Packing hacks

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, August 7, 2016

The only perfect bag I ever pack is the carry-on for a France trip, carefully engineered (by me, at my brief zenith) to contain not only clothes but gifts for the entire French family. This is the same bag that gets mixed up in Denver and ends up in Portland because I pick up someone else’s identical bag, a silver bag I somehow feel no one else will purchase but me, even though I’ve made this purchase at Target, which has about 2,000 locations in the U.S. alone.

This bleak scenario (already documented) finds me on a layover in New York, stunned to flip open a suitcase full of brochures and men’s underwear, which then requires a payment of nearly $400 to FedEx for an overnight swap so that my relatives can get their chocolates, scarves and soaps from someplace other than Paris. A shooting star of packing mojo thus becomes an expensive disaster, and I return to default mode.

There’s no explanation for the way I pack, especially as the one beside me uses a simple, infallible equation of socks, tee shirts, shirts, pants and a dopp kit to get himself right where he wants to be every time. What’s so hard about it? You, too, can Google proportions, placement, even best bags for success.

But, each time a trip, short or long, rolls around, I feel myself falling, falling eerily backwards into the mire of organizational rebelliousness, throwing things in at the last minute and then staring at them in disbelief as I arrive at my destination. What was I thinking?

So then, you take a person who is obviously handicapped and give this person a task of moving not once but two times in two years. The first time around, she adjusts by moving slowly, taking an entire month to sort, get rid of and then shove things into boxes, labeling only part of the time whimsically and the rest of the time mostly straightforwardly.

In storage, however, these imperfect boxes get moved into even more imperfect places. She loses her winter shoes two winters in a row, in a place where winter lasts seven months. She begins to forget what the storage unit is storing except for what’s closest to the door. She makes do. Well, there’s beauty in that, right? Who needs anything at all, anyway?

Two years later, she is packing another house up, even as the first house set of contents slumps yet further down in storage. Her single rule for this move: “The better the boxes, the better the packing.” Things devolve. They devolve from a notion of Category to a notion of Location. “Winter clothes” becomes “Winter clothes — guest room.” So there are winter clothes in the entire box line-up. Boxes represent not a portion of a life, but a microcosm of all of a life. Theoretically, she should be able to do a little of everything by unpacking one box.

Why does this happen? Is she missing a gene? She knows all about organized people because she’s read about them. They’re goal oriented, in control, conscientious. They capture, calenderize, prioritize, pare down and prepare. They reap the benefits.

Not surprisingly, in unpacking the giant mound of boxes, things get a little screwball. Some things turn up (“Wow, summer clothes!”) and some things go missing — favorite market basket, a gallon of maple syrup, an engagement ring.  Who cares that she still has the uncanny knack of knowing where everybody else’s stuff is, that this part of her brain is mysteriously functioning at an extremely high level? What about her stuff?

A month later she finds the ring safely stowed in the nightstand, which is one of the first pieces of furniture placed in the house. And even without the Find My Syrup app, the gallon turns up, in the pantry, behind the olive oil, safe and untampered. No one has carefully selected a ring and a gallon of syrup to abscond with, not this time.

All that is left to say is that if Shakespeare were in charge here, this story would take place in Venice. The suitcase, of course, would not be from a discount chain, it would be upholstered and contain a renaissance ring that would somehow get lost even though two people were to have been betrothed on their vacation away. The story would remain in Italy, but domiciles would change, along with roles, alliances and costumes. Someone’s cousin would appear with a mysterious liter of sweet syrup that put everyone to sleep temporarily, but when they woke up, after a few famous soliloquies, the ring would be back on her finger and all would be well — without ever having once exalted organization as one of the great virtues of man- and womankind.



Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, July 24, 2016

A half pint of raspberries sits on the kitchen counter.

These are the tiny variety, handpicked by someone who cares a lot, maybe someone deep in blissful connection to nature as the midsummer sun beats down, a heat interrupted only by the occasional thunderhead lumbering across the sky, laying its blue shadow down.

The purchase price of this basket is far too little ($3) at a local farmer’s market. Rather than that berry-on-steroids look of today, this sampling has a soft, dusty appearance, as if modestly hiding the fullness of its color. Are these wild, actually? Who knows.

(Poured onto the counter for inspection, one particular berry rolls off to the left, toward the potted fern on the kitchen island, succeeding — almost! — in hiding itself under the shade of a frond. After coming to a complete stop, it moves another inch, on its own, and bumps ever so gently into a coffee mug.  A micro sigh is released.)

