Thursday, February 7, 2013

This I believe #4

You Know what to do! Comment in this post with your lovely thoughts!


  1. Once upon a time, there was a group of young women. They decided amongst themselves that at the ages of 21 and 22, it was time to host a mature, intimate dinner party for some of their closest friends. The fourth of July seemed like the perfect opportunity to supply their guests with an array of delicious treats, including summer salads, fresh berries, smoked barbeque, and homemade salsa. Oh, how naïve!

    65 uninvited, unruly guests later…

    As Sarah and Katie approached their home, prepared for an evening filled with pleasant company and divine conversation, their eyes were met with the sight of 15 people slurping red jello out of plastic containers. These containers were promptly thrown to the ground with an attitude of victory, followed by a war cry for “MORE!” The two friends entered their home skeptically; unsure about the crude events taking place around them by people they had never seen before. They watched as ketchup was intentionally squeezed from its bottle, the entirety of its contents coating the surface of their granite counters and getting caught between the crevices of appliances. Drunken hands smeared barbeque on the side of the once white refrigerator. The two friends looked at each other in panic and continued into the middle of the kitchen, waiting for the next catastrophe to occur. They did not have to wait long. A boy carrying a large bottle of alcohol walked into the room, stopped, and swayed. The bottle slowly slid from his fingers and smashed into thousands of shards on the tiled floor. This is when Sarah and Katie realized that their closest most intimate friends had unintentionally sabotaged the dinner party by inviting every human being on the planet. So, they shrugged their shoulders and admitted defeat. They joined the festivities. In the morning they woke to blackberries squished into air vents, congealed ketchup on every surface, bacon scattered upon the carpet, shattered glass everywhere, a pool of urine in the trash can, a pool of urine in the tub, dip spit covering the toilet and wall, and absolutely zero air conditioning.
    Sarah and Katie were left with what they had started with, their closest most intimate friends, surveying the damage from the previous evening’s events. At that point, there was only one thing to do, drive to Wafflehouse.

    I believe in attending house parties, not hosting them (especially with food).

    1. Your ability to join and enjoy this celebration is admirable--sounds like you and Sarah are gracious hosts even when you are hosting hooligans.

    2. This is a funny story, Katie. Or else you managed to turn a disaster into entertainment.

  2. Once upon a time, there lived a young girl in the far away land of Harrodsburg, Kentucky; ya know, that little po-dunk town kinda near Danville? Our biggest attraction is Eddie Montgomery’s Steakhouse... but that is beside the point, because this story takes place about 11 years ago, before there was a steakhouse, a Taco Bell and a Super Walmart; before the merging of the black city school and the white county school.
    This little girl attended the county elementary school, where she had never really seemed to fit in. She was different from most of the girls in her 2nd grade class. Instead of dressing in pink and purple blouses, and those awesome jeans with the little colored sequins on the butt, which her mother named “inappropriate” for such a young age, she was dressed from head to toe in hand-me-downs... her BROTHER’S hand-me-downs. Those clothes were hand-me-downs before he even acquired them. But at least he was given clothes that expressed the correct gender roles for his sex. But she was a female. Not a boy. Her feminist mother had purposely set her up for failure with boys until she finally had it in her to fill out a bra... a bra which, of course, wasn’t allowed to be worn until 6th grade... which was a whole different issue, considering her minstrel hormones kicked in at an absurdly young age. But that’s a different story; to be told another time. Having been raised by a feminist mother and a “sensitive” and also feminist father, while most other girls her age were taking dance classes and playing with dolls, this girl was swinging a bat, throwing a ball and playing with trucks and tractors. But she had an even stranger interest; she was completely and totally fascinated by insects. Her mother had always told her she shouldn’t be afraid of anything God made... which she always thought was a silly thing for her mother to say, but she kept her comments to herself because she knew her mother wouldn’t believe that an 8 year old girl could ever think so intently on such heavy topics. But, insects were different. She collected them, temporarily and while alive of course, because her mother also taught her to treat animals as you would treat people... and killing people is bad, therefor, killing an animal must be equally as sinful. Her personally favorite insects were the ones that only came around once a year. They were the Tent caterpillars that nested in the cherry tree in her backyard; showed up every year in the muggy transition period between spring and summer. She looked out her bedroom window every day during that time period, to see if the tree had yet become covered in these marvelous creatures. One school morning, she peered out of her second floor window and down at the cherry tree, which seemed to have mysteriously turned into the tent-pillar hotel overnight. Oddly enough, nothing excited her quite as much as these tiny fuzzy organisms. Perhaps it was their shiny black coats that attracted her, covered in intricate blue and yellow patterns that started from their heads and traveled all the way down their long fuzzy bodies. Or, maybe it was the way her skin tingled when the hundred tiny suction-cupped feet inched their way around on her arm, discovering the new “land”, on which they had been placed against their will.
    (cont. below)

