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Posts Tagged ‘mayhemian pursuits’

 
|| July 29, 2012 || 10:30 pm || Comments (13) ||

I want to try something. It’s only going to work if you take off your Mittens of Writerly Silence and hit the keyboard running. Like, several of you. Let’s arbitrarily pick a sport with which to illustrate what I’m doing here. Fuck that, that’s a dumb idea; I’ll just explain.

I’m going to set you up with a pretty cool sentence. This sentence is a beginning, and it is a prompt. But –unlike other writing prompts people tend to put on the internet– it’s only for one person. That person is the one who gets there first to write the next line in the narrative. That next line? It’s also a prompt for one person only. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Comments will have more meat than the post….not like that hasn’t ever happened before around here, and let’s be truthful: I miss that, I miss that thing where the comments take on a form and flavor and generate this community content that I’ve not had an active hand in molding.

So maybe eighty of you will comment, and maybe none of you will. We’ll see when I hit publish, I reckon.

Of note is the fact that if you’re a new commenter here or are commenting from a new location then your first comment will be held in queue. I’ll try to clear comments as quickly as possible on my end, and try to keep the train on the rails. Feel free to have more than one go at it, too; the only thing I ask is that you give at least three other people a chance to jump into the volley between each of your entries.

If you are unsteady and nerved up at first then just pick a pen name, no sweat. I won’t rat you out and the only thing that I ask is that you don’t try to derail the story or the other contributors; be at least somewhat mindful of story flow.

Here we go.

(hopefully we’ll all get to a place where I can just title the thing next line please, two or eleventy or whatever and post a sentence for you to hop on)

*AIRHORN!*

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

“I gave you my fingerprints,” she had written, “because I thought they might come in handy. You know, someday.”

About four years ago I set out on a mission to get rid of every ugly coffee mug we own. Well, if they were the right shade of ugly (you know, like ugly-interesting) they could stay. If they were just sheerly ugly-ugly, they had to go, sport. Shut up, this is my logic and you maybe just need to take your opinions and/or household management style over to your OWN voyeurnal that you have carefully cultivated in literary mediocrity for fourteen years day before yesterday*), holla.

So, in short, I fucking failed. Failed!

This is because I have a husband who actually smuggles horrid mugs out of the donation box I’ve packed, lets them ride around in his car for a couple of months until he thinks I won’t notice, and then sneaks the dang things back into my cabinets. Please insert four years’-worth of manic mug-related cycling here.

Let’s address the inevitable FAQs here so that the comments aren’t cluttered with them:

READER: Jett. You’re showing marked restraint. Why don’t you just smash them and have done with it?
JETT: ……

READER: Why don’t you just take them to the thrift yourself?
JETT: a) THIS MARRIAGE IS A PARTNERSHIP and I’ve already done the hard part, which consists of bitching and putting some shit into a box and placing said box into my husband’s car, and b) I didn’t bring those fuckers into this joint and I shouldn’t have to wag them out of it.

A couple-three years back I made the very conscious decision to actively seek out mugs I deemed as cool and fold them into our cabinet, so that my eye would be drawn to something besides the annoying mugs and so that I would be More Overjoyed At Mundane Things In General.  I think this hunt, too, was triggered by the fact that the Chieftans mug that I’d won in a music store design contest had gone a-wanderin’. People, –so help me God– I love cash, but I loved that mug more that the prize money that accompanied it.

(aside: As I was typing, I remembered how when my insanely cool Chieftans mug disappeared I practically put that thing on the side of a milk carton because I missed it so badly, and then I thought I had let it go and made peace with it except that now I’m mad at Maxim because I know damn well he carted it off somewhere and lost it because that’s what he does with my awesome things that he ‘borrows’ in an ‘I don’t have permission but maybe it will be worth the rage?’ fashion. In fact, I just stopped typing for a minute to glare at him one more time and say, “Maxim. Whatever happened to my fabulous Chieftains mug that you disappeared AND YOU BETTER NOT EVEN PLAY DUMB ABOUT IT BECAUSE I’M WRITING MYSELF INTO A LATHER AGAIN.” The case is still cold. Maxim better do the rest of this day correctly because CHIEFTANS MUG.

The case is still cold, I said.)

Okay. So I started snagging mugs I deem cool. With every one I found, I made a polite-but-firm announcement:

“Family? Family. This is mommy’s new mug and she superfuckingduper likes it, please use one of the other eleventy-gazillion mugs in the cabinet instead of this one. Please. Please?”

And to date, I’ve bought five such irresistible mugs because their design or size charmed me. Also to date, each one of them has come up profoundly broken (bye, handle, you were so useful while we knew ye) or just plain ole chipped. Apparently the hideous mugs envied my affections for the Chosen Mugs, because they ended up mysteriously beaten up with no one –NOT A SINGLE SOUL– in my family having an active knowledge of how these chips and breaks were occurring. The ugly mugs are staging big rumbles when the cabinet doors are closed, is what I’m saying.

That’s not crazy at all, right? I mean, my family would tell me if they’re guilty of destroying my property, right?