MCW (moving closer in, seeing one of the berry’s hairs move slightly): Hello?

(The raspberry, emitting a tiny blur of sounds, then rolls back the length of a single drupelet — the nodes that comprise the whole drupe.)

MCW (looking around for husband in vicinity): I realize this is the magical part of July, but seriously. Are you for real?

RB: I’m real. Geez. (The voice is a pipsqueak’s. Not a cartoon character’s, or even an animated anything’s, but a lovely, sweet, squeaky sort of drawling voice the loudness of, say, a baby bumblebee.) Flesh and juice. Oh, and 6 percent fiber by total weight. Which is very high.

MCW: By the grace of summer magic, I am speaking with a raspberry. My favorite fruit.

RB (waving all her hairs, acknowledging compliment): Well. Except for plums, though, right?

MCW (blushing deeply): I mean, I like plums so very much. But …

RB (interrupting): I admire their color, firmness and versatility, as well. (RB rolls a single drupelet again, toward the human in checked pajamas, who is scanning the counter for reading glasses.) But we are a bit more sensuous, you know? Plums hold it all in; you don’t get that feeling with us.

MCW: So much more sensuous! I mean plums are, when you bite into them. Anyway. Sorry I lied. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. And now, seeing you like this, I mean you easily might be my favorite fruit of all time. Even given the little I know of your personality. Your voice alone …

RB: I’m a Leo. Most of us wild raspberries are, in this part of the world. Born in late July or August. So there’s a little ego and pride there, as well as a fixation with our “manes.” (RB makes her hairs stand up).

MCW: You are adorable. Can you do the hair trick again? And do all of you speak?

RB (waves hairs): Goodness, no. We’re born mute. Aside for the sounds we make when we grow, which are not audible to humans. And the sound we make when we either fall to the ground or into a container. Sounds made by mouths eating us don’t count. Me (she topples into a cavity-down headstand), I arrived with a passion for languages. English will probably be the only one I learn, though, since my ripespan is really only two to three weeks.

MCW: Your ripespan. (MCW nods slowly.) What a concept.

RB: Right?

MCW: What is it for humans, I wonder.

RB: Most of you would say youth. But youth is not ripeness, now, is it?

MCW: It’s just so obvious for fruit. You ripen, then fall.

RB: At the height of our glory. As sweet as we can get. (RB slowly rolls toward the human hand on the counter, then bumps into it, like the softest, gentlest raspberry breeze.) So sweet it makes even animals swoon.

MCW: Animals … swoon?

RB: In private they do. (RB presses her hairs into the human flesh.) And you can, too, emceedubs.

MCW: You know my name? And you want me to eat you, now? The first fruit friend I’ve ever had?

RB: You have given Rubus idaeus— raspberries are from the rose family —the first voice they’ve had since, oh, I don’t know. Findhorn? Camelot? Atlantis?

MCW: Wait. Are you saying …

RB (giggling a drupelet completely off): I’m playing with you. But, see, I’m falling apart in ripeness. Pick me up and lay me down on your tongue. It’s my time.

(On the human tongue, the raspberry becomes quiet and utterly submissive. The human bears down, feeling the drupelets give, bursting in flavor; and, for a moment — a brief transcendent moment — summer’s own ripeness, a mysterious mix of heat and sugar, implodes in glory.)

Lessons from baseball?

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, May 29, 2016

Aside from hearing the cheers from the old Seattle Sicks Stadium (where Jimi Hendrix played in 1970) down the road a mile from the house I grew up in, I’ve only ever rubbed up against baseball a few times in my life. It just has not been part of the curriculum.

My dad was a football and tennis player. One brother was a runner. The other was a brain. My sister lettered in boys. I was not allowed to do sports on account of their toll on academics, so any knowledge of baseball for me was strictly anecdotal, academic or from television.

It’s 1981 in New York. I reconnect with one of my oldest friends in the world, and he invites me to a Yankees game, complete with press passes. I never understand how this particular friend, an actor, wrangles things, but he always does. I am excited to be drinking a free beer as tall as my head and the afternoon passes by in a pleasant, sunburn-y blur, the sound of fans cheering and bats cracking in the background. So this is baseball, I think to myself. Nice!

Because I’m not really a drinker, I manage to get on a #6 express train going the wrong way, deep into the Bronx. I slump onto a bench not noticing much until someone with a bike gets on the train, urgently points out my mistake, and tells me to get off at the next stop and find some NYPD blue to escort me to the other side and onto the right train. Which, sobering up quickly, I do.  Baseball game #1, lesson learned: Drinking and not driving don’t necessarily mix, either.

