Flower Child, Part Two

Tara

Moving terrified me, but it proved to have some definite advantages. 

Although we stayed in the same small town in western WA, the new house was a dramatic upgrade. It had two stories, four bedrooms, a garage for my fathers tools and an unfinished basement that my father planned to turn into an art studio for my mother so that she could teach classes. But the best thing about the house was that it was in a neighborhood subdivision that had been carved out of old growth forest. Hence, the subdivision name: Tara. We lived at the end of the street so in the back and on the side of the house were miles and miles of untouched forest land.

My oldest sister was gone and married, my other sister was in the foster care system, and by now my brother was running away like my sister used to. He spent time in the local juvenile detention center for selling drugs at school. Eventually he was gone too, moving in with his girlfriend who was pregnant. By that time my oldest sister had also given birth to a son.

In first grade my mom decided that I was the spitting image of Eddie on “The courtship of Eddie’s Father”. She sent a letter to the television network telling them that I should be on the show and included a picture. I think they sent her back a nice “thanks but no thanks” letter. Maybe that’s one of the ways she showed her love for me, by attempting to pass her own dream to me. Maybe she saw me as her last shot at entering the entertainment industry.

My mother, father and I settled into what would be the most stable time of my life. With my older siblings gone, and my father working, my mom was free to pursue her passions of painting, teaching, entering art shows and other crafty things. My mother was a good cook and we had dinner every night when my Dad came home, albeit often a silent one. But there was a closeness of sorts that developed between the three of us. A closeness that had never been present prior to that time. And there was a comfort, in our new home, in the size of it. On weekends we would make popcorn, drink Cokes and watch Carol Burnett. It was the closest thing to normal I have ever known. 

Flower Child, Part 3

Margaret and Cigarettes

***************

When I was about 12, a girl my age moved to the neighborhood. I was elated. 

Margaret was an Army brat. Her American father had met her Korean mother in the service. Their house was like a museum. Her mother collected Hummel’s and had them in glass cases around the edges of the living room. I was afraid to touch anything, but I stared hard, at all the little German ceramics and the tiny carved sculptures Margaret’s mother had collected while in Korea.

Margaret’s father was a gentle man. He adored Margaret, and called her “Punk-in’”. He doted on his wife, who under the best of circumstances could be called a bit of a tyrant. When she smiled the whole room would light up. But it took a lot to make her smile. 

She was an incredible cook, and was always serving up strange and interesting food. Squid, among other things. Marinated meat would hang from the ceiling. Bulgogi. It was my favorite. And there was always a rice cooker brimming with steamed white rice.

Margaret’s house was way more interesting than mine. Margaret’s life was way more interesting than mine. She had a boyfriend, smoked cigarettes, was fully developed, and the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, to this day.

Margaret’s eyes were green, her skin a delicate mix of her American and Korean genetics. Her hair was jet black and long. She carried herself as she was somebody. Margaret was somebody. And everyone who met her noticed it. 

The boys in the neighborhood began falling over themselves trying to get her attention. She was coy. She knew her worth. Or so it seemed.

Margaret turned me on to all sorts of new things, but the very first thing was cigarettes.

We would go to the local convenience store (which we dubbed the “stop and steal” for obvious reasons). There was a vending machine in a restaurant nearby. Put in your money, out came cigarettes. Marlboro 100’s. No ID required.

Then we wood go out in the woods and drink Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine (just ask people in front of the Stop and Steal to buy the booze). And we would make Slow Gin Fizzes, whatever those were. 

The first time I smoked a cig it was with Margaret. I was nervous but so excited that I was doing this big adult rebellious thing. From the first inhale, I was hooked. That first puff, the rush, the feel of smoke in my lungs.

I was never very clever at hiding things and my first smoke would not prove to be the exception. We had gone to a gravel pit near my house, presumably hidden. But there is something about being that age and smoking that makes you want to go public with it. Like, look what a bad ass I am, smoking a cigarette.

Well it just so happened that my mom happened to be driving home from an art gig right by the gravel pit. She saw me and I saw her and I knew there was gonna be hell to pay.

My mom waited til after dinner to spring the situation. She told my Dad, who I can’t recall his reaction. I only remember my Mom’s. She was furious, seething. 

“You’re a slut,” she said. 

I was surprised by that one. For one thing, I was still a virgin. But I was a smoker. That made me a slut, I guess, in my mom’s eyes. 

My father sternly said, “Barbara”.

She stormed off into her room. Well, their room. 

Boys never seemed to be into me. Not in the way they were to Margaret. I was slow to develop. Standing next to Margaret I looked like an ugly duckling next to a swan. I was in that chubby awkward brace-face stage of adolescence and Margaret was lithe, magical and savvy.

Margaret turned me on to all sorts of things. Lots of the things she did didn’t make sense to me, but I did them, because well, Margaret.

One of the things we would do was go out in the middle of the night and vandalize people’s property. I didn’t understand the point of it, but I did it. We would switch garbage can lids up, smash mailboxes. It scared the crap out of me and made me feel bad about myself.

When school began (eighth grade) Margaret quickly rose to the top of the social echelon. And I was her hanger on. I knew I was in the most popular group of kids at school only by proxy.

I knew I didn’t have what these other girls had. The boobs, the cute little bodies, the eyelashes, the hair. The boys in this group were interested in the girls with the hair that looked like Farrah Fawcett. And I was more like the androgynous one. Except chubby and with braces. 

The boys that did express interest in me were awkward and clumsy. I wanted the boys with the hair. The long, rock star feathered hair. I really wanted Margaret, but I had no concept of that at the time.

One of Margaret’s highly developed skills were in shop lifting. She was small in stature, but she wore a long black trench coat that made her look about 6 feet tall. No one ever missed Margaret, not if they were anywhere within her vicinity.

I was an awkward shop lifter at best. I hated it. And my timing was horrible. We decided to shop lift on the military base. I got caught of course, because I am horrible at stealing. I was banned from the base for life, and Margaret’s mom didn’t think much of me after that. She was already tired of me hanging around all the time begging for some the meat hanging from the ceiling.

