Friday, June 8, 2018

A Poem for June 8, 2018


Pray for Anthony Bourdain

Who departed the earth today.

Writer, traveler, hell-raiser

In his day… only yesterday?

Poor man, he must have felt great pain.

But let’s stop it there.

I’m not that kind of pilgrim.

This isn’t that kind of prayer.

We’ll hit the kitchen hard

Whip up a meal for him.

You make the steak.  I’ll bake the bread.

Open a bottle of wine and take

Communion of body and mind.

Our thoughts will wander,

So will our talk.

The sky will cloud over,

The door will blow open,

(Were we expecting a guest?)

No, just the wind and a loose hinge.

As I get up to close the door,

I will remember what I forgot:

The long call that precedes the cry—

Thank you.  Again.  Thank you.  Good-bye.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

How Not to Shop for Clothes



Like all people who have better things to do than to shop for clothes, I do not like to shop for clothes.  I won’t go so far as to say that I hate it.  Hate is a strong and personal word and should be used for the right thing.  Hate is for racism, violence that is not in self-defense, and capri pants.  Time is precious, although I admit other people get a lot more done in a day than I do.  They vaccinate children, fix things, teach people to read, rescue animals, volunteer at places that sound helpful, etc.  I just get up and go to a job.  But I love my clothes.  And I don't shop for them.

Online shopping for clothes is high on the list of pointless and frustrating services that modern life has given us.  Ads wriggle around the margins of websites.  An image of a beautiful coat, a pair of boots, or a dress that I have the misguided belief would suit me, prompts me to take the bait and click.  Not one of these virtual sartorial honeytraps has ever taken me to the garment that flirted with me.  Moreover, the garment is sometimes “no longer available.”  The Internet is a global marketplace.  The Internet knows things.  The Internet knows that I am American.  Do not show an American a product that she cannot have.  Do not do this.  Do you know what she will do to you?  She will scorn you, condemn you, tell everyone and your mother what a terrible retailer you are.  She will post, tweet, flame, troll, warn strangers on trains to avoid you always and forever.  She will end you.

The other problem with shopping for clothes online is that it is hard to find out who sells what because the names of the sites don’t mean anything.  Time was when clothing stores were named after the people who owned the store.  Nobody thought much of this in the mid-Holocene, but there was a Mr. Neiman and a Mr. Marcus; a Mr. Jordan and a Mr. Marsh; a Mr. Bonwit and a Mr. Teller; a Messrs. Brooks.  The places that sold clothing for people were named for people.  There was a certain transitive property at play.  You would not go into a store called, “Kaybee Toys” and ask to see Halston’s fall collection.  Online clothing retailers have names that are made up words – I refuse to find out if there is such a thing as a zulily – and offer no point of reference.  One should not be expected to apply intuition to this enterprise.  One should not have to click to find out if the retailer sells clothes, organic cat food, or intimate medical supplies.  And it should not be the case that all of these are real possibilities.

The first way not to shop for clothes is not to shop online.  Stop it right away.   Do not shop online until they make the ads link to the clothes they advertise – yes, they actually have to be told this – and that they name the stores things that make sense, like Clothes ‘R’ Us, or The Clothes Depot.

The second thing to avoid is all retail stores, even the ones that are named after people.  You must avoid them because, while the online retailer is tracking your clicks, the brick and mortar retailer is actually watching you.  If they get to watch you undress without learning your name, buying you a drink, or forgetting your birthday, then you should not have to pay for anything you try on.  It should all be free.  Moreover, the people who are “monitoring” the dressing room are judging you.  I know this because I know what I would be doing if this was my job, and I am a fairly nice person.  If the dressing room had an intercom, I would interject with the customer. 

“Ma’am, don’t buy that shirt.  It does not matter that you think it’s cute.  If you are over the age of eleven and not Picasso, do not wear boatneck shirts with horizontal stripes.” 

And if there was no intercom in place, I would knock on the dressing room door and tell the customer personally.  I would be fired from this job in half an hour. 

Next, avoid consignment stores and thrift stores.  True, these are more ecologically sound choices: whatever planet-destroying manufacturing process/supply chain that made the garment has done its damage.  However, these garments have psychic encumbrances.  The people who possessed these clothes either gained a great deal of weight, lost a great of weight, stole the garments from their ex-wife, or died.  There are certain kinds of karma that dry cleaning cannot remove.  And also, the second-hand market still requires you to shop.  The purpose of this essay is to learn how not to shop for clothes.

Do not bother to entertain the notion of making your own clothes.  Haberdashery is a craft and an art and not something to take up as a hobby, unless the “casually tossed together flour sack” is a good look for you.

Here is how not to shop for clothes: Make Friends and keep them forever.  Cherish your Friends, especially the busy people who wear your size.  Busy people have figured out ways not to shop for clothes that you do not even know exist.  And it doesn’t matter.  Because you have them.  No, you are not going to for ask their advice.  You are going to take their clothes.  Their Time is precious, too.  And you know what Friends do for each other?  Friends help Friends Swedish death clean when they are seized by the frenzy to declutter their lives.  Friends help Friends pack when they move.  Friends help Friends lighten their closet of fine garments. 

