, our family room had two carpets, one beige and one red. We would pretend that the red carpet was hell and the beige carpet was heaven. My cousin was the devil and John Boy was, of course, God (let’s not even go into the casting of this…). The devil had my stuffed animals and God had my doll and the record player. I had to decide between the two. Now that I think of it, this was a rather disturbing game for kids to be playing…

When Dark Garden was a baby, John Boy used to take him into his bedroom and lay him in front of his stereo speakers and blast the Beatles at him. In the summer, it was our job to make Dark Garden take his nap, so John Boy devised this method of us sitting on the swings with DG in his carriage and our swinging would roll the carriage back and forth. And we would sing to him. In harmony. Sort of. I don’t recall him ever falling asleep. Whiplash, maybe…

One time he endured 5 games Racko! to get me to play one game of Civil War 1863 and he had to let me be the North. Another time he played Mousetrap ten times to get me to play Battle Cry.

Because of John Boy, instead of going to parks and stuff, my family visited battlefields. There are 15, 347 pictures of us next to cannons, straddling cannons, pretending to load cannons and looking into the mouths of cannons. .I thought everybody had a favorite war, like they had a favorite color or song (I chose the Revolutionary War because I figured it wasn’t taken yet).

John Boy goes on record for having the singular most boring diary in the history of mankind. Almost all his entries read like this: Got up. Had Wheaties for breakfast. Went to school. Came home. Tonight was steak night. Did homework. Went to bed 9:00.

He has also broken the record for taking the longest time to eat a meal.

John Boy is probably the most personable one among us. Everyone likes John Boy. Even though John Boy hates people. You can’t tell, but people annoy him. He likes individuals enough, it’s just people he can’t stand. In his world, this makes sense.

So go visit John Boy at his blog and then he will feel obligated to keep posting on it, which he will complain about. He’s not scary like Dark Garden. He’s not wordy like me.

Probably because he’s older.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

On the road again

The extended Linguini family is once again hitting the road under the auspices of going skiing. I must admit, we’re getting better at this.

For instance: this time I have a confirmation letter. I have at confirmation letter in my purse. And tomorrow morning I will call ahead and make sure the condos are there and available.

See? See?




I have printed out directions to a decent Italian restaurant in the area. No wandering into some anonymous hole in the wall and being subjected to the bad temper of some cranky waitress. No siree.


Now there were indications that the trip may not go a smoothly as planned. But we’ve dealt with it and now everything will just flow. Flow, I tell you.

I am, of course, ignoring the fact that this resort claims to have an “Alpine village.”

In Pennsylvania.

“Alpine” suggests to me something more along the lines of, well, the Alps. While there are some pretty high elevations in Pennsylvania, high if you live in Virginia anyway, there is nothing approaching the Alps.

Okay, okay. The word is “alp-ine,” a suffix meaning “of the.” So the village is like something you would find in the Alps. Which means
yodeling and Lederhosen. Perhaps an Oompah Band? We don’t need
skiing at all! We will yodel in our Lederhosen to the Oompah Band!

We will be Alpine!

And this time there will be nine of us. Heir I’s friend will be coming along. I’m sure he’ll be happy to hear about the Lederhosen and Oompah Band!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

In defense of ...well...me

A few incidences happened lately that have made me a bit defensive about what I do. Whether justifying my marriage and its longevity, my decision to have children, my decision to stay home and raise those children in lieu of vacations, new clothing, new cars and restaurant outings, or my decision to go into business with my husband, it all leads people to assume that I never left the 50s.

I’ll skip the whole issue of passing judgement on people’s life choices. I’m sure not everyone does. It’s just that people who do are very vocal about it.

“When women were just wives and mothers most of them had to take drugs to get through the day,” one college boy informed me, adding, “my professor said.”

