Sunday, June 30, 2013

I Do! the best I can

As you may already know, Kenny Mac at Greenwich Village Daily Photo and I are engaged, and we're deeply in love. Which worries certain members of my family, as I've never actually met Kenny Mac. But I think that works in our favor.

The wedding date remains elastic. There's so much to plan! In my previous marriages, there were only two of us, and we celebrated our nuptials with jello shots at the slot machine. I never had to worry about gold band versus mood ring, banjo or boombox, Fritos or Doritos. Now, my head is spinning. Ralph's Breaded Shrimp, or Trader Joe's Smoked Oysters, or Von's Tuna Melts????  Wake me when this nightmare of pretentious elegance is over. My reach has now officially exceeded my grasp.

Men get off easy, don't they? They simply don't care about the details. For instance, my wedding gown. It took me ages to find the right plaid, but Ken just rifled through a few pages of a Sears Catalog  and said, "C'est moi."

Kevin, at East of West LA, is best man.

Ushers -- Tony, Bandit, Earl, Pat reached a wardrobe-consensus.

Banjo is the lone hold-out.

Fortunately, I have a wedding planner. She's my rock.

I've got more to share -- bridesmaids, wedding feast, honeymoon.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Tender Trap

What I've never understood about the same-sex marriage controversy is why anyone considers the institution, the act of marriage itself, sacred. Or even particularly meaningful. You can marry and unmarry and marry again and unmarry again and marry once more and, well, as far as I know there's no limit to the thing. You can marry marry marry until the cows come home, so long as you un un un at requisite intervals. It's just until now it took a specific number of chromosomes to enter the club.

I don't believe marriage is the cornerstone of civilization. Marriage can last for a lifetime, or a day.

Of course, relationships can be solid, unto-death-do-we-part, solid. But that's not matrimony, that's a commitment beyond what 40-50% of us can comprehend.

Those who oppose same-sex marriage call on religion or even the constitution to back them up. A local radio opinionator claims that marriage between one man and one woman is "The foundation of a god-blessed society." I clicked on his bio -- with three marriages under his belt, apparently he subscribes to the Church of the Moving Foundation.

For what it's worth, I think everyone, of whatever gender combination, should be able to give marriage a try, if that's what they want. And try, try again, if that's their pleasure. And I'll attend the celebration, in stockings and heels. But on that third go-around, I don't care who you are, you're not getting one more Belgian waffle iron, toaster oven, Lalique deer, chess set, salad spinner, picture frame, bud vase, or sterling silver garlic press out of me.

Because unless I get married a fourth time, there's just nothing around here to re-gift. I'm keeping the popcorn popper, so don't even think about it; thou shalt not covet.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I've finished my Sistine chapel, and now those paint-encrusted brushes can rot in hell for all I care.

I confess to committing some serious sins of omission, under the eaves, for instance; and sins of emission, as I got overly enthusiastic with some equipment the real painter, the one who did the upper reaches, left behind.

But as Raymond Chandler said: "From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away."

Nothing wrong with keeping your distance.

So back to teachers. If you only know Maggie Smith from her most recent work, then take a look at The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Here's a clip:

The polar opposite of the Mrs. Warnells of the teaching world are the charismatics. The ones who don't want students, but followers and devotees. They're not all bad, they're not all Brodies. But they do like the sound of their own words above all others including Shakespeare and the Joyce holy trinity of high school -- James, Oates, and Cary.

I knew my share, but since I changed schools so often, could recognize them right away.

Here's my favorite scene from Miss Brodie, up to about 4 minutes. She is evil, the Mussolini of middle school. And yet, you can't help but fall in love with her. Because, well after all, it's Maggie Smith. The sound is out of sync, but even so.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dad, Footloose and Fancy Free in Alaska

Pre-responsibilities. I hope he didn't regret the trade-off too terribly, but I kinda think he did. We brought out the best in each other, adventure-wise; and the worst in each other, temper-wise. I remember my mom saying one day, wearily, "It's because you're too much alike."

