Monday, February 18, 2013

Getting All Deep Up in a Big Old Tree

When I was about 12 or 13 or so, I was walking through this neighborhood in Memphis called Hedgemoor.  Hedgemoor is this fancy, pretty old neighborhood with windy roads and lots of trees (Memphis gives good tree, y'all.  Lots of big old pretty trees in Memphis).  I was walking a dog, I think and in the midst of this walk I found myself staring at this huge, beautiful old tree and thinking "I want to be as big as that tree! I'm going to be as huge as that tree."  I meant, like, famous, you know?  Not 18 feet tall.  Stop being so literal.  God.

Still, what an embarrassing memory!  It sounds like the start of an overwrought Lifetime biopic that ends with some glamorous but fading beauty driving an expensive car off a cliff or something.  The final shot:  an $1800 shoe floats poetically to the top of the ocean, the last sad remnant of a a star that blazed too bright and then flared out.   And.... credits.  For what it's worth, back in the days that my Saturdays were spent fighting off hangovers instead of chauffeuring Laney to various classes and vacuuming and stuff, I would have watched the living shit out of that movie.

But it happened.  This is a real moment from my youth.  And don't you go being all smug about it.  You know had similarly melodramatic teenage affirmations of your own future fame.

But, now?  God, fame sounds like such a huge pain in the ass.  I mean, I'm not really interested in any life plan that involves me having to go out at night.  I spend my evenings in sweatpants city, population: a very comfortable me.  Teenage me would have wept at that assertion.  But, you know, she also listened to Huey Lewis on purpose.  What the hell does she know?

I feel no urge to take the world by storm. It seems much nicer to sit back and enjoy it.  And this is not just because I'm lazy and enjoy television.  I've also grown to grok that there's not much point in taking the world by storm because no matter how big we are, we're still so small.

Walking home from the el today, I told Laney about the Pale Blue Dot. You know that picture, right?  This one:

Everyone you've ever loved, the entire sum history of humankind, all the literature and love and Olympic gold medals, all the big old trees that are and have ever been...  just that tiny blue dot.

This doesn't make me feel insignificant.  It makes me feel sort of relaxed and happy that my own narcissism is adequately served by this shitty blog.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

This Thing That Happened Last Night

I read Mary Dorial Russel's Doc recently.  It's just a wonderful book, filled with moments both large and small that stick with you.  That's how I know it's a good book.  I internalized it.

You probably knew this, but I didn't: Doc Holliday was a dentist, and, according to this book,  quite a good, dedicated dentist. There's a part where Doc mulls on the dental pain that one might not even be aware of that can be relieved.  Pain can be accommodated for so long that it become as commonplace and ignorable as breathing. It is an astonishing relief when you are relieved of the lizard-brain pain.

There was a knock on my door last night about 8:30 or so.  I thought it was the local neighborhood kid who seems to think we're living in an 80's sitcom and pops by between 8 and 9 million times a day for the most random of reasons.  But instead it was a 40ish African-American guy who had his driver's license and cell phone in hand.

You develop an instinct when you live in the city for a while.  You get pretty good at recognizing who is going to be dangerous and who is going to be merely annoying.  This cell phone/driver's license combo is a gimme:  annoying.  He was fixing to ask me for money.  Ugh.

I have no major beef with giving money to people asking for it.  A couple of bucks our of my pocket is no big deal and I don't care if you're going to buy drugs with it.  It is, to borrow a phrase from my dear departed dad, a profoundly red-ass world. Who am I to begrudge someone a pop?  But, it's a little different when you come to my house.  One must, after all, protect the homestead.  One does not want to encourage strangers to come a'knocking.

So, when he held out his hand, I pointedly ignored it, put on my coldest voice and said, "I don't know you and you're making me a little nervous here standing at my door."  And then this look of anguished frustration passed over his face and he said, "I just live behind you."  Now, if it were the 'burbs I'd imagine I'd feel like a jerk for not recognizing someone who lived behind me, but, shit, a LOT of people live behind me.   There's a lot of behind behind me.

