The Existential Pee

I believe we humans are actually spirit and don’t require bodies to exist. Yet, here we are in physical form, ensconced in flesh. There must be a reason, something to be learned or gained from carrying around this hunk of meat everywhere we go. My view is the body connects us to nature, giving us information about the third dimension we inhabit. When we check in with our bodies, they also serve to inform us of our emotions and how our thoughts affect those emotions. The body is a better barometer of what is actually going on with us than the mind. The mind can justify all sorts of atrocities, but only a closed heart will fail to report the truth.

Being squarely in the body is of paramount importance to me, and yet I still sometimes have difficulty listening to my own body/heart instead of my intellect/conditioning.

This is where the pee comes in.

I decided one day to walk from the apartment I was subletting in the Kitsilano neighborhood of Vancouver to the Museum of Anthropology. I checked the Google Map; it was a long walk, about one hour 45 minutes, but that’s a good walk. I’ve walked farther many times. I could take the bus back and there was a great exhibit at the Museum at the end of the walk.

I started out later than expected but took time to pee once more before I left the house. Being in my 60s, I find I usually have to go twice in quick succession to get out the door and this day was no different.

After that, I was ready. I had a pretty good notion of the map in my head. It’s a simple walk, straight out West 4th to Chancellor Boulevard takes you directly to the museum. No turns to make, just keep walking.

After 30 minutes, I have to pee. “Not possible,” I tell my body, “you peed twice before you left.” I keep walking but at Jericho Beach park the urge is not going away. I know I have at least another hour left to walk. It’s okay, I tell myself. After the park we’re back in civilization again. There’ll be a Starbucks or 7-11 or something, so no problem, I can keep walking.

Those of you more familiar with Vancouver than I will realize immediately after Jericho Beach park on West 4th there is nothing even remotely resembling a Starbucks or 7-11. It is the most unmerciful stretch of quiet residential neighborhood that ever existed. There’s not even a sidewalk. Clearly NO ONE ever walks this stretch of highway. Ever.

By now the situation is beginning to be a little desperate. Perhaps it would be better to wait for the bus to UBC which takes this route. All I have to do is find a bus stop. It feels like miles to the next bus stop and after I stand there waiting for five minutes, I realize standing still is even worse than walking. And, with little faith in the Vancouver transit system, I know I could be there holding my pelvic floor tightly for another 20 minutes.

I continue walking.

The bus passes me.

I really, really have to pee.

Then, suddenly, like manna to the Israelites, a park appears. And it’s not a small park. It stretches on and on as far as I can see. There will be a place to pee. Maybe I’ll be lucky and there’ll be some sort of cafe or boathouse. If not, it’s a park for heaven’s sake. There’ll be trees.

Only there’s no cafe and the trails, even the one with trees are very open and public. And there are people. What the hell are all these people doing in this gigantic park on the water’s edge? They are walking their dogs is what they’re doing, walking them down every single secluded spot I can find.

I walk deeper and deeper into the park and I begin to wonder, “What would Diane do?” I know the answer. She’d drop trow and pee behind a tree, any old tree, because she doesn’t have a thing about taking a pee when she needs to. This is one of the functions of a great friend, giving us courage to do what must be done, being a role model. Only I don’t heed her call to liberation.

I know I’m being weird and not taking care of myself but my brain keeps telling me it’s inappropriate to pee where people might see my bum. That’s ridiculous, I tell myself but each time I muster the courage to pull down my pants (and of course I’m wearing pants, long underwear, gloves, scarf, a bulky coat, and a backpack, so it’s going to take a while to do that) a dog walker saunters past and waves at me. Usually in Vancouver, no one looks at me, even when I’m tossing a chipper good morning or how’re you doing in their direction. But here in the park when I desperately need a bit of anonymity, they couldn’t be friendlier.

I ask the next owner of a canine whether I can get to the Museum of Anthropology if I continue through the park—my bursting bladder has erased the image of the Google map from my brain—and she takes out her cell phone and shows me I need to get back up to the road or add an additional 20 minutes to the journey. I thank her and hike back up to the road.

Another ten minutes of wondering how this is going to work out and suddenly there are trees again. There are some semi-private areas at their bases. However, these trees are up against the wooden fences of a very lovely condo development. I’m at risk of a ruptured bladder and peritonitis but still find the idea of peeing on someone’s nice fence abhorrent.

