Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thus He Endured by Stephen Dobyns

Heart's friend Greasy gets nixed by a stroke.
His pals give him a wake; they drink all night.
The next day they cart the coffin to the church.
In life, Greasy waxed cars; now he's defunct.
The priest says how Greasy's in a better place.
Heart takes exception. What could beat this?
Some mourners weep; others scratch their butts.
In life, Greasy was a practical joker. Even salt
in the sugar bowl wasn't too childish for him.
When the service is over, Heart and five friends
heave the coffin on top of their shoulders.
Outside it's raining. They wait for the hearse.
Maybe it's late, maybe it showed up and left.
The priest locks the church. The last cars depart.
Let's carry the coffin, it's just a few blocks.
As they set off, Heart hears a whistle. Show some
respect, he complains to a buddy in back.
In life, Greasy often asked, What's the point
and What comes next? Heart thought his jokes
helped keep the dark at arm's length. Rain drips
down the pallbearer's necks. Because of the fog
they can't see beyond their noses. Right or left?
If their hands weren't full, they would flip a coin.
Someone plays the harmonica, then starts to sing.
The pallbearers look at each other, it's none of them.
In life, Greasy reached three score years and ten.
He had a wife, four sons, and five Great Danes,
but not all at once. He always drove a Chevrolet.
Did we take a wrong turn? Asks Heart. The rain
turns to sleet; it's getting dark. Someone starts
playing the trombone. A tune both melancholy
and upbeat. Where could it be coming from?
In life, Greasy felt a lack. He worked too hard,
the holidays were short. His wife kept asking
why didn't he do better? Then his sons left home.
Greasy stuck rubber dog messes on the hoods
of his friends' cars. This is what life's all about,
he'd think. Thus he endured. It begins to snow.
Heart shoulders his load. The sun goes down.
Will Greasy get planted today? It looks unlikely.
Heart watches the road. He can't see that the coffin lid
is tilted up and Greasy perches on top, just a shadow
of his former self. With both hands he flings wads
of confetti. He's a skeleton already. Heart would
scratch his head but he'd hate to let his corner drop,
his pals ditto: pallbearers envying the one who rides.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yellow dogs and black men.

The thought struck me on the way home from work yesterday: Would my grandmother, who proudly called herself a "yellow dog Democrat," have voted for Barack Obama?

My grandmother grew up in a segregated world, and saw the Civil Rights movement change all that she had known as a child. Her mother, my great-grandmother, had a mammy, a fact that was dicussed every time we happened to catch Gone With The Wind on television. When my older cousin started dating, my grandmother would sometimes say that she hoped Brandy didn't bring a black guy home one day, that she didn't think that would be right. So it was understood that, for whatever reason, it wasn't okay to date black people. Even as a child, I questioned that belief, albiet from a place of naivete - if people loved each other, what matters the color of thier skin?

Given that, I still would never really have classified my grandmother as a racist. She lived in a predominantly black neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas, and was, as I recall, friendly with her neighbors. She volunteered a good deal of her time when she was older at a day care in the neighborhood, where almost all the children were black, and would tell us about the amusing, creative, imaginative things the children would do on any given day. But I have only fuzzy memories of her time in the old neighborhood, and as I reflect, I don't really know how long she worked in the day care.

The fact of the matter is, we never discussed race relations, other than the occasional quick word or two whenever Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton was on television and my grandmother would remark, "I like him," with no further comment for the former, or give a sort of scowl at the latter. There wasn't really a reason to confront the topic head-on, because our societies were relatively isolated, and the possibility of a black presidential nominee for a major political party was not even a consideration. Completely incomprehensible, actually.

While I may question my grandmother's racial tendencies, I would never question her political leanings... or so I thought. Even a yellow dog isn't a black man. Would my grandmother have been as impressed and inspired with Barack Obama as she was with Kennedy? With Clinton? Or would she see only a black man that shouldn't be brought home? I remember her affinity for John McCain in the early 1990's, when he was actually the maverick he claims now to be, when he defied his own party and might have even jumped ship for the kinder, gentler waters of the Democratic party. I wonder if my grandmother would justify a vote against Obama with recollections of the old McCain - justify racism with nostalgia?

Would my grandmother vote for Barack Obama? I honestly don't know. I wish she were still alive so we could talk about it. Writing about it now, I think she would struggle with the decision, but would ultimately vote for Obama. I also think that vote would have been transformational for her, as I hope it will be for those like her who will vote on November 4th. It would represent a vote for positive change, a hopeful future, a belief in a country in which all things are possible if we treat each other with respect and kindness, and an opportunity for new beginnings of all sorts, no matter what your age or background or income.

