Friday, April 30, 2010

Not to Obssess, But Chili . . . Tomorrow . . .

I've heard it's crass and uncultured to try to duplicate an amazing sensory experience . . . . is it? Educate me. Because I'm a heathen.

I have good news . . .

There will be chili tomorrow at Flatrock.

And apparently, there will also be some kind of soup having something to do with peanut butter. Peanut butter soup. Doesn't sound awesome, but I LOVE peanut butter and I like soup ("we both like soup . . . and snow peas . . . and we could talk . . . or not talk for hours . . ."). So I'm willing to try it. What could go wrong, really?

Peanut butter soup . . . there's a chance it could be phenomenal. I'm willing to take that risk. Plus I heard they sold out in two hours the first time the chef made it (whose name is Larry*).

*Larry and I had a long talk today about the cafe and the chili and the pies** and cinnamon rolls. As you can see, it went quite well. Thus chili tomorrow. And peanut butter soup.

**He makes them. From scratch. I know you think I'm a nutcase for being impressed with this. But I am. So sue me.

The South Is Killing Me

You think this is an exaggeration, but it's not.  It's particularly bad in the spring, summer, and fall.  So three quarters of the year I'm on death's doorstep.  Or death is on my doorstep.  I'm not sure who's more aggressive here--death or me.  Probably me.  I've been told I'm intimidating.  A lot.  I don't even have any tattoos or crazy piercings and yet I'm still intimidating.  

Death doesn't know my secret--that the brusque exterior is a facade meant to protect the gooey inside.  I'm softer than a Cadbury Creme Egg beneath the fragile shell.  All it takes is one tiny crack and the rest explodes (that's the worst part about the Cadbury Creme Eggs).  But three quarters of the year I guess I find myself knocking on deaths' door.  Because I'm aggressive.

You know how you think you're one way, but everyone else tells you a different story?  I know you know what I'm talking about.  How you go your entire life thinking things like, "People scare me.  I don't think I'm EVER going to make any friends.  Starting the school year at a NEW school bites.  I'll be an outcast.  Moving is hard.  I look fat in this shirt.  Do I look fat?  Don't call on me, don't call on me I don't know the answer."

But somehow everyone thinks this about you, "She's going to punch me.  Nothing scares her.  Holy crap that was a close one, I thought she was going to punch me.  She just bit my head off, why'd she do that? All I said was 'you look nice today.'  I'm never complimenting her again. She just accused me of not knowing what I'm talking about . . . she's obviously done her research.  Whoa I thought she was going to punch me . . . again."

I'm not making that up.  I have seen into the minds of people around me.  

Joke.  I haven't.  However, over the years, a picture emerges.  Themes crop up and after enough people tell you certain things about their initial impressions of you, it dawns on you:  you portray a completely different image of yourself than you realize.

I could go into a few personal examples, but they would start to sound like accusations.  Also, it starts to sound like I'm bragging about how I amazing I am.  Because we all know that a bullying demeanor is highly desirable in today's corporate dog-eat-dog world. 

Plus the real point of this meandering post is that the south has a personal vendetta against me.  It would be no big deal if I could just get a doctor to put tubes in my ears or something like that, like a baby (because I'm such a baby, with malfunctioning eustachian tubes).  No idea if that would help, but the problem is the insane amount of allergens in Nashville. 

Medicine's answer?  "Allergy shots."  I put that ridiculous phrase in quotation marks to illustrate how dubious I am about that program.  It's a racket.  No proof it would help.

During the winter I forget and think, "Ah, Nashville's not so bad.  I kind of like it.  Why did I want to move again?"  I still have allergies during the winter, but it's manageable.  

Then spring strikes with a teasing, big-pawed swipe to my head.  The weird, unstable pressure systems that stir up tornadoes sweep through the area and my head implodes.  Then it explodes. At the same time.  That's not enough.  It gets worse.  My ears don't work properly and I die.  

Yep.  I die.     

Then I remember that I wanted to move back to the desert where there are fewer allergens.  But by then it's too late.  The market has crashed and selling my house would put me upside down on my mortgage.

