Monthly Archives: March 2011

f2fb #85 and 85 and a half!

taylor jordan (f2fb #85) is a senior at wayland academy and her friend marshall is now f2fb #85 and a half. the two gals went out to dinner with me after track practice. i wanted to ask taylor about married life.

taylor and marshall are both seniors with a lot of plans. marshall wants to become a lawyer and will start at university of wisconsin in milwaukee in the fall. taylor has already been accepted at columbia college in chicago and is going to be an artist.

taylor’s not really married. it’s just something she’s put on her facebook profile. i’ve noticed lots of girls who are not married are married on facebook. particularly to other girls. i think it’s a way of saying “i’m not going out with anybody right now”. this is the exact opposite of married guys putting “single” or “it’s complicated” as their status.

wayland is incredibly strict and has a points system for getting yourself suspended or kicked out entirely. taylor and marshall didn’t want to risk a single point–and i wouldn’t want to be responsible for any mishap. so we scurried over to campus, while marshall tried to teach both me and taylor the wayland song of triumph–

taylor and marshall, yep, i want to come to graduation!


i’m in beaver dam and i can’t stop crying and i don’t know why. . .

this evening, i will take f2fb friend #85 taylor jordan out to dinner. that’s not why i’m crying. then i have to drive back to madison, wisconsin to pick up eastman from his two nights of debauchery with friends. but that’s not why i’m crying.

i cried in the parking lot of beaver dam’s macdonald’s. then i moved operations to the payless where i bought a pair of espadrilles that i thought would make me feel better but that didn’t work. because i started crying in that parking lot. so i checked in early at the super 8 motel and cried in their parking lot for a while. i’m a pretty equal opportunity sobster.

i’m not even sure why i’m so upset.

last night, i was in madison, wisconsin visiting f2fb friend #84 cory russ rickerson. i met cory at her mother’s memorial service. cory’s mother was married to one of my facebook friends, was a stepmother to three of my facebook friends, and was the mother to two other facebook friends.

cory’s mother terri russ had a troubled life and wanted to end it with a bottle of tylenol. she went into liver failure and was rushed to the hospital. her children and mother were with her. terri was conscious and given the option of having a liver transplant and kidney dialysis to continue her life. but she declined.–although there’s some ambiguity about whether she understood the consequences of what she was refusing. she seemed later to change her mind–she wanted to get better. when she was told by her daughters that there was nothing more that could be done–that the window period within which to save her liver and kidney had slammed shut–she closed her eyes for several minutes before accepting her circumstances. and then she went about the business of being good to her children. she hung in–the human spirit is very strong–for several days and then died. i never met terri.

cory’s parents were divorced when cory was just a very little kid and there was a flurry of marriages and remarriages, custody arrangements and rearrangements, stepsiblings and halfsiblings. cory related to me what i can describe most delicately as “inappropriate situations” which arose from when she was ten years old until she was able to strike out on her own. i was horrified. but she has come to forgive. and there have some who have come to her for forgiveness. she is a very strong gal.

she is a teacher in the public school system in madison, wisconsin and i thought we would spend our time together at the capitol building with the protesters. instead, we talked until it was this little traveler’s time to go to bed! what a nice guest room!!!

this morning, cory went to work before i woke up–i drove to beaver dam and for some reason felt very weepy as i considered cory’s story. i’m not quite sure why it resonates so much with me but i have to get this pulled together before i pick up taylor jordan for dinner. game face, baby! that’s what it’s all about!


f2fb #83 and the gift he received from his first wife’s mother

my regular religious service consists of reading facebook friend mike coglan’s emailed sermons (today’s was about the 1962 world series), barging into catholic churches to light candles for my boys, and begging the Lord’s foriveness for everything when i’m having an anxiety attack or when the plane is taxiing down the runway. i think of myself as a seeker but i haven’t put enough concerted effort into it. f2fb #83 larry barkley has always struck me as having followed a path of his own design.

larry and i were first introduced through his second wife suzanne who was a rotarian. after they broke up and suzanne moved to colorado, i didn’t see as much of larry. but whenever i do, he has a good smile and kind words. he’s either got peace of mind or really great drugs!

he was raised catholic, flirted with baptists, and was introduced to the principles of the unity church by the mother of his first wife. usually, mother in law’s aren’t noted for the joy they bring into a man’s life. but larry was open to the gift. and he is now a member of the unity church. i was supposed to go to a sunday service with him and with f2fb #66 fadel haowat-halliwell who has also been a seeker. we were going to meet at the church at 9:15.

