HOUSEWORK: Fixers. Joan Rivers. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. Granddaddy’s White Pekingese, Fluffy.

Watched a documentary about a guy who’s entire job is to clean birdshit off a French castle. I dunno, it looked kind of nice, the weather was sunny he was high up as an eagle with a terrific view, and one thing to do. Felt like more of a goal to get to.

These days every lesson I get is a dichotomy of “Will you people please so you don’t end up alone?” (irrational fear) versus “Will you do your own creation of soul and elevate?” I need to write but my nephew expects his graduation letter, the one I promised months ago before life’s jet took off. He deserves that, but here I am for myself because I’m learning foundation before that giant leap forward is best. Yesterday I broke two toes, one on each foot like a bird because I leapt into the surf like Ursula Andress on a wild hair tear, the water warm as a bath at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas. Something I enjoyed in my old wife life and will again on my own terms. 

Now I’m Baby Black Toe, Baby Black Toe, repeated two times like the guy in Goodfellas and a name my ex gave me because I’m always leaping without foundation and end up looking like the anchor at a roller derby. Dropped a chair on the right big one and they heard me in Taipei. That one took a year to heal and now the nail looks like a reminder I’m not 25. Only my mind is. Full of hope and faith and just betting someone will catch me. Jaywalking across Grove Avenue years ago in college on my way to buy cigarettes and the guy yelling from his car window as he sped past that I sure had faith in humanity. You have no idea Buddy. No idea at all. I gave him the finger and kept going.

On that same street in that same week as a matter of fact a guy stopped his car because he saw me walking and recognized these giraffe legs because of my leg-chair tattoo. So described because an old roommate said the ink reminded him of a Chippendale. Now my whole life is just an Antiques Roadshow and please please tip your server for THAT joke. Not even Joan Rivers would excuse that joke. But Jeez, it was right there.

I find myself trying to be more like Joan lately, in word, and from what I hear, in deed. Mentoring as I can. Being funny and sexy and bitchy and judgey rippled with love….as I can. I fucking love Joan and she’d be so proud of Ariana and Zendaya, who shared her fashion couch and I’m sure gleaned some of her boss bitch wisdom. What would she think of it all? What would Miss Joan think of this hot mess we find ourselves in? I ask myself that a lot when the Positive Pollyanna starts shadow boxing with that demon on my shoulder once again. Just like the painting, you know the one. They use it every Halloween. It’s not like us Pollyannas aren’t fighting this shit every morning like Rocky, we just hide it better. We hurt just as much as you and maybe just a bit more because not only do we want to fix ourselves? We want to fix the whole fucking world.

This Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm shit is hard. Especially when you spent the better part of the earlier half of your life imitating a personality which was a fudge ripple of Morrissey meets Dovima complete with elephants. This one-eighty has been a pivot I feel in every cell, but as each tiny universe turns toward its own inner, better light like an organic solar panel? Things lift. They change. To risk bumper sticker talk, that’s why it’s called growing PAINS. PIVOTING HURTS. These lessons aren’t made to be hard, people. Most of the signposts are nursery school and they are lying there right in front of you in a big, fat slap-your-head V8 moment. Pivoting just FEELS fucking hard. I’ll say it for the 1,000th time. The best beach day is after a storm. But you have to get through the storm to get there.

Watched Christine & The Queens perform “Big Eye” at Glastonbury and cried because that’s what life’s river feels like. I can see the lessons of others with a big transparent eye, and at least the common outline of my own…common because my journey isn’t unlike so many others. Not being heard, seen, felt, ignored, or misunderstood. Labeled because of how I look in a world that likes to reduce everyone to a Betty or Veronica ideal and I’m mad at Matt Weiner for reminding us even though he didn’t invent the stereotype that’s been around for how long? Centuries?

Madonna and whore, light and dark. You’d think after all this time some other avatars would take besides Zelda, Barbie, Cinderella, Snow White. How many cartoons can you think of created by men for all the rest of us? Jessica Rabbit, Betty Boop, even Josie and The Pussycats. All watered down, done in ink, black and white renditions of womanhood and what it represents. It’s probably why I gravitated to the Hernandez brothers early. Real storylines with Archie comics cartoon art. My mind exploded then mixed all the labels in a bowl to come up with new, gray definitions. Because I needed those nostalgic buoys to hold onto, and I could identify with every single storyline. I’m not knocking avatars and labels. We need them for inner safety. Why do you think so many people stare in one direction at a guy on a cross every Sunday?

