Thursday, May 31, 2007

Old Fogeyville

Okay, the comments for that last post got me thinking: what are the signs of definitely having reached Old Fogeyville?

I’ve come up with some ideas, but I’d be interested to hear yours too. Not that I’m implying any of you are old fogeys or anything…

  • You don’t recognize teen pop stars when they’re standing right next to you, or without significant Googling.
  • You remember the world before Googling.
  • You use ‘the’ in front of nouns like email, as in “I used the email to contact her.”
  • The idea of getting dressed up and throwing on lots of makeup and jewelry and doing your hair all pretty makes you groan rather than wriggle in anticipation. (I’m picturing the difference between getting ready for a high school dance and getting ready for a work holiday party.)
  • You fondly recall the day your family got its first microwave.
  • You know all the words to “The Facts of Life” theme song.
  • You remember Meg Ryan from ‘As the World Turns’.
  • You remember when the Burger King was just a guy in a cape with a big red beard.
  • You own something you refer to as “a housedress.”
  • You can perfectly recall where you were for any significant cultural event prior to the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986.
  • You can no longer drink more than one alcoholic beverage and be expected to behave yourself. (You know who you are.)
  • Children you babysat in high school are now themselves graduating from high school.
  • You can predict tomorrow’s fashion trends by flipping a few pages further in your own childhood photo album. (I don't think Snoopy handbags are on the horizon, but my 80s clothes are sooooo trendy right now!)
  • You remember life before cell phones, and can admit that some aspects of it were good.
  • You have friends you have known for decades.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Do the Shoes Give Autographs?

Saturday morning I had an illuminating experience. I was apparently in the presence of a Famous Person, but had NO IDEA who she was.

It happened like this.

On my way to New Orleans I flew from Boston to Newark. I had a short midday layover there, and decided to use that time to eat lunch. Surveying my options – McDonalds, Ben & Jerry’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Sbarro – I decided that if I wanted any vegetables at all, they’d have to come from the Wok n Roll stir-fry place. I got in line behind 12 other people and started eyeing the chicken and broccoli.

Until The Shoes caught my eye. About 5 feet from me, leaning against a column, a young woman with long tan legs was wearing a pair of shoes that really should have had their own spotlight and theme song. They were beautiful. And right up front I’ll just confess these shoes were miles out of my league – not only would I never be able to afford shoes like that, I would never have an occasion to wear them, NEVER, and also, if I tried them on, my feet would probably cramp and I’d make it about two teetery steps before I toppled over and broke a bone (mine, or possibly someone else’s). These shoes compelled me to love them despite all that.

The Shoes were some sort of satin brocade in a perfect harmony of beautiful colors, lavender, gold, mango, light green, silver. Not exactly flowered, but patterned. They were pointy, and had extremely high heels. Believe me, they were MUCH more than the sum of their parts.

I had forgotten the chicken and broccoli eons ago, and was lost in a haze of shoe adoration, when a woman came up to the young woman wearing The Shoes and said, “Excuse me, are you So-and-so?” I didn’t hear the name she said, and at first didn’t recognize what was going on. When the girl said yes, and agreed to sign an autograph for the woman’s teenaged daughter, I paid more attention. The Girl Wearing The Shoes looked like a pretty teenager to me: khaki shorts, orange shirt, denim jacket, enormous sunglasses, pretty tan freckled doll features, big hoop earrings. The sunglasses were so big I didn’t see how the woman could have recognized her, but then, I had no idea who the Famous Person was. To me she was just the Girl Wearing The Shoes.

Four or five other people came over and asked for autographs, and one woman even held out her palm pilot so the Famous Person could sing something into it. I turned to pay for my chicken and broccoli and when I turned around The Shoes were gone. They’re only a pleasant memory now. And then I realized I was stuck with a mystery. I had no idea who the Famous Person was, and also, I faced the unpleasant realization that I must be approaching Old Fogeyhood to be so far out of it.

Anyway, I described all of this to MKA and she said (after the part where she urged me to skip the description of the shoes, I refused and expressed outrage at her heathenism, and we forgave each other) she thought it might be JoJo.

I looked up JoJo online since I had only ever heard her name and wasn’t sure what or who she was. Turns out, The Girl Who Wore The Shoes was indeed JoJo. She was very polite to her fans, and judging from the 5 notes she sang into that weird woman’s palm pilot, her ability to carry a tune is still intact, which bodes well for her musical future. Also – and this is the most important – the girl has *killer* taste in shoes AND she can actually wear them. I have to say, I think that young woman’s going places. In The Shoes. Lucky her.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Drove My Chevy to the Levee

And the levee was GOOD!!!

Okay, so here’s the story. Last Friday was not a pleasant day. It made me weary and grumpy. Naturally I called my friend MKA so I could share the weary-grumpiness over the phone – isn’t that what friends are for? Turns out MKA was having the exact same kind of day, compounded by the fact that her boyfriend’s back was out and he was not going to be able to accompany her to their home town of New Orleans for Memorial Day as they had been planning for months. And then (cue choir of heavenly angels) MKA showed me what friends really ARE for – she took me with her to New Orleans instead!!

I had never been to New Orleans. I was lucky enough to go this time with a native, who showed me all her personal historical landmarks, as well as narrated all the things that have changed since Katrina. I confess I was a little nervous to go, given that the footage following that hurricane was so horrifying, but it was beautiful. It was marvelous. It was SUCH a good weekend. We had a great time, and the city is rebounding so amazingly well. New Orleans looks good, and I felt so much better for having seen it. It was a feel-good weekend all round.

The weekend started with a rental car. A rental car the color of fake cheese. It was the yellowest Chevy I have ever laid eyes on. We played the Yellower Than game until we found the exact equivalent. “I think our car is yellower than the sun.” “I think our car is yellower than Big Bird.” “I think our car is yellower than Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.” And then we saw it, rising in the distance over the hood of our yellow car – a Best Buy. Turns out our car was the EXACT same shade of yellow as the Best Buy sign.