Margaret also became weary of my hanging on. I would become jealous of her spending time with other girlfriends. I modeled my behavior after Margaret. Sometimes I would pretend I was her. She began to distance herself, probably understanding my attraction for her was more than just friendly.

Speaking of Charlie’s Angels, it was that show that gave me the first idea that I might be a lesbian. I didn’t know lesbians actually existed. But I knew that I was fascinated by the Angels. Of course all of us were. But my feelings led me to confess to Margaret that I thought I might be a lesbian.

That pretty much killed our relationship. I took it all back later, of course.

Flower Child

a memoir

Part One

The house on Park Avenue

Blessed is the child who does not know her worth, for she will spend the rest of her life searching for it

I was born in a chocolate brown house with pink and white trim like Neapolitan ice cream. I was the fifth child my mother bore. The first three, two girls and a boy, were adopted by my father when he married my mother. The fourth child, John, my biological brother, died shortly after birth. If he had lived I wouldn’t be here. My mom wanted to give my father a child, meaning one child only. It may have been the only act of kindness my mother did for my father; besides marrying him.

My parents met in a bar. My father lived at the bar when he wasn’t working. My mom used to tell me she was happy that at least she got him out of the bar. Or maybe she said my father’s sister told her that. Or maybe my father’s sister said that was the one good thing my mother did for him. Either way, I guess that makes three good things she did for him. Marrying him and then bearing two of his children.

When my mom met my dad she was a single parent struggling to support her three children. Her first husband, a musician whom I suspect was my mother’s one true love, had abandoned her and my future siblings by the time the oldest was 5. Both my parents were born at the beginning of the great depression. This may have been one of the only things they had in common besides drinking. They both understood struggle and loss. 

After my mother’s death I saw some of her hand written journal entries from a time when she was attempting to write a memoir. She described how much of a mistake it was to marry my dad, that people had warned her and she should have listened. 

My mother had found someone to adopt her children and support them. Being a single parent myself I can only imagine how hard it must have been. I don’t know if my mother ever loved my father. My father told me years later that she needed a meal ticket. She found one in my father whose work ethic was beyond reproach, in spite of his heavy drinking.

There was already a lot going on in the family before I was born. My father was beating my 6-year-old brother on a regular basis in an alcoholic rage. He also took out his anger out my 8-year-old sister. The oldest sister, 12-years my senior, escaped the beatings but was forced to witness them, as they often occurred around the family dinner table. To top it off, there was the loss of my parents first child a year prior. My mother carried the baby to term but was told he had a problem with his heart that would only allow him to live for a few days. 

My parents allowed him to die alone at the hospital. Not because they were hateful uncaring people, it was really quite the opposite. They were devastated by the situation and the emotions attached. My parents were both wounded people who had learned to turn away from their pain in order to survive. And if our family had a motto, it would have been to never speak of things that were emotionally difficult. A person can only tolerate so much loss. 

I was sexually violated by a family member prior to the age of 5. These incidents left me with an understanding of myself that would take years to uncover. I learned that in order to get my needs met I would have to use the only tool I had: my body, at whatever the cost. I learned to question my own reality. Someone I had been taught to trust was doing things to me that I knew were not right, but there wasn’t anyone to tell or to ask what to do. If I told anyone they would surely not believe me or find that I had enticed it. 

Maybe I did entice it?

The collision of the violation with learning to trust would leave me unsure who was safe and who wasn’t. If someone showed caring and interest in me, I would get confused and think I had to offer them my body. I learned that the most abnormal was normal. In doing so I had to explain away the misdeeds of a loved one, and make them OK in my small child’s brain. For years after I didn’t understand warning signals from people that I wanted to trust, and as I result I found myself in a variety of dangerous situations.

Before the sexual abuse, I was a tap and ballet dancer. I loved the costumes, especially the sequins. After the incidents I developed a desire to hide my body shape. I thought that if I was un-noticeable then maybe I could avoid future incidents. 

I learned how to make myself invisible. 

In Kindergarten one day we were going to play dodgeball. I was terrified. The thought of having a ball thrown at me with no escape made me feel “the” feeling. The feeling of being out of control, immobilized and unable to escape. The feeling I would spend most of my life running from. 

The teacher sent me and another boy to the classroom to get more balls and I saw it as my escape. I convinced the boy that we should just leave and go home. We both lived about three blocks away. I knew we were going to get in trouble, but all I could see was an opportunity to avoid being pummeled by an inescapable rubber ball. Of course, there was trouble. I can recall the teacher saying, “Billy had to walk home across streets where there were no crossing guards.” I don’t recall anyone asking me why I might be afraid of a dodgeball, or anything else. Even if they did I don’t know what I would have said. I already felt that there were things about me that were abnormal, unlike other people. And now I had put some other kid in danger because of my unexplainable fears. I was the instigator, so I was at fault. This would not be the last time I would be given this title. 

My bedroom was at the very top of the peaked roof house on the second floor of the house on Park Avenue. A giant Oak tree was planted squarely in front of the two picture windows of my room. In the corner there was a cubby hole big enough for two people to lie down in. The cubby hole was my secret hiding place.

When I was five my mother’s father died suddenly of a heart attack. He was a chef at a landmark restaurant near Seattle. He dropped dead while he was at work. I wanted to go to the funeral but my mom said I couldn’t. I sat on a bench in the gym and looked out the high windows, wondering if he might go floating by.

My mother will always be an enigma to me. She was not shy about discussing her feelings about parenting. “Parenting,” she would often tell us, “stole the best years of my life”. She loved babies and delighted in them until they began to be the unruly noisy little toddlers that babies become. My mom was very extremely sensitive to noise, a trait I seem to have inherited. 

Her dream had always been to be a famous singer and movie star. She declared children to be the antithesis of achieving dreams. Children and marriage, she declared were the things that ruined one’s life and chances for personal fulfillment. 

It seemed to be true. My siblings, each significantly older than me, all married young and had babies right away. All of their marriages ended, some of them in quite tragic ways. I watched all of this and swore that I would never let that happen to me.

In my early childhood, my mom wanted me to be on television. When I was about 4, she got me on the Miss Margaret show to do a tap-dance to “I’m a little T-pot. I liked being the center of attention. I also loved Miss Margaret.

