Lynnette: So, when are you gonna get here?
Kelly: I’m 20 miles out. Where are you?
Lynnette: I’m here. Don’t break any major laws, but I’ll be glad to see you!!!!!!
Kelly: I’m already breaking the law. What’s the matter?
Lynnette: Uhhh…nothing. Much. I’m a little weirded out.
Kelly: Weirded out? Why? Are you the only one in the house?
Lynnette: As a matter of fact, yes. The B&B is empty, and dark, and all the rooms are messed up, and there’s a pair of shoes by the back door, but nobody answers when I call.
Kelly: What?!?! Hang on – I’m almost there. Is it the house with the iron fence? I’m in front right now.
Lynnette: (yelps) What? I don’t see you! Tell me I’m not in the wrong house!!!
Kelly: Wait, what’s the house number? No, I’m on the wrong block. Damn it! Just a minute.
(After turning the wrong direction – I’m geographically challenged, don’t judge me – and pulling up in front of a house that looks almost identical – OK, not really – to the bed and breakfast where we are having our two-day writer’s retreat, I finally get turned in the right direction and park behind Lynnette’s car. All house lights are blazing and Lynnette meets me on the wraparound front porch.)
Lynnette: Hey, do you need any help getting your stuff in (translation: get your ass in here, you are not going to believe this…)
Kelly: Nope, I’ve got it. (Lynnette laughs nervously. I respond in kind, although I’m not sure exactly why). What’s going on?
Lynnette: Seriously, get in here. You are going to love the pictures in your room.
(I’m slightly creeped out as soon as I walk in. Sure, I knew the house was old – it was built in 1888 – but I wasn’t prepared for the whole FEEL of the place. Lynnette had already had a nerve-wracking hour and a half to cautiously peruse our surroundings. She gave me the tour.)
Lynnette: By the way, that front door swung open by itself when you drove up. (I close the doors and pull them open again to show her. She looks at me, aghast.) Now, look at these dogs (points at a painting of five dogs on the dining room wall) – doesn’t it look like this one is just about to turn and snarl at you? Think about having that looking over your shoulder for an hour and a half.
Kelly: Oh, come on, it doesn’t…huh. Well, I guess if that little one on the bottom turned his head. Did you check out our rooms already?
Lynnette: Oh yeah, checked out most of the house. It looks like somebody started cleaning after the last guests left, but it isn’t done, and there are shoes by the back door like someone is supposed to be here. I went looking around for the body.
Kelly: The body?
Lynnette: The body of the cleaning person who had a stroke, or slipped and hit her head or was eaten by a ghost.
Kelly: Really? Body-eating ghosts? I’m no paranormal physicist, but if the ghost is made up of energy and isn’t a solid entity, they probably couldn’t digest a human body anyway and…holy shit, there are pictures of dead people on the walls of my room. (I begin turning pictures over and laying down picture frames). OK, this is a little disconcerting.
Lynnette: I think you are going to have problems flipping those over, (points at the photographs attached to the walls in the dressing room.)
Kelly: Ah, crap. What does YOUR room look like?
Lynnette: Like a scene from The Shining. (Drags Kelly to the room across the hall–blood red walls, covers jumbled over the bed, used martini glasses with one tipped over, wet towels on the floor.)
Kelly: (checking the shower area) Your shower curtain is still wet. (We look at each other, then peer back at the disheveled bed). You’re not going to sleep in there NOW, are you?
Lynnette: No. No, I’m not. Down here (leads Kelly down the hall and flicks aside a floor length curtain covering a doorway) we have a storage closet. I checked that out all alone. Aren’t I brave?
Kelly: Yes, you are.
Lynnette: Thank you. There is also a bathroom and a little bedroom and a laundry room.
Kelly: (Noting that night is quickly falling, the darkened doorways around us are gaping like open mouths) You know, I’m thinking we should start closing some doors and turning some lights on, what do you think? (We start flipping light switches and pulling doors shut. I reach into the dark in the room at the end of the hallway for the door and my hand brushes…nothing).
Lynnette: Yeah, that one doesn’t HAVE a door. Neat, huh? (we both giggle nervously) Sooooo, I suppose we should check out the third floor.
Kelly: (We brush past the curtain hanging down over the stairway and head upstairs to what used to be the caretaker’s apartment but is now unoccupied). OK, so this is a bathroom and we have a bedroom, bedroom, living room, little kitchen. What’s this door go to?
Lynnette: Hell if I know.
