Once You’ve Had the Best

 

There’s nothing better once you’ve had the best.”
-George Jones

I’ve always loved old country songs. Ranging from Randy Travis (whom I can’t fathom being in the genre of old) to George Jones and Merle Haggard.

My boyfriend knows this too, as he thought it was important that I own a vintage Randy Travis Fan Club pin, which for the record just about undid me. And the other day kidded about hiring musicians to serenade me.

“I’m going to get you Travis Tritt and Miley Cyrus,” he said with chest-swelling pomp.

“You know those two aren’t a combo, right? It’s Miley and Billy Ray Cyrus.”

I say all this, really as an aside—though it’s an important aside, so remember it—because that song lyric has always given me dreamy pause. Sure I’ve thought each past boyfriend ought to be the best, because he did this or that: took me up in a plane, sent me flowers for no reason, did the big grand gestures.

And while the big grand gestures never hurt a girl, those other men were missing a key component. They didn’t truly know me. They couldn’t have because I was only allowing myself to be a cultivated version of myself to please them.

I tried to be the kind of girl who went to country clubs and showed up to affairs 30 minutes early.

I’m not that kind of girl.

I tried to be the kind of girl who would keep my mouth shut and be less of a flaming hippy, the kind who wants to chain herself to trees to save the rainforest and join protesters for Native American rights.

Yeah… not that kind of girl either.

I even tried to be the kind of girl who was less interested in sugar.

And sadly, I will never be that kind of girl.

So, naturally, as God would see fit, none of those relationships worked out. I was of course surprised and dismayed and threw seven dozen tantrums.

Then I met him. So the story usually goes.

And this is how our story goes:

One night late after work, when I was lazy and tired, I suggested takeout: cheeseburgers and sweet potato fries. We walked in the door, only for me to immediately rip off my bra and start changing into my comfies, my usual, M.O. I was elated over not having to cook and to have a cheeseburger sans ketchup with extra pickles in my mouth in 2.5 seconds.

My sir started getting handsy and pulling me in for a kiss. Fine, a kiss, but when he started pulling me toward the bed, I halted, absolutely appalled.

“No way. There are cheeseburgers and sweet potato fries in there,” I pointed to the kitchen.

He laughed and kept trying to pull me back.

“No, I am not kidding. I want the cheeseburger much more than you right now. There is no getting in my way of that.”

I walked away to the kitchen. He laughed again and followed, while I unabashedly sunk my teeth into my cheeseburger in happy glee. And he knows. Because he knows me. The real me.

He knows I eat faster than he does, I could generally outeat him and certainly love food inexplicably more than he does.

He also knows the me who does weird faces and imitations at him in line in Starbucks while he stands stock still seemingly perusing the menu. I persist, rubbing my nose against his face and doing loony jigs around his body. He looks sideways at me and raises his eyebrows and I giggle. He later points out that he loves when I am exuberant like that.

“You mean when I’m a weirdsmobile?”

“No, you just seem really happy.”

“I am happy being a weirdsmobile.”

Also I am happy with him. But being a weirdsmobile? Yeah that’s an enormous part of my personality too. I have never really hid that with men, however, I have never had one who dishes it right back.

Like today while shopping he asked if he could buy a WWE comforter set. I pretended to be horrified but secretly thought it was hysterical and wonderful. Not that I like WWE, but I could be on board liking it ironically.

I led him by the hand back to the WWE sheets where he hemmed and hawed.

“Nah, I mean these are all the new guys. Maybe if the bedspread had Steve Austin.”

Then we looked at wrestling belts in the toy aisle and I suggested that he buy one as consolation, but only if he did WWE moves with it on.

“Maybe we should build a wrestling ring,” he mused.

I think to myself as I often do when I am with him, one of two thoughts:

He truly is the best.

And/Or

He is the best human I know. 

I literally find myself wanting to ask strangers, “can I tell you about the best human I know?” and it’s him.

I don’t do it, of course, but I oftentimes think it.

Which brings me back to the beginning, almost.

There was this woman I once knew whose fiance was a firefighter and died in the September 11th attacks before they could marry. She never wanted another love, because she said she’d already had the best one and wasn’t interested. At the time I thought it was a sweet sentiment, but she had been young when it happened and had time for perhaps another love. As long as I had known her, her best love had been her only love.

But now I see, there’s nothing better once you’ve had the best.

And that is how I feel about him.

He isn’t the could be best, or should be best, he is simply the best.

