The Plant Lady

For my 32nd birthday, a friend gave me a plant.

A beautiful orchid plant!

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My friend Kaela gave it to me in November, about a week after my birthday.

It was probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten! Something LIVING. Until then, I’d been living in this apartment a little over a year, and hadn’t felt much like it was HOME. I hadn’t tried to decorate, I barely spent any time here. I was always running out somewhere. It was where I slept and wrote, that’s about it. I don’t cook, so I usually eat out. I didn’t invite people over.

But that plant made me feel more invested in my little abode. And even better, it was the first time I’d gotten flowers for a reason besides a theatre performance (I’ve dabbled a bit) or from a man I was dating.

The first HOUSE PLANT I’ve been given. By a female friend, for my birthday. A milestone.

I’ve now had this plant an estimated 11 weeks. It’s extremely low-maintenance. All it needs are a few ice cubes a week, and some light. But my apartment is a bit like the Batcave– very dark. I don’t have a lot of light in here. And now most of the blossoms have fallen off– only two full blooms remain, and one that is hanging there pathetically. It’s shriveled and isolated, on the other side.

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On the left is a white wicker basket of prayer books that my aunt, Sister Mary Jane, sent me to me throughout my life. She was nun. That was my flower basket when I was four-years-old, supposed to be the flower girl in a wedding for a family friend. My dress was lavender and I had a wreath of flowers for my hair… I loved it. Not many people would believe this, but back then I was too bashful to do my job and walk down the aisle. Apparently at the last minute, I couldn’t do it. So instead, they had me pass out rice bags.  Next to that are two porceline figurines of little girls kneeling in prayer. On the right side of the plant, is a black framed picture of Jack Kerouac. The man is insane, and I haven’t read any of his novels except the biggest cliche: “On the Road.”

But in college, I had one of those posters of his famous quote– you know the one:

“The only people are the mad ones…”

It was silver. I got it on campus at poster sale, and had it up every year until I graduated.

I digress. ANYWAY….

When I saw this sad state of affairs, I wanted to just take the whole plant and pitch it in the garbage. But then I thought, “Why?” Maybe it can live. There are still two blooms left. I admittedly have been neglecting it.

I should open up the blinds more often, and let some light in.

People suggest that I talk to it or sing to it.

That sounds a little nutty, but maybe I should?

I’m single. Maybe I can learn something from this plant.

Maybe I should give her a name, for starters. Lola.

She is mysterious, a bit lonely. Shy and yet, a fighter.

Hell, maybe I’ll even play some music for Lola once in awhile.

Any plant enthusiasts? What’s your advice for orchids?

And I want to get more plants! I’ll be the Plant Lady.

Lola is my starter plant… the beginning of a new era for me. Thank you, Kaela Brite.

When Lola came into my life, I felt like inviting people over again. I’m not dating, but I’m inviting my girlfriends over, and we’re having a blast.

And I feel just like one of the blooms on Lola: I’m beginning to open up.

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The Free Speech of Andi : Comedy, Dreadlocks, and a Yurt

This blog is for a 22-year-old friend of mine with guts beyond her years.  Today, she’s leaving.  In the morning.

I’m excited for her– but also selfish, and sad that she’ll be gone.

Andi is about to embark on her own American Dream, which she’s been planning four years.  She quit her job and is going on the road with her friend, Michael, 21, and a Boxer named Jefferson. They’re leaving Illinois in her truck and heading South.

They don’t know where they’re going. They’re just going.

The first official destination is New Orleans. And beyond that, who knows?

She’s packing light. Some clothes, a cigarette rolling machine, guitar, sleeping bag, and a yurt. She procured a grill. She’s bringing a notebook, where she’ll jot down ideas for her comedy routines and song lyrics. She and Michael are going to drive and perform their way around America.

She’s got her blonde hair in braids, in the process of becoming dreadlocks. With her independent spirit, the confidence, and the hair, Andi has a bit of Ani DiFranco about her. And DiFranco would approve. The Feminist icon who started her own record label and eschewed mainstream industry approval chose her own destiny, just as Andi is doing now.

Andi has already taken some heady risks– she’s been an out lesbian since age 12. She embraces her identity with valor, including it in her comedy acts. At 22, she is more sure of who she is than many people are at 40.

I’m so full of admiration– and yes, a bit of envy. Andi is doing what all of want to do and most of us never will– she’s daring to travel and taking a risk. She’s driving her truck and going on the road, open to Kerouackian adventure.  She’s wearing her hair the way she wants, not the way society dictates.

And her smile just keeps getting bigger. This is actually the second blog I’ve posted inspired by her– the first was when she made me a wood-burning in the shape of a piece of loose leaf paper, with a quote about writing engraved. In gratitutude, I wrote  a TRIBUTE to my artist friends, and now it makes me happy to see that Andi is showing the same excitement for her OWN art that she showed for mine last fall.

I’ll never forget is watching her comedy set last Tuesday night. It was the same venue where I bombed last week– and much more crowded. She was the first comedy performer up, and no one was paying attention.  People were talking, no one stopped to listen.

But that didn’t stop Andi. Her stance was confident– shoulders back, legs astride. She started out strong, identifying herself as a lesbian and making jokes about it. People started to listen. Andi kept going, very at ease.  Last week when I hadn’t gotten the crowd after a few minutes, I blushed and stopped my set. Not Andi. She kept going– until the crowd quieted down, and got used to her presence. More people listened. Laughs began. Andi relaxed further, and began to really shine. Like a true performer, she wasn’t intimidated.

And she had some great jokes,  the laughs got bigger and more frequent. She was secure in her own talent– it was beautiful to watch. She’s the reason I tried stand-up at all– I went to watch her open mic, and she encouraged me to try. She subscribed to my blog right when she met me, about a year ago. She made me a wood-burned gift with a quote encouraging me to write.

Four times this week, I’ve gotten to hang out with Andi. Tuesday night, for an open mic where we both tried some stand-up comedy. Then for a few hours on 4th of July, I took her to my favorite local karaoke dive– a prerequisite before she leaves town. We went to Wal-Mart to buy her grill and do some last-minute shopping, and we hung out again for a few precious hours tonight before she had to finish packing.

I’ve had friends move away before, and a few more are planning to move within the next year. But I have to admit, I’m really going to miss this girl. She’s got a light about her, and has become one of my closest friends. I don’t think it’s hit me yet that she’s leaving– and that once she does, I don’t know when I’ll see her again. She may come back to Illinois to live, or only to visit. It could be years before I see her again.

She was part of my inspiration to delete facebook earlier this year. When I hesitated about following through, Andi encouraged me. She deleted hers in January, and hasn’t looked back. She doesn’t miss it, and plans to at least stay away for a full year. And even when I did return and sign back up, Andi didn’t judge me. She was supportive regardless.

She’s considering starting a blog to chronicle her travels on the road– which I hope she does.

In the past year, I’ve watched her grow up so much.  She’s an old soul, my indefatigable Gemini sister. She listens well, doesn’t judge, and cracks a joke when you most need it. She points out things of astonishing insight.

I gave her a rosary bracelet for protection on the road, and wrote down some quoted some song lyrics I thought were applicable, like a good luck charm. I couldn’t stop hugging the girl, and the tears happened.

I’m so incredibly proud of my brave friend, for re-defining her life on her terms. For daring. For doing.

Every time I do comedy, I’ll do it for Andi. If she’s not afraid to create her own American Dream on the road, I’m not afraid of a mic.

And the next time I see her, she’ll be a different woman– even more grown up, with even better stories. But for now, I await my first postcard, as she sets out for the life she wants– on the road.