  3. She ran downstairs and outside with an old Hush Puppies shoebox in hand, gathering sun-dried grass for her homemade biome; soon to be the temporary home of a divine tent-pillar. The tree was tall compared to her 4 foot-something high body, which reached with outstretched arms, only to conveniently and barely reach the caterpillars that just so happened to be making their way down the tree trunk. She delicately grabbed the largest, furriest one she could get her hands on. She had found what she would bring to show-and-tell for her class today, and his name would be Melvin. A real live animal would blow all the other kids’ “Polly Pocket” dolls and stupid Gameboys out of the freakin’ water. With her mother’s consent, she walked into class with that mysterious closed shoebox, every kid’s attention was on her. They all wanted to know, “What’s in the box?! Can I open in?!”
    Her anticipation for her time to shine was growing. It was finally time for show-and-tell! The teacher called her to the front of the room; she was up first. No one could top this one, she felt sure. She slowly and dramatically began opening the shoebox, the smile on her face growing bigger as the top opened wider. She looks down into the shoebox... to find Melvin; lying limply on his side; not a move to be made by the little guy. The smile wipes from her face in an instant, turning into the biggest and most depressing frown anyone has ever seen on an 8 year old. Tears streamed from her eyes as she stared down into the lifeless box, at the poor body of Melvin. She had only met him today. He was fine 2 hours ago, and now he’s dead. It was her fault; there was no one to blame but herself. She had committed the biggest of sins; she was a murderer. Now, she was not only crying upon the death of Melvin, but for her eternal life in Hell.

    I believe in childhood misunderstandings. 

    1. My brother turned up the heater in my fishtank to see if it would reach boiling point. It didn't. It did kill all the fish and I still blame myself for this because i let him near the fish in the first place.

      The emotions that surround the feeling that you have killed an animal--for a child--are overwhelming. I feel your 2nd-grade pain.

      And is it a coincidence that you and Katie both open with "Once upon a time?"

    2. It actually was a coincidence haha I typed this last week. And I'm glad, but sad, that you can relate.

    3. I can also relate in a terrible way... My best friend and I used to "walk my cat" when I was 5 in my yard with a jumprope loosely tied. We forgot to take the jumprope off one day, and my cat jumped off of the patio only to be caught by the jumprope in the wooden slats. She died :( My parents didn't tell me until I was in high school.

    4. oh no!! :( that's so terrible. Your story beats mine in sadness.

    5. I love all the details in your reflection, as well as the gentle humor in referring to your mother as a feminist mother. And I am not sure I want my kids to one day refer to me as their "feminist mother" :)

  4. The psychological integrity of my matriarchal line is a fleeting instance, beautiful flashes in the well-seasoned pan of life. All of these women, who seemed to have only briefly known clarity, are the same women who have ushered forward the genes, and the spirit, housed within me. My great-great-grandmother cast off her mother’s maiden name of Hatfield when she married Waylon McCoy. They had to leave the holler. Old hate dies hard.

    So down from the mountain they came to Alabama. Mary was already very pregnant with my great-grandmother when they plunged into the sopping sod, breaking ground on their newly purchased plot of mud. They built a cabin for themselves. In the mud they raised pigs. In those five rooms they called home, they raised seven children.

