Quick. Pour Another Before the Denial Kicks In!

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It’s Super Tuesday and I am savoring the ever-sweet hospital treat: a “big gulp” iced coffee. As a Southerner, “big gulp” seems always used to describe any cold beverage that is poured to fill a 24-oz container to capacity. “Sippy cup” is too cloyingly juvenile. “To Go” is misleading if one is ultimately headed to the next room to watch The Walking Dead.

Methinks the term peaked and piqued in the ’80’s. Many folks were collectively realizing the folly, arrogance, and irresponsibility of preparing a “Big Gulp Sippy Cup To Go” filled with the gustiest of Sea Breezes.

But back to today, one of the most celebrated days of Catholic feasts. The day  (and more adequately night) to honor Our Lady of the Perpetual Partisanship, the Queen Mother of Quadrennial Primaries. Now where is my Big Gulp?

Election days of any ilk have always thrilled me. As a young child, I watched my parents obsess as they discussed the “what ifs” and “surely wills” of the post voting commentaries, predictions, and analyses. I avoid using the term Post Mortem, as it carries an evangelical connotation. Well, I AM a Southerner: born, bred, but not conceived.

As a man of near certain dotage, I find the CNN and MSNBC poll-crunching “unfold” to be emotional and riveting. In 2000, I stayed up all night glued to the Gore/Bush projection volleys. Leads changed whenever I refilled my Big Gulp  or let Hamilton and Cabot out to pee.

No, silly! They were my King Charles Spaniels, the ones that never had the regal, prissy genes. They loved watching television and thought the Smurfs looked delicious.

So as I reminisce and digress as I frequently do, I turn to my second iced coffee du jour. Bless the flexibilty of the menu here as well as the availability of K-cups. By 7:30 est, I shall be in a rather formidable caffeine frenzy.

The “munchies” of sociopolitics will be a-growl and stirring. Demographic trivia! Those two words alone kick my political junkie’s palpitations into high gear.

Where, oh where are the US Statistical Abstracts of my youth? Certainly I have them in a dusty box in the storage shed at home. I received many of them as birthday presents when I was in Sr Edward Patricia’s 4th grade class.

I was an obsessive child with politics, coffee, and trivia rushing through my veins.

I came by them honestly. As I also did the Big Gulp Sea Breezes.

Oy ve, Lillian. Fingers and I-Vs crossed!

Hats off to my beloved for thoughtfully coordinating my absentee ballot.

(Image: “Pesta Tiga” by Roby Dwi Antono, 2014.)

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The Night Before the Morning After

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A half century of habit is never easily booted. Friday nights still prompt me to emote with both internal squeals and sighs. And on Sunday nights, I still get that awful tightness in my stomach.

You probably know what I mean. You almost certainly experienced the same undeniable feelings. Sunday night always preceded Monday’s return to school. And I was always the odd sort who even loved school.

Saturdays just ended far too quickly.

Of course, I am on the short side of 60 and have been out of high school since Mr Ford was President. And I finished college before Mr Reagan ever moved East.

Like most adults, that anxiety continued into my working years, even when I worked on weekends.

It magnified once my schedule allowed me to maintain a more conventional schedule. Moments later, or so it seemed, I was on permanent disability. I no longer need experience any Sunday sinking feelings.

It has been five years and I still get that feeling. I still remind myself of my silliness and smile politely to my Id. The games we sometimes play are governed by odd rules, at least in the humble opinion of this odd sort.

Yes, tonight was no exception. I did, however, go into Downton Abbey knowing that I could dance until dawn. That is, that might be true if I were neither without inclination nor energy.

Ah, I allowed this post to spill into February, thus tainting the celebration of Black History Month and the birthdays of Mr Lincoln and Mr Washington.

I best dock my pay right now, Lillian.

(This 1962 painting, “Lincoln for the Defense” by Norman Rockwell, made me smile earlier. Initially, the oh-so-subtle colors aroused me in less than subtle ways. However, on second thought, it might’ve been the suspenders.)

Please Join Us in a Jolly “Julsång”

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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.

Shalom.

(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”

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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.

Shalom.

