Thursday, October 21, 2010

If You've Got Leavin' On Your Mind

"If you've got leavin' on your mind," is being crudely reproduced by the band on stage. Would Patsy Cline be flattered or pissed? The jury is still out on that one.

I am standing, literally, in the middle of the land of dreams. Remember in Pretty Woman when that homeless guys asked you, "Everybody's got a dream....what's yo dream?" I can't help but recall that line as the bass thumps through the smoky air and the lead singer renders her ass off in an attempt to impress the drunkards at the Cadiallac Ranch. This is Nashville, of course, and it's what you should come to expect from the per capita leader or wanna be's and not-so-future country stars.

I admire both Karaoke singers and fools crazy enough to front a band - either in Nashville or Branson or at Lodge #3112 or wherever. I don't have the balls I did in my younger days. Back then, I would have been up on stage in a hot second, belting my heart out at the sound of the down beat. Not anymore. OMGeezy (which I stole from my wife), I cannot imagine the horror of singing in public. Weddings are about as far as I'm willing to go - and even that's more of a stretch outside my comfort zone than you can contemplate. Suffice it to say, if I'm not drinking from a flask outside of the church before or after the nuptials (and off-key recitals of the bride's favorite hymn), know that the earth may soon implode. PDL or Public Displays of Lunacy are not in my future.

Once the music ends and the crowd noise subsides, you realize it wasn't the wine that pushed you onstage, but some horrible compulsion to show your ass, fueled by the 12 beers you inhaled in four hours. Either way, the evidence of your out of tune indiscretion may very well live forever on youtube or facebook, or the next big thing. Shame, really.

I look up at the stage and a toothless drunk is screaming David Allen Coe's most famous lyrics. From the countless college pre-parties I hosted and crashed in college, I'm not at all surprised to find myself singing along. I'll hang around as long as you will let me. And I never minded standing in the rain. You don't have to call me darlin'.....dar-lin. (LOL!)

Now a co-workers is singing, "The Monster Mash." Oh my.

Hey, Patsy? Check, please. :-)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Doesn't Everybody Know That?

Take a second and do something for me: think about what you don't know. Does that make any sense at all? Maybe it does and maybe it doesn't. Stick with me here.

So, several years ago my wife and I were watching "Big Brother" and one of the contestants and her shomance boyfriend were in the courtyard. He looked up into the sunlit eaves of the show's house, and noticing a spider, pointed it out to his lovely, large-breasted companion. Almost immediately, they started talking about the web and OUT LOUD she wondered how spiders spin their webs. My jaw dropped. If memory serves, neither of them knew exactly how it happened and I was further amazed. We hit a commercial break and my wife skipped off to the laundry room. I couldn't shake what I'd just witnessed and, following her, asked my wife if SHE knew how a spider spun its web.

Kneeling with her arms fully extended into the depths of the dryer, she retrieved my next round of 'before the show comes back on chores'. "No, I don't," was her quick and terse response. My wife, you see, knows me far too well. After years of my watching what she calls Nerd TV, she knows that I have more useless knowledge bouncing around my brain than can ever be tactfully unleashed on the public. From how supernovas are formed, why ants live in colonies, to the reason hops are used to make beer, all the way to how combines are manufactured and what goes into the proper way to make dinner for four under $25, and everything in between, I have seen it all. I know she is aware of the mechanics behind a spider web, but I asked anyway - for effect. You see, she knew I knew how a spider spins its web and was waiting for me to say something stupid. And boy was she right.

Before it was successfully routed to my mouth, my MMC (Married Man Censor - something I acquired far too deeply into my marriage) came online. "Whoa! Buddy, you DO NOT want to ask that question. Trust me. I'm here for your protection." In a split second, the MMC had sent a message to my brain and disrupted the nerves around my mouth at the same, clamping it shut. What I had intended to ask was, "Uh, doesn't everybody know that?" Magically, I was the only person who heard the question, dripping though it may have been with indignation between my ears.

