dating a shelter dog

I’m a shelter dog at heart. It’s not even well hidden. If you’ve never been a shelter dog, had a feral cat, never tried to rehab an abused animal, you have no idea how to love me and even less idea how to date me. How I got this way, well, there’s an entire other blog dedicated to that if you’re so inclined. But it doesn’t matter. It’s just who I am.

I am a shelter dog, a feral cat. Handle with care. Approach with caution

I used to think I just had bad luck, always finding men who were unavailable.  Then I started saying that it’s me who is unavailable, emotionally. I’m not the only one who’s said that, there’s been a parade of therapists who’ve said the same thing. But, being emotionally unavailable implies that I don’t want closeness, intimacy, romance, tenderness. That’s not actually true.

It just freaks me the fuck out.

I have a feral cat. We’ve lived together for over ten years. She waits at her bowl and doesn’t start to eat until I sit down to my own meal. She lays on the couch when I’m there, but an arm’s distance away. She sleeps at the foot of my bed, until I wake up and then she’s gone – like a shot. We lived together for two years before I was able to touch her and I still can’t pick her up. If I walk directly towards her, she disappears for one, maybe two days and we have to start all over from scratch, rebuilding the trust.

There is safety in distance. And there is comfort in proximity. The trick is in achieving the balance.

I’d known W for a while. We know dozens of people in common.

When W asked me out, he said that on our date there may be some hand holding, there also might be some kissing, but there would under no circumstances be any tongues or bodily fluids involved. He said he wanted us to get to know each other, that’s all. We walked, held hands, or didn’t. We rode the subway and sat next to each other, close enough to talk and not be overheard. We took the Staten Island Ferry, running around like kids, standing up front and enjoying the wind and I was free to laugh, relax, be silly, hold hands and cuddle. Or not.

It was the best date I’d had in a long time.

W lives 1000 miles away most of the time. I’ll always have a soft spot for him because he gave me a safe place just be the jodi. We still talk on the phone and he’s stopped telling me he misses me and he loves me because it makes me nervous, in that way one gets when a 138 fire alarms are going off in one’s head, simultaneously. It’s the equivalent of walking directly towards my feral cat, it makes me want to disappear for a day or two. So now he says, “I’m extremely fond of you.”

S is a man from in my neighborhood who I know nothing about outside of the fact that he’s handsome. There was something fishy from the very beginning.

After flirting with me for months I finally said yes to an late morning cup of tea. I’m not immune to handsome. He tried to hold my hand in the car, in the diner and again in the car after the diner. He held my hand even when I didn’t hold his back.  He said that was how we’d get to know each other, that now our hands knew each other. He told about himself and never asked about me. He tried twice to kiss me. I said no twice. The third time he didn’t ask, his simply tried to push himself on me. I got out of his car at 11am feeling the same as I have getting out of some strangers car at 4am, drunk. I haven’t been drunk in twenty years.

It’s lovely to be wanted. It’s not lovely to be pawed.

When he called an hour later I told him he’d crossed a line and I didn’t want to see him again. I didn’t feel the need to explain about the shelter dogs, about leaving a person the room to feel safe.

I saw him on the street last night. He still doesn’t understand. He thinks I’m angry. I’m not. I’m simply not interested in having to constantly protect the distance I need for me to trust.

Shelter dogs make terrific companions, if you’re willing to put in the time and the work. The longer they’ve been in the shelter, the more homes they’ve bounced around in, the more emotional baggage they bring to the table. But dogs, like people, are companions by nature. Neither of us are meant to live a solitary life.

Feral cats are partners in a whole different way than dogs. Some have been on the street so long, they seem beyond redemption or human touch. They’re lessons in patience and tolerance. Maybe one day a little soft paw reaches out, gently taps you on your arm before it turns tail and runs, hiding someplace safe, again.

They are both lessons in taking the time to learn to love a thing, in the ways it can be loved.

lost, then found

I hear dead people. I heard them call my name when no one was there. Then I stopped drinking. The dead don’t talk so much these days. Score one for auditory alcoholic hallucinations.

But I can look in a baby’s eyes and know if this is his/her first time around or s/he’s been here before. Score one for “something out there that’s bigger than me.”

