The Day We Were Americans

Six days before one of the most infamous elections in US history, in a time when there had never been a wider trench between Democrats and Republicans, when an unspoken cold war breathed its icy breath down each of our red, white, and blue spines…the curse of the billy-goat was broken.  And without our realizing it, a nation came together, if only for a fleeting moment that tasted like cracker jacks, and smelled like cotton candy.

Let’s roll back the clock to 1945.  Come with me…Sinatra on the radio, Pin-ups on the walls, and Wrigley Stadium pregnant with the roars of the fans.  William Sianis rolls into the stadium on the north side of Chicago with his smelly pet goat.  After many complaints about the odorous beast, he is asked to leave.  At which time he declares, “Them cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”  And they didn’t.  Not a World Series.

Flash forward 71 years.  Rihanna on the radio and the walls, Wrigley Stadium still pregnant with the roars of the fans…it’s 2016.  A new war, one that has nothing to do with Nazis or surprise attacks, fills our lives.  Bitter diatribes are at every turn.  Our smart phones in hand, we peruse Facebook, Twitter, Instagram….any platform we can, to find a supporting argument for our passion or our venom.  We all worry about the future of our nation with different moral compasses, different lifestyles, and different core beliefs.  How will any of us ever feel patriotic again in these unsettling times where we all, regardless of our affiliations, seem to know this year will define a new future?  We all sit under the curse of the elephant and the donkey.

However, Wrigley Field is unchanged.  Criticized for not updating, that emblematic red marquee still ushers the fans inside.  The ivy-covered walls stand proudly as elders of the National League.  The hand-turned score board reminds us of a time when technology wasn’t king, though few of us have enough candles on the birthday cake to remember such a time. I certainly don’t.  I’ve experienced it only as folklore.  However, the outdated field reminds us of the great AMERICAN pastime.  It is one of the last remaining simple things we have…and man, don’t we need a little simplicity?

On November 2, 2016 all men and women, of all races, religions, and political parties held their breaths collectively.  Could the Cubs, still under the billy-goat’s spell, get that last out in the 10th inning?  Could they win the game, so long and painstaking, that it had now carried over into November 3rd?  Could the billy-goat be wrestled to the ground in the wee hours of that Fall night?

Indeed he could, and with one swift throw, and a man out at first, it happened.  The players stormed the field, pairing laughter with tears.  They were boys again, jumping up and down, for the love of the game.  The crowd thundered with praise and all men stood together, singing the song of the full-grown bear.

I don’t know the outcome of the election yet.  I don’t know what our country will look like just months from now.  However, I have the tiniest hope that we are all still Americans.  I hope that when we take off our baseball caps and put on our suits, or uniforms, or badges, that we remember who we were.  It took the Cubs 71 years to tackle that goat, but they broke the curse.  I now have but a shard of faith that as a nation we can wrangle a donkey and an elephant.  I’ve seen it now, in my own lifetime, with my own weary eyes.  There was a night at Wrigley field, where we were all Americans…and it was sweet.

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Photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal

 

 

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Mason Jar

I know how to end up in a bathtub, in the dark, drinking whiskey out of a mason jar on a sunny Friday afternoon.  I know exactly what it takes to decide that instead of going to a Reggae festival with all your friends, you will instead, put on dirty pajamas and listen to only the most sorrowful 90s music.  I feel guilty even as I write this because I know that people have gone through far worse than what I have, but it doesn’t temper the sting.  I take slight joy in that I’m typing this with a possibly broken finger.  Maybe that makes it a little more legit?

I got my hardest rejection yet today.  A literary agent that I stalked at a book signing had been going back and forth with me for about a good 8 weeks.  I mean, he was it.  I felt like a sophomore in high school who just went to third base with the quarterback.  I thought we were going places, but then it didn’t work out.  He told me how incredible my writing was, and how impressed he was with the revision he’d specified for me.  He told me my persistence was immeasurable, and that my passion would carry me.  Then he told me he couldn’t go on my journey with me.  I’ve heard it before, but not like this.  We were so close.  I mean, there had been some serious discussion.  Didn’t that count for something?  I knew this was it.  And the worst part is how grateful I am to him for all of it.