Before my MMC timed out, my wife interrupted and continued her response. Apparently, she hadn't seen me struggle to speak as she loaded me down with hot clothes and turned me back toward the sofa. "I don't know how a spider spins its web, and why should I? Why do I have to know everything?" Uh oh....what had I unleashed, I thought to myself. She went on to say something about why every show on television and all of the news programs want you to learn something useless. Quite honestly, I wasn't paying that much attention to her. My PATYWWSS (Pay Attention To Your Wife When She's Speaking) application was a little glitchy, not to mention the fact that I was lost in thought. She's right - why should she know about everything? That's when I thought about all of the stuff that I don't know.

How the hell does an airplane stay in the air? I mean, I know it's because of the lift generated by the aerodynamic properties of the wing, but what the hell were the Wright brothers smoking when they decided to cobble together some string and wood and cabling and launch the damn thing off of a bluff at Kitty Hawk? How did Oppenheimer know how to make a freakin' atomic bomb? Who was the super nerd who invented navigation systems? Why do my lights come on instantly when I flick the switch? Somebody had to come up with not only the answers to these things and more, but they had to first ask themselves the question. Necessity is the mother of Invention.

My father-in-law is one of the people in the world of whom I am most jealous, and he's also one of the people in world I cannot stand. My mother-in-law might chuckle a bit at this statement, but I think he's some kind of technical and mechanical genius. He can do damn near anything, and I'm not joking. I'm not. Seriously. It's like he's Tool Time Tim Taylor and I'm the schmuck in the audience watching the goings on. When I take my motorcycle to him to add parts and various accessories, I basically just hold stuff and take direction. He can do anything, and everybody knows it. Case in point:

A couple of weeks ago my lawnmower pull string broke. Crap. I trundled down to The Home Depot, bought a replacement pull string and set up shop in my garage, determined to fix this f'in thing myself. My child was watching, and even served as my helper. I'm not afraid to admit that over what felt like eight days but was probably closer to an hour and a half, I pulled and spun, wound and tied, cursed and stared at the irreparable lawnmower pull string apparatus in my hands. Know what my child said to me, innocently and without understanding the biting malice with which I interpreted it? He deadpanned: "I'll bet Rick could have fixed that already."

I am laughing now, but I wasn't when the sting left his lips. What I wanted to say was censored by another program in my brain. You cannot tell your nine year old that of course Rick could have fixed it by now because the man who can completely disassemble a Harley, paint it, and even manufacture parts along the way before putting the entire GD thing back together may very well have been able to fix the f'in pull string on the lawnmower, but I'M your daddy and you're supposed to be impressed by what I can accomplish without assistance! He may not have learned how to fix a pull string, but he sure did pick up a couple new words I quickly cautioned him not to say anywhere. My lawnmower is still broken, by the way.

There are people who know how to build entire rooms in their basement (Rick), replete with bathrooms and drop ceilings. There are people who know how to wire extra outlets in my garage (my neighbor Kenny). And there are people who know how to do astronomically inventive things I cannot fathom. And then there are people like me who know how to make a phone call to said expert, or swipe their debit card at The Home Depot, and are smart enough to hand over my purchase to the guy who won't burn my house down or flood my bathroom.

This evening, I set out to straighten a portion of my split rail fence that had been leaning over for far too long. Feeling industrious over the weekend, I bought some rope and a couple of hearty plastic stakes with these convenient holes through the tops. As I looped the rope around the fence posts and through the square chicken wire, back again, knotting them all the way, I noticed my son was watching me intently. "Did you go to the Boy Scouts or something?" he asked me. "Nope," I said, looping and knotting and praying that my fly-by-night intertwining of the rope would actually work. That's when it hit me. Oh shit, he thinks I know what I'm doing! I channeled every single bit of my father-in-law that I could and put a few extra twists and turns and knots into the rope as fake-professionally as I could - entertainment value aside. I prayed that after the spikes were hammered into the ground, that the knots would hold and my inner Rickness would help me impress my child. I just looked out the window just now and the fence is still upright for now.

