A Random Image
 

Jett Superior laid this on you on || August 15, 2014 || 12:07 am

This week has been monumental. I hope that what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri won’t be scrubbed up and put in a suit and made presentable for company. When future generations look back on the records of this, I want those records to be heartbreakingly accurate. I hope they are the solid, unbleached truth.

Everything I’m feeling is just too big to wrap up tidily in words. I can’t do it. Here are some links to some pieces that I found powerful and important, though:

Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By Police, Mia McKenzie
“If we were to talk about a victim’s past, we would have to talk about it in a context of oppression. But, you know what? We don’t need to talk about it at all. Because it is irrelevant to issue of their victimization.”

America Is Not For Black People, Greg Howard
“But laying all this out, explaining all the ways in which he didn’t deserve to die like a dog in the street, is in itself disgraceful. Arguing whether Brown was a good kid or not is functionally arguing over whether he specifically deserved to die, a way of acknowledging that some black men ought to be executed.”

In which I have a few things to tell you about #Ferguson, Sarah Bessey
“Can we make space for the lament and for the grief, for the anger and the fear?”

Affected, Karen Walrond
“I’m tired of every time my little girl doesn’t try her best at school, my yelling at her invariably includes a lecture that people are looking for her to fail because she’s black and she’s a girl, and she’s way too effing brilliant of a kid to let people write her off due to her blackness and her girlness.”

Military veterans see deeply flawed response in Ferguson, Thomas Gibbons-Neff
“I would hate to call the Ferguson response a military one. Because it isn’t, it’s an aberration.”

I hope you’ll set aside the time read them. I also (continue to) hope that we’ll craft a decent future for the the next couple-three generations to abide in; that we are sowing sense enough into them that they won’t allow our generation’s shortfalls and failings to become their norm down the line.

I have this habit of calling after my people when we part ways: “Be carefree!” Being careful doesn’t get you as much good living as being carefree does, right?

It hasn’t felt right to say ‘be carefree’ this week, though, so I’ve changed it a little bit. What I’ve wished over my family and friends is what I wish over you, as well: Be well. Every last one of you just be the wellest you can manage, okay?

(If you’ve seen good writing about the events in Ferguson, feel free to link it up in the comments, point the rest of us to it.)

 

Jett Superior laid this on you on || July 14, 2014 || 8:46 pm

Today I found out that my car is kaput. Even though I have plenty of jokes about this situation, I am vexed about it, I’m not gonna lie.

Still, though: A minute ago I caught sight of the date. It was a decade and a half ago this week that I started publishing dumb shit I think about –and things that beg my attentions and important stuff I dream for and links to good music or writing– to these here internets.

When I connected the date to its occasion, it made me think about all the ground I’ve covered (and the letters I’ve scattered across it in my wake!) between there and here. There have been some really, really bad days. I’ve had so many good ones, though, that it feels silly to spotlight the aggravation or upset. I’ve always survived, and at some point I always woke up to a different day that managed to be better than the one that sucked in a royal way.

Those days weren’t always concurrent, by the way. Still: Gratitude powers, activate.

Overall I’d have to say that this is an adequate summation of where my head’s at right now:

drop the t sm

Eye of the tiger, y’all.

 

Jett Superior laid this on you on || July 11, 2014 || 12:34 am

I was raised in a sphere wherein things like nosebleeds were dealt with matter-of-factly.

One time a guy told me he fell in love with me because I didn’t really bat an eye when he sprouted a nosebleed one afternoon. He was impressed that I didn’t panic and wasn’t embarrassed or grossed out. I just tended to him calmly and he was smitten, he said.

“I mean, I knew I wanted to bag you the first time I saw you,” he said, “but Nosebleed at the Mall dropped any negative odds in my book. ”

So that was one of the best and most terrible relationships of my life. I bought him a yellow shirt that day; it was the color of lemon chiffon and he’d never worn yellow before. He kept that shirt for 22 years, he told me. This was a revelation of gigantic proportions to me, coming as it was from someone so afraid of vulnerability.

