Break a Leg, Kid

JusticeSometimes I wonder if we traveled back in time when we moved to Podunk.  My first clue that our new town was, to put it kindly, Provincial with a capital “P” was when I first perused the DVD section of the local Borders book store.  There I found not one, not two, but THREE copies of Peyton Place – practically right next to a copy of Imitation of Life.

You can’t even see those films on cable at 3 a.m. any more.

Since then, I’ve had a great deal of fun poking, well, fun at the local newspaper, The Podunk Suppository, which Beloved reads on a regular basis.  In between groaning at editorials stating the internet should not be considered a valid source of information for school reports (Wikipedia was specifically named), I get a kick out of hearing about things like, oh, the Podunk SWAT team being called to rescue a toddler that has locked himself in a bathroom and is happily flushing his mother’s birth control pills and Midol down the toilet.  Podunk has a SWAT team?  I ponder.  What – two guys in umpire padding armed with cattle prods?

All of this is only relevant in that Beloved read an article in this Sunday’s Suppository citing how a county in Florida banned running during recess at their elementary schools.  Why, yes – Broward County did, indeed, ban running during recess.

In 2005.

Fear of litigation was the reason, of course – apparently, Broward County settled 189 playground lawsuits in five years.  That bit of information I got off of – gasp! – the internet; however, the Suppository “journalist” seemed to be under the impression that the case of a child who, in the process of sliding down a playground slide head first, broke his leg had some bearing on the Broward County ban (the parents of the child successfully sued the school district for “inadequate supervision”).

The broken leg occurred in Indiana.

Now, my first thought when reading about the child breaking his leg while sliding head first – other than you have to be a special kind of clumsy to break your leg when sliding head first and therefore related to me in some way – is that why on earth would the parents sue the school?  Kids have been sliding down playground slides head first for time immemorial and while I’m sure there have been more broken arms than legs involved, isn’t that part of childhood?

When did bruises, cuts, scrapes, stitches and broken bones stop being a normal part of childhood?  Do we, as a society, really intend to raise our children in some sort of sterile cocoon where they never get hurt, never lose, never get dirty and are never told “No” for fear of injuring their delicate little psyches?

If my mother were still alive, she’d probably be frothing at the mouth about this subject.  She raised four extremely accident prone children, and if she had attempted to sue someone every time we got hurt she would have spent 28 straight years dealing with lawsuits.  This was especially true of my youngest sister, who was so clumsy she broke her leg when she fell off of the bunk beds in her room – while rolling over in her sleep.

Perhaps Mom should have sued the makers of the bunk beds (which were at least 25 years old and we inherited from my uncle) for being too tall…or the contractor who built our house for making the hardwood floor in our bedroom too hard.  I would have loved to see a judge’s ruling on the time we were all playing in the back yard, and I got the brilliant idea to tie a rope to the handle of a ten-gallon plastic bucket, throw the rope over the branch of the tree, place my seven-year-old brother in said bucket and attempt to haul him up to our treehouse.

The physics involved in combining a plastic bucket, a 60-pound boy and gravity escaped me at the time, but who should Mother have sued?  The manufacturer of the bucket, the manufacturer of the rope, or the manufacturer of the chain link fence he fell on, scraping and bruising himself badly (he was lucky he wasn’t impaled), when the aforementioned physics came into play?

Nor are my own children exempt from this.  Tell me, whom should I have sued when Oldest Son, about 9, decided to lay on his stomach on a friend’s skateboard and propel himself forward with his arms – I would say he failed to stop when he encountered a cement step outside of our apartment, but his face did a dandy job of stopping him, thank you very much.  Lawsuits were the farthest thing from my mind when I cracked up laughing every time I looked at that inch-wide scab that ran from the tip of his nose, up the bridge and ending smack-dab between his eyes.

I’m sorry, it was funny.

Or The Young One, who had a perpetual bruise on his forehead for about six months when he was two years old – I swear, the kid NEVER looked where he was going and ran head first into every table that came across his path, which all seemed to be exactly the same height as his forehead.  Should I have sued the manufacturers of all the tables in not only our home but our family’s homes for not padding the edges?

