April 2010


It’s eighty degrees today.  And the wind is blowing at a good 25 mph.  As I came back from the post office a moment ago, the wind fairly pushed me into through the door.  And, of course, it wrecked my hair and rucked up my collar and generally made me look a mess.    The old men hanging around in the lobby immediately began heckling me in their good natured old mannish way.

Why’d you comb your hair that way, Churchrat?

Is it windy out there or something?

And so on.

Don’t you listen to them, Churchrat. One of the old men’s wives piped up.  I think you look lovely today.  A very pretty dress.  Although, you do need a comb.  Have you one in your purse?  You can borrow mine if you don’t.

I do.  Thank you.

I hit a bump on my terribly pot-holed road, and it broke my car stereo.   Or it seems to have.  I’m still awaiting the verdict of any of the two or three mechanically-minded people I’m going to ask to fix it.  In the meantime, I’m listening to the radio.  My local NPR affiliate plays classical music most of the day, and I am just not sophisticated enough to enjoy it one bit.  Unless I’m getting a massage or something.  So I’ve been station surfing, muttering darkly, and coming to understand how it was possible that George W Bush got re-elected.

That is to say, people have shitty tastes.

My friend “Sandy” is a wonderful person who has shitty taste in music.  She used to burn me cds, and I used to pretend to listen to them.  They were full of Christian singer-songwriters and utterly unforgivable pop.   Like the Plain White Tees.

Moments ago the best song I could find on the radio–that is, better than “Girls, Girls, Girls,” a commercial for people who clean septic systems,  and a truly creepy song by Conway Twitty–was “Hey, Delilah.”  Or “Hey There Delilah.”  Or whatever the fuck it’s called.   This song fills me with ambivalence.

I once read some music journalist’s musing on his niece’s deep, abiding passion for this song.  She was fifteen and her boyfriend lived three towns over.  It was her theme song the summer it came out: a song about naivete and romantic longing, a song about the way first loves sort of seem to set you apart from all the people know, a song about how wonderful your life together will someday be when, you know, you don’t live three towns apart.    The writer knew, like I do, that it’s really dumb song.  Badly written.  Maudlin.  But he also envied his niece a little.  She found this song that meant something huge and consuming to her and she played it over and over for months.

I also read the “true story” of the song.  Apparently the songwriter–I could look this up on wikipedia, but I won’t–is grotesquely older than the song suggests, that is, not nineteen.  And he wasn’t experience romantic longing for his first love so much as lusting after a college tennis star who, of course, is named Delilah something or another.  She was disinterested.  I assume, again not looking this up, that her disinterest was based on his creepy oldness and his terriblarious songwriting.

The song always stands in for something larger I don’t understand about the ways in which people–especially Christians–interact with art.  How is it that mature, thoughtful people are enriched or inspired by the hackneyed, the cliched, the plain old lousy?   I always wonder if the failing is mine or theirs.  Am I too jaded to find joy in simplicity, to find comfort in the soft-focus corners of a Thomas Kincaid painting or to think dreamily about Jesus or the boy I like when someone strums her guitar?  Or are other people’s aesthetic senses simply broken or are held hostage by a desire for something easy and unconfusing in a world where faith is daily challenged by tragedy and ambiguity?

When I moved into my office here, it was decorated with cartoon sheep and exclamation pointed reminders to look to the Good Shepherd.  I put the sheep in a box and put up pictures of burned out churches and Victorian tombstones.

Tuesday evening a girl I used to take tap dancing lessons with died. She was born with cystic fibrosis and died of that and multiple organ failure and, somehow, cancer. In a big plastic box high in my closet labeled “old crap” with a strip of masking tape there are pictures of the preteen us in neon leotards and black cotton gloves tap tap tapping away to the music of MC Hammer and Buster Poindexter.

When we were in kindergarten, neither one of us could pronounce the names our respective parents had saddled us with. She called herself Me-me. I called myself Mewah.

We were never close. I liked her well enough, though, and she probably didn’t mind me. But she and her high school friends had stiffly fluffed hair and bumper stickers that claimed they were driven nuts by Wrangler butts. I wore my hair in messy buns and wrote debate cases in the library while dreaming I was anywhere else but a midwestern high school. We probably hadn’t spoken in ten years since we graduated, or if we did, I don’t remember the occasion. So the tears in my eyes when I read the email detailing her death surprised me and made me wonder for several seconds if I was turning into one of those queens of other people’s drama. Weeping and gnashing and waiting for someone to look in my direction.

She need lung transplants, as people with cf often do. She was lucky in a sense: her family was full of would-be organ donors, and they were matches. Her dad and her uncle each gave her part of their lungs. When she needed another transplant, the lung tissue came from her grandmother and her teenage cousin. A third transplant came from some distant relative her grandfather tracked down with patience and his dial-up modem.

Everything I’ve learned about loss so far says that this is what it is: that hollow in your chest where some part of yourself used to stay. Every morning you wake up and you put on your pants and you brush your teeth and you sense that space.

And maybe that’s why I’m sad. I know the space, even if I didn’t really know the girl anymore.

Mimi’s little sister is my little sister’s age, and they have the same grey-blue too small eyes.

I’m sick. What I sort of hoped was allergies is a nice big respiratory infection. When I’m sick, I’m scrupulous about my clothes and makeup with the notion that feeling awful and looking awful need not travel together. I put on my grey skinny jeans, a secretary blouse, a vintage blazer, and heels. I put on blush and bronzer both to conceal my deathly pallor and lots and lots of lipgloss.

