Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Soul Food

Sometimes a blogger can’t find one damn subject to blog about.
Other times, there are so many subjects, topics, issues, events and persons of interest that
it's overwhelming.
Either way, a blogger can be placed in the same dilemma:  What do I write about?
What is my readership hungry for?
When I left the park, I left a plethora of stories; left them right there in the middle of the street. Left for the next manager to pick-up, dust off and appreciate.
The daily shenanigans and the characters that resided there; those individuals who we tend to turn our heads from, pretending they don’t exist.  Well, they were in fact, colorful, unique souls and their daily lives gave me something fun and rare to write about.

Alta died last week.  I read it while I was sitting in the waiting room of The Nancy Ausonio Mammography Center, waiting to have my boobs squished.  The local paper was lying on the table next to me, wide-open to the obituaries and there she was. 
Space 32.
Stunned, I instantly could hear that gravelly voice of hers calling me at all hours of the night.  Let me tell you, that  b*!@!ch gave me so much grief…constantly complaining about each and every pothole in the road, the sweaty man she knew was spying on her when she showered and her endless by-passing me when I didn’t respond to her demands quickly enough; going directly to the management company’s owner for things like rent increases, trimming of trees and yes, the potholes.  She swore like a truck driver and reeked of Pall Malls and vodka.  Her long acrylic nails were a hideous bright pink. Her rag muffin mutts were her coveted babies and she had lived in the park longer than any other resident.  Funny though, that spitfire always waved, always gave me a Christmas card each year and Meyer lemons from her tree. 

When someone dies, what they actually do is drop this enormous, boulder-like burden called ‘reflection’ down on top of us. It lands heavy, like a slab of concrete and forces us to pause, then look back on all the past interactions we’ve shared with that person.  
And in doing so, we are left determining if, in fact, we had truly been the very best person we should have been.
This ‘pause,' I have come to believe, is an essential and key component in learning to be more human; More human in the sense of, more of the soul.  Of course, one cannot come to this without a great deal of contemplation and deliberation.
It’s as if a light finally goes on and you realize there’s more to a person than you took time to see or experience, and there’s more to yourself and your own depth than you were willing to expose.
That ‘more’ is heart.  That ‘more’ is thinking before you speak.  That ‘more’ is the ‘ole "do unto others as you’d like them to do to you."  And of course, you get the gift of a huge lesson.
Unfortunately, what you don’t get is a second chance.
At least, with that particular dead person.

Space 32 was all right.  She walked the road her parents walked and their parents before them.
It's the only road she knew.  She made me laugh out loud often.
She gave me subject matter for my writings.
She took the “What the hell!” attitude when it came to rules and booze.
And I liked all that about her.

Now her kids cry.  A cry, I do believe, comes from their souls because I know that cry.
I know that ache.  I know that finality.  And so what binds Alta's kids and me now has nothing to do with our differences and everything to do with our commonality.
They are left with her triple-wide to keep or sell, left with her two mutts, left with her smoky clothes, left with boxes and boxes of black and white photographs, left with bottles of her medications, her bills, her Caddie, her Meyer lemons.   All they have are these things and their memories, some good and others not so good.
And one more thing.  They too now have that boulder; that burden of reflection to carry. 

So, I sent a card to the family.  That’s the human thing to do, now isn’t it?
Well, what I'd actually like to do is sit down again with Alta, have a cup of coffee or a vodka on the rocks, but it’s too late for that, now isn’t it?  Instead, I chose her as the subject of my blog this morning.  But this time, it’s an accolade; a tribute to Alta Mae, but also, it’s a tribute to life and to the serious side, which I suppose is the ying or yang of ‘the poke fun at’ side.
Her obituary, in part, was simply stated,
She enjoyed her job, crocheting, playing her piano, listening to jazz, traveling in her motor home with her daughter, son-in-law and her two babies, Dolly and Bubu (her dogs) and shopping with her granddaughter, Stacey.”
Donations were requested, in lieu of flowers.  Cancer research.  Bladder research…
And the local SPCA to whom I sent a small check in her name, just as so many did when my own mom died. This is how it works.  This is how we humans roll.  This is how we attempt to make something sad and insignificant...significant. This is how we show sympathy and compassion.
No matter how late we are in doing so.

