Monday, March 30, 2009

Some people get it. Some never will.

I share an office with three men.

It's pretty much everything you would expect it to be. They're messy and strew their stuff all over the place. They're big, and they take up a lot of space. They seem to think that if they don't answer the telephone, I will do it (I won't). And they ask me a lot of "What do you think?" questions--seeing as I'm the only present representative of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

It's probably not for everyone, but having come from a company that didn't even employ enough men to keep the spiders stomped out, I gotta say--I like it.

In the course of I'd-rather-talk-to-you-about-anything-rather-than-grade-these-papers conversation the other day, I found myself speaking on the subject of the different men I had dated. I wasn't the only one who was sharing, but I was the only one whose remembrances did not include the words "crazy psycho chick." I'm not entirely sure how the subject came up, but I'm fairly certain that I didn't initiate the exchange. I find that I don't have to start a lot of the conversations that happen in that office; I just sit back and ride that day's current topic.

They're men, y'all. They like doing the driving.

I have a couple interesting dating stories. But I was feeling nostalgic that day, and so I told them about a musician I had dated, and the incredibly romantic, put-me-in-his-pocket thing he did on our very first date. I guess I expected that they would be happy to hear--directly from the horse's mouth--what constitutes romance on the planet Venus.

We'd met at the restaurant, and walking me out afterward, he stopped at his car, reached in, and took out his accordion.

"An accordion! You mean--like a SQUEEZE BOX?"

his car? He just carries an accordion around with him in his car?"

Like--for accordion emergencies?"

Having been around musicians most of my adult life, I gotta say that it wouldn't surprise me to find one with a tuba in his sock. In my experience, musicians don't like to get too far away from their instruments. And really, if you had a magic something that would make you appear talented, sensitive, and desirable--all at first glance--would you leave home without it?

He took out the accordion, and there--in the all-but-deserted parking lot--began to play "My Funny Valentine."

"So, did it have a polka beat?"

"Oomp-pa-pa, oomp-pa-pa!"

And there, I gave up the ghost. No way was I going to tell these guys about how beautiful the music sounded, bouncing off the buildings and with the sounds of the city all around. They weren't going to understand how movie-perfect the moment was. And it just seemed too complicated to explain to them that even though I knew at the time that the guy was a player (even I didn't believe he had never pulled this particular move before), I still considered it one of my top 5 once-in-a-lifetime experiences. These guys--no matter how educated or worldly-wise--were still men. And as such, they were probably never going to understand that every woman everywhere knows, in her heart of hearts, that she deserves to have "My Funny Valentine" played just for her. Just once. Even--especially--on the accordion.

Some things just get lost in the translation.

Here's a recording of someone else playing "My Funny Valentine" on the accordion. Just in case you aren't able to imagine it for yourself.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Something for Sunday.

Cause nothing says, "the last official day of spring break" like a little Ukrainian polka top 40.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Come on. Take another little piece of my heart.

Earlier this week, my friend Heather carried some stuff to Goodwill and came home with more than she set out with. And that right there is reason enough to stick to the drive-through. I never go inside when I'm dropping off a donation. Also, though, I'm always the teeniest bit afraid that someone will say, "Hey, wait a minute. You can't leave that crap here."

Heather lugged home an enormous bag of pieced quilt blocks that someone, somewhere decided weren't worth keeping. Really--who gives away quilt blocks? There's no answering that question about these particular blocks, but thinking about it prompted a lovely and lovingly written blog post about how Heather puts a part of herself into the things she makes, and how those parts will still be here long after she's sewn her last stitch.

And she got that 100% right. I think that most of us who make things know this to be true. Inherent in that, though, is the idea that someone will remember us--or at least--the idea of us.

"Here! Don't be chewing on that! My great-grandmother Heather Jane made that back when my meemaw was still a girl."

It stands to reason that at least a few of the items that outlast us, though, will still be around long after the demise of everyone who ever knew us. When that time comes, Heather hopes someone will find those pieces of her heart on the thrift-store shelf and see them as treasure.

And I am sure that someone will.

A few years ago, I found a handcrafted clay dish at a junk store. The dish was small--something you might drop your rings into while washing up after supper. Or maybe it was meant to be an ashtray; people made such things, not so long ago.

It was a homely little item, obviously made by a child--possibly while attending summer camp or vacation bible school. I turned it over and looked at the bottom. Its maker had written into the clay, "For Mommy. I love you."

