The Rub

Sometime this morning, while in my deepest slumber, I dreamt that I was in Hell. Specifically, I was sitting alone in the waiting room. Jon was nowhere in sight and I was trembling in panic. The point that I waited anxiously by myself is moot, however, since that common area only served one office: that of the administrative bureaucracy of Hell and its subsidiaries.

In other words, it was perhaps some sort of fiery version of human resources. It was not unlike that from when I worked for that century-old national concern with Richard and Hap. Prudence delivered me witnesses, although not the courage to name the transgressor.

Naturally, I looked around and didn’t recognize a soul, and I use that term loosely. The clock ticked and tocked with the pace of an anemic snail. Why, oh why did I complain so often while in my 50’s: “Why, oh why does time pass so rapidly?”

I completed all of my paperwork and sat for my identification picture. I shall never again take the DMV in vain.

At that point, the Hades Orientation Ambassador gathered me and perhaps a dozen others and urged us to look around, introduce ourselves, and read the brochures. I’ll never forget the host. She seemed over ten feet tall and looked not unlike the lovechild of Tanya Harding and Michelle Bachman. That is if they could actually copulate and conceive. Horrors.

In the rear of the room was a refreshment station. There were hundreds of incredible bottles of both red and white wines, enough to whip a oenophile into submission. The full-bodied lyrics of Châteaux Lafite Rothschild, Krug, and Pétrus danced in an unfolding melody as I realized that there was n’er a wine-tool in sight. Anywhere.

As I surveyed the room, on what would become a fruitless mission, I quickly glanced at the platters and chafing dishes that were teeming with welcome victuals. I swallowed my gasp when I realized the bounty of raisins, yogurt, cranberry jelly, raw broccoli, and Thousand Island Dressing that was before me.

Then again, it was Hell. I should’ve expected such disappointments.

After a few months, I was well aware of the expectations, routines, amenities (if any), and the litany of the unchangeable: meal times, recreation opportunities, and the mammoth squash of any hope or faith.

There was a television in my room. It received only one channel, a 24-hour “Three’s Company” network.

I also found an unexpected, elaborate sound system. The was one lone Björk CD and a single single (’45’): Donna Fargo’s “Happiest Girl in the Whole USA”.

Death had brought me a new life of fear, boredom, convention, and pain. I started obsessing over my many, many transgressions and beating my chest in a Catholic guilt-stirring fist. The newspaper caught my eye. At least there was something to read.

The lead story, written by Nobel prize-winning author Ann Coulter, began with a printable State of the Afterlife address by President Boehner. It never occurred to me what now seems obvious: He is indeed the Lord of the Flies.

Sacre Bleu. Life is Hell in Hell. Why was I the least bit surprised? The only topic ever discussed more often in bars and pubs involved theories regarding JFK’s assassination, the Warren Report, and life today had the President survived.

I was awakened by both Henry and Marigold licking my cheeks. The time was too unspeakable to even admit in polite conversation.

There was coffee already made and Jon was busy responding to comments made in his many news groups. Life is good.

There’s one Shakespearean chestnut that I’ll be wary of, at least for a while:
“To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to Dream.
Aye, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil?”

(Image: “Le Safari Luminescent” by Émile Morel, 2009.)

Marigold Quickly Acclimates to New Conditions

Happy Sunday, everyone! Notice he says that at almost 5pm on a day slept away.

Jon is still doting on Marigold … to a level of almost feline absurdity.
But not to worry. That kitten has him figured out quickly and identified his most pushable of buttons.

Marigold already: has favorite “impossible to reach” hiding places; shows a curious interest in PBS; and is able to identify the aromas of chicken, blue cheese, and vanilla.

Yes, God sends us pets to keep a watchful eye on us and our shenanigans. We know just how non-judgmental cats are!

It’s relieving to know that, once again, Jon’s misbehavior is neither unnoticed nor for naught.

The Drawer is Finally Shut Tight


To most people, January is the bleakest of months. The thirty one days are defined by arctic snowfalls, an avalanche of debt, empty cupboards, and withdrawal from seasonal camaraderie. Of course, let’s not omit the mighty culprit, those twin mixed blessings of reflection and reminiscence.

