Saturday, December 17, 2005

Airports Remind Me of the Seventies

Friday, I travelled to Washington DC and back for a meeting for work. I spent the week before being a bit apprehensive about it. I worried that the plane would crash and my husband and babies would be left behind to fend for themseleves. It crushed my heart, actually, to put myself in what seemed to be such a risky place. But, my Dad, bless him, was the one to speak up and say, "I feel better about you being up in a plane than driving to the airport; it's much safer." That eased my mind enough to make it through the day.

I arrived at Cleveland Hopkins Airport at 7:30 a.m. and got in line for my security check. I had printed my boarding pass the night before and felt like a savvy traveler. That is until I was next in line and suddenly realized I had left my wallet with my ID in my car. So, I hustled back out into the parking garage, snagged my wallet and rejoined the line. I passed security with flying colors and began my three-mile hike to the farthest gate in the farthest concourse.

As I made my way underground, probably under runways, I took note of the artwork on the walls of the gray, tiled walkway. It was very modern but also kind of art deco. Remember making snowflakes out of paper by folding it up and cutting on the folds? It's that kind of thing, only with gray sheet metal, aviation designs, and what appeared to be bunnies. What is it with bunnies these days? Everyone is talking about them; they're so hot right now. Anyway, I walked briskly down the moving walkway with the friendly EPCOT lady voice-over telling me to stand to the right, walk on the left and look out here comes the end of the sidewalk.

Our flight was delayed about twenty minutes so I had a chance to catch my breath and get good and nervous. We walked down the umbilical cord (I don't know what these temporary paths to the airplane are called) and stepped on to the plane. I was a bit surprised to realize that it was such a tiny plane. There were twenty rows of three seats, one seat on the right side of the aisle and two seats on the left. I was surprised that my claustrophobia didn't immediately set in as I bowed my head under the low ceiling and turned to the side to slip down the aisle. I don't know why can't I abide the close quarters of a sleeping car on a train but had no problem with this little sardine can.

The last time I had ridden on one of these little planes was pre-9/11 by a few months. As our plane was trying to land, it suddenly pulled up and rushed back into the clouds. Apparently, there was already a plane on our runway and the pilot was loathe to rear-end it, thus the abrupt pull up. It was a horrifying experience and I didn't fly again for three more years. Then, when I did get on a plane again, I was terrified. I prayed during take-off, I prayed during the landing and I tried to pretend I was on a bus while we were airborn. I didn't look out the windows as I didn't want to kick my vertigo in on top of the claustrophobia I was keeping at bay with pure imagination. I would probably snap and go bat shit crazy if I actually tried to comprehend the reality of my situation.

Nowadays, frankly, I'm tired of being afraid to fly. As I sat in my seat and looked out the window, I tried to remember flying before I was afraid. I looked around and saw several hangars and lots of equipment. A small luggage cart drove by as well as a lavatory services truck. I felt relieved that I was sitting on the plane and not driving that vehicle. Relief being a new feeling on a plane as opposed to white-knuckled near-panic, I began to sense a change in the wind, as it were. I recalled one of my first voyages on an airplane as a child and remembered being thrilled and insatiably curious about what the ground would look like from that high up. I started to feel better about this flight.

The plane backed away from the gate and began to turn towards the runway. I looked over to the airport and I was struck by how Seventies the scene looked. There were lots of low buildings, where concrete and girders try to pass for design details. And everything was gritty. As I recall, during the 1970's everything had a layer of grit on it: the buildings, the streets, the people, the fashion, the TV shows (even children's television).

This realization caused me to slip back in time to my childhood. I remember going to the airport on Sunday afternoons with my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles and cousins. I don't think we were picking anyone up or dropping anyone off. I think we just went to see the planes come and go. The Akron Canton Airport used to have an outdoor walkway where visitors could stand and watch the planes come and go.

Watching the planes was interesting for a few minutes, but I was much more fascinated by the inside of the terminal. There was a sawnky restaurant and bar that had dark wood paneling and puce carpet. One wall was all windows so that you could sip your Manhattan and watch the planes in smokey comfort. It was the height of seventies style.

There were several molded plastic chairs (very mod) nailed to the floors in rows in the waiting area of the airport that had small, 5-inch, black and white TV's attached to them. You just had to pay a small fee to watch, well, nothing really. It was a nice idea, but you really couldn't pull in any stations at the airport. It was an idea before its time. There was also a laminating machine, which captured my imagination. I had nothing to laminate, but I dreamed of the day that someday I would have something to laminate, by God, and I'd know right where to go.

With the rebirth of my curiousity around airplanes, airports and flying, I returned to the present with the resolve to try to enjoy the flight. As we took off from the runway, I forced myself to watch the land shrink away and become mosaic. I watched as the clouds came closer and obscured my view. I watched until it was just a pile of shaving cream out the window. I no longer felt the anxiety of being thousands of feet in the air, nor did I feel at all closed in. I also was satisfied to note that I was in the air, not on a bus and it was A-OK with me.

I was distracted from the window by one of my favorite things about flying: the safety demonstration disco. For some reason, I like watching this little ritual very much. Everytime I've seen it done, it's been done by some bored flight attendent. It's comforting, though, and it feels like a treat: not only do we get beverage service, but we also get a show! Satisfied with the performance of the dead calm attendent explaining what to do during a situation that ordinarily caused dead panic, and enjoying the irony; I turned to my book set in Bombay and happily waited to be offered a cold Diet Coke.

As we began to approach the DC area, I turned back to the window. I noticed a small mountain range that looked like green clay that had been spread out on a table and pinched up into small peaks down the middle. The closer we got to the city, the more interesting the landscape became. I saw the captiol building first, then the Washington Memorial, then the Jefferson Memorial. It's like flying into a movie or history. As we taxied around to the gate, that old seventies feeling returned. On the outside of the airport, the gritty equipment and archetecture, although differently done, strongly resembled the aesthetic of the Cleveland Airport.

We had a thrilling cab ride to our meeting and a thrilling cab ride back to the airport later. My Dad's words echoed in my ears. Yes, I'm more likely to bite it in this cab than up in that tiny jet plane. We left sunny DC for dark and stormy Cleveland another twenty minutes late. But I had nothing to worry me on the plane except for the rank smell of the lavatory and the drunk couple two rows in front of me.

But the flight was uneventful and I returned home to my family, Crave Case in hand. It was a peace offering to Doc, who had spent two extra long days with the girls this week and, I'm sure, was feeling weak. He did not like the idea of me getting on a plane and fretted until I came home. So I brought him this treat. I couldn't seem to convince him that I had a nice trip, though, and that flying was no big deal. He's not buying it. So much for growth, eh?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I Love Christmas

I have been postponing my excitement for Christmas. Doc likes Christmas, but he likes it in its place (between December 15 and December 25, approximately). I'm ready to start the celebrations right around Thanksgiving weekend. But I've restrained myself. So, I've been a good girl, Santa. I haven't put the tree up. I've only recently begun playing Christmas music (last weekend). But I don't think I can contain myself much longer.

I haven't done any shopping yet, although I have picked out my Christmas cards. I haven't sent my cards, but I have watched Love Actually. I've decided against watching "It's a Wonderful Life" this year as I've enjoyed the abbreviated version of it several times already. But I am ready to bust out my Christmas music and deck the halls. Here are my top five favorite Christmas Albums:

1. Clay Aiken's Christmas
2. Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas
3. Elvis' Christmas
4. Nat King Cole's Christmas
5. Anything with acoustic guitars, mandolins, dulcimers

This is the first year that Riley has understood what Christmas is and has been able to say what she wants. This is what she says when you ask her what she wants for Christmas: "I want a light up, Fairytopia Barbie with Wings that flies around." It has been her mantra. It's really too cute.

She is also very excited about the snow. She loves to make snow angels. One morning after a particularly powerful snow storm, she came downstairs with me and gasped in wonder when she looked out the window, "It snowed, Momma!" I warmed to the weather instantly. Previously, I had been grumping around, dreading shovelling the drive and paying astronomical gas bills. But for now, I'm all about the snow.

Lucy is still kind of young to understand what's going on, but I'm sure she will be as delighted as I am to sit quietly on snowy evenings watching the lights twinkle on the Christmas tree. She's going to love her gifts once she figures out how to unwrap them.

