Friday, July 26, 2013

Tedwords Picture Parade: Aztec quilts

harry true

At the Harry Truman presidential library. 

After a robust study of the problems facing the world and middle America in the late fourties and early fifties, we stepped into the courtyard. Corb stared at the twin walkways running parallel between a row of bushes and punctuated at both ends by flagpoles with a big old waving American flags. He wrinkled his nose. "I hate symmetry," he said.

"I like it," I replied. "Only, I like one thing to be slightly askew, so it's not completely symmetrical."

"That means it's not symmetrical, bonehead," laughed Corb.

"No, no!" I protested. "It's like the Aztecs and their rugs. They deliberately placed flaws in their works so that--"

"Those were the Amish and it's a complete fabrication," said Corb, smugly, and I thought, 'most rugs are complete fabrications,' but stopped myself. Didn't matter. Corb was on a roll. "Aztec quilts. Hah!"

Now I was starting to see red. "First off, I didn't say anything about quilts. I mentioned rugs. That's not the same thing."

"You said quilts."

"I did not."

"You said quilts."


"And secondly, it's actually the Amish, not the Aztecs," said Corb at his most patronizing. "I just read it in a book about common American myths, and the whole thing a lie. The Amish didn't do that with their quilts. I know, I just read it!"

Really, I did try to sound calm, even though every fabrication in my being (it's a joke, son) wanted to rip out his lungs. "No. It was the Aztecs. I'm not denying what you read was about the Amish, but I can assure you, what I read was about the Aztecs, and I read it many years ago. It stated that they believe that if a certain craft was too perfect, it was..."

"An insult to God, yeah yeah yeah," said Corb, waving it away. "Maybe you just messed it up after all these years. It was about the Amish, and they actually didn't do anything of the sort. Aztec quilts. Hah!"



"I DID NOT!!!!!!!!!"

"Hmmm," said Corb's cousin, sounding slightly stunned, as we walked out of the courtyard and into the research area. "Kind of wish I had taken my own car, today..."



Six hours later, as I was relaxing in the hotel room, I came across the following internet post:

"I could have ripped it back, but I refer you back to that philosophy of the Aztecs, who deliberately introduced flaws into their work, as they knew that if they one day found a perfectly crafted item, it had to have been made by the Gods. I don’t necessarily have the same belief, but it makes me chill out when I make mistakes that won’t make my whole piece unravel!"

Justification! I copied the post and sent the link to Corb and Shelley. It's the little things in life that make it worth living.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Stupid Shit I Read in People Magazine (July 15 edition)

Matt Perry

This week's issue of People magazine...or was it last week's? I think I actually have next week's issue, too. Gah, the early cover dating to try and maximize sales ploy always messes me up...

Anyway, this week's issue reminded me that I had wanted to post SOMETHING about the fact that former New England Patriots tight end (that always sounds so dirty to me) and current suspected mass murderer Aaron Hernandez lives only two minutes away from the old Homestead. I mean, you could literally walk to his home from my old home. Not that I would!

Can you believe it? We have a mass murderer in our neighborhood! And we don't even live in New York City.

In fact, on the day the body of his former "friend" (with friends like these...) was discovered, Corb was driving through the Industrial Park where the body was discovered, to pick up the kidlets, and noticed a bunch of police officers scouring the woods. He remembers thinking at the time, "Now, this is odd." Then the thought popped out of his head.  I only learned about that one a week after it happened...Corb gets distracted by shiny objects.

Actually, Annie was friendly with Aaron Hernandez. Because she used to work in the hotel industry, she struck up a friendship with him while he was a rookie and she was working at a hotel near Foxboro stadium. She said he seemed like a really nice, down to earth guy. And, she had bumped into him at the supermarket a few days before the murder and spoke to him for a half an hour about things like babies and diapers. You know, new parent kind of things.

She feels kind of sad about the whole thing. I just find it interesting that you can know someone one a new parent, as a sweet rookie player...and because you know him or her in that manner, you find it hard to see that person in another light...say, as a gangsterish thug who seems to likes to orchestrate executions.

We get stuck. I think there's a scientific term for it. Our initial impression of a person becomes the predominate impression--we see them as we knew them. It's kind of like my relationship with my sister Laurie. It will never progress any farther because we knew each other (to quote Doctor Who) in a fixed time and place. That transcends all, that defies any sense of time or passage or growth. Or, lack of growth. Annie wants to see him as a sweet new father with a gazillion dollars from a big football team.

It's kind of like how I see Matthew Perry. I want to see him as that annoying Chandler on the show Friends, not as an Asian Addict, which it appears he's turned in to. Why he's addicted to Asians is beyond me, frankly. I mean, I find many Asians attractive, but I wouldn't exactly say that I'm addicted to any one race of people...oh, what? Oh, that's "As an Addict"? I always do read those headlines way too quickly...