Last week’s blog, for those of you who partook, explored the "F-word". 
I’ve written a couple hundred or more blogs, but never has one caused such a ruckus!  Never has one sparked so much discussion. Yee haw! Though I appreciated the comments and emails I received, the responses really blew me away because, though much of my writing may be seen as meaningless fluff, I believe there've been a couple more worthy of conversing and debating over, than one about a silly four-letter word.  Certainly important issues I’ve written on such as homelessness, poverty, the environment are all worth joining in on a discussion over, but oh no!  Oh my!  It was the “F-word" that got y’all uppity!
Well, that’s okay by me.
But today’s blog is perhaps worthy of something far more imperative than discussion:
sweet silence.  Perhaps, noiselessness is what's required more than anything else;
A silence to crawl into, with eyes closed, and just privately reflect.  I'm guessing such reflection will fill our hunger and nourish us with the soul food we might need.
Today's blog is one girl’s quiet tribute, but more than that, it’s a call to a weaponless battle;
a march, a rebellion, a double-dare to be more human in each and every interaction that comes on way.
It's a battle that must erupt deep down in each of our souls, before we might lose that opportunity.

This disappearing world.

Monday, May 21, 2012

One Girl's Journey to Find the Answer

I saw the most bizarre commercial tonight.
Kirstie Allie wearing full-on fairy garb; angel wings as sheer as my sexiest negligee, protruding out of her back like humps on a Stegosaurus. A costume party you might ask?  No, just another one of Ms. Alley’s ways to make ‘bank’ as she promotes Poise bladder leakage control pads.  Perhaps I’m being pre-mature in my sarcasm, as thank God I’m not on the leakage journey yet.
First Jenny Craig and now the ultra thins for that “unexpected wetness.” Thanking God (again), I’m still enjoying the “expected” kind, but when and if there comes a time that I’m “in need”
I can even buy the damn things on Amazon!
You know ladies, most likely, one day we’ll all walk that road with Kirstie and I’ve gotta be honest, the name Poise strikes a cord in me; a cord of dignified admiration.
poise 1 |poiz|
1 graceful and elegant bearing in a person : poise and good deportment can be cultivated.
composure and dignity of manner : at least he had a moment to think, to recover his poise.
2 archaic balance; equilibrium.

Poise and good deportment can be cultivated.   Now, that’s what I’m talking about... 
My own personal dignity of manner has been brought up for discussion over the years.  
Specifically, regarding my use or "over-use" of the word “fuck” in my blogs.  But rather than blow off  you delightful darlings who feel this way by ignoring your opinions, I’ve decided to, in a very poised and dignified manner, seek the opinion of an educated, qualified woman to help me determine, if in fact, my language is inappropriate and offensive or, at the very least, I wanna start a dialogue about it.
As someone who is a wee-bit accustomed to hopping up on a soapbox, I, of course, find the
"F-word" quite functional, fun and fucking effective, if used at the right moment; that moment when no other word will say it quite the same.
But, I’m very open to hearing the opinions of others, and though Ellen Etc and I have never met, I interviewed her on this highly important and worthy discussion topic.  Thank-you, Ellen Etc, for your willingness to walk down this road with a complete stranger and madwoman!  Let’s begin a conversation about the "F-word" and one girl’s journey to find an answer…

The Interview (in a slightly condensed, like Campbell’s Tomato version)

Tpg: The F-Word has gotten a bad wrap from some folks and hailed as the "say-all" from others.  Do you think the division is a generational thing?  

Ellen Etc: Yes, primarily. I had a discussion with the young women at work (in their early 20s) who were impatiently saying, “It’s just words. Why do people have to get so upset about it?” This is an argument I lost when I was 13 and tried to use “damn” with my parents. It was pointed out that context is significant, and that while a bathing suit is fine for the beach, it’s not so much for church or Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house, even though the minister can say “damned” in a sermon.
Advocating for the uncensored use of “fuck” is akin to saying that clothing is clothing, so what difference does it make if I wear a bikini or a “Pussy Power” t-shirt to work?
While existentially it doesn’t matter, it does indicate that the user puts their own self-expression above their employer’s interests, and even their own chances for a better job. It’s individualism at the expense of making compromises for the good of a community. People who are unwilling to compromise, or who are stuck at a developmental level of adolescent rebellion, can be found working at pizza delivery for years on end. 
It’s slamming the door when one comes home after a night of drinking because one’s in high spirits, instead of closing the door quietly because the roommate is probably asleep. 

Tpg: Do your views of the F-Word connect or coincide with your spiritual or religious views?

