So as you know, we’ve got a Crazy Cat Lady in the neighborhood. As in, across the street. This past spring she had what we could only guess was yet another small unfortunate fire, as random burnt objects starting showing up on her curb. (She is not familiar with the 3-1-1 Action Line for bulky pickup, either, so we get lots of opportunities to eyeball the assorted flotsam that resides on the curb for days on end.) One of the piles got dubbed “Crazy Cat Lady’s Rugs and Remnants” because it appeared to be some hideous ’70′s carpet, a carpet pad and god knows what else.
She is, sadly, mentally ill, enhanced and distorted by alcohol and prescription medications. Gaunt as a skeleton and severely aged by the ravages of her abuse, she is hard to look at, and she can’t make eye contact. She also pretty much detests us, as we are mean and don’t bend to her requests like, “Give me a phone,” or, “I need to come in your house,” or, “Give me three cents.” (I’m still struggling to puzzle out that last one.) Sometimes they are just statements: “I lost my cell phone.” Ohhkay. Sorry?
But I have not told all of her stories here – and there are some doozies. We are coming up on the year anniversary (Halloween), when she went completely batshit crazy and laid down in the middle of the street, barefoot and wrapped in two acrylic blankets. I was still at work, JWo had called the police, and a cheerful kind woman in a brightly colored caftan and sneakers had pulled her van over and was directing traffic around CCL, who was now curled up by our telephone pole. I came up over the rise in the street to see this montage of crazy in front of me and was boggled by the insanity of it all.
According to CCL, she was having a “surge”, and we should look it up on the computer. (JWo’s fast-witted reply? “I don’t think they make that soda anymore.”) She lurched back to her house just before the police arrived, and refused to let them in. We thought if she had stayed in place, we’d certainly have the scariest trick-or-treat house on the whole street, because her rising up out of the dark would scare the piss out of grown adults, let alone 8-year-old kiddos!
She really has become such a fixture among the fire department, paramedic team, and hospital that a couple strapping firemen came by a few weeks ago and asked us if we’d seen her, as they hadn’t gotten called out for a couple weeks and they were just checking in. It’s a strange blend of funny and sad, to be that reliant on public servants for help that they notice when you stop surfacing; it’s tragic to lose your existence into that pit, and it’s kind of funny because we’re all sort of thrown in on this same “team” whether it’s geographic or service based, so you can literally strike up a conversation – even with the 911 operator – about her, because everybody knows her. The veritable female version of Norm from Cheers, but less robust and certainly no match to his snappy wit.
Pretty sure the house will have to be razed when she finally departs this world (though there’s something about a certain breed of alcoholics – tough as nails and somehow bionically fueled by their diluted bloodstream, and she could be around for decades to come.) Right now there’s a hodge-podge of refuse by the curb, with more random piles and a large barrel for burning out back.
People keep pointing me to the Crazy Cat Lady action figure that’s out there -but what can I say? We’ve already got our own version!
Yeah, it’s White People Month when this stuff comes back to Starbucks, you know it, there’s 800 variations of memes and pictures and squeals of happy happy happy on Facebook once the Heralded Return Of Pumpkin Spice Lattes, like the swallows of Capistrano, baby. Now, I appreciate my over-priced, delicious beverages as much as the above-average-income JoCo soccer mom, but it’s got to be “right” to fully enjoy it. And daytime highs of upper 70′s/mid-80′s ain’t it. For me, Pumpkin Flavored-Everything Season starts when I feel a chill letting the dogs out in the morning, and I see my first red blaze of autumn leaves. Our weather has been unseasonable since summer began – a milder, cooler version of last year, so much so that I really worked hard not to bitch when we got some hot weather, because days on end of 100′+ weather was torturous. Now we’re warming up and cooling down and warming back up so the tomatoes keep on putting out fruit and it’s almost October.
Sometimes I think about how lovely it would be to live in certain climates, where it never freezes or blisters hot, where it’s sweatshirt-and-shorts weather most of the time, and I think that while I’d enjoy it, I wouldn’t love it the way I love a true Fall. Fall is my favorite season of all, despite it’s symbolism of death and decay and ripe life coming to an end, (boy I can really put a damper on shit, eh?) But I LOVE IT. It fuels me and buoys up my mood. The smell of leaves on the ground, moistened by a fall thunderstorm, turning into compost that will re-energize the ground next year. Puffs of smoke from chimneys, the smell of wood in the air, it alerts the senses. Sounds around us change, the wind sweeps through branches and bring a shuffling of paper, the natural evolution from the velvety sounds of green leaves rustling in a summer’s breeze. As the humidity leaves, sounds become sharper, unmuffled by the damp air and heat that keeps windows shut and doors pushed tightly closed. Fall ushers in a return to cooking; soups and stews and warm dishes that take on the new flavors of squashes and root vegetables, complemented by the harvests of summer, transformed into jarred and frozen bags of produce that bring the brightness of summer’s hot sun to bursting flavor in chili, peppers and tomatoes taking on new forms. And it brings with a renewed desire to knit, to work with wool, to create and draw the calm from the meditative repetition of needles and yarn moving in unison.