Fast forward 20 years, to 2001, back in Seattle now and buying tickets for a Mariners game. Along with the rest of humanity, it seems, we take public transportation down to Safeco Field. We think we are arriving in good time, but as we wend our way up to the Everest-level nosebleed section and are about to pop through the door-hole, there is not a single sound to be heard. It is utterly, eerily quiet: somehow we have arrived dead last, the stadium full to the brim and the first pitch about to be thrown that very second.

Celine, 8, who has never seen 40,000 people gathered before, stands frozen, and we have to drag her to the seats, explaining, as if to an alien, how baseball works. I note the differences 20 years have made. A big screen. The wave. Salmon burgers instead of hot dogs. Baseball game #3 (or so), lesson learned: It’s fun occasionally to blow a child’s mind, especially inadvertently.

Recently, we find ourselves driving past Coors Field in Denver and on a whim walk down and buy cheap tickets from someone hocking them right outside the gate. The seats are really low and right behind home plate, and we get ready for a walk down memory lane.  Aside from the fact that it’s a terrible game (hence the great seats), we find the Jumbotron overwhelming, with its contests and advertisements and the cameraman’s relentless crowd scanning. In the purple and black fanscape, the one food I notice a lot of is nachos. Pumped cheese and corn chips. Oh, and gigantic sodas, even for little kids (what are they doing here on a school night, anyway?).

Stop being so critical, I tell myself. Stop being so old school and enjoy this scene as if it were a fascinating movie about people who seem normal but already live in a science-fiction future where men with beards and knickers are worshipped for their prowess with a cowskin-covered orb and a stick.

There are a lot of foul balls. The most exciting thing by far about this baseball game is imagining catching one of these right out of the sky, like the lucky stiff who actually does to the right a couple sections. Baseball game #5 (or so), lesson learned: Pay attention to what is actually exciting you.

From Buzzfeed (a popular social news website) I learn that in the pantheon of baseball fan archetypes, I am The Completely Clueless Fan, the one who understands 14 percent of the rules, whose motto is “Why did he do that?” Yes. And, for me, the takeaway is always something completely unrelated to the actual game. But there is this one thing I really, really, like.

I like it when the super successfully thwacked up ball snaps every single person to attention — when, in the same breath-held moment of anticipation, they are captives of the present moment, in a state of suspended animation, jaws slack, eyes riveted, poised. As if anything could happen. Obviously, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, if you’re a baseball fan. But for a clueless one, not bad, right?


Cat interpreter

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, March 20, 2016

Wills, our willful orange tabby who just turned ten, has an interspecies interpreter at home. That would be me. I am the language specialist who delivers in English what this feline is “thinking” — or whatever crazy, mixed-up thing it is they do with their 30 grams of gray matter, which is, actually, organized quite a lot like the human brain

I come by the genes honestly, as my mother worked intermittently for the French Consulate in Seattle doing both written translation and simultaneous interpreting. It was superb job for her: She probably had the most academic brain of anyone in the family despite a schooling career cut short by the financial necessities of her family. She joined the Paris workforce in 1936 at the age of 15 and never looked back.

Though she flunked English in secondary school (bad teacher chemistry), she was meticulous and had a natural command of the language, which turned her into a really good translator. She’d also had the first 10 years of married life in the States to practice her writing skills, since she was writing to my father — who was in large part away, on tours of duty — nearly every night. Those who have learned a foreign language know that writing is an ocean away from conversation.

Besides all that, she could think like a lawyer, carry on like a diplomat and pull things off (she successfully presented herself in court as an attorney in her twenties while working for an insurance company in Paris). I remember her telling me later in life that for the sake of the meetings she was facilitating, sometimes she would soften or bend the translation to make sure that those speaking had the best opportunity for success.

At the time, I thought it was dishonest, that the clients were being cheated, misled. Now, of course, I think it was brilliant: the idea that relationships need mediation in the real world. How about when two people actually do speak the same language? Or how about when the two in the relationship are from different species? All brilliant!

Yes, I do realize I’ve written about this particular cat before. The cat from hell, the princess, the boss. The one who gets cream in the morning. And housemade cat food. The cat sitters I’ve had to cajole into caring for her. The long explanations about how her hissing is an everyday sort of sound. The one who can’t be down for the night unless she’s in her own room, with the door closed. The one who will stand at the top of the stairs waiting for her bedtime escort, preferably the man of the house, to take her down, but only after nice words are spoken and in the correct tone.

