Monday, September 27, 2010

These are the days...

Autumn has found us, at last. It's time for homecomings, fall festivals, bonfires, school jackets, and marching season. It's also when I long for something I can't quite pin down, and never could.
I've been trolling around the band contests this fall by myself, because my most likely partners-in-crime for this activity are either engaged elsewhere (one friend's nephew is in a band that competes in a different area of the state) or employed by one of the bands (he popped his head out of the press box for about ten seconds last Saturday night, and that's all I saw of him). It will continue like this until Halloween weekend, which is also state marching finals. That's just how it is, and I'm not complaining, although I do get a little lonesome up in the stands. I guess that's more or less in my head, since parents from the other bands don't realize I don't have a child of my own competing. I just don't want to drift too far into trying to relive my glory days vicariously...because that never really works.

Being single and at loose ends again brings with it a special kind of wistfulness about this season- it's usually the time of year during which I'm most likely to be alone. Like most people, I have this ridiculous laundry list of the things I'm looking for- one of the items on mine is finding someone who's as taken with a really great harvest moon as I am...a few times when I was living back home, I drove out to watch it rise over the lake. I'd like to have a date for Halloween (and for marching finals) just this once. I'd like to enjoy the fall.

There's one of those little "like" applications floating around on Facebook at the moment about hoodies and bonfires and hayrides, all the cute fall datey-typey-stuff. That sounds just swell, but they all hinge on having a date. Frankly, I'm kind of tired of not getting to do those things- although no immediate solution appears to be on the horizon. It's always been a bit beyond the pale for me to expect my friends to fix me up- I think I've mentioned how "unique" (read: weird) I am, so I don't think any of them have a handy geek up their sleeves. I wish I knew what to do. If anybody has any ideas, I'm open to suggestions at this point.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lyrics, Quotations, and Disappointments

I'm one of those people who get song lyrics and random quotations stuck in my head. Yesterday, it was The Eels' I Need Some Sleep from the Shrek 2 soundtrack. That's probably my favorite movie soundtrack of all time, and I have long been in love with the Shrek series for the simple reason that I can really identify with the characters' confusion, sense of alienation, and desire to find somewhere that they fit in. I was a little tired yesterday and had a lot on my mind, and wouldn't you know that I noticed something this morning that made The Eels even more appropriate.

One of my all-time favorite movie quotations is from When Harry Met Sally: "I am not your consolation prize." That's one I've used before, and one that I'm feeling acutely today.

All my life, I've been pulled in and out of relationships of various type and degree based on my utility. I'm the female friend everybody turns to extensively when romance hits the rocks or there's nothing better to do than talk to me. When there's a female of greater romantic interest in play, or I'm not cool enough to be acknowledged, well, there's a dusty little corner right over there in which I can hang out until my number comes up again. I've got a bad habit of liking people too much to just cut them loose when they do this to me, especially because I have a hard time making friends. I don't have a lot of margin to blow people off, although I wonder how others believe that they do. I also learned a long time ago that allowing anyone to even vaguely know I might be attracted to them would lead to humiliation of one form or another, so I'm usually more circumspect than of late. My mistake.

One of the reasons I maintain a fundamental identification with the people whom I knew growing up is that we are from a tiny enough place that we're almost too well-acquainted with one another's foibles. We drift in and out of each others' lives, but we always seem to come back to a single point: we grew up together and we can more or less trust each other. The culture in my hometown has its weak points to be sure, but we had a pretty good value base. It bred some stout character in most cases. Finding people who live up to that has been difficult at best. In that sense, I am a bit on the parochial side. Besides, if you don't let people in, they won't have an opportunity to let you down...