My mom seemed to value my cuteness and my ability to entertain. But other aspects of my personality she deemed temperamental, moody and antisocial. I never got the sense that she was particularly fond of me. I had a vivid nightmare around this time that my mom let me go down the drain with the bathwater. My mom accused my Dad and everyone else, of spoiling me. To her I was a spoiled rotten brat. Maybe I was, I don’t know. Maybe I reminded her of my father. Maybe it was too hard to watch someone else get something that they wanted. Maybe I was a symbol of the mistake she had made by marrying my father and thus imprisoning herself for that many more years.

There were quite a lot of things going on around that time. For one, the entire country was in turmoil as the 60’s began to set in. My siblings were hippies with love beads, bell bottoms, and long hair. I wanted to be a hippie more than anything else. My middle sister began running away from home repeatedly. She would run, they would go get her from where she had gotten to (sometimes a state away), and bring her home. Then it seemed like she would turn right around and run again. I’m not saying she didn’t have good reasons to run. 

Then she got pregnant and was sent to an unwed mother’s home to live until she gave birth to the baby and released her to adoption. At some point in the process my mom made my sister a “ward of the court”. That’s what they call it when a mother releases a child to the foster care system. I was shocked that my mother would do such a thing. I felt sorry for my sister, who I came to learn later was in the mental ward of a hospital. None of it made any sense to me. My sister was pregnant and then she was gone and there was no baby and no sister.

****

When I was 6 my oldest sister moved to California to marry her high school boyfriend. Later she would tell me she would have done anything to get out.  That left just my brother and I at home. We had a contrary relationship like many siblings, I guess. As my brother got older my father’s contempt for him only seemed to grow. Until the day came when my brother was finally old enough/big enough to stand up to my father. And when that day came the beatings stopped. 

My father was always on the verge of explosive rage. In response, I learned to always be on edge waiting for the explosion. After awhile it didn’t matter if there was an explosion coming or not, I was always cringing. I loved my Dad, and unlike my mom I knew that my Dad loved me. But I was terrified of the person he became so often without provocation, or rhyme or reason.

The house we lived in had a kids playhouse in the backyard and a combination garage/art studio designed to allow my parents expressions of their passions. For my dad it was alcohol and sports and building shit. For my mom it was painting. 

I guess my mom didn’t know that he was stashing alcohol in the garage. When I was an adult my mom told me that once she had gone in my dad’s workshop looking for something and had found dozens and dozens of empty and full bottles of hard liquor. Probably bourbon, maybe vodka. My mom did her drinking out in the open so she was pretty upset by my dad’s hidden stash, as she told me. Maybe that was the first moment she realized just how serious my dad’s drinking problem was. Or maybe that’s when she began to hate him. Hell if I had been her, I would have hated him as well.

By the time I was 7 I had completely disengaged from my soul. I scrunched it into a tight little ball like the roly-poly bugs I loved to play with. I buried it deep down inside of myself in the chasm of darkness that lived there. 

One day I came home from school and saw a bright red for sale sign on the house on Park Avenue. My parents had told me before that we were moving, but the sign made it real to my 7-year-old mind. I ran into the house, fearful, crying, seeking solace that I knew would not be met. 

My mother marched me sternly upstairs to my bedroom. I had learned two valuable lessons that had ensured my survival up to the seventh year of my life. One was to be cute and the other was to be funny. That day I learned the third. Be silent.

“I don’t want to hear another word out of you,” she hissed.

Palm Springs, 2

Palm Springs 2

What happened next was a series of misfortunate events.

Matthew’s abrupt departure and the disappointment that followed was painful. And then something strange happened.

I’d been using a very long hose to water with. I borrowed it from a neighbor two doors down who had given me permission to do so. I would always put it back, but in retrospect never neatly coiled. It was a grave mistake.

One day I went out to water and there was a post-it on the hose telling me I was being disrespectful by not coiling it neatly, that I needed to be NEAT and respectful to my neighbors. The tone of the note was rude and uncalled for. In light of what had happened with Matthew, it seemed like another hit. 

I became enraged, probably fueled by my now-who -knows-where thyroid levels. I went into my house, got a post it note, wrote “Please Fuck Off” on it, and stuck it right where the other note had been. 

I walked to the dumpster and came back and my post it note was emblazoned on my front door. No doubt proof that what goes around does come back around.

A few days later the apartment manager came pounding on my door. He was from New York, crotchety as hell, and to be avoided according to my neighbors. 

“You’ve been pruning these bushes out here”, he said in an accusatory tone. 

“Well, I said, I did pluck off some of the dead branches”. 

“You’re making a mess”, he said. “I appreciate it the effort, but please, just don’t.”

So now I wasn’t going to be able to water in the front, nor was I going to be allowed to touch the plants or remove the dead branches. I was clearly a horrible neighbor. Everything seemed to have shifted.

A few days later I was notified that the building had been sold and that we had a new landlord and a new manager in residence on the way. It all happened very fast. I thought maybe it would be a good change.

Once again, I could not have been more wrong. 

********

The chain of events after that become very blurry. I began having delusions. One of them was that I was the reincarnation of Mary Magdalene and that my son was the second coming of Jesus. If my son is the second coming of Jesus, we are all in trouble. And as for me as Mary Magdalene? An immaculate conception, yes. No room at the Inn, yes. After that there is a large divergence in the roads.

Light and sound became overstimulating to me, and the mask restrictions in Palm Springs became policed. I was escorted from a Starbucks by a very large security guard for not having my mask properly asphyxiating me. 

I started frequenting small stores for the things I needed. Liquor stores became my go to. They have almost everything you need there. Cat food, cat litter, etc. I wasn’t eating or drinking water, it never occurred to me. And one day at the liquor store I thought, “Why can’t I have wine?” Sure, I am an alcoholic. But wine was never my thing, and other people seemed to drink all the time. Why not me?

So I bought some, and it helped me relax. So I bought more. And after that things became more and more blurry. 

I started smoking cigarettes also, a habit I’d given up some 4 decades earlier. The habit returned with a vengeance. 