So, Pumpkin Season, I realize you’ve “Arrived”, and I still love you, but you’re going to have to wait until it’s truly time.
I’m just going to say it: I am loving some of the new pop music today, if for one reason only, and that’s because it’s got the 70′s funk throwback in its underpinnings. We saw Bruno Mars in concert a month ago or so – he has the 9-piece funk band backing him up, choreographed moves and all. I recall a wonderful Doonesebury cartoon from my childhood, of a group of African-American men, the backup singers/dancers to an unseen singer. As they trade observations, the last words were, “Beats workin’ at the car wash.” My father seized on that line and it became interwoven to so many conversations and laughs over the years, somehow I’ve mashed that into a connector, the kind that tug unexpectedly at your heart. That happened that night at the concert, as Bruno sang “Treasure”, and his backup crew bounced and slid and bobbed in unison, the joy in the music and “Beats workin’ at the car wash” was in my ear and tears filled my eyes, tears of happiness for the connection and memory, tears for the loss of a great, great man.
Bruno’s not alone – Capital Cities is infused with 70′s beats and even nods at the era in their video for “Safe and Sound”, with tube-sock clad roller skaters grooving in unison. Justin Timberlake’s newest pop hits all have a blend of horns and funky bass lines. If you eschew “pop” because it’s too bubblegum, you’re missing out on some nicely retro-feeling tunes!
Bruno’s Treasure video – it doesn’t get more Jackson 5 than this!
Capital Cities – Safe and Sound
Oh my. Funky Town, the dance club melting pot, located in glamorous Raytown, MO has long been a destination for people in KC. I remember seeing it when I first moved here, from an errant exit onto 350 Highway instead of remaining on 435. I knew people went for the disco, and to party in large groups, but I’d never made it there myself, until last night.
That place is something else. I think I had a goofy grin on my face at least the first 20 minutes, because it was a feast to gaze upon. Talk about a cross-section of life! I’d say the average age was around 40, so at least I didn’t feel awkward or -cough- old, and you could not have gotten a greater mix of types of people – races, heights, weights, ages, dress, fashion-sense, all mixing it up on the dance floor, or in a dance cage, or on a light-up dance box. Granted, it was still predominantly white, but it definitely felt like a representative population slice of the entire city. I think I got most mesmerized by the group sitting front and center to the dance floor, and it quickly became clear to me these were Regulars, with a capital R. The motley assortment tended to line dance to most of the music, all eyes upon their leader, a skinny, middle-aged man in baggy jeans (not sagging, just 80′s bagging) and a 2013 Tate Stevens t-shirt who determined which line dance they would do and began each dance with an emphatic flourish and a clap. The others fell into place around him, and then even others, not part of the head table, would jump in and out, swinging a right leg forward and back, a little Saturday Night Live disco jab to the sky upon completion of one set.
Then there was Disco Stu. The name was suggested by my friend John, there with his NOW fiancee, Heather, and another couple. (John told me last night that he was going to propose today! I won an Oscar for disguising my happiness while still conveying it, and while it would have really been epic had he done it at Funky Town, perhaps they will have their reception there.) Anyway, back to Disco Stu. He had a glorious smile on his face, joining the line dancing to some of the songs, dancing to his own drummer on others. At one point, he got up on the light-up box, and as I watched, the gravitational pull of his fellow line dancers turned his freeform steps into a synchronized, albeit elevated, line dance all on his own. Later, I saw him dancing rather suggestively with a middle-aged blonde woman, and all I could think was, “Heeeey, get it!”
People in their 60′s showed some magical dance moves while others seemed to do no more than shuffle from side-to-side. Most people shout-sang along to the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s tunes, forming large circles that shifted back to their smaller group sizes. One young man, I imagined to be an IT professional by day, writing code and pushing his square black glasses up on his nose, demonstrated some fancy foot work, attracting the attention of two women (my age) who gyrated and sandwiched him repeatedly, perhaps viewing him as a veritable fountain of youth. He did not appear to mind one bit.
