• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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THough We Gotta Say GOodbye For the Summer

As of tomorrow, I’m doing it: I’m unplugging. No blog, no email, no vibrator. I’m taking off until Labor Day. I’m giving myself two writing weeks to revise my screenplay and turn it into the perfect vehicle for Marisa Tomei and Andrew Garfield. I will miss our nightly lovemaking, but I hope everyone hunkers down with their writing as well. Or, does something really fun like go to the beach or roast corn or see the new Planet of the Apes movie. 

If anyone’s up for it, let’s see if we can write something here like the car game where you start with a sentence and everyone adds one sentence at a time, and you see how long you can keep it going. So, the first line, which I’m lifting from Joan Didion’s The White Album, is:

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

P.S. I miss you already and I’ll see you Sept. 5.

198 Responses

  1. We tell ourselves stories in order to die.

  2. And sometimes we tell ourselves stories in order to laugh.

  3. And then there are those stories waiting to be told until others are dead.

    • But then, there’s always the possibility we will die first, and then we’ll *really* feel like an asshole. But we don’t dwell on that. Instead we tell the ones about that first time a boy slipped his fingers in our underpants,…

    • …he was shorter than the other boys, but still taller than she was and his hair smelled like football practice sweat and right guard. smoke on the water was playing on the radio and all she could think about was whether or not that fly in the corner of the back windshield was on the inside or outside of the car.

      • When they buttoned damp skin back into denim and cotton and lace, when they wiped down the windshield, when the music had changed to something not nearly as meaningful–fucking Maureen McGovern or John Denver or some shit–they sat, not touching, on the tuck-and-roll bench seat, and she wondered, between the will-he-say-it thoughts and the I’m-in-so-much-trouble thoughts, just for a second, she wondered if the tiny buzzing she heard in her ears was that goddamned fly, or if it was something else entirely.

      • “shit. my mom’s going to notice this button missing,” she said searching the floor of his backseat to avoid looking at him. “can i have smoke?”

  4. Or the ones we tell about the contents of other people’s shopping carts while we’re waiting in the checkout line and we’ve already read this week’s People.

    • I don’t know if it was the pregnancy test or the gallon container of Edy’s Rocky Road ice-cream that first caught my eye but the unexpectedness of seeing an elderly man with a cane hooked over the cart was too strange to ignore.

  5. Occasionally, we stop telling stories for a while, and do something else–like write jingles for feminine protection products.

  6. Lie still and remember how you felt in the backseat of that car.

  7. How you felt in that backseat, not knowing where your feminine protection would come from.

  8. Or your masculine protection!

  9. Although your knees were protected still in your softball uniform.

  10. i need protection from myself, she thought and slid his swimsuit down.

  11. Chuckled in disdain,

  12. And I couldn’t believe what was hidden under his swimsuit.

  13. I had never seen such a thing.

  14. What I had assumed to be a rather large member I soon learned was a condom full of heroin.

  15. I’d always wanted to try it, so I took a snort, and he smiled at me like William Burroughs without the hat.

  16. i remembered the first time i’d snorted, introduced to the white substance by Hamish, the son of the preacher. god, i wanted to screw that guy.

  17. I grew and slid, my body stretching, morphing into entirely different people. My skin hurt, except, it wasn’t my skin. And I wasn’t me, I wasn’t even singular anymore. We rolled over, past the empty Red Bull cans and spiral notebooks littering the car floor. We rolled over gum wrappers and a worn out cleat and just when we thought the car door might stop us, we rolled right past it, through it, as if it were nothing but disconnected molecules, to loose to offer any barrier for us. And we floated, gone from any memory of me. We floated right past Mars, inhaled Saturn’s rings. And swam through Neptune before thought thinked, “how far does a heroin trip go?”

  18. And as if he could read my mind, he answered, “As far as you want to take it, baby. Stay with me tonight, stay with me forever, and we’ll leave them all on the earth with their small dreams and petty emotions. We’ll leave them all far behind….”

