Daily Prompt: So long, it’s been good to know yuh …

So Long, Its Been Good To Know Yuh
(Dusty Old Dust)
Words and Music by Woody Guthrie

I’ve sung this song, but I’ll sing it again,
Of the place that I lived on the wild windy plains,
In the month called April, county called Gray,
And here’s what all of the people there say:

CHORUS: So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin’ my home,
And I got to be driftin’ along.

A dust storm hit, an’ it hit like thunder;
It dusted us over, an’ it covered us under;
Blocked out the traffic an’ blocked out the sun,
Straight for home all the people did run,
Singin’:

CHORUS

We talked of the end of the world, and then
We’d sing a song an’ then sing it again.
We’d sit for an hour an’ not say a word,
And then these words would be heard:

CHORUS

Sweethearts sat in the dark and sparked,
They hugged and kissed in that dusty old dark.
They sighed and cried, hugged and kissed,
Instead of marriage, they talked like this:
“Honey…”

CHORUS

Now, the telephone rang, an’ it jumped off the wall,
That was the preacher, a-makin’ his call.
He said, “Kind friend, this may the end;
An’ you got your last chance of salvation of sin!”

The churches was jammed, and the churches was packed,
An’ that dusty old dust storm blowed so black.
Preacher could not read a word of his text,
An’ he folded his specs, an’ he took up collection,
Said:

So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh;
So long, it’s been good to know yuh.
This dusty old dust is a-gettin’ my home,
And I got to be driftin’ along.

 Strange for that song to be rolling around my head, but we watched a PBS show about old folk singers the other night … and there it sits, in my brain, rolling around and around.

It’s the anthem of my generation. We’ve said goodbye to a lot of folks. Some are gone because they went away to that other place, bought the farm, as it were … but just as many — even more — really did buy the farm, or at least real estate in a community far away where the only crop they grow are old people.

I never wanted to live in an Old Community, though I recognize one doesn’t always have a choice in the matter. I never wanted to live in any community that was all of a type. When I was young and raising my son, I sought out racially diverse communities because I like the grittiness of different cultures mixing together. I wanted my son to know, without being told, that people come in all colors and shapes and there’s no reason to be afraid just because someone doesn’t look like you. It was a very unpopular position to take, but fortunately my husband agreed with me and we found … and lived in … mixed communities the entire time my son was growing up.

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It worked. He didn’t — doesn’t — recognize skin color as a descriptor. He could tell me the type of refrigerator the new people in town had in their kitchen and every detail of the cars they drove, but not the color of their skin because for him — and my granddaughter is the same way — it was a matter of gradation. There were no black or white people, just off white, pink, tan and brown people, with a variety of hair textures and colors. Some friendly, some not so much.

Then we lived in Israel and he was one of the few Jewish kids who had Arab friends because no one had told him he shouldn’t, and even though it was dangerous, I wanted him to know that people are people, not the labels we put on them.

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Color blind. That’s the word for it. My granddaughter gets mad when someone calls her grandfather “black” because, she says, he’s not black … he’s a nice light to medium tan, depending on the time of year and whether or not he’s been in the sun. As for me, I stay a disgusting shade of fish-belly white no matter what I do and any effort to alter it results in third degree burns, a lot of pain, and turning an unnatural shade of hot pink which may look good on a tee-shirt, but looks alien on human skin.

And all of this somehow reminding me of driving down the highway in Garry’s old flame orange Dodge Challenger. He bought it when he was working at ABC Network in New York in the 1960s. He bought it in 1969, the year my son was born which is relevant because Garry is my son’s godfather. But the car was a 1970 model year. It was the car he brought with him when he became a reporter in Boston in November 1970.

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It was his first on the air job. It would be his last, too, because he would work at Channel 7 for 31 years, the remainder of his career. He would drive the orange car until after we were married, until it finally stopped being dependable and wouldn’t drive in the rain because the wires got wet and it would stall. It still drove like, as we say, a bat outta hell because it had a huge engine and Garry took pretty good care of it. Not great because he entrusted its care to a garage that cheated him and he, not knowing enough about the mechanical stuff to realize it, assumed that if it looked okay, it was okay.

