Family, Humor, Memoir, Nashville, Personal Essay, Prose, Writing Life

Christmas Onions 2000

My first Christmas in my first apartment alone, trying to be a big time grownup. I made French onion soup for dinner. I called home to California earlier in the day. I had read a scripture, I told my mom, something about getting my house in order, and I felt I needed to do that, which involved me staying in Nashville for Christmas, again, alone. She wasn’t convinced, but because she couldn’t fly out and physically drag me home, she accepted it. 

I was trying to be so adult. I was trying to prove something, though, looking back, I can’t imagine what. Was I trying to prove that I could withstand severe holiday depression? Was I trying to prove that no matter how badly I wanted to off myself that season, I didn’t need my family to help me not become a statistic?

I called my Hungarian violin teacher after I called my family. He was a big part of my life then as music was a big part of my life. I also adored his stories of escaping communism. Communists used to make Hungarians eat diseased cow meat and chocolate made from blood. Zsolt was also disappointed I wasn’t coming home. He was put off by my choice of Christmas dinner. He said, “Well, maybe you could float an ornament in it and make it more Christmasy that way.” I laughed and felt lonelier by the minute.

God I was miserable then—a miserable sort of miserable that radiated in waves across the country from Nashville to my little city Berdoo.

I was new to keeping my own appliances then, just as I was new to keeping my own household in general. For example, while I had used a garbage disposal many times as a kid growing up, I somehow never learned that putting onion skins down one is not such a great idea. By the time I had all the onions in the Christmas soup pot sautéing with butter, beginning to oddly smell like apples, my garbage disposal was filled to brimming with onion skins. 

I ran the water and turned the disposal on. It growled like an offended demon and the water didn’t go down. It began to spit up chopped onion skins in great belches, making of the sink water a slimy, stinky soup of its own. I stopped the thing. “That was not bright,” I told myself.

I grudgingly lugged my plunger into the kitchen from the bathroom. In retrospect, it is amazing I had a plunger given that, when I first moved it, I hadn’t realized until I was in dire need that toilet paper doesn’t grow on the roll. 

I stuck the plunger to the drain and plunged for dear life. More and more onion skins belched forth from the disposal along with other unspeakable things most likely from tenants past. I sucked everything out that I could. 

The water still didn’t go down. The chopped onion skin and unnamable goo mocked me as it danced its spiral around the sink.

I ended up having to strain all that onion skin and other detritus out of the sink with my bare hand, letting the water slip through, but retaining the chunks that clung to my fingers. I pulled the trash can up next to me and went to town. I think a year might have gone by. 

The sink came clean, the water went down, and the garbage disposal growled happily, its gut no longer sick.

I washed my hands at least three times. I washed the plunger. I raised the plunger over my head and made He-Man muscles. 

“I am the Garbage Disposal Master of the Universe!” I proclaimed to my empty apartment.  

“I am the Garbage Disposal Master of the Universe!” I shouted again just in case the ghosts I lived with hadn’t heard. 

I lowered my plunger and shrugged my shoulders. Shoving the onion skins down the disposal was not the only terrible mistake I made that lonely Christmas. Not by a long shot.

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Humor, Love Poems, Poetry

Controlled Substances (NaPoMo Day 4)

My pharmacist’s assistant boyfriend
gained weight.
It brings us closer as our fingers
touch over the Hydrocodone
and our wrinkles show
and our noses shine
under the fluorescent lights.

I say in a low voice
You know they’re for my mother.

He leans forward and says
so gently
I know. I remember you.

I tell him they’re for my mother every time
to prompt his sweet nothing.
I am unashamed. I flounce
out of the pharmacy with my narcotics
and swing my hips with purpose.

-M.

(I’m starting a little late for National Poetry Month’s 30 in 30. I owe you three. I’m on it.)

Humor, Poetry

St. Patty’s Mariachi Fiesta (poem)

I am trying to sleep and the neighbors
two doors down have a live mariachi
band in their backyard. It is three
days before St. Patrick’s Day.

I imagine the nachos, con guac,
a perfect metaphor for the Cathy’s
and the Prods. By force of hand the
orange and the green come
together—messily. They fight it out
in the gut.

-M.

Humor, Writing On Writing

Screw that! …And Here’s a Picture of Me Smoking on a Vespa. (writing on writing)

c62c00d2190d21f290d97a72277536b2I have been going through some deeply dramatic changes in my life lately, not the least of which is my attitude toward writing. I drive myself hard, but it had come to the point where I had actually become cruel and, rather than that cruelty leading to more artistic production, it did the exact opposite and led to nothing but blocks, an acid stomach, and sleepless nights spent fretting and miserable.

All of that until I decided enough of that, took my life in a new direction in all facets, and committed to driving myself firmly, but lovingly.

In that vein, I found this picture the other day and fell in love with it. I’ve decided it’s me and it’s my new thing. When the writing gets tense and I hear the cruel voice start to crank it up, my response is going to be, “Screw that! …and here’s a picture of me smoking on a Vespa.”

(Because that lady looks all kinds of “screw that”, doesn’t she?)

It’s the best writerly advice I can give to myself right now or to anyone else. Find a “screw that” picture that speaks to you, keep it on your desk for those dark moments, and, when necessary declare:

“Screw that! …and here’s a picture of me… riding a llama, cavorting with bandits on a beach, goth-clad straddling a chair backward, petting velvet the wrong way, and/or the ever popular, smoking on a Vespa.”

(I’ll share it with you. I’m nice like that.)

Be free. Be free and kind to yourself. Write. Do it. You’ll feel better after. I promise or your money back.

-M.

Humor, Humor Poem, Poetry

Dishes (poem)

Loose grime and stringy meat
that comes away in the water
and lies in wait by the drain,
tangled in the silverware,
ready to snarl like seaweed
around the pruned fingers that clutch
in the dark to clean the forks and knives.

Cold, gray and scuzzy water—
reason to fear sharks below,
to fear the chum they’ve spit out
not good enough to get stuck between their teeth,
not good enough to wave alongside the gristle
from where a surfer’s arm was severed
uncleanly from its shoulder.

-M.

Humor, Humor Poem, Poetry, Writing Life, Writing On Writing

Never Write While Hungry (poem)

You’ll roll from aisle to aisle
aimless and slow
eyeballing the shiniest packages first
overhead and at foot
at your groin and at your twitching nose.

You’ll make better bad choices
(still bad choices)
fill your cart with loud
brightly powdered crunchies
that exercise your jaw
but stain your hands
without so much as a goodnight kiss
or any nutritional value at all.

-M.