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Basura

I was born and raised in New Orleans.  Post Hurricane Katrina when the levees broke and flooded our city (that was for you, Rob) I lived in Houston, Texas.  During that tumultuous time, I had a co-worker who is of Hispanic origin.  Hola chica!  She was as bright eyed, bubbly, and feisty as you can imagine.  Add another dash of habanera and that’s her.  When I decided it was time to make the big leap to L.A., I told her she was welcome to visit anytime.  Her reply, “Are there any Mexicans in L.A.?”  The question caused the type of knee-jerk reaction where you cock your head slightly to the side and repeat the wording in a slightly satirical tone, one octave higher at the end.  “Are there any Mexicans in EL-AY?”  Her innocence alarmed me and rendered me momentarily speechless.  Who am I to give cavalier statistics on the Latino population comparison of Los Angeles to Houston?  I’m an amateur statistician at best.  After a long dramatic pause, I responded my own rhetorical question, “YEP!  You would love it!”  She was barely 21.  (I tend to reserve judgment for fools twice her age.)  She had never been to Mexico and I have never been to Africa.  I considered us even.  On race I am no authority.  I grew up in a city with one of the most complex racial intermingling histories in America – a port city, colonized by Spain and France with the most land-owning, free people of color in the 19th century.  Notwithstanding, the city is still pretty black and white.  Yet visually we are a gumbo of sorts.  Inside this cocoon called home, I’m black.  I’ve always been black.  It would be a shocker if suddenly I weren’t.  My birth certificate says Negro.  So, I’m African-American for sure.  Right?

Remarkably, outside my native crescent land, my nationality has been questioned more than once and even refuted twice.  It started in Basic Training.  I had three drill sergeants: one white male, one black male, one Hispanic female.  A Neapolitan coalition of armed might if you will.  One day my female drill sergeant called me by my last name, because that’s what they do when you join the military, and asked me a very straight forward question.  “What’s your nationality?”  The puzzled look on my face should have given her a clue.  I answered, “Black, drill sergeant.”  The profound lack of reference to any nation in the answer should have given her another clue.  She fumbled along clueless.  “No.  I mean, what are your parents?”  I replied instantaneously and a bit incredulously, “Black and black, drill sergeant.”  And so it went… The questioning and the subsequent dismissal as if we were playing some cruel game of Connect Four genealogy.  It happened that day for the very first time and it’s happened numerous times since then whenever I visit New York, D.C., Chicago and some parts of L.A.  I don’t speak Spanish.  I’m not from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, or any other Latin nation I would be most proud to represent if I were.  Heritage is important to me.  Why would I deny it if it were mine?

Here’s the genetic breakdown I know.  My great-grandmother on my father’s side was from France. My great-great-grandfather on my mother’s side was Jewish.  My great-great-grandmother was African.  My familial hues are most represented by people of color and I am unequivocally an African-American woman.  You with me?  Good.  I speak English.  In high school I studied Latin and French.  At a military institute off the coast of Monterey I studied Korean.  I’ve never studied Spanish.  Ever.  Although, I’m told I have an affinity for languages.  Insert “me” as Jason Bourne played by Matt Damon as he spouts German to the officers requiring proof of his citizenship then proceeds to disarm and disable both.

I’ve always wanted to be that badass.  I thought I was joining the military to be the female James Bond.  (We can thank a silver-tongued recruiter for that notion.)  The truth is the “needs of the Army” far outweigh any girl’s dreams of learning Russian to slip underneath the iron curtain and procure secrets vital to the continued freedom of our nation.  And… my test scores dictated otherwise.  They ensured years of adoration for bulgogi, white sticky rice, and kimchi were in my future!  In hindsight I don’t think blending in would have been a feat easily attained in the Ukraine. (I told you I’m a colored gal.  Don’t you DARE repeat that.  The term grates my skin!!!)  Consequently, I couldn’t pass for Korean any day of the week either, not even in winter when I’ve lost my summer tan.  I am quite versatile.  The languages I’ve studied come complete with accents which astonish a native tongue.  I’m a bit of a showoff.  We can thank my background in theatre and my position in the birth order for that.   I love languages and I never cease to amaze myself.  In Italy I picked up a few phrases after “Ciao Bella!” was engrained in my brain.  In Mexico, I found myself in the middle of a marketplace bartering for a blanket while screaming, “Veinticinco!  Veinticinco!”  This is in no way contradictory to what I wrote earlier.  It’s true.  I’ve never studied Spanish.  I learned my numbers from Sesame Street and Villa Alegre, the first national bilingual children’s program televised in the U.S.  I’m a chameleon and a very quick study.  Blame it on great genes and a father who taught me how to play blackjack when I was seven years old.

