Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Talking More Trash

And hopefully the last of it:

Pieces of trash have reappeared in my neighborhood, but not to the extent we had before I became the anti-litter-lady. I’ve wondered about that. It occurred to me that when trash is lying about, I notice it. Every time. So it seems like always trash, even if it’s the same trash. And then another piece and another piece joins it, so it’s eternal trash, strewn around by cretins I can do nothing about. Trash upon trash upon trash, a mental mountain at least. But if I dislike the litter, and if I pick it up on a semi-regular basis, the original trash is gone. If I took it home, put it in the kitchen garbage, never took it out to be carried off by curbside service, my house would quickly fill up with other people's trash. But I do put it out to be hauled off, and the neighborhood is a bit cozier, and I’m a bit happier. I don’t like trash—but instead of having to change all the world’s litterers, I can simply change my bit of the world.

Gotta admit, I still have trouble with the social interaction trash…somebody says something unnecessarily mean or stupid or—Big Not Fair—something untrue, or I’m waiting in line at the big box store check-out while the clerk counts the cash she’s handing back fifteen times so she can finish her personal conversation with the customer in front of me like she’s doing official business and not just chit-chatting, while I have official business of my own to take care of just as soon as I can pay for my goods and get on my way. Instantaneously, the chemicals flash and I’m looking at some trashy feelings.

Nevada Barr in Seeking Enlightenment, Hat by Hat, her book on her spiritual evolution, said she went to a refresher course for park rangers. A guest speaker, a sheriff, asked the group what they did when somebody ‘talked back.’

One young man said, “I don’t take shit off anybody. They give me shit, I take action.”

The sheriff set him straight. “As a law-enforcement officer it’s your job to take shit. Punks smart mouth you, you take it. Drunks vomit on you, you take it. Ladies spit at your because you wrote ‘em a ticket, you take it. Taking shit is what we do. You damn well better get good at it.”

Though I still hate taking shit, I’ve come to realize the first thing I have to do is notice it’s there. If I’m living in a reactive trance and somebody gives me shit, what I’m feeling will seem real, and I’m just going to get madder and madder. I’ve got to claim the garbage first. That’s just the first step. Even if I realize what’s happening, if I cling to my own outraged righteousness, I’m going to be hauling that trash around, and collecting more to pile up on it. But if what I really want is peace, love, joy, I’ve got to share it with the cretin, um, fellow creature in front of me. I’m going to have to claim those outraged feelings as my own garbage, and then let them go.

Friday, August 8, 2008


I’ve written about becoming that old trash lady, picking up garbage along with my dog’s poop. It’s kind of embarrassing, in a way. But today I didn’t take my poop retrieval bags with me when I left the house (alrighty, it was early and I was dopey; the dogs didn’t poop in anybody’s walking path, I’ll pick it up later, okay? We don’t want this poop thing to be obsessive). The trash thing may well be on its way to a mental illness deal, because I was slightly nervous about not being able to clean up the neighborhood. Scheesish, I was thinking, what a fruitcake I am.

Then I discovered THERE WAS NO TRASH. Not a yellow napkin. Not one paper straw cover. Not even a plastic cup lid. Nada. Nothing.

This may be what is happening here: the law of attraction. If trash is lying about and people are passing in their cars, their little brains note it, the synapses flash, the car window lowers, out comes the detritus of their mobile lives. Trash collects trash.

But if the garbage isn’t there in the first place, the synapses don’t turn on. On some level the custom of the natives prevail.

I remember it being Krishnamurti who said, Be the change you wish to see.

You know we're not just talking trash here. Peace, love, joy, anyone?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I Love My Town

The other day I was trying to leave the grocery store, but the out door was blocked by an old white man with a buggy. A spiffily dressed old black woman with a walker was trying to make her way in the out door. This is Mississippi, folks, and those racial differences at one time made a huge distinction, especially for folks as old as these two. Besides, you needed the visuals.

A shopper would come up behind us, stop, then whirl around the old man, and breeze out the automatic door, dodging the old woman. The old woman would take two shuffles forward on her walker, trying to give the old man room as he patiently waited for her to clear the path, only to have the door shut again. She was accompanied by her attentive grandson who seemed clueless about the door.

It took two shoppers leaving for me to figure out what was going on. "She said she has to go to the restroom," the grandson said, his voice very quiet, as if that would inform the world why he was trapped, the best years of his life passing him by, here, trying to go in the out door. Being a know-it-all kind of person, instead of whirling between the two myself, I took charge and got the old man out and the old woman in. I don’t know how long it would have taken them otherwise.

