Thursday, April 28, 2005

Dear Dad,

I know things are difficult for you right now, and I don't want to add to your difficulties by hurting you in any way, but I have to be honest with you. I have a hard time coming home to visit you and Mom, and most of the stress comes from your drinking...

Dear Dad,

Cripps, Smacks and I had a talk Friday night. It was a tearful one, so don't think I say these things to you with any kind of detachment. You need to know that you're hurting us, and infantilizing yourself. We are wrung out from parental worry over you. It's not fair to us, and it is criminal where mom is concerned. You have the power and the responsibility to find help...

Dear Dad,

I talked to M about my birthday weekend. It looks like she'll need me to work, so we may have to reschedule your trip to Boston. I'm so sorry I won't be able to celebrate with you! I'm sure we'll talk soon.

Your loving daughter...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

heart heart heart

I wrote that other post in hopes that I wouldn't write this one. But here I am.

It's Heart Day, the anniversay of Shane's last heart transplant, so of course, I have Shane on the brain again.

Heart Day was hard when Shane was alive, too, because it forced us to think of Shane on the operating table, his ribcage cracked open for the second time, suspended in a short death before the surgeons put him back together again. It forced me to think of his mom and dad in some waiting room, thinking of everything that could happen, everything they'd survived, trying to be ready for whatever happened next.

You're never ready, that's the thing.

I have signed the back of my license to show that I want my organs donated. So did the black girl whose heart lived in Shane's body for two years. I think of how she signed it and wondered for a moment if it would ever come to pass... that she would be young and healthy enough for her organs to be of use to someone when she died. Maybe she thought she'd die suddenly, if she died young, in a car accident. That's what I always think of, since we sign our driver's licenses in NY State to show willingness to donate.

She didn't die in a car crash. She was stabbed to death, fourteen times through the chest by an enraged boyfriend. Her heart, though... it was immaculate, unscathed, a jewel lifted from one ribcage to be set within another.

I had this weird daydream today that Shane was here with me, walking toward me, wearing his cargo shorts and one of his hawaiian shirts. In the dream, his big eyes watched me with a kind of serenity, and he wasn't smiling at all. I tried to move closer to him, and suddenly felt that if I could just unbutton his shirt, press my lips on his chest, something would slip from my soul to his heart. It would beat stronger. It would keep beating. Never stopped.

At the risk of sounding like a cliche action movie...

If I'm not out in five days, call in the National Guard.

I know it's not entirely rational of me to think my parents will abduct me while I'm home, but it's also not entirely irrational. I can't explain all the reasons right now, but it should suffice to say that my parents have a rough idea of how crazy I am and think I'd be less crazy if they took care of me. HA. That's a good one. I don't know if they'd go so far as to lure me into the house and then barricade the door, slash their own tires, cut the phone wires...

I usually take comfort in the fact that they're crazier than I am. Until I have to spend time with them.

Cover me! I'm goin' in!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Of poop and popes

I haven't been writing like I used to, but I'm feeling a bit scattered. It's homecomingitis, I think, but nonetheless, I should try to write.

So, I shall tell you my opinions on several things.

On Heart Day*: Despite an invitation to go to St. Bona's (from Shane's girlfriend of three minutes), I don't feel like I'll be missing anything if I can somehow wrangle up a flaming cabbage this weekend.

On the Conclave: The cardinals should elect Michael Jackson. I'm pretty tired of child molestation jokes about both MJ and the Catholic church, and I think that both would come to a swift end if the Prince of Pop became the Prince of Pope.

On our longtime neighbor from El Victoir, Mrs. G, ramming her car into Tina's basement and surviving to tell the tale and seek therapy: Holy cow. I didn't know things like that could happen in real life.

On my brother Dan assuring me that he will be around all weekend while I'm home: HA! I'm not falling for THAT one...

On the Pea's uncanny ability to sense that we're three minutes away from leaving the house and carefully choosing that moment to blow three days of Gerber Peas out her butt: Wha? But how?

