in flight, chapter 1, revisited

 

I reintroduce the first chapter of a story that I posted some time ago, In Flight. I will take you through chapter IV, but you will have to read chapter V in the New Urge Reader 2, available on Amazon soon. Such a tease, right?


Chapter I

 

 

Airport waiting area

 

 

“Where you headed?” he asked her.

Really? That’s the best opener he could come up with? Where you headed? Last I checked this plane was headed to Atlanta.

“Atlanta,” she told him and nothing more.

He laughed a bit and catching her tone, tried to recover with a boyish smile. “Yeah, well, I get that, but you could be catching another flight.”

“No. Staying in Atlanta,” she replied. She picked up the inflight magazine and went to the crossword puzzle, the easy one. She could sometimes finish the easy one without cheating, although she wasn’t opposed to cheating. She thought doing the puzzle made her look smart, occupied.

“Me too,” he said. “Business or pleasure?”

“Business,” she replied. Please, not now.

He heard the tone again and opted out.

“Well, hope you have a pleasant stay,” he said and pulled his business man’s back pack from under the seat, the fancy black leather kind, the kind older men buy to look like the younger men. She heard and felt him fumbling for something but nothing surfaced.

I don’t have to be rude, she thought, but the morning was just so crazy, Mark flying out of the house ahead of me. He could have easily dropped me off at the airport but then I wanted a little more time… I never did find that second pair of glasses.

She turned in her seat. “Thanks, and you too,” she said to the man, finally looking him in the eye and feeling something shift. Or maybe it was just the crossword puzzle sliding off her lap.

 

photo credit: stevenedson.com

 

halloween, circa 1973

 

chisholm-poster 2

 

Somewhere around 1973, there was an iconic Halloween party at the home of my very dear friend and her first husband. The first husband was a party animal–I can think of no better way to say it. He loved parties and he loved animalistic behavior and he loved the combination of the two. My girlfriend survived it for many years—I can think of no better way to say it. The Halloween party was  going to be huge, hyped and planned for weeks, an impressive guest list, liquor, food, dancing, and…costumes. Who doesn’t love a costume party? Playing the part, teasing, fantasizing. I know, I know, the stress of coming up with a killer costume. But if you get lucky, if you get inspired, if you come up with a concept and can successfully execute on that moment of brillance, bam! Happy Halloween.

Before I continue, please keep in mind that this party was forty-two years ago and there are many missing pieces to what went on that night. Case in point—despite all that chatter on costumes, I can only remember two: my perfect, pregnant girl scout costume, complete with an actual uniform and a sash full of badges, high heels and a push-up bra; and the costume of a young man dressed in full-out Superman, cape and mask and big S and pumped up chest. The hussy and the hero—it was perfect. But the piece of that evening that I will always remember, always, was going to bed with Superman—and that I became pregnant that evening. A pregnant, pregnant girl scout. I aborted soon after.

At the risk of sounding hard and callous and ignorant, there was no anguishing over anything. I wanted nothing to do with this strange, one-nighter person (I have no idea what his name was), and I definitely didn’t want a child. I’m not sad, nor do I feel guilty or remorseful. It just was. Reckless youth, fearlessly acting on urges. It was the mood and the behavior of the time, the consensus of friends, the experience as it happened to a me I barely remember. I know there was a full-disclosure conversation with Superman and perhaps another date or two, but I can’t tell you anything more. I am only just now wondering if that child would have had special powers. The only thing I remember about the abortion itself was the doctor making some kind of snide remark about being cavalier (not his word) while I was waiting on a gurney in an ugly, green, hospital hallway. I suspect I was cavalier—and scared. I was definitely one crazy, flippin’, party animal.

 

 

photo credit: chisholm-poster.com

 

go slacco, I mean flacco, or why I love football

 

Nov 24, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) looks on during the game against the New York Jets at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens won 19-3. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

 

Because my sons played football – that’s it, that’s why I love football. If they had been snake charmers or cheerleaders, I would love snake charming and cheerleading, and would have traveled to all of their games, or meets, or whatever competitive event those activities hold. My one son started playing in rec league, and both played high school football, at a time when you could get away with yelling “hit somebody” (more on yelling later) and concussion conversations were only beginning to surface.  And thank God, as I was/am a risk taking mom and while I can’t dispute the head injury statistics, I just hate the save-the-children-from-everything-campaigns (Ironically, my older son suffered a serious concussion when he slipped on ice—and he managed to remain intact and become a doctor). One child had ability and one had attitude, but neither had both. That being said, they were decent players, and devotees of the game.

