Monday, February 25, 2008

drying out

California has not been sunny lately. No mind. My post-lasik eyes don't like bright light anyway. The rain, however, has been cold and biting. Cold like a Missouri rain can be. My last experience with a Georgia rain was a hot one, where steam rose from the streets, making the raindrops seems acidic.

I'm not a sommelier or a wine maker, but I do know that this part of Cali is far wetter than usual. I could be remembering it wrong, but I think we have already topped our annual average. It does make me wonder how the local grapes and therefore the resulting wines will fare.

Me, I'm a cheap wine drinker. I don't like dry wines, prefer full-bodied and fruity... okay, I really prefer mead. But I do like the almost overly-sweet reds and whites, sangrias and muscadines and dessert wines. Label and year mean little to me. But then, I'm not a big wine-drinker, and could care less about impressing people in my home with my wine collection. Good thing, too, as I rarely have more than one bottle at any given time.

My dad and his widow were like that. If they could buy it for $5 in a box, they considered it a good thing. I was always amused when they'd come visit me, as they'd stop off and get a box of wine just before checking into the hotel. By the time I'd driven over to see them, they'd each be nursing a lukewarm plastic hotel cup of wine.

They always kept a box in their home, as well, right by the microwave. A glass of wine was an evening affair, just to change the palette after dinner. His widow used to hand me a glass of wine and sit down for the evening to talk with me. I'm not sure if it was because I felt I had to be social enough to talk until she was done or because she felt as though she had to host me until I was done, but we usually sat up talking until ten or eleven at night, and until we were both exhausted. It always struck me as odd that she couldn't just watch tv with me, she had to talk. It was also nice, in a slightly strained way.

After my dad died, those long conversations seemed to give us something to anchor ourselves to. Otherwise we were strangers that shared two very different sides of the same man.

She tells hilarious stories, from flying in a plane altered for skydivers: only a pilot seat, and no doors... to cross-country trips by plane or car that ended in some wild adventure.

I tell stories of a man that pushed me in directions I had no interest in, and shared little of himself at all.

The man she knew was loving, caring, a friend to all, available, accessible, and quite the character. He was good-spirited, light hearted, and hilarious.

I have no idea who that man was. I never met him.

For a while, the tears fell like hot Georgia rain after he died. Certainly I questioned whether he loved me, or even if he ever liked me. I debated asking his widow. I never did.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

jaded love

Glutted on the commercial buffet that is Valentine's Day, I strolled through the 75% off V-Day stuff no one wanted in the end yesterday. And I didn't want it either. Man it is amazing what is sold to celebrate that holiday.

Stem glasses etched with long, skinny hearts. No twisted stem, no gold or silver edging. Quite frankly, I would've expected to find them in a $1 at full price rather than retail at 3/4 off.

Those hollow chocolates shaped and wrapped to look like long-stemmed roses, though these looked as if the box they'd come in had been used as a soccer ball in the warehouse.

Plush animals in every possible nauseous combination of fabric, color, and style imaginable. We're talking about stuff I wouldn't have wasted my dollar on at the balloon target game at the fair. And I used to waste plenty of dollars throwing darts at balloons.

Left over valentine's cards. The kind you take to school and give out. These were signature characters that went "out of style" two High School Musical's ago. Or nondescript ones that no self-respecting fourth grader would give out, even under duress, for fear of cruel mockery by peers. And what are we supposed to do with these now? Give them out for a late gift? That just reeks of "I was too cheap to buy them when they were $4.00 a pack, so I waited until they were $1" and that reeks of "I'm too snobby to shop the dollar store in the first place...."

By now, dear reader, you must be thinking that I'm one of those bitter women with strings of ex-husbands and lots of lap dogs. Not true. Well, I don't have lots of lap dogs (or house cats). As for exes, my string of failed relationships is fodder for future stories, but unremarkable otherwise, from a legal sense. And at present, I'm in a functional and dare I say joyous relationship.

Really? you ask. Didn't see that one coming. So what does one of your, um, jaded approach to love do to enjoy Valentine's Day? Feed mice to snakes? Watch cichlids devour guppies?