It has taken all of my 58 Januarys to realize that, whether or not I “reflect”, the outcome will be the same. So it follows that, unless I intend to react proactively, all of that nostalgia and its caché of mementos best be left alone.

Seal the crypt. Lock the doors. Close the plantation blinds. Close the tattered Fortuny draperies. Close your eyes.

I now deal with one goal at a time. When it’s completed, I move on to something else. Or not. Yes, my “consciousness” is indeed streamed. But it’s the only way I can deal with a month like January.

Lists are to be left to the more obsessive spawn of the Devil. I was once so cursed and stymied. My heart now responds with “it’ll keep” or “there’s no hurry”. My mind simply acquiesces.

But in my dotage, I finally am free of my obsessive compulsiveness. I finally am free to be a friend of Marlo’s.

To think, this new state is all a result of retiring with a bloody disability.

The irony of the Universe. The irony.

(Image: “Pearl, Oyster, Fruit” by Anton Seder, 1890.)

Ain’t Nothing Going On but the Mortgage Payment


Naturally, Jon and I don’t believe in traditional, almost stereotypical room identities. The boundaries of bedroom, office, dining room, and den not only overlap quite a bit but are nearly obliterated.

These days, I rarely admit to anyone that I had been an interior designer for almost twenty years. I imagine that ambulance drivers, the men who installed heat downstairs, or even the home healthcare nurses all take a second look and study my long hair, whiskers, and mismatched clothes.

They whisper among themselves that I must be delusional. Eyes roll. Heads shake. As they leave the house, they all mumble something embarrassing and judgmental. The same folks are likely to call a supervisor and report all sorts of “goings-on” at Marklewood.

“I need back-up, Mavis. We’ve got a live one out here in the country. I think he might be some mountain man who wandered far from Stokes County.”

It can be laughed off as an all-encompassing final stage of the serious, but little known Howard Hughes Syndrome.

Besides, we couldn’t be hoarders. The kitchen and bathrooms are neat and relatively tidy.

Don’t ask.

We wouldn’t tell anyway.

(Image: Design Sketch for “Boudoir” by Maurice Dufrène, 1906.)

Earth Angel, Earth Angel


Recently, there seem to be several growing Angelic trends in this modern and Material World. Perhaps they stem from yet another sign of reluctance to intervene on another’s behalf and the ever-growing fear of the unexpected:

Stan the Angel puts on pants before he answers a plea.
Cupid now carries “easy to conceal” multi-purpose darts.
The Herald Angels sing in a whisper so as to not draw attention or wake a neighbor.
And sadly, in most instances, the word “Hallelujah” is often abbreviated.

(Image: “Eros” by Fran Recacha, 2013.)

Ichabod’s Unlikely Salon of Visual Texture

While there may be such purveyors in most markets, Mr Crane’s renowned establishment is a distinctive and splendidly-staffed Textile Gallery nonpareil. He is an eager merchant of the rare, of the impeccable, and of the painted.

Crane’s showroom swatches are drawn from gorgeously fabricated clothing, upholstery, and window treatments as depicted in paintings. The samples are divinely textural with hyper-detailed velvets, silks, tulles, Fortuny silks, taffetas, damasks, brocades. All the bolts are stunning as placed: perfectly arranged by color and “ilk of the silk”, as it were. Your senses will stirred beyond the broadest of kens and the most obscure of imaginations.

In addition to Hermione’s choices, Scalamandre and Schumacher, customers will experience the lush, visual threads of international designers:
Zoffany, Bonnat, Ingres, Parrish,  Alma-Tadema, Dvorak, Waterhouse, Rochegrosse, Hodler, Mucha, Millais, Gérôme, among myriad others. New arrivals are introduced daily.

Upcoming “Portmanteau Show” will be held on Friday, February 7. Latest introductions will be featured including the latest in several design studios. This year’s participants pay both homage and nostalgic tributes to the provocative and divine examples of 19th c. Neo-Classicism, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Orientalism, and Art Nouveau

Personal shoppers and models are available, including: Ann Boleyn, Jayne Mansfield, Catherine Howard, and guest floaters, Judi Dench and Amy Adams.

