Tuesday, January 22, 2002

we're not in kansas anymore

starbucks, diners, and wal-marts, oh my! starbucks, diners, and wal-marts, oh my! okay, so it's not lions, tigers, or bears - but what do you expect? the road wasn't made out of yellow-bricks either. it was black asphalt. this was not the land of oz - this was the land of NoVA: shopping centers, strip malls, and subdivisions with hoity names like stoneybrooke. but whatever - that does not mean that us suburbanites can not still seek the wizard. the emerald city can be found in any chain bookstore; in any denny's; in any laundromat; in any starbucks; in any strip mall parking lot. it lies there waiting with a man behind the curtain pulling levers and pushing buttons, constructing some reality. it just requires a little looking. dorothy and toto knew this - they battled apple-throwing trees and flying monkeys to get to the wizard. of course, there will be the suburban equivalent of naughty trees and scary monkeys, but that should not discourage one from finding the wizard of suburbia. the wiz is there waiting.

this afternoon, i told my friend sarah that i would go with her to the kingstowne starbucks to hang out with her. i drove to her house, listening to wpgc, and i was like what? what is this that they are playing? it's a hip hop station and they were playing some jammin oldies type song. i then realized what it was - it was stevie wonder's "happy birthday" about mlk, and it was super beautiful and gave me chills of all the right kind, thinking about the civil rights era and where we are now. after the song ended, the normally loud djs talked so sincerely about how grateful they were to mlk, about how they have benefited from his efforts and chill chill chill came over me - they said that they hoped everyone took some time today to reflect on mlk's message and how we could progress more. i felt sort of real bad for being so insincere about mlk day in my last entry, and took time to reflect like they suggested, realizing that he was a huge force in bringing about significant positive change.

quite often, i forget that a struggle actually did occur in this country not too long ago for liberties that i assume are permanent. very comfortable in my suburban life, rarely feeling the effects of discrimination, i just assume that whatever, it's not a big deal. i am resolving to try to be aware that a struggle did occur fairly recently, and to quit being so flippant about the benefits i have inherited from the efforts of that struggle. i resolved pretty much the exact same thing about two years ago. i was working at borders and some old guy wanted me to help him find a book. it was some book about the civil rights struggle, "crossing border street." and i was making small talk with him and he then told me that the book was about his family. i became intrigued and asked him about it, and he told me basically a really long story that i am still so grateful i got to hear. he told me about his youth when his family was the main force behind the deacons for defense. he told me that he armed himself, and that the kkk once surrounded his house, but his family showed their arms. and just such wild shit that i forget actually occurred in some peoples lifetimes. this was just a slightly old man that i would normally have thought nothing of, but fuck wow he actually lived through this struggle and was an active part in it. i was so awed by this man and his stories and was so happy he shared them with me. and well, anyways i made this same resolution right after meeting him.

the djs spoke with a sincerity that also awed me and just gave me chills. i am becoming more and more convinced that sincerity is the most beautiful thing. when someone lets down their guard, and just exposes them fragile selves, speaking raw and truly, it astounds me. and it shouldn't be astounding, it should be normal, but when someone is sincere, i really do feel privileged to something special, like i’m seeing a shooting star or something, it's just like wow, thank you so much for showing me that.

the djs then segued into the next song, the new outkast single, and i sang along so so happy. i sang along to a couple more songs before i got to sarah's house. she drove to starbucks, and we arrived, ordering our coffee drinks like all good suburban kids who like to play grown-up. while sarah was ordering her drink, i managed to snag a frank sinatra cd that they were selling. i am listening to ol' blue eyes right now, and so loving this cd. it's one of those loungy compilations of his love songs. but sadly, the cd does not have "fly me to the moon" on it (my favorite frankie song ever!) and i have a two-disc set of his greatest hits that also does not have it on it, it is sort of upsetting, but not even that much, cause frankie's pretty much wonderful all the time.

we then sit in comfy chairs by the window with our froo-froo drinks, watch skater kids hop onto the curb, do tricks, and show their beautiful teenage selves to all the strip mall's patrons, most who look on with disgust - but not me and sarah, we both sort of love skater kids, and look with love out the window at kids who are making beauty out of ugly curbs, and even uglier big concrete blocks - converting them to a stage to wow us with their performance. is this what butler meant by resignifying? maybe. wouldn't that be so pomo of those oh so cute skater kids to make drab suburban architecture into the emerald city.

