Monday, May 23, 2011

Ode to Random Hipster Chick

Oh, to witness your plodding gait as you traverse the crosswalk!  You proceed as if it were a bridge across the River Styx, leading to a morass of great despair into which you are compelled to plunge.   You've mastered the look of affected indifference, with your straightforward gaze and facial features frozen as if carved from from an uncommon stone.  Your very presence in my corner of the urban landscape creates a grossly palpable energy that serves to literally broadcast you as a person of exotic substance and confounded, contorted meaning in a world of squares, corporate sellouts, and common pursuits.

Just what is actually in your vintage messenger bag?  The embodiment of uniqueness?  The essence of individuality?  Shards of disdain for conventional society?  An iPhone loaded with music so fresh and esoteric that it defines your high-brow vision of cool?  The mysterious product you use to coif your hair into a formation worthy of a master abstract sculptor - having the appearance of being randomly disheveled, yet requiring considerable deliberate effort and infinite expenditure of time to achieve?  Or does the bag merely provide shelter to a densely knotted ball of angst that would otherwise melt into the atmosphere if exposed to sunlight?

No amount of off-the-cuff analysis could lead a casual observer to accurately assess exactly which of the clothing articles enveloping your body are the product of exhaustive thrift store treasure hunting, purchased at the utmost cutting edge boutique, crafted from "found" items in the ambient environment, or painstakingly hand-hewn.   One thing is certain, however.  You wear only the skinniest of jeans... jeans that leave no detail of your lower body obscured, even parts that others were likely not prepared to see.

Your tribal disk earrings harken to the Mother Continent, despite the overt paleness of your skin...lending an air of cultural intrigue and authenticity to your milky whiteness.  When these embellishments are coupled with the one-of-a-kind flourish of your Asian-inspired tattoo sleeve, one is left only to helplessly bask in the grandeur of you.  Brood on Portland hipster goddess.  Brood on!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Don't Forget the Margarita Mix

Grocery stores, in particular, have always fascinated me.  If you've ever stopped to think about it, the variety and quantity of food contained in even a small grocery store can be quite astounding.  Growing up, my brother and I were often with our mom as she made the weekly trip to Food World.  We always enjoyed the challenge of trying to fill the buggy (for non-Southerners, this is a "cart") with items of dubious nutritional value, as Mom skillfully kept our wants more in line with our needs and family means.  Plus, we knew that we'd be allowed to get at a sugar cookie or cream horn from the bakery if we behaved.

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my ability to talk.  People drift into a coma.  Paint peels off of walls.  Styrofoam decomposes.  I continue talking.  Anyway, little Jamie was no different from big Jamie in this regard.  I was not a shy child, but I wasn't prone to scream unnecessarily or be ill-behaved.  I also had a memory like a steel trap and a keen ability to mimic adult speech patterns, often clearly speaking words not typically uttered by toddlers.  Many times, this led to cute moments where Mom and Dad would proudly watch as their very young son charmed other adults with references to the inner workings of a grandfather's clock, or discussed his favorite type of lightbulb.  At that age, society views the brainy child as something of a novelty: cute, but in a way that is ever so slightly creepy.

There were times where my youthful gift for gab, however, was not as appreciated.  One time, in particular, happened during a trip to Food World.  Enjoying a perch in the basket area of the buggy, my eyes spotted a large and colorful display of bottles filled with a green liquid.  Even though I was not much more than a toddler, I instantly recognized that the bottles contained margarita mix.  Undoubtedly recalling that the adults in the house enjoyed this frosty beverage during a recent poolside gathering with family visiting from out of town, I thought it would be helpful to remind my mom to replenish her supply of party mixers.  As such, her normally calm son became a screamer.  "Mommy!!  Don't forget the margarita mix!"  Mind you, saying this once would have more than sufficed.  Nevertheless, much to my mom's dismay, I felt the need to repeat my friendly reminder at least two more times.

