Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pamela Part 3

(Don't forget to go back and read parts one and two!)

So it wasn’t too long before Pamela embraced the “curly girl” philosophy-much to my relief.  It taught her to embrace her wavy corkscrewed locks rather than bending them to her will, straightening them with this unbecoming lacquer that created that peculiar Sea Scallop bun she had been favoring. She began to sport this bouncy short” do” with a modern Brunette Shirley Temple feel to it. Her hair was soft ,touchable and infinitely more appealing. (She had even netted a new beau from it!)  This hair style change for the better, didn’t happen immediately mind you. I would arrive each morning to see her at the front desk and frown,  to let her know that whatever particular look she had chosen that day was a colossal fail.  She had bleached her hair at one point and went back to using these terrible hair glazes which just looked flat out awful and gave her a cheap white trash trailer park girl look. She would ( of course) get angry with me and then ..all of our coworkers wound up having a bad day whenever we quarreled. We weren’t exactly…. well behaved when we were upset with one another. Files slammed on desks and bathroom doors slammed shut whenever a disagreement broke out between us.   Our most frequent argument was whose sense of fashion was best. This was absurd, because I was the furthest thing from a fashion plate. My typical wardrobe consisted of khakis and sweaters  at work and a jeans and T-shirt slob outside of work. The only fashion achievement I made in my tenure as a mortgage broker’s assistant was figuring out that flat front pants were more flattering for me than pleats.   I knew I was a mature, professional, 38 year old male but when I was with Pamela –I was JUST another boy crazy 24 year old girl.

  Pamela also began wearing large silk flowers on her lapels and blouses and slowly converted her dark slacks and white shirt by adopting more vibrant colors like Red, Orange and Hot Pinks to her wardrobe.  She arrived to work every morning asking. “Are you ready for the big flower PA?”  Johnny would try to make an obscure reference to Georgia O’Keefe, which was supposed to embarrass her that she was wearing a Vagina on her lapel. I doubt she understood it. Christine –who had an interesting chic, fashion sense also worth remarking on- would eye her with cool speculation and then say softly under her breath. “Well PA – Are you ready for the Big Flower?”  Christine never insulted directly, but I could hear the disapproving tone implying that the Big Flower was a Big Mistake. Luckily this comment was only meant for me to hear.

My boss, being the Italian Stallion that he is, was successful in generating loans for Christine and I to grind out.  As a result of this, I felt particularly flush with cash and considered redecorating my small moldy in law. I mentioned this to Pamela and Nupura at lunch, as we mulled over the platters of Peruvian Cuisine that the waiter just brought to the table. We had adjusted the plates to reflect our new Low Carb diets to the Chef’s chagrin.  This meant I was staring down sadly at a plate of mixed greens and a grilled chicken breast coated with spices and herbs and not the creamy beautiful sea food potato soup with the poached egg on top I normally ordered.  “Oh We’ll have so much fun!!! “ Pamela squealed.  I had to admit she looked adorable in her bouncy little bob and kewpie doll bow lips as she clapped with excitement.

“We?” I asked her as I arched my left brow at her.

“YES WE! Nupie can help too.” Nupura looked alarmed as she sipped her tea.” I can ask my friend Eli too. You’ll love him PA !! Let’s go look at some new furniture at the Galleria after work!”

I rolled my eyes at her. “We can look at furniture after work together as long as you drive me to JC Penney’s and Sears instead of the Galleria. I have no intention on spending five grand on a couch.”

Her brows knitted in irritation and then she let out a dramatic sigh. “Oh all right” She brightened “Ready to go furniture shopping Nupie?!.  Nupura nodded and giggled.

After work,  Nupura and I bundled into Pammie’s SUV and headed to San Bruno which housed a JC Penny and a Sears. I love the smell of department stores. It’s similar to the scent of new car but it smells more like perfumed cardboard. I couldn’t believe that I was nearly 40 and only now just buying some real furniture for myself.  It seemed as if this particular JC Penney’s hired only East Indian employees,  because I didn’t see any other race on the sales staff. I found a couch and club chair combo that was very reasonably priced.  Pamela was annoyed that I didn’t care for the faux leather furniture. I let her know that it was cold where I lived and I wanted furniture I could snuggle in. The type of fabric I showed her was a mottled slate stone color of that brushed microfiber. She pushed her lips in to a moue and circled the couch stroking it with a look of concentration. “It should look good against the pearl grey carpet”  I agreed with her. It was a darker grey and wouldn’t clash with the carpet. Nupura deemed it appropriately “squishy cushy comfy”. We found the salesman( Mr. Mirchandani)  and  made arrangements to have it delivered to San Francisco.  Nupura’s  and my eyes went round when she told Mr. Mirchandani that she was Mrs. Cooley and she would arrange the shipment. It was a mystery to me how she was going to get the day off supervising the delivery of MY couch but whatever. I grabbed the hand that was supposed to be wearing a wedding band and hid it behind my jean jacket. What was she thinking? Telling this man we were married? You would have to be missing a head to not be able to tell I was as queer as a four dollar bill. When we were through with Mr. Mirchandani, I asked her why she said she was my husband. She told me we would get better service. I was too dense to gather her rationale.

