Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Skeletal Superiority"

I married up, genetically. Whereas I had lost three grandparents by the age of eight, my husband is nearly thirty-nine and still has three. My last-surviving grandparent died when I was thirty-one; his first-to-pass grandparent died when he was thirty-seven.

What's more, I come from a long line of smooshy, well-hipped, prodigiously-hootered women. Our body type was made to nurse the clan's babies as we slogged across the Plains of Passage, searching out fire and perhaps the odd wheel rolling past. Slow, steady, full of girth and mirth, we'd have hung in there and done the job, collapsing on each other's cushiony bodies at the end of the trudge.

In contrast, not a single person in my husband's family has issues with bodily softness or heft. Their body type would have qualified them to serve as the arrows shot from the first bows, there on the Plains of Passage, when herds of mastodon were spotted. I can picture Groom's great-great-great-great-googolplexed-great grandfather, lean and sharp and stringy, hopping up with great willingness and notching his head into the leather of the bow. After being fired into the heart of a mighty beast, felling it easily with the knife that was his torso, that same great-great-googolplexer would have leapt sprightly out of the bloody corpse, holding its still-beating heart in his hands, and then braised it for the tribe, spooning a tasty Squaw Currant reduction over top just before service.

What's more, my husband has run an ultra-marathon (sometimes 26.2 miles just isn't enough) and has never had a cavity. Me? I once watched a marathon of The Real World on MTV and inserted stuffing into the cavity of a Cornish game hen before snorting the whole bird down sans utensils.

Certainly, I can make a case for myself. I mean, he may be genetically superior, but at least I was canny enough to marry up. Unlike him. Unfortunately, just when I convince myself that there's justice because he is dumm, and I is smart, he goes and figures out the overarching conceit for the New York Times Sunday crossword while I'm still penciling in the easy three-letter answers of "UMA" and "ELO."

In fact, it's best for us not to enter into direct competition, and by that, I mean best for any hope of my continued self-esteem. Case in point: a couple years ago, at Halloween time (BOOOOO!, by the way. Gotcha.), I managed to draw what I considered a pretty impressive skeleton head. Having never taken a studio art course, I gave myself an internal high five--something that is actually very painful and sometimes requires corrective surgery--for my piece.

You are very scared when you look at my art, aren't you? In a good way? Like you think it might be okay after all to give me a black crayon and set me loose to wreak havoc?

When I showed then-four-year-old Paco my work, he, too, was impressed. At long last, I'd won my son's elusive love! We hugged a bit gingerly, still feeling out the boundaries of our new affection, and commenced a search for Scotch tape, so's we could hang my gruesome picture on the front door and scare the gremlins right out of every trick-or-treater who had the gall to knock and beg for sweets. That'd teach the little ragamuffins to try to take my chocolate.

Two hours later, having given up on ever tracking down the Scotch tape, we settled for the masking variety (retrieved from the produce drawer in the fridge) and hung the thing.

Shortly thereafter, Groom came home and was dragged by an excited Paco to the front door. Properly admiring, my husband showered me with compliments and a gentle cascade of kisses that started at my forehead and ended at my well-evolved bosom. Jumping up and down, Paco demanded, "Dad, now it's your turn! You get to draw a skeleton, too, and then we'll have lots of cool decorations!"

Ever game, his Groomishness set to the task and emerged a startlingly-short time later holding his contribution.

The superior bastard.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"So Here"

I'm not much of a joiner, nor do I really like playing tag. Also, rules chafe.

Thus, I'm not a particularly good candidate for the "meme" challenges and thoughtful awards that litter the blogscape. That noted, when kind fellow bloggers throw an award or a challenge my way, I do appreciate the acknowledgment. I do.

In the last month or so, a few blog-patriots have given me the challenge to list ten things about myself that no one knows. So, okay, it's come up enough that I'll do it; but I ain't passing it on or tagging anyone else. Just write your blog posts, honies, and I'll come read them. If you want to make lists, you should do that. If you don't wanna, then don't. 'K?

Ten Things. Some of them my husband already knows, as he is my central repository for minutiae that require expression. But it's what I got.

1. I just spent eight minutes taking the price tag off a dowel that now runs across the top of a fabric banner, which we will hang in a "dead space" at the bottom of our staircase. As I cursed the price tag glue and twining ('round and 'round the stick it went), I kept thinking to myself, "Here're eight minutes of my life I'll never get back. Here are eight minutes of my life I could have used to fold that basket of laundry. Here are eight minutes of my life I could have used to sniff glue, intead of peeling it."