In rural Alabama, having a young child who is able to recognize bottles of mixer by shape and color is particularly frowned upon.  At the very least, it makes you look like an irresponsible parent.  At the very worst, people could assume that you have an alcohol problem.  There is no graceful or simple way to explain to a random stranger that your child is acting like an idiot savant, and is prone to say random things that don't in any way reflect his exposure to inappropriate elements or vices.  Essentially, you're forced save face by frantically pushing your cart down the frozen food aisle to the dairy department, all the while hoping that no one you know is unfairly reformulating their opinion of you as a good mother.  Heck!  If I were my mom, I would have simply gone home and had a margarita by the pool.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

House Cougar

I often refer to my cat, Francine, as "magical".  In truth, calling her "magical" is a thinly veiled way of saying she's crazy as hell.  As with all living things in this world, God giveth with one hand...and taketh away with another.  My cat is no exception to this rule.  She is blessed with a beautiful and soft calico coat, and has always been robust and healthy.  There's just one problem:  She's bipolar.  One minute, she's curled up on my chest while I'm reading a book, or rubbing against me pleading for attention.  The next, she's eyeing my jugular vein and planning a brutal attack on my neck and face.

I remember meeting Francine for the first time during a no-kill shelter adoption event at PetSmart, in Huntsville, AL.  She was quite lovely,  calmly curled up in her little cage.  When I noticed she was named Francine, I was smitten by the quirkiness of a cat with such an overwrought, human name.  I quickly learned that she was about fourteen months old, and had already been in three homes.  Being a totally naive soul, I disregarded this fact and proceeded to adopt my first cat.  After getting her settled in my home, I was rather dismayed to find she was sick with a cold.  Nevertheless, after a few days of my doting on her, she recovered.  This is when the less docile side of her personality began to emerge.

Over the years, I've developed a rather keen ability to perceive impending shifts in her mood.  When relaxing around my home, I typically have an object at the ready with which to swat her away.  You know something is awry when her tale starts to twitch...or her eyes begin to cloud over.  Sometimes, when I sense her stalking me from behind, I'm able to turn and yell a stern, "No ma'am!".  I've found that direct confrontation is the best policy when it comes to defending myself.  Unfortunately, despite my continued vigilance, there are still times where she is able to launch a successful attack.  After such an attack, she knows it's best to run and hide, as it is hard for me to resist wanting to beat her (at least a little).  

A number of years ago, my work supervisor at the time pulled me aside.  With a look of concern, and a serious tone, she asked me if I was OK.  She had noticed the lacerations on my face, and was obviously concerned for my well-being.  Perhaps she wondered if I was a victim of domestic violence.  If so, she was right.  I had to explain to her that I was attacked by my cat. 

More recently, I went hiking through a rain forest on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington.  At the entrance to the trail, there was a sign providing survival tips in the event one encountered a bear or cougar in the wild.  As I reviewed the sign, I realized that I was already prepared to handle such an attack, merely through years of experience living with Francine.  Tips included the following things I already do in my own home:

1.)  If you are approached by a cougar, do not turn your back and run.  Attempt to make yourself as large and formidable as possible through flailing your limbs and yelling loudly.

2.)  If you are accompanied by a small child, immediately pick up and hold the child, as he or she could be viewed as prey.  (Conversely, one could also offer up an ill-behaved child as a distraction for the beast, and then turn to run for safety.)

As a sidebar, I now plan on providing a similar list to anyone who will be caring for Francine when I'm out of town.  I would certainly hate for one of my friends to be mauled while attempting to fill her convoluted and flowing filtered water bowl.

Thankfully, small children are rarely in my home.  In any case, Francine and I have co-habitated for the better part of nine years.  Since my hiking excursion,  I now fancy myself as living with a house cougar.  All joking aside, she is my buddy.  For better or worse, I made a commitment to provide her with a "forever" home.   That being said, your prayers and well-wishes are always welcome.  For now, she's curled up at my side, purring.  At any moment, however, I could be swatting her across my bedroom with a pillow...yelling, "No ma'am!"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Baby-Daddy Done Greased Up My Seats

One day, while working for an auto insurance company in Atlanta, my eyes were blinded by a flash of brilliant light.  My first instinct was to utter a prayer and crouch under my desk, figuring someone was actually dumb enough to push the big red button at the nuclear missile command.  Thankfully, remembering that I lived in the land of all things "bling", I quickly realized it was merely the sun reflecting off the oversized chrome grille and gigantic spinning rims attached to a cream-colored Chrysler 300.

