Redhead, nurse, sister, daughter, aunt, newly-ex-wife, sucker for lost animals, currently owned by Percy the cat and Spencer the dog. In the middle of some major changes–trying to figure out what I want so I can figure out how to get there.

Ugh! The past year plus has been one filled with changes, ups, downs, and more than a rasher of depression and anxiety. I have been cruising along quite well lately, and even got excused from therapy shortly after my layoff. I considered this to be a fairly good sign of my mental health stability.

Then, a couple of weeks ago I realized I was handling things poorly. I was irritable. I was edgy. I had very little patience for idiots (and let’s face it, we see them every day and they require much patience).

I had a tripped planned for this past weekend, and events leading up to the trip skewed my anxiety meter badly. I was visiting a friend whom I see not often enough, though, and so I plundered on with the visit. I’m not trying to be coy, but to call our relationship less than simple is putting it mildly. I was a bit worried about my stress level, but a visit with this friend usually brings out the calm in me. Let’s just say this time it didn’t work out so well. There were disappointments on both sides of the equation. Let’s face it, this being human shit lends itself to that happening periodically, no matter how much love you have between you. No matter how totally fucking awesome, caring people you both are on your good days. When this happens when a certain redhead’s tank is on Empty, and her friend’s tank is about the same, the weekend you have both been looking forward to can end up being less than stellar.

We both went to the stupid places that our steamer trunks of baggage take us when we disappoint each other. Of course, those places are diametrically opposed to each of us meeting the other’s needs. Tears were shed. Frustrations were vented. The peaceful weekend was not to be. Nothing that caused permanent damage was said. In all honesty, not even anything that needed to be taken back was said. I am incredibly grateful for that. However, when you see someone you love to pieces 2 or 3 days out of every 8-12 weeks, feeling like a single minute of that time has been wasted is magnified to an unholy level.

It’s easy to see in retrospect that we could have communicated better. We could have let each other know that we were running on fumes. We might have been adult enough to cancel the plans.  Maybe we would have been more tolerant of the other when we were disappointed and frustrated.  Maybe we would have both simply tried harder to keep the crazy in its FUCKING LOCKED TIGHT BOX where it is supposed to stay. Ahem. In any case, we failed to do that, and it makes me sad. Particularly seeing as we have a few weeks ahead before things will feel really right again. We both KNOW that it is okay, but the hangover sucks. Instead of leaving each other singing happy songs, we each left feeling we had let the other down. The love is solid. While the details are at times difficult, the love is permanent, for keeps, no questions asked, no matter what. However, when a relationship isn’t a day to day thing, it stings to know that an opportunity was missed.

***Just for the record, the things that added to the degree of difficulty with this stretch of time are as follows: financial stress, hydroplaning in a matchbox car but fortunately not hitting anything, airline reservation screw-ups leaving me with a flight at 6am and a frantic drive to work after landing tomorrow morning, pressure from external sources (unavoidable), health issues (non-tragic) for both of us, and the kicker–a redhead with an anxiety disorder who realized TODAY that perhaps the fucking prednisone she had been on for 10 days and just finished Friday just *might* be the explanation for her noticeable decrease in coping skills lately.

Here’s to a bubble bath and an early bedtime in a lovely hotel very close to the airport.  Just for the record, if you need a non-specific hotel at the last minute, try using travel*ocity*dot*com’s “super secret” deal thingie.  I got a great room for about 1/3 of the usual rate.

Here’s hoping for a fabulous prednisone-free week ahead!

So, if you had a worse weekend, tell me about it so we can commiserate.  If you had a great weekend, tell me about it so I can at least know somebody left singing happy songs.


Unfriendly Skies

I’m afraid to look to see how long it has been since my last post. I’m sure everyone who isn’t gone with think of scurrying after this post. I usually don’t talk about politics, religion, moral issues with too many people. They are topics too likely to devolve into a conversation I did not intend. I have strong opinions, but I tend to talk to people with whom the pattern of discussion is already set. People with whom disagreement does not equal disagreeable–and I know this from prior experience. Blogging isn’t exactly that, so I tend not to do that here. However, there has been a series of events that make me unable to stay quiet.

Here is the story in the words of a very dear friend…

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Racial Profiling First Hand…FWB&RAAB…

You have to read through the letter below, sent to the ACLU, United/Continental Airlines, and/or a willing private lawyer (anybody?) to get to the meaning of the acronym.

What price Freedom, indeed. If the below is democracy and freedom, you can friggin’ have it. Maybe Paul Robeson was right:
To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Vance Gilbert.

