Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Oprah Six

I've started a novel. It should be fun. So, in a great marathon exercise of getting way ahead of myself, I started pondering who would be the six people I invite to dinner when Oprah picks my novel for her book club. The novel doesn't have a name yet. I'm really trying to get a grasp of the guest list. For Oprah's Book Club Party. Hey, if you don't dream big, why dream at all?  But dreaming big often leads to grander avenues of contemplation - like why. Why do I want to hear what this person wants to say? What do I want to say to this person?

Maya Anjelou - I want to hear everything she has to say. I want to say thank you. I want to say there's lots of caged birds out there. There's lots of ways to sing. I'm guessing she knows that. I want to thank her personally and for all black mothers everywhere who raised me, who brought me up, all while my world tried to hold them down.

Michelle Obama - Ditto.  She should run for president.

That's where I am with it now. I can't really imagine letting anyone get a word in edgewise if either of those women start talking, and don't forget that Oprah will be there because it's her party, so she can.

I met Oprah once. We are the same age. She was auditioning at WSB-TV in Atlanta for Monica's job. It was a tough call. They were both great choices. Everybody loved both of them. It was 1976, maybe early 1977, not sure. Everybody at the station had something to say about it. I'm not sure what the deciding vote (or reasons) were, but Monica fit the job perfectly, and Oprah certainly didn't suffer any for the loss. I was so jealous. There we were, the exact same age, same basic college, and I stood no chance in hell of even getting a tape accepted, much less for actually getting such a job. I was schlepping as a stage hand in the studio. It was a lot of fun, but even then, Oprah's career was way ahead of mine. It's okay. I couldn't handle being Oprah. Oprah couldn't handle being me.  It's not easy being me, either.

Still, I would like to hear some suggestions - who would you like to hear, what would you like to say?  Of course, the people have to be alive. More later, ya'll.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

It was twenty-five years ago that I started my new tradition of actually being grateful. That year was set to be a good year. I had just bought my first house. My sister was sharing it with me. A group of her 'friends' were staying with us for the holiday feasting. I don't know exactly when things started to go south, but sometime during the night before Thanksgiving one of Deb's psychotic episodes took hold. She left the house. Sometime around 3 a.m., I was awakened by someone who said she just took off. Naked. Down the street.

My house was not in a particularly good neighborhood. It was mixed residential - commercial, with the residential part being borderline vagrant. The 'friends' had been especially vocal in their displeasure about that. One woman angrily admonished me for not warning her that I lived in an integrated neighborhood. I told her that if it weren't for me, it wouldn't be integrated (bitch!). At any rate, it wasn't an area to walk around at night. Or naked. I set out find her, but had no luck. Sometime around daylight Deb came home. She had found her way to the tattoo parlor nearby. She was with a group of very rough looking men and women. She had on scruffy clothes. By the mercy of whatever gods protect us, the tattoo parlor just so happened to also be home to an all night AA/NA biker group. They knew why she was there. They took care of her. They had seen her before. Knew where she lived. Safe.

Since she was in a full blown psychosis, I took her to the local facility for dealing with that. They took her in. They sent me home. Her 'friends' were gone by then.

There I was with a twenty pound turkey and all the fixins.  I had taken out my grandmothers 100 year old Haviland china. The old silver made by my great grandfather. The good stuff. So, in the great pretense of having some higher purpose, I started cooking. Mostly, I was angry, frustrated, afraid for Deb and what life trying to care for her would be. I cooked that turkey. Stuffing. Dressing. Sweet potatoes. Two kinds of pie. Ambrosia. Green beans. Asparagus. Ice cream for the pie. By the time it was done, I didn't even want to eat it.

I was about to cry when there was a knock on the door. The local yard man, Deacon Eddie.  "Ma'am. If it wouldn't bother you none, could you please spare me a plate of food?  It smelled so good." I invited him to come in and join me, but he didn't want to do that. Just the plate of food please, ma'am. So, I grabbed one of Nana's extra large fine antique china plates, loaded it up with turkey and fixins. Then I loaded up another plate with pie. Covered it all with foil. Deacon Eddie left with quite a smile on his face and gave me his eternal gratitude.

I started to find the tupperware to put it all away, when there was a knock on the door.  I didn't know the man, but he looked thin and harmless enough.  "Ma'am.  Could I have a plate of food, too, please, ma'am?"  You bet.  I loaded him up. He walked off down the street smiling.

Pretty soon there was a line going out the gate and down the road.  All twelve place settings were filled up, covered up and sent off.  I put away the tupperware.  I was tired. I fell asleep. I slept all night.  When I went outside the next day, there by the door, was a box. In the box, cleaned and neatly packed were all twelve place settings. Not a nick. Not a scratch on a one of them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I love to dance.  I'm not half bad, but I'm never taking home that coveted disco ball to be given away soon on Dancing With The Stars. First off, I'm not a star. Second off, I'm only not half bad.  I just like it.