You need not adhere to the gender binary.  Women don’t need to be told this.  Women like men’s dress clothes because the quality of the fabric is better, the stitching is stronger, and there are more pockets.  You might be prepared to cry sexism over the integrity of men’s clothes and the flimsiness of women’s clothes, but I suspect this evolved from Ye Olde Days when heterosexual men did not shop and their mothers or wives gave them clothes for Christmas and their birthdays.  The clothes had to last through the turning seasons; otherwise, men would go around looking like raggedy extras from Spartacus.  Now men shop for themselves and go around looking like really tall toddlers.  This is not an improvement.

Men: make friends with women and wear their clothes.  Ease into it.  Don’t be shy to accept a black cashmere sweater, or a generously-cut shirt.  Get wild and learn how to operate buttons again.  The snake-hipped among you might slip on a pencil skirt.  Try it out.  The world might be a better place if men wore skirts.  And don’t start with the kilts.  Kilts are not skirts.  A skirt should make you feel like a walking sausage.  A kilt is a hall pass from pants and underwear.  Actually, the world might be a better place if all of us wore kilts.  (Exception to the rule of this essay: if you must shop for clothes, buy kilts.) 

You are at the mercy of another’s taste, which is why it is advisable to have a few friends with good taste to stock up on the basics, but don’t limit yourself.  Stay in the good graces of a fashion-forward friend who will put you in things that you would never try on in those evil dressing rooms with those judgmental security guards.  Your Friend will throw things at you and say:  Here are some lovely pieces and yes, I know, you think hoods look cultish, but you rock this like a hurricane.  I would join your sex cult, or death cult, or sex and death cult.  Seriously, you look like the cult leader.  Oh, have a few bolero jackets.  I have seventy.  When did I buy these?  Was it during our amphetamine phase?  When did we last take amphetamines together?  It was not this morning… wait, what?  Is that why you are vacuuming the drapes?  Oooh!  Take this!  I have to move to Madagascar for business next Tuesday.  It’s a conservative office and the Helen Mirren Excalibur Disco Witch look won’t fly.  But it looks good on you. 

“But it looks good on you” might mean “it looks good on you,” or it might mean “if you are any Friend to me at all, you will get this out of my damn house now.”  Maybe you aren’t brave enough to wear the crushed velvet catsuit to Thanksgiving dinner, even though your Friend double dog dared you.  And you might get a few wears out of the dresses Friend acquired during that unfortunate Downton Abbey phase that you have been forbidden to speak of ever again.  And maybe you will have to make an exception to the ban on horizontal striped boat necked shirts because your Friend ignored you when you shouted through the dressing room door to stop this madness.

Accept all that your Friends give.  Accept all of the good and bad decisions, the fads, the solid basic pieces that everyone has and no one especially loves, the things that belonged to Friends of Friends.  Accept it all.  Your closet will be a record of the weird and wonderful people you have in your life.  Go ahead and pair the harem pants with the tartan jacket.  The tuxedo shirt with the Daisy Dukes.  The Gunny Sack dress with combat boots.  Wear it and rock it.  Rock it like a hurricane.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Last Visit


The last good visit with Mum.  We sat together in the morning and we did not have lunch, which I regret.  Rosemary, our favorite PCA, told me Mum needed some things, so I left her to go shopping and returned after she had lunch and before her nap.  I brought her clothes and magazines and a puzzle and we looked at pictures of flowers and gardens and we were happy.

It is not the last time that I will see her, but it will be our last good time together.  This visit is our parting of ways.  I know she is not doing well and I don’t know.  I think that she will die in June.  I am wrong.  She will die in thirty-six days on Holy Saturday.  Four days short of forty.  Maybe this is my personal Lent and I should do something or refrain from doing something.  My Lent, like your Lent, has death; but, your Lent, unlike my Lent, ends with a resurrection. 

This gets me to thinking.  Had Mum risen from her death bed, or had the funeral home called three days later (Your Mother is up.  Come get her, please.) that would have presented a problem or two.  Where would I have taken Resurrected Mum?  St. Catherine's won’t have her back.  They don’t stand for this sort of thing in nursing homes, not even Catholic ones.  Dad will have her, but she will not be able to manage the stairs in the house.  The place she lived before already said that her condition was beyond them.  Add resurrection to the mix and it really becomes difficult.  And, a resurrected person sets a bad example.  You don’t want to put ideas in people’s heads that this sort of behavior is acceptable.  I am not sure if Mum will keep this quiet, although she is good at keeping secrets.  You can tell her anything and she keeps it to herself.  I try to model myself on her in that respect, and many others.  But I draw the line at resurrection.  (Actually, the line is drawn somewhere around ironing bed sheets.) 

Resurrected Mum will live with us.  I am not sure how my husband will take the news.  He might have questions.  How many times is she going to do this?  Do we have to file a tax return for her?  Is this genetic?  All reasonable questions.  The answer is: I don’t know.  Not a reasonable answer.

She can have the guest room.  I doubt anyone will stay with us ever again, so it’s not a problem.  I will hang her clothes in the closet and arrange them by color, like I did before.  I will buy her shoes and slippers because intuition tells me that your shoe size changes when you rise from the dead.  She won’t have a driver’s license, so I will drive her places.  We can make our Saturday trips to the library again.  Watch Julia Child in the afternoon.  Have tea and muffins and gossip (while not telling secrets) about whoknowswhat.

Yes, Resurrected Mum will live with me.  And I will find a way to make my family happy with this arrangement because I would really like this.

I would really like to have her back.

I want her back.