Life? During Wartime...Read Now
You oughta know not to stand by the window. Somebody see you up there, I got some groceries, some peanut butter, to last a couple of days...
Well, alright sportsfans (as my father used to love to say) I guess I got my wish (sorta) something to write about besides dating apps...
If you're reading this from your digital bunker (as I am writing it) you're hunkering down, waiting for the apocalypse that the White House continues to insist will just "go away." The Carana-virus as the Orange One likes to call it, has wreaked havoc across the world and at this writing threatens to make this spring an indoor version of it's former self.
It's not the virus itself that has affected me personally, but the fear that seems to be gripping everyone except the real humans with whom I interact. Someone has been been ripping through stores in my immediate neighborhood like locusts, someone has been gouging consumers for everything from hand sanitizer to face masks. Someone has been pulling out of their reservations forcing the outright canceling of annual events. We just don't know who those someones are...
Well that's not exactly accurate -- the pulling out are some of the biggest companies in the world - whose full scale withdrawals from their commitments have forced the cancelations of everything from SXSW, to E3 (largest annual Electronics show) NAB, TriBeCa Film Fest and the TED Conference so far. NBA season is suspended, March Madness will live up to it's name playing in empty arenas -- it's flat out nuts. (Today's new parlour/drinking game: https://www.isitcanceledyet.com/).
But, nobody I know has lost their minds... yet - but a sh*t ton of people have and they live in my zipcode or at least they thought we were a market ripe for the picking...
As you know, I live alone. (Except for course for my fur babies - Aria & Bella) I have occasional guests. But where I'm going with this is, I have significantly changed (or had it changed for me) my "consumer" habits. In other words - I only buy toilet paper from Costco about twice a year.
The cost difference is really why I do it. TP in a regular store costs about as much for 12 rolls as it does for 12 packages of rolls (givertake) at "the Costco." I'm no financial genius, but I know it's a better buy. And truly speaking it was my beloved Marcy who even got me to think about the stuff in the first place. She was the one with the sensitive skin. She wanted the good stuff (trust me, she was Scottish to a cliché'd fault and if she was going to splurge on herself anywhere - I'm glad she at least did it there!) So, Charmin' and the Costco it was -- many times we considered canceling the membership but we saved that much money in TP, so my girl was worth it.
Now, ever since the first day of Spring 2017, her wisdom about the softness of said paper became... well... personal. And real. Okay, and yes, she was right. (about so many things - but this was critical). Thank gawd, I listened to her.
So... it's still on my house essentials list. Right up there with dog food, red wine and jalapeńos. (okay there's a few other things that are always on my "must have" list - like my hair colored, my nails done and the mortgage paid) but you know what I'm talking about.
The point is, I keep my eye on the stockpile. And yes, I've been busy lately, and I knew I needed to get some. But I got into writing binge last week and I thought, "I've got two rolls, I'm good..."
Now, yes, I've been watching the news (in my in-box, not the tube, I haven't watched TV news since Mylove had it on 24/7, it was the only thing that could distract her from the pain besides the Golden Girls. I save my TV for Mrs. Maisel, the Crown, Chernobyl and the best pic noms) but, yes, I knew the world was bracing for impact, China was tapering off, but Italy was flaring, 8 cases had been reported in Washington state. But it was still "far off." And one day, when I needed gas, I thought, "hey, I'm not in any hurry, I'll run up to the Costco, grab some gas, some TP and maybe a few other things for the house..."
And it seemed o.... kay? There was a an eerie calm over everyone -- they seemed to be almost hushed in a place that is usually cacophonic in its consumersthenics -- but I was in an hurry and didn't pay it no nevermind. I should've clocked that something was amiss when there were no carts. I had to go back out to the parking lot (which if you've ever been to the Costco, you know it could almost be the distance of two football fields) to find one lone stray cart and return to the store. I picked up some organic chicken thighs as I made my way to the extreme back of the store which is like a warehouse inside of warehouse where the paper products and water and dog food is...