So tonight I’m having a pity party, where I’m the guest of honor.  I get to ask why them and not me.  I get to think of all the hours…the blood, the sweat, the tears.  I get to fantasize about what might have been, and wonder why I wasn’t chosen. I get to relish in that awful, but magnetic feeling of self-destructing for a minute.

I might let my dogs sit with me as long as they’re melancholy enough.  I don’t want to see any tails wagging.  I don’t want people to build me up, or tell me it’s meant to be.  I don’t want anyone to nonchalantly write off my latest failure.  I want them to let me have it, let me bathe in it, and let me listen to 20-year-old R.E.M. (though I may switch to Collective Soul in a few).

Tomorrow will be different, because I know there’s a sick part in me that likes the pain.  Tomorrow I will find more events to attend, more agents to query, and more people to connect to.  But for tonight, it’s whiskey out of a mason jar. Why a mason jar?  Probably just for the poetry.  Probably so I feel a little closer to the romance of feeling like a loser.  You fellow writers know what I mean…

I’ll go back to rose` from long-stemmed glasses tomorrow.  But tonight…tonight is for pity.  My mother always told me, “Take a day.  Cry, scream, piss, and moan.  Feel sorry for yourself.  Just make sure it’s only one, though. You get a day.”  I think I’ll cash in.  Tonight is for me..me, my pity, and my mason jar…

 

 

….and maybe Johnny Cash just to make it worse

The Grown-Up Wedding

     It was about this time of year in 1998, give or take a few weeks…I was 12 at the time, and think I had just kissed a boy for the first time a matter of days before. It was the kind of kiss friends shame you into then watch with intrigue until their turn rolls around.  Strange how thinking about it still reddens my cheeks, but makes me laugh at the same time…

     It was about this time when my second cousin got married in Atlanta.  We drove the 3 1/2 hours to get there, which felt like the road trip of a lifetime to a bored pre-teen. I was excited to see my older cousin, whom I thought was so smart and beautiful, as well as my favorite great-aunt who was always the chic one.  However, I wasn’t so excited to be holed up in a hotel room with my Mom at the time.  I was feeling like such a kid, and I was itching all the time.  I didn’t know for what, but I remember this trip in particular, I wanted to be older.  I wanted it to be exciting.  I didn’t want the usual pleasantries that used to make me smile…my, how’ve you’ve grown…you’re a big girl now…look at those adorable cheeks.  Those were compliments for children, and I could stomach no more of them.

     The wedding was in a gorgeous old house in one of the fabulous districts near downtown Atlanta.  There were servers offering up hors d’oeuvres and champagne in the half enclosed room that smelled like a peach candle I’d once sniffed in the lobby of a hotel at the beach. It was dusk thirty, and the winds ushered in the southern spring air that was perfumed just enough.  Everyone wore fancy dresses, and the band played something I later heard while watching Casablanca. I was at an adult wedding, and that I liked.  I also like the dress I was wearing, which almost gave me an A-cup.

     My mother let me have a sip of her champagne and I wasn’t sure if I thought she was the best mom in the world or she was now going straight to hell for what she’d done.  But hey…I got champagne, and was starting to feel like one of the real people.  I started floating around the room, eyeing the crowd, looking for someone to charm with my sudden dose of confidence…and then found him at one of the food tables.

     The boy from Vancouver was a relative of the groom, and an usher in the wedding.  I’d noticed he was handsome during the ceremony, and had also noticed he was way too old for me.   I’m sure I lingered at the food table to get a better look at him, not dreaming he’d speak.  He turned around and peeked over his shoulder at me.

     “You, know, you look like Britney Spears,”  he flashed a white smile.

     “You know, I’ve heard that,” I tried to be cool, surprised I had even spoken back.

     We went on to talk for several minutes, and I was acutely aware it was because he was talking to me…I hadn’t just followed him around like a lost puppy.  He was an older boy talking to me…probably the first time I’d been noticed in this way. He wasn’t being creepy, and certainly kept his distance…after all, he was 16.  We both knew it.  I got the feeling though that he wished I’d been just a little older, which then, was all I needed to feel special.

