Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities

It has to be a pretty special reason for me to get on an airplane - hurtling through the air near Jesus' feet in a metal cigar tube is not my happy place. But, there are times when I am able to suck it up and make it work.  This weekend was one of those times.

I have a friendship that has spanned the ages, covering childhood father-of-the-year contests, teen Chorus boyfriend angst, collegiate debauchery, and now, the crap shoot of adulthood.  Although we lead very different lives, we always find our common ground, and truly have a connection that transcends everything else.  Plus, we are hilarious.

We're like Hillary and C.C. in "Beaches"; like Edina and Patsy in "Absolutely Fabulous"; like Oprah and Gayle on "vacation." And so, when my friend's husband invited me to come surprise her for her 40th birthday, I said, challenge accepted.

Because it was a challenge. Preparing for this trip was an exercise in futility.  I live in the 'burbs of Georgia; she lives in a gated community in Florida.  Two Buck Chuck is a common vintage in my house; she has a wine cellar.  My neighbor has a minivan; hers has a yacht parked out back.

So, as you can see, the issue of what to wear to the party went to a whole other level.  I spent an entire day going to all the boutiques in town, and after 20 tight mod dresses and the disapproving glance of more than one sales twit, I cried uncle.  I tucked tail, packed my bag, and headed to the Lollipop Guild in my Ann Taylor Loft separates.

Once I landed, the adventure began.  I rented a car, and navigated the turnpikes --- white-knuckled and mumbling to myself --- to my grandmother-in-law's retirement home.  There, I spent a lovely hour over tea and cookies with a remarkable woman in her 90's, who is pen pals with my 9-year-old son and gives me a piece of original art every time I visit.  I also got to see my husband's aunt, uncle, and the grandson they are raising.  We talked about the latest family foibles - who didn't have a job, who was a bitch, and the fact that a grandchild was about to welcome a grandchild.

After hugs and kisses, I headed to the apartment of my friend's parents, to hide out until the party.  There, I received an Obama bumper sticker and an afternoon of tales about tree rats and Irish priests dying of cancer. They were absolutely delightful and welcoming, as if no time had passed.  It felt like home.

At the appointed time, we collected my friend's kids and headed to Club. I call it Club, because it was like being on Vulcan, or Mars. Walking into the venue was like Neil Armstong's first steps on the moon.  Houston ...

As the guests arrived, it became clear that I had utilized too much fabric in my outfit. These stunning ladies were in Saran-wrap inspired prints, doilies with high heels and new boobs ripe for the picking.  They took one look at me and the confusion was evident on their faces. How could our fabulous friend be besties with the help?

But as I accepted their limp handshakes and began asking questions, the energy in the room changed. "Ah" I could see them thinking, "she's the funny sidekick, the Ethel, the Laverne, the smart friend who works for a nonprofit and buys off the rack."  And then I was in.  I was so in that I got enough dirt to sink the annual fund at their private school.  I was so in I could decimate at least one woman's credit at Neiman's, and out at least 3 secret nose jobs and one pending divorce.

Before you judge, let me tell you what else I learned.  I learned that rich women are just the same as poor women.  We all love our families, worry about our kids, and think our butts are too big. While I am cornering the rat in my pantry, another woman is keeping an eye on her pet leopard in the pool. It's all the same.

When my friend opened her birthday gift from her local friends, it was a Gucci purse.  From me, it was a Vera Bradley tote and a Tshirt of our deceased high school tennis coach.  I didn't feel inadequate, because I know that my friend values both sides.  There is room for all of us in this melting pot.

The rest of the weekend was a happy mix of recaps and family fun.  We took a walk on the beach and then said our goodbyes, pledging to run a half marathon together soon. And as my plane landed back in my world, I knew that while we would never run that half marathon, we had already done something bigger and better. Like Sonny and Cher, like Simon and Garfunkel, like the Roadrunner and Coyote, we will always be connected.  I got you babe, like a bridge over troubled waters, bleep bleep.

Until next time, keep crowin' and being thankful for girlfriends!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Something Wicked This Way Comes

I don't do scary.  Not in the movie theater, not on TV, not in books, not on Halloween.  Because what happens is that I see black magic and then I can't sleep for 2 days and I am 100% convinced that Jason or Freddy or an escaped convict are going to get me.  I can't even watch ghost hunting or psychic shows because I will work myself into a frenzy, sure that there is a poltergeist or dead old lady in the hallway.

I have been a scaredy cat my whole life.  But I have never known true fear until yesterday.  It started innocently enough.  I was surfing Facebook, liking posts and reading inspirational verses.  And then, like the devil riding in on a flaming demon, was this photo, posted by a sorority sister who was doing recon for a friend.

Let me preface this by saying it is real, it is alive, and it has TEETH.  And it is not a Muppet. It was on someone's deck. And I ask you, in the name of all that is holy and good, what the HELL is this?!  Do you see it's eyeball?  It is like a little cartoon booger that  jumped out of the TV and escaped into our world.  Is it an alien scout looking for new water sources?  Is it a mutant turtle from the sewers?

Whatever it is, homey ain't playin'.  And I encourage anyone who encounters it to run like the wind.  Because it will eat your brain.

Until next time, keep crowin' and wear closed-toe shoes at all times!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Inappropriate Laughter

"If we couldn't laugh we'd all go insane." --- Robert Frost & Jimmy Buffett

I will start at the end of the week, with the death of my husband's uncle. He was hospitalized shortly after he and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a surprise vow renewal ceremony. They never had a proper wedding, because his aunt became pregnant at 17 and his grandmother had to sneak the young couple over the state line for a secret rendezvous with a justice of the peace. My husband's mother, then just a teen herself, played the piano during the nuptials.

