Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Tribute to Jerry Fugate

Today I buried my best friend. The one I laughed with and loved. When I think about Jerry, it's always the details that come to mind. The way he carried dog bones in the pocket of his hoody so that all the dogs would befriend him. The way I've seen him tear up at babies toddling around at the levee. Small trinkets he would bring me: a purple monkey full of candy that crashes cymbals when you press a button on his back, a Hello Kitty fan on a 96 degree day. He tried his hand at buying me girly things for Christmas one year, and I ended up with lip balm labeled "Lip Shit." I loved it so much that he got it two years in a row. The way we both used our Hard Rock Cafe toothpicks and stirrers as plant decorations. His was in his peppers, and I made my fairy garden rock out. The way he wanted to stop at every gas station looking for weird flavored chips, and  then  he would forget them in my car and text me telling me to give them to my kids. The way we would say the exact thing at the exact time. When leaving the Jimmy Buffet show, we both rolled our windows down, heard the buzzing, and said, "Cicadas." The way he tracked everything about his tomatoes from the first bloom to each one's circumference and weight. The miniature things he kept in his mandolin case for luck.  Once he showed me an app that locates the  constellations. Once he pulled me up and started dancing with me when they played "Purple Rain", and it really did start raining. In the fall, nobody got more excited about eating pawpaws, and I'd bring him some from the trees in my yard. And the holidays brought out his little Christmas tree with  Sesame Street and lizard ornaments. I always liked looking to see what was new on that tree.

Jerry was always trying to take care of his friends and made his apartment a peaceful haven. Few people know how he took care of me when I was in crisis with my son, who is severely autistic and can get physically aggressive at times. I went into a major depression when I realized my son needed a higher level of care than I could provide in my home. I hadn't slept for days and was exhausted. Jerry took me in. I fell asleep on his couch multiple times, and every time I'd wake up covered with a blanket, while he'd be scrunched up in a chair watching television. He gave the best hugs and forehead kisses. He'd let you bum his hoody. One time I fell asleep with a drink in my  hand and woke to him gently taking it so I wouldn't drop it. Another time I drifted off and fell over on him. Upon waking,  I heard another friend say, "I want a relationship like that...where you can just fall into someone's armpit and pass out." He was comfort to me, a home.
We had such fun at the levee and going to concerts. He knew everything about any group that popped up on the levee schedule and educated me on them. He supported local musicians and donated to charity. He indulged me by going to nearly any show I brought up and no matter where, and people from all walks of life would come up and start talking to us.  Jerry became buddies with this 21-year-old guy at the Tom Petty show who kept telling us that we were old enough to be his parents and that we were concert gods because we'd been to so many and that he'd been to only three and had been police escorted out of them all. Jerry kept his patience with this kid, whose friends had abandoned him, and he stayed with us through the whole show. Once a guy on a tricycle outside of a gas station chatted us up for a good hour. I thought he was going to follow us. In the parking lot at the Buffet show, Jerry rigged a blender so that it was powered by my car battery and made margaritas. Then he sat and played "Werewolves of London" on his mandolin.
                   *The goober on the left does not belong to us lol. 

He had a zest for life and a childlike sense of amazement sometimes. He would get this way at concerts, and I also saw it at the Hardrock Cafe. He'd get excited over something and wander off to pursue it. It might be another musician playing off in the distance, and he'd grab his mandolin and follow the music. Sometimes he'd forget I was with him, and it took me a while to find him. Courtney and I started calling him "Where's Waldo."
He had a spiritual side that was eclectic. There were Buddhas filling his apartment and he often burned incense (Nag Champa). He celebrated Yule, Ostara, Mabon, and Samhain with me. He celebrated Christmas  others. I know of at least one time he went to Christmas Eve mass at the Catholic church. Heck once we even celebrated the Flying Spaghetti Monster with the Pastafarians. And he did find Jesus...hanging out beside the McDonald's just last Easter. Then he sent me a text asking if I wanted a quarter pounder with cheesus. His gentle, kind, non-judgmental nature was more Christ-like than many I've encountered in organized religion, and I guarantee you he's probably in heaven right now turning water into very good wine and hosting a tasting.
*(Do you want a quarter pounder with cheesus?)

