Sunday, January 09, 2011

Rough Night, Draft III

Draft 2 was in couplets. Draft 3 is in contemporary form, something I like to call a pseudo-sonnet.

Rough Night

Blasted from bed, feathers and I, birds caught

in a ceiling fan, spinning like the world—

I'd forgotten how much codeine hurts. Doc

told me last time, "Eat something, suck it up,

codeine is harsh." So at trite 2 a.m.,

I bear-tear open a pouch of oatmeal,

few more than 100 pieces of grain,

the rest sugar, diabetes waiting

to happen. But no problem, I can do

wash this morning, sort blues, greens in a way

I would call OCD, except that's how

people separate. When I run out of

greens, I’ll turn to browns, mix my colors more.

Bad day to try to sort things anyway.

Katherine Gotthardt

Draft 3, January 9, 2011

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Rough Night, Draft I

The color and I lurched out of bed last night,
launched like a helium balloon, caught
in a ceiling fan, spinning like the world.
I'd forgotten how much codeine hurts.

Doc told me last time, "eat something,
suck it up, codeine is harsh." So me,
at trite 2 a.m., bear-tear open one of these
serving size bags of oatmeal and chew
artificial apple oats. There are few
more than 100 pieces of grain in there--
the rest is sugar. Remind me
not to feed this to the kids, I think,
dumping the sweets into the latrine.

But it's all good now that the balloon popped,
and after no dreams, I can run the washer
this morning, sort the greens into warm water
in a way I would call OCD, except that's how
most people separate. But I'm out of greens right now,
so I will turn to browns, mix my colors.
Maybe it's a bad day to be thinking green, anyway.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Ring Burner

She never had any evidence he was trying to humiliate her. Her suspicion was either proof of her poor self esteem or womanly intuition, and since she intellectualized too much, she was unable to distinguish one from the other. The way he looked at her and grinned, the way he brushed up against her as he passed the grill, the way he touched her fingers when taking hold of the spatula...she knew he knew that for at least a second, she got goosebumps in places she tried to ignore, especially when she was on the job.

Perhaps, though, she should give him a pebble-sized benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was just teasing her. Maybe he was attracted to her, demonstrating it through a hardly recognizable seduction. But she suspected if he ever came up behind her and murmured into her ear, it would only be to say, "I know you want me." She would deny it with a soundless shake of her head, but her near-paralysis would probably give her away, unless he interpreted it as fear, which he should because she would be both terrified and turned on should that scenario ever be brought to life.

The smell of financial desperation invaded her for a moment, the scent of burgers and fries she agreed to cook because there was no other job available. She had lied to the manager. Of course she was looking at long-term employment with the possibility of earning a supervisory position. Of course she was neither under nor overqualified, and of course she had great customer service skills. Yes, she appreciated industrial kitchens, and yes, she didn't mind working with a variety of people. She just hadn't planned on this kind of variety. Thank the gods his cologne couldn't conquer the insistence of fast food.

She hardly ever looked into his eyes, and when she did, it was not for long. He, of course, brazenly gazed into hers until she lowered her head to stare at the pueblo colored tile, scuffs indebted to packed oil that protected dirt from brooms and mops. Or were the scuffs trapped like she was? A lousy corporate deal and severance and unemployment, long since depleted, drove her deeper and deeper into a lowly metaphorical floor until the mere graze of an arm from a man who scared and revolted and thrilled her became the pinnacle of her day.

Revolted. That was the word. Men who teased and embarrassed her revolted her in that they forced her to confront her own anger and confusion and her attraction to the wrong kinds of men. Two years ago, she had crashed and burned from this breed of man and vowed never to attempt flying again. She was through with highs and lows, sun and clouds, sudden dips so close to mountains that there could be only one ending. She had been right.

And now, this burger-serving flirt was trying to lead her to the same kind of plane, strap her into a seat that had been occupied, she was sure, by dozens like her. She had no desire to be just another woman or the be-hind of a joke or the object of a sadist. But she did have desire, and before she realized it, she had burned the onion rings.

Protection for College Students Needed

This editorial from targets Democrats, but I would address it to all parties, since all are responsible. My letter to specific Congress members follows.


