Thursday, January 16, 2014

Post-karaoke snippet #23

I left karaoke early tonight and
walked out to my van at 1:23 am,
alone in a parking lot behind two closed bars,
Ned Peppers and Hank's Hole in the Wall.
As I pressed my key fob and unlocked
my driver's side door, a young black woman -- 
maybe 25 .... maybe 30 ....
walked around my van from the other side
and when she saw me she
held up her hands
like she was surrendering to the sheriff in an old-time western,
and she said, "Don't worry. I ain't a thief.
I ain't gonna rob you."
At the same time I opened my mouth to say,
"Hi ...."
But instead I said, "OK?"
She walked by me with her hands raised
high above her shoulders.
I said, "Why did you say that to me?"
She said, "Because I'm black, and you're
a white woman."

I said, "Sweetie, I never thought you were going to rob me."
She put her hands down
only after she had passed me.

I wanted to say, "I feel vulnerable too.
I have to be careful too,
but not because you're black,
and not because you're a black woman.
You are not my boogie man ....
and I am not your boogie man."

But I didn't say anything else,
and she didn't say anything else.
I got into my van and put my head on the steering wheel
for just a second.
And she walked on down the alley toward 5th Street.
And then I drove home.

I'm not sure which of us felt worse:
she because I might think she was a thief because
of her brown skin ....
or me because she thought I 
would think she was a thief because of my white skin.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy New Year: 2014

I'm struggling this week with my post for the new year. I've been in the midst of so many changes over the past few weeks, it's hard to see this particular day -- yes, I know it's the 2nd of January somewhere in the world, not New Year's Day -- as a single point of transition.

I've struggled to find time to calm my mind and meditate on what the new year will bring when I'm still submerged in what the end of 2013 brought. What I could use more than anything is a day without a long list of things I need to do, a day of quiet reflection with no pressure in the background.

That's not going to happen, so I guess the best place to start is with a review of 2013. I had to get out my calendar to do that, because I've made so many changes recently, I simply couldn't remember what happened 4 months or 7 months or a year ago. Looking back, all I can say is that I packed a lot in. (There's a pun there, but you won't get it yet.)

Here are some of the highlights from the past year:

Free to a Good Home played a couple of big gigs and several much smaller ones. We finally had to choose a name for ourselves, which took way more time and wine that you'd expect. I hope we play out more this year, because there's nothing better than playing music with 2 of my best friends in the universe.

Melvin died, and it's still hard to believe. I can't explain how that crazy old drunk became so important to me, but he did. I still miss him terribly, and if you're willing to read them, I still have a few stories to tell about him. If I didn't think it would kill me, I'd raise a pint of gin and juice in his honor, but that shit tastes like gasoline, and probably isn't as healthy.

I said yes to a bunch of new experiences: performing in an art installation of improv theatre; improv singing at a dance studio; working for months on a major committee for our local TEDx production; singing on some of her original songs with my Danger Sister, Roxie Carbuncle, in a recording studio (and not hating my voice!); co-producing a movie with Billy Montana; going on a life-changing trip to Chicago with Roxie ... one so out-of-my-normal I haven't even been able to put into writing yet .... 

I went to lunch a lot. I didn't realize I lunched so much until I looked at my calendar. My new teaching job is going to put a wrench in the lunching, but that brings me to .....

I accepted a new job teaching creative writing at a local magnet school for the arts. I've taught long enough now that I don't think I have unrealistic expectations about how that will go. Real life teaching is not a movie; it's a daily attempt to keep kids engaged and motivated and off their fucking cell phones. It's hard work for shitty pay .... which means I will be thrilled with the small successes. I'm looking forward to the new adventure. One advantage to this job is that it's within biking and walking distance of my .....

New house! 2013 was a year of big changes, but this one is the biggest, and definitely the most expensive. I wish I could have written about the move as it happened, but I spent all my energy on painting, cleaning, and then moving all my shit amidst snow storms and sub-freezing temperatures and even fucking rain. But I'm in now, and now there's just the unpacking. Lots and lots of unpacking. However, my phrase for 2013 was "moving on," which I evidently took literally.

I'm ashamed to say I dropped the ball on several things I wanted to do this past year. As many of you have reminded me, I didn't move on with 10 Dates, 10 Men™ after 1-of-10 -- and I haven't even written about him.  I hang my head. Don't look at me! I'm a big old chickenshit. I admit it. I have enough intentions to pave a road though, so I'll get right back on that horse in 2014. Really I will. Honest. Can't wait. Getting right on those dating website profiles as soon as I finish this post.

Finally, a look back at the past year wouldn't be complete without nod to the people who shared the journey. My kids, their significant others and my granddaughter Coraline are a constant. I love them endlessly, and I burst with pride. No hyperbole here.

Unlike family, sometimes friends drift away for various reasons: new romances, following an encompassing passion, geography. I'm sad to say I miss a few people who used to take up a bigger space in my life than they do now. I'm not the only one who moves on. It's harder being the one left behind.

But other friends have remained constant. They are my chosen family, and I count my blessings that they have chosen me as well. They keep me sane or join me when I need to get crazy, and sometimes they are my heroes, and then their loyalty and generosity brings me to my knees with gratitude.

A few people who were friends are no longer friends, thank you, Grilled Cheesus! I'm told I give too much leeway to people who haven't earned it or who have proven they don't deserve it, and I've finally come to agree. This is a valuable lesson, and one that's been painful to learn.

I have, in fact, lost some of my shine the past couple of years -- as if I weren't jaded enough. I've always liked to think people were doing their best, but I can no longer pretend the emperor wears pants. Many people -- my friend the Hot Italian would say most -- are simply assholes, and their reasons for their appalling behavior -- be it jealousy or feeling rejected or even undiagnosed mental illness -- simply don't matter. Excuses don't change reality. My lesson has been to learn what is my business and what is not. And the only behavior that is my business is my own. The challenge is to not be dragged down with the assholes. And that's one more way I've manifested my phrase for 2013, "moving on."

So in 2014, I'm turning off my crazy-fuckers magnet (my apologies to any crazy fuckers who wanted to latch on to me. I'm going to be pretty busy not caring about your shit ...) and spending my time with the healthy people in my life: those friends who are loyal, fun, inspiring, sexy, and kind. Yes, that last one matters a lot. Remember that Jewel song? "In the end, only kindness matters ... and I am never broken ...." When I look back on the past year, one thing that stands out is pretty simple: kindness matters.

And I am not broken.

So the crazy fuckers are swimming in their toxic brew without me, but I stayed the course with my true friends, and found new ones who burrowed so deep into my heart I think they will be with me for a long long time. I'm so grateful moving on opened up space for them in my life.

And I'm looking forward to some wild adventures this coming year with both old and new friends. Hold on!

Every year I choose, or am given, a word that will be meaningful in the coming year. As I said, last year's was "moving on," and move on is what I did ..... in so many ways.

I've struggled with a new word for 2014. It finally came to me tonight though .... or I think it came to me. It's an odd one, so I'm still not sure. I need to sleep on it.

So I'll write more about that and my tarot card(s) for the year tomorrow. Don't expect resolutions though. I have too much to do to think about adding fucking resolutions. Feel free to share yours though. I'll cheer you on.

Happy New Year!