Archive for July, 2010

Please Don’t Send in the Clowns

July 27, 2010

I have never liked clowns. I think they’re creepy. I think the humor of clowns is puerile. Clowns don’t make me laugh – big shoes, bulbous red noses, frizzy hair, clashing outfits…. nope, just doesn’t do it for me. Clowns are like bathroom jokes… suitable for the unsophisticated palate of toddlers and pre-adolescent males. If you think 13 people climbing out of a little car is funny, you have obviously never had to take a girl scout troup anywhere, or juggled seating arrangements for a crew of visiting VIP’s in a rental vehicle. I mean some things just AREN’T FUNNY.

I loathe those paintings of Emmett Kelly. I hated those “sad clown” skits Red Skelton used to do on TV shows when I was a kid. I would never, ever hire a clown to work at a birthday party for kids, even though I do kinda like those balloon animals some of them make. Rainbow wigs make me barf.

But here’s a twist for you: I kinda don’t hate Pierrots. Pierrot is a broken hearted clown figure in whiteface, derived from some Italian comedy genre, and he is lovelorn for the heroine Columbine. Who ditches him for some guy in gaudy jammies named Harlequin. I think the reason I don’t hate Pierrot (despite his very close resemblance to those white faced travesties known as Mimes), is because there were a lot of Art Nouveau and Art Deco depictions of Pierrot in the Moonlight. It is sort of romantic if you don’t let yourself think about the whole clown aspect of it all. Or guys in whiteface. Um, I love Maxfield Parrish and he did some really nice paintings of Harlequins and Pierrots.

Wait. That isn’t a good enough reason to like Pierrot. Maybe I don’t like Pierrot’s so much, after all. Okay, I guess I am starting to creep myself out here…. . It’s okay though. I mean I have never been able to understand the appeal of the Three Stooges. Or Chevy Chase mid-pratfall.

If you are wondering why I have to work out these little distinctions on the internet, I have no answer for you. Sometimes these things just rise to the surface and must be excised. Okay the bottom line is, whatever you do, don’t send the clowns.

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The Goddess Gathering

July 21, 2010

Well, all is quiet on the home front. Mr. GG was marginally chastened about the whole wolf thing, and before the end of the day, sent me confirmation of a business trip to Arizona in October – which is he taking me on, since I have never seen the Grand Canyon. Today, I am getting ready for the annual summer Goddess Gathering – a weekend of food, arts and crafts, alcohol and catching up with a group of women friends who have been doing this for a couple of decades longer that the 11 or 12 years I’ve been involved.

The attendees shift from year to year, but the core group is a bunch of lawyers, judges, health care professionals, archaeologists, teachers, and social workers who have known each other forever. And have supported each other through marriages and divorces, the deaths of children, serious injury, health issues, job loss, job changes, retirement, broken hearts, broken bones, challenges in child rearing, financial shifts, in fact, just about everything life can throw at you while you are plowing through it. These women have turned it into a celebration. A few times, one member has arrived by parachuting out of a plane to land by the pool. Others drive or fly in, bunking down on site, or with local goddesses.

In the past, we were more spiritually oriented. We always had a candle ceremony and a ritual on Saturday nights. Lately we have moved towards lolling in the pool, and doing art projects, with a constant flow of beer and wine available. Last year the hostess hired a bartender to make us frilly drinks. The first year I came, she hired a masseuse, and I was one of the lucky ones who got a shot at that – my first ever massage. Art projects since I have been coming have included sewing fetish dolls, decorating gourds, making birdhouses, coasters, small memorial shrines, and collages. Before my time, I know they painted wineglasses, and decorated hats. This year we are going to make flowers out of plastic bottles – an idea snagged from an Anthropologie store window.

There are always what we call “door prizes”. We draw names and get wrapped presents till we run out of gifts. It doesn’t matter if you bring a present or not… everyone understands that sometimes life is just too much to buy or wrap stuff, and there is always enough to share. We also have a habit of bringing tokens – jewelry, magnets, finger puppets, nail polish, lotion, socks, glasses, candles, lavender sachets, – little things (heavy on the dollar store, or homemade). One year I had the Baby make origami cranes for everyone, and we hung them on a wire strung across the deck, where they fluttered in the breeze. Even though some of us are grandmothers, we all squeal and laugh when we share our loot. We usually stick on some fake tattoos, try on each others sandals, share sunblock, Last year one of the lawyers brought supplies and gave anyone who wanted, a pedicure. Another goddess brings jewelry, and passes along items from her collection that she is ready to recycle.