In case you were wondering, neither MKA or I is really ‘street’ enough to pull off a car that color. We were ludicrously mismatched with our wheels for the weekend. It is REALLY hard to blend in with the surroundings when you drive a car that yellow. Also, when drunk people on Bourbon Street look at you disdainfully driving your Vehicle of Poor Taste, you know you’ve sunk to a new low. I mean, when they guy wearing a giant condom on his head publicly expresses disdain for your taste, you have to wonder if you’ve stepped through the looking glass somewhere…

So. There we were in our Big Bird Yellow Car, driving through New Orleans. We parked it (an adventure of its own that really just won’t bear repeating) and went to the apartment of MKA’s friends. We stayed in their beautiful apartment near Jackson Square in the French Quarter, and I fell in love with wrought-iron balconies on the spot. And with the sounding horns of riverboats in the night – so Mark Twain! The French Quarter is more my speed during the day, but it was certainly worth a visit at night. It’s a phenomenon you just have to experience at least once, at least as a looker-on (which was my preferred method of experiencing it). Bourbon Street at night (any night) is a combined frat party, street party, bachelor party, parade, freaks-and-geeks circus, and peep show. Big Daddy’s has these fake plastic legs that swing out over the street repeatedly – I assume this is supposed to be sexy and alluring. Maybe it was once upon a time when they had a real burlesque girl on the swing, but now that it’s fake legs in fishnets, it just seemed kind of sad to me. Karaoke bars compete for the loudest and most successful rendition of ‘Living on a Prayer’ or ‘Blister in the Sun’. Strip bars and ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ – an oxymoron if ever I saw one – compete with photographs, neon signs and real girls dancing in silhouette on shaded windows to lure in customers. Dueling pianos and vat-sized hurricanes at the piano bar in Pat O’Brien’s. Street performers – gifted and otherwise – playing to their own mental concert halls on the sidewalks. Restaurants selling pizza and daiquiris side by side with demure or swanky places that serve mouth-watering crawfish étouffée. Dixieland music pouring brassy phrases out of Preservation Hall. Tacky gift shops shoulder to shoulder with crowded antique stores and art galleries. People walk the streets with their beers and hurricanes in hand, cheering the police officers as they walk by. It’s so weird for that to be legal. But what struck me the most about my strolls down Bourbon Street at night, were that some people were out in the middle of all that with very small children. Of all the things I saw – the poor taste, the overtly sexual signs and behavior, the blind drunkenness – the thing that offended me most were people walking through it all at 11 pm with little kids ranging in age from 1-10 years. That’s just wrong.

What is absolutely and perfectly right about New Orleans is the food. If I lived there I would not be able to live in one of the darling little cottages in the French Quarter because I would soon outgrow it. New Orleans is where good food goes to heaven so it can be even better. We ate at the Gumbo Shack my first night and had all sorts of tasty treats: étouffée, gumbo, jambalaya, maque choux. We ended that evening with beignets at Café du Monde. Beignets (pronounced ben-yay, or in my world, ben-YAY!!!) are deep-fried pieces of dough served hot with about a bucket of powdered sugar on top. At a café that NEVER CLOSES. For food that lacks chocolate, beignets are surprisingly close to the top of my list of all-time favorite foods. The next day we ate two meals at Mother’s. Mother’s from the outside appears to be a red-brick shack, and from the inside a sort of bustling greasy-dive food joint, but for me, Mother’s is a name I shall always utter with reverence. The food there is DIVINE. We had shrimp and debris po boys – and we had them properly dressed with mustard, mayo, butter, pickles and cabbage, as God intended. Mmmmm…. delicious.

Okay. So I have to stop talking about the food or I’ll get homesick. On Sunday MKA and I hit the road in the Bright Yellow Menace, heading out of town to see a real plantation. We drove 60 miles up the river to see Oak Alley, a sugar cane plantation that was built in the 1840s (I may have the date wrong by a few years). It has an alley of massive 300 year old live oaks in front. Despite limbs lost to the hurricane, the alley is still stunning. In fact, the highlight of that side trip for me was seeing those trees. They were awe-inspiring. The house is beautiful too. In fact, the grounds and the day were so beautiful, that MKA and I ducked out of the rather stilted tour we had paid to join so we could wander on our own. Before leaving the plantation we stopped at the nearby levee – I was extremely tickled to note that we drove our Chevy to the levee – and had a moment of communion with the mighty Mississippi. Then we hit the road with our Sonic Cherry Limeades and headed back to town. I was glad to have seen a plantation, and to have seen one that acknowledged its history of slaves, although I wasn’t really comfortable there. Beautiful, but disturbing.

We went to the New Orleans Museum of Art when we got back. Stood in the sun for 30 minutes to get in – I got a slight sunburn but MKA proved that she’s still more reflective than anything else. The girl is pale, and that’s coming from ME, a girl whose sister charitably refers to my skin tone as ‘bisque.’ The government of France has put together an amazing exhibit of paintings of French women from the mid-19th century to Picasso, as a way of helping Louisiana recover from the devastation of Katrina. Judging from the line we stood in, it’s definitely boosting cultural tourism in the area. The paintings assembled for the exhibit are great, and they come from more than two dozen different museums in France, so it’s not likely they’ll ever be in one spot again. I recommend Femme, femme, femme for those who are interested. The museum didn’t really control the number of people in the exhibit halls, so it was frustratingly crowded, but the paintings are the focus and they were worth it. My favorite was a painting of Rosa Bonheur, a French woman who was the most famous female painter of her age. The painting was done in 1895, a few years before her death at age 77. She’s sitting in her studio wearing men’s clothes (considered shocking at the time – she had to get permission from the police to do so!), surrounded by her paintings of lions and horses (painting animals was not considered feminine), looking right at the viewer. She looks like a lady with a dry sense of humor, little patience for idiots, and a lot of spirit.

Back in the French Quarter we went to the Blue Dog Gallery, where the artist Rodrige shows his work. His paintings of what appears to be a very soulful smurf-blue Corgi have become iconic in New Orleans. I’m a big fan of the blue dog now. Rodrige also sells some prints of his Blue Dog series online as a means of raising funds for post-Katrina aid.

Katrina has made its mark and the city will definitely never be the same again. It silenced me to see the searchers’ marks still spray-painted on some of the buildings – marks that indicated that the house had been searched, how many people had been accounted for dead or alive, if there were gas leaks, etc. But on reflection it seemed striking that I didn’t see more of those given how little time has passed since the utter devastation of that storm. Most of all I was impressed with how far New Orleans has come, and how energetically it seems to be renewing itself. The haves and have nots still live cheek-by-jowl in New Orleans, sometimes jarringly so, but everyone seems to be joined in the effort to recreate their home, to restore it, or to make it better.

I had a grand time in New Orleans. It was such an unexpected gift, to have a weekend away with a good friend, in a place so removed from my daily routine, and in such an appealing place. New Orleans is recovering, y’all, and I recommend you enjoy it if you can. The streetcars aren’t back yet, and the Spanish moss may take a few more years to return to its former furry glory, but there are mardi gras beads hanging from the trees in every neighborhood, and the beignets are calling your name.

Thank you, thank you!

Thanks for your comments, both about museums and elephants. I am grateful for your feedback.

Stacey - it's always good to find a museum you can visit more than once, that offers such a positive experience you're willing to go back again and again. If I'm ever in Oregon I'll be sure to look that one up!

Anonymous - I too can be a 'skimmer'! Sometimes that's the only way to make your way through the overwhelmingness. It's all part of what my mom calls 'museum speed'. Everyone has different speeds for different museums and days.

Oldqueen - I love the expensive naps idea. Espeically if your home doesn't have airconditioning - museums are cool and usually a lot quieter than the movies!

