Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The School Bell's A' Ringin'

School has started and you can feel summer losing its grip. The mornings and nights are cooler. The works aren't all gummed up after all. The seasonal machinery is still turning.

A brand new shiny school year calls for brand new shiny clothes. I stood in Wet Seal for two hours waiting for Annabelle to try on clothes.

I might as well shop for myself, while I'm waiting, right? Not unless you think a 47 year old woman can pull of wearing ripped shorts with a slouchy loose top drooping off her shoulders that says, "I LOVE MY BOYFRIEND."

We shopped for school supplies. No more crayons, markers, safety scissors, or Elmer's cow wearing a nose ring. No more baby seals or Disney characters on folders.
Now it's scientific calculators and flash drives. College ruled paper.

Both girls picked out black converse sneakers for their back-to-school shoes.
Annabelle is taller and wears a bigger size shoe than Lilah. Even though she's the youngest.

Lilah's a Lancer. A freshman in high school. The Lancer logo is a knight on horseback carrying, what else? --a lance.

Annabelle's a Warrior. A 7th grader. The Warrior logo is an Indian in full headdress on a blood red blackground.

Annabelle's grade school, Tomahawk Elementary, did away with their warrior mascot years ago. Apparently Indian Hills didn't get the memo.

If Lancer and Warrior should come to blows, who do you think will win?

The correct answer is MOM, who will declare both of them grounded.

Both girls wear mascara now. And body spray. And a little hair spray. Each morning, the fumes hang heavy in the air.

Nobody light a match!

Lilah's taking choir. They're washing cars this Saturday to raise money.

Annabelle's taking orchestra. They're raising a small cash crop of cannabis to fund their field trip.

NO THEY'RE NOT! I was just checking to see if you've read this far.

Yes, it's clear. With the new school year in swing, the seasonal machinery is turning. Might need a squirt or two of W-40, but it's turning.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Root Root Root For The Home Team

I had the rare privilege on Saturday night of attending a ball game and hanging out with a rash of cousins. Heat rash is more like it --it was in the 90's and humid. It's a good thing I had those two beers before going into the gate. I needed them to wash down the brat, chips, deviled eggs, corn, and other assorted foodstuffs that made their way to my mouth, during Jim the Younger's Extreme Tail-Gating Extravaganza. Laura said it best when she said his grill was so big it was like a cartoon grill. It grilled awesome things very awesomely. It's just too bad that cousin Hal had to miss it, due to a flight delay, that was due to an air show. Hal, who is a Michigan dude, obviously has a generous streak, because he treated us all to the game between the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers. Or maybe he just wanted to rub victory in our faces, because Detroit won. (By only one point.)

I can only remember seeing the Royals play one other time, when I was on a date during my college years, around 1985 or so. I wasn't that interested in the game then, or the boy who took me, for that matter. But this time I totally enjoyed watching the action on the field. My only problem was trying to follow the trajectory of that ball, so white, so little, against the bright lights of the stadium.

As much as I liked watching the players, my favorite thing of all was the organ. Its chunky sound is a festive, aural sepia that conjures up peanuts and crackerjacks. I read that Chicago's Wrigley Field started the whole baseball organ thing in 1941. They only meant to use the organ for one game, as a gimmick, but people liked it so much they kept it, and soon other ball fields copied them.The organ at the Royals stadium is woefully under-utilized. It teased us with brief riffs that disappeared as fast as the weak, occasional breezes that vanished before we could really feel them. If it were up to me, the organist would be throwing down some wicked organ solos while the teams switched on and off the field. But the world doesn't operate by my crazy rules. 

At least they still play "Take me out to the ball game." I was compelled to sing along. I have liked that song ever since we sang it at my Kindergarten graduation.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

First Friday of August 2011

On Friday I went down to the Crossroads area for Frst Friday, to walk around and see some art. There was a guy wearing a giant foam bowling pin costume. There was a small herd of Ren Fest expatriates, wearing tights and moss and tendrils and fairy wings and strange patches of color on their face. They were standing smack in the middle of 18th street, outside Y J's Snack Bar. I thought they might do something, but after watching them stand idly for a minute, I moved on.

There was a guy parked further down the street selling books out of the back of his car. I took a look, and bought "On the road, the original scroll" by Jack Kerouac for a dollar. I also bought Ulysses and The Dubliners by James Joyce. I want to put Ulysses up in my writing corner as a challenge to myself ---to read it, to understand it. I know someone who has said they won't read Ulysses until they read Homer's Odyssey, and perhaps I should do the same. Jim Morrison of the Doors was the only kid in class who read it and understood it, according to Jim Morrison's English teacher. I also bought a book about a woman who goes into the wilderness and fends for herself out there. But it's not such a remarkable story. I know a wilderness where women are doing this all the time. It's called "marriage." Baddah-boom! That was a joke. Now that I have married again, I have license to make these kinds of jokes, you see.