There is only one thing I’m really concerned about figuring out, though: Are the Chosen Mugs getting chipped because they are the most-used and loved, or because of the fact that they are mine and mine is the only shit around here that ever gets broken (and not by me, is what I’m saying)? Hmmm, Muffinasses, just hmmmm.

I even bought a control mug with which to perform an experiment. I did the requisite announcement and mild fawning about how much I really dug this Monopoly mug that I’d picked up on thrift for seventy-nine cents. Only, my family didn’t know that I’d only spent seventy-nine cents. I left that part out. My logic is that the less I pay for it, the less of a magnet a coffee mug is going to be. I pulled the mug out of the cabinet once, twice, three times. It was on my fourth reach for it that I saw this:

chipped

AH-HA! Also, motherfucker. But mostly AH-HA!

….but not really, I realized, because there is no real way to sort the result into one of the two named categories. But still: These things are mine and these things end up broken.

One day I was out Spejunkin’ (spelunking for junk=Spejunkin’, in case you don’t follow me on Twitter**) and I came across a fifties stoneware mug. It was putty-colored and sported the name ‘George’ across it in this awesome, delft blue vintage script. George’s mug had gotten away from him through death or a change in tastes (kind of the same, really, when you consider that nineteen-eighties coke-loving me thought that black lacquer furniture was the very pinnacle of style and also taste, my hand to God) had ended up at the thrift for thirty-nine cents.

I immediately had a lightbulb moment. I would start collecting vintage mugs with the names of other people on them. There were only two rules to start: 1) Mugs carrying the names of people in my immediate family could not be collected, and 2) I have to find the mugs myself or be along for the ride when they are found; they cannot be purchased for me as a gift. Since then, I have added two more rules: 3) Tackiness is very much desirable but a mug cannot be terrible, horrible, no good or very bad. I know what these things are when I see them but not until then. 4) The mugs, no matter how old, have to be in like-new condition. BONUS POINTS: An obscure/unusual name, for example:

elfriede

There is a quiet brilliance behind my Collecting Other People’s Mugs project: I will gather these particular things to me because I won’t give a real shit about a mug if it’s actually someone else’s in theory, right? Riiiiiight. You can’t see me, but I am winking both conspiratorially and sarcastically at you and that’s called ‘foreshadowing’.

Plus there is the bonus benefit that I hadn’t anticipated: The name mugs are actually actively repelling my family through a clever combination of being significantly smaller than contemporary mugs and the fact that they have someone else’s name on them, thereby subconsciously casting blame when pulled out of the cabinet. The sad part is that these same exact factors have caused me not use them, as well, but yet I still look every time I go Spejunkin’. Because thirty-nine to fifty-nine cents, usually, that’s why….and sometimes even a quarter. A quarter!

I may also be a little addicted to this goofy-harmless activity, as well.

I’ve found about five so far, but my favorite is this one:

inez

I expect at some point I will fuck up and let someone within these four walls know that it’s my favorite. I am here to tell you, spirited reader, whosoever breaketh ‘Inez’ will be forced to move the fuck out of the house and only visit on Christmas and maybe the nights when I cook too much spaghetti and need to get it gone. If it turns out to be Maxim, then he can visit to satisfy conjugal interests.

Mine, not his. Of course. Are you thick or something?

UPDATE: I was going to include a picture of ‘George’ in this post, since it was the trailblazer in this accidental project. George is absolutely nowhere to be found and the family, upon cursory questioning, has no earthly idea what I’m talking about. But! George is the only name-mug that I announced with a flourish when I brought it home; I gloated over it while explaining my brilliance in this new and challenging (but cheap! oh so cheap!) undertaking.

I AM OFF TO STAGE AN INQUISITION ABOUT THE WHEREABOUTS OF GEORGE.

*some of whose archives are like playing dodgeball with horrible writing as the projectiles, forewarned
**
if you don’t, then I totally forgive you, go with God and such

 
|| May 4, 2012 || 4:19 am || Comments (6) ||

Hello there, you—

So I set a fire.

That’s what you do in middle Missouri, it seems. You make a careful pile somewhere out in the back forty (‘back forty’ in this instance means ‘the pavers stacked together with military exactitude until a burn ring was formed there’) and when you can stand it no longer, you burn that pile. You’re supposed to have a burn permit. That’s what my father told me the last time I was here, anyway.

And because there was a sizable pile of thick honeysuckle vines, newspaper, and potentially-funky boxes (potentially funky because I’d gotten them out of a man’s warehouse and said warehouse was neither clean nor orderly nor without pests-slash-vermin), because I have a healthy sense of don’t-give-a-fuck, I did it without an official burn permit*. Probably it had something to do with the full moon, as well, don’t you think? A full moon and some sketchy, shifty-looking sort of clouds beg a fire.

See, one thing I’ve always been good at is arranging a pile of things so that they are combustion-friendly. I’ve never had any trouble, overmuch, getting a blaze to form up where there was none before.  I can make the kind of fire that melts your face if you dare turn toward it and I can make the kind of fire that you can cook a meal by and I can make the kind of fire that burns low and steady and, for the most part, is still there waiting to be stirred up the next morning when you rise, head beer-fuzzy and mouth dull with the aftertaste of marshmallows blazed to a non-sticky crisp over and over again.

