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Archive for October, 2001

|| October 31, 2001 || 11:23 am || Comments (0) ||

A friend e-mailed this question to me yesterday:
“So, having kids, I’m wondering what your plan is for Halloween. I don’t know too many other people I can ask…how is all this world b.s. monkeying with your life, or more to the point, you kids’ lives?”

And I responded with:
“Funny you should ask, my little lovely….
I was hesitant to believe the kids when they stated that they weren’t allowed to wear costumes tomorrow, because sometimes they hear a snippet of detail and run with it…and it becomes a bigger tale as they run, you know? Kids being kids, and all…

“So I called the school and the secretary confirmed that they were in fact NOT supposed to wear costumes tomorrow. When I asked her why (they’ve done it for several years previously) she said, “Well, the state of the world being what it is, blahblahblah….” The long and short of it being that kids are yet again told to stop being kids too fucking soon. yadayadayeeyah, you know what I’m saying. I think that this is all being used an excuse to phase out the costume-wearing in general. *I* think we should KEEP the costume-wearing and say fuck all to the mandatory bags of candy sent to school for this and all other holidays, both real and presumed. Half the kids diagnosed as A.D.D. simply *aren’t*….they’re on a perpetual SUGAR HIGH.

“Can I get a fucking amen??

“As for post-education activities, I am squiring Harry Potter, a lovely girl-pirate and a Toy Story (with this insanely big head) alien about town to grab our requisite share of the empty-caloried haul while I sport glow glasses and an overblown sense of glee.”

|| October 30, 2001 || 9:48 pm || Comments (0) ||

And there we are, Scout and I, both lovers of Christmas And Most All Things Related, standing amongst the holiday trappings. Please form the gentle picture, dear readers, of mother and daughter oohing and aahing and fingering the finery and directing one anothers’ attention to yet another wonderful thing that has captured the magic….

Scout grows quiet as she reads the country of origin on several things that she admires.

“How can China make such pretty things and be so mean?” she sighs, and my gut clenches as I look into her amazing blue eyes. These moments of recognition and painful sudden acute awareness are the ones I would like to stave off, yet they are the ones that are so profound and I want to file them away immaculately in my mind so as to never forget….

|| October 30, 2001 || 11:16 am || Comments (0) ||

So, back to my own personal ‘Road To Damascus’ story, as I promised.

School had just broken for the year, we had just returned from our yearly family vacation to the beach and I was due to take Sam and Scout to my parents’ house in Memphis for their yearly two-week visit with my mom and dad. After an extended maternity leave with Mathias, we were pretty strapped for cash, so I took off without benefit of a credit card or checkbook for backup. I thought nothing of this little detail, as I’ve never really encountered an emergency while travelling and we would be near family anyway.

The road trip involved a ten-day timeline in which I would drive through Mississippi and Arkansas, staying a couple of days here and there with assorted aunts and uncles who hadn’t gotten to see the kids for awhile. The first few days passed uneventfully, but on the sixth or seventh day we awoke at my Aunt Trish’s house to find that Mathias had what appeared to be the first stages of pinkeye.

No sweat; I called the pediatrician back home and he quite promptly called in a scrip to Wal-Mart for some antibiotic eyedrops for the then 7-month-old baby.

After a couple of hours, my uncle Romey took the older two kids and their cousins swimming. I planned to take the baby with to Wal-mart, spend my last couple of bucks for stuff we needed on the road and the gas to get there, pick up the prescription and bring Mathias back home for lunch and a nap.

I filled the tank at the nearby filling station and walked into Wal-Mart. I stopped at the pharmacy first, and was kind of surprised to find that the medicine wasn’t ready, but they promised to have it within minutes, so I went to get juice and fruit and a couple of other things with my remaining eight dollars. I checked out then entered the pharmacy, which was situated right in front of the checkouts. The eyedrops had been dispensed and I pleasantly handed over Mathias’ insurance card, expecting to be on my way in a couple of minutes.

