Sunday, September 30, 2012

The final summation

This is the ending the final summation of a performance art piece, if not of the highest artistic merit ever performed in San Francisco, it was I would argue, one of the most effective.  The article came out in the Saturday edition of the San Francisco chronicle and by Monday the funding was restored to the MHRF.
I haven’t been keeping up on San Francisco Politics but so far as I know the matter of  selling live frogs in china town   is still being debated.  Animal cruelty or cultural insensitivity?  After a few years debate the city decided to ban the use of plastic shopping bags.  Restoring several millions in funding to a hospital the city wasn't even really aware it had?  :Less than 48 hours.  Yah dear San Fran that’s what you get for fucking with me.
Politics is mostly a game of trades. of this for that, all bound up in a most careful cotillion of manners scripted in its smallest nuance.  All this for the same basic reason the ancient Roman empire did such a spanking business in wild lions and invented so many interesting uses for religious extremists.  
Keep the People Amused.
Otherwise they get all cranky and start causing trouble.
Now if you want to get people all cranky and causing trouble here’s a few tips.

 Have a very clear objective.  I really can’t stress this enough.  Have a very clear objective.  One thing, one issue, one objective.  The People is a beast with millions of voices, if you unleash that beast with no clear objective it will argue with its self  into infinity.
Have a strong emotional hook.  Getting the People to go from ‘Ohh that’s so sad’ to ‘ Ohh hell no you don’t.’  Is all about the right emotional hook.  That poke in a tender place that makes the whole body politic wince in shared pain.  That emotional hook need not have much if anything to do with the issue.
Be stubborn.  You have to be stubborn past your own fears, stubborn past your ability to suffer, stubborn past all certainty of failure.  In the end it could and probably will be all for nothing.  You’re an idiot, you’re a fool, you’re the fucking walrus coo coo cachou.
Have a sense of humor.  Which is a bit of advice that works in every situation.
When trying to rouse the People to action it actually helps to have a shortly upcoming Armageddon deadline.  Give the People too long to think about anything and it gets all confused.
The issue here was clear, keep the MHRH open.
The emotional hook, that was the tricky part.  People are different, cities are different, San Francisco is,, and I pause while you dear reader snigger knowingly.  San Francisco is different.
San Francisco is Americas gay city.  That’s not to say that the majority of people in San Francisco are gay, but I would say it has a higher percentage of gay people in the general population then in most places in the US.  If your gay at some point in your youth you dream of moving to the land of OZ.  San Francisco is a city that attracts people who are on the lefty liberal end of the socio-political scale.  Lets face it being a republican in San Francisco is rather like being a member of the Jamaican bob sled team.  Good or bad you cheer them on cause gosh darn it they are so darn cute.  San Francisco’s gay culture defines the city its art its politics its bars, its tourist dollars.  You want to stay in power in San Francisco you don’t piss off the gay.
Here is where I had a bit of a problem.  Now of course the natural reaction of the gay community overall would be one of sympathy for the poor mad people so rudely shuffled off and away from family and things known.  But sympathy is in the ‘ohh that;s too bad’ and falls far short of the ‘oh hell no you don’t.’
Only very recently has the official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders delisted homosexuality as a mental disorder.  Even so there are still doctors in the field trying to cure the gay with electrodes to the genitals.  All those years of trying to separate themselves from the label of being mentally ill, it makes it difficult for them to identify with the mentally ill.  
Over all most people have a natural aversion to the mentally ill.  The mentally ill scare us, we don’t understand them.  They are the other, the forever outsider, the I don’t know what the heck to do with them and I wish they would go somewhere,,,,else.
The People can only be roused to outrage when they feel an intimate personal emotional connection with an event, a person, a story.
What is the single biggest emotional trauma suffered in the gay community?
Survey says..
If you had answered AIDS,, you wouldn't even be close.
Family rejection.
This is something that is completely universal in the gay community.  Even those whose families didn’t reject them suffered the fear that it could happen.  The whole process of coming out is preceded by  months even years of wrestling with that fear.  
This that resonates so strongly in the gay community is also a commonality in the population over all.  Freud wasn’t all bollacks.  A baby is born and it cries and instinctively it reaches out.  Our first and primary fear is there is our first moments of life.  We reach out and there is no one there to catch us.
I felt bad about using my uncle as a pawn in a game he had nothing to do with.  But ahh well I did tell him he needed to listen to the whole story.
All righty then lets see now to sum up.  I lost my apartment and my life sucked ass for waayy too long.  Boccie is doing well, people still want to rent from him so I’m guessing that he doesn’t try to kill all his tennents.  But on the other hand a hospital was saved and some truly needful people have a safe warm place to sleep.  You may see it differently but I count that as a win.
One final thing remains.  When I rented the apartment from Boccie I told him if I were unhappy with him I would let him know, if I were really unhappy I promised just about everyone would know.  So here it is.
Mr. Richard J. Boccie is a bad landlord.

So now you know.
To the best of my ability all promises kept.

Unextinguished laughter shakes the skies
Homer, the Illiad
If you google the information I gave you at the start this you will find.  Adrienne Cahill warren did live at 430 O'Farrell st apart. 401, that building is owned by richard boccie reality.  There was a fire in that apartment.  My residence at the MHRF the speeches I gave all matters of public record.  The front page article about me and the closing of the MHRF in the San Francisco chronicle.
As to the rest?  Well all you have is the testimony of an insane (retired) whore. 
Pippi Longstocking in her ruby red sneakers
skips down the yellow brick road
sipping pink tea from an empty jelly jar
trailing horsefeathers in her wake 


One of the things I loved about being a whore was that no one believes anything a whore says.  Why is that you may wonder? It does seem a strange perversity to desire being thought of as teller of lies.  But you see there is a wonderful freedom that comes with that.  If no one believes anything you say, you are free to say anything.  And since everyone 'knows' your ling they feel in a sense in on the joke. Truth is so much more charming when it wears fictions cloak. 