I took myself and my black Bic up to the deck and leaned across the railing as the thing caught good, flames pushing back night, spinning and falling and tumbling into and over themselves. Flames! You are so rowdy! How can man not love you, you remarkable things? Fire, you are triumph itself!

The smoke was dense and sweet, and because I sometimes have an overactive imagination I wondered if some great mystery would be revealed to me if I stood in the middle of it as it billowed past.

Honeysuckle smoke is a new one on me, let me tell you. It was a happy accident borne of my father’s diligence. Because of the radiation he is taking into his brain and his chest, he is limited in what his body will allow him to do anymore. Even when the cancer had him near-dead, he was still able to do just about damn near anything he wanted. It infuriates him in his low, quiet way that the thing that is making him well (supposedly. all it’s really doing is prolonging his life, and nobody has any illusions about this bit of business, even though we don’t talk about it with him) is stripping him of his no-holds-barred go at life. He tries to do physically demanding things and, aggravated, resigns himself to the sofa with his Kindle, reading book after book set in Africa. When he tires even of reading he boots up his iPad and watches videos of African men dancing, shouting, celebrating, fierce. He is quiet and reverent as he does so.

I have no earthly idea why, in his cancer-soaked retirement, Africa calls to him, but it does. I hope he will treat himself and go there when he gets his strength back from the chemo and the radiation and the forced-march cadence of Being A Cancer Patient.

So yeah, diligence: He can only do one or two things on the days that he can can stay vertical for very long, and those things are usually very manly things like scrambling around a roof or hauling brick. He won’t quit and I don’t tell him to.

His energy was sorely lacking last week and so he attacked the overgrown honeysuckle ferociously and without prejudice. Out of his frustration, then, grew my full-moon discovery that a honeysuckle fire gives off a gently sweet smoke.  It is so strange, sometimes, how we make our way toward knowledge.

I do part of my work on the internets. The internets are a swamp of distraction (maybe you know this already). HOWEVER! This evening I found myself watching a video wherein Ms. Natalie Portman and Mr. Johnny Depp were signing –yes, S-I-G-N-ing, not S-I-N-G-ing—along to a song by one Sir Paul McCartney, the Most Ancient High Beatleperson. I was captivated by the complete dissimilarities between said Ms. and Mr., by the swooping and precise way in which she executed the American Sign Language to convey the words to this song versus the very grandiose and looser way that he undertook the same task.

Though I was leaning heavily toward making Ms. Portman my favorite in that instance, it was Mr. Depp (with woefully puffy face and sternly exhausted countenance, poor Johnny) who won out and it was because he made me take more careful notice of the way that the word ‘valentine’ was executed.

And here, now, three hours past the sweetness of honeysuckle smoke , as I pen this in order to get it in the post in a handful of hours, I find it intensely interesting to note that the sign for ‘valentine’ looks for all the world as if a bomb were being detonated just before tracing the heart.

Over and over my heart has been detonated. I guess this is how I’d assure a complete stranger such as yourself that I’ve had a good life thus far, an intensely satisfying life. In matters of faith, of art, of love, of politics, of travel and taking meals and having conversations, my heart has been detonated. Some explosions have been messier than others, of course.

But you know that: You have a heart, too.

I hope this finds you well, warm, and happy.

Blessings,
Jett

*oooh, Rebel Rebel, we’re afraid-a yoooou, making a FIRE in a RING after a two-day RAIN. Risk taker!

pee ess….not long ago I found a box full of vintage writing papers for a dollar. A DOLLAR! Such a great find.

 
|| March 26, 2012 || 4:29 pm || Comments (4) ||

I have read your words a thousand times / All inspired by smashed up love and crime

// Tired Pony, ‘Dead American Writers’

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

1) Hello.
2) It’s time again for Doo-Nanny. HELLS YEAH SON.
3) A Canadian is downstairs. The internet intersects with life and it works.
4) I got nominated for Voices of the Year. You can see the piece and vote here, if you so desire.
5) Things are happening. This year aims to be triumph and tragedy hammered together in a manner that might leave everyone wondering which is which. For some reason, I am grinning out of one side of my mouth at the notion of this. Adventure. The first-quarter prediction is that 2012 has a whiff of adventure about it.
6) I know so many amazing people, I swear to God.
7) Over the next few days I’ll be driving around Hellabama in a gold GMC pickup. Wave and holler if you see me; we  can clink beers and grin for a little bit.

Today I feel like ‘amen’ is being breathed all over me, if that makes any sense. I hope you have a day like this soon.

First of all, TACKY PACK™! It’s been a while, so I’m giving away a TACKY PACK™!! Let’s talk about something else for a minute, first.

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

I was twelve, the same age my own son is now. That would have made my mother thirty-four.

I was across the hall in my bedroom when I heard a cry. The tiny half-bath off my mother’s bedroom backed up against the wall of my room and that was where the sound of  distress had come from. I quickly abandoned what I was doing and shot across the hall into Mom’s room, calling to her.

“Mom? Momma? Are you okay?” She rounded the doorway, palm outstretched, crying hard, so hard, her face a contorted thing I’d never seen before. I had rarely seen her cry before then; I had never seen her upset in this fashion. Disappointment and rage and despair collided in her face and I asked,  ”What’s wrong?” in alarm.