My dad and I had our issues, but we also had certain pacts. Like when I took flying lessons, "Just don't tell your mother." And one time when Mercedes and I were ditching school to see the exhibit in Chicago, my dad drove us to the commuter train. He thought it more important that we catch the exhibit than spend a day in school.

We were late for the commuter and came to a stop light and Dad commanded, "Stay green."

And Mercedes said, "Wow, how did he do that -- it stayed green."

My dad could work magic.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Most Wonderful Teacher in the Whole Wide World

Mrs. Warnell slathered her face with Max Factor pancake foundation. Or something else the color and consistency of silly putty. This was not vanity -- I'm sure she considered it a courtesy. The foundation was an attempt to smooth out some permanent acne scars, fill the pock marks along the cheeks and chin to bring everything up to the same, or at least a reasonably similar, elevation.

The foundation may have also been an attempt to hide a mottled complexion, either that, or she just lacked some basic blending techniques, something we young beauties had known from the time we picked up our first copy of Glamour. But Mrs. Warnell met the world happily, proudly, with a complexion streaked by dusky pink and dun, like a sunset.

However she handled her make-up, it looked good enough to her, and it looked good enough to me. It looked good enough to all the students who loved her.

My friends in high school, we were an untrustworthy lot. I’d write English essays for one friend, who would in turn draw hands for my art class. Some other guy would handle our history or civics lessons, and we just worked those things out, to stay unflunking – it took a village of 20 or so.

As a consequence, when we graduated high school, we left with the very same accomplishments we had brought in the first place. But somehow, we all tested out of high school. Scored well on the SAT’s and ACT’s, and the only explanation I have is that we had been taking IQ tests from the time we could walk. We may not have had the answers, but we sure as hell knew patterns.

But back to Mrs. Warnell. I see her as the flip side of a mean and stupid person with a beautiful face. You kind of sit back and recognize the faults, viscerally yet unconcerned, because the faults pale in comparison to something that’s absolute perfection.

We who aced the English Lit side of high school found Mrs. Warnell romantic. She introduced us to Wordsworth, Keats, Blake, and Shelly, and not just the poetry, but the gossip.

You can only meet the romantic poets once; that’s the case for most of us at any rate. They're voices in your wilderness, and just at the time when you’ve never been more confident and you’ll never be so vulnerable. And you get this horribly beautiful feeling that the freedom you’re seeking is in fact the very freedom you’re leaving behind.

Mrs. Warnell gave us that bit of knowledge. She gave us a kick of nostalgia just moments before we had the legal right to feel it. She gave us pre-nostalgia, let us experience and share what it felt like to dangle from the last rung of the innocence ladder, with no option at all but to fall.

And fall I did. And fall did we all. Except Mrs. Warnell. She was the Mary Poppins of English teachers, with the special power to stay on the ladder even though history would repeat itself the following year. For her, it just never got old.

One time she walked into class and had a cap on her front tooth, at least a quarter inch longer than either of its neighbors.

“I had the most amaything axthident,” she said, “when ironing my blouse thith morning. So you’ll have to pardon the way I say my eth’ethz today, but I didn’t want to mith clath becauth I have thomething very important to share about Byron…”

How an iron came to knock out her tooth is one of life’s eternal mysteries. I try to picture it in my mind to this day. Maybe she was thinking about the Byron story (it was juicy) and brought her hand to her mouth to suppress a giggle, forgetting she was holding two pounds of hot metal. Knowing Mrs. Warnell, that’s a distinct possibility.

For our final class project, my best friend Karen Lawson and I dressed in vintage clothes and took the class outside, under the trees, to read some verse. We hadn’t prepared anything because we had ditched a lot of school. I remember Mrs. Warnell’s comments on our performance, perfectly. “Oh, what a joyous afternoon. Blue skies and a light wind; two lovely girls reciting poetry -- ‘Ah tra-la, now that spring is here.’”

Mrs. Warnell had a mission: To hide the imperfections of life whenever possible, and get on with the business of discovering and heralding beauty.

Monday, June 10, 2013

What's this?

My Christmas cactus looks dead in winter, then blooms in June.

