Friday, March 30, 2007

sun porch

I stayed home from work today. It was gray and cold and I just couldn't get out of bed. When I awoke from a mid-morning nap, I found Au Lait my kitty curled up in the little nook behind my knees and the sun was shining in full force a mirror of light across my face. It's gorgeous out. And even warm enough to sit out on the porch while I type. I can see all of Burlington from up here. I can even spy on the Clavelles' pool next door (it's covered with a tarp right now).

Au Lait is exploring and sniffing all of the fresh spring smells and sounds. The wind is blowing across the lake causing the water to ripple like a million silver leaves.

I am feeling revived.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

kev to the rescue

I guess this is a moment I should be proud of, especially in this day and age: my car died because I don't drive it enough. Only I didn't feel proud when I went to turn it on and it just clicked and sputtered. I felt pretty dumb. In fact, I didn't even know it was the battery. I had no idea what the problem was. I thought it was a spark plug. I never thought that it was from pure neglect. I never think about my car anymore. She hates me. But I don't care. She's just a car. But I love her and I don't sell her, even though I never drive her. I haven't driven her in over three weeks. I walk everywhere.

I looked at the clock. It was 7:10. I was supposed to be at my sister Emi's house for dinner.

I got out of the car and went back inside. I called her, "my car won't start."

"Oh, that sucks." she said with a scratch (she's been sick all week). "I'd offer to come get you, but I'm really sick..."

"Oh, that's okay," I said. "I'll just walk over. It just might take a while." I surprised even myself by how calm I felt at the moment. I would deal with the car later.

She called back a minute later. "Kev's coming to get you. He thinks it might be your battery."

"But why would it be my battery?" I asked. What a dope.

"I don't know. Did you leave your light on?"

"I don't know."

Kev showed up a couple minutes later. He pulled up to my car, opened the hood, and clipped on the charger cables, which by the way magically appeared out of nowhere. Kev's always surprising me like that. He's always so prepared. And very efficient. I just stood by the car looking like a dope.

"Okay, try it now."

Bingo. She started and purred like a happy cat. I don't know how long it took--sometime during the quick magic trick, the interior clock on the dashboard flashed and stopped on 12:33--but I'm guessing it was under five minutes.

Rescued and on the road in under five minutes. It's magic. Thanks Kev.

Meanwhile, I'm still feeling like a dope.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

how I plan to become a good citizen

Based on some lofty goals I set for myself (in my mind) earlier today, I decided it would be better to start small. The formula is Passion, then Action. I'm also utilizing some handy goal-setting skills that I learned at work recently. This could be fun.

Passion: Writing
Action/Goal 1: write at least one blog entry each week that is inspiring and uplifting
Timeline: ongoing, weekly, begins immediately

Action/Goal 2: write and submit one article or editorial for publication (who cares if it doesn't get published)
Timeline: submit by December 2007

Passion: Art
Action/Goal: get back into my artwork, complete at least 2 paintings/drawings by the end of the year
Timeline: once-a-month sketch sessions, 2 completed artworks by December 2007

Passion: Cooking
Action/Goal: cook a fine meal for somebody else (invite someone to dinner, bake cookies for work)
Timeline: ongoing, at least once a month, begins immediately

Passion: Books
Action/Goal: read a book a month, attend bookclub
Timeline: ongoing, monthly, begins immediately

what makes a good citizen?

I’ve been in a bad mood all week. Actually, if you were to look at a line graph of my attitude over the past few years, the most recent months in particular have been looking pretty bleak. It’s not that I’m pessimistic or that I’m not having a good time. And I’m pretty sure this isn’t my quarter life crisis. I already had that. I’m just in a rut. I feel like an ineffectual citizen. Unfulfilled. I really want to be effective and to feel good about what I’m doing, but I have no idea where to start or if I even have the ability to change.

In a brainstorming session today at work, we were trying to define and describe the life experiences that one must undertake in order to find a higher level of personal enrichment. Part of that, we decided, is taking responsibility as a good citizen.

But what does that mean? The Good Citizen’s Handbook defines a good citizen as someone who is clean, eats lots of meat, brushes his teeth, and arrives promptly at the dinner table, among other things.

