26 February 2008

Strange Obsessions, Odd Coincidences

A few days ago I found myself obsessed with a memory conjured from my distant past. It seemed to follow me everywhere. It buzzed around in my head over the din of my toothbrush. It clattered along with the dishes I begrudgingly scrubbed. Whenever I let my mind wander, it found its way back to this brief incident with a little girl one day after Sunday School.

I spent many, many Sundays of my youth learning all about Jesus and John Wesley and everything else a good little Orange Irish Methodist needs to know. In fact, by the time I got to the snoozefest most people call Catholic high school, I was just about here-is-the-church-here-is-the-steepled out. I remember looking around my first religion class thinking that my catechismed cohorts didn't have shit on the Cokesbury curriculum doled out to me for so many years. It turns out that everyone could still float by because Sister Maureen was much more interested in teaching us Eleanor Roosevelt quotes and telling us that she "saw God amongst her breasts when she masturbated." This was really quite a backwards way to encourage a couple hundred fourteen year old girls to know thyself, if you ask me. It's also beside the point.

I probably only remember this little girl because her name is so similar to my own. In fact, if you filled your mouth with marbles, I'm sure our names would sound the same. Beyond her name and this particular episode, I can tell you that she had an older brother who was closer to my age, a mother with a very fashionable perm and that her father drown while she was quite young. That's really the extent of her impression on my memory.

For context's sake, I should explain that my Sunday ritual involved getting dolled up for church in my Sunday finest. I wore pink Gunne Sax dresses with satin ribbons and tiny floral prints, little girl knickers with coordinating lacy socks, and black patent leather Mary Jane's with bows on the toes. I also carried a patent leather purse to match my shoes. It was clad with all my essentials: Hot Wheels cars, train tracks, Legos bricks, sticks, rocks and assorted acorns.

I took a lot pride in looking so pretty, and in carrying my favorite toys in my honor clutch. I suppose that pride isn't a particularly Protestant value, but to my credit, I also noticed when other kids looked nice. I'd give my church friends compliments which, as I was taught, was a great way to love thy neighbor. Hopefully these two virtues would cancel out my vice and the Holy Spirit would still invite me to parties and the like. Again, I digress; onto the memory:

One Sunday, I finished my Styrofoam cup of apple juice, and I noticed this little girl standing at the far end of the sunken garden. I thought I'd ask her if she wanted to play, even though running around in patent leather Mary Janes was quite an ordeal. The church yard was paved with fall-on-your-face-rocks, and the sunken garden was plagued with a maelstrom of bees.

On my way over to play with her, I noticed that this girl looked very nice in a lavender dress with blue and gray flowers. For some reason, I remember her dress so clearly. A couple curls fell onto her forehead. In the sunshine she looked like epitome of sweetness.

"You look very pretty today," I said most sincerely. She was standing on the brick ledge, so although I was several years older than her, we were about level height-wise. She narrowed her eyes, leaned over and snatched my purse. Before I could open my mouth to protest, this little twit whacked me up the side of my head!

I was so shocked. I'd just given her a rather nice compliment, and getting wholloped with my own stuff wasn't the sort of response I was expecting. Furthermore, she'd wound up and got a really good swing off the tiny strap. The half-dozen Hot Wheels made the purse heavy, and the patent leather surface caused quite a sting. My ear rang. I fought back tears, and that was no small feat. Back in the day, I could cry at the mere suggestion of tears.

To add insult to injury, she refused to give my purse back. She hit me several more times, though no blow was such an assault as the first. I struggled with her for quite some time. She was pretty strong, because not only did I have a couple years on her, I had a bit of a scrappy streak from chasing boys around the schoolyard unrelentingly. She was not going to let go. And she had all my favorite toys, including the white 1932 Rolls Royce coupe convertible, the creme de la creme of my car collection.

She struck me as being pretty angry, but I suppose she had good reason for it, so I remember thinking that I did not want to get her in trouble. I don't know exactly how I got my purse back, but I vaguely remember trading a frilly barrette for my purse and precious cargo. My ear hurt for a long time after that. I maybe should have told someone, but I liked to self-medicate from a young age (which sparked a disaster I may have to share at a later date).

Fast forward to several days ago when I couldn't stop thinking about this little girl hitting me in the ear with my purse. I kept wondering about her. What was she up to these days? Is she still so angry? Did her brother suffer such abuse? I had no idea because her family moved away or left the church shortly after the incident.

