Monday, September 05, 2005


Now, I'm not the most innately attuned person when it comes to media and current events. The news upsets me and therefore I tend not to watch it if I can possibly avoid it. I was aware of the hurricane coming ashore. I was aware that it had totally devastated southern Louisiana. I was NOT, however, aware that it would touch me personally (although common sense should have told me otherwise).

I work in a public assistance program that grants food assistance and nutritional education to needy families. Now and then I am granted an opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of others, but for the most part it is a job. It's work. Yet, on August 31st, that all changed.

As flood victims from southern Louisiana made their exodus into Texas, many of them opted to head north of Houston to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. And, but by the grace of God, many of them ended up in my office. None of us saw it coming. Our supervisors were literally stunned when we contacted them, asking what the protocol was to be for serving the needs of these suddenly uprooted people who lost everything they owned to floodwaters. They quickly became a priority and we did everything we could to accommodate them quickly and with as much compassion as possible. (And for the record, I've never been prouder of my coworkers than during this period.)

There is no way to sit with the victims from New Orleans and Baton Rouge and listen to them relate their personal accounts of survival and struggle without being moved emotionally. Typically my job is to assess people's nutritional needs and educate them in the most time-efficient manner possible, but sometimes a person's greatest need is not to be made aware of the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Sometimes they just need to be heard. And so that's what I did. I listened. I set my forms and paperwork aside, leaned forward in my chair, and lent a compassionate ear as they at last had a chance to recount their overwhelming experiences with another human being.

In the past few days, I listened to a mother lament that everything she had struggled to provide for her family was lost in a heartbeat. I listened to a couple vent their frustrations over how little help they received from Mississippi and Arkansas before finally arriving here in Texas. I listened as another couple mourned the news they recently heard that their suburb on the outskirts of New Orleans would never be rebuilt. And then there was the father of two small children.....whose tale touched my heart so deeply that I actually had an emotional breakdown after he left.

He said, "You see things like this happen on TV and it's always somewhere else. Like it's not real, you know." I agreed. Who wouldn't? And he continued, "But when I jumped down in that cold water from the roof of my house, it was very real." He'd spent hours trying to get in touch with his wife, leaving her several messages on her cell phone and praying that she would call him back and let him know that she and their two children were alright and where he could find them. Frightened and frustrated, he was moved to action. Certain that she would have taken the kids and fled to her mother's house, he was determined to search for them there. Five miles away. And all five miles were underwater. "I jumped in the water and started swimming because I didn't know what else to do. A couple of times I was hugging trees to keep from being swept away...the water was moving so fast. I swam two and a half miles before I saw some guys in a boat, and I begged them. I told them, 'Please! I gotta find my wife and kids!' And they turned their boat around and took me the rest of the way to my mother-in-law's house."
He was obviously overwhelmed as he relived the events. I was overwhelmed listening to him. But by the grace of God was he sitting in my office and sharing this account with me, and I don't think I've ever been more moved by the words of another. Nor have I ever been more grateful that I have the opportunity to help people. I took this job for exactly that reason -- to help people. To be there in their time of need. And what he needed at that time was to be heard. I'll never forget him. Nor his two beautiful daughters, whose faces haunt my memory every now and then when I least expect it. God bless them all.

I'm proud of the efforts my home state of Texas has undergone to accommodate the needs of Katrina's many victims. In fact, I've never been prouder. Several former Louisianans informed me that they intended to settle down here in their new home state, due mainly to the degree to which we have offered friendly, helpful hands. And I'm glad they're here. And to our neighbors who continue to flee the devastation in southern Louisiana in search of help, I say, "Welcome to Texas. Come on over. We're here for you."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Fill'er Up!

Have you ever really listened to a conversation between two people? I mean REALLY listened to them? If you have, then I would imagine you’ve heard what I tend to refer to as “conversation fillers”. These would likely be best described as inane, random responses generated by one or more parties in a conversation to either fill up dead air space or indicate that the interested parties are, in fact, listening but unable to think of appropriate responses to what they’ve just heard. Many of the more common “fillers” include such phrases as:

“Really? How interesting.”
“You don’t say.”
“How about that?”
“The hell you say!”
“Well, there ya go.”
“I done seen it all.”
“I tell you what.”

