Corona on Crack

Hands up.

Hands out.

Hands. Just hands.

Hands sideways.

Hands other sideways.

Hands up.

Hands up.

Jazz hands.

 

I watched the curious man perform the curious upper body routine. I was idling at a stop light, trying to covertly watch him perform this vigorous dance ritual. I nervously darted my eyes away when I thought he’d turn to face me. I didn’t want to get caught gawking and making eye contact. I didn’t want him to ask me for change.

He never even seemed to realize that I, or anyone else was watching him. He didn’t seem to really notice any part of the world around him.

dancing man

He stood on the concrete median, bare chested and beer bellied, all bare, flailing his gray-hair covered arms above and around his head. I squinted, not because of the sun, but in the way one squints when trying to really understand what is happening. Then, I squinted even harder.

And then I remembered: this man is likely on drugs.

Big cities are seemingly always hotbeds for naughty activities and Houston is no different. With all of the good things (lots of museums, shopping, sports teams) come some not so great things (an active drug scene and very, very creative drug users).

Being stuck inside most of the time is twisting my reality. A few times that I’ve been outside, I almost forgot that the coronavirus-related lock-down is happening. I also almost forgot that Houston is full of interesting characters, walking around like anyone else, except they’re actively in the grips of a wild drug trip.

I have seen people walk straight into oncoming traffic (I’ve actually seen this MANY times, believe it or not). I have seen people having sex and performing cunnilingus (Google it) in daylight. I have seen people urinating and defecating on the street. I have also seen people perform complicated, upper body only dance routines. Dare I say that the jazz hands dance was the most entertaining and the least offensive. Although, in full disclosure, I don’t have anything against cunnilingus.

I also once saw a man, wearing very expensive looking house slippers, walk in and out of a Starbucks, over and over and over again. Each time, he would perform a little jig, in the middle of the parking lot, make a twirl, and re-enter the building. I struggled to drive away; I was mesmerized by the oddity of his athletic ability coupled with his drug-induced behavior. “This man could have truly been an amazing dancer,” I remember thinking. I did not have the same sentiment about jazz hands on the median man.

The thing I thought most about jazz hands on the median man is this: it has now been 6 weeks (or longer) that I have been unable to find bleach. Where in the HELL did this guy find drugs?

Sigh.

A Coronavirus Misanthrope

I would describe myself as a misanthrope. A nice one. A nice misanthrope who actually has a few friends that I love dearly. I have always been able to entertain myself with no, or very little, interaction with other people. In the past, when I have been betrayed by friends, I was disappointed, but I never felt any life-changing pang of loss when I was no longer friends with someone. I have never felt that deep, saddening missing of someone who was still alive. I have felt deep sadness when someone dies, but a disconnection with someone who is still alive never greatly affected me. Overall, I would describe myself as not having much deep interest in other people…

UNTIL NOW.

sad gif

Oh my, my, my, how the tides have changed over the past few weeks. It’s as if the tides heard me boasting about my general, seemingly harmless disdain for other people. And then the tides all got together and conspire against me and against all of humanity, to teach a terrible, long-lasting lesson.

 

Dear tides: I GET IT. I AM SOOOOOO SORRY. WHAT CAN I DO TO FIX THIS?

fix it gif
The answer is nothing. I can do nothing.

I suppose that whenever the coronavirus-related lock downs are lifted, I should not go out into the world, continuing to boast about how deeply misanthropic I am. It turns out, that although I am still not pining over missing friends who essentially dumped me for no good reason (I’m looking at all you lames who couldn’t get over my personal decision to not drink until inebriation), I am *totally* missing friendly interactions with strangers.

waving bear gif

Do you remember those people? Strangers? The Starbucks barista that you don’t really know but somehow remembers your name. The old lady in Target that asks you where the cat food is located. The even older lady in Palais Royal whose question about which pair of shoes look better leads to a long conversation about where she is going to wear the shoes (her sister’s funeral) and why she is nervous about buying a pair with high heels (she’s nervous that the graveyard soil will be damp and unsturdy). All of these are real things that have happened to me by the way.

