September 28, 2006

-image-our friday night plans

My Beloved and I have been invited to Jack’s house on Friday night. Jack, as I already mentioned, is one of my dear old queens from The Beanhouse. He’s about 75, bald-headed, flush-faced, with a body like a soggy dim-sum dumpling. He power-walks to The Beanhouse from his place, so the weather system around him is always a wee bit humid.

But I adore Jack.

And he calls me “sweetness.”

“Hello, sweetness.”

“How are you today, sweetness?”

Then he presses his moist dumpling cheek against mine and kisses me. Every time he sees me.

Every day, he sits with his “peeps” (yes, he calls them “peeps”) and sips his “small dark coffee in a ceramic mug, please.” Frequently, he nibbles a butter croissant. He has not become a weathered dumpling for no apparent reason. Sometimes I hear him randomly singing to them in his rich basso profundo voice. They always roll their eyes at him, but he loves to sing, wants to sing, asks my advice about singing lessons. And if the discussion with his peeps turns to theatre, he waves me over.

“Trace, have you seen …..?”

“Sweetness, what do you think of …..?”

“Oh, you would just DIE, Trace! That show was SO bad!!”

I adore Jack.

He loves the arts, the theatre, good books. He’s full of vim and vigor, still, and stories to tell that should be heard. The 20-somethings I work with have no idea what they’re missing by not engaging our older customers. Frankly, they’re the only ones of much interest to me.

One Sunday afternoon — a day off for me — MB and I, feeling lazy, wandered over to The Beanhouse with a bag full of books. My co-workers ribbed me for being there on my day off, but, hey, the coffee’s great and it really is an inviting place just to hang out. So we sat there, engrossed in our books, sipping our coffees, when suddenly over my shoulder, I heard, “Heeey, sweetness.”

It was Jack. Peepless.

We invited him to sit down and within a few questions, he was opening up his life, his stories.

Jack was in the Army during the Korean War. When he came home, he had no clue what he wanted to do, but he’d always liked to draw, so he started shuffling his work here and there, seeing who’d bite.

He landed a job as Art Director for Mademoiselle magazine, of all places.

“I was the only guy there, Trace,” he said. “And the whole time I worked there, everything was ‘fun.’ All these women constantly with the ‘Oooh, Jack, isn’t that FUN?’ ‘Let’s do this — won’t that be FUN?’ ‘I adore that layout, Jack. It is just SO FUN!’ Good God. I was so sick of ‘FUN’!”

We were howling with laughter. He smiled this sweet, pleased little smile. He had a rapt audience.

“Oh, and you know who ALWAYS kept coming around with his little drawings?” he said, irritated.

“No!! Who??”

“Oh, that Andy Warhol.”

Um, WHATT?? MB and I had stopped breathing now.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, rolling his eyes. “What a pain in the ass. I thought he was SUCH a hack.”

Spitting up coffee now, both of us. He regaled us with his life for two hours while we just sat, transfixed and dumbfounded.

So we’re going to Jack’s house Friday night. He has a little society he’s put together called The Norma Desmond Film Society, an eclectic group of peeps and others who gather regularly for an evening of film and noshing and conversation.

The requirements for membership?

1) You must have seen “Sunset Boulevard.”

And 2), I’m just guessing on this one, but — Jack’s gotta like you.

The other day at work, when he invited me, he spoke softly, seemed almost shy. I offered to bring something, anything, to eat. “Okay, great,” he said.

“So how many are you expecting so I know how much to bring?”

“Oh, well …. just you two. I wanted this one to be special.”

I felt tears lumping in my throat.

“Jack, that is so sweet. I can’t wait.”

“Yeah, me too. I’m making a little program for the evening!”

Can you believe that?

He’s making a little program for the evening.

May I tell you something?

I just adore Jack.

September 27, 2006

-image-do we need further proof of sarahk’s adorableness?

UPDATE: CHECK OUT ASM! Keep scrolling …..

(Oh, will someone please, PLEASE complete the Wonder Woman Trifecta?? Wordgirl?? Cullen?? Haha. I am now obsessed with this.)

Well, in case any of you STILL do, just look at this.

She sublimely answered the call for photos of all you underoo superkids.