I don't really know if the ear issues will ever go away, even if I move back to Utah.  I went out there for Christmas, and when I came back, I got some weird altitude sickness thing that lasted for a month.  It consisted of sudden bouts of nausea and vomiting.  It was damn weird.  

Thus far the south is winning.  Who can really fight an entire landmass, when you come right down to it? 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Should I Be Embarrassed that I Want to Stop By on the Way Home?

I wonder if that place still has some chili left.  I wonder if they'll ever make that recipe again.
Still thinking about yesterday's experience....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Flippin' Writer's Block

I have writer's block.

It feels a little bit like sitting in the creepy reclining chair in the dentist's office waiting for them to begin drilling. You know the smell's going to chill you to the bone, raising all sorts of suppressed memories.

I have no idea why it feels like that.

There's a sinking feeling in my chest like I've been laboring at some fruitless task my entire life. I should have realized years ago that I wasn't meant for this. I should have ignored all those liars who misguidedly told me I was a talented. What did they know?!!

Seriously. Thanks 12th grade AP English writing lab ladies. All those stick figures doing cheers on my Thomas Hardy paper? Lies!

I imagine this is how the tone-deaf nightmares on American Idol feel after a friendly reaming from Simon Cowell.

"Who told you you have talent?"

"Uh, my English teacher."

"She was lying. I'm sorry to break it to you."

Paula cuts in, "She's not that bad." Laughs awkwardly. "Don't listen to Simon, sweetheart. You'll be fine as a blogger. But yes, there's definitely a limit to what you can do."

Simon: "Don't listen to me? I'm doing her a favor. No one else is going to, and it's a waste of time, frankly. Some are born with it, others aren't."

Randy, "It's ok, dog, it's's just not your cup of tea, that's all dog. This level just isn't your level, but you know, don't give up practicing. Lots of people can improve."

Simon, shaking his head, "No, I'm sorry, they're wrong, I'M right. You should just quit now, while you're ahead. Try something else. That's what I'm saying. This isn't for you. You haven't got IT. You haven't got a whit of it. I'm the friendly one here, I'm the one who's telling you what you need to hear."

He's probably right. I should just quit while I'm ahead. Monetarily speaking. I should also stop reading, because every amazing book I read creates a vacuum in my chest, knowing I'll never write that well.

My Amazing Chili Experience in the Year 2010

I'm not a huge chili fan, but I just ate the best chili I've ever tasted. Also, I'm not like some sort of insane food elitist or foodie (most horrid designation ever). I just like what I like. And I admit that in a lot of ways, my tastes are probably rather pedestrian.

Where did I get this magic chili? you must be thinking. At a little place called Flatrock cafe. It opened in November on Nolensville pike, across the street, essentially, from La Hacienda and Phonoluxe. So, apologies if you are one of my unfortunate readers living in England or China. I have tons of fans in other countries. Ha. But know this, should you ever make it to Nashville, my distant friends, you will know WHERE to eat.

They also serve coffee made from locally roasted beans, if that's your thing.

Get this: the chili was made on the premises. I know. I know. Your heart just skipped a beat too, didn't it? We're so in sync, you and I.

It's a lowdown shame that these days a person feels cause to rejoice to learn that their food wasn't made in a factory in Dallas, flash-frozen, and shipped in blocks of ice to the chain store where it's reheated and served as "fresh."

And yet, it's a sweet discovery to find a place like Flatrock where the entire menu consists of things made on location.

I'm not talking about the raw ingredients, of course. Though, according to their menu, the milk comes from a nearby dairy and the beer (if that's your thing) is brewed locally. Something called Yazoo. Yeah, I don't drink. So sue me.

They should put up a flashing neon sign touting this: "Food Made Here. No, not just HERE, here; WE MAKE YOUR FOOD FRESH. Really fresh. Not flash-frozen fresh, although that's the best way to preserve the food, if you need to preserve food."

Too long. They would probably benefit from an asterisk after the first here. But that looks fishy. So I guess we're back to the word premise, which I've already used too much in this post.

Anyway. Flatrock cafe. They also have live music on Saturday night if that's your thing, and they have a really great parking lot. Is it weird that I notice that? There's an abundance of places in Nashville that have terrible parking--that's why I notice it.

