Thursday, June 30, 2016

Words

The most wonderful thing happened this morning; I missed the bus.

As I rode up to the bike dock next to Union Station where other BikeShare riders circled like vultures for a bike to be returned, the bus passed me.  I walked up the hill to the bus stop to await the next shiny red Circulator.  Lines were churning in my head.  Thoughts.  Ideas.  I strode over to the long wall opposite the bus stop, took the small notebook from my purse, set in on the wall’s ledge and began to write.  I wrote!

I wrote until the bus came.  I let much of the long line of people board, getting as much out as I could before joining the fray to hope for a seat.  I sat.  I continued to write, letters bumpy but legible enough.  The bus reached it’s second stop.  I thanked the driver and disembarked.  But I was not done writing, so I did not stop.

I sat at a table in front of work, the grey metal tables that fill with people in the hot noon sun but sit empty in the morning shade.  I sat and I wrote.  I wrote until I was done writing.

Then I went inside that massive stone building, walked under the bronze relief of falling books, tumbling words, to a metal room where I would sit and write some more, but not for me.  This morning, I had written for me.  And my world was at peace.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Where Have All the Letters Gone?

It’s no surprise to anyone who still follows this space that I don’t write here much anymore.  The less obvious part is that I don’t write much of anywhere anymore.  No garter skirts, no lions, no stories, no essays, no articles.  I write tweets.  Just tweets.

It makes me sad.  I do not like this, this not writing.  It is not intentional.  I want to write.  There are millions of things floating in my head.  About a bus, and a frog, and  copyright, and copyright, and copyright.  About privacy and how in America that so-called “right to privacy” that people clamor over is really a right to be fake, to completely control what others have available to perceive about you in attempt to control the perception itself.  About my new church.  About my new car.  About my life.  That’s not new.

But I do not write.  I force myself to write in my journal at night, to at least catalog my day.  It is not elegant.  It is barely legible.  It is not for public consumption.  (Which has not stopped the DOJ from demanding photocopied pages from it, but I digress into another thing about which I have not written).   But I do not write.

I draft in my head as I bounce along on a crowded bus—I am not dexterous enough to write in moving vehicles.  I draft in my head as I maneuver a bicycle around crowded streets—I cannot write while steering a bicycle.  I draft in my head as I stand under the warm shower spray—water and paper do not mix, water and computers mix even less.  I draft in my head as I drive down the highway—see moving vehicles and bicycle.  I draft in my head as I loll off to sleep, snuggled under my covers, too aware that if I turn on the light to start writing, I’ll be up for hours and I need sleep for the next day; I hope I’ll remember in the morning.  I hope I’ll remember when I get home.  I hope I’ll remember.  But I rarely do.

I remember the ideas, the topics, the opening lines.  But I rarely remember the words, the phrases, the way things fit together.  And I never remember the passion, the excitement.  It is the drive that has gone.

So I do not write.

I come home from work exhausted.  Less exhausted from work than exhausted from the act of getting home from work.   Three miles; it takes me 30 to 90 minutes to make the trip depending on mode of transport, and no matter what, it ends with walking up a steep hill.  Sometimes it is physically exhausting; sometimes it is mentally exhausting.  Often, it is both.  I am tired.  I change into something that isn’t plastered to my skin.  I make dinner. One hour.  I eat dinner. Two hours.  I get ready for bed.  It is time for bed.  And I draft in my head.  But I do not write.

Tonight, I have written.  I have not made dinner, yet.  Tonight, I will go to bed late.  Tomorrow will be hard.  But I wrote.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bye Bye Betty?

Goodbyes are so difficult.  I am not ready to say goodbye, but it looks like it may be time.  Betty is at the car hospital.  I had to call the AAA emergency line on Saturday.  We were heading home in the early evening when she suffered a loss of gas to the engine.  (See map; click for points of interest.)
Map picture
She wasn’t out of gas--I gave her 8 gallons that afternoon—but the gas was not getting where it needed to be.  There was no power to the engine; there was no power steering; there were no breaks.  We coasted until she came to rest on the front lawn of a large house in Davidsonville, Maryland.

An hour or so and 23 miles later, a very nice tow truck driver was unloading Betty from the flatbed ambulance to the corner of a tiny mechanic’s lot in Southeast DC.  (Conveniently, and coincidentally, down the block from my work.)  I said goodnight to Betty and climbed back into the tow truck cab for a ride home.  I haven’t seen her since, and it’s not looking good.  The mechanic is having difficulty locating the part she needs—a flex coupler.

Betty and I have been through a lot together.  8 years I’ve had her.  8 years and 5 months.  That’s longer than any other vehicle I’ve had.  That’s even longer than any home I've had.  (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for kicking me out for college.)  When I bought Betty for $2200 on New Year’s Eve in 2007, Daddy told me she wouldn’t last a year.  My amazing mechanic in Cali said I’d probably get at least another year when I moved in 2013.  In that light, making it to 2016 isn’t too bad.  But still, I don’t want Betty to go.

