Sunday, September 25, 2011

A 200-LB, 4-FT Venus

My mother is now the proud owner of a 200-pound, 4-foot tall solid concrete facsimile of the Venus Italica of Canova.  This Venus, even in approximation, is most assuredly not to be confused with the Louvre’s Winged Victory or with the sylph-like Venus on the Half Shell, and certainly not with Canova’s own other Venus (Venus Victorious, a nude portrait of Napoleon’s sister).  She’s a remarkably retiring, modest goddess, a normal-looking curvaceous lady clasping a swag of drapery to her bosom, not some tarted-up escapee from some adolescent Playboy fantasy, as so many classical female statues have been reconceived in reproduction.  Mums had a very definite idea of what she wanted for her garden nook, and it was little short of a miracle that we found her, in a huge antique mall in Jacksonville, Florida.  She was mislabeled as Athena (as if SHE would ever gad about in the buff!), and priced at less than a third of the cost of the same image listed online (not including shipping, which would be considerable).  It took two men straining mightily to lift her inside Mums’ Toyota Highlander.  I recommended that Mums ply some of the young men from her kickboxing class with baked goods in order to get her out of the car and into the garden once we're back home tomorrow, because there’s no way she and I can do it alone.  I can’t think of too many guys who would turn down an opportunity to manhandle a nude female sculpture and show off their own great musculature in exchange for home-cooked sweets...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Quirky Signs & Symbols and Abundant Wildlife

Mums and I had lunch with Grandmommy on Wednesday and continued on from Middle Georgia to Savannah, where we found lodging on the beach.  We weren’t hungry for any supper after the great midday meal, but was there amongst the salad greens in the pattern of our Tybee Island hotel bedspread some foliage of a munchies-inducing nature, or was this simply my imagination?

This morning we went for a long walk on the beach.  We found half a dozen large dead jellyfish washed ashore…

And a living starfish waving its arms in a tidepool…

And then I rescued a giant (platter-sized—I wish I’d photographed my foot beside it!) horseshoe crab in another pool, which a couple of jovial rednecks had left upside down with its legs waving after holding it up by its trailing spine—it was a good 2 feet long from front of “hoof” to spine tip)...

And they displayed a fish which quickly buried itself in the sand to its eyeballs after it was returned to the water.

I unfortunately didn’t get a picture of the five or so dolphins which swam offshore, but I did note that some humans ranked lower than animals on the TI pier.

While some semi-domestic animals had their own management agency…

And, among non-Muggles, there's got to be a Quidditch match going on forever under the sea, because their snitch is missing ... 

We’d first realized this was going to be a signal trip when we saw, emblazoned in large letters on the pumps at a gas station in Sandersville, GA, this proud claim, the “small print” to its banner announcement of “double-filtered” fuel: …SYSTEM CAN NOT BE BYPASSED….  I think they meant it “cannot be surpassed”.

At Tybee the sign outside the local diner read:

Now, “home-cooked” meals are legendarily tasty, but as Mums said, the dishes that are concocted in Home Ec classes tend to be infamous.

In the Soul Food category, we’ve encountered some deep thoughts on wayside church billboards, some more philosophically obscure than others, including "Those who remain in the valley will never go over the hill" and "God wants us to get in the game, not to keep score."

And then there is the lure of discount shopping:

These were antiques that didn’t quite make the retail grade at the factory, I guess.  [To be fair, I ended up buying three lamps there.]

We’re now on Amelia Island, in Florida, and aside from a few misplaced commas, as comfortable and content as could be.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Good News And Off To Warmer Climes

A couple in Maryland were so happy with the job I did on the books that we sold for them at an estate sale this summer that they hired me this week as an independent contractor to organize and catalogue the contents of their permanent home library.  The wife, like me, is an insatiable omnivorous reader, and there are thousands of books to sort and record.  I'm to work one day a week for them, at a quite nice hourly rate.  I start in October, after I return from GA.  So, now I have not four, but five part-time jobs!

Mums and I plan to leave on a long-awaited vacation to points in Florida on Wednesday.  I'm working up in Bethesda today, and intend to drive to GA tomorrow.  We haven't made any reservations at hotels and whatnot, as we intend this beach trip to be random and relaxed--we'll drive to where it suits us, find a place to stay for the night, and then continue on, or not, as our whimsy takes us.  We both hope the weather will cooperate!  Will post pictures!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Scotch and Water

Either the cocktail recipe book I have is a marvel of misdirection, or most mixed drinks are nasty.

I used to wonder if I might be able to make it as a bartender, though I am not male, jocular, nor do I know any clever tricks involving swirling colorful squirts of spirituous liquors into small expensive combinations.  I can flip a mean towel over my shoulder, though, and bellow, “what’ll ya have?” with the best of them. 

