I've been thinking about joy and where to find it. My friend and I have one of those trigger lines--as soon as you say it you both know kind of thing. I'm actually not sure what it is we both know except that we fall on different sides of the fence. The line is from a Lucinda Williams song. She hollers, "You took my joy!" And then she clearly states: "I want it back."
Lucinda's not my bag. She's like a grown up skinny kid sitting on someone's backyard couch in South Austin sipping on whiskey. Her drawl is so put on that it's part of her act. But really, it's her singing that I can't take--a tinny drawl laid on top of rockin' guitar. The guitar's good; the tin grates. Where's the soul? If you're riding on top of the notes you're coasting. If you can come from your gut, then you've got me.
Funny enough, "You took my joy" has become somewhat of a mantra with me--relationship goes south: "You took my joy." Family drama: You took my joy again. You took all the fun out of it. Stop doing that!
I like the blame factor. Takes it off of me.
Blaming is fun and all, but it's lonely, too, and I'm forgetting all about the second part. I'm supposed to want it back. I think wanting it back is kinda like saying: "screw you." I hate to say that. I'd rather say, "you sure?" "You wanna change your mind?" But really, "screw you" can be standing in your own so that others don't take away. You can allow them to give, but they don't necessarily have to take away from you. If you stand in your own and know when to cut your losses, you take back your joy. I keep repeating those lines of hers. She got me after all.
I feel like it's a race, and I've just won. December 1, the first day of the last month of this break-neck year. I was driving home tonight in the pitch blackness that comes with falling back this time of year and saw the white twinkle lights of a huge Christmas tree in one of the town homes sprouting in my neighborhood. A tall bright tree. Oh yes. Time can stop for a moment to take it in. That must be what they're for, these items that belong in the ground out of doors, or pretending to be in the middle of your living room, foreign objects all gussied up and getting in your way so that you'll stop and notice.
When Thanksgiving came last week I was annoyed to have to stop for awhile and go out to the country because there's nothing to do there but soak up the scenery and think. Boo on that. If I wanted to leave my life behind I'd do it myself. I don't need the calendar's help, thank you. There's no getting out of Thanksgiving, however, so I made the drive in a stupor, hungover, not too badly, just enough to give you a push to want to hurry up and get to the end. I got there, and to my surprise no parents, just a quiet hotel room. So I took a nap.
The pace this year, especially this fall, has been quick. I have a few folks in my life, new-agey types, who advocate meditation or yoga. I like motion.
I'm surprised by how much I've fit in, dizzy at times. It's somehow similar to a new mom's worry that she won't love her second child as much as her first. How could she love another as much? How do I have the capacity within myself for more? Will I forget my place from where I was before? When new friends come in do they replace old ones? When new endeavors are met, does it make you different than you were before? With all the motion have I left things behind, especially when things move quickly?
When you see a Christmas tree with its bright twinkle lights you stop long enough to remember the way it was before, even if you don't want to. I feel like I won because I didn't lose anything, left nothing behind, I remember now.
So friends, I owe you some stories. I've been in the new house for more than a month. Can you believe it? Me neither. It's so very beautiful. I find that my favorite parts end up being a patch of wall brought to life by some mish mash of mixing old and new. I am so sad that I don't even have a digital camera so that I can show you. I wish I had a fairy to bring me things.
I live in a neighborhood three blocks off of Interstate 10. I kind of like this only for the fact that people as far away as Los Angeles also live off of my thoroughfare. The other night while walking the woofie to the little park two blocks away, through the dip, past the kiddie seats on springs, I met a new neighbor. Why is it that you always remember the dog's name and not the master? Grant I think it was, and Charlie was the pupper. He told me that on my street a vato gang used to run amok in some run down houses and block off the road to have their parties. He also said that a year or so ago the city finally knocked down a big house a stone's throw from mine that had real hookers and crack addicts. Do you think he was just telling me stories? I must have missed all the color because there's none of that now.
This neighborhood is your standard inner city, new town home gentrifying spot--me in the town home, my next door neighbors in the little old house with two rentals behind it, a homemade can recycling business in the inner courtyard and a fantastically kept garden taking over much of their land. Last Saturday night I returned home around midnight, sleepy as ever, changed in the dark, but somehow caught a glimpse out my window of this Tejano dance party happening just below. I slid down the wall next to the window so that I could sit and watch them for awhile.
Hmm, those are my best stories for now. I am having house guests this weekend and a Sunday barbecue to warm the place up. Looking forward to it.
It's been a busy March. My girlfriends and I kicked it off by hosting a baby shower for Michelle at her lovely home in Dallas. Last week we celebrated Match Day for med students all across the land. Envelopes passed out, "one, two, three," presto, they learned where they'll spend the next four years. (Stephanie got Dallas, and Heidi got Chicago.) On Saturday night before Easter, I got a little good news of my own. All week I'd been on the fast track of applying for pre-approval on a mortgage and bidding on my first home. At around 11 o'clock I got the call. Crazy.
Welcome to my house.
It looks like this on the inside.