  19. The sharp crack of a flashlight on the window. Blood turns to ice and we crash back to earth. “Police. Step out of the car.”

  20. I couldn’t recall ever seeing a cop wearing a respirator. If that was the device over his face. Gripping the door frame, I carefully wobbled out of the car and realized this figure in front of us was not law enforcement.

  21. There stood my father in a dime store Halloween costume.

  22. Or so I thought…a Freudian association?

  23. No, it was definitely him. And he was holding a sitar.

  24. I still can’t believe that’s the last image I have of him.

  25. “Holy shit.” said the guy as followed me out of the car. “I’ve always wanted to play the sitar. Can you teach me?”

  26. I despaired.

  27. But the sitar morphed into a police baton, and the guy morphed back into my father but with a bird dead in his mouth, its feathers flipping as he chewed and chewed. His eyes raged and swelled, and the colors leaked like gumballs sucked on too long and that’s when I saw it was my father because I had seen that look before. But not the bird. Nor my underpants.

  28. “listen you little shit,” said Dad. he was speaking to my date if you wanted to call him that. more like the guy i just screwed. and liked it, a lot. kicked the rearview window straight off the windshield, liked it. “i don’t want to see driving around with my daughter again.”

    then he wiped his nose with his wrist and i caught a glimpse of his medical alert bracelet in the moonlight.

  29. And then I blinked and my eyes focused and I realized it was a WWJD bracelet.

  30. I think it’s pretty amusing – and certainly telling, Betsy – that you offered this psalm: “Hope everyone hunkers down with their writing – OR – does something really fun like go to the beach.”
    Beach = fun. Writing = a little slice of hell.

  31. Across the way, over the meadow and past the light of the full moon, people lay still in their beds, eyes closed, wondering what to do, and they called it dreaming.

  32. “Dream on, you fools,” the stranger muttered as he slunk past the closed shutters of their bedroom windows.

  33. And beside his muddy footsteps lay a single drop of blood.

  34. Hands clenched, body shivering in anticipation, Retribution was at hand. More then one person would meet their fate this night.

  35. Know what, guys? This was worse than awful. Even given good opening lines you all foundered.

  36. Shamed beyond words by Virginia Llorca’s scathing remarks, the guys seemed almost to shrink into themselves.

  37. And that was when they realized, coming off of their high, that negative people’s words would never hurt them again, be they from fathers, cops, or bloggers.

  38. And they vowed, once again, to tell the stories in order that they may live.

  39. In the end, the quiet power of the stories themselves was all that mattered.

  40. (Oops — I posted this without first hitting refresh and seeing Mary Lynne’s line — so make that just “Their quiet power was all that mattered”

  41. With sadness for all that was left behind, the Sunday anarchists ran off to sea to frolic with the dolphins and flounder with the flounders.

  42. Yet, as much as they all hoped they would never again see another vampire, the damn creatures kept appearing.

  43. But that, of course, was a story for another time.

  44. And another place …

  45. And the stories grow and change as time passes. We will sit our grandchildren on our knees and regale them with censored tales of our past, heroic quests we made, and wonderful loves.

  46. And so, I left that frolicking crowd with the dolphins and ventured towards the smooth copper door.

  47. The door stood so large, I could see into the mailslot but didn’t trust my eyes.

  48. They had fooled me so many times before.

  49. Those gray dolphins in blue silk talking like

  50. vampires who had just graduated from Iowa.

  51. Still wearing their gowns, but not their caps. Those they hang on the wall, in neat color-coded order. It’s sort of an inside joke, they muse.

  52. No one ever asks why there isn’t a red cap.

  53. They muse, they write, they agonize. Has Iowa failed them?

  54. They should have known, they should have known. First Idaho, then Illinois, then Indiana–it seemed inevitable Iowa would be next.