I imagine you came into this story thinking it an amusing fiction, and perhaps even now feel a bit put out by this final trick, turning expectations so rudely on its head.  It's that puckish prankster side of me that just couldn't resist. Who am I? I told you didn't I? A  paranoid delusional pyromaniac with an excellent sense of humor.

Adrienne Warren

chapter 32 Being in the now

I didn't wait til dawns early light before calling a cab.  Far be it from me to stay in a place I am so clearly not wanted.  The coo coo clock says goodbye twice as I drag my suite case out the door to the waiting cab.
Of course if I had known that the bus station didn't  even open its doors till 5am I might have risked my uncle waking in a more reasonable mood and delayed my leave taking till dawn.  My beaded coat was not a weather appropriate wardrobe decision. 
I counted out the money for the bus ticket with blue fingers.  I had just enough for the ticket to San Francisco, to the penny.
It was night when I boarded the bus in New York for the journey west.  Time no longer moves in its linear tact.  It is night, always night, eternal night.
I push into the over crowded bus and take the last open seat in the back of the bus.
I am enveloped in the reeking abattoir stink of shit.  The bath room, it hasn't been emptied out let alone cleaned in over six thousand miles.
I am in New York, I am going to California.
That final scene in Rosemary’s baby, that look on Rosemary’s face when she realizes that she is on the bus to hell.
Yah, just like that.
Be in the now.  It’s one of those things people so like to intone in yoga classes and trendy meditation classes where people sit on hand woven rugs wearing organically grown cotton hand stitched by indigenous native women with rustically calloused hands and authentically bad teeth.
Be in the now.  It is night always night eternal night, wrapped in the gagging reeking stink of shit.  I sit forehead pressed to the window looking into the reflected shadows of my own eyes.  I am in the now.  Completely in the now.  And now completely sucks ass.
One of my fellow travelers in misery sprays the air with a drug store imitation of Channel number 5 adding a new level of cloying horror to the reek of shit.  She meant well.

The sun is shining the birds are singing the air is sweet, spring morning in San Francisco and I am one hundred and fifty years old.
Ten steps, I will walk ten steps I promise myself.  And I do, ten steps, ten steps counting each one out.  I set my suite case down and feel a small flush of success as I manage to sit without actually whimpering in pain. How many days sitting in that bus?  How long since I slept?  My hip is grinding angry glass, every step weary agony, but I don’t whimper.  Ahh so there that’s something.
I am wearing my beaded yellow submarine coat dragging my Dr. Suses suite case.  I wish I had some balloons to carry.  
I am the court jester, I am the fool, I am the walrus and I can walk ten more steps.  And so it goes then steps at a time the mad woman inches her way to the mad house.  Whispering softly through thrust dry lips mad little songs from long ago soft springs of childhood.
“Eat nor drink nor money we have none yet we will be marrryyy.”
Ten steps at a time whispering nursery rhymes the mad woman staggers by invisible to eager tourists snapping pictures of a beautiful city. 
With a hiss of pain through tightly clenched teeth I sit down on the stone bench in the little garden shrine to Mary to the left of the front doors of the MHRF.  I close my eyes for a moment.
“What are you doing here?  I thought you went to your..”
“My uncle didn't want me.”
One of the nurses brings me a bland turkey sandwich and a little sippy box of juice.  Hmm juice.  Some of the world comes back into focus. 
Someone in Authority is called.
“I’m sorry for what happened, I am, but, ,,,, you've been discharged, ,, you can’t come back here.”
“I know.”  I smile pleasantly, finish my sandwich and lean back on the bench, closing my eyes for a nap.  (Sleep, ohh yes, when this is over I think I shall sleep for at least ten years)
“You can’t stay here.”   He repeats helplessly.  He reaches out his hand toward me and pulls back nervously rubbing his hands together. 
“I’m sorry, but you have to go.”  He says apologetically.
I open one eye, smile pleasantly.  “Where?”  I shrug and close my eye.
“I’m sorry, but your trespassing and we will have to call the police.”
I open one eye, smile pleasantly.  “As you wish.”  I shrug and close my eye.
The police are called.
Police officers are by nature creatures who do not deal well with ambiguity.
They had been called to arrest a mad woman for trespassing the grounds of a mad house.  
This took a bit of explaining.
Explanation did not bring clarity.
It was decided that the thing to do was to get me admitted to the hospital.  Then I would be a patient not a trespasser, problem solved.
The police drive me and my suitcase up the hill where they point me at an admitting nurse behind six inches of bullet proof glass.  The police then promptly disappear.
The admitting nurse informs me that they have all the indigent mad people they need right now and tells me to go away.
I smile, I shrug, I pick up my suite case and ten steps at a time stagger back to the mad house.
I sit down on the stone bench in front of the shrine to Mary and close my eyes.
“The Hospital didn't want me.”  I smile pleasantly I shrug and close my eyes.  
The mad house doesn't want me, the hospital doesn't want me, the police don’t want me, my uncle didn't want me, Boccie wanted me gone so bad he hired people to kill me.  Yah, a girl could develop of complex or something.
The police are called again.
They still don’t want me.
Finally the call is put out to the fourth estate.  Enter stage left, the press.
I was beginning to think I was going to have to do everything myself.