I trust my family, and by that I mean my extended family, absolutely. I trust my best friend absolutely. There are a number of my childhood friends whom I also trust absolutely- and I would trust Hopkins with my life. I just wish that I could find a few more people worthy of that kind of trust. I'm just so infinitely weary of such casual disregard.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Frost is (not quite) on the Pumpkin

Well, it's a little more than a month until Halloween. The state marching band prelims and finals are on Saturday, October 30th, in Louisville, so I have an idea of where I might be then. Problem is that I may have to attend finals in costume...I can't drive in the boots I'm probably wearing for that and I have to have help putting them on. It's a long story, but I was Goth in high school and it's the only time I can overtly air that persona now without getting a lot of strange looks.

The great thing about Halloween is that I can be somebody else for a night- I can create an altered version of myself that has enough confidence to get out there and roll with it. I remember going to a gay bar in the Big City a few years ago as a Fifties Poodle skirt girl, with my friend as my poodle- complete with leash. We passed out business cards all night about my AKC Standard Poodle standing at stud (well, it was a GAY BAR and he was single at the time), but in the end, we just weren't naked enough to bring home a prize. It was also so crowded that we gutted it out for three hours or so and then headed out to Denny's to decompress before going home.

That's really the last time I went out for Halloween. Last year, it was my parents' Golden Anniversary, so I went home and answered their door all night. I'd probably be there again if it weren't for my marching band plans...my buddy the poodle has a partner now, so I am a hag sans fag. Let's just say my social opportunities are a little constrained at present.

Last year, since I was going to be home, I didn't dress up for work. The best costume was probably the year that I wore a leather corset (a real one, not one of those cheap cinchers from a cheesy lingerie shop), ball skirt, and a purple cloak that concealed the whole thing until I got inside and unveiled- the pictures from that day became part of the library's reading promotional campaign the next year. I did look pretty good, actually. Year before last, though, I donned a Civil War gown and gave it my best Melanie Wilkes. Great costume, but it kind of wore me rather than the other way around.

My feelings are mixed this year. I have a contingency plan for an outfit, but I really have nowhere to wear it. I'll probably be in Louisville, but that doesn't mean I'll have anywhere to go once the last salvo is played at KMEA finals-

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Flying Into Windows

My social awkwardness is really catching up to me again- I should get out among people more, but I'm profoundly backward. I'm not good at intiating conversation, and if I do, I honestly don't know when to shut up. Most people who know me think I'm really outgoing, but the truth is I'm not. I have an extremely well-devloped coping mechanism that allows me to fake it.

Case in point is the band contest last night...after I was left to my own devices in the stands, I could've gone over and sat with my sister's best friend, or moved down with some of the alumni who have children in our band. Instead, I noticed a band grandparent who is a retired teacher from back home. I identify with her as one of the band moms from my era, so I sort of made myself go down to sit by her; I figured she wouldn't mind, and she knows my little "people problem". I kept up a steady stream of chatter except during the performances, and bless her heart, she was supremely patient with me about it. I wonder sometimes if people understand how important that is to me.

I wish I didn't always feel like I'm an afterthought or a burden. It's pricking me now for another reason- a phone message from my sister, who is at our parents' this weekend. Her birthday is Monday. One of the strange ways I express myself toward others is by being very meticulous about gift-giving; I have two presents for her, both carefully chosen, that I don't feel like taking to her now. I will, eventually, but she frequently rebuffs me in favor of her friends, almost never answering my calls, and then leaving messages about how she can't hang out with me because she's going home to spend time with her family.

This time, I called back and left her a voicemail: "Dammit, I'm your family, too!"

Yes, I'm lonely. There's the bottom line. My own sister can't be bothered to spend any time with me because I don't count as family. I really wonder what will happen someday when it's just us, and I remember her telling me on her wedding day that I was responsible for our parents because she had her own family now. Fact is, I bore the living hell out of my parents, and as intelligent as I'm supposed to be, they give me no credit whatsoever for knowing it. I love them, but I hate being around them because I know I'm the fifth wheel.