The bonus part of the evening? A full-on Michael-Jackson inspired floor show (EVERYONE GET OFF THE DANCE FLOOR) to Thriller and then some. Zombified dancers hit the floor and performed some awesome, choreographed moves (I confess, I looked around to see if Tate the Line Dance Leader might have transformed into Michael, and I still can’t confirm they are two separate people.) Everyone shouted and cheered, and returned to the dance floor with gusto when it was over. (Now through the end of October, and apparently they have a mega costume contest on the 24th, and I kind of want to go. I can create a killer costume!)
I think the best part about the entire experience was that the place is without any pretense. Nobody cares. Everyone’s having fun. It pretty much doesn’t matter if you can or can’t dance, if you look a certain way or weigh a certain amount or dress a certain way (though I did get very confused and thought a woman was not wearing any pants; the black lights do a number on certain colors, and her shrimp-colored leggings were transformed and seemingly disappeared!) As John put it, “Out there (in the rest of the world), I’m like a 7. In here? I’m an ELEVEN!” It’s not that there aren’t gorgeous beautiful people there (there are! I was terribly envious of the 6′+ blonde with legs that probably ended at my shoulder height, in her heels and short black shorts.) It’s just that – again – nobody really cares. For once, a place where your attitude counts – and outweighs – the superficial.
Written Saturday, publishing late late late so no beans get spilled on the proposal.
8300 Blue Pkwy
Kansas City, MO 64133
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So this summer’s big song (or one of the big songs) has been “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, et al. The video garnered controversy, parodies, blustering accusations of misogyny and directorial defenses claiming the women were really the ones in control (despite wearing far less clothing than the men.)
I just want to start a recurring blog topic that talks about dumb. ass. lyrics. Because I’m the first one to get lyrics wrong, and I look them up so I’m not the one belting out, “WANT YOU TO LOVE ME… LIKE A HOT PIE….” ala Rihanna (“The Only Girl in the World” – and it’s “Hot Ride”, not “pie.”) So in a better effort to understand some of the accusations about the song, I thought, let’s read what these blurred lines are really about! I originally thought it was about moving between a friendship to a sexual relationship, or maybe the blur between “good girl” and “bad girl” (the Madonna/Whore complex) – then I read, no, it’s about consent, and these are rape lyrics. Huh. It’s a motherfuckin’ catchy rape earworm, if that’s the case, and how disappointing. BUT, all of that aside? Let’s just take a gander at how T.I. starts off his part of the song – keep in mind, I listen to the explicit version, not the radio edit which makes his section sound like the FCC has a hair-trigger finger combined with a sneezing allergy attack what with all the bleeping out:
One thing I ask of you
Let me be the one you back that ass to
Go, from Malibu, to Paris, boo
Yeah, I had a bitch, but she ain’t bad as you
So hit me up when you passing through
I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two
OK. Hang on a sec, T. You have one thing to ask of me, and that’s that I back my ass up to you. Ok. I get it. Back that thang up, it’s been done before. Not thrilled you’re talking about another lover as a “bitch”, that sends up a red flag for me, frankly, telling me that you’re not much of a gentleman, but you were making a request and I was listening. But three lines later, you’re basically threatening me with an episiotomy? HUH? There isn’t anything sexy, romantic, or even BLURRY about tearing asses in two. I’m glad you’re proud of your dick, but really? There should be a little mystery left in life, and there should be a little … gallantry when it comes to seduction. Since we can all figure out “what rhymes with hug me”, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, perhaps spelling your version out isn’t :really: necessary.
And if you haven’t seen the great parody video – here it is. You can find the original one with The Googel, grasshopper.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so they say. Does that mean we can “behold” ourselves, clearly and rationally? I don’t know. For me, the answer is usually, “No,” since I’ve got more than half a lifetime spent with criticisms and measurements and definitions of beauty that only revolved around a number on the scale, which can really torque with the way you define your own sense of worth in the world.
The conversation has been rolling around in my head ever since someone posed the question, “What if I have an ugly baby?” It was semi-in-jest, semi-serious, as the person has a friend with a pretty grizzled up baby with – as they say – a face only a mother could love. Is that really possible, though? And if you had the proverbial Ugly Duckling, wouldn’t you still love it with all your heart?
