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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Beautiful Dull Day

You know it's one of those days when you come home from the market (having made no money--not a single sale--I actually took a 1 1/2 hour nap in the back seat of my car while Anita sat in hers and smoked and read, keeping an occasional eye out for our absent customers) to discover that a housefly has died on your toothbrush.

Needless to say, I flushed the fly and tossed the brush.

My birthday was yesterday. I drove back to DC from GA and managed to string two necklaces prior to falling asleep. Susan doesn't get home until tomorrow, and both the NPV and Merry, his roommate, were gone, so I watched a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie, drank a small glass of "light" non-alcoholic eggnog, and that was it.

I'm feeling pretty perky, despite the market, the fly and the lack of company, but I certainly hope that this next week the Georgetown students have not lost their desire to shop! And I am looking forward to having friends around again--if only to admire the tiara I'm wire-wrapping!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Does Desperation Make the Heart Grow Fonder?

I usually allude to my romantic life, such as it is, only in the most general and oblique terms (mostly complaints about datelessness, rather than details about dates--because no man with the courage to ask me out should have to fear being blogged about!), but I'm going to rant a bit now about the reappearance of that one suitor who was so very enthusiastic about me that until a week or so ago he had called just once--about six months after the day we met--in the two years since our ill-fated "arranged marriage" family dinner.

For eighteen months I have not heard a word, and then "Joy to the World" (my year-round-cell-phone-ring), he calls again. Twice tonight alone, in fact. I was upstairs working on the transcription of my grandfather's World War II memoirs, and didn't hear the first call, and forbore to race downstairs to attempt to answer the second. <"Surely, it can't be him AGAIN," I thought.>

My father confirms that the foreign physician in question has indeed just gotten back from the old country, where his mother actually did spend considerable time nagging him about his unmarried state.

So (as my sister shrewdly put it) he returns to the U.S., "consults his little black book," and apparently mine is the one name in it--not a one he found for himself, I should point out, but the one that his matchmaking brother virtually forced him to pencil in. And then, having not heard back from me after leaving two messages on my voicemail, he resolutely refuses to get the hint that after twenty-four months of almost unbroken silence from his side, I have better things to do with my time than to return his unsolicited calls. The fact that he has not stopped trying to contact me the last fortnight implies not--as a couple of charitably-minded girlfriends of mine would optimistically like to interpret it--that he is interested in me, but that he is desperate, and that I am the only woman of marriageable quality he knows.

Somehow, I fail to be flattered, because it is just when the culturally-induced fear of his parents' displeasure is on him that he finds me sufficiently interesting to pursue. It's not KYP he wants, it's any decent woman as a wife, but he hasn't the real motivation to get to know any others of his own volition. And on behalf of my many unmarried Christian female friends and acquaintances, I challenge the intimation that decent women are in short supply, or hard for serious-minded men to approach!

I want to be wanted for myself, not just because "I'll do" to get out of a singleness crisis.

How will I get out of being on the receiving end of this desperation? Given that a day or so after our collective familial meal 2 years back, the man called my father to thank him for introducing us, tonight I asked Daddy to speak to him on my behalf, to tell him I was no longer interested.

"You are 34!" my mother protested, "You ought to talk to him yourself." Then, she paused: "But be nice."

This last may not be within my power to do. I explained to her that my father--who knows the man's brother far, far better than I know the man--would probably contrive a much more diplomatic end to this situation than I. I would be sorely tempted to cross the line between firmness and rudeness, from, "While I am deeply flattered [not!] by the sudden resumption of your attentions toward me..." to "What kind of freak are you? Calling me NOW?! You've had my number all this time and haven't rung. I'm horribly insulted by your presumption that I would be just twiddling my thumbs for two years--that I would desperately jump at the chance of marrying you, after you haven't bothered to try to establish even the underpinnings of ordinary friendship in the meantime! ..." Yup, best to let Daddy do the talking.

Of course, at dinner tonight Daddy was plumping the virtues of his friend the 50ish divorced-with-three-teenaged-sons colo-rectal surgeon who would like to get to know me. I admit, said surgeon's attraction-level ranks far above the importunate immigrant's, but why oh why can't an American fellow (not an irritating, but an attractive one) of my own age, or even a bit younger come a-courting? I've gotten over some of my height-phobia, so he wouldn't even have to be short!

