Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ghosts

In mulling over a situation in which one of my friends has found himself, I'm forced to consider the dangers of nostalgia.

I think there's a moment in everyone's past to which he or she can point and say, "Oh, I was happier then, or I miss this person, or I wish I had done X,Y, or Z differently," and I know I'm kind of the queen of that. Unfortunately, this wistfulness can either lift you up or drop you on your butt like a hod of bricks.

Sometimes, no matter how much we hope or dream that we can return to our first love, or to the One True Love of our lives, and it pains me to no eternal end to say this: it really isn't meant to be. Somebody could get hurt, and that somebody may not be the person at the center of it. We're in our forties now- there are children, and in a few cases, grandchildren. There's huge potential for collateral damage. In the end, the warmth and security that we craved bleeds away into a tangled mess, leaving our most cherished memories as burnt offerings to reality. We all want to be wanted, needed, and loved. It's a basic desire...but there are those who would lead us, against our own better judgement, into horrific folly. We have the power to stop it, or once engaged, end it, but will we? Hope can be a dangerously blinding thing when it's misplaced.

In the end, we ultimately have to make our own happiness- or misery. Best not confuse the two, or keep them running along separate and distinct tracks, lest their intersection be our undoing.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Smoke and Mirrors

I am a stress-magnet.

I had nosebleeds when I was working on my tenure folder. I had them again when I was compiling my folder for promotion to full professor. With my hernia, I get sick to my stomach and start quietly emitting small belches when I'm under duress, and let's just call it "massive gastrointestinal disturbance" when I'm completely overwrought.

We're interviewing people for a couple of librarian positions at the college right now, and when I say that this is one of my absolutely least favorite activities in the universe, I am not joking. All day yesterday, during the first round of candidates, every time we hit a break, my stomach got the better of me. Last night, I ate a copious number of Tums Ultra and went to bed, only to get back up around 3 a.m. to have a few more chalky tablets. Now I'm waiting to walk over for Round 2 of interviewees.

My stomach is in revolt again. See, I really hate committee work. I'm always made to feel stupid...and that my opinion has no value. I have to go through the motions of judging others to satisfy the obligation of participation. I'd rather be shot. It's that same old abysmal feeling of knowing that nothing that I say or do really matters very much.

I may be a full professor...but what does it mean? I still feel like I did when I was called to account for various things in front of my father: the stupid little girl whose ideas are unmerited and indefensible for one reason or another. One of the few things I miss about college is the Honors Program (one of the others is my friends) because I never felt foolish or left out.

Oh, well, onward and downward. I hope I don't throw up today.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

All You Need is Now

Yesterday at work, I was standing out by the new reception/circulation desk when a woman I'd previously directed to the testing  center walked over and said, "I hope you won't think I'm rude, but...are you (my full name)?" I blinked and said, "Well, yes, I am." Turns out that she's a distant cousin of a boy I dated in high school, and that's how she knew me. She also grew up next door to Hopkins.

That put me in a nostalgic mood of sorts. I was a big Duran Duran fan growing up, and before you laugh, I have eclectic musical tastes. I can sing most of Bizet's Carmen, know the lyrics to multiple AC/DC songs, had Blondie on vinyl, and used one of the first Walkmans in my school to drown out idle prattle with the dulcet tones of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Duran Duran recently released a new album, the first song off of which is "All You Need is Now", a paean to youthful naivete about how fast one grows up and reality sets in.

I immediately downloaded it to my iPod.

Now I'm inspired by the ready availability of Eighties-style clothing to deliberately defy the First Gay Rule of Fashion: if you were old enough to wear it the first time, you're too old to wear it the second; i.e., you will look ridiculous if you try to return to the styles of your youth when you're in middle age. I'm not thinking everyday wardrobe, though. I've decided to go as myself for Halloween- myself at 16. Since I can do stage makeup and am not afraid to wear a wig, it should be relatively easy.

Still, I don't know whether I should be happy or disturbed that people who haven't seen me in two and a half decades recognize me immediately. Have I changed that little? What about me is so immutable that it's so obvious? The moment I turn so that they can see my eyes, it's completely clinched.

Our move back into the library building is somewhat to blame for this nostalgia, since the carpet that was installed while Hopkins was a student there finally got pulled up and replaced during the renovation. I'd like him to see the building as it is now, but what demons would that put to rest when I'm such a concrete reminder of his past?

Well, if I end up pursuing the Halloween costume, I'll get someone to take pictures of it. It's the last time I plan to revisit that look...if only the rest of it were as easy to let go.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

So, You Think You Want to be POTUS?

My last name isn't that common. There really aren't that many of us. A few years ago, an incident during a trip to Salt Lake City by my mother is what tipped us to the then-not-so-much-heard-of governor of Utah.

