Holiday Bow Jobs: Supplies Not Included


I worked with a young designer once who, although she was incredibly gifted in matters of both design and detail, was rather innocent, naïve, and occasionally dim. I say that lovingly, matter-of-factly, and without the slightest iota of measurable judgment, I assure you.

Normally I would disguise her name as to protect her anonymity and honor, as well as shield myself from her scorn and revenge, but her very name is so apt in this situation that I shall no longer take the risk. I shall simply and most-fictionally refer to her as Beauxette. You, dear reader, may wonder most privately as to what proper given name could be so appropriate and quick to incite a blush.

One day at the office, Beauxette was preparing a holiday flier announcing her availability for home decoration and fluffing, as well her fee schedule to which she would gleefully add her hourly rate:

$75 to create a custom wreath (excluding materials); 
$250 to decorate a Christmas tree, or similar plantlife (again, excluding materials); 
$50 to create holiday flourishes intertwined in a chandelier; 
and $100 to create a seasonal mantle vignette (yep, excluding materials).

I think you get the picture, my friends. My friend offered a full-service holiday treatment for the home!

Needless to say, Beauxette knew her way around French ribbon and could tie an effulgent, gorgeous bow like no one I had ever or since met! Further, she adored Christmas and would certainly treat each assignment as if it were special and her only one … offering the job both uniqueness and full attention.

After completing her flier, she summoned me to proofread her rough draft, as I was the official grammarian at our firm. While she took a break, I corrected the few spelling errors, reformatted it a bit (perfectionisto that I am!), and started toying with various ideas for a better heading.

I had the naughtiest of epiphanies, if indeed there is such a mixed moment or sentiment. I typed in my fake title, with every intention of eventually returning to the project and creating a more suitable and tasteful banner!

I printed several copies and placed them on my coworkers’ desks, squelched any laughter, and awaited Beauxette’s return. She indeed joined me a few minutes later, read the “final” product, and was delighted: 
”Beauxette’s Bow Jobs”

She looked at me blankly as I finally let loose in an uproar that only could emanate from one as naughty as I! Oh my God: I was going to have to explain it to her! Reluctantly, I did. She was embarrassed, not because of any vulgarity but instead because it went right over her blonde, well-coiffed head!

She had no realization that she had fallen victim to (let’s say) the “aural” version of a trompe l’oeil moment.

Beauxette corrected the phrasing and we printed one hundred pristine tasteful copies of “Seasonal Stylings by Beauxette”.

She then hurriedly mailed them out, anticipating a flurry of responses, yet her efforts only yielded one such Christmas project. At least, it was for a full house of decorations, involving myriad rolls of festive ribbon and what must’ve been a mile of juniper garland. Beauxette did, however, share with me her reluctant irony in this matter. When she was finished, and her client was writing her a substantial check, she noticed her flier on the counter. As she approached it, she soon realized it was one of the original “gag” ones I had prepared. Neither she nor the client ever mentioned anything to each other about this most glaring of “errors”. She simply got in her car and came back to the office.

I, of course, was mortified: filled with mental images of humiliation, embarrassment, and tawdry discourse! Fortunately all was averted.

It seems as though Beauxette’s client was also innocent, naïve, and dim. In this case, I remark thus not-so-lovingly and perhaps indeed with a modicum of seasonal judgment!

“Beauxette’s Bow Jobs”. We all still smile about it, except for Beauxette of course. Then again, she was never fond of innuendo!

I think of my coworker often. That is especially true whenever I finish preparing a gift, with a particularly spectacular bow, with all its perfect and dramatic flourishes.

Don’t even go there, my friends! Don’t even look for the key to that filing cabinet!

(Image: “Red Ribbon” by David Stoupakis, 2006.)

Community Notes From Miss Lillian Herself


Oh, woe is … well, somebody other than me!

I hear on NPR this afternoon some curious talk for the unlikely tandem awareness weeks for Genital Integrity and Estonia. Oh, to be uncircumsized, living in Riga, and not listening to NPR on a Sunday afternoon.

And who even knew there was a Liver Community here in Raleighwood or anywhere?

Word of the Year coronation isn’t slated until next week. However, the American Dialect Society has announced a few of its 2015 finalists: deconfliction (John Kerry), unicorn (Investment Narwhals), squad (Taylor Swift), schlonged (Donald Trump).