Betty has carried me through my life in four states.  Together, we did the move to three of them.  We’ve been across the entire country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and many parts in between more than once;  Highway 40, I-80, Route 66, and of course the gorgeous drive down Route 1 with Munchkinhead.
snow Betty
Betty and me in Wisconsin winter-before-last.  She looked good in snow (it hid all the missing paint).

There was that time in Iowa, when Orgfish’s neighbors called the cops about this unsightly car parked in their neighborhood and the police left a giant florescent pink “WARNING” on Betty’s windshield.  (I sent it to Orgfish as her birthday postcard some years later.)  The adventures with Daddy moving from Cali to Wisconsin when we spent an unplanned day exploring Ephraim, Utah while the hose connecting Betty’s coolant overflow tank to the engine was replaced.  And that infamous time we got pulled over for DWB, also in Utah.  I guess we should have stayed out of Utah.
me and daddy at ephraim city hall with blogproof daddy
Daddy and me being the statue outside Ephraim City Hall while Betty was being repaired.

She’s had some tough times, my Betty.  There was that incident where I sort of backed the side of her into a pole trying to get out of a parking spot in Cali.  And that time a week later when I did it again in a different garage.  That first incident was the one that resulted in my having to go in-and-out the window for awhile until a body shop could get her unlocked.
After that, I couldn't lock Betty anymore.  She was ransacked at least once in every town in which we lived, but it was never that bad.  In El Cerrito and D.C., they just made a mess.  But in Cudahy, they took my tape adapter.  I had to fork out another $5 for a new one from Amazon. 
Betty after being ransacked in Cali.

But that was back before I made Betty her very own mixtape.  We've been listening to it a lot less these past few months.  One, I was getting a little tired of it, but more importantly, Betty hasn't been feeling well a lot of the time and it's important for me to listen to her as we putter around town.  She gets especially cantankerous on damp or rainy days and left turns.  I check her fluids at least weekly and keep a storehouse in the trunk of every liquid you could need to put in the car, plus spare clothes and an astronaut blanket in case we get stranded, and bungee cords and sheets for unexpected hauling adventures.  She can really carry stuff!
Taking home my new queen-size bed.  The frame was in the car.  Sometimes going in-and-out the window is a good thing!

Betty hasn't really had a radio in a few months.  The antenna was knocked off by a carwash back in Cali years ago.  The mechanic disconnected the auto-expander and quasi-fixed the antenna to the car.  A few months ago, I walked past Betty on the street and noticed it was gone completely.
Betty with antenna quasi-fixed back in 2014 (after we lost her front trim on who-knows-what).

Betty sans antenna in snowy DC this winter.

DC is rough on Betty.  Besides the antenna loss, the swampy humidity caused the fabric on the ceiling to start detaching.  I pinned it back in place with a decorative pattern of thumbtacks.  Sometimes, they fall off, too.  Backseat passengers, beware.  Parking outside with no shelter these past two years hasn't been great.  The mohawk on her roof that had developed slowly over the years has quickly gone, leaving just a small patch of white amid a mess of unpainted grey and rust.  Whenever AAA asks what color the vehicle is, I say, "well, where there's still paint, she's white."  AAA came out a lot the past year.  In addition to the tow, there were several dead batteries. We eventually figured out the culprit was the glove compartment light, which wouldn't shut off correctly ever since Munchkinhead broke off the latch on a very cold WI night coming home from the theater.  I braided some yarn, looped it through the inside hook and the hole in the door where the latch used to be and tied the door shut, but it wasn't enough pressure for the light switch.  A mechanic took out the bulb and Betty stopped dying.  Somebody took out a taillight with who-knows-what.  (I replaced it.)  Oh wait, that was me.  I backed into a tree trying to do a Y-turn; dented my bumper sticker.

And then there was that time a few weeks ago when Betty got shot.  Just her tire, luckily.  The police tape is still in her backseat, next to the blanket I put in her for when homeless people use her as a warm place to sleep.  (Tho I would prefer if they'd put the seat back upright when they're done.)  The tire shop had to bust off one of her hubcaps in order to rotate the tires when I got her new one.  That put her down to two hubcaps.  We'd lost one in Cali when the mechanic had to bust it off.  She wears the two she has left on her back tires.  The recently removed one rides in the trunk.  I always have to call AAA when I have a flat tire, not because I can't fix a flat, but because I can't jack up the car.  There's no frame left for the portable jack to lift; it just goes right through the car.  AAA has to come out with their big fancy jack and lift her from the frame underneath.

Betty's got character; there's so much that's still so wonderful about her. She floats down the highway--when her engine's getting gas anyway.  I can parallel park her like you wouldn't believe, even on the left-hand side of the street.  Her heater is amazing--the air-conditioning hasn't worked since at least '08, but I hate air-conditioning anyway.  She's very polite--no horn.  Her interior is spacious and comfy.--At least I think so; Daddy thinks her front seat is broken, claims it's lopsided.  He may be right, but since I weigh about 100 lbs less than him, I can't really tell.  The thing I notice more is that one hole in the floor by my left foot that my stiletto will slip into if I'm not careful.  It matches the hole in the seatback from the previous owner's dog.  But I digress. 
Betty is so spacious, Munchkinhead turns into a t-rex when she tries to drive her.

