Monday Night Nonfiction: Flow

Things come and things go.

People enter and exit your life.

When opportunities arrive, don’t just wave as they pass by.

This ain’t a parade.

No one’s gonna throw you candy while you stand on the curb.

That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse — remember that!

But don’t spend so much time remembering that you forget to act.

For those who wonder, Mardi Gras is not about watching no stinkin parade.

It’s about walking up and down the road, meeting strangers as you go.

Barefoot, beaded, sweating, whatever.

Beg a beer from some stranger’s cooler. Bring them beads. Make friends.

It’s about flow.

Life. Time. Change. Growth.

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Monday Night Nonfiction: Bend and Sway

“Angry Anymore”
by Ani DiFranco
growing up it was just me and my mom
against the world
and all my sympathies were with her
when i was a little girl
but now i’ve seen both my parents
play out the hands they were dealt
and as each year goes by
i know more about how my father must have felt

i just want you to understand
that i know what all the fighting was for
and i just want you to understand
that i’m not angry anymore
i’m not angry anymore

she taught me how to wage a cold war
with quiet charm
but i just want to walk
through my life unarmed
to accept and just get by
like my father learned to do
but without all the acceptance and getting by
that got my father through

night falls like people into love
we generate our own light
to compensate
for the lack of light from above
every time we fight
a cold wind blows our way

but we learn like the trees
how to bend
how to sway and say

i, i think i understand
what all this fighting is for
and baby, i just want you to understand
that i’m not angry anymore
no, i’m not angry anymore

Do you ever look at photos of yourself as a kid and remember what it felt like to be a kid? Do you think about how you struggled with being in your own skin at every age? How you criticized photos of yourself, questioned what your parents told you, wondered if you’d ever grow up, wondered if you’d ever be great? Do you ever look at pictures of your childhood self and think, “That kid is awesome… I just wish she knew it?”

I’m just saying, maybe you should try it sometime.

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Monday Night Nonfiction: Neptune Blue

After we did not die of inhaling paint fumes or falling off ladders (because, miraculously, we didn’t fall off any ladders), or heat exhaustion, dehydration, over-caffeination or plain old fashioned frustration, we slept in our new house for the first time.

The bedroom is blue — Neptune Blue and Colorado Springs — and the floor is maple colored. I thought maple would be a syrupy color, but it isn’t. It’s more like a manila folder, which is not the same as a manila envelope. Manila envelopes are ugly. Manila folders are rather nice. Our maple floor is quite nice. Our chocolate brown bed frame is delicious.

When I tiptoed up and down the stairs before bed, at every corner I rounded, I expected to see the woman who used to live here. She is a couple years older than me, a mother of three, a hairdresser, blond and tattooed. When I saw her last, she was crying to her real estate agent, who was also acting as a therapist and chauffeur, because she’d had her kids taken away again, was trying to stay clean, and couldn’t find work. I expected to see her crying, just sitting on the floor or standing in a corner.

I slept terribly. At every moment, I expected to roll over and find her husband standing over me — tattooed, emaciated and blue in our moonlit room. He was (or is) a tattoo artist and a heroin addict, and known to the neighbors mostly for his bad temper, smoking too much, and barging into someone’s house demanding sugar.

All week long, we’ve been talking about Them. We’ve been kicking up the dust of their life, breathing it in and coughing it up. We’ve been tearing up their carpet and selling off their trash — $50 for a wrap-around couch with a Lay-Z-Boy and a fold-out bed. The fridge went for free. In the basement, I found and rummaged through a box of his mementos:

  • little league team photo from 1986
  • souvenir lapel pin from First Communion
  • senior portrait
  • every birthday card ever sent “to a cool nephew” and “to a special son”
  • Boy Scout patches
  • a trophy

Then I threw it all away. On trash day, we occupied an entire curb with this box (addressed to him from what must have been his parents’ address), a broken stroller, 2 recycling bins (full), multiple trash bags, a TV stand, a fake Christmas tree, you get the idea.

When we pulled out the carpet, we found an inexplicable wealth of razor blades, and we spent several days just pulling staples from the floor. Then we scrubbed the walls, and with each stain removed and each box of heart-wrenching hopeful memories of youth toted out to the curb, we high-fived each other and tossed back Red Bulls and congratulated ourselves on getting rid of Them. I sanded off the butterflies she’d painted on the walls of her little girl’s room. I peeled off stickers and took a putty knife to questionable substances stuck to the walls of the two boys’ room.

She had Marilyn Monroe hair and Kat Von D tattoos (almost — there was so much almost about her), and in the shower, though I thought I’d cleaned it, I found a handful of her hair matted to the shower head. There was a spider on the floor, and I washed him away. I fiddled with the knobs, not quite able to strike that balance between strong water pressure and a comfortable temperature.

The living are scarier than the dead. The living really can come back, and so can the bail bondsmen and anyone else they owe money. We changed the deadbolt, but he wasn’t above breaking the window to get in when he lived here, so why would he be now?

In the night I laid awake and listened to the frogs and crickets until they lulled me to sleep. Then, the faintest clicking from a cicada snagged my dreams.

“What’s that sound?”

“Hum?”

“The clicking … ”

“I’ll go look around.”

“No. Just listen. It’s … it’s not a person or anything. What is it?”

The night went on like this. Someone let a dog out for a walk. I heard one quick whistle. Some night bird taunted me from the woods.

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Monday Night Nonfiction: Tend Your Own Garden

At the end of Voltaire’s Candide, another book I should read again, the characters determine that they should each tend their own gardens. In other words, they should just mind their own lives and not worry about the rest of the world too much.

Well, due to some unforeseen delays, we’re not getting our little garden to tend just yet. Not today, at least. Hopefully some time this week. In the mean time, I am continuing to fantasize about the life we will have in our new house. Mostly, these fantasies focus on the joyful ripping out of stained carpet, but there is also the prospect of my new writing room and a garden that, if I get my way, will likely resemble my favorite photo of  Kurt Vonnegut.

vonnegut_kurt_garden_800

Mr. Vonnegut wouldn’t mind, right? I guess this isn’t what Voltaire had in mind, but I really would like my garden to resemble Vonnegut’s in more ways than one. I admire his directness and simplicity, his humor, and his hydrangeas. I want more than anything to do what he did, which in my opinion, was to build a career and a life out of speaking the truth. He did it with such love and humor that you couldn’t fault him for it.

Maybe, in a way, that is exactly what Voltaire meant — to tend your garden isn’t just to mind your own business but to live your life and speak your truth with the utmost love. If you could just do your best at your life, whatever that was, you could be happy, and you might even get lucky and bring happiness to others.

Well, hopefully very soon, we will have our house, and with it comes our garden. Wish us luck.

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