Where I write

Where I write

March 29, 2016

Obituary to a Dying Car

    A friend died recently and this made me think about obituaries, hers left out some important details or so I thought, and how I wouldn't want to leave it up to someone else to write my obituary.  When I first became a reporter, I was assigned to writing the obituaries, something at my young age I found dreary and bothersome. Death was just so boring.  Now I see that was one of my most important reporting jobs. The obituary is the last, and possibly the only, time a person might be remembered in print unless famous. 

   Next I wondered what photo I might use for my obituary which made me think of my old car which is about to die.  Easier to face my car dying than me. Besides, I have more miles left on me. I hope.  This photo above is how my Nissan 200SX looked when purchased new in 1996. I don't have the heart to show you how it looks today after 177,000 miles. Yet, I don't want to let go. I've always had a love affair with cars, some betrayed me, others I dumped, and some I've loved forever long after they died. My 1996 Nissan was reliable and sturdy and got me where I needed to go. But all good things must end.  Sigh.

My Uncle Ray and Uncle John were both car salesmen in Chicago. They always had some snazzy cars, usually  new and the size of boats, and I liked when they visited and parked at our house. I remember feeling very special because my first communion white dress matched my uncle's car. I can't remember my uncles without picturing their impressive rides.

I really liked my mother's groovy Gran Torino. Here I am on my way to high school in my purple outfit about to drive a lime green car. (with green interior) The radio speakers in that car were amazing. I could blast the Monkees or Led Zeppelin while cruising around Hoffman Estates with the other pom pom girls. Life didn't get any better than that.  I felt grown up.

Then I met my first true love. It was all mine. A 1977 Camaro. Had three miles on it when I drove it off the Chicago lot. Sigh. I miss my Camaro, or maybe I miss being a young again. Whatever. The memories I made with that car still make my heart sing. Oh to  be able to go back to those glory days. Our first loves are like that. There is nothing like that first new car of our very own. Nothing will replace my 1977 Camaro. Oh sure I know now that it is not practical. The two doors, too low to the ground, no back seat. But at the time, my Camaro was everything I hoped and dreamed. Alas, I had to let it go when there was a big hole in the floor board and the lack of air conditioning and living in Arizona made it impractical. There's that word again. Practical.
 You can tell the age of this photo as I look like my poodle Darla. Perms used to be hip. Oh but my Camaro looks gorgeous. 

The next vehicle I owned, a Dodge Mini Van, was like a bad date that never ended. I kept wanting to dump it but drove it because nothing else was available. Or so I thought. In reality, just like in dating, there were plenty of other vehicles in the sea. Toxic relationship to the max. I don't even have a photo of it. Just the word Dodge makes me cringe. Let's just say it defined the word lemon.

Then the Nissan 200SX replaced the mini van and my faith in cars was restored again. In between, I had a brief fling with a Nissan truck.  I realized I'm not a truck person. Oh trucks are fine, but unless I'm hauling hay, who needs all that extra space. The truck was easy to put on Craig's list and watch drive away.

Alas, now it is time for my Nissan 200SX to go to the junk yard or a mechanic with a lot of free time who really wants an old Nissan. Won't hold my breath on that one.

I need to do some test driving. Date around. See what's out there. And I think I've just written my Nissan's obituary. 

Finally here's my grandpa and grandma Ellickson standing proudly by their car. Wonder how fast it could go on the freeway? Wait I don't think there were freeways then. My grandparents are gone and I imagine so is the car, but oh what a good way to be remembered. I hope they enjoyed the ride. 

February 25, 2016

Middle-Aged Barbie

     Age has brought a deeper understanding between myself and Barbie.
    When I get off work at night I like to eat popcorn and watch television. I don't smoke, but a glass of wine often accompanies my private party on the couch. Yes I have pink slippers. Barbie and I have truly become kindred spirits. Have you ever seen Barbie smile so big?

    When I was young, I loved my Barbie doll. She was my best friend, but oh how I envied her lifestyle. I was jealous of her. Of course when I played with her I never had her sitting on the couch alone. Never.

Barbie was an extension of me, a way to escape into a magical place with coordinating clothing, permanent make up and straight shimmery hair. She lived in my Barbie "dream house." I lived in a tract home with a pesky little brother. She was the dream me. 

I will always be grateful to  Barbie for she helped develop my creativity  through the pretend conversations and imagined scenarios we had together. I breathed life into her and she taught me to play.

   My Barbie rode horses, danced in gowns and kissed dashing Ken on the beach.  Now I bet Barbie as seen above on the couch would be fine if Ken was safely tucked beneath his sleep apnea machine while she watched a rerun of Gilmore Girls.