I live in Arlington, MA.

I am a homeowner, having been here 10+ years, I have a partner, and we have two 52lb Standard Poodles.

I am a 6 foot tall, bespectacled, slightly greying, 52 year old, 230 lb African-American male with a close hair cut.

On August 14, 2011, I boarded United Airlines Flight UA #3483 from Boston to Dulles on time and was seated in an isle seat #9C on an Embraer 170. I was dressed in shorts, baseball hat, t-shirt, hiking boots, and unbuttoned Jimmy Buffett Hawaiian shirt (covered with airplanes). As the door was being closed, we were told it was a full flight, meaning 70 – 80 people. I had my backpack under the seat in front of me, and my fanny pack/wallet behind my heels.

After the doors were closed the flight attendant came down the isle checking security buckling, bag clearance etc., and asked if she could put my fanny pack above me in the overhead bin. I replied to her that I’d be fine just stuffing it next to my back-pack under seat in front of me as it contained my wallet etc and that I’d rather have it near. She seemed fine with that resolution. All that was done without consternation or belligerence, and I thought nothing of it.

Now, I am a musician by trade and an amateur aviation historian, studying mostly European transport aircraft between WW1 and WW2, and some after. I was on my way to two different music festivals. When I travel I delve into reading about this era of aviation. I had taken out and was reading a book of Polish Aircraft circa 1946 and I was also looking at views of an Italian aircraft from 1921.

I think you see where this is going…

The plane went all the way out to the take-off point, in the queue for take-off. All the while I noticed a lot of phone pinging back and forth between the flight attendants. The young woman flight attendant was also crouched next to and conversing seriously to a dead-heading pilot about 4 seats up on the other side. The plane then proceeded to turn around and head all the way back to the gate. Once at the gate, the jet bridge was positioned. The Captain announced, “We have a minor issue, and we will continue our departure once it’s resolved.” He left the aircraft.

After about 5 – 10 minutes, 2 Mass State Policemen, 1 or 2 TSA Agents, and the bursar for the flight come down the isle and motion me to get off of the plane. I do not remember if they called me by name. We stepped out into the breezeway where one of the State policemen asked how I was doing that day.

I replied, “Sir, I think you’re going to tell me I could be doing much better…”

Policeman: “Did you have a problem with your bag earlier?”

Me: “No sir, not at all. The flight attendant wanted it secured elsewhere other than behind my feet, and I opted to put it under the seat in front of me. It’s my wallet, even though there’s only 30 bucks in it…And all that was done without belligerence, or words for that matter…it was all good.

A few beats…

Policeman: “Sir, were you looking at a book of airplanes?”

Me: “Yes sir I was. I am a musician for money, but for fun I study old aircraft and build models of them, and the book I was reading was of Polish Aircraft from 1946.”

Policeman: “Would you please go get that book so that i can see it?”

I go back onto the plane – all eyes are on me like I was a common criminal. Total humiliation part 2.

After a couple of minutes he says, “Why, this is all Snoopy Red Baron stuff…”

Me: “Yes sir, actually the triplane you see is Italian, from 1921 a little after World War 1…”

Policeman: “No problem here then, you can go on back on to the plane, sorry to inconvenience you…and have a nice flight”.

We were now at least, after re-queuing, over an hour late. No one looked me in the eye, flight attendants, passengers. I missed my next connection, and had to cancel that portion of the flight (fair $ value equaling ??) and rent a car ($270) plus fuel ($30) to my work (lost 1/2 wages = $100), and I was afraid to read for the next two flights.

I silently wept the whole flight to DC. I’ve never been so frightened or humiliated. I’m shaking even writing this.

How much money was lost between the airline, the other travelers? – I couldn’t begin to calculate.

How damaged am I from this experience? I’m not feeling particularly American. I’m angry, dumbfounded, frightened.

Would this have happened to the 30-ish Caucasian woman sitting across the aisle from me (who left her seat, water bottle, and book, never to be seen for the rest of the “completely full” flight)? Is it now against the law to be dark and read a book about historic aircraft?

What’s my take-away from this experience as a taxpayer, United Airlines patron, Black Man, teacher, mentor, American? I was broken hearted and speechless as I overheard my friend’s wife try to explain to her kids what happened and what he and I were talking about over dinner. They never did get why.

What do I tell your children?


What do I do now – please advise?