The couch and chair were the first of the many transformations in my home. Pammie planned on making a day of it with her OTHER Best Gay- Eli, while they arranged, painted furniture and hung photos. Apparently Eli was very handy around the house.  There was no asking me if this was acceptable or not. It was simply a statement of how this was all going to go the next weekend.  I warned her that “Best Gays” could clash sometimes and that the people who issued Gay cards were strict that we could only have one Hag per Gay.  She was too focused on “designing” that she didn’t hear me.

The couch and club chair arrived the very next day!  Luckily my landlord was there to supervise the delivery. Neither Pammie nor I were required to be there. The delivery guys had to pop out the sliding glass door to fit in the enormous couch.  The heavy drapery was drawn wide open and it was an unusually sunny day so the light shone brightly on my great big couch and club chair. My great big BEIGE couch and club chair that is…Wait. What? Beige?!  That is NOT what I ordered!!! I ordered stone putty gray! This is Beige and it looked …peculiar with the carpet.  I didn’t know the rudiments of interior design, but I could see with my own two eyes that a Beige couch looked very odd with a Pearl Grey carpeting. Pammie’s whole concept –as she explained it to me, were to do muted big pieces with intense red and gold accents. I like Red and I liked Gold, in fact every Christmas I decorated my tree in Red and Gold. Red and Gold are about as far away as you can get from Beige and Gray. I called “Mrs Cooley” immediately and wailed. “ It’s Beige !!!” She gasped “No! – I’ll be right over.”

When she arrived, she stalked around the couch jabbing it angrily. It was quite a different from when we were at the store. “This is NOT the color, we selected! “ She roared. “Mrs. Cooley” got on the phone to call Mr. Mirchandani.  She screamed at Mr. Mirchandani for a solid 15 minutes. If that doesn’t sound like much to you I suggest you try screaming for 15 minutes and see how long you last. She wailed how she we had an important dinner party on Saturday Night and my boss was coming and we NEED the FURNITURE WE ORDERED !!!!! Her tale spinning was so grand that I almost got swept up into it. She made us sound like we had a very grand home with 5 bedrooms and 2 baths and Doric Columns out front for cryin out loud. I looked at her incredulously but she seemed to have gotten lost in her own tale. I wanted to squeeze her plump arm and say Really Pammie? All this for $1000 dollars worth of JC Penny furniture? Really? Then the Cherry on top of the Sundae as she uttered into the receiver. “ Oh Now Look what you’ve done! You’ve made me wake the baby!!  I just stared at her gape mouthed in shock as she gesticulated wildly for me to cry like a baby.  I narrowed my eyes at her and shook my head.” No Way”, I mouthed back. Mr. Mirchandani determined not to lose a sale to someone with a 5 bedroom home begged her to come back to the show room so he could assure her that we got the couch we had ordered. We did just that.

Normally Pammie drove like a little old woman but she was near to breaking the speed limit many times on this short drive. She marched into the store with authority while I decided to play the pussy whipped. beleaguered husband. Don’t judge me.  It seemed like the safest way to go. I trailed meekly behind her inhaling the lovely scent of JC Pennys.  Mr. M showed us the couch we ordered. It was the stone gray putty we had first selected. She assured him with a barely controlled fury through clenched teeth that it was NOT the couch that arrived. Mr. M suggested that get  a swatch of the fabric from the couch we had first selected so he could prove it. She carefully held the swatch up to the couch in the show room shooting the poor salesman baleful looks in between seeing that it matched the couch no matter how you held it. It matched. I shrugged helplessly. He said he’d be right back as he went to check on another sale that my dear wifey poo had interrupted. She gripped the swatch card and followed Mr. M with her eyes. Without looking down at the swatch card she ripped the swatch color choice in question- right off the card! I hissed at her. “What the hell are you doing??? She was hustling out of the store as fast as she could into the parking lot to her SUV. It was all I could do to keep up with her.

As we left the foggy environs of San Bruno to San Fran, I noticed that it was rare that San Francisco had sun and San Bruno didn’t. Pam gripped the wheel  in grim determination to prove Mr. Mirchandani wrong  as she muttered softly to herself how to get him fired. “ Oh don’t do that ! “ I said. She snapped out of it as if she had thought she was alone and just realized she wasn’t.  Then she went back to muttering softly but it was unintelligible. I glanced down at the swatch and noticed something strange was happening. As we drove through darker areas, the swatch looked like the darker gray we had seen in the store but when the sunlight hit the fabric it was …yep Beige – a light tan almost. I didn’t dare tell her. “ Uh …Pammie…you might want to take a look at this.” He eyebrows shot up to the top of her curly hairline as she witnessed the swatch going from beige…to gray and back to beige depending on whether we hit the sunlight or shade.   She swung into the driveway of the house I lived in and catapulted out of the seat trotting up to my door as I chased after her to unlock and let her in. The couch was beige. The swatch was beige.  Pamela became off white as she sank on my bed staring at the couch. An odd tick was developing in her face and she twitched a bit. I couldn’t hear too much but I did manage to hear her whispering to herself softly. “ I can’t be wrong –I’m never wrong” I know she said this because she repeated it  four times. As she stared and twitched I went to pour her a glass of wine. We left Mr. Mirchandani alone and I popped the swatch in the mail to JC Penny’s the next morning. Pammie barely recovered from that experience.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Pamela Chronicles Now...about your hair...I'd like to suggest


