Monthly Archives: October 2013

Creepy Christmas Thingies and the Emanating Demise of Halloween

So I’m at Target last night scanning the aisles for last-minute Halloween supplies.  Of course they are all picked over as I knew they would be.  I don’t shop much anymore and never immersed myself in this year’s spooky retail haven.  Although thank you The Surfing Pizza for letting me live that voyeuristically through your kick-ass blog.

Soon to be stashed in the cart of forgotten fright.

Soon to be stashed in the cart of forgotten fright.

Sure there was a decent stock of Halloween-themed baking supplies on the shelves– skeleton cookie mix, monster cupcake kits, pumpkin-shaped molds for people who have the time and desire to make their own chocolate.  I stood there for five minutes contemplating whether or not to bake a fun Halloween treat for the party I’m attending tonight.  Then I decided I’d just make a cheese plate with the expensive block of Havarti in the fridge that my kid won’t eat.  We began to head toward the produce section for grapes.  Yes, don’t you love that Target (or Super Target as it is also known) has its own grocery store?  A one-stop shop without the outrageously and questionably dressed patrons of Wal-Mart (I can’t believe spell check just told me I misspelled Wal-Mart. And that spell check knows Wal-Mart).

But on the way to produce my son and I had to do a quick peek at the left-over decorations and costumes.  Good thing is they were all on sale.  Bad thing is they looked pitiful.  The shelves were half-stocked with glittery, painted pumpkins and white, plastic spiders just hoping to be taken home.  And half of the costumes were either on the floor or falling off the hanger.  I did find one killer hat I had to purchase, even if I don’t wear it for the party or trick-r-treating.  It was seriously the only one left and was on sale.  And it makes me look like a chick Victorian vampire-lady.  Whatever the hell that is.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s Halloween.  You can make a hat and a t-shirt into any character you want.

Awesome Victorian vampire mini hat I couldn't resist.

Awesome Victorian vampire mini hat I couldn’t resist.

As we neared the back of the store there was a grocery cart overflowing with Halloween decor and supplies I knew were facing their ultimate demise– the dusty warehouse or cheap Dollar Store.  I felt sorry for them, knowing they didn’t even cut it for the season’s last-minute Halloween shoppers.  And right behind them stacked in neat rows and standing full and proud and new were holiday lights and plastic Christmas wreaths.  They were kind of laughing at the cart of forgotten fright.  They were slowly creeping, those creepy Christmas thingies, towards the fun aisle that would be a plastic winter wonderland in days.

I love you Halloween, in all your kooky spookiness.  You don’t prance around for months, steam-rolling over Thanksgiving and guilting us into buying presents we can’t really afford.  You provide us a reason to dress up like Batman, a princess, a warrior, or a dude with a mullet.  For one night (or many, depending on how many parties attended) we get to be someone else.  And the kids, they get CANDY.  No questions asked.  Oh yeah, except for “Trick or treat?”  And we get to steal from their bags.  Or scare the shit out of them as they near the front porch.  You make it OK to watch ridiculous horror flicks, dress in orange and black, and TP someone’s yard with Charmin.

The only thing I don’t like about you Halloween is that you don’t stay very long.  You slink away into the morning after with your half-eaten Tootsie Rolls while we have to pick up the worn vampire ensemble off the floor and long for you until next year.  And you leave your moans, screams, and howls echoing in the fog as irritating holiday music blasts on a short rotation out of every department store or gas station way way way too early.

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Brown (Ode to Autumn)

Fall Leaves         
the color brown falls from the sky 
in passive splashes of fresh beauty
in leaves and kisses 
and soil and freckles
the color brown is about
as jack-o-lanterns smile with its flame
the flame a color of brown
brown the flame of fall

Fall Freckles

Fall Chair

Jack-o-lanterns

Fall Backyard

–Written years ago as an ode to Autumn. I’ve always had a love affair with the season– through the pen, the lens, the skin, and the scent of a bonfire and decaying leaves. Now I have to travel several hundred miles north to feel its arms around me for a brief moment. What do you love about Fall?

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My Couple-Skate Partner

Couple skateI’ve been taking my nine-year-old to the skating rink for several years now.  It always brings back memories from when I used to skate at the Hickory Hollow roller rink in Tennessee in the ’80’s.  My son has let me couple-skate with him maybe three or four times.  Now you can forget about it.  But I’m glad we had that short time on the parquet flooring.  He was my second couple-skate partner.

The first, well I can’t tell you his exact name, but for early memory-loss purposes we’ll call him David.  He was of average height, maybe an inch taller than me, and super skinny.  His mom probably bought his Sears Toughskins in slim.  I noticed him on the playground with the other 2nd graders.  I think he was hanging around the monkey bars where me and my girlfriends were reenacting the movie Annie scene by scene.  His dark hair tousled by the wind, he was alone, and seemed half content and half uneasy in his alabaster skin.  I was immediately intrigued.

