Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winter, I Feel You!

The sun is, strictly speaking, up before 7:30, but it’s muffled somewhere under the covers and not shedding much light. The middle lane down First Avenue is a snow hump. A forearm-of-Thor icicle glistens outside my bathroom window.
When I moved across town from my job, I knew the day would come when I’d surrender my car keys and hop a bus to campus.
And that day is here.
I recognize that riding the bus is not a higher-order thinking task. Why should it cause anxiety? I rode public transportation all over Eastern Europe, ciphering Cyrllic metro station names in Kiev, monkey miming in Odessa to get a taxi ride to a seafood restaurant.
When I rode the bus last week, for the first time since moving to Spokane, I felt a little lost, a little nervous that I’d look like the designated airhead who doesn’t know that (duh) you pay when you board. I worried that my exact change would fall out of my coat pocket and into the snow.
The bus takes me a way through Spokane I’d never traveled before, past an “office machine” store called Abacus, past Donut Parade with marching fritters and ├ęclairs painted outside the shop.
Plus the bus is prime people-watching time. A woman boards with a Warhol-ish Betty Boop four-color tote bag. Two men sit on opposite sides of the bus and carry on a loud and punchy debate about the efficacy of labor unions. (Who has energy to be so loud so early?)
I am not winter’s biggest cheerleader (I really might not drive again until April). But when the trees are lit and thickly frosted, and men and women board their busses in hoods and scarves like tall schoolchildren with lattes, well, there’s something a little magical about it. (Also, I went to a yoga class recently during which the instructor reminded us to feel each season. Winter, I feel you!)
The short walk from the station back to my house reminds me that I live in a city, so I’m not a shut-in, even in a storm. The bus plaza, I might add, is a couple of blocks from Macy’s, Banana Republic, and a 20-screen multiplex movie theater.
This could be dangerous.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Two Heads Are Better

Happy Thanksgiving!
Last weekend I hosted a little dinner party for my upper-level students. You can imagine that Dickens the cat was in heaven, with ten maidens cooing over his winter coat and climbing skills.
I could have made the evening a potluck affair, but I wanted the challenge of cooking for a dozen. Could I do it? Answer: yes!
The white bust joins Kitchen Hermaphrodite
as guardians of my computer. I wonder what
they talk about when I'm gone!
I kept singing Ingrid Michaelson’s lines I’m a big girl now/ See my big girl shoes, which have become my newest mantra. (In case you’re curious, dear reader, my particular Big Girl shoes of the day were my hot pink easter crocs: everything you want in footwear while you’re cooking and making multiple runs to the trash, recycling and ill-fated compost bins outside.)
For this party, I worked out my Thanksgiving impulses a few days early. The meal wasn’t Thanksgiving in the sense of a big golden poultry orb full of breadcrumbs and butter. But I enjoyed spending my few hours of daylight peeling, defrosting, frying, and baking. Plus I got to use my new-to-me tablecloth (red with a white and silver retro snowflake pattern. I can probably use it past Christmas, into January).
The night before the party, I made a last-minute stop to the Northwest Christian Schools thrift store to buy more plates and bowls. A bonus: I found a bust of a dreamy-eyed boy in a ruffled shirt. This bust joins the color bust already guarding my office computer. I like the idea of two heads for winter. Isn’t January named for two-headed Janus, who looks toward past and the future? 
Hey, who's that Thrippie
shrugged into her neck gator?
I hereby proclaim the message of two.  I might get a new cat, for a total of two. I might not always live by myself. There could be two.
The dishes I bought at Northwest Christian thrift (including a Rapunzel Barbie heart-shaped bowl!) will fill out my Party Box. Brunch for 10? No problem, now that I have a Party Box.
When I taught in Moldova a few years ago, I marveled that all of the women I knew had been minted from the same Hospitality Machine. Everyone had multiple sets of dishes, an armory of glassware and cutlery. Most houses and even apartments had a “casa mare,” a big room full of hulking cabinets and rugs that was used for entertaining.
When I attended my first wedding party in Moldova, I realized that that’s where the dishes come from. People brought the bride stacks of gilt-rimmed plates wrapped in cellophane. Pillows, blankets, table linens were all part of the dowry (the bed linens needed, of course, in case the elements are too strong, or one’s dinner guests too immobilized to face the night).
Looks like I’m making my own dowry. I’m a big girl now….
So long as the thrift stores stay open, I think I’ve got this one.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

