Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jimmy and Mr. Raney

And now, a bit of fiction...

The October wind was blowing multihued leaves down the road, accompanied by swirls of dust.  It had been a dry early fall, with hunters complaining of not being able to move through the woods without alerting the squirrels.  Jimmy had gone back to the truck early.  It was only 8:45 in the morning, but he had fallen asleep against a white oak earlier.  He thought it best just to come back to Tommy’s truck and lie in the bed.  He dropped the tailgate and climbed in, resting his shotgun beside him and hanging his legs off the edge of the truck. 
            He had a headache from too much beer the night before.  Tommy, Tommy’s cousin Jon, Jimmy, and Jimmy’s cousin Matt had stayed up too late at camp, drinking and talking about girls.  At fifteen, with the other boys being a year or two older, Jimmy missed the times when girls were not such a large topic of conversation around the campfire.  He was a bit confused about the others’ all-consuming interest in the opposite sex and more than a bit worried about his lack thereof. 
            Jimmy looked up as the wispy clouds passed above in the turquoise sky and into the tops of the tall pines.  He groaned a little at the pain in his head as he threw his left arm over his eyes.  In minutes, his chest was rising and falling in a slow, steady rhythm. 

            Hearing the pounding of slow, heavy footfall, Jimmy woke a bit dazed.  Realizing where he was, he thought “That’s got to be Jon.”  Jon was the largest of the three other hunters.  Being three years older than him and a nose guard for the high school football team, Jon dwarfed the slim but tall Jimmy.
            Jimmy pulled himself to a sitting position and said “What’d ya get?”
            “Well, hello boy.” 
            Jimmy, surprised that it was not Jon, simply said, “Hi,” and scratched his cheek.
Jon was big but this person was a man.  Taller even than Jon, broad shoulders, thick neck, full dark-red beard flecked with grey, camouflage clothes and cap, big smile, hands like catcher’s mitts.
            “You waiting on your buddies?”
            “Yessir.”  Jimmy replied, a bit intimidated as the large man drew closer.
            “I ran into a big fella down in the creek bed a couple of hundred yards that’a way.” The man pointed south.
            “That was Jon.”
            “Jon Fuselier?”
            “I thought I’d recognized him from the football field.  Who do you belong to, boy?”
            Normally, Jimmy would have bristled at a stranger calling him “boy,” but he knew that this man was using the term in a way that was not deprecating.  “I’m Will and Peggy Gauthiex’s son, Jimmy.”
            “Ah, haven’t seen Will in a long time and longer than that for your momma.  You look like her, Jimmy.”
            “Yessir, so people tell me.”
            “I’m Gerald Raney.”
            “Good to meet you, Mr. Raney.”  Jimmy instinctively extended his right hand.
            “Call me Gerry,” Ramey grabbed the boy’s hand and shook it, the man’s large paw enveloping the other’s.  The man’s direct gaze from green eyes locked with Jimmy’s dark brown ones.  “How’d you do this morning?”
            Jimmy smiled sheepishly.  “I just went into the woods and fell asleep.  So I came on back to the truck.”
            “You must have stayed up too late last night, kiddo.”  The big man laughed, eyes dancing.
            “Yessir.”  Jimmy grinned.
            “I’d better get home and start dressing these squirrels, buddy.”  Mr. Raney raised his large hand.
            “Yessir, Mr. Raney.  Have a good day.”
            “Yessir, Gerry.”
            “See you around, Jimmy.”  The man gave Jimmy a slight smile and a wink of his dark green eye.
            Jimmy watched at the man walked away.  The sun went behind a cloud, shadowing the field where the truck was parked; the wind kicked up a bit more.  About a hundred yards away, Mr. Raney turned.  He squared himself with Jimmy and lifted his hand once more.  Jimmy signaled back.  The man turned and resumed his trek.  With the image of Mr. Raney fixed in his mind, the boy positioned himself in the truck bed again and closed his eyes.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stuck in the Gridlock