My wife thought something was wrong with me early on in our marriage when things broke in our house and I couldn't fix them. She'd grown up watching a genius and an artisan. Nolan knows that I have no idea how to repair a lawnmower, but his daddy can make one hell of a Boy Scout knot and fix a fence. I know how a spider spins its web, how a car engine works, and I'm praying I never have to take my motorcycle apart. What don't you know?

I look at my son and wonder what I know now that I didn't know when I was nine.

And I wonder what he knows at nine that I never will.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Threat Level Orange

You know, some things are just universal - at least they are in my world. LOL! The cute little voices of babies and toddlers should be enough to make even the most hardened evil bastard smile. A woman's well-shaped butt cradled in a pair of sexy jeans makes men stop what they're doing, no matter their environment, giving pause to watch her sway on by and imagine for a brief, but detailed few seconds, how much we hate the boyfriend (or girlfriend) who gets to see her naked - before turning our attention back to our wives or girlfriends. The way Europeans dress (and how I snicker at them, unmatched and sometimes unkempt), not fully understanding if they are fashion-forward and uber trendy - or just a hot fried Eurotrash ghetto mess. Or how a mother can be brought to joyful tears by her baby....5 or 25....simply saying how much they love and miss her.

While the world morphs around us, it's nice to know that some things are constant - whether or not they exist only in your mind, unique to your perspective, grounding you in the storm of literal or metaphysical bullshit swirling around you.

I'm sitting in a causeway or corridor or whatever you'd call in at the San Francisco airport and it's comforting to know that I've just experienced all four of those constants and more. It doesn't matter that I'm not at home in Charlotte, or that nobody knows that I'm watching them and putting them into my blog. The same people I see in uptown and at the mall and Panthers games are walking by me, and I wonder where they're coming from and where they may be going. Planes taxi to their gates and, from this vantage point, I can see them screaming down the runway and lifting off into the cool oblivion of wherever they're headed next. Babies' voices are cooing in the distance. Gorgeous butts are crossing my line of vision. Children and teens and young adults who have been allowed to dress themselves regardless of their apparent colorblindness or inability to recognize shapes and patterns trundle by. And mothers, jawing on cell phones or pushing strollers along, are making their way into the rest of their days. I will never see any of these people again. But they are inextricably part of my constant.

They say that there is no better place for people watching than the airport. And whoever 'they' are, they're probably right. If you're old enough to remember the days when you could go anywhere inside an airport you wanted (sticking to public areas, of course), you might think back to meeting your party at the gate as they deplaned. You might remember not having to take your shoes and your belt off before passing through metal detectors and having your possessions x-rayed under the scrutiny of a TSA employee trained to distinguish C4 from that napkin-secured brownie in your briefcase. You'd probably even be able to recall the days when you could smoke right up until you boarded, only extinguishing your cancer stick when it burned to the filter, causing you to juggle the butt and latch of your seat belt at the same time. Hell, if you're old enough, you probably remember wearing a suit and tie or a pretty dress and not sitting next to any category of minority as you were whisked away on vacation or a business trip.

Times have changed, certainly, and the airport has changed, as well. Imagine it's the morning of September 10, 2001 and you're waiting for your flight back to wherever it is you call home. No one was coming through the intercom system telling you that the airport was currently under threat level orange. Twenty-four hours later, buildings would be engulfed in flames, thousands of people would be horribly murdered, a private after-hours West Wing tour would disappear into the smoke and ash clouds of a desparate few, and an impenetrable veil of security and uncertainty would begin draping itself across the future of air travel. Arab would become the new black, the landscape of what was acceptable profiling would be forever altered, conspiracy theorists and plain old nut jobs would have already begun shooting off cross-fired synapses like the fast-twitch muscle fibers of an Olympic sprinter, and we would sheepishly discover that our collective consciousness had been hijacked right along with those planes. The Phoenix, wrapped in the American flag and proudly boastful of the struggle and freedoms fought for by our forefathers spewing from every speech and magazine cover, rose in absolute defiance and signaled a true awakening to the new world we all had come to inhabit in the space of time too small to quantify, but too omnipresent to ignore.

