Cell Block D and Other Craziness

It has been quite a bizarre week.

The Slammer
On Saturday we played our first ever Sea World gig. There is something magical about playing across the street from Shamu and across the way from sea lions who can clap their hands and dial numbers on the telephone. To take a deep breath before you hold out a long note and swallow the stench of baby fish, Shamu's dinner, is just... special.
So one of my family member's came out to the show and we spent some time catching up. She told me her husband loves reading my blog. I was flattered. I love knowing that men read this thing. Cause seriously this isn't a mommy lovin'- cupcakey-girly-pedicure blog. This is serious business for all kinds of people. So, men unite, don't be ashamed that you read a blog called "Cupcakes, Sprinkles, and Other Happy Things."
"He's in prison."
"Did something really stupid and he's there till the end of the year. And I send him your blogs and he loves them. So do his cell mates. They crack up reading them. Then they showed them to some other guys in there. And now, the guard prints the blog and puts in on the community bulletin board for everyone to read."
OH MY GOSH if I had a dollar for every time I heard that I'd be a freaking millionaire :). Y'all, congratulations, this blog has real street cred' (credit) now! I'm so stinking excited to have real live prisoners reading the blog! Welcome!
So I asked her if I could give Kevin and the guys a shout out. And she said sure. So here it goes:
What's up "Cell Block D boys!" That's my name for you. My cell block D boys. Hi! What the heck are you doing in prison? Seriously? One life, that's all we've got. And you're spending it in matching outfits? That's what my grandma did to me and my sisters growing up and I know it's God awful. Matching outfits= social suicide.
You gotta get out of there and be a good dad to your little girls and little boys. Be a good man for your wife or your mom. Do something for yourself that inspires you and makes you happy. Something that makes the world more beautiful. And while you're waiting to do all that, be good to yourself now. Read a book. Go to chapel. Pray. Work hard. Don't fight. Seek peace. Eat your vegetables (Do they give you good veggies in the slammer or do I need to bring you some?). Don't give up on yourself. Keep trying. Don't make me come down there...
You don't need a sermon from me. I just want you to know I believe in you. I believe in who you can be and I believe in the goodness that is within you. I believe God knows you, loves you, forgives you, and wants good things for your life. Me and Him (I'm speaking for God now :)) we believe in you. And maybe you need to be reminded of that today.
I'd kill to be in prison for a few weeks. OK, I would not actually kill, so please don't actually kill, but you know what I mean. To have some down time. Time to think. Re-asses. Read. Pray. Write. Time to learn discipline and to figure myself out and to seek forgiveness for all the ways I've screwed up and to dream about my future, to remember what I love about myself and about the world. Sometimes I wish for a bit of a standstill so I can go there... that place you can only go when you are alone and have everything taken away that distracts you.
So in a way, whether you want it or not, you are there. In that place where dreams spring up and the past is laid to rest. You are there. Don't take your gift for granted.
Bonzo the Bird
So for years now I've gotten Christmas cards from Aunt Betty. They are always signed, "Love Aunt Betty, Uncle David, Bonzo the Bird, and Wally (the dog)."
Stop right there. If you know me, you know I detest pets. I just do. I know that makes me hated by PETA and by mostly everyone in my family who treasures their pets more than they do most of my cousins. But, I don't know, I just have never loved having a dog lick me or a cat leave hairballs on my bed. We had a cat growing up. We named her Kitty Baby. I gagged for an entire hour after having to clean her cat litter. And while I liked her little rough tongue licking my hand and her deep purr, those did not outweigh the animal hair, cat litter, and general upkeep that I detested so much about her. And dogs? Well, they just steal my thunder. They are way too smart and emotional and needy. I'm the girl... I get to be emotional and needy. Not them. But there they are licking and smelling like Shamu's dinner and getting their nasty dog drool all over me; and I swear there are people in my family who'd stop to question who to save first in a fire: me or the dog?
Anyways, I come from a family of pet lovers and I am quite sure God put me in this group of pet lovers to teach me a lesson about acceptance and patience and some other profound things that I haven't figured out yet.
So after we play for Shamu and his peeps we make our way to Mobile, Alabama for a show and after the show I spend a few days with my aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, and mom. And I should've figured it out by now. I mean, if Bonzo the bird makes the Christmas card, then he is a bonified member of the family, right? But how much of a pet can a bird really be?
Let me tell you people, a bird can be a very amazing pet. That thing flew all over the place like a little rabid monkey and I thought my mom and I might have a heart attack as he grazed the area where Annie was sitting. Bonzo drinks milk from the glass. He eats people food. He gets zurbers on his belly from my Aunt Betty. And he sits on my uncle David's shoulder as he works from home. He has nap time. And if you leave him in his room for too long, he gets mad, and starts jabbering away until you pay him some attention. He needs more attention than the dog.
And really, there is no point to this story except to say that I always assumed Bonzo was a poised, quiet, shy little bird who stayed in a cage in a corner looking quite exotic.
That thing gets out. It FLYS across the living room. It cuddles. And drinks milk from the glass. And oh my Lord that bird scared me to death. I spent two days with a bird and a dog who are more human than animal. For a non-animal lover, that adds up to a bizarre week.