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

Oy.

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

“Gotta Meeting in the Ladies Room”

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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.)

Cold Cream (The ‘D’ is M.I.A.)

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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.

With Neither Maize Nor Wattle

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I was reminiscing this afternoon and sharing with Henry my most memorable Thanksgivings. It was a broad task for sure. But I tried.

Best Food? 2001 at my sister’s. No one can best her Prime Rib and Brisket. And that year, we also had turkey and oysters and a lot of people.
I was extremely emotional because Michael died just a month earlier.

Most Fun Thanksgiving? 1989 at the house I shared with the anti-Christ. The day stands out because everybody was happy and mingled well. We had moved in two days earlier and I was up all night organizing all our new kitchen. The weather was perfect.

We danced, listened to music, hung out on the deck, and threw a frisbee with our sheepdog.
After folks started to leave, three particular friends, my sister and her husband each fixed a cocktail and secured a seat for ROUND 2.

Most Forgettable?  1974 at my mother’s. My Father insisted on coming over. They had divorced 8 months earlier and he was living in Dallas and in a relationship that he rekindled from 1951. He showed no interest in my sister’s first year in Middle School or my freshman year at UNC. As soon as our utensils were gathered on plates, Polly and I left. It was all just so wrong

Most exotic Thanksgiving? 1958 in DC, but my mother was in Minnesota where she worked for Eugene McCarthy.

Legend has it that my father invited all of his friends who were from Germany, Italy, Kenya, and other points in between. After cocktails, everyone went into the dining room to eat. I was sound asleep on the sofa in the livingroom.

I woke up at some point … and crawled and toddled all around the room. As I advanced I looked into each glass and ate the garnishes. I happily dined on mainly cherries from Manhattans and olives from Martinis. I also finished each drink.

When dinner was over, my father and guests returned to the livingroom and found me sound asleep. Okay. Okay. I had passed out on the previously mentioned sofa.

The rest of the day unfolded as one would expect. Yes, my mother was livid when my Father confessed about a month later.

Finally, my most earnest and better prioritized Thanksgiving? 2011. Jon was recovering from a life threatening illness and I had recently had yet another heart attack.

Life had quickly become fragile. Nonetheless, we celebrated our union and found that, yes, we actually could afford a leg of lamb.

It is now four years later. Jon is much better but ridden with ailments of being almost 70. I’m still waiting for a heart. Henry is almost 13. He is your typically lazy tom but would even “turn pussy tricks” if it meant an entire turkey slice might fall to the floor. Since I am “projecting” with this post, we’ll just say He hopes that the turkey slice cascade to the floor. And that Claudja and Hermione are watching some football game.

We will share Thanksgiving with: my sister and her gentleman suitor, my niece Sara and her husband, my niece Sophie and her husband, and my niece Aubrey. My sister’s ex-husband, his wife, and young son will join us.

I will not try to understand the unfortunate inclusion of the latter nor will I let it interfere with the joyous part of the day. It may very well be the last time we are all together.

I am confidant to assume that we’ve each already endured a questionable, perhaps grossly dysfunctional Thanksgiving.

“Receive” will thus be Thursday’s Groucho Marxist “Word of the Day”. (К сожалению об этом.) I intend the word “receive” to invoke that 70’s and 80’s serendipitous suggestion for welcoming a positive karma.  We’re nonetheless surely due for a Cohen-esque Perfect Day.

And if not? Groovy. Bring it on, My Friend. Bring it on.

(Image: “The Small Village Torzhok” by Konstantin Ivanovich Gorbatov, 1917.)

Commuting Fate & the Daydreamy Mr Tapper

Art AuctionsWhen I was 30 years old, I worked from 8am to 5pm, endured an hour’s tedious commute to/from, and generally worked every Sunday. I did all the cooking, shopping, housecleaning, and gardening. The anti-Christ and I entertained often, the detail of which were left to my discretion and execution.

YET somehow I managed to get everything done on both my work and home agendas. The anti-Christ and I went to the movies each week, attended most of the Kennedy Center events, and made time to go shopping in Pentagon City.