He stole a snapshot of me and my then-boyfriend from my house three weeks later. He carted that around in his wallet the same amount of time, bobbing around on board ships, marching across deserts, comfortably embracing the role of stranger in a strange land.

“That’s weird,” I told him when I found out.
“I know! I cut him out of it and burned him.” He was proud of that.
“Oh, that one went up in flames, alright!” I said in response.
“One thing about you,” he said, “is that you’ve always had that quick mouth.”

It’s true. My mouth has a built-in quickness and my heart has a long memory. One or the other is always giving me trouble, I swear. Both of them have costs. Who gives a fuck about costs. They’re like nosebleeds: Transient and nothing to panic over.

Life is short, and what’s a little blood, anyway?

 

Jett Superior laid this on you on || June 1, 2014 || 3:39 pm

There is one picture of me in my Mother’s belly. She is in an aqua housedress, holding a casserole dish out in front of her –gripped with potholder hands– and beaming. “It was my first banana pudding,” she said to me one time as I was poring over the old pictures of me, them, us. My mother, willowy as a song (despite fat-cheeked me being lodged solidly in her middle), with those dancer’s legs and that sassmouthed smile, didn’t make her first banana pudding until she was twenty-two years old.

How amazing is that? If you’d tasted one of my Mother’s banana puddings, you would know what I’m talking about. That she’d only just learned to make nanner puddin’ a couple of months before I was born sounds like a lie, because her banana pudding tastes like decades of gooey-delicious pot-tending and nanner-slicing.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

There is one picture of me with Scout in my belly. I was wearing a coral swing top and crisp white stirrup pants. I daresay I looked cute. It takes a lot for me to like a photograph of myself. That one? That one I like wholeheartedly. I have a rag in my hand and I’m wiping a table after an ice cream social that I’d thrown for my weekly class of eleven three- and four-year old Sunday Schoolers. I’m beaming, too; I look happy in a way that jumps out of the frame and wraps itself around me.

I look good in coral. I hate it overall as a color, but I look really good in it. Such a challenge, to hate something that naturally suits you. Startling, innit, how you can be happy and shine that far outward even if you don’t like the color you’re wearing. Funnier still is how we buck against things that naturally suit us. Are we pretending they don’t? How much truth is in our distaste, and how much self-delusion?

Anyway, I’m smiling big in that photograph, having forgotten both myself and the camera. I like to think that each time we smile while we are pregnant, womenfolk, that we ensure a tiny measure of goodness in our developing child’s life. Banking joy to shore them up, you know? I believe that laughter and song before these babies of ours get here means that they will learn early on what these things are –learn the chemical feelgood of them– and seek them out for themselves.

That sounds like something I should have just told them, my three and all the strays that I’ve inadvertently mothered: “Run toward laughter, putti, surround yourself with song.” Hopefully I showed them enough that they didn’t need telling. Maybe I was enough measure of goodwill and spirited approach that some fancy emotional osmosis manifested itself.

I reckon now that I’ve had that epiphany, though, I could just tell my grandkids when they get here, make it easy on them. That is the value of grandparents: The good ones make it easy on you. I am going to try like hell to excel at the fine art of grandparenting. I am going to Grandparent Like Whoa, is what I’m saying. I had a couple of really shitty examples and a couple of really good examples by which to cast my measure of What It Takes To Be A Bang-Up Grand.

They were all dead by the time I was fourteen, but they are each indelibly drawn deep in my middle. There was Clem and Mary and Susie and William: Two carpenters, one martyr, and one saint, every one a legend (if only to me). I reckon I am the best and the worst of each and every one depending on the day and the lighting.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I wanted to be called Sugar. My whole family voted it down, and with extreme fucking prejudice.

