Thursday, November 8, 2012

Springsteen

I suppose it's not uncommon to have an emotional reaction to a song on the radio. 

Thanks to the country station's constant playing of Eric Church's "Springsteen" I find myself regularly reminded of my girlfriend in the 7th grade.  Actually, I think we met and were friends in the 7th grade, but maybe dated, or whatever average 9th graders did for dating in 1983. 

What I remember most is she dumped me for a guy named John.  And I think I'm still mad about it.  And honestly, if you had been dumped for John, you'd have been mad too.

"When you think about me, do you think about seventeen?"
"But if I whispered your name, I bet there'd still be a spark."

Isn't it funny how a memory can sound like a melody?

Refried Bean & Bacon Taco

So there we were, all the way in Corpus, when I sent her a text.  I knew she had grown up in Corpus, and knew her grandparents still live there.  So the text was sort of a "nah-nah, here I am, and you're not" message.

The voice mail a bit later was, "Oh my gosh, I need you to go to my grandmother's house and get a box of stuff for me.  She already shipped me one box but it cost too much.  It's on the bad side of town so I don't know if you'll go.  But I want you to take her to breakfast tomorrow." Pause  "Do you wish you hadn't told me you were there?"

Very typical her.

A friend since roughly 1994, I had met her not long after she had moved with her parents to our area from Corpus.  It would be fair to say we dated for a while.  While I don't remember the exact time line, and probably do not want to, it would be fair to say that it ended, in part, because I knew I couldn't commit and she was liking me in a way that was going to hurt her.*  But I digress from the story ~

I consulted with MyFella and our vacation hosts, and we changed our plans for the next morning to kick-off with breakfast with a lady in her 80's we had never met, who lives in the bad part of town, who speaks only broken English.  One person in our party speaks only broken Spanish.  It seemed like it should work out fine.

The next morning had us on the road at the right time to cross town, and she called, "Grandmother's so excited, she's been up since 4."  It was quarter to 9.  The home was cute, and Grandmother was proud to tell us that her husband had built it for her.  It is filled with pictures and frames of children and grandchildren and beyond, and has a lovely feeling of being lived in and loved in.  It was also spotless.  (A trait my living quarters do not share.)

Breakfast was a fun affair at a diner type locally owned restaurant.  The fun part?  Mexican! Like, authentic, really people from Mexico~Mexican.  Like, the waitress spoke English with a super strong accent.  How fun is that! 

She had texted for me to have her father's favorite for breakfast, a taco, as in the title.  Then her mother texted me to try Menudo Soup.

I looked at Grandmother and said, "Menudo soup?"  She said, "Good.  Stomach."  uh.  No, I won't be trying stomach soup.  I'll stick with the refried bean and bacon taco. 

Tortillas were handmade and tasted like nothing I'd ever bought in a Midsouth grocery store.

We tried our very best to carry on a conversation with Grandmother, the 5 of us in a lively, noisy restaurant.  At one point she called and I gave the phone to Grandmother.  I would later find out that Grandmother told her she was having a good time with all of us and she did not have time to talk to her.

What a delight that lady is!

And what a fun, unexpected surprise on our vacation. 

So, to sum it up, we drove 14 hours one way to have breakfast with my exgirlfriend's grandmother, and bring back a box of baby clothes. 

Well. I do like an adventure.



* I suppose her marriage to a hard working man with beautiful arms has been some consolation after our breakup.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's a long long way . . .

from here to Hollywood, the song says. And it's a long way to Corpus Christi, Texas.



“I’ll drive,” he said.  He being MyFella.  And so our plans for a trip to Corpus Christi, Texas, began to celebrate the 50th birthday of a friend of ours.  We planned one overnight each way, and told ourselves the trip is more about the journey, not to worry about the time. 

Probably 10 hours into a 14 hour drive, MyFella decided that if we were to ever go back, he would learn to fly. 

Our first souvenir was a young Texas State Trooper who somehow noticed MyFella had tugged and pulled his seat belt into a position under his arm, rather than over his shoulder. The Trooper told us that wearing it improperly was considered the same as not wearing it at all. He really was incredibly nice, and he gave us a warning.  It’s very official looking.  It doesn’t go on your record, and there was no monetary fee.  

Honestly, I think we caught the trooper's eye because he caught mine, and I was doing some serious rubber necking in the passenger seat to see if he was a hottie.  I didn't plan on getting such an up close look. 

Our next couple of days were a whirlwind of Mexican food, Texan food (not that impressive) and a batch of real Pork bbq that we had hauled in a cooler just because the birthday boy wanted it. 

There’s a couple of tacky group pictures and probably still some sand from Padre Island in my car as proof we were there.  And most importantly, MyFella and I survived that much cooped-up-together time.  That in itself was a gift to us. 

The Mississippi River



The phone had died while taking pictures in the cemetery, so our anthem song was lost to us.  We made our way down the gravel road and turned around at a bridge.  The boys had asked to make their way down to the stream. The muddy banks showed us that the stream could get much higher, I suspect it’s a run-off from the lake at the national park.  Ankle high today, it’s waters really didn’t hide any secrets, but the magic it promised drew the boys and I through the underbrush and up ditch banks to make our way down there.  Cuckle burrs covered our pants and socks, and there is a tiny shell in my car’s console.  

I warned the boys that their uncle was getting hungry, and when my sugar drops I get cranky.  The biggest boy knew the turn off from the gravel road to the top of the levee, and we drove on top of it to a city green space formed recently on the banks of the Mississippi River.  Every few years, the river rises high enough to slough the black top off the road, but the land formation remains.  It makes for a short but pretty drive, and the pier type walk way begs kids to run it’s length. 

The festival in town had left the remains of campers, most of whom had bagged their trash up in neat piles waiting for the city to come and clean up.  One camp fire was still smoldering on the banks and my nephews went to poke at it with sticks and throw whatever wood and paper they could find into it.

