Friday, September 19, 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008

More men who look good on paper

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I'm in love again. Last month it was the Athens chef; last night Alberta, Mr. Alberta, and I were serenaded by these captivating men in tangerine pantsuits, and it was a good thing their guitar straps said, "Police line, do not cross" or I wouldn't even be here this morning.

I tried to get Mr. Alberta to request "Ring of Fire" but he was deep into a fit of shyness brought on by his second margarita. Anyway, out of respect for our own impetuousity, Alberta and I better not go back to Frontera for a while.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

XLo05's 73rd birthday card

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“Chickie, my chickie, my craney crow”
The children mark off a space for their home; the old witch comes along, and they follow her, chanting, “Chickie, my chickie, my craney crow went to the well to wash her toe. What time is it, old witch?” The witch answers, “Six o’clock” (any time she chooses). They repeat the whole until she says, “Twelve o’clock,” whereupon she tags as many as possible and puts them in her home. The whole thing is repeated until all children are tagged. The last one caught is witch for the next time.

Hula girl

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Meet hula girl, my new bff, from my new favorite coffee shop in downtown Monroe.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My new boyfriend

It doesn't matter that I don't know his name, whether he uses trans fats in cooking, or even whether he's available; I'm in love with a chef. I mean, just look at him. Have you ever seen anything any cuter? When Alberta and I were wandering the streets of Athens Saturday night looking for an art store, I saw him and told him I just had to take his picture because he was so handsome. I'm thinking--pesto with pignolia nuts, the smell of foccacia baking, being served cappucino on Saturday mornings, Puccini playing in the kitchen. Yeah, I'm feeling it. Don't tell me I'm living in a fool's paradise.
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mistakes you make at the beach

Things that don't seem like mistakes at first often are when you are on vacation. I'm not talking about the obvious (just in case, don't forget the spf 50 on your face, feet, and ears).Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Maybe overtanning; I've seen a lot of that. But other things that seem perfectly normal at the beach make you delete your travel photos off your digital camera quicker than a sand crab scuttling into its hole. Wearing a bright red Hawaiian shirt or a towel coiled on top of your head because you forgot your hat, for example. Or a red bikini (you're a man in this scenario).
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It is incredibly tempting to collect as many seashells as you can put in a plastic bag from the Bi-Lo, which happens to have an excellent wine selection, so you might already have more bags than you can use for wet swimsuits anyway, another potential pitfall. But what are you going to do with those seashells when you get home, once you have one glass bowl full of them on the table in the dining room? I give myself the edict that I can have no more than I can carry in one hand, and when I'm over the limit, I take a picture of the shell instead.
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I cheated just once when I found a large scallop shell I could use as a soapdish at home--I dropped my fragment shells into it and carried it from the top with all five fingers, which was the only way I could hold it with one hand. You can see it in the picture of Alberta's feet, next to my beach chair.

One thing you will almost certainly do is eat too much fast food when you're on the road. Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Don't worry, these beaches are made for walking, and that's just what you'll do, walk, dammit, until you look good in your swimsuit. My strategy is to fix my eyes on the farthest condominiums from our boardwalk and walk till I get there, even though on the beach what I estimated a half-mile is really about three. It's excellent to fool yourself that way and burn up six times the calories, as long as your companions don't get sweaty and tired and go back to the beachhouse for a shower and lunch.

Souvenir stores affect people differently--I find the bright windows veritable sirens, while Alberta is horrified by them. Who could pass up three beachtowels for $10? But then you read the sign for a free hermit crab with every purchase and you see Alberta is right.
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Of course, you can use our vacation as a warning. Or if you're especially alert and disciplined, you might have already realized the countless opportunities for screwing up at the beach. But if you're lulled by the soothing sound of the waves and the crumbly texture of sand under your fingertips as you lie under the July sun, it's only when you get home and unload the gritty towels and throw the "Myrtle Beach 2008" t-shirt in the laundry. When did I ever plan to wear 6-inch flourescent letters on my front, you wonder.Then it's too late.

But those mistakes aren't irreparable,not unless you succumbed to tattoo temptation. Even if you did that, there is a purple Jesus in Rains, South Carolina, and so be sure to pull over on the way back and ask his blessing.
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Even then if you were given the choice prior to the trip, when you were thinking soberly, before you fell victim to sun and the wine selection at the Bi-Lo, wouldn't you still eat the fried shrimp and she-crab soup with probably a cup of cream in it, have the watery Happy Hour margarita,and snap up the towel bargain at Happy Jack's?