(Those last two fillers are most commonly used among us redneck folk, they are. Ayuh. I tell you what.)

I use them all the time.

In fact, I use them so often that someone (probably the only person who truly bothers to listen to my excessive ramblings, god bless him) thought to point this out to me. I was astounded. Mind you, it was not that said fact was brought to my attention that left me bewildered, but that this revelation carried indisputable truth. Heavy, man, that’s really heavy. And then I wondered: Am I the only person who does this? So I took it upon myself (as I’m prone to do) to determine just how often “fillers” are applied to everyday conversations.

Here’s what I learned:

Everyone does it. Some do it more than others. Some manage to do so with dignity, while others cast decorum aside, leaving it (decorum) to drift and bob aimlessly like so much flotsam on the sea. Astounding, isn’t it?

This recent epiphany led me to make a decision for the benefit of all mankind -- or at least those who are in need of original, cunning, and skillful responses to ensure that those with whom they are engaged in insightful conversation might be assured that their statements have not gone unattended. I have devised a list of simple, easy to use phrases that can be inserted into a conversation whenever the following occur: a) you‘re too sleep deprived to follow what‘s being said [applicable to most conversations with your boss], b) you‘re too shnockered to respond clearly [useful when returning to work after a lunchtime drinking binge], or c) what you just heard shocked the hell out of you and your brain has shut down completely [very handy when you‘ve just been fired for reason “b“]. So far I've come up with the following:

1) Has anyone seen my keys?
2) Great! Now say that again backwards!
3) My cat likes Swanson’s chicken broth.
4) I wonder what Santa would have to say about that...
5) Fascinating, Jim. Spock, what do you think about that?
6) Someone must have spiked the punchbowl.
7) Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're our only hope.
8) Just your name, rank, and serial number, please.
9) Oooooh-eeeeee-ooh-ah-ah-ding-dang-walla-walla-bing-bang.
10) You don't say. No, really. Don’t say it at all.

Use them at will. And, just for shits and giggles, let me know how things turn out...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Diggity Dank!

“Language is a virus from outer space.” —William S. Burroughs

The English language is dead. That’s right, people…you heard me: English as we once knew it has kicked the bucket. Right now as you read this, the language we all used to grumble about studying as children is pushing up daisies and feeding worms. Why, you may ask? Because we, the people, have killed it.

Ah, ‘tis but with a sense of remorse that I fondly recall the days of yore when noble were our tongues and lofty was our daily verbiage. The spoken word raised us up from morbid sacks of water and clay, heavy of brow and dragging our knuckles across the ground, to creatures of enlightenment and insight. And who would have thought that we would regress back to our most humble beginnings in such a short time? Not I.

The memorable and lyrical compositions of such literary masters as Walt Whitman and Edgar Allen Poe (…Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”) have recently been replaced with such nonsensical babble as: "I jammed the roscoe in his button and said, 'Close your yap, bo, or I squirt metal.'" (I would reference this quote if I knew the original source, but I rather fear that the author in question would fare far better if he remained anonymous.) In short, the crap that drips from our tongues, pens, and keyboards is naught but a shabby collection of nonsense and monosyllabic goo. And it’s a wonder that anyone can make sense of anything we say.

Take, for example, the phrase: shit a cold, purple Twinkie. What the hell does that mean? Guesses, anyone? Well, according to the Online Slang Dictionary (which you can happily peruse at this site:, it means “to react with extreme or irrational distress or composure”. I would have never figured it out on my own. Thank god for the internet! Or how about the phrase: get crunk with someone. Ghastly, isn’t it? I shiver. Apparently it means to approach someone in a hostile manner, yet I daresay that the phrase, alone, is enough to send me running in the opposite direction. And should someone carrying a gatt in their grape smugglers get crunk with you, you’re in some pretty deep shit. In fact, you might even lay cable right then and there. Man, that’s really kumfumbled, isn’t it?