  55. vampires went to bed in cell at Iowa House. a hard white sun glared beyond blackout curtains. their pens were unharnessed.

  56. And while the vampires were sleeping, Ginny snuck into their room and stole their pens.

  57. They awoke and finding their pens missing, thought to prick their fingers with needles and continue writing with their blood, but being vampires, this quickly descended into an orgy of mutual finger-sucking. Dizzy with surfeit and pale with blood-loss, one of them looked up and said, “Maybe we should try to find some pencils.”

  58. And Ginny said, “You can have your freaking pens back. if you will just give me a tiny sip.”

  59. “You have already sucked our blood, Virginia, and remember, it’s because of you that we’re here in this creepy Iowa room when, it seems like moments ago, we were having such a good time in the back of my car, snorting the stuff and doing just fine. So go mooch your sip somewhere else.”

  60. And so they left creepy Iowa and Virginia’s blood-sucking lips and found themselves back at the copper door, which opened to reveal. . .

  61. … a robber fly, dressed like a very tiny investment banker.

  62. which reminded them of Naked Lunch:

  63. The fly was distraught, his suit disheveled from pounding on the copper door. Alice, he cried, where’s Alice??

  64. Mick Jagger opened the door. Alice doesn’t live her any more. Then he said, hi, like a spider to the fly. Jump right ahead and you’re dead.

  65. Beyond Mick’s bony shoulder the fly, through his compound eyes, gazed upon a room filled with

  66. machine operators who tell me somewhat later they sure do like the way he holds a microphone.

  67. he sported a blood red pocket square and tiny feet were encased in cement.

  68. So I left the fly and the aging rocker behind, in search of a more engaging plotline. I walked down a narrow alleyway, turned a corner, and saw two iconic literary agents standing before me, as though awaiting my arrival.

  69. One was holding flowers, the other, a . . .

  70. It wasn’t your common form of a whip, but was a long thick lash of black leather studded with the barbs from a barbed-wire fence.

  71. A brass plate affixed to the death-whip’s handle was inscribed with the agent’s favorite expression:

  72. Beware the agent who offers you flowers!

  73. “Why?” I asked fearfully.
    “Because the flowers are either plastic or will be billed against your first advance” the whip-agent whispered. “My whip, however, will only touch you when I reject your pitiful efforts. Do you feel lucky?”

  74. Full or partial, I whispered.

  75. “Now give me that dog-eared debut manuscript you clutch against your heart!” hissed the dominatrix agent.

  76. I’m hungry for a cookie. The kind with white stuff in the middle. The flavor of fried bacon and the color of false teeth.

  77. The evil agent produced one from the depths of her decolletage. I ate it slowly, drawing a track through the cream with the tip of my tongue, and said . . .

  78. Is this shaving cream?

  79. (Wow. Grad school and pop culture. Woe.) The fear of nothing is overwhelming and I can’t breath thinking that my life is nothing and will one day come to nothing.

    • (therefore, I must create an amend.) ((My god, has pop psychology destroyed the story in us?)) (((the story))) ((((the story)))) (((((story))))) ((((((story)))))) (((((((story))))))).

  80. And I then realized that the cream must have produced a paranoid state, overwhelming me with existential angst.

  81. Before he could answer, my head started to swirl and tiny beads of perspiration appeared under my nostrils, making it clear that…

    • They appeared out of nowhere, those tiny beads of perspiration, tickling my nose and drawing my complete attention to the question, wherefore does thy tickling come? For what, does my hand raise so suddenly to my nostrils?

  82. …it would be madness to linger in this story any longer.

    • Madness indeed. Yet, the pleasure of an unknown pleasure calls to me. To be safe and sound, to be knowing, and in knowing be among the known, and therefore, safe and sound. Would that please me? That is the question. That is the dirge.

  83. Then where are we to go? Are there doors in these walls?

  84. “There are always doors,” he said, as he took her hand, leading her to safety.