I found the statement amusing in that 1.) It had nothing to do with what we had been talking about; 2.) “Just” wives and mothers; 3.) It assumed validity based on the fact that his professor said it and his professor is automatically assumed to be right due to the piece of paper on his wall; 4.) It indicated that all women without exception were on anti-depressants during the 50s; and 5.) It was total schlock.

I won’t go into the wretched disintegration of quality faculty at some of our universities just now. And chances are this boy’s “professor” was some 32-year-old professor’s aid who researched the literature and periodicals of the time and came to this conclusion.

It never occurs to anyone that the media only covers what is interesting, sensational or unusual. And there probably were upper-middle-class women popping amphetamines to create those perfect cookie cutter homes that we see in the media of the time. In my neighborhood there wasn’t money for that sort of thing. Women got through the day on the second cup of coffee, probably run through the grounds a second time, and the promise of being able to sit down after dinner. Their hair was in curlers and sometimes there were Cheerios on their kitchen floor.

Granted, my experience is merely anecdotal and, as a 10-year-old, I failed to gather statistics. And if there was rampant use of dexadrine and the like, those same women with the perfect houses and perfectly coiffed hair these days are running a house and a high-powered job, have their kid in every activity imaginable, are the head of every committee and do it all on a couple of cases of Dr. Pepper (or gallons of coffee or Red Bull or Surge or whatever) a week and tell themselves they’re not taking any drugs. Or they take the drugs. A user is a user no matter what century they’re in.

“I could never subjugate who I am enough to actually marry someone,” a young waitress sneered recently. This was a conversation with her colleague and was meant to be overheard by Dirtman and me, to put us in our place, as it were, as people who had sold their souls to be married. Young women making unbidden declarations of their fondness for independence is a hazard of showing up at a restaurant for lunch with your spouse. Dinner seems to be okay. But a man and a woman having lunch together: business peers, okay; “just friend” couples, chic; illicit affairs, exciting. But husband and wife: Don’t you two see enough of each other?


Maybe it’s all in semantics. The whole concept of “stand by your man” sounds antiquated and passive. But I can stand by a friend and I can certainly stand by my best friend. Does that sound better, more palatable?

The fact is we subjugate ourselves all the time, whether it’s to save a friendship, get a job or mitigate a speeding ticket. It’s what we do as social animals. It’s how we live in communities. And if you don’t want to subjugate yourself, don’t. There was never a better time to be an unmarried person.

Given their youth, my two young friends can perhaps be forgiven their jaundiced view of the anonymity of being a spouse and parent. The woman ahead of me in line at Michael’s last week is another story.

She was about my age -- 48. Her long hair was a shocking pink and she wore a lime green and yellow poncho and a huge cowboy hat. Not a single fold of flesh was unpierced or un-tattooed and the amount of rings on her fingers looked downright painful. I thought at the time I’d never seen anyone so desperate to be noticed.

“I go everywhere myself,” she was saying to the clerk waiting on her and the clerk and customer at another register. “I’ve gone to Argentina by myself. I’ve gone to Paris. They’re always asking me who I’m traveling with. But I don’t need anyone, ‘specially not a man.” This last word was uttered with all the contempt she could muster. Why did we need to know all this? She turned to me, “Am I right?”

How do these people find me?

“If that’s how you want it to be and you’re happy…” I shrugged. Leave me alone!

“I own my own house. I don’t answer to anyone. I can go when I want and where I want.”

Did anyone ask her? I wondered. The clerks certainly didn’t look like they were chatting with her. Why this need to justify herself to a bunch of strangers?

“I listen to some of these women,” she switches to a high, baby voice, “’Honey, can we do this? Honey can we do that?’” She glances in my direction again, sensing I’m not the ally she thought I’d be. “They can’t (go to the bathroom) without asking permission.”

You might call me a wuss, but this woman had a head of steam going and nothing I could say was going to dissuade her. There was no way to talk to her without sounding as self-righteous as she was.

Later, of course, I thought of several clever come-backs, none of which would have convinced her otherwise. She’d found a paradigm that worked to justify whatever it was she deep down felt guilty about having or not having.