What do they care what my grandkid calls me? It’s really between me and my grandkid. I don’t feel like a Nana or a Memaw or a Gramma or a Grandmother. I think it would be sensational and hilarious to have a three-year-old running around calling me ‘Sugar.’ Even better if it were accompanied by the same slight lisp that Scout had when she was stumbling around drunkenly in her toddler body.

So I’m not Sugar. I think that I will quietly teach all my future generations to call me The Best instead. How hysterical would that be?

But still: I wanted to be Sugar. I am going to hold this one against my ingrate family for a long time, maybe. Who are they to tell me who and what I am?

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I am learning to let things go. It feels weird. Stay tuned, I’ll likely tell you all about it at some point.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Okay, I was gonna hang onto this for a bit longer, because I am keeping it close and relishing it, but I remembered something that happened one afternoon and I am still real tickled by it, just like it was yesterday. Only, it wasn’t. It was on New Year’s Day.

In order to give you context for the story, I have to go like this:

babyannounce
:: Guys, guys! I’m going to be a grandmommy! ::

I’ll give you a minute, because I was reminded on Instagram lately that some of you have been around long enough to see my kids grow up, and in a very literal way.

…..
…..

You good now? You got your breathing steady again?

We –Maxim and me– got the news on Christmas Day, after brunch and just before Scout left out for her annual Christmas Afternoon Dinner with her father.

Just like a true Southern Belle: Don’t disrupt a brunch unless someone is bleeding real bad. Pumpkin Pancakes! Shrimp and grits! Hashbrown casserole with fancy, once-per-year, sausage and cheese.* Jett’s four peach bellinis (MERRY CHRISTMAAAAS!).

Plus, if we’re being totally honest here, she was playing it smart, that Scout. If things went downhill fast, she would be able to flee to her Father’s house while I was busy melting the paint off the walls with the steely ragelasers my eyeballs shot out.

She was terrified to say them, the words, so she put a smallish envelope in my hands and my heart flung itself into my sternum because the thing I was holding was neither thick nor heavy enough to be a card and I knew what was in there even as I touched it. Well I’ll be damned. How are we here already?

“I thought you were going to hit me,” she told me later about her reluctance to tell us. What a hard few weeks that must have been to be so sick and stay so quiet.

“Don’t be silly,” I laughed, “I’d NEVER hit a pregnant woman. I’m going to wait until the baby gets here and THEN I’ll beat the hell out of you.”

What I said that day, though, and what I mean to this day is, “Oh, Scouty, it doesn’t matter how it gets here; a baby is always a blessing.” She stepped into my arms then, and I squeezed her while kissing the top of her head.

So New Year’s Day, then: We were out in the big city getting Scout all registered up.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

She was there, the other grandmother, and we got to piddling around in the Christmas clearance. Scout had brought a friend and they were both equipped with scanners and excitedly lasering up the baby section. Eventually she texted me:
“Are you coming over here or what, woman?”
I put back the eleventy clearance stockings I had picked up, I grabbed Other Grandmother, and we went to squee over all the extraneous nonsense that American stockists deem necessary for optimal parenting these days.

(Please allow me to interject here that I think the Diaper Genie is the most ridiculous piece of baby-related detritus EVER in the history of EVER. Yes, I feel all-caps strong about that issue. I, who give not one single shit about what God you serve or what gender you feel up in backseats, will debate you for days and days over the stupidity of the Diaper Genie.)

I meandered behind Scout for a couple of aisles, then we reached the shelves where they keep the strollers elevated to eye level so’s you can remark on the awesomeness of the wheels or sommat. Scout creamed that aisle. She scanned various strollers and stroller/carseat combos, ranging in price from $24.99 to $289.99. I had perplexed face for about fourteen seconds and then disgusted face for about one second, and then I said to my daughter, “Hey. Pick the one you like best and go with that. Take the others off. That’s a bit much, don’t you think?”

“Mom!” Scout exclaimed, “I want people to have plenty to choose from, and also I don’t know what people can afford to spend.”