I swear. That is the cutest thing. Just …. LOOK at her, peeps!! Priceless.

Thank you, sarahk!!

-image-the langhornes of virginia, plus intermittent rage

I’ve had such good luck with my recent random selection of “Over the Edge of the World,” and a few others that I thought I’d do it again — just read something based on gut reaction, instinct. Not based on anyone’s recommendation or burning personal desire. Just … because. Because the title strikes me — as it did with the Magellan book — or because I like the cover or because I say, “Hey, I don’t know anything about THIS. I’m going to read it.” It’s just my own peculiar, spontaneous experiment. Go with the gut. Even if my reason jumps in and says, “Uh, Tray, are ya SURE you want to read that one?” I mean, I thought that about Magellan and I literally cannot stop talking about it to anyone who will listen! I’ve gotten one of my dear old queens at The Beanhouse totally hooked on the book, too. We talk about it constantly. I see him and say: “Okay, Jack. Where are you now? What part are you at?” “Oh, they just had a mutiny! How can it get any worse?” “Oh. OH. You have NO idea! It’s about to get SO much worse and SO much better!” And then I have to stop myself from saying too much and giving it all away, so we just prattle on about the WONDER of the whole damn thing. That whole INSANE journey. (And I will write some more Magellan posts, but only a few more, because you really should go out and get the book yourself!!)

Okay. Hm. So that was a full-on tangent. Whatever. All that to say I’m loving my “go with the gut” choices in books these days. And it’s brought me another good’un: “Five Sisters” by James Fox.

“Five Sisters” is a biography following the insanely influential Langhorne family of Virginia during the years after the Civil War. Well, following mostly the sisters, hence the title, haha-blah … bear with me here. I’m all over the map today. SOON we’ll get to the part where I WILL JUST QUOTE FROM THE DAMN BOOK, I SWEAR!!

I’m embarrassed to admit — but see if that stops me! — that I was drawn to this book by the pictures of the five sisters on the cover, all such beautiful women, but mostly because one of them was wearing a crown. I dunno. She struck some 5-year-old girl chord in me, that beautiful woman with the crown. I looked at her and wondered who the heck she was. A woman from Virginia wearing a crown? I had to know who she was. And now I know. And I will tell you momentarily. Or I might forget because, dammit, I may have to live in a box in the canyon and I cannot think straight!!

(Why am I yelling at you fine, lovely people?? Sorry.)


These five sisters — Lizzie, Irene, Nancy, Phyllis, and Nora — were just ALL THAT during the Reconstruction years. Belles of the ball, all of them. In the most literal, old-fashioned sense — Belles. Men flocked from all over just to get a glance of one of these sisters, so legendary was their beauty, so desirable were their hands in marriage. But by far the most beautiful, most sought-after of these Sister Belles was the second sister, Irene.

Irene Langhorne.

Who married Charles Dana Gibson.

And was his model for The Gibson Girl.

And that is she in the picture above, Miss Irene Langhorne.

Sister of Nancy Langhorne, later Lady Nancy Astor, the woman with the crown.

But for now, Irene.

The author, whose grandmother was sister Phyllis, describes the Belle culture and Irene’s rise to Super Belle-dom:

Whatever the state of their finances, the Langhornes went each summer to White Sulphur Springs, the most fashionable of the hot water spas across the Blue Ridge in the Allegheny Mountains. The spas had been the center of southern glamour and the marriage market since 1830, particularly “The White,” which to the sisters was a place of outlandish fantasy. It was their only contact with the outside world: a gigantic doll’s house dedicated to beaux and Belles, to highly organized courtly activity.


The adulation of the Belles had a direct relation to Virginia’s sense of defeat, the sense of injustice that could hardly be addressed in conversation. They had an electrifying effect on Richmond society. Greatest of all, until Irene ousted her, was Miss May Handy, who undoubtedly possessed star quality. Nancy and Phyllis knew everything about her: how she was schooled and watched over like an athlete; how her diet was prescribed; how, exceptionally for Richmond, she lived alone with her maid for company; how she was too grand for any beau to approach her. That was the crucial, misleading lesson: that love could only be pure and good if unsatisfied — the Provencal romance. “Yearning” and “loyalty” were the key words. The little girls of Richmond would rush out into Franklin Street to see her pass, wearing her bunch of “May Handy violets” and “smelling delicious,” then run around the block to meet her again. They chanted a skipping rhyme:

