The Best Day Ever!

Christine has developed this habit of checking Amazon’s daily deals each night. I had no idea this was even a thing until the other night when she ordered a ukulele. This is great for me because I know I’ll get to play it. Also, I’ve secretly always wanted to reenact that beach scene from ‘The Jerk’.


Source: Youtube

So this inspired her to break out the electric practice cello. This was also ordered online and showed up with a fingerboard that doesn’t quite meet the neck and a bridge that immediately snapped. Despite my attempts at repairs, the thing is cheap and therefore doesn’t make an appearance very often. After much fussing and fretting (no pun intended), a plan was put in place. Come the next day, we were going to the music store and so began the best day ever.

Image
Source: Postcards.org

We set out at the early hour of 1 p.m., overly caffeinated and on a mission to find a new bridge. The first store was nice enough but didn’t have what we were looking for. It was the second music store where we hit pay-dirt. The clerk, however, was less than enthused with our patronage when he realized we weren’t going to pay his prices to specially craft a handmade cello bridge that would ultimately cost about half what was paid for the instrument in the first place. You see, we’re cheap. No one is putting on a concert here. Nor is anyone that I know currently in possession of a Stradivarius.  “You talking down to the two of us over what I assume is your perception as us having a lack of exacting standards is not only slightly amusing but will make me ask more of you long after we have settled on our desired purchase.” ..was what I wished I’d been able to say. In actuality, though, it was 20 minutes after we had left the store with a $20 pre-crafted and obviously used bridge in hand that I decided to mention it. It went something more like this:

Me: Is it me or was that guy kind of a dick?
C: Yeah. Screw him!

Our next stop was Kohl’s in search of an elusive piece of comfort I have been touting the merits of since I came into knowledge of it’s existence when I last visited my parent’s house. Ladies and gentlemen, I speak of the faux fur throw known as ‘The Big One’. In an apartment full of an excessive amount of pillows and blankets, this was still seen as an item that was practically necessary. Also, with the help of a sale and a rewards gift card, it was basically free to us. Again, we’re cheap!

Back home, the bridge was fitted to cello with the aid of a few well placed pieces of paper. This should henceforth be known as the duct tape and baling wire method. Christine’s finger had already blistered (from lack of playing) and been bandaged by the time she was thoroughly warmed up. I decided to take a chance.

Me: If I played some of my songs, do you think you could improvise over them on the cello?
C: Umm.. okay.

I have trouble explaining what this means to me. I think the cello is a sexy freaking instrument. It’s what drew me to her in the first place. The hope that maybe someday we could play together just casually and without judgement. It’s an odd pairing, though; the classically trained musician and the basically self taught guy who just likes to fiddle around on the guitar. So, I don’t push the issue. I have hinted in the past but at this point I have raised the expectation to such immeasurable heights that I can’t see how it could ever be achieved.

Suddenly, though, I saw a glimmer with that ukulele. A gentle suggestion that we check out a music store for a new bridge and we were on our way. Now this was the moment! With that “Umm… okay.”, we played. It wasn’t perfect. *To me, though, it sounded good and stuff.* I even recorded a couple snippets so I could show her how good it was in places and she agreed.

I must have gushed for like an hour afterwards. Even after a great dinner, relaxing on the couch under the new throw, I was still given to bouts of schoolgirl giddiness over what had actually happened and the thought that it may happen again. Hours later when the adrenaline had worn off but still left with a heady afterglow, I finally fell asleep thinking about the wise and relevant words of Ice Cube, “Today was a good day.”

Image
Source: Flickr

*Edited because I sounded like an ass.

Daily Prompt: There’s No Place Like Home.

Daily Prompt: There’s No Place Like Home

If you had the opportunity to live a nomadic life, traveling from place to place, would you do it? Do you need a home base? What makes a place “home” to you?

This is a great topic as it’s something that has been on my mind lately. I have always dreamed of traveling. I am absolutely guilty of jealously staring at other people’s Facebook vacation photos. Short of being independently wealthy or having a career that would allow that sort of life, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it will never happen. More realistically, I will end up one of those guys who has saved up for years to have the dream vacation and then try to cram all the history and culture of Europe into ten days. That’s not such a bad dream either, though.