Well, no. First of all, I don't have a snake, nor work with any. And I enjoy watching cichlids devouring live food any day of the year. The hunting methods of a fish can be entertaining. At present though, I'm fresh out of carnivorous fish.

For Valentine's Day, I did what most of you did or strove to do. I enjoyed good company, I shared some giggles and kisses and finished it off with a romantic flourish. The great part was that that's how most of my days go, so it wasn't extraordinary as a stand alone moment. There were no cut flowers, no chocolate, and I received no jewelry. That's just fine, too. Just two days before the big V Day, we bought 2 kayaks and gear.

No, I don't see that as akin to receiving power tools for Christmas (which also doesn't happen to me). Because with two kayaks, the whole family can spend a day out on the water or cross over to a small island and spend the day relaxing, share a picnic lunch, and enjoy a break from cell phones, busy traffic, and the chaos of daily life. Oh, and I get away from the dishes and vacuuming; I find this very romantic indeed!

Love is something I enjoy very much, and I take the art of loving another quite seriously. I just don't need all that pomp and circumstance to create a smoke screen.

Maybe one of those aforementioned exes jaded me with a sad illusion for love with a large piling on of pomp and circumstance. Hmm... now there's a story for you....

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

I noticed the civil calendar has today listed as February 14th. I haven't been to Wal-Mart, Albertson's, Target, or any other retailer or grocer to see if all the celebratory baubles are on sale at half-off yet. For my own sick sense of humor, I might go later on. That will give the employees a few hours to start replacing all the red with green in anticipation of St. Patrick's Day.

My planned activity for today includes... nothing, actually. I did the dishes last night, getting them out of the way. Laundry's all done as well. I might go out to lunch with my favorite little man, and I might even start planning his 4th birthday coming up soon. So far I cleaned the bathroom, tidied up the living room, and made breakfast. Yep, just another day on the calendar is racing by too slowly.

Now don't think me too jaded, dear reader. I have plenty of unromantic days that have highly romantic connotations. There was a day in October a couple of years back that still stands out as particularly remarkable; it was a Saturday. There was December 29th one year... I couldn't tell you the day of the week now. I am still particularly fond of a day in May back in 2000 that stands out in an unconventional sense, but romantic just the same, and there was a January 7th of particular note that rings out as well. I have hundreds of these... associated with places or events... that are so poignant that even the most carefully planned textbook notions of romance carefully executed on any given February 14th would pale by comparison, and I even have a highly memorable Feb. 14th in my stable of memories as well.

I believe I might have Wendy's for lunch. My son loves it there, even though he never gets a toy like at McDonald's. Maybe he'll ask for Applebee's instead. If I drank them, I'd get a Bloody Mary as a personal metaphor for celebrating the martyred saints. But I don't drink them; I prefer my vegetables non-liquified.

Maybe I'll buy my son a new movie. We've watched The Return of Superman all week, and quite frankly, I'm a little sick of it. Not that I don't love the scene where he gets shot in the eye and the bullet bounces off to the ground -- I do. But I can only watch a movie so many times in succession....

At the end of the day, I'll probably curl up with my latest read: Straight Into Darkness by Faye Kellerman, set in 1920's Munich. Germany was a political hot spot at the time, for those not paying attention. I just finished a very entertaining read: Tim Green's Exact Revenge. Maybe I'll watch CSI:, more than likely I'll play City of Heroes.

How will you/did you spend this particular day, dear reader? Please leave me your comments and regale me with your stories!

Monday, February 11, 2008

La La La

I'm sick. My voice sounds really sexy, all gravelly and sultry and very much like a bedroom voice. It's the one thing I'd actually keep about being sick. Usually though, it disappears for a week or so as a mousy squeak that comes out better as a whisper or not at all. It happens every year or so. Honestly, it's part of why I quit singing, but it's not the real reason.

After over 25 years of sining in choirs, I can sing. Not great, mind you, I'm never going to be the next American Idol (I'm too old, anyway), but I can sing backup on pitch, in key, and in the 3rd or the 5th. No one has ever said "Ooh, you're an awesome soloist", but I've been accepted to plenty of professional ensembles/choirs over the years. Even got invited to sing at Carnegie Hall with one of my groups. But not being a diva isn't the reason why I quit singing either.

