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Truth

I am a success story. There are thousands out there, but here is mine. I started in the police academy in 1987. The class had 18 cadets….17 men and me. I was the only woman, doubtful I was the only gay person. In the 1980s it was getting better for women in law enforcement, but it was still a very tough row to hoe. Being a gay woman in law enforcement is not an unusual thing, as you can imagine. Being an “out” gay woman when I started was just not possible in Texas. People might have figured it out, but in the department you did not discuss it.

I thrived in the two departments I worked at, overcoming sexism and ignoring homophobia. I became the first woman sergeant at my second department. I was proud of my achievements. I made my time a success, but I will not sugar-coat it, I suffered in silence more than a few times.

How would you like to attain a job by lying? Do you think that is a good way to start a career? Police departments in Texas are allowed under the law to polygraph incoming cadets. The third question they asked me on the exam was if I had ever had intercourse with another woman. I lied and showed no deception. I don’t know what that says about the polygraph or my skills to mask deception. I prefer to think the polygraph is a big hunk of junk.

Police departments also send you to a psychologist where they interview you and in the 80s tried to pick up on any mental illness you might have…being a queer was on the list.

I am thankful for my experience as a cop. I gained a wealth of knowledge and some life-long friendships. I am a better attorney today because of my time wearing the badge.

But I also endured fag jokes, being called a Dyke at least once a week by a drunk, and not being able to participate in the Explorers. The Explorers were a group of young school kids that want to learn about being a cop. It is a mentoring program that was sponsored by the police department and under the umbrella of the Boy Scouts of America. The Scouts have always been vehemently against gay Americans….I knew that then and politely declined to be involved.

Boy, has it gotten better in the last 25 years!! I am so excited and cannot wait for what I feel is about to happen in the next couple of years. Society is evolving and coming to understand what we queers have known all along. We are just like you, we ARE you. Our Constitutional rights are going to be acknowledged in the near future….I am happy….and sad that it took until the second decade in the 21st Century….but mostly just happy.

I went to the gay pride parade in San Francisco a couple of years ago with my spouse. We met up with our cousin Sherry there and watched the parade from the high perch of our hotel window. I expected a grand party and a very good time that day, I did not expect a life-changing event.

Approaching right underneath our viewpoint came marching uniformed members of the San Francisco Police Department. They were holding hands with their significant others and their children! The Chief of Police and the Mayor were in the parade too…it was an unbelievable sight for me. My twenty-five year old self would have never believed that I would one day see such a thing. I saw myself walking in the parade that day. I truly saw myself.

I was acknowledged that day in a way like never before. The openly gay members of all police departments should know that people like me walk with them. Those that have come before and suffered the silence of not being true to ourselves….service prefaced on a lie.

I watched the below video this week and was reminded of my feelings at the parade that day. What a beautiful thing it is. I want to serve my city…I want to lay my life on the line….I want you to know I am a gay American. I want to be heard. I want to speak the truth.

Thank you to the City of San Francisco and to the brave men and women…gay and straight…that serve that wonderful city. I patiently wait for the rest of the country to follow your lead, as some have already. Until then know I, and many others, walk the beat with you and relish in your truth.

Elvis or Bust.

Juju sat patiently waiting on the living room floor of her house.  It was December 24, 1977, her sixteenth birthday.  She knew she was spoiled beyond belief and didn’t need a thing, but the girl had some “wants.”  Juju wanted new Levi’s, an 8-track carrying case, and a new pair of softball cleats.  The two boxes  under the tree with her name attached clearly were big enough to house the things on her list.  Juju’s mother was finishing up in the kitchen, then the big reveal was going to take place.

Juju’s mother had been very excited and anxious for her to see the two gifts.  She seemed quite proud of herself and this made Juju all the more crazy to rip into them!  Sweet Sixteen is different for a girl, Jewel had told her.  You are turning into a woman and soon you will be heading off to college.  All the more reason to need the extra-large tape case Juju had circled for her mother in the Edison’s Gift Catalog.  Had she not seen it opened to the page where Juju had left it…..on her bed pillow??  The case would protect the tapes that Juju would surely have long into the 1980s.

Juju was rock solid in her belief that one of the boxes had the softball cleats inside.  She had gone to Sears with her mother on two occasions, pointing out the exact pair she desired.  Juju told her mother to go down one size because the shoes were in the boys section.  The shoes had rubber cleats and they matched the colors of her softball team uniform perfectly.  Juju imagined how cool she was going to look the following Spring as she played first base for the Fort Worth Chargers.  Maybe Jewel was excited because she had thrown in a pair of Levi 501s in the box with the cleats!!??

