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« I Am, For Some Reason, in Michigan | Main | Yep. »
Tuesday
Jan112011

Dotting the Living Hell Out of that "I": Healing Served on a Sousaphone

It has been somehow difficult to talk to you lately.

I am trying to figure out why. For the past several weeks I've been jotting half-formed sentences on torn bits of paper, laying the scrap on the nearest available surface, and then walking away.  Then last week I scraped them into a pile and we all went to Michigan.

In the early days of Blonde Champagne--- 2004, 2005-- there were two posts a day, minimum.  That's because I was part of a blogging network which paid out per click.  Quaint times.  Someday, there might be portable devices capable of carrying, like, half a gig.

This slid to a stop, longtime The Readers will note, as my career began to expand beyond readership of my parents and people wandering past the Pennysaver stand en route to the crapper.  Freed from the cubicle, I was now paid to write, which meant I didn't have much time to write anymore.  The more assignments came in, the heavier the lecture and readings schedule grew, the less compelled I felt to poll The Readers on whether or not I should still eat the Ziplocked turkey sandwich the office manager had accidentally but temporarily thrown out.  (Verdict:  Pizza.)  I had corporate hair, which I wore to an engineering firm, and owned a futon. 

When I learned I'd been accepted to a writing residency in Michigan last year, I was perched on a shallow leatherette couch across from my father.  He was in ICU, and it was clear to me that he was weary of people hovering over him with ice chips.  So I did the loving thing and shut up and checked my email.  I thought, well, here's some fun futuristic non-ICU related news, and I announced that I had been invited to spend January in northwest Michigan.  I said this out loud and cheerfully in the general direction of my father,  then cornered my mother and sister in a waiting room.

"Should I accept?" I said.

"Why wouldn't you?" my mother asked, although her expression made her opinion about Michigan in January quite clear-- that it was clearly this unheard-of, sub-zero thing, that only state separatists and  teen wolves and nonfiction writers go to Michigan in January.

"I mean, what about Dad?"

"Honey," said my mother, not unkindly, "he'll be dead."

That looks harsh, all in black and white right there on the page, but may I take you on a grand tour of my mother's life:  Her first memory is of looking up at a relative's casket.  She has suffered from one painful, medically baffling malady or another since the age of four.   Her brother died suddenly and young.   And then, of course, she has endured three solid decades of me.  This, then, was simply the latest bucket of crap to dump from the Great Overhead.  You German up and you get on with it.

So I nodded and typed a conditional acceptance, which I somehow knew would become permanent, and now I am in Michigan, where the last resident left something in the refrigerator labelled "Vegan All-Organic Butter-Flavored Spread Product."  Yesterday, it was four degrees. 

I walk around in slippers.  I think about the scraps of paper in the drawer, and jam a long spoon into an exhausted scented candle in search of the wick.  I don't sit anywhere but behind the desk and at the tiny kitchen table, and even then, it's not long before I'm walking around again.  It speed-bumps the knowledge that for the next twenty-two days, the dominant noise will be the heater and the sound of my own lungs inhaling.

I have no car, and can't get to Mass, so yesterday I decided to watch it online--but there was only one place to do that, and it hurt, it hurt, because so much passion, so much love, concentrated for so very long... well, when a friend or brother or lover's picture is dashed to the ground, it's never because meh, we drifted apart.  It's because there came from a deeply loved one a hurt so sudden, and so profound, and which rumbled into existence such a tremendous fissure in the Earth, that we can't look upon that face anymore without immense pain, and I mean pain on a cellular level, pain that should have its own talk show.  

Pain such as this must be handled like an icy skid on all four wheels-- steer into it, or you'll find yourself in flames by the side of the road as a Kia zips past.  I have had this lesson crammed down upon me repeatedly and with the blunt force of your average planetary implosion, because I fail over and over again to learn it. 

Today, it was served up, as you might expect, on a sousaphone.

You first must understand that although a native and future Ohioan, I was instructed by my brother school to hate, detest, and despise Ohio State because of what happened in the third week of my freshman fall semester, when in the fourth quarter Ohio State was winning, and the score was seventy-eight billion to six, and then they went for the extra two.  But it stayed in the periphery of my consciousness, Ohio State did, along with Purdue and Northwestern and that one school in the one state with the, you know, thing.    

So while writing for The Side Dish, I needed a recognizable but somewhat random college football moment to name-check, and I rummaged through my mental Rolodex, and the file, for some reason, dropped open at Script Ohio.


I once watched Script Ohio at a a Notre Dame game, but wasn't paying particularly close attention to its formation, as I was busy booing it. I so when I found a video to link to in the post, I sat and watched it, largely because here was a thing that wasn't an ungraded essay, or had a -20 wind chill, or demanded political analysis.  And... well...  what I saw was actually  incredibly non-hateful.  As I am a person with terrifyingly illegible handwriting, the Internet could not yield for me enough examples of the band tracing it out across yards and yards of open green.  It was at the same time graceful and big honkin', the manatee of college athletics. 

I came for the script, but I stayed for the dotting of the I-- and not the dotting itself, but a moment within, just before, when the drum major spikes his baton to the field to mark where the sousaphone player takes his bow.  No matter which version from which season I turned to, it happens so fast I can't even get a decent screengrab:  This guy is going to dot the living hell out of this I.

This is technically, I suppose, The Sousaphone Player's Moment (NOTE TO SELF:  next book title!), but this night in my Michigan turret I'm watching the drum major, how he strikes the turf like an angry god: Here I stand.  And then, job done, he's off again.

Maybe the regimented steps of an entire football field's worth of who was once an enemy is an odd thing to comfort to a person who never fits into any hole anywhere, no matter how much she wriggles about or forces an exhale.  But I see the square steps forming the rounded curves, the high flings of the brass, and it is so lovely to watch something enormously complicated for the sole sake of enormous complication go so gorgeously right.

You can't stop up multiple wounds, some of them shamrock-shaped, with a single buckeye, no.  But it does lessen the weakness caused by the bleeding.  And so: I have slammed, back-first, into a door-- but you see, that also means that I'm a'knockin'.

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