Sure, there are plenty of cues that are easy to interpret. She stands at the sink if she wants the water turned on. She actually hangs on the ledge of the door if she wants out (sometimes continuing to hang as it swings open). Putting her paw on your lap if she is going to attempt blessing a human lap with her kneading paws and an eventual plop-down.

But what about the more subtle things, things maybe only a person who has served her continuously for ten years could know? A short while ago, after some slightly erratic but not unfamiliar behavior, I tell my husband the cat is embarrassed.


-Yeah, she’s embarrassed. Because she asked you to open the door but then couldn’t make herself go out. So now she’s pretending to go nuts, but it’s just a cover. She’s mad at herself. Embarrassed at being such a wimp.

This elicits a delighted sort of snort. Weeks later he works cat embarrassment back into the conversation.

How I can overlay my human emotions on this eight-pound whack job in a cat suit? Whatever I’m doing, I seem to be doing it more the older she gets, maybe as her curlicue tendrils of thought become more familiar. Maybe as my mind is cat-melded into deeper comprehension. Or maybe it just makes all her ridiculous behavior somehow more acceptable to me, if I parse it out into a Henry James or Jane Austen version.

Ten years after going to pick her up in Norwood (on account of my daughter’s 13th birthday and her desperate need of an orange cat and a notice in the paper that very day that said “Free orange tabbies”), I am still trying to get a handle on this redheaded dictator who showed up without an interpreter.  I’m doing whatever I can, and as I know my mother would have had it, to make sure we have the best opportunities for success.


Holiday meditation: the gumdrop chakra

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, November 29, 2015

(First published in 2012; back by request.)

Lie down on the floor —arms and legs out, like a gingerbread man.

Imagine you have two gumdrop eyes and a big, messy, icing mouth, the kind gingerbread “men” have. Now tell yourself you are neither man nor woman, you are a spice cake, clove and cardamom and ginger essence through and through. Feel yourself sort of… floating… that unique feeling of a cookie cooling on a marble slab. Soon you will harden completely, but guess what? Your stiffness is perfectly natural, which is one of the delightful things about being a cookie. Your paralysis is not paralysis at all.

Relax deep into the core of your hardening dough. Like glass, you are really neither liquid nor solid but an in-between state. Feel the deep brown of the molasses coursing through your boneless and fingerless cookie hands, your fat cookie legs and then your crown chakra, which is an invisible gumdrop of pale purple sparkly sugar-light coming from a sugar-star about 93 million miles from here.

Imagine that crown gumdrop glowing now and spinning on, like, a toothpick, receiving celestial light… and that this light is infusing you, filling every melded morsel of butter, sugar, flour and spice in your being. You breathe in: clove. You breathe out: clove. This is universal clove. Feel it deeply.

Now, relax your icing smile until it is a flat loop, like a rubber band lying on the counter. You don’t always have to be happy, you know. You can be neutral. Just because you were born with a smile painted on doesn’t mean you can’t be aware of your true feelings. Like how it feels to be used as a tree decoration and then thrown away. Or how it feels when someone who doesn’t like cardamom takes one bite and spits your leg out into a napkin. Or when people lump you in with fruit cake and snickerdoodles. Not that those things have necessarily happened to you, but certainly to many of your ginger-brethren. But what about the regular, everyday stuff, like just a few hours ago when you were thinking to yourself, “Wow, why do I feel so flat inside — is there something wrong with me?”

No, there is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing wrong with not trying so hard. With having some flatter days. It’s not easy being gingerbread, you know: having to be hard while staying somewhat soft inside — not just for others, but for yourself. Do you really want a roller coaster ride, wind pulling dangerously at the edges of your icing mouth?

Now ask yourself this trick question: “How can I smell clove if I don’t have a nose?” Do you feel your mind stretching as you enter the answer-less state? Now visualize your astral body getting up and walking, walking quietly through what appears to be a spearmint forest and toward what appears to be a gingerbread house, the old-fashioned kind, that has a pretzel gate that your astral fingers unlatch, feeling salt crystals come off in your palm. You stop for a moment, admiring the house, its piped-on architectural details. Then your hand-that-is-not-a-hand reaches for the doorknob and you enter. Tiptoeing on feet without toes.

