Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Am Sunburnt…

But there is nothing quite as refreshing as sinking chin-deep into warm, churning surf and letting the seafoam bubbles tickle your nose like salty champagne. The two days at Folly Beach, SC, have been glorious, worth the faun-like tan dapples that have developed on my forehead from spotty application of spray sunscreen. I spent hours in the ocean--until even my palms and the soles of my feet had turned pale (well, paler) and pruney--leaping waves like a demented jack-in-the-box and keeping a sharp eye out for hostile dorsal fins. While I frolicked in the jade-colored water pretending to be five rather than thirty-five, Mums walked up and down the shore (she’s a “by-the-sea” person, not an “in-the-sea” person) and then retired to a dune-top pavilion to read. It’s been a great vacation, as I had hoped.

To me, good vacations also must include good, memorable dining experiences, and we did well in that regard before we even glimpsed the Atlantic. My friend Dex had recommended I get in touch with the O’Henrys, old friends of his who’d hosted me and Susan and Midori on our visit to Charleston last year, and so I phoned them Saturday and made arrangements for the two of them to meet me and Mums for dinner Sunday night at one of my favorite local restaurants, Slightly North of Broad. I cannot speak too highly of the O’Henrys, who possess the great gift of hospitality of character (being able to make even total strangers immediately comfortable and welcome in their company, not merely in their home). Mums thoroughly enjoyed the evening, as I knew she would. And the food and the service were (as always) superb. Read the online menu and drool.

Monday’s main meal (before we ventured out to the beach) was consumed at the Hominy Grill, which Mrs. O’Henry had recommended for their shrimp and grits and their heavenly chocolate mousse. We ate out on the patio under a parasol and drank the best ice-cold sweet tea I’ve tasted in ages. Sunny after the morning rainstorm, the temperature was in the low nineties, and drops of condensation ran off our glasses and fell through the screen table onto our legs, where they traced cool trails down to our sandled feet. A flock of resident sparrows hopped around expectantly, waiting for us to drop cornbread crumbs. One boldly sat right by my chair until I tossed it a bit of bread, which it immediately seized in its beak and ran off carrying, too burdened to fly. I was too full to finish my own four-star meal.

In the Hominy Grill bathroom, there was a framed picture of actor Anthony Hopkins mugging with two restaurant employees during his visit. SNOB’s ladies’ room featured autographed book jackets—one by famous lowcountry author Pat Conroy hung right next to the toilet. Maybe someday a book of mine will make it into the toilet…or at least by it.

As to books, I am anxious to read Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, which is the flavor du jour of the literate public. Mums and I stopped by a tiny bookstore called the Ravenous Reader on our return from the beach this evening, and the owner told us she’d sold seven copies of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo today alone. Not wanting to leave a rare independent bookstore emptyhanded, I found a cute book for my niece and nephew: Splat the Cat. I think they'll like it--especially as my niece (a newly-hatched bookworm) is trying to teach her little brother how to read. Even if this story doesn't do the trick (he's only two, after all), I think he will like it being read to him, and she will enjoy reading it to herself.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I'm A Marshmallow

...Mums is not. We've been hitting the gym every day (after Mums gets out of her kickboxing classes and does over two hundred pushups and walks on the treadmill in our former dining room for an hour or so). I'll bounce on the elliptical for half to three quarters of an hour and then head to the exercise bike and thence to various machines for arm strengthening. I'm usually oblivious to my surroundings until the arm workouts, because I'm anesthetizing myself with a book, but at that point I can't hold onto my reading, and am aware of the assortment of pudgy middle-aged men and young jocks in the room. Wee little Mums'll be over at the free weights, cheerfully curling a pair of 40-lb. barbells, or doing unaided pullups on a rack, her back muscles rippling. I hope I'm such fantastic condition when her age. Heck, I wish I could be half that lean and cut now. Frankly, though, I'm too lazy to put in the time, or the crunches, though I do envy her her eight-pack abs.

The probate of Daddy's will took all of about five minutes. We waited for about half an hour for the snow-haired clerk or judge or whatever she was (her secretary was too busy chatting to inform her that we'd arrived) to usher us back into a room framed with pictures of historical landmarks and ask Mums to swear that no, Daddy hadn't divorced her since his will was made six years ago, and no, he didn't have any other children other than us four living ones. Our family lawyer and the judge were both fine old Southern bluebloods, with soft patrician accents that have long been heard in the halls of the mighty hereabouts (and which notoriously can be used to such devastatingly mean, sarcastic effect on those deemed to have transgressed), so the proceedings, brief as they were, had an air of timeless propriety.