Our merry little band of Mortgage Brokers set up house in the damp, gray fog of West Portal in a small office. There were eight desks closely together in two rows of four facing the large store front window. There was a floor upstairs for some of the new agents. People who entered would be greeted by Pamela. My desk was in between Johnny and Christine behind her. The four of us were essentially the "production" team for the West Portal Loan office. Bill and Stan-the business partners and working loan agents- were stationed in the adjacent row along with whatever newbie agents we got fresh from passing their Real Estate Licensing tests. We all gradually sunk into our routine and Pamela embraced her authority of office manager with zeal. She would take the new agents under her wing and advise them. She and Bill would playfully exchange colorful banter with Johnny inserting bizarre, enigmatic one liners having to do with ass licking and semen consumption. Pamela would shriek out an admonishing "Johnny!!!" filled with the same shock and dismay of Jane Hathaway but you could tell she was slightly amused. Christine would just look ever so briefly puzzled as if she didn't quite get Johnny's jokes and then shake her head in disbelief when it became clear what he was talking about.

It didn't happen RIGHT away but I began to fall a little in love with Pamela. This all came about due to my odd compulsion. You see in every job I ever had, there was always a chubby person who I could squeeze and shake whenever I needed to. I realize that's a peculiar statement so let me elaborate. It started as far back as Sixth Grade when I kept squeezing Jay Yahowicz's skull because it was so magnificently bulbous to me. Ever since, I have had a strange compulsion to grab body parts of an individual and squeeze or shake them in some way. The rounder the body part looked, the more I am compelled to squeeze it. Lucky for me I never do this to random strangers. I always befriended them first. Also lucky (or not depending on your view), for them- it was never a sexual organ. For me it wasn't a sexual thing anyway. I noticed I often did it to a co-worker so I suppose it's how I relieved stress. These days Orlando, and infrequently Drew endure this odd behaviour.

With this activity I often limited it to the cranium or the upper arm. I once wrote on a girl's arm in college in indelible blue marker, " I Love your Fat arm" You can imagine how she felt about that -particularly since she wasn't really overweight. She just had fat upper arms and I LOVED to squeeze them. She had a crush on me up until the blue marker incident and she viewed my squeezings and shakings as affection. My new co-worker Pamela had luscious arms and it was hard for me to wait and get to know her better before I could begin squeezing. I found I couldn't help myself and when I arrived to the office. I'd reach down and do a quick stealth squeeze/shake combo and shout a cheery " Good Morning Pammikins!!!" (As much as I disliked her incongruous Sea Scallop hair do, I was tickled to see it vibrate a little with my squeeze/shake combo.) She looked up at me in wonder and asked, " What was that? " I smiled, " Just making sure you are awake and ready for a great day!!!" and then I'd  hustle over to my desk, hoping for better control of myself.

As we got to know the local watering holes and lunch places we got to know each other. Pamela rarely brought a packed lunch. I did bring my lunch but would often join her on Fridays. There were a few nice places in West Portal. She quickly bonded to Stan's new marketing girl. I say "girl" because it always seemed like a woman just out of college. It was a part time position but she did have a desk upstairs. Our marketing person was named Nupura. Pamela and Nupura became close because of their proximity in age. Due to my stunted emotional maturity, I found myself relating quite easily to these 20 something girls. (I was in my late 30s). We all talked about the pitfalls of being single in this day and age and how difficult men could be. Nupura had a handy little trick that amused Pammie and me, where she would unfurl her long dark hair from it's little bun on her head in the middle of a packed bar and immediately you could feel all the eyes of every man blaze in her direction. That would be my cue to head to the Castro so I could make some men blaze in MY direction.

Pammie was generous and often bought us drinks and treated us to lunch. I figured her salary was similar to my own and asked her point blank if she had more money stashed somewhere else. She reluctantly revealed her good fortune to me and Nupura. Pammie was a trust fund baby. She had explained that a close friend of her father's had some significant business success and had set up for her and her brother and sister, -a trust fund. She had an allowance from it, but the whole thing wouldn't be hers until she was 38. I didn't know about Nupura but after decades of trying to scrape a living together I was mystified why someone would CHOOSE to work if they didn't have to. Pammie didn't look me directly in the eye and said out into the air " It's best if I work for my money" I reached over and squeezed her arm and she asked, " Why do you DO that to me all the time? " Nupura took the liberty of explaining it to her in front of me. " It means he likes you Pammie!" We raised a glass to all liking each other very much. I liked her soooo much that I was ready to change her. I had always wanted a daughter! I began "Now about that hair do...." Nupura gulped her drink nervously and I squeezed Pammies arm one more time. Pammie looked alarmed. ( To be continued)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pamela (Meeting Day)

Had to do something to combat the weight gain from Office Treats.