Constantly filling my eyes with birdies and bright orange, though, may just keep me off the glue during the imminent dark months of winter.

2. Streaming my own variety of "radio stations" over is a great way to find new music or just get a better sense what Those Kids Today are listening to. Although I can input any musical artist at all and then listen to "comparables" for hours, I've been using it to listen to more of The Killers, The Strokes, The Shins, The Ting Tings, and even one article-less group, Kings of Leon.

When I tire of pretending to care what Those Kids Today are listening to, I create a station for an artist I actually like, such as Lucero or Husker Du, and get all rock outy and nostalgia-afied. The other day, I played the They Might Be Giants station for Paco, and while he pipped around to the selections, it was acutally Groom who had to go over and hug the computer, commenting, "This is my favorite station ever."

3. I am outrageously shallow and enjoy diverting my brain with the lives of celebrities. That part of my brain also really likes to go out and shop for boots. Generally, as is also the case with boots, my brain tends to love or hate celebrities. Although I will never know them, nor they me, celebrities cause in me an emotional reaction. I adore Russell Brand; I despise all reality show bimbos who, should their airplane go down over the Atlantic, sport implants that would keep them bobbing in the ocean loooong past when life rightly should have been snuffed out.

Interestingly, here's what I realized last night: I flatline when it comes to Melissa Joan Hart. She engenders in me zero reaction. She is like vanilla pudding served in a clean white porcelain bowl, if you were to leave out both the bowl and the pudding.

4. My left hand smells like laundry detergent right now. Wouldn't this be one hell of a puzzling mystery, if I hadn't been doing laundry? How would the detective who finds my corpse explain the fact that one hand--only one hand--smells of Tide? Maybe I was making pipe bombs and--haHA, Karma lashed out!--one accidentally exploded and killed me.

I guess I'd rather just do laundry and get the hand smell that way. All in all, it's one of the better hand smells. That detective should thank me for not springing a vastly different hand smell on him, in fact.

5. My Girl is growing up, which is part of the reason why I cropped this photo severely. Plus, some of y'all are big preeverts and should take your wanker selves off the Internet and stop looking for pictures of kids, you internally-broken skeezoids.

Anyhow, she's growing up but is clearly in the 'tween years, when the idea of middle school still has mystique. Here's the thing no one knows about me: I just want to keep her in a bubble bath, reading books, through the middle school years. She might emerge pruney and dehydrated, but at least her self-esteem will be fluffy and clean.

6. Because Girl is growing up, and we've had to admit she will one day get moods and boobies and tampons, she's going to have her own room for the first time. We're currently working on shoveling out our guest room so that we can paint it TURQUOISE and ORANGE and YELLOW and maybe RED!!!! With polka-dots!!!!!! Groom has spent hours going through the closet, pulling out papers and running clothes and CDs of unknown origin. The other day, we put safety goggles on Paco, gave him a mallet, and let him bash up a stack of CDs. Now our back yard glitters with silvery shards, and Paco is feeling better about his beloved "Dee-Dee" moving down the hall. His one caveat is that, into perpetuity, he gets to smash things we no longer need. Tomorrow, I'm going to lay out my uterus on the unmown grass and tell him to hack away.

7. Speaking of Paco amusing himself in the back yard, we had one dry day recently, during which he built a veritable Hadrian's Wall of leaves, only declaring it done when it was as tall as he. I regretted his Northern European bloodstock, as the wall took a damn long time. On the positive side, it did keep him from setting fire to stuff for at least an hour.

8. The mornings already are so dark, a state made worse by unrelenting lines of rain in the region, that I fear I will have bedsores by March. This morning, as is his habit, Groom slipped out of bed early, and during the brief moment when I roused, I thought, "What the hell is in his body that makes him wake up and get up? I don't have that thing. If I lived any closer to the Arctic Circle, I'm pretty sure I would spend six months of the year under my duvet." Half an hour later, again as is his habit, Groom brought an armful of sleepy boy into our room and dumped the softness into the bed with me. As the limp lad and I cuddled in for ten more minutes of warmth in the darkness, I realized that I could spend eight months a year under the duvet with the right company.

