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Hot Body

26 Oct

imgresWhen I contemplate my mortality, I wring my hands over what I’ve done and what I’ve left undone. Who’s with me here? What are my regrets? Will I be leaving my family in a lurch? Have I said everything I needed to? Am I straight with Jesus and God? Will my children be provided for? Will my Girlfriends remember what they are supposed to get out of the house asap? These are pretty deep rabbit holes to fall down and have prompted much discussion among friends and family about “End of Life” decisions.

In an eerily timely fashion, this musing dovetails with the 15th anniversary of my own Mother’s death. Normally, talk of death and funerals would be dour at best, but like Hot Damn, my Mother wasn’t like other girls. After Mother’s first Cancer fact finding MRI in 1990, Carolyn had a realization. Amid all of the jittery nerves, white noise knocking, bad lighting and tight quartered reflections, something became clear to Mother. As is? She was not going to look that great in a casket. For one thing, her hair was a mess and she could see how the wrong shade next to the skin could really wash out a girl’s complexion…probably even more than not being alive. What to do? Carolyn began processing her “visitation look” pronto.

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This is NOT my mother, but wasn’t this lady fab?

Initially, I thought this was a folly. Perhaps the influence of too many male decorator friends? But Carolyn won me over when I was forced to recline flat on the sofa, mirror in hand, so that she could prove her point. There was simply no denying how great my neck and décolleté looked with next to zero gravity. But it was also inarguable that something was lacking. Oh, oh, oh!  How much better would it be with falsies??? Mother had totally nailed it. You gotta come correct with your eye-lash game.

Years later, it was clear the direction Cancer was going, and Carolyn became super proactive in making sure that she was going to be the most fabulous looking “resident” at Patterson’s Spring Hill. Mother picked out the right Home-Going wig, found just the perfect warm shade of coral nail polish, bought long, bushy false eyelashes that would have made RuPaul proud, and even splurged on a new Oscar de la Renta gown, spending an obscene amount of money having it altered accordingly as she shrank. In fact, she gave kudos to Cancer for giving her the waif figure she had spent years eating cottage cheese and chain-smoking trying to achieve. Let’s take a moment to reflect: How great is it that Carolyn found that sort of optimism in her decline? I was even dispatched to get shoes dyed to match the dress, because she was old-school like that. This sort of attention detail is why I, myself, die a little bit every time my kid stands at the door wearing athletic shorts and a stained t-shirt ready to go out to dinner. Sigh.

Every media outlet is chock full of full of stories about violent riots, impending doom, stock market defeat, shootings and apartment fires from overnight. Most of us live in a constant state of bracing for the worst. According to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et. al., a slew of us Americans are now particularly fretful over the certain swift ass-kicking we’re all in for by Ebola. At the root is not just fear that we’re all going to die, but it is compounded with worry that it’s going to happen in the blink of an eye.

It’s all well and good for us to tie up loose ends while having our look pulled together and ready to go as the pearly gates are opening, but what if Ebola strikes and there just isn’t the time, because of the quarantine, to run around and make everything just so. How prepared are any of us for an untimely death, really? I’m not just talking about estate planning, insurance payouts, handing over the safe deposit box keys, or updating living wills. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the evening news covering a tragic death and my come-away was, “Is THAT the best picture they could find”?  “It’s grainy.” “He looks like a gangster.” “The decedent is clearly 30 years younger in that snapshot.” “Where are her teef?” This is just unacceptable. How does this happen that there are no recent or decent pictures available? It’s a final insult to a “loved” one.

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Girlfriend Carol finds herself especially vexed, not by the emotional strain that her hypothetical sudden death will leave for her people, but by how ill prepared her family might be should she be in need of an impromptu funeral. In particular, will her husband be able to get his grief-striken shit together enough to provide the papers with a totally flattering picture for her, ahem, full page obituary spread? Most likely, that would be a NO. Without direction and pre-planning, none of us will ever get to be obituary chic. However, Girlfriend Carol has a solution: a mandate that once a year we all hire a professional photographer, or an artsy friend with a nice set of lenses, to snap us at our best. Be captured in an elegant setting with soft lighting on a day with low humidity. Be “caught” looking pensive in a field of blooming lavender. Act natural while holding an adorable puppy. If you aren’t pressed for time, get cozy with photoshop. Chisel that jawline, add symmetry to your eye brows, whittle away your batwings, or erase those crows’ feet in a way that Botox never can! The worst case scenario is that you don’t die soon enough and the picture goes on to make a memorable Christmas card, show up on a future senior yearbook page, or it simply makes a wonderful framed reminder on the piano of just how prepared you are. Either way.

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Naked Ramblin’ Man in My Mind

22 Apr

ramblin_raft_race_down_the_chattahoochee_river_atlanta_georgia_may_21_1977_raft_made_of_various_sized_tire_innertubes_tied_together_in_the_riverThere are two things that I remember vividly about Memorial Day weekend 1979.  One is that I had been bitten by either a black widow or a brown recluse spider earlier that week and my left elbow had swollen to double its normal size and turned a shiny bright pink color.  Our family pediatrician, Dr. Sandberg, had to meet us at his office on a holiday weekend, which seemed like a big deal.  Within a couple of days all of the epidermal tissue on my forearm had gone necrotic, turning jet black before withering then falling off in huge sections. The other thing that happened that weekend is that I saw my first naked man.  Guess which one has had the most lasting impact.  

Just imagine what's out of frame.

Just imagine whats out of frame.

He was white, sunburned, kinda tubby and was making “it” dance as he stood arms akimbo, legs askance whilst straddling a makeshift raft floating down the Chattahoochee River past where I stood on the banks of Powers Ferry Landing.  My Mom, because she was gawking and squealing, didn’t cup her hands over my eyes fast enough for me to miss out on that first floppy wiener sighting.*  Memorial Day weekend 1979 is forever etched into my visual recall.  The good news is that moving forward, pretty much any future naked man that I would ever see was certain to be a stone cold fox on my mental comparison chart.  The sad news is that I now traverse that very spot on the river several times a week and so Mr. Red Flabby Naked Man flashes across my mind’s eye every damn time I cross the “3rd bridge” that connects Rays on the River and the infamous Riverbend Apartments over Powers Ferry Landing.

Sponsored by Bud

Sponsored by Bud

See, back in the day there was a little thing in Atlanta called the Ramblin’ Raft Race.  It was kind of a big deal that started out in either 1968 or 1969 as an end of the year social for Delta Sigma Phi fraternity at Georgia Tech.  After a few years, word spread and pretty much the entire city turned out for it, either as a spectator, organizer or a participant.  At it’s peak, about 300,000 people were actually in the river during the race; it was even covered by Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News.  Hell yeah, that’s how we used to do here.

I actually remember seeing this raft from this spot.  Weird.

I actually remember seeing this raft

The quality of rafts ran the gamut from basic inner tubes strung together like a Cuban refugee train, Huck Finn tribute floats, hollowed out VW Bugs and sunken rooflines to feats of naval engineering that were multi-level, carrying pianos, gazebos and giant sneakers.  They may have mimicked Eastern Airlines planes, tiki huts or paid homage to grand paddle wheel or civil war boats.  However, all rafts were equipped with a shit ton of weed and lots of ‘hooch. I seem to recall there also being a handful of hot air balloons in the air, the smell of bbq mingling with the other assumed smells and  hearing a lot of Allman Brothers, Skynard, .38 Special and music that would later make up half of a Yacht Rock set list.  