In the meantime, despite my strong desire for children and a home of my own, I'm really relishing not having to deal with an unwelcome beau! Even if I am becoming a thirty-four-year-old single the day after Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Bush

I embarked on a heroic struggle this afternoon, and eventually triumphed. All it took was two hours, a branch-cutter, two shovels, and a crowbar.

My parents' 20-year-old landscaping has visibly aged. While some things, like the maple trees in the front yard, have grown into beautiful fullness, others, like the shrubs by the fence and the foundation, have become twiggy and gnarled, with more wood than leaf showing. Instead of flattering the house, the latter are are eyesores. The worst offender in the ugly category was one of a pair of giant red-tip bushes that flanked the front stoop. The one on the east side died long ago, and because my parents only use the front door when they go to and from the mailbox, it had been allowed to sit undisturbed, the complex grey skeleton looking like an anatomical diagram of its fully-fleshed counterpart on the west. Frankly, it was hideous, and when I visited GA a few weeks ago, I was determined to dig it up, but I hadn't time.

It was still in place when I arrived here two days ago. I knew tearing it out was going to be a real job, and that furthermore there are always unforeseen complications, just to keep things lively. I had the good sense to put on long sleeves and pants and leather work gloves before I attacked the monster, which was between three feet deep and four feet wide, and four feet tall, kept trimmed into a sort of box shape. I gleefully kicked and broke off most of the small branches, and hacked off ones that were about on inch in diameter, which itself took a while straining over the trimmers. Eventually, I was left with a core of trunk and supporting limbs, all swollen to massive size over two decades.

And I found the inevitable complication: a 6-inch diameter PVC pipe with a loose lid on it at the base of the bush. Eighteen inches down inside the pipe was a water valve. The valve was connected either to the sprinkler system or to the house, and interfering with either was not to be thought of. And just to spite me in death, the bush while living had wound large, stubborn roots around the pipe, roots which needed to be dug out before the woody carcass could be prised from the earth.

Besides worrying about the risk of breaking the pipe, the valve, or the water system to which it was connected with my shovels, I had to be careful not to get dirt in the pipe, which would also block the valve.

It was getting dark by the time I finished, and what a trip to my mother's gym Monday evening had not managed to do--make me sore--my struggle with the shrubbery did. Of course, I had been a total wimp at the gym--my mom was curling 35-lb dumbbells, and I chose to do the same exercise with 10-lbs--whereas I had no choice today but to tackle the bush as it stood.

So now the remains of the bush are lying in the front yard--a huge jumbled pile of twigs, branches and muddy roots (about twice the size of the plant they once constituted) that my mother says will probably stay where it is--half blocking the front sidewalk--until the fellow who cuts the grass and trims the remaining shrubbery arrives to haul it away. Such are the perils and pitfalls of suburbia--even when you have to do it yourself, you can't complete the job without recourse to a "professional".

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Lure of the Great Indoors

Sheesh, it was cold Saturday morning--below freezing (the TV said 27) and the wind bustling along at 10-20 MPH. I bundled up in two pairs of longjohns underneath my jeans and shirt, a heavy overcoat (buttoned) and two big wool scarves, plus two pairs of socks, but I was still so cold that I kept retreating into Anita's car, where the two of us huddled and hoped (in vain) that customers would be as foolish as we had been to brave the weather and come shopping. No, as it turned out, our would-be clientele was wiser than we, and stayed indoors. We left at noon. Four and a half hours of time wasted, time that I could have spent making jewelry for the Georgetown show.

Speaking of which, I was contacted by a professional jewelry vendor about the Phi Alpha Theta craft sale--she wanted to participate. Leaving aside the fact that Anita would have disowned me if I had agreed to this last-minute inclusion, my reason for turning her down was entirely legitimate--we just don't have room in the Leavey Center vestibule, what with five people (2 jewelers, 2 potters, and a vintage linens vendor) already on board. Next year, I'll reserve a room, or more tables than just 2 in the foyer, and ask this lady and other crafters to join us--turn it into a real fair. In the meantime, I passed pictures of her (lovely) work and her contact information along to a girl in the GU Breast Cancer Awareness Society, with whom I've been attempting to set up a pre-Valentines February fundraiser. The more the merrier, really. I'm just grateful the sale is inside, where it's warm, and out of the wind.

