the cowardly liar

What? How was I supposed to know?

One minute I’m playing with a perfectly fine red nosed pit bull and the next thing I know the dog’s person is flirting with me. Tall. Handsome. With a thick Irish brogue. Right off the bat he asks if I’m married & I ask the same thing right back. Please note, we are standing directly in front of his building. Directly. So I believe him when he says no.

We chat briefly, he asks if he can take me out –

I don’t know, maybe. Is this your dog? Yes ’tis.
Are you married? Still no, he says
Is this where you live? ‘Tis.

I give him my number and walk away thinking “Well, wasn’t that nice?” and head on my merry way to cast my vote in the mayoral election, making the day November 3rd. As I walk away I pass a woman just 50 feet away or so talking on her cell phone, with a heavy Irish brogue. How odd, I think. I live in a neighborhood where the primary languages are Spanish & Hindi and the primary skin color is brown. I’m aware I have a bad habit of attracting married men, but this could be a sister or a daughter. I also have a bad habit of making excuses for people who don’t deserve them.

When we talk on the phone I ask Eddie Irish about the woman. His sister is in the Bronx and he has no daughter and no wife, he says, again. He seems nice and attentive and we walk his dog together in the neighborhood. Everyone seems to know him and he seems to know everyone. I stop thinking about the woman with the Irish brogue.

We set a date for a Saturday night. He cancels it that Friday, saying he forgot his nephew’s bachelor party and his sister is driving him up to Yonkers and he’s spending the night. Can we see each other for coffee and sammiches during the week and go out the following Saturday and do I remember how he loves to dance? We stay on the phone for a half and hour or so.

And that is the last time I hear from him.

The week goes by and I think he’s blowing off the coffee & sammiches and saving his energy for a possible hot Saturday night where he thinks he might get lucky. Then Saturday comes and goes and I still don’t hear from him. I wonder if he just changed his mind about how cute I am and is too much of a coward to say so. I wonder if he fell in love and ran off with a stripper from the bachelor party. I wonder if he lied and it’s not his ex-wife who is the alcoholic, but him and he’s off on a bender.

I wonder what is wrong with me that he suddenly lost interest.

By Sunday dinnertime, I’m thinking maybe I’m wrong about it all. I worry about him and about the dog. Maybe there was a terrible car accident and won’t I feel awful thinking all these bad thoughts if he’s laid up unconscious in the hospital or dead. I worry that maybe the red nosed pit was left locked in the apartment and will starve if that’s the case. I call his cell phone and leave a message.

Monday evening. I pass by his house and buzz the buzzer, wondering if his sons are there cleaning out their dead father’s apt.  Or, what if a woman answers and it’s his wife and? Or, no one will answer and another tenant will come by and say “Oh, no. Eddie got hit by a car. It was all very sad.”

I buzz again. “Yes?” The brogue is unmistakable.

“Eddie? You’re home? I thought maybe you got runover by a train…”

“No. I’m fine. I’ll talk to you later. Goodbye,” he says quickly, then cuts off the intercom.

I stand in front of the building gauging how I feel about this, (calling him a shitfucker repeatedly in my head so that’s probably how I feel) convinced that there is definitely a wife involved here somehow. I live three blocks away. I am equally insulted for us both, myself and the wife of Eddie Irish.

He peeks his head out from the basement gate. Looks both ways, then calls my cell phone. He’s trying to get back together with his wife, he says. He’s in a heap o’trouble, he says. Please, he begs.

I know what that “Please” means. It means “I’m a weak and cowardly man and please don’t make things worse for me than they already are.” I’m suddenly sure of a few things. I’m sure he’s the drunk in the family and that’s why she left him, not the other way around like he tells the story. I’m sure that was her that first day I met him. And I’m sure glad I didn’t let him come up and smooch me all over that first night he tried.

My picker is still crooked, but my fences are stronger.

loss & love

Tommy died of old age, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We’re supposed to be okay with that.

The problem with old age is that you’ve been around long enough to really affect people when you leave. If one of the newborn bunnies had died, it would be sad, but I had a relationship with Tommy. The bunnies don’t even have names yet.

Tommy was loud, tired, gentle and very attached to Hazel. You remember Hazel? The sheep that the little boy who grew up to be a med student called about? That’s what happens when you stick around. You touch people. You affect them. And they miss you when you leave.

