The Downside of Hamming It Up

You know that thing that I wrote about in my last post? About how much I love reading my work in public? How, basically, I encouraged everyone to run out the front door and just start hamming it up? Well, I’ve thought about it for a bit, and I believe I was somewhat irresponsible in my advice.

Being a ham runs in our family. The attractive gentleman pictured above was a cousin of mine. Back in the day, he was a bandleader for Jackie Gleason and Ed Sullivan. I’m pretty sure he never slept with Marilyn Monroe, but I’ll bet you he slept with that photo under his pillow until the day he died.

As a young woman, my grandmother did community theater in New York. I was once a singing telegram girl. My son’s a musician and my daughter is a karaoke addict. Amadeus has played in hundreds of bands over the years. It’s never been a problem for any of us, until recently.

Here’s a short documentary I just completed. I made it in hopes of educating the public about the dangers of applause addiction. I can only hope that someone, somewhere will benefit from it. Releasing one’s inner ham can be a beautiful, fulfilling experience. It can also be quite devastating. This is the story of one of our family members, who struggles daily with AOD (Attention Overdose Disorder). Please, don’t clap for her at the end. 

(Red, White and) Blue Monday

Formerly a fashion statement, now a work requirement. My youngest child (who, technically, isn’t a child anymore) is leaving for Air Force Basic Training (aka boot camp, aka Hell) tomorrow. We’re not quite sure how long she’ll be gone, because after graduation, she’s due to attend two or three technical schools. The length of her absence depends on the availability of space at the schools. She could be gone for two months, she could be gone for six or more. We just don’t know. In the meantime, she’s leaving behind the Grandpea, whose loving care will be provided by the Pea’s father, Amadeus and me, among others. It takes a village to raise a child, and this kid’s got one the size of Bangladesh.

I’m incredibly proud of my daughter. She’s as strong as a steel beam, as determined to succeed as Moses was to get to the Promised Land. For her, the Promised Land is an expanse of G.I. Bills, education and a secure future for her and her toddlerette. It blows my mind that she’s made this decision. You may remember reading about this little hellion over the years (I’ll add some links at the end of this post in case you don’t). This is my wild child- she of tats and piercings and detentions and in-your-face arguments with teachers and principals, usually regarding her principles. She refused to even pledge allegiance to the flag for a while there. But here she is, just a few years later, ready to kick ass, defend and serve. She scored extremely high on her ASVAB exam, which is the reason they’re sending her to all of those schools.

Despite the fact that she’s gutsy and intelligent, I worry about her on an almost hourly basis. She’s lovely, she’s tiny, she’s a girl working amongst a bunch of Big Burly Guys. My little girl. Behind her tough-broad façade lies a gentle, trusting angel of a thing. Her heart is beautiful and marshmallowy soft, and she’s still at an age (twenty-two) that she sometimes gives it too freely. It’s a rite of passage that we all go through, those years in which we learn to make it on our own, discern who the good guys are and determine who we let into our circle. For me, it was a difficult age, and I’m having flashbacks of creeps and predators and soul suckers. I was a lot more naïve and confused (and stupid) than she is, but still…

They’re going to scream at my baby, those Big Mean Drill Sergeants. They’re going to make her run forty miles a day and sweat until she collapses like a wilted collard green. They’ll force her to wear granny panties, sleep under an itchy wool blanket, eat K-rations and scrub toilets with a toothbrush. Worst of all, they’re going to take away her hair products and makeup. They obviously don’t understand the power of femininity. The eyeliner pen is mightier than the sword.

Anyway…it’s been a rough week. Amadeus and I took her to dinner on Friday, invited her over on Sunday and she’s coming to hang out with me later today. She and her little nuclear family are clinging to each other for a few last hours, and we’re clinging too. Tomorrow, I’ll go with her to her base to see her off, and though it’s only about forty-five minutes from here, I’m guessing that the ride will seem as long as if we were driving to Potsdam (Germany, not New York). It’s a new chapter, an exciting time. We all know she’s going to excel. She has no doubt she’s made the right decision. It’s one of those retrospective deals, where in the end, we’ll all be thankful that she did it. But for now, we’re as blue as the square behind those stars on an American flag, the one she’ll be proudly saluting from here on out.

I’ve come here seeking solace and distraction. If you’re reading this, and you send me a few words of cheer– a joke, advice or a happy little line or two (or a quarter of a million dollars)– I’ll send you a coupon for a free copy of my e-book, Peculiar Rhymes and Intimate Observations. This offer ends tomorrow, December 4th. After that, I’m sure I’ll be okay. I think. I hope.