All That Glitters

My grandmother Hazel is 92 and wears gold shoes.
Viva Solid Gold Ziploc
Limited Edition containers!
Mine poses with new cacti and
contains apple lentil salad.
I feel a sense of pride when I realize I’ve correctly answered the question What Would Hazel Do?  Would Hazel buy gold tupperware instead of regular old tupperware? Yes. Yes she would.
I bought a set of Ziploc Limited Edition square gold boxes, and a few days later I bought Ziploc Limited Edition gold tubs. They motivate me to bring my lunch to school and to send food home with friends when they come over for dinner, though I do feel a little silly paying for empty plastic boxes. I’ve developed the habit of hanging on to food containers, especially the fancy salad ones from Safeway or the more robust opaque tubs of sour cream or yogurt.
But how can I resist these? They’re Limited Edition! Solid gold! And I’ve already outed myself as a shopper for whom cuteness trumps principles. For example, my Target backsliding chronicled in the last post. To be fair, John had Target gift cards to use up, so I figured the money was already spent. My shopping far outpaced the cards, though, which foiled my plan to stick it to the man.
I’m thinking about plastic and packaging, and how much I pay for it just to get to my food, because I watched the movie No Impact Man over the weekend. What commitment by Colin and his family to generate no trash! I found his wife to be an especially compelling character. What strength to give up caffeine (because coffee can’t be grown locally) and shopping (because you’re trying to examine your consumer habits) for your man and his project of sustainability!
Closer to home, meaning my new Spokane-home, my friend Katie has vowed not to buy anything new for a year, and is 3 months into her challenge.
And as blog leads on to blog, I'm finding many other cool projects like the 30 for 30
challenge, for which you're supposed to take 30 pieces from your closet and mix them into 30 different outfits (with no shopping for 30 days). I missed the official beginning of the challenge, but I like the spirit. (Notice how I'm letting myself off the hook here? In my defense, it's hard to avoid shopping when I'm still settling into a new town, and making the jump from squirrelly grad student with no dress code to a Professional Type Woman Person). 
And speaking of projects: With all these new nighttime hours, I’m catching up on my Project Runway, which always inspires me to take risks and aim for style under pressure.
And speaking of inspiration: On my drive home last night, I saw a driveway flanked by four-foot-tall red and green illuminated candy canes. It must be awfully fun to park inside a board game and know you’re home. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Facing It

