Sunday, November 25, 2007

Feels Like the First Time

Z and I may have reached a new threshold of familiarity this week while I was spending a lengthy Thanksgiving holiday with him. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I found myself in his bathroom with only one Sheryl Crowe approved square of toilet tissue when what I needed was something more along the lines of 43 squares. For space saving reasons, the “loo paper” is kept in a kitchen cabinet, which is thru the living room where the blinds were up. So I put my pride aside, stuck my head out the bathroom door, and sent a distress signal to Z, who rescued me.

It was a visit of firsts. Though I make no bones about how much I hate theatre (philistine that I am) and though just two weeks ago I called Z begging him to figure out a way for me to escape the second half of “Wicked”, Z and I decided to go see a play in a little theatre near his apartment. I was convinced because it was written by the Alan Ball, who created “Six Feet Under” and also because it was about bridesmaids, a topic about which I am an expert, having served my time in the bridesmaid corp on no less than four overly floral tours of duty.

If we were in New York, we would have been so far off Broadway we would have been in New Jersey. We scoped out the place before the show to figure out how long it would take us to get there before the curtain went up. “If there IS a curtain,” I said to Z. And then he joked about how we’d probably be sitting on folding chairs. Sure enough, when we arrived, we were ushered into a big room with no curtain and we found our place on two of the thirty folding chairs. Over head, we could hear the cast of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” racing around in the other “theatre.” At this point, my heart was racing. What if this was some sort of avant garde production wherein audience participation would be required. We could hardly escape during the performance without hurting someone’s feelings. I was ready to bolt, but then the lights came down and the not curtain went up, and the play began.

It was instantly engaging. The casting was nicely done (not a lot of “arm acting”) and the dialogue was good. The first half zipped by, though I warned Z at intermission that the second half was going to stink. It just felt like it was probably going to suddenly get really preachy, and sure enough, by the time it was over, a bevy of social issues had been covered including drug abuse, sexual abuse, homosexuality, evangelical intolerance, and bad parenting. Since half of it was good, we decided it was not a failed experiment, though Z concluded that his favorite part of the whole evening had been intermission, when the ticket taker arrived with a little wheeled cabinet that had refreshment for sale. (He bought me a Coke.) I doubt if that’s what Alan Ball or the director had in mind.

Other firsts: my first Thanksgiving with Z. The two Thanksgivings he lived in my hometown were frought with angst for me. For both of them, a gaggle of his female friends from St. Paul were in town visiting, which meant I did not get to see him. I was in love with him, he was oblivious, and I admit I was sure he was sleeping with at least one, possibly all of those girls, and I HATED them, particularly during the second visit when I made the ill-advised choice to go to Meijer on a day when I had not washed my hair or put on make-up and was wearing relaxi pants to accommodate my turkey-filled stomach. And of course he was there with these temptresses who were dressed and had clean hair and looked smug and satisfied. Yes, I really hated them that day. (For the record, I’ve met half of them since, and they are lovely people and the hatred has been rescinded.)

Aside from getting homesick the night before because you cannot buy a box mix of gingerbread in all of King County, it was a perfect Thanksgiving. We ate with friends of Z’s, in what seemed to be a real Norman Rockwell celebration, at their beautiful home in Everett overlooking Puget Sound. The turkey was free-range, hormone free, and my sugar crème pie was not too burned to serve. The company was good. I even met the now 21 year old version of the two year old who made Z swear he never wanted to kids. She was charming.

The next morning, I went to my first ever Macy’s (post) Thanksgiving Day parade and also my first ever parade with a man. Z knew I wanted to see it, so set the alarm and insisted we go, though my inclination was to sleep in. It was a treat. Instead of giant balloon floats like we would have seen the day before in Manhattan, the floats were made of tiny balloons. We behaved like a couple of kids, elbowing our way to the front, snatching candy as it was thrown to the crowd, and clapping. (Extra loud claps for the Scottie dog float.)

And another first, while Z was putting money in the parking meter for Groovy Grey, our rental car du jour, a woman came up to him and asked if I was pregnant. Since I was sitting in the car and was only visible from the steering wheel up, I assume she wasn’t offering commentary on this year’s turkey-filled stomach, but I was still indignant the rest of the day, hrmmphing periodically. Z kept insisting that she was a mental case, but then I started wondering if perhaps she was one of those people who appears on the surface to be mental but is really gifted with the second sight, so I spent the rest of the week trying to determine if I was nauseous from too much food at the Cheesecake Factory or if it was something else.

