Saturday, May 17, 2008

Marcie's Favorite Bloom

Marcie's favorite flower or bouquet was not the dozen roses we all know. Not at all. Marcie liked her bouquets to be varied and wild, preferably hand-picked by me from the gardens and medians in our neighborhood, and I obliged. We also grew a few of our own.

Marcie's favorite source of flowers at home was the gardenia on our porch. I kept it watered and it bore many flowers for us. Today was the first one to bloom this year and the plant is covered in buds. I took a picture of it on a little container I recently bought at the school district's craft show:

Finally back at the Beach

So today it was hot, and I decided to try going back to the beach. I made a review of mission Beach for Yelp... I thought I would share it here, too.

I almost had to leave you forever, Mission Beach. Your funk, your wide swath of the social fabric, none of it could obliterate the pain. But I went back and we were back, buddied up for madness and fun.

Yeah, bra. You know me. I used to pop in for breakfast. I sometimes had a beer. But me, I come see you to be on your sand and in your water. Back on my hardboard days, by the jetty. Body boarding days? That sweet break in the summer swim zone, in front of Canes.

Now you remember me. Hey, remember when mom took off and lived down by the volleyball nets in that cool little beach house with that new dude? She visited that day with us and I learned to surf? I sure do. I was nine, man. Wow, that was a great day, seeing mom after three months. Thanks, you were a great host.

Remember all the trips to see you with my aunts and uncles and dozens of cousins, sneaking away from Mission Bay Park where they made us stay to come see you so I could play in the waves. Awesome, man. It was worth the spanking, totally!

Remember the girlfriends I took there, all of them needing to have that special "you get to know this place through me" quality. Yeah, of course you do. Even the one who didn't much like you.

In 14 years she only came with me five times. Each time, I made it a point to be in tune, riding and carving to impress her under her skin-shielding encampment, my little pallid Sultana. She liked it, but the beach was just not her thing. You played a good host, though.

I remember she urged me to be in the water whenever possible. I was. She was your biggest cheerleader. Then she was gone. I forgot she urged me to be in your water. I just remembered she didn't like to go with me to see you. I was afraid her spirit would not be with me.

I was wrong, and I finally went to see you today again, ready to ride the waves for the first time since she left me here. The first song on the radio was the one that reminds me of her. "Big Hard Sun." She wanted to let me know she was coming with me.

We've been buds for a long time, bra. You're my homie from the home break. Hell, you are the home break.

You might not be the best surf spot ever, but you have the goods to get me in the water, and there's a boardwalk for me if I want some non-natural beach fun. Not bad, not bad, but a little gawdy. I prefer the sand and waves.

Hey, bud. If I bring a new girl or a pack of friends around, try to do something to score me a fire ring. It gets busy and I can't camp out all day. You understand, man.

And do you think you can bring the broom painter back, the guy who does the sand sweeping designs on the lot surface? That would be keen, even if he sells more Jesus than an immigrant smuggler with a labor service on the side.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Times Apart That Were Just In Time-Paris in Winter (End)

The week before she would have left, and in which I assumed she had canceled everything in a fit of pique, was hell. I tiptoed around her, feeling guilty and wondering what to do.

Every offer to help her set it all back up was met with "Don't worry about it, Frank," or, "Just drop it," or "Would you leave me alone?"

Two night before her original departure date, I asked her to let me buy her a ticket I had found on the web and offered to let he ruse my Discover card for anything else she needed.

"I said I didn't want your help, and you still gave me shit about how much it cost, why would I want your help now? So you can make me feel guilty? Forget it," she said. "You don't want me to go anyways."

We argued for a half an hour and I finally gave up. "If you don't go, this will be between us forever and I will to be able to handle it," I said. "You overreacted and you canceled the trip because we argued, and I have felt guilty ever since."

She glared and I continued.

"You have to go on your trip, because I think if you don't, we'll break up," I said. I felt deep sadness, but kept my tears in check.

Her face melted. "Oh, honey, no wonder you've been upset. I just canceled that hotel. I booked a new one at work the next day."

She took my hands as a lump grew in my throat, my relief washing over me with her hands' strokes of my shoulders and her hugs. "I didn't cancel the flight or anything. I'm sorry, I forgot I told you i was canceling the whole thing. Oh, baby."

She chuckled and kissed my neck. We retired to the bedroom and made for the evening. The next day, she packed and I went to the bank. When I got home, I gave her a card and $500 in AMEX traveler's checks.

"Because I want to," I said. "Not because you need me to, okay?"

She left the next day after a long morning of bonding and last-minute preparations. Within a week, she called. "I am coming home early," she said. "I miss you, I wish you'd have some with me."

