In an Uber, coming home from an appointment an hour away, stuck in traffic, the driver spent the first half of the ride telling us how important unions are and how he went around stumping for the union all the time when he worked at the Albertson’s warehouse, and then in the second half of the ride, he told us how he wants to get a collage of American gangsters tattooed on his leg (he had tats all over, including his face). He wanted everyone from Al Capone to El Chapo (not an American gangster, but I kept that to myself), to all these relatively current drug lords I’ve never heard of, and then somehow we ended up with him telling me how crack is made (or so he’s heard) and how much Percs and Fentanyl cost on the street (or so he’s heard). When we got to the destination, I told him that that ride was the most fun I’ve ever had in an Uber by far, which is a fact! I told him he was fantastic and gave him a big fat tip. My male friend, more conservative than I, was not thrilled, but I was in Michelle heaven!
I love people so much.
My only regret is that I forget to tell him he needed to add Jimmy Hoffa to his tattoo. Dang it!
I would love to swan around and say dusty things about poetry and have everyone give a damn and have groupies who show me their boobs and read at Carnegie Hall to 53,000 screaming teeny boppers in poodle skirts
and all that other shit that real poets do and don’t actually do
but always do in my sweaty jealous glory hogging little mind.
“There is a lot of breakage.” Don’t we all feel that way?
I balked when she said it and immediately went to defend myself. It must be the scrunchie I had near permanently in my mop since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s because I hadn’t had it cut since then. It’s because the hair is in terrible condition because of pandemic neglect and not, dear gods, because it’s falling out. It’s just broken not heading for the hills. It’s just broken, not endangered. It’s just broken—more, healthy, unbroken hair is just behind it.
I got it cut in December 2021 and I feel like a human again. The broken hairs are still broken, but the unbroken ones are no longer frayed like D-grade straw, looking like a witch’s hair. Gods, was I ever embarrassed when I walked my straw haired witch’s self into the Great Clips and asked them to whack the mess off. The stylist was understanding, matter of fact as the hay hit the floor, and gave me a marvelous new start, jawline length, relief from all the burden of the last two years that had fallen well past my shoulders and almost all the way down to my waist.
So the broken ones are still broken, but they’re also still growing and now don’t have so far to go to catch up to their unbroken sisters. The mop isn’t so long that I have to keep it up in a scrunchie anymore. I don’t have to be bound all the time. No more mass breakage is imminent. 2022 is going to be a good year.
How much further can I carry this hairy pandemic metaphor? Let’s see:
The thing about the short curly hair is that there is no second chance. There is no second day hair so, if you’re going somewhere, if anyone else is meant to see you, you must must must take care of it day by day. It’s a hassle when we’ve all gotten so used to not caring much about ourselves as we huddle and hide away. But also a sign of health, this hassle, and anything, even if it’s vanity, that forces you to bathe and primp and proper yourself, is a good thing and a godsend in a time when it’s far too easy just to let go.
With the short curly do that gives no second chances, I wake up from tossing nights looking like Einstein. That’s why I was able to come up with such completely original, genius, and insightful observations about the pandemic vis-a-vis my hair.
Original, I tell you. Original.
I wish you all the best and healthiest in 2022. My goal is to be here more and make more super genius and purely original observations with both my words and my art, photographic and otherwise. My goal is to read more of your work as well. My hope is we will inspire each other. My hope is we will inspire each other enough so as to give each other the tingles. My hope is we will inspire each other enough that, tingling together, it makes our collective hair, broken and unbreakable, stand on end.
Photo: My submission for this week’s 52 Frames challenge, “Self-Portrait” I’m calling it “Gallows Humor.” Taken with an iPhone 10. Flash did not fire.
We walk at around nine or ten and, at around nine or ten, the scene over Little Mountain towards Devore and the Cajon Pass was bleak.
We wish for gray skies here. We hope for it. We pray for it. Some of us may even bay at the moon and dance for it—thirsty, drought stricken, dead lawn denizens that we are. But that gray ain’t rain clouds, brother.
Little Mountain was on fire yesterday—not our bit of it, but the bit of it one neighborhood away, closer to the freeway where my great aunt and uncle lived for forty years, north of the 215 freeway, south of all those houses… all those houses. Everyone was evacuated. Water drop helicopters landed in the neighborhood park. City and county fire descended and ascended upon it from all possible angles. They put the fire down so fast, it barely made the local news and was but a mild ripple even amongst the busybody neighbors on Nextdoor.
Little Mountain is on fire a lot. Our people know how to fight that fire. Our people have always been victorious. Not a single house or business has ever been burned in that spot. We are very blessed. We are very lucky. We are willful that we go on living here, year after year, fire after fire… after fire after fire after fire.
So this morning, the thing was a sky over the mountain filled with orangey gray that smells like God’s barbecue and promises nothing but swimming pools, A/C filters, and formerly pink lungs full of ash.
Weirdly, though, a hopeful sight: smoke in the sky, no longer connected to the earth below—no longer a real threat, no longer a panic, no longer everyone’s nightmare. A little relief. More than a little gratitude all those houses were saved and we can go back from praying our neighbors make it, to praying one day we get friendlier clouds filled with rain.
Let’s get vulnerable with each other. Let’s get naked and play the mirror game. Let’s do it in front of a group of twenty-somethings with their whole brilliant lives ahead of them. Let us let them sit cross-legged in a circle around us and let us let them bombard us with questions as we try to mirror each other’s movements exactly.
We’ll have to answer honestly and be beastly to ourselves in this game because it is impossible to lie focused only on each other, move for move, even down to the twitch in the corner of my mouth and yours when someone lazily lobs, “What is your worst feat?”
We say, “This.”
We are afraid of this. We are afraid of only ever being as good as each other, locked in the hopelessness of leprous perfectionism. Not singly—mutually. Each other’s. Always each other’s.
We are afraid of this: falling short, move for move, in each other’s eyes forever.
Dostoyevsky said, “Life is life everywhere.” I don’t remember where or when he said it, but his mind was on human suffering in Siberia.
Bars and blue are the view from my office window. I live in a dirty, dying town in the inland desert of Southern California. We call it an empire. My neighborhood is ghetto-lite, but still rough enough to have warranted bars on all the doors and windows since 1985.
Here in the SoCal inland desert empire, it is green and, in the winter, the temperature rarely dips below forty degrees. The snow, in Siberia, is like bars I’m sure, but unlike these in my window, inescapable. Blue sky, like life, is blue sky everywhere though and we have at least these two things in common which, as I stand in the sun, un-barred, I’m sure is much more comfort to me on blue days wishing for the shocking sanctity of suffering and snow than it is to them on days that are nothing but sanctity, suffering, and snow
Some people have monsters under their beds. Some people have shoes and extra blankets. Some people have porn. Some very lucky people have money. I have two Ouija boards—one made by my best friend—the beautiful one, board and friend—and one made by Hasbro—the glow-in-the-dark one, the one covered in dust and almost crushed by my ancient, broke-down box spring.
This is the game I am playing with life. I talk to spirits constantly. I’m sure they all put the Michelle-specific ear plugs in long ago. I have nightmares that are backwards prophecies. Life seems to be moving without me touching it—though really I must be touching it. I’m so white, I glow in the dark. The best parts of me were made by love.
Once, I wondered if sleeping with two Ouija boards under my bed was the reason I have nightmares every night, but then I realized only I can give them that power, and I only would give them that power if I moved them elsewhere in fear. I left them where they were and although I still have nightmares, I am winning this game.