Saturday, October 30, 2010

Prom of the Dead

After the heartbreak montage from my last post, you may be relieved, dear reader, that I’m trying Halloween again. I got invited to a party that’s happening soon! In fact, I need to put down the laptop and get dressed right now!
The friend who invited me as her guest is sick, so I’m flying solo. I know a few of the people who’ll be there, though. Plus, I’m in a new city, so I’m a new Nicole. The Nicole Who Isn’t Afraid To Show Up And Party With Strangers.
I also have a new coping strategy. (Not booze. That’s an old strategy.) I have a mask that entirely covers my face!
I found a prom dress yesterday, with sleeves like floral velour puff pastries. I also found a cherry red jumpsuit with pockets and fierce shoulder pads. The top part of the suit is arranged in flattering polyester ripples. The suit is clearly designed for someone with a shorter torso, but if I slump a little, it fits!
My initial thought was to be Prom Zombie tonight. When I rolled into the Value Village to find a zombie headpiece, though, they were fresh out. The place was mobbed. A few people were checking out with carts of everyday thrift store fare, like slacks and lamps. But most of us had a witch hat or handcuffs or a skull mask in hand.
Zombie: out. Plan B: a creepy skull mask with a black hood that I realized later is a nun’s habit (with a beige band instead of white. I guess it’s hard to keep the whites white when you’re buried then exhumed). The accessory is labeled “Sinister Sister,” which makes me like it all the more.
The skull still has most of its teeth, though they're a haunting shade of peach rimed with paprika/fire cheeto red.
And I just noticed a design flaw: there’s no opening for the mouth! See, I will be on my best behavior.
It takes some doing to be undead.
My usual party strategy is to stand by the food table and talk to the foolish folk who make eye contact with me until they find an excuse to leave (“hey, I promised my friend some cocktail weenies, so, uh, nice talking with you”). With my face obscured, at least till I get hungry, I can stand like a silent, creepy sentinel wherever I like.
Tomorrow morning, the Monster Dash 5k in Manito Park. Might bust out the red jumpsuit for that one. I’m not so sure about running in a skull habit that obscures my Gatorade-hole.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

First-Line Theory and Halloween

This Frida is another treasure from
old town Albuquerque.

The last time I put any muscle into a Halloween costume was three years ago, when I fashioned a Frida Kahlo outfit using things lying around my house (including a turquoise peasant skirt I borrowed from Hazel, my grandmother, and a stuffed monkey whose paws attached with Velcro). I also scouted the Dollar Tree and Michael’s. I tend to have panic attacks in Michael’s or any store with a scrapbooking section. But I had a vision for this costume, and I come from a line of schoolteachers and crafters, so as they say on Project Runway, I had to “make it work.”
            My Frida was anachronistic, post-accident in a partial body cast but mobile enough to shake it on the dance floor. The internet wisdom about do-it-yourself torso casts is geared mostly toward pregnant women who want to take an impression of their watermelon bellies. Maybe if I’m ever in the family way I’ll understand this, but from the outside, these sites look an awful lot like the expectant parents subset of Awkward Family Photos.
            Last Halloween was a cancelled Dinosaur Jr. concert.
            The year before I borrowed Harmony’s purple velvet jumpsuit at the last minute to be a Mom at a Holiday Party.
            The Frida year, though, Harmony and I had just moved into a new apartment. A few friends had helped us unload the moving truck, and then that afternoon I was driving around town for ribbon and Rigid Wrap. I was also falling in love, though of course now I would tell my earlier self not to bother.
            Your average romance: He was a robot and I was Frida.
            These days my students and I talk about the First Line theory of prose and dating: can you know what you need to know from the very beginning?
He was a robot with a gutted television head and crinkly pipe arms. In my new living room full of boxes, he taped Christmas lights to his pipes in case he could find an outlet at the party and plug in. He was a punctual robot, and I was not. I knew the party would go on till 3 or 4 am or until the ambulances arrived. I was Frida, plastering my bodice, taking my time, gluing silk flowers on my headband, grooming my unibrow glued to my face with craft glue (endangering my eye area, not to be recommended),
            With the robot, did I know what I needed to know? Did the first sentence give me enough information?
We walked together to the party at our friends’ house. My hand was warm in the robot’s hand as we entered a loud room full of friends I barely recognized.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Apothecaries, Safe Journeys, Other Luminous Things