I also miss hanging out with my friends. I know, gosh, who doesn’t, right? I miss laughing loudly in restaurants, always saying “yes” to bread baskets, and sharing crazy stories with them. I miss people laughing at my jokes. I miss laughing at stories about other people’s husbands.

I guess some part of me likes some people. Not many people. Only a few of them. But those few people really, really, do count. I miss my people. All five of them.

*all GIFs courtesy of http://www.giphy.com*

Resilience

My Post (2)The good thing about the COVID-19 madness going on right now is that many people, myself included, are finding ways to reconnect with long lost hobbies (or people). The long lost hobby that I have personally reconnected with, if you can’t tell from the dates of my last three posts, is writing.

Writing always makes me feel better. I have journalled since I was in first grade and in the past when I’ve been especially down, reading the thoughts of a 7 year old version of myself always put me in a better mood. It’s so lovely.

Today, I wrote the following poem about resilience. I hope that reading it makes you feel a little more strong and able to continue on while the world is affected by the coronavirus.

 

RESILIENCE

3/20/20     4:08 pm

I am wind,

Flexible and free,

Present, yet unseen,

Moving, yet sometimes still

I am an energy to be felt.

I am oak,

Strong and sure

Changing,

Growing,

Enduring,

Evolving,

Adapting.

Sometimes, I forget these things.

Sometimes, I don’t remember that I am capable,

That I am resilient.

Sometimes, the reflection in the mirror appears weakened, broken, and sad.

Sometimes, I cannot see because I cannot rest.

I am the whole universe,

Experiencing this tumult, just as everyone else, just as every other universe, just as you.

Together, we are changing, growing, enduring, evolving, and adapting.

Together, we can rest, and remember. 

3 Ways Being Hood has Prepared You for the Coronavirus

My PostI am coming to you, writing this, from the comfort of my home. I imagine many of you are reading this from your homes, too.

As I am writing this, it’s lunch time and because of the coronavirus and all its nasty impacts, I am now tasked to prepare yet another of my own meals. As of this writing, I have now prepared 100% of my own meals for the past two days. My will power is dwindling and has been stretched to its limits.

Trying to avoid having to clean YET ANOTHER pot, I have decided to eat leftovers. For what I have on hand, the fastest leftovers is the dish preferred by Baby Boomer Black moms everywhere: spaghetti.

As I prepare to heat up the spaghetti, I realize that right now, in these high stakes moments, I have turned on myself, doing to myself what I said I would never do, and that is to tell MYSELF: “Self, IT’S SOME SPAGHETTI IN THERE!” when I ask myself what’s for lunch. I have heard “It’s some spaghetti in there” from my own mother many times, but never, ever, did I think I would have to say those words to myself. I prepare myself to eat the “spaghetti that’s in there” and  long for the sweet embrace of Wendy’s chicken nuggets.

So, before I begrudgingly but somehow also thankfully, “go sit down somewhere” and eat this spaghetti that was “in there”, I wanted to share 3 other ways that “hood / poor / brown / insert your own adjective here/ ghetto” people are specially equipped to deal with the coronavirus pandemonium.

Hood Advantage #1: You Likely Have Leftovers

leftovers

Image credit: https://giphy.com/gifs/Bounce-TV-comedy-bounce-3ov9jEOwe82gUOm6D6

As I have already mentioned, you probably already “got some spaghetti in there.” You might also have:

  • Some Chinese takeout from a few days ago, before that RONA got you shook
  • Some fruit that is soft, but not quite old enough for you to be afraid to eat it
  • Some more fruit that can be thrown into a smoothie that you will drink and wish was ice cream
  • Some green vegetables that you can finally use to make that recipe from the New York Times that you definitely wouldn’t otherwise make unless you just had to (shots fired at myself)
  • Lots of sauce packets from fast food places you’d really like to go to right now

Hood Advantage #2: Your Momma Already Programmed You to be a Germaphobe

germaphobe

https://giphy.com/gifs/funny-star-trek-school-3ne4TnvHYegzm

My mom has been mostly healthy her whole life (so thankful!) and this coronavirus stuff has made me realize why my mom, and other Black moms, are seemingly super people when it comes to avoiding germs and viruses: they “don’t fool with them nasty ass people.” Having a hood momma has prepared you to avoid lots of coronavirus having ass people, places, and situations.

