Sunday, July 24

One Red Shoe

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2005 Rumba Creative. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

One Red Shoe

Goddamn it, where was it? He was in no mood, this of all mornings, to launch a treasure hunt for the aspirin bottle. He hadn’t been thinking clearly all week as it was, and now he had a desperate need he had to work to fulfill. No doubt his buddies had done this on purpose. Jerks.

He glanced at the clock. 7:30 am. So at least he had plenty of time before the big moment. Enough time to ease the tequila vice that was squeezing his skull. A thorough review of the medicine cabinet turned up nothing. Ditto the kitchen drawers. The apartment’s living room was a maze of empty bottles, ashtrays, and confetti. He remembered some of it, but it made his head hurt. Giving up his search, he returned to his bed, in the hopes a brief stare at the ceiling would stop the throbbing that moving only made worse.

He could hear his roommate snoring loudly in the bedroom next to his, the radio still on, playing The Doobie Brothers or something. What a great best man, he thought. Invite the boys, put some porn on the DVD player, and get me drunk. The landlord had come to investigate the noise, that much he remembered, and had ended up staying for the party. At least it was just booze and the guys. He didn’t remember any strippers.

The throbbing was a little better, and he was developing a crick in his back from staring at the ceiling. Changing positions, he threw an arm over the side of the bed, and concentrated on the floor. Something caught his attention, but it took a moment to focus.

His heart went through his feet, through the floor, and into the apartment below. Greeting his gaze like the smile of an executioner was one red shoe. Not a sandal or a sneaker, but a bright crimson, come-hither, high-heeled pump. Oh, shit.

The banging on his roommate’s door brought a grumbled epithet, but after repeated cursing and door rattling, his best man stumbled into the hallway. Shaking the shoe under his friend’s nose, with some additional cursing and hair-pulling, elicited nothing but a knowing smile and a slap to the shoulder.

“Don’t worry, Bud. Looks like you had a good time. ‘Sides, it just your pals. Nobody will say anything.”

The rest of the morning was as blurry as the previous night. His male friends showed up again, grinning mischievously, digging elbows in his ribs. Somehow they got him into the shower, scrubbed him clean, shaved him, and got him dressed. Vaguely he remembered pancakes at the breakfast counter down the street. Hazily, he recalled being stuffed into a limo and driven to the church. In the coat room close to the altar, he was stuffed into his tuxedo. He clearly remembered two things. First, his mother crying as she hugged her single son for the last time. How could he live up to her expectations after his sin discovered only this morning? Second, he vehemently refused any sip from any flask proffered by his groomsmen.

Music filled the air, and his best man dragged him by the arm and shoved him out to the altar. He stood, shaking and excited, consoling himself that whatever happened didn’t really count, he hadn’t been married yet. The bridesmaids marched down the aisle, demure and sweet and floral. The wedding party took their positions, and the organ music swelled to the big entrance. The congregation stood, and the light of the world appeared from the entrance of the vestibule. He was crying with happiness and relief.

For there, in a blazing white gown, was his beloved, wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

And one red shoe.

Wednesday, July 20

The Beam Goes Out

Today one of my boyhood heroes died. Many people won’t know him, but to me he represents an important part of who I have become.

James Doohan, aka “Scotty,” was the most unsung of the Four Heroes of Star Trek. In my tweens and early teens, this show was the basis for fantasy, role-playing, and countless deep discussions of philosophy, the arts, and the future. At least as much as the mental wanderings of young men can be deep.

Some specific others will disagree, but being the oldest of four boys was tough. Male role models, both within the family and everywhere else, were tough to come by. I fear it is still true. But from Captain Kirk I learned a sense of wonder and to stand up for your convictions. From Mr. Spock I learned to disassociate myself from a given situation and see things rationally. (Still haven’t grasped that one very well.) From Dr. McCoy I learned to revel in life’s sensual pleasures, hold your passion like a burning torch, and that a smartass can be a lot of fun.

But my friends and I always knew that no matter how cool all this seemed, our primary heroes would have been squealing little grease stains on some forgotten world without Scotty. He was the glue that held everything together. He was the foundation of the house they all lived in. He was the one who lied outright about fixing stuff, saying it couldn’t be done. But get it done he did, and always in half the time he quoted, invariably because he inflated his estimates. I loved him. I loved him because he made me laugh. Because he refused to accept the impossible. Because he was always one step ahead of his superiors. Because he could grin with a screw-you attitude and get away with it. Without Scotty the grunt, the regular guy, the man who knew and still made mistakes, the Utopian future I so yearned for wasn’t possible.

