Monday, October 15, 2012

Time Machine

It never ceases to amaze me how closely one's sense of smell is interwoven with one's memory.  I have no doubt many of you are also very aware of this connection from your own experience.

Sometimes, it's an expected trip into the past.  For example, the smells of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are almost a guaranteed memory factory.  From the cinnamon laced potpourris and spiced beverages to the many wonderful seasonal recipes baking in the oven that have, in many cases, been handed down for generations, for approximately two months the air in the house seems to hang heavy with a rich multitude of memories of loved ones and holidays long ago.  It's easy for me to forget that these same rich aromas are simultaneously cementing into place a foundation of memories for the younger generation which they will hopefully one day fondly reminisce.

With that being said, we are sometimes caught completely off guard by a scent and forcibly transported to another time and place before we even realize what has happened.  I know many times while walking through my neighborhood, I have suddenly found myself on the path to my grandparents' front door as I caught the faint hint of privet hedge on a breeze.  Once, I stepped onto an elevator that unexpectedly took me to the kindergarten hallway of Fairfax Elementary via the wafting perfume of an unknown lady with apparently similar taste to that of Ms. Carter.

Today, as I stepped out the door to check the mail, I was met by a cool breeze laced with the scent of autumn (a smell which I find impossible to accurately describe or duplicate no matter what the label on the candle says). As a child, autumn was the smell of anticipation:  of a newly begun school year; of the fast approaching children's high holy day of Halloween; and of Friday night high school football games, the be-there-or-be-square social event of the week.  So today, for a split second on a Monday afternoon in October 2012, it was a Friday afternoon in 1990; I was riding a school bus with the window down, my black and gold spirit ribbon occasionally flapping at my face, and brimming over with excitement about going back for that night's home game.

What was in your mail today...?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bleak Midwinter

I couldn't help but hear this song as I drove home from work this morning in our first occurrence of wintery weather this season:  rain mixed with snow, brought by a cold, sharp wind that cuts through your clothes and down to the bone like an executioner's axe.  Now, I realize that here in Alabama, we are by no means yet in midwinter.  Some might even argue as to whether or not Alabama has a true winter at all.  I feel confident in saying that most of us who live here are adamant that we do indeed, albeit not the winter of those poor souls up north in places like Minnesota or the like.  I'm not entirely sure how one keeps one's sanity when living in a climate that is so bitterly cold for so much of the year.  It's always been my personal theory that this is the reason Southerners are considered to be inherently friendlier than Northerners:  a friendlier climate.  Be that as it may, for many, the season of winter brings with it a veil of sadness, as though they, like the trees, had been stripped of their leaves, only to be left transparent and exposed to the world.  The nights grow long and cold.  Death and darkness win over life and light.  Our technicolor world reverts to black and white, leaving precious splashes of green in the remaining evergreen cedars, pines, and holly with its blood-red berries.  Moreover, the joys of the accompanying holiday season are often dampened by the absence of friends and family whose presence once played a vital role in our lives and in the carrying out of our traditions.  Even as we younger generations step up to fill the gaps, the gaps never entirely disappear for us.

While it is easy to succumb to these waves of coldness, darkness, and sentimentality, one must not allow oneself to do so.  Rather, we should attempt to be like the tree mentioned above; not in transparency and starkness, but in strength of heart and endurance.  Leaves may fall, coldness may surround, and at times branches may even break, but in the Spring comes new life, and with it new leaves and new branches.  These months of darkness and cold that force us into our homes create an opportune time in which we might venture deeper into ourselves for introspection.  This holiday season, when our souls are stirred by a cold wind with the memories of figurative leaves and branches lost, rather than anguish over their absence, cherish the beauty they provided to us and the world during the spring, summer, and especially autumn of their lives.  Lastly, remember that while we are each our own trunk, we are at the same time the leaves and branches of those around us, each appearing in varying seasons of splendor to one another.  Do not allow the winter of Earth to become the winter of your spirit.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Have a Blessed Day