   For I'm certain now for middle-aged Barbie, as for myself, it is just too much work to choose the right outfit, totter on high heels and make small talk with people we don't like anymore. Barbie, at 50, is content with a bowl of popcorn, a remote and letting it all hang out.  Skipper, the little sister, Midge, the best friend, or even Ken, don't need to be hanging around all the time, either. There's always email. 

   This is the Barbie I grew up with. How I coveted that chic black and white suit.  Alas, my breasts did not point as high, my legs were not as long and my lips did not stay permanently cherry-colored. My eyes were not blue or my hair the color of honey. I both hated and loved her. Still I wanted to be her.

This is how I looked in a bathing suit at the age when I was playing with my Barbie doll. I remember looking at this photo even as a little girl and thinking...I am fat! And so it began. I should have saw a tough little cookie in her tank suit ready to swim across the Wisconsin lake. But no. I saw a fat tummy. Barbie I curse you. I forgive you because I know  you can't fit into that black and white suit anymore, that your cellulite jiggles and your boobs no longer point to the stars. And the dark eyeliner makes you look even older. 
     I'm convinced Barbie's body influence is bigger than we know. It may have even contributed to articles like this recent one  titled: How to Lose Cankles. Perhaps you didn't even know you had cankles much less needed to lose them. Cankles are wrinkles on the ankles. Why isn't the entire world working on this problem? Put aside cancer and terrorism and let's get to solving the cankle problem. That there were even several steps sited on how to erase ankle wrinkles makes me wonder about the person who wrote this  article. She must have grown up with a perfect-body Barbie. One of the earth shattering ways to lose wrinkles on your ankles is diet and exercise. How innovative. 
    There are new Barbies these days of all shapes, sizes and ethnic groups.This is good for the young girls who need role models other than skinny white blondes. For us older gals, my new role model is the Barbie on the couch eating popcorn. I love her.  We are one. Of course, Barbie and I must now and then get off the couch, put on street clothes, and go out in public. Ken was not a millionaire, after all. He just dressed as if he was one.

    Thankfully there is a new invention that both Barbie and I appreciate. We are both waiting for the cankle version. And neither of us will ever stop wearing bathing suits even if we have to wear a spanx beneath. We made a pact. That's what cankle sisters do. 

February 16, 2016

Mermaid Tales

   I was waiting last Sunday in a long line to see a mermaid. I hesitated before getting in line. My grown up rational self knew it wasn't a REAL mermaid and yet why was I waiting in line? I could have been strolling among the small shops at the Renaissance Fare, looking at jewelry, flipping through a book about Medieval art work or listening to a woman dressed in a peasant dress playing the harp. I could been drinking a glass of cheap red wine.

   Yet there I was waiting in a long line to see a mermaid. Half of me thought this is stupid and, yet, the other half....had to see. I wanted to believe.

   While waiting, I became aware of the conversation from an average, so average they could have been in a mini van commercial, couple behind me. The woman was asking the man questions about the mermaid. They were good thoughts to ponder if one was going to be meeting a real person. She was wondering about various aspects of the mermaid's life, non-specific, and yet I recall wanting to turn around and remind the woman mermaids weren't real. Still I waited, and the more I eavesdropped on the couple's conversation, the more excited I grew to see the mermaid. 

    This fancy dancy man, excuse me pirate, was strolling around the line sharing with us his adventures on the sea. Apparently he captured the mermaid.  Of course he did. The white lama head sticking out on the front of his hat should have triggered every cynical bone in my body, and yet I couldn't help admire his red feathers. And those muscles were easy on my eyes, too. I found myself getting anxious to step through the black curtain that separated those of us waiting in line from the mermaid. Too bad the pirate didn't serve wine. He'd have been perfect.

     This is the first glimpse I got of the mermaid. And for a moment I thought: a real mermaid.  I was 5 years old again. My imagination had taken over any intellectual understanding of the world I'd achieved. My college degree was tissue paper. My life experience evaporated. I was a little girl with a big imagination.

It was as if I was back in my childhood home on 121 Alpine Lane and my big sister was reading me from one of my Little Golden Books a story about princesses and witches and houses made from candy. Such a world contained an ocean with mermaids. Of course.

    It wasn't just me. A lot of people who stood and stared with open amazement were adults. They were people of all ages and I'm sure all walks of life from plumbers to politicians. Multiple photos were taken.