One of the things that really endeared the place to me is the Flatrock history lesson on the back of the menu. I read it. I'm a sucker for stuff like that. It's like they read my mind. Because I really WAS wondering where they came up with the seemingly non-applicable name.

When I think of flatrock, southern Utah and northern Arizona come to mind. Yeah, there are OTHER places with rocks, you're thinking, some of them are even FLAT. I know, I know. But I'm subject to my past.

Well, I guess I'm ruined for chili from here on out. No point in EVER getting another bowl of chili. It will pale in comparison. That's the problem with amazing experiences, their sneaky double-edge. Sigh.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Minstrel of the Dawn" or "To the Morning"?

In reviewing my expansive CD collection, I've been coming across some old gems. Today I ripped Gord's Gold. It's imperative that you understand my musical history before you pass judgment on me for owning this album (my friends in high school ridiculed me, of course. I listened to old people music). I was raised on FM100. In Utah that's easy listening, light favorites, and love songs. (In Nashville, Lightning 100 is the cool-kid indie station. That's taken some getting used to.)

Anyway, my mom listened to stuff like Jackson Browne, Dan Fogelberg, Abba, the Carpenters, Kris Kristofferson, and stuff like that. So I listened to it. It's logical. And of course that branch of music is still pretty important to me.

So, if you want to make me die from a good heartache, wake me up Saturday morning with Dan Fogelberg's song "To the Morning," from his very first album Home Free. My mom used to do that when I was a kid. She'd play it really loud and it would pull us all from our various beds. Sometimes she would have breakfast ready.

We lived on the foothills of the mountain, so it took forever for the sun to get over the mountains. We had a window facing east and I still remember my mom standing in that window, watching the sun come up, singing the words along with Dan Fogelberg. She was pretty amazing. Need I even say that I thought she was a goddess? 

What's fantastic about all this, now, is that occasionally Stoker tries to yank on my heartstrings by waking me on a Saturday or a Sunday with that song my mom used to play. But he forgets which song it was. So several times I've woken to Gordon Lightfoot's "The Minstrel of the Dawn." A song about a musician singing in a bar. It's probably autobiographical.

"Minstrel of the Dawn" is nice, if a little jiggish in parts.  It doesn't really hold a candle to the melody and power of "To the Morning" which is about the passage of time and the inevitability of love, separation, longing, and pain. 

It's a funny mistake--playing "Minstrel of the Dawn" when you meant to play "To the Morning."  It's become one of my favorite memories involving Stoker.  You can see how he'd mix up the songs.  They both have something about the morning in their titles.  And once you've hit play, you're kind of committed even if you realize your error because the volume is turned up really loud. 

Guess you had to be there.  And know the songs.  One thing is that I think Dan Fogelberg really meant his song to be one of the first things you hear in the morning so there's a stillness in the first notes--there's a long instrumental introduction before he begins singing.  Minstrel of the Dawn doesn't really have that reverent feeling to it. It starts out with words right away, like this, "The minstrel of the dawn is here to make you laugh and bend your ear..."  Quite the jolt first thing in the morning.  

For a comparison, Dan Fogelberg sings, "Watching the sun, watching it come up over the rooftops...."  He says it in a hushed kind of voice.  Pretty fabulous.  It's one of the better ways to start your day out.   

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Corruptibility of the Macbook Pro and How to Deal with It

Want to launch me into an apathetic reverie?  Let me get a new Macbook, let it coax me into a false sense of security ("What could go wrong now? I have this PERFECT machine!  It's the answer to all my problems!" :-D), then enthrall me with the wonder of the Apple corporation and their customer service, the flawless design and engineering of their products, THEN make iTunes not recognize my iPod touch.  

At that point I'll be so low at the futility of everything, the corruption of all earthly goods and the chaotic nature of all matter that I'll disintegrate in a puff of whimpers.  Why go on? I'll ask the cold, unimpressed Universe.  It won't answer, and I will float away on a gentle, teasing breeze.  But the breeze won't make me laugh.  Or smile.  I'm a puff of air, after all.  