Have you ever dreamed about eating...?  I do.  And I can't figure out if it's because I'm hungry, but still asleep (which is quite possible seeing as I'm almost always hungry), or whether it's just that I love food that much (which also quite possible).  In any case, I've had recurring dreams of being at an all you can eat buffet and absolutely going crazy... and the weirdest part:  I wake up full.  At first I thought, what if I'm eating in my sleep...?  But that's not it, unless I'm cooking in my sleep and that's not unlikely.  It seems to happen when I oversleep, so I'm going to lean towards the "I'm hungry and haven't gotten up yet" hypothesis.  In any case, for this particular dream, I was in Tuscaloosa for a football game, but I don't know who we were playing.  That's not a far cry from reality:  I'm usually just there for the friends and liquor.  For some reason, I was working at the same time in some parallel universe because I had a 3mL syringe of waste blood in my hand that I couldn't find a redbox for.  By the way, redbox to a nurse means sharps container, not movie rental console.  In any case, I was walking around with some friends... noticing on the tailgaters' big screen televisions that Auburn was losing badly to someone (I just had to mention that unrelated detail).  I suddenly happen upon a shopping center on the outskirts of campus that I know does not exist (somewhere that is likely on Bryce property behind the rec center).  It has a Burger King... a Chic-Fil-A, and a campus computer lab and laundry (not a bad idea, if you think about it...)  Although nowadays, kids would probably just bring their laptop.  Second thought, I heard from someone that the laundry rooms in the dorms send a text message to your phone when the cycle is finished so that you don't have to wait around. In any case, I digress.  I should also mention that this is the second time I have dreamed of this non-existent shopping center.  I have a funny feeling it will exist one day.... that wouldn't be the first time that's happened to me.  Moving on... upon arrival, I ran into a number of people from my Tuscaloosa circle sitting at a sidewalk table.  They had eaten at what is apparently their favorite place, a sidewalk vendor called "The Kickstand" (another non-existent establishment) I texted someone when I woke up to be sure.  I didn't have any cash as usual, so I opted for Chick-fil-A.  And how considerate of them to have a redbox just outside the door so I was finally able to get rid of my syringe of blood.  That is really above and beyond customer service.  Have a blessed day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Anyone who knows me well knows how fascinated I am with the supernatural (and wearing a costume, but that's another blog).  As soon as I overhear a conversation with the word "witch," "ghost," or "haunted," I am immediately and hopelessly drawn in.  Like most Alabamians in my generation, I grew up reading Kathryn Tucker Windham's books about Alabama ghosts.  I also grew up listening to stories told by my mother about the strange goings-on she experienced whilst living in an antebellum plantation that had been overtaken by a branch of Sherman's army during the war between the states.  For clarification, she was not in residence during the occupation itself, but during the apparent continuing occupation 100 years later.  I even have an old Ouija board tucked in the top of a closet somewhere.  I've never gotten up the courage to really take it for a test spin, but there it remains.  Never-the-less, I've always wanted to have my own personal "encounter."  Alas, the only spirits who've ever shown themselves to me are Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Johnny Walker, and a Grey Goose with a French accent.

Now for those of you who don't know, in June I moved into a very old apartment building in the historic Highland Park neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama.  It is replete with squeaky hardwood floors, plaster walls, vintage bathroom tile from the 1920s (can you say pink and teal...?), and of course my matching style of furniture.  All of this combined makes it look as though I might have found the fountain of youth and been living here since that tile was installed.  Today, the two-story building sits high on a bank facing 33rd Street.  I had always thought the roofline seemed awkward, but it wasn't until I mentioned it to my landlord that I learned why.  He told me that the building once had three floors, but that the third floor had been destroyed in a fire many, many years ago.  The owner at the time decided to save the first two floors rather than demolish the entire building.  He also made the roof flat rather than rebuilding the more costly gables it previously boasted.  After listening intently to this revelation about my new residence, I dared not ask if anyone perished in the flames.  Little did I know I would find out all too soon...

It was a dark and stormy night.  No really... it was!  The remnants of Hurricane Lee were moving across Birmingham.  Rain was coming down in torrents, the wind was blowing trees and power lines across roads, and I was trying my best to get home unscathed after having spent the weekend out of town.  After parking on the darker than usual street, I walked in the door and reached for the light switch.  Sure enough, no power... GREAT.  Luckily, I have candles in place around the house as though I only got electricity last week, so I felt for the matches and lit the candle on the telephone table in the hall.  Yes, I still have a telephone table.  I picked up the candle and proceeded to light the rest of the candles and sconces in the living and dining room.  After sitting for a moment, I decided to open the drapes so I could see the weather outside.  To my dismay, they were wet... in fact, my entire wall was wet.  I grabbed a candle and held it up so that I could see more clearly.  The water was coming down from the floor above me.  It was even coming through at part of the ceiling.  Certain that my upstairs neighbor would be experiencing the same problem, I headed up to the second floor to inquire.  Dry.  Drier than a puddle in the Sahara Desert.  I couldn't believe it.  I went back downstairs, wracking my brain.  I looked outside at the building... at her window and mine and the wall connecting them.  How could there be water coming into the first floor and not the second?  Where was it coming from?  The only way it had was through the wall itself.  Rain doesn't go through a brick wall, does it...?  Then I remembered the fire; the firemen's hoses.  I thought of how surely both floors would have been soaked at that time.  This seemed ridiculous.  It couldn't be... it wasn't, I decided.