  85. Having scored the two points for the safety, he found that he was now down only six points. Victory was not beyond his grasp.

  86. BOOK TWO:
    It had been three days since Betsy’s desertion. As the remaining crowd sat forlornly and awaited a Sunday night post that would never come, they decided it was time to talk about her.

  87. But even the trolls decided they would be on their best behavior, because this was a happy, playful kind of place.

  88. They’d keep their claws in while they playfully smacked each other around.

  89. The game went on all night, in silence and darkness, leaving by dawn no witnesses to its moves and missteps.

  90. “Where the heck is everyone?” I pleaded.
    Discarded characters and scenes sprawled in all directions but South: tangled in knotted story threads and sticky adjectives, this was no way to start Monday. I made my way carefully over this slush pile, eagerly hoping to find a plot.

  91. Congratulations on taking off two weeks on blogging. I am thinking of doing the same thing.

  92. Yes, redemption. Redemption for the longing for the perfect word, the exquisite phrase, the …

  93. Green Stamp Stores where all manner of household items were mine for the correct number of stamp books. Such redemption required the shameless search of my mother’s empty grocery bags and scanning the sidewalks outside the retailers offering those stamps. My goal was not just a coffee pot! I wanted

  94. filters, too. And fine roast in subtle shades of flavor.

  95. The wreck
    is a fact.

    — Kay Ryan, “Salvage”

    • the thing I came for:
      the wreck and not the story of the wreck
      the thing itself and not the myth

      -Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck”

  96. Yes, that’s right: filters – the brown paper ones. A circular story requires the proper format and where else could I find such stationery? My goal is to challenge the typical pose of book (and Nook!) reading by forcing the reader to continually twist the pages counter-clockwise. I’m thinking the plot should involve a vortex for extra effect. The title, of course, will be

  97. We tell ourselves stories in order to live.
    We tell ourselves stories in order to die.

    Lie still and remember how you felt in the backseat of that car.
    (i need protection from myself, she thought.
    i heard the waves lapping the dock.)
    I grew and slid
    my body stretching
    morphing
    and we floated
    gone from any memory.

    Blood turns to ice and we crash back
    in a dime store Halloween costume.

    The colors leaked like gumballs sucked on too long and that’s when I saw,
    over the meadow and past the light of the full moon,
    a single drop of blood.

    In the end, the quiet power
    with sadness for all that was left behind
    censored tales of our past heroic quests.
    No one ever asks why there isn’t a hard white sun
    back at the copper door.

    I walked down a narrow alleyway
    turned a corner
    holding flowers
    the other, the flavor of fried bacon and the color of false teeth.

    With the tip of my tongue the fear of nothing is overwhelming
    and I then realized
    before he could answer
    they appeared out of nowhere, those tiny beads
    madness
    the pleasure of an unknown pleasure
    discarded
    sprawled in all tangled, knotted redemption,
    longing for the perfect word
    the exquisite goal.

  98. Yikes! This ends of The Earth place is amazingly quiet — or did I take a wrong turn at that goal post?

  99. But we are leaving Karen hanging. A title for Tetman’s (and ours) epistle?

  100. That last line works for me. The Exquisite Goal.

  101. Back Seat Redemption

  102. Can we shift to exchanging news of each other?

    My news: I was in the earthquake. I was scared shitless. Shaking for hours.

    So much for being brave.

    Seems I’m a wuss when it comes to the mirrors dancing off the walls and air-conditioning units falling over. Scary shit.

    Lesson learned?

    • I was at the pool with my kids. I thought my youngest was being the usual pest and shaking my sling back chair for attention. Management thought it was a plumbing problem with the bathroom. When we discovered it was an earthquake and that The White House had been evacuated I skedaddled right the f out of there. Nothing like a bunch of parents to scare the Twinkies out of kid’s imaginations. When we got home my brood ran around the house taking inventory of all that had been destroyed. They were so excited to discover that a slinky had fallen from one of their beds. I’m happy to report innocence has not been lost in my neck of the woods.

