Mud Mask

This shit started when this friend I’ll call W was coming to visit with their new SO. The last time we saw W, they were at the end of a relationship, and it was rocky and bad;  words were exchanged, disappointments voiced, phone calls avoided and emails unreturned. Breakups are ugly, I get it, but seriously, people, you know the rest of us can see you? 

So ok W was coming and bringing the new SO and we were getting floors vacuumed and the sheets changed when W texted me to say the new SO was sick and they weren’t coming after all. Which meant we could stop vacuuming. Which was, despite the disappointment, sorta ok. We had agreed to take care of The Graduate’s GF’s fuzzy little dog for the weekend. He’d be our houseguest. Something else to do.

GqFHGW58TSu0aDUz2z34uAI was out in the yard with all the dogs when I got a text from my brother asking about an article that the Search Engine Monopoly suggested to him, written by J, one of my internet friends. My brother was like don’t you know this person and I was all sure that’s J. Is that a real friend my brother asked and I did not hesitate to say yes. 

I never like set out to have internet friends. I had them before I realized, really. When I moved from Seattle I felt disconnected from most of the people I saw every day. It was like we were dead to them. Of course, no one warned me. I just set off on my adventure with all my family, pets, and possessions, and no one wondered whatever happened to us. And that first year, we lived in North Dreadful, which had its downs and downers. And then we lived in the city, and there was a hurricane. But somewhere in there I made a Twitter for my cat, and ended up with some pocket friends.

J was one of the first people I talked to regularly on Twitter. Back in 2012, he caught me at peak cussing-on-the-internet, and RTed me as @HamsterRelish “what kind of twat says “va-jay-jay?” it’s VAGINA.” We go way back. 

I talk to J on three platforms, I told my brother. I’m looking forward to having lunch with him. (Not because we had plans to have lunch, but because I always imagined I would have a reason to go to J-ville and we would have lunch. Maybe get a mani-pedi. You know, friend things.)

But then standing in the yard watching three dogs run around I got to thinking about J and wondered why I hadn’t seen a post in about a week, which was unusual given that we were connected on three platforms.

And it was a Facebook post, to J’s wall, from J’s longtime SO, that said something about J being gone and that sure as shit didn’t make any sense.

So I looked up J’s mother. And she had a post saying that J’s last words were “Just love each other.” 

J could tell me which peanut butter cookie recipe to use and follow it up with a hilarious 80s song reference. J wrote beautifully about being a therapist, and had a plush vagina pillow on the couch at work. J encouraged my revolting and fanciful ideas about cat-milk-cheese. J tried on all the funny hats at Target. J could take down a Twitter troll and make them cry uncle. J called bullshit on homophobia, on racism, on sexism. J knew what Bundt cakes to make. J had names and numbers for mental health specialists. J took selfies with a mud mask on his face. J knew more about suicide than anyone I know. J knew when people’s husband’s employers were in the news and that not all news that seemed good actually is good. J knew how to DM me on three platforms, and did.

Your internet friends are pocket friends. They live in your phone. They know your pet peeves and your enthusiasms. They are real friends you see all the time. They go everywhere with you.

So where the fuck was J.

I checked all three platforms.

It didn’t make any sense. He was just there the other day, when the truck full of axe body spray exploded in Texas. When he walked his dog. 

I’ve had other friends disappear on social media. Sometimes they come back with another name. Sometimes they don’t. I’ve even had an acquaintance in Australia die. But this.

I hearted the posts from his SO and his mother.

And within minutes the algorithm was showing the posts to our mutual friends. And by the end of the day I was juggling DMs from mutual friends on three platforms. 

What happened.

Are you ok.

I am ok. Are you ok. I am gutted. I don’t understand. No, me either.

Luckily, in my weird little privileged world, there are always dogs to walk and horses to ride, and I kept going. Horses demanded my attention. Dogs, dogs, dogs. I was a little out of it, and had to tell my horse trainer, but we got to work, because I had regionals to prepare for. My new horse and I qualified for the championships, ok sure only at training level but it was coming up. An important horse show seems stupid and strange when you’re upset about someone who died, but also good and simple and true. We worked to get there. We were ready.

But then right after I’d left the barn my mare spooked and got a big cut on her hip. The barn manager texted me right away. She called for the vet and sent me a photo. It looked like a clean slice. Not too deep.

