"And then one day they were done worshipping the landscape, and they just put down their hands, and moved into the sky."

Soft Shoulder
by: Ani DiFranco

I don't keep much stuff around.
I value my portability.
But I will say that I have saved
every letter you ever wrote to me.
The one you left on my windshield
outside of that little motel,
is in the pocket of my old gig bag
from back when life was more soft-shelled.

Letters littered with little lewd pictures,
drawn by the ghost of Woddy Guthrie,
who would use your big thick hand
just to draw one two for me...

And I think of your letters as love letters,
which is how I think of songs,
in that it is the writing of them
that tend to carry us along.
And I dance to one of your old tunes
with my true love on our wedding day.
And your voice sang the way my heart would sing,
if it finally knew just what to say.

Two people pulled over on the same night
to look up at the same stars.
And they both found their wheels were spinning
in a soft shoulder when they
both got back into their cars.
And they missed fate's appointed rendezvous,
and then a whole lotta time went by.
And then one day they were done
worshipping the landscape,
and they just put down their hands,
and moved into the sky.

And they had barely said 'hello'
and it was time to say 'goodbye'.

-L (3/21/12)

The Battle of March 10th, 2012: An Unlikely Tribute (Part II)


When Mr. Blackshirt-Asshole-Raucous-Friend-#4 stumbled slowly back up from ground to knees to bent-over-hands-on-thighs once he'd finally climbed to his feet, his friends swooped down on him - half-checking-up, half-coat-checking him, to keep him from doing anything additionally stupid. That is, all of his friends but one. My very own biggest fan, Mr. Hippy-Ass-Skank-Steeze, instead ran back up to me and R.  We'd caught up with M by then and completed our own - albeit more righteous - friend-check

Mr. h.A.S.S. got my attention by coming up to stand directly in front of me, then took hold of my hands and stared beseechingly into my eyes... and proceeded to grovel. (So bizarre, right?! I know it's wrong and totally biased of me, but I was starting to suspect him a Gemini. =P)  He says to me, "Hey, listen, listen, listen, I'm so sorry, okay? I take back everything I just said, please accept my deepest apologies. We're drunk and I didn't mean any of it, let's just be cool. Okay? Please just forgive me, okay? I swear we won't let our friend do anything else.  He's just really drunk, he doesn't even know what he's doing. I'm sorry for everything I said, okay? Will you please forgive me and forget all about this? We're so sorry for everything, okay?"  And so on and so forth.

At this point Friends #1 & #2 had come up to us as well, basically agreeing with everything Mr. h.A.S.S. was spouting (and to be fair, neither of them looked much like heavy-weight fighters so much as weepy lovers, to begin with), and I think we were all just kinda reeling after this bi-polar-like shift in events, anyway.  As a matter of fact, the only one arguably consistent in sentiment was Mr. B.A.R.F. himself, who even now strained with drunken half-heartedness against the first tree-peeing guy's hands, as the second held the first back from charging R, who stood beside me.

Seeing this sudden transference of directed aggression, R piped up and said loudly to Mr. h.A.S.S., "Look, even now your friend's trying to attack us! Swear on your honor that this is really over, and walk away. Swear on your honor that you'll calm him the fuck down and get him the fuck outta here, and we'll be done, too."

Mr. h.A.S.S.: "I swear it on my honor! I give you my honor. He's not gonna do anything, okay? We're leaving now, okay? My deepest apologies. Have a wonderful rest of your night, you guys."

Still half-shocked and with adrenaline a-pumping, nonetheless I do my best to take it in stride and firmly shake his hand after I nod my head in acquiescence. Again, pointedly looking at the single female friend who's finally starting to de-panic a bit now, I tell them back, "Deal.  You guys have a good rest of your night, too, okay? BE SAFE. Stay outta jail tonight, okay? Seriously. Be safe. Have a good night."

And we back away without turning around.  And they do the same.  And then we all turn our backs to each other and go our separate ways: us heading back to the hostel; them to wherever their fates might lead them.

After a few strides a cop car pulls up to the intersection of the street that'd we just moments before been standing in the middle of with our new-found enemy-friends. Immediately M runs up and starts explaining how Mr. B.A.R.F. had just chased and assaulted him, etc.

Now, to be fair, M was the only one of us who'd just had his physical safety most directly threatened, and true, he wasn't exactly privy to the truce we'd just made with Mr. h.A.S.S. as representative for Mr. B.A.R.F. & co. But nonetheless, a truce we had made, and cops certainly played no part in our acceptance of their apology. With all this weird honor-y stuff swimming around in my head, I run up to where M is heatedly making his case into the window of the paused police cruiser, which carried two seriously hesitant police officers. As I walked up one of them glanced at me and asked us collectively, "Have you guys been drinking tonight?"