The memory subsided the next day, which is when coincidence kicked into gear. I've been enjoying the book Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Letham this week. It's a detective story in a bit of a non-traditional sense. The main character has Tourette's, and the story has as much or more to do with the nature and impetus for investigation than the traditional whodunit. The book takes place in the New York neighborhood I'm most familiar with, and it also provided me with an excellent joke about an octopus. I'm enjoying quite thoroughly. The day after my big purse-incident obsession, I get about thirty pages deeper into this book, only to reveal that one of the characters has the same name as my violent little friend.

Tonight, I recounted this coincidence to Mama Crow on the telephone. She immediately remembered the family, including their last name. But she was generally unimpressed by my obsession with this little girl. Of course, with the girl's full name at my disposal, and being of a curious and dramaturgically thorough nature, I could not foresee an absolute end to this circle of coincidence without first Googling this girl's name. My search quickly led me to an athlete's biography that was beyond a shadow of a doubt my former assailant.

It turns out, this strong armed little girl is now an All-American, All-ACC performer in the hammer throw. Her birthday was Monday which coincidentally, was the very day I had her on my mind.

The funny thing is, coincidences like this happen to me all the time.

14 February 2008

Be Still, My Heartstrings!

Forgive me, gentle reader(s). I am recycling last year's card.

13 February 2008

Oy. Opera.

Oy, Kiddies. Have I got a treat for you. If you are still scratching your head for Valentine's Day plans, may I suggest the Opera Theatre Oregon Opera Cinema production of Carmen. $12 advance or $15 at the door.

I'm usually terrible at marketing the arts that make my heart thump so giddily in my chest. Sadly, I usually follow the "serious" theatre sheep of the cliff and dismiss the opera folk as irrelevant. I find the whole speech-to-song thread a tid bit troubling. I get concerned when spectacle and/or vocal talent trumps a viable storyline. But, since an accidental enrollment in an opera appreciation course, I've had a soft spot for the really murky opera stuffs (like Wagner's Tristan und Isolde). For many years prior, I've been singing fake opera in my shower to the chagrin of my neighbors. Let me tell you, I do a quite rousing rendition of a handful of operatic pop songs.

OTO presents Carmen combines the Cecil B. DeVille silent film with the Bizet opera of the same name. Somehow this provides a wonderful balance of two oft dismissed campy relics. Indeed, many laughs are at the expense of the DeVille classic, and the sing-a-long plays like a staged reading sans the yawns and the eyes rolling towards the exits. Rich vocals from Beth Madsen Bradford provides a lush soundscape for the pre-talkie cinematics. The piano and sound effects provide a glimmer of the bygone era of silent film.

Through 2/14 at the Someday Lounge: 125 NW 5th Ave (@ NW Davis).

12 February 2008

Mr. Mead, you may be in luck!

Once upon a summer visit to the parents, I went up to see some Javanese shadow puppets at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco with Mama and Mike in tow. On our way back to the South Bay, we got stuck in a bit of a weekend traffic jam thanks to the Folsom Street Fair. This was one of the more amusing causes of city congestion for the streets were cluttered with all sorts of human scenery: lots of gents with assless-chaps, studded dog collars, and tiny Speedos. Even Mike was enjoying the leather-clad, and vinyl-clad and bears, Oh My!

We'd been caught in traffic for the better part of an hour, occasionally making comments about our favorite outfits or some naughty slogans cleverly waxed into some furry back hair. We all decided that the San Francisco gay community knew how to throw a decent party. That's when Mike chimes in:

"I think I'm going to be gay in my retirement."

We stopped for ice cream once we were out of the city. I was gifted the keys and took the wheel for the rest of the trip down 280. This would have been fine if my parents had not proceeded to make out in the back seat for the entire drive. At the time I was thoroughly embarrassed. Now I wonder if Dad was trying to prove that he was making a joke, or if he was trying to get it out of his system. When he complains that he's had enough of women, we jestingly ask him about his plans for retirement.

08 February 2008

I even baked snikerdoodles...

The dishes are washed. The laundry is done. The apartment is clean. If my personal cosmic universe has aligned so these three statements are simultaneously true, it can only mean one thing:

My parents are in town.

Indeed, my parents have dropped in from the Bay Area to see the shows I recently dramaturged. I think I finally have them trained: come for the big 'uns, even if I'm not on stage. I remember the hazy outline of a conversation we had back when I was an undergrad. It went a little something like, "Oh, maybe we'll come up to see you acting in something someday somewhere sometime not right now what is this dramaturgy thing and how long will this phase last are you still listening please say no." The previous sentence is, of course, best read in one breath, spanning an octave or two with a fairly extreme diminuendo.