5 cents for cake
5 cents for candy
15 cents
Kiss May Handy


Irene was hurled into a regime that required immense stamina to survive. There was little opportunity for sleep. The balls ended at 3:00 a.m. Riding began at seven. There was “Treadmilling” after breakfast — trooping around four or five abreast, making dates for the “Germans” (the cotillions), which were held in the morning from eleven to one and again in the evening. No refreshments were served at these dances, and in the gaps there were “watermelon struggles,” “bowling parties,” “candy stews,” and photography sessions. The Germans, held in broad daylight in the middle of the morning in evening dress, were something new to a northern eye. One reporter wrote, “The effect produced by so many colors in perpetual motion beneath a strong light is very bewildering.”

Unlike May Handy, Irene had never been groomed for her part. She had simply emerged from Mr. Langhorne’s circus — no makeup, no attendant hairdresser — and was one day taken onto the dance floor at The White. She had been noticed by the New York papers while she was still a schoolgirl, to the annoyance of her father, who threatened to go to New York to shoot the editor. (ed.: Sorry! I’m laughing! Their father is hysterical to me.) “She is tall and fair,” wrote the New York Times in the offending passage, “and dances like a dream. Her carriage is queenly and her complexion perfect.” She was taller than her sisters, serene, upright, with a dimple on her chin and (fashionably) “violet” eyes. She had the rounded hips and the forward-weighted bosom of the classic Belle, the bosom that tapered to a twenty-inch waist, of which she would say, coyly, “The beaux were supposed to be able to put their hands around it. But my Father never let them.” She had a luminous quality. She “lit up” a room.

Next installment: Irene and Charles and what Father thinks of the whole derned thing. Hahahahahaha!!!!

September 26, 2006

-image-a big ol’ box o’ poo ….

…. goes to Liar-Cheater-Pig, who still isn’t responding to our request for payment.

My Beloved meets with our lawyer Wednesday at noon.

-image-memories never die

This post lives on! HOORAY!!

I’m telling you, peeps, that is now my favorite post on this blog — because of the comments that YOU all wrote. So funny and so precious. Sweet Lord. I just keep rereading all your answers.

But …. some of you have outted yourself as underoo-wearing superkids and NOW:


Cullen. ASM. Other kiddie superheroes. Let the Kodak moments begin. Tell me in the comments if you’ve put them up on your blog.

Give it up. Come ON. You’re all adorable, I’m sure.

September 25, 2006

-image-aw, eeyore

Why is this photo just so sweet and heart-tugging to me?

-image-artist trading card

I’m having problems uploading new images to the site, but I found this lovely one sitting all by itself in my drafts, waiting for its moment in the footlights. It deserves a solo, don’t you think?

September 24, 2006

-image-I hate disclaimers

But I’m writing one about the post below.

Basically, I’ve been working on this post off and on for — oh, SO long. And this is literally all I have so far. It’s the very bare beginning of something. I cannot say when — or if — I’ll ever have it finished. The memories clump in some secret corner of my brain, hard to find, harder still to penetrate. I’m posting what little there is of it now in hopes of finding more courage and more impetus to finish. But it feels like ripping myself open to write it. I know this won’t mean for you what it means for me, but that’s okay. All I know is there are people out there in this blogosphere who make me want to push, be more brave. They may be reading this right now and they know who they are. So here’s the beginning.

Okay, taking a breath …..

-image-the old barn (the beginning)

I never saw the man who tried to kill my family and me.

I only heard him — his low voice, his rumbling laughter, his crazy cries. It’s many years past that now, and I am alive and mostly well, but sometimes, in my head, I can still hear him, and I am in that summer and I am in that place and I am that 7-year-old girl again.

We were in Pennsylvania, visiting grandma and grandpa. Their house was white with red shutters and wood floors and a huge spread of grass on the side. As we drove up to the house for the first time, I gazed, confounded, at the large crimson shutters framing the windows. High secret doors, they seemed to me, or magical doors, even. Our house certainly didn’t have magical doors. Questions buzzed in my head: Where did they lead? And who were they for? And how did you reach them? I wondered and wondered, the whole time I was there, never figuring it out, never even asking, thinking perhaps these were questions that should not be asked. Just in case they really weren’t high and secret doors. And if they weren’t, I didn’t really want to know, anyway.

