… subterranean lunatics

The Uptown A train comes quickly and I hop on.  I sit down, sipping on a homemade gallon of coffee, when I hear, “Man, New York is shit.  New York is for scum.”  My ears perk up and I go on fight-or-flight NYC alert mode.  These are the few minutes you allow yourself to assess just how crazy a person is and if you should minimize physical proximity to them entirely.  Most people are harmless.  Others are not.  For example, a woman went on an unprovoked rampage in a West Hollywood Target last week, stabbing random customers with the butcher knives she was double-fisting.  In other words, shit happens.  I’d prefer it not happen to me.

One rule I have with potential crazies is “Don’t make eye contact.”  I think I learned this when I was younger, although at the time it pertained to rabid dogs and bears, of which lunatics and sociopaths are pretty much the metropolitan equivalent.  Because I can’t bring myself to look over at the man, I cannot yet tell if he is having a conversation with himself or the person across from him, who might very well be a shy and/or mute friend of his.  I sneak a peak.  The man across from him has his eyes closed and is probably thinking the same thing as I am right now.  Fuck.  It’s official: the man to my right is crazy pants.

As our short train ride continues, Crazy Pants becomes increasingly vulgar, opting to share a tale of two lesbians in a little rap song.  “Yo your girl got a girlfriend/ Cherry color whirlwind…”  I don’t catch the rest of the rap, but those lines will stick with me forever, not just because it was pretty damn catchy but because of its extremely visual nature.

The train stops.  People get off.  People get on.  Then, out of nowhere … “Another black woman broke under pressure!”  The train starts again.  I don’t even think we were surrounded by any black women at the time, but Crazy Pants feels a pressing urge to alert his fellow passengers of the plight of this fictitious woman.  I exchange a look that is one part humored and two parts concerned with a Russian boy wearing headphones and chiseled cheekbones.

Due to the noise of the rattling subway car, I can only hear partial bits of the stimulating conversation he is having with himself.  Had I been able to hear everything pouring forth from his lips, I would probably have moved cars.  I did this for the first time the other week when a different schizophrenic was murmuring oddities – although, what creeped me out most about that subway car was the handprint of blood staring at me from the blue bench across from me.  The combination of The Soundtrack for Schizophrenia and the possible HIV source in my train made me certain that if ever there was a time I was going to be stabbed at random, this was one of those times.

I keep my eyes resting on the top of my coffee cup and listen.

“How can you have that beautiful body and that beautiful thing between your legs … [train noise] … all you have to do is groom yourself between your legs and shit …. [Increased train nose] … Those white women know what they doin’ … [train nose] … Tennis shit … [train] … Golf courses … [train] … White boys … [more train] … Damn, and then they go and snap under pressure.  Damn.”

The Russian boy and I get off at the same time, both of us unfortunately missing what I assume will be a 70 block rant about vaginas, black women, and other observations one talks about when they are bat shit crazy.

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NYC CRAZY MOFOs: Part 1 of … many

This morning, as I walk my friend’s dogs around Yummy Mummy TriBeCa, one of the pooches, Jo, stops to take a crap in between two trucks.  Over the course of the last week, I have learned the nuances of their outdoor bathroom habits.  Both dogs prefer doing their business on cobblestone; I imagine the reason has to do with texture, as they are Los Angeles dogs used to pooping on grass.  I’m not saying that cobblestone and grass are reasonably comparable, but I’m trying to think like a dog so give me a break.

So today, as Jo squats down in between two cars, I start to pull out a blue plastic bag in preparation for my least favorite duty in the world – handling poop with my hands.  From across the street, I hear a voice project in my direction.  It is warbled and mixed in with the sound of passing trucks.  Like any good and desensitized New Yorker, I ignore it and continue to watch Jo bear down.  And then I hear it.

“PICK UP YOUR DOG SHIT!”

Pardon me?  I look up at a man sitting on a loading dock, wearing jeans and a hat.  Jo is not even done pooping when he shouts this unsolicited request.  Despite his blue color uniform, at first I think the man might just be the unofficial mayor of TriBeCa, overtly concerned about the cleanliness of this already absurdly clean place.  Over the next four minutes, I discover this man is simply insane.

Immediately coming to my own defense, I yell back, “What do you think I’m doing with this?” while waving my empty blue plastic bag in the air.  “PICK UP YOUR DOG SHIT!” he yells again.  Jo finishes her business and I bend down to swiftly pick up the resulting product.