i was getting some caffeine at caribou when i saw f2fb #28 tom evans and i invited him to join us. tom is ordinarily a congregationalist but something today urged him to accept adventure. we drove downtown to the unity church at 1925 west thorne avenue. larry and tom had seen each other in winnetka but had never been introduced:

in a room off the main sanctuary was an exhibit of pictures of hearts created by the artist arianne vota smeets. the exhibit, called aorta transformata, was deeply moving. i saw three pictures that i think were directly about me.

i have had my heart broken but i am no different from anyone else in that respect.

i am often scared but i am no different from anyone else.

my heart is under construction. i think everyone else is like that too.

it has been said that sunday morning is the most segregated time in america–and that’s supposed to be a comment about how congregations are often of the same race, the same orientation. but this church was clearly welcoming to all races, genders, orientations. and the service was one of joy and love.

one time my facebook friend mike coglan asked me to imagine how i would feel, how i would think, how i would be different, if i truly believed that God loved me exactly as i am, even with every fault and weakness considered charming or essential or forgivable. i could only sustain that feeling for a few seconds before crying. and that’s how i felt in this church.

afterwards i found out that the heart pictures are for sale and can be purchased–go to votasmeets.com to see more of them. also, if you want more information on the church, go to their website at UnityChicago.org and they believe they are a church of light, love and laughter.

larry has found a special place to worship. his fiancee ramona is part of the congregation as well and i hope that i will be invited to the friday night services which sound like the services of the nineteenth century shakers.

larry, thank you friend for sharing this part of you with me! and sorry, fadel. i turned my cell phone on after i entered the church and forgot to turn it back on until i got home!


eighty miles per hour on the turnpike–

yesterday somebody told me that for an agoraphobic* i get around. and this year, i have. yesterday i drove 337 miles to oberlin ohio to retrieve f2fb friend #1 eastman and i made it back home in less than twelve hours. talk about a kinetic military operation! unfortunately, i failed in my mission to see facebook friend bob garrity. . . .

this project is getting me out of the house, but i have anxiety attacks every time i step foot outside my comfort zone. an anxiety attack makes my heart squeeze tight, my skin break out in hives, and my brain go into hyperdrive–is it a heart attack? am i having anaphylactic shock? is it the moment when my body will spontaneously combust and i’ll be hurtled into the depths of hell?

quite possibly yes to all three. but why am i like this? why do i get so afraid of things that the average person finds perfectly harmless? i started off life pretty normal. my parents justin (f2fb #30) and aleta leiber were a young married couple studying at the university of chicago. i’ve since been told by justin that i was a colicky, difficult baby. sometime after i turned two, they decided to put me up for adoption. i don’t remember them or my life with them, but i remember the process of meeting the patrick family. here is me sitting between mrs. patrick and my new sister sandra (who had been adopted by the patricks as an infant).

mr. patrick worked at the united states post office in labor relations. he was away from home a lot. he kept bags of candy in the top right hand drawer of his desk in his study at home. i would steal candy and always got caught. often, my punishment was to be put in the basement to consider my wrongdoing. oddly, i really think this made me think of the basement as both someplace i dreaded and a place of safety. i read books, i made up numbers games, i daydreamed.

i adored sandra. i thought everything she did was perfect. she protected me from mrs. patrick’s anger sometimes. she often ironed in the basement when i was being punished and we would listen to rock and roll music on the radio. rock and roll was considered very dangerous back then. when sandra moved out of the house, mrs. patrick focused more on me. she decided that i was wicked, a partner with satan. she started having some hallucinations–it was hard as a kid to be able to figure out what were the things she saw and what things were really there. i started to worry that she would kill me.

i first ran away from home when i was thirteen. i had two friends in high school who helped me. petrarch was the older brother of my friend jean–his real name is john lafond and he is f2fb #10.

my other friend was zeke, real name john peterson. i don’t know where he is right now.

when the state got involved, i was put into a bunch of different placements. i was in a psychiatric hospital because a psychiatrist declared me to be depressed (i have since come to the conclusion that every teenager is depressed). i stayed for four months in a detention center where i was put in a cell at night and during the day all the residents studied together in a common area and ate meals in a cafeteria. i think these places again were like the basement–someplace i dreaded but which made me feel safe.

i think all anybody needs to succeed is one person who really believes that you are great. usually, it’s your mom or dad. in my case it was a social worker who said “you’re never going to finish high school but i think you could do well in college”. she helped me get into north central college where i met the eastmans. here are the eastmans with petrarch.

