Thursday, February 12, 2009

only my shadow knows....

This here is the first of my "pub crawl" writings. The writing I will be doing as I drink my way through San Francisco one pub at a time.

Entry 1: Only my shadow knows where I go!

As my son and I were walking to his ballet class this afternoon we found ourselves playing a game with our shadows that stretched out before us. We imagined our shadows as physical examples of ourselves... very tall, thin, two-dimensional extensions of us. First, he made me laugh as he came up with all sorts of stories and troubles his shadowy self might get into. Then he made me think! Only my shadow knows where I go. It takes all the steps of the day with me, whether seen or not, it is there ... it knows exactly how many times I have to pee each day, thus solving the mystery of the ever disappearing toilet paper. It knows the truth behind my terrible eating habits. The habit that more often than not includes coffee, oops! forgot lunch, some chips, some very salty chips, and beer. It knows the pace I keep and simply put it knows exactly where I have been.

However, I must admit that on a much deeper level my shadow knows the places I think about going, my starts and my stops, my many, many beginnings. Maybe that is why the shadow stretches so long, so often in front of me as if in some vain attempt to pull me towards those things I desire and the dreams I have. Or, why it might linger sadly behind me when I suddenly turn in the wrong direction! The more I think about it the more I believe..."my shadow knows".

It knows not only where I am going and where I would like to go... it clearly knows how I want to be seen if the choice was somehow up to me. The body I feel lurking beneath the surface of my skin. The shadow, it peels like a layer of my soul lying in front of me so tall and thin. It smoothly navigates all that comes it's way rising and falling, bending and turning, never breaking, always whole. I find myself suddenly very impressed with my shadow this long, complete dark thing. I love my shadow. I think for now I will follow the reach of it's long arms and trust that it has turned the corner before me and everything will be o.k.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dirt Ball

I can't help but smile and laugh at bit at myself this morning at what a mess I truly can be. I have always been one dirty ass kid. Even now grown-up and standing alone in my kitchen I find it hard not to take a long look at myself and wonder how in the hell do I get so dirty each day. I can still can hear my dad hollering to my mom to clean my face. It was just my luck that the damn thing looked dirty even when it was clean. More often than not she was trying desperately to clean the freckles right off my cheeks. I can also hear my brother and my best friend laughing at me at work.

I should have known not to go into the construction business... I wasn't even able to stay clean as a high school English teacher for god sakes. There was not a single day that went by without me spilling something on my clothes.... usually coffee but it could be just about anything. I was simply expected by my students and peers, alike, to have something on my outfit. So, one can only imagine the crap I got into at a construction site. If there was something that could get on me it usually did. By the end of a work day I looked like an absolute pig pen with paint, and caulk, and dust, and even a little bit of coffee on my body somewhere. The guys always lovingly referred to me as "dirt ball". Which was not to far off the name, "dirty Sally", I was called in the days of Pete. Or, as my mom used to say to me, "kid you look like you have been chasing a fart through a keg of nails!" Seriously, I had absolutely no idea what that meant then and I still don't today. Although, it most certainly meant I was dirty because she never, not one time said it to me when I was getting out of the bath.

So here I am at 7:00 in the morning, quite clean I might add, staring at the bottle of dish washing soap sitting on the counter. I am waiting patiently, scratch that, I am waiting impatiently for the water to boil for my coffee. I have not yet convinced my beautiful wife that we need a coffee maker, the kind that has timer and keeps the coffee hot for at least an hour. Oh no...we grind our beans, and we use a French press, and it makes one hell of a cup of coffee... that is cold in five minutes. Oh well, when in San Francisco do as they do, I suppose. None the less, the chill of the morning and my refusal to turn the heat up out of the fear of yet another giant electric bill makes this whole process annoying. For a second, I have the brilliant idea to warm myself over the gas flame burning under my still not boiling pot. I lift my shirt above the pot to catch the warm air and for a moment I am happy. Until I lean back not realizing that I have heated the metal on the necklace I am wearing to the point of burning my chest. "Brilliant!" I think to myself. Not only am I wearing a charm I made out of the crown my son knocked out of my mouth last summer, which I have still not replaced. Therefore, my gappy smile is currently missing a tooth, as well. But, the six hundred dollar tooth necklace (that is how much the dentist charged me for the crappy thing) has literally left a mark on my skin and it hurts like hell.