“EWWWWWWW!!!!!  YOU’RE TOUCHING DOG SHIT.  YOU’RE TOUCHING SHIT!!!!  EWWWWWW!!!!”

At this point, I am furious.  Totally and completely livid.  My cheeks burn hot and red and I begin to sweat under my unnecessarily warm wool coat.  Although I can’t be truly embarrassed because this guy is a nut job and anyone walking past knows this, but still, someone is pointing out the obvious: I am handling poop.

My retort comes quickly: “THANKS FOR THE NARRATION, ASSHOLE!  GO FUCK YOURSELF.”  For added emphasis, I give him the finger – something I have done, typically uncharacteristically of me, two times in the last three days.

As I walk down the street, his unwelcome documentation of the dog poop incident follows me towards the direction of home.

“DOG SHIT!  DOG SHIT!  EWWWWWW!!!!”

I keep my eyes down and the blue bag of evidence hanging heavy in my left hand.  People walk past me and I know they know that the crazy person is singing this song about me.  I have never in all of my life wanted to throw feces at another human being.  But I consider it.  I really do.

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Sick and the City

There was a time in my life when I enjoyed being sick.  Sometimes I would want to be sick so badly that I would fake it in order to enjoy the benefits of a brief dalliance with a malady.  That’s because, when you’re a kid there is nothing better in the world than being doted on by your mother, downing grape-flavored Dimetapp, and avoiding a group reading of The Bridge to Terabithia.  As an adult, being sick means an unwelcome lapse in productivity that is preferably saved for the family’s annual vacation to Hawaii, not sitting in bed coughing up a lung.  But when you’re in third grade and you’ve come down with a cold, the fact that you’re producing more mucus than schoolwork really doesn’t faze you.  The world – or your world, for that matter – doesn’t stop if you don’t finish your math homework.

As an adult I have come to loathe illness.  Why?  Because being sick sucks.  And being sick in New York really sucks.  The first time I experienced what it was like to be city sick was in February of 2003.  My fever raged for a few days before I broke down and went to the school hospital.  This trip involved walking my achy, feverish body twelve blocks in a blizzard.  Okay, it wasn’t really a blizzard, but it was about seventeen-degrees outside.  Combined with my outrageously high body temperature, I pretty much wanted to die no matter what they told m once I got there.

Diagnosis: pneumonia. Awesome.

Today is not so dire.  Per my mother’s only birthday request, I am now sitting in the dismal brown lobby of a 1970s building housing this medical center and a Bank of America, waiting for a doctor to tell me that my sinuses are swollen and I have a cough, both of which I know already.  My mom is too far away to spoon-feed me Dimetapp, but she can still make satellite demands on my life.  In respect of her concern and paranoia, I do look, sound, and feel like complete shit.  Her true mommy-ness comes out when she starts rattling on about “a compromised immune system.”  Nothing like scaring your kid about having cancer or the HIV.

While I wait, sitting not so patiently in my black vinyl chair, I attempt to reel in an endless flow of snot with the assistance of sandpaper tissues that I associate with public school classrooms.  At home, I am able to just stick two wads of toilet paper up my nostrils.  Here, not so much.  Even more exhausting is trying to hold back the guttural coughs dying to escape my lungs so that I don’t have to wear one of the masks sitting at the front desk.

I fill out my forms, realizing that when I purchased my slew of vitamins at Duane Reade yesterday I didn’t notice the hilarity in my multi-vitamin pack being named “Cold War.”  This is what happens when boogers put pressure on my brain.  There is a section of the paperwork titled “Prevention” that includes standard questions like “Do you exercise?   If so, how often?” and “Do you smoke?”  Stranger though are the slew of questions related not so subtly to domestic violence:

–       Have you ever been threatened or physically hurt (slapped, kicked, punched) by your partner?

–       Do you ever feel afraid of your partner?

–       If there is a gun in your home, is it out of children’s’ reach and unloaded?

–       Have you ever engaged in any activity which has put you at risk for AIDS?

Jesus Christ.  Where am I?  I hand my paperwork in with its optimistic slew of “No” answers characteristic of most fortunate upper-middle class white chicks.

And then I wait.

Time drags on as though on a journey through viscous gravy.  Trudging, trekking, slugging along.  Congestion builds in my head and I wonder what the doctor would say if I requested voluntary decapitation.  As it’s our first time meeting, I would imagine he’d be hesitant to cooperate.