Besides, I think it’s pretty obvious if a guy gives you a Randy Travis Fan Club pin, you’re his for life. At least, that’s what works on this girl.

xo

-Cassandcastle

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Rodeo Queens and Me

I think perhaps the West was in me long before I was ever in the West. I saw this picture once where my mom was holding me—I was a toddler—and I was leaning over a fence feeding a horse an apple. I used to listen to Shania Twain a whole bunch even though her hit song ‘Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under’ was strictly forbidden in our household. Why, you ask? Well all that sexual innuendo of course. Though I didn’t get it at the time, I simply thought Shania’s man was a little negligent with his boots. Big whoop. I also wasn’t allowed to listen to Billy Ray Cyrus’s, ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ because he threatened that if you did tell his achy breaky heart he might blow up and kill a man.

My parents weren’t total squares; I think they really just wanted to do right by us kids and not have sex talk or blow up talk earlier than was necessary in life. One could reference our trashy next door neighbors as wayward examples of what happened to children with too much knowledge on the country music circuit; they once told me that God didn’t put the new baby in my mom’s belly but that my parents ‘really liked each other, if you know what I mean,’ with a suggestive wink. Sure. My parents really did like each other and that’s why God gave them a baby, obviously.

At any rate. It’s not just that I liked country music and horses and fields of grain or would bemoan when a Wal-Mart was put in where a field used to be. It’s that everything about the West already fascinated me. I read every story I could find about Sacagawea. In fact in sixth grade I read such a large book about her, that in a book reading contest, I earned enough points on that read alone to go out to lunch at Big Boy with my principal. Thanks Sacagawea.

Oh but I wished to be her so bad that some mornings I woke up in my pristinely pale Finnish skin and was aghast that I hadn’t dreamed myself a Native American leading explorers to greatness. And don’t even get me started on the explorers. Or the other Native Americans. Their drums and dances. Their traditions. The way they honored Mother Nature and carried babies on their backs while picking corn.

I couldn’t spoon that information into my mouth fast enough.

So when I actually encountered the West for the first time, it was as if I were returning to a place I already knew belonged to me. A place I had read about and entertained notions of grandeur for decades. Before coming back to Wyoming for a third time, I was lingering in Colorado and I found myself drawn to the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy. As I lazily ambled through the displays, reading about cowboys and cowgirls, I couldn’t help but feel intense admiration for the all the women who had inhabited the sport and the West.

I was struck by women who could stand on their horses backs while they galloped, women who influenced rodeo, or helped their husbands succeed. A part of me leaned into this like I had always leaned into the West.

Now don’t get me wrong. I in no way want to be a rodeo queen, that’s way too much bedazzlement for my tastes. Nor do I have aspirations of standing on a horse while he gallops. I would surely break my neck. But I do think these women, both the rodeo queens, cowgirls and pioneers of past and present are a source of deep admiration for life and possibility in the West.

I want to be like them, but still be me. I don’t care all that much about the fringe or the fanfare. Well, except, for my fringey Buffalo Bill Cody coat which I do bust out on occasion, because I can.  And yes, I do enjoy some fanfare in my life. No, it’s not that though. I don’t care about being the next best thing in rodeo or the West. That is not a goal of mine. My goal however, is to be the best version of myself here.

I want to be the best me in the West. If that means I can ride horses and lasso cows and listen to Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been under while donning a cowboy hat and boots, well then that’s mighty fine. And if that also means I am a complete contradiction to the girl I once thought I was, who hoped to be sophisticated and wear heels and have a brownstone and never listen to country music, well then, that’s okay too.

I am simply finding myself. And I seem to be as woven in these hills as intricately as the horses, cattle and buffalo are. Like I said, maybe the West was in me long before I even knew. And I simply had to find my way back to myself.

“For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-field pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar’s gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go.”
Robert Penn Warren

 

Maybe the Country Songs are Right

Well, folks, it’s been just shy of one month since I left the East Coast and my love, DC and headed for colder weather. It’s not often people pack up to experience 50 degree temps on the first day of summer, but I haven’t minded it much. It feels like fall, and I pretend that it is, as a new season might mean I have moved past my heartbreak and am okay. It’s working a little.

I’ll refrain from crooning corny country songs, here, like it’s getting better all the time, or something about my achy breaky heart and instead say that I am finding the beauty in the struggle once again. If anyone knew anything about DC it’s that the man did indeed spoil me and made my life, well, cushier than I’d ever experienced before in my twenty-eight years. But now, it’s back to relying on good ol’ numero uno and that’s not so bad. It’s not so bad at all.