High school football is awesome, a competitive and combative sub-culture, the local boys and their crazed parents, loaded with rally buttons and beer and pom-poms and cow bells and coins in empty, gallon milk jugs—my least favorite noisemaker of all. And playing under the lights is so high school iconic, an experience that tv dramas or game highlights never can capture, and experience that fires up all of the senses. The steam of hot dogs, the smell of a joint from under the bleachers, fathers yelling at coaches, mothers yelling at the kids with the joint, the wonderful slap slap of pads on pads, hot breath glistening on cold air and no one is breathing harder than you or your son. You can stand on the sidelines (or at least you could when I was a fan), you could call your child and your child’s friends by name, encourage them, praise them, give ’em hell when they miss a tackle. And how I could yell. One time I was barking something to my son, the team, the quarterback, it doesn’t matter. I could hear the reverberation of my own voice and turned to apologize to the lady sitting behind me for my crazy volume. She re-assuredly patted me on the shoulder and said, “It’s a gift, honey, a gift.” My kinda’ football mom.

One child picked his college because of the football division and continues to go to games with his alumni pigskin pals. I don’t like college ball as much as the NFL, and I really don’t know as much about the game as I make out—I understand little about penalties and play calls, and managing the clock is a total mystery to me. But I watch highlights, I listen to the commentators predictions and analysis, their glory day stories, I know players and have my favorites (I tried to embrace Joe Flacco as my favorite quarterback, but secretly, it was always Aaron Rodgers). Frankly, I don’t care that much anymore—except that it’s a tie to my boys that I absolutely will not sever. It keeps me relevant, keeps me connected, it keeps me cool. Like when I used to yell “hit somebody” from the sidelines.

 

photo credit: cbssports

 

drinking story no. 3

 

BALTIMORE, MD -- 7/3/05 -- Mount Vernon businesses such as Grand Central club and bar fly the colors of the rainbow to show gay pride. Cultural resources are a contributing factor to neighborhood stability. ELIZABETH MALBY/BALTIMORE SUN STAFF -- DSC_0064 No Mags, No Sales, No Internet, No TV

 

I tended bar at Gampy’s restaurant in Baltimore for 4 or 5 years. Gampy’s is an acronym for Great American Melting Pot, and it was indeed just that—a mix of boy and girl bar flies on the sticky rim of bad behavior. Blacks, whites, gays, a priest or two, secretaries, executives, the lonely and the locals. The restaurant, the bar, my bar-tending-partner and myself were all very popular—three deep at the bar during happy hour which was always happy. Laughter and bawdiness ruled. There was joke telling, singing, gags galore, and friendships that are with me still, decades after having left the place. We drank a ton, and I gave away a ton of drinks under the approving eye of my boss and owner—whatever it took to keep ‘em comin’—and they came every night.

We marched in the Preakness Parade, danced in every club, there were cocaine parties, sexual liaisons, lies and compromises—our carrying-on was infamous, or so we liked to think. There was a group of us that formed a loosely conceived “rib club”—drunks in search of the perfect BBQ rib. We ate ribs at all the chain restaurants, Baltimore landmark restaurants, dives in the swamps off of the Chesapeake Bay. For my bachelorette party, the Gampy waitresses took me out for a night on the town—to Baltimore’s block, with the strip joints and street slime, where we were not strangers (strip clubs typically did not like drunken, young girls coming into their establishment and taking the attention and money away from the dancers but we somehow could pull it off). We closed the 2 O’Clock Club with a roar, and thankfully, all of our clothes. And then there were the car accidents.