To distract myself from myself, I begin watching hospital patrons enter from the sliding elevator doors, which proves unsurprisingly depressing.  First up: a caretaker and her charge.  The older woman sits in a wheelchair, her back to me and her face reflected in the mirror against the closest wall.  She looks old: skin hanging off of skin, hanging off of more skin.  I wonder what happens to a person when your face just becomes that nondescript, ancient mess of de-elasticized flesh, where nothing hints to what it once was, not even in the slightest.

The woman’s pink sweater matches the pink plastic flower in her hair and around her neck is a pink scarf tied by the book.  The toes of her white cotton socks peak out of her black orthopedic sandals.  Her hands face palm down on both thighs.  Right hand: right leg.  Left hand: left leg.  She stares forward.  Her caretaker schedules her next appointment for her in June “after her lunch.”

I divert my attention away from the caretaker placing the old woman’s arms into her jacket, arm by arm.  Outside, the trees blow sideways in a cold wind.  Its organic and fluid nature contrasts with the cinderblock pillars supporting this bland excuse for a building.

By the time I turn my attention back to the lobby, it is filled with two new old people.  A very tall, thin woman wearing a silk headscarf over her course gray hair holds the arm of a much shorter man, shuffling his feet slowly.  His pace is so sloth-like that the tapping of his walking cane comes only every two seconds or so, beating like a metronome.  “There’s your friend,” she turns to him and smiles with this good news, “There, in the back.”  She turns her attention away from her old friend and waves further down the hallway.  She has a soft patience that I have never been capable of.

“Miss Jennifer?”

My name is called and I take my paperwork to another holding area.  I watch as a small man through the Plexiglas comes towards me, mispronouncing my last name as he ushers me inside.

I tell him my symptoms and he types away on a boxy PC, something I find to be rather impersonal despite my awareness that we live in a technological age.  He then taps away on my back and chest with a triangular rubber bit usually used to check knees for reactionary skills.  He sticks something up my nose to admire my snot.  He uses a stethoscope to listen to my buggered up lungs.  And then he steps away from me and informs me that I simply have a cold.  As happy as I am that I am not dying, I would like to request that my co-pay be forfeited on account of having not spent more than four minutes with this man.  Then again, my insurance company deserves to shell out some more dough for this relatively low maintenance girl.

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Lessons in Youth “Culture”: Volume 2

It’s that time again.  Time endure the judgment of the ten men working out on the machines behind me while I tune into MTV.  If I continue this series on about the aftermath of culture’s downward spiral – as in, today – I am going to invest in white tee-shirts and a Sharpie pen; the back of my new gym shirts will read “RESEARCH”.  With any luck, the aforementioned gentlemen will be staring at my ass and not at my tiny screen filled with Ludacris, half-naked girls, and commercials for Proactive.

Let the games begin.

It All Goes Downhill from Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber – Never Let You Go

I’ve been meaning to write about Justin Bieber for some time now.  I caught this video during a previous “research” session, but I already had too much hysterical fodder for the blog that day.  That, and though I hate to admit it, I had to process the fact that I am in love with Mr. Bieber.  Dear Justin, let me count the ways.

–       The video is loosely reminiscent of Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet.  Think stormy beach, makeout sessions by a fish tank, etc.   This might not be what the director intended, but when I see a boy in a white button-up shirt with sleeves rolled up and a neo-90s interpreted bowl cut, I think of Leonardo DiCaprio in that pointy collared, I-wanna-be-Prince-the-symbol-not-the-name dress shirt.  It is quite possible that I am projecting all of my long lost unrequited middle school hormones on Justin Bieber.  I am aware that this is weird.  Moving on.

–       Now, call me crazy, but Justin Bieber strikes me as an entertainer with staying power.  The kid is fucking charming and adorable, and unless he throws his life away on hookers and drugs a la Lindsay Lohan – though she turned into a hooker and didn’t bang hookers herself as far as I am aware – I think he’ll do just fine.

–       His wardrobe brings to mind the early fashion faux pas of a young Justin Timberlake, all of which the public took in pop culture stride, embracing his pseudo white kid jerry curl look and turning a blind eye to his head-to-toe denim ensembles.  Why?  Because Justin danced like a dream and sang like a little girl.  That’s why.  You know who else specialized in that?  Michael fucking Jackson.  And this kid’s got it, too.  He just do.

Sincerely, Justin Bieber’s Number # Cougar

Sex Ed with Ciara

Ciara – Ride

The video opens with Ciara’s insanely muscular body writhing around in silhouette. At this point, I know that “Ride” will not be about her ’67 Cadillac; it would be impossible to drive a vehicle moving around like that.  The lights come up, revealing a Janet Jackson inspired version of Ciara, fucking an invisible man while wearing yoga pants and a baseball cap.