We got another convertible after that … a red Mustang and had that for almost a dozen years, but it was getting to the end of the convertible years and they didn’t make them like they used to. They didn’t make us like they used to either, and I needed a car where I didn’t have to wrap myself up like a mummy to keep my hip length hair from turning into a mass of knots  or getting a horrendous sunburn just sitting in the car. Only in TV shampoo commercials do long-haired girls drive in top-down convertibles with their hair blowing free because it’s going to take hours to get that mass of hair untangled later.

And now, it’s time to stop, even though this has rambled from one place to another without any logic to it … Fast writing, stream of time, stream of consciousness. We’ve driven a ways down the highway of memory and time … I wonder if the old orange car is still around? It was a few years ago. It had been restored, I hear and I was glad to know it. I have such fond memories of the old beast. Of all the old things and old people I knew.

UU Church Uxbridge

We still don’t live in an Old Community, though this community is old in other senses. And I’m glad, though I sure do wish we had more ethnicities among us. Miss the mixing up of color and culture and music and dance … and the wonderful smell of the food everyone cooked on holidays …

A few of my favorite things …

Collecting is a beautiful disease. It’s insidious and there’s no known cure. You get a thing. You love it. You get another thing … similar, but not the same. One day, you look around and you have a collection.

Chinese antique porcelain and Asian sacred art grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. There is something so awesome — awe-inspiring — about holding something made thousands of years ago and now lives on your fireplace mantel. Imagine all the people who have touched it, whose lives this pot has touched, whose prayers this Buddha has heard. It’s living history.

Thus, when I had to reduce the collection, I didn’t sell anything. I split the collection and gave more than half my favorite pieces to my friends, people who I knew would treasure it as I did. How much was it worth? A lot, maybe. Or not so much. I don’t know. It was beyond price to me. Money is transitory but these precious, fragile, beautiful pieces need to be protected and saved from harm. They needed to be kept safe, not sold as decorations.

So much of the world’s great art has been casually destroyed by governments and individuals with no reverence for art or history. If I can save one Han pot, one Qianlong vase, one Tibetan Buddha … I’ve done something of value.

I no longer collect, but I continue to preserve and protect.

 

FORTHEPROMPTLESS – KUMMERSPECK: Me and the Fat Lady

I originally wrote this six years ago. I’ve rewritten it many times since. Some day, I’ll get it right. It does seem appropriate for this topic. The deeper meaning, such as it is, is obvious: all us are haunted by someone or something, an evil shadow of what we were and never want to be again.

– – –

Twelve years ago, I lost 160 pounds, an entire full-grown person. I have gained some during the past two years as a side effect of anti-hormone therapy following breast cancer, but I’m still more than 100 pounds less than I was before the story began.

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Every since the initial weight loss, there has been a Fat Lady following me. She is me, or more accurately, she is the me I used to be. She is invisible to everyone else, but I can see and hear her clearly. She waddles after me wherever I go. She talks to me, nags me, teases me. She sits with me at meals, whispering in my ear. She’s my co-pilot while I drive. Worst of all, she goes shopping with me.

While I try to decide whether or not to buy the size that looks great and fits just right … or play it safe and get the bigger size … she is there taunting me. This is probably why I have a half closet of clothing that’s too big. Always is the terrible whispering voice of the Fat Lady saying: “Yes, but what if you gain weight … what if you need bigger sizes? What will you do with this little stuff?”

The Fat Lady never shuts up. “You know, your feet might swell. You’ll never fit into those narrow little shoes.” Panic. What if my feet really DO swell? It hasn’t happened in more than 10 years, but still I expect it any day.

What if this is all some kind of weird dream? If suddenly I wake to discover I’m big? Every time I try on a garment, that Fat Lady is there, doing commentary.