Puffs of air have no need for Macbooks, so I imagine that eventually one of my coworkers will discover that I've imploded and they'll realize I'm never coming back for it.  They'll take it, and they can have it, for all I care at that point, being disembodied and most likely already beyond Jupiter (I've escaped, why stick around? Never mind that air can't leave the atmosphere, OK, I'd do it, so help me I would!) on my way somewhere INTERESTING, and preferably sans laws of corruption.  

Edit 4-29-10: It was the UPDATES.  User error!  Stoker fixed it for me that very night and he didn't even have to try.  It's good having a hero around for this sort of thing, you know, like pickle jars, bookshelf assembly, hanging drywall and building retaining walls--the usual issues.  He's the greatest.      

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hoarding in the 21st Century

My grandma lived through the Depression. So, as you would expect, she became a pack-rat. When I was fifteen or so, we went through her little tin shed and as a service to her, threw a ton of crap away. Then we raided the old dog house (the city's former jail) and threw out everything she'd squirreled away in there, too. Most of the stuff she collected was small scraps of cloth she accumulated from working as a seamstress at a nearby factory.

We wore surgical masks, which was good, since one of the treasures we unearthed in the mounds of cloth was a mummified cat. It still had skin and everything. Poor cat. What a horrible way to die--buried beneath towers of fabric.

The coolest feature on my grandma's property, next to the very dangerous run down barn with the rickety hayloft I was so fond of, was the former jail. It's made from the white rock (limestone? probably) that's really prevalent in central Utah. The walls are inscribed with lots of weird stuff--creepy drawings and your run-of-the-mill scrawls counting the days till freedom. My uncle's St. Bernard once lived there as well, but lacking an opposable thumb never contributed to the graffiti. He was probably more literate than the former prisoners, however.

All this work to say, I'm getting rid of my 500+ albums on CD. I'll keep the information, but sell the actual albums (if anyone will buy them haha). My Grandma had a good reason for keeping everything. After all, if you've got fabric, you can sew a blanket, a patchwork cloak, or a fancy pair of patchwork trousers. What can I piece together from a bunch of plastic discs? I suppose some clever genius can come up with a way to construct raiment from discarded CDs, but I'd rather wear a towel as a loincloth before donning a pair of pants made from plastic.

There's no excuse for me to be a hoarder. Is there? It did its work, the CD collection, that is. It was around to convince Stoker that I'm cool. That I have excellent taste and a sufficient amount of aplomb to own Survivor's Greatest Hits ("I Can't Hold Back" anyone? The only reason to own the album--this was before you could buy a song one at a time), Asia: Then and Now, ABBA, and the Bee Gees, in addition to the obvious cool bands like Ani Difranco, Pink Floyd, and Miles Davis.

I'm keeping the LP's, though. And just for the sake of one-upmanship, I was buying LPs before you were (unless you were buying them in the 80s).

The horseshoe above Spring City, Utah. It watches over all the city's residents. If you look closely, I think you can see the gods within the pattern of the snow.

Ye olde school house down the street from my Grandma's. It's haunted.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

For My Album Art I'd Really Love an Image of Me Walking Along Railroad Tracks with My Guitar Hanging Casually from My Hand

So far this week I have seen two pictures of people on railroad tracks.  My old friend C. Baugh would tell me that these are not PICTURES.  They're images.  

I don't know why I felt it necessary to disguise C. Baugh's identity, I have mentioned her full name on my blog before.  In fact, lots of my visitors come from searches of her name.  She has no idea how famous she is.  

Anyway C. Baugh once told me long ago when we were mere children in college that two of the most cliche images in beginning photography were your friend holding a guitar and your friend walking along the railroad tracks.  For sheer cliche strength, I suggest merging the two--your friend holding their guitar, while walking on the railroad tracks.  I know you've seen this somewhere.  

The big question is: what are you really trying to say when you decide to photograph yourself strolling thoughtfully along the railroad tracks?  That you're a wanderer?  That you walk a line between here and there?  Are you trying to give your life a sense of movement with the suggestion of motion in the stillness of the tracks and ties?  That must be it.  It's a symbol that's rife with meaning.  

I have to say that I'm instantly launched into a somber reverie the minute I see a guy in torn jeans walking away from the camera along those rusted steel tracks and pitch-stained ties.  I'm forced to confront the vagaries of my existence, the course my life has taken and where it's headed now.  All because of an image of someone strolling along the railroad tracks.  

