Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Why Am I Single? Let Me Count The Ways

Two: I Probably Need Therapy

Alrighty then...Let's get to the part where I blame it on my parents. Yep, they're always to blame for something, aren't they? Not just your DNA either. It's that messed up word "nurture". Your parents can and will mess you up in one way or another. It's a vicious cycle, their parents mess them up, they mess you up and later, if you have children or are contemplating children, you WILL mess them up and you worry about it constantly.

And it's EVERYBODY'S parents. There is no perfection because parenthood is never perfect. Children are like giant computer programs from scratch. One tiny little command in the wrong place and "poof" you got a glitch. And it might not even be apparent right away. It might be one of those background programs that you hardly notice is running or don't use very often. Then, one day, you're running along fine until you notice that the program is dropping a "1" once in awhile. You go back and look at all the stuff you saved over the last 35 years and some of it comes up as gibberish. Crap. How did that happen?

In the case of humans, the programmers were already flawed. They can't help themselves because they were flawed, too. The funny part is watching somebody trying to fix themselves. OK, not funny sometimes. Sometimes it's a horrible mess and it seems like the best thing to do is throw the program out and try to start new. But, it's one of those pesky programs that is burned into the deep memory of the mother board. The most you can hope for is that a new program will mitigate the damage, maybe correct one or two flaws. The worst part is for somebody to contemplate throwing the motherboard out all together. That just sucks. Fortunately, I took a look at my motherboard and said, "Eh...I can live with it. I'll just load up on a bunch of new programs and maybe I won't notice."

Yeah...wishful thinking.

Your parents made you. They imprinted themselves on your subconscious and you don't even notice it until one day, you're doing something or saying something and they come out. You become your parent(s). And it scares the crap out of you.

Several years ago, I was watching my nephews. They were behaving very badly. The oldest one was picking on the youngest one. After several attempts to get them to stop, I yelled at the oldest one, "Alexander Lee H....! Do you want a spanking?"

Uhh...what was that? Oh. My. God. Was that my mom that just came out of my mouth? Eeew...eeew...I was my MOM! The question that I had sworn my entire life to never use on any child, "Do you want a spanking?", had just come out of my mouth. Not because I believe corporal discipline is bad. I know I got my share as a child, but because I always laughed with my brothers afterwards about what a stupid question that was. What were they expecting? "Yes, please. May I have another?"

Now, as an adult, I know that my mom meant that as a rhetorical question. No answer required. Translate to mean, "One more time and I'm beating your ass."

Funny thing about that. Why is it that children are not programmed to understand rhetorical questions?

Anyway, after I got over that first shock of being my mom, I began to notice other things. I laugh like my mom when it's a small laugh. Starts out sounding like Betty Rubble. You know how she laughs with her mouth closed? When It's a big laugh, I sound like my dad. Big gaffawing laughs where I'm desperately trying to breath in between. When I think I'm being challenged, I do the "cop" stance. The stance I saw my dad take a million times. Feet planted slightly apart, shoulders straight and arms hanging loosely at the side, ready for anything. When I'm emotionally angry, I do the "mom", I cross my arms over my chest tightly, tighten everything up and my mouth becomes a straight line (I've seen it in the mirror). When I'm trying to figure out how to work out a problem, I'll stick my left hand in my pants pocket and jingle the change around. Just like my dad.

And, apparently, I also have "the look". The look my dad always gave us. No emotion on the face except the slight squinting of the eyes. "The look" that says, "do you feel lucky, punk?" Um..nope..not at all. No luck here. What is it you wanted us to do? Go clean the garage? Pick up the trash? Stop screwing around in the church pew? I'll get right on it.

How do I know I have "the look"? I actually discovered that a little while before the "Mom" episode, but refused to recognize it. One evening, I'm at a club with some friends and this guy, who is slightly inebriated, kept getting in my space. He was trying to come on to me, but I really didn't care for drunk guys hitting on me. At least, not when I was sober. I kept moving back and over trying to get a little space. One time he sticks his arm around me in that drunken guy way, up high around my shoulders and puts his face close to mine while he's squinting and slurring trying to tell me that he'd had his eye on me all night. Of course, I'm thinking, "you should have tried your luck while you could still stand straight", but I just put my hand up and gently, but firmly, push him away. Then I say, "Excuse me." And walk over to where some of my other friends were standing.

Well, the guy just didn't want to give up. Some might admire his persistence, but I was in no mood to be breathed on again by Jack Daniels/whisky sour/beer breath or be some drunk guys leaning post (at least, not one that I didn't know). So, as he started walking my way again, one of my friends touched my arm to indicate he was coming. I glance over. Sure enough. This guy will not give up. So I turn and do the "cop" stance and the "look" and the guy freezes, looks around confused for a moment and then stumbles off.

One of my friends said, "What was that all about?" I shrug my shoulders, "I don't know. He's drunk." She said, "No. I mean that look." Now I'm confused, "What look?" She said, "That look you gave him. I think you made him pee his pants." I just laughed, "Whatever."

I really had no idea that I had the power of "the look." I didn't know I was my parents yet. Then, I was just me. Trying to figure out who I was.

One thing, about "the look." It is a blessing and a curse. At work or dealing with my nephews and nieces, it's a blessing. One "look" and everyone has figured out that they are toeing my "pissing" line. In personal life, I've discovered that, even if a guy is not the recipient of "the look", if he sees me give it to somebody else, it's a curse. Nobody wants to contemplate being on the receiving end of that "look".

One day, we're at my cousin's. He's the police officer I might have mentioned before. He was having a barbecue and a bunch of his officer friends were over. One of them, Big John they call him, was talking to me. He was kind of sweet. By now, I wasn't quite as oblivious to the signs of male interest, so I'm talking to him and one of the other officers that was there, Bobby Q..., whom we had grown up with and was always a pain in the ass (and he never grew out of it either), yelled out something like, "Go Big John. Maybe she'll let you ride her bike tonight. Ride'm cowboy." Very insinuating. I think he'd had one too many beers.

I could see the red creeping up John's neck and into his face. He was really embarrassed. I was embarrassed, too. So, I turn and give him "the look". All the guys standing around who'd just been gaffawing about Bobby's less than subtle jibe, now started contemplating their beers and turning away, "Dude...ah...yeah...where's that beer keg at? Did you catch that game last night?" Bobby's all, "What? What'd I say?" then he walks over to my where my cousin is standing and my cousin says, "Hey, man. Don't come over by me. That's your own shit."

Then I turn back to John and he's all red in the face and contemplating his own beer. Before I could say anything like, "Ignore Bobby, he's an asshole", John kind of clears his throat, "Ahem..yeah, I think I need some more beer. You want a beer or something?" I'm standing there with a three quarters full wine cooler, "Uhh..no. I think I'm ok."

"Alrighty then. I'm just going to get a beer. I'll catch you later."

"The Look" strikes again.

Thanks Dad.

Well, you get the drift. You may not recognize it, but your parents are written all over you. Your moods, your looks, how you contemplate things. Even the things that you do differently is because you saw or heard something from them that you decided to, and were able to, do differently.

There are other things that happen, that you don't realize until it's too late, that make you into you. Like divorce. Your parents get a divorce and whatever happens during that divorce, whether it's amicable or vicious, it implants itself on you. Like, if your parents got an amicable divorce, that may put a subtle program in your head that all of your breakups or ending relationships should be equally amicable. Friendly even. It can confuse the crap out of people when not all of their relationships end like that. Or, vis-a-versa, if your parents' divorce is nasty, you might get the impression that all of your ending relationships will be nasty so, you will either avoid them all together (relationships that is) or you think you should fight like hell over them and it is confusing as hell when the breakup is just, "Sorry. I'll always care about you. Do you mind if I take a few towels and wash clothes?"

You following along with me? My parents were divorced. Not just once either. Try "Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor" style.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my Mom about relationships and some how, the number of times that they were divorced came up. I said, "I can't believe you guys got divorced and remarried four times (not including my two "stepmothers")". My mom said, "We were only divorced three times."

Now, I know you guys want to laugh. Laugh dammit. It is funny to have somebody say "ONLY" three times. I mean, it's bad enough when they are marrying and divorcing other people, but from each other? Jeeeshush H. Criminy..."Mom. It was four times." My mom is looking all confused, "No, it wasn't. It was only three."

So, I start counting them off, not including the multiple separations, "The year I was six." That didn't last long. They were quickly remarried. I don't even remember it much.

"The year I was eight." The year John Savage broke my arm in a judo move.

My Dad met some nurse named Della when he was transporting a nutjob over to the Rainbow Center which is the local stopping point before state hospital. My parents were having a very rough time with money on a policeman's salary, I think, and they were ALWAYS fighting. He married Della two weeks after the divorce was final.

I hated her. Of course, I was eight and thought she was the evil stepmother. She wasn't my mom, dammit. Plus, she had a two year old daughter that she doted on. She was the widow of a police officer and that is how my Dad sort of knew her before and then he met her again at the looney tune hospital. My parents had vicious fights. There was definitely some slapping and counter slapping going on. We went to stay with my Aunt Cynthia and her husband Kyle (they were later divorced) and my cousin Chris, who is a year older than I, and her brother Mikey who was only about one, I think. They had a pool and lived around the corner from my Grandma and Grandpa. So, we stayed with them for awhile.

Then we lived with my Mom for about a year. My Dad got really angry because my Mom was hanging out with some people that he thought were "no good" so they had some more fights, went to court and we went to live with my dad and Della.

