The air has changed. It happens in the Midwest. A certain day when the air gets colder, cleaner, only for a few hours, signalling fall. The dog stood outside with her nose in the air for half the afternoon trying to figure out what corner of her world summer had escaped to, snuffling about at the holes in the fence as if it might have followed a rabbit into the neighbor's yard. It will undoubtedly get hot again. The Midwest does that too. Wretched hot in October. And then it will give way to autumn and then winter. I have never waited for winter. I'm waiting for winter now.
Wednesday night (the fabulous Wing Nite of previous mention) my folks came in to the bar. And by my folks I mean my theater kids, a group of grad students who haunt a particular joint where I happen to work. These, just for the record, are not my insane wing nite dinner clientele. They are insane, but in a totally different way. I have waited on them every Wednesday for the better part of two years now. They are my brave ones, my thespian cavalry, my darlings who believe wholeheartedly in the art they have sacrificed for. You don't get to grad school in theater for any other reason besides love; love of lighting or stage managing or sound wrangling or play writing or set designing or (heaven help them) acting. (The plays the thing, right? Someone might have said that once...). My mother was an actress. It is a difficult life full of struggle. And perhaps that is why I've always felt a certain kinship with my late night theatrical wing eaters. My people chose music. They chose theater. In an older world, the work we do would matter just as much as the work the accountants do, or the IT people, or the money movers, or the big contractors. But this is not Greece, or a Paris of a certain age, nor Rome before the fall (even though sometimes it feels that way). In this country, right now, art in all its incarnations is marginalized so thoroughly that the work we do has become nothing more than frosting on rather dysfunctional cultural cake. I have never considered music frosting. Its sort of important. As is theater, poetry, art, and language. I could go on about this for days (my soapbox doesn't go to chemo with me)......but back to Wednesday...
So every Wednesday my theater kids come in and get shit hammered. They eat their wings and drink their vodka-tonic-double-tall-whiskey-press-captain's punch-extra-pineapple-miller-pitcher-drrty-shirley-appletini-jeagerbomb-slut-shot-rum-and-cokes-after-11pm-please-Miss-Abigails. I, too, have a bar I walk into where I don't even have to speak and there is a Beam and diet waiting for me. I understand the importance of the joint you go to when the world ends, when the world begins, when you nailed it, when you failed. These places are important. I do what I can for them. I like them. And they are kind. But what they did for me last Wednesday was amazing.
Certain angels among them (Beth & Phil) rallied the troops, shared the news of my awesome $100,000 haircut, organized a cocktail assault, and basically fed the evil insurance monster for a good, long while. Thank you! I'm sure there are far better combinations of words but I have thought for days about this and cannot think of them. I am a proud and stubborn girl. So stubborn that even some of my hair is refusing to fall out. I have, for many years, been the cavalry director, the cat wrangler, the sword wielder. It is strange watching the advance from the other side. From this vantage point, please know, I am learning something I may have never really known before. Gratitude is not something you have for something or someone, but something you are shown you have and often painfully. You all left on Wednesday night, and when I was good and safe and alone I walked out into the rain and cried. And they were good tears. Full circle tears. Thank you, my darlings, thank you, thank you, thank you more than you will know!!
There are other people too, whispering away in secret meetings they don't think I know about. My Apocalypse Meow contingent. So much whirls in my head. I think, "This is community. This is taking care of your own. If no one else will do it, it is our responsibility." I remember sitting in the room with the nurse having the initial biopsy for this beast done, unsure, unknowing, scared shitless of the huge black shadow on the xray machine, and she asked me "Why didn't you come in sooner?" and I said to her, "Debt kills people too." I don't want the super-bestest-cutting-edge-elephant-placenta-magic health care, I just want some health care. I want someone who loves medicine like I love music to lay hands on me and tell me "This is how we're going to beat this fucker" and I want to be able to pay for it and get on with my life. I don't want it for free, I want it for possible. I am worth saving even though I don't make $100,000 a year, and it took me awhile to come to that conclusion. The painters and the dancers and the actors and the writers are just as worthy of being well and safe as the lawyers and the doctors and the used car dealers. "What matters most," Bukowski said, "Is how well you walk through fire." Fire ain't no thing for some of us. We've learned how to live on a quarter. But its a hell of a lot easier to fight through with an army. So gratitude....gratitude deep enough to change the way the world looks now. Eight letters are not enough, but thank you.