Breakfast again you-know-where on 3rd and Congress. Today they brought me coffee right away, with cream, without my asking. I watched the people behind the counter in their complicated dance, admiring how they worked together so smoothly… using just the right amount of therbligs. You could see people trusted and depended on each other to know what was going on. It was truly amazing to see a plate come out, get handed over to just the right waiter with just a word, knowing that someone had just made the tortillas 2 minutes ago. About 20 people working together in a tiny space. Damn! A perfect cafe.
Then I bought a bunch of tchatchkas in Tesoros next door. I hope everyone wants “Burning Virgin in Chains” purse mirrors for their presents.
I met Teresa at the convention center. Her car stunned me. A white buick with red interior including red velvety insides on the doors, and wood or fake wood panels, I didn’t look too closely. She matched her car perfectly, in her red cowgirl miniskirt with stars and white fringe! As soon as I have good net access again I’ll post my photos of her sexy poses with the car. Her trunk was full of books – good books – and she knew the world “therblig”.
All the way home we never shut up – I couldn’t wish for a better travel companion. The time flew by. With one leg up on the dashboard, one hand on the wheel and one on her latte, Teresa entertained me with her stories of living behind the Crazy Lady (where I used to work). As the PTA president she started “bring a worm to school day” where all the kids would bring a baggie with a worm and some dirt in it, and they’d introduce some extra worms to the soil to improve the school’s garden, and then celebrate with “worm pudding” which is lord knows what, but I can picture it, maybe some crumbled oreos and gummy worms. The principal withdrew their funding for the worm pudding, the day before Bring a Worm to School Day. My god!!! Evil! Teresa called all the churches and donors and businesses around and then walked into the Crazy Lady… after one phone call, the bartender handed her a hundred bucks for the worm pudding. Punchline: “The principal never pulled out my funding at the last minute ever again.”
Houston, it turns out, has had a formal program for years, called something like Tips for Tots – One day a year, all the strippers in town donate all their tips to the public school system. I looked around on the net but couldn’t find anything about it… “exotic dancer donate school”, nothing.
We talked about metaphors for politics. Hers was a car metaphor, with the message that the car is too broken to fix anymore. “If good people could fix the machine it’d fucking be fixed.” This somewhat in opposition to Suzette Haden Elgin’s metaphor of “fixing the car” which I pointed out was a working-class idea of car-fixing as a social and collective activity rather than something that you pay an expert to do.
I really liked Teresa’s stories about the CR groups she led for her kids’ schools (which were 33/33/33 black/white/latino) on race, called Colorblind 101. They met once a week for three weeks, allowing lots of time for breathing space, homework, and private discussions. They used hand signals to indicate group problems like “lower your voice, you’re shouting” which then passed into the general culture of the school in hallways, classrooms, etc. They also did polls for “the most irritating person” and discovered that people were most irritated by people of their own race.
I talked about people’s fear of being weird, and how people who don’t have it, or don’t want it, signify. Signifying it is useful. What does it take to help other people be comfortable with “being weird”… This was in a context of us both telling stories about being the only visible non-republicans in our mock elections in school. In her class, she was the only one not to vote for Nixon. I was the only non-Reagan voter, one year. And we talked about how what big city folks don’t get: to be that one non-mainstream in this fairly small within-the-system way, meant to othes that we were commie pinko liberal hippie faggot freaks. People would come up to me and call me that because I would say that I didn’t like Reagan. The margin of what “weird” was had been pushed out so quickly! All you had to do was stick out a tiny bit, and you became the devil. This is the fear that drives the Democratic machine into nothingness. (Here, you can imagine, extended from Giddings to Brenham, the rant from Teresa about Democrat party politics…) So, how to get people comfortable with being weird? They need safety, (insert other long mutual digression about how it’s not actually SAFE for people to stick out; their families, jobs, etc, which is why they leave, which is why they end up urban.) They need safety and they need ways to practice. This whole long idea is part of why I hate it when people make fun of people’s seemingly trivial ways of trying a noncomformist behavior; it is practice. By which I mean both practice for the ‘real thing’ and also, in many ways it is the real thing and is ‘daily practice of a discipline’.
Then we talked about health and doctors, mold, aspergillis, glycoprotein, fibromyalgia, and realizing one’s own boundaries. The supreme importance of sleep! Which I violate RIGHT NOW.
I called Mark and Darrin, who worked so very hard in the Astrodome and for months and months afterwards (and work on helping, still) swooping down on them as a surprise! What a treat to see them! They make Houston all shiny! They told me more stories about democratic politics – this time a depressing but cool one about precincts. Only like 60 people from their precinct bothered to vote, and as many Repubs didn’t vote as Dems.. general apathy… and in the meeting afterwards you show up and put your points forward to the general party, or state, or something… I was unclear on this, but the point is they were the only 2 people to show up, so the PFLAG agenda was sent off to the state democrats. Also … nice news in that they got married after the Prop. 2 anti-gay marriage bill was passed by the state election last fall. CONGRATS Mark and Darrin!!!!!!! Bad news in that only 15 couples showed up at the highly publicized protest where people went to ask for marriage licenses. You’d think in the 4th largest city in the nation, more than 30 people would have had the nerve to come out and get married.
My parents showed up with Moomin. I ran out to the car…
Moomin: Hi mom! How about if I don’t get out of the car.
Me: Hi Moomin! Darrin has a whole room full of only comic books.
With a look of unholy joy and expectation on his face, the sort that you’d wish your small child would have for you as he ran into your arms after a week of separation, Moomin ran right past me into the house, yelling, “COMIC BOOKS!”