Saturday, February 21, 2009

Internet Sluts

The Crazy Letter

Some chick sent my husband this letter. Of course he thought it was hilarious and e-mailed it to me so we could have a laugh. I got to thinking, how many men fall for this kind of thing? Lonely vulnerable men. Oh, I know so many women don’t believe that men can be vulnerable but they can be, especially when they get older. If they lose a spouse of many years they are particularly suseptable to younger women that pray on older men. Not that my hubby is that old, we have no idea how in the heck this woman found him in the first place. Anyway, I thought I’d share this silly letter today.

Hello my dear,

How are you today? Well I am of hope that you are doing fine, my name is Miss Suzann Badango I am a very simple honest and kind girl. I saw your contact email while browsing through the internet so I decided to contact you despite that I have not seen you in person. I am a single girl and it will be my pleasure to communicate with you. My heart welcomes you I hope we can make a good friend with a wish for much happiness Smile. I will like to know you more,most especially what you like and what you dislike. Please I don't want to end up missing you, hope to hear from you soon,so that I can give you my pic and I will tell you more about myself. Have a nice day and think about me. kiss Hug with love.

Thanks and God bless.

Love from,

Go to my archives and read , MOB, which was written long before this letter arrived, incidentally. People get a kick out of this humorous short story.


© 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Confronting Reality Isn't Easy

Charles Manson and Other Monsters

In the spring of 1976 I was twenty years old and busy chasing around after an eighteen-month old son while five months pregnant with my second child. I lived in a post WWII bungalow in East Los Angeles with my husband Jack. My mother and sister lived in Northern Canada. It was all I could do not to pick up the phone to call them everyday in a futile effort to put my loneliness at bay. Long distance charges were expensive, so I could only call home twice a month. Our house was located on a traffic ridden main artery, which ran from downtown all the way out to the suburbs and was frequented by various automobiles, loud buses, and semi-trucks, twenty-four hours a day. I had to play our portable television at full volume just to hear the dialogue on my favorite shows over the rumbling uproar outside the vibrating windows.

We did enjoy our decent-sized backyard. In the southern foremost corner stood a ten-foot tall poinsettia tree. I was shocked to find that poinsettias could grow to be so huge. Even though the deafening semi trucks shook the nearby fence as they passed by, and we were directly under the flight pattern for the jets flying in and out of LAX, I spent many happy hours gardening, as my little son Jackie played in his sandbox or followed and mimicked me as I went about my business.

I began to suffer horrific panic attacks after watching Helter Skelter—a TV movie about the Manson family committing the Tate-La Bianca murders. I became afraid to even venture outside.

On the far side of my son’s room stood a large picture window. Despite the cheerful Mickey Mouse curtains covering the glass, I felt that he was in certain danger. How easy it would be for some menacing stranger to break into my little guy’s hypothetically safe haven to inflict harm. Maybe hormones fed my paranoia, but I was well aware that we didn’t live in the best of neighborhoods to begin with. I grew more and more agitated and concerned for my family. In my mind, we were in imminent peril, absolute jeopardy.

The shocking violence and random tactics that the Manson family employed to seek out their victims gave me insight into just how vulnerable my child was. How vulnerable I was. This helpless state of mind sent me into a state of dread. Alone in the house one day, I called my father for help. I had come to California after graduating from high school in Northern Canada because he had always promised to put me through college. But when I stepped off the plane, suitcase in hand, I came face to face with his new family. He had shacked up with a Tennessee woman seventeen years his junior, and her three small children. There was a love seat for me to sleep on, out in the living room. I kept my clothes on the bottom shelf of a linen closet. And, how did I figure to escape the scorn of this future stepmother? I married Jack to get out of her house. That woman made it perfectly clear, I was not welcome. That afternoon I regaled my tale of alarm to my father, I poured my heart out over the phone, did my best to explain the foreboding thoughts that I was having. Dad thought I was being hysterical, offered no solutions or help of any kind.

We had to move—I knew that. I orchestrated it.

