Saturday, April 22, 2006

Three Problems (Because Nothing's Perfect)

Welcome back to my vacation. That special time of year when money flies out your ass 24/7. Unfortunately, we are no exception to the rule.

The good news is that we have a FABULOUS room (expect pictures soon) in downtown San Antonio with a WONDERFUL bed that is fluffy and gigantic and comfortable. It is located on the 18th floor of the Palazio Del Rio right on the River Walk.

Satan sent some shirts and slacks out to be laundered at the hotel this morning. Located in one pair of slacks was $300 cash he had forgotten about. It’s a long story, but let’s just stay that, miraculously, we got the money back just now. The people at the Palacio are good peoples. Don’t hesitate to book a room if you’re down this way.

So yesterday, we were settling up the bill at a River Walk restaurant when a helpful waitress offered to serve me up margarita #2 with a (wink, wink) handy to-go cup on the side. Never being one to pass up an opportunity, I quickly agreed to the plan and was soon weaving up and down the river walk contentedly sipping away on my top shelf margarita. I was just getting that cross-eyed, cooled-off feeling when it happened.

Friends, a bird flew over and shat directly into my six dollar margarita.

I was shocked. It was shocking. And, in my state of semi-drunkenness, it took a moment to register, review (in slow motion) and to add up what had happened:
The bird flying over. The nearly simultaneous KER-PLUNK in my Styrofoam cup.

At which point, I stopped, looked up, and said in a loud voice to the first people I met, “DAMN, that bird just sh*t in my margarita.” And then again more loudly and with more conviction, “Seriously! That bird just sh*t in my margarita!”

Unfortunately, I made those statements to a freshly married bride and groom in full regalia clearly on their way from ceremony to reception.

I’m happy to say they had a sense of humor, because they burst into hysterics and kept walking, followed by a long procession of their bridesmaids and groomsman, as I continued to stand there, dumbfounded, arm still extended, staring at my now contaminated cup.

And I might still be standing there, except for Satan, who by now probably from a couple of miles up, finally noticed I was no longer weaving around at his side, came back to check on me and found me there frozen.

To his,

“What the hell?”

I responded with, (say it with me),

“A bird just sh*t in my margarita!”

To which he replied,

“What are you, drunk? A bird didn’t SH*T in your margarita.”

To which I said, “Yes, OF COURSE I’m drunk, but a bird just sh*t in my margarita, I tell you!”

To which he replied,

“So, what EXACTLY am I supposed to do?”

To which I answered,

“Um, maybe strain it out?”

At which point he wrestled the glass away from me and tossed it in the nearest trash can. This, for some reason, shocked me more, in my drunken state, than the original crapping. I was all,

“I’m JUST SURE you threw away my margarita!”

And he’s all,

“I’m supposed to pick bird sh*t out of your margaritas now? What are you, NUTS?”

Which leads me to vacation problem Number 2: Satan in general.

For Satan, vacation isn’t about getting that “peacefully easy feelin’”. No.

Vacation is work. WORK, I TELL YOU! No sleeping in! No LOLLYGAGGING! Vee are here to see zee sights, und vee shall see zem. All of zem! NOW!

It goes a little something like this:

March! Observe to the left! Observe to the right! March! March! March! Buy souvenir! March! Observe to the left! What, you are TIRED after four hours of walking and shopping in the blazing hot sun? Weenie! And, etc.

How can I stand it?

Well, because, on occasion, it goes like this:

March! Observe to the left! Observe to the right! March! March! March! Buy jewelry! March! Observe to the left! And, etc.

Which brings us to issue #3. Have I mentioned it is hot down here? If not, let me reiterate: it is HOT. Positively equatorial. I can get color just walking across the street. Also, through my clothes. I can’t even imagine deep summer in these parts. I am, right now, wearing a SUN DRESS. And it is only APRIL. And I’M wearing a SUN DRESS. Me. In APRIL. Those who know me well know I do not wear sundresses. EVER. So, yes, I am very, very hot.

