The Squeegee Life

13 Jun

I work downtown two days a week in Mount Vernon. At the corner of Orleans, right by the Public Storage Warehouse, is always a group of “Squeegee Kids”. They are relatively polite, but I know there’s been a lot of talk about them lately, with Mayor Pugh’s “plan” to get them off the streets, and with drivers reporting that squeegee kids are hitting their windshields, if they don’t allow them to wash the windows. Like I said, my dealings lately with squeegee kids have been uneventful; one even drew a heart on my windshield, after cleaning it. But that wasn’t always the case. In the wake of the Baltimore Squeegee kid controversy, I’ve decided it’s time to share my story.

It was a beautiful summer day in the early 1990’s. My friend Melanie and I were driving to Harborplace, as we often did, to enjoy the evening. We were teenagers at the time, but we grew up in the city, so driving downtown was not unusual for us. We went downtown almost every weekend. But we started to become scared sitting at the light at St. Paul and North Ave. because of the squeegee kids. Being teenagers, we never had much money, especially not for them. And they would get pissed if you didn’t give them money. The light at St. Paul and North is a long one. In previous weeks, we’d been yelled at by them, and one of the kids hit my windshield with the squeegee. As the summer went on, we began to see more and more kids at the corner.

On this particular day, there were at least 6 squeegee kids on the corner, probably no older than 13. We spotted them from a mile away, and hoped we didn’t get stuck at the light. Of course, we did. They asked if they could wash our windshield. We motioned no. And then the wrath of the squeegee kids rained down upon us. One of them hit my windshield again. One of them hopped up on the hood of my car. Another one jumped on the hood, and then to our horror, walked from one end of the car to the other. The other kids pointed and laughed at us, as we screamed and sped away when the light finally turned. Looking back, I find this experience pretty funny, but at the time we were terrified by the situation because we were rendered helpless.

Melanie and I will never forget that day, but with the rise of the Squeegee Kids again now, it brings up some questions for me. I wonder if there’s a squeegee gang. Did the squeegee kids of the 90’s pass down their squeegees to the kids of today? Is hitting the windshield a rite of passage? Is there some secret squeegee initiation? I guess I’ll never know. But in all seriousness, I wish the squeegee kids well. If they can make money that way, more power to them. Because there’s a lot worse happening in Baltimore City than the plight of the squeegee kids.

Music and My Dad

24 Nov

My dad used to sing to me, folk songs he knew. “Deep and wide, deep and wide, there’s a river flowing deep and wide”. He used to sit me on his lap and bounce me up and down and sing, “Pony boy, pony boy take me for a ride. Don’t say no, don’t say no, take me for a ride”. But my favorite song was a nonsense song, “Midnight on the Ocean”, where a “barefoot boy with shoes on, stood sitting in the grass”.

I never realized how much my dad influenced my love of music until he was gone. He was always listened to the oldies station, 105.7 in the car, and I hated it. But at home, we’d listen to cassette tapes, records, even 8 tracks and that’s how I was introduced to the world of Motown. 50s music was his favorite, but he also liked to listen to bagpipe music, dulcimer music, and I think I remember Tchaikovsky. He sang tenor in the church choir, and his favorite hymn was “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”

He even had the Hotel California album and Staying Alive soundtrack, which I’d listen to religiously, and later stole as my own. I remember being excited when he somehow acquired 2 cases of 45’s, and I listed to each and every one, picking out my favorites. Later, when I started buying my own music, vinyl was going out of style, but I still journeyed to local music store, Vinyl Discoveries, to find records. I came across The Cars, “Drive”, which he said was one of his favorite songs, and we danced to it in my bedroom. This later became the father/daughter dance song at my wedding, a memory I will always cherish.

When I was 13, he and my mom took my friends and me to our first concert, Depeche Mode/OMD. Several others were to follow shortly after, and though he didn’t have a lot of money, he was cool enough to drive us to Merriweather and drop us off for the PIL/Nitzer Ebb/Sugar Cubes concert, and another time to Fairfax, VA for my first Lollapalooza.  Another time, he embarrassed me at a Fugazi show, by coming in to the club early to pick me up. I think he just wanted to see what the fuss was about. He cared about the things I cared about.