What I'd love most were the small, funny conversations we'd have, and some of the things he routinely said. The first time I was at his house and got up to go to the bathroom, he called out, "Be careful!" I said, "Why's that, Jerry?" He said, "Because you have to walk past the dead hooker room."
Once he agreed to go see Dwight Yoakum with me who was opening for Eric Church. We both enjoyed Dwight but weren't into Eric Church. Jerry said, "Let's go home so we can get ready to watch Saturday Night Live." I agreed and left with  him. It wasn't until I got into the car that I realized it was only Friday night. Thereafter, I referred to it as the concert that was so bad we left on a Friday to get ready for Saturday Night Live, and he never could remember Eric Church's name and would grumble that Dwight Yoakum shouldn't have been opening for "What's-His-Nuts" in the first place.
Another time, we had courtside seats for the Harlem Globetrotters. Jerry had his flat cap on backwards and had on a pinstriped shirt. One of the Globetrotters stopped mid-game, came up to us and said, "Are you a writer?" Jerry laughed and said no. The player said, "Well you look like a writer!" I sat there nervously thinking Jerry was going to tell him I was the writer and signal me out, but he didn't. He recently sent me the picture I took and said, "Thank you for this hilarious and priceless memory."

Jerry surrounded himself with art and music. Peace and love were happy side effects. Dogs, babies, and women loved him. He had countless friends. He was an inspiration. Anytime I told him that my writing got rejected, he would text me how many times famous authors got rejected before being published or how many times famous athletes failed or made mistakes. He was excited that I was learning banjo, and when I told him I was planning on taking voice too, he said, "and then you'll sing with me?" I'm too shy to sing, but I'm going to do this. He inspired me to start my lessons again. He inspired me to come home and make something pretty, so I planted a memorial garden today. Every time I spent time with him, he instilled me with peace and inspiration. This is what friends, artists, writers, and musicians do for each other. We need each other.
                                *Allow me to introduce you to the "Jer-um" of which he wrote: 
"I can't put into words how lucky I am to have each of these three lovely ladies in my life! We had such a great time! As always, of course..." 
                 *His birthday night, and he loved that cake. Red velvet was his favorite. 

Nobody else in this world could give us what Jerry did. None of us will ever have a friend like him again, but I bet many of you would be able to predict what he would say or what he would do. I bet I'm not the only one who could finish his sentences. And as long as we remember the essence of him, our friend is still with us. I wasn't prepared to write this so soon, but I felt that we needed it right now.
Life is a miracle. When you find someone your spirit has known for a very long time it's magical. Of all the people in the world, there are few you can pull on like your favorite jeans, few you can fall into like the softest most gentle blanket. You connect with folks like this because you've known them before. Your spirit finds them again in the current lifetime and says, "Oh! There you are. I've been missing me some you."
I'm grateful that we got to walk on the same path for even a day. Every day thereafter was a bonus. I got him a ornament for his little tree that said, "My heart and your heart are very, very old friends." I always felt that way. As if we knew from experience that time was limited and poured all we could into every visit, packed all the happiness and silliness into every day. In honor of him, I will continue to do so. And although I would give anything to cup that stubble roughened cheek again, to plant one more kiss on that forehead, to be gathered up one more time by those arms, I don't regret anything. There's no way we could have more fully enjoyed life or each other. Rest up, my friend, I'll find you again for our next round of adventures.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Stoner Santa

Stoner Santa
(c) 2017 Trinny Sigler

About a month after Christmas,
on a thrift store shelf,
Stoner Santa sat alone
without his dope-boy elves.
He was made of stone
and lighting a bowl,
not jolly, but  instead
a wounded soul.
On his cheeks were sliver trails where tears had splattered.
I asked him, "Stoner Santa, what could be the matter?"

He spoke about Christmas weeks ago,
a time when he was merry and surrounded by hoes.
Said there used to be snacks wherever he goes,
and that if there were no munchies,
he'd be a no-show.
There was such a magnificent money flow, real tree,
artificial joys!
He was the dope pope
for all the mellow girls and boys.

Into the neighborhoods, he began to slip,
And if caught, he'd convince them it was just a bad trip.
If they trembled with trepidation,
he'd whisper, "Back to sleep, dear, it's a hallucination."
Then he'd take off in a dash,
making the rounds and slinging the hash.

"On Grass! On Ashes! On Dutchie! On Toke!
On Blunt! On Jolly Green! On Ganja! On Giggle Smoke!"
They lacked motivation so he'd give them a poke.
"Arise and pull this sleigh!
Or there will be no high hay!"

Bud was the leader. He was willing and able,
but Stoner Santa forgot him back at the stable.
(Bud was on something a little stronger.
his nose is always red. He flew faster and longer.
His heart beat was irregularly stronger.)
But Santa told them: "No worries on this dark night.
We live in a fog. It will be all right."