  103. “That’s the way the ball bounces”, literally and figuratively..

    Someone that people listen to should equate the recent frequent earth quakes, tsunamis, floods, burning Mercedes’ in the doctor’s parking lot, with a larger issue.

  104. @ Jody: Since Aug 2005, I find deep comfort and amazement listening to the lessons learned from other people who have experienced first-hand such large scale events. Recently, I spoke to a man who was trapped in an apartment in Venice during the flood of (I think) 1965. He lived on the 3rd floor, yet had to be rescued by boat. He spoke as passionately about that rescue as if it happened last week. I am glad y’all are OK after yesterday’s quake and hope that your memories of that experience become less haunting in the weeks to come.

  105. 4 months from today, we will be immersed in The Holiday Season. Betsy challenged us to tell stories and we persevered less than a week. I have a 40+ year old holiday mystery as part of my family story (a nice mystery, no vampires!). Anyone want to share?

    • Karen, the thread so quickly deteriorated into vampires, meaningless sex, and petty little digs at each other, the thing to do seemed to be to attempt transcendence, then go out for a little walk. Could you tell us your story, please? We need to live.

      • Happily, Tetman:
        For over 40 years, my siblings and I have discussed a true visit from Santa to our living room on a snowy Christmas morning. We had opened our presents and were happily exploring our “loot” when there was a knock at the front door. My then six-year old brother opened the door to a red suited gentleman carrying a sack. I was ten years old: skeptical but impressed with the quality of the red velveteen suit, the thick, white flowing beard and the impressive size of this man. There was little, if any padding on that six foot tall frame!

        Another sibling ran to awake my father. He groggily stumbled into the living room then retreated to get his camera. We have several grainy Polaroids of Santa handing us small gifts. Suspiciously, my mother was quite at ease with this amazing arrival and distracted us after his departure for several minutes. When we finally scurried to the front door to learn where this Santa went, there was not one footprint in the snowy sidewalk beyond our front steps or in the deep snow covering our wide lawn or for that matter any indication that he hadn’t just evaporated into the icy chill. Our home was in the middle of suburbia, making this arrival and departure even more extraordinary.

        No other family on our street was visited by this Santa and the photos created quiet a stir among the neighbors. My father, for the rest of his life, insisted he was surprised by this visit from Santa and my mother steadfastly maintains she doesn’t know why Santa visited only our home that Christmas. We have queried relatives, friends of my parents and , as we got older, several of the former neighbors -everyone remotely associated with our family is equally mystified and entertained by this holiday memory.

      • My digs were not petty. They carried great substance and i could have continued with the add a phrase story ad infinitum or ad nauseum.

      • I love this, Karen!

      • Love that, Karen! Could it be….? Oh, sorry, the inner child speaking again.

  106. i can’t be telling stories about myself. how about the opening of my current WIP?

  107. here goes:

    I discovered the famous filmmaker, Johnny Mah, at the movies. Johnny watched a movie every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, always in Cantonese so, he said, he could appreciate body language and specificity of setting without the distractions of dialogue. Johnny didn’t speak Cantonese. He was brought up in California by his American mother.

    For many years, Johnny watched movies at home every night to help himself fall asleep, for he suffered from some kind of sleep disturbance. It wasn’t long before his nocturnal viewing lead to an obsession with all movies, great and small, and he could outline every movie he’d ever seen and analyze them, too. I’d read his film analyses on-line and he was a master critic, particularly of obscure German art house features, an affectation of mine at the time.

    For the next six or eight months, I’d see Johnny at the UA Cinemas on Wednesdays, when the lights came up, there he was, a nondescript young man dressed in cargo shorts and rumpled linen shirt. He always sat alone in the center of the almost-empty theatre. I was puzzled by both his movie-going behaviour and plain appearance because they seemed at odds with his reputation.

