Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gun Racks and Bowls of Hard Candy


There are rules and regulations for governing modular home parks.
They are established and set forth by a handful of state institutions whose employees do not and have not ever lived in a trailer park.
I learned about these “regs,” as we say in the business, when I attended the mandatory quarterly Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association held at the Holiday Inn in San Jose Ca.
I’d drag my reluctant ass out of bed, throw on some kind of liberal, hippie outfit complete with baggie khaki’s, a tee-shirt screen printed with Kwan Yin on the chest and a peace scarf wrapped around my neck just to make ‘em all squirm.
I’d head into the traffic of the 101 by 7:30 am.
One must get an early start in order to obtain a back row seat
and a back row seat is essential to being able to breathe, take potty breaks without being noticed, steal all the Tazo tea bags, and be first in the line
that forms promptly at noon for the lunch buffet.
The WMA keeps all park owners and managers comfortably current
in the latest laws, safety issues, codes, violations and general information applicable to maintaining the good manufactured life.
The large conference room is always set-up in the same way: rows of long tables
equipped with the most butt-hurting chairs, an abundance of WMA pens and notepads, an outline of the day’s agenda, pitchers of ice water and bowls of stale, multi-colored hard candy.
The elite group of enthusiastic trailer park managers
crowds the conference room and fills the seats in what quickly becomes
Deliverance meets Larry the Cable Guy. They all know each other, mingle, compare and contrast situations and although these stories
might be concrete capers to you and I, those damn managers
take the job very seriously. They stuff their faces with the complimentary buffet lunch, bitch about the ever-changing septic laws, throw in an occasional fishing or hunting trip story or talk about their favorite “soaps.” And they all stare at me. They all stare at me with the identical look that says,
“Who the f**#@ is she and where the f**#@ did she come from?”
There’s the lady in the flower print, polyester blend pantsuit who wears her hair on top of her head like Pebbles, there’s Shirl in row two who sells See’s Candy at every break (and actually has a line form), and Dale who never removes
his name tag and reeks of stale cigarettes and cheap after-shave.
Most of the guys have gun racks in the back of their pickups; just give them
a flip-top can of the cheapest beer and a low-brow movie that takes place
in the southern United States loaded with brawls, bullets, booze,
and scantily-clad babes and they’re happy.
They love the Chicken Kiev at the buffet because they’re used to Chicken McNuggets and they love dining together because they’re used to dining alone.
For me, it’s the longest lunch hour in the history of time, hence the reason I’ve always sat in the back row: first in the buffet line means first to find a corner table with only 1 chair and first to exit at 4:00 p.m.

Then there’s Kristie, the manager in accounts payable at the main office,
who always sits in the front row and wears both her skirt and her stilettos
a bit too high for my taste, although Dale doesn’t seem to mind.
Kristie moves through the room like a gazelle moves through an African grassland and gives off the aura, “I’m management and I live in a nice, upscale neighborhood lined with wisteria and bougainvillea hedges and not a trailer park.”

I see them all as people just waiting, still waiting for that second chance; the one that will make it all worth it at the end of the day. Waiting for that lucky lotto ticket so they can finally buy that timeshare in Puerto Vallarta or that black Rolls Royce they’ve wanted since their early 20’s or Kristie waiting for that promotion that will move her up on some important ladder…

I miss those meetings, yes in Dee Dee.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Meet in the Back; Let's Dumpster Dive!

The crows and the homeless meet nightly
behind the back door of the restaurant at The Hotel’s trash dumpsters
and I don’t blame them. There they can feast on a cornucopia of delicacies,
which includes tarragon chicken breasts based in virgin olive oil,
sautéed basil eggplant, pistachio and coconut brown rice, filet mignon skewers soaked in red wine from the Napa Valley, oatmeal crusted Brie bites and a host of other foods, fresh and cooked, that are thrown out, by the pounds, nightly.

At first when I walked by, I startled both bird and man, but now we've all gotten used to one another and they simply give me a nod and continue scavenging.
They are comfortable with me and I them but I am far from comfortable with the 'effing waste of food in this country!

According to Jonathon Bloom; blogger, activist, founder of
Wasted Food and Culinate and author of American Wasteland,
American restaurants throw away more than 6,000 TONS of food every day.
And as we can all attest, restaurants’ massive portions fill the large plates, our privileged stomachs, and then their dumpsters.
I refer to my homeland as The Land of Lawsuits because that is one of the reasons restaurants cannot and will not box the leftovers and give it to their local soup kitchens and homeless shelters; the fear of being sued. Another part of such waste stems from our American gormandizing of food and our addiction to bigger and more is better. Then, of course, what we leave on our plates is tossed (not composted) but tossed to the crows because after all, out of sight is out of mind.

