Life in These United States

Are you sure it’s Christmas? It feels like Easter because I must proclaim that I am alive! Not after being dead, just after going through the holiday season as a retailer. Now that that’s out of the way and we can settle down into this Ginormous Republican Clusterfuck of a depression when nobody is going to buy anything, I’m sure I’ll have lots of free time to regale you with tales of my life.

A clown in full regalia came into my store a few weeks ago. She said she wasn’t going to buy much because these are days that are as tough on clowns as anyone else. I might choose this moment to suggest that clowns probably deserve to be disproportionately affected by any disaster, but I have too much residual holiday spirit (i.e. I stayed in my bathrobe all day on Xmas), so I will just point out that when I told this particular clown she had a nice smile, she said it was because of Jesus. I didn’t know Jesus did makeup on the side, but I suppose it’s tough times all around.



The longest night of this year was alive with friends, family, good food, and a wonderful play: “Caroline, or Change” at the local theater. Long-time readers may recall my gushing about this musical when I saw it several years ago at the Public in New York, just before it went to Broadway. I actually saw it twice there and bought the soundtrack, which I’ve listened to any number of times since (most recently on an exercise bike at the gym).

“Caroline, or Change” always seems to explode into my life at odd times, when I’m thinking in strange ways. It is a play about rage, utter soul-rending rage, and powerlessness in an indifferent world. And it is a play about the ways people separate themselves or are separated from each other. And it is a play about Black people and Jewish people in the American south in 1963. And it is a play about oppression and the all-seeing moon and a washing machine and spare change. And I think it is a play about me, somehow, how I get when I’m just going through the motions, furious at the ever-changing tide of events that tosses me in its eddies and currents.

I’ve been furious a lot lately. Well, for eight years. Sometimes I think this evil emotion has seared my insides away, leaving a husk that could blow in the wind, but then I’m surprised at its untapped depths like when my father announces that Democrats caused the current Depression or when said Depression appears to be shredding my business to pieces. The mad scientist who provides my drugs says that this is a natural reaction to feeling powerless in an intolerable situation. It’s no wonder they’re finding Prozac in aquatic ecosystems.

I may not have been destined to prosper, but I’m not powerless. I remember this when I see the faces of the loved ones who gather at my suggestion or of those strangers who are impressed with what I have managed-with much help-to accomplish. But it seems I must always remind myself of it, always grasp for those bootstraps and soldier on another day, marching through a world awash with ever-increasing uncertainty. A world, by the way, that is supposed to end four years from today according to a dear and somewhat eccentric friend of mine. Four years from today, I think, I hope, no matter what the rest of the planet is enduring, I will face oblivion feeling more certain of my place in the universe.

I worry these are not the words of a leader, and I find myself a leader with much to accomplish in a short time, tasks that may be impossible in this unfortunate era. Caroline, she of the play, was not a leader; she was a maid. But she affected people. I think I can and do affect people. I suppose that is as good a start as any.


Fall on Your Knees

You would think some big holiday was coming with the way people are carrying on. I’ve barely had a moment to sit down for weeks, and there is no rest for the wicked. On Wednesday, I’m going to have a colossal fight with someone important to me and I do not precisely relish the prospect but some things have to be done. I feel oddly liberated by the concept.

I’ve had some guests this week, my dear friend from high school and her (and sort of my) son. The universe is really having a laugh at my expense, throwing a three year old in my path just when I need to cultivate the most patience (and actually have the least). This particular three year old is particularly interested in fans and lights. When I get home in the evenings, all of the lights and fans in the house are on, and everything else is disassembled into microscopic pieces. Last time he left, I was finding parts of the dishwasher under the sofa. Anyway, we took him to see Santa yesterday and he asked for a fan for Christmas.

“A what?” said Santa.

“Fans!” blurted Christopher.

“Like a ceiling fan,” I tried to explain.

“Oh my,” said Santa.

Diapers are something else I am not going to get used to. I keep getting reminded that they’re theoretically not diapers, they’re something called pull-up pants. But if there is poop languishing in there, it’s a diaper. I don’t make the rules.



Remember when I used to write about chupacabras? I do. Life was so fanciful back then. Now everything is Economy This, Bailout That. I wish for the return of las chupacabras.

Maybe there’s one around here somewhere.

OK, so my birthday is in, like, three weeks. This year, I’m celebrating my twenty-seventh, so I’m getting up there. Actually, if I’m lucky, there will be no celebrations . . . just maybe some time to relax. I should move into an old people’s home because there seems to be a lot of sitting around going on where my grandfather lives. I work around a lot of comfortable furniture but there is remarkably little sitting involved. When I buy some and bring it home, the only thing that gets to sit on it is dirty laundry.

Yesterday, an old high school friend and current Facebook friend showed up in my place of business to visit me. I didn’t know this was something Facebook friends did so I gave him a chess set. It was sort of like being on a game show.


Now With Less Steam!

Well hello there, world! I just want everyone to know that what I wrote a couple of days ago was just blowing off steam, not a cry for help. I’m OK, if a bit worn down. I’ve battled my demons and emerged scathed but living. I am in a positive mood. I am taking America’s Treasure Maya Angelou’s advice and greeting everyone with a smile. Even though it may seem like an unsightly grimace, it is actually a smile. I smile with my eyes, that’s how I smile. It’s like little mouths under my eyebrows. Smiling mouths.

In other news, now that the new store is open, it’s time to pull my life back together. I haven’t opened my mail in months, and let’s not talk about the laundry situation. I (rashly) purchased the used Mini as described previously. It gets very good mileage and is fun to drive, and although it possibly wasn’t the smartest maneuver I have ever made for any number of reasons, it was retail therapy at its best.

Here’s hoping everyone indulges in retail therapy at my lovely stores so I can, you know, pay for it.


Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, there was a boy who thought that opening a shop in a local mall would solve all of his problems. Sadly, the mall was secretly located in a hazardous location of double evil. The first evil was the Bush Administration, which decided that eighty years without a Great Depression was just too long. The second evil was that the mall was owned by one of the meanest and most infantile monsters the poor boy had ever encountered.

So the boy went through extraordinary efforts to open a nice store that would be a positive force in the world, but the double evil brewed in the background. The double evil could not allow joy and responsible shopping to win the day. The double evil had to destroy and insult and shred the last of our hero’s poor nerves to the point where he no longer cared if he lived or died.

Luckily, the boy had some dear friends and relatives and employees who supported him as much as they could, who really went above and beyond the call of duty and proved to him that perhaps injecting love into evil, even double evil, could make a difference.

But just as the boy began to develop a sprig of hope, one of the evils-the infantile monster-struck again.

The infantile monster did not understand the power of love and thus didn’t care that all of the tenants in his mall hated him with a burning passion. In fact, this seemed to be the only thing that the mall tenants could agree upon at all. The boy seemed to attract those dissatisfied souls through no effort of his own and got bogged down by their negative feelings to the point where he once again felt hopeless and regretful.

Luckily, those loving people who had saved the day in the first place were still around. Luckily, the boy discovered reserves of strength that had gone previously untapped. Luckily, the boy had witnessed so many examples of karmic retribution in his past that he began to rediscover the faith he had in his own vision of a better world and that the double evil would be vanquished. Indeed, the far stronger evil had already been discredited by world events and popular opinion.

One down, thought the boy, and one to go.