“Uncle’s getting hungry”, I told them.  I warned them in a joking way that when my sugar drops, I get cranky.  We played along in the bud for a bit, and made our way back up the hill.  Uncle (that would be me) took the nephew’s invitation to leave the stairs behind and just climb up the hill, which resulted in me covered in mud. But what did I expect after the rain fall from the night before?

Granny would soon have lunch ready, I was plenty hungry and covered in mud.  So the three boys made our way home, after a morning of raising hell and praising God.  We missed church that morning, but I’d like to think He was happy with the way we spent our morning, in His great outdoors.

The bridge



The phone had died while taking pictures in the cemetery, so our anthem song was lost to us.  We made our way down the gravel road and turned around at a bridge.  The boys had asked to make their way down to the stream. The muddy banks showed us that the stream could get much higher, I suspect it’s a run-off from the lake at the national park.  Ankle high today, it’s waters really didn’t hide any secrets, but the magic it promised drew the boys and I through the underbrush and up ditch banks to make our way down there.  Cuckle burrs covered our pants and socks, and there is a tiny shell in my car’s console. 

The Dead Still Sleep



The gravel road opened up in front of us.  Locals call it “The Low Road”, almost like one word – thelowroad.  Locals use it much like today’s popular country songs about riding with your girl or your dip, that’s how we use the The Low Road.  It skirts low land adjacent to the Mississippi River and winds it’s way up through a beautiful national park.  I’m sure there’s a legal name for it, but where pavement meets gravel in the old North part of town, it’s the low road.

I had propped the little one up on the arm rest console between the seats and told myself to worry about the gravel and dirt some other time.  His brother in the passenger seat had plugged in his iPhone and was playing a tune with the lyrics “raising hell and praising God” and declared it “the” song for the day.  But his five percent charge would mean the song’s anthem was short lived.  But the morning was still early, and the adventure was just beginning.

I’ve been on the road hundreds of times, both driver and passenger.  This was the first time I have ever seen the green state sign announcing a cemetery.  It’s a small sign and I passed it, backed up, and looked up the hill for a sign of a cemetery.  There at the top of a hill, which would not have been visible in Spring or Summer, was a monolithic marker rising high.

My boys and I pulled over to the edge of the road and climbed the 60 or so feet to the top of the cemetery.  This part of my hometown is filled with hills, and I had to wonder who stopped so many years back and began plots on all these knolls rising high out of the ground. 

Remnants of a fairly modern handrail built from wood help climbers to the top, where the wilderness is trying hard to reclaim a late 1800’s, early 1900’s cemetery.  Several stones still stand, others have fallen and slipped down the hill.  Wire fencing still marks a family plot.  My nephews asked if we could come back in the winter and do rubbings of the stones.  Our feet crunched over leaves as their eyes spotted more stones. We picked up fallen buckeye seeds as a souvenir of the day. 

And left the dead where they lay to make our way back to the car.





The park that once was my front yard . . . .



"This morning is awesome", I heard him say.  That was my oldest, the 12 year old nephew.  I didn’t quite make it to the hospital before he was born, but I was there within hours, and the little brat has held my heart ever since.

He was talking to his little brother. And we were on a gravel road, “raising hell and praising God.”  Those were the lyrics to the song he decided to play on his iPhone in honor of our morning.

The morning couldn’t have been any better if I had planned it, and I never could have planned it.  It was like the perfect storm.  All the choices of free will led up to that morning. 

I had spent the weekend in my hometown visiting friends and relatives.  MyFella and I seldom take a weekend off from each other, since weekends are all we get.  But we had taken this one because there was a big festival in town that I enjoy going to, and it allows me an opportunity to see tons of old friends home for the festival.

I invested time with Mamaw, time with my parents, and time with my boys. And on Sunday morning, both Granny and Grandpaw said they were not going to church.  So Uncle said to the boys, “Let me get dressed and we’ll go for a ride, just us boys.” 

I thought we’d go downtown and see what was still cleaning up from the 3 day festival and then top the levee to the river park’s boat landing and walk way.  But within minutes one of the boys had suggested we go look for the house Granny had showed him once.  The house they brought me home to well over 40 years ago.  It stood for a long time in a park on the North side of my home town, but it’s gone now.  But this crisp Autumn morning in October, the park was empty and the grass was green.  Swings called to the boys who weren’t quite dressed warm enough, but I couldn’t tell them no.  I couldn’t tell me no.

The swings are standard park fair, heavy chains attached to slats of thick rubber.  The little one wanted a push to get started, and I pushed him high in the air.  I found that while I could still get myself pretty high, I’ve lost the drive to launch myself from the apex and land like Spider Man.

The Merry Go Round  captured the boys eyes next.  The spinning round and round sight of them pushed gently at the edge of memories of myself going around and around.  I didn’t ask the boys to try and push my weight. It seemed unfair. The gravel area surrounding it absorbed like a sponge rainwater from the night before, making puddles where I stood.  And the rain water drew the attention of the little one who wanted to lay down in the gravel and slide under the playground equipment.  We’re definitely not dressed for such as that.

A little bridge and a dirty drainage ditch seemed like the greatest of adventures to their young minds. I must have sounded a hundred years old yelling, “Don’t touch that!” It did me no good anyway, their hands quick to grab whatever was in the grass. 

I proved to myself I could still swing high, but I lost my nerve to jump out at the apex.  Monkey bars and swings and such, made of real iron.  I kept my eye on them, my hands outstretched, to avoid a later call to their father about broken arms.  We survived the morning with all bones intact. 

And happy memories made within a few feet of the once-home to which my parents brought me after I was born. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Life is just stories.