Now, I can't tell you if these people my mom was hanging out with were "no good". Honestly, I was eight and I couldn't tell about people yet. The guy from next door in our trailer park (yes..I lived in a trailer. Did I ever tell you that I hate when people say "trailer trash"? Like they know what it's like to live in a trailer or who lives there or why?) had a crush on my mom or was taking advantage of her despair, or something. Whatever. He was over quite a bit. That's all I remember.

Dad and Della were married all of one and a half years. By the end of their marriage, my dad started trying to see my mom again. I guess Della wasn't all she cracked up to be.

They got a divorce and my parents were remarried by the time I was ten.

We went to live with my grandparents on their farm. Those were the best years of my life I think. At least, those are the years that I remember the most. My dad quit his job as a police officer and went over the road, taking my mom with him, as a truck driver. So did my aunt and uncle. All eight of us grandkids lived with my grandparents on this hundred year old farm. My Aunt Cynthia was divorced by then and she lived with us, too. We took long walks in the field. Played softball behind the barn. Jumped out of the hayloft. Played hide and go seek in the barn. Threw rocks at the mud daubbers nests and ran like hell (if you got stung, you were the loser). Rode horses. This is also the place where I learned to hate chickens and discovered that cows were good for hamburger and steak.

It was the kind of time and place that people refer to as "halcyon days of summer". Even though it wasn't always summer. We had to ride the bus to school for an hour each way. We lived WAY out in the country. It was actually here that I first got the passion to read. Mrs. Winters, my fifth grade teacher, said I was behind and gave me books to get caught up and I would read them on the bus in the morning on the way to school. In the afternoon, I would do all my homework on the way home so I could always be ready to go out and play when we got there.

Our second cousins lived down the road from us and they would come over and play hide and go seek or play tag football in the front yard.

I loved it there.

But, it was the recession and eventually my parents stopped driving over the road. My grandparents sold the farm and we all lived like gypsies in campers for about a year. We went down and stayed on Padre Island, Corpus Cristi, Texas for about six months. Then we went to California for a couple of months. My mom is from there, my parents were married there and I was born there many moons ago. We only stayed for awhile. My dad and my mom's dad never did get along.

Then we came back to ....., Kansas and my dad went back to work at the Sheriff's Department. We moved into a nice trailer in a nice little trailer park. There were a lot of kids my age there. We lived there for about two years.

"The year I was fourteen." My mom perks up then, "We didn't get a divorce."

"Yes, you did."

"No, we didn't"

"Mom, I was fourteen. You think I wasn't old enough to know you got a divorce? Grandma and Grandpa had moved into the old brownstone down the road. When you guys sat us down and said you were going to "go your separate ways" and asked us who we wanted to live with, do you think I'd forget that?"

Ok, by then, my brothers and I were becoming old hats at this game. You see, in between these divorces there were at least one trial separation and they always started with, "You know your father and I (or mother and I, depending on who was speaking) love you all, we just can't live together anymore. You are old enough to decide who you want to live with. So.."

I will pause for a moment here and just say, in case you haven't figured it out yet, how emotionally f*'d up that is. It doesn't matter if people do it to there kids one time or twenty, it is the worse thing that can happen to a kid. Even if the parents are trying to re-assure them that they both love the kids, no matter what, they are making the children decide who they love more. Because, that is what it feels like. That you have to decide which one you love more and, when you are fourteen, you are old enough to understand that the person that you don't pick is going to be hurt, which makes it even harder.

However, in this case, I was already becoming very smart. At least, I thought I was. When they started in with the "You know your father and I both love you..." we knew what was coming. My brothers started crying. My youngest bro, loudly. My middle bro was trying to be manly. I was mad. Angry tears. I couldn't believe they were doing it AGAIN. What the f* was this about anyway?

So, I looked at my parents as defiant as I could (they were still my parents after all) and said, "I want to go live with Grandma and Grandpa!" Then I looked at my brothers and they both nodded their heads, stuck out their lips, crossed their arms like me and we all stared at our parents.

In other words, "Nyah, nyah, nyah...you don't love us, we don't love you. So, there!"

My parents were shocked to say the least. I don't think they realized that we were going to stage our own little rebellion right in the middle of theirs.

As an adult, I realize that my parents' divorces had very little to do with us kids. Ok...they had nothing to do with us kids. In away, that is one little bandaid on the wound. In another, it is disconcerting to realize that these people that you loved to distraction, didn't understand the family concept of how everything and everyone is intertwined. It was about them and it was always about them. I know now that they were always agonizing about what would happen to us. But, they really didn't understand how the constant back and forth was killing something.

By the time I was fourteen, I had begun to pray that, this time, would they just stay divorced, for the love of God. This crap was getting old. I didn't want to do this over and over again. I wanted it one way or the other. Get divorced and stay divorced. Or, get married and stay married. Pick one. Anyone. Just do it and stick with it for once. That's why I chose grandma and grandpa. I didn't want either of them.

Now, mom is sitting there thinking about it. "Well...you kids went to live with your grandparents for a month and your Dad never did move out."

"Yeah," I said, "but the divorce went through and just because you guys got remarried the very next day does not make it "not" a divorce." She was sitting at my table with her hand resting on her chin, thinking.

"Then there was the FINAL divorce when I was nineteen." And, oh, what a f*'d up mess that was.

For about four years, we lived the normal life of any family. My parents rented a house. They were both working. We had to struggle because a policeman's pay was still crappy and, even with my mom's pay, we were just scraping along. But, we didn't notice it much as kids. My parents took us on cheap vacations, but we always thought how great they were. Camping and fishing. Getting up in the morning and cooking breakfast on an open fire. Weekends when we went fishing with my dad, grandpa and uncle. I think that's when I learned to love fishing. I still hate to touch the fish, but I will bait my own hook. Weird, huh? Now when I go fishing, I always make my brother take the fish off for me. My one "girly-girl" thing.

The year I was eighteen, my dad was working two jobs, one as a sheriff's deputy, regular hours and one as a security guard. My mom was working at, places of all places, the juvenile detention center. So, when I was talking about my dad being top cop at Juvenile Court, we had the double whammy of my mom working at the detention center. We heard how screwed up it all was and it put the fear of God in us about not messing up. That and my dad had a belt and was not afraid of using it.

I think their divorce was about a number of things. My grandpa had died the year before. I think my dad was feeling lost and probably having a serious mid life crisis. He met Sharon on a call he took about a dead body in the apartment complex she managed.

I was still living at home, having graduated from highschool the year before. I didn't know what I wanted to do or be, so I got a job at Mrs. Winners chicken and took some classes down at the junior college while I tried to figure it out. Now, you may wonder how somebody who graduated in the top ten percent of her class was not running off to college. The long and short was that my parents and I did not understand the importance of scholarship applications, or college applications and, by the time we did, it was late in the year to be signing up. My parents, jointly, also made too much money to qualify me for a Pell Grant. On the other hand, their credit sucked so bad from the recent bankruptcy, signing up for loans was impossible. And, to top it off, I lived with them which meant that I was a dependent and the loans had to be in their name.

I had one partial scholarship offered to me from the University of Texas. President's scholarship. My parents were very wierded out by this. They didn't want me to go far away. My dad wanted me to go to KU or K-State. Some place local. Why don't I go to junior college and then see what comes up?

So, there I was, no scholarship, kicking around with Junior College so I could get through until I could get lined up with a scholarship or something.

It was three days after Christmas. My dad comes home in the middle of the day. I was off work and I was surprised to see him. He sits me down and tells me that he is leaving. I wasn't really surprised. They weren't together anymore. When they were, they were always fighting. Knock down, drag out fights. About money. About time. About the amount of sugar to put in Kool-aid. About everything.

He asked me to help him get his clothes and things together. He's not taking anything other than his personal stuff and his tools. He found a little trailer down the road to live in until he figured out something better. I didn't know at that point that "something better" was already in the wings.

I remember driving with him in his pick up truck with the back loaded. He wanted me to go with him so I would know where the place was. He says the thing that they always say, "You know I love all you kids. I just can't live with your mother anymore." I am quiet and just looking out the window at the crappy gray snow on the ground and the crappy gray sky. Trying not to cry and feeling like I was getting the divorce. Then he says, "I only stayed with your mom because of you kids."

What the F*? I was angry then because, all that time, I wanted them to do one thing or the other, but not do some prison time with each other for the sake of anything. I mean, I really wondered at that time if they understood how messed up that was. How messed up they made everything and the whole time he's telling himself it was for US! I still didn't say anything. We got out at the trailer and I helped him take the stuff out of the truck and he took me home.

Where I waited for mom to come home and the storm that was going to break loose.

And it did.

Let me sum it up here. It was a year and a half of hell. My mom's dad had died two years before. Her older brother was in Los Angeles. She didn't have anybody. She worked all the time and didn't have any friends. All she had was us kids. My middle bro was gone all the time and youngest bro was like fourteen. So, it was me she cried to. Constantly. I remember the first month after he left she would come into my room in the middle of the night, while I was trying to sleep (I was working you know), and sit down on the edge of my bed and cry and cry and cry. I was so damned angry then. Angry at her for not being stronger. Angry for her at being left again. Angry at my dad for leaving me in this mess. Just angry.

You know what other songs I really, really hate besides "Freebird"? They are some oldies but some goodies and my mom had them on 45's and she played them all the time on the big console TV/Record player that sat at the end of the room. You know this song by Dolly Parton, or was it Loretta Lynne? Whatever:

My D-I-V-O-R-C-E, becomes final today...
Me and little J-O-E, will be going away...

