Sunday, September 19, 2010

When I grow up...

When you were small, did you ever wonder what you’d be when you grew up?  Of course you did.  We all did.  Some of us still do.  I’d better figure it out soon as I only have a finite amount of time to come to the conclusion and final decision.  But there is one area of my life I have conquered.  It took decades (quite literally) but I know now who and what I am in the world of …. Fashion!
 I’ve come to the conclusion that all areas, at least in the United States, whether city, town or farmland, have three distinct types of women:  Prissy, dressy (always perfectly coifed and suitably made up; Bohemian (they don’t even shave!); and I-could-care-less (yeah, no explanation needed).
Generally speaking, I’ve always lived in the prissy, dressy sectors.  Not that I did that by design; I think it’s more been Kismet’s cruel joke on me. 
Growing up in Lodi, New Jersey, a Sicilian community, everyone was always perfectly dressed.  Remember, fashionista does derive part of its terminology from the Italian.  The hair was always perfect (usually because everyone had a weekly beauty parlor routine, which was kept with far more ritual than their thrice yearly church-going routine); and you wore heels almost everywhere, at all times (except to football games, when ballet slippers were then acceptable).  Okay, the guys were different.  After all, this was the age of Grease, and we were in an Italian (forgive me, Sicilian) neighborhood, so the guys either wore the “guinea tees” or regular tee shirts with the cigarettes rolled up in the sleeves (even though none of them even smoked,?)  After all, even guys have an image to maintain.
Oh, I forgot, not everyone here is a Yankee, so for those of you who might not know, I’ve included the following definition found in the Urban Dictionary under Guinea Tee:
A white, ribbed, sleeveless tee-shirt. Known also as a wife-beater singlet or a muscle shirt. Worn primarily as an undershirt, as its name implies, generally worn as a normal shirt on any given day by Itallian-Americans (Guineas, or the New Jersey sub-species of 'guidos') from Brooklyn, hence the name; "Guinea Tee". Usually found in its natural habitat along coexistant species such as the baseball bat, Mets hats, and copius amounts of hair gel.
Uh, yep, that’s a really good description.  Thanks Phillip Nannery (whoever you are).
I, of course, obediently spent all my money on clothes, jewelry and shoes.  My hair was always teased to perfection (I’ll see if I can include a picture from my junior prop to prove it), and the nails were always polished.  I read an article in Redbook (or was it Teen magazine) that teenagers accounted for 90% of the profits of cosmetic companies in those days.  Well, let me tell you!  They didn’t make makeup bags large enough for all the cosmetic goodies we had to carry!  And hairspray!  Well, have you ever worn a beehive?  Yeah, at least two cans of the stuff was necessary to keep that in place for a whole day!
Then came the ‘60s.  Beatniks and hippies and granola-crunching, tree-hugging, back-to-nature liberals filled the land.  It was the Age of Aquarius, the Hair generation.
Lodi was not affected much by that metamorphosis when I lived there.  I think they had an invisible border patrol marshaling the boundaries of our fair town that prevented such aliens from ever entering (and I use the word alien, not as in foreign-born, but just as in foreign in nature for Lodi standards).  After all, there were years of tradition to be upheld.  Who knew what chaos would ensue if we all stopped wearing pantyhose and bras!
However, I had television!  You might keep those vermin out of Lodi but you could not prevent them from invading our living rooms!   I was no longer a teenager and now had to make a decision: Who was I going to be in this brave new world?
Beatniks were way too cerebral and morose for me.  They always dressed in black, and after years of wearing that color to make me look thinner while schoolmates wondered if I was mourning (for years, apparently) the death of a close family member, I had made the decision never to go that direction again. Besides, I would have had to become studiously cool!  That meant putting way too much effort into something that was supposedly effortless.  I crossed that off my fashion list.