Juju had all her favorite 8-tracks stacked on her bedroom dresser in anticipation of the carrying case and complete organization…disco on one side, rock on the other…in alphebetical order!!  Juju was singing along to the John Denver Christmas Special when Jewel came into the room and sat in her chair.  This was it, this was the big moment!  Jewel motioned for Juju to grab the two boxes which Juju did in quick order.

“Today is your birthday Juju, so start with the one with the birthday card stuck to it.” her mother stated.     The card would be read later, Juju tore into the box as paper flew over her head in pieces!  Then….stunned silence.  What is that? Juju asked.  “Pick it up” Jewel said, “isn’t it gorgeous?”  Juju held in her hand a tan cloth and crocheted purse.  PURSE?!!??  Is this a purse because only about four 8-tracks can fit into this!??  Did I open the wrong box!??!!

Jewel started to frown and sighed loudly.  Juju you need to start carrying a purse to carry your stuff, a compact, some powder, a hair brush, and your car keys.  Some powder?!!  Car keys fit real good in the front pocket of a new pair of Levi’s!!  “Maybe people will stop calling you a tomboy if you try a little Juju.”

Juju forced a smile and said she would carry the purse, “on occasion” …thanking her mother she scooted the purse off to the side.  Surely the second box would more than make up for the purse.  The box was BIG and heavy….big enough for the 8-track carrying case, jeans, and cleats.  Good old Jewel…it would be just like her to set Juju up with a “gag” gift, then deliver all the goods in the second box!

Smashing into the second box from the top, Juju looked down the opening to see the top of a black pompadour!  “Be careful Juju! That is a collector’s item.”  Juju reached in and pulled out a fifteen pound sculpture.  A bust of Elvis Presley, painted in day glow colors. (Imagine Elvis on black felt, …but classier)

Jewel told her daughter that she knew she had always loved him, and with him dying four months earlier she knew Juju would want something to remember the King in her bedroom.  Jewel was so happy to see Juju with the bust.  Juju feigned delight and hugged her mother tightly, thanking her for the thoughtful gift.  “I know you have watched all his movies and had a crush on him…I knew it!” Jewel said.

Juju collected her gifts and walked back to her bedroom.  Neatly re-stacking the 8-tracks in their place beside her stereo system.  She sat on her bed and examined the purse.  It was sweet of her mother to buy her a gift, but there was a lot of meaning behind the gift that was not lost on Juju. She was sixteen now and Jewel was clearly longing for something different from Juju was exhibiting to her on a daily basis.  The purse was one last attempt to see if Juju was the image in Jewel’s head or the girl seated on the bed wearing the Chuck Taylors.  One day soon Juju would let Jewel know the battle was long over, but until then she would make a show of it and walk the purse to the car a couple of times to appease her thoughtful mother.  By February the purse would disappear to the back corner of Juju’s closet, beside the brand new electric curler set.

The Elvis head with the bright orange scarf wrapped around his neck was a whole other story.  That gawd-awful thing would have to sit on Juju’s dresser for the better part of 1978. Juju never had the heart to tell Jewel that she loved, truly loved Viva Las Vegas as a result of a crush…but it had been on Ann Margaret and not the King of Rock & Roll.  Juju turned the bust into a perfect use…Elvis proudly wore her Charger’s softball cap…the team color of orange coordinating perfectly with the scarf.

In a perfect world Jewel would have had a young woman who loved purses and pined for Elvis.  In the real world of the late 1970s, she had a baby dyke that danced privately in her room wearing high tops and jammed to the Beatles.

The Christmas gifts we receive each year not only reflect the giver, but they reflect what the giver sees in us…what they want to see us enjoy.  It is a piece of them in that box, their delight in picking out just the right gift.  It is their hope they wrap up, hoping to see the magic of Christmas light in our faces when we first see their offering.

So remember that when you unwrap the purple socks from Aunt Harriet this Christmas morning or the XXL Snuggie from your mother-in-law.  Show delight and thankfulness no matter how shocked you are in what is in the box before you.  The gift to the giver is written all over your face….make it a happy script.

I know my mother saw disappointment when I held up that purse.  But I think I made up for it with my acting job on the second package.  The following year my mother gave me an orange skateboard and some Levi jeans….I gave her a dust buster.

Circles.

Juju sat with her friend, Ramsey, and watched as her mother passed them, back and forth pushing the green mower.  Jewel was mowing her own mother’s backyard, as she did every week, it was the summer of 1971.  Juju was ten, her mother was fifty, and Ada, her grandmother was in her eightieth year.  Juju was eating a fresh-baked roll with butter, as was her friend.  They had grabbed one hot right off the cooling rack in Ada’s very small kitchen in Haltom City.

