A Less-Holy First Communion: Chartreuse & Cornflower Blue


I can’t really remember when I first realized the concept of color. Presumably it was before or during kindergarten at Chapel Hill’s Little Red School. The nuances, hues, and complexities of colors followed, though I can’t say when.

The next year, however, we learned the color charts and became experts on not only the world but primary colors as well.

To my excitement, my mother bought me a bigger and better box of Crayolas. Perhaps, it held 18 crayons, maybe not. My memories of those years are safely locked away in a desk drawer, keeping at bay the more curious pusses. Naturally, I misplaced the key.

My point is that I had moved up some unspoken notch, improved a skill, or experienced a minor rite of passage. In Mrs Sawyer’s first grade class, I kept a cigar box in which I hid “whatever size or how many ever” of crayons.

One spring day, my mother was preparing to take me to school, a newly built Catholic school, with actual nuns, and potential uniforms. As she grabbed her keys, I studied her eye-catching blouse. The color was odd and one of which I was unfamiliar. As she turned the ignition, I blurted my query and quickly paused. I never blurted as a child. It was unmannerly, rude, and unaccepted in a parochial school such as St Thomas More.

My mother never noticed my unseemly enthusiasm. She just started talking and talking about nuances, hues, prisms, and the infinite number of colors in the spectrum. Of course, she worded it differently as I am prone to embellish. We soon came upon the red brick structure. I finally had to ask: “But what color is your shirt?”

She quickly corrected my use of shirt and replied a reserved, yet warm: “chartreuse”. Finally. It took almost fifteen minutes to get an answer.

“Chartreuse, hmmm” I thought. It quickly became my favorite color, although I couldn’t pronounce the word for at least a year. That yellowish green color was wonderful and exotic and special. And it was at once my color.

I soon (if soon can describe two years later) graduated to a bigger box, the overwhelming but altogether satisfying “64” count one. I searched for chartreuse but never found it. I did, however, find “Cornflower Blue” and “Burnt Sienna”. My look of puzzlement faded away in a quick blush. It had a pencil sharpener.

I am now more than a half century older. Those days are long gone. Chartreuse, though, is still my favorite color. I always notice it first, if it was indeed on the fabric wall, home furnishings, liqueur bottles, or paintings. The last I use as a “catch all”! I detest the word “artwork”. It’s bland, unemotional, and wholly without direction or purpose.

Please. Gentle Reader, forgive me for squeezing illustration, sculpture, watercolors, oils, and the like into one tiny, limited, and now teeming word. I will say three Holy Marys. And I will surely recall Sr Jane Raphael’s serious and intimidating glances during our studies for First Holy Communion.

Sr Jane married the parish priest two years later, by which time Hal, Margy, Polly, and I had moved to Greensboro. There, it would be Srs Mary Joseph and Mary Fitzpatrick that would show me the greater range of modern “nunnery” and the like.

Go ahead and ask me.

Truthfully? Yes, I still always smile and look for chartreuse and cornflower blue. The temptation then wakes up and I lull it back into blissful oblivion.

Downstairs on the dining room table rests a proud, unspoiled, and upright uber-box of Crayolas. My friend Marty who now lives in Iowa, sent them to me at Christmas. They should occupy many long, and otherwise idle hours, in the hospital. I suspect there are some new colors or at least new “names”.

Alas. I suspect I need never need search for crayons again.

Wanna come over and spend the afternoon coloring?

(Image: “Periodic Space” by Zamfir Dumitrescu, 2009.)

Singing Hallelujah In the Shade of Ancient Pines

This afternoon I had my typical whirl of a Physical Training session. Still giddy with oxygen, I turned to CNN as soon as I walked into the house. I was mesmerized by the string of commentators that were encouraged to either remark on: the President’s evangelical bent in Charleston, S.C. or today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

On the list of social changes that I never expected to witness in my lifetime: marriage equality. Not same-sex marriage. Not straight marriage. Not LGBT marriage. It is now “just marriage” for everyone. We have yet to even imagine the scope and impact of that landmark decision. Is it a dawning of sorts?

We in the United States are experiencing  rapid change. Well yes. It as rapid as social change can indeed take both place and hold.

