Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dear Charlie:

Well, the first week of new-car-ownership has come and gone, and I'm still in love with the new wheels. I happened to be down in Dad's neck of the woods this weekend, so he rode back home with me and took the ol' Taurus home with him, so the new baby is officially mine.

It's kinda scary, actually. Heh.

Still trying to name it, though. Its personality hasn't yet asserted itself enough for a name, but it's hard to talk to your car without a name. Just not right.

But I'm working on it.

Anyway, I was down to the ol' stomping grounds this weekend because poor Kristi is just about to explode with her latest set of twins. Of course, evil wretch that she is, she doesn't look pregnant anywhere but her belly. If you caught a glance at her from behind, you'd never know. It's downright unnatural, I tell you.

She doesn't look nearly as miserable and ready to just get them out already as I know she is. Bless her heart.

But she's going to the doctor tomorrow to see when they can set her up for inducement if she doesn't hit real labor. She's hoping for this week, since she'll be 37 weeks along as of Wednesday, and that's definitely considered full-term for twins. Oi.

You know, it's kinda funny what your mind remembers and what it doesn't. When I was a kid, I used to know every backroad and every old gravel track in the area. I was raised in a small town -- actually, outside of the small town; we usually lived about 10 miles outside the "city" limits -- and there was nothing but country two-lanes and gravel roads for miles. I used to know them all.

But I sometimes have dreams that I'm trying to find my way down those winding, branching country roads and just...can't. I'm lost. Things look familiar, but then I'm not where I'm supposed to be, and I have no way of knowing how to get back. I take one wrong turn, then another, then another, and I can't remember which was the original wrong turn to get back on track. It's like being in a maze, but there's no cheese smell to lead you to the end.

And every time I head that way, I wonder if, on the way to Dad's, I'll get lost. I mean, there really aren't that many turns to Dad's house, but there are just so many ways to get there. I can take this highway or that road or this gravel track. I know all these ways, and I know where each turnoff leads, but still, there's that unease. That "what if I get lost?" paranoia.

I never do. But I always wonder.

Weird, huh? How much power your dreams can have over you.

But I made it there and back again with nary a wrong turn, and I love...LOVE...getting out of town. I don't live in a booming metropolis, by any stretch, but at 50,000 residents and nearly 150,000 folks going to work every day, the big-town-small-city I live in does make my hometown look like a popsicle stand. And sometimes, it's just nice to get out into the boonies and...I dunno...breathe.

Or drive. Heh.

I was gonna go down (actually up, as the hometown is north of here, but sometimes direction is a state of mind) Saturday, but we were supposed to get this freak winter-weather storm in this area. Some stations predicted 8 inches of snow. Others predicted an inch of ice followed by 5 inches of snow. To be honest, with our luck in these parts, I figured the latter was more likely. We've been getting more ice each year, it seems.

And if every bit of snow that fell Saturday had stuck, we might well have gotten that 8 inches in addition to about an inch of sleet that fell earlier in the day. I mean, it rained/sleeted/snowed all friggin' day Saturday.

But less than an inch of snow actually stuck, and it was already mostly melted off by 8:00 this morning. Weird, huh? Luckily, it didn't impede my plans to invade the hometown in the least.

And a good thing, too. This may be the last time I get to see my poor friend without 4 kids instead of 2! Good grief!

Cross your fingers for her? I know I am. Bless her heart.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Dearest Charles:

Oh, what a week/weekend.

Let's see. I found out about Tuesday or Wednesday (hard to keep the days straight for us old women) that they've finally hired someone to take my position. She starts Monday. I'll be training her all week this week, then most of the week (I'll be training at my new job 3 afternoons a week) for a few weeks after that, and then I'll be at the new position full time.

And evaluations this month mean hopefully some raises in the near future. *crosses fingers*

Also, I found out last week(end?) that a short story I'd submitted for an anthology a couple of months back was selected. Woot! So, as long as the publisher doesn't back out, I should have a short story in print come September.

There are no words, there. I mean...seriously. My "art" leaves me at the thought. It's just one step closer to The Goal, ya know?

Also, remember a few weeks ago when my transmission went el kaput? Well, when Dad came up that day to help me get it where it needed to go to be fixed, he talked about a few possibilities beyond just fixing it and mentioned that it'd probably be better to just buy me a new car. I laughed. I mean, really. Me? A new car?

Whatever.