Which totally and completely broke my heart into little, teeny, tiny pieces.

Image, Faith Ringgold Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles, 1996.
Artsy’s Faith Ringgold page.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What I did for love, what I did for loooove.

My friend Tawana called this morning, catching me right in the middle of something I had hoped to have over and done with under a cloak of secrecy.

I've been busted; the jig is up. She's probably tweeted it by now. I've almost certainly already been outed on the Facebook.

She interrupted me as I was applying safety decals to the patio door out at the deluxe luxury family getaway condo.

At cat's eye level.

My kitteh--whose brain, you know, is only about as large as the average, didn't even graduate from high school walnut--hasn't yet mastered the ability to differentiate between the open glass door and the hey-sister-what's-your-hurry? closed glass door.

Certainly, when faced with a choice between explaining a safety decal positioned a mere 6 inches from floor level or ponying up for a feline MRI, mine seemed to be a fairly logical choice.

I mean really. This is my cat we're talking about here.

Now, I love a nice dog just as much as the next person, but let's face it: dogs are pushovers. Dogs love everyone. Just coming home each night and remembering the animal's name is enough for most dogs. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that a "Hey you," would do just as nicely. But cats? You have to earn a cat's love. You have to go above and beyond. When a cat loves you, you know you're worthy.

And I, for one, plan to get there. If need be, one safety decal at a time.

Image Originally published in MS Magazine, Vol III, #1, July/August 1992 via pet monologues

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

There is no such thing as late when you're on vacation.

I'm happy to report that I've not spent as much time on the interwebs as I usually do. In addition to all the other vacation-y activities at my disposal, I've been working my way through a serious nap backlog. I hope to have that situation in control and up-do-date by Wednesday.

The little bit of time I did spend online today, I spent playing around with an addictive little game via Friday's MetaFilter.

Balls drop from a fixed point on the screen, players draw lines with the cursor on which the falling balls will bounce. Each time a ball hits a line, a tone sounds. The tone changes, depending upon how fast/far the ball is traveling.

Be warned: you'll lose an hour, once you start--so don't fire it up right at quitting time.

Balldroppings by Chrome Experiment.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The intentional, albeit reluctant tourist, part two.

Last June, my mom bought a cap for my stepdad's pickup truck, gathered up both cats, a months' worth of red wine, lots of previously-neglected reading material, and drove 1022 miles to spend the summer back here in her home state.

Because, you know--this is where it's all happenin'.

She rented a house at Hot Springs Village, a gated retirement community full of golf courses and tennis courts and people who worked hard to be able to take it easy until they fall over. I agreed to spend a week there with her.

I arrived on Sunday. By Wednesday, it looked like we were well on our way to ripping apart the family dynasty.

Desperate to find something we could do together that wouldn't devolve into an all-out brawl, I suggested that we take a look at the local real estate. So we spent a couple afternoons seeing how the other half takes it easy--one large condo after the other--near the lake, on the lake, with attached decks overlooking the lake--some with boats docked literally, right at the back door.

I want to go on the record here to say that I never intended for anybody to buy anything. In fact, when I left, everything had pretty much gone according to plan--my mom got to oogle and disapprove of a bunch of other people's houses, and she and I were both still speaking to each other.

But just about the time I was sorting through the dirty laundry and wondering where in the world I had left my toothbrush, she called to say that she'd found a place she wanted to buy. In fact, she thought it would be an excellent idea for my brother and I to go in on the deal.

And that's how I came to be the accidental co-owner of an actual vacation property. Me. The girl who doesn't like going on vacation.

And now, thanks to having downsized my life, I no longer have a big house to improve, or a lot of boxes to unpack. Thanks to my new job, I can get away during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring break, as well as during the summer months. And now that I own a vacation home, I don't even need extra money to do so. I have absolutely no excuse not to go on vacation. I am forced to acknowledge that if I can't master this thing when I'm the one in charge, then there's something wrong with me.

And so, as I write this, I am sitting squarely in the bosom of the geriatric center of the mid south--a place that contains--pound for pound--more grandmas, grandpas, chihuahuas, and golf carts than you would have thought possible.

Stay tuned.

Image, Life Photo Archive, Loomis Dean, photographer.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dogs, hoops, tots, and beers.

It's here again--the 17th annual National Corn Dog Day.

"National Corn Dog Day?" you say, "How can that be possible? I've never heard of it."

