Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween & Housebound

It’s Halloween on the Row. The peacocks are dressed as Oriental fan dancers, the dogs are dressed as lazy wolf cubs, the cat is a ferocious jungle panther, and the parrots are caged birds (that sing). Ray’s costume this year is hermit musicologist/archivist (he’s STILL transferring his entire, very impressive album collection to CD then to iTunes, and he’s doing some musical archiving for our friend Ina, whose brain is in fine shape after her recent fall & surgery, praise Shiva. Ina’s payments of mouthwatering banana bread are helping us lay on some pre-winter fat

My oldest brother, The Suave Southern Host, was home from Mexico this month. We had good family visits, and my brother got to introduce baby Clyde to his first taste of apple pie. Then Ray and I went with TSSH to Omaha, where he played a 25th-anniversary reunion gig with the Omaha ska/NE range/reggae/dance band, the Linoma Mashers. It was pretty amazing watching those old farts (he’s two years older than me) kick some musical arse, and even more amazing to watch the packed house scream in unison on “Surfin’ Lake McConaughy.”

Then last weekend, my friend Linda Orbatch and I road-tripped to MN State U to read poems, along with another Little U. colleague, at the 29th annual Women and Spirituality Conference. Akasha Hull delivered a stunning keynote address on the intersection of spirituality and sexuality to 300-ish women and a few brave men, and there were 25-30 simultaneous panels running during each of four sessions. We could choose from topics like Eastern religions, shamanism, tarot, drum circles, spontaneous singing, kabbalah, laughter yoga and much more. The highlight for me was having my aura photographed because, well, you just gotta. According to the aura reader, I’m completely relaxed and not at all stressed. It must be true, right?
The Row is settling now under a thick blanket of leaves. Ray cleaned up the garden, and the mums are slumped over with morning frost. After planning it in his head for a couple of years, Ray took a weekend recently and built a pergola over the back sidewalk. We’re trying to convince the peas it’s not a giant pea-perch, and next spring we’ll plant hearty wisteria on both sides. It, like practically everything else on the Row, is draped in blue solar lights. Out here on the dark prairie, we have our own little solar system at night.
My Halloween costume this year is harried, housebound, decaying schoolmarm. Once again, as the days grow longer and I spend increasing periods bent over piles and piles and piles of essays and midterm exams, I’m losing my summer freckles and donning my winter Casper-white glow, nicely accented by big dark circles under my eyes, a coffee mustache, and a ring of Doritos cheese around my mouth. My new essential foundation garment is an Icy Hot patch on the back of my neck. (Note to students: Bless you for trying, but “LMAO” and “Even a total tool knows that…” isn’t really objective academic writing.) A couple of colleagues and I chuckled a while back over our collective wish to be just sick enough to be hospitalized for a few days so we could (a) sleep and (2) get caught up with our grading. Maybe an exotic, non-lethal parasite would be nice...and I could scarf down even more Doritos and banana bread…

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Then & Now: Weddings Edition

My friend got married recently, and halfway through the reception, as I was trying desperately to breathe while mopping sweat off my forehead and trying to find the sandals I'd kicked off before hitting the dance floor, it occured to me that weddings in midlife are nothing like the weddings of our youth. So I've put together this retrospective, an amalgamation of all the weddings I've been to (and a few I've been in) over the years...

Then: You get married at 17 because you’re bored and there’s nothing on TV.
Now: You get married at 54 because you’ve miraculously found someone whose emotional sensibilities complement yours and whose only goal in life is to be your life partner.

Then: You’ve been planning every teensy detail of your wedding since you were 13. You have it cataloged in several 3-ring binders.
Now: A couple weeks before the big day, you find a place to get married and a bigger place to have a party. You’re pretty sure you have something in the back of your closet you can wear.

Then: Your mom sells a car to pay for your invitations, engraved with fluttering doves and an excerpt from Jonathan Livingston Seagull. You send the invitations out to everyone you’ve ever known, six months before the wedding.
Now: You make 50 invitations in Word on your home computer a month before the wedding, then you forget them in a grocery bag in the back seat of your car, thinking you’ve already mailed them.

Then: You compose a set of 8 linked sonnets as your wedding vows, and you ask the minister for a homily on fidelity, marital effort & trust, which he’s to keep under an hour.
Now: You compose your 8-line vows from your favorite self-help book, and you ask the minister for any homily with the word “love” that stays under 5 minutes.

Then: You get married in the Cathedral.
Now: You get married in a small university chapel that doubles as a classroom.

Then: You have a string quartet play background music before the processional, which is played—majestically, triumphantly—on the Cathedral’s floor-to-ceiling pipe organ. The recessional is played by a small brass ensemble.
Now: Three chicks with guitars sing an old rock & roll song for your processional, and an old married couple with guitars sings another old rock & roll song for your recessional. The groom’s toddler granddaughter dances in the aisle and claps.

Then: You have a champagne reception in an art museum gallery, with petit fours, imported liver pate, and ricotta cheesecake bites with candied raspberry sauce.
Now: You have an open-bar hootenanny in a barn converted into a dance hall. You serve roast pork, green beans, potatoes and carrot cake.

Then: You have a sweet little folk band playing at the reception.
Now: You have a kick-ass country swing band at the reception, with incredibly hot chick singers, and you shove all the front tables back to get at the dance floor.
Then: Your new husband kneels at your feet as you sit in a brocade and ribbon-covered throne on a small gallery stage. He carefully takes off your $100 beaded silk garter with his teeth.

Now: Your garter, an old blue bandanna strapped to your thigh, comes untied and falls off somewhere between the chapel and the dance hall.

Then: All through the reception, your friend babysits the stoic Presbyterian minister’s three small children.
Now: All through the reception, your friend dances like a whirling dervish with the gregarious ex-Catholic-priest minister.

Then: You do the chicken dance, the alligator, the hokey-pokey, and a dollar dance that goes on for 127 minutes.
Now: You do a couple waltzes and a slow dance with the groom, but mostly you do Laugh-In-ish interpretive go-go dancing with your girlfriends. Your friend’s hip goes out.

Then: You get toasters, crystal, china, hand-embroidered linens, and casserole dishes.
Now: You get money and wine. And wine glasses. And more wine. And good coffee.

Then: The groomsmen outfit the wedding limo with streamers, dried flowers and bells in your theme colors.
Now: Your daughter and her friends wrap your new husband's car with crime scene tape.

Then: You slip out of the reception at 10:30 to make your midnight flight to Fiji.
Now: You slip out of the reception at midnight, because you’re exhausted and you have to work tomorrow.