9. I've never shoplifted.

10. Completely without plan, I recently managed to get all twenty of my fingernails and toenails on different cutting schedules, something I hadn't even known was possible until I did it. After a few months of, "Ooh, this one's a little long; I'll just do a quick snip" followed three days later by "Time to go after that hangnail, and as long as I'm at it, trim down the whole nail" followed four days later by "Hmm, that one's snagging a bit," I ended up with every single nail at a different stage of growth, a state that illustrates better than anything

the tiny insanities
that rule our lives
yet no one knows about

unless we announce them.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Goodbye, Fifteen"

Thanks to Frank and Moon Unit Zappa and their “Valley Girl” hit of the ‘80s, I was equipped with adequate attitude and language, at age 15, to convey my scorn for the aged yee-haws who surrounded me: “Oh my God, I am, like, so sure I will ever be 40. Having all those wrinkles would be grody to the max. Flock of Sea Gulls, but I am totally so, like, buggin' at all those old Joan Collinses who think they can still shop at Maurices. Thank WHAM! I’ll never live the barf-o-rama of being a creaky old saggy haggy. I’m stoked to be grooving the rad fad that is Jocelyn at 15.”

Being a teenager was the only way to go, for, like, the rest of of my life. How that plan would play out in the long-term wasn’t completely clear, of course, but I was so busy drinking watery beer and adjusting my Flashdance-inspired sweatshirt rips that it didn’t occur to me I might one day—-if I refrained from driving while I drank watery beer and adjusted Flashdance rips, consequently plunging myself off the side of a darkened road and smack into a light pole—-live to become A Person In Her Twenties, A Person in Her Thirties, and, gag me with a spoon, A Person in Her Forties.

The joke, of course, is on the teens who scorn.

Because they have no idea.

That no forty-something-year-old in her right mind would ever, even if imbued with perimenopausal superpowers that allowed her to create a temporal portal (a sideline activity when she isn’t mainlining chocolate or snorting spilled merlot off an IKEA coffee table) and step back 25 years in time, return to being a teenager.

Let’s all shout now, using the vernacular: “No. fucking. way…would we ever go back to the angst-ridden years when 'good time' meant spending three weeks picking out just the right strapless gown for the Winter Formal that we will attend with our really funny and cute dates who are such awesome dancers that they can keep twirling and bopping through even the entire extended dance remix of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love.” But, as it turns out, they are all these things because they are gay and we are their beards, but we won’t know that for at least another handful of years, so mostly we spend the wee hours of the night after the Winter Formal snuffling on our waterbeds and staring at our crumpled strapless gowns on the floor while we wonder why our dates didn’t want to kiss us goodnight.”

What's more, outside of how much teenagerdom sucks (except for having knees that don't make ratcheting noises whenever you bend down to pick up the jawbreaker that accidentally dropped out of your mouth onto the orange shag carpet when you were wailing along with Bonnie Tyler to "Total Eclipse of the Heart"; indeed, the "excellent knees" a part of being a teen was sweeeeeeeeeeeet), there are other bonuses to leaving those years behind, other unimaginable riches yet to come. I would never have known, at age 15, what a rollicking time I'd be having in my 40s. I would never have known that the syncopated rhythms of my ratchety, crochety knees would create a whole new soundtrack, this one entitled "K-Tel Hot Ones: Flashes and Lower Lumbar Pains." I would never have known that the fields of dark strings (snapped filaments, they tell me) that float across my vision from time to time would actually transport me into my own personal disco, a place where the ball is always a'spinnin', and the DJ is always playing "Riding on the Metro."

Thus, I send this message back in time, to my bravada-driven teen self who'd never left North America; never tried edamame; never seen the thick and swirling strokes of a Van Gogh up close; never mustered the guts to stand in front of a classroom of 30 bored students; never waded through sixteen weeks of advanced grammar; never passed a human medicine ball out her girl bits; never fallen asleep at night with her hand nesting in the curve of someone else's hip:

Dear Smartass 15-year-old Jocelyn:

You have no idea what you're missing, not being in your 40's. Being 42 is, like, totally gnarly. Back there in high school, you might be learning twenty-seven things a day about Eugene O'Neill and how you're attracted to gay men and how spinning donuts in the high school parking lot never stops being fun and how your unformed heart can splinter without making a sound...but you'll still have twenty-seven things a day to learn, even decades from now, like how to thank the Aztec Gods for polenta and how there's no such thing as "the smartest in the class" when "smart" is undefinable and how the only church worth attending is made up of towering pines and poplars and birches and aspens, where the trail is your pew, and how the concept of a one true love is a fiction yet, somehow, you tripped across a singular person who is amazingly true and, through that, redefined love.

One other thing I've learned, dear Jocelyn Who Starts Each Day Listening to Geddy Lee at High Volume, is that the riches will keep coming, as long as you and I keep the vault open.

