Friday, June 30, 2006

Just a few things before I go

Okay kids, it's about that time. I'm leaving tomorrow for camp and I won't be back until next Friday and you won't see any posts from me until Sunday. I'm taking my laptop with me and I wish I could post pics from camp, but that's not only a matter of posting pictures of children without parental consent (bad!!) but also a violation of the HIPAA (also bad!!) rules that I am honor-bound to follow, given that this is a medical camp for kids with cancer. It would probably be kosher to link you to the camp's website, but lacking- as I do- the time to ask permission I'm going to err on the side of caution. Before I go...

1) My June Perfect Post Award goes to Nilbo at Truths & Half Truths. Scroll down to the post entitled, "Love Story: Prologue" and then keep reading. He's chronicling the "how we met" story of his parents and it's a series worth reading. Nilbo's a fantastic writer, but the story would be worth knowing even if he wasn't doing the telling, so check it out and give him some love. I'd put the pretty little Perfect Post button here, except that I've forgotten how. I'm such an idiot.

2) You should know that I checked out the new Super Target near downtown the other day and I had a near-religious experience. Clean, quiet, good smells, a fabulous feng shui and the Isaac Mizrahi collection is three times the size of the Target nearest me. Plus, they carry Nick & Nora pajamas!!!! No wonder Mignon at Thought Concoction claims that Target is her boyfriend. Who wouldn't want that?? Unfortunately, she's mistaken on one count. He's mine.

P.S. to June Cleaver who is moving to Canada where there is no Target. Let me say that again for those of you who are now stunned by the incredulousness of that last statement. THERE. IS. NO. TARGET. IN. CANADA. A-N-Y-W-H-E-R-E.

Oh, the bitter pill that is this cruel reality...and the sorrow that it brings. Our sympathies are with you as you navigate this lonely road. Everybody...go give her a hug.

3) Rock's ("Rock's Hard Place")been trying really hard to do some navel-gazing and bring more of himself to his blog. He's still claiming that "it's not about him" (writerly content of blogging) and I still think he's wrong. I think people definitely want and accept opinions from a blogger, but I also think they want to know a little bit about the blogger from whom these thoughts originate. Take a minute to go over there and tell him blogging is more than just "what you think"'s also about "who you are".

No fighting while I'm gone, kiddos. Take your vitamins. Watch both ways before you cross the street. I'm going to attempt to access the wireless system at camp and, at the very least, keep up with everyone. See you next Sunday!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Where everybody knows your name

"In education, in marriage, in religion, in everything, disappointment is the lot of women. It shall be the business of my life to deepen this disappointment in every woman's heart until she bows down to it no longer."
--Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Today's local paper included a story about a Vietnam veteran in Philadelphia who is looking for a Fort Worth woman he met in 1966, just before he shipped out for the war. Lenny Cohen had taken out an ad in the paper hoping for clues to her whereabouts using the information he had about her at the time.

I thought about all the things that can happen during a span of 40 years that obliterates the trail of a woman. We leave our parents' homes for college or work. We move to another town, state or country. We quit one job and take another. Sometimes...we die. There's at least a record of our death and moving geographically makes it difficult--but not impossible--to find us. It's only when we marry--and take the name of our husbands--that we rub out the last clue to our whereabouts.

If you've ever served on a high school reunion committee you'll have some idea of what I'm talking about. Ten, fifteen, twenty years after graduation, former classmates are using phone books and search engines to find us. You want to locate a guy? Look up his name. Get a friend in insurance to run a DMV check on a guy who is your age and who still has the name he graduated with.

You want to find a woman? Hmmm. What name do you look under? There's no guarantee she held onto her real name. The last time you saw her she was Genevieve Buckholtz and she was making out with Barry Urbach at graduation. Who is she now and what combination of words do you plug into Google to find her? What about the phone book? Even if she's married she's probably not mentioned in the listing. You'll be one lucky hunter if you can find her listed as Barry & Genevieve Urbach.'ll have to find the friend of a friend who still knows her and can offer up a phone number. Or wait until she finds you. Unless we have the presence of mind to hang onto our names, women drop like stones into the bottom of a silent, muddy lake.

In the interest of full disclosure I'll say here that I added Mr. Half's last name onto mine and I use both. Even though I never really got rid of my real name (I use both in my newspaper bylines), people assume that I did., the PTA, people in the neighborhood just think I'm Stacy Half. I should have sent out announcements immediately after the wedding saying as much, because without any information or provocation, friends and well-intentioned family (both in-laws and outlaws) will bombard me with mail addressed to Mrs. Bryan Half (not his real last name...of course). EVEN ON MY BIRTHDAY....a day where, if nothing else, I should get to celebrate the identity I possessed when I came into this world. I mean...c'mon! The guy married me, he didn't adopt me. And no matter how many times I say it, few seem to remember.

When telemarketers call and ask for Mrs. Bryan Half I tell them that there is no woman named Bryan living in our home. You should hear the confusion that one statement causes. After witnessing years of watching me have an aneurysm each time someone referred to me in a manner indicating I was merely one of Bryan's appendages...rather than a person with a first name of my own, Mr. Half told me I should go down to the courthouse (for our 20th anniversary) and plunk down the necessary coinage to get my real name back LEGALLY!! (Imagine a country where one must pay to get a name back which was given to you at birth!)

