Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Polish Falcon

I just got back from a week-long trip to Buffalo, New York. This is where my family is from, and every year, my parents drive from Arizona, where they now live, to Buffalo, and stay for a month to visit with the relatives. I haven't been there since we moved away when I was very young. So this summer I decided to fly to meet them there for a week, and see just what all this family shit was about.

The first night I played cards with 20 of my mom's cousins. I haven't been in a room with that many people who were all related to me since my Christening. This time, I didn't cry, and had on pants. I drank a lot of beer, because that's what I do sometimes (lots of times). So when we all sat around the table to play Scat (google this awesome card game), I apparently began to drop the F-bomb, and light-heartedly refer to my elderly Polish Catholic relatives as bitches.  As in, "Scat, BITCHES, I win!" I can be fairly impressive in public.

I stayed in a condo with my parents. They get it from a friend every year. It had many figurines.

The whispering can get really loud from these things when you're drunk and in a strange place at night. I tried to avoid all the tiny porcelain-faced staring, and not break anything.

There are a lot of funeral homes in Buffalo. Like freakishly too many. I saw more funeral homes and cemeteries than schools. This was my favorite:

Is this a question? Yes, you are gone.

The best part of the trip, the genuine surprise, was how great my whole big crazy Polish family is. I see now where I came from: a bunch of folks who sit in their screened-in garages, and drink beer and play cards and eat wonderful homemade food and shout above the chaos of an enormous family, and enjoy every minute of it, even when they have a gout flare-up. These are my people. I've always been a little leery of my Polish heritage; it comes with so many unflattering preconceived prejudices. But after this trip, I gladly embrace it. Pollocks are cool, BITCHES!

This is my mom (left), and Aunt Marge in front of the Polish Falcon. Be jealous.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How We Built Things When We Were Children

When I was 8 we used to play in the garden- we made roads by dragging our fingers through the dirt- giant circles around the geraniums, the onions. Our Matchbox cars would power around and over jumps on their way to Nashville or wherever the Dukes of Hazard lived. Vroom noises and crashes where there were no victims except the occasional unlucky spider. We made houses out of cardboard dad had in the garage. The old Pall Mall boxes would wilt down in the wet soil. The popsicle stick roofs would tip off in the wind, but we didn't care. This is how we built things when we were children. There was no permanent tragedy, nothing that couldn't be refashioned under the geraniums tomorrow.

When I was 8, home plate was a worn place in the grass- where only the dirt showed through. First base was the pyracantha bush that grew berries in the summer and would catch your shirt with its thorny branches if you did more than brush by it with an open hand. Second base was the birch tree- the one that was missing most of its paper skin around the middle where we'd grab for safety from desperate tags. Third base was a glove, or a hat. We all hated third base because it moved. Third base was fickle, but could take a good slide. This is how we built things when we were children. In our backyards with what we had, with rules that were understood.

When I was 8, we colored with crayons. Dad brought us home reams of heavy white paper from his job and we all had clipboards on which to design our masterpieces. Landscapes or cars or hot air balloons- all filled with happy people and sunshine and butterflies. Even the car pictures had butterflies. Because this is how we built things when we were children- out of purple and burnt sienna and gold and silver. Out of sunshine and forever smiles.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tio Holly

As many of you know, I have gender issues. Some of you have heard or read my story, and I won't bore you guys with it here, because it's too long, and if this blog is too verbose the font gets really small and we're all getting old and don't need to struggle that much to read.

Suffice it to say- I should have been a boy, I was born a girl, now I feel like a little of both, and I look like a cute 14 year old boy. This look would only be more complete if I carried a skateboard around with me.

I've been hanging around with a lot of kids lately. They are magical beings. They say awesome shit at inappropriate times, they dance for no reason, they squeal! When's the last time you were so happy you squealed? Anyway, I was spending time with a friend who has 3 great kids and she told them to call me "Miss Holly." Eeeeewwww. Miss Holly? That's so weird. It's so feminine-sounding, and you can't do that to a 14 year old boy or a handsome girl.  So then I though about "Mr. Holly" and that was equally creepy and made me sound like a science teacher. So I came up with "Uncle Holly" because that's fun and not creepy and doesn't imply that I wear lipstick OR a tie clip. So Uncle Holly it was. And when we were at the public pool and they were screaming, "Throw me Uncle Holly!" and when people were looking at me wondering why this young man had on a sports bra and couldn't throw these kids for shit, it didn't matter. The kids got it.