I don’t suppose there’s much hope for the resurrection of our language as it was spoken so long ago. And there’s hardly any point in me getting my bitch on about it, as I’m much more prone to marinate instead of napalming my opinions on the rest of society. Not to mention that I’d only come off looking like a wazzock. Perhaps I’m just going off the deep end about nothing and need more distractions in my life. Maybe I’ll just race off to the packie to stock up on enough junkst to make me talk to Ralph on the big white telephone. Or I just might get spun, go bogart some jacks and take off on a wild spree to get my boo some new bling-bling. Better yet, I rather imagine I could just insituate myself in a bumping sausage party and get my swerve on with a couple of diesels. Now that would be diggity dank, if you ask me!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Rules to Live By: A Baker's Dozen

The following is a brief compilation of thirteen lessons, or observations if you will, that I have discovered (often the hard way, mind you) during my ever so brief journeys through this world of ours. Perhaps you may benefit from them, find them vaguely amusing, or merely consider them fodder to further the argument that I, indeed, am suitable to be committed. (And by that I mean given permanent residence in the room with the fluffy, padded walls.)

1) Corsets are remarkably uncomfortable items of wardrobe, yet they seem to provide handy places for the storage of small items (i.e. a lighter, a five dollar bill, a phone number scratched on a scrap of paper, a hair clip, etc.).

2) Avoid drinking excessive quantities of wine on an empty stomach. Or after large quantities of soda. It's just not pretty. You may laugh about it later, but it's still not pretty.

3) When the phone company says they are going to cut-off your service because you haven’t paid your phone bill in a couple of months….they actually mean it. (Really. They’re not kidding. Trust me on this one.)

4) Never let people know just how much you really know. That way, when you do something well, they’ll be pleasantly surprised.

5) Patience is a virtue… is silence.

6) Don’t ever try to outsmart kids. They’re smarter than we are. They’ll figure you out every time.

7) If you’re going to give your cat a pill, make sure to wear some sort of protective clothing on your hands and arms. I highly recommend a good pair of industrial rubber gloves. They’re strong AND durable.

8) Humor at the expense of others is okay, provided that they never really get the joke in the first place.

9) Don’t try to fix your computer unless you really know what you’re doing, because in the long run you’ll only manage to screw things up more and then have to ask someone who actually knows a thing or two about computers to fix it.

10) Cops have no sense of humor. (Actually some do, but most of them don’t….so don’t try. It’ll only make things worse.)

11) Comfortable shoes. Comfortable shoes. Comfortable shoes.

12) Chocolate covered espresso beans are NOT candy. Eating too many of them will mess you up.

13) Never threaten your boss with offers from other employers who would a) compensate you better for your work, b) more value your input, or c) recognize you for the industrious wonder that you truly are…unless you already have your next job lined up. (I’ve never tried this personally, but I’ve heard some morbidly funny stories…)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Eulogy to Scarborough Faire

The Faire is over….the Faire is over….the Faire is over! Scarborough Faire….is over. Though I rather imagine it needn’t be stated (again, for the thousandth time), I am somewhat distraught to find myself with little or nothing to do with my weekends other than to grumble and pine until the onset of yet another season of donning Renaissance garb and running amuck in ways that would likely leave my mother with a disgruntled expression were she to know just what kinds of trouble I tend to stir up in said attire at said locations. And so I grieve. Because the Faire is over. Ended. Terminado. Fini. Thus shall my heart mourn with its every tormented beat for the loss of my favorite pastime. Very well then. What’s done is done, and I’ve little recourse now other than to lean back in my cushy desk chair, fold my arms behind my head, and reflect on what a marvelous season we had.

First and foremost, allow me to declare (once more, and this time for the record) that Musketeers are, without question, my favorite part of any faire-going experience. There’s just something about men dashing about in thirty pounds of blue velvet -- accompanied ever so beautifully by long, flowing plumage that flutters in even the slightest breeze -- that leaves me practically convulsing with outright, wanton lust! Then again, maybe it’s the well-groomed mustaches and goatees adorning features so perfectly chiseled that I would wonder if my eyes were gazing upon works of art rather than mankind, itself. Or perhaps it’s the titillating sound of jingling spurs across the way, directing my attentions toward the object(s) of my desire. Who knows? And does it even matter? Nay, say I! For, much like the merit of a wondrous sunset that begs to be watched in awe, it’s really impossible to explain. I simply adore them. Ah, I can almost smell the delectable scent of testosterone even now as I recall their presence. Simply delightful!