As to home, I was born and raised in Austin, Tx. Whenever I was asked where I’m from, I would always make it a point to say Austin. I would never say Texas because Austin was not like Texas to me. It was a playground growing up, being able to get on a bus and end up anywhere in the city, sometimes not coming home for days. I have been back a few times since leaving in the 2000’s and it was different. I don’t know if it was me or Austin but I know we’ve both changed. It was bigger and completely foreign to me. That cheap apartment off Town Lake is probably a rather expensive condo on Lady Bird Lake. Where once there were open fields, all I saw was parking lots and strip malls from Round Rock to San Marcus. There will always be a special place for that city in my heart but now when someone asks me where I’m from, I just say Texas.

I mentioned leaving in the 2000’s and I’ve moved about quite a few times. I have truly loved some of the places I’ve lived like Pennsylvania’s Amish Country with it’s lush fields, wonderful foods and genuinely nice people. Other places, I think I was too caught up in life and work to stop and enjoy what was happening around me as was the case with my time in Florida.

Now in North Carolina, I found myself out in a kayak the other day floating on Lake Brandt. For some reason, my mind drifted back to those Facebook photos. They were of people walking on the sunny beaches of Hawaii or overlooking some idyllic landscape from a mountain top in Europe. Here I was floating on a man made lake in rented kayak and wearing a life jacket that smelled of mold and someone else’s sweat. Comparing myself to other adventurous world travelers was really starting to depress me. Then I rowed up on a wild crane that took flight as we watched and a hawk flew overhead looking for lunch. A butterfly flew by my head and I just leaned back and thought, “This ain’t so bad.”

photo(9)

That’s Outrageous!!!

Sometimes, it seems like people are just looking for things to be offended by. (See: Broccoli-gate.)

I came across an OpEd in the local paper written in reference to the NY Times article about North Carolina. For those not interested in following the links, the Editor had written a cheeky scene about an elderly couple discussing the NY Times article that criticized North Carolina’s newly elected Republican led government. The gist being that the wife questioned the moves the government was making while the husband, who had not read the article, not only agreed with the new legislature but was obstinately determined to continue on in his red-state state of mind. Moreover, he mostly wanted to eat his grits in peace. I thought this was hilarious!

However, others were not so pleased. This funny little piece apparently so worked up the local population into a lather that the editor felt inclined to issue this apology. Most of which, based on the comments was not accepted or was given “TRUE” forgiveness by way of backhanded acceptance.

Image
Google always says it best!

I, again, am extremely amused because here’s the thing: They are not offended by someone coming out against the government they elected. They are not put off about another’s opinion on abortion or taking away medicaid. Not bothered by 170,000 people suddenly without access to unemployment benefits. They don’t even seem that upset by the elderly gentleman in this scenario coming off as overtly racist. No, sir, they are offended because they think it makes this great state come off as a bunch of rubes.

Image
I dare say, they are offended by the grits!

Sadly, stereotypes exist for a reason. As a transplant to this region, I was initially charmed by North Carolina. It’s beautiful scenery from the mountains to the outer banks and it’s colorful history. Especially, here in the Piedmont which once served as a shining “beacon” to civil rights. (The most well known being the sit-in at the Woolworths counter.) In my time here, I have even met a former District Attorney who had the gall to try the Ku Klux Klan for murder of members of the Communist Workers Party. (I found this on Google.) Even though he failed to convict these murderers, I have read that this led to the dismantling of the Klan in the state.

So after living here for some time, a realization has come over me and it’s one that I think underpins these opinions people have about us rather than disproves it: In order for you to have these great moments that right egregious injustices, you have to have a whole lot of egregious injustices! If you’ve got a D.A. that has to go up against the Supreme Court to try a gang of gun toting racist thugs, there are probably a lot of gun toting racist thugs around. I have never read a news story about four black men that sat down at a lunch counter and just got served lunch.

The point is that both the NY times and the Editor in question here got it absolutely right. If you want to be offended, then live a life that affects change and stop crying because someone made you look silly. You look silly because you live in a place that IS being silly.

The Visit. Or Staind, in A Flat.

Christine’s sister is coming to town. In the two years we’ve been dating, there have been multiple scheduled visits and threatened re-locations to our side of the country but none that actually bore any fruit. A few times a year, I’ll hear the second hand news that she’s talking of visiting again and C will be stressed for a little while before dismissing it entirely as just something we say like, “How are you?” It’s idle chatter with no intention of ever following through. I, for my part, try to be reassuring (but in retrospect have been possibly dismissive) with my “She can’t be that bad.”. Until last week, that is, when during the late morning coffee and news, the ominous text arrives. C’s face drops and all she says is “Shit.”