 ". . .and you won't even remember me. Well, you'll remember me a little. I'll be a story in your head. But that's OK: we're all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? Because it was, you know, it was the best: a daft old man, who stole a magic box and ran away. Did I ever tell you I stole it? Well, I borrowed it; I was always going to take it back. Oh, that box, Amy, you'll dream about that box. It'll never leave you. Big and little at the same time, brand-new and ancient, and the bluest blue, ever. And the times we had, eh? Would've had. Never had. In your dreams, they'll still be there. The Doctor and Amy Pond... and the days that never came."  The Doctor

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dude Ranch

In my day job, I work in a transportation company and a huge portion of my job is sort of double checking - what time to leave, what time to get there, any odd directions, etc.  And when it comes to school age children going to camp, I rely pretty heavily on camp websites.  "GPS doesn't work up here so use the website's directions" and things like that are pretty common.

Today I was researching directions to a camp that we haven't driven to before, and found the following description: "The smell of baking biscuits and roasted coffee lures guests to the lodge each morning. . . .  where the staff are busy grilling smoked ham and dutch-oven potatoes."

Now, he doesn't have a swimming pool, and there's no rock climbing.  And the family land isn't quite 350 acres, it's more like 20 acres.

But the more I read the website for this campsite, the more I thought, "I wouldn't pay good money to go there. It's just like going to my boyfriend's for the weekend.  Except maybe they won't make me help muck out the barn."  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Are you?



Are you?
What?
Are you gay?
What does that mean?
You know what that means.
There’s boys and girls and a nice neat line straight down the middle.  Gay's if you like shoes and musicals.  Straight if you read “Loaded” and eat Yorkie bars.  ~ Sergeant Hathaway.  Inspector Lewis

"There's nothing faster than a fall from Grace."  Mr. McCuen

Sunday, September 16, 2012

That Grin

Thanks to Facebook, we now have unheard of access to other people's lives, to stalk and be stalked. In less than thirty seconds, you can find someone.  Or in a surprise moment, their picture can pop up in the right hand corner as a "suggestion" or a "request."  And there it is.

Well over 7 years passed. Not one word, not a text, not an email. And it's better that way, for everyone. 

Oh, he was a bad boy.  Brown skin and a grin that just called for trouble. And a body to match.  Pursued by women, flirted with by me.  And all of a sudden, I had him.  Oh no, not for good. I had him, no more than any of the many women had him.  Occasionally.  On his terms.  And his times. 

One minute we were the best of pals.  The next, the best of pals, but with benefits.  And we both liked it that way. No strings, and I knew better than any of his girlfriends that his time was fleeting.  But oh, what a fun time to be had!  The bars, the beers, the late nights down the street at this hang out or that dive.  The calls to meet him and his girlfriend here or there, or to come to his fiance's house for a cook out. We would hang out for a week as the best of pals.  And then the fun time, completely out of the blue.  And that was fine with me. 

And there was his picture.  I admit, I clicked on the album.  I looked at the picture of his wife.  Noticed a tattoo that I did not know, and I knew every tattoo.  And about 5 minutes later, after I'd looked at every picture and gleaned what I could of his life, I scrolled the cursor to the far right and hit "block."  


That's a long time.


“That’s a long time to take care of somebody,” he said.  And that simple honesty is just him.  I’d forgotten the reasons he annoys me are the same reasons I adore him.  There was a time when we were chummy pals who hung out together.  And eventually I’d get annoyed with his ways and give myself a breather, only to rubber band back to his fun side.  And honestly, I have a lot of friends I do that way.  So he’s not different in that way.  Eventually his career took him far away and I haven’t seen him in years now.  He’s in town and reached out to me and we met for lunch.

Typical catch up lunch – checking off all the things that are said or asked. “How’s so-and-so?”  “Have you seen so-and-so?” “Are you still with so-and-so?” 

Usually when I talk to someone about MyFella and Jamie, they come back with some line like, “That’s such a blessing.”  Or “He must be a wonderful guy.” And truth be told, there is no joy like an afternoon spent with MyFella and Jamie.

But this friend for so many years, whose mother runs a home for elderly and had him employed as a teenager wiping bums and feeding others, said, with no tone of judgement whatsoever, “That’s a long time to take care of somebody.” 

MyFella hates the Christmas visitors. They take their church groups to the center one afternoon and milk a year’s worth of good feelings out of it.  We’ve seen them in the Pizza Hut on a hot summer day and they call Jamie by name and talk about their Christmas visit.  Then they’ll say something, “You’re so blessed this” and “You’re so blessed that.”  Just grinning in their Sunday best.

But never before has someone said to me so simply, so honestly, “That’s a long time to take care of somebody."

And I remembered how I can simultaneously be annoyed and love a friend at the same time. 

Plan B

I thought I had it all planned out.  And if I didn't have a written plan, I certainly had a screen play that ran through my mind with occasional updates and changes.

I was going to be gay, you see.  Handsome and gay.  I was going to keep working in the gaming industry making more money than I knew how to throw away.  I would spend Saturday nights in bars with other handsome gays and doing the pretty things that gay guys do.  I would live in a cute home in Midtown and have some of my closest, but superficial, friends help me to decorate it so that it was gorgeous.

And I would have the time of my life.

I traded it all.

I spent the morning cleaning horse poop out of a barn and riding in the back of a pick up truck.

I couldn't be happier.

She didn't come home that day.


She didn’t come home that day.

Almost three weeks ago, my roommate called, clearly upset about a phone call he had received to “come over, right now” before even 8a.m.  Within a little while I received a text, “She’s dead.” And that was it, the life of a friend was over.  She and her partner had gone to a resort area over the weekend with friends, and one of them simply did not come home.

I’ve heard small pieces about what happened – a panic attack, anxiety, etc. and I think we suspect some type of heart attack was brought on.  The autopsy report isn’t back yet.  But one simple truth remains, she did not come home.

The days that followed were a bit odd.  Flip flops discarded on the porch where she had left them gave the impression she would be home any minute.  Friends calling upon her surviving partner, neighbors walking up to the porch with dishes.* I asked the partner, “Are you keeping a list of who brings what?” She said, “Am I supposed to? See, she would have known that. I didn’t.”  I said, “You can. It’s O.K.”

