Jul 4, 2007


After dogs and burgers, key lime pie, mustard around the mouth, men playing hillybilly golf out the window, where the thermometer has gone to 106, four women sit down at the end of the diningroom table. In the cool. Accomplished women in their late 40s and early 50s. Except for one they would not be the kind of women to see the Vagina Monologues, they don't use that word lightly, but they would gladly see the new comedy about Menopause.

One is a CFO; one is blonde; one is good; and one is big and tall. Towering, is the word. And something about her that's not only imposing but forbidding. Her body language suggests all work and no play, suggests jacqueline coming down the beanstock for women and not in a good mood, suggests feeling angry at having to be in the wrong sex all the time.

She is also the consummate matron, she's in this charity and that. She believes it's more blessed to give than to receive. She likes little kids. She's Republican and thinks the war is a terrible thing.

But lately life has been hard. Look at her smile; she can "hardly get her lips to bend. But this is why, this is why, this is why... as the kids keep singing these days. This is why she is...

She lives in a gated community across the valley from Mt. Diablo. Where she lives there are red wine orchards and over the hills to the south one of the great state parks in this part of the state. She has a view of the town in the valley below.

If the internet could be made real, so you could see it, this is what you would see. Her looking out her window and the town below and the town looking at her, all at the same time, this towering woman in the window looking down, her line of site in every direction. As an aside, this is her fate, she always has to look down, she rarely, rarely gets a chance to look up. Except at a bird or dark clouds or the moon, she looked up at the moon a few weeks ago, or the hunchback's gargoyle at Notre Dame. Otherwise, everything is below her. I won't say 'beneath' her because I don't know her, I can't prove that, I can only say 'below' her.

In this community where she lives there are rules, of course. You can do certain things to your house, for example, but anything you imagine must be approved. You have to show not tell, let's see the plans, let's know what you're doing here.

You show it to a homeowner board. Like in every community these days, even if you live in a time share or a commune, there's a board. Where she lives, you can't just convert your garages to rooms for example, You can't just pull up all the grass in your front yard and plant something else. There are standards. There is an expectation. You can plant trees but we don't want eucalyptus, which are dirty and of course they're full of water and they can fall over on your house. Or my house. You can have oak and maple and cherry just like people in Ohio, which is where all these people came from by the way.

So Mrs. Big and Tall wanted to paint her house yellow, kind of golden yellow, not wizard of oz yellow, but yellow to echo the hills around which have that yellow you see in the high hot of summer when the tall grass is dead and white near the roots and kind of pale beigy, yellowy on the top. She wants her house to look that color.

So she got a little patch with the exact color and took it to homeowner board, the lady who does these things on behalf of the board, showed it to her, she signed off, and then Mrs. Big and Tall went and painted her house.

Well the painters hadn't finished when somebody, we don't know who, somebody in the development, let's not use that word, let's say someone in the community, complained. Said, "what the heck is that woman doing?" That's a horrible shade of yellow, all the rest of the houses are beige, or some shade of beige and gray and there's just no yellow in any of our homes.

This mystery person, and it's a woman, we know that, the board lady said that by mistake, it was a woman and she doesn't like what you've done and there's some question whether the patch you showed us is an accurate reflection of the color of your house. So we need to take a sample, the board will need to review this decision. We take these matters very seriously. It's possible you may have to repaint your house. Of course, we don't like doing this, this is not an easy job, and we know you have rights just like everyone else...

Can you believe it? asked Mrs. Big and Tall who got a round of sympathy from the others at the dining room table. Some atta boys to go with her burger and potato salad. How ironic, everyone said, that on July 4th 2007 we don't have our freedoms.

"This is what it's like," said Mrs. Big and Tall, who stood up and looked down at us like a Kareem Abdul Jabar. And you expected her to say, "And I'm not going to take it anymore." But she didn't, she just shook her head, and smirked, and thoroughly enjoyed the support. Because now she was going to have to drive back there, back to the gated community and endure the derision of someone there who didn't like the color of her house.

But she wanted to add that her real anger was not at the woman who complained but the woman at the board who relayed the complaint. "She" said Mrs. B & G, "should have handled it right there. She should have taken care of it. Why bother me with this. Now I have to wait for the board to decide, but it should all have been taken care of..."

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