Blech. Just writing the words makes me want to throw up. Then there was another song that I used to love by Peggy March because it had some soaring orchestral movements:

I love him, I love him, I love him
And where he goes I'll follow, I'll follow, I'll follow

I will follow him..
Follow him where ever he may go
'Cause near him I always must be
Nothing can keep him from me
He is my destiny

Yes. Some really tragic crap. Some folks think that the new grunge or metal or whatever kind of music is full of angst. They really don't have a clue about music. The 60's and 70's really had some angst ridden, tragic, sappy, horrible songs.

I hated to come home and hear the stereo playing. It almost ruined music for me.

In January of that year, my dad introduces me to a friend's wife and she gets me a job with a healthcare company. I didn't know it then, but it was my ticket to the future, a future in a far, far away place.

In February, my dad announces that he is getting married. Two weeks after the divorce was final. I wasn't really surprised. I think I knew it all along. However, I refused his invitation to the wedding. No way in hell was I giving him the blessing to get on with his life while mine was still stuck in hell.

Then, I'm nineteen and really trying to get my life together. Who was I? Where was I? What was I going to do?

The parents were still fighting, just not as constantly since they weren't living together. They fought about my youngest brother. They fought about money. They fought about fighting. I stayed gone as much as I could. I worked full time. Hung out with some friends. Cruised around in my new Pontiac Fiero.

Yeah, by then, the Firebird was starting to have problems. Major problems. And I had money from my new job. Even helping my mom with the bills, I had money. So I traded the Firebird in for a brand new, shiny red Fiero. The last year that they made them. I was now super cool with a little red sports car.

My middle bro had moved up to a slightly newer model Camaro. Blue with a T top. He was working and had graduated highschool. He went to live with my dad for awhile. I don't think that he could take my mom's constant angst ridden days.

Believe it or not, I was still trying to date. One here, one there. It was really hard because I hated for anyone to come over and pick me up from the house. I didn't know if they'd find my mom in one of her maudlin moods or one of her "all men suck" moods. Neither mood was conducive to convincing a date that you were a good bet.

I was just realizing that I was an adult. I had bills now. Responsibilities.

I had been out of school for about two years. My dad and his new wife went on vacation to visit her family. My middle bro decided to throw a party at their house while they were gone. He had invited all of his friends. Robbie, Eric, Jay and his brother Russ, some other guys and girls that I didn't know. He called me and told me to come over. It was a Saturday night. I was too young to go to clubs and getting too old to enjoy just cruising around. Everyone was starting to seem so young.

I went over. The party had been going on for awhile. When I got there, they had mixed up some "jungle juice". If you've never had it, it's 190 proof grain alcohol with some Kool-aid thrown in to give it color. It was in these two gallon tea containers with a spout. They were taking turns kneeling underneath the spout while somebody turned the spigot, guzzling it like it was water.

All I've got to say is...eeeeww. That stuff was rot gut. There were suspicious pink stains on the kitchen floor that looked like somebody had had a few too many turns at the spout and had left some of it on the floor. Beer cans everywhere.

As soon as I got there, Eric started following me around. I was walking through the house and basically thinking, "Holy shit! Dad' is going to kill Larry when he gets home." The place was a wreck and smelled like a bar. Just then, I noticed a guy and a girl coming down from upstairs. Where the bedrooms were. "Uh...Eric. Where's my bro at?" He just shrugged.

I'm looking at all the drunk people sitting around in the chairs and the floor and one of them is laying face down on the couch making suspicious groaning noises. All I kept thinking was he was going to puke on Dad's couch and then bro would be a dead man walking. "Dude! Dude!" I shook him a little and he just groaned louder. Well, shit! "Dude! Get up and get off the couch. Eric. Go find my bro and tell him to get down here." I knew already the randy little bastard was up stairs with one of the girls while the house was being torn apart.

By then, some of the less drunk people were starting to realize that the party was probably over. The mood killer was there. Older sister that was definitely NOT going to take the rap for younger dumbass brother's party. Had I not shown up at the party, I probably could have claimed ignorance. But my car was there. The neighbors knew a party had gone on and I was the oldest. I was always the oldest and that meant I was always responsible for what the younger, more stupid brothers would do.

Remind me one day to tell you about the time middle bro handcuffed my younger bro and we didn't have a key and I was supposed to be watching them. You know, as the oldest.

Anyway, bro comes down the stairs all rumpled looking being followed by some blonde haired girl I didn't recognize. "Dude. What the f* is wrong with you? Do you wanna get in a fight with dad? There are beer stains on the piano (dad's new wife's piano) and this guy over here is going to puke on the couch any minute!"

He blinks and looks around. I think the booze is wearing off and he finally sees what a shithole the house has become. Just then, the guy on the couch let's out a big moan. People are shuffling towards the door, "Dude. Good party." "See you later, Lar." "Yeah, dude. Great party." And they all scurry off like rats leaving a sinking ship. Except Eric who is still standing behind me all quiet. By now, I was kind of used to him being there. After several years. Like a shadow when I was around. What can I say? He was always just going to be one of my younger brother's hot rod friends.

The guy on the couch let's out another painful moan and Larry kind of stumbles down the stairs real quick. "Dude! Dude! Get the F* up off the couch if you're gonna puke. C'mon, dude. It's my dad's couch!" Fine time for him to start remembering.

Now I need to tell you that my brother is only 5'4" and about 120 at that time. Not that he gets much taller than 5'4", but he definitely has more muscle these days. At this time, he is grabbing the guys arm and trying to pull him up. "Dude. C'mon." Now he's panicking. The guy on the couch is going, "Oh, God. Oh, God." Oh, God, is right. Even the inexperienced me knew that was a prelude to something really horrible happening.

"Eric. Larry. Grab his arms. I'll grab his legs. Let's take him outside. He can puke in the yard." So they grab him and drag him off the couch, face down, while I try to pick up his legs. To this day, I have no idea who this guy was. They start carrying him outside and I've got his pant legs down by his sneakers trying to carry his legs as his knees are bouncing on the carpet and up the stairs and he is till moaning and saying, "Oh, God" over and over. We drag him outside and throw him face down on the yard hammock (you know the kind with a square frame) just in time for him to lean off the edge and retch his guts out. I mean, horrible retching followed by equally horrible dry heaves. Uuuuggh!

I turned and looked at my bro, "Dude. You are in so much shit if this house isn't cleaned up by time dad comes home tomorrow night."

He's still blinking and rubbing his hands on his face. He turns to Eric, "Dude. Can you help me? I gotta clean this up."

Eric, "Sure, man. I told you earlier I'd help you out."

Bro turns to look at me and I said, "Dude. Don't even."

Now he's looking panicky, "Dude. C'mon."

I can't tell you that I felt a little exasperation, but a whole lot of satisfaction right then. Mr. Cool was not so damn cool when it came to dad's size ten foot up his ass. Not to mention the one million other times when we were growing up and I, as the oldest and alleged responsible child, had to clean up after him and the other brother, saving our asses from enumerable ass kickings.

Robbie Schneider comes stumbling out of the house and my bro sees him, "Dude. Where're ya goin'? You said you'd help me clean up."

Robbie is sheepishly heading towards his car, "Dude. I gotta get home. My dad's gonna kill me."

"Shit!" and bro goes stomping off into the house. To get a trash bag I presume because the yard is full of crap, too. I walk over and sit on the hood of my car with my knee drawn up, resting my chin on it and contemplating how much work we were going to have to do. Because, yeah, the little shit was my brother and I couldn't just stand by and let him get in trouble, even if it was his own doing. But I wanted to make him sweat a minute, just to enjoy the feeling.

Eric walks over and leans a hip on the hood of the car, crossing his arms and looks at the yard, too. He doesn't say anything. Bro comes out and is frantically throwing stuff in the bag. I glance at Eric, "Dude. Where's your girlfriend?" I just realized that he was alone at the party.

"We broke up." He replied without looking at me.

"Oh. Sorry 'bout that." I shut up and continue watching bro jamming stuff in the bag.

Finally, bro looks up at Eric, "Dude. Are you gonna help or what?"

Eric and I looked at each other and then I scooted off the hood of the car and we started helping clean up the mess. I just want to say, it was one of the most disgusting things I've ever done. Right up there with walking into my first boyfriend's bathroom (he had three male roommates - need I say more?). We did as much as we could, then I went home and Eric stayed over at my dad's. He and Larry got up early and scrubbed the floors and tried to clean up the piano.

Monday night, my dad calls me and asks me if I wanted to come over for pizza. By then, they had been married for a year. I still wasn't all happy about it, but I was learning to live with it. I got over there and my bro is sitting at the table looking all miserable. Uh..what's up? I looked at him. He just shrank down further in his chair, looking more miserable. My dad walks in, "Were you at the party the other night?"

Uh..umm...party? I give my brother the evil eye. "Um..yeah, I came over later in the evening when it was winding down. Why?"

"Did you know there was alcohol here?" Shit! Now I'm really giving my brother the eye. How the f* would he know there was alcohol there? You have to keep in mind that we were 18 and 20 respectively. Not the legal limit for drinking and my dad was a cop. He did not dig under age drinking. One too many accidents he had to see. We had cleaned everything up I thought.

"Uh..well..when I got here there was a couple people with beers." I was not going to admit to the "jungle juice" or the quantity if I had to. Bro's life was on the line.