In the case of my friends, death was fairly quick.  No hospital stay, no agonizing illness.  No hard decisions to be made.  And likewise, no one to argue over any decisions. There simply wasn’t time to argue over life saving measures.  She was happy and enjoying life.  And then she was gone.

I did not, and do not, know the particulars of her choices in the way of a will. Nor do I have any reason to know them.  I know she had a partner who loved her.  I know she had more than one grown child and small grandchildren she adored.

And I know that the last 3 weeks I have stressed over getting my own house in order.  I’ve called a friend of mine who is an attorney and annoyed her to no end. I’ve researched laws in my state of residence.  I’ve calculated.  I’ve considered.

 I’ve walked through my home and tried to take inventory of everything MyFella has given me, or we bought together as “ours.” I’ve called or emailed my contacts where I have my modest financial holdings to remember how I’ve set up accounts. I’m making a list.  I’m checking it twice. In short, I’m doing my homework to help my attorney help me get my affairs in order.**

And I am committed to the idea that MyFella and My Family will not wonder.  They will not argue. They will not be left without an idea of what I want to happen. 

Some of the questions put before a person making decisions such as this can be uncomfortable.  It’s fine to say, “I want you to have the power to make my healthcare decisions if I become unable.” It’s another to go through the form and decide how long you want to be on life support, on oxygen, if you do or not want to be brought back.  The medical mysteries of the body are too enormous – who is to know if I would come back a vegetable or perfectly fine? Who is to say if one more day would have made the difference?  And honestly, who wants to be the decision maker,  put to the test for another person?

So I’ll do the best I can.  I’ll make of it what I can.I'll try my best to decide what should happen to me.  I’ll make an inventory of my endless collection of stuff that might make for one good day of a yard sale. And I’ll hope no one ever has to worry about it.

 

Fall, Winter, Spring & Summer

Some people call it football weather.  School age children think of it as the start to school.  It's that first snap of a morning that promises cool weather to come.  It's the slant the sunlight takes in the afternoon, when it fools you into thinking it's not so warm.  But still it is.

It is those things, yes.  But for me it always means Birthday Season.  I love my birthday, I love to celebrate my birthday.  And I have no problem planning multiple events. 

With a birthday at the end of September, the start of the new school year always heralded a new birthday.  Kid's birthdays were no different than probably any other kid in my neighborhood.  A party in the yard with punch and cake.  There are photos in an album at home of childhood birthdays. I think from the gleam in my eye, my love of birthdays has been with me a long time.

And it's no different as this 42nd year draws to a close.  I look at it only as the opportunity to celebrate the 43rd beginning.

Even as we speak, I'm planning the evening's events.  But I've got in the works what I want for both breakfast and lunch.  And I may just take a day off work to ring in the year right!

It's going to be a great year.  I can just feel it!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Lost Hope

. . . she must have had hope that day in the drug store, hope that the peroxide would work.  The blonde hid the grey, but not the fact that it was there. The pony tail pulled up too high on her head tried to convince her there was still youth left in her. She stretched her arm in what she thought was a sexy movement as she flicked the ashes out the window, then drove off in a car that once, a long time ago, may have cost someone else a lot of money. . . at the corner on the way home from work.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Prince

If "my people" in this city have had a prince, then his name was Billy.

When first I met Billy, he was at the same favorite, local restaurant on the same night every week as my group.  He reigned at a table of pretty boys and always seemed to have a beauty on his arm.  He was friendly, but at "their" table.  Looking back, I know that some of my high school insecurities creeped in and I was somewhat jealous of a table of such pretty people.  But Billy was always very nice.

A friend of mine that I had met through work belonged in his crowd.  And for some of Billy's annual Christmas parties would invite me.  They were top notch social affairs at the grandest rental hall in the city.  Social events thrown by a group of people, they were parties like grown-up proms complete with bands, booze & de-bauchery, all thrown for a good cause.

And one night, quite a few years into it, Billy asked me out for dinner.  No romantic interludes, no subtlety, just two friends going to dinner together.  And I learned more that night about the man than I had learned in years of sitting one table across from him.  He came to life as a real and genuine person. And my ideas of him existing as one of the "pretty ones" just fell to the side.

We never developed the kind of friendship to call each other, and have never been to each others homes.  And in the last couple of years seemed to be not in the same places at the same time. I never even realized that I wasn't seeing him, because I guess I always assumed he was right around the corner somewhere.

And last night I found out that he died.  Suddenly.  Early heart failure.

I've spent today feeling like our Prince has died. He knew and had friends from every walk of life.  He could hold court in a crowd of few or hundreds.  And he always did so with a trademark smile and attitude that life was to be lived.

Posts on social sites are replete with comments about his friendship and his personality.  I don't know his surviving family, and don't think I could convey in a few words on a funeral home's website what I learned from him or how I feel.

The Prince has died. 


Kindred, The Embraced

A favorite show of mine was a short-lived series based on different vampire clans living in the city, with each clan having a leader, and all clans showing fealty to the Prince of the city. The prince ruled and kept peace between the clans, as well as ensuring everyone existed under the rules that kept them hidden from centuries.

It was a short lived series, but I thought it had promise, as the story lines were not just merely about vampire this and vampire that, but seemed to be evolving around common themes of life, love, angst, jealousy, etc.  And I found the evolving back stories of the different clans interesting as well.

Kindred, The Embraced.

Wedding Invitations


On the radio this morning, the dj’s were doing one of those bits with a letter for advice.  In the letter, a bride to be noticed that her fiancĂ© has a friend-girl on the list, a long time friend who has not been romantic with the fiancĂ©, but has been jealous and non-supportive.  Especially with comments like, “You never have time for me anymore.”  The bride wondered if she could just “lose” the invitation before it went out in the mail.