The scariest incident, though, happened to Darling Daughter when she was in the third grade.  She was swinging by her knees, upside down, at the top of the six-foot jungle gym on the school playground when she slipped and fell right on her head.  Now, I had ALL sorts of issues on how the school handled telling me about it (the assistant principal basically called me and said, “Your daughter fell out of the jungle gym on her head AND SHE CAN’T MOVE!”), but even if something had happened beyond her scraping her scalp on the gravel, why should I have sued the school?  Or the manufacturer of the jungle gym?  If, heaven forbid, she had truly been seriously injured, suing someone wouldn’t undo that injury.  Sometimes unfortunate, tragic things happen and all the money garnered in all the lawsuits in the world can’t fix it.  Or, frankly, stop it.

This is, of course, only my opinion, but I think it’s a valid one.

Don’t like it?  So sue me.

Spin Cycle: Guilt

GuiltJeez, this Sprite’s Keeper gal plays hardball, doesn’t she?  When she announced the subject of this week’s Spin Cycle, I felt a bit like Indiana Jones when he got his first good look at the Well of Souls:

Guilt…why’d it have to be guilt…

Of course, she had no idea what she was handing me with this task.  I’m a 46 year old woman who’s been married twice, divorced once, had a child with a man I was not married to, spent years raising my children – alone – in a neighborhood nestled between the gang-ravaged Barrio and the West Dallas housing projects (Oldest Son attended a high school nicknamed “Drive By High”), seen my credit score hit roughly around 400 (can we say “No child support?”), given room and board to a young man who immediately stole my next door neighbor’s car (he was involved with my sister at the time), eaten cold pizza, chocolate cake and diet Coke for breakfast, drank alcohol before 9 a.m., ingested substances of an, ahem, controlled nature, failed at more diets than most people have even heard of, and lived in sin off and on for roughly six years with my Beloved before making an honest man out of him.

I’ve not only lived with guilt, I’ve run the full version of Guilt 2.0 without so much as a glitch.

The years of my first marriage were the worst for guilt – my ex is The Grand Master Of The Guilt Trip.  For twelve years, literally everything was my fault – if he could have blamed me for the situation in the Middle East, he would have.  Not enough money for the things we needed, much less wanted?  My fault for not making enough money; never mind that he refused to get a job.  The kids got sick?  My fault for not taking better care of them; never mind that he was home with them all day (he, of course, was the perfect parent so it had to be something I’d done – or not done).  We didn’t have sex every day?  My fault for not whipping on a sexy outfit the minute the kids went to bed every night; never mind I worked 12 – 16 hours a day, 6 days a week at a job that required I stand on my feet every minute I was there and was completely whipped by 8 p.m. every night.  He chased anything that even looked like it might possess a vagina?  Well, see the last item – not only was it my fault he didn’t get enough sex, it was my fault that he flaunted his “friends” in my face, for I was his wife and the person he was supposed to talk to about everything.  And if I didn’t like it, well then I was just a prude.

The guilt trips continued even after the divorce, for it was my fault that he had little to nothing to do with our children – if I was concerned that he be involved in their lives, then I shouldn’t have divorced him.  One of the very last arguments I let myself be drawn into with him became a shouting match where I enumerated the many reasons we were divorced and ended with him telling me I should have MADE him behave.

Good times.  Oh, yeah.

I really didn’t mean for this to turn into a rant about my first marriage, but I can’t talk about guilt and not talk about that.  By the time it was all over with, my self-esteem was non-existent and it has taken me many years to recover it.  In the process, I’ve come to realize that guilt serves very little purpose.  There are undoubtedly many things I’ve failed at in the course of 46 years, but that does not make me a failure.  Dragging around a shitload of guilt about those past things I can’t change isn’t going to do anything but take time and energy away from the person I am now.  A person who, overall, has done more right than wrong in her life and is a pretty decent woman despite those past things – and because of them.

So fuck guilt.  I don’t do it anymore.

