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Small Escapes March 29, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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The troubles with A.N. (see previous post) have not gone away and perhaps have only worsened in the last ten days. So far, he has not knocked on the door today, but the day ain’t over. I don’t know what the answer is. Sometimes I feel like a prisoner in my own house. (A prisoner with nothing to say, apparently, given my complete lack of blogging.)

Despite this, I have had some good moments in the aforementioned last ten days. Most of these moments have involved leaving the house, which is one way, of course, to stop feeling imprisoned in it. For example:

  • Lunch at the café at the goat farm down the road, both weekends, listening to Matt on guitar and sucking down the best toasted cheese sandwiches ever.
  • A couple of gourmet dinners with Tim and Dan, followed one evening by a night walk on the rail trail, during which time I heard my first woodcock of the season. Thrill.
  • A date with Tim to see Casablanca on a huge screen. Front-row balcony seats.
  • Getting PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) stretched.
  • A visit from some dear Northbrook friends, whom we hadn’t seen since the place closed—a visit during which Indigo Bunting learns that it is not a good idea to throw diesel-fuel-splashed jeans into a washing machine.
  • Another salon at Lali’s, this one on beekeeping, starring our friend Deb (now back in town, or she would have been having gourmet dinners with me and Tim and Dan).
  • A very quick trip up the mountain to see a brother-in-law, sister-in-law, sister-out-law, two nieces, and a nephew, who are spending a couple of days skiing.

And no doubt some other stuff.

April is looming with some scary unknowns. I am feeling rather unsettled.

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Indigo’s Complaint March 19, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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Times are changing, now the poor get fat. —Taupin/John, 1974

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately—and have no idea how to write about—is poverty. Specifically, how a decided lack of money is affecting various people on Route 153 and the different faces it can take.

I’ve resisted writing about it both because (a) doing so is a bit of an invasion of another’s privacy and (b) I don’t want to sound whiny. Because dealing with people who have much less than you do and who sometimes ask you to help can be very tricky territory. Even commenting on poverty’s very existence is a complaint.

I have a neighbor (let’s call him A.N.) who is, I would say, learning disabled. He lives with his widowed, physically disabled mother. He has a dozen siblings (all out of the house), but apparently there’s a lot of fighting going on in the family, so to hear A.N. tell it, no one ever helps them out. So A.N. has been knocking on the door more than usual, asking for favors. A.N. can be completely annoying when doing this. If I decide I’m too busy to deal and pretend to not be home (which, dear reader, I do on occasion), he pounds and pounds and occasionally resorts to “Stella!”-like yelling. He doesn’t seem to have any sense of proper behavior here. (See? I’m whining.)

But sometimes I can help him, and I try to do what I can when it’s reasonable. Occasionally I loan him a little bit of cash, which he always tries to pay back. I’m sure he buys cigarettes with it.

Recently I drove A.N. in their car to a bottle-deposit center, where he returned 275 liter bottles. A.N. then had me drive him to the dollar store, where he bought many liter bottles of Coke. My guess is he bought 25, as this is how many Tim has seen him buy on two other trips. Between these three trips that Tim and I’ve recently witnessed, I’m thinking they go through 25 liters of Coke in a week.

While I was waiting in the car for A.N. during these errands, I was (I am not making this up) reading Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. The irony of this does not escape me. (“Avoid foods you have seen advertised on television.” “It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language.”)

Tim recently took A.N. on some errands: first to spend more than $80 on cigarettes and Coke (I try hard to not be judgmental—I have my own addictions, after all), then to the grocery store. After he takes A.N. shopping for groceries, he comes home, hugs me, and says, “We have it so good.” (Since I drafted this post, I have also taken A.N. to the grocery store.)

After these favors, A.N. sometimes comes by with a cake that he or his mom just baked. It is a lovely gesture. When he goes, I try to figure out what to do next. There are only two of us in the house, and we both need to lose a couple of pounds, not gain a couple of more. I can eat some of it, of course, but I can’t let myself eat all of it. And I’m not the kind of person who “forgets I have a cake.” At one point, I tried to discourage A.N. from bringing me sweets, but I soon realized that this is their way of saying thank you, and that they need to say thank you, and I need to accept it. So last time I divided a cheesecake five ways with neighbors. In the future, my sister has offered to take some to her office.

But I digress.

I have another neighbor (let’s call her A.N.N.) who, from the outside, looks like she’s doing fine. She has a nice house and a good job. She makes significantly more money than I do. But between a couple of mistakes and a run of very bad luck, she ended up owing the IRS a lot of money. She had to declare bankruptcy (the get-to-keep-the-house kind). Now her annual IRS payments and her bankruptcy payments total much more than I make in a year. That comes right out of her salary, leaving her very little to pay mortgage and utilities. A.N.N. can not grab a sandwich with a friend—she doesn’t have any extra cash. She never goes out, and she never invites anyone over, because she can’t afford to feed them. Despite everything she’s done to make it right, she teeters on the edge of losing the house anyway. I don’t understand how settlements don’t seem to take into account that a person needs to eat.

