Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sour grapes


I've been keeping an eye on this bit of political graffiti over the past few months. First came the altered Shepard Fairey/Obama as Che. Next came the scribbles on the left: "The election is OVER now SHUT UP!" Most recently, the pentagram hat ornament was added, as well as "Liar!" and the scrawls across the face.
A continuing conversation is taking place on the side of this utility panel. An indicator, perhaps, of emotions still running strong six-plus months after the election. Of the President as image, metaphor, a blank canvas on which we can project--what? Anger? Mistrust?
Maybe I'm over-analyzing. Maybe it's just sour grapes.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

B-I-N-G-O

What started out as ironic hipster fun--let's go to the senior center for Friday night spaghetti and bingo--turned out to be a truly amazing evening.

The scene: a nondescript dining room packed with utilitarian tables and chairs, a makeshift stage and bingo board up front; and a standing room only crowd, made up of--in addition to the unflappable seniors--twenty-somethings dressed for the clubs, one kid with a blond 'fro and a yellow fedora, a sleek tanned girl in a sparkly purple top and heels; whole families crowded around a table, from grandma on down to a fat grinning baby; half-dozens of Gen X'ers sucking down $3 ESBs and scanning the karoake sheets for their next number; and many many mom-and-dad looking people, the ladies in themed sweatshirts or appliqued sweaters, the guys in pressed shirts and jeans, their hair slicked back.

Bingo was the main event. We hunched over our sheets, markers in hand, nervous as the seconds ticked by. When, finally, somebody yelled "bingo!" a dejected groan went up. When bingo was confirmed, we balled up our loser sheets and fired them as projectiles at the guiltily grinning winner.

The announcement of O-69 never failed to generate a roar and thunderous applause.

And it was a kind-hearted crowd. The karaoke ranged from heartfelt classics (the two emcees doing air-trombone off to the side) to full-on jazzed-up performances, all of which were met with cheers, laughs, clapping, and--later in the night--only the occasional yawn.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The unpromising staircase

On a nice afternoon earlier this week, I had a few minutes to kill so I walked down a set of unpromising wooden steps to an Antique Mall. Having just come back from the Midwest and an extremely satisfying expedition to the I-70 Antique Mall—thousands of square feet stuffed with treasures and junk, most at laughably low prices--I entered with fairly low expectations. And then walked around in amazement. I’d descended into thrift store heaven.

There were vintage lidded Pyrex dishes and jazzy Fifties plates. Plywood serving trays. Floor lamps with topstitched waxy shades, simple low tables with Deco curves and glasses dusted with the kind of gold trim you can't put in the dishwasher. There were old shoes with graceful heels, and new-old hats, big enough to sling cool and low across my brow. Sure, there was junk, too, Smurf dolls and piles of dogeared Life magazines and old baking powder tins and enough salt and pepper shakers to season every table in town.

Twenty dollars later, I made it out of there with a battered green enamel serving tray and last night, with some toothpaste and some elbow grease, I made the black scrapes disappear. I'm now the happy owner of a smart, retro piece of usable art.

Call it what you want—vintage, secondhand, thrift, used—but thrift shopping is the ultimate intersection of penny-pinching and recycling.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Now hear this

Above all, don't fear difficult moments. The best comes from them.

Considering the source--Levi Montalcini, a 100-year old Nobel prize winner--this quotation seems meaningful, and not in hokey or sentimental or Hollywood-blockbuster sort of way.

Someone I'm close to has been considering the nature of achievement, and failure. I think this: if you're not failing, it means you're not trying.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Kansas state of mind


I'm just back from a week in the town where I was born.
I ate well, didn't sleep much, and got to travel and spend time with some of my favorite people.

Here's a picture that gives you an idea of a typical High Plains day: sun, wind, a smile through gritted teeth.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Topic A around here

If you asked, I'd say I hate talking about the weather. Looking back over my posts, though, that is clearly not true.

I think what I hate is complaining about the weather. I'm a rain-loving girl, so living in Seattle suits me just fine. A damp misty day puts me in a relaxed, contemplative frame of mind, perfect for a Cheever novel and hot chocolate at Bauhaus, or an early afternoon glass of bubbles anywhere that overlooks wet, greasy twilit city streets.

In Port Angeles this weekend I spent some time considering moss. We had a particularly cold, wet winter, and many rocks and trees and bushes are furred with crazy-looking varieties of lichen and moss. Shaggy layers of moss ride up slender tree trunks like slouchy socks. Two or three kinds of moss clump along the same branch, not competing but co-existing and friendly, like guys at a neighborhood bar. Hanks of the silvery-green stuff hang in fragile bearded tufts, and in the filtered mid-afternoon light, you well understand the mythic traditions that people the woods with ancient timber deities.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My 2nd favorite holiday

Happy April Fool's Day! In my opinion, this day ranks second only to Halloween, because just as with the big H, there's no special menu involved, no minimum family dosage, no hoary songs or ill-suited gifts. What could possibly be better than one entire day devoted to pranks, jokes, and tomfoolery?

This was my first AFD at my new job, so I dialed it back a little. Just a little. I reeled in a few suckers, but gently.

The last e-mail I got from my mom was dated February 13, 2004. She'd forwarded a dog joke, along with a few extra lines telling me about her recent road trip. April Fool's Day makes me feel close to her. Her corny jokes embarrassed me mightily when she was still with us, but now I think I'd give anything to pick up the phone and hear her pretending to be the U.S. Postal Inspector.

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