Ichabod’s Portmanteau of ShowPiece Piecegoods
Open 12-4, Tuesday-Friday. or By Appointment

Another Exquisite Establishment of Evelyn’s Fine Designs
Managed by one of her other Personas
It is both a privilege for us to serve you and a privilege for you to shop with us.

Please: no smoking, no beverages, no tags, and no toile du jouy .

Note to Yellow Pages: My Fingers Need to Sit Down

jean-cocteau-dans-son-atelier 1916 Moïse Kisling

Alas! My more poetic moods seem to have sadly morphed into late night silliness.

I miss Tom Snyder and Dick Cavett, and their oddly provocative, but long-gone night owl fodder. The latter always gave me motive to sneak out of my bedroom at such an hour. My father was always sound asleep on the very serious nailhead trimmed leather sofa and down for the count.

Time has fought me that “Law & Order: SVU” and “Criminal Minds” are not the solutions to my inability to sleep. However, my over-extended neuropathetic fingers are exhausted and indeed pathetic. They are weary of the keyboard.

Lord, DON’T I miss spontaneity, drive … and the ample energy and time for both!

The only prompt looming for me to wistfully retire is the possibility of my beloved scolding me.

(Image: “Jean Cocteau dans son Atelier,” by Moïse Kisling, 1916.)

A Kinder, Gentler, and Endangered World


German artist Heinrich Lossow settled comfortably into Academic and Genre painting. He was, however, quite the 19th century maven of erotic illustration, if not painterly pornography.

Much of his work was bawdy, unbridled, and prolific. It is a random act of Universal redemption that it survived the conservative zealots of the last five or six generations.

Thank God for freedom from censorship and protection of the arts. Frankly, if a painting, book, or piece of music offends you, just move on.

Walk on by. Take a deep, invigorating breath.

And walk briskly to the nearest exit. Go home. And direct your passion toward: giving both food to the starving and clothes to the bare. Console those individuals who are lonely, isolated, overwhelmed, and frightened.

And for this world’s sake, please make certain that every child grows up in a nurturing environment, with an abundance of hope. Neither hope nor safety are commodities to be brokered. They are fundamental facets of humanity and worth a valiant fight.

If that seems unrealistic or unnecessary, just walk on by. Don’t look back.

(Image: “Die Sphinx und der Dichter” by Heinrich Lossow, 1868.)

I Bow in Belated Thanks, Miss Gore

The angel of the birds (1910) oil on canvas 106.7 x 203.2 cm

I realize that on a day when the first sign of winter’s bite is only moments away, I am flitting from one spritely spring ort of floral eye candy to rather romantic classicist ones, and back again. The cycle is broken only when I stop to fetch iced coffee or the equally chilled tea.

Such behavior hardly belies my longing but yet betrays my reason. As long as I breathe, although potentially voiceless, it’s my party. And yes, I’ll cry. That is, if I want to.

The Universe is indeed remarkable. On such a gray and bleak Tuesday, my beloved and I are content and well fed. Slowly, we’re devising a strategy to re-enter the world of the alive and living. The outlook, approach, and the song itself might be influenced by those of my friends: Victoria, Janet, Lynn, Twilla, Anthony, Nancy, Marty, Deb, Dr Bob, and of course, that zany but dear friend Andrew.

Mary L. is perhaps my oldest friend, since we were both sixteen, impressionable, and oh so pure. I was, however, the one with a driver’s license and the ability to calm the beast, the crazy Dr H. We chat quite often and talk of the imminent time when I can finally leave Raleigh to visit.

I suspect we’ll be singing the likes of “Grey Seal” and “Love Lies Bleeding” until the wee-est of hours. My lips are sealed should we get the least bit nostalgic about antics, misbehavior, and good old silliness. I mention her because she is my strongest and most direct bridge to my teenage years, those much later ones with Michael, and the many I spent pondering the questionable bliss of Greensboro.

Naturally, the only person with whom I have had a more enduring relationship is my sister. True, every once in an indigo sunset, we take breathers and take an emotional break. Trust me when I admit the depth of our intensities seems without equal.

