“Y’all,” I didn’t know when I began saying it, but I did. It wasn’t a means of me fitting in; it was more of the “in” fitting me. I just woke up one day and it had become part of my vocabulary, the Nashville air in my lungs. I had to make a conscious effort to remember what I had said in place of it before, and when I recalled it being “All of you,” and tried saying “All of you” again, it just didn’t sound right. I couldn’t help but think “Y’all” was so much easier … and so “Y’all stayed,” though I don’t think I could have gotten rid of it if I wanted. Of course “Y’all” came from “You all,” but “You all” was too southern for a northern boy to pull off without sounding sarcastically offensive, fortunately “Y’all” ran off the tongue far easier, due to the lack of a plunge into the guttural, which is why I believe, and as I said, “Fortunately for me,” I had unconsciously adopted the shorter one over the other. Of course those around me were more apt to saying “Y’all,” and so thus also was I influenced. But was it weak-mindedness on my part, adopting this, I wondered, or a basic instinct to survive, embedded in my genes from some caveman ancestor thousands of years ago?
“Good deal” was another phrase to the area. If someone asked if you could do them a favor and you said you could, then that person would reply, “Good deal.” Up north I guess we’d have said, “That’s great.” Maybe because the two expressions both had two syllables, was the reason why I hadn’t found myself too often as the accidental shopper.
But let us progress from words to other words … names. For a time I was a floral designer in a florist just off of Vanderbilt University. My immediate boss was Johnny, and Johnny was not a man … she was a woman like the pronoun told. I also had a fellow designer who wasn’t a fellow, but that didn’t stop her from being called Eddie. There was another woman too, a saleswoman up front, who also had a man’s name. I can’t recall it now, so let’s just say it was Gertrude. I know. I know. Gertrude is a woman’s name, but I always thought it better suited for a man … Ernie and Gert … either that or the name of some gastro problem that gave you heartburn. Eddie came from Eddie-Mae. Johnny I don’t know, but maybe it was Mae also. Maybe Mae was how they castrated the name to make it proper. I didn’t know, but I was going to make sure no one called me Roger-Mae, but no really, they all did look like women. It was just the name that had been de-sexed. And while I’m on sex, there was another designer, a younger girl, with a girl’s name, who thought the male genitalia the nastiest of things, just nasty, and shuddered when she said it. A couple of the other women just flapped a hand at her as if they’d heard this all before, her up on her soapbox needing a detergent again. Don’t ask how genitalia came up, she could pull topics out of the air like they were oxygen, but keeping in mind that she thought this, it was hard to imagine how she had come by her two sons by her unwed boyfriend. I mention unwed, only because she had no reason to feel obligated by marriage. Was sex like medicine for her: It tasted awful, but she knew it was good for her? Barbara, another designer, replied by saying, “If you look at us from down below, we don’t look any better.” Can you imagine me, really, the only male designer in this room full of women, despite what the names said, and listening to this? But I did realize that that was Barbara’s means of coming to my aid. Yes, some days working at the florist could be quite odd.
It was at the florist where I was introduced to the potato gun. Jodie, Johnny’s daughter, a name that could go both ways, though I don’t know if there is a difference in how it’s spelled, well her husband showed up with it, the potato gun. The gun was a six foot long doctored PVC pipe whose ignition for propelling the potato was a can of hairspray. Note: Most holes in the ozone layer lie above Tennessee because of this. The spud was inserted easily enough, sucked in, and with a soft pop, like a perfect drive off of a golf club, the potato had passed Mars and was headed to land somewhere in Centennial Park, easily 500 feet away. All I could imagine was someone roller-skating or walking a dog and getting clocked by this unbaked meteorite. No one else seemed concerned about it. I guess if you had the bad enough misfortune to get hit with it you deserved it, regardless, that night I checked the news for any similar-like assaults, and finding none, had my mind put at ease.
At another time, I worked for a temp agency, which sent me to many different locations and jobs. I remember one job where I was referred to the Opryland Hotel for a convention. There in an open-windowed-to-the-hall room, where one might check in coats, I was assigned with some others to help direct participants of the convention to the proper rooms they were in need of finding. A large black man who’d also been assigned the booth talked about how hairy his ass was, and how he used a cloth wash towel to wipe it, because toilet paper fell apart. I kid you not. At this point you’re probably wondering if he dropped a bar of soap and asked me to pick it up. On the grounds that it might scar my reputation for life, I won’t say he was a nice enough fella, but it had me thinking with the long work day if he might not have a long dishrag-like towel hanging from his back pocket like a mechanic in case nature called for number two. If he did, I prayed to God the rag was disposable … but he did not, and the next image that came to mind (of fumbling fingers and disintegrated toilet paper) I quickly knocked out of my head and hoped he didn’t return at some point, from being away, with hairs protruding from underneath his fingernails. What a sick way to end a chapter … but I will.
Real: Again it’s all so true
Not Real: The potato didn’t pass Mars … I think it actually hit the moon and bounced back.
(More to Come)