Archive for January, 2009

the last day of creation.

30 January 2009

a eulogy given earlier today at my mom’s funeral:

this was difficult for me to write because, in school, my mother wrote all my papers, so please excuse the grammatical errors and poor word choices.

when i would call my mother from charlotte, ten or fifteen minutes into the conversation, after she had told me every minute detail about the changes in my parents’ and sister’s lives and given me updates on the neighbors, she’d pause briefly, before going through a list of my friends, some that i hadn’t seen in years and listen with genuine interest as i passed along all the information i had. i spoke with one of these friends recently and he said that he couldn’t, after only meeting my family once, several years ago, pick my mom out of a crowd, but that he’d always remember how she was unquestioningly nice to him, just because he knew me. and she was an amazing cook, he added.

it would be easy to recite a few anecdotes from her life to illustrate why we all feel she was so wonderful, but because my mom worried that my sister and i especially would only have memories tainted by her illness, i wanted to talk about a couple of things that i will continually tell people about the past few months when asked about my mother.

someone once said that you cannot truly calculate the worth of someone until you see how they react when times are bad, when one is struggling.

after a fourteen-hour surgery, the first thing my mom wrote to me was to tell me to go back to work the next day because she didn’t want me to use my sick days when i wasn’t actually sick. the second thing was to convey her apologies to a friend who was staying with me because the house wasn’t as tidy as it could be. i will remember that.

when someone new entered her room she would sometimes fake a heart attack and pretend to pass out. a few seconds later, as the visitor stood panicking, she’d open her big blue eyes, smile, and put her hand over her face in feigned embarrassment. she was saying, this is not a serious place, cancer will not control me, laugh and celebrate my life with me. i’ll tell you that story repeatedly.

i would tell you how she was sorry she didn’t have scones for me when i arrived home.

i would tell you how, when i entered the room, she would force me to drink from my sister’s water bottle. she became sort of obsessed with keeping me hydrated. at the hospital she would ask one of the nurses for juice and then tell me to hurry up and drink it so she could order me another.

i will remember her, once the cancer had entered her hip and she could barely walk, being helped by two people, and how she lifted her leg to kick open a door, then looked back over her shoulder to me to give me a smile and wink.

on the day of a red cross blood drive, she woke up intermittently and, without fail, asked us to turn on the television or check the computer to find out how many units were donated. when her coworkers visited later that night, she wouldn’t let them ask questions about her health until they first answered the question she had written: how many units?

virginia woolfe once wrote that you cannot find peace by avoiding life. i’m pretty certain the author never met my mother but she was able to sum up her way of thinking nonetheless.

i will add this (and then, dad, i promise i’m done): today we are celebrating the life of my favorite person in the world. her life cannot be defined by her illness, but it emphasizes, rather than overshadows, her courage, selflessness, humor, dignity, and love.


the river that flows into the sands.

29 January 2009

admittedly, i have a very limited experience of wakes, but they seem like an awkward version of this is your life. in attendance was the man who sold us our house twenty years ago. also, my dental hygienist. i’m chalking it up to vocational bias that she looked at my teeth while saying, i haven’t seen you in so long. there were peers i haven’t seen since high school, relatives i haven’t seen since childhood, and many of my mom’s coworkers whom i didn’t even realize existed.

the room was lined with flower arrangements sent to the funeral home on our behalf. near the entranceway a video played, combining pictures of my mom and family with beach scenes lifted from postcards, minus the script reading i wish you were here or the text of footprints in the sand. i kept lifting up the dvd case and making jokes, like i’ve been trying to rent this but it’s always loaned out or hey, wasn’t this due back at blockbuster on tuesday? an easel held a large card for guests to sign. a few of the messages brought tears to my eyes.

everyone wanted to greet me, as if i was dave eggers on a book tour. i caught them up on what i’ve been doing, explaining that i technically live in greensboro, though i’m technically technically still in charlotte. i made small talk. i shook hands. i hid outside.

right now, i really, really do not want to quote from a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, but all of us know it will happen, even if most are surprised that it has taken this long, considering the events of the previous few months, not to mention the inordinate amount of recommendations i’ve been given, even if my only similarity to the author is our placement on the sexual-orientation scale.

okay, so maybe we have other commonalities, but i’m still going to resist quoting from the book because i’ve never been able to read beyond the exceedingly self-indulgent (yes, i know, pot calling kettle), insufficiently clever forty-something-page introduction. however, if any of its advocates would be willing to lend me their dog-eared copy, i’ll do my best to finish the contents and ship it back to you. in return, perhaps i can arrange a teeth cleaning.

a bunch of people who love you like crazy.