What’s my point?  I’m not sure.  This is now considered rambling.  The only explanation I have is my power of association went full speed ahead when I saw a sign tacked on a pile of empty boxes in the office that read “Basura.”  My deductive reasoning led me to assume the sign read “Trash” or “Garbage” in Spanish.  Yes, even an idiot could have figured that out.  Thank you for the compliment.  The sign was thoughtful.  It was a solid attempt to communicate with someone on their terms instead of leaving to chance which items were regarded as important and which ones should have been discarded.  It made me wonder why I haven’t made more of an effort to take a Spanish class… or get a Hispanic boyfriend as one of my friends suggested.  (If I had taken her advice I shudder to think which Spanish words I would have learned first.  “Aye Papi!  Muey bueno!” does not count.)  Maybe I’ve yet to encounter a situation where my knowledge of the language was absolutely necessary.  Whatever the case may be, when I decide to learn the most widely used romance language in the world it will be because my desire to communicate has overcome my apathy.  It’s that simple.  It won’t be about the denial of my race or heritage.  My ethnicity will be questioned as long as my features represent a collection of 40 different nations.  My answer will continue to be the one given to my drill sergeant on that scorching hot summer day in Columbia, South Carolina.  But, perhaps it will be phrased more succinctly in my best voice a la espanol, “Yo soy morena!”

Persnickety Self-Adjustment: Embrace your race. It’s important to celebrate who you are enlighten those don’t.

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The People vs. The Problem with Being Single

This morning I forgot to brush my teeth before I left the house.  How does that happen?  It’s fairly simple.  I woke up.  I headed straight to the bathroom, reached in the cabinet, grabbed the mouthwash and swished.  Spinach dip, calamari and red wine the night before will do that to you.  I jumped in the shower and got dressed, grabbed my things and headed out the door.  Oh yeah, I fed the cats, cleaned the kitty litter, and unpacked my gym bag too.  You startin to get the picture?  It wasn’t until I was halfway to work that I ran my tongue across my teeth and cringed.  I made a quick pit stop at the drugstore en route and purchased a travel toothbrush and toothpaste to rectify the problem.  I am guilty of rushing.  I may even be guilty of not-flossing as often as I should.  But, I try my darndest not to be guilty of apathy or neglect.  Once I recognize a problem and have the means to correct said problem, i.e. funds to purchase aforementioned oral hygiene supplies, I do it.  I know plenty of people who would have complained about their fuzzy teeth situation, told a few other people about it, swore an oath never to forget brushing again, and just gone about their day wishing the foul breath away.  Maybe that’s you.  (No finger-pointing.  It’s not allowed here.)  I happen to know a few people exactly like that.  I’m just not one of them.  I like answers.  I like solutions.  I like to fix stuff when I recognize it needs fixin.  That’s probably what bugs me the most about this marriage thing and what has led me to my present state of mind.  I’ve always wanted a meaningful, monogamous relationship.  I think it would be great to be part of a wonderful union such as this.  My current state of extended singleness (You like that?)  leads me to believe that I am someone who may possibly have a few relationship issues that need fixin.  And all the exes said, “Amen.” 

Let me clarify for the feminists up-in-arms.  “I” am not broken and “I” do not need fixin.  I am perfectly happy growing, learning, and loving each day the person I am and am becoming.  Nuff said?  Cool.  Moving On – as we say on set.  It’s this relationship thing that’s got me a bit twisted.  IT or my attitude toward it is what I think needs fixin.  My simple fix?  I don’t have one.  Get one, you say?  Easier said than done.