I replied, "We had two beers between the two of us all night. We're not drunk, but they certainly were. Nonetheless, everything's fine now. We worked it out, no one got hurt, and we're from out of town, anyway, so we won't even be around by tomorrow. So thanks for stopping but it's all good now." Although I'm not entirely sure why, I could see relief in their eyes as though I was letting them off the hook somehow.

M clearly didn't want 'that to be that', and he'd yet to catch up to my 'let bygones be bygones' attitude.  But he accepted it, and with grace.  Mostly because when he tried appealing to the cops one more time, one of them responded with something to the effect of, "But y'all are going your separate ways now, right?   So then the situation's resolved, sounds like..."

And so M and I returned to where R stood waiting for us on the sidewalk of the intersection, and we continued our short pedestrian journey back to the sleepy little hostel we'd booked the morning before.

Our minds and emotions and bodies buzzed with the unusually heightened level of excitement they'd just been exposed to, and it was hard to fall asleep that night. We verbally replayed the experience to each other and to ourselves, analyzing each move and word and counter-action we'd felt and seen and acted upon. Shit like whatall went down that night, definitely makes a soul stop to consider... just about everything. And especially that which comprises human nature: our own or "the other," in many ways really just the same, differently colored.

(Anyway, that there's one way to ring in the 10th. Of course, if I were pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty Katie Sue, I'd probably have left some bloody lips behind me, rather than just bruised egos. But then, that's just one more reason to miss her. And heaven knows we already have too many.)

-L (3/18/12)

The Battle of March 10th, 2012: An Unlikely Tribute (Part I)

"Woah, look who's circumcised," M wise-cracked to some guy pissing on a tree as we strolled down the warm downtown pavement of San Luis Obispo after midnight. It was Friday night and the streets were crowded with excessively well-dressed college students and non-collegiate twenty-somethings, teeter-tottering all over town, and the cowboys and marines were out in abundance.

A few steps later and we realized that the guy to whom Mike had commented, hadn't quite liked being commented-to. "What'd you say, faggot?! Wanna come back and say that to my face? My pants are zipped-up now, so come on back here!"

The guy had a relatively slight-build and was hardly taller than my own 5'7, and since he seemed to have some friends around I wrote his comments off to saving-face, trying to ignore their loathsome content. Glancing back but without stopping I spoke up before anyone else could and called back, "Hey don't worry about it, he pees on trees all the time! We got nothing but love for you over here! He was just kidding; have a good night."

Unfortunately, the dude ignored me and continued to catcall M. After about five more seconds of the taunts he said something extra douchey (god-knows-what exactly, now) and both R and I turned back simultaneously because it was suddenly not okay to still be walking away. Admittedly a little pissed-off by now -- mostly because this was the second all-balls-out, proud-to-be-an-asshole, hyped-up-on-testosterone-type-brain-damaged dude of the night -- still my plan was to diffuse the situation, thinking I could do this by calling the guy on his challenge in a de-railing sort of way, since it wasn't exactly me he was inviting.

So I turned back around. And I started strutting back to him. Half-grinning and using a faux-masculine voice, I hit my chest with my hands as I walked toward him and announced, "What? You think you can take me? I'll take you right now, unless you're scared to hit a girl, huh?!"

I could see it in his eyes as I performed my little diversion, trying to break the ice-cold tension in the suddenly-not-so-warm air: a flicker of doubt as his eyes shifted to me, back to M and R, and then to me again. Before he could say anything in response, two of his friends stepped up to his confused defense and started to tell me not to mess. One was a pretty worried looking, cute girl; the other was a tall, blonde guy who was either sneering or smiling, depending upon the angle - I'm not even sure he knew the difference.

The worried girl started to say something to the effect of, "Listen, please don't make this an issue," to which I smiled a bit bewilderedly and replied with something to the effect back of, "Hey, I just wanted to lighten up the situation. Your friend was making it an issue; I was just trying to diffuse it..." But then out of far right field came Ultra-Douche-Bag-Friend-#3.

Like the tree-pissing-guy this one was only about my height as well, or maybe just a bit taller, but he had a much broader chest and shoulders. Looked like a gym-junkie with a buzz-cut and reeked of alcohol and military-affiliation. (Not that military-affiliation necessarily has to reek, but in this case it certainly did just that.) This guy stepped-up for real, and shit got real serious, real fast.