On the scary coincidence of my brother Dan and the Big U mentioning the same postcard to me: Not cool at all. NOT cool. The card, according to both boys, has a weird psychedelic purple design on one side. The card reads, "This is a very freaky card." The reverse says, "The kind you don't send home to mother." They're both right. I would love that card. ::Shudder:: It creeps me out when they prove they've been paying attention. And it's not like I can tell either of them that the other thought of it, too. Oh, I am all in a tizzy.

On the prospect of spending a weekend in July with dear Sus and dear jLiz: How did I ever get so lucky? And how will I ever get the money together...

* Heart Day is the anniversary of Shane's last heart transplant. On this day we imbibe, frolic, and let the old cabbage flame in honor of Shane Tamika himself. And we do not wear sunscreen. And we play softball. Poorly. And we dance in such a manner as could harm others and ourselves, preferably on a coffee table. And we celebrate the fact that we are alive, goddammit, simultaneously testing fate on that very matter.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A lecture on potential energy

Wow. I forgot that I could be fun.

I got my hair cut yesterday. Very very cut. Above the shoulder, front pieces about reaching my jaw. And I didn't cry! I was shaking a little when I first sat down in the stylist's throne, but then I got over it and everything proceeded beautifully. And now I have short hair. No really, I do! It's amazing.

And now you can't know that I'm a hair-pulling freak because you can't really tell where the short spots are. It's amazing.

Even more amazing, the haircut seemed to unleash something in me. Remember my weird Victorian symbolism thing? I think it worked in my favor. Last night Chester and I somehow ended up at a party and I felt like my ecstatically social self. Maybe it's the weather, too... I don't know. But somehow, I felt very free to do and say whatever the hell I wanted. I didn't, though. I mean, my filters were still operational. That's a very good thing. But I mean to say that I felt like I had more freedom and more control. And nary a hair was pulled.

We'll just see what the baby thinks of it. I have a feeling she'll have quite the field day. And I'll have to train myself not to scream expletives when she pulls out whole patches... (It's different when someone else does it. No really.)

Thursday, April 14, 2005

To arms!

I've tried to resist the ceaseless gnaw of temptation, but alas, I am giving in.


How did I think that I would stop feeling this way if I didn't say it aloud? It's just become an obsession and a terrible method of measuring my self-worth, and PUNISHING myself when I fail. Why should I not say it? Why, for that matter, should I not feel it? My family has given me very little proof that they can behave civilly toward me, even given my direct requests for adult behavior. They start out okay, but it all falls to pieces within mere minutes.

So why SHOULDN'T I have panic attacks about this? Should I really pretend things are gonna be just dandy? Or should I prepare for battle?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Not sure what to say but I have to stick to my own rules about writing in this thing. I could tell you about my weekend after the gig but that does not appeal.

I've had two short days with the Pea, which I should think of as a little break after three weeks of working longer weeks and fuller days. It turns out I've lost (if I ever had) my skill for filling my time with useful activity.

"I went out walking.
I don't do too much talking these days..."

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Yes, it could have been worse.

Wanna know how the gig went? I'll TELL you have the gig went...

Arnie's driving should not have surprised me. It is exactly the product of his personality - stammering, muttering, hesitating, sudden bursts of puerile anger. It's a fucking nightmare to be his passenger, and I believe even the non-nervous passengers of the world would kiss the good solid earth upon exiting his vehicle.

We leave Arnie's house at 5:45. Mighty early. It should take us an hour and a half to get to Dover and we'd like some time to warm up a little and eat dinner once we get there.

We're still in Belmont when Arnie checks in at a gas station for directions. HEAR ME? STILL IN BELMONT! He doesn't trust the Yahoo! driving directions to Dover NH so he asks gas station attendants in Belmont Massachusetts for their sage advice. To their credit, they direct Arnie to a map.

"Ohh... it's clear now. Thanks a bunch, guys."

It's very, very clear. 95 North the whole way, then a simple exit, a single turn, Wha-La!

