a Robin Hood,
hiding in mirrors
reflections of youth
old, Merry Men laugh
my visage, invisible
a Robin Hood,
hiding in mirrors
reflections of youth
old, Merry Men laugh
my visage, invisible
forgive me, brother,
for I have sinned
no blood on my hands
ain't no giving
When I was 15, I had a job in a supermarket working in the back office. Even then it was unclear to me exactly what my responsibilities were, but it had something to do with gruff delivery men in thick gloves handing me inventory labels on white glossy sheets, and me putting these labels, one by one, into a large, light-colored ledger.
It was during the summer of that year, 1982, while I was busy peeling labels that the New York legislators were busy enacting a bottle-redemption law. All of a sudden, overnight (at least it seemed that way to the harried management at Waldbaum's Store #101) our supermarket was forced to act as a bottle-redemption center and, as a result, overnight, I was forced by the aforementioned, harried management to become the store's Bottle Girl.
As Bottle Girl, it was my job - in between the inexplicable label peeling - to receive "empties." For every "empty" a customer handed me, I handed them a nickel.
I could see them, the store's customers, before they could see me. I'd stand at the dutch door separating the back office from the main market, my box of nickels in a cardboard box, and I would know instantly who was going to veer left to shop and who was going to veer right with their empties.
For the most part it was not a wholly disagreeable job. I liked the people, helping them and chatting with them, and before long I had a series of "regulars". These regulars - usually older couples who found my high, bleached hair and enthusiasm for bottle-collecting endearing - would bring me just-because presents and souvenirs from their Caribbean vacations. "To the Bottle Girl" cards would read on top of carefully-wrapped Bruce Springsteen records and Abalone-shell bracelets.
Life as the Bottle Girl went on like this until one day, toward the end of one of my shifts, a man I had never seen before walked through the automated doors. I watched him, confused, unable to figure out which way he should go.
He stared ahead, then made his way to my door, his expression icy cold. One by one, he put his empties on my small counter, hitting it harder each time, staring ahead, a face of stone.
(Even as I smiled and kibbitzed with all my customers, somewhere in me I always knew how my job as Bottle Girl could be perceived: a lower-middle class teenager with a schizophrenic mother accepting people's dirty bottles. But none of my interactions had ever roused this bear of insecurity, not until this man walked in and woke it up ferociously.)
I smiled at the man, but got nothing in return. I tried saying "thank you" with each bottle he banged down, the glass vibrating from the pounding against the counter. No response. When he had no more bottles, he barked at me for his money, and something in me just broke.
"Why are you being so mean to me?" I asked, a mixture of fear and shame and sadness choking my words.
He shook his head, staring, never really looking at me. "I'm a police officer. I'm a police officer, and I shot someone today. I think I killed them. I came here... I just wanted to do something normal, to feel normal."
It wasn't me after all. It wasn't my schizophrenic mother or the fact that I lived in an apartment. It wasn't that I redeemed dirty bottles. I wasn't even there.
One by one I handed him his nickels, softly laying them in his hand. "I'm sorry," I said.
"I'm sorry," he said in reply, to me, to the man he shot, to the Universe, before walking out the automated doors, unsure which way to go.
Daisy is isolating herself in the boys' bathroom again.
She does this when she is scared or depressed or insulted. She is very sensitive - I guess it's the Rhodesian Ridgeback in her - so it's not uncommon to see her there as you walk by, back against the tub with her ears down, curled on top of the brown bath rug, staring out.
Her latest self-imposed sequestration is because we are dog sitting for our friend's King Charles Cavalier, Reggie, and her feelings are hurt. This time around she is not being oversensitive. She is 100% being left out of all the doggy play.
I think Daisy, in part, is the victim of size-ism. She is big and solid and at least a head taller and 40 pounds heavier than either Puppy or Reggie. She just can't help it; she looks intimidating. So even though it was Puppy who immediately gave Reggie an aggressive little snarl and a whole lot of humping to assert his dominance, it's Daisy that Reggie actively avoids.
Daisy tries to get in there, in the middle of the two dogs playing. She stands on the perimeter, giving little "hey, I'm here, too" barks. When that doesn't work, she circles them, carrying her red-white-and-blue Bomb Pop dog toy as an offering, but still she's ignored. Eventually, she gives up and walks away, dropping the Bomb Pop despondently in the process.
To Daisy's credit, she has also tried -- when Puppy is too tired from all the humping and snarling and playing -- to approach Reggie one-on-one. She will get into her "I'm ready to play" crouch stance and very gently nudge Reggie's head. Unfortunately, this move just sends the little guy running to me in fear, which, in turn, very unfortunately sends Daisy running back toward the boys' bathroom.
Because I can't bear to watch Daisy being excluded, I have actively tried to get Reggie and Puppy to notice her. I pet her over-enthusiastically and kiss her face and say things like "who's a good girl, Daisy is the good girl" until the two little dogs approach, curious.