Ada was known for fresh-baked bread and her love of soap operas, Lawrence Welk, and Billy Graham; in that order.  Everyone called her grandmother, Ma Ada, Juju just called her Ma.  She lived by herself in a 900 sq foot, red house right off a major highway….with a perfect yard.  Most everyday she ate the bounty right out of her own garden, but every once in a while she would get a hankering for a cheeseburger.  Ma would call in her order to the local Dairy Queen, wait 10 minutes then walk the 30 paces to her backyard fence.  The DQ happened to be her backside neighbor you see. One of the kids working there would trot behind the restaurant and meet Ada with her lunch, she always  tipped exactly one dime.

Ramsey was a kid Juju’s age that lived across the street from Ma.  He had been her companion for about 4 years now…playing catch or hide and seek in and around Ma’s shed.  On that particular day they had been hiding and peering out a hole in the wall of the shed as they noticed Ma running around in circles.  It was an awkward and funny thing for Juju to see.   She stopped laughing when she noticed Ma was chasing a chicken.  She caught it, and wrung its neck in one swift movement. Juju had been just familiar enough with the condemned to have given it a name. She passed on the fried chicken served up an hour later when Juju’s mother finished sweeping up the front sidewalk and sat down with a glass of iced-tea.  The traumatized Ramsey had run back across the street to his house.  Juju sat down at the kitchen table and helped herself to a second roll with jelly this time.

Ma Ada had seven children and her daughter Jewel had duplicated the feat.  Ma was not a touchy or demonstrative person.  Juju never saw the two women show any emotional connection other than a quick hug when they departed. Nevertheless, it was obvious that Ada was Jewel’s touchstone.  They spoke on the phone everyday and Ada’s well-being was always at the forefront of Jewel’s mind.

As the Cadillac backed out of Ma’s driveway that day, Juju turned to Jewel and saw tears in her eyes.  They waived bye to Ada and drove west on Catalpa Drive. What is wrong, Juju asked…also tearing up.  What is wrong and why do I cry every time you do!!??  “Well, Jewel said, “she is my mama and she is getting way up there in years.  Sometimes when I leave I think it might be the last time I see her, it makes me sad.  I know I should appreciate every minute I have with her.  Do you understand she is thirty years older than me?”

Jewel went on to explain that Juju cried too because she loves her mother and doesn’t like to see her upset.  Juju thought about what her mother was trying to teach her all the way home to Hurst.  The panic started to hit her when the car was turning onto Oak Street.  “What’s wrong with you now?” asked Jewel.  You are FORTY years older than me Juju yelled!!  That means I will have ten years less with you than you get with Ma!!!

One day in 2001 Jewel came over to Juju’s house for dinner.  They went out to a nice restaurant for a steak and were joined by Juju’s partner, Linda.  Juju did not mow her mother’s yard every week.  Jewel had a very fancy riding lawn mower and took much pleasure “mowing my own damn yard!”  Juju did other things for her mother.  She had created one golden rule when she reached adulthood.  Her mother had provided for her in the beginning of her life and now it was time for Juju to pay.  For the rest of Jewel’s life, she never picked up a check when the two of them were out…NEVER.

The dinner was fine and the three women chatted a spell at Juju’s house before it was time for Jewel to depart.  Juju grabbed Jewel at the door and a hug lingered.  With no words spoken their eyes met…the mutual comparison to that long ago, 1971 day was evident by their shared, flushed faces.

Juju watched  as her mother turned, got into her car, and drove away.  She shut the door and sat down sobbing.  Linda walked over and offered a hug, wondering what was the matter??  Juju told her, my mother’s eighty, she’s getting up there…..every time I say goodbye could be the last time.  Juju was marking the moment in her mind, never to forget the tender exchange at the door.

Ma Ada lived to be ninety-three, Jewel very much wanted to match her mother, but came up short by ten years.  Juju came to believe the time element meant absolutely nothing.  It was being IN the moment, not the length of the moment.  Being truly in the moment kept it alive forever and perhaps that is what Jewel was trying to express in 1971.  Grab onto this moment, this person…never let go, because one day they won’t be here…but that memory surely will be.

Every time Juju smells fresh-baked bread she thinks of Ada.  And the smell of fresh-cut grass is like getting a squeeze from Jewel.  Juju has to chuckle when she envisions an eighty year old woman running in circles after a chicken….or another eighty year old woman driving a red lawn mower in circles like Mario Andretti…..full circles.

It’s All in a Song

Someone knocking at the door.  Somebody ringing the bell.  Someone knocking at the door.  Somebody’s ringing the bell.  Do me a favor, open the door and let ’em in.

I start this blog with the lyrics from Paul McCartney’s “Let “Em In” song for a reason.  Even musical geniuses can have a miss every once in a while.   The funny part though is I still love that song.  It reminds me of a trip I took  with my mother one time in 1977.  Songs can transport us back to another place and time.   Hell, I have such vivid recollections of memories with musical accompaniment that they come with smells!  If you are a steady reader of my blog you should have noticed by now that the pieces have song titles sprinkled in them.  I will be at my office or in my car and a song will come on the radio and I will write a blog entry in about 5-10 minutes….in my head…then once I get in front of my computer the words just come spilling out.  It’s all in the song.