Skating rink PatternSince he wasn’t in my class I had to steal glances of him whenever all the second graders converged—story time at the library, where I think I saw him checking out a sci-fi book, in the cafeteria, where he slowly savored his PB & J sandwiches from home, or at recess where he might be found alone or with another “mediocre on the food chain” elementary school boy.

I don’t think he noticed me.  Or at least he wasn’t looking at me when I was looking at him.  I distinctly remember one day when it was pouring rain. Since there was no gymnasium we had our recess in a blue-carpeted double classroom.  Written on the giant chalkboard was “Jumping Contest”.  A long pole was set up lengthwise in the center.  I was no athletic Einstein for sure, but I prided myself on my jumping abilities, which were acquired in the backyard with my more-than-athletically capable younger brother.

SkatesWhen David’s class entered my heart skipped a beat.  He leaned against the chalkboard, patiently waiting his turn as the contest began.  One by one each of us jumped over the thigh-high pole, and one by one, kids were eliminated as the coach raised the pole higher and higher.  David was a fair jumper, sitting down somewhere in the middle of the eliminations.  Each time I jumped I was proud yet slightly amazed I had gone on to be one of the last four.  As the clock ticked closer to the end of recess, the pole was raised to meet my chest.  I took a confident running start and made the jump without knocking over the bar! Smiling within, I hoped David was as impressed as I was.

A couple weeks later I went to the skating rink for kid’s skate night.  There was something special about the skating rink—the smell of popcorn and worn, rented skates, the neon lights illuminating the slick, wooden floor, the blinking lights of the video arcade games, and the promise of finding someone to couple-skate with.

Arcade gamesI was well-versed in skating at a decent clip to Michael Jackson, Van Halen, and Midnight Starr.  But in all the days and nights I went to that rink I never did a couple-skate.  No one ever asked me.

While sitting near the concession stand for a snack break, I noticed my crush-from-afar, skating awkwardly in time to that early-80’s rap beat.  Excitement and nervousness set in my freckled body.  His skates magnified his long, lanky limbs, and turned his slim jeans into high-waters.  But there was something about him, the way he seemed content with being alone, yet slightly lost in the shuffle.  I anxiously made my way to the floor to see if he would notice me.

PopcornEvery time I passed him my stomach would flutter.  Even back then I wondered what I looked like from behind as he surely caught a glimpse of my little round rump as I rolled by.  After a few rounds the DJ announced it was time for “Couple Skate Only” so I returned to the snack bar to find my mom for money to play Pac Man.  As she handed me a quarter, I felt a hesitant tap on my shoulder.  I turned around to see David, my exquisitely gawky David, who quietly but fervently asked if I would like to couple skate.  “Yes,” I replied non-reluctantly, and he clasped my hand in his.

Disco ballWe revolved carefully in clunky rhythm, our hair blowing and our mouths curled up in nervous smiles of relief.  We made small talk.  We tried not to fall.  As far as I was concerned we were the only kids on the rink.  When the song was over we thanked each other then he scooted away to leave for the night.

The rest of the school year when I saw him from time to time, we would smile at each other.  I never saw him with any other girls, and I don’t think he came back to our school the following year.

I could say I picked him up like a stray, an unwieldy boy who needed someone to cling to, if only for a moment.  Although I might have had the upper hand when it came to quiet confidence and certain physical skills, I think it was me who received that small rescue.

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Blogniac

Last night I had one of my usual half-awake-half-dreaming 3am bouts.  These usually occur in the middle of a good dream.  When I’m about to sink my teeth into a blueberry cake donut or when I’m about to have my body willingly held captive by a dark, handsome stranger.  Forget about the times when I’m being chased by an evil, angry a-hole with a gun, a hungry alligator, a tidal wave, or since childhood a raging tornado or hissing snakes. Those dreams are allowed by the R.E.M. to conclude at will.  Although lately I’ve prevailed against such stalkers.  In one I actually grabbed the snake by its neck and threw it over a cliff.  In another I challenged the gun-slinger by getting into my defensive stance, looking him in the eye, and saying, “Don’t mess with me.  I’m a GREEN belt, mother f*cker!”

Since I’ve been spending more and more time on my writing, I’ve been waking up at this ungodly yet peaceful hour with various ideas.  Some for short stories, others about what my next line or scene will be in the novel I’m unhurriedly creating, and of course several for future blog posts.  Last night I woke up from a dream I now can’t remember and had an idea for a daily prompt.

You know those cheesy infomercials you’d catch at, well, 3am, like the Ginsu knife, Sham Wow, or the Snuggie (I have one don’t judge me)?  Well what if you wrote an infomercial but instead of the Ab Roller the product was yourself?  How would you market yourself?  What would you say?  What are the qualities you could offer that maybe someone of less sharpness, absorption, or snuggly-ness couldn’t?