(It was the cheesecake. And the fried macaroni. And the queso dip.)

Seattle has itself gussied up for the holidays, and it’s been fun to see the lights and what appears to be a giant version of the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree at Westlake Center. And though my natural inclination is to feel a little blue because I won’t BE with Z at Christmas in Seattle, Zimbabwe, or anywhere else, he’s starting to wear off on me so I’m looking on the bright side. If the U.S. had Thanksgiving when Canada does, the decorations wouldn’t be up yet and I couldn’t pretend I’m also getting to have my first ever Christmas with him too.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Wiz

Seriously. How does my hair know I’m on my way to Seattle? It has been fluffy enough for weeks, and today it is hanging in flat, greasy hanks even though I washed it two hours ago.

Z reports that he is sick with a sore throat, so this might not be the twelve-day lovefest I’d been imagining. Oh well. I bought him fleecey pajama bottoms and a robe for his belated birthday, so maybe this will be the visit of loungewear and medicinal cocktails.

I’m at the airport, looking at the Indianapolis skyline, popping its collective head up like a tenacious prairie dog. It’s funny how the size of Indy shifts depending on where I’ve been. If I haven’t been anywhere for awhile, it seems like the big city. But in the last month I’ve been to St. Paul, New York City, and Chicago, so it sort of looks like a miniature golf course today.

To celebrate her birthday, my mother and I went to New York a couple of weeks ago. Other than rain and blistered feet, it was a near perfect trip. She hadn’t been since 1979, so it was like visiting a completely different place. Clean, for instance. Mary Poppins and Spamalot tickets on sale in Times Square instead of cocaine and sex. iPods thrumming quietly thru earphones instead of ghetto blasters the size of VW Beetles hoisted on the shoulders of passersby. A lot has been written about the Disneyfication of New York, both good and bad, and I was ever so briefly nostalgic for the sense that the City could eat a person whole and not even bother to belch up the bones yet here was I, fearlessly leading my mother around like a pro. But there’s a lot to be said for clean and safe and not hostile to tourists when you are a hayseed from Indiana who wants to feel like a native. Within our first hour there we were meandering thru the park on our way to meet a former colleague of mine for lunch just like we do that sort of thing all the time. Except the Cannon Elph getting whipped out every ten paces to take photos of Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen and the horse drawn carriages and the skyline probably blew our cover.

What I’ve discovered about going to New York is that no matter what you saw or what you did, when you get back the only thing anybody will ask you is what shows you saw. Nobody cares that we strolled around the market at Union Square munching on the best apples ever grown or that we watched dogs frolic at two different dog parks or that I tricked Mom into going to Ground Zero though she had made me promise not to drag her there simply because I felt the need to see the space before it is filled in and up or that in a weak moment we decided it would be “fun” to go to the Sex Museum on Fifth Avenue. No sir. All people want to know is if we saw Jersey Boys or Clueless. And when you say, “No, I don’t really like theatre,” there’s this look you see flicker across the eyes that indicates your stock as a sophisticated person has just plummeted.

The only thing I hate worse than theatre is musical theatre, but given the negative response to not having taken advantage of Broadway, I agreed to go see Wicked in Chicago last week with my oldest friend, the Annie Leibovitz of Eastern Indiana. I was optimistic going in. People love the show. I like The Wizard of Oz. Also, they were selling necklaces that said “Oz” but the “Z” was the prominent thing, and I was sure when the show was over, I’d be more than willing to plunk down whatever ridiculous price they were charging for it in honor of my non-emerald Z.

Five minutes in, I was in agony from all the projecting and enunciating. The costumes and lights and what I’ve come to think of as “arm acting” distracted me from the story. The theatre was hot and the woman sitting next to me was a leg jiggler and the girl behind me sang all the songs with gusto, not at all embarrassed. It seemed a complete impossibility to me that Leibovitz wasn’t as miserable as I was, so at half-time, er, intermission, I looked at her expectantly, assuming we would be blowing the place in lieu of a couple of hours browsing thru books and sipping cocoa in the Borders overlooking the Water Tower. Instead, she nodded her head happily and said, “It’s goooood, isn’t it?” So I escaped to the restroom, called Z, and begged him to call in a threat of some sort, but even he let me down and said he was afraid such an action would have a negative impact on his visa. So I suffered thru. I dozed. I pretended to care about the plight of the anti-hero, all the while wondering if there was some sort of Clinque product that could reduce her green pallor, and when the house lights came up, I nearly wept with relief. Thank goodness no precious New York minutes were wasted on Broadway.