There was a bartending school on the back side of the second floor of a building one block from my old digs in Arlington; the front, ground floor was occupied by a framing shop and a Papa John’s Pizza delivery hub, and there was a discreet wrought-iron staircase at the back for the booze-mixing students.  I glimpsed a class once, the backs of the future barspiders to the window, some scribbling in notebooks as their instructor poured, stirred and shook.

I knew I didn’t have the looks or the leg-muscles for barkeeping, though—standing up for hours and hours, chatting up complete strangers and shepherding them from sobriety into garrulous inebriation—nor the stomach to put up with the loosening inhibitions.  But I did want to find out more about drinks, how they were made, of what curious ingredients they were constructed, what went into piquantly-named beverages like the Whiskey Sour and the urbane Metropolitan.  I do like margaritas, and there’s one sky-blue concoction I had once when out with some fellow graduate students years ago that I’ve always wanted to reproduce.

But though I may have champagne taste, my pocketbook these days runs more to affording soda water (forget even rotgut beer brews like PBR), and so how was I to go about experimenting mixology at home?  Estate sales.  Just as estate sales agents price everything from bedroom slippers to bathmats, Old Master paintings to Tinker Toys, they also occasionally sell booze, or the dregs of it.  Over the last five months or so, for less than $30 total, I’ve acquired a liquor cabinet that makes me look like I’ve pickled my brain for years—five kinds of whiskey, several rums, Cointreau, Kahlua, some odder liqueurs, all the bottles partially empty.  The recipe book I found in a stack of random publications that was being given away. 

And so, occasionally, when I’m feeling restless, as last night, I try out different combinations.  And they are almost all disgusting. Many taste medicinal, others don’t even ascend to that level of palatability.  The kitchen sink drainpipe gets cleaner after such experiments.  I don’t feel guilty about simply dumping such undrinkable swill, since it cost me so little.  I have also found that whiskey—even the high-end brands--is pretty vile, however you try to disguise it.  Kahlua is too sweet to my taste, and crème de menthe is a frightening molasses-slow sludge of deep, evil green.  Rum is decent (maybe I’m a pirate at heart), but only in small, slowly-sipped quantities, and gomme syrup is sugar-saturated water that tends to start crystalizing around the edges of its container almost immediately.

I still haven’t found the perfect margarita recipe, which is just as well, because unlike all the aforementioned nixed mixes, I know I like them, and that would be bad for my brain, my bank balance, and my bum (it would expand, and I would sit on it even more than I already do).
It's bucketting down today--the street outside is glittering like a lake in the lights from the parking garage opposite the Bethesda Gallery.  Business has been correspondingly slow.  We have weepy Alison Krause on the CD player, and I'm sorting through a year's worth of ragged "want" cards from customers with variously legible handwriting.  It's the sort of atmosphere that lends itself to critical introspection.

Why is it, when I am trying to galvanize someone I've known for years out of what I consider to be emotional lethargy, I come across like a whining shrew harpy rather than as robust and serious, a solemn force to be reckoned with? [BTW, shrew harpies are like the toy dogs of the harpy family—genuine, grown-up harpies can take the flesh off a man’s bones in a matter of seconds.  Shrew harpies are yappy and frequently stepped on.]  As anyone who’s been around me for any length of time can tell, I don’t do “cutting” very well (except maybe inadvertently) and here I was attempting to convey in a brutal manner that a (former?) male friend obviously didn’t care a whit about me, as he hadn’t telephoned or called or even emailed but a couple of times in the past year—and in my gut I imagined that maybe if I hurt his feelings, he’d realize what a schmuck he’d been, and (by some irrational logic) also what a catch I was, and actually get around to resuming our previous regular chitchat, walks, meals, etc.  So, at the end of our last, brief, telephone exchange I blurted, “I guess we’ll talk soon.  Or maybe we won’t, since you are lousy about keeping in touch.”  Which is true, but not a statement designed to make a middle-aged man’s heart go pitter-pat.  And I certainly sounded like a squeak pig.  And so my attempt at force majeure was flat, laughable, and entirely unproductive.  I loathe that too-glib phrase “he’s just not that into you,” but it’s applicable in this case.  At least I wasn’t emotionally abused or in any other way led down the garden path by the guy in question, so some progress is being made in terms of the quality of my fraught romantic relationships.  But I do hate to see such beautiful calf muscles disappear into the sunset; the guy has gorgeous gams.  A girl, even a strong-jawed, unglam sort like yours truly, needs exercise-enhanced male pulchritude in the vicinity to keep her spirits up.  Maybe I'll slog through the rain to the gym this evening.