Last month my friend Craig came to visit with the three kids he adopted from Colombia. They were 11, 15 and 16 years old. When I met them, I joked to Craig that they should, too, call me Uncle Holly. They looked at me, understood completely what was happening, and said, "No- we'll call you Tio Holly." Do I need to tell you that "Tio" means "Uncle" in spanish? It was perfect. The only glitch in the weekend was when the oldest, Bryan asked me if I had a boyfriend. I said no, I date girls. (I thought he'd know this, but in his mind looking/acting like a boy and being gay aren't necessarily linked.)  Then he asked me if I had a girlfriend. When I said no, he asked why not? Look, Bryan- Tio Holly is having a period of "personal growth", ok? Callate la boca about the girlfriend thing.

And now, this whole thing has taken on a life of its own. Three of my friends are pregnant, and they all refer to me as Uncle Holly now, and their babies will when they're born. I'll teach all those kids how to ride a skateboard, play horseshoes and drink shitty beer- cuz that's what uncles do.

Monday, August 6, 2012

It's a Clean Sadness

I cried twice yesterday. It was a Sunday, which is a hard day for me anyway- I get what I call the "Sunday Dreads".  It's a heavy melancholy that perhaps stems long ago from having to go to school on Monday mornings. I'd watch Walt Disney and knew that once Columbo came on, I'd have to go to bed and then get up for math. Blech.

But I felt worse than just normal Sunday Dread stuff yesterday.  I was sad. Really fucking sad. And what I normally do when I'm sad is avoid it. I cook, or clean the house, or go shopping, or drink 17 beers (what emotions?).  But I spent a lot of money on therapy recently, and one of the things I learned is sometimes you just gotta let yourself feel sad. It's a requirement for overall happiness. The Universe has linked sadness to joy, and if you cut off one, you also deprive yourself of the other. That Universe is a Fucker, and also invented hangovers, if that's any clue as to how maddeningly clever It is.

So I sat down in the shower, turned it on, and cried for a long time. I realize this is a lot of information for you guys- the sitting in the shower business. But that's what I do, and please let's not talk about it if I see you out. It feels good, and I get some serious crying done, bitches.

So I did that, and then went about my day, and pretty much forgot about it. That afternoon my neighbor decided to wash her car with her kids and invited me down to hang out and drink pink wine with her. For the record, I don't think pink wine is ever the right thing to do- unless you're my dad who drinks it over ice and doesn't give a shit. But I walked down there anyway.

And there they were. Kind of washing the car. We'll call it more of an approximation. Mostly they were spraying water at things not anywhere near the car- like some bugs and that one tree over there. Then mom took the hose and sprayed the kids, who squealed and giggled, and ran away and came back for more, and water ran into little Zoe's green happy-face galoshes so that when she walked it made this beautiful wet squeak squeak on the inside sound which only further amused everyone. And there it was: JOY. Beautiful, unfettered joy that arrived unannounced and cupped us all in its capable hands, and held us there for just the shiniest minute.

I walked back up the street to my house, and I cried a little on the way. But this time from joy. I was abuzz from joy, and my response, besides laughing and smiling, was to cry. For the second time. I'll take that first one- the sitting in the shower my life is a horrible mess and it's all my fault and I'll probably get something in my ear again one- if I also get to have this one. While the Universe is indeed a Fucker, It is a fair Fucker.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

If Lovin' This is Wrong, I Don't Wanna Be Right

It's best if you're hungry. And if it's warm out. Beer on a full stomach is gross, but when you're empty in there, and the sun is shining at three-quarters day, it's like God himself comes through the radio to announce, "Pull over and buy yourself a tall boy beer." That's what he makes 290 or 71 (beautiful, winding roads that drift through the Texas Hill Country) at 6pm for.

I go into the Short Stop or the Friendly Mart, and there they are- in enormous open bins in the middle of the store, laying together- stacked perfectly against  each other like teeth in a nicely-orthodontured mouth. The shiny cans I love are bathed in a mountain of ice, begging me to take them home like dogs at the pound.

This is a strange thing about Texas. I'm from Arizona, and we didn't have these open beer bins there, suggesting that though it's illegal, why not take one for the road, y'all! If you wanted a single, you had to actually open the cooler door (GASP!) and break a six-pack. And there's a certain shame and stigma in breaking the sacred six rings. It says, "I'm tearing apart the natural order of the regular beer drinker- the one who buys the whole six-pack, and WAITS til she gets home to drink it." If you break the rings, you aren't waiting, and you've breached civility. Go ahead and just throw litter out of your car while you're at it.