Ah! The terror and triumph of shopping; the sheer exhilaration of sliding comfortably into skinny jeans … until the Fat Lady says. “You’ll never get into those pants.”.

“I am wearing them,” you point out.

“So,” she says, “what about tomorrow, eh? You could gain more weight. They might not fit tomorrow. Then what’ll you do? All you have is LITTLE clothing.”

“I’m going to stay little,” you reply, trying to hold firm.

“SURE you are,” she says. “Just like all those other times before …”

There’s no getting away from her. I have to run to the bathroom scale to confirm that I am not, in fact, fat. I stand in front of the mirror and stare at this body looking for signs of creeping obesity. I press my hands hard against my belly.

My belly is flat. Although I’m not longer all bone, I’m normal. Not bad at all for a gal of my age with a lot of miles on her. Perky breasts, too, since the nasty ones with the cancer were replaced with firm, youthful silicon implants.

I can feel the Fat Lady breathing in my ear. “See that flab?” she mocks. “That’s your old fat self. It’s just waiting for you.”

“It’s loose skin from all the surgeries.”

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“Hah,” she says. “We both know better, don’t we.”

I have a theory about fat. It’s connected with the concept in physics that matter and energy is interchangeable and that the actual amount of matter and energy in the universe never changes. It just converts back and forth from energy to matter and around and around.

I lost 160 pounds.

That fat went somewhere. It’s in the ether waiting.

My lost fat transformed into a Fat Energy Field. Not only my fat, but all the fat anyone ever lost is hanging in the atmosphere, huge, amorphous, invisible … waiting for some unsuspecting person to cross its path. Then … WHAPPO ZAPPO. The Fat Energy Field transforms back into Fat Matter. Hips become huge, bellies grow pendulous and thighs and buttocks fill with blubber.

How many times have you … or someone you know said “I don’t know what happened. All of a sudden, I just put on 40 pounds. I don’t understand. I didn’t eat more than usual. It just happened.”

That poor soul intersected with a Fat Energy Field. It could be his or her very OWN Fat Energy Field, if he or she recently lost weight, or it could be mine or someone else’s.
So after all is said and done, it really isn’t your fault when you gain weight. You were engulfed in a Fat Energy Field.

All of which brings me back to my shadow, the Fat Lady. She is me, but she isn’t either. She is my shadow, a demon-self sent to discourage and frighten me. Somewhere, deep in my psyche, I know her. Me as my Fat Lady was comfortable and safe in those folds of fat. I sent her away but she wants to come home so she won’t have to remain amorphous, without a true body.

The Fat Lady wants my body back.

I spend a lot of time looking in mirrors. Vanity? No. I look in mirrors for reassurance. I have to keep checking to make sure that I am the “now” me, not the “old” version. I check that mirrored image for signs of bloat, for hints I will be who I was and who I do not wish to be ever again.

There was a movie called “Charly” that starred Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom, based on a short story called “Flowers for Algernon” written by Daniel Keyes.

Released in 1968, it told the story of Charly, a retarded adult transformed by a miracle of medicine into a brilliant scientist  but ultimately, the miracle fails and he returns to his former state of retarded man-child. He knows, before it happens, that it will happen.

How terrifying must that be? How terrified am I? (Note: These days I have lots of stuff to be scared of and regaining lost weight has dropped from my number 1 fear to around number 4 … but it’s still way up there on the worry chart.)

I feel his fear, the gnawing anxiety that he would have felt knowing he would lose all that he had gained. I live with that fright. I am scared to eat, even when I’m hungry. I’m afraid to buy clothing that really fits because I may not fit into it tomorrow morning or even later today.

Life in a new body is a daily adrenaline rush of mixed joy and panic, an endless roller coaster ride that CYCLONE-ahauls me up then drops me in a screaming rush then whips me around a curve only to drag me up again.

Fortunately, I love roller coasters, the bigger, faster and scarier, the better. If you are going to completely alter your physical self, you need to like living on the edge because you are on it for life. That roller coaster becomes life.