Which is why Satan insisted on buying me a sundress earlier (March! March! Sundress! March!) and how I came to meet Edna the Bra Nazi at Dillard’s shortly thereafter. Because when you don’t wear sundresses? You don’t have the proper (strapless) upper body under garments on hand, generally speaking.

So, the plan was a simple duck into Dillard’s lingerie dept. for the proper bra and then on with the vacation. I spotted Edna right off and, thinking to save time, told her what I needed.

“What size?” she asked.

I told her.

“No.” she said.

“No?” I queried, confused.

“No.” said Edna. “You not that size.”

“But, I ….” I began.

And from out of nowhere, Edna produced a tape measure, wrapped it around my chest, commanded me to lift my arms, and pronounced me a size I would not have thought myself capable of achieving. Ever in this lifetime. I was thunderstruck. Not only was I bigger around. But the cup size. DEAR GOD, the CUP SIZE.

As Satan giggled over by the camisoles, Edna yanked the appropriate (LARGE SIZED) brassiere off the rack, dragged me into the dressing room, told me to undress, harnessed me into the thing rodeo-style, and pronounced it a “perfect fit”.

“The tape measure don’t lie.” She said, tapping my cleavage. “Get dressed, I ring this up for you.”

When I met her and a still snickering Satan at the cash register, I observed sadly as to how, in case of rain, I could wear one cup of the bra as a cap.

“And hey! I could wear the other!” Satan remarked helpfully.

“Don’t worry, honey”, Edna said to me kindly. “Haven’t you heard? Everything’s bigger in Texas.”

Indeed, Edna. Indeed.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Lazy Daze

It is a little passed 3:00 p.m.on Wednesday afternoon here in San Antonio. Satan is taking a nap and I’ve just finished a chapter of Joan Didion’s, “The Year of Magical Thinking”. The book is a memoir about the year immediately following Joan’s husband’s sudden death. It is a book about the grieving process. I suppose it isn’t the usual vacation read, but there is a certain balance in being a lazy hedonist all day and then reading about death at night.

We returned to San Antonio from Austin yesterday afternoon. Yesterday and today have been quiet days spent with Jim and Mary, Satan’s parents, while his sister, Janie, husband, Johnny, and son, Kyle are at work. Jim and Mary are in their eighties. In sharp contrast to my own grandmothers who are the same age and have basically all their faculties, Jim and Mary are much more feeble and forgetful. Jim is plagued with hearing loss, and so lives in a world of his own, and Mary is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s.

Yesterday, while Satan ran some errand or another, I sat with Mary as she folded her laundry. It was a load of whites, just a few things, and when she’d finished with all the clothes, she carefully folded the shriveled dryer sheet. As she did this, she told me she was considering moving in and living with her daughter, Janie. She wasn’t sure if she really wanted to make the move or not as it would mean things would be “different”. In actuality, she has been living with Janie for the last five years.

Every day, she asks Satan if he is the youngest or maybe oldest of her children (he is the youngest). She asks about her oldest son, Kenny, and how many children Kenny has (five)? She asks if Janie is her oldest child (she is in the middle)? As night falls, she begins to talk about “going home”. She says she arrived at Janie’s some time around 10:30 in the morning and that it is late and now time for her to take her leave.

Sometimes, Janie or Tom will ask her where her house is and she’ll say it’s not far away. That she can walk there from here. There have been a few occasions when she and Jim have set out walking to try to “go home” (Jim goes along because he can’t hear, and therefore doesn’t know the destination is imaginary). But after about ten minutes, they return.

They are both tiny, Jim and Mary, and the first time I met them I was surprised as Satan is tall—by comparison anyway at 5’11”—much taller than Jim, Mary, and his sister, none of whom top five feet by much, if any. Even the elusive Kenny (his brother), I’m told, is slight and perhaps 5’ 7”. Basically, Satan is the giant of his family.

We went out to dinner with the whole clan one night last week, before the trip to Austin. Went to an Italian place and rode in Johnny’s giant Dodge Ram. With three rows of seats, it can accommodate six people. Satan and I rode in the very back, and Jim and Mary in the middle.