To me, babies' voices will always be precious and women will always be ogled for a few innocent seconds and I will never understand what my wife and the fashion industry try to trick me into believing is cutting edge couture and mothers will always miss their children. Not everything universal in your life will be or has to be cute or sexist or xenophobic or sentimental. But before the world is turned on its ear again and everything you know about something so simple (and something we used to take for granted) is forever altered "for your protection," take a second and pick some constants of your own.

If you can't come up with can always swing by the airport.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Don't Let The Smooth Taste Fool Ya

My son is a very smart cookie. He's pretty observant when it comes to everything but where he put his shoes, remembering to turn lights off after he leaves a room, and whether or not he fed his dog in the morning. And most of the time (okay, pretty much all the time) he tells you the truth, whether you want to hear it or not. That's a quality you can't teach, and his mother and I hope it's one that stays with him for the balance of his life.

I got burned by his honesty last weekend, and there was nothing I could do about it.

His mother was out of town in Florida visiting her grandmother, and he and I were in my bathroom brushing our teeth. We'd just gotten up, ready to begin an adventurous Saturday of eating breakfast at our new favorite greasy spoon, followed by a haircut for him, and a quick trip to the Super Wal-Mart (he wanted a new Nerf gun, and I needed to pick up some new work boots). Later, we'd make our way to the mall for our other usual activity when his mother is out of town: we were going to the movies. But before any of that could take place, we had to brush away the yuck mouth generated from the previous night's sleep. We were standing there, at the counter, brushing our teeth when it happened out of the blue.

He stopped, looked at me in the mirror - which caused me to stop brushing my teeth, too - and smiled. And then he laughed and pointed at my waist, poking me a couple of times. "Ha ha. That's funny. When you bend over, your gut falls over your underwear!" I was utterly dismayed. I looked at him like I wanted to say 'if you want to live to be ten....', but I couldn't. I was speechless. My child just told me that I was a fat ass. And he was right. Technically, he's still right.

I've always been tall (just about six feet), and when I was younger - much, much younger - I was as skinny as a rail. Thank God I am no longer the 155 pound, bespectacled Urkle look alike my Facebook friends have witnessed (and no doubt gasped at, copied and pasted to their family members for a good chuckle, and thanked their deity of choice that they never looked like me during their formative years). College filled me out, it was where I put on thirty pounds of muscle, and where I was good looking enough to entertain some very nice young ladies, and eventually met my wife. I even had this pair of forest green Wranglers that I called my 'girl-catchin' Wranglers'. They were a 32 waist, but pulling them on was a chore and once they were firmly in place, breathing was difficult, and sitting down in them was an impossibility. But damn, I looked good in those jeans! The thought of trying to squeeze into them now makes me throw up a little in my mouth.

I'm not the most fashion-capable person on the planet. But I know what to do to hide the bits I don't want exposed to the world. Years ago, before I started working at the international package delivery company, a few years after my son was born, I was whittling my way down from an all-time high of 202 pounds. I started loading trailers, basically working out five hours a day, five days a week. Before I knew it, my clothes were falling off and I could eat absolutely ANYTHING I wanted. I was a beast! Muscles that I'd created working out in college had taken a sabbatical during my sedentary years, came roaring back thanks to the near-constant activity of filling twenty-eight foot trailers over and over and over every day. For a year and a half.

I moved up in the company, and I went from loading trailers to driving them around the yard. My level of physical activity dropped to nothing more than hooking and unhooking the air hoses from my switcher (it's basically a one-person mini semi used to transport trailers from one place to another at the international package delivery company). Overnight, my muscle tone checked out. I'd yo-yo'd from just under 200 pounds, down to 163, and was working my way back up to two bills again. My metabolism went on strike. And my clothes that were falling off of me at one point, somehow immediately shrank. Like I said, I'm not the most fashion-capable. You would do well not to have me dress you because I typically don't care if I'm wearing a winter color in spring, or if my jeans are still in style. But I know how to trick the eye into thinking it's seeing something it ain't. Like Billy Dee Williams said in his iconic and long-lasting commercials for the worst beverage on the face of the planet: Don't let the smooth taste fool you. I may look like I'm put together on the outside, but there's a honey bun under my shirt trying to bust its way out to freedom!