Ellen Etc: Good question. Only if etiquette is a religion! 
I am actually very religious (and have been very active in the same Santa Rosa congregation for more than 30 years), but my religion focuses on the individual search for truth, and the worth and dignity of every person. My religion doesn’t take a position on “bad language,” but it does teach children (and adults) consideration for others and how to be an effectively participating member of a society.
I also have a lot of respect for and enjoyment of bodily functions. It bothers me to hear people use “fuck you” and “asshole” as epithets. I personally get a great deal of pleasure from my own asshole and don’t want to disrespect it by citing it as an insult toward others. When someone says, “fuck you,” they aren’t only insulting the other person; they’re also mindlessly using sex as a pejorative. (Of course, “fuck you” is only words, so nobody should take it personally, right?)

Tpg: Do you find yourself quickly defining a person after you hear him/her say or write 
the F-Word?

Ellen Etc: Yes, if it’s used casually, in that hipster way. “Look, Mommy, I’m 25 now and old enough to say ‘fuck,’ and you can’t stop me!” It makes my eyes roll. I think the people who use this language without thought get a clue when they have their own children and find it distasteful to hear their 7-year-olds using it. As parents, they find they actually can articulate the philosophy of “context” pretty well at that point.

The “read motherfucking books all damn day” graphic wouldn’t have attracted attention without the “motherfucking,” right? Who sends around a photo that says, “Read books all damn day?” So it isn’t about the sentiment of wanting to read, it’s the positioning that  “I am a person who is wild and free and as proof, I use ‘motherfucking’ on my Facebook page, which also gets stodgy people to Unfriend me, so that I will have a cozy community of people who all think like I do.” (Although perhaps I’m reading more into it than I need to? Ya think?)

Tpg: Are you comforted in the fact that my questions are using the word 'F-Word' and not 'fuck?'

Ellen Etc: No, this is a personal, almost academic discussion for me. There’s nothing inherently wrong with “fuck” or “fucking,” and I don’t mind it used colloquially to describe having sex. But to me, “I’m fucking my cat” doesn’t mean that I’m fucking with my cat, it means I’m fucking my cat.

Tpg:  Should the F-Word be used to describe hot sex? 

Ellen Etc: Hell, it can be used to describe tepid sex. Just don’t throw it around.
Fuck this anchovy pizza”? I don’t think so. It makes me think of a guy with a slice of pizza wrapped around his dick, and then offering it to his pals “afterwards.” Gross.

Similarly with “shit” – I read an article about a woman who went to prison, and in the first few days she was accosted in the bathroom and forced to eat her own waste. “Everyone eats their own shit eventually,” says the other prisoner.

This is what I think of when people say, “That movie was the shits.” I think about steaming piles of dog shit, or avoiding runny goose shit on the path at Spring Lake.

Tpg:  What do you shout out when you hit your pinkie, with full-on force with a hammer, because you miss a huge bolt you were trying to pound into a cement wall? 

Ellen Etc: I like “aaaaaaaa!” and “ack!” or even “crap.” But I don’t shout “crap!” on Facebook. If I did say, “Fuck!” I would apologize afterwards. 

Well, well.  Ellen’s a very hard act to follow. Damn. She’s eloquent and I’m a simpleton who grew up on grits, and when my dad worked, we splurged on Haas avocados.  She’s got a few f*^!$*&*^%@# great points and all I have is a resume with 7+ years of trailer park management experience, but I can (and will) tell you this.  “The word” has been highly effective for me.
It works. It's versatile and if nothing else, it's left me privately satisfied at the end of the day.  Because if you think about it, it does cause for pause, raised eyebrows, an occasional small, breathless gasp, especially if it’s in an inappropriate setting.  Now, I’m with Ellen.  Perhaps self-constraint should be used in certain settings such as churches, classrooms, your great grandmother’s dinner table, but on my blog??!!
No way! Come on, Ellen! 
Written format, whether it be essay, fiction, non-fiction, poem, or blog, as I see it, holds a unique place in a culture much like art, lyrics, dance; a creative life force that cannot and should not be beckoned with, stifled, changed, or banned.

In 2007, a federal appeals panel said the FCC could no longer slap indecency fines on broadcasters, who accidentally allowed the word fuck on the airwaves,
arguing that these days the word fuck is commonly used to express frustration rather than sexual obscenity. How did fuck and other words get so dirty anyway?
They were born that way, for the most part. Fuck has always been an offensive word, though its exact origin is unclear. It's related to words in Dutch, German, and Swedish, and the etymological meaning has to do with moving back and forth. The first known evidence of the term is found in an English and Latin poem from before 1500 that satirized the Carmelite friars of Cambridge, England.  In the line "Non sunt in coeli, quia gxddbov xxkxzt pg ifmk," the author replaced each letter of the unprintable words with the succeeding letter in the alphabet: "They [the friars] are not in heaven, since they fuck wives of Ely."* (Remember that the alphabet at the time was different, and that i was also j, v was also u, and vv was w. Thus gxddbov produces fvccant, a fake Latin word taken to mean, "fuck.")

