Throwing in the Towel

Pink bath towel set.

It was a simple task. Maybe it wasn’t really that simple since there was already a task in the queue. She would call them “errands.” She had no idea what he would call them.

The goal was a simple wedding, and, as far as weddings go it was. The time frame between “will you marry me” through “I do” was a week shy of three months. They conned a priest into marrying them in a church and selected the #2 readings with full mass. Honestly the only criteria for the service was to avoid the “submit to thy husband” reading. Any of the other Old or New Testament love readings would be fine. A box checked.

There was a maid of honor and a best man, no additional maids or bearers. She told the maid to pick out a dress that would be appropriate to the best man’s tuxedo. And any color. Except white. There were many compliments to the bride over the maid’s sartorial selection.

She bought her own dress off the rack from the fancier department store. It was left over from prom. She had a choice among four or five white or near white frocks. She was very happy with the one she bought. And it was on sale, too.

The reception would be in his huge group house where there had been many large parties with multiple keg runs. He had a roommate who had access to wholesale booze, and they found a caterer that would bring food and a cake and wouldn’t charge for the champagne flutes even though they were only pouring and not supplying the bubbles.

Her sole requirement for the catering was that they show up. She didn’t care what the food tasted like as long as it was there before the guests. When the caterer mentioned a bakery he worked with, she enthusiastically said “Yes!” even before he could sell her on the the airy, buttery cake with raspberries spread between the layers. Her only request was that the bride and groom at the top of the cake was a man and a woman. Done and done!

The week of the wedding was pretty busy. There was family and friends coming from across the country–at least one, and perhaps as many as six, said that they had to witness him say, “I do.” There was a house that they closed on two days before the wedding. And there were two separate households to move into the freshly mortgaged cottage.

He and his best man were heading off to pick up the three tuxedos, one for the father of the bride, too. This is where the simple task came in. She realized that there were no decent finger towels for the bathroom.

“When you guys are out, can you pick up some hand towels for the bathroom? Pink, please. And if they don’t have pink, white would be fine.”

The time to the rehearsal began to close in like the trash compactor in Star Wars. There were amazing wedding elves moving furniture about, sweeping and mopping, and artfully hanging these ridiculous white paper bells and twists of gray and pink crepe paper, but the list of things to do was still daunting. She was becoming overwhelmed. He knew. She didn’t know, so much.

She needed to get her clothes and check into the hotel, then change, then to the church for rehearsal, then the dinner, then back to the hotel. She kept going over her list around and around like that stupid zipper ride at the fair. The one where you go up one side and down the other in these cars that swing around and upside down and the people riding throw up. The elves checked in and she distributed more tasks.

The soon-to-be groom and his best man came back with the tuxedos. He handed her dad’s suit to her so she could bring it to the hotel. He wasn’t going to the hotel.

She looked at him.

“Did you forget the towels?” Her voice went sharp and a half octave higher from the strain of being calm. She was approaching the peak of the zipper ride.

“We got them. We didn’t know where to go so we went to the drugstore. They didn’t have many towels but we found these.” His brother showed a shopping bag. He pulled out four towels. They were more like kitchen towels, which would be okay, but they were not pink. They were orange.

She did not handle the color substitution well. Her disappointment was of volume. It was such that the women who would be her sisters-in-law the next day flanked her, grabbed her by the elbows and led her out of the house to work through her zipper list. She wasn’t sure, but it seemed that everyone who remained in the house was relieved when the squad removed the ticking bomb.

Anyway, The Spouse brought up those orange towels today. “Well at least it’s not as bad as when I got those pink towels!” (Yes, he still clings to his improper claim that they were pink. I kept the evidence for about twelve years.)

Why bring it up? It’s been decades of errands and lists and stress and explosions and near misses since that day. I guess the towels are an expression of something the priest read at our supersized wedding:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

1 Corinthians* 13:4-8

So when he reminded me of his abject towel failure, I asked him why with a crooked grin then a chuckle and then a belly laugh. Because I know exactly why he said it.


* for those keeping track at home, that’s pronounced First Corinthians.

The Pit of Despair

Olives for snacking. Different kinds. All pitted. We hope.

Got a text from The Spouse who has been pulling in long days for a grand opening. Another late evening. Another late dinner.