Well on behalf of Arnie, Mitch, the lady with the leathered skin that reeks of Colt 45 malt liquor, and the black winged birds, I thank The Restaurant for their gifts!
But shit, we got a serious problem here, don’t we?
We need to read, read, read and then take action, action, action.
They’re doing just that in Tucson, Az where Bonny Bentzin and many others at Arizona State University have established a goal for Zero Waste (solid waste and water waste). You can read more through the links I've provided, but basically the food waste reduction strategy includes harvesting food from one’s own landscaping, diverting food waste through appropriate donations, implementing trayless dining programs, monitoring consumption patterns and tracking orders, and the exploration of composting programs.

So our nation wastes nearly half of its own food and I’m certain the last week of each November the amount is more like 75 percent as we pile on, in mile-high portions, extra white and dark meat turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie because it’s an American tradition and we would be freaks if we didn’t participate.

The crows have a peripheral view of The Hotel. The bums also.
But what’s happening behind those pristine doors where the elite sleep and hungry dine is disturbing, not only in The Restaurant but in the other departments as well.
It’s a planet, called Planet Corporate, and I, trailer park girl, have been a chronoaut, for some peculiar reason, for only 7 short, but insightful weeks.
As your trusted informant, I will begin my divulging of Planet Corporate soon.
So sit back, buy a 99-cent download of Secret Agent Man or listen to Johnny’s rendition below, then buckle your belts for the ride to far beyond our galaxy is yet to come…


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Life Is Not Orderly

When I was a little girl, my mama said to me, “Valerie, you run everything into the ground."
I belly laugh when I think of how wise she was and how true this is, even today.
Especially today because whether I’m telling a joke that HAS to be told 5 times or whether I am on that infamous soapbox spewing, like a dragon spews fire ribbons, my opinions (which of course are factual) always keep on keeping on over and over and over again.
Each of us has to dig deep and with an honest shovel to discover the answers
to these to things:
1. Am I a walking talking overstatement?
2. Was I this fucking OCD back ‘in the day?’

Life is not orderly. No matter how we try to make life so, right
in the middle of it we die, lose a leg, fall in love, drop a jar of applesauce.
In summer, we work hard to make a tidy garden, bordered by pansies with rows
or clumps of columbine, petunias, bleeding hearts. Then we find ourselves
longing for the forest, where everything has the appearance of disorder; yet,
we feel peaceful there.
Natalie Goldberg said it perfectly, wouldn’t you agree?

My OCD ran rampant while managing the trailer park.
And then of course, my trait of choice, “running everything into the ground,” kicked in big time, which led to my own personal fireworks detonating under my skin daily.
I found myself in a sea of driven direction and organization; Children At Play signs angled perfectly for drivers’ clear visibility, correct font size on monthly newsletters
to residents, repetitive painting and repainting of the red fire lane lines when sun faded, a secret obsession to text the maintenance worker repeatedly to ensure he was actually on- site working, continual sermons on why we will NOT use Round-Up for the brown moths and so forth.
Life is not orderly; you are so right-on about that, Natalie.

It’s not orderly and it doesn’t revolve around me or anyone for cryin out loud!
A soapbox is simply a crate of wood that conveniently provides the spewer’s perch and the gushing of “factnions,” which are a fact/opinion combo, that this girl, or any girl for that matter, can run into the ground is simply meaningless libretto from a brain which is made of 100 billion nerve cells and looks like a lump of pinkish-gray jelly.

So, where do we go from here, folks?
Well, before anything else, I need to refold and straighten the dishtowel that is crookedly hanging from the kitchen counter, and then of course, there’s this little piece of what looks to be wire or perhaps a baggie tie on the floor in the entryway…

Then it’s off to work where I am certain one of two things will manifest:
The soapbox will come out or the front desk will be spit-shined all in the first 10 minutes upon arrival.

Seize the day, countrymen and women, no matter how orderly or disorderly yours unfolds.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

American Dignity

Living in a trailer park makes you acutely aware of the differences between
“the who’s who” of the “in crowd” and the discarded, forgotten throw-aways that are barely surviving on government assistance and a song.
On the 5th of each month, Mary pays her space rent,
her utilities (which are at a discounted rate because of her income),
and buys all her groceries from the clearance bin at Grocery Outlet.
The items are perfectly fine but they are also a glaring reminder for Mary that she is poor. Mary wears this label like she wears her linen blouse. It is her skin.
It’s her identity and the fact that she and her deceased husband worked their entire life, him for the government, accounts for very little now.
There at the clearance bin, she chooses cereal in torn boxes and peeled off labels, beans and Folgers’s coffee in dinted cans and day old bread.
After the essentials have been paid, she has less than 200 bucks a month
for living the American Dream. Which brings me to the all-important question:
How does one live it with American Dignity?