     My mother and Aunts chuckled at my obvious crush I tried to hide when back at our table. They’d been watching me yacking away from afar, amused at this side they’d never seen.  They were careful to needle me about it only just enough.

     I spoke to Vancouver a couple more times…then in an instant I was back with my mother; it was time to leave, and it scared me.  I felt connected to this other human in some way, but I was a 12 year old headed back to North Carolina.  He was a 16 year old headed back to Canada.  My mother told me to go say bye, but I decided not to and followed her outside.  I heard a whistle from behind me.

     “See ya later, Britney,”  he called out.

     I smiled and threw my hand up as casually as I could make it look, and walked away like it was nothing.  Although I had a strange gut-wrenching feeling that first showed-up that night too.

      Back at the hotel my cousins and I went night swimming, and I’ll never forget how big the moon was shining down on the pool.  It was a sticky, steamy night, and I felt like the air I was living in.  Somehow the look of that moon, though…it gave me hope…maybe I’d see that boy again.  Maybe I’d find others like him.  But then, and just then, I realized I was growing up, and it had never been so exciting.  I could hear my cousin yell out, “Marco,” but for me, there’d be no “Polo.”

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     And I never saw him again.  He was a flicker of a moment at a grown-up wedding that with but a few sentences let me know it was time to come of age a little bit.  To that, at now 28 and happily married, I still smile.

The Camelback Scar

It was hot…very hot.  Maybe if Spring had arrived on time in North Carolina instead of playing hooky until mid-April, I would have been more prepared for the Arizona heat.  However, late-March was still being pretty cruel to the southern states.  A sixty-degree day was looking pretty sexy.

The day we decided to climb Camelback Mountain, the giant pile of rocks that pops out of nowhere upon entering Scottsdale, the sun rose laughing at us.  It knew our destinies, even if we didn’t.  I assumed it would be fine…after all, I’m from the land of humidity.  I’d take the dry heat and leave it crying like a little girl when I was through.  I’d been going to the Pure Barre Studio for two months now, and was feeling pretty cocky about my lower body strength too.  I threw on some yoga pants, a hat, and a smile.  I was going to go walk the little trail, with my little smart water in hand and have a dandy day.  I was already thinking ahead to what kind of beer I’d grab afterwards.  A good day loomed.

My husband and I had ventured out west to visit a friend and her husband while he was in Spring Training.  My friend, Susan, my husband, Kimsey, and I decided to hike one day instead of go to the game.  We started trotting up the ankle of Camelback, swinging our iPhones, chatting about where we’d be eating dinner later, already salivating over the famed butter cake. 

It got a little steeper, and we panted a little bit, as expected.  The conversation started trailing, and we were feeling a little proud we were now conquering the tourist attraction, breaking our tiny sweats.  We got to the first overlook, patted ourselves on the back, and took our first rounds of pictures.  Honestly, I thought our mini journey was almost over.  Then I look over and see Susan, perusing a sign with her eyes widening underneath her aviators.

“What?”  I mosey over.

“Holy shit,” she scoffs pointing to our only warning.

I then reviewed the sign informing me that about 75 people per year get rescued off the mountain, that it only gets harder from here, and that I should be carrying with me about ten safety items I did not have.  I glanced down at my sports bra that supported my phone more than anything and looked over at my husband who held the bottle of water the three of us were sharing.  I then took inventory of the little chart that showed how steep things would get.  It looked like a line graph of Mark Cuban’s income stream.

“Umm-Can we do this?” I asked wondering if we were insane.

Somehow we decide we can, and while putting the rising temperature out of our heads, begin the real journey. The first truly scary stretch we came to went practically straight up and touted a slick metal hand rail for us to hoist ourselves with.  I didn’t know if I could or would do this.  I was no experienced hiker.  Frankly, I was afraid.  Somehow, at the same time, I was more afraid of turning around and starting back down that mountain like so many others were.  So, I just started doing it. My hands were sweaty and at one point I thought I would fall backward and boosted myself off another man’s shoe while my husband pulled me up by the arm.  After that, I got a newfound strength.  I just wasn’t going to be afraid.

