Speaking of online dating and “ass vaginas”

This last time I was in Curaçao (at the end of this summer), I decided to sign up for the dating app, Tinder. I thought it would be an easy way to meet cute boys on the island (not necessarily for my island fling fantasy – see my related post on island flings and diving instructors from a couple of days ago). I actually did meet a couple of cute, interesting, smart guys through Tinder and have kept up contact with them since returning home. So, when I got back to Raleigh, NC, I figured I would see how meeting men on Tinder would fare here in the Triangle.
OH. MY. GOD. 90% of the matches I get end up deteriorating rapidly into the dude saying things like: “So do you want to know how big my dick is? It’s huge” or “Hey, send me a picture of those tits” or they message me pictures of their naked abs and underwear crotch shots. I’ve received several likes from married couples who want me to join them in a down and dirty threesome. Endless likes from dudes who list their university experience as “The School of Hard Knocks.”
After asking one university professor of economics that I matched with where he last traveled overseas, he asked me if I was down to use a strap-on dildo to, and I quote, “pound his ass vagina.
On Tinder there are endless pictures of guys leaning on sports cars or bathroom selfies of them lifting up their shirts to show their abs. Here’s the thing guys, most women do not give a damn about your abs or a muscular body or your fucking car. If you can make us laugh and you are thoughtful and attentive, you are 90% of the way there. Sure, there are bodies I am purely physically attracted to, but they don’t mean a damn thing if those sacks of skin are attached to a dull, self-centered, unfocused brain.
Guys, I will give you a secret. Be funny, demonstrate ambition, kindness and intellect, be happy in your dad bod, shower us with attention while you do what you say you are going to do and don’t tell me about your cock (I’m old school – if I am interested, I will find out the hard way – pun intended). Love dogs. And that’s it. You got us.
So, enough with the Tindering in Raleigh. I deleted the app yesterday. I reserve that experience for my overseas adventures. Adios for now, fellas.
P.S. You can never make me laugh hard enough that I will be okay to pound your ass vagina.

Editor’s Note: One of my girlfriends posted here some brilliant insight as to why guys post these bizarre body shots: “Love this! Yes, bodies mean nothing when there is no intelligence, humor, or chemistry. I can only fathom the reason guys send pics of themselves is because they are visual when it comes to us so they think we are the same way. We are not.”

Exactly. Boys are all about the body shot. We are not.

Finally, after 5 months of trying, I got Open Water. Now what? Well, I’ll tell you.

Back at it. I LOVE LOVE my dive shop in Raleigh – but it’s dangerous. Came in a couple of hours ago to get an adjustment on my regulator – and left with new equipment, put down a deposit on a boat dive trip to Bonaire coming up, signed up for the Advanced Open Water cert, signed up for the Night Dive campout at the quarry in a couple of weeks, and a boat dive in South Carolina. I am officially hooked, line and sinker.

I’d better leave the dive shop before I sign up for the Honduras dive.  I have developed an addiction and I got it bad.  But I want to get AOW before I move to Curacao.  I want to be full-on ready to take advantage of all of the diving possibilities this island has to offer.

My last clear memory happened in Curacao

I am in a state of limbo since I left Curacao.  The last clear memory I have of anything is of a slow-motion stingray that could not be touched through the turquoise sea where, all afternoon, zippy parrot fish eyeballed me in a very desultory fashion. Ah!
I mean, this means I’ve lost my soul to the sea, correct?

Leaving behind the dark side of life (and the people who inhabit that place)

When I lived in DC and worked from home now and again, I’d get stir crazy and miss human interaction – then after a few days in the office I found I couldn’t handle the Dilbertesqueness and day-to-day horrors of office politics. I left the larger corporate world – sure, the money was wonderful, but there was no joy in it.

When I was finally making over six-figures, I believed I had truly arrived in life. That the salary was the culmation of all of my dreams, hard work and, yes, graduate shcool debt. But none of that turned out to be true. I realized that my happiest days were when I was living off of $20,000 a year, traveling the world and immersing myself in other cultures. Learning to understand who Angela was in a global context. Moving from ethnocentrism to ethnorelativism.

Lately, I’ve been reading one Princeton professor’s work as to what makes for work-related /career happiness and ultimately general happiness. Before I started reading up on living a life of effective altruism and normative ethics, I already understood I am obligated to give of my time and money to make a difference in the world. If I am in a position to do that, then ethically I am obligated to do so. Once you figure that out, the rest falls into place.

There are lots of sociological & exhaustive psychological studies offering stats on what makes for a satisfying career. In my career and in my voluteer/side pursuits I’ve learned to follow these tenets (and push myself even more on the volunteer side to live these) and it’s what drives me now. For number 6, I had to do some altering of that personal life – for me, it was to quit drinking, smoking and surrounding myself with negative, needy, dark and draining people and people engaged in their own forms of self-destruction (ah, is that altruistic behavior? Yes, if those kinds of people are keeping you from achieving and being all that you can.) Once I did that, my God, it was shocking how much clearer the path became. I also used to believe that my cynicism and dark side were the things that kept me honest – the fact is, acknowledging that I have both of those and looking them square in the face and not being enslaved to them is the most honest pursuit I’ve ever embarked upon. [Editor’s note:  about 3 and a half years later, I discovered that I could drink again and do so in moderation and not let it lead me down the dark path – though, when I get tipsy, the desire to light up a cigarette is STRONG in me.  But I have scuba diving goals and smoking fucks that up.  So, note to Angela – NO SMOKING DAMMIT.]

So without some meme saying trite things like “Follow your passion” (I have a passion for Chinese opera but I won’t find happiness by trying to make a career out of it because I would suck at it on numerous levels – but I CAN support Chinese opera and feel just as fine about that), here is the prof’s simple premise – remember though, these are edicts for people in a position to make choices and who have options – part of fulfilling obligations to helping those in the world who need it or devoting yourself to particular causes:

“Here are the six key ingredients of a dream job:

  1. Work you’re good at
  2. Work that helps others
  3. Engaging work that lets you enter a state of flow (freedom, variety, clear tasks, feedback)
  4. Supportive colleagues
  5. A job that meets your basic needs, like fair pay, short commute and reasonable hours
  6. A job that fits your personal life
  7. Most importantly, focus on getting good at something that helps others.”

I swear to God, people, it works.

Shirtless Gerald is not a closet gay but does enjoy cocaine: a story about Raleigh

Gerald was shirtless, wearing only a pair of cut-off jean shorts and those scuffed-up blue suede Pumas he never got around to throwing out.
“What dude wears cut-off jean shorts?” said his roommate Bobby, shaking his head and wrinkling his nose in semi-distaste. “Dude, that look cannot be pulled off, even ironically. It just outs you as the closet fag you’ve always been. Like James Franco.”  He hunched over the kitchen table, moving closer to his Cheerios, but not eating them.  He lit a cigarette instead.

“Hand me my smokes,” said Gerald brushing past him.  He moved closer to the kitchen window, peering through the stained, twisted metal blinds. His right eye twitched. “Where IS Judd? He said he’d be here in twenty. I ain’t got all day. He’s such a little fucking liar.” He let go of one of the slats, accidentally popping it back into perfect alignment.  It had not been straight in years.

The thing is, Judd dropped dead 10 minutes earlier from a heart-attack just as he was walking out the front door of his condo, little bags of shitty ineffectual cocaine in hand.   The drugs, intended for Gerald, were clenched in his quickly cooling right fist.   Hundreds of muscles loosened all over his body and carbon dioxide began building up in millions of cells that would, in a short while, split wide open and begin to devour themselves.

At the very moment Judd’s pinkish skin went loose and was fading to blue, Gerald reflected on the pattern of his life: moments of stultifying boredom and self-loathing peppered with bits of great anticipation only to have nothing much transpire.

Why should today be any different?

Being and Southerness: pineapple coconut cake and onion-flavored turds

One Sunday in September of 1979, the wind blew hard all day and I sat rather uncomfortably in the parking lot next to the Church of God in the small Southern town of Berry, North Carolina.  Here in this swampy little town the geese congregate for a spell in the fall and the air year-round smells like sulfur thanks to the smokestacks on the pulp mill down the road.   This morning, I heard Sister Dale tell Sister Overton as they were setting up the tables outside for this afternoon’s church homecoming luncheon that the stinky smell put out by the pulp mill is the smell of money.  Most of the church congregation is employed there and it’s pulp mill money what paid for all these pretty pink cotton dresses and white vinyl pumps from Rose’s.

All afternoon, old ladies with stiff grey beehive hairdos have been cutting into me, into my moistness, and exclaiming “Sister Braswell has done it again!  Good Lord, I’ll have to take twice as many sugar pills tonight!  Praise the Lord!”   I will admit, I had some competition from Sister Overton’s collard greens with fatback and homemade cornmeal dumplings (you can still see where her nimble fingers made impressions in the dough).  But at the end of the church day, it’s dessert that finishes everyone off and that’s what they taste on their lips as they drive home to watch football and vacuum the floor and crochet a little colorful lopsided afghan destined for the back of the couch.   My creamy frosting is what they will remember as they doze off in the La-Z-Boy recliner, wearily dreaming of those long ago days when afternoon sex was a sure thing on the weekend.

Ah, but I digress!  Back to church!

There among the wooden benches pulled from the vestibule into the parking lot, people moaned in ecstasy over my creamy coconut frosting and then rolled their eyes into the back of their heads (I promise I am not a sex-obsessed cake.  I just call the world as I view it.)  As Brother Braswell stuck a fork in me, I heard him whisper to the Korean mail-order bride (who was married at the time to Brother Chester, a 65-year old man who always sat through Sunday service cleaning his filthy fingernails with a rusty pocketknife) that he wanted one more go ’cause she had such a sweet-ass cooter.

The Korean woman raised her eyebrows and primly directed him to try her kimchi salad, which was an unusual dish to see on a table at a church homecoming in a small town in the South in the 70s.  “Be careful when you eat it, Brother Braswell,” said the Korean lady, “it’s real spicy, like my cooter.”  He laughed and licked some frosting off his fork in a suggestive way.  I saw his toupee was flapping in the wind just a bit and wondered if the Korean lady noticed too.

I was a pineapple coconut cake for most of an entire day, but I never let all of the compliments make me cocky.  And then, as you know, by about two o’clock that afternoon, after about 100 people had stuck a knife into my gentle sides or, in the case of some of the really old people, stuck a pissy smelling finger into my top to scoop up a dab of frosting, I was reduced to mostly fluffy golden crumbs.  Life sure is odd.  Just as you receive all the accolades and compliments and recognition that you need to go out and be confident in the world, you just up and disappear.   Doomed to a toilet bowl or an adult diaper in just a few hours.

What else can I say? Did the folks at that homecoming in Plymouth really find joy in me that day? Could I have behaved differently there amidst the giant cast iron pots of collard greens and cabbage and brightly colored Tupperware bowls of coleslaw, and mac and cheese and potato salad?  Well, I mean, sure, it doesn’t matter now, but I want to know because there will be many more cakes after me at future church homecomings.  I mean, these little kids who were digging their spoons into me all afternoon will grow up and bake their own cakes on hundreds of Saturday nights to be ready for Sunday homecoming.  This little town will grow and flourish because the ever-deepening stench of sulfur tells us so.  That pulp mill will make paper forever and little families from West Virginia will continue to move down here to find work and they’ll keep building white and yellow shot-gun houses and buying dresses and shoes from that little Rose’s department store downtown.  The world will always need paper!

Aw, sure, I was a delicious cake for just a day but I’ll tell you this: at least I wasn’t Sister Smithwick’s broccoli casserole, that one covered in French-fried onions.  That dish always makes Reverend Dean so gassy and his farts stink up the parsonage for days after homecoming because he loves the way Sister Smithwick sautees her broccoli in lard first.   But, oh, what wonderful explosions emanate from the rolls of onion-flavored turds in his butt!  What yells of disgust Brother Dean makes while he sits on the toilet!   So, kids of the South, listen to me carefully.  Keep your mind on the future and find a good husband or wife and have two children, a boy and a girl, and go to church and figure out what dish you make best and bring it to homecoming.  For this is the way of the world.

*Editor’s note:  thanks be to Istvan Orkeny, a Hungarian writer who went to the movies and hasn’t been seen since

I was the hit of the homecoming.

I was the hit of the homecoming.

 

What a woman obsessed with scuba diving looks for in a man. Or rather, what you don’t want.

Ah, what ARE women like me (who are obsessed with scuba diving) looking for in a man other than him possessing a working penis, all of his teeth, a job, and a strong stroke?
Well, I’ll tell you.

This conversation happened between me and a co-worker at some half-assed Mexican restaurant (you know the kind, where they feature $5.99 specials called Speedy Gonzalez 1, 2, 3 and so on.  And each dish tastes exactly the same but satisfies a craving so you go and eat half a pound of two day-old chips and shell out 8 bucks total plus tip for the waiter who is wearing too much Drakkar Noir and wonder why you put yourself through this mediocrity every 3 or 4 weeks.)

