We are closed: Roadtripping with Mom

A cop called my mother “feisty” once. He was right on. Once Mom gets something stuck in her head, there’s no stopping that party — and you will be her guest, like it or not. Knowing that, I agreed to accompany her this week to “the best concrete statue distributor ever!” (Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don’t know what I was thinking either.)

“I really want a giant rooster, and I don’t care what my neighbors think…bu-u-u-ut I’d have to rent a flatbed, so I’m getting a bench instead.” She wasn’t fooling me. I knew that rooster was going to end up on her front lawn come hell or high water.

In exchange for driving about four hours roundtrip to the middle of BFE, I was promised giant, painted, concrete poultry standing at attention in rows of yard art-y wonder. I admit, I was oddly looking forward to that.

An hour and a half into the trip, we made the unavoidable side jaunt off Hwy 35 to the Czech Stop in West. As I pumped gas, Mom went inside to spend nine billion dollars on kolaches. Russell texted, “Mr. Peppermint died.” I went inside to find Mom, suddenly feeling a little less resentful about finding myself on a road trip to a lawn sculpture place in the middle of nowhere with her.

“Mr. Peppermint died? No! He can’t die,” she said. (Good point. Noted.)

We talked about Dad and the school board and the cats and my sister and Russell and Bella and Bella and Bella. The radio never came back on. We talked about gardening and plans we had for fixing up our yards. We talked about labor unions and doctors and lawyers and philanthropy. We talked about Mom’s upcoming missions.

In Lorena, Mom bought a hundred dollars worth of cheese and chocolates. It was very Wallace-and-Gromit. We ate the kind of food I only thought people sold at the State Fair of Texas. Mom described life as a preacher’s wife in Eddy, where her parsonage was forced to pass a white glove inspection by the little blue hairs there in 1963. Back in the truck, we ate a whole package of homemade truffles in five minutes. I told her, licking my fingers, “Those little old ladies would have heart attacks if they tried to bring white gloves in my house right now.”

And then, just like that, we arrived at the concrete place.

It was a Monday.

I got out of the truck and took a few photos before Mom realized we weren’t bringing home a gigantic cock-a-doodle-doer.

They were closed. Russell calls this the Indian Curse after the time Mom dragged us four hours north to Vernon for a powwow that hadn’t happened in three years. Then there was the long trip in the squashed car to the infamous Creation Museum Uncle Paul and I wanted to scope out, also closed. Then there was the time the Griswolds went to Walley World, and it was, yep, closed. I could go on.

Mom asserted from the passenger’s seat, “Look, I called to make sure the cheese cafe was open.”

[Smile]

I couldn’t help but laugh at the circumstance from the side of the gravel entry. “Mom, you know this is going in your eulogy if you die first.”

“I know, I know.”

Still, I’m kinda glad the concrete people weren’t there that Monday. That was how the trip needed to end, I think — standing there, laughing outside of the closest thing to Peppermint Place that Hwy 35 has to offer. Mr. Peppermint might have reminded us:

When you feel unhappy, nothing seems worthwhile. Just give yourself a peppermint grin, and you will wear a smile.”

 

On the way home, we cracked up as we read Russell’s return text messages about the photos we sent from Concrete Statue Nirvana. Mom, smiling and goofy, acted like a teenager in her new shirt from Forever 21, enjoying her fourth month of retirement. This was fun.

Maybe not as much fun as the Griswolds had after they broke into Walley World at gunpoint, but, hey, this isn’t our last trip either. There is plenty of time for Walley World after Peppermint Place.

Giant gorilla in dino PJs, yes. You saw that.

Behind the baby elephant with the tennis shoes, there's Mom's rooster. It's only about twelve feet tall. That's it.

Giant creepy things, fondling their nether regions?

For the Ogden Nash garden. I might have an Ogden Nash garden, hm.

I love you, Mom — you and all of your travels.

Journey to the Center of My Pocket Protector (and Beyond)

When I was pregnant forever ago, I dreamed I was observing my daughter as an adolescent, living her daily life, becoming independent. I remember wondering, as I woke up, if I’d ever be able to look at her without being emotionally overwhelmed by love and fear and everything else. I knew I wanted to give her the world, but how? Parenthood seemed like such a symphony of emergencies when I was full-bellied-with-baby.

Then she went to kindergarten.

Began reading.

Discovered her own music.

And, suddenly, she was on auto-pilot — needing me to only serve as a bumper guard for her awkward, burgeoning life. (I’m not fooled, though; this is what I’ve been rehearsing for since my kid was born.)

With the potential for so much sensory overload, it’s important to steer our surly junior high replicas down good paths whether they seem to like it or not. Being a valuable parent is about making choices for our children and then allowing them to choose their own options from there. It’s not rocket science.

Or, maybe, it is partially rocket science.

Continue reading

No, I didn’t want free checking with my metal, thank you.

“When your Uncle John and I were small children, Mother used to give us each a quarter to ride the bus into town to see a double feature at the Ridglea Theater. One day, John and I decided to just stay on the bus to see where we’d end up. The driver eventually intervened, and we got home safely, but we didn’t make it to the movies that day. Times have changed, haven’t they?”