Hippies had that cool-looking long, flowing hair, which I just loved!  Well, not the unwashed ones, but hair like the girl on Mod Squad.  Hers was clean, but it didn’t look too clean, if you know what I mean. Yeah, I thought, I could go with that.  Well, guess what!  You have to have very thin, very fine, very straight hair to pull off that look, none of which I had.  Okay, it wasn’t curly enough to do the afro thing, but just letting my hair hang loose meant I looked like some sort of bush was starting to form underneath the long, flowing hair, causing a kind of triangular look to my head, with the point, of course, being at the top!  No, not a good look.  I did like the no makeup part, though, and cosemetic companies everywhere saw huge declines as I gave up the 2-hour regime of “putting on my face” every morning, afternoon and evening.  However, the rest of the hippie culture (free love and free drugs) was not my scene.  I was so naive back then, I thought “Make love, not war” was a great idea, till I realized what they really meant by the “make love” part!
So that leaves us with the granola-crunching liberals.  I subscribed to Mother Earth News and all my cookbooks came from Rodale Press (the editors of Prevention magazine and a zillion other natural-remedy, natural-living publications).  I read book after book on living off the land, homesteading they called it.  I read about this girl who lived in Hawaii in an old school bus.  Showers and cooking were all done outside.  They never did mention where the potty was, however.  Anyway, that sounded like a fabulous idea!  I could really embrace that!  But I had married my high school sweetheart. Yeah, one of the guinea-tee wearing guys.  Somehow he never really embraced that whole idea of living in a school bus by a stream (so you could generate electricity and sell it back to the electric companies, of course) and the houses I looked at (the ones with no running water in them) had never even entered into his imagination, never mind his conscious thought.  Then when I started make pies from the natural cookbooks that used wheat germ as a crust – well, remember he was Italian!  Needless to say, none of that came to fruition.
When you boil it all down, I guess my British roots took over finally.  I became more the tailored, tweedy, sensible shoes type of person.  The hair?  Well, we’ll discuss that at another time, but it does its own thing. 
So how does that go over living here in the South?  Well, Scarlett O’Hara was not the figment of anyone’s imagination.  I am here to tell you without any doubt whatsoever, Scarlett is alive and well and resides in every well-bred, gentile Southern woman alive today!  I work with three of them (well, many more, really, but just three whose habits I know well enough to comment on.)  One, though, is Scarlett reincarnated!  It’s not just the makeup and clothes; it’s her speech, her accent and her mannerisms.   It’s a ball to go into work each day and feel like you’ve been transported back in time to a different era, the pre-Grant, antebellum South.  How my Yankee accent must grate on their nerves compared to the gentle flowing tones so typical of this area.  But they are much too polite to ever say so, and their Southern hospitality and charm allows me to be who I am, though they must often scratch their heads in complete puzzlement at times (all done in a very Scarlett-like, gentile manner, of course.)
I love them all and enjoy and celebrate their prissy, dressy ways.  I am in awe at the amount of shoes they own!  Imelda Marcos had nothing on them!  They would rather shop than be anywhere else in the world.  Even on vacation, it must include a good shopping trip or what point was there in going somewhere else when there are perfectly good upscale shops right here in Winston!  And I envy them.  One sniffs out bargains like a ravenous hound dog  on the trail of a yummy little rabbit, which is good since I’ve worked with her for a year and have yet to see her wear the same outfit twice!  I can always tell when one of them has a doctor’s appointment!  Heck, I wear that kind of stuff to weddings!  For my doctor appointments I’m usually in shorts.
So what’s the point of today’s blog?  We are who we are.  While our environs may influence us, they cannot change our core.  I would love to live a while in Africa and wear the beautiful colors and headdresses intricately wound upon their heads like crowns.  Or in India where I would finally learn how to wrap that sari appropriately, transforming it from a flat, long piece of silk into one of the most amazing, luxurious and feminine garments I’ve ever encountered.  But you know what?  I’m old enough to know me now and who I am.  While I admire and enjoy the styles, I’m a pareo (sarong) girl at heart and always will be.  Wish I could wear those to work, but I think, as tolerant as they are with me, the dress code still requires underwear! 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I told you so.....