When she left, the other clerk laughed and asked her co-worker, “What was that about?”

“I just asked her what she was making,” the clerk said. “You know, trying to be friendly. And she just starts going on about how she doesn’t make anything for anybody.”

Then the other customer, a sweet little granny-type, cleared her throat nervously and said, “I think maybe I went on too much about my new grandbaby. I’m sorry.”

It’s true we’d met in the yarn aisle and had been talking about what we were knitting. She had told me she’d gotten back into knitting after several years and had made a blanket and now wanted to try something more challenging. Naturally she showed me pictures and gave me vitals and, while discussing babies is just above dental surgery on my list of things I like to do, it was very important to her, so I listened and cooed and “awww”-ed and “oooo”ed as is the custom of my people.

Perhaps that is what set the woman off. Obviously there was a whole other story behind her bitterness and that is all well and good. Beyond the fact grownups realize the entire world is not going to tip toe around you while you deal with your problems, was the fact that she’d made a little old lady ashamed of being proud of her grandchild. She hadn’t been “in your face” about it, no more than I am overbearing about what I do (I don’t even wear a wedding and/or engagement ring). Yet somehow her mere existence as a grandmother deserved the other woman’s contempt – out loud.

I never saw the show Desperate Housewives (just the name sets my teeth on edge), but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s not doing much in the way of good PR. But, for the record:

1. I don’t spend my day watching soap operas, game shows or Oprah.

2. I don’t spend the day in my pajamas or sweats.

3. I am not required to check with my husband on every purchase I make.

4. I can and have gone to movies alone.

5. My life does not revolve around cleaning products and new kitchen gadgets.

6. Not a single room in my house is pink. If I had a daughter I would not necessarily dress her in pink. Unless the clothes were really cheap.

7. I have no desire to have an affair with any service worker entering my home and I’m sure the feeling is mutual.

8. I do sometimes have a drink at night. But mostly not.

9. If you think you have me, or anyone else for that matter, figured out and categorized, you are mistaken.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Required Reading

I impressed a friend today. I told her I was reading William Faulkner.

And not because Oprah told me to. I don’t watch Oprah or anything else. That’s why I have time to read Faulkner.

William Faulker started out as being what I call my “required reading authors.” I always have several books going: One that interests me from the get-go, one non-fiction that I skip around, usually a biography that Dirtman has recommended, and my “required reading.”

“Required Reading” books are usually harder to get through than your Grisham best seller. Sometimes you’re reading them and you realize you haven’t paid attention for at least two paragraphs and have to go back and reread. Sometimes you can’t understand a single word that you are reading, or certainly not in the order presented, yet you know exactly what the author is saying. And sometimes…sometimes…you read something that is so utterly true that you want to cry out “Me too!” to the author.

Those are the times that make required reading worthwhile.

That, and the buzz you get when you’re done. Just like runners say they get a “high” when they push themselves beyond the pain of the exertion. When I push past my brain’s natural laziness and force the working cells to wake up the cells that nodded off while I was reading a serial mystery, there is a physical sensation of awareness.

Now don’t get me wrong, I read a lot of the usual fare. I’m skipping along the alphabet with Sue Grafton and I have a soft spot in my heart for Lillian Jackson Baun’s rapidly disintegrating Cat Who… series. I read all my sons’ Harry Potter books. And for dog mysteries, no one compares to the dry wit of Susan Conant. I love T.R. Pearson’s voice and Mark Halprin’s metaphor. It’s fun to find local references in Rita Mae Brown’s books, both mysteries and general fiction, and Donald McCaig’s smart treatise on herding dogs. And when I’m utterly wiped out, depressed and needing comfort, I get in my flannel jammies, find some chocolate, and curl up with a Bobbsey Twins book, preferably one written in the 1910s.

I may read one required reading for every five regular books, but I’m always better for having completed it.

