Thursday, December 22, 2011

Krispy K. Kreme

December 22nd brings grey rain on Nashville. I am served by a short middle-easternish looking woman wearing a sweet albeit perfunctory smile and her issued red polo shirt encrusted with sugar and the classic Krispy Kreme logo. She wears too much eye-shadow to be able to tell her age. I am enjoying a maple iced glazed donut and wondering what the unnecessary use of the Ks in the name would have signified in late 1930s Winston-Salem, North Carolina where the first of these opened. But I refuse to let the spectre of racism ruin the enjoyment of my "breakfast" (it's hard to say that deep-fried bleached-flour dough circles slathered with pure sugar constitute a meal. Such is the conceit, however). I don't understand the substitution of the K for the C in advertising and branding. I don't know what the desired effect is. Some examples: Mortal Kombat (video game), Korn (lousy metal band), Kustom Kleaners (dry cleaners), Kreative Kuts (hair salon). The list goes on. What are they trying to say with this? They have taken a liberty with standard spelling, and somehow it translates into this sly wink. "You know there's a C there usually. We know it, too. We know how to spell. So what? We're just kinda crazy like this with our Ks sometimes. We mix it up, we know how to have fun, but as per the legibility of the rest of the word, we can exercise restraint and exhibit professionality as well. The spelling of this word is strange and yet familiar, intriguing and comforting at the same time. We do things differently, here. We defy your expectations." Perhaps Vernon Rudolph, the prima progenitor of this donut franchise, thought some of these things. And maybe he was among the ranks of the white, hooded men. Yes, in fact, I submit that his reason for using the Ks in such a fashion must be attributable to either A. an aforementioned rhetorical ploy of devil-may-care advertising OR, B. a subtle exhibition or even subconscious confession of membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Or both.

I digress, for my story is about a woman demanding donuts. I am sitting rambling to myself about the K.K.K, and a woman walks in with streak dyed dirty blond hair, Christmas colored clothes matched and balanced, a shiny black faux-reptile skin purse and a "fuck yall" look on her face. She marches toward the counter and blurts out at the first employee she sees (the petite Arab), "I don't have a job and I got eight people to feed!" At this point I think she expected the employee to punch a red button behind the counter which would send everyone into emergency-donut-making-mode. Rosie the Riveter style save-the-world efficiency would erupt. The long donut conveyor belt would start cranking double-time, employees would no doubt get burned by flung grease and boiling hot sugar (such are the casualties of emergency-donut-production). But the employee said the right thing: "Excuse me?" Reptile purse lady repeats the line, "I don't have a job and I got eight people to feed!" There are just too many questions here to ask, so I'll let you ask them and proceed with the story as I was able to discern it from my vantage point. Eventually I heard that the had a sheet of eight or so coupons for "One Free Donut." Of course they are one per customer and the eight people whom she has to feed have to be present to get their donut with the individual coupons. (Questions: where are they? This Krispy Kreme is not in a very residential area. From where did she drive to acquire this free breakfast for herself and her. . . I don't know, fellow recent laid off friends?) Reptile lady is persistent, though, and gets all her donuts, free. And she is absolutely, self-righteously indignant the whole time. From the moment she walks in the door she is already pissed that the employees there had not prophesied her urgent need for donuts, met her at the door with the box and sent her on "God speed, good lady! Go, do not delay! Feed your reptile friends!" I couldn't imagine what strange mongoose of the heart had haunted the reptile into making such erratic demands. But it kind of made me want to see if I had what it took, made me want to storm the counter saying, "I don't know what I'm doing with my life and I got weak dreams to feed! Can I. . . can I please have a free Kool Kreme Doughnut Shake? Strawberry, please."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Puzzle, Fortress, 1992