I climbed several more segments of uphill formations, surveying which rocks to grab, and deciding whether to go upright or on hands and knees. I drifted from right to left, deciding which side would accept me.  I coughed sand out of my lungs and embraced the sharp stones that attempted to leave their marks on my shins.  I no longer thought of the summit, or why I’d come in the first place.  I just thought of the moment, where I was, where to put my foot, and the strange pleasure it gave me the harder it was.  I was disappointed and exhilarated at once each time the trek worsened.   I wanted it to be hard.  I wanted to get marred.  I wanted to sweat.  I wanted to raise hell right back at the sun, and I wanted it to hurt.  I was climbing of the hump of the camel’s unforgiving back now.

This attitude wasn’t like me.  I’m not the girl who camps in the wilderness, or jumps into dark water.  I don’t climb rocks or go on solo kayaking trips.  I don’t do these things.  However, now that I was, I hoped it was tough.  I wanted to wrestle it to the ground, and know it was something real, and that not everyone could do it.

After nearly two hours of the grueling voyage I’d made it to the top.  I bent over, put my hands on the knees, just panting.  When I could breathe again, I remembered I had a prize waiting, and stood up to enjoy the view that would be my reward.  It was an amazing view.  It was a view of hustle an bustle, people hugging, taking pictures.  People chugging out of their canteens. People scurrying.  People who were alive.

The scenery was to die for.  I could see for forever…rock formations, clouds, never-ending skies, but that didn’t do it for me.  I saw people reaching goals, accomplishing something. I saw people proving they could do something tough, and extraordinary. I saw people refusing to quit.  I saw Susan jumping up and down, and my husband conquering his fear of heights.  I saw success.

I’m not a great outdoorsman.  I probably won’t set my sights on Everest.  What I am though, is a go-getter.  I’m a writer who had another experience that made her remember she CAN.  I’m not staring at the summit of the writing world, but I’m not at the bottom either.  I’m somewhere in the middle, in the momentum, in the rocks of Camelback guessing which rocks are the sturdy ones, and I’m going to keep on.  It leads somewhere…I know.  I’ve been to a different form of that place…same kind of battle.  The very same, and I slayed that camel. 

I have a little wound left on my right ankle where a rock scraped me.  It’s a scar less than an inch long.  People laugh when I show them my Camelback injury.  I love it though, because it’s a part of Camelback I carry around.  It’s my souvenir…that it was hard, it hurt a little, and that it was worth it. I realized I want to be a collector of scars, more than anything.  And being a writer, that’s a good thing to be ok with…I guess that goes for really wanting anything.  I hope everyone goes and gets themselves a Camelback kind of scar.

     

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Uphill battle!

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Wow

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Me in the mountainside:)

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We made it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pura Vida

There is so much I could say about Costa Rica…you know, the typical things everyone knows:  the black sand was unbelievable, the rainforest was a presence to be reckoned with, you must try the zip-lining…blah, blah, blah dinner party talk.  I could focus on those things, which I’m in no way trying to disrespect (because they were indeed all I hoped for), but other things stood out to me more.  It wasn’t the sunset cruise or horseback ride that got me…it was our last night on the beach at the end of the adventures when the real one started.

Though Costa Rica is incredible, aside from some unique rock formations, there’s nothing particularly aesthetically special about most of the beach in Tamarindo.  Once away from the volcanic rock, the sand is brown, and the water a little murky.  The Caribbean beaches would chew it up and spit it out along with the ones I’m accustomed to up and down the Carolina coasts.  Maybe this is why the beach there made me feel home to begin with. 

It isn’t a perfect paradise by text book definition.  It is something else though…this is a beach with diapered gold-skinned babies decorating the sand with tiny footprints.  This is a beach with dogs diving into the water chasing sticks thrown by whomever might have one.  It is a place people speak to one another…a place where surfers hide from the things they left somewhere on another planet similar to where I’m from.  I didn’t quite realize how immersed I wanted to be until that last night.

My legs were still sore from riding my bike everyday, something I hadn’t done in at least 15 years.  My two girlfriends and I had gotten to the beach a little later than we’d hoped, trying for a ” hail Mary” in the tanning department.  However, it was just a little too late in the afternoon, and we knew it.  We found ourselves getting bored and a little put off at the lack of sunlight when we went to drown the humidity at the shoreline.  I don’t know which of our husbands barreled the football our directions, splashing us with the cool Pacific water, but that’s what started it.  Somehow this led to one of us getting tackled, then it was a game of three prissy girls playing against 3 guys who were suddenly 16 again.