I've given the matter considerable thought and my biggest reason for holding back was the idea that people would think we were divorcing after all this time. It's been hard enough spending the last two decades getting people to stop referring to me as Mrs. Bryan Half. Now I have to back up and tell friends and relatives that my real name (which they already knew) is the name by which they must call me. I should have had the foresight never to change it in the first place. It wouldn't have made us any less married or any less happy.

Any number of pointless observances, whether they be for religious reasons or societal, are still foisted on women today. Traditional apologists, including many religious leaders, claim that "it's the natural order of things" to abide by a patriarchal society. It's in keeping with "natural order" that cats cannot do trigonometry. There's nothing natural about one person changing her name in order to comply with the superior/subservient relationship it was meant to indicate when the practice first started.

But I wasn't thinking back in 1986. I was hard in love and anxious to move to another city with the man of my dreams. I held it together in the planning stages just enough to warn the minister that there would be no "giving away" of the bride, as though I was a prize heifer at the county fair. I was 27 years old and supporting myself. We used the term "presents the bride" though I guess semantics can't change what it means when one man hands a grown woman over to another man. Nor did Mr. Half ask my father for permission to marry me...nor for his blessing. What's the point of asking a question where the answer really won't change the outcome? I also told the minister there would be no mention of the word "obey" in any form or fashion. Homie wasn't playing that game either. So it wasn't until we turned to face the congregation after saying our vows and the minister introduced us as Mr. and Mrs. Bryan Half that I realized in one stunning moment what I had forgotten to take care of.

Yeah... I wince every time my birthday rolls around as I open my cards, even though our return address stamp on outgoing Christmas/birthday cards and all other correspondence bears my name (both last names) and Bryan's name on separate lines hoping someone will pay attention. Few do. So Lenny Cohen....I hope you find Sharon Johnson. I hope she recognizes herself from the description or that someone else who knew her has read the article and will try to find you. Because, dude, looking for her and actually finding her is going to be nearly impossible on a trail as cold as this one. Good luck to you. And Sharon J....wherever you are....I hope for your sake, for Lenny's, and a little bit for mine, that Johnson still your name.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Thirty Years Ago

During the summer of 1976 you couldn't enter a music store (or the bedroom of many a teenaged girl..or guy) without seeing a nearly life-sized image of Peter Frampton. Soulful-eyed, open-shirted, angelic-faced Peter Frampton. Armed with his guitar and a soft corona of golden curls he was like a Rock n' Roll Jesus and it was impossible for me ( I'm sure I'm not alone in this) to gaze upon his stunning face without a sharp intake of breath.

It was the summer before my senior year of high school. I was working at Six Flags and I wore the senior ring of my boyfriend of the moment. One of the gift shops where I worked played nonstop rock and the music from the "Frampton Comes Alive" double live album and, of the posters of rock stars which we sold by the hundreds, none sold as well as that displaying the beautiful visage of Peter Frampton.

For the uninitiated, Frampton, a former member of Humble Pie, set the world on fire with his "Comes Alive" contribution in January of 1976 and it ranked Number One for 10 weeks. The album stayed in the Top 10 for over a year and it was declared the BEST-SELLING LIVE ALBUM OF ALL TIME, a record it held comfortably for over 20 years. For you youngsters out there that means that, while you were unknowingly salivating over the newest offerings from musicians in 1996, Peter Frampton still held the title for Best Live Album...EVER. Many music analysts still consider it to be among the top ten live album releases ever produced...keeping good company with Joni Mitchell's "Miles of Aisles", War's "War Live", The Who's "Live at Leeds" and my personal favorite, The Allman Brothers' "Live At The Fillmore East".

None of this matters much in the total scheme of things, but I was sitting by the neighbor's pool today and thinking about what I was doing 30 years ago. I was a skinny teenager whose teeth had recently been released from the captivity of braces and "Baby I Love Your Way" was on every rock station. While thinking about that magical summer I remembered what Time magazine writer Richard Lacayo wrote about the death of George Harrison when comparing the passing of years to the face of a great clock: "Year after year we have looked at them--at the aging of those faces--at the mellowing of their lives--to see what time it is for all of us."

I think this is true of anyone whom we held in high regard in our youth. We get older...and so do they. Time, however, has been good to Peter Frampton. He continues to mentor and produce music. He had a part in Cameron Crowe's movie, "Almost Famous". He did the voiceover for his cartoon self in an episode of "The Simpsons". He's recorded a new cd. Sure... the long hair is gone, but the face is the same. I've learned that as long as you're doing what you've always done, it's never pathetic or desperate. That's not to say the one if forbidden to pursue new interests or skills, but to see a 56-year old man take up the guitar in the hopes of being a rockstar is uncomfortably sad. To see a 56-year old man doing what he's always done is an inspiration. Here's to you, Peter Frampton. Baby....I love your way.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What's Happening to me??????

My middle sister is a pusher. A drug pusher, but the buzz she's selling isn't in the form of illegal pharmaceuticals. Her brand of poison is the "Gilmore Girls". You heard it here first. Before last week I SO did not care about the lives of Lorelei and Rory Gilmore. Do you hear me?? I. Did. Not. Care. I am the mother of three sons. I gave up living in the Land of the Girlies a long time ago. Cheerleaders make me cranky. I threw out my curling iron before I got married and, for a good ten years, I stopped wearing perfume altogether. I hate to shop. HATE IT. Also the color pink. Detest it.

