Archive for September 2005

September 27th, 2005

Being a Wallflower Has Its Perks

I just got back from a whirlwind tour through western Virginia. The main purpose for the trip was my future brother-in-law James’ 13th birthday. Steph’s mom asked me if I would draw caricatures of the kids during the party (something I used to do in college to make money).

I was a little hesitant about doing this because, well, age 13 is when kids start to get mean. I don’t think they even mean to be mean, something just happens to them at that age. If they don’t think your drawing looks enough like them or is funny enough, they will tell you so. Trust me.

Also, James seems to be “popular” and I think I’m still intimidated by “popular” kids. Probably because I was the kid that the popular kids harassed. If I went to James’ middle school, I doubt if I would not have been invited to his party. And rightly so…I was a mess. I had no sense of the social stratification; I was always trying to hang out with the same people I did in elementary school, even though they were now several echelons above me.

While I thought everyone was still trying to do well on tests and win the teacher’s approval, it turned out these things had become undesirable years ago, and all that mattered now was sports.

Speaking of which, I guess I was absent on that day when they gathered all the boys in the gym and explained, in detail, all the rules to every sport, from kickball to croquet. (Something like this must have gone down, because all the other boys just knew the rules to every game we played. Our P.E. teachers certainly never took the time to explain them before we started.) So I had to make it look like I knew what I was doing, and pray that the ball wouldn’t come to me…. It always did. And I’d take it and run as fast as I could all the way down the field, to the endzone. Sometimes I’d make it. At which point I’d turn around triumphantly, to find my teammates ready to beat me to a pulp, because I had run the wrong way…and because we were playing street-hockey.

From this starting point, I had to slowly and deliberately work my way up, to “wallflower” status. I made it there about halfway through eighth grade, then I hung on for dear life ’til I made it through high school.

Anyway, back to the party. All the kids I drew were appreciative and nice to me and I had a great time. (Who knows? I may become “popular,” yet.)

There was a second reason for the trip to Virginia, though, which was much less-fun. I had to go to a day-long “Defensive Driving Clinic” to get rid of the ticket I got up there a few months ago. It was an interesting crowd. Most of my classmates were there because their license had been taken away and they were trying to get them back. There were several DUIs in the group. Given that most of them had been incarcerated before, this class was the closest I’ve ever come to being in “the slammer.” At the beginning the instructor had us go around the room and say why we were in the class (you know, the old “what are you in for?” routine). When it was my turn to share, I felt pretty lame. All I had was a speeding ticket. Most of the people in the room had bigger problems.

My only salvation was a chubby, pale high school senior, who must have grown up even better off than I did. Also, I’ll go ahead and use a sweeping generalization to describe his personality, and say that, when he goes to college (which he definitely will), he is going to major in theater. Let’s call this guy “Skippy.”

It was painfully obvious that Skippy was a sheltered child. He had a lot of dumb questions, and everything he wanted to ask immediately came tumbling out of this mouth. For example, we watched a very, very dated instructional video where a cop pulls over a guy with a perm for drunk-driving. They briefly showed what happens next: the cop takes him to the station, sits him down in a small, empty room, and — even though the drunk guy is being cooperative and calm — handcuffs him to a big metal ring on the wall while reading him his rights.

Skippy could not believe this: “Do they really handcuff you to the wall like that!?!” he said.

If we’d been on TV you would have heard the sound of a record-scratch as all the other people in the room, who (it was now quite clear) had either been to jail themselves or at least had to bail someone out at some point, paused to stare at him with “are you for real?” expressions.

Honestly I was thinking the same thing. I had no idea you got handcuffed to big metal rings on the wall when they arrested you. But I knew better than to say anything. Those years of spirit-crushing torture and ridicule back in school had taught me to hold my tongue. I was going to be ok. But Skippy…he was going to be someone’s bitch before the day was over.

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September 13th, 2005

Rusty Medal

As I’m sitting down to type, I see the scar on my right hand is still pretty noticeable, which is cool. It’s good to have a few scars, especially in highly-visible places. You don’t want anything longer than three inches, of course. Or anything across your eye or cheek. Unless you’re planning on going to prison at some point. In which case you probably want both.

