Friday, September 30, 2011

Ying Yang River…Part Two Country Roads

I met up with a friend from high school that I hadn’t seen in 36 years!
Now that’s ancient, eh?  It amazed both of us how comfortable we felt from the minute we sat down  together at the corner table in the local Peet’s. 
I found her with the trusty help of Google and then some amateur detective work.  Our conversations flowed back and forth like the ebb and flow of the ocean;
both of us taking turns sharing our trials and tribulations of days gone by since those hellish times of high school.
It was a tad intimidating when, in sharing about our various professions over the years, she humbly listed a litany of jobs that included “City Planner” “ Executive Director of The Girl Scouts of America” and as for her husband,
she just said, “He’s in oil.”
I found an opening and threw in my 7 years as a trailer park manager and she about choked on her double cappuccino.  Then she bubbled with curiosity and I’m sure she was thinking, “Ok, she’s got a B.A and an M.A. and she chose to manage a trailer park; probably aspires to pass Go, collect her 200.00 dollars and eventually get let into the pearly writer’s gates of Heaven one day.” 
Nice goals.  Successful life.

The park life isn’t a bad life.  It wasn’t then and it isn’t now and I’d probably do it all over again for a juicy stipend and a year’s supply of Hendrick’s Gin. 

This picture totally brings back memories; a captured flashback of well lived years.
You know there’s something about drinking a beer and wearing slippers outside that makes a girl appreciate the finer things on God’s green earth.

Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.  
~Author Unknown

I accepted the invitation for tea at Julie’s a few days after our first meeting in my unit.  You know curiosity has been my demise on a fairly regular basis my entire damn life.
When I walked into her trailer; a 1970’s box with wood paneling and burnt orange shag carpet, it felt like a cross between Twilight Zone and Little House On The Prairie.
She appeared to have put on her “Sunday bests” for my visit and giddy, oh was she giddy, over the fact that I had come for tea.
She scrubbed the Formica as she put water in the kettle.
“ Oh! Thank you for visiting…I'm so happy…do you like tea… if you don’t like tea, I can make you something, but I don’t have something else, but I have a ying yang river of tea…Oh! Thank you for coming…let’s have tea and talk… do you like sugar cuz I have sugar…let’s see…where did I put that…”

I noticed a stack about 10 inches thick of albums and I commented on her good taste in music.  Sometimes I’m clueless to the repercussions of saying things like, “Oh, wow…Carole King, John Denver, Simon and Garfunkel, Nancy Sinatra…we have a lot in common.”
F!@*king clueless.  “A lot in common” to a girl like Julie means we're instant BFF’s until Hell freezes over.  Next, she’ll probably get out a sewing needle and want to prick our index fingers so we can be blood sisters.

Oh! What do you want to listen to?…I feel the earth move under my feet.  I feel the sky tumbling down…I feel my heart start trembling whenever you're around...I love Carole King…I know all the words. I bet you do too…Do you want to hear Carole King or I have The Beatles too…I like The Beatles but my sister….she was always so mean to me …and she likes The Beatles but I like John Denver…”

The next thing I knew we were singing, in unison, at the top of our lungs….
”Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River…Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains blowing like a breeze… Country Roads, take me home…”

When you know every damn song, on every damn 33 album someone still owns in 2011, then you actually do have something in common with that person. 
I spent the next hour sipping stale Lipton and belting out every song of my teenage past; wondering if this woman across from me, who was singing recklessly and sipping tea like a Slurpee, wasn’t just a wee bit saner than me.

Julie and my friendship grew as friendships often do…but I wasn’t exactly prepared for the rate of speed.

The phone calls from her increased from 1-2 a day, to about 10 a day in less than a month.
Once I opened my front door to find a gift of tea bags wrapped in tissue paper and a bow, with a note on Strawberry Shortcake stationery that looked like a 10 year old wrote it…

Dear Valerie,

I know how much you like tea and I have extra so I want to give it to you.
Have a nice day.