I watched as Jim and Mary sat silent in their seats during the ride, their tiny gray heads bobbing along and barely clearing the backs of their seats. They had already had dinner, and were supposedly going along just for dessert. I was in for a surprise, however, because once at the restaurant, they ordered, and consumed with gusto, salads, pizza and then huge bowlfuls of cake topped with ice cream.

They may be small, but they eat like Longshoremen.

Satan and I are totally out of our element, being at loose ends all day. It got the better of us this morning, when I was seized by a sudden and irresistible desire to rearrange Janie’s living room furniture. Before long, we were both huffing and puffing, and Jim and Mary’s home health nurse, Big Cindy, even got in on the act, helping us to relocate the couch.

Eventually, the whole fiasco ended with us deciding that new lamps were in order and heading out to Target (woohoo!) to pick up a couple. But not JUST ANY Target. SUPER Target. This meant that we were also able to pick up groceries for dinner. Wee!

On the menu this evening is Greek salad, spaghetti, and three cheese garlic bread sticks. Satan and I have taken over dinner cooking duties as the working members of the family don’t arrive home until as late as seven o’clock. The traffic in these parts is HORRENDOUS.

And the HEAT. Oy. Don’t get me started. Today is the first day the temperature hasn’t been in the high nineties. Yesterday afternoon, during our last outing in Austin, which included us walking for long distances outside near the UT Austin campus, I became so overheated that Satan had motivate me to continue with promises of beer and cigarettes once we got to the car. Totally false, of course. The cigarette part. Otherwise, I’ve drunk my weight in mocha frappacino’s from Starbuck’s. They have remarkable restorative effects.

We will be at Janie’s until Saturday when we will check into the conference hotel downtown. I will then finally get my first glimpse of the River Walk. I may not be able to post any pictures until then either. We haven’t had the best of luck in these parts jumping on to wireless connections.

Until next time.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Deep in the Heart of Texas

I'm coming to you wireless from the coffee shop at Book People in beautiful downtown Austin, Texas where it's hot as blazes already in April but also where even the grocery store is groovy. I know this because I just spent an hour at the grocery store and, honestly, I didn't want to leave. You just can't say that about Kroger. I bought perfume there called "Wet Garden" that smells for all the world like wet flowers. "Whole Foods", an Austin original, is one of Satan's and, I must now admit, my favorite places to hang out in these parts. There's a pizza bar, a cheese bar, a sushi bar, a raw food bar, cosmetics, clothes, and that's just for starters. Everything, it seems, is organic.

As I was checking out with my "wet flower" purchase, I responded to (what I thought was) the cashier's perfunctory "How are you?" with a, "Fine, how are you?" to which he paused and responded, "Tense." Heavily tattooed (like many people around here) and looking a bit like "flea" of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, he wasn't exactly the picture of stress. Still, I went ahead and asked him what the problem was, and he told me he has a "big job interview" scheduled for tomorrow.

As the other hapless patrons waited patiently in line behind me, "Flea" chatted about how important the job would be to him, etc. I suggested he be sure to write a follow-up letter and make certain, for god's sake, to spell the person's name correctly when he did. Looking grateful he--still unhurriedly--told me that was a piece of advice he hadn't received from anyone else and that he'd be sure and do that. And all that is to say that people are just mighty groovy around here.

Meanwhile, here at the Book People coffee shop, to my right is an emaciated older man reading a magazine article about Chicken Carbonara, straight ahead, a pretty, but self-conscious Japanese girl studies her open laptop (probably a UT Austin student), and to my left, an extremely tall, thin cowboy with a stetson and a gray soul patch writes in his journal. In the great tradition of what always happens when I come to Austin, Jane Fonda will be here THE DAY AFTER I LEAVE to sign her new book, "My Life so Far". Oy Vey. Last time, I just missed Daniel Quinn.

Still, I am having a wonderful vacation, I must say. Satan is behaving himself very well and seems to have depressurized from "work" to "vacation" mode with a minimum of fuss (surprisingly). We just spent the weekend with his family in San Antonio where I even managed to survive a maximum security family reunion. And by this I mean it was held in a fenced park with a security gate. When we arrived there and had to be admitted, I intoned, "Where family members check in, but they don't check out."

