Driving home from my guitar lesson Wednesday, I passed a homeless guy standing near the curb at the edge of the Walmart parking lot, where there are trees and welcome shade. Well, maybe he wasn’t homeless, but he had a grocery cart full of stuff that did not look like recent Walmart purchases, plus stuff next to the cart that could’ve been a bedroll. He was dressed in far too many clothes for the 103 degree day, all of them tattered and dirty.
None of this was particularly unusual; Tucson, being both a biggish city, and one in a warm climate, attracts a fair number of homeless folks. I really don’t know how they survive the summers here, but the winters, cold as they get sometimes, are a lot kinder here to those who sleep outdoors than they are in other places.
What distinguished this fellow, though, was that in addition to his other accoutrements, he was sporting some Scooby Doo headgear exactly like this. Not the whole costume; just the head.
Disregarding for the moment that it’s possible I have become jaded enough that seeing street persons on the regular is not noteworthy in and of itself, I was brought up short by the Scooby chapeau. Where did he get it? Why was he wearing it when it was too hot out to even be wearing hair? What causes a grown person to wear Scooby Doo’s head on a random Wednesday afternoon? Is he sanity-challenged? Or is he a person who, despite all the other challenges he’s dealing with, is possessed of a level of whimsy that exceeds my own (which is not insignificant; I recently added a small llama to my otherwise sedate gallery wall in my office just because it was ridiculous) and that helps him get through each day? I’d like to think it was the latter.
I mused on Mr. Scoobyhead as I drove down the road listening to KXCI’s Cathy Rivers interviewing some local musicians, Diane Van Deurzen and Lisa Otey, and a lady from the Sahuaro Girl Scout Council, as this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts; evidently, they were born the same year my maternal grandmother was. Founder Juliette Gordon Low started with 18 girls in 1912, and there are 3.7 million members now. Everyone involved in the interview had been a Girl Scout, and as I listened I reminisced about my own days in Girl Scouts.
I had been a Brownie in the 1st grade, which would’ve been about 1977. I have two memories of being a Brownie: back then, Brownies didn’t sell cookies; we sold nuts. I don’t know who thought that was a great idea, but that’s how it was back in the day, back in the days before anyone said “back in the day.” The other memory was being at some Brownie event at one of the troop leaders’ house. It was winter, cold and snowy in Upper Michigan, and Theresa Kobasic had put her wet boots on the wood stove to dry out before she had to go home. Her boots had rubber soles, and it didn’t take long for them to be ruined, the soles melting beyond repair…or recognition, for that matter. I think it was the smell of the burning rubber that led to the discovery that day; I can almost smell it now…it’s just at the periphery of my memory, but it was bad. Theresa had a rough childhood…my only other memory of her was from 4th grade, when she went as the Hulk for Halloween, and had committed whole-heartedly to the venture. She dyed her skin with green food coloring, and as I recall, she missed school for several days after Halloween, because that shit doesn’t wash out easily.
My second encounter with Girl Scouts happened at an unfortunate age, that being 5th-6th grade. I know now that expecting kindness and camaraderie from girls on the cusp of adolescence is probably not reasonable, but I didn’t know that then. I was the new kid, first time in public school, in a new town, and I’d joined because I thought it’d be fun and I’d make friends. Neither of those things ended up being true. My troop was composed of all the “popular” girls (whatever that means in 5th grade, but I knew I wasn’t one of them), run by two of their mothers, and I never felt welcome among them. I struggled with that for 2 years, and all I had to show for it was a bunch of merit badges and the special brand of self-doubt and discomfort that only mean girls can bestow that takes another 20 years to rid yourself of. When 7th grade rolled around, I decided I was “too old” to be in Girl Scouts anymore.
All that said, more than once since I left teaching I’ve considered becoming a Girl Scout leader, because I think young girls could do worse than to have a strong, compassionate, sassy, crafty, take-no-bullshit guide like me to help them through the world; I wish I’d taken the time to do more of that when I WAS in the classroom. I would’ve been thrilled if someone like me had been there to tell me to not worry so much, and to gently but firmly kick a little mean girl ass, modeling another way for girls to be with and support each other, instead of the usual competition and tearing down. Maybe I could contribute to creating the Girl Scout experience I wanted, rather than the one I had. So I’m thinking about that again, thanks to community radio.
Either that, or I’ll get a Scooby Doo head. What’s your vote?