Its weird.      

I'm thinking about running a counter for the number of times I stumble across images of people walking along the railroad tracks.  Did I mention the obvious, that it's only Wednesday?  The week is only half over. 
C. Baugh and myself during college enjoying the railroad tracks in a surprisingly non-cliche way.    

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Signs Your Company Doesn't Have Its Priorities Straight

1) During a general downward trend in the market, rather than giving employees cost of living raises, they instead choose to remodel the lobby.  This fact can be exacerbated by the addition of weird architectural features, such as an unnaturally loud outdoor fountain, Buddha statues, gargoyles, stained-glass windows, enormous pillars, or flying buttresses.  In the case of the fountain, if your company harvests wishes to pay for upper management's "company" cars, you may be in more trouble than you think.  

2) The lobby has been remodeled, but your bathroom hasn't been updated since the Cold War.  In some cases, this sin can be more grievous depending on the ratio of bathroom users to bathroom.  For instance, if you work on a floor with 50 women and 5 men, and the sole bathroom for women only has three working stalls, then your company is violating the Geneva Conventions.  Can be compounded when compared to the bathrooms on floors housing upper management if they have been updated or given facelifts recently.

3) Correspondence from the CEO features chilling metaphors relating company operations to Dancing with the Stars, Celebrity Apprentice, The Amazing Race, Lost, or any other popular television show--matters may be worse the further the CEO must stretch the metaphor to make it fit, i.e. "Just like an island caught in a time-warp, our company and the services we provide lend a sense of completion to our clients, filling the void in their existence and giving them something to look forward to."  Missive length can be a good measuring device for how misdirected the company's priorities are.  For example, a very long, meandering, confusing, and poorly structured letter is the sign of a CEO with nothing better to do except torture employees.  A short, quick, brief letter with detailed bullet points that give pertinent information about company procedures or corporate direction relates that the CEO is informed and competent.  

4) Your company emphasizes continually that its goal is to be on the forefront of technological advancements--they want to change as the market changes to stay relevant.  Thus they create a Web site, but then dissolve the market research division and lay-off the web development team.  To make matters worse, your company gives the Web site reins to one person.  One. Person.  The magnitude of this crime is in direct proportion to the size of your company and the purpose of your Web site.  To illustrate: if your company is a small advertising firm, this is a pebble in a lake.  If your company is or, this is Mt. Kilimanjaro in a pond. 

5) Rather than moving to a smaller building after the size of your company has gone from 2,000 to 500, your company continues to inhabit its current premise, which is replete with archaic features such as a cafeteria that no one uses, a Soviet-influenced locker-room, lead pipes, an empty warehouse, and asbestos tiles everywhere.  The more empty space your building has, the greater the offense.    

At some point I might make this into a quiz.  Wouldn't that be fun?  

Wiping Out My Past and Reading Short Stories

A couple things.

One. I overreact. It's really tempting to go back and delete my last post, you know, the one where I went on and on about charity, the homeless, and karma and all that. It's rough because I have a tendency to feel embarrassed moments after I've expressed any sort of emotion. I think it's the tough chick, pioneer stock in me. My female ancestors were all Victorian ladies--passionate, but easily shamed by their passion.

The reason I don't want to delete it, is because it represents a moment in time--something that was important enough to get me to write about. Do I really want to wipe out my past just because I've changed or cooled down since that moment? I'm not really planning on becoming a politician, EVER, and I don't think anything I've ever written could be used to illustrate I have a horrible character, unless you count bashing the books of Zadie Smith as pure evil or something.

About that. I've officially changed my stance on harshly critical reviews. The last one I did was on The Historian and I posted it on my Goodreads site. I've joined the Nick Hornby and C.S. Lewis camp on that. It shows a smallness of character, doesn't it, to validate yourself by ripping apart the creative works of others? At least in writing. In person I'm perfectly ok to tell you why I detest certain works.

Anyway, I guess my point is, that I always have second thoughts about every post. I have an immense fear of being misunderstood, and since it's impossible to explain everything and address every facet of every argument or subject, I get a little crippled once I've put something up, and I know I didn't cover my bases. I want to take it down. My head swims with doubts. It's a sign of weakness to have emotions...some insecure part of me thinks.

