Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be
Category Archives: Holiday
Sometimes a Brit can remind you how safe and sane we are as Americans. Or at least, delude ourselves to be.
A standing routine of mine is Documentary Day. Usually a Sunday, if not dedicated to doing something away from the screen or requiring the brain (one in the same, right?) With March Madness ABSOLUTELY earning its name this year, I needed something to help me restore faith in my fellow countrymen, to see Americans as my compatriots again, and to do it in the most non-polarizing way possible.
My friends, Stephen Fry in America. Watch it. It’s on Netflix or elsewhere on the Interwebs and it’s magic. Yes, I did try to embed it and failed so I’d rather you just type-y type-y in the search engine…saves us both effort.
While it’s all from the perspective of a sensible, self-described neurotic, it’s a valid take on what people of other nationalities think of us; we, the insular, proud, and megalomaniac U S of A.
I had me a good round of laughs in a reclined state, and by the end of Season 1 I actually felt better about my national assignment and my chosen station in life. Spirits not quite restored, but yeah, feeling a bit more Mericuh! after it.
I found Season 1, Episode 4 hit some familiar notes in that a few of my novels are based on or about the places he happened to visit. So there’s synchronicity folded in too. Huh.
On March 8th, ARTPool Gallery hosted the Mad Hatter’s Masquerade Ball. In a word, trippy!
I gladly served as Steampunk Marie’s photographer for the evening, but of course, couldn’t come to the masquerade sans costume! Marie helped me whip up a Rainbow Brite-meets-Luz Benedict mashup. For a trusty steed to my colorful bandida, Spartacus the Unicorn.
Two magical things happened while Marie and I floated the ball. I’ll share in sub-story form:
C’mon Margarita. You Know Unicorns Are Cuter Than Cats
As we waited at the left arm of the runway T for the show to start, a woman wearing a red hat and cheery disposition approached the three of us. “Oh my goodness, she has a unicorn on her hand!” she squealed over to her decorated friend, then turned to me, “Can I talk to your unicorn?”
“Of course you can talk to me,” Spartacus replied.
“What’s your name?”
“Spartacus. What’s yours?” His voice strong and secure. A reliable steed, indeed.
“My name is Margarita. Oh, you’re so adorable!” Margarita’s hands cup Spartacus’ pink cheeks.
Humbled, Spartacus responds, “Thank you so much. You’re not so bad looking yourself.”
Margarita giggled like a school girl towards Spartacus, then to her friend, then towards me. Then she was struck confused. She went back to Spartacus.
“Ohh, I wish I brought a cat puppet! So-and-so, we shoulda brought cat puppets! Cats are soo much cuter than unicorns.”
Spartacus pinched his bottom lip.
Margarita implores, “No, I don’t mean you’re not cute, but cats are cuter.” Her hands cup Spartacus’ face once much to assure him, but he’s visibly burned.
“Come on now. Come on now, Margarita!” She chuckles as Spartacus sternly admonishes her, “You know unicorns are way cuter than cats. Come on now.”
She giggles toward her friend once more. “It was nice talking to you, Spartacus.”
“You too, Margarita. Enjoy the show.”
That bitch just talked to my hand for five minutes straight.
Time for the costume contest! I tuck Spartacus away so I can command the camera. Marie jumps up on stage as a contestant. I take some broad shots with her and the other contestants. Steampunk Marie smartly stood above a flood light, so I just had to squidge down and capture her lighting. Difficult to do, by the way, in that the Miss Me cowgirl jeans I had on constricted my entire groin area!
Click click click I capture Steampunk Marie’s awesome hat competing with other awesome hats. I angle back to capture the line up just at the moment when Marie is interviewed by the show’s emcee. “My name is Marie, and I designed my whole costume…” The crowd cheers her designer talent, which makes me grin like a proud momma. “…and I call this Steampunk Marie!” to which the crowd, clearly full of Steampunk fans, cheers delightedly.
I snap the photo.
A squeaky, nasally young woman’s voice asks behind me, “What’s steampunk?” with a pinched delivery of prejudice and superiority.
The voice that followed hers, who I deduced 1) was her date 2) secretly hates her but enjoys her blowjobs so he tolerates her 3) agreed to wear a mask – but ONLY a mask – to this stupid fashion show, responded in the most condescending way possible:
“You don’t know what Steampunk is?”