I'm looking forward to having Christmas morning at my house, video taping the girls descending the stairs, rubbing their eyes and catching their breath when they see the pile of presents under the tree. I can't wait to have some mead or spiced wine while nibbling on rich Christmas treats (a perennial favorite: Hickory Farms beef stick diced and cooked up in sweet and sour sauce). I'm anticipating baking short bread cookies and gingerbread men.

It also looks as if we won't have to travel much this year either, another blessing. Last year, we were snowed in for the family party and ended up spending most of the holidays at my parents. It was nice, as always, but I'm really looking forward to spending Christmas at my first house for the first time (this is our third Christmas here).

Christmas is my Dad's favorite holiday and he and my Mom go totally overboard. I'm looking forward to being moved to tears by their love and generosity. I'm looking forward to them both weeping at the reactions to their gifts.

I'm going to have 12 days off around the holidays. I will get a chance to see Big Orange as he and his journey north. I'm looking forward to a Lodge meeting on New Year's Eve, where we will watch the debut of Ryan Seacrest as the host of New Year's Rockin' Eve. I'm looking forward to seeing my sister-in-law when she brings her kids up so they can see the pounds of snow and have a chance to frolic in it.

I know I'm blessed and lucky. Maybe that's why I can afford to be chipper this time of year. Hopefully, we will get to go to church for a Christmas Eve service and give thanks properly. I also plan on donating some to an interesting charity: Christians for Peace who take the advice of Jesus in the book of Matthew pretty seriously...

Jesus teaches us to love our enemies (Matt 5:43-44), to forgive those who sin against us (Matt 18:21-22), and to deny ourselves, carry our cross, and follow him. (Matt 10:37-38). Jesus' teachings and His life example are so clear that they need no commentary. To follow Jesus is to follow a path of servanthood, rather than domination.

I wish all of you the best and I hope you find joy in this season. Just remember...

Christmas Is All Around
I feel it in my fingers,
I feel it in my toes,
Christmas is all around me,
and so the feeling grows

It's written in the wind,
It's everywhere I go,
So if you really love Christmas,
C'mon and let it snow

You know I love Christmas
I always will
My mind's made up
The way that I feel
There's no beginning
There'll be no end
Cuz on Christmas,
You can depend

You gave your presents to me
And I gave mine to you
I need Santa beside me
In everything I do

You know I love Christmas
I always will
My mind's made up
The way that I feel
There's no beginning
There'll be no end
Cuz on Christmas,
You can depend

Cuz on Christmas,
You can depend

It's written on the wind
It's everywhere I go
So if you really love me
C'mon and let it show
C'mon and let it show
So if you really love
C'mon and let it
If you really love me
C'mon and let it
Now if you really love me
C'mon and let it show

Billy Mack

Monday, November 21, 2005

Twos, Twos and Twos

Raven, over at Married Single Mom posted this little quiz on her blog and mentioned that she'd like to hear my responses. I will oblige; read on.

2 Names You Go By
1. Darlin' (Doc calls me this)
2. Momma (The babies call me this)

2 Parts of Your Heritage
1. German
2. English

2 Things that Scare You
1. Flying creatures, especially bugs, birds and bats
2. Enclosed spaces

2 of Your Everyday Essentials
1. Diet Coke
2. Television Without Pity

2 Things You are Wearing Right Now
1. Celtic wedding band
2. Pink undewire bra

2 of Your Favorite Bands or Musical Artists
1. Johnny Cash
2. Clay Aiken

2 of Your Favorite Songs
1. The Final Countdown by Europe
2. Galang by M.I.A.

2 Things You Want in a Relationship (other than real love)
1. Laughter
2. Silence

2 Truths
1. Brevity is the soul of wit
2. You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run.

2 Physical Things that Appeal to You (In the Opposite Sex)
1. Dimples. I've gotten into so much trouble over dimples. On the cheeks...of the face.
2. Shoulders

2 of Your Favorite Hobbies
1. Knitting
2. Video games

2 Things You want Really Badly
1. Permanent status as a commentator on VH1
2. Infinite wealth

2 Places You Want to Go on Vacation
1. England
2. Savanna

2 Things You Want to Do Before you Die
1. See Europe
2. Write a book

2 Ways You are Stereotypically a Dude/Chick
1. I believe that plumbing and cars run on magic
2. I love wearing flowing skirts

2 Things You are Thinking About Right Now
1. How to make it til bedtime without collapsing
2. My Christmas shopping list

2 People I would like to see take this quiz
1. T
2. Madame E

Thursday, November 03, 2005

An Open Letter to My Daughters

Dear Riley and Lucy,

I know you are too young to understand this, but I'm going to say it anyway. I will always be here for you, even if I'm not around. Just like Christopher Robin is there for Pooh, so will I be there for you. It is my intention to give you the tools to make good decisions in your life. Hopefully, if I raise you right, my voice will be in your head, just as my mother's voice is always in mine, to guide you through life safely.

However, you may not always want to navigate life through the safest routes; I know I didn't. And that's okay. Sometimes, I would hear my mother's voice and do the opposite. I expect you will do the same. I just want you to know that if you ever want to know what the safest choice is; I'm here for you.

And just because I offer the safest choice, doesn't mean I would be opposed to a riskier one. Know that my role in your life is protector. I carried you around with me for 9 months a piece. I nursed you through your infancy. I worried about you dying in your sleep for no reason. I worried about strangers whisking you away. I went to work and cried for the time I lost not watching over your every move. Let's just say, I'm invested deeply in your survival and your mental well being. So, someday, if you ask me whether or not you should go skydiving, know that I will advise you against it.

Know also, that I will understand if you choose your own, riskier path. I may not like the path you take, but I will support you as best as I can. I will also be very vocal if I sense danger that I know is there and that you can't see. Depend on me being involved in your life and opinionated. Know that it comes from my heart and is motivated by love. You cannot be more perfect to me than you are. I'm not trying to change you or hold you back. If I offer advice and opinions, it is only for the sake of protecting you, long past the time you will need me to do that.

Your Daddy also has much to offer in the way of advice. He can teach you the safe way to do things too. If you ever need to build a fire, pitch a tent, clean a gun (gasp), tie a tie, memorize a poem, tell a story, show your friendship, avoid drama, or mix a martini: he's your man. He is also vested in your safety and well-being and will try to guide you down the safe path, just like me.

I guess what I'm trying to tell you is this: you can trust us. As much as I am a proponent of having a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to authority, I also hope that you won't see us as authority figures. We have a lot of knowledge, experience, and wisdom that are at your disposal. Just because we are your parents, doesn't mean we are tyrants or idiots. I hope you can trust us and rely on us and at least run big decisions by us so that we can save you any heartache.

What it all boils down to is this: you are precious and we love you. We want to help you succeed. Your best interest is our only concern. We will never intentionally give you bad information. It is up to you in this life to choose your future, but you don't have to do it alone. We will always be here for you even if we're not around.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Home Slice

There's nothing like your hometown in the fall. Here's my adopted hometown, Cleveland Heights, Ohio; Coventry Library:

Here's Big Orange's hometown. I'm just posting them in order to make him jealous and give him a little slice of nostalgia:

Wecome to Avon Lake
The Electric Company (or something)
Haute Cinema
The Little Firehouse
Avon Lake High School
Electric Boulevard

A Farm in Sheffield Lake

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Love and Kitties

I hope you can help Madame E find homes for her furry little friends. Check out their story at Tickley Whiskers.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Let's Hear it for Doc!

My baby he don't talk sweet
He ain't got much to say
But he loves me, loves me, loves me
I know that he loves me anyway

And maybe he don't dress fine
But i dont really mind
Because every time he pulls me near
I just want to cheer
Let's hear it for the boy
Let's give the boy a hand
Let's hear it for my baby
You know you go to understand

Whoa, maybe he's no romeo
But he's my lovin one-man show
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Let's hear it for the boy

My baby may not be rich
He's wathcin' every dime
But he loves me loves me loves
We always have a real good time

And maybe he sings off key
But that's alright by me
Because what he does he does so well
Makes me wanna yell
Let's hear it for the boy
Let's give the boy a hand
Let's hear it for my baby

You know you go to understand
Maybe he's no romeo
But he's my lovin one man show
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Let's hear it for the boy

Maybe he's no casanova
Still his kisses knock me ov-ah
Hear it for the boy
Let's give the boy a hand
Let's hear it for my baby
You know you gotta understand

Oh, he don't score at bowl-a-rama
Still you gotta thank his mama
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Let's hear it for the boy
Hear it for my man
Let's hear it for my baby

Denise Williams

Disclaimer: It's my blog and I'll gush if I want to.