    You see, he’d recently become quite famous for producing short, black-and-white sexual films. Not pornographic. Sexually provocative. These films weren’t set in the usual locations one might expect in Hong Kong—the brothels and girlie bars. Instead, they were shot in anonymous settings like a laundry or a medicore night club that doubled as a dominatrix lair one night a week.

    Johnny showed his movies free of charge in random locations around Hong Kong, projecting them against the sides of office buildings. He had a simple way of advertising his viewings. About half an hour before showtime, he’d text one of his friends the exact location and, by the magic of instant messaging, his followers would converge on that spot.

    • I’m hooked – especially since I have several friends who have “screened” their films against the side of a building. Nothing like some rough stucco to ‘add’ to the texture of the plot!

  108. To our gang along the east coast: be safe and don’t let the media hype scare you into craziness! I’ve sat in my little bungalow through many a Cat 1,2,3 storms and making rational preparations really minimizes the stress.

    I probably shouldn’t post this, but: the “feeder bands” of strong winds that arrive hours before the storm can actually be quite thrilling. Before one storm (obviously pre-Katrina…), we positioned ourselves astride our bikes so that only the gusting wind pushed us along the empty streets -at quite a fast clip I might add!. The children were thrilled with this activity and it kept all of us distracted from watching the doom predicted on the TV. The police, patrolling the area for trouble or people in distress, finally insisted we stop playing in the weather & go inside before the really bad wind/rain arrived.

  109. It really is a strange place to find oneself. Feeling the pull of potential disaster but still trying to keep one’s head.

  110. Sometimes you shouldn’t run away from a storm. Sometimes it’s better to ride it out.

  111. all y’all in the storm, take care

  112. new moon this weekend. high tides are always a little higher during the new moon. add that to the storm surge.

  113. @amyg. My new boyfriend left about two in the morning. My old boyfriend knocked at the door as soon as the newbie’s car was out of sight. My blouse was buttoned crooked. The oldie sobbed, “Can’t it be like it was before?” Wouldn’t the blouse have been answer enough?

  114. My loyalty to checking this quiet site may be seen as just a habit. But today, I’m looking for affirmation that the following incident portends another disturbing step to complete, electronic servitude:

    Yesterday, a client met me at a job site. He began the meeting by marveling at the latest parking meter feature- paying via a smartphone (or similar device). Mid-way through the meeting, he took a phone call and laughingly announced the “parking meter” had called him to report there were only 5 minutes left on his payment to the meter. While the other participants agreed this was a handy way to avoid a paring ticket, I couldn’t have been more disturbed: not only was this man allowing himself to be completely monitored by some massive server farm, he promptly texted back a reply to add more time to his credit card. Is this a convenience or a new form of in loco parentis?

    • @Karen. There isn’t much we can do about it now that the app age is upon us. I feel that this was super convenient and at least the party didn’t have to leave the meeting to go put quarters in the meter.

      • I see your point, but what ever happened to the ability to plan ahead? It was agreed this meeting would be at least one hour long & he had “fed the meter” for about 45 minutes. In the bigger context, though, I am a-gog at the dependence on the variety of out-of-body prompts to “manage” the modern life.

        As this applies to the literary world, I wonder: Will the mystery novels of the near future deliver clues via an app? will the illustrations for places like Middle Earth only be available as a download? will there be an app to convert random thoughts into poetry? (sigh) I need more coffee.

    • It’s a convenience both to the citizen and the state. That your client hadn’t fed the meter sufficiently to cover the anticipated time of the meeting is another matter. Maybe he wanted to show off what the meter could do for him and he could do for it. Sort of a techno-lucre porn show or something.

  115. @Karen. Agreed and seconded. I remember when no meter feeding was allowed and the cop put a chalk mark on your tire. Some recent best seller (A Visit from the Goonsquad? ) has a chapter in Power Point as I understand. haven’t checked. Not interested. What would all the crime and police procedural shows do with out the GPS thing in the phone. Heartfelt sigh. We are so far off topic, everyone else has left the room.