Anyway, today is the day that I speak with my boss about my last day at work! I handed in my notice last Wednesday, but he then went away to Mexico for a week and I haven't spoken with him since. Today should actually be my last day in the office, doing actual work. I'm planning to go to New York to go over the transition Monday and Tuesday, and then have a trip to Missouri with Corb to visit some relatives of his. Expect lots of farm photos!

This has been a weird week. Organizing your life for departure after twenty years at one place is just a strange feeling. More on that later.

Tedwords Picture Parade: Helping hands


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Roam with a gnome.

Up until a few days ago, we had a next door neighbor who lived on the second floor of our apartment. Her name is Pat, and she has beautiful gray hair and a broad, open face, with hardly a wrinkle on it, despite her years. She has a pear-shaped body and  never fails to have a big bright smile on her face. I've never heard her say a negative word about anything. That might account for the absence of wrinkles.

She also has a hunch to her back, which makes it extremely difficult to get around. Some days I would watch her make her way up the stairs and wondered what it was like to live like that. She'd slouch down, and she'd grab on to the railing. Then, step by step, she'd shuffle her way up the stairs, resigned and determined. She'd never asked for help, even if she had a big load of groceries she had to carry up the stairs. Our friend Linda had informed us early on that she'd have been offended if we had asked. She wanted to do it on her own, and did not want anyone to make a big deal of her disability.

The only time she actually asked for anything was during the winters, when it would snow out. Then, she would let Corb and me shovel out her car for it. She drove a white PT Cruiser, and the retro look suited and framed Pat. I could just see her tooling around in her jaunty vehicle, adventuring in a classic car with that big confident smile on her face.

Anyway, about a week ago, we started noticing signs that Pat was moving. Came home one day to find two guys moving a couch out of her house. Her daughter was stopping by more frequently, carrying boxes. And then,one day, there was a big moving van there, and a steady stream of stuff was heading out of her place.

I managed to grab Pat during one of these streams. "You leaving us?" I asked, trying to keep things light and fluffy, just the way I thought she liked it.

She beamed, her bright intelligent eyes squinting slightly, as she nodded her head enthusiastically. "Yep! Tomorrow's my last day here." And then, as if she had to get it out. "Thanks for shoveling the car for me, all those times. You guys were a lot of help!"

"How about if she's going to a nursing home?" I fretted to Corb, later that night, in bed. "That back of hers might be getting worse. How about if she's not able to get around any more? I'd hate to see her sad. I'd hate to see her in a nursing home."

"Relax," said Corb. It was ten and he was anxious to get to sleep. He had been awake enough for one day. "She'll be fine. Don't worry." These were words he has to say quite a bit to me, by the way. He is well used to them.

The next morning was Saturday and I had to bring Theo to work early. As I made my way to the first floor, I looked outside, and I noticed that Pat's Cruiser was parked in the front. There was Pat, in the driver's seat. Oh God, I thought, this is her good-bye.

Then I noticed something else. Standing next to the Cruiser was Pat's daughter with a big ceramic lawn gnome in her hands. As I walked down, she placed the gnome on the roof of the car, right over Pat's head. She stood back to take a photo. Pat flashed a winning smile.

I allowed time for the photo to be taken, then walked out. Pat had a sheepish look on her face, as if I had caught her doing something she hadn't wanted anyone else to see, "We're going traveling," she called out, sounding happier than I've ever heard her. "He's coming with us."

Immediately, my mood lifted. This was eaxctly how I wanted to think about Pat! Traveling the country, seeing the sites, along with her daughter and her lawn gnome. Taking photos, sharing them with friends. Pat in DC, Pat at Mt. Rushmore. That big broad smile, those bright eyes, seeing the country, taking a road trip. Adventuring.

Was it one last trip before a nursing home? I don't want to know and I don't care. I just want to think of Pat perpetually discovering America. Eating at diners. Bringing her lawn gnome in for a nibble. No flat tires, no car trouble, just blue skies, apple pie, and sunshine. And, Pat.

If you happen to spot a white PT Cruiser driven by an older lady with a lawn gnome, say hi, won't you? That's probably my friend Pat. Roaming. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Stupid Shit I Read in People Magazine (July 8 edition)


She was in her bedroom, where she clearly had been all day. Her laptop was resting on her knees. Probably working on a story, writer that she is. Head bent down. She looked a little irritated that I had interrupted her concentration. "Yes?"

"The love I have for you is primal."

Ashes wrinkled her nose. If I had farted into her room, she couldn't have looked more disgusPaula-Deen-Under-Fire-PEOPLE-Coverted. "That's...really creepy, dad."

What a sweet girl. I beamed.