Indeed, Mom’s right. Life isn’t what it was in the early 1950′s, but one thing is the same: Ridglea Theater is still a great place to see a show, even several generations later.

That is, at least for now.

The Little Bell and Wesley (and Dio, duh)

Yesterday I received a disturbing email from my husband, Russell (who’s done so many shows for Fastlane Concerts at Ridglea that the theater jokingly put a sign on one of its doors which reads: “Russell’s Room”). After scoping his included link to Kevin Buchanan’s article, I flipped out. Apparently, Bank of America is considering purchasing the historic Fort Worth building and transforming it into a financial institution sans music and community fellowship and my dear old mother’s childhood memories. What an enormous slap to the face of North Texas.

For the last twelve years, Wesley Hathaway and Richard Van Zandt have leased the beautiful, old theater on Camp Bowie. The couple, who met in college and have been together for the past thirty-two years, utilized the Ridglea’s architecture and distinct artwork as a backdrop to showcase local, national, and international musical acts for the Fort Worth area. Aside from providing a unique venue for crowds of one thousand plus, Wesley and Richard’s theater is also responsible for a lot of customer traffic at surrounding restaurants, gas stations, and small businesses within the immediate block. Wesley, formerly the Assistant Science Curator to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, says she only learned day before yesterday of Bank of America’s intentions. “I didn’t know until a reporter from the [Fort Worth] Star Telegram called and asked me what I thought about it. That’s how I found out! We still have almost a year left on our lease, so we don’t know what’s going to happen.” She and Richard, who also previously worked in the same prestigious, north Texan museum as the Omni Theater Director, confirmed they are booked with lots of upcoming shows and have heard nothing from Bank of America at this time that would suggest cancellations of any kind. In fact, they haven’t heard from BOA about anything, and that’s unsettling for not only Wesley and Richard, but also for an estimated thirty employees who stand to lose work after the demolition.

“I understand the owners [of the building] need to make money. It’s a business,” Hathaway stated, “However, this is the last beautiful, grand building of this type in our area. You lose part of your heritage every time you tear down something historical like this. I see it happening all over the country. People are just not cherishing heritage, and it is a tragedy for the community when things like this are allowed to happen.” Van Zandt added, “Do something with the building instead of demolishing it, you know. The west side of Fort Worth really needs a Community Arts Center. The city could host all kinds of classes and events here, things that would benefit people while preserving the structure.” Richard also pointed out the Ridglea Theater was eligible to have been noted officially as an historic landmark, but the last owner failed to designate it as such.

Richard Van Zandt, photo by permission of RVZ

“Of course, we’d be sad if we couldn’t continue to do these shows,” Wesley admitted. This all comes at a time when the theater is up, yet again, for “Best Venue” in the Fort Worth Weekly. Having previously won the same award for at least eight years, Wesley and Richard have been proud local music fans have selected their venue for similar accolades throughout the years in the Dallas Observer as well as on AOL and in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. She says the two of them will miss the musicians and fans she’s come to love — the very people from all over the world whom I know herald her as the pink-haired First Lady of Texas Metal. “This building — the beautiful mosaic floors and old paintings — it feels like home to the people who come here. The bank isn’t going to care about that.” Wesley fears if BOA is allowed to take over the building, the Ridglea’s historic art and music history will be lost forever.

Beyond the music and the magnificent mosaic flooring, losing the Ridglea Theater to something so sterile and impersonal as a bank would be, perhaps, the hardest blow of all. The Ridglea is the chassis for a slew of extremely personal memories for so many of us — not just Mom. Matt Arnold, my co-worker, was bummed to hear the news, “Are you serious? You know, I saw my first show in there.” He wouldn’t be the only one to claim that honor, of course. I’m sure all the kids who have attended Rock Camp USA during the summers at Ridglea thought it was pretty cool to say that was where they played their first show. I’ve seen a handful of couples become engaged there; Wesley says elderly people have approached her and relayed stories of when they decided to get married while at the Ridglea many years ago. When I asked which was her favorite memory of the theater so far, she paused and said, “I don’t know, Kristan. There have been weddings and so many wonderful events and music over the years. The place has a lot of history for so many people from all walks of life. I mean, it’s where Richard and I took our kids to see the very first Star Wars when it came out. I just don’t want us all to lose it.” I get that. None of us wants to walk into a bank and reminisce about . . . anything. We want to be able to stand in the entrance of the theater and relish it for what it really is: a multi-generational tribute to north Texans and the strong-willed, surviving champion of Fort Worth culture.

When my daughter graduated elementary school, Wesley and Richard gave her a beautiful piece of art, which read:

‘What do I get for this,’ I said, and the angel gave me a catalog filled with toasters and clock radios and a basketball signed by Michael Jordan, and I said, ‘But this is just stuff,’ and the angel smiled and swallowed me in her arms. ‘I’m so glad you said that,’ she whispered to me, ‘I knew you still had a chance.’

