So my band (Secondhand Thong) had a couple gigs recently.  It’s always an adventure.  Sometimes we end up playing somewhat inappropriate venues.  Last Saturday we got heckled pretty bad by a few drunks and an old lady.  Whatever.  Nobody threw anything, and we got paid in beer.  Somebody (not one of the other grrrrls in the band) stuck a hairbrush in my gig case though.  It was full of dishwater blonde dirty hairs and Aquanet stickiness.  Gross.  I threw that…away. 

 

Unfortunately, we’re kind of “on hiatus” now due to Candy (guitar babe) wanting a little more time to herself.  Supposedly we’re going to magically get back together in November, but I don’t see it happening, so I’m kind of on the scam for other musical opportunities.

I went to a different grocery store the other day.  Same kind of store, different location.  They didn’t have the beer I wanted (Pabst, 30 pack, in cans), so I didn’t buy any.  Then when I got to the pasta section, I swear it was as though I was on another planet.  There were no “small elbows” anywhere to be found.  The pasta was all in disturbing shapes never before seen.  Large elbows…somewhat familiar, but wrong.  Ziti? Radiatore?  All wrong.  What the heck is “Farfalle?” 

 

I only eat small elbows.  Sometimes, small shells are ok, but only in a mayonnaise-containing salad.  Spaghetti is pretty ok too with spaghetti sauce.  But everything else?  Small elbows and only small elbows.  Logically, I know it is the same subtance in a different shape.  And that’s just wrong.  Illogic won.

 

Digging through the display, though, I found some of the prize booty and made them last night: small elbows with spaghetti sauce.  Also, the beer I bought elsewhere ended up all in the fridge at Secondhand Thong rehearsal, and I am once again beerless…

My all-girl punk band (Secondhand Thong) had rehearsal tonight.  I usually stand next to our guitar player, and we- well, a lot of our songs are kind of the same- three chords, similar structure, 4/4 time, loud, fast, you know.  Kind of similar.  And she and I share a certain…forgetfulness…sometimes (sotto voce: “uh…how does this one start again?”)  But tonight the drummer kind of got fed up with our solidarity.  And she got pissed off.  I said to the guitar chick,

“I’m absorbing your forgets!”

 

Maybe drummers lack a sense of humor.

 

Well, I finally don’t (usually) need a cane to get around. It’s kind of nice. But on the other hand, I’m going to miss the thing. Here are a few reasons why.

1. It just looks damn cool. So jaunty, so Fred Astaire, so proper– yet so steampunk at the same time (unfortunately, mine is not also a sword, but it can be a decent weapon). It was like a fashion accessory. Since I’m so trendy, I noticed all the other hipsters started using them too, so that’s the real reason I’m not using it much anymore. I have to stay one step ahead. Fashion is cutthroat, man.

2. Canes make you look smart. House, anyone?

3. It’s a great conversation piece. It offers variety, for one thing: on two separate Christmases, I had to use a crutch to get around. Do you have any idea how many times I had to hear “God bless us! Every one!” Barf. Come up with a new joke. (addendum: I did hear “you’re you’re just using that as a crutch” at least once too).  The cane, on the other hand, inspired a million hilarious comments, including a rendition of “One Singular Sensation” (every little, painful step she makes…) I laughed so hard my sides hurt even more than they already did!

4. It’s great for waving angrily at motorists that declined to politely slow down for me to cross the street- p a i n f u l l y s l o w l y. If my other hand was free, I could give the finger too at the same time- imagine that! That hurt, but hurt so good.

5. It made a great cat-grabber. If Sheba was doing something naughty (which is too often), I could just kind of hook her off-stage, a la The Gong Show.

6. It’s great for picking up inanimate objects too. Dropped keys? No problem. Shoulder bag? Piece of cake. Same with reaching for high objects. Hook ’em.

7. Moth killa. I love wool. Moths love wool too. I stay up late at night with the lights on; moths come in, ravenous for fiber. Pop! Sheba ate the slowly dying ones. Once I can really move again, I’ll finish getting the woolen items put up until next winter. Until then, moths beware.

8. Clearing out the clothes chute when something gets stuck in there, clogging the thing with two stories worth of clothes. Um, Jack? Yeah, be more careful when you put your clothes in there. That’s why you don’t have any clean “draws.” Thanks.

9. Getting offered seats. I went to see a lesbian band, and I swear those fans were some of the nicest people I have ever encountered. I had not seen more overalls at a rock show ever (the band members are all super-cute; their fan base is by-and-large twice their age. It’s rather sweet, actually). I never had to stand. Seats were premium, and generously offered. Good show, too.

10. Same with getting to the front of any bathroom line. Sort of like how we always let pregnant women go first. We really do.

11. Pulling the car door closed. That trick earned me a look of awe– from someone obviously easily impressed, but nonetheless.

It’s wonderful to have the thing. I found it in a dead man’s basement that I cleaned out several years ago (in exchange for getting to keep the stuff!)- along with war memorabilia and a few other amazing items; I always keep it where I know I can grab it when needed. Because, you never know: I might need to pull stuck clothing from the chute, or have an uninvited moth to kill. Or put my back out sneezing. It could happen to you.