Our new home in Simi Valley provided a pastoral setting where I was able to suspend my doubts and fears, where I could raise my two young sons surrounded by giant boulders, blue skies, and peace and quiet.

Slowly, our life together began to change. A menacing presence infiltrated our small family. Jack’s disturbing childhood, the cruelty and neglect he’d experienced began to surface in the form of unbridled anger. Periodically, he’d lose his temper for the most trivial reasons, and his peculiar behavior slowly but surely began to spiral out of control. Still—due to my extreme empathy—I didn’t tell anyone about his sporadic outbursts. I felt protective of him. And I reasoned, he never actually hit us. I could handle a few verbal attacks.

One day in a fit of temper he heaved a table saw through the air, and sent it flying across the garage. There it was, sticking straight out of the wall, a strangely surreal sight. Minutes after these displays of rage Jack would calm down, and a bizarre euphoria would set in. He’d be in the best mood! I would be angry and dismayed with his behavior—unable to process the quick turnaround in his demeanor. I’d be disgusted with how high he seemed.

By the end of the day he had repaired the wall, the table saw was operational, and in Jack’s mind, all was right with the world. But…as I watched him shovel down a giant chocolate sundae, (he’d customarily turn to chocolate for solace), I feared the next outburst.

My brother Dave protected me. Although he lived over two-and-a-half hours away, I knew Jack resisted the urge to let me have it during his out-of-control tantrums, because he knew that my brother would pull a Sonny Corleone if he laid a finger on me.

A few years rolled on by. Jack’s violence escalated and I began to lose my empathy for what he’d been through as a child. Surely, the abuse he’d suffered did not give him carte blanche to turn around and inflict abuse! My son’s were three and five by then. I could see that their father’s uncontrollable anger and criticism had taken its toll. His flawed parenting was ruining their lives, and I was becoming a skittish person that I no longer recognized. My oldest son would freak out and throw a mini version of his father’s temper tantrum, as the little one would shrink back and witness his brother’s fury with a blank expression.

Was I searching the horizon for a last straw? Don’t people like Jack inevitably force the issue? Don’t they always break the camel’s back? Push the envelope? Bring events to a boiling point?

My youngest son Mark used to wet the bed from time to time. One night I heard the poor little guy crying outside our bedroom door, and Jackie whispering, “Don’t wake Daddy, he’ll get mad.”

I joined them on the landing of the stairs. I took Mark in the bathroom and cleaned him up. I put on dry jammy bottoms and told him that it was okay. I changed the sheets. My husband came out and started yelling at him for having another accident. Mark shrunk back and apologized, saying, “I torry Daddy, I torry.”

“Stop it!” I told Jack. “Leave him alone!”

“Mama,” Mark asked, “Could I have a drink of water?”

“Go get him a drink,” I told Jack. Silently, he went downstairs to fetch the water.

Jack returned and began carrying on about what a moron I was because I was about to let my son have some water when he had just wet the damn bed. How stupid could I be?

I said, “Get a hold of yourself.”

That’s when he threw the heavy bottomed tumbler at me. It hit me square in the forehead and I fell backward. I regained my composure and said, “You are divorced. You crossed a line here.”

I took the two boys in hand, went back into our bedroom, and locked Jack out.

The next morning I found my temperamental husband in an excellent mood. I marveled at his-other-self, his sweet-tongued-devil-self. Fawning all over the boys as if nothing had happened. Offering to make coffee, suggesting a trip to an amusement park.

I never slept with him again. The divorce would get ugly and it took several years for the smoke to clear.

