Random Conversations With Strangers…

March 4, 2011

My friend Andrea recently commented on how random strangers are always talking to me, unprompted, sometimes even getting my attention in order to spark up conversation. I mean, I knew that happened, but for me it’s “normal”, and so I guess I really never took much note of it. I like it. But ever since Andrea said something about it I have paid closer attention to this phenomenon. It happens 2 to 10 times a day, pretty much everywhere I go.

They say “you get back what you put out”, or something like that, whoever “they” are.

I definitely make myself comfortable where ever I go. I don’t mind talking to strangers at all. As a matter of fact, I prefer connecting with anybody and everybody I come into contact with, sometimes going out of the way a little bit to make contact. It’s a fun way to live. I’ve been like this for a good portion of my life. So, maybe I just have that “he’s an approachable guy” vibe, though when I look at myself in the mirror I don’t really feel like I do. Nevertheless, people come up to me and talk, and sometimes tell me really private, weird stuff, completely out of the blue. It’s strange sometimes.

Today I was standing in the Bandaid section of Wal-Mart, looking for the perfect Bandaids for the blister on my thumb from playing tennis yesterday. There are so many Bandaids to choose from! I was a little overwhelmed. And then, all of a sudden, from my left came a gruff voice of an old lady, sounding more like a man, with an accent straight out of Deliverance, and the vocal chords of a veteran smoker, “Chiggers med’cine!”

I looked over at her to see who she was talking to, and low and behold, she was looking at me, smiling a wide and wild missing-tooth smile, pointing in the direction of some ointment on the shelf. As soon as I made eye contact she continued on as though we had been talking for hours, “Mama just always mixed bacon grease an aloe and shmeared it on us real good.” She reached down and pointed in her private area, and I had no idea what was about to come next, “Wooooooooooweeeeeee! Them boys would get them bites on their scrotums!” She moved her hand up from her “down under” area and rubbed her finger in her belly button, “And I’d get’em in my navel!”

She smiled at me, and continued to rub her belly button. I was not sure how to respond. “Wow!” Yep, that was about all I could get out; I felt a bit blindsided and not as prepared as I usually am for interactions like these. Then she remorsefully looked at the ointments and exclaimed, “Yeah, they just don’t bite like they used to though!” I was wondering why she was sad chiggers don’t bite like they used to. I thought that would be something to celebrate, though I am no chigger expert. I had very little, to no, insight into the topic and I just kind of stared at her as she continued, “You don’t hear of ’em much these days!”

Now that I could comment on! “You sure don’t. You sure don’t! This is my first time in a good long while!” She laughed like a deranged woman, and continued to look at me with a wild smile, like she was considering eating me up. I nervously smiled back, turned back to the Bandaids, grabbed the first box that caught my eyes, and said goodbye as I speed walked away. I hope she found what she was looking for. And I’m glad to have made it away without getting bitten by chiggers, or her. I love stuff like that, though.


God hates, Fred Phelps?

March 4, 2011

In some ways I cannot even believe I am wasting my time writing about Fred Phelps, and his followers of Westboro Baptist, because I’m pretty sure we’re all on the same page about them; they are completely nuts. I’ve written about them before, and I would hope, by now, people (whether avid Christian, Atheist, or anything else) would realize that what Fred and the gang stand for is not even Christianity, but complete and utter lunacy. I think it is redundant to even state that I do not agree with them, and hate everything they stand for, but they made the headlines once again, and I find myself feeling the same old feelings, with a different twist.

I read an article on Huffington Post about the father of the deceased Marine soldier who took Phelps and company to court for ruining his son’s funeral by protesting with their hateful signs saying things like, “Thank God for dead soldiers,” “You’re Going to Hell,” “God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11.” In this instance, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Phelps and Westboro Baptist, saying they have the right of free speech to be able to continue to protest at dead soldiers’ funerals. This is completely shocking, disheartening, and disgusting to me, and I believe the Supreme Court, and U.S. Government, has once again failed its troops.

I tweeted my qualms about this last night, and my brother (who is a lawyer) said, “You know I can’t stand Westboro, but that case is the right result. Can’t censor speech.” I thoroughly disagree. Don’t get me wrong, I love free speech, and am very thankful for it. It gives me the right to express my views about Phelps, and even the Government that I am currently unhappy with. Heck, I am even ok with the fact that they have the right to put up their hateful, idiotic Youtube videos about how much they and God hate America, dead soldiers, and fags; I don’t agree or like it, but I understand they have free speech to express their ignorant views just like I do.

