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It isn’t often that you know exactly what you were doing on any given day in the past. There are the biggies, of course: birthdays, anniversaries, a few memorable holidays here and there.  But rarely more. The rest you have to rely on documentation, records, photos, and the like. The “date” may be off a bit but the “day” is dead on. I know what I was doing twenty-seven years ago today. This:

Yep! Mock if  you must but I was on the field at Superbowl XX as part of the Up With People halftime show. I’m not sure which blip is me but I do remember I was down stage right (lower left hand corner of the field for those of you not familiar with theater jargon.) I just turned 19 and was about 3 weeks in to my theatre degree from FSU. It was the mid-eighties. Glasnost. Apartheid. The Challenger had just exploded. Iran-Contra was underway but not yet revealed. Wham and Aha played on the radio.

Lots of folks criticize that half time show, conveniently forgetting that’s what half-time shows used to be: large field spectaculars. Marching bands didn’t play Madonna; they played Souza. Without jumbotrons to show the itty-bitty superstar to the distant football fans — most of whom were in line for either the restroom or the beer — what superstar wanted to do them? What executive wanted to pay for them?

But, come on. We all know that isn’t the real reason the Up With People half-time shows are mocked and ridiculed. Go on. Say it. It’s because of the clean cut, feel good, happy-happy vibe of the whole thing, isn’t it? For some reason, nothing brings out the cynic or the snark faster and with more force than someone else’s joy or enthusiasm. Are the songs sappy? Maybe. But so if every country music ballad ever written. Are the ideas expressed those of peace and understanding? Sure. Michael Jackson, John Lennon, and many, many others made a fortune selling the same schtick. Ebony and Ivory? Imagine? It doesn’t mean they didn’t believe it nor does it mean peace and understanding isn’t a worthy goal even in an imperfect and complex world.

In the interest of full disclosure, even though I’m an alumni, I’m not a huge UWP cheerleader. There was a lot of good I experienced during my year (e.g.getting to know people from different cultures with different ideas about the world) but a lot that I call bullshit on today. The top of the list being that the appearance of “clean-cut” was superior to the reality of it. That the definition of clean-cut somehow included the absence of individuality, sexuality, and the wider array of reasonable human emotions like righteous anger and justifiable rage in the face of stupidity. That ambition itself —  that which didn’t appear to involve promoting social justice — was evidence of an un-evolved mind rather than a legitimate expression of talent and ability.

I wish I could say I remember my day at Superbowl XX like it was yesterday, that I was so present in each moment that I seared them into my brain. But sadly, I have only snippets. The guy who asked if he could by my field pass. Running through the streets of New Orleans with UWP songwriter Pat Murphy in search of film. Unfortunately, it was for him, not me. I didn’t have a camera so I don’t have a single photo of being there. I also remember, later than night, after the game, making out with a very good looking guy named Mozon (sp?) from Carizozo, New Mexico before he got on his bus to continue his year in UWP. My year was over and I was on to my next phase.

Up With People’s bread and butter is pie-eyed optimism. I’ll soon be hosting a few cast members for a week and will watch several of them spit and sputter when I ask them how they plan to reconcile the lessons of current experience with the reality of the world. They’re still coached to make a good impression and to not give UWP a bad name. After all, UWP can’t operate without host families. But in the meantime, I hope they retain their enthusiasm for life and a belief that life/politics/justice/compassion/etc. can improve, even if only in minor increments, and that they are the result of hard work and ambitious goals. I hope they realize that within the notion that “there’s room for everyone” (lyrics from a song from my era) that everyone includes the warrior as much as the peacemaker, the fearful and angry  as much as the brave and satisfied.

Cynicism, even over a half-time show, is for the lazy and the stupid. I prefer to live my life as enthusiastically pragmatic: joyous, sexy, fun, outrageous, hardworking, forward, upward, relaxed, adventurous,planned but not rigid, with goals but not grades, seat of the pants and skin of the teeth. I love that I was part of the Superbowl XX half-time show. I wish I would have paid better attention or had a camera. But I was there.

As promised (a day late) I’m catching up the rest of the Project 365 photos so with this, I should be back on track. I just kills me though, … I so love writing but again, this time, with the exception of a few little captions, the pics must speak for themselves. 

Also, and this is key, thank you for bearing with me while I fight the urge to give up, not wanting to subject people to a strange version of “sharing out my vacation slides.” I am thoroughly and sincerely grateful to you all. 

85-365_Pops in the Park -- The Orlando Philharmonic, Lake Apopka, lawn chairs, wine, friends, music, sunsets. What more is there?

 

86-365_Azaleas -- Spring in the south means Azaleas. We planted these in October and will get to enjoy the blooms for about 2 weeks.