When I am about the business of problem-solving (which BTW is “A-number one” on my resume – me – great problem solver – insert :::beaming smile:::) I usually (A) try to identify certain attributes unique to the situation or challenge that may give me insight as to the type of challenge I’m dealing with; (B) think about what has worked before and how it can be applied to the present; (C) consider all my resources; and (D) think about the possible outcome or consequences.  Hear ye!  Hear ye!  Superior Relationship Court is now in session.  The Honorable Me – or dishonorable if you count that trip to Cancun – presiding.  YES, I get to be the judge.  It’s my blog!  “The People vs. The Problem with Being Single” state your case.  [Exhibit A: Certain attributes unique to the challenge of relationships.]  I think people are crazy.  Myself included.  I think people are complicated.  I think just when you have people mastered, they smack it up, flip it and rub it down, changing your entire impression of them, breaking up a perfectly good boy band and requiring lots of lotion or water based lubricant to gain any understanding of what their true intentions may have been.  Conversely, I think people are wonderful creatures just waiting to amaze us and make us love them for all the reasons we knew we did in the first place.  I think there are people who are genuinely good who want to share positivity  and happiness with everyone they encounter.  None of these attributes negate each other.  They actually (and often do) CO-EXIST which is all the more baffling to me.  When it comes to relationships, conflicting principles make for extremely rocky waters.  Throw two people with opposite ideologies in the mix and you’ve got yourself endless nights of discussions concerning the Milky Way or why your momma won’t stay out of our business.  I’m just sayin.  {Exhibit B: Defer to prior successful solutions.] This can’t possibly be applicable here.  If what worked before was still working I wouldn’t be explicating the state of my singleness.  It’s safe to say I don’t know what works – for me.  However, allow me to expound on what I have observed works for other people.  Stroking the ego of the opposite sex to the point of exhaustion.  Turning a blind eye to the folly of your mate even when the risk of disease, embarrassment or harassment from a scorned, adulterous, lover lays waiting at every un-protected turn.  Sexless, loveless, roommate-esque cohabitation.  Excuse making.  Indentured servitude. (Well, what else would you call it?)  And my absolute favorite in a facetious world: Flat out denial.  These seem to work for some people.  However, I am not willing to apply any of these supposed solutions to the challenge at hand.  Thus, my single status.  [Exhibit C: Limited resources.]  I’ve tried gyms, bars, grocery stores, networking events, fix-ups, online dating, and hailing strangers on Hollywood Blvd.  Well, everything except that last one.  I still have my dignity.  [Exhibit D: Examining the possible outcome or consequences.]  Although this is the last exhibit, it is certainly not the least and has been the foremost on my mind as of late.  What’s the worst that could possibly happen?  Spending the rest of my life unmarried?  Having my best friend escort me to the award show?  Listing myself as sole purchaser on the beachfront property in Brazil?  No matter how I view the end result there’s nothing that seems so dark or dim about being single that frightens me to the point of running to the altar with some fool who won’t drive 25 miles to see me on a FIRST date.  As my mother would say, “There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely.”  I’m not lonely.  Sometimes I may get a little lonely.  But, I don’t suspect it’s any more than married people.  Besides, I know men and women inside of relationships who are lonelier than me.  I wouldn’t trade places with them for anything. (See earlier post – Greener Grass http://wp.me/pCt83-21)

The truth is there is no apparent solution because singleness isn’t a problem, at least not in my court of opinion.  If it were I would constantly view myself as “flawed” or someone who needs “fixin.”  I hope I don’t portray myself as such.  I definitely hope my friends and family don’t view me that way.  If they do, they haven’t been very diligent about setting up potential award show escorts who look dashing in a European made tuxedo!  In all seriousness, I’ve learned to view relationships as a positive addition to my life rather than a necessity.  That was huge.  I hope you caught that.  It wasn’t always that way.  Once upon a time, I thought if I didn’t get married I would be viewed as a social pariah.  I thought it was somehow reflective of my worthiness-to-mate like a lame lioness ostracized in the animal kingdom. (I have absolutely no idea why I typed that analogy.)  Once upon a time, it took time, circumstances, many learnings, growth and wisdom for me to realize my true worth.  Today, it takes courage to say, “No, thank you,” to bullshit and know that someone who recognizes your value is just around the bend.  Tomorrow, it will take a little bit of serendipity to meet the man of my dreams here on earth.  In that magical moment, it is my prayer we both recognize the addition we bring to each other’s lives and decide we want to be together.  If not, I will neatly tuck him in the pond of my relationship experiences and continue to fish in the ocean of life while happily single.

Persnickety Self Adjustment: When something needs fixin, it could be your point of view.