I could’ve sworn that in the wee hours of the remains of a Saturday night, Henry whispered in my ear: “God bless us, everyone!” However, I might be misconstruing the inflection of his purr.

And finally: in an odd twist of ironic web threads, I have discovered that tomorrow is the day on which one honors Saint Anthony the Hermit. Knowing not what to prepare for such a feast, perhaps we should just dine out.

Oh, you don’t celebrate December 28? Put on a party hat and go find your your Boogie Shoes nonetheless.


Please Join Us in a Jolly “Julsång”


The holiday is in its denouement, if not wallowing in its aftermath. Such ripe heathenry is the worst that recovering Catholics can expect from a celebration that involves food.

If I were a drinking man who smoked or a smoking man who drank, this hour would be all mine. The dishes would be cleaned and returned to the appropriate cupboards. Guests would be en route H-O-M-E.

The house would be quiet except for our still-convalescing four-legged Henry. Beef energizes him nicely. Say Steward? Steward, is Henry not indeed a family member in good standing, albeit haunched? Does he not deserve some lean rare meat as well?

Of course, his gift this year is that he’ll likely not have to have his right rear leg amputated. He is extremely anemic, as am I, and as is the rationalization for a Christmas Day standing rib roast. A dear friend from New York made the roast a reality this year. And we were all thrilled.

And we were all thankful. Mind you, I don’t mean the type of thanks our parents encourage us to offer when we’re children. Those are niceties and not false by any means. However, it takes years of making mistakes, crying, overlooking a hug-less child, responding in quick judgment or simply studying others suffer as we would weigh-in on our own woes as well.

I am on the cusp of age sixty and finally on the top of the transplant list, a list that Santa is checking often. Jon has just been diagnosed with Diabetes on top of everything else. We lost our beloved Marigold and Hermione, the latter from renal failure it’d appear.

Nonetheless, Jon and I are thankful that we are both home to enjoy a fine dinner. We are thankful further that, knock on wood, a heart will be imminent. The wait nears three years. And we are thankful to have had the times that we did with those two cats who brought us laughter and companionship.

But it’s late and I digress for perhaps the last time in 2015. I am sitting here at my desk, both thankful and sated. While the Ghost of Christmas Past enjoys a Rusty Nail and a cigar, I’ll nurse my tea and listen to his tales.

And I’ll remind myself that with our pets nearby we are neither alone nor in need of nurture. Of course that’ll be just before I catch Henry rounding the corner … for late night red meat.


(Image: A Still from “Fanny and Alexander” by Ingmar Bergman, 1982.)

Forbidden and Low-Hanging Fruit

When I was in primary school at St Thomas More Elementary, in Chapel Hill, I loved fruit. As with many third graders back in those Camelot days, an “old school” snack was always waiting when I got home: a plate with both a cookie and either a pear, banana, or apple.

Its intent was essentially a parental “loss leader” to encourage me to do my homework before going outside to play. My friends all went to public school, except my friend Damian, so we usually hurried so we could catch-up and trade tales of nuns and “other teacher” types.

That routine continued until we moved to Greensboro. I was ten years old and couldn’t fathom why exactly Hal, Margy, Polly, and I had to relocate. Why were the nuns at St Pius X so strict and serious? I avoid using the word “unfriendly” as I have memory of that “pointer” stick punishment that Sr Mary Patrick relished dispensing.

It was also about this time that Polly started kindergarten. The same snack routine fell into place, except for the new choice of oranges, Polly’s favorite. Naturally, being older, I was more flexible and able to understand the concept of compromise. Hal and Margy would later discover that I was also well-versed in the art of “choosing my own battles!”

My sister loved oranges of all types: Valencias, Navel oranges, Clementines, Tangerines, and a few years yet, “Blood” oranges. After one year of my quiet acquiescence, I discovered the beauty and thrill of the deliciously sour and oh-so-mixable grapefruit. Grapefruit became my favorite choice of both fruit and juice, remaining so until my 30’s.

About that time, it was pointed out to me that the ultimate sour “nectar” conflicted with my medication. Disappointed, I basically experimented for the next two decades. Blackberries, Carambola, plums, Kiwi, and peaches, they all gave me joy. On the other hand, citrus fruits essentially piggy-backed with the grapefruit and left my daily regimen. I neither appreciated nor understood the exotic pineapple until a few years ago after I retired.