So when he called up Friday and said he was coming up Saturday to do a little car shopping, I figured it was just kind of a joke. I mean, the tranny's fixed, right? And it seems to be running okay, though I'm still a little tentative about taking it long distances. But hey, I was getting a little hedgy about doing that anyway. Just ask the friend in Kentucky who's been trying to get me out there again for like a year and a half now.

But I said "Sure! Love to see ya!" and dutifully got up early on a Saturday morning to make sure and be wide awake by the time he got here. We hauled into my old Taurus and, to my surprise, Dad directed me to the car wash.

See, he'd told me to make sure and clean it out and put the title in the glove box after the tranny was fixed, just in case it wasn't fixed to our liking and we ended up trading it in on something else. I figured something else used, you know?

But we went to the car wash and scrubbed the outside down and took a vacuum to the inside (I can pick up the trash, but the little gravelly-pebbly stuff and dirt and straw wrappers and such? not so much), and then...went to a new car dealership. Chrysler/Dodge/Hyundai.

See, I figured he didn't mean it, but...he had stopped by a Chevy dealership closer to his home and told me about it...so I figured I'd better at least have a few options so this Ford lover didn't end up with a Chevy by accident. Not because I thought he'd really buy a new car, but because I thought he might find some Chevy he really liked and bring it up "as a surprise", you know?

So I'd found a couple of options just in case, and one of them was the Dodge Caliber, a crossover that I'd seen driving around town. I'd also looked at a Toyota something-or-other-but-not-a-Corolla (absolutely no way, as Dad will only buy American, and good on him for that) and a Ford Focus. No six-cylinders, like my beloved Taurus, but hey. Gotta go for the better gas mileage, and I was totally looking for a lower price.

So we started at the C/D/H dealer because it was farthest away from home and I like to do everything I can in a loop. Makes me feel like I'm being efficient, rather than backtracking all over town, you know?

Yeah. I know. I'm weird.

Anyway.

So we test drive a Caliber, and it's pretty snazzy. Longer than I'm used to, so I was a little paranoid. That and...hey...it's a new car. And I've never been comfortable driving someone else's car, even if it's just a dealership's. I was afraid I'd break it, you know? But I liked it, so Dad and the dealer crunched some numbers.

And I sat there, oblivious to it all because, hey, it's just not gonna happen, you know? Sure, there's a lifetime power train warranty that you'd never get with a not-new car (let alone a not-Dodge car). Sure, there's Obama's new sales tax rebate for buying a new car. Sure, there's a year's free satellite radio (and just after I'd discovered Octane on the rental's dial!). Sure, just about anything new is gonna be a step up from my no-power-locks-no-cruise-control-no-CD-player Taurus that has been so faithful for so long and only now started acting up expensively.

It's just not gonna happen.

So Dad says we're gonna go to lunch and "think it over" and "do a little shopping". I figure that means we're gonna either hit a few used dealerships or that he'd go home and we'd just kinda forget about the whole thing for a while until either the next expensive vehicle crisis or until I'm not worried about the next vehicle crisis anymore, right?

Of course, the dealer's eager to say, "Hey, why don't you take the Caliber to lunch? Get used to the feel of it. See if it suits you, ya know?" Which translates to You totally wouldn't take a lot car to another lot, would you??, which we totally did. Heh.

Couldn't find a new Chevy dealer, thank goodness. I may be willing to flirt with other brands, but a Ford girl buying a Chevy would be like a Chiefs fan rooting for the Raiders in the SuperBowl. It's just disloyal.

But we did go down to the Ford dealership, where we were waylaid by a schmarmy used car salesman who distracted us from the very very limited selection of new cars on the lot to show us all these lovely bank repos for which he assumed we were there. There was a flyer, you see. How could we have missed it?

*snort*

But he did talk us into at least test driving a few used 2008 models with 16,000 and 25,000 and 28,000 miles. One was a Focus, but it was just too cramped inside after riding around in that big ol' Caliber. The other two were Dodge Avengers.

Now, I'd seen a couple of brand-spankin' new Avengers at the C/D/H lot. They were only a couple grand more than the Calibers and looked like mid-sized Chargers. Not bad, but I hadn't been particularly turned on by them there. Since they were more, I wasn't even looking at them. What can I say? I didn't want Dad even pretending to buy a more expensive car, you know?

One of the used Avengers was a dark, midnight blue. Dad really liked it. It was the one with 16K on the odometer, but it looked a little used inside. Kinda grungy, like they hadn't bothered to detail it. It drove nice, but meh. The other was...get this...electric blue. My eyes went right over it the first time around because...c'mon...electric blue. But every time I looked at it, it seemed to suit the body style more. Crazy, huh?