We should add to that miraculous and long overdue judicial milestone, the President gave one hell of a eulogy. He is best when he emotes. Today, he seemed almost evangelical as he spoke.

Who knew? I woke up today rather late, showered and dressed rather quickly, and tried to find meaning for my day.

And I had that incredible, spiritual moment that occurs when planets and inhabitants alike align.

The air was ripe with honeysuckle and a wayward and mammoth gardenia bush. The breeze of change made me look up toward the sky and bask in a moment of profound change.

Van Jones eloquently surmised: “the President stepped into his legacy today.”

Indeed. The fig trees are weeping with joy.

Dice in the Voting Booth

My cardiologist recommended that I stay clear of CNN or any other forum that might fuel my blood pressure, steal my breath, or make me swoon.

Naughty, naughty me! To catch up on news of the world that surrounds Marklewood,  today I quietly and nonchalantly turned to Channel 29. I swear it was less than an hour when I realized that watching “Criminal Minds” would fare much better in restoring my faith in humanity.

Commentator after reporter, again and again, the topic was the U.S. Presidential race, especially in terms of a Republican nominee. Who would likely win in Iowa? Who has gathered the mightiest war chest? Who would likely stay afloat for the season’s duration? Who was the most homogeneous? How does each candidate stand on a conspiracy theory regarding 1963?
Oy vey iz Mir!

After 59 minutes, I turned nervously turned the channel and sat back in my chair. Henry would calm me down by purring on my lap. Jon might do so by sharing an anecdote. But they were upstairs. Both of them.
I looked out the window and, appreciating the privacy and remoteness, started pondering. Such “thought trains” or “stormed brains” are dangerous.

The notion hit me with a slap:

What if we, as American voters, lived in a commonwealth of sorts, in which the only (and do I mean ONLY) candidates for President were:
Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal,
Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump,
Rick Santorum, or Ben Carson?

Oops! That isn’t such a far-fetched or fractured possibility. Even a Clinton or Duck Dynasty would be a safer option our page of Humanity’s fable.

In my players’ handbook, there is noted as a Savior of Modern Democracy neither a Christie, a Paul, ne’r a Cruz, nor even a Perry! It is clearly stated somewhere in the preface.

The very subject is terrifying. First is the horrific proximity and reality of such a pool. Secondly, how could we, as American voters, reach such a nadir of options and spirit?

The word “nadir” has titillated me since fourth grade. That was the year Sr Edward Patricia coached me to a Scripps event in Raleigh. That word never came up. I did, however, leave with a word.

I digress. We transgress. The future of our collective health, happiness, and safety are in the hands of a very few.

Let’s get started. Who will fetch the mattresses and some green peas?
And pour the Kool-Aid.

I jest not. If only we could go back in time and … Oh, never mind. Another episode of “Criminal Minds” is queued.

An Obsessive Interior Desecrater Reveals Fantasy Notions

In early 2013, I was able to finally walk away from the design business, a field  in which I once found fulfillment, challenges, and a neverending influx of new faces. Sadly, the economy and my health had purloined the best of me, leaving only tattered fabric swatches and a measuring tape. My career in Interior Design was indeed over.

In some ways, I rejoiced. There would be no more unappreciated house calls. There would be no more tasteless and unfair haggling of prices. There would be no more furniture emergencies.

Oui. There are folks, usually unmedicated and in their 50’s, who wait until a Thursday to phone. They are having a soirée on Saturday and need their new upholstery delivered within the next two days. Of course, the manufacturer not only hasn’t finished the work, but is located halfway across some shipping Hell.

Once I realized a few perks, I phoned my friend Laurie in Upstate Nuevo York. “I never have to sell a  ^&$@!?¥ sofa again. Ever. Forever!” She shared in my joy, knowing well the pangs and pains of the design business as she was also a “decoratizer” seeking joy and satisfaction in, as they say, “Interior Desecration”.

The next few years as I was succumbing to my disability, I spent increasingly more days reading. I best confess now, since I am certain you do not feel privy to this fact. I spend a helluva lot of time pursuing unpredictable, bizarrely-threaded searches.

With neither intent nor desire, I soon was discovering many, many vintage design portfolios. They were usually in a pochoir plate format, by elusive French artists, intricately engineered, and liberal with their use of the word “ornamental”.

