Monday, January 17, 2011
On New Year's Eve I worked all day and wore a gold crown. I like that paper party crowns have not changed in style since the early 1900's, it's a good look and it makes you feel like you live in the Emerald City, which is a way I like to feel and don't get to often enough. After working that long, long, 15 hour day, I came home and wrote an equally long post detailing the entire thing with side bars and footnotes and hoohaws and then deleted it and went to bed for about 12 hours. The post was just as, if not more exhausting than the shift itself and no one who is not getting paid should have to go through that. Work, work, work, champagne blah-blah. That sums it up.
The highlight of my New Year's was after the restaurant was clean and the lights in the dining room were turned low (although the bar was hopping till three in the morning), I took off my crown, took down my hair, and sat on our empty patio with two of my coworkers (who are also two of my favorite people) and we talked and laughed so hard in PTSD hilarity that Lovely and I had to clutch our faces to keep them from falling off our heads.
Lovely has a new boyfriend (who had also worked a double at his restaurant) who was there and I got to hang out with him for the first time. I was watching him closely, because Lovely is my work-wife, my beloved girl, and her last man did not treat her right, but I came to believe that this is a good one and I am so glad. I may be at my best, socially, after I have worked for 15 hours because it's a bit like being drunk. All bets are off! My-give-a-fuck meter is at zero! I am not attached to the results! Being at my best socially is not saying much, I am, as I have said, an Awkward Girl, and I tend to sit on the very edge of my seat and leap up to empty the ashtrays. That night on the patio I was so tired that not only was my hair down, my shoes were off, and I was tucked up curled in the patio chair and I did not get up once to empty an ashtray or refill a drink. I saw their drinks getting low and I said nothing.
At one point, Lovely's date went back to the bar to re-up and she tipsy whispered to me that he was funny, wasn't he? And that he felt like a socially awkward person. Sometimes you get two socially awkward people in a room and conversation just goes to shit and all the air gets sucked out of a party and then it is time to leave. Sometimes the magic happens and the two people (or three, or four, because we're none of us exactly smooth) find that these people are their people and the night opens up and you find yourself making dirty jokes in Irish accents and saying, "Oh Danny Boy, THIS pipe is calling..." and it is exactly right and an old man in a bow tie wanders out with a cocktail in his hand and tells you that you are a beautiful girl. It's amazing what hair down does. It makes men silly. And the gold hoops, Mama, the hoops. Well, anyway, that is what happened.
A week later I was sick. I think the holidays caught up with me and all the long hours at work and doing really the bare minimum of taking care of myself. My heat, for example: It's an old furnace and tricky to turn on. I tried to light the pilot myself and could not. I asked my friend Sanchez to come help me and he tried, really he did, but mostly he tried to play romp with me on my bed, slap me on the ass, and ask for a sandwich. Then he sat and looked beautiful in front of my window as the sun set and we smoked my cigarettes and talked about dirty nuns. After he left I went to Target and bought a space heater and some tampons and thought, "I am really taking care of myself now." A space heater does not an entire apartment heat. Since then on the really cold days I have camped out in the living room while the cat sails her pirate ship around, and bracing myself every time I needed to go to the bathroom or get a change of clothes. I am sure by now that all of my neighbors have seen me naked. It's like it's included in the rent.
I knew that either one of my fathers could probably get the furnace working. I knew that. I also knew that my brother-in-law could do it because he did it last year and the year before, but that was why I was especially not going to call him. I don't want to be a bother. I really really don't. I am loathe to ask for help. I would so much rather make my brain figure it out and make my body somehow do whatever it is I need it to do, and if that means it takes a long time to get the thing done, well, so be it. If that means I have to experience slight discomfort, so be it. I don't mind, generally, I really don't. I am very good at distracting myself from discomfort and so it's not like it's really all that bad, and I get such a charge from doing things myself that it's worth it in the end. Usually. It's amazing what you can do by yourself.
Or if you are sick and cold, you may find yourself passing out in your living room and really trying not to because you have a cup of tea in your hands and you don't want to have to clean up the mess later. Not in your weakened state. Which is of course what happened.
I hadn't been feeling right for a while, but I kept thinking that if I hadn't gotten sick yet I wasn't going to. Then I started coughing, and my temperature rose, and I had to admit defeat and call in sick to work. It was a little like the heater situation. I felt worse and worse, but never actually horrible, not like I was dying, and there was no one around to look at me and tell me I looked awful because when family called to see if I needed anything I said no, no, I have everything that I need. I wasn't bleeding out my eyes or anything. Then came the morning of the dizziness and the world going black like an old TV set switched off and I sat on the floor with my head between my knees and thought, "Well shit. How am I going to drive myself to the damn doctor?" Which is when I sucked it up and called my brother.
There have been a few times in my life when I really have felt like I needed a hero and those are the times I have called my brother and he has always come, and he has always done exactly what was needed to be done.