But my husband and sons went out of town on a scout-related venture as they are wont to do...oh...EVERY OTHER WEEKEND OF MY LIFE!! and leave me to my own devices so my middle sister offered her copy of the Season One of "The Gilmore Girls". I'm hooked. Painfully. Pitifully hooked.

I tell myself that it is a fiction...a fantasy. Mothers and daughters who paint each other's toenails and borrow each other's clothes. Mothers and daughters whose phone conversations don't require an NFL-endorsed referee to negotiate the verbal minefields. I can't relate. But. I. Want. To.

What's happening to me?

I'm becoming the woman I never was. I'm looking at women's sweaters and saying, "Hey....I want that!". I see people so addicted to coffee (Lorelei and Rory) that they're in serious need of a room at The Betty Ford Center. I see the fictional town of Stars Hollow and am reminded of Andy Griffith's Mayberry...except it's in vivid color. More twinkle lights and bungalow houses. A quaint town with a charming downtown area...only populated with people who went to college instead of Floyd the crazy barber. Pumpkin patches and good-natured county fairs. Sally Struthers as the strange neighbor next door who has gnome statues in her front yard. Snappy dialog. It's like a Nora Ephron wet dream.

I claw around for this week's copy of my "New Yorker" subscription. I try to orient myself to that which usually stimulates me. Yet, I must know if Luke will ever tell Lorelei how he feels and I walk zombie-like to the television. One more episode? Whose going to know?? The cat? There's no one else here.

I'm almost sure that "Gilmore Girls" is a gateway drug. A gateway to what....well...I'm not sure.
I'm so behind. The show has been on for....uh....about six seasons. I'm going to have to watch all of these on DVD and then be ready when the new season starts this Fall. And then...I'll be setting the TiVo to a channel I've never watched before. The "WB".

Pray for me....I'll be sitting in the same spot. Glass of wine. Wearing my Chinese bathrobe and waiting for a "fresh Gilmore Girls". Three words I thought I'd never say.

And I'm loving it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Regrettable Products for The Hair, Part I

Back in the day when I was a teenager and tv commercials encouraged us to smell like lemons or babies or weeds (and by weeds I mean back when it was called Herbal Essence without the extra "s" and it only came in a green color that smelled exactly like a vacant lot full of milkweed after it's been cut with a dull lawnmower blade. It makes me itch just to think about it), it was considered gauche to confess to the hours and hours of hair prep time it took to resemble a young hippie who took the 6-year "shortcut" back home from Woodstock. We were into simplicity. Before we fell victim to Farrah Fawcett's high-maintenance "winged" look, straight hair was in. Parted in the middle. To the shoulders or longer. Maybe held back with two barrettes, but nothing more.

We Caucasian girls spent hours rinsing our locks in everything from lemon juice to vinegar to beer in order to maintain "squeaky clean " appearance that signaled to all an oil-free pate that was worthy of a Seventeen Magazine cover. Lucky was the girl who wasn't cursed with overactive oil glands which practically demanded a daily shampoo. Those who only had to shampoo every other day were the envy of us all...until now, of course, when we realize that a lot of oil THEN meant fewer wrinkles NOW. Yeah...I'm rocking that reality...thank God. Sorry, Dad, for cursing you then about inheriting the oily skin. But...back to the hair.

Genetics helped some of those girls skip a day of shampooing, but the makers of haircare products in the 1970s were still pulling all-nighters to come up with this particular aerosol atrocity which promised similar results:

PSSSSST! Spray it on and hope to God that no one knows that you are too lazy to haul your hormonal ass into the shower and scrape the funk off of your coif and that whatever was in the can could give you back 24 hours of "clean hair". Or the appearance thereof. How could we have been so stupid?

Actually, it was a little like carpet cleaner designed to absorb whatever was on your hair and could magically brush it out. Uh...maybe not so much. It was spray-on powder...just like the deodorant you used to spritz under your arms. THAT stuff was supposed to absorb the perspiration in your "pits" and leave behind a fresh scent. Most likely, we were using the same product in two different places on our bodies. I'm trying not to dwell on it. Really.

I didn't use PSSSSST! I used a dreadful and much cheaper product invented in the 1950s called MiniPoo which was still on the market in 1980. If you look for a Google Image of MiniPoo, you'll either get a picture of dog shampoo products or a smal pile of animal excrement. I've checked. For all I know, MiniPoo was--in reality-- a combination of both.

It was a talcum powder that you were supposed to sprinkle on the oiliest part of your hair and then brush it out. The bonus? It was a light brown color so that one didn't end up looking like Thomas Jefferson in a powdered wig. The bad thing? Well, let's just say that if dirt and water make mud, the process of mixing oil and tan-colored powder makes something similar and equally unattractive when spotted in clumps near the part in your hair. And brushing it out of your hair was a DELIGHT that required permission from the EPA and your own personal "Hazmat" suit. Have I mentioned the joy of scratching later on and coming up with brown fingernails? It looked exactly as though one had walked for hours through a sandstorm only to arrive completely coated and just in time for a brisk walk through the sprinkler.

