Tuesday, November 8, 2011
I hope you'll consider moving too. And perhaps signing up for email alerts.
My latest essay, a short one, is about meeting the legendary Smokin' Joe Frazier. A girlhood dream. Perhaps a strange girlhood dream. But there you have it.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
|Performance by Arachne Aerial Arts|
"Thanks for watching her. The warehouse where I'm rehearsing is filled with sharp metal shavings."
I hate when that happens.
No worries, I reassure her. Company for my son means I can get more done. Sometimes two are better than one.
Sharon's daughter is an only child like my son. And like some singletons (a word I learned from Parents magazine) he occasionally asks for a sibling. I get that. What I don't get is when other parents ask, not if, but when I'm having a second child. What if I can't? What if I won't?
I'm surprised to learn that people plan such things as siblings. The whole concept of sibling math is new to me. If so-and-so is two years old, we should have so-and-so in less than three years but no more than five.
But this is coming from a woman who is also shocked to learn that some little girls, and some not so little girls, dream of their future wedding. Complete with tear sheets and story boards. I've never been much of a planner.
Sharon's advice, though, is spot on. Get a cat. Hell, get two. This satisfied her daughter's craving for a playmate.
"What he doesn't realize," she adds, nodding in my son's general direction, "is that you're not going to pop out a 5-year old brother for him to play with."
|Sharon Witting and Andrea Burkholder (Photo by Enoch Chan)|
The laughter then turns to abdominal cramping. And I wonder where I could put a litter box.
Monday, August 1, 2011
|David Sedaris 2007|
"You should read David Sedaris. You'll love him." That's what one of the Wenches said to me recently at our monthly W.E.N.C.H. meeting in Washington, DC where I live.
(W.E.N.C.H., a professional woman's group I founded, stands for Women Exploring New Career Hemispheres. I wanted to name it Careers Undergoing New Transformation, but the ladies voted that one down.)
So I did just that. I read three of his essay collections and loved them. Funny. Self-deprecating. Dark. All things I love. I began imagining that with practice, focus, and the proper amount of childcare, maybe one day I could be a humorist writer like Sedaris. Except with boobs. And hair.
I start researching his agent because that's what Betsy Lerner, in her book The Forest for the Trees, recommends as a smart first step. After I type "David Sedaris" in Yahoo, the first hit is not his representation information, but rather "Chicken Toenails, anyone?", an article he published on July 15 in the UK's Guardian newspaper.
The article floors me. It's not his usual hysterical account of Life as David. It's a mean, scathing diatribe of his recent visit to China with not a trace of the self-deprecation for which he's so famed. No disclaimers of any sort. He just drones on and on about the lack of sanitary conditions and the poor quality of food, sounding like a hoity toity bitch. And I don't call just anyone hoity toity.
Maybe I fell in love with Sedaris too quickly and now I'm seeing him in the morning with bad breath, scratching himself through dirty, worn boxer shorts.
I fell in love with China too. But that took much longer. It's where I lived for several years, the first half of my 20s to be exact. It's where I got one of my degrees, making me the first Westerner to graduate from Henan University. It's where I became Kaifeng's Beer Girl with television ads and everything.
|View from my beloved tiny, humble, concrete room at Henan Univeristy, Kaifeng, China.|
I won't go in for a tit-for-tat. Not here anyway. Jeff Yang, in his follow-up article "David Sedaris talks ugly about China" published in the San Francisco Chronicle, does a better job than I could. And he's Chinese.
I'm just wondering what happened. Was it the typical you-become-famous-and-turn-your-venom-outward syndrome? Sedaris, in his secluded fame bubble, should remember his own recipe for success. Direct the venom where it belongs, at himself.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Heat wave hits Washington, DC. Temperatures to reach 103 degrees.