Like for instance I have been riding my bike a lot. Mostly because it’s pink and pretty, has a basket and it’s my new favorite pastime; but also because it saves on gas. There is something to be said about the wind whipping at my sides while I pump my legs getting in mile after mile on my own energy. It’s really rather therapeutic. Well that and my small supply of Xanax, which I almost lost on one said bike ride. I had some in a little zip-loc in my purse—ya know, for emergencies—and as I was making a sharp turn, my purse flopped open and the wind took the Xanax filled bag and carried it down the street. Immediately I turned and raced after it, feeling frantic—I’d already lost my heart, it was no good to lose my mind too. Eventually I caught up to the bag and ran over it with my wheel to stop its escaping. Close call. Oh Xanax, what would I do without you?

I have also been cooking a lot. To be fair I haven’t been experimenting as much as I had hoped (with new recipes and such) mostly because I’m poor, but I have rationed my four extra jumbo sweet potatoes I bought when I first moved here and have been making a slew of meals with those. I learned from my sis, who learned from a German she flirts with, who learned from Gordon Ramsay that I have apparently been making scrambled eggs wrong my entire life. So this morning I googled the aforementioned Gordon Ramsay scrambled egg tutorial and found by golly, I have been doing it wrong my whole life.

I have also learned the trick for not setting off the smoke alarm in my new apartment. It goes off if I so much as boil water for tea—and by tea I of course mean coffee in my French press. As I happily watched Gordon Ramsay instruct on of the most basic meals of mankind, I had a small fan churning out air pointed upwards at the smoke detector. Then I happily ate the last of my sweet potato stash which I cut up in mini pieces for a hash, accompanied by my new take on the scrambled egg.

And then I did start crooning corny country songs. All day I kept singing to myself, and it’s a great day to be alive, by Travis Tritt. I couldn’t help myself. It did feel great to be alive. Pain and all. Pain I was ignoring. Pain I was embracing. Pain I was masking. Pain I was avoiding. It didn’t matter. I learned how to make scrambled eggs the right way. I learned how not to set off the smoke alarm while frying those eggs. I learned that riding my pink bicycle might be one of the purest ways for me to feel joy. I learned that while yes, a man taking caring of me feels mighty fine, taking care of myself feels even better. And yes, Brooks and Dunn, I have learned that it is getting better all the time.

Quoth Cassandra’s hair, ‘Nevermore!’

I didn’t want to overwhelm you with my Poe love yesterday, so I am doing this post today. Okay, honestly, I was a little under the weather last night when I got home from work and spent the entire evening on the couch watching an obscene amount of, How I Met Your Mother, but no matter better late than never. Yesterday marked the 164th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s death and I had the supreme honor of doing a blog at work on ways to celebrate the brilliance that is Poe.

Of course I’ve been besotted with EAP since my days of youth, when as a wee lass I went on field trips to see the play, the Tell Tale Heart and every year was transfixed. Then as an adult I became obsessed with doing readings of Poe’s poetry, especially The Raven and I would ask my family if they would like to hear a reading to which they would respond by pretending not to hear, not responding at all, or a simple no thank-you. They don’t get it. So yesterday in my scouring of the internet for all things Poe, I of course came across his picture and it hit me how I, myself could honor Poe in my own way. Unbelievably lucky for me, I kind of look like Poe right now and I could dress like him and do my own reading to the world!

Okay, to explain. I am growing out my hair which was a pixie cut. If I am not on top of trims to shape my hair as I grow it out (which I have not been due to a lack of fundage. Much like the federal government, my hair is on shutdown until further notice) it looks markedly similar to Billy Ray Cyrus circa 1994, as in mullet-esque. But upon seeing pictures of Poe I realized Cyrus was out. My hair (recently dyed black-ish for a fun fall change) was an identical replica of EAP’s hair! What a happy coincidence! I could make use of my bad hair in honoring my idol (as much as I love beards I will not grow one for Hemingway, I have my boyfriend to do that for me).

The only problem I encountered in the plan (as my hair was already perfect) was the reading, if you are anything like my family, which I suspect you might be, I have a feeling I will lose you during my reading of The Raven as it is quite long. So I am going to suggest kindly, that you check out the amazing reading of The Raven that I featured on the other blog I wrote for Northern Virginia Magazine. It is awesome; James Earl Jones does it and I can’t really compete with that. But I will give you what you really want, which is the Poe makeover:

poe

poe1

casssAaaaaaand spot on! Nailed it. I love Poe and I don’t care who knows it! P.S. I did not do my hair for the shoot. My routine, you ask? Simple. I took a shower last night, went to bed with wet hair, woke up and ta-da! Pure Poe-look-alike Perfection! Don’t know if you could possibly love him as much as I do unless you are willing to draw on a moustache with eye pencil and wrap one of your silk slips around your neck as a makeshift cravat. In case you aren’t a nerd and didn’t read romance novels all through high school, this is a cravat. Also I could probably now get a job as a Civil War re-enactor. Gosh the possibilities truly are endless. Now go read some Poe-try!