We forgot about wanting a tan, protecting designer swimsuits, or bitching about getting a little sand on us.  Instead we sank into the laughter around us, became only our spirits, and let Tamarindo have us.  One of my girlfriends went back to her childhood with two brothers and found her grit again.  She laughed in the face of her blonde highlights, and scoffed at her frilly bathing suit top.  Another friend, the one with the long sexy legs, ventured back to a time when those legs were scraped up and a little gangly and used them like a spider-monkey would when trying to tackle our husbands.  I could see her running around in the dirt after cheerleading practice at her grandmothers farm again.  Neither of my friends were mothers right now, even though they are incredible ones; they were just knobby-kneed, sand-covered beings without any responsibility.

I’m the shortest of all of them, and probably come in a close second to spider-monkey-legs for prissiest.  However, my inner-child showed up too.  I remembered the only summer I decided to be a tomboy.  It was the year my Aunt took me to a braves game and bought me a ball cap to wear.  I wore it backwards with my long blonde hair that I didn’t know how to fix properly flowing from underneath…I was about 10.  On the beach I became her, the girl I was the summer of the braves hat when I climbed trees, got stung by a caterpillar, and held my own trying to beat up my bigger cousins.  I would just focus on looking little and non-aggressive while staying low to the ground and gritty.  Tamarindo did this to me again at nearly 28 years old.  I was hitting our husbands at shin-height and knocking there legs out from under them like a little gremlin.  That’s who I really am anyway.

Costa Rica gave me a gift that doesn’t come in abundance.  The vibe there alone woke my friends and myself up inside in our purest places.   We got the relaxation we wanted, but it didn’t come in the form of rum punch on the beach.  It came by taking us back to that child-like place which is the only one we are ever that free.  We got the adventure we wanted with proudly-worn scrapes and bruises to prove it.  Costa Rica was beautiful no doubt, but the greatest part was getting a little bit of something we didn’t even know we missed back. 

We played until the sun went down, turning the water gold then black.  When we knew it had to be over I think everyone felt a nostalgic lump trying to shack up with their tonsils.  However, we’d bonded like kids in the summertime, and we knew at least we would always have Tamarindo.    ~pura vida~

 

Susan, Lorna (me-in hat), Kasey

Susan, Lorna (me-in hat), Kasey

Around the Punch Bowl

My writer bug started fluttering over the weekend.  I threw my best friend a baby shower, and just experiencing the interactions of small-town southern women at the event was enough to do it.  My friend, like myself is an Asheville, NC native.  She now lives about an hour and a half down the road in the metropolis that is Lincolnton, North Carolina.  Outside of the Tar Heel State I’m sure no one has heard of it, (though I do recommend seeing the charming little colonial courthouse there).

Lincolnton is a tight knit town full of old money, and old families.  Everyone’s Daddy knew everyone else’s Daddy, and what town he was responsible for building.  I believe I was dining on the Lincolnton shower staple, pickle rolls, amongst the elders of Cherryville as well, but I wouldn’t swear it.  They are all very delightful though, and I look forward to my trips there.  But, just like women in Asheville; natives are natives.  I know I’m from outside, even if it’s only a couple counties.

The shower started at 2:30, and I began seeing short women with tall hair and Mary Kay rouge start to roll in at about 2:35.  Nobody would dare arrive on the dot, nor be considered late.  I was nervous about the blue punch I’d made.  I’d found the recipe on Pinterest, which is normally a guaranteed show stopper, but I was in the company of women with Southern Living Subscriptions.  I know how they are.  I blushingly admit, I am by nature, a bit of one of them myself.

They swept in and glanced at the food table, delighted to see the blue and white argyle cake we had not scrimped on, reigning over the pickle rolls and pimento cheese sandwiches.  They remarked on the gorgeous invitations that were sent out, and the beautiful eyelet white dress the Mother-to-be was sporting (after I dragged her kicking and screaming out of the black dress she’d chosen).