Now it seems that I have become so set in my eccentric ways I rarely veer from habit. Usually, watermelon, blueberries, and pineapple are the only fruits that can be found in the Marklewood refrigerator save juices.

“Who ever saw that one coming?” It was similar to most “change” in daily life these days: it just occurred without either my knowledge or approval.

Did I mention that I dislike any cooked fruit? That includes: jams, jellies, and pies. And I detest and have never understood the creation of raisons, enjoying them only in animated form..

Yes, I realize this musing may be stretching its relevance to accompany the interesting anthropomorphic Au Bon Marché trade cards above. Let’s just say that I appreciated those past fruits of choice … surreptitiously, quietly, or vicariously.

Vegetables? I have actually enjoyed them all since my toddler years, even the oft maligned broccoli, cauliflower, and okra. However, I passionately dislike rutabagas, snow peas, and beets.

I digress. Actually, that was true before I even began to scribble these humble words.

(Images: “Fruits Animé”, six of eight, Series #28, Bon Marché c.1900-1905.)

“I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City”


I blame the anti-Christ. There was a long, stormy season in which the two of us often dragged each other to Union Station to board the now-troubled Metroliner. Usually each car was teeming with commuters and seasoned with a tourist or two. We best stop here to bolster, breathe deep, and listen to a Brook Benton tune.

However, if the stars were properly aligned and the Gods of Delta, Discipline, and Deeds-Yet-Undone  willing, we’d come upon an almost deserted car with ample room. That is, we could each take up two seats and, thus, avoid sitting dangerously close to each other’s space.

We could stretch out, curl up, or sit way back. The A.C. and I could just calm down, get down, and get our itineraries down pat. Yes, I remember all those Mrs Nixon jokes from when I was in Middle School.

The crucial detail to this leg of our weekend get-away was that we didn’t necessarily need to talk. We were just far enough that we’d need to whisper in a robust decibel. And by the time we went through Baltimore,  George was on martini no.4.

He could sign. But he’d do so loudly and in an annoying, condescending manner.

Usually, we’d stay at a friend’s apartment in Chelsea whenever he traveled which was usually to New Orleans. Saving such a tidy sum, I could, at the very least, rationalize a bounty of balcony seats. Or an optimum of orchestral seats in the dark.

One such weekend, we went to “City of Angels” “Grand Hotel” “Aspects of Love” and “Miss Saigon”, the latter one simply for good measure.

Whenever we planned a few days in New York City, we’d try to divvy the expenses fairly. George paid for the hotel; and I, the theater tickets. And we split the Amtrak fares.

It was in the winter of 1992, that I realized that George rarely had to pay for lodging, except for freshly cut flowers to welcome their return and mourn our departure.

In contrast, if we saw three musicals (both Friday and Saturday nights and, perhaps, a matinee), the total that’d be charged to my Visa could approach $900. Let’s factor in taxi fares and copious libations.

That inequity would easily dominate any thoughts or visions, unless I was lost in some musical recollections. Even at dinner, we’d barely converse.We enjoyed an indulgent and extremely dear five course meal at Bistro Sofia on Saturday night, set to commence sometime after 11pm.

And Hell! It might’ve even been later.

What I visualize the most fondly was a Crown Roast of lamb with velvety Dauphinaise potatoes. The startled look on our waiter’s face when George let his head drop slightly… right into his creme brûlée. That unfortunate misstep, my Dear Friend, sadly punctuated our meal and left George holding a doggie bag.

At that moment in our weekend, I was angry, embarrassed, melancholy, and helpless. I also might’ve been given to colorful exaggeration. All said, “It just wouldn’t make no never mind!” as one might exclaim while in a dark, nasty back alley in the deep Deep South.

How ever I defined my mood, George would assume that I’d not utter a word to him until mid-week back in DC.

We both had two seats across the aisle from each other with George gazing to the East while I, the West.

By the time our train had pulled into Union station, I had analyzed, dissected, filed, and capsulized our weekend excursion to New York.

Yet even when I’m fuming, with smoke coming out of my nostrils and ears, I can warble a Southern baritone interpretation of “We’ll Take a Glass Together”. Like clockwork, as it were, I’d then say: “Oh, that poor David Carroll. We loved him in Chess.” I think the anti-Christ misbehaved that weekend as well.


I think I need to do a Stations of the Cross, Lillian. What ya say, Harry?