 

87-365_Rain Chains -- Rain chains are used in some Japanese architecture in lieu of gutters. This one is on the front porch of my 1927 Spanish Eclectic house. Gorgeous when it rains though.

 

88-365_The Pond, Again -- This is my usual pond I pass on my usual bike ride. But it's starting to change with Spring.

 

90-365_Another night on (a different) town --

  

92-365_My Rock God -- Mike and the uber sexy, uber talented leader of Blond Ambition.

  

94-365_Bottlebrush -- It's that time of year, EVERYTHING is blooming!

  

97-365_Kait-Lyn opening -- The gal who owns my favorite wine bar opened this shop across the street. I should just give her my damn credit card.

  

98-365_Tabubia -- We transplanted this tree, which is very large, when we re-landscaped the yard. We thought the poor thing didn't survive until these tiny blooms showed up one day. Yippeee!

  

99-365_The Real Deal Diva -- A friend of mine is entering a cooking show contest and wanted to borrow my kitchen for the shoot. Pay attention y'all -- this is the next Food Network star.

  

102-365_Tabudia in full -- this is what a healthy Tabubia looks like in full bloom, which it only does for a few weeks once a year. Also, this photo? No editing. None. Nada. Niente. This was what the camera saw.

  

100-365_Primordial Soup -- Also on my biking trail is the Oakland Nature Preserve. If you take the trail through the hardwood hammock you eventually come to a mile long boardwalk that takes you to Lake Apopka. This is what is below the boardwalk.

  

101-365_Kermit's Kar -- Believe it or not, my sensei's real name is Kermit. Also, this is the engine of his car. He added the lights, mirrors, etc. It's called a Bumble V, whatever that is.

  

103-365_The Sensei and his Student -- me and Kermit. If I'm ever in a fight, this is the guy I want with me. The man is a bona fide bad ass.

Good lordy, lordy, y’all!! I am behind and remiss! The trouble isn’t that I’ve stopped participating in Project 365. Heavens no! It’s that I haven’t been importing, editing, uploading, and then re-uploading my 365 photos here along with my standard long-winded and wordy descriptions of deep meaning and observation that I’m usually want to do.  

So to hell with that! I’m getting back on track and here’s my plan. I’m going to share some (not all) of the photos here to get us caught up. The days I skip I either didn’t get a picture or I didn’t a picture I like enough to be bothered with here. If I’m inspired, I might add a caption. If not, what you see is what it is!  

So without further ado, more of 365:  

From any angle, he's hot!

 

67-365_All That's Left -- Granddaddy was a house painter. At this point all his belongings are gone from the house. All that is left are these old cans of paint in the barn.

 

67-365_The Nut House -- This is where he (Granddaddy) spent much of his time. Doesn't look like much does it? But the name is apt.

 

72-365_Dinner Party -- Dinner parties are about the mix of people... and at the end of the night, the plates and the glasses should be empty!

 

74-365_Lil' Grandma's Lillys -- My great-grandmother, like my grandparents, lived next door. She planted these about 30 years ago and now they simply bloom every season and remind me of her.

 

77-365_A couple on the beach w dog -- Near St. Augustine; Ahh.. life is good!

 

78-365_couple on the beach with horses -- Marineland, Florida; seriously, doesn't this look like heaven?

 

78-365_couple on the beach with horses -- the original in color. Still looks like heaven to me!

 

79-365_Washington Oaks -- This is a Florida State Park. It was raining and overcast, where this shot was taken is literally steps from the intercostal waterway.

 

80365_Coquina outcropping -- on a beach near St. Augustine, these coquina outcroppings litter the beach. It is pretty much the same stone they built San Castillo fort out of in the 1500s. There's a lot more variety in Florida than most people realize.

 

81-365_conquina quarry ruin -- also coquina, this ruin is found near the the Amphitheatre. Not really sure what it was for, but it was like finding the lost ark when Mike and I stumbled upon it.

 

82-365_A Flagler Lion -- this terracotta sculpture flanks the gates of Flagler college (formerly Flagler hotel) in St. Augustine.

 

83-365_The Road Home -- me, driving the big ol' Dutch Star motor home!! A serious road machine!

 

84-365_The other side of the pond -- This is the pond I photograph all the time, from the opposite side. After our St. Augustine adventure, I was finally getting back to normal!

 

I’ll add the next twelve tomorrow and that will have me caught up!!  

Now, where’s that damn iPhone? I’ve still got to get a shot for today.

Bullies….

The girls, four of them to be exact, stand just outside the open bathroom stall door preventing me from moving forward. One of my notebooks is already in the toilet and as I watch my textbook (American History, I think) follow it into the bowl.

“What, you gonna cry now? Look, the sissy bitch is crying!”

