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Cheeseburgers, Urb Strangers, And Thirty-Nine Minutes A Year
I got a second job. Which is nice in terms of money. What’s not nice is that it starts at nine am, and like most of you know, the morning is the time of the devil. The devil. The Devil! I am wonderfully surprised that people actually function in the morning. It’s pretty awful. The sun is nice, though. Still, working at nine and then going to play a gig until four am the same night kind of blows. But we do what we do, and in the current economy, I don’t think that anyone ought to be complaining about having a job. Also, I just learned that it’s Grilled Cheese Day. Man, I hate Facebook sometimes.
I haven’t had my pills in about a week, so I’m going a little insane and this may feel a bit scattered. The sound hallucinations are irritating, and my eyes are trying to focus like an autofocus camera that is desperately confused about what you actually want to take a photo of. No, not the screen on the porch, damnit, the cat behind the screen on the porch. Aw, fuck it. Anyway, this might be a little disjointed.
A handful of things struck me this week. I’ll try to relate them. The first was anger. After my work at home shift of staring at my computer and trying to do my job as less shitty as I can, I went to McDonald’s in my town. I wanted my smashed cheeseburgers and over-salted fries. I got my food, rolled to my table, and set up my Nook to continue to read a fantastic book called “56” about Joe DiMaggio’s incomprehensible hitting streak. I read five words, two of which were “Joe DiMaggio,” when two cats sat down eerily near to me. They didn’t buy anything. They just sat and started talking. Loudly. With the words ‘fuck’ and ‘nigga’ proudly orated. I tried to continue to read. It didn’t go well, and I got mustard in my beard.
The one cat, giant and with a subpar beard, black as midnight and angry, loudly proclaimed how much he hates white people. How the whites have all the power. How the whites have all the money. How he wants what they have. How he believes that none of them worked for it, but rather gained their bank accounts and successes on the backs of blacks. And only blacks. How Hollywood only employes whites to do jobs that blacks can do. How the economy is the sole fault of the whites. How they need a “real” black man in office. How republicans hate blacks and are the sole owners of racism toward blacks. How “the white bitches ain’t bad. It’s the white men. The bitches is cool.” Then a white girl brought the guy food and he faced away from her and told her that when she talks to their mutual friends, she needs to keep her mouth shut because she talks to much and gets him in trouble. Then he said something about lawyers. White lawyers.
Maybe it’s my lack of pills, but my anger triggered immediately. Who, I wondered, is the proprietor of tolerance and colorblindness? I have yet to see him, and that upsets me. I have yet to find individuals who truly have the dog’s view of only grays. I wanted to say things to him that I know I’d have regretted. I wanted to say to him, ‘We’re not all bad, man.’ I wanted to say something silly to him like, ‘Don’t funk with the funk because then the funk gets funky, and then you got no funk to funk.’ Then I realized I’ve been listening to Bootsie Collins for a week straight. I rolled out of the McDonald’s, lit a cigarette, and thought about the modification community. I thought about how we take ingredients, human ingredients, and stew them together with needles and tattoo machines and suspension hooks and eyeliner and goth clothes and fingernail paint and other things and stir it together with an unprejudiced wooden spoon into one culture. Who stirs the spoon, I thought. Whose hand is on the other end of that spoon, spinning and swirling and combining peoples of all shades and beliefs and ideas together into the thick, unwavering rich food that nourishes each of us and those around us whom we touch? Then I thought, it doesn’t matter who is spinning the spoon; what matters is that the spoon is spinning, and maybe that makes me more tolerant than the cat in McDonald’s. Or maybe he’s right and the color of my skin is the root of all evil. It certainly isn’t the color of his skin.
The second thing is this. That’s a horrible way to start a paragraph. Let’s try again.
Another mind jogging statement I heard this week started with a certain disappointment and ended with a hope that lightened me a bit. I have a beautiful reader whom I consider a friend. Strange; I’ve never met her, and I only have an indirect impression of her personality through social media. Is that an accurate impression of an individual? Wait, who cares? I’m leaving the point. The point is this - and forgive me beautiful Jeanette for outing your Facebook post - my friend Jeanette posted this on her Facebook: Nothing like a day of being stared at like you're an alien (an alien who is ON FIRE) at the mall in the suburbs [to] remind you the harassment for being alt in the city really isn't as bad as it gets.
Being alt in the suburbs. An interesting idea. The stares and the questions you’ve answered a thousand times. How did you get that in your nose? Did that hurt? Why would you do that? Is that your real hair? We’ve heard these, haven’t we. We answer them (politely, I hope kiddies), and we move on. But the stares are harder to comprehend because we have no sense of what is noodling around in the dome of the starer. The askers are easy. We can see their eyes and hear their word choices. We know if they are being condescending pricks, or have a genuine curiosity. The starers could be curious and even interested too. Or they could be pricks who start sentences with things like “Ew, like,” or “OMG (actually saying oh em gee).” We don’t know, do we. Yet Jeanette, my friend, resolves her post with a certain comfort. “[B]eing alt in the city really isn't as bad as it gets.” It isn’t, is it. There are those walking around the city, whichever city that may be (I know Philly is a freakshow), who accept more readily; and I’ll wager those individuals are modified too. That’s an assumption, though. The ‘burbs, though a fantastic film, can be more abrasive to our culture. Around me, it’s not terrible. I’m from the suburbs, and I only really go to only five different places, so everyone knows who I am; and given the chance to speak to the urb strangers, they know I am more than a four gauge septum or stretched lobe or even the guy in the super awesome wheelchair. (I added ‘super awesome.’ They may not think it is super nor awesome.) What we in the community have to remember is that even on the bad days, of which I have plenty, our return stares must be used judiciously. Our comments have to be more calculated as to not fuel the stare fire the strangers have started. We have to represent our community in a way that makes the starer feel silly for staring. Do we want to get in faces? Of course we do, and you’re more than at liberty to do so. Just take a millisecond to consider the repercussions of your ‘take a picture; it’ll last longer’ retort. Jeanette is a beautiful and wonderful example of how our culture ought to behave, and I thank her for that.
There was a third thing, but I need to take a nap before the gig tonight, so I’ll touch on it briefly and comedically. If you ever lose faith that people are good things, spend a day in a wheelchair and watch how well people disrupt their own schedules and interests in order to hold a door or say hi and make small talk. It’s remarkable. Not too many strangers held doors for me pre-chair, but now I feel like a diplomat. Maybe it’s that idea submitted in the Palaniuk book “Choke,” that people always want to feel like a hero, like they did something that was good and altruistic, but there is a small piece of me (albeit a very little, beetle sized piece; well, maybe a scarab sized piece) that believes that these people are doing good things because they are good people expecting nothing in return but the satisfaction of knowing they’ve made a stranger’s life slightly easier for nine seconds. Let’s go spread that a little, kids. Let’s go spread our beauty to others in little, nine second segments. I mean, if you take nine seconds to be cool to a stranger for five days a week, we’re only talking about thirty-nine minutes a year where you’re helping someone out and sharing your beauty. Do you have thirty-nine minutes to spend this year? I think I do. Stay beautiful, kids.
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