Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Fire

My uncle is dating his ex-wife Kathy again, something like fifteen years after their divorce, and her family invites my mother over to Thanksgiving dinner. Ian and I are several hours away in Virginia at his mom's for the holiday, as his family is less dysfunctional and has better food.

It's post-Thanksgiving dinner, and my mom and the other womenfolk are in the kitchen, having a blast with each other, and one story leads to another, and they are soon telling macabre stories from their own pasts. My mom tells everyone of how when she was a young girl she saw the neighbor running out of her house with her baby, limp and bouncing in her arms, screaming for my grandfather, a doctor. The baby choked on a carrot minutes before, and died.

Then my uncle's ex-wife's mother, with whom Mom has not spent time in twenty years, begins to tell a story of how forty-two years ago she was driving down Lakeshore Drive, in Columbia, and saw smoke billowing out of the attic of a house as she passed it. She stopped and ran in the house and called the fire department, who made it in time to save most of the contents of the house, with only minor losses in the attic. Apparently, recalls Kathy's mom, the man who started the fire inside the house had died, drunk and passed out with a lit cigarette. The chemicals in sofas are incredibly toxic, and as they burned they filled his lungs quickly enough that he never woke up to save himself, and was almost the only thing taken by the fire. My mother says,

"That wasn't a man. That was my mother-in-law and the grandmother of my children."

Kathy's mother doesn't believe her at first, but the dates were the same, the house was the same. It was my grandparents' house. They were separated at the time and my grandfather was living in Atlanta. My dad was twenty-six years old, a year younger than I am now and a year away from meeting my mother, and his uncle called him up and simply said,

"Your mother died in a fire."

My own mother had often wondered how the family silver and antique furniture had survived a house fire when my own grandmother, an abused wife and chronic alcoholic, had not. My Dad's father was a notorious asshole, an Army general who was in both World War II and Korea, a man who couldn't separate his feelings about his own family from his violence as a soldier. It becomes difficult to justify kindness and love to certain people in a world where you have to kill other people, who are so often so much like you.

My aunt Sally, having never fully recovered from the loss of her mother at the age of twenty-one, inherited her taste for inebriation. She died almost four years ago at the age of fifty-nine, her insides pickled and her esophagus bleeding from what was probably over forty years of regular alcohol abuse. My grandfather died this past Christmas at ninety-two, having outlived his younger brother and sister, his own daughter, and two wives. It's funny how the people who make us hate life most seem to have the tightest grip on it.

So my mom thanked her brother's ex-wife's current girlfriend's mom for saving our family's heirlooms. If she had come along five minutes later, we would have likely lost them all, but then she says,

"Hey, but if you'd only come along five minutes earlier, my kids might still have their grandmother!"

Then she laughed. We have a similar sense of humor.

There probably wouldn't have been enough smoke to notice five minutes earlier, anyway.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Great Moments for Gays in Modern History

(A personal favorite from Aug. 28, 2007)

Looks like another overly repressed conservative is being exposed for homosexual behavior. Republican senator Larry Craig of Idaho was caught soliciting sex in a Minnesota airport restroom after complaints from other restroom goers about lewd goings-on there.

After Emma posted an article about this last night off of Roll Call, I laughed hysterically, and then sobered up for a little while. Though it didn't state in this article that he was one of the array of Republicans who regularly attempt to squash any rights of homosexuals, I was sure that was the case, and wrote Emma back a ranting e-mail about jackasses such as these. Sure enough, I read in an article this morning that he "has voted against gay marriage and opposes extending special protections to gay and lesbian crime victims," in what is seemingly becoming a legislation policy simply to indicate the voter's closeted homosexuality. I'd say it's becoming more and more obvious that those among us who doth protest too much are exactly those who can't handle the temptation of unrestrained, unrepressed, unopposed homosexuality. If there are any homo-noids in the audience who disagree, let them be heard.

I saw the movie "Jesus Camp" last year, and one of the last scenes in it took place in Ted Haggard's giant McCongregation, before his private life was exposed. There are probably few people out there who don't know who he is. This evangelical preacher's prostitute male lover finally grew tired of the venom Haggard was spewing about gays to huge audiences, and exposed him for the meth-head man lover he is.

How can anyone deny that the church and conservative politics walk hand in hand down the dirt path of extreme repression? I have a difficult time having any respect whatsoever for "men of the cloth" or conservative Republicans when their very existence seems to cry out in opposition to the moral laws they espouse and attempt to enforce with the promise of some form of ridiculous eternal damnation. Is it not evidence enough for you people that if your own leaders don't believe or care that they're going to hell for their sins of the flesh, that they probably don't really believe in hell itself? Is it not evidence enough that thousands of priests became priests not to spread the word of god, but rather to better have access to defenseless young children? If this were not true, what is with the huge percentage of child-molesting priests? And what is going on with conservative politicians that they keep getting caught gay?

Why do you think they prefer to keep women from becoming priests? It may have something to do with the fact that a far smaller percentage of women like to molest young boys (let's assume the stereotype is mostly correct). Thus, they may have a more difficult time understanding that mass collusion in a fucked-up institution has more to do with sex and guilt from repression than it does some man in the sky--though there may be more than a few who may want to play their part (in more ways than one) in the game as well.