I'm just saying that beauty, as well as the pursuit of it, is a cruel, cruel joke and women have been its unwitting victims for years. Personally, I tried it all. The mucous-based Dippity-Do which dried to a light petroleum sheen while your hair was in rollers and then--later-- drifted onto your shoulders in a virtual snowstorm of plastic dandruff.

The Clairol Kindness hot roller set (don't be fooled for an instant by the name Kindness), which were hard, pointy and unforgiving rolls of heated plastic with metal interiors that melted off one's fingerprints during the roll-up and which felt exactly like you were wearing a tiara of cranky baby porcupines that someone had thoughtfully set aflame after fixing them to your scalp with U-shaped metal clips the size of horseshoes.

And Nair Depilatory...for removing unwanted leg hair because we were...again...too lazy to shave and had not yet met/married the former archaeologist/man of our dreams who didn't care if you shaved or not. No one told me about the eye-watering fumes that smelled as though someone had accidentally left a bucket of rotten eggs in a hot closet. And the rule about not using it with open cuts (Hmm. Like those earned from a shaky encounter with a razor???) wasn't a joke. The burning and...I'm pretty sure I saw puffs of smoke...made quite an impression on my young mind.

Ahh yes...good times.

What torture methods did you endure as a teenager to preserve your "natural look"?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

June 21st, 1986...The Summer Solstice

"Marriage isn't a vessel
it's salt pouring freely
from a clear shaker.
It's rows of blue birds
on a cedar fence.
Suddenly, they lift..."
-- Joan Logghe (From "Twenty Years in Bed with the Same Man")

Dear Bryan,

I never had any reason to maintain the faith that marriage was a good thing. Square pegs forced to live in round holes. One person's dreams leaving no room for the desires of the other. One identity folded into another so tightly that the first becomes invisible. Two people living by traditional expectations and roles having nothing to do with talent or ability or passion. Pummeling the joy out of every moment...reducing everything down to a late bill payment, a burnt meal, a failed enterprise, or hurt feelings. In spite of all of this, I kept my expectations high. Not for love, which came and went. I confess to sampling freely and often from that table.

But when it came to attempting FOREVER, I waited for the man who could show love as well as speak the language. You were the first in that respect. Anyone can affect a proper observance for love's High Holy Days...the birthday, Mother's Day, the anniversary. In the end, none of that means anything nor contributes significantly to the reality of living the rest of your life with one other human being. Rare is the man who can live the reality in its best light every single day and yet here you are. I waited for you. I've never regretted it. Thank you for the best 20 years of my life.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Where I'm at...

1. The fatigue continues. Fatigue and restlessness. Witness the change (yet again!) in background color. I found the other one tasteful, but depressing. It's only a matter of time before I run out of options and find myself on my knees and beating with my fists against the front door of Typepad or Wordpress and begging for someone to build me a blog that fits my creative (and mercurial) needs. But that means I have to learn some new stuff and....well...does anyone really learn anything well in the summer? How smart to you have to be to work either of these two kinds of blog providers? It's not like I'm fluent in HTML or anything, though it's rather like living in a foreign country and knowing a few crucial phrases (such as "Where is the bathroom?") that get you through the day. I hate Blogger, but I know where the bathroom is, so to speak, and I'm uneasy about change.

2. All the men of Half House are gone. The two oldest boys are working as staffers at Boy Scout camp and Mr. Half and the youngest are now gone for our troop's week of "The Big Adventure", the other name for Worth Ranch. All of them are waking up to this every morning..lucky dogs.

So...things are quiet and I'm trying to get back into the mode where I look out for myself and no one else. It's a skill that has gotten quite rusty in the last 17 years. Living here and slowing my pace and doing what I want to do (something else that hardly ever happens) is sort of like being single and living alone again. Except I have none of the obvious benefits of being single. After all these years of being a SAHM, one of the biggest blows to my ego (and there have been a few) has been the fact that I no longer contribute a significant amount of money to the family coffers. I was the person whose salary literally bought our first house, yet I've never been able to reconcile making such a pittance in the free-lance world...or--like now--making no money at all while trying to tend to junk here at Half House. I can pretend that this is "our money", but I'm never able to let myself forget that I didn't really earn it myself. And I really, really hate it. I know SAHM's contribute in ways that can never be adequately represented by a dollar figure (though Oprah's salary comes to mind), but if society really thought it was all that special and praiseworthy--other than Mother's Day--you'd see a line of men wanting to do it. And some do (See Cynical Dad), though I'd like to see more. Anyway....blah, blah, blah.

I went to the bookstore last night and then hit Chipotle for my crack-infused (Why else do we love it so??) Burrito Bol. While perusing the movie aisle, a man spied my hiking boots (I had only recently returned from dropping everyone off at camp) and struck up a conversation wherein it became eventually obvious (after 10 or so minutes where he kept asking me questions about random stuff) that the guy was...uh...flirting with me. It's so hard to tell these days and I'm way out of practice. I wasn't insulted, but I wasn't interested, either. Mostly, I was just...kind of stunned that any guy (other than some male senior citizen to whom I still appear relatively youthful) would see me in any way other than a mother. And in this case...a sweaty mother.