I consider this scar my consolation prize. What I wanted was stitches. I’ve already got a few good scars, but I have never gotten stitches in my life. It’s not that I really want to damage or injure my body. But whenever I accidentally cut myself semi-seriously, and I’ve gotten used to the fact that it hurts and it’s bleeding like crazy, I think, “I could really go for some stitches right about now. You know, something to show for all this blood and pain. Then I could contribute when everyone is gathered in a circle, sharing tales of their major injuries and how they got them and what happened at the hospital.” I know, I know, “be careful what you wish for,” but it’s almost emasculating to have never needed to be stitched up. Maybe I’m not participating in enough “extreme” behavior?

This time, I even would have had a manly story to go with the stitches: I got cut changing out the muffler on my car.

Incidentally, my muffler recently broke into two pieces. I was out driving around and it just broke. I dragged half of it home by it’s hooks, thinking “Hmm… My car just got a lot louder for some reason.” This was, of course, fate, sitting down and digging in, after I tempted him with that scrumptious little entree of an entry where I mentioned not seeing the need to perform regular maintenance on my car (07.14.05). He came back for seconds yesterday by killing my battery, too. That Fate, he’s one hungry guy. Probably all those long, hard days of getting people what’s coming to them, and fixing it so soul-mates find one another.

While my cut was pretty deep, and it gushed a bit, it stopped bleeding pretty quickly, and the excitement died down, and, in half-an-hour, whether or not I needed stitches was old news. I was encouraged, by mom and dad, to go for a tetanus shot the next morning, because the muffler metal was pretty rusty. When I went in, the nurse who gave me the shot told me they would have stitched my hand if I had gone to the ER right after it happened, but that it was too late to stitch it at that point. (So close!)

It’s futile, I suppose. There is in only one member of my family who gets rushed off with matters that are obviously for the emergency room. That would be Kevin. He’s the one who tripped and skidded his face across the street, taking big chips out of both his front teeth. He’s the one who has twice fallen and cut his head open, bad enough to get stitches. (So many stitches…. Tiny, beautiful stitches….) And it’s not that he’s clumsy or accident prone. It may be that he’s unlucky, but my guess is he’s always getting hurt because he’s the youngest. For example, when he tripped in the street, he was trying to keep up with us older kids, as we ran back from our neighbor’s house. When our rickety backyard gazebo crashed down on him and he needed head x-rays, it was because I had attached a rope to one of the beams and was swinging around on it. He was sitting quietly on the ground watching me.

Serious-injury-duty falls on Kevin.

Especially when Kate falls on Kevin — because I push her because she and I are fighting.

(That’s how he broke his arm.)

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September 8th, 2005

Down in the Flood

I’ve been thinking for several days now if I should, and how I could, address the tragedy in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It’s funny that this was so difficult, because, as you probably know, I have had my share of hardship. Just a few months ago, I was having so much trouble getting Apple to send me an iPod that worked properly. It was ridiculous…. Somehow that doesn’t quite seem the same, though.

While I finding this daunting, it seems too big not to acknowledge, so I don’t want to skip over it.

So let’s see, I could try to get inspirational, and let you know you need to give blood and donate money. Of course, I haven’t done these things either. I could write one of those soul-bearing confessions about what a hypocrite I am and how I sat there, watching it on TV and saying “Why isn’t anyone helping those people?” and how I feel bad about that. Or I could just bitch about the price of gas (oh, how I could bitch about the price of gas). But you’ve heard all this before, in a hundred different variations.

So I don’t know…. All I can think to do right now, is to paraphrase someone who offered some simple, accessible advice on how to help: Jason Boone, the social justice leader at church. He simply asked us to eat at home rather than go out; to stay in instead of going out to a movie; to get that book we need from the library, instead of at Barnes & Noble; etc.. Then to put that money aside to give as a donation. I think this is a good way to approach it. You don’t have to leave your job and go work on the front lines, or get your pilot’s license so you can airlift supplies into the Superdome. Just make a few minor sacrifices with this deliberate purpose in mind.

Also I’d like to refer you to The Onion, which, once again, has risen to the occasion. How they know how to do social satire that is so funny, in the wake of something so tragic, is beyond me. They did it after 9/11, and they’ve done it this time, too.

On a side note, doesn’t it seem like these planet-altering catastrophic events are coming closer and closer together? Just a thought. It’s probably nothing we should be worried about….

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