The Illustrated Tow Truck
I was sitting at a light, on the way to some suburban endeavor this morning, when I noticed a tow-truck idling next to me in traffic. Normally, I wouldn’t look twice, but I happened to notice that on the long, thin, metal edge of the bed, there was a pattern. The truck itself was red, but the pattern consisted of festive little yellow asterisks and triple swipes of powder blue, over and over again on the red metal. I studied it, and decided it was definitely hand-painted.
A thought occurred to me at that moment: Who the hell hand-paints a tow truck? Isn’t that the most utilitarian thing there is? It’s not cute and fun, like a taxi cab. In fact, it evokes times of great pain in the ass – rumbling up to take you away from the scene of your accident or yanking you from the parking space you thought was perfectly legal. So help me, though, this tow truck had the equivalent of a filigreed edge along its side. Hand painted. With happy little colors like a nursery.
Did the driver do it? Did it come that way? Is that a factory setting, or some happy wife proud of the first truck her husband owned? I picture some delightful codger, touching up the hand-painting his equally codgerly truck. She’s named Marlene, and she takes a minute to get going in the morning, but so does he. She will be parked proudly in his driveway, and eventually, in a happier, more Shire-like world, if her axle gives out, her motor will power some alternate contraption of his own making, like a pulley clothesline that automatically rotates his laundry so he can stand in one place and hang it. There she’ll be, with headlight eyes and a rusty, happy smile, puttering and sputtering, but still being useful well beyond her years. Sure, the kids’ll sell her when the codger passes away, but she smile just as much she become the belle of the junkyard, housing a raccoon that has babies in her vinyl front seat.
For a minute, I wondered if all tow trucks were painted that way and I never bothered to notice. Then, I decided I didn’t want to know. This tow truck brought me a big smile in Saturday morning traffic, and that was all that she needed to do, she and whoever decided to paint her. So, thanks, Marlene, and it nice to meet you. Please give the raccoons all my best.
I am delighted to have spent the last few months doing some work with Postfilm Design Co., an excellent branding and web design house here in Atlanta. The team there is creative and passionate about what they do, and as a result, they have been building, changing, and growing -- and that's the very best thing for a business. It's also the most stressful, because you often have to change not just the words you use about your business, but what your business really wants to say. It's not an easy process, but is worth it, and I am very proud to have been invited to the table to help them craft some new ways to talk about their world.
Please take a moment to check out their new website at postfilmdesign.com, and hear about their journey (and see a shout out to yours truly) in their latest blog post here.
Meanwhile, I am raising a glass (or a red pen?) to all of the Postfilm team -- including the cats!
Writing is all about storytelling, and one of the wonderful gifts I got from the universe is a dad that tells great stories. Often repeatedly. Often to polite, knowing smiles and no small amounts of chagrin from those around him. In honor of the wonderful and lovable trait, I give you this: my favorite dad joke, as told by my dad during a recording of the two of us at the Atlanta StoryCorps booth earlier this year.
Happy Father's Day, padre. I believe that my family may already be numbering MY jokes accordingly.
5... 6... 7... 8...
For years, I took dance class. Pretty much involuntarily. I was the short, lumpy girl in the back line who was forced to be there to get some exercise. Ironically, I often opted to skip class and wander across the parking lot to the drugstore, where I would browse the notebooks and buy a Snickers instead. I did not love dance, but as the parent of two girls, the lure of seeing a recital featuring my little darlings in sparkling tutus wandering about the stage was too much to resist. So, when they were old enough, I dutifully signed each of them up for lessons.
My older daughter never really took to it. "I just want to be in the recital because I like the attention," she admitted to me after I signed her up for another year. Clearly, she’s a budding psychologist, if not a dancer. With my little one, however, it's a different story. I march her off to class a bit sluggishly on Saturday mornings, me with no makeup and a big coffee, her changing straight from pajamas into her leotard. I send her pony-tailed head into the dance studio, and promptly spend the rest of the hour chatting with my friends and ignoring the hallway’s broad “peeking” window covered with cheap and barely open blinds. Other, more eager parents gaze through the slats like paparazzi, and hover and fuss about whether their kids are going to get it together for the recital. They lament about why the teacher hasn't taken the time to put a video of the dance on YouTube so they can make their children practice it at home. They look at me strangely when I suggest that the best part of the recital is watching a kid who wants nothing to do with the dancing part stand on stage and wave to their mother. Me? I sit with my back toward the window and make jokes with my friends about the People of Walmart.