Jeana - I have long suspected your perfection.

Holymama - Yeah, I knew that elephants could freak some people out, although now I'm working on a theory that you and your boys have a sort of shared genetic anti-elephant thing going on, since you all seem to share it! We just need to ask Baby Seth what his opinion is. I'm sure he has one.

The Bass Player's Wife - Nope, not Dumbo. Her name is Mollie. And she was famous in Boston in the first half of the 20th century. She has a great story - which I'll tell some day! - which would definitely be part of her display, were she ever to make a public return.

Frazzled Farm Wife - Amen to knowledge and learning!

Kittyhox - We're on the same page - ivory and taxidermy-wise. I was trying to find another way to say that and came up with the adverb 'taxidermily'. Not sure how else to use it, but I admit I kind of like it.

Jeana - You know, it's funny how far removed we all are from taxidermy these days, given how incredibly common it was not that long ago. It doesn't surprise me that it took a while to realize that the Field Museum was full of 'real' animals - we're just not in a taxidermy age. When I do programs with taxidermied animals here at the museum, kids have a hard time figuring out what it is. "Is it real?" Yes. "Is it alive?" No. "Is it fake?" No. "Is it dead?" Yes. "Was it alive?" Yes. We usually have to repeat all of those a few times before I can explain how taxidermy works and what its results look like. It's definitely a concept that lots of people (kids and adults) find puzzling. There was a great special on the History channel a few months ago, all about the technology of taxidermy. Surprisingly fascinating (she said, trying not to sound like a big dork). Really.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Why Museums Are Important to Me

Several times over the past few months I have referred to 'the museum world' without much explanation. When you work in a museum you sometimes forget what it's like NOT to work in a museum. Museums can be very absorbing little worlds, because they have such odd functions and corners and people in them. I love the museum world despite its faults, and feel like maybe I should try to explain why. I mean, I like museums so much that I have devoted the past 10 years of my life to working in them. At what usually feels like a volunteer’s salary, so you should gather just how much I truly like and believe in museums.

For today’s exercise in plumbing the depths, I’m going to try to explain WHY I like museums. Here goes. Warning: I feel a list coming on.

I like museums because they are full. Full of stories, full of people, full of stuff.

I like museums because they are about people, and I am a people-person.

I like museums because they are about objects, beliefs, the past, the present, the future, mysteries, creativity, fact and fiction, history, shiny things, big important things, tiny unimportant things, difference, emotions, and charisma.

I like museums because of what they do:

- they care for things

- they make rare things available to many

- they educate adults and children alike, formally and informally

- they provide adults and children with opportunities they couldn’t learn or see or experience anywhere else

- they create light-bulb moments

- they allow spaces for thinking/feeling/experimenting

- they reflect, they connect, they explain

- they explain that some questions can’t be answered

- they show that some questions are worth asking anyway

- they allow comparisons/contrasts/juxtapositions that wouldn’t make sense anywhere else

- they embrace eccentricity

- they communicate with and without words

- they create a space for rest

- they create a space for play

- they appeal to the senses

- and last but not least they offer postcards for sale.

I admit, sometimes I like museums just for the postcards.

I like museums because in today’s world of high speed, high volume, technological, virtual, brand name everything, museums often manage to slow me down, quiet my mind, allow me to hear human voices instead of computerized or televised ones, allow my own imagination to create virtual worlds, rather than rely on someone else’s web program.

I like museums because they are not shopping malls or amusement parks or video arcades.

Above all I like museums for the stories.

I recognize that museums have their faults. Even museums I truly adore have their faults. And not all museums are good ones, or even for me personally, all that interesting. Sometimes, when museums don't fulfill their potential, they can be very frustrating.

I’ll even allow – in theory at any rate – that there are people in the world who just don’t like any museums at all, ever. I feel that way about bananas, so I have to admit that there may be folks who don’t like museums. I would argue, however (because that’s just who I am), that the sheer number and variety of museums in the world is bound to produce at least one museum, or one part of one museum, that would appeal to just about anybody, even a confirmed museum-hater. But again, that’s just me.

Museums sometimes make my feet hurt or my eyes water - and not in a good way. But I still love them. I love the challenge of trying to use the medium of a museum to communicate a story or an idea. I believe museums are important to society because they hold and offer unique resources. I believe my work in museums is important because I help make those resources available.

I should probably assume that anyone still reading by now is also a museum-lover, or maybe a family member. Thank you for sticking with me. Despite what is quite obviously some sort of obsession.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Elephant in the Room

Okay, this is literally about an elephant in a room. I’m conducting an informal poll and need your feedback.

I have become interested in an elephant that was given to the museum before 1925. It’s a real elephant, a baby one in fact, and it was taxidermied for display purposes. (It died of natural causes before it was taxidermied.) Currently the elephant is in storage – she needs a little conservation and love, but it is possible that one day in the future, the same elephant could be put on display again.

In the past this elephant was hugely popular with our visitors. But then, so was taxidermy. It’s been decades since the elephant was on display or since taxidermy was every-living-room normal.

Here are my questions:

1 – Would you be offended to see a baby taxidermied elephant in a museum setting today?

2 – If so, what specifically would be offensive?

3 – Would you be interested in seeing an elephant in a museum?

4 – If so, what specifically would be interesting about it?

5 – Do you have any qualms about museums today displaying endangered species or protected materials like ivory?

6 – Do you have any other comments or questions about elephants that I should know about, since we’re sitting here dishing the elephant scoop? (So to speak. Ew.)

Thank you very much for your input. Once I’ve heard from you, I’ll give you a more detailed history about this elephant, but I don’t want to cloud the general question with specifics just yet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Other Side of the Moon

Okay, I'm going away for a few days and have no idea if I'll have computer access. Doesn't that almost sound like time travel? Heading off to ye olde days with no computers or blogs or such...

If I don't find a handy computer I'll be back in the land of technology on Monday. Have a good week!

If there’s no mayo or Cool Whip, how do you know it’s a salad?

Salads sure have changed over the past 20 years. As a kid growing up in Texas, I recognized anything called a ‘salad’ served at family gatherings, school picnics or church cover-dish dinners largely by the white stuff that held it all together: either mayonnaise or Cool Whip. Depended on whether it was a sweet or savory salad, of course.

Mayonnaise was the key ingredient in potato salad, tuna salad, egg salad, and most coleslaws. At the time, I didn’t see mayonnaise simply as a key ingredient, but really as the only reason to slog through the potatoes, tuna, eggs, or cabbage that it was mixed up with.

Cool Whip was essential for the successful presentation of any fruit or Jello Salad. Some salads didn’t have anything in them at all except Jello and Cool Whip. Those were my favorites.

Wouldn’t Jenny Craig just about DIE?!

The difference between the salads of my youth and the green, crunchy, leafy salads I eat today is vast. My childhood self would need a tour guide for today's salads, or else a large sign: THIS IS A SALAD. Without the white stuff, it would just be a wild guess.