I held my breath when they got to the punch bowl.   I’m younger than most of these women; maybe Mama’s punch recipe didn’t include blue Kool-Aid.

“Well isn’t that different…how cute,”  one woman said.

“It’s a bit frothy…”  said another.

I thought back to putting in one extra scoop of ice cream.

The mother-in-law put me to ease, “Look at those cute rubber duckies…looks like they’re swimmin’,” she accepts a glass from me, tastes it, and shows delight.  Since she is respected in the small community, I am soon out of glasses.  I can breathe a moment.

I see my friends come through the front door.  I notice one friend had a plethora of gifts in her hand, and I question if I did enough in my mind.  I am jealous of my other friend’s cowboy boots.  I hope no one thinks I look fat in my dress, and that my Spanx aren’t showing. I fidget with my new blue dress a minute, and arrange my bubble necklace. Strangely, I’m relieved in spite of all the anxiety.

My pregnant friend whom the party was thrown for makes her way to the punch bowl with my other two friends.  We stand there unknowingly segregating ourselves like we had since middle school, which gets closer and closer to being twenty years ago.  We make our observations about everyone: whose dress looks nice, who made that gorgeous basket, who still has their summer tan, and who is a potential cause of stress.  I notice one of my friends gets her own punch, drinks it, and refills her glass.  She enjoys the punch, not knowing it’s a source of stress for me.  She’s insecure about other things.  Will my child tear into the gifts, or disrobe in front of everyone as she has been known to do once or twice?  My pregnant friend hopes her house is clean enough and no one sees the dog toy lying in the floor.  My cowboy boots and sundress friend still wonders how she is looking after having her baby last year.  We’re all worrying, but not about anything anyone else thinks we are.  We are all worrying about our own insecurities, no one elses.  Yet, the fun isn’t fake,  In spite of the naggings, we’re legitimately having a good time.  We come up with enough sassy comments to put anything to rest.

 

Why?

Sometimes it isn’t the time to be deep and philosophical, but a time to retreat to something simple.  It seems the older I get, the more I realize this.  Maybe I’m going backwards like Benjamin Button, or maybe I’m getting smarter and realizing in those deep meanings we assign things in life is where the trouble exists.  Either the wisdom is in simplicity or I’m experiencing early onset Alzheimer’s at 27. 

I’ve spent countless hours before pondering the human condition and psyche…to the point I’ve almost driven myself crazy actually.  Perhaps because I’m a writer, I’ve conditioned myself to think this way; to draw out every detail of everything that floats through my mind.  However, I’ve found more times than not, it’s best to not dissect the alien just because it landed. My younger self would be so disappointed.

I used to believe everything had to be explored, but now I don’t.  This is not the idea that we shouldn’t think or that we should forfeit our right to discover.  It is however, that once we’ve discovered something, we tend to stir whatever it is around with an unnecessary  stick…particularly if our discovery is stressful.  Sometimes things are what they seem, and its ok to leave them alone.  But it’s so damned hard isn’t it?  We’re told not to play with matches, so we quickly run to the back room to strike one don’t we?  Why?  I think I just answered my own question…

“Why” is a word in our vocabularies and can be found in every language.  A cave man probably just grunted some sound before he lit his thumb on fire…it’s in us. We are praised for asking why.  However, do we take it too far?

 It seems it is our salvation and our downfall.  We don’t want to lose our egos and live in a world like Ayn Rand describes in Anthem, but we don’t have to be so purposefully cantankerous for the hell of it either.  I used to things defiance was intelligence, spunk, and ultimately the fire that would light a passion in me that would change the way people think.  It’s happened before, and I’m grateful.  However, what I didn’t know is it is only smart to defy for a reason, a cause that hasn’t been selected for the sake of having one.  Sometimes we do everyone a favor by coming off a soap box, and just feel ok for a minute.  Sometimes solutions are no solutions.  We never know when to stop pushing though, and we’re told from infancy that it’s never.  We aren’t taught how to be content.  We don’t know we’ve reached our answer and to just sit down and stop.  We never know when answers don’t exist at all.  Those things, the ones we ponder or don’t, become our passions and our poisons.  If we could only have a clear view of which is which…why?

