I cannot escape who I am, or forget — Patti Griffin
A best friend of mine completed 60 never-done-before things the year she turned 60. It was a pretty cool celebration. She didn’t do 60 amazing bucket list things like climbing mountain peaks or deep sea diving or forging raging rivers. Instead, she ordered a fancy drink. Stood on her head. Flipped an omelette in the air. (It took two tries: the first time she flipped it so well it did a 360.) And so on. She did things notable only to her. And therefore it was wonderful.
While I like this idea of doing 60 notable never-done-before things as a way to celebrate or consider turning 60 this year, it is not really resonating for me. I think I’d end up driving my car into a runaway truck ramp. Finding Joni Mitchell’s house and knocking on the door. Shaving my head. Signing up for online dating. No can do.
But what? What shall I do to commemorate this birthday, one that is important for me in a way no other birthday has been?
It occurs to me that maybe the better celebration of 60 years is not to plan or to do, but to review a list of what I have done — 60 interesting bench marks, endeavors, moments, or adventures, orchestrated or random, humble or wild, as best as I can remember.
In compiling this list, I’ll tell a life story, my own. Or at least write the table of contents. And an assignment list for upcoming posts on pocketpoet.net. Stay tuned.
So, as always, here’s one for the girls: Mumsicle’s backwards bucket list. In no particular order.
- I sneaked up to the top — as in 727 feet, 72 stories — of the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit, stood on the roof overlooking Hart’s Plaza, the whole city, in fact, and I sat on the edge, and I smoked a joint.
- I once mooned a police officer.
- I recreated the famous “Singing in the Rain” scene.You know the one, complete with puddles and pouring rain, the real thing mind you, not studio produced. It was just me, my lover, one umbrella, loads of splashing and dancing and singing and laughter. And kissing.
- I sunbathed naked on a Grecian island and burned my bum and my boobs to an absolute unforgiving crisp.
- I sunbathed naked with a hiking club, The Oak Creek Bares, but by then I had learned the glorious benefits of sunscreen.
- I traveled most of I-10 between Arizona and California with a best friend who wore cutoff jeans and flip flops. That’s all. Less brave, I wore the top of a bikini with my cutoffs. A memorable day for westward bound truck drivers, no doubt.
- I made datura tea while camping on the Verde River with someone duly enamored with Carlos Castañeda. I drank the tea. I traveled to another plane. Never ever again. They call it loco weed for a reason.
- I sang “Chattanooga Choo Choo” on a stage in a crowded cabaret in Italy. Andrews Sisters had nothing on us. Absolutely nothing.
- I thought myself so bold, as if I was going to change the world, when I defied the unfortunate and sexist Italian practice of men pinching strange women’s bums and I pinched the bum of a man. Yeah, no.
- I danced on the bar of a Detroit jazz club on St. Patrick’s Day while speaking Spanish to an Italian man. Something about that night. Maybe the beer? We communicated perfectly.
- Once, on a Sunday morning when I went out to get the newspaper, I found six clean empty pink plastic tampon containers neatly lined up in a row on the door mat. The paper was not there.
- One night I connected an entire industrial block of a small city with huge rubber bands I had found beside a dumpster. They were long enough to stretch from the stop sign at one intersection to the stop sign on the next block. I created a web from street signs to doorways to mailboxes, and so on. I made the street impassable to pedestrians or cars. Yes, I cleaned it up. Before sunrise, before I could be arrested, and before smart phones and cameras. It would have gone viral.
- I sat on the shore of the Colorado River at sunrise on my birthday, in the middle of the Grand Canyon, and watched a full bouquet of colored balloons mysteriously float by me, bobbing up and down, continuing on its way.
- I stepped between a quarreling young man and woman just as he was about to punch her pregnant belly, and I dared him to punch me instead. He walked away.
- I demanded an apology from the seven-year-old boy who came onto our front lawn and knocked down my daughters’ snowman (after a historic and rare desert snowstorm). His boots dripped on the stoop at the front door as he faced my three and four year old girls sitting on the couch.
- I met Gloria Steinem. We chatted. I gave her a book of my poetry. She thanked me.
- I pet a lion. Yes, a real lion.
- I watched a bear take a milk carton from my cooler one night when I was camping, drink the milk, and then remove my Tupperware container of vegetables, and walk off with it into the forest. To a fully equipped kitchen in a cave, I bet.
- I watched one of 20 javelinas walking down the street, saunter over to my house, come up to my window, put its snout against the glass, and face off my barking dog.
- I circled a tree with five friends who all held hands to see how old the tree is. It is 600 years old.
- I snorkeled the barrier reef of Caye Caulker with Belize legend “Chocolate;” I ice skated at Bryant Park in Manhattan; and I hiked 70 miles in the Berner Oberland of Switzerland.
- I met Senator John McCain and found him to be very short. That pretty much sums up my impression. No offense to the deceased, he was a fine man. A short one.
- My baby daughter met President Bill Clinton. She was unimpressed. We’d waited in line for hours.
- On a dare, I swam naked in a hotel pool one story below a crowded bar. Nobody noticed.
- I sat with Robinella, asked her to please explain the difference between writing a poem and lyrics for a song. She assumed I was a wannabe lyricist and didn’t believe me when I told her I was as musically inclined as asphalt. We had a good laugh.
- I hugged Barbara Kingsolver, she said I could give her a call; Alice Walker met my babies, kissed their foreheads; I partied with John Nichols (Milagro Beanfield Wars) and he was amazed to see all the things women keep in their purses.
- I had a customer once when I was a waitress who always left me a clove cigarette as a tip. However, because I never let the customers at the cowboy bar where I bartended check their guns behind the bar as they often requested, and it was legal for me to do so, the cowboys didn’t tip well. But I had a gun-free bar.
