Tomorrow is my birthday so I answered my door this Monday morning when I heard a knock at an ungodly hour, certain that I was getting flowers or a present, bizarrely optimistic for someone like me, but I believe in goodness and well, presents. Instead two elderly (meaning pushing eighty with absolutely no stick) men stood in front of me, Watchtowers in hand. Nobody had (in my friend Hank's terminology) pulled a preach on me in some time, and I was amused when the first magazine had the title "All Suffering To End Soon" emblazoned on it. I told the men that suffering was my business as a writer and that if it was ending, well, that was sad news indeed. The one man was amused (good cop), while the bad cop asked me why I didn't write anything more positive. What could I say? He asked me if I enjoyed the war or the violence in Detroit. Oh yes, I could have responded, I love both, anything involving a good killing and pain and all that destruction. But he seemed to sense from my outfit that I was a loose cannon (I was dressed in a low-cut black dress and black heels and black sweater -- hey, I need one item to seem matronly to my students!) and backed off, asking if I wanted to be young forever. On the eve of my birthday, this question made me think. I hadn't much enjoyed being young -- it kind of sucked, all that powerless empty time and tremendous anxiety (I had my first stomach ulcer at the age of five) and I wouldn't change things, truth be told. I said, I'll have some face work and everything will be fine -- who needs eternal youth when you have options? My sister Beth (featured in the photo with the lovely Peaches, candle dresser beyond compare -- this photograph was taken at Knight Light, a candle store in downtown Detroit on Mack and Gratiot) is visiting me and came downstairs to rescue the poor men and whisk me off to school.
My other major experience with the Witnesses involved my mother's friends Donna and Richard. They spent almost everyone Thanksgiving with our family for many years and had been excommunicated from the church. Each year Richard would get drunk and tear up about how he'd been banished from all his friends in the church because he was gay. My daddy would tell him it was fine, that he'd be okay and dinner would continue. What can I say? It was a comfort to be together, no threat of excommunication no matter what was confessed. In recent years, I have spent Thanksgivings with my dear friend Shawn and with others, and no matter what happens, there are always things for which to be thankful even if all suffering doesn't come to an end.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"You can't come out of every human transaction smelling like a rose." David Gates
Spirit Tree (also the name of trees laced with multi-colored bottles in the south that are intended to trap evil spirits inside and keep them from your house)
3/4 oz. of dry vermouth
3/4 oz. of sweet vermouth
3/4 oz. of gin
Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.
Benedictions and Maledictions
Any Kind of Death
I’m ashamed of my teeth now --
they ache late into the night, have
trouble chewing big pieces of food.
Someday I might have to be identified
by these mangled friends like my
father was after his body was burned
beyond recognition. The coroner said,
teeth can survive any kind of death; it’s
life that ruins them. A man broke my
jaw many years ago and nothing was
ever the same. He’s probably choking
down his food just fine these days. Maybe
pieces get caught in his throat, send him
to slug down water, sputtering, I’m fine, I’ll
be okay in a minute, to anyone who will listen.