I feared strange predators, imagined that villanous Charles-Manson-type-monsters were lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce, but learned that I was living with the real brute all along. Jack did more damage and inflicted more wounds to the three of us than I care to remember. I focused on burying the past and marching forward to build a new life for my young sons. Recalling these old wounds has proved to be difficult, but has also shed light on how I repressed my true fears by focusing on the abstract. You can’t undo what’s been done, but you can learn from your past. I know I have.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


New Blank Document

I react one of two ways when I click on New Blank Document, not all that often with dread, most times with a head rush, because I can’t get busy typing fast enough to suit my need to purge. My best ideas often come to me while I’m hanging out in that half-conscious zone between wakefulness and sleep. On occasion I have a dream so amazing that I can only hope to remember the gist of it the next morning, hastily jotting down the highlights on scratch paper before forgotten. Last night I dreamt up an amazing saga chock full of vibrant characters and wild plot turns. My dream was so wonderful I forced myself to wake up and rush over to the computer to write down a rough outline. Needless to say, the nightly arrival of  inspirational ideas and visions does tend to hinder the likelihood of a getting a good night’s sleep. I hold on to the belief that God invented coffee for us possessed creative types.

Another purpose served by clicking on New Blank Document, I’m able put off those pesky mundane tasks like paying bills, sweeping the garage, going for that much needed walk, or planning dinner in good conscience. Once I click on that header I am compelled to compose something worthwhile before hitting command save—a little something worthy of neglecting real life—utterly and wholeheartedly compelled.

I keep a folder marked Ideas & Notions. It’s full of snappy and not-so-snappy titles, notes, scarcely started stories, inspiring quotes and sentences. When my mind needs to be nudged into gear I will venture into that Ideas & Notions file, poke around to find something that hits me between the eyes, and presto, a path of interest is discovered.

This confession may lead to trouble, but I'll go ahead and divulge my ugly little secret anyway, I don’t encounter writer’s block all that often. I’m a middle-aged woman, thrilled to be here holed up in my office and able to spin yarns. Thrilled.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


The Adventure

When Nina was carrying Alec she rode the bus to downtown Windsor, and a medical lab she’d read about in the newspaper actually paid her cash money to collect her urine. Seemed the urine of pregnant women was valuable for some reason or another. They paid Johnny on the spot too. Unfortunately, she was only able to made the trip twice. The distance to the lab was too far away to surmount by foot and they simply couldn’t afford the bus fare for the trip. That’s how broke they were. As it was, her husband Hank’s cousin swung by to pick him up every morning, they both worked on the line at Chrysler.

Nina was stuck in the one room apartment all day alone. The only entertainment available, after the household chores were completed to her satisfaction, was the stack of books that she checked out from the library once a week, and the only company to be had during the day was her neighbor Dolores and her colicky baby, Lila. She truly feared giving birth to such a desperate needy creature. At times Nina wished that she had stayed put in business school—she would dare to wish that she had never married. But, she had seen fit to quit business school and had recklessly married Hank as soon as he returned from overseas. Such a romantic figure returning from storming the beach at Normandy and doing his part to defeat the Nazis. Nina had succumbed to infatuation readily. A woman made her bed and a woman had to sleep in it.

Nina stood five-foot-three and weighed only one-hundred-and-one-pounds. The doctor told her to start caring about the living baby, and to put on some weight. But she had no appetite to speak of, and had never been much of an eater. Besides, they were on a tight budget. Thank goodness her mother kept her in tea bags. Nina could subsist on hot tea and toast.

One sunny afternoon, while sitting out on Dolores’s porch shelling peas, Nina told Dolores about the book she was reading, describing the plight of all the starving people in China. How could those poor mothers stand it, Nina wondered, when their children cried for nourishment and they were unable to feed them? While reading about all that gut-retching hunger she wondered if there was something wrong with her physiology because she didn’t seem to feel hungry all that often, maybe she was defective. The doctor feared for the health of the unborn child, he wanted her to eat liver and to drink milk. Nina grew ill at the thought of either substance. But she did manage to down a bowl of boiling hot water with a little ketchup mixed in with plenty of pepper, after being scolded for being neglectful towards the fetus.

Dolores grew thoughtful as she listened to Nina recount the terrible tales of mass food shortages and starving children so far away on the other side of the world. When Nina stopped talking, Dolores said, “They don’t care about their children the way we do. They aren’t like us you know. Those Orientals aren’t truly human.”

Nina involuntarily let go of the bowl that had been resting atop her bony knees and it fell, sending beans scattering.

