Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dear Diary: You Are Appreciated

May 10, 2012

Dear Diary:

It was Thursday, May 10th.  The day began like any other, which is to say with a bowl of Raisin Bran Crunch, a bottle of whiskey, and “The Bee Gees Greatest Hits” playing in my mind’s ear.  Mother’s Day Weekend was fast approaching and there were still miles to go before I slept.  There was no time to waste. Actually, there was some time to waste, as I had taken the next two days off from work, and didn’t have to be at my volunteer event until 10:00.  Besides, I knew a shortcut.  Well, not a “shortcut” per se.  I just drove really fast and took liberties with the legal interpretation of the traffic light color spectrum.  (It turns out interpretive driving is just as effective as any shortcut.)

First on the docket was my annual two-day stint at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure packet pick-up, or as it was oft-referred, “Yeah, I’m going to Hell.”  As 9 am rolled around, it was time to get dressed.  As is customary with such events, volunteers had been provided t-shirts to enable those in need to identify the individuals who possessed the skills and knowledge to help them through their journey from the general populace.  The wheat from the chaff.  The riff from the proverbial raff.  These individuals had undergone hours of rigorous training in order that they may avail themselves to the community what had given them so much; that they may adequately represent those that had entrusted them to be the face of their organization.  As I pulled that bright yellow shirt with the giant pink ribbon made up of smaller ribbons over my six-foot four inch athletic frame, I knew I was part of something special.  I ran to my bedroom window, threw open the sash, and yelled, “Good morning, Sir and / or Madam.  How may I be of service?”  I had officially availed myself.  I was available, as it were.  At least, I would be once I put on pants.

When I arrived at the place where I was to make magic happen, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and reviewed my internal game plan.  “Let’s shock this monkey,” I said under my breath as I opened the door and headed into the fray.  When I got inside, there was an enormous amount of hustle in lockstep with its requisite bustle.  People were setting up merchandise, unpacking boxes, hanging banners, and folding t-shirts.  (Not to mention the people who were trying to sell and service cars.  This was, after all, a fully-functioning car dealership.)  When I walked into the room, all activity stopped and everyone took notice.  Was it the blindingly bright yellow t-shirt?  Was it the shadow cast by my towering, athletic frame?  Was it the fact that my towering, athletic frame draped in a yellow and pink t-shirt, when combined with my natural masculine aura struck a chord that reminded people of mythological heroes from childhood readings and recent cinematic triumphs?  Yes…yes, it was.  After 15 seconds of standing comfortably silent with my chest puffed out and arms akimbo, a single voice proclaimed “The Champ is here!” allowing work to resume.

“You ready to grab some boxes from the back of the truck, Your Majesty?” one of the volunteer coordinators asked.  “I honestly don’t know why we agree to your choreographed entrance every year.  The only thing missing is a cape and a wind machine.”  (Note to self: Purchase cape and wind machine.  Scratch that.  Already have cape; purchase wind machine…and possibly some theme music.)
“Let’s sock this puppet!” I responded emphatically.

I delivered the needed boxes, introduced myself to the women who were in charge of folding and handing out the shirts –I’m sure there were guys in the area, as well, but let’s be honest—and headed back for further instruction.

“What do you need me to do, Lady Boss?”
“Can you make some signs that will tell people where they need to go?”
“Sure thang.  Let’s Cirque this Soleil.”
“Let’s rocky this road?”
“Let’s dry hump this camel?”
“Definitely not.”
“Well, I’m all out.”

After preparing and setting up the signage, I took my seat at the “grown-ups table”, as it were.  (They had me working the table for the kids’ race, last year.  They apparently thought better of it this year.  Can’t imagine why, what with my obvious rapore with the kiddies...and their single moms.  Oh, that’s why…Nevermind…I get it.)  A couple of minutes later, I was called over by the coordinator.