He always shared his love of music with me, so I shared mine with him. When Jane’s Addiction came out with their “Ritual de lo Habitual” album, he listened patiently as I read him the liner notes, an open letter “To the Mosquitoes”, about the bloodsucking government. He listened when I read him the lyrics to “Winter”, by Tori Amos, which reminded me of him. Whenever I found new music I wanted to share, he listened without question, no matter if it was Sex Pistols or Sinead O’ Connor. When I was in my 20’s, I started going to a blues jam, at the Full Moon Saloon. There was a singer there, who I really wanted him to see. So he and my mom came with me, drank some rum and Cokes, and shared this experience with me.

Nowadays, my taste in music is diverse, and I have him to thank for that. But as I wrote this, I realized that’s not what this post is really about; it’s about who he was to me as a person. He listened. He shared with me. He cared about the things I cared about. And I miss that.


21 Oct

Another poem. Thanks for reading.



As I lie here

in the daze of these days

staring up at the night sky

and thinking of how your

bright blue eyes electrify me,

I worry that this will all end.

Wonder if it will all slip away. 

But I close my eyes, give in to your warmth.

My brain is racing, but my body is calm,

protecting me, building a wall around my mind. 

And the roads are long, but as we touch and laugh,

I remember the roads seem short with you.

And as I kiss your soft, strong lips, 

I close my eyes and realize

that my eyes see the same 

whether open or closed.

Awake or in dreams, I want you in my vision.

Tattoo Girl

7 Oct

New old poem. No, it’s not about a girl with tattoos. That’d be cheesy. i really like the imagery in this one. Hope you do, too!

Tattoo Girl

From her blue-green threshold,

the tattoo girl takes

an Olympian leap

into an uncertain future

and finds herself on shaky ground.

She walks stiffly, a tiny,

two-dimensional beauty,

fashioned from needles, skin, and inks.

So small she can slip into your pocket

or wrap around your finger.

She’s a painted picture,

roaming from body to body,

Trying to find the perfect backdrop, 

a peaceful scene to fit in.

She flitted with fairies and flowers,

made herself part of an intricate back piece.

Slipped into an arm band, 

stood among sky, sun, and moon.

She hung out with tribal designs, 

Marijuana leaves, Natty Boh guys

and Grateful Dead bears.

Jumped from breast to navel

to hipbone to ankle and 

up back to the chest again, 

until one day, looking down,

she found that she had no heart.

She was an empty soul,

full only of color and pain.

So using all the sight that she contains,

she follows the path from which she came, 

finds the body where she belongs,

and jumps back into her own skin.




Poem #2

3 Oct

This is a poem I wrote a long time ago about a failed romance in Baltimore. Hope you like it!

BGE (Baltimore Gas and Electric)

I remember the blackout in autumn
When we first kissed on your front steps.
How slowly, one by one,
The lamps that lined the avenue went dim;
How your lips smeared a blur across my eyes
And covered me with lies.

When at first you swept me off my feet,
Your words were fervent fire.
We’d hear the moans of your neighbor’s passion
Then try to create our own.
You said I was magic to you,
Electric heat, good energy.
But you cooled that down with
Bottles of beer and cheap wine,
Running through your veins like freon.

You kept trying to turn my emotions
On and off like a light switch
And I’d lie in your bed,
Longing for the scarce warmth of your fingertips.

My tears were water
Drip-dropping from a leaky spigot.
I could not sleep with the noise of them.

I fed your flickering flames,
But you licked mine until I became only one,
Solitary blue,
Lighting my world in your darkness.


Poems and shit

28 Sep

Just to be clear, this post is not about shit. It’s about shit, meaning “stuff”. Gonna take the blog to a new direction for a little while. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to write new stuff right now. So, I decided to torture people with all kinds of poetry and shit.
Not really. I’ve written poems since I was 13 years old. Now, not so many. But I have never really shared them with too many people. Sometimes I would share them with the person they were about…but never had any published or got a ton of feedback.
Most of my poems are based on real life people or events. But I would appreciate comments!
This is one of my most recent poems.


My simmering thoughts
have bubbled over the surface.
Blasted through walls in my mind
And been replaced by raging passion–
Blurry, smoky haze
Obscuring my sight–
And you,
Who inspired this fire,
Are blazing past me;
When all I want is
Your warm, strong lips
To ignite me–
To find comfort in chaos.

The Hospital

13 May

Two posts ago, I talked about a personal essay I had written for a class where I shared a perspective changing experience. For a month, I sat on that post, because I could not find this essay. But two months later, I finally found it! So, here is the essay I shared with the class about my experiences being in the hospital as a kid:

I dread going to the hospital. I dread seeing entire families in the lobby crying, dabbing their noses and eyes with shreds of tissues. I dread the smell of Pine-sol and infection. I dread not being able to have a cigarette since I quit four years ago. And I dread remembering that the last time I was in a hospital, my grandmother died in the ICU.