After I got off the phone with Wesley last night, I sat in Bella’s room and stared at the words in the painting. I thought about how appropriate they were now, how Wesley and Richard do what they love. Next to the graduation art, my Bella keeps a rubber band ball Wesley gave her years ago when they first met. The extra “Russell’s Room” sign is above the piano in our back room. These kind reminders amplify my sadness because they prove the Ridglea Theater isn’t just a place in Fort Worth that Bank of America wants to tear down. It’s a place in my home and in my heart, a place where my entire family has grown in both the very distant past as well as in the last few years. There is no price you can attach to a structure that serves as such a chapel of memories. The idea of passing by Where It Used To Be makes my stomach turn.

This isn’t set in stone, and there’s an opportunity to save the venue and building from the fate of Bank of America. Wesley has posted an official statement on the Ridglea’s website with information regarding where to write, etc.

City Councilman W.B. Zimmerman
, District 3 Office
, 1000 Throckmorton St., 
Fort Worth, Texas, 76102

Telephone: 817-392-8803 
Fax: 817-392-6187

E-mail:District3@fortworthgov.org

Also, there’s a hefty discussion on the “Save the Ridglea” Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=103599513025822

Cherish heritage, one and all. Save this Ridglea Theater, Home Sweet Home.

Over/Out.

Ann rules. Sarah drools.

I just received one of Mom’s special emails — the kind that generally features my address alongside something to the effect of “letterstotheeditor@dallas.news.com”. I live for these.

Mom yelled:

Comparing Sarah Palin to Ann Richards, even briefly is ludicrous. Ann Richards was a savvy astute lady, qualities which are sadly lacking in Palin. Richards also admitted to her faults and mistakes and did not try to blame others…

Oh, man. A can of worms was definitely open somewhere nearby. Apparently, a clever word nerd over at the Dallas Morning News figured out a way to rehash ye olde “Sarah-Palin-is-the-new-Ann-Richards” argument just in time for Madam Alaska’s north Texas book signing this Friday. Without even reading the editorial, my incisors were already beginning to feel a little longer. I raced over to read Wednesday’s article for what was sure to be some kind of mass, vampiric bloodletting in the comment section.

Ouch, and there it was — the writer’s offending element in all of its fire-starting glory:

Though the comparison would surely put a bee in the late Texas Democrat’s beehive, there’s some of the late Ann Richards in Palin, a Western go-getter who pushes hard against gender stereotypes and who has little patience for pretense, either in politics or personal style.

On the offset readers might not be entirely privy, I’ll take this opportunity to throw a couple of Texan tenets out into vast yonder of the interwebz. First, Yee-haw 101: “Don’t mess with Texas.” Easy enough. Numero dos: “Don’t mess with [Ann Richards'] Texas [hair].” Got that? Okay, moving on then. Next, never compare the Lone Star Saint Richards to anyone –especially a woman Ann would have gladly clobbered in a four-second, backyard rasslin’ match. And, finally, if you’re gonna hyperlink former Governor Ann Richards’ name to something, make sure it isn’t to an image of Nancy Pelosi. Seriously.

To be fair, I don’t think the editorial writer was in Sarah’s corner, and there wasn’t a push to have readers purchase any lip-shticked, hockey mom BS. That was for sure. It’s just that Ann, in all of her glorious, immortal humanity, is down-right (and even dirty) Texas royalty. We get it: Sarah and Ann are both vag-positive, political rock stars. Going any further with that comparison would be like suggesting that porn and Rodin’s nude, bronze forms are in the same league.

Since I’ve brought up porn, though, I’d like to point out that the longer hopeful voters keep masturbating to Palin’s potential run for President, the longer they distract themselves from finding a real candidate. This book thing — the book that goes unnamed here because I don’t wanna sell it any more than I already have — is putting a huge face on D-U-M-B. The SNL team couldn’t write a script any better than Sarah’s fans, who recently showed up for a Columbus, OH, Borders book signing and agreed to be interviewed by the NLM:

*scratches head. I’m off Friday…anyone have a camera with a decent mic?

Florida, oh, Florida.

Stalking Sarah’s right-wing, autograph-fiending, captive audience isn’t just for amateurs, though. MSNBC also provided viewers with unedited, live interviews with Palin fans who were standing in line. It doesn’t get much better than when the reporter hands this ignorant nimrod her supper plate about two minutes into the Q&A:

That’s what happens when you rock a propaganda T and get called out on national television. I am praying hard Jay Leno does a Jay-Walking episode with these lines. How often does an opportunity like this present itself outside a Nascar parking lot? I’m all for everybody expressing individual political beliefs, but if there’s a guy holding a camera in your face and asking basic questions about what exactly it is you support about your candidate, you might wanna rethink your position if the best answer you’ve got is, “Ummm, I dunno,” or “She’s got real experience.”

[Pause for fantasy about what this would have all looked like if Ann Richards was still alive to interview these folks while they waited in line for Sarah Palin. Think: Kill Bill.]

Back to Mom, though. Maybe she should interview the weirdos in the Palin line this week. Mom could correct false analogy offenders with her movie theater laser of justice. After all, letters to the editor are akin to stamping your feet in front of the babysitter. I propose a camera, a mic, and a sick day from school, Ms. Phares. What would Ann Richards do?

