SWEAT STAINED REVIEW: CONFESSIONS OF A BLUE COLLAR MISFIT
A Guide to Buying Your Own Flowers
By Dan Denton
If you read my shit long enough, you’ll start getting the inclination that I’ve got a thing for Miley Cyrus, and if you’re unfortunate enough to spend much time with me, you’ll probably hear me sing a loud, but poor rendition of her hit song from last year, the one about buying yourself flowers. I apologize for the later, and remain joyfully unashamed of the former.
As much as I like Miley, and that song, a recent trip out west was a constant reminder that our world isn’t built for flying solo. It started with the gatekeeper from the airline company. The one that scans your boarding pass before you board the plane, and her, “it’s just you?” Then to the express check in at the resort hotel, where the machine spits out two room keys.
Maybe it’s because I don’t look, dress, or act like a businessman. They travel alone all the time, right? Or maybe it’s because I don’t go to places that businessmen go, like Scranton, and Trenton, or Dayton. But even the 4am sex worker that approached me in a world famous casino joined in with, “you seem fun. Where’s all your friends?” And 15 minutes later, after I confessed I was too tired in my middle ages for a date at 4am PST, even if Miley called, but offered to buy her a drink, which she accepted, and wound up being a poet, too, of all the things to be, 15 minutes after she finished some orgasm in the tropics with an umbrella drink, and hugged me goodbye, she said, “you’re nice. You deserve to be here with someone beautiful,” and walked away laughing, her head thrown back like a Hollywood laugh, when I replied, “I already am, Baby,” with my arms spread wide.
I’ve gotten used to this over the years, because even in my best relationship moments, I’ve always been a loner, and as a wanderer, I’ve often taken off cross country, all on my lonesome.
I don’t go to movies much anymore, but when I do, half the time it’s alone, and think about how often you’ve seen a lone person taking themselves on a movie date? I don’t dine out a lot, either, but when I do, it’s almost always alone, but not really, because I take a book with me, and I’ve never, not once, felt alone with a book in my hand.
One time several months ago, I had some extra dollars, a rare thing for a blue collar artist, and I’d been craving the good pita bread, and the chicken shawarma of one of Toledo’s nicest restaurants, so I put a button up shirt on, and me and my book of the moment enjoyed a night out, but I laughed all evening by how weird the server thought it was, for me to be in this nice restaurant alone, and reading some beat up, dog eared paperback in dim mood lighting.
And while if I’m honest, I would enjoy a lovely companion for some of my daily walks, I rather look forward to that hour of listening to music, and observing the world around me, phone on silent like it always is anymore, and my mind allowed to roam free, uninterrupted by anyone else’s energy.
And while I have enjoyed some amazing vacations, and weekend getaways with former partners, or with friends, I fucking love waking up in a foreign city all alone, and being able to wander around, and not have to worry about the safety and comfort of anyone else while doing so.
But like most parts of being a social misfit and an outlaw writer, it ain’t easy being sleazy, and our Wild West World isn’t designed for a lone rider. No wonder why lonely people craving human connections have such a difficult time leaving their apartments and trailers. What would one do at a restaurant alone when they’re not friends with literature? Play on their phone like everyone else is, alone or partnered I suppose, and while I’m certain there are many thousands of single people buying themselves flowers on the regular, how many of them are truly smiling while writing their name in the sand?
Which reminds me of stopping at the Grand Canyon last week. I was in the nearby desert and saw a sign that said Grand Canyon West 40-something miles, and said, “hell, I ain’t seen it in 20 plus years. You’re this close, go see it,” which is another of the benefits I dig about solo travel, the freedom to follow every whim and good time thought.
So, I drove up the mountains, and spent far too much on a ticket to walk on that famous glass skywalk that reaches out over the canyon, and I spent too much on a commemorative photo, because I might never make it back, ya know?
I was in line to get those photos taken, and a Native American woman of the Hualapai Tribe, the Tribe whose reservation encompasses, and the Tribe that owns Grand Canyon West, beamed at me with a puzzled smile. “Just you?” she said. And I started to laugh one of those over stimulated and joyful laughs that roll up from your belly. I waved my arms over the expanse of the Canyon, one of the most famous places in the world, and I said, “the Grand Canyon isn’t any less beautiful, even all by myself.”
She laughed, too, and I wiped happy laughing tears from my eyes, then we spent a good 10 minutes with me posing for some fun pictures, her squeezing my bicep and teasing me to “flex those muscles so the girls see” when I crossed my arms for a shot leaning against a railing hundreds of feet above one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever visited. We laughed and joked together, before she went on to the next suckers willing to spend a few hours of their labor earned dollars on once in a lifetime photos. I went on to Guano Point, and hiked solo up to its highest peak, all by myself, laughing again, at how good life can sometimes be, no matter who bought the flowers that are thirsty and dying in a vase on my kitchen table back home.
Yes, you can buy your own flowers my friends, and you can take yourselves on solo vacations. The world isn’t any less beautiful viewed through your eyes only. Chocolate doesn’t taste any sweeter when bought with your own dollars, and the first full moon of August shone bright for loners and lovers alike.
Dan Denton is a former UAW Chief Steward turned full-time writer. His latest book is available from Gutter Snob Books.