Thursday, February 26, 2009

"In Which I Act Like I Invented Portland"

Although life has been beddy, beddy good to me, the last month has tested my fortitude. Men with scalpels hacked at my husband’s Special Softies; rain on top of snow turned the immediate world to ice; Niblet was diagnosed with shingles; I have—ewww!--ringworm; and our fish is depressed. Of late, I have felt that the house should be dipped in Lysol, a helicopter should aggressively spread sand across the fair hamlet of Duluth, and my open mouth should be sprinkled liberally and repeatedly with vodka.

In short, I’m ready to see a tulip already. But the first tulip is a couple of dark-mooded months away yet.

Thus, our trip to Portland these last four days, under the auspices of my attending a conference, provided just the boost my fragile spirits needed. I was so excited to get out of Minnesota that I had to exclaim upon arriving in Oregon (as though I haven't already been to Portland at least ten times in my life), “Kick my Auntie Mame, but they have rivers and grey skies here! How thrilling! We don’t have rivers and grey skies where I live! Such rare sensoral stimuli are causing within me a cultural awakening!!”

Oh, all right. We sometimes have skies of grey in the Midwest, roughly 274 days a year, and we have some river things, too (they connect all 10,000 lakes so that the kids in the state can go on an extended flume ride, starting at the Canadian border and ending with a crash in Iowa. Kind of like Buddy Holly).

But what we don’t have is this:

--The hot chocolate at Sahagun Chocolates.

I am someone who has 65% cocoa running through her veins. I wear rosewater truffles for earrings. I sport Dagoba flip-flops. I shoot Ghirardelli chocolate chip bullets from my Colt revolver. Honeypies? I know my chocolate.

However and Holy Willy Wonka, but I’ve never had a chocolate experience that equals the hot chocolate at Sahugun, and I’m not really someone who orders hot chocolate, as a rule. At Sahugun, they take single-source chocolate, melt it, toss in some hormone-free milk, and hand blend in some angel wings and cocaine, with the end result being a drink that caused Groomeo to lick his empty cup in a fashion that made me holler at him to take it to the bedroom.

It’s so good, it’d be like if it were 1984 and Journey lead singer Steve Perry decided to take the Howard Jones song “What Is Love” and turn it into a hair metal ballad, a beautiful and soaring cover that would make you cry so hard at the laser light show in your hometown that you'd have to wipe away your tears with the “party-in-back” section of your mullet.

Indeed, this hot chocolate is a total mullet wiper.

--An elegant boite called Ten 01.

Normally a bit spendy, this place offers a prix fixe lunch of three courses for $15. As a side-benefit, the cutie waiter will write out a list of the best local breweries, and not just because he wants a huge tip but more because he really wants you to go to his favorite place, where you can buy a replacement bike tube while you order your coal-black porter.

--The Hoyt Arboretum.

This is where they keep their paths.

Hey, so there’s an arboretum, too, at the college I went to. Unfortunately, they didn’t put a bar in the arboretum, so I was never motivated to find them trees out there in that place. In fact, it was Groom who showed me my college’s arb a few years ago. What a pretty place, even without rum and Cokes in it. The Portland arb is lovely as well, although I think it would be outright gorgeous if it had gin and tonics under the hemlocks.

--A shop called Voodoo Donut.

Yea, so okay, first off, I live in a city with no doughnut shop.

I know.

Portland, however, being a civilized place that understands the beauty of a good glaze, has an awesome punk-vibed shop that turns out whimsical concoctions, like ice-cream-cone-shaped doughnuts and doughnuts with Captain Crunch on top and maple-iced Long Johns bedecked with bacon.

And if you fall in love with that bacon—who wouldn’t?—you can marry it on site in the wedding chapel.

--The crispy and cracker-thin crust at Pizza Schmizza.

Sometimes, if it’s rainy and foggy, and your husband has a blister on the bottom of his foot, it’s a particular delight to limp across the street and suck on warm cheese.

--An import store covering a square block.