I need to work out. I need to lose weight. And not just to avoid the super honest, but unintentional ridicule of my child. I need to do those things for myself. My wife tells me all the time when she thinks I'm receptive and ready to do something about it that I'm in a lot of bad categories for a black man. And she's right. Although I don't always feel like it, I'm probably overweight. I'm probably too close to the limit on my cholesterol and caffeine and sugar and trans fat intake. My diet could be a LOT better than it is. And I could be getting exercise on a regular. Thank God I've quit smoking, or I'd have yet another strike against me.

In two years I will be 40 years old. (That's kind of hard to read now that I've typed it.) I'm now closer in age to those old guys in the television commercials who can't sit through a baseball game without having to pee eight times and have conversations with their fraternity brothers about the great doctor who performed their vasectomies. It's trivial and cliched, but I would really like to not only attend my son's wedding - and my daughter's provided my wife and I ever have a girl - but I'd like to dance without tripping over my oxygen tank, or asking my wife to roll me over to the roast beef station because I'm too enormous to walk under my own weight. Okay, okay, shut it. I'm exaggerating, but you get the point.

My wife bought that Insanity workout the other day. I can't wait to see what she thinks about it. I'm not dumb enough to promise I'll tackle it head first like I did when she brought home those satanic Tae Bo tapes. Billy Blanks should be arrested for what he did to people on those tapes. But I'm totally willing to see if the infomercial workout can help a pudgy guy like me drop a few lbs and persuade my muscles to come back to roost. I will never be on the cover of Men's Health unless they are doing a Before issue. Can't you see it? I'm standing on the left, wearing a big Bill Cosby sweater and eating a bowl of ice cream, while some guy who works out for a living and eats dirt and berries for dinner is on the left, holding some hot ass topless model in his arms and secretly giving me the finger behind his back.

My expectations are honest, like the statements unconsciously spewed, unfiltered and innocent, from the mouth of my child. I want to be healthier. And I want to get back to that hunky guy my wife met during a great weekend in Savannah, although I'll be a balder version the second time around. LOL.

I wonder if Colt 45 comes in a 'Light' version. Somebody get me Billy Dee.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pimpin' Ain't Easy

My older brother introduced me to great music when I was a little kid. He loved all kinds of music, and had this awesome stereo in his room. He was one of the first people I knew who had CDs and he liked to play whatever was on hand at a ridiculous volume when our parents weren't home. When he wasn't there, I secretly did the same and jammed HARD to the likes of Public Enemy, Living Color, and Eric B & Rakim. It's a wonder our neighbors never called the cops!

One line in particular that I'll always remember comes from Eric B. & Rakim's I Know You Got Soul: "It's Been A Long Time, I Shouldn't Have Left You / Without A Strong Rhyme To Step To..." (Google it and listen for yourself!)

That line speaks to not only my blog, but my novel, as well. When I decided to come back to the world of creative writing, I was hell bent on doing everything I could on my own. If anybody out there knows somebody who likes to write and wants to do it for money or for a living, I wish them all the luck and success in the world. At one point, I was THIS CLOSE to having an agent, but that hit the crapper somehow and I don't know where everything went wrong. She liked my manuscripts but I never heard from her again. Mind you, this was after I went through a horrible experience with the first "publisher" who I had to pay to print my work. I'm still questioning whether or not I was paid for every book they printed. My '92 Mazda Protege tells me that I wasn't, but I'm moving on.

I'm back, I'm super stoked, and I'm ready to make the most out of this second time around. I love to write, and it would be out of this world to actually profit from my novels. But I am also no longer under any illusions of four- and five-figure deposits electronically appearing in my bank account. I found and fell in love not only with the concept, but the price. It was free to set up.