One day I overheard the news anchor talking about heat stroke. She said the problem with heat stroke is that the person stops eating and drinking and loses the ability to understand that they need to. 

And I thought, Hmmm…. I’m not eating. I’m not drinking, and I can’t breathe, even with a mask off. 

Even though my distrust was at an all time high, after a discussion with my therapist on the phone, I agreed to go to the hospital. I was too weak to drive, so I called the only person I knew in Palm Springs and luckily he agreed to take me.

When I arrived at the Urgent care, the receptionist sat glaring at me from a distance. My chest was heaving as I gasped for breath. They kept asking me what was wrong with me. I didn’t know. 

Finally they took me back to a room. They took my vitals, and EKG and left me there for what seemed like an eternity. While I lay there behind the curtain I could hear the receptionist and the nurse talking right outside my room.

“Oh she definitely has Covid”, said the receptionist. They sat there discussing my symptoms and how they were all Covid signs. I was furious. I couldn’t believe their lack of discretion and ethics. But then I started having more anxiety, suddenly thinking perhaps I did have Covid. Who knew what was wrong with me?

“I can hear you talking about me,” I said, loud enough for them to hear. They shut up.

Finally a doctor showed up. I explained to her my thyroid situation and I lucked out because she understood TSH and Myxedema Coma, which is one of the things I was experiencing, a medical psychosis brought about by severe hypothyroidism.

I begged for saline, knowing I needed it, and she ordered it for me as well as a slew of lab tests. The nurse who had been discussing me outside my room came in with his needles. I figured he was gonna jab me hard for calling me out. He said nothing, just came in, shoved a needle in my arm and left.

Later they released me. No further instructions except to get a primary care doctor. A short time later they called me with a name of a nurse practitioner and I made the appointment knowing I was in desperate need of medical care. My condition, whatever it was, was deteriorating. I was unable to feed myself. I was unable to do laundry. All of my clothes were dirty and the ones I did have were looking ragged. I was unable to shower. The water hurt my skin too much. Everything hurt. I was having difficulty speaking, forming words. 

My therapist, my friends, and my own sense of reason, as damaged as it was, convinced me that I needed to force myself to eat and drink water. I tried to do the things I used to, like go to a nearby coffee shop to order a breakfast sandwich. 

It was early one morning that I set out, presumably before the heat would set in. I was driving directly into the sun. Suddenly the sun hit me in the center of the forehead with a force unimaginable. I started screaming in agony it hurt so bad. If anyone could have heard me it would have sounded like I was dying. I had no idea what was wrong with me, what was happening, or why the sun had hit me like that. I drove back home, terrified, without any food.

After that I was afraid of the sun. Any light at all, especially with a yellow tone, caused me excruciating pain. By now I was afraid to leave my apartment. All watering stopped, I had no meds for my thyroid or my heart, and no way to be able to get them. I couldn’t even manage a routine grocery trip.

A week or so later I went to my appointment. I was terrified, weak, exhausted. The MA took my vitals. My heart was in A-fib again. I was used to this and it had become routine but the MA seemed very concerned and told me they were probably not going to be able to see me because of it.

She left and a while later the nurse practitioner came in. She ordered an EKG and told me I was going to have to go to the hospital by ambulance. Then she began to ask her questions from behind the computer.

I was wearing a pair of yoga pants I had cut into shorts. The edges were uneven and ragged. I hadn’t bathed in some time. I smelled of tobacco, she informed me.

I began to try and tell her about the thyroid situation, about my TSH, my symptoms. I told her about my last TSH level. My words came out pressured and jumbled. 

She told me it was impossible to have a TSH of 147 and that I must be mistaken. She noticed my pants, and said, “ I’m looking at your clothing, torn, and I’m wondering, are you homeless?”  Her tone was not one of concern. It was more like a statement of fact that she was surmising from my appearance. Again, I was horrified by what seemed like a total lack of ethical integrity. I didn’t understand why she was asking me that question at that moment. I told her no.

She had me get on the table and the EKG person came in and hooked me up. Then the paramedics, four of them or so. IV pumping saline. Wires everywhere, and on the gurney. A roll outside, and a ride in the ambulance, very fast, over very bumpy roads.

By this time it was clear to me in my semi-conscious state that I had no control over anything after that. 

**************

I was transferred into another bed at the ER. I was hooked up to an EKG. All of the saline was having an effect and I asked to pee. One nurse said, yes, the other said no, I wasn’t allowed out of bed, I would have to use a bedpan. 

The last time I saw a bedpan was a few decades ago. They have changed. Now they are grey plastic dustpans. He slid one under me and I knew there was no way I could pee in it without hitting the bed. He said there were no commodes available. So he put a plastic thing on a chair, sat the dustpan on it, and said I could pee in that. So I did. The nurses left. 

Several times I got up to pee on the dustpan, which was almost overflowing. I pushed the call button once, it didn’t seem to have any effect. 

Eventually a doctor wandered in. He asked me questions and seemed puzzled as to why I couldn’t answer. He ordered tests. He left.

Eventually, what seemed like hours later, he came back.

“You fixed yourself,” he said. “You can go home now”. I was given no meds for my atrial fib or my thyroid, nor was I given any info about the blood tests.

I was relieved to be released but explained I had come by ambulance and didn’t even know where my car was at that point. He said I should call an Uber. I told him I didn’t know how. He told me a nurse would show me, and left. The nurse came in awhile later with a packet of discharge instructions. I explained my dilemma and she told me to go out to the lobby and ask them to call me a cab. 

I wandered out to the lobby and found the front desk. The receptionist told me she called me a cab and to wait in the parking lot. I walked out the front doors into the 110 degree heat and found a cement block to sit on. I waited with the half dozen or so other patients in the parking lot, most of them in wheelchairs.

The taxi arrived and drove me back to the doctors office. I wondered how I would drive myself home. I had regrettably purchased a manual car that was low to the ground, and the weakness was making it incredibly difficult for me to drive. I managed, somehow, to get back home. 

********

I met an elderly woman who lived two doors down. We had become friends and shared conversation. She was a delight. I imagined a burgeoning friendship. I shared my laundry dilemma with her, that it had piled up and I didn’t have to strength to drag it to the machines. The laundry room was not air conditioned, and going in there made me feel faint.