    A week after their youngest son left home, Mary encouraged Waylon to partake in a little too much of his precious home brew. She brought her blacked-out husband in from the front porch. This was not the first time that she helped him into his pajamas and into their bed. Insanity bred by the stagnation of a listless marriage guided Mary’s hands to firmly sew Waylon into the bed sheets. She bludgeoned him with a rolling pin. Her wide, stubby, and barefoot feet (so much like my own) frantically thudded against rooted up muck as rudely-awakened neighbors dragged her away from home.

    95 years later, my significant other is always preoccupying today with preparations for tomorrow. Perhaps it is age, or time spent in the desert, that makes him interrupt me from tracing the tattoos covering his chest and arms to talk about lumps of torturously pressured coal that he wants to strap onto my finger. Last week, he set his book down on the nightstand and starting waxing poetic about careers and future children. I didn’t know what to do, so I gave him my best impression of a sleeping person. I don’t want this happiness to become a fleeting instance.

    I don’t want to believe in rolling pins.

    1. If you have, indeed, inherited the genes of these women, it seems you must now be in the middle of the brief period of knowing clarity that you have coming to you, Sarah. I hope you have shared this with the man who hopes to put "lumps of tortuously pressured coal" on your finger. And I think that you should sneak the massive rolling pin in the Sculpture Kitchen into your book bag one night, that you should pretend you don't know that he is seeing it peek out when you pull books out for the night.

    2. Yours is a powerful narrative, Sarah, brimming with unstated feelings. I loved reading it. You are such a good writer.

    3. Coming from you, that is a compliment to light up my whole week. Thank you.

  5. Age 3: Dad grabs my foot and holds my ankle so I can’t squirm away, tickling, tickling, tickling. Laughter spreads over my face until I can’t control it any longer. Warm liquid seeps down my leg, and I’m unable to stop it. Mom scolds Dad for doing this so often. She says, I will always pee my pants when I laugh if he keeps tickling my feet this way.

    Age 11: Taylor falls off the bed, convulsing with laughter. Our legs are tangled and I fall, too. We cannot stop the waves of laughter, one after another, after another. Soon, it’s too much. I try to control myself, but it happens anyway. Taylor is so angry. She wants to kill me, she says, which only makes me laugh harder.

    Age 17: My brother, Christian, is confused about who Gwen Stefani is. “Why is she famous? Was she ever in a band?”
    “No Doubt,” I answer emphatically.
    “You don’t have to be a douche bag about it,” he replies.
    I can’t even explain to him that No Doubt is the band name because streams of giggles are leaving me. He begins to laugh, too, gasping for air. It is a vicious cycle, and one I love.

    Age 20: Ben pins me to the ground, tickling me. “You don’t understand!” I shout, “I’m going to pee! Please, stop!” He doesn’t believe me, doesn’t comprehend how serious this is, how embarrassed I will be. He keeps tickling until the damage is done, but then, something strange happens. He laughs with me.

    I believe there is nothing better than the moments you laugh so hard, with those you love so hard, that you pee your pants.

    1. This is really hilarious and beautiful. You have ideas in this that could make a great love letter on the side of a building somewhere.