Kelly: You wanna open it?
Lynnette: I opened enough in the ninety minutes I was here BY MYSELF. You open it.
Kelly: OK, are you ready? (I grasp the knob firmly and whip the door open to find an odd little multi-colored storage room). Oh look, it’s the closet where they kept the bad little children!
Lynnette: That’s fuckin’ great. Thank you for that.
Kelly: (snickering) Well, let’s just close that one, shall we? (I hook the little latch on the outside of the door).
(We head back down to the second floor, trying to decide what the hell is going on and what we should do about it. We knew we may be the ONLY tenants in the B&B for our two-night stay but were assured everything would be cleaned up and ready to go for our visit. Lynnette had already left two messages for the proprietor with no response and we’re debating the merits of sharing a room for safety – and sanity’s – sake when the owner calls back.)
Lynnette: She says she lost the reservation book and forgot we were coming, and apologizes for not having the house cleaned after the wedding party that left this morning. She also says not to worry, the house is “happy” so we don’t have to worry about sleeping here.
Kelly: That’s comforting. Although, if the house were “unhappy” or “pissed off” or “hungry” or something, she probably wouldn’t tell us that, now would she? So, sharing a room or do we want to try it in our own rooms with the doors open so we can hear each other scream?
Lynnette: It’ll be fine. Let’s take the two clean rooms, and leave the doors open.
Kelly: Deal. (We get ready for bed, calling to each other over the six foot distance between our open doors). Holler if you need to. See you in the morning…I hope…(thinking, and if the doors slam shut on us and the horror begins–well, I guess there’s no point in freaking her out with that.)
Lynnette: G’night. (Gets ready for bed, checks her travel alarm and sets it on the nightstand. She realizes it is sitting in a small pile of fine human hair. Taking a deep breath, she sweeps the hair into her hand and into the garbage can across the room. Thinks, there is no point in freaking her out with that–pulls the covers up to her chin, listens to the toilet breathing in the bathroom, and stares up through the darkness.)
It’s not entirely Noah Webster’s fault although with a little effort, he could have avoided the mistake. There were bound to be inaccuracies when he wrote his first dictionary but for them to exist more than 225 years later is pretty amazing, really, and I’m sure the one you’ll find a third of the way through the letter “F” is not the only one. But it’s a biggie.
It’s fine. Literally. The definition of the word “fine”. We women use that word all the time in ways that hardly ever mean what Mr. Webster says it means. According to Webster, “fine” as an adjective means “very good, excellent, with no impurities”. I don’t know about you, but when I say I’m fine, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Food for thought…
Question: I heard about the break-up. How are you doing? Answer: I’m fine. Real Answer: I’ve had nothing but Ben and Jerry’s Half-Baked Frozen Yogurt for the past 10 days but until Kmart has a sale on Joe Boxer sweats, I’ll just wear this caftan. And all these stray cats in my apartment are giving me a rash.
Question: Honey, I invited Bart and his new wife, Bitsy, to dinner tonight. But no fats, carbs, grains, dairy or meat because she’s got a photo shoot tomorrow. Can you whip something up? Answer: That’s fine. Real Answer: Unfortunately, since I’m not possessed by Martha Stewart and the only things in the fridge not on that “no can eat” list are lettuce, baking soda, and Fresca, I hope a plate of foaming greens will be fine with her. Pick up a bottle of wine on your way home, please; I’ll need it.
Question: I told the client you’d have that manual written by Monday. Don’t forget it needs to be translated into Portugese, Mandarin, Swahili and Braille. Is that a problem? Answer: It’s fine. Real Answer: What manual?
I suspect that Noah wasn’t the only dictionary author in the Webster household and some day another version will turn up, written by his wife or maybe one of his six daughters. And under the heading for the word “fine”, all it will say is “use as needed.” Because that’s how we chicks roll.
When I use “fine,” for example when I am slamming stuff around in the kitchen while my husband asks from the couch how I am doing, what I usually mean is “don’t push me, bub, I can barely control the urge to hurl this frying pan into your HDTV as it is.” Other times, when acquaintances greet me (usually at the grocery store where I am shopping for food I will be slamming around later) with “How are you?” I might use the word “fine” to stand in for “I really don’t have time to go into it right now.” Normally I give honest replies to that question, which can take awhile, but hey, they asked, right? Webster’s definition now seems only to apply when “fine” is used to describe things like china–which, by the way, doesn’t slam well AT ALL.