Except, my fireplace is actually charcoal grey. I'd like to hang my Rebecca Miser on it. No flat screen TVs for me.
My dear friend, Joel (pronounced ho - el, an important descriptor I think), introduced me to the wide wide world of HBO's The Wire last season, a show that is like sitting on the edge of the plains, looking up at the West Texas night sky, everything wondrous and yet barely perceptible upon first look. While striving to decipher the language of the street and at least two dozen characters' story lines, I crinkled my nose and said under my breath, "ay'on'no" during my first viewing. The show was most of the time set in the ghetto. Last season focused on the kids and schools in the ghetto. I wasn't sure that I needed that dramatized for me. But, wow. After three or four episodes last season, wow.
This season I've been searching around the web for articles and reviews on The Wire to become better acquainted with its writer/creator, his background, critics' opinions and so forth. It turns out that a crew of Salon.com staffers have created their own Sunday night chat room after each episode, and an editor on Slate.com thinks it's the best show on television, ever. I've learned that the show has been either snubbed or missed by those who honor achievement in television acting, writing, and directing for its entire run. I think that just means that it's a sleeper hit, maybe too fuzzy for those who start bandwagons.
Unexpectedly Orange may turn political for the next eleven months. (The entry title above comes from a line in a piece by one Rebecca Traister, writer of my favorite explanation of the Hillary win in New Hampshire, published on Salon.com.)
Excerpt: "So no, I have not been a Hillary Clinton supporter. But the torrent of ill-disguised hatred and resentment unleashed toward a briefly weakened Clinton this week shook that breezy naiveté right out of me, and made me feel something that all the hectoring from feminist elders could not: guilt for not having stood up for Hillary. "
The naiveté she's referring to is the careless assurance she felt that many more suitable female presidential candidates will present themselves in step with the males in the years to come, that she has no worry about Hillary being a one-time wonder and, thus, no responsibility to feel allegiance to her as the first Democratic female presidential candidate.
I read a narrative accounting of the happenings on election night at one caucus locale in Iowa. It turns out that if a candidate's station does not fill up with enough caucus supporters to reach the percentage quota, then the votes don't count and are up for grabs, or, horsetrading. One Hillary campaign leader began her call for votes, championing all that is righteous and twinkling about her candidate, with: "She's a woman." The horses looked up from the fray of bids being shouted at them and walked away from the Hillary camp.
Is that all you've got? Apparently so, that night. But she regrouped in New Hampshire by calling Obama out for referencing King and Kennedy, saying in effect that he's no King or Kennedy. She brought fight for five days, and humility, which we saw, in contrast to the hammer coming down on her by those who decide our elections--the press. It was over. And, surprisingly, I felt sorry that it was. I can't say that I felt guilt like Rebecca Traister, but I definitely felt sympathy and a wish that it wasn't yet over, so quickly with one night's outcome deciding a presidency.
For Rebecca, her urge to stand up for Hil would have led her to vote for her, if only for one night. I can't say the same. But I'm glad that the women in New Hampshire rallied in a stand against the tsunamis created by pollsters and pundits. I get swept up in them sometimes. I depend on them to deliver my winner, at least I did on Tuesday. He came in 2 points behind instead. But Hillary's display of true joy at her win seemed to also be a display of joyous surprise that voters still have the power to defy. How fun.
Hello! More than two months since an entry. Hmph. Blogging requires you to be home in your spot where you enjoy blogging rather than filling all your time with social engagements and travel. My mother sent me a new year's email that included this quote: "Most of us have been given many more blessings than we have received. We do not take time to be blessed or make the space for it. We may have filled our lives so full of other things that we have no room to receive our blessings . . .." I have been filling my life so full of some things that often times there's no room to call someone back, or send out my Christmas cards, or do the things that may change someone's life or my own.
In December, I spent 11 days with my brother in his NYC apartment. He took me along to his GED tutoring session one evening, and I worked with two women to review equivalent fractions. Haha. Okay, let me see here. Fourth grade math steps catch you by surprise at first because you can't remember them. But they return, and you try to teach. This experience led me to one of my five resolutions--to volunteer to teach literacy to adult students. I have found a group here in Houston. I attend a one-day training and then tutor two nights a week for a 12-week session. Perfect. Another resolution is to buy my first house this year. Another resolution is to write, to work on one single writing project and try to make something of it. Another resolution, or goal, is to get myself to France this summer and do a biking tour through Provence with my brother. And, finally, the fifth resolution is fitness and good health.
Wishing you a fantastic, creative, and fortified 2008 (three things, Jeffrey!)
The youngest child of two social workers, I turned out to be lots of things—policy advocate, writer for telecom enterprises, professor of composition, and public school teacher for 4th and 6th graders in Harlem. I feel luckiest to have been a teacher.
After stints in Chicago, Boerum Hill Brooklyn, and the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I am home again, proud as the rest of them of this majestic and mysterious state.
The blog, here since 2002, has been a journal of my experiences teaching, of home, and of transitional states. Please enjoy.