It’s amazing how much your perspective changes as you grow older. You know, when I was a kid, I actually liked being in the hospital. I had to stay there four times when I was 3,5,7, and 9 for bone revision surgery, about a week long for each surgery, to have part of the bone taken off because it was poking through the skin. Each visit would begin in the same fashion–I’d go to the lab to get blood drawn. Am I the only kid who liked getting her blood taken? The needles didn’t scare me. I’d look on in amazement as the technicians tied the cylinder-shaped tourniquet around my arm and feel proud when they told me I had good veins. I’d watch in the wonder, the bright red blood quickly filling the tiny tubes.

Next, they’d wheel me to my hospital room to settle in. I remember the excitement upon entering my new, clean, white room for the next week–meeting my new roommate, getting my pillows and clothes situated, dressing in my green princess nightgown, organizing my stuffed animals to comfort me. The thrill of opening the sterile packages of toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo, soap and mouth swabs, the little tan plastic cup and vomit tray, praying I wouldn’t need it. I delighted in the anticipation of all the visitors who’d come and the presents I’d receive–cards, balloons, stuffed animals.

The first night was always exciting to me. I enjoyed eating the hospital food–it seemed better than my mom’s cooking somehow–The way it arrived in little containers and compartments. I’d savor opening each container, peek under the round lid of the entrée first, then open milk cartons, apple sauce, juice, jello, and let the feast begin. Later, I’d get to watch anything I’d want on TV, and when it was finally time for bed, my mom would tuck me in beneath the warm, hospital blankets. My dad would be there too, with worry in his eyes, and would not leave my side till I slept.

Sleeping in the hospital was a unique experience. It was difficult sleeping, knowing I’d be having surgery the next day, but I’d feel comforted in seeing my mom sleeping next to me in the pull-out chair. Playing with the buttons on the bed was the most fun–sometimes I’d put my legs up, or I’d put my head up, and sometimes both, squishing my body between the mattress. It was never quite dark in the hospital, always an eerie glow in the hall, which I liked because I was afraid of the dark. I’d peek out the door and see snippets of activity: nurses walking by with carts full of medication in Dixie cups, doctors in green scrubs and gloves, patients being wheeled down the hall in stretchers. There was a feeling of illicitness about being awoken in the middle of the night to take medication, eat cookies, and drink ginger ale. After all the excitement, I’d finally drift unwillingly, but quickly off to sleep.

Of course there were things I didn’t like about the hospital–the uncomfortable feel of IV needles in my skin, recovering from surgery in an unfamiliar bed and puking from the anesthesia. I definitely disliked getting bandages changed, the embarrassment of having to use a bedpan, and the pain. But these things I don’t remember so vividly as the good ones. I guess part of what made the hospital so great, was all the attention I’d get and the people who’d take care of me. At just the click of a button, I could call a nurse to my room any time I wanted (though I don’t think I ever took full advantage of that fact). All of my relatives would come to visit, bringing cards and presents; I’d even get gifts from the people at my dad’s job. I’d get flowers from church, and I’d get a slew of homemade cards from my classmates and girl-scout troop. My parents doted on me–adjusting my pillows, reading books, giving me crayons and books to color and do crosswords in–and comforted me whenever I needed them to.

A day or two after the surgery, I’d start feeling better and I’d be able to move around a bit. The time I was seven, the doctors decided to move me from a semi-private room to the children’s ward. The children’s ward was a hug room that could house about 20 patients at a time, and despite all the cribs, hospital beds, and medical equipment, it was like a dream to me. It had a large play area with tons of toys, a video player, and a library full of books for me to discover.

Perhaps the part I liked most was all the interesting people I’d meet. I remember first being wheeled down the ward, seeing so many faces. When I got to my bed at the end of the room, I met my neighbor Alyssa. She told me that she was 2 and she had a koala bear named Cubby. I also met a three-year old girl named Crystal, who was a midget with curly red hair, and her mother, also a midget, told me she had just had surgery on her legs and hips to aid in her future walking. She looked like a normal three-year old would, but her appearance was peculiar because she had a cast on both legs, which went all the way up to the hips. It had a metal rod that separated her legs at the ankles and the hind-section was cut out. I remember her cries for her mom in the middle of the night and how her mom would always come. Another little friend I met was a tiny dwarf baby named Cliff, who had just had the same surgery as Crystal, and was beginning to learn to walk with special shoes. I can still see him toddling around and feeling such pride for him. One kid, Douggie, liked to ride his wheelchair like a race car. Another boy taught me how to run on crutches, much to the chagrin of the nurses.