I used to road rage ... a LOT.  I moved to Houston from a small Louisiana town, population 5,000.  The gridlock of Houston was overwhelming for me.  When I first arrived in the city, I worked in one of the busiest districts and had to commute a simple four or five miles home.  I say simple.  Most days it took me 45 minutes to an hour to get home.  In Louisiana, I was used to a 10-minute commute with the same distance between home and work.
So I'd grind my teeth, get red in the face, and generally raise my blood pressure all the way home in Houston.
Then I got a new job where I was able to take the bus.  It took a bit longer than the drive, but I saved on parking fees plus I got to read and listen to my MP3 player to and from work.
My next move was to Los Angeles, and some may think "Oh, My God!"  But I did not have that experience.  I found the drivers there to be more aware and more courteous that those in Houston.  Certainly there were certain freeways to avoid:  the 405, the 110 South (the Harbor Freeway).  But my commute was beautiful.  I lived in West Hollywood and worked in Pasadena.  I would take the 101 South to the 110 North, drive through a big tunnel in a hill and BAM...there were the San Miguel Mountains shining in the distance.  I started thinking that Angelenos were more chilled out on the road just because so many of the surroundings were pleasing.
I did return to Houston (my life called me back from La-La Land) and what did I observe comparing Houston to Los Angeles?  More aggressive drivers.  More vehicles with body damage.  More accidents.  I laughed when one of my co-workers told me over morning coffee that she had seen a bumper sticker on the way in to work that said "Howdy, DAMMIT!"  And that about sums it up.  Cowboy drivers in our big beautiful Bayou City.

I finally took a different point of view and it's been recent that I came to this revelation.  There is nothing that I can do about traffic.  I just have to go with the flow.  And maybe that's just what the people in Los Angeles have been doing for years.  They've had more practice being a big city than Houston.
I just need to remember what I would always tell my son while navigating traffic: "The only vehicle that I can drive right now is this one."
Above all, whether it's to pick up your kid from soccer practice, meet your friends for happy hour, or just  head home to your loved ones; we are all just trying to get to where we really want or need to be.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Average ... Maybe Not

After a long day at work, it's great to come home to a house full of life.  The Man is here with dinner on the table.  The two dogs are outside, getting their paws muddy with more than a little help from the rain that has carried on for the better part of the afternoon.  One cat is crashed on the bed.  The other is following me around like a puppy, but whining loudly for attention.  I give her a little, and then she jumps up to join her brother and curls up on the bed.
Sounds as if we have the average household.  In my mind, we do.
Just The Man and I plus our four pets.  I would say "kids," but they're animals (c'mon folks).  The Man and I enjoy each other's company, a lot.  How many couples can say that after four years together, but every time I look into his eyes, I see the rest of my life reflected back to me.  I proposed to him earlier this year.

Sound as if we have the average household.  And in my mind, we don't.
The average household is not made up of a gay couple and their pets.  Furthermore, I get more than a little frustrated about the fact that he and I cannot just run down to the justice of the peace and get hitched (my style) or plan a big elaborate wedding ceremony and after-party (his style).  Our friends ask questions like "Why do you need your union validated by marriage?"  Or say things like "Don't worry.  The tide will turn one day and same-sex marriage will be adopted in the States."  When?  When I'm 64?  I reside in a state that will be one of the last in the Union to allow gay marriage.  Texas is not exactly the most liberal of the great 50.
I can't wait forever.  Maybe same-sex marriage is for the next generation of gay and lesbian couples.  I'd like to get in on the action.
When I first proposed to the Man, we immediately started looking to have the wedding in Toronto.  We had visited the city the year before and fell in love with it.  We caught a Blue Jay's game.  We toured the city in a double-decker bus (a bit cheesy but total fun).  We ferried over to the islands that skirt the harbor of the city and biked around the paths, around the parks, fountains and cottages.  We enjoyed it so much that we talked of getting married there and then relocating to the city (much to the chagrin of our family and friends).  We've pulled back from those Pollyanna dream (much to the delight of our family and friends).  With winter approaching, we gave it a second look...we live in Houston, and Toronto is COLD during those winter months.
So, we'll have to wait to truly be an average family.  I guess that's good in a way.  Right now...I can feel as if I am part of an above-average family.