If I had a favorite saint, St Jude, the patron of lost causes, would probably be it.
I’ve always preferred my underdogs bedraggled.
I especially enjoy that hackneyed old chestnut come-up-from-behind story, when the weakling who’s had sand kicked in his face all his f-ing life surprises everybody and delivers upon the neighborhood bully a surprising sucker punch.
This penchant for championing the underdog, this belief that lost causes can in fact always be saved has held true throughout my life —whether for people, for places, or for actual dogs (or horses, or cats, for that matter).
This personality trait and the intro I just typed could be the beginning of an essay about last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby — but it’s not. (Though that essay might be the better, more interesting, more relevant one, for whoever might take it on).
I love my gentrifying-in-fits-and-starts Atlanta neighborhood with the sort of fierce loyalty I’ve always tended to shower upon lost chances and underdogs.
Maybe it’s because I’ve always been a bit extreme when it comes to love of place — when I fall for one, I fall hard, and never forget, and the places I have the most affection for tend to be underdogs.
If nothing else, they’re never easy.
My neighborhood south of the interstate, redlined in the 60s, white-flighted by the 70s, has had a hard- knock life. The interstate exit ramp that leads you to it is shellacked with white MacDonald’s bags, and half the time some one you wouldn’t see in neighhorhoods north of us — a fetchingly dressed prostitute, a vagrant pushing a shopping cart — will cross against the traffic light as you proceed into the neighborhood proper. “Old Ormewood” we call that, the Husband and I, as opposed to “New,” with its faux-craftsman bungalows and VW Passats in driveways (Old Ormewood considers us new Ormewood, though, having been here ten years, we by no means think of ourselves as that).
In my neighborhood, old and new uneasily co-exist, and my neighbors are continually heading for greener pastures, further north, with — as they perceive it — better schools, better infrastructure, better amenities.
But me, I love the underdog.
I’m a sucker for margins, rough edges, those spaces in between, where interesting stuff happens.
Right now, our weather is all humidity and honeysuckle. From one window, my view is roiled dark sky and green leaves showing their white underbellies to the wind; from the other, it’s all blue-skies-and-smooth-sailing.
This morning as I drove the girleens to school there were chunky carats of safety glass spilled out onto the grassy median between the street and sidewalk, and each faceted sliver contained the lovely seafoam color of waves far out at sea.
This morning, as I walked, there was a tiny bit of butterfly, like a lavender paint chip, carried skyward.
And in the park, there was a pile of scratch-off dollar lottery tickets. Along with the convenience store receipt that had accompanied them out into the world.
One hundred dollars’s worth.
One hundred dollars! Who on earth spends a hundred dollars on lottery tickets and sits in the park to take time to discover their negligible winnings? And who knew — that buying a hundred dollars nets you exactly … nothing.
Or does it? Maybe one of those tickets was a winner, and in his haste to redeem it, the lucky guy forgot to throw the rest of his tickets in the park trash can.
No way of knowing. But somebody somewhere could write a story about such things, if they were so inclined.