mary’zine #45: July 2010

Non calor sed umor est qui nobis incommodat. (“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”)

It’s full-blown summer in the U.P., and here are the only 3 things I like about it:

1. The green, green trees of home.

2. Early sunrise (5 a.m. or so). The birds start chirping about half an hour before the sky lightens, and even though I haven’t technically been to bed yet, it’s my favorite part of the day. It’s as if I’ve been babysitting the night, and the parents have finally stumbled in at dawn and relieved me of the responsibility of staying alert. I sleep much better in daylight.

3. Fresh fruit… corn on the cob… tomatoes… a short-lived alternative to burgers, pizza, and tacos. One Friday night we called in a to-go order from the Downtown Sub Shop, and I requested the deep-fried cauliflower to go with my grilled cheeseburger. (Around here, that’s a burger inside a grilled cheese sandwich.) K had warned me that the cauliflower wasn’t “fresh.” No kidding, I assured her. A couple weeks before that, we were getting pizza from Brothers Three, and I asked for onions and black olives on mine. K was shocked—her jaw actually dropped. “That’s all? No meat?” And I said, “Some people get it plain!” Which reminds me, I’d love to have a margherita pizza from Il Fornaio… mmmm…. decent pizza….

Mostly, I prefer winter, for these reasons:

1. Pay less for outdoor maintenance (occasional snow blowing vs. weekly lawn mowing).

2. I can wear a jacket everywhere and thus have pockets to carry wallet, 2 pairs of glasses, aspirin, phone, keys, etc.

3. Also jacket related: Can easily hide braless torso. In summer am forced to go around in a t-shirt and be self-conscious about nipple visibility. Strange, because if I wore a halter top and had cleavage down to here like half the women in town, it wouldn’t be an issue. There must be something especially naughty about being a fat dyke with floppy breasts wearing an unflattering 4x t-shirt. (It also wouldn’t be an issue if I wore a bra, but come on.) Recently, my sister Barb and I were invited to a family BBQ for her grandson’s confirmation, and there was a good chance the minister was going to be there. One week before the event, having worried about nipplage but not having done anything about it, I finally went to and searched for “nipple covering.” I was astounded at what I found there. Rhinestone pasties. Tasseled pasties. Sequin pasties. Heart-shaped sequin nipple pasties with tassels. Jeweled breast tattoos. Sexy Sheer Plus Size Lingerie Open Bust Babydoll Cupless Peek-a-Boo [something somethingnow, where was I?] Oh yeah, and the all-important Pastie Glue. I passed by all these, plus the Miss Oops Show Stoppers, because I don’t want to stop the show, I want the show to keep going without me. But morbid curiosity compelled me to keep checking the “related products.” Pure Style Girlfriends Women’s Pick Me Up Breast Lift Tape. Handzoff Anti-Masturbatory Gum (huh?? there are no customer reviews to explain this one) and, for the woman or man who wants to be handzon: Masturbation Kit. I have to quote from this:

  • The Masturbation Kit includes a latex glove, condom pouch with novelty condom and a moist towelette
  • The Masturbation Kit is perfect for sanitary and mess free masturbation!
  • The Masturbation Kit measures 15 cm x 20 cm x 0.5 cm
  • The Masturbation Kits condom is for masturbation use only and not for family planning
  • The Masturbation Kit is an adult novelty gift, perfect for ages 16 to 160!

Frankly, this was disturbing. I’m going to masturbate wearing a latex glove? What should I do with the condom? “Not for family planning”? Thanks for the heads up! And… if I live to be 160, I’m pretty sure my desire for self-stimulation will be a thing of the past. Again, no customer reviews, but here are the tags that Amazon or Amazon’s customers think are “relevant”: “masterbatory [sic], gardening, turgid, scarecrow, deer deterrent, whole grain, luscious, heart rate monitor, oral hygiene, wet.”

If you put all those keywords together, would you be able to guess the product? I think not. I especially like “deer deterrent.” Do deer come running when you masturbate?

OK, I was obviously looking in the wrong place. I tried a new search for “nipple cover up,” which sounds like the same thing as “covering” but turned out to be the right term for the nonpornographic nipple products, and I found Pure Style Girlfriends Women’s Smooth ‘Em Nipple Concealers. I ended up buying these family-friendly, minister-appropriate, silicone “seamless look under the thinnest fabrics” suction-ish cups, which are to a bra what a thong is to granny panties. One pair cost $17, and because I waited so long to order, I had to pay $20 for 2nd day air to be sure they arrived in time for the event.