She pulled her lips back in an illustrative grimace. I hadn’t noticed that in her outstretched palm lie large chunks of teeth….two, to be exact. “What happened?” Most of a front tooth and one incisor were broken off sharply. I had never seen anyone’s teeth in such a state before.

“I was brushing my teeth,” she began falling apart in earnest then,”I was just brushing them and they broke.” Anger and anguish and now her fist was clenched around them and I remember thinking that she looked so pretty in that blouse, the one with the wide white bow at the neck. And then I took note of her arms. I hadn’t noticed until then how thin they’d grown.

We had no money and she was working nineteen-hour days and giving all of what precious little food there was in the house to us girls.

Beautiful Gwendolyn, thirty-four years of age, woke up one morning after four or five hours of sleep to get ready for work and her teeth broke off because she was malnourished.

We lived in a middle-class neighborhood in a town where most everyone was comfortable financially, smack dab in the middle of America. My sister and I were hungry every day. My mother was literally starving. Had it not been for the one square, hot meal that we got each day at school through a rural subsidy program, my sister and I would have been as well.

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

The other day I was on Twitter, and I happened to catch a few tweets that Megan was throwing out there. She’d run across some information on Feeding America in Real Simple magazine (yay! one of my personal favorites) and was blown away by some of the numbers. She was tweeting in earnest on behalf of Feeding America, and there was real spirit in what she was saying, so I sent her a message privately.

See, I’ve worked with hunger-related causes for a while; in fact, I supported Feeding America back when they were still known as Second Harvest. I remember the bite of hunger. I don’t want a kid –my kid, your kid, ANY kid– to feel the way I felt, to have to ration a half-loaf of bread over the span of a week, to worry if there will be more bread once that bit of it is gone.

Now that I’m a mother, I am horrified by the choices my mother had to make and the toll that they took on her emotional and physical health. I know that I would likely make those same choices: “My kids get what we have. If there is provision for me after, fine.” NO parent should have to make those choices, most especially not in this country, where there is such wealth and privilege and abundance, where we have the luxury of so much food that it goes to waste in a myriad of ways.

And so, back to Megan, who was just so lit completely up at  the fact that one American dollar can buy eight American meals for a family. Or one meal for eight families. You get the picture. Then Megan got excited, thinking about possibilities:

could you imagine?

…and then we put our noggins together and decided that we would like to partner up and donate five dollars each. So each of us did. Then we decided we’d challenge you,  our readers and followers, to step up and match us from Thanksgiving Day, when we are all so festive and full, through this Sunday:  Take an eensy five of your dollars and make provision for FORTY meals across the U.S. alongside the two of us.

THEN! Then, because we are excitable, bribey things, we decided that if you were to do something so great as to make provision for forty meals across the U.S. with your five dollars, then we would each host a giveaway on our sites where you could tell us you gave up your five or fifty or five-hundred of dollars and we would give you a chance at prizes. Hell, we’ve even asked a few of our nears and dears to do the same. In short: IT IS THANKSGIVING WEEKEND AND THERE ARE PRIZES. Just pretend the Universe is rewarding you for not smarting up that one know-it-all Uncle for once in your impatient life.

Cue the trumpets, because here is where I tell you that each five dollar donation you make to Feeding America today through Sunday makes you eligible for a drawing. “The prize, Our Most Esteemed and Beloved Jett, what might it be?” you ask. Well. Please roll some drums and blat some airhorns, because I know what a fondness all of you oldskoo Muffinasses have for that holy grail of Cyberia, the TACKY PACK™. If you are somewhat newskoo and don’t know what the heydiddlydoodah a TACKY PACK™ is, then I will quote myownself from an eensy giveaway of one or two I did last year:

The TACKY PACK™ is essentially a melange of great goodness and übercool radness. I don’t have to suck any corporate dick to bring it to you, and there is no ulterior motive save for the fact that I’m getting my jollies by giving a (many-partsed, multi-faceted) gift to somebody. There used to be a page devoted to telling you how great the TACKY PACK™ is in all its random iterations, but it’s long gone. You’re just gonna have to take my word for it and know that present-giving is one of my strengths. I think it’s the one meant to balance my propensity toward addictive behaviors, but I can’t say that with complete surety.

The retail value isn’t really any of your business, but I’ll tell it to you anyway, just so you know that I’m not a cheapskatey so-and-so: Low end it usually runs fifty bucks. High end it usually runs about a hundred. There might be any number of limited edition somethings, alcohol somethings, odd food somethings, stupidly cool somethings stuffed into a supafly apparatus  of Holding Awesome Shit In A Cohesive Bundle (this one will have a robot on it, because robots are very Thanksgiving-y). I quit sending pharmaceuticals in 2002, so don’t even ask, you big silly.

File this under Things I Shouldn’t Have To Say But Am Going To Anyway: Now, don’t be all cheaty and go using one donation on more than one site. Each five dollars earns a name in the hat, okay? We’re going to take you at your word: Make your donation to Feeding America, drop me a comment telling me how many entries I owe you, and I’ll announce a winner next Wednesday, 30 November. My own personal caveat is that I cannot ship outside of the U.S. I’m sorry, guys, it’s just too cost-prohibitive for me just now.

