Hands

Tonight was my bi-weekly dinner with Lil’B.  When I picked him up, he was bundled up in more layers than I ever remember seeing him in; with a fleece hoodie over his shirt, a thick puffy vest over that and a knit cap on his head, he looked like a longshoremen on his way to the docks.  I was informed he had been sick and was still getting over it. He told me he didn’t go to school on Thursday and Friday while he was sick and I asked him what he did during that time.  He, of course said, “I don’t know.”  I asked him if he played video games and he said no. Then he told me that he watched movies.

I said, “That’s a good way to pass the time while you’re sick.  What did you watch?”

“On Thursday I watched Elmo in Grouchland,” he told me, ” and on Friday, I watched Rio.”  The boy has watched Rio a thousand times so I didn’t spend any energy on that, but I was amused because he watched Elmo.

I told him, “That sounds like fun! I really like Elmo.”

“Me too.”

We went to this little restaurant in Alameda, called The Red Onion (It claims to be “The Original The Red Onion”), which sadly didn’t turn out very well.  The food wasn’t too bad, but the service, location, service, ambiance, service, and prices… and service, were not great.  Plus they don’t take credit cards which I didn’t know until we were already seated and looking at the menu.  They take cash or ATM (with a $.75 service charge.)  That’s just ridiculous.  And Shifty.  Anyway, we had a lot of downtime while we were waiting for anyone to notice that we were in need of some sort of service or other.  (It happened multiple times.)

There was a plasma screen TV on the wall which was showing Space Jam and he was entranced.  This is the reason I enjoy hanging out with Lil’B.  I like kids movies and with him, I get to watch them.

Lil’B had spaghetti which, for a while, he was eating one noodle at a time, getting the end in his mouth and then slurping in Lady and the Tramp style.  I watched him do this a couple of times and chuckled.  I’m pretty sure that, as an adult influence, I was supposed to tell him to stop and eat the spaghetti properly, but, you know, I fail at adult influence…  At least I do when the kid is being funny.  The thing is though, as I watched him slurp the noodles, I also noticed that they were hitting the front of his hoodie.  There wasn’t nearly enough sauce on the noodles for my taste and the noodles were fairly clean, but I spoke up anyway, telling him that he was going to get his shirt dirty.

He put his fork down, picked up a napkin and looked down at his shirt front.  He couldn’t see any sauce, so he pulled the front of the vest apart more so he could get a better look.  Then he pulled the front of the hoodie, where the zipper was, apart so he could look at the metal.

And that’s when I saw it.  Something I hadn’t watched for.  Something I hadn’t anticipated, though, I should have because it was inevitable.  This little boy, who watched Elmo and Rio while he was sick and was so engrossed in Space Jam while we ate…  This little kid who still doesn’t ask for what he wants and just goes with the flow…  The spritely young thing that doesn’t even stand as tall as my chest…  Has grown up hands.  I don’t know when I last really paid attention to his hands, but I know they were tiny little things with bad hang nails and gnawed, ragged edges; scrawny, clumsy, short little things.  And now, his fingers are long and slender, controlled and strong. His hands are grown up hands and it seems like it happened over night.  It’s just one more sign that his “little boy” days are numbered and before long he’ll be a young man.  I can’t believe it!

The No Good, Very Bad, Terrible, Awful Night, That Turned Out Pretty Okay

Once I finally got out of the house yesterday, things went less than smoothly at first.  I started out in bad shape because the only thing I had to eat all day, up to then, was two pieces of toast with peanut butter and honey at about 11:30 in the morning.  I was pretty hungry by the time I left the house and my head was starting to hurt.  I sent Michelle a text to verify my suspicions, saying, “Would it be safe to assume that there won’t really be food for a while?”  Historically, I show up “on time” for these events and they’re still thinking about preparing to start getting ready to start making food.  It is what it is, and because I wasn’t feeling great I knew I had to take measures to accommodate that.  Michelle never answered my text but I took that as a yes.

I went to the Pet Store to get the cat food with little incident and I went from there to BevMo.  I know Monique, I know what she likes, and I knew that a “small” bottle of Patron tequila would make for a great gift.  The parking lot at the shopping center where the BevMo is located is way too small for the number and types of stores that are in it and people tend to be really selfish and rude there.  I was cut off several times just trying to get into the parking lot and into a space.