That was fifty years ago. The expectations are a little different now and less measurable. A good citizen might be this: discovering your passion and using it to make a difference.

Discover, then take action.

You may not know what that passion is at first. But you will know that something is important to you when, as one person in the group described it, it makes your heart beat faster. And, she said, it’s important not to exclude that passion from your professional career. You should go to work thinking, “this is how I want to live my life.”

This is when I started to feel uncomfortable. We were talking about asking our students to do something so basic and elemental, while I’ve managed to live several complacent post-college years without fully addressing it.

It was an “Aha!” moment for me, as I immediately diverted my eyes to the floor and felt my heart beating faster. I guess my passion, at least for the moment, is going to have to be just that: finding my passion.

And I don’t think it will be so difficult. After all, I know what I love to do. I know what I’m good at. The challenge is to initiate that passion throughout my entire life: my job, my social interactions, my life pursuits. The challenge is going to be taking the time to reassess and reflect upon every aspect of my life. The challenge is going to be making some decisions and setting goals. And reaching them. Discover, then take action.

I think I’m up for the challenge. Finally.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

i saw three snowdrops

Three white-as-snow-drops, perfectly poised in a puddle of mud.

There. Now there's no reason to be a grump anymore, is there?

california dreaming

L.A. is the ubiquitous city these days. Not that I even asked for it… it’s just turned out that way. I’ve never even been to L.A., to California. My assumptions rely heavily on second-hand information. “It’s kind of like Florida, only bigger.” Would you move there if you had the choice? I need more information.

My sister moved there in December. At the time, it seemed glamorous, albeit slightly scary. That same month, Bon Appetit ran a fabulous article on the great eating there, the trendy restaurants, the green markets, the decadent pastries. And then of course, there’s Hollywood and Rodeo Drive and Laguna Beach. Whereas New York was always the it city in my mind, L.A. was showing some promise. Would I move out there if I had the choice? I still need more information.

It took Hannah days to find a coffee shop. Granted, she’s outside of L.A. But still.

I don't think Hannah specifically asked for L.A. but now's she's got it. And now. Now, it's my turn to answer the L.A. question. What if I were asked to move there? I probably won’t be, but it’s looking like there’s a very slight chance I might be asked to move there. Closer to one sister, but further away from the other. Away from my family, my beautiful Vermont, my little apartment. Would I go?

Whatever the case, three sisters are still separated by an entire country. An entire country. It might as well be an entire world.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I caught a cloud

I caught a cloud one day.
I jumped that cloud and rode it far away.

Rode over the Atlantic, over Greenland
Where the air passed my skin like musical notes and where
Night awoke its deep purple stance.

I caught a cloud and rode it all the way to France.
I saw musicians from the Nile, Gypsy guitar players, and
Arab merchants.

I tasted duck carpaccio drizzled in olive oil, fresh goat cheese, eleven varieties of honey, ripened figs plucked right from the tree.

I soaked myself in the Moroccan tiled hamman, perspiration falling from my skin like rain.
I drank the mint tea to rain the water back inside of me.

I met a woman with crystal eyes--
she spoke my fortune on saturated breath.
I let out a sigh of relief. Now I can take my leave.

I said goodbye to the olive leaf, to my new found friends, said Au Revoir to the cicadas chirping on the sun-dried plain.

When I returned home everything remained
Quite unchanged
Still sitting in the normal place.

But the cloud and I shall never be the same.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

big heavy sky

Sometimes the sky can feel so big.

Not so much when it's completely empty, clear and blue, as you would think. More so when it's peppered with small floating objects--stars, clouds, seagulls--in point of reference to its massive size.

When the sky feels so big, other objects on land seem disproportionate. Large billboards so up close dwarf the industrial rooftops below--so close together--industrial buildings piled so close together like metal cars on a train, toppled together.

They must breathe

in unison--in an out--in unison so as not to burst at the architectural core.

The buildings breathe in the hot heat of night. Breathe in the Harlem shadows, shifting in silhouette as we whiz by.