This week, though, my usual conversation buddies were out of town, and I took a few minutes to linger at the window and watch my daughter during class. She was standing directly next to the teacher, invariably attentive. Her hands were on her hips. Her kicked-back foot was balanced on the tip of her tap shoes. She was holding her position, gracefully, as she waited for the music. She wasn't suffering through the class with a forced shuffle-step march like I had. She was confident, and when the music started, she shook her diminutive hips right on tempo. She’s a dancer. I recognize it now, because I used to look in wonder at the slim, muscular girls in the front row of my dance class who knew all the steps. They would come directly after school and stay for hours at the dance studio, changing from one leotard to another and complaining about when they were going to do their homework as they squeezed into their toe shoes. They WANTED to be there. They LIKED it. They were dancers. In the recital, they were posed and smiling airily into the spotlight. I was in the back, frantically trying to keep my substantial beige bra tucked under my costume’s pencil thin spaghetti straps.
Don’t mistake this for a speech on low self-confidence, mind you, I was talented in plenty of other ways, but as I watched my daughter, I finally understood the joy she gets from an hour at dance. I think this is what runners must feel – the pleasure of controlling your body, of moving it and using it, of being intentional and beautiful with your muscles. This is what people talk about when they refer to the flow and endorphins of exercise. I’m not much of a running person, so I faintly recognize that feeling, mostly from spending a day at the beach or walking to lunch or eating two hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts in a row. Out of my pale and writerly loins has sprung a dancer. She’s very happy to be in class, always knows her cue, and may one day complain about her homework as she weaves the ribbon of her toe shoes around her calf. Meanwhile, I will still be the one ducking out to go to drug store, browsing the notebooks, and buying a Snickers. There’s something, though, that I can finally say that I really enjoy about dance class. When the recital comes, that beautiful pony-tailed dancer in the front row? The one who knows all the steps? She’s going to raise her face to the spotlight, smile airily, and then wave to me.
I am slightly late in sharing this for Breast Cancer Awareness month, but since breast cancer is something that more than one of the people I love has had to deal with, I don't feel the least bit bad posting this puppy right now. A month or two ago, I wrote a story about a breast cancer survivor named Makeda McLune for the American Cancer Society. In addition to being published on their website, cancer.org (you can read it here), I am excited to report that the story was picked up and published in a special breast cancer section of the Dallas Morning News.
That means this little ol' writer got to be on the Sunday breakfast tables of many people in Dallas with a story that I hope made them smile. Pretty cool!
A Happy Story for Your Monday
I am excited to share my latest piece for the American Cancer Society -- a story about a lovely human who survived childhood cancer and is now helping others find the help they need to navigate treatment. A happy read for your Monday!
Childhood Cancer Survivor Lends a Voice -- and a Hand -- To Others
A New Piece for the Folks at MDA
I was very happy to have a chance to write an article for the folks at the Muscular Dystrophy Association recently. If you have someone you know who has pain from muscle disease, go check out my piece in their magazine, Quest.
Medication, Meditation, and Movement
I just spent a week on the Oregon Coast with house full of creative ladies. That could have been a nightmare. Instead it was a dream. It was saturating. Hydrating. It plumped my brain.
Red Rocks on an Oregon Beach
A ferrous layer in the ocean rocks
means tiny red rocks all over the beach.
attractive and attracting
in little chunks and pieces.
Sometimes the water
and rounds our edges
so we will have
stories to tell
when the Na and the Cl
put us back together.
Amanda Dobbs, copyright 2015
There are so many clichés about surviving hard things in this world. Kittens on branches remind us to “hang in there.” Football coaches (and Billy Ocean) preach that when the going gets tough, the tough should get going. My personal and indelicate favorite to invoke in times of stress, and you may know from reading this blog, is “Shit happens for a reason.” Like anyone, though, sometimes I forget the “for a reason” part and have trouble focusing on anything but the shit.
We all get there. Our problems may be of the first world variety, they are still problems, and problems often consume emotional, physical, and financial resources that seem to exceed what we have to give.
A strange and wonderful part of being a writer sometimes is that it’s part of my job to ask people about their problems. This is in no way an exercise in schadenfreude for me, if I may use the $5 word; in fact it’s quite the opposite. Instead, it selfishly gives me a chance to talk to people I don’t know in situations often different from mine and explore how they spend their energy when their needs seem to exceed their resources. It’s heartbreaking, fascinating, uplifting, and humbling. It makes me understand that behind every pre-packaged, news-bite version of a story, there’s a real human who is making real time decisions about how to cope – even if my job is to give the world the short version of their story.
Last year, I wrote a piece about a woman with lung cancer. I got to reach out and reconnect with her a week or so ago and got an update on how she is doing (doing well, thank you). Re-reading her story made me think about how she was spending her energy, and likewise about how I was spending mine. It made think about how life goes on when it feels like it should stop. It made be realize that we are all winging it somedays and owning it others. It also made me realize how sometimes it takes a silly picture of a kitten on a branch to reveal a universal truth.
Go read my version of her story if you like, and see what you think. For me, it affirmed, once again, my belief that shit really does happen for a reason.
Hi. I'm Amanda Dobbs.