“Damion, can I see you over here for a second?”
“What’s up?” I asked in a way that says, “I know I’m in trouble, but let’s see if it’s for the thing I know I did or something else entirely, because they may not have discovered that other thing yet and why incriminate myself?”
“About these signs…”
“I asked you to make some signs to direct people to the different areas.”
“I was envisioning ‘Competitive Runners’, ‘Recreational’, ‘Survivors’, and ‘Kids’ Race’.”
“Your signs are ‘The Hotness’, ‘Cuties’, ‘Average’, ‘Unsure’, and ‘Single Moms’.”
“Do you see where I’m going with this?”
“If your question is ‘What about the guys?’ they are directed to stay outside and send in their significant other, hot friend, or of-age daughter.”
“That wasn’t my question, but now that you bring it up…”
“I should change ‘Average’ to ‘Great Personalities’?”
“I should change all of the signs?”
“Fine, but things could get awkward.  You know how bad I am at spotting wedding rings.”

After I adjusted the signage, I went back to my post (The Recreational Runners / Walkers table) to serve the public.  Why did I choose that table?  Volume.  Besides, I sat on the side next to the Competitive runners table.  So, I got to benefits of seeing the ultra-fit participants without having to deal with the time-consuming, heads-down work involved with looking up bib numbers.  (Editor’s Note: It wasn’t so much the “time-consuming” as the “heads-down” part that bothered me…because I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the people.  I am, after all, a man of them.)

Every now and again, the pace slowed, and I was able to engage in the interactions that I found to be the truly special part of volunteering: the getting-to-know-yous.

“…If you don’t mind my asking,” an athletic blonde with her hair in a ponytail, wearing Jackie-O sunglasses, a white peasant top, skinny jeans (they worked for her), and 6-inch stiletto heels began, “how did you get involved with this cause?”
“A friend of mine passed.  So, I do this to honor her.”
“That’s sweet.”
“It’s the least I can do.”
“Will I see you at the race tomorrow?”
“I’m ‘Sleeping In for the Cure’. So…” I said with a slight grin that would’ve been a much larger grin had I not caught it.
“Are you hitting on me?”
“That’d be inappropriate,” I responded with a look that said “wouldn’t…it?”
“Yes, it would.”
“Of course, it would…I was just letting you know…why it was…that you would not see me tomorrow…in the event you were…searching for me.  It’s going to be a beautiful day tomorrow, and I’d hate for you not to enjoy it.”

A few moments later, an athletic brunette with Ray-Bans pushed up to the top of her head, a tight blue tank top, black jogging shorts (i.e. small, high-cut shorts), and flip-flops made her way to the table.

“I like your shirt,” she said.
“Thank you.  I like yours, too.”  I said that second part in my head.
“How can I get a yellow one?”
(pondering appropriate responses…no…no…no…no…ye- no…no…yes) “You have to be a volunteer.”
“This is such a good cause.”
“It is.”
“I know people who have gone through this.  I’m very thankful that I have my health.  When I get down, I stop and think about people who are less fortunate.”
“I used to complain that I had no shoes until I found the man who stole my shoes, beat him down, and took his feet.”
“I don’t think that’s the way it goes.”
“They changed it to make it more family friendly.”
“I did not know that.”
“Few people do…few people do.”

“Damion,” one of the volunteer-coordinators called out, “can you help this woman take these boxes to her car?”
“I was going to help this woman with her shirtssss.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.  How many packets are you picking up?  Do you need a box?”
“I only have the one shirt.”
“It’s a big shirt.”
“I’m actually getting a Small.”
“But it’s…heavy…weight…cotton.”
“You’re sweet, but I’ll be alright.”
“Fine.  Where are these boxes?”
“I’m right over here…Unfortunately, I parked way at the end of the lot.”
“Of course, you did.”

When I returned to my post, the volunteer coordinator was waiting for me.
“You enjoyed that, didn’t you?” I asked.
“I did,” she responded as she skipped away with a big smile on her face.