But he looked like he might have been familiar so I decided to let him tell me what's what.  I shook his hand, kept my suspicious face on,  and let him begin.  He has a three year old who has ... some disease I didn't quite pick up because I was pretty sure he was lying still and fake kid diseases are the shittiest lies. He told me he was going to Walgreen's to get something for his son and he needed $15 dollars.

I know, it sounds like such bullshit right?  But I've left out a lot.   He spoke for a while and I found myself starting to believe him. My city vibes were picking up desperation, but not wheedling, jonesing desperation.   I have lived here twenty-five years.  My city vibes are good, they are unaffected by guilt of either the Catholic or White variety. He was legit embarrassed about asking me for money.  I felt sorry for him.  But I hadn't completely shucked my city armor and my pat response to queries of this nature came out automatically: "I'm so sorry, but I don't have ANY cash."

He looked disappointed, distraught and sad.   But he smiled and said, "Well, thanks anyway."

And then something snapped, and I decided to believe him.  "Wait!" I said. I checked in my wallet,  found $12 and gave it to him.

You guys, the look of relief on his face was amazing.  He looked relieved to have gotten that money and maybe even more relieved that someone believed him.  He held out his arms to me,  we hugged and he smiled again.  "Now I just have to scrounge up three more," he said.  But I raided the magic change bowl in the kitchen and and gave him 12 quarters.  We hugged again and he left.

And still, as I write this, I know that it sounds like such bullshit.  It sounds like he took my $15 and bought something illicit, that I'm just another Nice White Lady (tm) trying to shore up my charitable bona fides.  But it wasn't bullshit.  It was a real.  I still believe that he really needed $15.

And I am relieved of a pain I'd accommodated so long I was unaware of it.  Suspicion and doubt and self-protection wear you down after a while.  It felt good to help someone out.  It felt good to trust someone for no reason other than that they really need someone to believe them.  I felt lighter when I came back inside,  relieved of a burden I didn't know I was carrying.

In the cold light of morning, I recognize that he could have just been very good at scamming Nice Whie Ladies (tm).  But I don't think so.  I think I helped someone who needed it and I am glad to have laid aside my armor of self-protection for a few minutes.  I felt lighter last night. I feel lighter today.

And I'll leave you now with the cautionary part of this: it is perhaps not wise to open your door to strangers.   A healthy skepticism is an important part of surviving in the world.  But, letting self-protection and fear overtake you can also lead to tragic results.  Find the middle-ground.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentimes Day!

I've had a bad day.  I have cried four times already which, to be fair, ain't hardly a record for a weepy lady like myself.  I've just been running hard into my own shortcomings all day; an inability to just  DEAL when things get tough, a propensity for projecting my own personal failures onto others, being a bad friend, losing my emotional shit in front of my daughter.  In short (and we all have these days), all I could think of was Laney going to bed so I could crawl under the covers and cry to my heart's content.  With a whiskey.

But when I came home, there was a Valentine's card and candy from Don who had also left a lovely quiche in the fridge so I didn't have to make dinner.  I was pulled from the abyss in just the nick of time.

But I still cried again because  (a) I am a weepy lady and was touched and grateful and (b) I felt like a big old jerk for not getting Don anything for V-Day.    

So, I'm going to give him a public Valentine and tell the little corner of the world that reads this shitty blog six things that I really like about Don (this is by no means an exhaustive list):

1) Don is strong, the kind of strong that never needs to prove it.  When I left to make my way in the world, my mother told me that there are two kinds of men: men who like women and men who don't like women and that this has nothing to do with their sexuality.  I think this is true.  Don is one of those guys who doesn't act like hanging out with me or my women friends is an onerous chore that he is obliged to endure.  He can hang quite comfortably with the double-x-ed.  Which has the happy effect of making him seem so much manlier, so sexy!