And most importantly, she gives me an amazing freedom.  Not just the standard freedom of a car that allows me to go places far or near whenever I want, but the additional freedom of going places I otherwise couldn't or wouldn't.  I never worry about where I park Betty, if she'll get scratched--who'd notice? or that she'll be stolen--that'd be a very weak joy ride.  I get the prime spots in the grocery store lot, right next to the cart return.  Her heft makes her a great option for snow-covered streets (ok, my Wisconsin training helps a little with that, too.)  And I'm safer in neighborhoods where I otherwise would stick out like a blazing red target.  The combination of Betty and my white privilege allow me to go anywhere.  Betty helps me blend in where it's rough, and being a white girl gets me a pass when Betty raises suspicions in the fancy places.  In a city like D.C. where neighborhoods can change from one to the other in half-a-block, and where it's so easy to get lost, this is especially important.

Betty and I have travelled a long way together and we're both a little worse for the wear.
Betty and I both looking shiny, if not new, back in the summer of '08.
 

Betty turning 170K just over a year ago.
 
 
I'm just not ready to give up.  Not yet.  Not quite.  Not without a lot of tears.  So here's hope that somehow, a 1993 LeSabre flex coupler shows up in D.C., and that the mechanic can then figure out why gas stops going to the engine sometimes.  The flex coupler isn't for that; it's so the steering column doesn't detach from the wheels.  That's why she's been hating those left turns.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Revisiting the tear-stained sun

“Her books are very emotionally difficult to read.”  It’s a phrase I say nearly every time I’m recommending one of Chimamanda Adichie’s books, most often for Half of a Yellow Sun or Americannah.  I know it to be true.  I spend a great deal of the time with my head buried in her books also with tears streaming down my face, an angry growl churning in my stomach, my face glowing beet red.  I always assumed it was the subject matter.  Her works contain a lot of violence, sexual abuse, domestic abuse; I mean, it’s war, and difficult relationships, and oppression and such.  It’s not supposed to be easy.  But that’s not the reason.

The subject matter isn’t what makes Adichie emotionally difficult to read.  What makes Adichie emotionally difficult to read is her writing.  She cruelly uses our humanity against us, her readers, plays with and preys upon our propensity to hope.  She presents something to us, makes it familiar, comfortable, happy even-- A calabash providing solid comfort to a terror-stricken young woman on a dilapidated train overcrowded with fleeing refugees; a bouncy baby girl that arrives into our view only a few pages after the characters who have become endeared to us decide together that they want to have a child; the expectant young relative whose joy and excitement is brought to us through seemingly excessive side-jaunts to her far-off village.  But the calabash holds a young girl’s head; the baby is only one of theirs; and the pregnant women are raped and sliced open before they are killed.

Adichie uses our innate hope for the good and beautiful, presenting a world to us that we do not even know is veiled, until we love what we think is there; and she pulls off the veil, daring us simultaneously to love the hideous reality and to hate the beauty we’ve already internalized.

And I simultaneously hate and love, her.  As I turn another page with tears streaming down my face, wishing the book were over, wishing it would never end.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Second Life Tights

H&M.  The label rather gives their history away, these worn-out black knit tights lying in the gigantic pile of mending on what used to be a place to sit.  Some people build mountains out of molehills; I build them out of clothes that need to be fixed.  Much like my mother does with items that need to be ironed.

I like H&M, too, but not as much as Munchkinhead.  Or, at least, I don’t shop there quite as much as she does.  And a pair of knit tights from there is most certainly in my possession as the result of a wonderful Christmas present from her.  I wonder what the label said.  Probably something about “to: long legs, from: short legs” or some such silliness.

The tights have been through a lot.  A present when I lived in Cali, in the Yay, where one needs to wear woolly knit tights nearly year-round.  Then put to good use again in Wisconsin’s bitter cold winter, likely serving as a layer of warmth buried beneath slips, long thick skirts, fuzzy socks and sturdy boots.  It’s no wonder the tights no longer provide any coverage for toes or that it is easier to see through the heels than through Betty’s rear window.

I’d given them to Munchkinhead to darn.  She’s quite good at darning.  “These cannot be darned,” she informed me.  It seems they were already damned; one cannot darn nothingness.  So she sent them back, via Mommy, to sit on Mount Sewme until I decided what to do with them.

Munchkinhead helped.  With the decision, that is, indirectly, sending a smattering of additional torn-up legwear after cleaning out the large filing cabinet in her living room.  Within the new stash, old hold-up stockings with their own holes and runs and perfectly intact whatever-you-call-the-garter-replacing-sticky-bands-at-the-top.  A seam ripper, a scissors, and a sewing machine later, I have new black woolly knit hold-up stockings.

If I have to shorten them again in the future, Munchkinhead will have new hold-ups.

 

tights

 

stockings

 

new stocking