    2. What a funny, charming, disarming, loving narrative. Thank you for sharing it, Johnna.

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  7. In the bizarre realm that is Appalachia, there are many curiosities and wonders that do not exist outside of the alter-reality of the mountains. One example being the sport-some would argue the art-of raccoon hunting. We actually call it coon hunting. When I came to college, I saw a raccoon with some friends, called it a coon, and they told me not to say that because it was racist. That made me angry. Don’t try to assign your meanings to my words and condemn for a meaning I never conveyed. A lot of things make me angry about how people deal with my accent and the way I talk. But that is a digression. Coon hunting is carried out much the same as the hunt for any other animal. Trained dogs are used to track the coon, and to corner it or chase it up a tree and signal its location to the hunter. It is what is done with the coon after the kill that is so strange. I have never heard of anyone ever eating the coon they killed, or keeping its pelt, or even stuffing it for display, as you might typically expect. No, the prize the hunter seeks is a much more intimate one. Much more. The penis of the male raccoon is dissimilar to the penises of most animals in that it contains a long narrow bone. Perfect, someone somewhere in Appalachia though a long time ago for God knows whatever reason, for sharpening into a tooth pick. My father used to coon hunt with his friends a lot. For some reason, they thought it was funny to bring me, the small child, on their nocturnal quests for coon penises, where I was often left to the whims of nature. Like the time we were in a holler (which is the space between two mountains), and realized we were surrounded by coyotes. The men split into two groups, one to go up either ridge, and I was left in the holler to hide with nothing but my dad’s friend Randy’s poach of Redman tobacco because he said I needed to calm down. And of course the coyotes ended up being down in the holler with me, but I never noticed, since all of my attention was being demanded by my tobacco induced vomiting. Thankfully, that was the last time I had to go coon hunting. I believe its because my mother made it clear that she did not believe in coyotes and Redman. Also, I do not believe in penis bone toothpicks.

    1. It is great to learn new things from these essays. It is also great that you have crafted this narrative in such a way that penis bone toothpicks almost become an afterthought.

    2. Great story with a wonderfully unexpected ending.

  8. What is thoughtful? Be thoughtful. Put some thought into that. Thought you should know etcetera. Well, I have been thoughtful so to speak, (however you define it whether you use the Webster version or have created your own definition) , all of my life. I always think about what other people want of me. What other people think of me. What other people need from me. If I've said the right thing or the wrong thing. I simply have always wanted to please. I wanted the gold star the pat on my back. The job well done. I rely on those external conditions of worth which existentialists in psychology believe we must overcome to self actualize, that is in order to become your true self. Im beginning to think they are right. I think of all the times I didn't do something that I wanted to do because I was so concerned about what others would think. I am so distinctly aware that each choice I make could easily land myself somewhere not so nice, possibly In the socially black listed list. i look at those who can so easily put themselves, their wants, their dreams and hopes first. They simply serve themselves not concerned about leaving the last bite of the brownie Sunday for someone else, not concerned how to divy it up. I feel like time even just a minute seems to tick by faster . The "5 more minutes" mom's are gone and the. " oh, shit I over slept" have crept in. The minutes counted seem to be those wasted. The considerations tend to make the blunders and spontaneity is the queen of the land. I believe in being selfish. Eating the whole Sunday and not regretting the calories I just consumed.

    1. Deciding between caring for oneself (what you here call selfishness) and caring for others is hard. Balancing is a hard feat to accomplish. It is good to care only for one's own self at times.

  9. I believe in childhood homes.

    I grew up on a beautiful 12-acre farm in rural Salvisa. A long (1/8th of a mile to be exact) gravel driveway led to the 2-Story country house with cranberry shutters and white washed vinyl paneling. The front and back porches faced the rising and setting sun and were the best locations for beginning and ending the day. The front pasture was primarily used for growing hay, which we harvested twice a year, and the back was where the animals were kept. In between our pastures was a small garden where we grew roses, berries, green beans, tomatoes, corn, lettuce, and peppers. Beyond the pastures was a creek with plenty of rocks, trees, and small wildlife that served as exploration (and experimentation) grounds.

    Our first round of livestock on the farm consisted of sheep. I remember Maude and Claude (temperamental as they were) being our first ewes from which we grew the flock to around 20 all-together. Sheep, as endearing as they can be, are not very bright. I recall one snowy winter, their gate was left open and they proceeded to follow our donkey, Eb (short for Ebenezer Scrooge), around the house for hours on end; leaping in the knee-deep snow.

    When Maude and Claude passed on, we sold the rest of the flock and invested in goats, headed by Daisy and Gracie. I would like to believe that goats are more intelligent than sheep, as they slightly resemble dogs, but they were always doing quirky things that made me reconsider. There was a period of a few years where the first thing I’d do when I’d arrived home from the school bus and walked up the driveway was to go to the back yard and wrestle with a few of the goats to get their head unstuck in the wire fence. For those who are familiar with goats, you can understand how great this task was as their necks are very stout. These episodes were all due to my mother’s exotic flowers have been planted a bit too close (yet far enough away) from the fence. And of course, the flowers on the other side of the fence must taste better.