Absence, as usual, made her heart grow fonder. That was fine by me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Times Apart That Were Just In Time-Paris in Winter (2)

When Marcie told me she was going to Paris, I smiled and stood up. She hugged me but she was a bit stiff. I pushed her gently so I could look in her eyes.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"You're going to be mad, Frank," she said. "I know you. You're going to be pissed off that you're not going to be with me."

I shrugged and decided to hold my tongue, then surprised myself with my own words. "I'll get over it," I said. "I want you to be happy."

She gave me a very smug look and shook her head, then shrugged and looked in my eyes matter-of-factly. "I wouldn't be too sure of that," she said.

"Why?" I asked, suddenly a little worried. "What's going on?"

She watched me closely and I knew i was about to be tested. I steeled myself. She spoke and I waited for her words to sink in.

"I am using my credit cards," she said.

I gulped down some bile and nodded somewhat insincerely, but took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. "Maybe you won't have to charge too much. I'm sure we'll be okay."

She looked at me stubbornly and leaned to the other side. "I am going to have a good time. I am not going on a tight budget. I am going shopping and I am going to stay in a nice hotel."

I nodded and breathed. "Well, whatever you want. Maybe i can give you some cash to help out, too."

"I don't want you money," she said. "This is something I will pay for myself. We live together, we sleep together, we love each other, but this is for me, it's not for you at all, so you won't be paying for it."

I looked up a little hurt at her words and nodded, losing my patience. "Why? What's wrong with wanting you to be happy?"

She shrugged. "Maybe I wouldn't pay for you to go traipsing around in another country, either. Did you ever think of that?"

"So you're going traipsing around?" I asked, now pretty much ready to fight. "What are you trying to say?"

She shrugged and crossed her arms, stepping back. "Do you trust me?"

I nodded. "Yes, I do. But why are you trying to test that trust?"

"You just need to trust me," she said. "I am not going to say anything more about it."

The weeks passed and her departure date came. I saw the bill for the ticket. it was small, a few hundred dollars. The hotel took another $300 for reservations and first night's stay. she had two weeks planned.

"Honey, how much will your hotel cost?" I asked. It was a serious error.

"It will cost enough for me to enjoy it," she said. "Why? I thought you said whatever I want? It's my money, right? RIght?"

She marched over and stood in front of me, looking down with her smug look, arms crossed under her breasts.

"Yes, but I saw a bill for $300 dollars for one night... " it was the last thing I remember before the argument began and continued until almost midnight. I simply wanted to know how much it cost. But Marcie, at the peak of her pique, finally called the hotel and canceled in tears.

I was flabbergasted.

"I am canceling the whole fucking thing, Frank," she said. "You are such a bastard! All I wanted to do was go to Paris and have some time to myself and you just shit all over the whole thing. You didn't have to pay for anything."

I could not speak, she had simply refused to let me interfere with her call and now I was being blasted. She ran into the room and moaned over her shoulder as she closed the door. "It was my money! Oh my god, why are you so crazy and stingy?"

I slept on the couch, guilty and bewildered. I just wanted to know how much. It turned out I didn't need to feel guilty, but I didn't know that until a day before she packed. In the mean time, I felt like I should make other plans and get ready to break up. I was heartbroken and thought I had damaged us permanently.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Times Apart That Were Just In Time-Paris in Winter (1)

Marcie was hit with a double-whammy early on in our relationship. After having worked at CVS for years, she was informed that CVS would be shuttering its Mission Valley location and abandoning the West Coast. She was completely surprised by it, and it could not have come at a worse time. Also going on at that time was her building’s condemnation and mass relocation of residents. Payments were made, but the stress of moving was now compounded by the need to find a new job.

At the time, I was still running the ice cream store for my business partner, launching our coffee shop, promoting raves and parties at clubs, writing for several underground papers and fanzines, and occasionally raising extra money by reading Tarot cards or selling knockoff concert tickets with another business partner. Once in a while, I bounced or worked the counter at some of the all-ages venues.

We were okay between that and my financial aid and scholarships, but Marcie was getting a little sketchy about my less reputable friends and activities and was feeling less than secure. The hell-raising soon began. Whereas her job was something steady and secure, my little operations could be somewhat "feast or famine."

“Why can’t you just work a normal job somewhere instead of getting involved in all these little rackets?” she asked me. “Are you a thug? You don’t have to do all that, you’re not stupid. Is this really easier?”