Please contact me at the email above

Thanks in advance,

Vance Gilbert
Arlington, MA


Flying While Black & Reading Antique Aviation Books


He published this letter on his website, and it has been discussed in several online articles.  Many, many people have shown him support, but many, many other have said things like, “Well, I believed him until he threw out the race card,” and “Yeah, what happened sucks, but why did he have to go and make it about him being black?” and “I’m a white guy and if it had been me the exact same thing would have happened.”  Those people are entitled to their beliefs, I just happen to disagree.

This entire incident has me upset on many different levels. I’m upset that a friend is hurting. I’m frustrated at the paranoia that makes it seem reasonable to put up with such nonsense when we travel. I’m concerned about the fact that many people seem to dismiss his assertion that his skin color played into the events. When he says that it did, I believe him. I know enough to be certain he doesn’t look for a chance “to play the race card.” He is one of the more perceptive people I have ever met–I have seen him pick up facts not spoken many times. I realize that John Q. Public doesn’t “know” him. I don’t necessarily expect everyone to accept what he states without thought. I wish, however, that there were fewer people simply dismissing the *possibility* out of hand as if “these things” don’t happen any more

The unfortunate reality is that we still live in a society where people make decisions every, single day that ARE influenced by the color of a person’s skin. The white woman who recently asked how much she should tip the skycaps since “the black men seem to have been replaced by white college kids.”  (I’m unclear who she thought should get a bigger tip.)  The middle class parent who had never made a racist/prejudiced statement to me before who states that she has chosen to move to a different school district “so the girls won’t decide to date black boys.” The co-worker who intimates that the black staff members don’t work as hard as others “because, well, you know, they are just lazy.” So while not one of us is privy to the thoughts of those involved, eliminating race as a factor is shutting one’s eyes to a truth in our society. The “race card” is a reality that people have to live with their entire lives. If you are a black person, things happen to you and around you because your skin color. Of course, every bad thing that happens to people with brown skin is not due to skin color. However, it is an additional filter through which groups of people who have been discriminated against must view the world. I wish this were not true, but it is a truth we ignore at our peril.

I am not really looking for any kind of “result” from putting this out here.  I just know that the tears, frustration and sadness I feel mean something needed to be said.

Moving a body

I am significantly more aware and more comfortable dealing with end of life issues than most people I know. I suppose this is due to my professional experience as a nurse and my personal experience with unexpected death. I recognized at the time and continue to believe that the biggest gift Mother ever gave her children was a clear message about what she wanted about her end of life care, organ donation, and funeral arrangements. As a result of those factors, I have given much thought to what it is I want–though I have no reason to believe it will be needed any time soon. My goals are fairly simple–I want it to be inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and easy on my family. I initially thought I wanted cremation and be scattered anywhere that seemed appropriate. However, as cremation is rising in popularity, it is also rising in cost. Studies have also begun to surface that report that it has more of a negative impact on the environment than previously thought. That led me to search further.

There are many options for , but they are still thousands of dollars. For a time, though, this seemed to be the best option for me.

I may have mentioned my love for reading mysteries. I also enjoy the science of forensics–in print or on screen. I have read many books by many authors that cover the topic. One of these authors is Dr. Bill Bass and his co-author Jon Jefferson. Dr. Bill Bass is a forensic anthropologist at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He started a research program now affectionately known as The Body Farm. Anything you have ever seen or read about determining time of death by insect activity was likely discovered at this facility. They also study skeletal remains–learning every day a bit more about how to establish identity and cause of death with less and less to work with. By studying the chemical makeup of bones, investigators can identify the region of the country a person lived as a child. This knowledge can assist grieving families in gaining closure years after a death.

As you have likely guessed by now, this is where I wish to go after I die. It fits my love of science, my passion for mysteries, and my desire to help others. It is certainly ecologically sound–natural as possible. It costs nothing to donate one’s body to the facility. So, I was all set, right? Well, not quite. The one thing that would need to be addressed was the transportation. UT will pick you up in you live less than 200 miles from the facility (I don’t) and live in Tennessee (also not me). During initial calls to funeral homes, I was given the inaccurate information, “embalming is required by law to transport across state lines.” This is true in some states, but not in Georgia.

I was discussing this with a friend, and she said, “So all I need to do is get you to Tennessee and they will pick you up?” She was certain she could find a friend with a truck and “meet them in Chattanooga.” I appreciated her offer, but I had some concerns about the details. “So, you think it is a good idea to meet at the Hardee’s parking lot and change vehicles? I have concerns that you moving something that not only looks like a dead body, but actually is a dead body might attract some attention.” She reaffirms her willingness, but I decide exploring other options is probably a good idea.