We got home and headed out to walk the dogs. Eggi was too excited for words and kept licking my face and bumping into Captain. The Houseguest looked fuzzily nonplussed, but I fitted him with his little blue collar and leash. I handed the Houseguest’s leash to the Bacon Provider, and took our two dogs myself. We were doing the short loop, through the woods. We were about a half-mile from home when I heard the Bacon Provider make a sort of hiccuping noise. I turned around to see him holding a leash, attached to a little blue  collar, buckled into a neat round loop with no fuzzy dog in it. The Houseguest was booking it back down the trail towards our house. Now the Bacon Provider is not accustomed to fuck-ups, and takes things v seriously, and he took off running after the fuzzy little punk, despite my attempts to explain that he really should not chase the dog. DON’T I shouted CHASE HIM to the empty woods.

Then I was alone in the woods with my two dogs, and my phone rang and it was the vet. She had sewn up the hole in the horse. I asked about the upcoming show. “Well,” said the vet, “if it were on her leg, I’d say no. and if it were on her face I’d say no problem. You should stick to light work for the next few days and we’ll see.”

Sticking to light work.

What happened. 

Horses are stupid.

But what happened.

There was a guy, fixing a thing, with a power tool. It made a noise. The horse scooted.

Is she ok.

She’ll be ok. 

Don’t you have a show coming up.

Back at the house, the Bacon Provider and the Houseguest looked like nothing had happened. I thought about posting something about how naughty the Houseguest was on one or three platforms but thought his owner might be sad to learn he was being a pain while she was away.  

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A couple days passed and the Bacon Provider left for a business trip. My horse and I stuck to light work. By Tuesday it was clear the stitches were holding nicely. But the stitches are right on her hip, and if she stood the wrong way on the trailer ride she might open it again. I made the decision to keep my horse home from the show. Even though it was the championships. Even though we worked so hard to get there. Even though.

I got a text from my husband sitting on his plane where he saw W’s ex who boarded after he did. Had W and the new SO made it for the weekend, they would have very likely all run into each other at the airport. JFC people the rest of us can see you. Be good to each other, even if you have to let someone go.

I walked all three dogs by myself.

I got in bed early and put a mud mask on my stupid sad face.

I got a text around 10 from my neighbor. She was away and the person who was supposed to do barn check hadn’t. Could I go over and throw the horses a flake of hay? Of course I could. I washed off the mud mask. Real life friends and neighbors are important. I went in my pajamas. Her horses were fine.

But

Dammit 

I miss you, J.

A shit-show

What I saw: the physician’s assistant handed me a stack of pages of pre-operative instructions, including a page of “Helpful Items,” with pictures of crutches and canes and walkers and wheelchairs (things that no one ever thinks they’re going to need) and said, “You will want a knee-scooter.” It had been hurriedly circled in ball-point pen. I did not want it. She went on, “You can rent them, but…,” she said, glancing at my feet, “If you’re going to have to get both feet done, you’re probably better off just buying one.”

IMG_3932What I did beforehand: I avoid shopping with the Massive Online Retail Monopoly, but they have all the things and also all the reviews. You simply must read the reviews of these knee scooters or you might end up with the wrong one.  As for me, I had to read the reviews of the wrong scooter after I had found the right one to figure out that I was actually wrong. I had to get the child-sized scooter, because the manufacturer makes a “regular” sized scooter for people who are larger than the average size woman.

I got the one with the three wheels (instead of four) in the hopes of not hitting myself constantly in the ankle of my “good” foot. And I got the one with the bigger, 9” tires in the hopes of not wiping out thanks to a pea-sized bit of gravel on my driveway, or succumbing to the enormous thresholds of the doorways in Mrs. Gardenwinkle’s 80s museum. It came in a big box that arrived via drone only three minutes after I ordered it, and I had to put it together with the shiny, enclosed tools. It came with lots of written instructions, stern warnings about not backing up, and even has a training wheel, to put on the side opposite your good foot, for people with stability issues. I had the Bacon Provider adjust the brakes and finish the tire inflation. We took turns riding on it before my foot surgery, to see how it cornered (not especially well), to see how fast it could go (not especially fast), and to see how it stopped (well enough). It sat in the corner of the dining room like a vague threat until the surgery.