I ended up buying a book by Ayun Halliday ("Dirty Sugar Cookies") whose link is on my blogroll as well as the movie, "The Nun's Story" with the ever-wonderful Audrey Hepburn and Peter Finch. And when I say Peter Finch, I mean the Peter Finch who was hot and sex-xay before he blew up into an old-but-brilliant toad whose last role in "Network" ("I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!") encouraged angry people everywhere to throw their television sets out of an open window. If you chance to meet either of my two sisters, they can tell you that I reference the Archangel from this movie all of the time. I'm not going to spoil the plot for you, but Archangel is a metaphor for ALMOST EVERYTHING in my life. That is all.Although "The Nun's Story" --the title alone--would be a good way to describe my life right now. **sigh**

3. Yes I know that it's wrong to end a sentence or phrase in a preposition (See blog title), and it's especially dumb for a former English teacher. Having said that, I will say that I'm in Texas and it's really hot. Nilbo would say..."HAWT". I'm opening my car doors with potholders and the temp inside says 102. My brain is melting.

4. I got up early and went to yoga. Made deposits and both banks and mailed some letters. I've got some art project prototypes to make, but first I'm headed out to run. I try to listen to satellite radio and stay away from the stations which might discuss in any way the Maverick's recent and devastating 1-point loss to the Miami Heat. I still love me some Dirk Nowotzki.

5. So where's everyone else? Are you packing? Moving? On vacation? Are you out by the pool reading a trashy novel and working on your tan? Summer makes me very reflective and today's no exception. It makes me think about all the summer jobs I had as a teenager. What's the best summer job you ever had? I'll start. Six Flag Over Texas. Yes, it was 112 in the park and crowded. People asked stupid questions. Long hours and little pay (hmmm...kinda like my life now). But the community of friends and potential hook-ups with the opposite sex grew exponentially every day. And I learned some practical work skills, believe it or not.
So....tell me about yours. I'll be commenting on your blogs later tonight.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Summer Fatigue

Photographic Evidence
More of the same (yesterday's) wasn't one of my better posts, but I plead exhaustion coupled with the effects of MSG. Mr. Half and I had a romantic little dinner downtown at PF Changs and by the time we got home my hands, feet and face were puffy. Maybe my brain was puffy, too. So puffy that I did not express myself clearly enough about the fact that I was updating on a previous post regarding neighbors who don't take down their seasonal lawn/house decorations.

In my defense, I did make a reference to the February archives and the post title, but it may have not been quite enough. Some people may have thought I was making a thinly veiled political metaphor (and took offense) and others may have just not understood what I was saying...or why I was saying it. At the time, I didn't have any pictures of my subject, so I had to resort to Google images. This may have only led to further confusion. So...I submit to you exhibits A and B. LAWN DECORATIONS. Nothing more.

The weekend looms and with that the posting/ commenting traffic plummets quite a bit. Add to that the blogging fatigue that many are feeling along with thoughts about quitting or the hurt/confusion over low comments/visitors, the summer vacations, the plans and preparations to pack up and move to another house or another state, and the presence of children home for the vacation and you have the recipe for big blogger shutdown. I think everyone is feeling it. I hate to see that happen. I may quit Blogger...but I won't quit blogging. How about you?

Everything on television is a repeat. There's nothing fresh going on out there and NetFlix and Blockbuster are doing a brisk business with all the bored folks out there who are desperate for something to watch. I was looking at an encore broadcast of "The Office" last night and it inspired me to look at the show's website. On it I found Dwight Shrute's "blog". Yeah, it left off in April and won't be updated until the new season, but it's worth a look if you haven't seen it before.

Have a good weekend. I'll update sometime early next week.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Update from "My Plea" , February 2006

When we last left Uncle Sam (Archives: February. "My Plea") he was supine in the ground cover of our neighbor's yard with his red polyester pants partially hidden in the dirt and bark. A gentle breeze ruffled his left shirt cuff. Doodlebugs were living in his hat which had been all but flattened by the elements and the chunks of hay which had eroded from the bale upon which he had been proudly sitting two years prior. I knew it was only weeks before actors from the show "Law & Order: Lawn Decoration Unit" would pull up in front of our neighbor's house and gently zip Sam and his composting innards into a body bag. We waited.

And then...a miracle!

Mr. Half called yesterday from his truck to report that Uncle Sam was not, in fact, a flatliner. NOT DEAD!! HE LIVED!! Somehow, some way he had summoned the strength of ....well...whatever it is that inspires tired, stuffed lawn ornaments and had dragged himself into plain view in the yard where he lay spread-eagle with one arm either beckoning politely or gesturing in a suggestive manner. It was hard to tell..

I drove by tonight and his filthy shirt was visible by moonlight and his exhausted form lay sprawled halfway on a mouldering hay bale. The remains of a wooden pole were still rudely shoved up....ahem...I mean the wooden stake which had assisted his formerly jaunty pose atop the hay bale was still affixed to a spot below his foil-covered belt. What had raised Uncle Sam in the 11th hour? Was it the knowledge that Flag Day was near?? Was it the siren song of the upcoming Fourth of July which summoned him from his premature visit to Valhalla??

Or was it the five gallon drum of anti-freeze nearby that had caused his shameful and unforseen forward roll into the hedge in the first place? Oh the shame! The dishonor! Uncle Sam was not a victim of neglect at all. Dare I say it?? Uncle a substance abuser. Oh the humanity!