The night sky is big tonight, small electric pink clouds hang so high above. The sky is big, but is not airy and offers no escape. The heavy night suffocates the breath. We race to squeeze through the drowsy buildings before they collapse in on us. Envelope us in the night. And my eyelids are heavy. So heavy.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Thursday, March 22, 2007

stranger than fiction

I didn't post last night because I was in my class building a sick flash web site. When I got home around 8:30, Col had a yummy dinner of flatbread, warm and ready, and a Netflix movie: Stranger than Fiction. I was a little dubious. Col's always trying to get me to watch strange movies. They often end up making my stomach churn halfway through and spurring some kind of argument between the two of us.

But he insisted, "You'll like it, it's a comedy! And Will Farrell's in it. Your favorite!" Say no more.

And he was right. Well, not about the comedy part. Well, sort of. It's not exactly laugh out loud funny, but it was one of the best movies I've seen in a very long time and not just because I'm a writer. It's about a man (Ferrell), who turns out to be a character in a novel and whose author is in the process of finding a way to kill him, while he at the same time and in the same city is trying to find the author and stop her from finishing the novel.

My favorite part of the movie is when Ferrell's character consults with an eccentric, coffee drinking, literature professor (Dustin Hoffman) to find out if the novel he's living is a comedy or a tragedy. Very clever stuff there!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

cotton ball from hell

You know sticky rice. You know how it manages to stick to any and every thing? How it glues itself stealthily onto the backside of your black trousers? How it hides like limp lice between tendrils of your hair? And how when you try to pick it off, it sticks to your fingers? Well, I've got something worse.

Cotton balls. Yup, that's right: cotton balls. I like to buy the organic, flat, quilted kind. The kind that come stacked like white Pringles in a long cylindrical bag. I like the flat ones because they're easier to hold than the classic puffs and they cover more surface when I'm applying my toner in the morning. Hey, every second counts.

One recent day from hell, however, I went to the store and they were sold out. So I bought the generic kind. Cotton balls are cotton balls. No big deal, right?

The next morning I pulled one out of the bag and watched it shred like cotton candy before my eyes. One side had stuck to the pad beneath it, so what actually came out was just half of a pad--one side clean and quilted (just how I like it) and one side a dangerous white forest of cotton fibers. Like a dandelion gone to seed. When the wind blows, watch out.

Now, I don't like to waste, so I held my breath and used it. I rubbed my toner on and as I did, the loose fibers on the other side started attaching themselves like magnets--or black magic--to my face and my fingers.

This wouldn't be such a huge problem, except for this: the next step in my daily routine is to put my contacts in. Fuzz balls on my eyeballs. Ouch. I made sure to wash my hands extra carefully. And they looked clean. But as I rinsed, inserted, and blinked, I felt a stab of pain in my vision. One of those wet, stringy cotton hairs had made its way under my lens.

Most of the drama in my life these days seems to occur in the loo. Is it me? Am I a product freak? I had to consult my sister Emi, who I know has some of the same toilette tendencies that I do.

"Oh man, I bought those stupid cotton balls too!" she concurred after I told her my story over the phone. She continued with her testimony. "You know," she said, "the other day, I turned to say something to Kev with the cotton pad in my hand. It brushed against him and totally disintegrated on his shirt. He was so freaked out. Thank God I used up the last one this morning."

I rolled my eyes to heaven as I pictured my full bag of cotton pads in the bathroom drawer. I can't just throw them out. What a waste. But maybe if I just leave them there long enough and forget about them, they'll turn into, I don't know, a cotton ball Chia pet. Or better yet, disintegrate altogether. I hope so.

Monday, March 19, 2007

body artist

So, I never ever thought I’d say this. Let alone write about it. But, I think I’m officially a snowboarder.

Sure, I've been riding a handful of times, but I mainly just wanted to see what the hype was all about and spend time with my boyfriend. Then something happened. It all started Friday afternoon. Col and I packed our bags and boards into Col’s car—a.k.a. the Tank—bundled Au Lait our kitty comfortably on my lap, and made our usual stop at Uncommon Grounds for some coffee before heading North to my parents’ house in Newport, Vermont.