Sunday was a shit day. There is no other way to slice it. Doc and I stayed up too late Saturday night and Lucy got up at 6:00 a.m., four short hours after we conked out. Sunday, we agreed, would by my day to sleep in. Unfortunately (for me), Doc is a heavy sleeper and didn't hear Lucy crying. We grumbled at each other and I stomped out of the room in righteous anger, vowing: he owes me for this.

Lucy and I were downstairs on the couch with the TV on. I slipped in and out of consciousness as she entertained herself and watched TV. By 8:30, Riley was up and talking. I don't remember what happened other than she was probably hitting me, pulling on my ears, kicking me or using a combiniation of the above tactics, as I half-drifted on the couch. I got up, stomped upstairs and called Doc out of bed. He came downstairs. (Man, it's amazing how much of this is a blur to me; at one point, I was trying to sleep on the couch in the Library.)

Eventually, at around 9, I think, Doc gathered the girls up and took them out. He promised me an hour of peace and quiet and then swept out of the house with the girls. They went to McDonalds then Borders, where, I heard later, that it was a bit like herding squirrels on cocaine.

At McDonalds, Doc ordered breakfast for everyone and they were just tucking in when Riley declared that she had to go potty. So, Doc gathered up both of the girls and hit the men's room, which had only one stall and it was occupied. Apparently the guy wasn't in much of a hurry. By the time they finished their business and returned to the table, their food was cold and icky. Doc expressed relief, though, for the self-serve coffee pot so that he could warm up his much needed cup of coffee. Three calamities later, and he was ready to call it quits and go home, but still had 20 minutes or so to kill before the hour was up. He gathered the girls up and set them loose on Border's.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I was just hitting deep REM sleep when I hear the slash of the mini blinds in my bedroom being drawn up with violence and the words "wake-y, wake-y" chirping out of my 3-year-old's mouth. Oh, the rath poured down on me. I am not a morning person, by nature, but start chirpily commanding me to wake up is a short cut to disaster. Fortunately, I've had some practice holding my temper and did not launch her directly through the window.

After 3 or 4 other aborted nap attempts, I finally gave up. I had planned on taking the girls to a pumpkin festival, but I was too tired, cranky and bleary-eyed to drive anywhere. In hindsight, we probably should have gone. A change of scenery might have done us all some good.

During all of the tears and temper tantrums, Doc remained calm and cool. When at Border's, he picked up a copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on DVD. He tidied the house and did the dishes. When nap time rolled around, he popped in the DVD and instantly, my mood lifted. We enjoyed watching the movie again and picking up things we missed the first time through.

After all is said and done, Doc was the only one who kept his head all day. Not only was he able to keep his head during the maelstrom we were, but he was able to find ways to keep us all laughing and smiling. So, here's to you, Doc, the best Morale Officer a girl could ever hope for.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Watching Bowling with my Dad, Getting a Manicure with my Mom

Last Saturday, the girls and I headed down to my parents' house to hang out, shop and have some laughs while Doc went down to the Oaisis to kick it old school with his homies. We spent Saturday afternoon with my Grandma shopping at the mall. We found clothes for the girls and Christmas gift ideas. I got Doc a gift for his birthday, which I'm trying to keep a surprise. Unfortunately, Riley inherited Doc's gift for discretion and now he knows all about it.

That night, we played poker. It was the Miller Gang minus one. We had a lot of fun and I won!!! I had been in a bit of a slump; my self-confidence vis a vis poker was kind of in the dumps. I had nearly convinced myself that my Dad could see through my cards and knew what I had no matter what I did to conceal it. This caused me to be the first one out most of the time. But Saturday night, I decided that he didn't in fact have the power to read me that accurately, especially once I stopped feeling nervous, thinking he could.

I ended up winning by taking him out on an all-in move after my Grandma ran out of chips. Then it was me and my mom in heads-up. I think she and I decided to call it a night rather than duke it out. Since I had the most chips, I won. It felt really good.

By the way, I think I upset Dad when I let him know how intimidated I was by his poker prowress. He doesn't like to bully people and he worries at things like a sore tooth when he thinks he's hurt someone's feelings. I want him to know that I had to go through this. I had to conquer my fear of the poker expert, otherwise, I will never be anything other than an amateur at the game. It is true that the only thing I have to fear is fear itself.

The next morning, we were all kind of frowsy and feeling like this:

Lucy was up all night. She is getting her molars in and has simply been difficult to live with these past few weeks. I love her, I do. But sometimes...nevermind. Anyway, Dad and I were snacking at the kitchen table, watching an ESPN Classic rebroadcast of the 8/13/1994 Seniors Showboat International Bowling Tournament from Las Vegas. I can't for the life of me think of the guy's name that won, but he kind of looked like the host of Password and Password Plus(also Betty White's husband) Allen Ludden:

Just picture him with a little less hair, a stripey polo-style bowling shirt and those awful, polyester, high-waisted, monstrosities called athletic pants and you'll have the idea. They showed this guy play several matches and he eventually won. Wanna know what the kitty was? $24,000. That's not really a lot of dough these days. We are so used to seeing 110k, million dollar payoffs these days for poker. And for poker, you don't even have to stand up, let alone swing a ball around for accuracy.

It was really fun to watch bowling with Dad. He is the only person I know in the world who enjoys watching bowling on TV. I used to resist watching it when I was a kid. It would come on TV on Saturday afternoons and Dad would have it playing. I guess with no M*A*S*H on TV bowling was his second choice. I have to also say that we both bowled on leagues: his was on Tuesday nights and mine was on Saturday mornings. We also played on a father-daughter league together. Bowling was the one sport on television at that time of my life that I really understood and had experience playing.

The thing that is fun about watching bowling with Dad is, it is the first time I remeber having a lingo-laden conversation. We would talk about a ball hitting the pocket or a strike that was a Brooklyn, picking up 7-10 splits and playing aggressively. We were able to judge the bowlers with some expertice. We also had favorites and not so favorites. I know there was one bowler that my Dad detested. A friend of his had seen this bowler (what is it with bowlers and me not remembering their names?) at a tournament. My Dad's only comment was, "Did you kick him in the knees for me?"

As we settled in to chips and salsa at 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday watching bowling from 1994, we began to banter about bowling. It felt familiar, since we talk similarly about poker these days. But it was very nostalgic. I haven't been able to get anyone to watch bowling with me. It's funny. Doc is pretty much game for anything, but not bowling. I don't understand his objections; no one is humiliated. I didn't really realize it was missing from my life until I sat down with Dad and enjoyed a match with him. I'm not sure I could ever convince my girls that bowling was something entertaining. I don't even think I could even get anyone to enjoy it ironically.

Now that I know this, I will be looking for opportunities to tune into the rare bowling match shown on TV. Hopefully, Dad will be around to enjoy it with me. Maybe, I'll make my girls watch. Perhaps I will be alone in the house with nothing else to do (yeah, right). At any rate, I will always enjoy watching bowling because it is entertaining, I know a lot about it, and even if he's not there physically, my Dad will be sitting next to me with a cold can of caffiene-free diet Pepsi, keeping the commentary going in "oooh"-ing in the right places.

When we were able to pull ourselves together Sunday afternoon, my Mom and I went out in search of a manicure and pedicure. She had found a great place and wanted to take me there, having recently seen the state of my toes. As we approached the nail salon, we noticed it was closed, so we moved on to the other location across town. I thought I saw it's neon sign on; it was. But it was not open. This location was situated near the shoe store and I showed her my dream shoes. And she bought them for me. xoxoxoxox It was very nice of her. She and Dad read the previous post and were planning on surprising me with them, but we are an impulsive lot.

We made our way over to the mall, where we knew we could get a manicure. We signed up on the list and discovered we had a ten to fifteen minute wait. Still in search of an audiobook, I convinced her to head over to Boarders Express. No luck on finding any good audiobooks for cheap but I did buy Christmas cards. Mom and I made plans to get together and do our Christmas cards all at once. That way, we can share her address book and I know they will get in the mail. My Mom's drive to see a task through to the end knows no bounds.

We returned to the nail salon and finished waiting. I went first. A young, Asian guy called my name and had me sit at station 7. He asked me what I wanted and I told him just a manicure and I handed him the dark rose colored polish I wanted. He convinced me to get white tips for only $5 more, at least that is what I thought I was getting myself in for. I could barely understand him.