I found these brown-eyed ladies
among the common dinner plates.
Last weekend I found a pair of what I’ve been calling "face plates" at Value Village. Face plate sounds more like a printing term than a kitschy accessory. In the dishes aisles were two plates with fluted edges and portraits of women with brown eyes and what looks like tastefully Aqua-Netted hair. There were no names on the back of the plates, just a price tag. I looked among the other plates, dinner plates trimmed in floral or country cabin or geometric designs, to find other face plates for this set. No luck.   I was on a fruitless mission for some pyrex baking dishes (part of an onset of Lasagna Fever), but I knew these brown-eyed sisters/cousins/friends/muses would come home with me.
And they wouldn’t be used for salad under my watch.
Of course I can’t help wonder about the provenance of these face plates. Are there other orphaned plates out there from a larger set that once spanned a Meemaw’s mantel? Were these women the instigators or the recipients of these plates? Or both?
John hung the plates for me near the sink, so I lock eyes with these ladies several times a day. I like thinking of them as mirrors, or portals. With a bit of craft and polish, I might pass as one of them.
Also, my high school training in yearbook design has paid off. Remember the giant grid paper you’d block out with pencil? Remember how your elements had to face the gutter (now there’s a printing term!), the trough between pages, part of which would disappear in the binding? In this case, my many-paned glass door is the gutter. The face plate ladies look toward the door from the left, and Latchhook Jesus faces it from the right (His gaze also tilts upward, awash in the sun and honey stripes beamed from the yarn sky).
My glass door was missing a pane until Friday. Begone the duct-taped cardboard cover!
I also bought a pink glitter styrofoam skull last weekend. (I confess, dear reader, that I bought it at Target, which is on my bad list for its unsavory political contributions and also for its ad campaign hating on homemade Halloween costumes). The skull now sits on the file cabinet in my office, next to a white Styrofoam head topped with my velvety pirate hat (used for pedagogical purposes, as in wearing the hat means you’re the discussion leader). The Kitchen Hermaphrodite head (which definitely did make the cut of Things to Move 700 Miles Even Though They Came From A Thrift Store) is also in my office, though I don’t call he/she by that name anymore, not least because he/she is no longer in my kitchen.
The glitter skull is a fitting emblem of the melancholy stitched into this season. There’s the pink sunset that comes so early now, spread thin above the evergreens. In the encroaching darkness, fiery colors of maples thin and extinguish themselves.


Dickens investigates the specter of mortality.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sometimes Life Really Does Feel Like You’re Walking Around In A Dream (Fortunately You’re Clothed And Have All of Your Teeth But Unfortunately You're Not Riding A Unicorn Or Taking An Elevator Into A Layer Cake)

If you sang karaoke, you'd get $5 off of your purchase! Was I dreaming? No, I was just shopping at a Buffalo Exchange in L.A. last spring. If I had to write an essay about My Favorite Shopping Experience, I would choose that one because it's a venn diagram of two of my favorite things.
More recently I made a pilgrimage to Buffalo Exchange while in Albuquerque, which was fitting, because that was the very first BE I ever met. Yes, I'm still writing about that trip three weeks ago to Albuquerque. Dang if that place isn't a Thrippie Goldmine! Just wait till I go to Seattle! I'll come back poor in dollars, but rich in material.
BE has a copious selection of new and gently used men's and women's clothes. They play funky music. The employees project an inclusive rather than hipper-than-thou coolness. Maybe if you grew up with BE, it doesn't have the same allure as it does for those of us who bloom late.
I'm having trouble uploading photos, but I want to talk about a look I call A Little Bit Neiman Marcus, A Little Bit Rock and Roll.
At the ABQ store, I bought a pink wool-blend skirt suit. The suit reminds me of something my Nana Sheets, longtime schoolteacher, might have worn. Perhaps it's also an attempt to be a little more Peggy in MadMen latter season 2 (in a sartorial way, I mean). I think I was so stunned that it fit so well, that I snapped it up. It did stuff into my carryon, but I need some of those vacuum bags before my next trip (at the risk of sending my thrippie self into overdrive).
This suit is truly a pink suit. Will I be able to wear the pieces together? Stay tuned.
At BE, I also bought black fake-leather biker boots, with four strands of chain looped behind the ankles.
I hoped they weren’t too costumey, and that I could temper the sweetness of flowered shirts and pink wool suits with some tough-looking kicks.
I like the boots with jeans. I like the boots with tights. I strongly resist the trend of tailored, wool, winter shorts, but if I wore them, I’m sure they’d look fine with these boots.
Repeat after me: Shoes can change your life.
I knew I had to have them when their chains glinted.
My heart quivered.
Later, colleagues would say they liked them. A student would pronounce them "sick."
In my waking shopping dream, I wanted to be a girl who'd wear those boots. A girl who'd look fresh while grading papers, kicking ass, and taking names.