I left there and went around the corner to Target.  By that time, I was cranky and my head really hurt, so the first thing I did was go to the snack bar.  Only there were about 12 people in line and there was one employee behind the counter who was in no hurry to get anything done.  I walked away from the snack bar with a different plan.  I would buy a small Lunchable which would tide me over until I got to the party and food was ready.  I grabbed a cart and started rushing down the fist aisle of the store, but there were two individuals who were meandering along.  More than once they made like they were going to turn out from in front of me and as I’d move to go around them they would turn back out into the aisle.  Finally the guy pulled the girl aside and as I rushed past them, I heard him say in a disgruntled tone, “Let’s move so this guy can finally go around us.”  I sped on down the way, and around the corner to cut across the back aisle to the grocery department where I stopped to stock up on Diet Pepsi, both for home and for work (they had a good price on both, cans for home, bottles for work.)

Next I grabbed my Lunchable and headed over to Healthy & Beauty to get mouthwash and some pre-brush, whitening rinse (this stuff must work because every time I go to my dentist he asks me if I bleach my teeth.)  Then I headed over to the appliances for my “semi-significant (to me – and probably only to me) purchase.  I made up my mind that I was going to get a Keurig machine and I went to compare models and prices and determine which one to get.  No sooner did I stop in front of the machines than the two people from the first aisle came around the corner into the coffee maker aisle and the woman was loudly telling the man a story about a work conflict.  She was agitated just telling the story, and she used a number of curse words in the process of the telling.  They just stood in the aisle, about five feet from me as she told her friend her story, and she was so loud I couldn’t even think. So I just stood there, staring at the machines and waiting for them to get what they came for and leave.

Finally, she changed subjects and started talking about a coffee maker.  The guy said something about, “but it only makes one cup!”

She said, “Um, hello.  How many people live in my apartment?”

He said, “OK, so are you gonna get it?”

She answered, “No, I’m not gonna get it! I’m fucking broke!”

And then they walked away empty-handed, but as they did, I heard her say, “That dude is just standing there, staring at the coffee makers.”

Um, yeah!  ‘Cause I couldn’t hear myself think!!!

Finally, I decided which one I wanted and selected a box.  They have labels on the boxes saying when they were packed, which I assumed was relevant because they come with a sample pack of K-Cups so I wanted the freshest one.  I saw a box that said it was packed in January of 2012 so I grabbed that one.

The last thing I did before going to the check stand was look for a gift bag and tissue paper for Monique’s present and a card.

At last I made my way to the check stand.  My head was splitting, I was getting jittery and I was hungry.  Plus it was nearly 6:30 and while I knew the party wouldn’t be in full swing yet, it was supposed to have started at 5:30.  I had two gift cards in my wallet that I intended to use toward the coffee maker and the balance was going on my Target credit card (5% off with the card).  The other items I would purchase with my regular debit card.  The cashier rang up the coffee maker and it came up $15.00 more expensive than the tag on the shelf said.  He started to call for a price check and I glanced at the box again and realized I had put the wrong machine in my cart.  I wanted the one that makes three different size cups and I had the one that makes five different sizes.  I told him my mistake and asked if someone could go and get the right one.  They were maybe 30 feet away.  It shouldn’t have been a big issue.

The customer service manager came over and after telling her what I wanted she started calling into the radio for someone to bring up the right coffee maker, only she didn’t know what I was talking about, and whoever was on the other end of her radio didn’t know what I was talking about and I was getting flustered because I could feel that my blood sugar was getting low AND the cashier was doing a ridiculous job of bagging my items.  He rang up the birthday card and put it on the counter in front of me and then put the gift bag and tissue in a bag before lying the mouthwash and whitening rinse on top of them.  He wasn’t going to bag my six packs of bottles of Diet Pepsi until I asked him to do so,  but then he put the Lunchable into one of those bags while putting the two cold bottles of Diet Pepsi I bought, on the counter in front of me.  (I always show up at Michelle’s families house with my own beverages because I never know what they’re going to have.)

Finally, I told them to forget the coffee maker, there was just too much going on, and I proceeded to stand there and rebag my items as he was ringing them up.  After I paid for the stuff, I was heading away from the check-stand, very agitated over the experience and the Customer Service Manager, who was between there and the door, stopped me and she apologized for the confusion.  I pulled her aside and I said,”Actually I wanted to talk to you. I have to tell you, I’m a fan of Target.  I shop at Target all the time, and at a number of different stores depending on where I happen to be at the time.  This is the only store I’ve ever been to that consistently has a ridiculous line, in the snack bar, and one lone worker behind the counter taking their jolly sweet time.”  I then told her about the way the cashier was bagging my items and I told her, “I know he was disabled, I saw his crutch.  I’m not complaining that he didn’t move.  I’m not complaining that he was slow.  I get that, and it’s fine.  I’m complaining because he clearly doesn’t know how to bag stuff.  I was a cashier in high school and I was taught how to do this properly.”