The Quickest Way to Mom’s Laser of Death

 

photo by russell turns

photo by russell turns

My mother will be furious when she discovers I have posted this here. She’s under the delusion this story paints her in poor lighting, but I think we can all agree it just makes her seem like an extreme badass — or at the very least a heroine to all who’ve paid ten bucks to see a movie only to have it ruined by some holier-than-thou prick and his cell phone. In fact, when I originally wrote this bit, which appeared in a local print version for a handful of readers, Mom wrote an angry letter to the editor, in which she referred to me not as her daughter but as “Ms. Austin.” I’m not immune to the corrective, quirky wrath of Mom, most certainly, but it’s my sincere privilege to admire it at such close range as her understudy.

Now, with that said, behold my fantastic mother:

I have seen my daughter anxious to leave her Nana’s house, but I’ve never seen her sprint to the truck before. As Bella closed the door, she locked it, and said, “Mom, drive. Hurry.”

I knew it was gonna be a great story – something for my feisty mother’s five-hour, future eulogistic outline, even.

“Nana was so embarrassing at the theater.”

“Like, embarrassing for real or embarrassing for cool fifth graders like you?”

“I mean it, Mom. This time she went over the edge.” 

She explained: Mom and Bella decided to attend a matinee. During the previews, a man in the front of the theater began a text marathon. I could see exactly where this was headed. Poor Bella.

“…then the movie started, and he didn’t stop.”

Oh, no.

…so Nana stood up and yelled, ‘Quit texting! It’s distracting! Stop it!’ “

“Excellent. Really?”

“YES. She REALLY did that, Mom, but it gets better because…”

The guy had the audacity to tell my mother to sit down. MY mother. Then he foolishly entered Mom’s No Man’s Land when he added, “Just watch the movie and quit looking at my phone, Lady!”

Bella and I shared a moment of fearful silence. I was worried this all was going to end at the police station or something, but, nah. As Bella promised, it got better.

“Mom, Nana pulled a laser out of her purse and beamed it onto the screen of that guy’s phone so he couldn’t text anymore.”

“She pulled out a what?!”

“A laser! Like, on one of those key chain things. You know.”

“Oh, ok! What did the guy do?!”

“He stood up and screamed at her [in Bella's best screaming guy voice], What do you think you’re doing?! Stop it! NOW! And then Nana screamed back [awesome Nana voice here], Stop texting! And then he yelled, No! And she shot the laser again, and it hit him in the eyes!”

Speechlessness.

“Yeah, and he put his hands on his face and totally was yelling, Are you crazy? You could blind me with that! You could blind somebody. And Nana said, Well, then turn around and watch the screen and quit looking at me!

"It was so embarrassing."

"It was so embarrassing."

I was sooo incredibly glad I wasn’t there. Kind of. 

“Anyway, Mom, then he ran out of the theater to tell on her. I was so embarrassed. The guy’s wife was also very embarrassed. When the manager came back, the guy was angry because he was told not to text anymore.”

That was not really what Mom’s ego needed at that point, especially while she was brandishing a sci-fi, sight-stealing laser.

“And then twenty minutes later, we decided to leave because the movie was really not very entertaining.” She paused. “And that was it. How was your day?”

There you have it. No texting during the movie. You never know; the theater might have an anti-SMS plant in the form of my mother. She is armed and unafraid to punish.

“The voicemail you are trying to reach is full.”

 

Robot scavenger hunt for Russell's birthday

Robot scavenger hunt for Russell's birthday

 

Two reasons for failing to return/answer calls and chronic lateness:

  1. I got rid of my purses two months ago, keep forgetting to buy a new one, and am toting around a record bag that looks more like a diaper bag than anything a normal person might use. Thus, I can’t hear or find my phone inside that enormous thing;
  2. There’s been an extra amount of ass-wiping going on at work recently — both good and bad varieties;
  3. I’ve been slammed with an awful lot of What I Always Wanted.

I guess that’s more than two excuses. Cut me some slack. Let’s time travel.

April 1st:

Russell turned really old, and Tyson Summers was cool enough to crank out a super-fast commission even though he was moving at the time. I was expecting something really simple because of his circumstances, but within the first twenty-four hours, Tyson wrote:

I’m almost finished. It’s a risque piece based on deep ellum / fair park. I love the statue at fair park of the lady and cactus. I’ve used a very pretty nude model in halftone dots standing in the middle of a cartoon cactus. The two big characters of the cactus are landlord / property owners fighting. On the cactus will be 4-icze and a boarded up tunnel. Shazam, I think I’m almost done. The background is pink with my stars looking on. I added a halftone dot Uni looking after the lady as well.

T

Tyson's Cactus Lady of Deep Ellum

Russell loved it.

First Weekend of April:

The Bell and I met Madre in Austin to celebrate this year’s ATPE awards; she was one of the top three contenders for Texas State Teacher of the Year. While Mom tried staying awake during boring meetings, Bella and I toured the Capitol, the Austin Museum of Art, and T O Y  J O Y. 

Texas State Capitol

Texas State Capitol

Bella took this one. What a fantastic weekend.

Bella took this one. What a fantastic weekend.

April Never Ending:

The Bell needed a new bed, so we punished her with hours of IKEA. Sometimes, IKEA can be so sad. Luckily, Russell had a plan.

sadbedbed2bed3bed4bed5Alas, another case of IKEA blues was defeated.