I’m confused, as always. I don’t know what I’ve done this time to merit the latest onslaught nor why I was singled out to begin with. It wasn’t too long ago that this group of girls were my friends. I remember all of their names, faces, what fucking clothes they wore, which classes we shared.

My face is red and my nose, which always does this when I cry, has turned beet red and I can feel the snot starting to back up in my face. It’s only a matter of time before both my eyes and my nose is leaking bodily fluid. Fortunately, I’d just pee’d, so I didn’t think I was going to wet my pants, which I had done in the past, much to my embarrassment.

“Why do you do this?” I sob. Big. Fucking. Mistake. 

Note to parents — Please teach your kids that if they are being bullied, don’t ever ask the perpetrator “why.”  It’s like throwing gas on a sick fire.

“You’re such a baby. Look at the baby!” Shrieks of laughter and general agreement that “the baby” was indeed crying.  

Two or three hands reach forward and push me backwards into th stall. “Crying over her ‘homework’ and her fucking ‘history book!’ It it means that much to you, teachers pet, get it out!”

Laughter ensues. Lots and lots of laughter. And one 14-year-old girl crying her eyes out as I bend over and retrieve my now soaking items — weeks of notes, probably some homework, and a textbook that costs at least 20 bucks. I know it’ll be over soon. We only have 6 minutes between classes and soon the warning bell will ring and they’ll need to rush off to their classes. I of course, will be late to class because I have to dry, as best I can, then hide, my sopping wet books in my locker. Demerits add to the embarrassment.

This type of thing was a weekly and, in phases, daily part of my existence from the 4th through the 11th grade. The methods and severity changed with age but helpless feeling it imparted never did. Fortunately, the short attention spans of youth meant that the tormenters would occasionally tire of me and find a new target but always, either they would pick it up again when it suited them or I’d fall across the radar of a new group or individual who would delight at making my life miserable.

Yes, dear readers, I fucking hate bullies. So when I saw this story on the news recently, I may have shocked a person or two with my Facebook post. A couple of people sent me comments saying something to the effect that yes, the 15-year old victim killed herself and that was tragic, but the perpetrators were just “children” who had “low self-esteem” and needed “counseling” not “punishment.” I’ll tell you like I told them, if these kids, who’ve been charged with crimes, were (in the best of all possible worlds) found guilty of this poor girl’s murder, I’d throw the fucking switch myself — with not one regret — so strong is my memory, so great is my lingering rage. 

The bathroom and books incidents were problematic. I soon refused to go into a bathroom that wasn’t occupied by someone else. An empty bathroom was terrifying. But it wasn’t always physical confrontations either. My teen tormenters were pretty damn inventive even in the good old days before the internet. I used to hand in homework last if I could and hang out in the class as long as possible after I discovered that “they,” my tormenters, would distract the teacher while one of them would go through the stack of homework on the desk and take mine out. I would then get an “F” on the assignment and when I tried to explain to the teacher that I’d really turned it in, without blaming the girls who did it for fear of additional reprisals, I either wasn’t believed or the teacher felt there was nothing they could or should do. To this day I don’t know which it was.

Note to teachers — if you know of a child being bullied and, for any reason, do nothing about it — fuck you. You are an embarrassment to the profession and a waste of humanity. You’re a fucking adult for fuck’s sake!

They also had a gift for bringing in “the guys.” A real good one was to write a love note — suitably pornographic and promising of course — to some way-out-of-my-league boy, usually a jock or some other popular guy. The horror and insult that the ‘poor guy’ had to suffer by apparently being crushed on by me was simply too much and I was now fodder for the rumor mill and a target of snide, sexual comments and inuendos whispered as I walked past in the hallway. If the particular guy also had a girlfriend, who also had friends, well then, I was now the hallway target for a lot of additional pushing, and my all time favorite, getting my books knocked out of my hands.

Nasty, mean notes would show up in my locker. Pictures with my face crossed off over which someone would usually add the world “slut” or “whore” which was actually quite ironic since I didn’t have any inking of sex and, thanks to the church, was totally ignorant of all things actually romantic. 

This game took on an especially scary tone once when a group of one of the girls “boyfriend’s” started  calling my house after school. I was a solo latch-key kid so my afternoons, from 2:30 pm to 6pm  or 7pm, when my parents and brother got home were spent at home by myself.

“Hey, know what you need? You need to get your cherry popped! Maybe I’ll surprise you and take care of that for you.” I was so ignorant of sex at that age I didn’t know what “cherry popping” actually entailed, but it frightened me none the less.

The crank calls went on for weeks and I became more and more afraid of stairwells as the pushes and gropes in the hall felt even more sinister.  And I never told my parents or any other adult. It was the late 70’s and early 80’s; the response would have been, and was for others, “What are you doing to provoke it?”