Democrats: Protection for College Students Needed Before You Go

December 20,2010

In 2005, language was slipped into the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act which effectively removed bankruptcy protections from private student loans. The brazenness of this action shocked even the most jaded experts on the Hill (when it was discovered). After all, this amounts to the same thing as stripping bankruptcy protections from credit cards, or any other type of unsecured, free-market debt. Make no mistake: there are large injustices with the student lending system generally, but this move set a new low.

The banking industry and their lobbyists promised increased loan availability to disadvantaged students in return for the wholesale removal of this critical, free-market mechanism, but never delivered, the record now clearly shows. What they did deliver were tens of billions of dollars in outrageous loans that would make a subprime mortgage broker blush, with APRs as high as 28%, dropped onto the backs of unsuspecting students through deceptive and corrupt marketing techniques for which there simply is no comparison (consider that often, students would call their school's financial aid offices, and unbeknownst to them, at the other end of the line was a student loan marketer pretending to be a university employee, and this point is proven, but we could go on at length here).

It was assumed by all that at the first possibility (i.e. when the democrats recaptured one or both houses of Congress), this grave injustice would be quickly righted. So in 2007, when Democrats swept both Houses, this painful period for the citizens was clearly at an end. Or was it? The democrats, to their credit, did introduce legislation to reverse this robbery, but didn't put their back into it, evidently. The first attempt the legislation was quietly killed. A second attempt was narrowly defeated in a House vote thanks to the Blue Dogs cooperation with republicans like Howard "Buck" McKeon, and others. The third attempt, introduced last Spring, was on a slow road to passage, and would have been fine, but for an inconvenient election in November.

Surely the banking lobbyists charged with keeping this beach head were richly rewarded for their efforts. After all, a leaked Sallie Mae strategy memo that surfaced around the time the Democrats took power in Congress put preserving the current bankruptcy laws as the 2nd highest priority. And over four years, the record is clear that this mission was accomplished.

Consider, however, what is lost to this dangerous and predatory lending system. While we won't be seeing them marching on Washington anytime soon, former students by the hundreds of thousands are currently reeling, devastated by this toxic debt. Their cosigning parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who wanted only for their loved one to get a college education now face financial ruin, and that is absolutely not in any way an exaggeration. And for what? So Sallie Mae can reap excessive profits from predatory loans made on a hyper-inflated commodity, which is higher education?

Ironically, the entities who so cleverly led the students into these monstrous debt situation are the same people now chastising the students about not reading the fine print. They now dispense belated words of wisdom on borrower responsibility from on high, effectively insulating themselves from all blame. But the ironies do not end there...the democrats who were so quick to rush to the financial aid of the financial industry (including Sallie Mae, and the other student lenders), have gone quiet on this final attempt at returning the bankruptcy protections that should have never been taken away, it seems. And where are the beltway advocates? It seems, that the only ones left in this fight are the citizens, and the Congress elected to represent them. Oh..and of course the banks with their money, expert advice, and threats designed to protect their profits no matter the public cost.

Democrats: Do what is critically needed right now, and return at least this obvious critical protection to the consumers before this term expires.


Dear Congressmen Dick Durbin and Al Franken:

Please bring back standard consumer protection for student loan borrowers.

A victim of a college with documented unethical policy and behavior, I have been stuck with more than $50,000 in loans that never should have been given to this school. Yet, the government has indeed funded this school, then censured it, then left me with the bill. Ironically, however, it is more than me who has been ripped off--my family and the American people all have been raked over the financial coals.

Other debts can be discharged in a court of law without ruining the lives of students, their families and the general public. Student loans, however, do not carry with them basic consumer protections which not only protect borrowers, but protect tax payers as well. Because of this, banks and colleges get away with behavior that would not be tolerated in any other industry.

Please pass legislation that would allow student loans to be discharged under reasonable circumstances, either through consistent, better Department of Education policy or through bankruptcy.

Thank you for your time.

Katherine M. Gotthardt

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The day after Christmas: It's not too late for the classics!

Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town

(1970) (TV)

Burgermeister Meisterburger: I hate toys! And toys hate me! Either they are going or I am going and I definitely am not going!
Kris Kringle: You better watch out. You better not cry, you better not pout.
Children: Why?
Kris Kringle: I'm telling you why. Because I came to town.
Jessica: If the Burgermeister saw you, we would all be in real danger!
Kris Kringle: In danger from toys?
Narrator: Behave yourselves, because Santa can still look into his magic snowball and see just what you're up to. And now that you know all about him, you can be darn sure that come snow or high water, Santa Claus is comin' to town!
[when Santa's reindeer are first introduced]
Narrator: I'll bet you know their names.
Children: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen!
[silhouette of ninth reindeer appears]
Child #2: Don't forget...
[reindeer's nose blinks red, revealing it to be Rudolph]
Narrator: No, that's another story.
Burgermeister Meisterburger: Toys are hereby declared illegal, immoral, unlawful AND anyone found with a toy in his possession will be placed under arrest and thrown in the dungeon. No kidding!
Winter: You mustn't mind the tree monsters. Their bark is worse than their bite. Ha ha ha ha!
Grimsby: Look, sir, look what was discovered on your front stoop.
Burgermeister Meisterburger: What, Grimsby? The milk? The daily paper?
Grimsby: No, sir, a baby.
Burgermeister Meisterburger: Oh, is that all?
[gasps and chokes]
Burgermeister Meisterburger: A *baby*?
Burgermeister Meisterburger: I, Burgermeister Meisterburger, take care of a baby? Outrageous! What's it's name?
Grimsby: This is the only clue, sir.
[an name tag]
Grimsby: It says, "Claus".
Burgermeister Meisterburger: Ah, take the little, er, baggage to the orphan asylum. That's the proper place for foundlings anyway.
[the baby starts to cry]
Burgermeister Meisterburger: [shouts] Get that brat out of here!
Grimsby: Excuse me, sir, but you're breaking your own law.
Narrator: And that is the story of Santa Claus.
Little Girl: He's so wonderful. Everybody must love him.
Narrator: Well, most everybody. Oh, he's not considered an outlaw any more. But there still are some...
Ebenezer Scrooge: Eh, bah, humbug.
Disgruntled Retailer: Christmas is a bother. The noise, the crowd. I really wish it were outlawed.
Businessman: How can they talk about Santa Claus when there is so much unhappiness in the world?
Narrator: Poor, misguided folks. They missed the whole point. Lot's of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn't Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn't a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give: of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa's beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.
[first lines]
News Reporter: Today, children everywhere are making preparations for an event of world shaking significance: the annual visit of Santa Claus. Informed sources report that legions of junior citizens are making monumental efforts not to cry and not to pout. Meanwhile, letters by the thousands have been flooding postal facilities at the North Pole.
Narrator: Everybody has to be a baby at least once in their lives.
Burgermeister Meisterburger: You brats are under arrest.
Kris Kringle: Wait don't arrest those children. It was my fault I gave them the toys.
Burgermeister Meisterburger: YOU? How dare you! You are obviously a nonconformist and a rebel!
Kris Kringle: Have a yo-yo.
Burgermeister Meisterburger: [gasps and chokes] A yoooooo-yoooooooooo? I love yo-yos. I used to be able to do all kinds of tricks. Ah-wheeeee
Grimsby: Excuse me sir, but you're breaking your own law.
Burgermeister Meisterburger: [gasps and chokes] Ooooooouuuuuuu, I've been bamboozled!
Burgermeister Meisterburger: [singing] It's a difficult responsibility / That you accept from the number one lawmaker, me / Let it known across the land from sea to sea / That there'll be no more toymakers for the king.
Kris Kringle: Watch out for that dolly. She's a hardened criminal, I hear.
Winter: Alas, I have been... disenchanted. I lost all my powers. I can't even do card tricks.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's not morbid.

Annie Lennox - Into The West

Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You have come to journey's end
Sleep now
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across a distant shore
Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away

Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home

And all will turn
To silver-glass
A light on the water
All souls pass

Hope fades
Until the world of night
Through shadows' falling
Out of memory and time
Don't say
We have come now to the end
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again

And you'll be here in my arms
Just sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home

And all will turn
To silver-glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the West

When I die, I want to be cremated and sprinkled under a purple lilac bush. I want the song below playing (no video--don't watch it as you listen). Then I want everyone to sit on blankets and eat ham sandwiches with mayo and drink sugar free lemonade. They can cry, but I'd rather have them laugh at how weird I was. And I want them to smile knowing I will be back every season as a lilac.