They say there are no coincidences, it’s just God’s way of staying anonymous.  Believing in signs is just silly if you don’t believe in a God that has a specific detailed plan for your life. I know what God wants for me – Joy. I get that. But I don’t think s/he has a specific detailed plan. I’m cynical, a by-product of growing up with Fred. Oddly, I’m also superstitious. I believe in signs.

This morning I forgot my travel mug, so I stopped in Dunkin Donuts – the one near work where the snotty girl has to be told what I want a dozen times, especially if it’s complicated, like a bagel and a coffee, because she “can’t remember everything.” The one where every couple of weeks I take the manager’s name and ruminate about calling and telling her what shitty employees she has. That Dunkin Donuts.

There’s a new girl was behind the counter who doesn’t need things repeated. I buy a travel mug, bagel & a tea. Sadly, the new travel mug was not designed to travel, at least not in the cup holder of my car.  Luckily, new girl gave me a receipt (my first, despite the sign that says “If you don’t receive a receipt, please let the manager know”, adding fuel to my ruminating fire) so I can march in there all huffy and indignant on the way home and exchange it.

jodi sh doff  : onlythejodi : lost then found : walletI pull into the parking lot after work and start rooting around for my wallet where I’d stashed the receipt. No wallet.

I empty my bag. Big bag. Lots o’stuff. No wallet. I put everything back in the bag, take it out again & still, no wallet. I remember putting it down this morning to add Splenda to my tea. I remember thinking don’t forget to take your wallet. Apparently, even I don’t pay attention to myself.

The Snotty Girl I dream about reporting was behind the counter, always stuck on the late afternoon shift. She’s the reason I stopped my evening donut-to-drive-home routine. Thank you, Snotty Girl in Dunkin Donuts. Thank you for saving me from myself.

She has my wallet. 8 hours after I left it on someone else’s shift, intact. I dwell in irate for a second that no one had gone through it and tried to call me, then I realized, no one had gone through my wallet. My cash was there, my credit cards and the receipt.

I exchange the mug, leave a $3 tip for a $1 donut and think, phew, I skated on that. Thanks again, Snotty Girl. Or maybe thanks Morning Counter Girl. Maybe just Thanks.

jodi sh doff  : onlythejodi : lost then found : lostkeysHalf a block from my house I start rooting around for my house keys and the remote for the garage. No keys. I empty my bag. Still a big bag. Still lots o’stuff. No keys. I put everything back in the bag, take it out again & still no keys. (Why do I do that? Do I think they will manifest if I take things out in the right order? Maybe. Yes. Maybe that’s exactly what I think…).

How can I misplace two essential things in one day? I pull over, clear out the front seat, throw everything, one by one into the back. Down vest, sweater, sweatshirt (It was almost 90 today, but I like to be prepared), scarf. Nothing. I check the floor boards, under the layer of Trident Bubblegum wrappers. No keys. For no good reason I open the back door. My house keys are laying on the floor of the back seat. I have no idea. I don’t care. Maybe the dead people who don’t talk to me since I stopped drinking put them there. I don’t care.

Something is telling me something. I don’t know what. It’s like a message in a fortune cookie but it’s in Chinese. I know the message is for me, but I have no idea what it is…

I misplaced two things today. Then, like that, they were returned. No damage done. Maybe I need to pay more attention, stay more present, be aware where my feet are. Maybe I need to remember to look past the snottiness of strangers.

1982 : sitting in limbo

Originally posted March 23, 2010 on dirtygirldiaries.com.

I have the week off. I don’t know why I said that. I have no idea. A day? A week? I don’t know. But it sounds like something regular people say.

“Hey, pal, c’mon, you’re gonna be late for work.”
“Nah, it’s cool, I got the week off.” .
..Like that.

I worked behind the bar at the Mardi Gras last night. The MG is always looking for new girls the way the circus picks up showgirls and clowns at every stop. The MG is the Big Top. It’s the Show. Not some little roughneck joint like the Golden Dollar with one or two barmaids and five or six girls rotating on and off stage. The Mardi Gras looks high class from where I stand.