However, one might ponder whether my fascination with these glorious French soldiers has anything to do with the fact that my current, and decidedly droll, existence is somewhat male-deficient. In my present occupation I work exclusively with women. And hardly do I bemoan said fact, as the merits of sisterhood are never lost on me. Yet, in every life there is room for balance. Work with women….play with men. (Already does my mother’s audible groan at such a blatant comment echo across my subconscious. Sorry mom.) And therefore one of my primary intentions in racing out to Scarborough Faire each weekend has everything to do with getting a hefty dosage of Vitamin M. (The “M” stands for men, for those of you who are slow on the uptake.) And, although those with intimate knowledge of these velvet-clad wonders would declare with some outrage that Cavaliers and/or Musketeers tend to hog the mirror more than their courtly (or wenchy, whatever the case may be) escorts, they are hardly lacking in testosterone. So what if they adorn themselves with more lace than I did on my wedding night. They’re still indisputably masculine! And wonderfully so!

Of course, you may be sitting there wondering silently to yourself whether or not I only attend Renaissance festivals for the sole purpose of acting up with gorgeous Frenchmen. Again I declare nay, my good friends! For there are so many other wondrous attributes to faire life, including but not limited to splendid entertainment, tasty chilled beverages (wine being my personal preference), talented merchants and artisans, and, last but certainly not least, camaraderie that is without compare. If you would indulge me for a moment, I would like to elaborate a bit more on that last attribute.

There’s something to be said about friendships made and maintained at Renaissance festivals, and therefore I feel the need to say it. The opening weekend of just about any faire can be likened somewhat to the first day of school after summer vacation. We’ve all experienced it: that giddy apprehension as you gaze about in search of faces you remember, as well as the subtle curiosity of the so-called “new kids” in homeroom. Old bonds are reinforced, accompanied by handshakes and hugs and maybe a few lingering kisses here and there. And new ones are forged quickly as faire virgins are welcomed into the fold, initiated into the herd with bottom-spanking ceremonies performed by candlelight under a full moon. No…wait…that’s something else altogether. Pardon the digression.

Nevertheless, these friendships are strengthened by the common experience of roaming through a carefully constructed village in historical (and often uncomfortable…have you ever tried to sneeze in a bodice? Egad!) clothing in weather conditions that are often counterproductive to one’s own physical comfort. Illogical, you say? Why, yes it is. But who said fun had to be founded in logic? Nonetheless, it is through sharing these experiences that we grow closer to one another. Laughing, playing, cavorting about like overgrown children, and looking after each other when the mercury nears triple digits. The camaraderie is real. The concern for another’s well-being is real. And the degree to which my faire friendships warm and comfort my heart, even in my bleakest hours, is as real as the nose on your face. (Assuming you’re not status-post rhinoplasty, that is.)

Are these ties cut as each season draws to a close, you may ask? Hardly. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology we keep in touch even with those who hail from the farthest corners of the globe. (Like Austin, a whole three hour drive from here.) Internet forums (which I’ve taken a little heat of late for waiting too long to join…sorry guys, I’m on it…I really am), long distance calling plans, snail mail, and, ever so thankfully, the slowly falling prices of gasoline all help us to keep in touch with one another. Because without these beloved friends, I likely would wither and fade much like the ivy plant in my kitchen. I value them (the friends, not so much the ivy) as the gifts they truly are. As a matter of fact, on closing day as the sun was skimming across the treetops along the horizon and the gates were being pulled shut, something was said to me which I shall remember forever: "We expect you to keep in touch….You’re hanging with the right people now….We’re the kinds of friends you lean on." God bless the two darlings who uttered such valued phrases to me! I love the hell out of them!

So, the faire is over. And I grieve. But I shall carry with me such fond memories as to fuel my escape-from-reality-moments for quite some time to come. And are we keeping in touch as we promised? You better believe it! I always keeps me promises, mate. And if any of these godsends should happen onto this blog of nonsensical musings (God help them if they made it to the end of this infernal post), I’ll see you at the party. Oh yeah, and I’ll be wearing my toga!