I watched as a woman of rather large stature exited the vehicle and approached the lobby.  She was wearing massive silver hoop earrings, every bit as bright as the chrome that adorned her vehicle.  As she practically strutted up to my desk, I composed myself for what would most likely be a lively conversation.  Seeing no need to respond to my greeting, she immediately proceeded to tell me in a very boisterous voice: "My baby-daddy done greased up my seats!"  Trying to process her unique conundrum, I calmly asked her exactly what she meant. Earrings bobbing with her head motions, she went on to repeat her initial statement in a more exasperated tone.

At this point, I realized it would be best to go out with her to the vehicle and discover what havoc her baby-daddy had wrought.  After all, Ricki Lake taught me long ago to never underestimate the destructive capabilities of a rogue baby-daddy. The woman proceeded to show me several stains and indentations in her white leather seats, as well as her equally white floorboard carpeting.  Never mind that it just so happened the indentations in the leather were remarkably similar to those left by a child safety seat.  Furthermore, while I don't have children of my own, I'm certainly aware that little ones often like to "decorate" surfaces with food and drink originally intended for consumption.  Closer inspection of a few of the stains revealed them to be remarkably similar to ones left by juice allowed to soak into supple, porous leather.  Discovering randomly scattered Cheerios on the floor helped me reach my final conclusion regarding the interior of her vehicle.

Needless to say, despite the delicate wording of my explanation of why her situation did not warrant a claim against her insurance policy, she was not happy with me.  In lieu of finding myself in a potentially volatile situation with a rather aggressive person who clearly had an upper-hand on me physically, I thought it best to seek the assistance of a supervisor.  In the end, it appears we were able to resolve her "claim" by simply performing some basic detail work as a courtesy.  Unfortunately, I do not think the young woman was in the proper frame of mind to learn a potentially important lesson on that day:  White interiors are best left to limousines and vehicles owned by car-collectors and gaudy musicians.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pompadoo: A Classic Kathyism

There is a family of innocently altered words, word-fragments, phrases, and sounds known as Kathyisms.  Kathyisms are expressions native to the tongue and mind of my mother, Kathy Kitson.

Now that I'm broaching the topic of Kathyisms, I must first give you a tidbit of tangential background information on my mother.  You see, while my mother may possess an advanced degree in English, she has never lost the playful innocence and naivety that pervades her bountiful speech.  Needless to say, I'm a lot like my mother.  My family's embrace of Kathyisms through the years has been the source of much laughter, linguistic growth, and downright frivolity.

At this point you're likely asking: "What the heck is pompadoo?"  I wouldn't fault you for envisioning it as a sequel to the ever-quirky "Xanadu", perhaps.  Arguably, pompadoo refers to something every bit as colorful and magical as Xanadu.  Pompadoo is the word my mother uses to refer to potpourri.  An example of its usage would be the following series of sentences, spoken by mom to my late grandmother: 
"Rea (my aunt, as well as my mom's sister) and I were at the mall in Tuscaloosa.  We bought this pompadoo at Kirklands.  It smells so nice."
"Importer's Warehouse has so many types of pompadoo!  Plus, they have really nice baskets you can put it in.  Would you like me to get you some?"
Even to this day, pompadoo is a staple in my childhood home.  When I return for a visit, a pompadoo plethora is sure to grip my senses from the moment I walk in the door.  Dried flower petals, pieces of clove, sticks of cinnamon, and potent scented oils all blend into a veritable pompadoo...uh, potpourri...of smells that let me know I'm home.

Sea Creature

While cleaning this evening, I was moving around some nick-nacks on a long countertop.  One of these items happened to be the preserved husk of a sea urchin.  Given its robust size, perfect form, and regal coloration, this particular creature almost certainly enjoyed a peaceful life until it was plucked from the ocean floor, allowed to die a horrid death via dehydration, and hollowed out to make a void in which humans could place potpourri.  This timeless treasure of the seas now lives on in my 70's-fabulous garage-apartment bathroom in Portland.

I'm not really one to make use of potpourri in the home.  Nevertheless, being a person for whom memories are easily evoked by smell, this particular items always reminds me of my Grandma Gowin.  Even though the urchin now sits empty, the pleasant scent of its previous contents still wafts into the open air from time to time, reminding me of Grandma's old house. For that alone, it will always have a place in my home, along with a precious few other items that I inherited after she passed away.