In the last year alone, I've taken your interest in old white guy writers--first exhibited when you read all of Eugene O'Neill your sophomore year of high school and, at about the same time, realized Mark Twain made you snort Mr. Pibb through your nose, and then by junior year you were sucking up the entire Rabbit series by John Updike (not quite understanding why Rabbit didn't just go out and have some fun and maybe watch that A-Ha video on MTV)--and I've run with it. Sure, I've also learned that women and writers of all ethnicities can turn out jaw-dropping prose...but...

and don't tell Toni Morrison this because I fear the "Sister, you betray me" bitch slap she could deliver...

of late, I'm coming back to what you first taught me (see how you were the teacher?): old white guys kick ass as writers.

Don't get me wrong, Poodle. You and I will actually read stacks and stacks of romance novels and chick lit before we come back to the white guys. Even more, the truth is that, lots of times, the white guys' books will just be too white. And too guy. And we'll return them to the library unread (sorry, Cormac McCarthy; if it's any solace, you're in good company with Don DeLillo, there on the "re-shelve" cart). Plus, some white guy novelists will just hurt our pretty little head. Fortunately, Thomas Pynchon is reclusive enough that he'll never notice us not seeking him out.

But Updike's still there. He died, you know, but only after a long, prolific career. He'll keep us busy for awhile.

Here's the surprise, though, Punky: there's a guy you've never even heard of, back there in 1983. And he's amazing--kind of like Mike Reno, the lead singer for Loverboy? Remember how you squealed over him when they played in Bozeman and how you aaahhhhed at the way opening act Quarterflash prepped you perfectly for Loverboy's bitchin' show?

Yea, this author is like that, like Quarterflash followed by Loverboy. He's that good.

His name is Philip Roth, and he makes your aging, ratchety-kneed self gasp a little bit with delight when she/you read his novels. Not only is he terribly wry, to the point of being caustic (you have to pay attention to get that; fortunately, your longtime love of Jane Austen will ready you as a reader), but he writes straightforward stories whose effectiveness doesn't rely on cliffhanger-chapters, vampires, or hidden codes. Quite simply, he strings words together and allows that--words, carefully chosen, one following the other--to create his magic.

By the time you're in your 40's, Joceybaby, you're going to respect nothing more than a quiet book that uses lyrical writing to make your insides swoon. You won't need bombs or deaths or laconic cowboys to keep your attention. Hell, with what you've learned from watching Seinfeld, you'll realize you don't even need plot. Just the words.

You probably don't get what I mean, entirely. It would help if you'd stop doodling "I'm so bummed that M*A*S*H* is over forever" on your College Algebra's paper-bag book cover and pay attention.

Try out a snippet of Mr. Roth, just in case you can catch a faint whiff of what you'll love so much when you're all old and creaky. In his novel Goodbye, Columbus, which was published waaaaaaay back in 1959, a college-aged young man who lives in Newark, New Jersey, drives on a humid summer night out of the city and into the suburbs for his first date with a girl whose family has made the jump out of urban life. Here:

Once I'd driven out of Newark, past Irvington and the packed-in triangle of railroad crossings, switchmen shacks, lumberyards, Dairy Queens, and used-car lots, the night grew cooler. It was, in fact, as though the hundred and eight feet that the suburbs rose in altitude above Newark brought one closer to heaven, for the sun itself became bigger, lower, and rounder, and soon I was driving past long lawns which seemed to be twirling water on themselves, and past houses where no one sat on stoops, where lights were on but no windows open, for those inside, refusing to share the very texture of life with those outside, regulated with a dial the amounts of moisture that were allowed access to their skin. It was only eight o'clock, and I did not want to be early, so I drove up and down the streets whose names were those of eastern colleges, as though the township, years, ago, when things were named, had planned the destinies of the sons of its citizens. I thought of my Aunt Gladys and Uncle Max sharing a Mounds bar in the cindery darkness of their alley, on beach chairs, each cool breeze sweet to them as the promise of afterlife, and after a while I rolled onto the gravel roads of the small park where Brenda was playing tennis. Inside my glove compartment it was as though the map of The City Streets of Newark had metamorphosed into crickets, for those mile-long tarry streets did not exist for me any longer, and the night noises sounded loud as the blood whacking at my temples.

See how it's simple but complex, J-Girl? See how Roth takes us into the heat of the night and the nerves of the young man and his desires to reach not only for this Brenda but also beyond his humble home life? Even better, notice how Roth makes it clear that, ultimately, the suburbs are a sad, closed-off place--perhaps not the right answer for this young man after all?