... it was cleaned out like Costco had lost their lease.
That's when it hit me, the veiled calm o'er everyone was the silence that poker players exude when they stare at their cards. Everyone had merely been pretending to be calm as they maneuvered their carts in front of each other to "box out" the "competition." If they had the sacred paper, they were protecting it. Like the Texas Hold 'em all-stars, they weren't giving up their tells, they weren't telegraphing how or when they were gonna take the pot.
Only here there wasn't a pot to piss in, (or wipe after). I put my chicken back in the cooler, abandoned my cart and headed for the manager. When I found one I asked when they would be getting more TP and he laughed, "Darlin' we get a truckload every morning at 10. It's gone by 10:15. If you wanna get some you have to be here and get in line.
I smirked that I'm not gonna play into the hysteria... but he went back to restocking M&M's and those funky rolled Rice Crispies tubie thingys.
I thanked him and left, grumbling under my breath about the chicken-littles who are messing it up for the rest of us.
It took me two more days before I could bring myself to try again -- apparently, I had enough (TP) to afford to be mad. First world problems...
And I was mad -- as the news of the lunacy started to escalate, I realized that there are two people in the world. Those who care about each other and those who care only for themselves, and the latter group weren't any of the people I personally knew, so just who were these faceless hoarders who were sucking up all the TP from Costco... I could just imagine these faceless somebodies, garage full of paper gleefully rubbing their hands together waiting for the extort light to flash, preying on those of us who thought it was better to ration so everybody would be able to wipe.
And my sister Lib said it best. Even of you swear you won't buy into the hysteria, it does mess with your thinking. When she went to her Trader Joes (we all have 'em, do we not?) and the shelves were starting to be cleared by the hoarders, she thought I better stock up too -- who knows when the hoarding will stop? Lib keeps a great pantry having raised three children and an athlete-husband. So if she's second guessing herself, it's bad. But there were only black beans left so she "had to get 'em" only to get home and discover she'd already had 6 cans.
But she hit it on the head. Mass Hysteria (veiled as "thinking prudently" or "common sense") adds to the fear. And I don't like it when I see some woman stuffing an extra dozen eggs into a carton so she can get around the 1 dozen eggs per customer rule, that I start to judge that woman. She could have five boys at home who eat three eggs at a whack or be baking the cake for her niece's wedding. The point is, I'm willing to stop looking on her with compassion just because she cut me off on the way to check-out aisle.
I will not be that person. That person who hates first and asks questions later... but it's requiring more vigilance lately than I have...
Over toilet paper.
I was recounting this tale of whoa, (sic) to my friend Jill as she was shopping for some ready made meals so she could get back to her studies (she had just come up for air -- working on her second Masters degree) and she said, "You're right, I'm here in Gelson's and they have some paper must be because everything is so expensive here anyway, but the aisles are pretty scarce..." We laughed at how cray everyone was, and agreed to talk after her next paper...
And, realizing that I might be playing a harsh game of TP roulette, I finally got off my tookas and set out in search of paper...
It was even worse in the smaller stores -- Ralphs looked like a bomb hit that aisle but every other aisle was perfectly stocked. Musta been a Neutron Bomb. I was going to hunt down the manager and give him a piece of my mind for allowing hoarders to decimate the store. But then I thought I was going to protest by NOT giving them the business (let them fall on their own swords). And I walked out of the store. Sprouts? Same story. Sprouts, REALLY? Who shops at Sprouts for TP????? I left in another huff. Not even gonna try Smart and Final. Skunked at Pavilions. Shut out at CVS. Shut down at Vons.
I couldn't believe these managers (and stores) were playing into the hysteria too. Money was more important than the people who were hoping to spend it, I grumbled, as I turned my car onto Mulholland Highway to head for Gelsons.
