If all is ephemera, how can there be artifact?

Dance Hall Daze

Here's the thing: I never really watched Mad Men. I kept up with it by reading many and various recaps: Tom and Lorenzo, of course, but also recaps that came from advertising that reality checked the ad references, and others that reality checked the cultural touch stones. The reason I didn't really watch (aside from not having pay tv) was that they lost me in the first season, when there was a casual reference to Jews in Boca Raton. It was 1960, and trust this native Floridian Jew, there wouldn't have been any. They were in West Palm Beach and in Miami. The rich WASPS depicted as vacationing there would have been on Miami Beach or in Palm Beach, or even gambling in Havana. They were not visiting Boca. So I observed Mad Men from a distance.

Now that it has ended, and the ur-feminist story arc has been picked apart, I find that this has made me uncomfortable in many ways. The loudest voice in my head is that the sexist behavior depicted on the show still exists, that the fights about equal wages, access to health care, self-government of the female body.... those are all on the news every night. Every day in Washington, and in state capitols around the United States, women are getting the rights that were won in my lifetime taken away again.

We still don't have equal representation in government. We are still being slut-shamed, victim-blamed, threatened with rape at every turn, and death if the former three tactics don't push women into the shadows.

Some of these recaps I read talk about Sally Draper, and what she might have become. I am the same age as she would be, and here's what happened to me. Even though I was (arguably) the smartest kid in the Marine Science class in my high school (this was 1972, long before magnet schools, before AP classes, before multiple tries at the SAT), my science teacher told me that I could never do research, only teach because I was a girl. I quit science on the spot and became an art student, because nobody there told me I couldn't be an artist.

That happened in college. At the University of Miami, where it was de rigeur for the (male) chairpersons to sleep with the female graduate students (sometimes they even married them), it was a given that females artists would always be conflicted between creating and procreating. Even my choice of graphic design rather than painting as a major was derided: I'd make money, but not art. Yeah, fuck them. I did make money.

Once I was out of school, I moved to New York City. I arrived on the Chinese New Year, 1976. I got a job at a post-production company that had three partners, one of whom was a woman. I had to join the Animators Union, and this prompted a conversation about how many women were in the union. Would I be the first? No, but you could count them on one hand. My boss's name was Jean (not Joan) and she had a chatelaine, not a pen on a chain around her neck. The other two partners were men. One of them hit on me constantly. He would ask how old the oldest man I'd ever dated was. He would leer at me and tell me he had a son my age. He would not leave me alone. One morning, I was nursing a hangover and running late. He and I were the only two in the elevator. He hit on me again. I said "Steve, if you are so hot for some young ass, go fuck your son and leave me alone." The only reason I wasn't fired was Jean. She told me that Steve was not going to be allowed to harass me, but that if I ever said another word to him, I was gone.

Eventually, I left New York and went back to Miami. In 1988, I went back to the University of Miami for a master's degree. I got thrown out for telling one professor that he was full of shit for saying that as a woman, I could never be a real artist, since I would always be conflicted between creating and procreating and for telling another that my private life was none of his fucking business, that my husband was not paying for my tuition and it wasn't up to my parents to do so either.

In 1991, in Clovis, New Mexico, I was told variously that people didn't "like your type" (depending on who said it, my type was either an aggressive woman or a Yankee) and that women didn't belong in the work place. I also had someone ask me to my face if mine was "a Jew name"? In 2008, I was threatened with firing because I was knitting in a meeting, keeping my hands busy and my mind focused. What I learned from that is that doodling, texting, surfing Facebook on one's phone are all acceptable ways of attending a meeting, but that "women's work" is not.

And here it is 2015. We are still fighting anti-semitism, anti-feminism, anti-gender discrimination, women's rights to self-determination, equal pay and fuck, the basic right to exist with an expectation of being able to walk down the street safe from rape. The color-blind golden future that enabled Barrack Obama to be elected president is the same one that greeted his entry onto social media with this "Hello Nigger". Oh, yeah. America is a color blind country that recognizes racial equality all right. That is what Sally Draper would have faced, people. More of the same stupid shit she grew up with.

Which begs this next question: so...who are the people perpetuating the same old thing? The average age of a Tea Party Republican congressman, is 50-60 years old. That means Sally's brothers and friends: Gene, Bobby and Glen. Except clearly not Glen, because he served (and presumably died) in Viet Nam. Worse, people like Paul Ryan are almost young enough to be her children. How is it even possible for that mindset to still exist? How can there be more women than men in this country, and still no ERA, no physical self-determination, no acceptance of anything other than the hetero-normative?