"Was anybody drunk and driving?"

"Not that I saw. There was only one guy that was really messed up and we made him sleep it off here." Ok..we didn't make that guy do anything. He just passed out after he threw up. I figured if we copped to one and then acted all responsible, dad would cool his jet. Honestly, I was too worried that night about the condition of the house and hadn't paid much attention to the yahoos that were leaving. As far as I knew, everyone had made it home ok. But, now I was wondering if that was how he found out there was a party there.

Nope. Not it. Seems as though some bonehead had decided to do his girlfriend in dad's bedroom and had thrown an empty can of beer in the trash can by the bed. I gave bro a dirty look because I couldn't believe, after all that cleaning and scrubbing, nobody bothered to look in that room for incriminating evidence. Crap. Then Sharon, dad's wife breaks in, "There was beer ALL OVER my piano."

Alright, it probably didn't take a crystal ball for anyone to figure out that I did not like dad's new wife. I don't think she liked me much either considering I had blown off their wedding and refused to come over to meet her for about six months. Today, is a different story. After fifteen years, all that is water under the bridge. Then, it was a test of wills.

"Sorry. Don't know where that came from. I just came over and helped clean up." The wonderful, responsible child that I was. So, there. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Dad's got his "authoritative cop" stance going on. The one where he has his feet braced apart and his hands on his hips and his shoulders thrown back. "There will be no more parties at this house."

Nope. No more. You see, my brother went off and joined the Air Force. He was scheduled to leave in October for basic training.

My parents were starting round five of arguing over my younger brother who was starting to get in trouble at school. They were arguing bout child support since middle bro had graduated and left home. They were arguing about my mom's new boyfriend (friend of middle bro's dad).

I still didn't know what I was going to do. About three weeks before middle bro was scheduled to ship out, one of the branches for the company I worked for had an opening in New Jersey. I had become friends with one of the women in the office who said that I should apply.

Me? What the hell would I do in New Jersey? Where would I live? She knew somebody who lived in the apartment below her, a girl our age, who's roommate had skipped out on her and she would be willing to let me stay there for my share of the apartment. The branch manager flew down and interviewed me. A week later he calls and said that I have the job if I wanted it, but I needed to be up there in two weeks because they were getting desperate. They would pay $500 towards moving expenses.

I never even told my parents I was looking. It was scary and exhilarating all at once. I could leave here. I didn't have to stay. I had some place to go. Something to do.

I told him I needed a day or two to think it over. For three days I thought. I didn't say anything to my parents. Just tried to decide what was best for me. For me. I was going to do something for me for once. I hugged it to me. Finally, Wednesday of that week, I told him I would take the job and I would be there on Monday. I went home that night and told my parents. When was I leaving? Why did I want to go to New Jersey, of all places? My dad said it was an armpit. I didn't care. It was an armpit far, far away from there. Very far from them.

"I'm leaving on Saturday morning." What? Why so soon? I explained the situation and said I needed to sort through what I was going to take. I had a Fiero and there's not much room in there. For two days they tried to talk me into staying. Friday night, I packed the car. Clothes in the little bitty trunk along with some books. The passenger seat had my sketch book and pencils, an alarm clock and a little cooler with soda and peanut butter cups. In the floor board was my guitar. My friend. My partner when I was all torn up. I could write some sappy songs, too, you know, when the mood was upon me and it had been on me more than once in the last year and a half.

We all went to breakfast at Perkins early Saturday morning. Everybody. My dad and his wife. My step sister (did I forget to mention her? Don't worry, she shows up later on). My bros and my mom. I ate a huge breakfast of pancakes with strawberry syrup. I can't remember anything that tasted that good. It was like the first food you taste when you get out of prison.

Then we were standing out in the parking lot near my car. Did I have enough money? Was I sure I wanted to go? Call when I stopped. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Everybody gave me a hug, including my bro's who were all manly one arming it, trying not to hug to much. Yeah. Can't show emotion now. They were men. Ahem.

Finally, my dad says, "If you need money, if you need anything, just call. If you can't get home by yourself, I'll send you a bus ticket. You can come home when ever you want to."

Tears were coming down my face, but I was determined not to cry. I was going. One thing was for sure, I wasn't ever going to make that call. I was going to make it or die trying. I was going to show them that I was an adult now and not part of them anymore. I was me. Me, dammit.

I got in the car and with a final wave, drove off into the rising sun. I had the stereo blasting:

Na na nah nah...
Na na nah nah
Hey, hey

I was the Phoenix.

The old me was burning away and the new me was rising out of the ashes.

Why Am I Single? Let Me Count The Ways

One: The Trauma of Adolescence

I was responding to somebody's email, and they know who they are, when I realized I was writing over a page of "stuff" and some of it was funny so I thought, "What the hell?" I'll post it on the blog. That way we can get the funny and the serious out there.

Starting with the already known, I was a nerd. A very well built nerd, but apparently IQs of over 126+ (depending on who's test you use) and grade point averages of 3.7 just scare the crap out of highschool guys. I mean, strikes them blind so that even a +++bust size does not stir the retina back to life. That and the fear of a police baton shoved up their ass.

On the other hand, when you have a grade point average of 3.7, sometimes, all normal hormonal activity is delayed and it does strange things like strikes the owner of said grade point average blind, deaf and dumb while still being able to function. It's a strange scientific phenomenom and, with all the money people waste on studying how long a rat will watch TV, if they really wanted to understand human psychology, they'd put away their Freud and Jung and actually record the life of teenagers like a national geographic show and air it on TV. Then, and only then, might some young man or woman be saved from the trauma of adolescence. If they only knew how many other kids suffer along with them.

I also had an image problem. The girls at school were size 6 or less. When I was in highschool I was a size 10. Then, of course, there were the very large girls, but that wasn't quite the number as we have in today's schools. I was not quite "in". Ok...I thought I was fat. Now I look at those pictures and wish to the almighty I could have that body back again. Not that I'm rolling in the fat now, mind you, but I haven't been a 10 in at least 10 years. Damn depressing.

Anyway, the teenage me did not know how good I was looking. And I don't mean that braggingly, but in the way that many young girls and boys experience adolescence: totally unaware of their own appeal and lacking in self confidence. In which case, the more out of sync I felt with the rest of them, the more I read. I absorbed myself in books. Not just fiction: history, art, biographies, whatever I could get my hands on. Before I had a car, my mom would take me to the library and drop me there for hours and I would get the limit on books (10 I think) and take them home and read them in less than the two weeks alloted and then I would beg my mom to take me back again. I loved our library. It had little cozy nooks with overstuffed chairs and side tables where you could sit and read for hours.

Uh..ok, getting off on the single part. So, in highschool, I didn't know I had something other than a brain and the answers to the questions somebody needed for a math lesson or a history test. Then I met up with the mensa people. I never tried to get in to the actual organization, but I hung out with those people. I must say, they were not exactly like the Revenge of the Nerd people. However, one thing about them, they were all insecure like me.

And, I was a "daddy's girl". No doubt about it. I was perfect in the eyes of my father and he was always reminding me and my brothers not to disappoint him. So I did my best not to. Which meant of course that boys were trouble and meant to be avoided.

At least until I got the afforementioned car. Until then, I was the epitome of the Adam Ant song:

Goody two, goody two, goody goody two shoes
don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do?

Well, now that you're asking, I drove fast. Very fast. I will tell a big secret now. The only reason I didn't have any tickets, compared to my brothers, was that I had electric windows, tinted. Ok..how does that make a difference? Think like a male police officer who walks up to a car he is expecting to see some young punk guy driving and the dark window slides down and..poof...it's a chic with big bachugas.

Ok...I can't tell a lie. I really didn't know it was that. I thought they knew my dad was a police officer and that I was his daughter. Remember, I have no idea that I am actually appealing at 17. I still have a bag on my head and can't see past my chin. At least until my Dad comes home from shift one night and asks me what I was doing up on State Ave that night. Umm...nothing Dad. Cruising like we always do, why? "You were speeding. Don't let me find out you were speeding again or I'll take the car away." Of course, now I'm pale and thinking, "crap, that asshole cop told my dad I was speeding."

Er...not quite. It seems that the officers were sharing their nightly stories of favorite traffic stops in the locker room and one of them was telling the others about this chic in the orange firebird and making some referrences to interesting body parts and another recalls that he had me pulled over on Turner Diagnol two weeks before and then dad walks in, overhears part of their conversation and then they recall that his last name is "H...". "Hey, H...you got a relation that drives an orange Firebird?" Which confirms to my dad that the chic in the firebird they are all making nasty remarks about is his DAUGHTER.

How do I know? I was walking to the bathroom about 1 AM in the hall that night and I could here my dad telling my mom about the assholes in the locker room and how he told them to shut their mouths before he kicked somebody's ass.

I remember going back to my room kind of stunned and looking down thinking, "Really? That guy thought I was sexy? I mean, he was ooold. He had to be like 35 or something, but, WOW! I'm cute and sexy." Bling. Light goes on. I'm almost out of highschool and finally realizing that I do have more than a brain. Which is sort of funny later on, but, back to the story.

So, I'm all hopped up thinking the next time I get pulled over, I'll make sure that I am doing my best "Miss Daisy" pose. Three weeks later...the cop comes up to the window and doesn't bend down like they normally do. All I remember seeing is his belt and holster. He puts his hands on his hips and says, "Does your dad know where you are?"

Psssshhhht...There went some air out of that ego.