I'm not doing these two justice here. They're a fairly decent set of parents who do ridiculously cute things like walk down the street holding hands after 40 years of marriage. Though I am expecting a "Get a new job" lecture from Dad within the next 48 hours. I've been trying on authentic responses to this forthcoming tirade in the mirror since I dropped them of the the B&B around the corner. If only I could muster a more pathetic plea. "I'm trying!" Maybe one where I can get all the vowels including y into some double luxe tripthong sound. "I'm trauyoing."

It's only been a few hours, but I am already entertained. I prepared a short list of the evening's highlights:
  1. Mama Crow calls the MAX the Maxi Train, which makes me think of a giant sanitary napkin on rails.
  2. Dad already mistakenly called me by my sister's name three times, and our dead cat's name once.
  3. Mama Crow totally ruined my crush on Tim Gunn by telling me, "I can see why you like him. He looks kinda like your dad."
I'd like to divorce that statement from my psyche, but it's been a challenge to "Make it work."

Here's a photo set for comparison. I like to imagine that Tim is about to say something like, "Mike. The hibachi hunchback isn't wearable, but it captures the set-in-bone travail of l'ouvrier. Still, you're going to have to resolve the Teva's and perma-socks. You've got some work to do. Carry on!"

04 February 2008

Fie! It Stynks!

My apartment is most odoriferous at the moment.

My friend Chrissy and I have been watching The Complete Works of Jane Austen on Masterpiece Theatre for the past several Sundays. Usually we grab something to eat beforehand. This week I thought I'd be clever and make tea sandwiches instead. I gathered all the ingredients for those crustless treats and spent the afternoon slicing cucumbers and boiling eggs.

For some reason, it never occurred to me that hard cooked eggs might omit a smell so noxious it would put me off my appetite. Between the smell and the mustard that looked a touch too brown for safe human consumption, I was completely disgusted by the mere thought of egg salad sandwiches. When Chrissy arrived I asked if she might rather order a pizza "or something."

"Yeah. I'm hungry and it stinks too much to eat anything you just cooked."

Thanks to the longevity of our friendship, Chrissy can say things like this to me and I won't even blink an eye. I just pick up the phone to order a pizza with cheese and pineapple, extra cheese, extra pineapple, just the way she likes it.

We've put up with each other since we were eleven or twelve, even though we don't have a lot in common. Case in point, Chrissy's a BIG fan of suburbs and strip malls. I find this totally baffling. Suburbs and strip malls are highly offensive and unnatural creations. This is just the tip of our incongruent icebergs.

Chrissy considers her sense of humor to be "highly sarcastic to the point where some people are put off by it and it's not her fault that sarcasm is so beyond them." I understand that her sense of humor is actually bone dry to the point where most people think she is just saying something odd and it's not her fault that most people don't like to stand around in the mid-day desert sun staring at the blanched and brittle rib cage of a dead beast. Still, she takes great pride in her sarcasm, so I try to agree with her with as little ironic arching of the eyebrows as possible.

Truth is, I think it's funny when Chrissy says vaguely offensive things to me. For example, the week we watched the adapation of Northanger Abbey (our favorite installment thus far) we had the following exchange:

Chrissy: "Who's the lady in that picture with your sister and your nephew?"
Kim: "That's me!"
Chrissy: "Oh. Did you, like, actually brush your hair or something?"
Kim: "Yes?"
Chrissy: "Weird."

I almost went into this big explanation about how it's a JC Penney photo and no one looks normal when their pictures come from JC Penney. Or how it was in the middle of a huge DC Indian summer thunder storm so the frizz must be tamed. Or that I brushed my hair at least once a day most days of the week. Then I remembered not to take myself so damn seriously and to sit back and watch PBS, dagnamit.

Chrissy and I lit a big chai tea masala candle to cover up the egg stench while we ate our pizza and cucumber sandwiches. It was the candle that I bought her as a gift on a trip to Philadelphia a few years ago, but I forgot to mail it to her. I was glad that the orange candle in a paisley glass was finally able to bring pleasure to its intended recipient.

Today I got home and realized that my home still smells awful. In fact, boiled eggs covered up by heavily scented candle may be even worse than the original. I decide that since it already stinks to high hell, I should just add fuel to the fire and make fish for dinner. Then I lit the candle in true lather, rinse, repeat fashion.

Imagine how embarrassed I was when my nice next door neighbor came by to offer me a home-baked scone. She said that she knew I was home because she smelled my cooking. Great. It appears that the eggs-candle-fish-candle scent is capable of rousing the dead and shy neighbors. I stood at the door asking her about her car being broken into last night with a stern don't-venture-past-my-threshold stance, fearing that she might catch a whiff of the unique mixology of aromas inside. I tried to make a joke about my not so pleasant smelling dinner. My neighbor said, "I'm not asking for the recipe on this one."