I give up on being warm and put my shirt down turning my attention back to the plastic bottle on the counter. I cannot help but smile once again. The damn thing is covered, permanently stained with roofing tar from my handy-man escapade on the roof yesterday. I was not about to pay $850 dollars to fix the ever so tiny spot in the drainpipe the little man said was leaking. "Oh hell no," I thought to myself as I followed the man all over the roof. I was sure I could fix it. However, just like all my other home repair endeavors, something else always gets ruined in the process. More often than not it is my clothes... for like my father before me I inevitably forget to change my outfit into something more suitable for work. But, this time it is the soap bottle and looking at the stained plastic just makes me laugh and shake my head... not out of disgust but in surrender. Today, on what would have been my dad's 72 birthday, this mess, be it ever so small that I have yet again created seems to be especially endearing. The subtle combination of the moment, dirt and my dad's birthday pulls me back into all sorts of memories of my past. I spin through time forgetting for a second that I am waiting for the water to boil.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Oh the games we would play...

Another summer day began to fade with my stomach full of creepy little crawdads my mom was more than willing to cook for her youngest, me, Pete. One has got to love a mom that hates dingy drawers but will cook crawdads caught in a ditch for her seven year old daughter to eat. It wasn't until much later in life that I realized the act of cooking anything caught in a sewer ditch might have been a little strange. However, there was absolutely nothing I could ever do to top mom's stories of the farm, and there was also nothing she wouldn't allow, do, or cook in the name of adventure... well, almost nothing, I thought.

There was just one thing she absolutely would not tolerate. I was not to be hit in the stomach. A blow to the stomach could most certainly hurt my chances of having children in the future. Now, considering all that I did, and the fact that I was not actually a girl, so to speak... I found her concerns of the stomach and childbirth most confusing. However, since she never yelled about too much, and to be perfectly honest, being hit in the gut rather hurt, I didn't put up much of an argument in regards to stopping all activities that included my belly being pounded.

For a bit that afternoon I laid stretched and full and satisfied, across the hot pool deck, feet in the cool water. I remembered thinking to myself that this is as good as any bath, and I watched the water around my feet cloud with swirling dirt. Then without another thought, I jumped clothes and all into the big blue bath believing that if the clear chlorine filled pool could clean my feet, it could surely clean my white cotton underwear. Problem solved! Well, at least, my mom's problem. I, on the other hand, didn't care if my underwear was gray or not or any other color... nobody sees the stuff. I laughed to myself for a moment at all these thoughts of underwear. "For Pete's sake, my older brother wouldn't ever let someone see his underwear off of his body, let alone on it." Although, it was true that he was much cleaner than I on almost all occasions.

There I sat as long as I could hold my breath at the bottom of the deep end, watching my bubbles and the muck residue rise to the top. It was not until I felt as if I was just about to run out of air that I pushed hard off the bottom, convinced that I was clean, and thinking summer time in Florida was without a doubt the best time in the world to be a kid... or at least to be me. It was during those long, hot, humid days from May through August that I was the most happy, the dirtiest, and all together the most sure of myself. It meant a time of nothing and everything all at once... no school, no shoes, no shirt (when my mom wasn't looking), no schedule, no combing hair... and all the adventures one could imagine.

Before I could bask a moment longer in the glory of summer, however, I heard my older brother and friends coming out of the porch and into the pool with a huge splash. Every one of them nearly landed on top of me as I sprinted for the side. The waves seemed to lift me over the edge and for a moment I was safe on the deck. I pretended as if I wasn't frightened a bit, shook my huge wet head of hair like a dog and stood up. Then as quickly as they entered the pool, came the explanation as to why they were there in the first place. They needed me! Those words... "they need me!" Those very words were greater than summer itself. Anytime my brother needed me for anything was a great moment... and I didn't hesitate, not for a second to answer the call. The slightest delay at all might put me at risk of not being needed and he had a way of making these moments sound urgent. I was never willing to miss out on an opportunity to tag along when I was needed!

My mind raced with all the possibilities of what may be in store for me. What could it be? This had turned out to be a perfect day -- crawdads and now an afternoon with the guys. Truth be told, however, I should have been wiser. I should have hesitated, if only for a moment because then, I would have remembered all of the other times my brother had needed me. I would have been able to mull over the inevitable results of my presence in his world... pain! He truly gave credibility to the saying, "If something sounds to good to be true, it usually is." But it was already to late to think about the past.

Before I could ask a single question I found myself lying flat on my back ,in the front yard in front of a homemade ramp. My brother was hurling toward me on his bike and gaining speed. There was a dull thud as his tires hit the ramp and over me he flew to the cheers of his friends. I swallowed hard and opened my eyes to find my brother staring down at me with a grin, water dripping from his hair to my face. "Good job! Man are you lucky. You get to be the death defying daredevil human barrel!" Now go ahead and scoot out a little further... pretend you are two barrels," he said with all the confidence in the world. I, the "death defying daredevil human barrel," gladly slid out into the yard away from the ramp. What an important job I had. I imagined myself, in an instant, as the first human being ever to be jumped over with a bike and live to tell about it. Then, before I knew it, I heard the familiar thud and looked up just in time to see the bottom of my brothers bike as it sailed by me. This time, however, the landing was not as clean. I felt the hot burn of the rubber tire come down on my arm, and then heard my mom at the front door.