Conversely, It’s why Madonna is so fascinating. She carries around the saintly label while licking milk out of a bowl which I saw a nice young lady actually do last Thursday at a gig in Saint Petersburg, Florida. While wearing kitten heels with actual kitten toepads on the feet and sexy stockings and little fuzzy white ears. The only thing missing was a guy in a bulldog costume for her to crawl up on the back, but this was the HER event, so probably not. Striptease while acting like a cat. Named after the mother of Jesus but singing about sex and flipping the finger to every single cultural and societal convention since she blew upon the scene in 1983, and you better believe we were looking for her at Danceteria when we bribed that doorman for entry.

Elevation makes you dizzy and every time I Marie Kondo something to Goodwill or leave it on the sidewalk I have to lie down. Left Momma’s chest of drawers on the sidewalk in Gulfport and this nice lady about my age with a ponytail who looked like her SUV might be running on last legs knocked quietly on my open jalousie window and asked if it was free. I opened the door, told her it was my mother’s, told her it was that it was a free vintage dresser and she should enjoy that now, wished her well, and watched her haul two generations of memories away like an exhale. Laid down the whole rest of the day for that processing, which felt like taffy coming out of my knees.

A vintage piece of furniture with rose colored inlays I used to trace around like my finger was an ice skater. It lived upstairs at Granddaddy’s house which always felt safer than the downstairs bedroom. The bathroom closer, the beds softer, the space more private and tucked away under the eaves of the colonial he had built from a kit, buying the lot next door so he could have that acreage feeling once again. A foreman’s house. A foreman’s yard with oak trees and roses and a car port and a fancy new aluminum storage shed he cleaned like it was a Mustang. Lawn trimmed, house painted, even the brick shined into the marigolds planted all around its perimeter like a golden fence. Seagreen glider with white trim on the covered porch. Hours and hours of rocking, pouring over the Sears catalog where we were allowed one item per page. Only one. Sounds of the police scanner coming from the kitchen window. I can hear Muddy’s voice saying, “Heck,” to something Momma said, and both of them laughing like wind chimes. A child’s eyes taking it all in. The musty basement, the old fashioned wringer washing machine, the discarded rusty farm tools set aside for someday maybe again one day. When we cleaned it all away in 2009 there were green beans lovingly put up and labeled from 20 years ago still intact. Farmer’s basement. Because you just never know.

Late nights lying in that downstairs bedroom with my younger sister listening to the murmurings outside in the parlor. Uncle Charlie’s embroidered tapestry rocker chair where he always sat stone-faced like a totem, as if being here was something he hadn’t actually agreed to. I’d lie awake there listening to my sister’s soft snores mixed with their hushed tones, the TV on, the swish swish shuffle of feet moving across the plastic runners to protect the gold carpet as they made their way through the swinging wooden kitchen door, probably to grab some water out of the yellow pitcher in the fridge or some cherry vanilla ice cream. Its own kind of music. Family music. I still hear it in my dreams when I need to. It lulls me to a safe place where just being near the action is enough for peace. Sort of like sleeping by the campfire in a swamp knowing nothing will happen except you waking up, making coffee, and having another spectacular day. Summer vacation feeling.  The marigolds smelling nice through the open window like mustard. Sometimes at my Muddy’s it was like that. Sometimes.

Sounds of Lawrence Welk, Hee Haw, Boxcar Willie or Cowboy Slim on the cassette deck a newfangled contraption they couldn’t get enough of. The CB radio blaring news of a car accident or a dog getting run over. The tornado siren going off sometimes like the end of the world, but it was always just a practice run. We never had to go to Muddy’s basement down the rickety stairs across from the pink and black tiled bathroom with the cool laundry chute I always wanted to slide down like a Bugs Bunny dream come to life.

Grandaddy telling us how he loved to brush his white Pekingese with talcum powder. How he built that dog a coffin in that basement and polished it with varnish until it shown. Fluffy is still buried on Florence Avenue in Waynesboro under the carport he also had built and supervised. Grandaddy’s yard was like a miniaturized version of his wife’s family farm up in Dooms, acreage he worked proudly and I can still recall the heft and sweep of his arm as he told me all about it on one of our excursion picnics up there to reminisce after church. The pride and twinkle in his eyes. How he lingered there longer than was appropriate considering the farm had long been sold to another family, the Littons, who thankfully would oblige DH’s whims which again, were probably more often than was appropriate considering he had not sat on anything other than a John Deere lawn mower in 40 years. Maybe the occasional forklift at Dupont where he was foreman but let’s be honest, no way in any hell is that ever the same.