    To this day, my childhood home serves as a strong place of memory. While I can freshly remember the feeling of hay scratches making angry red criss-cross patterns of my forearms, and the sounds of snapping green beans on a muggy summer day, I have not done these things for almost a decade. We moved to a subdivision in the middle of my freshman year of High School when the farm became too much of an upkeep, and while 8 years have passed, I have yet to have a dream where “home” was anywhere but the farmhouse. When we take the interstate from my parent’s home in Harrodsburg to Lexington, I always look out the window wistfully when we pass Cummin's Ferry Rd in Salvisa and imagine I can see our farmhouse, barn, and red garage (though now it has been painted black) sitting a ways back on its hill.

    1. Your reflections is full of nostalgia and beautifully described reasons to feel nostalgic. Well done.

  10. I believe in lazy Sunday afternoons. Well, I actually believe in the whole day of Sunday being lazy, but the phrase “lazy Sunday afternoons” just has a nice ring to it. Don’t you think?

    I believe in these “afternoons”, because yesterday, which happened to be Sunday, I was lazy. All I did, and I literally mean ALL I did, was lay in bed, stalk people on Facebook, creep on Twitter profiles, check my email, read a chapter… okay, it was really only a page of a book, go online shopping, and sleep. Then again, I do all these things almost every day.

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say is… I believe in being lazy.

  11. Last year, right before may term, I took a trip with some of my closest friends down to myrtle beach. after an excruciating ten hour drive filled with copious amounts of traffic jams, wrong turns and yelling we finally arrive at our destination late that night. The next day we awoke eager to experience the warmth and sunshine of the beach that we had driven ten hours for. To our dissapointment however we walked outside to overcast skies, and windy weather that slowly degenerated throughout the day. Fast forward till later that night it's around 10:30 and what little sun we had, had already set. Without anything to occupy my time I decided to brave a short walk to the beach through the rain. As i sat down on the beach and watched the dark water twist and churn along with the clouds above it I realized how beautiful it all was, despite it destroying our plans of warm summer beaches. I believe in finding the good in bad situations.

  12. Patrick helped me pick it from the wall, a candy-apple stomach with an ombre belly, that expansively
    sleek neck and the beak from a parrot drove me up the same wall that it phoenixed from. I actively shunned the other ukeleles, cast my eyes sharply down at their cheap laminate bodies, tinny nylon strings and fragile fret boards.
    If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.
    A swipe, ca-ching and a hundred dollars later, I had purchased a ukelele and was ready to hit the town with my shiny new digs. True to myself, aesthetics came first, as I strummed haphazardly at strings all day that I knew nothing about all the while beaming at my little ruby buddy.
    The discipline came later, as I learned to strum up and strum down an entire 8 hours barreling north in a honda.
    Chords came later, naturally, and from that, I was able to "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" into fame, or at least my own personal living room version. Having never played an instrument before, I remain surprised at my ability to turn my fingers into sounds. I remain determined at my own newfound, surprising sense of determination to get it right, slide from fret to fret with various digits to illuminate sounds from materials. I believe in myself. It's trite, it's a wild cliche, but I do--will first and aesthetics closely behind.

    1. you got one cute uke, and when you play, i'm always in hawaii.

    2. This is a fun narrative about your relationship with aesthetics and a ukulele. I like it!

  13. Tonight she instructs the new neighbors she has just met: “Put silver over each window—not copper—it will bring money in.” I can’t tell if the man in bright-red cowboy boots is humoring her as he nods thoughtfully. His girlfriend fingers a rabbit-skin ornament in her frizzy green hair and inquires about the spirits Ann claims she sees in her house. “They live with us,” Ann explains. “Ask Jake. That’s why I am ‘The Waiting Room.’” The man nods again.