I was hooked before 1914 even peeked into my sunroom. They fascinated me and challenged my archiving and searching skills.

So please be gentle with your teases, Gentle Reader. Last night, rather in the wee hours of this morning, I stumbled upon another portfolio. The format strayed from what had become a formulaic late Art Nouveau and early Art Deco “How To”. Officially, the purpose was to educate the moneyed Bourgeoisie in Europe, the United States, Brazil, and Argentina.

Behind closed French doors, however, I’m rather certain that the projects gave designers the opportunity to flirt with a new title, artist. Usually, the portfolios seemed meticulously created, and intensified with vivid and game-changing colorization.

Today’s find explores design niches rarely addressed in such format. Yes, Alphonse Mucha is the exception. The collection featured  schematics for fantasy home furnishings: wallpaper, textiles, florals, vessels, planters, hardware, chairs, ottomans, and a few other non-essentials.

The small taste of the early 20th c. concept jump-started my curiosity for hours.

As you know, I enjoy sharing, which also benefits any justification fumbles.

I now can sit back with my iced coffee, pore over articles, and retain charge of my schedule. The bartering, the haggling, the indecision, the confrontations are all now just WORDS.

I hope you’ll enjoy these pages, each with montages of concepts. I shall continue my exploration at my leisure.

That reminds me: I should phone that friend Laurie so we can commiserate and kvetch. I call her Monica at whim.

RSVP, You Say? Henry is Befuddled

As many of you know, it is customary here in the Hinterlands to celebrate a kitten’s passage into adulthood. There are many variations, but ours is low-key, cloaked with joy and hope for a new generation of pusses. We break bread. We brake dishes. We raise our libations to toast the honoree’s Cat Mitzvah.

This season, both Marigold and Maddy have opted to swiftly pass tradition and go directly to gifts, refreshments, and a frolic under the ancient fig tree that guards the back door.

Any and all creatures, regardless of either wing or leg, is welcome. All guests, however, must believe in magic. Not the type that the Lovin’ Spoonful sang fifty years ago.

As long as you admit the power and existence of enchantment, fairies, and the world of the far-fetched, you are always welcome.

This season, though, the invitation is doubly extended.

The pusses love their rites of passage, and anticipate scrumptuous refreshments.

Collars are optional.

(Image: by Louis Wain.)

Time is More Than an Alan Parsons Song,

Time waits for no man, and it certainly never has for me. I ponder its diminish and gain in importance. It frustrates me. It scares me. It humbles me.

The Universe owes me nothing but hope, the “walk-away” of Divine interventions. Yes, hope is still mine although, increasingly, less visible and less called to the game.

The universe owes me nothing. It would be foolish, ignorant, and arrogant to suggest that it does.

I must own my recidivism. Yes, that is the very recidivism that a university professor once accused me of using as a bartering tool. Not that he accused me of not achieving. As he suggested by his demeanor:

My dedication, motivation, confidence, and compliance would soon erode and eat away at each other. At least that’s what Dr McC indeed suggested.

That damning prognosis perhaps went self-concluded. Today time seems just beyond my grasp.

Okay. Okay. I’ll sneak in through the Jail’s side door, mind you, directly or otherwise. My pace, these days, is mine.

Those salad days of gray-less ways. The briefest of reminiscence evokes a chuckle. There was once a time when time itself seemed more important that any we’d ever encounter. Twilight days of love, lolligagging, looking to our periphery, and unlocking the secrets of the past … they were certainly deferred to the yes-so-distant future.

We’d savor that luxury and toast the clock, don’t you think, Hope, Vicki, Doug, Charlie, and Albert? Yours was a friendship destined to be the one to endure and survive. But it didn’t.

The Universe’s joke is on ME once again. Life back then, at least as we knew it, was frothy and airy.

It is today that brings with it all the trials of yesteryear. The challenge is head on and the resulting decisions, critical.

Some days, I wonder. When did life get so difficult? When did time become the most precious of commodities?

Yikes! I best begin the hunt for a walking stick.

(Image: “Through the Time” By Gyuri Lohmuller, 2013.),

That Silly Rose is Still in Bed

On some summer afternoons, I step into the front yard and see several rose blooms … open, full, and ripe for the picking.