One day, my dad introduced me to Lori, an African-American teenager; when we first met, I was shocked and scared at the sight of her. She really didn’t have hands or feet, just nubs at the ends of her short legs and arms. Her eyes bulged blankly from the sockets. Her hair was scattered in patches, and put in baby barrettes where possible, and her clothes were so big, she looked like a large, misshapen doll. Later my dad told me she suffered from an extremely rare disorder, which caused her bones and skin to form incorrectly; she wasn’t expected to live too far into adulthood.

Even though I was apprehensive, we started talking. She was really funny and a great person to be around. As the days wore on, her appearance became less important to me, and she became my friend. We’d hang out playing Atari, which I didn’t have at home, and eating popsicles. I remember feeling sad when I had to leave the hospital because I’d really miss all the friends I’d met, especially Lori. About 10 years later, to my surprise, I saw Lori at the mall. I was in the elevator and she was being wheeled in by an assistant. I was at a loss for words. I didn’t really think she’d remember me because she’d been in and out of hospitals her entire life, but I knew I had to say something. So with apprehension, I introduced myself, explained my situation, and found out from her assistant that she had her own apartment and had been going to college. I was glad to know she was still around, but disappointed that I found it so hard to speak to her directly. As they walked away, I wished I had said more and felt ashamed that I couldn’t see her through the same eyes I had as a child. As I said before, it’s amazing how much your perspective changes as you grow older.

Nowadays, I don’t dread going to the hospital as much. I think back to my experiences, and remember–it’s always the people that matter most.

Fake Leg Problems

5 May

Fake leg problems:

If you don’t have a fake leg, you likely would not realize the minor annoyances and sometimes giant  problems having one can cause. So, I have decided to bring some of my own problems to light. Stated simply, and divided into categories, here are my fake leg problems.
Category 1: Un-bending ankle problems–The fake foot gives just enough flexibility to let me walk semi-normally, but because of this I:
1. Can’t wear high-heeled shoes-looks like I’m limping
2. Can’t stand on tiptoe–fake leg just hangs there.
3. Cannot accurately do aerobics, yoga, line dances.
4. Can’t go down steep hills easily because I feel like I’ll build up too much momentum and fall forward. 
Category 2: Awkward situations
5. I have to take  it off when showering-I can balance on one leg really well, but public showers are a problem. I can’t leave it on. Can’t leave it laying around. So in the past I’ve just kept it in the corner of the shower. But, it’s kinda tricky.
6. Sleepovers–I would always worry that someone would freak out if they just saw a leg randomly laying on the floor, so I’d either keep it on or hide it under the covers.
7. Theft-Sometimes I worry that someone might just be mean and steal it. But then they’d be arrested for felony theft.
8. Explaining to boyfriends-I hated having to bring it up. I mean, what do you say? Some people already knew, and I got used to it as I got older, but as a younger teenager, it was so awkward! Torture! However, there was only 1 person who ever seemed to have a problem with it. And I dated a lot!
9. Pedicures-Yeah, I’ve never had one. But I did used to paint my fake toenails.
Category 3: Appearance problems
10. When I was little, I had to wear a long strap leading from my leg, up to and around my waist. I don’t really remember it bothering me then, but it wasn’t pretty.
11. Once, when I was a teenager and didn’t have great insurance, the leg maker gave me the wrong size foot, because they ran out of my size. So, for a few YEARS I wore  a size 8 shoe when my real foot is a 6 1/2-7.
11. 2 different colors-I was very self-conscious as a teenager because my legs were two different colors. So I decided to wear pantyhose with shorts and skirts. Stupid idea, because people were like, why are you wearing pantyhose with shorts? It was also very hot in the summer.
12. Pants leg rides up-Because I have to wear a prosthetic sock with my leg, it always creates a bulge by my knee and my pants leg rides up. Nobody wants high-waters. I think I still have a complex about this. (On a side note, haha, Bulge)
Category 4: Functionality problems
13. Foot broke in half-a couple of times, my foot has straight up broken in half. Once, I had to use duct tape to keep it together until I got a new one. 
14. Heat rash-Basically, my fake leg is like a hot shoe. Sometimes I get heat rash, blisters, broken skin. It’s painful. Oh, and chafing. Just like your thighs chafe sometimes. Ouch!
15. Squeaky foot-depending on the type of shoe I wear, sometimes my foot squeaks. Which is not noticeable if I’m outside or in a loud place. But I used to be a teacher in a school. Where it’s often quiet. Which sucks.
16. Screw fell out-Once when I needed a new fake leg, there was a screw that kept falling out, so my leg kept half-falling off. Had to take my pants off to fix it, and once it happened at school. So that was not fun.
17. Foot twisted around-This might be a little risqué, but once after I had engaged in, ahem, certain activities I will not mention, I got up and couldn’t walk right. I look down to see my foot twisted in a 90 degree angle. Yeah.
Category 5: Activity Problems
18. I can’t feel my foot-This causes walking issues at times. Like when you’re at a concert and you lose your shoe, but you don’t notice till you’ve walked maybe 10 yards away, and as you walk back to find it, you see some drunk bitch throwing your missing shoe into the crowd. Yeah, that happened to me. Shoeless for the rest of the night. Luckily a friend found it at the end of the concert.
19. Roller coasters-So, every once in a while I’ve been afraid that my leg will fly off on a roller coaster. But get this, now there are some roller coasters where they actually want you to TAKE OFF your leg to ride it. Like, who’s gonna do that? 
20. No skiing-again, I can’t feel my foot and my ankle doesn’t bend, so not very conducive to skiing.
21. Swimming/ocean–It’s not waterproof! So I have to take it off in water. Never went in the ocean much for fear of getting knocked down, and I don’t like going in pools around people I don’t know. But I’ve actually come up with a solution! One of my friends saw another lady wearing her OLD prosthetic leg in the pool. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 2 years.
22. Bike pedals-Again, can’t feel my foot, so sometimes it slips off the bike pedal.
23. Running-I don’t know why or how, but I swear I forgot how to run. I used to do it when I was younger! I think I might just be scared that I’ll get hurt or it’ll fall off.
So there you have it. Fake leg problems. May not be 99 like Jay-z. But it’s still enough to be a nuisance. And of course, you would never think about it unless you know from experience. But take it from me, it’s often aggravating and takes a lot of resilience to be a girl with a fake leg. And I very rarely complain.