He left work and came and scooped me up. We went to the doc in the box (who ended up being very nice and told me I wasn't getting enough air because I had Bronchitis, hence the dizziness and I was like Oh Good, Bronchitis! I was afraid I was maybe dying. I thought it was the end of times) and we went to get my prescriptions filled, and we called Mama and she said "Come Here So I Can Take Care Of You." and I said, "Yes, ma'am." So he drove me all the way out to Lloyd where Mama was already making soup and all I had to do was curl up on the couch and pillows and blankets and tea would be brought to me, like I was a little princess, watched over by Mama and deer heads and giant fish.
[An aside: Not only did my brother leave work to come get me and do all this but the whole time we're going through the fun process of doctor and pharmacy and what-all, he's making me laugh and I'm laughing and coughing and laughing and coughing and I'm sure scaring everyone at the doctor's office and the store into thinking that yes, the plague has arrived. But that's Hank. He is funny as shit.]
It was so nice and so cozy at Mama's house. My nephew Owen, Our Boy, came over and brought me flowers and brushed my hair and called me May-May for the first time that I have heard in his perfect little bell-like tiny boy voice. Mama made the best soup I have ever had and that is all I ate for about three days. I felt coddled. I felt loved. I felt safe.
Their drugs were quick and by the next day I was ready to come back home, except... Oh it was so nice to sleep in a warm house and walk freely from warm room to warm room and not shiver and cringe when I had to use the toilet. I had asked my brother for help. I had asked my Mama for help. And so that day I called my Daddy Glen, my tall-man dad and asked him Please, could he come and get my furnace to working? Which he did, and was happy to do so. I told Mama that when I walked in the house the next day and it was so warm it was like Dad's arms were wrapped around my entire apartment, just holding me safe, keeping the warm inside.
I don't know why it is so hard to ask for help. I think I have a fear that once you ask for help people will think you are helpless or weak, and then treat you as such, or not trust you, or not respect you as well. Now as I write this I see that so much of my own identity is tied up in being able to take care of everything alone, being strong and independent, and so perhaps I am afraid that I will think of myself as weak or helpless, that I will lose respect for myself and it really has nothing to do with how others perceive me. I honestly don't know how others perceive me, which is probably a good thing. So if one thing I rely on for self esteem is not really helping me out in the long run, perhaps I need to reevaluate what might be my better qualities.
I have quite nice hair.
My legs are very strong.
I can make jokes in many accents.
This may require more self reflection than I am up to right now. I am on very aggressive steroids and antibiotics. I am not supposed to be doing anything that requires coordination. They may cause dizziness and light-headedness and I am encouraged to avoid operating heavy machinery or driving a car. (I just read that on the label yesterday after having worked brunch and feeling all day like I was serving in a fun house with trick floors and wondering, wondering why I felt like I might fall down at any minute.) Serious self reflection may have to wait until I am well enough to walk to work again, which is the best time for thinking.
Today is my normal day off and it is rainy and gray. I have heat, I have food, I have drugs to make me well. I have sunflowers by my bed. I have everything I need. I believe I may do a lot of sleeping, so the getting better goes by faster, like a car trip in the night when you are a child. So safe, so safe, and when you open your eyes you are there. The world goes by very fast outside those windows, but you don't always have to watch it. Sometimes other people can watch it for you.
Monday, January 3, 2011
I banged my way through some redecorating this morning. That is how those of us in these old Florida apartments do our redecorating- we bang some nails in the walls, hang some shit up, step back to look, and then bang some more nails in the walls. This is technically against the rules of every apartment I've ever lived in, but it is not one of the hard and fast ones. When you leave you can either fill the holes with white toothpaste, or you can leave them for the next occupant which is really the most helpful way because there are only so many places to hang pictures in a hovel. Three of my paintings are actually hung on nails that were already in the walls when I moved in, and the placement is perfect. No banging necessary.
I put up the amazing calendar that my brother, Downtown Guy, made for me. If you haven't stopped by his picture blog, I've Had Dreams Like That, I recommend you do so now. My brother is an artist and a writer whose words put my scribbles to shame. His picture blog combines that fine eye and that way with words with his love for discovery and his hunger for history and lays it all out there for us to see. Strange beauty, children with swords, dancers, fighters, ships, shanties- all that spins the imagination with some cock and titties thrown in for good measure. He picks images that my eyes want to look at and my brain to wrestle with, and he has, he has had dreams like that. For Christmas he made us calendars with pictures from the blog, and all along the days of the months he put in the songs and poems that fleshed out the pictures, and sometimes wrote his own words when no others would fit. When we were children he taught me the definition of 3-D by holding his threatening fist to my face, and now he has done it again by making something flat go in all directions at once. So I am three days late but now it is on the wall.
The calendar shares space with a Degas print that he found at the flea market for me and is the same painting that hung above my childhood bed until I moved out and was then lost in some move or the next. It was given to me originally by a boyfriend of my mother's who worked in or lived in or was connected to somehow a house with green velvet striped walls. The boyfriend was not important, it is the Degas that remains. The original hangs in the Musee de Orsay in Paris, and when I turned the corner and saw it there I burst into tears.