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So, in doing the math…

hot sun + river water + crowd + the good shit + bad decisions = NAKED PEOPLE

Of course when all of those things come together, hilarity soon follows.  Like the naked people who shouldn’t be and who didn’t use sunblock, because it may not have been invented yet.  Because it was 1979.  Or the countless drunks falling off of their rafts.  Luckily, the Chattahoochee is fairly shallow and full of rocks for a body to wash up on.  There was only actually 1 drowning ever associated with the race…and it happened the day before in 1980.  However, those river bed conditions also lead to a lot of stuck floats, falling apart and overturned floats, and even the occasionally abandoned float, like the aforementioned piano.

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Sadly, like all the coolest stuff from the 1970s, the Ramblin’ Raft Race had an end date of 1980.  We can thank the square Carter brother, Jimmy, for that.  In 1978 Jimmy signed a bill creating the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area which was the death knell for what could later be called the White Wet Freaknik.  A lot of people falsely believe that the environmental impact the race had on the river played a part in its demise.  Not true.  Actually, the river was just fine, it was all of the spectators trampling the banks that posed the most damage.  The AJC reported in 1980 that, “new management took over, and before long the feds were openly fretting about controlling the ‘thousands of beer-swilling, dope-smoking rafters’.” If Jimmy wasn’t amused by the

ways of his far cooler little brother Billy, he certainly wasn’t charmed by the patrons of the Ramblin’ Raft Race. I still think that just like Jimmy couldn’t be happy for and endorse the greatness that was his brother’s Billy Beer, he couldn’t allow his home state’s Ramblin’ Raft Race’s greatness to continue either.  

 *I have another floppy wiener on the river story from 1988 that involves ditching school and a Laura Ashley petticoat .  It can be better told my my friend, Kiersten.  She has sound effects.  How many floppy wiener river stories do you have?

Aside

NoTel, No More

6 Mar

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Hot Damn had a little swim in Lake Me followed by a sobering attitude adjustment this week.  See, I’ve always had a secret smug satisfaction with some low-key character traits that set me apart…you know, the sort of things that used to make Big Daddy coo, “You’re not like other girls…”  Of particular pride is that I am not a hotel snob.  If my bags are packed, who cares where I’m sleeping.  AmIright?  I know this is my personal truth.  Don’t believe me?  Check out these two compelling examples:

1.The summer my brother and I traveled across Europe, each armed with a Eurail pass, a hostel membership card, a deluxe backpack, $2000 in travelers checks (in lieu of a credit card) toted in my flesh colored money-belt and absolutely no plan.  We happily slept on trains, benches, sofas and sometimes beds.  The less money we spent on accommodations, the more we had for fueling the wanderlust.  I washed my hair in train station sinks and never held a blow dryer.  It was cool.

2. A motel just outside of Charleston, S.C. called The Lord Ashley Court.  You had to pay a $10 deposit to have the phone activated in your room. The cable for the TV dangled from the roof and was snaked through the window.  There were rollie-pollies on the shelf above the sink.  I stayed here two years in a row during Spoleto.  The first year was by process of elimination, the second year was a choice.

So, this week Snakebite and I needed to spend just one night in Sewanee, Tennessee.  Our options were slim and it was the Best Western Smokehouse Lodge that was both recommended and available.  I did briefly pause at the $72 per night reservation, but then recalled a darling Best Western where I once stayed in Chaing Rai, Thailand on the banks of the Mae Kok river.  That this would be just fine for us girls for a scant 12 hours was a given.

My Facebook status when we finally got checked into our room:

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When we checked in at the front desk, the “lobby” was kinda packed with what I thought might be the stragglers from the weekend’s mountain family reunion/meth-cook recipe swap.  Lotsa mullets, jeans without back pockets, hoodies that had seen better decades and extreme smoker teef.  Turns out this was the lodge’s cracker-jack staff on perpetual break.

On the bottom floor, our room overlooked a parking lot flanked pool and a retention pond.  The walkway outside of the room was built of peeling painted wood decking boards.  Any time someone walked the plank it was loudly announced.  It was also super slippery, which I didn’t realize was foreshadowing.

A well rested Snakebite on the gangplank

A well rested Snakebite on the gangplank

We got 2 queen beds, piled high with pillows stuffed with…cotton balls?  We sat down at our tiny laminate table to our Sonic feast and rallied for the saddest Oscar party ever.  Before you judge me for feeding my sweet daughter Sonic as a sit down supper, know that my choices were a skeevy Pizza Hut, Hardees, McDonalds, Waffle House (which my digestive system will not abide) and the adjoining restaurant which tempted with offerings such as fried frog legs, fried chicken livers, fried catfish fillets, fried pies and something called a BeerCooler, a bargain at $3.  Probably, their food was awesome in a country cookin’ way, but at this point I just couldn’t belly up to the food jamboree.  Sonic’s sweet ‘tater tots was THE healthy option.

Look at all of the dirty, smudgy human paw prints.

Look at all of the dirty, smudgy human paw prints.

Once I began tending to my evening face-wash-tooth-brushing routine I discovered that we had been furnished with just 1 bath towel.  So, I had to undo the lock-chain on the door (the deadbolt didn’t work so much) and go back to the front desk.  I tried not to touch the actual door as I think CSI will be coming back to lift someone’s prints in the near future.  But in the present, at 8:30pm on a Sunday, they hadn’t gotten to the laundry just yet.

On the way back to the room I pit-stopped to get some ice and that’s when saw the vending options…

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Because what else do you need to compliment a 2-liter of Mountain Dew?

I don’t know if the machine hasn’t been restocked in years, or if it was full on Friday and the methy guests snarfed it all up over the weekend.  Either way…

With the Oscars underway, I brushed the ladybugs off of the top of my bed, secured my handgun, plus an extra loaded clip, by my side and settled in.  And by in, I mean on top.  I wasn’t getting under anything.  After I plugged in the window-unit heater, I had to turn up the sound on the TV every 4 minutes to compensate for the noise, then turn it back down 4 minutes later when the unit rested.

Ready for anything

Ready for anything

During commercials I fielded texts from friends with helpful advice like, “send pictures” and “check for bed bugs”.  That last one had the same effect as the annual lice letter from school.  I immediately became, and have remained, itchy.  Thanks, Claire.

My morning shower didn’t do much to quell my scratching.  My focus was trained on the wallpaper that was caulked to the top of the wall against the waaay water damaged popcorn ceiling.  I’m not real clear how the ceiling height even passed code.  Yet another thing about my visit that had me scratching my head.  Oh, and there was a shoe print on the outside of the bathroom door…like someone had locked herself in while her abuser was trying to get in a kick to the spleen through the closed door.  Shudder.  Who can get clean in that set-up?

Gross.  Just very, very gross.

Gross. Just very, very gross.

