Category Archives: archives

Need

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OK – FINE! You have beaten me – No one is getting three songs. I swear, I thought it would be easy, since I’m a hippie chick, I have a song reference in my username and email, and since I have talked about artists I like. But turns out it wasn’t so easy. I will probably just do a random pick for the iTunes winner. Unless someone guesses before i get around to doing it (I’m super busy at work right now) Dammit.

Because of the super busy, I am delving back into the archives. This was originally published in November 2007. I have been pretty open over the years, writing about my insecurities and failures, about heartbreak and marriage issues. I’ve shared embarrassing moments and been brutally honest about family problems. But strangely, this was by far the most difficult post for me to write and share.

What Does Need Look Like?

Back when I was living in the city and attending the most awesome church ever, I used to volunteer at the church’s weekly meal for the homeless and less fortunate. I’d show up around 7:00 am and we’d start chopping, prepping and cooking. We generally served something simple – chili, stew, pasta. Anything that was inexpensive and could be stretched a long way.

We got a diverse crowd at these meals – some obviously homeless folks, veterans still struggling with what they had been through, lonely elderly men, addicts and alcoholics, mentally challenged people living on their own, and the hardest ones to see – families. It took everything I had not to cry when a toddler or young child would smile shyly and politely ask for “more milk, please?” I can’t tell you how many times I’d have to turn away and blink back tears, knowing that my childhood was so very different than theirs. At that age, my biggest worry was if Teddy liked me (yes, no, or maybe so) or which of us was going to get to play Dorothy when we played Wizard of Oz at recess that day.

Anyway, occasionally we got people (mostly men for some reason) that didn’t really look needy. I know – needy doesn’t have a “look”, but it’s the best description I can give. One week, we had two men come in that fit this description – one older (maybe in his 50’s) (also – this was years ago when I included 50’s in the “older” category and not the “potential hot sex” category) and one younger. They may have been father and son, maybe just acquaintances. They were dressed pretty well, especially the younger man, in clean, neat clothes and a well-made jacket.

They were welcomed just as everyone else was – no one was questioned or turned away there and rightly so. But I overheard someone make mention of their “not needy-looking” appearance. It wasn’t anyone working at the meal – everyone there felt the same about our guests. It was someone who was at the church for another reason. But when I heard their comment, it really bothered me. I mean, who are we to judge? What does “needy” look like? And does needy only mean financially needy? What about the lonely, the scared, the sad? Aren’t they just as needy of our fellowship as the hungry were of our food? And yet, while part of me understood the person’s comment, I also knew how ignorant it was. While I was never “needy”, I had had an experience a few years before that made me feel judged and needy and humiliated because of it.

Back when I worked for the University and made a salary that I could never have lived on alone, mr b and I went through some pretty hard times. I was going to say that we were the epitome of “paycheck to paycheck”, but that isn’t exactly right, because the money never quite stretched from one paycheck to the next. Now, let me get this straight – I was never in any danger of losing my home or starving to death. I had family, mr b had family – if we were truly anywhere near that, they would have stepped in to help. Hell – they have helped us many times. But no one likes to ask for help. No one wants to admit that they aren’t making it, that they are failing at life. I grew up being almost unable to ask for anything, so I was no exception.

So one month, things were really tight. My monthly paycheck wasn’t due for a week (whopping $625 that it was), and mr b’s small pay wasn’t coming for a couple days, either. There was nothing in our account – in fact, we were overdrawn. This was a relatively common occurrence, given our paltry salaries and our rent, utilities, student loans and a pretty large IRS bill from an old business venture when mr b had to choose between paying his guys and paying his taxes – he chose right. Anyway, the money was gone, the food had run out the night before and we had long since started walking to work to avoid bus fare.

In the office where I worked, there was a small group of us that pitched in every month for a lottery fund. We played the big jackpots a couple of times a week and put any winnings back in the pot. The envelope was kept in one woman’s desk (the territorial crazy-ass bitch – I have some stories about her for another day). Since there was usually more money in there than we generally needed for the lottery, it became a “bank” of sorts. If someone in the group had forgotten their lunch money or bus fare, they’d borrow from the pool and pay it back later. So, on that day, I was getting ready to leave (I was the last one in the office), and I was fretting about what we were going to have for dinner (and lunch and dinner the next day – I had already skipped breakfast and lunch that day) when I remembered the lottery pool. I checked the envelope and we had way more than we needed, so I borrowed five bucks. We had enough in there that if we divided it by the contributors, we’d have 10 dollars a piece, so technically, I didn’t borrow anything more than – and actually less than – my own money.