I am the least patriotic person I know, and I do not even believe in or agree with the majority of the armed conflict America is involved in, but that is besides the point. When a young (or any age for that matter) man or women gives their life for a cause (this particular “cause” being “their country”) that they are willing to literally die for, and they do die for it, we are miserably  failing them and their families if we allow this type of behavior at their funerals; a group of hateful people defecating on the memorial of a death of a solider. Having lost loved ones myself, I can assume the pain of losing a loved one is bad enough, and then to have some clowns with hateful words and signs show up at the funeral? Well, that would be shattering.

For me, this goes beyond free speech. If they wanted to protest at the White House during the soldiers’ funerals that would be one thing, but not at the grave site, where a mourning family is trying to lay their loved one to rest. Not that it seems to matter but, I do not agree with this decision, and it makes me very, very sad to think that these young people who have given their lives for their country, are not protected by their country in the final ceremony to celebrate the life lived, and honor the life lost.

In life I try, as much as possible, to first look inward at my own crap before I place judgements on others’ actions. At the same time, I also try to be the positive change I would like to see in the world around me. I do not know how I can change this, and actually think there is little to nothing I can do about it. But as for my feelings towards Fred Phelps…I think what I hate the most about him and his followers is the reaction that they (or that I allow them to) stir up in me. I hate their hate! I get angry and worked up about them, and I begin to hate them, a whole lot! And by doing so I am allowing them bring me down to a level of hatred that I do not want to go to. It’s easy to hate Fred Phelps. So, in all of this, I guess my learning is trying to not be the hate that I do NOT want to see in the world. I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.


Way too far…

March 3, 2011

Ok, I know we live in a celebrity obsessed culture, and a big part of Just Bieber’s “story” (especially with the release of his recent movie) is about “living the dream” and what not, but comes on, this video is ridiculous. These are grown adults, some probably with kids of their own, acting like total, crazed idiots. How can this even be legal? I know people say there is a price for fame, but the kid was just trying to enjoy his 17th birthday. I can’t believe any adult, or an entire mob of them for that matter, would treat a kid like this, no matter who he or she is. Man, I think this is too far.

Anonymous Substitute = Awkward Day.

March 3, 2011

Eli (my 10-year-old brother) had baseball practice after school today. My mom had a meeting and asked me to pick him up. So I did. He got in the car smelling like grass mixed with sweat mixed with the kid-who-came-in-from-playing-outside smell. I asked him how the practice went and he said good, and then showed me the post-it notes, of things to remember, the coach gave him to review. I asked him how schools was and he kind of sighed.

Eli, “Awkward day!”

Me, “Wait, it was literally awkward day? Like, a holiday or something? I didn’t know they celebrated that.”

Eli, “No, just an awkward day.”

Me, “Oh, darn. Well, it still sounds pretty fun.”

Eli, “Not really.”

Me, “Oh…Well, what made it awkward day?”

Eli sighed again, “Well, we had a substitute teacher that we didn’t even know about, and then he didn’t even tell us his name.”

Me, “What’s his name?”

Eli, “I don’t know! He never told us!”

Me, “Wait, you had this dude as a teacher the whole day and he never told you his name?!”

Eli, “Yep.”

Me, “He didn’t write it on the board?”

Eli, “Nope.”

Me, perplexed, “I mean, that seems like a huge chunk of the job description of a substitute teacher. Write your name on the board, and then tell the kids to do the work the real teacher left for them. That’s pretty much half of his job he forgot to do!”

Eli, “I guess he didn’t remember.”

Me, “His name, or to tell you?”

Eli, “To tell us. Or maybe he didn’t remember his name either.”

Me, “Well, that would make more sense! And none of you thought to ask it?”

Eli, “Nope.”

Me, “I mean, what if you needed something from him?”

Eli, “He didn’t answer questions anyways!”

Me, “Ok, whoa there! He didn’t tell you his name, and he didn’t answer your questions?!”

Eli, “Yeah. Like, I asked him about something on a worksheet and he said, ‘That’s the same thing I told the other girl,’ and I didn’t hear what he told her.”

Me, “The same thing I told the other girl? Really?”

Eli, “Yep.”

Me, “Well, that doesn’t really answer your question.”

Eli, “Not at all.”

Me, “Who is this mysterious unnamed man?”

Eli, “I don’t know.”

Me, “Right! Well, that is pretty awkward.”

Then we passed a tiny motel and Eli said, “They have a pool?!?!?”

I looked back in the rearview mirror to make sure we were thinking of the same establishment. Yep, the Winona, and there is no way they have a pool.