The next two days were a fluffy blur. The weather forecast said 10-20 inches of snow were coming our way. We woke up Saturday morning to a fresh layer of almost two feet and it was still snowing. After a hearty Vermont-style breakfast, we drove off to Jay Peak. That’s when the Tank really strutted his stuff.

On the way, Col gave me a pep talk, “These are prime conditions. This is going to be your first time on powder.” Then in the lodge: “You will start giggling uncontrollably. It feels like you're floating on air.” Then on the chairlift, “You can fall as much as you want and it won’t even hurt. It will be orgasmic.”

Okay stop.

I had to take his excessive descriptors with a grain of salt. This was only my 6th time snowboarding—ever. I'm not exactly what you'd call sporty. In fact, the very word brings to mind other words and images: fanatic, dowdy, athletic, sweatpants, equipment, practice. Boring! Sporty is not a concept that guides my life decisions. Or is it?

Though I wouldn't classify my look or my mantra as sporty, my physical past might suggest otherwise. I've been a runner, walker, snowshoer, skier, hockey player, gymnast, dancer, and soccer player all at different and intersecting points of my life. I like to see what my body can do. I like to see what it feels like to occupy a different kind of physical space. I like how it feels to be out of breath and to burn and to overcome. I like the accomplishment of finding new limits and exceeding them. But do I have to call that sport? What about something like corporeal explorer. What about body artist?

I got off the lift and started to panic. I couldn't even remember which toe to point forward or how to turn. "Col!" I cried out, "How do I do it?" This moment was not about sport; it was about performance. I had walked out on the stage and forgotten my lines.

Col had no sympathy. "What are you saying?" he yelled back from down the hill. "Of course you remember--Come on!" Slowly I put a toe forward and immediately caught my edge in the deep snow. Pow. "Lean back!" someone from the audience in the chairlift above me yelled down. Here's another word: collaboration.

Something clicked inside of me. It was that moment when, after looking at a blank canvas for days, you see a vision. You know what to do. You feel it all over. No more writer's block. I glided out on the soft powder. I carved into it. Like a powder pony, Col would later say. I hovered and caressed the slope like an upside down trapeze artist. I felt a rush in my skin. I was giggling and I couldn't stop. I was knee-deep in snow. And then I fell. But I didn't care. The powder cushioned me like a big pile of goose down feathers. Orgasmic.

By the end of the weekend, I had climbed the mountain in the swinging gondola, boarded down my first black diamond trail, and caught some air on a kicker we built in my parents' backyard. (Yup, I'm officially a snowboarder).

As I landed my last jump on my feet (in a perfect ten formation, by the way), my mind wandered just for a second to the sporty snowboarders competing this past weekend some 3 hours south at the U.S. Open. I've met some of those guys and gals before. They're not all that different from me, but they've been doing this boarding thing their entire life. I will never be as good as them. I'm just not that sporty. And I'm okay with that. But, even so, I never felt more like a leading lady than I did at that very moment.

Friday, March 16, 2007

the best surprise

You know how sometimes you find yourself silently wishing for something ludicrous that you would never dare ask for out loud? Those unspoken wishes usually never come true. But sometimes... well, you just never know.

This morning, I found myself back in my shower again. I was running late for work as usual, but unusually late. Col--what a gent--had woken up early to put the coffee on, but then we realized there was no milk left. What is coffee in the morning without milk? I dare not tread that forbidden path, lest my stomach revolt in acid anger. So I decided to go regrettingly without coffee at all.

This all happened before the shower. In fact, probably part of the reason I was running so unusually late was due to the 10 minutes spent in bed deliberating on the no-milk conundrum.

In the shower, however, I had more time to think. Going to work without coffee was really not an option, I was going to have to drink it black and suffer the reflux consequences. Maybe I could mix in lots of maple syrup to soften the blow.

This is where the wish came in. I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be so great if Col surprised me and ran to the store while I was in the shower?” I immediately brushed the thought out of my head. Just too cruel! But as I turned the water off and called out my usual after-shower “Hello?” there was no response. I opened the bathroom door, stuck my head out, and said it again. “Hello?” He wasn’t there. Au Lait, our kitty, was sitting outside the door looking back at me as if to say, “This really is unbelievable!”