Now, I know I’ve gone crazy. What would Diane do has been truncated into a mere WD—would Diane? Of course, Diane would, she would have gone by the edge of the road or in the wooded park or on the neighbor’s fence. I should take courage from her example, be bold.

It’s gone further than that, though. Now I feel God has been giving me opportunity after opportunity to pee and I’ve been rejecting each one. I feel I’m caught in the old joke about the man who’s drowning but keeps turning down the assistance saying, “God will save me.” Like him, I’m spurning all of God’s advances toward me and now, not only do I have to pee, but I feel very, very guilty and ungrateful as well. Tears well up and I’m sure I’ll either die or have to take the bus home in wet, smelly pants.

Then, as if to assure me that God’s love is never ending, never fading, a path appears. Yes, it’s between two incredibly ritzy mansions, but it is shaded from the road and partially private from the three car garages and formal gardens. There’s even a downed tree blocking it, so I know it hasn’t been used much lately. In hasty gratitude I pull off my backpack and pull down my pants and sense the exquisite joy of release.

By then, I’ve used up so much time, going off track and out of my mind, there’s little time left to see the exhibit. But dammit, I went through a lot to get there and I was determined.

It was worth it.

A Little Bit Lost

Traveling with my friend this summer brought up an interesting question—how do I feel about being lost?

I get anxious when I’m with another person. Especially if I’m with another anxious person who’s driving the car while I’m navigating from shitty Google Maps’ printed directions. When I’m by myself, I actually like when I’m a bit lost.

Notice, a bit. I don’t believe I’d like to be blindfolded, pushed into a helicopter, and offloaded into endless dunes stretching for miles in all directions. But, in a place I live or have visited for a few days, I have a general sense of well being. For years I lived in an area of New York City considered dangerous by many of my uptown friends. To me it was simply the neighborhood. I knew the shops, the families, even some of the street people. That experience makes me think most neighborhoods are far less dangerous than up-tight white people’s imaginations would lead them to believe. As none of you are up-tight white people, I’m sure you understand.

Continue reading…

Travel and Trust

Photo of Cappadocia, Turkey

Morning balloon ride over Cappadocia, Turkey.

There are probably as many reasons to travel as there are people who travel. I have a whole list of things I love about it. Art and architecture, culture and color, people, places, food and fashion. Most of all, I travel for the experience. I’m with my best friend, Diane, and this is a long trip for us—almost two full months on the road. From apartments with two bedrooms, a kitchen and spaces large enough to dance, to the tiniest of hotel rooms with two feet between the single beds pushed right up to the peachy pink walls and a bathroom where you sit on the toilet to shower with a hand held faucet dribbling water, each day is filled with unforgettable experiences. I’ll admit, I sometimes can’t remember which city we were in or what day it was, but I remember the laughter, the exhaustion, the exhilaration, the waiting, the getting through it to the next thing, and the incredible gratitude for a life that allows me to live deeply and expansively.

Along the way, I get to work on my own issues. Trust, self-confidence, authenticity, trust, courage, fear, creativity, trust and responsibility.

I said trust, right? Continue reading…

Does This Make Me Look Fat?

Day one of extended writing and all I can think of is whether my ass shows through my leggings too much.

I’m wearing one of those impulse buys—a rayon shirt cut on the bias with long tails hanging on either side. It’s a deep olive green, one of my favorite colors, and looked amazing on the rack at the street festival where I got it. I should have tried it on but the booth was closing, I was late to meet my family, and the vendor assured me I would rock that shirt. Besides, that color, the color of my 11th grade prom dress, the color of clothes I’ve loved in my life—how could I go wrong with that color?

The color still works for me. The style, I believe is more appropriate for a boyish 12 -year-old than a 60-year-old woman.

I’ve tried to wear it several times, over different pants, pulling it up in places to create folds and gathers that might camouflage my slightly poochy belly. Of course, when I do I have to reveal either more of my bum in the back or girl parts in the front. With leggings neither is a look I want to sport. Continue reading…

Vision Quest

In October 2008, I went on a vision quest. I spent four days in a local provincial park fasting and meditating. I was completely alone and kept silent for three of the four days. On the fourth day, I was hungry, cold and tired. I asked to use a cell phone and seriously considered conning small children out of their bananas but thought better of it. Unseemly behavior after questing, I mused.

What did I learn on these days of deprivation and deep meditation?

Always carry a nail file. It’s damn near impossible to connect with a vision when you’ve got a raggedy old nail catching on your wool sweater or pants every 15 seconds.