so i was in college. i had friends. i had survived. you would think i’d be just great. but i wasn’t. that’s when i started having anxiety attacks. the first occurred in a grocery store. i told a clerk i was having a heart attack. the paramedics were called. i was taken to the emergency room. i was given some antihistamines by a doctor who said he thought i was just having some problems with allergies. i never went near the grocery store again because it made me think i might have another attack. the rest of my life became a mapping of safe and unsafe places–every time i was in a “safe” place and had an attack, it became an “unsafe” place. unsafe places filled up the world like ink spreading across a piece of paper.

i work at home and i wonder if i have fooled myself that i have friends when i have a virtual connection to them. facebook can help me delude myself. but maybe facebook can also help me ask friends to help me reclaim safe places. . . . . like yoshi and reggie making mexico city safe, like john r. douglas and my new york friends showing me that new york is safe, like eastman yesterday showing me that the broad swath of america between my home and ohio is perfectly safe.

well, maybe not the ohio turnpike.

on monday, eastman and i strike north for madison where i’ll see f2fb friend cory russ rickerson and we’re going to a meeting with the rev. jesse jackson with the protesters. then i’ll head for beaver dam to take taylor jordan out for a culver burger. then i return to pick up eastman and possibly meet with liza roche. yep, for an agoraphobic, i sure get around. . . .

*i don’t make light of agoraphobia. it’s a scary problem. and it can disable you and close you off from experiences and people. i’m happy to hear about your experiences if you think you are like me–you can message me at facebook but also you can email me directly at apresser@hotmail.com


two things a man should never do with his penis

sometimes it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you sat down with a friend because you’re so simpatico that it’s as if you were talking yesterday. and that’s how it was with f2fb #82 janet mccauley. we’ve known each other for fifteen years. she grew up in winnetka and northfield and raised her children here, including her daughter who is just a year younger than my older son joseph. i hadn’t seen janet around town for most of the fall but had heard she had moved in with a boyfriend in chicago. he was the jealous type.


talk about password protection! in any event, i had wondered why janet was messaging some strange stuff. now i knew:

who i would do if i switched teams? well, that’s always an interesting “what if?” game. robbie thapa, f2fb #33, has always said i’d be tops on his list.

later, janet told me the most egregious things this boyfriend did. but a funny thing was this, which i’ve decided is one of two things a man should never do with his penis . . . . and a camera.

janet has known great love. and it was with a man we both know. he lives in new orleans now and i wonder if he has been one of the great loves of her life and if there’s hope for them to get back together. on the other hand, he too has done something a man should never ever do with his penis.

ouch!

catching up with janet was funny, tearful, poignant, awe-inspiring, gossipy, and we’re repeating the process again when i get back from my trip to ohio (which starts in six hours), my trip to madison wisconsin where facebook friend cory russ rickerson has snagged us an invite to a meeting with the peripatetic jesse jackson and then to beaver dam to have a culver burger with taylor jordan. janet, you’ve gone through a lot in the last several months, but you’re back! welcome home!


once in mexico city, it proves impossible to leave. . . . and not for lack of trying!

i felt kind of bad for reggie. most of the trip he was worried i’d get kidnapped or murdered or robbed.

and remember that horrible margarita?? his horrible encounter with a margarita weighed upon me.

i figured a guy who’s flown out from savannah georgia should at least get a good margarita and dance with a pretty girl. but reggie being the captain of the operation said that seven a.m. we were clearing out.

at four o’clock in the morning, he woke me up to tell me that he couldn’t sleep and was going out for a bit. i remember telling him the business center was on the second floor in case he wanted to catch up with his facebook buddies and play farmville.

i woke up in a panic at seven twenty. his backpack was on the floor. his flip flops. his watch was on the nightstand. but there was no reggie. i called him and said “exactly where are you?”

“i’m at a salsa club,” he shouted.

okay, he got his margarita. and he broke some hearts in mexico city–we heard the cries as we cabbed it to the airport: “reggie, reggie, you’ ¡re tan hermoso, te quiero, quiero a sus niños!” i figured okay, i have to enjoy the flexibility of travel. that was quite an adventure. but there was much more to come. the cab driver dropped us at the wrong terminal and we had to double back in a train. at the boarding gate, i was told i didn’t have a necessary customs form. as the plane was boarding, i was sprinting across the terminal to the mexican immigration department so i could get the form. i ran back to the gate. suddenly, the boarding gate official was disdainful: the form was of no interest to him. i downed three ativans to quel an anxiety attack.

