Monthly Archives: October 2005

Halloween memories

When I was growing up, my family always took Halloween very seriously. Starting in early September, dinner-time conversations would revolve around plotting out the logistics of costumes for my sister and myself. There was a period of about ten years where we built complex animal heads out of chicken wire and masking tape just about every year. They chicken wire was used to construct a frame, and then it was covered with masking tape, which created a perfect surface for painting. Part of this desire to make unusual and unique costumes was that when we started dressing up for Halloween, my family lived in LA. We went to school with kids who’s parents worked in the entertainment industry and had access to props and costume departments. The annual Halloween parade on the playground of my elementary school in Eagle Rock was typically half costumes straight off the sound stage and half from the racks of Pic’N’Save.

When my sister was six years old, she was a mermaid. When she first proposed this idea to our mom, she told her that she wanted the fins to be sewed together, and she wanted my mother to go to school with her and pull her around all day on our little red wagon (from an early age, Raina believed she should receive star treatment). My mom quickly nixed that idea and instead created fins that came down like a skirt, so that Raina could still walk. She did cave to one of my sister’s demands for that costume, and sewed padded fabric seashells to a flesh colored teeshirt, to create the illusion of breasts. Yep, she had the biggest knockers of any first grader that year.

As luck (or misfortune) would have it, I managed to go to different elementary schools for third grade, fourth grade and fifth grade. Much to my parents’ creative relief, this enabled me to wear the same costume for three years in a row. My beloved parrot costume consisted of a chicken wire and masking tape head (as described above) complete with a hinged beak and a green suit my mom made. It was covered with blue and green feathers, and had a tail that velcro-ed on and off, or ease when sitting in class. The best part was the rubber kitchen gloves I wore on my feet, to replicate the look of bird feet.

Saturday Night Fall Back

If you want to see how I spent my Saturday night, check out this Flickr set. In celebration of the turning back of the clocks, my friend Shay convened the fourth annual Fall Back Party (although this year renamed In-Towners/Out-of-Towners).

Raina on the road

My sister did the first show of her tour last night, and my sources say that it went very well. She made $15 in tips and sold two CDs, which in my mind is an auspicious start to the tour. She is now down in LA at a folk music conference and had a funny thing happen to her today. She was standing in the hotel where the conference is taking place, and an older, slightly letchy guy, seeing the star tattoo she has on her chest came up to her and said, “So, did the tattoo artist pay you to do that?” She used one of the many skills our mother taught us, how to play dumb, and said, “No, it doesn’t work that way.” His increasingly smarmy reply was, “Well, I’m going to tell your father about that.” No longer playing dumb, but genuinely confused she said, “Do you know my father?” He looked at her like she was a little slow and said that he didn’t. But Raina pressed on and said, “Maybe you do you know my father” and gave our dad’s name.

Turns out, this guy, who came up to my sister to hit on her, knows our dad. He had worked with some of the same musicians my dad used to work with. Bet he feels a little silly.

Blogger meetup or why you shouldn't drink and use sharp knives

I had a lovely, if slightly tipsy afternoon today, hanging out with the crew of Philly bloggers. I left a little earlier than most, after a raucous two and a half hours and two and a half beers, because I’m attending a party tonight to which I have been asked to bring a salad and I needed to go and make said salad. Well, just now, while trying to julienne basil, I did an excellent job of mincing my finger instead. Thankfully, I had already washed the lemon juice off my hands.

Lesson learned: don’t drink and slice.

Random Friday

It’s Friday, and that means I eschew a substantive post to instead tell you what the first ten songs my iPod spits out are.

1. Comin’ Down the Rain, Nanci Griffith (Other Voices, Other Rooms)
2. Hoochie Woman, Tori Amos (The Beekeeper)
3. Fall Into Me, Lorna Bracewell (God Forbid)
4. Please, Eric Hutchinson (This Could Have Gone Better)
5. All the Kings Horses, Joss Stone (The Soul Sessions)
6. The Beauty Myth, Sandman (Mississippi Studios Live)
7. Point Shirley, Rhett Miller (The Instigator)
8. Church in Chicago, Mare Wakefield Band (Factory)
9. We Learned the Sea, Dar Williams (The Green World)
10. Great High Mountain, Jack White (Cold Mountain)

and the song that has come to embody my personal understanding of life lately…

11. The Times They are a Changin’, Bob Dylan (Bob Dylan Unplugged)

Favorite Song: Please by Eric Hutchinson. I love him, I just do, I can’t help it. The last time I saw him perform live, I dragged a bunch of friends along, and they went up to him after the show and told him I had brought them all, and when he was finished selling his stuff and talking to all the 19 year old girls who were swooning over him, he came over and talked to me. I think he’s great, and someday, the rest of the world will to.