Random Little Bits of Weirdness

Someone once told me that daddy-long-leg spiders have deadly poisons in them, but humans are safe from their bites because their little spider mouths are too tiny ever to bite human skin. For years my gravest fear has been that I’m going to meet the only freak big-mouth daddy-long-legs in the history of the world and no one will ever figure out how I died.


The women in my family have weird effects on street lights. Especially when we’re together. They go out as we pass under them, or else the ones that are dark will flick back on.


My cousin will not eat pickles on her sandwich if they don’t have ridges. Smooth pickles are not to be trusted.


My friend MKA has an actual old-fashioned toothpaste key. She uses it to roll up the tube. I think that is HILARIOUS.


When my nephew Ethan was about 2 years old, elephants really grossed him out. He didn’t like their leathery wrinkly skin. If he saw one on TV he’d do the Ew Dance: he’d march his baby feet in place, circle his fists at his waist and repeat, “Ew, ew, ew, ew” with a solemn little frown on his face. I always think of this when I see elephants now.


When I left my last job a lovely board member gave me a little souvenir that he had made for me himself: a hickory nut on a small wooden plaque with a little brass plate that said, “Remember”. And I do. I keep that ‘hicker nut’ on my desk to this day.


I am totally, thoroughly, hopelessly addicted to tea towels. I have a RIDICULOUS number of them in my kitchen. I look for new Crate & Barrel catalogs only to look at their latest offerings in tea towels.


When I worked at the Museum of Victoria in Melbourne almost 10 years ago, I took a phone call from a woman who wanted to ask a curator some questions about an Egyptian ring. I was in a completely different office from the curators, but in the interests of taking a detailed message I asked her a few questions about this ring and then at the end I asked her where she got it. “Oh I don’t have it, I dreamed it.” Oh.


When we were little girls my sister and I used to love a tiny Siamese cat figurine that sat on the whatnot in my grandparents’ living room. It was about 2” high and had 2 aqua rhinestones for eyes. One day we were all alarmed (Kelsey, 'agog') to see that one of its eyes was missing. We searched but couldn’t find it. So my sister and my grandfather made that little cat a tiny pirate’s eyepatch out of paper. It was even more adorable with the patch than it had been without it.


I love to make cookies, and I love to eat cookie dough, but I do have a rule: you can eat the dough only until you’ve eaten the first cooked cookie. After that the dough is no longer a snack. The cookie process moves inexorably forward.

Loving Nancy Drew Is a One-way Street

When I was about 9 years old I thought Nancy Drew was the most exciting person I’d ever heard of. She was AWESOME! She was smart and brave and pretty and everyone liked her (except for those pesky bad guys, but they didn’t count). She had lots of talents too, which helped her blend in when she was busy solving cases.

As a grown up I still look back fondly on Nancy. She was spunky. She was a pretty good example of a girl who could think for herself.

[And besides, while reading her book I learned 6 different words to describe being surprised that all started with the letter ‘A’: Astonished! Astounded! Amazed! Appalled! Agape! Alarmed! Life was startling in Nancy’s world – you needed good words to describe it.]

Once I had a good laugh with my friend Bonnie as we reminisced about all the things we’d both loved about Nancy: her two best friends, sporty George and plump Bess. Her powder blue roadster. Her lawyer father Carson Drew and her housekeeper mother-figure, Hannah Gruen. The three girls’ “special friends” Ned Nickerson, Bert and Dave. Nancy’s Titian hair and dancing eyes. It was a funny conversation.

That conversation inspired me to re-visit Nancy and that’s when I made a discovery: loving Nancy Drew is a one-way street. You can’t go back in time. If you loved her at 10, do not try to love her again at 25 or 30. It can’t be done. To a grown-up’s eyes, Nancy is the kind of too-perfect ‘droid you'd want to throw bricks at. She’s 19, brighter than all criminals, smarter than all the law-enforcing adults in her town and 3 neighboring states, she can pick up any skill at all if it’s needed to solve a mystery (fly a plane, dance on pointe, write or break code, paint a portrait, perform a marionette play, carve a statue, use judo on a bad guy, perform a routine on a trapeze, ride a race horse, bake a gourmet cake, swim for miles, defeat a professional tennis player, and on, and on…), and she treats poor Ned *dreadfully*. It’s hard to feel sorry for someone with the unlikely name Ned Nickerson, but believe me, you will. That poor sap has been hanging around for 85 years and he only gets a mention now and then. And if Nancy’s having a good time on a dude ranch with a twinkle-eyed cowpoke named Hank, then poor faithful Ned doesn’t even get a cameo!

A few years ago I was hooked on the television show ‘Alias.’ I wasn’t an uncritical fan, but on the whole I was loyal because the heroine was brilliant, brave, pretty, could outsmart bad guys… there’s definitely a pattern here! But Sydney had inner as well as outer strength, and a human vulnerability that you just can’t find in the Nancy Drew storybooks. As a grown up I find those traits a necessary foil to a heroine's apparent perfection.

There are other childhood favorites that stand up to revisiting. It’s fun to go back and see the heroes of your youth recast through adult eyes – you can pick up on so many things your younger self never noticed. But not Nancy Drew. Nope. You gotta love that girl sleuth from afar, friends. Nancy is one of those aging stars who looks better through the soft-focus lens of memory.

Monday, May 14, 2007

How I Know I'm Not Shy

Okay, there have been more than a few clues in my 30-something years. I KNOW I’m not technically ‘shy.’ But sometimes you find yourself in a situation, you feel a little timid, you don’t say much, you smile and keep your mouth shut, eyes down. And you begin to think, “Huh. Guess I’m shy.”

Whenever that happens, I recall an incident that occurred my senior year in college. I had spent my junior year abroad and had come back a little early so I could move into my room, find a thesis advisor, maybe catch up with some friends before the last year of classes began. I was excited to be back but I had not counted on the fact that few of my friends would also be back early. So those first days back were a little quieter, a little less populated than I had originally expected. Which meant when my friends did appear I was VERY excited to see them.

So one sunny day, there I am, walking through the Yard, and across the green lawns, between the big trees and almost-as-big squirrels, I see my friend Beelee.

(Digression: Beelee’s name is Bill. But we had met during a first-year French class where he was called Billy in English and ‘Beelee’ in French. So he is usually ‘Beelee’ in my world. Beelee’s dad and my dad worked together in Texas, and we became friends as soon as we met, at least in part because neither of us is shy, and in part because both of us have quite the flair for the dramatic.)

So, back to the story: sunny day, quiet lawn, spotting my friend Beelee. I then broke into a huge grin, flung my arms wide and start running across the Yard yelling, “Beelee! Beelee!” I was waving, smiling, leaping, yelling, running – so excited to see him that I was making quite a spectacle of myself as I sped toward him. If a golden retriever starred in a musical – that’s about what it would look like. It was a tad effusive. But if ever I could get away with a big ridiculous reunion in public, it was going to be with my friend Beelee.