You may think I’m being frivolous or flip here, but let me tell you, there’s a lot of nuts and bolts kind of stuff that comes up when you’re out in the woods for four days, no matter how saintly your motives for being there.

Like, where will you pee? Continue reading…

Poem Shot

This morning I awoke to my husband’s honking iPhone alarm. Barry continued to sleep as I jumped up to check whether our son was texting for an early morning ride home from last night’s sleepover. Sliding the lock to the right, I saw it was a reminder, not a text, that read:

Max flu and poem shot

It took a moment before I realized he meant flu and pneumonia shot.

I really liked poem shot, though. I’m uncertain if it’s a vaccination against or a dose of, but I like it either way. To think you could be inoculated for poetry, hit with just enough to keep it in your system forever, steeling you from it’s intoxicating effects was rather profound. You’d be immune to its power, aware but unafraid to go places it exists. That could be useful.

But for me, give me a shot of poem straight up, no chaser. Let it burn my throat going down, heat up my toes and make my head spin.Whether I like the taste or not I will experience the flavor concocted by another human and, if I’m lucky, be transported by the draught to unknown lands, learning a new topography and language.

Besides, hanging out with poetry drunkards is bound to be more fun than meeting with the theorists, critics and editors.

Oh, the joys of misspellings and malapropisms. I love that man.


Families, especially large families, tend to have legends, lore and stories about their histories. This is one of those stories.

Until I was four, I lived in a very small house on a very large lot, both constantly filled with children. In our 3-bedroom, 1-bath home there were two adults and five kids. One bedroom (downstairs across from the bathroom) was for the parents, one-bedroom (upstairs under the peaked roof and to the right) was the childrens’ room, and one bedroom (upstairs under the peaked roof to the left) was for my father’s model railroad set.

Downstairs was a small eat-in kitchen, a small living room and a big pantry closet under the stairs. The washer and dryer were out back behind the house in a side room of a large shed and garage building. Our freezer was in a room on the other side of that same shed. In the room with the washer and dryer were an old pump organ, lots of moldy old steamer trunks from the relatives, cans of paint, old appliances and tools, and hundreds of other treasures children couldn’t keep their hands off.

We played outside and in that shed a lot to stay out of the way of Mary Elizabeth Baker Williams, the black woman who took care of us, the current baby, and the house. We played cowboys, army, kick-the-can, tag, and of course, hide-n-seek.

I had only just turned four and was not that good at coming up with hiding places. At three you’ve only recently left the stage of believing if you close your eyes, no one can see you. My sister, Pat, age six, on the other hand was brilliant at hiding. I attribute this partly to her naturally sneaky personality which became highly troublesome in her teen years but that’s another story.

This particular sunny summer afternoon, my brother Warren, age five was IT and Pat and I were the hiders. Chubby little Robin, who had just turned three was toddling around somewhere and Mary Elizabeth was in the house with Robert, not yet two and the baby, Cheryl, only five months old. Pat and I were in the shed as Warren counted down and the pressure was on. Behind the organ was out—overused, wedging between the trunks was possible but fairly easy to find. Further back in the shed was not for me—too many spider webs and I was a rather timid child.

In desperation I asked for guidance from my older sister. Pat never really liked me except for a few years in my 30s and 40s when I was a good place to escape from her own six children. I’m fairly certain at age four I already had a scar on the back of my head where she hit me with a conch shell (stitches) and a scar on my little finger (stitches) where she slammed my hand in the door.

Still when she opened the round glass door of the dryer and said, “Hide in here,” it was not my instinct for self preservation that kicked  in but rather my desire to win the game. It was an excellent hiding place. Who would think to look there?

I’m a little shaky on the details after that. From the way the story’s been told, Warren ran into the shed, yelled, “I see Wendy,” and hit the button.

I’m not sure  how long I bounced around inside before someone ran to get Mary Elizabeth. If only I had been able to brace myself like in some amusement park ride it would have been way cool, but those protrusions inside the cylinder meant to keep your clothes tumbling nicely whacked me mercilessly  as I tried to figure out what was going on.

Mary Elizabeth rescued me and shooed us all into the house frantically telephoning my father the doctor at his clinic in the middle of our small town. He, of course was shocked and appalled. “Mary Elizabeth,” he admonished, “all those cameras around and you didn’t get a picture?”

Later when he came home, he spanked us all. Pat for telling me to get in, Warren for turning it on (and for blaming it on Robin) and me, for being foolish enough to get in.

To this day my family believes my hair is curlier than my siblings from being fluff dried at an early age.