I got home and was so hungry. Like so hungry. So hungry that all I can think of is my stomach. Every song coming through this 90s channel has a secret message about food. Green Day? Singing messages about vegetables, and maybe pesto. Mmmm, pesto. Semi-charmed Life? Yeah, I want something else, or at least somethingI Like Big Butts? Definitely about ham. I hear the drum intro from Smells Like Teen Spirit and I substitute my own nonsense lyrics–“Here we are now, gotta feed us! A potato. Alfredo. A burrito. Cappuccino, yeah.”

Well, I guess I could easily just fend for myself and grab some cheese and crackers and a glass of wine. Or warm up the leftover pasta from yesterday–there’s not enough to share. There is enough fendable grub for two. I could take the high road and leave the best of the odds and ends for the straggler.

I know that someone will be tired and even hungrier than me when they drag themselves in the house.  I also know that someone worked hard all day–and yesterday and yesterday’s yesterday and tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow, too. Someone who has stuff to share and would like some company.

I pulled out the grilled chicken from Saturday and cooked up some quinoa. I brought the heirloom tomato salad to room temperature and blanched some green beans. I’ll assemble a warm bowl on top of the arugula and drizzle it with the sauciness from the tomatoes. I’ll pour two glasses of that fizzy wine and have dinner with The Spouse. That’s what we do. We take care of each other.

I’ll have a few olives to tide me over. It’s not the pit of despair. It’s twoo love.

The Truth To Set You Free

A statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of piles of bricks. Each with the name of a person he owned. ugh.

I was buoyant to be part of the preview crowd at the soon to open Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum, as it slowly grew into it’s stacked corona on the Mall, grew on me. My companions in line said the same thing.

You can read more on the Museum here, here and here. This is not a review, though.

This is some raw thinkings delivered by a museum that riled me raw. After the party.

The party was awesome. There was a DJ and a hype man. Their day jobs are providing security at other Smithsonian properties on the mall. Tonight, they were party starters. They spun tunes-opening with Celebrate by Kool and the Gang which made me all nostalgic for my Sibling’s wedding as her new brother-in-law loosened his tie from his tux and pranced around the dance floor with a bottle of champagne in each hand–and asked the crowd (which was huge given there are just 200 employees and this was a family event, but the more the merrier when you’re celebrating) to hand dance and Wobble.

The dips and finger foods were generous, but the exhibits beckoned. That’s why we were here. I took the elevator down a few stories to a deep cavern which leads visitors through American history via the lens of African Americans. You follow an ascending ramp back up to the main floor. There is much to see and feel and think about as you walk the corridor.

There was part of one wall that told the horror story of families broken up on the auction block. In particular, the  curators related the story of a woman who was being put up for sale who refused to let them take her child. Take her child away from her. Out of her arms. This was her baby.

As she screamed and held the baby dear, she was lashed by a whip. Still, she held on to her sweet child. And, still, she was beaten by the people who were going to sell her. And sell her child. And the bastards wrenched her heart, her precious baby, from her arms. This horror was depicted in an ink drawing.

As I turned away from the canvas, I saw a man. He was a father. His skin was the same shade as the mother in the drawing. The woman who was for sale. He was holding his sweet baby in his arms. I can’t stop thinking about him and his family, and the woman and her family from hundreds of years ago. And thinking about progress and the journey that we are still on as a country and as a people.

My mind is racing and boiling and roiling and recoiling. And thinking. More thinking.

Judgement In Love

A typewriter with a paper that has "My New Life, Chapter 1" typed on it.

Have you been in love? Have you had that flush and rush when you see the perpetrator of your condition?

Have you lost your breath? Have you sat looking at the phone–no willing the phone–to announce an encounter? Have you traded texts into the wee hours of the night to wake up with a groggy smile a few short hours later?

Have you cancelled plans, blown off friends, contorted your calendar to be with someone? Have you felt deliciously guilty, while feeling delicious, too?

Love is not the most rational of feelings. It may just be one of the least rational. Deciding that you want to be with just one person permanently precipitates a headlong jump off a cliff for some. For others it’s an agonizing decision, because, how can you know? What if you’re wrong? How do you figure out if this is the one? And even after soul searching and angst, when you decide “yes, this is the one,” you find that you hurled yourself off a cliff, just like the other guy. It just took you a little longer. That’s what love does.

Love requires you to give at least a little part of yourself away. You give some of you to someone else to hold for safekeeping. It makes you think the best of your partner, because you have committed to trusting. And in committing you become loyal.

Your commitment isn’t just to the loved one. It’s to the relationship you share. It’s to that part where you’re holding a bit of each other. The wedding ring isn’t my ring. It’s The Spouse’s ring. It’s a symbol of the love and loyalty promised to me, to our family and to the meta-us.