Happily, my apprehension was for naught, and Satan's extended (and close)family members turned out to be surprisingly normal. Nice and pleasant, even. I have wonderful pictures, which I've even managed to download, thanks to Satan, from camera to this here laptop. Posting them to the blog is something he assures me we'll be able to accomplish before it's over. [Note to Dad: Main course at the cook-out: BRISKET. It was tender and delicious, no kidding]

I had lunch today on the very stage where Janis Joplin got her start. No kidding. "Threadgill's", another Austin tradition, began life as a filling station back in the fifties that slung a little hash out back. Fifty years later, with Janis and, arguably, the best chicken fried steak in Texas to it's credit, is a "must-do" when we're in town.

As we drive around in our big, Buick LaCrosse rental, Satan and I sing:

Oh, the stars at night,

Are big and bright

Deep in the heart of Texas!

Because that's what you have to sing that when you're down here. It's the law.

(Back soon with pictures, I hope.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Neatening

I’m trying to blog more. Can you tell?

Let’s see…the latest. I’m on a neatness tear. It all started with a messy junk drawer and is currently taking the form of a love affair with The Container Store. Go ahead on over there and check it out. Tell ‘em I sent you. I loves me some containers. Specifically, I LOVE my new spice rack, which doesn’t look like a spice holder as much as a lovely decorative bit of art that is actually really practical (and not at all expensive). Witness:

Those little cans are magnetized to stick to the metal which is in turn magnetized to stick to the refrigerator. Also, you can twist the tops to dispense the spices in a sprinkle or a pour as necessary. In other magnet news:

That’s right, a handy knife magnet which has freed up a world of counter space.

So, to summarize. Sick of your messy kitchen? Tired of having cluttered countertops? I recommend: magnets. Also? I challenge you to clean out your junk drawer. It will change your life. Take, for instance, the other day when I says to myself, “Damn, I could really use some electrical tape about now.” And then I realized, “Holy sh**! I actually know where the electrical tape IS!!” It was a heck of a moment.

I’ve also organized my utility closet and pantry. Fear me.

Through this whole process, I’ve discovered we have an insane amount of tape and glue in our possession. In fact, I’ve begun to wonder if Satan is maybe sneaking out at night and buying tape and glue and what his plans for these items might be. Seriously, we have epoxy and wood glue, scotch tape, the aforementioned electrical tape, the ever-popular duct tape, super glue, Elmer’s glue, packing tape, masking tape, and all this in multiple quantities. We have a huge amount of VELCRO. Velcro! Can you believe? See me for all your taping, gluing, and fastening needs.

Since I have so much on hand, I’ve tried to think of some sort of project involving tape and glue, but all I could come up with was a plan to affix Satan to the front of my car as a hood ornament. Which, while a great idea, and I certainly have the products to pull it off, it would be difficult to get him to be still long enough to apply all the tape and glue that would be necessary. He’s squirmy. And generally uncooperative.

Anyway, back to the (extremely exciting) subject at hand. Stay tuned for more organizational tips as this current obsession of mine, sadly, shows no sign of letting up any time soon. I know--you can hardly wait, right?

Otherwise, I’m on the verge of embarking on a vacation. I’ll be leaving for San Antonio, Texas, city of Satan’s birth, to visit his family and also to accompany him to a professional conference. We’re taking off on Friday. And, no, no matter what you might have heard, Satan WAS ABSOLUTELY NOT raised by a pack of jackals in the west Texas wilderness until the age of eleven when he was taken in by monks. No, there are actual fairly normal looking PEOPLE on the planet and living in San Antonio who, when pressed, will claim him as kinfolk.

As you might imagine, I’m a little apprehensive about being so far from home and in such close proximity to Satan (we’re not returning for a while) for so long. So, you know, think of me, will you? We’re taking a laptop and I’m hoping to blog while I’m away.

Check back soon for updates from exotic San Antonio.

I'll leave you with an exciting image from my (former) junk drawer:

Try to contain yourself.