Tommy was my inspiration for volunteering at Green Chimneys’. He was the sheep that sealed the deal. I wanted to be there for the seniors, to make their lives a little easier. It was an honor to be take special care of that old guy.

jodi sh doff : onlythejodi : loss and love : phoebe He left behind a stall full of grieving old lady sheeps. Hazel and Phoebe walk over and placing their heads in my hands for me to do that voodoo that I do so well. Laverne keeps her distance. There’s something about accepting one’s frailties that allows you to open your heart to comfort from others. Laverne is just not there yet. Me neither. We’re both working on that.

A friend, a human friend, was diagnosed with inoperable cancer recently and I’ve been watching myself avoid visiting. My friend is dying of old age, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be, except I want to fix him. If I can’t, I don’t want to be there.  I’m in training to be an end-of-life companion, a doula for the dying.  It’s one thing to think about starting that work with someone I’ve never met. Or working with animals that are passing, but a friend?  A friend is a horse of a different color entirely.

another little piece o’ my heart

I got a chance to read some of the dirtygirl story in public last night at the inaugural of the new reading series, Sex Worker Literati. It was packed. People were sitting on the floor. A dozen or so had showed up for me personally (I sent out two hundred invitations. I’m going to pretend that that’s a pretty good percentage). Some friends I’d expected didn’t make it. On the other hand, old high school acquaintances who’ve become new friends through the actual “social” part of social networking engines like Facebook, did, with progeny in tow.

It was all a little intimidating.

I can talk in front of strangers about nothing for hours. I can talk in front of a bunch of alcoholics about myself forever. But my writing, I want to say “my art” but that feels so very pretentious, exposing that to strangers or to friends, that’s a horse of a different color entirely. Every time, every single time I let you read my work is like handing over my newborn baby and hoping you don’t decide to put a pillow over her face. Reading my work to you is a little harder than that, more like taking a circular saw to my own chest, wrenching open my rib cage and letting you poke around in my heart for a while. Really poke.

I labor over every single word, each piece of punctuation hopefully creates a rhythm you can dance to. I write about the personal, in ways that take me to the vulnerable. Every time, every single time you read what I write, it means I’ve unlocked my heart just a little, left a door ajar, a trail of breadcrumbs down through the maze of locked doors and secret passageways.

I stood in a crowded bar last night and told you part of my story, a part that doesn’t make me look particuarly good, or sound like a nice person at all. I let you see a piece of my heart from a time it wasn’t safe to have a heart at all.

I never felt more beautiful.

There is something to be said for following your bliss.

 

help me, I’m moulting….


July is my month. I celebrate both a birthday & an anniversary of what I hope will always be the day of my last drink, my last drug.

This year, the birthday was number 53 and the anniversary was number 19. Considerably more than anyone who knew me when I was drinking could imagine and I had no interest in stopping. How that happened is another story entirely. Remind me to tell you sometime. It’s a good story.

The end of this particular July also marked one month since my magazine job went the way of so many other magazines. Down, and Out.

The job search continues, with compassion as the watchword and animals, livestock, farm, dogs and cats as the key words, explaining in my cover letter how I got to be so incredibly overqualified for the position (many of which only require a GED) while being so simultaneously uniquely suited for each one. Nothing so far, but no worries either. When I only had one weekday free, my search for a life of compassion manifested as one day a week at the Green Chimneys Farm  & Wildlife Sanctuary, part of Green Chimneys Children’s Services. It’s been two months of Fridays and it feels like my forever home, as they say in shelter circles. You’ve all seen the pictures and heard the babble. There will be more babbling to come. Maybe even in this post…

I’ve crossed off a short list of possibilities, still carving out my angel. I’m learning what I can live with & what I can’t. Physically, financially and emotionally. There’ve been a few surprises.

Physically I’m making more room, packing away on high closet shelves thirty years of tax returns, medical records, anything I don’t access daily is being packed away. Books, videos, clothes, anything I don’t use, really use, is being given away. I’m acting as if I’m moving to a much smaller place and it’s creating more space around me.

I’m carving out room to breath, room for angel wings.

Emotionally, I’m terrified of intimacy. Have I mentioned that? My friend Lyle died at the end of July, six years ago. We’d gotten really close when his cancer returned, when he and I were both ill. We could talk to each other, hear each other when no one else could. I’m still not over it, whenever anyone mentions his name unexpectedly, I’m reduced to tears. I hate crying.

On my birthday I met with a woman who runs a program for Thanadoulas, to discuss the upcoming two month training she runs. The point there is simply to be there, as comfort, companionship, an ear for someone who is within 18 months of their death. I think I can do that.