Now I feel really guilty. All this time I thought he was a goner and all he really was...was passed out.
Everyone go over to wish Tammie at Soul Gardening a Happy Birthday today!!
Tammie...I hope you get everything you're wishing for.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Funk Queen

Lynda Barry is a writer, artist, illustrator. Reading her color-soaked cartoon books is like getting a note passed to you in class and when you open it, you find a funny joke with cool pictures drawn and doodled by one of your favorite friends. I started collecting her books years ago and, with the exception of one entitled "Naked Ladies, Naked Ladies", I have them all. Most are out of print. Simpsons creator, Matt Groening, is a longtime friend and contemporary of Barry's. His early cartoon efforts "Life in Hell" frequently contained tiny odes to Barry such as "Lynda Barry is Funk Queen of Here, There and Everywhere". Her books included title page messages like "Matt Groening is Funk Lord of USA".
Barry's world is one where kids and teenagers hold court. Characters say things we remember our friends and enemies saying to us and worlds collide in the occasionally-lucky but often-cruel manner that typifies the unfolding adolescent life. It's the kind of truth that makes you feel safe because you've been there before, though when it's not making you laugh it's making you wince. Anyone who lives in Seattle should feel that they're lucky to live in the same city as Lynda Barry. How cool would it be to be her neighbor? When weird stuff happened to you during the day, you could walk through your backyard fence into her yard and let yourself in through her kitchen door. You could sit around eating Chinese out of a carton and watching her use an inkstone and brush to do her pictures and you could tell her about the crazy man on the next block who feeds his dog lima beans and it would seem totally normal. Here's the cartoon that started it all for me. Click to enlarge and enjoy!

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Sexiest Men. Fo Reals Y'all!

Okay...I know I almost started an insurrection by criticizing celebrities on this site a few weeks ago and though I reserve the right to continue on that path of unrepentant snark, I'm taking a different tack tonight. I'm using the above photos to illustrate a point. Look at the pictures and figure out the common denominator or simply continue reading.

My aim is simple: I'm going to provide men with a simple-but-crucial piece of the puzzle that has dogged them since time began. The question being, "What do women want from us?"

Intelligence? Yes, it's a must. Humor? Make us laugh and you're halfway home, my friend. Loyalty? Sure, that helps. We even like a stunningly handsome exterior, but it's not always required. Yeah...we're funny that way.

But what IS it about men that makes even the steeliest female reserve melt like a crayon on a hot Texas sidewalk? I hope you've got your pencils and paper ready because I'm about to make an important point. Here it is: It's a man who loves his children. Or any children for that matter.

No, I'm not kidding. A man who doesn't merely speak of his love for his kids but who SHOWS that love in a public place...honestly and often? A man who tenderly holds a baby close without acting as though it's a bomb getting ready to explode? A man who crouches low to hear the nonsensical words of a toddler or who doesn't mind drawing pictures with his daughter at the kitchen table or giving his son a bottle in the middle of the night? Let me tell you a little secret about women. We know the difference between a guy who tolerates infants and their body functions and one who willingly enjoys sniffing the top of a baby's head. Knowing a man who never, EVER refers to an afternoon with his children as babysitting?? A guy who doesn't see a pregnant woman as fat but as a flushed and warm cocoon for the child they made together. makes us sweat.

The sight of you nibbling on your son's ear causes a little something in our pelvic region to give way and we are helpless to overcome the urge to have our way with you right there in the aisle at Target. You don't believe me? Go to an arts festival in your town (I did this, so I can attest to its truth) and have your husband strap on a Snugli front pack with a baby (hopefully yours) in it. Send him to get beer and then count the women who are inexplicably drawn to him like metal shavings to a magnet. Told ya.

A man like that? He makes every egg in our ovaries rise up and salute before exploding in a glittery shower of tiny valentine hearts, rainbows and sweet baby chicks. You think I'm kidding? I'm totally not.

I'm very lucky because Mr. Half is a baby-loving nutcase who can't pass a kid on the street without waving or speaking to him/her. He was a counselor at the same pediatric cancer camp where I teach art now and I've seen him completely lose it emotionally when one of those kids experiences even the smallest life victory....and even when they lose the battle altogether. Say it with me now..."a tender-hearted man is a STRONG man".

I say this because I wanted to give a big shout out to the bloggers I know who don't have to be prompted to show us how much they dig their families. Chris at Rude Cactus never fails to verbally groove on his baby daughter Mia and his posts frequently and openly demonstrate his love for her as well as his wife Beth. Chag at Cynical Dad is a stay-at-home father to Zed and Zoey. It would not be adviseable to tell him that caring for children is "women's work". Not unless you want him and every mother who reads this to hunt you down like a dog in the road. And then there's Nilbo. Yeah...his daughters are college graduates and one's getting married, but his pride in his kids is still so obvious. Add this to their writing abilities and you've got THE REAL MEASURE OF A MAN.

So...yeah...I took a potshot at the Pitt-Jolie hook-up and I still completely suspect that Angelina will kick him to the curb eventually. And despite the fact that the dismally traditional Parade Magazine is already saying that Pitt has lost his appeal (as a "real man", dontcha know!) to the masses because he's following the mother of his child to Namibia ("like a puppy" is how they put it), the sight of this man gazing at his tiny daughter with an expression of awe and wonder is almost too much to take. The minute this People Magazine spread hit the stands, women all over the world began ovulating in unison. Can they give the Sexiest Man Alive award to the same person twice??? I'm just asking, because you can't argue with biology and all my eggs are voting the same way. Can I get a witness?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Don't forget to write it down.