30 Apr

Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

     Seeing this quote recently reminded me of a profound shared experience that I had in graduate school. I was taking a class called Writing Children’s Literature, where we studied methods of writing for children, as well as exemplary children’s books we could use in teaching and learning. Our professor, being one of the belief that the best writing comes from within, assigned us the task of writing a personal essay about a defining moment in our lives, using some of the techniques learned in the class. 

Let me say to start, that coming from a lower-middle class family, (and at times lower than that), I had some prejudices against people who had more money than me. People who had their college education paid for, who hadn’t started working at 13 in order to buy nicer clothes and the “stuff” that teenage girls need. So sometimes I’d look at my classmates and judge them , think of how lucky they were. How easy they had it compared to me, especially when I factored in the fake leg thing. I would look around and think that no one around me had any inkling of how hard life could be. 

Those prejudices were shattered on the last day of class, when our professor had us read aloud our personal essays. I listened intently as each person shared his story, words we had labored over all semester. Some stories were funny, some sentimental. But the majority were stories of pain and sadness and harsh reality:  The young woman who told of the death of her grandmother, and painstakingly recounted a recipe for memories, the steps they’d taken each month, making homemade baklava;  an older woman who shared the loss of her childhood, having been in and out of hospitals her whole life for bone-lengthening operations; the 22-year old cancer survivor who told of how learning to play the organ gave her solace and hope, while going through treatment–I still get chills thinking about that one. By the end of the class, I had heard so many stories filled with tragedy, that I was bawling, red-faced and snot-nosed, cursing my teacher for not having tissues. 

The power of that day resides within me. Never in one moment have I felt so enlightened, yet so ridiculously stupid at the same time. I know it sounds cheesy, but I hadn’t truly realized until that moment that people are, inherently, more alike than different. I realized how selfish I’d been in my thinking. We all have shared experiences and  universal truths. Pain, death, and tragedy affect us all.  “Everybody’s Got Their Something” (The quote’s a bit out of context compared with the Nikka Costa song of the same title, but I think  it’s fitting here). To this day, I wish that everyone could have the same type of revelatory experience–it just might help people understand one another better.

Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Sent from my iPad


12 Mar

Dear blog,

Sorry I have been neglecting you. I have lots of ideas, but no time to write lately. And to any of my readers–look for new posts coming soon!