Thursday, July 28, 2011

Of Birds & Men

Check out the lapel on Sears JR Bazaar shirt from
Area 58 on Monroe.

The guy behind me in the big, black truck flipped the bird.
I was meekly merging onto the Maple Street Bridge. I know it's fuel-efficient to speed up and join the flow. 
But unlike Interstate on-ramps, which offer you a little teaser lane from which to find your way way, this ramp ends in a yield sign. There’s not room for error and the traffic was, well, not bumper to bumper, but heavy. I was lame. I stopped and waited for a hole.
So, when Big, Black Pickup marshaled the rhetorical power of his middle finger, my strongest desire was to flip one right back. Experience has taught me to hesitate (for example, the person who honks at you while you’re running and nearly causes you to shart yourself could well be someone from work or who knows your grandmother. The honker may think they're being friendly, even funny). 
I also considered an alternate reading: this chap with the pickup was flipping off traffic in general, not me in particular. F*&^ you, Maple Street bridge! Up yours, enchanting summer sunshine!
And then I remembered that there’s nothing special about returning anger with anger. Permit me a little Jesus talk (this summer I've been revising essays about my evangelical upbringing, after all). The New Testament upends that eye-for-an-eye, bird-for-a-bird cycle. What’s the point of church or prayer or scripture if it doesn’t increase one's capacity for love or peace? 
Reader, I didn’t flip the bird. I entered traffic as soon as I could, and then hauled ass so that guy couldn’t catch up with me (to flee temptation, of course).
In spite of this stray bird incident, I had a fantastic summer evening. I was crossing the bridge, after all, to meet my friend Janine for a nine-mile run around Bowl & Pitcher, an especially scenic part of Riverside State Park. I’m usually a pavement girl, but I’m learning to love trails. You have to negotiate rocks but not much traffic, save the occasional biker or runner. We were only two or three yards from the Spokane River, in the shade and that sun-warmed pine needle smell I associate with campgrounds (did I mention it's a campground?). We also passed an artillery range across the river. I asked Janine if she was nervous, and she said no way, so I trusted that and kept running.

Without a proper segue, allow me to say that I like the vision of my new shirt from Area 58 on Monroe. And that store: what a treat! It lives up to its marquee promise to showcase “the old and the odd.” It was like walking around in a roadside museum where you were allowed to rifle through the stuff.
The print on the shirt makes me hum “Shiny Happy People.” (For readers 30 or older, you may also think, like I did, of Hands Across America).
I’ve mostly purged my wardrobe of polyester and wide lapels. Retro for me now means more MadMen aspirations. Pencil or pleated skirts, things that affirm I have a waistline. If this sounds vain, well, yes, my vanity is bottomless (let's address this another time, eh?) 
Suffice it to say that I shuffled through high school and college draped in gigantic jeans, baggy blouses, and flannel shirts (many borrowed from my dad). I bought a purple cotton muumuu at a consignment store because I loved its bright flower embroidery. I had no compunction about wearing birks or clogs with dresses. Most of my shirts had hoods. I was no stranger to the poncho. (Be gentle. This was the 90s. Notice there are no pictures in this section). 
This new-to-me Sears shirt from Area 58 doesn’t identify its fabric. It must be synthetic, but it’s light (not like those thick floral hippie shirts I wore that were as breathable as a good patio tablecloth). It’s cut well, to avoid that curse of shorter shirts: The Box. 
And, it has a moral.
Next time I’m tempted to return an unfriendly gesture, I’ll think of this pattern. Let the circle, or the stripe, be unbroken! You, the insecure man in the giant truck, we are all part of the same family. Come, clasp hands! 
Notice (that photo feels really far away now) that the shirt repeats a figure wearing a killer headdress and a blue jumpsuit with shoulder pads. Nothing says peace quite like that. 

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