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Greatness Lives in You

This summer, I attended a Jewish Bar Mitzvah ceremony.  At the reception, there was a large, white, foam board with the Bar Mitzvah’s picture on it.  Guests began writing in the space surrounding the picture with Sharpie colored markers that were neatly placed next to the board.  As I stood there for a moment contemplating what I should write and reflecting on the religious cultural services I had attended in his honor, I thought to myself, “This kid is special.”  He has a smile that lights up a room and a genuine personality that immediately endeared me to him.  I grabbed a black marker (I had to represent) and I wrote, “Greatness lives in you.”  I stepped back, surveyed my writing and began reflecting on my life at the age of 13.  There were quite a few memorable moments to recall.  First is kissing John what’s-his-face while standing in the driveway next to his house.  His last name has slipped into selective omission.  Second, accompanying my older sister to the hospital for the birth of my niece.  Not really sure why she took me for the ride, other than the fact that I was the only one home when her water broke.  It’s not like I could have driven the car or delivered the baby had an emergency arose.  Maybe she wanted someone to recant the story in the event something tragic happened on the way.  Even back then I was a great storyteller!  All I remember is it was raining and I was scared shitless.  And third, my Catholic confirmation during which I chose a unique spelling of my Saint’s name, arguing it was traditionally Hebrew and had been changed through English translation. *cough cough* Bullsh!t *cough cough*  I can only wonder if the priest thought, “She’s either one heckuva salesman or her boundless creativity surpasses her limited knowledge.”  Maybe he simply shook his head while thinking, “Kids.”

Those memorable moments notwithstanding, I suspect many people other than my parents recognized my potential whilst I was busy being a foolish teenager using words like “whilst.”  Thank God, the gift of wisdom brings clarity.  I think.  I hope!  Standing with my sharpie in hand and the shoe on the proverbial other foot, I sensed a common ground of creativity between me and the spirit of the young Bar Mitzvah which prompted my written comment and a subsequent sotto smile of understanding.  Some would say, “What could you possibly have in common with a 13-year old, Jewish boy?”  Plenty.  Substance for one.  I am of the opinion that we are more alike than we are different.  Our commonalities are what make us civilized, human, able to function collectively in society without broad scale chaos or mayhem.  There are plenty of thinkers and doers.  But, in the equation of life we dreamers are a necessary component.  Don’t worry.  I know we make you nervous with our think-outside-the-box-ness and our anything-is-possible-positive-attitude-go-getter-ness.  I assure you, we mean no harm.  We simply want to be allowed to create freely.  My high school principal once told my mother, “She’s a free-spirit.  She’ll never be happy in a nine-to-five.”  (Ironically, 9-to-5 with Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda was one of my first introductions to female-driven comedy!)  My principal was right.  I’ve held many, many, don’t make me recant the shoe selling or fudge making jobs on the path to attaining my dreams.  The cookie-cutter ones marked by intrusive structure with little or no creativity were stifling.  If there are hidden video cameras beside any of those desks, I’m sure they’ve caught me dancing, watching movies or sleeping on many occasions.  Not ever on company time, of course…  Lucky for me, my mom recognized early on that I was a non-conformist.  She supported every endeavor I embarked upon, even the dumb ones.  Her one caveat was that I always do my best.  You wanna be a pig farmer?  Be the best damn pig farmer there is.  Accept no substitute.  Study pigs until you breathe bacon and sleep in slop.  I’m just saying.

Somewhere in my late twenties I became slightly bitter with my mom’s ideology.  I thought there may have been a lack of direction on her part.  I soon realized that any attempt to impose direction would have immediately been taken by my younger, foolish self as a sign of creative asphyxiation.  My mother parented a free-spirit the best way she could – to let me be as free as I could be, as long as I was respectful and obeyed the rules of the house.  In her infinite wisdom she did it by creating a huge circle around me that allowed me to explore without feeling constricted vs. creating a maze with a set path allowing only one exit.  I believe she knew me better than I knew myself.  And, if I know me half as well as she did, I will have attained a great feat.  As a parent, I like to think I’ve learned “how to” by observing.  The truth is sometimes you have to “do and fail” in order to succeed.  I think back to all the times my mother must have watched me fall flat on my face.  I think about how scared she must have been when I left the nest barely able to fly and acquire food on my own.  I wonder if it ever occurred to her to say, “Don’t.  Stop.  Wait.”  I’m sure it did.  But, maybe, just maybe she knew that I was more of a Robert Frost poem than I could ever have known.  That the only leading which would have any effect was to say, “Watch the sticks, potholes and bumps along the way.”  If she were alive today, I think she would be proud.  A few bumps and bruises, but I’ve survived.  A few hills and valleys, but I’ve learned how to climb.  I found my way through the forest and the trees, because in my heart, I had already determined to take the road less traveled by.  My success today is not only predicated by what I do, but by who I am allowed to be creatively.  If I had had more traditional parents, I’m not sure I would have learned that.  If no one had written on the foam board of my life, I’m not sure I would have found my way.  I owe them a great deal for making me the woman I am today.  They saw the seed of what I could one day possibly be, they allowed me to be me, and that has made all the difference.