And hells no!, this is not rational. It’s risky. It’s dangerous. It’s crazy.

So the love thing has to be somewhat pliant, like a green twig. It has to be strong to support change and growth, but still able to bend without breaking.

Overtime, the twig grows into a trunk with branches. The tree has to bend in a storm. Some branches might get brittle and break. But by growing more branches, more chances, it may survive.

Unless it gets hollowed out. And you sometimes can’t see that coming. Or you see it weakening so you add more water and fertilizer until you realize that you are just piling manure higher and higher on a tree with sap that’s no longer flowing. It’s just dried out. And it’s sad. And you maybe did or maybe didn’t lie to yourself.

Anyway, don’t blame someone for loving. Don’t blame them for hoping. Don’t blame them for forgiving and giving–yet another chance. Nobody wants to see their beautiful beginnings turned into a shit pile.

There is flawed judgement in love, but let’s not be quick to judge those in love. Bottom line, be kind.

Pomegranate Seeds

A flight of beer and a bowl of potato salad, beans and pulled pork. It was yum. Also, thanks Prisma!

My dad liked his potato salad with gravy. The potato salad came out of the fridge, especially since it had lots of creamy mayo. It was cold. And he liked it poured over with hot gravy. Like if the potatoes were hot and mixed with butter and milk. But they weren’t. They were cold. With mayo and raw onions and cooked eggs.

Everyone, other than him, thought it was pretty gross.

But it was Dad’s thing. Potato salad with gravy. It got to be so much a thing that when Mom made potato salad to accompany, say, burgers on the grill–served with condiments right from the fridge, like ketchup and yellow mustard and pickle relish and sliced onions and tomatoes–she would sometimes magic up some gravy for Dad. If you cooked, you know that there was some serious magic going on to make gravy when the meat was on the grill. And, by the way, Mom NEVER opened a can or jar of “gravy.” That gummy shit is a poor excuse for gravy. Even for potato salad.

Anyway, today, The Spouse asked me if I wanted to go to the auto store to get the battery for the Mini replaced. It was on warranty, and the Mini was frequently on no-go. I said yes.

The Spouse poked his head in the bathroom–I NEVER get any privacy around here–a few minutes later to admit that the errand was extremely dull and wondered why I would go. I said I’d go because I wanted to hang out. I gave The Beast a treat, and, along with the promise of new wiper blades for my car, we went to the auto store.

Me, being the clever Doc that I am, figured out the correct wiper blades and waited for The Spouse. And, while waiting, discovered that there was a yet to be tried brewery a mere four minutes drive away. Clearly, this was not going to be an extremely dull errand.

While at the beer makery, I spied the BBQ truck. The Spouse left the flights behind to have a tour of yet another set of stainless steel vats. I went to get the grub on the street from the truck.

As I studied the offerings chalked on the side of the truck, the very pleasant attendant asked if I had their BBQ Pearl.

“No,” I said.

“People really like it. It sounds weird but it’s the most popular. We layer mac and cheese with baked beans and pulled pork.”

“I know it’s weird, me not you, but I don’t really like mac and cheese.”

To her enormous credit, she did not make a disparaging face.

“Now, if it was like potato salad and beans and pork, I’d like that alot better.”

“I can make that!”

I realized I was channeling my Dad. The idea of hearty, hot food on top of potato salad was like gravy. And I said, “Yes.” I ate it as my Dad. And it was good.

I miss my Dad every day. Today I felt like I connected across the the lands of the living and the lands of those who have left. Over potato salad. And baked beans. And pulled pork.

Amen.

Postcards

A triangle, a pool cue and a few balls inside the triangle and a few balls outside the triangle. The table is green. The balls in the triange are 3, 5 and 9. Nine is striped.

There was this joint a few blocks away. It was tiny. There were two rooms, not including the johns. It was on the far corner of Colorado Avenue, and you had to walk a few steps down to reach the entrance. Not many. Maybe two. Max was three.

The door wasn’t the sturdiest, but the bar was solid. When you walked in you’d see a few dozen coffee mugs hanging from the wall. And, when you walked in, it was as a bell heralded your entrance. There wasn’t a bell, but you still felt a chime. As you crossed the threshold, Becky would come from behind the doorway to greet you.

She was a slight woman. She had thick bangs that topped big, thick plastic glasses. She wore her hair pulled back in a pony tail. It wasn’t long and luxurious. It was thinnish and a dull blonde. The rubber band was functional. This was her joint and she had work to do.