This industry seemed to be peppered with Gays and Lesbians. I found it remarkable that Stan didn't have a homophobic bone in his body considering he was such an Alpha Male Italian Stallion. He was surrounded by Gays at the Mortgage Brokerage.  He gave off some vibe that made me think of my brother Peter for some reason and I never got the "boss" crush that I sometimes got with all my male superiors. I was beginning to grasp the loan process and all it's tedious rules. After putting me through the ringer -Christine was beginning to have faith in the fact that I was a quick learner. Understanding the path of a loan is actually simple if you are naive enough to think the underwriters will just merrily agree to it. They often don't, and that is just the one of the primary examples of how things might go awry. Satisfying those "conditions" that the underwriter had to get the loan to documents at the title company was often left to me. I would call  the client and ask, " The lender wants to know why you didn't work for all of 1998? (the borrower had a baby and took a year off), or the lender wants to know why you forgot a payment this particular credit card. ( oh I dunno- yeah I do, that was the year I was traveling in Taiwan and a go-go boy, who I got drunk with and had sex with me, and stole it. I thought I had paid it all off but I guess I didn't) . Telling the lender the REAL reason payments weren't made wasn't really an option. It wasn't called lying, it was called "getting creative". I would write the Letters of Explanation (LOE) with reasons that were much easier for a tired, overworked, embittered underwriter to forgive.  Most of my information that I gave them was omitting key parts so the following excuse would be that his card was lost in Taiwan while on vacation and upon realizing it, the tried to contact the credit card company immediately. Unfortunately the credit card company's office in Taiwan screwed up the communication and a payment was missed.

Since the refinance business was booming and Stan was a "Top Producer" he naturally progressed to heading his own office. along with his friend Bill. Stan snatched Bill away from a competing Mortgage Brokerage but they had actually known each other for years. Bill was good friends with Stan's wife. What was even better was that the new office was going to be very close to where I lived at the time in the West Portal district of San Francisco.  Bill was a lanky Gay agent whose personality made him more attractive than his actual appearance. He looked very average, but when he smiled or told a story it seemed to increase his sex appeal. Well... it did to me anyway. Bill would take on the responsibility of hiring a new office manager and finding the new loan agents processors to work with.

  Bill took a couple of loan agents from his previous employer , (much to that company's chagrin),  and a peculiar, but lovable loan processor that resembled a marionette, with his overly large head and slim body. His name was Johnny. Johnny and I would become very close in a short amount of time. Johnny was wired just like me: he was in a constant state of Jungle Fever. What made it worse was that we were both attracted to the same types of black men. Our type was masculine well built men with either a bald head or a very closely shaved head. Johnny called them "milk duds" but the term never caught on with me.  I had an advantage over Johnny though. I was single and he was not. Bill had gotten me very excited about meeting him because he told me that Johnny was one of my biggest fans. I was still deeply engrossed in performing theater career at night. As it turned out, Johnny had never even SEEN me perform. He was such a voracious reader that he recalled my name in reviews of plays that he had planned on seeing but never got around to it. He was a loan processing whiz but lacked Christine's focus and clean organization. His real saving grace was that he was brilliant. He could quote anything from Shakespeare to John Waters. When he donned his wire rimmed glasses and explained how to solve a work situation it was very very difficult to believe he was the same man that squealed " Guuuurrrrrl Ya wanna grab a COCKtail and check out some Milk Duds after work? "
The truth is that I would be the one asking if he wanted a cocktail after work. Many a night he was stuck at his desk probably doing work that the loan agent he worked for should be doing.  Christine's cool, quick efficiency rarely kept me after 5:30PM. Johnny didn't have a loan coordinator to work with- AND he was processing many loans for fledgling Loan Agents who were CONTINUALLY freaking out about the loans they were working on. Christine didn't have the patience to mollify an Agent.

Everyone but me had heard of Pamela, our new Office Manager. Pamela's former boss was right out of "The Devil Wears Prada" She was a control queen from hell who had nearly micromanaged Pamela into a state of psychosis with inappropriate baby sitting requests and trying to achieve impossible deadlines. Regardless, she spoke highly of Pamela, and Bill and Stan hired her as a result.
When Christine and I returned from a coffee break and Stan and Bill introduced us I immediately wondered if her qualifications were true. She looked like a white woman, but her hair was styled similarly to what I had seen the middle class Latina high school girls from the Mission District wear. It was heavily coated with some shiny shellac hair product that formed it into stiff wavy ribbons of hair that she folded into a clip so there was an odd bubble bun made with these ribbons of hair near the top of her head. It greatly resembled a Sea Scallop made from shiny twine. I later learned that she felt her hair was hopelessly curly and the hair product lamination was necessary in order for her to get control of it.  She was also extremely overweight with the unfortunate positioning of the fat situated primarily around her hips and derriere. She covered up her swollen looking frame in some smartly tailored black pants, a white blouse and a black cardigan sweater. Unbeknownst to me she had 20 of the very same outfit (or damned close to it) hanging in her closet. Her skin was smooth and vaguely olive complected. Her tiny-bee-stung-Clara Bow -lips were thickly glossed and one heavily mascared eye seemed vaguely smaller than the other heavily mascared eye, particularly when she smiled. She smelled divine and when she extended her hand and said a chirpy, "Pleased to meet you!" all my critical observations of her appearance flew out the door.