I remember 2 accidents, there may have been 3, climaxing with my DUI. There was a party in the restaurant for one of the regulars that was moving, a beloved Episcopal priest, a gentleman pretty high up in the church hierarchy, gay and a guzzler. It was a fun and fond farewell, and I drove home to Baltimore County drunk as a skunk, in my husband’s aubergine (purple) Porsche. I got pulled over. I did the drunk walk, failed, got arrested, put in the police car and put behind bars—leaving the Porsche on the side of the road—waiting for my husband to notice on his way home from work and freak out—which he did. For weeks after the arrest, my co-workers all wore makeshift buttons that read, “Free Pam,”  and for weeks after the arrest I shook behind the bar as I tried to sober up for my day in court. But good alcoholic that I am, I continued to drink for another two years (while attending court appointed AA meetings), and so began my emotional and physical downward spiral, or rather, so began my recognition of the downward spiral that was my life.

One of my biggest fears regarding sobriety was never having fun again and leaving the Gampy crowd behind. I loved those people and that time, I have no regrets, I scared my husband silly but brought no harm to anyone other than myself. And the harm that I’m not including in these drinking posts runs deep—the isolation, the loathing, the shame, the worthlessness that existed between drinks. There is a ton of fun in my life now, people often mistake my frivolity for drunkenness. But getting sober and sobriety are different stories, this is about drinking, about a runaway time that brought me to where I sit and type today. Love to all my Gampy friends, I hope you are alive (sadly, I know of 3 who are not) and well, and somehow find your way to this story.

 

photo credit: articles.baltimoresun.com

 

this weeks lesssons

 

17rul1enowtkwjpg

Apologies for not posting recently—a busy week for a person typically not busy—unless I’m busy writing which I prefer to be. Anyway, some lessons learned from this week of surprises:

My body is weak. I am not the fit, old thing that I thought myself to be (perhaps a new playlist — perish the thought). I’m working part time at Lord and Taylor and have been on my feet more hours than I can count. I am broken—back, feet, shoulder—but believe I can recover, all of which reaffirms my belief: you rest, you rust.

Humility. And I mean humility as modesty, a lack of vanity or ego, as opposed to low opinion of ones self.  I spoke to my writer’s group today and don’t think I did a very good job. I should have been better prepared, researched more, read more, thought more. However—I don’t feel awful (a bit embarrassed, yes, despite their many and generous thanks), but feel blessed to be part of a group that is willing to lead and follow, that is nurturing and smart.  Learning is a wonderful side effect of humility.

Write letters. And this is not so much a lesson learned, but again a reaffirmation. I write letters to the editor occasionally, well, I’m embellishing—I’ve written 5—but all 5 have been published, the most recent in Vanity Fair. In a world that absolutely, positively, can’t stop talking, it is so much fun to be recognized in this way—a very sweet, little kick in the ass. Write letters to the editors, write to your children, write long emails. It frees you and captures you.

I am an artist. During my years as a graphic designer I often asked myself if I was an artist. And I pretty much always answered yes, but really, I was the job title—a designer. And a good one, I will say, but definitely a designer and not an artist—laying out a pretty page is not terribly evocative. So why do I think I’m an artist now? Cause I wrote an e reader? Because I can’t not write, because I loathe myself and love myself and have grandiose ideas about my work and the importance of my work (this is BIG), and because I suffer, and I don’t mean van gogh suffering, but because I put my soul into every stinkin’ word and it is exhausting. Whew.

 

And more apologies for I know this is all pretty diary-like but I hope you can glean something from this post. You are all part of my growth and I thank you.

 

 

that’s right, I said it

I share for a second time, my post on the lovely ms. swift.

 

playbuzz

 

Taylor Swift, champion of artists everywhere, girlfriend to the world, the mega star with the ordinary voice and the best publicist ever.

I just read the Vanity Fair piece on Taylor. As a writer who writes a whole lot for no money, I cannot thank her enough for her voice and mighty stance for the underpaid and unpaid artist. But am I the only one who finds all this fuss over Tay Tay and her Susie Creamcheese persona a bit nauseating? And boring? This was a fairly long article and I can’t help but think that author Josh Duboff must have been pulling his hair out trying to come up with something interesting (i.e. snarky, witty, revealing) to say about this young woman. She loves her parents, she now loves Kanye West, she loves her fans, she loves her girlfriends, and news flash, Taylor and the blondtourage do not discuss shoes during their sleepovers or over breakfast a la Taylor–there are more “pressing matters.” Like…???  And she has a moral code–of course she does. I cringe at the words. Sorry, Taylor, it’s just that I, too, have more pressing matters.