No other information was given. We don’t know if the bride has discussed this with the groom, we don’t know if the groom has discussed this with the friend.  We only know what was in the letter.

And I only know what happened to me twenty five years ago. 

In this mini play, I was starring in the role of “unsupportive friend.”  There were two sisters, both beautiful in my eyes and both shining stars in my life.  I would argue their faces were identical twins, the rest of them were as opposite as night and day. Like Danny Devito and Arnold Schw, one blonde, one brunette, one tall, one short, and both wild as a mad hatter.

The older one went off to college in what I considered at the time the greatest emotional valley of my short life – I had to use both hands to count all the friends who had graduated a year ahead of me and left me to finish high school without them.  Now, I was hardly friendless.  But focusing on the positive would not have played well with the melodrama in my head.

Or the real life drama that would enfold when I took my first look at him. 

She brought him home from college and I met him at her parent’s house.  I won’t go into detail about how I behaved, because to this day I am so embarrassed by my behavior. Words like rude, juvenile, condescending barely begin to explain how I treated him.  And why?  Because I knew the moment that I looked at him that she was in love with him, that she would marry him, and that she would spend her life with him.

It had nothing to do with his appearance, his build or attractiveness, nothing to do with his behavior.  But in what must have been my one life moment of being psychic, “I knew.”  And knowing somehow just rolled over me in waves.

I would receive an invitation to the wedding, and I went.  And discreetly left without attending the reception.  After all, I knew I’d been horrible to him, I had no right to be there. 

My friendship with her suffered for years due to my behavior.  And to my punishment, rightly should have.  We’re friends now, and probably always were. He graciously doesn’t care if she plans a route near me and we have lunch. I’ve met her children on multiple occasions.  By now, probably I think more about it than he does.  After all, he’s the man she still loves and with whom they have a family.

And I’m the guy that received a wedding invitation I never deserved.

"That was a Good Friday"

It was ninth grade, which was . . . 1983.

We must have gotten off school for Good Friday.  I don't remember it, I didn't, in fact, remember the date at all for years, just the circumstances.

I had gone with my church youth group to a big one day youth convention in Little Rock.  My memory tells me it was in some type of convention hall, the kind that I'm so familiar with today and strike me as variations on the same theme.

Another church in town had also taken their youth group, and two of the guys were new, or soon to be, friends of mine.  One was in the high school fraternity to which I was pledging, the other his younger brother.  Both handsome.  One shorter than the other, but both cut from the same handsome brown haired, athletic cloth.  One had the reputation of being a bit wild, and it was probably well earned.  And both as nice as they could be.

Somehow, out of the crowd, they spotted me.  Came to my youth group and took me, one by each hand, and dragged me over to their church group and sat me down.

Beside her.

For the next 10 years she would be my close friend and constant companion. Weekends would go without discussion as being reserved for the other, at least one night per weekend.

She took me to her Senior prom at her private school. Any trips in subsequent years, for graduations and football games, have me walking through a sort of mist in my mind of magical prom nights with her. I catch myself looking to find a glimpse of us on the dance floor or coming through the gym doors in our dress up clothes.

On Good Friday, I sent her a text for our anniversary.  She replied simply, "That was a Good Friday."

Sawdust

He smelled of sawdust. Always did, that I can recall. For years he and his father owned a sawmeal business. And a gravel hauling business. He would be up in the morning with the sun and come back as it set.

His wife would bake biscuits in the morning, and what was left uneaten she would leave under a metal cake cover (much like the glass cake plates so popular today, but this was a type of tin metal).  So if you came in during the afternoon and needed a snack, there were biscuits there.

He drank tea, unsweetened, out of a Folgers coffee can.  He was just so thirsty that a glass wouldn't do.

Not long ago in their home, I asked her, "Do we have any tea?" and she said, "You're just like your uncle." 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Recipe

Mom has always made a delicious chicken spaghetti.  Sissy has asked me for the recipe a few times, remarking how good it was, and I would try to coax from Mom some semblance of a recipe.  Like so many things she cooks, there's no guarantee it's ever made the same way twice, unless it's a baked good like a pie.  Because, well, pies and cakes just take a recipe.  Fried foods may even take a recipe.  But crock pot dishes?  Not so much. Many times I've heard her say something like, "Well, that's what the recipe calls for, but I use whatever I have on hand."

Knowing that MyFella and I were attempting to make chicken spaghetti this weekend, I called her, the expert on this dish.  She could recall most items, and the steps, but finally referred me to her sister, stating, "I haven't made it in so long, and it was her recipe anyway."

I remember she distinctly told me before that she didn't use very much Rotel because she didn't want the dish too spicy. Her goal is not to have Mexicany spaghetti, it's to have flavorful spaghetti.  So it's no surprise that she would use just half a can of Rotel. But I dutifully called my aunt, and confirmed the recipe. And most importantly, I confirmed the super secret boiling the noodles step that makes all the difference to the recipe.

For the traditionalist, here it is, a quite tasty version of Chicken Spaghetti with Velveeta.

- Chicken.  Whole, boiled, de-boned. Or in my case, not boiled, but slow cooked overnight in the crockpot.
- Broth.  All of it from the above chicken, saved.  Reserve about 3 cups into a separate container to be used later, if necessary, to thin the dish down.  The bulk of the broth (preferably skimmed or strained, in my opinion) in a large pot.
-Noodles. Boil your noodles in the large pot, in the chicken broth.  This step is essential.  It infuses flavor into the noodles which will carry over into every bite.  Boil the noodles to al dente, because remember they will keep cooking in the dish.