I've come to realize now that cars are not just an extension of a man's..ego. It's an extension of the owner's ego, regardless of gender. Its like an accessory. Like clothes. It says something about the owner. I know damn well my car was supposed to say: cool, sexy, fast. At least I know now. Then, all I was thinking about was: sexy. I'm sexy. Yoo-hoo. Over here. Sexy over here. Hey, dumbass! What are you, stupid?

Sheesh...Now I drive a pickup truck, black, extended cab with four doors, bed liner, running nerf bars and chrome wheels. What the hell does that say? Independent, sturdy, almost ready to settle down, not easily scratched, accessible, wannabe a sports car? And the motorcycle in the garage? I still wannabe cool, sexy and fast.

Well, one out of three ain't bad.

So, guys in highschool. What is there to say? I had a crush on this boy named Keith Buck. He had a nice build, good tan and white teeth plus he was in my college bound classes so I saw him all the time. Yes, I did write stupid things in my note book like "Mrs. Keith Buck" with a heart around it. I was a teenager you know?

We were having a dance at school. Totally stag. Everyone comes alone and then you pick your partner to dance with. Like Sadie Hawkins' Day, but a little looser than that. Of course, if you were dating, you came together anyway. But, me and the mensa gang were eminently single. I knew Keith would be there, so I made my mom help me pick out a dress and shoes, do my hair and make up. I have a picture from then and I think I looked about 20 something instead of 18. Good for me, probably not good for Mr. Buck. I got to the dance and I was feeling really good. I even had a little "thinking of you" card.

Yep...I went from barely noticing that I was a girl to full fledged "I need a Maaan!"

So, I drive up in my super cool car, with my super cool dress and super cool hair and give them my ticket. I walk in and there are my friends hanging out, so we get together and I'm keeping my eyes peeled for Mr. Buck. I'm a newly liberated woman doncha know. I CAN and WILL ask a guy to dance with me. About which time one of my brother's friends comes over and asks me to dance. His sister is actually one of my friends too so I am being nice and go dance. It was a slow song. Bon Jovi. Never say good-bye. Everyone else is doing that slow, arms around the waist and neck turning in a circle. Well, no way in hades was I doing that dance with Brian Cahill, so I hold out my right hand, which he looks at confusedly for a second and then I grab his left hand with mine and put his right hand on my waist. High on my waist and we start dancing in circles. You know the dance? Your legs are kind of stiff and locked at the knees while you rock back and forth, one foot basically staying in the same place while the other moves back or forwards in a circle.

We don't talk. I'm busy looking for Mr. Buck. Brian, I realize later in life, is traumatized. He is dancing within inches of a person that he has had a crush on for a better part of a year. I don't know that at that point. I thought of him as my younger brother's friend. Right then, aside from searching for Mr. Perfect, I notice that Brian's hands are moist. Not just moist. Sweaty. Gross sweaty.

Now, had I been a person with more self esteem and self confidence, I probably would have handled the situation better. Instead, I look down at him (yep, he was shorter than me. Maybe the proximity to interesting body parts had something to do with it?) and say, "Dude. What's up with your hands? Wipe them off or something." Not realizing until I said it that he is pouring sweat everywhere. He quickly pulled his hands back and wiped them on his jeans a couple of times while I pulled out my, clean white handkerchief (from the place that all women, who go out for an evening, according to my grandmother, carries one-get your mind out of the gutter, it was up my sleeve), wipe my own hand off and then place it on his right hand and put it back on my waist. "Ok, that's better." Please, God, can this dance be over? How many times can Bon Jovi sing "Never say good-bye"? I didn't say that last part out loud but I was thinking it. After I made him wipe his hands off, I'm sure he was thinking that, too.

Ok..I was a stupid teenage girl with a crush on another boy. I probably traumatized Brian Cahill for at least a year or two of his own adolescence. Maybe longer.

Somewhere, in the big book upstairs, I'm sure there's a little mark on my rap sheet that says, "Caused Brian Cahil to become woman hating mysoginist. He was divorced three times and now lives alone with a dummy he has dressed up like his mother and pretends to argue with her about women."

Well, the dance was finally over and Brian and I parted ways. It was a mutual decision I think.

I began looking for my crush. Several fast songs are on and a slow one starts again. Just then I see Keith standing to the side talking to some of the girls he was on committee with for the dance. Did I mention he was the class vice president? So, I gather up all of my courage and walk purposefully over to him. Before I know it, I'm standing in front of him. Crap. Now MY hands are sweaty. I think there are stars in my eyes. "Er..um..Keith," I'm holding the card in one hand, "I was wondering...er...that is..uhh..would you...umm..." then I let it out in one big gush, "would you dance with me?" Can you say "cow eyes"?

He is standing there with a pained expression on his face, half way between panic and resignation would be my guess. I didn't know what was wrong. Suddenly, Jamie Ferris, who was one of my friends in Junior High until she moved up to "IN" in highschool, walks over and saves Keith from his most embarrasing moment, "Keith, you promised to dance with me." She takes his hand and pulls him away. The other girls follow behind a little and they are giggling and looking over at me while I'm standing there like a big goober. I can feel my face turning red.

I finally get myself together and walk back to my friends who are like, "What happened? Why is he dancing with Jamie?" Need I say that I'm devestated? The questions weren't helping and the whole evening was ruined for me. All that fixing and I still got nothing.

A short while later, I tell my friends I'm not feeling well and I'm going home. I realize I still have that stupid card as I'm walking towards the door and I was determined to throw it in the trash. But, who is in the door? Mr. Buck. Now I get to play my favorite part from Gone with the Wind. No, it isn't Scarlett. I never could identify with her stupid arrogance and whiny, bratty ways. I always liked Rhett.

So, I'm walking out the door and he's standing there and sees me coming. I'm not looking at him at all. Just as I come abreast of him, he starts stuttering out some apology which barely registered through the pain and anger I was feeling. (Now I feel bad for the guy. How could he have known he was sticking a big hole in my ego? But then, I was just seeing red. Or, Rhett.) I stopped next to him and said, "Thanks for nothing." And I tossed the card at him, which he caught, and I stomped off, jumped in the car and tore out of the parking lot.

Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

Ok...I did. I got home and cried my eyes out. I was ugly after all.

At least until the next morning. Then I got up, washed up. Put the dress away, pulled out the shorts, went to the car wash and washed my sexy car. Where I was immediately accosted with cat calls and wolf whistles.

Bing. Ego, partially re-inflated.

Then my brother catches up with me while we're cruising that evening, "Dude,"(it's the 80's, everyone was "dude"),"why were you so mean to Brian?" Uhh..I was mean? It took me several moments to realize he was talking about the sweaty palms episode.

"I wasn't trying to be mean. He had sweaty palms. His hand kept slipping down to my butt. What was I supposed to do?"

"I don't know, dude, but he was all, like, crying and everything. He had his mom iron his shirt and fix his tie before he came." I remember he was wearing a dirty gold terri cloth tie that was cut square at the bottom. You know the style I'm talking about? Now I was feeling bad and strangely good at the same time with a little bit of "gross" thrown in. I mean, the guy was still two years below me in school. "He's had a crush on you forever."

"Uh...like, dude, how was I supposed to know?"

"Dude, why do you think he's always hitching a ride over to our house with Eric?"

Good question. "Uh...like, he's your friend?"

Now my brother is rolling his eyes. Did I mention he was cooler than I was? I mean, he had his car and everything, but his friends were the "cool" people in his class. The other guys with muscle cars. The girls that went with the guys with muscle cars. He made some hand movement or something like "your hopeless", "Dude, if you'd, like, get your nose out of a book once in awhile, you'd, like, knooow that they're there, like, ALL the time."

Ok, at that point I was starting to get creeped out because it was dawning on me that these guys WERE over at our house almost every day and Eric (from previous post)was always trying to help me take out the trash, or clean up whatever, or just standing behind me. It was creepy because I still didn't have my mojo, you know? Thinking about three sixteen year old guys mooning over me was still not exactly baslm to the ego. Frankly, it scared the hell out of me.

"Dude, tell them to stop it, ok?" My brother just rolled his eyes and got in his car.

Next Monday, at school, Cindy Cahill comes over to my locker during lunch hour. I'm thinking she is going to give me an earful for having slapped her brother down on the dance floor so I'm kind of leery. "Hey, what's up?"

She was all smiles, "I just wanted to say "thank you"."

"Huh? For ..ahh..what?"

"For dancing with my brother."

Now I am so damn confused, but I'm trying to be cool. "Oh..yeah. Like, no problem. He's a nice guy." With sweaty palms.

"Yeah, well, it's, like, all over school that he asked you to dance and, like, you danced with him so now he's, like, you know, cool or something."

Cool? I had the shittiest night of my life and I dance with one underclassman and he's cool?

As an adult I can now understand that he wasn't only cool, but he had balls of steel. I mean, for a non-car driving underclassman to ask a senior to dance takes some balls in the first place. Add to that, he had a crush for almost a year that most of his friends had harassed him about and that means balls of steel. At least in the world of highschool society.

One card: .99
One dance: balls of steel
Cool for the rest of the year: Priceless

Post Script:

I was parking late one night at a store. No one was in the parking lot so I just scooted in and took up a couple spaces, parking crooked. I got out, locked the door and started walking in. Another car had pulled in right after me and the people were walking behind me. The guy called out, "Hey, you can't park worth a shit." Yeah...whatever. I kept walking. "Hey, I said you can't park worth a shit." I'm thinking...f* you, asshole, but I kept walking. "Kat H.... you can't park with a shit."