"Dad, could you do me a favor and tell that to Theo?" she asked.

"Of course." I pulled back her curtain and walked down the door to his room. Knocked on his door. He didn't answer. I waited a few seconds, in case he was masturbating, and then opened it up. "Theo?"

He looked up from the video game he was playing. "Yes?"

"The love I have for you is primal."

I stood there and smiled in my most winning fashion. He stared into my eyes for a moment. And then he said, "Could you please leave?"

I closed the door, humming 'Can you feel the love tonight," to myself. Ah, the love of a father with his children.

"You know how bad that sounds, right?" Ashes asked, as I headed back to her room. "Primal just sounds plain dirty. It sounds like you love us in a dirty way."

"How terrible!" I said, shocked beyond belief. "I just read in People magazine that famous actor James Gandolfini was found dead in Italy on a trip with his 14 year old son. And when his former fiancee Lora Somoza heard it, she thought, 'At least he was with the great love of his life when he passed. I remember he once said the love he had for his son is primal.' Primal. Isn't that touching? And all I wanted to do was pass that on to you."

Ashes shook her head. "It sounds dirty to me."

Dirty? Ah, the nerve of these kids! Equating primal love with something dirty. They don't get it, the way I got it, the way recently-deceased noted actor James Gandolfini got it. The ingrates don't know good love when they see it. We'll see if I ever shower my primal love on them again!

Ingrates. It was enough for me to take up drinking. Again.

I waited until Corb arrived home from the work, after the kids were long gone. I waited until he had taken his shoes off and he had thrown them into the closet. And then I said,

"The love I have for you is primal."

Corb blinked for a moment, taking in this heartfelt declaration of love. It was clear, he was looking for the right words to express the feelings he had inside. It was obvious, he wasn't going to let me down, the way my kids had. He would clearly be the one I took to Italy to have a heart attack with.

"You smell like doo doo butter," he replied. Then, headed for the bathroom.

Sigh. It must be the delivery. Clearly, James Gandolfini was a far, far better actor.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Are you experienced?

Mr. Trip 2

Stop me if you've heard this one before: there we were, in a cornfield in Oklahoma, just me, a tornado victim, a production crew, and an insane director.

Stop right there. Jesus, I always mess up jokes. The truth is, we couldn't have been in a cornfield. That whole week I was in Oklahoma, I didn't once see a corn field. One of the natves clued me in on a dirty little secret on my second day there: in Oklahoma, the corn really isn't as high as an elephant's eye. In fact, the only line in that song that has any honesty is the one about the wind sweeping down the plain.

And boy, does it. Which was why I was standing there in ninety degree weather with that tornado victim and that crazy director, filming a video in the sweltering heat. What nature had wrought had been harrowing, and the stories being told about hiding in closets as the twister closed down upon your house, of the dreams destroyed and property lost spoke to the heroic spirit of the people who lived here. It also told me I'd never live in this place, not in a million years.

"And, cut." Her raspy cigarette-ravaged voice, reminding me of none other than Mercedes McCambridge, filled the ear.

With that, Amy hopped off the soap box to give the old man sitting in the rocking chair a big hug. She was a comical figure, an aging sixties hippie with a big floppy hat on her head and a willowy floral outfit that she insisted protected her from the sun. She ran over to the man, gave him a big sweaty hug. "You were so good," she cooed, holding his head in her hand. He gazed up at her with complete adoration. Then, when all that nonsense was done, she turned to the cameraman, all business. "How was that?" she barked out.

The cameraman, not one for gush, nodded. "It was okay."

Amy frowned. "Okay? I don't want okay, I want to know how it went. Okay doesn't tell me anything. When I ask you a question, I want an answer. Christ!"

Well, that did it. She was so completely done with him. She turned to me. "Can you believe this guy?" She moved closer, whispering in a conspiratorial fashion, which was ridiculous, because he was still only about a foot away, and could hear every word. "You know, I never wanted to use this clown for this shoot. Too negative. I've always hated working with him. He has a bad attitude. When I saw his name on the production list, I wanted to fire him on the spot. But I gave him a second chance. I believe in redemption, Ted." Her voice rose, as she started to forget she was talking shit about the guy right next to her. "I wish I had fired him. He's lousy." She elongated that last word for dramatic effect. The cameraman looked like he was about to say something, but then decided to move on.

In an instant, her attitude changed again. Amy was like a tornado in Oklahoma. Her dark moods would come up her quickly, cause havoc, and then disappear from view. Now she was beaming at me. She reached out her hands for me to take them. "What did you think, babe?"

I grabbed those sweaty hands. I was a PR pro, after all. I always knew the right bullshit to sling. "Just great, Ames! This is going to be terrific."