I hate always being underfoot, so I try (and usually fail) to make myself "useful". I scrub toilets, I do laundry, I go shopping, and attempt to stay out of everybody's hair. It would be a lot easier if I lacked the fundamental human desire to have social contact. Why in the hell couldn't I have had a clearcut case of Asperger's? Then I wouldn't care about any of this...

My Other Home

I've written a little about my mother's hometown and family farm, which were about a hundred miles from where I grew up, and also about Smalltownland, my own hometown, which is almost smack in the middle of the Great Commonwealth of Kentucky. One of the things to which I haven't made much reference is the huge amount of time I spent about forty-five miles away from home in a town called Glasgow.

My beloved uncle-by-marriage was a native of Glasgow, and following his service in the Air Force, graduation from Western Kentucky University, and marriage to my aunt, he returned there with her to start both his business, a successful interior design firm, and a family. Ironically, my father didn't like him originally and opposed him as a suitor for my aunt. They became as close as brothers, and no one mourned his death at forty-eight from a heart attack more than my father.

When I was an infant, Uncle Paul purchased an English perambulator or pram, one of those hooded baby carriages, for my use when I visited them. A few years ago I struck up a conversation in a surgeon's waiting room with a man from Glasgow, and asked him if he knew any of my three first cousins. He got very quiet, and then he said, "You're the baby girl! The baby girl they used to wheel up and down the street in the baby carriage!" He was their next-door neighbor, and a classmate of the oldest cousin. People knew me for that, and because I was the little girl who haunted the display window and upholstery shop at the design firm.

Tonight, when I arrived at Glasgow High, I was greeted by signage that startled me a bit: Hank Royse Stadium. Hank was Uncle Paul's brother-in-law, and the longtime "Voice of the Scotties"- and indeed, someone I knew very well. When the band contest sponsorships were read, I picked out the names of my cousins' friends, or the children of my aunt and uncle's friends, and the funeral home out of which my Glasgow relatives have all been buried. All of my cousins marched in the Scottie Band, and it was due to their badgering and my aunt's that my father relented and allowed me to join the Smalltownland High School Band. Their director was the stuff of legend, and his portrait hangs inside the Barren River Lodge just to the left of the entrance; after retiring as band director, he went on to be mayor of Glasgow for several terms. The first time I saw that portrait, I caught my breath, because I knew Honeycutt- and my uncle designed that lodge. It was a perfect storm of remembrance and loss...

Uncle Paul is buried in the Glasgow City Cemetery near old Glasgow High, from which he graduated. He died in 1978, when I was nine, and sometimes when I was living at home for my previous library job, I'd drive over in the evening to visit his grave. No one in my family knew about this, and I've never written or spoken of it to anyone until now. He thought I was the smartest thing he'd ever seen, and I adored him. I wanted my father to be more like him, and when he died, I began to feel the loss of his moderating influence on Dad very keenly. The stress of fixing everyone else's messes took its toll; I believe that it's what caused the heart attack that killed him.

The friend with whom I was sitting earlier in the evening wandered off to attend to his duties as an instructor with one of the bands, which I suppose is just as well. I found the parents of one of my bandmates and moved down to sit with them, beginning a subtle diplomatic process to smooth over a bump in his job-seeking; it distracted me a little from the weight of the place. I connect important events and people with places, and I had long made a habit of avoiding driving all the way into Glasgow. I was happy there, once, a very long time ago, and now everyone and everything that I loved about it is gone.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Homecoming

My high school's homecoming is tonight, yes, on a Thursday, due to the various activities surrounding Cow Days, our local fall festival, which begins tomorrow.

In a small town, those are both major events. This is also the weekend during which numerous class reunions will take place, although a couple of classes held theirs a little earlier with somewhat mixed success. Often, folks who don't come home for the holidays will pop up in town for Cow Days just so their children can get a taste of what it was like growing up in Smalltownland. It's a point of convergence, both temporally and physically, this third weekend in September.

