My dear friend Linda, whom I have known for twenty or so years, is one of life’s truly free spirits. She’s the sort of person who will spontaneously show up at your place at ten o’clock on a Friday night with a bottle of wine tucked under her arm and a large pepperoni pizza. A woman of diverse and unpredictable interests, she recently attended a mechanical bull-riding competition and a poetry festival on the same weekend. Her idea of organizing a holiday is packing her antique black leather suitcase, grabbing her passport, and heading off to the airport before deciding which country she will wait for a stand-by flight to. On her fiftieth birthday she decided to fight back against elevated cholesterol by taking up in-line skating, making her possibly the only person in my circle of acquaintances who owns both Rollerblades and an electric blanket. Certainly she’s the only one I know who has ever done time in a Mexican prison for being involved in a politically motivated street riot (she claims it was all a misunderstanding).
As she makes perfectly clear, she doesn’t have any special regard for the intelligence of the male gender, but she is willing to tolerate us from time to time, as long as we remember to pick up our own bar tabs. She has little or no internal censor, or particular desire to hide her feelings, so getting to know her means you’d better be prepared to be called an idiot or a jackass on a fairly frequent basis. I’ve disagreed with her on enough issues – from the death penalty to legalizing marijuana – to have earned her particularly low opinion of my rational faculties, but I think she’s just written me off as “a bit simple, but good-natured enough.”
By her own admission, she’s a “loud-mouthed old broad”, thick-skinned and outspoken to a fault, and not the sort of person to suffer fools gladly. I sometimes suspect that she relishes being on the opposite side of any debate just for the sheer pleasure of dusting her knuckles. On the other hand, I’ve known her to spend hours at a time volunteering at food banks and reading to her grandchildren — or teaching them how to cheat at card games. All-in-all, she’s the sort of person we could use a lot more of in this Yuppie-dominated, holier-than-thou, politically-correcter-than-you-are age of lily-livered shrinking violets. I have this theory that if civilization is to survive, we need more people like her, brazen and audacious enough to shake us all out of our complacency, and remind us again and again that the emperor has no clothes.