Thus fit to appear in public without embarrassing my kin, my presence at the Christian BBQ was unremarkable… though the minister didn’t show. And neither did I, if you know what I mean.

My niece Lorraine had cooked up a mountain of food, and her husband Aaron grilled burgers, brats, and hot dogs. While I was admiring the spread on the dining room table, I spotted a plate of deviled eggs and whooped with appreciation. Lorraine grinned from ear to ear and said she had made an extra batch for me to take home because she knew it would make me happy. Sometimes it’s the little things, you know? I first met Lorraine when she was 8 years old. Barb had married a guy in the Air Force with 2 kids, and they were living on base in Arkansas. In the few days I was there visiting, Lorraine became very attached to me. It was odd but quite enjoyable to be on the other side of crushville for a change. But she grew up, got married, had 2 kids of her own, and I rarely saw her until her dad died and I moved back here. It took us a while to get reacquainted, but unlike her cousin Mike, who gave up childish things like being in love with his auntie when he was old enough to get married, have 2 kids, and get divorced*, she and I have become very close. She’s a smart, cool character, funny as anyone I’ve ever known, and has 2 intelligent, creative, well-mannered boys of 8 and 14.

*Those are the choices around here: married, 2 kids; or married, 2 kids, divorced.

So, back to the party. Barb and I and the other guests, who were mainly Aaron’s brothers and their families, spent most of the time out on the back deck, almost dying of the heat until a slight mercy-breeze came up. It was interesting for me to observe—from behind my cool Hollywood shades and my smoothly concealed nipples—someone else’s family dynamics for a change. There was talk about kids, work (or the lack of it), and family members who weren’t there. I didn’t have much to contribute, but it was a load off my mind to be simply Barb’s “sister from California” (as she still insists on calling me), a mostly invisible, innocuous onlooker. Even so, her late husband’s brother managed to make the requisite comment about my big house. He described it, and then, leaning forward in his seat, he says, “And here’s the thing: She lives there all by herself.” There was a pause as everyone processed this information, and no one laughed when I protested that I share it with 2 cats.

Confirmation boy loved the card I gave him (it didn’t hurt that there was $50 inside). I had been looking for something suitable at Angeli’s market, but the selection was limited and I was not about to give him a sappy religious card with sayings from “God” in it. (Christians don’t even quote the Bible anymore, they just make shit up and attribute it directly to the source. “I knew you when you were in the womb.—God.”) So I looked through the “Congratulations” section and found one where part of the front of the card was cut out, and through the opening you could see a cartoon animal saying what appeared to be “You suc.” And on the inside it says “You succeeded.” Ha! I bought it and then worried that it was inappropriate for the occasion. It would have been safer to buy a conventional card that he would glance at and throw away. But something always drives me to take that risk, to inch a little farther out on the limb of what other people will deem acceptable. Fortunately, Lorraine didn’t make him open all his cards and read them in front of everyone, like a friend of hers had done with her son. I can just imagine the stunned silence that would have followed if he had taken my card out of the envelope and said, “This is from Aunt Mary. ‘You suc!’ ”

So that’s why I prefer winter.


more news of the pious

Catholic News Agency (CNA):

The priestly pedophiles in the Catholic Church are not to blame for their transgressions, Satan is! According to “noted Italian exorcist” Father Gabriele Amorth, “the devil ‘uses’ priests in order to cast blame upon the entire Church: ‘The devil wants the death of the Church because she is the mother of all the saints. He combats the Church through the men of the Church, but he can do nothing to the Church.’ ”

Of course Satan can do nothing to the Church! This invisible, fallen nonidentical Twin is part and parcel of the Church. Where would it be without him? When you’ve established that an invisible force or entity you call “God”—whom you directly represent—has a worthy opponent, also invisible, you call “Satan,” the tragicomedy ensues. If you operate within a closed system in which all the players are created and kept alive by you, this makes total sense. It’s diabolical, if you’ll forgive the devilish pun.

“The exorcist went on to note that Satan tempts holy men, ‘and so we should not be surprised if priests too… fall into temptation. They also live in the world and can fall like men of the world.’ ”

So first you play the Satan card. Then the obligatory “[X] is only a man,” as in Tammy Wynette’s paean to cheating husbands:

You’ll have bad times
And he’ll have good times
Doin things that you don’t understand
But if you love him
You’ll forgive him
Even though he’s hard to understand
And if you love him
Oh, be proud of him
Cause after all he’s just a man

Yes, the tactics used to keep religious folks dependent and confused are the same as those used to counsel women to simultaneously revere, submit to, and condescend to their man. If it’s worked for centuries, why change now?