Without a literary agent, you are completely on your own when it comes to marketing your work. Where an agent would poke their contacts in the publishing industry, trying to sell your manuscript to a publishing house, the lone wolves are left to get the word about out their books using any ideas they can come up with. And, unless they have a money tree to cushion the expense of postage and press releases and advertising and however the hell pay-for-clicks work, it is financially burdensome to self-publish. Pimpin' ain't easy, but I know the results will be worth the effort. Whether or not I ever live in a McMansion paid for by the shit I make up in my crazy brain, I am most excited - and truly unnerved - at the prospect of friends and family and strangers reading my creations and enjoying them. I want to have people asking for more, and I want to give it to them.

I may go back to the 'find an agent' game at some point, but right now, I'm getting a ton of satisfaction from doing this on my own. I got an amazing hook up through my friend Valerie (the same gal who suggested I start a blog) when she introduced me to the guy who created the front and back covers for 'The Brotherhood'. He is Gareth Lewis-Pitt and his work is amazing. I hope he's not too expensive when I beg him to create the covers for 'The Chief of Staff' and 'The Situation Room'.

The money I made at my second job went to the ISBN number (on the bar code) and to the copyright and will pay for press releases and advertising and whatever else I can't do by spamming my friends and family on Facebook. The blog's all mine. The website is my creation. And the results fall on my shoulders. When I was 16 and told my mother that she and my father needed to buy me a car, she told me that I would appreciate a car or a house or whatever it was I wanted when I could afford to buy it myself. Needless to say, I didn't get that car and shared an '84 Buick LeSabre with her until I went off to Appalachian. Years later, as my wife and I drove away from the lot in my brand-new truck, I smiled to myself and thought about just how right she was. And her wonderfully maternal logic still makes me smile when I think about the pride I feel each time someone signs my Guestbook or asks me to sign their copy of my novel.

I didn't start Magnolia Rambling with the intention of dispensing helpful advice, or pushing my Oprah 'ah ha moments' on you all. This is a forum I'm using to tell the world about what I can do, and I appreciate everyone who takes a little time to read what I write. If you've got a dream, or maybe just a passion, go for it. I just found out that 'The Brotherhood' is now available on the Barnes & Noble website. Excellent! Write a novel, start a blog, find a way to hustle and flow for what you want. Do whatever you have to (that's legal....ha ha). If you need a little motivation, email me.

Or just call my mother.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What the Hell Did She Just Say To Me?

I just about gave somebody down the road the other day. A woman, who shall remain nameless, all but gave me the stink eye over something I said to one of her co-workers. Before I opened my mouth and got myself in trouble, I walked away. Begrudgingly.

You may or may not remember/know this, but my second job is with an international package delivery company. You step inside the guard shack and go through metal detectors before you get through the gate to make sure you aren't bringing in anything crazy like a knife or gun or whatever. And then you're frisked and/or wanded when you leave after your shift to make sure you aren't stealing cell phones or whatever you can fit on your person as you leave the guard shack. I get it. I understand the reasoning behind the security, and I've even gotten used to being patted down like a criminal. How sad is that, right? I digress.

Over the years, I've built a rapport with the security staff. With one of them in particular, we have a way of greeting each other that is almost second nature. We don't even think about it. He's a former New York police officer, probably in his forties, with a wide-shouldered bravado, deep Latin-flavored skin tone, and he's cool as a fan. Our exchange usually goes something like this:

Me: Hey, ya'll.
Guard: Sup, man? You good?
Me: Chillin'. You know me.
Guard: I feel ya.
Me: Peace.

Whipping her head around and speaking before she thought, she asked her partner, "Where in the hell did he learn to talk like that?" Short, with burning red hair and a thin frame, she isn't the first image you'd have of a security guard. But that is neither here nor there.

I was just about to push the door open to the other side of the guard shack when I got the look. She wasn't new, and I'm pretty sure she'd heard us say hey to each other many times before. Thanks to my buddy previously questioning me about bank business, she knows what I do during the day, and that I spend the evening amongst my blue collar acquaintances. Her inability to disconnect the mental image she has of me as a banker (though that's not what I do), combined with the phrasing and word choice of the exchange she just witnessed must have literally blown her mind. It was almost as if she didn't approve of what I'd said or the way I'd said it; like I'd shattered some pre-conceived notion of how she thought I was supposed to act and speak.