This drew me up short. Here I thought she was thinking only of herself with the excited wanton strollerscanning, but what she was actually doing was thinking of others, not wanting to limit them while she carefully selected five strollers.

It was an excellent reminder of the very real gap that often exists between the motivations of people and others’ interpretation of their actions. I nodded and told her that made sense to me.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Nova. You are a rosy incantation to me already. One time your mama asked if the moon could come home with us, since it was following the car so doggedly. I told her to ask that moon to hang around outside her bedroom if she wanted it to and she did. I love your mama so much that I’d let her have the company of the moon if she wanted it.

m-o-o-nspellslove
:: m-o-o-n spells love ::

You, Novapie? Well you don’t even have to bother asking: For you I’d lasso the moon before you even got here and contain it above your bed for your amusement, because I am now and always will be your Sugar, and you will always be my glimpse into tomorrow and my perspective changer.

We are going to be one fine dynamic duo.

*but still with a generic can of cream of mushroom soup to keep us hillbilly humble

 

Jett Superior laid this on you on || May 11, 2014 || 11:05 pm

I remember my Mother and her sisters gathering in my grandmother’s kitchen there in the house on Quarles Lane. They always teamed up when it came to food: They canned produce enough for the families of all nine kids or made sausage enough to freeze and last all year. They’d prepare meals for daylong parties where horseshoes would chime a pole the whole afternoon while the the smaller cousins ran around like tiny escaped mental patients, gorging on pie.

The kitchen was small, and each of the six women had a distinct job. The blue- and green-flecked formica table was always laden with a small mountain range of raw foodstuffs and an array of knives and bowls. My Mother and her family moved alongside and around one another with an unselfconscious grace born of repetition. Other than the hours spent dragging cotton sacks, these girls had been in their Mother’s kitchen the whole of their lives, watching this dance, learning it and their individual contributions to it.

They laughed and sweated (“Women do not sweat,” my Mother once told me, “They glisten.”) or they frowned and sweated, and –though I can’t be sure because they’d never let me in to listen– I’m pretty sure there was a bit of ‘polite’ discussion about the goings-on around town. The general air was that the food dictated their mood: When making up quarts and quarts of chowchow, there was laughter and the occasional song would up and bust out of someone.

Sausage, though: Sausage brought with it pursed lips or furrowed brows. (please insert joke about the laydehs of my family taking their sausage seriously, that’s what she said, whatever)

During these food prep marathons I and my (mostly male) cousins were banished to the yard, which usually resulted in some sort of physical contest like a game of football or slingshotting rocks at a series of targets: A tin can, a six-ounce glass Co-Cola bottle, a piece of cardboard with an ‘x’ of black electrical tape marking its center. One at a time and in no particular order each cousin would get called out and heckled by all the other ones. That was a brutal five or ten minutes for the victim, but it served to give us cast iron guts and ready retorts born of practice when someone out in The World would chance to try and torture us later. Those who groused or didn’t have the proper bearing under pressure got a double helping. Those who whined through the screen door at the Mommas got a double helping of the double helping, and sometimes were temporarily shunned.

We loved so hard. We played so hard. We were special and not every family had what we had: Six strong matriarchs to watch over each of us in turns, each seeing some way they could minister to us children.

This week I talked to someone I love very much. He chanced to be included in one of our family gatherings when we were both on the cusp of adulthood. “I’ve never had better food in my life,” he said, and that called up memories about the pride and the effort that went into every one of those dishes. It caused me to spend a couple of days remembering all the mothering I got; that mothering not only came from my mom, I got it from my aunts and even some of my older female cousins. I never wanted for hugs or laughter or even a decent buttwhipping if I was in need of one.

The prevalent feeling of my young childhood was one of being regarded and doted on and well-cared for.  The women in my family are crazy-good at regarding and doting and caring, and also telling you when you need to zip up your face and bring your ass-end back into line.