I have an acquaintance.  We don't see each other very often, but when we do, we usually have interesting conversations about things like art, travel and ... massage.  Bet you thought I was going to say music.  No, it's massage.
See, this acquaintance had, at one time, a lot of pain.  I mean, all kinds of pain for all kinds of reasons.  She quite literally had pain from head to toe!  Not the dull, aching kind of annoying pain, but the real get-in-your-face kind of pain.  She got some relief from some different modalities: I sent her to my chiropractor (oh, see, that's another thing we talked about) and it helped a bit.  But one day she came to me and said she'd found the most wonderful, spectacular, talented myotherapist ever!!  Yeah, there were definite exclamation points in her voice when she said it.  And she kindly shared with me her myotherapist's name and number so I too could be pain free. I put it on my desk and, quite frankly, forgot about it.  I didn't mean to forget about it, but have you seen my desk lately?  No, neither have I!
So one day I'm at the mall.  Well, actually my car was near the mall, at Sears,  and I had to be there with it since it's not allowed to drive alone.  But while my car was there getting what turned out to be a $29 special oil change that only cost me $100 (that's a whole other story), I decided to run (well, more like limp) over to the mall to run an errand.  When I say limp, that's actually a term that denotes much more speed than I had that day.
You see, I was in serious pain.  My knee, my hip, my back, probably my eyelids, were all in pain. 
I slinked on over to the Post Office to pick up the mail and headed back through the mall to my car.  I never realized how far away that Post Office actually was from Sears Auto.  Where's my daughter when I need her to navigate me or stop me from doing foolish things like actually walking through the mall!!!
As I'm heading back, I notice all the people passing me up.  Now, that wouldn't normally bother me, but when this old guy with a cane and a crooked leg limped past me, I was ready to trade in the car for a new set of wheels, preferably one of those cool scooter models that goes over carpets with ease and make tight turns around living room furniture.
About that time I decided, hey, the car can now wait on me!  It's not my boss.  I don't live on Honda time.  I'm just going to stand here for a while and stare at the window of one of the shops till I get enough energy to walk away. 
And that's what I did.  The shop window was not adorned with much that was interesting, but it had a big sign in it that I started reading.  Then this diminuative Chinese lady approached me and pointed to the sign.  "Massage," she said, smiling and nodding her head.  I looked at her.  She pointed at the sign, nodded and said again, "Massage," just in case I didn't speak English well enough to get it the first time. I followed the direction of her pointing finger and for about the first time realized, hey, they do massages here!  I've got to wait for the car to get fixed anyway, so, why not!
Well, the inside was very bare, lots of space with very few furnishings.  I wasn't interested in those silly chair massages; I wanted the real thing.  So I followed my new little friend to the end of a hallway at the back of the spacious room where two small akeshift cubicles were set up with colorful pieces of material that pulled across the entrance of each to allow for "privacy."  Okay, I thought, this is like a really economic trip to the Far East.  So let's go for it!  You know how I love all types of cultures!
My little friend points at a hook on the wall and a basket on the floor.  "You take clothes off," she instructs me, smiling and nodding.  So I did.  I mean, I didn't know what the culture was.  She told me to take off my clothes and that's what I did, right there with her watching.  Then I climed butt naked onto the table where she covered me with what was the size of a tea towel.  But I didn't care!
Let me tell you, she might have been little, but there was power on those magic fingers of hers.  She poked and prodded and grunted and groaned as she massaged out all the kinks I had.  She even climbed on the table with me at one point to work on my back.  It was a very interesting experience.
Finally, she slipped out through the curtain and I thought, well, I guess that's my hour, better get dressed.  So I climbed down and reached out for my clothes, but before I could put a thing on, she was back.
Oh, no, no, no, she chided me.  Oh, well, okay, she said.  And as I stood there, naked again, she put hot towles on my back and then beat the daylights out of it.  It was great!
Dressed once again and back out in the mall, I texted my friend to tell her what a great massage I'd had!  Not only that, I was walking like a 20-year-old.  I was tempted to go find the old guy with the cane and challenge him to a race, but I why rub it in.
Well, I mention all of this because today I went for a massage.  Yes, I had e-mailed my friend (for about the third time) for the name and number of her masseuse, but for some bizzar reason I wound up with an appointment at a day spa.  Yeah, you heard me right!  A day spa.
I told them I needed deep tissue massage, and they assured me that I could get whatever I wanted.  Now, I realize that my normal massages are the kind that would bring tears to the eyes of Sly Stalone, but this massage was perhaps the greatest waste of money I've spent since buying that Chia pet back in 1971.  It's not that it wasn't relaxing, or I suppose it would have been had I not been waiting for the deep tissue part while ticking the minutes off in my mind. But it left me feeling more like a side of Kobe beef (you know, the expensive Japanse beef that comes from contented cows that get daily massages) than anything else.  Of the table was comfty, and the warm towels over my eyes and back, etc., were kind of neat, but I wanted a MASSAGE! 
It must have been that form they made me fill out beforhand that led to the excessive slathering of Freeze Gel that she used.  I mean, I mentioned having arthritis, but it's only in my right knee, and a little in the left knee, oh, and my left big toe, but you know what I mean!  Since they didn't ask the location, I guess they figured they'd make darn good and sure they covered it with this smelly jelly stuff.  She lathered it all over my face and said, Breathe deeply, which I stupidly did.  Then it went into my hair.  Then it covered every other part of me till I smelled like a reject from a menthol factory.
I paid my bill and left, not much better but a lot wiser, and went home where I promptly showered off every vestige of Freeze Gel with my wonderful smelling Rainbath!
Ah, so the title of this piece?  Well, it's kind of a warning.  I'll be sending a copy of this piece to my friend, you know, the one who recommended the most fantastic thereapist in the world.  You'll hear her, no doubt, yelling clear from one end of town to the other: I TOLD YOU SO!!!!  I just didn't want anyone to be scared at the sound.