Since then, fuck has remained consistently offensive, though it has lost some of its original punch. The word only developed its nonsexual meanings in the late 19th century. (You can find that usage in Civil War court-martial records, for instance.) The word became much more widely used after World War I and now, along with shit, accounts for half the swearing that goes on in public. At this point, even our president and vice president will use it casually in its nonsexual sense. In March 2002, Bush interrupted a meeting with Condoleezza Rice and yelled,
Fuck Saddam!” We're taking him out!" And Dick Cheney famously said, "Go fuck yourself" to Patrick Leahy on the floor of the Senate.
Now, no matter what political side you stand on, these are high-ranking officials using profanity.  Inappropriate?  Perhaps.
Most often, swear words grow less vulgar with time. Back in Shakespeare's day, when one's lineage mattered a lot more, the word bastard was so offensive it was often written "b-d." Contemporary readers might not recognize the power of a line like this one, spoken by Capt. MacMorris in Act IIII of Henry V: "What about my nation? Is my nation a villain, and a bastard, and a knave, and a rascal?" Meanwhile, shit was once a standard Old English word for feces. Today, it remains one of the most versatile vulgarities in our language. These days, you can be "shit-scared" (so scared you shit yourself), live in a “shit hole” or have "shit for brains" (be dumb). And, of course, the shit can also hit the fan. President Bush used another version when he told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that the United Nations needed to "get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit."

According to Allen Walker Reed (2004), it was highly offensive to say, “trousers” or even “pants” in the 1800’s.  In the 1900’s, U.S. film censorship boards were highly influenced by the church, and religious profanities were explicitly forbidden. The 1939 American classic Gone with the Wind made history when Clark Gable uttered one of cinema’s most famous lines, “Frankly, my dear, I dont give a damn, resulting in a $5,000 fine.

As far as writing this delicious controversial, journey-inspiring little word, we can write it like this    !@#$   or    f@!%ing    or   ‘effin   or   F—You    or    F-Word   or  F’n    or   wtf
and the reader still silently reads “fuck.”
But thanks to Ellen Etc, I’m giving it more thought. 
Just yesterday, I was feeling quite ‘grounded’ having listened to Tina Malia, meditated for 5 minutes (which is record-breaking for me) and only ingested a single cup of coffee (also record-breaking)…
Feeling quite balanced, humbly dignified and thanks to Tina, Ellen and Kirstie, quite poised. 
I left for work on a fluffy cloud.  I rolled the window down to feel the breeze on my face
and smell the sea.  Ahhhh.
 I pulled out at a corner, in front of a man in his mid-seventies, driving a Cadillac.  He clearly had the right away.  I smiled a sweet, humanistic smile and said, “I’m so sorry, sir.” His eyebrows crunched hard, mean-like as he laid on his horn.  He then proceeded to give me the middle finger as he continued down the street.
In a split second my “Zen” flew out the damn window…
“FUCK YOU!!!!!!!!” I yelled back at him.
Clearly, the journey is on going.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dear Blank, This is Blank. Please Blank.

Dear Faithful Readership, even those who delete my blog mid-sentence, halfway through,
This is Trailer Park Girl.  It’s been a two-week desert, dry and barren.
Partly because of the villain; that addictive beast known as Facebook, which keeps many of us from doing the shit that truly matters, but also due to, as my aunt would say,
"the this's and that's" of day to day living.  When it comes to words, I'm usually not at a loss, yet I have been. 
But, I'm finally back on the camel;  feeling hydrated and somewhat refreshed
as I sit before you pounding away at my keyboard...