Monday, April 30, 2012


I once was a loan coordinator for a top producing loan agent at a successful Mortgage brokerage. I look at that sentence on my resume and it makes me smirk because it seems surreal, but the thing is -it's true. I was so good at my job that I won an award for it. It's not much to look at. It looks as if some company needed to dump a bunch of pewter ashtrays, so they sold them to a trophy company and they put them on a stand on their side facing out and etched in "Loan Coordinator Top Sales for 2005, or 2006. (I don't really remember the year). I believe I was the first Loan Coordinator of that company to ever GET an award. For a year or so I was a simple receptionist who had a terrible crush on one of the CEOs of the Brokerage. He was a terribly sexy muscle bear who could fulfill every Daddy fantasy I ever had. Unfortunately he didn't turn out to be the  Bear Don Draper of my dreams. He did hire me though after we played footsy under the table during my job interview His Lesbian partner, a humorless, shrewd angry looking business woman, saw right through me on day one. (She sensed my gold digging desperation I guess.) She said I was too smart to be a receptionist and I would leave the job after a year.  After her partner hired me,  she arrived at work to see my chubby little frame beaming at her from the the front desk. She glared at me flinteyed and said "So Dick went over my head and hired you I see?" She flung the words at my face like they were acid and stomped off to give Dick hell. As she predicted, a year later I was hired by one of the top selling mortgage brokers "Stan Moretti " after an exhausting interview process by Stan and his loan processor, "Christine". 

 I liked that job. I liked my co-workers. I found that Mortgage Brokers weren't so different from actors and actresses. They were prone to histrionics and most of them had a Diva complex of some sort or another. The industry seemed well suited to my personality.  However, this type of behaviour was frowned upon on  by Team Moretti. Christine was a cool, vaguely stand offish Asian woman who revealed very little of her mischevious playful persona to me during the first year. The closer she got to people the more she opened up to them, and was likely to let her hair down and have a little fun. Once she befriended you she was fiercely loyal to you. She and Stan used to walk by my desk when I was a receptionist and often they didn't say hello. Christine wore designer knits and he was always decked out in some perfectly tailored suit.The two of them looked like a lovely San Francisco couple and it was rumored that they did more than just have lunch. You can imagine my dissappointment when I found out -really-all they did was go to lunch AND talk about loans. When they hired me, I would join them on Fridays and listen to them talk about loans. Stan paid for lunch at least. Stan would go back and forth on a type of loan until Christine assured him that she could make it work. I was basically their "yes" man. When I left the receptionist desk I took delight in the fact that our team was kind of elite. I nearly went bankrupt at Macy's trying to look the part.

Christine taught me MANY important things about how to handle people to get them to give you what you need. I used to say "Christine, why were you so nice to her? I thought you didn't like her." She'd turn and look at me -irritated that I had to ask a question like that and slow her progress on the loan-and sigh with resignation. She said slowly as if I was vaguely retarded, " We have to be nice to people in order for them to do what we want...right? "

Stan was my first male heterosexual boss I had in a long time. I was used to having female bosses. He was labeled a metrosexual because of his good taste and excellent grooming. Both of them were unstoppable in the loan biz. I always felt I added a much needed sense of humor as well as warmth to their robotic fervor of getting loans funded.( to be continued)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Two Families equals extra drama (continued)

As Orlando and I settled on the couch the week before Christmas, Spike and Cordelia were still out of their minds with the kitty-tastic stimulation of Christmas.  I was relieved that their destructive attentions were turned to wrapping paper and bows and the Christmas tree, instead of the couch and our curtains. I had just mixed a drink and handed it to Orlando. We had finished wrapping a pile of gifts and the room was a wrapping paper debacle with our kittens  romping about in absolute glee. I handed him some chips and a fresh batch of guacamole. " Nice job honey.", and the phone rang. He didn't even get to sip his drink. His Mother was on the other line and he put her on speaker phone. " Hi Mami" She was extremely distressed. She was gasping and choking back sobs and not making much sense and immediately we both sprang into alarm mode. She spoke mostly in Spanish so I wasn't getting what was going on. (Yet another reminder to take a Spanish class.)

The gist was that Lando's Mom felt attacked verbally by her little sister in such a cruel way it upset her deeply. The content was unclear but it was an old family wound that upset her so much she wanted Orlando to come up and get her right away. - AND here is where I went in my head for just a second- " Oh my Mother wouldn't do that to me." The drawback to that is that my Mother might endure a very difficult situation and then remind me over and over and over that she handled it herself and I never had to worry about a thing. You see in my family we handle our drama with hurtful silences and in his family...nobody really keeps their feelings to themselves. We will get to my family later...

I looked at the clock. It was 8pm! If he left to pick up his Mother he wouldn't be back until at least 1AM in the morning !- that is if he drove non stop! This was unacceptable to me. I saw in his face that he was resolved to rescue his very distressed Mother. I gestured at him that she try to stick it out until the weekend and we will get her then-OR maybe Dan or Margaret could drive her to the Amtrak station the next morning? "Doesn't she realize you have to work in the morning??"The whole time I looked like I was doing a very badly played game of charades while he was trying to soothe his Mother.  He was doggedly determined and assured her he would be there to pick her up. I knew I couldn't take the phone out of his hand and speak to her myself. My relationship with her wasn't that strong yet. As I listened to her I  thought it was interesting that she did the same gasping hiccuping sob that my own Mother does when she cries. It tugged at me.