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

In closing, here are the ways you can help, if you’re so inclined:
+ If you want to also blog about Feeding America and how people can donate, awesome.
+ If you want to do a giveaway on your blog to encourage people to donate, rad. Megan has a widget on her own giveaway post so that you can join our links list and help people find your post.
+ If you want to follow along on Teh Twitters, #giveameal is @FeedingAmerica’s hashtag, and the one we plan to use. If you’re inclined to tweet about what we’re doing (or retweet our Twitter content through Sunday), we would appreciate it.
* If you want to donate and enter our giveaways, by all means do so. More! Merrier!
* If you know of others who might want to also participate on their own blogs, please pass this on.

I’m gonna be around on Twitter today (my whole-fambly festivities are tomorrow!) dropping some links to other posts, some facts on hunger, and trying to raise some awareness on behalf of Feeding America. Megan will be doing the same. When you get sick of your extended family, drop in and give a shout. We both have ridiculously low inhibitions and lots of wine. Holla!

!UPDATE!: I just found out that all donations made today, Thanksgiving Day, will be matched dollar for dang dollar. GO TEAM!

I have an elaborate plan and I am not even kidding about this shit. What’s that? You say that you’re dying to take part in it? Well edge in closer, buddy, and I’ll preach a little.

ELABORATE PLAN, PART ONE:
Acquire the following items:
+handful of small bills
+some safety glasses
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART ONE: Please make every attempt to acquire these things legally. It would be stupid as shit to get arrested for swiping plastic glasses and/or five bucks in ones, der.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART TWO:
Place these items into your handbag or backpack or poncho or whatever the hell thing it is you use to wag stuff around from Point Ay to Point Bee or Point Cee or Point Eleventyseven.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART TWO: If you're one of those progressive-type brainwashed feminist laydehs, you can just put the glasses in your car and your money in your pocket; GO WOMYN-SISTERS, GO.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART THREE:
Go to thrift stores.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART THREE: Can substitute 'yard sales' for 'thrift stores'.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART FOUR:
Buy all the cheap a) plates and b) tinkly glassware you can afford.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART FOUR: No one piece of tableware can cost more than twenty-five cents.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART FIVE:
Drive to middle of nowhere.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART FIVE: 'Middle of nowhere' should be the sort of middle of nowhere that one might mistake as a possible hidey-spot for the handiwork of serial killers or moonshiners.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART SIX:
Get out of vehicle.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART SIX: Dude. REALLY? You REALLY need instructions for this part? If that's the case, just abandon the plan now and go your ass back home.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART SEVEN:
Look around. Find a tree with a broad trunk that has about sixteen feet of clear terrain outwards in all directions.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART SEVEN: Don't overthink that shit, friend. Let your instincts guide you. Flow in the force, Luke.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART EIGHT:
Get previously-mentioned cheap plates and tinkly glassware out of vehicle.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART SEVEN: Make several trips if you have to and ZOMG BE CAREFUL WITH ALL THAT BREAKABLE SHIT!!1!]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART EIGHT:
Carrying your tableware, walk to within eight feet –or thereabouts– of the tree you got a visual on a few seconds prior.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART EIGHT: Don't trip.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART NINE:
Place the breakable shit(!!1!) gently on the ground at your feet.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART NINE: You can get all fancy if you'd like and spread it out all around you just a little....just make sure it's within easy bend-and-reach distance.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART TEN:
You should’ve donned the safety glasses back at the car before loading your hands up with cheap punch cups and ugly-ass ironstone. If you didn’t, go back and do it, GAHHH.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART TEN: Don't argue with me. Put on the safety glasses. They make you less of a badass, but if you were to lose an eye you'd have to waste a significant portion of your time in the future explaining to people how that perfectly usable eye got away from you, which will make you look like even LESS of a badass. Plus also it would up your dumbass quotient significantly. Then someone could legitimately call you 'candyass dummy' instead of just 'candyass' and nobody wants all that nonsense, now do they?]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART ELEVEN:
Get in touch with your inner maniac. Tell him to meet you up top in a couple seconds.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART ELEVEN: Be sure you're stout enough to wrangle the maniac back down into his usual spot when the time comes.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART TWELVE:
Pick up one of the items at your feet.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART TWELVE: Bend at the knees, sugar. Bending at the waist should only be done in the privacy of your bedroom when donning stilettos and wanting to appear completely slutty as part of strippery and/or role-playing funs.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART THIRTEEN:
Let loose the hue and cry of your soul by way of your pitching arm and hurl the item in your hand at the trunk of that tree you so masterfully chose.
(ed note: you awesome decider, you!)
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART THIRTEEN: Screaming like a crazed banshee just prior to and during the throw improves aim and also heightens the overall experience for everyone involved. It hypes up the room, so to speak, and the show gets more epic by degrees.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART FOURTEEN:
Repeat until all tableware is vaporized against that trunk.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART FOURTEEN: This is not a silly little endeavor, no-no-no. Oh man, you are a treasure to future civilizations. Some archeologist-dude is going to dig these bits and shards up out of the loam and sense in his very bones that some sort of ritual happened at the dig site long, long ago.]