Wee Niblet, in addition to being a fan of Julia Child and This Old House, also loves Japanese and Chinese culture. When he heard Portland has a Chinatown, he expressed a Large Kindergartener Hope that he would get something dragonish from that place. Sadly, the reality is that Portland’s Chinatown is more a remnant of a district, and all the dragons and chopsticks have been vanquished, save for a few that live on shelves in the dreamy warehouse store called Cargo. Now we have paper lanterns, a fierce pleated dragon, a porcelain pagoda set, and some prayer flags (which we may hang on our gargantuan compost bins, just in case the neighborhood had any lingering questions about our level of boho crunchiness). If we had $42,000 more dollars in our travel budget, we’d have toted home the rest of the joint in our carry-ons. Er, carrys-on.

--Uno caffe Italiano autentico.

We happened upon the Caffe Umbria at approximately yawn o’clock, at just the moment when we were ready to dip our creepily long pinky nails into some ground espresso beans and rub the grit into our gums. Fortuitously, the Umbria took that notion and packaged it with froth and crema and drowned our dopies with doppio.

--Frantic Thai.

Sweet Basil has an elegant feel to it, and the food was plenty fine, but its outstanding feature was a tight-bunned waiter who skittered about dramatically, giving the impression he could barely take an order because he had so many buttons to push on the cash register as he settled the bills of other patrons. After tapping 72 beeping buttons, he would dash off to another table, breathlessly deliver an appetizer, and then hustle back to punch another 48 buttons on the register. The thing is, there were only 8 people, total, in the restaurant. I imagine, with that kind of efficiency, it takes him half an hour to zip his fly.

--A pub theater that gave us the best Oscars watching ever.

Admission was free, beer was tastily brewed, and the screen was huge. When a screen is that ginorm, and you’re sitting smack in front of it, you damn well better believe you’re going to cry and massage the crick in your neck enthusiastically when Shirley Maclaine comes on stage to pay tribute to a Best Actress nominee. Or maybe you’re just crying at the sight of Sophia Loren’s horrifying facelift as it’s pummeled into your every pore.

--Entire parking lots full of food carts selling ethnic delights.

Bento boxes + Pho + Tacos + Crepes = Jocelyn taking her pulse.

--A nearby outpost of Anthropologie, a store that makes me exclaim loudly to Groom, “I need to go in there right now and hug the clothes. If you try to stop me, I will push you down. Slowly, now, love: step away from the Jocelyn.”

--A place described to us by the hotel concierge as “organic” and “very committed to local food”–yet it managed to be low-key and unpretentious.

We dithered about a bit before heading to Veritable Quandary on our last evening, but ultimately, the choice was a good one, for it gave me a chance to sink my face into a melts-like-butter short rib while my beau cut into a poached egg atop a salad.

Oh, yea, and there was really thick, smoky bacon. You might have an inkling how I feel about bacon.

Finding ourselves quite moved, we both spontaneously made out with the waitress during the course of the evening.

Sometimes a meal is so good that a special gratuity is in order.

Now we’re home. I've wiped the spittle off my lips, done heaps of laundry, gotten back into the homework grind with the kids, and continued to apply anti-fungal cream.

Even without a hint of sun, everything seems a little brighter than it did four days ago.

Then again, I have this new hive-rash-crusty thing that’s popped up on my sternum.

Nothing a trip to Taos couldn’t fix.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Hey, Anonymous: From Your Mouse Clicking, I Have Intuited That You Like Me; You Really Like Me"

Last fall, in a boffo bit of log-rolling, I nominated a colleague for an online teaching award, and she nominated me. Mostly, we were thinking, “Excuse me? Did someone say free trip to either Oregon or Florida?” What neither of us realized at the time was that a condition of accepting the nomination was making a presentation to our peers on some aspect of our online teaching that makes us award worthy.

Bahahahahahahahaha. My first reaction was: the only thing award worthy about my online teaching is my ability to do it in my pajamas with a glass of wine in one hand. My second reaction was: the thing about a making a presentation in front of my peers is that I don’t. Do that. Because it makes me feel all barfy inside.