Good morning.

Yikes. You look terrible. What did you do last night?

I’m sick. Then I coughed horrifyingly for several seconds.

Well, you sound it and you look it.

That interaction did not favorably dispose me toward the pastor. I dislike being told I look terrible. I think it’s rude–especially when I’ve taken such pains to overcome urges toward headbands and sweatpants.

Why don’t you plan to go home just as early as you can today? Whenever you get things around for Sunday, leave.

Okay.

Then I blew my nose. I worry my nose is louder than other people’s, but that’s truly difficult to verify.

I finished the bulletin and sundry other jobs I had to accomplish. Then, about ten minutes ago, I slipped the still unfolded bulletin and its several inserts into my shoulder bag.

If you really don’t mind me leaving early, I’m going to head out. I’ll finish the bulletin at home.

I actually fold bulletins at home about 70% of the time. I’m supposed to work til noon on Fridays, but often I end up leaving at two or later. The whole bulletin folding business can easily be accomplished at home, say, on a Saturday afternoon in front of bad television.

Don’t be stupid. Give ’em here. I’m not doing anything. I’ll fold them for you, and you go get some rest. Drink some fluids. Get on out of here.

Wow. Are you sure–

Yep. I can do it. Leave.

Boss-ome indeed.

I’m going to face-plant on the couch now and watch Harold Lloyd movies.

I’m at the library, and the man next to me at the computer is writing some sort of short story in which a 7 year old is watching people of un-named genders have sex in an abandoned building. It’s terrible prose, predictably. And he’s watching clips from Steven King movies on youtube while he works.

I think I may mace him on principle. I’ll get back to you.

I do read over people’s shoulders, in case you were wondering. I hate it when people do that to me though. With the fire of one thousand suns, actually.

Kant-scmant.

Here’s some news: I have a head cold. Or an allergy. At any rate, I took just slightly too much Nyquil last night and sent any number of borderline insane text messages to people before falling asleep in a position it took me a good two minutes to extract myself from this morning. Also, I dreamed about trying to wrestle Sherry Shepherd. That’s why you shouldn’t drink from the bottle.

I feel like this event is marginally more shameful to confess than the standard drunk text. Also, I think my plans for the weekend may be ruined on account of my sniffly horribleness. It just gets lamer and lamer around here.

And speaking of plans: I still don’t have any. The nice people in charge of hiring for Our Mainline Protestant Denomination have fallen off the face of the earth. I’ve gotten emails saying that interviews will be scheduled soon and that list the names (how odd) of eventual interviewees, but I still haven’t received a schedule. I’ve emailed and called a couple of times. It’s nerve-wracking. I have googled the other people on the list. Not surprisingly, they skew old. Or they seem to. People who don’t have distinctive names, like Church Rat for instance, are hard to google accurately. It must be sad to be them.

In college, my coworkers and I discovered, through google, that one of us shared a name with a tremendously popular actor in pornographic film. Not so popular we would’ve heard of her without google, though. It was a Christian college, you know.

For Secretary’s Day–a holiday I consider to have more to do with recognizing pink collar workers than, say, getting balloon bouquets–I got a new mouse from the pastor. My old mouse was terrible. I spent a lot of time shaking it violently and trying not to swear. And once I shouted I hate mouse balls.

As if someone loves them.

Except maybe this guy sitting next to me in the library.

I have a terrible case of the church blogger’s block this afternoon. I keep thinking of things to write about. They all seem problematic and they all get discarded, mostly because they’re about other people. I don’t generally approve of blogging about other people.

Except my boss, clearly.

I did get a nice stack of flower pots at the rummage sale today. You know, for free. My workplace benefits include first pass at rummage sales, old lady cheek kisses, old lady makeup on my clothes, and cookies. Anyway. Flowerpots. Slowly but surely I am turning my office into a kind of solarium. A friend has promised to dig me cacti from her yard. How she has cacti alive in the yard in the midwest, I’ll never know.

Every year the church where I work has a couple of big tag sales or rummage sales or whatever you call them where you’re from. One is planned for later this week. Sunday morning a nice, older woman I’ll call Maggie told me that she had some tops she had just bought but decided weren’t really “her,” that she was going to donate. She thought that they looked like something I might like, so she’d donate ’em to me first. I could put the ones I didn’t care for in the sale. I love old lady clothes, and I had in mind secretary blouses or shirts with peter pan collars or something. Retrospectively, Maggie’s not quite old enough enough for a penchant for old lady clothes–but neither is she young enough for the massive pile of maternity tee shirts she just stacked on my desk.

The pastor came in a moment ago and we had the following conversation:

Did you hear about the imans (sic) in Iran?

I don’t know. What?

They’re saying you caused all those earthquakes. Or people like you.

Pardon me?

They’re saying it was caused by the judgment of God against loose women!

Pardon me?

I mean… You know…

Did you just say I’m a loose woman? Is that what you seriously just said?

I was, ah, talking about the way you dress and stuff.

The way I dress?

Today I’m wearing faintly 70s-ish trouser jeans, a black tee shirt, platform shoes and a grey checked scarf in my hair, incidentally.

You know, by middle eastern standards… you’re kind of… in the Muslim world…

Why don’t you say good morning? I’ll say good morning. You’ll go into your office, and we’ll pretend this conversation never took place.

Good idea.

He’s a nice enough man. He does have a terrible problem putting his foot in his mouth, though.

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