May 9, 2012
I was driving home from a meeting of the Asheville Holistic Birth Collective and passed an old black man on the side of the road with his thumb out. It’s funny, these moments when an opportunity to cross something on my list comes. So I went through the back-and-forth in my head — “Your list! Your list!” and ”Inertia! Inertia!” (specifically, objects being in motion) but, I slowed down and turned around mostly because I did the math: I wasnt headed anywhere in particular and this guy was pushing 70 so at least I could say with some certainty that he wasnt going to hurt me.
When I got out of the car to greet my new friend and clear the passenger seat for him, I could almost taste the alcohol he smelled so strongly of it. He got in and asked if he could smoke a cigarette and I said yes with some hesitation and we talked about what he did today which was see his brother and about where his brother lives and we talked about how he was only going 8 miles and we talked about the difference between dinner and supper and we talked about how his parents used to live in Biltmore Forest and he grew up in Shiloh with 7 brothers and 2 sisters and we talked about how his daddy was a farmer, he raised hogs and chickens and cows, and we talked about how he moved to Asheville from South Carolina when he was knee high to a grasshopper, about 7 or 8, probably because his parents had kin here and we talked about where the farm was and about how the city came and took it for the highway and I said yeah, that happened to a lot of people and we talked about how old he was — 68. At this point, I was pleased to notice we were talking so much that his cigarette had burned out.
Then Joe asked me to stop for cigarettes and we pulled into this kind of drive-through convenience store which was a building with an open backdoor. Two men were there and they broke into smiles when they saw Joe in the passenger seat. One of them said, Where’d you pick up Joe and I said, West Asheville and they said do you live up here, which was Leicester, I said, I live in Montford and told them about how picking up a hitchhiker was one of my New Year’s Resolutions because I didnt imagine these guys would immediately know what the fuck I was talking about if I had said thirtyfivebythirtyfivelist and I realized I was probably blushing, but I couldnt tell you why even now and so I turned it back on them and I said, Did you have any New Year’s Resolutions? And the first guy said No, I dont do that and the second guy said, Yeah and I said, What was it? And he said, I got rid of her and I said, Ba-dum-bump. And the first guy said, Yeah well you picked up a good one and I said, Yeah I’m happy with my choice, and the second guy said, You passed by me the other day and I even tried to recognize him until I realized he was hitting on me and the first guy said, Come back by when you drop him off and have a beer, but he wasnt hitting on me, he was being awesome.
So Joe and I headed up the road and it was good in the same way it was good before we got to the store, except I noticed a very strong odor of urine and looked down to see that Joe’s jeans were wet in the place that jeans get wet when you are a man and you piss yourself. We continued to talk, now about his brother’s church which is just a little ways from my house, apparently, near Three Brothers Restaurant, and about how he believes in God, but has a drink every once in a while, and he believes in the Bible and he pointed out the church he goes to sometimes. As we arrived to his destination, the process of accepting the consequences of my choices (pissy passenger seat) was well underway when he lingered to tell me three times that they call him Junkyard because when he starts drinking he likes to talk trash and to thank me for the favor and to say that maybe one day he can do me a favor and he told me about to get home and I said, OK, well let me get going before it gets dark and I said goodbye without making sure he made it into the house because this is the kind of place where people dont lock their doors and I am quite sure Joe always makes it where he is going, anyway. (You’ll also be happy to know that Joe definitely emptied his bladder prior to sitting in my car, as I pulled the seat cover back and found everything to be nice and dry. Not to mention, today’s my dad’s birthday. Some people might say, Thanks for the present dad at this point in the story, but I dont believe in that kind of stuff.)
January 25, 2012
On New Year’s Eve, I was running around trying to get ready and get pretty. I had a lot on my plate. I had guests in town. They had a death in the family that day. I was set to meet a cute girl for the first time at the bar that night and I needed new jeans. Of course, the mall was closed by the time I got there. I had to settle for fake eyelashes and pink lipstick and headed to the drug store. While I was paying for my stuff, I remembered to get cash back. I love it when I remember to get cash back. I asked for twenty bucks in ones so I could tip the bartender. Shirley Temples are hard work.
On my way out, a man caught my attention. He was scruffy and red. He asked if he could tell me a joke. It’s an old angle, but one that I really, really appreciate. He was going to ask for money, but at least he was going to make me laugh first. Nonetheless, I was irritated, because that’s what I’ve been doing lately, or for the past few years, really. I make eye contact and smile, I wait for the pitch so I can politely, but directly, say, “No,” never, “I’m sorry,” and not “I can’t,” and definetely not, “I dont have anything,” because I usually do and then I walk on or I walk away and I feel badass, but also bad, and then I think to myself, “I help people everyday,” in order to make myself feel better, but then I don’t really feel better, and I think to myself, “At least I made eye contact and smiled,” in order to feel better, but I dont really feel better because there’s no way to feel better about the white supremacist, capitalist, misogynist patriarchy, and then, I just forget about it.
But, that night, I had a plan to do something different, and when the opportunity to do something different presented himself, all scruffy and red, I remembered my 35×35 list, which includes the goal of “Give 20 bucks to a stranger because they asked for it.” Suddenly, I was looking forward to our exchange. It felt like a Christmas. Like, I knew I was going to give him my 20 ones, but he didnt know it and I couldnt wait to tell him. Move that bus, right?
Q: “What do you call a line of rabbits hopping?”
