The Vanishing of She Who Smokes



We’ve known one another for a long time, although we have never actually met in person.  She is my neighbor who lives across the way by the alley. She is a middle aged lady who comes out of the house to smoke cigarettes.  She is neither tall nor short; she is neither fat nor thin.  There is nothing remarkable at all about her appearance.  You could pass her a hundred times in the grocery store and never remember seeing her.

I don’t actually see her most of the time.  In the beginning, I would catch glimpses of her as she came out of the ramshackle rental house right by the alley.  She would come outside about once every couple of hours.  She would walk around a little bit, and then sit down in one of those old plastic lawn chairs with raggedy ribbing.  Her face remained expressionless as she lit up her Marlboro or Winston or whatever it was.  There was no appearance of pleasure, relief, or enjoyment.  She just sat there and smoked, as if that was her life’s work. After she finished her cigarette, she would get up in the same leisurely, yet matter-of-fact manner, and go back into the house.

Her little trips outdoors to a weedy patch that would like to be called a yard rarely varied, although I have seen her pick up a piece of trash and put it in the trash can.  It seems she might linger just a little bit when the day is very nice, but for the most part, the time remains the same.

She looks clean, which surprised me at first because of her residence right next to the dirty alley.  She seems to be always dressed properly for the weather, too.  Another constant about her is that she projects an aura of sadness.

Gradually, I began to sense her presence.  I might be in the back of the house where I could not possibly see her, but I knew when she was there.  I would go the front kitchen window where I could just barely see her out of the far corner of the pane, and there she would be.

I gradually came to believe that she know I was there, too.  Even if I could only see a glimpse of her from my window, I think it would not be possible for her to see me.  She could probably see a little part of my tinted window, but with reflections and glare, no more than that.  Yet, she often looked right directly at me.

As the seasons changed, even as little as they do in Southern California, she seemed to come outside a little less often,  She would be wearing a jacket and a scarf to cope with the wind and the chill it brought along with it.  Still, we were in strong communication.  Wrapped up in warm pajamas and fuzzy slippers, I would rush to the kitchen window as if summoned.  And through the gathering darkness and drizzle, she looked back at me,

Winter had come, and the cold and rain along with it, day or night.  I began to worry about her.  She would still come out in the wind or drizzle or pouring rain, day or night, and sit in that old plastic lawn chair and smoke her cigarette.  She still never appeared to be distressed, but only projected that mild aura of sadnsss.

Naturally, my imagination went wild.  Why did she live in that slum?  She had decent clothing and could afford to smoke.  Most people had to give it up a long time ago as cigarettes became more and more expensive and the health do-gooders were shaming everyone with graphic advertisements on television.  Yet there she was, looking up at me while she drew on her smoke.

I wondered who she lived with.  Did she have a mean husband who made her go out into the rain to smoke?  Had she been taken in by relatives who were less than pleased to have her there?   I had visions of Cinderella scrubbing the hearth, and I swear I felt her laughing at my nonsense.  I am certain she was feeling my puzzlement, as well.

There came a time when she came outside less, and I failed to rush to the window when I knew full well she was there.  It seems that our communication was slipping away somehow.  A void appeared and grew like a crack in the alley.

I realized that I was no longer feeling her presence.  I was feeling an echo of her presence.  I was feeling her absence.  She was gone.

I saw some furniture stacked in the alley this morning.  That’s what happens there when someone moves, gets evicted, or dies.  The property manager takes the best of the stuff left behind and puts the broken lawn chairs and other trash in the alley.

I hope she has moved somewhere and is still alive and having her cigarettes in a better neighborhood and that she is being treated kindly.  But the absence of her presence is strong.  She has vanished.

There is just one last thing that is strange about my communication with the lady.  I asked several neighbors about her, and they said they had never seen her.  I saw the property manager out in the alley where she had lived, and I left my gated community, went across the street and into the alley where I approached him with my questions.

He first said that he had taken nothing from his tenants that did not belong to him, and then he told me that no such person had ever lived there, and further, that I was either mistaken, blind, or crazy.

I confessed to all three.  Vanished, but I can sense her laughter as she smokes.


Window on My World

window rain gif - Copy (2)

Whether storm or sprinkle, thoughts fall into our fertile minds and either flourish and grow there, or dwindle and die.