She nodded her head and acknowledged what I was saying all along, and at that point she said, “I was too, and you’re right, he clearly needs some training.  I’ll talk to him.”

And it was at that point that I suddenly saw myself from the outside and realized what was happening.  I told her, “I’m sorry.  I don’t mean to be yelling at you,” (I wasn’t actually yelling) “I’m just running late, my blood sugar is low, which is why I bought the Lunchable in the first place.  I’m not normally like this, and I apologize.”  Then I said, “I actually do want the coffee maker.  Is it OK if I just leave my cart up here, I’ll go get the right one and just go through the express line?”

She said, “I understand.  I’ve had these crashes before, too.  Go sit down and eat your snack.  I’ll go get the coffee maker and bring it up to Guest Services for you.”

I must say that once I ate the Lunchable, I started to feel a little better, but what I really appreciated out of this exchange was, when I got to Guest Services to buy the coffee maker, she had told the cashier to give me 10% off.  I don’t particularly feel like I deserved the discount, but I was grateful none the less.

Finally, I got to Monique’s house for the party and the place was packed.  Music was blaring, people were shouting to be heard over the sound of the music and over the sound of other people shouting to be heard.  My head was still hurting a lot.  I was the grouch at the party.  I was torn.  I wanted to celebrate with my friends, but I also wanted to leave, but I also didn’t want to be the party-pooper who left.  Every where I stood, I was in someone’s way.  Finally, I sat on a stool and made up my mind not to move.  But then I took some Ibuprofen.  And then I ate some food.  And I had a drink.  And a friend stood there and talked to me.  And I started to feel better.

Not long after the cake was cut 2/3 of the people cleared out and it was just the core group.  I don’t know when it happened, but my headache was gone, my blood sugar had stabilized, my mood had improved…and I was having fun.

And then the most ordinary, amazing thing happened.  I had a lovely, involved, heart to heart conversation with one of the people there.  One of the extended family members, Amanda, who is eight years younger than I, (which means nothing now, but meant everything 14 years ago when I met her), has been in a relationship with her girlfriend for more than six years.   Amanda and I, talked about her relationship and her family and her experience of coming out to them.  We talked about their nebulous plans to go to New York, when the spirit moves them and the opportunity presents itself, so that they can get married.  We talked about the ludicrousness of the fact that same-sex marriage isn’t legal on a national level and the status of the Prop 8 case in the legal system.  And we talked about my family, and my experience and what things are like now.

And we connected, with no awkwardness, no discomfort, no nervousness, just open, honest, loving communication between two friends who really understood where the other was coming from.  And it was nice.

And I’m so glad I stayed.

Time Keeps on Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’

Today is not such a lazy Saturday around the ole Riggledo homestead.

I slept late, because I stayed up late (where have we heard that story before), because I stayed at work late, because I got there late, because….  Well, you get the idea.

Actually, I stayed later than I would have, because I had a couple of things I wanted to do and I had a huge chunk of my productivity time stolen away when IT came to my office to try to install my new printer, only to have the driver not work and the printer and computer not talk to each other (except for the printer to spit out 20-30 pages of error messages – six separate times) and not get resolved.  The IT guy has to try again on Monday, with the in-house Lexmark technician in tow.  (Karin, you’ll be glad to know the IT guy kept putting the papers back in the tray so he didn’t waste as much paper as he could have.) 😛

Anyway, I’ve been behind on my blog reader, spending more time on the writing than on the reading recently, so I was trying last night and this morning (afternoon) to trim that number down.  But I’ve also got four and half hours worth of TV shows on my DVR that need to be watched with another 90 minutes scheduled to be added tomorrow and those all need to be watched before bed tomorrow night, because on Monday, I finally have an appointment to have new TV service installed.  I’ve absolutely had it with AT&T U-verse and it’s finally going away.  If you’re one of the very few people who were around here long enough ago to remember my rant/diatribe about my previous attempt to replace U-verse with DirecTV and how I swore I’d never use DirecTV again…  Well, let’s just pretend that never happened and be happy for me that I’ll be having DirecTV installed in my house and all will be right with the world. (Hypocrite.)