  116. @Tetman. On bended knee, with bated breath, we await your words. Make it worth our while.

    • Some people carry their High Streets with them wherever they go. I started smoking pot when I was sixteen, in January of 1975. It was a different world then. People smoked tobacco everywhere. There were ashtrays in elevators and in the seat handles at movie theaters. Cars had ashtrays front and back. I started smoking tobacco when I was barely fifteen, and never had any difficulty buying cigarettes at any store that sold them. On top of that, there was a social revolution going on and a minority of the population, particularly from that huge demographic known as the Baby Boom, was actively pushing at the bounds of accepted behavior. Dress codes were being relaxed, hair was being grown long, and forbidden fruits were being snatched from low-hanging branches.
      America, with the deep-seated Puritan strains in its national character, has had a tormented relationship with the pleasures of the flesh. We were a nation of drunks in the early 19th century. The industrial and political revolutions of the late 18th century, both in North America and in Europe, had loosened or even ruptured ancient social bonds. Some folks believed that a freedom such as “pursuit of happiness” meant that one had the right to stay snookered from morning till night. In the first generation after the adoption of its Constitution, alcohol consumption in the young republic peaked at an amount equivalent to three jiggers of rum for every man, woman, and child in the land, every day of the year (including Sundays). This level of consumption dropped precipitously in the next generation during the religious revival known as The Second Great Awakening, which included a powerful temperance movement. Carrie Nation was born at the early peak of this movement and carried its banner (along with her Bible and her saloon-smashing hatchet) through to the end of the century. From there it was just a short hop to the Volstead Act and Prohibition, a social experiment remarkable for its naivete and unforeseen consequences.
      One of the consequences was the prohibition of marijuana, first at the state level and then at the national level. Up until Prohibition, no-one was much concerned about who may have been smoking marijuana. Usually it was colored people (brown and black), and to the WASP establishment largely running the country, they only mattered as a source of cheap and docile labor. That dope-smoking may have been one of the reasons they were docile escaped the understanding of proselytizers and legislators, who didn’t smoke pot. That they went so far as to outlaw a hardy form of life that reproduces sexually may be seen as one of the wonders of the age.
      A generation after Prohibition ended came the Sixties. Marijuana was still illegal but the smoking of it was widespread. There was fear among some that it was what was called a “gateway drug”—that its use would lead inevitably to the squalor of heroin addiction and the tragedy of death in the back alley by the dumpster—but this was never true. Many people smoked pot once or twice, or for a while in school or occasionally as young adults, and by and by as life took up more of their time and attention they drifted away from the taking of tokes.
      A few, such as myself, became pot-heads. Pot was not my gateway. When I smoked pot for the first time, I’d already been smoking tobacco for a year-and-a-half. I’d been drunk once or twice, too. If there were any gateway drugs to my smoking pot, they were tobacco, beer and wine. And Valium. A friend of mine had Valium she’d filched from her mother and shared with me a week before another friend asked me if I wanted for the first time to go smoke a joint. But the drugs were not the gateway, the culture was. It was a time for young people to believe that their elders were either lying to them about many things, or at best mistaken. To find out the truths of these things—sex, love, power, money, war, peace, drugs, God—we were on our own. Some of us questioned and quested more than others. Some of us truly believed we were inaugurating a beautiful and blessed new eon in human existence through the use of psychoactive substances. Why was I an Alice to go through the looking-glass and down that rabbit-hole, when others who glanced at it said, “No, that’s a mirror, and beyond it is a hole”?