ELABORATE PLAN, PART FIFTEEN:
Calm yourself. Smooth your dress, finger-comb your hair. Leave this place…..that is, the physical one. Hopefully the mental/emotional location that turned you into a plate-flinging motherfucker is already in your rear view and you are no longer suffering the chastisement of your peace.
[OFFICIAL GUIDELINE FOR ELABORATE PLAN, PART FIFTEEN: Go forth, child, with feather-light heart; be stoked like a mother at the knowledge that your fury burned bright and loud but nobody got hurt and everyone is poison-free, to boot.]

This fifteen-part-plan is henceforward known as a Plate Party. I think I’ll be throwing myself one real soon. A couple of other people have already said they’ll join me.

About four weeks ago Scout decided to scare the piss out of me and her dad. Said fright was caused by her standing in front of us having a conversation one minute, then falling out and convulsing the next. When roused and sufficiently coherent, she described an electrical storm in her frontal lobe.  Tests thus far are inconclusive. Which, you know, I prefer to view as HALLELUJAH NO BRAIN TUMOR.

….but the image of an electrical storm right behind her pretty little brow has haunted me.

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

About a week after that, I got a call from Sam informing me that he was coming home for four days over Easter so that he could marry this Very Cute Person,

randi
:: randi, university of alabama campus, valentine’s day 2011 ::

who we will henceforth call ‘Randi’ in all our future talkstory adventures, Muffinasses. Don’t bother asking if I like her, silly; just look at her Loverboy teeshirt and her pleasant countenance! Those things should give you all the four-one-one that you need. Okay, okay….I will tell you this little bit of confessional information: One time, when Sam and Randi were both fifteen or thereabouts, I told Maxim in the quiet privacy of our bedroom, “Now that kid? I would love to have as a daughter-in-law.” She is that flavor of awesome, see? That sort of awesome that had the two of us making plans for coffee and conversation even when she and my son were no longer a couple at one (or two? ahem) point(s).

So initially the wedding plans went like this: While Sam was last home on leave, the couple made the announcement that they would marry next July. Hasty, yes? Yes, hasty. But look! Over a year to plan a wedding! Just enough time to do all this. We wish Randi would finish school! But we love her! You guys are so young and maybe wait a little longer! But who am I to speak against passion?? I would never be found guilty of such! Let’s have a wedding, shall we?

Then they said “Hey! We want to do this in December.” Okay, ah, start the New Year together in 2012! We get it! Makes some sense! Whoa, deadline, but not an unobtainable goal if we get started right now!

Then this July and my head exploded because “SAMUEL YOUR SISTER WILL BE OUT OF THE COUNTRY AND HOW DARE YOU PROPOSE A WEDDING WITHOUT HER, SHE WOULD NEVER DO THAT TO YOU AND THAT LEAVES US NO TIME TO HELP YOU PLAN, NOT TO MENTION GIVE YOU ANY SORT OF FINANCIAL HELP YOU MIGHT NEED AND WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK, SAM?? I HAVE A LOT TO BE CONCERNED WITH JUST NOW, PLEASE STOP WITH THIS WEDDING IN JULY NONSENSE RIGHT THIS MINUTE.”

“Mom?” Sometimes the connection is tinny when he calls, far-away sounding. This was one of those times. “Mother, I’ve  got a four-day pass over Easter weekend. I’m going to fly in Friday morning and that afternoon Randi’s dad (ed. note: Randi’s dad is a Babdiss preacherman, but we do not hold that against her in any way) is going to marry us in her parents’ back yard.” He wore a black shirt and ivory Vans and she wore an ivory dress and black Converse and now I’m a mother-in-law, so weird.

At least I am consistent, as always, in maintaining a whirlwind life.

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

So. The week before Scout fell out and two weeks before Sam made the tinny phone call, the very week that Mathias announced that he was joining Civil Air Patrol, Maxim and I had a discussion that really entailed not much discussion at all and we decided to leave our church. Rat-tat-tat. We met with our Pastor and told him on the tenth of April, my mother’s birthday.

Individually, Maxim and I had both been feeling the nudge to ask the other what they thought about our relationship to our church and whether we were to continue it. When I finally brought my thoughts up to him and told him the timeline on them, he nodded sagely and cited the exact same thoughts along the exact same period of time. We were essentially completing one another’s sentences as we spoke, and ended the discussion with the promise to pray over the issue for two weeks and then go over our impressions together.

Then the not-discussion, then the leaving, then the strange feeling of being untethered from a church body but being very anchored spiritually. We –Maxim and I, and even Scout– have even gone so far as to acknowledge that it may be in the cards for us to remain unchurched altogether. None of us is opposed to this. Jesus did a lot of damage with two feet and an unafraid voice; He never kept to four walls, at least not for very long. We’re supposed to emulate that man, if we really believe what we say we do.

We will miss our church family bitterly. We will still see them socially, sure, but not several times a week. Hell, let’s be honest: We will probably not even get to see them several times a month. Life is a storm of unpredictability and a ruiner of plans. That’s part of what makes it so incredible, you know?