One day I was making my rounds and saw her peeking out her blinds.  Seeing me, she swung open her front door and came running out into the street before I could hide behind a nearby double-wide…
“Hi! Whatcha doing?”

“Oh, just doing some things around the park.  I need to get back and wash my car while it’s sunny.”  I kept on moving, as I wished her a great day.

By the time I finished my rounds, she was down at my trailer with a hose, bucket, soap, a large sponge and 2 towels.

“I love washing cars!  When Grandma Cooley’s car needed washing she’d call me and I’d come running faster than the ying yang river…I’d be at her house in no time and I’d wash her car and I’d dry it and she’d be so happy she’d tell me it looked great except usually I forgot to dry all of the hood and she’d show me and then I’d do it…no problem…”

Sometimes I’d pick up when she phoned.  Sometimes I’d let the machine get it.

What seemed to be a harmless initial gesture of making copies for her, was taking a sharp veer south.
I actually was finding myself feeling like the lead character in some horror film where the heroine slips deeper and deeper into a weird entrapment abyss that demands a super hero to rescue her sorry ass.

Most of you would have changed your number by now or let her down gently, but not me, friends. 
No.  Me, the Mother Teresa of the trailer park, in a spontaneous moment of insanity, offers to take her to Costco.

People unravel privately it’s true, but some folks unravel in public.

When I picked Julie up, she was again dressed for a church function. 
She showed me her list, her pocketbook and her keys to her unit. 
Why the keys, you ask? 
How the hell should I know!   Why the offer to go to Costco is a more intelligent question!

When inside Costco, it became quickly evident that she didn’t get out much.
She frantically pushed the cart ahead of me, which put me into a full-on sprint to catch up with her.  She filled her cart with these items and these items only: a new broom, a new mop, a giant-size bottle of Clorox, Ajax, Comet, economy-size bottle of hand sanitizer, laundry soap, and Lysol wipes.
I thought we’d head to the produce and cheese sections, two of my favorites,
but she informed me she was done, ready to go, and made a beeline
for the check out stand.

In line, the unraveling began.  She frantically fumbled through her purse searching for her wallet and I was literally sweating directly above my upper lip. 
In her ‘special’ way, Julie was drawing quite the audience, and I was mentally guestimating the cost of her f!@*ing  Martha Stewart cart…

“It’s here somewhere…and I have coupons too…lots of coupons that I cut out…don’t’s here…I put it inside the envelope so I wouldn’t lose it…you shouldn’t lose things and I don’t…”

When she finally found the envelope, I breathed a monstrous sigh of relief, as I’m sure the newly formed line did also. 
Julie was sweating.  I was sweating.  We drove back to the park in complete silence.

When I pulled up to her unit, I helped her unload.  My compassion meter was off the charts as I almost tripped over her heavy heart and embarrassment.  A simple “Are you okay?” would have been sufficient, but instead I say,

“Hey…do you like pancakes?”

She perked up.  “I love pancakes and lots of maple syrup …or strawberry…I like strawberry syrup too…” she exclaimed like a second grader.  She was a glow.

“I’ll pick you up in the morning around 9:00 and we can head over to IHOP!” I said.

You know what people? 
I hate IHOP!

…to be continued
John Denver  Country Roads


  1. Oh Val! This story is priceless. I feel your pain, yet I am so happy to be reading about it. lol
    I honor your Mother Theresa and want to remind you of a program called CODA. LOL :)
    Looking forward to the pancake date story.

  2. Dear Story Weaver,
    Last night I went to bed absentmindedly whistling "Take me home, country roads..." and started laughing. Guess I had too much Lipton and Ying Yang tea.. Your befriending Julie sounds just like you, Mother Teresa of the trailer park. Can't wait to see how you're going to extract yourself from this one! On to Part III.
    NOTE: the picture of you and Wen in those gosh-awful sweats and slippers was absolutely off the charts! Loved the shades, though. Bring them to Texas, OK? You'll fit right in!