Essays

 

Stinkos

  by Christine Schoenwald

 

We had two ginkgo trees in front of our house on Cherry Ave in San Jose, Calif.

Ginkgo trees have lovely, fan shaped, light green leaves.  Falling from their branches, they look like wounded dancers as they flutter to the pavement.  Coating the sidewalk they lay there as if dead, no more dancing for them- Pas de done.  It is a beautiful and serene tree that brings much peace to those fortunate enough to gaze upon it.  Well the male trees do.

Ginkgo also known as  Maiden Hair Trees, a name that shouldn’t sound creepy yet does anyway, are unique in that they have separate sexes, a male and a female. The female ginkgo tree has beautiful leaves but also has an extra added bonus- fruit balls. These aren’t delicious tasting fruit orbs such as  juicy Mirabelle plums or  crisp Granny Smith apples; this fruit is a horrible smelling, land mine, inedible in its natural state.  When stepped on, it smells like vomit or rancid butter.  Making up the fruit pod, is a slimy skin with a core nut.  People eat this nut to improve their memory, cure their headaches, and help with their tinnitus. It is the skin that smells disgusting. Ginkgo has been known to cure depression. Ginkgo has also been known to cause depression.  If you get some of the flesh on the bottom of your shoe, no matter how hard you try to scrape it off, the nausea-inducing stench lingers on causing you to feel depressed! 

 A few times, pedestrians slipped on the crushed ginkgo balls decomposing on our sidewalk.  Fortunately, no one ever threatened legal action due to the Throw Up Trees.

Growing up it was my job to rake the ginkgo leaves and ginkgo fruit off the lawn and put them in the barrel.  In those days, it was one barrel and one barrel only- everything altogether. After the raking, I would mow the lawn.  Along with ironing my Dad’s dress shirts and shining his shoes, this was how I earned my ten dollars monthly allowance.  I certainly should have asked for a raise, especially when the neighbor boys, Albert and Martin Marin would take the carefully raked piles of leaves, grass clippings and ginkgo balls and throw them back onto the lawn.  I know they did this because they liked me, just as they demonstrated their affection for me by putting my stingray bike on top of the telephone pole or how they lovingly called me “Fish Face” because I had big bulbous eyes.  Undoing all my hard work was the same as if they had sent me a big, chocolate heart for Valentines Day, just smellier and more frustrating. 

In high school Martin would walk me home.  When two Great Danes attacked me, it was Martin who protected me and got bitten even worse than I.  When Tami Nobler called me out and threatened to beat me up because I had dared  to look at her during passing period, it was Albert who convinced her it wouldn’t be a good idea to mess with me.  Big Al and Little Tin were my protectors.

But in grade school, it was much more enjoyable for Albert and Martin to take the trash can filled with smashed ginkgo balls and try to dump it all over me! Throwing like a girl I would hurl the stink balls back at them.  They would dodge them and then this would morph into what smelled like a regurgitated food fight but looked like a snowball fight without the snow.

Often times I would get some ginkgo stink on my shoe and track it into class causing comments like “ Ugh what is that stench?” or “Who spewed?”  I would do my best “Christmas Story” look around like I had no clue to the origin of the putrid odor.  “Smell? What smell? I don’t smell anything!”

Ginkgoes are sacred in China.  Several ginkgo trees were the only living survivors of the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima- they are revered.   Sometimes I would be saved from my toil, when van loads of Asian people would pull up in front of our house.   The Group Leader would politely ask if they could have the ginkgo fruit?  “Take them-we don’t want those smelly balls!”   Very methodically they would gather up every last ginkgo, put them carefully in plastic containers, get back into the van and drive away. Surprisingly the De-stinking method is easy, you simply bury the ginkgo balls in the ground until the skin disintegrates.   Once the nut is free of the scummy casing, you can bottle the nuts and sell them at an outrageous price.  I didn’t care if the Van People were making millions of dollars from our ginkgoes, if it prevented me from having to deal with them- it was well worth it!

In my backyard today in Glendale, Calif. there is a huge lemon tree that truly is laden down with lemons.  Rotting lemons cover the concrete around the tree.  I also have a number of outdoor cats that sometimes feel that old lemon leaves and pulpy decayed lemons are an excellent substitute for a litter box.