The one drawback is that the more required reading you complete, the less tolerant you are of some of the schlock you used to think was passable.

Conversely, what you used to think was required reading, suddenly becomes what you are reading for fun.

Like Faulkner.

I started out five years ago with The Sound and the Fury. I had to go on line and get a cheat sheet to tell what was going on. I couldn’t understand why everyone thought this guy was such a terrific writer, with his attention to every gesture or nuance in a character’s speech or mannerism (he couldn’t just say, “he got a drink of water”?), every frog croak, every breeze and where it went and who it hit and what they thought when it hit them. I almost gave up and figured I could “act” as though I’d completed it, since the cheat sheet told me how it came out. But I made it through.

And got that buzz. So I moved straight on into Absalom, Absalom! Halfway through I realized I wasn’t crosschecking anymore. I had developed the ear. I was even talking to myself in “Faulkner-ese.” And I was seeing it and hearing it and understanding why it’s so important that the reader knows what Faulkner is trying to say about that character.

And here I thought he was just showing off.

So I read Faulkner like I read everyone else now and sometimes forget it is still “required reading” (or “unrequired, never-read”) for a lot of people. (That sounds like intellectual snobbery – I don’t mean it to be. I have a friend who reads philosophy like a kid reads comic books. To each his own, as they say…).

Heir II is named for Faulkner, partially anyway, though it’s not something he appreciates just yet. But I have high hopes for his brain once some of the testosterone fog of adolescence clears a bit.

Editor's Note: Sisiggy's brother John Boy, should he read this (which may or may not happen, seeing at reading is involved), will be shaking his head. He can leave a book store without making a purchase. To him, required reading is the writing before you sign your name on doctor's forms. John Boy only reads tour pamphlets, contemplating ways to make an exciting historical event as boring as possible while perhaps making it physically taxing as well. You can read his blog, but there isn't much there since he might have to go back and read what he wrote and that would also be too much reading.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Topper only pawn in game of life...

Topper sad.

Da Mama mad at Topper.

Topper ate dinner. Da Mama dinner. Da puppies' dinner. Da Dirtman's dinner.

No be mad at Topper, I tell Da Mama. Topper share. Share with Salt. Share with Pode. Share with Zsa Zsa.

Zsa Zsa tell Topper, "Topper see the nice meat? Topper get the nice meat for The Zsa Zsa, Dah-ling!"

The Zsa Zsa call Topper "Dah-ling" cuz I am her special friend. Topper good friend to Zsa Zsa. Good boy, Topper! Topper get nice meat for Zsa Zsa.

Now Topper has to "go lie down, Topper" cuz Da Mama mad. Da Mama call Topper "that dog." No bonies for Topper. No Snausages for Topper. Topper go lie down and be sad. Topper be sad and not feel so good.

Da Mama say, "What's that smell?"


Da Mama look at me! Da Mama looked at me! Look at me , Da Mama! See? Topper good boy! Topper feel much better now.

Da Mama say, "Out!" and open door for the Topper.

"Everybody! Out!" Da Mama say and we all go out, me and Zsa Zsa and Pode and Salt. We go out and play and oops and feel better.

But Da Mama still mad cuz she say, "Everybody go lay down" when we come in. Topper good boy. Topper go lay down. Zsa Zsa not go lay down. No! Zsa Zsa follow Da Mama.

So Topper sad.

No kisses for Topper.

No bonies for Topper

No Snausages. (sigh)

House Update

Here is a housing update, for those who are interested.

To be honest, every time Dirtman suggests I go out to the lot to see the progress being made, I feel like I’m visiting someone else’s house. This can’t be in my future. I keep waiting for the punch line or the catch: Yes! This house is yours, but…

Come March we will be entering year three since we began this project. Dirtman doesn’t like to count the time between deciding where to build and actually signing the papers, but I think it counts since that was when the check writing began. And, while everyone we talk to nods their head knowingly, I don’t think they appreciate exactly how often we were held up along the way.