The good news is that we woke up alive that morning.  The bad news is that the crappy weather system forecasted for Tuesday stepped it up and blew in early to wrap my car in an impenetrable ice condom.  I don’t have a scraper for my windshield, so I of course appealed to the concierge.  No help.  They would not let me borrow a scraper.  I guess they thought I’d either keep it for scraping my meth pans, or use it as a shiv and shank them.  Luckily, 15 minutes of the defroster going full tilt coupled with the edge of a Starbucks gift card cleared enough ice to let me drive to 4 different gas stations in search of a scraper.

What did I learn from all of this?  I need to keep an ice scraper in my glove box?  Done.  I should keep healthy snacks in the car?  Yep. Or is it that I’m no longer as traveler carefree and cool as I once I was?  That summer when I slept in train stations?  I was 17.  And my weekends of slumming it at the Lord Ashley Court?  Early 20s.  Things have changed, I’m older with excellent credit and it’s time to check myself and recalibrate.  Damnit.  I do like fancy sheets, marble bathrooms, pristine door jambs and in-room safes.  I like a fleet of kiss-ass front desk staff.  And even though I may not order a fruit cup and La Croix from room service, I NEED that option.

So long hostels, motor-courts, motels and couchettes.  I’ll be at the Four Seasons if you need anything.

A Mother’s Gift, Valentine’s Day Edition

14 Feb

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Usually, Valentine’s Day is for lovers, crushes and children coerced into dropping adorable cards, assembled by their mothers the night prior, into some poorly executed glue-damp decoupage shoebox assembled in home room. However, my mother was not usual. A friend once described her as being the woman to whom ALL drag queens aspired. She was over-the-top and wildly inappropriate when it came to boundaries. As I was growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I noticed that the other mothers taught their children to exercise caution and to look out for Atlanta’s Child Killer. However, my mother was teaching, “A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met yet.” She was also given to blurting out missives, in front of my friends, like, “This song makes you want to lay down on the floor in a dark room…alone!” I sense her ghostly swoon every time I hear Squeeze’s “Black Coffee in Bed”.

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To this day, I still don’t know why the coolest and cutest boy I knew at age 15 was with me after school when I walked in our backdoor on Valentine’s Day 1986. Mother was standing at the kitchen counter, Eve 120 ciggie in hand, next to her Valentine goodie to me: a saucy heart-shaped box fixed by a giant crimson metallic bow. I was horrified, knowing that the odds of it containing something mortifying were sky-high. To her credit, Mother didn’t know I’d have that boy with me, either.  But still, she urged me to open her gift. When I lifted the box, the lack of heft signaled it wasn’t chocolate. I should have stopped right then.  I didn’t. Beneath pages and pages of pink and white tissue was a shiny red satin and lace teddy. Like, something they whore on Knots Landing. As Mother proudly announced to us that, “Every woman should get lingerie from Cupid,” I worried what I’d really be getting was a loose “reputation”. I mean, whose mother gives her 15-year-old daughter something that has a snapping crotch?  Um, that’d be mine. As it turned out, I don’t think that boy ever disclosed to anyone what he saw that day. So, instead of lasting embarassment, I got… mystery. Though we never dated, he never looked at me the same way again. He probably wondered if I was always sporting trashy Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie beneath ripped jeans and a Hüsker Dü t-shirt. I morphed into a sort of obvious curiosity that day. And I am still totally cool with that.

A stitch in time

3 May

Because I am usually the last to get clued in on any internet-based trend, I’ve only been obsessed with Pinterest for just the last few months. I have got all sorts of boards going, where I am collecting recipes, planning garden projects, culling home décor ideas and getting motivated to craft my little heart out. I recently pinned this project:

Cute, right?

It’s a sewing project…that involves ordering a pattern…and figuring out how to plug in and thread the sewing machine that my mother bought me about 14 years ago. How cute would Snakebite be in these tops this summer? Then it hit me. Oh, crap! Maybe I should also order the needlepoint canvas for this pillow:

Was I seriously considering sewing clothes for my daughter? After the trauma of enduring my mother’s homespun get-ups that I was forced into wearing, did I really think that this would be a good idea?

The year was 1976 and a store called Stretch and Sew opened its doors about a mile and a half from our house. My mother welcomed them with open arms and really went for it. She took classes and learned to cut patterns with gusto. For everything.

Hot Damn trivia: Did you know that as a kid I used to figure skate? From about ages 5-11 I took weekly lessons at Ice Land and practiced about 2 to 3 days a week. I felt like I had mad skills with “toe-jumps”, “lutz jumps”, “axels”, “figure 8s” and “shooting the duck”. But skill can only get you so far. I needed style. Every time I went to the rink I would end up in the pro-shop ogling the sherbet colored polyester dresses bedazzled with twinkling plastic crystals. Did I ever get one? Hells no! My mother just knew that she could use her sewing prowess to make me one that was, “just as good, if not better” than the overpriced pro-shop offerings. Noooo! Instead of a glittery dress, I got matte polyester skirts, one in solid black and one in solid red. Even though they were a bit on the long side, Mom also crafted some matching panties that looked like custom diaper covers.

The sewing bug had bitten my mother hard by 1979. That summer her design and seamstress confidence grew and she made me a couture swimsuit. This was the year that Christy Brinkley was on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue for the first time. I swooned for the bathing suit that was basically a waterproof version of an Ice Capades dress.

Wouldn’t I have looked hot, at age 9, in this?

Mom made me her own version in non-lycra infused red polyester that harkened to my skating skirt. It did not have any beading, but it did have a v-cut. That worked out really well what with the non-stretch fabric and my blossoming buds. I wore a lot of t-shirts over my suit that year to allegedly “keep from getting sunburned”. We didn’t really have sun-block lotion yet.

But the real coup d’état came when I started 6th grade at our local public middle school where I stuck out like a huge, festering sore thumb already. To make matters worse, we had to dress out for P.E. class. After the first gym class, it was clear that I was way behind in not just physical ability and coordination, but also in dress-out attire coolness. I was not going to be comfortable in the tiny Dolphin shorts and OP t-shirts favored by the hot, popular 6th grade goddesses, but I could certainly rock the 2nd tier-cool Gap sweat pants, pushed up with maybe a Panama Jack t-shirt. But guess who could make me something more “stylish”. Gawd! Did she hate me and want to see me fail socially? That woman made me a tracksuit of maroon terry cloth…with bootleg pants…and a v-neck long sleeved top that featured elasticized cuffs, with some added flair. On the top, where perhaps an Izod logo would have rested, was an embroidered bouquet of wild flowers in high contrast white thread. While she was at it, she made a “track suit” for my 16 year-old brother. It was powder blue velour. Meow. Lucky for him, he could drive to the mall and buy whatever he wanted. I don’t think his get-up ever saw the outside of his car’s trunk. But me? What could I do? Wearing that maroon mess would have meant adolescent suicide.

I never allowed a capture of me in the sweat suit.