(Image: “The Chrysler Building” by Andy Burgess, 2005.)

It’s My Shadow’s Schedule, Not Mine!


It is a sad, sad state of assorted sordid affairs when one identifies and defines each distinct day of the week. Labels in life are often dangerous, judgmental, or misused. Life and our thousands of traditions, thoughts, reactions, and answers come with neither constructive instructions nor a wee-set of warnings.

Yet, over-simplifying one’s explanation can actually lead to over-simplifying one’s life. I am there and have been since May 22, 2013.

Nonetheless, I build each day with those entries that are either distinctively crucial, meaningful, or entertaining. Yes, they can skip across a continuum from absurd all the way to crucial. Thus, my week here at Marklewood has become an illustrated collection of Zeniths and Nadirs.

Every Monday, my home health nurse Michelle stops by to: check my IV and re-dress its entry area, take me vitals, and conducts the quickie INR prick. She forwards her reports to the UNC Transplant Team, most notably to both of my cardiologists.

My beloved and I schedule all of my doctor visits for Tuesdays and his for the remaining days. Since mine usually involve driving to Chapel Hill, we make a day of it. And we almost always make every effort to stop by Merritt’s Grill for the very, very finest BLT in the Americas. To say “world” would be expressing gross exaggerations and might skew an analysis or two.

On Wednesdays, I usually sleep quite late. Preparing a manly supersized iced coffee, I then take it, some rye toast, and my iPad into the living room. I rarely then ever leave the living room, that is until Jon and I watch Jeopardy together upstairs.

After we eat dinner, we usually continue with the TV on, while we separately “type away” on our iPads. His Siri can be described as a submissive and easily confused man. Mine is a headstrong woman who autocorrects with incorrect spellings and responses. Education is so important even within a fictional narrative.

My Thursday is usually unstructured: a day of writing, reading, and posting. Kindly add to that an evening of Big Bang Theory, Mom, How to Get Away With Murder, and Elementary. Also, I see my therapist on every third Thursday … if I am up to it that day.

I define Fridays simply as SciFi Fridays. JON’s SciFi Fridays. On the other hand, I’ll listen to music, watch videos, or engage in more interactive web activities. Bless the Beasts and the Earphones!

Saturdays belong to National Public Radio and its roster of witty chat, games, and stories. Programs include: Car Talk, Wait Wait .. Don’t Tell Me!, Dinner Party Downloads, and Prairie Home Companion, among others. They flow seamlessly well into “after dark” TV programming, on PBS.

Surprisingly, Jon and I vary very little in our Sunday activities. It can be a make-up day for any missed NPR shows from the day before. Fast forward to 9:00pm. It offers a rough and tough battle between Downton Abbey, The Good Wife, and The Walking Dead … or any combination therein.

Spoiler Alert! On these ambient, dim (not yet twilight) days, the weekdays unfold quickly with ne’r a variance. Yes, it is shocking and usually excruciating to admit. Time tends to heal itself, while my beloved and I unsuccessfully court change.

I shall update you after my heart transplant. But only after I’ve gone to the Outer Banks, submersing myself in the divine salty water. I always find such swims are not unlike Naval Baptisms, of course with a hologram of Monsignor Dolan officiating.

I shall update you when my sins and illusions have been washed away.

But yes. I guess. I have digressed.


(Image: “Young Napoleon at the Military School of Brienne-le-Château” by Jacques Onfrey de Breville, 1908.)

“Gotta Meeting in the Ladies Room”


No. No. No.
Somewhere near the end of a long list of nearly forgotten Psalms, a suggestion unfolds to “Speculate not, lest …”!

Perhaps, my recall of Sr Mary Edward’s inspirational fourth grade class is compensating and full of shaky, incorrect, or imagined details. Let’s just quietly crawl over those Sapphic innuendos that spark from their first mingle … cocktailed or otherwise.

I find it’s always best to avoid such flammable situations. And to drink plenty of water and speak softly.

Oh, Happy Day!

Besides: Marlene, Anna May, and Leni are undoubtedly up to a naughty, naughty evening.

(Misses Dietrich, Wong, and Riefenstahl.)

The Emergence: A Commuter’s Bliss


To either drive into Raleigh or return, There are quite a few thoroughfares that Jon and I could use. One, however, stands out. It remains one of the few such roads here that is still a simple two lane country road. That is the reason for our motoring bliss and the area’s bucolic charm.