Friday, September 28, 2012

chapter 31 as you wish

5am the coo coo clock announces, enter my uncle stage left, right on cue.   
“Hello Wally.”
“ What the Fuck are you doing here?”
“That is a very long story.  But first things first, coffee.”
We settle around the kitchen table coffee mugs in hand.  We take the first couple of silent ritual sips. 
“What the fuck are you doing here?”  
“As I said it’s a long story.  It’s funny, if you listen to the whole thing, even if you don’t believe a word of it.  And you won’t.  But before you start screaming and calling me the worst sort of bad liar, listen to the whole story.”
So I told him what had happened.  “It all began when I rented an apartment from a very bad man.”  I only got through the highlights of the first part, Boccie, mobsters, drugs, murder and arson, when he snarled Bullshit and stalked off with his coffee.  I never got to the part about me being a recently released mental patient or the explanation as to why I was there.
I sit alone in the kitchen sipping my coffee.  In my head I hear the soft muted clack of pool balls colliding in another tricky bank shot neatly sunk.  I am the pool shark perfectly in the zone running the table from the break.
My grandmother soon woke up.  She has reached the age where liner time no longer exists.  The that was then this is now past and present all collide together in a misty water colored dream.  So my presence at the kitchen table caused her no alarm.  
I found a ball of yarn and an old crochet hook and spent the day crocheting a scarf  watching tv with my grandmother.
I kissed my grandmother goodnight and wished her good dreams and she shuffled off to bed.  I settled on the couch and waited for my uncle.
My uncle has spent the day rehearsing the argument he was going to have with me.  
“You don’t have any money do you?”  
I almost laughed.  I have told him of mobsters and murder most foul and the not so small matter of arson and his first order of business is to insure I am not going to scrounge him for money.
“Not much.”  I confess.  (Just enough for the cab to the bus station and a bus ticket to San Francisco)
“Well you can stay the night but in the morning you clear the fuck out.”  He took a breath and waited, the lightening pausing for the thunder.
“As you wish.”
He blinked at me, twice.
No thunder clap no raging storm just three small soft words like pebbles dropped in a still pool. As you wish.
As so often happens when someone has spent all day working up to a grand temper tantrum he continued on with the argument without my participation.  I was in a theater watching a grand drama as my uncle threw himself into playing both parts with spittle flying gusto.
We argued for quite some time.   Life time of disappointed romanticism had left him with a deep well of rage from with to draw.  A never ending Ginsburgien howl of family pain that I was if not the originator of all I was their inheritor.  
The performance took on the aspect of a religious service.  He would rant and rave his moral outrage over some past ill or slight form someone then conclude with the , “ In the morning you get the fuck out.”
Then he would pause in his howl awaiting the benediction,
“As you wish.”
“Quit it, quit it, quit saying that.”  He screams at me after it seems the hundredth reparation of the pattern.
“You told me to leave, I have said I would. I really have nothing more that needs to be said.  You however do.  So please go ahead I’m listening.”   I sit hands folded in my lap looking up with a face of bland polite interest.  He is a ball of fist clenching rage.
He wanted to stop but he couldn’t.  He felt like he was walking into a trap, knew it, but couldn’t stop.  His howl continued.  He tried to stop himself.  He wanted to slap his hands over his mouth to keep the words from escaping.  But they do.
“In the morning you get the fuck out.”
“As you wish.”
He screamed like a lost soul facing the gates of damnation and fled from the room.
As anyone who has ever read a fairy tale will tell you, be careful what you wish for.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