Monday, September 13, 2010

When pigs can fly....

Okay, so I was too busy to write today, but couldn't allow myself not to post anything.  I think I'm becoming addicted to listening to my own voice -- oh, wait, I'm not talking.  Must be the sound of my keyboard I'm addicted to.  Anyway, I remembered having written a short piece (well, short of me anyway) after a flight back to NC from Washington State and posting it on epinions about a million years ago.  But it's still as true today (if not even truer!) as it was back in 2002.  So I resurrected it, changing a few words here and there, just reliving the wonderful flight, and smells, that impressed me so much at the time. 

Oh, what about the title, you ask???  Well, I think there were a couple of little piggies up there on that flight.  Fasten your sealtbelts, we're about to take off:

I was on my way home from Seattle, and I can't remember which leg of the journey it was, the short or the long one, but one of those stinking planes had very skinny seats (you know how they're always trying to cram more people in than they should!) and along with the skinny, narrow seats came skinny, narrow seatbelts. I couldn't get the stupid thing across me!!!! I figured I wasn't the biggest person they'd ever had in there so they must have an extension, kind of like my friend has for her little Toyota, but I refused to allow myself to ask the attendant what one did in a case like this because I knew all eyes would be on me, the fat lady who couldn't fasten her belt.

For a few minutes before takeoff I wondered if I could just rest it across me so they wouldn't know. But then I thought, surely they must have a light panel to tell who's being naughty and who's being nice.  I mean, hey, if they've got one at DisneyWorld for the Star Tours ride, and that doesn't even go anywhere, surely they must have one in an aircraft that hurtles through the skies, overloaded with lugage and passengers and fat ladies who can't fit in their seatbelts! Or maybe their eyesight is better than mine (that's not hard to imagine) and they'll see it from all the way down the aisle and yell out, Hey, you, suck it up and fasten that belt! Or what if they were solicitous enough to actually come down and help me put it on.  Of course, the attendant would not waste the time I had; they'd simply shout over the sound of the jet engines, Oh, this belt is much to small for you; wait will I get you an extension,  at which point we're back to the scene I was trying to avoid to begin with!