Mom was there to do some research at the central LDS library. Upon check-in at her hotel, the snotty clerk at the desk informed her that there was a problem with her reservation because of an upcoming rock concert. He hadn't even asked her name yet. When she supplied it, along with her confirmation number, the clerk's tone suddenly and dramatically altered. A manager materialized from nowhere, magically upgraded my mother's room at no charge, and apologized more than profusely.

It wasn't until the next evening at dinner in a nearby restaurant that a server shyly asked, when Mom presented her credit card, how she was related to the governor. That unusual, yet well-known-in-Utah surname, is one that we share.

And now he's gone and hit the trail in the presidential campaign.

I can't verify, though I do suspect, given that our last name is extremely uncommon, that I'm probably related to him somehow- the odds favor it. It doesn't really matter so much, except that I'm gearing up to tolerate some teasing from now until the Iowa primary, unless Jon Junior drops out of the race before that. Now might also be an excellent time to drop my landline phone, too, because I bet every crank from here to eternity is going to be calling.

I actually like a lot of the Huntsman platform from a purely political standpoint. I'd be supporting him for ideological reasons rather than our mutual last name. I'm a lifelong Republican who has been 'without country' for a long time now...and I worry that people's dislike of his LDS affiliation will tank the campaign. Sorry, kids, whether you like Mormons or not, there are already quite a few on both sides of my family and they put their pants on one leg at a time. It was an uphill struggle for us to get our first Catholic and first bi-racial presidents, too. Who knows? Maybe it's time for a Mormon. I'd rather have anyone with some common sense than some of the smoke-and-mirrors we're hearing from the other candidates.

So, at any rate, I guess I know who I'm for now, and I'd better go order my "Huntsman for President" shirt before my cousins buy them all out!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The True Color of Death

About a decade ago, I watched helplessly as my then-fiance's paternal aunt made a play to be named his father's sole heir. She conned a dying man into signing over his new SUV "because I have to take Charles to all of his doctors' appointments", buying her a new cherry dining room suite and an oak suite that she inherited at his death (that was actually in the expensive apartment she forced him to rent near her Lexington home). Her intention was to prove that his son, who had a full-time job, wasn't "doing his duty" and therefore was not entitled to his father's estate.

I have never been more proud when it turned out that what she'd conned his father out of was all that she was getting...and that he'd also squirrelled away a significant amount of cash to get his son a new car and pay for essentials until the estate could be probated...in an account known about only by his attorney. Auntie Dearest was fit to be tied. She was determined to rob her nephew, an only child, blind, for her own gain...and moreover, she felt entirely justified in doing it.

(Just as a point of further reference, she ditched her senior Yorkie. Try to imagine infantile, moronic gushing with a heavy Eastern Kentucky accent: "So I can get one of them 'pixie-face' Yorkies that only weigh a pound! They're so cute and tiny!", et cetera, ad nauseum. It was all Chuck could do to keep me from killing that stupid, vacuous woman on the spot. She is one of the most amoral people I have ever had the displeasure of knowing.)

On the night of the viewing, we were in the funeral director's office discussing something, in the presence of Auntie Dearest. His maternal aunt, who at the time we believed to be more trustworthy, was also there. The man asked for a check to cover the casket flowers, horribly expensive out-of-season purple irises (chosen by Guess Who)- and Auntie Dearest whipped out her dead brother's checkbook. Chuck's maternal aunt strode forward, plucked it from her hands, and gave it to their nephew, stating: "The moment that Charles died, Chuckie became the executor of his estate. You have no right to this." Believe me, it was almost a knock-down drag-out, but thing was, she was right.

The next day at the funeral, Auntie Dearest and her brood took the front pew at the church by force, relegating us to the second pew- an unheard-of breach of funeral etiquette- and once again, she felt perfectly within her rights. She did the same thing at the cemetery, taking the chairs under the canopy and forcing the dead man's son to stand outside the tent in the blazing July heat. As the Disabled American Veterans finished the twenty-one gun salute, she rose to accept the folded flag, and God Bless the DAV, because that old soldier looked her dead in the eye and said: "No, ma'am, that's for his son." I thought her head was going to explode.

Once again, his family has pulled a fast one. The aunt who once stood up for him has executed a couple of really nasty turns since that day eleven years ago, the latest of which involves not calling Chuck when her son, who had spina bifida and was just about the only relative he had left whom he trusted, succumbed at last to the disease at the age of 44. Chuck found out from reading the obituary column in the local paper. He called me in hysterics at 2:30 in the morning, and it makes me want to go to Prestonsburg and slap the hell out of his aunt.

Over the years, dealing with his extended family has been quite an education. This is not how it's done where I come from, and I am absolutely sick with it that this man, who is an orphaned only child, has been absolutely lionized by vicious people on BOTH sides of his family. Now that Buddy is gone, he only has two cousins left out of a very large family to whom he speaks. It's disgraceful, and that's the absolute least I can say about it.