Even up until right this minute, I think about them and am tickled to live in a town where people will be so patiently courteous to each other even when it behooves no one.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Apologies to Jessica Lange, who is one of my secret girlfriends, which is why I was reading celebrity news about her to begin with. She’s just my age, but from what I’ve read (and remembered), she’s been fearlessly independent, living her beliefs. She’s not really my secret girlfriend…she’s one of my secret lives…living the life I would have lived if only I had more courage. And better hair.

In addition, apology-wise, about the quibble over the price of her house and the yuppie thing. With the housing bubble of the past few years, two million dollars is probably a reasonable house figure in an upscale neighborhood that has any kind of people-pleasing attraction, and is meager for a celebrity’s home. I’m sure Morgan Freeman’s home outside of Charleston, Mississippi, is much pricier, in a less saturated luxury-home market. Jessica did not invent fractional reserve banking, deregulate lending practices (subprime) to ensure minority participation, print money as a way of market control, nor shore up the resulting bad lending practices with governmental guarantees. While she is responsible for her success in her chosen field, she is not responsible for the speculative housing boom in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Several years ago my friend Barbara and I took a Florida Gulf Coast trip. “Seaside is up ahead,” she kept promising me. “just around the bend.” She started laughing when I finally spotted the little tinker toy Victorian village on the gulf and started screaming. “I knew it would scare you,” she said.

During that trip I was reminded of Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos, where (I think…I can’t find my copy, and I think this is where I read the idea) people consumed that which they professed to love. Find a quaint fishing village. Love it. Talk about it. In no time the real-estate locusts would follow, gobbling and spewing until only the new could survive. He should know…he had moved to Mandeville, Louisiana, that sleepy little fishing village outside of New Orleans. When I stayed for a few days in Mandeville in 2000, it was all gated communities, precious retail shops, and high-end eateries.

“The locusts are coming, the locusts are coming,” I chanted my way down the Gulf Coast the year I traveled with Barbara, stopping at all the beach dives along the way. Our end destination was Apalachicola, the sleepy fishing village our friends had discovered when they pulled in to rest on their voyage around the world in the sailboat they had built. They were charmed, settled in to build a river boat and enjoy Apalachicola’s eccentrics and Florida singularity. But by the time we arrived to visit, Apalachicola had been named one of the ten best kept secrets by Coastal Living, and the locusts were devouring it, buying second (or third homes) at inflated prices, taxing the fishermen and eccentrics out of their homes.

And ever since I read Misty of Chincoteague, and later, The Water is Wide I wanted to live on the Outer Banks, just like at one stage of my life I wanted to be Jessica Lange. I don’t know how many people wanted to be Jessica Lange, but apparently many, many shared my Outer Banks dream. And by the time I got there to visit, they were living it. I was too late. Honking pink McMansions and bumper to bumper traffic. Salt water in the water faucets because the population stressed the water supplies. Not a wild horse to be seen, because they ate the gentry’s geraniums and kept getting hit by cars. I wished somebody had passed a law that nobody got to live on the Outer Banks but me, though of course I would have all the amenities. And I would take good care of it. I wouldn’t share.

A couple of years ago I visited my daughter in Destin. Not only did Destin (once a what?…SLEEPY LITTLE FISHING VILLAGE) have bumper to bumper traffic, it had big box mall after big box mall. You could probably buy anything you wanted in Destin. I ate at a restaurant and looked out the window at the pier on the bay. “What kind of bird is that?” I asked the waitress, who lived in Destin. “Don’know,” she said, “some kind of water bird?” My daughter took me to this “beautiful” new housing development. It turned out to be the triplet to Seaside. On the way down, I looked for the coastal dives my friend and I had visited just a few years earlier. They were gone, replaced by high-end stores and fanicified restaurants.

What Jessica said in the AT&T news article I read was this: “In an interview earlier this year with the New York Daily News, Lange spoke with disappointment of changes in Stillwater. She says it went from a little town with lots of characters to a "yuppified" place with too many gift shops and condominiums.”

Let’s face it. No matter how conservatively Jessica Lange lived for the income she honestly earned, her two million dollar home was going to start taxing the characters out of town. And with a little help from Big Brother governmental practices, the folks who liked what she liked were going rush in to replace those characters, bringing along specialty coffee and la-de-da one-of-a-kind everything.

I read once, if you use something, you use it up. No way around it. But if I could find a way, I would stop the locusts. And make sure I got there first.