I walk in and the bouncer, clean cut in a suit and a smile, cause like I said, this is the fucking Show, this bouncer, he stops me just as I come through the double doors. His voice is soft, his smile, soothing. Double J, You’re not working tonight, he says. I’m not saying you have to go home, his hand on my shoulder, an older brother, looking out for my best interest, but you should, you should go home, take a few days. Someone will call…

Did I think it’d be different here? Because of a few suits and ties? It’s not.

But, I want to be here. I want to get lost in the vastness of here. I’m tired of Myron making me cry. Of Maxie treating me like crap. Or maybe it’s all about the Big Man. I expected them to take care of me. I’m not even sure what I mean by that, but I damn sure mean more than just 86′ing him for two weeks. So I left. I finally walked the two blocks.

And somehow I’ve fucked this up before I even get a chance to fuck it up.

Myron’s mad cause I’m making money for someone else. I like being important enough to fight over. There’s a sit down to decide where I’ll wind up working. No one asks me what I want. No one cares what I think. I’m worth fighting for. Shit. That’s enough for me.

It’ll be years before I realize that everyone I know, everywhere I go, everywhere I work belongs to, and all the money I make goes to, Matty the Horse. Years before I get that that night was all about respect. No one was fighting over me. I was evidence of disrespect, of middle management not following protocol. It’s like a Detroit assemblyline. I get tired of screwing this bolt on the Pintos so without asking I move over to the other assembly line and start screwing the lugnut on the Mustangs. Same job, two different line bosses. I was a labor dispute between two middle managers and Matty the Horse was Ford. And Chrysler. And General Motors for that matter. It was about them showing each other respect, it never was about me.

Go home, they tell me. You don’t work here. I don’t work anywhere, that’s the implication, I get it. What they mean is No one will hire you. You’re a problem until we decide you’re not.

It wasn’t about me. Not even a little bit, not even for a second. I was still no one. Only now I was no one in a bigger bar.

selective memories

jodi sh doff  : onlythejodi : selective memories : vogue model
I’ve fallen & I can’t get up

I have a bum leg. Actually, it’s a bum foot.

A motorcycle accident in  ’79 banged up my right side pretty good. 1979 was not a year of a lot of doctors or self care for the jodi. It got better, but now and then it still acts up. My foot swells, or I can’t feel it at all, or I stop being able to anticipate where the ground is going to be on that side when I walk.

It was a bad week, the week of that accident. My husband tried to kill me, I got fired, I was locked in a roadside motel by a pimp, there was a fire, my apartment was infested with roaches, overnight. All that happened the week of the motorcycle accident. Thirty years later, when it acts up, you’d expect me to think about the accident. Or even one of the crazy things that led to it.  (Click on any one of those links if you want the gory details). Thing is, I don’t. I never do.

I think of the boy who walked into my life three years later, and how every time my foot went wonky he’d take care of me. I’d sit in the comfortable chair and he’d sit on the floor with a bucket, turning my foot in the warm solution, massaging it, drying it off and wrapping it — same way he’d treated the horses he used to train. Gently. Patiently.

When my foot goes wonky today, I think of how he took care of me then. How he took care of me every time, but especially when I was hurt.

It’s a precious memory, that feeling of being taken care of. While I love the warm feeling that still gives me, I can’t help but wonder, if my brain could have just managed to remember the disasterous choices that preceded so many of my aches, breaks & pains (physical, emotional & spiritual), maybe I could have gotten by with less of them.

1982 : mardi gras redux

Originally posted March 16, 2010 on dirtygirldiaries.com.

“It’s two blocks, you could walk faster than…”
“I could. But I don’t hafta. I have cash, see? Cash? So, I don’t hafta walk. I don’t want to walk two blocks. I don’t want to walk one block. I’m paying you, so just drive….” I settle back into the seat making myself comfortable, two blocks or twenty, it’s all the same to me. “Sonofabitch,” I mumble under my breath. I’m a loud mumbler.

Piper and I have some version of this conversation every time we cab it from the Lollipop to Paul’s Mardi Gras. It’s a quick two blocks, well, two if we walk, which we don’t. We won’t. It’s six blocks when you drive.