The original quote that referenced the greatness of towels is found in Chapter 3 of Adams’ work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Now I have always appreciated this advice, being the kind of person that simply needs lots of stuff surrounding me (more than just the usual keys, wallet, cell phone kind of thing).  Lip balm in multiple flavors, sunscreen, sunglasses, camera just in case, notebook and mechanical pencils, water bottle, coffee cup,  toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs (never know when Jack’s going to take me to an ear-blistering show), books, gum, sweater (perhaps it may get chilly), plastic cutlery, electrician’s tape,  handkerchief or bandanna (usually- the smaller version of a towel); snacks; extra everything when I play with my punk band (except my bass amp, the biggest thing- and the most fickle); inhaler; everything but the all-important towel.  It just has never made it into the mix.  That needs to change.  I had a revelation today.  Because I got chided by my physical therapist (and not for carrying so much crap around, surprisingly).

 

She patiently explained to me all the things that are wrong with my body, in that optimistic “we can fix this” kind of way.  She showed me how my posture was affecting everything.  She put tape on my belly to remind me not to be all swaybacked ‘n’ stuff.  (I am a sucker for biofeedback).  Also, she massaged my ass ( valium removed the fancy name for this particular ligament from my memory), which hurt so good.  And she told me that I need to get rid of one of my favorite comfort objects- what do you call the adult version of a binky?

 

It’s a pillow I have used for lumbar support for years.  A very special pillow, carefully crafted years and years ago in complicated needlepoint, in kente cloth colors; it is monogrammed MLK.  I thrifted it years ago, pre-Jack, and it is like a part of me.  I imagine that it was lovingly created during the civil rights era, perhaps while listening to a televised speech given by our fallen hero.   It is now faded, torn, and  has had more physical contact with my body than any seat belt.  It has dried gum on it.  I’ve had it since I bought my 1984 Toyota Corolla in 1995 from a lesbian with bad scoliosis (her dad knew my dad.  Before I went to her house to purchase the thing, he warned me, “She’s kind of deformed.”  [Scolioisis, dad.  I have it too.])  She had to tuck herself carefully in with an elaborate system of pillows in order to drive it- I lucked out by needing only one: my trusty MLK.

 

At any rate, my PT now tells me- as the binky/pillow/MLK is shredding to bits, that it is just too thick.  And not variable enough.  It may have been harming me all these years even while I found its presence comforting and necessary- I may need help ending this possibly abusive relationship.

 

This story has a point.  I’m getting there.

 

So the PT pulls out a standard-issue hospital towel- you know the type: scratchy white terry, previously saturated with other people’s juices- and she showed me Magic.  Towel origami.  How to know when to roll ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away (without limping, I hope) when the lumbar support is done.  There was no chair that could resist this system.  It was eye-opening.  It was incredible. 

 

I am not going to carry around a terry cloth towel.  I am going to create my own Towelesque magic symbolic art object.  I will crochet (or knit?) it from soft, absorbent, dirt-resistant fiber. I will represent an important social justice issue in a beautiful way that promises to not make you yawn with boredom.  To paraphrase Mr Adams,  I could wrap it around myself for warmth as I bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; I could wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; I could wave it in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry myself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.  And, of course, I could also use it to sit comfortably and avoid re-injuring myself, both of which will make interstellar hitchhiking a much more likely possibility.

Saturday was the first day in two weeks that I spent any amount of time functional and upright. There were two music events that I really wanted to catch, knowing that they would lift my spirits and require little physical exertion. Going to both was the right choice. It was a tiring evening, but so worth it.

The first was a Gospel music event held at one of the many churches I used to attend. Three groups “performed” (although I hate that word when it comes to praise music; it has such an egotistical connotation). It was powerful. I wept. I knew so many of the people there- and had to explain my injury and my cane about 30 times, but it gave me an excuse to say “No hugs!” (lest I break into vicious muscle spasm!) I tried to sing along to the songs that were so familiar to me, and choked up every time. Eventually, I realized (now, this concert was at the church where the pastor had told me that I was having a pity party)- that I was, indeed, at that very moment in time, having my very own pity party. It was a humbling moment. He may have hurt my feelings then- and definitely did not help me spiritually at that previous vulnerable moment- but sometimes words have a way of showing their meaning at a much later- and more appropriate- time.

Please do keep in mind that at that point I had been out of commission for two weeks that included my birthday. I had managed a calm optimism and problem-solving skills, and actually enjoyed the freedom to write things with the disinhibition that only valium can provide- but the day before this concert, I just finally broke. I melted down completely, having hit the limit of what I could bear. The previous afternoon my old suicidal ideations had came back with a vengeance. Being currently physically incapable of my standby “plan and means,” I started to look with different intent at my three pill bottles, so handy, so full, such a perfect handful. But how would I get myself into my Marilyn Monroe gown, so that I could shit all over it, in a perfect final “F**k You!” (Elastic waist pants and a t-shirt- the same ones for days and days and days (some days unable to even get that on)- then suddenly the formal gown that I was saving for Russ Feingold’s big Inaugural Ball when he finally gets elected President? That certainly would look suspicious… besides, I’d like to be an organ donor when the time comes.

