Entries in Back in the Day (82)


Venice Beach and the Deli From Hell


When Mrs. G. was 19 or 20, she took a summer job at Susan's* Natural Macrobiotic Deli in Venice Beach. The fact that her shift started at 4am didn't bother Mrs. G, because she had the afternoon to sit on the beach and read trashy novels (a beach edict unless you have been living under a bridge). There were only four people on staff (including Susan) because the industrial kitchen was very small. There was a place for everything, and to duck Susan's wrath, everything had damn well be in its place.

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An Apology To The Moms At The Bar (by Elizabeth Engle)


Dear Moms at the Bar...

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Homemade Hot Tamales


It occurred to Mrs. G. as she was heading to bed tonight that her Aunt Jane's birthday was two weeks ago, so she decided to sit down and scribble a few words in her honor. Between lying on the couch with a blanket over her head and not changing her shirt for three days, Mrs. G. was incapable of 1) remembering her aunt's birthday and 2) mentally celebrating her aunt's time here on earth.

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Oh, Dylan, Mrs. G. Tried So Hard But, Really, GFY

Tonight Mrs. G. was cruising through Facebook and saw that two of her old high school friends had reunited after twenty-two years and were now engaged. Both were dear to Mrs. G. during their four years of asymmetrical haircuts, scrunchies, clove cigarettes, Ghostbusters and Bartles and Jaymes, and she naturally felt compelled to comment on their celebratory status with a sentimental, articulate comment: Awwwwww!  O.M.G., she can not tell a lie...the internet has all but gutted Mrs. G's capacity to communicate eloquently -- her silver-tongue? Tarnished.

She continues, however, to refuse to come on board with emoticons. If you ever see a smiley face attached to any of her correspondence, swear (right this second) to email Mr. G. and insist he take her to a neurologist, STAT, because something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Speaking of internet stalking (Were we? See? Even her her transitions are open to question.), observing her high school friends' romantic announcement led Mrs. G. down the Farcebook path of destruction. She poured herself a pint of Chardonnay and methodically casually located Dylan ______, the boy who made walking down the hallways of Tigard High akin to walking off a plank into a shiver of Great Whites. Along with mocking her deep and bottomless investment in Student Council, he also called her "Owl Eyes" (glasses) and "Mushroom Head" (a cruel critique of her abnormally large head, a family trait -- as if they could help it).

Mrs. G. found him.

You'll probably be glad to know Dylan -- fit and with all his hair -- has a family now and lives in a colorful Victorian home in San Francisco, because you are mature and sensible people who can let bygones be bygones.

But it was too soon for Mrs. G.

She googled "Arson" and "Incinerating Victorians."

Oh, oh, oh, how she wishes that she could deliver a more dramatic ending, but she thinks we can all agree that while, at best, she might be convicted of manslaughter, FFS, she and her hair wouldn't last a day in prison.

Then, (IHHO) her higher self returned, so she and her big head logged off the computer and went to empty the dishwasher.


Always Missing Her


Mrs. G. has written many times about her grandmother, a loving, funny, loyal, odd bird kind of broad, a second mother, really. She married Mrs G's grandfather on their first date and they were together for 56 years. When he pulled some bullshit way back in the day with another woman, Mrs. G's grandmother leased out their bedroom to a young newlywed couple and forced him to sleep in his car until the six month lease was up.

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Loose Change


In seventh grade Mrs. G. stole a book from the Memphis public library. She didn't actively steal it, as in stealthily slip it into her backpack and hotfoot it out the door. No, Mrs. G. was Catholic. Catholic Catholic. It was 1978, and she was panicky about sinning.



The church had recently abandoned the safe and snug anonymity of the perfectly good confessional in favor of the hippy happy, guitar-strumming-nun infused  face-to-face confession.



Previously comfortable with the occasional white lie and blasphemy, eleven-year-old Mrs. G. now focused all her efforts on never, ever sinning and, therefore, never, ever sitting on a folding chair at a lame card table across from an ancient, moth-eaten Father Stritch to report her misdeeds while he looked directly at her base and unholy face. Not since discarding the Latin Mass had the Vatican hatched such an ill conceived, daffy plan. Sin has no business in the cold, hard light of day.



So, no, she didn't swipe the book— she just never returned it. She let her mother take the fall and pay the replacement fine (sin). Mrs. G. concealed the book under the winter sweaters on the top shelf of her closet, right next to a battered copy of Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones on loan from a friend. The book Mrs. G. stole was a copy of Sara Davidson's Loose Change, a nonfiction account of the lives of three Jewish girls, who met while living in a UC Berkeley sorority house, from the 1960's to the mid 1970's: Sara (Davidson), who becomes a successful journalist; Susie, who marries a student radical and grooves through the western counterculture scene; And Tasha, who moves to the Big Apple and becomes a sophisticated fixture in the art world. The book is chock-full of student protests, drug use, the civil rights and feminist movements, the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, communes, vaginal explorations and Joni Mitchell. Arousing stuff for a true-blue, quaking Jesus lover. Mrs. G. isn't entirely sure what it was about the book that lead her to a momentary life of crime, but the wholesale disregard for authority and wanton sex didn't hurt. It was in this book that Mrs. G. learned the word patriarchy and, Mother Mary and St. Bernadette, did she use it a lot. 