She suggested we do our laundry together, and drive it in the car, to avoid the heat. I was excited at the possibility of having clean clothes, clothes that fit properly and didn’t cause people to assume I was a vagrant.

We set out at what proved to be an arduous task in the growing heat of the day. In my excitement I accidentally locked myself out of the apartment. I couldn’t believe it. What was I going to do now?

I thought about trying to scale the cement block fence in the back. I knew that attempting that could likely kill me. My friend told me the resident manager had arrived, I should just let him know what happened.

I walked to his apartment and knocked. I was thrilled that he answered. He was an older guy, described himself as sort of an old hippy, said he was a marijuana smoker right out the gate. I’m thinking, “Oh good, he is gonna be cool.”

He tells me that in the transfer the keys have been all messed up, but says he will go to the office and look for the master. I wait patiently while he digs through rings of keys. He informs me that unfortunately, the prior manager did not leave a master key for my apartment, probably because I rented it right before the sale took place.

I’m baffled but not surprised. He tells me that if I want to get into the apartment, I can either scale the fence or call a locksmith. I tell him I just got out of the hospital. He tells me I’m the one who locked myself out. 

I go back to my friend’s apartment, despondent. I tell her what happened. She was in her 90’s and a fireball. She said, “You go tell him to call a locksmith. I’ll go with you.”

We walked back towards his unit. I tell him to call a locksmith. He reluctantly agrees, calls one, gets off the phone and tells me that the locksmith will be there shortly and its going to cost me $100 bucks.

By then I was furious. Steam was pouring out of my ears like a freight train.

“Fine.” I said. Call the locksmith, I’ll pay for it, and we will dispute it later.

My friend was standing in the sideline and told the landlord he needed to pay for it. I think it was only her pressure that led him to concede. The locksmith arrived, the manager paid for it, and I thought we were done.

By then it seemed the manager and I had come to an agreement of sorts. I felt like I could call on him if needed.

So the next day I went to his door to ask him to fix my air conditioning. The casing on the thermostat had fallen off. He agreed to come over, and while there, I asked him to also look at the toilet seat, as it had fallen off the hinges.

He went into the bathroom and complained about the water on the floor. The floor was tile, like a shower. It had a shower in it, that leaked, consequently the bathroom floor was always damp. 

He told me my behavior was out of the ordinary. He said I needed to shape up. He said, “Your behavior indicates to me that you are a “tweaker”. 

I was aghast, but also aware I was in an apartment with a strange man and I had very little clothing on. I just gave him a shocked look, because I was honestly shocked. He said, “I’m just trying to protect a 3 million dollar property.”

He left and came back a few minutes later. He brought me three rolls of toilet paper. He said he had a change of heart, and saw I needed TP, and brought me some. He said he just needed me to sign this paper saying I received the TP. I thought it was strange, everything seemed strange, so I signed it, thinking he was just trying to be nice. 

*********************

Continuing in my semi-delirious state, fueled by alcohol, I began to find great comfort in singing. The wine seemed to give me courage enough that I began singing in my backyard. During the day or early evening. It probably happened three or four times. I had heard of people singing outside during Covid and I honestly thought someone might enjoy my songs. 

Two days later the apartment manager knocked loudly on my door. He handed me an eviction notice. “Your going to have to be out by the end of the month”, he said plainly.

I stood there in the doorway, in the dark, staring at the eviction notice.

“I don’t know what to say”, I said, “except that I am heartbroken.”

“Nobody wants you here, he said, “Believe me. I’ve talked to the neighbors”. His voice was raised.

“What did I do?” I asked.

“Oh, it will all be in the affidavits”, he said.

I shut the door and walked back inside. I was not wanted there. I was not wanted anywhere. 

Palm Springs, 1

I can tell you how I got to Palm Springs and I can tell you why I left. But much of the last several months, from around April of 2020 up until now, December 2020, are not easily recalled. 

I was finally leaving Oregon, land of rain and drizzle, supposedly to eventually return to Cali with a detour in Tucson for some desert rejuvenation. 

A cataclysmic intersection of circumstances, Covid, my long term health problems, bad choices and extreme mishaps followed. 

The first mistake was inviting my son to come along for the ride.

That ended in Santa Rosa, with high drama, the police and a rescue from good Ol’ Roxy.

I left, heading for Tucson as planned. I was planning on taking the route 66. I saw a sign for Palm Springs and an arrow. I had never been to Palm Springs. It seemed worth the detour.

As I drove into town I couldn’t believe my eyes. Rainbow flags everywhere. Gay men walking down the street in Speedos. It was like a mini Castro in the desert, or so it seemed.

I stopped at the bank and met a man in the car next to me. He told me the town was run by gays, that he wasn’t gay (he was sorry). He gave me a silver 50-cent piece for good luck. I decided to stick around.

I ended up at a hotel called The Caliente’. It was a kitschy historical spot once frequented by Sinatra and the Rat pack. The place was magical. Tiki lights, bamboo growing wild. And for the first time people around the pool, partying like it was 1999 instead of 2020 in the middle of a Covid storm. The hot tub was open and I frequented it often. I began to feel like I belonged there. The weather was warm and delicious and I began to wear very little clothing out of necessity.

I was surprised to notice that I did not feel shame in revealing my body, a very unusual feeling indeed. I soaked it up.

Every day I would go to the office and renew my room. I just did not want to leave. Then I noticed that there was an apartment complex across the street. The Twin Palms Apartments. There was a “for rent” sign on the front. I called.

In the meantime I kept wondering how I ended up in Paradise seemingly by accident. But the The Caliente’ was eating up my funds so I decided it would be best to try to find a less expensive route. I had good luck with Airbnb in the past and so I checked their site. 

I saw this picture of a sunset and windmills and clicked on it. It was in Whitewater, just 20 minutes away from the The Caliente’. The listing stated it was an LGBT friendly environment and welcomed marijuana smokers. It seemed perfect. I booked it and drove there.

When I arrived I was greeted by a young lesbian who seemingly owned the airbnb with her partner, a hot stud who worked at a nearby dispensary. I was greeted with a joint and a welcome and I thought… “Wow.”