So it’s been like those dreams you have (well, I have, anyway) where you’re about to get the one thing you desire the most and you’re about to get it and about to get it and about to get it…and then you wake up.

It truly is a sort of dream. This new house is so far removed from anywhere Dirtman and I have ever lived at any point in our lives. And while, for us, what we call luxuries are actually the status quo for many, we can’t help but imagine how much better it will be when we have them. Like not having to share a desk and computer. Can you imagine a company requiring two different departments to share one desk and one computer? Or having a master bathroom. A garage connected to the house. Enough room that when the kids have friends over we aren’t all crammed together in one room.

I could go on and on, but instead, here is a pictorial update of the house that was delivered oh so long ago:

Finally, a house with a bay window. Installed.

And now I present Sisiggy's future lair. My office/studio/sewing room:

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Bad Hair Life

I hate going to hairstylists. I’d been keeping my hair long for that very reason.

That and the fact that I always seem to get the one hairdresser in the place that is having a bad day and I’m just one more bad thing in it. Me and my baby fine, dark brown, not curly, not straight hair. Problem hair.

The last time I cut my hair short, I called the salon ahead of time for an appointment.

“When do you want to come?” she asked dully.

“My time is pretty much my own,” I assured her. “When is the best time?”

“I dunno.”

“I could come now,” I offered.


“Or whenever,” I added quickly. “Tomorrow? Next week?”

“I guess you can come now.”

I guess you’re wondering why I agreed to go, what with her enthusiasm and all. It’s because:

1. I was on the phone and when I’m on the phone my only goal is to get off the phone. I hate talking on the phone, especially when I have to initiate the call. Know, if I call you, no matter who you are or how much I like you, all I can think about is getting off the phone. I will agree to anything. Just let me hang up.

2. I would have had to be assertive to A Person In Business. Worse, I would have to tell her why I decided not to come and she might get mad at me. Never mind I’m never going to meet or talk to this person again. I can feel the hate through the phone line.

3. I had already said my time was my own. If I now said I couldn’t make it she would think I was lying. Again, I am fully aware I will never come in contact with her again. It doesn’t matter.

So I arrive at the salon and inside are two women sitting in the hydraulic chairs talking. One is smoking a cigarette. There are no customers.

The Smoking Lady sees me and hurries into the back. The other lady gets out of the chair and starts fussing with scissor and brushes. I wait

Three or four minutes later, Smoking Lady slouches from the back room. Finally she makes eye contact with me. I state my name.

“You can come on back,” she drones.

I sit down in her chair (the other lady sits down in her chair again and proceeds to read a magazine) and she starts fingering my hair.

“This permed?” she asks.

“No. It’s just kind of wavy like that.”

She sneers. Obviously this is not good. Bad hair. Bad, bad. “You know what you want to do with this?”

I explain that I thought layers would look good, a little bit onto my forehead, not so short you have to shave the back of my neck. Sort of feathery, I say.

She continues to stare at me and sneer. “You don’t want me to wash this, do you.”

This. My hair is “this

“Oh no,” I say cheerfully, like what sort of moron would think they would wet your hair before cutting it.

So she cuts it and it ends up as it always does when it’s short, a brown helmet with a cowlick. Which is why I stopped cutting it short. I tell her it’s beautiful and over-tip. I just want to get out of there before she pulls the Uzi from her cabinet and guns me down.

So I hadn’t been to a stylist in a very long time.

Then Dirtman started dropping hints that my hair was looking particularly unruly, bad hair that it is. I figure, well, he’s the one who has to look at it more than I do. It was long enough for me to just wash it in the morning, run a comb through it and let it dry on its own. If I went anywhere I just tied it up. I didn’t even have to use a mirror. So I didn’t know how bad the bad hair had gotten. Naughty, naughty hair.

This time I tried a surprise attack, straight off the street. Different salon, different stylist. Way different.