I went down to gape at art galleries, and ended up with a pile of books. I'm such a librarian. I was walking along, holding my stack of books ---the hard-cover copy of Ulysses is really thick ---when a girl stopped me on the street. "Books!" she called out. "I love books! Where did you get those?" "There's a guy selling books out of the back of his car," I told her. "Get out of dodge!" the girl shouted. She might have slurred her words a little. She was holding a beer, and looked like she might have been more at home in the Power and Light district. I figured she was just having fun with me. She asked me where the bookseller was, and I told her where he was parked. "I'm there with bells on!" she hollered, and turned up the street.

Now I say things like "Let's get out of dodge," but I was surprised to hear a young woman her age talk that way, and show even mock interest in books. It was most peculiar. But fitting for a First Friday.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Train Not Taken

If it's the end of the day and you are stranded in Newark because of a cancelled flight, and you are faced with the choice of either getting a hotel room, or taking a train into Manhattan, so that you can stay up all night in the city that never sleeps. I say, take Manhattan. You aren't going to get any sleep in your crummy airport hotel anyway, and you'll face a lot less aggravation in the Big Apple. Take it from the voice of experience.

We went with the hotel idea last Saturday, when our flight was wiped off the board, and here's what unfolded: We were told the airline would reimburse us for our hotel, but we had to call around and find one. Good luck! Many of them were booked. The room we finally got at Howard Johnson's would be $279. And once we said yes to it on the phone, we were locked in. No cancelling the reservation. We waited 50 minutes for the Howard Johnson shuttle to pick us up, even after calling them twice to ask where they were. When the shuttle driver finally pulled up, she didn't get out to open the doors for us until she saw we had bags (duh!), at which point she got out to open the back end of the van. She drove aggressively, tail-gating other drivers and taking the curves fast. A printed sign on the windows of the shuttle said No eating! No drinking! No smoking! Someone had written underneath in pencil, "No breathing! No farting! No being gay!" The hotel was located in an ugly industrial lot a mile or two from the airport. Just across from the hotel was a huge lot full of cars behind a tall wire fence, and a car carrier loaded up with even more cars.

The lobby of the hotel smelled like cigarette smoke. There was nothing good on the hotel TV. It was all crime shows and violence. And this was the noisiest hotel I've ever been in. We could hear a woman in a nearby room taking a shower, could hear the shower runining the whole time. Every time someone turned on a faucet somewhere, or opened their door, it echoed through our room. We heard a little kid running pell mell down the hallway in the wee hours. The worst sound of all though, was the deafening shriek and roar of incoming airplanes. We were right in the flight path and when some of the planes came in for a landing, I swear to God, it sounded lke they were headed straight for us. Lilah had to put the blanket over her head to keep from screaming. I knew, intellectually, that they were not really about to slam into our hotel, but every nerve in my body told me that they were. "This is it," I thought, as I heard the plane's engine dive in closer and closer. This happened at least 6 or 7 times.

I supppose I fell into some sort of uneasy slumber for 45 minutes or so, before the alarm went off, but I didn't get much sleep. I just lay there wanting dawn to come so we could get the hell out of there. To think I could have been hanging out in Times Square instead. If I have to feel worn out and uneasy, at least I would like to be someplace awesome. And there would have been street vendors selling hot dogs.

 We went downstairs to catch the 6:00 am shuttle back to the airport. It was like ten minutes till the hour. Another guest, disgruntled, said the guy at the desk had told him the shuttle driver had just left--- before the scheduled 6:00 am time, and with an empty van. The desk called the shuttle and told it to come back to pick us up. Roger went to the desk to get a receipt for our stay, so we could get reimbursed. When he asked for one, the clerk made a put-out expression as if Roger had requested a free massage and facial. Meanwhile, the rest of us waited outside. There were two benches --both of them broken and about to collapse. The ground was littered with cigarette butts. Annabelle ran in to take a drink from the water fountain. When she pushed on the bar on the fountain to make the water flow, it fell off.

When the shuttle driver did come back, it was the same lady who had dropped us off before, and who had apparently been driving all night. She drove just as crazy, but on even less sleep.

We didn't find out until that morning that the reason our flight had been cancelled was because there was no crew to fly the plane. I was not a happy Continental customer, to say the least.

There was one consolation: When our plane took off, it flew right over New York City. We saw the Statue of Liberty, we passed directly over Central Park, we could see the bridges leading into the city, could see that Manhattan truly is an island, top-heavy with skyscrapers. That was an incredible view. Which made me wish even more we had been there.

So I say avoid Newark and Continental airlines entirely if you can, but if fate leaves you stranded....
you know what to do.