Interestingly, there’s something different about standing in front of a classroom of students; perhaps it’s the illusion that I’m the authority or that I’m in control of the material. Wait, here I go again. Bahahahahahahaha. The rub is that the students are willing to act like they don’t know I’m faking because they want an “A.” But with one’s peers? As Joaquin Phoenix demonstrated when he launched his rap career by falling off the stage in Las Vegas, it’s hard to fake out your fellow fakers. Personally, I know that when I’m watching another teacher give a presentation, I’m not only listening for content (if at all), I’m also looking at body language, listening to pitch of voice, wondering why they never come out from behind the desk, etc. So if I’m such a critical butthead as an audience member, I can only assume my colleagues would be similarly buttheadish when watching me.

Thus, consequently, as a result, in sum, me no wanna do it.

All this anxious thinking was already in play before I even knew that this presentation in front of my peers would also be videotaped and put on the Web, so that people unable to attend the presentations in person could still view the presentations online and vote.


As I pictured my colleagues watching me online, I could only see that this would the stuff of a new drinking game, wherein People Annoyed By Jocelyn could gather together in front of their single old, rickety computer—my enemies are always poor--and chug their Miller Genuine Drafts (or whatever other lame drink people who don’t like me imbibe) every time I stuttered, “Um, I, cough cough, er, ahem, sometimes reply to, hack-snorf, my students’ emails, which, er, is an awardish behavior.” Clearly, my enemies are also dumb and sober, as the odds of me uttering this exact sentence more than once would be slim, so they’d get maybe one chug out of the deal. But still. The whole scenario tapped into my every fear.

Except my fear of chipmunks in the kitchen. And my children dying. Oh, and Joaquin Phoenix being serious about his rapping gig.

Whoops, and leggings worn by women over 100 pounds.

Unless, of course, I wore leggings during my presentation. Then that last thing would morph from "personal fear" into "public nuisance."

Feeling so very nervous and anxiety-ridden, I considered pulling out of the competition. That would be easy. And I’m not really a fighter by nature. I bow to Easy; I light candles for Easy; I am Easy (or so Lionel Ritchie whispered in to my ear one Sunday morning as he reached over my prone body to the nightstand and began scratching onto a cocktail napkin something that looked suspiciously like song lyrics).

Strangely, though, my deepest reaction was one of “Well, hell, girl, welcome to age 41 and your 18th year of teaching. Welcome, too, to the idea that it’s okay to do something that feels threatening and full of Landmines of Shame. What better way to slam the gates of hell on the demons of junior high for once and all?”

So I made a plan. I didn’t actually think it proved my teaching is award worthy. I mean, I’m no Mickey Rourke in THE WRESTLER. I didn’t grow out my hair or get tattoos and jump off the sides of the ring in my presentation. But I stood up there and said some stuff, completely unnerved by the presence of the camera on one side of the room and the small crop of live listeners on the other side of the room. Where should I be looking? At the camera? At the actual people? Would the camera pick up my voice since I didn’t have a mic? How would the sites I was projecting within the classroom show up when viewed online? Why was it so dark? Was that Freddy Krueger in the second row, thumb wrestling with Darth Vader? Where was I? Are you my mommy?

Despite the chaos in my brain, I talked for about twelve minutes (a minute longer than I can hold my breath) and clicked around to some Web pages before spreading my crinolines, curtseying, and diving for the door.

Most importantly, I didn't cry or pick my nose or become caught up in a reverie with the dry patch of skin on the palm of my hand. I comported myself something like not a total adolescent.

And nobody booooed me or fell asleep or threw rotten mangos at me--and if they had, what the hell? Anybody heard of buying locally these days? Way to gut the earth, Craven Consumers of Tropical Fruits in the North Woods.

I had expected, once it was over, to be flooded with a sense of relief and adrenaline and empowerment and maybe a little bit of pride that I'd done something that scared me as much as the idea of a bat crawling into my mouth in the middle of the night to poop and then give birth.