The opening brunch is usually a potluck. It almost always includes Bloody Marys. Throughout the day, we nosh on the kinds of junk food you would be ashamed to have anyone else see you consume. Dinners are getting easier. In the past we have had steaks and salads, and one year I fried eggrolls on the deck, and we have ordered in Mexican and Chinese, and done stuff from Costco. This year we are having Italian takeout – gives us more time for the art project and gossip.

Every now and then someone gets up and scoops the bugs and leaves out of the pool. We share the pool floats and toys. We wander around our hostess’s yard, which is a triumph of landscaping and floral abundance – the woman has a gift. I am especially fond of her little bird house village, an area where she has a gazillion bird houses on the fence, on stakes, on holders, – like a mini bird ghetto – where the birds have elegant, whimsical, witty taste.

We talk gardening, jobs, kids, relationships, vacations. We compare depilatories or admire the goddesses who braved botox. We look at catalogs and magazines, hit the kitchen for snacks, and if you want, you can wander into a back bedroom and take a nap to restore you for the next round of laughter and food. Sometimes new people show up and they are seamlessly blended into the existing conversations. People float around the pool, having one-on-one heart-to-hearts, or sit in lounge chairs, giggling and reconnecting. Sometimes and in some situations we cry, because it is safe to let go with these women. This group of women would be there for you no matter what, even though we live in several states and some of us only see each other this one time each year. How great is that? I am lucky, blessed, and can’t wait to get there and see everyone.

Dog Days of Summer

July 20, 2010

Mr. GG is in the doghouse. Metaphorically speaking. All was well in my life till this morning. He got up, made coffee, ironed his shirt, came into the bedroom and kissed me goodbye as I lay snuggled up in my baby blue, pinstriped sheets. I rolled over, fell back asleep and into dreams of my flatiron turning into a poisonous snake, and then rescuing a baby who turned out to have 3 blue eyes (eek. I must have some unexamined issues – I mean the hair thing is completely understandable, but maybe I should stop reading supernatural books before I fall asleep. Three blue eyes? Or maybe it was the shrimp biriyani last night).

I woke to a shriek. Not mine. It was a feline yowl of distress. I rolled out of bed and Furrbutt came running in, trembling. Uh-oh. I skidded into the kitchen to find a gigantic multicolored Samoyed in the middle of the room. Or maybe it was a wolf. Its’ head came up to my waist. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit”, I thought. I gingerly escorted him out the OPEN SLIDER DOOR, onto the patio, where I found the back gate open, and both doors to the garage open!! Hello!!! Vulnerable woman completely exposed to any deranged psychopath or wolf who wanders in off the street. Man, that doused my sense of security and of being cherished by a man who made me coffee and kissed me goodbye. My home, my bastion of sanctuary and refuge could be violated by any wasp, psycho killer, or wolf who wandered by. Can we say, adrenaline rush? Can we, Mr. GG?

Okay, I shuttle the wolf (who was actually kind of friendly), out the gate, close all the doors, and go looking for the felines. I find 2, but Mr. Mittens is MIA. I take a moment to call Mr. GG at work, and express my feelings on the whole situation, telling him that I can’t find Mr. Mittens (Mr. GG’s particular favorite), when I hear plaintive meowing from outside. I drop the phone mid-bitch and wander around in my nightgown calling Mr. Mittens, till I finally see him up on the roof. Good kitty. He heads for the high ground in a disaster. I return to the phone and briefly inform Mr. GG that his ass is saved. But that I do have a few more remarks to direct to him at a later time.

I give the inside cats a can of tuna, and go outside and wait for Mr. Mittens to come down off the roof. Not happening. He got himself up there, and I know he can get himself down. He, however, prefers to hang his head over the roof right over the patio table where I am now drinking coffee and de-stressing, and he yowls nonstop. Eventually, I give up, fetch the tall step ladder and call him over to a lower spot on the roof, where I can effect his rescue.