Other days, I catch a glimpse of only one, almost hidden from easy view by a birdbath.

Finally, there are times at which I sit on the stoop and see nothing but green leaves, russet pine needles, and gray fur. That is when I must scan the front yard thoroughly and search for an elusive flower here at our humble Marklewood.

It seems I am constantly reminding myself that, even if see neither a rose nor its remains, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t one there.

This time of year there is always at least one dark antique claret rose in splendor by the front door. Or there’s a splendorifica of them!

(Images by: René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, Anna & Elena Balbusso, Jim Tsinganos,and Vladimir Kush)

Neither Month Nor Year of the Cat


If she indeed kept either her word or a calendar, Goldilocks would proclaim June as “just right”. Jupiter gave us such a month to nourish and be nourished. The air is breezy and soft. It’s neither given to snow or swelter.

Squirrels chase the cascading cherry petals to the ground. The pusses, in relay, shoo those tailers up the ancient pine trees to their given lodgings. Marigold’s beloved birds sew the earthy cloak as they go to “seed” for show. The hummers hover. The peckers hammer. All is indeed right in springtime.

The errant and wayward pup may get waylaid some morn. He’ll come here. He’ll frolic. He’ll dine until he’s had his fill. And still saunter home by ten.

May God bless all the beasts.

In June, however, she blesses the dogs and tosses them treats. Those silly canine scalliwags! They’d laugh if they could and indeed laugh the last. It is their joke to share: they have the rite of summer.

And the doggone dog days are theirs.

The cats will wait until the last is home and be bedded without fanfare. They lost their race, lost their month, and will wait until another year.

Thank you, Mr Stewart.  Thank you, Miss Goldilocks.

(Image: “Chrysanthememes” by Fabius Lorenzi, 1930.)

A Rainbow Wrapped in a Sigh

Yesterday was a cerulean day that became the sum of exceptional and precious moments:

I had another great hour with my rarely-mentioned therapist. Where Drs. Chase and Hoffman had failed years ago, she succeeds every other Thursday. With neither pretense nor pretext, we simply talk.

My life appears woven from tattered, faded strips of a Persian blue Fortuny silk with some moth-eaten chartreuse Dupioni. Like many of the Universe’s twists and turns, a trade discount does a metaphor proud.

My sister and I swapped stories from Life’s grand “tea party”, with at least a few bites of both earned and learned leftover scones of carefully portioned nostalgia. We talked of the sins of our parents — the ones that we inevitably repeat. And we imagined life in our doting 80’s. As if!

Finally, there were many, many random laughs. My Tom Bergeron pick would be when I was chatting with a dear friend. Ben Carson’s name came up. With no hesitation, I responded:

“Republican, African-American, Johns Hopkins educated, Detroit physician in 2015! What was God thinking?” The party is over; it’s now a raft of fools, as it were.

Lastly, I had a manly salad with blue cheese dressing for dinner, neither of which I can have post-transplant. It’s an unfortunate trifecta of bacteria, virus, and mold issues.

And now? I want candy. Pink candy smelling of clove and tasting of midnight.

Henry indeed loves his wee hour music references. Yes. Such a puss has his Bow Wow Wows. He’s the Candy Man and he certainly can!

(Image: “La Houppa” by R. Choppy, 1926.)

More Graffiti From the Grotto

If I didn’t know better, I’d suggest that something appears a bit naughty about the Archangel on the right. Perhaps, it’s that she seems to be clearly flaunting wing implants. Sizable ones.

I already feel Sr Mary Patrick’s pointer against my hand. Not that I know what that would feel like, but I can indeed imagine. Stern-ness, I have always believed, is often propagated and perfected in secluded nunneries. Perhaps in a remote East European hillside grotto. Perhaps not.

Nonetheless, I feel contrite after suggesting provocative celestial augmentations. I just wanted to share my moment. It is best that we forego any discussion of St Bernadette’s Botox injections.

There will no discussion of Friar Tuck’s nips and tucks. It would be insensitive and further confuse those blurred lines between Catholicism and the Anglican Church.

Tonight, though, we’ll skip any mention the Cialis and Metamucil cocktails of the even naughtier Saint Priapus.