The another realization slammed into me  ....omg LOOK AT THE HOUSE! IT'S NOT SUITABLE FOR MY POTENTIAL NEW MOTHER-IN-LAW. Orlando was putting on his pants and I was scooping up the wrapping paper. This was happening. Orlando's Mother was coming to stay with us. I kissed him  as he went out the door and ran around like a chicken with it's head cut off. Then ...I stopped...

Wait a minute. Maybe I could prevent this? Now hold on a minute P.A. This never went well for Lucy when she stuck her nose in Ricky's Night Club business. Yet I realized I had a decent relationship with Margaret. After all,  Margaret had confessed to me first about her new love while on Facebook one afternoon. Margaret and I were also fellow foodies. Unlike her family, Margaret ate a lot of fresh vegetables. This was one of our bonds. Orlando had deciphered through his Mother's sobs that she was alone in the house. Margaret had driven a rageful Irene off somewhere. This meant I could talk to Margaret and reason with Irene and maybe get the sisters to come to some sort of Peace treaty at least until Orlando and I can come up and get his Mother on the weekend. Then I can call Orlando and head him off at the pass and have him turn around and come home.

So I called Margaret. She was sitting in a car outside of a Casino trying to calm and sort things with her Mother. This out-of-control-squabble happened because Irene wanted to gamble and Lando's Mom thought she shouldn't. Margaret tried to explain to me what went down but - she didn't have a chance. Irene took the phone from her. She pressed the phone so tightly to her mouth, I had trouble understanding her words. Irene was sorry - very sorry our evening was disrupted and that Lando had to come up and fetch his Mother but not sorry enough to stop it apparently. She told me of her sister's jealousy of her life and it how critical she was and how she couldn't take it anymore and etc etc etc. I rapidly deduced there was no room for reasoning here. This was some sibling rivalry that I could not unravel. I had trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that Irene was portraying Lando's Mom as provocative given that the lady that I had met wasn't prone to making waves. Irene may have seemed loving and accepting but she was also dramatic. I resigned myself to the fact that I would see Orlando's Mother on our couch the following morning and said a sad good bye to Margaret and Irene and hung up.

Irene was not done. I guess she was still very angry at her sister and was determined to "stir the turd" (thank you Mrs. Sedaris*). She called me back because she was concerned for me. Silly me. I was actually bewildered. I asked why. She explained. Orlando's mother never trusted me. She never understood why her son hasn't asked me to marry him yet. (At the time that was true.) Irene went on to say if Lando's Mother says anything hurtful or cruel to me - which she probably will because she really doesn't like me, be sure not to react to it.  She smashed the phone tighter to her mouth and whispered "Instead, when it's late at night, just mention it to Orlando when you guys are in bed together so she can't hear. In fact , you can tell him all this stuff I just told you now."

I paused for a long time and took it all in. This was in direct opposition to everything I knew to be true. Orlando's Mother had surprised everyone by reacting very positively to meeting me. She hugged me for crying out loud. She even told her own daughter how great I was. As I was hearing what Irene was saying, I was amazed, that I was able to decipher what she was up to. Normally I would've taken the bait and engaged in a tangle of wills with Orlando's Mother and wouldn't have been pretty and Irene's little plan would have worked beautifully and her big sister would be sent back to Puerto Rico in tears or ...or ...My boyfriend would break up with me because I was mean to his Mother. I felt a brief surge of anger as I realized this. ...and I was hurt. I THOUGHT Irene liked me. Was she so pissed at her big sister she was going to throw me under the bus and break her nephew's heart too? whoa.... These Puerto Rican sisters fight dirty.  I collected myself.

I spoke with a light tone" Okay Irene. Thanks for the warning. I'll take that under consideration. We will see you at Christmas. Take care now. Bye bye" I was still mind blown but I was working hard to brush it all off. Orlando and his Mother came through the door around 1:15. She looked completely embarrassed that any of this had to occur. I welcomed her and asked if she wanted some tea. She politely declined and she went to bed. I did wind up telling Lando quietly in bed -so his mother didn't hear. It wasn't the way Irene probably expected me to do it. He asked if I was ok. I said I was surprised that she would go that far. Orlando shrugged and explained that they fight like that sometimes and rolled over and went to sleep. Eventually,  after a slightly uncomfortable visit with a couple a fun moments, she caught a flight back to Puerto Rico. She didn't spend Christmas with us. Margaret texted us at the LAST possible minute to say that the family wasn't coming for Christmas either. It wound up just being my brother and his fiance and our friends. I guess it was just as well because Orlando and I would not have survived that crowd 15 in our one bedroom apartment. Dinner should have been easy but I still ruined the roast.

*David Sedaris quoted his Mom in "The Christmas Whore"

Two Families equals extra fun and drama

Orlando's Titi from Oroville called him the other night. She has been wanting to buy us some new kitchen gadget to celebrate our engagement. We don't need another kitchen gadget ,although I lust after plenty of fun things as I peruse the aisles of Sur le Table. I pointed out to him we do need some sauce pans - 2 and 3 quart cooking pots. I have a decent one from my old  Revereware set but the two he uses are beginning to lose a non-stick coating and I don't want that to wind up in our food. I won't cook with them. Once he got over being offended about that ,he admitted to his Aunt that they were the greater need at present.