There's something quite unreal about getting a phone call telling you that a person is dead. Especially if you weren't expecting it. The deaths of terminally ill people, old people, even those who go to the hospital for minor surgery and die from complications don't elicit the same stomach punch of breathless disbelief as the deaths of people who consider life to be a daily adventure. You hear the words and then they just sort of hang out there in the air for a moment before your mind is able to read and comprehend the meaning. One minute he's there...and the next he's not.

A friend of ours died last week. I should be clear and say that, had I not married Mr. Half, I probably wouldn't know RS at all. Because I did marry him and because a tight network of high school buddies (including Mr. Half's two younger brothers) has stayed close since elementary school, I was lucky enough to have known RS for about 21 years. Either way, RS died on Sunday after slipping into a diabetic coma, and because he was alone when it happened, he could not be saved. It was two days before he was found. It was, to say the least, a huge shock. RS was the life of every party.

RS had a huge group of friends and many of them came from out of state and one even rerouted her flight on the way back from Venezuela to be there. My brother-in-law left early from an architect's convention in Los Angeles in order to arrive at D/FW at midnight before the 10 a.m. burial. Eight of the friends, including my two brothers-in-law, served as pallbearers and it was an especially emotional moment to watch as the same guys with whom RS had ridden bikes (as kids) through the neighborhood or those with whom he competed for First Chair trumpet in middle school band struggled under the weight their friend's casket as they brought it to its final resting place.

The service itself was long and...somewhat difficult. Despite an eventful dating life, RS was not married and had no kids, so the planning of the service fell to his older siblings and elderly parents. With the exception of a sister, a childhood friend and three co-workers who spoke eloquently on his behalf, the rest of the service seemed to address a person other than the friend we knew. The music, the words, the rather protracted and vociferous assumptions regarding his religious faith on behalf of the older brother seemed to ring falsely. Surely RS would never have wanted this awful, awful singer to punctuate his funeral with no less than four solos? The RS we knew would never have ordered this.

The thing is, people express informally what they want or don't want all the time. They go to a wedding and hear a song and say to a friend, "Dear God, that's hideous. I'll never use that at my wedding! You attend a funeral and you make a mental note to yourself NOT to be buried on a hot Texas afternoon. In the movie, "Hi-Fidelity", John Cusack's character, Rob Gordon, makes just such an announcement while attending a funeral and considers Jimmy Cliff's "Many Rivers to Cross" as something he'd like played at his service. Of course, you get to plan the wedding yourself, but the funeral is unfortunately--unless you've got intentions to leave the planet soon-- the domain of those left behind...and not necessarily the people who know you the best. And what 45 year old with plenty of living to do sits down and writes out a funeral program? Clearly our friend did not.

So I'm saying it here and now. If I know....before I expect to and Mr. Half and the boys are all still here?? They get to decide. (Okay...let my sisters pick the clothes I'm wearing because I'm sure not leaving that up to someone without a uterus) They know what I want and what I don't and I'm writing it all down just to make sure. I don't want someone else's expression of what looks or sounds good or right or proper to invade my final hurrah...whenever that is. No pontificating. No music requests to suit personal tastes (use them at your own service). Fourteen drawn out verses of the same old hymn won't change the fact that I'm dead or the person I was prior to dying. No making me sound better or nicer or holier than I am...or was. I don't want my friends walking out afterward as we did yesterday asking ourselves if perhaps the brother wasn't eulogizing another person...and not RS. There...I feel better now...sort of.

And can I just say that the sanctity of a funeral procession is no longer something ordinary citizens give a crap about?? Despite the police escort and the stretch limo for family and the long line of cars with lights on, we had at least two cars CUT IN on the funeral procession. One sped up next to our line of cars, cut in front of us and rode along until his exit came up and the other cut in front of us and used the procession to expedite her trip to the street of her choosing, rather than pulling over alike everyone else. Honking? It does nothing to dissuade these losers. I'm continually astounded at the erosion of our society.

I'm ready for something to happen that will give me a deeply satisfying belly laugh. I want to lose my breath over something hilarious. And then I want to write about it. Keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

In Her Own Words

Here's a direct quote from Ann Coulter's recent bit of fascist propaganda, "Godless: The Church of Liberalism" (incidentally...lifelong Democrat and devout man of God, the Reverend Billy Graham, might object just a little to her title choice, but that's another post) Coulter's words were aimed at four 9/11 widows who have been very proactive in questioning the decisions made by this administration and events that led up to the 9/11 attacks.

"I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much. And by the way, how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they'd better hurry and appear in Playboy."

That any person (let alone a woman) could criticize, question or second-guess the feelings or motivations of these women and their losses is beyond my comprehension. Her heart must be a molten mix of broken glass, rusty metal and battery acid...with a little essence of Pol Pot thrown in for good measure.

Coulter believes she can say anything she matter how hate-filled or false or beyond the pale it is and it had better be accepted with as much reverence as the tablets Moses brought down from the mountain. Any person (Democrat) daring to question her is bitch-slapped into submission with another round of lies, threats and a lesson in the type of "Christian attitude" the likes of which haven't been seen since the Crusades.