chapter 30 There's no place like home

A few days later Burt is seeing me off at the airport, we stop at a cafe for a last cup of coffee.
“You must be looking forward to seeing your grandmother again.”  Burt says.
“No Burt,”  I sigh tiredly.  “I’m really not.”  I am tired.  The future hasn't even happened yet and I am already exhausted by it.  I glance at the one way ticket to Maine in my hand.  It cost almost exactly the same amount of money I had arrived in San Francisco with.
“Tell ya what Burt, you cash in this ticket and just give me the money and it can all be over with right now.  I’ll just be on my merry way and that will be that.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Yeah, I know, ahh well it was worth a shot.”
“I know you’re concerned about seeing your family but I’m sure this will work out just fine.  You’ll have a chance to reconnect.”
“The prodigal returns, the fatted calf and a big wizzy party?  Ahh no Burt, that’s not going to happen.  This is going to be horrible, ugly, and painful.  Yeah I know you don’t believe that.  I should just change my name to Cassandra.”
“You don’t know who she was?  Really Burt you do need to do some work on your reading list.  Ok one last story before I go.”
“You know the story of the fall of Troy and the Trojan horse.”
“Yeah, everyone knows that bit, about that stupid horse.  And Helen of course, the face that launched a thousand ships.  Cassandra slips by in the story nearly unseen, barely remembered.  Which is too bad really, in a war that started with the breaking of oaths and the theft of a wife and ended with a blasphemous lie (The horse was scared to the God Poseidon who was one of the main Gods of the city.  The people of Troy would have seen the big ole’ horse as a tribute to the God of the city and perhaps also a bit of a bribe to the God of the sea for a safe trip home.  That people would use a tribute to God as a means of deceit would not have occurred to them.   There was a reason Odysseus had such a long and difficult journey home, you don’t spit in the face of a God.)  Cassandra alone in all the story kept her oaths and told the truth.
Cassandra was a daughter of the King of Troy and high priestess in the temple of Apollo.  Helen is known for her beauty but Cassandra must have been some pretty hot piece of ass herself for she caught Apollo’s eye.
He came to her a wooing, in his best robes, his eyebrows freshly plucked, his hair neatly tied.  He offered her a ride in his polished chariot.
‘Come with me and our love will be the colors of the dawn as my chariot rides over the clouds.” He purred.
She wanted to keep their relationship on a professional basis.  The heart wants what the heart wants and her heart leaps for a prince of the attacking Greeks.
This didn't sit well with Apollo.  HE was a GOD! To be spurned for a mortal human and one of the attacking Greeks no less and to be so dissed by his own high priestess?  (It is a wonder to me how many Gods seem to have this  absolute mania for locking up young virgins)
Apollo as you know (I hope) was the God of the sun but also a God of music, poetry,and prophecy.
He cursed her.  She would see perfectly the shape of things to come,. To always speak the truth and never to be believed.
Ten long years the war lasted.  Imagine poor Cassandra all those long years, walking the wide steps of the palace seeing it as it would be, in flames at her feet.  Hugging her father and seeing his blood covering her hands as it one day would.
Is it any wonder all thought her mad?
So she stood on the walls in wild hared grief watching as her brothers lead in the agent of their doom like a pet pony on a rope.
You would think that would be enough to sooth a God’s wounded pride, but there was more.  Gods are masters of imaginative cruelty.
She was taken prisoner by the prince of the Greeks that she had spurned a God for.
Some small measure of happiness in the bitterness of war?  The prince loved her as she him.
He tried to give balm to her grief torn heart.  He held her and promised better days of joy ahead.  She would be no honor less slave, but wife and mother to their children.
His words had the opposite effect adding new tears and fresh horrors.
She tried to warn him
You see he had a wife back home in Greece and she was waiting with her husband’s own ax to give the newly weds greetings.
She had her reasons.  Her husband had gone off to war and she was the one to pay the price.  Two children she had had, a son and a daughter.  The son lost to war and her daughter?  Her daughter her husband had made of her bloody handed sacrifice to a God for his victory in war.  Which at the time even the Greeks thought a bit outre   Now he comes home with a young war bride and a princess no less.
She saw the years in front of her drawn black with pain.  She would be a servant in her own home giving tender care to her husband’s new children with his fresh new bride.  Ohh yes she had reason to give herself into the fury’s embrace.
And so he came home, his new bride weeping ignored warnings into his ears.  He carried her across the threshold.  And so ends Cassandra’s tale.
“Well I better be off, wouldn't want the plane to leave without me.”  We shook hands and parted.  Poor Burt never did learn how to listen.  I feel a little sorry for him but really now sending off a paranoid delusional pyro into the care of a senile 90 year old woman and to expect this to come out with a happy ending?  There is a level of willful stupid I have a hard time being all that sympathetic to.

Spring in Maine, dog turd time.  All winter long the dogs crap on frozen snow covered ground.  In the spring the snow melts and dog turds appear like fragrant mushy rocks uncovered by a receding tide. 
Two am. Maine, dog turd time, the cab pulls up in front of a place I once called home.