At that moment, I heard the downstairs door open and close. I quickly closed the bathroom door and flipped the fan on, so as not to ruin the surprise. He came in quietly, and then said in belated response, “Hello? Are you still moisturizing in there?”

I said, “yup” and waited a couple seconds before going out to greet him. He was standing in the kitchen stirring milk into my coffee. Not only that, but he had bought me a donut for breakfast too. His face was glowing with smiles, “Look what I did!” I ran up to him and gave him a big kiss. “You’re the best,” I said.

we feel fine

Here is a way cool Friday diversion: http://www.wefeelfine.org/

“Since August 2005, We Feel Fine has been harvesting human feelings from a large number of weblogs. Every few minutes, the system searches the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the "feeling" expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved.

The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 - 20,000 new feelings per day.”

Thursday, March 15, 2007

martyr metis for the poets: a sonnet

A greater man there never was than you,
Almighty Zeus, nor a larger lust
Than for the ever-thoughtful Metis, who
Begot with you a babe, though e'er she blushed.

And yet the oracle of Mother Earth
Saw first a girl-child, then a son follow
With high powers. You feared that second birth;
Suppressed your pregnant Thought in one swallow.

The climax of consumed lover in full
Phase became a vast pain, enough to blind.
A sharpened axe against your ruptured skull
Was sole cure to sooth the aching mind.

From that breach sprung forth in connate wisdom,
Athene--armoured with words--a grown woman.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

flip your mad hat tricks here

My sister is a cabaret dancer. Allestine is her name—a sexy, French, temptress with lots of lace panties. Every spring, she and a handful of other colorful Spielpalast thespians make their anticipated debut on the Burlington stage. That time will come soon enough. But for now those starving artists need some cash! So this past weekend, they hosted a benefit party in an old South End warehouse.

You never know what to expect at these kinds of events. Burlington has lots of strange, hidden architectural spaces and even stranger artsy parties. Once I found myself at a late-night gathering in a converted church. It still looked like a church, with stain-glass windows and a large open living room. The only thing missing were the pews and pulpit. A DJ was spinning in the balcony and I couldn’t help but feel slightly sacrilegious with a beer in hand.

Last year’s cabaret fundraiser was a yard sale in a place called the Bakery. It looked more like a broom closet if you ask me. But what charm! This year’s venue was the Factory, a steel remnant from, I imagine, the prosperous-lumber-days turned industrial-shambles turned artsy-studio-space, like so many other warehouses on the city's south shore.

Like I said, Col and I didn’t really know what to expect, except that the theme was Mad Scientist. Somehow, I got mixed up and thought that meant Mad Hatter, so I went dressed in a tie and banker’s vest. Turned out, I wasn’t the only one. My friend Elisa wore black and white checked tights that she said reminded her of Alice in Wonderland. We fit right in with everybody else who looked slightly out of their minds, though not at all like mad scientists.

The Factory was below ground and much more spacious than I expected. There were various side-shows going on in the darkest nooks and crannies: a fortune teller sat behind a smoky curtain, black and white silent movies projected onto a screen while despondent musicians sat in the shadows and accompanied the performance, a DJ in a silver tuxedo pumped out house music in a brightly-lit corner, fan dancers wooed the crowd. We found scantily clad Allestine in the kissing booth. She was doing the kissing: $1 for a peck on the cheek and up to $5 for special requests.

I think the highlight of the night for me was the housewife cockfight. There was a boxing ring set up about 4 x 4 feet and 4 inches high. In the ring were several Frankenstein household appliances: a vacuum power head with a Chucky doll face and extraneous plastic limbs, electric egg beaters mounted on a floor waxer, an electric knife stitched onto a dust buster. These contraptions were old and dusty and ready to fight—they all floated across the cement floor like silently possessed hovercrafts. Two Queens dressed as 1950s housewives and armed with brooms guided their path to demolition, while sweeping the floor at the same time. I left before a clear winner was crowned—halfway through the wires got so tangled, there was a minor meltdown and I was choking from all the up-churned dust. But my money was on Chucky.

are you real?

