Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Pangs of Spring Cleaning

There are claw marks on everything I have had to let go of so, as you can imagine, my closets are in bad need of weeding.  I anthropomorphize everything I have ever owned. 

Old books, broken at the spine and disintegrating, are loving reminders of my youth.  Any rational person would have thrown out Paul Goodman’s “Growing Up Absurd” in the trash as it was so beat up that it would have collapsed but was being held upright on the bookshelf between copies if MFK Fisher’s’ The Art of Eating” and “The Portable Dorothy Parker”, which by the way survived two years in the Peace Corps, nibbled away by silver fish, and crumbling away should also be tossed.  I just can’t seem to be objective and trash them for more room on the shelf.

Threadbare T-shirts frayed at the collar would be better put to rags but I can’t seem to toss them into the Goodwill box.  I kid myself by saying that when I buy a new T-shirt I will have to toss an old one, and it never happens.  As a consequence I have dozens of shirts, surviving dozens of washing hang like a list of places visited and tasks accomplished.  There’s the Bulgaria one, silk-screened in Cyrillic, the Italian T-shirt purchased in Perugia written in Italian saying something to the effect that “If you want to know me watch what I do.”  It has been washed so many times it has gotten smaller and smaller.  (I couldn’t have gotten bigger and bigger!). And at least six Jungle Party Volunteer T-shirts, in yellow, orange, red, light blue and green sort of like battle ribbons issued over the years at the zoo.

And how about that lovely white lace crocheted long sleeved dress I wore to my wedding?Don’t think I could fit into again and I surely will never wear a wedding dress again, but gosh I can’t recycle it to Goodwill.

On a larger scale I once drove a Fiat 124 white convertible and I loved that little car.  It was temperamental.  Although I bought it new, when it rained it leaked water in from the floor – not the roof.  And I needed to give it a tune up every 5,000 miles.  It was like a high-strung racecar and it was my magic carpet, taking me everywhere.

One dark night I was driving home from a party and I thought I was just about ready to run over a paper bag in the middle of the road.  Unfortunately it wasn’t a harmless paper bag but a foot diameter rock which hit the low-slung oil pan, which jammed the pump up into the engine block and cracked it.  It killed that little car and I felt like a great friend had died as the tow truck hauled it off to the auto graveyard.  I mourned that little beauty for months afterwards.

I really have to get a grip on what is real and what is inanimate. I have an awful hard time distinguishing between the two.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Leeches and Lemurs in Madagascar

I walked into the room and wasn’t too surprised at how modest the accommodations were with two small single beds and well-worn blankets.  The bathroom consisted of a partial wall with a door of draped fabric.  There was actually running water, which was great, as we had just had an arduous journey through miles and miles pot-marked roads. I swear there isn’t a full kilometer of roadway in Madagascar that without a hazard.

Sitting on the porch of the lodge for sundowners we realized we were the only guests at the resort. Political upheavals and chaos were keeping tourists at bay. The locals sat politely and stared as us fascinated by three North American women.

The food was accommodating and much to our surprise three Malagasy musicians appeared to play a kabosy, a valihas and a sodina.  The music was intoxicating. 

The next morning, with the sun barely up, we were awakened by with the eerie calls of Indri echoing
through the rainforest.  Our guide met us for a very sloggy and wet walk through the dripping trees and vines. Ever once in a while 
we would see a sifaka jumping from three to tree and we would stop, spellbound.  At one point we looked at the back of Scout's pant leg and saw that she was bleeding.  We discovered that tiny leeches had dropped off leaves near the trail and landed on our shoes and legs.  

Nasty little creatures but I guess it could have been worse. Like Humphrey Bogart pulling the “African Queen” through the swamps only to know that by the end of the day he would be covered by monster leeches. I shutter to think.

No wonder our guide wore Wellingtons with his pant legs tucked in - to ward off the leeches.  Wish someone would have warned us.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I Would Rather Have Three Minutes of Wonderful, Than a Lifetime of Nothing Special

“I would rather have 3 minutes of wonderful, than a lifetime of nothing special,” she wondered sitting at the widow of her fourth floor walk up.  The street below was alight with people walking to work, bustling along on the sidewalk and she wished she were part of the parade, part of the river of humanity bustling along like corpuscles spurting through a huge body.  She sat still, not moving except for her eyes back and forth, back and forth, trying to see if she knew anyone and could open the window and shout down a greeting.  Her overstuffed chair was comfortable and her tabby cat contented purring away like a little motor of comfort.