He was on the phone with her and they were looking on line at possible ideas for long lasting quality cooking pots. " Circulon!! " I called out as I got up and headed to the bedroom to put away some laundry and reflect a bit  on his Aunt. She was Orlando's favorite Aunt and consequently became one of my favorite people. In 1989, when Orlando traveled to the West Coast he chose to go further North instead to the Mecca of San Francisco like I did. It was this particular Aunt that took him in to her family. He had recently come out of the closet and it had done a real number on his Mother, but his Aunt welcomed him with loving arms. Aunt Irene, (as we will call her for the purpose of of this story), was very much a child of the 60s and despite a strong conservative Puerto Rican up bringing she was very open and loving. She fell in love with "Dan"who came from an wealthy, but emotionally unavailable family. Dan couldn't help but be drawn to Irene's boistrous, loving nature and together they raised three interesting, engaging, lovely women.  Orlando is close to his cousins.

The phone call currently taking place in the living room was the first we had heard from Irene since Christmas. Early in November of last year, Irene was having health complications and the youngest daughter was greatly unsatisfied with how her father and her middle sister were handling her Mother's care. Irene had back surgery and had contracted a MRSA infection. She also had diabetes which made all of this a deadly situation. "Sara" the youngest daughter did not think that her Dad could handle her Mother's care. According to Sara, he couldn't handle the sight of blood and would "take off" when it came to making hard core health decisions. In addition, there was "Margaret" Sara's enigmatic thirty-something, middle sister who lived at home with Dan and Irene, since dropping out of college. Margaret at the moment had A) fallen head over heels in love for the first time in her life and B) was on the brink of moving out on her own. Normally Margaret could be relied on to care for her Mother but years and years of being the family cook and maid had taken their toll and well...Margaret had had enough and was ready to take flight. It appeared that Margaret was finally finding herself. Its just that her timing sucked. Sara was beside herself. She lived in Oregon and was a research lab physician of sorts. She was taking a lot of time off to attend to this situation at home. She called Orlando at her wits end not knowing what to do which caused him to pay a visit to Oroville for  one Saturday. Oakland to Oroville is about three hours by car. Then we went up the next two weekends together. The final result was a discussion bringing Orlando's Mom from Puerto Rico, who was retired, to stay and help with Irene's care. Lando's Mother used to care quite a bit for her baby sister when she was very young would be like old times. It seemed like a natural solution!

That went well for about a week . Christmas was rapidly approaching. Sara taught Orlando's Mom everything to do for her mother so she could head back to Oregon knowing she would be in good hands. Orlando and I went up for one more visit so he could see his Mom. The household seemed a little tense to me and Dan's reticence for caring for his wife was non-existent as far as I could see. He even gave her an insulin injection in front of me. Orlando's Mom seemed bored and uncomfortable but Orlando told me that is just the expression on her face naturally. We headed back to Oakland and I was gearing up for a HUGE Christmas dinner involving all these people and my brother and his fiance and our friends, except his family would never come.

(To be Continued)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Spike and Cordelia

Steve McKenna and his wife Teri are about the folksiest laid back recovering flower children Orlando and I had ever met. Whatever they did to conform to the constraints of the twenty first century, it had netted them a nice house in the Toni Rockridge district of Oakland. It had a lovely porch that welcomed us in from the wet leaf-strewn streets.There was a sign saying to watch for the kittens when opening the door. Clearly we were at the right place.

The kids in action 
Steve seems like the local history professor with a very gentle demeanor. He wasn't a professor though, I think he had a tech job in Hayward. Teri comes off like a cross between a bawdy saloon owner and your standard Berkeley Earth mother.  They seemed like very happy people ,which I felt boded well for this potential adoption. The house had the same "come in relax and hang out"  feel as an apartment I had once lived in on Guerrero Street in San Francisco in the early 90s. ( That apartment was also run by an "earth  matriarch".) On the floor were two little kittens around a month and a half old -perhaps 2. One was a cream colored short hair with deep blue eyes. Teri explained to me that she had named him, Blue-temporarily of course -she interjected, until we came up with a name for him. The little Calico with the long hair was named Cordelia. Steven explained that Teri supplies the names usually. We made some small talk as the kittens darted all around us. We talked a lot about our mutual connection, my friend Helen, who had set this little meeting up. They brought out pictures showing them together back in the 60s. To me, Helen didn't look all that different then she did back then, but Teri and Steve had changed considerably. Teri's body had become more zaftig in her mother persona and Steve's full locks of hair were now a receding cap on his head.                                     
Orlando set about trying to acquaint himself with Cordelia and Blue while I was chatting with Steve. He looked concerned as they raced up a curtain and then started to sharpen their claws on the living room couch. I glanced over and read his mind accessing the damage control we had ahead of us.To be blunt- Steve and Teri didn't exactly have a house of designer furniture. There was a very paisley fabric-draped Bohemian feel to the whole place. I picked up Cordelia. She was tiny and soft-as one likes in kittens. She had one eye outlined in with a small layer of black skin and the other was not.  It made one eye look larger than the other. It gave her a very Clockwork Orange vibe.  The smaller eye began to weep a little and you saw evidence of dried eye gunk near the corner.  Teri said she wiped it every so often, but the Vet said her eyes were otherwise fine. Cordelia wanted to pop down and play on the floor with her brother and really wasn't all that interested in getting to know me. Teri seemed puzzled and a little distressed as she explained that they normally are very affectionate and attentive to people. I took in to account that "people" meant them , as opposed to strangers with different smells and attitudes.                                     
We watched them play a bit more and chatted.  I had never seen two kittens that had come from the same litter but appeared to be different breeds. To add to the puzzle -these two also had a sister (recently adopted) who was a short hair butterscotch tabby.  The feral Mom must have had a very interesting night when she was in heat. She gave birth to a cat that looked  cream colored Siamese, (Blue's pretty blues were vaguely cross-eyed), a long haired calico tabby and the yellow short hair tabby.