27 January 2009

friends and relatives gathered at the house, bringing along every snack known to heaven and every liquor known to hell. we shared stories and looked through family photographs, laughing often, eating and drinking a lot.

as night fell, some guests returned to their houses and hotels, leaving empty bottles of vodka and rum, two of wine, and eighteen cans of beer as reminders. my sister’s and my friends remained to finish what was left, and to watch intervention on a & e, as we have on many previous monday nights.

the episode centered around lawrence, a guy in his early thirties who owned a chain of prosperous tanning salons. throughout the day he filled large brightly-colored plastic cups with vodka. testicular cancer weakened his body, and his resolve. he had surgery to remove the tumor, but rebuked the doctor’s pleas to get frequent check ups. his torso heavily bruised, a sign of low blood clotting as a result of diminished liver function.

lawrence’s loyal employees took over the operations of his company, even visiting his house daily — bringing him lunch, reading his mail, and tucking him into bed. his younger brothers obviously admired him years before but now avoided him. at dinner, his mother skirted around his problems, frightened of the confrontation.

i always feel compelled to act antithetical to a program’s message, continuing to drink while i watch people self-destruct due to alcohol addiction, eating during a show about a half-ton teen undergoing gastric bypass surgery, having sex every time abstinence is promoted.

those familiar with the show know that following the intervention, once acquiescence is reached, the subject is sent to one of various recovery centers throughout the united states, usually in california or florida. then the davenports five steps begins to play, as viewers learn the results of treatment.

as we raised our glasses to what would no doubt be another successful journey, we learned that lawrence was asked to leave after thirty days for failing to focus on his recovery. he retuned home to las vegas, remaining sober for another three weeks before relapsing and dying due to complications stemming from cirrhosis of the liver.

honestly, i’d like to blame cancer for everything. one night, walking out of beacon place, my dad said, fuck cancer, under his breath. it was only the second or third time i’ve heard him use the f-word, all in relation to this disease. i’m against anything that can repeatedly bring a two-hundred-twenty-five-pound man to tears, so i will blame it for everything without impunity, not just my mom’s death, or lawrence’s, but war and genocide, rape and murder, tsunamis and hurricanes, and my sixteen-hour post-intervention hangover.

at the grave’s portals.

26 January 2009

for years, friday has been date night for my parents. each week they go to dinner and see a movie or attend a concert. this past friday, a nurse brought flowers into my mom’s room in acknowledgement of the ritual.

this morning i returned home for a few hours of sleep because the recliner at beacon place doesn’t encourage restful nights, my dad relieving me at my mom’s side as he has for each of the last sixteen mornings. after tucking myself in, i received a phone call asking me to return. he told me not to speed.

it had been less than an hour since i’d seen her but things had changed drastically. she was the color of untrodden snow, of milk, of ghosts. she died within five minutes of my arrival, at twelve sixteen, with the three of us holding her. after waiting for over a minute until her next breath, someone said, i think… and someone else didn’t let that sentence run to completion, interrupting, yeah. someone said, what do we do now? wondering if we need to contact a nurse, but also meaning, how do we continue living after this?

look, i don’t want to think about the present or talk about the future, so i’m going to go back to december, to a hospital room where i was looking up songs with my mother’s name in them. the problem is the majority portray her namesake as being bibulous and/or loose. i explained this to her and, as a sort of apology, added, love hurts. i then looked up the words to the nazareth song.

after finding them, prepared to sing, i lifted my head from the screen. she was already mouthing the lyrics and gesturing, fist pumping.

why not live well?