It is interesting to see what the music industry is doing for music videos these days without the big budget days of yore.  Long gone are the times when a whole crew of dancers could be featured humping the air in unison.  Perhaps that’s what makes Ciara’s whole video so awkwardly intimate: you have no choice but to just stare at her and only her.  Her butt, her crotch, her snarling lip curl.  Had I been in a strip club, this wouldn’t faze me, but at the gym I am concerned that the people behind me think I am watching taped rehearsals for porn.

To clarify what Ciara is “hinting” at, she hops up on a mechanical bull, fake sweat transforming white her tee shirt into transparent cotton saran wrap while she, well, rides.

The entire 4 minutes and 39 seconds is a visual manifestation of TMI.  I don’t personally want to know what Ciara looks like having sex.  I don’t need to be able to make comment on the quality of her recent bikini wax.  I’d just rather let sleeping dogs lie.  On a positive note, she could definitely make a buck turning this dance into the Tae Bo of 2010.  Those moves look pretty intense.

We’ll be a dream…or possibly your nightmare

We the Kings – We’ll be a Dream

Two seconds into the song’s opening guitar riff and I already hate my life.  Whiney, cutesy wootsey, rock “influenced” pop music.  Anthems for white suburbia.  Here it comes.

A group of kids hurl themselves down a wooded ravine in slow motion.  A hand plays a guitar in ambient lighting.  Pull back to reveal…a fraggle.  I almost die laughing when the band is shown in their full, over-stylized glory.  The hairdressers should really be shot.  Seriously.  Like, no one hire these people.  Ever.  The lead singer looks like the love child of Beast from Beauty and the Beast and Animal from the Muppets.  In case you were wondering what that looks like, it’s not a Jolie-Pitt baby, I’ll tell you that much.

The concept of the video is pretty much this:

Get a ton of white kids.  Throw in one Asian girl for good measure.  Put them in a forest.  Give them pillows.  Watch them fight.  Let them raid craft services.  Watch them fight.  When you run out of food, give them water balloons.  Watch them fight some more.  Film their plastic smiles and plaid shirts.  Feature a generically attractive female singer I’ve never heard of and have her walking through the pillow fight.  Feathers, yeah, feathers will make for a beautiful visual cue.  Floaty things in the air are always beautiful.  Make sure to include more shots of the folliclely disturbed gentlemen on stage.

By the end of the video I feel like throwing up.  I just can’t take it anymore.  May God strike me down.

In case Ciara didn’t teach you anything, here’s sex ed with Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxtina

Christina Aguilera – I’m Not Myself Tonight

It seems that Lady Gaga has opened the floodgates for the heightened version of music’s long-standing commitment to “anything goes.”  Dress like a tranny hooker.  It’s okay.  For whatever reason, Lady Gaga somehow pulls it off.  This is probably because her introduction to the world was already knee-deep in Crazy Town.  It’s hard to take Christina Aguilera seriously as a sizzling, sexually uninhibited maniac when just ten years ago she was making Christmas albums with Lil Bow Wow and wearing heavily padded bras

The video is a badly done homage to Madonna, another musical icon who was somehow able to push the boundaries of bad taste without looking disingenuous.  To accomplish this, you need cash and backup dancers.  Fortunately for Xtina and myself, it appears that she is one of the few remaining artists still given a budget for her music videos.  That much liquid latex in one video is expensive, surely.  Also commanding a high cost these days are bondage masks, stripping lessons, and a computer-generated closet inferno.

Each individual scene is like a little shop of sexual horrors.  If I were a man, all of this would terrify me.  That much glitter and sexuality is enough to render a man impotent, in which case I am pretty sure Madame Xtina would probably just eat you for dinner instead.

I patiently allow the video to play out despite the fact it’s hurting my ears and burning my eyeballs.  The song essentially legitimizes getting shit housed and batting both ways.  Deep, Xtina.  Real deep.  Oh no, not like that!  Jesus!

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Bolt for a *uck

The weather sticks to my face and heat traps under my old black blazer.  I wait at the Astor Street station until my subway comes, kicking a much needed hot breeze, sifting the air around like pancake flour.  My leather bag weighs heavy on my left shoulder, filled with not enough clothes and a heavy laptop.  I get on the train and sit across from an old woman and her daughter.  The old woman wears black orthopedic sneakers and khaki polyester pants.  A black Jansport backpack sits on the ground, propped in between her legs.  “Agnes” is written on the front.  It reminds me of when I was in second grade.  I watch her enjoy quiet joke with her daughter.  I stop staring because it’s probably impolite.  Back to my own world.