My co-worker, who is in her mid-30s and has been married for 10 years and has 2 children, asked me this, “So Angela, do you think you’ll find the one any time soon?”

“Find the one what?”  I asked, reaching for one of the stale chips.

“You know,” she said, “the man you’ll marry.”

“You know that I believe marriage is for the weak,” I said.  “You and your husband excluded.”  (I just said that to pacify her. I actually count her in that bunch.)

“Oh, Angela, there’s a wonderful man out there who will make you want to run down the aisle.”

“Maybe,” I replied.   I tried the guacamole.  “Good Lord,” I exclaimed, “I think they put shredded jicama in this.  It’s incredible!”  I dipped my spoon in for another try.   They had indeed put jicama in guacamole.   A revelation.

“You’re avoiding the topic,” she said.  “So, how about this.  Tell me who your ideal man is.”

“I honestly don’t know,” I said.  The waiter came back to ask us how everything was even though we hadn’t gotten our food yet.  The acrid smell of his cologne was actually clinging to the back of my throat, ruining the joy of jicama.  Suddenly I recalled that the first time I ever had sex was with a boy wearing Drakkar and we were listening to a Metallica cassette on his boom box.

“Okay,” she said, not giving up, “let’s do this.  Tell me what you absolutely don’t want in a man.”

“Hmmm…okay, that I can come up with,” I said, dipping a chip in the salsa.

“Yayyy!” she squealed, daintily clapping her hands.  “Finally.  So name five things quick – without even thinking about it.  Aaaaand…GO!”

“So.  One. I could never date a man who suggested that for a first date we eat at Olive Garden.  Or any chain restaurant. I could never date a man who regularly wears golf shirts and khaki pants with pleats in them.  Men should never wear pants with pleats in them.  Flat front only. Wait – do those two items of clothing count as two reasons?  He’s got to love to get in the ocean – swim, snorkel, dive, I don’t care.  But he has to want the water as much as I do.  Hmmm…also,  I could never date a man who wears Y-front white underwear.  Gotta wear boxer shorts or even just let your balls and dick swing in the wind.   Oh, and I like nice, solid forearms.  My favorite part of a man’s body.  Oh and one more, I could never date a man who thinks getting a group together to get on one of those Trolley Pubs in downtown Raleigh would be a fun thing to do.”

[Trolley Pubs are found in larger cities across the U.S.  They are these rolling pubs (like a giant bicycle) where up to 14 people get on and sit around a bar-in-the-round and each person pedals as they troll through the streets of downtown, drinking beer and going from pub to pub.  Their revelry combined with the flashing light decorations make it the most annoying sight and sound imaginable.]

“Oh my God,” she said, frowning.  She let out a sigh.   “I was thinking more along the lines of you naming certain qualities like if he was a Republican or is obsessed with sports.  Which I know neither of those is okay with you.”

“Those are two good ones to add to the list actually,” I said.   Wow, I didn’t know she knew me that well.

She shook her head.  “You are going to die alone.  You can’t be so specific.  One guy isn’t going to have everything.”

“I know that,” I said.  “Okay, I can maybe let go of most of those except for the ocean part.  It’s fundamental to what I think about, how I look at the world.  I cannot get around someone not wanting to be in or near the ocean.”

“What if he doesn’t like the ocean but had a lot of money and treated you like a queen?”

“I’d rather die than concede,” I said.  “Power never concedes without a demand.

“What does that even mean?” she asked.

“I don’t actually know.”  I looked around, weary of the conversation and of, particularly, myself.  “Where the hell is my Speedy Gonzalez number 12?”

“Do you really even truly know what you want?”

“Yes,” I answered carefully, “I want a man muscled in flame and who sweats kindness and intellect and who is funny and who will burn me to the ground causing me the exact opposite of harm.”

She rolled her eyes at me and nodded towards the approaching waiter.  “Okay.  Whatever.  Our food is here.”

“Good,”  I said.  “Great.”   And I threw down on that Speedy Gonzales like the good little single Mexican gal I am.

 

 

That mortician who chopped a man’s head off: one afternoon at Darrell’s on Roanoke Island

If you’re wondering where to dine “authentically” while visiting the Outer Banks, you gotta eat at Darrell’s in Manteo, a simple place that’s been serving up simple fried, baked, or broiled seafood to the locals since the 1960s. The place is always packed with leather-faced islanders and a paler, softer species of landlubber from the mainland, all wolfing down fried shrimp, hush puppies, and slaw.  Just now, as I pretend to read a William Faulkner book, I overhear one salty old fella waxing poetic in a “Hoi Toider” accent, that beautiful bizarre bastardized British accent still prevalent in parts of northeastern North Carolina.  The old man leaned in across the table towards the young man in front of him, a 20-something year-old whose strong able back faces me.  “Moi woif droives here from Stumpy Point oivery dai,” he says.   Stumpy Point is about 25 miles south of Roanoke Island, in mainland Hyde County.  It’s a long, desolate road from there to here, people. I ain’t kidding neither.
Old man says to the waitress:”Oi want froied oi-sters. Puddem’ in that hot grease for two minutes. And that’s it. I want them oi-sters squealing. And I want slaw and froid okra.”
The waitress grabs the menus from their hands.  She looks to be in her 50s,  the kind of weathered ole’ island gal who can balance a baby on her hip, a cigarette on her lips, and give a fisherman a hand job.  The old man informs the young man as to where to find good BBQ. “There’s none down here on the oi-land. Gotta go to Wilson.” He is, I would venture to guess, referring to Parker’s BBQ.
He tells a joke:  “I met a sailor from Siberia. At making love he was inferior. He met a nun, and gave her some that was good enough to make her a Mother Superior.” He roars with laughter.
All the folks in the restaurant seem to know one another and talk across the tables. All have the unique accent, so preserved from a couple hundred years of isolation and hard toil in this country of half-land, half-water. Hard living crabbers and fisherman, these people are a dying breed. But you can still find it in northeastern NC if you stay off the actual beaches of the Outer Banks where hundreds of overweight tourists roll around in the sand while their yapping and miserable terriers burn up in the sun.
The old man’s now discussing the wonders of collard greens as he pops fried okra into his mouth with his fingers. He says, “My buddy Joe swallows collard greens and fat back like a damn hoingry hog. You got to en-joi collard greens slow. It’s a sight to see, that man eating collard greens.”  They eat in silence for a minute or two.
He adds nonchalantly, “His kin folks are that mortician who was cutting people’s heads off.”
“Oh, yeah, I heard about that,” mumbled the son-in-law, giving up on eating his burger in peace and quiet. I just now glance directly at the old man and we make eye-contact over his lunch partner’s shoulder. His eyes are full and blue and set deeply in a million leathered wrinkles and he smiles at me.  He then glances down at his okra and says, “That Joe eats collard greens like a vacuum cleaner.” He pauses. “Stonewall Jackson was one of the best confederate generals we ever had. I just got a book about him for Christmas from my daughter.  Your wife.”
The younger man doesn’t respond, but holds up his empty beer bottle to the waitress, “Hey, get another Bud for the stud.” She laughs. It’s the laugh of a life-long smoker.
I finish my iced tea and prepare to leave, feeling sad in the sedate knowledge that I will never hear of Joe the Collard Eater or the murderous mortician again.
As I’m putting on my coat, the pair is asked by the waitress to give one of the dishwashers for some help. “His car battery is dead.  Needs a jump.”
“Well. Woi not,” says the old salty dawg, “Sure thing. He’s a good enough fella. Come on son. Finish that beer quick-like.”
“Yes sir,” he says, guzzling down the beer.
The old man stops in front of me and taps me on the shoulder and says, “You are one purdy woman. I mean it.”
And just like that, he walked out of my life forever.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/5f1/31805419/files/2014/12/img_0105.jpg

Black folks, those illegal Mexicans you hate and the rural Christian academies of eastern N.C.: Long live the U.S.of A.!

There are no race problems in eastern North Carolina!  Who told you there were?  Those fanatics were pulling your leg, my friend, because black, white and Mexicans living Down East do indeed all still eat at the same Chinese buffet and cash their checks at the same banks.  Though, some are cashing welfare checks but, hell, somebody always is abusing the system, ain’t they?

But let’s just pretend, for a moment, the rumours WERE true.   That the rabble-rousing nay-sayers had a point.  If we go down that road, well, I suppose you could say that in the sometimes tense racial environment characterizing much of life in rural eastern North Carolina, there is a phenomenon that endlessly yet subtly fuels tension: it is called the private rural “Christian academy”.   But, like I said, those glum and laughable tales are way off the mark.

Those little Christian academies are an important part of rural life! These tin-roofed meccas of private kindergarten-through-high school education are typically funded and sponsored by the wealthy white farmers working the land around places like Buzzard’s Cross and Todd’s Crossroads and Jernigan’s Ridge and their families have worked that rich land and killed hogs for generations.   The schools usually support about 50 – 150 students tops and there is a delightful Christian element to daily learning that ensures not only will the children not have to be exposed to the shenanigans and general immoral attitude of black folks and Mexicans, but also the Lord Jesus will live in their hearts until they are called home to heaven.

These  hearty, salt-of-the-earth folks and their kids don’t generally know many black folks since they live in the rural parts of N.C., areas most of the the black people fled right after these farmers’ great-great grandfathers freed them from those happy-go-lucky days of slavery.   The wealthy male farmers, unfortunately, are still exposed to Mexicans since they employ many hundreds of them under the table to work the land, but the farmers make sure that the lewd and over-sexed Mexicans never come up to the big house for supper or lay eyes on their plump and delicious pale-skinned wives or the gentle blonde curls of their daughters.   Luckily, on the weekends, when Mexicans are swarming the rural countryside, the farmers’ wives and daughters are over at the mall in Raleigh, shopping for cute tops and nice bedding at Macy’s.  Such a fancy store and there’s always a 60% off sale on something!

Nowadays the only negroes they have to abide are those two they show on the Fox Network news channel all the time, that Obama and his uppity wife, I think they call her Flotus or something (black people name their children the craziest names and it’s been proven that those African names like Flotus can keep those children from being successful later in life).   If you look into the sky over eastern North Carolina, you can see all the wisps and clouds of earnest prayer, billowing up to the heavens, entreating Jesus and his father, God, to hurry up with the day they get those communists of color out of office and return to the good ole’ days when black people knew their place and Mexicans who did slip over the border were sent back home packing, that is, unless they worked in the fields for low wages or learned English and could make good tamales and salsa.

So back to the phenomenon of “Christian academies” that pepper the landscape in eastern N.C.  These bastions of pure and higher learning cost a few thousand a year and they are a wonderful enclave of white happiness and erudition where darker skin colors and sin don’t interfere with the 21st century like it does elsewhere.   No ebonics or baggy pants here!  No Mexican boys trying to kick those hideous soccer balls around on our pretty baseball field!  No Mexican girls with coconut oil in their hair and short Old Navy skirts trying to rape our freckled boys!  Once in a while, a wealthy family falls on hard times and the child or children must leave the sweet confines of the academy and attend public school.  Public school kids, those irascible hoodlums, often take great joy in the misfortune of these once-pampered white folks, but, having good Southern manners, they don’t say much about it to their faces.

Here on these Christian campuses, white doves are released every morning after prayer time and the girls still wear pink Espirit sweaters and Izod turtlenecks and the boys still wear white Don Johnson blazers, with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows.  When the women graduate, they are gifted 50 pounds of fat, which adheres to their middle-sections and thighs and they are granted a short haircut that’s full on the top and adorned with lovely white frosted tips.  They then have 2 white babies and attend a nearby church.  They still have rarely seen black people or Mexicans except at the grocery stores, which, for some reason, even in this day and time, are neither private nor overseered by wealthy local farmers.

Ah!  These elite academies prepare some of the the farmers’ kids for college!  Many, alas, are not ready for their exposure to knuckleheads from India and China and Africa once they hit the university grounds.  So, many will go to local universities, like East Carolina University or UNC-Wilmington, or Pitt Community College, mainly so they can rush home on the weekends and get away from the liberal, hawkish sinners of the world, especially the gay ones who walk around campus holding hands.  “It’s hell on Earth, mamma!” sob the farmers’ daughters who, alas, haven’t found husbands on campus because those gay men keep sticking their cocks where they don’t belong!  So, they rush back to the farm on Friday evenings after their last class and eat homemade fried chicken, collard greens, and biscuits and swill sweet tea, each lovely girl dreaming of that rosy-cheeked, well-to-do rural boy who will sweep her in his strong arms, make love to her, and whisper sweet promises that she will never, ever have to hold down a job or career of her own.  Or, at the very most, she’ll have to keep the accounting books for the local church, but only part-time.

The wealthy farmers’ kids who don’t get swept up in worldly desires and liberal values while away at college, usually, finally return home, or at least end up living in the “big city” that is closest to the farm, in places called Plymouth or Williamston, or New Bern or Rocky Mount.   Armed with their college degree, they become the heads of local banks or pharmacists or open a car dealership.   Since some of their biggest customers are, in fact, black people and Mexicans, they develop an easy camaraderie with them (as long as they don’t rob their stores!), but they still don’t want their children commingling with poor folks of any color, because poor folks are always up to no good.  So they continue to send their children to the elite country academy, even though nowadays that sometimes means having to drive an extra 30 – 45 minutes to get to the school instead of back in the day when attendees lived within a five-mile radius. But sometimes, my friends, you have to use up a lot of gas and have patience if you want to preserve those sweet, good old days!

