Essays: My Inner Rupert

I am curious. I try to understand. Sometimes when I fail to make sense of things I get frustrated; usually at myself. In an earlier relationship, we referred to that temperamental side of me as ‘Rupert’. I will say up front that I have never harmed anyone other than myself by such outbursts. Nonetheless they are something that I am increasingly trying to manage. Two of these episodes come to mind. Both were in the mid-nineties, and are sorely felt if not chuckled at now.

I was living in midtown Tucson, in Madera Park, a Bill Estes post WWII development, now fashionably mid-century modern. Early Ranch style homes with big yards. It was in one of those backyards that an incident took place. The funny thing is I sometimes don’t remember what set me off, just the reaction. Let’s just say that sometimes when I wanted to ‘blow off steam’ I would vent in the backyard. By venting I guess I mean that I would raise my voice and generously pepper the rant with vuglar language. Perhaps a wail ‘Why?!’–WFT–This has God Damn got to STOP!! Whatever. Arms flailing. The fences back then were 4 feet tall rotting wood covered in vines so sounds carried.

One day I was in my backyard and saw my neighbor, Burk, across the fence. He and his wife Lois lived there almost since the neighborhood began. Salt of the earth sweet folks. We said our customary hellos and small talk and then he pauses. ‘Hey, Rand?, Can I ask you something personal?’ ‘Sure’, I said haltingly. ‘Do you have Tourette’s? You know, when you can’t help yelling?’ Inside I burst out with laughter and embarassed acknowledgement. ‘No Burk, hah!, I just get a little carried away’, I said. Again I realized that my tirades had spilled over, and was humbly ashamed. We both laughed about it, and I never forgot it.

The second one involved more than just my kind neighbor. I was an art director most of my professional life, and in the latter stages I did freelance graphic design for several newspapers and magazines. One of my clients had a magazine originating in the Phoenix area and I was on the phone with the editor. She and I were laying out the edition and finalizing details. We were on deadline so there was a time factor to this decision making. She gave me what she swore was the final info and I began my designing. Much later in the day she called and changed her mind. The story length had changed, and so must the whole layout. She apologized profusely and I stoically recorded the new info. The client rules, you do not. I barely managed the end of the conversation and politely hung up. I could feel it well up inside me.

What ensued was an explosion of explicatives with the volume on 11. I tore through my empty house ranting about that ‘F-ing B! My usual WHY?! WTF! –and possibly other embarassing descriptions of her. I am not a misogynist. I am a long time feminist and have a long history of working very successfully along side women. It wasn’t about that. I would have responded the same if a man had done the same thing. I just blew and shot verbal debris all around my house. After a few minutes, the doorbell rang. It was two TPD officers. I slowly opened the door. It seems they had received a call about a potentially dangerous situation with a domestic dispute. They could see from my sheepish demeanor what was to come. ‘Oh no officers! No, no. I am here by myself.’ They seemed embarassed too. ‘We need to search the residence.’ The three of us went from room to room (and closets) looking for a victim. After my nervous explanation, they realized that it was not a crime-just some old white guy yelling. I wish I could have explained it to the neighbor who called it in. I will never know. But I’m glad they did. It shows they care about their hood. I am the only person I know who has had a domestic violence call on himself. No pride there.

All that was over 25 years ago but I still remember it today. I’d like to think I’m a better person now. That experience changed me. We are all a work in progress.