Friday, March 31, 2006

why I can't have nice things

There's an advertising campaign for Capital One credit cards that features the world's worst guardian angel. The ads show an oblivious angel fiddling around on a mobile or being distracted by a pretty girl as his human charge gets hit by falling objects, tumbles down a flight of stairs and generally encounters one unlucky mishap after another. The spots are slyly subversive and hilariously funny; somehow, the idea of such a blithely indifferent angel never fails to crack me up. Until, that is, I realized he was working for me.

I spent all day Sunday down in Old Town Orange, where the Orange Circle is known for it's quaint atmosphere and abundance of 'antique' shops, most of which are really just used furniture and tchotcke emporiums. It's the kind of place where that sad, characterless little table that sat by your auntie's bedside all through the 70's, and which she sold at a yard sale last month for $5 gets slapped with a coat of white paint and a flowery little tag that pronounces it "shabby chic" and gives an asking price of $129.

And yet I am undaunted, for I am a shopper and a treasure hunter by nature, and there are bargains to be had. If you know where to look.

On this day I was in search of a bookcase to fit an empty, narrow space by the living room fireplace. It's been empty since the day I moved in, but suddenly I was obsessed with finding just the right bookcase fill it. I started shopping for it with my mother when she was visiting and now, for some reason, I was obsessed with the idea. I kept going back.

I found the perfect piece on Sunday ~ an off-white, 6 shelf little number with just the right proportions, style and embellishments to fit my precisely eclectic English/French/Asian-influenced-country home-trapped-in-a-California-tract house decor. The $400 asking price was ludicrous, however, and I was leaving town tired and disappointed. Such is the life of an inveterate shopper on a limited budget. You win some, you lose some.

In the parking lot, I pulled my keys from my bag and dug around for my sunglasses. Unable to locate them, I started pulling things out ~ a tape measure, a comb, a lipstick, my camera. I put the camera on the hood of my car. Horrified, I realized that I had lost my favorite glasses. And it came back to me in a flash; I remembered that I had heard something fall as I bent over to examine a table in one of the shops, but had been too distracted to check it out. My glasses ~ I knew it in an instant. And I knew just where they were.

How proud of myself I was, as I got into the car. Imagine, I thought; as tired and hungry as I felt, to be able to focus, with such laser-like intensity, on mentally locating the lost object. Such a lucky, clever girl. Well done, I thought. As I drove off.

With the camera. On my hood.

My $416 digital camera. In it's cute little gray vinyl carrying case. My beautiful camera. That I got for my birthday less than 3 years ago.

I loved that camera. I loved it's sleek, chic, distinctively furturistic design. I loved the way it's 3 little blue lights would light up when it was charging. Like it was happy to see me. I loved that.

I loved the pictures that it took. I loved that it was a birthday present from my husband. I loved it because it was mine.

I went back, of course, as soon as I realized what had happened, but you know the rest. No sign of it in the lot or on the streets, no one had turned it into any of the surrounding businesses. Jose', of the lost and stolen properties unit of the Orange Police Department, promised to let me know if it showed up ~ an absolute hero of a man, I might add, who no doubt resisted the overwhleming urge to laugh and call me an idiot. Or worse. He was sweet and sympathetic, and for that I am eternally grateful. Because I don't deserve it.

Buddha help me, I am a material girl and I love material things. I don't mind telling you that I wept for the loss of that camera. I wept for the loss of the object . I wept for the loss of the gift. I wept for the loss of the pictures. I wept for the loss of my mental facilities. Most of all, I wept for the loss of my self-image as an intelligent, confident, competent woman. I am disconsolate.

I am too stupid to live.

And my angel is so fucking fired.

Monday, March 27, 2006

no mo mojo

I've been busy as hell lately and getting nowhere fast, much like the treadmill at the gym that I haven't been to in three weeks. It's the old cliche'; the hurrier I go the behinder I get, and I do mean that in the most literal, and unappealing sense.

And yet, through all the activity I've been oddly lacadaisical. Lethargic and dull-witted, I've been devoid of anything resembling a creative spark. Anxiety about the health and welfare of family members, as well as problems typical of homeownership and far too tedious to relate here have left me mentally competent but completely lacking in imagination. It seems I am missing that certain lightness of being required to write in a public forum.

It isn't that one need be cheerful to write, publicly or otherwise, of course; we write, paint and create as often from a place of darkness as light. Some would argue more so. It's just that any act of creation requires exertion and the blog form, where we ask virtual strangers to take a moment out of their busy lives to spend a moment or two in ours, demands a more measured sort of effort and energy than one intended for private use only. For some reason, I haven't been up to it.

I am, I suspect, only writing this much in order to try and lubricate the joints, as it were. I don't think it's working. Too few martinis and not enough yoga are making Lotus a dull girl.

Goodbye, joie de vivre. Hello, cabbage soup.

*graphic: Anne Taintor Inc.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

alone again, unnaturally

My house is silent and in a melancholy mood. I haven't spent much time alone in the past month or so, and as much as I enjoy these moments I am wistful nonetheless. Mom has gone back home, and seeing her off at the airport was a wrenching thing.