The flight home
The flight home for Annie and I was just a nightmare. I've become an American Airlines Platinum snob. I'm used to getting whatever seat I want and being bumped to first class. I'm not a diva about much in this world, but I have flying with a baby down to an art form (instead of a torture routine that tortures me and everyone else around me) and that all depends on getting the good seats in the front of the plane. But this time we were in a little prop plane and got moved to seat 16b. Two rows away from the bathroom at the back of the plane. I was disgusted and reveling in my airplane snobbery and true shock that people had to live this way at the back of the plane with the nasty smelling bathrooms, when Old Man River walked on the plane.
He looked like he was straight from the Appalachian Mountains. With denim overalls, a long sleeve button down flannel shirt, a straw hat, a silver beard so long and overgrown that there were probably birds nesting inside it; and with his oxygen tank in one hand and a cane in the other, he started hobbling our way. "Great, I'm gonna get stuck next to old man river back here," I thought to myself.
Note to self: when you are being a snobby diva you should never think those things because they always come true.
Annie was still running a fever from the day before (though the doc said she could not have gotten the fever from the bird, I had all sorts of theories about the safety of her sharing air space with the bird and now with old man river) and she was battling yet another ear infection. I was already dreading the flight.
Mountain man, who must've been 90 years old and flying to his own funeral, sits down directly in front of us and promptly turns on his oxygen machine. It beeps the entire flight. And I'm no "worst case scenario" type person, but there is something about a constant beeping on an airplane that makes a crash feel immanent. Like the beeping at the hospital. I don't care if your just there to have an appendix taken out, that little beeping that happens next to the bed stirs up all sorts of dread. When I had my tonsils out, I came to hearing that thing beeping fast, and I was sure something had gone terribly wrong and that I was in the process of dying. Turns out I was just about to throw up and rip the stitches in my throat all out... still, the beeping didn't help.
So old man river beeps through the whole flight and when the pilot announces 30 minutes till we land he starts getting restless. Nervous like. Twitching his fingers and rocking back and forth and I wanted to tell him, "Look buddy, this is not the proper way to handle your anxiety, you are making things way worse on yourself." But there was no time. He was already throwing up. And it was getting all in his poor little beard. And for the next thirty minutes he pukes and pukes and pukes until we touch down in Dallas.
Those poor birds.
I'm having quite a time trying to narrow down the bizarre stories from this week, but I think I will end with this.
As a former Starbucks employee I know that the companies goal is for Starbucks to be "Your third home" Family. Work. Starbucks. You are supposed to learn customer's names, memorize their drink orders, and welcome them like your little sister, big brother, or wise grandpa every time they walk through the door. This, Starbucks says, should feel like a place of warmth and community.
Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And their always glad you came... you wanna go where everybody knows your name.
That kind of deal. Cheers for the masses.
The thing is, I've started going to a new Starbucks and the customers take that invitation a little too far for me and I am left wondering, "Do I commit or do I stay far away from you people?"
I ended up there two mornings ago at 6:00 as I found it impossible to sleep after feeding Annie that morning. So at 5:45 I made myself get out of bed, get dressed, and go to Starbucks. The first thirty minutes or so, I was all alone and the world was perfect. But then a man came in and plopped down next to me. Pet peeve. If there is a whole empty store or theatre or whatever, please don't come sit right next to me. But there he was, about 60 years old and 400 pounds, breathing very heavily, and right up in my space. Then 3 girls come in after a run. They are sweaty and way too giddy for 6:30 in the morning. The man next to me says hello to the girls by name. They get their drinks and pull up a table right next to him and start to chit-chat.
My perfect morning was slowly slipping away.
Then come in three young police officers. They don't even have to order their drinks. The barista has them ready and sitting on the counter. They pull up next to the girls and start asking about their 5K from the previous weekend. Now there are seven of them, completely opposite groups of people, huddled together like they're about to have church. Then a few business guys come in, and sit across from the group... but not without first saying hello to everyone by name and inquiring about whether the police officers are going to be doing their motorcycle training today. Then three old men come in and take over the last table. They say hey to everyone and start laughing so loud as they talk about movies with one another that I can't hear myself think.
I have officially been ousted out of my personal space and thrown into this hodge-podge group of people who apparently are related some how. I feel like I am at an early morning family reunion.
And all of a sudden I thought, "Oh my gosh. Starbucks won. This is home. They all know each other. This is really creepy. Their families are all at home, still getting ready for the day, and they are here, they are members of a neighborhood Starbucks fraternity."
Just then one of the cops turned around and said to me, "Hey! We don't know your name. And look, if you're gonna come in the mornings you're going to have to contribute a whole lot more to these conversations."
I sat there with my blurry eyes, bad hair, and coffee breath and laughed a very awkward laugh. "You guys are here every morning?"
They all laughed. Some sort of internal laugh that I was not privy to. And I wondered... do I want you to love me or do I want to run far away from you? Their faces were so sweet and the randomness of the group so unique... but I couldn't help but think that it felt like a creepy movie about a secret society who ends up stealing people's minds or something else crazy.
I'm writing from a different Starbucks today. As of now, I'm not sure what to do with those people. Part of me wants to be there... where everybody knows my name.
Part of me thinks it's a bit insane.
But what would a bizarre week be without a classic run-in with Starbuckians?