Here’s what I thought of at 3am, or something close to it (the darkness makes things seem so much more awesome).  Cue non-accented male voice-over and bleak, black and white shots:

Are you tired of a bitchy friend or a nagging wife?  Wish you had a nicer neighbor?  What about those mean restaurant patrons or that guy who never picks up after his dog?  And those people who go on and on about their ailments, politics, or crappy job.  Well have we got a refresher for you! (Cue up-beat voice-over and crisp, colorful images):

Fortune

My fortune at Chinese take-out tonight. Seriously.

Introducing Jenifer, the diplomatic Libran who is sure to bring positive vibes to any occasion!  She’ll be your listening ear.  She’ll laugh at your mediocre jokes.  She won’t hassle and will water your plants when you’re out of town.  She’ll be your partner on the loneliest of dance floors; she’ll sing decent karaoke and clap for you even if yours is not so decent.

But wait, there’s more!

Even with the crappiest of waiters she won’t make a scene.  And she doesn’t leave for a dog walk without at least 3 poop bags!  Her only complaint may be that she is tired but she will most certainly follow that with a “but I’ll just get a quick reboot later and be OK.”  You’ll never hear her start a conversation involving politics and if you start one she will most likely change the subject.  She loves her writing career/job/hobby and will gladly proofread you or your children’s letters and essays.

So don’t wait! Act now and receive Jenifer for the low, low price of inspiration and human companionship.  A handful of dark chocolates and a nice bottle of Chardonnay won’t hurt, either.  Order today!

(Cue really super fast kind of whispered voice-over with speedy, rolling text):

Discrepancies include and are not limited to: Little to no availability for phone conversations, sometimes doesn’t leave the house for days, occasionally wears pajamas til the early evening, at times just wants to be left alone, sometimes needs constant validation for her writing, may only snuggle for up to 5 minutes, avoids heavily crowded areas unless 1.5 to 3 glasses of white wine are consumed, requires monthly pedicures, daily intake of dark chocolate, eight hours of sleep with white noise, one hour of rigorous exercise, and reserves the right to be in a non-positive frame of mind one week prior to “that time of month”.

Blog now!

Note:  Wow, the The Daily Post at WordPress.com used my idea above (with a bit of a twist) for one of their Daily Prompts: As Seen on TV!

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The Wheels on the Bus

Yellow Bus So this past week I chaperoned a field trip for my son’s 4th grade class.  This is his first year in public school.  The past years in a private Montessori school also included such trips.  Difference being in private school the parents drove (with proper identification).  In public school the mode of transport to and from the trips is the county’s big, yellow school bus (as a chaperone proper ID along with hair sample and DNA testing required).

Now I hadn’t been on one of these mustard-hue, boxes of mayhem in I-can’t-remember-how-many years.  Must have been since the early ’90’s.  I was the only senior standing in the freezing cold, 6:15am, with straight-out-of-the-shower wet hair at the bus stop.  Scattered around me were a handful of freshmen, a few sampling of sophomores, and one or two financially strapped juniors.  Especially embarrassing since my younger brother had his own car.  But since his drum-core band practice sometimes took place at odd hours, I was forced to ride the bus whenever I couldn’t find a ride with anyone else.  Which was most of the time.

Windows of the busBut those were the days of the non-amusing treks to school and back.  Most kids took naps, drooled, or listened to their Walkman.  Let’s rewind to a happier time: the end of elementary school and the early ’80’s.

There was this older, burly African-American kid who lived down the street from me who I think failed about two grades.  I don’t think we said two words to each other but he offered the greatest entertainment (and memory) I could have hoped for on a bumpy bus ride to educational semi-bliss.  The guy always carried a boom-box (also known as a ghetto blaster) on his shoulder.  He propped it onto the top of one of the doo-doo brown vinyl seats and blasted us with Doug E. Fresh, Whodini, and Michael Jackson.  We loved when Michael’s Beat It rolled on the tape deck.  It usually happened about a minute before pulling into the school lot.  We excitedly waited for the “just beat it/beat it” chorus line, singing the Uh! in amplified unison while pumping our fists to our sides.

Seats on the busLater in middle school times were only slightly as happy-go-lucky.  There was a hierarchy to sit in the back, and that was usually saved for this skater kid who let the older boys pour Laotian hot spice into his mouth.  As the wheels on the bus spun round and round we bounced on the hard, torn benches with nothing to keep us from banging our heads on the half-open windows or each other.  There was no boom-box music but our driver, Miss Eadie, played top 40 hits from the vehicle’s worn-out radio and blown speakers.  She was a tough, wiry broad who sounded like she’d spent her life smoking and living in the local trailer park.  I felt safe in her care.  Once we passed a convenient store being held up (did I mention I went to middle school in the ghetto?).  As we heard shots ring out Miss Eadie in her raspy, redneck accent yelled, “Everybody DUCK!”  We did not hesitate.