I know. I know. Five “Our Fathers”, one Hail Mary, and a penance on account.

That Typical First Date Sigh

Like many of my wide-eyed peers, the late 60’s saw both my innocence lost and an awareness found. The drama of partisan politics, an inevitable move toward late night television viewing, and a Dion tune all changed my freshly stuccoed kingdom of escapism and awareness.

The world was indeed spinning around us and I wanted in. But those topics are poised fodder for future posts, but their mention sets a stage, albeit tenuous.

I was in Sr Mary Patrick’s sixth grade class at St Pius X Catholic School. I felt rather grown-up and my parents seemed to think so. It was finally time for me to ponder the “magical mystery” world of dating.

For three nights of sitting next to the phone, I was still unable to dial the seventh number. My father teased me. My sister giggled as she spied from the doorway.

I did it. I took a deep breath, sat back, and prayed she would answer the phone quickly. She, of course, didn’t. But alas, at least she finally did.

To protect her anonymity, some 46 years later, I will not reveal her name for she may be on Facebook. It is far more genteel to refrain from discussing such matters. Her initials, however, were the reverse of mine, SMcD.

My, how the sharing of details can lead to prosaic digression.

Anyway, Oh Patient Reader, I asked SMcD if she’d like to go to a movie the upcoming Saturday. She agreed without pause. On the other hand, she was caught off guard, of that I am certain. The lesson was to lead with spontaneity whenever possible.

Too much planning and notice often get lost in some neurotic and muddled puddle of anticipation, excuses, and uncertainty. Perhaps wavering, ambivalence or ennui follow. Beats me, Gentle Reader. I was only eleven years old.

That Saturday, my father dropped me off at my friend’s house in Fisher Park. The once opulent movie theater was only blocks away. We could simply stroll at some prepubescent pace. But we didn’t.

I was too excited. We had tickets to see “Yellow Submarine” and I was in my version of a frenzy.

The film was thrilling. The rapid cuts of color, music, song, and images were exhilarating. We had buttered popcorn and Cherry Cokes.

As we were exiting the theater and chattering away, the wind blew some particle of dust into my eye. I couldn’t get it out. Further, I was one of those repressed types that clamps down quickly on his/her eyelids. We kept walking so I could better conceal my frustration and panic. I had an idea.

Lane’s Drugstore was a nearby. We could get ice cream there. More to the point, the Pharmacist, Mr Stang, was certain to have a solution.

He rummaged through several drawers and emerged from underneath some cabinetry. Victory was, perhaps, mine. He brought over an eyewash. I had never heard of such a product but was approaching desperation. I prayed that the culprit would just disappear quickly and I could regain my composure.

Folowing Mr Stangs instructions, I raised the small cup to my eye to essentially rinse my cornea. However, I probably had no idea what a cornea really was.

I felt a chill, swooned a bit, and fainted … just steps away from the soda fountain. A silly sense of doom and embarrassment killed my appetite but I had a cone anyway. It would’ve been rude to allow SMcD to feel self conscious.

Over the next few hours, I walked her home and then to my father’s office where he was working and waiting for me to stop by. Hal’s Limousine Service seemed to always pull-up to the curb for a heavy tariff.

I scurried to my room to sulk a bit and examine my eye. With neither notice nor awareness as to when it actually happened, the fleck was flicked.

I turned on my radio and grabbed a book, planning to read for a bit before dinner. Recklessly and dramatically jumping onto the bed, I landed in the center with waning springs.

Peeking inside, I jumped for joy INTERNALLY. The “Yellow Submarine” album and a Heath bar were well-concealed in a bag. My mother was a pro at her rather consistent Saturday regime of shopping and errands. And I usually accompanied her.

For the rest of the day, save for dinner, the Beatles tunes filled the airwaves … from my room to my sister’s. Over to my parents’. And down the hallway to the rest of the house. One could probably hear a resounding “we all live in a …!” from outside the garage, if not beyond.

But I didn’t care. I had a new Beatles LP; my eyes were speckless but gleaming; and I had stepped across a soon-to-be teenaged milestone.

I had successfully completed my first date.

(Image: “Meat Train” by Mark Ryden, 2000.)