Saturday, January 21, 2012

Give me a D, give me an O, give me an NUT...

This morning I was awakened by an unnervingly peppy gentleman who looked disturbingly like The Dad.  This man came into my bedroom and practically sang me awake, wanting to know if I wanted coffee.  Now, my mother did this most of my life, and while my teenage self was annoyed I really appreciated her sunny disposition.  My father (he had admitted his identity under rapid-fire questioning), on the other hand, has never been called vivacious by anyone other than some random cousin mispronouncing the word 'vicious'.  I kid, but The Dad typically moves very slowly and is often less than peppy due to a lot of pain from his back and shoulder. 
When I asked to what I owed this new Mary Poppins-esque temperament, he said he wasn’t “hurtin’ too bad” due to his new pain medication, but I suspected it was also due to his happiness over my allowing him two Krispy Kreme donuts for dessert last night.  Who knew a sugar high could last until the next day.  If he weren’t diabetic, I’d give him donuts every day. 
While I enjoyed my coffee, and he sat grinning and chatting I had a bit of déjà vu due to his maniacal smile and chirpy disposition.  It reminded me of the time I got stranded in San Antonio due to snow in the DC area.  It’s a long story, but the reason I was in San Antonio to begin with was at the invitation of my sister who was attending, along with my cousin, Aunt and cousin’s daughter, the Mid-South Cheer Finals.  Now, I was aware of competition cheer squads being as involved in my niece Payton’s activities as I can be from a distance of a half-country.  But prior to Payton joining a competition cheer squad, I was confused about private cheerleading teams.  Who did they cheer for I wondered?  Did they have private football teams?  Maybe they rented themselves out to schools with no coordinated girls or something.  I don’t know.  But you can get money for cheerleading in college.  I should know.  I, your humble chronicler, was a cheerleader for one semester in college.  Two of my aunts, two of my cousins and one of their daughters and now my niece Payton have lead the cheers at various sporting contests. This is a phenomenal level of school spirit to come off one turnrow, do you hear me? 
Let me tell you this was an experience I’ll never forget.  As a side note, if you’ve ever lost a polka dot, well, buddy, I found it.  EVERYTHING there was polka-dotted, zebra-striped or bedazzled; sometimes all three.  Red glitter eye shadow, pink glitter lip gloss, and rhinestone studded hair bows which could’ve topped the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Plaza.  And that’s just the “Cheer Moms” and “Cheer Meemaws”.
We get to the Alamodome and got in line to buy a ticket; $30 per person.  Ouch!  However, as I was dressed for the occasion in red chinos, white button down and navy blazer, I was mistaken for a coach and let in for free, given a commemorative backpack and a free bottle of “Spirit Water”. Well, not really, but I was thanked for my spirit on more than one occasion.  Well, not thanked per se, but people said “whooo!” a lot and pointed at me.  It's nice to see people supportive of my fashion choices. 
As far as this competition, let me tell you nothing could have prepared me for this.   3600 hyperactive tots, tweens and teens being herded onto a stage to perform these gravity defying stunts with an disturbing amount of sass and spunk and even more disturbing amount of eye makeup.  Those contortionists in Cirque du Soleil couldn’t have pulled off what some of these little Hunters and Fallons and Dakotas did, without losing their hostile smiles.  Well, the coaches called it “projection”.  I called it maniacal.  Of course, I said this to myself.  Hell hath no fury like a “cheer mom” with her own bejeweled spirit stick accompanied by her “I Pay, She Cheers” t-shirt clad spouse.  I don’t want to be beaten with those clapping-block things, either from over-exuberance or anger over a touch-out.
And you would not believe what these children are able to do. There is a move called a scorpion.  They take their foot and pull it  in a circle behind them until their toes touch the backs of their heads.  Standing up.   Six feet or more, in the air.   In someone else’s hands.  While “projecting”. 
It’s almost more than you can bear to watch.  But we did, from 9 am until 6 pm, without a break.  After so many groups, it’s funny how commonplace something unbelievable can become.  No wonder this generation isn’t impressed as they are going through regimented exercises which would’ve put Mary Lou Retton into traction during her heyday.  After several hours of similar routines, with varying degrees of success including lost bows, which is a deduction (in points), and somehow a lost shoe, which is another deduction, I almost couldn’t take it anymore.  I don’t know if there are points deducted for making overweight performers wear belly-shirts that Heidi Klum couldn’t pull off without some degree of embarrassment, but there should be.  Those poor babies.
Prior to this experience I had never witnessed a scorpion other than once in my sister’s yard.  After a while I began to get bored with the whole thing.  The same snippets of songs, with similar routines.  It sort of blurred together. By the end of the day after I had ingested more overpriced water and foot long corndogs than a felonious carnie worker, I began to view those amazing feats with bored derision like, “Is that all you’ve got Amberly?  A scorpion?  How about when you’re fully extended, you ring a bell with your feet or spell out Cheer Nation in sign language with your toes?  Maybe then I’ll be impressed.”  Knowing full well I could not contort by body into that shape with the assistance of a mechanical taffy puller and an overzealous chiropractor.  Some things aren’t meant to move in those ways, least of all while wearing clearance sale Brooks Brothers.
When I saw the first team complete a scorpion, I felt compelled to give them a standing ovation.  I stood and clapped but noticed the only people standing were the “cheer parents” of the performers.  My sister just shook her head and laughed.  By the end, I was done.  I was so weak from the overwhelming too-much-ness of it all I would have agreed to chips and queso with Charles Manson to get back to the hotel. 
Speaking of queso, I just remembered I have a leftover quesadilla in the refrigerator and I feel compelled to attend to this matter post haste or even quicker.  So, I’ll leave you with this, I salute all those who cheer, those who clap along in the stands (psychotically or not), and most importantly, those who make Krispy Kreme donuts.  Seriously, they’re doing the Lord’s work, y’all. 
Oh and there is a picture of me from college doing a toe touch for the school yearbook floating around on Facebook somewhere.  Happy hunting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Out of left field