We also traveled frequently and impulsively: monthly to New York and three or four times a year on some indulgent holiday to Provincetown, Martha’s Vineyard, Key West, or somewhere more exotic. The AC got all the airline travel points in the separation decree. I got the playbills.

Today at age 59, I am retired and have given up volunteer work. Jon does all the driving, marketing, and household missions. I spend most of my oddly-configured day on various writing projects and watching CNN. I’ve been an election junkie since 1968, but Jake Tapper somehow makes it sexier and wittier.

I no longer can cook anything substantial … and certainly not a complete dinner with courses. The oven is almost exclusively for heating DiGiorno frozen and self-rising sausage pizzas.

These factors weighed and considered, I still end my day with frustration and self-flagellation because I leave so many tasks incomplete or untouched.
Time now gets away from me and does so rather quickly.

I am never able to reach forward and just grab it.

What I can do, however, is reminisce back to a time when I could do it all. Of course, I am much, much happier with my beloved.

(“Three Studies of Lucian Freud” by Francis Bacon, 1969.)

The Big Bopper in a Brechtian Adaptation of Götterdämmerung.

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The past few days have rekindled my ponderances concerning ‘an’ or ‘the’ apocalypse. They fuel the closest of Nature’s anti-Christian propaganda. We give them jaw-dropping instruments and clever tools. Curiosity is center-stage, the greediest principle of these discussions. Our innocence, faith, and hope can all be bartered for what might ultimately become shrapnel for a Merry Modern Apocalypse.

We’ll be lucky to escape the days of dramatic, destructive DeMille-worthy Draconics. Our withered, twisted, pallid bodies writhe before both Satan’s messengers and his Middle Managers. I’d be terrified if I didn’t know how to conjure up the ghosts of Dorothy Maguire or Irene Dunne. Hell just cries out for a woman’s touch.

The terms and mission statements differ among all the speculated time tables, outcome, and long-term results, such as the Prodigal Daughter’s election to safeguard that papal orb.

Not everyone buys into the religious implications and innuendos if the Apocalypse is more of an event: a Passion Play, orgy, or skirmishes pitting our inner demons with the professional ones that Dante made poetic reference to. There are metaphysicists, palm readers, New Testament scholars, the jaded Daughters of Perpetual Scepters, and catechism teachers who soon realize the hopelessness and folly of schedules.

While God seems to often function on a broad but focused itinerary, Lucifer embraces streams of consciousness that eventually dry into a sticky, gooey, and pasty ball of evil. The various Mephistophelan minions might perhaps plan a campus wide sex party at East Carolina University, or leak a faulty list of Target’s Black Friday doorbusters to all of the Pilates classes in Western Civilization.

Of course, we have no idea when the Apocalypse might step forward and finally harken: the end of the world. It may actually represent a long, devastating era in which we are increasingly bombarded with ugly visuals, ugly voices, ugly hairstyles, and the ugliest of souls. How did such a beautiful, dignified, and pedigreed word such as apocalypse become the nadir of time and its crush of humanity?

I tend to probably oversimplify my theories. I am always quick to tidy the room of any mislaid emotions, bitter tears, voodoo dolls, spilt milk, and dead insects that suggest little sill cemeteries. I’d pack them carefully into a box that would make Wells-Fargo proud. And I’d place the box in a vault with a short scribbled message: “Dear Pandora, You fill up our senses like the night in a forest. Fondly, the RNC.”

One popular theory in my household is that the Beginning of the End began in the arid, soulless months that led up to 9/11. The events seem to be escalating. Further, we risk the sad reality that our very fears alone may well end Humanity.

The countless predictions have left us all numb to the concept. We laugh. We joke. We try to bury our terror. And venerate our Tenors.

That terror always seems to be the last soldier standing.

With all the theories of the anti-Christ unnecessarily poised for debates, it seems as though they’re, in fact, all the same. They may be drawn differently. Or have a different name. Or a conflicting font of experience. It is the vocabulary that mind-fucks our senses of reason, compassion, and justice. Our homemade religion might be our downfall yet.