Cheer-Sending Options:

The Comments Section of this post

E-mail: moonbeammcqueen at yahoo dot com

Twitter: @moonbeammcqueen

Thanks so much, everyone– I hope you have a happy, healthy, wondrous week. ♥ ♥ ♥

A few wistful, long-ago posts about my daughter:

Mother-Daughter Tattoos

My Daughter: In Trouble Again

A Visit From My Daughter: The Worn Carpet Treatment

Drama Queens, Kings, Princes, Princesses, Dukes, Duchesses, Barons, etc.

“Did you see that?” I asked Tom as we were driving around a few weeks ago.

“No. What?”

“A woman was sitting on her porch with no top on. No top and no bra. Just shorts. I swear it.”

“Old or young?” he asked sort of wistfully.

“Young. She was sitting on a chair on the front porch with her dog. She looked sleepy or hungover or something. There must be something wrong with her.”

Tom sighed, obviously disappointed that this Kodak moment had been wasted on the likes of me.

“Go on. Drive around the block. I don’t care,” I told him. And I truly didn’t. My Penthouse centerfold days are long behind me. Okay, okay, I never had Penthouse centerfold days, but if I had, I’d be retired by now. Anyway, he drove optimistically around the block, but when we came back to the house on the hill, the young woman was gone.

“Sorry,” I said, rather insincerely. Because the fact of the matter is, this kind of stuff is just not that unusual around here. The drama in this area is so pervasive, someone should be walking around with an armload of Oscars, handing them out on a daily basis. I’m sure there will be another topless woman in Tom’s future, just like there was the masturbating woman he saw at the post office a few months ago. That one broke his heart.

“We all just stood around and pretended she wasn’t doing it,” Tom told me. “It was so sad.” It sounded sad, too. The woman was out of her mind, and was asking confused questions of the postal worker at the counter, none of which had anything to do with the U.S. mail.

All of this came to mind earlier today, when I walked out of Walgreen’s. On the walk to my car, which took all of thirty seconds, I saw the following:

  • A woman who appeared to be in her sixties was yelling at the wind, or God, or the ghost of her dead husband Floyd, I guess. There was no one standing in the direction that she was shouting.
  • A humongously round man who was trying to figure out what to do with this toddler, who was screeching at the top of her pink-shirted lungs. The poor fellow was immobilized; he was carrying a big satchel, and couldn’t pick up the kid. Every once in a while he’d try to budge her by pulling her up by her arm, but she wasn’t buying it, so he sort of dragged her a few inches, let her sit and screech, then repeated the process over and over. I figure they should reach their destination some time tomorrow afternoon.
  • Four women standing under a tree next to a convenience store, fighting. There were two main fighters, a pretty young black woman and a harsh-looking middle-aged white woman who sported short, crayon yellow hair and a big white t-shirt. The black woman was on a tirade– I don’t know what the other woman did, but it seemed that the general consensus was that she had this speech coming to her. The young woman screeched and ranted while the others softly chimed in and nodded their agreement. The older woman was agitated– “I done told you I was sorry,” she yelled, puffing on a cigarette.” She wasn’t going to be let off so easily.

“Well you shouldn’t have done it in the first place!” The other woman screamed. She was angry, I tell you.

Whew! I got into my car. I didn’t even want to see what else was going on around me.

And the Oscar goes to…hell, I don’t know. How does all of this happen? I’m just telling you about this one little space and time, but it goes on constantly– it seems that when the weather’s pretty, the streets are packed with people, and you can see their relationships playing out in living color — some are holding hands, some are making deals, some are talking to themselves or stripping, riding bikes, or walking big dogs. Others are just being neighborly, and some are wearing boxing gloves. Sometimes there’s gunfire.

It’s not all of Dayton– the closer you drive to suburbia (not that suburbia is all that appealing either), the calmer things are, but this area that I’m living in gets a little insane. It’s crazy and colorful, and often sad and scary. I wish I were a super hero. “Never fear–Dayton Girl is here!” Of course, I’d be built a lot like the woman pictured above, and blond to boot. I’d fly around the city, handing topless women shirts, conversing with lonely ladies who talk to themselves, helping fat guys calm their toddlers, busting up fights, and hypnotizing people into believing the whole “hugs, not drugs” thing. Maybe something less shmaltzy. “Hacky sack–not crack.”

I don’t imagine that the antics that go on in this area are necessarily that much crazier than what goes on behind closed doors in many houses in the burbs. Maybe it’s the fact that the houses are smaller around here that so much of the drama goes on outdoors. Maybe this unnerves me so much because I’m from the south, where people tend to keep their alcoholic tirades genteel and air their dirty laundry in their own back yards. In whispers.

There are good aspects to this town and good people in this neighborhood. I’m making new discoveries and meeting some great people. I plan to write about some of this in my next post or two. I truly don’t mean to whine or complain. It’s just that when I see some of this stuff, I don’t know what to do with it yet. I’m learning, but in the meantime, I’m dumping it here. Sorry, you poor readers.

I’ve just never lived in a place like this.