I didn’t see one damn Prius on a recent drive north; up the 505 and then, up highway 5, between Corning and Anderson, Ca.  It’s as if a hybrid is as foreign to the folks of these parts as the location of Russia from Alaska or a homosexual neighbor.
Lots of tractors though (in the left lane), also big rigs, Ford and GMC pick-ups, horse trailers, cow trailers filled with cattle on their way to the slaughterhouse. 
(I couldn’t look.)
Lots of rice fields, wheat fields, weed fields…lots of decrepit looking barns with decrepit looking stock in tiny pens, each animal on top of the other, crowding for their share of the much sought after 5 foot slice of shade.
Billboards with cheery sentiments like
It’s all good by me, mostly because I don’t reside in these here parts, and you
probably don't either.
The yard sales are worth a look though, and VW Upcycling, the business we have to make sure we can keep food on the table, cannot afford to rest.  I must put aside my uncomfortable stereotypes, which have grown out of these people, who seem to have caravanned from North Carolina, to all these whistle-stops in Northern California; areas like Cottonwood and Red Bluff, Ca. Somehow, "California coolness" hasn’t infiltrated the pores of their rosy necked skin.
Lots of sales are “drive-bys” in this area and here's how you know.  When you pull up in front of the driveway, there are 3 folks sitting in recliners that they just drug out of their living room; all 3 are eating Hostess berry pies and screaming at their kids to
“Get the hell outta the street!”
Another distinct clue are the endless rows of tarps filled with Christmas decorations from The Dollar Tree, a hundred VHS tapes and five or six identical Mr. Coffee Makers.  Drive-by.
My mother-in-law is like a hawk on road kill when it comes to spotting the posted street signs, including one we recently saw in Redding:
At first, I thought it was a joke.  Then I met the hosts. 
Triple exclamation points.  They were peculiar, but their goods were even more peculiar to a girl like me… "tools are located in the man area" the toothless woman yelled out to me as I was heading toward a table of shovels and gloves and other  “Home Depot” type stuff.  There were over 2 dozen single coffee mugs; none of which had a match and all had logos from various churches, casinos and motels. There was (only)  one taxidermy duck. 
Sometimes it takes every bit of self-control that I can possibly muster up to not unleash my anguish and just completely lose it. 
I’m talking my tongue requires more than just a 3- inch Band-Aid ‘cuz at times like this, my tongue could gush.  I hold back in order not to embarrass my mother-in-law, but also to find those good bargains, fix ‘em up real nice, re-sale for a higher yet decent price and live the American Dream.

Dear Yard Sale Hosts in Shasta County,
This is Trailer Park Girl, Part Owner of VW Upcycling
Keep the coals of your hoarder tendencies stoked.

You know there’s a cool guy who writes a cool blog called Dear Blank, This is Blank. 
And I must admit, I’m stealing from him because as you and I both know, nothing says it clearer; nothing is more ‘straight-shot, nothing matches the honesty of a short, to the point, letter….

Dear Space 3, This is your beer guzzling, spur yielding, angry as a wasp in a disturbed nest, next-door neighbor.
Tell your damn hound to shut the hell up ‘fore I call the Poe-leese!

Dear Mayonnaise, This is tpg's hips.
I’m bidding you a tearful farewell as your contribution, though generous, has
expanded these babies to a far and wide that can no longer be tolerated.

Dear Monterey High School Students who just got out of their daddy’s Mercedes and tossed your McDonald's wrappers in the street,
This is a wild and crazy, flaming hot, menopausal, Aries lunatic of a woman who lives near your high school.

Dear Mitt,
This is John Lauber.
You do remember, you lying SOB.

Letter writing and also card sending is becoming a lost art in my opinion.
But I'm a little 'old school' because I dig sending letters via 'snail mail' and even more, I love getting them!  Nothing is better, except maybe a romantic (wink) evening, than after a long day, heading out to the mailbox only to find a card or letter from a friend. Now I'm not talking about an eviction letter or a nasty letter.  I got one of those in middle school.  I was in 8th grade and we were between classes.  I turned the combo of the lock on my locker, and inside, in front of my textbooks, was a big bottle of Scope and a letter that read
Dear Girls Vice President, This is the Green Phantom.
Pleeeeeeeze use this asap.
I was mortified.  Triple exclamation point again.  Traumatized to the point of brushing my teeth and tongue hourly for years to come.
Now those kind of letters, though helpful in the long run, hurt like hell.
What I'm actually advocating here are two other kinds of letters.
First, the good old-fashioned Letter to the Editor, which is the public's mighty megaphone to their community; a shameless way for each of us to express whatever the hell we are enormously passionate about.  These have proven quite effective for me.
And, the happy letters; those that make your tummy do the Cha Cha and your face ache from smiling.  The ones where you're reminded of your friends' cool handwriting or your family member's syrupy choice in Hallmark cards.  It's so refreshing and nothing, except maybe a phone call, makes you say, "tickled pink" more.
Yep, I like those.

That's probably it for today, folks. Wishing you all a plethora of things:
a billboard-free drive north, yard sales with lots of bad-ass stuff at cheap prices, a spiffy clean linoleum, a letter in your mailbox.
And maybe an acknowledgement of this happy thought...
Dear President Obama, This is Trailer Park Girl.
Thank-you very much.