You don't know it yet, Toots, so sure are you of your health and promise and spark at age 15, but what Philip Roth wrote in 1959 is your story, too. You might be very busy hiding bottles of sloe gin in the yucca plants of Montana, stashing them there for future imbibing,

and you might be calling in repeatedly to the radio station, trying to win tickets to see Billy Joel,

and you might be sniffing your armpits discreetly as you stand by your locker between classes, worried that you're "pitting out,"

but the truth is,

unique as you want to be, your story has already been written. There is a book--damn, there are 16,456 books--out there about wanting to be something more, about wanting to escape the limitations of your beginnings, about yearning for release from an as-yet circumvented sadness, about turning your face outward and taking uncomfortable steps into a humid world.

So read them.

Even when filaments in your eyes start snapping, and you're reading through black floaters,

Even when you have to use two bright lights positioned above the book to see the print clearly,

Even when your back aches a little from being propped in one position too long,

read them.

And then, when you're all read-out, turn off the lights, fluff the pillows, and roll onto your side, fitting your body into the spoon of your husband's. Nestle your hand into the crook of his hip.

So here's what I can tell you, young 'un: although you'll be a saggy haggy at 42, you'll have consumed books, traveled widely, danced madly at 4 a.m., cried through the night, cried in the classroom, cried when your babies came, cried when your mom left your dad, cried when you held your sobbing dad the last time you ever saw him, cried when he died a few months later, mopped your face repeatedly, laughed at Craig Ferguson, held hands with your best friends, learned to say what you think, learned the therapy of plunging your hands into the earth, and learned that you know nothing, which then frees you to accept everything.

In short, my dear stumbling, bubbling, happy-sad teenaged pip:

you'll have reaped what you've sown.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

“The true harvest of my life is intangible - a little star dust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched”


For its rich colors, its slanting light, the way the axis of the world exerts its tilt, the feeling of delicious melancholy, the accordion pleating of previous warmth with impending cold, the heartening sense of continued life amongst clear decay,

October is my favorite month.

We jump in piles of leaves and watch raptors migrate South and smell the wood smoke and plan to be ninjas for trick-or-treating--and the whole damn month feels like the last time we will stretch our arms wide, looking up to the sun with awe and reverence, before folding them back across our breasts and lowering our heads, craning downwards to watch for ice.

Plus, in October, there's a final harvest.

Out of all possible metaphors, that of "harvest" snags me best. Planning and cultivating and nurturing and waiting? Listen, I might not be able to find a screwdriver in the basement or hop out of bed happily at 7 a.m., but the components of a harvest? Those, I can do. Thus, the whole cycle that leads to harvest assures me that I have actual life skills, even though I might drop my kids off late for their friends' birthday parties and not really understand where in the house we file our bank statements. Harvest reminds me that some of us are good at the nebulous things. Some of us, like October, are conceptual--yet we still produce a practical yield.

Throughout the summer, we gathered in vegetables as they ripened, but the bulk of our harvest has happened in the last weeks, before the first freeze. And what a payoff, this business of biding your time and then biding it some more, until, finally, almost as a surprise, the windfall arrives. It reminds me of how I finally met, at the age of 31, the man whom I'd marry (just I was beginning to fear my eggs would require harvesting if I ever hoped to have children).

This is the one I plucked from near the footpath in my Garden of Desolation. He stood out as the sole sunflower:

Sunflowers like to chew gum, incidentally.

On a rare, sun-dappled day, our backyard and garden almost look as though they're not strewn with plastic toys, discarded bandaids, and weeds. Good lighting is key.

A few last hallelujahs from the flowers, before they crisp and snap. In two months' time, we will shovel the snow off our deck, onto this spot, and then jump into the heap.

If it only snowed an inch, that's gonna hurt.

A perfect illustration of summer hanging on as fall matures: hollyhock vies with maple. Step back. They'll thumb wrestle next, and leaves will fly.

Before Paco attacked these brussels sprouts plants with a plastic rake, they put on quite a show.

This is my idea of pearls on a string.

Our kids eat these like candy--asking repeatedly for more of the "Bugs Bunny carrots" from our garden. I always answer in an Elmer Fudd voice and tell them what "wascals" they are.

Squash eternally surprise, volunteering both in the garden and the compost...

An emblem of October,
they prove that a slow, gentle basking in the warmth--
a slow cook--
imparts all the hardiness needed
to prosper in the face of impending cold.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Forgive Me, Viewer: It Has Been Two Days Since My Last Shower"

...which is the norm, actually, so I don't know why I'm acting all proud here.

At any rate, occasionally I am less greasy than in this video. Let's just pretend I've smeared myself in bacon grease.

Howzabout for the 4th of July, I run around a park, and y'all try to catch me?