Growing up, I got a lot of, “Well…you’re ok from the neck up and the knees down,” or just an easy sort of shorthand, “You look fat.” I suppose now, I see if people will love me in spite of my copious extra adipose, or if they, too, will use it as a bludgeon and a barrier, a blight against me. Truth be told, I often find myself looking at myself and thinking I have a bit of a drag queen in me (maybe it’s my attitude seeping through), if only because I see my father’s features and having only known them as masculine, it’s hard to make sense of them on a female face. All I know is that it’s rather exhausting, and yet I still wish to be… pretty? Attractive? Somehow acceptable on only the surface, while rejecting the notion that surface definitions are the most shallow, that count the least, that in the form of rejection shouldn’t hurt, shouldn’t haunt, shouldn’t resonate with the old stuff I’ve pushed far below, because to have it out and riding shotgun is a horrible way to live.
The conversation at work grew painful, because my own upbringing, combined with that Upper Midwestern stoicism that tells you any semblance of vanity and self-worth are terrible character flaws, leave me feeling like the proverbial ugly baby myself, and I get defensive, because going through life having people eyeball you for being the fattest person at the nail salon or have kids point at you at the grocery store tends to eat away at the Teflon armor. It was even more challenging because my crankiness came off as fishing for compliments, and let me tell you, Upper Iowa Minnesota Jen wanted to run into traffic to escape, it was that horrifying. Anyway. I think we have to draw our confidence and self-assurance from more than just the mirror, but not necessarily to the exclusion of the mirror? Somehow throwing the ugly baby out with the bathwater feels like overkill.
So as the clock continues to tick, and the wrinkles around my eyes deepen, I’m sure of only one thing, and it’s that I have to be ok with me. As I am, as I was, as I will be. I may color my hair, use some products that promise to defy aging and peer at my face as I see my father’s eyes staring back at me, looking for what new mark of life’s process is stamped upon my skin. I actually surprised myself, because I was trying to figure out how in the hell my laptop camera actually took a picture and unprepared, I got one. This is me. Minimal makeup, no gigantic smile. Just… puzzling and thinking. I think a lot. Sometimes too much, but I still like doing it. And most days, I like me. Despite what all the old voices – and sometimes new – may try to tell me. Because the Beholder doesn’t always care, even if they should.
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Well, that might be overstating things, but yesterday at lunch, my co-worker relayed the story of his friend who will be engaged soon, and the fact that her sister spilled the beans after shopping with the fiance, and then told the not-quite-yet-bride-to-be that the ring choice would “grow on her.” Because the sister is a royal fucking cuntbitch (CB), as I was quick to point out, and the sister has been jealous and sabotage-y of NQYBTB throughout the relationship because she wanted a boyfriend and SHE wants to get married first and SHE never obviously grew up listening to Marlo Thomas and Friends singing “Free To Be, You and Me” in which we learn that bitches who insist on “Ladies FIRST” and behaving really selfishly will ultimately get you eaten by tigers. or Lions. Or something, but it would be a horrible, mauling death. With the exception of Queen Latifah and her awesome song “Ladies First,” because nobody fucks with Queen Latifah.
So after hearing this story, I ripped into the CBSister, because that is some lame shit, putting your own insecurities and problems with the world onto someone else’s joy, and how lucky she is that I’m not CBSister’s sister, and he could only respond with the fact that NQYBTB is just hoping she can grow onto this ring whenever it happens and she’s not mad at her sister. To which I responded, “NQYBTB is a HELLUVA lot nicer than I am,” and was met with vigorous nodding.
I’ll own it. I will say, in my defense, I do not like hurting people and I work hard to be diplomatic and empathetic. But the flip side is that I’m blunt as hell and unafraid to call people on their shit, if they’re being extra shitty. Guess that just means it takes a strong, secure person to be my friend and stay in my life! I think Queen Latifah and I could kick it for sure. AND Monie Love. Where did she go? I loved her.
Not that kind of prepper, by the way; I don’t believe the US is going to descend into madness and all the utilities will be shut off while we have a new zombie-esque revolution. I’m talking about meal prepping for the week, and holy hell, it does take a chunk of work & here’s hoping it pays off!
Between yesterday & today, I’ve made a double batch of meat sauce (using frozen home-grown tomatoes and home-canned tomato sauce), chopped vegetables and ham for split pea soup (Crock Pot Monday!), assembled lasagna (tonight’s dinner), made 2 batches of pate fermente for sourdough French bread, two loaves to be baked tonight, one batch of pate fermente into the fridge to have with spaghetti later in the week; taco meat made/seasoned/stored, fresh spinach picked for the lasagna and the hot & sour soup with pork dumplings we had for lunch today, made a baked strawberry-cream cheese French toast for breakfast, and a cream o’ goodness chicken dish we served over spaghetti squash last night. I’ve run the dishwasher like a maniac and I prefer to clean as I go, so the kitchen isn’t too bad, just the mixer bowl to hand-wash and unload the dishwasher yet again.