Then slow and sluggish, he climbed into the sleigh.
He forgets to leave gifts, and sometimes takes away:
motivation and good jobs that pay.
The reindeer flew off haphazardly,
He got a DUI when he wrecked that day.
Mrs. Claus won't return calls and wants him in NA.
He said, "The shelf elves are blackmailing me.
The mall and television dropped my contracts.
The reindeer are in rehab.
The. Mrs. won't take me back.
But in 2018, I'll get my life on track!
I've still got my self worth
and my big magic sack!"

I said, "You can do this, Stoner Santa,
I believe in  you!
Set yourself some goals,
and see them through.
By next Thanksgiving,
you'll be revived anew."

"Yes," he said, "Lost my girl, Lost by job.
Lost my sleigh. Lost my deer.
Now I've got to go.
It's a long walk to the North Pole,
through lots of snow."
I heard him mumble,
as he shuffled out of sight,
"Gonna pass my piss tests!
Gonna stick with Bud Lite!"

Thursday, November 30, 2017

WV Landowners: Agree to sell land for pipeline, rebel as soon as gas company isn't looking

*This entry is lovingly dedicated to my friend, Ginger Hamilton (Caudill), who was a wonderful writer and story teller and who shared my sense of humor. She is so missed. 

The pipeline is coming to West Virginia. Sure they are having public relations meetings and talking to landowners like we have a choice, but we know it's a done deal because they are already piling pipes.   You can fight it. You can refuse to sell, but you know your neighbor would sell  his soul for a pack of bologna and a candy bar so the company will just take the pipeline around your place. The best thing to do is agree, take the money, and do whatever the hell you want as soon as Landman isn't looking.
Our ancestors came to the mountains because "decent people" sent us into exile for simple things like playing with witchcraft or trying to kill the king. They thought the mountains would eat us up, but we have the ability to survive like  wood roaches (a bug that isn't as dirty as his cockroach brother, apparently. If there is a roach in the kitchen, Mama looks at it and says, "Oh! Okay! He's just a wood roach! They come in a time or two when the seasons change. Don't mean we're dirty!" Then she doesn't flip out as much.)
We survived because of intelligence, ingenuity, and creativity, but we are a culture of rebels. There's the idea:  "If someone is dumb enough to show me they are going to take my land one way or the other and then offers money, I'm going to take it. I'll heed the restrictions for a day or two, but it's still my land. I do what I want."
Landman will come knocking and offering $45 per foot of your land they are wanting to purchase for the pipeline. Snap up that deal. Take the money. There are about six companies wanting to put in pipelines so if more than one company offers money, take their money too. So what if you have a small pipeline city under your place? It's the companies' job to figure that out. Take the money.
They are going to tell you a bunch of restrictions. One article said you can't put as much as a lawn chair over top of the pipeline. Another said you shouldn't build near it. But this is the state of "Mountaineers are always hold my beer and watch this" (the second part just didn't translate well into Latin). As soon as Landman leaves, we will all go back to doing whatever the hell we want, as it was from the beginning. They can't monitor us forever. And just like every population we have those that lack impulse control and anger management skills.
In the grocery store, you will hear common statements such as:
"You cain't tell me not to garden or barbecue or make meth or go muddin' on my own place!"
"If I get mad at my neighbor, all I gotta do is dig up the pipeline next to his house, climb in my tree stand,  and shoot it with my AK. None-a that old Hatfield and McCoy shootin' and yellin' bullshit. And once-TUH (pronounced once-TUH) that blows, Landman won't know what happened. Me and the neighbor will both get beau coups of money from the gas company just like those folks did when that tanker train exploded near-at old Indian village, which by the way, the railroad shouldn't have been cutting through with 18 explosive cars..."
"You cain't tell me I cain't moonshine on my own property! And you cain't tell Granny she cain't can outside on the Coleman stove when it gets too hot in the kitchen!" 
I predict death and disaster from this pipeline, but it's coming one way or another. There will be a large number of body parts of meth makers hanging in trees. Pigs will be blown to bacon. Snake handlin' churches from here to Kentucky can't save us from this. Bubby is not going to stop muddin', drinkin', and buldin' campfires just because there's a pipeline underneath him. We can tell him, but he won't listen. This is the land of that'll-learn-him mentality.
"Let him blow up a meth lab on that pipeline. That'll learn him!"
We can warn the younger generations. "Kids! Y'all know Uncle Bubby only has one leg, half an arm, and one eye because he was playin' on that pipeline, and it s'ploded. We done told y'all to stop once-TUH!" (And before someone tries to say I'm using Uncle Bubby to imply that we are inbred up here, let me explain that some folks use Bubby (or Sissy) as a first name, and then Bubby grew up and became an uncle, which is a mur-acle from heaven after what happened to him with that pipeline.