Life is to be lived and excitement, change, and danger make life interesting. We take risks because we want our lives to be edgy. We deny it, claim all we want peace, but we don’t really seek peace. We are ambivalent, wanting safety yet craving excitement.

They say that you stay young by constantly learning. I think you stay young by continuing to take risks. It may not always be smart, but sometimes, smart isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

Hello? Can you hear me? — I love progress!

Progress. I love progress and am strongly in favor of it, especially when we are progressing backwards. Kind of like technological time travel as gradually, by adding more and better high-tech devices, stuff that used to be simple and problem-free becomes much more complicated, difficult and expensive. The techno-version of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

iphone-whiteLet us travel together back in time to the halcyon days of yore. Not so long ago … the 1970s and 1980s. Even the 1990s.

Remember? We could make telephone calls without worrying whether or not the person on the other end could hear us. Without wondering if we would be able to understand them. That was so cool, wasn’t it? You didn’t have to shout into the phone, wasting half the call yelling “Hello? Are you there? Can you hear me? You’re breaking up. Can you hear me? Hello?”

You could have an entire conversation, from the beginning to end without getting disconnected, losing the signal, running out of battery. Getting dumped out by your carrier. Nobody said “What” even once! Unimaginable, isn’t it? I grew up and in my entire childhood, I do not remember ever having to ask “Can you hear me?” We could always hear. Sometimes, a long distance call had an echo, but you called the operator and they put the call through, no charge. No problem.

We’ve come a long way, my friends A long and winding road.

The other night, my husband and I watched — for the umpteenth time — Meet Me In St. Louis. It’s the old Judy Garland musical. Vincent Minnelli directed it. Great movie, one of our favorites. Terrific songs, Margaret O’Brien about as cute as a kid can be. Nostalgia on the hoof.

The story is set in 1904 when the World’s Fair was coming to St. Louis and telephones in private homes were still the hot new technology. A long distance call from a far away city was a very big deal. Early in the story, the oldest sister Rose gets a long-distance call from New York.

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The phone rings.

* * *

Rose Smith: Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?

Warren Sheffield: Yes, I can hear you. (Pause)

Rose Smith: What did you say, Warren?

Warren Sheffield: Nothing. I was waiting for you to talk

Rose Smith: Oh. Well, did you want to discuss anything in particular?

Warren Sheffield: What?

Rose Smith: I said, was there anything special you wanted to ask me

Warren Sheffield: I can’t hear you, Rose

Rose Smith: That’s funny. I can hear you plainly

Warren Sheffield: Isn’t this great? Here I am in New York and there you are in St. Louis and it’s just like you’re in the next room.

Rose Smith: What was that?

* * *

The next day my friend called.

Me: Hello? Hello? Cherrie?

Cherrie: (Faintly) Hello? I’m in New York … (something I can’t understand) … signal.

Me: Bad signal?

Cherrie: No signal.

Me: How are you?

Cherrie: Tired. Running around.

Me: Miss you.

Cherrie: Miss you too. Having trouble getting a signal here.

Me: We watched “Meet Me In St. Louis” last night. Remember the phone call from New York? We’ve gone back there. Worse. THEY had a better connection.

Cherrie: (Laughter.) You’re right.” (More laughter.)

Me: I don’t think this is progress. (Long pause.) Cherrie? Hello? Are you there? No, you aren’t there.

(Click. Sigh. Pause. Ring. Ring.)

Me: Cherrie?

Cherrie: Can you hear me?

Me: I can hear you, can you hear ME?

Cherrie: Hello? Hello? (Pause, faint sounds.) Is this better?

Me: Yes. A bit.

Cherrie: I turned my head and lost the signal. Boy, was that perfect timing or what?

Me: We couldn’t have done it better if we’d scripted it.

Cherrie: I’ll call you when I get back. I think I’m  losing … (Silence.)

* * *

As I said, I love progress. I most particularly love how advanced technology has made everything so much better. And easier.