24 January 2009

my sister’s coworkers gave her a card which i’ve printed below.

i know things have been
hard on you
so why be so hard
on yourself?

treat yourself
like you do others
when they need you.

forgive yourself
for not being perfect
who is?

it’s peculiar that someone could think that the present was a suitable time to chastise her, especially about something that isn’t remotely true (she keeps asking, do i act like i think i’m perfect?). there are so many directions in which the poem could go following the first two lines, the only ones that are actually necessary, and all of them would be better received than the current incarnation.

approaching the speed of light.

23 January 2009

this is the fourteenth consecutive night that my sister has stayed at beacon place with my mother, while i’ve slept here about eight of those nights. yesterday a nurse suggested we contact my father, due to my mom’s staggered respiration and pallor. her skin feels dry and pebbled, like an ostrich with its feathers plucked. we wait for the next breath, sometimes fifty seconds elapse between, her chest becoming concave with the effort, every fiber strained to capacity to produce a single inhalation. she wasn’t supposed to survive a week, and now it’s been two.

we lie to ourselves, pretending she’s still aware of our presence, so every wince becomes a smile, every spasm becomes a grasped hand. sometimes her eyes open and frantically dance around the room, glossy and confused, frightened, blind. a pump, with a trigger active every eight minutes, releases a bolus of dilaudid. ativan is administered to (somewhat) calm involuntary muscle twitches. eventually she falls asleep again, peacefully. and we wait, deep furrows forming on our foreheads.

the last movement of hers that i can unequivocally rule as natural and controlled occurred earlier this week when i leaned in for a kiss before leaving the room. she pursed her lips to meet mine.

causes of teen pregnancy.

20 January 2009

i’m dismayed by the fact that many convenience stores are placing condoms behind the counter or otherwise cordoning them off from the consumer. obviously the extra security does little to dissaude me from purchasing, but it’s not hard to imagine a young girl, already worrying that she will be labeled dirty for having sex, choosing to remain unprotected rather than face the added stress of conversing with everyone in the store about her body.

there exists this idea, whether perpetuated by customer or clerk, that items one buys together have to be used in that manner. sure, a cart containing spaghetti, tomato sauce, mushrooms, and one pound of beef will always generate a comment about tonight’s dinner, but handing the cashier a carton of eggs and a bag of apples doesn’t mean we’re preparing fruit omelets later. certainly, then, there can exist some detachment in regards to association.

condoms are not afforded the same respite though. if you don’t believe me, bring a pornographic magazine, pregnancy test, and box of condoms to the register. bring any two things — condoms and razor blades, condoms and bananas, condoms and diapers, condoms and duct tape. on one level you want to buy something else to deflect attention to the condoms, on another, that practice only further emphasizes the condoms in your hand.

we are embarrassed because, for some reason, we think the person behind the counter is going to be judgmental, even though we are having sex in a comforting environment while they are restricting patrons from purchasing cough syrup under fluorescent lighting. why not make the transaction fun then? joke about the big night you’ve planned. flank the condoms with a couple bottles of wine.

on a recent trip to the pharmacy, i notified an associate to unlock the case. a younger man motioned to an older woman, directing her to help. which ones do you need, honey? in shock, i replied, magnums…ob-vi-ous-ly. from behind me, an elderly black man, sitting beside his wife and waiting for his prescription, began to laugh. i turned, pointing at him, he knows what i’m talking about.

i proceeded to the cashier, on whose face happiness reigned, as she spoke with a woman and her two small girls. she waved excitedly until the family had exited through the sliding doors. then it was my turn. her expression completely changed, as if a stopper had been pulled and her spirit instantly drained, as i handed her the black-and-gold box. she spoke in a robotic, rehearsed manner, asking if i had one of their discount cards, giving the total, bye.

next time i would tell her that she is the reason so many teenaged girls get pregnant, but i bought a twelve pack, so it’s unlikely she’ll still work there by the time i polish off the entire box.

no small feat.