Other than a minor issue stemming from a disagreement regarding whether or not it was appropriate to use volunteers to fold my laundry (they were bored; my laundry needed folding, let’s stone these two birds) the second day of volunteering was mostly uneventful.  (Ed’s Note: There was a tiny, barefoot brunette with giant sunglasses and a baby who brought me a tote bag filled with products from Bath and Body Works to give to a friend, but I won’t get into that as she may want royalties in the event this story makes it into the book.  I will say, however, that I promised to wear a top hat and tails and dance down the escalator the next time we went shopping.  Gonna regret that promise.)

Saturday, May 12th

Day 2 of Mother’s Day Weekend.  I had a full schedule.  My new coffee table was being delivered; I was going to hang out with a friend, who happened to be a single mom, to give her the final pieces of her Mother’s Day gift bonanza (gift-nanza?); and I was going to take my mom to church and dinner.  The plan was to surprise my mom.  I called my dad to let him know I was coming in late Saturday / early Sunday.  My dad, of course, was in Wilmington.  So, I called my mom to see how she was doing.

“Are you coming down this weekend?” she asked.
“Yes, I figured I’d make sure you went to church, seeing as how you slept in for Easter.”
“Good.  I hate being in this house alone.”

So, here was the dilemma: On the one hand, there’s my friend, who I had promised (and who deserved) a special Mother’s Day Weekend.  On the other hand, my Momz was alone…and was my Momz.  Everything would hinge on the delivery of the coffee table.  It took roughly 2 ½ hours to get to Raleigh.  The coffee table was scheduled to be at my house between 3:30PM and 6:30 PM.  If the coffee table was delivered at the front end, I was golden.  If not…screwed.  (Spoiler Alert: If things worked out for me, the name of this blog wouldn’t be “Paving the Road to Hell”; it’d be “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”.)

As the sands of the hourglass went by, so did the days of my life.  Long story short, the delivery truck arrived at 7:00 PM.  I was angry, but seeing as how the delivery guy walked from the street, down my front yard, and up the outside steps while carrying the coffee table, with one arm, on his shoulder, I decided to let him off with a warning.  (A warning that was in my mind, but I’m sure he gathered from the way I wrote my signature on the invoice, that I was less than thrilled at his tardiness.)

Now, it was time to get ready.  It would be roughly 8:30 before I could get on the road.  Whilst in the shower, I started running through various scenarios.  Spending time with Momz was never in question.  The question was would I be able to see mom before heading out to spend time with my friend, should I go see my friend first, or should I forego seeing my friend altogether and just hang out with Momz?  Technically, my friend did not know that there were more gifts coming or that I had written her a note --incredibly thoughtful note, if I do say so myself…which I do, ‘cause I am.  However, my friend was also a mom; a great mom; and she deserved to be celebrated.  What to do?  What to do?.

When I got out of the shower, there was the following message from my friend: “Can’t wait 2 c u”. Decision made.  Time to call Momz.

“Hello, Damion.”
“Heyyyy, Mommzzzz…”
“What’s up?”
“Coffee table was delivered late.  So, I am will not be by the house until late Saturday / early Sunday.”
“You don’t have to come down.  You can stay in Richmond and play with your new coffee table.”
(Ah, there is no guilt like mom-guilt. Subtle…pointed…laser-guided…mom-guilt.)
“I’m coming down, Mom.  Wouldn’t miss it.”

Since my pants had exploded the last time I saw her, I decided to stress-test my pants before heading to spend time with my friend.  I did some lunges, odd jumps, twists, turns, and “The Robot” (no real reason for that last one, it had just been awhile).  The pants survived.  My self-respect, on the other hand, took a very large hit.