Two stops before I have to get on the bus to Boston.  First stop.  Try on clothes.  Take Polaroids.  The woman calls me “sweetheart” and I think she thinks I am younger than I am.  Second stop.  Sit in a conference room with big glass windows overlooking the Upper West Side.  Talk to woman about humidity.  Get pictures taken of my hands.  Don’t have time to have pictures taken of my feet.  This is probably a good thing.

Twenty minutes before the Bolt bus departs.  I run down to the subway and pray that I make my bus in time.  I’ve missed transportation for jobs before.  For the record, it makes you look like an asshole.  The subway reaches 34th and I tear out the doors, briskly walking towards the PENN STATION sign.  I am still underground when I realize that buses do not operate subterranean.  Idiot.  I reread my call sheet and sprint up the stairs to where it says the bus takes off.

I run.  I scan.  I find.  I make it.  I am standing in front of the Tick Tock Diner in the middle of an unorganized herd of people with cheap luggage when a woman comes up to me.  The photographer.  I will be riding with two other people.  We stand in the mess until a male Bolt employee makes his best attempt at organization.

“If you are in Group A, stand here,” he waves an arm to a random slice of sidewalk closest to the street.  “If you are in Group B, stand here,” he moves to a remote area probably fifteen feet away from us.  This is what Southwest Airlines would look like during the Dark Ages.  People shuffle around like confused emus, looking up and around with giant eyes.  The entire two minutes makes me a diehard advocate for government and the generalized implementation of order.  Anarchists live by the assumption that all humans are intelligent beings.  They would be wrong in that assumption.

A bus arrives.  We hand our tickets to a woman who only looks like she works for Bolt because she acts like she works for Bolt.  She wears no distinguishing tag or other uniform accoutrement to indicate she is with the company.  For all we know she could be a complete lunatic.  She clears us and we board the bus.

I’ve never taken the bus to Boston before, but compared to the mass amount of people still waiting on the sidewalk, the inside of the bus is suspiciously empty.  Perhaps Boston isn’t as popular as the other Bolt destinations.  Washington DC is super pleasant this time of year, with the asphyxiating humidity and all.  And Philadelphia is pretty sweet given their giant bronze cracked bell.

The bus pulls away from the sidewalk and we are on our way.  Sweet.  A row to myself.  I sip on my water and exchange pleasantries with the photographer and her assistant.  Two avenues and one block away from Tick Tock Diner and the driver gets on the PA system.

“Attention all passengers traveling to Philadelphia…”

Excuse me?  The three of us look at each other with those WTF eyes that are equal parts panic, incredulity, and nausea.  I walk up to the driver.

“Um…hey.  We’re supposed to be on the 12:01 to Boston.”

The guy throws his head back and tells me he can’t take me to Boston.  I think this is his poor idea of a joke.  No shit, Sherlock.  He opens the door and we grab our bags and we half-run back down 34th Street, watching closely to make sure that no fancy orange bus passes by, leaving us in the proverbial and literal dust.

I would like to be furious that the idiot who “read” our ticket let us board a bus we weren’t supposed to get on, but I am too busy sweating and balancing my thirty-pound bag over my shoulder.  Mother f-er.

When we get back to the disorderly mess we just left, I approach the woman who let us board and tell her that she let us get on the wrong bus.  She looks at our tickets again and tells us Boston hasn’t left yet and we should go wait over there in another “A Line.”  There is no apology, no customer service salving of wounds.  Just a pointed finger indicating we should go ahead and get over this whole thing.

It’s a good thing the bus is thirty minutes late, something that would ordinarily infuriate me.  Had the bus been on time, we wouldn’t have had the extra fourteen minutes it required to board, ride, and flee from the other bus.  Thank God for inefficiency and bad business.

I suppose this is what you get for being able to travel hundreds of miles for a mere $15.

Onwards to Boston.

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Love is a Taxi Cab

The smooth black vinyl glides against my tights as I scoot across the backseat.  I don’t make it all the way directly behind the driver’s side because being cornered in any capacity makes me claustrophobic.  Jonathan closes the door and looks down at a slip of paper from the hotel.  Neither of us knows the name of the place yet.  We just show up and do what we’re told.  “Shore Inn Hotel, please,” Jonathan says.  The cab flips an illegal u-turn in front of the sushi restaurant and heads back north.