touching down in houston, i was picked up at the airport by f2fb friend #80 george yates who drove me into pearland where he and his wife (f2fb #81) derrellyn live with her mother, their son, their son’s best friend, their son’s best friend’s brother, and a few four legged species members. the yates family has been through some difficult times. but they have a strong faith system. i put the one souvenir from mexico city next to some of their icons. i figure the play-doh virgin mary in a bottle had found its home.

derrellyn and george really didn’t want their pictures taken but when we went out to dinner with andy (their son will’s friend who lives with them) and nikka (andy’s girlfriend) i got an age old question answered

i wanted to get will on camera. he wasn’t able to come to dinner with us because he was at work. unfortunately, the flip camera was giving me trouble. the yates have weathered some tough times and it’s not completely clear sailing for them, but they surround themselves with a lot of positive energy and they open their home and give that positive energy back to the world.

i flew home through memphis airport. i was and am exhausted. today is definitely a stay under the covers day. but my son eastman says i’m a warrior. i think that’s a compliment.


if you want to invade mexico city. ..

mexico city is a low lying valley, a crater really, surrounded by mountains. it holds smog and pollution and i felt the heaviness in my chest from the moment i left the airport. i sucked on my inhaler like dennis hopper in blue velvet and considered that if aliens from mars wanted to take over, the city was pretty much indefensible. and if the dudes from mars prefer carbon emissions to oxygen, it’s a natural. . . .

at the hotel, after a morning walk of well over three hours, reggie and i had a drink while we waited for yoshi. we had both heard that in mexico, everyone’s a little relaxed about time. while we waited, reggie explained that the whole time we had been walking around, he had been very aware of who was looking at us, who was a potential problem. he said i should be doing the same thing. and never look at something for more than three seconds. count to three. look at something else. count to three.

then yoshi arrived. it was awkward and funny and reggie got the whole thing:

yoshi is an actor who has worked primarily in performing plays for schools. he is working as a director of “life is a dream” (la vida es suena) first published by pedro caldron de la barca in the early seventeenth century. yoshi hopes to have the play touring by april. he is a fan of science fiction and most particularly of my grandfather fritz leiber. he found me on facebook because of being fritz’s fan. it was our first time meeting in person although we have corresponded for several years. yoshi had worked in the area of town where we were and he wanted to take us in the opposite direction from where we had been in the morning. we passed a protest march but yoshi’s explanation of what their beef was confused me. So we just figured it was a shout out to the madison, wisconsin protesters who, by the way, i hope to see next monday thanks to my facebook friend cory!

we also had a meal at a very famous café:

so us revolutionaries had a meal together. reggie ordered a margarita and it was hideous, which was a decisive factor in what happened later. . . .

after lunch we wandered around the park across from the palace of the arts. there were hundreds of booths and vendors. homemade ice cream in flavors like rose, burnt milk, cactus. handmade jewelry (alas, no rosaries). embroidered smocks. we saw a lesbian rights parade. we saw kids crunking in a gazebo. a police officer came into the gazebo and i wondered if i was going to end up in a mexican jail with these kids–but he had brought bottles of water for the kids.

reggie bought roasted corn mixed with chilis, chopped onions, mayonaise–all in a styrofoam cup.

i said in the previous post that i thought there were three mexicos. the night before, i had glimpsed the very wealthy mexico–blessed with jewels and fine clothing. in the morning, i was lucky enough to have reggie with me to watch over me–so i could see the mexico that was the most poor, the mexico that rises early to scrape out a living. but this mexico in the park was the families out walking and enjoying themselves–the vibe was one of celebration and the people were more comfortable with themselves. they had nice clothes and i suspect some money in their pockets. but my feet hurt and my inhaler had been getting a workout. as the sun started to dip behind the mountains, it was time to let this cinderella and her blister inducing slippers go home. i asked this dude for a ride to the hotel. he said no.

but it was a fun day with yoshi maeshiro, facebook friend number #79! but, alas, we discovered that we both had tried to track down enrique celis, my other facebook friend in mexico city. he was yoshi’s acting teacher and had once facebook friended me in order to invite me to a play he was directing. enrique is now officially invited to chicago for the f2fb new years resolution, but yoshi has an invitation whenever he wants!