It’s only 3:15 in the afternoon, so that probably doesn’t really sound all that stressful, but it is.  Here’s why:

Today is my friend and Michelle’s sister, Monique’s birthday (you might recall she’s the one that made this)  and there’s a party in two hours and fifteen minutes.  I have to buy cat food today and I have not yet bought her a birthday present or even a card.  I really wanted to got to Target today to make a semi-significant (to me – and probably only me) purchase.  Also, I have yet to take a shower or brush my teeth today.

Plus, tomorrow is my day to hang out with Lil’B.  Much of the day is taken up with that, not that I mind in the least.

AND, I need to clean (organize, dust, sweep around) my entertainment center, and my dresser, where the second TV is, not to mention clear a path to the dresser…

Crap!  I’ve got a lot to do.

Gotta go!

Wednesday Bonus: Friendship

In addition to the weekly fiction writing prompts on Write on Edge, there is also a weekly non-fiction or memoir writing prompt called “Remembe(red)”  (Write on Edge used to be known by a different name…”The Red Dress Club” I think it was.)

This weeks Remembe(red) prompt as about friendship.  Four hundred words exploring a friendship, past or present.

Enjoy:

 

When you walked into my life, I never thought we’d become what we have.  Me with my judgmental, depressed, unforgiving attitude.  You with your insightful wisdom and huge, open heart.  We were never meant to be friends.  How could it even work, two souls, so different from each other?

You saw things in me that I didn’t even know were there.  You coaxed them out of me, gently, cautiously.  You had all the time in the world.  You helped me to see things clearly.  Helped me to open my own heart – more importantly, my own mind – to the world around me and the possibilities that surrounded me.  You helped me to become a better person.  And the best part is you never even tried.  You did all this simply by being there, simply by loving me for whom and what I was…even when I couldn’t love myself.

I don’t know if you even realize how much you affected my life…how much you affected me.  In so many ways, I would not be the man I am now, if it hadn’t been for you.

You moved away and it broke my heart.  The emptiness I felt at your absence was too much for me to bear and when you came back the world was right again.  So naturally, I moved away and when I did, I knew I’d never see you again and it broke my heart all over again.  I knew it was something I had to do, though, for me.  I knew I’d never have you all to myself and I couldn’t hold myself back hoping that would change.

Fate brought us together again and for one beautiful day, each year it was like we had never been separated.  I cherished those days; counted the minutes until we would be together again.  Until Fate intervened again, putting an end to those days and now I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again.

I think of you often, and not just because of Facebook or Words with Friends.  I know you think of me often, too.  You are my dearest friend and I cherish our relationship, knowing that no matter what, no matter when I see you again, it will be as if no time has passed at all.  Thank you for that.

Your Gay Friend Doesn’t Speak For Me

A few months ago, a friend of mine, whom I know not to be racist or homophobic or otherwise filled with hate posted a comment on Facebook to which I took offense:

The cars with the reindeer decorations are gay. I have seen 2 today

I replied by saying that I didn’t realize cars could be gay, to which she said this one was.  I said, “Dislike” since Facebook hasn’t been kind enough to provide an “I don’t approve of this” button – yet.

A friend of her’s, someone she knows face to face (I’ve only known her through on-line interactions) responded and said that there’s nothing wrong with saying “gay”.  I agree, and I said so before adding, “it’s not OK to use ‘gay’ as a derogatory statement.”  He provided a nasty, spiteful comment that doesn’t bear repeating and that really demonstrated to me that there’s still a long way to go, even in the realm of gay’s bashing each other.  And I opted to see my way out of that conversation.  The last thing I saw before “hiding” that “story” from my timeline was a statement from my friend who said that she meant no harm by it, that she would never want to hurt me and that there was no “cause for ‘ugliness'” as a result of her comment.  She said that her gay friends have “given me permission” to make gay jokes.

The other day, after a much too long absence from her blog, she talked about “Me and my bestest queer* are going to…”  The asterisk pointed to a footnote that read, “*He allows me to call him the queer so it’s fine.”  One has to question:  Why was it necessary to point out his permission, if “it’s fine.”  Clearly my friend is aware of the potential for offense at the comment.

First, let me say that I am not calling this friend out, personally.  This is a commentary on society, which uses these two relatively recent events as examples of the issue I’m discussiong.  I’ve made a point of not naming her and I’m pretty sure she’ll be the only one who knows who I’m talking about, so let me also say that she is the only one who could out herself if she chooses to comment on this post in a way that will make it clear that she’s the one I mean…

Second, let me say that I know my friend is not a homophobe and that she does not personally harbor any ill will or negative feelings about me, or the gay community as a whole.  On the contrary, she loves us.

