Tag Archives: unsafe gender mores in contemporary society

Ms. BananaHammer Goes to Bradenton

(Part I)

I bitched, but secretly, I was looking forward to jury duty Monday. (Yeah, I don’t have a lot going on right now.) I looked forward to it last time, whenever that was—last year or so? But that time they released us all with nary a juror selected.

But here’s the thing: I stayed up waaaay too late on Sunday night. 6:30 a.m. Monday was not good. Not good at all.

First thing I did when I got to the big juror holding pen was make a B-line for the soda machine. And then I promptly, accidentally bought a Cherry Coke Zero.

THIS IS NOT MY BEAUTIFUL CHERRY COKE.

Man, that was not a good start. I chugged it anyway and just barely managed not to hockey-burp myself into contempt of court.

“Juror No. 257?”

BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP!

“Ok, yeah, you’re going to jail.”

Various judges and juror-corrallers use a mic to talk to the room, explain stuff, give instructions, swear us all in, etc. I swear to god, every time someone finished speaking and went to hand the mic off, I had to stop myself from applauding. Weird how strong that impulse is.

But my heart warmed, because I am a cheesy bastard: I like seeing so many different people who came only to perform their civic duty—a beautiful cross-section of humanity, brought together simply to serve the idealistic essence of our judicial system. I’m always so cynical about people’s motivations; it’s neat how everyone here is entrusted with a responsibility to be considerate, thoughtful and honest in analyzing information and working together to come to a consensus. And just by entrusting people with that great responsibility, they embrace it.

And then they wait. And cough. In addition to a model of human service, the juror corral is a TB petri dish.

Around 11, they called my name among a group that was scheduled to see the judge at 1. So I ventured forth for food.

I wasn’t particularly hungry; my stomach was full of Cherry Coke Abomination and pretzels. But I knew I needed to eat, because fainting in a courtroom is not on my bucket list. After a quick stroll up and down Main Street, I decided a hot dog seemed like the most tempting option.

Oh, god, people. The hot dog. Oh god.

Now, I figure a hot dog vendor outside a courthouse is a safe bet. I don’t know why; just seems like if you’re going to set up in such a pedestrian-heavy area, you’re going to be held to high standards.

Oh. God.

From my notes for the day.

From my notes for the day.

First of all, when I walked up and asked for a hot dog, the first thing the old man did was open a little drawer in his cart to deposit his nub of a still-lit cigarette. Homeboy had a built-in ash-tray. He asked what I wanted on it; I suddenly realized I had no idea what to expect of a hot dog cart.

“Onions?” I asked.

I got a onion sauce that’ll knock yer socks off.” He sounded like Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride.

The hot dog? Was grey. The sauce? Was orange.

He sent me away with, “You never had a hot dog like that before, I bet.” It…kind of sounded like a threat.

I was already getting queasy, but I took an obligatory bite as I turned away—because apparently I don’t want to offend creepy people.

I cannot describe to you the texture. There was no texture. It was so soft as to be almost nonexistent. The bun was more toothsome.

You do not want your hot dog to dissolve on contact.

Oh. God.

I did not take another bite.

I walked all the way around the courthouse in search of a trash can somewhere far away from people—because I didn’t want to be seen throwing out a whole hot dog. Apparently that’s embarrassing. I have no idea why my brain sucks like that.

At the far side of the building, I found a trash can…and then looked up to see Council’s. Right there. No idea it was so close. Council’s has one of the best hamburgers in Southwest Florida, y’all. I’m not even lying. And I’d just opted for a hot dog that rendered me hungerless for the foreseeable future. That sucked.

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YouTubing

Sorry, bit negligent in posting this week, so here’s some of my favorite sports-related youtube hits.

First, No. 1 in SportsCenter’s Top 10 earlier this week:

Beast Mode:

(And, though I’ve said it before, here’s the Facebook soapbox comment I made about this one.) In case I haven’t speechified at you yet, I am a big believer in sports, no matter what. There’s a reason we have tryouts. There’s no reason the smallest, least-athletic, least-interested boy should be allowed to try out, when other people are excluded for outdated reasons. If that means only one girl makes the league, or none at all, then so be it. But don’t draw lines in sports that have nothing to do with athleticism.