The elfin older woman studied the card, clucked her tongue and then asked me to wait a moment. I nodded my agreement, smiling affably as she took the card to the portly, white-haired and -bearded pharmacist who bore an uncanny resemblance to Colonel Sanders (only he had bushier hair than our chicken magnate). They conferred for a moment, and the woman brought the card back to me, saying that they could not accept the insurance and it would be 12 dollars. Not panicking and not wanting to raise a fuss or cause a scene, I quietly explained that I was 6 hours from home, had just spent every penny I possessed and had no alternate form of payment. Even if I were to return the items that I had just bought, I would still be four dollars short. When I pressed for an explanation as to why the pharmacist nixed the card I had, I was told that the insurance was too difficult to collect from. I asked the lady behind the counter to tell the pharmacist that I would like to speak with him for a moment, and when she returned, she told me that he was simply to busy to break away.

There were three other women that were working there and they began to watch what was unfolding with a keen, dispassionate interest. I asked Elfin Lady nicely if she could possibly explain my current predicament to Mr. Pharmacist and she asked me to wait a moment.

The man did not even deign to look at me, look at my precious round-headed child before he emphatically shook his head no. I asked one of the other ladies to inquire about billing me in some fashion, pulling out my driver’s license and social security card, but that was met with a negative response, as well.

It is a very, very repulsive feeling to know that your child needs something, really needs it, and you cannot provide. My despair was shifting to biting anger at the fact that the man, who would not even acknowledge my presence, was being so petty over twelve dollars. Twelve dollars that could, quite literally, affect my young son’s eyesight. My tendency to get unruly in such situations didn’t surface this time, perhaps because at the crux of this particular situation was the sweet-faced little roundheaded thing that sat in the grocery cart, playing with my keys. I turned to leave, then headed back into the store to find the manager.

I briskly explained my need for the store manager, not going overmuch into the details, to the head cashier, who set about finding the manager for me. I was approached some 10 minutes later by a tall, athletic-looking gentleman with a kind face. We shook hands, I identified myself and told him that I was in need of his assistance in this matter. I gave him my I.D. and the insurance card and he went away to the pharmacy to see what he could do. This being a weekday, the store wasn’t really busy and my story had apparently made the rounds through the employee chain quite briskly.

A slim, pretty black cashier who was nearby said, “Don’t you worry, honey, he’s a good man. This is gone get taken care of.” With this admonition, I was surprised by his admission that his hands were tied when he returned. He was called away momentarily and asked that I wait until he came back.

When he approached me again, it was with a tender smile, and he told me that the store operator, who was getting off of work and picking up her own prescriptions, had heard about my predicament and wished to pay for my son’s eyedrops. The store manager led me back over to the pharmacy in order to meet Frances, my angel of mercy. I followed meekly, as I was accustomed to being the giver and not the recipient.

When he approached a lovely older black woman and she turned, he said, “Frances, this is the young lady. Elizabeth, this is Frances _________.”

Oh God, how stoic I usually am. Seeing this black lady with her look of tenderness toward me amidst the sea of white faces observing the scene, white faces that hadn’t given two fucks about my baby’s need of medication, suddenly tore at me and I welled over. As the tears began to pour, I moved toward her and she enveloped me in a hug as I croaked out a thank you. I just kept saying thank you, and somewhere in there I offered up an apology. She patted me and looked into my eyes and smiled broadly. Then she turned away and said, “How much, May?” to Elfin Lady, who gave her the total of her prescriptions and mine. All the while, I looked at the floor, my thoughts careening around my brain and crashing into one another, as I bit back huge sobs.

She led me out of the pharmacy toward the doors before handing me the scrip, and she embraced me again while I cried quietly but freely. She didn’t know that I was crying so fiercely because I never, ever expected to be aided by a person of color. She didn’t know I was crying because she had crushed a lifetime of closet bigot training with one small twelve-dollar deed of kindness. She didn’t know I was crying from shame, not at having been assisted in my time of need, but at the fact that I had used the word ‘nigger’ so freely and copiously throughout my life in regards to black people. nigger, Nigger, NIGGER….what a horrible and ugly word I view it as now, because of the context that my entire life had framed it in.

“Honey, don’t cry,” she said to me, pulling away. “I have four grown daughters, three of whom live way off. I’d like to know that if they or my grandbabies are ever in need, someone would help them. So you see, you are my daughter today.” And I wanted to tell her. I wanted to tell her so badly that I had been this ugly person for so long and she had single-handedly shifted my perception, but the sobs kept pushing back the words and I couldn’t form them properly. I tried and tried. As I calmed, we took our leave and she grasped my hand warmly in both of hers. After she turned to go, I felt the money that remained in my hand and stupidly looked down with understanding dawning…

“Hey, Mrs. Frances, no….” She waved me off, not turning. “Take those other two out for a hamburger!”