“Oh my!” Dolores cried.

Nina dropped down on the floorboards at once, grabbed hold of the wobbling wooden bowl, and began to retrieve the shelled beans.

“Stop!” Dolores said, putting her hand on Nina’s shoulder. “Never mind that. Are you having pains Dearie?”

Of course Nina was fine, she had just been shocked at her friend’s ridiculous observation. Surely she couldn’t believe that Chinese women did not have the capacity to love their children, that they were less than human? Nina told a lie, she said she didn’t feel all that well, and then hurried off to her own apartment where she spent the rest of the afternoon watching the shadow of an elm tree on the bare wall above the dry sink dance and change size and shape as the sun descended. Waiting for her handsome husband to come home and tell her how much he hated working at Chrysler, about how damn bored he was. She couldn’t imagine that Hank could be any wearier with the drudgery of daily life than she was.

The baby was full term but he only weighed a smidge over four pounds and the doctors kept him in the incubator. Hank said his son’s head was shaped like a loaf of French bread. A baguette, Nina’s mother corrected him in her pronounced accent. Her parents were French Canadian.

Hank smiled and took his wife’s hand in his once they were alone. In a conspiratorial manner he whispered, “We gotta get you outa here, I have big plans.”

He wouldn’t fill her in on his big plans just yet. She was to rest. In those days they kept women flat on their backs for days and days after childbirth. The doctor showed and explained to Nina that they could not circumcise Alec because he was too weak.

At home Dolores helped with the baby. Nina didn’t feel the same about her friend since she’d made the unfeeling comment about those unfortunate Chinese women. But beggars couldn’t be choosers. Nina’s mother couldn’t come help out as planned because she had pneumonia again. Alex was a quiet baby. Nina’s milk hadn’t come in, so he was on formula. He took the bottle fine and burped with ease. He was so tiny they used handkerchiefs instead of diapers for the first few weeks. After he’d grown a bit Dolores cut up some of Lila’s old diapers and gave them to Nina. She forgave her friend’s ignorance. Dolores’s kindness towards Nina and Alex melted her anger away. But, those warm feelings aside, Nina intended to set her neighbor straight about her peculiar beliefs and prejudices, once she felt better.

What got into Hank was an article he’d read in the lunchroom at the factory about the exotic, wild North Country out west. He asked Nina to bring home books about Alaska. They would sit at night and read them together. Hank’s favorite book was Jack London’s The Call of the Wild.

When Alec was a toddler barely three years old Hank returned home from work and announced that they were leaving Windsor. They were finally going out west. He spread a map out on their kitchen table. A friend had given him a truck. They were heading for a better life. Hank was sick to death of working in a factory. He would most certainly die a bitter old man if he stayed put. Nina didn’t protest. The adventure appealed to her.

They didn’t make as far as Alaska, but they reached Northern British Columbia. Hank worked in the mines and became a union leader. They didn’t miss The East one little bit. Nina had to hike over a knoll and down to the creek for water, then lug it back up the hill, but she didn’t mind. She grew strong and muscular. They had a view of the mountain from the kitchen window and the sky was a vast theater that Nina never tired of studying: swirling clouds against turquoise, or thunderous gunmetal grayness billowing and bellowing, one day a huge rainbow after a rain, and some nights, on occasion, the aurora borealis would appear, the most spectacular light show on earth on display—free of charge.

These are the memories that ran through Nina’s head right before she closed her eyes for the last time at the age of seventy-eight. And they were good memories.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Grandfather's Wisdom Not Lost On This Girl!