As luck would have it, there was one out: orchestra. As long as you played in the school orchestra you were not required to take P.E. I eventually became the first string violinist in 7th grade, not because I was so talented and dedicated. It was because I knew that if I didn’t excel with that fiddle, I’d be failing at the chin-up bar while wearing Mom’s sweat-suit. Today, my violin lives with me still. However, the only song that I can remember how to play is the one that goes, “There’s a place in France where the ladies wear no pants, there’s a hole in the wall and the men can see it all.” Classy, as always.

A Rowse by any other name

5 Apr

For two years my mother and her sister were called This One and That One.  The family story was that my mother and her identical twin sister were not legally named until they were about two years old.  I don’t know if my grandparents didn’t already have names prepared because twins coming out threw them for a loop, or in olden times you just didn’t even think about names until there was an actual live birth or if maybe it was because it had been ten years since their first born and by the time this duo appeared my grandparents were just in a “been there, done that” haze, figuring that they’d get around to it eventually.  My mother said it was because one of her older sisters, Vesta, not Billie Sue, would instantly bastardize any prospective names into grating nicknames that drove their mother batty.  I have no idea if this is true, but Carolyn and Charlotte eventually made it into the county records.

Recently there have been several stories in the news about parents experiencing “Baby Name Regret Syndrome”.  Really?  Can this be a shock?  Is it because people are now naming their children impulsively, without thinking about the long-term effect of having a “cool” or an “ironic” name?  You need to save those sorts of monikers for your pets.  The research cited in articles has been mainly concerned with pointing to the myriad of kooky names that celebrities adore festooning their children with.  And there are many, like: Bronx Mowgli (Ashlee Simpson & Pete Wentz), Blue Ivy (Beyonce & Jay Z), Moxie Crimefighter (Penn Jillette), Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee) Bear Blu (Alicia Silverstone), Antonio Kamakanaaolhamaikalani Harvey Sabato III (Antonia Sabato, Jr.), Moroccan and Monroe (Nick Cannon & Mariah Carey), Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom and Little Pixie (Bob Geldolf & Paula Yates) Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily (Paula Yates & Michael Hutchence), Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen (Frank Zappa), Zuma Nesta Rock (Gwen Stefani & Gavin Rossdale) … the list could do on for pages.

I agree that those are all truly awful, but I doubt that any of those parents have the slightest regret over their unique choices.  But those poor kids!  Mon Dieu.  And I thought that being named after my Aunt, Charlotte, was a cross to bear what with it being long and difficult to spell.  Can you imagine Jason Lee’s kid having to ever do anything at the Social Security office?  “Yes, Pilot Inspektor…no, Inspektor is with a ‘k’, my parents thought it would be more custom than Inspector with a ‘c’…Yes, that is why I am here; I was just granted the court’s permission to legally change my name to Pete Jones.”

My favorite celebrity name goes to the son of Jermaine Jackson.  I think he was trying to send a message to his little brother, Michael, whose children’s names are Prince, Paris and Prince II (the name so nice, he used it twice!).  The message is that Jermaine’s child is also Jackson family royalty…hence the boy’s name: Jermajesty.  Take that, Blanket.

Sometime’s parents take their naming inspiration from iconic brands or products that they feel convey certain panache: Mercedes, Tiffany, Remington, Porsche, Brandy, Diamond, Bentley and so on.  Couples who thought a destination wedding was a good idea might be partial to destination names such as Brooklyn, Dakota, London, Sierra or Phoenix. If you catch an episode of Toddlers and Tiara’s, on accident…of course, you can hear a lot of names that are certain to catapult a prostitot to future success.  Can’t you see your future self, handing over control of your portfolio to a broker named Paisley, Sparkyl, or Kragen?  Perusing the Social Security site, it is clear that many parents will go to great lengths to make sure the letters “j”, “k”, “y” or “z” find their way onto the family tree: Kaylynn, Jayden, Jazlyn, Xzander, Kloe.

Living in the South, I am used to people having some eccentric “family names” or having a last name for a first or middle name.  Heritage names are popular with everyone.  And there is no shortage of names that hearken to a family of French origin, like La Quon, or nod to a family’s obvious Greek heritage with something like Shantavious.  But the names that totally throw me into fits are the ones that are just made up words, blends of other names or common names that have a custom spelling, so that the child will grow up feeling special.  By and large, I’ll bet they grow up realizing that their momma is illiterate and didn’t know how to spell.

A couple of summers back, I was being checked out at a Wal-Mart in Florida by a woman whose nametag was a cluster of letters…”Sh’airaleete”.  Yes, there was the telltale apostrophe of high-class in there.  I couldn’t resist commenting on what an unusual name she had.  I then asked, “How do you pronounce it?” I was almost knocked over when she said, “It Charlotte.”  Um, no.

Livin’ la vida Lotto

30 Mar

Let it be known that I got my Lotto cherry popped today.  Well, it’s not technically popped until 11pm tonight, when I find out that I’ve been screwed out of $5.  Right now I’ve only got Lotto’s tip in my grasp.  And it’s soooo big!

It’s true; until today I have never bought a lottery ticket.  But the siren call of $640 million dollars got me a bit hot and bothered.  No lie.  And it’s been kinda nice.  All day I have surrendered to the fantasy of “What if…” But we both know the truth is that anything over $100 million is just being a blow-hard.  And if I am totally honest, I could make do with just $15 million.  I would happily donate the lion’s share and I would get Georgia’s labor market back in full swing by sub-contracting out a myriad of jobs beginning with digging me a pool in the backyard.

Hot Tub got in on the action, too.  He gave me money to buy a lottery ticket for everyone in the family…his gift of Hope for the people he loves.  Aaw.  He was so thrilled to hold the sheet and when Snakebite got home from lacrosse, he could barely contain his thrill as he revealed the ticket and told her what he’d done for her.  The response had all of the sadistic enthusiasm of the fellow inmate who beat Jeffery Dahmer to death with a broom handle in prison.  There was yelling, belittling, gnashing of teeth, crossed arms of disapproval and full on steam shooting from her ears.

From the beginning, Big Daddy and I have always scoffed at the unfortunate, uneducated proletariat who spend their rent money on playing “their numbers”.  Snakebite has especially bought into our message that lottery tickets=life’s losers.  

Once, about four years ago, a ten-year old Snakebite spent the night with a friend from school.  The next morning when I went to pick her up I hung around for the usual Saturday morning debriefing of “how things went”.  The host mother got a big grin on her face and told me to settle in, because I was going to love what she had to tell me.  Apparently, after school they made a pit stop at the grocery store to get some sleepover fortification.  After passing through checkout, the mother went to the customer service desk to buy $25 dollars worth of lottery tickets.  At about the time she was up, she noticed that Margaret was looking distressed and on the verge of a making a puking scene.  With great concern, the mother asked, “Sweetie, are you okay?  Are you going to be sick?” as she was feeling Snakebite’s forehead.  Young Snakebite blurted out, “Don’t do it Mrs. Elliot!  Don’t you know that the lottery is a scam?  You have a better chance of being struck by lightning than ever winning!!!  You need to save your money for important things like life insurance and college.”  The mother was stunned; having expected to hear something more along the lines of how bad lunch had been at school that day.