When I arrived at SFU, those enormous homecoming corsages with the ribbons that trailed to the ground were a foreign concept. We didn't do that at Smalltownland High...you wore your Sunday clothes to the dance and you would've been laughed out of town if you'd turned up in a cocktail dress or a formal. The only people who had flowers were the girls nominated for Homecoming Queen- and corsages were reserved for female senior cheerleaders and band members on Senior Night at the end of football season in October. It was different back in the olden days...

During homecoming week, each class labored away for hours after school every afternoon, each group diligently crafting a parade-worthy fantasia from tons of chickenwire and paper napkins. My class, for some odd reason, always had a mechanical feature, sometimes motorized, on its float. Twice, we produced fully automated carnival rides- a Ferris wheel our junior year, and a carousel our senior year- along with a levered foot kicking a field goal our freshman year, and a Native American culturally-insensitively bobbing on springs in a giant cauldron our sophomore year (our theme was "Indian Soup", and it included a giant red-and-white soup can for which I painted the medallion). It wasn't uncommon for spies to travel between the various warehouses and trucking garages in which we constructed these floats, reporting their findings to the crew from their own class. No one ever sank to sabotage, although we were accused annually of illicit assistance from one guy's father...it was always a bunch of boys who monkeyed with tractors who did that part of the work.

The band's homecoming show was invariably some syrupy ballad dredged out of the music library by the band director and repeated long enough for all of the candidates to march down the fifty yard line for the crowning of the Homecoming Queen. One year, we got stuck with "Ben", an early hit for Michael Jackson from a movie about a boy whose only friend was his pet rat- those of us who had to play this treacle unkindly re-christened it "Ode to a Rat", which was the title we gave anytime someone asked what the music was for the homecoming ceremony. (I can't remember some of the others, although they were all equally gooey to the point of our wanting to gargle turpentine afterward.)

Homecoming was the only football game for which the band wasn't required to stay in the stands past the first half. We were dismissed a whole quarter early, and spent the second half either at friends' nearby houses or in the school bathrooms frantically troweling on cosmetics and using whole cans of Aqua Net to undo the deleterious effects of Band Hat Hair. Once the dance started, we'd spend about three hours hopping around like frogs on a griddle to the melodic stylings of everybody from Bob Seger to AC/DC to Morris Day and the Time- it was not a dance at my school unless the DJ played "Night Moves", "Thunderstruck", and "Jungle Love".

One of my strongest dance memories is of the elaborate pantomime that went with Prince's "I Would Die 4 U", something that haunted me as I sat through Stacy's visitation and funeral in 1996- I kept seeing his wide grin as we faced each other on the dance floor, trying to get the gestures in the order of the lyrics, and screwing up every single time. His senior year, we'd worked out matching outfits and shared a pair of my rhinestone earrings. Now I wish I had a picture, because that was something else we didn't do as much back then...we didn't take snapshots of everything, not even homecoming.

Starting tomorrow, everyone will converge on the square, a third generation beyond mine milking the fiberglass cow for Kool-Aid. Tonight, the battles of adolescence will be waged at the homecoming dance. Twenty-plus years from now, someone else will look back on it all and remember...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Moth/Flame

What is it about math/science/computer geekboys? What is this strange mojo I have over them? Why does it never work when I want it to, and functions only when I don't?

There's been a little conversation bandied about lately regarding a distinct inattention to normal social cues. For example, I have never been able to pick up on it when someone's hitting on me. I absolutely cannot figure it out for some reason, which is further complicated by the fact that your average math/science/computer geekboy isn't really good at hitting on anybody in the first place. Add to that mix a humanities/social sciences/string theory hobbyist whose social skills in that area are non-existent, and you have a recipe for incipient, creeping failure.