Viva Ciudad de Mexico!!!

mexico city is quite dangerous, what with kidnapping and murders by drug entrepreneurs and the police. reggie was told ixnay, that u.s. army personnel were most definitely not to go to mexico city and especially not to escort fifty year old matrons to international travel. I am glad he didn’t tell me that until the last night. how he changed the mind of his commanding officer is his own business but I believe that my breathtaking stupidity and the possibility of my causing grave embarrassment to the government was a factor.

reggie sent me a text the morning of the flight to houston, where we were scheduled to meet. No jewelry, no nice clothes, no heels, and could I visit a tanning salon? i was cool with everything but the last one. I get claustrophobic in those booths. we made the trip from houston to ciudad de mexico with no trouble at all. well, except for figuring out how to get out of the airport.


mexico city is built on the inside of a crater, surrounded by mountains. It holds within the bowl all the smog and pollution imaginable, as well as the hopes and aspirations of twenty million mexicans. I saw the first of three types of mexicans when we arrived at the hotel melieta. women were dressed in evening gowns and wrapped themselves in furs though it couldn’t have been more than sixty degrees. men wore tuxedos or dark black suits. i thought “mexico is a pretty wealthy country” and felt pretty silly in my black running suit from target. then reggie told me we were at the wrong hotel. a short taxi cab ride and we were at our hotel. reggie fell asleep immediately. i stared at the moon and could just make out the mountains in the distance.
i woke up and i thought it was ten o’clock. after all, that’s what the clock on the building across the street said. so i forced reggie to get up. he told me the first rule: that since my passport stuck out of my fanny pack just a little, i was to let him carry my passport.
we went to a second mexico city. In this mexico city, blue tarp tents lined the streets. families cooked tortillas, sausages, waffles, chickens. mothers with toddlers on their laps sold candy and cigarettes. old men sold sunglasses, cellphone covers, bootleg cd’s (I nearly bought the entire last season of Glee) . I saw an old man laying out a blanket and offering for sale a pair of red shoes with the heels ground down and a selection of car parts. boys in nascar-like jumpsuits sold newspapers to the cars stopped at the intersections—pink for excelsior paper, green for the guardian. women washed windows of stopped cars. the police were everywhere. the smell of urine, feces, overcooked meet and sweat–sometimes the smell of food was good and sometimes i thought i would throw up. reggie told me the second rule: i was not allowed to point at something, i was not allowed to look at something or someone for more than three seconds unless I was wearing my sunglasses. there were not many people who would outright say “can you spare some change?” but everybody had a business.
we stopped to have breakfast at macdonald’s. because reggie said I wasn’t going to eat out of a truck until we were ready to leave because he didn’t want to be around when there were consequences. in the ladies’ room, the toilet paper dispenser was held together with scotch tape. I broke it apart without meaning to. i went to wash my hands and i took apart the faucet. i decided the safest thing to do was sit down to ask reggie about his strategies. . .

we found a beautiful church dedicated to the carmelite nuns. i wanted to find a rosary to wear on my neck, it was the one thing I hoped to find in mexico city but i spent so much time marveling at people, at buildings, at strange things that i didn’t have time to shop. but i did have time to ask the blessing of st. teresita of the nina jesus.

and then it was time to meet yoshi maeshiro and enrique celis, the whole point of this operation . . . .


packing for the fraidy cat traveler–hello mexico city and yoshi maeshiro!!!!!!

i’m going to mexico city to see facebook friends yoshi maeshiro and enrique celis. i am scared out of my wits because it’s the first time i have been in a country where the dominant language is not english and also because the state department says ixnay to spring break in mexico and what else is this but a fifty year old woman’s spring break? also, if i get offered the job of police chief of mexico city, i will have to decline.

a person who doesn’t like to leave the house isn’t generally a good packer. but i am. when stephen and i separated, we agreed that we didn’t want our sons joseph and eastman to be put through the “go to mom’s house, go to dad’s house” custody schedule. so stephen took an apartment and he stayed there some of the time and some of the time, he came back to the house and i would switch over to the apartment. instead of my kids packing their stuff i was doing the packing. and i learned a lot of tricks.

1. zip lock bags for everything
2. wear your clothes in the shower and wash them every night you’re away
3. baby wipes for everything–make up removal, shining your shoes, that spot where your fork slipped stuff onto the front of your dress. . . .
4. black clothes match everything

my facebook friend loraine yolles is an artist. she took some time to come over to help me pack. but also to tell me this trip is going to be okay. . . .

i’m scared of flying, socializing, snakes, thunderstorms, crowds, heights, rejection, darkness, spiders, big box stores, dentists. . . . should i go on? but i have my lucky talismans, including william clark, my fiance, as well as rosaries and a lucky flight plan from a successful airplane trip.

i have to get on the plane. ¡parada siguiente, Ciudad de México!


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