I told her about the layers and my forehead and the not shaving and the feathering. I told her I was okay with short.

She asked if I like football and I told her, no, actually. So she proceeded to tell me about that week’s game, which was apparently a grudge game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, which is a big thing around here and so she couldn’t conceive of me not being interested. She washed my hair and then observed me and my bad, bad hair in the mirror.

She started flipping through my hair talking about layers and talking about washing and going and “just scruch”ing. She said something about Fleetwood Mac, but I was sure I heard her wrong. She took my glasses and told me, “This will be perfect for your hair.”

There was something perfect for my hair? My naughty, bad hair?

So she snipped and combed and scrunched. She told me about the bet she’d made about the football game and how she and her friend trash talked at half time. She fluffed and feathered and sprayed the whole thing down with a can of noxious fumes.

“There you go!” she exclaimed and handed me my glasses.

The top half of my head was layered and feathered and scrunched and almost curly. The bottom half was just as long as it has been.

“Just like Stevie Nicks!” she effused.

Stevie Nicks?

I looked at myself in the mirror with a big, wide grimace smile. Stevie Nicks.

I resemble Stevie Nicks about as much as Gaspode resembles a turnip. In fact ‘Pode looks more like Stevie Nicks than

I do.

And why, in God’s name, would I even want to resemble a drugged out, aging rock star? No one has wanted to look like Stevie Nicks in 20 years.

But I tell her it’s beautiful and over-tip.

So here I am. With my dark brown Stevie Nicks head. It's been over a month now and God knows, I’ve tried to work with it, really I have. I’ve tried dressing in shawls and handkerchiefs and dancing around in circles while singing through my nose, but it just frightens people.

So what am I to do with my bad, naughty Stevie Nicks head? Go to another humiliating hairdressing session?

Hoods. Kerchiefs. Hats.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

Another Day in the Twight Zone

So we’re driving to the hospital at 1:30 a.m., my Italian Mama who looks vaguely like Dirtman, and me, with my head stuck out the window and my entire life flashing in front of me, and I’m thinking, “Jeese, I’ve really lived a boring life…”

As you see, I’m pretty much committed to living here in the Twilight Zone (though I’m sick of searching for Rod Serlings and, frankly, he smokes too much). Only in the Twilight Zone could Dirtman actually be right.

For Dirtman it is not enough to have the satisfaction of being right. It’s not even enough that he has the opportunity to chant, “I told you so. You should have gone to the doctor,” every hour on the hour like some deranged cuckoo. He has to broadcast the entire story to everybody he meets.

“How long has she been having symptoms?” the ER doctor asked. I was currently breathing through a tube, defenseless against any slander.

“HAH!” says Dirtman. “Three days. I told her to go to the doctor.”

“I mean how long since the inhaler stopped working?”

“Since about eleven o’clock. But she went and sat in the car with the air conditioner on. I told her then we needed to come to the ER,” he answered. Then to me, “You going to listen to me from now on?”

From now on? One time he’s right and it’s a lifestyle?

After staring at me breathing, Dirtman concluded nothing else exciting was going on in this ER cubicle, so he went to find where the action was.

A nurse came over to start an IV, taking away the tube. I was breathing better.

“So,” she said. “Where’d you get that eye?”

(This is starting to sound like Alice’s Restaurant:

“... - and he stopped me right there and said, "Kid, did you ever go to court?" And I proceeded to tell him the story of the twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and the paragraph on the back of each one, and he stopped me right there and said, "Kid,’”

Sorry. That was for those of us pushing 50.)

And I proceeded to tell her the story ‘bout the trusses and the Serlings and the cat’s evil twin…And she stopped my right there – shook her head and walked out. This cubicle wasn’t even exciting enough for the nurse.