Persnickety Self-Adjustment: Greatness is determined as much by what you do as what you don’t do.

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One Shot, Make it Count

In L.A. you see a lot of everything – homeless people pushing carts with Lakers’ flags attached to each side; label-wearing dog-owner snobs with designer purses housing their miniature barking children; freeways jammed bumper to bumper – Bentleys, BMWs and Buicks alike; red carpets; paparazzi and plenty of weave.  What you rarely see are funeral processions.  No hearses which contain the remains of a life once lived.  No limos with grieving relatives.  No stream of cars whose luminescent lights signal the trail of sorrow at a loved one’s passing from this life to the next.  In the three years I’ve lived here, I’ve witnessed one funeral procession.  One.  My daily commute, on average in totality, to and from work equals almost three hours.  Five days a week.  48 weeks a year.  Do the math.  ONE funeral procession.  People die daily.  I’m not being morbid.  It’s true.  Cemeteries in L.A. are few and far between.  It begs the question, “Where are all the bodies being buried?”  (I know.  Sounds like the pitch for a new horror flick or an inquisitive line of dialogue written for Ice T on the latest episode of Law & Order SVU…).  Could there be a greater cremation rate here than in the small southern city where I grew up?  Maybe.  I’m not certain of those facts.  What I know is there is one cemetery that consistently silences me by its presence each time I drive near.  The grass is well-manicured at a slightly lighter shade of forest green and each tombstone stands identical in its ivory lane.  At the Veterans Memorial Cemetery, twenty-four-seven, and 365 days a year, the grave formations bear witness to the military phrase dress it right and cover down.  In silence they stand reckoning those lives once lived under a code, a precept, an ethic common to each man or woman who has promised to defend our nation against enemies both foreign and domestic.

I was once a soldier.  I know that code.  I honor the American flag. I pledged my life in the preservation of freedom once upon a time.  I admire the living and respect the dead, now and always.  I have buried both of my parents and today, although I will not be there as a physical witness, I will bury a friend.   My friend was not a soldier, but he was a hero.  He did not risk his life in defense of our nation, but in the face of imminent danger he evacuated his wife and two daughters during Hurricane Katrina’s path of destruction and elected to stay behind with his boat to assist those in need.  He was the kind of guy who would help a stranger and go the extra mile for a friend.  He was as we say in New Orleans “good people.”  His passing has given me pause – made me examine my own life, consider those most important to me, and question my daily commitment to healthier choices in diet and exercise.  We won’t live forever, you know?  We get one shot at this thing called life and we have to make it count.  We have to try.  I woke up this morning and thought, “If I knew today was my last day, what would I say?  How would I behave?  Who would I befriend?  Speak less harshly to?  Forgive?  How would I cope?”  The beauty in death is that typically no one knows.  Neither I – writing, nor you – reading, know the time or place or the hour of our death.  I happen to think it is better that way.  I, for one, would be overwhelmed with emotion and likely overtaken with grief.  If the lack of time to plan didn’t kill me, surely the list of things-to-do would!  Oddly and very optimistically, I believe the focus of life should actually be living vs. prepping for death.  Death is inevitable.  We none get out of this life alive.  And while the details of death can become burdensome for those who are charged with the emotional and physical task of burial decisions, there remains a certain closure to be had when the final goodbyes have been said.

Maybe that’s what really bothers me about the lack of funeral processions in L.A. – so many hellos and not nearly as many goodbyes.  I’m sure it’s my own mortality at question once again.  If no one sees the hearse, the headlights, or the long trail of limousines, who will remember my passing?  Who will mourn my death and celebrate my life?  Who will give pause?  In the City of Angels are my only chances of being remembered relegated to the insistence of my burial in a military grave?  Where some poor sap (insert flashback of me from paragraph 1) sporadically drives past and recognizes my collective worth in service to my country?  The real question is, “When that day comes will I even care?”  I believe the answer is no.  Why you may ask?  It’s simple. Life is for the living.  When I have given my last breath in this body I will cease to care for the things of this world.  I only pray that those in charge of my burial have the decency to respect my wishes.  I hope that I am smart enough to leave instructions.  If I am not, maybe I am lucky that someone is operating with common sense and a small amount of knowledge in the way “she would have wanted it.”  At the very least, if anyone is listening now, please fly two Saints flags on either side of my grave and enjoy the pun of me being both a dedicated sports fanatic and a Christian.  After all, you see a lot of everything in L.A.  Maybe someone will see those flags flying in the wind, stop and wonder who I was, how I lived.  Maybe someone will miss me and mourn my death.  More importantly, maybe someone will smile and celebrate my life.  Until then and in the meantime, we must make each day count.  At the very least, we must remember those heroes, like my friend, who have come before us and we must try.