She didn't appear all too concerned about my arm but she made sure my brother knew he could have easily landed on my stomach. As you might have guessed our game came to a quick end - my stomach and my future children safe again! But, as I got up from the yard rubbing my arm, hoping for a mark to show for my bravery, I wasn't sure if I was mad at my mom for ruining my moment of daredevil glory or relieved that she felt the need to once again save my belly, to save me from myself.

Monday, February 2, 2009

When I knew Who I was...

There I stood for a moment, not moving. Perhaps I was frozen in fear at the trouble I might get into at home for ruining yet another pair of drawers. Or maybe because something unknown had just slithered past my leg in the murk. Then I heard my friend Thomas holler from atop the drainpipe, "What are you doing? Put it in - put the damn thing in!" He was directing me to put the shrimping net we had borrowed from my dad into the water... suddenly, I remembered what I was supposed to be doing and who I was. My name was Pete, a girl named Pete, and I had crawdads to catch. My thoughts always displayed such conviction and confidence. I am a pint sized warrior, I thought to myself. I could take a punch and although I couldn't catch a fish to save my life... I was always willing to jump in the water. "I am Pete...!" I screamed silently.

Thomas' voice grabbed my attention yet again, and I splashed the net deep into the pool just outside the mouth of the pipe. It was here that the smelly water that had just run off the road from a summer storm flowed the most swift. It was here that the tiny little, hard-shelled, red creatures we call crawdads were most likely to be caught. After what felt like a long while... I pulled my net to the surface and there they were. I had caught at least 15 of the miniature lobsters. I had hit pay dirt and pure excitement had already begun to cloud my judgment. Moments earlier I had been only knee deep in the warm, thick water of the ditch. Now, I was well past my waist, and the combination of mud and weeds had begun to leave a dirty ring around my t-shirt. When I finally emerged up the banks of the ditch on the far side away from the highway, I looked as though I had been the victim of a terrible flood. There were bits of black dirt still clinging to my legs along with a watery ring around my chest, which made it appear as if I had barely escaped death. One would think that at this very moment I would have realized that I ruined yet another pair of underwear and would surely be in trouble when I returned home. But as I peered into the bucket half filled with the scurrying creatures, and felt the Florida heat beat down on my back causing sweat to run streaks through the dirt on my face, I experienced nothing but pride. Thomas and I contemplated for a moment which of our moms would be willing to cook up our catch. Mine it was, as always, and with this decided we headed home, our bucket, crawdads, and nets in hand. As the water and muck squished out of my shoes with each step, leaving a trail of our adventure behind, we felt more satisfied than we could have ever imagined.

The adventure begins...

Well... here I go! Finally, I am making the jump to enter the blogging world. It has taken me quite a bit of time to start this process. I imagined myself first figuring out who I was as a person, then figuring out who I was a writer before embarking on any thing close to a literary journey. However, 42 years have passed me by and I am no closer to answering either of those questions than I was a long, long time ago. So, I have decided once and for all to fuck trying to figure anything out at the moment and go back to a period when I knew exactly who I was. It was a relatively short time in my life, but important to me none the less, and I cling to the hope that I will find that person once again. So begins the adventure back to me...

My name is Katrina. Friends have always called me Kathy but in my mind I have clearly referred to myself as Pete. I never quite felt like a Katrina or a Kathy or a girl for that matter. I felt like something between. Well, if I am to be honest, not exactly between... I felt like a boy. A very small boy. The name Kathy, however, although girlish by nature did not seem to fool any of my friends into believing that I was a girl. Not for a second. I was certain, in their secret thoughts, that they too knew I was Pete. I was around 7 during this "period of Pete," and I spent a great deal of my time making sure the world around me knew exactly who I was. In fact, I pretty much did everything in my power to guarantee I did not look or behave anything like a girl, and enjoyed every moment I spent proving my point.

It was during one such moment on a fairly ordinary day that I, by modern mom standards, had wandered too far from home. This was not today... this was many yesterdays ago. There I was on the outskirts of my neighborhood standing knee deep in oil black, thick muck. No, not in a lake, or in a pond, or a creek -- I was standing in the drainage ditch along the highway nearest the entrance to my world. I had been warned by my mom to stay clear of this place, but not for my safety, as you might suspect, considering I just mentioned it was a ditch and it was located next to a highway. She only feared this incredible spot because of the warm ink-like muck that had begun to fill my shoes. It was an indescribable substance, and something that when I inevitably went in too deep stained my white cotton underwear a most miserable and permanent gray. This was what she dreaded the most... underwear that looked dirty even when clean. And, although I was a little afraid of my mom, it was rarely enough to keep me from the ditch. The allure of adventure was too powerful and I was in too deep before I thought twice.