It took the strength of Atlas to keep me from baw haw hawwing into that snotty woman’s face and high-fiving Condescending Hipster Dude. I’m on duty, after all. Click, click, click!
It’s fun and I’m sure we’ll be playing dress-up again soon!
Continuing on flaunting my ChickBro status this week, with a dash of celebrating Women’s History Month, I’m gonna share one of my favorite sports memories.
Picture this… Mannheim. Germany. 1992. Freshman year of high school, Mannheim American High School Homecoming Week.
It’s Powder Puff time.
I had been chomping at my bit for this since Freshman Initiation. The MAHS Seniors put up a grand advance, but we 8th graders going on to 9th grade returned with an offense that would’ve made General Douglas MacArthur proud! And amongst shrapnel of shaving foam and egg shells, I distinctly recall a CERTAIN Senior doing the two-eyes-pointing-at-her-then-at-me thing as she and the other defeated cleared the battlefield.
It’s Powder Puff time. Freshmen vs. Seniors. And she and I are both on the field.
Coach serving as referee circled us freshman to one side, seniors to the other. “This is flag football, ladies. No touching, no tackling.”
Eyes shot lasers across the demarcated center field line. Clearly none of us heard that.
Coach drags his hand across his chest. “No hitting the letters on your chests.” Clever way to say, ‘no tit punches’, Coach. Snarls exchanged across the line. Clearly none of us heard that.
“Seniors, take it easy on the smaller women.” Coach had a right to declare that. Most of the Senior class of 1992 were Pacific Islanders. I’m not saying they’re big. I’m saying. They are BIIIIG WOMEN. I was rocking a buck fiddy myself those days, so I can comment thusly.
“Alright, let’s have some fun out there!” We clap in unison to break, and take to field position.
I, having just tried out for cheerleading (making base of course) and tried out for volleyball, of which the Islanders ruled, I was ready to show them these thick thighs in motion. I squatted down to join the freshmen offense, ready to guard my QB, and I watch as Ol’ Revenger, at the last minute, switch places with the senior in front of me. She gives me that nod, that ‘payback’s a bitch’ nod.
Play is called, I lurch up and forward from my squat with my arms crossed, elbows out. She’s meeting me with the same ram. And, SMASH! The girl runs right over me.
Flat on my back.
That. Was. AMAZING!
The play continues without me. Seniors are cheering, so I guess it was an incomplete. I pop back up, get ready for the next play action. The seniors are talkin’ mad shit, but I’m just smiling. I ache, but it’s a good ache. We set along the line of scrimmage. “You ain’t scared?” she half mocks/half compliments across from me. She was one of the volleyball tryout judges. She scored me for JV, ideally to be my team captain.
Play is called. I’m having the time of my life. Lots of whisteblowing from coach, because we didn’t catch the part where we couldn’t knock, punch, pinch, smack, squeeze to get to the flag. We’re soldiers’ kids, whaddya expect?
My father got his PCS orders, so we ended up moving to America after freshman year. But man, did I enjoy playing football! Title IX, while in effect, must’ve not hit Texas yet, so I couldn’t try out for high school football, but I TOTALLY would have, and I totally would’ve stuck with lineman.
I’m happy that school girls participate in and excel at high school football, and many female professional athletes are condoning high school athletics as a form of empowerment. While I missed out on continuing my love for playing football, I will continue to support young women in all sports.
So this happened this past weekend:
And what was so weird about it was, I put no pressure or heat on the frames. As casually as any of you lenswearers would slide a pair of glasses onto your face, that’s how much pressure I applied, and, PLACK!! They just…fell apart.
But the event made me remember another inexplicable demise of something very necessary at a most inconvenient time:
[Cue Law & Order SVU's dun dun dun!]
It was Memorial Day Weekend, 2012, and I was in Washington, D.C. to attend my sorority daughter’s wedding. I hadn’t seen my daughter or her chapter sisters since 2008, and hadn’t done anything sorority-related since, so this was going to be a reacquiantance/presentation moment for me. Gotta look good for the sorors!
So in my arsenal of outfits I included a pair of pumps I’d had since 2003, worn on very few occasions but they were crowd pleasers: black stiletto open toed pumps with a delicate ankle band, trimmed in gold with colorful, gilded flowers dotting the sides and back. Sooooooooper cuuuuuuuute.