Some neighbors have been unemployed, and some self-employed neighbors aren’t getting enough work. I am becoming the latter myself, and I am very lucky to be married to someone with a job.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, which is probably why I haven’t been writing it all these weeks. And I realize I’m talking about various types of first-world poverty and that our poor are still living with relative luxuries. But I don’t believe that people in this country (or probably anywhere) have equal opportunity to make things right in their lives. And I’m sad that I don’t believe it.

See? A little whiny.

Early Signs of Spring March 17, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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Bluebirds.

Mud.

Red-winged blackbirds.

My inability to start things, especially big projects.

Vast snowless fields.

Rain (not snow!).

The lustful way I look at rivers.

That bottle of tonic in Paul’s grocery basket.

Free at Last March 11, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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The Sears repair guy shows up early enough that by lunchtime I am no longer slave to house and telephone. It is raining—it is warm enough to rain!—and I grab my chocolate-brown raincoat, the one I bought last season, the one I didn’t really need (just wanted). Out into rain I rush, to the dry cleaner, to the gym, to the general store to pick up those pizza crusts. Oh, sweet pizza tonight at last, for after two long weeks, my oven is fixed.

Cartwheels March 3, 2010

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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And you know that you’re over the hill when your mind makes a promise that your body can’t fill. —Little Feat

Happy birthday Kate.
May sun and love shine on you.
Great day for cartwheels.
—Tracey, aka Beatrix Kiddo, writer of haikus

Hello, my name is Indigo Bunting, and until yesterday, it had been three months since I’d turned a cartwheel.

I don’t turn cartwheels very often. But I like to think I still can. I like to think I’ll always be able to. I’m a little deluded that way.

Three months ago, Christine (aka Fat Red Ant to some of you, with whom I have turned cartwheels before) and I were at the gym in one of Aaron’s classes when we decided it was time to check in on our cartwheeling prowess. Good to go.

Several years before, to celebrate our birthdays (we were born about two weeks apart), we turned cartwheels in a bar. At least, I think it was in celebration of our birthdays. We were there late, enough of the crowd had disappeared, and talk turned to still being able to turn a cartwheel. Christine’s lil sis Tracey (aka Beatrix Kiddo to some of you, who was tending bar at the time) starting pushing some tables out of the way. And Christine turned a cartwheel. And I did. And Leslie did. And I believe Tracey did. And Tim attempted it. And George didn’t. And Elizabeth didn’t. And . . .

I wonder if it was actually Leslie’s birthday.

And I kind of forgot about the cartwheel-on-your-birthday thing until yesterday it was my birthday and Tracey posted the above haiku on my Facebook wall. I had already been thinking about posting the Little Feat “Old Folks Boogie” line as my status update, so I did that. And then I thought about how best to incorporate a cartwheel into my day.

I took the day off from work, which is very unlike me. I put on my level earrings. I went ice skating in the morning. My body was fulfilling its promises.

I did errands and went out to lunch and drove home to unload groceries and do a few more things before my 4:00 appointment. Still thinking about where to turn the cartwheel.

It’s not that I can’t do one in the house. It’s just that it’s tight, with all the furniture in the room. Accuracy would be essential. Plus, I was alone. I’ve had back pain lately—what if I didn’t make it? I’d be lying there a couple of hours before someone found me.

Same problem outside, or anywhere I’d be alone. Plus, with all the melting snow and grit and mud, turning a cartwheel outside was not very appealing.

So I decided to swing by the gym on the way to my 4:00—to the big classroom, the scene of my last cartwheel crime. There would be no classes in there til later in the day. And then, if something happened to the crazy old lady turning a cartwheel, someone would find her.

Reader, I checked in at the desk, went to the classroom, and turned two cartwheels.

My lower back hurt through each turning. But I did it.

Damn this lower back! I wanted to leave that gym thinking very highly of my 48-year-old body and its abilities. I mean, I surely can’t complain, but that’s not the way a cartwheel is supposed to feel.

Still, I did it.

And then I went for my birthday massage, which ended up not being all about pleasure but all about pain, as my chiropractor has decided that my iliopsoas should be worked on and considered before we resort to x-rays. I knew going in it would be rough. When someone digs into my iliopsoas, it’s hard not to scream.

But afterward, back home, there was cake and ice cream. Sun and love did shine on me yesterday. And truly, it was a great day for cartwheels.