For the cheesy sauce part:
- Big block of Velveeta cheese
- Can cream of chicken soup
- Jar of pimentos
- Rotel

Here's where the "whatever I have on hand" part comes in.  Mom will use only half a can of Rotel, and will often skip pimentos anyway. Mom often said her dish is not supposed to be spicy, just flavorful. My aunt, while telling the recipe, stated that she doesn't use Rotel at all, though all of her daughters do, and they mostly make the dish now, not her. As for pimentos, I don't know anyone who knows what a pimento even is, just that it's red and comes in a jar.  So for this, I'd go with "to taste."*

As an example, in today's dish, we used a very big crock pot and a whole lot of noodles.  So we went with two cans of Rotel and no pimentos.  No pimentos were on hand.  We also didn't have any cream of chicken soup, but using my Mom's advice, we used the cream of onion in the cabinet.

To me, when I would occasionally stir and mix the whole concoction in the crock pot, I couldn't help but think it was way too thick.  So I added back in the reserve chicken broth, and I think the end result of the whole dish was a nice and flavorful chickeny, cheesy, noodley dish.

And at least one of MyFella's cousins was overheard calling it "great."

So that's a win-win. 

P.S.  In all fairness to all parties involved, I did not cook nor debone a chicken.  Or as a friend of mine said today, "We could say you did it." There was the implied, "But no one who knows you will believe it."

*I've since discovered that pimentos are just mild peppers.  So you can go with one or the other - pimentos or Rotel.

Just One Dish

MyFella's family hosts two separate family reunions a.k.a. potluck lunches a year, one around Christmas time, and the other in early Summer. 

You see, for a couple of years now, MyFella has asked me to attend the meals with him. He said he wanted me to go.  The first go around, I recall being slighly uneasy about it - not that I didn't know enough people there to be comfortable, just that, well, it's not my family.  And it's a family reunion. And exactly why would anyone think I would be going?

But since a good half of the people there I know, and half of them I probably eat with at least once a month anyway, it just sort of didn't matter.  And besides, there was always good food there.

I have finally figured out which two of his aunt's make the great fried okra dish.  His mother usually makes a very good cornbread dressing. And there's always a great assortment of dishes from which to choose.

Which brings me to MyFella.

Last night he said, very clearly, "I'm only taking one dish tomorrow."  Just one.  I heard him.

We had already planned the one - a chicken spaghetti dish that most Southerners will recognize as being a version of Rotel tomatoes and Velveeta.  That's the one.  Super good.  We had already decided that MyFella would boil a chicken and debone it, as we've learned the hard way that a chicken dish is so much better when you take this extra step.  We had already decided that it would be ok to use the penne pasta on-hand and not spaghetti noodles.  The chicken was put in the crockpot before we went to bed - a healthy batch of chopped onion thrown in for flavor.  I awoke to a house that was smelling quite nice with the chicken that was slow cooked on low all night.

So since all was just as we had planned, how was it we walked out of the door with chicken spaghetti, a buttery peppered corn dish, a dessert made with graham cracker crusts and lemon pudding, and an igloo container full of unsweet tea?

Try as I might to recount what we took, I just keep coming up with a whole lot more than "just one dish."

Brown Hair

His brown hair was perfect.  It fell in a smooth, pretty to look at part on one side and lightly feathered back.  If people with curly hair want straight hair, and vice versa, et cetera, his is the type of hair I want. It nicely framed a man's handsome face one table over on the patio of the restaurant.  The four seats were taken by what appeared to be his family of a wife and two pretty daughters.

He wore a polo style shirt and plaid shorts that showed off his hairy legs.  Legs that were a bit skinny for my taste, but proportioned right for his tall body. The wrought iron table and the distance from us gave me a nice view of the legs slightly open. I couldn't stop myself from looking at him.  I don't think I was attracted to him, I just found him to be pretty to look at.  I probably looked at him once too often.  And once is being understated.

Their meal finished, he and his wife continued a conversation while the daughters sat in laps and played around the table before the wife departed with the children in one direction.  He went another with the ticket and smiled at me.

Yea, I think he caught me looking.

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three, Mississippi, "He looked back" my dinner companion said.  I looked forward.  There's no looking back.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

White Truck, Open Field

It was a white farm truck, maybe a 70's model, standard in the floor. My uncle had been teaching me to drive. It was the summer between 8th and 9th grades and I had gone to spend the season with my grandmother.

Her home was in the same large yard as my uncle and aunt's home. It had a lot of grandmotherly touches. The front porch was filled with flowers, and once a week the Schwan's man came by and filled the freezer out front with delicious processed foods.

My uncle and aunt, the parents of 5, almost had no more children living in the house. The youngest had left us all too early, all too young, and the next youngest was a senior. Her prom dress was jade green, and the man she wore it for is still her husband today.

The family story is he taught my mom to drive, and he would teach me and later my younger brother. It would turn out that my weak arms didn't have the strength to pull that old truck out of gear, so he'd reach over with his left hand and place it on top of mine when it was time to shift gears. My aunt tells a story that my grandmother laughed to see me driving over the hay field, engine grinding in too low a gear for my speed.

And that's how I learned to drive.

Friday, April 6, 2012

"The Rockford Files"

"They don't even allow tombstones. Just brass plaques flush with the ground so they don't interfere with the lawn mower. I think graves should be a little untidy, like our lives."
Katie Brannon

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ladies of the Church

This is sad reason for a funny story about Southern ladies of the church.

My cousin died a few weeks ago. He had been a career policeman and retired for health reasons. He was a member of the same church my parents attend, and at which my mom is employed as the church secretary.

The reverend was insistent on the ladies of the church providing a meal at the church social hall after, which is customary. Though some families opt for food to be delivered home after the service and just entertain a family meal there.

But the reverend knew that the police department was going up en mass, as well as many family members have traveled for the service. So he gave directions for food so that all family and police were welcome.

I made arrangements to be late to work to attend the funeral, but simply did not have the option of staying for the graveside service and the meal, as I work about an hour away from my hometown, and needed to come back to work.