Mrs. Elliot assured Margaret that the groceries had already been paid for, they were current with their mortgage and school tuition had been taken care of; clearly, there was no need to worry.  Snakebite’s response?  “Well, you’ll always have your property taxes to pay for!”

So, that very practical ten-year old, who is now fourteen, is thoroughly disgusted that her mother and brother have been revealed to be losers, who are going to end up living in a trailer park if they are lucky.  I have long wondered what it would be that I would do that would truly offend and embarrass my child.  Turns out it’s lottery tickets…unless I win.  Then I bet 10 to 1 she’ll be kissing up to me and Hot Tub, big time.

painting by Brian Stewart

I’ve given up

23 Feb

Everyone is acting like they are all a bunch of crazy Cajuns with the Mardi Gras stuff.  The beads are flying, bars are having “parties” and my grocery store bakery is overflowing with those grody looking King cakes.  For my family, about as Mardi Gras as we get is eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.  The idea behind that isn’t just another one of my “breakfast for dinner” whims.  No.  Lent season has begun and in practice, a household uses up all of their decadent ingredients before beginning their penitential preparation during the forty days preceding Easter.  The pancake supper is sort of like a distant cousin to making what I call Snowstorm French Toast.  That is when all stores sell out of milk, eggs and bread at the announcement of “snow forecast” in Georgia. 

Lent is a time when people try to repent, give alms, pray and to do without by giving up something that is indulgent.  The eschewing of chocolate, gossip and alcohol seems to be popular with my people.  I myself have given up these things, and other vices or luxuries as well.  Sometimes I make it all forty days, and other years I have broken down and admitted that I am an imperfect child of God.   One year I gave up putting French Fries in my mouth.  It sounded daring at the outset, but was super easy.  It turns out that I really don’t eat them that often, so it kinda worked out for me.  The most difficult Lent season was the year I decided to deny myself from allowing something else that starts with an “F” from coming OUT of my mouth.  I vowed self-denial by eliminating using the word “fuck”.   It was the most difficult forty days.  Ever.

Hot Damn comes from a long and colorful line of serial potty-mouths on her mother’s side.  I have one cousin, we’ll call her Melissa, who is the most prolific and cunning cuss-wordsmith that I have ever met.  She works at her craft in the way a tennis champ might work at her serve.  It is dazzling how she can work a “bleep” word in to the most somber of occasions.  I sat next to her during my Grandfather’s funeral and about wet myself from her commentary.  Then there was the six-week  college Thanksgiving-thru-Christmas break when I worked part-time in her office.  One morning when I came in, I must not have been accompanied by my usual rays of sunshine, prancing fawns and chirping bluebirds, because  said cousin looked up from her desk at me and said, and I quote, “Well, God-damn-shit Charlotte Ann; who the fuck pissed all over your cornflakes this morning?”  That one question pretty much had everything!  So, you now know from whence I come and the struggle that I faced by denying myself the best profanity of all time.  Busting out the f-word is just part of my fabric.

Spending that forty days biting my tongue and rethinking my word choice not only prepared me for Easter that year (I know that Jesus was way appreciative of MY sacrifice), but it gave me the foundation to listen and sing-a-long with music in the car with my kids.  For instance, before Cee-Lo released his sanitized “Forget You”, I was blasting the original song, but loudly substituting the line as “Well, fudge for you-oooo-ooo0!”  I turned it into a song about baking for someone who’s done you wrong.  Isn’t there something in the Bible about loving your enemy?  Again, I was making Jesus proud by passing along His teaching.

Yesterday I conducted an informal Facebook poll to find out what my people were going to hit the pause button on for Lent this year or what they had disposed of in years past.  Some were true eliminations like Jackson quitting chocolate, John saying “no” to carbonated drinks, Tracy and Gabe not checking Facebook (won’t happen) or when Donald stopped making martinis (but not vodka tonics).  Others were more wishful, like Kim halting toilet scrubbing or Claire giving the finger to caring in any capacity.  Then my cousin Mary Sue replied that she would be giving up “cousins”.  Ouch.

Finally feeling the love

14 Feb

Stores have been festooned in pink and red since December 26th.  Hearts, balloons and kissy prints have been everywhere.  Yes, it’s Valentime again.  A younger Hot Damn had no love for Valentine’s Day.  Every year it seemed like a mocking reminder that I hadn’t peaked yet.

When I was in elementary school, administrators and teachers had yet to adopt the culture of participation trophies and the belief that all children are special snowflakes.  Thus, birthday party invitations were still subjective and no one was forced into making a Valentine for anyone they didn’t want to.  Well, you can see where I am going with this.  My tissue paper and sticker emblazoned shoebox was never the one that was overflowing with love notes and chalky heart candy by the last bell.  I’m sure it mostly had to do with the gawd-awful Sandy Duncan style pixie haircut that my mother insisted was “just daaahling”, and nothing to do with my winning charms.

By my middle school years, the ritual of exchanging cards and candies halted.  Then, as a high school freshman I discovered a whole new level Valenshame.  

Over-confident and sexually ambitious teens annually organized some sort of school-sanctioned fund-raiser that involved j.v. cheerleaders sitting at a table and  selling carnations for $1 to other students.  They came in three colors: red for smokin’-hot ninth grade romance, pink for crushes and white for “I don’t like you in that way”.  The flower would be delivered to the object of one’s affection during classes throughout the day on February 14.  You could attach a personal note.  Sounds harmless, right?  Ugh.  This was just a new, more obvious posture in the contest for popularity.  And the celebrated teens would schlep their growing bundle of dyed flowers around school with them, to every class, even to lunch, all day long.  For those of us who received a white carnation or two, sent by a friend as a gesture of solidarity, it was a dilemma.  Did you proudly tote what amounted to your boutonnière with you, so that you didn’t look totally unloved, or did you gingerly put your carnations in your locker because they looked like a pittance?  Oh, and there was always that one poor sad sack who would be exposed for boosting her numbers by sending several to herself anonymously.  Bad move. 

By college, I made a habit of dating the sort of really cool guys who conveniently liked to break up right around the second week of December, who then later wanted to come sniffing around again after February 15th.

And in the work world?   The competition for the ultimate love trophy went off the chain.  There was no prouder receptionist than the one with the biggest delivered floral arrangement by clock punch time.  The secretary pool looked like a funeral parlor, but all the women were beaming from the outward display of love.  It was high school on steroids.  

Big Daddy and I had been dating about 2 months when faced with our first Valentine’s Day together.  A couple of days before the V-day, he told me to “wear something really nice” on the 14th  because we were going out for a fancy date.  He was very mysterious about the whole thing.  I was giddy about finally participating in the Valentine’s Day of my dreams.  I knocked off work a little early, got my nails did and put on my best LBD, stockings, heels…the whole thing.   Big Daddy picked me up and took me to dinner at…drum-roll…my favorite Indian restaurant.  I had averaged eating there about once a week from the time I was thirteen.  I loved that place, but it wasn’t quite what I had in mind.  It wasn’t out of the box.  And it certainly wasn’t fancy.  It turns out that Big Daddy didn’t think he would need to call and get a dinner reservation more that two hours before our ETA at any upscale eatery on the most dined out night of the year.   Even the Waffle House near us takes reservations on Valentine’s Day.  Hand to God.  As it turns out, before he landed Hot Damn, Big Daddy was the kind of guy who didn’t do Valentine’s Day.  Oh, well.  The vindaloo was good.