To her mother: Don't you know those false eyelashes and platform shoes are tools of the patriarchy!

To her stepfather: I have better things to do than wash your patriarchal dishes!

Mrs. G. still has her stolen copy of Loose Change. It's currently on the family room bookshelf right next to (oh how things change) Martha Stewart's Cookies...The Very Best Treats to Bake. Mrs. G. is looking at the stolen book right this very moment. It reminds her of criminal behavior and damnation. It makes her nostalgic and wistful for outlaws, the Dewey Decimal System and books you just have to own.



It doesn't make her nostalgic and  wistful for the patriarchy because that shit still exists, in spades.


 Reader, what was the most stimulating, devilish book you hid on the top shelf of your closet?


No, Just, No


Mrs. G. has mentioned before that her grandmother was not a proponent of what we now call Western Medicine. Mrs. G’s grandmother was not a proponent of what we now call Alternative Medicine. Mrs. G’s grandmother, a woman of modest means, was a proponent of what we now call Pipe Dream Medicine—the kind that did not cost more than a four ounce tub of Vicks Vaporub or a jar of yellow mustard.

She also believed she was licensed physician with a medical degree from the University of I Think Doctors Are Full Of Shit.

She was a confident woman and when she told you to do something, you let nothing but fear and common sense stop you from doing it. Fast.

Mrs. G’s grandmother believed in home remedies, and Mrs. G. was her last generation of guinea pig. So Mrs. G. endured the mustard plaster and the onion poultice. She endured arbitrary spoonfuls of cod-liver oil and Phillip’s Milk of the devil Magnesia. She endured…well, you get the idea, she just endured.  The first day of a sore throat demanded round-the-clock gargling with salt water. The second day of a sore throat demanded tonsils being painted with liquid mercury red Mercurochrome. The third day of a sore throat demanded swallowing a substantial dollop of Mentholatum. The fourth day of a sore throat demanded a mild cussing out, because, clearly, you, the afflicted, were at fault and not following her exclusive, unwavering and tirelessly recited Hippocratic Oath: MIND OVER MATTER!

Oh, and just so you know, menstrual cramps are nonexistent and for the birds.


Mrs. G. would persuasively cry and carry on during each of these ironhanded (but mainly innocuous) procedures for survival purposes only, because another of Mrs. G’s grandmother’s medical convictions was that the level of pain was directly proportional to the level of cure. If it didn't hurt, it didn't heal.  Hysterics were required.

Mrs. G. begged her mother for orange baby aspirin or grape Robitussun—for First-Do-No-Harm mercy, but Mrs. G’s mother just shrugged it off and told Mrs. G. to count her lucky stars that she had not been forced to endure her grandmother’s chief, front office miracle cure: the enema. Apparently, back in the early days of Mrs. G’s grandmother’s medical residency, also known as Mrs. G’s mother’s childhood, Mrs. G’s grandmother believed an enema was akin to the antibiotic in its curative properties, and she administered them liberally. Mrs. G’s aunt has confirmed the horror.

“What’s an enema?” asked Mrs. G, who had occasionally pondered the pink bladder bag that hung on the back of her grandmother’s bathroom door but had assumed was some sort new fangled hot water bottle…with puzzling tubage.


Once informed, Mrs. G. never complained about a home remedy again. She performed the necessary apoplexy to minimize the suffering, but it ended there— not one tick further.  At the age of eleven, Mrs. G. had made a life decision:



Just no.

So, fast-forward thirteen years, to the peaches and cream pastel-ed hospital room where Mrs. G. writhed through the steady contractions of early labor.

Pity the labor and delivery nurse who suggested Mrs. G. might want an enema before the hard (hard!?) labor began.

“l’ll pass,” Mrs. G. said through gritted teeth.

Pity the labor and delivery nurse who went on to explain why it might be a good idea.

“I’m good,” Mrs. G. said once more, with feeling.

Pity Mr. G, who, aware of Mrs. G’s life decision, had sworn eternal solidarity in the face of its challenge, was bound by marital law to boldly stand up and firmly suggest that the labor and delivery nurse drop the subject. 

He’d taken a similar childhood stand against yogurt, the most disgusting thing he had ever put in his mouth. He understood the import of a nonnegotiable resolution.

“We’ll take our chances,” he said as he quickly ushered the labor and delivery nurse to the door.

Bullet dodged.

Covenant maintained.

The man literally saved Mrs. G’s ass.


Originally published August, 2010


Skateland, Part One: Saturday Salvation


Mrs. G's Catholic grade school was sometimes as confining as the securely fastened top button of the regulation white, peter pan collared shirt which took shelter beneath her below-the-knee plaid jumper.

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