Flashback Friday: It Feels Good to be a Gangsta (An Easter Post of Sorts)




Sunday, April 16, 2006
Easter was always hard for me as a child. I’d been taught that I should be pleased about the news of the risen Christ, but what I really cared about was the basket of goodies. Eternal salvation sounded like a good thing, but with Brach’s jellybeans and Marshmallow Peeps right in front of me, it was difficult to see that the less immediate thing was the important bit. I always hoped by devouring one white chocolate cross on a yearly basis, I was participating in a sort of sweet holiday communion that would guarantee a Get Out of Hell Free card later. I never liked white chocolate but ate it out of sense of religious obligation. Just in case.

I say this in the past tense, but even though I know an angioplasty and diabetes are going to be in my future if I don’t cut out the Peeps and other sugary, fat-laden goodness, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around future when the present is so delicious. I’m not a stupid person, but somehow I’ve never gotten how heavily buttered potatoes in front of me now are going to equal too-snug jeans and shortness of breath later. I keep thinking medical science has to have it wrong–that one day they’ll realize Coke cleans out your arteries, that a thick layer of subcutaneous fat around a knee is actually _protecting_ the joint, not putting its owner on the short track to knee replacement surgery.

Last week I saw “Office Space” for the tenth time and somehow the Geto Boys song “Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta” got stuck in my head. All week. I don’t like Rap, I don’t like those lyrics, but if you could have heard inside my head, that’s what would have been there. On campus on Wednesday as I drove past the one-day-only talking speed limit/radar detector sign and it told me I was four miles over the ridiculous 25 mph limit and said “SLOW DOWN!!” as if I were driving 75 thru a school zone, I curled my lip, shot an imaginary gun at the sign, and thought, “Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.”

Of course part of my cockiness stemmed from my having just seen the campus police SUV parked at McDonald’s.

Today, aside from being Easter, was my maternal grandmother’s 85th birthday. There’s no real story, but I thought I’d make note. She hasn’t felt good for my entire life and now has trouble getting out of chairs and down steps and her redneck neighbors plague her with late night ATV rides, but hey, 85 is one better than 84, and genetically speaking, I’m happy to have had a couple of grandparents who made it to that age even if there is gout affliction and high blood pressure pills. However, I’m hoping I won’t be as thrilled with “Deal or No Deal” as she is. Somehow that just seems like something that would be playing on the televisions that must line the walls of Purgatory. [Grandma died four and a half years after this post was written, but I still think of this as her time of year even though whenever you’d wish her happy birthday she’d give you a “pshaw” face and say, “It’s just another day.”]

While we were eating Easter/Birthday dinner, a family member was revisiting his romantic past. It was a story about a girl who once beat him up for kissing someone else. A girl whose family was likely Midwest mafioso. Then we talked about other people we know who seem to work beneath the radar of the law, who make bank deposits like Carmella Soprano’s $9,999 so it doesn’t get reported to the government, who drive big, expensive black cars, who always pay cash, and who live behind huge iron gates, but if you ask them how they make their living they’ll say they’re on disability or that they sell Hot Wheels on eBay.

Just simple folk, trying to get by.

I don’t know why this intrigues me so much. Despite my four miles over the speed limit last week, I’m the kind of person who would admit to a crime I didn’t commit just because I feel guilty about almost everything. The fact that I use non-rechargeable batteries or don’t recycle peanut butter jars because they are too hard to wash causes me moments of self-loathing. I can still feel my face turn red when I remember being lightly reprimanded by a teacher as a child. I also worry over much that when I make a judgment about someone or something, that perhaps I don’t have all the data. It’s the reason I don’t believe in the Death Penalty–400 eye witnesses could see a man shoot a convenience store clerk point blank and I’d always wonder if maybe it wasn’t the defendant’s doppelganger. I feel guilty. I question. I fret. I would be a jury foreman’s worst nightmare.

Which brings me to another family member acquired through marriage. I don’t have anything against this woman in particular. This afternoon though she and my mother were talking about trouble in the Middle East. It was a non-religious conversation, but this woman said, “Well, it’s all predicted in the Bible that this stuff will happen. The End is coming.” And then, without missing a beat, she said, “Ohhh. Are those Clark’s shoes you have on? Those are so cute.”

My life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to think so hard about stuff. Your reading it would be a lot easier too. No pondering the mysteries of the criminal mind, candy, religion, justice, my own psyche and trying to find meaning in everything. Instead, it would be one stream of consciousness thought after another: “400 dead today in train wreck. Cottonelle on sale at K-mart. Cute shoes!”  It’s another kind of gangster life…where you just live your own life and don’t think too much about it…or anything else. It must feel good. I’ll never know.

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