I passed Arnie this morning and he was cleaning the grime from under his fingernails with a dollar bill. That same dollar bill he had to ask a stranger for just minutes before. He was set-up in “his corner” near Peet’s under an over-hang.
The rain was coming down hard and his flannel sleeping bag, frayed on all edges, was getting wet.
“Got any change this morning, lady?” he asked all the while continuing to clean his nails.
“I don’t, but I’m heading for coffee. Would you like a cup?”

“Sure would. Black.”

I noted something in his eyes that I hadn’t noticed before and I walked on.
When I returned with a large black cup of steaming coffee and a lemon poppy seed muffin, he looked at me for a moment…
“You’re the real deal, aren’t you?”
He said.

You know what?
I am. And so is Arnie.
And what I noticed in his eyes that morning was his deeply buried hunger for dignity. He once told me he got kicked out of The Hotel
when he stopped in late one night to use the bathroom to shave.
I guess that makes total sense to the upper crust. I mean, what would that look like if The Hotel guests saw him shaving there once a month?
Appalling, I ‘m sure.
Perhaps they’d lose business.

Imagine, though, if hotels, restaurants, public places actually allowed Arnie,
just once a month, to shave his face?
Better yet, imagine if all American towns actually had public restrooms equipped with toilets, hand soap, towels, warm water and then Arnie wouldn’t even need to choke on his pride and ask to shave in a hotel bathroom.
Imagine American Dignity.

Arnie’s the real deal like Mr. Anaya from space 10 because he served his country in the Vietnam War. They both did their patriotic duty. They both watched their friends die. Children too. They both saw blood and guts at an early age.
They both got messed up from doing so. Mr. Anaya ended up in a trailer park, drinking past, present and future pain away, and Arnie ended up on the streets of Monterey. Both are outcasts of a society that blames them for their plights and misfortunes.

Okay, I’m just a girl from the park, but I think there’s something inherently wrong with this picture.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Leave it to Beaver

No matter how many rave reviews; no matter how spicy hot of a chili pepper
Jodie Foster is, I just can’t bring myself to see The Beaver.
I do however find it a perfectly fitting title for Jodie, given the world now knows her animal preference. Making her lesbian debut after years and years of agonizing and excruciating pain extending from being crammed into the dark, dingy closet,
reminds me of her role as the fearless Wonder Mom trapped in a 200 sq ft hell box,
or panic room, where she along with her diabetic daughter were without food,
water or a prayer.
I can only fantasize what a beaver could have done for her in that situation…

The silly thing is that Jodie is the lone person on the planet
who believed herself to be straight. Hello!!! Millions of gays and lesbians around the globe let out a simultaneous chorus of yawns when she announced her sexuality
and introduced the world to her very own little “Portia De Rossi.”
The closet doors finally swung open and who better to make her beaver debut with than Mel Gibson? That stellar of a dude who also just happens to be a racist,
sexist piggy, woman-hater and I’d bet my next paycheck, because it’s a small one,
a homophobe.
What are you thinking Jodie because I’m thinking middle-life crisis…
Beautiful woman on your arm, making bank with The Beaver, Ellen’s taking Oprah’s prime time spot so the waters are semi-safe for you…
You know coming out at 20 is courageous, scary and bold, but golly, Beav, coming out at 50-something is pathetically embarrassing.

Being in the closet resembles living at a trailer park in that you do everything
in your fucking power to not let the cat out of the bag. The reaction one receives when one says “I’m gay” is incredibly similar to the one when you say, “I live in a trailer park.” It ranges from crinkled noses and the disappearance of eye contact,
to a rapid change of subject.
Coming out to a stranger who asks me if I have a husband: “ No, I don’t have a husband. Actually, I’m gay.”
Response: “Oh…wow… hey, do you know if Safeway still carries Swiffer refills?”
The entire first 2 years at the park I told everyone I was “in management at
a modular home park community near Monterey.”
And the very first time I made a feeble attempt to come out,
I said I was “most likely bi-sexual, but isn’t everyone if they’d simply
allow themselves to explore all sides of their femininity and masculinity?”
Somehow wearing an armor of protective bullshit works in both situations.

Now rather than Jodie playing Mel’s loving, loyal, “till death do us part’ wife,
I’m thinking a no bullshit, sizzler of a movie, using the same title of course, might be The Beaver starring Jodie Foster and Guinevere Turner.
Now that would most certainly be worth the price of admission.
Oh, yea…heart be still!