So I squeezed and I sucked in air and I stretched that little belt to its last iota of stretchiness and I pulled and I jammed --- and I did that for a good ten minutes, unsuccessfully. Finally I got it! I would have been excitedly, noisily jubilant if I weren't so exhausted from struggling with that gosh-darn seatbelt. I think I must have pulled every muscle in my body trying to stretch it longer than it was created to go. But yet I was jubilant, if quietly so, to have achieved my objective without too much attraction.

So that's when I finally settled down to check out my fellow passengerts.  It was hard to tell if the lady next to me noticed my struggle since her face was covered by one of those cheap surgical masks covering her nose and mouth. But she didn't say anything, so I guess she didn't notice (at least that's what I told myself). I wanted to ask her why she had on the mask - you know, the kind I'm supposed to wear for allergies when I cut the grass but would rather spend a weekend in bed recovering rather than smothering and sweating under that stupid cloth - but I didn't have the nerve to ask. Yeah, I know that's hard to believe. But if she had turned around and belted me, it might have caused me to jump, thus breaking my seatbelt.  Then where would I be?  Still I couldn't help but sneak peeks at her every now and again to see if she lifted it for a breath of air.  She never did!  Amazing!  A flight from Seattle all the way to the East Coast wearing that mask, and I can't even stand having it on for a hour while mowing!  I handled two childbirths without anesthesia, but I cannot wear that mask!
Well, she obviously wasn't coming out any time soon, so there was no use peeking over at her anymore.

Now that I was finally settled down, securely fastened, and having made the conscious decision that bathroom breaks or anything that required removing myself from that seat were completely out of the question - with the obvious exception of leaving it forever, or course, hopefully at the end of the journey - I suddenly noticed an odd and equally unpleasant smell. Someone had gas!!

I sneaked a long, sideways glance at the woman with the mask next to me. Was that why she wore that mask, I wondered? Does she have gas and protects her nose from it? Nah, that's not likely, I thought. People are seldom bothered by their own gassy smells; they can sit in a crowded bus totally unaffected while bodies fall left and right for three aisles in all directions.

Next I turned my attention to the two gentlemen in front of me. I stared at them, waiting for one of them to sneak looks around him to see if anyone was passing out from his odiferous presence. But neither of them did. They were both deeply engrossed in reading and never lifted their heads. However, I really do believe I could see one shift ever so slightly in his seat every once in a while, perhaps letting one rip silently but leathally through the self-contained, regurgitated air that we would have to breathe over and over for the next several hours.

I peeked at the lady again, mask in place, and wondered what she'd say if I ripped it off her face and stuck it on mine.

After a while the smell dissipated, but then returned again. And again and again and again. Occassionally the man on the aisle got up (I presumed to visit the men's room) but the smell always came back, as did he. Hmmm, any connection? Having given up on the idea of snatching the mask, I thought perhaps I would very kindly stand in the aisle, lean over the two men and offer them a Gax-X or something, but that would have again required movement which my seatbelt would not allow. So I sucked it in, quite literally, and tried to think of past experiences that were far worse than this one.  Remember that day, I told myself, when I drove a school bus full of kids to the pig farm. Ah, yes, those cute little piglets! Who knew they stunk so badly!!! And the bus broke down there and we had to wait for over an hour while the battery charged so we could make out escape.  Surely that was worse!  Then the odor would waft my way again, and I wasn't so sure who would win the contest, the piglets or whoever was coloring my world stinky!

Well, thank goodness, like all things, good and bad, the flight finally came to an end, and the bustle of getting out of the plane, finishing my journey and getting on with life drove the memory far away from me as I busyed myself in preparing my escape, jockeying for position to exit that steel tube that hurtles throught the skies. I'm always glad when we land in one piece; that's usually my major concern. So I gave no further thought to the pesky seatbelt, which was probably as thrilled (if such is possible) to be released from containing my ample girth as I was to be extricated from its greedy, grabbing clutches. I could stand again -- heck, I could breathe again!! Jubilation big time!!!