More from the CNA:

4-9-10: “Peruvian reporter denounces witch hunt against Catholic Church.”

Witch hunt! Ironic! The abuser is repurposed as the abused.

7-16-09: “The Archbishop of Mexico City, Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, said yesterday that the existence of the devil must be taken as fact.”

But of course! What would be the point if he were taken as a figment of the collective imagination? You can’t ask people to believe in that!

Can you?

As a scapegoat of last resort—when Satan doesn’t seem to frighten the masses like he used to—they blame “homosexuality.” But (a) there doesn’t seem to be a rash of consenting-adult sex between priests and other men, it’s mostly victim-sex with children. And (b) if you’re going to blame a “condition,” why not blame “pedophilia”? Apparently, to blame “homosexuality” shifts the responsibility away from the Church, because: “What’re you gonna do?” It’s as misleading as blaming “heterosexuality” when a priest preys on young girls. Maybe abused boys get all the attention because it seems more outrageous when boys are the victims. In a chilling documentary called “Deliver Us from Evil,” a church apologist defends the decision to take no action against the abuser of a young girl because the sexuality in that case was “normal.” Yes, the Church has a “homo” problem all right, but the problem isn’t individual homosexuals, it’s the homosocial, homoerotic men’s club of dress-wearing weavers of fantasy and demonizers of women who want us to take their word as gospel… and their gospel as truth.


rescue me?

A couple of readers were alarmed by the tone of the last issue of the mary’zine (#44) because I delved into some of the difficulties of being with my family. I thought I did a pretty good job of describing the innate conundrum (wrapped in a riddle, etc.) of dropping back into my Midwestern roots (rhymes with foots) after 30 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s not that it’s all bad, or even close to all bad. It’s just that I wasn’t sure if I should let the inevitable differences and disappointments slide off my back, or whether I should continue to engage and, at times, challenge their views and their preferred mode of communicating—taking turns telling their “news,” vs. having a real conversation—and even the way I phrase that is telling, isn’t it? Was I hopelessly snobbish and judgmental, or was it not unreasonable for me to “want more”? At least that’s how I framed my central question. If I can’t change them, can and should I change myself?

For whatever reason, I’ve felt much better since writing that issue. It’s not as though I came up with any answers—I just asked the questions, or at least lodged the complaints. But somehow just naming and exploring what was going on with me left me feeling more peaceful, like there’s nothing to be done, really, nothing to be fixed. I still get annoyed with “blood and blood-in-law,” as my friend V rechristened my family ties. But now the annoyance feels more fleeting, like I don’t have to hold onto it and work myself into a lather. Also, I’ve since made 2 separate “day trips” to Green Bay for shopping and Mexican food, one with K and one with Barb, that were completely fine. I hadn’t been alone with K since I-don’t-know-when, and I was slightly worried that we wouldn’t have anything to talk about. But it was effortless: We had a great time, with plenty of laughs. This is what I didn’t emphasize enough, apparently, in #44: the miracle of connection with my sisters despite very little common ground.

Sodden thought: Sometimes I wish I could publish my own little version of “My Weekly Reader”—jot down everything that occurs to me during the week and give them each a copy on Friday night. Obviously, that’s not the point, but it tells you where I stand on face-to-face communication. Writing is so much easier, I get to edit and revise and authorize the final product. One of my classic “failures” in therapy (that my therapist got mighty sick of me whining about) was putting together an assortment of writings and cartoons and stickers—maybe 12 pages, with lots of space—that I entitled “What I Did on My Therapist’s Summer Vacation.” I loved doing it and thought she would enjoy it, too. I often wrote her letters liberally sprinkled with insights and stickers, and this was just more of the same, sort of like an illustrated diary of thoughts I’d had over the 2 or 3 weeks she was gone. Much to my surprise, she wasn’t thrilled to death by this; I think it was overwhelming and, far from being a treat for her, felt more like a demand. She had said she enjoyed my letters but she’d always rather be with me… whereas I felt so much more confident about communicating through the written word, badly drawn cartoon, and slyly appropriate sticker. Sitting there on her couch, fumbling for the right words, feeling self-conscious in the extreme about what my face and body were doing—which she saw as primal and I saw as hopelessly inadequate—was so painful. I see her point, of course. On paper you have control; in person it’s anybody’s guess what’s going to happen. Obviously. Wow, great example of self-knowledge there, Mare.