When I was eighteen, I was a lot more certain I knew everything and had no reservations about plastering someone with my arguments and opinions. But to destroy previous posts is complicated. I no longer have my very first diary/journal that I began writing when I was seven or eight because I ripped all the entries out a year later. Too embarrassed about who I had been, and not prescient enough to know at the time that I would want those when I was older.

Second. I've been reading the short stories of Orson Scott Card. It's a good exercise to see how a writer who's been around so long handles drama and character. I read a lot of his stories in junior high and high school, when I read everything my parents and hometown library had, excluding the Homecoming series. See, I'm a huge fan of OSC, but a good fan knows that you're not required to love everything your hero produces. Otherwise you're just a moron. You've got to question things and determine for yourself if it's good or not.

Reading his short stories makes me feel two things. One: "Wow. I can write better short stories." Two: "these are TOO good. The ideas are mind-altering. I suck. I should just give up now. The only solution is to destroy this stuff because it's TOO good."

No one should want to destroy him or herself because a work of art is that good. I'm probably the only one who experiences such an absurdly broad spectrum of emotions over works of art. I hope I'm not, though. But isn't this a subject covered in some literature? It's been a long time since I read The Fountainhead, er, the half that I read (I was in college; this happened a lot--I'd start a book and love it and then school would overwhelm me and I'd have to stop reading for pleasure). But isn't that part of the motivation for destroying the statue? Because it's perfect and it will stir up the people to gaze on such beauty?

I'm probably wrong about that, and tomorrow or in two weeks after I re-read the Fountainhead to torture myself, I will want to take this post down. Guess we'll see.

Friday, April 16, 2010

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Stealing Homes from the Homeless

I'm going to jump to a conclusion here because it's fun and it's what I do best. After I jump to the conclusion, I'll actually do some research on the subject and clear up any fallacies in a later post.  

The conclusion:  someone--the city or a business--stole Diane's house.  

I want to Act Now and Raise Hell. I want to find the person(s) in charge and Rip Them A New One (you'll have to forgive the capital letters in inappropriate places. Someone else was doing it and it really slayed me so I'm doing it when I feel like it.) Who do they think they are? That's what I'd ask them. Ok, I'd ask that first and then I'd fill a glove with a brick and slap them till the brick became dust. I'd shake out the bits as I held the glove by its fingers while I tapped my foot and waited for an explanation or some sort of retaliation.  

Whatever their answer, it won't satisfy me--well, that is unless the reason was that Diane's house was placed over nuclear waste or something. Then I'd see their reasoning and have to concede that it was in her best interest.

As it is, Diane has no home. She had no home before, then, someone gave her one, and now it's gone.

Diane lives on a bench near a parking lot that serves a row of businesses on Demonbreun street in Nashville. Every day I drive by the bench a few times during my comings and goings and I look for her, to make sure she's still alive and kicking. Often she's got her broom out and is sweeping up the gutters in the area or she's standing sentinel over the parking lot, guarding the cars while patrons shop at the boutiques or eat at Otters. She never begs. She maintains a quiet dignity and minds her own business.  She wears black and brown leisure suits with heeled boots. Sometimes I see her reading the paper or blowing smoke into the air with her head tilted back. Typically she wears some kind of hat, and in winter she dons ear-muffs.  

In short, I love her. She's become dear to me simply through seeing her there every day and feeling like I know her. I try to stop and visit her as often as I can.  She never asks for anything.  She greets me like we're old friends, asks, "What's up," and appears to remember the sundry things I tell her about my life. If I give her anything, she always asks if I can afford it and appears hesitant to take something if she has nothing to give back. She has a beautiful smile and weathered skin that fans at her eyes into delightful laugh-lines.  

I have longed and wished to be able to take better care of her. I've imagined countless scenarios of adopting her or finding a place for her to live. These, you might say, are prayers. The day I drove by and saw that the blue tarp with which she covered herself at night was now draped over the trailer hitch of a camper, some sort of new hope for humanity bloomed in my heart. I shared the news with Stoker and he told me that one of his clients who also takes care of her had mentioned that she had a camper. The client had been inside it and told Stoker about its condition and how Diane planned to fix it up. Apparently some good Samaritan in town gave it to her--it had just been sitting in his back yard collecting dust, he said. So he GAVE her the camper.