He got a crystal bowl and filled it with sudsy water. He had me put one hand in it while he buffed the nails on the other hand. When he had finished buffing both hands, he told me to soak both my hands for five minutes and he took off into the back of the store. I'm sure he went to have a smoke; when he returned I caught a whiff of cigarettes.

He continued working on my hands in a very deft and clinical manner. I even received a hand massage which felt very good. However, the whole thing sort of made me feel cheap. I think it was his approach. Usually, when women have spa treatments of any kind, it is to be pampered. There is a social aspect to it as well. Part of what I like about getting my hair done is chatting with the stylist. This guy was not interested in me. He didn't even pretend to be interested, which is all I really ask for from personal services people. I believe he was doing this job until something better kicked in. Or until he got permanent citizenship.

But, my nails looked great and I decided to enjoy the experience instead of letting him ruin it for me. Besides, I rarely get to sit still for five minutes while my hands soak in warm water, daydreaming. Mom got the same nail treatment as I did and hers was performed by the world's tiniest manicurist. She was an Asian lady who must have been a size 6x. She did chat a bit with my Mom. The best part of the whole experience was sitting with my hands under warm lights, talking to my Mom. I wish we could have sat together for the manicure. Next time, maybe...

My kids and I had a great time hanging out with Mom and Dad; we always do. I was sad to leave as I always am, but I knew I would see them both soon. Hopefully in the near future, we can live closer together. An hour and 10 minutes doesn't really sound like that long of a drive, but it is. I miss them being close. I miss being in the rhythm of the family. I feel kind of at sea without them close by. I'm lucky to feel this way about my family, to love them so much. And to be loved so much.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I Want These Shoes

Saturday, Madame E and I went shopping. We didn't plan it out or anything; it was spontaneous. I had dropped the girls off at Grandma and Pop's and stopped by Madame E's house to drop off her perscription she had left at my house a few weeks back. She lives in my hometown, which is about 60 miles south of us. My plans were to say hello and visit for a while, have lunch and then skeedaddle back home to Doc and see a movie or something. Madame E's plans were to have lunch with me, visit for a while and then paint her dining room.

We headed over to the Flaming Pit, a local barbeque/Greek restaurant for lunch. Madame E had never been there before and I'm not sure I had either. I just knew it was a place my grandparents liked to go to. And it was totally what I expected/remembered it to be. It is sort of like a diner/greasy spoon, yet they serve beer and wine. Most of the patrons are ederly. There is a salad bar and accoustic tiled celings. It was perfect.

We settled into our burgundy vinyl booth and began to catch up. It had been a few weeks since I had seen her and I've sort of gone underground recently. I have been communicating much with anyone, really. I've been very busy at work and under a great deal of pressure. I was thankful that my Mom and Dad were available to take the girls on such short notice. I'm sure, if they hadn't taken them, I would no longer be eligible for Mother of the Year.

Anyway, E and I ordered hot wings and fries and diet cokes and settled in for what would turn out to be a really long wait. But it was OK. She had a lot of interesting things to say. Once again, her insight into human nature astounded me. I won't get into any details but she was able to characterize something very astutely after being privvy to the situation for a very short time. Whereas I had had years of trying to make sense of the matter and only had a patched-together theory, something along the lines of "Different strokes for different folks."

After we ate our fill, we settled up at the cash register and made a pass through the world's smallest ladies room. Seriously, I barely had room to change my mind in there. E asked me if I'd mind stopping by JC Penney's as she would like to find a new pair of dress shoes in case she got called for an interview. It sounded good to me, so I called Doc and let him know I'd be delayed.

We went over to Canton Centre, formerly Mellet Mall, found a great parking spot and entered Jacques Penney, as my Dad calls it. It was nice and cool and not too crowded. We wandered around the shoe department and nothing really jumped out at us. I was looking for a new purse to replace my summer purse, a Preston York lime green leather bag. I need something autumnal/wintery. I just don't know what it is yet. We scoured the purses and came up empty-handed.

We wandered through the women's clothing and marveled at some of the things that were on the clearance rack; a purple zebra-print dress took the cake as the worst waste of fabric. It was fun to wander around and not be in a rush to get home or to be distracted by having toddlers circling. E was looking for a pair of black, boot-cut jeans in her size. It's somewhat tricky for her, because she needs pettite.

Having had no luck at Penneys, I convinced her to walk over to my favorite store ever: Kaufmann's. We wandered the mostly empty corridors of Canton Centre Mall. It was truly depressing. I swear, the only businesses between J.C. Penney's and Kaufmann's was a beauty parlor and a head shop. This place, in the 70's and 80's had many stores, a food court, a cinema, a bank, and restaurants. Now? Nothing. They built a Super Walmart on the grounds in hopes that other stores would eventually follow. I hope they're not holding their breath.

We did wander through the head shop, though. We expressed relief that our fella's weren't with us. The place was silly with knives and swords and nunchucks. We would not have been able to drag them away. The place also sold E's favorite brand of incense, which she was glad to discover, since she had to order her last batch from Pennsylvania.

This store also offered the most hideous t-shirts with airbrushed designs. You could have Eminem or J-Lo emblazoned on your chest. You could also choose your school team mascot. I saw my alma mater up there: a Golden Eagle, flexing his bicep (correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think eagles have biceps), which was tattooed with some macho slogan like "Fear Me!" It was sad, really. And the worst part of it? There were people waiting in line to buy these attroci-tees! ::shiver::

We moved on to Kaufmann's and it was there that I encountered my dream shoes (see picture above). They are beautiful and look great on me. I have black dress shoes that will do, but these shoes? Made my heart go pitter pat. I did not buy them, though. What I really needed was new loafers for work. The ones I currently have are sad indeed. So, I found these in shiraz (burgundy color):

They are comfortable, stylish and durable enough to wear in the weather we're about to have around here. I also tried on these and loved them:

Madame E rolled snake eyes again and couldn't find anything she liked. So we headed over to Payless Shoes. We walked into the store and were immediatly struck with the most awful smell of vinyl. It was really strong. But we got used to it. We wandered up and down the aisles, she looking for dress shoes and me just looking for something sparkly and fun.

As we were shopping, there was a mother and a her teenaged daughter looking for high heels for her homecoming dress. We kept passing each other in the aisles and eventually we started chatting. I told the girl I liked the shoes that lit up. She liked them too, but they weren't high-heeled enough for her dress, which was really long. I didn't tell her that she could have her dress altered. She seemed set on the high heels.

Eventually, E found a cute pair of navy blue leather loafers with a small silver buckle on them. She couldn't believe how comfortable the were, but she wasn't sure she should buy them. I thought they looked really great. I believed she should get them. She wasn't sure what to wear them with. I explained that navy blue leather shoes are very versitile. These went well with my wedding gown:

She was still all, "I don't know," and I turned to the mother who happened to be standing next to me and said, "Don't they look cute on her?" She said, "Oh, yeah, those are nice." I convinced her that they were too comfortable to pass up. As I was continuing to sing their virtues on the way to the cash register, a sales girl piped in with, "And, we almost never get navy blue shoes in." Sale, Mr. Humphreys!

Still no black dress shoes to be had for E. So we drove on over to DSW, then Famous Footwear, where I again encountered my dream shoe and again resisted buying it. It was a test for me. I'm trying to keep my retail therapy to a minimum. I was trying to prove to myself that I could show some restraint. In a last ditch effort, we headed over to Walmart.

By this time it was nearly six o'clock, the time Doc expected me home. I called him and told him that we would be leaving soon. He wanted me to Bring E back home with me so that we could have a party. Yes, three people can be a party. Snob. Anyway, I told him I'd try and went to find E. I had picked out some winter jammies for my girls and she was trying to find, well, some undies.

Eventually, we wandered the entire store. We kept thinking of things we needed. A floorlamp! An audiobook! A watch battery! New jeans! Well, E found her black jeans in her size and she convinced me to buy two trendy new skirts for the fall. Again, the purses were boring, boring boring. When we left the store it was 7:15. Phew. We were bushed.

As we headed out to the Jeep, I tried one more time to convince her that she should come home with me. She refused, noting that she had to finish painting while the weather was still good and she was planning on reuniting with the Dark Lord, aka Big E, next weekend. I told her I'd let her off the hook if she promised to tell Doc that I begged, pleaded, cajoled and generally twisted her arm before I gave up. She agreed.

On the way back to her place, I said, "It's been a long time since I've shopped til I dropped!"

"Me too!" she said.