Then how, oh HOW do we end up on 128? And how do we end up lost in Gloucester, then Essex, then Ipswich (with JoBiv saying, "Um, Arnie? Why did you leave 95?" and Arnie muttering something about how he didn't know he left it.)

So we backtrack. And we backtrack s'more. And by the time we finally find 95 again, my jaw is so tight I think I will never be able to open my mouth again in my life, much less let a flutter of song escape and swoop out over a most-likely apathetic crowd.

But we arrive with ten minutes to spare before our 9pm call. That's right, it took us three hours to get there. I run into the restaurant to find our contact, John P-somethin, and assure him that we're not punking on him. The place is beautiful - this huge space with a tall bar, everything painted up pretty, a multi-tiered water fountain, artistic lighting, $25 entrees... nice. And an 8'x3' carpeted platform tucked into the main entrance. Oh, the stage! Of course.

I flag Arnie down and direct him to the parking lot, lug out amps, stands, and music, try to smush everything onto that stage with standing room for us, ask for water, quickly apply lip gloss, catch my breath...

Arnie's busy poking wires into things and flipping switches. He's flustered, and I'm trying to look gracious and relaxed, accepting two waters from John himself, making smalltalk about getting lost. Arnie wants to switch our amps. Okay then. We switch them. Sound checks... more sound checks... The people in this restaurant don't seem to notice our presence and thus there is no real pressure to begin. I should be sitting with hot tea, relaxing, thinking out songs a bit. Instead I'm hiding the ugliness of cords and backpacks in the planters behind us and reassuring Arnie.

At last, we begin. I sound okay, Arnie sounds flustered still. He can't keep the tempo. I'm trying to steam on, hoping to be his rhythm section somehow. He get it, settles, we keep going. The diners are loud in their conversations and I don't fight them. We're here for background music, we're not the spectacle. At the same time, would it hurt to get their attention? John claps when we finish a song, startling his patrons into meagre, embarrassed applause. A few beging to watch us for a few bars at a time before drifting back to their food and friends.

At some point someone from the waitstaff drags a high table to the side of the stage and places a large glass vase on it. John P. leaves his bar and magnanimously dumps a sheaf of ones into it. Ah, this is how we get paid. Dance, monkey! Dance! Am I supposed to draw attention to this embarrassingly empty jar? To the fact that we won't make enough tonight to cover the gas money it took us to get here? To the fact that I'm wearing $175 superficial confidence shoes but haven't eaten a fresh fruit or vegetable for a few weeks? How can I say anything tactfully? How is it not begging? How is my singing, the part of this I'm supposed to love, any different from busking in a T station? Between songs I try to come up with some cute, quick words to ask for money. I can't think of a damn thing.

Toward the end of a ten song set I'm mangling lyrics and Arnie's losing his rhythm. John delivers two plates of food (ordered during Arnie's previous flustered wire-poking moments), which are luke-warm by the time we turn off our amps and exit the stage. The food sits on a high table and there are no high chairs near it. The table nearly blocks the entrance with us standing near it. Finally a server notices us and has us follow her to a part of the restaurant we couldn't see from the stage, separated by a 5' tall wall. We eat ($25 pheasant for me, salad for Arnie) and discuss the acoustics of the place, whether the audience cares, how we get them to give us money...

Suddenly people from the next table are leering at us. A woman in a cashmere hoodie and a man with a big-eyed, endearing face smile at us excitedly.

"Excuse me... was that YOU?" I can barely hear the woman, but she repeats this a few times.
"Singing? Yes. And Arnie on guitar." (He opts out of the conversation. Just as well.)
"Oh wow, we thought it was a CD!" she says.
"I guess you can't see us behind this wall..."
"Wow, really, we thought it was like a CD or something. It was you?"
"Yep. It was us."
"So are you doing another set," says the man. He's smiling hugely and staring at me like I've got a wild tattoo on my face and he can't believe my balls.
"Yes, just taking a break for dinner."
"Oh, great! Okay, we won't keep you from your dinner," says the woman.
"Wow, it was really you?" says the man.
"Yes... yes it was..."