Well, happy birthday, Bob Dylan. Once again, the invitation to dinner at my house has been ignored. I understand, I really do. One can only assume you are at your mom's house, where she has made your favorite rice pudding (baked, not creamy, and studded with golden raisins and a crust of cinnamon sugar). In fact, The Star of As The Yacht Comes About called me today to commiserate over this annual no-show of yours. She assumes that you are in a rumpled linen shirt, wearing a Panama hat under the tiki hut on the beach behind Sir Richard Branson's home on his island in the Caribbean.

That was when we realized what type of holy day this is in the Church of Rock and Roll. Where Festivus has an annual airing of grievances and feats of strength, and other church days require penance or reflection, this is the day we must air our assumptions. After all, we all know that when one assumes, one makes an ass of you and me. And who in the C of R&R has had more assumptions made on his behalf, than The Bob? Clearly, this is the day we must let someone know what we assume of them.

I just did that: I blurted out to her how painful watching one particular episode of Grace and Frankie was for me and I hoped she could forgive me. I could hear her eyes goggle over the phone. Not a clue as to what incident I referred. Thank Bob. But I did make an ass of myself doing it. It was a perfect celebration of the Feast of Bob. Now go forth and assume: What do you assume Bob Dylan does on his birthday?

What Does Bob Dylan Do On His Birthday?

Mem’ries

Geez. It's been so long since I updated this blog that I seem to have forgotten how to use the system. Which is a bad thing, since I came in to the office today to build a new web site. Remember the brief life of "Mild Burning Symptoms"? the site I built to sell off our extra crap? No? I don't wonder. Well, anyway, we've decided to try again. The new site is Ma Groover's Vintage. Or it will be. If I can remember how to use Expression Engine. Ah well, let's code!
So. On Monday, your author turns 60.

This led me to consider the ways I have celebrated birthdays of significant number in the past. On my 21st birthday, I took a final exam for my art history class and then packed my dorm room as that was the end of my college career. I was (trigger warning: Politically Incorrect Phrase Ahead) free, white, 21 and a college graduate. The universe got a good horse laugh at me and booted me off to go be an adult. I spent the next nine years having a two-year attention span and lots of adventures. Then I turned 30 and felt I needed to Get Serious.

I straightened up and married a criminal defense attorney, proving that clean and sober was a bad lifestyle choice for me. I remedied that and dumped the lawyer, quit graduate school and several jobs in quick succession and took up with the Renowned Local Artist, moved to New Mexico and back to Miami (another set of 2-year attention spans, I guess) and dug in at the next job, lasting through my 40s and all the way to 50. For my 40th birthday, a friend built me a giant 4-0 out of straw and we burned it in effigy. It was brilliant. We were pulling ashes out of the pool filter for years.

My fiftieth year was rather horrid: lost my cat, lost my father, lost my mother to Alzheimer's, my sister-in-law lost her mother, George Bush "won" a second term, I lost my job, I had to move my mother to a facility near me, and I turned 50. There was only one thing to do: I went to White Party in full mermaid drag. Take that, universe. And I bought myself a puppy.

This year, I am taking the day off from packing the pod (not a euphemism for anything) and heading over to the day spa for a four-handed massage (ooh, just like a three-way, but with no sex! I said to the booker), a facial and a mani-pedi. I mentioned that this was a birthday present to myself for turning the big digits, and she asked if I wanted a little color touch up. I explained that my hair, on its best days, looks like Roger Daltry/Isle of Wight/1971 and she told me that she had to Google that. Then I told her that the color I wanted was a full ombre in turquoise or purple or something, as the combination of magenta and that hair would make me look like an escapee from clown college. The booker told me that she was very sorry that she would be off Monday, as she expressed an interest in meeting me, but swore that they would take before and after photos. I'm sure they will.

Or, more accurately, in the hamster treadmill of yours truly's mind. I started with the bathroom, packing up stuff I won't need in the next 2 months, probably less, but who knows for date certain when we will relocate hearth and home to points north. Sitting on the floor, looking at the stuff in the little storage cabinet, not the medicine cabinet over the sink. You know, the place where you put stuff you don't need or only need once and a great while, but yet often enough to keep on hand, just not something that has to be easily reachable, either. THAT cabinet. There is all sorts of interesting stuff in there. Out of date sun screen, a flea comb for the cat, last used two cats ago, and a broken brass incense burner.