When I was 4, our small town held a square dance on main street.  A mother with a little boy took her son around and asked mothers of little girls if their daughter would like to dance. Many a little girl before me shyly, but vehemently shook her head 'NO.' I tugged on my mother's arm and whispered "If they get to me, I WANNA DANCE."  They did get to me and dance I did. We didn't know what we were doing, so we watched as long as we could stand it and then we just started moving our arms and legs wildly in a sincere imitation of the real thing. It must have been quite impressive because the whole town stopped dancing to watch us and at the end of the song they did applaud. I love applause.

The next time I got to dance was when our maid took me to church with her. It was a small, white clapboard building next to a river, but they did have an organ and a large choir. When the music started, the congregation did not think twice about getting up, singing loud, and dancing in the aisles.  I didn't think twice about joining them.  At one point, the preacher came up to me and asked "Do you feel the power of Jesus?"  Huh?  "I don't know" I said.   "Well, do you feel like singing?" he asked.  "Yep." I said.  "Do you feel like dancing?" he asked.  "Oh, YES." I said.  "Do you feel happy?" he asked.  "Yes." I said.  "Then you feel the power of Jesus."  Yeehaw.  I liked the way this felt.

In college I took every dance class I could for the PE credits. Square dancing, modern dancing, ballroom dancing, tap dancing. I didn't do that well at tap dancing. Our recital was quite a hit though. We brought the house down. There were about 10 of us in our group, all there to dance to "If I only had a brain." It might have been very good if we had ever actually gotten together to choreograph it. It might have been even better if we had ever actually met to rehearse it. But we didn't. As a last minute hope to stave off total humiliation, we decided (I think I actually suggested this) to put grocery bags over our heads so no one would know who we really were. This made it much harder to see what our feet were doing, so all of us were constantly tearing at the little eye holes while our feet flapped in 20 different directions, none of which were even in sinq with the beat of the song. Arms flailed and flapped against neighbor. Feet flailed and kicked nearby shins. I think somebody actually fell off the stage.

The audience howled. They laughed. They laughed some more.  They kept laughing. I remember managing to get out one of the side doors and falling onto the lawn in gasps of howling laughter of my own. I think it took about a half hour for things to settle down. It was, I'm sure, the absolute worst tap dance recital performance in the history of the world. But as entertainment value goes - the audience laughed their butts off.  I'm still laughing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gorgeous Day

In the high 60s, blue skies, and work I can do outside. I love it. I would stay outside always but for rain and cold. I'm working away and a little single engine plane is flying over the lake - a little low and a little loud. I'm watching it, a bit disgruntled that the noise is interupting a conversation I was having with some ducks (quack!). The engine sputters. It stalls. Dead quiet. Dead quiet. Start, damnit. Dead quiet. Dead quiet. Start, start, start, start - whoosh - it starts! It quickly changed direction toward the nearest airport, stuttering away, but seems to have made it. Nothing on the news anyway.

I sometimes think I have certain faith healing powers when it comes to dead engines. Many times I've been at a convenience store while someone was trying to get the engine going. Start, start, start . . . then it starts. I know, it could very well not be me, but I do think every little bit helps. It's possible that a small positive boost from me to an engine might work.

Faith is like that to me. Against all evidence to the contrary, there it is. I can't define it. God. Buddha. Allah. Gaya. Who knows. I don't. I can't prove it is or that it isn't. I've known a number of atheist who were every bit as obnoxious as some evangelists I've known. I dislike being told what I must think or not think on any given topic.

Jesus came to me in a dream once to answer a quandry I had about that whole being 'covered in the blood of Jesus' thing. That sounded so disgusting. It was a great dream. I woke up in my dream, aware that I was being born, floating on my back through the birth canal. I came out into a totally white room, and was held by someone in a white robe who said he was Jesus and that he had to use language people understood to explain things they might not quite grasp. So, being born in his blood really analagized that I was now of his family, and my own earth family could no longer claim me. If you knew my family, you'd understand what a huge relief that was for me (certain particular members excepted - you know who you are).

Mohamed came to me in a dream, too. In fact, he's appeared on several occasions. The first, though was a humbling experience. It was back at the beginning of the first Iraq war when Saddam Hussein said he invaded Kuwait because Mohamed appeared in a dream and told him to do so. A friend explained to me that a person is holy if Mohamed appears in a dream and that holy person must then do as Mohamed commands or face big bad shit. I scoffed. Anybody can say Mohamed came to them in a dream, that's just stupid. Mohamed actually didn't come to me - he had me summoned to him, and made me wait in a waiting room for quite some time, too. He probably knew full well patience is not one of my virtues. When he did show himself, he told me flat out: "Do not make fun of my people. My people are good people. They are kind, and wise, and sometimes silly and foolish, but they want only what is good and best for everyone. They are the same as you. They are good people." Yikes. I was humbled. Rightly so.