The lesbian and I sat and talked and in the introduction, she informed me that she was on a reality TV show. Well, not her so much, but her mother was on the show “90 days the other way” on TLC. She and her partner were on the show by proxy as a result.

I’m thinking, “This is really cool”.

We smoked up together and chatted. I went to my room and they had Sling installed so I turned on the show so I could see them on TV. It was so weird. This circumstance that I found myself in. Here I was watching this woman on TV in my room while she was in the living room. Same tattoos, same woman. I felt as I had entered some kind of strange surreal vortex. 

The mysteries continued to unfold. The lesbians lived next door to a Hispanic family that owned the property. I began to visit with them and we became quite friendly. The lesbian took offense to this. When I went out to eat with the family she started sending jealous text messages to the mother of the family. It seemed very strange, and yet familiar. I was in a triangle again. My specialty. I could feel the tension brewing. We laughed it off, but something about it felt quite menacing.

The property that the Airbnb sat on was surrounded by windmills used for power, so not surprisingly it was some of the strongest wind I had ever felt. When I would go outside it would blow me around like I was a piece of cotton. I struggled to stay upright. 

One night I drove into town and found myself in the middle of a sandstorm. It was like something out the movie “The Mummy”. In the center of it, I could see nothing, and I was on the freeway. And then suddenly it lifted. 

That night I knew I was going to have to leave the Airbnb. Tension was thick in the air. I slept fitfully as the wind was howling and moaning. In the middle of the night I woke to find that the wind had blown part of the air conditioner off and the wind was howling into the room. I got up and tried to fix it, shoving the part back where it had been and trying to insulate it with the curtains. Finally I was able to sleep for a few hours.

I woke up and was shocked to see that the air conditioner had blown clear out of the window. It was still plugged in and running, but on the ground outside of the window. 

The tensions in the house, and now this, led me to know I had to leave, even though I had paid for several more nights. I got up and hastily packed my things, hoping to avoid the lesbians. But no go. They were up and they were pissed I was leaving. They accused me of pushing the air conditioner out of the window. I couldn’t believe it. The little one got in my face and called me a bitch, and every other name I can think of. I knew the drill. I’d done all of this before. I got out as quick as I could, requesting a refund as I went.

By now the apartment I had looked at was mine, but I still had several days until I could move in. I didn’t know what to do. So I decided to drive to the Coast, to the ocean. I decided to cruise Receda Blvd. and the Ventura HIghway, thinking there might be some magic there. 

*****************

I booked a hotel near the ocean thinking it would be quaint and sweet. It could have been at one time. The room was large and and had a full kitchen. But the place was obviously frequented by long term guests, permanent ones. One woman stood outside her room looking as if she used it to turn tricks. There were remnants of trash in the room left behind by former guests.

The lesbians were at first refusing to refund me. Then they turned it into some kind of a hostage situation. They sent me a text saying “Be at this place at this time, you have 15 minutes, or you are not getting your money”. By this time I was several hours away and couldn’t meet their demands. I explained this in a very polite kiss-ass text still hoping they might take pity on me. As if.

I noticed my mental state was deteriorating. I decided to get online and see what my blood results had been from a thyroid test I had been given shortly before leaving Oregon.

I signed on and saw the number and couldn’t believe my eyes. My TSH was 147.

Normal TSH is somewhere between 1.0 – 4.0. Mine was 147.0.

Since I had my thyroid gland removed 7 years ago, my TSH has swung from left to right over and over again. The highest it had ever been previously was 82.0.”Just take this little pill”, they said. No big deal. The highest it had ever been previously was 82.0.

The TSH is inversely proportionate. It’s very confusing and many docs don’t even understand it. When the TSH is high it means the body is hypothyroid. When it is low the body is hyperthyroid. I’m familiar with both sides of the spectrum. In a hypothyroid state I’ve been almost comatose. In a Hyperthyroid state I’ve been insane. The mental complications of not having adequate thyroid hormone have been the bane of my existence. 

At 147.0 my mental and cognitive abilities were failing me. I don’t recall eating during that time. I was constantly terrified and the hotel ambiance was not helping. I smoked marijuana like a fiend, it seemed the only thing to give me relief from the mental and physical agony that accompany these states. 

I saw the number 147 and I thought, “OMG I’m severe hyperthyroid. No wonder I feel like a maniac.” So I stopped taking my thyroid meds, hoping that the reduction would help bring me back into balance. I had made a grave miscalculation. I was hypothyroid, not hyperthyroid, something I wouldn’t discover until weeks later.

Where are the doctors in all of this? Well, in March, at the beginning of Covid, all of my medical support ceased. My massage therapist, my mental health therapist, my naturopath, my Rheumatologist. All ceased to exist due to Covid. 

Should I have called a doctor about those results? You betcha. But my mental state was deteriorated, and my functional thinking skills were very limited. 

************

I dragged myself to the beach and found a collection of eagle feathers that I knew would make my first smudge wand. It heartened me. I was severely depressed. It seemed that I had found comfort and peace with these people living near the windmills and once again, it fell out from under me. 

I drove back to Palm Springs the next day to claim my apartment.

******************

The apartment complex was beautiful, to me. There was a pool, a hot tub. Disco music emanated from it where gay men of all ages lounged about.

The apartment itself was a diamond in the rough. It has been lived in by a man named Richard Rice for several decades. I later found out that he was a prominent graphic artist who had been abandoned by his children for reasons unknown. Eventually I found out he was dead when the police came to my door to do a welfare check on him. 

I wondered if he had died in the apartment because it smelled very much like an extremely old Grandpa. It wasn’t clean at all but I welcomed the challenge. The stunning piece of the apartment was the backyard patio. Huge trees adorned it and a gigantic stalk of bamboo. I imagined it with lights, friends, entertaining. I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

I began to feel quite at home there. I got to know my neighbors, who all seemed very friendly and interesting. I felt like I was coming back…to something. 

There were giant Palms everywhere. I would walk the path to the garbage and marvel at the orange trees, trumpet vines, and birds of paradise. For a short time it very much felt like Paradise.

