Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Just another day at Grady.

If you know anything about this group, you are officially old school.
"Nobody told me there'd be days like these. . .
Strange days indeed. . . 
Most peculiar, mama!"

~ John Lennon

Walking to outside the toward the hospital entrance:

Dude:  "Hey there, lady."

Me:  "Hello, sir. You doin' alright?"

Dude:  "Oh yeah. . . 'specially now that my eyes is layin' on you."

Eeeww. Eyes? Layin' on me? 

Dude:  "You wearin' that haircut, lady."

Me: (smile)

Dude:  "You lookin' real good, too."

Me: (in my head) Ewww again.

Okay. Let me make this story as funny as it really was for you. "Dude" was about sixty-something years old, and if I guessed it, at least two hundred seventy-five pounds of southern gentleman. (If you count his comments as southern gentleman-ly.) Anyways. Dude had a hospital gown on, was pushing an IV pole with two different medications, and smiling wide with lots of interruptions in his dentition. (That's my medical way of saying that Dude had a very complicated grill--whoops grill = teeth.)

So check it out. All of this was going down right outside in front of the entrance. He was sporting a rather spectacular salt and pepper, fully picked out afro, which I have to say boasted a rather impressively intact hairline for a dude his age. And how perfectly picked it was!  I mean it had to be freshly picked out because not even one side of it was smushed in-- and folks who know afros know that afros can sometimes get, well, smushed.

That reminds me. His afro kind of reminded me of when my brother used to ask me or my sister to plait his hair all over so that when he unraveled the braids his afro could be that loose, blow-in-the-wind type afro that only has been attained by the following people: Chaka Khan, young Michael Jackson at the post-ABC but pre-Thriller age, and a group called The Sylvers that, unless you are over 40, black, and real, real ol' school, you'd never know so I won't even mention in great detail. But my brother? His afro was pretty awesome--particularly when freshly picked out after some mean plaits courtesy of his sisters' nimble fingers. I'm just sayin'.

Chaka Khan. . Chaka Khan

Wait-- where was I?

Oh. The unsmushed afro of this dude who could be my father was, quite possibly, one of the best I'd seen in a long, long time. Definitely as good as my brothers, and perhaps one step under that of Chaka. But despite his lovely afro, I wasn't looking to have his eyes layin' on me much longer so I keep it moving. The good news is that after ten years of working at Grady, on a scale of one to ten on how fazed I was by it, I'd say it was a solid two.


So as I walk along past him, Dude posts up in the little outside smoking area, designated for folks who wish to smoke.  He reaches into the afro and pulls out a cigarette.


This is the point where I know FOR CERTAIN that I will be blogging about this (and NO, Mom, I am not using poetic license here--Dude really pulled a square from up out of his afro.) Then, as if on cue, a lady gives him a light. I stop and watch for a few seconds because I'm convinced that she doesn't know him and that it's all a part of some complicated smoker's etiquette. I was right. Before I know it, they're yucking it up. I rather dig the camaraderie.

Lady catches me looking and smiles. "Baby, you wearin' that haircut!" she says in a surprisingly loud yet unsurprisingly raspy voice. She follow it with a sassy laugh.

Dude chimes in. "Tha's what I jest told her!"

Lady nods fast as she lights another cigarette, takes a deep drag and then says to Dude in that same loud voice, "You know she be on TV. On Fox 5."

Dude turns his head sideways at me and squints his eyes. "Sho' is, ain't it?"

Lady cackles and says, "Yep. Sho' is. You betta do it, girl! You be doin' yo' thang!"

They both look in my direction and give me an approving nod. I decide I like the kindness in their eyes and return the favor.

I stood there for a moment watching them. . . .as crazy as it sounds, I admired how content they were.  Suddenly, a bigger smile creeped across my face. This is Grady, I say to myself, and man, I'm just glad to be here.  I took in a few more sights and sounds around me as I walked into the building: A rather odd homeless lady unashamedly singing a gospel song on the bus stop--"I--HIII-HIIII I  KNOW I BEEN CHANGED!! THE ANGELS IN THE HEAVENS DONE SIGNED MY NAME!!!"-- a man riding by in an electric wheelchair that seemed turbo-charged, and a woman with extremely swollen ankles eating french-fries from a McDonald's bag.

I think of how peculiar all of this seemed when I first started working there, and how at home I feel standing in the middle of it now some ten years later. I turn around and look back out the glass doors, and shake my head. In a way that moment feels divine.

I think to myself, You are exactly where you are supposed to be.

Sho' is ain't it? Sho' is.

I head off, wearin' my haircut, to do my thang.


The Sylvers on Soul Train. . . .consider yourself now officially "old school."


  1. They're right. :) Kim, you wearin' that haircut! And I know what grills are from that Nelly song from '05 called 'Grillz', lol. :)

  2. This reminds me of when I watched the movie "Good Hair." I seriously had no idea how much work (and money) went into black hair, and it taught me never ever to complain about my own hair. I thought it was odd when a little black girl said she wanted a "perm." I thought, "why would she want a perm? Her hair is already curly!" and then it slowly dawned on me that for black people, a "perm" is for straightening...

    Still, whenever I see a super cool afro, I feel a little envious :)

  3. Deborah, black hair is a full time job! And you're so right--there's nothing like a big ol' Afro blowing in the wind!

    Lucy, who says you NZ folks are clueless in your jandals and livin' in your 'wop wops?' You knew what a grill was!!! Sweet-as! (Don't you love it that I've been doing my NZ slang homework?)

  4. I LOVE the Sylvers! I still have "Hot Line" and "Boogie Fever" on 45s. Guess that means I am really old. :)

  5. 'Sweet-as!' - OMG, that's so funny, and cool that you've learnt some Kiwi phrases, chur bro!

    I second what Deborah said about not realising the amount of work that goes into Black hair. New Zealand has quite a small African and African American population, so I never really gave it that much thought apart from the fact that natural hair looks very difficult to comb. I really love India Arie's music, and when I heard the song 'I Am Not My Hair', I thought 'Wait, the way you wear your hair affects how people see you and your social status?!!', I never really realised the amount of work that goes in until I watched a show about real hair and fake hair on Tyra.

    My 14yo brother has the most amazing curly blonde hair and it kind of sits in an afro type thing, one day his Social Studies teacher called him Fluffy Duckling, now people in his class call him Fluffy D.

  6. Great post! I'm a nurse practitioner working with a hospitalist group in TN, and just when I think our little rural world is crazy, I get a dose of your life at Grady and realize that weirdness is everywhere (some places more than others). LOL


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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