She had once been a happy salesgirl at Bloomingdale’s working in hats, gloves and purses.  She always met her sales goals and the manager would frequently give her a small bonus. 
She loved meeting new people and greeting old customers, helping them to pick out the proper purse for an occasion.  She longed to hear of their plans for upcoming parties, events for the social season and wished, how she wished that she, too, would receive an invitation to attend. They spoke of lawn parties, cocktail parties, coming out events, small dinner parties filled with gaiety and fun.  She could almost picture herself playing croquet, sipping iced tea on verandas and gossiping with all the ladies.  She would deport herself well, be a lady and not flirt (too much) with the young men. But because of her lack of social status she would never be invited.

Her life was lonely and isolated.  Her young working class girlfriends had married and moved on leaving her alone with just her cat and few books to keep her company.  When deeply troubled she would read Emily Dickinson and loved reading “Black Amber” over and over.  She even took a huge part of her paycheck to purchase a small bottle of Black Amber perfume oil and would rub a little on her wrists.  Smelling the combination of vanilla and amber sent her into a state of rapture which last for many minutes.  The bottle now had but a drop left in the bottom of the vile and she debated whether or not to use it.  It would be the last.  She thought a moment and reminded herself again, “I would rather have 3 minutes of wonderful, than a lifetime of nothing special”.  She put her fingers around the top of the bottle and opened it.  The aroma floated around her like a cloud of perfection.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Glass Necklace

She was wondering if she should buy it. It was calling to her as she stood in front of the Dorsoduro shop window. It was so inviting and she loved the blue Murano glass necklace and the gold glass beads. It would look sensational on her kind landlady, Signora Rafella, who has been so thoughtful to her, always helping her find an Italian verb tense to perfectly describe her attempts to master the language. Signora Rafella, frequently wearing an elegant Fortuny dress, often would invite her for late afternoon tea, while sitting on the garden terrace overlooking the Rio di San Travazo. But tea always meant tramezzini sandwiches and cold glasses of prosecco.  Signora Rafella always inquired about how her studies were going at University Iuav of Venice, where she was studying architecture.

She knew her finances were limited, as she had geared all her resources into rent, food and supplies for school. But the necklace held some special magic.  She had to have it and turned to enter the store.

“Buon giorno, Signora”, the propriety said.  “May I show you something?”

“On yes, please - the blue necklace in the window. I am inquiring about its price.” 

“Very easy, Signora, let me get it.”  He handed it to her and the glass seemed cool and welcoming. She looked at the tag €130, more than she could really afford. But Signora Rafella has been so helpful to make her transition into living in Venice easier than she thought possible.

Then she remembered Aunt Chub. “I only regret the things I did not do.”

“I will take it.  Please gift wrap it, Signore.”

"But of course," and he put it into a lovely box, wrapped ribbon around it, making a beautiful bow, and smiled as he handed it to her.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Henry James in Venice

My writing parter, Ann, and I take turns sending us each other a daily prompt line.  We use part of a sentence, or in this case a quote. We set our timers for exactly six minutes and let it take us where it will. No re writing allowed, but spelling can be corrected. 

“Thought there are some disagreeable things in Venice, this is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors.’’  Henry James.

That Henry James was such a snob.  It never occurred to him that he was himself a visitor in Venice.  I am sure he was very shy about the fact, although he poses as a European, decidedly British, that he is from the New World, born and bred in American. 

I can just see him posturing in front of a packed salon in the Ca’d’Oro presenting himself and his literary genius to a room full of faithful followers.  Mentally frowning on them but all to eager to collect the attendance receipts at the end of the evening.  He is in sorry need of a new morning coat as his vest and trousers are a little on the ragged side.

He longs to publish his latest serial about, yet again, another poor young woman coming into riches and
Piazza San Marco, Venice
foundering at elegant parties mostly out of the fact that she was never taught polite society manners.

In the morning James takes a stroll from Palazzi Barbaro over to Piazza San Marco to have tea at Caffe Florian, which he thinks is so elegant but in my mind the only place were real tourists hang out to pay outrageous prices.  He watches the parade of daily visitors wander in and out of the Doges Palace and San Marco Basilica, while great flocks of fluttering pigeons scramble over nuts tourists scatter.  The peanut vendors sell out their little bags of nuts, making enough money for them to head to the back street osterias to drink cheap red wine all afternoon.  And there is James a perfect example of a tourist trying to look like a local.  Who does he think he is, anyway?