All of my things were still in storage but to my delight I began to find cast off furniture sitting by the dumpster each morning. Good quality furniture. So much so that I furnished my entire apartment with it. 

By now I surmise it was July or early August. I was happy. 

****************

Being that the The Caliente’ was right across the street, I would walk over for breakfast or lunch. There was always an interesting crowd there and fun people watching. It seemed people from everywhere came to Palm Springs. All ages, all sizes, all ethnicities, all varieties of economic status, from the very wealthy to the middle class, if there is such a thing. College students also, who I enjoyed a vigorous dialogue with one day in the hot tub.

And it was on one of those days that I walked into the “Reef”, the lounge with food at the The Caliente’. I was waiting for the hostess when I saw him.

He was sitting alone at the table, bent over his phone. He moved constantly though, and I could feel his agony. The proximity of his table and where I stood led to a ‘Hello”, and he started pouring out to me. His story, and how he got where he was.

He was gay, of course. He’d been spurned by a lover who he was beginning to discover had perhaps been a complete fraud. His eyes were so deep, and I could see his fear. I listened intently, forgetting even that I was waiting for a table or food. Eventually it became clear I would be sitting with Matthew and his drink.

Being that the Caliente was a party spot, drinks were always flowing. Flowing around the pool, around the rooms, it was a total party scene, but in a really fun and seemingly safe way. People were blowing off steam from quarantine. I wasn’t a drinker at the time and had been sober for enough decades that alcohol drinking by other people wasn’t even a blip on the radar.

I listened to Matthew for at least an hour and became consumed with his story. He was a writer for HBO, or so he told me. He seemed authentic. Very forthcoming. He explained he had a drug problem (meth) and was desperately trying to get into rehab. He had been staying with a former partner in town and there had been a domestic violence situation. The end result was that Matthew, per his report, had ended up in jail wrongly accused of being the perpetrator. 

I immediately wanted to help Matthew. I wanted to help him get into rehab, I wanted to help him get free of his seemingly wrenching situation.  

********

I quickly became consumed with Matthew. His stories were fascinating. His clothing was fascinating, all expensive couture. And his shoes. My God. He loved his shoes and so did I.

Matthew was staying at the Motel 6 right next door to The Caliente’. The Motel 6 there was a straggly place. Paramedics were called frequently to pick up OD’s.

I was trying to be careful with my new friend. But it was glorious to have him. Suddenly I had companionship, someone to call, someone to check in on. And something big was always going down with Matthew. He was brilliant, creative, witty, everything. Being around him made me filled with life.

A few days later Matthew told me he needed help with his car. A vintage ruby red Jaguar with a tan leather interior he had purchased right after his breakup for $20K. He told me he had been at a nearby city loaded with gangs at a convenience store and that he had been shot up by three kids, leaving bullet holes in his car. He needed a ride to the body shop so he could leave his car to be repaired while he was in rehab. It seemed a plausible story. I was familiar from my time in the Central Valley of California that gang initiations often involve random shootings. And Matthew was clearly an easy target. Gay as fuck. Driving a jaguar in designer clothes. 

I volunteered.

I couldn’t believe the sight of his car. Bullet holes near the front door ripping through the exterior revealing the cars metal interior flesh. So close to the drivers door. Matthew was angry that his friends had accused him of being involved in a drug deal gone wrong. He said, “Look, if it was a drug deal they would have come right up on me and shot me in the car.” Matthew knew what drug deals were like. He’d been living them for most of his life, always walking that thin line between death and life.

Matthew loved danger as much as any drug. It was just one of the traits we shared.

*************

One day on my walks to the dumpster I found to my delight a beautiful double memory foam mattress with a frame propped up by it. It was clean, and it was exactly what I needed. I had been sleeping on the floor on a mattress I picked up at Walmart for $100 bucks. It was comfortable. But a real bed, on a frame, and free? But how was I going to drag the thing back to my apartment?

I had refrained from letting Matthew know where I lived. But this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get help from a friend. So I called him and asked him if he would come over and help me get the bed into the apartment. He gladly complied, which led me to believe that it was indeed safe to allow him further into my life. He was helpful!

He loved my apartment and was very surprised to find I lived so close to him. I wanted him to be free of the Motel 6… it seemed a dismal place for such a happening guy. He hung out for awhile and soon it seemed quite natural for him to take a nap on the bed in the living room, which was now free since I had a brand new bed in the bedroom. 

It was a glorious time. It seemed that Matthew and I fell into a partnership of sorts. An odd partnership but a partnership none the less. Matthew and I were both writers. I had begun the outline for my book on poster boards that were posted around my living room. Matthew began giving me input on my book and its focus. He was supportive and encouraging. Matthew was solid gay and I had been a lesbian for years. There was nothing sexual between us. It didn’t make any since. But we became partners none the less, calling each other terms of endearment, always telling each other “I love you”.

One night I found myself in the shower, feeling a sexual attraction to him. It was confusing and I tossed it away as irrational. I had no interest in sex and the idea of such seemed implausible anyway. 

That night he told me, “I’m really digging you right now ‘Big T”.

That was his nickname for me, for my butch persona. “Big T”. It made me laugh.  He had a drag persona as well, cannot recall her name. But drag was not Matthew’s thing so when he put on his thick lisp it came across as campy and unsuitable. But at that time, everything was campy and unsuitable.

************

Things went a long like this for awhile. Matthew started contributing to the decor of my apartment, a welcome addition with his sophisticated taste. 

Like all summers in Palm Springs, it was hot. Maybe more so than usual. There were lovely tropical plants and shrubs in front of my apartment. I started watering them as it seemed the irrigation system was failing miserably. 

It was a delicious way to cool off, to water the plants in the front, the trees and bamboo in the back. 

One day Matthew invited me to walk to the liquor store with him so he could get his vodka and cigs. I didn’t realize how hot it was, the impact it would have on me, or what it would take to keep up with Matthews young and able body that moved very fast. I tried to keep up, not realizing how long the walk was. I started having trouble breathing, huffing and puffing. I complained about the heat and length of the walk. 

Matthew told me to stop complaining, said I shouldn’t have come with him if I didn’t want to walk. So I tried to keep up. Finally we made it back to the apartment. 