So I decided to test drive it. 28K miles, but much better kept inside. Alloy wheels. Good set-up inside, but nothing too fancy. Basically standard, except the wheels. And oh, did it drive like a dream. I tell you, I fell in love.

But because I'm the hardened bitch that I am, when it came time to dicker, I had an amount in mind. Because I'd been to a new-car dealer just that morning, remember? And I remembered, even though I wasn't really looking close, how much they were charging new.

They shot us an incredible amount that was more than the new car cost. Dad and I looked at each other and just rolled our eyes. We'd both come up with a similar figure before talking numbers, you see, and it wasn't anywhere near what they were offering. But we tried, shooting him a number 1K more than what we thought it was really worth. No good. "We can't go lower than Ridiculous Amount B, thank you."

Well, I ain't never been so in love that I didn't know a bad deal when I seen it, so we walked away. I figured we were done for the day.

"Let's head back to the Dodge place. I want to see if we're remembering right about those Avengers on the lot."

I looked at him like he was crazy, but okay. We got there, and I'd only been about a grand off, mostly because I was looking at the employee pricing they had going on, which was the second number on the line (the first being the MSRP). Otherwise, we were just about right.

So, we test drove an Avenger. It was a beautiful thing. Smaller than the Caliber, but wider-feeling than my Taurus, it just hugs the road without feeling like you're sitting right on it. Corners like a couch, man. You hardly tilt at all. And sooooo quiet. So little road noise. Just a beautiful driving experience.

So we sat down and talked numbers again. With employee pricing and a factory rebate, it was only a grand more than the Caliber, which had only been about two grand more than what they wanted for that stupid used Avenger with 28K already on it. To my shock, Dad says, "Okay, squirt, which do you want? The Caliber or the Avenger?"

I blinked. "Are you kidding? I'd take either of them! It's completely up to you!"

Because I still didn't believe it, you know?

Next thing I know, Dad's signing the papers on a sparkly-new white 2009 Dodge Avenger SXT with 32 miles on the odometer (6 of which I'd put on myself) and handing me the key. The nice lady who had been ecstatic to see us pull back into the lot was promising me a full tank of gas and a full detail if we'd just wait about twenty minutes. We shook hands. Hell, the lady hugged us both (it's been a sloooooow year at the ol' car lot, lemme tell ya).

And after a while, I was following my own Taurus back to my house in my bran'-spankin'-new Avenger, marvelling at how none of it felt real at all.

Still doesn't, really.

And when I got home and tried (with uncertain efficacy) to adequately thank Dad for something that I still couldn't get my mind around, all the while turning back to look at that new car parked in my driveway -- it couldn't be my car, could it? -- and wished him a safe trip home, I went inside and called Pesh. And Dave. They were all over at Edgee's apartment (Edy's brother). Dave and Tracie are finally getting married (well, they at least set a date), so I guess it was a sort of celebration.

They said to drive my new-car-drivin' ass over there, so I did. Was there until 1:00 in the morning, and even driving back home again, it still wasn't real.

And then today, I drove over to see my beloved sister because I hadn't seen her since the SuperBowl, which is just atrocious, but I hadn't really trusted my car and all. So I tried out the satellite radio. And the CD player. And the cruise control. It's been 8 years since I had cruise control, people. I love it.

We watched Quarantine, which I hadn't seen yet. Ate pot roast, which I haven't even been able to SMELL since I puked it for 6 hours straight after a freak stomach flu that just about killed me a couple years back. And about halfway through Howl's Moving Castle, I realized that Sis's shoes looked familiar. In fact, they looked exactly like mine that I'd just bought a couple of months back to replace my Docs for everyday use at work.

I heft up my foot, and sure enough, they're the same damn shoe. We compared sizes. Same damn size. We practically have on the same shoes, though she got hers back before Christmas. It's a crazy old world, ain't it?

But it was great to see her, to hang out and chitchat with my beloved Sis for a while and talk about things. I made cookies. She made a cake to go with the fresh strawberries. We drank an ocean of coffee (I'll only drink hers, you know).

Good times.

And then I got back in my new Avenger and drove home and still don't quite believe it's mine. However, I think I'll stop by Wally World on the way home from work tomorrow and buy some WD-40.

Picked up a few bugs on the way to Sis's house and back. They're crapping up my brand-spankin-new bumper. That just won't do.