Least Favorite Song: All the King’s Horses. I just don’t think this is one of Joss Stone’s best.

Coronation Silver–flowers or canine–you be the judge

When my grandparents married in December of 1969, it was a second marriage for both of them. They came together having already had full lives and three children a piece. They merged their lives and their belongings, two large suburban houses into a single two-bedroom apartment (the one in which I currently live). There was much negotiation about furniture and possessions, what to keep and what to hand over to family. The only area in which they merged seamlessly was in the silverware department. This is because they both had the exact same set of silverware.

It was a design, very popular in the 40’s and 50’s, called Coronation. Community created it in 1936 in order to honor the coronation of Edward VIII. Unfortunately, he ended up abdicating the throne before he ever assumed it in order to marry Wallis Simpson, so this pattern of silver never actually ended up honoring anything at all. But people loved it and seem to have bought it by the gross. (My grandmother and many of the women of her generation thought that a royal giving up the throne for love was extremely romantic and that swoony emotion may have fueled their consumption of these forks, spoons and knives).

Because I ended up with my grandparents’ apartment, and just about everything in it, I also became the proud owner of about 250 pieces of this silverware. The problem is that I don’t really like it very much. I grew up with this silver, eating with it every time we came to visit. Having seen it from a young age, my perception of it is permanently skewed. When I look at the handle, I don’t see the flowers and wreaths that everyone else sees.

I see a dog’s face.

Coronation Fork.jpg

You have to look at the fork upright, but the top two holes are the eyes, and the bottom cutout is the mouth. The flower in the middle is the snout. It’s what my baby-brain came up with and I’ve never been able to change the way my synapses interpret it. It came as quite the shock when I was about nine that that wasn’t how everyone saw it. I try to have people take a close look when they come over for dinner, but not everyone can see the puppy in the handle.

So beware accepting dinner invitations from me, you may be asked to examine your silverware for canine resemblance while eating your soup.

Vocabulary lessons at the movies

Tonight I went to a free screening of “Nine Lives” at the Ritz Bourse. A week and a half ago, I emailed the review of this movie to my movie buddy (just one among many buddy roles she plays in my life) Shay with a note that said, “I want to see!!!” The next day I got an email invitation to the screening.

I had been looking forward to it all day, and made sure to leave work on time so that I could go to Trader Joe’s, buy something for dinner (and dark chocolate for Shay), get home, put on jeans, microwave said dinner and get back downstairs in time to be picked up. With all those tasks accomplished I climbed into Shay’s Honda at 6:15 and we headed for the theater. For some reason traffic was heavy on Chestnut street. It seems that with the onset of cold weather, the majority of drivers in Philadelphia have misplaced all knowledge they ever possessed about how exactly to navigate their vehicles.

Once we had our passes in hand, we got on line to wait to exchange the passes for tickets (they like the multi-step process around here). There was a woman standing in line in front of us who was obviously waiting for someone to join her. She stood there, in her black leather motorcycle jacket, with a feathered hair cut straight out of the 70’s, bobbing her head back and forth in an attempt to see around the people at the front of the line. She then turned to the woman to her right and asked a question about parking. When the target of question wasn’t able to give her the answer she wanted, I jumped in (I just can’t help it sometimes, you can call me nosy, I like to think of myself as helpful). Between the two of us, Shay and I told her everything she needed to know about parking in Center City in order to see movies at the Ritz (this is a subject about which I know more than I should, especially considering I live a mere 15 blocks from the theater we were waiting to enter). Just at the point when we had answered all her questions, her girlfriend showed up, the line began to move and the conversation came to a natural end.

Once in our seats, Shay and I started talking about the upcoming weekend and the group of friends she’s got coming into town. There’s a small party on Saturday night, and Shay wanted to make sure that we play “Angela’s party game.” Turns out I know Angela’s game by the name “Celebrity.”