You know what this means, of course? It means that we who live in the city are not completely unaware of those around us who suffer. It means that we can be a community. It means that we can share and help shoulder the burdens of our neighbors as long as we know who suffers. It means that we don't require the government to force us to give. It means that people are Good. It means there is Hope for us.  

It means a whole lot more. Knowing that others care for Diane really buoyed me up. I worry about her on rainy nights. I worry about her on cold nights. I worry about her on warm nights. I worry about her in the crushing heat and humidity. I can't do it all by myself. That there are others who assist her means she's not really alone.  

The camper was simply an awesome thing. I asked her if anyone was giving her trouble about it being in the parking lot. She told me the parking lot is essentially hers. She takes care of it. "After all I do for it, guarding it, keeping it running, they can't give me trouble." But apparently they do. They must have given her trouble. A few days later, it had been moved out of the little fenced area by the small nondescript building on the far side of the parking lot.  

Today it's gone and the whole area has a new fence. I can't see the camper anywhere.  

It's like they've declared war on her. To me. Do I overreact? Maybe. I don't know who They is. I don't know who could have such a cold heart that they'd erect a new fence just to keep Diane away. Does she really harm the parking lot? She doesn't steal from the pedestrians. She has class and grace. Do the businesses heedlessly worry that Diane discourages customers? She's not panhandling. After speaking with the clerks in the boutiques, I have gathered that they help take care of Diane and care about her.  

She belongs to us. I'm not the only one who loves her and who worries about her welfare. I suppose the social workers of the government tell us not to help the homeless. They claim we simply enable them. "There are social programs to help them. There are official avenues they can take to get help. There's the Rescue Mission over on LaFayette." Blah blah blah. So I should wash my hands of it. I should turn away from them. I should ignore them. I should feel exonerated to keep my money pocketed and pretend to not hear their pleas.

I don't feel exonerated when I ignore them. I feel like a liar. A cheat. Someone who worships money and wealth. I used to be stingy about it. I got so overwhelmed with the number of requests upon moving to Nashville that I DID feel exonerated when I read the newspaper article encouraging me to ignore the beggars. But as I have come to realize, we are all beggars.  

Let me use Christ as an example. He did not say to only give to the people who actually really do need it: the people who are just down on their luck for a short spell; the people who are generally useful to society but are under extenuating circumstances right now; the people who don't spend the money on beer or liquor. Give to everyone. It may not change them, it changes you. It shows that your heart is not set on riches or the things of this world that turn to dust, that have no life, that give no love.  

And who are we to judge? If you give when you can, indiscriminately, to the people who ask, then you never take the chance that the one you just turned away was really down on their luck, at wits end, about to jump off a bridge if someone somewhere didn't show them some type of kindness. If you always give, God, the Universe, Karma, whoever or whatever it is you believe in knows that you are always to be trusted. That you are one person in the sea of faces who can be the answer to someone else's need or prayer.  

The social workers will not tell us this. Their job is to take this responsibility from us, from the community. It's better for them if we are distanced from the many faces of those around us who suffer and need our help. It makes the government the answer to all our problems, instead of strengthening the community by making us feel like we are Part of Something Bigger than Ourselves. And I truly think that this unravels the fabric of our community.  

The knowledge that others were taking care of Diane made me feel like I was a Part of Something. I still feel that way. And I feel more than ever that she is someone I will fight for.  

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Filling in the Missing (College) Years: Joss Whedon and Firefly

I just finished watching the "Firefly" TV series.  On DVD of course.  

I liked it alright, but I'm kind of baffled at how much I thought was lame about it.  Apparently I'm more like the network that canceled it and less like the countless fans who adore it.  