    Back in November she and I met on facebook: “thankyou ill wate tillmy grand son jake turipn get in from work he cand help me pick them thank you.” She and Jake picked as a team. She became “The Waiting Room” to his “of the Universe.” “You are the first pair of grandmother and grandson to sign up for this artwork!” I conveyed our enthusiasm in elegant English. “we livea few block north of charmed life,” she responded.

    In January she wrote with a question: “can i tip thim with home made fudge ther choice of flavors.” Though I don’t eat fudge and though Robert said any flavor was great, I wanted to tell her a flavor, something to look forward to making. “I love chocolate,” I wrote back. “Make chocolate fudge for him.”

    In early February she messaged again: “now i know where that little brown rabbet came fron last year that i fou nd on my truck hood thank youall for it to.” By then she had delivered lasagna with home-made sausage and her own plum jam in exchange for a pair of angel wings inked around her left ankle. “I don’t grow anything in my front garden I can’t eat,” she informs the man in bright-red cowboy boots. They discuss raising chickens together on North Limestone, their shared frontier.

    I believe in tattoos: charming us into new life.

  14. ...i can't go on living/spinning…I want to remove myself from the A.)earth

    …even typing that "A" word makes me want to throw up cellophane grasshoppers, fog and dirt and dust and skin...

    ...one Tylenol,
    ...o only one left...
    ...Coffee thick and stale like gutter water...
    ...Alarms like one thousand quacking ducks

    …what the fuck...

    …i am an embarrassment to humankind..
    ...sirens, snares, saran wrap encasing the space between my ears...
    ...the cardboard box in my head holds too many bricks….
    ...plucked from the tallest tree and stacked like coconut shells in the corner...
    ...i close my eyes and lazy prisms dance like an army of ants and my hands are in beetle boots, soles stuck to the plywood barge of a sinking ship…
    ...my mind dripping wet cement and barbed wire fences …
    ...i am in a fishbowl filled with fun house mirrors in the middle of earthquake...
    ...tectonic brain breaking up the mud masks of morning's woozy...
    ...the midnight shrews scrounging for ring fingers in soup cans of regret...
    ...and dangling from their legs, violin strings anchored to sheets of scrap metal...
    ..in swivel chairs throwing igneous rocks at those shelving thoughts of prohibition...
    ...blockheaded oxen caught in revolving doors...
    ...and rotary phones clank carelessly, spinning only the number 9...
    ...escalators carrying the instrument cases of an endless big brass band ...while toddlers shoot rubber bands at carousel animals through microwave doors...

    ...the sun is okay but does it ever roll over?...birds are okay but do they ever turn off?...

    …those are all my thoughts for the day...my brain will not let me make anymore...

    I believe in hangovers

    1. Reading your reflection felt like inhabiting an alternate reality, Patrick. I guess this is the effect you were going for :)

  15. **revised from a previous post which is now deleted**

    We pedaled fast through the warmth of August nights. A dusty tail rose behind us and settled, again, on the dirt road. With bare hands we crushed the backs of glowing bugs and rubbed them on the rails of our bikes so they would fluoresce in the darkness. Heat lightning filled the sky. Decades ago, we were invincible.

    .......My bike no longer glows in the dark.

    Stealing an hour from scheduled sleep, we made soft cages from cupped hands that swept through the hot July night to capture fireflies. We slid them into a jar and punctured the lid with small holes for oxygen. I watched him as he watched the small flames ignite and fade rhythmically on his windowsill. His eyes closed before the flames lost interest in performing. The night lantern dimmed as wings became still years ago.

    .......I am unable to raise my arm, even slowly,
    .......to catch a lightning bug.

    She drove, through a late-April storm of dusk and hail, to her night shift at the peanut butter factory. She drove, beneath lightning that fractured the night sky, in a car that fractured my spine when it met me pedaling fast in foul weather. My life split in two: the time before and the time after the moment when this woman didn’t see me. Now my spine tells me of coming rain.

    .......I believe lightning changes us forever.