Your mom, like my own, probably does the following things to MAKE SURE they are not, in fact, fooling with them nasty ass people:

  • Hovering over the toilet in public bathrooms
  • Washing your hands before and after you use a public bathroombecause you had to touch that nasty ass door to get in there anyway
  • Opening all public doors with a paper towel, your sleeve, or jacket hem
  • Keeping *STOCKED UP* on cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer, 24/7, 365 days per year and not just cleaning “when this corona thang is going on”
  • Keeping community sized tissue boxes in their purses *all of the time.* My own mother has given tissues to complete strangers…and then washed her hands afterwards (because although my mom is a saint, she still ain’t “fooling with them nasty ass people”)

Hood Advantage #3: You Already Know How to “Not be Tripping”

oprah

https://giphy.com/gifs/oprah-bath-relaxing-MvZKiDJmB1XEs

Look, growing up in the hood and/or poor (rich people and scholars call this being “socioeconomically disadvantaged”) is no cake walk. Many aspects of hood life require you to be thankful, gracious, flexible, and resilient. These four qualities produce people who are not, in fact, “really tripping.”

Sure, you are likely taking the necessary health precautions, but if you have been able to somehow still maintain your mental health levels so far, your hood upbringing may be to thank.

Growing up in the hood requires you to learn to sometimes just accept things as they are. Learning to accept things as they are while simultaneously not being discouraged by them, is not only a Zen Master level type skill; it’s also the entire curriculum required to pass Hood 101.

Here are a few hood examples of things that are not easily or quickly change, but despite how much these things suck, hood people continue to live, laugh, love, thrive, and “keep it moving”…

For example:

  • The police might “always be around when nobody even called they ass.”
  • They got money “for all that other shit but won’t fix these raggedy ass streets.”also, “if these raggedy ass streets was over there by where them rich folks live at, they woulda BEEN fixed.”
  • Your next door neighbors may suffer from unwarranted feelings of superiority to you aka “Susie Q nem think she better than us because ole boy she fooling with done went and bought her that old raggedy ass Cadillac.”

You get the idea.

These are all things that just have to be accepted as they are for the time being. And, thanks to your hood conditioning and magma cum laude status as a fine graduate of the hood, you’re especially capable of getting through this coronavirus shit! For real, you ain’t even trippin’ off this coronavirus shit. You’ve got your ginger ale, saltines, and your momma’s prayers…what is there to be tripping about?

Now, if you or someone you know is not from the hood, disinfect your phone and call them. Tell them that you love them. Tell them that right now, it is what it is. Tell them to don’t fool with no nasty ass people. And most importantly, tell them that there is, hidden away, in the recesses of the fridge, already SOME SPAGHETTI IN THERE!

Proof that in my house, there really was some spaghetti in there:

IMG_5895

The Return Of Spring

I have to admit that I am a lover of all things Fall and Winter.

I was born in winter; Christmas happens in winter. Many of my several people were born in winter.

And also, I live in the southern United States, so it is unbearably and miserably hot for most of Spring, all of Summer, most of Fall, and sometimes even in Winter.

I’m not a fan of the warm months that fashion magazines advertise as “so amazing” and “can’t wait for” them to come. I call horseshit.

But, there are about four days that are absolutely gorgeous in Spring, here in the South, before it is hot enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk.

And I am so lucky to have had time to go walk around in this beautiful weather this morning.

It’s about 64F , bright sun, and a little breeze. People are out cutting grass, and the scent of the chopped blades fragrance the breeze.

It’s the Spring (or is it still technically Winter?) day of my dreams.

These little purple wildflowers were not here a few weeks ago, but now, here they are, reminding passers by of the colors just waiting to burst from the ground, when Mother Nature gives the OK.

The sky is so beautiful! I could just look at it all day.

Do cherry blossoms grow in Texas? I have no idea what kind of tree this is; whatever it is, it’s gorgeous.

What is going on in your part of the world?

What beauty have you seen today?

Until tomorrow my friends…

Having a Bad Day?

I lost about six hours of work this morning.

Tech support could not help me retrieve the file.

I took a wrong turn trying to get to WhataBurger (for stress relief chicken strips).

The drive thru attendant only gave me three ice cubes.