2) Speaking of which, he knows *how* to like me as a woman, if you know I mean (wink wink nudge nudge... you get me, right?  Because I'm being pretty obvious here)

3) He's funny.  Really funny.  He tickles me after all these years.  He has this way of being explosive and hilarious and making me laugh in that way that makes my stomach hurt a little.

4) He's so thoughtful.  Even after all these years he can surprise me with the breadth of his kindness and the depth of his perspicacity.  

5)  He's a good father in a million ways, but for this blog I'm going to focus on how he respects Laney. He doesn't look at her as an adorable little extension of himself or me, as a future person.  Don knows that Laney is her own person and deserves to be treated as such.  This is going to go a long way in helping Laney to find a good partner of her own when the time comes.  I know the way my father treated me went a long way in helping me to wait until I found a man like Don.

6) He keeps himself open to new experience and to the potential for change.  The world is still such an exciting place to him.  I don't get why anyone wants to jump in Lake Michigan in January.  But, god, I love that Don does.

So, my darling, my love,  Happy Valentine's Day.  I thought I'd tell the world at large what a great guy you are, although, really, if they've met you they probably already know.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The State of My Union

My couch smells like pee and it is *not* my fault.  I take the dog out when she has to go and I haven't peed on a couch in well over 40 years.  The dog peed on the couch a few times when she was sick and now there's no way the couch will ever not smell like pee.  Stupid dog.  Stupid couch.  Also, I ate far too much food this weekend and gained back some weight that I'd lost which is awfully dispiriting.  And on top of all that, some people in Texas elected (ON PURPOSE) a Congressman who thought inviting Ted Nugent to the State of the Union address was trenchant political commentary.  And I bet the people who voted for him still think that!  And think that unironically, because I'm pretty sure that Austin is the only city in Texas that has irony and they probably have far too much.  For the love of all that's holy, Texas,  stop it already!  Steve Stockman, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry... it's like your whole political ethos is hinged on an existential struggle between assholery and dumbassery.  

I'm poking at Texas, because I love it .  Well, I love some Texans, anyway.  And a lot of Texas music.

On another topic, I've taken to DVR-ing Doogie Howser.  This is also dispiriting because, god, 1991 was a long fucking time ago and this makes me feel super super old.  It's fun to watch Doogie Howser because that Neil Patrick Harris has always been a delight and also because the blue screen computer he pecks out the lesson of the week on is a hoot.

When I watch it, I like to remember the fresh-faced young lass I was when that show was on.  The 21 year old me would never have imagined the Internet and a black president and that Neil Patrick Harris would be gay and that this fact would be no big deal and also entirely incidental to his abiding delightfulness.  There's so much really great stuff about this time vs. that time.  On the other hand,  the 21 year old me would also never have imagined this jiggly belly and a couch that smells like pee and that bringing an assault weapon into a JC Penny would be viewed as trenchant political commentary by a group wielding really disproportionate political power (and by that I mean ANY political power held by people that stupid is too much).

Speaking of which: Wayne LaPierre just today told his addlepated devotees that they need assault weapons because there will be hurricanes and after them people will loot (fact: only black people loot.  White people gather supplies.  You knew that right?  I learned it on CNN). Wayne LaPierre says we need big guns so we can shoot people before they take our shit. Because killing people is hella better than not having as much shit as you used to.

I never thought that watching Doogie Howser would cause so much mental strife, such anguished, pitched battle between optimism and pessimism.  At least those fucking horrible jeans we wore in 1991 will never come back in fashion.  Right?  Oh, who am I kidding, of course they will.  I wore the same pair of jeans to work today that I wore in 1983.  Only much larger.

I look to the future and despair.

On the other hand, it is kind of nice that I live in a world where if I want a picture of Neil Patrick Harris circa 1991, I can get one in seconds.  There is something to be said for that...