She's a Real Mother

Mutha's got eyes in the back of her head.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood: Chamber Maid

Ever talk to a chamber maid? To hotel guests they are supposed to be cat-like: if seen then certainly not heard. I know a chamber maid, Marie, who actually speaks and when I asked her my standard questions, this is what she said:

What is the best part about being a chamber maid?
Like many folks with unenviable jobs, this took Marie a minute to answer, but then it finally did come to her: you can go home early in the afternoon. She explained this was because morning shift chamber maids have to have their rooms finished in time for afternoon check-ins. She explained that this allowed her to have a life away from her job, which is clearly where most of her actual interest lies.

What is the worst part?
Marie reports that people are pigs. She can tell story after story about what slobs folks can be, especially when they are on vacation. These include not only gross cleaning stories, but weird ones, like when she was cleaning at a seaside hotel and someone left a sandcastle in the bathtub.

What would most folks not know about your job?
The news is this people: you are supposed to tip the chamber maids. Apparently this a pleasantry most guests either do not know about, forget, or simply choose to deny after taking a look at the bill. But Marie points out an interesting gender piece here. Apparently it is an open bias amongst hotels to only hire women in the room cleaning jobs and only men for the bell-hop/luggage handling positions. While, bell-hops are routinely tipped for carrying your stuff, maids get no tip for cleaning your surroundings. For those interested in righting this wrong, Marie reports standard tip would be a dollar for each a day you stayed, per maid.

Anything funny ever happen?
Whether simply her luck, or something about the job itself, Marie has had the chance to work with some very funny people -- although she is quick to point out they may just be funny to her. There were the two old-lady-maids she was assigned to who loved her like a granddaughter, but made her do everything (that meant ten bathrooms a day-- talk about tough love). There was also the mouthy college girl who wore a complete set of clothes under her uniform because she could not allow polyester to touch her skin. But Marie said she found the girl who got stoned between rooms especially entertaining because she would beg to vacuum just so she could leave interesting patterns in the carpet.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Last week there were several shooting incidents near a school in Boston where I work. All of them happened between 1 and 4 in the afternoon, times when our kids are often outside, coming or going to the playground. I sat in an emergency staff meeting in which my coworkers who live in the school's neighborhood described how and where they hide with their children when they hear shots at home. How the TV has been moved from the front room to the back room, so that there is less of a chance of being hit by a bullet coming from the street. How there were posters hanging around the neighborhood with a picture of a rat and a line through a tongue. In other words, you've been warned -- don't talk to the cops.

Two hours later, I sat in a park near my home, twenty-five miles from where the shootings happened. I watched as my son played baseball with the other six and seven-year-olds. I couldn't help but notice how my shoulders ached and finally realized it was from the effort of holding them too high, that I had spent the day ready to run. I watched as these kids kicked stones in the outfield, danced around second base with their backs to the plate despite their coaches gently pleading with them to pay attention.

I thought about how they felt safe enough to day dream out there. Carefree enough to be bored, and bored enough for the right fielder (my boy) to stand with arms crossed and his mitt on his head like a hat.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

What the Hell Is the Matter with You?

There are lots of reasons to get hooked by a story, but anti-social mental illness and syndromes have their own appeal for me. I have come across several books recently that do a tremendous of job of telling a very interesting story through a narrator struggling with internal processes that trigger difficult public behaviors. Check them out, and don't forget to take your meds.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Mark Haddon
One of the major achievements of this book is that its narrator is autistic and yet the reader is invited to develop very strong feelings for the people in his world -- feelings that the narrator himself can only guess at. We get to know a father, a mother, and a teacher who are trying to explain the complicated world to a young man who simply wants order, and to whom this life is no bigger a mystery than who killed the neighbor's dog. Figuring out both will require an adventure out into the chaotic world, and provides the reader with a challenging meditation on the bravery required to interact with the human race.

Motherless Brooklyn
Jonathan Lethem
Lionel Essrog has managed to raise himself among the fellow orphans of the Saint Vincent home in Brooklyn. He receives an education and a job from a neighborhood low-fi mobster turned self assigned big brother. But when this protector is murdered, Lionel sets off to find the one responsible. Are you ready for the challenge this character faces? Tourette's Syndrome! No, I'm not kidding! The reader is treated to the funny, interesting, lucid thoughts of the narrator, while he also gives a running commentary on his physical and verbal ticks -- when to expect them and what they are connected to, if anything. It's is kind of like being on a high speed sight-seeing tour of someone's mind. By the end of the story, you want everything for Lionel-- the mystery solved, the comfort he seeks, and even The Girl -- but, of course, it ain't that easy, and that's what makes the pages worth turning. Warning: story includes the funniest octopus joke ever recorded.