Pass the Geritol, Please

We decided to go driving Saturday to look at the changing foilage again.  Bored with Amish country, we headed southeast and drove to Beaver Creek State Park, near the Ohio/Pennsylvania/West Virginia border.  It was beautiful, and I’m sure there was an added bonus for Beloved:  no place to shop.  We’d been gone maybe four hours when we headed home; The Young One was alone, unsupervised, and that was about all the excitement my poor old bod could handle.

On our way back, we were listening to the radio, not saying much, when Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” came on.  I listened to the lyrics for the first time in maybe 20 years.  By the time the first chorus of “Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo” started, I looked up, and saw Beloved had a slightly bemused expression on his face – I was pretty sure I had the same look, myself.

“How did that song ever get airplay in the 70s?” he asked softly.

“I dunno, ” I replied.  “It’s just so…wrong.  On so many levels.”

“Yeah it is,” he agreed.

The longer I listened to the song, the more it occurred to me how much I’ve changed since my early 20s.  I’ve been a fan of rock and roll since, well, forever, and I was just as aware of the meaning of the lyrics at 22 as I am at 45.  While I never cared for the racist undertones of the song, the idea of someone singing about transvestites performing oral sex for money never struck much of a nerve with me.

Until now.

I mean, the subject itself doesn’t necessarily offend me – I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination – but someone singing about it while “colored girls” doop-de-dooed in the background?  It just seemed…tacky, to say the least.

It’s not just music, either.  Maybe it’s because I’m at the tail-end of the Baby Boomer generation, but the whole aging process just keeps smacking me in the face.  Sally Fields is doing commercials for osteoporosis medication – is it just me, or does anyone else find the thought of Gidget with a hip fracture amusing?   Dennis Hopper is shilling financial planning services.  The other night while we were watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, when I wasn’t marveling at the complete crappiness of the film, all I could do was wonder where the hell Harrison Ford’s neck had disappeared to.  I saw a recent photograph of Christopher Walken in New Yorker Magazine and wondered when, in the last 15 years, he’d turned into a prune.  But the worst of it is that Kevin Costner – Kevin Costner!!! – has been on the cover of AARP Magazine.

I can accept that I am aging – I have to; the evidence is staring at me from the bathroom mirror every day.  The fact that I am in the throes of perimenopause and am old enough to be a grandmother can be dealt with.  I am perfectly okay with the understanding that my consumption of oat bran and garlic have become intimately intertwined with my serum cholesterol levels.  I am perfectly at ease with the concept of drinking red wine for the taste and health benefits rather than being able to brag that I have no idea what happened the night before.

But when Michael Jackson celebrates his 50th birthday and Jamie Lee Curtis makes a living eating probiotic yogurt on national television, something is seriously wrong with the universe.

Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide.  Sid Barrett died of complications of diabetes.  George Carlin suffered a fatal heart attack.  Paul Newman succumbed to cancer.  This isn’t like Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin or John Belushi living hard and dying young, or even John Lennon, whose life was so rudely interrupted – these people were more or less old when they passed away.  Relatively speaking, they weren’t that much older than me when they died.

They are the icons of my youth.  And as much as I may hate to admit it, my youth is a thing of the past.

Don’t get me wrong – if given the opportunity to go back 20 years, even knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t do it.  I like being 45; it has all sorts of advantages over being 25.  It’s just that…I don’t know, the whole mortality thing is kind of frightening.  I’m not ready for bingo and barbituates.

Hopefully, I won’t be for a long time.

The Night of the Incredulous Martini

So, Beloved is winging his way – first class, the fink – to Hawaii. We discussed the possibility of me going along for the ride, but he’s going to be working all week (very long hours), and comes home Saturday only to turn around and leave Monday morning for Boca Raton. Besides, I have no burning desire to spend a week on my own in Honolulu. Now, if he were going to spend that week on Kauai, I’d have my bags packed before you could say “Screw the lei – gimme a Mai Tai.”