“Beelee! Beelee!” Something was very wrong. Beelee’s face was visibly draining of color. He did not look thrilled to see me. In fact, he looked horrified and terrified all at once. He appeared to be frozen in one place, as if he were afraid to move. As I got closer, his eyes widened until there was a clear rim of white all the way around his irises. He glanced back over his shoulder, maybe to make sure I really was talking to him. By this point my gleeful open-armed flight across the Yard had slowed. I got closer and realized that while the guy in front of me bore a STRIKING resemblance to Beelee, especially from far away, up close he looked like a pasty, scared, about-to-faint *cousin* of Beelee.

He was not Beelee.

He was, in fact, just some poor guy, whose worst nightmare had come leaping at him in public, like the loudest toothiest gazelle in history.

Not-Beelee threw his hands up in front of his face, stuttered “N-no, n-not… ssstop!” in a near-whisper and backed away from me. He literally backed away from me like I was waving plague-ridden hankies in his face or something. I was mortified. I stopped moving toward him (truly, as I got closer he looked like he might throw up) and called to his retreating back, “Sorry! I’m so sorry. I thought you were my friend Beelee!”

He was DEFINITELY not Beelee.

There was a postscript to this story. I saw Not-Beelee one more time that year. He was walking down a city street, and I was walking on the other side. He saw me a moment before I saw him. I was in time to start down the same wrong path of thinking, “Oh hey there’s…” and then when he turned pale and fled I changed my thought “…Not-Beelee. He REALLY looks like Beelee.”

And that’s how I know I’m not shy. Not-Beelee was definitely shy. I am the loud loopy girl who scared him to death in college. I am, apparently, shy’s worst nightmare. At least, sometimes.

LaLa Lexicon

Definitions of some words you might encounter if you hang out with me or read this blog:

Baa-a-ad stinky. Noun. A horrible smell, usually produced by cats or neefs, that drives all nosed beings away before it like an invading army. Bad-stinky requires immediate action. Prolonged exposure might lead to suffocation.

Beauty shop. Noun. That place where you get your hair cut. I know, I know. It’s a very 1960s word for it, but I’m from the South and that’s where my grandmother got her hair done and that’s still (sort of embarrassingly) where I get my hair done.

Biggo, also seen as big ol’. Adjective. Something literally big or else big as in ‘important’. Example: That woman got a big ol’ bouffant at the beauty shop.

Cat bagel. Noun. As any cat owner will tell you, this is that position when your cat seems to have origamied himself into a perfectly round limbless furry disc. No nose, tail, paws or toes to be seen.

Chocolate horizon, sometimes seen as ‘meal horizon.’ Noun. The view toward the next dose of chocolate, or the next meal. My chocolate horizon is famously short.

Goomerangs. Noun. Chocolate meringue cookies that are crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside, and always make you come back for more.

Hair-do. Noun. How you wear your hair. See also ‘Beauty shop.’

Hangry. Adjective or state of mind. Description of how irrational, angry and short-tempered one can feel when one hasn’t been fed recently. A recent addition to the lexicon. See also ‘Unreasonable.’

Icky-shimmies. Noun. Involuntary shuddering reaction to things that make you go “Ew, Ew, EW.” Can either apply to something that is physically disgusting (Example: When you pick up a dog-food bowl and your hand accidentally but fully grasps a big ol’ slug) or to something socially inappropriate to a frightening degree (Example: The idiot in the crowd at a museum program about the Wampanoag Indians who interrupted the educator to say “Wampa-what?! Can I put ketchup on that?”). Classic example: When Angelina Jolie brought her brother as her date to the Oscars and then proceeded to treat him very publicly as her date, rather than as her brother. Ew.

Itty-bitty. Adjective. Very, very small. If you squeak your voice up to a high pitch when you say it, it means very, very, VERY small.

Mo-oo-o-om. Monologue. Cram 14 syllables into that 3 letter word and you can communicate a world of outrage, indignation, justification, pleading, yearning, self-deprecation, request, homesickness, amusement and childishness, all directed at your mother.

Neefs. Plural collective noun. Gender-neutral term referring to the children of one’s sibling. Much-needed short version of ‘niece and nephews’.

Smarmy. Adjective. Oozily pleasant to a gag-making degree; patently artificial sweetness of attitude.

Smash. Noun and sporting term. (Really.) When playing candle-pin bowling you get three tries to knock down ten pins. If you knock ‘em all down in one go, that’s a strike. If you do it in two, that’s a spare. They don’t have a word for knocking ‘em down in three turns, and that just seemed wrong. So I came up with ‘smash’: A three-bowl knock-down in small-ball bowling.

Sweet pea. Endearment. Usually said to loved ones when they are either a) in need of soft words of comfort, or b) acting like idiots and need to be made fun of in a sweetly sarcastic voice, just this side of smarmy.

Tacky. Adjective. See post for May 8, 2007.

Toe cleavage. Noun. When the lines between your toes, at the base of your toes, are visible above your shoe line. As with ordinary cleavage, there are acceptable and unacceptable amounts for public viewing.

Twee. Adjective. Too cutesy to live. Think Nermal.

Unreasonable. Adjective or state of mind. The traditional, even medieval, description of the short-tethered snit one gets into when one is feeling faint with hunger. I have, on occasion, been known as LaLa the Unreasonable. State is cured with food. See also ‘Hangry.’

Wallago. Adverb phrase. Texas version of something that happened ‘a while ago.’

Word-smith. Verb or noun. To invent a word because it is necessary and more evocative and appropriate than any currently existing words. For examples see ‘Neefs’ and also use of the word ‘origami’ as a verb in the definition of ‘Cat bagel.’

Friday, May 11, 2007

Handbags and Ebay

Those of you who know my mother and sister will probably assume from the title that this post is about our family’s dual obsession with handbags and shopping (for handbags) on Ebay. You would be wrong. This post is about handbags and Ebay as forms of communication. Specifically as a form of communication between families of women.

When I was a little kid I had a whole clatch of great-aunts on my father’s side. My grandfather’s sisters were known as Della-Dot-Sis-and-Neva. It was said all in one word like that, mainly because they moved around all in a flock like that. They were sweet cheek-pinching old ladies when I knew them, but according to family lore, they had long interesting lives for decades before I came along. (I’ll tell you another day about the time Della was kidnapped by Machine Gun Kelly.) Anyway, when I was little I couldn’t tell the great aunts apart. They were always just this gang of old ladies who hung out together. Neva had red hair (as a small child I famously called her ‘the one with the orange hair’ – a comment that never failed to amuse my grandparents, no matter how often they repeated it). Other than that one identifying feature, the great aunts were a unit of four old ladies who always seemed to have a good time at the family parties, and sometimes hung out with my grandmother and my aunts.