Teri and Steve loved these kittens. They spent a lot of time with them. They said they had a daughter somewhere who cared for them as well. She may have been out just being a teenager that night. I suspect watching the babies she raised  get new parents would be too much of an ordeal.
 Orlando looked at me with that expectant look..almost challenging. His eyes said, " Do you like them?"  I looked down at them one more time and nodded that I did. "Blue" ran over to the open litter box in the next room and laid the most odoriferous bowel movement and both of our eyes began to water. Uh oh. How could such a tiny kitty make such a terrible smelling shit?

Steve and Teri were trying to close the deal before the over-scent sensitive Gay men changed their minds. Orlando thought it was funny, but the expression on my face trying to ignore the befouled air-as well as taking in the shock that he had done this in the neighboring room and not under us was all too readable. Orlando pointed out how good it was that they knew how to use the litter box. Teri and Steve enthusiastically and simultaneously said, " oh yes yes - both of them use their litter box without fail!"  Teri's gravel toned voice quickly threw in the cat tree which Cordelia had just raced up and was eyeing me speculatively from. I looked at Orlando and he asked, "Really? We can have the Cat tree?" We had been looking at them in Costco and the more interesting ones ran 70 to 80 dollars. It's beige carpet would blend in with my carefully thought out -and soon to be ruined- Bed Bath and Beyond/Target/JC Penny Decor. I looked over at little Cordelia and she arched her back to stretch and chirruped a "hello" at me. I said yes immediately.
They had a few cats already that they were caring for.  Blue and Cordelia were going to be too much of a financial burden. They were true lovers of cats, but at the same time, I had this sense, that Teri and Steve did not want to turn into the local crazy neighborhood cat hoarders. Giving away these two kittens would assist them in that goal. They went all out for these animals. They even had the kittens spayed and neutered! Having a pet can be expensive and they apparently had put a lot of money into their local veterinarian with their current felines. Their generosity was beyond anything I had encountered. They lent us their cat carrier thankfully,  because we only had a cardboard box. Steve kind of urged us to hurry before he displayed some unseemly unmasculine emotional attachment. He had a beer on the table waiting for him to ease his pain a bit. He had papers to prove that they were fixed but he couldn't dig them up at the moment. We offered them some money, but they politely declined. It was more important to them knowing that the babies were going to a good home. We agreed to get their vet papers when we returned the cat carrier. Many fond farewells took place and I said I would give progress reports.

Before we knew it we were racing back on 580 to our apartment. The kittens were in the carrier on my lap huddled against each other for safety and breathing rapidly. I figured they were reverting to the "sit still and don't make a noise" until Mom killed or scared away the predator. They appeared frightened but weren't peeing or yowling uncontrollably. This was a good thing. I talked to them in this silly baby high pitched voice unbecoming for a 47 year old man. It seemed to relax them.

We followed a friend's advice and  set up camp for them in the bathroom until they had adjusted to the change in residence a little bit better. I saw a tiny black speck move around on Blue's cream colored fur and he reached around to scratch it. " Good thing we bought the flea shampoo. They are going to need it." I mulled it over and told Orlando that "Blue" was not an easy name for me to call out  and it didn't sit right in my head. Whereas Cordelia seemed appropriately named. I would call her Cordy for short. Her Clockwork Orange eye gave her a sense of mischief or wickedness. It was a nice companion to her brother's goofy blue crossed eye. I asked Orlando, " Didn't the character Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer have a mate named Cordelia? "
" Nope that was Drusilla. Cordelia was Angel's partner on the Angel series."
"Don't you think his fur is the same color as James Marsden's hair from that series? Not the natural color he wears on that British show but Buffy"
" Kinda- yeah - sure..."
"I am going to call him Spike."
Spike's name sake 


Orlando looked surprised. " You're going to name a cat Spike? But he's not evil or wicked- like Spike. At least Cordelia does seem like a fearless spoiled sorority girl."
" I like the whole juxtaposition of his sweet goofy persona and having the name Spike, I think he's a lot like the Spike that had a crush on Buffy. Remember how goofy he got over her?" 
" Okay then, Spike and Cordelia it is."