All of us remember the songs played at our weddings or the class song played at the senior prom.  But I think I have some measure of savant syndrome…my expertise being an uncanny memory where music plays in the background of every scene.  I saw a 60 Minute episode recently where they found 6 people in the U.S. that have absolute recall….meaning they remember every detail of every minute of their life…it was unbelievable.  One of the confirmed people with this ability is the actress, Mary Lou Henner.  She can tell you what shirt she was wearing on March 3, 1983, where she was, what she was eating, etc.  In no way I am saying that I have that gift.  I am simply saying that I have decided my personal history is better with a soundtrack and for some reason have chosen to remember every note.  I am not saying the songs would make my top 20, they just happen to be the mental imprints that came with the day….my neuro-synapses took the jump to their beat.

Pizza eating days of my 10th summer?  That’s easy….Seals and Croft are singing Summer Breeze….and it did make me feel fine.

Practicing with my volleyball team at Hurst Jr. High in 1976?  That would be “Right Back to Where we Started From.”  Maxine Nightingale.

Driving with a car load of friends from high school graduation to a party at my parents’ lake house?  “Another One Bites the Dust”  Queen

Studying for law school final exam in 1996?  “No Diggity”  Blackstreet with Dr. Dre.  I break into a sweat every time I hear this, even now 15 years later….it equals STRESS.

I also associate songs with people in my life.  I have never told anyone this before…confession right here.  The songs are not commentary on the person or their personality…or their place in my life.  For example, my spouse Linda is forever in my mind as one tune I heard in 2000 about the time I met her.  There is nothing I can do to change this….Linda is forever linked to this melody.  The song is “Yellow” by Coldplay.  I friggin hate Coldplay.

I am listening to my new vice at my office while I write this blog today…Spotify.  It is a music sharing site that I have on all day as I work.  I had it playing a random selection of some downloaded songs that I like.  This blog and this five minutes will forever be linked with….”I Can’t Stand the Rain.” by the fabulous Tina Turner.

I will end with a mean trick.  I am about to give you a “brain worm.”  You know, like the song you hear the first thing in the morning that is stuck in you all day…you find yourself humming it and you don’t even like it!??  Yeah, one of those……I am giving you a brain worm so that forevermore you will remember this blog as being associated with it.  Well, maybe not for forever….but I will settle until about 6pm tonight.  I will end where I began…

Someones knockin at the door
Somebodys ringin the bell
Someones knockin at the door
Somebodys ringin the bell
Do me a favor,
Open the door and let em in
Sister suzie, brother john,
Martin luther, phil and don,
Brother michael, auntie gin,
Open the door and let em in.

Someones knockin at the door
Somebodys ringin the bell
Someones knockin at the door
Somebodys ringin the bell

Do me a favor,
Open the door and let em in.

September

Some people swore that the house was haunted. Pedestrians, heads down, felt an odd shiver as they passed it, on the way to their ordinary lives. The feeling that went up their spines was not the result of a poltergeist however, and would never have made the plot of a Hitchcock movie. The thing that repelled most people from this house, the palpable thing in the air that chilled one, was sadness.

The house had the look of a grieving soul. It’s frame looking ready to collapse, burdened by some unseen weight. She looked out her front window and longed for ordinary. She prayed for her ordinary life to come back on a daily basis. She remembered rushing to go to the grocery store after work, the kiss at the back steps every evening. The smell of his neck as they embraced…she wanted to smell him again. Drowning in grief and self-pity, she wondered if this was the day it would all stop.

She had locked herself in a suburban prison for the last five years, hell-bent on a life sentence. She had created her own form of cosmic punishment for living, for breathing in and out every day. In her world food had no taste, flowers were devoid of color and sadness was a badge she wore on a dirty smock. Self-loathing was her hobby and she had become quite adept at it. She didn’t abuse drugs or alcohol, they would mask the sadness…she wanted to feel every particle of it. She wallowed in sadness and refused to allow anything or anyone to deny her. Sadness welcomed her to each new day and was lying beside her each night.

Like the rest of the world, she was stunned to see the second plane hit the tower. Anger flushed her face as she, like everyone else, surmised this was a planned terror attack on America. She watched TV non-stop most days, but even for her, leaving it on for three straight days was unusual. The pictures were what did it, the photographs stuck to every sign, telephone pole, and wall in New York. The faces of the lost met her gaze in the sad house. She heard her own voice come out of the survivors on the television. The desperation, the prayers, the tears flowed from them over loved ones that were never coming home. She ached for the people she did not know, she cried for America.