Yesterday noon, I was so frazzled from the wind and my hair scrunched up over and under my ear warmer that I looked like a drugged-out member of a 1980s "hair" band. And I was sufficiently exhausted from shivering that my best-laid plans of working at school on some independent grant project fell by the wayside--I went home to brush my hair and defrost my toes, and before I knew it I had peeled off my outer layers and me and my socks and two pairs of longjohns were tucked up in bed without kerchief or cap for that wonderfully lyrical "long winter's nap."

I woke up in time to log on for an hour's work before getting showered and spruced for a birthday party out in Fairfax. Susan and the Merry Marshwiggle and I had been bidden come for an "evening of poetic revelry... After all, as youth is gone [the organizers were] holding on to beauty by any means possible!" And beauty there was--I loved the Wiggle's recitation of a poem about Conan the Barbarian, but to me the artistic highpoint of the evening was James Butterflower's dramatic reading of the "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot. The man (Butterflower--whom I met at a housewarming, July a year ago) can read with such delectable expression--I could have listened for hours. Susan remarked you could tell which were the poetry lovers in the room--some people's eyes were glazing over as others (me included) hazarded selections from Donne and Coleridge.

Besides Butterflower, who always adds a theatrical element to any gathering, there were an eclectic assortment of other youthful, or just-post-youthful Presbyterians. One I found most engrossing was a fellow with a comfortable soft voice and a brutally neat military haircut, who turned out to be a guard at the Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns. I discovered that the alleged promise such people make to not "drink, smoke or chew" during their tenure at the tomb is just a rumor, at least the drinking part--they are allowed to have alcohol (he was drinking tea while I was sipped wine, which was how we got started on this subject), just not to excess. He's on 25-hour shifts, with 23-hour breaks between them, so he can get to church only every other Sunday. He says the post gets very cold in wintertime, especially as they keep their white gloves spritzed with water (and the guard doesn't change but once every two hours at night), but that the sunrise view over Washington is stunningly lovely. Since the guards are silent as they pace in front of the tomb (and all the spectators are to be respectfully mute as well), this was for me a unique moment to get to talk to one.

Sunday, I skipped church myself to load my car and run to school to finish the last-minute tasks of pulling library books for my mentor professor before leaving town for Thanksgiving. On the road by 11 AM, I stopped a couple of times to try to get catnaps, and twice more for gas ($1.759 in Richmond and in rural South Carolina--thank God it's gone down!), but still arrived by 8PM--without speeding. I was glad it didn't take longer--I was getting pretty sleepy on the final stretch between Columbia and Augusta. And, boy, did those flannel sheets feel good when I crawled into bed after supper!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Literature and Small Relatives

Last night was the National Press Club's annual book fair. Susan and I went as guests of the organizer, who ushered us past the lines and the ticket-checkers with the announcement, "Oh, they're with me!" (the first, and possibly last time this has happened to me). Roger Mudd (he of History Channel fame) and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia were to be there, but both apparently had run out of books to autograph and had departed by the time we arrived. There were other known names in attendance, including former White House Press Corps grande dame Helen Thomas (much more wizened than when I met her 15 years ago), and Flight of the Intruder author Stephen Coonts, whom I had had the pleasure of meeting at Georgetown earlier yesterday (our publications coordinator had persuaded him to come speak to a small group of faculty and graduate students, and I was one of twelve people who came to munch the free lunch and listen to him talk about how he got into writing and how the publications industry has changed over the past 20+ years).

Susan and I bought several autographed books and schmoozed with a couple of lesser-known writers who'd done up their booths (and in one case, herself) in eye-catching ways--and were offering potables (one or two other booths had baskets of what looked like leftover Halloween candy--anything to attract potential readers). Elsewhere, I met the wife of the former US ambassador to Russia, and Susan was pleased to make the acquaintance of the author of the environmental awareness text she's been planning to use in her high school classes next quarter.

It was interesting how many aspects of my jewelry-selling career at the Arlington Market parallel the Book Fair--all the tables with people behind them displaying a range of engagement in plumping their wares, some with elaborate displays, others with lonely stacks of books (some with sexy or eye-catching titles, other grimly matter-of-fact), some authors standing, smiling, actively greeting browsers, others sitting, bored, looking as if having to talk to one more reader asking the same insipid question for the umpteenth time would send them straight to the bar, once they'd clocked the offender with a hardback.

We did have to go through the bar to the registers to pay for the books. Judging from the number of empty glasses accumulating on the tray by the door, quite a few people had been indulging. At literary events, they drink. At the Arlington Market, we binge on Cookie Lady cookies.