In retrospect, it was one of our milder ER trips. Usually it’s me doing the taking and either Dirtman in the throes of anaphylactic shock or Heir 2 with the results of one of his many “guy ideas,” usually involving the top of the detached garage and something with wheels. Those times people rushed around us and doctors barked orders and there were tubes and needles and bodily fluids and someone jumping up and down screaming, “DO YOU HAVE AN INSURANCE CARD?” (For those outside the U.S., hospitals get antsy about delivering treatment without assurance that they’re going to get paid. Since this is a small hospital and another one is over a half hour away, there is really nothing they can do if you don’t have insurance except, I guess, give you the stained, crappy bedsheets instead of the gleaming, white sandpaper ones.)

This time things were relatively quiet, so I figure middle-aged women in the throes of asthma attacks are pretty much routine. The ER staff sauntered – no, strolled – up to me when I arrived. The triage nurse (i.e., the one who is supposed to ask for the insurance card) looked me over, considered making me sit through said insurance interview, and then reluctantly said, “Oh. Your lips are blue. I guess you’d better go on in.” She asked hopefully over my shoulder, “Is your husband coming in?”

I know. It’s her job.

Well, once I was “stable” and breathing somewhat more quietly than I had during that past two days, they handed me 569 prescriptions and sent me on my way.

I was anxious to get home. My boys would be worried, the dogs knew something was up and poor Zsa Zsa didn’t get to ride in the car. I knew there would be chaos when I got home.

We opened the door.


“Well, we’re home,” I sighed, rather loudly I thought. I went up to bed.

Zsa Zsa was spread out on the bed on my side. I nudged her to move over.

What do you want, she sneered.

“Move over,” I said and shoved her over to Dirtman’s side.

You’re the one out gallivanting around at all hours of the night.

“I was in the hospital. I could have died.”

You look hale and hearty to me, Dah-ling. Get your elbow out of my back.

“I was too sick. They gave me an IV.”

This doesn’t mean you’re going to snore all night, does it? I’m already losing valuable beauty sleep…not that I need beauty sleep…

“If Topper were out of his crate, he’d be sorry for me.”

Topper crawled in his crate and went to sleep the minute you left, after raiding the trash, of course. Your puppy closed the crate door then he went to sleep.

“Jeese! I can’t get sympathy anywhere.”

Dirtman told you to go to the doctor. He told you to go to the ER a whole lot earlier.

“Shut up and go to sleep, Zsa Zsa.”

Mama K even told you to do something about it.

“I thought you needed your beauty sleep.”

You should lose weight too.

“Go to sleep!”

Your cholesterol’s a little high…

“I wonder if the terriers would like to sleep on the bed tonight.”

Shut up and go to sleep.

Friday, January 13, 2006

There's a signpost up ahead, it reads...

I’m a relatively healthy person.


Every now and then I drop into a hole in the space/time continuum and enter a parallel universe where I am accident prone. It only seems to last a few weeks, but during that time I become a walking disaster. Blame it on SAD, but it usually occurs in January. I should have taken the cue when I burned my hand on the broiler, but, no, I thought that was “just an accident.” HAH!

So here I am last weekend, perusing the pile of rubble that some say will one day be where I live, minding my own business, deluding myself into believing that I am still occupying my usual dimension, when I walked out of what is supposed to be the garage door straight into the bottom leg of a garage truss.

“But Sisiggy,” you say. “Trusses are on the roof of garages, not lolling about on the ground. Ah! But this is not your normal truss. Because here trusses leap up and whack you upside the head.

Here. In THE TWILIGHT ZONE. (creepy music)

The key to living in the Twilight Zone is to try to maintain a veil of normalcy, but be on your guard. Still, when I went to bed that night, having concluded I didn’t have a concussion because instead I had an egg-sized lump and a black eye (and assuming standard human physiology transcends dimension), I figured I could close my eye for at least a night’s rest (the other one already being closed, as it were). This I did, and reached up to pet my sweet-tempered cat, Whiskers.