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

On Monday, April the eighteenth around two-thirty or so, I started to feel it. I guess it was something akin to a fissure in my brain opening, something that had been a sort of hairline crack becoming a gaping maw. I white-knuckled my way through the afternoon and then went home to gobble some Lexapro, thinking that my PMDD was rearing its head and hadn’t given me as much lead time as usual. I quickly got worse, my insides a low-roiling boil, threatening to bubble over; it made me physically sick. I could feel the lactic acid building and then depositing in my shoulders, my traps, in the backs of my thighs. It was a continual release of adrenaline and I was extremely nauseous by hour four of the whole thing. The whole of the afternoon a voice in my head gibbered about just wanting my bed, ohhhh if I can make it to the end of the workday I can have my bed,  but that evening I fumbled onto the couch and couldn’t move from there, where I fell into a fitful sleep by seven 0′clock.

I woke and dragged myself to the bedroom, still feeling sick and indeterminably broken, at around ten-thirty. The next morning I was due to drive Scout to her neurologist an hour away, and I thought that the Lexapro would grab hold while I slept (like it always did! magic! jazz hands, bitches! airhorns and goofy relieved grintastic visages and confetti or something equally as rad!), making me feel whole and right again upon waking.

I woke up lethargic and very, VERY resistant to the idea of leaving our home. In fact, I was somewhat terrified to even get out of bed. The low-boil feeling was still there and now I had a sense of defeat layered on top of it. I wanted to die, but it occurred to me that if I shot myself in the head my daughter would a) be angry that I ‘forgot’ to check her out of school b) be the one to find me c) be doubly fucked up as a result of having been angry at me just before finding my messy-headed self scattered willy-nilly across the bed. I tried to eat some breakfast. I threw it up. I showered and put on eyeliner, then comfortable clothes, then sunglasses that would obscure most of my face. It was a sheer act of my Legendary Stupidly Defiant Will that put me behind the steering wheel and on the road.

I am going to make a mistake. I am going to make a mistake and wreck us. My inner voice meant this in a more literal sense, but in writing that now I realize that there is more meaning to it. Anxiety’s theme song is I Am Going To Make A Mistake. It has a really catchy hook and gets stuck in a loop on your insides if all the conditions are right and you give it half a footing, did you know?

“I’m not feeling well,” I told Scout, “do you think you could manage driving if it turns out that I can’t?” She said she could, and I told her that I’d navigate the more difficult part of the drive and put her on the straightaway twenty minutes or so down the road. When that twenty minutes had passed, I’d started feeling better, so I passed on Scout driving for me and continued on. Ten minutes past that I was pulling into the empty lot next to an abandoned auto shop, so suddenly overcome that it was all I could do to exit the car and go around to the passenger side.

I reclined the seat, Scout slid in the new Damnwells and within a few minutes we were flying down Highway Tw0-Seventy-Eight; I was curled up on my side with my face six inches from my knees, staring at them intently, afraid that my brain was doing something I and it could never recover from, when ‘Sophia‘ came on

with a wink everything’s falling apart
and we’re lost in Lebanon

and then somehow I found my eyes fixed on the beyond out there past the vinyl and the doorhandle and the window, it rushed by oh it fell away and was replaced so fluidly and I hope I can hold onto myself well enough to finish this day, finish this day, finish. Finish it, this day.

Abel started
but Cain had to finish the job
for the God of Jealousy

No fever dream had ever been so brutal.

By four o’ clock that afternoon I became something resembling myself, but still only a poorly-remembered version of that, a slightly-staticky approximation. “It’s stress,” said Maxim the next day, and then the day after that I caught myself kneading the shit out of my left forearm with my right hand, to the point of extreme pain that I hadn’t even noticed in my absent-mindedness. It was then that I took into account that my nails were more gnawed than they ever had been –they were bleeding and painful at times– and I’d had this crazy rash on my chest that had appeared suddenly about two weeks prior. “I told you, stress,” Maxim affirmed once I recounted my realizations to him. I pondered the crevasse that had opened up in my brain, how extremely near to the base of it that the crack had run.

I circled the internal wagons. It took a week to really shake that feeling that I was just a fuzzy copy of my actual self, that I was play-acting at being something I was really not. I faked it till I maked it and I managed not to disappear. Feel free to mutter it under your breath, but don’t you ever tell me that miracles are the stuff of myth.

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

Wednesday, Twenty-Seven April:

The internet went out early in the day. Power was intermittent throughout the morning, but mostly there.  The mountain began to be battered. We came back from lunch, we left early for the day. Maxim happened to be off, so did Scout. My family was all snug in our home when I got there. I found out later that where others were hit once and hard, we were hit over and over hard. It was that evening before I found out that Tuscaloosa had lost one-seventh of itself and Cullman had fared poorly and the state park had played host to three twisters on the ground at once (a paramedic friend showed me a close shot he’d taken with his phone, holyHOLYfuck). A friend, upon finding out that we had no idea what was going on elsewhere, began to text snippets of information and news to me.