One day I am sitting in a bar sipping a gin and tonic when I hear a man declare to his companion.
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing.  That’s the way I was raised.”
“Don’t you agree?”  He turns to me to add weight to his argument with my agreement.
“Ohh yes quite so, that’s the way I was raised.”  I pause and take a sip from my drink.  “Which is of course why I don’t talk to my family.”  And everyone in the bar laughed.
I close the door of the cab and it pulls away.  I stand for a moment, a tourist taking in the view.
All children have nightmares and I had mine, but in all my childhood I only had one nightmare I woke up screaming from.   It wasn't a dream of chasing monsters nor of falling off a cliff, it was a dream of my home  exactly as it was now.  
Every line of the house seemed to sag with age and despair.  The chimneys on the roof hold together the idea of a chimney with the remaining whole bricks, some of the vinyl siding had pulled away like scabs.  I had fought my grandmother tooth and nail over installing that siding.
  It was practical she had said it would save money and the house would never have to be painted again.  Practical,  for my grandmother, it was the word that trumps all other argument.  Even so I made the effort.  It was the sort of argument I would engage in purely as an exercise in translation.    To get my grandmother to hear a word like beauty and not hear the word frivolous was a nearly insurmountable challenge.  It was the feel of wood I argued and she actually heard that, the feel of it, wood.  There is something warm about wood, alive, it responds to your touch like an old friend.  Vinyl siding may look all well and good but it’s cold to the touch, in the heat of summer in the dead of winter it’s cold to the touch.  ‘In order to save heat you will sacrifice warmth’.  She heard me and agreed and put in the siding.      
The roof of the barn was sagging and bowed.  The house had been built in the time when even city people used horses to get around, so the house had a barn attached to it, in the manner of a two car garage in these days.  I had spent much time playing in the old barn.  How many kids have a secret club house that’s two stories tall with a workshop on the second floor complete with electricity running water and discarded old tools?
The lawn is littered with my Uncles artwork.  My Uncle was a real artist.  He went to college and got the art degree,  had done art shows and even had some of his art bought by the Bangor International Air port.  He’s work was mainly in found objects and wood.  Was he a good artist?  I wouldn't know, hell I still haven’t figured out why the Mona Lisa is given such high regard, it’s just a portrait of a rather plane woman with bad teeth to me. 
The important thing was that it was art. 
 My grandmother had dreamed of going to college.  But she was the youngest of twelve children and it was the depression and she was a girl so she got married.  She had two sons who each in turn went to college.  One to be an artist and the other runs off to be of all things a writer.  Clown College would have insulted my grandmother’s dedication to the practical less.  At least circus clowns get regular paychecks. 
My Uncles art of broken things lay littered about the lawn in the rotting snow of dog turd time, the house bowed with age and sadness.  This was the dream I had as a child, the one nightmare I woke screaming from.  It is a strange thing, you have a dream as a child and for some reason that dream stays with you in your memory and years later you find yourself walking into the very landscape of that nightmare.  The rational mind shakes this off, the world is built of coincidence, but the shadow side of the mind from whence dreams come, ponders questions of fate.
“I don’t want to do this, I really don’t want to do this.”  But I do.  I pick up my Dr  Suisse suite case and walk the path in front of me.
The house had shrunk considerably.  I was a giant Dorothy trying not to bump into any munchkin furniture.  I drag my suit case into the living room and settle on the couch to wait.  
My grandmother is asleep in what was once my old room, a kitten sized rumple of sheets.  The room is still decorated with the wall paper I had picked out when I was eleven, a rolling farm scene of contented horses and prancing ponies.  Everything in the house is exactly the same as when I left so many years ago, the wall paper the furniture the carpets in the rooms.  Most people expect that home will remain the same, everything just stopped in time awaiting their return, I found such fossilization, disconcerting as if I had taken some vital force of change with me in my suite case when I left home to join the army.
3am and the coo coo clock I had given my grandmother for the Christmas of my eighteenth year does his thing three times.  3am  the past crowds close.
Burt and I spent almost no time talking about my past, my family.  When they did come up it was always at my instigation and only as part of another discussion, they were never the focus of discussion.  An odd omission for a psychologist, like a farmer not talking about the weather.  It was as if for Burt I was born phoenix like from the fire of my own creation. 
I hear my grandmother in the bedroom turn over in her sleep.
Once upon a time on a potato farm in the little town of Winn there lived a little girl named Shirley Leathers.   Shirley was the youngest of twelve brothers and sisters.  Her mother died when little Shirley was four years old.  She bled to death in the marriage bed trying to give live birth to unlucky thirteen. 
In the town of Winn at that time there existed a single automobile.  The Morticians hearse, little Shirley Leathers being the baby of the family was given the privilege of ridding with her dead mother and still born brother to the cemetery and then back home sitting tall in her fathers lap.
They arrive home and her father lifts her down from the hearse.  Shirley takes her father’s hand then says.
“Well, at least we got a good ride out of it.”
My grandmother fell in love once.  It was at a dance.  Was my grandfather the drummer at the dance?  He may have been but I don’t know.  Actually I don’t know at all how my grandparents met.  I assume they met at a dance but I have no story of that meeting.  My grandparents got married by a Justice of the Peace.  My grandmother had once shown me the dress she had gotten married in,  a plane blue wool suite even for the time remarkable in its aggressive rejection of style.
My grandmother fell in love once.  It was at a dance.  He had dark hair.  Such detailed description leaves little for the imagination to fill in.  I imagine him as a Rehett Butler sort dashing, a bit too cocky of his own charm.  He entered the dance hall and my grandmothers heart fluttered.  She actually used the word fluttered.
He asked her to dance.
She said yes.
He asked her to marry him.  Not, I presume at the conclusion of the dance, but that’s all I have.  They danced and later he asked her to marry him.
She said no.
I gather her father hadn't approved of the man.
“My father was proved right, as the man became a drunk.”  
I thought perhaps he had turned to drink after being spurned by the woman he loved.  My romantic streak struggled hard to find some reason to hope for a hint of passions spark in my grandmothers heart that had fluttered once.
My grandmother fell in love twice.
She was married with two small sons.  She owned a little truck stop dinner.  He was a trucker from the south.  I imagine a muscled Alabama man with that sweet buttery southern accent and extravagant courtly manners.
She thought about divorce.    