Now of course I stop because this guy knows who I am. I turn around and look at him and have no idea who he is, but he is walking with a woman. He's huge and he comes over and gives me a big bear hug. I'm freaking out a little bit because, obviously, I should know who this is. "Hey, how are you? Where've you been? Longtime no see." We exchange pleasantries and I act like I know who the hell he is even though I don't have a clue.

Then he says, "You know I always had a crush on you." His wife/girlfriend punches him in the arm. "It's true. She was always helping me out with my homework and stuff in Mr. Johnson's class (advanced history). Kept me playing. She was cool."

Uh..I didn't know this guy from Adam, but a really weird thing happened. It was like all that freaking trauma from adolescence was for nothing. A guy in my own class thought I was cool and had a crush on me.

I wanted to shout to the world for a second, "I was cool! Did you here that world, I was cool!"

But I didn't. I just laughed a little and said how hard Mr. Johnson's class was. I still didn't know this guy, but he did look a little familiar. I kept thinking "football" but no name or position. Finally, she told him they needed to get back to the house so I shook hands with both of them and told them I'd see them around.

Soon as I got back to the house, I whipped out the year book. Scott Taylor. Receiver.

How damn cool is that?

Teenagers should come with warning labels for both parents and other teenagers:

Warning: This object appears bigger in the mirror than in actual life. It can cause damage to self and others.
Do not store in warm places after 14.
For instructions on how to use this product safely, please write:
PO Box 777
St. Peter's Gate, Heaven.

No refunds, no returns.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving! How cool was I?

As you may have noticed, I stopped blogging for a few days on the matter of the Mid East conflict. Hope I didn't leave too many hanging. I'll be back on that this week. Instead, I spent my Thanksgiving enjoying my family and scribbling down an idea I had for a book that's been swimming in my head for awhile. I was just lacking a few key components, like, what, when, why and where. Nothing major :)

Now that I finally got it down in writing, I can play with it some more. I re-wrote the entire second chapter as a matter of fact and added chapter three. Four will be on it's way this evening or the next day depending. I have to catch up on all the work that I missed on Friday. You know, the job that actually pays me for doing something and going somewhere.

Then this week it's back to the mid east conflict. I have to say, reading all of the history has certainly put some ideas in my head on how to flesh out the characters in my book. So, if you're still interested in the Mid east and can't wait for me to get on tearing it apart while I jot down my little dream of being a writer, please go back to the older posts on the mid east situation and read any of the sources that I posted. It's all fascinating. At least if you love history like me.

If you can hold off on the seriousness a bit and don't mind reading some fiction, hop over here and indulge in some amateur writing.

By the way, I did leave the comment section open there. Since I've been posting all sorts of interesting stuff on this blog and leaving myself open for any who-ha that decides they know better than me or just interesting comments from my friends, I figured I could take the criticism and not curl up in a ball and die if anyone doesn't like it. Like most of what I write, it's about me. Selfish I know, but it's me enjoying two of my favorite hobbies put together: reading and writing.

Ok, motorcycles are actually my favorite hobby, but since it's colder than a polar bear's ass here this time of year, and yes, I am a fair weather rider, AND the motorcycle will simply not fit in the office space, nor does it come with an Ethernet adapter for the computer, reading and writing, by necessity, have booted the motorcycle from the top space until sometime in at least March. Unless I go down to my bro's in Tucson where we can rent bikes and drive into the desert until night time where I can then experience freezing my ass off in the desert instead of some back road of Missouri.

Did I tell you that I also play the guitar? I am multi-talented. Ok..I'm good, but Metallica nor George Straight will be knocking on my door and I have been known to make Jimi Hendrix turn over in his grave. Be that as it may, I can actually strum a tune or two and have folks actually know what I'm trying to play.

Except for "Freebird". I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I actually detest that song. Why? You try growing up on the plains of Kansas and Missouri, attending keg parties out of the back of pick up trucks with big ass bonfires and have twenty drunk redneck guys come over and ask you to play the song, over and over and over again, so they can stand around in their holy jeans, beat ass sneakers, Metallica T-shirts underneath a flannel shirt, slopping their beer out of plastic cups they stole out of their mom's cabinet, or acting like they are cool by punching a hole in the top of their beer can and then one in the bottom, trying to guzzle it as it pours out, so it can slosh out all over them and anyone standing by, then smashing the cup or the can on their foreheads while making the "rock and roll forever sign" of the thumb, index finger and pinky, shouting "FREEBIRD!"

Did I just say how much I really hate that song?

Alright, my youth did not traumatize me. At least, not too much, but there is only so many times you can repeat an episode before beginning to think that you are stuck in a time warp. Oh yeah, other traumatizing song: Time Warp.

Let's do the time warp again....
Let's do the time warp again....
It's a step to the left...
Then a step to the right...

That's it. That's all I care to remember. Tim Curry in bikini underwear and a garter belt was just a little too much for my mind. As a matter of fact, the first time I saw that movie I was on a date and the theater was doing a marathon "Rocky Horror Picture Show" complete with the weird people who showed up dressed like the characters and stood up in front of the screen acting out the parts. Toast anyone? If you don't know what I'm talking about then you've never had the experience of having toast come flying over your head at a movie theater. Did I tell you that was a one and only date with that guy?

Ummm...ok, now that I've written that little diatribe, I realize that some of my readers may have enjoyed just such a moment. No offense anyone. It's just that I was a bit backwards back then. Not nearly as outgoing as I am today.

Back to the rednecks in the field. I just wanted to say to my city bound readers. WE DO NOT DO COW TIPPING!

Umm...I know that was a little forceful, but I can't tell you how many times, while living in Philly, somebody found out I was from the great Midwest and asked me if I went "cow tipping."

News flash. I even lived on a farm and we never heard of this. The first time somebody asked me, I thought they were full of crap. Like when your grandpa asks you if you want to go "snipe hunting". If you don't know what that is, don't ask. Just tell the person that asks you, "NO!" You'll be safe and relatively, psychologically sound.

So I asked my friend, "Cow tipping?" "Yeah," he said. "You know, when you go into the field and find a sleeping cow and push it over?"

Uh...no dumbass, I don't know. Were you drunk? Smoking something that was laced with something? Who the hell goes into a field and tips cows, for the love of Pete?

Another news flash. Where I'm from, we don't play with our food before we eat it. Just a redneck thing I guess.

Oh..did I tell you that I was chased by a cow when I was ten? Yeah. A big black Angus cow named "Ida". She chased me clean across my grandparents' field where I ran into a slat fence that was missing the bottom slat, so I practiced my "on fire" technique of "stop, drop and roll" under the fence. I looked back to see one of my uncles had bulldogged the bitch. Then I looked down and saw that I was still holding a handful of alf-alfa which is why she was chasing me.

Another pointer here from the land of the red, white and red: drop the food before you start walking. You don't know what might decide to follow you.

Did I tell you that I like my steak medium rare? No? How about after that little episode, when grandpa took the calves off to market, it didn't bother me a bit. Little calves turn into big cows and big cows are stupid and mean. Or, just stupid and that can be dangerous itself. I had more than one nine hundred pound bovine step on my foot. Let me tell you, that really sucks when you're wearing your favorite ked tennies. Hurts like hell. And the stupid bastards will just stand there, too, no matter how much you push and shove.

I like my steak medium rare.

Chickens, too. Not medium rare, but I don't mind eating them. My grandparents kept some for laying hens and, when we stayed with them, we had to take our turn getting the eggs. Let's just say I was never fast enough. Those evil birds from hell would peck the hell out of my hands before I could even get one egg. I always tried to bribe my youngest brother to go do it for me. He was like Mikey. He'd do anything. Eat anything, too. We were kind of mean I guess. We'd make "mud pies" literally and my youngest brother would eat them. I always told him that's why he's got rocks in his head.

Ok...maybe I was traumatized in my youth. Is there a doctor in the house?

Really, I was a nerd. I read all the time. My folks threatened to punish me by making me go to my room. Then they got smart and said they'd make me go to my room without a book. That was punishment. I was in band, too. I didn't play the guitar. I played the trumpet, third chair out of ten. Not bad considering I was the only girl in the whole brass section. All the other girls played flutes, clarinets and oboes. But I was still cool. As the third seat on the JV band, I had dibs when the marching band or senior orchestra were in need of a pair of lips. Then there was the summer I hung out with the jazz band at Crown Center where we got to play with some of the greats.

Ok..I was only cool with the folks I hung out with, but that was...you know...cool.

I was also cool for other reasons of course. My dad was a cop. Not just any cop, the officer in charge at Juvenile Court. That meant any number of Johnny Rebels were always sucking up to me. Looking for a contact. Mostly, I was just embarrassed when somebody asked me if my Dad was "Officer H...". umm...yeah..no..Why do you wanna know? I was certainly not going to tell pops that some career criminal was asking for my home phone number. After awhile, they figured out that I didn't play that game. But that was cool, too. A relief actually. The only problem was, I was the nerdy daughter of the top cop at juvy. Nobody, but nobody was inviting you to their party. Even other cops' kids.

Still, I was cool.