My tea was too sweet.

I’m on the way to a long meeting with a client and now have substantially less work to show (see reason #1 above).

It’s kind of a poo day. But, my car and body are still running and I didn’t break down in the drive thru lane.

Things can be worse and some days it’ll be your turn to be stuck in the broken down car.

Get your ass out and push!

And be thankful when it’s your turn to be in the car that is running.

How’s your day going?

Until tomorrow my friends…

Caring for Others

The most rewarding things that I’ve done in my life involved doing something nice for someone else.

Many times, the recipient has been not so thankful. But, I still felt good anyway. I think it’s important to not let other people’s reactions rob us of the joy of kindness and good deeds. This is VERY hard for me to do, but I’m working on it.

I thought about writing this today because I made some meals for my elderly uncle. I cannot cook like his late wife (my aunt) but I know that he will appreciate my effort.

Do you appreciate other people’s efforts without being critical or an asshole otherwise?

I think that’s easier to do than we think it is.

When I was a kid, I hated bananas. I’ve grown tolerant of them as an adult because I put them in smoothies and the potassium makes my old body feel a little less old.

But honestly, I could never see another banana again and be fine, even happy.

But, when I was a kid, one of my grandma’s friends used to love giving me bananas. It was her favorite fruit and perhaps she thought that she was really being kind to me by offering me one.

I still hated them.

But my grandmother, in all her wisdom, instructed me to not eat the banana but to always, always take it and be completely gracious and thankful.

Eventually, I went from kind of pretending to be thankful to having a better understanding of what grace is. Eventually, my thanks was heartfelt and not at all pretentious, even though I never ate the damned bananas.

I learned to be gracious when someone thought enough of me to do something. I learned to not take the joy from them for being kind. I learned not to essentially punish people for being nice. I learned a little bit of what it’s like to not be an asshole.

And now, when I do nice things for people, I get to learn how to be on the other side of the equation. Sometimes something that I do that I think is kind is met with welcome and enthusiasm. Sometimes, it’s not. But regardless, I’m working on not attaching my feelings to the behavior of other people. I take the pleasure and reward of kindness from what I can control: only myself.

What do you think of this topic?

Until tomorrow my friends…

It Doesn’t Matter

Do you ever feel like no one understands you?

How you feel? Your humor? Your off putting affinity for skulls? Your not so secret desire to live on an island?

Do you ever feel so alone?

Maybe you share some of those feelings and maybe you have some quirks of your own that make you feel ostracized sometimes.

I can relate. Some days, it feels like “Ostracized” is my middle name.

I don’t regularly do the two seemingly most common American activities: drink alcohol and watch tv.

If I had to guess, I would say that on average, I have about one martini every 8 weeks and watch about 1-3 hours of internet videos a week. I watch no regular tv shows, even though I do plan to catch up on “The X-Files” soon.

Do you know what these facts make me? Well, they make me almost a social pariah.

People are so strangely uncomfortable when I tell them I don’t drink much and I watch almost no television. They think that I’m odd, and technically, they’re right.

I feel odd and I feel misunderstood.

I use the examples of television and alcohol as somewhat light hearted examples, but I’ve also often felt deeply misunderstood, sometimes even telling myself that I will NEVER find someone who understands me.

Well, here’s the thing: IT DOES NOT MATTER. So the f*ck what?

Recently, I was listening to an Eckhart Tolle talk and he addressed the ongoing need that we can sometimes have to feel understood. And of course, when our version of understanding does not come, we make ourselves feel miserable. We tell ourselves horrible things, like no one will ever understand, or we are terrible for being so odd, so on and so forth.

But all of those things are unknown. Maybe you’ll find the jelly to your peanut butter. Maybe you’re just a singular, delicious nut spread.

Regardless, the better focus is on understanding yourself. There’s so much focus that we can develop on what other people are giving us that we neglect to give ourselves anything.

So, maybe your family thinks you’re nuts? You might actually be a little weird. Maybe no one does understand you.

SO WHAT?

Do you, who has the most access to you,understand you?

No?

Then you’ve already got enough things to do.

So many, in fact, that you might not have much time to watch the tele.

Until tomorrow my friends…

Is the World Really That Bad?