Full moon!
As I write this, a dear friend is driving through Montana, convinced that, in her words, "geography is relative," and Spokane is on her route back to New York City.
I ran last night under this big moon with the Flying Irish running club. Right after I moved here, I ran with them once; I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to join them again. Each week they run a 5k, and this week’s was the Stair Master, so named for the many stairs we trotted down and then back up near Spokane Falls. (Permit me an aside: When people ask me if I like Spokane, I tell them 1. that it’s too early to tell and 2. that I live within a short walk of a waterfall and a Nordstrom, and this seems about perfect to me.)
Speaking of other luminous things: I bought this San Rafael icon in a little shop in Albuquerque’s Old Town last weekend. I’m pretty bumbling and new to hagiography, but I like thinking about the saints. When I lived in Moldova, I was delighted that people celebrated their Saint’s Day (ziua onomastica) in addition to their birthdays.
This store had loads of Virgin Mary (especially Our Lady of Guadalupe) and Frida Kahlo merch, and rows of dangling saints attached to pinholed tin. I’ll put this San Rafael in my office. The room is homier now, with a latchhook butterfly rug, my Ikea white boards covered with notes, and shelves of leftover books from the department’s fundraiser sale last spring. 
San Rafael is not my saint (I suppose that would be Nicholas), and his feast day (Sept 29) is not my birthday (March 10). What swayed me is the description of his powers on the back of the tin icon: “Patron of lovers, safe journeys, apothecaries, pharmacists, happy meetings, health inspectors, young people leaving home, invoked against blindness.” Plus check out the guy’s wings, fetching cape, and rustic legwarmers! Is he carrying lunch, or a whimsical handbag? Either way, I’m on board!
A Correction:
A vocal member of my vast readership (heh) asked if Estancia’s festival (described in my last post) was actually Punkin Chunkin, not Pumpkin Chunkin. I thought I paid particular attention to this detail on the freestanding sign at the turnoff for the dusty field. I think what happened is that I so wanted the sign to read “Punkin Chunkin’” that I mistrusted my reading. Here’s a photo of a sign near the cannons:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pumpkin Chunkin

     When you’ve got dust ground into your Steve Madden flats, and powdered sugar smeared on your lap and your mouth, you know it’s been a good time.
I liked these long-legged pumpkins featured in a student art
 exhibit at the Pumpkin Chunkin festival.

      I’ve been in New Mexico for a conference, and I’m ending the weekend by visiting my friend Barbara and her parents in Albuquerque. This afternoon we attended the Pumpkin Chunkin contest in Estancia, NM. Pumpkins on the smallish side were “chunked” into the air with slingshots the size of small hammocks and a fleet of pneumatic cannons with names like El Launcho Grande and The Patriot.
The goal was to chunk one's pumpkin through a tire suspended between two poles out in the nearby field. Some pumpkins were launched with such force that they split in midair, or were impossible to detect before they hit the ground.
     Barbara’s dad launched three pumpkins, and the second one nearly sailed through the tire.
     Chunkin seemed too athletic for me. Or rather, I took chunkin in a different direction, as I ate most of a funnel cake (“funeral cake,” as my dad calls them) and tried not to get powdered sugar smudged all over my camera.
     Barbara and I are racing tomorrow, so carb loading is in order. She’s running the Duke City Marathon, and I'm running the half.
These rad headcoverings were
for sale with other accessories
 and foodstuffs at the festival.
      Although I’m far away from home, any of my homes, I find something comforting in a small town festival. 
      My carryon luggage is already stuffed from yesterday’s thrippie haul at Buffalo Exchange (more on this another day). I couldn't help but browse the booths offering luxury sets of sheets, Pampered Chef, local jam, bread, honey, pinto beans, and, of course, pumpkins. 
      I wished I could carry a pumpkin back on the plane.
      I did not know which to prefer, watching the large, warty pumpkins sun themselves in a truck bed, or cheering for the smaller ones shot into the sky. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teaching, That's My Bag