Ongoing Family Bidness with the KLG (is gonna rock you…):

Grace asked me to quit calling her “Gracie.” Sniffle, sniffle. 

"Hey, Grace, do your Dio rock hand."

"Hey, Grace, do your Dio rock hand."

Here, Ken and Lindsay reenact a scene from 'Jacob's Ladder'.

Here, Ken and Lindsay reenact a scene from 'Jacob's Ladder'.

With a side order of May:

Isata and her family deserve more than just Honorable Mention; she’s a great kiddo with great parents and an incredible back story.

I loved Isata about five minutes after I first saw her as she handed my very sad Bella Monster a toy and patted her on the back. It was 1999, and I’d just dropped Bella off for her first Mother’s Day Out, which — for neurotic moms like me — was more like Mother’s Day to Freak Out. 

Isata came with a bonus prize — her parents. Idrissa and Ada left their native country of Sierra Leone in the early nineties. Recently popularized by the film Blood Diamond, Sierra Leone was amongst one of the world’s most unstable regions at that time due to, perhaps, the cruelest gang warfare and rebel fighting in modern history — fueled entirely by our greed for diamonds and Sierra Leone’s corrupt leadership and shaky relationships with its Liberian neighbors. Isata’s folks tell incredibly sad stories coupled with extreme optimism. They understand what matters in life in a way that isn’t as humbling or demoralizing as much as it is liberating for me. Truly, their spirits set me free.

Last week, I drove Bella over to Ada’s braid shop in Irving. (Ada has superhero fast braiding fingers.) Idrissa ordered pizza for us while we chatted about the girls and foreign affairs and how Bella had been handling the divorce all this time later. We talked about their African Muslim wedding in which Bella stood in Isata’s place of honor when they were four years old. I listened intently as Idrissa shared stories about his sister still living in Johannesburg, South Africa: “They asked me to come, but I cannot. The region, it is too dangerous even for someone like myself.”

Bella and Isata talked on the other side of the salon about the Black-eyed Peas and Hannah Montana and Paramore and The Jonas Brothers, though. That part of the world was far away.

There is so much more to add, but for the sake of sacrificing another five million in text, I’ll wrap it up with Isata’s most recent parting words: “Kristan, I love you. You are my second mother.”

I needed that an awful lot this past week. I love my families and am immensely grateful.

kristan and ada

kristan and ada

the bell and my other daughter, isata

the bell and my other daughter, isata

You can’t stop this party:

On Friday, I accompanied Bella’s honor choir to the yearly competition at Sandy Lake Amusement Park. (I need some coffee and a pretend cigarette already, and I haven’t even gotten but one sentence into this excuse for not being able to return your calls.)

O.

K.

One parent. One grandparent. One teacher who is retiring next week and can’t walk. Twenty-six fourth and fifth grade WIIIILD and CARAZAY KIDS. When I think “Last Friday,” I also think “Xanax.” 

To the four parents who canceled at the LAST MINUTE: you lost out, but there was no fun lost (except for the little guy who threw up all day, but you know…poor kiddo).

bellabumper

First Place Division!

First Place Division!

Is there a collection somewhere of past gum trees from other years? Hm.

Is there a collection somewhere of past gum trees from other years? Hm.

scrambler

Saturday, Saturday, yes, Saturday, oh, Saturday, Saturday:

I wrote all about the whale scarf Julie made in L.A. via her Spiderbot Etsy store. Well, Russ and I managed to make it through the morning rain to the Etsy Dallas convention at Southside Lamar, and it was something else. I didn’t see anything I liked more than the whale scarf, which I wore like a medal, but I did find some interesting items for our jewelry-making endeavors. Russell stopped to investigate a funny doll.

Etsy treasure by Deb at anklebiter.etsy.com

Etsy treasure by Deb at anklebiter.etsy.com

I tried to be sneaky, but Russell knew I’d gotten the monster for him before we even got home.

“Let me see if I can find those snacks in your purse.” [Grin]

“Russell, why are you smiling like that?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” [Grin]

“Ugh, here’s your monster.”

“Thank you.”

Later that afternoon at the Grapevine bead convention (yes, you read that correctly), we found loads of cool stuff for projects. I bought black, bead wiring for jewelry crocheting, so if you receive something that looks like a bird’s nest, well, just humor me. I’m trying. I have to do something besides bitch and moan about politics, you know. After waging war on the Vote Yes campaign for the past two months, I’m ready for something less controversial — like wire crocheting the Big Bang Theory. Wait…

Don't call it "crafting." It's a scientific experiment, cough, cough.

Don't call it "crafting." It's a scientific experiment, cough, cough.

There were so many booths at the bead convention that we lost track of time and spent four hours inside that thing. I call it the “IKEA Phenomenon”. At one point, I stopped to admire a woman’s wire coiling and button bracelet, and she was kind enough to demonstrate her technique. Everything was fine until she added, “…and if you will recall [insert famous beading guy's name here, unknown to non-fanatics]‘s 2002 cover for Bead and Glass Magazine, there was, I believe, an instructional guide to this method in that issue.” That was when I realized I was way out of my league, thanked her, and quickly turned around to giggle with Russell as we made our way into a different room of the exhibit.

