Biking home from work last night, it was cold for an August evening, and I was loaded down with fresh produce bought in the am from the farmers’ market downtown.  I’ve been trying to eat “Five a day, the color way” and it’s not easy.  Muskmelons were three for $2, so had those, as well as a three-pound bag of apples, a dozen sweet peppers, and an eggplant.  My mom had given me a boatload of tomatoes the day before, so red is pretty well covered.  Anyway, after working late, the ride home was chilly and dark so I took an alternate route, right past the coffee shop that has half-price bakery after 8pm or whenever the baristas get to putting the sign out.  The lure of muffins was irresistible.  My friend happened to be there for the chattin’.  That was awesome: the perfect end to an almost-perfect day.

There was a period of time after college when all my friends seemed to move away in a drawn-out exodus.  Most of them gravitated toward another city just like ours but with longer, colder winters.  My good friend E was no exception. 

 

 For awhile I pondered the possibility of orchestrating a “friend trade,” thinking that some other person’s friend must have moved here, right?  There are people moving here all the time.  I thought about it.  Then I made it happen.

 

E had moved, sure, but we kept in touch and the last time she visited “here” she also visited an old friend from high school whom I had never met and who had lived in Europe, and recently moved back.   I Facebook friended the mutual friend, found out she was a knitter, and invited her to knitting club, picking her up because she doesn’t have a car and lives close by.  Weirdly, we hit it off by telling E stories and figured out pretty quickly what other unusual coincidences that we have in common.

 

Of course E caught us posting stories about her on each other’s Facebook pages, but they were all such interesting, funny, warm stories that- well, how could she be mad?  It is too hard to make real friends in this world, especially starting as an adult, to criticize how one can become friends.  I will have to post more about this.  Maybe tomorrow.

For some reason I am very weepy this morning, on our American Independence Day.  Usually I hate holidays’  interruption into my daily routines and find July 4th to be one of the silliest displays of “Ugly Americanism” possible.  But somehow today, I started thinking about the Statue of Liberty and how she was the first thing that immigrants saw as they disembarked awful, stinking steamships–  if they had survived the journey at all- the tired, the poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” 

And it got me to thinking about how my ancestors got off those boats and had their last names mangled and Americanized (by possibly well-meaning and overworked Ellis Island employees) and lost part of their identities in exchange for newfound freedoms.  You know not everyone survived the journey; of course even now many people from Mexico die for the same reason.  Trying to enter Los Estados Unidos with a dream of a better life, just as my European ancestors did- and we mangle their hyphenated names too, our computer systems unable to handle the not-even-very complex system of ….well I digress.  My maiden name is unpronounceable and unspellable even in its Ellis-Islandified version- and I’ve seen it in the original language.  Jack’s is “odd” as well.  My dad’s ancestors were some of the few survivors of a ship that burned off-shore in a horrendous blaze visible for miles.  My maternal grandmother’s great-great-grandmother came over on a sailboat.   But our families came here- to America- with hope.  Hope and faith that carried them through steerage and seasickness and storms and uncertainty and probably even the separation from family back home awaiting the letter – in any language- telling them that it was finally time to join Papa in the new country.

I also have been thinking too much about this stupid ongoing war that we are still in for no reason. 

This year it is not a stupid picnic for me.  Nor just a stupid parade (though I will be there).  Not just a gun salute by the fewer-and-fewer surviving WWII veterans.  It is an actual celebration of freedom- well, the ones we still have and need to continue to fight for.  Fight with your pen (or your computer, or the library’s computer if you don’t have one) for it is mightier than the sword.  We the people elected our officials.  They need to  know what you think.  Tell them.  Write them.  Call them.  Even meet with them- they just might agree to it (yes, I know this personally.)

I wrote before about how death would be a sort of freedom.  Maybe that is why I am weepy today- because my ancestors were the ones that did not die while seeking freedom.  That, my friends, is irony: the best and most beautiful kind.

God bless America.  Let freedom ring.

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.

Sometimes when Jack and I are traveling, driving far from home, I imagine a house at the end of a long, winding country road.  A woman comes out onto the front porch, so very happy that we have arrived at long last.  We are home- not our home, but the “home” of  our collective imagination, of our subconscious.  She is wearing a flour-covered apron, with a multitude of pockets.  She is wiping her hands on a well-worn towel, and envelops me in an embrace– squeezing me into her warm ample bosom, her soft arms holding me just long enough in a loving hug.  She is an archetypal grandmother; not my actual grandmother, who raised me, and loved me with a ferocity unmatched by a mother bear for her own cubs (and who also watched the A-Team with a religious fervor, cheated at Scrabble, argued incessantly with my mother, and was ectomorphic–about as bony as humanly possible), but a grandmother who bakes with entire sticks of butter  and loads the table with the caucasian version of soul food.  A grandmother who never gets angry.  Who has eagerly awaited my visit, as Jack deftly maneuvered the winding, sometimes treacherous rural highways, a bit worried, but trusting that we would arrive safely into her waiting embrace, into her comfortable kitchen, into the love that she had in her heart the entire time- even before I was born, before I left home, before I met Jack and knew he was the man that would make me happy until the day the first one of us dies.