Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Men

The nicest thing anyone's ever said to me came from my grandmother, Virginia. A few years ago, I went grocery shopping for her, and when I walked in the kitchen door she came over to give me a hug. In the middle of that hug she said, "I don't love you as much as some of the others, but I miss you the most when you're not around."

Wasn't that sweet? Well, you're going to think it's really nice as soon as I give you some context.

Two points of clarification:

1. By "the others," she meant "the Men."

2. I know this doesn't sound like a compliment to get all misty-eyed about, but considering I was born a girl, that's absolutely as good as it gets in Virginia's family. Case in point: my dad took me to see Virginia's brother Red in Mont Eagle, Tennessee when I was eighteen. He was probably about 90 at the time and hadn't seen me since I was a baby. After talking to my dad a while, Uncle Red turned to me and said "You're plain," (and here there was a looong pause.) And about 15 seconds later, begrudgingly: "But there's something kind of pretty about you."

When Virginia got wind of this, she congratulated me heartily, and when I didn't seem all that enthusiastic about an exchange in which a very old man I barely knew acknowledged that the sight of me came just shy of making him want to barf, she scolded me.

"You know, Robert is used to Very Beautiful Women," she said.

"Well," I said. "In that case...."

Virginia grew up on a farm in rural Virginia, one of ten children--seven of them daughters. Her father died when she was little, so if you were a girl in that family, you weren't getting any special attention. The three boys--of which Uncle Red was one--were spoiled rotten. ROTTEN. I think Virginia fell in love with the idea of Men when she was very young, because to be honest, growing up in the middle of Attaway, Grace, Maud, Mary, Annie and Helen seems like kind of a nightmare. I am being serious.

So anyway, Virginia loves men--especially very handsome, tall, loud ones with PhDs who have served in the military at some juncture. But she also likes the ridiculous ones who are always teasing and the serious ones who always want to talk about serious stuff. She likes the ones who "work themselves to death," and the ones who collect books for a living. She even likes sort of pitiful men. She insists that she continued liking a man who once called her at 3 in the morning sometime in the 1970's to tell her he felt "like a painted ship upon a painted ocean," and could he come over? I don't remember the end of that story, but I don't think I could maintain respect for someone who drunk dials a respectable lady in the middle of the night, and all he can think to do is quote Coleridge. That's the saddest booty call I've ever heard of.

My whole life I've felt sort of bitter about Virginia and The Men. When I was a kid, she was pretty unapologetic about it, and when you're nine and your grandmother says to you "well, just because I love Jason more than you doesn't mean I'm not going to treat you the same," you get sort of...a complex. But then I got older, and I did some thinking about Virginia and the Men. And you know what? 1) She loves me at least as much as I love her, if not more, and 2) Virginia's thing about men ensures that she loves at least 49% of the earth's population unconditionally. Unconditional love, you guys!

That's kind of great, actually.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


This is something I remembered today, which I haven't thought of in a long time:

I took a whole year of drama class when I was a sophomore in high school. The first semester I took it because it seemed a little better than study hall, and the second because I had a crush on a boy in drama class who looked a little like Jordan Catalano. (It is dangerous, my friends, to underestimate the profound affect boys who look like Jordan Catalano have had on the course of human history.)

Anyhoodle, I was, hands down, the worst kid at drama--possibly who ever lived. There was this one time where I was supposed to be "acting" in a "scene" with another girl named Laura Forrester who was supposed to be my mother and I was supposed to be her teenaged daughter. At one point Laura was meant to say something that whipped me into such a fury that the script instructed that I yell "YOU CAN GO STRAIGHT TO HELL!" and storm off stage.

And you guys, I couldn't. I just couldn't. I started laughing, and completely fell apart in front of God, Jordan Catalano and everybody. I remember seeing Laura Forrester's face when I managed to get in a breath in between the the convulsive giggles, and she was looking at the drama teacher like "what am I supposed to do with this?"

The next week, Laura Forrester got do do a scene from Romeo and Juliet with...Jordan Catalano. And I was cast as Ouiser in a scene from Steel Magnolias. To the victor go the spoils.

And this, my sweet creampuffs, has been a Special Edition Thanksgiving Parable. It was also an excuse to show that clip from My So-Called Life. Happy Thanksgivies!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Women Who Are Good at Stuff

Someone I can really get behind is Edna St. Vincent Milay. She wrote simple poems about simple things from the perspective of the self I wish I could be all the time. Are you imperfect but also hate to be mad at yourself? Well, Edna's got a poem for you!

The Penitent

I had a little Sorrow,
Born of a little Sin,
I found a room all damp with gloom
And shut us all within;
And, "Little Sorrow, weep," said I,
"And, Little Sin, pray God to die,
And I upon the floor will lie
And think how bad I've been!"

Alas for pious planning - -
It mattered not a whit!
As far as gloom went in that room,
The lamp might have been lit!
My little Sorrow would not weep,
My little Sin would go to sleep --
To save my soul I could not keep
My graceless mind on it!

So I got up in anger,
And took a book I had,
And put a ribbon on my my hair
To please a passing lad,
And, "One thing there's no getting by --
I've been a wicked girl," said I:
"But if I can't be sorry, why,
I might as well be glad!"

Oh, Edna! So Bohemian and yet so sensible!

Also, this is one of my very favorite poems:


We were very tired, we were very merry–
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable–
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry–
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.
So, now you know about that dead woman who was good at stuff.
Now, here's an alive woman who is good at stuff:

For about three weeks now, I have ONLY been listening to Sharon Van Etten, which is some kind of record for me. I just don't get tired of her. She's preternaturally good at writing songs that sound simple and clean, but then you're like, how the hell did she do that? Anyway, I think she might be a witch.