(And no, I did not buy the commemorative Oz necklace.)

Plane is boarding. I’m off to see the sore-throated but otherwise Great and Powerful Z.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Podiatrist Aesthetics

Today I saw my podiatrist. It pains me to say I have a podiatrist because it makes me sound older than I feel, but I’ve been seeing my old podiatrist since I was twenty-two. Not for any particular issue, but for a variety—troublesome toenails, heel spurs, and the occasional fight with a screen door or vacuum cleaner that ends with late night stitches and a season of wound abrading.

The old podiatrist was talkative. You might go in for an ingrown toenail but while there, you would talk about Star Trek, car shows, war, and relationships. You never knew what you’d get, but it definitely wouldn’t be foot talk and it would always be something a bit odd. It harkened back to some bygone era that I sometimes crave, when doctors knew you for longer than the three minutes they spend with you and when, if times were hard, you could pay with a chicken. So I was a little sad when my old podiatrist sold his practice to a whipper snapper, and I worry that if I have another late night entanglement with the sharp edge of a small home appliance, the new guy won’t get himself out of bed to stitch me up and I will have to go to the ER (a.k.a. The Barber Shop) where I will most likely end up with a staph infection or some other completely avoidable complication.

One thing that has always been problematic though was the décor of the office. The old podiatrist had a thing for bad clown art (though I’m not sure I’ve ever seen good clown art). In fact, not just bad clown art, but bad hobo clown art: cartoony in nature, neon in color, and all clowns with giant feet, usually with toes poking out of the fronts of raggedy shoes. I never could reconcile how a doctor so smart and sure of himself could have such horrendous taste.

It wouldn’t hurt to note that I hate clowns. Possibly I’ve mentioned this before. I feel a little guilty about it because my great grandfather was a clown, ran away and joined the circus—the whole deal. My grandmother grew up playing with his clown make-up and wearing his clown clothes. But it doesn’t change my intense dislike for people who draw their emotions on their faces and then expect audience members to ooh and aah at madcap pantomime. When I first discovered there were devout Christians in the world who had clown ministries I was horrified, so far from God are clowns in my mind.

When the new guy started, I assumed the clown art would be the first to go. However, it remained. This led me to wonder if perhaps podiatrists universally have a thing for clowns. Maybe it has something to do with the giant feet. The new doctor didn’t share many other characteristics with the old doctor. He’s friendly enough. He is helpful enough. He always asks where I’ve recently traveled to, but I know his question comes from a Post-It note in my chart reminding him this is my thing so it establishes a doctor-patient relationship that really doesn’t exist. This is fine though—I prefer that he read medical foot journals in his spare time in lieu of memorizing patient names and hobbies.

It was a shock today, though, to walk in and discover that not only were the clowns gone but the good fairy of tasteful interior decorating had made a visit. The neon is gone and in its place, sage walls. The Early American furniture haunting doctor’s office across America for the past 40 years is gone, and in its place, tasteful, clean-lined chairs, tables, and lamps from Ikea. And the clowns are just gone. I was so shocked by their absence that I didn’t even notice what replaced them.

After the good doctor asked how my gout was and asked where I’d traveled to (nodding his head and saying “good good” before I ever answered), I commended him on the absence of clowns. He thanked me and said the shocking thing was that my old doctor asked if he could have the clown art back. I asked why he hadn’t just taken the art when the practice sold, and the new doctor said, “I think he thought I would like it.” He grimaced and we laughed.

I felt a little closer to the new doctor after this exchange, though I also felt something else. I won’t say I missed the clowns, because that would be a lie. There should be legislations banning clown art, statuary, and let’s face it, clowns themselves. But what I missed is the kooky uniqueness of my old doctor, who was not only certain that his peculiar décor would appeal to his patients, but he was also certain his younger, hipper successor would love it too. It’s not hard to decorate tastefully—all you need is a credit card and a Pottery Barn catalog. But to decorate so hideously and with pride…there is something admirable in that.