What I liked:

1) Most of the characters had something to love about them and things I thought were crap.  Which is something to like.  Weird, I know.  But there's nothing more obnoxious than an impossibly perfect character. In Joss Whedon's universe, however, morals are completely mucked up, so it's hard to gauge their morals based on their universe.  I'm going to be a jerk and base them on my universe, where prostitution is still illegal in most states and even if it weren't illegal, I'd still call it deplorable.  Just because Joss Whedon thought it'd be fun to make prostitutes/geishas into a respectable class, doesn't mean they're Good.  This is somewhat reflected in Malcolm's reactions to Inara's profession, but we never really know if that's because he's in love with her or if he thinks the profession is all around Terrible.  

2) Kaylee.  I really liked the way Kaylee's character unfolded.  The innocence about her was endearing and it warmed me up to Malcolm and some of the other characters who were protective of her.  She's sweet and naive--of course, this was totally exploited by the writers of the show who thought it would be real fun, later on in the series, to show us that Kaylee first met Malcolm while being a skank with the original engineer on Serenity.  Yay.  I get it.  I know I'm going against what I just said in the point number one, but they really sullied Kaylee by doing that.  Who wrote that episode?  Some slash-fiction creep?  But again, I get it that we're in a universe where Good equals people who don't rape you to death and rip your skin off while you're still alive and Bad equals people who do those sorts of things. Really airtight definition, that.  Thanks Joss et. al. 

3) The music.  At first it was really awesome.  This always happens when you watch a series on DVD.  It's too easy to watch the next episode right away.  Soon the motifs and any repeatable feature of the show becomes sickeningly obvious and obnoxious. So after a while the music started to bug me.  But I don't hold that against the show.  That's really a flaw of the continuous play feature.

4) Jayne.  He's great.  I mean, he's obviously supposed to be kind of a jerk.  But the things he liked and did were totally in character.  His guns.  Women.  Money.  It fit him, and his stupidity softened the questionable aspects of his character, so you end up loving him because he kind of doesn't know any better.  Perhaps this was what bugged me about Kaylee being a slut in the flash-back episode where Malcolm stays behind with the ship--Kaylee isn't a slut. Nothing about her before that episode EVER suggested that she's loose.  Suddenly she's banging a guy in the engine room of the ship--well, it just seemed like a mean trick.  And sorry, but when they tried to explain that away by saying she has a fetish for machines . . . well, once again, doesn't really fit.  

5) The universe itself.  Sometimes I thought it was really ridiculous and unformed, while other times I thought it clever and fun.  So I'm going to go with it being mostly good.  I thought it intriguing (word of the day) how they created a future where the Asian cultures had sort of merged with the American west.  Pretty cool.  Although the swearing in Chinese was often lame and instead of helping, it hindered the believability of the universe.  For me.  And I laughed, and felt embarrassed for watching the show.  

What I didn't like:

1) Inara.  She was the weakest link.  They should have let her die in the first episode. She was a Deanna Troi character, to me: completely unnecessary, tossed in to titillate.  Most of her lines were stupid, especially when she waxed philosophic about her job as a prostitute.  Though I get what the writers were doing, yes, I know, dude, it was like a western meets Asian culture, man, it was like the final frontier, like space is the old west and there are guns and outlaws and whores, only they've like elevated women who sleep with men for money to the status of like, Ambassadors (that was my frat-boy impression, although I don't imagine many frat-boys were watching this show). Blah blah blah.  She was stupid.  And the tension between her and Malcolm always felt forced.  Sadly. Because love is such a strong reason for why we do things.  His love interest could have been a better impetus for why he did dangerous missions or made bold moves, instead for me it always seemed like the authorial hand was in there manipulating Inara and Malcolm.  Oh well.  Perhaps this is why the show was canceled?  Inara?  It could be. Ha ha.  

2) River.  I know the show wasn't around long enough to flesh this storyline out, so I can forgive them for it.  But my initial impressions of it weren't positive.  In her favor, she did create some tense moments that made the story interesting, but for the most part I never wanted her onscreen.  

I get the impression that lots of people are disappointed the show was canceled.  I have to say I can see why it was canceled.  Yeah, it would be great if it had lasted, but by the time I got to the final episodes, I could see they were running out of steam.  Did I mention that I really liked Malcolm?  I did.  And sometimes the writing was truly brilliant, and by writing I mean the dialogue.  There were moments where the characters said surprising and witty things.  I loved it for that.  I'm going to try out some of the Buffy stuff.  I was in college during its heyday and completely missed it.