16 January 2009

i’ll admit that, like many others, i’m much tougher when distance exists between me and my target, though, while it’s also true that i don’t like my odds in a dark alley with a street bully, it’s not cowardice that keeps me out of these battles, it’s the fact that i have a disability, that is, i cannot remain angry for the duration of a fight. at some point, usually early, my preternaturally calm voice or an inserted joke betrays me. thus, i’ve acknowledged that any future bouts will have to take place on the internet where my predilection for amusing myself will never disappoint my nimble fingers.

case in point, i received a friend request from toejam mcfly (likely not her real name), a young female from georgia who seeks payment from the well-heeled in exchange for her detritus. the list of her wares is extensive, among them, toenail clippings, stained underwear, and used razors, and impressive. what compelled me to reply was part jealousy of her entrepreneurial spirit (as a girl of her age, my only concern was whether i was going to wear a solid-colored or patterned skirt to school) and part avoiding doing anything productive (you could say that that is my achilles).

i’ve been called many things but lumped into a group as an internet pervert is a new one. i hope you get a lot of responses though, as judging from your pictures, the possibility of you having any meaningful, lasting relationships away from the computer is pretty distant.

now, before printing the rest of our correspondence, i should warn you that she has the vocabulary of someone who would sell bloody tampons on the internet.

wow, you are a complete douche-bag and you take yourself way too seriously. did I ever write you? no, i didn’t. i haven’t communicated with you at all. you really shouldn’t think so highly of yourself. you are retarded.

p.s. my last relationship went on three years until I broke it off.
you are retarded.

the next message was blocked on account of her making her profile private, but after confirming her initial friend request, everything was again fine.

you sent me a friend request, which i would argue is a form of communication (after all, i would have never stumbled across your page otherwise). i would also argue that you can’t legitimately say i take myself seriously when i’m willing to write a person whose sobriquet is toejam mcfly (you may want to look up the terms ‘boredom’ and ‘satire’ to understand why i took the time to write you). however, i do apologize that my comments hit a little too close to home. there’s no shame though, really, in meeting people online. in fact, i originally met many of my good friends on the internet. in your shoes maybe i would have called me a ‘douchebag’ also (it’s a good term, i’ll admit), but ‘retarded’ is such an offensive and ignorant-sounding word when used derisively — and you’ve used it twice, as you’ll notice.

p.s. like you, i’m very proud of all my long-lasting failed relationships. without a doubt the ones i gloat the most about are the ones that continued for three years before i realized that they weren’t working. ah, it’s so nice that we have those commonalities.

i then thanked her for providing fodder for my blog because it had been a slow news day.

dear mongoloid faggot,

my mass friend requests have absolutely nothing to do with you. i do not give a fuck who you are or what you are into (harrassment of 20 year old girls seems to be at the top of the list, very mature, but trying to have some sort of intellect competition with me will accomplish nothing.

as i said before, you are retarded.

it was no small feat to combat mongoloid faggot, but i did the best i could, toeing the line between getting the point across and being overwhelmingly sarcastic.

how does the mass friend request have nothing to do with me when i received one of those requests? obviously that has a little something to do with me.

i don’t engage in competitions with people who are unarmed. there’s no challenge.

i’ll leave you alone now. enjoy peeing in your underwear and shipping it to internet perverts for money. i hope your (parents’) house doesn’t have mirrors, because in your shoes i wouldn’t be able to look at myself after that. anything for an education, though, right?

this morning i found a pen in my car advertising the springfield sexual addiction center, who guarantees rehabilitation from perv to perfect in as little as ten days. further, their counselors are responsible for curbing your enthusiasm since 1998. the pen, i figured, was another salvo from toejam mcfly, and became convinced when i discovered the company was fictitious. so the ball is again in my court; my foot soldiers in hiding, bound by a vow of silence until the time is right to attack the girl that has become their arch-enemy.


15 January 2009

my sister says that i am a magnet for interesting people. as proof, glimpses of two that have crossed my path recently.

1. when i told him i was from charlotte, he said that he had lived there once, then corrected himself, saying it was actually rock hill, south carolina, but he had been to charlotte many times. my son loves the panthers. we watch them on tv. he loves when that thing roars. we watch the commercials too. later he addressed me with, billy graham parkway, driving to the airport, charlotte, north carolina. i didn’t stick around long enough for him to site other landmarks.

