Sunday, July 30, 2006

...And The Hits Just Keep Comin'

I should start buying up lottery tickets, due to the debt karma owes me. My grandmother, who figured prominently in the better memories from my childhood, died this morning of a massive heart attack at the age of 88. She survived the death of her husband in the early ‘80’s and several strokes, but was still quite lucid and still got around town to visit with all her children and grandchildren. She came from an old south Louisiana family, smoked Pall Malls throughout my childhood, and had a wonderfully warm, raspy voice that never scolded the three kids, despite my brothers being extraordinarily wild and notoriously difficult to keep under any semblance of control. She was quite a lady and will be sorely missed.

So I’m flying into Nashville and driving down to Oxford this Tuesday. I’ll be glad to see my family in its entirety (well, minus my self-exiled brother), and I’m spending one night with the bio-mom in Tennessee on the way back to Nashville.

I don’t know if it’s just this summer, but this has quickly grown tiresome. I’m afraid to answer the phone or check email, wondering what the hell is next.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

One Foot in the Trailer Park

This all started with the rains. After seven months of scorching drought that drove the coyotes and mountain lions down from the mountains into the front yard, the monsoon rains swept in and so began the streak of hard luck that seems to have blanketed all of southern Arizona.

First there was my house. Then Gus’s fiancĂ© broke his heart. Then Shannon got arrested for driving on a suspended license. They cuffed her in front of her kids and the one other woman in lockup told her that they don’t allow smoking in county, either. Bailing her out took seven hours and her boyfriend had to put his house on the line and three hundred bucks on the counter. The cops were courteous, but as soon as she was booked and shackled, the lockup staff treated her like a crack whore. Also in front of her kids, who tell anyone who will listen that Mommy went to jail. Shannon tried to explain to the boys, ages five and seven, that there are some things that happen in a house that aren’t discussed in public. The older one shrugged and kept right on telling us all that mommy had cuffs on both wrists and ankles. She didn’t have the money to pay for a speeding ticket from six months ago and drives like a bat out of hell on a good day, but who the hell am I to judge after I nearly destroyed my home with bad decisions?

Times like these bring it all into glaringly sharp focus, how little control any of us have over anything. Most people are hanging on by their fingernails and are one bad decision away from the trailer park on the corner of 7th and Busby, and it may be a long time before I can drive by the weed-clotted little dirt patches and not wonder how long I can hold out, even ensconced in the cool interior and black leather of my car. No amount of salary or savings can entirely neutralize the perceived threat, which has only grown worse in six weeks of living in one hotel or another here in town. I felt it most acutely when the nice hotel where I stayed before our business trip to Texas overbooked and landed me in that skid-row motel next to Domino’s Pizza. Other guests looked like they are on vacation from that same trailer park and the third mammoth cockroach I killed in the tub drove me out the door and back to the nicer digs near the front gate of the base.

This morning I helped Shannon move into the painfully dated house where she’ll live rent-free for one year while the homeowner is in Iraq. While suffering from three decades of bad taste, the home is enormous and is, after all, free.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Despite the manner in which it began, this was actually a good weekend. I spent some quality time on my bike (the Harley)--I miss upstate New York, but there is good riding to be found here in Oxford. I've been riding every day at sunset (if it isn't storming), following whims on side roads up as it's getting dark. And somewhere along the line, I started feeling very comfortable on the bike, none of the white-knuckled grip-o-terror whenever the wind kicks up. I'm really enjoying it, and I long ago quit caring to look like one of the cool kids--I wear a full-face helmet (less wind=better visibility and comfy contacts) and have no desire to add all the expensive Harley accessories. It will ride the same regardless, so who cares if the pipes are stock?

Trouble is, my tailbone won't have it. It takes about ten minutes to get from dull ache to sharp pain, and yesterday I had a tough time even getting off of the bike, it hurt so much. I do need a new saddle, one wide enough to actually accomodate a substantial woman's injured ass.

Part of what spurred the riding, especially yesterday, is that my good friend, the retired Marine interrogator, was given the boot as he got off the plane. He was on the same business trip I was on--but don't even think of it, he's well outside my age range. We're friends, and I'm not interested in anything else. BUT, his longtime girlfriend told him she didn't love him anymore and got dressed up in her nicest shoes to go "stay with a girlfriend." I suspect there's another man and Gus is heartbroken. So heartbroken in fact, that he intends to leave town as soon as he can pack the truck and figure something out for himself and his two sons elsewhere, either Tampa or Iraq. He wants out of this town most posthaste, and I can't say I blame him in the least. I cannot even imagine how that must feel.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fourth of July, The Sequel

Spent my Fourth preparing for the business trip to Texas--eleven days of teaching and fighting the urge to eat bad things. I've been so good. I even went to Ross today and bought new work and workout clothes--I only have a few outfits of each, and I'm tired of washing stuff and hanging it on the shower rod.

Some random yard shots--it all looked much better without the construction debris and chaos, but the backyard is still pretty interesting.

Thank God all these ceilings are going away. HATE the popcorn. In the den and dining room, that dizzy broad tried to scrape it off without wetting it--so there are gouges and toolmarks, like a monkey went at it with a sharp stick. Then she smeared some sand-laden mud up there, and all over the walls in the foyer. I'm eventually going to have to manually sand it down--I'll make it a long workout and only do that one thing on whatever day I get to do it. I say, get to do it because that would mean I'm living in my house...and it looks like it will be quite some time before that happens. *Sigh*

Look at the wee little watermelon! It's smaller than a pingpong ball--I feel like a proud mama. It's a sugar baby variety--maybe it'll be ready to eat when I get back...along with the maters and corn. I bought special self-watering boxes and planted all this stuff--the strawberries never got off the ground, but the artichokes, basil, sunflowers, and carrots are coming right along. It ain't easy, gardening in the desert.

See the little yellow bird perched atop one of my bedraggled sunflowers? They are bedraggled because this innocent-looking little bastard has been directly chowing down on the leaves of the big, gorgeous flowers. So I won't be winning any awards for gardening. It's okay--my cats have eaten enough birds, I'm glad to pay them back a bit. What, you don't think some sunflowers leaves are a fair trade for early death by slow torture?

Now I'm back in the hotel and there is a huge approaching thunderstorm framed in my third-floor window. So now I'm going to watch it.

Happy Fourth. We are impossibly blessed to be Americans.