Seven more days. Seven days until I find out if I'm getting a Barbie Dream House or a gift-wrapped rock for Christmas. That's how it feels, anyway.

Where's Janet Jackson when you need her?

From Flip Top Bin - The Day I Lost Control.

So simple and clever.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I can't feel anything yet.

I want to be excited. I like being excited. Think of looking forward to Christmas. That's how excited I want to be because I like being excited. It's fun. It's thrilling. It's exciting.

But I don't like being disappointed. Disappointment makes me sad and gloomy. Think of making a special trip out of state to see your favorite band perform and finding out that the show has been canceled. That's the kind of disappointment I try to avoid. That's the sort of thing that makes me frown.

Eight more days. I'd love to put a big, goofy grin on my face and carry my shoulders higher and walk around in a smug, superior bubble for the next eight days, but I can't. I can't, because there is a strong likelyhood that if I let myself get too excited, I will be disappointed. The kind of disappointment I want to stay away from. The frown kind. 

In eight days, I hope to find out that I should have been excited all along. I hope I can put my bubble on then. Here's to you, neighbors down the street with a McCain/Palin sign, as I flip them the bird at 25 MPH (using no gas as the Prius cruises in electric stealth mode). How do you like this, Mr. Confederate flag flying asshole? Happy now? No? Rats for you.

I want so badly to be excited now. But I'll have to wait eight more days.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Odds and ends.

Some good, some bad, all life.

  • The Louisville trip and Ben Folds concert with the Louisville symphony were terrific.

  • Louisville smells like flowers and bacon.

  • Our Great North American Road Trip was a blast. We visited Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay 

  • The people of Battle Creek, Michigan are some of the nicest people we've ever encountered.

  • The people of Green Bay, Wisconsin are, for the most part, full of themselves.

  • I had a bit of a scare when we went to the Art Institute of Chicago and found the Impressionist exhibit was closed for renovations. Thankfully, the one painting I wanted so desperately to see was still on display:

    A Sunday Afternoon on a Saturday morning. 

  • M. Ward is one of the greatest musicians I've ever seen perform live. The things he can do with a guitar will make your skin tingle.

  • This weekend we embark on the final of our road trips for the forseeable future, taking in the lovely cities of St. Louis and Minneapolis. 

  • On Sunday, I get to see David Byrne which makes me very happy.

  • Rags, our beloved cat, passed away on October 9th, 2008. Everyone who encountered him agreed that he was the most magnificent creature to ever walk the earth. I can't even describe how losing him makes me feel. It's like a giant hole has been left in the world.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I'm voting for James Garner, the original Maverick.

A list of items and occurrances relevant to me and mine:

  • I read two books recently. The first, Duma Key by Stephen King, was really long (over 600 pages) but also really well-written, really funny, really creepy and really good. The second, Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk, was a hilarious, quick read. Bonus points for more helpful household tips than Heloise.

  • Mr. Awesome and I got iPhones. While I had a feeling it would be cool, its coolness has far exceeded my expectations. My love for the iPhone shows no sign of waining.

  • I've developed a bit of an obsession with iPhone apps recently. The following are ones I find particularly excellent (search the Apps Store to find them):

    • Twinkle - Twitter app and more - Free

    • Facebook - Free

    • Mobile Fotos - If you use Flickr, you need this app - a bargain at $2.99

    • Aurora Feint - Gorgeous game that's sort of like Tetris, but better. For those of us who don't have other portable game systems, this game is great - Free

    • Midomi - Sing a line or hum a bar from a song and this app tells you what the song is with pretty good results - Free

  • Thanks to the iPhone, I've become what I swore I'd never be - a texter. I can't believe I resisted it for so long.

  • Finnie got "fixed" a couple of weeks ago. She had to wear one of those ridiculous Elizabethan collars for a week. I won't post a photo here so as not to embarass her. She has fully recovered and is chasing Frisbees again.

  • Last night, in an attempt to jazz up my normal Orange Chicken recipe, I  added too much vinegar and ended up making accidental BBQ chicken. That was weird and unexpected, but surprisingly good over rice.

  • My mom sent me a link to a video that you all must watch. It's terrific. Go on - watch it now.

  • I received my gift certificates from the Hard Rock Cafe. One hundered smackers worth. Hot damn, we're eating well in Louisville this weekend.

  • Speaking of Louisville, we're headed there this weekend. Did I say that already? Tomorrow night we'll be enjoying the soulful sounds of Ben Folds and the Louisville Symphony Orchestra.

  • Speaking of Ben Folds, his latest CD, Way to Normal, was released on Tuesday. It's terrific.

  • This Louisville trip kicks off a series of BenVentures that will take us all over the freaking Midwest in the next two weeks. I see lots of fast food in my future.