Third, let me say that I don’t, personally, take particular offense at the use of the word “queer”.  Webster’s dictionary defines the word queer as:  Different from the normal or expected : strange.  So, maybe I should take offense at the word, but I don’t.  Just like I don’t take offense at the word gay.  Personally, I am gay, and that’s not a bad thing.  I am not queer, because there’s nothing different or strange about me.  However, when those words are used to describe anything or anyone with a derogatory connotation involved, then those words are offensive to me.  And they ought to be offensive to you, too!

So here’s the thing.  In discussing this friend of mine and her “bestest queer” (whom she revealed to me, in a separate communication, that she refers to as “the queer”) she can call him whatever she wants in private conversation between the two of them.  If he has no problem with her referring to him as “the queer”, than more power to them.  If he doesn’t feel that saying something which she clearly doesn’t like “is gay” is a derogatory use of the word, and she wants to say it to him; more power to them.  But just because the two of them don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, doesn’t mean the whole world agrees with them.  It doesn’t even mean most of the world agrees with them.  And I’ve got news for the two of them:  It doesn’t even mean that the majority of that particular community agrees with them.

So, okay.  The two of them are having a private conversation and she wants to tell her friend that cars with reindeer decorations on them are gay, and he thinks it’s funny, but they happen to be having this conversation in the middle of a restaurant and other people hear them.  That is not a private conversation and instead of making a funny joke, they’ve just utilized hate speech.  To the people in that restaurant, they’re not two people having a joke, they’re a couple of homophobes (or at the very least, very insensitive people), using a perfectly valid word that describes a perfectly valid portion of our society and comparing them to something that is unwanted and negative.  You can make the argument that “it’s a private conversation between the two of them” if you want, but it’s not.  It’s just not.  (Certainly Facebook isn’t.)    And just like that (*snaps fingers*) It’s not “okay, because my gay friend gave me his permission.”  Your gay friend doesn’t speak for me.

But let’s take this just a little bit further.  Let’s say my friend and her “bestest queer” agree that it’s not okay to use this language in public, but they are sitting around in the “bestest queer’s” living room using gay slurs (in a “humorous way”) and making jokes in which the term gay is used in a derogatory manner and they both think it’s funny and they’re completely at ease with it.  How long is it going to be before one of them slips in public and makes one of those jokes where other people can hear (or read) them?  When you allow yourself to think of something as being okay in private, before long you start thinking it’s okay in public, too.  Before long you lose your perspective and you stop censoring yourself when it’s appropriate to do so.

Even worse!  Suppose my friend and her “bestest queer” think I’m crazy and there’s just no way they would slip up in public and so it’s okay to make there jokes in private, just between the two of them.  This friend of mine has a young son; a toddler.  If she and her “bestest queer” sit around her house behaving this way, not only are they losing their own perspective of what’s appropriate, but they’re setting the example for her son that it’s the proper way to behave, or even worse teaching him that there really is something wrong with being gay, teaching him to judge, hate or otherwise criticize homosexuality, and if he happens to be gay, there’s a good chance that he could feel shame and fear of telling his parents because it’s been portrayed as something to be made fun of.

Outsiders do not get “inside jokes”.  The people around you can not read your mind.  The only thing people can go by, in understanding your beliefs and developing a sense of who you are, is your words.  It is necessary, therefore, that you use a sense of good judgement in determining how you use certain terms in modern society.

A person can make the argument until he is blue in the face that he doesn’t mean any harm with the use of certain words, but the bottom line is, when you use a term, like say, “gay”, in a context in which that term does not fit by definition, like say, “cars with reindeer decorations are gay”, one can only go by what they hear (or read).  Webster’s dictionary defines “gay” as:  1. Merry.  2. Bright and lively, especially in color.  3.  Inclined toward social pleasures.  4.  Homosexual.  — n. A homosexual.  I don’t think cars are capable of either emotion or sexual identity/behavior, therefore, I can only assume the statement is a derogatory statement which should not be made.

The bottom line is this:  No matter what is in your heart, when you make a statement that has a negative context and you use a term that describes a particular section of society (particularly one that is already persecuted) to convey that negative context, you are, in fact making a statement of hate.

And it should. not. be. done.