“I stayed because of how leaving their father would hurt the children.”
Considering how well that all worked out I couldn't help in a way admire my grandmothers ability to say that with a completely straight face.
It’s love verses love the mad woman had screamed at the indifferent lions, Its love verses love.  But then she was mad so what does she know.
My Uncle met his bride during his Stienbeckien exploration of blue berry picking.  Serena was Marlo Thomas pretty with dark hair and an emotionally expressive nature.  She was a berry picker, not as working class cool means of earning collage pocket money but as a way of life.  She was a berry picker descended from a family of French  berry pickers, and potato pickers and apple pickers.  Her family lived in a house that was an Appalachian cliche complete with dead consol tv on the porch, busted pickup on the hard mud grass less lawn, too many children with too few clothesrunning around.  I’m sure my grandmother contented herself with the thought that at least she wasn't a carnie.   
Serena had told me of my Uncles proposal of marriage  (Old Duke white wine, the foulest stuff in the world but it does loosen tongues) .   After a day of berry picking they had gone off into the hot summer night with a bottle of wine.  It was the first time, for him.   ‘I guess we have to get married now.’ He said.
My father met his bride when he was in the army stationed in Baltimore.   Why my mother would go to a dance with a Major and end up married to the chauffeur I have no clue.  It wasn't love.  That’s all I was ever able to find out.  No she didn't love him, she liked him but it wasn't love.   What it was, not even Old Duke could discover.
I first met my grandmother when I was nine months old.  My grandmother couldn't wait to hold her first grandchild.  My mother took me from the car seat and handed me to my grandmother.
“Be careful,” my mother had cautioned my grandmother.  “She’s mean.”
“Ohh nonsense,”  my grandmother said.  “You’re not the least bit mean are you?”  and she leaned in close doing that coochi coochi thing.  
I punched her in the nose.
Four am the coo coo clock announces. Four am, a dark and quite hour when ghosts draw near to whisper.  This house is full of ghosts.  
My grandmother had bought the house as a wedding gift for my parents.  A real estate transaction completed apparently without inspection, (the house was bought for its location, near to my grandmothers boarding house).  My mother was the first one to enter the house.  A Baltimore raised debutante with a degree in French literature, one can only imagine her thoughts as she steps across the threshold of her new home to encounter rooms  strung with crosses and ropes of garlic.
The first order of business for every new bride is redecorating the new home,  My mother gathered up all the crosses and garlic and tossed them out with the trash.  The last bag carted out she returns to the house and a cold wind rushes though the house and the chandeliers in every room begin swinging.  (The chandeliers were relics from the houses gas light days, converted to electric use.  They were bloated metal spiders hanging from the middle of the ceiling in every room.)  The crosses, the garlic the weird wind and ceilings of dancing spiders well,  it’s no wonder my mother waited out on the porch for my father to get home .
What I always wondered about was, why didn't they put the crosses back and why was there never any garlic in the house?
Amelia was the name of a woman who had lived and died in the house and as it sounded a goodish name for a ghost it stuck.  Amelia was an active ghost.  Even people who just slept over for a night or two left with an Amelia story to tell.  Voices whispering in the dark, footsteps on the stairs, the invisible yet heard rocking chair, a chandelier suddenly swinging in unseen wind. 
Amelia solidified her place as our own personal mythic figure the night Mr. Peeve did a naughty thing.
Mr. and Mrs. Peeve rented an apartment upstairs.  Mrs. Peeve was a large woman, (women in those days weren't fat, they had thyroid problems).  She collected elephants.  She had Jade elephants, ivory elephants, wood elephants, she had a huge terrarium fully tricked out as a miniature elephant habitat, with little trees little bridges little houses and lakes, and elephants elephants everywhere.  She had an elephant carved out of a grain of rice, she kept it in a test tube and you had to look really close.
Mr. Peeve was a small thin man who looked like a particularly unsuccessful used car salesman.  Which apparently wasn't the dating impediment you would think it would be.  Mr. Peeve came home late one night.  He showered he shaved he brushed his teeth then crawled into bed.  Mrs. Peeve awoke to a most dreadful sight.  Two pair of ghostly hands clutching at Mr. Peeves throat.  Mr. Peeve thrashing around in eye bulging terror choking for stolen breath.  Mrs. Peeve turned on the lights and the ghostly hands disappeared and Mr. Peeve could breath again.
Mr. Peeve moved out the next day never to return.  Mrs. Peeve stayed on and never had a lick of trouble from Amelia.
There was dinner table discussion over the two pair of hands Mr. and Mrs. Peeve had seen.  Were there possibly two ghosts?   Or was Amelia dating?
My father was another ghost but unlike Amelia my father was a spirit never spoken of.
It was spring, past the ugly dog turd time into the warm promise of budding lilac time, I was almost five years old when my father disappeared.  Being only nearly five I possibly missed some subtle clue that such an event was in the works.  All I remember of the event is my father tucking me into bed one night and when I woke up he was gone.  Just gone, just not there.  Not only was there no explanation there was no comment at all.   My father had vanished and I seemingly was the only one who noticed he was gone.
My sister and brother born close enough together that they could be Irish twins, they looked enough alike to actually be twins, blonde hair blue eyed Bobsi twin cute, each born with an innate ability to be utterly charming to adults that I could only admire. were both still young enough that the sun rising each morning was still a surprise so of course they don’t notice a missing father.  That my mother didn't notice seemed a bit odd to me.
I asked her were my father was.  At first she got this puzzled look on her face like she were trying to remember who it was I could be talking about.  Then she told me he had gone on a fishing trip.
It was the first time I remember knowing I was being lied to.  My grandparents (his parents) repeated the lie.  
He fishing trip turned into a job hunt turned into just stop asking.  Everyone was acting as though I was the weird one for finding this all a bit odd.  It was the lack of explanation I found so disturbing.  
‘Sorry kid your father was a secret ax murder and had to run for the hills so he doesn't get the chair.’
‘oh,, well ok then.’
But nothing just gone, like a picture on an etch a sketch?    If a father can be so easily erased what about the rest of the people in your life?  Or of yourself?  
And then my mother disappeared.  There was a packed suitecase and if no explanation at least a destination.  She was going to New Orleans, for a week maybe two.  Mrs. Peeve took over our care.  I think she understood the arrangement as an extended babysitting job.  By the time Halloween comes around and she’s picking out our costumes she came to the conclusion that her understanding may have been wrong.  By Christmas we were living with our grandparents.