Once again I must watch where I walk and the danger of getting something foul smelling on my shoes is great.  Honestly though the mixture of cat poop and rotten citrus still smells better than those ginkgo balls.

Bio- Christine Schoenwald is a writer/performer living in Los Angeles.  She hosts a monthly personal essay show called " Pinata."  She is proudest of the show " Off-Kilter: The Monologues of Christine Schoenwald" which was performed at Bang Theatre in Hollywood.

 

 

 

Ageism's Effect on my Delicate Psyche

        by Glenda Glayzer

 

If you’re old enough, you remember the phrase: "Don’t trust anybody over thirty!”

But at the age of thirty, I hadn’t begun to think in terms of aging. Thirty is brilliant! As women, we are at the height of our being. Still having children, smart, full of energy and able to cope with just about anything. That phrase, "Don’t trust anybody over thirty!" was the beginning of the public ridicule of the natural process of aging – the first accepted Ageism I remember experiencing in America.

Next came the TV show "Thirty Something" and along with it other indications that the age of thirty and slightly older was okay, but after that, my life must be in decline.

I remember that hitting my 40th birthday was exhilarating! I had just discovered my innate talent for sculpting and painting, and I was prolific in turning out new pieces week after week. I felt that I could do anything short of spreading my arms and flying into the sky. That lasted for the entire decade – up until the day I got that first piece of mail from AARP.

Most people in our modern society don’t feel they are old at 50. But getting that notice from the most accepted Ageism peddler in America places a pall over everything. We already have more aches and pains; have gained a few extra inches around our middles and notice that our hair is changing color or density – or both. We begin to buy the story that we are of less value now because we are older.

As a woman, I became more introverted at about age 55, for all the above-noted reasons as well as noticing that men no longer turned to look at me when I passed by. Middle-aged women in America are invisible, and that invisibility takes a psychic toll. Our sex drive is already being dashed around by menopausal hormones, and we are scared. Scared of this new invisibility. Scared our husbands will leave us.

And then they do.

We are alone for the first time in perhaps decades. We are not easily employable. We are not eligible for any benefits. Our children have left the nest and are busy making their own lives. We are, in effect, useless - thrown away. All the time realizing that, barring diabetes or cancer, we could live past our 90s.

Now, I have crossed the demarcation zone into the ULTIMATE excuse for Ageism in America – Medicare. Don’t get me wrong, it's nice to know that I will have medical care no matter what. Still, I feel as if a guilt bomb is about to go off inside my head. How could I have let this happen to me? ME!

I am teetering on the razor's edge of my own psychic extinction because it is so difficult to overcome the hype. I’m bright, talented, happily married for the first time, gainfully employed at a job I love doing, but to the rest of America I am an "old lady."

I’M STILL IN HERE! My body may be old, but I’m still the same person.

And I CARE how the rest of the world views me. The sensitivity which makes me good as an artist makes me bad at accepting being wrongfully designated a throwaway person.

I want the world to see maturity differently. I want to live in a society which sees my years as a badge of courage and distinction – a society which rewards each ongoing, productive year I tack onto my life as a sign of enduring strength and wisdom. I want to live in a society where I am honored as the Sage that I am.

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Bio:  Born Glenda Bell in July of 1945, Glenda Glayzer  spent her  early years as a musical prodigy.  She made her first record at the age of 13, singing with her parents and siblings (The Bell Family Gospel Singers). Married at 18 to John Glayzer, she moved with him to Europe in 1965. There she began  professional stage career in the Nuremberg and Vienna opera houses, doing American Musicals in the German Language.

Returning to the United States in 1974, she was cast as an original member of the still-running musical Beach Blanket Babylon in San Francisco, California. 

Over the years, she has added many skills to her career bag including, sculpting, painting, photography, sound recording, writing and culinary arts certification.

For the past decade, she's been designing and building websites while continuing to write articles and fiction for various online sites.

At present, she juggles careers in four different disciplines, and she's enjoying herself immensely! Her current favorite hobby is writing and publishing a set of personal essays, a sort of disjointed," write-it-as-it-comes-to-me memoire. It will work or it won’t, but either way, I’ll have done the exercise, and that’s rather what it’s about for me. I’ve led an interesting life . . . so far. But it isn't over!"
http://www.glayzer.com .This essay was first published on Glenda's site: http://itaintover.com/category/aging-in-america-today.

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