Due to my late arrival, my friend had already eaten.  She noticed the gift and card.
“You got me something else?  I love your notes.”
‘What can I say?  I’m an old softy…Don’t!”
“Don’t what?  I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I’m sure.”
“C’mon.  You can massage me while I read the card.”
“You’re not gassy are you?”
“What?!?  What the hell kinda question is that?!?”
“I have ‘burped’ you several times.  Not to mention, I once threatened to tickle you, and you said, ‘Okay, but I’m gonna warn you; I’m gassy and holding it in.  So…’  Therefore, the question, while off-putting, is not without merit.”
“No, I’m not gassy!  I had seafood and rice for dinner if you must know!”
“Fiiiine.  Just asking.”
“I loved the chocolate-covered strawberries, by the way.  And the flowers were beautiful, as always.”
“Thank you.  I’ve always fancied myself a bit of a horticulturist.”
“That’s funny, I’ve always fancied you a bit of an ass.”
“And I’ve fancied you a bit of a --.”
“Don’t you dare!”
“What?  I was going to say ‘ticulturist’.”
“And I was going to stab you in the eye.”
“First of all, I’m not gonna lie to ya, I’m kinda turned on right now.  Secondly…Actually, there is no secondly.  Just seems like there should be after that first thing I said.”
“I’m not gonna lie to you.  I wish you were kidding.”
“As do I. My therapist, on the other hand, is glad I’m not.  What can I say?  I likes my ladies like I likes my Greenwich Time.”
“You’re an idiot…massage.”
“Yes, Ma’am.”
“That feels good.  What’d you do today?”
“I rode my bike through Switzerland.”
“How was that?”
“Lotta hills.  You’d think they’d advertise that more.  Warn people so they know what they’re getting into.”
“I think they do advertise it.  They’re called the Swiss Alps.  They’re kinda famous.”
“Well, I’m gonna need a little less Alps and a little more Miss…and Bikini Team.”
“That’s Sweden.”
“What’s Sweden?”
“The Swedish Bikini Team.  Don’t you know anything about geogra—(Burp)
“I’m sorry.  What was that?”
“Shut up.  That’s what that was.”
“I had seafood and rice.  I’m not gassy,” I said in a condescendingly high-pitched, know-it-all, girlie voice.
“Oh, you’re funny.  This from the guy who tried to convince a waitress that ‘Pay it Forward’ meant giving the bill to someone else.”
“It was an honest mistake.”
“There was nothing honest about that.”
“Cut me some slack, woman.”
“Oh, I’ll cut you.

After a few more hours, her Mother’s Day Weekend was over.  It was, by all indications, a rousing success.  I am so thoughtful.  Now, it was time to head to Durham to get some sleep and spend time with Momz…and the Lord.

Sunday, March 13th

The day began like every other Sunday, which is to say with me lying face-down on the floor and a voice in my head whispering, “Sometimes Life can keep you down with your face all in the dirt…Now, if you feel that left behind, you need to get up and go to church…”  (What can I say, turns out my inner voice listens to Outkast.)  Unlike most Sundays, however, this was one of the four Sundays I actually did go to church.  For the uninitiated, those four Sundays are: Easter, Mother’s Day, my Mom’s birthday, and Christmas.  Sure, I could go to church more frequently, but that would diminish the value of the times I did go to church, and I wasn’t going to do that to my Momz…or, for that matter, to Jesus.  (Editor’s Note:  You just can’t argue with that kind of logic.)

My mom knocked on the bedroom door.  “Are you still going to church today?” she asked.
“Of course, I’m going…it’s part of the gift.”
“Why are you face-down on the floor?”
“If we’re going to continue with this line of questioning, you may not be happy where it leads.  Let’s just say I’m doing pushups and leave it at that.”
“Fair enough.  When did you start wearing pajamas?”
Not sure what bothered me more, the fact that my mom couldn’t tell the difference between pajamas and lounge pants, or the fact that she obviously did not read my blog.

I freshened up, touched up the areas I had groomed the day before, put on my Sunday best, and headed out the door to church.  Why do Church and I have such a strange relationship?  Let’s recap: My namesake is the Patron Saint of Outcasts who ministered to the lepers, it is also the name given to the Anti-Christ; I had a Doberman pincher named Saint John, who is either the person who foretold the coming of and Baptized Jesus, or the person who wrote the Book of Revelations; my parents dressed me as the Devil for every Halloween since the age of five; and I almost drowned during my Baptism.  (Editor’s Note: All true.)  It’s no wonder I’m so conflicted.  It is, however, a wonder I don’t burst into flames whenever I come within spitting distance of a church.  (Editor’s Note: Spitting on churches may also be a reason for the strained relationship…Just a thought.)