I arrived at the Crystal City hotel midday, and attempted to contact my daughter but of course, day before the big event, she’s not going to be available to entertain me. I knew my granddaughter was standing in her wedding party, who I had yet to meet, but also not available. The only other sister I knew from our time at Vanderbilt University was also in the wedding party and likely unavailable.
Sucked hard for me, because D.C. ranks high in Cities I Like To Rawk My Balls Off In. So fine, no one around, not gonna bar hop alone in downtown D.C. (I’m crazy, but not THAT crazy), so I opted to curl up in the middle of my bed. I believe Die Hard was just about to start on one of the cable channels.
A text message bleeps my phone: where u at auntie?
Ohh snap. My niece! I figured since she’s part of the wedding party, she’d be too tired to hang out. But I had forgotten: she’s MY niece. Hits me with her room number.
My text back: Be there in 15.
She greets me at her door and we close the four-year gap in our lives with a big hug. I meet the other sisters in town for the wedding, not in the party, and finally, my grandbaby, proving she’s related to me, without question down to hang out for the night. After small talk we decide to bar hop with some other wedding attendees more familiar with the local haunts. I went back to my room, switched into Night Mode with the Crowd Pleasers on my feet, and we went our merry way via taxi to a segment of P Street where the other people were going to meet us at.
The gist of the evening: bar, drink, other bar, drink, club, flirt, drink, other club, dance. And again, we’re along P Street, not venturing any more than two blocks to visit venues. But while we’re at the last club, I feel a bit of a hesitation on the bottom of one high heel. It looks as if the sole was pulling away. I discount it as latent effect from the friction of dancing and keep winding my waist.
Last call at the bar, then city ordinance kicks us out, and we’re on the streets of D.C. loitering with other club bunnies. I am ANCIENT compared to these spry twentysomethings, so while they’re harangued by every other dude exiting the nightclubs, I stride over towards a brownstone intending to rest my weary body on a stoop. That’s when I hear STTTTTRRRRIIIIPPPPP! The entire bottom of my shoe pulls off! One of the ladies pauses her sorority strolling along P Street to assist me, by ripping the rest of it off. Then, because she thinks in the macro sense, she relieves my other sole, so that I can walk evenly on the residuals. That sister is going to run a nation one day, mark my words.
But then it was painfully obvious why shoes have soles in the first place, and any attempt to walk along the wide, cobbled sidewalks that are uniquely D.C. was causing me duress. Finally, a fleet of flying taxis and I spot The Red One, the red taxis will run you to Alexandria and Crystal City expressly. I clop clop clop from the brownstone towards the taxi, and that’s when I hear, “You are looking mighty fine this evening, Miss Lady.”
I stop my enflamed feet, stagger to balance on these Borgia-esque torture devices and plant my hands on my hips. “Yeah? Well I’m not feeling mighty fine.” Then I call over to my niece, “I’m gettin’ in this cab. Ya’ll comin’ or what?” I pay the gentleman caller no heed and continue forward, for as I continue to walk on these threadbare devices, they’re just falling apart. I’m feeling the sides of the shoes flap away, the ankle band now a clumsy means of keeping a semblance of shoe attached. Once in the cab, the shoes disintegrated.
Never in my life had I done the Walk Home From The Club With No Shoes On thing, but I had no choice.
But it gets better folks.
Next day, Wedding Day. I had bought a new pair of shoes to compliment the cobalt blue dress to compliment my daughter’s wedding colors. The entire time at the church, lovely. The entire time at the reception, lovely. It wasn’t until we went to the vodka bar along DuPont Circle that my shoes decide to fall apart. I’m beside myself. The Crowd Pleasers, fine, we’ll chalk it up to expired warranty. But I literally JUST BOUGHT THESE A WEEK PRIOR!
Mystery. Complete mystery.
Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be
Remember I invited you to the wine tasting this past Saturday? Well, Marie and I went and, well, lemme tell ya.
Before I turn into a tart, let me set up the scene: me, former wine and cigar enthusiast, Marie, former chef. Both of us congested from the gloomy winter weather, so our noses and palettes were facing a challenge.