“Russell, I think I know what I sound like now when I talk about stuff like, ehhhh, I dunno…4AD record cover art around people who aren’t V23 fans.”

“Yes, that’s exactly how crazy you sound.”

Luckily, I spotted a ring artisan in the next area and quickly forget about my plaguing new revelation.

Last Night:

Lori is thirty-seven this week. I don’t know how that happened so quickly. Russell and I attended her anniversary dinner with Xtos, so I could present her with trinkets appropriate for an old lady, heh. I explained to Lors that my company recognized my ten years of service this past week, so I’d decided to give her a similar token celebrating her twenty years of service as my girl. There was sushi. A glass of wine. Oh, god, there was creme brulee. Then we both fell asleep during the movie while X-tos and Russell laughed at us (but not before Lori’s top semi-fell down at the restaurant). Hurray for pocket cams times ten thousand.

Birthdays come but once each year.

Birthdays come but once each year.

As dinner ended, Russell passed a napkin across the table.

“I love you!”

I got out my pen and scribbled, “I love you more!”

That’s when he dug around in his pocket for a moment, tucked something into the napkin, and passed both back across the table toward me. He said, “You don’t love me more than I love you.”

Wrapped inside the dinner napkin, was a beautiful new ring:

xo, totoro.

xo, totoro.

 

Maybe you guessed it: from the aforementioned ring artisan at the bead convention. He’s a sneaky guy, that Russell.

Right now:

I think I’ve covered much of the “What I Always Wanted” portion of my excuses for not checking voicemail and returning many calls. One of the great lessons Idrissa (and Ada) taught me goes something like this:

“In America and in no other country in the world, there is a sense of nothing but work, work, and work. It’s 24/7, this working. There is no time for family or happiness because so much emphasis is put upon job and career. Here, you are only about your job; it is who you are, and people think they must achieve success in that way only. In Africa, my father was surrounded always by his council and many bodyguards, yet from the time the sun came up until the time the sun went down, I was by his side. He made the time for me because I was important to him; I meant more to him than his duties. He made sure everybody knew this, too. In America, we must remember to love each other and to care for one another as if we are also family.”

I have time left for Now. I’ll call you back later.

Holding the Vinyl Toy Fairy Accountable

With love, from the Vinyl Toy Fairy

With love, from the Vinyl Toy Fairy

Several years ago, a good friend of mine mistakenly left his Cartier sunglasses in my rental car. Thinking they belonged to the previous renter, I returned them to Enterprise. I was sure this selfless act alone would grant my access into heaven — until my friend called: “Did I leave my sunglasses in your rental the other day?”

Crap. 

Naturally, within 72 hours of returning the vehicle, the staff seemed to have no recollection of me, the car, the glasses, or anything except this: “We are not liable for lost or stolen items.” 

“But the glasses were never lost or stolen. They were left on purpose with so-and-so behind the counter.”

“We’re not responsible.”

After beating my head against a wall to no avail, I was certain of two things: (A) Enterprise? They had it coming; (B) My pal, Mr. Cartier? He was gonna have to give it to ‘em:

Dear Enterprise Car Rental:

A lengthy explanation of the situation followed, complete with my friend’s sentimental reasoning for being so rabid in his pursuit of the lost-but-not-lost sunglasses. 

…and so therefore you can clearly see why the prompt return of my property is imperative.

All requests to investigate this matter at the local and regional levels have been ignored — repeatedly and rudely. Apparently, your mid-level management is under the impression I shall eventually become disenchanted with my quest and give up, thus, allowing dishonesty to champion the circumstance. This is not the case. I can assure you I have all the time in the world to devote unto this tragedy.

When I use the phrase “all the time in the world,” I mean just that: I really do have nothing better to do. My schedule allows for my availability during the entire extent of your store’s hours of operation. Additionally, one of my great joys in life is preserving the lost craft of letter writing — such as this charming billet-doux I’ve penned in this instance. Therefore, the concept of spending the rest of my worldly afternoons in your cozy, climate-controlled lobby armed with an ink well, a quill pen and varying papyrus samples, with which to manufacture and distribute my thoughts regarding this unfortunate matter unto the ascending ranks of Enterprise’s supervisory stratum, sounds thoroughly engaging.

To conclude by suggesting I look forward to your expedient reply is a comical understatement. Good day.

The company responded quickly, which I felt was a good call considering my compadre’s communication weighed in like a final warning from Hannibal Lecter. Enterprise stepped up to the plate and assumed responsibility — not for what I did by returning the item unnecessarily, but for acknowledging that my potential good deed was thwarted by its carelessness and/or dishonest staff. Eh, so crisis averted. 

What 22K worth of damage looks like. Thanks, Ford.

What 22K worth of damage looks like. Thanks, Ford.

Sometimes bad customer service sneaks up on you — like the time it took Ford four months to admit my brand new Mustang was totaled and couldn’t be repaired, although I’d been making non-refundable payments on the vehicle AND its insurance policy while the car sat unusable in one of their service bays at an official repair center. Yep.