UPDATE: Tonight, Carnivore Husband O Mine has been singing Beyonce's "If You Like It, Then You Should've Put a Ring On It" but using the lyric "You will like it if you put a bite of ham on it."

Monday, October 12, 2009

"At Our House, You Don't Have to Hide Your Brussels Sprouts in Your Napkin. Hell--That's Funny--Like You'd Be Given a Napkin at Our House"

Here are my dominant memories of first grade:

1) I got chicken pox and stayed home from school for a week. It got a little long, that week of lolling around, scratching myself, but then my mom set a Mason jar of buttons next to me (which her mom had collected for decades), and suddenly the week had rattles and texture in addition to itching and scabs. Ha! That reminds me: when the first chicken pock erupted, my mom was certain her 6-year-old had a zit, so she popped it. To this day, I have a scar at the top of my nose, right between my eyes. Good thing I'm blind as Ray Charles in a ninja costume at midnight on the winter solstice in the Arctic Circle and, thus, have to wear glasses, the frames of which cover up the scar that my mother, in her crazy need to squeeze any blemish within arm's length, inflicted upon me;

2) My first grade teacher, Mrs. Bulger, was a fearsome thing. Then she got cancer in her arm and went away for a few weeks, and when she came back, she only had one arm. Note to Spielberg: if you ever want to produce a horror film for 6-year-olds, have it be one in which their teacher goes away and comes back less one arm plus a belly full of pain and rage.

Actually, as an adult, I feel nothing but agony for Mrs. Bulger. I cannot imagine how awful that year was for her, and she had every right to become even more cantankerous;

3) However, she had no right to call my mom and schedule a meeting about the fact that I liked to carry, um, about 62 pencils to school everyday in my lunchbox. I even had a huge, thick one with a plastic White House where the eraser belonged, and I'd used it up enough that it would actually fit diagonally into my lunch box, along with all sorts of other really cool pencils with groovy erasers. That I had such a collection with me each day seemed fitting in an "open" school--one with no walls (it was the '70s); that I had a teacher who got mad at me for bringing a far out collection of pencils to school everyday and who went so far as to call in my mom and put the kibosh on all extraneous pencil carrying...well, that was just Old School, one-armed or not.

So there you have it: my best recollections of being six. Naturally, I have no idea what memories my kids will retain of their early years (probably Mommy being really tired, and then Mommy sleeping a lot), but if I had my way, I'd always like for Paco to remember the Day He Assaulted Vegetables.

Warning: this video is thin on plot but rich in character development and cultural insight. Plus, anytime your narrator sounds like she's on the verge of expiring of TB, you have to wonder about her reliability as a conveyor of point of view--and that right there is damn intriguing, inn't, Gentle Watcher?

Oh yea, and then there's the sunflower at the end, used both as aggressor and instrument of denouement. I know.

You. can. HARDLY. wait.

Friday, October 09, 2009

"Sometimes I Get So Distracted, I Forget to Wipe"

Groom just disappeared for three minutes.

When I came upstairs to, er, use the amenities, I saw what he'd been up to.

It's gotten so fun around here that I find myself drinking 467 ounces of water a day, just to earn repeat trips to the bathroom.

Question: if a Pyramid Man breaks his leg whilst skiing, does a St. Bernard with a flask of brandy around his neck show up to provide succor?

Or maybe a mummy comes and applies the bandages to Pyramid Man's wound?

Or maybe kind Inuits feed him seal blubber and make him a crutch out of whale bone?

And if a Pyramid Man falls on the ice, does he make a sound?

A few thoughts to occupy you for the weekend!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"(Mis)Adventures for Pyramid Man and For You, Too, Gentle Reader"

Many commenters on my previous Pyramid Man post were correct that "Pyramid Man" was inspired by the They Might Be Giants song "Particle Man." When Groom started playing around with the idea of the Adventures of Triangle Man, however, he quickly realized that a triangle is hard to confound, as it can just turn sideways and slide through most any situation. Once a triangle becomes multi-dimensional, that's when things get sticky.

And more interesting. Misadaventurous, if you will. Thus, Pyramid Man was born.

In recent days, Paco has decided that Pyramid Man must always have a door on his belly, through which a bandage-hurling mummy can exit the building and wreak havoc. (As I type those last words, I realize how much I want to use them in the past tense, for I have a random but compelling desire to type "wrought havoc." HEY, now I've just typed it, and as I continue this aside here, I realize the longer this tangent goes on, the more havoc I'm wreaking with this bit of writing overall, to the point where you might finish reading and be left thinking, "Wow, that post really wrought havoc with my will to live.").