I know what you’re thinking…. “Damn, Stasha. You were a redneck! A child of fighters! What didn’t you fight back?” Well, twice I did. This first time was in middle school. This time the kid picking on me was a boy and we got into a fight in the hallway. He was bigger, and let’s just say he was winning when the school administrator finally pulled us apart.

Unbeknownst to me, my parents were called and when they got home from work that evening I was asked how was school today? I replied in my usual fashion that it was fine. That evening I got three whippin’s for the same damn fight. I joke about it, as part of my redneck upbringing, but when you think about, it’s not funny at all.

[EDITED for content: to sum up, I got “my tail tore up” at home. In our case that involed a black belt, and no, I don’t mean in karate.]

Needless to say, I never got into another fight at school.

The second fight took place when I was 15, after I got off the school bus. The ringleader of tormentors was my best childhood friend, I’ll call her Rene. From the time we met at age 5 or so, we were inseparable. She was the “pretty blond one” to my “smart best friend” one. We went to school and for a lot of years, church together. We rode horses, motorcycles, had sleepovers. I spent as much time at her house as I did my own.

But for whatever reasons, as we hit high school, I was no longer the favored friend and Rene and the others delighted in mocking, shaming, and generally harassing me yada, yada, yada. You get it by now.

Anyway, this day, I’d had enough, and as we got of the bus (we only lived a short distance apart) I attacked. We rolled on the ground, punching each other in the face, the stomach, pulling hair, whatever. At one point I had her face down and was pressing her beautiful face into the limestone beneath us. At another point, she was on top of me, kicking into my stomach and ribs. We both got pretty bloody and I swear, to this day, she insists she “won” the fight.

And thus ended a “beautiful” friendship BUT, she pretty much left me alone after that. Oh there were still some notes and mocking but for the most part, I went into my advanced classes, made friends with a few of the other smart girls and guys but nothing really close,and certainly nothing that held up over time, ever again. To this day, I have a very hard time forming lasting friendships with women. Pathetic and sad? Yes. But true.

Ironically, at this moment Rene’s Christmas letter is on my dresser, awaiting a reply. Oddly enough, I still love her. Sick isn’t it? We don’t really communicate much at all but if she were in town I wouldn’t be able to stay away. She is happily married, the mother of four kids, grandmother of one. Her husband is handsome. She is still blond, thin, and stunningly beautiful. I’ve joked with her in the past that the only reason we’re still friends is because one day her metabolism is going to change and I intend to be there. All the others, some of whom have actually tried to “friend” me on FaceBook, can all kiss my ass. But Rene, for some weird reason, I can’t let go of.

I’m sick. Sick, sick, sick.

Anyway, the very good thing that came out of my and Rene’s fight was that it was then I discovered the theater. Community theater, that is,  NOT the school drama department. I still got picked on to a degree, but every day it became about more than just surviving the day in order to get to the relative safety of home isolation; I now had something to look forward to with people — grown ups! — who treated me as part of the human race.

Note to all adults everywhere — it’s good for kids to have adult friends. At least, it was good, perhaps life-saving, for this one.

My brother, on the other hand, was not so lucky. It’s not my story to tell so I won’t go into details here, but his childhood is almost wiped from his memory due to the intensity of the trauma he underwent at the hands of his school’s bully faction. What I endured was nothing — nothing — compared to his experience. And he had no “theater” to turn to, no group of adults or others to help him through. Neither the church nor the family was a refuge and all these years later, the damage can still be seen just under the surface.

Honest to god, it isn’t amazing that he and I survived our childhoods, it’s a fucking miracle that we function at all.

But, and here’s the real kicker, he is far braver than I. With all he experienced in childhood — he has children of his own. Two boys, sweet beyond words — one a gentle giant and the other an impish athlete.

I…. can not have children. 

When I was in my 20s, I just knew it “wasn’t for me.” In my 30s, we made a half-hearted attempt but I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for the idea. I’m in my 40s now, just starting to untangle why I am the way I am and now, it is too late.

Note to readers — DO NOT send me any “it’s not too late comments” regarding having children. They WILL NOT be well received.

I cannot have children because I do not like them.

“But Stasha,” my friends say “you don’t really mean that.”

Uhm, yes. I do.

“But children are so innocent and sweet.”

Ahhh, not in my experience.

“Well, you like MY children at least, right?”

Uhm, no. I don’t. At least, not yet. I’m going to reserve judgement until I discover whether or not they’ve grown up to be decent human beings.