I can walk. I’m not a cripple. But goddammit, why would I walk when I can be driven? I’m making all this fucking money, isn’t this exactly why? So I can do whatever I want, whenever I want and don’t have to take shit from anyone about it?

And Piper is simply not the kind of girl who walks, but rather she is escorted places. And, to be honest, the conversations with the cabbies are much nicer for everyone involved when I let her do the talking. That goes for almost all conversations involving men, and except for talking to Pipes and my mother, all my conversations are with men. And, if I’m going to continue being honest, I have to tell you I cannot remember the last time I spoke to my mother, certainly not since that night.

Piper is better at charming than I will ever be, especially these days. She is more about the batting of the eyes, where I come across more like a bat upside the head. I’ve tried it her way, but it’s like putting a party dress on a monkey. The monkey looks pretty, sure, but you’re not actually going to take the monkey home to meet the family.

The new Mardi Gras, Paul’s Mardi Gras, is to the Lollipop what Vegas is to Tuesday night Bingo at the VFW hall.  It’s like drinking inside a Christmas decoration the size of a football field wih live djs sending music pounding out of speakers as tall as goalposts. Everywhere you look, cash registers, balloons, streamers, mirrors, men in suits, women in nothing or almost nothing. Photos of dancers and celebrities line the mirrored walls. New Year’s Eve streamers give a festive illusion of privacy to the tables and alcoves along the walls. An endless river of dancers, waitresses, floor girls and barmaids sardine-can themselves in and out of the two stall bathroom and call it a dressing room. It’s a really BIG Christmas decoration, with vodka. Endless bottles of vodka.

We’ve been coming here to relax and drink here for a couple of weeks, whenever we need a change of scenery from the little Lollipop with its eight barstools, rinky-tink flashing jukebox and ten foot ‘stage’.

I slide on to the first empty barstool and hustle drinks I’ll get no commission on.  I could pay for them myself, but why, when I can get a customer to pay $20 for my $2 vodka and help one of the barmaids make her bonus at the same time? The vodka’s the same no matter who pays or how much.  I don’t care about making money or spending money tonight. I’m here to drink, the music is good, and it’s not work.  These are my people.

The Lollipop has Myron’s crew of wiseguys, some middle management office drones and a few frat boys, but everyone comes to the Mardi Gras: cops, on duty and off, New York and New Jersey; wiseguys also on duty and off, also New York and New Jersey; street hustlers, doctors, pimps, loan sharks, bookies, lawyers, psychiatrists, couples, off duty dancers, nude models, live sex show performers from ShowWorld relaxing in-between their live sex shows, celebrities, newscasters relaxing in-between casting the news, and a dancing dwarf who claims to be the real money behind the bar and demands blowjobs from each of the new girls.

A month or a week from now when I find myself dancing on this very stage and he sidles up to me, his face level with and pressed up against my barely g-stringed crotch, I will threaten to drop kick him across the bar. Dwarves freak me out. Sue me, sorry, but they do.

And while there may or may not have been a Robbie at Robbie’s Mardi Gras, which has since disappeared, there is most definitely a Paul at Paul’s Mardi Gras.

There’s guinea money behind the bar; there’s guinea money behind all of the bars, but Paul’s name is on the liquor license. He sits with me while I drink. He escaped Auschwitz with his parents when he was a boy, but he doesn’t talk about it much. Instead, he tells me I’m a good Jewish girl. He complains about his kids to me, worries about them, they make him crazy. He says Teddy is hard-headed and angry, always getting into fights; Fern is unmanagable, she’s dating a schwartze for God’s sake, a schwartze!;  Elliot, the baby, Elliot is a good boy who helps him run the bar at night. Paul strokes my face, watching me with rheumy eyes, he tells me how I look just like his wife, Paula, when she was my age. At first, I think she must be dead. She’s not. She manages the day shift and hates me on sight. So although I find myself in need of a new job and it would be ever so nice to work days and sleep nights like a semi-normal person, I’ll get no help at all from the wife.

Wives are rarely, if ever, helpful to me.

Paul, however welcomes me. The Mardi Gras is a family business, he says. And I’ve always wanted a family.