After a couple of days of being mesmerized at the television, she realized something. She had stopped wallowing in self-pity and was actually thinking of others. Her hands started to shake as she began to think about leaving the house. She would drive as far as they would allow her, and then set out on foot. She didn’t know what she would do, hand out water, pick up trash, it didn’t matter. She had to get down there and lend a hand to help the people of New York.

Pulling out of the drive-way she looked at the front of the house and slammed on the brakes, exited the car, and ran back inside.  She unfurled the flag and placed it in the holder mounted on her porch. The stars and stripes flapped sharply in the September air. She trotted back to her car and took off towards the city. The man walked by and looked at the house with the flag out front; she passed him in her car. The two of them exchanged waves and knowing smiles. Nothing was ever the same again after that.

Cut and Paste.

We all hopefully have had them in our lives…a perfect moment.  Whether it be the first time you held your child, or the first kiss with a life-long love.  They are magical moments that although fleeting, stay with us forever.  My blog has touched upon the seconds and minutia of everyday life, it has been a running theme in my posts if you have been with me since the beginning.

My OCD makes me obsess in the small things in my life, but I am convinced that the perfect moments are life itself, the true meaning of life. They are why we have evolved to be here in the first place.  Religious people will tend to think that the moments I am talking about are devine moments, moments of true inspiration.  The word “inspiration” has several different meanings, but the breath of a divine being…the intensity and purity of a moment is one way to perceive this unit of time I am writing about today.  I tend to regard the moment or moments as our reward for fighting through what can most certainly be a tough existence on this earth.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not getting all mystical on your ass, nor have I started to watch Joel Osteen on Sunday mornings.  I just want to express that I have these moments tucked in my jean pocket and I rely on them when times are hard. These short, cerebral films are touchstones for me, snippets of happiness, sometimes sadness, but perfectly edited.  Sadness you say?  Yes, sadness and sad memories can reach perfection as well.  When we are sad or devastated at some point in our lives, the level of sadness equals the level of loss.  For example when I am feeling sad over the loss of a loved one, what follows are moments of perfection that I shared with that person.  The bitter is always followed by the sweet.

One movie I have on my DVR is , Home for the Holidays, directed by Jodie Foster and starring Holly Hunter.  A grown woman goes home for Thanksgiving. The movie shows her dealing with real middle-aged problems as she comes face to face with her dysfunctional family for a holiday weekend.  I have watched the movie about 12 times because of two reasons.  First off, it shows me that there are other families as screwed up as the one I am in.  And secondly, it shows a scene about a perfect moment at the end of the film.

The great character actor Charles Durning plays the patriarch.  Toward the end of the film he is shown watching old 8mm films of his kids in the basement of his house.  The Holly Hunter character joins him for a talk and he tells her of one of his pieces of perfection that he keeps in his own pocket of memories.  Durning tells the story of working at the airport and one afternoon in the 60s his wife brought his 3 kids out to see where he worked.  He stood close to the tarmac with his kids and watched as a jet took off, rumbling over the family.  The father remembered holding tight to his kids, the squeeze of a hand, the exchange of excitement and love.  Raising 3 kids, now drastically different adults, those few moments he had held onto as tightly as the small child’s hand had grasped his so long ago.  Sixty seconds he guessed….approximately 30 years ago…the perfection sustained, the smile eases across his face.

As we get older we tend to pull these moments up more often, with time we increase the need because as we know, all is not perfect in this world.  I write this today knowing in my heart that my best moments are in front of me, not behind me.  I believe that the best day of my life has not occurred yet.  How wonderful a belief that is to me, because my history has some mighty fine moments!

I will leave you with this today.  If you don’t think you have enough of these mental vacations in your vault….look again.  They are not all births of children, marriages, or parachute jumps.  One of my moments came in May of 1981 in Oklahoma City of all places.  I was 18 years old and working for my softball coach in a summer job.  He owned a cookie company and I was driving a large van to OKC to deliver a load of chocolate chip cookies.  After the first week of working for the company, I never wanted to eat another cookie again…I think I broke their record!

The smell of the cookies was nice though and it was wafting to the front cab of this van.  I was driving down the road and I remember the song “Make Me Smile” by Chicago came on the radio.  I rolled down the window and the temperature was a perfect 75 degrees, cool for May I thought.  I felt like an adult in that moment doing something very adult-like.  I was making my own money and in college.  I had traveled to another state for the first time alone.  I was my own person for the first time, you know what I mean?  Sounds silly, but that cookie delivery was a benchmark for me….that moment was about 3 minutes of greatness.  3 minutes described 30 years later…..must have been friggin awesome.  It was……perfection.

Go ahead, sweat the small stuff….and file the good.  Your life is a motion picture and you are the editor.  Cut and paste at will, do whatever it takes to get through this…enjoy the scenes.