My grandparents owned a big boarding house on the edge of the fashionable end of Broadway Street where lumber barons had lined the street with their extravagant homes.  I believe Stephen King lives in a house on that street.  We weren't cup-of-sugar neighbors or anything but I walked past his house more than a time or two. 
The house on Essex Street had its ghosts the Boarding house on Broadway was likewise accessorized but the ghosts in the boarding house were all living ones.
My grandmother liked to rent to retired people.  Old people kept regular hours didn't have wild parties, except for that one who set herself ablaze with her cigarette, didn't cause trouble. and their social security checks came in on time every month so rent wasn't late. 
Floyd was one of her older borders.  Floyd looked like Borascarlof  on a particularly bad morning before his first cup of coffee.  Floyd was a chain smoker, before the cigarette in his mouth was out he had another one fired up and ready to go.  As a result of which he had emphazemia, his breath coming out in horror movie death rattles.
Another group of people my grandmother liked to rent to was student nurses.  My grandmothers secret heart fantasized about being a nurse.
One night a new student nurse tenant came home from the midnight shift and met Floyd for the first time.   One am in a rambling Victorian boarding house out of the shadowed hallway on the third floor, Boriscarlof in a plaid bathrobe comes shuffling toward her as she exit’s the bathroom.
Boy I tell you what she screamed louder than that old gal who set herself on fire.
After that my grandmother moved Floyd down to the first floor and made sure he was introduced to new tenants in the day light.
My grandfather was another of the living ghosts.  He had at some point decided that life was something to be watched rather than participated in.  He would sit in his chair reading the paper, chewing the soggy ends of his cigars (My grandmother who smoked cigarettes, didn't like the smell of cigar smoke so my grandfather for the most part chewed his cigars).  He spoke little and then mainly only with the reprogrammed politeness that spare one from actual conversation.
  In his youth he had been the drummer in a band.  He had been a young man with his own car, and he was defying his mother by being a drummer in a band playing that jig-a-boo jazz.  My grandmother once used the word bitch when she was talking about her former mother-in-law.  My grandmother said the word very softly and she hoped I hadn't heard her say it.  Whenever my grandfather would be standing for more than a minute he would begin tapping out drum riffs on his thighs, using his pocket change as cymbals.  Males of the family seem to have this odd fixation with pocket change.  Every time the men get together they all stand around talking sports and weather and all of them jingling the change in their pockets constantly. 
The only time my grandfather could be roused to conversation was whenever anyone said anything mean about Nixon.  Even if I had liked Nixon I still would have said mean things about him just so I could watch my grandfather get all red in the face and spit out bits of chewed cigar as he jumped out of his passivity to his president’s defense. 
For my first day of school my grandmother had gone all out.  I had every crayon every pencil, colored paper, glue all the recommended supplies.  I was wearing a plaid dress with matching plaid hair ribbons and a matching plaid pencil box.  I drew the line at the matching plaid lunch box, insisting on a Jose and Pussy cats lunch box but my thermos was plaid.  
My grandmother had spent much time filling my ears with tales of her one room school house.  Apparently the outhouse was a location of great humor for our ancestors.  I heard of wicked boys who dipped girls pigtails into inkwells. And of course of how she had to walk five miles in the snow sharing a pair of boots with her sister, cause it was the depression you know.
With visions of inkwells dancing in her head she filled my thermos with chocolate milk and sent me off to school.
I came home with a tear in my dress, my hair ribbons lost, my knee was scraped and there was a dent in my lunch box and my thermos was broken ( the greatest invention of my youth, the unbreakable plastic thermos) .
“How had I gotten into such a state?” She demanded.  “It’s just pointless giving you nice things you just destroy everything.”  Sighing in exasperation she holds up my now bedraggled Barbie and waves her in the air.  In the course of the day Barbie and lost her shoes and had sand in her bride of Frankenstein hair.  “What happened?”
I had been looking forward to going to school.  It was my first adventure into the wide world.  I would learn to read (an activity I was already looking forward to) and I would be spending time with kids my own age.  What were people under sixty five like?
Mrs. Briar was looking forward to her first day of school too.  Young and pretty and this was her first teaching job.  You could almost hear her humming the getting to know you song from Anna and the King.  ‘getting to know you, getting to know all about you, getting to like you and hope you like me.’
With that inspiration she went around the room asking each of the children in her charge their names and what their parents did for a living.  This being the late 60’s the question came out, ‘what does your father do for a living and does your mother work?  Everything was going along well until she got to me.
I got past my name without trouble.
“What does your father do for a living?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well you will have to ask him.”  She said brightly.
“I can’t.”
“Oh? Why not?”  Mrs. Briar believed that there were no stupid questions but I am sure from that moment on she knew that there were questions that you wish you hadn't asked.
“I don’t know where he is.”  I shrug.  The foot shuffling and half smothered giggles that traveled around the room were my first indication that not knowing where your father had taken off to was not considered  normal.  Though I had had my suspicions.
Mrs. Briar tried to recover to safe ground.
“So what does your mother do?”
And failed.
“I don’t know.”
“Ha, I bet she doesn't even know where her mother is.”  My very first class room heckler.
Mrs. Briar shushed him and got a trapped ‘oh how do I get out of this’ look in her eye.
“She’s in New Orleans.”  I answered back quickly.  Feeling a need to assure my classmates that I hadn't quite totally misplaced both parents.  “Though I don’t know what work she is doing there.”
Mrs. Briar moved on to the little girl sitting next to me (who was already looking around for a new seat) 
“I’m Bethany Libby and My Father drives a garbage truck.”
And everybody cheered.
Well a garbage truck that is pretty cool.
Then we got to free play time.  Mrs. Briar said we could play with any toy we liked.  The room has on offer two options, either the side with the baby dolls the play ironing boards and toy kitchen or the Sand box built on a big sturdy table with toy shovels, building blocks and toy construction equipment.
The boys all rushed to the sand box the girls to the play house.  I paused for a moment considering my options.
The girls very quickly were organizing the play.  Who would be mommy who would be daddy, one had started the ironing another was setting out the tea set and three were discussing which of their baby dolls had poopie diapers.
ICK.  To me ironing, washing dishes not to mention poopie diapers were all things a normal person deals with when they have to, but only some kind of twisted weirdo would call any of that fun.
I moved over to the sand box.
I picked up a pail and shovel and began building a sand castle.