I’ve recently been managing an addiction to the Showtime TV series Dexter. It’s been out of control at times, I’ll admit, and has mirrored the Harry Potter and Lost problems that I somehow overcame (mostly, I think, by completely satiating those desires with all the available material). As I’ve paused to reflect on this new escape into narrative, I remembered my abandoned blog and the feeble attempt I made therein to fill in some of the blanks of my own narrative. Not in a plot-smart (or even plot-conscious) way. Not necessarily to instruct, perhaps to entertain. Not to turn back the veil on anything big. But to put some of the puzzle pieces of a life out there because their color and shape, though not easy to place, are interesting in and of themselves; because every puzzle piece is itself its own strange little puzzle. And I have a box full of them, so why not?
This one is of those dark, background pieces, where several of the pieces look the same and the front of the box isn’t any help. At the top of a steep hill, a longish piece of front yardage about forty feet wide and twice as long, sits a red and brown brick ranch house. Behind, obscured from street-view, is a fenced in backyard with one of those DIY kit treeless tree-houses, only a few years old but already in disrepair. In it I’m sitting, fuming and sad, as my fortress of solitude is pummeled with soccer balls, footballs, and various other weaponized yard debris, picked up and beamed at me in rapid succession to maintain the assault’s fever pitch. My assailants are Drew Carlisle and Joanna Wilkey, and though I’m foggy on their exact motivation (this corner of the piece is three shades of black), their malignance is by no means unjustified. I recall vaguely the gist of the antagonisms: I hated their proficiency at sports, which I lacked; I aimed this at them with words of hatred; they aimed back with their aforementioned immaculate hand-eye coordination before I knew what the meaning of the word irony was. Which is ironic, how many ironic situations someone might find themselves in before knowing what the word means. I think whenever you find out what it means, irony loses half the chances it had before. Suggesting, of course, that the people at Irony, Inc. bought the dictionary companies and made all the cover art completely unappealing.
That was all there was to that moment, really. I don’t remember how it was resolved. Likely, Joanna’s mom poked her head out the back door and told us it was time to go to school and we all dropped the war in the grass and stuffed the hatred in our pockets for safekeeping. I also remember that Drew, who because he was very smart could lie better than any of us, once told us about a rally for Bill Clinton that he and his dad went to where some lady flashed her tits at everyone. I dunno, I guess it might be true. 1992 was crazy.

Monday, January 3, 2011

An Onion

Lately, I have found
that thinking on my sins
is like pealing through
the layers of an onion:
that is, that it stinks,
makes me cry uncontrollably,
and, I've decided, would
not be good in my salad
after all.

Humiliation! Starring Matthew Blackwell and Seabass(?)

Matthew Blackwell was another victim of the Shannon (cf. Shannon Shelton entry). Matthew garnered the approval of Shannon and her minions by doing absurd dances on command (Shannon like Jabba the Hutt-ess, stuffing alien froglike things into her giant mouth, summoning more entertainment with a wave of her creepy puppet arm). Matthew was no buxom slave-girl, however, no Slave Leia (if you haven't seen Return of te Jedi enough to understand my references, then you're just not cool enough to read this blog). He was just a chubby kid who wanted to be liked, and thought that everyone's laughter was somehow with him, as friends, when it was clear that it was at him, as. . . let's say drunken cannibals (as children, in their hearts, often are). In spite of all this inflammatory rhetoric aimed at the Shannon, a confession seems appropriate here, for a hopefully instructive comparison. About 2 years ago when I was working as a substitute teacher, I subbed for an elementary Special Ed. class a few times. I was requested specifically after the first time because the other teachers (Note: Special Ed. classes are team-taught for reaons of manageability) liked me a lot and wanted me back. These ladies had a lot of fun doing their job, which was refreshing in a Special Ed. class. I'd subbed in Special Ed. classes before that had a cloud hanging over them all day, where the teachers seemed to think that kids preferred heavy pity and obsessive coddling to a love that was both tougher and lighter--what most kids need and prefer. There was one kid, Sebastion, who was maybe 8 and had Down's Syndrome. He was affectionally referred to as "Seabass," and generally beloved by all. One of Seabass's favorite things to do, and one of the teachers' favorite things to prompt him to do, was dance to music. Particularly, in a moment of spotlighting him on the floor, we would all clap in rhythm and yell "Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!" and Seabass would do this crazy air-humping thing that cracked us all up, and which he enjoyed thoroughly. What is the difference, I wonder, between our interaction with Seabass and Shannon's with Matthew? I think we all genuinely cared for Seabass and showed him the kind of love kids need. I don't think that Shannon actually cared about Matthew in this same way. But I truly wonder, and to be safe, will ask for forgiveness.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Careless Talk: Jennifer Crocker