Seat beltSo as I entered the bus with my own son for this field trip I passed the Wilford Brimley look-alike behind the wheel and scoured the rows for a place to sit.  I found the very back seat to be empty, which surprised me.  No fighting for it.  No hot spice needed.  There was a slight motor oil smell throughout which greatly differed from the scent of activator and Aqua Net of my youth.  The seats were exquisite– a pleasant blue color, no rips, and almost comfortable.  Each one had a back high and soft enough to double as an “air bag” for the passengers behind.  And what were these attached to each bench?  Seat belts!  I clicked mine into place after having to extend it to fit my non-4th- grade-inch waist.  I felt as if I were flying to Turks and Caicos.

Road stripesThere was no music on this flight.  Just the sound of children chatting, bopping each other on the head with water bottles, and singing the latest advertisement jingle for Subway.  The road noise and engine hum was louder than I recalled but it was bumpy like I remembered.  And the wheels went round and round propelling us forward to other adventures, memories, another era.

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Local Tourist (Date with Myself)

So I’m pretty new to this whole blogging world.  Couple that with my mild OCD and it hasn’t been comfortable for me to publish a post without rethinking and tweaking it about a thousand times and sitting on it for days.  But today I had such a great time in my own company I thought it would be a disservice to myself and my readers if I didn’t post at least something about it.  On the same day.  Without OCD creeping in.  And I only have about an hour until the entire family comes barreling through the door.  Then quiet writing time is over.

So many places to see!

So many places to see!

See my parents and visiting sis-in-law and nephews took a day trip to Disney World.  Magic Kingdom to be exact.  For various reasons, one including that I’ve been there enough to know I power through it at best, I decided to stay home.  Hubby joined them with our son, who played hooky so he could spend time with his cousins, and who according to his written note tomorrow will have been “too ill to attend school.”

Hubby owes me anyway.  I’ve helped his mom move three times in five years and each year the cat-hair covered stuffed animals and baskets of plastic plants breed and multiply.

So after spending several hours working at my computer in the morning I decided instead of watching crap TV I would enjoy an afternoon bike ride in the most glorious October weather we’ve ever had.

I usually go full throttle on my rides.  iPod blasting on shuffle.  Thighs burning.  I pass so many cute shops and restaurants along the way.  I only stop if I’m with someone and they need a drink of water.  Every once in a while I see something random that I must click with my camera phone.  Then it’s back off to the races.  Calorie burning.

My view while dining with myself al fresco. Never noticed a eucalyptus tree in these parts before!

My view while dining with myself al fresco. Never noticed a eucalyptus tree in these parts before!

But today I figured since I really had nowhere to be, no one to pick up from school, no appointments or commitments, why not burn cals and stop at all the places that have caught my eye?  Be gone, OCD.  Let’s be like the tourists and putz around.  So I did.  And it was wonderful.

I had fish tacos by myself.  And they were delicious.  Real corn tortillas and everything.  I’m a social person, and I adore my friends and most of my family, but sometimes it is so refreshing to only have to entertain yourself.  I didn’t mind dining alone.  I was a very good date.  I was patient.  I wasn’t a loud-mouth.  I thanked the waiter.  I ate with my mouth closed.

I went ahead and did it. I had to. It's beautiful! And only $14.

I went ahead and did it. I had to. It’s beautiful! And only $14.

After I nearly licked my plate clean I rode to all the cute boutiques I notice on my speed-ride but never allow myself to stop and enter.  At one consignment shop I found four outfits for under $40.  At another emporium I chatted with the flamboyant and hilarious owner and bought cheap costume rings for Mom, Sis-in-law, and of course myself.

I stopped at a candy shop and bought a piece of hazelnut dark chocolate.  I rode to the marina and inhaled the gulf air.  The wind tickled my face.  My thighs burned.  And I just might have worked off that piece of candy.  But mostly I enjoyed the peacefulness an adventuresome bike ride offers to quiet solitude.

And that I bought my first muumuu.

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Ode to Brother

Green grasses of summer
forever kept in memory
Days of old
when you and me 
pretended to be on a 
ship in the sea
When did we move
from that place of tranquility
safety
Here's to childhood
Here's to simplicity
Here's to the home
where you and I ran and sang
Here's to the yard
where we swung from the tree
and where kitty was buried
I wish I could look out of my 
window now
and see that yard from
that house
but instead I see asphalt
and you are nowhere around.

Me & Art –Written back in the late ’90’s when I was single and living in an apartment which overlooked a parking lot.

I hadn’t seen my brother a lot then.

Now we live 700 miles apart. He just came for a surprise visit for my 40th birthday.

Best present I ever received.

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