Olfactory Refractory

photo of Texas Ash, Fraxinus Albicans

Texas Ash. Fraxinus albicans. There’s something about this time of year in Austin where night walks are amazing. It’s the smells, the scents, the warm, muggy breezes that carry the quixotic chemistry of life to light up my olfactory bulb, to excite my hippocampus, to carry me calmly into my strolling heaven.

It’s more than the smell of newly cut grass in this central-Austin neighborhood. It’s more than the rosebuds and tiny little chirps of night birds, the exhaust of clothes dryer vents, or fragrant honeysuckle and the weeds in the creek. It’s the Texas Ash. To be walking downwind, where it’s there and then it’s gone. It’s the hunt to get back into the thick of it, to find it again. The sudden awareness of now. Texas ash. There’s something in that flowering scent, a note of latex, a long yawn of the soul, a pungent aphrodisiac. Texas ash.

I swear, if I had land, I would plant a grove of these. When I think of moving away, I only need to smell Texas ash, and I know I’m home. This is as close as you’ll hear me rhapsodize this state, but the region gives some convincing apologies.

Earthbound and Down

Perhaps the most sobering thought is that, after a lifetime of dreaming, I’m still going to die on this planet. That after thinking about galaxies, looking up at the stars, writing about extra-planetary travel, reading books and listening to programs about life out there, and trying to raise myself above whatever provincial concerns that surround me in my own life (wherever I happen to be), that at the end of it all, it is on Terra Prime, a small blue planet orbiting Sol on the mid-western arm of the Milky Way, is where I will spend my last breath.

Somewhere in this black thought is a faint blue line of hope in the spectrograph, but I can barely see it.

All the Ladies

So, in the renewed spirit of gender equality with the recent progresses made by the #metoo movement, I’m trying to figure out the most appropriate thing to say when addressing a group of women.

See, last week I was getting a haircut; the staff on shift was all women. My stylist laid a hot towel on my neck and instantly I caught myself before I blurted out, “Oh, I forgot you guys did that.” Instead, I edited myself to be more true, but what actually came out was “Oh, I forgot you folks did that.” She guffawed at my use of the word “folks” because who the hell actually uses that word non-ironically?

So my question: is it okay to use “gals” instead of “guys”? My problem is that “Guys” is masculine and not gender-neutral. “Gals” is condescending. “Y’all” or “Folks” or “You” is too provincial. Is it okay to use “ladies” or “gals” or “women” when addressing a group of women? Is that a safe thing to do? Or should I just buck up and say what I feel is right anyway and take my lumps?

I know the romance/latin languages use the masculine pronouns and conjugations even in gender-neutral or mixed-gender contexts. Is that still appropriate here in English? I just don’t feel right walking up to a counter and greeting the women there with “Hey guys, what’s up?” You know? What gives?