“Hey, you can’t do that.  This is the boys area, you’re a girl.  The girls play with dolls.”
While the girls had been organizing the house hold shores the boys had been sorting out pack dominance.  To their leaders proclamation all the boys voiced enthusiastic agreement.
“Mrs. Briar said we could play with any toy we liked and I don’t want to play with dolls.  I am going to build a sand castle.  You want to dig a moat for my sand castle with your bulldozer?”
The boys appealed to Mrs. Briar to eject me from the boys area.  Unfortunately for the boys Mrs. Briar was on my side.
There was an enemy invader in their territory.  The boys gathered together in a football huddle at the other end of the table to plan their battle strategy.  They break apart and take up their places on either side of the table.  They take up their toy bulldozers and toy dump trucks and making those obscene put put motor mouth noises that boys are so fond of, they advance on my castle.
“Road crew coming through.”
Shoulders squashing me on either side, pushing me away from the table as they bull doze my sand castle.
Their forces now fully committed to the assault I took two steps back from the table then flanked them, taking up new position in their undefended rear.  I was now in control of their army’s supply depot,  the cubby with all the sandbox toys was on my side of the table.  
Mrs. Briar gave me a battle field commission, I was now captain of the sand box.  It was my duty to see that all the toys got put back when play time was over, and to see that every one played nice and shared.
One of the boys asked me for a toy crane.  I run to my cubby and grab the Barbie my grandmother had insisted that I bring.  I jammed Barbie’s feet into the top tower of my sand castle.
“You want a crane?  Ask Barbie.”
“So you’re the little bastard.”  My classroom heckler has an older brother, a fifth grader.  I am surrounded by a circle of it would seem almost every kid in the playground all pushing for a place to get the best view of the first official beat down of the school year.  The word bastard is picked up and passed around the circle in scandalized giggles.
“What’s a bastard?”
“It means you don’t know who your father is.”  He smirked and the circle laughed.
“Oh, well than I’m not a bastard.  I know who my father is just not where he is.”  Needless to say neither the older boy nor the gathered circle were at all impressed with hair splitting semantics.
The older boy said something about my mother and sailors which everyone thought very funny.  My uncle was in the Merchant Marines at the time, but what this had to do with my mother I had no idea. 
 I was pushed from behind.  Not expecting it, I stumbled and fell scraping my knee.
“Oh look the baby’s going to cry.”
I stood facing the older boy, the ring leader.  I was pushed from behind.  This time I was expecting it.
I stepped into the force of the push and with both hands gripping the handle of my Jose and the pussy cats lunch box I swung.
My lunch box connected with the older boys temple with a loud thunk.  In a move reminiscent of cartoon pratfalls he spun halfway round and fell to the ground.
There was a collective intake of breath at this surprising turn of events.  I stood there clutching my lunch box.
“Does anyone else want to push me?”
My grandmother was not pleased with any part of my story.  She felt that if someone hit me, I should immediately apologize for annoying them so much.   That I refused to be the least bit apologetic got me sent to bed without supper.
All the adults around me were totally convinced that I was an absolute monster of noise, chaos incarnate.  According to them I never spoke when I could shout, never walked when I could run, I knocked over furniture, bounced off walls. ‘Even when she tries to be quiet and tip toes I can hear the floors shake,’ I heard Mrs. Peeve tell my grandmother one day.  ‘She just can’t sit still for a moment.’  My grandmother replied.  
This belief that I was incapable of either stillness nor quite was so ingrained the association of me with noise and restless chaos so complete that if I sat still and quiet I would, after a remarkably short period of time become invisible.  
Since there was no way of knowing when a grownup might take it into their head to run off to never never land I used my new power of invisibility to keep a wary eye  on my grandparents.
One day I am sitting behind the living room couch practicing invisibility when my grandparents have a very long discussion about sending me to the orphanage
Three young children were just too much for them to handle at their age.  Two they thought they could handle but three was one too many.   My sister and brother were so sweet nature d and easy to get along with while I was too loud too rough, to destructive, I was a bad influence on my sister and brother.  
“And she might not even be our real granddaughter.”  Said my grandmother.
My sister and brother they were sure of as they had both been born in Maine but I was born in Baltimore too soon after their marriage to suite my grandmother.  And I didn't look a thing like either my sister or brother.  
In the end they decided to keep me.  While they couldn't be certain of my parentage, they were certain that if they got rid of the ugly puppy in the litter, people would talk.  There had already been too much talk already as far as my grandmother was concerned any further cause for gossip was to be avoided.
“Well if it proves to be too much for us we can call the lawyer back.”  My grandmother said and packed  the papers for surrendering me to the state neatly away in the big file folder of household receipts.
Much of the discussion confused me a great deal.  Just the week before my grandmother had told me of the whole baby’s being found in the cabbage patch thing.  Which even at the time I had thought it a badly worked out system.  What happens if you pick the wrong baby out of the cabbage patch?  Can you return it like damaged fruit?    If my grandparents weren't my grandparents than my father wasn't my father.  What do we call someone who doesn't know who their father is?
I was actually disappointed not to be going to the orphanage.  At least there I figured all the kids would be equally unwanted or unlucky.  Little Orphan Annie started out in an orphanage and look how well things worked out for her.