You see, when I’m regaled with “cute” tales of someone’s childs bad behavior, I don’t think it’s cute at all. When someone goes on ad nauseum about how their “princess” is adorably manipulative or a liar I see a girl-bully in the making. When I watch groups of boys trying to out-do each other with mean-spirited banter I can’t help but wonder what poor kid is going to be their target.

And speaking of targets, I’m afraid for the nice kids, the ones who are eager to please, the ones who want so badly to fit in, to have friends, to be accepted. 

And speaking of adults, other than my escape at the theater where people we ignorant of the rest of my life, I have no memory of effective adult intervention, refuge, safety, helpfulness, nor any usefullness what so ever.

The bullies of my youth didn’t just cost me a few text books and grades. They didn’t simply make me cry, slap or punch, mock, or humiliate me. They didn’t drive me to suicide but they successfully killed off a part of me none the less. 

Of course, this isn’t the only reason I don’t have kids. There are other far more complex reasons than a few school-yard incidents, but that post will have to wait for another day…. far, far in the future I suspect.

I don’t think I appear to be an angry person. Most people who know me, I believe, think I’m a pretty happy and well-adjusted, and overall, they’re right. Yet, I have been known to verbally (and in a few cases physically) confront people who I thought were trying to bully me or someone else. I’ve been told I can be quite intimidating and effective.

Note to bullies — keep your douchebaggery to yourself in my presence. I’m no longer a frightened child who gives a shit if you like me.

While I pride myself on my general rationality, I will fucking unleash on a bully — kids, adults, whoever, where ever. Yes, I”m unappologetically irrational  about bullies. I could probably use some therapy but for right now I’m fine with simple awareness.

And to those nine “children” who bullied and tormented that poor girl to the point that she hung herself under the stairs to escape their nastiness where her younger sister found her dead body hanging and now her parents and family have lost their beautiful baby, all I can say is you should thank your lucky stars I’m not on any jury.  As far as I’m concerned, you deserve the fucking chair.

Just dance….

Who's the hottie on the left?

So last week, my Beloved had a gig in Naples and I went with him. He’s playing in a new band that plays some pretty nice clubs — classy atmosphere, sexy people, expensive drinks. Top-40 dance music is the name of the game so the set list includes everything from  Abba to Usher. The 28-year old lead singer/leader is an extremely talented vocalist — blond, gorgeous, hot. She also has a uber-sexy and talented male vocalist to cover the men’s parts and add variety — 6’4″, mocha color skin, dazzling smile, hawt. The band itself is made up of amazing musicians with a distinctly latin flair on bass, drums, and keyboards. And of course, Mike, my Beloved, on lead guitar playing the lead licks from Santana and Guns N Roses like the rock star he is.   

Pulsating rhythms, low lights, liquid libations flowed through the crowd;  ladies’  in low-cut, tight, boob revealing  club clothes gyrate on the floor with look-at-me moves; stylish men smelling of good cologne and hot sweat, with a few moves of their own, obliged the ladies. 

And where was I? In the middle of it all, shakin’ it on the dance floor — wearing my tight “little black dress” that Mike picked out the previous Sunday, “fuck me” high heels, bare legs, bare shoulders. As the bass became louder my legs bent at just the right angle so my thighs (as well as my tattoo) and calves looked their best; in my case “best” looks like I could break a man in half with them. mimicking the singer’s sexy lyrics I undulated my body, ground my hips, raised my arms high over my head so my small but firm breasts were prominently displayed.   

“Absolutely Stasha! You should enjoy your body and your ability. You’re young (at 43) and there’s nothing like the feeling of enjoying yourself to music. Your husband’s on stage and you should totally rock the vibe. It is, after all, just dancing, right?” 

Three wives and two guys -- yours truly took the photo.

 Um, no. You see, I wasn’t out there as “Mike’s wife,” neutered, stripped of my own sexuality and pretending like I wouldn’t know what to do with a penis if I saw one. Oh, no. I was Stasha, the real person, the grown-up person who wanted to feel real sex and lust and desire. I knew exactly what I was doing as I swung my ass towards the fellow I dubbed “the big guy” (I know, real creative, right?) or “the salt & pepper one.” The ladies charms weren’t off-limits either. I loved the feeling when they sauntered up close behind me, put a hand on my hips and we swayed back and forth in unison. This wasn’t chaste. It was sex.  And I loved it. 

Are you shocked? 

If you are, that’s fine with me. I’m well aware that I was breaking pretty much every rule of proper behavior along the clearly established “what women do” lines. You see, here’s the thing: I recently realized that, contrary to the teachings of the church and generally accepted moral “authorities” I didn’t lose my sexual interest in people when I got married. 

Now I made a deal, a deal with one person, my Beloved. But the rest of you — society, church folk, family, friends, clients, co-workers, whatever — can all piss off. 

