Monthly Archives: July 2007

When nothing but a standing ovation will do

Setting: Pizza Place, outside on the patio, waiting

Performer: Rocky, on a small wooden “stage”, demanding that we sing “Twinkle Twinkle” while she dances in front of all waiting pizza-eaters

At the end of the song, she gives a whole-body flourish, then freezes in her dramatic ending pose – one arm flung out to the side, one tucked in close to body, head to the side, eyes closed in the passion of the moment.

She stands and takes a bow, to the applause of the audience. All but one. She goes up to the offending woman, says, “Excuse me, aren’t you going to clap?”

The woman, properly chastised, blushes and applauds.

I know, I know…

But I have to tell you this.

Today I had a test at school. Sort of the final test – I had to give an instructor a full hour massage, with a bunch of required fancy moves, for a grade. I had to pass to move on to my internship.

I really felt like I gave a bad massage. This test came in the middle of some very, very difficult, painful life changes. I was nervous and preoccupied the entire hour. I was just trying to make it through.

After the session was over, my instructor clothed, then went to her office to fill out some paperwork. I sat taking deep breaths, waiting for the final verdict. She came back in, handed me an official-looking paper. She said, “I’ll let this speak for itself.”

My grade was an astonishingly high 97. Her only comment, written in red across the bottom: “This was one of the best student massages I’ve ever had.”

I … I just need a little break. No I don’t.

I’ll be taking a little vacation, maybe a few weeks, from blogging. Just wanted to give those of you who check in a heads-up. Of course, every time I say I’m quitting for a while, I say “just one more…”

Hi, my name is Blue, and I’m a blogaholic.

Hi, Blue.

In the meantime, check out this amazingly awesome group of women, with whom I’m in a writing circle: Amazingly Awesome Women’s Writing Workshop.

Love,
B.O.

Meanings of Words, by Rocky

“Mama, come sit on my bunkbed.”
“Sure, baby.”
“Be careful Mama, don’t bunk your head on the bunkbed. I have done that SO many times. I bunk my head on the bunkbed.”
“Is that why it’s called a bunkbed?”
“Yes. It’s really low, and you have to be very, very careful, not to bunk your head.”

Me and Mini-Me







When you fall asleep, I will eat you

I’m sitting at the little coffee dive near my house, my anatomy and massage texts piled before me, spread across a four-chair table. I am listening, due to morbid curiousity, to the hour-long conversation of two women at the table next to me; apparently between them they have about 90 or so combined years of failed romantic endeavors. Burning into my back are the bright crazy-eyes of the bear in the painting on the wall behind me, a childish 40s-esque cartoon bear with a heart on his sweatshirt, a penile bulge and a bright red smily mouth with the caption, “Poochy Bear sez: when you fall asleep, I will EAT you!”

Usually at this late hour this place is overrun with the scruffy, foul-mouthed young white urbanites who work here plus about a dozen of their friends, yelling back and forth between the kitchen and the counter, their talk filled with charmless swagger. The last time I was here, they were joined at 11:30 by a tough-acting dykelet who looked to be about – oh, I’d say 19. She slammed through the door and made a big show of being there. “You’ll never fucking believe what just fucking happened to me!” she yelled, her voice fake-gruff. “What? What?” the young hipsters responded, their voices fake-concerned. “Oh my fucking god,” she began, stopping to fake-steady herself. And the yarn she spun was old-style incredible, as in, it was the dumbest, least-credible thing I’d ever heard, about how she was at this convenience store, yo, and she’s in line and this fucker walks in and like, he’s got a fucking knife yo, and he holds up the fucking cashier and then the manager tries to get the knife away and the fucker’s like about to stab him, but she got in the middle and was like trying to talk him down, she said come on man this is so not worth it, come on give me the knife, and he like sort of cried and she got the knife and he ran out, and the manager was this old Arab dude and he was like what do we do and she was like get rid of the fucking knife! So she threw it in a fucking trash can on the way here, yo! Oh my god she was so fucking stressed out about it and she just needed a fucking beer!

A few minutes later the tough girl was consoling her male friend, who was going on a trip without his girlfriend, by telling him, “Yeah, I’ll take care of your woman for you! l can strap it on, give it to her better than any man!” At which point I left and did not return until tonight, three months later.