Yes you would. If you would have done it any differently, you'd be with the Outward Bound crowd or the Lonely Planet travelers in Costa Rica saving the rainforest, and it's too late for that. You and I are are not nearly that serious.

We do have some other holiday snaps; no, not the Monty Python kind of holiday snaps. Alberta, Susan, and I documented vacationers who, years if not decades past adolescence, threw ice cubes to attract each other in a public restaurant and paid for one buffet platter but got four plates of crab legs. We're saving those, however. We're sure the photos are our ticket for admission to Quantico, where we will reveal our ideas for a Special Buffet Surveillance detail, of which we will be the chief operatives.

Meanwhile, you go ahead and opt for excess. It'll be fine.
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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monday, May 26, 2008

I've been tagged by Alberta

As part of Alberta's sinister ploy to make me blog more, she has tagged me. As I understand it, I must answer the following six questions, tag 5 other people,and then pour gasoline on a household object, fling it into the air, and shoot it like a clay pigeon.Okay,the last is my own innovation, but it IS Memorial Day and here we are without any fireworks. Fine,Alberta, here goes:

Here are the rules:
1. Each player answers questions about themselves.

2. At the end of the post, tag 5 people by posting their names.

3.Go to their site/blog and leave a comment telling them they've been tagged. Invite them to your site/blog so they can read the tagged post.

4. Let the person who tagged you know when you've completed your tagged post.
You have to answer these 6 questions:

What were you doing ten years ago?
What are five things on your to-do list?
What are five snacks you really enjoy?
List some places you've lived.
List some bad habits you have.
Name some jobs you've had.

1. What were you doing 10 years ago?
Like I remember.Amaryllis and Magenta were four, so I'm guessing that writing their names on masking tape and sticking it on their backs every day because their day care workers could never tell them apart took up a good deal of my time. Also that year, I learned to use desktop publishing programs, researched landlord/tenant laws in order to deal with the psychos I rented from. On the positive side, that was the year I found I loved opera late at night with all the lights turned off, found the perfect green to paint the living room, and refinished the hardwood floors.

2. What are 5 things on your to-do list?
Hike up Stone Mountain, sell my house, learn to hand-tint photographs, take the god-awful silver polish off my toenails, buy a bike and ride it, go to the Dalmatian Coast. Is that 6?

3. What are 5 snacks you really enjoy?
Weight Watchers ice cream bars if Mr. Alberta hasn't eaten them all, Wheat Thins, lemon gelato, bananas, coffee.

4. Name some places you've lived.
south central Mississippi; New Orleans; near-Memphis, Tennessee; Georgia; under the bush across the street with my imaginary friend Linda (but that was a long time ago)

5. Name some bad habits you have.
Denying reality, making excuses, being too exacting with Amaryllis and Magenta, putting on lipstick while I'm driving, being shy.

6. Name some jobs you've had.
Wrapping gifts, baby-sitting, working for a newspaper, PR photographer, motion/efficiency research in a Pringles factory, waiting tables, weeding for a mail-order nursery, teaching GED math/life skills (basically calculating how much you can spend at Target if items are on sale AND you have a coupon), Alternative radio station DJ, filing transcripts, hardware salesperson, teaching English, and modeling.

Yes, I WAS a model--Bennett George took my picture sitting on the grass inside a ring of mushrooms and put it on the cover of the alumni magazine, mostly, I think, because I had long hair and a flowy white dress and he was probably high. That's it for the jobs, but I fully plan to become a published (and paid) writer.

5 people I plan to tag:
Magenta and/or
Yellow Chicken

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Inspire me Thursday: The Envelope--A note to Elvis goes in mine

Dear The King-
I went to your house last week and this was on the radio in my car:
"The Mississippi Delta is shining like a national guitar.
I am following the river down the highway through the cradle of the Civil War."

But those aren't my words and what's the simile about anyway?

My Delta smells like when you come over the hills from Philadelphia in the evening and roll the car window down and inhale the fertilizer mixed with Malathion, and
you can tell it's summer in Mississippi.

But that's not quite as elegant, so I start over:

Dear Elvis:
My mother claims some friend of hers in college dated you just the least little bit,
"Oh, we didn't think that much of him," she says with that look you'd have to live with her to get.
It probably had something to do with Tupelo and truck driving and behind your ear, that cigarette.

But Mother would never even let us call her "Mom", if you know what I mean.