- When I turned 50, I had a clothing exchange party as a fundraiser for the local women’s shelter, some 50 women shopped and ate and drank wine. What fun, a nice gift for the shelter and the remaining clothing went to the Assistance League.
- I have eaten meat from the following animals: dolphin, rabbit, guinea pig, frog, crawdad, oyster, elk, deer, octopus, antelope, and the host of regular farm animals Americans consume, as well as brain and head cheese from I am not sure which animals.
- Yet, I was a vegetarian for most of 40 years since the first time I Shake-n-Baked with my mother and noticed the little hairs on the chicken skin. I’m still not a fan, of chicken that is. Whatever happened to Shake-n-bake?
- I married a soldier from Lebanon, he looked like Omar Sharif; and an artist/runner/musician from Tucson, he looked like forever. Almost was.
- I have been in a relationship with a river runner from California, an engineer from Cairo, a mime from L.A., a conservative Air Force Pilot Vietnam War veteran; and then there was the guy, that guy — I fainted when he kissed me.
- I have cooked naked as a way to repair a failing relationship. It helped for a while, especially that night.
- I have picked cherries in Michigan, blueberries in North Carolina, persimmons in California, pomegranates and apricots in New Mexico, and grapes and prickly pears in Arizona.
- I’ve been robbed in Detroit, Paris, and Buenos Aires; and I was jumped on the University of Detroit campus. I went after the two dudes. Damn, what if I had caught up with them?
- I’ve been led off a bus by Guatemalan soldiers while traveling through the mountains near Panajachel, who went through my backpack on the top of the bus, leafed through pages of my journal and touched each pair of my underwear.
- I have written at least 15,000 pages of journal in the last 30 years, 5 novels, hundreds of poems, three chapbooks of poetry, (published one entitled Seventh of Nine), 147 blog posts, 15 short stories, one screenplay, and a jumble of articles and commercials and other things. At one time in Albuquerque, a poem of mine rode the bus. You can call up my poems in the Telepoem Booth.
- I hiked the Andes, climbed over a 15,000 foot pass, in a snowstorm, to visit Machu Picchu. And it was on that trip that I met the beer angel. Worthy of a full post.
- I performed in The Vagina Monologues, a French folk musical (ugh, I can’t remember the name) and numerous poetry readings, with music or not.
- I have dressed in costume as Katarina, Frankenstein, Autumn (as in the season), Dewey (as in the duckling), Galadriel, The Night Circus tent, The Color Purple, Ms. Piggy, Winnie the Pooh, a beauty queen, the Lion from Wizard of Oz, a caterpillar, a disco queen, a spider queen, and Elphie from Wicked.
- I have seen Phantom of the Opera, Cinderella, My Fair Lady, The Taming of the Shrew, and my daughters’ graduations, on Broadway.
- I watched a performance of Cristobal Colon’s discovery of America in an ancient Greek amphitheater in Athens performed by a French theater troupe.
- I have danced with the Alvin Ailey company, Anindo, and with Marguerite de Anguera.
- I have lived in four states, nine cities, and I have had 24 mailing addresses.
- I have two tattoos and I had one of them before it was even all that cool to get a tattoo.
- My daughters and I exchange shoes every year for Christmas, based on a theme like blue, or used, or useful, or patterned, or French.
- I have attended 6 universities or colleges, earned two degrees, taught English at 8 colleges or universities, and I have been a ‘poet in the schools’ in dozens of elementary, middle and high schools. I’ve taught poetry to 3-year-olds and 83-year-olds.
- I have worked as a professional baker, bartender, legal secretary, keyliner, writer, editor, proofreader, instructor, event planner, housekeeper, typist, waitress, house painter, and barrista (back when it was just called ‘server’); and a salesperson. I have sold cheese, draperies, men’s suits, marijuana, poems, and books.
- I have been arrested.
- I was a love coach.
- I have seen Tony Bennett, Bonnie Raitt, J. Geils, Gillian Welch, Crosby Stills Nash, Buena Vista Social Club, Roberta Flack, James Taylor, Earth, Wind & Fire, B.B. King, America, Chicago, Alison Krauss, and others I’m probably forgetting. And I listened to Paul McCartney from outside the stadium. Couldn’t afford tickets.
- I drank the 100 beers that it took to win the t-shirt in the “round the world” competition at a bar in Chapel Hill. Not in one sitting.
- I own artwork signed by Shonto Begay, Tom Holland, Salvador Dali, Kurt Tallis, Robert Shields, Riana Johnson, Bridget Johnson, and last but not least, Joni Mitchell.
- And, I own signed books by Rudolfo Anaya, Anne E. Proulx, Alice Walker, Billy Collins, Sandra Cisneros, and more.
- I have owned 12 cats over 42 years, and one dog.
- I have traveled to 18 countries. And two more if you count the countries I visited in Epcot Center. jk.
- I have purchased and owned, on my own, two houses.
- I have spent ten of these 60 years living alone and in glorious solitude.
- I dream of talking to animals. One time a lion, big and beautiful, pulled off his toes and threw them at me. In another, bears chided me saying, “Like you don’t know that we know that you can understand every word we are saying.”
- I turned 44 on April 4 in 2004 — that’s 44 on 04-04-04. What else could I do? I sent out 44 invitations. Party! I asked for gifts only to the local women’s shelter, and my daughters emptied their piggy banks for the cause, too!
Ren Cen and Harts Plaza photo borrowed from the Internet
Sand buckets by https://unsplash.com/@daiga_ellaby
Gloria is my photo and Telepoem Booth is from the Internet. Thanks, Elizabeth.