So. That was my morning. One minute I’m dreaming about freaky blue eyed babies and the next I’m facing down a blue eyed wolf in my kitchen. If I had been in charge of things, I would have turned him into a hot, shape changing, alpha male werewolf, who would be insanely protective of me, and NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, leave me in a house with most of the doors open while I was sleeping. And then Mr. GG would have been sorry. Oh yes, he would have been. In fact, he doesn’t know it yet, but he is going to be sorry when he comes home from work, and we have one of those marital discussions where I calmly point out several things he could have done to prevent this situation. I expect him to get a hang-dog expression (insert ironic, bitter laugh here), but he’ll probably just make a feeble excuse and remind me it all turned out okay.

So, back to my alpha werewolf fantasy. I think I’d have the guy in a kilt when he turns all broody, and hot, and human. In fact, I think he should look like the guy in this Lawson’s Scotch ad.

Right now all the cats are hiding under furniture and recuperating from their traumatic experience. I’m gearing up for my righteous conversation with the man who forgets to protect me from psycho killers. I’ll let you know how it all works out.

The Family Screenplay

July 17, 2010

The Baby came home for a visit on Father’s Day. She brought lots of cool presents and stayed for a week, so we had time to laze around and talk. She and Mr. GG. played Scrabble for money most nights (I think he still owes her 20 bucks on that last double or nothing game) and she and I sewed her some summer dresses and bought her some vintage cocktail dresses (that girl rocks the 40’s and 60’s look). She makes killer gin and tonics, so we’d sit on the patio and do crossword puzzles and talk about life and love and money, and geez, some things in life never change. Watching her live through stuff I lived through is often painful, but at least I am here to prove you can make it through and come out okay after some time and love.

One evening Baby and Mr. GG were having a conversation about forest fires in Alaska. I wasn’t paying much attention, but tuned in when he explained how fire could smolder in the underbrush, get covered by snow and flame up next season after the snow melted. I said it sounded like a movie. Only it needed an archaeologist hero and a prehistoric site of mythic proportions to do it justice. And, I added, wooly mammoths. I’ve got a real thing for wooly mammoths, so I added in a pocket of flash frozen wooly mammoths in some glacier, who get melted out by the forest fire and come back to life (hey this is MY screenplay, so I can make up any improbable thing I want. So there).

We tossed some scenarios around and had to throw global warming into the mix, and some kind of villain, so I could have my explosions. For romance we added in a plucky heroine who is a bush pilot and flies the archaeologist into the heart of the forest fire/melting glacier flood/wooly mammoth stampede. We all agreed that the plucky bush pilot would be played by actress Scottie Thompson, who was Tony’s girlfriend Jeanne Benoit in NCIS one season. Scottie is a friend of a friend, and we want to keep all those royalties and Oscars in the extended family.

I’m afraid Harrison Ford is just too old to make the cut as hero this time. But we should have him in there somewhere as homage to Indiana Jones. And I just thought of William H. Macy. I will insist on him being in the film version. He can either be a rugged, wiry Alaskan guide, or a chief scientist. And he can’t be killed off. I really like William H. Macy. Other than that, we are pretty flexible about the rest of the film. I envision scenes of destruction like those in 2012, tension like in Independence Day, some wry, self-deprecating hero stuff like John Cusack in anything, and of course a feisty, spunky, take no prisoners heroine whose competence is astounding. And since it takes place in Alaska, I guess the villain should have ties to oil pipelines or gold ore. Okay, I admit there is a lot of boilerplate, but there is a reason that the tried and true always works.

That leaves us with, hmmm…. adventure, romance, action, cultural relevance (global warming), monsters (well, not really, unless of course, a mama wooly mammoth becomes deranged with fear for her calf when the villain shoots it), some explosions – to blow up the pipeline, or cave in the gold mine, or rescue the mammoths from their ice cave – and a bang up ending. Personally, I’d go for some Carrie – like rip off, maybe a baby wooly mammoth headed for a village of Eskimos, as the credits roll. Anyway, fleshing out this story is on my to-do list, along with finishing the family recipe cookbook, working on the Clive Cussler-eque mystery I started a while back, and blogging. Don’t hold your breath on any of it.

The Livin’ is Easy

July 16, 2010

Summertime. Finally. Seems like June was either rainy or 90 plus degrees worth of misery. Now that July is rolling along, things are more even. Hot days, and the nights are cool enough to leave the windows open and sleep under just a cotton sheet.