Once in, I wasn't going to drop and run over to the TP, I still was digging in my heels -- I would not capitulate to fear. If I had to use old rags and paper towels, so be it (says she now in the comfort of her clean cotton panties... )
And... there was a half-stocked shelf. But the only paper left came only in packs of four. I wasn't about to become the girl I was mother-fing earlier at every other store. But it was a half-stocked shelf. So I grudgingly took two packs, grabbed some butter, some epsom salts and some red wine and headed for the check-out. My total?????
$55.00 - Are you F-ing kidding me?
"This ain't no party, this ain't no disco -- This ain't no fooling around. No time for dancing, or lovey dovey, I ain't got time for that now..."
For the years since I transitioned socially - which means I've officially (through court order, SS change, CDL, passport & constant reminders of proper pronouns) declared who I've always been to the outside world (all you outside Mylove's and my sacred bubble) I've been un....un...un-em...unemployed. Which is weird for me -- I've always been a freelancer or a project based contractor. I get hired by the network & the production company to deliver a show. When I was between gigs (truly speaking, you never know when the other side of the tween is... but you get into a rhythm) it was the blessed calm that allowed me to catch-up on personal writing/projects -- it's why I am so disciplined with my writing - I never know when it's time to go run a show again.
But this time the "tween" has stretched past 3 years of un...un...un-em, employment. We never say that out loud in LA LA Land - cuz that means you're a leper. We have a whole bunch of cute phrases for a situation that the rest of country uses to get a check, some assistance, or even just a free drink at their local watering hole. "Taking some personal time," "Hitting the pause button," or the above or it's even more vague step cousin, "between opportunities." But no matter how you slice it in this land of superstition and mystery, for us it says failure. Stay away. Nobody ever really knows why anything in this town is successful, (The Bachelor? The Masked Singer, really?) so, we then never really ever know why we've failed. Everyone has skills. Everyone is creative. Brilliant? Yes, there are some. But, they make up about 1% of all the work that's ever been done. No, the safest and truly most accurate response is to regard it as "a calling" or "a spiritual quest." And I'm not being facetious, it is really is.
But then, if your destiny dictates your success what do you do when you're... not success-ing...?
If you're not in charge of your success (which, let's be real you're really not) then you're also not in charge of your free fall...
So then what? Will those prayers deliver the parachute by drone?
I have always been known for my creativity and my tactical brilliance. I've been able to invent whole shows out of the fantasy of others and bring them into reality on ridiculous budgets. And I've been able to enlist my crews into this effort. Yes, it's a superpower -- but it's the crucial superpower that all showrunners must have. I'm not special in that regard -- we're a... breed, if you will. Or mutant works too.
But my tactical foresight never saw the blindspot that I'd fallen into once I started wearing lipstick. It's funny what people will say out loud to you when you suddenly become "other."
Well, it's not us, but we're just afraid your crews might not want to follow "a you..." So, suddenly, I'm ... "a you?"
Was that how everyone felt? I will never know. I just know that I haven't had a gig in three years. But I never really had time to investigate... when Mylove got sick, I turned my superpower to making her life the best it could be. I stopped looking past today. Because all my tactical brilliance couldn't cure cancer. But my love and my hands could give her some relief.
Burned all my notebooks, what good are notebooks? They won't help me survive. My chest is aching, burns like a furnace. The burning keeps me alive. Try to stay healthy, physical fitness. Don't want to catch no disease...
And I must admit, that between grief, mourning and outrage, my immune system has been taking it on the chin for the last 3 years. (Let's be real, for the last year of Mylove's life here on earth, I was dancing on shattered glass.) Life for the last few years in the country and abroad has been one of bile & fever, and I haven't been the best at applying my over thirty years of a meditation practice as well as I should. Choosing the sound of one hand clapping...
... and/or out & out disgust rather than love and light.
I'm not proud of it.
It has made me "at effect" in life rather than "present." But is hasn't been all darkness and dread. There are many in my life, my sisters both blood and chosen and a small cadre of brothers have rallied around me has kept watch over me. Of this I am grateful and humbled.