So, as I was noting before my wilting synapses wrought havoc with the direction of my thoughts, Pyramid Man sometimes may have a door in his tummy (which I believe is the correct Egyptian word for that part of a pyramid), and there might be a mummy, and any long strings you see in Pyramid Man 'toons are the mummy's bandages. Except, sometimes, long strings might also be x-ray vision at work. Paco has lots of ideas, and he really likes adding strings into his dad's panels.

Adding strings into his dad's panels? That sounds like a euphemism for something and as though it might express being really torked, like, "Remember when Margot was reaching onto the floor of the car, trying to find her sunglasses, and she crashed my canary-colored Corvette into the back wall of the zoo? That really put strings into my panels."

Er, anyhoodle: Paco also thinks Pyramid Man is a bad guy who always should be carrying a bag on his back--you know, to hold the loot he's just heisted.

Loot he's just heisted? I'll be tarred and feathered, but that sounds like another euphemism, kind of like "chaps my hide." Imagine if Margot not only crashed through the back wall of the zoo in your Corvette but also killed a gorilla in the process. As you looked at the carnage with disgust, you'd be all, "That really heists my loot."

Seriously, I'll stop with the tangents now. Pyramid Man must make me giddy or something, kind of like when a Bob Mould song comes on the Itunes, and I have to crank it to seventy, and then I have to dance and sing a little and think back to how seeing him play at First Avenue back in the '90s was the best show I ever went to, and not just because he was a punk god who was wearing a cardigan but also because I was with my best girlfriend and her date who was actually the live-in boyfriend of her boss--talk about grounds. for. dismissal. Yet somehow it was all good fun, and our eyes got shiny as we listened to Bob sing, and to this day I just want to build him a little house out back and make Bob some snickerdoodles.

Like, um, yea, so Paco says Pyramid Man always has to have a loot bag on his back (remember how Julia Child had that hump on her back, and it managed to be charming?).

I present to you, now, the latest Groom/Paco collaborations on the easel in our bathroom, which is actually a pretty nice room in our house, as it's bigger than you'd expect and has both hard wood and tile on the floor, which gives users tactile options for their feet and, I suppose, for their hands, too, if they were to bend down and touch it with their fingers. But older people might find the bending down hard and should probably stick to feeling the flooring with their feet alone, lest they have to call for an assist.

What I mean to say is, here's Pyramid Man:

First, Paco drew the red plant in the middle of the frame and announced it was a Venus Flytrap. Groom built from there, depositing the flytrap into Pyramid Man's hand and entitling this episode "Venus Flytrap Rox." In this panel, Pyramid Man announces, "My theft of the flytrap is a success" (although Groom wrote it as "sucess," which made me think, as I added another 'c" to that word, "Honey, you may be cute, but leave the Englishing up to me and concentrate on drawing your little pictures and looking pretty").

In response to Pyramid Man's pronouncement of his theft, a new character, clearly a law enforcer (see the flashing light on his head?), shows up on the lefthand side and says, "Not so fast, Pyramid Man! Geometry Man has got an angle on you."

And, punkies? Look: Geometry Man is holding a protractor as a weapon, and if that's not the humor of a private liberal arts college graduate, I don't know what is. Your parents' hard-earned money was well spent on that killer tuition, Groom!

Of course, Paco insists there's no such thing as a protractor, and it's just a gun there in Geometry Man's hand.

I fully expect to see Paco at the community college in 12 years' time.

A few days later, Pyramid Man's adventure continued. You can see, in these panels in green ink, Paco's additions. Geometry Man yells, "Bring back those jewels, Pyramid Man" and then shoots at the culprit with x-ray heat vision. Pyramid Man then thinks, "He'll never find me in the sewer."

In the last panel, you can see what happens when a pyramid tries to jump through a manhole. Essentially, he becomes Plug Man.

Finishing out this story is the appearance of a new character, which Paco added. Check this out, though: my six-year-old named his new character Period Man because he's a piece of punctuation, and when he told me that, I hugged him so hard and with such jubilation that his eyes popped out. We picked them up off the bathroom floor, though (one eye was on the hard wood part, and the other eye was on the tile), and stuck them back into his sockets, which was fortunate, as he then could read the caption of "Period Man thinks you're in a pickle."

At the very bottom, there's a line about a sneak peak at the next adventure. All I know so far is that it involves the x-ray heat vision melting a lot of things into puddles of goo. Beyond that, I just step aside and hand over the marker.