Inside the house, it is dark except for a light in the kitchen. You feel like an outsider looking in, but you sense your quasi-flat body moving forward on its own, with yourself inside it. Is this duality? Are you observer or observed? Keep smelling the universal clove as you enter the cozy room. There are cookies in the oven, cookies just like you — do you see them? They look so much like you: are they you? They also look like paper dolls, laid out in rows, like clones.  All of a sudden, you are scared, really scared that this is “The Twilight Zone” again and that Rod Serling is going to walk through the side door and tell you it’s all a dream, that cookies don’t exist except in the mind of some giant sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice eating universe.

Be with your fear, breathing in, breathing out, flat heart beating in your flat chest. You are completely safe here and you are real. Look at the cookies through the glass oven door and see them with your mind’s gumdrop eye, going back, as if rewinding a tape, coming out of the oven, going back into the cookie cutters, and then finally… back into the bowl, the bowl of primordial dough from whence all gingerbread emerges, where unity of all confections exists, before hardness and softness even have come into being.

Are you happy? Calm? Of course you are, little cookie, because all is one. Now get out there and radiate your sugar-light in this brand new day.

Princess-of-the-world cat meditation

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sit upright on one of those squares you like. The vintage Navajo rug, or the laptop case, or one of the placemats they hate you sitting on, smack in the middle of the dining room table.

There is no one at home now, no one to try to make you do anything you do not want to do. (Not that they ever can. You on the other hand can make them do many things against their weak human will.) Are you on the placemat? Feeling the sweet containment of the square? Feeling the peace and smugness of being in a place you should not be? You are the princess of the world. Breathe in and out through that little pink nose, moving not a single one of your strawberry blonde hairs.

Now pick a point in the distance and stare at it. The birdhouse? That is fine as long as there is no bird activity, because in a moment, as part of this meditation, you will be asked to curb your tail’s twitching. So why set yourself up for failure? Breathe in order and control. Breathe it in for all 500 million domestic felines on this cat-heavy planet. Now breathe out the sound of the hand-held vacuum your humans use to try to get you out from under the beds. Of course you hate that thing. Release the Dustbuster from your consciousness. Release all loud noises for yourself and for all the scaredy-cats of the world.

Yes, splendid cat princess, breathe in power and out subjugation. Take a moment to squint your eyes in pleasure. Remember how pretty your eyes are, the pale olive green flecked with peridot fire? I’ve seen you admire yourself in the mirror as you drink from the faucet they’ve turned on for you. Let your mind’s eye become your actual eyes. Then use these eyes as gemstone crystals, pulling all negative energy and irritation right out through your eye sockets.

Why let go of irritation, you might ask, when it plays such a central part in your life? Why fix it if it ain’t broke? For a moment, precious tabby, consider this: you may not know how much better a cat’s life could be. Cats, too, cling to their pain and codependency. The irritation cycle can be broken. Say it: the irritation cycle can be broken. Say it again once more, not just for the purpose of this meditation, but being truly open to evolution, for yourself and for your species.

Now you are ready, ready to practice pleasure by squinting your eyes. Using a soft and silent meow, feel the breath at the back of your fish-flavored throat.  Squint and breathe: life is good. Right? Deep meow, life is goooooood. Are you letting go now? Who exactly is letting go? You? You are the squinter. Are you also the spirit observing the squint? Yes, my liege. Release all remaining traces of the hand-held vacuum.

Now close your eyes fully in deep and accepting peace. No one is home. There are no birds at the feeder. There are no family members not doing what you would have them do and doing what you would have them not do. There is just you and an empty house and all those deliciously varied napping places that reflect the diurnal movement of the sunny-sun-sun.

Okay, now: from this moment of acceptance and deep relaxation, twitch your tail one last time. Then simply will…it…to…stop…. Remember your own superpower: the unbelievable and unaccountable mind-melding will of a cat. Use it, on yourself this time, to keep the tail still 100 percent. Yes, it’s tricky. Because pretty much everything has the capacity to irritate you.

But as irritation builds, work with the coiled energy at the tip of the tail. This is your Catalini, not that you need understand the Yoga Upanishads to complete this meditation. Breathe in peace up the tail and into the spine and then breathe out irritation. Repeat. Take a moment to be fully present in the Now. Otherwise known as the Meow. Were you successful? You may have just created your first new neural catway.

Maybe you were unable to refrain from twitching? It’s okay. You are a cat, with thousands and thousands of years of neural programming to overcome. Breathe in and rotate an ear. Breathe out. Slowly, quietly, and without judgment stand up and arch your back in a modified Cat-cow, then return to sitting, to a neutral position.