In my hand was fifty dollars. A hamburger, Frances? I began to protest again, but then recalled the words my mother had spoken to me when I was much younger and very pampered.

To deprive someone of the ability to give a gift, Beth, to be a poor recipient, is as big a sin as not being a giver yourself.” I closed my mouth and tears continued to roll down my face. As a matter of fact, they mapped a river down my cheeks the whole way back to my aunt’s house.

When I arrived, Trish asked me what was wrong and I relayed the tale. She asked in the midst of it why I hadn’t called her and that question dumbfounded me, the cheerleader for common sense. I couldn’t answer her. Uh, too simple, maybe? Or maybe I wasn’t supposed to call her and that’s why it never occurred to me, as it normally would have.

Going on to finish the story, I ticked off the names of two of the women behind the counter who were friends of our family. (“Ooooh, don’t think that I won’t have a few choice words for that bitch the next time I see her at the [country] club!!” Aunt Trish fumed)

“I know they didn’t recognize me, they haven’t seen me since elementary school, but still,” I emphatically said, “all those white people and none made a move to understand or to work with me….and a black lady did….”

I come from a family that is well-connected in their community, aunts and uncles alike are respected, comfortably-situated business owners and community leaders. I am a pseudo-daughter to most all of them, as they have male children.

My aunt immediately sat down and penned a letter which was sent to Wal-Mart’s corporate offices, Frances’ district manager and her store manager. My cousin, an editor for the local paper, published a full page that copied the letter’s contents and proclaimed in large type, “FRANCES, YOU ARE AN ANGEL. THANK YOU FOR CARING.” Frances gets free gas once a month, courtesy of my uncle, who owns several stations in the area. She receives flowers once a month from my aunt, who is the local powerhouse florist. My caterer aunt periodically sends her free lunch coupons and delivers a free cake to Frances on her birthday each year (which has been a couple, now). Free drycleaning from another uncle. These aunts and uncles were have-nots coming up, so as well as being givers themselves, they have an immense appreciation for those that quietly fill a perceived need.

I want to say that dropping my blinders is my payback to Frances, but it was really her gift to me. All told, not a bad return on a compassionate, respectful $62.00 investment, wouldn’t you say?

|| October 29, 2001 || 12:38 am || Comments (0) ||

You ever play a gig where you do three songs, break for a couple wrestling matches, do three more songs, break for a couple more wrestling matches, and to throw the crowd off do a nifty little ditty DURING a ‘wrassler’s’ intro, entrance and part of the match?

No?? Okay, then, it is just me. And to all you aspiring musicians out there….I’d say that you should pass on anything remotely resembling last night’s Slam’n'Jam….*sigh*

So after we broke and posse’d up in the purty little Saturncar, Maxim and I headed further into Birmingham to eat, drink, be merry and drink some more. After a couple of hours lingering over nine-layer black bean dip and countless pints of microbrewwwww, Maxim declared,

“My face is numb. We ought to head home.”

I agreed, and we travelled the six blocks to our car, laughing foolishly and unencumbered.

An hour later, closer to home, we stopped for milkshakes at a late diner. On the way up the mountain Maxim was in the midst of one of his radio-ADD surfing fits when I heard the familiar strains of “Fat Bottom Girls” begin. I jacked the volume knob around to the right and let out a whoop worthy of a redneck mating call.


I cried, and Maxim looked puzzled.


“Fat Bottom Girls!” I exclaimed gleefully,”You mean you don’t recognize this song?”

“Monkey, I have never even heard of this song….”

Before you even say a word, I’ll see your amazement and just raise you one big DAMN, I KNOW, and tell you I felt much the same way as you do now upon finding out that he had no earthly idea who Styx was. I immediately made him sit down and listen to the ‘Paradise Theater‘ album in its’ entirity. Also included in the tutorial were ‘The Grand Illusion’ and ‘Pieces of Eight’. I’m a great partner like that.

So anyhow, I beseeched him to just listen as I cackled wildly. About half a verse in, he said, “Waittadamnminute….is this Queen??” I nodded vigorously, baring all manner of happyteeth, and he moaned, “I haaaaaate Queen!