Whew. Despite the fact that I merely posted a couple Pyramid Man adventures, that sure wore me out. And now I'm dwelling on the word "manhole" and am really afraid of the tangent that I'm about to go off on,

so I'll stop now,

before I type the word


Saturday, October 03, 2009

"Parliamentary Procedure of Plastic"

I never like my kids better--and trust me, sometimes I don't like them at all--than in the hour before bedtime.

For 9-year-old Girl, who is exploring the vagaries of attitudinal preadolescence, it's a time when she often announces, "For my book time tonight, I want to talk." Since she reads consistenly on her own, and we therefore have no worries about spooning words into her, "book time" can be anything she chooses; that she opts to conversate ("about my friends" or "about orchestra") is a boon. As one of my many wise mama friends once noted, "When your kid is ready to talk, no matter the hour of the day, you sit down, shut up, and listen for as long as the window stays open."

Equally gratifying at the close of the day is Paco. A night owl like his mother, Paco has a Circadian switch that flips on at about 8 p.m. every night, causing him to ask, "For my book time tonight, can you read to me while I dance?" Hell, yea, I can read to a dancing kid. The only tricky part for me is managing to hold the book steady enough to make out the words as I read...because, Britney? Like Paco, I never met a song I didn't need to bounce around to, so the boy and I roll and jive and spar to the beat, and while we're at it, I work in a book as the bassline. The whole hullaballoo takes me back to another sage woman friend's words to me when I was pregnant with Paco; I, unaware of his gender, worried aloud, "Lawsy, I hope it's another girl. I'm scared of boys. If they're not hitting something with a stick, they're jumping off of it." At that point, my friend said, "Oh, pulease. Boys are heaven. Just think of any 18-year-old boy you've ever known and how he is with his mother. You can't tell me you don't want that."

True dat. We're only a third of the way to 18, and already Paco and I are there. Last night, as we wound down for bedtime, he decided he wanted to be a waiter and write down requests on Post-it notes, which he then would deliver to his dad in the kitchen.

And with that, a long-harbored dream (squeezing out progeny just so they could bring me booze) was fulfilled.

Anyhow, a few nights before he discovered I'd give him a quarter for serving me hard cider, when he was too sweaty from jigging to continue hoofing around, Paco found a new pre-bedtime amusement.

This is the imp with a plan.

At what point does a soft little belly stop being cute and become distressing?

I only ask because, *cough cough*, I've heard that some adults suffer from Big Ole Soft Belly Syndrome, and maybe I could pass on a few words of advice, you know, if I ever ran into any of them. If that advice entails cutting out chocolate or wine, though, maybe your counsel to those anonymous adults should tell me, er, them, to make peace with my, er "their," jiggly bits.

Here's the sister of the Imp with a Plan. When the Imp's best friend comes over to play, he has to make pronouncements like, "I sure do like your sister's cute little sprinkle of freckles, Paco."

Here's the vanity in the Imp and Girl's room. Inside the drawers was Paco-Imp's inspiration for his new pre-bedtime activity.

Oh, and if you're gasping at the obviousness of the vanity's toupee, it's actually a Hannah Montana wig dangling there on the top, but we don't tell Vanity that, as he thinks he's passing for a non-antiquarian when he wears it.

This is the Hannah Montana wig dangling on my top. It makes me feel like I'm passing for non-antiquarian, too.

At any rate, here was the plan: Paco-Imp went through the vanity drawers, collecting dribs and drabs and gewgaws and hizzabits, and decreed, as he dragged everything into the master bedroom: "These are my clubs. They are having meetings tonight."

Then he busied himself for 45 minutes with setting up, naming, organizing, and fluffing each meeting.

I present to you The Frog Club.

The Barbie Club

The Gem Club (of this one, I'd like not only to be the president, but also a satisfied client)

The Shiny Club

Incidentally, we have pinstripe bedding because it makes us appear professional.

The Guatemala Club

The Scary Monster Finger Puppet Club

The Scary Monster Finger Puppet Club in the mosh pit. It's only fun 'til someone loses an eye.

Then it gets REALLY fun. And tasty.

The Random Club (hand to heaven, Paco assigned the names), milling about, er, randomly

The Random Club, somehow made more cohesive when contextualized and staged on a first grader wearing an awesome shirt.

Finally, breathlessly, at the end of the day, after enduring vapid Power Point presentations, drinking tepid coffee, and finding that no one wanted to take the minutes,

all the clubs rallied, overthrew their CEOs, and converged

into a new world order:

The Cooperative of Crap.

You'd better believe Paco got more than the requisite 27 kisses goodnight when I tucked him in.

For his winning pre-bedtime ways, he also got one bumfuddler of a zlllllllllllllllllllllluuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrbbbber on his soft white underbelly.