So what sort of gifts were exchanged?  I had searched high and low and bought an antique set of poker chips.  Because I knew Big Daddy liked to play cards, I thought that it showed that 1.) I knew his interests 2.) I put thought into an atypical gift; I wasn’t just dialing it in and 3.) That there was a bit of work involved in expressing my luv.  Big Daddy, it seemed, was hoping to convey the same.  Instead of just picking up a heart-shaped Whitman sampler or a roadside dozen of long-stems, he picked up the phone and asked his sister for advice.  It was a smart move, except that she didn’t really know me.  Through her connections, she was able to hook Big Daddy up with really great seats to Grease: the musical.  Does anyone remember this post?  I put on my best excited face.  A musical?  Does he even know me?  But the truth is that it was the best Valentine’s Day despite the dinner not being over-the-top or that I got a gift that I was dreading having to cash in.  I was with someone who I knew loved me.  But then there was our second Valentine’s Day… 

Big Daddy and I were married on 17 February 1996.  I wanted to be married during the winter, but I am Episcopalian and no weddings are performed during Lent.  Big Daddy is a manly man and believed that no weddings should be performed during play-off season or March Madness.  Given the e.t.a of my dress, it was going to have to be shoehorned in with Valentine’s Day.  On the 14th, I arose with brightness and cheer.  Because so much was happening in the next few days, I kept it simple with a CD, card and yummy meal.  Big Daddy kept it simple too.  He coughed up simply nothing.  W? T? F?  I kinda went bat-shit.  Nothing.  Seriously?  He reasoned that he was giving me himself in three days.  Yes, in three days I was going to be turning myself over to a man who thought that he was gift enough.  Does he even know me? I went Diary of a Mad Black Woman on him.  But don’t think it didn’t cross my mind to go in another direction and go Silence of the Lambs instead.  Ultimately, I would have looked stupid in a man suit.  I considered postponing the wedding to a less clashy date.  I might have done it if people weren’t flying in from all corners of the world.  It never occurred to me that by getting married I would have to forfeit the showiest day of romantic goo known in a calendar year.  Forever.  Oh, the disappointment!  The tears!  And maybe a slammed door.  Or two.  

This week we will celebrate our sixteenth wedding anniversary, which means it will also be our eighteenth Valentine’s Day together.  I am pleased to report that not a bare Valentine’s Day has passed again.  Sometimes there’s a grand gesture, like a shiny bauble or a sterling trinket box.  Or maybe it’s more practical, like speakers for my iPod.   There have been no more tickets to musicals, but there have been tickets to see Ben Folds.  We don’t even pretend about fancy dinners on actual Valentine’s Day anymore.   Tonight we will celebrate our love by going to Hot Tub’s basketball game at 7:45 and listening to Snakebite protest about having to go.  Tomorrow night we will go out to a yummy dinner with friends.

I think he finally knows me.

I was lost in the woods, but now I am found or Go tell it on the mountain

11 Jan

I can easily go off on a tangent.  The legal term for it is a “frolicking detour”.  See, plans are not necessarily concrete for me.  They are more of a loose framework to fudge around with.  And that is how I managed to get myself into a pickle in the urban wilderness, yet again.

So here’s what happened this time.  I am a city mouse, who likes to pretend she’s all woodsy and good with outdoor stuff.  For Christmas, Big Daddy indulged me with new fanny pack that’s not a fanny pack to stuff all of my incidentals in for when I go walking off campus.  But yesterday I was in a big ol’ hurry to get out of the house to take the dog to have his ACL surgery (oy vey!) in Marietta, and I left my new non-fanny pack fanny pack in the mudroom.  So, after a morning of veterinary drama, and a trip through the Bo Jangles drive-thru, I finally parked at the base of Kennesaw Mountain for a little exercise al fresco.  I separated my key from the key ring and had no choice but to deposit it in what my mother taught me was nature’s pocket: my bra.

My storage compartment ain't what it used to be

My “plan” was to go for about 4 miles and be back to the car at 1 o’clock.  However, the weather was sooo nice and the trail was sooo easy that I thought I’d stretch it to 6 miles.  But I still felt good and thought that I was actually circling the base of the mountain and that I’d be back to my car at about the time I’d reach 8 miles.  Perfect.  At a bit over 8.75 miles I felt like I wasn’t really where I should be, because I wasn’t, and then I felt for my key and my bra was devoid of anything not God-made.  Uh-oh.  I was going to have to back track to find the key.  Panic.  I wasn’t nearly as worried about being stuck in the woods come nightfall as I was about having to make a certain phone call.  But time was on my side and I’d find the key and no one would be any the wiser.

So, if I worked backwards exactly (which I did not) I would be walking at least 18 miles.  That’s a lot of ground to cover both physically and mentally.  My mind kept drifting back to how over this past weekend we had “free” Showtime.  I caught about the last thirty minutes of 127 Hours.  That’s the movie with James Franco, where he plays a super laidback guy who goes rock climbing alone, without telling any one details of his specific plan.  Because he is so adaptive and has a good sense of direction and skills, he feels like he’s got the upper hand with being all loosey-goosey like that.  He eventually slips and gets stuck in a crevice because that upper hand of his gets wedged behind a rock.  That sucked for him.  After several days, his water bottle is running low, he starts becoming delusional and despite all of his efforts to wiggle free, use ropes and his body weight to shift the pinning stone and even attempting to use his pocketknife to cut his arm out, he remains stuck.  Finally he resorts to gnawing his own arm off to free himself.   Put that in your pipe and smoke it.  So, now here I am, sort of lost in the wilderness of Kennesaw Mountain, and thinking about this damn movie.  Even though I can occasionally hear the sound of cars, there’s swollen creeks-a-plenty and I am occasionally passing other hikers, I am getting a bit nerve wracked.  I don’t like to ask for help.  It’s a problem.  I am hoping that I don’t have to gnaw off anything in the process of getting back to my car with key in hand…I have TMJ; I doubt my jaw could handle any heavy chomping!

As carpool time was drawing closer, I ended up gnawing off my pride by calling Big Daddy to tell him I couldn’t pick up our treasures from school and then had to explain why.  It may have been as painful as chewing my own flesh.  While alarmed, he was perfectly calm and nice about the whole thing.  I, on the other hand, was full of self-inflicted loathing and humiliation because I ignored common sense and had to admit it out loud.  I was embarrassed that I was throwing a wrench into the family’s afternoon routine, angry that I needed saving, plus I was beginning to feel the effects of so much fast walking and running.