I recently stumbled on a blog entry in which the author, Danah Boyd, muses over the idea that the way to make things real is to make them public. Boyd gives a classic example of Pan’s Labyrinth—a magical extra-dimension that seems to float between imagination and reality—that begs the question: if there are no witnesses to validate what took place, how do we know it really happened? If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one around to hear it, does it makes a sound?

Boyd says the internet and social networking sites allow us to easily make the most intimate experiences public and therefore real—by changing your relationship status to “single,” by posting blogs and IMs, by requesting for someone to be your friend. But she also wonders how “real” online experiences truly are. How much of it is staged? Even YouTube videos are fuzzy at best. (think lonelygirl15)

I’m an avid internet user, and indeed, what draws me so much to the web is the mere theatricality of it all. You can paint yourself in the best light. A beautiful impression for the world to see—and comment on. It’s always a work in progress and if you make a mistake, you can just delete it. For the writer, writing is all about process, and the many different versions it takes you to get to a certain point. The end result is just part of it. But because of the very nature of technology and the discreet delete button, nobody else ever witnesses that process. The user/reader/browser only ever gets to see that final edition. You will never see the rough draft of this blog posting, for example. It doesn’t exist, but for in my memory.

It brings to mind another musing I heard on the radio recently—a radio show about a single poem by a renowned poet. The poem, which was written decades ago before computers and typewriters, has about 15 different manuscript versions in existence. You can see on the paper, in the first draft through to the final published copy, exactly how the author came up with the words and rhythm and how they morphed with each draft. How the idea of loss first started with losing a pen and turned into, by the 10th draft or so, losing a lover. To see that kind of thought process is rare these days.

So what happens to all of those deleted words and thoughts? Are they gone forever in some virtual recycle bin? Were they ever even real?

Monday, March 12, 2007

how to get inspired

I’m in a rut. Is it just me or does everything seem stale at this point? The fashion magazines haven’t pointed out anything I haven’t already seen within the last five years. My music tastes have reverted back to favorite oldies—somehow the sound seems fresher than what I’d heard of late. Even my favorite cooking magazine has failed to tempt with a single recipe two months in a row. I see friends I haven’t seen in ages. They ask, “so, what’s new?” I just want to roll my eyes at them. But I don’t. I just shrug my shoulders, say, “not much,” and keep on walking.

Maybe it’s just a mid-March lull—the quiet before the storm of inspiration. But why wait for inspiration? Sometimes you gotta put the effort in. And you know what? The minute I acknowledge my lack of inspiration, I realize I haven’t really been looking for it. So where to look for it?

How to go about getting inspired:

The first thing I do is think about everything that’s inspired me over the last few seasons and throw it all out. Not literally, of course. Just clear it from the mind. This new bout of inspiration has got to be really fresh.

Next I like to think about a color or a shape. Sometimes I take a shortcut and go straight to geography. If you think of a place for inspiration, the colors and shapes will come of their own accord. Think, for example, of France, the Mediterranean, Hollywood circa 1960, the English countryside, Japan, Russia. These places conjure up so much imagery, colors, and shapes. But I’ve already been inspired by these places. I want someplace that’s new to me.

What about the Nile or the Sahara desert? What about Moroccan sun? Somewhere hot with sand and a poetic tongue. Suddenly I’m thinking of shapes and colors. I’m thinking of saturated prints, bright earthy ochres, and layers of cotton voile. I’m hearing music and language so thick with sound you can almost see it floating up into the air like a snake. I’m seeing shapes loose and fluid, tight and coiled. I’m practically tasting steamy spiced stews with couscous and anisette, fresh mint tea, and everything with honey.

This is just a start. Now I’m feeling really inspired, I could go on and on. And goodness, it wasn’t any work at all!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

pink pony pictures

My boyfriend Col takes great photos. But he's so disorganized, you'd never know where to find them. I guess that's why we make such a great team. He's artfully prolific and I'm an anal perfectionist. So this morning, he and I created a little online gallery to display his work. We did it while we were lying in bed on a lazy Saturday morning. Now all of his photographs are together in one place.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

iconic memories

There's something very nostalgic about a navy blue, wool cardigan. Isn't there? Nostalgic because of the visual memories it evokes. Grandfather, card table, golf on t.v., scotch on the rocks.