When I went to Graceland, so many had written messages to you on the retaining walls and the ground, and I found four signed with my own name, but in the end, I just took a picture of my feet by one written on the sidewalk, and I had painted my toenails silver for the occasion.

So, here's my letter to the King of Rock and Roll:

Dear Elvis,
You were always on my mind.

He painted silence and stillness and light

I've been watching art critic Sister Wendy on Vermeer. He lived in a house in Delft with his wife, his mother-in-law, and his eleven children; I knew that, but it never occurred to me that Vermeer painted with the same craving that drives me to the woods to run down trails---the craving for solitude. Vermeer's subjects, placid Dutch women, are bathed in light, and they're all so still. You can almost hear dust motes floating around them in sunlight, they're so still.

I run through the other Dutch painters I know--Rembrandt, Cuyp, Rubens, Mondrian, Hals, de Kooning. I dismiss them as too stiff, too marine, too primary, too cavalier, too expressionist, too just notVermeer. Only one, Adrienne Coortje, captured the light in raspberries and asparagus as Vermeer did with silks and tiled floors. His tiny oils had the same timeless luminescence.

What's more beautiful than light? The light of winter dusk backlighting stark black branches, late afternoon sun stretching out a shadow till it's twice its length, a watch crystal flinging spangles onto a painted wall. If I could only see one thing in my last moment, it might be the flash of sun on water or wood or the hair of someone I loved, or heck, it doesn't even have to be someone I love; Keanu Reeves' or David Beckham's hair would do just fine. What I'm after here is the physical property of beauty. What Vermeer saw when he locked the door against his eleven children and wife and mother-in-law, the peace in which to savor these blessings and the time to watch light shimmering and sparkling in his mind's eye without interruption.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

If you lived inside a wedding cake

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Magenta and I went out taking pictures today in Social Circle, Ga. and it became all about shadows on houses. When I saw this one, I could only think how much Miss Havisham would like to live here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Are you done choking?

Apostrophes are my extended metaphor for child-rearing, but that's simply a grammarian's approach. I tell the kids in the classroom, "There's only one rule and one exception apiece for possessives, both singular and plural." Here they are:

--when forming singular possessive, it is always correct to add an apostrophe and an s.
--the exception: when the owner ends in s, x, z, ch, or sh, you MAY drop the final s. But here's the thing: you don't have to.

Plural possessive
--when forming plural possessive, make the owner plural. Then add an apostrophe.
--the exception: when the owner doesn't end in s, add an apostrophe and an s; i.e., the children's martinis.

See, now you never have to worry about apostrophes again. But this is not really about grammar; it's about rules. And how parenting rules apply to children, your own, of course, not others'. (Please note how the apostrophe sings. It's like Maria Callas--accuracy and inspiration.)

I used to have one child. Now I have three, because I got a two-for-one deal back in 1993. When I had the one, a perfect and delightfully easy child until she was 13, Alberta used to tell me her rule of childrearing. There was only one and here it is:

"Give them what they want, and agree with everything they say."

She didn't even give me any exceptions, so according to her twisted logic, children are easier than apostrophes. I was appalled. Was she crazy? Alberta, did you USE this when raising your own two--the Planet A alien and the CPA in an infant's body? What are we talking when you say give them what they want--a Coach bag, a knife, an Oreo, a Humvee, a nap? No guidance from Alberta; she'd finished her driving the to the boys' basketball games and play rehearsals and was lording it over an empty nest. So I blew it off, even though it came from the font of all knowledge, and returned to Dr. Spock and Judith Martin.

Then the 13-year-old ran away from home(curfew) repeatedly, and the twins began their reign of terror. They threw two dozen eggs on the kitchen floor in 12 seconds, ate their grandfather's blood pressure medicine, some silicone beads from a shoebox, and an entire bottle of Flintstones vitamins, poured Clorox in each other's eyes, worked out a strategy for getting over two baby gates stacked one on top of the other, and hacked their long blonde hair off the day before Easter. So I quit. Anybody would have.

I renounced experts, embraced the Satan that was my offspring, and simply tried to maintain a facade of civility, so then of course their less bestial natures emerged. They became their middle-school's cross country champions, made honor roll, and are now competition cheerleaders with wicked senses of humor. They're clean, can make grilled cheese sandwiches, navigate New York City subways, know the "Folsom Prison Blues'," lyrics, and have money in their ridiculous Vera Bradley purses. They're a perfectly punctuated couplet--for now.