My conclusion this time?  Sometimes it’s ok to just be that average Joe for a minute for no reason.  Don’t care about what happened at Easter Island.  Forget who went to what college. Don’t think about tomorrows bills today.  Don’t even read about Syria just that once…come join me.  I’m about to pull a chair up poolside, fix a stout mimosa, and find a little joy admiring the color I painted my toenails yesterday.  I’m throwing my hands in the air for now.  I’ve no room for endless ponderings for a while…and I don’t know exactly why…I just can’t.

When Words Marry a Melody

When words are married to a melody equally as powerful as they are, things happen. Lyrics change, and where there was once no understanding, sometimes the notes are the answer. They awaken deaf ears, or passions we’ve turned our backs on.

I haven’t been writing as much lately. The rejection got to me. I continually preach how I’ll never stop trying, I’ll always love writing before all else, and I won’t give up my dream of sharing it. However, I did…a little bit. I was angry at my writing. It became like a little gremlin that wouldn’t shut up no matter how tightly I closed my ears. I found myself screaming into pillows and imagining pulling the writer out of my chest to lock it in a box. However, much like the tale-tell heart, it beat so loudly. I let it drive me mad, and busied myself with anything I could to avoid it. I never thought I would see the day…

Then it happened. I heard one of those songs that only come out every couple decades. I heard a new sound that jolted me to life. I heard the melody before the words. It was sultry and grinding. It was folksy and bluesy. It was modern with antiquated traits. It was some place where the ghost of Janis Joplin mingled with Lady Antebellum if such can be imagined. It may only get to be heard…

I closed my eyes and breathed in saw dust from a mill dirty men were working at nearby. I saw a barefoot woman in a second-hand, dirt-washed, floral dress pacing in a barren front yard in front of her shack. I saw a newspaper thrown down beside her declaring World War 2 was over, but was more concerned with the blood stain on her right shoulder. I hadn’t yet decided where it had come from, nor if she is insane or just drunk. I do however know she is thirsty. She’s thirsty to be touched, loved, or just noticed. I think she was probably born cursed and is more earnest than people know. If she is at the point of madness she’s been driven to it. She’s strong, but probably won’t be forever. The daisy in a Dixie cup she picked for herself gives her away. Oh my…Where did this character come to me from? It happened in a flash. I think I can make something of her…was it simply a few bars of a song?

Then I snapped out of it and heard the words,

“Billie Jean is not my lover. She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one. But the kid, is not my son.”

It was drawn out, pushed, like the singer was forcing himself out of a heat stroke on a southern August day in the Carolina sand hills. They had covered a MICHAEL JACKSON song in such a way they showed me Billie Jean herself. I saw her before I heard her name, and now she’s inspired me.

The band, The Civil Wars told me the story of girl with a deep sadness about her who just tries to be a good time. They told me the story of someone who was once beautiful but used and denied to the point she lost herself. They told me something Michael did not. They told me her side.

Now I have to write the rest of the story. I now see the next level, the rawness, the pain. I see the man who did this to her, and I see a gun in another lovers hand. I see a washed up war-time pin-up, and I see bastard child with a curse hanging on her head as plainly as her Mama’s. I hear old southern accents, like the kind my grandparents use bustling about, and I smell moonshine on all their breaths. I think…I think I just might have a novel in spite of my rebellion against it. I think one form of art reached out and stroked another, and I think I am grateful.

Summer Soundtracks

Country music is better in the summer. Nine months of the year I can take or leave most of it, but those country singers…they get southern summers.  My latest poison:  Springsteen by Eric Church.  It’s not new, but it tickles just the right spot every time.  I’ve always connected music to situations, and when he says, “it’s funny how a melody sounds like a memory,” he has me. He has me bbecause it is so true.  When certain songs come on, they’ll just rip my guts out, sometimes the good way and sometimes not so much.

I write about memories a lot…a whole lot.  It’s not that I’m stuck in the past.  I love my life right now.  I have a great husband, unbelievable friends, and have just started a new business, but I bet I’ll understand the excitement about it all even more when I’m staring at it from a long way off one day.  Maybe that’s just the writer in me that makes me go back…that and the music. 