There's a good chance meth-makers are going to blow themselves up anyway. People are going to shoot each other with AK's anyway. Trump sold us to China so the air quality is going to be toxic anyway. Stream banks will erode and flooding is going to increase because the pipeline is coming anyway. Might as well take the money.  It may be the only green we have left.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Honey Bee and the Bearded Dragon

The Honey Bee and the Bearded Dragon
(c)Trinny Sigler 2017

The honey bees have been following us around. They feel a change in the air. They know it's getting cooler, and the days are getting shorter. The flowers are dying, and the little bees are frantically looking for pollen.

The bearded dragon knows the moon is about to be full. He paces in his habitat, tearing it up quicker than I can clean it up. He wanted to swim in the bath tub, but abruptly tried to jump out. I tried to lift him all the way out, and he abruptly tried to jump back in. Restless, unsatisfied, aware that something is lacking in his 50-gallon-transparent life, but unsure of what would fix it.

And here we all are, a combination of the two, always busy, safe in our glass boxes. I'm unsure if I'm observing you or you're observing me. Sometimes I watch you fly away, feeling like I'm ready to go too, but then I stay in my box, half scout bee and half bearded dragon. I watch you rush from flower to flower drinking up as much pollen as possible before it's all gone. Addicted to the pollen, farther and farther away you fly until one day your wings are too worn out to get back home. I don't want so far from  home that I can't get back, but I want the pollen, and I want the restlessness to calm. I want to rise up and fly and hum and do those things the bee does, but I don't want to leave the solid comfort of the heated rock. I want my branch to cling to.

The season will change. The moon phase will pass, as it always does. Until then we will hole up in the hives of ourselves, maybe keeping warm, maybe freezing to a slow death, but we won't be able to tell  until spring. But if the bees keep enough friends around, they can heat their hive to ninety degrees, not just surviving but thriving. The lizard hangs out in his hammock, close to the sun lamp and the heat lamp, and if he closes his eyes, he can pretend he's in the desert or even on the beach maybe, and his mind calms because he has the warmth of the sun without the fear of birds.

The bee and the bearded dragon somehow have all the answers. Find warmth among friends,  make the honey that will sweeten someone else's day, don't work so hard that you wear out your wings. Hang out in a hammock, bask in the warmth of your personal sun, go to the summer you can create in your mind.  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Appalachia vs.Appalachia at the ER