Just because you don't believe in National Corn Dog Day, doesn't mean that National Corn Dog Day doesn't believe in you. Visit the NCD official site for a list of all the festivities in honor of "the happiest day of basketball and meats on sticks that you'll ever have:"

National Corndog Day coincides with the Saturday of the final 32 teams in NCAA basketball tournament (this year it’s March 21st). This Saturday is the only day all year that one can watch a quadruple-header of college basketball games (that’s a good 7-8 hours of college hoops) from start to finish without having to change the channel. NCD officially starts with the tip-off of the first game – 10 am Pacific/1 pm Eastern. To help pass the time, have fun with our friends, and to celebrate being blessed with such a thing as a college basketball tournament, we eat Corndogs! Lots of Corndogs...

Celebrate at one of 394 official NCD parties, or, if like me, you prefer to observe your favorite holiday in your pajamas, you can "Poem the heck out of that Corn Dog Day" for a Jones Soda prize package.

For the more intrepid among you, though, I suggest one of NCD's recipes:

Deviled Dogs
  • 5 corn dogs
  • 10 tater tots
  • 1/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tbs Mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika
  1. Bake the corn dogs and tater tots according to package directions.
  2. When corn dogs are cool enough to handle, remove the sticks, and split in half lengthwise.
  3. Remove the hot dog part, leaving the cornbread shell intact.
  4. Put the dogs, tots, cheese, mayo, salt and pepper into a food processor and process until smooth.
  5. Fill each corn shell with an equal amount of the potato mixture. If you have a pastry bag, use it!
  6. Sprinkle paprika over the top.
  7. Return to the oven, and bake until top is browned, about 5 minutes.
Please, please, let me hear from you if you make (and manage to eat) this dish.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Nobody is good at everything.

I think today is one of my wedding anniversaries, but I can't be sure. Even when we were still married, I had a hard time remembering if we said "I do" on the 20th or the 21st. He was always the one who made sure the calendar was correctly marked. He was also the one who ensured both cars had valid safety inspection stickers and that the ice cube trays were always properly filled.

I can't even say with any certainty the exact year we married. After the first 5 or 6 times, I was ashamed to admit it anymore, and it was easier to just follow his lead. Now that I no longer have to buy a gift, there's no real reason to obsess about it. Last year, I started to feel kinda bad about it, so I asked him the exact date. I've forgotten it again, already.

To the casual observer, this probably says two things: (1) he was probably a better husband than I was a wife, and (2) I am only marginally capable of managing life outside the halfway house.

Both of which are undeniably true.

My second wedding anniversary is easier to remember, even though that marriage lasted only half as long as the first. I attribute this to the fact that we were married on Mayday--as in "Mayday. Mayday. Iceberg off the starboard bow," or as I often remember it, "dot-dot-dot-dash-dash-dash-dot-dot-dot."

By the time I signed the second set of divorce papers, I told myself that I might as well just go ahead and get married six or seven more times. Then I could say things like "My fourth husband.." or "When I was married to husband number eight..."

But after carefully weighing all the available options, I decided that it was simpler and less expensive to just pretend to be the survivor of half a dozen marriages. If they existed, I'm sure husbands three, four, five, and six would agree.

Today's post was written while listening to Bonnie Raitt's 1972 Album, Give It Up.

Image, Josephine and Philip Giangreco Wedding 6-21-1930.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Kayla left a comment on yesterday's post, in which she confessed to the world that she had been lugging a bag of clothes in the trunk of her car for over a year now.

Just as I was thinking "Sheesh! Over a year?" I remembered the bags of personal papers that have been in my trunk since I moved on the first of January. I haven't done anything with them, because I'm at a loss as to what that would be. These are documents I've been moving from one house to another since 1979: closing papers on every house I've ever bought or sold, cancelled checks--back when there actually were such things, ancient tax returns, insurance documents. They weigh on me as do Marley's earthly sins, and they are every bit as difficult to shed.

There are several small bags--far too many to feed 5 and 6 sheets at a time into the shredder. There simply is no safe place to dispose of several reams of personal information without the substantial risk of seeing them resurface all over the internets.

So they are trapped, for the time being, in the trunk of my car, waiting for a surprise visit from the important document fairy--that helpful soul who has spirited away my birth certificate, my divorce decrees, last years' tax returns, and the password to my home wireless setup.

Today's post was written while listening to Buddy Guy's 1993 CD, Feels Like Rain.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Managing expectations.