That’s about it for now folks.  So, here’s to the private Christian academy and the good work they do to keep our Southern values afloat and alive.  Somebody has to do the hard work, and they know it mustn’t be those lazy black folks or illegal aliens who, for the love of Christ, don’t even bother to learn to speak English and are always driving drunk with no license.  No, this work must be done by God-fearing white people in big strong trucks, because that’s what made America what it is today!  Viva la U.S.A.!  Ooops – I’ve got to speak English if I’m going to be living on this glorious soil.  Long live the U.S.A.!

A married couple’s conversation overheard while dining at Bloomsbury Bistro

After a late afternoon meeting yesterday, I found myself in the aspiring-to-be-well-heeled neighborhood of Five Points in Raleigh.  The poor denizens of this neighborhood actually are only playing at being well-heeled and dream of power.   The actual truly well-heeled old-school money part of Raleigh is further west, past Oberlin Road.    Over there in that pristine and quiet neighborhood are massive old homes that look stately but not in that cloying drafty Southern mansion kind of way.  And the homes don’t look expensive in that depressing pre-fab, recently built, 5,000-square foot cookie-cutter bullshit kind of way (people who came from nothing tend to think the new development homes near new golf courses are the pinnacle of class.  But the middle-class is not known for their sense of aesthetics, are they?  That class tends to spawn unimaginative women who think Dooney & Bourke, Coach, and Michael Kors pocketbooks are the epitome of style.  These women like to go to outlet malls so they can live a little fancier than their pocketbook actually allows.)

A lot of the still-active elderly men of power in Raleigh live in these homes with their wives, women who have never had to work but who have expended a lot of effort in book clubs, cooking for the Episcopal Church bake sales, and on near-by tennis courts.   Many of these women enrolled in the English department at the private all-women Meredith College in the 1960s and 1970s, not really to study Hemingway but mostly to land a soon-to-be wealthy husband from across the street at N.C. State or maybe as far afield as Carolina.  Even into the 90s, many of these Meredith women would quit school once they had achieved their ultimate dream, to be engaged.

These clever gray-haired Southern couples often entertain their visiting adult sons who arrive from northern Virginia or Maryland each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas in shiny Lexus SUVs with shiny wives who inevitably sport J. Crew puffy vests and Ralph Lauren riding boots.  The grandchildren are usually enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill, Georgetown, or the University of Virginia (but not Duke University since no Southerners actually go there).

Ah, but enough about the fine neighborhood near my afternoon meeting!

It was after 5 o’clock and I didn’t want to brave the mind-numbing traffic crawl up Capital Boulevard to go home so I decided to have dinner at a restaurant that is a favorite among the well-heeled elderly crowd –  Bloomsbury Bistro.  A lot of my hip foodie friends in Raleigh call this a fancy restaurant for old geezers.  And, yes, there is some truth to that.  I arrived just as the restaurant opened at 5:30 and already there were nicely dressed couples and groups of 4  arriving, the majority somewhere in the vicinity of 70 years of age.

These people were happy when they arrived, laughing and smiling and joking with the waiters, bar tenders and host staff.  Because they all know one another well.  They and their friends eat here regularly and the food is good, fairly expensive, and comfortable.   This is the kind of restaurant where elderly regulars think nothing of coming in two or three times during the week to have salmon or a N.Y. Strip and a good bottle of wine and a drop of whisky and dropping around $120 per meal.

Here’s the thing though.  A restaurant like this will never go out of business.  These people are fiercly loyal and the food is solid.  These people will never defect to the zillions of hip, foodie-culture restaurants opening up downtown (and trust me, the competition in Raleigh is stiff – this town is home to an incredible and varied food scene that’s evolving every day).

But enough about food and old people.   Let’s get to what you came here for:  what I overheard some younger married couples discussing while I ate my own dinner.   Yes, there were some younger couples in their 30s and 40s also in attendance.   And, lucky for me, they were nearby.

There is nothing more depressing than the conversation between a married couple as they decide what they want for dinner.

Scene:  Couple is seated in front of me.  I am majorly eavesdropping, pretending to be deeply engrossed in my New York Review of Books which I actually can’t even read because the light is too dim.

30-something husband:  Oh, man, wow.  Look at this for an appetizer.  (he reads aloud slowly): “Damascus style spiced lamb confit pie in puff pastry with hummus coulis, crispy chick peas, Greek yogurt and mint tabbouleh.”  God, that sounds good, don’t you think?

30-something wife:  No, it sounds heavy.  Puff pastry and lamb.  That’s a meal.  That’s not an appetizer.

Husband:  Yeah, but it sound delicious.

Wife:  Yes, but not as an appetizer.   If you get that, you don’t need an entrée.

Husband.  Why don’t I get that as my entrée then?

Wife: Because I don’t want the lamb and I wanted to try whatever you got for an entrée.

Husband:  Okay.

[Waiter arrives and asks if they’d had time to look at the wine menu.   They had not.  So they open up the wine menu.  Waiter leaves.]

Husband:  Do I want wine or whisky?

Wife:  Let’s get wine.  Something red.

Husband:  Oh, this looks good.  This one from Chile.

Wife:  No, I’ve had that one.  I want to try something new.

Husband:  But did you like the one from Chile?

Wife:  Yes, but I want something new.

Husband:  Buy why not get something you know you’ll like?

Wife: [Wife sighs VERY deeply.  Within that sigh was contained all of her disappointment in the man sitting across from her.  The sigh was deepened because he probably failed to get her off last night so she had to fake an orgasm or at least fake how much she enjoyed their 20 minutes of love making.  She also may be sighing over the fact that his penis is only about 5 inches long and she once had a one-night stand with a guy in a shitty band who had a 10-inch dick and she knows she’ll never get to see or feel anything like that ever again.  No, she is stuck with this 5-inch penis forever.]

Husband:  Never mind.  Get what you want.  I’ll drink anything.

Wife:  Let’s get this Lang & Reed.

Husband:  That’s $59!

Wife:  So?  If it’s good, it’s worth it.

Husband:  Why get a wine we don’t know if we’ll like that costs so much?  Let’s just do it by the glass.

Wife:  Why don’t we just get a bottle?  I really need it.  I’ve had long day today.

Husband:  Okay.  But it better be good.

Wife:  I still don’t know what I want for my entrée.  I wonder what’s gluten-free.

Husband:  Don’t ask the waiter that.

Wife:  Why?  Why not?

Husband:  Because this is a nice restaurant.  They don’t do gluten-free.  Do you see that adjective anywhere on the menu?

Wife:  He won’t care.  Lots of people eat gluten-free.  I’m sure he’s used to being asked.

Husband:  Oh, man, listen to this.  (he reads from the menu) “Chicken and dumplings: Skillet roasted breast of organic chicken over Southern style pastry noodles with pulled thigh meat gravy, grilled asparagus and Cherrywood smoked bacon.”  Sounds good for $24.95.

Wife:  Ugh.  It sounds heavy.  Why don’t you try the pork tenderloin?  That sounds delicious.

Husband:  I don’t want that.  I’m not in the mood for pork.

Wife:  But you’re in the mood for lamb?

Husband:  They aren’t the same meat.

Wife:  How about this, the Scottish salmon?

Husband:  I don’t want fish.

[Waiter comes back to take the wine order.  They get the Lang & Reed North Coast Cabernet Franc 2010, a delightful wine from Napa Valley, California.  Wife is happy.  Husband is irritated by price tag and lack of knowledge of how much joy it actually brings.  Also, he is still plagued by a vague suspicion that his wife was faking it last night.  But then again, who cares?  He got off and slept soundly.  A good night, all in all.]

Husband:  What about the calves liver?

Wife:  It comes with bitter greens.  You hate greens.

Husband:  I do?  Yeah, I guess I do.

Wife:  I feel like such an adult.  We made reservations tonight.  We never make reservations at a restaurant.

Husband:  We didn’t need to make reservations.  Nobody is here.  It’s not even 6 o’clock on a Thursday night.

Wife: Yeah, but don’t you think it makes eating out more exciting when you make reservations?

Husband:  I guess.  So I’ve decided.  I’m definitely getting the chicken and pastry.

Wife:  Well, I ‘m not trying it then.  THAT is definitely NOT gluten-free.

Husband:  Good.  More for me.  I’ll get a dessert you like.

Wife:  Oooo…I wonder what’s on the dessert menu?  Should we go ahead and look?

Husband:  You do know that nothing on the dessert menu is gluten-free, don’t you?

Wife:  Who cares?  I need something sweet.  I told you.  I had a bad day at work.

Husband:  Seems like a bad day at work makes it convenient for you to not be gluten-free.

Wife:  [wife sighs deeply again]

[Waiter comes.  Husband orders chicken and pastry and wife orders the pork tenderloin.  They then spend the rest of the meal each regaling the other with tales about their jobs and the people at those jobs who are annoying.  The annoying people from their jobs were infinitely more interesting than this couple.]

I think to myself at the moment they order that right now, everywhere across Raleigh, across America in fact, husbands are reading aloud menu items and then unnecessarily reading aloud the full descriptions and wives are telling them why that’s not a good choice.  And these conversations all occur in monotone voices, though the wives’ responses are oft tinged with minor irritation.  I still think some of that irritation is directly related to the husband’s penis size, though even large penises get old when attached to the same man year in and year out.

Ah!  But all was not lost…something wonderful happened as I started in on my [Angela is reading aloud to you]: “Short rib Les Halles: Boneless Black Angus beef ribs over caramelized French onion broth with asparagus, cave-aged Gruyere cheese, buttered croutons and a splash of Oloroso Sherry $26.95.”

Oh, but, dear reader, the rest of this delightful tale is for another day.

 

Part Two: A married couple’s conversation overhead while dining at Bloomsbury Bistro

The first part of this riveting tale can be read by clicking here.

Bored of listening in on the youngish couple’s private and dreary dinner conversation, I leaned in to the tiny print of my New York Review of Books.  It was an article about the soulless Putin and his damaging impact on the European economy.  Dammit!  The light in the restaurant was simply too dim to allow for reading.  With nothing else to distract me, I was going to be forced to listen to these two knuckleheads for the rest of meal.  I held up one of the tiny votive candles and moved it in close to the page.   The yellow flickering gave me a headache but less of a headache than hearing a moderately attractive woman emasculate a rather handsome man by trying to force him into a meat choice.

“I am not going to listen in on other people’s private conversations,” I thought.  “It’s just plain wrong.  People should feel safe and secure in their stultifyingly boring tête-à-têtes.  This is America!  I am not Putin! I am not the KGB of bloggers!”

Alas, my dubious resolve to honor privacy in order to gather material for my blog was dissolved when right there next to me, almost on top of me, was seated an elderly couple, the two looked to be in their late 70s.  The old man had on a cream sweater vest and brown corduroy suit jacket with blue suede elbow patches.  He had been quite tall once, but was now slightly stooped over and wobbly on his feet.  She had on her finest cashmere Christmas sweater, a baggy red number dotted with white wool snowflakes.  The host had obviously met the pair many times.  “So good to have you both back!  Merry Christmas,” he said, clasping his well-manicured hands together.  Though rather stiff and snooty in that fancy-restaurant host kind of way, he seemed genuinely pleased to see these adorable old folks.  He scurried away to an anxious party of eight huddled in the foyer.

“Honey,” she said matter-of-factly, “you’d better go to the bathroom before we get started.”

“That’s true,” he said, “while I’m gone, you know what to do, my dear.”

“You could say that,” she said.

After a while, a waiter came over to take her drink order.  “I’d like a Ballantine’s.  12.  Neat.  And, oh, any ole’ merlot will do.”

By the time her husband came back to the table, the drinks were in place.  “Scotch, you shouldn’t have,” he said, taking forever to actually connect his rear end to the chair.  “Well, Emily, let’s get started.”

“Well, John, that sounds nice,” she said.

From out of his blazer her produced a present, wrapped in red paper.  No bow.  “Here you are.  To 47 incredible years.  We probably won’t get 47 more but that’s how life is.”

She slowly unwrapped the present.  Very slowly.  It was driving me nuts.  I wanted to know what he’d given her.  I was eavesdropping harder than I ever had in my life.  “Oh!” she exclaimed, “a book.  A journal.  You made this!”

“I did,” he said proudly, “I made the cover, the paper, and bound it myself.  Now you can write every day about what a wonderful husband and lover I am.”  He held up his Scotch and winked at her.  I could see him because he was sitting diagonally from me.  She was sitting next to me so I didn’t know what her facial expression was.

“Oh, John, don’t be foolish,” she said.  “It’s lovely.  Just lovely.”

“And one more thing,” he said.  “For one full year, I will pay for any books you order from Amazon.  No matter how many.”