Mostly, though, I just felt flat and done and kind of empty. It was over, and that was about it. Just over.


Over the course of the subsequent weeks, some folks viewed and voted. And maybe I don't have so many enemies after all.

Or maybe it was the fact that there were two awards and only five finalists, and one of the finalists spent 17 minutes projecting his vacation photos to Italy and noting that they show his history students what Italy looks like when their teacher is standing in it.

Eventually, I was declared winnerish.

Indeed, as I sat at home watching Ellen one afternoon (whoops! I mean "developing curriculum"), I got a call from the VP of Technology, and he let me choose which conference I'd want to attend, and since the conference in Florida would require that I make a presentation while the conference in Oregon would require that I walk around with a folder and register at one of the vendors' booths to win a free Iphone,

I'm going to Portland this weekend.

Groom has never been to Oregon, so we're stuffing him onto the plane, as well, even though we're going to have to pay extra for his Wounded Man Bits exceeding the airline's 40 lbs and 45 inches limit.

As I step onto the plane to head to the conference, I'll take a quiet moment to overcome the flatness of the actual presentation day and remember that

sometimes being a career whore

has unexpected benefits

like getting you closer to free cable and a good cup of coffee.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Musee Des Beaux Burglars"

There's a famed regional photographer in these parts named Jim Brandenburg; he gets a lot of cred for being the best nature and wildlife photographer around. Admittedly, if you have a taste for foxes emerging from cattails and bison sporting icicle beards, Brandenburg is your shuttershooter. His photos are crystalline and mystical and make me want to put on a parka and eat s'mores.

I posit, however, that Brandenburg has nothing on our resident Groom, who is taking a few more art classes this semester. I already knew he makes really cool pop-up cards and gets charmingly excited up about automata and can scratch out a mean sheep's head on a board and has managed to sketch a self-portrait that didn't make me nauseous, but the truth is, despite his versatility, Groom is not known for his photography. In fact, we've agreed that I have a more innate photographer's bent than he. It's well established that in the marriage, because he's good at all else, I get to trump at a few nominal things: semi-colons, binge eating, and photography.

But then. Harummmmmph.

Then he goes and takes Digital Photography and knocks both me and Brandenburg right in the telephoto, where it hurts the most. Check out this picture The Groom With the Zoom snapped at the beach up the road:

Don't you just hear Enya in your head when you look at it?

Don't you kind of wish Enya would stop her breathy cooing for. just. one. minute. so. you. could. enjoy. the. photograph?

Don't you look at this photo and find yourself believing in selkies and unicorns and fairies and the transgendered?

It's so clear. It's just so clear. As I sit here in the coffee shop, scratching my ankle, reading emails, I glance at my husband's photo and appreciate--yes!--its clarity.

Interestingly, his photo reminds me of a poem I like (one of four, I tell you, one of four, the other three penned by Dr. Seuss), a poem written by W.H. Auden and inspired by a painting of Pieter Brueghel, whom Wikipedia, in its infinite academic-ness, describes as a "Netherlandish Renaissance painter."

Here's the painting:

Here's the poem:

"Musee des Beaux Arts" W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

See that little crooked leg there in the sea? That's the thing.

Aptly, the poem points out that there's bad shizz everywhere, everyday, all around us, but because we're too busy drinking coffee and scratching our ankles (and innocent, or not-so-innocent, behinds) and checking our email, we miss it. We have our heads turned firmly towards our own business and, thusly, trip blithely past drowning boys whose wax wings melted when they flew too close to the sun. I know I heard a faint splash just last week when I was pulling out of the drive-thru at the Dairy Queen, yet I only stopped licking my ice cream long enough to muse, "Mmm. Yes. A splash of chocolate on this cone next time would be just the ticket to Greater Jocelyn Happiness." Who knew it was Icarus?

The lessons of Brueghel and Auden are sinking in, though. Already, I find myself setting down my latte, slowing my scratching, closing my email, and looking again at Groom's photo, to see what I might have missed.