I laughed because it occurred to me that I might spiff things up and invite my neighbor over for Masterpiece Theatre night. I think she and Chrissy might be fast friends.

01 February 2008

Back in St. Olaf and Other Ice Breakers.

The Golden Girls is one of the best ice breakers known to human kind. To be fair, I've really only put this to test amongst girls and gays. True, this knocks out a significant portion of the population. It just so happens that the remaining part is convinced that I come with an extra set of teeth, if you catch my drift. I think someone sent out a memo during my boy chasing days. Little did they know that my only intention was to reestablish the parameters of the power struggle on the kindergarten playground. I was pushing the envelope, not stalking prey.

Thanks in no small part to Lifetime: Television for Women and Homosexuals running The Golden Girls in syndication, just about everyone knows Miami's most famous past-their-prime prime time ladies. Sometimes I would watch the show with my Grandma in its original run. Grandma could read tea leaves, speak with a Lucky Charms leprechaun accent on command, and professed a giant crush on Willie Mays. I think this makes her a pretty cool lady. She thought Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia were hilarious. I, being a young and impressionable lass, had to agree.

People really seem to relate to the Girls. Whether through their particular antics or their character. I, for example, am especially fond of Sophia. I relate to her sense of mischief and her coinage of fabulous terms like slutpuppy. Mostly, though, I envy that she had the massive stroke that destroyed the part of her brain that acts as a censor. I often wish I had that excuse. Instead I must hope my lackadaisical tongue comes off as vaguely charming.

Quite recently, I busted out the old faithful of ice breakers. Because my social grace often fails me, I found myself working in a capacity where I felt peripheral and awkward. Then I made some off the cuff comment to the tune of, "Uh oh, sounds like another damn St. Olaf story." I thought I'd said it under my breath, but I soon felt the gauzy web of social ineptitude parting ways. This fellow's face lit up in a way that said to me, "Crow! Your semi-obscure pop culture reference has made me respect you and endear you to me. I shall now kiss you as a greeting at social functions."

I think the St. Olaf reference is near and dear to me because I use it as a reference point to remember my former boss with an appropriate dose of fondness. This boss used to give me a hard time about telling stories that could begin, "Back in St. Olaf..." just like Rose's accounts of her Minnesota home town. I never felt too bad for these reprimands because this guy was always calling me over to discuss "important business."

"Crow, come over here. I have something to discuss with you."

"Okay?" I say as the pitter patter of my heart accelerates to double time.

"Did you know that Hans Christen Andersen died a virgin?"


"What a waste of a penis!"

This was the boss that gave me a referral for a masseuse when the stress of a 2.5-3 hours of commuting was knitting my brow so ferociously, no amount of hot baths or cups of coffee could unknit them. I remember walking from work to the one and only professional massage I've had thus far. This guy worked out of his apartment, but it was done very professionally. Still, I felt a little edgy. It was pretty evident to me within the first few minutes that this guy had slept with my boss and, now that I had given the scoop that said boss was indeed single again, he hoped to do so again ASAP.

I feel that I was justifiably tense through the massage. There I am, naked on the massage table being kneaded by some strange dude who is now using me as a vehicle to get back in my boss's pants. To make matters worse, I had to ask, "Can we not talk about him? He's part of the reason I can't unclench my glutes." This made him noticeably strained. We both stayed there for most of the rest of the 90 minute massage with the O. Quard the Elephant in the room. Until the masseuse farted one of those elongated trumpet farts. There was no hiding it, so we both had a good laugh.

At the end of the massage the masseuse said, "You like like you're pretty hip, but since it's your first massage, I have to warn you not to drink any wine or smoke any weed tonight." I think I muttered a reply and slipped the guy his tip not thinking too hard about his advice. I walked over to a restaurant for a nice meal to end my evening of decadence. Because I was dining alone, I was sat at the giant communal table with a party of six wine guzzlers. The lady next to me took pity on me and poured me a glass of vino, an all important social lubricant. Next thing I know, this lady is hinting that she'd really like comp tickets to the theatre I was working at and I am nursing an instant hangover. I really wish I'd thought a little more about that tidbit of advice.

So, heed my tidbit of advice. When you're treading lightly on the social skate pond, never fear. Conjure a good fart, or muster the courage to share your stash of booze or weed. And if your cupboard is bare, all it takes is a simple, "Back in St. Olaf..."