After calming my wild imagination, I decided I would read a while before going to bed early and call the landlord in the morning.  When the electricity is off, I'm always reminded of why we... I mean people went to bed and arose so early before its existence:  there was nothing else to do (except maybe tell a few ghost stories by the firelight).  I read till my eyes were tired from the candlelight.  Listening to the ever moaning wind and driving rain outside did not help me to remain wakeful.  I accepted that the power was likely off for the the night and that I should yield to sleep.  As I blew out all of the candles except the one I intended to use to light my way, I thought again of the fire and the peculiarity of the water coming from a dry second floor.  I convinced myself that the wind must have been blowing the rain so hard that it simply soaked through the mortar and plaster... that happens... right...?  I walked into the bedroom and set the candle down on the nightstand.  As I began to turn down the bed, I heard the rain outside even more loudly.  The wind began to pick up, and I could hear the trees swaying as it tugged and pulled at their branches.  Suddenly to my horror, I realized that I could also feel the wind!  It was as though it were blowing straight into the room through the walls.  There was no window open, this I knew.  Still, the air was moving around the room!  It was swift and cold.  This had to be my imagination... I was dreaming... surely!  But at that very moment, the candle began to sputter and dim.  The air really was moving!  I reached for the candle, hoping not to be left in total darkness, but something suddenly caught my eye.  I looked up, and it was at that moment that I saw it!  In the window,  glowing white like the moon....

was the street light.  The power was back.  The ceiling fan was on.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Progress or Problem....?

Sometimes, I look around at the world today and wonder... is this really necessary...?  

I mean, why do we need all this STUFF?  Would your life end without the new iPhone?  Is it that important that someone be able to get in touch with you at any time of the day or night...?  What would I do without Publix...?  And why do I have to get on a machine and run to nowhere for an hour at least 3 days a week in order to be a reasonable weight?

I often wonder what people from as little as 75 years ago would think if they saw someone running down the street.  I tell you what they'd think.  They'd think A) they're being chased by someone/something or B) there was some sort of emergency!!  Why the hell would you run just to run...?  They weren't worried about burning extra calories.  Why?  Because their activities of daily living required enough energy to balance out 3 meals per day.  Most people maintained some sort of garden that gave them produce throughout at least half of the year, and few people owned more than one motorcar (if they owned one at all).  Children played outside and were constantly in motion as opposed to glued to the the latest video game or Hannah Montana movie.  Many of the jobs entailed manual labor (jobs which today are seen as not fit for a respectable person to have).  The way I was raised, having a job and doing it to the best of your ability was one of the most respectable things you could do, whatever that job may be.  Now I work with a number of people who might have a job, but seem to resent having to actually work when they get there.  That blows my mind.  Just go the hell home.

Back to cell phones... I just came back from five days at the beach.  I had my phone and computer with me and was constantly in contact with any number of friends at all times... including select text messages that cause you more stress the next day than you had before you even decided to take a vacation in the first place! OOPS!  What kind of vacation is that, really...?  When I was a kid, there were no cell phones (at least I wasn't friends with anyone who had that much money).  When we went on vacation, we went on VACATION... i.e. we vacated.  We left the name and number of the hotel where we would be staying with our grandparents who lived nearby, and then we were gone.  We didn't call anyone, and hopefully no one called us, cause if they did it probably meant something bad had happened.  Now, just the thought of turning my phone off for a week gives me a near panic attack... When I went to college as a freshman, I had a phone in my room with an answering machine... If I'm not home when you call, I'll call you back later cause I'm busy doing something else, or spending time with someone else.  RULE TO REMEMBER:  People in person always come before people on the phone... ESPECIALLY, if it's just you and  another.

Just thinking about the monthly bills of today alone is a little depressing.  No wonder everyone is in debt.  Once upon a time, it was phone, power, water, and maybe gas if that was applicable.  Today you can expect that, plus a usually outrageous cell phone and cable bill, as well as any number of memberships we might have, be it tanning salon, gym, etc.  I dunno about you, but I think we need to "cut the fat" as they used to say.

I guess what I'm trying to say here in this barrage of thoughts and opinions is this:  What was so bad about the simple way of life?  And how have we gotten so far away from that?  Sometimes, I really would like to go "back in time" so to speak and live out in the country... raise as much of my own food as I was able to do... Find entertainment from simple things such as evenings on the porch with friends.... watching a family of birds grow up in a holly bush in the backyard over the course of a spring... Receiving an actual letter in the mail (those still make me excited on the rare occasion that they arrive)... Somehow, it seems we've gotten so "in-touch" with each other, that we've become "out-of-touch" with ourselves and what life is actually about.

Of course... As I sit here thinking all of this, I'm putting it into a blog... so go figure.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wagon Train

I've fallen off a lot of different wagons in my life. So many in fact, that I'm beginning to think I should just get a horse or start walking. "I'll never drink again." FAIL... "I'll never smoke again." FAIL... "I'll never go to a chinese buffet again." FAIL... "I'll never call him again." EPIC FAIL... In fact, unless your wagon is equipped with seat belts, I'd suggest you never say never! I said I would never start a blog (so, wtf are you reading...? I know). I also said I would never join Facebook. Clearly, I just need to shut the hell up cause I don't know what I'm talking about. I finally joined Facebook so that I could remain a member of the human race. Now I'm starting a blog at the repeated request of numerous friends who apparently enjoy my random Facebook statuses, thoughts, comments, and posts so much, they want them in a more concentrated format... Something like a coke user who wants to step it up to crack or meth I'm guessing (for clarification, that's one wagon I never rode in). In any case, find a good vein and get ready, cause here we go!