I remember a few summer afternoons when I was pretty small, at my grandparents’ house. The men were away somewhere, and I was in the living room with all the old ladies – my grandmother, my aunt Frances, and Della-Dot-Sis-and-Neva. Frances was doing people’s hair – she would roll and set short little old-lady curls on one head after another, and then park that old lady under one of those big hair dryers that sat on the kitchen table and looked like a giant aqua ice cream scoop. It was always loud under there so the old lady would either read a magazine (one of the great aunts) or fidget impatiently and constantly stick her head out from under the dryer yelling “What’d you say?!” (my grandmother, whose hair took twice as long to dry).

The reason she hated being under that loud dryer was because the great aunts were gossiping and she was missing it all. The way you could tell they were gossiping is that they had exchanged handbags. No one had said, “Hey, pass me your handbag.” No. It was done completely without any overt discussion. One sister would reach for another’s purse, open it up and just start pawing through it. The conversation that followed was sometimes related to what was in the bag, to what was NOT in the bag, or maybe to what was being found/not found in the bag in the lap next to her. It was this whole weird sister-communication where they just rummaged through each other’s handbags without permission, and discussed what they found there or not, as their heart’s desired. “Oo, nice recipe, I do something like it but with a little more mayonnaise” or “Did you go to that wedding? Weren’t the flowers awful? I know Sue held her breath until it was finished” or “Hey, that’s my lipstick!”

It wasn’t until years later, when my mom and I were reminiscing about those old ladies and we discussed that handbag exchange during Old Lady Hour at my grandmother’s, that I realized there was anything weird about it. Make no mistake – as a grown-up person with her own handbag, I think it’s weird. Sweet. But weird. I love my family, and we’re close, but I’m not sure a completely unannounced and shameless rummage through my handbag would be all that kosher with me. (Sorry, Mom and Kels. I know you’re all devastated now.) But as a kid it was just normal. I didn’t question it at all.

What’s even funnier though is that Mom and my sister and I have developed our own weird language in a parallel way: we send each other Ebay listings all the time. Not just listings of stuff we know the other person might find interesting, but stuff that reminds us of our past, or stuff with wildly misspelled headlines, or horrible pictures, or stuff for sale that was photographed next to the seller’s pet hamster, you know, for a size scale. When we first started doing this, we’d often include a little note: Thought you’d be interested, or Isn’t this awful?, or Love the hamster. After all, Ebay gives you a little space for just such a note whenever you mail a listing to someone. But now we usually don’t do that. In the exact same way that a great-aunt would just pick up someone else’s handbag and start rummaging through it, we send each other Ebay auction listings without any narration at all. It’s up to the person who gets the message to open up the auction and peruse the headline/description/photo for the thing that caught her mother/daughter/sister’s eye in the first place. Decoding it is about half of the point – you’re one of three who speaks the language so you’ll be able to figure it out. And most of the time, we DO figure it out.

Isn’t that weird? I think it’s weird. And sweet. It’s just another way that we communicate with each other: handbags or Ebay listings. The language of love.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

How Springtime Means Getting Naked

Okay, okay, I know. The title may have misled you. There will be nothing *tacky* here on the subject of naked, so if that’s your interest, move on.

I’m talking about the very first time, after a long tedious winter, and after an even longer, more tortuous cold spring, the VERY FIRST TIME you leave your house WITHOUT A COAT. No jacket. No protective layer or outer shell. Just you. In your cotton t-shirt. Short-sleeves, mind you. Full monty, crazy courageous, bare-armed NAKED in the sunshine. Practically.

Tentatively swinging wide your front door and testing the air: will I die of frostbite today? Will I get sunburn around noon and then suffer the pangs of a cold north wind during my commute home? Feeling brave, setting out down the street. NO JACKET. I’m telling you, it’s as if I woke up this morning in a swimsuit model’s body, threw on a bikini and starting flitting around the streets of my neighborhood with a perfect tan, a peppy soundtrack and not an iota of modesty. That’s *exactly* what this feels like.

If you live in a warm or temperate place, you may never know this feeling. Part of me wishes I lived there, and that I don’t know this feeling. As delicious as it is, the novelty of getting to move through the world without a jacket today pales in comparison with the prolonged pleasure of getting to move through world without a jacket EVERY DAY FOR MONTHS. I just love a temperate climate. Bliss.

When I lived in England, I was very amused by how the natives of that country welcome the sun: they too get naked. I’d be walking through the green parks on the first sunny day of spring – not the first warm day, the first SUNNY day – and would be blinded by some reflective pale surface over there among the daffodils. Ah yes, a pasty British man, wearing only shorts and socks, lying there in the grass, soaking in the sun. A person-sized collection of goose bumps, blinding all his neighbors, defiantly determined to brave the cool breeze for the feel of sun on his skin. And he wasn’t alone. I’ve seen others do the same thing. I think it’s weird and funny and endearing – the socks are for me a particularly British touch – although it was much more endearing when I remembered to wear my sunglasses.

Postscript - Thanks to my sister for announcing to the world my presence, and to welcoming commenters who have made me laugh and feel welcomed and feel less like that whole embarrassed 'naked in public' thing. When I get the hang of this blogging thing (all I've got down now is the part where I type stuff), I'll be able to post links to your own pages and photos and such like. For now though I'll just say thanks as warmly as possible and send you a cyber-hug (fully clothed).

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Food from Home

I’ve had a number of different homes in my life and on occasion I’ve been homesick for all of them. For Texas, for Australia, for England – even for Boston, although since I live here now and don’t travel as much as I used to, the luxury of being homesick for Boston is a hazy memory. These days I only *wish* I could be homesick for Boston.

One of the fastest ways to conjure up and cure homesickness for me is through food. The smell of barbecue, freshly baked cornbread or my family’s chicken pie in the oven can take me right back to Texas. One of my grandmothers was a very good cook. She and my aunt were instinctive cooks who didn’t rely on recipes or measuring cups. I’m not that kind of cook but I like to commune with their spirits while cooking their kind of food – usually pie. They were good at pie, and it turns out, so am I. My other grandmother was not a good cook. But if I have green beans with red potatoes I think of her. Or cheese straws – she liked to bring cheese straws to family get-togethers. Later we would make them for her so she didn’t have to bring them.

The other day I was strangely overcome with a truly rare desire: the urge to eat an Australian sausage roll. I have no idea where this notion came from – I wasn’t even thinking of Melbourne. But suddenly the memory of flaky pastry and sausage was on my tongue and I knew it was completely futile. You can’t get sausage rolls anywhere else but there. Or at least, not the right kind of sausage rolls. I haven’t had one since I left almost 7 years ago. Now that it’s past I have no inclination for sausage rolls; it was just a weird sense-memory that came and went, like a rogue wave.