I didn’t understand what I was getting myself into when I moved Grandfather into my tiny two bedroom, one bath cracker-box house. Mom had made plans to put him in a home but I wouldn’t hear of it. Had she forgotten that Armand Weese was a brilliant man? I firmly believed that my grandfather wasn’t ready to be put out to pasture. Mom did her best to talk me out of my half-baked plan, in vain. She explained, in that irritating levelheaded manner of hers, Alzheimer’s had taken hold and it was just a matter of time before Grandfather would prove to be too hard to handle. His wife of twenty-five years, my Mom’s stepmother Sheila, had the audacity to leave him in his darkest hour. Despite all the years of financial and emotional support Armand had bestowed upon the self-centered wench. Not only did he provide an incredible lifestyle for Sheila, but also for her insufferable offspring, three sons with bad manners and a propensity towards alcoholism that they’d inherited from their errant absentee father. Grandfather’s deteriorating mental condition sent Sheila packing. Miss, I have a short memory, forgot that she was only a temp earning barely enough to get by when Grandfather rescued her from mediocrity. My grandmother had been in her grave barely a year. A desperate divorcee with big breasts, a spotty intellect, and three snotty nosed brats in grade school, Sheila was fifteen years Armand’s junior. Our entire family collectively gasped in disbelief when he married that woman in Vegas only six months after she’d shown up at his firm to answer the phones and do light paperwork.

Sheila and her three goons, (my pet name for her spawn), emptied the contents of the house while Grandfather stood in the driveway watching in disbelief and distress. The poor old guy never even made a move to stop the plundering. They drove off and left him standing in the driveway. Grandfather found himself lost and all alone in the big house without Sheila. They only left him a twin bed in the guest room, a TV tray, and a portable refrigerator. Luckily, after several attempts, Armand somehow managed to punch the speed dial and reach Mom. (I know--how kind of Sheila to leave a phone!) We got on a plane and flew up to Oregon that same afternoon.

We had no idea how Grandfather’s short-term memory had deteriorated. He no longer drove a car, apparently hadn’t since Sheila saw fit to hide the keys from him a few months earlier after he got lost and drove into a ditch while running an errand. Then, because he kept asking for the keys back, she sold his beloved Lincoln behind his back. Why hadn’t Sheila shared this news? We figured she wanted to empty out the bank accounts and abscond with as much cold hard cash as she could without setting any alarms off.

Although he had retired years before, Grandfather had plenty of connections in the legal field. Sheila didn’t get away with as much as she would have liked to. Mom saw to that. But the big house on the lake had to be sold, and that’s when I stepped in and took it upon myself to take Grandfather home instead of letting Mom place him in a memory care facility near where she lived in Orange County. How hard could it be to take care of one seventy-eight year old man?

Ha! Hard—extremely hard! I learned that in short order.

I settled him into the smallish back bedroom with a narrow daybed, chest of drawers, flat-screen TV, and comfy leather recliner. His door was conveniently located right off the kitchen. If he needed a snack or a drink, he could just help himself without disturbing me. That was the plan anyway. My dining room is my office and I work out of my home. All day long I’d tolerate one interruption after another. Conversely, if I didn’t hear a peep out of him for too long a period of time, I’d go on a hunt. Investigate what kind of shenanigans he’d gotten himself into. A few days into his stay he found my newly-purchased-giant-telescoping-super-sharp-tree-trimmer and butchered my Ponderosa lemon tree and a row of poor unsuspecting hibiscus bushes over on the east side of my postage stamp yard all to hell. I perceived their psychic screams and produced a few of my own.

Grandfather had lost forty pounds on the Atkins diet three years prior, and obsessively held on to the notion that he must eat eggs for breakfast. He went through a long drawn out process of preparing an egg white omelet every single morning, without fail. One morning I watched as he filled his creation with diced peaches, a cut-up leftover enchilada, and gobs of minced garlic. I said nothing. He ate it with grand relish and washed the God-awful mess down with cup after cup of coffee. When the pot was empty he tried to make another but managed to flood the counter top. I cleaned up the mess, there were coffee grounds everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I purchased a giant pump thermos, and from that day forward would drag my ass out of bed to fill it at the crack of dawn so Grandfather had plenty to drink and wouldn’t attempt to brew coffee on his own.