She was on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert this week, and I was so pumped about it until I discovered that she brought [REDACTED*] with her to the studio who did nothing but [REDACTED] behind her for 15 minutes. Yeah, that was way harsh, Jesslyn. But you know what? YOU watch it and tell me I don't have a point:

Anyway, I hereby proclaim this Women Who Are/Were Good At Stuff, Even if They're Dead Day!

Do you have anyone you'd like to nominate?

*Redacted by the Mean Police, ie. my husband

Monday, November 15, 2010

National Treasure

This morning, Bryan and I were driving Odessa to school, listening to a story on the radio about Mark Twain's autobiography. It turns out, Twain dictated the whole thing to an amanuensis from his bed, dressed in an ornate bathrobe, "supported by a bank of snowy pillows." The finished product evidently needed very little editing.

So, we got to the the corner of Nacoochee and Boulevard where some guys were cutting limbs off a big willow oak on the corner. It was raining out and pretty dark for 9 in the morning. The leaves of the oak were bright yellow, and something about the sight of them glowing in the dim, drippy morning while I was thinking about Mark Twain snuggled down in his bed, dictating the story of his made me suddenly want a thousand willow oaks. I just wanted to look out my window from my bed at acres and acres of leaves and trunks and raindrops. I also wanted an amanuensis. And way more pillows than are currently supporting me at home. About 15 seconds later, I turned to Bryan, and this was our exchange:

Me: You know what I think the perfect job for me would be?

Bryan: Tell me.

Me: Celebrity chef. No--wait. Beloved children's book author. Well, just somebody that everybody really, really loves. I want to be a damn national treasure like Dolly Parton or Joseph Campbell or Tupac. Or Oprah or J.K. Rowling, except she's not American....

Bryan's barely even phased anymore by the fact that he married a megalomaniac, but within the confines of our little car, there was a sound like the boulder sliding into place in front of the entrance to Ali Baba's treasure cave. That's how I knew he was rolling his eyes.

Me: Anyway, I think that would be a really good job.

Bryan: I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lovely Day

Sometimes I come across a person who's all " I looooove the winter. I loooove gray, cold, crap weather that makes everything inconvenient and lousy. I frickkin' looooove it when it's suddenly pitch balls dark at 6 PM."

And to this person, I say, "Bullcrap, Sir/Madam. Bullcrap."

So, Daylight Savings Time ended this week, which has my Internal Superclock all verklempt. I believe you can guess my stance on Daylight Savings Time; I might have elucidated on that topic in this very publication. I'll just say this: if there was a political candidate who promised to to axe Daylight Savings Time, pennies and television ads for prescription medications, I'd canvas door to door for their campaign until my feet were useless, bloody stumps. But I digress.

My intent when I started writing a few minutes ago was not to complain, but to congratulate myself for living in Georgia. Because for the past two weeks, the weather has been all grody and cold, but today, (please stand by for an emotional moment)....


Today was just the loveliest day.

I drove to Ellijay for work. Ellijay is up in the mountains, and this is what my drive was like:

This is the great thing about Georgia. The weather can be completely appalling for a few weeks in the winter, and then there's this day that comes down like a soft, merciful bunny angel to snuggle you and whisper sweet bunny secrets in your ear.

That's kind of what today was like.

Also, I didn't have any actual bunny secrets whispered to me today, but I did have some pug secrets sniffled at me. They were not Top Secret State-level intelligence that I could trade to the Russians for lots of premium vodka and high class hookers or anything. They were just doggy secrets, but interesting nonetheless.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The 'Ween

I am not good at Halloween. This is not news to some of you--I said it last year, and I'll say it again: costuming is not my métier. Because I think there are three directions a person could take Halloween, and only one of them ends in unequivocal success:

1. One could plan one's costume several months in advance and gather little bits and pieces of it until one has assembled the perfect ensemble. This person will look awesome.

2. One can ignore the approach of Halloween until it is upon one, but then one can dress up anyway. There is an 82% chance this person will look idiotic.

3. One can, like me, eschew Halloween with a firm hand. This person will seem really lame on Halloween itself, but on November 1st, will go back to seeming exactly as cool as that person seemed on October 30th. A small price to pay, considering that it is very difficult to unsee that which has been seen. Please refer to 2002, when I went to a Halloween party dressed as a slovenly Promise Keeper from Outerspace. Let's just say I wasn't easy on the eyes.

Anyway, I thought super hard about a costume this about 1 PM on October 31st. And I came up with something I REALLY wanted to be:

Yep...That. And yet totally awesome, no?

So, I called Audrey and was like "I want to be the demented back yard fairy from that Fever Ray video," and Audrey was like "Honey, isn't she naked or something?" and I'm all "No, she's wearing Keds and socks and some first aid tape and...something else. Fur wrist warmers? Feathers? Whatever--I'll wear leggings."

So, that was the end of that.

However, don't let it be said that I passed my bah humbug on to my progeny:
Technically, she was a baby exotic bird for Halloween. But most people thought she was Gypsy Lee Rose, The Early Years. The important thing is that the whole thing took me exactly 24 minutes from conception to completion. And cost $0! HGTV should totally hire me.

And finally, in unrelated news, we ended up putting sweet Ruby Bear to sleep last weekend. It was a sad day. Thanks to everyone who has sent kind words and condolences. She was such a good girl and we miss her.

On an also unrelated, but perhaps more related--and also happier--note, the song in the feral diving board fairy video is actually really beautiful if you couldn't tell. There's a version by a sweet sister duo from Sweden that I especially like:

That is all.