What I wore: the wrong pajamas.

Who went with me: I have to back up a little and say that Cherry turned 15 this summer and is now completely deaf. When she was a younger dog, she knew a good number of useful commands like sit, come, stay, down, don’t touch, and take it. I even taught her hand signals for sit, stay and down because I always thought that’s what good dog owners did to prepare for the day when their dog could no longer hear. Cherry’s hearing seemed to vanish suddenly and completely about two years ago, but in retrospect it was probably failing for a while and she masked the loss by continuing to seem obedient by making educated guesses about what she was supposed to do. Those educated guesses were her forte from a young age, and it was why I was able to get her to climb on top of things like big rocks or tree stumps for pictures. We are unprepared for her diminished vision, though. You cannot call a deaf dog. And you can wave all you want to a dog who can’t see, but she’s not coming to you except by luck.

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How I got tickets to the shit-show: Cherry seems to be able sometimes to see a waving hand about 6 feet away. She gets up and down the stairs from the kitchen to the yard with a great, clumsy leap. Sometimes Cherry wanders around the kitchen looking for people to stand next to, which is sweet but kind of annoying when you’re cooking. When she rises from her dog bed and starts wandering around the kitchen, then we wave our hands to try to shoo her out the door. She makes her leap off the stairs having no better plan. Some mornings we get up and she’s had more than one accident in the kitchen. The sting of frustration about this is dwindling as she becomes more and more frail.

Why I saw this show: so, the Bacon Provider had to do a webinar one morning, just a couple of days after my foot surgery. I was still unable to put any weight on the bad foot, spending most of my days with it elevated in bed, and taking pain meds.  I said derisive, colorful things about the word “webinar,” and some insightful things about capitalism. Only the cat heard me. He agreed, I think.

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Pretending to listen

Things that were not funny: before you need your knee scooter you can tool around your dining room, but it will never prepare you for the horror of a bathmat, a narrow bathroom, a pile of laundry, or a pair of shoes in your way. You can’t pick them up. You can’t go over them. You can’t go around them. The turning-radius a knee scooter is one half to two feet to large for most of this 80s museum. Also, you will come close to falling for surprising reasons, like missing the pad where you’re supposed to kneel, or smashing yourself in the good ankle, or the unexpected shoe (and it’s never your shoe, because all you need now is one sad shoe for your right foot, a sacrificial shoe, chosen to get extra, uneven wear and be forever associated with the dark days of recovery from surgery).

What it is: somehow, thanks to the webinar, I got stuck with feeding the dogs breakfast.

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Clearly on pain meds

Things that were sad: there were dog blankets all over the kitchen floor. People in my family cover the dogs with blankets when they sleep. Yes, this is ridiculous, but Cherry gets cold. But also, she is a dog, and being a dog, she wakes up and gets a drink and the blankets come sliding off and get dragged across the floor and left there when she goes back to her bed.

Who should watch their step: of course, Cherry is no longer really very housebroken so sometimes she gets up to go on the floor and other times she just poops in her sleep.

Things that were funny: so when I scootered across the kitchen to get a can of dog food and there was a dog blanket on the floor and I tried to back up, bend over, and pick it up, I was showered with dog-poo nuggets. And I don’t know if I was like, trying to nugget-dodge or maybe bounce them away from me like they were dog-poo-hacky-sacks, but I wobbled. Cherry, who was hungry, which was the whole reason I was trying to do things in the kitchen at all, was right up against me, keeping track of me the only way she can anymore.

Where I sat: so when I started to fall, I also hit the old dog, who also fell. No one was hurt, though the scooter and I were kind of tangled up and the poo nuggets were involved. Cherry wasn’t so much hurt as she was startled, and so she kind of had the shit scared out of her. The exertion of trying to get back up made her poop some more, and because she and I fell together, now she was pretty much just pooping on me. I’ve had dogs for about 25 years, but I think that was the first time I was pooped on directly by one.

When that was over, I righted the scooter and tried to stand. My pajama pants (these being the sub-optimal pajamas and not one of the two pairs of optimal, post-operative lounge-wear) got caught on one of the bigger, 9” tires of my five-star-reviewed knee scooter as I was trying to stand up so I fell again.