While the two of us are both obsessive, Polly is the more conservative. That was primarily because of the long pangs of cheery parenting. My lifestyle, in contrast, allows me to be more liberal in many of my views and in my overall style.

However, I am certain that since 1980, we have supported the same candidates in every political race. We both recycle paper towels. And we both use one glass or mug and rewash it and reuse it, rather than filling the dishwashing at an excruciating rate. Our food and wine tastes are also quite similar.

We differ substantially on our aesthetics of art, music, interior design, and pop culture.

I mention Polly, Tartuffe’s small circle of folks who inspire me, and others for one reason. I am most appreciative of and humbled by of all of your kindnesses. While the skies may get worse before the clouds indeed part, I will someday soon be able to put more effort into “us”.

Your words, prayers, and kindnesses keep my beloved’s and my faith in the Universe well-bolstered. At the moment, my voice is strained. Conversation is almost out of the realm of reasonable questions. But that won’t be forever.

Lastly, I mention two relatives, in fact ones that I only met at the Sieber/Neuberger Family Reunion during the swelter of July 2008. My cousin Damian is the non-judgmental archivist, family historian, communications maven, and support guru.

In a different vein, his sister Eve is almost like a long lost friend. We often talk for hours about the arts, contradicting family secrets, and her life in Shreveport and mine in Raleigh. In other words, if we and our spouses went to the beach, she and I would never be at a loss for words, recipes, or a proper Pinot Noir. (I don’t mean just any old beach either!)

May you all have songbirds, warm breezes, and those errant blooms, the ever-drowsy jonquils and crocuses.

(Image: “The Angel of the Birds” by František Dvořák aka Franz Dvorak, 1910.)

Sordid Confessions of an Image Junkie


This breathtaking painting by the nearly forgotten French Academic artist Léon Bonnat, “Le Barbier du Suez” (1876), has been my favorite for several months now. Remember that such a statement is made by one who peruses and studies usually one hundred images per day.

Please don’t scold me. It has morphed into a realistic and proactive pastime while I await a heart. Clicking “save”, “delete”, “search”, or “post” actually burns few calories. Even then, there are still times when that ilk of activity is even beyond my list.

I digress. Bonnat’s “century and a half” old work gives me joy on a daily basis these days. His treatment of fabric and skin is unbelievable, if not mesmerizing. Further, the scale, lighting, and saturation of color are all perfection. That last being a word I haven’t used in several years.

The homoerotic, smoky, and sexy aspects didn’t occur to me until weeks after I initially discovered it. I jest not.

Having settled into my creative and ever-changing dotage, studying textiles fulfills some odd sort of sublimated sexual urge.  And yes, I often am victim of the post-tryst munchies.

But I digress.

God bless the internet for both its reach and infinite search engines.

As an aside (from your humble trivia junkie): a list of Bonnat’s many students offers some familiar and surprising names. John Singer Sargent, Stanhope Forbes, Gustave Caillebotte, Georges Braque, Thomas Eakins, Raoul Dufy, Edvard Munch, Henry Siddons Mowbray, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Who knew?

Rows and Rows of Angel Hair


“I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from win and lose.
And still somehow, it’s life’s illusions I recall.
I really don’t know life at all.”

Mitchell’s lyrics soundtracked my four day hospital stay the way they framed my freshman year at UNC. This past week, as was then, life appears fragile and existential. Nonetheless, the goal of all the tests is how we bandage the wounds and move forward.

If there were indeed some sort of goofy discharge examination, I’d probably pass. But not my efforts. It was my fine tutors who kept me cheerful, salved, and medicated. They also kindly kept my phone and iPad charged in a zone that is historically and rather ironically dead: UNC Memorial Hospital, Room 3709. My temporary charger had, again ironically, died.

So, in this late and unpredictable hour, I thank Angie, Karina, Crystal, and Evelyn for their insight, intuition, and compassion. Although my admission was completely unexpected, if not startling, I was never miserable or unhappy. I missed my beloved. I missed Henry. I missed caffeine. I missed a dial tone. But I was content.

I had help. Oh yes! Medications might’ve also eased the sting and pang of my situation.

(Photo by Philippe Ramette.)