Appalachia vs. Appalachia at the ER 
(c) 2017 Trinny Sigler

I found myself in search of a quick emergency room in eastern Tennessee which was mission impossible  because all they do down there is moonshine and zipline, and that's a bad combination. I wish I could say I had been engaging in both, but at mid-forties, I don't need either to mess up my back. I was tucked in bed by 10 and woke up in the eighth ring of hell for no reason.
My buddy told me choices for a hospital that, to my pain-warped brain sounded like "Wellmart" or "Hell's Path." I don't need no discount chain ER, and I thought I was already halfway down hell's path at least, so I picked the later. While I'm waiting for the phlebotomist to come in, I can  hear her talking in the hallway.
"I had to punch in late. I locked my keys in the car."
"Well how'd you get here?" another one called.
"I had to call  my mommy."
Hear that? A girl who couldn't find her way to work without Mommy's help is about to play with needles in my tiny, rolling, spider, muppet veins. Then she walked in, and she's new. I know when they are new in the same way a horse knows the rider is spooked, in the same way a baby knows when someone has never held a baby before. She's nervous. I'm scared.
Veins and blood are the reason I'm a writer and not a nurse. I could have a thriving career making fifty an hour over time if it weren't for blood. Instead I hide in the attic and make shit up and hope you like it. I look away as she takes my arm and ties it up. She pokes with her finger. She takes a deep breath.
"Little pinch."
She stirs and stirs and stirs.
"Hmmm," she says.
I say "What?"
Another nurse comes over, "What'sa matter? Cain't you find it?"
"I cain't get it to thread."
"Oh well, try again."
"Oh no! That's a mess!"
"We can clean that up. Try again. That'un will probably bleed again."
"Ok...well...I cain't get it again."
And I'm thinking: Now half my state shoots up heroin, and any one of those shaking addicts up any holler can find a vein daily and multiple times. What's the issue here?
"Well!" The second nurse says, "You done blew that'un out. Try the other one."
I grasp her hand, "You got one more try in that other arm, and then I'm gonna puke, punch, or pass out. I don't know which. Your move."
"I'll try the hand, hon. Honey, your lil ole hands are I's co."
My mind flips through every file I've got working, and I know I've heard this somewhere before. Where? Where? Where? I's? Co? I know what this means. I got it! I heard this when I was a breakfast waitress at Cracker Barrel in Fayetteville North Carolina  in 1997.
"Ice cold!" I yell out loud with all the pride Helen Keller must have felt when she figured out water. "Yes! My hands are ice cold."
And now that the code has been cracked, I finally understand what the waitress at the barbeque shack meant last night when she asked me if I wanted "co-saw". And then the thought occurred to me that this is all Paula Deen's fault. I'm a little afraid of Pennywise from It, the nurse from Misery, and Paula Deen. If you think about it, they all have the same smile. That smile that says: Extremely friendly or psycho, I could go either way. And her damn cookin' is so good that I think she has to be in dutch with the devil. Anyway I think I ate so much for lunch that my stomach blew out my backbone.
They finally get the blood drawn, and the IV in. Another one comes in, "What brings you here today?"
"My side hurts, and my back is having spasms."
"Hmm..." she looks at the others with that look that says: These West Virginia pillbillies are coming down here now trying to get opiods. I've read about them. Saw them even on the CNN." You know that look. We've all gotten it in the ER.
Finally after about two days, the doctor comes in. He says my muscles are pulled and I have an ovarian cyst and to follow up with my doctor, and then he leaves. The nurse comes back.
"Okay, hon! You are free to leave. Here's your script."
I stammer, "But it's Easter Sunday, and I'm just like I was when I got here. I have to drive 300 miles in a Jeep Wrangler today with a busted back. Can I get a dose of pain meds?"
She gives me that look again. "Lemme ask! Doc may be at lunch now so you'll prolly have to wait."
She comes back and shoots something in my IV. "Well now  you'll have to wait on a med check."
"How long is that?"
"Fifteen minutes."
"Jesus, girl. I've been here, sitting at a 90 degree angle on this gurney for about two days. Fifteen more minutes won't hurt."

I finally get out of there and leave Hell's Path behind me. I get back to good old West-by-God and go the next day to follow up with my doctor. She takes one look at my blowed-out vein and gives the nurse a look that says: Umm hmm...all these hillbillies are on heroin. You know that look. We always get it at the ER. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

These Daffodils and I

These Daffodils and I

These daffodils to the funeral came 100 years ago
and still surround the grave.
Why this one in the whole field of stones?
Only the daffodils remember,
only the daffodils know.

These daffodils were planted by the front door
and once tended with care,
like yellow ribbons beckoning her solider back there.
Did he make it back? No one knows anymore,
but these daffodils stand, still sentinels as before.

These daffodils surround a cinder-block frame.
No family, no home, no memories remain.  
What made them  decide to leave one day?
Ask the cheerleaders of decay,
because only these daffodils can say.

I buried these bulbs before the baby came.
I wanted them to honor him this time every spring.
He's gone now, along with every other thing,
but the daffodils  and I stand just the same.

These daffodils, I know,  are tired and tossed
despite  their cheerful yellow outward gloss.
These daffodils, I know they know the cost,
of a lifetime spent hovering over all that is lost. 

 (c) Trinny Sigler 2017

Sunday, February 19, 2017

One Seventy Two

One Seventy Two

One seventy two
was my aunt's weight
before cancer started
eating her.
We took her to appointments,
and each time presented her license,
her weight there in print,
and she was okay at 172.
At  16, I knew that 172
made a woman
hefty, sturdy,
strong enough to
hold up the world.
When I learned she'd be leaving,
I decided to go too.
I was 132.
She'd take her medicine
in a spoonful of applesauce.
I wouldn't eat a spoonful of anything
more than once a day.
We got weak together.
Our hair fell out.
We became delusional:
Me in a weight competition with her,
thinking that if I was her size or smaller,
and if I was still surviving,
then so could she.
She, telling me pretty lies like:
The doctor says if I drink my Ensure,
I'll be all right.
We got down to 118
the month before she left.
I  celebrated my 17th birthday
in bed with her.
Then she said she hated the sticky summer
and died on the 20th of June.
I dropped down to 104
before I decided I'd stick around.
Since then I've gained and lost 50 pounds three times,
but I always come back to 172.
I don't know how else
to be where she was

back when we were okay.