      (from HIGH STREET, copyright 2011 by Tetman Callis)

      • I’m a dialogue lover myself, but that was nice. Want to talk about drugs or writing? Let’s talk about drugs. I grew my own and shared it with my daughter. Now I’m a pillar of suburban subdivision culture. I think I write the then me now. I don’t think I would do too much differently though. It’d just go down better now. Not too fond of alcohol. But have had an eleven Barcardi night. (TMI)

      • We thank you for your patience. This has been a public service announcement from Tetman, that writer person. We say, get some! Tetman, get some! And only You, know who we are. We are those phantoms that haunt your mind. They look, fleetingly like your mom and your neighbors. They, know, what you are up to. They, as we, sometimes agree with what you are doing, and sometimes we just don’t agree. We whole heartedly agree that tobacco is a gateway to a life of pain and self-doubt. We admire and dance in circles to give you power, Tetman. We scream to the sky and hope that modern physics is right and our cries will gather in the pristine blue sky and fill the lungs of those who wish and hope and cry for deliverance to the deep quiet blue sky the peace that comes from abstinence from that evil weed, tobacco. Get some! Tetman, get some!

      • some of us still believe it

  117. Oh, man. . .

  118. I was too entertained by the antics of my fellow students’ drug experimentations to chance getting high and missing all the drama: the chores involved in maintaining the elaborate hydroponic weed farm in an engineering student’s closet; the clever construction of contraband cavities in shoes and other personal items for my art studio partner’s trips across The Border and negotiating a payment plan with my roommate’s drug dealer to keep us all safe from harm. An amazing era of exploration and risk-taking; when we lived as Peter Pan and never really imagined reaching middle age.

    • @Karen. I threw a couple of seeds in that huge pot in the living room holding the Areca palm, and I seem to have totally skipped middle age. There may be a direct correlation.

      • (laugh) ‘Should have planted the seeds with a False Aralia to really keep people guessing!

        I also subscribe to skipping middle age – of the mind: can’t afford to do anything about the physical deterioration, so I’ll focus on what I can keep!

  119. Have a friggin awesome Labor Day weekend! I am sooooo grateful for the 3 day week!

    • I could only wish: bracing for tropical storm #13. Spent this morning draining the cistern, cutting back tree branches and gathering all the light-weight yard stuff into the garage. My street will probably flood with at least 2 feet of water, so I’m preparing for a true “stay-cation” type of 3 day weekend. I might even get some chapters written since I can’t be outside! It’s an annoyance more than a concern – I’ll think of everyone else enjoying the sunshine and eating too much and be content our drought issues will be over and Betsy will be back soon.

  120. Here’s a story for a holiday weekend either barbecued or stormy, or both. I came across it today at the law office where I work.

    A guy’s in prison for kidnap and rape. He goes before the parole board and they say, Okay, raping kidnaping guy, you’ve served enough of your time and anyway we’ve gotta make some room in the prison for a fresh batch of felons, so we’ll let you go next month. Be sure to be good after we let you out.

    On the way back to his cell after the parole hearing, raping kidnaping guy decides to celebrate by telling the prison guard escorting him, Hey I don’t care what they say, I’m not gonna be good after they let me out next month and in fact I’m gonna go find that bitch I kidnaped and raped because I should have killed her then and now I’ll do it, I don’t care if her daddy’s a judge and her uncle’s a DA, she’s not gonna be safe from me.

    To which the escorting prison guard says, Uh-huh. He gets raping kidnaping guy locked back in his cell and decides to report the celebratory threat to the authorities. Given that he is one of them and knows where many of the others hang out, this is not hard for him to do.

    The authorities then haul raping kidnaping guy back before the parole board, which tells him, Um, we’re sorry, raping kidnaping guy, but there seems to be something you’ve not yet learned during your stay with the state, so we’re inviting you to stay for another ten years or so. Raping kidnaping guy is mortified, horrified, outraged, and says, But I was only joking, to which the parole board responds, You can work on your stand-up routine in front of the new guys who’ll be coming in. And good luck to you!

  121. I kind of feel like we might get yelled at for not staying on task.

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