But, alas, it doesn't take long for Reggie and Puppy to move on, leaving me unable to make Daisy, beautiful, gentle Daisy, any less sad or hurt no matter how many times I continue to pet her or how many kisses I give her.
As a parent, I should be used to this.
I had to watch heartbroken, as Camden - who in his Baby-Huey toddlerhood was his own victim of size-ism - played alone on the periphery in play groups and preschool, because he didn't have the words to express himself.
I had to stand back and accept that no matter how I tried I couldn't comfort Jesse, - the baby brother wanting to be just like the bigger boys - as he cried frustrated and sad because he couldn't run as fast or climb as high or do anything as well as Camden and his friends.
Of course, years later, Camden talks plenty and has lots of friends, and Jesse runs fast, really fast, but I know - I very, very profoundly know - that it could have gone the other way. Camden may never have found his words, any words, and Jesse may have never been able to catch up, and as much as that would have twisted me around inside and out, I would have had to accept that I just couldn't fix it.
The good news is that Reggie has only been here for a day. Perhaps he will get used to Daisy's size. Perhaps he will get tired of Puppy and his humping and snarling and playing. Maybe he will notice Daisy when she lets out her little "hey, I'm here" barks and will play tug-of-war when she offers him the rubber Bomb Pop.
Or maybe he won't.
It doesn't rain where I live. I hate it. It feels like I am living on the moon, assuming the moon was a place where people from all around the solar system go to get stuck in their cars on their way to desperately trying to become famous.
I know this is going to sound like the skinny girl who complains about not being able to gain weight, but I am absolutely sick of the constant sunshine. It truly depresses me, to my core, in the same way constant rain depresses others.
The weather is just so annoyingly vapid. There are no moody, dark clouds or thunderous rumblings or even sunshowers. I'm willing to acquiesce on the sunshine if L.A. would just meet me halfway with a shower, but her wicked response to my request is an endless stream of smiling suns on the weather app.
As a result, everything is dry and destitute and devoid of color in a concrete, strip-mall type of way. To counter this, I surround myself with plants both inside and out, but the earth is so dusty that the plants outside seem to be dying even when they're not.
The plants inside are faring the same way I am - they're surviving as long as they don't leave the house. This may be an okay way for an African Violet to live, but it's not working out so well for me. There are days that I feel like I am dying, even when I'm not.
Maybe I am feeling this way because of the recent heat that is ridiculous even by Los Angeles standards. Perhaps it's because I am just tired of being in traffic, all the time, stuck staring at the colorless concrete that is this city.
More likely it's because the sand surrounding me feels like the sand inside an hourglass. It is going down and down rapidly, while I am caught inside looking out, seeing right in front of me that there is so much more to life, but not understanding how to break free before it's too late and I am buried alive.
I choose not to read about the shooter.
Instead, I am focusing on the victims. I am getting to know their favorite foods and how they celebrated their birthdays and where they worked.
I read their names and feel closer to them through what loved ones are sharing. I study their photos, and I see my sons. The same youth and sweetness and joy for living. And, I cry.
I cried when I woke up to the headline. I cry with every new update. I cry and cry some more thinking about the mother of Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, a mother who received one final text from a son locked in a bathroom with the gunman approaching, "Mommy I love you."
I cry most for everyone in the club that night, their youth and sweetness and joy irrevocably damaged, or worse, stolen, gone, gone forever.
I choose not to read about the shooter, but the headlines seep in, "assault weapons bought legally."
"England," I say to my husband, "or Australia." He shakes his head. He's seen and heard this before, after Sandy Hook, where my dear friend's daughter was locked in her kindergarten class, the carnage a few doors down.
With every mass shooting my husband watches my catatonic obsession with the victims unfold. "Japan," I implore, "you've always wanted to go to Japan." Each time he shakes his head. "No place is perfect."
I had a dream just a few nights ago, before a crazed gunman would take the lives of 49 young men and women, that I moved to London. In my dream, vivid and real, I walked through the neighborhood of brick and wood buildings, and it felt right, right to be there. I visited the flat where I was to live.
The current tenants, sitting on their bed ready to move out, said that I would like it, like it very much, except for the train that rumbles underneath them. As I listened, I weighed the pros and cons, thinking "no place is perfect." I woke up not knowing if I chose to stay or leave.
I added my blog to Bloglovin', a website that houses blogs. Not sure why you would need a website to house blogs when you could just go directly to the blog, but then again what do I know. Besides any time I think there could be someone new - or anyone for that matter - reading my blog, I am tickled beyond compare, so I figured why not.
Intrigued what a person searching for my blog might see, I typed "judithgarvinbickel.com." (Note to self: try using something a tad more pithy next time as your URL.)
Besides my blog only having one follower (me!), the site suggested other blogs similar to mine potentially drawing followers away from my blog. Now, I know what you must be thinking: are there actually other blogs out there filled with poignant witticisms from lovable, middle-aged misfits? Apparently not, because instead the site recommended "similar blogs" filled with perfectly-coiffed mommies in retro aprons holding lavender cupcakes adorned with silver dragees.
Well, I'll tell you, I was never more insulted in my life!