Inspired, I have written my own poem:


Friday, February 13, 2009


Contractually, I'm required to hold a certain number of office hours each week, during which I am available to students, ready to answer their questions, comb through their rough drafts, soothe their wounded souls, listen to their tales of unwanted pregnancy and court dates. Contractually, I am supposed to be buzzing and pacing and twitching as I await Students in Need.

The contract can't make the students show up, however. And may I just say, with a dramatic sweep of the back of my hand across my forehead, "Whewww." If they showed up with any regularity, I'd have to be on my game and sympathetic and ready to explain the multitudinous rules of the comma. Bo-ring. Quite frankly, in life, I prefer to ignore the game because I'm too busy chatting with my daughter about how her language arts teacher sometimes bursts into tears when she's yelling at the class; I prefer to un-non-de-sympathaticize and, instead, act the callous brute; I prefer to, use, commas, anywhere anytime anyhow and sc,rew,,,th,e rules,

Indeed, I prefer being left alone in my office during those hours, where, solo, my time unmolested, I embark on Jocelyn's Office Hour Adventures. Usually, they're pretty tame and entail things like:

--visiting Perez Hilton's website to see if Katie Perry has worn a dress made out of cotton candy that then melted in the rain, and if not, did she at least visit MacArthur Park to see if someone left a cake out?;

--grading discussion posts in online classes, wherein I urge students, for the tri-millionth time, to stop using the word "penis" and start using the Shift key;

--throwing some handouts from 1993 into the recycling bin because that old article about the endangered spotted owl would be of more use if it were broken down and revamped into little cardboard "condo" trees that the few remaining owls could retire to;

--dropping for a few push-ups as I pretend to be G.I. Jocelyn, if, by G.I., we mean someone who can do five half-push-ups before weeping softly into her dogtags;

--taking a ballpoint and stabbing at my lunchtime orange because frick if I can get even one edge of a fingernail into the peel to get the thing started;

--calling Groom to see how many fried eggs Niblet required when he got off the kindergarten bus before he was restored enough to speak or act civilly;

--creating a new activity for freshman composition called "Writing a Good Introduction," and, in it, categorizing introductions as "Happy Face Making" or "Sad Face Making" and then drawing stick figures of myself smiling or frowning. 'Cuz this is college, Potsy, and that's a little something we call academic discourse;


as happened this past week, in an extended adventure

--locking my office door in a fit of pique so I could tear off my Ladies Foundation Garment, which had undergone an unexpected transformation in the laundry, becoming twisted and angry in the dryer (not only had the fabric experienced a huge falling out with the underwire, but one particular hook seemed to have snagged onto a sweater during the tumbling, whereupon they wrassled and spatted until the hook was unbent, rendered a straightened, proud, sharp, pointed dagger in the swirling mists of Bounce and Relationships Gone Bad).

I had been unaware of Foundation Garment's metamorphosis into a weapon when I had thrown it into my gym bag that morning; at the Y, when I was dressing post-workout and discovered the damage, I spent five minutes examining Tousled Foundation Garment and asking, gently, so as not to alarm it, "What queer kind of creature are you? And where is your head, dearling? What is this sharp little tail you trail behind you? Oh, it's a hook pike! What a clever puss you are! Here, let's try to right you, Puir Li'l Bra, so's Jocelyn can wear you to work today." I stroked it a little before packing my personal wreckage into Garment's empty shells and making for campus. Once there, I weathered the constant stabbing in my back for a few hours like the stoic Finn that I am, but when I finally felt a trickle of blood flowing down my back, I tapped into my inner Irish and got feisty: I knew it was time to perform hook extraction surgery upon Foundation Garment.

And what more opportune time for such a procedure than my office hour?

