Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Eulogy for Some Khaki Shorts

I read once that newspapers have ongoing obituaries for celebrities and other famous people. They're called "advances", and by compiling them first and adding onto them as years go by, the writers can build and fact-check ahead of time so that when a celebrity dies, the newspaper can add in a few last facts and release it within hours or even moments of the announcement.

As a person who rarely plans in advance for anything -- dinner, stopping for gas, laundry -- I find this fascinating and smart.

As a person who struggles with goodbyes in any form, I find it freakish and morbid. It makes me glad to not be famous. It's enough to have cameras lurking around your bushes or following you to Starbucks; think of some lonely writer in the basement of your hometown gazette adding your latest Oscar nomination or car crash to your file, waiting for the day you croak and his touching tribute will land on everyone's doorstep.

But there are times where it's important to be prepared. Times where you must steel yourself against a loss that changes something in your very soul. Times where you ease into your goodbye slowly, like dipping a toe into the frigid ocean as opposed to waiting for a typhoon to swallow you up.

And so I begin to say goodbye to my favorite pair of khaki shorts.

Yes, I'm fully aware that may be the whitest white person sentence I've ever written. I own it, and I hate myself for it. The idea of khaki shorts is so suburban America, and the idea of having a beloved pair is downright embarrassing on levels I'm still learning to navigate. At least they weren't pleated.

But I'm sad, y'all.

I've seen it coming for a while now, and with each wear and wash, I have felt the slow creep of the trash can drawing near.

Oh, Death, thou art so beige.

I don't know how old these shorts are; I can't even measure time in BK or AK. I bought them at a discount store called Ellis Half Off which was remarkable because it was a dingy store front in a questionable part of our neighborhood, and all it contained was the irregulars and cast-offs from Target.

Can you imagine? Target. Cast-offs. Discounts. It's been gone for years, but that's grief I've already processed.

I found several pairs of khaki shorts there (one can never have too many khaki shorts and white t-shirts for your summer), but as it was a store of irregulars, this pair was the only one to fit. They had to be under $3.00 because nothing in there cost more than a bag of Taco Bell. This was its magic.

The tag read the wrong size, but over the years, the shorts have adapted to whatever size I had become. Lose a few pounds and the drawstring serves its purpose. Gain a few pounds and the cotton stretches fearlessly.

They're like the jeans from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, except they're shorts, and I'm not about to let someone else borrow them. Get your own khakis, sister.

I once spilled bright orange paint on them in the Health House at El Tesoro. It's been nearly a decade since I sat at that table, painting rocks and guzzling homemade salsa. I relegated them to camp shorts and lounge shorts after that, but within a few washes, the paint vanished.

They magically healed themselves to stay in my life, y'all. Khaki miracles are real.

With me, they've traveled a lot, and it shows.
My thighs rub like three wishes are gonna get granted.
The wear and tear is so real. Girls, I know you hear me.
They've traversed hundreds of miles over two different summer camps. They've soaked up the saltwater from the Atlantic and the chlorine from pools across Texas. They've helped me set up nearly every classroom I've been in at my school, and they comforted me through long, hot Saturday mornings, grading papers without A/C. They've taken hundreds of truck rides at the ranch and sat on the world's filthiest curb on Bourbon Street.

Even after a lifetime soaking in Tide and OxiClean, they smell like campfire smoke and homesick tears, cedar trees and freshly cut grass, spilled vodka and soft cotton. And they feel like going home.

I don't wear them out much anymore. They're the kind of shorts that you have to pre-plan your undergaments around because not only are they threadbare in places, but the seams threaten suicide on any given deep squat. And we've established I'm not much of a pre-planner.

In truth, the last couple of times I wore them on an errand, I scoped out my escape routes in case such a moment (and my underwears) came to light. This is not an anxiety that should accompany you to the public library.

Overdue books, yes. Your khaki shorts rotting off of your body, thread-by-thread, in the biography section, no.

So with much regret, I have decided their end is near.

I toyed with several methods of farewell: sewing shears, the Salvation Army donation box, a little Boyz II Men karaoke tribute, a Viking funeral.

None seemed appropriate.

So, I came home, placed them in the wash one more time and will place them in a box of other beloved but retired things.

And maybe next time I'm feeling sentimental or headed to the beach, I'll take them out to find them healed once more.
The orange paint glob was right there on the left leg, I swear it.
Farewell, old friend. It is, in fact, so hard to say goodbye.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Flourish and Flair

Today is my dad's birthday. And since he loved to laugh, I'm going to tell a funny story. Even better, I'm going to tell a story on myself which would only make him laugh harder...

