4.15.2005

Near Misses and Bullseyes

I usually drive my beachy teal '97 Chevy Cavalier, unless I am chauffeuring Charles to and from the airport. I love my little Cav. Comfy, handles well and best of all, it's paid off.

The XTerra, on the other hand, while a great vehicle for someone as tall as my husband, is in all honesty too much vehicle for me. Not long ago, during late rush-hour I was driving north on South Dale Mabry, which is a tight, skinny four lane road lined with strip malls, banks and gas stations. People always go too fast on it. Including myself.

The XTerra has a nasty little blindspot on the passenger's side. I was in the left hand lane and checked my mirrors before coming into the right lane. Just as I was about to sideswipe a small blue sedan, I saw it, and its passengers just in time. I yanked back into the left lane, my heart pounding. The woman driving was making gestures at me, which at first I took to be obscene, but as she drove alongside me I realized were gestures to pull over.

This defies all common sense, I know, but I could see that the woman had a girl in the passenger seat and was looking quite distressed, so I pulled over as she did. I got out of the XTerra and came over to her, my hand over my heart, before she even began to speak and apologized profusely. I explained that I was driving my husband's car, which had a blindspot for me, and that I was so glad that they were not hurt. She stood there looking at me shaking her head. I think she intended to scream and holler at me for putting herself and her daughter in danger, but my immediate contrition- which was believe me completely sincere- caught her off guard. She said, "That's my daughter in there. You could have killed us." I acquiesed to this and asked her forgiveness.

She shook her head again. I could see that she was frightened and angry, and there was something else in her eyes- a realization that I meant what I said, and that we really were all okay. Her daughter leaned towards the open driver's door and said, "Mom, come on, she said she was sorry. Let's go home." The woman turned, got in her car and drove off. I went back to the XTerra and continued on my way.

Does my story change if I tell you the woman was black? As she turned and got in her car, I heard her mutter something about 'white folk'. I ignored it and kept going.
Sometime before that, I was walking the dogs in my neighborhood and passed a house, rather rundown, with a large white van in the drive. There was a sticker on the bumper that read "Tattoed White Trash". I cringed. Tattoed and white, that's me. Only I don't believe I'm trash. And I'm not really white, either- I'm really a sort of plushy-pink-tan color.
In the yard next to the front porch was a black lawn jockey holding a lantern. I cringed again. This person or people lived only four or five blocks away from me. Just around the corner from the Tattoed White Trash live a large Mexican family who hang out on their front porch and listen to music and tell stories, and just around the corner from them lives a Phillipino woman with two little yapper dogs and a penchant for thorny flowering shrubs and trees. And just down the street from her live a black couple who have the loveliest yard on the street- the husband is out there day and night tending to the shrubs and perennials, fertilizing his lawn and generally tending to it like a master gardener. I often see the wife sitting at her desk at the front window late at night, concentrating mightily on a book or her computer- a student perhaps? Or just incredibly diligent about the family finances?
Not too long after the dog-walking expedition to my neighborhood diversity, I was awaiting a prescription at the drugstore around the corner from me. There were two other people sitting and waiting. One was a lovely elder black woman dressed to the nines in a deep purple suit, golden silk blouse and a gorgeous crown of tightly woven purple to match her suit and golden flowers along the brim. She sat straight up in her chair, knees together, as regal and proper as she could be, a descendant of African queens, of that I had no doubt. She was reading the newspaper and studiously ignoring me and the other person. The other person waiting was a white man, unkempt in dirty jeans, white wife-beater and unshaven face. He slouched in this chair, his arms folded defiantly across his chest, while he stared at the floor. On his left arm was a tattoo of -I kid you not- a black man hanging from a noose tied to a large tree, a glorious sunset in the background.
I don't think I've ever been so horrified or uncomfortable in my life. Perhaps he was the same guy who owned the white van and the lawn jockey. Perhaps the woman was the mother of the wife who studied late into the night.
I desperately wanted to go and sit next to the woman in purple and tell her that I was not of his ilk, that although my skin isn't dark I felt more solidarity with her than with him. Perhaps I should have. But the terrible, gut-wrenching truth is that the tattoed man was just as much part of me as the woman was.
We're all in this thing together, descendants of African queens, descendants of German potato farmers and descendants of Irish/Saxon/German/Cherokee/African folk like myself. The blood of the oppressor and the opressed both runs through my viens and I cannot separate myself from either.