The best aspect is that one comes upon it quickly and without warning … like a gust of wind or noisy bolt. Often, it is not unlike coming out of a treacherous fog or thunderstorm. I might even suggest “orgasm” but I usually avoid going there. For your safety and mine. Just ask Lillian. Of course, she’s likely singing Manilow’s “Looks Like We Made It”.

For half of the last five miles of the leg to Marklewood , one drives through NC State U.’s educational farmland. They test livestock grub, new grasses, different techniques for different crops, and my favorite:

Each year, the agriculture classes build a fence around two acres, experimenting with schematics and looks. They really don’t fence anything in except for a small uncommercial putting green. At the end of the year, the students tear it down for the next class’s academic pursuits and their certain pure enjoyment.

Meanwhile, in spite of living here now for almost fourteen years, the feeling that quickly overcomes me is still fresh and feels still new. I amuse myself with comparisons to the Cotswolds, the French countryside, or just other parts of this great country’s landscape. (I pray that voters will be sensible and compassionate next November.)

During the brightest of wintry days, the many cows seem to all face the sun together. The first time it reminded me, in an apologetically irreverence, of “turning to Mecca”. They could’ve been doing that but, just as with humans, how and why does one fairly assess, assign, and judge another’s religious faith from a form or a quick interview?

We should all ponder that point, eh? Hell, doesn’t the very notion conflict with our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Articles of Confederation? The cows at least are a mix of many breeds that intermingle and co-mingle in nonjudgmental bliss.

But I digress, just as you predicted. We should promptly get back to those bovine beauties.

Chuckle. Chuckle. Smile. Yes, I even smile when I sit here at my desk and start hopelessly visualizing these nearby pastures.

At least I have never taken to naming them. Except for Heather. She’s the one with a window on her side so that her digestive organs are easily viewed.

No bull!

(Image: “Ajax” by John Curry Steuart, 1936-37.)

Okay, Katy. Send “Hoarders Without Borders” Right Over


The continuums from both ‘cluttered to sparse’ and ’emotional to sterile’ are perpetually lost. They are surrounded by indecision, fear, loneliness, and myriad compulsions. The universe drops a tarpe of procrastination and denial and ties it to the ancient Pines with torn strips of confusion. Forget spraying any of that Depression-XX. It stains and tears and loses its purpose.

With a little help from Henry, I have just described the complex phenomenon that often creates hoarders, at least here in the ever staid and stubborn South.

But long after my beloved is in deep slumber and the room is dark and still, I quietly insert myself between any two layers of linens. (The flat sheet is wrapped around Jon, and therefore out of the equation.)

As I wait for that Divine Collection of Ordained Sheep to march by in single file, I often ponder. And then without any prodding, I visualize our many, many collections, books, curios, paintings, and dishes that the two of us acquired separately before we met and have now merged together using all sorts of criteria, prerequisites, and standards.

Oy ve. We’re on the way. To become modern gentlemen hoarders. However, once the newspapers, mail, magazines, and shopping bags are out of both the house and the equation, most of us are the same. Mind you, we’ve peeled off only the superficial layers of clutter and stuff.

That is only the start: valiant and well-intended from inception. My beloved and I, at this point, pray to the Universe for guidance, strength, and boxes. Add to those, the largest garbage bags that Glad happily offers at the Harris-Teeter on Ten-Ten Road

Cold Cream (The ‘D’ is M.I.A.)


Henry has been sleeping under my chin as I lay in bed imagining an improbable but increasingly craved beach romp. He usually has a fresh scent with a hint of lavender. Tonight, though, was different. Weirdly so.

He smelled just like my grandmother Dorothy always did. But that puzzled me and left me theorizing: Henry hasn’t used cold cream in years. And it so defined “Dodie” who incidentally had graduated from Oberlin in the early 20’s and later worked for the Smithsonian Institute. That perhaps was where she learned to neatly archive her secrets.

She was arguably the moistest person I have ever known. I used to mumble to my sister: “Quick! Secure the paper towels. Get the loofahs to a secured location.” I often thought that she could definitely befuddle the Brawny spokesman.

My mother called my grandmother only as Dodie. Just to bug her. Ah the tales of dysfunction always simmer this time of year.

It may just be time to get out the very dusty Pressure Cooker. I shall name it Dorothy Helen in memoriam.