Before the service, Mom asked one of the ladies in the kitchen if they would make for me a to-go box and I would walk over and get it after the service. Of course, it's my hometown and I visit with them regularly, so I know several of the ladies. As I ran through trying to make it to the bathroom, one lady said, "What do you want to drink?" and I was momentarily confused before she said, "Your mother asked us to get you a to go plate. What do you want to drink with it?" I delightedly said, "tea."

You know the clam shell style styrofoam to-go boxes from restaurants? The kind with 3 separated compartments inside?

Post bathroom visit, another lady walked up to me with a grocery store plastic sack that had two of the big boxes and 1 small box inside. "I've got all the hot food in one, the cold food in one, and dessert in the small one."

For the drive to work, my car smelled like a buffet restaurant. I got to work and had chicken, pulled pork with sauce and a bun, an assortment of side dishes like potato salad and cole slaw and topped off with a yellow cake.

That's one time it really paid off to have my mother working as the church secretary. And to be in the South.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Friend

I saw you the other day. Just for a moment. You came around the corner with that silly grin on your face. The smile all the way in to your cheeks. Your boyish appearance.

But I knew it wasn't you. You weren't that young when you died. I was at your funeral. I carried you.

Just for the briefest of moments, I didn't miss you, and missed you, at the same time.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Worming Horses

Yesterday I wormed a few horses. It's really rather anticlimactic, not near as fancy as it sounds, and really doesn't involve any worms. It's just a matter of a plastic syringe feeding a paste to the horse.

But still, who would have thought I would ever . . . . .

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Messengers of Death

"It was at the time when Emile Pencenat was digging his own burial plot, Sunday after Sunday. He had obtained permission, although there was no precedent for this kind of thing. The town council was not impressed by this whim, but could find nothing that formally forbade it. Moreover, there was a lack of men willing to do the low-paid work of looking after the field of the dead. Finally, to clinch the decision, Emile Pencenat had declared:
'I'll sweep your cemetery myself; I'll throw out the dead boquets; I'll weed the grass around the graves, and I'll even pick up the pots of chrysanthemums blown over by the wind.'
How could they resist the offer of so much free work? They didn't even ask him why he insisted on a separate burial place, when there was a spacious and resoundingly empty family vault, because everyone was only too aware of the reply to that question: it was to avoid sharing eternity with his wife Prudence, with whom he did not get on.
Besides, he didn't like that plot. It looked like a Protestant mausoleum in the middle of the Catholic cemetery. It was sharp-edged, forbidding, and to make matters worse, it had a mean and parsimonious view of eternity that made the afterlife seem quite unattractive. As it happened, Emile Pencenat was fortunate enough to imagine the realm of the departed in a happier light - when one has gloomy thoughts, all the more reason for them to be flowery: if it were possible, his tomb would be a small-scale copy of an eastern potentate's ceremonial tester bed swathed in gold-fringed theatre drapes. The whole thing would be dominated by an opulent canopy and surrounded by a festooned balustrade with columns. . . .
. . . On rainy days he spent his time in his shed sculpting cherubs' heads, with which he hoped to enliven the pink marble columns around his masterpiece. Not that he had reached that point. He didn't know yet where he could get pink marble, nor how he was going to pay for it. But he'd only been thinking about digging his tomb for a few months; in fact it was since his retirement, when he was wondering anxiously what he could do to lessen his boredom. And so he had plenty of time to make enquiries, he thought.
Pierre Magnan

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's not promiscious if it's travel

There have been times during my previous career in the gaming industry when I traveled a fair bit for work to different conventions that catered to people in my specific field. And occasionally on those trips, I might be prone to . . . entertain, or perhaps be entertained by, a gentleman. And by gentleman, I mean someone I might have just met a few hours prior who was attending the same convention.

I never thought of them, the evenings or the gentleman, or even myself for that matter, as promiscuous. After all, we were usually in NICE hotels, and I could always track the guy down within hours should I need an affidavit of my whereabouts. He was someone that I would most likely see again in a few months at another convention. He was a professional person, much like myself. And besides, we were generally in the same age bracket and so might think of these evenings in a like way - pleasant and enjoyable, with a modicum of respect. There would be no promises of future dates at upcoming conventions, ala Alan Alda's "Same Time Next Summer." But there was also no reason to be anything less than polite the next time we saw each other.

One such gentleman, let's call him . . . well, let's just call him Gentleman. Handsome, tall, and with a belly. A belly doesn't turn me off. A grin can turn me on.

Our first evening happened together in an odd location. I kept wondering what in the world there was to do in that town, and how we ended up in that hotel. But alas, I ended up in his bed one evening. An enjoyable time was had by all. But I somehow left the room thinking that I had not had a stellar performance. I felt like I had let him down. And that thought would occur to me any time I would think of him later.

A couple of years passed and we ran into each other again in some other town, this time in a much nicer hotel. (The kind with glass elevators - always a sign of a nice hotel.) Several "boys who like boys" were in attendance at this function, and after checking in I called his room to see where all the boys were going that night.

I admit that I might have harbored the slightest hope that over the next few days we might have an encounter. But I would in no way begrudge him if his circumstances had changed and no such occured. But I was pleased when we did find ourselves in the same room.

And approximately 2 hours later, I was woken from a serious nap by the ringing of the cell phone I had been recently assigned by the employer. One of my employees asked me, "What are you doing?" and I answered honestly something like, "Well, I was sleeping after having sex." She laughed, asked her question and let me go back to sleep.

During that convention, we had the most enjoyable time together, but no more private time. I remember confiding in him that I felt like I had let him down the last time, and that I really tried to be better this time. He laughed and said he didn't recall it that way at all.

And that's exactly what he should have said.

Bad Guy

So I recently called the hometown florist to order some flowers for a birthday present. The gal answered the phone and I said something like, "Hi, this is SoandSo. I used to have an account there, and I need to order some flowers."

The lady on the line said, "I don't see you listed" and I said, "Well, I haven't ordered anything in a while" and she said, "You're probably a bad guy."