I called Randi, who was shaken but perfectly fine. A student at the University of Alabama, she had, she confessed, been terrified when the tornado set down a block from her apartment. She was coming home to the mountain as soon as she could. Her phone was messed up and she couldn’t make any calls or send any texts, but she could receive them. Sam, having just gone back to Texas less than twenty-four hours before, was on the other line, exceedingly not-okay with having left his bride.

Maxim showed me the snippet of radar he’d managed to pull up on his phone. “Unh, ah, there is this black area here right by us. I’ve never seen BLACK on any radar, have you?” No, no I had not, and it looked ugly, like a blotchy tumor on a rainbow landscape and wow, this is one of the rare times in life that merits one long, low whistle of disbelief punctuated with raised eyebrows. Things ramped up for us again. We stayed together, first in Mathias’ room reading and making LEGO magicks, then in the living room. When Maxim thought everything had passed, he went in search of ice and to check on his mother. He took Mathias with him.

He later professed the stupidity of leaving, because one of the events that occurred while he was out involved a massive oak falling across a pitch-black road a few feet ahead of him while he considered the merits of dropping a load in his pants. Another wave of storm had whipped itself at us and he’d been caught out in it. He crept back to his mom’s to wait it out. Back at home, Scout and I started hearing things hit the back side of the house.

“It’s still now,” I texted Maxim afterwards, “Come home, and hurry, but be safe.” My phone began dying. Maxim came home. “There is a tree in Dana’s house. It sliced clean through.” We didn’t get out to inspect, because I did not trust the dark and the clever way it might obscure dangling tree limbs with the potential to fall and crush or its ability to hide downed, soaked power lines an errant foot might find before a watchful eye could.

We made pallets for the children on our bedroom floor, set a lantern in the bathroom in case anyone had to get up later. It was dark, so dark, and I blessed this darkness, because it is a hardcore insomniac’s unspoken dream to have no glowing, buzzing streetlights slicing in from half a block away. There were no electronics humming, no tiny red lights becoming larger than life. “I AM GOING TO SLEEP LIKE A CHAMP TONIGHT!” I announced to no one in particular. We had laid our heads on our pillows and spoken a few words when one of us –I don’t even remember who, honestly– said, “Oh man, we got so lucky this time.” This was immediately punctuated with the explosive sound of a hundreds-of-years old tree a few yards away in the quick throes of giving over and going a fuck-all, messy horizontal.

I not only slept like a champ that night, I slept like a GOING-FOR-BROKE, FUNDAMENTALLY-DRIVEN, PIMP-ASS MOTHERHUMPIN’ CHAMP. But only for five and a half hours. I kept flopping around the bed after that, and then finally I got up and pulled on yoga pants and the notorious Pink Floyd shirt (that has made a-one-0r-a-two appearances within the voyeurnally tomes of yours truly) you might chance to remember. There were flip-flops involved, too. I slipped on a hoodie, leashed  up Banjo and set out. Only one other house on the whole block was occupied. Three of them had trees driven well into their innards. Others had broad, well-rooted oaks tipped over and leaving gigantic divots in the ground. Some of them had equally large trees snapped like toothpicks halfway up their trunks.

The three blocks surrounding our home were –and still are– a great mess. There are a bait of awful tales that I could run out in front of you, but I’ve already taxed your graces enough for tonight and I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest for me to actively try and horrify you.  Let’s just say that I am very well aware that the most tragic thing that happened to me, basically, was having to endure an icy shower and hanging clothes on the line. Which, if you’ve been watching any of the news footage (which I have not even had time to go through in any real way) is the cosmic equivalent of stubbing my toe in the presence of legless people.

Translation: Don’t you !dare!! complain, dummy.

And so, I am not. In fact, I am going to post up, in the next little real soon day or two, things that have been so right about this place and its people since all the weathercarnage. I’ll include some ways you can help from where you are, too. Tonight my back is growing stiff and my eyelids are crackling.

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

This week Scouty turns eighteen. Twenty days after that, she will graduate high school.

scout, is, well.....holy crow, she's grown
:: ’she looks like an album cover,’ somebody said ::

Then it will be June and she will be exploring another country.

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

This summer we will be taking Mathias to our nation’s capital because he is old enough to absorb some of what this country is, what this country remembers, what it knows and also what it would like to forget. He’s inquisitive and perceptive, a fact magnet and discussion-haver.

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

Next weekend my son is coming home to get his bride and take her back to the desert with him. They are so young and passionate, and life is too fragile for them to be apart one second longer than they have to be. The world won’t be any less brutish, but they will each have the comfort of a bedmate’s tangled limbs and steady breathing to reassure them as they slumber. Important, too, is someone to laugh with when everything is all ludicrous as fuck and humor is the only thing left.

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

It almost never fails: The day after a brutal, tornado-laden storm is picture-perfect, bright and mild and colorfully soft. This always blows my mind. Still, I am thankful for it, for the respite and I am moved to make this urgent wish:

Sonno beato, world, and all the children in it; sleep beautifully for a time.

I’m here. I’m still here. Everyone I know is accounted for. Everything is possible and I brought my spoon because I’ve always been one to dig in and that’s one trait I will fight to drag up to the grave’s lip before I have to be put in there.