But here in Texas, no one cares about this silly shit. Being maverick is celebrated. At my favorite convenience store, they sell single tall boys, giant hunting knives and miniature glass figurines. You take your pick, Maverick!

When I take my tall boy to the counter they ask me if I want "Daisy Dukes" or "Hip Hops". Daisy Dukes are the tiny brown bags that barely cover the whole beer, and hip hops are the big bags that hang halfway down your beer's ass. I'm a Daisy Dukes girl- I like the classy look of a brown paper bag, but I don't want a mouthful of it.

So I plunk down my $1.83 and I'm out the door- following God's orders on my way to a dinner party in Dripping Springs, or the junk stores in Llano, and God stops talking through the radio and the country music comes wafting out of it instead and swirls around me like campfire smoke, and I lift my beer to my mouth when no other cars are around, or when other cars are around if I'm feeling particularly ribald, and I sing to the music and feel the beer tingle in my empty stomach and flow down into my legs, and I can't help but smile and feel pretty happy about having simple good times and shitty taste in beer.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

When Alligators Attack

Three Saturdays ago, after a decent night of drinking and watching the musical Xanadu, I was startled awake at  2am by the feeling of something crawling into my right ear. That’s not a pleasant sensation, waking up from a beer-induced slumber to the sound and the feeling of tiny, crunchy leglets navigating your interior. Whatever it was crawled and crawled and crawled. Bad enough, I reckon. But then, when it got in there good and deep, it began biting my eardrum, which hurt worse that the Olivia Newton John music I’d been forced to endure earlier.  I told you that I’m a nurse and over the years have learned to remain calm in scary situations.  Well, I didn't really pull that off here. I shot out of bed naked, screaming "GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!" while jumping up and down on one leg and crying. It was really a great moment in my life. I imagine the neighbors thought I was having a little Amityville Horror reinactment. 
You know what's worse than the searing pain of being bit repeatedly on the eardrum? Hearing it. Way the fuck up close. chewchewchewchew. And it would stop for a second, then I'd feel/hear it slither or stroll or line dance around in there, then it would start the chewing on me business again and I'd start jumping around and crying and trying to scream it out of my ear. Is there a hidden camera in my house?
In my state, I decided the only thing I could do was to drive to my hospital for help. So in between the crawling/chewing/screaming/jumping, I pulled some clothes on (which included the Schlitz belt buckle, because even in horrifying circumstances fashion is important), and got into the car and tore off and blew through every goddamn red light while still screaming and crying from the pain and the terror of it all- daring any cop to pull me over and try to figure out  how much bath salts I ingested. And there was actually a moment on 360 at 2:28 am when I thought "Well- at least I’ll get a good story out of this, and it could only be better if I also had diarrhea." And right after I thought that, before I pulled onto Bee Caves road to humiliate myself with my psychotic behavior in front of my coworkers, I felt that fucker crawl out of my ear. 
Have you ever seen someone try to get away from themselves while trying to stay in the driver’s seat and still actually operating a car? I knew it was out, but I didn’t know where it went- it was dark and I was looking mostly at the road. So all I knew to do was to perpetrate the most violent assault on myself- my shoulder, my arm, my head and hair- to make sure that thing was either dead or scared enough of me to stay the fuck away. 
I turned around and drove home while steering with my knee so I could keep my hands over my ears. When I got home I tore all the sheets and pillows off the bed, took off my clothes and laid my Schlitz belt buckle on the shelf where it belongs. Then I drank a large glass of red wine, stuffed ear plugs in both sides and went to sleep like it was just another Saturday night. Because that's how it is around my house lately. And it was all just bizarre enough that the next morning I wondered if perhaps I’d imagined it or dreamed it, or maybe someone slipped bath salts into my drink at the bar but my eardrum throbbed like someone had raped the side of my head. With an alligator. I called a friend and told her about it and she said "Why didn't you just pour rubbing alcohol into your ear?" She said it like everyone knows to do this, like everyone, in a state of compete panic and terror, would stroll into the bathroom, open the cabinet, and just handle the situation. Well, thanks a lot friend, but I wasn't really scraping great thoughts together at 2am on a Saturday with an alligator in my ear. 
And as I haven’t owned rubbing alcohol since I got my ears pierced in 6th grade, I went the next day to buy the biggest bottle of it possible. But I got a ride to Walgreens from my friend, because there’s only so much driving you can do with your knee.