Cut back to me locking my office door and disrobing as I tore off the offending stabber. I started in a thrifty frame of mind, wondering if I couldn't salvage the thing. After all, if Congress is going to shove 789 billion dollars at the banks and CEO's, shouldn't I do my part to help our ailing economy, too, by, um, continuing to use what I already have so that I don't have to go out and buy stuff? Doesn't my reaction make as much sense as the government's? They can throw around a lot of money, and then, because I don't have any, I won't.

Wanting to preserve Foundation Garment's presence in my life, I sought to excise only the offending hook. Yanking with my Man Fingers didn't work. Gnawing on it didn't work (although it was rather a tasty afternoon snack, but ultimately, much like Demi Moore's performance in St. Elmo's Fire--or any other movie--it was more tease than fulfillment).

So I turned to the scissors.

Twenty seconds later, my strategy of Garment Preservation took a radical turn towards "I wonder if fabric can be composted?" I had forgotten, for a moment there, that fine motor skills are not my greatest gift. I excel, rather, at subject/verb agreement and slashing and pillaging.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

My bangs in 8th grade, after I decided to give myself a trim. They've almost grown back.

Having inflicted a mortal wound, I realized Garment had become unwearable. Ah, well, I only had to get through the rest of my office hour (maybe trying out a handstand against my file cabinet for kicks and giggles and the odd black eye); then I could head home, to a place where I'm known for a patented look we call the low-hang.

The universe being what it is, however...

You know what comes next.

A knock on the door,

followed by a plaintive,

"Jocelyn, I was just wondering if you could go over my thesis statement with me and tell me if I'm on the right track..."

Sure, Megan. Sure.

Unbound, my breasts are well able to wield a pen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"When It Rains, It Pours Barf From the Upper Bunk"

I love typing blog posts, you know. It's way big many muches of fun.

However, it takes some time, and that I don't have this week... that The Flu has moved in, and we're all fighting off low-level nausea, the likes of which I last felt when watching Steven Bochco's Cop Rock back in 1990. Plus, there are the aches, the pains--oh, and in Niblet's case, the fever and the vomiting all over the bunkbeds at 1 a.m. To his credit, he did manage to earn Yack Points on approximately 100 of his 223 stuffed animals. Score!

The household is feeling like a Little Smokies sausage that's been left on the counter for about 8 days.


So here's a quickie, a little vignette that attests, for once and all, to my occasionally-questioned nobility of character:

Last Sunday, I was tromping around the woods with Niblet's KidSki group, a bunch of preschoolers and kindergarteners on cross-country skis. Mostly, they fall a lot and then lay in the snowbank and eat snow off their gloves. After a few minutes, they look up, a little bewildered, and announce, "I have to pee."

At any rate, through that crazy coincidence-machine called Fate, it turns out that the 4-year-old son of my husband's "When Vasectomies Go Bad" doctor is in the KidSki group.

Oh, Little Simon. Look at you pipping along there, swooshing and falling and leaping up and laughing, all things Groom hasn't been able to do since January 23rd, when he first dropped trou for your daddy, The Scalpel Hacker.

Here comes the part where I'm noble and have good character:

At one point, I was directly behind Little Simon. Holding a ski pole. At right about the level of his future vasectomy.

And I didn't.

Pole him.

In the "Balzac."

While shouting the words, "Go home and tell your daddy how that feels, Little Simon!"

Feeling very proud of my restraint--and the fact that it had only taken three other parents tackling me to keep it from happening--

I looked up

and saw, directly in front of me and my ski pole,

the "Balzac" of Little Simon's daddy, who, breathless and sweaty, had just finished his own ski and had come to retrieve Little Simon from class.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

"And He Hasn't Even Heard Ethel Merman Yet"

Generally, unless our orange-jumpsuited kids are off using pikes to stab at garbage in highway ditches, we don't turn on the tv during the daytime hours. Really, there's just dummm stuff on all day, and their little developing brains need to be applying themselves to more important work than watching Thomas the Tank Engine, work like learning to use the espresso machine to make Mama a mocha. So the screen remains dark until dark.

Or longer. Than until dark.

Which I know makes no sense, but I wanted to see your brain swell up and then pop as you try to parse it out.