Presented here are a few of the thoughts that are growing in the garden of my mind.

yellow_birdGIFs:  I am very fond of photos and pictures, especially animations.  I doubt you will ever see a photo of me that has not been photoshopped six ways from Sunday.  I like to use various free photo editing apps to enhance, change, and/or add text to pictures.

child bench umbrellaThis picture is one of my favorites.  I found it in Google Images, the most amazing collection of illustrations I have ever seen.   As a child in the South, I used to sit on the front porch swing and watch the rain and lightning and listen to the thunder.  My mother frowned on this, and when she made me come inside,  I would sit by the fireplace, which had floor to ceiling bookcases on each side, and read everything from The Grapes of Wrath to The Bobbsey Twins.  In Southern California, I guess I am starved for rain and thunderstorms, so I am more or less fixated on any weather different than the constant hot sun baking my brain every day.

Name Stolen from Sweet Alice:  Why I call myself “Sweet Nan” As you may have observed from my tweets and other writings,  I am not particularly sweet.  As a matter of fact, I tend to be sarcastic, grumpy and overly-critical at times.  I have been an admirer of Ms. Harris for a long time.  I have followed her activities in the newspapers, and observed her energy, selflessness, and good works.  I believe her inner nature is as sweet as her face.  I had hoped that by keeping her name in mind, I might develop some of her good qualities.  So far, no luck.

sweet alice

Sweet Alice Harris

Alice Harris, also known as “Sweet Alice”, is a community organizer based in the neighborhood of Watts, Los Angeles, California. She is the founder and executive director of Parents of Watts, a local youth outreach group. Wikipedia

Born: January 14, 1934 (age 81), Gadsden, AL

Education: California State University, Dominguez Hills

Residence: Watts, Los Angeles, CA

My Opinion on World Affairs:

World affairs are in a very big mess, as everybody knows.  Humans are greedy, warlike creatures, and most wars are fought in the name of religion or good works, but are actually based on greed.  As you know, I am an expert on politics and world affairs (Excuse me, I just put a fudgecicle in my cup of coffee, and it is delicious).

Did we really need to go rescue people from the awful dictator Saddam Hussein?  No, they were doing just fine until we meddled in their business.  We meddled in their business because we wanted what Saddam Hussein had (oil and riches), so we destroyed his city and killed a lot of his people, and we still didn’t get anything.  Then we had to go back and rebuild what we had torn up.  What madness is that?

I can remember my blood pressure going up to Pointing upSurprised smile there when I read side by side columns in the newspaper about (1) what wonderful new schools we were building in Iraq and the wonderful new textbooks and other materials we were stocking them with, and (2) How schools in the United States had no money for textbooks, and teachers in many areas were buying school supplies out of their own salaries.  Just one side of the story, to be sure.  Our own schools waste money like crazy, and our students still get a poor education.  But that’s another story, another opinion, another blog.

PET PEEVE: Immigration, Legal and Illegal

Image result for illegal immigration ANIMATED GIFWhen this country was young, we needed people to come and help build it.  So in came an influx of people from other countries.  The Chinese helped build the railroads.  Many of the Irish were police and firemen.  I don’t believe they were treated very kindly, but they were welcomed as workers and new settlers.

As the years passed, we became a well populated country; some called it a “melting pot.” At some point, we should have realized that we had enough workers, enough people, and that adding more would eventually lead to overpopulation and over crowded living conditions.

Image result for jammed freeways animatedBut in our great wisdom, we did not stop or even attempt to limit immigration.  People continued to pour in, legally or illegally.  They wanted what Americans had, jobs, good wages, homes, cars, big televisions…and they got them, along with welfare benefits, free medical care, free education, and many other things.

Some of us ask, “Why does my neighbor who came here illegally have a better house, a newer car, and more money in welfare benefits than I have on a pension I worked all my life to pay for?” And “Why do they have five or six different names and social security numbers, and why do the women have a child every year to get a bigger check (and teach their daughters to do the same, and on and on).

I personally know a doctor from Russia who came here illegally. She was able to get a green card, social security number, drivers license, and so on, with some help from an immigration attorney and a gullible man she took up with.  She had to take some more (free) college classes to get her medical license here, but she did that, and then sent for her parents, brothers and sisters.  When asked how they would live, she said they were already signed up for everything (housing, welfare, medical, etc.) before they even set foot on American ground.

So through our own original population and the immigrants, legal and illegal, we have overpopulation conditions leading to what I think of as “The Vanishing Americans.”

Raining on FlowersI see there is a little sprinkle of rain today in Los Angeles, and I have shared a little sprinkle of the thoughts that have grown in the garden of my mind.  Unfortunately, it looks like they were mostly weeds, and thankfully nobody reads my blog, or I would be roundly criticized.

Bye for now from Sweet Nan.