May contain trace elements of dog fur and magic.
The other week I bought a pair of Fluevogs. When they arrived, and I opened the box, the smell was so familiar: it was the smell of new Hush Puppies. I held my new shoes, closed my eyes and I was back in the Stuart Department Store. Max
This is a photo of my dad, standing in his office in the back of the store. I wish I had more pictures of the store and the back rooms. The store was my playground when I would go with Daddy at night or on Sundays. I climbed the shoe cases. I explored the dead stock. I tried on everything. I rearranged the showcases. I'd take a nap on the stacks of pillows in the bedding section. My uncle and grandfather shared an office with a glass wall that overlooked the store. It was a short flight of steps up had a view of the entire sales floor and both entrances. There were sewing machines and an ironing station and this really horrible, gnarly thing that always looked like a half-chewed cigar, but was a bundle of scraps from shortening mens' trousers, and Grandpa used it to dampen stuff he was pressing. It was light and airy. My father's office space was behind and below theirs, and had no windows. It was full of boxes and papers and the store safe and a table for unpacking and tagging stock, another table where he did the dyeing of matchable shoes. There were shelves of stock and rafters full of stuff. The cabinet he is leaning on in this photo held catalogs and fabric swatches and paperwork of all sorts.

After My Picture Fades

Maybe because I was such a tiny child, I was always drawn to miniatures. I collected them from the time I first plucked a blown glass vial from a collection of dusty bottles in an antique store in Newport. The store owner gave it to me with a laugh, when he asked if I'd found something I couldn't live without and I showed him this inch-long thing and pointed to the pontil mark on the base and said, "it's really blown glass". 

It was no different on the beach, where I collected operculums. They were tiny, hard to spot and unlike other shells, probably because they aren't really shells. In our teens, my friend John and I would spend summer days at the beach competing with each other to find the most. He kept his in a little tin box. I kept mine in a medicine bottle. In our 20s, we moved to different parts of the country, and I gave him my entire collection of operculums. In our 30s, I went to visit him in Texas, and took this photo of him reviewing our collection.

John

It is the last photo of have of John. Within two years, he and his lover Robert were both dead of AIDS, but not before John's sisters disowned him for being gay and being sick. He died alone in a hospice, his last wishes that I have the little tin box full of shells.

His sisters being assholes, they kept the box and threw away the shells and told me never to call them again.

Every time I go to the beach, I look for operculums, and every time, I find at least one. I know that John is with me there on the shore. This summer on the Gulf, I found more than a dozen during my week stay. I thought it meant it was time to share John's story.

Operculums

Well, not yet. We have now ripped out floors and carpets, added a screen room, gutted the kitchen, pulled down all the ceilings and replaced 50 year old insulation (I swear it wasn’t asbestos) with new spray foam, gutted the master bath, gutted my father’s workshop, added a new studio for the RLA. We have picked our new flooring, our new appliances, our new bathroom vanity. I have commissioned extensive tile work in for the kitchen. Still to be determined are windows and window treatments, lamps and lighting, tile for the master bath, plumbing fixtures for the master bath and a new vanity and lighting for the second bath.

I need a gas dryer. We’ve reconsidered our position on dish washers. I still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there may be some vague lightening of the dark.

In the meantime, there is code to write, and a new site to develop. I’m off to sharpen my Word Press chops.

Tell her she can look me up, if she has the time. I find myself sitting in front of my laptop, typing names into search engines. Women who were my friends when we were in our teens and twenties, and even our thirties. That was half my life ago, yet I find that I am still looking back. What broke those bonds? The first quit speaking to me when I set her up with the man she married. Apparently there was only enough room in her life for one friend. I think of her now because my Number Two Surrogate Daughter comes home from her 2-year walk about in SE Asia today, with a man in tow and plans to move to Denver to become doctors. By coincidence, that is where the lost friend went and she is a doctor. With sadly low ratings, I am afraid, but her portrait on the company website looks great, and that’s a great job title. Mazel Tov, but although this lost friend was found, I find she is not, after all, missed. Except for the part where, were we still friends, I could request her patronage for the NTSD.

The second friend was a soul sister from the moment we met in the UM art department. She was leading an immense Great Dane, and I was crocheting a rainbow. I say she was leading, but to do her justice, she was swanning along, tall, lean and elegant with an equally self-possessed and physically striking animal. The two of them looked like a deco drawing of glamour come to life. Nice puppy, I said. Nice rainbow, she said. We were inseparable for the next 10 years. She was my muse, my best friend, my sister, my partner in high jinks. I was her nice girl friend, her wing man, her voice of reason and her best friend. Ultimately, my voice couldn’t keep out the other voices, and I lost her to bi-polar disease. I miss her the most. Today I found an email for her sister. I wrote and asked if maybe we could connect. I have no idea if she’ll respond, much less if it would be in the positive.

Annus mirabilis I have declared this to be, and so far it has been. I am packing this year with my favorite things and people. For it to truly be a miracle, there are more women I need to see face to face. There are several in Texas. There is one in New York. I have a plane ticket that needs to be rebooked by August 4. Where shall I go?

Yesterday’s experiment in dyeing with lichens was, you’ll excuse the expression, a complete wash out. Today we do something constructive and terrifying: edit the closet, and especially the shoe collection. As I am no longer employed outside my home and studio, my wardrobe requirements are meager. It is time for the closet to reflect the new era. Wish me luck.

The Rejects

I Talk to the Trees

Man, that was a stretch, but you try figuring out a rock lyric with the word “lichen” in it. The tree trimmers were kind enough to leave all of the oak tree trimmings with “green stuff” on them in my yard, cut to manageable lengths and neatly piled. When harvested, I had a quart mason jar filled with (primarily) Parmotrema Praesorediosum (I looked it up.) I have a pint jar with about a quarter cup of it marinading in my bathroom, despite it failing the bleach test. (You look it up.) Hope springs eternal and all that.

Today I am about to boil up the rest of it and see what happens.

lichens

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