What I have noticed is how differently men use the word. I gave up asking the question, “How do I look?” long ago, because that way lies madness, but when a guy answers “fine,” he either means 1) on an academic scale, B+ or above; really much closer to Webster than you’d think, or 2) “Woman, we are late, and there isn’t anything we can do about it now, so let’s go.” When women hear the word “fine” as an assessment of their appearance or, for instance, cooking, she hears 1) well, it isn’t a total failure–but that could mean anything from a D- up, or 2) I can’t be bothered to give you a thoughtful answer because I am not really interested. It is not surprising that she’s slamming things around and he has taken refuge on the couch. We don’t need a dictionary, we need a translator.
I realized last night as I was riding motorcycles with my husband and a biker friend that as much as I want to revive the biker I was in my youth, I’ve become more chicken as the years go on. Out on the highway, I was in the middle of the pack and as the needle on the speedometer rose, so did my stress level. I wobbled a bit a time or two and though it was windy, I can’t blame it all on that. And when we were in town and they were racing from stoplight to stoplight, I couldn’t seem to crank the throttle far enough to roar down the street behind them. They have Shovelheads, I have a Sportster so I guess I could blame my lack of horsepower for not keeping up. That’s what I’ll go with because it sounds better than saying I was just too chicken.
I don’t know what the problem is. The first time I had my motorcycle license, I was in my mid-20’s. I rode a chopper with a six-foot front end and that baby could GO. It would scream down the road like a banshee, me clinging to it with my hands gripping the drag bars and my ass glued to the seat, head thrown back, hair whipping in the wind. Me like go fast. That was my mantra. And I lived it.
Am I just too cautious now? I don’t know why I should be. I own the bike I have these days (the bank doesn’t), I actually have insurance in case, oh God, there’s an accident, and if I get a speeding ticket, I have the funds to pay it. So come on internal biker bitch, get out here already, could you? Soul sister, you need to get your scooter so I have someone to putt with…
Dear friend, you are not chicken, you are coming to clarity about the fragility of the human body and the resplendence of life’s potential (overlooking the daily crap, I mean.) You have also had at least one friend die on a motorcycle in the past year, correct? Your internal biker bitch is older and wiser and would shake her head wryly at her younger reckless counterpart. You survived your banshee days; embrace them forever, but ride smart and sane, and get your thrills by kicking anyone’s ass that gives you a hard time about it.
I feel energy building toward my scooter purchase. Thank you for the recent email suggestion! I like the Yamaha C3’s gas mileage and storage, but am not crazy about the styling, and need to be able to hit 50mph if I don’t want to get killed going to Target. I suppose I could ride on the shoulder, but that might be illegal. I am continuing my research… and will be glad to play the role of poodle next to your (Greyhound? Doberman?) when we someday ride together!
A few of my neighbor lady friends and I have been kicking around the idea of taking a “girl’s” weekend somewhere, anywhere away from home. When I say “girl’s” I am not referring to actual girls, we are all well past all the points where we might question if we had hit full womanhood status. We’ve been discussing the possibility on and off for nearly a year. The men say it is never going to happen, that we will never agree on a weekend or a destination. It is a bizarre six-sided conversation (give or take, depends on who is in at any given time) with issues of expense, duration, distance, and itinerary to consider. New York is too expensive, New Orleans too wild, the desert is blah, the beach might be ok, but no one can agree on which beach. Chicago seems likely, but then someone has to go make dinner and the discussion is tabled. A paranoid person could believe that there are saboteurs in the mix, deliberately shooting down ideas just to keep the whole prospect safely out in limbo. A trip that is never scheduled never triggers guilt, or leaves the children in inept paternal hands, or evens out the one-up in mom’s favor for dad’s weekend or weekends off. I consider myself extremely flexible, and harbor no guilt, concerns about my children’s well-being with their dad, or worry about the one-up. The only thing that is a no-go for me is when the men get frustrated and decide to be “helpful” and want to plan the whole thing for us. “Think about it,” they say. “We can take the worry out of the cost and take the blame if you don’t have fun. You won’t have to do all the research or talk about it. You just pack and go!” Damnit, no. I am a grown woman, and I will plan my own vacation. I might have to go by myself, but the idea of the husbands in the ‘hood sitting around congratulating themselves on planning their idea of a perfect ladies weekend for their indecisive women makes me gag a little bit. There is a danger that all the other wives might decide that this is a good idea, but I consider it a small one. We aren’t going anywhere.