These men are not guilty in their sexual inclinations because they think some god gives a damn about something so silly as what appendage they put where and how, they are guilty and repressed because their parents, and their parents before them, and the society around them, made them believe that homosexuality leads to the downfall of civilization. This is not so farfetched an idea, I suppose, simply because if all men decide they want to have sex with primarily men, we'll have a difficult time perpetuating the human race. It is, however, overly antiquated and far more instinctual than intellectual. I think most of us would be pretty excited if nine-tenths of the world decided to stop procreating, especially those fricking people in that developing country that wants to use our oil.

The devout scare me, and the religious not-so-devout (i.e. hypocritical) scare me even more, and the conservative politicians make me fear for my well-being and the lives of my homosexual friends.

Parents, raise your children to feel guilty for having a sex drive and expect results. They will damage other innocent people, and you will have no one but yourself to blame. Guilt and fear spawn the great portion of all ills in this world.

Complacencies of the Peignoir, and Late coffee and parrots and squirrels, too

(Another old thing off that other blog of mine--)

So much to write about, so little motivation to write it . . .

I wore my favorite shirt to work at the cafĂ© today. It's bright grass green, and has three hamster cartoons in little hamster balls on the front of it (you know, the plastic ones that the hamsters always barf inside of because some brat rolls it across the floor really fast, or worse—they should probably be outlawed), and it says above it, "Rollin' With Tha Homies." For some reason, though I wear this shirt pretty frequently, almost once a week, today I received non-stop compliments. Everyone thought it was brilliantly funny, nice!, cute!, et cetera. People's eyes were lighting up left and right. I remain mystified as to why today this shirt would suddenly trigger so much enthusiastic reaction. Am I wearing a different bra? Maybe because it's hot outside today, and people are thinking of spring, and the shirt is like a stem and my head is like a giant blossom! Yep . . .

I must say, I'm quite glad to be working here again, in spite of having to deal with customers and their condescension, in spite of constant frustration with little piddly things, because the money's not that bad, my coworkers are hilarious, and there is always something to laugh about. The only unfortunate thing about this job is that video cameras aren't rolling constantly, or that I can't write down all the retardation as it happens. Then I tend to forget it. Plus, it would never be quite as funny to people on the outside, I'm thinking now. So I should probably stop here.

I should have written about how a couple of weeks ago someone stopped up the toilet and fled without telling us. Its handle sticks and makes the water run constantly, so no one noticed until we saw the water rolling out across the dining room floor. I ran downstairs to my boss's office, because that's the first thing that floods when this happens, and water is seemingly pouring out of every little break in the ancient ceiling and walls, all over my head as I throw towels around and move trashcans under some of the bigger flows. The water looks clear, but . . . it's probably not. Tyson's upstairs losing his mind, hating everyone and declaring that the bathroom will be off-limits to all the world forever. Of course it happened in the middle of lunch hour, when the line for food is out the door. It's too far gone to write about that, however, in all its humorous detail, of which there was much.

The espresso machine was broken for at least two weeks, too. Can you picture having to apologize to dozens upon dozens of people every day for having a broken espresso machine at a coffee shop? Telling them it will hopefully be fixed in the next day or two does little to alleviate their frustration when you've been telling them that for ten days straight. So then you grow to hate them a little, too, for wanting a stupid latte or mocha in the first place. I mean, holy hell! You're paying over three and a half dollars a day for some espresso and milk?!? That's $1200 a year! Simple coffee and milk is one-third the price! The way I was raised I can barely justify turning on the lights at night to see. My dad used to walk me down the hallway and point out how many bulbs had been burning in the past hour since I'd forgotten to switch them off. I feel guilty about letting the water run too long and using a paper towel when I could have used a sponge. I compulsively pull recyclables out of the garbage can (which is directly underneath the recycling bin at work). My otherwise amazing boss here turns on the hot water every afternoon to wet eight or fifteen paper towels he uses to wipe down the counters, and then he walks away. He comes back to turn it off five or ten minutes later. It makes me literally insane. So do the people who ask for a bag in which to put an already perfectly self-contained to-go box in order to walk twenty feet down the street and into their office. SO! do the people who pull out huge stacks of paper napkins that they later throw out in stacks, still unused, on top of their trash. Waste horrifies me, and not necessarily because I think of landfills overflowing, but because I think of all the waste produced in the first place to get these napkins and to-go boxes and plastic bags and piles of meat here in the first place. And these people consume it so mindlessly . . . they would happily fill up fifty garbage cans a day with their shit as long as they don't have to use all of one hand to carry their lunch or have their hands warmer than body temperature while holding their coffee cups.

I could go on and on, but this must be torture for you. You're probably not even reading these words anymore, having glazed over long ago, still scanning down the page and pretending to yourself that you're comprehending, when you're actually thinking of something else altogether. This is why I don't blog very often. I feel as if the stuff I write about is some of the most pointless drivel any of you will ever read. Half the reason I keep writing is because customers I don't want to entertain keep walking by me sitting in this booth, and I don't want to talk to them, so I look as engrossed as possible in the task at hand, type type typing away, please walk away I'm far too engaged to be distracted this is just where I have internet access and I am not behind the counter anymore and though I like all of you alright twice a day is plenty of time to say everything I that needs to be said, in the seconds it takes to exchange a cup and a few dollars.