It might not be at all surprising to find out that I was one of those girls who was always reading into things and looking for “hidden meanings”.  As a grown up, I say that I am now watching out for “the signs”.  I love to dissect what I decide is double speak and pick out what I perceive as tension.  I cut my teeth on shows like Moon Lighting and Remington Steele in the 1980s to hone this particular skill set for looking between the lines.  For instance, on the last day of school in sixth grade, Robbie Brown said, “I really like your Trapper Keeper”, but then he looked away suddenly.  What did he mean by that???  What did he really want to tell me???  I knew what he truly was saying was, “I don’t have the nerve to ask you to ‘go with me’, but I think you are fascinating and I think about you all of the time.”  Naturally, at around mile 12, I began turning my inquisitive mind to wondering about why I was in the conundrum and what my lessons and take-aways were going to be.  After all, if I had to be humbled in this process, I had better find out why.  Maybe it was as simple as that God was telling me that if I was going to scarf down a Bo-Jangles chicken biscuit for breakfast, it was going to take a lot more than a lovely 4-mile jaunt to knock it off.

Once the kids were gotten, Big Daddy called my cell and said they would be waiting for me by my car.  Whew.  Just before I was spit out of the woods, I looked down and found a dollar bill.  I never found my key, but I found a dollar.  Then it started to rain.  Considering I was already soaked and nasty, it was not a chink in the program.  Rain was just another damn thing in this long day.  I had to cross the Kennesaw Battlefield to get to where the family was waiting in the parking lot.  I thought that it was a bit ironic that I had been wandering around an historic Civil War battle site for nearly 20 miles with spoiled good intentions.  All I wanted to was to be clean, with my people and going home.  I had gone to war with my stubborn independence; returning a sore soldier who was resolved to not be such a stickler for sole reliance and to accept accountability for that bad flaw of mine disrupting the day.

Where the battle was fought the first time

Epilogue

Everyone was sitting in the car, having snacks, reading and smiling.  I did not get the third degree tongue-lashing I so feared and deserved for not following Common Sense 101.  I had planned to return to the mountain the next day, if I could still stand, and find that key.  I didn’t have to.  It was sitting on the console of my car…right where I had put it, apparently.  Doh!

I wants it, I needs it, I must have my precious key

Snakebite rode home with me and pointed out that at least I had gotten some good exercise outside, found some money and had a new funny story that starred me as Gollum on the quest for my precious car key.  And as a bonus, I didn’t end up on the news as the subject of a helicopter search.  God, I love that kid.

I crossed my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye and all of that, that going forward I will always text Big Daddy if I am going off road.

Once home, I sat in my deep tub for about 1 ½ hour soaking in Lush bath bombs and Epsom Salts.  I took two Tylenol and went to bed around 8 o’clock.  Today, I literally have a pain in my butt, but it’s okay.

Here is what I learned for sure:  Make a plan, share the plan and adhere to the plan.  Be prepared by having everything you need when you start a project or an adventure.  That could include something a simple as a closing pocket or be as seemingly outlandish and unnecessary as taking a buddy when you go some place that is unfamiliar, or a partner to hold the ladder when you clean the gutters.  I also found out that single people get real freaked out when you try to ask them questions like, “Have you seen a key on the trail?” when no one else is around.  Did they think I was going to invite them to my Arbonne home show?  Also, condom wrappers don’t decompose rapidly in the woods.   Eew.  Oh, and nice people hang hoses over their really tall fences for thirsty hikers and dogs.  And nothing looks better after a rough day, than a loved one who’s just happy they could rescue you from yourself…again.

Today I divulged my dumb-assedness on the phone to a friend.  After admonishing me for going into the woods alone, she asked if she could come the next time I go.  So, next week there will be a hiking day with girlfriend Caroline.  I didn’t know I had city friends that would even be interested in weekday trail-blazing.  This is great news; I won’t have to become one of those 9am mall walkers!  If anyone would like to join us in a Mommy Urban Hiking club, just let me know!  Turns out that when you divulge your plans, it all comes together.

Happy endings ahead

University drops smoking

7 Jan

Atlanta’s own Emory University had an announcement to make this week:  No Smoking Allowed.  Anywhere.  Not in campus buildings, dorms, outside of the library, not in a box next to a fox, or even in your own car with all of the windows rolled up.  Huh.  All tobacco products are banned from any place on campus.  This means cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, pipes, hookahs and bongs.  What is college without bongs???  I don’t know this world anymore.  Maybe this is why so many “online universities” are popping up.

I am presently not a smoker, but I used to be pretty hardcore.  I am seventeen years “clean”.  And that is a good thing now, but at the time I thought quitting was a power play and a hassle.  It’s like this: when Big Daddy and I started dating he would light my ciggies for me and was all gentlemanly about carrying a lighter in his pocket for my igniting needs.  Then things started getting serious and the hammer dropped: “I can’t marry a smoker.  You have to quit.”  Like a real woman, I recognized that if it’s a contest between always having a date who wants to give me jewelry and tagging a butt outside of a bar with a bunch of weirdoes, then I’ll take the former.  Done.

The saying isn't "Cigarettes are a girl's best friend" now, is it?

It was in the early 1990s that the tobacco Gestapo rose through the ranks and started messing with me.  It started with no longer allowing smoking on airplanes.  Before a 27-hour flight to Korea, I found my self in the glass enclosed smoke pit it the airport power smoking with the best of them.  Next came to eliminating a restaurant hostess’ most important question: “Smoking or non-smoking section?”, to no smoking in restaurants period.  And that extended to mall food courts, too.  Never again would I smell a group of pale, Goth teens sucking on clove cigarettes while enjoying an Orange Julius.  The lovably cool Joe Camel was crucified and Marlboro points were moot.  Really, Big Daddy’s decree was rather timely, because the other Man was taking away all the freedom of smoking anyway.  I imagine this is how motorcycle enthusiasts felt when states began enforcing helmet laws.  Sure, the Man was looking out for the people’s “health”, but it was also draping a wet wool blanket on the joy.

So hard?

“They” say the quitting smoking is harder than weaning off of heroine.  Having never snorted, shot, smoked or anything else one can do with that stuff, I couldn’t say if this is true or not.  But it was my fear.  Thus, I had never before tried to quit, never wanted to and frankly didn’t see a reason.  My only experience with someone quitting smoking was with my step-dad, Tom.  And that was a doozy.

Let’s back up a bit.  I come from a long and rich line of smokers.  My parents smoked.  Their friends all smoked.  My aunts, uncles and cousins smoked.  In every public room of my house, there was a silver box or beautiful little julep cup full of Vantage 100s waiting to be smoked.  Every room had at least two fancy Waterford ashtrays.  This, by the way, isn’t a sign of growing up in a trailer park…this was classy, abundant and gracious living.  At the grocery store, buggies had clip-on aluminum ashtrays for housewives that liked to puff a cigarillo as they trolled the cereal aisle and thumped the produce.  Large canister ashtrays were in every department store.  And the “better” stores, like Neiman Marcus, would bring you a glass of wine and a beanbag ashtray for your Mom to the dressing room.  We had a huge basket at home of all of the different embellished matchbooks that we would collect from restaurants, banks, hotels…anywhere.  And lots of places also had their own logoed ashtrays.  We took a lot of those too.  It was a golden era.

See that ciggie wand. It's high-style!