Persnickety Self Adjustment: Every moment spent thinking about dying is a moment wasted that we could be living.

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Spare Change

At times, I am entirely too nice.  I am not speaking of the time I gave the stranger rolling her daughter in a wheel chair near the medical pavilion a ride; or the time I assisted a little, old, Filipino lady traveling alone in putting on her shoes in front of Security as we stood at the end of the conveyor belt; or even the time I returned the cell phone I found on the beach in Santa Monica, and the grateful owner said, “Who are you?  No one does this.”  I am specifically speaking of the time, or times, I have given the homeless man at the grocery store a dollar or two.  Upon information and belief (which always means exactly what you think it means) said homeless man, who may or may not be without a home, has been known to make frequent purchases from the local, unlicensed, pharmaceutical salesman and pays for the aforementioned transactions in all ones.  You heard me.  The homeless man is buying weed with my money!  Marijuana.  Pot.  Mary Jane.  Glaucoma green.  The Reggae plant.  The Magic Dragon.  Chronic.  WEED!  Hot-diggity damn!  This takes 420 friendly to a whole new level.  It’s a good thing for him I hadn’t received this tidbit of knowledge when I saw him on the spaghetti aisle last week.  He had the nerve to throw me a three-toothed smile and say, “We shouldn’t keep meeting like this…”  As if it were a secret rendezvous between us two!  I laughed nervously and replied, “No, we should not.” 

It is my regular practice to purchase FOOD for those who beg outside the grocery store.  In this case, I made an exception and tossed him a buck or two.  Oh!  So, now there’s judgment?  So, now you want to add ‘gullible’ to the list that begins with ‘too nice’ right?  Newsflash, not all people who beg for money are scam artists and not all of them have a drug habit to support.  It is highly possible you have chosen that particular psychology to keep you guilt free… or to keep you from parting with your spare change… but the truth is… you are a miser and you care more about the leather interior in your car than you do about the common man. :::Ya damn right!:::  (I heard you.)  I won’t let you off the hook just because at times I happen to be entirely too nice.  The world needs more people like me… to build chicken coops in impoverished communities of third world countries.  Well… no… I haven’t built any chicken coops lately.  But, that’s beside the point.  I have a friend who took a whole troop of upper class, young adults on an experiential learning trip to Tanzania and they did!  The world needs more people like US!  If only to balance it out… if only to even the odds… Yes, I volunteer my time.  Yes, I give my spare change.  I’m not rich.  Many would argue that I could be rich if I did not give so much away.  I argue that I am rich beyond measure because I do.  Maybe I was moved because he was always so grateful.  The homeless, not-so-homeless, buzz-seeker that is.  Who knows?  I can’t be too angry.  I mean, he’s got problems I’ve never seen.  Next time I see him I’ll muster up my best Ice Cube impression and yell, “Yo, Smokey!!!”  Then ask, “Have you eaten today?  You want a sandwich?”  That’s right.  I won’t stop being me and chances are he won’t stop being him.  I can help a brother who’s hungry without funding his habit.  Until I get around to building a chicken coop, that’s the least I can do.

Persnickety Self-Adjustment: Things are hardly ever what they seem to be.  That doesn’t mean I should stop being me.

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It’s Complicated

There are lots of spiders in Los Angeles.  I’ve seen them.  They lurk in corner cobwebs, under tables and in plants.  They nest in trees and alongside firewood.  When I relocated here from the humid, steamy, insect-laden South, I thought I would be bug free.  I kissed goodbye to the flying cockroaches, hit Interstate 10 going west and didn’t stop until I smelled the saltwater of the Pacific.  Unbeknownst to me, I said hello to arachnid central.  No one warned me I would trade cockroaches for spiders.  But, such is the way of life, love and relationships.  Compromise.  Negotiation.  Give a little.  Get a little.  Decide what’s most important, make a few adjustments, and keep it movin in the name of mutual progress and the sanity of all persons involved.  It’s not difficult in theory.  In practice, we (the people) have been known to muck it up royally.