We got into the car and turned on the radio, which was queued up to 2Pac’s “Dear Mama”. 
“…Ain’t a woman alive that can take my mama’s place...”

On the way to church, a large snake slithered across the road in front of my car.  “Passing a serpent on the way to church” I thought to myself. “That can’t be good.  Couldn’t have been a naked woman holding an apple?  Probably questions like that which keep me outta church…and Heaven…and the YWCA.”

“…Cause when I was low you was there for me / I was never alone because you cared for me…”

When we got to church, I parked as far from the building as possible as I had grown tired of answering questions about my license plate, DVLS DUE.  An added benefit was that it took longer to get into the church service, and I liked to arrive fashionably late (i.e. after the offering(s) had been collected).  As we entered the building, I heard a faint voice whisper, “Get out…”  Turned out the voice was coming from inside my head.  Apparently, one of my inner demons had left the television on.  When the choral selection had completed, the usher opened the door and led us to our seats.  Front row center.  “This isn’t going to be good,” I thought to myself. “These are the ‘he can see you when you’re sleeping’ seats.”

As I got my spiritual bearings and checked the program to see where we were, I realized that we had arrived well before the Offering.  “Can’t I catch a break?”  Turns out the answer to that was, “No.”  After the Offering was collected, it was time for the sermon by the guest preacher.

The sermon began as follows: “There are some people who would have you believe we came from apes.  Those people are crazy…”
“This has started off well,” I thought to myself. “Evolution is a myth?  Someone better call Charles Darwin…and the guy who wrote ‘Planet of the Apes’.”
“…Earlier this week, people voted God’s Conscience to keep marriage between a man and a woman.”
“Here we go.”  I don’t really care what side of the line people fall on when it comes to what defines a proper marriage.  What I do care about is people using the Bible to keep other people down seeing as how that was how some people justified Slavery.  After all, even the Devil can quote the Bible.  Well, enough of my ramblings.  I’d hate to miss something…
“…God teaches us to not worship false idols, but, yesterday, I saw the cleanest Mercedes I have ever seen.”
“And scene.”  Once you equate having a clean car with breaking one of the Ten Commandments, we’re pretty much done. 

Had I my druthers, or known what a druther was, I would have gotten up and walked out.  But this day wasn’t about me.  It was about Momz.  I knew, however, that this lady preacher was crazy and I didn’t have much of a poker face, especially when I hadn’t slept.  There was only one thing to do; go inside myself and find my “
Happy Place
”.  My thoughts went back to the previous night when I was hanging out and massaging my friend.

“Probably don’t want to go down that road in here,” one of my inner voices suggested, “especially in the front row.”
“You’ve got a point.  Explaining not being able to stand during the ‘standy’ portions of the service is not something I want to do…was awkward enough in the 5th grade.”  I removed the massage portion and focused on the conversation: the jokes, the sarcasm, the playful threats…the gas.  It helped me make it through the rest of The Sermon on the Mount-ain of Crazy.

We got through the rest of the service without incident.  Engaged in the hugs, shook the hands, smiled the smiles.

As we walked back to the car, I noticed a figure out of the corner of my eye.  “Is that a naked woman holding an apple?” I asked myself.  “Yep, I’m going to Hell…”

Since my mom isn’t much for crowds, we decided to grab some KFC for dinner.  (KFC, because you can love Jesus AND chicken.  Here’s looking at you Chick-Fil-A.)  We got back home, watched some television, and had some fellowship.  Then, it was time to hit the road.  Overall, it was a great weekend.

“And there’s no way I can pay you back / But my plan is to show you that I understand / You are appreciated”


  1. So what would your super hero theme music be?

  2. I don't have a song in mind, but I would like it to be written by The Roots and Bootsy Collins with a Samuel L. Jackson meets Isaac Hayes vibe.