“That will come out to be a princely sum. You sure about that?”

“As sure as I was the day I married you,” he said.  They clinked glasses.

“How sure were you the day after you married me?” she asked.

“Doubly sure.”

By God, these two, rounding 80 years of age and flirting shamelessly.  Wonderful.

She pulled his present from her purse.  It was wrapped in the same red paper.  Though he had a touch of the tremors in his arthritic hands, he ripped off the paper quickly.  “Frank Sinatra CDs!  You know what I like!”

“I ought to after all this time.”  They clinked glasses again.  “That’s all you get,” she said.  “And you’re paying for dinner. I love you.”

“Sounds about right. Order my usual.”  The waiter arrived as though on cue.

“He’ll have the steak.  Rare.  I’ll have the salmon.  Thanks.”

I finished off my coffee.  I’d finished my meal ages ago and had already paid the bill.

“Happy anniversary,” I said to the couple as I stood to go.

“Why thank you,” they both said at the same time.

“I have to ask,” I said, picking up my purse, “how many books a year do you order from Amazon?”

She beamed.  “Two or three a week.  I can’t live without books.”

“She’s an expensive broad to keep,” he chimed in.

As I walked to my car, I wondered how one could go about getting married, skip the first 20 or 30 yeas and just get to the good stuff there at the end.   My marriage notions got a lot of clarification that night at Bloomsbury Bistro.  And I figured maybe it ain’t all that bad all the time.  Wait, what am I saying? Sure it is.  Damn those charming old folks.

Two stoned dudes ordering at the Bojangles drive-thru: gimme all your dirty rice

I needed hot fried chicken last night.  Real bad.  So, while I was at the Bojangles drive-thru waiting on my order and I could hear the two stoned-as-fuck guys behind me ordering (they were on the loud speaker):

Stoned driver ordering: Rice. Gimme rice.
Bojangles worker: Sprite?
Driver: Rice!
BW: Fries?
Driver: Rice!! RICE! Gimme all your dirty rice.
Stoned passenger to driver: Man, I’m the highest I have ever been at a Bojangles.
Driver: Shut the FUCK up, I’m ordering.
Passenger: Get me some mac and cheese.
Driver: No way man. Last time you got that shit all over my fucking truck. You’re getting fries.
Passenger: I’m high and I know what I want. End of story. There’s a big difference in fries and macaroni and cheese.
Driver: Not when you’re wasted as fuck and riding in MY truck.

Alas, dear reader, my order came all too soon and I had to pull away. So much wonderfulness all around us if we just pay attention while getting hot fried chicken.

cheech and chong

Working is for suckers: cocaine dealers I have known

I once knew a drug dealer in Raleigh who, after many years of being a moderately successful coke slinger, abruptly decided to go the straight and narrow. He felt avoiding jail was in his best interest and recently he’d made some bad decisions that were about to land him there.

And while he truly enjoyed snorting coke off the titties of a constant bevy of eager strippers; being the center of attention at wild parties;  receiving the red carpet treatment at certain clubs and restaurants; and cruising around nightly in rental limos stocked with liquor, well, he supposed it was time to give all that up.  “I’m done,” he told me one night on the phone.  “I’m out.”  And he hung up.

So one of his closest friends got him a job in a downtown furniture-making shop and he went to work eight-to-five pulling in just above minimum wage.  He abandoned his nice rental house in the Raleigh historic district and moved into a dilapidated 2nd floor walk-up with a buddy of his who delivered pizzas.  The apartment was a dump that reeked vaguely of rotten oranges but it was cheap and he could manage his half of the rent.

Every morning, he got up at 7, got to work by 8 and worked until quitting time.  During this uneventful period of manual labor in his life, he ate lots of Oodles of Noodles and Big Macs and drank Food Lion brand soda.  Every night, he watched t.v., usually wrestling, until he fell asleep.  Or played video games on a very large, top-of-the line t.v. he’d acquired during his drug dealing days.  Few people called and, unlike the old days, strippers stopped dropping by at all hours of the night for a visit.

Every Friday at lunchtime, he’d pick up his paycheck, cash it, and have just enough money left for a week’s worth of groceries, a cheap bottle of bourbon, and to pay his part of the bills.  He went through these motions for about 6 months and found that he was more depressed than he’d ever been in his life even though he no longer suffered from the fear or pressure of being arrested or robbed (I don’t know if he ever worried about actually being killed.  He never said so.)  Although he came to realize who his true friends were and that the number had diminished greatly since he’d become a working stiff, he missed the company of dilettante acquaintances and the easy thrill of superficial good times and weary fucked-up sex with chicks who probably had some sort of venereal disease.

One Tuesday night, I was bored and went over to visit him.  I knocked on the sagging screen door and he yelled for me come on in.  He didn’t ask who it was.  I don’t think he cared.  Odd thing, a screen door on a 2nd floor apartment.  Never seen that before.  Through the screen, I could see him sitting in the Lazy Boy there in front of the door and past him I could see the tiny kitchen table covered in dirty dishes and over-flowing trash bags.  I walked into the tight apartment and he motioned towards the flatscreen,

“Oh, hey, you’re just in time for wrestling.”

I shoved several empty pizza boxes and wadded-up McDonald’s bags off the torn leather sofa, a once-glorious piece of furniture that originally cost $5,000, and sat down on something sticky that soaked through my pants.  “What the fuck?!” I yelled, leaping up,  “Why don’t you clean this hell hole up??”

He didn’t look away from the t.v. and shrugged.  “What’s the point?” he said.  “What’s the point?”

I decided to keep my mouth shut and picked up a rancid, faded beach towel off the floor and gingerly spread it across the couch cushion.  I sat down and stared at him.  He turned off the t.v. and closed his eyes, leaned his head back and said,  “Working is for suckers, Angela.  It’s for fucking chumps.”

The next day, he didn’t show up for his job.  And he didn’t show up any other day after that.  He went back to selling coke.  I don’t know how successful he was at it that time around.

I only know that he was dead 4 years later.  He was my brother.  And every morning these days, I wake up and wearily haul myself onto the metro to head for the office.  And most mornings his words seep into my muddled thinking,

“Working is for suckers. It’s for fucking chumps.”

My corporate job is in a grey building in Washington D.C.  Sometimes, on my way to work,  I nod off while sitting on the crowded subway train thinking about what he said.  And I miss my stop and have to take the next train going back.  None of the other people packed into the car know that I think they are suckers.  I think they are chumps.

Author’s note: This little story might be true but then again it might not be.

Afternoon tea and race relations with Dottie and Elsie (near Raleigh)

It’s cold in the cavernous tea room and the riot of floral patterns on the wallpaper, tablecloths, and napkins is soothing even in the Garden of Eden chaos. I’m having High Tea at the little tea room in historic downtown Wake Forest. This creaky old place feels like your Southern granny’s fancy front parlor that no one was ever allowed to sit in. Two white-haired old gals wrapped in pearls and the powerful sweet scent of magnolia perfume are sitting at the table next to me.

I pretend to be reading my Dostoevsky novel but I’m really eavesdropping. They speak in that languorous Southern accent – the one that adds an extra syllable to every word, especially three-letter and four-letter words. “Here” is pronounced “he-ah” and “there” is pronounced “they-ah.” They are talking about the new preacher’s wife and what a terrible job she has done planning the annual Thanksgiving luncheon to be held this Sunday. “Bless her heart”, says Dottie. “She’s got all those people signed up to bring canned cranberry sauce and macaroni and cheese. But hardly anything else.”

“I know!” exclaims Elsie, sipping on her lavender tea. “She should have just asked each one of us in the ladies group to make her particular specialty.” She takes a bite of her crustless egg salad sandwich. “This egg salad isn’t as good as mine. As I was saying. I WOULD have made my pineapple upside down cake. All she had to do was ask.”

“Here, taste my cucumber sandwich,” says Dottie, pushing her plate towards Elsie with her silver tea spoon. “Too much cream cheese. Well, I’m going to make my pimento cheese but I’m not signing any sheet. Pastor loves my pimento cheese.”

“She’s pretty enough, the wife,” says Elsie. “But I don’t think she cooks much. He’s such a handsome man. She’d better take care.”
“Oh Elsie! You’re terrible!” titters Dottie. She slathers Devonshire cream on her butterscotch-walnut scone. “She’s funny. In a fun way, not a crazy Dix Hospital way.” (For those not from North Carolina, Dorothea Dix Hospital is an infamous, now-defunct, old mental institution in Raleigh started in the 1800s and only recently closed. Old folks refer to it as “Dix Hospital” or “Dix Hill”, which is the name of the hill the hospital was built on).

“She’s too flirty,” says Elsie. “She doesn’t seem all that bright to me. You should make your cornbread stuffing. With the pepper sherry. It’s the best thing you make. There really is too much cream cheese on this cucumber sandwich.”

NOTE: I have been typing this eavesdropped conversation on a mobile phone. Dottie and Elsie are discussing the best way to make a sweet potato casserole and a squash casserole. “You can tell we’re Southern,” giggles Dottie. “Indeed,” agrees the infinitely serious Elsie. (I’m going to try Dottie and Elsie’s recipe secrets and pass them off as my own.)

My oolong tea has grown cold. Damn. They are now speaking in hushed tones about a married woman at church who had an affair with a black man and had the prettiest little half-black girl. The church, evidently, still allows both mother and mixed-race child to attend with no judgement. Dottie and Elsie are nothing if not understanding.

white-meakin-teapot

Sexy scenes from a gym: chapter 11

I’m listening to T Rex on my headphones and pumping iron to the beat when he struts past me:  40-ish, moderately attractive, muscular arms, beer belly, and a grown-out fuzzy buzz cut.  But here’s the clincher – he’s sporting a grey and white striped terry cloth headband, emerald green velour sweat pants, and red Crocs.  White footie socks.   This dude’s get up is whatever the opposite of giving two flying fucks is.

I love him.

I hope I run into him on one of my dating apps so we can chat flirt.  I mean, you don’t ever, ever talk to a dude in your gym.  Because if you end up sleeping with him, inevitably, one of you has to change gyms.  Them’s the rules of muscle-bound road.  sweatpants

 

Your day job vs. gardening – when your wife will only suck the tip

When the Life Path Genie appeared before the man in his dull grey cubicle there on the 39th floor of the office building, it really was quite a shock. He had never complained about his work.  And while pushing cyber paper and assisting Vice Presidents with important needs and gentle egos wasn’t what he’d dreamed of being when he grew up (he’d planned to be a sexy astronaut or a real pussy magnet in a loud and famous heavy metal band), well, he was never the type to complain.

And while his job wasn’t necessarily as fulfilling as his hobby of raising 20 varieties of daffodils in a tiny hothouse he’d built in the backyard, his job paid the bills and provided decent health insurance for both him and his wife of 10 years.

Although he was middle-aged and in full health, he knew it was just a matter of time before he needed pills of all sorts and regular rectal exams.  “That’s the aging process love!” his mother told him before she died last year.

The man often found work fulfillment by sometimes attending a monthly whiskey club some of the lower-level employees on his floor had put together.  But he wasn’t much of a drinker so he didn’t always go.

The Life Path Genie showed up the moment he clicked on the third job listing on LinkedIn.  POOF! The genie appeared next to his computer. Only 10 inches tall. The man was startled but he didn’t cry out.

“Since you’re in a cubicle, I’ll have to whisper,” whispered the genie. “I see you have been looking for jobs while you’re at work.  You know, you could get fired for that.”

“You aren’t wearing little shiny pants,” said the man.  “Or a little turban. Where’d you get such a tiny business suit?”

The genie tapped the computer screen impatiently.  “These things are of no importance.  What is important is that you looked for jobs three times three days in a row from a work computer. Such actions immediately summon me, your personal Life Path Genie.”

“Wait, are you from human resources?” asked the man, looking around nervously.  “Are you here to fire me?”

“No, no, no,” said the genie, laughing just a bit.  “I’m here to help you find your true life path.  Obviously this isn’t it, or you wouldn’t be looking for jobs.  At work.  That’s really taking a risk you know.  IT and human resources could find out and then it’s the axe.”

“Well, it’s not so much that I want to quit. I mean, I have great benefits, the pay is decent.  Higher than average really! I’m low-level so I’m not really on the radar of the really super important people in the top levels of management who ensure the continued success of this operation.”  The man paused for a second and continued.  “Oh, and there was this one woman who was only about 30 years old working in the cubicle next to me and one of the new managers really liked her blonde hair and cute pants and noticed her talents and raised her several pay grades.   She was moved up, not for looks, but for talent.  It shows that you can get ahead around here if you have talent and combine that with the right pants!”

“Sir,” said the genie, “you’ve been here six years. The flowers of your labor are in full bloom. You come to work early so that the important managers can see you and you stay late, laughing loudly at co-workers’ jokes that aren’t funny, so the managers know you are working late. When, in fact, you are playing solitaire, updating your Facebook page, reading the New York Times online and talking about sports.  Is this how you want to spend your life?”

“Well, genie, there ARE worse things to do with yourself,” replied the man.  “Like working for the state or with people who don’t speak English.”