My grandfather died last week and what remains are his objects that he left behind: a closet-full of clothes, shoes, golf clubs, a silver watch on his desk, three tuxedo buttons from Tiffany's, a library of Margaret Atwood novels and books on world religions, a stack of worn playing cards. These leftover, quotidian objects are in essence an iconic representation of the real man when the real man has gone away. I treat them as such anyhow.

Icons are symbolic in a way—as humans, we use them for reassurance. I guess that's why so many icons are related to the after-life. Why people carry a rosary or pray to the crucifix. Or send flowers. Or fly the flag at half-mast. These icons are sacred and comforting. When I miss a person, say, my boyfriend, I wear his clothing. It makes me closer.

Today, I wore my grandfather's navy blue cardigan. It was way too big and I'm sure it didn't bring him any closer to being alive. But wearing it did bring me closer to the man that once was. It conjured other images and icons. It honed the wonderful memories. It comforted me.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

it's raining grapefruits

After yesterday's cold stormy weather, we awoke this morning to bright, warm sunshine. And new beginnings. Em and I decided to go running along Palmer Avenue, where some of the beautiful old Spanish-style villas still grace the lakeside. They're some of the last ones left standing in Winter Park—a town of new, ever-expanding stucco mansions. The hibisbus were in bloom and the Sunday breeze enveloped the avenue in a calm breath.

We turned down towards the old massive Alabama Hotel overlooking the lake, where Great Granny Ann lived till her last days, and stopped to stretch at the little park by the water. There's an echo chamber there. It looks like a Greek ampitheater and if you stand in a certain spot and face the stone columns, your voice will carry far away behind you over the surface of the water to the houses beyond and up into the sky.

I looked up at one of the trees covered in moss and noticed a few yellow citrus still clinging to the tall branches.

"Hey Em, come here. It's a grapefruit tree!"

She walked over and we stood there looking up. Suddenly a water-logged fruit dropped from it's high perch and landed with a thud right at our feet. We looked at each other in wonder. I picked it up of the ground. The fall had cracked its thick skin and a clear sticky syrup was seeping out.

"I dare you to eat some," I said to her. "I'll eat this part." I tore the grapefruit in half and gave some to her. The flesh was so juicy. I sunk my teeth into it. Sun-ripened, sweet, and heavenly.

We finished the whole thing and then started licking our sticky fingers. It was the sweetest and most wonderful fruit we'd ever tasted. "It's from Papa Roger!" Em said. Grapefruit from the heavens.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

farewell our Ropo

Today was Papa Roger’s funeral. Yesterday, we saw him in his open casket. In the little chapel by the lake with the pink cityscape beyond. He looked strange and plastic-ey and I couldn’t even walk up close.

Little Lucia asked, “is that really him?”

“Si Mamo, that’s him,” Cousin Ricardo told her. “He just has lots of make-up on.”

We sat there for three hours in the chapel. We watched through watery vision as one by one the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren made closure with the sleeping man.

We watched as our own Papa walked up to him for the last time, kissed him on the forehead and said, “Good-bye, Pop.”

We watched as Mama Sonia, the pillar Matriarch, dropped a final tear onto his quiet body.

Later in the night, when the three of us girls were in bed, Em said, “Did you guys touch Papa Roger? I did. I touched his hand.”

I said, “you did? I couldn’t even go up there. What did he feel like? Was he cold?”

“He was cold, but he was really soft. He felt just like he always did. And his hands were folded together just like they always were.”

In bed, in the dark, I found myself putting my hands together like I imagine his were. And I started rubbing one thumb with the other, over and under, over and under, just like he used to. I fell asleep that way.

*****

They buried him this morning by the golf course under the oak trees and a silvery canopy of Spanish moss. We three girls sang with my father and mother, “In the Sweet By and By,” and as Father Walsh prayed, we all heard softly in the background the swing of a golf club and a clean whack as it sent the ball flying. How fitting! Sweet dreams, our Papa Roger.

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