Ok...maybe it was because everyone wanted me to be their lab partner, or their composition partner, or their report partner. Whatever. Jocks and cheerleaders knew my name, but I still didn't hang with them. My friends were...nerds actually. Like me. Or worse. Two of the guys in our group literally blew up the one guy's parents' garage distilling rocket fuel. We went to the quiz-o-ramas at the colleges for math and history contests. I was in the Spanish club. We got top spot for our Spanish heritage display. Now I can say, "Como se llama?" (What is your name?) Me llama es Kat (My name is Kat). Que hora es? (what time is it?) Donde es la bano (banyo)? Where is the bathroom? Ayuda me! (help me! - very handy in Mexico I hear). Yo tengo hambre. (I am hungry)...Chenga tu madre (I'll let you figure that one out)

Ok...you get the drift. Just enough to get me in trouble, I'm sure. After that, I can read some Spanish and get the general drift, but fluency, even after three years, escapes me.

I was still cool. Alright..I was cool because I had a car. Not just any car, either. A 1978 Formula Firebird with a 400 Pontiac, glass packs, hurricane rims and an eight track/radio. No..It wasn't new when I owned it. Cassettes were big at that time, but that was ok. I just ripped off a few of my parents' eight tracks. Rick Springfield: I wish that I had Jesse's girl. How can I find a woman like that?

Dude...right here. Me. Pick me. What the hell? Jesse was a bit of an asshole. Guess the car wasn't a guy magnet after all. At least not the kind that wanted to date me. Mostly, they just wanted to race. The car was racing orange with a black stripe on the bottom of the car on the air molding that said "Formula" in silver letters. It had duel hood scoops back when hood scoops still had a reason to exist. With a 400 Pontiac and posi-transmission, it was hell on wheels and so was I. After seventeen years of being the "good girl", I was bad.

We would go down to the bottoms where all the warehouses were. Behind them was a flat road. Speaker road. It was blocked from the main road by the warehouses. That meant we could drag down there a good part of the night and never get caught. Well, until one night. We were hanging. I hadn't raced yet. Nobody asked that night. Our racing wasn't the "line up and take the next fool in line" variety. It was by arrangement between the car owners.

On this night, I was hanging at the top of the road with the rest of the crowd, leaning on my car and playing cool like Pinky Tuscadaro. If you don't know who I'm talking about, you are probably not old enough to be reading this blog. Try google. Anyway, I'm leaning on the car and some guy walks up and asks me if I had any "papers". "Papers? You want to race for papers? No way." The guy just sort of looked at me all confused and said, "Uh...no dudette. You know "papers"?" and he made a little rolling motion with his fingers.

Shit. I was still a square. Nope. No papers. I might be a bad ass with a lead foot, but drugs...nope. A ticket the pops would fix. Drugs was a major ass kicking. The car would go away and forget hanging on a Saturday. That was just a little to risky for me. And, considering the "old man" was the top cop at Juvy, I figured he'd seen it all, heard it all, smelled it all. "Sorry..no can do. Try those guys over there." He walked on and I looked over to where the cars were lined up getting ready to race. My middle bro, the one who's about 1.5 years younger than me, was talking to his two friends who had squared off against each other. Middle bro had a '78 Chevy Camaro. White with a big hood scoop in the center. The ass was jacked up with air shocks and he had the precursors to spinners for rims with hacked off glass packs as tailpipes. We were the ass kicking "H...s". But we really didn't hang with the same crowd. You know, he was two grades behind me and it was not cool to hang with the JV.

That night, he wasn't racing either. Probably the best thing that ever happened to us. Robbie Schneider was lined up with his blue metallic Chevelle, 1972. It had a white stripe down the middle and was jacked up in the back. He was sporting cherry bombs for tailpipes. They were loud as he sat at the line. His challenger was my bro's other friend, Eric Lombardo. He had a gold Nova. I don't remember the year, but it was when Novas were squared off and still had an engine. His Nova had a three speed on the tree (steegin column). I remember because, one night, we were all jacking around (one of the few nights that we hung out) and some gang members from down on central started chasing us and Eric's car dropped second gear. You ever try to take a clover exit off a highway while going 65 with only first and third gear? Aye carumba!

Anyway, the guys jump in their cars and start revving them up. The whole crowd, maybe a hundred people in about thirty cars, were getting behind them and yelling out stuff. "Don't drop a gear, Eric!" "Kick his ass, Robbie!" My bro's in between them, holding his arms up in the air and then he drops his arms and the tires are squealing, smoke is rolling and motors are screaming. It was like a scene out of American Graffiti. The only difference was that we were listening to Bon Jovi and not Buddy Holly.

They got about half way down Speaker, where the lighting isn't so good and most of what you could see were their taillights and the outline of the car occasionally as it passed under a light, when I could see Eric's taillights start fish tailing. Holy Shit! I thought we were going to see a big one right then. But Robbie puts the hammer down and pulls away and Eric pulls it out and they start going hell bent for leather towards the end of the road again. Then they reached about three quarters of the way down. All of a sudden, out of no where, these cop cars with their lights flashing and sirens blaring come pulling into the road blocking it off. Eric and Robbie hit their breaks and I thought I was going to see the big bang after all as both of them were fishtailing to a stop.

Did I say "Holy Shit?" already? You should have seen the chaos. Like somebody poured a can of gasoline on an ant hill. Everybody was running for their cars. We could hear more sirens coming. I looked over just long enough to make sure my bro was jumping in his car and I ran for mine. For a minutes I was kicking myself on having parked so close to the other road because it was far away while I was running. When I reached the car, there were cars all around so I ditched the idea of trying to open the door and did my one and only "Dukes of Hazard" entry through the window. Don't ask me how. Firebird windows are not really made for "Dukes of Hazard" entries. Do not try that at home! You could get hurt. A concussion even.

Anyway, I cranked the key and that's when I realized providence was looking out for me. Being so close to the road, I wasn't blocked in like some of the others. I just threw it in reverse and got the flock out of there, only checking in my rearview mirror long enough to make sure my bro was behind me. We made like bats out of hell down some back roads until we hit Peter's Drive-in. That was the "IN" place when we were cruising. Everybody wanted to be seen there. The smart people go there early and got a space. The rest of us usually had to content ourselves with driving through the pick up window and waving at anyone that we knew before cruising on. Usually, though, I didn't like sitting. I wanted to run so Peter's was only good for a coke and a wave.

That night, we got there and the place was a little empty. Most of the known folks were still back at Speaker road trying to get the hell out of there before the cops busted them. So, we parked side by side and a couple other friends showed up. We got some fries and some cokes and then laughed about how we'd barely missed out on that catastrophe. This was long before cell phones by the way, so we didn't have anyway to know what happened with Eric and Robbie until morning. Not that we cared. We were invinvcible and immortal.

A little bit after midnight, we knew we had to get on home. Our curfew was 1 AM. Yeah, I was eighteen then, but it didn't matter. I lived in their house and school wasn't over yet. We drove in laughing and joking about the raid and my dad comes to the door and flips the porch light on. "Where've you two been?" Deer in headlights. We weren't too damn good at lying, even for teenagers. "Umm...we were down at Peter's drive in." I reached in and grabbed my "Peters" cup as nonchalantly as I could and took a sip out of it. Butter would not have melted in my mouth. Dad kept looking at us for a minute and then he said, "you sure you weren't down on Speaker Road? They busted some of your friends down there. I heard it on the radio (the policeman's radio)." Cough..sputter...kaw.."Sorry...ice. I sucked a piece of ice up the straw. Um...no Dad, we were up at Peters most of the night and cruising around." Fingers crossed behind the door of the car.

"Damn good thing. Everybody they could catch got tickets and some boys had their cars towed. I would've been pissed if I had to take care of some tickets or get your cars out of lockup. Well, just don't stand there. Get in the house. Your letting the mosquitoes in."

"Ok, Dad. We'll be right in. Just let me lock up my car." He walked in and middle bro and I exchanged looks across the tops of our cars. Phew! That was a close call.

I always felt bad for my youngest bro. He was three years behind my middle bro. By the time our Dad got through with us, he had vowed to never buy another one of his kids a sports car again. And since youngest bro was the only one he had left, he was getting screwed.

Do you know what a Dodge Omni is?

Friday, November 26, 2004

Testing..1, 2, 3: Did I ever tell you I want to be a writer?

Ok...I've been kicking this around for sometime. I have had a book in my head, complete with characters, scenes and dialogue for a very long time. I've decided to start writing it down. I'm pretty sure I am in need of an editor. :)

Anyway, it's in a separate blog and the first chapter can be found at The Last of the Heroics. I am looking for a different title as this seemed really close to a movie that just came out and stole my idea for a name. But that's it for right now.

I offer it to my readers. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!
Psalm 95:1-2
O come, let us sing unto the Lord:
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving
and make a joyful noise onto him with psalms

Mid East Conflict Part VII: World War II to Israeli Independence

When we left off, Al Hussayni, chief orchestrator of the 1936 Arab revolt in the Palestine Mandate had been exiled and went to Iraq where he assisted in the attempted overthrow of the government in favor of the Rashid Ali Nazi party in 1941. TransJordan had just become an independent state in 1939 as a protectorate of Britain under the Amir Abdullah al Hussein, brother of the famed Feisel who fought at the side of TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) in World War I. The Palestinian Mandate was suffering under the struggle of pro-immigration Zionist Yishuv with growing control of the land and economy while the native Arabs seemed to slip even further into poverty. Attacks and reprisals continued throughout the 20's and 30's between these two groups.

The break up of the Palestine Mandate was the first attempt by the British to create a separate Arab state. This included parts of the "west bank" of the Jordan where the Palestinian Arabs resided.