“I also know that your wife doesn’t have sex with you anymore because she also isn’t happy in her office job,” said the genie.

“Well, she gives me hand jobs some mornings,” said the man sheepishly.  “Sometimes she gives the tip of my dick a right good sucking.  What business is that of yours?”

“Good sex is important to finding your life path,” said the genie matter-of-factly. “Well, sir, I think I know all I need to know about you.  Get ready, my friend.  Your life is about to happen!”  And with that, the genie disappeared with a poof that was no louder than an unobtrusive fart.

The man had no time to figure out what had just happened because he had an important meeting to attend that was actually really very unimportant.

That night after arriving home and tending to his tender daffodils, he walked out of the hot-house and stood very still in the quiet of his backyard.  It was dark already and the stars were clear and bright.  He looked over into the neighbor’s yard and there was the pretty 24-year old school teacher who had moved in only 3 months earlier.

She was naked and looking directly at him. He walked over to her.

“What are you doing?” he asked, feeling blood rushing into the tip of his rather unused penis.

“I’m going to fuck you right here in my backyard,” she said, wrapping her lithe young limbs around his body. “And then I’m going to kill you.”

The man turned to see if his wife was peeking out the window.  She was not. He turned back to face the school teacher.

“That’s fine,” he said. “I very much want to stick my cock into you and see where this goes.  But please don’t kill me.”

“We shall see,” she uttered softly. “We shall see.”

The next morning, the man’s wife found her husband dead in his hot-house, stabbed in the stomach presumably by the clipping shears protruding from his belly. He was sprawled across the Hoop Petticoat variety of daffodil.

The police speculated that this was most certainly a suicide. When they questioned his wife and the neighbors, including the school teacher, no one knew of any reason that the man had to kill himself.

“We loved each other,” sobbed his wife. “We went to the movies regularly and ate out at lovely restaurants once a week.” When asked about how he felt about his job she replied, “He’d just gotten a 3 percent cost of living raise at work. They allow him access to social media. It was all going so perfectly.”

“He couldn’t have suffered from any kind of despair or disillusionment. Why, why throw our life together away?” she wailed. The wife was inconsolable but comforted by all of the gluten-free and free-range gourmet duck fat casseroles that friends and family had started to bring over to express their sorrow at her loss.

Later that week, at the man’s office, as his department’s administrative assistant cleaned out his desk (there were mostly clip binders and soy sauce packets in the drawer), she found a sticky note addressed to the VP of Human Resources.

“Dear important sir. I did not attend the three meetings I had on my Outlook calendar for tomorrow. I didn’t want to work here anymore.”

“Tsk tsk,” said the administrative assistant. “What could he have wanted to be, poor dear?  A VP perhaps!” She was going to give the message to human resources but remembered she had to put out coffee in the conference room because four very important managers were scheduled for a meeting in 10 minutes.

Just let well enough alone: a one-minute tale of weight loss and gain and loss

Sometimes, you just need to take a compliment with a simple “Thank you” and let well enough alone.  Especially when you’re weight has gone up and down and all over in the last year and a half.  This happened last night:

Friend (who hasn’t seen me in 5 months):  Whoo, girl, you look good!  You look skinny!
Me:  Skinny?
Friend:  Skinny.
Me:  As compared to what?
Friend:  Uh…as compared to last time I saw you.
Me:  Skinny?
Friend:  Well, I mean…skinnier.
Me:  But use of that word implies a degree of svelteness.
Friend.  Okay, why don’t you just shut the fuck up?  How ’bout this – you ain’t as big as you were. You look so good so please shut the fuck up.
Me: Let’s start over.

Note:  This is still way better than how some of my Southern friends and family back home greet you when you visit for the holidays: 

My 300-hundred pound diabetic cousin donning a muumuu:  “Whoo, Lord, you have really packed on the pounds since I saw you.  Lookin’ just like your big Aunt So-and-So.”
Me:  You haven’t seen me in a quarter of a century.  Since I was in high school and weighed 100 pounds.
Cousin: I know. Girl, ain’t no slim folks in your family. Wasn’t never meant to last no ways. Seen this comin’. Weight Watchers, girl. Weight Watchers. We got to stay on it in this family. (She says she eats the top off of a red velvet cake.)
Me: Hand me that whole tomato.
Cousin: Girl, is that all you’re eatin
Me: No, I am about to shove it in your mouth so you’ll shut the fuck up. Pass me the mac and cheese.

extraordinary me: does he take his pants all the way off to do it

Tonight, while creating categories within my new dive-themed move to the Caribbean blog (sex, dating, diving, all-things-Curacao), I decided to be true to myself – the flaming liberal, social justice side of myself – and include a section about that.  Much of this particular section will be focused on ocean conservation but there will be many jabs at Trump. Conservatives may freely enjoy the dive-instructor-dick stories, but might want to judiciously avoid the “From the Mind of a Flaming Liberal”  category. And, to kick off the new blog category, I will share a little poem I wrote just for such an occasion:

extraordinary me
by angela perez

when trump eats breakfast
who sits next to him does he
crack a hardboiled egg on the presidential plate and pick up
greasy fried hashbrowns with his little orange nubs
does he watch t.v. while some kind of brown man fills
a crystal cup with ice cold Diet Coke.
last night did trump dream of lady pussies with
no hair and no body cajoling him
to press his cheek against a frozen window pane
and speak of joy not monstrously stitched
to that gray-gold empire where a Slavic wife scowls
in gossamer Dolce & Gabbana

is there a tanning bed in the white house
and does he tweet while shitting in the toilet
when he makes love, in what direction does his hair flow
Mr. President, do you fuck all-the-way naked or just pull your junk through an open zipper

oh people, my people, my bony heart is a graveyard of fake news and tan liars
who run away but don’t get far and then wither. Believe extraordinary me.

A Tinder conversation: lesbians and spider webs

Dude:  hey sexy, my lesbian girl friend and me will go out tonight.  care to join?

Me:  Why are you telling me that she’s a lesbian?

Dude:  just ’cause 😉 😉  she’s hot though 😉

Me:  Are you telling me to let me know that you aren’t homophobic?  Because that’s awesome if you’re an open-minded person.

Dude:  hell yeah LESBIANS

Me:  Your lack of capitalization except when it comes to LESBIANS is quite troubling.

Dude: you wanna come 😉

Me:  And gay men?  How do you feel about them?

Me:  naw son not down with that some wrong shit

Me:  Do you mean being a homosexual is wrong?

Dude:  not if you got big titties 😉

Me:  What else have you got to entice me to go on this extraordinary date?

Dude:  I am all tatted up and am hung big dick baby.

Me:  I noticed the tattoos on your arms in some of your photos.  What other tattoos do you have?

Dude:  just got two spider webs

Me:  On your elbows?

Dude:  nah around BOTH NIPPLES ha ha ha

Me:  So basically you now look like you’re wearing a spider web mesh BRA all of the time?

Dude:  you down or not

Me:  Let me mull this over.  [UNMATCH WITH MUCH HASTE]

spider-1920-1080-wallpaper

Oh, what a tangled web we weave whilst single.

That day in the gym: a hot blonde girl with a peach of an ass, 10 studly firemen, and KISS’ Strutter

As soon as I see the tiny tight hot-assed blonde chick get out of her car, I know what to expect.  She’s dressed for the gym in white miniscule skin-tight shorts and a hot pink sports bra.  Her long, silky golden locks are tied up in the cutest, bounciest ponytail you’ve ever seen.

Wait.  Let me back up.

The two rows of treadmills and elliptical machines at my gym face a glass wall that overlooks a busy strip mall parking lot.   The glass allows you to see who is coming and going into the gym or what lazy slough is passing it by on the way to either the Subway on one side or the Ace Hardware on the other.   The blonde parks her car in front of the gym just as I enter into my 20th minute on the elliptical machine.  I am drenched in sweat.  It’s pouring down my face.  Down my back.  Between my tits.  No cute ponytail bouncing up and down on me.  No, my black hair is pulled up into a no-nonsense severe, German dominatrix bun.  I come to the gym to kick ass, not titillate muscle-bound men.  But every day in the gym (and I go to the gym six days a week), I notice women all kitted up and outfitted to make those boys in tank tops drool.  These gals are wearing full lipstick and eyeliner and next to nothing.  Granted, they look fabulous.  Sweaty svelte women are never a bad thing.

But, dammit, those hard little half-exposed peach bottoms on these bitches are wreaking havoc in my gym and it’s fucking up my work out.

Okay.  Back to the blonde ponytail.  She parks her car in front of the gym and hops out.  There I am on the  2nd row looking out the window at the McDonalds across the parking lot wondering if I could possibly have a Big Mac and not gain weight if I work out for over an hour.  And then I spot her.

And then I look for it.  I look to see what the middle-aged men on the treadmills in front of me do.  And they do not disappoint – about three of them almost trip and fall off the machines.  They are mesmerized by the taut ass in tiny shorts.  All of these smitten fellas are wearing wedding rings but they just can’t help it.  Ah men!  Ever predictable.  I do love them so.

I’m listening to Der Kommissar on my headphones and smiling.  Smiling because I can’t wait to see what happens as soon as she walks into the gym.

She was young her heart was pure
But every night is bright she got
She said sugar is sweet
She come rappin’ to the beat
Then I knew that she was hot

And, without fail, all of the guys on the treadmills in front of me try to surreptitiously sneak a peek at her.  They start puffing out their chests.  One even slows his gait so he can better follow her movements with his hawk-like gaze.  I don’t dare turn to look at her to see if she notices all of the cocks standing at attention upon her arrival.  Because if I don’t stay focused, my sweet soft uncoordinated ass will flip off the treadmill and break something important.  So, I continue to huff and puff and blow my middle region down.

I’m getting tired, legs on fire, sweat burning my eyes…thinking about giving up and just working out my legs on the adductor machine and calling it a day…but then a song comes on my iPhone

KISS.  Strutter to be exact.

Everybody says she’s lookin’ good
And the lady knows it’s understood
Strutter

I am renewed.  Rejuvenated.  A fucking machine.  Wait, not a fucking machine as in I have a lot of sex.  I mean “fucking” as an adjective to stress just how in the zone I am.  No, no, no.  I’m no James Brown sex machine.  Not yet.  I have 2,567 more workouts to go before I can aspire that earn that moniker.

Back to Goldilocks.

I’m done with the elliptical and head over to do some bench presses.  She is standing beside me.  Preening in the mirror, a Love’s Baby Soft vision of pink skin and Gaudi curves and  Toulouse-Lautrec sinew.  She is breathtaking.  It’s inspiring.  “Aw, shucks,” thinks I.  “If I keep bench pressing, I too will possess a body like this.  A body so distracting that men can’t even focus on pumping iron.  That preempts their drive to tear up muscle tissue.”

So I add some more weights to the bar to speed the process along.

Nazareth’s Hair of the Dog is next in rotation on my song list.  I add 10 more pounds to the bar.   Now you’re ALL messing with a son of a bitch.

Red hot mama
Velvet charmer
Time’s come to pay your dues

There’s no need to go into all the peacocking and twirling and flirting and smoldering going on between Goldilocks and many of the fellas in that gym.  You know the drill.  But there in that moment, watching all of those men watching this women, I am having a revelation.  That is, I realize I love this woman.  For her power, for her self-possession.   Because whatever else she is doing in that gym, she is bad-assed.  And she has worked hard to get into the shape she’s in.  She’s a powerhouse of chickdom.

And, I won’t judge men for objectifying.  For not 30 minutes earlier, while sweating to Johnny Thunders lamenting about “the way it goes,” I see about 10 hot volunteer fireman, dressed in their sexy fire house attire, clamber out of a bright red fire house van.  Agog at such a bevy of studs, I almost drop the free weights on my feet.  They are all heading into the Subway next door.  Which is why I cut my workout short that day.

Because I know, that if I hurry up, I can get into that Subway, all aglow and sweaty from my workout, and do some preening of my own.  I may not look like Goldilocks in my work out shorts, and there may be mustard on my black t-shirt from the Sonic hot dog I ate yesterday after working out, but I can damn sure make that eating a whole wheat bread toasted roast beef sub into the sexiest damn spectacle you’ve ever seen.

It’s all in how you handle the extra mayonnaise.

Sexy fitness girl is working out with weights

Sexy fitness girl is working out with weights

That time I got attacked by a bear in Harney County, Oregon

Since I’ve moved back to my beloved Raleigh, NC, many of you have asked me about my recent, brief two-year stint in Oregon.  I’ve told the following story many times and a while back I wrote it down.  I’d like to share it with you now.

Scree, canyon, coyote and bear

Back in 2010, I decided to leave the South and move to Baker City, Oregon.  Before I moved to eastern Oregon, I had done my research.  I knew that the wild and remote area featured high desert country, no humidity, lots of snow in winter, a sparse population and no good places to find grits, sweet tea or fried chicken.  But I didn’t know of the drastic variety of the landscape.  One minute you’re cruising down the road through an endless vista of sagebrush flats, and the next, you’re maneuvering your way up the backside of an alpine forest-covered mountain.   There’s a canyon near Baker City, called Hell’s Canyon, along the border with western Idaho, that’s one of North America’s deepest river gorges.  The gorge was carved out by the ancient Snake River, alongside wheremany Oregon Trail pioneers met an unhappy demise.

