Tuesday, August 29, 2006

How Long Things Last

I once helped on a Humanity for Habitat build. If you read that sentence, you might imagine that I'm a charitable type person who spends a lot of time and energy helping those less fortunate. Wrong, bat breath, as my father used to say. The reason I was there on that fateful Saturday morning was that my friend Angela (a chapter director for said organization) rousted my comfortably sleeping self from her guest bedroom one Saturday morning when I was visiting. As I saw my time in the guest bedroom rapidly coming to a sad end, I dressed and got ready to go. Since I don't have any practical skills and couldn't so much as build a nest for Snoopy's little friend Woodstock, I would move rocks to help get the foundation clear. Mindless tedious work has never bothered me; in fact, I thrive on it which helps me a great deal as a writer. What did worry me was that the building site had dislodged a nest of rattlesnakes. I kept a wary eye peeled for those bad boys. Even though I was introduced as Angela's "best friend from Detroit" (a place Texans associate with crime and biting cold), I didn't fall into the Christian volunteer group. I spent my time with the community service volunteers (after all, I was in the same boat -- it wasn't as if I was there of my own free will).

As much as I had resisted the morning's work, I found I enjoyed it. I learned how to use a power saw (a very kind man taught me) and found a love for power tools, depsite the looks of fear in everyone's eyes. I heard stories that could have come out of those wretched Chicken Soup for the Soul books -- the worst was one about a suicidal nitwit who shot himself in the head, blinded himself and now went around telling people how he could see more blind with his heart than the ever did with his eyes. Yikes! But we left around lunch time, and I was thrilled to see part of the house built -- my work seldom gives me any kind of instant gratification. After all, I had worked with my hands, avoided snakes, and made some new friends who had just narrowly avoided prison (now there was a story of faith I could get behind!). I looked at the booklet for the maintenance of the new place -- How Long Things Last and wondered if I would ever need such information. Ang and I went to lunch and had beautiful jewel-like margaritas, and I felt like Jimmy Carter, Habitat's most famous volunteer. When I was a child, I'd watch Jimmy on our old television. The tint of the screen was green and Jimmy never appeared much more than a shadow, but I loved his comforting voice. He was a man who tried to do good, and he didn't have to shoot himself in the head to get to that point. There might be hope for me yet.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"I'm a radical feminist, not the fun kind." Andrea Dworkin

Drinking Movie Suggestion: The Deer Hunter

Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Poetrylist:


Not knowing I was pregnant, I took
a drink before my friend’s funeral,
two in fact, without food, a medicine
for the soul. Sometimes I wish
I were drunk all the time, truth bubbling
to the surface and evaporating before you
can feel it, like the type of love that leaves
you giddy while it last. The church bled
flowers, and I didn’t bleed anything. I
can tell you this -- I have taken in too
many things that I shouldn’t and nothing
lasts long enough except the wounds
that keep reopening no matter how
careful I am which is not very ever.


Anonymous said...

I was ready to give up until you got to "The Deer Hunter," one of my all time favorite movies, but from a long time ago. The suicide scene in the dope den. Unforgetable. Walken was with Natalie the night she died, in real life. No pun intended.

Wichita-Lineman said...

I love the narrative in the piece. It's almost reads like a story I'd over hear at a party where everyone's had a few.

You're right about those Chicken Soup books; Stupid lame marketing. Theirs one for every problem - Chicken soup for Insomnia, Chicken soup for Constipation, Chicken soup for Assholes. You should write a book called: Bottoms Up! - Cocktails That Will Save Your Soul.

paul said...

Mighty Isis the poem is sad but the story is funny. Wichita has a rockout idea for your book
brings a smile to my face even in the near dark R2 C2!

Sheila said...


Long time no see! I haven't been online since my birthday! Great post today and I love the picture. I think we all would like to say oh I do things for charity and that nonsense but more than likely we do not. I went bowling for charity once... because #1 I like bowling, #2 my boyfriend had promised we'd be their before he asked me, and #3 because it was for one of his employee's sisters. If it had been something like walking... or building... I really don't think I would have went.

John Ricci said...

Dear Heavenly Michelle,
Marvelous post, as always. I can picture you with a power saw. The Soup Kitchen is always looking for help, perhaps you will grace us with your Catholic poster girl charm one day? Spreading God's grace to the common people?

Cheri said...

The Deer Hunter is one of my favorites, and quite an inspiration for small piece writing when I need a kick. I also loved the poem, especially the line "I wasn't bleeding anything." Great job miss!

Anomaly said...

Long time no see!

Love the post - I missed reading them - and I can definitely sympathize with the worried-about-snake thing.

I also thing that (willing or not) it's a good thing to have actually done something to help, as opposed to simply contributing money. Not that that isn't a good thing too, but I'd have to imagine that it feels very different to spend a morning building something as opposed to dropping a note into the collection tin - more awareness or something?


JR's Thumbprints said...

Charitable work is indeed a great thing to do. On the other hand, forced charitable work is lame. For instance, some Michigan highschools make their students participate in so many hours of community service in order to graduate. Now that's a load of crap.

Anonymous said...

Anomaly=RETAIL BUNNY OF THE YEAR!!! woo woo, oh yeah, baby!!!!

Jamie said...

Yeah, I've never been much for spending a lot of time on charity. I have little enough down time as it is, that I think I'd get burned out if I worked a lot of projects. I've accepted that I'll mostly be a donator of $ rather than time.