My friend Tawana is in a snit about her dry cleaning bill.

She's upset because the dry cleaners, living as they do in the 20th century and all, insist on charging more to clean her clothes than they do to clean and press men's clothing. I suppose it must be because of the bustle and all that crinoline.

I can surely sympathize, but I can't get worked up enough to fight city hall with her.

Because my clothes never seem to make it to the dry cleaners. I put them into the car with the best of intentions, and I head off to work or to the grocery store. A block and a half from my door, I've forgotten that I have them with me, or where it was I intended to take them. After a while--a few days or a few weeks--I realize that I really need that jacket or sweater now wadded up in the floorboard of the car to complete my smashing ensemble. Suddenly, those clothes don't seem nearly as dirty as they were when I put them into the car. So I carry them back into the house, run them around in the dryer for a moment or two, and pronounce them, "fine, mostly"

Like a lot of us, all they really need is to get out of the house for a while.

Today's post was written while listening to Ray LaMontagne's 2004 CD, Trouble.

Image, Tate Liverpool Museum.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You think you know somebody.

They say that the best way to get a real feel for someone is to visit their home. You may think you know a person, but until you've seen how they live when nobody's looking, you don't.

I dated a man once whose concrete garage floor was as spotless as the floor of my kitchen--maybe even more so. Inside, not a thing was out of place; every book was arranged just so, and he had alphabetized his CDs and DVDs.

It didn't work out for us.

He didn't know that I had only condiments, Diet Coke, and tuna fish in my refrigerator, or that there was a load of clean laundry in my washing machine that would have to be rewashed by the time I remembered that it was there.

Many of my readers feel like they know me. Just last week on Facebook, I overheard someone tell my friend Tawana that I had no willpower. And she's right, even though the two of us have never met. I think I would have been a little happier if she had observed something about my kind and caring personality, but I can't be all things to all people. I'll bet that if I were standing behind her, running my mouth in the checkout line of the Kroger I no longer go to, she could turn around and call me by name. Surely, one of the reasons for telling so many things that really would be better left unsaid is because I really sort of want her (and you) to feel that way.

But I don't want any of you people at my house. The last time someone I barely knew came over, he called to ask, "You got any beer?" and he didn't leave for almost seven years.

But if there's a way to foster a feeling of camaraderie between us, I'm all for that--especially if it's done in such a way that makes me seem all erudite and stuff. So from now until I don't want to do it anymore, I've decided that I will add a little line at the bottom of each post telling you what music I was listening to as I wrote. Just to keep everything on the up-and-up, I'll only listen to and post music from my personal library--not something I'm listening to on the interweb. You can admire my musical taste, get your own copy and listen along, or maybe just roll your eyes and say, "Good Lord."

Just think how much closer we'll be.

Today's post was written while listening to Bob Dylan's 2006 CD, Modern Times.

Image, Square America.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Well, that's just perfect.

My good friend John has a birthday, today. Like most people who are easily pleased, he's hard to shop for, and he's had a couple birthday haikus, already. He doesn't eat meat, so a corndog is out of the question. What to get, what to get? It should be thoughtful and fraught with meaning. It should show the depth of my feeling for him. It should be beatleriffic.

Happy birthday, John. You're not 64 yet, but someday you will be.

So until then--

--live it up, friend.

From the 1968 animated film, Yellow Submarine, directed by George Dunning, and produced by United Artists and King Features Syndicate.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Easy DIY roman shades? Who are you trying to kid?

I may no longer be crafting for a living, but that doesn't mean I've been able to completely kick the habit. I don't make a lot of stuff these days, but I still like to watch other people getting their craft on.

And it looks to me like Jenny over at Little Green Notebook may have come up with the answer to one of life's (until now) imponderable questions: Why does making your own roman shades have to be so incredibly hard?

Finally, directions for building roman shades that won't tax my limited math and reasoning skills! I may have to come out of DIY retirement to give this one a try.

Click on over and check out Jenny's ingenious idea for using your cheap, raggedy mini blinds to make designer-y style roman shades.

Caged from Craft Magazine's Twitter feed. Image, Little Green Notebook.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

For the woman who has everything.

I had an epiphany several years ago, as I was having an early afternoon Sunday breakfast with my friend Tawana. We used to meet for breakfast almost every week, back when we both lived in the same town and the logistics were less complicated.