Oh, and first thing in the morning? Yeah. Totally transplanting the Chiefs fuzzy dice from the Taurus's rearview to the Avenger's.

I'm so sorry, my beloved Taurus, but you have been replaced. You were good to me for a long time, but I have to move on. My new love needs me, and I have no doubt that Dad will treat you well and keep your floorboards nice and rubbish-free. And he doesn't have my heavy foot or my on-the-dime turning strategy.

Goodbye, my love. May your exhaust never turn black, nor your pan gasket re-rupture. May your new transmission always run smoothly and your cylinders always be six.

And now, to bed. For I have tarried long and am weary.

...

Dude. It's like someone smacked me with a book of poetry. Not cool.

I'm outtie.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dear Charlie:

Okay, so a friend just ruined a song for me.

Well...maybe "ruined" is a strong word. He definitely changed the entire meaning of the song and replaced it with an image that will ever burn itself into my fragile synapses every time the chorus comes on.

What song, you ask? Turning Japanese by The Vapors. Yes. That one.

You know, I like to think I'm not terribly naïve, but that song just struck me as another one of those '80s one-hit-wonder songs that sprung from a fascination with Japanese culture. I mean, I'm fascinated with Japanese culture. Isn't everyone else?

Apparently not.

Heh.

So anyway, rewind two years. While waiting for my first or second appointment over at BioLife -- where I donate plasma -- with a friend from work (she'd harrassed me for a year and a half, at this point, about how easy and lucrative it was; yeah, I'm about as swayable as a lump of lead), she introduced me to a friend of hers from the plasma place. Tim. Tim and I hit it off really quick, probably because there wasn't a chance in hell of any kind of flirtation or relationship to mar us seeing each other as fun and witty individuals.

He's married, you see, and I'm...not. Ever. Guh. Don't get me started.

So anyway, fastforward about a year and a half, and we're back to about six months ago. Tim finds out the hard way that I'm not real good with casual touch. Heheh. Dunno why. I just don't like people to walk up and paw me. I'll shake your hand, but unless you're my mother, my sister, or my close personal friend (and even those are sometimes held at arm's length), keep your damn hugs to yourself.

Of course, Tim now takes every possible opportunity to touch me. He strokes my arm, people. It freaks me out. It's funny as hell, but dude, seriously.

So fastforward to Wednesday evening. It's after work, and Tim hasn't been showing up on Wednesdays for a couple of weeks, so I was pretty glad to see him mosey in. I'm a few people ahead of him, so I just kinda point and laugh. Of course, he takes his revenge. As soon as he gets to where I'm waiting, he strokes my arm, long and slow.

"Oh, Mols, it's sooooo good to see you! I've missed you so much!"

Ha ha.

So we're already giving each other a hard time, and I shove his hand away and tell him to stop stroking me, for the love of God. Also cracking up, he tells me that stroking isn't all bad. Laughing harder, I tell him I could sing him a song about that, but I didn't want to do it in public.

His entire aspect changes. I mean, he lights up like a Christmas tree at a nuclear power plant and grabs me by the arm again. This time, I really don't notice. There is a disturbance in the Force. Somehow, I just knew my whole life was about to change.

"Dude, you know that song Turning Japanese?"

Of course.

"Do you know what it's really about?"

I replay the conversation in my mind, an ugly little suspicion forming that had never even planted a seed before. I mention that I know he's talking about looking at his girl's picture a lot. And that he's all alone. And he likes to kiss her picture when there's no one else....

"NO!!"

He's ecstatic by this time. "YES! It's about...you know!"

I facepalm. It can't be. I mean...what the hell? Turning Japanese? What's that supposed to--

And then...it happens. He makes The Face.

It will forever haunt my waking nightmares.

I am tainted.

I'll never recover.

But it was funny as hell, and we laughed through the whole damn donation. Because, as Fate would have it, while you're usually never placed even in the same section as someone who signs in at the same time as you, he was of course dropped into the bed right next to mine, and he continued to plague me the entire time. We laughed so hard that the phlebotomists got in on it.

Shattered I don't know how many psyches that day, I tell you.

So now, the song is permanently etched into my brain with the image of my friend's expression as he...you know. Never wanted to see that side of him. Can't not see it now.

Dude, he has pretty long thumbs, too. And we all know what that means. And it's something I wouldn't have allowed myself to notice if he hadn't been doing...that. Guh.

I'm scarred for life. I'm just sayin'. Frickin' Tim. Jerk.