So call me a geek, a nerd, a pansy, whatever. I don’t care. This was an important part of my growing up. It’s a large part of what I am today.

In one of Mr. Doohan’s last public appearances, he was lauded by none other than Neil Armstrong at a Hollywood Star Trek convention. Armstrong said he hoped one day to captain a starship, and if he did, he wanted Scotty on the crew.

Ironically, good ol’ Scotty died today, July 20, 2005, the 36th anniversary of Armstrong’s first step on the moon.

I hope you were beamed to the good place you wanted, Jimmy. Thanks. For everything.

Sunday, July 3

You Think You've Got Summer?

I live in one of the driest and hottest areas in North America. It’s not bragging, or one-upmanship, it’s simply the truth. But some people just have to top you no matter what. I was on the phone with a midwest colleague a few weeks ago, and she asked “How’s the weather out there?” I replied it was hot already, 105 or more. I braced myself for the inevitable response: “Well, at least it’s a dry heat. You should try our humidity.” My teeth clenched. The other one I always hear is “Yeah, well you should try winter in Buffalo.” Point taken, but we were discussing summer, bonehead.

Everyone lives with something unpleasant climate-wise; blizzards, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, what have you. I spent most of my life with earthquakes that would make anyone east or south of Sacramento wet their pants. I’ve lived in 90 degree heat with 8 billion percent humidity and mosquitoes the size of clipper ships. I’ve visited any number of places in less than ideal conditions. So don’t talk to me about heat.

All of the following is absolutely true. I’m not making any of it up. There are a handful of towns and cities of appreciable size I would agree can match our heat. But damn few. The rest of you can take your precious humidity and stick it.

My fish pond has actually lowered by three inches in one day. With no leaks. In the shade.

It’s not unusual to start my car, get out, and wait a few minutes for the air conditioning to kick in so I can touch the steering wheel without virtually burning my hands. Even then I might drive with two fingers for a while. During the depression, many construction companies issued gloves to their truck drivers in the summer.

Take it from me and a lot of transplanted east-coasters: 95 degrees with humidity is kindergarten compared to 123, no matter how dry.

I’ve made sun tea in ten minutes.

You can get sunburned in less than twenty minutes. And that’s if your skin is already acclimated to it.

Even the hardiest cactus in my backyard needs water twice a month in August.

It has been 105 at midnight.

Buzzards don’t live here.

One of the definitions of a desert is any region which receives less than ten inches of rainfall annually. We average four or less.

The ten year warranty on my above ground pool lining didn’t last three years.

When the sprinklers go on early in the morning, every bird within three states takes a bath on my front lawn.

The ground temperature in the rocks in my backyard can exceed 130-140. Even lizards and snakes go underground.

When the desert winds kick in at 40 mph or more in 120+ heat, newly planted flowers will die in less than 2 hours.

And, yes, we do get humidity. You think 90 is bad? Try a cooling trend from 122 to 118 during the August monsoon season with 80% humidity.

There are T-shirts in every souvenir shop with drawings of cow skulls and vulture skeletons. The caption is “At least it’s a DRY heat.”

Rubber Band Wrists

It started with the Tour de France. Lance Armstrong won it after fighting testicular cancer and the first ones showed up: the yellow rubber wristband. At first I thought it was pretty cool, as it brought attention to a major men’s health issue. We hear about breast and ovarian cancer, plus a host of other women’s health issues, and rightly so, but we rarely hear about men’s health issues. That’s because we’re disposable. At least that’s the way this white middle-class male feels.

But then these stupid yellow things were everywhere. People who had never heard of Lance Armstrong were wearing them. Ask them what they were for, and they would always say “Lance Armstrong.” Not testicular cancer awareness. It became a fad instead of something good.

Not satisfied with diminishing the issue enough, Crayola-bright bands started showing up all over the place. Some people were wearing three or four. I asked a guy about his. “The yellow is for Lance Armstrong. The blue is for the Chicago Cubs. The orange is for sumpin’ else.” Baseball and testicular cancer: The Great American Pastime.

To be fair, I’ve worn these three or four times myself. They had words and numbers on them. But since I was recovering from surgery, I can’t be certain what they represented.

I am wearing one right now. It’s transparent. It means you’re a retard.