We slug back more water, wipe our mouths, retake the stage. I decide that I cannot be shy with the mic because Arnie certainly isn't going to step up.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I forgot to introduce myself to you earlier." People are looking at me. Make it good! "I am Johanna and this is Arnie, and we drove all the way from Boston to entertain you tonight in this beautiful restaurant." Smiles, how charming she is! "I hope you're enjoying the music, and if you'd like to show us your appreciation..." We've lost eye contact! Houston, we've lost eye contact! "... Feel free to slip something into that fine vase right over there. Thanks so much..."

Ugh. How do the monkeys do it?

The second set swims along just fine, and I even get a little adventurous with a few songs. I relax a bit and try to flirt with the audience a bit. Is that old man looking at me? Of course he is. He's the oldest and most foreign-looking guy in the place. Natch. That kid in the Sox jersey keeps looking my way, too, but I think it's mostly because he's drinkin' alone. Pure boredom. Some guys in the front of the U-shaped bar watch Arnie intently, and I imagine them in their wife-sanctioned dens making tentative love to a $100 Ibanez with assorted U2 songs printed from the internet in tablature. "Yeah, I play a little... LOVE watchin' this guy..."

JoBiv! You're supposed to be singing! Focus!

But then I start breaking the room into sections of the playground: Plays well with others, needs to work on resolving conflicts with playmates, very social but could talk less during class... The near-30 jocks over here, please, bellies to the bar. The middle-aged troupe who have to get home to relieve the babysitters over there. Yes, that's good. Over 60 couple at the corner, sipping cocktails and spendng their retirement on PHEASANT for goddsake... that's just fine. Restaurant staff mob, take that corner, where people aren't sure if you're working and therefore can't ask you for anything, and the management can't hear your backbiting. Everyone having a nice night? Greeeat.

Back to singing. Yes, I am singing. This is lovely. Whatever shall I do with "It Might As Well Be Spring?" We decide on Bossa Nova. Fun for us, Sominex for them. Hmm... "Fine and Mellow," with an extra serving of sex? Whoa! Applause! "Dream a Little Dream," then, up tempo, make eye contact... they love it! Or maybe it's just because it's the closer...

By the end of the set I'm exhausted from working this audience, as little as I am, and we have $30 total in the jar. Someone put in a $10, we suspect it was John. $15 each and a free meal? Fuck that, I'm gettin' a drink.

This is the Very Awkward Part. John congratulates me on a job well done, I ask for the drink, pleading a little to sound human and tired and perhaps deserving of more than $15 for my efforts. The patrons on either side say little appreciative things and turn away. A woman from the middle-aged group approaches with glowing praise, apologizes for the crowd's behavior (definitely a mom), and says she hopes we come back next week.

We! Where's Arnie?

Who cares. Yummy whiskey sour...

A guy on my left gives slightly more enthusiastic feedback than most. "Man, I LOVE jazz." Hmm. And I love being called "man" while wearing my superficial confidence shoes. He tells me he's a cook (I was right about the We Work Here corner) and I compliment his pheasant. He's cute... but distracted. Off he goes. Sigh.

Oh, THERE's Arnie, lugging the 80 pound amp by his own little self. I get up to help, and soon we're on our way.

This should be the simple part. 95 South the whole way. How could that go amiss? It's late, we're tired, we want to be home, no pressure of being late for anything. Arnie tells me he has a hard time discerning the curve in the road when it's dark, I pop an Ativan, he turns on the radio, and I doze off...

I wake to a strange texture beneath the car... sand?

Yes, sand. The shoulder. We're pulling over. I glance behind me, expecting flashing lights. Then I notice the smell.

"Arnie, what's happening?"

"Oh... umm... there's some trouble with this engine, I think." THIS engine? No kidding. As though the acrid smoke isn't now burning us out of the car.

Neither of us have cell phones. Shit.