I’ve been sidelined with a few days worth of Epstein Barr Virus, which means things dragged to a halt and left me smack dab in the middle of a lot of undone projects. Which is maybe a good thing. The first time I had Epstein Barr, I was really down for the count. I was off work for months and sleeping up to 22 hours a day, and life just flowed around me. Doing anything exhausted me. A trip to the grocery was like contemplating Everest sans sherpas. I had to have Mr. GG or the Baby come out and carry the grocery bags in. I could not be counted on to get anything done. I had to put Mr. GG in charge of the tax return, which meant he hired an accountant which proved MUCH easier, and we have had our taxes done ever since. I lost all control of life, and had to let people do things for me (and couldn’t bitch when they were not done MY way). It is not easy to accept help when you are the one who has been in charge forever. I used to sit on a wooden bench by our irrigation ditch and watch the ducklings puddle around, then I would go back inside and fall asleep. The only thing that made a difference was injecting myself in the thigh with Kutapressin, a dark fluid made from pig livers, which was just totally disgusting. But I learned to do it. Eventually, things got better, but it was a frightening and humbling experience, and an intense course in attitude adjustment. I came out the other side with a new sense of gratitude.

I learned not to overdo things, because an afternoon of weeding could put me in limbo for the next couple of days. It’s been years since that first attack of EBV, and I have slowed way down. If I have to do heavy lifting or a lot of manual labor, I build up to it, and usually things work out fine. Every now and then, though, I have a little relapse and then I am on a forced time out, because I forgot to pace myself. By now, I am pretty sure that I will never be old or wise enough to know better.

I probably did myself in this week by clearing oak brush, and hauling branches and weeds. This summer I tore up part of the front yard, and replaced the ugly shrubs with a flower and vegetable garden. I have squash and cucumbers and pole beans. I have eggplant, peppers and tomatoes, dill, nasturtiums, zinnias, castor beans, rosemary, sage and marigolds. Roses and lambs ear. Kale and Bok Choi. Crambe cordifolia and hollyhocks and tiger lilies. Just to mention a few of the garden contents. My favorite thing is a tomato tree with 4 upside down tomatoes growing from the hangers. I searched high and low on the internet until I found a source for currant tomatoes. Tiny little globes that hang in trusses, and are the size of a raisin or a fat blueberry. These deliver the most intense tomato flavor, and so far only a few ripen each day. Just enough eat out of hand while contemplating the number of pepper blossoms, and pulling up a few bindweed starts.

Anyway, since I have been on zombie/coma status for a few days, I have spent a lot of time on the back patio. And found out it is a little slice of heaven. Early this summer I bought a 9 foot umbrella (20 bucks, Tuesday Morning), and when the mosquitoes arrived because I have a huge pot full of water plants and a small fountain pump (Lowes), I bought a net that drapes over the umbrella and zips closed (Improvements catalog). I hung a bunch of my paper lanterns in the trees around the umbrella, and it is wonderful sitting out there in the dusk. My stands of foxglove are about bloomed out, but my climbing petunias, mignonette, white heliotrope and white phlox are blooming, and evenings are a perfumed delight when a breeze wafts those scents around.

My kitchen is a mess. Let’s not discuss the state of the floor. I haven’t been cooking, so a whole bunch of healthy fruits and vegetables are turning to mush in the fridge. The mosaic tabletop I am making for Mr. GG’s sister is lying on the kitchen table with glue and Fiesta ware plates cluttering up the surface. Laundry? Yeah, right. When taking a shower requires all your energy, laundry drops way down on the priority list.

So I have mostly been sitting on the patio, listening to the hummingbirds fight over the three feeders, the splash of the fountain, the cats rustling through weeds (so far this month the score is Cats: 6, Mice: 0). I have been re-reading old paperbacks cause I am too tired to go to the Library or the used book store. And you know what? It has been great. My friend comes over every evening and we sit in the dark, drinking ice tea, and discuss whatever comes up – our daughters, the horror of trying on swimsuits, gossip, books, trivia… it is enough just to sit in the dark, and listen to night sounds and make desultory conversation. Life is good. If only there were lightening bugs in Utah, I think life would be perfect. Yay, summertime.