That is: if we empower it or Him. Or the ghost of Berthold Brecht. I bet there’s a lost, now found, musical adaptation of Götterdämmerung just waiting to be produced. Such a gross pastiche of melodies, weaponry, and humanist mythology could usher in the Apocalypse. I can see it.

Yes, I do believe we’ve stumbled head first into something big … a jazzy, peppy, and lyrical Apocalypse. I can just hear the soundtrack queuing: Lionel Ritchie and Diana Ross in “Endless Love” or Anne Murray’s entire repertoire. The Big Bopper is not dead.

Perhaps he will save us.

 

 

The Practical Art of Manipulative Disclosure

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Not that I need a moment’s nostalgia at 1:20 am, but I’ll probably soon clear my throat, enjoy that last forced sip of tea, and dive in “head first”. Of course, neither you nor I shall mention that unfortunate recent tumble of mine.

To use the cliche “dive in” would be reckless, insensitive, and at my expense. But the bruises and flashbacks are finally gone and I really don’t want to relive my fall or subsequent hospital holiday.

Well, in any case: early last evening, this 1910 painting by Britain’s Charles Spencelahr whispered into my good ear: “remember?” I’ll never let that tale out for a spin on its own.

It was the summer of ’65 and all mine, Mr Adams and Mr Davis. My parents, sister Polly, and I were in staying at one of those almost extinct grand hotels of downtown America.

Before we left Chapel Hill the day before, I had surreptitiously placed my very small pet turtle in a dish on the floor in the back seat of our car. Hal and Margy didn’t notice Nat until we were already well on the way. I’m not absolutely certain that they even knew I had a turtle. I had learned in my earlier years of Catholic school the art of manipulative disclosure.

Okay. Okay. You and I both know what happened. Nat passed away, rather froze. I had put the bowl on the air conditioner to make him comfy. But when we came back to our room after dinner, he was already beginning to stiffen up.

I’d like to say that I cried, but I didn’t. That milestone was two decades later, when I lost a puss to another animal’s blood lust. Now, THAT was tragic and sob-worthy.

That was the last time I made that mistake again. In fact, I haven’t even held a turtle since.

Hal, on the other hand, then had a sweet little anecdote that he could embellish. He, more than once, worked it into a speech he’d deliver.

I was embarrassed those times that he brought up Nat … publicly or privately. But I’ll give him those recollects.

I would later have much bigger and better tales to tell. I’d have much more time and clarity to “embellish” to properly mold them.

After all I was my father’s son.

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.

Talk of Dice and Dollars and Balls (Crystal or Otherwise)

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It’s the eve of Election Day ’14 and I’m already spent. I’m exhausted by the rabble-rousing scare tactics that all candidates seem to rely on these days. The stretched truths and ugly innuendos that have already run up an electoral tab of over one hundred million dollars. Yes, it would’ve been cheaper (and an easy, easy pill) if every registered voter were simply given a twenty dollar bill.

This perennially revitalized flower child is finally jaded. I just want it all to end. If there is an inevitability to Tuesday’s vote, I say bring it on. Take all of us once hopeful children of the ’60’s and just give us the name of the winning prize fighter. At least may it belong to he or she who hates less.

At this point, I have no partisan energy left. Frankly, the die was cast long before this week. All I ask is that if you are indeed registered, please vote. Vote along the lines defined by your conscience, values, and perhaps even an issue or two. If you are motivated by hatred, ignorance, or ulterior motive, just stay home and watch “The Price is Right!”

Of course if we had a few more dice, it would be an entirely different game, that of Dominoes. Thank you, Mr Morrison. Henry, Jon, and I will look for you on the early side of Wednesday.

(Image: “Merchant of Dreams” by Ray Caesar, 2004.)

The English Recall of Spoken French

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Michael was kind, witty, gentle, and given to endless amusing quirks. He’d wear his tortoise-shell reading glasses at the very tip of his nose and, often, drive the long route home, simply because it was more scenic. And he’d often respond in, at most, casual French idioms or “buzz” phrases as he was neither a scholar, nor a Frenchman:
“Mais oui!” or “Zut alors!” or that American catch-all, “Mon Dieu!”