This last week and a half, however, what with having a really big, really tragic invalid in the house, the tv has been on a lot, at all hours. And since Groom is nothing if not an over-educated white liberal, his viewing habits revolve around the PBS line-up.

What an awakening this has caused in Paco, the Wee Niblet, who has often been glued to Pappy's side, there in the bed, in front of the tv (Girl, never much attracted to moving images, retires to The Reading Corner in her room, where she pours over Volume 221 of The Babysitters' Club and twirls the end of her braid absentmindedly as she gasps over the trauma of Dawn moving back to California when clearly all her friends still need her there in Connecticut!!!!!).

But Niblet? Has been transported.

He nevewww knew before that the waves bouncing through the air from the television could contain such stuff. He nevewww knew that people actually used hot glue guns on real shows and not just at our kitchen table; he nevewww knew how fast onions could be chopped; he nevewww knew that some people find junk in their attics and bring it to a special place and find out that it's worth $50,000, which is, like, enough to buy even the Millenium Falcon Lego set.

In particular, Paco has gotten excited about

America's Test Kitchen ("Dad! Dad! That guy with the glasses and the bow tie who seems kind of cranky is on! Come on! Dad! You're missing it! They're taste-testing ketchups!"),

the understated charm of Bob Ross ("He was painting, and he talked vewwy quietly, and then--suddenly, out of nowhere--there was a waterfall. A waterfall! I'm not kidding. How did he do that?"),

and Antiques Road Show (I came in the other night to find Niblet in full recline across his pops' legs as a Tiffany lamp was being examined on the screen; he only stirred to say, "Mom, I love everything on this show. First they had a Native-American pemmican pouch. Then they looked at a hutchie thing with lots of wood--and it opened and had a latch and was from before Little House on the Prairie times. And now they have this glowing thing, which is made from beautiful and shiny stained glass. Can you even believe that some people get to own a lamp like that?")

It's not for nothing, of course, that I sometimes refer to him as My Fine Gay Son.

What could be more fun than a Fine Gay Son, I ask you? (okay, we could make a pretty srong argument here for a third-grade girl who twirls the end of her braid while bent over a book, but she's in the other room right now, so let's give her some peace)

Not only does a Fine Gay Son love him some PBS, but he also needs help painting on "rainbow fingernails with lots of glitter" and getting into a little pink gymnastics leotard, something that shows off his itty Boy Package to great effect.

Even better, some days when I come home from work, he takes one look at me and points out, covetously, "Mom, that shirt looks silky. I like that shirt."

When I ask, "Do you need to wear it for awhile?", he responds with "Let me just get nudie first; I need to feel the silky on my chest." Then, trying not to over-step, looking a little nervous, he asks, "And can I try on some of your boots now?"

Twenty minutes of shoes later, and he's dancing, twirling, glorying in silkitude and bootdom and textures and heels that click.

On the sidelines, I, the doting mother, just want to squeeze him up, as I envision his future on the stage, perhaps--if I'm really lucky--as a drag queen.

Yum. Aging stage mother of a drag queen. Suddenly, everything clicks into place. Sure, to complete the image, I'll need to take up chain-smoking. Plus, I'll need a wig. And maybe a few polyester pantsuits. I envision myself as a cross between Carol Channing, Shelly Winters (in her later years), and Lucille Ball (post-post-post Desi).

There I'll be, in a dark corner of the venue, inhaling deeply, taking a swig of my highball, and then exhaling in admiration at my son as he presents his spangled interpretation of "When Sunny Gets Blue."

As I fluff my wig with manicured claws, I'll silently thank Bob Ross, Christopher Kimball, and the antiquarians on the road show for opening up his world.

I'll also cackle a little, before breaking into an extended coughing fit, at the fact that he not only has devoted parents in the audience,

but he also has a manager he can trust. When he bombs, and the crowd yells, "Give him the hook,"

The Manager, backstage, will stop twirling the end of her braid and set down her book

just long enough to usher him to the safety of his dressing room.