If this were a drinking game, here's where you'd take a drink because it is me alone in my head, and here's where I go off on a tangent. This particular burner has been a part of my life since I was capable of being aware of it. In its first incarnation, it was my mother's: it was black and it sat in her sewing room on the bookshelf over the daybed in the old house. This is important. It will be on the test. It is small, round and sits on little foo dog feet, and has a pierced lid with another fierce dragon dog reclining upon it as a handle. By the mid-sixties it was living in my bedroom in the new house and went off to college with me. At some point I stripped it of its black paint, the reclining dragon came loose and there is a side piece broken off and living somewhere in my studio where I see it regularly enough to remember what it is and not to incorporate it into a piece of found object art before I find someone who can weld brass, or bronze, whatever this is. The point is, it is both older than me and been a part of my life since I can remember. It has moved from my mother's girlish possession, into her married life, whence I claimed it for my childhood bedroom, through I cannot remember how many dorm rooms; it has moved with me from Miami to NYC, to Miami and back north to Woodstock back to Miami and off to New Mexico and back again to Miami (and that's leaving out the dozen or so apartments I had and my divorce where I lost so many personal belongings) and now it is going back to what was my childhood bedroom, but is now the second guest bedroom, claimed jointly by Paulie and My Cousin Judy. I barely know how I am still here and in mostly one piece after all that, but how did this little thing make it through all those years and all those moves? What spirit is holding us together?

In retrospect, as I have uncovered so much of my mother's life before us (her years in NYC in the late 30s), that I presume this is a souvenir of her time there from some shop on Mott Street, perhaps, or maybe from Newport. In the event, seeing it was enough to bring back all of that and more, including the notion that it would be a good thing to take to the new house (our New House, which from 1966 until we bought it, was also my parents' New House, as opposed to the Old House--you see, it was on the test) this weekend when The Person Dressed in Black and I go to Stuart and sleep overnight.

Which brings us back full circle to why I was sitting on the floor and packing stuff from THAT cabinet to go to the guest bath in the New House which has generous built-in cabinets and a built-in laundry hamper...thank you MCM and efficient living. We are now about 6 weeks out from the move. It's just that THIS weekend is Halloween. And Mummy passed away two years ago on Halloween night, with yours truly and The Person Dressed in Black at her side. That makes it important to me to be there then (as opposed to being here now) this year and lay a path of marigolds to the front door and ask her spirit to come back and be honored. At least figuratively. I don't know where the hell I'd get marigold petals if I didn't grow my own. It isn't like there is a botanica in the neighborhood or anything....wait. I'm still here in Miami, I probably CAN get fresh marigolds.

But I digress.

incense burner foo dog

The One That Got Away

Anyone who has known me since I moved away from NYC (the Second Stupidest Thing I Ever Did) knows the story of the one that got away. Shortly before I left the city, I was shopping at the Fiorucci's around the corner from Bloomingdale's. Not that I could afford anything, but that wasn't the point. I found this shirt. There had never been a shirt more expressive of my personal sense of style. I coveted it, and when I tried it on, it was as though it had been cut and sewn for me. It was real chamois, in a buttery palomino color. The neck was scooped and the collar, hem and cuffs were all raw edges of the hide. It closed with silver conchos. There were only two seams and they went along the sides and up and under the sleeves all the way to the ends, which were mid-finger tip. The shirt itself was hip-length. It was also as much as two months rent on my studio apartment in the Village (as I recall, $400 a month or there abouts, but we are talking 1977.) They had to throw me out of the dressing room to close the store. I wept bitter tears over that shirt, and have drawn it in sketchbooks and on cocktail napkins ever since.

That's right, thirty-seven years of lusting after that damn thing.

Two weeks ago, when we were in Jackson Hole for the Big Ass Year of Turning Sixty Extended Pub Crawl and Party, I saw a leather shop's ad in the art guide, and said, I have a feeling if I'm ever going to find that shirt... And so we all went. And there it was. White, not palomino, made of elk hide instead of chamois, and with elk horn buttons instead of conchos, but it fit like a glove and I no longer pay rent.

The one that got away is now in my closet. If a piece of clothing could be a spirit animal, it would be this shirt.

the one that didn't get away

Page 1 of 191 pages     1 2 3 >  Last ›