4.11.2005

The Taxman Cometh

Oh boy. No beachtime this past weekend. No sound of the surf, no toes in the sand, no ocean water in my hair.
Friday night I drank rum with Lime Diet Coke (yes, yes, yes, I know, horrible but I was looking for a no-calorie solution to my end-of-a-ridiculously-savage-week blues) while doing laundry and other assorted chores, then fell asleep in front of the telly at 11pm. How sad is that? If that isn't bad enough, I was awoken by C around 215, after which I attempted to go to bed but gave up at 445. I got up and finished the laundry while watching Cold Comfort Farm (wonderful little movie where everything ends up just peachy) and then Buck Rogers reruns.
The sun came up most cheerfully and I took the dogs for a long long jog/walk. Loki, the elder, protested mightily the last eight blocks on the return trip by just sitting in the cool grass and refusing to budge. Or better, rolling around in the grass until he pulled the leash from my hand, then laying upside down on the St. Augustine with his tongue hanging out. No dignity. Just willful stubbornness. I finally managed to drag him back home and then turned to cleaning out my office desk which is an old, ratty, disgusting particle board monstrosity that is destined soon for destruction by my handy axe. I am hoping to replace that out-of-date piece of sawdust with a coolbeans studio table instead. Once this cleaning job was done, C had awoken and it was time to do our taxes for the first time as a married couple.
As I entered my information in TurboTax and watched the "AMOUNT YOU OWE" box jump upwards exponentially, even the fantastic omelet C had made me couldn't assuage the corrosive pit my stomach had become. I had failed to set aside enough money last year from freelance contractor work so that the amount we owe was a kick in the teeth. That studio table I was hankering for just jumped beyond the horizon. The little anniversary getaway we'd been planning went 'poof'. The car maintenance, vet visits and furniture investments went 'poof'. The Taxman gets it all now.
That rum and Lime Diet Coke is sounding pretty good again right about now.

4.07.2005

Wildlife and other strange forms of sentience

I think I killed a lizard this morning. That it was an accident made it no less distressing. I opened a garden gate and she must have gotten caught somewhere. She fell off the gate and hit my shoulder before going to earth. I picked the tiny creature up- she was still alive, but stunned, and I could see that just behind her right eye was badly damaged. She wouldn't let go of my finger when I tried to put her down, and fell over on her back when I gently pushed her off. She didn't move, although I could see her breathing. Bosslady saw me at the gate and called my name, and I had to leave the lizard to her fate.
Perhaps I just stunned her- I am compelled now to go check.
Returning from the gate, I see no sign of her anywhere. I hope she recovered and stays clear of my lumbering self from now on.
In more cheerful news, a mockingbird has taken up residence in a tree outside our front door. She sings her heart out every night for an hour or more. I think she might have chosen our spot because the acoustics between our house and the neighbor's is fantastic- her birdsong bounces back and forth across the street. Last night I sat in the dark on my front porch and listened to her while being ambushed by mosquitos. I hope I don't catch West Nile as a price for listening.
The orchid trees, bougainvillea, amaryllis (including my own), orange trees and jasmine are in fantastic bloom right now. Although the robins have left, we are still visited by ibis, pelicans, mourning doves, blue jays, cardinals and gulls. The pelicans don't come near our house, but all the rest of them do- at least until the cats chase them off. The weather has been amazing for the last two weeks and I long for a trip to the beach for the day. It is my intention to sneak away as early as possible on Saturday morning for Fort De Soto and spend the morning walking the shore. I might not come back, considering that if I do I have to do my taxes. JOY!
After watching the hoople-heads in the Senate and Congress and other cheeseheads of State on CNN, MSNBC and FoxNews for the last two weeks, I'm not sure the federal government deserves another damn dime of my hard-earned money but what the hay- just because they are behaving badly doesn't give me an excuse to.
Speaking of CNN, MSNBC and Fox- I try to watch all three every once in a while (apologies to the broadcast networks for not EVER watching you) to see how the news spins. Just a personal observation here- Fox and MSNBC are infotainment wearing the mask of news channels. All that slick music, gorgeous eyecandy reporters (excent for Fox News "liberal" analysts, who all look a bit squirrely and sickly, what's up with that?) with their pithy commentary pretty and all those snappy graphics do NOT substitute for substantive journalism. Fox leans so far to the right that my house tilts and the dogs bark when that channel is on, and MSNBC leans just enough to the left to put my house to square again- but they are both guilty of making a mockery of good solid journalism.
Once I've glutted myself sick on their 'news' I switch to CNN for what passes for decent investigative balanced journalism. Having said that, CNN still shies away from covering the real world. Democracy Now is very very good, with really interesting, controversial topics and guests- they don't water things down to make it palatable to frightened Americans. But DM has its own agenda as well, and sometimes the reporting can get a bit strident.
But how scary/ironic/appropriate is it that a "fake news" comedy show- The Daily Show seems to be the one real source of news out there that comments on the scary shit going on without becoming part of the problem? Or are they?
I don't claim to have any of the answers- just a pilgrim soul's observations on the life she finds around her.
Peace.