Several years ago, my mom and dad decided to go on a gambling trip to Shreveport. And since it was my birthday, they offered to take me along with two of my friends, Heather and Courtney. I had never been gambling before, and I was beyond excited. You see, learning to gamble is like learning to walk in my family, and I was feeling about 27 years behind schedule. I spent days looking up hotels and casinos and studying the rules of games. (I'm a nerd; studying is what soothes my anxiety). 

As time grew nearer and my mother questioned more and more about where we'd like to stay, I threw up my hands one day in despair while sitting in the coaches' office. 

"I don't understand," I complained. "Everywhere I look I cannot find any hotels in Shreveport." 

"What do you mean? There are lots of hotels and casinos in Shreveport," replied Heather. 

"No. I type in 'hotels in Shreveport' and nothing comes up. The closest I can find is somewhere called Boss-ee-ay City." 

"I'm sorry. What?" 

And so, I said it again. "Boss-ee-ay City." Only I didn't just say it, I slowed it down and spoke really loudly as if I were speaking to someone mildly deaf or obviously foreign. 

BOSS-EEEE-AYYYYY CITYYYY. Just like that. 

Stifling laughter, Heather replied, "Do you mean Bossier City?" But she said it all slow and simple -- BOZYER -- as if she was speaking to a 2nd grader. An obviously foreign 2nd grader. 

Realizing my complete ineptitude and waste of four days of Google searches, I immediately hid my embarrassment with indignant outrage. Because the best defense is ALWAYS indignant outrage. And as both a perfectionist and an English teacher, I get especially embarrassed when I mess up words. 

So you can guess that I was at DEFCON 1 for outrage. 





"There's no Z in there! That's stupid."

"Why don't they just call it Shreveport? They should just call it Shreveport."

"I've never even been to Louisiana. How should I know what they call their dumb ol' towns?"

And, my personal favorite last grasp... etymology. 

"Well, Louisiana was founded by French people so I just assumed it was a very French pronunciation. Boss-ee-ay. Like it would end with a flourish. With some FLAIR." 

I have to hand it to Heather. Until that point she had held it together pretty well until that very moment. But listening to me rant about the flourish and flair of the French language (which I do not speak) sent her into convulsive fits of laughter that included tears and a near asthma attack. 


After a few moments/hours/days, I finally began to see the humor of the situation. And as I am always unable to resist the temptation of making someone laugh, I confided my language faux pas (and that one IS French with all kinds of flourish) to Courtney as we drove to Louisiana. As expected, I was rewarded with guffaws and snorts, but this time it was okay because I was laughing along.

***FLASH FORWARD*** to the elevator ride up to our rooms at our hotel, the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino. 

We have been friends for two decades now, and the strongest common thread in our friendship is the ability to hit each other with the perfect inside joke reference when the other least expects it. A humorous sucker punch if you will. A zing.

In fact, it's my favorite thing, and I consider myself a zinger ninja. So in the elevator, this is what happened. Courtney hit me with a mispronunciation allusion, my cheeks flamed red, and then we collapsed into laughter. Not being in on the joke, my mom immediately asked what it was we were going on about.

Against my better judgment, I let Court and Heather tell the story. My father just shook his head. My mother was incredulous. Even more, she was delighted. 

See, I come by my zinger stealth naturally. For the next two days, it was a nonstop barrage.

"Should we stay here at the Horsey-hoe (Horseshoe)? Or go on to the Isle of CaPRY (Capri)?"

"I heard they were winning big at Hair-RAWS (Harrah's)."

"I love LOUIS-EYE-ANNA. Let's tour it in our Chev-o-roll-lay coop-pay!"

They practically vomited fake French flourish and flair all over my bruised ego.

But every time they did it, there was my dad, chastising them to leave me alone. It wasn't funny. I learned my lesson. All my life, he'd been my protector -- my Daddy Dean -- and this was no different. Each time they pestered, he'd swat them away.

You're never too old to be a daddy's girl.

When we returned home to Fort Worth, my parents and I hauled in our luggage, and my dad took up his post on my couch with Pat Sajak babbling away on the television. Heather and Courtney had talked them into staying the night instead of going home so that they could match wits with my mother, a legendary Scrabble player. As we headed out the door to Heather's for dinner and Scrabble, I asked my dad one last time if he'd like to join us.

Eyes closed, just a hint of a smile at the corners of his mouth, and without missing a beat, he replied...

"No, I think I'll hang out here for a while. Watch some Wheel of For-too-NAY."

And as my mother cackled and my shoulders slumped, I remembered how good it feels to sit on a joke until just the right moment. And he hit me from the top rope... with flair.

Nope, you're never too old to be a daddy's girl. Or a well-deserved punchline.

Happy Birthday, Pops. Your girl misses you big.