One day I brought home a bright red ceramic pitcher shaped like a milk cow. I set it on the top shelf of my old-fashioned O'Keefe & Merritt range to hold my wooden spoons. Grandfather had a fit when he spied the smiling red cow the next morning as he was cooking his customary omelet. He claimed the creature had a devil face and made me put it out on the back porch. He had never been religious. I knew something was amiss. Mom drove up to L.A. and took him in to see a doctor.

The disease was progressing. They prescribed medication. After returning, Mom tried to talk me into letting her take Grandfather away. She’d already lined up the facility. She’d met with the director. Mom really did believe that Grandfather would be better off there. But I’m a stubborn person. I whispered so he wouldn't hear, “Not yet, not yet.”

Grandfather was still strong physically, so we went for a nice long walk just about every single day, weather permitting. We strolled over to the La Brea Tar Pits one weekday, he complained of a headache, so I brought him over to a bench and sat him down. He was saying how strange it was to think that the ancient tar pits were in the middle of the city of Los Angeles one minute, and then he suddenly slumped over. I started screaming my head off when he didn’t respond to me. Soon we were riding in an ambulance down Wilshire Boulevard, sirens ringing in my ears as the cute paramedic tended to Grandfather.

An aneurysm had burst in his head. When he was released from the hospital Grandfather went into rehab. A few weeks later, he went to live down the street from Mom, in a place called, Meadowood. No meadow, no wood. But, I have to admit it was a nice home, well decorated, clean, and the staff was caring and attentive. Grandfather had learned how to get around again with the use of a walker. His demeanor had changed radically. He didn’t know Mom’s face or mine. We were treated the same as the girl that fed him lunch, the guy that administered his meds.

I’m not proud to admit this, but I could hardly bear to go see him. I stayed busy, made excuses, lived my life.

In the course of a year I only visited eight or nine times.

When Armand died Mom was beyond relieved. By then he had something wrong with his lower right leg, his circulation, his veins or something like that were failing, and he had open wounds that had to be dressed daily. He kept trying to walk on his own and had taken a few bad spills. He stammered nonsense. When he made sense, he only complained profusely. Grandfather wasn’t happy at all. His quality of life had diminished down to nil.

I couldn’t believe it when Mom told me that Sheila and the goons asked if they might attend the funeral. Unbelievable. Mom said no way Jose. She threatened to hire security guards to keep them out. But they never showed their greedy indecent faces at the mortuary or the grave yard. Good thing, our intentions were to give Grandfather a proper send-off, free of that brand of drama.

I had a terrible struggle attempting to digest the finality of death. I sold my house because I couldn’t bear to live there without Grandfather in that back bedroom. I moved close to the beach. One day I was sitting on a towel watching the surf and I decided to change my focus from losing him to remembering how much I loved him while he was here. I thought about what I’d learned from him. 

Chronologically, these are just a few pointers that Armand Weese imparted to me during our twenty-eight years together: Thin out the seedlings to ensure strong healthy plants. Plant marigolds and garlic in the garden to discourage pests. Cut oranges in eight pieces, and proceed to eat everything but the pith, peel, and seeds, or else a tree will sprout in your tummy and eventually branches will grow out of your two ears. Homemade pickles are best. Keep your car washed and waxed to make a good impression. Shake hands with gusto, a firm handshake indicates character. Singing out loud is food for the soul. Pistachio ice cream is under-rated. Take good care of your face and hands. Laugh when you’re down. Dress well. Never borrow money from friends, and avoid borrowing money from banks, unless it's to buy a house, because you can’t go wrong with real estate if you use your head. Read Dickens to understand mankind, Twain to do the same, but also to enable you to laugh about the human condition. Pets are a heavy-duty responsibility not to be taken lightly--especially dogs. Go to the movie theatre alone so you have no distractions. Never overcook bacon. Travel by automobile from the west to the east coast at least once in your lifetime, and do your best to visit every state in the U.S., and every single continent, if possible. Respect your elders but don’t let them abuse you. Marry for love and for no other reason, but make sure that what you feel is truly love and not merely infatuation. Make sure that you haven’t been blinded by lust. Not bad advice huh? I intend to take heed.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.