But what's even worse is that I'm going on a trip and so everyone wants to know all about my trip and what I'll be doing on it, and when I come back they'll want to know how it went and what I saw and did, and what is coming of the article I'm working on and so on. I do love talking to people. It's most of the reason I love this job. But there's a limit. What point during the week is it that people stop asking about how my last weekend was and start asking what I'm doing this coming weekend? I love people, really, at least some parts of them, but I know all of this is just SMALL talk, and the utter repetition of it is maddening. Also, there are eighteen people in the line behind you, all of whom want espresso milkshakes and large mochas.

I figured I might as well write at least once before I leave, though, since I may not write while I'm gone. After I get back, too, I'll probably be pretty preoccupied with intense customer conversation, so I may have difficulty making time for you people.

South of the Border

(written 12.22.07)

Whereupon Mathew, Jeffery, Hunter, and Lydia journey to South of the Border.

I believe one of these jackasses when they tell me it would take around 45 minutes to drive there. Ridiculous, I know, but it takes almost three times that long, and I am piloting Mathew's car, which is for some reason excessively boring to drive. Sonic Youth on crappy speakers with abundant road noise and Jeffery's beatbox accompaniment along with a weird morning phone conversation with my boyfriend all make me feel sassy, so I decide to be in a difficult mood for awhile, and decree that everyone in the vehicle should also as big of an asshole as possible. Not an easy task for these mild-mannered other three, but Mathew at least does okay.

For all the times I have driven I-95, I have never had more than the most fleeting urge to check out this monument to American absurdity, a roadside attraction on the border of North and South Carolina with plastic animals bolted to pavement, giant sombreros, and tens of thousands of indoor square feet of party favors, plastic poop, giant sunglasses, glass dolphins, Jesus sculptures, and paper mache fruit. Billboards warn of its approach every half-mile starting from forty miles or so in either direction. Threats of its impending destruction (implosion?) have been made in recent years, so when Jeffery proposed that we make a movie there, I'm mostly game. Who knows if years down the road I'll be kicking myself for not having gone to see it when I had the chance? Hunter's brownies transform the whole ordeal from mere kitsch into a joke of grand proportions, or it would have been quickly intolerable. Instead, it becomes a scene of the essential absurdity of Americana, distant past and distant future at the same time, a horrifying representation of civilization's swift ascent/descent into the era of globalization and the tacky shit that suddenly we could decorate our world with for practically free.

I become something of a joke myself, when at some point I realize that I have been so busy filming with Mathew's camera I hadn't noticed mine disappear off of my arm. Mid-scene filming a musical interlude of Jeffery's, I recognize its absence and run out the door of Chinese-crap-mart to our last stops. Oh, there. On the ground, next to the four-lane road, at the feet of a giant gorilla that threatened to topple when I earlier climbed into its outstretched arms. Its bared teeth had obviously kept the few other passersby away, no doubt out of gratitude for our shared affections. Whew. The sun is now dropping quickly, so we know we have to get as high as possible over this place before it's too late.

I run back in the store and the others are finished with filming the future relics of garbage dumps not yet opened, so we journey onward toward the ten-story giant sombrero elevator to heaven. About halfway there it occurs to me that my cell phone is nowhere on my person, and vaguely recall hearing something thump on the ground when I had tried to mount a giant donkey in front of the last store. I'd looked around and not seen anything at the time, not even thinking to check my pockets, but when I run back to see if it's there, there lies the phone, open at its feet. Ha. These animals are obviously screwing with me. We walk on, into the store surrounding the base of the giant sombrero-vator, and buy four one dollar tickets to heaven. An old lady is the elevator operator, and she says she'll stay until we are ready to come down.

We arrive at the roof with all belongings apparently intact, in the center of the grand phallus mexicanus, the confetti-colored beacon atop the Empire State Building of the I-95. We run around the caged brim, watch a train travel next to the highway and far into the distance, and take loads of pictures while the alpenglow makes us all turn a deep pink. The wind is whipping so hard Hunter's hat flies off, and we all hold ours down tighter. Wait. Where is my hat? I scroll back through our pictures to see at what point it disappeared off my head. The old lady in the elevator tells me there's one on the floor. Luckily it doesn't stick.

The sombrero birds begin swirling around the hat brim, while we stand only a few feet above their outstretched wings. The highest point for miles and miles around, and noisy birds from every direction are all flying straight at us as the sun dropped below the horizon completely. Grand. I sleep the whole way home.

UPDATE: To witness the awesome power of SOB via YouTube (if you think you can handle it), go here to watch the intrepid tripvid produced, filmed, in-camera-edited, and soundtracked by my cohort Jeffery: SOUTH OF THE BORDER! I highly recommend that you click on the "more" below "About This Video." Also, please rate and comment if inspired to do so. Those prone to seizures are discouraged from viewing.