This weekend I went with friends to the restaurant Wagamama, newly opened in Boston’s Quincy Market. Although Wagamama is a Japanese noodle restaurant, it’s originally from London, and it is for London that I became a little nostalgic while slurping down enough noodles to fill a small suitcase. The first time I went to Wagamama was the summer of 1995. It had just opened around the corner from the British Museum and I went with friends. We stood in line on the hot pavements of Bloomsbury and watched in fascination as a waitress with a hand-held device took the number of our party and our drink orders. WHILE WE WERE STILL ON THE STREET. Remember, in 1995 that was practically Star Trekkian in its future-forward technology. Eventually we schlepped into the restaurant and were seated communally at a long wooden table in a basement with what sounded like 900 other people/geese, but was in fact not quite that many people (no geese). It was just loud. And we ate good food. The Boston version of Wagamama wasn’t quite as loud, and it wasn’t in a basement. But in spite of that, the food was tasty in a similar way, and the waitress came out with her little hand-held device to add us to the list while we waited in line. Just like that first time.

If ever I am asked to give travel advice to friends considering traveling to one of my former homes, that advice always includes a food tour as well as actual places to visit. Visitors to Texas have to try real BBQ, real TexMex, and real southern food, including a catfish basket. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a real catfish basket with really good hushpuppies. Travelers to Australia have to try a little bit of everything, including meat pies, bizarrely-flavored crisps, anything with passionfruit, pavlova, lamingtons, sausage rolls, TimTams, Mint Slices and Violet Crumble. (I advise against trying the Vegemite. Shudder.) And people going to England should visit Wagamama, the food hall at Harrods, try anything chocolate, real pub food and Pimm’s (which is a mixed drink involving cucumbers, but is strangely delicious in spite of that.)

I am exercising superhuman restraint here - I can usually get MUCH more specific and go on at near-infinite length on this topic, but will refrain. I don’t want to get too homesick. Any foods and dishes that send you to another time and place? Recommendations for us non-natives?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

That's Just Tacky (or, A Tacky Tutorial)

If you are not from the South, you probably don’t know the near-religious import of the word ‘tacky.’ Tacky is a word with consequences, a word to live by. For those of us who come from people who know tacky, we can instinctively break it down into two categories: Fun Tacky and That’s Just Tacky. (Also tacitly agreed to be Good Tacky and Bad Tacky.)

Fun Tacky is best translated as ‘over the top’. It usually applies to appearance or home décor. Not everyone agrees, of course, on where the top is and when exactly you’ve crossed over, but most of us acknowledge deep in our bones that when we’re indulging our magpie taste in rhinestone encrusted clothes, flowered shoes and pants, 4 shades of eye shadow, gallons of hairspray, and bright coral metallic handbags all on the same day, we might just have crossed the line a smidge from Fun to Fun Tacky. (If you don’t want to be the victim of Southern Lady Screaming, you probably would be wise NOT to point this out, at least not in public.)

A perfect example of Fun Tacky: years ago my father and step-mother lived in a neighborhood that was almost spookily friendly. Everyone liked each other, hung out with each other, had block parties with big barrels of gumbo, the kids played together, the men helped each other hang Christmas lights – it was a little Twilight Zone sometimes, but they formed genuine friendships so it couldn’t have all been just to freak out the college kids. Anyway, one year, shortly after moving to the Super Friendly ‘Hood, my dad and stepmom wanted to give every household on the block a Christmas gift. Nothing fancy, just a little token of affection. Their gift of choice was to give everyone a very special lawn ornament: a little grayish-khaki animal (skunk, bunny, whatever) for people’s flowerbeds. BUT. It wasn’t just a lawn ornament. It was a Zoo Doo lawn ornament. Made (sculptured? molded?) out of doo-doo, these lawn ornaments would ‘melt’ over time and fertilize your flowerbed. See? Tacky – because it’s a lawn ornament made out of doo-doo – but also Fun Tacky because it’s a lawn ornament that will make you laugh and eventually disappear on its way to helping your petunias thrive.

Now the difference between Fun Tacky and That’s Just Tacky is quite significant. That’s Just Tacky is usually a judgment directed more toward behavior than toward outward manifestations of taste. For instance, Dolly Parton is a famous example of a Southern Lady who frequently and skillfully indulges all the favorite stereotypes of Fun Tacky in her appearance, but would never be caught dead behaving in a That’s Just Tacky manner. Dolly is a Lady.

That’s Just Tacky is usually said about people who are tactless and self-centred, and the pronouncement of it involves at least a little censure. For example: someone walks into a plus size store and comments on how BIG all the clothes are. That’s just tacky. Paris Hilton does… pretty much anything. That’s just tacky. A college roommate who goes to Hawaii for spring break and locks her television in her closet so the roommates left in snowy Boston can’t watch it. That’s just tacky. (That was my tacky roommate!!)

You get the idea. One more thing: one doesn’t look for tacky, and if one accidentally finds it, one definitely doesn’t narrate it in the present tense because that would only compound the tackiness as it occurs, and what’s more, it would taint you with the tacky too. The correct behavior is to gasp and avert your eyes. So. Consider yourself primed to recognize the phenomenon if it should occur in your future, but by no means give yourself permission to stand up and point, screaming loudly, “That’s just tacky!” because that would be… tacky.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Yaks and near misses

Today I spent many hours literally wrestling with a yak horn and trying not to kill the artist who wanted to use the horn in his window. I'm not sure which was the more trying. The yak horn was heavy, twisty, and about 4 feet long. But I REALLY wanted to kill the poor hapless artist. It's quite exhausting wrestling with yak horns and not committing homicide.

Postscript to 'Southern Lady Screaming' - I have to thank my friend MKA for that phrase. While I knew the phenomenon quite well, I hadn't given it a title until she provided it.

Southern Lady Screaming

I have 4 installations with 4 different artists scheduled for 4 different days this week. For those of you who don't know what that means, it translates loosely to saying I plan to climb 4 different mountains on 4 different continents, all while coddling 4 different artistic temperaments, and all while smiling for the young fans who line our path.

What this means blog-wise, is that I'm relying on little snippets I wrote in a quieter time. First up, a small explanation of Southern Lady Yelling.

If you know any women from the South you’ve probably heard Southern Lady Screaming, you just didn’t know it. Raised with the ideal of being a gracious and courteous lady at all times, the Southern Lady knows on an almost cellular level that she must NEVER make a scene, or the sky will fall down. Or something else *really tacky* will happen. ‘Tacky’ is another crime the Southern Lady scrupulously avoids (and a subject for future discussion).

So when confronted in public spaces by the appalling behavior of a friend/husband/relative, Southern Lady does some yelling, but not the usual kind. When Southern Lady yells at her friend/husband/relative in public, it is done with no volume at all. It is done in deathly quiet. There may be some hissing as she forces her words out between gritted teeth and an awful smile. Her hand – if the criminal is in reach – will either be holding on with a grasp like a steel clamp, or will be carefully folded away to foil the urge to slap.