But then…

A hideous wheeze and a guttural choking sound let me know this is not Whiskers! This is Whisker’s evil twin about to spew kitty entrails all over the bed! I pull back to push the beast onto the floor, but it grabs me, digging its claw into my hand. Blood spurts all over the sheets as the feline from hell just hangs on my hand by its claw!

Crying out, I shake her off, grab my hand and yell for Dirtman to get a paper towel. But this is not Dirtman here. In THE TWILIGHT ZONE (creepy music). This is a lump of snoring flesh that is totally deaf.

I scream again while applying pressure to the wound with my good hand.

“Mblmmbrrrg,” comes from the lump.


Finally, it responds to kicking and screaming. It morphs briefly back into Dirtman, long enough to get me my wet paper towel, then returns to its lumpy, snoreful self.

Having staunched the geyser spewing from my hand, I observe that half of it is swollen to twice its size.

Though I had already taken a few ibuprofen, I downed another and prayed that by morning I would be able to touch my forefinger to my thumb, that being the distinction between humans and animals, at least on my planet.

I honestly thought by next morning I’d wake up in my own world, battle scarred, but safe. And the day had all the qualities of business-as-usual. But that’s how it works, isn’t it? Here. IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE!

Now it’s no secret to those who know me that I have asthma. I take my meds daily and that is usually sufficient. Occasionally I will have to use my back-up inhaler, but one dose – blip – and I’m good to go.

So here I am, making dinner, feeling a little breathless. Stop. Think. Is this really an attack or is my body just trying to get out of something by falling into an asthma attack? No…this is the real thing. Get the inhaler – blip – 60 seconds – blip again – 60 seconds. That should do it.

I’ll just carry on…WHEEZE... ignore it, it’s just my asthma trying to get attention and if it wins it will take over my life so I AM NOT HAVING AN ASTHMA ATTACK!

See? Usually this works. Usually I close my eyes, force myself to relax, remind myself there is nothing around me I’m allergic to, tell my body there is nothing to complain about and stop being psychotic…WHEEZE…try to get through dinner…WHEEZE, WHEEZE, WHEEZE…

Dirtman, meanwhile, has morphed into: The Italian Mama.

“We’ve got to go to the hospital,” he says, chasing me around the house as I run around trying to find a “safe” room. But he’s been talking to Tony, our steadfast, loyal, noble, talented (and only) building contractor. I don’t care if Alien was punching out of my stomach, he was not ending a conversation with Tony.

“Leaving,” I gasp, run past Rod Serling and run to the car. Zsa Zsa is Zsa Zsa in any dimension and if someone is getting in the car, by God, she’s going too. So I turn on the air conditioner full blast and open all the windows. Zsa Zsa is in heaven. It takes me a half hour of driving around like this before I’m not breathing with a rasp.

And here I’ve been for the past three days, spending a few hours in the house, a few hours driving around with Zsa Zsa. Oh, we’ve turned on the air conditioner in the house, which allows me the few hours and to doze on and off throughout the night.

I miss Dirtman, though. I still have that Italian Mama following me around telling me to go to the doctor. I merely show her my black eye and my burned, punctured, swollen, mangled hand and ask her what she would think if a woman approached her looking like I do. I glimpse a shadow of Dirtman return a look of fear.

I’m hoping to return home to my own dimension soon. I really miss sleeping. And breathing.

And I do wish someone from my world would come and visit me. Here. In THE TWILIGHT ZONE…(creepy...ya know…).

Editor's Note: The staff here at Linguini on the Ceiling is aware that overuse of the exclamation point is indicative of weak writing. Submit for your perusal: One Sister Ignatius Toyota of Our Lady of Perpetural Motion, Sisiggy to her friends, former newspaper reporter and editor, who can't seem to keep her pinkie finger from lurching toward the upper lefthand corner of her keyboard. She thinks she has entered the Land of Excessive Extreme Punctuation. But you and I just call it

THE TWILIGHT ZONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(DOO doo DOO doo, DOO doo DOO doo)