Sometimes, however, bad customer service hits you in the face right out of the gate, though: A few years ago Verizon purposely drilled a hole the size of a half dollar from the interior to the exterior of my home for FIOS, stuffed the hole with toilet paper until the tech could return, and then, well, never returned. When somebody else FINALLY came back out (after I’d taken several days off from work in order to accommodate Verizon’s scheduling conflicts), the company had adopted a new and improved way of installing FIOS, which made the whole drilling thing unnecessary in the first place. To the company’s credit, months later a structural engineer was sent out to correct the violation. After everything was said and done, Verizon assaulted me with such an ungodly amount of follow-up calls that I began daydreaming about legal loopholes for placing a restraining order against them. 

“We’re just calling to ensure your excellent customer service experience with Verizon.”

“Again? Really?”

“Ma-am, would you say you received excellent customer service from your technician?”

Oh, brother. They needed a new system of pandering for those poor folks isolated in the calling centers. And a new script. Making matters worse, I was convinced Verizon put some kind of spybot in my home which alerted them to “convenient” calling times. You know: She’s giving the dog a bath. Call her about our excellent customer service. Or: She needs to pee and just unlocked the front door. Hurry, call and make sure she’s happy with our excellent customer service. 

The creme de la creme of terrible customer service episodes occurred in 1994 when my mother ordered an anchovy pizza from Little Caesar’s, which arrived smothered in tuna fish salad. When the mistake was reported and after a second tuna fish pizza arrived, Mom promptly called the sixteen year-old manager in charge. He wasn’t expecting her to hang up, drive to the location, and continue the barrage until they gave us, I believe, a cheese pizza, which was most likely infested with special, flavorless “revenge” toppings. Of course, the final straw was when the staff attempted to convince Mom that there was little difference between tuna fish and anchovies. That’s when Mom went “corporate”. 

The common, binding thread of any customer service debacle is silliness. Well, silly in the sense that something ridiculous occurred. These days I like to gauge the impending battle by asking myself, Is this story gonna later translate into a past episode of Seinfeld? And if the answer is Yes, that’s when I roll my eyes and let it go. However, I’m having a tough time forgiving Kidrobot, my vinyl toy fairy. 

Kidrobot makes very nerdy, trendy, LOL generation designer toys. For some reason, I got trapped in a crack within the demographic and began collecting the company’s Dunny series. My boyfriend hid the little guys under my pillows and in my truck. When a new edition debuted, he’d bring home a million gazillion “blind” boxes of Dunnys, and we’d sit on the bed forever, ripping them from their cardboard homes and tinfoil pouches.

“Oh, my God! I pulled the Kozik chase!” We learned the secret Dunny language, you see. (If you don’t have a nerd decoder, that means, Excellent news. The hard-to-find Frank Kozik toy was in this box.) Oh, how I couldn’t wait to rush home when Russell would text: Dunnys and coffee waiting for you. They’d evolved into a sentimental event between us — inane, physical tokens shared and understood only within our Dunny club for two. *sigh*  

Because the consumer can’t see what s/he’s “pulling,” which I think adds to the fun of it all, sometimes you end up with duplicates. Russell and I have at least several good sized boxes in the garage full of, oh my gosh, twins and triplets and quadruplets and…you get the swing of it. At 6.95 a pop, these little vinyl toys really put a stealthy, unexpected hole in your wallet, so we started buying them in bulk. 

(And, yeah, I know this is really more “Friends” than “Seinfeld” at this point.)

There was more than just the thrill of going broke on Dunnys, though. There were…Golden Tickets. *awe* Having spent so much of my life looking for some kind of portal into the world of Roald Dahl, I’d finally found it. I was Kristan and the Dunny Factory. 

You didn’t get eternal life or a dream vacation or anything like that if you pulled a special Golden Ticket from your Dunny box. Instead, you got a really special prize: an ultra-rare, highly limited, incredibly nerdy, BRING-DOWN-THE-HOUSE-TOTALLY-AWESOME, to be announced Dunny. I had to get a friggin’ ticket. Had to.

A year ago, Russell brought home a tanker full of boxes, and we opened and opened and opened until Russell froze. In his hand was the Golden Ticket. The super-secret Dunny was going to be designed by none other than one of the most noteworthy and collectible of all Dunny designers, so we were psyched as we abandoned our box-ship to register the ticket’s code in an email to Kidrobot. Moments later, a confirmation arrived; We only had to wait eight months for our new, little guy to arrive in November. You would have thought we were expecting a baby by the way we behaved. I began rearranging the shelves in anticipation while Russell put pictures of our “sonogram” as a joke on social networking sites. Clearly, we were having way too much fun with the whole thing.

November came. November went. The spot for our new baby was still empty. Russell wrote Kidrobot and nothing. We browsed the forums and learned there had been an accident. Someone in the shipping warehouse reportedly mixed our special guys with the “general population,” who were in turn distributed to stores and sold as regular Dunnys. Russell wrote the company again. No reply. Other Golden Ticket holders reported similar trouble. I’d waited for almost a year for nothing, and it really pisses me off. 