The Piggly Wiggly Theft.

Juju sat in the tan 1962 Cadillac and waited for her mother to exit the post office, she was six years old.  She was looking down at her coloring book when she heard the driver side door open and shut.  She began to ask her mother a question and looked up to meet the gaze of a complete stranger!  You aren’t my Natalie, the woman shrieked!  You are not my mother!

Juju and the woman simultaneously looked at the car next to the Cadillac, a tan Chevy Impala.  A teary eyed child had her face pressed against the window, her yelps silenced by the separation of glass.  The woman’s faced reddened and she made a hasty exit, switched cars and drove off.  Juju’s mother exited the building and now was seated inside the car looking for her keys in her purse.  Juju stated, “you know there was another mommy in here while you were gone.”  Oh yeah, her mother asked…where is she now?  “She drove off with the other kid.  I am the right kid for you.”  Yes you are dear, now we have to go to Piggly Wigglys for some grocery shopping.

Grocery shopping was pretty fun stuff Juju thought.  She liked the cereal aisle and all the stuff at the ends of each aisle tended to be good too.  Juju’s goal today was to get her mother to buy a boxed Chef Boy-ar-dee Pizza mix, in addition to the obligatory two boxes of fish sticks she required a week.  Juju had made the brave decision to insert this particular boxed pizza into her daily diet of fish sticks for one reason.  Chef Boy-ar-dee had his picture on the box and he looked surprisingly similar to her dad.

Juju wondered if all chefs looked like her dad?  This guy had the same hat, mustache and handkerchief around his neck.  Plus the pizza was plain cheese, Juju’s favorite.  She didn’t like cheese on a sandwich or hamburger, but on pizza is was just right.  It was made with just the red sauce and sprinkles of fake cheese, the absolute best fake cheese though, for sure!  Juju thought her mother would be happy too, she was willing to try real Italian food.

With a minimal amount of negotiation, (Juju was child number seven), the boxed pizza was securely in the basket beside the two green boxes of Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks.  Juju had been eating nothing but the cylindrical white fish for the first several months of first grade. Juju’s mother had informed her that she would have to eat one piece a fruit a day for the entire week and then on Friday night she would help her make the pizza.  Deal!

Juju wandered up and down the aisles for a while, then met her mother at the check out line.  Something for the road was secreted in the front pocket of her blue shorts.  She had to lift up her skirt to get to her shorts underneath, but didn’t think anyone had seen her.  The shorts were required at Harrison Lane Elementary because boys and girls had P.E. together.  Juju heard the teachers talking that maybe the next year they and the female students might be allowed to wear pants!  Juju thought 2nd grade was going to be much better because of that one possibility!

The groceries were placed in the backseat and Juju and her mother took their places once again in the car.  The right mommy this time Juju chuckled.  Her mother, still not knowing what she was talking about, looked over to see Juju unwrapping something.  Juju was nonchalantly unwrapping one Brach’s Neopolitan candy with four more on her lap.  What on earth do you think you are doing!!  I didn’t pay for any candy Juju!  “But this candy is not in a box, everybody takes a piece, it’s free,” said Juju.  It is most certainly not free Juju.  You march your butt right back in the Piggly and give it back.  Be sure and say you are sorry!

Juju begrudgingly exited the Cadillac and walked back into the Piggly. carefully re-wrapping the piece she almost had in her mouth.  She walked up to the young bag boy in the starched white shirt and black bow-tie.  She handed him the candy and confessed her theft.  “I took this candy and didn’t pay for it. Will you accept my sorry?”  Yeah kid, it’s okay, said the pimply sixteen year-old, who himself probably ate 10 pieces of Brach’s a shift.

Juju’s mother spoke to her about shoplifting on the way home and said that people actually went to jail for it.  Juju was happy her mother had helped her stay out from behind bars, but still had a hankering for some candy.  As the car pulled into their drive-way on Oak Street, Juju’s mother patted her on the shoulder.  Remember you still have pizza for Friday, we can eat it and watch The Partridge Family.    That put the smile back on Juju’s face, Friday was nine fish sticks away!

Boy, what a day, the wrong mother had almost taken her and then the police could have thrown her in jail.  She wondered if Natalie’s mom would have let her keep the candy?  She had seen her mother eat grapes in the produce section before, she would go for those next time.  Wow, Juju did have the right mom after all.

The Minority

Wait, you don’t get it…I was born this way!! There is no way in hell you could make me lay down with another man!! “Look George, I am sorry…you have made a poor “life choice.”” I have not made a choice, screamed George! What kind of nightmare is this?? Look, I am attracted to women…it just seems natural to me. “Well, it is amoral and unnatural, you must be suffering from a mental defect of some sort,” the man shouted. George walked out of his office and into the heat of the California sun. He had to find another job, he couldn’t take the daily scrutiny from his boss about being a heterosexual. He was not a protected class under the law and Glenn, his boss, could heap shit upon him every day….and quite literally did just that.