Not As Crazy As I Seem
George Harrar
Devon is a lot like other 15-year-olds. He is embarrassed by his parents. He is unnerved about starting in a new school in a new town. He is wondering about that girl who seems to keep sitting near him at lunch. And yet, Devon is different. He says the order of his classes, EnglishAlgebraBiolgyLunchFreePeiodGymClassicsDone,
like a mantra to calm himself. He must eat everything in fours or he will gag. And he breaks into the school with another kid to prove he can make a friend, but most importantly to straighten that poster in Biology that is crooked. Kids with Obsessive Complusive Disorder are not exactly the easiest to love, but Harrar is able to hook the reader into Devon's experience immediately and even inspire compassion for it. The narrator asks the worth-while question over and over, Why can't I just be different?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Just a Second, Say That Again #5

"there is some shit i will not eat"

This is one of my favorite e.e.cummings lines. I've found it useful in discussions, negotiations, and in those moments when you are trying to bring a family dinner argument to a crashing halt or fiery finale. But first and foremost, this quote is from a poem about defying war called, i sing of Olaf glad and big. Caution, there is also the assertion that "I will not kiss your fucking flag" -- so only read it if you are ready to embrace that kind of freedom of speech. I gotta say, reading it recently made me feel...understood.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Shout-Out to All You Muthas

Because of the name of this blog (and of course, my alias) I feel compelled to write a piece on Mother’s Day.

I need to mention that I love my mother. Get this: I even love my mother-in-law. And the one grandmother I knew – you guessed it, also loved her. And my love is not just delivered automatically because of some bible commandment. Oh, heaven forbid. No, these women are all a kick-in-the-pants. But what did I learn about being a mother from the women who showed me how it was done?

Believe it or not, that makes me think of a moment with my dad (but I’m not jumping a holiday, so stick with me). My father had all brothers and then a whole mess of sons before I came a long. To say he felt ill equipped to deal with me in my adolescence is a vast understatement. During the height of my puberty in the heat of an argument, my father asked,
“Why do you act this way?!”
The answer was clear. All he needed to do was look at the woman who raised him and the woman he had married. For all the ways they were completely different, they were both mouthy. Both funny. Both smart. And neither one was ever going to let someone tell them what to do.

So, here is to the women who have children but take no shit. The ones who do not want misty photographs of roses on their cards, or pastels of any kind anywhere, and who don’t let anyone tell them what to do – ever. To really mother is to be the stunt-double for the myth of motherhood. It is frightening, painful and joyous, miraculous.
To the women who take on motherhood in this fashion: Bravo, kick-ass.

And to you, I say,

Happy Mutha’s Day

I Ain't No Dog Tied to a Parked Car (part 5)

I was explaining something to my husband the other day and was not in the best mood. Having just started to get over the stomach flu, I was more than a little wobbly and wanted to speak my piece and then go lay down (Any place somewhat horizontal would have been fine.) When my message came out a tad on the directive side (i.e. "Listen to me. This is what I need you to do,") he huffed and said, "I know you consider me one of your children, but I am, in fact, not."
My feeble response: "Alright, alright. I'm sorry. Hear it how ever you want to...can I go lay down now?"

But, to tell the truth, I said I was sorry because much to my surprise, I had to admit the observation rang true. There are days I feel as if I am supplying direction to two small children and one very kind, very industrious, very interesting teen-aged boy. Not all the time, I reminded myself, just sometimes.

A week or so later, I was reminding my husband that our son's birthday party was in a couple of days. He and I were both at work at the time, in the middle of many projects with a lot on our minds, which was my reason for bringing up the party. There was a lot left to do and only a little time to plan.
Mutha: "So we need to think about who is going to do what."
Husband: "Fine. Just tell me what to do and I'll do it."

And so, here is the observation I want to share in regards to being in a long-term relationship. There are several choices in response here,
A) "What am I, your mother?"
B) "Thanks Babe. Let me think about it and I'll let you know."

For those of you keeping score, I may be a Mutha, but the answer is "B." Lesson: Be very picking in utilizing those ironic moments. Sometimes it's just better to let them flow over you.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I *heart* Jeff Tweedy

The first time I remember hearing Jeff Tweedy's voice he was declaring,
"My heart/it was a gun/but it's unloaded now/so don't bother."

Have you ever heard of the band Uncle Tupelo? Have you ever heard any Wilco? If you haven't -- run, don't walk -- and fix that.

Uncle Tupelo was a band from the early 90's that featured Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar as dueling song writers a la Lennon and McCartney. In a kind of stellar one-ups-manship, each pushed the other to create a brand of punk/country hybrid music that could feature driving guitars as easily as the lyrics that might make you cry. When the two and their several alternating band members parted ways, Jay created Sun Volt and Tweedy Wilco -- and although I love Jay (his song Whiskey Bottle is by far one of my all-time favorites) my heart has always belonged to Jeff.

It was true from that first time I heard the lyrics mentioned above, from his song Gun. The earnest quality of his voice, the depth of his song-writing, and ability to leave the listener feeling as if, as hard as he tries, Jeff just might always be left misunderstood is simply a heart-breaker. It also doesn't hurt that he has continued to push the envelope with Wilco and his solo projects.

But did I forget to mention that he kicks ass live?

I was lucky enough to see Wilco play about 10 years ago at the Paradise in Boston. I was standing in front, right up against the stage, and so struck by the man was I that, with my loving husband by my side, I yelled:
"I love you Jeff Tweedy!!"

Jeff gave me some very satisfying eye contact, stepped to the mic and said , "Really?"