I’m sorry. Was that harsh?  I don’t mean to be, but I’ve been bottled up for too long. I’ve discovered, on my dogged pursuit, that one of the biggest things that interferes with my happiness is other people’s judgements of my behavior. Let’s take the sexy dancing, shall we? 

Before I got married, I was fairly prudish conservative overall but I certainly enjoyed the boys as much as my conscious would allow. I enjoyed the deep stare, the challenging flirting, the “is that all ya got?” banter with my male cohorts. I didn’t get to enjoy dancing or sex much (for a lot of fucked up reasons that perhaps I’ll post about another time) but I thoroughly enjoyed the part of me that could connect with others via that playful, sensual, and yes, sexual part of my brain. 

But the day I got married, the game was over. Of course, being married to the sexiest, coolest guy in the world is a great help with that, I didn’t really miss it for a while, but eventually, I started to realize that I’d cut out my gonads with a diamond ring. I made this realization, in fact, the day I realized that I HADN’T done that to Mike. I like watching him flirt, I love to see the ladies laugh at his jokes, toss their hair, and give him “neck.” If they communicate to him in any way, at all, that they think he’s sexy, smart, and cute, I’m thrilled. I never expected him to NOT be responsive to beautiful women nor to not enjoy their attention, I just expect him to honor our deal. 

We have a saying, he and I, “I don’t care who pumps the tires as long as I’m the one riding the bicycle.” It works for us. 

Or at least, it was working for him. 

I was still holding back and oddly, at one time he was expecting me to as well. “What would people think?” he’d say. “You have to be careful people don’t get the ‘wrong’ idea” he’d add. “What if these people you dance with think they have a chance with you?” he’d fret. 

1) I don’t care; 2) I won’t be responsible for what other people think; and 3) then they’ll have to learn to live with disappointment. 

Problem solved; moving on. 

That’s the thing, you see. I really don’t care what other people think, they don’t get a say in how I live my life, how Mike lives his, or how we live ours. At the end of the road if “they” chose to spend their time on this earth on the sidelines and they are proud of their restraint then I’ll be happy for them. They lived the life they wanted to live and hopefully experienced it the way they wanted to. But I have to experience mine the way I want. And the only person who has any say at all was on the stage. And even then, he has a say, but he does not get to decide if I get to be myself, only if who I am is worth spending his life with. 

Me and the other wives; some seriously hot gals there.

 I wasn’t just “happy” on that dance floor, I was joyous. I felt integrated, like all of me was present. I felt like I formed a series of short but fun connections with like-minded (or at least close enough for the moment) people — men and women alike. I loved looking up to the stage, and seeing my Beloved doing what he loves best, interacting with the other musicians, feeding off the energy of the crowd. I loved telling everyone I was the lead guitar-player’s wife; waving to him, twirling around so he could see his girl, together for 15 years, in the sexy sheath he picked out. 

When the gentlemen came over and wordlessly offered their hands to usher me on to the floor, I loved it. 

When the ladies formed the “girl circle” and laughed and smiled and tried to outdo each other with athleticism combined with ‘”what if” sex appeal, I loved that too. 

When my thigh or my arm or my breast came in contact with another person’s skin or clothes, knowing that underneath the fabric was a flesh and blood person who for five minutes, maybe ten, thought I was hawt, wow, do I ever love that. 

When I looked into their eyes and could once again see the shared challenge and curiosity of “I wonder what she/he’d be like?” Well, send me to hell if you must, but I fuckin’ love that. 

And when the night was over and I was collapsed on the couch, finishing my last drink (Ginger Ale by now), holding my Mike’s guitars while the same strangers I’d been dancing with smiled and waved thanks at him for filling their night with rhythm and music, well, do I have to tell you how much I love that? 

And when at last my Beloved takes me by the hand, proudly pats me on the ass, and we walk to our minivan to head back to the hotel so I can rest my exhausted body on his and snuggle up next to his heat and he can stroke my hair and murmur “it looked like you were having a great time” I can whisper, “Oh yeah, baby. I just love to dance.”

I don’t know how many of you can remember the day you “got it,” but I can. Clearly. I don’t remember the actual “date” of course, nor ever really what time of year, but I think it was Spring of 1983.

I was sitting English class with the rest of the pseudo-brainiacs of my rural, country, shit-kickin’ high school. The truth of the matter is that we were quite a diverse bunch because some people’s parents lived in the country because they were quite wealthy and could afford a hundred acres of luscious horse farm; some were so dirt poor they couldn’t afford decent screens on their trailer in Hog Valley. (Yes, there is a Hog Valley, Florida.) We had about a 49/49 black/white ratio with the other two percent being various shades of whatever. But skin color alone would tell you nothing of our diversity; you’d have to factor in, among many other divisions, rednecks vs. potheads, horse farmers vs. dairy farmers, simple country folk vs. those destined for the Ivy Leagues.