And so here I am, reliving the nightmare and making this determination: I'm starting another diet TODAY!!! After all, the next trip I want to make should be to Greece. Enough said!
Well, hope you enjoyed.  Of course, I still here planning that trip to Greece, and I'm still dieting, and the seats have shrunk yet again.  Wonder how much a cruise to Greece from the US would cost. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I love Winston...

I love Winston. No, not the dog or the former PM. I love Winston-Salem. But at times I miss "the city." What city? How could you ask? It’s EVERY CITY.

Every fall I get the urge to just get up and go (probably the result of less humidity in the air allowing me to reclaim the energy I lost throughout the hot, sticky summer months gets my juices flowing). But I know that's not that real reason. I’ve always loved fall best. No matter where I’ve lived, fall has always been my favorite time of year. It's the time, when I was skinny, that I spent the most amount of money on clothes! Ahh, I still remember my favorite outfit from 1968! (Yes, we did have fashion before Project Runway): A brown knit skirt, a burnt orange turtleneck and (my favorite part) a brown SUEDE vest (sorry PETA friends)!

Now I no longer wish for clothes but the ability to travel in the fall. And where do I want to go? "The city!" Again, What city?

Oh, I long to go to Pike's Market in Seattle; to stroll past the brownstones in north end of Manhattan; to have lunch at a real Japanese restaurant in the garment district (sake and all), and dinner in Little Italy; to walk along Lake Michigan in Chicago and enjoy the wind blowing through my hair; to tour ALL the museums in DC. I'd go the Wait, Wait show in Chicago on Thursday night, followed by the Chicago Symphony that weekend; I'd hit Broadway at night and MOMA during the day; I'd visit Dale Chihuly and beg him to let me spend the day with him, touring his workshop and losing myself in his incredible art; I'd hike through Mt. Rainier and revel in the fact that you can still play with the snow on the warmest of summer days; I'd have a picnic lunch in Olympia and watch the otters play; I'd walk the streets of Old Qu├ębec eating French onion soup and buying watercolors from local artists; I'd feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square and just drink in the atmosphere that is London; I’d stay up late into the night, listening to the sweet sounds of a saxophone played beneath my window in San Francisco.

And to think of all the places I HAVEN'T been! Well, I suppose it's a good thing or I'd spend even more time missing them and longing to return.

But I do love Winston-Salem. And, unfortunately, because you're so always busy working and living in a place, sometimes its many attributes pass you by. Perhaps I will finally get to that concert I've been planning on for the past 10 years at the Stevens Center and finally get to see Robert Moody in action, or stroll down Trade Street next weekend to check out the local art. Maybe next year I’ll make it to at least one of the concerts in the park and take at least one cooking classes at the Stocked Pot. And what about that stained glass class and the watercolor class I never got to take at the Sawtooth Center?

You see, those are just a FEW of the things I haven’t yet done in my own hometown! Imagine if we had an eternity to live, all the places we could visit, all the friends we could make, all the tastes we could savor!!!

Love to all of you in all those far-away places! Grow where you're planted, but never lose your yearning for what’s beyond your own front door!!

So, to begin with.....

You know how some people have a lot to say about really important, life-changing, earth-shaking causes, events or agendas?  Well, I'm not one of them.  Loquacious I am; erudite I am not! 

My mind fills with images of places and things, people and foods, colors and smells.  I am not a writer, nor a poet, nor, perhaps, particularly interesting.  But I love people and love to listen and share.  Music is my passion; my instrument is my voice.  My brain switches from one language to another without any bidding from my consciousness, which can sometimes be confusing even for me.  So what do I want to share with you?  Myself. 

Please feel free to join me as I wander through my mind.  Feel free to express yourselves as well!.  But whatever you do, keep it clean!  I have no need to clutter my happy, carefree mind with insults, slurs and cursing from the murky minds of those not so inclined as I.  So if you want to be uplifiting and share your life, talking about anything that amuses, befuddles or simply intrigues you, please share your thoughts with me (or, hopefully, us).

Welcome to my world, apples to oranges.  Come wander with me!