The last time I played “Celebrity” was over a year ago at Seth’s birthday party, at the suggestion of Devon (who has since moved back to San Francisco. She was always one for proposing games at parties, a trait I used to poo-poo, but now genuinely miss). In preparation for this game, everyone writes down the name of five (or seven or ten) celebrities, and throws them into a basket. In the first round you can use as many words as you’d like in order to get your team to guess the name on your slip of paper. In the second round you can only use one word and in the third and final round you have to make them guess the name simply through your acting skills. Ellen’s then-boyfriend Chris was playing that night. He was a very smart, if slightly intellectually obscure guy (I’m sure he still is, but since they broke up, we don’t see him anymore) and the majority of the names he put into the basket followed suit.

As I described this particular game of Celebrity to Shay, I called Chris’s personality choices “esoteric.” We continued talking a moment more, but then the woman sitting in the seat in front of us interrupted. It was the same woman who had been in front of us in line outside. She asked, “This is going to sound really stupid, but I wonder if you could tell me what the word esoteric means. I hear it used all the time, but I never know. I have a really terrible vocabulary.”

For a moment we were both taken totally aback. I have never had a grown woman, someone older than me, ask me to define a word for her. I was also astounded by the bravery it must have taken to ask us for help in that manner. I stumbled over my words a little, but managed to get out, “Oh, okay. I’d be happy to. Well, I guess it means something that is intellectually obscure.” When she continued to look at me with a little bit of puzzlement, I continued with “it’s information or a reference to some piece of work that it out of the ordinary.” She started to get it, although before we were done with our vocab lesson, we had also referenced Pavlov’s dogs and Machiavelli.

At the end of our conversation she said to me, “You remind me a lot of my younger sister. She is an English teacher, and has told me that I should try to learn a new word every day. Thanks for your help.”

There was a certain innocence about this woman, a deep curiosity, an ingrained sense of kindness and a general appreciation for life. I am so glad that she was so willing to ask me a question, if for no other reason than I deeply enjoyed the few minutes I spent talking with her.

Becoming my mother and other news

This morning, in my hurry to get myself dressed, I did something I swore I would never do past the age of seven. I put on knee socks. My mother used to wear knee socks on a regular basis. I remember watching her pull them on in the morning when I was a young teenager, and thought they were horrible. And now, here I am, in knee socks. I have to say, they are quite nice, too. Just like tights, but without the uncomfortable waistband. I may be a knee sock convert.

In other news, if you haven’t heard about the movie, Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price, hear about it now. It’s the latest from the director of Outfoxed and they are doing a grassroots screening campaign. I’ve ordered the DVD and will hosting a free screeing of the movie (under the auspices of the UU Young Adult Group) on Tuesday, November 15th at 8 pm. If you live in Philly and you’d like to come, give me a shout. I do believe there will be a potluck dinner portion of the evening as well.

Lastly, my sister, the incomparable Raina Rose, will be doing the first show in her tour this Friday, October 28th at Bazaar Cafe in San Francisco. If you live in that area, go, check her out.

Running 'round the writer's block

I’m having trouble finding anything worth writing at the moment. I’ve started a post about how I learned to roast red peppers (inspired by a recent soup making moment) as well as a post about the pleasures of making dinner for a friend. They both have lots of potential but I am singularly unable to unearth their possibilities at the moment. So instead, I sit, on my brown couch, my computer resting on a pillow in my lap, Gilmore Girls playing in front of me.

I’ll be back tomorrow, hopefully with something good.

Time traveling on a Sunday night

There is an alley in Old City, between Church and Market, between 2nd and 3rd that is still paved with cobblestones. If you stand towards the end at night and squint your eyes so that the electric lights go fuzzy and don’t turn your head too much, you can imagine that you have left the modern era and are standing in any of the past four centuries.

Up above, towards the mouth of the alley, the two buildings on either side of you join to form one, bricks placed in shaky rows, so different from the militaristic bricks of modern buildings. There are forged metal balconies and fire escapes (okay so the fire escapes only take me a century and a half or so back).

I can picture housemaids, with their mob-capped heads, slopping the contents of their employers’ chamberpots out onto the street. Women walking, wrapped in long, dark clocks to protect them from the cold, trying to keep their toe-skimming skirts out of the muck and mud of the street. A doctor, making a house call, wearing a tall black hat, bag of remedies in one hand, while the other grasps at his lapels, keeping them joined against the wind. As he approaches his destination, he takes a minute to wipe the mess of the street off his shoes using the ubiquitious boot scrapers that are installed beside the stairs.

Horses pulling carriages, their hooves clacking against the surface of the street. Gaslights flickering and illuminating corners and casting shadows.

This is why I live in Philadelphia.