Where I sat on the way home: so I had to crawl around picking up the poo-nuggets, take off my clothes, wash my good foot, and still feed the dogs, and when I was done I had so much leftover angry energy I hauled the vacuum cleaner out, and took out the trash. I can’t say why exactly I sat down on the floor of the garage while I was taking out the trash, but I did. It was cold, and quite gritty, but not nearly as bad as falling in dog shit.

I saw the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes™”

What I saw: the mother-fucking Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes™ at the god-damned legendary Radio City Music Hall, at 6th Avenue and West 50th Street, near Rockefeller Center in New York City.


What I did beforehand: riding lesson, baked bread, looked at Twitter, did some cussing, showered, put on a lot of clothes, spent too much time getting my shit together, drove to town, parked, walked to the train station cursing the cold-as-shit afternoon, bought a fucking round trip off-peak ticket, got on train, wandered up and down the cars looking for a seat that faced the right fucking way, got sat on by a guy much bigger than me at White Plains. 

Mostly they looked at their phones

What I wore: gray wool tights (because it was that cold), tan Boden plaid skirt, black Ibex fancy-ass wool top, gray cardigan, gray cable knit hat made for me by my friend R., pearl earrings, brown cashmere scarf with fringe that makes it look just like kelp, long parka, two pairs of mittens. 
Get used to the riot gear, America
Fascism is here!

Who went with me
: the venue appeared full from our vantage point, and has a capacity of about 6,000. Which is a fuck-ton of people. And they do up to six shows a day. That is a shit-load of high kicks. 

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How I got tickets: I attended as the guest of a very old friend and her girlfriend, who was aware that I can be a smartass but invited me to partake of this treacly, over-produced Christmastravaganza anyway. Oh, Gee, Gosh, I hope she doesn’t read this!

Get ready to empty your pockets and
show them the inside of your purse

Why I saw this show: in the spirit of every drunken bull’s pizzle who ever said, “Here, hold my beer,” I thought I’d give it a try.

Where I sat: Orchestra Row J, seat 413. 

It is a Spectacular

Things that were sad: after the show, we were shooed out of the theater by the beleaguered broom-wielding schmucks responsible for the impossible task of sweeping up the single layer of popped popcorn distributed in an even layer of crunchy goodness from row AA to W and across all seven sections before such time as the arrival of the next audience, a mere hour hence.

Things that were funny:  the show opened with dueling organists, singing ushers, and a velvety brown Spandex and tiny-suitcoated slutty Reindeer kick line.  My Rudolf-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer-worshipping inner child was agog. Next came Santa Claus, starring in a 3D infomercial featuring the post-apocalyptic wasteland of a de-populated, traffic-free computer-generated New York City. Dancing bears provided a welcome break from the onslaught of bimbombatons, the embodiment of robotic precision of three dozen perfectly trim, strong, young identical women known as the Rockettes™. But then again, the next number was the Toy Soldiers which might be the only reason some people drag their ass to the city once a year to see this show. After that, the marketing circus resumes on a sightseeing bus where we were able to get accurate counts of the bimbomatons. There are 36.  No mountains of garbage on the streets of this NYC! Just shoppers and sightseers! Next, there are skaters in a cartoon-version Central Park, utterly alone and looking like a surreal pair of Twilight Zone characters, living dolls dropped into an empty diorama with a sheet of genuine plastic ice which moments ago was crowded with stiff-legged, screaming zombie skaters who were swept away with the sweep of a petulant giant child’s hand, along with the trash mountains and street people dressed in gowns made of plastic shopping bags.  
The show whisks us next to the terrifying Hellscape of an army of an infinity of jolly dancing Santas.  Then there is a rag doll production number that I mostly remember for the irregularly striped red and white tights on the Rockettes, their menacing orange plastic hair-helmets, and the alphabet blocks which magically spelled “MERRY XMAS” or “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN” or some fucking thing when they turned them around. I think. After that, terrifying flying transparent beachball snowflake drones were unleashed from the orchestra pit, menacing the audience and reminding me that we are all Prisoners now. Lastly, the Birth of Jesus Merry Fucking Christmas Extremely Religious Nativity Tableau, complete with a floating angel, a Vegas-style neon Star of Rocking Bethlehem and fake people of “The Orient,”  but most of all, three real-as-life fucking camels and a donkey that were unnerving and sad and also the realest damned things in the whole show. I wonder how often they shit on the stage.