In English class that day were one or two smart jock types, several cheerleaders (I wasn’t one), a number of nerdy but wickedly funny guys, and lots of band members (yes!) in the “advanced” classes. We had a mix of the popular and the not-so-much but this group of kids, for the most part, always seemed to have the same classes.

Now, we were smart, but pretty typical kids, and today we were studying poetry. Squished into our 1940s style slide-in wooden desks, books tucked under the seat, with the appropriate amount of slouch for the guys and side-ways curl for the girls, we read aloud, stanza after stanza of 19th century British poetry. Yep, poetry. Mrs. Unold (real name, folks, and it’s pronounced “mizzez you-nold”) was sitting in her own 1940s desk, the top scattered with decades of carved initials and sanding where the more, ahem, inappropriate remarks had been removed by the custodial staff or the offenders in detention. And here it is, the poem:

TO THE VIRGINS, TO MAKE MUCH OF TIME.
by Robert Herrick, 1891


GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
    Old time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
    To-morrow will be dying.

That age is best which is the first,
    When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
    Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
    And while ye may go marry:
For having lost but once your prime
    You may for ever tarry.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
    The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
    And nearer he’s to setting.

 

Imagine, if you will, a class of unsophisticated, heavily Christian, hormone-hyped, basically bumpkins reading aloud Mr. Herrick’s words. After the last line was uttered in the halting monotone of a 16 year-old voice, Mrs. Unold stared at the class. We stared back.

“Well?”

Silence.

“What does it mean?”

Glances exchanged, looks of confusion, and still, the silence. Ten seconds pass, twenty, thirty.

“What point, children, is Mr. Herrick trying to make?”

Ms. Unold holds our collective and slightly stupid gazes till she’s had enough of our dumb-asses.

“It’s about sex!” Her hand slams down on the top of the desk, “It’s about getting it on!!” Slam. “It’s about ‘what are you saving it for?’!” One slam for each syllable.

And the light bulb went on, the darkness disappeared, and I got it.

Not the sex part. No, Mrs. Unold and Mr. Herrick could not overcome 16 years of Reverends’ Chapman, Henry, Walker, et al reigning down hellfire and brimstone in regards to normal, healthy biologic functions. And I was still way too young to realize I was, in fact, living under Damacles’ sword – time.

I got the words. Language. Meaning. Rhythm. Meter. Beauty. Emotion. Love. Fear. Joy. In an instant, it all made sense. Words on paper transferred one person’s intention to another person across time. Mr. Herrick was talking to me. His message had meaning — relevant, real meaning — to me, personally, and I felt it like a lightning bolt.

Moreover, like a giant puzzle that magically formed a perfect picture, I saw that words were the pieces. I think I must have read that poem a hundred times. The sense of “getting it” was so strong. Soon, I was reading Shakespeare’s sonnets and understanding the meaning behind them:


LX

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end,

Each changing place with that which goes before

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith, being crowned,

Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight

And Time that gave, doth now his gift confound.

Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,

And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,

Feeds on the rarities of natures truth,

And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow;

    And yet, to times, in hope, my verse shall stand,

    Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

 

And when I went to college to study theater and acting, my mastery of language grew so that when Roger Rees (of Royal Shakespeare fame) conducted a master’s class he whistled in appreciation at my ability, at the age of 20, to nail in performance this particular piece of the master’s work.

I got it.

And as I started making a minor living as an entertainer I was able to read scripts and instantly go to the meaning of the words. Like one of those pictures that make no sense until you stare at them just right and a 3-D image “magically” appears, I could look at the words and in seconds see the meaning in stunning reality. I was, and I think still am, a rockin’ good sight-reader.

I got it.

And as I grew in the craft of acting, using words to create new life, I started to see how both the writing and the intent could be shifted and manipulated to vary meaning and outcome. Change this word for that you could completely change the imprint left on the reader’s soul. Move a word from here to there, and what was benign could become sinister and vice versa.

I got it.

And as I aged off the stage and started writing words as opposed to performing them I realized that I — little ol’ me — could have the same effect across time as Mr. Herrick and Mr. Shakespeare. Now I’m not so vain as to think my efforts are quite to their standards, but I’m also not so modest as to think it isn’t pretty damn good. I write for this blog, which is mostly for myself and I’m lucky that some of you folks seem to enjoy it, and find it entertaining and maybe even enlightening on occasion. And I write for clients, who are trying to impart something worthwhile to their visitors, customers, and other strangers.