I am a self-professed muck up.  Oh yeah.  I am beautiful, smart, talented, witty.  The list goes on and on.  But, to quote a few words from India Arie… I’m an amateur in love.  It’s frustrating to say the least.  Those who have had the pleasure of knowing the boundaries or lack thereof of my love have seen my struggles firsthand.  As my friends tell me, “Hey… you can’t be good at everything.”  So true.  What’s difficult for me is that my view on life is essentially the same as my view on love.  It’s not complicated.  It’s simple.  You either do or you don’t.  You either will or you won’t.  It’s no different from the decision to live with spiders or cockroaches (I’m NOT referring to your significant other here!).  Entomology 101.  There will be challenges in each place you live… creatures of some sort… vermin… cohabitating with you… infringing upon your dwelling space… seen or unseen… they exist.  They are not there to intentionally ruin your life.  They are… doing their own thing – like the oddball quarter of the Sesame Street segment “Three of These Things Belong Together…One of These Things is Not the Same”.  I digress.  Most people move along in life “doing their own thing.”  However, when you make a move whether in life or love to be with someone there are a few things that are par for the course.  You will not always get along.  You will not always see eye to eye.  Most people are inherently self-centered.  (This attribute does not help a relationship, it actually hinders it.)  But, if it is companionship you seek, then it would behoove you to figure out what you need to do in order to survive.  May I suggest a can of Raid?  The number to a local pest elimination specialist?  A big Stacy Adams-like shoe?  My point is that there is no shortage of resources available to help you weather the storm.  You have to want to be there.

I happen to want to be in Los Angeles.  Thus, my tolerance for Charlotte’s web grows more and more each day.  It has to… or I would make myself miserable.  I’ve done it before – in relationships.  Stayed in the thick of it with little or no tolerance.  Contributed to the toxicity of the environment.  Convinced myself that I could fix something broken beyond repair.  Yep.  I was younger then.  Dumber then.  Less experienced then.  But, one thing remains consistent, I was willing to put in the work.  Love, to me, means putting in the work.  It’s simple.  Either you will or you won’t.  Either you want to or you don’t.  Here is the key that most people miss – it takes two.  With any relationship (friendship or otherwise) it takes two.  I abandoned 90/10, 80/20 and 70/30 for 60/40 and 50/50 about seven years ago.  I realized that my relationship overview needed an overhaul.  In the process I decided that those people in my life, whether they be on the other end of the phone, across the table, or on the pillow next to me, who share my space, time, effort and energy, should be worthy of such.  They should contribute to the relationship’s growth and well-being at a proportionate level – sometimes giving; sometimes taking; always seeking to coalesce.  The problem is: ain’t too many peeps out here nowadays tryin to do that.  In my best Shaneeka voice:  “Girl…  Co-ah-who?  You better go somewhere with them big words.”  I told you.  I’m an amateur.  What the heck do I know?

I’ve taken to collecting guerrilla stats.  For every happily married couple I know there are three unhappily married.  For every married man or woman faithful, I know at least five who bask in infidelity.  Trust me.  I’m being nice here.  I’ve had offers from infidels great and small.  (None so great as Robert Redford’s big screen offer to Demi Moore… cause to give any woman in her right mind pause.)  I just really hate complicating life.  If I ever answered my door at 2 a.m. to a woman with a baby in her arms I would want to be able to direct her elsewhere because her husband is not fast asleep post-orgasmic in my bed.  I believe in love.  I believe that when two people come together and decide to weather the vermin lurking nearby, albeit a damn nuisance, wonderful things await them.  I believe in honesty.  I believe in mutual interests.  I believe in respect and honor and decency.  I believe in failure and I believe in forgiveness.  F*cking idealist.  I can hear you.  Don’t think I can’t.  But, I still believe.  Compromise.  Negotiation.  Give a little.  Get a little.  Love a lot.  That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.  Spiders beware.

Persnickety Snit Self-Adjustment: When things seems complicated, take a step back and simplify.  That is all.