I had to get a new cell phone this afternoon. The old one died on the drive back from DC Wednesday, and upon examination it was found that damp had corroded the interior. As I had not dropped the thing in any puddles or dowsed it with liquid, I could only surmise that the DC humidity had done it in (with which hypothesis the Verizon clerk agreed). Thankfully, with rebate the new phone only cost $20. It has a little QWERTY keyboard inside for texting, and I think a low-resolution camera somewhere aboard. I hope it lasts longer than its predecessor, which I obtained less than a year ago. Mums jokes that she's going to be permanently indentured to Verizon, since every time one of us has an issue with his or her phone, the contract is extended two years from the service change date.

I plan to be back in DC August 20. Tomorrow, Mums wants me to help her pick out colors for her new condo (we spent time today at Lowes looking at paint for the house, since we've got to get rid of all the wallpaper and replace it with neutral tones in order to get the place ready to sell), and then Sunday afternoon we intend to drive to my brother's in Charleston. He, of course, has not called to acknowledge our imminent advent, but we figure we'll camp out on his front lawn until he gets home from evening church and then waylay him on his way to the door.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reading, Clothing, Traveling, Crying

I’ve been reading, not writing, the last two weeks: mystery novels, primarily, but also Rick Riordan’s young adult Percy Jackson mythology adventure series. The mysteries have ranged from pure fluff (Laura Levine) to beautifully literary (Boris Akunin). I’ve also spent a lot of time in the gym (reading the books on the stairmaster, the elliptical machine and the stationary bike), which sweaty activity is evidenced by the stench emitted by my recycled exercise pants which I'm wearing one last trip to Gold's before tomorrow's planned trip to GA.

I’ve also broken down and realized that my clothes (including the exercise togs) are pretty worn, and so I went shopping. I hate shopping, except maybe for books. I realize that (despite the regular trips to the gym) I have Titianesque thighs, and the new fad of “skinny” pants, doesn’t, if you’ll pardon the pun, sit well on my figure. I found two pairs of slacks to fit my outsize posterior at Target but they were so large in the waist that I had to have them taken in by the seamstress at the local cleaners.

[Warning to my four male readers: possible TMI in this paragraph.] There was no hope in the underwear department. The lingerie section was full of push up bras with so much lift I was afraid my bosoms were going to explode upward out of the cups like rocket-propelled grenades. And there were thong panties and silly “boy shorts” everywhere. Whatever happened to normal women’s underwear? You know, the sort made out of your basic cotton and elastic that covered the acreage without trying to landscape it like a PGA golf course?

The library’s going to close in just a few minutes, so I need to finish up and go to Gold’s. I’m planning to spend Sunday through Wednesday at my Charleston brother’s with my mother, at the beach. Daddy’s will is being probated this Friday, and Mums says she's got too much paperwork to do to have a vacation, but I think it'l do us both good. I’ve been trying to use endorphins and fiction to buoy my sagging spirits, but I’m crying almost every night as I fall asleep, remembering Daddy. Thanks for your prayers.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

All Men Are Liars

Little makes me more upset than to learn that someone with whom I have worked, whom I have trusted, is a thief. Far more angering is the fact that this person claims to be a Christian. Is there a special place in hell for such people?

There is an almost tangible cloud of petty hatred hanging over the DC area of late, and I don't think this is exclusively a reflection of low-level depression and middling sorrow on my part. I have seen people just being nasty to each other--on the road, in person--repeatedly, from furious explosions of road rage to yelling accusations of all sorts of malfeasance. I've personally witnessed two cases of domestic violence in public, and heard of more.

I am tired, yet grateful for the girlfriends who have phoned, asking me to walks and dinner and the pool. I haven't been able to take all of these pleasant offers of distraction (last week I worked more than 50 hours, besides changing my residency to VA), but I have thoroughly appreciated them and those who have extended them. My Charleston brother has told me I can crash at his place for a weekend, so I plan an escape to the beach (a non-oily one) in the next two weeks. And maybe do a bit of dissertation-writing, too.