A: “A receeding hareline.”
Q: “How do you catch a unique rabbit?”
A: “U nique up on it.”
Q: “How do you catch a tame rabbit?”
A: “The tame way.”
And then he complimented my tattoo and then he asked for money. He said something about almost having enough for a sandwich. I told him I would give him money, I told him about my 35 x 35 list and then I gave him my 20 ones. He had already started off across the parking lot before he was finished saying thank you.
I hope he got a sandwich and a six pack. I hope he got a sandwich and a case for him and a buddy. I hope he got a sandwich and pooled the rest with his old lady and got a room. I hoped he got a sandwich, a pint of white liquor and a gallon of gas. I hope he paid someone back, then got a sandwich. I hope he skipped the sandwich and just put money on his phone. I hope he got a sandwich and felt especially favored by a power greater than himself while he ate it. I hope he took it as an omen. I hope it was.
December 11, 2011
It occured to me recently to watch out for 35. That it’s a tough — as in monumental – birthday, in general, but that this one might be really tough. What with my wife leaving me, almost a year ago, now, a lot of what I had been working toward evaporated. You know, the kinds of things you have on your 35 birthday and feel proud of — a handsome, talented wife, a chubby, happy baby, good relationships with your in-laws, a well-behaved dog — those kind of disappeared on me. And the residue that’s left behind is debt. And a residence south of the Mason Dixon. Grimy residue. And then, of course, I spent this past year not moving toward anything, but mostly just trying to not evaporate my own self. So, that’s six years of . . . almost something and mostly nothing of what I had hoped for.
When I turned 30, it was really important that I be skinny. I spent six months frequenting a beautiful gym in Capitol Hill tailored to the tastes of gay men. It was pretty great. I lost 15 pounds. It’s not that I didnt want to turn thirty. Or that I’m afraid of aging or dying – I think I’m less afraid of these things than the average bear, I just wanted to be proud of myself. The same goes for 35. I’m not going to be where I had hoped, but I can at least be proud of what I’ve managed to accomplish on such short notice.
The 35 x 35 list is a part of that. For me, it’s a list of the adventurous, whimsical and soulful things, the extra things, that will stretch, fulfill or deepen my experience, but that I would typically let fall by the wayside. The stretch items (15) are code for scary and have to do with money, fun or my body. Donating and investing, acupuncturing and photographing nude, flying kites — all stuff that I would either be too scared to risk or too lazy to enjoy. Fulfilling items (11) are little random, unexplored things that would bring me pleasure, but Iwouldnt put even twenty bucks to because it’s not “necessary” — an herb garden, a bonsai tree, a visit to a cool house. And the items that will deepen me ( 11) — visiting my uncle, picnicing at my dad’s grave, dating myself, remembering birthdays, letterboxing – are pursuits to which I am already commited, but need that extra push.
At some point, I realized that in order to ensure that I got everything done by my 35th birthday, or at least would not be caught unawares by my shortcomings, I needed to be strategic in my planning. I will have to average a total of 3 tasks per month. As of today, I’ve completed 3 tasks outright, which puts me at a deficit of 3 tasks. Oif. Five things — tattoo, hot air balloon ride, doctors, letterbox, LCAS are partially complete. I am a little dumbfounded by snorkeling and investing, ie: no plan. And I’m worried about the things on my list that require lotsa moola (conference, LCAS).
In January, I will remember birthdays, start automatic withdrawals for my monthly donations to KIPP (a national network of publically funded charter schools creating amazing educational outcomes for low-income kids) and read my first lesbian novel. I’ll take my cue from Prof C.’s Magical Lesbian Reading Room on Velvet Park’s website, as well as a quick jaunt through Lambda Literary’s site.
Behold, the plan.
|October||Foster Puppies, singing for public, take nudie pictures|
|November||Got Athena tattoo, started letterbox project, scheduled dentist and doctor|
|December||Get Shelanagig tattoo, give 25 bucks to homeless person, start monthly donations, read Barb Johnson book (Birthdays: Ann, Liz, Renee) (Novel: Barb Johnson)|
|January||Complete doctor’s appointments, start Aphrodite tattoo, register for PLCAS (Birthdays: Stacy, Alex, Emma, Sammy) (Novel: The Big Bang Symphony by Lucy Jane Bledsoe)|
|February||Take myself on a date, try acupuncture, French penpal (Birthdays: Ben,Gary,Troy)|
|March||Fly a kite, write 7 letters, get French penpal (Birthdays: Amy, Ma, Mehan, Bubie, Brandi,Cam)|
|April||Start bonsai tree, bind a book, herb garden, visit road to no where (Birthdays: Miranda, Abby, Jon, Tim, Marla, Jamar, Elizabeth, Lola) (Novel: Fall Asleep Forgetting by Georgeann Packard)|
|May||Visit wolf farm, picnic at dad’s grave, write my ethical will (Birthdays: Sean) (Novel: One More Stop by Lois Walden)|
|June||Change my oil, letterbox, get a tarantula, (if no hedgehog comes available) Birthdays:Laura,Virginia, Meredith, Tabatha)|
|July||Smores while camping, sell writing for money (Birthdays: TBD) (Novel: Inferno by Eileen Miles)|
|August||Change my own oil, invest in stock|
|September||Have chart done, visit tiny tumbleweed house|
|October||10/09/11 hot air balloon ride scheduled, buy art for my birthday|