And that was about all we had to say for the rest of the way home. I dropped her off and headed home, thinking about how nice it was to spend the day shopping with a girlfriend. It sort of cleared the slate of all the awful things I've been going through this past couple of weeks. Thanks, Betty.

The Lodge

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die

The other night, Doc and I were settling in to watch a movie. This time it was "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou." I immediately felt a sinking feeling that I couldn't quite explain. That is, until I heard the opening tune "Big Rock Candy Mountain" and I was immediatly transported back to the year 2000. That summer I was in the market for a new car. My Dad, car shopper extrordinaire, agreed to help me with my Mom acting as our fact checker. We went to Columbus and began to prowl the auto malls that are concentrated in a five mile area.

We pulled into the first used car lot and the heavens opened when I spied this beauty: a 1998 metallic blue Saturn SC2. It was exactly what I was looking for, small, two door, manual transmission, with a CD player and a sun roof. I immediately heard the Temptations chime in with a chorus, "My car, my car, my car, talking bout my car, MY CAR!" But my Dad being my Dad, we couldn't just buy the first car we saw, we had to test drive a half a dozen more.

By the time we had done the research (Mom was checking insurance rates from the comfort of the Cherry Valley Lodge), we both decided that the SC2 was the one to get. We sat down with the dealer and worked out such a deal as I have never seen. It was the first time I'd been in a negotiation with a salesman where I felt like I was driving the conversation. We rocked. I drove that baby home with such a feeling of satisfaction and glee. I knew I had found the car that rivaled my first car (a 1979 Pontiac Firebird) as number one in my heart.

At the time I was living in the country and I enjoyed cruising the backroads, jamming my stereo. The CD of choice at the time was the soundtrack to O Brother. I had the sunroof open, the volume cranked and the engine humming. It was a perfect fit. The interior of the car was off white and pared down like a racecar. Nothing was on the dash other than what I needed. It was sublime.

A few short months later, I was leaving a board meeting that had gone horribly wrong. We were so prepared and ready to go. The board members attacked our program, even going as far as questioning the very foundation of what our program was built upon. We were beat up. It was probably around 6 or 7 in the evening as I got into my car and began to drive home, totally dispirited. As I approached the main road to begin my hour drive home, I came to a stop sign. To my right was a series of small businesses with a clear view of oncoming traffice. To my left, a giant, twelve-foot hedge and zero visibility.

I waited for a while and saw my boss drive by. She had wisely taken another route to this main road. There didn't seem to be much traffic at that time, so I decided I'd waited long enough and gunned it out to the road in order to turn left. Two seconds later, I experienced the most violent explosion of noise of shattered glass and bent metal. I tasted the powder that filled the air bag, which tasted a lot like a balloon: bitter and dry. I had been t-boned by a pick-up truck.

After a gruelling couple of hours, I was finally rescued by Doc in my reliable old VW Jetta, which was my least favorite car and his favorite. He picked me up and we headed home. I was uninjured and in awe of the constitution of that SC2. I could have been seriously hurt, but that little car took the brunt of the collision.

The next day, I went to the repair shop to see what the damage was and collect the stuff that I had left in it. When I saw the car I wept. It was a shadow of its former self. It was so destroyed that I felt very lucky to be alive. But the funny thing was, usually when you see a car this destroyed, everything about it looks horrible. But as I looked into the window, I saw the that the interior was still beautiful. The CD player was still intact. The carpet still clean. When I opened the door, I could still smell the foriegn, yet pleasant smell of a new car.

By the time everything was settled, the car was totaled. A week later, I received a check from the insurance company. The settlment was for $1000 more than what I payed for it! Even in death, this car was too good to be true. I ended up buying my parent's 1990-something Pontiac Bonneville, an old-fart mobile (no offense, Mom and Dad) if there ever was one. It had four doors, automatic transmission, power windows, power seats and was gigantic.

What can I say, I had lost my true love car. I've tried to repress the memories, I've tried to move on. But certain triggers, like O Brother, make me feel very quickly sad and full of grief. I long for those days of zooming around Wilkins Corners, signing along with "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" or "I'll Fly Away". I'm not sure I'll ever be over the loss of it and I don't know if I will ever find another car like it. A car so martyred that not only did it give its life in order to save mine, it also left me with a thousand dollars to help ease the emotional damage I had suffered. So long, SC2, I hardly knew ye.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Riley's First Day of School

Today Riley starts nursery school. She says she's nervous and worried. (She's three years old, people!) I asked her what she was worried about. She said that she was afraid that the boys would chase her. I told her, if they were chasing her, she just had to tell them to stop it and if they didn't stop, she should tell her teacher. That seemed to satisfy her. But everytime I bring up school, she says she's nervous. I'm not sure if she really is nervous or if she's playing. Sometimes she tries emotions and attitudes out, she practices feeling certain ways.

I wish I could be there but I can't get out of work today. But my Mom is coming to town and they will probably all go with her. The teachers ask that a parent stay there for the whole time the first week, in order to ease any separation anxiety. It's a co-op nursery school so they will give Doc something to do while he waits for her to finish her first day of school. He will be serving cutting duties. Perhaps Mom and Lucy will stay at the school, too.

I can't wait to hear all about what happened, although, I'm not sure I'll have any reliable witnesses. Doc usually goes with the flow and won't say anything more than, "Everything went fine, we had a good time." I want details. Hopefully, my Mom will go; she's a sponge. I know I'll get the complete picture from her. And Riley? She's like her daddy. I don't imagine I'll find out much from her either.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Home Base

This past weekend we were privileged to play host to Madame E, ERR, ERR's mother and sister and sister's boyfriend. They were in and out all weekend for a wedding that had more events than a pre-k beauty pageant. But, while they were there, we got to visit with our old friends and our new ones. These fine folk were also happy to pitch in with advice or back strength while Doc and I painted. Now that the house looks so wonderful, I'm loathe to leave it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

My To-Do List

We are planning to sell our house and here is my to-do list, in case you are interested:

  1. Discover the surfaces. I will achieve this objective by removing excess clutter, dusting, and replacing clutter with open space, tasteful Objects D'Art and books. This also means removing 90% of the toys that currently lay claim to 80% of my house, as well as reducing the excess clothing to 10% of its current claim to the closet and drawer real estate.
  2. Edit the furniture. Select the best looking pieces of furniture and banish the rest to the garage, basement, storage, or Salvation Army. Then create cozy spaces that bring to mind a calm and serene resting opportunities or jolly social encounters.
  3. Scrub the Carpet. While the furniture ballet is in full swing, I will vacuum then clean the carpet with my Mom's rug scrubber. This will eradicate all evidence of potato chips ground into the carpet by chubby little feet, old milk and juice stains, vomit (both Kitty and kiddy), and perhaps blood from my one-year old carpet.
  4. Defeat the Basement Clutter in a to-the-death Cage Match. I will savagely attack the overflow of books, memorabilia, and out-grown or out-of-style clothing with the help of my tag-team partners: Doc and Mom in a Clean Sweep Smackdown.
  5. Spring Clean Possum Lodge. The nature of Possum Lodge is one that leans towards disorder and dust. This will have to change, obviously. We must clean and replace the pine boards we had to remove due to water damage. I must clean the pine walls with Murphy's Oil Soap, sweep and mop the floor, clean all and replace some of the rugs, and hang up "No Smoking" signs. And, if possible, we need to teach the cat to shit in the box; shitting near the box will simply not do.
  6. Paint the walls. If there is time, the interior could use a fresh coat of paint. I have two toddlers, need I explain further?
  7. Fine tune the exterior. Kill the weeds growing in the driveway. Replace the grass in the dead spots, remove the beginnings of a patio Doc and I tried to build, weed the flower garden, remove either the sandbox or the play cube, Clean out the garage.

I know this list is ambitious and it is likely that some corners may have to be cut, but it feels good to put the list out there. Maybe, doing all of this work will cause us to decide to stay. Who knows? I'd appreciate any suggestions you may have though. Leave me a comment.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Putting Faces with Names

I don't ordinarily do this, but I am posting some pictures from our recent trip to Boston. Bon appetit!

That's me in front of my party's mascot.

Doc and the Princess on the shore.

Below...Doc the Majestic...

Monday, August 15, 2005

It's Official: He's Famous

Ryan Seacrest has just secured his place in the pantheon of fame. According to an article by the Associated Press, Ryan Seacrest has signed on to host "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve," a fixture of American pop culture, which Clark was unable to host last year due to a minor stroke. And not only is he the co-host, but he will also take over as host eventually. And proof positive that he has made it: he will executive produce the show as well.