Both Susan and I bought Christmas children's books for our respective nieces. I expect my little nephew won't leave Rita's volume in its present pristine state for long--he just started walking last week, about the time that his big sister returned to preschool (much to her joy). I'm not sure what to get for the little guy himself, yet. But I have a new, furry, nephew that'll be quite easy to buy for. My Atlanta brother, Nate, and his girlfriend recently acquired a "small cat-like creature" named Rigsby.



Rigsby is living with Diane and her dog, but my brother has parental visitation rights--during which time he obviously lets little Rigsby perch on his head!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shakespeare 'n' Stuff

I hate blogging with dialup--it takes so long to get on from home that once I've been able to pull up the Blogspot website, I've got little enthusiasm left for writing. Besides, I've been spending almost every spare minute the last week making jewelry--I've got a show hosted by my boss this Thursday evening, then Thanksgiving (during which time nothing will get done--I've got to drive 19+ hours roundtrip to GA, not to mention another 4 going to and from my grandparents', and I won't feel like hunching over needle-nose pliers after hunching over a steering wheel for that long), then comes the monster 3-day Phi Alpha Theta Fundraising Sale at Georgetown, and then a Holiday Bazaar the following Saturday at a local high school. Absolute insanity. But hopefully insanely profitable, too!

Adding to my current addlepatedness has been receiving unsought and not particularly welcome attentions from two men--one a Democrat lawyer who used to live with a couple of jewelry vendors who have the booth across from mine and Anita's, and the other the odd immigrant physician who was briefly the subject of an arranged marriage plan perpetrated by his brother against me two Christmases ago. At least the local lawyer knows me somewhat and chats pleasantly a-Saturdays. The last time the doctor called was 1 1/2 years ago, after he'd spent 6 weeks with his elderly parents in the old country, and was thereafter briefly moved to contact the one single female he knew, which unfortunately was me. He has no ability to conduct himself cordially on the phone, and during our one dinner together two years ago--to which my parents and his brother and sister-in-law also came--he spent as much time talking to his relatives in Arabic as he did asking me curt questions in English. I was not impressed.

But these are but flies hovering around the working lunch that is my life. In the last ten days, not only did I get a full 10 inches whacked off the length of my hair (my new look) and acquire my first blow dryer/curler, I also joined a gym. At least superficially, I am blending in to the DC yuppie culture. But I refuse to start wearing a bluetooth or a pair of earbuds connected to an ipod. And heaven help me if I begin carrying an blackberry.

On Friday, Susan and I went to the Folger Theater for a performance of Henry VI, Part I. Worth every penny of the ticket price. I've always had a soft spot for Henry "Hotspur" Percy (to me, he and Falstaff rank way above Prince Hal in this history piece--Hal doesn't win me over completely until Henry V, by which time he's adopted many of Percy's better characteristics), and the fellow who embodied the role was just superb, his speech fluid and natural, absent that deplorable "rote line" quality which bedevils so many Shakespearean actors. It's a pity it's taken this long for us to get around to attending a play at the Folger--the last time I went was to Romeo and Juliet...by myself, three or four years ago. They are putting on The Winter's Tale in a few months, and I simply must see that one. I hope Susan will want to go!

I had managed to avoid a stilted conversation with the middle-aged physician (who, as my sister pointed out, is the sort of not-likely-to-be-married man who calls a woman once every one or two years, when the vague notion strikes him that she might be good wife-material--one such man we know, also a physician, had the amusing--to us--experience of thinking of and phoning such a lady only to discover that in the interim since his last phone call she'd married someone else and had a baby) on Thursday night, as I was eating with friends, and told him to call Saturday afternoon. As it happened, my former mentor, a sweet lady who is now an assistant provost at the University of South Carolina, was in town, and the Arlington market having been cancelled due to weather, we had the opportunity to meet on Saturday to discuss my work on the "Two Motherlands" manuscript, which she has agreed to read in its entirety--despite her already-stuffed schedule. So I had the delightfully legitimate excuse of not having heard the phone ring when the fellow called back. He left a brusque message. I shan't respond, and maybe the next time the mood strikes him to phone me, I'll be contentedly married to another. Bwahaahaa.