Words are not only my joy but my living. I write for pleasure and for profit and because I’m reasonably good at it I enjoy the fruits of this labor. With my Beloved, our company also spreads a little wealth around; I hire other writers and performers, buy goods and services, and certainly give a good percentage to Uncle Sam.

It was you, Mizzez Unold, who made it all possible. One day in maybe the Spring of ’83, you connected two dots for one little Redneck kid in a nothin’ little town in jerk-water Florida… and the world unfolded. And my life changed forever and for the better. I hope over the past 27 years I’ve applied this moment of clarity in positive ways and used my humble powers of prose for good and not for evil.

And so, to you Mrs. Unold, I want to leave you with this – Thank you. Your beauty, your skill as a teacher, your willingness to get to the meat of a matter, your daily commitment to the often ungrateful, unwilling, and oh-so-unknowing teenagers, and certainly to this one, has transcended time and place. One day I may be able to do better, but for now, I have to steal from my main man, Mr. Willie Shakespeare:

And yet, to times, in hope, my verse shall stand,

    Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

As promised, this week is going to be truncated. Quick captions only my friends. So without further ado:  

Sunday, Feb. 21, 2010 — Where’d the water go?  

Water is the next war in Florida. Mike and I took the motorcycle out and found a great little restaurant on a lake a couple of towns over. Obviously, the lake is wayyyyyy down. Strange thing though, we’ve had record rain, plenty of moisture this year. No drought. The thing is though (shhhhhh) our local water management service struck several deals with local municipalities and the state to, in essence, rob our water and sell it to private bottling companies. And you know what they said when they struck the deal? Suckers.  

52-365_The Lake is down_Sun 022110

 

Monday, Feb. 22, 2010 — All small towns ‘ve got ‘em.  

The local hairdresser. On any given night, on your way to you local watering hole, you’re gonna see some lady getting her hair fixed. I love this time of year though; you can see the front door’s open and the distinctive aroma of hairspray, coloring agents, perms, shampoos, conditioners, and the ever-present potpourri waft out the front door — along with the laughter.  

53_365_Small town hairdresser

 

Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2010 — A friend in need….  

I met a friend for drinks and to lend an ear tonight. Sometimes, a cluster-fuck shit storm reigns down on your head. And all you can do is trying to be a friend in deed.  

54-365 A friend in need

 

Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010 — I like my bike  

I’ve always been a pretty frugal gal. I’m a Scot. So when I decided to take up biking to work about 15 years ago I went to my parents and dug out my brother’s old green Schwinn. The I wanted to start mountain biking and riding more single track so I found this old 21-speed Diamond Back at a yard sale for $100. It’s definitely showing its age, but damn this thing just rides good! Great gears!  

55-365_Bike_Wed 022410

 

Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010 — Some things just ain’t right  

On Thursday Mike and I had to travel for business. Now we often end up in places like Utah or Texas or Kansas or Massachusetts. This time we ended up in St. Augustine. So, ya know, Florida right. Where I’ve lived all my life. And I have never, ever seen this. Look at the sales pitch on the back, then the license plate. How many customers could this possibly garner?  

56-365_Free Snow Removal

 

Friday, Feb. 26, 2010 — Yes, a beach in Florida  

I’m a real Floridian but I grew up in the interior of the state so I’m not really a “beach” girl. But if I was, this is my kind of beach. So many folks think of Florida’s beaches as Miami or Daytona (“The World’s Most Famous Beach!” Really?) But this is also a beach in Florida, one of many, and yes you can come here in high season and not see a freakin’ soul in either direction. This particular shot was taken just north of St. Augustine and just south of Ponte Verde (you know, where Tiger Woods gave his non-mea culpa).  

Pretty, ain’t it.  

57-365_Empty beach -- ahhhhh

 

Oh, and the beach is that color due to the fact that it is primarily made up of a particular type of crushed shell. Give a few weeks and I’ll be able to tell you why.  

57-365 -- shell sand

 

Saturday, Feb. 28, 2010 — Another view of Florida  

And just a few short miles away, is this — one of Florida’s hardwood hammocks. In this case, you can see a great example of a Scrub Oak. It’s actually a real oak tree but it get’s it’s stunted height and twisted shape from the abundance of salt in the air as well as the pretty much steady ocean breezes. Take an acorn from one of these, plant it farther inland, and you’ll end up with a pretty majestic looking oak. Here, it almost looks like the land of Dr. Seuss!  

58-365_Scrub Oaks

 

Well, that’s the week folks! I started getting sick the next day, pouted around the house, took a photo of my used kleenex, my computer, and the general disarray that I’d sunk in to. Pathetic. Bye-bye, Week 9! I’ll pick up next week!  

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll write something down worth reading. So for now, all my deep thoughts and revelation will have to remain sequestered in my stuffy brain.

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