I cannot remember whether it was third or fourth grade, only that I did not know what sex was. Only that it involved kissing and nudity with someone whom you "liked," and that it was to be desired. When I said what I said, I wonder if in part I was throwing a line out there, begging someone to say something about sex that would clear it up for me? What I said to Seth Gleaves and some others at the lunch table that day (I believe that it was in the Fall) was: "I want to have sex with Jenny Crocker." Again, I really had no clue. Like maybe we would kiss for awhile naked and then at a certain point we would "have" sex. . . "having" being like consuming something. . . did I picture the climactic action as something like eating a parfait together? What would we "have" together? And yet I knew the language of "having" proper to sex; I didn't say "I'm gonna do a sex with her," or "We're gonna do sex to each other." I knew the grammar, but not the meaning, or even a half-adequate image. But I said it. The kids around me were shocked. They couldn't believe that someone they knew -a peer, no less- was going to have sex. Well I was, it was settled. Made up my mind. I was not aware of the predatory tone of this claim, but Seth was (did he know something I didn't? Did he get "the talk" long before I got the news of what it really was?) Seth scrambled to the other end of the lunch table and sat across from Jenny Crocker and her mom, Betty Crocker, who was eating at school with Jenny that day. I've never had much luck with timing (not that there's ever a good time for a child to voice their naive, rape-esque plans). I can remember Seth's face. As he reported my words to Jenny and her mother, he had a look on his face like he was revealing the secret plot of a criminal to a policeman. I don't remember being that nervous regarding what her response might be. I still didn't know what sex was or why it was a big deal, really. I thought knowledge of it was suppressed because it was something like doing a backflip on a trampoline: fun, but dangerous, and therefore inadvisable (and perhaps there's some truth in that). When lunch was almost over, Betty Crocker got up to leave and as she passed behind me leaned down and said in my ear (loudly, not whispering), "You just keep your ideas about sex to yourself, mister!" Which wasn't perhaps the most constructive response. I feel that I should have been taken very seriously, or not seriously at all. She should have addressed it more directly. I should have gotten in a shit-heap of trouble. But it was enough to keep me from talking about sex anymore until fifth grade, when I talked about it every day and still didn't really know what it was.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cruelties Received: Antione Struthers/Felipe Santos

Antione Struthers was smaller than me, but he had the biggest damn mouth at Pennington Elementary School. And he had power, somehow, with that mouth. I think that Felipe's loyalty to Antione was familial, a first or second cousin, perhaps. Though I vaguely feel that their picking on me was ongoing, I remember only specifically one day outside at PE when Felipe was running after me, throwing tennis balls at my legs per Antione's instructions. Felipe called me "Marcus da Carcass." I think he just liked the rhyme, and didn't realize how terrifying it was for a third grader with abnormally large muscles to refer to me laughingly as a "carcass." Clearly he intended to kill me eventually, after playing with me for a time, like a cat with a mouse. It wasn't personal at all, somehow. Sometimes Felipe would just talk to me casually as if we were friends, and he seemed genuinely nice. And then Antoine would walk up and Felipe would remember that he was supposed to hate me. I only felt mildly terrorized. We were pretty heavily supervised, so they couldn't get away with much. Towards the end of my fourth grade year, though, Antione told me "When we get over to Buena Vista, there ain't gonna be nobody there to protect you." We were both headed to Buena Vista next year for fifth grade, a school right across the street from a rough area of government housing. I sweated bullets for roughly the next eight months of my life, constantly looking over my shoulder once I got to Buena Vista, expecting little Antoine to shiv me. I actually never saw him there at Buena Vista at all, and don't know what happened to him and Felipe.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Ferris Family's Pool

I was trying to step onto a pool float. It was one of those that was body-length, made for lying on to tan. I didn't know how to swim but thought "Well, as long as I just stay on top of the float, I won't even touch the water." So I just tried to step on it with all my weight and it slipped up and I fell into the six foot end of the pool. I took in some water and thought I was going to die, and after what felt like a long time a hand grabbed me up and pulled me out. I don't think that my dad was a good swimmer either, so that's why he didn't jump in to get me, lifeguard style. He just laid flat on his stomach by the side of the pool and kinda rooted around in the water for me. I think I coughed up some water for a minute, and then headed inside to warm up and probably cry because I felt horrible. I remember everyone sitting at a table close to the pool laughing hysterically. In my memory, they are all looking at me, pointing, clearly very amused at the foolish spectacle I had made of myself. This seems ridiculous, though, and I'm sure they must've been somewhat oblivious of the situation (which was, I think, both more inconspicuous and short-lived than I had thought). I didn't see this, though. I was sure they were laughing at me, and screamed as loud as I could at them "It's not funny! I almost died!" I remember hating them so much for what I perceived as their perverse calluosness. I really had thought I was going to die. I was pretty scared of the water thereafter and didn't learn how to swim until I was sixteen or so. Like my father, I'm still not a strong swimmer.