I have the company picture from one of his first years there in the 1940’s, his hair still thick and abundant and I know it’s the color of a Halloween pumpkin even though it shows up differently in sepia. It’s the color of David Caruso’s in NYPD Blue and I can still recall my utter SHOCK at David’s ginger reveal the first time I caught an episode in a neighborhood bar and not my own B&W the size of an Instapot back at the apartment with the ceiling holes, and the roaches, and the bong water sprayed across the living room wall.

Grandaddy looks proud to be a part of something and I set the picture aside when he died and we were going through the thousands of photos stuffed in drawers, sideboards, desks, closets, attic bins. Decades of pictures. Usually in triplicate because you never know. My aunt told of how they found giant framed portraits in an old barn down in Nelson because Grandaddy remembered them so they got in a car and knocked on a door. Because it’s Nelson, the guy was nice, invited them in for coffee, and now these photos reside in my aunt’s parlor where they scowl down from their high necked collars and old testament beards like some kind of genealogical Mount Rushmore. Creepy yet you can’t stop staring. Saved from ending up in a vintage market or someone’s janky haunted house which I guess wouldn’t be a bad thing. The past is pretty fucking scary after all.

I can see DH’s whole life lying in front of him in that company photograph. Like some sort of tapestry river of expectations, aspirations, and dreams all outlined for him by Dupont. Do as the company says, shop as the company wants, buy from the company store, and we will reward you handsomely. You won’t have to work as hard, we promise. You’ll be paid better, just let us help you. Let us do it for you. If you sell, if you come to town and give it all up, centuries of land your family has owned, If you do this, you won’t have to get up at 4am and pray the crop comes in. We will do it all for you. Just show up. Just punch a clock. All will be well.

A ticker tape of promises in one picture. All of this juts out in a 3D tsunami of words and vision and images like that Jack Nicholson new year’s party in The Shining. You can even hear the glasses clinking beer at the end of a long factory workday making parachutes and Napalm for the Pentagon. My big eyes are full of drama, darling. I don’t actually know what they made at Dupont but I do know Vietnam is my war and my father was a veteran and there’s a reason I called those vets to come pick up some of my old life today in another giant Marie Kondo-ing exercise. If the book comes out, trust me I taught English for a decade. I know what the word INVESTIGATIVE means. This is just a woman with a blog who might write a second book from it working some shit out. Trying to understand how her genealogical patterns might have contributed to a lot of things.

So if you’re still here, thank you. Thank you. To say this photo is evocative would be an understatement and disrespect to the hardworking men and very few women smiling up at me. The hope lives on the tips of every nose like an illumination stick. God bless them all. When my book, The Factory, comes out, this photo will be its frontispiece. Guess I better get busy writing the thing since I just committed to it.

Life on the farm is hard. Life in the factory is hard. Life is hard. When Hurricane Camille swept through Nelson in 1969 and wiped it all out, how many went to Dupont to work? To make parachutes for Washington? How many decided to do that before the hurricane? Because it was just too much and the promise, the SECURITY, the even promised notion of safety was better than the subsistence they were digging out for themselves in this valley and in these rocky, unforgiving hills. So many were removed from the tops of the mountains around Shenandoah National Park because the government created jobs so these factory workers displaced because of the depression would have jobs. The people living there had to leave, including a portion of my father’s family, and where does all of this end Will Rogers? Seriously. Where does it all end and like Billy Kwan said in The Year of Living Dangerously, what then must we do?

We keep making movies about it, but we’re not DOING anything about it. We’re just talking, talking talking, putting pretty colors in the tie dye machine, turning it on, then watching it spin. Taking it out and looking at the pretty shirt you created instead of putting it on to keep you warm or giving it to someone else for safety and shelter. When will people actually get off their asses? Realize in this life? You have to do it all yourself. There is no easy way, easy pill, easy button for any of it. Get up. Go out. Do it. It will hurt. So what. So what. So what. Do it anyway. Do it anyway. Do it anyway. See you tomorrow. Go handle your shit.

Here’s some of the shit I’m handling 😀 😀 😀

ODYSSEY FESTIVAL VENDING – COME OUT AND GRAB MY “DIRTY PILLOWS!” comfy picnic blankets and outdoor pillows for raves, pattern by HouseOfNae, Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, Fl

Saturday, July 29 – @houseofnaemerch 2pm-midnight

HER, all-female DJ lineup, District Lounge 1572 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL

Thursday, August 10 – @houseofnnaee w/ @amare_music_ 8pm-midnight

Come out and shake your groove thang. Thanks for reading. Now go handle your shit, and remember to allow for other people’s in the process.