So this week I made a few more phone calls. I got a few more erroneous reports, but finally hit paydirt. I found a company who will take me to Knoxville for under $650. Now all I need is to type up the information and leave it with my sister. It will require a single phone call to carry out my wishes, and that gives me a bit of peace. Have any of you given any thought to what you want and how to get it? Or does this just reaffirm (understandably) that I do not think at all like *normal* people?

Coffee table DIY

I had an inexpensive coffee table that had seen better days. I finally got around to a project I have had in mind for ages. My sister helped me with the initial steps. We sanded down the table, and painted it with hunter green paint. (The cards did not look right when we spread them out on the unpainted surface.) We were purposely unconcerned about “neatness,” feeling that it would be a waste of time and thinking we didn’t have enough paint to cover completely. After that dried, I glued a bunch of Loteria cards to the table. I bought these in San Antonio, but there are many places online they can be purchased.  Loteria is a game similar to Bingo, but with much cooler, more colorful cards. We left out a few we didn’t like–most of the people including “la negrita,” but I kept the drunk dude (can’t remember the spanish word). I tried to leave out “la corazon,” but Sis kept putting it back in the pile.

I have some water based (hallelujah!) finish yet to apply. I think I will cover the cards with a light wash because they seem too bright to me. I will also likely paint the rest of the table either hunter green or black. One more thing in my odd, but very much like me little house. What do you think?

You can click on any of the photos for a closer look. If anyone is inspired to do something similar (either a table, a tray or something even more creative) let me know. I bought 2 sets of the game but only used one. I would love to donate to someone who will put them to good use.

I actually did not look to see exactly how slack I have been at this blogging thing, but I know it has been too long. Rather than catching up, I’ll just go with the current events.

I got laid off Wednesday due to a “reduction in force.” I was not surprised, we knew tons of cuts were coming, and I had done the math and figured it out. I will be paid for 7 weeks, and my insurance will be in effect through July. I also will be paid for whatever vacation time I had in the bank. So, instead of panicking, I am looking at this as a bend in the road (and it sure has been a twisted mother-fucker the past year). The cuts they have made will be really hard for the people remaining to adjust to, so in some ways I consider myself fortunate. What sucked was not being able to say goodbye. I was trying to slip out unobtrusively (as they asked), but did trip over and hug the neck of 3 co-workers. Even though I have been back less than a year, I have built and (re) built relationships. I was prepared for the layoff, but not for the feeling of being left hanging. I hate goodbyes, but I like closure. Fortunately, several of us had plans to go out June 25 in place, so I will see some folks then. I have some leads, and I am not stressed about it. I am still a nurse, and people still need nurses. I’m hoping to get THE job, but I know I will be able to get A job.

This Sunday marks the 46th anniversary of my birth. Last night I went to see Rebecca Loebe. She is from Atlanta, and plays often at my favorite venue, but I did not “hear” her until she was on the television show “The Voice.” (If you are a watcher, she didn’t make it out of the Battle Rounds. She sang a Nirvana song for the audition, chose Team Adam, and got eliminated after the duet of “Creep” with little med school dude.) She is brilliant, gorgeous, wide variety of original songs, and as nice as she can be. I met her father when I saved him from a hug-ass-mother-fucking-cockroach that was crawling on his back. I also got busted using the men’s restroom when the line was too long for the women. It was a one seater, I really had to go, and I didn’t want to miss any more music than necessary. Not quite the rush as using the men’s room at the Superdome, but worth a mention.

Tonight I will be eating fondue with my sister and a couple of very dear friends. We will then go to The Fabulous Fox Theater and see the movie “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The Fox is an amazing building and I have seen Elton John in concert, Dora the Explorer with the niece, but never participated in the summer movies. They have a sing along with Mighty Mo (the organ) and a cartoon before the movie. I am looking forward to it. Low key plans, but exactly what I want to do. I can’t wait to get another peek at the amazing architecture (it started as a Mosque).

So, that’s what’s up with me. How about you guys?

I was minding my own business driving to work and Officer (Friendly) in the parking lot waved me over. Seems I was going 53 miles an hour…in the last 20 feet of a school zone. Boo Hiss for me. In addition, I got another ticket for not lying about how long I had been back in Georgia. Oh well. My sister calls it “Fast Driving Award,” I call it “SpeedingTax.” Either way, I was overdue.