George reached for his cell phone and called Phyllis, his girlfriend. They had been seeing each other for two years, living together actually…they longed to be able to legally marry each other. Heterosexual marriage was only legal in five states: Idaho, Texas, Montana, Oklahoma, and Utah. George was going to tell Glenn to shove it one day soon and they would be off…off to where they could marry each other…even walk down the street holding hands. The thought of it was surreal to George and Phyllis. To breathe the air of equality, to not be publicly ridiculed…to feel like they had equal protection under the Constitution of the United States.

They had picked Texas as their soon to be new home. Frankly, it was not much of a contest…who the hell would pick Oklahoma?? George chuckled at his own joke as he buckled up and headed down the road to the waiting arms of Phyllis. He had felt like a second-class citizen his whole life, but soon he would have a shift in his life…a parallel universe if you will…one where he and Phyllis could live happily ever after. He wondered what a world ran by heterosexuals would look like….how would they treat homosexuals if the shoe were on the other foot?

George thought it must be what he deemed the “culture of the majority.” The human race was built to want to be “like-in-kind” to the man standing next to him. Heterosexuals were just smaller in number…a weakened voice that longed to be heard. Natural reproduction was the same way…an anomaly where the progeny was a genetic crap shoot. Test-tube babies were the norm, George had never met anyone that admitted to being the product of heterosexual baby-making. That person would be the ultimate out-cast in society…someone whose every detail was not ordered up by their homosexual parents. It was even a freaky idea to George…he and Phyllis would go the normal route and order their child just like everyone else…if only it were legal for them to parent.

George could see Phillis’ silhouette, back-lit, as she stood on the porch and waited to greet him. “How are you tonight?” she said as she patted George on the back and they both turned to walk in the front door. Phyllis! I told you no touching in public! “It is our own porch George!” she responded. Not until we hit El Paso Phyllis..not until then.

They sat eating their dinner and watched the evening news together. The NBC Nightly News was showing a story about a crazy pastor from Oregon that was picketing heterosexual funerals….his congregants were holding signs that read, “STRAIGHT to Hell!”

When will the majority ever understand? Will there EVER be a day when we can all agree that we were born either heterosexual or homosexual?
George had trouble drifting off to sleep that night. He dreaded the day when the geneticists would finally find the sexuality marker…that would be the end of heterosexuals for sure. Sleep George he thought to himself…sleep…think good thoughts. TEXAS….Texas…..Texas.

The Not-So Skinny Dip

The three sisters and their mother, Jewel, entered the gate and sat next to the closed pool. It was about midnight on a hot June night and the country club had been closed for two hours. Juju’s mother worked at the country club three days a week making salads and other side dishes for the daily buffet. It was her mother’s way of helping her aging and not so healthy father, the chef at the club.

Jewel had a second job during the day at Bell Helicopter in Hurst, Juju’s hometown. At Bell Jewel prepared and served a daily lunch buffet as well, only there, to employees of the worldwide helicopter company. Jewel had taken the Bell job when Juju entered fifth-grade as a way to supplement the family income. Jewel had worked hard her entire life, raising seven children, odd jobs and this, the summer of her fifty-second year, was no different.

Jewel had worked at both locations that Friday night in 1973 and she was hot and tired..tired to the bone. Sitting there, gazing at the pool, she suddenly got to her feet and started to disrobe! “Mother! What are you doing!!??” asked Joyce. I think that water looks damn good, Jewel responded, it looks like an invitation to go skinny-dipping! Juju started laughing as she watched her mother strip!

Two of Juju’s older sisters, Joan and Joyce, had come down to the club on the premise of a late night swim, but not a skinny dip! It was daring enough for them to swim after the pool had closed…daring for Jewel meant no swimsuit. One spotlight illuminated the front of the clubhouse and another at the rear. There was sparse light flickering off the water as Juju jumped off the diving board in all her glory!

The older girls, giggling and nervously chatting followed their mother’s lead and all four were soon cool and relaxed on a long ago Texas night. Jewel regaled her daughters with stories about skinny-dipping while growing up in Fort Worth during the Great Depression. Cheap entertainment she said, who could afford a swimsuit back then?

Juju wondered aloud if they could get in trouble for what they were doing? No said Jewel, she had gotten permission to swim after hours from the club general manager. “Did you neglect to tell her we would be naked??” Joan inquired. Everything they said that night was met with laughter…everything is funnier when you are staring at three naked women. Maybe we shouldn’t call this a skinny-dip Juju said, I don’t see anyone close to skinny here!

