Patti Smith, charcoal pencil drawing by Estela. (1997)

Last Monday (April 30) was my 62nd birthday. This old bag is another year older. My hair grows grayer everyday. Silver, actually. The salt and pepper are pretty even now, but it’s quite silver at my temples. Almost looks like deliberately placed streaks, really.

I’m cool with 62. I’m alive. John, a family friend, who was more my brother than my own brother, didn’t get past 44. An aggressive cancer swept him off this earth six years ago. It was a July when I learned something serious was up; October I learned it was cancer; November he was gone. Just like that. I cried and cried and cried. I haven’t been the same since. So, I’m just fine with 62. I have my struggles, but I have my health — physical, mental (usually), emotional (generally), and spiritual (not religious, I belong to no organized religion).

My son had two free, no guarantee passes for a premier of The Avengers Monday night. Sunday night, he says, “Oh, meet me tomorrow at the Metreon before 6:30”. My son is rather geeky. As a kid, he started collecting superhero comic books, and he’s got quite an extensive collection. He regularly attended Comic-Con even before it became trendy (i.e. mainstream). No, he doesn’t dress up like any superhero. But he does have sundry superhero items, like small toys, t-shirts, coffee mugs, a mouse pad, that sort of thing. I have geeky tendencies myself. Yup, indeed I am an old bag, but I have my toy collection too. Catwoman is my fav superhero. My Catwoman toys.

I totally appreciated the invitation as a birthday gift. We stood in line over an hour. He says, “I hope what happened to Sheldon doesn’t happen to us.”

“I know,” I said, with a chuckle. (If you’re a fan of Big Bang Theory, you should know what that means.) Well, we got “Sheldon’d”. The line was cut off not even six people in front of us. A collective groan filled the air. There was still a line a mile behind us. “Well, it’s not as if we aren’t gonna see it,” I said. “Just not today.”

“Yeah,” he says. “I don’t really mind cuz now I can be home in time to catch RuPaul.”

“Yeah, I was thinking the same thing,” I told him. Monday night was the finale on RuPaul. It would’ve been anti-climatic if we had watched it later, recorded to the DVR. We left the theater.

We stopped at St. Francis Fountain, on 24th and Bryant, and had a sandwich. There are usually hipsters spilling out the door, crowding the entire corner waiting to get in. Luckily, it wasn’t like that by the time we arrived. He had a Patty’s Meltdown and fries with Ranch dressing to dip them in. I had The Bird and a garden salad with orange vinaigrette dressing. We got home around 8:45. I’m so glad we got home in time to watch RuPaul. Yay! Sharon Needles! (If you watched RuPaul’s Drag Race, you know what I’m talking about.)

My granddaughter texted me before I left to meet my son at the Metreon. That put a big smile on my face. I love her soooo much!

I’m listening to Etta James: heart & soul: a retrospective. It’s a four CD collection. It includes several pages of photos and a bio. A birthday gift from my son. “Hope you like it,” he says, handing it me.

“Oh, my gawd! Etta!” I exclaimed, all wide-eyed. Like it? I love it! 

I’ve been a Etta fan since I was a teeny bopper. This collection is full of my Etta favs: Pushover, Tell Mama, My Dearest Darling, I’d Rather Go Blind, Fool That I Am, Stop The Wedding; and it also has some covers, like These Foolish Things, Love Letters, Down So Low, There’s Something On Your Mind, Lover Man. There’s a total of 83 songs! Whee!

When my ex was my boyfriend, he gave me a 45 with My Dearest Darling. (You have to be old enough to know that’s a vinyl record, generally with an A side and a B side. Sometimes they might have two songs on each side, but not as a rule.) I was my boyfriend’s property. His giving me a gift meant nothing to me; I knew he’d bully me later. Abusers can also act romantic and sentimental. I was in a passive stupor, a zombie. He didn’t know I loved Etta James. Not that he would give a shit. If he wanted my opinion, he’d make sure to give it to me. But, never mind him, I loved Etta James, and I played that record over and over and over. My mom assumed I played it because he gave it to me. I tried to tell her it was the song I loved, it was Etta I loved, it had nothing to do with him. But I could never get anything through to her; geezus, that made me crazy. It was as if she were deaf, or really, really stoopid. As a pathological narcissist, she couldn’t hear me or see me, except as she wanted and needed to. Like my therapist said, amazed, having inadvertently met her, “You’re mother doesn’t know you! She has no clue who you are, or what you’re about! None!” That was ten years ago.

I’m happy to be 62. It took too many years to get a clue. I’ve hardly begun to live.

I’d Rather Go Blind is playing. Oh, shit, this one always makes me weep. ‘Scuse me a minute.

Geeze. Some songs do that to me. I fall to pieces.

Friday morning, my son texted me from work: “Meet me at the Metreon 4:15 – 4:30.” He bought two tickets for opening night of The Avengers. He doesn’t always invite me to the movies. It’s just that Monday was my birthday. That was totally generous of him. I’m so grateful. The Avengers was awesome!

I’m working on a new poem. It’s called Good-bye Boy. I got the idea to write this in mid April. The words finally started coming to me last week. I really like what I have so far. It makes me laugh. I guess I will never be a prolific writer. Writing doesn’t come easy. I struggle to find the right words, the words I need. But as long as I keep writing, I’m ok with that. I mean, I have to accept it. It’s the way it is. I’d like to think that one day, bam! shit will just pour out. Hasn’t yet. Presumably, it’s unlikely. Same with my painting. But I keep trying. I keep at it.

Emily Dickinson spent her life locked in her room, writing her poetry, compelled to write poetry. She wanted her work to be relevant. But she wasn’t published in her lifetime. She writes to Higginson, “If fame owned me, I could not escape her.” She meant, if her work was relevant, it would live beyond her. Fate is inescapable. What is, is. What will be, will be. One can only do the best they can, and let the Creator and the Sacred Spirits take care of the rest.

Sometimes I think, “I wish I were more like Patti Smith. I wish I were more like Joy Harjo. I wish I were more like Janice Gould. I wish I were more like Alice Bag.” Silly me. I know. I know. I’m Estela. I’m Estela. Whoever, however, whatever, I am she. I am Estela.


About Poet Dressed In Black

Poet. Artist. Grammy of one, a granddaughter. Mom of three, son and two daughters, all grown. Individualist. Care-taker of Isabel, an agoraphobic, fear-aggressive, very nervous, delicate flower, Chihuahua mix.
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