This is SportsCenter:

Quite possibly the best television advertising campaign EVER–and still going strong. I love virtually ALL of these commercials, but this is, at least, just one of the classics. (Just so I don’t have to make a decision, here’s a whole mess of awesome.)

Also a Good Campaign:

These are pretty good commercials, too, but this one is the best.

And Finally, My Favorite:

My (admittedly small) kingdom for anyone who can get me a high-res version of this video. Makes me cry Every. Damn. Time.

Tons more where that came from, but fortunately I’m now distracted by dinner…

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The Beauty Allergen

Why do my cheeks seem to swell into ham hocks the moment I set foot into a salon? Is it a trick of the mirror, or am I allergic to prettiness?

Also, it would seem that I could empty a cosmetics counter on my face and still look plain, as though surely all experienced beauty-goers look gorgeous and blemish-free, chin-up with their head in the hair-wash sink.

What I thought was a casual-but-cute skirt-and-flip-flops combination becomes the definition of “dirty hippy.” Also, unless it’s 9 a.m., I am Captain Pitstains–which only gets worse as I sit clenched under the smock as though a hair cut is akin to a dental procedure.

I can do a fair impersonation of classy in a fancy restaurant, but beauty salons and spas are beyond me. I don’t know which came first, the pull toward tomboy or the push away from girliness, but I found confidence in sports the same way I found insecurity in, well, femininity. Early on, I learned to dread the reaction I expected if I wore a dress to school–not so much “Wow, you’re pretty” as “Hah! That’s different!” In other words, “freakshow.”

I actually like the idea of being well-coiffed and dressed to the nines, all heels and hems. I currently have three kickass cocktail outfits and about a dozen unused purses in my closet just waiting for a fancy night out. But the effort-to-reward ratio skews to “not worth it” after about 15 minutes of prep time. Because without a full styling team and two hours to work with, a cocktail dress and a little blush is only going to accomplish, well, “Hannah looking hunched and awkward in church clothes.”

To me, blow dryers and curling irons, eyeliner and lipstick–they’re like karaoke. Do I really want to draw a bunch of attention to the fact that I can’t quite pull this off? No, I want to sit in the back all, “Meh, I don’t sing.”

And so it goes for salons, my karaoke green room, surrounded by people who know all the songs.

I want to make the effort, I really do. But 15 minutes of juggling a soccer ball always led to 15 minutes more, with all the satisfaction of accomplishing something and still getting better.

Fifteen minutes in front of a mirror mucking with my hair just makes me want to grab a ball cap and move on.

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The Dolphin Lounge

I like me some dive bars. Like strip clubs and hockey locker rooms, they satisfy my craving for social adventure. I like summoning up the courage to go into a new place with seemingly rough people, and then trying to kick back like I belong.

But, being not actually very bold, I treat dive bars like when, as a kid, you’d try to get close enough to a grand adventure to be excited—without actually being so close as to be in real danger.

Most of the time, this works out pretty well. Locker rooms are my home away from home; the Hi-Way’s pretty well old hat for us now; all the local strip joints have served their purpose insofar as letting me feel brave, rebellious and seasoned—well, “seasoned” is probably not a word I want to be using there…ew—without involving any of the things you’d see in an anti-strip-club PSA: muggings, drug addiction, human trafficking, etc.

(Hah, I was just reminded of this after-school special from, like, second grade, where this old witch in the park scared all the children, until one brave family took her in and gave her a bath, and then she was a nice, pretty lady. Like, “See, she’s not a witch! She just needs better grooming habits!”)

(I don’t know why it never occurred to me how weird it is to just up and decide to bathe a stranger.)

In fact, we’ve had such luck exploring disreputable haunts that we sometimes forget that, well, witches do exist. And we probably ought not fuck with them.

Which brings us to the Dolphin Lounge.

The Dolphin Lounge is a windowless, flesh-colored, standalone bomb shelter of a building on Bradenton’s Ninth Street, a busy, pedestrian-heavy two-lane road banked by a tangle of power lines, tiendas, used car lots and abandoned buildings. We’d long had it on our list as a potential neighborhood watering hole, since it’s only 10 blocks or so from the baseball field. So one night after a game, we had the gumption to stroll on over and give it a whirl.