But something happened at the gospel music festival. There was such power in the words- in the music- such faith emanating from the singers; it was palpable, electric. I am getting teary-eyed again just writing this. Such love and care from all the diverse and wonderful people I’ve worshipped with over the years-– some who have had it way worse than I have, coupled with amazing worship music- brought me out of the pity party, into the real party: the party everyone there was planning for, the one with trumpets and angels and Christ’s triumphant return.

After I got in a needed a couple-hour nap, Jack joined me for the always-amazing (and full of existential angst himself) Mark Mallman. The sound in the club was terrible, but the performance was energetic and just…amazing. I spoke with him at the merch table- he was selling his own merch and being friendly to each and every fan who came out. He is one of the musician I aspire to be like. He sings from the heart: from brutal honesty, from pain, from joy- from real life.

Today a dear longime friend called, encouraging me to seek some professional help (not from professional musicians; although as stated above, that is excellent therapy as well) and we had one of the best conversations possible: she showed me the angry love that I needed to hear. She shared her gift of self. She shared her personal trials and listened to mine- she showed me how God couldmaybe- just maybe- be using me for something bigger than myself. I have some ideas. I have some new plans- not to off myself- but for a new project or two that’s been percolating in my brain for months, and suddenly taking on a form, a shape, and a whole new life.

 

Stay tuned.

I love eating at Chinese restaurants, and the best part is the fortune cookie that arrives at the end. They rarely contain a  real “fortune.”  However, those little pieces of paper usually contain more than a little kernel of truth for me.

I started saving each and every one when I was “railroaded” (or “called” as I felt at the time) to play keyboard for a church choir (not the kind of church that served Chinese food, or even traditional Lutheran food [Jello, casseroles, decaf] — the kind that served soul food, in a neighborhood to which Jimmy John’s would not deliver). This was the choir that ate up my life for a couple years. It was a difficult time for me. I was part of the band that accompanied the singers, and the whole experience made me loathe all music. I never turned to Scripture of any sort during that time. I turned to the little aforementioned paper fortunes, all of which I taped to my hymnal, feeling that they somehow validated the inevitability of the whole AFGO.

Here they all are, unedited. The first ones listed were the ones I got after I got asked to serve in this way, but before I actually started- when I felt that I needed a sign that I was doing the right thing:

Getting together with old friends brings new adventures. (indeed, most of the choir was old friends who had splintered off from another choir I had been involved in for years- where, in fact, Jack and I had first met.)

Do not hesitate to tackle the most difficult of problems.

You will obtain your goal if you maintain your course.

Your heart is pure, and your mind is clear.

You are good-natured, practical, and firm in your point of view (an attitude that kept me sane through many a difficult, “herding cats” type of rehearsal).

You will make many changes before settling satisfactorily. (Yes, I have changed churches twice since, and “auditioned” several others. I love the church we attend now. It is spiritually uplifting, more diversethan I could have expected, and I actually look forward to Sunday mornings now.)

Good things come in small packages. You will be delighted.  (The choir was indeed tiny, but certainly not delightful.)

Keep up the good work. You will be rewarded.  (In Heaven, I assume. Certainly not on Earth.)

You have a charming way with words. Send (sic) email to a friend. (Flurries of emails asking for help in one way or another, was more like it).
The world is always ready to receive talent with open arms. (Especially when it is free for the using).

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. (And yes, I had given a lot).

You will soon have an opportunity to advance your career. (I got a few [stipend] paid church music gigs before and after quitting this choir, and some that were not paid but were fun, enjoyable, and even spiritually uplifting).

Your love life will be happy and harmonious. (An obvious outlyer: this choir was neither happy nor harmonious, so this one must have been about Jack and me.)

You have a potential urge and the ability for accomplishment.

You are able to juggle many tasks. (Like pages and pages of sheet music, and an unruly tenor section- and a drummer who liked to drink early-morning booze out of a “coffee” cup).

You will inherit a large sum of money from an unusual source. (see “opportunity to advance your career,” above.  Not large.  Just…larger.).

Like I said earlier, I have indeed found happiness after leaving this situation: I love my current church.  Jack and I feel at home there.  I like the pastor, the people, the fellowship that occurs after every service. I like the strong Christ-centered message in every sermon. I like the way that so many talented musicians praise from the heart each Sunday- there is different “special music” almost every week, whether it is one or more brass players, the choir, a grade-school kid playing the piano during the offertory, whatever. Jack even got to play his timpani on Easter. I love how people with disabilities are welcomed and encouraged to stay involved. I love how the pastor and the vicar each have already visited us at our house. I feel like after so many years of searching- twenty years, really- that Jack and I have finally found a church home that we both like- and nobody has accused me yet of having a pity party.

So what if I found truth in the fortunes baked into random cookies?  Truth is truth, evenwhen it is found in the unlikeliest of places.