Of course, if I did that, my financial aid would fall apart. Better to be under the table and fully funded, I felt. Nevertheless, I took a job at the school, tutoring and working as the Instructional Aide to the Chicano Studies department. It was good work, and by doing it under Federal Work-Study, I was able to stay aid-eligible.

Marcie looked and looked for jobs, trying her passion, books, at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. No dice. She tried several different publishers, also without luck. Finally, she had a break. Her friend from high school (her brother’s, more accurately) Greg, was a supervisor in Customer Service at the Union Tribune. They were hiring.

She had to wait a bit before she worked, and when she did, she pulled the worst shift of her life. She had to get up and make it to the bus by 5 am to get to Mission Valley on time to start work. On Saturdays, the bus ran later and she was always pressed. We had no car.

Her life was hell, and she did not come to enjoy the constant pounding of angry subscribers. When finally she was offered a new job as the job scheduler, a person who ran computer batch processes for the drivers and regional managers in circulation, she jumped at it. The time was still early.

She was always tired and always wondering when she would be able to take a vacation, as she had no substitute. She was getting mean. She needed to recharge.

She finally got a vacation from January 1st the 15th. She knew what she wanted. “I’m going to Paris,” she said. “Don’t even think about telling me it will cost too much.”

It almost didn’t happen.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day Memories

Note: The post below is actually yesterday's and I forgot to post it, instead clicking save. Sorry, folks!

Marcie and I celebrated Mother's Day in our own way. We did the standard stuff, including brunch with Marcie's mother, often an adventure in itself. It was always an effort to isolate Barbara in a happy land far away from the buffet-skeptical Bob's comments.

Marcie always made it a point to reach out to my grandmothers. She was very good to Grandma McNab/Craigg, or "Big Mom." She made friends and impressed her early.

But Grandma Pruett was always disappointed if Marcie did not show when I did. I have explored that special relationship before. It was close-knit. Marcie's laugh was so infectious in our family's events, and it filled the room and grandma with joy.

So close were the two that, though both are gone, my Aunt Mary told me still keeps the seat that Marcie sat by Grandma in clear for them when I come over, and I appreciate it. It brings tears, though. Marcie was a proud addition for Grandma.

Marcie gleaned valuable information on me from Grandma, too, who always seemed to impart on Marcie a deeper love for me with her disclosures. I am sure she could have gone the other way with some of my foibles.

After one particularly good conversation, Marcie pulled me down and hugged me. She did not explain until we left in the car a bit later.

"Honey," she said. "I am so moved by your Grandma and her little stories about you."

I looked over at her, and she let her hand slide up and down my leg as she bit her lip.

"She told me that when you were a little boy, after your mom left, you went to all your aunts and wished them a happy mother's day."

It was not unusual for me to do that. I appreciate what mothers do and go through. But Marcie kept talking and pulled over. She had tears in her eyes.

"She said she remembered that you told your Aunt Theresa that you were thankful for all of your aunts because being around them made your mom being gone hurt less," she said.

The year grandma shared this with Marcie, Aunt Theresa had died of liver cancer.

I did remember saying something like that after Aunt Theresa asked me if I was okay the Mother's Day after my mother left. I was not playing, though the event was at Wells Park, because I had been told I couldn't after arguing with my sisters in the car on the way there.

"Do you miss her?" Aunt Theresa asked.

I remember nodding and shrugging, "She left because she doesn't care, though."

She cares," Aunt Theresa said, unpacking some potato salad. "Maybe she'll come back."

I looked up at her, my big 10-year-old eyes wet and burning as I croaked "Do you think so?"

And as she hugged me and said she didn't know, and I heard her sniff, I told her it was okay, that having her and all my aunts around made it hurt less. Then I wished her a happy mother's day, embarrassed that I made her cry.

Aunt Theresa told me to go wish my aunts a happy mother's day, and she would talk to my dad (her big brother) if he said anything about it. I did so and then was allowed to go play.

Marcie, after hearing the whole story, was holding her hand to her chest and crying. She squeaked out, "I know you were a good boy, and that she thinks you are that same boy and remembers that on Mother's Day should tell you how special you are to her."

Of course I knew. But what I also knew is that Marcie was special to Grandma. What i also knew is that seeing Grandma at the grave site or in her coffin is not seeing her at all. It is remembering her, alive, which moves me.

So I have not been to the grave sites after the funerals, just as Marcie will never be in the ground.

I want to remember the people I love as I loved them, not as I lost them. That goes for Aunt Theresa and every other mother in my family, even those with no children of their own.

And that now goes for Marcie, too.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Instead of a post here...

I have done a Yelp review of the neighborhood that covers Marcie and my relationship a little. It's right here. I will post on Mother's Day later tonight.