I took a friend to the airport today. He's getting some much needed and greatly deserved R&R with his lovely girlfriend. We listened to old Elvis Costello on the way - Goodbye Cruel World, an album that critics pooh-pooh'ed as a low point in the man's career. I beg to differ. It's romantic and wistful and playful. It ain't Armed Forces, for sure, but it's still vintage Elvis to me.
I kept the windows closed and the air on full blast on the road out to Dulles to cool my friend off. He'd been hauling luggage and doing all that travel prep that is sweaty and taxing even on a cool day. And today was another hot, sticky, windless, Code Orange DC hell day. When I left home to meet him, I rolled all four windows down to cool me down and conserve gas, guzzled far too fast by the a/c. I pulled my hair back with a old-school wrap to keep it off my forehead, but left the rest to blow in the breeze. With my oversized retro sunglasses, I realized I looked like my mom - fatter and younger - but still, like my mom.
My childhood images of her are so often in the car, driving me somewhere far from home, big sunglasses on her face, collared shirts with the sleeves rolled up, unruly salt-and-pepper hair tied down in a kerchief to keep it out of her eyes. And there I was today, with my sleeves rolled up - left arm already sporting a trucker tan, and my own unruly hair partially smoothed, the rest rolling in tousled curls (which is the nice way to say "tangled and frizzy") from the wind that crossed between the open windows.
As we pulled away from his place he said, "Why don't you do that more often with your hair?"
"I dunno." I usually just pull my hair back into a pony tail or a French braid to keep it from getting in my way at work. "Maybe I will."
"You should," he said. "It's good."
That's the closest thing to a compliment I've received on my appearance in, quite possibly, years. I can live off of things like that for a long time.
When I left my friend at the airport, I turned off the a/c and rolled down all the windows again. I turned the iPod back on and listened to random songs for a long time. I sang along, out loud, uncaring who was staring as they passed me. It was very cathartic. I wailed away with Thomas and Neil and Andy (and, god help me, Britney) aaaaand
completely missed the Beltway exit to take me home.
I ended up winding down past the Pentagon, across the river by the Kennedy Center and caught the Clara Barton on the edge of Georgetown, leading me back to Bethesda. It felt good to just drive, even though I knew it was draining cash from my pocket to burn that damned fossil fuel (made from dinosaurs who traveled with Noah!) I felt free and calm and energized in the sunlight - just me and my music and my beat-up, crappy car, motoring through one of the wealthiest spots in America. The sign for River Road caught my attention, and I took the exit, knowing that the local nursery, American Plant Food Co., was just around the corner, nestled between private schools and MegaMcMansions that swallowed the carefully manicured landscape.
It's funny to go shopping in a very egalitarian store like the nursery in the midst of so much conspicuous wealth, especially knowing I'm dead broke. If not for the low-end nature of my car in the lot, surrounded by Lexus SUVs and Range Rovers, I could be just another rich MoCo person, slumming it in an old shirt and jeans, picking plants for my faaah-bu-lous gahden. If you happened to be there this afternoon and saw me sweating in the check-out line, it wasn't from the breezeless heat, it was just me, praying I wasn't overdrawn on my checking account. Still got a week of tuna sandwiches and stretching that pound of bing cherries until next payday!
Truth be told, I just haven't felt well or happy enough to pick up plants for my barren balcony in a long, long time. Driving up to the door yesterday, I realized that I had the most white trash balcony in the whole neighborhood. Dusty, empty pots, a pile of leaves, and the broom I used to dissuade the woodpeckers from nesting there were the only decorations. Signs of a non-life. The closest my 'hood gets to having an old pick-up on blocks out front. Now, I feel - even if it's merely a tiny symbolic gesture - I need something green out there. Something to greet me when I come home.
I bought four containers of portulacas - a hearty flowering plant that, blessedly, thrives on neglect. More or less. I first had some of these plants when I brought them home from the wedding of two friends. They had lovely potted portulacas as the centerpieces on the reception tables. I had driven to the wedding in Pennsylvania from my place in Maryland, and the bride and groom helped me load several of the plants into the back seat of my car. By the time I got home to Bethesda, the plants were happily blooming away. I actually left them there for a couple of days because I found it so appealing to find flowers in The Crapmobile at the end of the work day. Finally, I transplanted them to the balcony, where they bloomed for me for months and months.
I hope today's purchases will do the same.
Fuschia and red, tangerine and sunny yellow. I think it was $16 well spent. And I left them in the car. Let's see if the hothouse Ford works its magic again this weekend. Tomorrow, I'll dust off the balcony and wipe down all the planters and the rarely-used IKEA footstools. It may not be much, but it's a start to getting things back on track at home.
And maybe I'll go to Target and get a colorful pack of Goodie hairbands. Hey, if your hair is all you got goin' for you physically, might as well try to work it. If one guy noticed it, maybe another will, too. Who knows? I'll ride in my hothouse car and try to bloom, myself.