On one hand, I see this as a problem; I’m like a performer who’s comfortable on stage but shy off it, needing that distance, that structure—only substitute page for stage. So, depending on how you look at it… here comes the half full/half empty glass metaphor again…. I can dwell on the ways in which my family and I don’t synch up with one another, or I can marvel at the ways we do. Or I can take the mystery ride of both these things being true.

One day I woke up with this thought: Everything is interesting. If something doesn’t go the way I think it should, it’s still interesting. If I’m bored in certain company, it’s interesting to look at why. Not knowing is interesting when you don’t turn it into a problem, or somebody’s fault. And it doesn’t require action, attack, or resolution. In the face of not knowing, there is nothing to do but be. Of course you still pack your things, move halfway across the country, buy a house, and settle into an entirely different rhythm of life—as I did back in ‘04—but you don’t force anything, or overthink it. You just open yourself up to finding out what’s beneath that sense of what to do?, you put your hand in the hand of the man from… no wait, that’s something else. There’s no imperative to act like a transitive verb all over the place. Being “intransitive” (in my personal grammar) doesn’t mean being passive, holding back, worrying the bone of your rampant worries and thoughts, going down those well-trod pathways of self-blame and self-disgust, self self self. You be, and then you see.

Being feels to me, not like floating on an inflatable raft in a pool with a fruity drink (though I wouldn’t turn that down), but being on the verge, the edge of the vast nowhere, the nothing ahead that we can name—or what we call “ahead,” because we’re hard wired to think in linear terms… but let’s go with it… Behind is the great mass of the Known (whether I “know” it all or not), the Past, the solid ground, the “before,” the previous, the life already lived…. And Ahead is… nothing, or Nothing, which is Everything still inchoate, to be born, no trail here, no prepackaging, no guide or road map… “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”… and the amazing thing is that this no-place is not an exotic otherworld, it’s where we live… always…. We say “you can’t take it with you,” but we try… our lessons, our experience, our precious memories… but you can’t take it with you, ever, it’s always new. But you can’t Think your way into that great Beyond, that Nothing that is so full, that is only a silly millimeter away—you’re in it NOW—and then NOW again—but it’s always new, even if everything looks the same. Inwardly, despite all our plans and the roofs over our heads and our chotchkes and pets and even friends and family, there is nothing solid, nothing defined, it’s all new all the time, what Krishnamurti meant by “dying psychologically every day.”

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.—Talking Heads

Painting for process is the perfect means to experience this evanescent present (title of my next book?), because it doesn’t work if you cheat, if you try to use your literal mind to get a leg up, to help out the great Creative Being that we all are, like turning gold into iron because iron is easier to deal with. Every stroke of the brush is a gesture, a step into the Unknown, and it leaves a trace—“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on…”—but Creation is the movement, not what is left on the page. “Movement” is even the wrong word, it being time-and-space-limited, there’s actually no movement, just that “standing” on the edge at every “moment,” perfectly still, perfectly silent, All and Nothing coexisting with no contradiction. And with death, that fearsome change that we think is the negation of life, nothing really changes, it’s still that no-movement, the engine with no moving parts, the force that does not force a thing, the great stillness, the no-happening. “Where will you spend eternity?” reads a hand-painted sign on the highway between Green Bay and home. I’m fond of that sign for some reason, but oh, there is so much wrong with that question! Heaven or hell? Still with the duality, the moralistic so-called choice of being “good” or “bad,” punished by a fiction, a figment, a fragment of someone’s imagination way back in the early days of our species. “Where”? What do you mean, “where”? That’s space. “Spend”? What “spend”? That’s time. “You”? Who’re “you”? “Eternity”? A non-entity, a word only, an inherent no-time-no-space-no-continuum. So much metaphysics on one homemade sign… maybe it serves a purpose after all. If Eternity is the question, what is the answer? Wrong! There is no answer.

The map is not the terrain, the questions do not have answers in fine print, upside down, at the bottom of the page. There is no closed system, no off hours or out of order, or due to a death in the family. It’s all open, it’s all available, but not by grasping and desiring, no wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’, no words writ, no fucking words that do anything but sketch a wave in the air, like a va va voom outline of a female form. It’s all evanescent, it’s not here today and it’s not gone tomorrow. And that’s the good news!


speaking of time/space…

I read on The Daily Beast that the Afghan Taliban has a saying: “Americans may own the watches. But we’ve got the time.” Do you think they listen to Hank Williams records up in them thar hills? “If you’ve got the money, honey, I’ve got the time.”