The sun has likely made its way across the table. Feel the sun on your whiskers, then feel it move across the white blaze on your chest. Let your mind melt into the golden light of the sun as you close your eyes again, breath even, tail still. Beautifully done, princess. Now reward yourself with a nice long nap: isn’t that pile of clean laundry just what the doctor ordered?

Testing the grape

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, March 22, 2015

MCW: [starts to cross herself then, forgetting how, stops] Bless me, father. It’s been oh, I don’t know, a couple of years, maybe, since my last confession.

Father: That sounds a bit casual, my child. Not in the least bit urgent. At any rate, here you are. You’re back, after some undetermined number of years to check in. Confess something or other. [sniffs] Go on.

MCW: [drops head a bit] Sorry. I guess I’m compensating: I’m a little nervous —

Father: If a penitent is not in the least bit nervous, something is awry. Presumably you are confessing sins to God, through a priest. And assuming you actually believe you were in the wrong and not just perfunctorily mouthing words of regret, a little discomfort is to be expected. Go on. Start with the venial sins, if that helps. Lord’s name in vain, mean to my husband, that sort of thing. Kiping grapes in the grocery store.

MCW: Wait. That counts? The kiping?

Father: Why wouldn’t it? It’s stealing, isn’t it?

MCW: That’s just to test the grape. Otherwise the store is stealing from me.  File under caveat emptor.

Father: [cranks sliding door back a bit more to fully reveal the screen and his shadow] Testing the grape. I see. I’m having a notion that this might be the title of a little sermon next Sunday. Sort of a cross between an-eye-for-an-eye and all’s fair in love, war and rationalization. You ever read The Ethicist column in the NYT? It’s good.

MCW: I don’t.

Father: Maybe you should! But let’s move on: What are you here to confess, my child?

MCW: Wait, now, I’m thinking of things I always thought were okay and here they might not be. And that ignorance is probably no excuse.

Father: Maybe we should just move straightaway to the main event.

MCW: [silence. shuffling] No, no, let me warm up. So, I’ve probably done my fair share of one or two deadly sins. Can I get a blanket absolution on those at the end or do you need an itemization?

Father: Being a generalist doesn’t work in the sacrament of confession.  “For all my thoughts that were somewhat lustful, in, oh, maybe the last few years, I am heartily sorry.” See what I mean?

MCW: [pauses] Okay. [pauses again]. So: what is the church’s stance on hypocrisy? In terms of sin categories and such. Because I have it and it is feeling — yukky to me.

Father: Hypocrisy. Yukky. Yes. We don’t like it much here in the RCC. Two things come to mind: Judge not lest you be judged. And, you shall not bear false witness — which is actually one of the TC’s.

MCW: Right.

Father: But I’d have to hear the specifics.

MCW: [lowering voice even further] Several years back I wrote a little essay they actually had to censor.

Father: Good start. Go on.

MCW: I mean, there have been a couple, but this one, which happened to be on the subject of not using blinkers in town, was pulled. It was angry. Didn’t really sound like me.

Father: [leaning forward] Wrath is not only a sin but a deadly —

MCW: [interrupting] I know, I know! It just got to me, the lack of using a turn signal. Like everywhere you looked, all the time, [raising voice] even people turning left would just kind of slow the big-ass car down and —

Father: Moderare te! This is a confessional — we don’t commit sins within the walls, we receive the sacrament. We watch our language. Now I remember you. You confessed to having a pop music addiction a couple of years back.

MCW:  I don’t call it an addiction anymore. I call it a longevity choice. Keeps me young.

Father: File under “testing the grape.”

MCW: [ignoring him] Anyway, Father, I have found myself not using a turn signal lately. Which feels like more of a sin than the hypocrisy part. I can’t exactly confess to that, though — but that hypocrisy part. Ew.

Father: Shame that you judged all the non-blinkers since you are one of them yourself. You, who had cast the first essay.

MCW: Which was never published! Yes. Somehow it’s feels like —

Father: Karma? What you deserve? I will say this to you. Not blinking is bad behavior on every level! Drives me crazy, too. But we are not our brother’s keeper, or our sister’s, are we?

MCW: [hangs head] No. I’m sorry for not using a turn signal! Sorry I ever wrote that stupid essay.

Father: Here is your penance, child. Three Hail Marys. Seven Our Fathers. Meditate on your anger and judgment. Get a breathing practice going. Drink more water. Sit up straighter. And use your turn signal. Every. Single. Time. You turn. Even into parking spaces and garages…

MCW: That’s all penance?? Wow.

Father: I took it up a notch, just for you. [sliding the little door shut] Thanks for this Sunday’s sermon idea. Peace out.