Juju watched her mother and couldn’t believe what she was witnessing! The woman who usually got her cardio chasing her around the house with a fly swatter was doing laps in the pool and mooning her!

Friday nights at the club were “all you can eat” shrimp peel night. Juju and her family loved Friday nights because her father would come home with the leftovers! Newspaper would be put all over the kitchen table and a big white tub of shrimp would be dumped out in the middle.
The night had started with a shrimp feast and now was ending with Juju seeing another side of her mother…a goofy, care-free side. Juju marked the moment in her memory. She floated under the diving board and watched her mother and sisters giggle into the night. Even at twelve, Juju knew that certain events tend to stick with you a long time….this was one of those times.

“You are trespassing!! I am calling the police!” said the man’s voice. Juju, startled and scared…nowhere to run…saw a man’s shadow walking from the back door of the club. As the man got closer, Jewel recognized him as Emmet, the dishwasher. The four not-so skinny dippers swam hastily to the front edge of the pool and pulled themselves in tight! “Hey there Emmet, it’s Jewel! I have some of my kids here swimming, everything is okay!” An exchange of pleasantries took place, and Emmet was heading home. Jewel, not seeing any cars in the parking lot, had thought they were safe from discovery, but had forgotten Emmet always had his wife pick him up. More laughter bounced down the hills of the golf course as Emmet got into his ride. Poor, old Emmet was never the wiser, never knowing how close he had come to seeing four sets of Billhymer…shall we say…flotation devices.

The girls, having enough, exited the pool to get dressed. Juju looked back and watched Jewel enjoy herself a few minutes more swimming back and forth alone in the pool. The next day Jewel would be the salad lady again, making sure the club women had the best produce in town available to them. She would walk past the pool on her way to the back door kitchen entrance, carrying only a secret.

Juju worked the snack bar the next day and sat there staring out the window at the packed pool. On that particular day she was not envious of the club kids and their leisurely fun. The crowd before her disappeared and all Juju could see was her mother. There was Jewel throwing her bra over her left shoulder and running butt-naked into the water. Not many people have a memory of their mother like that, Juju thought. From that day on, the moonlight swims her mother suggested took on a whole other meaning.

Rapture?

So I’ve heard some press that the world is coming to an end tomorrow. That means two things to me; the Texas Rangers will never win the World Series and I don’t have to pick up my dry cleaning this afternoon.

I actually don’t care if the world is ending tomorrow. Humans are going to figure out a way to screw it all up anyway…just a matter of time if it doesn’t occur in the next 24 hours. And talk about eliminating all grief, pain and suffering….if we all go together, what does any of it matter? What does matter….matter?

The thought came to me this morning that I could tell everyone I know what I really thought of them today. Then I realized everyone I know already have an inkling of what my feelings are towards them. If you haven’t picked up the phone in a year and asked, “hey Juju, how the hell are you?” Odds are you know I don’t waste my energy thinking of you…except as I type this sentence.

If the world ends tomorrow I will not find out who would have won this season’s American Idol….pity. I told Linda the first week of the final 25 who would be in the finale. The same voting block that brings you the likes of Taylor Hicks, Lee DeWyze, and Carrie Underwood are the tween kids of the people that bring you Rick Santorum, Joe Wilson, and Glenn Beck. That show is about as predictable as Rick Perry’s hair…stiff and totally in-line with the Puritanistic core of America.

I might have donuts for dinner tonight. We all get to share in the delight of those death row inmates in the Texas Department of Corrections….we all get to pick our last meal.
What will yours be? Don’t want to die tomorrow…didn’t do anything wrong to warrant that type of treatment? Neither did a percentage of the inmates on death row…now do you feel their pain? Oh and I might eat a big T-bone steak….screw the vegetarian diet…the cow is dead already….pass the rolls and butter while you are at it.

To the people that owe me money….I am not forgiving your debt. Even if we meet at the gates of hell, you still owe me for that DWI defense…I will bring the tequila.

I honestly think that the end and hell for me would indeed involve Rapture….the Blondie hit from the 80s. Hell for me would be that song on eternal “replay”…with interjected commercials about Oxyclean screamed by a coke snorting guy in a blue shirt.

.. and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Thessalonians 4:15-17

Notice the citation for this biblical passage regarding the rapture…4-15-17. That is when I am guessing the end of the world will happen. You heard it here first folks….my soul will be flung on the roof and no one will be able to retrieve it on tax day, 2017.

That gives me some solace and comfort….first knowing that tonight is not my last night on earth. Secondly …knowing for the tax year of 2016 we can all thumb our nose up at the IRS together. What a glorious, bipartisan way to go out?!! A national, unified finger lifted together…an appropriate hand signal for one last hurrah for Americans of all walks of life.

But just in case….just in case this is the end and this is the last blog ever for me….I have one last confession.

I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1984.