But my apartment is cool. And shady. Mainly because my husband is a master of something he calls, Shade Management. He is so serious about this concept that as I type, he's on the roof blocking our skylight with a blue camping tarp. My son squeals with joy "It's blue in here! Can we leave it like this forever?"
|I'm not exaggerating.|
Naked windows let in the view. And the scorching sun. So, he's taped cardboard to one, clipped a beach towel over another and, in the kitchen, stapled one of my favorite sheets to the wall, promising that he didn't put a hole in it. And here I've been living foolishly under the impression that making a hole is integral to the stapling process.
He also rigged the floor ducts with pencils and books to redirect cold air away from the windows where it immediately gets sucked out and burned to a crisp. They look like a snares for trapping small woodland creatures should the take-out grid go down. Which is exactly why I'm a loyal viewer of Dual Survivor. They cover things like that.
Some would complain. But actually, it inspires the survivalist in me.
Wind-up flashlight? Check. Canned tuna? Lots. Can opener? Got it. (You need only have that nightmare once.) Plenty of candles, bottled water and Zip Car on my speed dial should my attempts at hot wiring an escape vehicle fail.
I go into survival mode very quickly. And becoming a mother has only quickened my response time.
When a tornado warning threatened DC, I packed emergency food supplies before the first raindrop fell. Actually, I was still breast feeding at the time and therefore a Survival Goddess. Not only would I be able to feed my son without modern technologies, but I could also treat wounds because breast milk acts as a topical antiseptic. When choosing teams in a game of Judgement Day, always pick the nursing woman.
Right at Your Door because nothing goes as expected in that one. Although, I do recommend it.
And of all the decorating styles out there, Modern Armageddon isn't so bad. The only thing I'm missing is a bad-ass costume which seems to be a necessity when all systems break down.
Though, as great as this full-length leather trench would be for looting a grocery store of all non-perishables while evading armed foreign interlopers, it could be a little hot in a heat wave.
Monday, July 18, 2011
"Hey, let's buy a lighthouse."
There's also my son to consider. It could very well shape his future. Or scar it. Either way, he could write a book about it one day. "My parents decided it would be a good idea to raise their son in a lighthouse. Here's my story ..." It is our job as parents to give him options after all.
Monday, July 11, 2011
First, name three things that have seemingly nothing in common. Then find a common thread that connects them together in 500 words or less.
I'll go first.
1. Fisher-Price Little People
|Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market, Washington DC|
The racial profiling helps. I find her easily, something I expected. It's a small market. What I didn't expect was my emotional attachment to these little plastic people as I explain how much they meant to my son. "The school bus sings a safety song," I sniff.
I pull it together and buy some peaches. Then mingle. I see Holly, my son’s favorite yoga instructor. He’s taken as many yoga classes as I have and has been infinitely more successful. Once I fell asleep and drooled all over the rental mat. Another time I was kicked out. But that’s deserves its own 500 words.
Remembering what I heard in one yoga class, I tell the Universe what I want. "Please don't let these drunks see the flyer and understand the meaning of 'Open House.' Namaste." I realize this makes me a candidate for some sensitivity training course. I'm at peace with that too.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
|"Fancy Fillies" by art deco artist Jeff Williams.|
On Kentucky Derby day, the crowd I see picnicking in Georgetown, Washington's rich, historic neighborhood, with their elaborate hats and seersucker, covers the decadent part. Now for depraved.
In my favorite pizza joint where I get a slice and a pint for $5, I wouldn't exactly call the young woman wearing a millinery mess two feet in diameter, depraved. More like obnoxious as it clogs up the aisle. However, another Derby Girl, overly dressed and stumbling drunk at 4 in the afternoon, bangs up against the wall on the way back to her barstool. That's more like it.
I wonder if the woman who chose to swathe her head in yards of turquoise netting has a bet in the Derby. Does she know what OTB stands for? Has she ever been to a horse race? Or does she just like hats. Hard to tell. Now I'm being judgmental. I feel I have the right. A strange, inappropriate thing to feel. But when I hear "They're at post!" I'm a little girl again, back at the races, where instead of chiffon dresses and sprigs of herbs, there's old man wool and flat beer. Can't a girl wax nostalgic? Without all the young posers?
|My Grandma Katie, Grandpa Steve and Uncle Caiden at The Track.|
I loved the race track. I'd spend all day kicking asides cigarette butts to collect the worthless losing tickets that carpeted the floor. Everyone held them with such white-knuckled grips, whapping them against their thighs yelling for that "Goddamned horse to get the fucking lead out!" that they just had to be special.