For one thing, I don't even qualify for coiffed, forget perfectly coiffed. Secondly, when I cook, my apron consists of whatever article of clothing I am wearing at the time. Thirdly, I do not bake, because I refuse to be constrained by those bossy exact measurements. Finally and most importantly, if I did bake, those yummy, questionably-edible silver balls would never make it on to the cupcakes. They'd be in my mouth! (Cue the dirty robot jokes.)
But, alas, the truth is that I want more people to read my blog, so I am going to sell out. I am selling out in hopes that Bloglovin' will include me in their list of "similar blogs."
So, while not as charming as the homemade amuse-bouches my retro-apron-wearing fellow mommy bloggers might prepare, here is what I had as a snack today. It was quite yummy. (As all good mommy bloggers do, I've included step-by-step instructions.) I hope you enjoy, while I go run off to douse my lentil-soup covered pants in Spray 'n Wash.
I don't exercise for months and then, out of nowhere, I get a bee in my bonnet that I have to not only exercise but do enough of it at one time to make up for all the time I missed.
This very second I'm in the middle of my equivalent of a triathlon. (Like all triathletes, I needed a little break and typing my blog while eating a leftover lamb chop seemed a good way to get my strength up for the next phase of the challenge.)
For my first, pre-lamb-chop endurance discipline, I hopped on my stationery bike. To be honest, I chose this exercise more because I was able to grab the magazine section from the Sunday NY Times, allowing me to read a half an article. This not only got my legs moving (albeit barely), it also will help assuage my shame when I dump the paper a week from now. (I always keep the large, storied pile, usually unopened in its blue bag, under some delusion that I will read it in its entirety before the next week's arrives. It never happens.)
From the stationery bike, I moved on to my weighted hula hoop. Now, you may remember from a recent past blog post (oh, the presumption!) that I am pretty darn good at hula hooping. The problem I had this morning, however, is that it seems you need to have two working hands to get the thing started.
After much finagling where I had to use my wrist brace to forcefully push up the hoop -- fractured scaphoid be damned (literally, it's killing me right now) -- I was on my way to an intense intestinal-smashing workout.
With my loose pajama bottoms scooting down with every turn and the Black Eyed Peas playing over the sound system, I felt as if will.i.am was asking me and not Fergie "whatya gonna do with all that junk?"
In my whirling dervish euphoria of hula hooping and yelling "I'm gonna make you scream, make you scream" I decided to really raise the athletic bar by throwing my arms up and down, up and down. (I mean, it worked for Jane Fonda all through the 80s, right?) Anyone watching from a distance would have thought I was being apprehended by the most indecisive police officer - "put your hands up," "eh, you know what, forget I said that, put them down," and so on. My offense? Public indecency, of course.
As I sit here gnawing on the last bits of the lamb bone, I can't decide what my final post-chop challenge should be. Perhaps for some much-needed strength training I will pick up the Times and walk it to its inevitable home in the recycle bin.
oh how I wish
to be queen bee
a faraway land
misfits are we
I would decree
there's magic inside
you and me
I'm glad my dogs don't understand English. I just threatened to skin off their ears if they kept barking at the gate.
Besides being a totally unbefitting punishment for the crime - skinning their tongues, now that makes sense - threatening them with violence is in direct contradiction to everything I feel toward them and how I treat them. Maybe that's why Puppy wagged his tail happily and Daisy pranced around in circles while I said it; they knew my words didn't represent what is in my heart. (More likely it's because they are not the brightest bulbs in the canine marquee and interpreted "I'm going to skin off your ears" as "who wants a treat." But it doesn't matter. Either way, it's a good thing my words were lost on them.)
We all have parental missteps, even my beloved grandfather who raised me. In moments of anger or frustration or fear he would shout out "I wish you were never born." Yup. That's what he would say. But like Puppy and Daisy I would do the kid equivalent of wagging my tail and prancing around in circles because I knew the words coming out of his mouth were in direct contrast to what was in his heart and how he treated me.
I'm not sure why, but one day when I was in my twenties I finally responded to his lovely refrain by asking "Grampa, so what you're saying is you wish I wasn't here right now? You wish I was never in your life? Really?"
All these many years later it still pains me so to picture his sweet face, crumpled and confused, as he realized the depth of the six words he had been saying to me all that time. "Mitzi, aw c'mon, you know I don't mean it. Friends?" he asked, extending his hand waiting for my response.
Of course I shook his hand, and said "friends." He was my friend, the best friend anyone could ever want. He was my father. He was my grandfather. He was my angel. He was a man who from that day forward never, ever wished me unborn again because he realized he had made a parental misstep and was oh so sorry for it.
My grandfather would have absolutely loved my dogs. I love my dogs - every part of them - and would sooner skin off my own body parts than theirs. But my love doesn't make me immune from once and a while tripping along the way.
I am sorry for what I said, and all I can hope is that when I finish typing this and go outside to where they are, they will offer their paw in response to when I ask "friends?"
I'm just trying to figure it out, like everyone else.