I had pretty well crossed over the “adventure” line and was easing my way into terror-tinged social anxiety, but CCB is an intimidating enough figure to ward off most troubles. I figured.

The one big room is about the size of a small house, with dim lighting, a couple of pool tables, a shuffleboard table, some random columns joined by “bars” with stools on either side. The actual bar is a massive double-horseshoe that takes up most of the long wall.

When we came in, the bar—big though it is—was mostly full, and there was a big, happy, rowdy group of middle-age people next to it playing pool. They immediately involved us in their loud conversation—saying hi, making bawdy jokes, demonstrating how someone had just poured a beer on someone else—as we waited to get the bartender’s attention. Friendly people, didn’t seem to give a damn about a couple of young punks like us in there—seemed like a good deal. “That’s what I’m talking about,” I said to CCB as I sipped my JACK and coke.

CCB relayed to me the bartender’s message, that they do tend to get bikers in there, but “You show them respect and they’ll respect you.” Uh…huh. Well, that’s a step beyond the Hi-Way and its no-gang-colors policy. Exciting.

One drink and we’d settled in on one of the supplemental “bars,” watching SportsCenter on an old 12-inch TV. Then I decided to go get the next round.

The part of the bar nearest to us was still a few people deep with the pool crowd, but I spot an opening in one of the “armpits” of the bar, in between the two horseshoes.

As I wait, of course, of course the guy sitting nearest to me—by himself, of course—strikes up a slurry conversation. “Hey, is that big guy you come in with your man?” OK, scary question, but this guy was probably about my size, mid-40s, beady eyes and a boyish face that, sometime in the last decade or so, had turned into a droopy mean mug. In the Lifetime movie “Hannah Wallace: A Dangerous Dive,” this guy will be played by Chris Cooper.

“Uh, big guy?” I ask.

“Yeah, the really big tall guy you come in with.”

“Um, well, the guy I came in with is right over there.” I wave at CCB (make sure he’s made eye contact).

“Naw, that ain’t him,” Scary Guy says. Pause. “You wanna go home and have sex?”

Shudder. Barf. Shudder.

“Uh, no, see, ‘cause that guy over there? He’s my man.”

“Oh, OK,” he says, like I’d reported on the weather. “You a cop?”

Oh dear god, I think, these are not good things he’s assuming about me.

“Nope,” I say, in panic, trying to be a sunshiny princess.

“Oh. You look like a cop.”

“Oh, no, sir,” I say all cheerful, “Nope, just…gettin’ a drink. For me. And my man.”

“Don’t call me sir,” he growls.

“Sorry!” I’m talking an octave higher than normal and smiling like a beauty pageant toddler. It’s that stupid “girls need to be super-nice to scary mean men” social construct. I make a mental note to go straight home and read The Gift of Fear.

“You sure you’re not a cop?” he presses on.

“No, sir, not a cop.” I now realize it’s better he’s alone than convincing a group of people that I’m a cop.

Don’t. Call me sir.”

He’s quiet for a few moments, then starts in on a story, his eyes fixed forward on nothing in particular. “I used to live in Fayetteville…”

“Oh! Yeah! In North Carolina! I know Fayetteville. Were you in the military?”

“Yeah.” He is totally uninterested in my recognition. “I had this buddy up there. This buddy of mine, he used to call all black people n*****s.”

Um…OK? At this point, I’ve got my drinks, but I can’t figure out how to dip out on the story.

“This buddy, his dad was real sick. And I was the only one who would go see him.” He looks at me. He’s getting intense here—louder, and his voice wavering like he’s near tears. “I was the ONLY ONE who would go see him. He was stuck in bed. He couldn’t walk. His face was all swollen up, his eyes were swollen, and they oozed and he couldn’t see. He was all swollen.”

“My god,” I say. “What happened to him?”

Flipped switch: pissed. “He was in fucking Vietnam. So you leave me the fuck alone!

“OK, sir!” I chirp, turn on my heel and sprint-walk away.

And that is why I never again want to go into any place scarier than Chili’s.

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