So when this world loses it center, I have a hub that keeps me rolling forward.
Mylove and I used to always debate the very notion of sisterhood - a magical almost ethereal "state" that Mylove swore didn't really exist but I had craved my entire life. I have sisters. She did not. I knew what was possible having grown up with them. And I am so grateful to say I have that now especially with my Lib. Though when I dig deeper, I see it's something I never ever didn't have. It's just that at our age now with the last "untold" chamber of my heart revealed to her, we're closer than ever imagined - certainly, she's the closest human to my heart on the planet.
But Mylove was raised by a mother of a different era who taught her that "ain't bitches women" and "never trust another woman, especially when a man is involved." The good news is that Mylove never let that get in between her and some amazing women. And their relationships were strong - but she did not believe in the magick of sisterhood that I knew had to be there.
And is... here. My coven is actually quite large filled with powerful women who have tied their hearts to mine in a golden shawl of sisterhood. I have named these names many times. And you know who you are. They are raising me to be as strong, as smart, as brilliant, as Gracious and as kind (Indira!) as they are.
And as fabulous.
One night as I wasn't so much leaning in to life during wartime as cliff diving into the abyss -- having been stood up again (or is it still?) by some "right swipe" from Bumble, drowning my sorrows in my second Margarita while watching Joker (Yep, girl's got it bad) I texted to my dear friend Ruthie, (who is my "lifeline" when I go on dates) that I had been stood up. She could, therefore, stand down. I wasn't going anywhere, fast. And, I didn't want her to worry. I finished my marg and tried to get invested in the Joker's origin story (which never really happened) ... suddenly my phone "dinged," Ruthie had gotten my text and texted back for me to "get my butt down to the Rabbit Hole!"
Remember what the dormouse said...
So I did. We danced, and danced and danced - it was Ruthie's friend's Patti's birthday, and we laughed and danced some more ( i was trying to wash the Joker stain from my veins) and suddenly the birthday girl was hungry so we left... since I was the one with the car, I drove us all home. Ruthie immediately yells "SHOTGUN!" forcing Patti and Karen into my back seat (which usually requires both pilates & yoga to accomplish). Once in, Ruthie turns on my radio and we sang all the way home...
... Unseasonably warm winter breeze, good friends "scringing" (screaming + singing) ABBA and the wartime suddenly started to fade away... we turned the corner onto the dirt road above our neighborhood, and were suddenly blasted by the full moonlight...
Ruthie leapt from the car shouting,
Now. The only people who've ever seen me topless are my mammogram tech, my gyno and Mylove. And as I'm getting out of the car, trying to sort out my feelings, my top is yanked from my body by Ruthie while she's arguing with Patti who's protesting that she's not getting into this crackerbox twice! I'm still trying to figure out if I'm going to even know how to dance, let alone do it topless, when my bra is suddenly off and all four of us are rocking to the last strains of Dancing Queen still playing on my car radio...
As the blue-white rays bathed my bare skin, Ruthie grabbed my hands to dance, I was grateful, shocked, giddy and... sistered...
Yes, it's life during wartime, and it's as cray as it's ever been - superheated by the national fever of bipartisan chaos and white nationalism. I do need to keep my eye on the ball, but even so, I know I need life, real life to keep on so, I can keep on, keeping on.
I realized, this was the lyric missing from the David Bryne's, treatise of life when's there's no Mudd Club or CBGB...
Yes. It's the essential ingredient that Seal pointed out was far more valuable than some peanut butter to last a couple of days...
No, we're never gonna survive unless we all get...
... a little Ruthie.
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Scottie Jeanette Madden
Screenwriter, Author, Cook and Lover. Author of "Getting Back To Me, from girl to boy to woman in just fifty years" & "Recklass In The Kitchen" a year of light, laughter & love... oh. and food!