Ah, yes. I remember the early days of American Idol. Such a monkey, he was, jumping around the stage, mugging for the camera, and wearing down the nerves of the already Idol-weary Brian Dunkleman. I hated myself for watching this show, especially in the beginning. My addiction to talent shows outweighed my annoyance with the hosts, the format of the show, the exploitation. Doc would have none of it, you can be sure. He does not take kindly to shows that exploit people's suffering. But I stuck with it and I'm glad I did.

Ryan Seacrest has grown over the four seasons we have watched him host. He seems to be maturing and taking a stand to protect contestants from the evil machinations of 19E, the producers. He also looks better. His weight has evened out as well as his tan. He's just...he's...sniff...I'm just so proud of him! Way to go, Ryan. You've smoothed out your weirdness and dialed down your manic antics, the end result being a savvy professional who is set for life. I doff my hat to you, good sir.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Lucy's Games

The other night, Lucy woke up an hour after being put to bed. Ordinarily, we let her cry until she goes back to sleep. But on this night, Doc and I had recently returned from a five-day trip and left the girls with Grandma and Pop, so I went and got her. I brought her downstairs and changed her pants. Then I curled up on the sofa with her to comfort her and hoped that she would fall back to sleep.

She was very sedate yet wide-eyed. Usually, she and her sister are going full speed ahead all day and the only time they are still is when they are asleep. So, to have her still, in my arms and wide awake was quite a treat. We were laying on our sides face to face. She was looking right into my eyes and then she started the Nose Game. The Nose Game starts friendly enough. Lucy points to my nose, I say "honk" or "beep" and she giggles. This continues for a little while and then she gets this glint in her eye and she goes for broke. She ups the ante and tries to stick her finger in my nose instead of poking it on the end. Every time I brush her hand away, she giggles and tries again. I don't think I can describe what an odd and discomforting feeling it is to have a 16-month old's index finger expertly inserted up my nose. It's creepy. Not to mention the fact that her little fingers at present have sharp little baby fingernails that can do real damage to soft tissue. It doesn't help to say no and display whatever expression conveys me at my most squicked out, this just makes her laugh harder.

Another game she plays is also an exercise in dexterity. We have this little Sesame Street music toy. It looks like a mini boom box and has a spot to insert cartridges that each contain one song. Well, our little Lucy is not interested in the music. She likes putting the cartridges in. We spend at least a half an hour together with this game. She picks up one of the cartridges, all of which are dangling from a lanyard connected to the mini boom box, lines it up, and puts it in. Then it is my job to remove the cartridge, otherwise, she will try to put another cartidge in while the earlier one is still in place.

Her newest game is "Night, Night; Good Morning." With both of the girls I played this game. I would say "night night" and lay my head down and snore in the manner of Olive Oyle. After a few noisy inhales and exhales, I would lift my head and say "Good morning!" always to the delight of the toddler or infant at hand. Eventually, though she wants to try it herself and yesterday, Lucy did just that. She can now say "night, night." It's so cute when she is pretending to be asleep. Sigh. She also prompts me to play the game by covering me with a blanket and saying "night, night."

Then there is the old standard, "Peek-a-boo". When Riley first started playing this game, she would hide under the covers for a very long time. Ever the performer, Riley would wait until we said "Where's Riley?" 5 or 6 times before she would pop out and exclaim, "Peek-a-boo!" Lucy? She's a traditionalist. We ask once and she delivers.

It is so nice to have two ambling little girls who express themselves so well. I am so pleased to have them communicate with me. Very soon they will both be out of diapers (Riley is and Lucy will be soon, I hope) and off to school. Then I can breath a sigh of relief. Yeah right.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Wedding Party

Last night Doc and I had the pleasure of a visit with Madame E and Espresso Toast. They both came down to the Lodge and we had a few drinks and listened to a mix CD I made of my favorite tunes of the moment. We were having a very good time catching up with each other and actually occupying the same physical space, rather than communicating via email or commenting on each other's blogs.

As we sat at the bar, the conversation turned to our friend Matt once again. And since it was handy, Doc grabbed a framed photo to show to Ms.Toast so that she could see what Matt looked like. Slipped in the corner of the frame was a very saucy wallet-sized Glamour Shot of me. I have bare shoulders and have a black feather boa around my arms. It's a profile shot and I'm looking up and off to the side with the slightest little smirk on the corner of my mouth. It was one of many shots that Doc and I had made for our engagement portrait. Doc asked Madame E and Ms. Toast if they recognized the girl in the picture. It took them a few moments to realize it was me, after all, it was taken eight years ago.

Once they recovered their shock, Ms. Toast mused that she didn't think she had any pictures of herself from eight years ago. A beat went by and I suddenly remembered that I had one and I told her so. She stopped and looked at me. I said, "At my wedding; you are standing at the corner of my church and you were wearing a short skirt and black tights and boots..." Then Madame E chimed in, "Don't you remember? You wanted your picture taken outside of the church because it was the church Marilyn Manson grew up in?"

At this point, I dashed into the back room and found my photo album. We flipped through the pages, laughing at all of the silly people in the pictures. Doc and I handed out disposable cameras at the reception. I highly recomend this practice because the people who attended my wedding took some of the best pictures.

As we thumbed through the photo album, we came to the shot of the table full of my friends. It struck me: The people seated at this table, for the most part, are people whom I consider my very best and closest friends. Madame E, Ms. Toast, Big Orange. Joanne and her husband are there and so is an old pal, Steve. I'm not as close to Joanne as I used to be and I haven't talked to Steve in years, probably not since my wedding day. Although, If I were to run into Steve, I'm pretty sure we'd be able to pick up where we left off as if no time had gone by.

We finally came to the picture of Madame E and Ms. Toast, which was taken by my friend Joanne, with her own personal camera. They are standing at the corner of the church, under the sign. Madame E is looking at the camera, smiling sweetly. She is wearing a long black coat with her hands in her pocket. To her left stands Ms. Toast, who is turned to the side and with her hip aimed at the camera, vamping like Catwoman while flashing her white boxer shorts covered with blue sheep drinking coffee. It is a priceless photo. We were beside ourselves with giggles. I vowed to have copies made for each of them and Doc declared it a shot worthy to hang on the Lodge's Wall of Fame.

I was suddenly overcome with a warm feeling of gladness. It struck me that my best friends were at my wedding and they are still in my life. We may not have been as close then as we are now, or we might have been closer then than today, but we are still in touch. Time will never diminish our shared history. I felt so grateful. When I got married, it was at a time in my life when I didn't fully understand what it meant to be a good friend. Sure, I was a good listener and I liked to have fun, but when the boat would start to rock, I'd usually opt for swimming away rather than staying the course. I'm so grateful and relieved that these folks stuck around, even though I may not have deserved it. I felt grace.

It is so special to me that I'm friends with people who witnessed my wedding. For such a long time, I lived in a place where I knew very few people and I had to start from scratch building trust, building shared history. It was hard work and I had to kiss a lot of frogs, so to speak. I was sad to leave those new friends when we had to move 300 miles to the north. It was not just because I'd be missing those folks, but I was faced with the gravitas of finding new friends. I worried that my old friends would have written me off and I'd have to start all over again.

Forutnately, I discovered that this was not the case. For the most part, I have fallen right back into step with my old pals: my friend from college, Terry; my cousin and her boyfriend; Madame E and Ms. Toast; Big Orange and his Good Wife. They didn't forget me and they didn't give me too hard of a time that I had been so remote for so long. And as good friends do, we mended fences, if we need to, and picked up where we left off: laughing, goofing around, dancing, talking, and toasting each other's good health.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I Know Who the Half-Blood Prince Is

What a weekend! I finished reading the latest installment in J.K. Rowling's 6th Harry Potter book last night at 11:30 p.m. As the release of the book drew closer last week, I had passed idle moments wondering, "Should I savor the book or tear through it?" I wavered back and forth, weighing the benefits. I could tear through it and then savor it. I could re-read the other six first. In the end, of course, I devoured it, just as I suspected I probably would. I wanted to know what happened and I wanted to know as soon as possible. I also didn't want to find out what happened accidentally from someone else who had already finished it.