Jordan Posted by Hello

On to the inner sanctum for a review of Jordan's alliance with Britain during World War II and the prelude to Israeli Independence.

Jordan and Britain

During the 30's and through World War II, Abdullah was to remain a stalwart ally of the British. The British had helped Abdullah set up and train a professional army that was used to stamp out Bedouin raiding in Jordan from the Saudi Arabian region. If you recall in our discussions about Saudi Arabia, the ikhwan (Muslim brotherhood) had continued to cause Al Aziz Al Saud problems with raiding his new ally's territories in the north and had stamped out most of their kind by 1929. However, remnants and the tribes they were from continued to harass the area until Abdullah's military had developed new ways to interdict and patrol.

In 1941, during the height of the war effort in North Africa and the Middle East, Iraq's king had been overthrown by the Pro Nazi party, supported by money and materials from Germany, funneled through al Hussayni. With the assistance of the Jordanian military and tribes, the British were able to overthrow the Nazis and restore the monarchy in Iraq.

You may recall also, that Syria had been under the control of the French since the end of World War I per the Sykes Picot agreement. After the the fall of France to Germany in 1940 and the establishment of the pro-Nazi Vichy government, Syria becomes a problem at the back door of the British in the Middle East. Abdullah, acting as an ally of Britain, drove into Syria and threw out the Vichy government there. It didn't hurt of course that he still had dreams of the Arab state of greater Syria that would include Syria, Jordan and, Allah willing, the entire remaining Palestinian territory, Jews and all.

[Break: Anyone else recall the movie and black and white TV series "Desert Rats"? The series was about the exploits of a British army group in North Africa, near Tobruk, who basically made a nuisance of themselves and gave the British time to regroup and bring in the Yanks. I was just reminded of that while reading.]

After the end of World War II, Syria was handed back to the legitimate French government and Abdullah's dreams were once again smashed. But the British offered him a new gambit: membership in the UN and a hefty subsidy to keep his kingdom going. Since Jordan was not awash in agriculturally significant land or other natural resources, this was a plus for Abdullah. In 1945, at the end of World War II, the Arab League of Nations (Arab League) was created and exists to this day. This conference was to provide mutual protection and commercial unity between the Arab states.

In 1947, Britain had turned over the problem of the remaining Palestine Mandate to the UN, which created UNSCOP: United Nations Special Committee on Palestine; consisted of 11 members.

UNSCOP reported on August 31 that a majority of its members supported a geographically complex system of partition into separate Arab and Jewish states, a special international status for Jerusalem, and an economic union linking the three members. Supported by both the United States and the Soviet Union, this plan was adopted by the UN General Assembly in November 1947. Although they considered the plan defective in terms of their expectations from the mandate agreed to by the League of Nations twenty-five years earlier, the Zionist General Council stated their willingness in principle to accept partition. The Arab League Council, meeting in December 1947, said it would take whatever measures were required to prevent implementation of the resolution. Abdullah was the only Arab ruler willing to consider acceptance of the UN partition plan.

The proposed separation looked like this:

UNSCOP Plan 1947 Posted by Hello

The green areas were to be the Arab State, the blue for the Jewish state, Jerusalem and international city and some sort of cooperative government agency to be established to regulate law and commerce between them.

Once again the Arabs turned down a solution for two states and insisted that the whole of Palestine become an Arab state.

In 1948, the British supported his bid to join the UN but the USSR blocked it by stating that Jordan was not yet free as a British Protectorate. In looking at it from the time period, it is doubtful that the USSR was looking out for Jordan's interests. Most likely they were wishing to drive a wedge between Britain and Jordan to limit Britain's influence on the Arab state's vote in the general assembly. Possibly looking out for their own potential for alliances if the state could be bought.

Britain orchestrated a new treaty with Jordan, granting them full sovereignty and control, but also bundling a large amount of money as "aid" to the state and rights for British bases. This was enough for the UN and in May of that year, Jordan became a member of the general assembly.

The Zionist and the British.

During this time, the question of the Palestine Mandate still lingered. The Yishuv had been looking at the British Mandatory government as an enemy more and more. The holocaust in Europe saw more and more Jews fleeing to the Palestine Mandate. The British at the same time had declared a moratorium of immigration to the area in order to deflect some of the rising tension. In 1942, at the height of the holocaust, a ship carrying Jewish refugees from Romania was refused entry to Palestine and sank a few days later in the Mediterranean killing all aboard but two. The Yishuv took this as the British acting as accomplices of the extermination of their people (the "holocaust" was not known or called so at that time).

In the meantime, the Jewish Yishuva had created their own paramilitary underground, referred to as the Haganah. The Haganah were originally trained by the British as guerilla fighters to use against the Nazi war machine in the middle east. Egypt to be exact. As the Nazis were kicked out of the Middle East, the Haganah turned more and more towards organizing the defenses of the Jewish communities against attacks from the Arab communities. Other paramilitary groups included the Irgun and the Stern gangs led by Lehi. Menachim Begin, ex Polish soldier (future Prime Minister of Israel) had come to Palestine in 1942 and taken over the Haganah by 1943.

The British had begun to side with the Arab population in the area more and more as partisan fighting continued between the groups. News of the horrific persecution of the Jews in Europe had reached the area by then. The Irgun and Stern gang began to harass British troops in the area in hopes of forcing the Mandatory government to allow unrestricted immigration to the area and saving more of the Jews, but the British government stood firm.

[Break: Historically, this looks like a terrible decision on the part of the British, considering what we now know about the holocaust. However, it's known that while there were reports coming from Europe concerning the problem, the actual extent to the persecution and deaths were not known. Part of the problem, of course, was that these countries could not conceive of the ugliness and evil that it would take to perform such a task. And, the British in Palestine were not the sole group of people to turn Jewish immigrants away. Spain and France before it was over run and the USSR had eventually closed it's borders. The whole world seemed to be blind to the situation]

In 1944, the British minister of Middle Eastern Affairs in Cairo, Lord Moyne, was assassinated by Lehi, the head of the Jewish paramilitary group Irgun. This group was the most extreme of the Zionist groups that was pressing the Jewish communities to expand even further and take the entire Mandate of Palestine for a Jewish home state. Upon the assassination of Lord Moyne, the Haganah, led by Menachim Begin cooperated with the British in hunting down Lehi and destroying the Irgun. But it was too late for the Jewish. From that moment forward, the British government refused to support a separate Jewish homeland while the mandate was still under their control.

For the Jewish, by the end of the World War II, the true nature of the holocaust was just being discovered with the liberation of the concentration camps and the records of the Nazis from France, to Germany, to Austria, to Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine, to Greece, the Jewish people has been hunted and exterminated to the point where only a few thousand of the estimated hundreds of thousands in some countries remained. In Czechoslovakia, other Balkan states and in Nazi occupied USSR, an estimated 4.6 million Jews had been killed. In the USSR and Balkans, concentration camps existed, but, by the close of the war, the Nazis had begun to line them up in front of ditches and machine gun men, women and children into ditches they were forced to dig themselves.

Only those that survived the concentration camps, were hidden by friends and neighbors or had immigrated to other countries were still alive. Even the Vichy government of France had participated in rounding up over 70k Jews and sending them to the concentration camps.

It became clear to the Jews of Palestine that, in the future, their only guarantee of survival was no longer a Jewish "Homeland" in another country. Rather, the true cause of the Zionist became emblazoned in their hearts. The word "homeland" was dropped from all political language. The words "Jewish Commonwealth" replaced it and the Haganah became their military wing, harassing the British in Palestine from then on in hopes of forcing them to withdraw.

US Support of the Zionist

The US in the meantime had alternated between support of a Jewish state to non-support. In 1947, at the first recommendation of UNSCOP, the US supported the decision. Shortly thereafter, a foreign aid to President Truman indicated that the partition was impossible, so he withdrew his support. Sectarian fighting continued in Palestine and UNSCOP appointed a special mediator, count Falks Bernandote fo the Swedish Red Cross to try and work out a peace between the groups so that the partitioning recommendation could move forward.

In April of 1948, Weizman (who made agreements with Feisel during World War I for the immigration of Jews to the area; TE Lawrence mentions him in his papers and books), went to President Truman and once again influenced him to support the state of Israel. Lobbying the UN Security Council had begun.

Britain Withdraws - Israeli Independence

in 1947, Britain had set a date by which it would withdraw from Palestine: May 15, 1948, declaring that they cold no longer control the area nor enforce any decision by UNSCOP as it would go against all of their agreements and conscience. Until that date, the British worked with Arabs in an attempt to disarm the Haganah and other paramilitary Jewish groups. The Irgun gang had been responsible for an earlier bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem and numerous other attacks on the British infrastructure. After the King David incident, Ben Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency in Palestine, broke all ties with this group and focused on the Haganah as a defense mechanism, but, by then, the British and embarked on reprisals, arrests and deportation of suspected collaborators.

April 1948, precipitated the Arab refugee flight from the Palestine Mandate. The Irgun group massacred approximately 250 Arabs in Dayr Yassin. As the news spread, more and more Arabs began to leave the area.

The day before Britain was to officially relinquish it's power in Palestine, at exactly 6PM on May 14, 1948, Ben Gurion officially announced the Independent State of Israel.

All hell was about to break lose.

[Update: I noticed that I made an error in the date. It was May 14, 1948 that Israel declared independence, not Mat 15. My apologies for the mistake.]


Library of Congress: Israel
Library of Congress: Jordan