The house’s wood floors mystified me, too. Slick and gleaming, they could endure hours of sock-footed sliding, but then suddenly creak and groan like an arthritic old man rising from a chair. They were capricious; moody, almost. I never knew how they might respond to my presence. We just had carpet at our house and carpet was predictable.

While the shutters and floors were mysteries to me, it was the grass that mesmerized me most. I never knew people could have that much grass. It rolled and curved before me, a vast army of perfect emerald blades, with faraway edges I couldn’t even see. What kind of people had grass like that? Where did it come from? What made it so green? Our house didn’t have grass like that; it had a yard full of those white rocks with sparkly flecks that sometimes caught the sunlight, but mostly sat there looking stupid and hurting my feet when I walked barefoot which I wasn’t supposed to do. Maybe it meant grandma and grandpa were somehow very special, all that perfect grass. Sparkly white rocks were not special, I knew that. In one blink, I fell in love with that grass and my poor dented feet itched to sink deep into the dark greenness and disappear.

In the middle of the dark green stood two trees, sturdy and tall. I didn’t know what kind they were and I still don’t. I didn’t care. It mattered only that hanging between them was a perfect wooden swing, swaying and beckoning to me. My siblings had no interest in the swing, an apathy I could not fathom, but that simply meant I never had to share or wait my turn. I knew it would be empty when I raced out the door to play and my heart would pound with anticipation. We had a relationship, this swing and I, an understanding. It knew what I needed and freely gave it. It wasn’t just a swing to me. It was solace. It was my friend. Oh, I spent endless hours with my friend, pumping and pumping my pale legs skyward as high as I could go, soaring past this branch, that branch, til the earth held no part of me anymore. My hair was long that summer and blindingly blonde and it rippled behind me in wild golden ribbons. I loved that feeling of the wind tearing at it; feeling that with every upswing I was winning, outrunning something huge. And then, at the apex, the fall, the collapsing, hair flicking at my face, stomach crashing and giddy inside me. I was delirious. And free. I sang little songs. I chatted with God. I gazed at the high secret doors. And the swing held me; I was safe.

And I didn’t think about the school bus. And I didn’t obsess about the school bus.

My school bus.

The school bus that, earlier that year, had crashed down a hill one afternoon while lumbering us all to the safety of our homes. That’s what it was supposed to be doing, anyway, but a boy in the back of the bus had cried out — something, I don’t remember what — and the driver, distracted, took the turn too tight, and we’d plunged down a steep hill.

Many times that year, my first grade year, I had heard kids screaming, playing on the playground, carefree. It was background noise, really. The usual soundtrack to grade school life. But not that day. Not this. The sound of the kids on that bus with me was high and loud, so loud. Apart from the sudden, sweeping wails of “Mommmmmy!!!” no one even sounded human. They were wild beasts screeching all around me, each one louder than the next. The bus joined the bedlam, too, cracking, moaning, roaring. My ears were bursting from too much sound. We flopped like rag dolls against the seats, the floor, the ceiling; we yowled like animals against the sudden shift of the earth. Everyone, it seemed, but me. Throughout it all, I couldn’t make a sound. Even then, in that moment, I was still the shyest girl in school, unable to utter a sound, make my presence known, lodge a protest to the silent invisible God who watched us breaking. My mouth was open, I remember. I know that. Even now, I can hear my loud jagged breaths. But I was just a kid. I didn’t know that there was such a thing as waking horror that can rob voice and thought and sound. I tumbled loose and heaving with the rest of them, but inside me, something froze. The muscles needed to push out the faintest sound were frozen. There was so much shrieking, for so long — so long — and I wanted to shriek, too, thrust the terror out of my body. My mouth was open, ready for it, even, but I just panted and wheezed instead.

Tears rolled. Soundless. I was terrified and I was mute.

September 22, 2006

-image-demon blog?

I couldn’t access it all day. ALL DAY, I tell ya!

Say it with me, Joey: “The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!!”


Um, am I going to hell?

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