I’m not sure if I was taking any thyroid meds then, it all became a blur. My pain in my jaw began to increase and my ability to move my body became almost impossible. Matthew was displeased. One night shortly thereafter it came to a head. I wanted to be in my room alone, away from sound and noise that had become overwhelming. And Matthew wouldn’t stop talking, wouldn’t stop demanding my attention. 

One night around 9:00 he announced he was leaving, packed his bags full of designer clothes, and whisked himself out the door. 

I was glad he was gone, glad for the peace, glad for another lesson learned. I had no idea that my troubles were just beginning.

**************

The Tip of the Iceberg

Everyone has a Covid story. I’ve learned that. This is mine.

Right before Covid my health had returned to a state that it had not been in for at least 10 years. I was getting regular massages. I was seeing my Rheumatologist, a Godsend, and my naturopahth, a miracle worker. I was communing with people I loved. 

And then…

My perspective on Covid was greatly affected by my decade long struggle with severe chronic illness. I was injured severely by many doctors and lost all faith in the medical profession, even tho’ I was once a professional provider in the medical field. My experience showed me that the once true adage of doing no harm, a vow I took when I became a nurse, was no longer valid.

As soon as Covid hit every one of my medical providers abandoned me. Strong word yes, but true nonetheless. They refused to see me. Every single one of them. This became very dangerous because I had a total thyroidectomy in 2013. You can’t survive without a thyroid gland unless you take medication and the levels in the blood are very important. I couldn’t even get a blood test after Covid. 

Once things opened up a bit and they allowed me to have my blood tested my thyroid level was skyrocketed in the wrong direction. A very severe hypothyroid condition called myxedema coma was the result. A situation that left me in a state of psychosis, eventually unable to care for myself, unable to use the computer, unable to write, unable to connect my brain to my fingers, I was terrified constantly and filled with constant surges of fear and rage.

I ended up in a new city alone. I was extremely vulnerable. I was unable to eat or drink and suffered heat stroke in addition to the myxedema coma. There was first a urgent care visit, and then a doctors visit where my heart was in atrial fibrillation. When I arrived at the visit my clothes were dirty and ragged. I had been unable to do laundry. The Nurse practitioner assumed I was a homeless person. I was taken via ambulance to a nearby hospital where they pumped me full of saline. However they failed to treat my atrial fib or my thyroid. 

When I asked to go the bathroom they said no, I had to pee at the bedside. There were no bedside commodes, so they gave me something that looked like a dustpan to piss in. It hurt tremendously to sit on it. Eventually it overflowed and no one even came to empty it. Then the Doctor comes and tells me I can go. I ask him how I’m going to get home since I came by ambulance. They said “call a cab”. Then they dumped me in the parking lot in 120 degree heat without any medications, or anything else.

This is just the beginning of my Covid story. It is only by the grace of God and my therapist that I am alive right now. My therapist went above and beyond for me during this ordeal. When I was too weak to drive my car to get food she had groceries delivered to my door (including pet food for my babies). Without her I would surely be dead.

One of the most important things that got me through this ordeal was the kindness of strangers. The chick at the convenience store who gave me her peanut butter and jelly sandwich because she could see I was starving.

And I was literally starving. I weigh 110 pounds and am recovering from malnutrition, one of the most painful things I have ever experienced in my life. 

Like I said, this is just the beginning. The tip of the iceberg.

I am so very fortunate to still be alive.

The Sand Out

I’m at the cannabis lounge where it looks like I might be staying until my apartment is ready. Because things at the TV stars house have gotten dark.

It’s just the repeat of the same story. As Amy would say, I cheated myself again, like I knew I would.

Somehow? I got sucked into a high drama situation and my presence is serving as a tipping point. Its gotten so uncomfortable at the place I’m staying that I’m hiding in my room when I am there. The energy is a swirl, there are landmines everywhere and eventually one of them is going to go off.

This isn’t my situation, but here I find myself and I can see how I fit into it.

I’m pulled to pull out tomorrow am. Drive away with my shit and lose the money I paid to stay here until the 5th, which at this point feels like an eternity.

This is old fashioned lesbian girl drama mixed with TV black magic and it is not a pleasant elixir. The girls are heavy drinkers, adding fuel to the mix. I’ve played these games before, had starring roles. Now I see that this TV personality thing has some shit that comes with it that I want nothing to do with. 

Can I pull all the cords out and breathe still in this psychodrama? Can I tolerate this feeling while carrying the knowledge that I am paying $80 per night to do so?

I did not see again. I did not see, again. I put myself, my well being, and my pets in danger. Again.

I’ve not seen any news, tv or digital toxins in days. But I see that Corona is encroaching. It felt light and breezy when I first got here. Masks were required in businesses but that was the extent of it. Now that has changed.

Coronoia spreads like California wildfires, destroying all in its wake.

Going out to do anything has become unpleasant. There are always collisions between mask wearers and non mask wearers, and then the sea of eyes without faces. All showing suspicion and fear. Eyes that grow darker everyday. And the hole in eye heart grows deeper everyday.

Just now I had my first temperature scan outside the cannabis lounge. I swore I would not submit to a temperature probe but it was the cannabis lounge, and I wanted to come in. Plus I like the security guard here, who is in charge of the probe. He said the cutoff is 99 degrees. The temperature here rises to at least 105 degrees everyday. Lucky for me my temp was 96 so I got to come in.

Can you imagine the sheer number of masked people with probes that have come at me in the last several years, treating me like an object? Surely at least hundreds.

On the way here I encountered my first sand storm. I’m on the freeway, and suddenly I am in the movie “Mummy”. In broad day light. Sand starts shifting across the highway like I am in the Sahara desert. I can hear the grains hitting the car.

shhhhhhhhhhhhhh

And the thought in my head was “Nobody ever told me how to drive in a sand out”. And then I was in one. And I couldn’t see the head lights of the car in front of me. And I’m trying to figure out how fast to go, cuz there aren’t any signs that say what the speed is in a sand out and plus if there were I wouldn’t be able to see them.

And then slowly the sand began to lessen, as if it were hard rain dissipating. And just a few short moments later I was in the light again.