And now the failed-relationship women are gone and it’s just me, the owner, Leslie the transvestite, a couple of cockroaches, and Poochy Bear, who will eat me if I fall asleep.

I guess that’s it.

Emancipation

A few weeks ago, I got an unexpected day off when I showed up at the new construction on the east side and the water was turned off, there were guys in dirty jeans all over the place and their fixit stuff was all over the floors. I couldn’t clean the house, so I phoned the contractor, then took off for home. I decided to explore my way through east Austin instead of heading back to the main roads.

The streets were narrow and the trees and yards were lush and green, and wildflowers grew out of the sidewalk cracks. In my gentrified neighborhood, there are no cracks and there are few wildflowers. We’ve got groovy xeriscaping and “bring the troops home” yard signs.

I haven’t done much exploring on the east side. I drove for a while, seeing only brown faces. Then after a while, there was a slight mix, then all black. Then, suddenly, it was Juneteenth, and I couldn’t move.

“Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863.” Juneteenth.com

I couldn’t move because suddenly there were cars lining the already narrow streets, and there were cars in front of me, cars behind me, and we were inching slowly, slowly deeper into the narrowing side streets toward I didn’t know what.

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I come from a family ancestry rich with shady and nefarious deeds. We were privateers, pirates employed by the crown, so you can use your imagination. I do – I see leathery, tattooed men with my father’s build and salty women with muscular shoulders disguised as cabin boys, sailing wild and free across the great gray ocean, fighting and pillaging as they go – fighting and pillaging like you see in Hollywoood, where if you hurt somebody they come to with a bucket of ice water, and if you kill somebody he was an evil monster with no soul and no children, and if you go to rape somebody, well, it’s kind of funny, and in the end you both are friends again because she outwitted you and you wouldn’t have really, anyway. You’re a ruffian, a scalawag, the kind of ne’er-do-well the pudgy Christian mothers clack their tongues at and cuff on the ears, but really inside, your heart is noble and good.

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Boxed in as I was, I could only follow the car in front of me into the heart of the neighborhood. A river of people, all black, were on foot and heading in the same direction, flowing around my car from left and right. There were parked cars lining both sides of the already narrow street, leaving a tiny gap for the 5-mile-an-hour traffic. I heard shouting from ahead, and began to hear the boom-boom-boom of music. I craned my neck out the window. A block ahead, the migration had stopped. People were standing three or four deep along the next cross street, which was cordoned off with a single rope and orange plastic flags. People in fluorescent safety vests were leaning on construction barrels, waiting. There was a Juneteenth parade coming.

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Night after night, in a small room, a figure sits at the foot of a bed, gazing at the moonlight slanting in between the horizontal wooden slats of a window. She’s a black woman, a slave; emancipation hasn’t touched her. She’s thinking, I don’t have it as bad as some. She’s crying quietly. She feels like she’s drowning.

Then I wake up.

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The crowd is clapping and waving and the din of the parade is raucous and muscular, very unlike the tidy sounds of celebration in my corner of town. Miraculously, a large white SUV has turned around and is inching around the cars, heading the other way. When it reaches me I scoot over best I can. I look up – behind the closed window a mid-40s white woman, hands gripping the wheel, shoulders rolled forward, jaw set and eyes planted on the narrow path out of here.

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Yes, we were privateers, and we must’ve been good at it because we made a killing and settled ourselves down on the stolen shores of the American South. We decided to try our hand at farming. Except it wasn’t a farm. As it turns out, my pirate family owned a plantation.

Stolen land, stolen people.

You just can’t turn that into anything noble and good.

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The drivers in front of me are getting out of their cars, leaving them parked where they are in the middle of the street. I sit there, my hands on the wheel, holding my breath. I reach for the door handle.

Then an old man is there, at my window. His skin is the color of flint, and his eyes look tired. “You trying to get out of here?” he asks, unsmiling. I hesitate, glance at the parade, feel the rhythm bouncing in my gut.

I put my hand back on the wheel. “Yes Sir,” I say. And somehow, he clears a path for me to back into. I edge the car around and pull away from the crowd, back out onto the main roads, away from Juneteenth.

And I didn’t even thank that man.