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Back in Stride Again

This dating sh*t sucks.  Every time I hype myself up to get back in “the game” I get called on a technical.  It’s worse than Paul Pierce or Ron Artest in the Finals, but like a championship team I show up every time.  Even though I detest games, I understand the rules associated with dating and I play to win.  On first dates I usually wear a dress, heels, make-up, the works, even though I’m generally a jeans and sneakers girl with a feminine streak.  I’m not THAT girl who dresses up to shop for groceries, yet I’ve garnered great interest from a “grocery store boo” who cashiers the morning shift and is off on Sundays and Mondays. (YES, I know his schedule.  Can’t let those freezer section fluesies get up on my pretend man!)  I heart him because he’s seen me shopping for groceries at 6 a.m. and he still manages to compliment me.  (Yo!  I may not be roll-out-of-bed pretty, but I damn sure ain’t keep-the-lights-low ugly.)  When I take time to beautify I believe it’s worth the extra effort.  Such was the night I met my latest June-December romance. 

In a strapless dress that would give any Kardashian a run for her money in a curve contest, I stepped out to attend a nighttime event.  I parked my car at one of the many downtown buildings and trounced off to meet my party.  Upon returning to the garage, the security guard engaged me in light and witty banter as I sought to reclaim my car.  1) I love to talk.  2) He was runway model handsome.  3) I’m a sucker for a guy in uniform.  As I strolled to the elevator leaving sparks lingering in the air, I felt the gaze of longing and desire’s intense heat baring down the nape of my neck and the base of my spine…  I pressed the button and secretly willed the elevator to arrive faster.  My defenses weakened and I heard myself ask aloud, “How old are you?”  He responded in one heartbeat, “Twenty-four.  Why?  Is that a problem?”  Damn.  Damn.  Florida Evans, damn!  How do I get myself into these predicaments?

Five months later, I’m sweeping up the pieces of his heart and my frustration for fooling with a youngun who was not ready for the likes of me.  Or was it that I was not ready for the likes of him?  You have to give pause when the guy you’re dating calls you at 1 a.m. to tell you he’s standing in the VIP next to T.I.  It’s ONE A.M. AND I HAVE TO GO TO WORK IN THE MORNING!  Who gives a @*$#*?  That’s precisely what I uttered into my cell phone.  Or maybe, just maybe, I had enough tact to think it but not say it.  We’ll never know, will we?  Why?  Because I was ASLEEP when the call came through.  Slightly delirious, I have been known to say ridiculous amounts of foolishness when awakened abruptly from sweet slumber.  I have no idea what my immediate response was that night.  I will tell you what I told him the next day.  DON’T EVER call me again at 1 o’clock in the morning to tell me you’re standing next to a rapper/celebrity/fashion mogul or even a neighborhood bum.  You had better be standing next to Jesus Christ to deem it necessary to wake me up and you had better be able to put him on the line to verify your whereabouts in glory.  Needless to say, I was a little miffed.  Again I say, maybe it was “I” who was not ready for the likes of “him”.  I’m not a brute.  I’m willing to admit when I may be wrong.  You have to be honest about what you’re getting when you date a 24 year old.  You’re in denial if you think it’s going to be anything other than great sex with cereal for breakfast.

So, I am back.  Back in Stride Again as Maze would say.  Back to the drawing board of life and love.  God, I love a clean canvas!  So fresh.  So shiny and white.  Representing all that is pure with dry erase marker potential beyond measure.  I can color it any way I like.  I can write high or I can write low.  I can fill the board to the brink or I can write one line at a time.  I love having choices.  The possibilities are endless.  Times like these make me wonder whether I’ll find happiness inside of a long-term, monogamous relationship.  I’m picky and I like my space.  Relationships are hard work.  They require roll-up-your-sleeves fortitude and forsaking-all-others forgiveness.  It’s a joint effort.  Not everyone is a team player.  I’ve discovered I’m not willing to be the little league coach coaxing you to victory every time.  Sometimes I want to be the inexperienced batter who gets the 4-ball walk.  The give and take, or the push and pull, are never guaranteed to equal 50/50.  Those are the chances you take when you go “all in”.  I have no doubt that I have what it takes to do my part, and then some, in helping a relationship to sail to a baby-you’re-the-bomb blissful sunset.  However, I know that due to the fickle nature of human beings and a touch of stubbornness on my part, it may happen at a time and place where and when I am least expecting it, or maybe not at all.  I’m cool with it, because I love my life.  I’m cool with it, because I’m happy with me. And, if I’m ever not cool with it and I long for something more.  I’ll say, “Pass the cocoa puffs, Love…” and wait to see what’s in store!

Persnickety Snit Self Adjustment: Don’t ever sell yourself a bill of goods that’s less than what you’re due… unless you’re willing to take a loss.