In the summer of 2001, he was quickly becoming increasingly symptomatic of the dreadful terminal illness, Progressive Multifocal Leuko-Encephalopathy. That mouthful of a term is usually shortened to the very kind and pragmatic initialism, PML. His disease had robbed him of any cognition, his ability to communicate, his motor skills, and an entire lifetime of joyous memories and dear friends.

Essentially, all he was indeed able to do was eat and walk, although both activities need qualification here. He no longer sensed any taste, only temperature, and he could no longer chew. Walking was strained because he was somewhat paralyzed on his left side, which meant that he dragged one leg while he held one arm. He had just turned 49, but didn’t really understand the concept of birthdays or their celebrations.

Usually, he was incredibly good-natured and resigned to what was happening, if he indeed had an inkling as to such. His frustrations were many but he was nevertheless easily distracted. You can only imagine, friends, what his days were like: empty and void of an ability to express. I would make him as comfortable as possible and just pray that any torment would stay dormant and that he not be in any pain.

However, one such late August day, Michael was restless. He painfully shuffled from room to room, knocking things over as he’d brush by. He found a tool box, mustered the strength to lift it, and hurled it against a window. Casualties included one window, a couple dozen terra cotta floor tiles, and both a scattering of nails and a smattering of gadgetry all over the kitchen floor. He knocked over lamps, books, mementos, anything within his strained reach. Whether from intention or accident, his anger was spiraling into fury.

I was finally able to calm him down a bit. I held him tightly so he could feel my heartbeat and hear the timber in my voice. I never really knew at what point his understanding of my words stopped, for his stares were sadly always empty. But talking at least gave me some hopeful comfort. I gave Michael his afternoon dose of thorazine and prayed that it would soon take effect and his rage, subside.

He followed me into the bedroom where I cajoled him into getting into bed, with my hope that he would soon be able to sleep. After ten minutes or so, he’d close his blue eyes and I would head back to the kitchen to start restoring order to the chaos.

No sooner was I uncomfortably stooped as I scooped nails, he walked back in, yet again. Trembling a bit. I took his hand, led him back to the bedroom, and again was able to get him ready to nap. Again, I waited a reasonable amount of time and then returned to the mounting “clean-up” tasks in the other rooms.

Perhaps, my optimism was unwarranted as we repeated those “steps one-through-three” at least a dozen times. At that point, I got in bed next to him, urging him to just stay still for fifteen minutes. That was all I asked. I felt certain that such would be all the time needed for the medicine to calm him enough to grow drowsy and, at last, sleep.

But, no! Fifteen minutes later, he stiffly sat up and started to head into the next room. I was beside myself. The day of frustration, bedlam, and such agony had awakened an anger in me. Before I knew it, I had forgotten my role as a dutiful, compassionate care-giver. I grabbed Michael by the shoulders and just yelled, as if in an unleashed last attempt:

“You need to get some rest, dammit. For goodness sakes! What, am I speaking French or something?”

Terrified at my outburst, he looked at me and simply said: “Oui!”

We looked at each other and I held him. I couldn’t cry for he’d have no comprehension of my “tears!”

I just held him, assuring him: “I love you, Michael!”

He quietly replied: “love”.

Somehow we both understood that moment: each with so much to feel, to express, yet couldn’t. Those were the only two words he spoke at all that day. On many a day that summer, he uttered none at all.

And with those two simple words (seven letters, total), he was able to finally sleep as I regained my focus and hope, at least enough to get me through that very long day.

“Oui.”

That, my friends, is the moment of joy or hope that I humbly offer you today. This anecdote was never intended to evoke melancholy or sorrow, but rather to emphasize the power of one singular instant in time. And this instant with Michael was both timely and wondrous as it gave us each a craved morsel of hope, dignity, and humor.

The Universe (whatever that may be), keeps a keen eye, takes care of us, and gives us the strength to always do what we must.

A Baker’s Dozen of years later, I can now share this particular memory, although my cerebral search engines are known to falter and sputter these days.

“Je peux enfin penser à l’été et sourire.”

(Image: “Skyscraper 5” by Julie Heffernan, 2012.)