"Why don't you and your hippy-ass friends turn the fuck around and get the fuck back out of town, you long-haired, hippy-ass skank! You're not welcome here, you ugly hippy bitch! So step down, stop antagonizing, and get the fuck outta here!" And so on and so forth. Rather than coming up with more material, the drunken grunt just kept up with more of the same, clearly being used to intimidate folks into submission with his size and volume. Instead, feeling the shift in the air turn to serious, and hearing the change in the conversation turn into a challenge that just became impossible to laugh off, my body went still and my ears began to buzz.

Half-incredulous, half-deadly sure of myself, I stayed exactly where I was even when the dude got too close, and I stared into his eyes until he stopped talking. When he did, I said without raising my voice, "Are you fucking kidding me? Antagonizing? Your friend runs his mouth and when we try to make light of it you start talking shit like we're the ones turning this into a fight? So if it's a fight now, then quit talking shit and hit me already. I dare you. Go ahead. I'm a domestic violence lawyer; I see pieces of shit like you everyday. Go ahead, do it. I'll take your ass to court so fucking fast--"

Frankly, I don't even know where I was going with that line of discourse; what I do know is that at that point I absolutely wanted him to hit me, but I also knew that he wouldn't. Because his rage was pretend, and mine was all-too-real. I wanted him to ride out his stupid, pretend rage, so that I could then destroy his real life after the fact, in the real world, and put an end to his stupid game. It's not okay to be an asshole indefinitely, or to get your way at all costs to anyone else; he'd figure that out one day, might as well be tonight, right?

But then, there was a reason I stopped talking. Out of the corner of my eye, the very last friend, who I'd been totally unaware of up until that point, came out of the woodwork. This one was tall and barrel-chested and so drunk that he could no longer walk in a straight line - assuming this was ever a strong point. Without saying a single word, he up-and-charged M, who was still standing just a bit behind me with R.

Apparently M was less surprised by this turn of events than anyone else, however, because he turned around and booked it, and the chase was on. All along every one of the leftover friends - even my personal favorite, Mr. Hippy-Ass-Skank-Steeze - were calling out to the drunken charger to stop, and R turned and ran after M and Mr. Blackshirt-Asshole-Raucous-Friend-#4.

Still not totally out of my first movie, I started to follow R, but not before turning back to my original assailant and the others to reiterate, "Oh yeah? And now your friend is fucking chasing my boyfriend?! Who's antagonizing now, huh? Now who's being the fucking aggressor?" and addressing the now-altogether-terrified and only other female present, I said with genuine frustration, "What the fuck are you hanging out with these assholes for?" And then I turned around again to run to where the chase had been happening, but had just prematurely ended with the drunk guy running hard into two different poles - which M had almost casually weaved around - before falling into the street with a bloody nose and god knows what else...


-L (3/10/12)

A Luncheon Adventure

Your locket falls open again.  I close it absent-mindedly; half-heartedly.  Feeling traitorous.

Yesterday I was in Berkeley proper, eating a late lunch with a by now old friend.  Afterward, the car I half-inherited from Grandma broke down, gently and anticlimactically, on the side of a lolling suburb street.  This is the car Dad insisted that I trade for with Uncle Rick, to swap my hardy 300,000 miles for his measly 30,000.  Sounded reasonable, sad as I was to see my old truck go.

And of course, how could I say 'no' to Dad, after what happened to you?  When his only interest was in keeping his last daughter safe.  (As if we have nearly as much control over this variable as we'd like to think...)

At any rate, Grandma's car pretended to be out of gas, and refused to go any further.  We tried to persuade the engine to turn over for us and fire up, but refuse it did, until I began to worry that I'd exhaust the battery by keeping it up, and make my friend late for work in the mean time.  So instead, he walked the 11-minute, 0.6-mile trek back to work before being too late, and I got to wander around in the wrong direction, in search of a gas station with a red-plastic gas can in hand.  Forty minutes and a few miles later I was there and back again, and between a quart of oil and a gallon of gas, this time she fired right up.

The silly thing is that when I drove back to Valero to fill up the tank in earnest, it was only a bit over half-empty -- exactly as the odometer had indicated to begin with.  I should have had another 100 miles or so before running out of fuel.  So, as to why Grandma's car decided to stop cooperating without any provocation, whether for reasons relating to a faulty fuel pump or the fiddling fates, know I do not.  But I have faith in nothing, if not in you, so I'm operating under the assumption that this seemingly needless detour was in fact needful, and good.

For throughout it all, your touch on everything: your sweet face in the locket, refusing to stay hidden; the amount-per-gallon of gas, set at $4.27;  10:10, the time the clock read when I turned on the car that morning, frankly reminding me.  As though I could ever forget.

All said and done, the long ride home was quiet, filled mostly with thoughts of you.

-L (3/4/12)