It's somewhat comical now, but in the nanosecond between her face contorting and my deciding to ignore her tone, she was spared a verbal evisceration. Bless her heart. And you know what? I'm still trying to figure out why she so quickly and completely got under my skin. I wonder if I was just having a bad day. Or maybe not.

Helen of Troy's face launched a thousand ships and ignited the Trojan Wars. And a picture is said to be worth a thousand words. But is there really anything more powerful, more compelling and inflammatory, any tool or weaponry which is greater or more widely called upon in the human arsenal than language? The misinterpretation of a single word can cause a conversation or mood to turn on a dime.

As much as some people try to deny this for the purposes of making their own argument, any human who ventures outside the house for any appreciable amount of time each day does not exist, nor do they communicate on a singular plane. That just isn't possible. From the angst-ridden teenager at your local McDonald's drive-thru, to your uppity manager at the phone company to whom you speak only when spoken to, all the way to your respective family members, the language you use with all of those groups is different. Think about it. You're not going to address your manager in the same manner you speak to your mother or your little brother. Similarly, the language you use (either spoken or unspoken) with the drive-thru anger ball isn't the same as you would use to communicate with your next door neighbor.

And why should it be?

The delivery of language - I firmly believe - differs based on the context of the situation. I remember telling my mother once that I tend to speak to my guys at my second job differently than I do to my co-workers at the bank. My wife didn't agree with my doing so, and if memory serves, intimated that I should use proper speech as a way of lighting the path, as it were. I completely understand where she's coming from and the point she was making, but I don't do that for two reasons: 1) I don't consider it to be my responsibility; and 2) I feel an indefinable sense of connection and kinship with them in being able to let down my guard, relaxing my language in our succinct and effortless conversations. To read that, you might think I'm putting them down, or in some fashion telling you I think them to be less educated than I. That's far from the case and hopefully not a parallel you drew before I brought it up. (However, what a great bullet point in the argument that language can so easily polarize based on the interpretation of a sentence!) It's like talking to my fraternity brothers - easy and so completely unpretentious. Again, I digress.

Inherent in the language presented to others are elements of passion and power. You are infusing your speech with equal parts syncopation, accent, dialect, volume & tone, and inflection based on myriad factors, not the least of which is the person to whom you're speaking. Language is fun. Language helps you discern intention and size up your competition. Language is a lightening rod by which you can attract and enlighten your audience, or showcase your glaring ignorance. What joy would there be in listening to Common were it not for his artful and thought-provoking expressions? Diana Krall and Tony Bennett both want us to fly them to the moon, and even though the lyrics are the same, their deliveries are dissimilar enough to make it seem as though the songs are completely unrelated. Jill Scott seduces us, Rissi Palmer enchants us, Jay-Z moves us, and Kenny Loggins enlivens us. Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou, and Barack Obama have used language to defend themselves, inspire us, and exclaim 'Yes We Can'. All of them and many more, do so with their powerful, yet individual, commands of language.

Whether it comes from the silver-tongued devil of a salesman trying to talk you into a copier you just don't need, the barker at a carnival tempting you to let him guess your weight in public, or the comfort of a parent consoling their child after the death of their pet, language is an arrow (sometimes poison-tipped), feather-guided and irretrievable once pulled from your brain's quiver and launched from your mouth toward your target.

As I wrote (and re-read) this entry and thought about everything I was trying to convey, I realized that there is also a reasonable expectation of comprehension tied to the language we use, and that that expectation is assumed by every- and anyone within earshot. Sometimes you get it, and sometimes you don't.

I'm glad I took a deep breath and left the guard shack with my thoughts aflame, instead of making a fool out of myself (and probably embarrassing the young lady) by asking her to explain what she meant. I'm glad I took a couple of days and wrote out my feelings. It helped me put everything that happened that day - and situations I'm sure I'll face down the road - into unique perspective. I understand why the security guard was confused. I understand her not being able to reconcile in her brain my need and desire to be a verbal chameleon. I understand my knee-jerk reaction and asking myself, "What the hell did she just say to me?"

I understand.

I wonder if she does.

Do you?