And sometimes they were.
I was about three years old, when I handed my father a treasured scavenged ticket telling him it was special. The ticket showed a losing 3, 4 perfecta. Gamblers are a superstitious lot. So, of course he bet it. And hit for $500. The 3, 4 perfecta remained his bet, boxed usually, for decades to come. Not the luckiest of gamblers, he studied old racing forms as if trying to crack code. He knew things like which horses to bet on if the track was muddy. And to bet more if your horse just peed because it'd be lighter. Stuff you just can't learn from the horse betting books that lined his shelves.
|My mother yelling for he horse coming down the stretch.|
|Dougie after winning some money for my mom.|
Visiting my parents as an adult, we would still go. But it wasn't the same. Over time, even my parents stopped going. It's now called Mountaineer Park. Gambling machines draw the crowds, not the horses. Sad.
|Hunter S. Thompson|
Before you suck your teeth at that one, do know that in addition to the horse track, another common family outing was the shooting range at the Paris Sportsman Club. That's Paris, Pennsylvania. Not France. So, I'm betting that Gun Enthusiast Hunter wouldn't mind the suicide crack.
I understand why some may want to pretend that horse racing is gentile and highbrow. But I prefer Mr. Thompson's lurid version. It's closer to home.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
"Why in the world do we own a laminator?"
First, this is quite the reversal. Usually he's the one making fun of my hesitance toward accepting new technologies. It was two years ... TWO YEARS ... before I learned he had something called a Facebook page. He was sure I wouldn't be interested. Then, last year, I got on Facebook.
"Hey! Look! I'm Friending you!" I yell across the room from my computer to his. "Look, we're Friends. Now ... I ... am ... wait for it ... Married! Hey, wait a minute. Why doesn't your status say Married? Why aren't you Married? ... Oh. Look. Now you're Married. Never mind. You were right. This is going to be fun!"
But now he questions my most recent foray into a high-tech life. My response to him is simple.
What can't I laminate? The possibilities are endless.Well. That's not true. The possibilities end at a thickness of exactly 3 millimeters. Then things jam up almost immediately. They also end at 8.5 inches by 11 inches. Which is why I still plan to keep a lot of packing tape around. For bigger jobs.
Actually, I'm late coming to the personal lamination party. I've been preserving things in clear packing tape for years. Give me a sturdy shoe box and I can turn it into a personalized storage container with images of my last trip abroad. But inevitably, no matter how careful you are, creases and air bubbles mar the surface. Strands of hair poke out. The postcards and posters I've taped to my kitchen cabinets don't look very ... slick.
Now with my personal thermal laminator I can decorate like a true professional. Nothing can stop my idea of transforming a collage of family photos into a back splash. Except perhaps heat from the oven. That could stop me. Maybe I'll make my personalized coasters first. That's easy. Just wipe that ring of Pinot Noir off my son's face. Guests appreciate these little touches.
And luckily my personal thermal laminator is compact and travels easily. This is important because I plan to bring it on my next trip to see my family in West Virginia.
While my father, a retired steelworker-turned-poet-and-artist, ruined me forever on long division, he did instill a deep love of reading. And Woolf holds RockStar status.
But now he needs me. He needs a lamination intervention. His prolific sketches are taped, stapled, tacked and nailed to the walls throughout their house. All throughout the house. (My father is also a wee bit eccentric. This is a picture I took of him winning at the racetrack.)
On my next visit I will come armed with my portable personal thermal laminator, to not only protect but organize his vast collection of sketches into binders. My father will become a laminate convert. And together will we laminate. Because according to Woolf "we have borne and bred and washed and taught, perhaps to the age of six or seven years" millions and millions of people.
For this we need lamination.
Because that can get really messy.