For the last two days, I’ve been carrying homework and books in a Rosauers grocery bag in addition to my overstuffed turquoise purse. To be fair, the grocery bag does have handles (the bag actually labels them “(Love)Handles.”
This afternoon, books and folders emerged from my ratty purse like clowns out of a circus car.
Oh my god, that bag, a student said.
Pink ahola and new
teaching bag rest
I love my turquoise purse with its racy zips gashed down the front. The purse is the color of a diner booth. Its soft vinyl body is stained from dragging it all over the West this summer. The shoulder strap is cracking.
It was never meant to be a Teaching Bag. 
At the reading group with some teachers last weekend, while we ate ice cream sundaes in the kitchen before discussing Martin Luther, I looked at my sad sad bag. I’d dropped it on the floor by my feet and drifted across the kitchen. Why I didn’t leave the bag in the living room, I don’t know. But in the bright kitchen light, my purse slumped like a flaccid, obese Easter egg. Two other teachers were standing with the bag at their feet, while I chatted by the ice cream cartons and bowl of candy corn.
I pretended that one of those guys brought the bag, the bag with cobwebs of old tissues, clots of receipts, loose change, stray tampons, and allergy pills that spilled out of the bottle last June but were never rounded up.
I pretended not to know my own purse.
True to my thrippie roots, I am open to the treasure of a pre-owned work bag. But I confess that thrift stores have their limitations, and I have yet to find a bag at a thrift store that I didn't carry out of irony.
I had visions of trotting down to my nearby Nordstrom and treating myself, upon deposit of first paycheck, to a hip young professional work bag. It’s time to make the investment, I said, in my Image.
That was in August. Now we’re practically at midterm.
And I’m choosing paper over plastic.
I hit up the TJ Maxx last night after work.
I bought a new bag, I told my students today, but I haven’t quite moved into it yet.
You won’t even recognize me when you see me with that new bag.
Like the last few teaching bags I’ve had, this one is OK. It’s gray, with tasteful patches of studs near the handles. It will get me through the next few months, and it won’t show dirt like the turquoise purse.
I’ll cut the tags off of New Bag tonight while I'm packing for a conference. And I’ll load up my loyal wheeled carry-on. I call it the baby pink turtle. When I flew to California with John and his two younger kids last March, his daughter insisted on pulling this bag all over LAX, even though she had her own duffle to carry.
The bag is that cool.
Pink Aloha, that’s what L.L. Bean calls that pattern.
Aloha—where I come from, that’s another word for classy.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spooky Boo

I can’t remember how “spooky boo” entered our family lexicon, but I’m guessing it was through one of my grandmother Hazel’s seasonally themed answering machine messages. “Boo” alone is spooky enough, I think, unless one is using it in the sense of boyfriend/honeypot. As Halloween approaches, I should question whether or not I have limited myself to only one kind of Boo, when so many are possible. Glitter Boo. Spotted Boo. Nonstick Boo. Free Boo.

I caught a glimpse of these scary dudes
in Spookane's Garland district.
A couple of hours ago, my friend Jessie emailed me a picture of her new short short haircut that “just happened” as a response to some heavy feelings. She’s an upside down Samson, flexing her biceps and a liberating ‘do.
Shorn Boo.
I told my brother that sometimes I eat some of Dickens’ tuna from the can and it feels like we’re sharing a meal. “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard,” he said.
Kitty Boo.
My brother also suggested I get a Neti pot for my sinus stoppage-uppage. We discussed how odd it was that there’s nary a neti among my hippie accoutrements. “I’m surprised you don’t have one with a sun on one side and a moon on the other,” he said.  “I think I should look for one shaped like a uterus, with fallopian-tube handles,” I replied.
Womb Boo.
Driving down Ash Street tonight, I saw a pink and white bra strapped across the wide parts, the hips if you will, of a crosswalk road sign. I thought of an exercise my writing students handed in a few weeks ago, in which they kept lists of specific things that pleased them and angered them (without explaining why). Crosswalk bra would go in "pleased" or (write-in candidate) WTF.
Secret Boo.
*Spoiler Alert* I bought my dad a(n unused, sealed in the package) mullet wig at Value Village last weekend, thinking he might add it to his Halloween headgear rotation. Dad, are you reading this? Did you get past "uterus"? Sorry.
Achy Breaky Boo.
I feel behind on my work (and my wee blog!), but Sara gave me free tickets to hear NPR superstar Howard Berkes at the Bing Crosby theater tomorrow night. I have season tickets (ahem, what’s that sound? Oh, that’s me walking through the door labeled “bourgeois fabulous”) to off-broadway South Pacific on Thursday night, and then I’m supposed to meet with a group of smart and kind professors on Friday to talk about some Martin Luther.
Busy Boo.