Those two things seem antithetical, the Thanadoula program and my fear of intimacy, but they’re both part of me. I’m sure my therapist would say something about my keeping myself so busy I don’t have time for romance or intimacy and there’s something to that. But I’m keeping myself busy with intimacy and tenderness in the forms I can handle. I know what to expect from someone who is dying. They’re going to die. I can handle that. It’s predictable. I know too, that it’s going to be a lot more complicated than that, in ways I can’t imagine.

Faith for me is taking actions knowing I can’t control what the result will look like.

I spent part of my farm afternoon this past Friday with a young girl, H. I think she’s mildly autistic, she’s probably somewhere around 10 years old. She’d bugged me the first few times she showed up pushing her way into my day. I go there to spend time with the animals, not the kids. She shows up every Friday asking the same questions over and over again. This past Friday I lost my patience, threw up my mental hands, dove in and just talked to her as if she was anyone else who was driving me crazy.

Something clicked for us both.

We worked together for about 30 minutes. We shoveled goat poop into wheelbarrows, I pushed them full of poop and H. pushed the empties on the way back. We swept up and spread sawdust. We were a team.  My heart was opened, unexpectedly. We connected when I stopped trying to be anything but exactly who I am, when I stopped trying to see H. as anything but exactly who she was. I’m kinda sarcastic and she’s kinda annoying. Together, we’re pretty funny, we cracked each other up.

When I was drinking, funny was loud and at someone else’s expense; excitement had sirens, sharp edges and was lightening fast.

Before I stopped drinking, I thought I was better than everyone because I showed up for work on time every day. Sometimes that meant roaring down the street, doing the last lines of cocaine in the back of a police car, after being out all night with them. Rinsing my mouth out with beer in the elevator on the way up to my office, almost always the first one in, simply because I had never actually gone home.

Nineteen years later, I don’t have a job, most nights I’m in bed by 10pm, most mornings I’m up by 6am. Next week I’m trailing the farm veterinarian on her rounds & taking a training in crisis intervention so I can work directly with the kids.  I don’t know what that’s going to look like either and that, that is really exciting.

 

everything i know about the beach house

I started coming down here 15 years ago to be with my bff. It’s a lovely town where nothing happens, Mayberry RFD. With sand.

(Location to remain semi-secret because it’s already way too popular. When we first started coming it was the anti-thesis of hip. Sometimes you’d find that you’d rented next to a house full of pajama men. Those unwanted men, forgotten by their families, dumped by the state into boarding houses along the shore, they’d wander town or camp on benches or front porches, in thier pajamas and slippers, smoking cigarettes, shuffling, smelling vaguely of urine. One step away from paper slippers. We should have seen it coming. That description sounds suspiciously like the East Village and Williamsburg just before they slid into hipster-ness.)

I came this weekend with the intention of…

a) spending quality time with my peeps – totally forgetting it’s Father’s Day weekend and everyone scatters to spend time with fathers, past, present and in-lawish. Well, it would have been the same had I stayed in the city, but here I got to sleep in to the sound of rain pattering on the front lawn, stay in my pajamas all day watching the entire season of Real Housewives of New Jersey with my peeps (and “prostitution whore” becomes shorthand for ‘Jersey trash’, much like the phrase, “with a minimum of makeup” is shorthand for ‘she looks a little bit like an ape don’t you think?’) and be woken by having my god-dog crawl into bed with me and dance all over me until I slid over and made enough room for him.

b) doing laundry. There is something comforting about the smells & sounds of the dryer going round when it’s in your own house. It doesn’t have the same charm and coziness in the basement of an apartment building with bright fluorescent lights and strangers wandering around. My god-dog sleeps next to me as I write, the dryer hums below me, the birds tweet from the telephone wires outside the window.

c) writing. To spend a considerable amount of time writing, editing, reading, generally being productive.  Outside of this post, none of that has happened. The other housemates are better, they do some of their art, their writing. I am best at doing nothing down here.

I am terrible at doing nothing Any. Place. Else. The beach house gives me permission, in a way that no other place or time does, to do nothing. To sleep in or watch crap on television.  To not get properly dressed for two days in a row or putter aimlessly. To get down on all fours and play with my god-dog and be absolutely one hundred percent silly. To not care what my hair looks like or think about makeup. To sleep on the beach when it’s sunny. To walk on the shoreline at night, and feel simultaneously significant and insignificant. To partake meals made from group efforts. To not have to be anyplace or anyone other than who and where I am at that moment, who I am when my guard is down. To laugh until I almost wet my pants.

When I’m here, I get to be the authentic jodi. The chattering stops, the world slows down, my heart opens, my silly comes spilling out and my laundry gets done.