One weekend, I went down into the southern parts of Harney County in the far southeast for a solo weekend camping trip.   I’d been to Burns, the county seat down there, many times for work reasons.  And I’d always marveled that Burns marks the border to some other universe – a doorway leading into a vast alien landscape of jagged rim rock and cooled lava beds stretching down into Nevada. The land there is a place where man is welcome to visit, but remain at his own peril if he doesn’t understand the laws of coyote, canyon, and scree.

 

Steens Mountain sits in Harney County, a remote and wild part of southeastern Oregon. Steens Mountain sits in Harney County, a remote and wild part of southeastern Oregon.

Steens Mountain sits in Harney County, a remote and wild part of southeastern Oregon.

As the summer was coming to a close, I noticed the calendar was edging dangerously close to snow season so, one Saturday, I got up bright and early, pulled out a map, loaded up the car with my camping gear and my dog – a half-beagle, half-basset hound named Tater, and headed to no-man’s land around noontime.  I decided that we were going to camp on Steens Mountain at Fish Lake, a little Aspen-speckled campground about 7,400 feet up the mountain.

Harney County is referred to by many Oregonians as no-man’s land. They have a point. Oregon’s largest county, with a total population of just over 7,400 hardy souls, is out there. Sagebrush and buttes.  Gorges and wild mustangs. Parched desert and hot springs.  But not a lot of people.

There in all of that solitude and epic ruggedness, one can almost hear geological formations happening and the gears of time moving the earth’s mantle.  The naked red basalt stacks and mountain-gouging winds move across the landscape, at different paces, but each as gnawing powerfully on your senses at any given moment.  Contemplating the Alvord Desert from atop the 9,700-foot peak of Steens Mountain, I stood small and silent and a little bit nervous as I felt the earth’s crust wrap itself around a core of seething magma.

But I digress into melodrama.  Back to the impromptu camping trip.

As I got to the little village of Frenchglen – population 12 – at the base of the mountain and turned left on a lonely dirt road knows as the Backcountry Byway, I began to question the wisdom of taking a camping trip alone.  Perhaps somewhere up there among those quaking aspens and cottonwood trees lurked a bear that would eat Tater as an appetizer and then have me as an entrée.  I was, however, sort of ready for bears at this point.  All summer I had been readying up on how to survive a bear attack.

My friends in Baker City found my fear of bears on the mountain hilarious.  “There aren’t any bears up there,” said one of my girlfriends one night a few weeks before as we sipped beers at Barley Brown’s, a local brewery in Baker City.  “But that doesn’t mean you should take camping trips alone.”   That evening, we hoped hot and lonely cowboys would saunter in for a cold beer and some warm company.  But none ever came through the door.

Back to the Steens.

As I got to the little village of Frenchglen – population 12 – at the base of the mountain and turned left on a lonely dirt road knows as the Backcountry Byway, I began to question the wisdom of taking a camping trip alone.  Perhaps somewhere up there among those quaking aspens and cottonwood trees lurked a bear that would eat Tater as an appetizer and then have me as an entrée.  I was, however, sort of ready for bears at this point.  All summer I had been readying up on how to survive a bear attack.

I wound my way up the mountain, Tater hanging out the passenger’s side window, and arrived at Fish Lake’s campground, a secluded little stretch that skirts all the way around a rather small, unremarkable lake.  I found the perfect camp spot among a little grotto of trees and soft tussocks of long grass, and pitched the tent just two feet from the lake’s abrupt edge.  I then set up a lounge chair.  Tater and I sat by the lake-side and watched fish jumping, while a nice fat ribeye steak sizzled on the portable grill.  Well, I watched the fish jump and Tater watched the ribeye.

I started to get nervous as the sun went down and families were leaving the campground to head home after a long day of fishing.  Eventually, there was just me about a half-dozen other families scattered around the lake’s shore.

After supper, I left my tent flap open, stretched out on my air mattress and marveled as the sun cast its warm golden glow onto the hills surrounding the eastern rim of the lake.  Then, without a warning, night fell and the wind started to blow like crazy.  I had read in one of my Harney County brochures I picked up at the chamber of commerce in Burns that winds come out of nowhere on the mountain at this elevation. I called my dog into the tent, zipped up the flap and proceeded to try and sleep.  The wind was whipping up little waves on the lake and the sound was so close I felt I was sleeping in a canoe.

“Ah, the sound of waves.  Perfect for inducing sleep!,” thought I.  What could there to be scared of?

And then it happened.  I heard a very distinct snuffling sound outside the tent.  I tensed up.  Tater was already sacked out snoring.  Was it a bear?   Paralyzed with fear, I sat straight up.  The snuffling got louder- it was definitely a bear.  Or a porcupine with a cold.  Either way, I was in a tight spot.

I briefly contemplated leaving my dog, Tater, behind to handle the intruder. Don't tell Tater about this.

I briefly contemplated leaving my dog, Tater, behind to handle the intruder. Don’t tell Tater about this.

The minutes dragged by as I frantically cooked up a plan of action, which was as follows:  unzip the tent as fast as lightening and quickly shine my flashlight into the eyes of the intruder, blinding whatever had invaded our campsite.  I would then make a mad dash for the car, hoping that Tater – who was still asleep – would spring into action. I wasn’t quite sure what would happen after that, but I figured it would all sort itself out.

As I yanked down hard on the zipper to open the tent flap, the zipper got caught in the fabric and ripped the lining all the way around the opening.  After finally tearing open the ripped flap, I whipped out my flashlight to blind whatever it was with the bright light.  With a frantic flourish, I clicked the “on” button, but instead of a flood of searing light, there was nothing but a weary trickle of tired yellow light that barely lit up the ground in front of the tent.

“What the…?!?” I shouted, shaking the flashlight until the light went out altogether.  Oh, good gracious, I’m going to die out here on this mountain all alone, I thought, while my dog is passed out on the air mattress.

I shook the flashlight again and shone it around.  There was just enough light to identify the trespasser.  It was, in fact, a paperback book.

To be exact, it was A Walk in the Woods, by travel writer Bill Bryson.  I had been reading his camping stories to see how Bill handled bear attacks while hiking the Appalachian Trail.  The book had fallen out of my backpack and the cover fluttered in the high winds, scraping the front of my tent.

To be fair, there is a bear on the cover of the book, so there was a bear attack element to the entire debacle.  Meanwhile, as I stood there feeling foolish, Tater snored even louder.  I sat down in front of my mangled tent and looked out over the lake, feeling the adrenaline leach away from limbs, head, and heart.  After an hour of staring up at the millions of stars in the ink-black sky above, I crawled back into my tent and promptly fell asleep, dreaming of the South and of camping trips where the biggest threat was a curious ‘possum.

 

Hey, girl, sorry to hear your cousin killed his wife and shot himself. It’s Christmas-time in Hollis.

I had just finished pumping gas into my car and was screwing on the gas cap when I heard someone yell out, “Oh my God!  Shannon, is that you? You’re home for Thanksgiving, I see.”

It was a former classmate of mine, one I hadn’t seen since we graduated high school 25 years ago, back in 1989.  I recognized him vaguely but couldn’t remember his name.  I did notice he’d lost a substantial amount of hair over the past couple of decades.  His camouflage jacket was zipped up to his chin and he had on red gloves, which struck me as rather unpractical for staying hidden while stalking deer.  Camouflage is the standard mode of men’s dress in eastern North Carolina.  I stood there, smiling but squinting as I tried to recall his name.

“It’s me Larry.  Larry Perry [editor’s note:  name changed].  We’re friends on Facebook,” he said, hugging me.  I hugged back and immediately recalled I had never really been friends with him back in high school and didn’t even know we were Facebook friends.   Larry used to be part of the woodshop crowd, a low-key, quiet group of boys who mostly smoked cigarettes behind the lunchroom and dated plain girls who were destined for motherhood and not much else.   As a member of the drama club, I rarely had time for boys who listened to country music and made overly-shellacked shelves for their mothers and those boys weren’t interested in a girl who listened to the Grateful Dead with vaguely gay miscreants obsessed with amateur dramatics and Boone’s Farm “Tickle Pink” fortified wine.

“How are you?” he asked.  “When did you come home?  I know you live in Raleigh.  I read your Facebook posts.  They are always so crazy and interesting.  And I always read your blog, that “Muumuu” thing you do. I like the way you write.  I don’t really like to read usually but I like to read your stuff.”

“Wow, thanks, Larry, I appreciate that,” I said, feeling myself warming up to Larry immediately.   I am imminently susceptible to flattery of all kinds.  “Yeah, I’m just here for the day visiting my dad.   I’m about to head back.  How are you?”

“You know, gotta keep on keeping on,” he said.  “Just working for the tax man.”  He paused and shook his head.  “That was rough news, about your cousin.”

“What cousin?”  I asked.  I am not close with my extended family and hear little to no news about them.  Most of my mother’s side of the family has remained in this part of the state for centuries (yeah, that’s right centuries – as in since the late 1600s.)  This clan of dozens is thick as thieves, spending weekends together, going to church together, calling each other daily, and staying very in tune with the minutiae of one another’s lives.   The narrative of their blissful existence reads like a John Cougar Mellencamp song:

Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Prob’ly die in a small town
Oh, those small communities

Educated in a small town
Taught the fear of Jesus in a small town
Used to daydream in that small town
Another boring romantic that’s me

Well I was born in a small town
And I can breathe in a small town
Gonna die in this small town
And that’s prob’ly where they’ll bury me 

Ah!  There’s something seemingly pleasant and charming about such an innocent existence but, in fact, the dark, gossipy, judgmental, racist underbelly of that small town existence becomes apparent about five minutes after you roll into the county.  I wondered what dark gossip Larry had for me.

“Your cousin, Mike Waters, your first cousin,” he said.  “I saw him.”

Mike.  Mike.  Oh yeah, Mike Waters.  I hadn’t seen him since I was 15 years old.  Quiet guy, about 10 years older than me.  “Oh man, Mike.  He’s been in the Air Force for years.  Where did you see him?”

He looked at me incredulously.  “At my work.”

“Where do you work?” I asked, getting annoyed with how drawn out the conversation was becoming.

“At the funeral home,” he said. “I work there part-time.  Didn’t you notice my job on my Facebook page?”

I had never seen Larry’s Facebook page in my life.  “What was Mike doing at the funeral home?  Who died?”  I figured it must be my Aunt Mary, Mike’s mother.  She must be near 85 by now, so she’d probably moved on to the next life and was somewhere up in heaven, possibly still on Weight Watchers.  All of my aunts have been on Weight Watchers since the 1970s and have probably lost about 10 pounds total among them in four decades.  Ours is a meaty, ever-hungry family.

“Mike’s dead.  He shot himself,” said Larry matter-of-factly.  “He gunned down his wife, shot her several times in the back, and then shot himself in the head.  Over in Corpus Christi, Texas where they were living for the past few years. They flew his body back here to be buried at home.”

I was stunned.  “Are you sure?”  I asked.

“Of course, I’m sure,” said Larry.  “I saw his body.  It was terrible.  It’s a terrible thing.  No funeral, though, just a graveside service.  You know, given the circumstances.”

“Jeez,” I said.  “I didn’t hear a thing about this.”

“Not even on Facebook?” asked Larry, pursing his lips in surprise.

“I’m not friends with any family members on Facebook,” I said.  “I don’t like to see my aunts’ and cousins’ endless tripe and trollop about their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  They’re too obsessed with one another’s lives.”  I was sure this explanation was a bit too detailed and bitter for Larry, who probably had plenty of photos of his own children, dressed in tiny camouflage outfits, posted all over social media.  As a single, childless, highly-educated and uncannily enlightened person devoted to the pursuit of freedom from family constraints, I was probably rapidly moving outside the tenuous barriers of meaningfulness contained in this bizarre conversation.

“Yeah,” said Larry, ignoring my last comment, “evidently the wife had a restraining order put out on your cousin and said in the police records that she was sure that he was capable of killing her and was seeking protection.  But before they could go to court, he beat her up a few times and then finally shot her.  In the back.  He shot himself in the head.  Oh wait, I already said that.  It’s online on some news sites if you want to Google it.  It happened about two or three months ago.  Back in September.”

“Two months ago?!? And I’m just now hearing about this?  Thanks, I…I guess I’ll look it up.  Good Lord,” I said, still trying to wrap my mind around the news.  “It was good to see you.  I need to get back to Raleigh.  I’m on my way back just now.”

“It’s so good to see you,” he said, grinning widely.  “Man, you look good.  I always thought you were really cute in high school.  I asked you out once, do you remember that?”

I didn’t.  But his words rang sweet and I felt a funny little high-schoolish boy crazy tingle like I used to get often back then.  I hugged him.  He smelled warm and musky and soapy.  It made me sad.  More sad than the news about my cousin.

