Monday, December 17, 2007

Dairy Queen Cups And Firecracker Stands

When I was a child, my mother used to go in the middle of the night to a psychic in a trailer tucked away between Mineral Wells and Weatherford. My sister and I waited out in the car while she had her cards read. Black as pitch, I could still see what was around me -- The Morning Dew Hair Salon (also a trailer), the roads littered with Dairy Queen cups and firecracker stands. The stands were everywhere -- it seemed as if one might never know when the impulse to blow something up would hit. We couldn't go to the psychic in the daylight; many of the local religious thought it the devil's work, that Satan lived in the trailer. Damn, I figured Satan being Satan would choose somewhere a little better appointed than Pheasant Run Valley (why do the most demoralized down and out places have such pretentious names suggestive of old money?), but no matter. My mother had issue with a coworker named Melba. Melba had given me a shirt with an armadillo on it one Christmas and a clown with a brick in it instead of stuffing. I thought her a little odd, but not anybody dangerous. My mother was not so sure. She bought a candle to burn from the psychic and hoped for relief from the internecine politics, from the poison of an office devoted to Palomino horse magazines. It didn't seem like a dangerous place, but it was. In addition to being a secretary there, my mother also cleaned the offices on the weekends for extra money and had found a homeless man living in the little-used upstairs area. A woman had been bound with her own bra and raped in the early morning hours behind the office, left to be found by the first person to enter the building. Melba seemed the least of the worries, but you could, my mother believed, never be too careful.

Because of my mother's propensity for snakes, many of the locals thought she was an actual witch which gave me a little street cred. But mostly I tried to hide my humble upbringing as did everyone I knew who ranged from middle-class to poor. We aspired to look better than we were, and I can remember getting a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans for Christmas one year and wearing them every single day in hopes that people would notice I had something special. Instead, someone said in that most loving way, "Aren't you ever going to change your pants, you bitch?" Got to love middle school! But now the culture has shifted in an interesting way -- I see people younger than me try to make their social class lower than it is, to play up a supposed poverty and low-rent living as a kind of glamour. Somebody one of my friends dated, a real asshole I believe is the official term for this particular person, always went around saying that he wanted to be poor, that he hated that his family had sent him to college when all he wanted was to sit around in a trailer and drink PBR. I know which one I'd send him to if I could -- the trailer in the middle of nowhere where Satan was supposed to live. He could get a good crystal meth connection and sit around doing the drug that people refer to as "the Devil's dandruff." If that isn't enough to make him feel like he's hit rock bottom, I'm sure I could loan him my old Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, just in case he wanted something special to wear.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I was blessed with a gift. It's a gift and a curse. It never ends." Dan Fogelberg

Cocktail Hour
Drinking photography book suggestion: Annie Lebovitz: A Life, 1991-2005

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!


Anonymous said...

Hi shelley,

miss you!

the walking man said...

So how many times did you hit your sister with the clown until you realized there was a brick in it?

If the "asshole" really wants to be poor I know of a half million places that we could give all he has away while wearing your GV's. Hell I'll even show him a good safe steam grate to live on.

The older I get, which is about twice your age the less i understand about people, is that lady in the middle of the night trailer still in business?



Wayne said...

Like the tribute to Dan Fogelberg.

George Clooney said...

MGD: The champagne of bottled beer.
PBR=Heathen piss.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've seen that reverse SES thing, where folks want to appear to be poorer than they really are. I think the goal is to show how much they've suffered, and also to give them an excuse for failure.