 

photo credit: playbuzz.com

 

genius within or out

 

blogs_nd_edu

 

I know there are lots of you out there who love podcasts, and while I enjoy them as well, I have not included them in this journal as I want the content to be my own–this is my blog, after all, my work and my thoughts, and most importantly, my writing practice—I think it’s a bit like cheating when bloggers continually post the work of others. However, I do love the message from author Elizabeth Gilbert on creativity in the TED series. I was a little choked up at the end, but maybe that’s just me. Listen and weep, no, listen and carry on, artist friends.

 

Elizabeth Gilbert on creativity

 

photo credit: blogs.nd.edu

 

the nightwatch

 

martin stone

 

Come to bed, baby

and touching his arm he stirred,

half asleep from the fatigue of battle

and half awake from the chill of the room.

He moved with her and rested on the pillow of her body

till tenderness overtook him and he slept the sleep

not afforded to those who wage war and other such nonsense.

He was her captain and she was his whore and champion,

standing watch and praying for an end to it all. – pn

 

art: martin stone

 

hustler girls

 

youtube

 

I live in a neighborhood with a no solicitation sign at its entry. There are, of course, solicitors who ignore this sign and wind up at your door and that’s fine. I’m not bothered by it nor am I the paranoid type who fears any stranger walking down the driveway. [Perhaps that’s foolish you think and maybe so—for many years a had a large and intimidating dog, and now that he’s gone, I wonder if I will continue to feel quite so secure.] Safety aside, there are plenty of solicitations from neighborhood girl scouts and kids selling gift wrap crap—the kind of solicitations that piss me off ‘cause you know you gotta’ buy something.

But there were 2 solicitations that happened over the span of 3 or 4 years that almost haunt me, that I think of often. Both solicitors were young, hard-edge beautiful, black girls selling magazines for an urban woman support group. Both solicitations occurred as I was gardening at the front of the house and I gave both girls Gatorades. The first young woman was all of ninety-eight pounds with a smooth brown-beer-bottle body, more hyped up than anyone I may have ever met. She showed me all of her credentials, told me all about the cause, the product, her grandmother, her brother in jail—and she told me I was beautiful, that I must have been a looker when I was younger (gulp)—me, the pale, old white woman with mulch in her hair and under her fingernails, next to this beautiful, glistening, young thing. I was hers, totally, completely. I bought magazines and my husband cancelled the sale the next day.

The second young girl was different but equally compelling. I saw her coming down the driveway and knew immediately why she was there, and also knew that I would be buying magazines, forgetting the outcome of the first sale. This girl was round and curvaceous and a little bit sweaty and walked with a 20-something swagger. She too, showed me all her credentials and told me her tales but this one had attitude and I thought she might have been close to saying, buy more magazines, bitch, but she didn’t. She had a look that confused me, one of both resignation and haughtiness, perhaps that is the look of pride. But regardless of whatever it was that was going on inside of her or what she thought of me, I submitted to her presence.

Both times, my husband went off about these young hustlers and my gullibility, what an easy target I was, and how is it that with the second sale, I didn’t remember what had happened before. Both times he found a consumer complaint on line that supported his position. And yes, there very well may have been some hustling going on, but somehow I was ashamed that he cancelled my orders, feeling that I had let these young girls down—these sassy and brassy women that were doing whatever it took to get what they wanted. I don’t think I could be as brave as these girls. I hope they don’t come again.

 

photo credit: youtube

 

amy schumer and the k clan

 

americanlivewire

 

(k as in Kardashian, for those not up on their celebrity news)

To dear Amy: You go, girl. Be my new Joan Rivers. Be irreverent, be fierce, be foolish, be the comedian you were meant to be. Don’t back down, baby. You are awesome.

To the members of the All K Corral: Enough with the mean card, this has nothing to do with hate (Lordy, I hate how easily people toss that word around). If you do not see the absurdity, the ridiculousness, the HUMOR in the lifestyle that YOU chose, then you are way more stupid than any comedian has made you out to be. Go buy a purse, girls, or change your hair color, or change your image if you don’t like it.

 

photo credit: americanlivewire.com