These days, it seems like the world has gone to absolute shite. There’s seemingly so much violence, hatred, and lying. It is easy to feel that the world is terrible. I know I sometimes feel like it is.

I once read a quote by Eckhart Tolle that loosely said something like “If you think the world is against you, it will be.”

Even though I don’t always feel comfortable out in the world, and I certainly don’t always think about the world as being a warm and fuzzy place, sometimes, the universe smiles at me. Well, often times the universe smiles at me. Does the universe smile at me because I am paying attention and smiling back or because I’m special? I am hesitant to say that I am terribly special, so it must be the former reason.

Allow me to share two mildly heart warming stories from the past two days:

Yesterday:

I was driving along on my somewhat long commute to meet two students. I was just sitting at a stop light, not singing along to music or doing anything in particular, when I casually looked over to my left.

There was an old, rusted, silver mini-van, with several people inside. The driver, a skinny, young woman wearing a colorful head wrap and tank top shirt, leaned over the front seat passenger and waved and smiled, rather enthusiastically.

I looked, then squinted, trying to make their faces out more clearly. I didn’t recognize anyone in the car. The passenger then smiled sweetly and warmly. I returned the smile, with the same genuineness, mixed with a lot of confusion, to be honest. They then casually returned to talking amongst themselves and eventually drove away, like they really were just waving and being friendly strangers. They didn’t ask me for change or directions or anything. I suppose that they were just being nice. Smiling back was a welcome departure from the typically dirty looks I give other drivers.

Today:

Today, I had a bit of a mental block, so I went for a walk. I walked along the nearby trail, which passes a high school. When I got close to the fence of the school, I saw two teenage girls, mimicking walking and then jumping up and down. I thought they were mocking me. The shirt I was wearing was kind of tight and I am not a size two, so I kind of thought they were mocking me for walking and / or being chubby.

As I got closer, I could see their faces and hear their voices clearly. One shouted “YOU GO SIS!” and the other shouted, jumping up and down and cheering FOR me, “I AM SO PROUD OF YOU.”

I was so taken aback that I almost failed to wave back! It was so odd! It went against every negative expectation that I have about interactions with both strangers and teenagers, and these people were both strange AND teen aged!

I waved back and smiled. My head became so uplifted! I smiled all the way back home. I felt encouraged (something that I sorely need these days). I felt like the universe cared about me and was sending me little pats on the back. It was lovely. My mood was improved for the rest of the day and continues to be lifted until this very moment.

Thanks, universe. You’re not so bad.

Until tomorrow, my friends…

My Dirtiest Secret

Here’s the thing: I am not clueless in the kitchen. Through years of trial and error (and watching lots of celebrity chefs on tv), I have actually become quite adequate, dare I say, creative and good, in the kitchen.

I have skills! Finally. Thankfully.

But, I still eat out more often than I’d like to admit and I still eat stuff from the box sometimes. Eating baked good type things from the box is HORRIBLE to me, except for two exceptions: 1) boxed strawberry cake and 2) boxed brownies.

I have no idea why I absolutely love the taste of *only* box strawberry cake. I mean, it’s moist and delicious and slightly artificially tasty in a way that I cannot duplicate at home. For any other flavor, I prefer the cake I can make at home.

I have a bit more of an understanding about my affinity for boxed brownies. Way back in the day, when I was more broke and more skinny, making brownies on Sunday meant that I had a tiny little bit of dessert to eat with my sometimes sad little meals throughout the week. I have a picture of me, standing in the kitchen of one of my first apartments, making brownies, luxurious and thick hair carefully pinned back to avoid contaminating my tasty $1.79 worth of chocolaty investment.

Nowadays, I have a bit less hair and a bit more fat. I also had to shell out a bit more money for the box of brownie mix, but it is such a fair trade, to be able to make an entire dessert in less time than it takes to heat the oven.

Perhaps, one day I’ll be a famous food blogger. If that happens, I would like the 3 people who read this to keep this secret just between us.

What is a food thing that you secretly enjoy, even though, for some reason, you have some shame about it?

Until tomorrow, my friends…

P.S.

My secret to making these brownies extra delicious is to stir more walnuts into the batter, up to a quarter cup! Shhhh!