I left work, walked to the store (no way was I wasting my $5 on bus fare), bought some ramen noodles and ground beef and walked home, feeling slightly relieved that I didn’t have to skip eating the next couple days. I guess I should mention that we were out of checks and they were on re-order, because otherwise, I would have knowingly written a bad check. I mean – eating versus bouncing a check (as I said a common occurrence)? No contest.

The next day, as soon as I got into the office, I was called upstairs on a project, so I didn’t see any of the other women when they came in. It wasn’t until hours later when I caught up with my friend Toenail, she told me that Diana, the crazy-ass bitch was freaking out because someone had stolen our money. She came in and immediately checked the envelope (being a paranoid, territorial, crazy-ass bitch) and freaked out. No – that’s not exactly true. She first assumed that someone had borrowed it, but when she asked the other women (completely unbothered by the thought of it) and they said no, she freaked out. They others said it was probably me, to calm down. But she hated me. So suddenly, what was perfectly OK when she assumed it was one of the others was thievery when it was me. She ranted and raved and screamed and cried (yes – she actually cried – she was really good at mustering up fake tears to suit her needs).

She went upstairs and cried and told everyone and anyone that I had broken into her desk and stolen her money. Before long, I was summoned in to the (world’s worst) boss’s office. I was interrogated and humiliated. I sat there before my anus of a boss and explained that we always borrowed from the fund and that it was never a problem. I explained that it was my money. I explained that the other women weren’t upset at all – only dirty Diana (oh the stories I could tell about her). Still, he had heard the word “stolen” and that was as much as his tiny brain could handle. He wanted to know “why I did it”, what I needed the money for. After explaining yet again that I didn’t “do” anything, I told him the truth – I began to cry as I explained that we were out of money and out of food. He looked at me incredulously – as if he couldn’t even comprehend being broke and hungry. He didn’t feel any sympathy for me. He didn’t care that his employee could not afford to eat on her salary. All he wanted to know was, “What can you get for five dollars?”

This made me cry harder. If he was intent on humiliating me, he was doing a fine job. I felt terrible. I was ashamed. Not of what I had “done”, but of the fact that needed to do it. I was ashamed to have to explain to the man who once told me how cheap his airfare to Paris was and told me I should go (it was more than my entire monthly paycheck) that I had bought ramen fucking noodles just so I wouldn’t go hungry for the next two days.

And why should I have been ashamed? I was working. I had gotten a college degree. I was earning a living. I was doing everything I could and it Just. Wasn’t. Enough. Why should I be ashamed? Shouldn’t society be ashamed? Shouldn’t our government be ashamed? Shouldn’t my fucking asshole boss be ashamed? Ashamed for not paying me enough to live on? Ashamed for judging and humiliating me for something that he was partially responsible for? And yet, I hung my head and cried and took the rest of the day off so I didn’t have to face anyone. I walked out the back way so I wouldn’t run into anyone. I had already seen Dirty Diana’s satisfied, smug face and that was enough. I stopped in the bathroom on the way and threw up, so deep was my shame. I cried all night and most of the next day.

And you know what I was wearing? Clean, neat clothes and a well-made jacket. So you tell me – can anyone really say what “needy” looks like? I try to give and help whenever I can, and even if I can’t? I’ll never judge someone asking for help. I know how ashamed I felt that day, and I imagine it is hard and hurtful and humiliating for others to feel “needy”. Believe me, no one is judging them as much as they are judging themselves. No one can imagine what they are going through. No one would put themselves though that feeling if they didn’t feel it was their only option. And if they did? Then they are clearly in need of something, if not food or money. And I for one, won’t deny them.

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My Fairy Godfather Drank Black Velvet

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Reminder- the iTunes giveaway is still on

This was originally published in July 06, and since I was thinking about this guy just last night, it seemed like an appropriate archive to dredge up:

I was having a conversation recently about “the good old days” and we were bringing up people in our past who were “characters” and the one person that always comes to mind for me in that situation is my friend Walt.

Walt was a legend on the campus of my teeny-tiny (first) college. Legend had him anywhere between 21 and 27, depending on who was retelling it. He was an icon. A permanent fixture. Don’t get me wrong, he was a smart guy and loved college. Or “college”, if you will. He was a stocky guy with the white blond hair. He almost always had a smile on his face (probably because he was at least a sheet and a half at any given time).