Um...sweet dreams?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Dear Charlie:

I work in the mental health field. True, I am nowhere near a provider -- not a psychologist or psychiatrist, not a therapist/counselor, not even a case manager. No, I'm a lowly records clerk.

However, I have this peculiar ideology as regards those records. I treat them as I would treat the people described in them -- with respect. The pages I process and sort and file away are filled with people's hopes, fears, dreams, despairs, nightmares, obsessions, fantasies...their most private, personal thoughts. I get angry when a provider carelessly slaps a chart closed, thus folding up the topmost pages. I get even more irritated when I find rips, tears, bad hole-punching, and staples (which lead to all three).

Yeah, it's a weird ideation, but I can't help it. It's the mental health field. I suppose I am allowed my own foibles to survive in it.

Anyway, while I don't routinely read any of the paperwork I endlessly shuffle, I do occasionally catch a glimpse of a word that snags my attention. Usually words that deal with OCD -- obsessive-compulsive disorder. I find that particular brand of hell endlessly fascinating in a horrifying kind of way.

Probably why I've read Stephen King's short story, N. from his Just After Sunset compilation, four times already, while the only other story to get even half so much love is The Gingerbread Girl, which is as opposite from it as can be.

And not that the other stories aren't equally good. Don't get that idea. Some just grab me more than others.

Anyway, N. is a patient, you see. It's a HIPAA thing, see. Providers in the medical, mental, and legal fields (probably others, but these I know of personally) never refer to their patients by their full names anymore. It's to protect the patient's privacy, and I can't imagine a more important privacy to keep than a person's own questions of sanity.

In specific, N. is a patient who has recently developed one of the more severe cases of OCD ever seen. Without giving you a book report (or a case report, if you like that better), N.'s core delusion -- the rock upon which his obsessions and compulsions are footed -- is that if he doesn't perform these certain behaviors, a thin spot in the skin of the world will split open like that of a noxious, rotted wound and spew forth abominations from another dimension.

Funny thing is, while such core delusions are surprisingly common among sufferers of OCD -- though usually less specific or strongly expressed -- Mr. King...makes it seem not only possible and plausible but...necessary. It's no wonder everyone who heard the tale was compelled to visit the scene from which sprung the core delusion.

If I hadn't already pitied (in the best sense of the word) people plagued by OCD, I would do so after reading. The typical diagnosee is firmly (if falsely) convinced that "something bad" will happen if they don't perform their rituals.

So...what if..."something bad"...did happen? What if you witnessed the very bulging of the woefully thin skin of the world and saw your counting, your touching, your placing of objects (or balancing, if you prefer the term) positively affect that bulge? Seal it away? Make that thin place stronger, even if only for a while? Would you still be a mere diagnosis in the ICD-9? Or would you be the bearer of such an onerous burden that it had broken many a strong man before you and will break a legion more when you're gone?

Does proof of the bad that would happen make the obsession, the compulsion less a disorder? Or does it just make it that much more terrible?

God, I love that story. It does what any story should do and what any horror story should especially do. It...I dunno...connects.

And creeps you right the hell out. Geez, man.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Dear Charlie:

Man, I love new projects. I shouldn't start so many, but I just can't help it. Yes, I need more discipline, but it's not that I can't finish things. In fact, when I make myself, finishing things is the least of my worries.

I just...love new projects. They make me feel better.

What I should have done this weekend was clean out my car and give it a good washing. I'm so glad to have it back that I want to give it a little TLC to make up for putting it in the shop for nearly a week.

What I ended up doing this weekend was write almost thirty pages. Heh. Great for me. Not so great for my poor car. It still needs some lovin'.

I work late tomorrow and Tuesday night...and Wednesday night, sort of, since I donate plasma that night...but hopefully I'll get a chance to give my baby a thorough soup-to-nuts go-over Thursday evening. I'd love to get to it sooner, but I have a feeling that I'll be wanting nothing more than to get home and get those raging thoughts down before they peter out on me on these evenings I work late.

Heh.

Yeah, I know myself a little too well.

In other words, I'll be my usual incommunicado self. Kristi's birthday is coming up this week -- the 8th -- and I was supposed to get down there sometime in February, but with the car trouble and just generally not having the gas money -- and no, Kristi, I won't let you give me gas money! -- to make a trip, I just haven't been to the home town recently.

So, for the love of God, I have to remember to at least call her, writing jones or no!

Don't forget, don't forget, don't forget, don't forget.

And now? Totally time for bed.