I mean, it was a company video, for God's sake. We weren't exactly filming Gone with the Wind. We had a small camera crew and a styrofoam board to control the lighting. I wasn't exactly expecting miracles.

I also hadn't been expecting Amy. When we first started on the video, I thought the director of the shoot would be the same guy who had produced our last one, three years ago in Alabama. He was a low key guy, soft spoken and efficient. Corporate. Unfortunately, he had been busy and she had been doing a lot of work for the company recently, so...I should have known during my first encounter when, by way of introduction, he has passed the baton over to her by saying, "Welcome to the Amy Danielson experience."

She lived up to that introduction from the very start. Amy was anything but Corporate, a fact that I kind of liked. She was from Los Angeles, a fact that she wore proudly. Within five minutes of our first meeting, we were bickering about animal rescue shelters. One of our customers had lost a dog in the tornado, and Amy got it into her head that she wanted to interview someone at the local animal shelter to see if that happened a lot.

"Amy, this is a video about how our company helped out our customers," I pointed out.

"Oh, I know, I know," she rasped, clearly brushing that aside. "The lost animal is an interesting side story, though. Maybe we could end the video with information on how to contact your local animal rescue league to make a donation or something. Or, hey! Maybe the company could make a donation!"

Maybe Sarah McLachlin could come in and star in it, too. "But Amy," I repeated, trying to be patient. "That's not the point of this video. When would you film that? It would take a long time to shoot, and we only have two days."

"Just think about it. Be creative."

And I was the one she got along with! As I said, she hated her production crew, with the sole exception of her Production manager Cindy, who she was paying for out of her own pocket. Cindy was everything Amy was not: sweet, friendly, calm, and possessed of the patience of Job. The rest of the crew Ames had no use for. They were all misfits: the camerman (negative), sound guy (lazy), and the PA, who was a hot college junior (clueless.)

She did like the customers--and they loved her. She was truly excellent with that. On the other hand, while she seemed to like most of the company adjusters (with one big exception,) they didn't quite get what the Amy Danielson experience was all about.

Which made sense. It was kind of like Sheriff Bart coming to visit the local townsfolk in Blazing Saddles. Cut to narration by Gene Wilder: "You have to understand, these are simple, practical folks. People of the earth." these are people who are used to dropping everything to cross the country and help out people during times of disaster. They are not used to LA folk and their ways. And Amy had ways...

Like, after the first day of shooting, she made it a point at dinner to go around the room to each and every adjuster and kiss them on the top of their heads. It was meant to say "I love all of you," I guess, but the look of irritation on their faces as this flaky director made the rounds was priceless. Or the way she would try to get the male adjusters to loosen up by brushing up against them with her boobs and rubbing their arms and shoulders and having deep, thirty minute conversations with them. Perhaps that would have been helpful, in anything other than 90 degree weather. In that heat, it was simply sweaty, gross and annoying. It made them more agitated, and it kept the rest of us waiting around, annoyed.

Then there was the way she liked to disrobe. She was a practicing nudist, she confessed to me at dinner on the night of the kissing-go-round. She thought nothing of taking off her clothes at the drop of a hat. I didn't realize that she would put this into practice until the second day of the shoot, when she decided to take her clothes off and change into a new outfit. Although she had her poor PA use the styrofoam sound board to cover her from the front, that hardly protected the sides. I discovered this fact as one of the adjusters and I were walking back to the scene.

We stopped, mid conversation. There they were, in dazzling technicolor. Amy's breasts, dangling in the breeze. "When did this become a nature video?" I joked, but the adjuster, a good old boy from Texas, turned all shades of beet red and walked away as quickly as possible.

Now, I'm no prude, and aside from this unexpected display of exhibitionism, I rather enjoyed my initimate discussions with Ames. At dinner, I opened up about my life, and she chatted away about hers--about her three husbands, especially about her gay second husband and his huge cock. About how she found him in Central Park one day, servicing several other men at a park bench. These are the sort of stories I live for. Tell me more, more, MORE LA lady! This was the foundation upon which we became good friends.

Anyway, I am sure it will be a really good video, because Amy really did pour time and creativity into it. The stories of the customers and adjusters will certainly come through. Be that as it may, I think that the common consensus is that we'd think tiwce before hopping aboard the Amy Danielson experience again. She was too mean to her crew and tended to agitate the adjusters. She was moody and mercurial and had to be reined in a lot. All in all, the end probably wouldn't justify another means.

But, oh! What an experience it was. When it comes to devastation, I will never forget the tornado-strong winds that gusted out of L.A. Amy. She is one of a kind and a character, and I like that about her. It gave me something to talk about for a week now. It made the time spent memorable. In a world where all we really have are memories, that's saying a great deal. My time spent with Amy will certainly not be gone with the wind...not for any time soon.