   Upon closer look at the mermaid, reality set in. I questioned if she might be cold and how much did she earn for swimming around that tank. She was such a happy mermaid. And when she said hello in English I was disappointed. I wanted her to have some secret mermaid language. Watching her swim and dive in that tank was like eating big puffs of pink cotton candy. Fleeting, silly and fun.

   The experience did my imagination a world of good. I get so caught up in reality, in my important to do list that seems to get longer and more complicated each day. I check off each task accomplished and pat myself on the back. But who really cares? My imagination gets shoved aside as I plan and plot, not just my life each day, but also what I write. 
I leave little room for that small tiny voice of imagination that was so big and bold when I was a child. No wonder when I sit down to write a story all I can think of what task I'm ignoring on my to do list.
    I had my photo taken with the other mermaid. I'm sure she'd best friends with the one in the tank.  Sure I felt silly, but also thrilled.

I didn't post that photo of me.  Instead I left room beside the mermaid for you to sit. Put aside health and money and relationship worries and curl up on a giant pink sea shell with pink pearls beside a smiling mermaid. (She left the tank just for us). If you feel too foolish being imaginative, pretending a mermaid is real, remember what Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than intelligence." I bet he would have even waited in line, too. 

January 27, 2016

Angels At the Table

     It was not just a slow night at the restaurant, it had been an entire week of zero business. The type of week where servers start thinking an hourly paid job with a regular paycheck sounds pretty darn fabulous. I'm told in Europe servers get a decent hourly wage, and after a week of minimal tips, I was thinking of relocating to Madrid. 

    Since a plane ticket to Spain was not in my budget, and I'd stocked everything in the restaurant there was to be stocked, and wiped everything that needed to be wiped, I was flipping through a magazine waiting for a table with my hope fading the nearer it got to closing time. I just wanted to toss in the cards and give up for the night. 
   While reading and waiting for the night to end,  I came across an article about Burt Reynolds. Here he is, many moons ago,  in all his hairy glory. I  became engrossed reading about Burt's financial woes which he blamed on poor investments and spendthrift women. A senior citizen now, Burt has to sell his Florida mansion. Not because he can't climb the stairs anymore though the writer said Burt has a problem walking.  One minute he's reclined on a bear rug naked looking, dare I say, cocky, and next he's shuffling around with a cane. 

  Right then I was feeling rather poverty stricken, and my feet hurt, and I could  sure relate to Burt. Well a little. I don't have a million and some dollar mansion to sell. Anyway, Burt said one of his wives, Loni Anderson, caused him the majority of his financial woes.  In this photo she looks angelic. Not the spoiled woman who demanded  expensive outfits each time she went in public. Or so Burt says.  We don't know Loni's side. 
   I was deep in this engrossing article of divorce and debt, when the hostess said I had a table. It was 15 minutes to closing. Every server in America will understand when I say I was about as happy to wait on the people as I would be a root canal. I had waited so long for a table, I no longer cared. I greeted the three women and wondered how fast I could feed them and get them to leave.
   The mother and two daughters were quirky and sweet, but they ordered water without ice. Nothing else to drink. Servers don't find this amusing, especially on a slow night when it's time to go home. Also two of the women split a hamburger. And for this I'm staying late, I thought.  They were lovely women, kept thanking me, and yet my mood was sour. I admit it. I'm not an angel. Though Loni Anderson in that photo above sure does look like an angel no matter what Burt says about her wicked ways.
   Speaking of angels, the women continued to be nice to me each time I refilled their water. Darn them. Then the mother handed me a velvet bag and insisted I pick out two angel cards. One with my left hand and one with my right. I gave up. I gave in and just accepted that I was there to be of service, no matter if I didn't make money, if I was tired, and it was late. And what do you know. I really enjoyed the three women.

    I got these two words. On top of all this, the women tipped me very well. I enjoyed them and we talked for awhile. After they left, I couldn't help think... what was the lesson? This wasn't just a random thing. It felt bigger than that. Important. 

   I like both the words. Grace reminds me of a power greater than myself, and who doesn't like relaxation?

  Before leaving I told my manager about my negative attitude  about that last table and then rest of the story.  I asked him, "What does it mean?" 

 My manager, who I think is one of the funniest, sweetest mangers ever, said he knew what it meant. "Don't be jerk."

    Yep. I was a jerk.  I have to thank my manager who I took this photo of during the holidays. He looks just as proud of himself as Burt once did.  I plan to keep the photo because not only does it make me smile, it can remind me not to be a jerk to people who just want to eat.

   In fact, I think my manager could compete with a young Burt Reynolds, at least in the hair department.