I have cleaned the house for two days, taking particular note of things that would otherwise be passed over: base boards, sink handles, the top of the vent hood. I even washed the mat under the trash can. I have rearranged the pantry. I have spent $125 on groceries and planned specific meals to show culinary aptitude and entice the senses. She’s scheduled to arrive at 7:30 p.m. and this is the first time we’re meeting. I really want this to go well and after three days of prepping I think I’m comfortable and ready. So, we wait….

Around 6:30, we begin to prep dinner. The wind has started to blow and the rain is threatening. There’s a storm coming from the west. Around 8:30 we eat, having put it off as long as we can. The weather alerts start; flash flooding, severe storms but it’s just sprinkling outside. The storm is not here yet. Close to 11pm, she arrives, dogs in tow. We greet each other and set about the task of unloading a month’s worth of clothing and supplies that have been crammed into a sedan for a four day visit. All of which immediately explode over an uncharacteristically very organized one bedroom apartment. The smaller dog immediately pees on the mat under the trash can.

Between frequent bouts of boorishly standing in the middle of the room staring into her smartphone and commenting mostly to herself (but in the attention-seeking visceral-reaction-feigning way of a fifteen year old), food and drink options are discussed. Dinner long being put away, it’s decided that a midnight tour of downtown is in order against C’s objections. It’s Monday night and most of downtown is closed but we find a patio that is at least serving drinks. The sister has wine, C has water and I, a coke. Halfway through the second glass of wine, the first challenge occurs:
“Do I make you nervous?”
– Okay, we’re opening lines here. Be it an asinine way to begin, we’re cutting to the quick. Now is the chance to plead my case.-
I quickly explain that, of course, I want to make a good impression and that I care about what C’s family thinks of me. (Any sensible man should know you don’t come between a woman and her family. It never really works out well.)
A brief speech ensues about how I will be judged scrupulously and harshly.
-Fair enough.-
*She tries to figure out how to Snapchat herself on the now dark patio.*

Day two:

The apartment has essentially been divided in two. The bedroom with our cat and living area for the dogs, bursting suitcases, ice chest, violin?, Etc. As we are making the morning coffee, the sister awakens to check her Facebook/Snapchat/whatever. She then proceeds to let loose a flurry of curse words over some perceived slight on social media just begging us to ask, “Oh, what’s wrong?” We do not oblige. Nevertheless, we are treated to a twenty minute explanation. The rain has also arrived.

We return to the restaurant from the previous night, as we have promised the calamari is the best in town. During the ride, we are treated to a dialogue turned soliloquy that sounded to me something like:
“Based on ‘The Bell Curve’those of US with higher intelligence just think differently. WE are a little bit crazy… Me. Me. Me. Something elitist. Me. Me. Me.”
– Man, I’m glad I’m riding in the back. Any one else get the impression I’m not a part of this “WE”. Wait, aren’t you a waitress?-
I would never, of course, say that out loud.

During and after our meal, I continue to try to bond:
“I, too, worked in food service as a younger man.”
*She orders wine.*
and break the ice:
“I read a report that says that the American intelligence quotient has dropped an average of 15 points because of social media.”
*She checks Facebook.*

At some point in the morning the conversation of substance use had come up and C put her foot down saying, “I don’t want you to get drunk while you’re here. No liquor and no marijuana in North Carolina.” I was impressed. She was calm but firm about her expectations. So, when C and I returned from the store with yet more ingredients for tonight’s dinner, she turned to me.
C: “What’s that smell?”
Me: “It’s marijuana.”
C: “What?”
Me: “Weed.”

Day Three:

It’s raining. It is pissing down. but the beast sleeps. Something we were able to ascertain during the ubiquitous ramblings about herself that she does not do. We decide to be quiet and let her sleep. She must need it.
-11:00 am…
12:00 pm…
1:30. 1:30 fucking pm. I cannot just sit in this room. I am showered. I am caffeinated. Damn the rain! Let’s go. Let’s go anywhere and I will buy you lunch. Just let her sleep and LET’S GO!!!-

The sister’s phone buzzes. A tired claw stretches from it’s blanket lair on the couch to snatch at the foul thing and stares red eyed at the screen... Okay that was unnecessary. She sits up and searches her phone for whatever post has somehow referenced her on whatever site. All available space being taken in the living room, I set up with my laptop at the kitchen bar and prepare myself for the long awakening. It starts again…
“Fuck that! She only knew him for six months!… Me. Me. Me. …based on the bell curve…. Me. Me. Me. Bach in A minor. Me….”
And then it happens. She looks right at me, dead in the eye and says, “Didn’t you say YOU PEOPLE’S IQ has been dropping? It’s just disturbing…”

-Bam. Done. Floored. I have just been slammed by the smartest waitress in the Midwest. Oh, FUCK this!!!! Stop. Breathe. Take out the trash. Just walk the fuck away.-
C must have seen my mouth open or something because she comes over and apologizes.