Finally, a happy belated birthday to Leah of Cathy Plus One! Her bonne anniversaire was on Friday, and I was too preoccupied to call her, but wish her many happy returns nonetheless!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Traveling on Borrowed Wheels

On the way from North Carolina to Georgia on Monday, it started raining, and I switched on my windshield wipers. I noticed that the driver's side one seemed to be a little out of sync, and this was confirmed in dramatic fashion a few minutes later when it flung itself bodily off the left side of the window and came to rest on the rear view mirror, quivering slightly. Thankfully, the rain wasn't bucketing down at that point, and so I was able to see enough to keep driving until I came to an inhabited exit. (At the moment this happened, I was in boondocks South Carolina, and I didn't read Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" for nothing, thank you.)

Eventually, I saw a McDonald's sign through the blurred glass, and made it off the interstate and into the parking lot without running into anything. The bolt was pretty stripped, but I tightened the nut down as well as I could with my fingers and the wiper--arm, blade and all--managed to stay on the window for the rest of the journey to Augusta. But it needs to be replaced before I embark on another trip.

Turns out, none of the local Honda dealers stock the part I need. They can reportedly get it overnight, but I have to head back to DC tomorrow (can't miss market on Saturday--I have both Anita's and my displays), so that doesn't do me any good (it was only last night that we figured out what exactly we needed to replace, and today my mother and I took her SUV down to visit my grandparents in middle GA). What to do? My parents are sweetly letting me borrow my mother's vehicle for the next two weeks--I'll return it at Thanksgiving.

The different wheels are just a temporary accessory to my radical New Look, I suppose.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Turtle Migration

Actually, given it's Georgia, it is more properly tarrapin migration season. Mums and I went on a six-mile walk around the neighborhood this morning and saw not one, not two, but three terrapins crossing (or having just crossed) the road. Presumably they were just looking to get to the other side, and I picked up the last one, that hadn't yet made the curb and was thus in danger of being smushed, and placed it carefully in the yard toward which it was crawling. The dogs nearby went absolutely crazy at this sight, but since they were safely fenced in, neither the terrapin nor I paid them any mind.

The weather was gorgeous today, and the air blissfully clear--particularly of all the political blather that has darkened my days for months now. I am glad the election's over (except for our district's senatorial race, which was effectively hung by the Libertarian, which means there'll be a run-off between the incumbent Republican and the challenging Democrat in a month--we expect the President-elect to come down to stump personally for the latter, and I shall enjoy expressing my decided preference for the former by absentee ballot) and that so many people turned out to vote. What's the use of democracy, or more properly, democratic-republicanism, if people don't go to the polls? Broad participation is a good thing--I just wish it had been a little less personally worshipful and idealistic in this case. But Sandmonkey had predicted this national outcome half a year ago, and I suspect that his prognosis for Mr. Obama's term may be accurate as well. I hope, however, that the new President will show wisdom beyond his platform and experience, and though we may have reason to complain (don't we always!) at home to each other, we'll not be toadying to powers abroad either by policy or necessity.

Personal appearance-wise, I have decided "it's time for a change." Dazzling details to follow.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I Forgot My Anniversary

Typical, typical for women in my family--it's the men who remember the special dates and the women who forget them. My fourth anniversary of blogging passed on the first of October without my notice, though to be fair to myself I did have more pressing issues (my little niece's health, for instance) distracting my attention.

One anniversary I wish I could forget but which is looming over me the way no other has done before is my birthday, which arrives in just over three weeks. As a rule, I love birthdays, though have rarely gotten to celebrate them--last year being the delightful exception--but the thirty-fourness of this one is bugging me in a way that the thirtyness of thirty and the thirty-threeness of thirty-three didn't. One conceivable reason is that my youngest brother, Bob the naval officer, was born when my mother was 34. When I was eight. I remember my parents very well at this age--they were completing their family at an age when I don't have even the chance to begin one. It's quite sobering, and thoroughly disheartening when I dwell on it, which I am trying not to do.

I do have another serious issue drawing my attention from my personal concerns these days--another health crisis in my family. Eschewing the details, let's just say that it provided some dark humor on Halloween when a member of our clan emailed a friend of hers to say that the urban legend about a person waking up in an ice-filled bathtub with a note pinned to her chest saying "Seek medical help immediately, your organs are missing" could come true. Hopefully, a transplant won't be necessary, but major surgery may be in the offing. Provided there isn't an emergency over the next month, I'll conduct the pre-Christmas jewelry shows as planned and then probably return south (where I am now headed--I left DC this afternoon and am spending the night in NC) and stay down in GA for the duration.