If it's winter, they're screwed. Bound by a legal will, they're gonna freeze their asses off.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nearsightedness: an oft overlooked convenience

When it's good to be nearsighted and without glasses:

  • when you can't see far enough to know the driver in front of you just flipped you off;
  • when you can't see the person giving you dirty looks from the back of the room;
  • when you don't have to lie about not seeing someone you wanted to avoid anyway;
  • when the condition gets you a pass to sit closer to the front;
  • when you need an excuse to avoid driving to new places by yourself;
  • when you're normally afraid of public speaking but can overcome it now that the audience looks like one, big blob;
  • when you would normally be scared to make eye contact but can now do it with ease and even smile.
I am sure there are others, but since I am not wearing my glasses, I am getting eye strain.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Too cold, too lazy

Many thoughts scurrying through my head this morning, and none of them really related, or maybe they are but I don't feel like analyzing them.

First off, though, is the cold. It is nineteen degrees Fahrenheit and the wind chill will cut you in two. But five years ago, I still would have hiked in this. Dressed in three layers plus a full length coat, I would have told you the cold was exhilarating. My hands would freeze even with two pairs of gloves, but I knew that would happen. And my feet would never quite thaw, but that was okay, too. I could still get my head to a decent temp, and with my face covered by a scarf, I could keep my nose from chipping off. The heat of my breath would warm the scarf, so I would avoid most of the illnesses associated with winter.

Fast forward. I am 41 and trying to get myself out the door. But the wind is howling and besides, the kids and I are going to the gym tonight. I need a refill on some medicines, but that can wait, at least until we go out to the gym. The pharmacy isn't close to our house. It's close to our church. Theoretically, I would have swung through the CVS drive through on Sunday, but I forgot, so now I am stuck having to drive to Manassas. My feet are freezing, even in socks, even in the house. This seems to be par for the course lately. I am wearing double layers plus a heavy robe. I switch on our gas fireplace, heat a cup of refried beans and try to get through folding laundry, but most of it is still sitting in the middle of our family room.

I am distracted, waiting for the garage to call about my van which is smashed and has been waiting for repairs over a week because we the stupid insurance companies involved are cheap. Even though it clearly was not my fault and the guy who hit me told me he never even saw me and that he has a blind spot, I'm stuck with meeting my deductible. Meanwhile, I have a rental van that I have used only three or four times because I am afraid to drive it. It's too clean, too new. And it has a bitch of a blind spot.

My favorite blanket, the one I use for napping, is in the wash, and I look forward to eventually taking it out of the dryer when the plush material is warm and soft. I realize I just split my infinitive, and I am making typos that I will have to correct before I post this, but that's okay. I make lots of typos lately anyway. I have to get my eyes re-checked and get an updated prescription because my vision has become worse and worse the more I work on the computer. Distance has always been fuzzy, but now it's more Monet than it used to be.

Does this mean I am getting so old that I am getting blinder and wimp out of facing the elements? I suppose people of all ages would do the same if they were not the outdoors type. Truth is, I find I enjoy hikes less and less because hiking used to be more of a solitary practice for me. Now I am less comfortable hiking alone and I find I get bored more easily. I am more reluctant to try new trails because I don't know where they will lead and I don't want to walk forever.

This never used to bother me--I liked the feeling of adventure. Now I don't care one way or another, and if I bring our dogs, I especially don't want to get lost because our old Shiba won't be able to deal. Besides, Sallie, who is a lot bigger, tugs as Shiba lags behind. It works better when more than one person takes the dogs for walks.

And so I ask again, what is wrong with me? Why has my motivation left and my laziness kicked in? Have I become more mainstream or just older and complacent?

By the way, my novel got rejected from a publisher of online books. I'm not going to market the book again because I don't care for marketing and for some reason, even though the book is pretty good and would be better with a professional editor, I guess I'm not interested in peddling my stuff. I have plenty of publications under my belt (though almost no money to show for it, which was expected), and again, I'm just not motivated.

What am I motivated to do? I guess I am motivated enough to take care of my children's needs, hug them, snuggle with my husband, cook and clean sporadically, make Christmas cards, write my articles, blog, think about my upcoming teaching gig (which will be at the jail, interestingly enough--my choice) and wonder if the facility will be under or over heated. I guess I might want to take a hot bath to get my body temp up (I literally need to do that lately--even hot liquids don't work), and I have to brush my teeth which I will do because hygiene is, after all, important. I'm not depressed. I'm just lazy. Or as my Mexican friend would say, I have "hueva."

Don't ask me to translate that. I'm too lazy to do it.