Monday, October 18, 2010

Because You Can Never Have Too Many Posts About Sombreros.

You know how sometimes on your way home from work you see a stranded mariachi band on the side of the freeway, and they always look so forlorn in their ruffled shirts and pencil-thin mustaches?  And how they're lined up in the setting sun next to a piebald Ford Windstar with a flat tire, and one them is holding a trumpet in his hand like he's about to kick off a sweet number right there on the shoulder, with the traffic shooting by and hamburger wrappers and left socks swirling in little eddies around his feet?

And you know how you think to yourself, I'd like to help, really I would, but I'm in a hurry, and besides, there's no room in this car for a stand-up bass and eight sombreros?

So you stay in the fast lane, avoiding mariachi eye contact, and then you spend the next two weeks daydreaming about how cool it would have been to have a whole band in your car, the backseat ringing with grateful "AY YA YAY YA!" s and rhythmic guitar?

Only it's too late now, so add another regret to your pile?

I know.   I've been there.  I learned this one the hard way a couple of weeks ago. I don't normally pick up people off the side of the road, but murders committed by mariachi bands are statistically insignificant, and I think this time I missed out on a chance for true philanthropic joy. It's a decision I'm going to have to live with.

Also today I let down an entire Japanese restaurant.  I was getting out of my car, and all the waitresses inside, suburban white girls in red satin kimonos and wooden sandals with athletic socks (authentic!), spotted me through the plate glass window and reached simultaneously for a stack of menus before I even reached the sidewalk.   Only I was actually going next door to buy a trumpet (which should have been some kind of sign, now that I think about it) so then they all put the menus back sadly, their gaze following me down the sidewalk.  When I came out from next door they perked up until they saw it was me, and then went back to standing in the empty restaurant, their eyes scanning, scanning the horizon for someone who wanted their dumplings.

I could see the desperation, but I just wasn't hungry.  It wasn't them, it was me.  I almost went in to explain, but it seemed like leading them on.

I'm not sure where I'm really going with all this, but it probably has something to do with the candy corn self-medicating I've been doing all day, or the fact that tomorrow in my birthday, and that's always a time for reflection, and also candy corn, if your birthday happens to be in October.

Another regret I have is  leaving you, my valiant readers, with a three-month old cliffhanger while I was out ignoring wedding singers on the interstate .  Probably you've been a little bit tortured with the need to know how my neighbor boy's hair was stolen and if you suffered any insomnia or restless leg syndrome, I apologize.

The truth is, it's a mystery about the hair.  One day the neighbor boy came over with a big shaved spot on his head about the size of a grapefruit.

"What happened to your hair?" I asked.

"Someone stole it,"  he said. "I just woke up this morning and it was ga-hn."

"You're kidding! Do you have any idea who would, um, steal your hair?"

"Nope," he said. " I'm kind of hungry right now. Do you got a cheese sandwich?"

So that's pretty much all I know.

My son whittled me a three-inch canoe as a birthday gift  and it's very, very pointy, so there's that, and also the dog just strolled by wearing something foul he rolled in in the yard, which is a perfect opportunity to have some canine-bathing bonding time and also launch my canoe on its maiden voyage. 

Next time I'll try to remember to tell you about the lawn flamingo thieves that have been stalking our neighborhood.  But if I forget, at least you have the consolation of knowing it could be worse; I could have left you stranded on the freeway in your huaraches and shiny pants.  You're welcome.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's 10-10-10. Do You Know Where Your Grandma Is?

The night we got back from attending my Squirrel 'n Dumplins Grandma's funeral she tried to contact us through the blender.

It makes sense really - she did always love to stir things up. (This was, after all, the woman who was in a constant battle with  Mayberry City Hall, loved the slot machines, and once, long ago, according to family legend, spent a night in jail for hiding an arrest warrant for one of her sons in her bra.  She was only 4'11'', but she was a force to be reckoned with, a tornado in little canvas sneakers.)

The first strange incident was in the middle of the night.  The husband was up doing mysterious dead-of-night man things that are beyond my ability to understand, when, he reported later, the blender suddenly began blending. A blender unexpectedly blending at three in the morning has all the impact of a 747  landing in your kitchen, so after pausing to have a small heart attack, he ran in and turned it off.  It was weird, he said, but the husband was ready to put it out of his mind.

Until ten minutes later, when the blender suddenly roared into action again. This was enough to freak out even Phlegmatic Man, so after turning it off a second time he backed warily out of the kitchen and went upstairs to bed.

Then, two days later, when my son returned home from school, Grandma was busily blending away in the kitchen again,and judging from the level of the dog's hysteria, had been for awhile.

All this blending made us hungry for smoothies, but upon inspection it was found that the plastic blades inside had melted into a pungent abstract sculpture. 

Those skeptics among you may point to my history of appliance anarchy as an explanation, and you would be right in asking whether the blender was plugged in at the time of the visitation. It was.  Probably.  But the blender has sat on our counter top for several years, minding its own business and blending only when asked, so I like to think all this sudden coincidental activity is a sign from Grandma. She loved to visit.

The last time I saw her, in July, we were late to a wedding, and she was sitting in the passenger seat, little sandal-ed feet barely grazing the floor, arguing with the GPS lady. The last thing she ever said to me was You and your sister have always been my favorites.  I'm not supposed to say that, but I'm old. I can say what I want.  Then she patted my cheek and walked slowly into the sunset in her peach dress, the same one she would be buried in a month later.

She left me her desk, the one that sat for half a century or more under the lace curtains in the front room, the one I played "school" at for years when we visited. There was also an old black phone with a rotary dial, and when you picked it up you could eavesdrop on the neighbors' conversations (because Grandma had probably one of the last party lines in existence) but the phone disappeared long ago. It's hard to imagine her desk anywhere but under that window, the light through the leaves of the walnut tree outside making patterns on its worn surface.

Dear Grandma,
It was nice of you to keep in touch.  We had to throw out the blender, but I knew you'd understand.
I hope heaven has televised baseball, and vegetable gardens, and that slot machine game you like with the chicken on the top.  You deserve that and so much more.   It's not going to be the same here without you, for any of us.  
Much love,