I don’t know that anyone else worked there. She must have changed her own kegs. She made the sandwiches–my favs were the turkey and the roast beef. I really really liked her ice cream scoop of potato salad. It was a big scoop. I don’t think she made it herself, but it was standout in freshness and flavor. The food wasn’t cooked. It was fixed–in the kitchen behind the bar. The only thing served hot was the coffee.

There was a great story about the robbery at Becky’s joint. A guy walked down the steps where he knew a small, fortyish woman tended bar, and he had a gun. He very nervously pointed it at the proprietor and demanded her money. She looked at him and said she would bring it from the back. As she stepped through the open doorway to the kitchen, the sweaty guy heard the click, click, click, click, click, click,  click, click, click, click of  ten guns being drawn. A heavily mustached man sitting at the far end of the bar spoke. His eyes were facing the shelves at the back of the bar. He didn’t move his head.

“Man. You done went ahead and fucked up. See all those coffee mugs on the wall. This is where we come to get a coffee. During our patrol shifts. Why don’t you put that gun down now, son. And I will have the police officers behind you lower their weapons.”

It was a cop bar. The would-be robber fell to the ground, was cuffed and taken away. Then Becky came out of the kitchen. She refilled the mug of the man with the mustache. Nothing else was said.

Just to the right of the bar was another open doorway, to the second room. That room was mostly for darts. There were leagues that played there some nights. Other nights people would pull their flights from their pockets and throw. It was fun.

There was also a misshapen pool table. You’d ask Becky for the balls if they weren’t on the table. If she didn’t know you, you might need to leave a driver’s license. But if she didn’t know you, why would you be playing pool there?

We were drinking Miller, the champagne of beers, from longnecks. We met up with some union brothers of The Spouse (when we were dating and not married, but let’s not confuse things by giving The Spouse a new identifier). Five of us were at the pool table playing a very unskilled game of eight ball. Slop counted. Someone brought another pair of handfuls of Miller.

She was a bit aloof, but not for any reason other than she didn’t know everyone. She was tall and had a quick smile and a throaty laugh. Her eyes were big and expressive, especially when she was making or parrying a point. Her layered dark blonde hair was heavy enough to stop it from flying all over the place. Still, her bangs danced just above her brows and cascaded along her cheeks and down her back.

I knew her husband, but she wasn’t with her husband. She was with a different union brother. I liked the one she was with better than the husband anyway. The crowd were mostly members of the local, except for me, her and her future her sister-in-law. Then there were four of us at playing pool.

In those next minutes, which were less than ninety, I became friends with my best friend that I ever had in Washington. The most regular person I knew here. She mostly grew up around D.C., versus the transplanted folks that were the majority of my colleagues, acquaintances and friends.

She had both a kindness and a take-no-prisoners air. I think that any prisoners would have been glad to spend time with her, though. Even if she upbraided them, she would relate to their experiences while demanding better. They would try harder.

She was an artist. She had huge feelings. She was the best mother I knew. She honestly and lovingly challenged my own failures in a way that pushed me to fail less. I want to be more like her.

Today would have been her birthday. Facebook told me. I found my head in my hands and cried again at losing her. Every year I cry a few times because I miss her.  I wish she was here to slap me upside the head and tell me the truths that I am too dumb to see. And I remain grateful, so very, very, very grateful, that she was my friend.

Dearest Kris, having a wonderful time and so wish you were here. xoxo

Mourning In America

Detail from William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Pietà, 1876, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Mary is so sad. She lost her son.

Women with loss. Loss of a child. A boy, a man, a son, a girl, a woman, a daughter.  A Gold Star mother saying these words, “I became a Gold Star mother,” into a microphone. To millions of people. And tucked deep inside her story of bravery at the unspeakable, she thinks, “Keep your star.” It’s an exclusive club. Nobody wants to join.

Wailing women. Weeping. Pounding their chests. Grabbing their heads. Pulling out clumps of hair. Faces wrenched. Clenching jaws and grinding teeth, trying desperately to hold back the bellows of grief. Of their worst moment. Of falling to the ground with horror. Of being unable to breathe. Of minds going blank, no thoughts, no feelings, nothing, because the alternative is that this is real.

Women of grace. Standing there. Alone. Together. Some with anger. Many with anger. Some struggling to find meaning. Others taking the mantle of meaning. Sharing their heartache, despair, agony and anguish. Pleading with us to see them. To acknowledge their children. To imagine their pain. To warn us. All searching for peace.

There are no words. But I am so sorry for your loss.