“Chick trips” are common among my circle of friends. Usually annual events, they range from a girls-only camp-out at an area state park to a spring tour of beaches around the world. In my experience, the secret to planning these things is to keep it simple. Consider the basics:
How long can you stand each other? If it only takes a day or two before you get on each other’s nerves, you’re talking overnight trip not a week in the Bahamas.
What’s the point? Looking for relaxation? Try a spa. Adventure? Canoe trip. Retail therapy? Metropolis with good shopping opportunities.
Show me the money. Pick a trip everyone can comfortably afford. If it’s a hardship, you won’t enjoy yourself.
Let it go! Everyone has responsibilities at home, at work, in their community. But you also deserve a break once in awhile. Be willing to take one.
Work it out, ladies! It can be done. And for God’s sake, don’t let your husbands plan your trip for you. Unless they’re suggesting you go someplace absolutely fantastic and they’re offering to foot the bill. And if that’s the case, you should invite me to come along.
I am watching “So You Think You Can Dance.” I love that show. All day people have been asking me, “Are you limping?” because I’m hobbling around recovering from an energetic session of Kettlebell. Even on a normal day I am a stiff, inflexible, uncoordinated (but strong!) lump of flesh. I love seeing the strong, limber, lyrical movement these people manage while defeating gravity and staying charming to boot. I am not a big fan of reality TV, but I am a fan of this show, the dancers, Kat the host, and the judges (even if we do fast forward sometimes through the commentary because we are all about the performances, not the judging.) When I take Zumba classes (and I do almost every week–I am ridiculous, but it is FUN) I keep my eyes on the instructor because she is amazing and cute and every move has attitude and life and as long as I am watching her, I am moving just like her (in my mind, anyway.) I learned a long time ago to avoid looking in the mirror and all will be well. There are times when being a fan surpasses being a participant, and there are times when there is some crossover. Then of course, there are times when you have to get out there and bring it, all yourself, even if it is on paper or a digital page and not onstage. What are you watching?
I’m watching reality fare of a different sort – “Ghosthunters International” which is one of a very few shows I always try to catch when I can. I’ve watched the “Ghosthunters” series (both domestic and international) since they began and while I sometimes question their evidence and the banter can be annoying, I’m always hopeful they find something really, well, COOL. I’m waiting for the day when they ask the fateful question “Can you please give us some sign that you’re here?” and the spirit either cuffs them a good one across the head or growls in a James-Earl-Jones-with-a-head-cold voice “Can you hear me NOW?!?” Now THAT would be some evidence, eh? This ghosthunter thing goes back to an internship I did for a Rapid City radio station the summer I turned 20 (yeah, five years ago – HA!). That summer I had the great opportunity to interview and spectre search with a real ghosthunter who coincidentally was from New Hampshire (the “Ghosthunter” TV guys are from Rhode Island). It was a lot of fun and a little creepy and while it didn’t make me a total believer it made me more respectful of the unknown.
I’ve seen the dance show you mentioned. I’ve never watched a whole episode; it just makes me miss dancing. Not to brag, but I know I can dance – after 10 years of dance lessons as a kid, I better have some moves, albeit a bit outdated now, I’m sure. But after three broken ankles (no, that’s not impossible even though the math doesn’t seem to work out), I’m mainly a wallflower these days. But that just gives me more time to watch for ghosts…who probably can’t dance.
Ghosty-girl, you need to read the Greywalker series by Kat Richardson. I like (almost love) her books. They are a guilty pleasure I can publicly own. Enough said on that except to mention that I have had some ghostly encounters of my own. I think. If it was obvious it would be on youtube or Ghost Hunters, but while I expected to have some claustrophobic, emotional, vertiginous reaction to a concentration camp in Austria and a funeral home in South Dakota, I certainly did not expect it on the USS Midway in San Diego or an old Methodist Church in Minneapolis. I think I was picking up some unquiet spirits, although my own true love would really rather I kept that sort of talk under wraps. Hee, hee! Good thing he doesn’t read my blogs! Love!
Don’t think I’ve ever read any of her stuff so I’ll have to check it out. On the ghostly experiences, churches would be rife with spirits – think of all the funerals. And I don’t know what it is about boats, but I had the creeps on the Queen Mary in Long Beach and there were some eerie moments when we went to the Titanic exhibit (which was fantastic, by the way). Open minds, that’s all it takes. So we can’t count on him as a subscriber?!?