I walk around to the road, practically standing in the right lane, wave my arms frantically, thinking, "If no one stops, at least they might call the Police if they see we need help." After ten minutes of this I'm not so sure and I'm very very cold. Back in the car. Arnie pops the hood and tries to look like he's capable of doing something there. The propping thinger is missing so he looks for a stick on the side of the road. No luck. He looks in the trunk, finds a yellow broom, tries to prop under the hood, but alas, it slips off of the bumper. I could help him, but I'm still sleepy and just getting warmth back, and I don't think that any under-the-hood poking he could do would help our situation.

He joins me in the car, huffs and mutters, and after about twenty minutes of zero progress, I decide to change into my sneakers should I need to climb the chain-link fence that separates the road from the houses beyond it, or should we decide to walk to the next exit. Arnie informs me that he isn't willing to "leave the equipment." I have a brief vision of Arnie carrying his guitar and amps on his back with mics and cords dragging in the dust behind him.

We both get out of the car and go back to jumping and flailing. There is much more traffic (at 1am? Why?) and soon a truck stops. As it reverses toward us I feel my momentary "this person might KILL us" panic dissipate when I see the Home Depot logo printed on its side. Phew. He lends us a phone. Arnie calls AAA. We will be just fine.

A tow and an hour later, we're in Saugus, where our very nice tow-truck driver doesn't charge Arnie and offers to check his oil. It's nearly gone. Duh, Arnie. He buys oil, they pull out the funnel. All will be fine. We use the bathroom and I buy a Reese's cup from the gray-haired man in the small station, who has one lens of his glasses completely taped over and blacked out, but looks at us over the top of them with two perfectly good eyes, it seems. Arnie tells him we're musicians, that I sing jazz. He smiles in a grandfatherly way and says, "Ooh, jazz. That must be nice." I want to stay with him in his little shop and cry in his arms. I have this sudden strong need to stay there. I feel like a kidnapped child, my eyes darting around for some way to leave a message for this man.

But then we're saying goodnight. And we're getting in the car. And we're gone. Down Route 1, past all the garish neon, the Christmas Tree Shop clipper, the office parks, the malls... Over the Tobin bridge, down Storrow, Kenmore Square, Beacon...

"Bye Arnie. Thanks for the ride." Slam.

Friday, April 08, 2005

They're baaack...

The panic attacks are back.

I shouldn't say it like that. I shouldn't allow them to set up camp. I had two yesterday, that's all. Maybe those are the only two I'll ever have for the rest of my life.

But as is the nature of panic, I can only think that my entire life is unraveling and there are only more and more attacks in my future and they will all occur in the most public and humiliating circumstances and I'll probably get fired from nannying and never see Pea again and I won't be able to leave my apartment for weeks and DEFINITELY won't make phone calls and all the whole world will drift away from my grasp forever and ever and I'll never get it back.

I need help. I need some fucking help and fucking MassHealth isn't fucking helping me.

Today I will believe that I will somehow magically get to Dover NH unharmed, will perform well there, some healing will magically take place, and my throat won't close up on me entirely. I will breathe, and therefore live.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Song a sing

Song song song si-ing sing sing si-ing so-ong...

I have this lovely tubful of anxiety squeezed into the comparatively small space of my stomach at the moment, and all of it is the result of singing. Or the anticipation?

Last night we had another troubling choir rehearsal, in which we spent a lot of time learning notes to a song we sorta know and NO TIME AT ALL on several songs Meera* and I have not sung evor. Not cool.

Our concert is on Sunday. Yes, this Sunday.

And I never got around to telling you about my debut performance with Arnie, which prompted the shoe-buying extravaganza. (That may seem like an overstatement since I only bought one pair of shoes, but the price was, indeed, extravagant.) We're singing tomorrow at some restaurant in Dover, NH, which Katya informs me is on the coast. I didn't know NH had a coast. Now I know. I don't think I've ever been to New Hampshire, actually, but this seems like a good enough reason to wander thataway.