Breakfast was our meal of choice, since we both worked for the state and neither of us ever had any real money. We would sit there for a couple of hours, talking and drinking coffee until the waitresses changed shift. We talked until the world looked level--we covered our kids, our husbands (back when we still had them and then later when we didn't), our jobs, and our mothers. We talked our problems into submission and sometimes unto death. We talked about the problems of the world, and how Hillary Clinton could probably fix most of them. For a brief period, we talked about the TawanaDeb, an invention that would answer the unmet needs of women everywhere and would ultimately make us both very, very rich.

We never agreed on what that invention should be. We don't often agree, really.

Ordinarily I'm not a big fan of the epiphany. Mainly, because having one for me means realizing how desperately wrong I've been about something. But on that particular day, I realized that I had gotten at least one thing, absolutely, perfectly right. I was slathering gravy atop a couple of eggs fried over medium when I had mine. I stopped in mid slather and looked across the table at her.

"You know," I said, "I've waited my whole life for you."

I'm pretty sure she was in agreement with me on that one.

In honor of my best friend's birthday, the woman we both agree is the best thing that ever happened to me, I've compiled a list of posts that feature her.

Happy Birthday, Sister. You're getting a TawanaDeb.

I would have spent my Sharper Image money on something with batteries.
Beware ill tempered, menopausal women.
Faster than a speeding ovum.
Under the global influence.
Looks like trouble.
Quick Scotty--How many dilithium crystals will you have to burn to beam us out of here?
No rest for the weary.
If you are my mom, please don't read this.
Well, I hope somebody's working on it.
We've just traced the call, and it's coming from inside your guilty conscience.

image, Signs and Wonders photostream.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I've got mine. But you'd better hurry.

Tickets went on sale today for the next live performance of the radio show, This American Life, and it's happening on April 23.

From TAL:

"Ira Glass will host an actual episode of the radio program, performed onstage by some of our favorite contributors. Dan Savage, Starlee Kine, and Mike Birbiglia will tell stories. David Rakoff and Dave Hill will conduct a 'special investigation.' Plus a new cartoon from Chris Ware, additional visuals by Arthur Jones, and a very special appearance by Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The performance will last around two hours. Come on out!"

I missed it last time, because I was under deadline. My friend Tawana was there, though, and she hasn't stopped talking about it. It still hurts my heart that I missed it.

By the way, if you've never seen radio live, you should.

Find a theatre and get your tickets here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ira.

Fifty years old today.

And that's perfectly okay. I like my men in nice, even numbers.

Image, Transom.

The intentional, albeit reluctant tourist, part one.

I've never had an enjoyable vacation, and it goes all the way back to my childhood.

When I was a kid, my parents would announce a road trip, throw my brother and I into the back seat of the car and drive for 3 days. Every so often, Mom sailed a can of Vienna sausage and a sleeve of crackers over the seat to "hold us over." Since we never seemed to stop before pulling back into our own driveway, it never became clear to us what, exactly we were holding for.

Perhaps because my parents were afraid we would escape, there were no scheduled bathroom breaks. Instead, when one of us could no longer hold his or her water, my dad pulled the car onto the shoulder of the road and my mom opened the car door to block the view of passing traffic. The one of us who had yet to demonstrate control over his or her bladder did the deed right there. And woe unto the child who had a more earthy calling, as that meant a trip up into the brush and the briers alongside the road--way up there where the robbers and murderers were hiding--the ones, that is, who hadn't already been run off by the chiggers.

It's strange, I guess, that I don't remember my parents eating or using the facilities during these trips. Perhaps they waited until my brother and I were either asleep or had beat each other senseless to park the car and run into the Hi-De-Ho for a quick burger and bathroom break.

No doubt there were interesting things to be seen on these vacations, and I'm sure my parents enjoyed them. Me--I saw someone else getting all the Vienna sausages and far more of my brothers' business than I imagine I needed to.

When I grew up and married my own co-conspirator, I still didn't enjoy vacations. My husband planned the trip, made the reservations, and turned in his vacation request. I laundered, ironed, and packed everyone's clothes. When the vacation proper began, I Sherpa-ed the child, the camera, extra film, sunscreen, Bandaides, aspirin, Peptol Bismol, and bottles, diapers, and wetnaps. By the time I returned to work, I was exhausted.

I've yet to have a vacation that didn't feel like a kidnapping or a forced march. but I predict that is all about to change.

Image, End of the Road 1964, Shorpy photo archive.