Wednesday, October 31, 2012

champagne is overrated

Normally I don't indulge my pinterest side but I am logged onto the website and viewing instructions on assembling turkey oreos and I am wondering who has time for this. I keep browsing because like all women I am enamored by the glitter and razzle-dazzle and the darn prettiness of the thing. I remind you that there are no lace curtains in my household or flowery wallpaper although I have admired these things in other women's homes.

I am in Florida to see Sarah get married and her wedding could have been pulled right from that website and I mean that as a serious compliment.

My brother's children are friendly and generous with their time to the elders of the family and that's admirable considering how rarely we say anything interesting. My brother, Sarah's father and I have had our disagreements. There is a scar on his left temple just past the hair line. I hit him hard with a metal ice cube tray back in the 60's and the tray was full of rock-like ice and I'm pretty sure I had a good reason at the time.

We were more violent back then. Monkey bars were embedded in cement slabs and every day our young brains were bombarded with sugar overload from drinking large quantities of Kool-aid and then there were all those Three Stooges episodes we watched.

All things forgiven I still get an invite to the wedding. It is an elegant affair and we are sitting next to a small body of water shaded by trees with swans and a fountain. It is crazy beautiful. No alcohol will be served so we don't have to worry about some one's crazy aunt falling off a chair like the last time. And I am kidding.

The bride is shimmering, literally shimmering in all that lace and her coal black hair is pulled back in a simple chiffon with what I'm guessing are lilies. I don't know these tropical blooms and the Ecuadorian pink roses are everywhere.

I watch my brother walk this gorgeous woman down the aisle and his face struggles with the volume of emotion swelling within and he seems surprised by the enormity of it.  I look for the half-circle scar from the ice tray that his receding hairline should have laid bare and I fail to see it. Like so many useless and perturbing memories it's gone, good riddance.
I raise a glass to this lovely place and company and I would swear this stuff is champagne.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

not so trivial things

Traveling with an elderly parent is like childbirth. Painful and conveniently forgotten as the brain erases all memories of the event insuring you will become impregnated again and keep the species going.  And so I agreed to take another trip with my father and I had forgotten all the mishaps that seem to happen when I travel with the old man. As we were standing in the security line at O'Hare my father told me he had no picture ID on his person and I realized it was going to be a very long trip.

It was a full 45 minutes before we were cleared past the stone-faced airport officials.  Dad kept beeping as he went through the metal-detecting doorway.  Keys, huge outdated mobile phone, coin purse (who has one of these?), suspenders and belt. And he had full shampoo bottles and toothpaste, razor blades and tweezers in his carry-on bag. He was a walking 88-year-old national security threat and I thought his Coke-bottle glasses might offer some protection but this was not the case. I love this man, but I need to monitor his situation more closely.

We are on our way to Florida, land of overly refrigerated rooms and mailboxes in the shapes of sea glass-studded dolphins.  My niece is getting married at Boca Raton which translates as "mouth of the rat." Despite the unfortunate moniker it is a lovely town and we are here to celebrate and eat some really good citrus and catch up on trivial and not so trivial things.

My brother is a Republican but I still spend time with him because he possesses an inexhaustible supply of information on any subject. We are in the back of his van, way back because the middle seat is missing as he is transporting counter tops for his customers back to the home town. He is a small business man and that explains his vote for Romney, the majority of his paycheck goes to Uncle Sam and he's mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore. He is driving and arguing with my father and he says he doesn't fault Mitt for making legal decisions that would result in personal profit and then I need to rouse myself from my tropical daze and get into this misguided discussion.

We travel through West Palm Beach, a town of grunt workers and it's designed purely for the purpose of keeping affluent Palm Beach afloat. You can't park a garbage truck in Palm Beach and staff  must be out by 4:00 just before the first martini gets poured.  Construction halts on November 1 so the richies returning from the French Riveria for their six-week respite in their oceanfront mansions won't be offended by the sight of real citizens working.

Back at the home front my nieces struggle with 500 roses from Ecuador wrapping them into bouquets and boutonnieres and the rest into square glass vases. We are having a wedding and although I am not a big believer in the institution I am feeling buoyant about the whole thing. My brother's daughter is one classy dame and I know the day will be a series of carefully crafted delights.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

monster month, oh yeah

Normally I love October, lovely golden October, but this October sucks and I just need it to be history. The first week I am in traffic court because some vigilante school bus driver says I zoomed through his flashing red lights, liar liar pants on fire.  Later I have a date with my gastroenterologist who wants to shove a two foot tube up my pachookas and chop off parts of my colon for whatever his reason.  But those incidents will rate as strolls through the rose garden compared to what I did last weekend.  Big Dave wanted me to accompany him to the 50th anniversary of his eighth grade graduation from Sacred Heart Elementary School.