We would arrive home after those days of food ritual, spent and happy. Mother would hustle me into the tub and scrub my black-bottomed feet hard but wash my long sheet of blonde hair in a gentle manner, rinsing my head carefully while singing or talking to me. Later I’d climb into the bed, my lanky legs brown as a bean against my pale pink nightgown, and my Momma would be waiting there, long and willowy, to tuck me in. She’d lean in, kissing my forehead –my favorite of all the kisses in the world– and murmur or sing to me. I’d catch the subtle leavings of her shampoo, her most recent cigarette, and her Chanel mingling, and feel perfectly at peace while I slid off into sleep.

mumandbub

 

Jett Superior laid this on you on || February 17, 2014 || 11:52 pm

Just got off the phone with my father. That call didn’t just elicit a couple of emotional swings, it built a whole damn swingset.

Let’s focus on this one thing, though: I just got off the phone with my father. You know, the guy who two years ago was given a death sentence containing the words “small cell” and “inoperable.”

He’s still here.

Now let’s tease out one more detail from that call: He’s going to Guatemala on a mission trip. This leaves me stunned in about fourteen different ways.

ByGod, it occurs to me that I am still proud of this man. Not thoroughly; not even mostly. But in certain key, important ways that damn near make up for the lack. I call that a win.

“I hope you’re proud / to be my dad.”

Even a decade and a half of estrangement can’t kill certain things.

 

Jett Superior laid this on you on || February 3, 2014 || 3:47 pm

There is a pit deep in the chest of every addict.

While we are born with it –we honestly can’t help it, despite some jaded thoughts to the contrary– and don’t own the blame for that bit, we expand its depth and breadth with every pull off a bottle, with every push, pop or snort of something that checks us out of ourselves and into the quiet shade of oblivion, no matter how brief. That part we own. That part we grieve, because yes, we know we did that to ourselves. With our grief comes punishment.

Addicts are notorious self-punishers. We don’t need your help with that at all.

If you think for even one second that there is not immense guilt and shame for the alcoholic, for the junkie, for the spun-out and diseased and tired human being that seeks solace from an over-arching sense of awareness about the world, then you have bought into a very hurtful lie. Don’t look now, but carting around that lie (and worse, braying about it loudly) damages your credibility as a human.

It’s the same credibility that you brandish like a weapon when condemning the unrecovered, the seemingly unrepentant, the lost and disheveled mess of humanity that exists at times only to prop up a disease.

Yes, it absolutely is that dramatic. We tumble ass-over-teakettle, we get back up. We try not to tumble again. Some of us are better at balance than others. For some of us it’s not a matter of balance, but of leaning so far into recovery so as to create a hedge against stumbling in the first place. There are those of us whose arms are forever pinwheeling, whose habit it is to end up face-down and skinned up over and over again. If you are close enough to someone to be able to do so, watching the element of try in any of these situations is inspiring and terrifying and heartbreaking in turns.

It’s hard to convey with words, and even harder to experience. No, you don’t have to understand. What you do have to do is not make it worse.

If not making it worse means not remarking on things you don’t understand, then you need to fall silent until you do understand, are trying to understand, or your voice is called for. If you don’t understand and don’t want to understand, then at least be graceful enough to shut the fuck up.

Consider shutting the fuck up for this, if no other reason: You are taking a chunk out of someone in recovery every time you level snide remarks at and condemnation on someone who couldn’t get it half-assed together and keep it that way for any length of time. You can’t imagine the type of hypervigilance it takes to walk the line if you weren’t born with that pit in your chest. You simply can’t, no bones about it, and you don’t have a right to steal the dignity of someone’s sobriety.

The pit in my chest is big enough, thanks. As evidenced by my track record, I can furrow it deeper and wider (with great aplomb! verve! determination!) all on my own. I don’t need your kind of ‘help,’ judgmental jackasses of the world.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Philip Seymour Hoffman

This man was one of the greatest talents of Generation X.
I sure am sorry he’s gone.