I drove back to Pittsburgh Thursday afternoon so we could spend a couple of (very brief) nights together before he jetted off again. By last night the poor man was so tired – he’d worked no less than 12 hours every day this week – that he asked if it would be okay if we just ate in the hotel restaurant. Which was fine by me; we’d eaten there last weekend before I came home and it’s pretty good for a hotel restaurant. (It’s the Four Points by Sheraton in Cranberry, a suburb just north of Pittsburgh if you’re at all interested – try the Chicken Veronique; it was quite good.)

I also figured, since we had nowhere to drive and didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn this morning, that a small cocktail (or two) wouldn’t hurt, so when the waitress asked us what we’d like to drink, I immediately said, “A French martini!” Beloved can read my mind sometimes; he knew exactly what I was thinking and immediately followed with, “A Grey Goose Cosmopolitan!” The bar, which Beloved said had been extremely busy all week, was just as dead as a doornail – especially for a Friday night – and when the waitress brought our cocktails they were lovely to behold; mine was floating a slice of strawberry and two fresh, perfect raspberries. When I remarked on this, the waitress told us the bartenders were bored.

Apparently not bored enough; the drinks were not all that good. Beloved said his Cosmo was too sweet (I like a sweet Cosmo, but he prefers his with a little more bite), and my French martini had not only Chambord, but raspberry vodka as well and the flavor was just too overwhelming, not to mention a bit on the medicinal side. In fact, I was about halfway through the drink when I realized it reminded me a little of the red flavor of Nyquil.

However, I remained undaunted and was willing to sacrifice myself for the sake of a good time with Beloved, who needed it desperately, so when the waitress came back, I asked her, “Are the bartenders still bored?” She answered affirmatively, so I told her “Well, tell them to surprise us this time!”

And boy, did they. The waitress came back with this neon green thing she said was called “Liquid Kryptonite” and, of all things, a Peanut Butter and Jelly martini.

They were definitely on a roll, and improving. The “Liquid Kryptonite” was apparently not too sweet (or he was too happy from the Cosmo and his cooked-to-perfection sirloin steak), because Beloved drank it quite willingly. The Peanut Butter and Jelly Martini? It tasted like…peanut butter and jelly. I love what Beloved refers to as “foo-foo” drinks.

About the time we were ready to decimate peruse the dessert bar (they had a marvelous banana cake with a white chocolate/banana filling, iced in a dark chocolate ganache), the waitress came back and said, “The bartenders have another round for you, if you want them. On the house.”

Boy, I want to find more bored bartenders on a Friday night! The next thing we knew, we were in possession of an Espresso martini, which Beloved said was really tasty, and a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake martini (which was even better).

Well, after two free drinks – which were the best of the bunch – we just had to go to the bar to thank the bartenders. As it turns out, one had previously worked in an establishment with an extensive martini menu. We have a wonderful time when we sit and talk to bartenders and this time was no exception. We got quite chummy with the martini creator and found out that her sister lives not too far from us here in Ohio.

In fact, we discovered that until fairly recently the sister had been the head golf pro at the Congress Lake Country Club, in Hartville Ohio, where Beloved played several times in his younger days. When we asked her why her sister was no longer there, we were amazed at the answer. It seems that the someone found out, after THIRTEEN YEARS employment, that the golf pro is in a long-term relationship with another woman.

So they fired her.

I just sat there with my chin somewhere in the vicinity of my knees, but Beloved shook his head and said, “I’m not surprised.” What??? I mean, I knew northeast Ohio was provincial, but this? This is just too much. I am appalled, disgusted and incredulous. This woman was a loyal employee for over a decade. Her sister told us she is suing them – good for her! – and club memberships have dropped nearly 10% in the last few months. But Beloved says her chances of winning her lawsuit are still slim.

Oh, yeah?

I hope grubs kill all of their grass. I hope they are infested with moles, groundhogs and clumsy 13-year-olds learning how to play. I hope Rodney Dangerfield’s ghost haunts the clubhouse, and Bill Murray gets a job as grounds keeper. I hope hordes of Adam Sandler fans overrun the place. I hope all of their caddies start channeling Jerry Lewis.


That ought to teach ’em.