Because in Altadena, we're stubborn and contrary. No one tells us what to do or when to do it. We play by our own, sometimes inscrutable, rules.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Home Improvement: The perfect match

Had I the energy and talent to choose a new color for my stucco, I would. But knowing me the way I do, we're looking forward to a half-assed paint job -- if we're lucky. A new color would mean glimpsing the old color in all manner of nooks and crannies, or just out in the open for god and everyone to see.

So old color it is. I've pretty much finished the trim on the street-facing side. The "TV side" as they say in used-car circles. The trim is white. I can do white. I know white. In fact, if I can give credit where credit is due, I'll give it to me. I absolutely nailed the white.

It's the stucco that's a problem.

I carried home lots of swatches from the hardware store. All my supplies are from Altadena Hardware, by the way.

The greatest little small town hardware store in all the land. They even took the time to walk me through a putty-knife/woodfiller meltdown. I'll never set foot in another Home Depot if I can help it. I'd Like Alt Hardware on Facebook, but they don't have a Facebook page, so I'll just have to, you know, like them in a general and old-fashioned kind of way.

Altadena Hardware gave me some color swatches to compare to my stucco. The swatches have these seductive names, like, yes, my house can be "Amber Grain," "Ripe Pear," "Sugared Lemon." I leaned towards "Sing-Song" but then came to my senses.

Who was I kidding.

The perfect match, the color I seek, is something closer to a healthy urine sample, from someone who drinks at least six to eight glasses of water a day.

They don't have a name for that, so this may take awhile.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cheap Thrills in Home Improvement

Did I say paint is my friend? Oh, now I can but laugh at my naivete. Like this: Hahahaha.

Paint is not my friend; Spackle is my friend. My friend, and yes, my lovah.

Why did no one ever tell me about Spackle, magical magical Spackle, the way it covers all of life's imperfections, and at only 3 bucks a toss. I want to coat my house in Spackle; nay, I want to coat the world in Spackle. I want to Spackle me, I want to Spackle you. I want to Spackle...

Well, he could use some sanding first.

Sometimes when Spackle has nothing left in the tank (you know how that goes) and lies back, exhausted and damp, crying, Enough! Pax!, then I cheat; I take caulking as my lovah. Though afterwards, when there is evidence of what caulking and I have done together -- I feel rather dirty and ashamed. No photos on that front, we're not that kind of blog.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Been There, Kind of Done That

As one who will never practice, prepare, chart, or calculate anything in this life, the old Just Do It slogan always seemed to lack immediacy -- the ring of authentic urgency.

My life is all about raising my arms and saying, Just Did It. And don't think I don't do the do, because I've always done the do to get to the did. But if one truly has a passion to do, the ultimate goal is the already done, and that requires rushing headlong, hellbent for leather, to reach and conquer the target It.

Which segues nicely into my current home improvement project. The trim on my house has been a neighborhood scandal for at least the past two years, and I finally took the plunge to Just Do It over. Like any other conscientious homeowner, I burned some midnight oil watching several You Tube videos. The ones that offered basic techniques and concepts, though I fast-forwarded over the boring parts, ie, "Whatever you do, don't..." to "And here is the final product -- your home, transformed."

I bought paint, and wood hardener, filler, spackle, putty, brushes, rollers, sandpaper, putty knife. Plus some other products I'll end up returning, as I couldn't figure out their exact timing and/or utility.

A word about wood filler. According to the videos, "You can sand this flush with the surface." Well, you can. I mean that, if you want to stop by, feel free. But after taking a stab at the sanding, I don't see something flush in my immediate future. But paint is our friend.

And so far, all the patching, spackling and painting looks pretty good. Someone came over to check out the results and he said, "You've got some drips and missed some spots. I suppose you'll catch that with the next two or three coats."

"I suppose."

We all know people like that, don't we? The ones who miss life's beauty because they're always so busy searching for the blemishes.

Anyone else would be impressed, maybe not at high noon, but certainly after 9 p.m. and after a drink or two.

Anyway, I'm impressed. And isn't that all that really matters? The feeling of accomplishment. To be able to look at oneself in the mirror and say, "Just Sort of Did It Really Fast."