It happened again yesterday. The reason I figured it out after the fact is that it turns out I know the guy's brother, and have heard for years about how awkward, shy, and anti-social he's supposed to be. I mean, seriously, this guy lived in The Big City as a recluse, attending grad school sort of furtively and working in a dead-end job. His major social interaction was his weekly Dungeons and Dragons campaign, and his preferred forms of entertainment are comic book collecting and playing first-person shooter video games. He suddenly materializes out of nowhere and spends a half-hour chatting me up, and in the course of it I mentioned that I'd scored a ticket to hear Sean Carroll speak at Idea Festival. We chatted happily on the recent "debunking" of Hawking's theories on Black Hole event horizons for a few minutes before he eventually wandered off.

Since I really didn't know who he was, after he left, I asked someone (he is absolutely nothing like his younger brother, and I'd never met him, I'd just heard about him a lot). There was this "Duh!" moment followed by a slow-burn of "Oh...my...God...no..."

In the last couple of weeks, I've been chatted up by several guys who undershot my age by a good ten years. This one is a handful of years younger than I am, but I got the impression while I was talking to him that he thought I was a few years his junior. I'm about four years older. Not that it matters, since it took me almost an hour to realize that he was interested in me. Nurrr.

See, that's the downside to being a Geekette. I have all the features of geek dysfunction overlaid with female hormones. Joy. Rapture. On that note, I need some serious coffee because the realization of how slow I was on the uptake kind of kept me awake last night.

If only this worked on command. *sigh*

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Be Thankful for What You Have

The last several days have been a study in gratitude, or lack thereof.

I am always grateful for lessons that I learn, even if I learn them the hard way. I don't think anything is ever wasted, regardless of what my ex says.

Yesterday, one of my classmates posted that her physician has told her that she will eventually lose the use of her legs. We are only in our early forties. I don't know what caused it and I'm really sort of afraid to ask. I just hate it for her. This shouldn't be happening.

  • I am grateful for the use of my legs and that I do not fear the loss of it.

On Monday night, a fifteen year-old boy was killed in a motorbike accident back home. At the same age, my sister was thrown from a car, an accident that nearly killed her.

  • I am grateful that my sister survived.

One of my friends developed a serious nosebleed that continued for four hours last night. He is being treated for it today. I am prone to nosebleeds and am truly concerned about this. Something similar happened last year, so I hope that it's secondary to allergic rhinitis. My sister, mother, several cousins, academic team coach, one of the AT players I coached, and Hopkins are all diabetic, and despite having been regularly tested since I was fourteen, I am not.

  • I am grateful for my health

My aunt, who is only sixteen months younger than my father, underwent a balloon catheterization for a partially blocked artery in her heart and had three polyps removed from her colon. She nearly died back in the spring from a ruptured colon, and at the same time, their younger sister was hospitalized with sepsis related to the removal of a kidney stone. Their youngest brother's wife died suddenly while they were both in the hospital- she was only sixty, and it was completely unexpected. Despite my mother's recent health scares, they have been minor in comparison to 2007, when she was in a cardiac telemetry unit for several weeks.

  • I am grateful because it could've been so much worse. Losing Aunt Mary was a shock, but all of them might have died.

I spend a fortune on my dogs' health. A raging gastric bug that took down both of my Airedales set me back $300 and touched off a raft of correspondence with the dog food manufacturer. It took a couple of weeks for everything to settle back down, but eventually, it did. One of my rescues from last week is heartworm positive. The treatments might kill him because the worms are already present, though thankfully, his worm load is very minor.

  • I am grateful because my dogs' health problems are simple and easily cured.

My best friend lost her job a couple of months ago and is struggling to find a new one. Another friend is in danger of the business for which she works being sold and losing her job, and she has three children for whom she is the sole support.

  • I am grateful to have my job and to be employed at a level appropriate to my experience and credentials.

For it to have been a "short week" due to the Monday civic holiday, it's been jammed with a lot of stressors. I've really been fighting to keep my normal sarcasm and negativity from deepening. I read my friend Synthia's thoughts for the day and wonder sometimes when and how she got so unbelievably wise, so I thought I'd try something different and put some of what she suggests into practice.

It's a Thursday, I'm grateful, and it's time to move forward.