Also on the wall with the calendar and the Degas is a painting of girls with sensible shoes, another of a coffee cup (that one an original from my father to start my collection of original art, ha ha), a spray of coral from Dog Island, a pencil sketch of a bird by Alex "Feather Fingers" (a tattoo artist I know), a wash board (also given to me by DTG for our jug band we never quite got together), and a photograph of a family from the early nineteen hundreds where the mom wears glasses and a giant bow and the baby has parted hair. Bang bang bang, I promise they all go together.
Bang bang again and next to the front door is now a circular art deco mirror in a wooden frame that has on it two tiny shelves. One holds a blue teacup and the other a glass box of treasures. These are the treasures that are so precious they can only be put in something so magical as a glass box: a heart locket from Daddy Glen (aka Mr. Moon) that contains shell particles from St. Augustine Beach, a piece of shoelace from the shoe that was cut off of me by EMTs the day I was hit by the car, a screw removed from my leg that formerly held together my internal hardware, a medal earned by my Grandpa Fish, animal teeth of unknown species still in partial jawbone, and a platinum pin with a champagne diamond given to me on my wedding day by my Granny Ruth. The mirror that holds the shelves that hold the treasures was given to me this Christmas by my stepmother and so there she is too along with everything else.
A mirror is a tricky thing to hang, even one so small. All of the mirrors in my house are hung in such a way that you never have to accidentally see yourself when you don't want to. I don't like catching my reflection unawares, she looks so startled and so strange, not like me at all. Also, when I was a kid I had an imagining that when I looked into a mirror my best friend Django could see me in his, and I still look away when I don't want him to see my face.
The redecorating reminded me again of how much I like my apartment and also how I am sick to death of it. Everything is dusty. Everything is old. I have my past hung around me like thumbtacks that hold my place in his world and prove that I have been here. I have a green cabinet that holds pictures and obituaries of people I have lost and it grows busier and busier. Joe, Jarryd, Grandma Dot, Aunt Lynn, a valentine from a boy named Demetri now gone, and more. It also holds shells, a music box, a doll I made, some beads, all things they touched and now gather dust even though I still hold them in my hands sometimes. I need to hold them in my hands sometimes. Not often.
I think of my decorating style as tree house decorating. The scavenged chairs, the secondhand pictures, the hand-me-down tables, the yard sale lamps, the Flamenco dancer, the mannequin head, the multitude of books, the cups of pens. The newest thing I have is a kitty pirate ship Mama gave Lupita for Christmas, and now that she is a pirate, the cat is even harder to live with.
Until you have your own children, every new apartment really is just another tree house to live in. A place to put your treasures in. And read sometimes by candle light. And bang bang bang the nails in walls.
I do prefer the old things though. I'd rather have a scavenged chair than one from the store bought to match. I like things that are heavy and ornery, even if they lean to the side a bit. I want the things that tell a story, which is why I love my brother's blog, or a scuffed table, or a portrait of a family I do not know (as long as the baby's hair is parted so).
My ex husband and I did not argue much (until the end, of course) but one thing that always came up was the furniture and the furnishings and how they were arranged. He believed that it did not matter what something looked like, it was its use that was important. If we needed a computer desk he would go to Walmart and buy the cheapest one that served, while I was more apt to put the computer on a spindle-legged side table that I found in the trash on the side of the road because I liked the way the paint chipped or the way the shape of the thing fit into the room so nicely. I learned through living with him that he could not see a room as a whole, but only saw the individual things within it. So if I brought in a lamp with a water stained shade, he saw only a lamp with a water stained shade, whereas I saw how the shape of the base mirrored the shape of a vase on a shelf that was the same color as the skirt of the girl in the painting on the wall who also held a vase that was made of green glass and that is why I put the plant by the window where the light would shine through. It was a different way of seeing things. We could have found common ground I suppose, or compromise, but divorce came first. We did not divorce over decorating, we divorced over sex and money, but decorating was my first freedom's pleasure.
It has been so long now since I have lived with a man that I cannot imagine how one would fit in with all my things. Would he find my altar to lost people macabre and ask me to take it down? Would he see how the angle of the butt of the little girl painting in my bathroom matches the angle of the butt of the sexy pin-up girl in the advertisement for St. Germaine I hung next to her? Would he bring a giant leather chair? I would have to hide the tampons and stop hanging my bras from the doorknobs. Would he come into the bathroom to pee while I am shaving my legs? How do people live together at all?
Now I am curious, and I ask this of you: How is your house set up? Is it very important to you that things be just so? Do you share your house with others, and how does that work? Do you see individual things, or do you see it all as a tapestry? Do you have a physical reaction when you rearrange? I remember how that computer desk from the Walmart made my stomach hurt, though I don't remember if I told him that or not.
What is important to me is that my house is set up to be held easy in my eyes and soft in my heart, tells oh so many stories, and can take a little bang bang bang.