But let me take you back to last Friday, July 15 at about 11:15 p.m. Doc and I were sitting in the lodge, watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and I was debating whether I should go get my copy from Borders at 12:01 a.m. or wait until about 8:00 a.m. and get a copy from Walmart. I finally asked Doc, "Should I stay or should I go." He said, go, so I went. I dashed upstairs to change my shirt (I had spilled a little salsa on it) and looked in my closet for something clean. I saw my black velvet skirt hanging in the closet and became inspired. Or lost my mind; I'm not sure which. So I dressed up in velvet from head to toe, put in long, dangly earrings, strappy sandles, and completed the outfit with a bejeweled, black velvet handbag.

I drove over to the local Borders and found the place packed...with people mostly wearning t-shirts and shorts. Ah, well. At least I wasn't wearning a witch's hat or Harry Potter glasses. I convinced myself that it was possible for people to think that I may have just stopped in after the opera or something. I know, I know: velvet in July? But the reasoning gave me the courage to get through the door.

There was so much activity in the store and there were probably about 300 people. They were having contests and face-painting. As I moved through the store, I caught a sob in my throat. I don't know why, but whenever I'm in a crowd and I am faced with emotion en masse, especially when it is positive, I cry. I just get this wave of energy and it's almost too much. So I choke up, especially at concerts, ball games, and parades. If anyone has a good explanation for this reaction, I tell you, I'd be interested in hearing it.

I got to watch as the store workers brought the boxes of books out on large carts from the back of the store; all of them marked with the warning "Do not open until July 16, 2005." I witnessed the cashiers line up at all six cash registers and watched them watch the clock. When it was 12:01 a.m., all six of them threw an arm in the air and yelled, "Next in line!" The first customer was a girl of about 10 years old. Those that followed were ages 7-70, all colors, and economically diverse. It was wonderful to behold.

But, my feet started to hurt standing there. I was number 808 and I had plenty of time until my number was called to line up. So, I wandered back towards the end of the line and found a nice leather armchair in the mythology and sociology section. I was glancing through the titles near my chair and I cam across the book Fairy Island. It is a picture book created by a mother and daughter team. They captured images of five or six fairy homes on Fairy Island. It was delightful, especially the fairies' shoes. They were so tiny and one pair was made out of peanut shells! All the materials, for the most part, were found in nature and everything was in miniature. There was a cute series of letters from a grandmother to her granddaughter about stumbling upon these little homes while studing the local plant life.

It was quite a lovely way to spend a hour in the middle of the night. I flipped through the book, examined the pictures, and read some of the text. The long line passed right by my seat and I had a front row view of those who had just cued up. I was able to people-watch as well as fairy-watch. I finished the book and was replacing it on the shelf when I heard the announcement saying that those with line numbers 700-800 should gather in Art and Architecture. I got up and wandered over. I was 808, but I figured it couldn't be too much longer; the store was emptying and there was a dip in the energy of the place.

About twenty minutes later, I found myself much closer to the cash registers. There was a fun couple of black ladies behind me, probably in there 30's or 40's. One of them was obviously there to accompany her friend who was interested in buying the book, but had no interest at all in Harry Potter. They discussed the merits of Aretha Franklin, while wondering how many times they had purchased copies of the song "Respect." But they decided that she was so good, it didn't really matter. They debated the coolness of the titles of several African-American novel titles. The winner was Caught 'em Slippin'. At one point, the HP fan, commented on my earrings, asking me if I made them myself. I hadn't. The disinterested lady wondered aloud if she could just pay for her Aretha albums at the cafe, since she wasn't interested in buying the Harry Potter book.

Shortly before I was next in line, the fan was talking about how they were getting closer and wasn't it great! The other agreed half-heartedly and said, "You did read the other Harry Potter books, didn't you?" The fan paused and said nothing, obviously busted. Her friend rolled her eyes and said, "Your cool factor just slipped 20 points, you know that don't you?"

At that point I was next in line, but that exchange just maid me joyous. Here are complete strangers talking about their cool factor! How fun! I was so glad to find that other people talked about it too. I felt connected, like, if we had been stuck on line together longer, we would definately have become friends. But it was 1:15 a.m. and I was bushed. I purchased my copy, thanked the cashier, and held the new book to my chest as I went out to my car.

Sometimes, I feel like I am an observer of life. Even when I'm having fun, I'm watching as an outsider. I am in the audience. I am an anthropologist. I don't know if that is because I am shy at heart or if it is because I am a reader and I read life rather than live it most of the time. Maybe I want to see and not be seen. I feel like a small child, sometimes, finding out the rules of a giant complicated game of Calvin Ball a few at a time. But every now and then, the rules click and I can step out onto the playing field and throw myself into the game. The moment becomes itself and I lose myself.

On this night, I was observing intentionally. I wanted to bear witness. It was the first time that I think I consciously and voluntarily participated in something as a witness. But I found myself stepping in as a participant every now and then. To me, art is anything that brings us together as friends. A painting, or a poem, or a song is successful when it connects with the observer and transfers an emotion or idea completely. And here is a marvelous book that not only connects author to reader, but reader to reader. And we are all so different from each other in appearance and background. But that night, we were all students at Hogwarts, gathered in Flourish and Blott's, anticipating the next school term.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Stalking Authors

Ever since I learned to read, I haven't been able to stop. It is something I do daily, read books that is. From very early on I would connect with an author and I would begin to seek out everything he or she had written. First it was Beverly Cleary, then Judy Blume. Eventually, I wandered over to the Sci-Fi Fantasy aisle and discovered Raymond Feist's Riftwar Saga (Magician: Apprentice, Magician Master, Silverthorn, A Darkness at Sethanon) and David Edding's Belgariad Saga. With David Edding's books, I picked up the series as he was still in the process of writing it. I anxiously awaited each installment. Other authors followed: Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving, Roger Zelazny, Loren Estleman. But most recently, I have been stalking J.K. Rowlings.

I am completely absorbed by the Harry Potter stories. I began reading the first one after the second one was released. I have read and re-read, both on paper and on tape, all of the first five books. I know them inside and out and I cannot wait for the Half-Blood Prince to be released at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow morning. The best thing about this feeling is that it is the first time that millions of other people are as excited as I am about the release of a book. Always before, I have felt alone in my anticipation. I'm sure there are other people who are looking for John Irving's next book, but no one's throwing any parties, that I know of.

It is so rare that a book flicks a switch in so many people at the same time, and I just want to be a part of it.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Playing Poker with Jesus

I've been sitting here playing Poker Superstars Deluxe on my laptop, which is pretty good, as far as PC poker goes. You get to play against the Superstars of Poker, as the name suggests. However I must register my outrage at the exclusion of Phil Gordon: adventurer traveler, poker professional, TV Personality, and my personal hero/TV boyfriend. At any rate, it is kind of fun to imagine you are playing against the likes of Gus Hansen and Howard Lederer. The thing that differentiates it from other PC poker games is that playing against an imaginary player is fun, but playing against an imaginary celebrity is exciting. Or at least it has an edge over playing against the likes of Min and Derek and Marty.

But, I was playing it tonight after about two or three weeks of playing it for an hour or two almost daily. Shawn turned on the Red Green Show and my attention started to drift. I'm playing hands when I shouldn't be or I'm folding when I shouldn't. At one point I drew Big Slick-suited and I started to pay attention. I really threw myself into the hand, thinking, "Maybe if I imagine hard enough, I'll enjoy this as much as I do the face-to-face games." I mean, not to throw myself a pity party or anything, but I can't round up a regular game to save my life! Nor have I been successful at horning in on anyone else's regular game. I realize your poker posse is a tight knit group, but, come on! I'm funny, I don't drink, I don't talk too much at first and especially not much when I'm playing. Yeah, I know what you're saying: desparate much?

So, anyway, I threw myself into the PC game as much as I do when playing in one of the rare live games I get to participate in. I imagined I was sitting there with the Superstars and I was really playing. I was trying to bluff, trying to read them (they have no tells, I mean, they just sit there!), trying to change up my style. Finally, I just gave up. It doesn't really matter how much I throw into the game mentally; I'm playing against a bunch of ones and zeros. I have to tell you, it kind of bummed me out. Here I had a regular game and it just fizzled out on me.

But then it dawned on me: it's playing poker with real people that I really enjoy. There is a certain electricity in the air when everyone in the room is doing mental acrobatics. It's the only chance I get to try to fake out my Dad, who watched over me as a teenager and knows all of my moves. I get to try to stare down my Mom (who rarely does anything wrong in real life) like she's in late for curfew and she's not giving up a thing. Only when Riley calls for a snuggle on the couch does her facade slip and she folds like a tent. My Grandma is her own. Because of her status as matiriarch, I just watch. I don't try any funny business with her. But, just watching is sometimes enough; she's usually got 4-to-a-something and counts on her fingers when looking for a straight. And Shawn, dear Holmes. Sometimes I know and sometimes I think I know, but I'm never sure which is which. I suppose that's what I like so much about him: he's so mysterious.