I pointed out to Russell that I wished we’d spent the money to save an African village or something. It’s embarrassing, and I feel like I’ve lost a friend in this young company that seemed to “get” me — the same company that plagued me with false advertising and failure to respond or correct the situation. But, really, what’s the point of pushing the issue? The story, like I said before, is awfully silly in the grand scope of things. I hate to bitch and moan about stuff like this when there are more important things going on in the world. The whining just doesn’t hold up:

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, woe is me. WOE is me. I didn’t get my Golden Ticket Dunny. I can’t sleep, and quite frankly I’ll never be the same again.”

“Ah, well, did you hear about all the layoffs this week?”

“Yes.”

“Bummer. Man, speaking of bummers, I watched that movie ‘Blood Diamond’ about how folks in Africa are dying and being held as slaves for diamond mining by their own people to meet American demands. You should see that.”

“I saw it.”

“Yeah, oh! Did you hear about the little girl who got a heart transplant this week, and now her older sister needs one, but she is still on the donor list? Man, that’s awful.”

So many bummers, and mine is at the bottom, the very bottom, of the list — thankfully.

The new series came out a couple of weeks ago. I had the money to buy them all and didn’t. If Kidrobot isn’t willing to step up to the plate sometime in the real immediate future, I’ll just have to give them the Wal-Mart treatment, which is a heavy dosage of Fuck You. Spare me the trouble, K-bot. I just want the damned toy. Heck, give me another kickass, supercool toy. Say you’re sorry. Let’s be friends again, so I don’t have to belt out another two thousand words of text. I love you, man. Why you gotta be like that?

We didn’t even make it into the chocolate factory. The game was over before it was a game, and Roald Dahl is probably shooting darts at Kidrobot from atop his eternal magic carpet right about now.

Perhaps, a call is in order for Mr. Cartier, letter writer extraordinaire. He’ll have just the perfect nine-syllable word for this mess.

Un-Baked Alaska Forever

Twenty years ago, my mother set sail forever on her great Alaskan cruise. This was not a fantasy getaway or anything; instead, it was just her typical weekend sojourn in the kitchen, attempting to conquer whatever-it-was she’d seen that week on the cooking channel. Most of the time, this really worked out to my advantage. However, not many weeks have escaped us since The Great Baked Alaska Tragedy in which Mom hasn’t smuggled the incident into casual conversation.

“…and so I convinced The Bell to order her sandwich on wheat bread after that. Why do kids like white so much anyway?”

“Kristan, that reminds me. There’s fresh Amish Friendship Bread on the counter. Grab a piece, but stick it back into the oven when you’re done so it’ll keep at the right temperature. We wouldn’t want another Baked Alaska incident.”

No, we wouldn’t — not that it would matter, though. I mean, Mom couldn’t possibly get more mileage out of What Happened even if it’d happened twice. (I think.)

On that fateful afternoon, two decades ago, Mom completed her Baked Alaskan project. For those of you who haven’t been fully briefed on fad dessert trends from a million years ago, BA is really just a giant blob of ice cream covered in whipped something-or-another and then briefly thrown into an oven. It’s supposed to resemble an ice berg, but looks more like a gallon of delicious Blue Bell trapped in a hardened, sugary prison. Something along those lines. Anyway, when Mom was finished, she arranged her masterpiece on a set table and painstakingly took a candlelit portrait. I’m serious. Then, after stuffing the dessert into the freezer for safe keeping, Mom waited for her dinner guests.

That’s when I arrived with my best friend, who not only sampled the dessert, but also left it out…

…to melt.

At the time, I felt awful about it, and, man, Mom was rightfully pissed off. I slinked away for the rest of that weekend in order to avoid The Wrath of Mom. 

Today I retrieved the cranberry salad from Mom’s fridge as we all crowded around the holiday table. When I closed the door, I cracked up because stuck behind a magnetized framed, there was the portrait Mom took of her beloved Baked Alaska — from the late eighties, during the last breath of the Reagan admin, just months before the Berlin Wall was torn down, when George Michael and Elton John had yet to officially leap out of the closet. There were a few recipes tacked to the door with various magnets, a drawing Isobel did a while back, and that photo of the baked sore spot. Point: Mom was NEVER gonna let the Alaskan thing go. 

“Did you find the salad?”

“Yes.”

“Well, close the door all the way and MAKE SURE IT’S SHUT. We don’t need another Baked Alaska moment on Christmas.”

Or New Year’s…

Or Valentine’s…

Or next Wednesday.

And yet, the teeth-grinding, fist-clenching, eye-squinting Mom-isms would be missed if they were suddenly gone.

Ten Seconds Tops

I spent the last half of Monday pulling the covers over my head, intermittently throwing them off long enough to stare at my shiny new ring, and then burying myself back inside my cozy, comforter-y cocoon. Earlier in the day, Russell and I exchanged tungsten rings inside Richard Serra‘s sculpture, The Vortex, located on the southern lawn of Fort Worth’s Modern. It was an ideal moment right in the middle of my extraordinary, ordinary chaos.

 

The Vortex, Richard Serra

The Vortex, Richard Serra

 

I’ve been overwhelmed, and the sudden surge of extreme happiness seemed to highlight exactly HOW overwhelmed I’ve been.

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