          If you've ever read Vanity Fair magazine, you know they end each edition with a Proust Questionnaire.  This is where they ask someone of note a series of questions such as "What trait do you despise about yourself?", "Who are your heroes?", "What is you definition of happiness?", etc.  As I was reading the latest edition, I decided to ask The Dad some of these same questions, just to see what he would say.

        His answers were not really surprising (marrying my Mother was his proudest moment, having a Harley is his definition of happiness) until I got to the one where I asked, "Who are your heroes?"  When he said, "You and your brother", I was caught off guard but I continued with the questions.  What?  I had already added this activity to the running list in my head and I needed to cross it off, people.

        When we got to the end, I re-visited his answer and asked him, "Why did you say that Thornton (my brother) and I were your heroes?"
        "Why?" he asked.
        "I was surprised."
        "Surprised?  You're my heroes because you both have good jobs that you like and that you're good at."
        "Really?  I never knew."
        "I'm prouder of you than anything.  You knew that didn't you?"
        "Of course, I knew," I said, thinking I so did not know.

        I now have a new definition of happiness.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Does preppy come in pill form?

           Anyone who knows me knows I have one cowlick in the front of my hair and two in the back. Why my parents left me in the care of bovines in my formative years is anybody’s guess.  The cowlick in front is a nuisance to someone as particular about my appearance as I am.  For the remainder of this entry, I will refer to my cowlick as the swoop as shortening it to, simply, ‘the lick’ makes me as uncomfortable as I was accompanying my niece to the premiere of Eclipse, one of those horrifying Twilight movies.  Since when did pasty become the new chic?   If I were in high school now, I would be muy popular (that’s Spanish)  as I am so pale, I’m almost translucent.  And I have been known to sparkle in the sunlight.  Well actually I freckle, but they both end in ‘kle’ so I’m still in the game, right? 
               So, when the swoop is parted on the left, it causes my hair to swagger into a formation not unlike Conway Twitty.  For those who aren’t familiar with Mr. Twitty (may he rest in peace) you can reference John Travolta in ‘Grease’ or Johnny Depp in ‘Cry Baby.’  If you’re younger than that, you shouldn’t be reading this and need to go to bed.  I feel quite sure it’s past your bedtime, child.  However, if I part my hair to the right, the swoop leaps into a formation resembling Superman, from the movies starring Christopher Reeve, not the TV show where Bo Duke was the Dad.
                The point I am trying to make is why do we call it a cowlick?  Why this particular animal?  Why this particular gesture?  Did it actually happen to someone back in 16whatever?  I have researched the history of the swoop and here is what I found.  They are also referred to as hair whorls and trichoglyphs.  It was started in the 16th century and referred to the way a mother cow licks her young’s head causing a swirling pattern in the hair.  While those are interesting facts, the name needs work, doesn’t it? 
Trichoglyphs could be useful in my quest to use as many obscure references as possible in casual conversation.  Telling someone I have multiple trichoglyphs could elicit all manner of responses depending on whether they thought this was a medical condition, weird animal or tattoo.  Hair whorl could be interesting although it would be consistently misspelled by a citizenry who for some reason can’t seem to master the proper use of your and you're. 