I can’t see our driver save for the small 2×3 inch sliver of mirror that is visible from my vantage point.  A half a pair of glasses, a bagged eye, a slightly wrinkled forehead.  When he speaks, he reveals his age.  The mirror reveals little.

In an effort to make immediate and polite conversation, Jonathan asks the driver how he knows all of these streets so well.  Boston is indeed confusing.  It is European in its inexplicably chaotic and nonsensically named and numbered streets.  Roads the start and stop and turn into other names, giving up on the one that it bore only for the last block or so.  This is part of the city’s charm, I suppose, but it makes it categorically navigable.

“I’ve been here 49 years, man.”

Bricks and trees of Boston slowly pass.  Humid air drifts through the front window and into the backseat.  It’s a perfect nearly-summer evening in a city I’ve never been before.  I look up towards the front cabin as the driver waves his big baseball mitt hands in the direction of his house.  “I live that way,” he says.  He has the type of hands they don’t make anymore.  Hands that have seen work and hard times.  Hands that have had minimal interaction with keyboards and video games.  Hands that look like they have done things.  Not soft, but gracefully calloused.

Our driver moved to Boston from South Carolina in 1960.  When asked what he thinks about Boston, assuming he must like it after so many years here, he responds with, “The city’s just fine.  But the people, the people are angry people.”  He’s got the voice of an elderly, Southern, African American male.  Something I’ve always associated with James Earl Jones on the account of my childhood watching The Sandlot.  Warm, deep, wise.  I wish I had a grandpa with a voice like that but both of mine were gone too quick for me to ever know.  This is probably why I have a deep-rooted obsession with adorable old men; I secretly wish I could keep them for myself.

I state that I have not been to South Carolina but I hear it is beautiful.  “Yeah, it’s beautiful.  But the people there are…are backwards.”  The driver tells us that when he was our age he wouldn’t have been allowed to ride in the cab with us.  He talks about sitting in the back of the bus and how no one really even thought twice about it because it’s all anyone ever knew.  He watched things get better, then worse, then better, then worse…

He says he thinks it’s a hard time for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren growing up in this era.  He muses about where all of the nice people have gone.  It used to be easy to find them, he says, now it’s much harder.

“My momma always said, ‘Treat people well.  Treat people the way you want to be treated.’  And momma’s always right.”

I smile and look out the window, thinking how amazing it is to be eighty years old and still so deeply impacted by your parents.  How those two people stay with you forever.  The lessons, the love, the stupid arguments.  All of it.  One day I will be eighty years old and thinking about my own parents.  They’ll be gone and I will casually and automatically reminisce about them, about what they have taught me and about what I miss most about them.  My mom’s garden and her chapped lips.  My dad’s cowboy boots and his mechanic’s hands.  I will have had children and grandchildren of my own, but I will always always always be the child of someone else.  You can never get rid of that.

The driver talks about how he goes back to South Carolina two or three times a year.  He takes a car.  He has never traveled by plane in all his life.  Last year he drove from Boston to Los Angeles.  I let out a gasp of mock horror and he demurs, saying how he sees so much driving that he wouldn’t see flying.  “It took my momma nine months to get here.  It only took me 34 hours.  I already won!”

He tells us about his trip to Texas.

“Now.  I’m not a drinking man.  But I went to one of those Texas bar-b-ques.  Had myself a margarita.  Hoo wee!”

The subject of cars comes up.  He talks about his ’69 Camero.  “I might be old,” he says, “But I still like the speed.”

The small stories and snippets of his life unfold as easily as when one talks about the weather.  He segues seamlessly from one topic to the next.  Every paragraph spoken is like a different vignette illustrating a moment in his life.  He shares himself willingly and without reservation.  His kindness is automatic and altruistic.  He engages you in the type of conversation that is so unexpectedly true and honest that your answers have no choice but to be pale shadows of clichés in comparison.

“It seems like you’re doing good, man,” Jonathan says.

In some broken form of an explanation, the driver says, “My wife…she’s my best friend, you know.  For eighty years old, I’m doing alright.”  I offer that he is doing better than most of my twenty year old friends.  He laughs, but I’m not lying.

Never in my life have I loved a stranger so quickly and so fondly.  I still can’t see his face but his spirit is so present through all of his words.  It’s in the way his big hands move through the air.  It’s in the black and white Jimmy Hendrix postcard he has affixed to the sunshade with rubber bands and tucked behind pink papers.  Through the way he calls Jonathan “my man” and how he calls me “princess” as I exit the car, walking back into the hotel.

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