Our first stop was visiting with the handsome, engaging gentleman representing Angulo Innocenti, Mariano Innocenti. His family’s vineyard is located in Mendoza, Argentina in a low lying, rocky region overlooked by the Andes. Along with grapes, they grow walnuts and fruits on their property. He poured us a sample of his Malbec. A woman joining us at his table noted she’d never tried reds before, she was partial to whites. I held the glass to my lips to watch her reaction, the same reaction most people who aren’t into dry wines give, that puckered face indicating harshness. I fought my congestion to smell the bouquet; earthy, not punchy, no pepper. I ingested it and felt it smooth, almost a buttery finish. In my mind I paired it with a short rolled Maduro of the Ybor City variety.
Bacchus smiled upon us. The nibbles table was freshly replenished with a spread of meat and spinach-filled empanadas just as we turned around. REAL empanadas! Perfectly executed. As I noshed on my empanadas, Marie sailed us towards the Ernesto Catena table. I continued shoving food in my face while she delivered the requisite “how yoo dooin’?” to the HAWT vineyard representative. Marie produced his business card, cuz she’s a bawse, his name is Mauricio. Ernesto Catena Vineyards is also located in Mendoza, Argentina.
He presented two styles of Malbec, one heavy with oak, the other, more fruit notes. I enjoyed the former. We discovered his English was spare, so we kindly launched into Spanish to make Mauricio more comfortable, or, at least, more entertained. My Spanish depends on the dialect I’m around, but with the wine and empanadas in me, my accents were hopping the globe. Meanwhile, Marie kept up by listening to Mauricio speak and smiling coyly as she responded with English.
In my best Valley Girl accent, I said to her, “Me gustaria hablar en Espanol como las Blancas.”
Marie responded with, “Tu eres una puta.”
And we’re in there like swimwear.
We gave beautiful, delightful Mauricio some space to work while we visited the sole representative from Chile, Cono Sur. They hail from the San Antonio region. Yet another table of tall, gorgeous, dedicated craftsmen, and Marie and I are now trying to work out how to move to South America and open a B&B near these guys. Why are all South American men beautiful??
We engage one of the gentlemen, and I ask about his white wines. Note to those new to the wine tasting thing: if you know nothing about wine, be honest. These guys want you to enjoy wine the way they do, and they’re happy to assist you in finding one that appeals to your palette. In my case, I told this well-dressed, lovely eyed man I’m not a fan of whites, but I want to find one I can enjoy with friends who insist on white wine. He introduced us to their Sauvignon Blanc. I noticed the label said ‘organic’ as he poured it, and frowned. I’ve had organic wines recently. They are, in a word, shit. Not this one. Very oaky, green peppery, citrus notes, lovely soil, I was standing on the summit of the Andes spinning in place with my arms splayed. Magic. How? He entered into this very engaging description of how they process the wine, reducing the sugars to just 7 grams, leaving that clean taste, resulting in an organic wine that can stand with the classics.
The second wine he presented with great pride, introducing it as the star of Cono Sur, the Pinot Noir. The nose to it was heaven. Marie and I drank, and immediately fell in love with its body. Savory, citrusy, full, deep soil. It conjured up pairing with venison, maybe bison, pheasent. Marie agreed; it was a wine that was perfect for a complex dish. Marie and I talk about food like college frat boys talk about sex, so for us to start planning meals at the mere sip of this wine is a high compliment. Our sommolier was pleased. Gorgeously pleased. His assertiveness, posturing, intellect, maaan… that’s my kind of hype. Then I realized, I’m tipsy. Smartly, he walked away.
“Hey Marie, we didn’t try the white wines at the Ernesto table.”
We flirted up Mauricio some more as we tried the Sauvignon from his vineyard. Marie bore a wide contented smile across her face, which I’ve learned is her finish line smile. Mauricio asked if we wanted more wine. I turned and asked her, “Do you want another round?” then politely silenced as the little angel and devil parked on opposite her shoulders engaged in a debate. Finally she said, “Nah, I’m good.” We slinked (slunk?) away and did the responsible thing: went down the candy aisle and grabbed some chocolate bars for the ride home.
BLUE RIBBON: CONO SUR – Pinot Noir
ANGULO INNOCENTI – Malbec
ERNESTO CATENA – Malbec
CONO SUR – Sauvignon Blanc
Because I love you, I’m gonna save you some dignity. Trust me, you’ll understand after you read.