My mother was a double music major in college. She taught me as much as any other source about singing, playing woodwinds, percussion, beat, rhythm, music theory, and how to hear how flat or sharp I am. That's not to say that I'm an expert in any of those things, by the way.

When I was thirteen, I sang my first solo. At thirteen I also sang my second, third, and fourth. In anticipation of sining that first one, however, I started taking singing lessons from an opera enthusiast. He taught me how to breathe, he taught me how to force a vibrato, and then he slightly told me how to let go of it again. Apparently my mother thought I sang much better before the lessons.

Nonetheless, I sang my first solo in one of the only two performances my father attended, I sang in front of my unimpressed mother, and the song was met with tepid response. But even that is not why I quit singing. That song, that solo, was supposed to be a piano solo by a classmate of mine. One day I was listening to him practice and started singing along. He asked me to sing to his accompaniment and I agreed. We practiced for two months and a week before the performance he backed out stating he didn't feel good enough. It was already planned, so I went on with another pianist. But I felt guilty for stealing his thunder.

That happened again when I was 16 and an understudy for another soloist, except this time the soloist was murdered*. I just simply refused to sing the part, given the circumstances.

It seems that when I might actually have a chance to step up, I back down. I quit singing because of a complete lack of confidence. My mother used to tell me "sure, you sing well enough, but it's not what you're best at". She forgot to tell me that "well enough" was indeed good enough, even if I had stronger talents. I always felt untalented at singing. So I learned to not trust my own voice.

I think she apologized for this after I sang with the opera a few years back, but it seemed too passive, too permissive of her for me to believe it. Besides, by then I'd turned it into a hobby, and nothing more.

*see "Thanks for Giving Us a Break" Nov, 2007 for the related story.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

mean people

Mean people suck. We've all read that on the back of some beat-up old Ford Aspire that looks like the butt-end of a bad automotive joke. Sometimes that particular bumper sticker is tempered on the other side of the clear coat chipped paint with "Visualize Whirled Peas". I've always like that last one.

Last week, I had the misfortune of a confrontation with a mean person. I'm too much of a peacekeeper and not enough of a boat rocker. In this instance, I was liked to Churchill to "his" Hitler. Nothing could've been closer to the truth.

While I was busy trying to appease him time and time again, he was hard at work trying to invade Poland, France, and starting to bomb England. Okay, not really, but every time I backed down, he asked for more; and until last week, I kept giving it to him.

This guy was a bully. He was self-serving, a user, and generally a fair-weathered "friend" in the most optimistic definition fathomable. When he didn't get what he wanted, he cried like a baby and whined like a toddler and resorted to games that even most self-respecting high schoolers abandoned by their sophomore year in school. In short, he acted a good 20, 22 years younger than he is.

When it was just me he bullied, I turned the other cheek. Then I kept turning and turning until I became dizzy. Turns out that he wasn't placing all his attention on me, just the brunt of it. So I decided to stop being so nice, er, placating.

For a while he pestered me, then he blamed me, then he apologized for my shortsightedness, then he played the victim as though I'd wronged him, then he wimpered as a wounded puppy. Finally he resorted to anger, and then frustration, and now... blissful silence. He has given up, at least for the time being.

My point it that Winston Churchill had great intentions as a diplomat, and Adolph Hitler still conquered most of Europe and was working his was into Africa and Russia when he was finally stopped. Churchill's diplomacy failed, and it almost changed the world map as a result. Three short weeks separated the U.S. successful use of an atomic bomb from Germany's having one ready to go. Three weeks.

Now while I'm not discussing international politics in my specific instance, this guy was never gonna stop badgering, bullying, and bruising his way to meeting his own ends at whatever means he saw fit.

My point is, sometimes being diplomatic is really just postponing the inevitable conflict and enabling your adversary to empower themselves over you. I for one, am crossing back from "wounded bird" and will not bow helpless and cowering to the next person that asserts dominance over me. For those of you that have known me for a few years, please reserve your "it's about time!" comments. Let's see how I do "the next time".

*edit: Yes, LBB, I did mean Chamberlain. Pardon me for naming Churchill falsely in the above blog.

Neville Chamberlain's history of appeasement
a bit about Winston Churchill