Don't get me wrong. I love a strong-willed woman, but I think you first have to qualify as a human being before anyone can consider you a woman and that requires not only a brain but a heart. I think all Coulter has going for her is a pulse and even Hitler had one of those. I'm disgusted by her in a way that surprises even me. I started out to post about how pissed off I am that Blogger is breaking down so often lately and how FREE SERVICE is just another word for "lame-ass". But Coulter just makes me even angrier.

The writer, E.B. White said it best in his book "Charlotte's Web" while describing the odious character of Templeton the Rat: "The rat had no morals, no consideration, no decency, no milk of rodent kindness, no compunctions, no higher feeling, no friendliness, no anything. He would kill a gosling if he could get away with it--the goose knew that. Everybody knew it." Just because Coulter fancies herself a beautiful women (Is she? Really?), she feels no one notices the fact that she vomits her words...rather than simply speaking them like everyone else. We noticed, Ann. Now go eat a sandwich for the love of Pete? Mmm-kay?

Don't stand too close to the tracks, Ann Coulter. Even the Karma train has been known to jump them in order to run over those who truly deserve it. Your turn is coming.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Will It Go Round In Circles?

Houston native. Songwriter. Singer. The "Fifth" Beatle. Legend. Adios, Billy Preston.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

In Retrospect

How to articulate flying to another coast to live, eat, drink and talk with four other women for a long-ish weekend? Such events are rare in my world...especially the female part. Living with so many males I've mostly convinced myself that I don't really get along all that well with other women. That I have nothing to say to them and no time to listen, though neither is remotely true.

Rarer still is the opportunity to commune with people whose deepest thoughts reside at the tip of your own brain because you read their words every day, yet you've never heard the sound of their voices. Pictures posted on a blog are not the same as a living, breathing person ordering filet mignon and wine in front of you...or the same person waiting patiently while you look for just the right souvenir t-shirt for your pickiest kid. Savannah's residents are fiercely proud of the city's history and completely embrace the possibility of ghosts...both friendly and otherwise. Here...age has great value (whether exemplified by buildings or people) I felt completely at home as I was the oldest person in our group by quite a stretch. I felt accepted, despite my obvious issues with getting...uh...older. And if that little detail about me hasn't become patently obvious to you by now, you probably haven't been around here long. But now that I've shared it with four other people and no one threw up or offered to find me a wheelchair, I'll come clean about an issue I've been deliberately vague about since I started this blog. I'm 47. There, I said it.
Teebs (Tammie) is such a warm person. Quiet...yes...but not because she has nothing to say. I forget who said she had gorgeous skin, but it's true and she has eyes that are like dark gingersnaps. And the hair...with such a curl that I could never coax from my own. She is a person who is open to all possibilities and so having a conversation with her is easygoing and stimulating at the same time. As we sat having a beer together and talking I felt that this was a woman I had known my entire life. And God...the woman is organized!
Sorry this is so blurry...her feet are so pretty!
Mrs. Harridan describes herself as an acid-tongued virago and while it's true that this is one women who won't take crap from anyone, she is a compassionate person with a deep well of emotions that your average virago--unlike Mrs. H-- would rather keep hidden. She is funny and quick and original...and she has lovely red hair and she's thin enough to wear these cool, skinny pants that I would kill to fit into. Jealous? You bet!

Arabella's voice is soft and deliberate. There is a zen quality to the way she speaks and I don't think I ever heard her raise her voice the entire time. All of these women have amazing skin and Arabella's is a very light olive that goes well with a dark mane of hair. She is smart and she looks like a very petite dancer who happens also to be blessed with a good brain. I also hear she can kick ass at the airport when flight information isn't announced the right way and certain people's flights get screwed with.

Mignon's hair reminds me of mine when, years ago, I decided to cut it off and let it stand up on its own. It's very symbolic of the person independent person she is. She is a free spirit with an open heart and a willingness to be silly. She is kind and smart and she doesn't mind making crazy faces for the camera. One minute she's clowning and the next she's on the phone comforting one of her small children at home. She has good ideas and plans for her life and she's always ready to see what's around the corner.
I can't wait for next year's Blogfest...honestly. I know the numbers started out much larger when the idea was first suggested and as finances, schedules, family and geography got the better of them we were still able to create a "Fest" with a just the right amount of people. It only takes one person to make a Blog. How many people does it take to make it a Fest? Five.
Five is the perfect number.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

We're Back

Now it can be told that I and four of my blogging compatriots (Mrs. Harridan, Teebs, Arabella and Mignon) invaded the fair city of Savannah, Georgia over the long weekend for the B-List Blogfest and are now (along with the city itself) in need of a very long nap.

There was much talking and eating and reading blogs on laptops and walking over the cobblestoned streets as well as gawking at the awesomely preserved historical buildings and taking pictures of said well as of each other. Much of this was accomplished, of course, in a mildly "lubed" state due to whatever refreshing...uh...lubricant was available, and might I say that those margaritas at the haunted Mexican restaurant were just lovely!

Here's a picture of our feet after an enormous dinner...and some wine.

There's just no place like a cemetery to make you think about calling up friends (Debbie and Shrinking Violet) and tormenting them for not being there with you.