Now, back to Tom.  At some point, maybe around 1986, Tom had a sketchy lung x-ray that turned out to be fine, but he was all shook up and he cold turkey quit smoking.  Never in the history of ex-smokers has there been a more smug and self-congratulatory ex-smoker.  Tom took every opportunity to wax on and on about his will power and discipline.  We just all rolled our eyes and closed our ears.  Fast-forward to the spring of 1989ish, when he travelled to Texas to see his middle son graduate from college.  Upon his return home, Tom was fidgety, restless and seemed to have developed a case of adult onset ADD.  The man had chronic ants in his pants and was using a stream of flimsy excuses to get the hell out of the house all of the time.  He kept every car’s gas tank topped off, bought every single size drill bit, one at a time, from Home Depot.  He picked up dry cleaning, ran nonsensical errands and was continually shaking the change in his pockets.  There was no doubt in my mother’s suspicious mind that Tom had rekindled love with his ex-wife while at their son’s graduation.  We assumed that he was really going out to call his former wife and whisper sweet nothings from the Gulf station’s pay phone…hence all the coin jiggling.  Mom hired a P.I. to tail him.  Tom wasn’t romancing his former yellow rose of Texas.  He was smooching on the filter of a cigarette.

Pretty little cancer sticks

 Because Tom had been such a pain in the ass and gloated so much about his dynamic power to just quit, he was unable to admit that he had begun not just smoking again, but making up for lost time.  When confronted, he denied, denied, denied.  “Catch Tom In The Act” became a fun family game.  When I uncovered two cartons of Vantages in the pool pump house, he blamed it on the next-door neighbor’s 12 year-old son.  If I was at the house and he would declare he was going to buy some wood screws, I would insist on going to Home Depot for some mythical need too, just for fun and to watch his squirm.  Because we worked together at a chemical plant, I would run up to the warehouse overlook window to spy him huddled behind a 20 ft. tall pallet tower of bleach boxes…smoking.  One time, unbeknownst to Tom, I was behind him on Powers Ferry Rd.  when he tossed a spent butt out of his car window and it landed on the hood of my car.  Swear.  In Hawaii, my oldest stepbrother, also named Tom, busted him smoking an Eve 120, snaked from Mother’s pack.  It was a new low.  Eve 120 cigarettes are super long, ultra-thin cigarettes decorated with flowers along the filter.  My macho, manly, retired Air Force fighter pilot Dad was hiding out with pretty, pretty lady cigarettes.  It turns out that the graduating stepbrother…hadn’t.  He hadn’t even gone to most of college.  Poor, disappointed Tom was too embarrassed to tell my Mom, who most certainly would have had lots to say about it.  Instead, he turned to his old pal, tobacco.  We were just relieved he wasn’t having an affair with the ex.  We thought it was kind of a hoot, but he remained ashamed of his smoking habit until he died years later.  While it was openly known he was smoking, he never did smoke again in public.  His pride just couldn’t have handled it.

My own bout with smoking cessation?  Well, my motivation was…motivating.  It took me about three days. As this post has already grown into a novella, I’ll save that funny story for another time.  However, I will say that if stopping is harder than kicking heroine, then I think all of those scabby, shaky, puking black-tar junkies are a bunch of lightweights.  I have no respect for them.  Losers.

I’ll wrap it up with this little thought nugget.  I have one friend who still smokes, but she’s cut waaay back.  I have one aunt and two cousins who are still smokers.  You can no longer smoke at work, at the grocery store, while pumping gas, at your favorite restaurant, anywhere in the airport and now, with Emory’s decree, there is a precedent to prevent smoking while enclosed in your own private property.  And the cost of a pack of cigarettes is out of hand.  Do I think it’s “good” that people aren’t smoking anymore?  Yep.  I feel much better, though I didn’t realize I even felt bad.  My kids are totally freaked and obnoxious when they see or smell someone smoking.  But, I have to wonder if some of our country’s employment shift and woes can’t be tied to the vigilante lynching of our tobacco industry.  What are all of those former tobacco farmers growing now?  Corn for corn syrup?  All of the matchbook factories, ashtray fabricators and rolling plants…what has become of them and their employees?  How about the person whose job it was to remove dead smokes from the big, commercial ashtray canisters and then refills them with fresh sand to imprint the hotel’s logo into it?  I just have to wonder if while the end of smoking is good for us, has it been bad for our economic health.  Someone get me an impact study, stat!

Maybe they can get jobs at the smokeless cigarette kiosk at the mall?

My inner music snob was murdered today

11 Nov

Have you heard of Zumba? If you haven’t been sleepless at 2am and seen the infomercials about the latest “fitness craze” that is sweeping the nation, well, it’s a fitness craze that’s sweeping the nation. In fact, you don’t even have to buy a Zumba instruction system to do at home, you can assuredly find a class somewhere in your neighborhood. I did. The Zumba people tout it as “an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness-party™” A party? At 8:30 in the morning? I am so totally in.

There was no sangria nor ceviche and chips at this party. What there was in high supply was old white women in Lycra pants and reinforced sports bras that were all ready to shake it. And shake it they did. The class was taught by a young black fella, whom I am guessing is sassy as hell. That, btw, is code for gay. He’s a hoot, and he’s kind and patient, but he is still a fitness instructor and that means he is secretly trying to break me so he can talk about it later. I would absolutely love to hear his recap to his friends at Blake’s this weekend about all of the crazy white housewives with no choreography.

A little background is that I have no rhythm and no coordination. None. I tried to get in on the aerobics craze in the 1980s. It seemed so fun in movies like Perfect, starring a pre-Scientology John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis. Or what about Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” video? How great did she look with that headband and spandex get-up? I started by getting Jane Fonda’s Workout, which I did in the basement during a summer. My dad came home for lunch one day and came downstairs to let me know he was there. He took a quizzical look at me all sweaty and red, then glanced at what I was looking at on the TV. Then he completely popped a gasket, lost any couth he had and started yelling about “that GD-Hanoi Jane-Communist-bleep-bleep-NOT IN MY HOUSE-bleep-bleep-Damnit to Hell!” Tom had been in Vietnam. He wasn’t fonda Jane. And that was that. The next time I tried aerobics was five years later in a class at a health club. During the warm up, I fell and sprained my ankle. I quit. Why bother?

But this Zumba thing is a fitness p-a-r-t-y and I do like parties. In my head, I was picturing Jazzercise for the 21st Century, but while listening to Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto and Sergio Mendes. There would be confetti cannons and a lot of spontaneous trilling of tongues. Those Latin countries are known for bringing the fun! Um, no. This was NOT my mother’s Brazil. What happened in place of a little slice of Carnivale? My inner music snob was murdered today and replaced with an out of shape middle-aged mom who doesn’t have it goin’ on half as much as I thought I did. I was put to shame by “mature women”, some twice my age, who could hip flick, shimmy, bootie-shake, plus do arm movements all while jumping up and down to Gloria Estefan, Rihanna, and Maroon 5. The final blow to my self-esteem came when I was limply shaking my flacid groove thang to the Backstreet Boys. This was happening in public. Heck, I couldn’t have tongue trilled if I wanted to…I could hardly breathe! I drank all of my water bottle and smelled like the boy’s middle school locker room when it was all over.

But, I think that I’ll go back…at least I didn’t break anything! That, and I just can’t bear the thought of going to Curves yet.