2. a man came into my mom’s room in a fury, emptying some containers and refilling others. as he reached the door to leave, he spun around to introduce himself. his name is george but most call him g-man. i didn’t take the bait when he told me that people always ask him for his life story. he jogged across the room and gave me his business card, before pausing at the door again to announce that he is a witness.

his card reads g-man talking and contains the address for his website. after years of drug and alcohol addiction he prayed to god for help. two years later his daughter wrote to express her burgeoning pride. he speaks at high school graduations, operates a mobile auto detailing and pressure washing service, and models for a cosmetics company. some nights he empties my mother’s catheter and flushes the collected liquids in the toilet.

the whole package.

13 January 2009

alfred matthew yankovic is a chameleon, pure and simple, transforming himself from kurt cobain to chamillionaire to don mclean to the members of the backstreet boys. he’s able to change his vocal delivery to match the artist he’s parodying, and, in his music videos, he often uses the same set used in the original.

perhaps his biggest accomplishment is trapped in the drive-thru, an eleven-minute opus imitating robert sylvester (you can call him r) kelly’s trapped in the closet, but not for the reasons you may expect. in short, it completely changes the way we view r kelly’s career, and as we look to his own oeuvre for proof, we quickly realize that he is a satirist on an even larger scale than weird al. while one is content lampooning hit songs and playing polka music on an accordion, the other will not quit until he adds a little humor to everything. he even married a fifteen-year-old girl after she released an album titled age ain’t nothing but a number because he knew it would make us laugh.

if you’re still unconvinced of his enviable powers, i provide you with an example of one song written three ways. snake, which contains the line, like two gorillas in the jungle, making love, even though the video, a choreographed dance routine involving girls moving their bodies like the limbless reptiles they are, takes place entirely in the desert, finds r kelly waving a scimitar and drinking from a very ornate goblet during a sword fight. two years later, a reggae beat and jamaican location were added and the self-proclaimed american king urged girls to put their voodoo on him and slow wind. if you prefer your dance numbers with an asian flair, you’ll enjoy thoia thoing (the title is japanese!), where r kelly says that he doesn’t know about you, but he’d like to get with two, at home, buck naked wearing only sweat socks and house shoes.

his crowning achievement, if you don’t include his being removed from the aptly named unfinished business tour with jay-z, after either not showing up at all or performing uninspiredly when he did, but still winning a lawsuit because someone sprayed him with mace, is the aforementioned trapped in the closet. in the song, so far comprised of twenty-two chapters, r kelly weaves the story of a one-night stand that sets off a chain of events involving connected characters that makes scheherazade look like lil’ wayne. r kelly voices every person, including italian mobsters and a woman with a southern accent, and not only plays the main character (a guy named sylvester) and the narrator (r kelly with a cigar), but also a pimp, an elderly man, and a reverend.

in chapter four, a sex scene takes place that is difficult to believe even though i’ve seen it countless times. there are many such gems contained throughout.

and then i said, ‘baby, we must slow down, before i bust a vessel in my brain’
she said, ‘please, no, don’t stop!’
and i said, ‘i caught a cramp’
then she said, ‘please keep on goin’
i said, ‘my leg is about to crack!’
then she cries out, ‘oh my goodness, i’m about to climax!’
and i say, ‘cool, climax, just let go of my leg’
she says, ‘you’re the perfect lover’
i said, ‘i can’t go no further’

the chapters progress in such a way that with each one another loose end is created, which r kelly steadfastly refuses to ever resolve. in the final chapter released to date, all the characters participate in a series of phone calls surrounding a rumored package. in interviews, kelly insists that a lot of questions are answered in this episode. with his characteristic incomprehensible wit, when asked how long we must wait for the final installment, he replies, when the aliens say it’s over.

he asks the listener what’s r&b without the r? and we resoundingly answer that it’s just blues. the same thing is true if we remove the r from humor or satire or parody, it makes us, as a planet, much bluer. pay attention and soon you won’t be able to watch him dance, compare a girl to a football coach (the way you have me playing the field), or hear about a missed court date due to a burst appendix without smiling either.

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