This morning, I was in the ladies' room at a bookstore when I heard a heavily-accented woman speaking to her small child. "Are you done choking?" I think she said. It made perfect sense to me. There's a mother with more innate sense than I, who knows the value of politeness. I don't know if the child had a murder victim in the stall or almond biscotti from the cafe, and I'm not saying Alberta's right, but that woman's toddler is probably destined for the Brookings Institute.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Amaryllis keeping away the evil spirits

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Down at Bucatunna Creek, Mississippi, Magenta and Amaryllis put up a bottle tree to trap the haints. The only witch down there now is Drusilla Carruthers and no one can tame her.

Billy Collins' Sweet Talk

Sonnet finito--on blindness

Milton, sure, but I was just reading another writer's blog asking what book one would read if one were going blind. Anna Karenina's the obvious choice; it's been sliding around on the back seat floor of my car for two months, much the same way that Moby Dick made my New Year's resolution list seven years in a row. (No, I never did.)

Blindness, see, has long been a subject of fascination--not total blindness but encroaching. For others, too; James Thurber and Garrison Keillor both wrote about the wondrous things you see when you're half blind. For me, who first got the 70's kind of wire-rimmed glasses at 12, it was all about leaves. Consequently, JRR Tolkien's story of a being who spent his entire life painting one leaf reverberated in a burst of resplendent light all through my rods and cones. This first awareness led me to the following:

Ansel Adams: the way light streams through the leaves of the redwoods
Adrien Coortje: luminescence of gooseberries and asparagus
Edward Hopper: beach sun streaming into an empty white room opening onto the shore
Annie Dillard: examining a mantis sack attached to a twig in the kernel of snowy winter

These artists knew the joy of observation.

All close up textures mesmerize me into a myopic trance. Far off, or approaching swiftly in the car, I mistake objects for others. A trash bag by the curb once was a small bear, and the other day on Shiloh Road, I thought I saw Darth Vader standing sentinel halfway up a steep hill until I realized he was a black metal mailbox. Do things take their shape only when we ascribe forms to them? Being legally blind in one eye makes me think it is entirely possible that the world is a cyclonic mass of swirling particles that become what they are only when we decide.

A year and a half ago, out running, I tripped over some gravel, a shoelace , I don't know what, and fell, concussing myself and smashing the left side of my face, the one with the legally blind eye. Since then, I went to my eye doctor for contacts once and he clucked and twitted over my dramatically decreased vision, proposing glaucoma when I am fairly sure it is nerve damage from the fall. I do know I can only effectively see out of one eye now.

So, to answer your question, reading blogger, I will take Anna Karenina over to Jimmy Jack's Gourmet Sandwich Shop in Athens, and order a turkey on whole wheat with avocado and sprouts to sustain me as I read But first I must take the photo I've been longing to, of the way the sun hits the white tiles by the chips rack and the day's specials chalked up on the black surface of the menu board. Only then, once I have satisfied my physical and visual hunger will I be able to take Tolstoy's words and make images from them.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

What Yeats & Will said

"Tis certain that fine women eat/a crazy salad with their meat/whereby the Horn of Plenty is undone," said William Butler Yeats.

Ava had one kind of salad; I'll take mine with a light dressing of temperance and humility. This week in crazy salad classroom, we finished Romeo and Juliet in freshman and Paradise Lost in senior English. Is is indeed better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven? Heaven is the place where I can stand on a table and sing like Tammy Wynette, Alberta is making mixed media art and leaving little scraps of paper all over the room, Zinedine Zidane is about to take a penalty kick, my grandfather is playing poker with his buddies, Mother is plotting crimes she'll never commit, the twins are coming down the chutes in a cross country race, and Josh Hartnett is dialing my number on his cell phone. I'll get down from the table and mark my place in the new Shirley Jackson novel before I answer.

Hell, on the other hand, is Wal-Mart with Nascar and rap music. John Wayne Gacy rings up your groceries and Pennywise bags them at the checkout. In the pharmacy Laurence Olivier asks, "Is it safe?" to determine whether you can have the oil of cloves. As you leave the parking lot, someone pulls out in front of you, gets in the left lane, and drives 15 mph, until you MAKE them sorry. Oh, wait; this is hell, so you just have to tailgate for the next 50 miles, or eternity.

But to bed--"Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountaintops. I must be gone and live, or stay and die." John Milton, I do believe that not only would I rather serve in Heaven, I'd make good tips.