So they got married, had a son, and then Uncle lost a testicle.  I know this because when I met my future husband's grandfather, this was the first thing he said to me. After the shock wore off, I realized this was his way of welcoming me to the family. That story still makes us all laugh until we cry.

There is nothing better, in my opinion, than a full-body, completely-in-tears, mouth-open-without-sound, snorting, laugh fest. You can't force it or plan it, but it is such a gift when it comes.

I had one of those moments this week. My company put on a conference, with a former US Surgeon General as the keynote speaker, which required me to work around the clock, getting signs and booklets and last minute emergencies handled, asking printers to do the impossible and then finding out they would be happy to if only their machine hadn't just broken.  Fingers crossed they'd find the right part to fix it (smiley face)!

Once the conference was up and running, the staff was required to be downtown at 7:00 a.m. This was utter hell for me. Waking up at 5:30 a.m. was like coming out of an alien cocoon to discover I had been turned into a zombie. By 4:00 that afternoon, my co-workers and I were coasting on fumes. As we gathered at the registration table and waited for the last workshop to end, we regaled each other with stories:

Me: "This lady from the "majorgovernmentorganization" sat on the snack table for the session I moderated, and when she tried to get down she fell flat on her face and then ran out of the room."
     Giggle giggle!
Co-worker G: "I fell once in middle school - my backpack was so big I went down face first and it went over my head.  And no one helped me up.  I just laid there for a really long time."
     Ha ha ha!
Co-worker B: "I remember being so embarrassed when I was talking to a boy while walking out from lunch and he didn't tell me there was a wall and I hit my face and my teeth fell out.  And we were so poor I couldn't get new teeth for 5 years."
     Um, heh heh, well, ok.
Co-worker D: "You know B, that's not an embarrassing story."
Co-worker B: "It's not?"
Co-worker D: "No.  You always tell these stories that you think are funny, but they are actually sad."
Co-worker B: "Well, what about the time that my twin and I got in a fist fight with a girl for calling us bastards, and then our momma broke it up and asked us why we were fighting and we had to ask her what bastard was. And she said it's someone who doesn't have a father.  And then we said, but we don't!  That's funny, right?"
All Of Us: "No, it's very, very sad."

And it went from there.  We laughed about Debbie Downer, we guffawed about Co-worker J who wanted to go to the hotel bar to pick up an aging doctor from the oncology conference (she likes old men's butts that form a little triangle) and we became completely unhinged when the photographer we hired stopped by to say hi and Co-worker J was so worked up she started unconsciously stroking the camera lens which hung at his waist.

We were delirious - tired, stressed, overworked, underpaid, and desperate for relief.  Tears rolled down our cheeks and some of us might have wet our pants. It hurt so good.

At the wake this weekend, I hope my husband and his uncle's family and friends can find those moments - when the pain and grief give way to the joy of good times remembered.  And maybe a chuckle or two.

Until next time, keep crowin' and laughin'!  And God bless the memory of Uncle Tom.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Delightful Words and Phrases

I had inside bank business today.  I had to get my notary renewal notarized so I can keep notarizing forms for a neighbor and get my ATM card linked to my savings account.  This would usually warrant a meeting with a personal banker, but she was super busy with a very important man in a suit with a briefcase, so I was assigned to a teller.

While I was waiting for the teller to process things, my eyes took a tour around her cubicle.  And there, taped to the fabric wall, was a 3rd generation Xerox copy of  "Delightful Words and Phrases" by Bank of America.


It then became my job to see how many I could elicit from Teller Angie.  I couldn't read them all due to my aging eyes, but I saw enough to know that "Absolutely" and "I understand" were part of the repertoire. She hit a few; I was impressed.

I have been known to turn a word or phrase.  Sometimes they are Carson-show caliber quotes, sometimes it is Kathy Griffin gutter talk. But I am always delightful.

Like today, in the grocery store parking lot.  An able-bodied woman in a van cut a hard right in front of me to get a handicapped spot.  And then backed up at me to realign.  Which cause me to jump back and let my grocery cart roll over my bunion.  I stood for a moment and gave her the "You done?" look, and then pushed on.  She apologized and I said "It's OK."

Why did I let her off the hook? Because I am delightful.

I was pleasant in my first post-grad school job (that's M.A., not B.S.) which paid $19,000/year, no benefits, when I told the hospitals that it was my honor to provide their on-hold messaging systems.  I was pure joy when as PR Director at a prep school I forgave the past-due football ad payments of celebrity-TV judges' kids.  I exuded mirth when a crony for my current boss' ex-husband fired me from a major TV network by asking "What is it exactly that you do for us?"  I was a model of happiness when dealing with fellow Christians who needed mission brochures yesterday and then brought me apology bath salts after they yelled at me in staff meeting. I was simply giddy when the boss from hell told me that I was her first problem employee in 65 years.

What I am trying to say is that I felt Teller Angie's pain.  Often in our lives, we have to put on a happy face, either because we're being paid to, or because we are on auto-pilot for the high road.  So, I smiled broadly, thanked her profusely, and wished her a good day.


Sometimes being nice is a bitter pill to swallow.  But most of the time, it is the right and Southern Lady thing to do.  And it feels good to be right, especially if someone else is really, scandalously, obviously, wrong.

Until next time, keep crowin' and be sweet!