I realize the word cowlick is not something to which most people pay much attention; however it is the one thing keeping me from becoming completely amazing.  I think we can all agree with fantastic hair I could take over the world.  Well, hair and a family fortune.  And considering my Dad lives with me, I’m thinking the family fortune is nowhere to be found.  When he asks me why he couldn’t he have been born rich instead of good looking, I wonder myself.  About the money, that is.  I have grown accustomed to ignoring my father’s lunatic rants about his awesomeness at anything other than reality show competition-level eating, Olympic caliber flatulence and, oddly enough, crocheting.
Yes, my redneck, macho father crochets.  It’s an interesting dichotomy to reside in someone who retains no semblance of the couth he apparently faked throughout my childhood.  Don’t even start with me, the man leaves his (sugar-free) Popsicle sticks stuck to the placemats on my dining room table along with used blood sugar test strips, crumbs of indeterminate origin, his electronic solitaire game and whichever paperback western he is enjoying at the moment.  It looks like he robbed a Walgreen’s.  And he never says “Excuse me,” when he passes gas from either end.  He ignores it, guffaws or begins to look for the frog he assures me he just stepped on. I rest my case.
But, back to the crochet, which is French for “hook”.  He is pretty adept at a skill he obtained while being jailed for some random fight on some random weekend in the bustling metropolis of Lake Providence, LA when he was younger.  I’m not sure if it was one of those times where he got in a fight because he was bored or simply doing any manner of things that were illegal in that era.  I can never depend on him to stick with the same lie twice; much less tell the truth once.  But whatever the situation he is a skilled crochet artist.  And he produces them at a rate you can only compare to Southeast Asians sewing hidden buttons for Tommy Hilfiger.  He crocheted 8 afghans and 4 scarves between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  He’s already finished a gift for someone who is retiring in June. 
 I have made more runs to the craft section of Wal-Mart for thread than an ill-prepared Vacation Bible School teacher.  And if I have to lie to the woman at the check-out line about my daughter Kinley’s last minute school project one more time, she’s going to get suspicious.  Apparently, I do care what Esperanza thinks of me.  Oh, did I tell you that I now have a daughter named Kinley?  She’s ever so sweet.  She is a carbon copy of my niece Payton.  So much so I could use Payton’s photos and say they were Kinley if push came to shove.  Not that I would do it.  Well, at least not more than once.  Okay, twice.  Okay, once at Wal-Mart and once at Target.  Lydia, my  Target cashier, seemed curious as to why I had so many boxes of popsicles, Uncrustables and kool-aid.    “That darn Kinley,” I laughed and gave her my patented “parent shrug”.   “What can you do with a teenager?”
What am I supposed to do, admit the Uncrustables are for me?  That’d be like admitting I like the song by the boy who used to have the haircut and that I stood in line (in line!) to see Toy Story 3 and that’s a bit more mature than I care to be at this juncture. 
And I fully intend on blaming The Dad. Apparently lying is contagious.  I knew catching “country” was just a gateway, y’all.  I’m slowly becoming a redneck.  But I’m going to do everything in my power to fight it.  In fact, tonight I’m wearing a tie and matching pocket square to bed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Como se dice, "Who ate my sandwich?"