“I do remember you asking me out,” I lied.  “It was so good to see you, Larry.  I’ll write to you.  On Facebook.”  For some reason, instead of saying “good-bye” I blurted out “ciao for now!”  The words were silly and pretentious and I jumped into the car.  My dog Tater was sitting in the passenger’s seat, staring at me intently.

I rubbed his head.  “All right, boy, we’re heading out now.  We’ll be back home soon.”  Tater licked the spot where his balls used to be.

I sat there behind the wheel for a few minutes, staring across the street at the tiny hospital where I was born.  I wondered if my cousin Mike had been born in that hospital.  I figured most of my family members were born there.   And a lot died there.   As I stuck the key in the ignition, I saw a smallish black bear trundling across the hospital grounds, away towards the edge of the woods surrounding the east side.

“What the fuck?”  I mumbled, surprised.  Bears should be hibernating already, shouldn’t they?  It looked like the bear had a giant white bird hanging limply in its jowls.

I turned the key and Run DMC’s song “Christmas in Hollis” was blasting:

It’s Christmas time in Hollis, Queens
Mom’s cooking chicken and collard greens
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese
And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees
Decorate the house with lights at night
Snow’s on the ground, snow white so bright
In the fireplace is the yule log
Beneath the mistletoe as we drink egg nog
The rhymes you hear are the rhymes of Darryl’s
But each and every year we bust Christmas carols.

I looked over at my dog.  He’d already curled up and was asleep and snoring, happy in the knowledge we were leaving.  “Ciao, little town,” I said.  “I’ll see you at Christmas.”  I needed to get back to Raleigh and Google my cousin Mike’s name to find out what exactly had happened in Corpus Christi.  I wondered if the bear across the street was having one last meal before it was time to go down in his den.  I wondered if bears dream.

*Some of the names and the facts in this vignette have been changed. 

I looked over at Tater.  He’d already curled up and was asleep and snoring, happy in the knowledge we were leaving.  “Ciao, little town,” I said.  “I’ll see you at Christmas.”  I needed to get back to Raleigh and Google my cousin Mike’s name to find out what exactly had happened in Corpus Christi.  I wondered if the bear across the street was having one last meal before it was time to go down in his den.  I wondered if bears dream.

*Some of the names and the facts in this vignette have been changed. 

More online dating: too fast for love

Dude:  Hey girl, I wanna a piece of you.
Me:  Are you paraphrasing from “I want a piece of your action?” I like that one Motley Crue record. I appreciate both the reference and the innuendo.
Dude:  What?!?
Me:  Too Fast for Love.
Dude:  Whatever, bitch.

Motley

Brother and tomato

Today is Thursday. My pretty, blonde co-worker brought a blue grocery bag full of tomatoes in to work today. She’d picked them in her garden this morning. She left them on the counter by the coffee pot in the break room, inviting us to take as many as we wanted.
When everyone left the break room I picked up the smallest one. Deep red, perfectly ripe. I held the cool fruit to my cheek and then balanced it on the back of my hand and let it roll from my fingertips onto the floor.
“Smart girl,” sang my lips as I thought of that moment in the hospital when my little brother stopped breathing and I let go of his hand and asked the nurse if he was dead and she said,
“Yes.”
I picked up the tomato. That touch of the sun. Washed it in the sink and bit into it, pale juice dribbling down my chin.
Eyes sparkling, I wonder if there is still black curly hair clinging to his lonely skull.  Me and him, our private signals are a dead language like this tomato.

The Summer of ’88: W.A.S.P., weed, and Governor’s School

PART ONE – PLYMOUTH HIGH SCHOOL

In the spring of 1988, when I was a junior in high school, I found out I had been nominated by my AG history teacher, Mr. Morgan, to attend Governor’s School West for the summer.   AG stands for “academically gifted” and somewhere back in the 4th grade about 15 of us schoolkids had been designated as super smart and we’d had the same classes together pretty much ever since.
The rest of the poor bastards at school were deemed “average” or “remedial” and since they were obviously never going to college, the teachers let them do fun things like take naps during class or color with big giant fat crayons. I should note that this was in high school. Meanwhile, the AG kids had to take endless quizzes about Shakespeare and the history of how happy the slaves were in the South.

One day, during history class, when we were supposed to be reading quietly about George Washington but I was drawing the Van Halen logo on my blue cloth 3-ring notebook, Mr. Morgan came up to my desk and in his very Southern accent said, “Angela, my dear, I need to talk to you about something after class.” He looked at me very seriously. Though, with his carefully coiffed bouffant dyed black hair, tightly trimmed thick mustache, and effeminate lisp, it was hard to take Mr. Morgan seriously.   “It’s VERY important,” he said, raising his eyebrows and tapping his college class ring on my desk.   My best friend Laura had once told me that grown men who wear college class rings after they’ve graduated from college are gay. I wondered if Mr. Morgan was gay and what gay men got up to when they took their clothes off together.

“Angela,” he said. “I mean it. This is serious.”

“Oh shit,” I thought. Had someone told him about me smoking weed up in the light booth with Wayne Phelps in the drama room? (Note: the drama classroom also served as the actual theatre where plays were performed. As you can see, our school administrators placed tremendous value on the dramatic arts.) Had he heard about me smoking cigarettes in the girls’ bathroom? Or maybe he heard about me copying April Trueblood’s answers to the algebra test we’d taken yesterday. No, wait, he wouldn’t care about algebra.   He was a history teacher.   Whatever Mr. Morgan wanted, I was sure it couldn’t be good because I had done too many bad things all year long. My days of weed, and cigarettes, and swilling Boone’s Farm in my boyfriend’s Camaro during lunchtime were numbered.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, the bell rang and everyone packed up their books and left class. Mr. Morgan came and sat at the desk next to mine. “Angela, I want to talk to you about something. I’ve nominated you to attend Governor’s School at Salem College in Winston-Salem this summer.”

“What’s that?” I asked incredulously.   I wondered if this was some kind of reform school for the intellectually gifted.   I wasn’t far off the mark. Mr. Morgan had plans for me.

“It’s a school for the best and brightest. You’ll be attending with other rising seniors from schools from all over the state. You’ll study art, music, literature, dance.   And the teachers are top notch. Plus, going to Governor’s School makes you a shoo-in for college.”

I furrowed my brow. I already had summer plans: slather myself in baby oil and bake to a dark brown in the front yard of my house and also to have lots of awkward sex with my boyfriend every day until he went off to college at NC State in the fall.   “Why me? There are lots of other AG kids who are doing better than me in school.”

Mr. Morgan nodded. “Lord knows, that’s true. But I happen to think you have more promise than any of them. We just have to get you away from this little town and away from that bad-news boyfriend of yours. He smokes pot, you know.   And I’ve seen him flirting with a lot of girls since you two have been dating.”

I felt sick. “Flirting with WHO? WHO?” I was going to knock some bitches up beside the head with a can of AquaNet that night at the softball game. I just needed some names.

“Don’t worry about that, Angela. Let’s just agree right now that you’ll go. Promise me. It won’t cost you anything.   Be sure to tell your parents that.”

“But I was going to make some money waiting tables at Mamma’s Pizza this summer,” I said plaintively. “Last summer Mr. Chalmer’s gave me a $50 tip and all he got was sub sandwich.”

“Trust me,” said Mr. Morgan getting very red faced, “Mr. Chalmer’s does NOT like girls.”   To this day, I wish I’d followed up on that particular reference by Mr. Morgan.   I wonder if they dated and it ended badly.

“Promise me, Angela, you’ll do this. You need to get away from the drama club miscreants and think about your future outside of this town.”

“Okay. Okay,” I nodded. “I’ll do it. Could be fun.”

And boy howdy, was it ever.

PART TWO – SALEM COLLEGE

Early in the summer, I arrived on campus at Salem College having never been out of eastern North Carolina except for that one time when I was in 8th grade and my mom and her girlfriends took me on a road trip to Raleigh to shop at Crabtree Valley Mall.   On that particular trip, I got some neon green legwarmers and a portable butane-powered curling iron and we even ate at a Mexican restaurant called Chi-Chi’s.  After four margaritas, my mom exclaimed, “You know, chi-chi’s is the Mexican word for titties!” Her girlfriends giggled. I was mortified and asked for more nacho cheese dip. I’d never been to a Mexican restaurant before. Whatever those beef fajitas had to do with titties, it was damn sure good. I couldn’t wait to get home and tease up my hair with my new curling iron.

But I digress. So I arrive on campus in Winston-Salem.   After all the flurry and hubbub of my parents and brother moving in my suitcases and make-up cases and saying goodbye and after all the crying by my mom, they left and I sat there alone looking around the dorm room feeling very sad and uncomfortable and lonely.

My roommate, Heather, hadn’t arrived yet. I had received a letter from her in the mail one month before. The information packet we received from Governor’s School told us the name of the person we would be sharing a room with for five weeks and that person’s address in case we wanted to get to know one another beforehand. Heather had written me evidently the very day she received my address because I received a letter about four days after we’d all gotten our packets. The letter was written in a very large, curly-q cursive script that slanted oddly to the left.   It read:

“Hi Angela!!!! We’re going to be roomies soon. It will be totally like college!!! It’s going to be totally rad, don’t you think. I am from the big city of Charlotte! I have a boyfriend named Jeremy and I am going to super big-time miss him (we haven’t gone all the way! We are waiting until we get married after college. I’m going to be a doctor and he wants to be a lawyer. I want to have three children, hopefully all girls. In my free time I sing at church and volunteer at the hospital, which can be kind of gross sometimes but it will look good on my college applications. I plan to go to UNC-Charlotte or Harvard. I like all kinds of Christian music like Amy Grant.   I hope you like music because I am bringing all of my Amy Grant tapes with me and a boom box. We’re going to have SO MUCH fun!!! I can’t wait. TTYL (that means Talk To Ya’ Later in case you don’t know!!!). Bye – Heather”

I reread the letter.   I looked through my cassette collection: Dokken, KISS, Blondie, Def Leppard, Rush, Winger, Cinderella, AC/DC, Michael Jackson, Tears for Fears.   Fuck. I hate Amy Grant, thought I.

Back to Governor’s School. So there I sat on my very narrow bed waiting for my new best friend Heather to arrive. I must’ve fallen asleep waiting because the next thing I know, I feel a gentle pull on my hand and hear a girl squealing, “Angela, get up! I’m here. I want you to meet my boyfriend.”

That’s right, Heather was so mature and worldly that her parents had allowed her boyfriend to drive her up. My parents had barred my boyfriend, Tommy, from coming anywhere near the College. He and I had a tearful goodbye the night before (well, I cried and he mostly just tried to feel my boobs. “God, I’m going to miss these!” he moaned) and he vowed to sneak up every weekend and get us a hotel room. I didn’t know at the time these hotel sex fests were to be funded by his selling of weed and crack. Yes, that’s right. The entire time I was dating this fella, he was a crack head. I thought he just looked sleepy and mysterious, like Daryl on The Walking Dead. Little did I know, he was just high and tired and run down all the time. Still, his was the first penis I had ever seen and I didn’t question much beyond that.

So, I met Heather’s boyfriend who looked to be old to me. Like, maybe 21 or something. I remember he had a ponytail and wore cowboy boots and looked very stern. He shook my hand. “How do you do? I’m Jeremy,” he said in a voice way too serious. “I want you to keep an eye on Heather this summer. Keep the boys away.”

I looked at Heather and thought, that won’t be hard.  She was no looker. She resembled a run-down, overweight Molly Ringwald but with a perm.   The two of them sat on the bed and hugged and whispered and cried. I thought it was very unbecoming of a man to cry.   I wrinkled my nose in disgust and excused myself to the bathroom in the hallway.

Over the next few days, I was introduced to some seriously smart kids.   Looking back, I didn’t realize how smart. They had been exposed to EVERYTHING already. Some kids sat around in the dorm lounge and traded stories about trips to France, Germany, England, New York, and Tuscon, Arizona.   They pontificated on the composer John Cage and the book Fahrenheit 451. Some played the flute and cello and some knew the choreography of Martha Graham. Me, well, I knew all the lyrics to “Animal: Fuck Like a Beast” by the hair metal group W.A.S.P. I also was one of the few girls I knew who could successfully use hot rollers and who had read Lord of the Rings 30 times.

Heather and I fought endlessly over what music we were going to listen to in our room at night while we did homework. I was already pissed that I had homework. It was the fucking summer, for Christ’s sake.   I kept putting in my heavy metal tapes and she kept putting in her Amy Grant tapes.   It was war. I hated that straight-laced fat-faced Christian with the old man boyfriend.   His ponytail was S-T-U-P-I-D. If a dude had long hair, surely he should tease it up and dye it blonde and have bangs.

To make matters worse, I really missed my boyfriend, who I just knew was probably wearing the purple jogging pants and sweatshirt that I gave him for Christmas and flirting with other girls. I was miserable. He hadn’t come to visit like he’d promised and three weeks had gone by. And only two or three phone calls. I didn’t know at the time that being a crack-head takes up a lot of your free time and spare cash.