we talked about school, about being gay, about photography, and about bad movies forever, before falling so eagerly into the oh-do-you-remember-when game, recalling very fondly stories from high school. talking trash about people we hated and exchanging gossip about what people are doing now. we both agreed that we would kick miss coile in the shins if we ever saw her in public for being such an evil woman. sarah told me a story about one of our spanish teachers, mr. munoz. she saw him at a gay club a couple months ago and he was very obviously rolling and started petting her. she was very freaked out by it, and we had a good laugh at the expense of all the fucked-up teachers who composed the faculty at wonderful west potomac.

and then, because the world has gone mad, she out of the blue asked me if i wanted to go see nelly furtado. i said are you fucking kidding? of course, joni just asked me the same thing yesterday. she was real relieved, saying that she was sort of embarrassed to ask me. and then we talked about nelly, getting all giddy to go see her, and planned to buy tickets and make matching i heart nelly furtado t-shirts.

after sitting in starbucks for a couple of hours, led by our stomachs, we left to go in search of some grub. as soon as we got out of starbucks, i showed sarah my loot, and she was real surprised and impressed asking me when and how i took the cd. her being impressed with this loot, led into a discussion of me bragging about my klepto godliness, itemizing all of the many expensive things me and bonnie managed to steal last semester. she was real impressed, boosting my ego, and then we sat in the car some more deciding where we wanted to go eat. she suggested this random diner, and i was like sure, whatever, i am hun-grr-ree! drawn out like that to emphasize to her my state of hunger.

and we were off to the barnside diner somewhere out in landmark. i think we sat down around six or so, looked at the menu, and what is this i spy? they have gyros. i told sarah about my resolution to stop eating meat, and being eve the temptress, she told me not to worry about it - to eat the gyro. i wavered between a veggie omelette and the beef gyro; between not eating meat and eating meat; between sticking to my new year's resolution and being a cowardly poltroon with no will, giving in to every whim and craving of my ravenous stomach. i chose the latter. c'mon, a fucking gyro! god, i haven't had one of those in so long.

we talked and laughed, and then when our food came, we ate. and then we talked and laughed some more. and some more until a little after eleven when we paid our check since our waiter's shift was over, and decided to depart. sarah decided that she wanted to dye her hair, so we made a run to wal-mart. on the way there, i confessed my love of adult contemporary, and she said me too!, so excitedly and then she showed me what her presets were. one was 107.3 and two was 104.1. dude, all right! we sang along to our beloved adult contemporary songs, exchanged more stories, and then made our way through the brightly-lit aisles of wal-mart in search of hair dye and the wizard. i somehow convinced sarah, a really light blonde, to dye her hair red, and we looked at all the various hair dyes forever, examining those really fun hair samples under each product. those dyed hair samples are so fun to pet. i felt every single red hair sample, connecting myself with every other person who entered this wal-mart wanting to make themselves new, and sought a little help from hair dye.

we heard the ten minute warning, because this is not sarasota and for some reason the wal-mart closes at midnight. the wal-marts in NoVa are all cinderella wal-marts - there are no 24 hour wal-marts by my house. we ignore the intercom's demand to bring our final purchases to the register, and instead make for the cd section. i told sarah about how i really like the new garth brooks song, "wrapped up in you." the song is so awesome - the lyrics are kind of cheesy - but the tune itself is so fun and boot-stomping good - it is my favorite pop single of the moment. i scanned the cd under the tv to show sarah what i was talking about - it showed a clip from the music video. and sarah did not have my back on this one, she was like ick, country! but, whatever, the song rocks. we played around in the cd section ignoring closing announcement after closing announcement, until we were sort of swept out of the music section by some employees. so, we made for the register, sarah purchased her hair dye and we left, ready to end this very long day of suburban adventures. we get in the car and we hear that synth drum opening, and fuck yeah, it is! we sing along at the top of our lungs to inxs' "i need you tonight," dancing madly, letting out the occasional woo-hoo, reveling in each others’ company, and basking in her car's heavy duty heat. feeling even hotter from the singing and dancing. twist the temperature knob to the left, placing the dial in that shady area between heat and a/c.

we enter the street to her subdivision and citizen king's "better days" came on, and yes i know it's the worst kind of crap. but we didn't care because we knew the words. so, we sang along excitedly to some bad music, nearing sarah's house. sarah says that she wants to hear the rest of the song and keeps driving. so she starts circling the subdivision of vantage. houses with lights off. station wagons and minivans lining the block. the occasional spot under a streetlamp colored that orangey-yellow color. we drove around vantage past the end of "better days." past the end of about two more songs before we finally pulled into sarah's driveway. i said goodbye, told her i'd call her tomorrow, clicked my heels, and departed for home in my mom's minivan.

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