“Just listen, whinerpants! This song is a HOOT!” And I commenced car-dancing and loudly accompanying Mr. Mercury as his back up vocalist, and eventually Maxim did actually seem to be enjoying the song. He especially liked the bit where I powered open the sunroof just in time for the bridge/change where lovely Freddy shouts out “Get on yer ______ and riiide!”. At that precise moment, I was torso-out, arms flung wide, singing to the Appalachian chain while shakin’ my booty in his face. Too much merriment.

Lucky me, ’twas a two-song set, and ‘Another One Bites The Dust‘ was up next, bringing back a fond childhood memory.

When I was a kid, we had music class every fucking day. Tuesdays were ‘Music Share’ days, which was the musical equivalent of show and tell. You got to bring in your own music on LP and the class would give it a spin. Apparently our musical minds were expanded via this sharing of aural tastes and textures. Okay.

Well, one Saturday morning I had decided that if I heard another lame 45 of do-si-do, nursery rhyme horseshit, I would lose my everlovin’ third-grade mind. I gathered my change, plunked down something like $0.37 plus tax and secured myself a little ole Queen single. I bore that bad boy carefully to school on Tuesday morning and EAGERLY awaited third period. When the call for fresh music went out, my hand shot up eagerly and I sat stiff as a board while Ms. Clary’s eyes crawled the risers for a worthy candidate.

You should know a few things about Ms. Clary. First of all, she was the first person I had ever known in my freakin’ life to use the prefix Ms. in front of her name. This kind of threw me for a loop, especially given the fact that she was married with a small child and a teacher, nonetheless. She looked like a china doll with her porcelain-hued, flawless skin, piercing blue eyes, dark tawny-colored lips and thick mane of pale strawberry blond. She was a beauty of the highest order, but holy fuck, was she ever a stone princess. She was very conservative and demanded the highest regard when teaching us the theories and intricacies of music. ( I must note that although we clashed MUCH, I really owe her for sweeping me –fighting– under her wing and instructing me, free of charge, in the music disciplines….I learned much about technique and presence from her. I can still hear her beating on the music stand, shouting, “Give…me…FACE, Elizabeth! I NEED MORE EMOTION FROM YOU!!!”) She was a hardass and a bible thumper.

One of the priveleges of being picked was being allowed to run the stereo as your music played. Clary sat most of this Tuesday class hour behind her desk, observing. On this fated Tuesday, I was miraculously chosen from the masses to bring forth my offering. I clutched the wax-covered paper jacket closely to me, fearing that I would be found out before even one bar, nay–one beat could escape the speakers.

The little black record came out of its’ paper sleeve with a whisper, and I felt positively electric. I seated it on the turntable, pulling in my breath and I waited for their cumulative reaction. Oh, for JOY!

Two or three other kids had older siblings or hip parents and they expressed their happiness with my choice and dismounted the risers to dance (an accepted practice on Tuesdays). There we were, a knot of happy little third-graders, bebopping away Peanuts-style to the raunchy strains of Queen and loving every minute of it. The more reserved of our minions attempted to hold back, but by the last verse they were up tooling around the room as well.

And much to my closet amazement, Ms. Clary didn’t pull the plug on Mercury, May & Co. I got to play that song FOUR times by popular demand and I’d bet my kneebritches that if a vote was taken, that particular Tuesday would rate as number one on everybody’s list of Music Share days.

|| October 25, 2001 || 10:49 am || Comments (0) ||

LOOKY! A nativity scene for atheists!:

I swear, that e-bay proffers up some funny shit.

|| October 25, 2001 || 1:06 am || Comments (0) ||

Unx just informed me that he’s vacationing in Hawaii. I am not one whit jealous. I hated it when I lived there (trust me, living on Oahu suuuuuucks, especially if you like to drive more than 15 MPH and for more than 45 minutes at a time without running into a rather largish body of water).

Plus, I’m going to Meh-Hee-Ko (Hawaiian for Mexico, ar-ar) in March, oh yeah.

|| October 25, 2001 || 12:55 am || Comments (0) ||

There is this very phallic-looking hunk of wax hanging down from the lip of my pretty glass candlestick.

Err…stalagmite or stalactite? DAMMIT! I can never remember which is which!