My Mother, The Star


I forgot my mother’s birthday. Again. I seem to manage this every year and one would think I’d have carved the date into my flesh somewhere so I’d stop forgetting to remember, but every year I forget and every year I think “I’ll remember next year!” because forgetting your mother’s birthday is about as low as one can sink, family-wise.

This year she even wrote my excuse for me, which was handy. Yes, as I brought up my email client upon returning home from the South By Southwest conference in Austin, there among the plethora of design-related questions, SPAM for “virgin prostitutes waiting to take your call!” and assorted mailing list entries rehashing the ever-popular Netscape versus MSIE worthless debate (which seems to have replaced the old, reliably flame-inducing PC versus Mac worthless debate) was a red-hued email from my mother, because I’ve colored them so they show up very clearly now and don’t get lost in the noise, although that still doesn’t usually mean I answer them right away, there was a message which read, in part, “I’ve been busy! My car broke down! My fish died! The dog ate your birthday present!” and so on.

So then I suffered that feeling where you’re suddenly hot and cold at the same time and your hair feels tight and chills run down your spine. It’s like flying past a Highway Patrol cruiser parked under an overpass while doing 79 in a 55 zone (something else I’m suddenly well-acquainted with, I might add) and seeing the damn thing shoot down the road toward you and you know damn well it isn’t because he felt a sudden, uncontrollable urge for a bagel, particularly when the flashing lights come on. I’m the sort of driver who knows when they’ve been caught and I slow down and wait for them to catch up, hoping against hope that they’ll miss me sitting there so not-speeding and fly past. Funny thing? It never happens. Imagine that.

Oh! And he put my car down as gray. Note to myself; Time to wash the car.

Death In The Afternoon

So, I picked up the phone to call her and she answered and I never know how to escape feeling guilty anyway so I sort of wallowed in it and got past what a goof I am every year and talked about this and that, including the fact that my brother died, which was surprising.

He didn’t really die. Some other person with the same first and last name and middle initial also born in Bakersfield, California did die about 17 years ago but according to the Social Security Administration, you aren’t actually dead until 17 years after your bodily functions cease to work according to manufacturer’s instructions and the worms have been at you for quite some time. I guess that’s so all those bills you thought you weren’t going to have to pay after you’re dead, you’ll still have to pay. See? You just can’t win.

Anyway, he went to buy a TV and wanted to get that 90-days-same-as-cash deal you sometimes get but his application for credit was rejected because, of course, he was dead. Yes, this really does happen to people. Dogs really do get MasterCards, live people really are considered dead people. When you’ve been dead for 17 years, you also don’t need a bank account or pretty much anything else live people need, like driver’s licenses and social security numbers, little things like that.

Isn’t life funny? Or should I say, isn’t death funny?

So he got that straightened out is no longer, apparently, dead. And the conversation changed to what I was doing and what she was doing and did I enjoy Austin (yes, I did) and was I doing anything new and interesting at work (no, I’m not) and isn’t the web a really boring and mostly useless place.

At which point I rehashed an old theme of mine.

Just Do It

My mother is a complainer, which is no doubt where I get it from. She’s been wired for a while and I think she enjoys using the web, or maybe it’s more like TV and it’s just something that fills up time. Anyway, she complains that she can’t find anything worthwhile and it’s very confusing. I think really what she finds objectionable is that there isn’t a lot of crap out (t)here pointed at her demographic, which is marketspeak for age-group. There’re kids sites and women’s sites and geek’s sites and designer’s sites and buyer’s sites and informational sites but there’s no sites for retired people. Or if there are, they’re well hidden or being drowned out by the noise from everything else.

So my advice to her has been, “well, make it yourself, then.”

That’s the point of the web, in large but ever-decreasing measure. We still control it, we can publish what we want, we can put up the stuff we can’t find elsewhere and then other people also looking for that stuff might find it and join in and make stuff, too.

So, like, every time I talk to her I try to get her to start making something. But she would never do it or investigate about how to do it or anything. And I often forget that I might find all this web publishing stuff easy to do, but there are literally millions of others who haven’t a clue about where to start, where to go, what to do. So I said, “write something and I’ll put it up on my site.”

So she did.

Byline: Rita Arthur

I was invited to write something for from the Head Honcho,
why am I so privileged? Well here goes.

I’m Lance’s Mother. To quell
all rumors, he wasn’t hatched or found under a rock. I can guarantee
I’m his Mother cause I was there—believe me I was there (11 lbs 2 oz).
I don’t think he was in too much of a hurry to be born as for instance I
tried to induce labor, to no avail. When that didn’t work, his Father
and I went for a jeep ride over hill and gulley, that didn’t work.
Probably shouldn’t have done that cause he was born with a hematoma on
his head. Really strange until they drained the blood out. Maybe this
gives you an idea why he thinks, writes and acts the way he does. Well
enough about him.

I live in Bakersfield, still, and my biggest gripe, at the moment, is
you can’t smoke anywhere. Yes, I still smoke so shoot me. I’ve been
smoking for over 50 years and I am not giving it up. (At least it
accomplished 3 things, none of my children smoke). I only smoke 5 to 6
cigarettes a day—so. I live on Social Security and some help from by
sons and got a big 1.2% cost of living increase, which doesn’t cover the
rising costs of anything. Used to pay $18 for cigs, now they’re $32.

You can say hurry if you want—all you health nuts. I don’t care
anymore about the whispers as I sneak into the tobacco-only store. I
brazenly walk out without having it wrapped in brown paper. Now, I watch
the real Trauma Emergency Room and real cop shows and it seems to me
that a lot of the cost that the public pays for is caused from drugs,
gangs, alcohol and domestic violence—not cigarettes. Most of us just

Sure, sure, you say give them up. Well hell I’ve given up
everything else. After all the Prez has his cigars and then raises the
cost on cigarettes so that we seniors pay the price. The cost of all
those impeachment meetings would pay to feed the world and give us
smokes. But that’s another missile.

Parting thought—I agree with my son.
I like strong coffee not colored
water. If you’re feeling lucky, I may be back.

Proof Positive

There you have it. Definitive proof that my maternal bloodline is made up of opinionated smartasses, now passed down to me.

Were you ever in doubt?

If you want to hear more from my mom, write a note and I’ll pass it along to her. I don’t think she’s quite ready to have her email address published online to be discovered by one of the SPAMbots trawling the bandwidth for new potential clients.

On the other hand, maybe she’s in the market for virgin prostitutes. As long as they clean gutters, of course.

March 28, 1999

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