I think its ok though, going back.  Someone is probably rolling their eyes right now thinking, “yeah she wouldn’t go back if she’d had my past.”  I don’t really know if I would or not, but I do know mine hasn’t always been full of gummy bears and rainbows.  But, I believe in the past.  I believe in remembering it, looking at it from time to time, and letting it reveal you to yourself.  I believe in the good, the bad, and the ugly of it.  The problem comes when we forget to use the bad and ugly parts for good.  Instead we torture ourselves trying to forget them, lie to others by saying they are forgotten, and spend way too many grueling hours trying to lie to ourselves.  And that’s my soapbox on that…

However, this one isn’t about the bad memories, but about the yummy summertime kind…the kind country music understands best.  This is about the kind of memory you’re embarrassed to admit you’re still in love with and laugh out loud about halfway embarrassed when your obnoxious friend brings it up at a dinner party.  Go ahead and smile about it.  Think back to that boy from out of town you skinny-dipped with three hours before you were supposed to show up for Sunday school.  Let your mind go to those shorts you wore until they fell apart the Fall of your senior year…you know, those that would still be your favorite.  Find that place where you got up the nerve to kiss a stranger for the first time.  Go home tonight and cook dinner for your family, and make out the weekly bills, and thank God for the job you have tomorrow, but please, before your head hits the pillow, let a country song take you to some Neverland that never ages past the last few days of seventeen.  Let it take you there and let yourself feel it until you squirm because it has you  hooked like a worm right through the gut.  And remember…Saturday is coming and it’s June-thirty.  Don’t let it slip by today so the writer in you will love it all over again tomorrow whenever you hear some song you didn’t even know was playing at the time.  It’s a great little surprise the song has for you, and you’re laying that soundtrack right now by pure accident.  Even if you don’t think it’s country, and you live in the heart of Manhattan, it is country still.  It’s always tears of happiness or sadness, with even the good things being a heartache if they’re real.  The country songs just admit it all for us because raw is all they know, and know it more in summer.   I love this time of year, and music it leaves behind that even the most bitter cold, furthest distance, or longest years cannot drown out…the summer soundtracks that perfume our lives with oohs, ahhs, laas, and nananas.

The Night

There’s the strangest thing about the night, and I don’t know what it is.  It doesn’t matter if you’re in bed with your husband, or up with a screaming baby.  It doesn’t matter if you’re driving home from the late shift, or about to sleep off an unforgettable night.  You may be sneaking down the stairs to get a bite of that chocolate bar you can’t get out of your head, or just flipping the pillow from side to side.  An old lover may be haunting you from the inside, or a new one may look like a stranger in your bed.  Maybe a good book is your fancy, or maybe the restless leg syndrome paired with the migraine has flushed the idea of a good read down the toilet. There are so many different things to be doing, but until the sleep actually comes, there is always that feeling…the one not to be explained…the way you feel while it’s all happening.

At night the masks come off and we become something we aren’t during the day.  My guess is that we become that vulnerable person we really are.  Everyone knows the feeling…the one right before we relent and let the nods finally draw our eyes sweetly shut.  It is a feeling almost like loneliness, but not quite.  It is definitely a cousin to anxiety.  I wouldn’t call it fear, although one last run through of all the things that could be harmful occurs at this time.  I wouldn’t say I get nostalgic this time of night, but the reel of memories tempts me to.  Oh that feeling…it isn’t quite happiness is it?

What is it about the night that does it to us?  Is it that we have nothing left to do but shut down?  Is it that there’s no need for logic to sleep?  Maybe the night strips away whatever it is we hold onto to make it through the day, and we just roam like nomads out of control.  Night is anything but quiet.  It is full of stir and much ado.  However, at night we are meant to leave others undisturbed, so whatever that roller coaster we are on, we ride solo.  I’d say we’re most ourselves somewhere between two and three a.m., but no one will ever know.  We are all busy doing our own things…biting our nails and spitting them into the floor, hugging a toilet, watching Seinfeld on low volume, eating something strange like cold spaghetti, or maybe, for the lucky ones, finally achieving rapid eye movement.  The moon is our sole witness while we all practice solitude.  Whatever those things are we do, though; apparently they get us through the night.