I spent the past couple of days baking Irish soda bread for the annual parties and dinner, this time held on Saturday for the benefit of our observant Catholic friends (and their adoring Jewish husbands,) plans for which were made before the special dispensation. And then, of course, there were the get-togethers themselves. Great fun, all. Well, you know. You've been ~ you've eaten the corn beef and drunk the green beer. But now the Paddy's Parties are over, I've picked the last few pieces of shiny green confetti off the floor and out of my shoes, and I find myself mildly hungover and enjoying the comfort of a little aimless whimsy.

As a girl I loved playing with dolls and never really got over it. Now, thanks to the wonders of technology (and a link from
Robbie, whose current avatar is wearing a really cute tee ~ can I borrow it?) I'll never have to.

So I spent a foolish amount of time a while ago playing in Yahoo and came away with this brilliant new Barbie dol---I mean avatar. I love it. I can't believe I wasted so much time drawing my own.

We are One, my Digital Dolly and I.

Here we are at the St. Patrick's Day Parade ~ but I expect this scene will change shortly. For here, in Yahoo-based space we can change outfits, hairstyles and environments at will, which is more than I can say for the fact-based me, which requires time, effort, a team of cosmetologists and frequently airfare in order to alter immediate reality.

See how excited we are! And how delightedly St.Paddy's Day Dorky! Just like real life. I even gave us a cool pet wolf, which I suddenly realize we have always wanted but my parents, my husband and my homeowners' association would never let us have. But no one can stop me here, by Jove. Stop us, I mean.

We shall call the wolf Strider. Because we are geeks. Or maybe Jack. Because we are indecisive geeks.

So let us go now, Strider-or-possibly-Jack! For we have things to do and dragons to slay. Maybe meet some more Avatars along the way. Say what you will, I find this alternate reality extremely entertaining. I may never go out into the real world again.

And now if you'll excuse me, I think I need to go try on some more hats.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

postcard from CA

Mom's been staying with me for a couple of weeks now, and as we sit here in her sunny blue and white bedroom ~ reminiscing, kvetching, and singing silly old songs together ~ I talk her into composing our very first joint blog entry. Mom searches for something to say.


I read back what we've written so far.

"You're going too fast. You wrote the comma, but you didn't act the comma."

I reread the scintillating prose.

"What should I say now?" I prompt.

"I don't know. Nothing's coming to me."

My 92 year-old Mom's looking very jaunty in my baseball cap from 'Turks'; a saloon in Dana Point where we celebrated my birthday a while back.

"I'm older than that," she says. "I think I'm...102."

"No, you're not. You'll be 93 in April."

"I was born in 1913. This is 2006."

"Exactly. Do the math."

We stare at each other for a few seconds, frowning slightly, attempting to wrap our minds around the simple arithmetic ~ Mom slowly because she is 92; me, slowly because I'm just slow. And I even already know the answer. Math is hard.

"Tell them about how cold and rainy it is in sunny California," she says. Mom's a native New Yorker who's currently on the lam from Texas, where last time I visited they were evacuating the state in anticipation of a hurricane. She's been complaining since she got here ~ about the weather, the altitude, how cold my house is and, for some strange reason, how tiny my toilets are.

"Sorry, Mom, but I am the mayor of Tiny Toilet Town, and you're my prisoner. You'll just have to deal." Mom is pretty tiny herself, all 4' 7"and 87 pounds of her, so I'm not quite sure what the problem is. Mom likes to complain.

On the other hand, whenever we go out she keeps wanting to buy me things. Like leather jackets, steak knives, a 150 year-old bronze Buddha statue; a microwave.

"Tell them about how I want to buy you a microwave and you don't want one because you have no room in the kitchen. Put it in your bedroom."

"I just don't need one. I raise my own cattle, grow my own vegetables and prepare everything from scratch. And I don't cook in the bedroom."

"Maybe you would if you had a microwave." That's what I need; less distance between me and food prep.

"But then where would I put the Buddha statue?"

"On top of the microwave." You have to hand it to her. Mom is nothing if not persistent.

We've been doing all the things we love to do together ~ cooking, shopping for clothes, browsing for furniture; watching old movies, entertaining friends and haunting antique stores. Especially haunting antique stores. I walk behind her, amiably pushing her wheelchair into walls as she calls out for me to slow down. Shopkeepers look on anxiously as I misjudge yet another corner.

"We're making them nervous," says Mom, as we head for a shelf containing antique glassware.

"We make me nervous," I reply. She giggles.

In between, we've been living on Entenmann's Cheese Filled Coffee Cake, Hershey's Kisses and Russell Stover's chocolates ~ which means by the time Mom leaves, I'll have gained another 27 pounds, and Mom will still be...tiny. We are nothing if not consistent.

"What do you think, Ma? Can I post it?"

"Email. So he can read it," she says, referring to my brother.

"No, Mom. On the internet. Anyone can read it." She frowns.

"Oh, no. I don't like that. It's private."

"Not really," I say. "It's just a tiny piece of our lives; it's as if we were writing a little slice of life - type story for a magazine or a newspaper column. And no one knows who we are. It's us, but it's everyone really."

She looks tired and a little wan. I've been overachieving as activities director ever since she got here. In my zeal to make every moment a memorable one, I sometimes forget to stop and let her smell the roses of her own choosing ~ like lingering over coffee in the morning, or dozing off in the noonday sun.

"Okay, you do what you want." She shrugs.

I post.