The orchestra platform can rise up
to stage height

Things that were not funny: there was a woman behind me who sang along tunelessly to everything she knew. It didn’t matter. The show was still fun, despite my elitist desire to despise it all with every atom of my being.

Something I ate: arctic char and tostones at an excellent Cuban/Chinese place  called Calle Dao we found afterwards on W 39th.

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What it is: an institution, since 1933. 


Who should see it: people who know that the true meaning of Christmas is maximizing corporate profits with banal fairytales starring enslaved dwarves and magical white people, stoners, fans of the materialistic clay-brained Christian patriarchal white supremacy, sentimentalists, fat-kidneyed Republican rascals in matching American flag Christmas sweaters, my five-year-old-self, nostalgic bacon-fed knaves, knotty-pated shopped-out fools, and the last three families left in America for whom Santa is not yet corny bunkum. 

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What I saw on the way home: I had to run and made the train with only a couple of minutes to spare, and realized when I stood up to get off an hour later that I had tweaked my knee. 

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I saw "The Body of an American"

What I saw: “The Body of an American,” at the newly remodeled Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce Street, in the West Village, NYC

What I wore: favorite black Fluevog Guides, fishnet socks, Hudson jeans that are too long that now have a ripped button on one of the back pockets because I did that the last time I wore them which was when I saw “Prodigal Son,” black t with white polka dots, black open-knit sweater, burn-out velvet scarf that was the gift of a friend in Seattle in the late 90s. 

Mine is the tan car,
stuck behind four yellow cabs,
next to the white bus

What I did beforehand: got stuck in mid-town gridlock and stepped on my prescription sunglasses, the ones I got for Italy

Who went with me: The Bacon Provider, freshly returned from a week of working on the other coast

How I got tickets: Oh, Reader…you knew it would happen. I bought tickets to two shows on the same night this month.  Maybe if I had real-life friends here, I’d have asked around and given them away. But I know like five or eight people in NYC outside of my family. Anyway, I bought more tickets and donated back the originals on the grounds that a small theater like this might put the proceeds to good use. Oh, and if you’d like to tell me how to make friends in Bedhead Hills or NYC when I’m 52 and bitter and currently like really into Schopenhauer, you can comment about that below.

Why I saw this show: I think I got a promotional email suggesting it (and here I am, the one who gets all fucking salty about spam).


Where I sat: last row, in front of the light and sound board, in the brand new, comfortable seats. The guy manning the tech showed up and let out two great, theatrical yawns. I wondered what would happen if I monkeyed with his cables. I’m glad I didn’t; this show has exquisite lighting and visual effects. Normally, I cringe at the recent trend of projecting slides on the backdrop of a play, but in this case the set was designed to look as good without the projections, and the images enhanced rather than distracted. 


Things that were sad: It’s all been about drugs lately, movies, books, plays. 

Things that were funny: I just finished reading Robert Stone’s “Dog Soldiers,” a 70s novel about a journalist in Vietnam who’s pretty lost in his own life and a drug deal gone sideways. My brother recommended it, and I liked the book quite a bit, though when I watched the movie version, “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” I was disgusted by its neutering of the three main characters. Read the book; skip the movie. Anyway, “The Body of an American” is about a journalist who goes to the more recent war-torn corners of the world and is also pretty lost in his own life, and a playwright who wants to write about him because he is also pretty lost in his own life. I completely relate to the theme of a writer lost in his own life: I really do.
There are a few ways to define “funny.”

Things that were not funny: The lighting guy behind me had a tummy ache.

What it is: a play about writers, ghosts, and how life can be scary or seemingly pointless, acted with genuine (and appropriate) restraint by two actors named Michael.

Who should see it: husbands who don’t like the feel-bad family-dysfunction dramas, writers, anyone who just ate dinner at one of the many fine restaurants in the West Village, photojournalists, lovers and haters of snow and/or sand.

What I saw on the way home: I expected to see a certain amount of bad driving on the dark and narrow Saw Mill Parkway late on a Friday night, but I got stuck behind a driver whose foot seemed to have slipped off the gas.  I steered around the unexpectedly slowing car, but when it happened a second time to another driver it seemed like a contagious disease had overtaken drivers all over Westchester. Keep going, people. You can’t stop driving until you arrive someplace.