Whew! I also prepped for the work week ahead, typing up all my notes on an evaluation for one project, and all my summaries for a presentation tomorrow afternoon.
Now, to wait for the cake to finish and to bake the bread. Oh, yeah. There will be cake. Followed by collapse. Prepping is serious bidness! I can’t imagine how much work it would take to prep for the apocalypse!
This is week 2 with a grocery store story. Last week, a woman walked up while I was unloading my cart and inappropriately squeezed the 10-lb. tube of hamburger I’d purchased, commenting, “Nice package!” I was a bit dumbfounded, but I cheerfully informed her it was on sale, and wondered how on earth I attract crazy, interesting people. I assume it’s because I also am a boundary pusher/crosser and I will easily talk to strangers myself.
So now we’re on to this week’s shopping adventure. I have taken to meal planning out the week, including Crock Pot Mondays, since I detest cooking on Monday nights, and coming home to a meal that’s made itself all day? Magical! The weather today is bleary, dreary and blah (the rejected dwarves of Disney) and as I exited my car, sleet came down in droves. I had even paused before leaving, thinking I should wear my Kangol hat, but -I actually thought these very words- ah, nah, I’m not going to run into anyone I know, so it doesn’t matter what I look like. OMINOUS FORESHADOWING!
When I got in the first set of doors & went for my cart, I realized my hair was full of these tiny ice pellets, so as I’m brushing all this stuff off my head, I feel someone approaching me and by god, if it’s not my client. ARE YOU KIDDING ME, UNIVERSE? We chit-chatted briefly, and off we went, he with his son, me with my list and completely no-makeup face not even lipstick what the HELLLLL and then continued to “bump” into each other as I got a bit discombobulated and just sailed by several aisles, eventually having to circle back to finish my shopping. While not as funny as the previous week’s meat-pinching incident, it certainly has me wondering what in the hell will happen next week!
Someone posted one of those pictures everyone likes and shares – a stack of cell phones, sitting on a restaurant table. The type over the picture said something to the effect of, “First one to check their phone picks up the tab.” A funny, if not completely enforceable, reminder that the whole point of connecting, staying connected, and building connections has everything to do with being present, in the moment.
I first encountered the Horrid SmartPhone User in a former boss, who would look away from every conversation to check his phone whenever it beeped or buzzed. Not an actual incoming phone call, mind you, but an email notification or a text message alert. Entire meetings could pass while he kept his nose pointed at his phone’s screen, and while one can argue in every meeting there are times your contributions aren’t required, it’s different when you’re in a one-on-one meeting, and you continually send the unspoken message, “Something else might be more important than you, right now, and I’m going to disrupt what we’re saying by allowing this device to interrupt us.”
So in those days, and because I have a tendency to wander forward in my brain, anticipating the next steps, or the next 20 steps, or what might happen, I would mentally stop myself and say aloud, “Be here now.” It doesn’t mean I don’t also fall victim to my phone’s siren song of buzzing and chirps, but I try to be acutely aware of the fact that if I’m sitting at lunch, or dinner, or in a meeting, or having a one-on-one conversation with someone, I want to put them first. Just as I want them to put me first. Just the act of glancing at one’s phone’s screen is an interruption, a distraction, it is the equivalent of the pause button. Don’t even get me started on the people who are talking or texting at the movies, good grief. Seriously? Rent a movie and stay home. Nobody wants your inability to sit still, your need to multi-task encroaching on their enjoyment of being completely engrossed in the sights and sounds of a good story.
I’ve chided people who give their attention to their phone in my presence. “Are there three of us here right now? You, me, and all the people in your phone?” Because I just want to make sure it’s clear that our time is being shared by an inanimate object. If it is, maybe I’ll get out my phone, start giving semi-distracted responses, too. It’s fine, if the stage is set beforehand (I’m waiting to hear from the client, I am waiting for their response to an email, I need to make sure they got XYZ.) I suppose it’s technically fine if everyone’s on their phone, though I fail to see the point of being together if you’re going to all be absorbed by your 3″ screens. And again – I’m guilty of it myself, but I’m working on reviving that mantra, Be Here Now, because if we’re not Here? We’re slowly forgetting how to converse, how to engage, how to be polite and respectful, how to immerse ourselves in the world around us.
Your friends will thank you. Your employees will appreciate you. Your brain, which doesn’t need to do 20 things at once, might actually breathe a sigh of relief. And you will not miss anything. You might actually get even more than you expected.
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