Saturday, December 03, 2005

For Many, Chez Is Someone Else's Word

chez (shā) prep.
At the home of; at or by.


I'm sipping Sam Adams and listening to Tracy Chapman on KCRW.com. There's a person who hugs me through her music. I've been sick for a week now and I have worked each night regardless of the weakness in my bones and the stuffiness in my head. I've endured and tolerated and accepted and smiled, and my wage is my reward. The wage is for me and it's for my circle of people for whom I have boundless love. I sniffled, sneezed, coughed, and hacked my way through a work week, and now, listening to Tracy Chapman on a chilly Saturday night, I am feeling renewed and am breathing easier.

This interview/performance is beautiful. Tracy certainly inspires and challenges people to be better without really seeming to look us in the eye about it. It just comes through in her compassionate tellings of people in need. As I typed the last few sentences, she spoke of a book she recently read entitled The Midnight Disease by Alice Weaver Flaherty. It's all about writing and its associated pathologies, the need to write and its relation to hypergraphia and depression, both suffered by the author. It doesn't necessarily resonate with me; I don't feel depressed and I will be looking up hypergraphia in a few minutes, but that need to write is something that I feel almost always. And I'll be reading this book as soon as I find it at my public library.

Listening to these songs, I remember Alice. I first met Alice when working at a record store on Nolensville Road in the early '90s. She would stop in a few times a week and make my life a bit more interesting. The best we at the store could figure was that she was homeless and not a recipient of much love in the world. Maybe she had a place to sleep, but I imagined that she made use of her days just walking up and down the streets, stopping into various stores and interacting with people in the only way she knew how. There were times when we would have to ask her to leave our shop. Alice would ask questions of us that didn't seem to have any relevance to anything at all, and sometimes she would take quite an acerbic tone and go into a tempered rage.

While we knew that we liked her and were curious about her state in life, we would at those times have to ask her to leave if there were customers about. Alice would just mumble something about how we were no good and leave for the day. But she always came back and we were cautiously happy to see her when she did.

Some years later, I read a heartwarming scenarios in the paper around Christmastime about a woman who had wandered into some Nashville bank and stated that she had some money being held for her. The loan officer she spoke with, who might normally might have just blown her off, felt some compassion for this woman who did seem disheveled and mentally hurt, and did some digging around.

I forget the details of the story, but it ended with him finding her relatives who had lost touch with her many years before when she had traveled by bus en route to visit or live with them in North Carolina, but for some reason she apparently got off of the bus in Nashville and had been here ever since. It was one of those stories that only seem to run around the holiday seasons. Her face was in the paper and it was my Alice from those almost daily rants in that Turtle's record store where I spent so much of my early twenties. There was now a Chez Alice. Whatever her new place in life, it now came with the warmth of a roof and a reunion with her family.

Happy holidays, stay warm, and help someone else stay warm.

(I just looked up hypergraphia. I like to write, but I'm not even on the same planet as those who suffer with that disease. Not yet, anyway.)

1 comment:

BBLogan said...

Love this story!

And, Tracy Chapman... I have all of her stuff but haven't taken the time to listen for a long time. Now you've got me jonesin' to hear her... gonna have to take care of that tonight. Maybe I'll have to run out and grab her latest CD, too. Haven't taken time to do that yet!