It strikes me that the push for globalization via technology may have made for a  small, small world, a global village, but what happens when you live in a different time zone from your neighbor? When I drive 50 miles north to Escanaba, it’s a minor inconvenience to have to remember that it’s an hour later up there. Or when I want to call someone on the West Coast I have to quick do the math: 2 hours earlier. But what about when your “neighbor” lives in a different century? How is a network of tubes supposed to connect us with Before Christian Era sheepherders in any but the most superficial ways? We’re like time travelers from a future that is neither believable nor desirable to those who still live in Bible times. Can we afford to wait for the primitive peoples (men) of the world to catch up with our quaint 2nd millennial notions that, oh, to pick one at random, women are not subhuman?

… and other continuums

Even now, even here, it’s questionable whether women will ever fully escape the male gaze and its self-serving stereotypes. Elena Kagan sits without crossing her legs! She has played softball in the past! She is not a beauty queen! She has to have character witnesses to testify that she has “just never found the right man”! Because God forbid a sexual deviant carrying a few too many pounds sit in judgment of others! And if it turns out that she’s just an unattractive woman (still a sexual deviant by definition?), God forbid she get any respect! Maybe Janet Reno will be relieved to give up her crown as most-sneered-at-for-not-being-beautiful. She’s been holding it a long time. The weird thing is… men who dismiss accomplished women who don’t live up to their precious, privileged demand for eye candy are equally dismissive of the blonde and buxom beautiful, because yeah they’re fuckable, but they don’t have a brain in their pretty little heads! Ergo, men are superior in every possible way. (Unless they’re queer.) QED!


if a bat mitzvah is a coming of age, applying for Social Security must be a going of age

And I am going, going, gone. Work has been the opposite of plentiful—pitiful?—for a couple years now, so I decided to begin sucking on the government teat. I’m excited about this. I now get about $950/mo. from my UC retirement, and I should get about $1,650/mo. from the rapidly diminishing pot of gold that is Social Security. I suppose I should feel guilty about this, for being a greedy Boomer, but… nah. I haven’t felt Secure for the past 14 years of self-employment. You kids will just have to muddle through like we did. Anyway, I’m ready to get what’s due me. Cuz I’m in the warm September of my years, and other Sinatra lyrics. I’m doing it my way.


what my sister did for me

Have I ever told you that Barb loves my paintings? She has a whole wall of them in her house that she calls the Mare Wall. I had given her a choice of an original painting, plus she had several others framed that she had enlarged to 8×10 from photos I had sent her.

I was looking at the Wall one day and noticed a painting that I had given (the original of) away, and I lamented that I didn’t have it anymore. I don’t name my paintings, but I think of that one as “Blue Jesus.”

A month or so later, I arrived at K&MP’s for our usual Friday night gathering, sat down in K’s recliner, and glanced toward the TV. I could not believe my eyes when I saw, leaning against a shelf… “Blue Jesus”—full size! I stuttered, “What… how… who…?” and looked over at Barb, who was beaming. For a millisecond, I wondered if she had somehow got in touch with my friend and got the painting back from her, but no, she didn’t even know my friend. So she explained that she had taken the photo and had it enlarged to 20×26, and then had that framed by Mark who’s framed all my other paintings, with the same glass and frame, etc.  [You can see “Blue Jesus” in “cool paintings by m”]

I was so touched by that, and thrilled to have (a near replica of) my painting back. The colors are slightly darker, but you would never know it’s not the original. I hung it on my bedroom wall, where I will cherish it, not only for the blue Jesusness of it, but for the loving gesture on Barb’s part, which I surely don’t deserve.


p.s. Here are pics of my godchild Kelly and her newlywed husband Duncan (my “godson-in-law”) on stilts at their wedding ceremony on Stinson Beach. The bride carried a bouquet of broccoli. Mazel tov to them and their new life together. I feel privileged to be part of their extended family.

photos by J. Moore

[Mary McKenney]


2 Responses to “mary’zine #45: July 2010”

  1. P Says:

    Bravo, on many levels!


  2. Sharon - your cousin Says:

    Hi Mary,
    I have found interest, thought provocation and some pleasure in reading your writings. I now write with an offer to scan you some Larsen photos I am sharing with family members. They are of your mom, her sisters, parents etc… Please let me know one way or the other. Thanks. If you happen to know of any members of the Pelon family still in Menominee, I would appreciate a contact with them also. I posted a message on the Menominee City Facebook site in hopes of success in my search. These photographs are so precious and should be shared as much as possible. Thanks, Mary.


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