I'm trying not to be nervous about the gig because a) we're not getting paid, per se (free meal and split the door 50/50) and b) I can't imagine that a restaurant with a cover can really pack 'em to the roof. I could be wrong. Perhaps they have a great Friday Night Fish Fry Following. Er... following.

I am not succeeding at not being nervous because a) Arnie and I haven't jammed in two weeks and b) I can't convince myself that I'm looking forward to a drive in the country with a 51 yr old neurotic.

So I bought myself earrings and shoes. That'll ease my mind. I'll be juuust fine for the gig and the concert. Yeah... that's the ticket.

AS I am typing-- Baby Pea is sleepy-peepin', ergo we are not at the Brookline Public Library's Infant/Toddler Rock-Out. Too bad. Pea and I do a mean rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus." There'd be no stopping the mosh pit.

*Speaking of Meera - WHOOOOOOP!!! She's getting married! To Ross! And Ross is getting married to her! At the same time! WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP!! Okay, think it's outta my system.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

JoBiv the Economist

Yesterday, I bought this shoe:


Actually, I bought two of them; one for the right foot, one for the left. I spent $175.00 on them. Then I walked from the Fluevog store on Newbury St. all the way to the St. Mary's stop. I saved $1.25.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Singity sing

I wanted to tell you people about singing, because I'm suddenly singing a LOT. Between choir, Arnie, and the Lil Pea, I'm a constant spout of song (of varying quality).

Last week we had a choir rehearsal in which we went over some songs from the choir's repertoire that we may use in an upcoming concert - this Sunday! Problem is, these songs are in the choir's repertoire, not necessarily mine or Meera's. Or so I thought. Then they handed around the Les Miserable medley that I've sung a total of six times in my short lifetime. SIX. I'm trying not to puke from boredom whenever we work on it.

We're also doing an African song that takes two seconds to learn, plus I sang it in college. There are a few gospel things - easy for me to pick up - and then there's this piece we haven't even looked at - Hine Ma Tov? Something like that. Something in Hebrew, which means Meera has an edge and I'm feeling a little panicky.

Then on Thursay, Lil Pea and I ventured out to the Coolidge Corner branch of the Brookline Public Library for an infant/toddler sing-a-long. I was nervous, thinking I'd have to introduce myself to fifteen mothers and nannies, sputtering and hesitant as I've been lately. I pictured a small circle of women lounging on the floor with their babies, some leader-type starting songs and displaying hand movements.

We got to the library early (because I'm finally getting good at getting out the damn door), and as I entered there were already several strollers queued up in the lobby. There was no ramp to the lower level unless we went back outside, so I bumped Pea down the stairs with her Super SUV of Strollers. And that's when I heard the wave of sound coming from the room below.

A WAVE, I tell you... I unbuckled the baby, grabbed some toys for her to chew on, and left the stroller parked with eleven others. And then we walked into this massive room, half full with women and babies, as expected.

But because the room was MASSIVE, half full means thirty moms with at least thirty babies.

And they kept coming.

Pea and I found a seat amongst rows and rows of chairs, many other women were on the floor with cushions brought out for sing-a-longs, others were chasing toddlers up and down the shallow stairs, arbitrating baby-to-baby relations, feeding, burping, changing... It was pandemonium, and Pea had her Pook Face on. (The Pook Face includes wide open eyes, wrinkled brow, and slack mouth - Amazement! Wonder! Pooky pooky face!)

By the time the songstress showed up with her guitar, there were more than sixty kids there, all howling and giggling and gurgling. Pea was delighted and confused. And then the music began. The dark cloud of chaos lifted, and there was Order. Every mother, nanny, grandma and auntie opened her mouth and sang in key, dutifully displaying hand movements and helping their kiddles. The kids were overjoyed... sent into an ecstasy of love for their caretakers and the guitarist, fairly swooning with the power of the fun at hand. Lil Pea flapped her arms, stood up straight and quacked with glee.

This is crack for babies.

Oops! She's up! More later...