There are a number of other life events that lead to me to think that this dog and pony show we call life isn't all there is. I won't bore my pretend audience with them now, but it's just enough evidence for me that I'm not convinced that this is it. I can't really jump on any dogmatic bandwagons, either. I wouldn't feel quite right encouraging someone to feel the power of Jesus or the righteousness of Judaism, especially since I totally deplore the way either are portrayed these days. On the other hand, I can't quite grasp the concept of eternal nothingness.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Prayers Answered

My sister died three years ago.  It was a very sad time for me, loaded with lots of “issues”, mainly being that my big sister was schizophrenic/alcoholic and try as I might for most of my life, I just wasn’t able to take care of her. For most of her life, most of her family wasn’t willing to try.  I tried.  She actually made it thirteen years without a drink. (She gets that credit, not me.) But then there was that day when she didn’t. (I don’t get that credit, but have taken it on anyway from time to time.) It was pretty much a downhill full speed ahead train wreck after that.  I had to walk away before she took me with her.  So, when she died, it marked the end of a long grief process for me.
In spite of all the drama, I knew she loved me. She used to say that if there was such a thing as reincarnation, the only way she would come back is if she could be my dog. My dogs have pretty good lives, if I do say so myself. I consider it quite a compliment that she agreed. Deb had an exceptional IQ of about a gazillion. She used to read the dictionary, which led to one of my nicknames for her, Webster. 
So, on this one particular day three years ago, just shortly after she died, and just shortly before the Bon Voyage party I was throwing in her honor, I was feeling very, very sorry for myself.  Thanksgiving was on the horizon and I did not feel the least little bit thankful for anything.  I was waiting on the mail to be delivered, hoping and praying the ink cartridges I’d ordered would arrive so that I didn’t have to drive 60 miles to try to find some. That meant that I couldn’t get out bright and early and get the day going. That meant I had time to think about how totally awful I felt.
One thing led to another, and I just started praying.  “I have a big fat whole in my heart where nobody loves me” I explained, as though God, His Great Omnipotence, needed my personal assessment of the situation.  “I need a new friend, some one to love me, some one to fill that big whole. And I mean really love me, too, none of this other relationship crap I’ve played at, I mean really love me.”  That should get the point across to Mr. All Knowing.  I went on – “I don’t even care if it’snot a man – I don’t. I’d prefer a man, you know, but I just don’t care. I want love.  Real love.  And I don’t care if he’s white. He can be black. Or brown. Or spotted for all I care.  I just want love.” 
I cried for a while. And after a while, I did feel comforted. Time had passed and the mail was likely delivered.  I dried my eyes.  I looked at my sister’s picture and said, “I miss you, Webster.”  I blew my nose.  “Hmm,” I thought,  “Webster sure would be a good name for a dog.”  I laughed and left to check the mail and get on with the day.
Where I lived at the time was way out in the wilds of nowhere on the edge of the national forest. There were about fifteen homes in the area, but none more than about a half of a mile from where we kept a community mail box area.  I checked my box, and there was a little key for me to go over to the other area where they put any packages you get.  Yeehaw – my ink arrived.  I walked over to the package area and checked for my box number.  Some little movement caught my eye -  I looked down, and there, huddled by the post was a teensy, weensy, little black puppy!
“Webster”  I exclaimed.  Then, I thought I ought to check – yep, he’s a Webster. I went straight to the vet to have him checked out – he weighed three pounds. He was so tiny. Nobody was sure how old he was, but the vet estimated he was probably six weeks and could get his first shots.  As it turns out, he wasn’t six weeks. Probably more like three. By the time he finished his final little boy shots, he weighed a whopping thirty-five pounds.  Today, he weighs a whopping one hundred pounds. I best as I can tell, he’s probably part lab, part great dane. He’s huge. Tall, long legs, great big huge head, a tongue that hangs out the side of his mouth as he runs across an open field. He truly believes that everyone is much happier if he has his mouth wrapped gently around your arm.
He complains loudly, much as my sister often did.  He has the nastiest, silent but deadly farts, much as my sister often did.  In the final analysis, he’s everything I could ever want in a dog.  Instead of missing my sister, I was able to fill that time with watching a puppy grow up having a total puppy blast in the wide open spaces of the north Georgia mountains. As for that big fat whole in my heart where nobody loved me, it’s been filled up and then some

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Age creeps up. It's sneaky. One day you're 13, the next 53. Or more. Still feel 13. Until a cold snap comes and suddenly every body part hurts. Walking upright is no longer taken for granted. Falling isn't improved simply because you still can get up again. One day, you won't be able. So, what does age have to do with beauty and laughter? Because, as with all of life, age is beautiful and funny. The lines on my face are memories. I want to outline them and fill them in with color. I'm not so much wise as I am experienced. Been there, done that is my new mantra. I want now to do the things I have not yet done - and they are fewer and further between. Is that the street sign of life well lived? Or just thoroughly lived? What is a life well lived?