Fast forward to the following day. I was tired and had a headache, and I disobeyed another traffic rule.There is an on-ramp near where I grew up that I used all the time. Then they put in HOV lanes, and they made it an HOV only ramp. I was irritated by this as it took away from me a route that I used often. 97% of the time I follow that law…this was one of the times I did not. No sooner did I make the left turn than did I see another police officer…waving me over. Holy shit! Two days in a row? You gotta be kidding me. I pulled over (as had about 4 other cars). I waited for what seemed like forever. The following conversation took place:
Cop: Has anyone taken your license yet?
Redhead: No, sir.
Cop: Why are you pulled over?
Redhead: Because this is an HOV only ramp, sir.
Cop: Did anyone tell you to pull over?.
(Very puzzled) Redhead: You did, sir.
Cop: I believe you must have misunderstood me. Thanks for your time. You’re from Texas. I’m not giving you a ticket, have a good day.
Redhead: (not one to correct a cop who thinks I’m from Texas) Thank you, sir.

These event reminded me of another interaction with the police many years ago. Mother and I were driving to Augusta for my graduation from nursing school. We packed a picnic…sandwiches, chips, beer, the usual. I was driving down the highway drinking my beer and my lead foot (again) got in the way. Lights and siren behind me, so I pull over. As I am pulling over, Mother is busy. Before I can blink an eye, the beers are back inside the now-closed cooler…and a stick of chewing gum, half-unwrapped is in my face. I give the cop my license and insurance card, fully ready to accept the ticket. Mother had another idea. She leans over the console and says (in her Southern drawl), “Sir, I am so terribly sorry if we were speeding. You see, we are going to my daughter’s graduation from nursing school. We are so excited about it that we did not even realize we were going so fast. If you let us off with a warning, I promise that I will pay much closer attention to be sure she doesn’t speed any more.” He handed me back my license and said, “Congratulations, young lady.”
So, when did you have an interesting or funny experience with the cops? Ever talk your way out of a ticket?

Over a month?

I totally knew I had been a completely-slack-ass-blogger, but I had no idea it had been so long. I suck at this thing called “consistency.”

Part of me thinks I should figure out what I have done over the past month to explain my absence, but the hell with that. Here is what I remember. I made 2 trips out of town–for music and visiting…I had a fabulous time. I had a 10 day stretch where I attended 7 performances. I was totally fucking exhausted, and it hurt my hermit/curmudgeon credibility, but each and every show was wonderful. I went out on a “date” that I didn’t really intend. Said man has romantic interest in me…I have the dreaded “friend” interest in him. He kinda finagled a situation to be like a date without ever actually asking me. Yes, it was awkward. No, we haven’t spoken/emailed since (which bugs me at least a little). I will see him again–our paths cross often in the music scene. Ugh.

A very good friend lost her father suddenly–in a “holy-shit-he-can’t-be-dead-I-just-saw-him-last-week” kinda way. She lives far away and I wish I could give her a hug. I know that feeling all too well–May 14 was TWENTY-FUCKING-YEARS since Mother died. It hit me harder than I thought it would. My sister pointed out that next year will be the year our brother marks the weird mathematical year in which he will have been without her as long as he was with her. I have 2 more years before I turn the age she was when she died. It’s kinda freaking me out…not in a doomsday way, just in the “that shit is totally wrong” way.

Work is the big black hole of suck. We are anticipating 300 layoffs in the next month or so. The questions remain: 1) Will I still have a job? 2) Will it be a job I want? Hopefully decisions will come sooner than later. My staff appears to be safe in the”having a job,” but their jobs are changing, and I think at least one Very Good Nurse will likely quit due to the changes.

Last Sunday was a rough day for me. I experienced a series of disappointments/losses…some bigger, some smaller…but it all kinda piled upon me.I felt shittier than I have in a long time, and it made me nervous. I suppose the “Very Dark Days” I had in Houston make me more concerned when I feel myself traipsing down the rabbit hole. I made an extra appointment with my therapist, and I was recovering even before the appointment. I just never want to get to the point that I was then. Let’s just say that I still believe that suicide is a selfish solution to a temporary problem. but I know now far more than I ever wanted to about how a person could get there.

Monday I have my first “outing” with my new mentee. She is a 14 year old girl with a parent (I think her father) in prison. We met about 10 days ago, and it went pretty well. I must say that I was as nervous about that as I have ever been for a job interview. She likes music, science, and is on the dance team. She is smart and shy. She wants to be a CSI or an attorney when she grows up. Hopefully I can manage not to say “fuck” while we are together.

So, what the hell have you guys been doing?