They herd us into church for the obligatory Mass followed by a meal in the basement and the menu is cardboard slabs of beef and chicken wrapped in deli ham sprayed with cheese, and corn, there's always that corn but this is Iowa and there is lots of it.

Sister Lucien sat next to me and she was one of the nuns who taught these people so how old would she be. She at first pooh-poohed Dave's offer of a Bud Lite but then she says maybe just half, we could share, all right give me one. Soon after that she finished the can and was moving Dave's beer closer to her own glass. After our cooler went dry she moved to a table with numerous wine cooler bottles and I could hear her telling off color Irish priest jokes.

 A woman is standing at the front of the room holding a stack of index cards full of necessary information for us and I think some of it was supposed to be humorous. She talked about nuns whacking students' fingers with rulers and the classmates were screaming with laughter but then Catholics, all of them, have warped senses of humor and perhaps you know this from your own personal experience.  This woman looks directly at my husband and says, "I just want everyone to know I have had a crush on Dave since the fifth grade." I realize now why her own husband did not attend. I keep waiting for her to add another joke, maybe wink in my direction and acknowledge me somehow in this little skit but no such relief is forthcoming. She leaves this thought hanging in the air for all of us to contemplate and sits down.

 I felt the evening had provided me with more than enough entertainment for my buck and I had to sit and stare at paintings of men in red velvet skirts for almost three hours so I should be allowed to exit gracefully. Usually I stay away from all things Catholic because I can't trust an establishment that refuses to place women in upper management positions. And then there's all those other reasons, too.

Friday, October 5, 2012

jim morrison paris apartment

 Our hostel in Paris is owned by a a charming gay gentleman so it is decently clean and we see no punched-out  holes in the plaster and nothing is growing on the toilet seat and there are dishes and silverware in the cupboard all neatly stacked. We only need to learn to love the bright magenta walls and the grape-colored chairs and I am willing to reconsider the sexual photos of overly ripe orchids on the walls because the bathroom doesn't reek of anything.

Today we will hoof it down to the Seine where all the really interesting stuff is located. It is our second day in this city and I am prepared to do some serious sight-seeing. Yesterday was laundry and groceries and our first taste of a truly good piece of bread but today I will rub up against some of the world's most renowned architecture.

We have walked a couple of hours and it is raining and we are huddled around a table in a brasserie, me with my cafe au chocolat and the boy with his little cup of espresso. We are trying to avoid going back out into that gloomy crappy weather but our snobby garcon is giving us those up-down looks as he takes in our hostel-inspired wardrobe, cargo pants with bulging pockets, windbreaker hoods tied low on our foreheads, and Jason's backpack has a couple of handmade patches. Hey, it works, comprendez-vous? Jesus, these people are rude.

I can practically smell the Louvre from here but I take one last look at my Lonely Planet book and I see a small dot on the map and it says, "house where Jim Morrison died." "Well, now isn't that interesting?" I say to my son who is clearly eyeing the remains of my chocolat. "Let's take a quick shortcut here and check out this little rock and roll tidbit and then we'll hit the heavy stuff."

That was four rain-soaked hours ago.

Let me explain how Paris works. Imagine your living room carpet is the landscape of the city. Take a large garbage can and fill it with marbles. Throw those marbles on the rug and after they land take a felt pen and draw lines connecting them and these would be the streets of Paris. There was no prearranged plan here, no blueprint or meetings with a zoning committee, just a cramming of avenues and alleys into every available space.

This was my idea and my desperation to maintain face leads me to look for odd little signs. I see a Rolling Stone lips and tongue logo, a sticker high up on one side of a building and then there are several French words scribbled on a sidewalk and one of them is l'guitare. Gotta mean something, gotta be close. I hear two gentleman conversing on the corner and they have English accents. I question them and they know nothing but "there is a record store around the corner," the younger one says," and there is a poster of the Doors in the window. Maybe they would know."

Hope renewed but we never find the record shop. We turn into an alley and then another one and then another and then there it is.
 17 Rue Beautreillis. There is no identifying plaque or marker or rotten carnations or shrine or gate around the door, nothing and I am doubting what I see and wonder if I may have wasted a precious afternoon on my Paris clock.

Or have I? When I return to the purple room I google image 'jim morrison paris apartment'' and mon Dieu, there it is, the same featureless door whose threshold I had dripped all over earlier in the day. Jim was there just like I was staring up at the strip of sky between the narrow buildings, walking those crazy wraparound streets, dodging the bicycles and marveling at the beauty of this ancient lady of a city until he wandered home one day, imbibed too much and died in his bathtub. That's too bad. This one's for you, Amy.