One day, I received a call on the pay phone in the dorm lounge. It was Tommy! He announced that he would indeed be coming up on a Friday afternoon. He was skipping school and planned to get us a hotel room. He was bringing Bartles and James wine coolers and we were going to party all weekend.   I found out later that he’d gotten the money for this trip by selling some of his mother’s gold necklaces and the family VCR.   But, hey, anything for the woman he loved!

I lied to the RA on my floor and told her that Tommy was my cousin and he was picking me up to go and stay with family in Greensboro for the weekend. I’m not sure how I got away with getting off campus but I remember realizing even back then it was easy to fool anyone if you just said your piece with confidence and an unflinching eye.

We leave campus and after about a 10-minute drive, Tommy pulls up to the “King’s Arms Motel” and says, “Come on, babe. Let’s get in the room. I’m ready for some sweet poon-tang.” Tommy was nothing if not a romantic.   Later, five minutes later to be exact, after we’d made sweet love and lounged naked on the stained, thread-bare polyester comforter, he lit up a cigarette and exclaimed his love for me. “I miss you so much,” he said. “Let’s get married before I go to college. I leave in a few weeks and I don’t want you having sex with anybody else.”

His reasoning seemed to make sense. Getting married so that I don’t screw someone else while he was away seemed a true vow of love.   He told me about the cover band he’d started since I left that summer. “We do Slayer songs and King Diamond songs,” he announced proudly. “I’m the lead singer. Though, I could be the lead guitarist too. David sucks at it but he’s the only one of us who has a guitar.” And then he serenaded me with his best heavy metal high-pitched falsetto voice: “Missy, I miss you so little sister!”

I immediately said yes to the marriage proposal.  We made love again, this time for 20 whole minutes.

Needless to say, Tommy and I never did get married. Because something changed in me during Governor’s School. Despite my best efforts to ignore the annoying nice people around me, I was exposed to authors, music, and film in ways that took some of the vague longings I’d been pushing back for years and concretized them into something real and urgent. The things I learned made the future very clear – I wanted knowledge. I wanted to explore the world. I wanted college. I wanted to be, above all else, a writer.

I don’t know whatever happened to Tommy. Someone told me that he’d briefly dropped out of college because he smoked too much weed and spent all of his money and time on it.   I also heard he eventually got his act together and went on to get his MBA, which makes sense because he’d run a pretty lucrative crack business when we were in high school and managed to keep it very secret from his girlfriend.

Heather and I weren’t speaking by the end of the summer.   Mainly because she was pretty sure I was a Satan worshipper. She found the back of my KISS Alive II cassette tape highly disturbing. Of course, to be fair, Gene Simmons’ hellish visage is covered in blood.

Since that summer, I have indeed traveled much of the world, lived overseas, learned to speak Russian fluently, and, well, I never did become a writer. But maybe one day. Maybe one day.
Oh, and by the way, thanks Mr. Morgan. For everything.

Memories: From Peckers in Raleigh to Pirozhki in Moscow (with collard greens with fatback on the brain)

My body takes issue with my intellectual pursuits.  In particular, with my adventures with food.  That’s right!  I consider food not a just a nagging means for survival or even some kind of guilty pleasure.

Cheese-laden grits and creamy coconut paletas unlock the meaning of universe, wrap my prune brain around the tragedy of man.

Musing on why all those super-jazzed always-nearly-jizzing young white guys with beards and tattoos sling craft beer and bake bread with ancient grains of Mesopotamia and wax poetic on authentic heritage hog bbq stimulates my mind.  Awwww, but fuck all that.  I haven’t felt like spinning yarns and navigating facts related to the intersections of food, race, class, and gender for a few hours now.

I’ll quit boring you about my foray into raising meat goats (as opposed to the kinder and more lovable pursuit of raising dairy goats – see, I want to roast these babies to make goat tacos and sell them.  …goddammit, I’m doing it again…I ought to apologize…).

Thing is, though, I’ve got no secret greetings.  No inane uplifting game plan.  Just a dusty hide stretched out and sagging from not spending enough time with just me.

People who can’t be alone scare the ever-loving shit out of me.  ‘Dem homosapien fumes and skin flakes all cloggin’ up my chi.   Endlessly making deals with myself to be happy, to achieve Nirvana…all wearing me slam the fuck out.

Angelita, that young woman of the people, vanished.   Endless fine distinctions regarding my expanding middle-aged body and mind are blue-veined and clear to me.   In all my years in Raleigh, I’ve observed a nightmare of eager peckers and shared living arrangements and over-priced fried chicken.  That foie gras torchon was the bomb though.

Finally, alert, I humbly request you hurl your attention at the bittersweet victories of Southern women.

pork

That time I was the only girl at BBQ camp.

That new car smell: on seeing someone’s death

I saw someone’s death today.  I’m sure of it.

Earlier today, my insurance agent called me and said the company was ready to settle and I should go ahead and get everything out of my old car and take the tags off.  At lunchtime, I drove over to the salvage yard where my wrecked car had been towed after my accident last week.   As I pulled up in the rental car behind my old Nissan Versa, I started to feel emotional.  That old car was the first new car I ever bought and I bought it around the time my brother, Big Tony, died.  I bought that car when I was dating a man I almost married but, thank God, had the sense to run far, far away from. That car had taken me to my new home in eastern Oregon and then brought me (with my new dog Tater in tow) back to the East coast to Washington DC and finally back to Raleigh, where I recently decided to finally settle my wild, unruly ass down and buy a house.  To commit.
I realized as I was sorting through winter coats and all sorts of books stuffed in the hatchback that somehow, I needed this accident to happen.  To get rid of this old car and buy a new one to go with my new house and my newfound adulthood.  I mean, that’s part of what being an adult is, being able to commit, right?
Despite my lovely revelations, as I sorted through expensive art magazines I had forgotten I even had, I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself.  “Jesus,” I said aloud.  “this new car is going to blow all the money I was going to save from my mortgage.”  You see, my mortgage is exactly HALF of the rent I was paying.  I had been imagining all of the dollars building up in my bank account (namely so I can put in a salt water swimming pool in my back yard.)  As I was mumbling and wallowing in self-pity,  I chanced to look at the wrecked car directly in front of me.  The black Subaru Outback had been brutally smashed in the front and was was crumpled up to the windshield, the hood had somehow popped up and sheared through the windshield.  My God, I thought, shuddering, whoever was in that accident is probably dead.  Probably never even knew what happened.  Or if he or she did, I could only imagine the bloody hell of that scene.
I then looked around me at all of the other wrecked cars spanning the salvage yard, sullenly staring at me, all representing various tragedies, losses, and heartaches.  There were endless horrific mangled hunks of metal that once were gleaming brand new showroom cars.  I felt my heart catch in my chest and I began to cry.   I cried for all of the people who weren’t lucky like I was last week.   I thought back to that moment as my car smashed into the back of a truck and how in those miliseconds all I had time to think of was “OH SHIT”  and how that was probably the last thought that ever ran through the heads of so many of the people who had once driven these cars and then they only knew darkness or worse.
I walked around the yard and looked at each car.  As I came back to my car, one of the men who worked in the garage came out and asked me if I wanted any help getting some of the heavier items out of my car.  I told him no and thanked him.  And then I said, “I’ve just started to realize how hard it must be to work here.  Everything out here, every car that comes in represents new pain, a new tragedy.”
He nodded his head in grim agreement.  “I’ve been here a year,” he said, “and it’s always hard.  No one who comes to this place has had a good day.  And seeing some of these wrecked cars and knowing how awful some of these accidents must have been, well, it does, it gets to me. There’s a lot of blood in some of these cars.”
I felt my insides restrict and shudder.  “I’m sorry to even bring that up,” I said.
“No, no need to apologize,” he said, “you’re right.  There’s a lot of bad energy here.”  He turned to head back to the garage.  “Holler if you need me,” he said and sauntered away, looking not at the cars around him but directly at the ground in front of him.
I gathered up the last of mostly junk left in that old Nissan Versa, stashed it all in the trunk of the rental car and hauled ass out of there, holding back more tears, and feeling more grateful for being alive than I have in a long, long time.

Raleigh, NC court hands jail sentences to 4 dogs

by Susan G., a butler and reporter

On Monday, a Raleigh, NC court sentenced 4 dogs to 11 days in jail. The dogs were accused of pouncing on and repeatedly nipping the shins of a married couple, Skylar and Barry Bateman, at a local downtown park that left the couple deeply traumatized and covered in dog hair and saliva, in a trial that raised an outcry from single people and dog lovers.

The verdicts against the dogs, said to each belong to 4 unmarried, unrelated owners, are subject to appeal and will likely be overturned, according to 2 dog lovers who have law degrees.

Gang member, a pug named Burly Q, says the couple got what was coming to them.

Gang member, a pug named Burly Q, says the couple got what was coming to them.

In a press conference after the trial, the ring leader of the 4 dogs, a Welsh corgi named Harvey, said, “We weren’t gonna hurt ‘em. But, you know, they were talking smack about our butlers.”  When asked what he meant by “butlers”, Harvey replied, “You know. The people who pet us and bring us food and treats and stuffed animals and stuff.”

In court, the defendants testified that they each overheard the married couple having a conversation that was highly offensive. Harvey noted, “The woman said stuff like, ‘Why do single people act their dogs are kids? It’s pathetic.They need to have children like God intended. They’re too attached to these dogs. ‘ And the man said, ‘Dogs belong outside. Or at least not on the bed. If a woman wants a bed partner, she needs to get a man. It’s just sad.’ What if my butler Julie heard that? She hasn’t had a date in, like, 7 years.”  When asked if he was referring to dog years, Harvey replied, “I wish. Poor thing.”

During the tense trial, it was determined that one of the gang members, a chihuahua named Nacho, urinated on Skylar Bateman’s New Balance trainers.“Unthinkable,” said the married prosecutor, Jerry Jones, who is the father of two unattractive children.

One of the dog gang, a hound and poodle mixed-breed dog named Hoochie-Poo said, “The four of us were chasing around a peanut-butter stuffed ball when we heard them talking shit. The final straw was when the lady said that pit bull mixes didn’t belong in a people park.We’re friends with a bunch of pit bull mixes. She said they are unstable and ought to be in their own separate parks away from playing children for safety’s sake. Well, that’s when we all saw red and Harvey just went for it. So we did too.”

The swiftness and the harshness of the sentence deepened concerns that Raleigh’s court system is biased towards married people with children, even those with pets.“It’s like their lives are fuller and better somehow because they have kids,” said Burly Q, a pug who was also part of the pouncing gang.  “They can kiss our hind parts. Our single butlers rule!”

The dogs’ butlers are expected to appeal the sentence.

Part Two: The happy and sad story of ancient Washington County, North Carolina

When I got back to my dad’s house in Plymouth after driving around Washington County on Monday, I was agitated.  After taking all those photos of beautiful things mostly forgotten, now hidden under sinews of thick vines; of rotten shacks and crumbling mansions that people look past and just don’t notice much anymore, well, my heart felt heavy and my belly was bound up in tight achey knots.

“Dad,” I said, “I need to get back to Raleigh.”

He was sitting at the kitchen table.  He wrinkled his nose and looked down at his hands.

“I guess there’s not much for you to do when you come to visit, is there?”

“I came here to see you, dad,” I said.  “The rest doesn’t matter.”

(NOTE: my dad is almost 80 years old.  He looks good for his age, but, still, whenever my cell phone rings after 8 p.m. I immediately get stressed out that someone has called to tell me he’s died.  When you hit your 40s, late evening phone calls no longer come from eager lovers, they come from other family members telling you that some other family member is dead and gone, God rest his or her soul.)

I had told him the day before about how the state of things around the town I grew up in affected me in such a dark and pressing way.

“Guess you won’t want to come back here again,” he said.   “I don’t blame you.”

He got up and hugged me, and it made my bones sad.

“Oh, I’ll be back,” I said.  “There’s a lot of beauty along these rivers and streets.  An enormous story to tell.   History to be restored.   A community that cares, I think.  I don’t know who they are yet.  But I will.”  I really should have mentioned that the chili-cheeseburger special at Little Man had always been my biggest draw to come home, but he didn’t seem to be in a joking mood.

“When are you coming back?” he asked.

“Soon, pop, real soon.”

I’d already put my luggage in the car earlier so I called for my dog Tater and he hopped in.  As we backed out of the driveway, I saw my dad watching us from the back door as we drove off.  He was waving.

Since last weekend, I can’t get Washington County off of my mind.  There’s a calvary of ghosts in coveralls and homespun cotton dresses that’s been haunting me ever since.   The spirit of that place is not a dream.  But how will I fly this thing?

To read PART ONE, click here.

One more thing:  this conversation isn’t verbatim, but you get the gist.

One of the historic buildings on Water Street that has been left to fend for itself. I like how the awnings are so different but the window is split between the buildings.

One of the historic buildings on Water Street that has been left to fend for itself. I like how the awnings are so different but the window is split between the buildings.

« Older Entries Recent Entries »