Me, “No ways!”

Eli, “The sign said they have pool.”

Me, “Maybe it’s the game pool. Or, like, the bathtubs or something.”

Eli, “Yeah, or maybe they bring out a little kiddie pool for people to swim in.”

Me, “Maybe.”

Eli, “A kiddie pool! That would be awkward.”

Me, “Wait, do you even know what awkward means?”

Eli, “I’m pretty sure I do.”


Coldest Winter…

March 2, 2011

I’m coming out of the longest, coldest winter of my life. Yes, that was a metaphor, though also literal. I am happy to see signs of spring, both metaphorically and actually. I’m beginning to feel thawed (yep, you guessed it, in both ways). I am looking forward to this next season! Boom!


March 1, 2011

My friend Andrea is a photographer. There are two well-known photographers she sees as inspiration. They are her heroes. The one is dead already, and the other is William Eggelston (the “father of color photography”). The Frist in Nashville currently has an Eggleston exhibition, and Andrea went a few weeks back to see it. She was pumped, to say the least!

She took her time, walking through and perusing the prints of one (of two) of her greatest life inspirations. She was moved by the experience. After she had spent enough time amongst his work, she made a stop by the gift shop. She bought a few things, and when she came out, on exit, she stopped abruptly in the foyer and froze, like a deer caught in headlights. Her eyes exploded with tears, and she literally began to cry. There, standing a few feet away from her, was the one, the only, actual real dude, William Eggleston.

He was alone, apart from a lady who was helping him set up a table for book signings, and no one else seemed to recognize him. But Andrea did, and she could not believe her eyes. Completely overwhelmed, she walked up to him in tears and said, “You are the reason I wanted to become a photographer!” He was flattered by her sentiments, and he asked her to sit with him for a while. They chatted, Andrea got a chance to take photos with him, and got his autograph. The moment was dear and moving to all who witnessed.

As Andrea retold the story to me, obviously deeply impacted by the experience, I wondered if there was a human being who could spark that kind of response in me. Nelson Mandela immediately came to mind, but beyond him I could not think of anyone else. Ever since then I have been thinking about it. The Grammys and the Oscars have taken place in the meantime, and I watched both, seeing numerous very talented people, who the masses look up to, and idolize. Other people who serve as “heroes” to many. It was only a reminder to me that, though there are some of those “stars” I wouldn’t mind meeting, I could honestly care less if I ever do. And for me, it has only validated further who my true life heroes are.

These are the people I look up to…

The single mother, holding down a job, raising kids on her own, busting her butt to give them the future she never had.

The man who sticks around and raises his kids, dedicated to not just being the “cause” of their life, but also a positive part of it…a man who is a father.

The kid surrounded by negativity, who keeps his chin up and his head down, focused, and determined to be something more than the harsh reality that surrounds him.

The person who has absolutely nothing, and yet has everything to complain about, but lives as though every day is a gift, thankful, joyful, and grateful, without grumbles.

The single mother who has the bravery to pursue her dreams, when the world around her tries to hold her back and keep her down…maybe dreams she once had to put aside because she was forced to “grow-up” before her time.

The person who has so little, but gives so much.

“Normal”, every day people who are dedicated to being the change they want to see in the world.

Yep, these, and many others like them, are my true heroes. And I am fortunate enough to have easier “access” to them than the average person does to his or her hero. So, to all my heroes I say, continue being an inspiration, and living a life that shouts out change, and dances in determination.

Keep Ya Head Up!

March 1, 2011

This verse from 2Pac’s song “Keep Ya Head Up” has been stuck in my mind for days now.

“To all the ladies havin babies on they own
I know it’s kinda rough and you’re feelin all alone
Daddy’s long gone and he left you by ya lonesome
Thank the Lord for my kids, even if nobody else want em
Cause I think we can make it, in fact, I’m sure
And if you fall, stand tall and comeback for more
Cause ain’t nuttin worse than when your son
wants to kno why his daddy don’t love him no mo’
You can’t complain you was dealt this
hell of a hand without a man, feelin helpless
Because there’s too many things for you to deal with
Dying inside, but outside you’re looking fearless
While da tears, is rollin down your cheeks
Ya steady hopin things don’t fall down this week
Cause if it did, you couldn’t take it, and don’t blame me
I was given this world I didn’t make it
And now my son’s getten older and older and cold
From havin the world on his shoulders
While the rich kids is drivin Benz
I’m still tryin to hold on to my survivin friends
And it’s crazy, it seems it’ll never let up, but
please… you got to keep your head up”