Pause

"This is Felecia."

And I was in love all over again and missed her so much!

Friday, January 27, 2012

He Comes. . . .

MyFella often, and regularly, accuses me of overbooking plans for the weekend. What I've tried to make him understand is these people aren't calling for me. They can see me any time.

The texts, calls and emails will start around Thursday.
"Is he coming this weekend or are you going there?"
"Oh good, I want to see him."
"What are you doing for . . . "

and then I end up with a weekend full of meal events with friends, and he'll huff and puff and blow on about it all. He thinks I'm just lining up time with my friends and we don't have any time alone.

It started again last night.
"Is he coming this weekend for the birthday party?"
"I want to go out for supper tomorrow night."
"Text him and tell him yaw are going out with me."

I stopped it and said, sweetly, "You text him."

A minute later I get a text from him. "Are you with her?"

And now I get to complain all weekend, "You've planned the whole weekend! There's no time alone for just us! You always do this!" I wonder if I can control the amount of sarcasm and irony in my voice.

Yahoo!


So, on Yahoo there's this article about Iran's morality police. Not that I would ever want to live in Iran, and if you look at countries like that, you can understand why we have so new immigrants here. (Because, really, aren't most of us descended from immigrants?).

So there's this photo in the article - it could be stock, I'm not sure. But there's an Iranian police man and a guy arrested for his trendy hair and shirt.

And yes. In stereotypical fashion, I thought they were both hot.

P.S. As a disclaimer, I don't usually find men from the Middle East attractive.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fort Knox

"Do you feel like Fort Knox today?" he asked. I didn't understand what he meant. He's a gentleman a little older than me, and I forget sometimes that I'm well into my 40's. I'd say he's in his 50's. And I'd say he's lived a lot. He always has a good fishing or hunting story and seems to have covered most of this part of the country with a rod and reel in his hands.

As we talked yesterday, we realized we know a few of the same people, and that he was probably doing some contract work at some places at the same times I was working there. And now he seems fine working here in a cleaning position, as long as he can get enough hours to make ends meet. He's done a lot of labor jobs, a lot of dirty jobs, climbing through ceilings and under floors, and working for "the man."

He stopped through once or twice and borrowed a dollar, and always brought it back. But still, I didn't make the connection to the statement. "Do you feel like Fort Knox today?" He said he's poor til payday. Needed 5 bucks. I had 4. In truth, I started keeping one dollar in the drawer for him anyway.

And I thought, "How bad off you must be, if you need to borrow money from me, of all people." I'm certainly not wealthy, by any means.

But I've got plenty to eat for lunch today, my bed was warm this cold morning, and I haven't borrowed any money lately.

I think when he returns the $4, I'll just tuck it back in the drawer for the next time. Maybe even find another one to go with it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Loving


So there's this great article on Yahoo about the love story, and social unrest in Virginia surrounding an interracial couple, Mildred and Richard Loving. I'm sure the little blurb sent hundreds of people to Wikipedia and other sites to learn more about it. Rediscovered photo's bring the topic to light thanks to an HBO special about the couple.

Me, however? I'm so gay, so typical, that my first thought on seeing the pictures was, "Damn he's hot!"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Juice Newton

I like to tell the story that MyFella and I met at a church meeting while "doing good works." Truth is, that's just the story I like to tell. But we count our face to face meeting as one of a couple of "anniversaries" we celebrate.

He was in town for a work related association meeting he attends regularly, and I left work early to drive out to a restaurant and meet him. The association meets every other month on the third Wednesday of the month. It was January.

Maybe it's a coincidence that I haven't opened my wallet this week until this morning and found a handwritten note. "I love you and have for years."

The sweetest thing I've ever known . . . .

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Traditions

One recent trip home, just before Christmas, my mother told me a cute story. Young Ragamuffin Nephew #2 had asked his Granny, “Granny, do we have any Christmas traditions?” No doubt the topic of some discussion in his 1st grade class that week. Granny had replied, “Yes” and she talked to him about the way we exchange gifts and have a meal together at her house, which is located less than 1 mile from his home.

Older Ragamuffin Nephew # 1 said, “You know Uncle comes and spends Christmas Eve with us since I was born so he can watch me open gifts.”

Yes, Young Ragamuffin Nephew is all of 6 years old now, but his big brother stated clearly that I come home to watch him open presents on Christmas morning.

The ritual has included a few other things, from my point of view. The year before # 1 was born, I received some rather terse phone calls from my brother and his wife, asking when I would be in town for the big family get together they were hosting in their home. But I had other plans and would be in later that evening. Come to find out I was missing the announcement that # 1 was on his way, and would be here for the next year.

And since # 1 has been old enough to hold a phone, I’ve received Christmas Eve phone calls asking when I would be there. And again, I usually had plans to see Sissy and Kitten and their family for a little while, before continuing on to my hometown. So while # 1 knew I was coming, much like Santa Claus, he just wasn’t sure when I would arrive.

And there’s always the ritual of fighting with # 1 somewhere in the middle of the night, after Santa has come, because he wants to open everything, even though he and I are the only 2 people awake. Last year I had sense enough to ask their Dad, in front of them, to give us some direction because the year prior had resulted in an almost two-person breakdown. This year I forgot, so the first go-round was 2am before Santa came, and the next was closer to 5a.m. At 5:45a.m. I told both nephews to go to their parents room and wake them up.

And that’s when the magic begins. I love the look of the lit tree in the dark room, with the lights reflecting on the shiny paper of wrapped gifts and the glossy plastic of the things Santa left. Then come the sounds of “oooooh” and “look at this!” followed by, “Daddy, open this!” and “Momma, look at this!” In a mere few minutes three pairs of adult hands are full of gifts and borrowing from each other scissors and pocket knives to hack our way through all the ties.

And then Uncle discovered his next favorite Christmas tradition – taking a Christmas morning nap.