I'm sure everyone I've mentioned above thinks they've got my number too. And they probably do. But I don't care. After every hand we whoop it up for the winner and debrief our cards. We used to debrief every hand, but ever since we started watching the pros on the World Poker Tour broadcasts and Celebrity Poker Showdown, we've all gotten a bit more savvy and play things a bit closer to the vest. Sometimes, though, we like to brag about our hole cards, especially when we just can't believe everyone folded when we had pocket rockets. Sometimes you just have to crow.

Our main game is No Limit Texas Hold'em played with real ceramic chips and cards from a casino (my deck is from The Palms). Sometimes, we even use a squeegee in the manner of a croupier, dragging our winnings over to our chip stacks. We don't usually have a buy-in; we're all in it for the glory of being the chip leader. Also, no on likes to go home broke.

As I was saying though, we play it for the joy and thrill of letting our chuztpa fly. We are different when playing poker. We get to snap at each other and get away with it. We also try to predict what the others might have and try to read their body language to find tells. Read that last sentence one more time. It's OK. I'll wait. We are messing around with the quantum. It's a bit like trying to communicate telepathically or trying to read the future. (I must admit I've gotten this idea from the TV show Joan of Arcadia: read this recap to see my "scientific source") Here's the quote to save you the effort; I believe it also applies to poker:

Luke says [chess is] just strategy, and a little bit of living in the future. Will doesn't want to hear any more talk about the future. Luke: "That's how it works, Dad. You see four moves ahead, it's empirical. You see five moves ahead, it's still grounded in science. I mean, who knows where the demarcation is? Now, if you see twelve moves ahead, maybe you're crossing over into the psychic phenomenon. And maybe -- maybe that's what a psychic does; she just reads the board of life better than we do."

Sometimes, when I'm having a good night, I feel psychic. I see the cards I want in my mind and they show up. It really is a rush of energy to feel so tuned in to the cards. It's even more wonderful to be able to read the others. It doesn't happen very often for me, but it occurs to one of us at least once or twice during a playing session (about the length of a nap of a toddler).

Most of the time reading tells and bluffing and willing the next card to be a jack are just a shot in the dark. It's mostly just guessing. My Dad taught me how to read some general tells, although I suspect he may be refraining from giving all his secrets away. But when I have busted someone, that is, I can tell from the look on their face what their hand is, I see this flash of humanity. For a brief moment I see them, just as they are. The opposite is also true; my poker buddies have caught me on many occaision and I know what it feels like to be seen.

As a result, we are more than family for a short time. We are buddies. It's an important trust. I guess I see how introducing someone new into the circle is like trying to break in new shoes. And the synergy we experience as a group is much like the synergy I felt when I played trumpet in a brass quintet (my most favorite-sized ensemble for this very reason). And it's so rare that I want to protect and sustain it. I guess I do have a regular poker game after all, if playing whenever you can find the time and are together counts as regular.

For the most part, group events/outings these days wear me out. There is so much posturing and white noise and negativity that I come home from most gatherings quite drained. But I'm always sorry to break up the Miller game. I'm almost never the one to call "last round," and if I lose all of my chips, I volunteer to deal. I just want to be a part of it, to sit at the table and really look at them and hear them and pray with them. That's what it feels like: joyful prayer. We're all hoping for an eight to complete that gut-shot straight draw or one more heart to fill out this flush. All of that hope in the room makes me feel like maybe Jesus (no, not him) is there too. I know that's a strange thing to say, but, how else can you explain all the love and goodwill straining the rafters over our card table? No wonder I'm over Poker Superstars Deluxe.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Midnight at the Oasis

For Matt

Midnight at the oasis
Send your camel to bed
Shadows paintin' our faces
Traces of romance in our heads
Heaven's holdin' a half-moon Shinin' just for us
Let's slip off to a sand dune, real soon
And kick up a little dust

-Maria Muldaur

Our Oasis is a small, verdant valley in central Ohio and we had a chance to return there this past weekend on the ninth anniversary of our meeting. This place, the place where Shawn and I courted, is the most wonderful place I've ever been to. There are trees and bugs and woodland creatures. There are fish and hawks and wild turkeys. And at Midnight, the valley is alive with magic.

We visited our best friend, Matt, there and had a chance to catch up, play Monopoly and share a few beers. In fact, we shared enough beer that we all decided it was a fine idea to take a midnight drift in his pedal boat on his pond. So, with the aid of the world's least luminous flashlight, we made our way over to the far shore where the paddle boat was beached. As we were walking, we all took note of the fog on the water and the stars (every single one of them!) up above, framed by the hills and trees.

Matt flipped the boat over, right side up, and began to explain what it was going to take to get us all into the boat. He was going to hold onto the rope at the front and ease the boat down the bank, which slanted into the water at about a 45 degree angle. Then, he told me I would get into the boat first and the boat would naturally ease into the water, where Shawn and he would join me. I was laughing so hard at the very idea of this. Yeah, sure, I'll get in and you'll join me later. It was so ridiculous and frightening. Not that I feared they would abandon me; I trust both of these men to the end of my life. I just imagined myself drifting out into the middle of this pond with no idea how to control it, and then of course, some sea creature would rise from the depths and have me for a midnight snack.

I pulled myself together enough to follow Matt's directions. As the boat and I slid into the water, Matt climbed on board and directed Shawn to hold the rope, all the while warning us that we should be using our "quiet voices" since his brother's family were at home sleeping not 50 yards from us. This was difficult to do, under the circumstances. We first had to calm down from the initial thrill of doing something dangerous in the middle of the night. Then we had to remember everything we learned in school in order to coordinate ourselves so that the damn boat wouldn't sink.

I distinctly remember Matt explaining the very basic steering mechanism to us (Shawn and I were seated in front, Matt on the back) and being struck dumb by it's complexity. Actually, I was so afraid we were going to sink or capsize, I couldn't even comprehend the instructions, which were: Move the lever up to turn right, down to turn left and leave it in the center to go straight. Eventually, we calmed down and were able to steer that boat like champs. Shawn and I would pedal with our hands, since the bow would come out of the water if we leaned back and the rudder would no longer work. Matt would balance in the middle and, yes, I steered. We cruised all around that pound.

Every now and then we'd stop and talk. While we were chatting, Matt saw a shooting star. I looked up in time to see the second one and make a wish. We had to be careful, though; looking up was enough to make the back end of the boat dip under the surface and take on water. I wasn't able to star-gaze as much as I would have liked, but I did get to look at those stars that were lined up with the horizon. It was beautiful: stars crowding around the hilltops, fireflies lighting up the hilltops like so many fairies. It was so quiet and still. I was transported. I wouldn't have been surprised if Gandalf himself had wandered upon us, requesting our services for an errand.

Every time the boat began to drift toward the back corner of the pond, Matt would begin to get nervous, saying he thought he saw some kind of sea creature there the other day when he was feeding the fish. He'd insist that we steer away. We were caught up in the magic and sea creatures existed alongside of those fairies. We wondered more than once: wasn't this the way many horror movies started? A handful of drunk idiots out too late, getting into things they shouldn't be getting into? But this moment was so far from anything horrible; we knew it was just idle fancy. The only thing we really had to dread was disembarking onto the steep bank of the pond.

Eventually, we decided to end our jaunt into the sea and Matt directed us to shore. Well, I thought he wanted us to go near what looked like a boat launch, so I headed right for it. It turns out, where I was headed was covered with large pieces of gravel. Well, I guess it doesn't take a genius to figure out that sharp rocks and plastic are not a good combination. Even though I could steer that thing like a pro, I still had a bit of wisdom to earn when it comes to being a good captain. So, we corrected our course and got out of the boat without incident and made our way back to the house.

Upon returning to the light, we noticed our hands were BLUE. Here it turns out, Matt's Dad had treated the pond for algae with some kind of chemical which dyes your skin blue for two days and counting. We giggled at the state of our hands, and heaved a sigh of relief that we didn't actually fall into the the water! But thinking back, I believe that the fairies had something to do with it. We joined them and their sea creature friends for a frollic at midnight and they marked us Druids, lest we forget our connection to the earth, the sea, the stars, the magic, and them.