Back in the yearin Oh Seven, I had me a curio bout the Nordie folk tale of a rabbey en him magick hole. (Shouts to David Mitchell, yo) This was the beginning of Spring semester 2007. A fellow cohort in my Science Technology and Society graduate minor program, Jenn, a lifelong Pennsylvanian, said she and her brother may be planning to go up to Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day. I said, hey, if that happens, count me in. Doubt I’ll ever be up in these parts again, sounds like a thing to do.
Early, I’m talkin’ errrrrrrrly that 2nd of February, we leave from State College after a very necessary stop at Sheetz for brekky and coffee up on 322W towards the town of that very spirited tradition, the witnessing of a ground rodent’s shadow to predict if the winter continues longer. I knew of it from the Bill Murray classic, Groundhog Day, and I remember our February school room calendars decorated with Punxsutawney Phil along with hearts and cupids and head shots of presidents.
I figured a place with ‘Punx’ in its name would be, by default, cool. It ain’t. Alright, first, the early morning call is because the crowd gets thick around 5am. If you want a good view of the ceremony, you have to be in town, up the hill (there’s a hill), in position, and you cannot leave that position lest risk losing view. There’s no stadium seating around the hole, go figure. It’s an hour and a half drive from State College, so I figure we’re relatively okay.
We smartly filled up at Large Grocery Store Complex with snacks and sandwich goods in a cooler to keep with us as we hold position. Sure, there’s tents set up for hot cocoa and street food and artisanal wares, but again, risk losing optimum rodent viewing. Interesting was the moment Jenn mentioned, ‘you have to look out for my brother. He’s a little strange.’ Like, grab girls’ butts as they pass him in the crowd strange, or has a sniper rifle in his long coat and plans to take Punxsutawney Phil out strange? Before I could ask for clarification, she hits me with, ‘oh, and… No alcohol allowed on the hill.’
It’s Six Degrees Fahrenheit at 5am. Whiskey needs to be in my life, as a survival tool. She coulda mentioned this before we left, so I could’ve had my flask at the ready. But they check bags and monitor the crowd for such things. As they say up in dem parts, criminey!!
So alright, early ass morning, no alcohol, trapped like sardines til The Big Show. Just when the sun starts making its way up, signaling time for Phil to do his thing, Jenn’s brother is nowhere around us. She casually says, ‘He escaped.’ Escaped? That’s the verb we’re using? Someone escaping in a large crowd on purpose can only mean terror/disaster/hysteria. At that moment, not my problem, cuz here comes a bunch of old, White men wearing top hats, waistcoats, coattails, spats, I mean, they’re into this. And the fact they’re only wearing that and no furs or thermals means they’re dedicated to the game. Super Bowl XLVIII ticket holders have nothing on the Committee, or whatever they’re called.
The crowd clusters, I crane and crook into a clean view of the tree stump Phil’s gonna do the observation from. Then with much applause, a HUGE dirt rodent is hoisted in the air by the Committee Head. Then he’s placed on the stump. And then…
…every member of the committee enters into a huddle OVER Punxsy Phil! Blocking out the sun with their bodies! Really??
To which one steps back and proclaims whatever Phil saw, which I couldn’t hear, because I was screaming out, ‘DIS IS BUUUUUUSHHHEEEEIIIITTTT!’ If it wasn’t for the fact there was a pancake breakfast on the Main Street immediately after, I may have snatched Jenn by her pretty brown curls and shook her body with them.
Miraculously her brother showed up, with no explanation as to where he went. I housed about six to eight pancakes, a low number, because I wasn’t thawed out completely. The Main Street was lined with tents, activity centers, booths, street shows, all that you would expect for a holiday celebration. The local movie house played all day, you guessed it, Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. You can tell the local chamber and officials put a lot of effort into providing entertainment for all us shmucks who just got conned by Marmota Monax and his well-dressed henchmen.
Jenn made up for the lackluster show by taking us to a winery she knew about off of 322W on the way back home. Years of cell damage limit me from remembering the location, the owner’s name, or the name of the fantastic blush I had, but it sure did make up for the farce that is Punxsutawney Phil’s Big Day.