There are two dead giveaways for Southern Lady Yelling. First, while the scary-quiet yelling is going on, look at her eyes. Southern Lady is looking at you with intent to incinerate. If you look too long it might actually happen so look away if you know what’s good for you. Second, after the yelling is over, when Southern Lady recounts the excruciating scene of humiliation/embarrassment/horror, she may actually raise her voice – but ONLY in the re-telling, as a matter of emphasis and perhaps to add a touch of comedy to the story. After all, Southern Lady knows how funny it is for you to imagine her actually yelling at someone in public.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Presidential Privilege

For those of you who don't live in Museum World, you probably won't be surprised to hear that those of us who DO live in Museum World have our own list serves. Most of the time the list serve is a good source of collegial expertise, sometimes it's a good source of humor, and some days it's just an exercise for the old Delete key.

Here's my latest favorite quote from the list serve:

"We have a table owned by President Millard Fillmore. I once wrote a label that said:
'This table was once owned by Millard Fillmore. Unless you have been President of the United States, do not touch or put anything on it.' "

This is solid gold humor in the museum world. In posts to come I will highlight more museum humor. Don't be afraid.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Very Best of Boston

I finally figured out why Fenway always makes me so happy: Fenway is the very best of Boston. I think it's safe to say that Boston itself is not the friendliest town you'll ever visit. But if you go to Fenway you may briefly change your mind.

At Fenway, Bostonians come into their birthright. Anything you want from Boston you'll find here: accents thicker than a red brick wall, history and tradition, culture, local cuisine, every shape, size and shade of local color. It's all at Fenway. It's the smallest ballpark in the major league, and one of the oldest. And it's always sold out. The tickets aren't exactly cheap, but we members of Red Sox Nation cheerfully jostle each other for the right to sit in one of those uncomfortable metal seats to cheer on our team. We fill up the seats when the Sox are playing our mortal enemies, the Yankees. We fill up the seats when it's just some guys from another team from somewhere. We'd fill up the seats if the Sox were slated to play the cast of October Road. We don't care who's on the other team so much as we care about being there for moments of Red Sox glory.

After all this time, pretty much every new moment has a little glory attached. Like every other baseball team, the Sox build up all sorts of stats with every pitch, hit, swing, miss, run, out and base stolen. Maybe all baseball fans everywhere are also history buffs, but it strikes me (a relatively new baseball fan) that Red Sox fans are expert on a near-professorial level. The Red Sox and their fans live for the moment, but they inhabit history. Fenway and the Red Sox ARE tradition.

The traditions come in all shapes and sizes. Last night part of our personal experience of the tradition included sitting next to 3 drunk old guys with no teeth who seemed obsessed with taking our picture when we weren't looking. Annoying? Yes. Bizarre? Sort of. Enough to dampen the fun of being at Fenway? Not even close.

The seats are tiny and were installed years before the average American citizen had ever heard the word 'ergonomic.' Fenway Franks, eaten with plenty of spicy mustard while at the ballpark, cost $4 and, considered objectively, are just boiled hotdogs, but in fact, they are ambrosia fit for gods. I had two. When in Rome...

My favorite part about going to Fenway is the music. There's a real old-fashioned pipe organ there and they play all kinds of songs on it, some of which we sing along to. They also play recorded music between innings, while pitchers are changed, when a new member of the Sox steps up to the plate. Of course during the 7th inning stretch we all sing 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' and by the end of the game we're all primed to sing Neil Diamond's classic, "Sweet Caroline." I have no idea why. Apparently this part of the tradition is fairly new. But it's completely embedded in the fabric of any fan's expectations now, so when the end of the game rolls around you'd better get ready to sing. If you think about it, this song is REALLY WEIRD. But you're not supposed to think about it. You're supposed to sing along at the top of your lungs with the drunk toothless guys next to you, and really shout the Fenway script between lines, as all good traditionalists should do.

So here in the 9th inning of this post, I give you the historic finale. Belt it out and make emphatic arm gestures. You'll almost feel like you're at Fenway.

...Hands, touching hands
Reaching out
Touching me
Touching you

Sweet caroline (bahm, bahm, BAHM)
Good times never seemed so good (so good!, so good!, SO GOOD!)
I've been inclined (bahm, bahm, BAHM)
To believe they never would

But now I
Look at the night
And it don't seem so lonely
We fill it up with only two
And when I hurt
Hurtin' runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when I'm with you?

Warm, touching warm
Reaching out
Touching me
Touching you

Sweet caroline (bahm, bahm, BAHM)
Good times never seemed so good (so good!, so good!, SO GOOD!)
I've been inclined (bahm, bahm, BAHM)
To believe they never would

Oh, no, no... (fade out, clapping and hooting wildly)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


The swingy sounds of British girl band The Puppini Sisters woke me up this morning. Some guy on NPR was talking about their new album, ‘Betcha Bottom Dollar’, just out today, and playing an excerpt from one of their songs. It sounded like the Andrews Sisters, and had a bright swingy sound, but was in fact a re-fashioning of ‘I Will Survive.’ I literally came awake laughing.

I’m wearing new shoes today. They are *gorgeous* and since they are the second pair of new shoes I’ve tried to break in this month they are only half as painful as they could be – the old blisters from the first pair are at least half-transformed to calluses so I’ve almost reached that stage of ‘summer feet’ when all likely blister locations have grown the new season’s armor and can take any shoes I care to throw on. Today’s pair are peep-toe striped canvas flats with a rope-edged heel and a little white bow on the toes. They are *extremely* frivolous! Very retro. I’m a little in love with my own feet, which I suppose gives me something in common with all of the world’s 6-month-olds.

Go Red Sox! I’m going to my first game of the season tonight and positively gleeful about it. Fenway is a place that makes me happy. I have no idea why. I’m not a born baseball fan. But for some reason that park just exerts an almost spiritual form of happiness whenever I’m there – even with the Sox are playing dismally, which is saying something. *Nothing* is more depressed than a Red Sox fan when the Sox can’t play. I’m sure that won’t happen tonight though – just going to Fenway fills me with optimism. I’m sure it’ll be a great game. And it won’t rain. And Ortiz and Manny will hit homers. It’ll be great.

I killed the first spider of the spring last night. I washed my face and brushed my teeth, getting ready for bed. As I turned to leave the bathroom a spider a little larger than a quarter dashed across the light switch and made me scream. Actually I screamed so loudly that the spider jumped and cowered. It was a little funny. And also small comfort to think that we were *both* terrified, not just me. I do NOT like confronting spiders, especially in a room where I am usually naked and defenseless. This time, though, I was armed with pajamas and a bedroom slipper. I managed to make the bathroom safe for all citizens (except spiders) and went to bed. A little itchier than usual, but safe.