The first time I met Walt, I was a little intimidated. Here I was, a freshman, a baby, and there HE was – a. . .well. . .I have no idea what he was, since legend had it he was in his 6th or 7th year. But he was older. He was a grownup. As a sophomore, my friend Dave would drag me to Walt’s place to party, and I’d feel uncomfortable the entire time. The crowd there was always (to me, at least) a little older, a little smarter, a lot cooler. I have to admit, the discomfort was totally on my part – everyone there treated me just fine, but I felt inferior and stupid. But in time, Walt became my Fairy Godfather.

I never really thought he noticed me. I figured he saw me as the kid Dave dragged around with him. I didn’t even think he knew my name. But one day, I was walking to Victorian Literature (otherwise known as Stick Hot Pokers into My Ears and Eyes Lest I Explode from Boredom class) and I heard a voice from across the quad yell, “Hey! MaidenName! Let’s go drink a bottle of Black Velvet!” And given the choice of going to the world’s most boring class ever and downing a bottle of Canadian whiskey with a somewhat intimidating near-stranger – no contest!

I sort of thought he was kidding – that he just had some beer or a partial bottle left over from his last party or some good bud and was just looking for some company, but when we got back to his place, he pulled out two shot glasses and a brand new bottle of Black Velvet and we got to drinking. We spent the next couple of hours drinking and talking and having a great time. By the time his roommate (another older, even more intimidating silent-type) got back, along with some of the other of the usual party crowd (including Dave, who was until now, my only ticket into the place), Walt and I were pretty much trashed and laughing like fools. The roomie gave us a raised-eyebrow and everyone else looked a bit surprised. So perhaps I right and they were just tolerating me, or maybe they were just surprised that Walt was drunk on whiskey with a sophomore they all barely knew. Or maybe they were just surprised that I wasn’t with Dave – we were pretty much inseparable and I found out years later that everyone thought we were a couple – no big deal until I had some hot guys tell me they wanted to ask me out, but they knew I was Dave’s girl – DAMN! But I digress. . .

From that point forward, Walt became my Fairy Godfather. No matter where I was or what I was doing, if I thought about Walt, he would suddenly be there. We’d be partying in my friend’s dorm room and we’d say, “Walt should be here”, and a minute later the door would open and he’d walk in. Or we’d be at a hotel for homecoming, and wonder where Walt’s room was. So, we’d walk up the halls and just say, “Walt!” In 30 seconds, a door would fly open, and there he’d be. I’d be walking to class and think, “I really don’t feel like going today – I wish Walt would come rescue me” and before I knew it, I’d hear the by-then-infamous, “Hey MaidenName! Let’s go drink a bottle of Black Velvet/tequila/case of beer/” and off we’d go.

My favorite magically-appearing Walt occasion was after he graduated and I had left our small-town college for the last time (as did Dave). It was 1980-something, at a Dead show. It was the first of two shows and I had a ticket for both nights, but my friend Trish only had one for the second night. She came along anyway and we met up with Dave and some of his friends to party. A few hours before the show, we were making our rounds of the parking lot and a few people cut through our group, and in that sea of people, that was all it took to be separated from all my friends. I spent the next couple hours walking around looking for them and occasionally hanging out with some fun strangers. I finally gave up when it was time for the show to start. My ticket was a single, so I couldn’t even find them in their seats, since I had no idea where they were (not to mention, that at a Show? Seats, Schmeats!). I ended up running into a guy I knew who was also on his own, so I hung with him during the show. Afterward, we parted ways and I was once again alone in the lot.

I went to where they had been parked, but they were gone. I spent about an hour walking around, wondering how the hell I was going to get home (it was after city buses quit running, I had no money for a cab and it was way too far to walk, especially since I’d have to make my way through the Hill District to get home). I was feeling pretty freaked out and was about to find a group of folks who would let me hang for the night, when I started thinking about Walt. So I took a chance and said, “Walt!” And I swear – a van door popped open and there he was! That’s when I knew it was official – Walt was my Fairy Godfather.

Since last night, I can’t get him off my mind. We got in touch a few years ago and emailed a few times. He lived several states away and was married with a child. We lost touch again and I regret that. He was a good guy and a lot of fun. He was an unexpected friend. I find myself thinking about him quite often. So I have one thing to say:

“Walt!”

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