Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday Musings, 02 June 2012

Good morning,

At hand on the table stands a china cup filled with an Americano. A Nutty Girl sandwich provides my breakfast. I awakened this morning to the sincere and noble offer of my husband to let me have two of the three cups' worth of coffee that he managed to squeeze from the remaining beans in our silver canister. I met his willingness with raised eyebrows, imagining him playing tennis against an assistant U. S. Attorney with killer instincts on only one cup of coffee. Oh no, honey, you have it, I'll just take my laptop to One More Cup. Meeting his nobility with my generosity gives me the perfect excuse to throw on jeans and get out, skirting the Hospital Hill Run by taking back streets and parking in front of this lovely little shop in Waldo, the neighborhood south of my Brookside home.

In a week filled with happenings, I forgot to buy groceries, get coffee, and pick up my prescriptions. In addition to a successful quarterly art opening at my professional suite, the last seven days held something that distracted me in a way that any mother will understand: My son drove three days cross-country to spend the summer in Los Angeles.

His traveling companion, Alex Thompson, arrived Monday evening from Lexington. Alex's reputation as an accommodating friend preceded him by several hours, when Patrick and I discussed whether to cook dinner at home or go to a restaurant. He told me that whatever we did would be fine: Alex is agreeable, Mom, and I'm malleable, so you pick. We went to a Japanese restaurant, and, astonishingly, Alex not only enjoyed himself but actually made a friend. Our waitress hailed from Louisville and went to high school with people whom Alex had known.

It's a small world.

On Tuesday morning, both of their cars loaded and the gas tanks filled, a cooler stocked with snacks and sandwiches, coffee mugs beside them and water bottles at hand, Alex and Patrick took to the highway. They each hugged me, as I stood on our steps, heart in my throat, trying to look brave. I thought about my son's trepidation over the last several weeks, while he waited to hear from the agent for whom he hoped to be interning and the management company through which Alex's family had arranged for the two of them to sublet. Before the confirming emails hit our inboxes, on a morning two or three days before their scheduled departure, he confided that he had had a sort of recurring waking nightmare that both fell through, and he found himself unemployed and homeless in L.A.

Both internship and sublet arranged, and Alex's career set to launch, the two of them prepared to caravan across the country. But just before they slipped behind their respective steering wheels, Alex handed me a CD. Patrick made this for you last night, he told me, and I saw, in my son's writing, a single word written on the compact disc: Graceland.

Many things separate my son and I: his nature is calm, where mine rises to the Type A level; he stands by his beliefs but instinctively tolerates those of others, a wise choice with which I still struggle; he defaults to sweet and serene, at least outwardly, where I incline to defensive prickliness. But we share a love of music, and in particular certain artists, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a male vocal group whose strong, serene voices flavor the Graceland album.

When I left for work an hour or so after the travelers departed, I slipped the CD into the player in my Saturn. By the time I hit the Plaza, I had played Diamonds in the Soles of Her Shoes twice, my head and hands keeping time to the amusement of drivers in adjacent cars at stop lights. As I drove up Broadway, and rounded the corner at 40th street to make the dog-leg to my customary parking space in front of our building, I hit the track selection button to find my favorite. The haunting lyrics filled my car:

Webaba silale maweni
Webaba silale maweni
Homeless, homeless
Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake
Homeless, homeless
Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake

And at the turn, with the voices of these singers from South Africa flooding my car, my eyes raised to the sight of the Revolution Church, on whose sidewalk a gathering of lonely souls collects each morning, waiting for the soup kitchen to open.

They stood, in twos, or threes, wearing layers of clothing that seemed senseless in the heat of our early summer. Some sat apart, on the curb. All had clutches of belongings beside them, or tucked between their feet. None of the men were clean-shaven. Most seemed dirtier than I would ever find comfortable. And as the harmony of Ladysmith Black Mambazo spilled out into the street through my open windows, the eyes of the men and women waiting outside the church turned toward my vehicle.

We are homeless, we are homeless
The moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake
And we are homeless, homeless, homeless
The moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake. . .

Strong wind destroy our home
Many dead, tonight it could be you
Strong wind, strong wind
Many dead, tonight it could be you

Ten hours from that point in time, my son and Alex would check into a fifty-six dollar hotel in Aurora, Colorado, and nosh on the sandwiches I had prepared for them. Later, after surveying their Facebook friends for dinner suggestions, they would find a Ruby Tuesday's. On the evening of the second day, they would learn what "next services 100 miles" might mean to them, and that evening, they would enter the Castle Valley, Utah, home of my oldest friend in all the world, and talk until midnight about peregrines and life, flicking cardboard into the chimera on her flagstone patio, sleeping in her small home beneath her lofted bedroom, drinking from a spring-fed water system and using a chemical toilet. On the third day, they would deal with over-aggressive cruise control on my son's Blazer that would trick us all into thinking his transmission had failed, and, finally, they would come down from the side of a mountain and merge with a hundred other cars on an L.A. freeway heading for home. He would text me a picture from his 7th floor sublet, with just three words: This is amazing.

As I stepped from my car on Tuesday morning, with the events of my son's journey still in the future, I looked to the north. The eyes of the homeless watched me. I averted my own, and slipped into the building, hoping with every inch of my being that they did not, for one moment, think that I had been mocking them.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.