Later in the day, my resolve has returned. My efforts will be redoubled. She mentioned her car door does not open from the inside. I fix it. We common folk are good at that kind of thing. She mentions her dogs are stressed out and have not eaten. A few kernels of cat food on top of their own and they quickly finish their bowls. She plays violin. I throw out a few bars of Greensleeves on guitar and she takes the bait and plays a bit of it herself. I can do this! It’s happening!

But, alas, it was not to be. During the course of the night, I offered an opinion on a sensitive subject and was quickly and unceremoniously shut down. I went for another walk. In the rain. Being eaten alive by bugs, my clothes sticking and the weather so hot and humid that even under trees away from the rain I was still soaked from my own sweat. I was wrong. My advice was not warranted or wanted and on my return I would say just that. But for the time being, I would just walk in the rain.

Day Four (Independence Day):

The sun is shining! There are fireworks tonight. A matinee is planned for Man of Steel 3d. Today will not suck! A new tactic is devised. Noise is made. Conversations in the living room. Blinds are opened to let that sweet, sweet sunshine in.
10:30 am…
11:00 am…
12:00 pm. The TV goes on to watch the news.
She rises. It starts to rain.

Now I swear this happened:

  1. She takes the first shower of her stay. The sun comes out.
  2. We all go to the store together. It starts to rain.
  3. At the movie, I step out for a smoke and restroom break. The sky is completely clear. Warm, sweet sunshine. I take my time with my smoke.
  4. We all walk out of the theater together to the car. In the rain.
  5. We decide to grill kabobs outside, the rain having stopped. C and I sit outside in the sun while the sister sits inside checking Facebook. As she finally walks out to join us, fresh glass of wine in hand, the sky opens up and pours on our heads.

The rain eventually clears up enough to let us enjoy the fireworks from the top of a parking garage downtown though the lightening was nearly constant in the distance. I seemed to be the only one who noticed. To her credit, the sister actually watched some of the display between playing on her phone, taking “selfies” and playing some music which went nicely with the show. Today, was indeed, not sucking by comparison to the past few!

Back at the apartment, we were settling in for the night. A few crude comments had been made during the day so I was feeling rather safe with a bit of low brow humor when someone said, “..I’d be okay with it if I didn’t have to put anything in my mouth.”

-Okay, now in any other situation this is freaking golden. This is the setup of a lifetime! Everyone will have a chuckle. It will be “Well played, sir!” and I may even get a pat on the back. But I’m smarter than that, right? I know just what to do.-

I raised my hand and danced giddily, waiting to be acknowledged like the only kid in class who actually knows the answer. Once acknowledged, I simply lowered my hand, declined to proceed in deference to company present and grinned like the cat who ate the canary.
– There! Who among you could find fault in that? –

Ah, but no! It was immediately inferred what I may have been eluding to and taken the step further by assuming it was a dastardly act committed on one’s own sibling! I was quickly tied to a tree, flogged mercilessly about the body and fit to be hanged tongue-lashed thoroughly and with much effect.

I walked again. In the drizzling rain. I just kept walking. All the things I wanted to say blasting my brain and propelling me forward and away. I would find a hotel. I would just stay away. I had tried. It had long ago occurred to me that I did not fit in. I am not classically trained in ANYTHING. I have never had my IQ tested. There are no letters after my name. There are even times I’m forced to use Google to stay in the conversation (discreetly, of course). Some clubs just don’t want you to be a member, after all. Among all of these revelations one major thing shone like a beacon out of the anger that clouded my mind: I didn’t bring my ID.

Forced to return, I found everything quiet. No one was upset. This was standard practice, it seemed. Having defeated the foe in battle over the egregious insult, the victor could happily sit on the couch and resume checking her phone and working on the bottle of wine. I, on the other hand, had clearly silently slunk away to lick my wounds. I was dumbfounded. I retreated to the bedroom. Vanquished.

Ultimately, the conversation had to happen. I, of course, being the only one with any real stake in the outcome would have to initiate. And so it was.

Me: You don’t like me and I don’t like you and I hope some day that will change.
Her: I’m an insulting little person and have to have the last word with an extra dig at you.

Well close enough.

This morning the sun shone and she packed her car and drove away while I started typing my latest post.