              I should have known turning into the drive thru of the Jack-in-the-Box would lead to ruin.  I fastidiously avoid fast food as it is (1) not very tasty and (2) egregiously fattening and I would like to retain my newly trim “figger” as my Daddy would say.  But the greasy siren call beckoned me and as I am embarrassingly susceptible to advertising I had decided that I wanted, nay needed one of their value menu chicken sandwiches, with bacon. 
                As I was turning into the parking lot I noticed a small gathering of Hispanic men.  Now, I know that most of you are familiar with the undocumented workers who congregate at busy intersections waiting to be offered money to do all sorts of manual labor somewhat like a prostitute, if Home Depot of Lowe’s were involved in that sort of thing.
                Never having engaged one of these “workers” lest I ruin any future chances of becoming a Supreme Court Justice, I usually pay them no heed and go about my merry way doing all manner of glamorous activities like buying potatoes and sugar-free popsicles in bulk.  As I turned into the lot, one of the men signaled me with his finger and looked at me with a questioning eye and hopeful look on his face.  Although I was flattered that he thought that I might be of the stature to procure his services (I’m not wealthy but I have more money than, well, HIM) I was immediately caught off guard wondering how to respond.  I didn’t want to ignore him; it’s not his fault he’s an undocumented worker in our country.  Well, I suppose it is his fault, seeing as how he came here illegally. But are we to assess fault for someone trying to make a better life?  I don’t want to get all liberal sounding, but, are they all here illegally or is the economy so bad that even legitimate immigrants are out of work and desperate to provide for their families?  Even if I didn’t have any work for could I just hand him money? Would that be offensive?  Would he care?  Do I? 
                You must understand I pride myself in being a very compassionate and generous person, unless I am behind you in traffic or the express lane at Target.  No, old man in front of me last Tuesday, 27 cans of tuna do not count as 1 item just because they are identical.  On the other hand, if it were an old lady, I’d think, “Bless her heart” and simply wait my turn.  A gentleman is always a gentleman after all, when it comes to a lady.  Other dudes, regardless of age, are on their own.
                Unsure of how to respond without giving him any reason to think I needed his services, regardless of what they were, I tried to smile without any erroneous signaling lest I inadvertently request something through an incorrect nod of the head or too lengthy eye contact and end up with an unwanted employee, bag of drugs or live chicken.  Is there some sort of code?  Shouldn't there be an information sheet?  Where do I get one?  I felt a little like a spy.  Like Jason Bourne from all those books and movies.  I feel sure I could be mistaken for a suave, intelligent CIA agent.  At the very least I feel I could be mistaken for someone named Jason. 
                I guess it’s a good thing I’m not in the CIA.  For one, the CIA has secrets, people.  And if you know me, you know I can’t hold water.  I’d be on the phone with my sister saying, “Ooh, let me tell you who we tried to assassinate today.  You will NEVER guess, but his name rhymes with ‘Dennis Quaid’s brother’.”  Plus, I can’t beat up an assassin with a rolled up newspaper.  I can barely kill a bug with a rolled up newspaper.  I usually resort to stomping it with my shoe and that doesn’t seem to be an effective method for saving America from the terrorists, I think we can all agree.
                In my zeal to non-offensively, non-signal this man who may have simply been trying to scratch his nose as far as I know, I somehow ended up leaving the parking lot through the ‘enter only’ lane and almost turned the wrong way down a one-way street.  Trying to maneuver my car in the right direction while hiding my shame and ignoring the honking from the other customers who were in fact not attempting to scratch their noses (I am quite familiar with THAT particular gesture), I was able to head back down the road to the Target from whence I came, as I had forgotten to purchase get breath spray for our dog Lulu.  I’m not sure exactly when she began dining on dirty diapers filled with athlete’s-foot-flavored bilge water, but something’s making her breath reek.  And how am I supposed to convincingly say, “Who’s a good girl, yes you are” if I’m trying to breathe through my mouth?
         I’m not quite sure where I was going with this entry, but suffice it to say, I made it home in one piece sans illegal alien but with some basics for the pantry, you know stuff like a $5 DVD of “Fletch”, an awesome movie starring the guy my sister thinks is Bill Murray, a Big Grab ® of Doritos®, two 9-volt batteries and 3 packs of spearmint Extra. I told you I was susceptible to advertisement.
             Once I got home I immediately regretted not stopping to get a worker or two, undocumented or not.  You see, today was housecleaning day and I was not in the mood, do you hear me?  I have no problem with cleaning up after myself and when I lived alone, my house looked like it was unoccupied most of the time as I am very particular and very neat.  However, while living in a house with multiple bedrooms means you can have houseguests and roommates, it also means you have to clean it all, even the rooms you don't ever use.  Yes, sun porch, I'm talking to you.  And the maid duties have increased far more than the occupants as there is a swirling vortex of disorganization that is my father residing with me.  Things on shelves move out of their proper alignment simply by him walking through the living room.  When he sits at the dining table, food leaps from his plate onto the placemat and table.  And don't even get me started on the delicate maneuvering required to sweep around more yarn than a nursing home craft room or a Brownie troop trying to earn their "Knitting" badge.
            Although, now that I think about it, how would I have communicated with this gentleman of the parking lot what I needed from him anyway?  Do the men from Mexico clean, seeing as how Mexico doesn't seem to be a hot bed of women's lib, based on what I read on the news.  And how do you say clean in Spanish? I only know how to say "Where's the party?" (Donde esta la fiesta), "I want two chickens" (Yo quiero dos pollos) and "that statue is Greek" (esa estatua es griega).  This, I feel sure, is not going to get me clean bathrooms or a fully dusted living room, although it might get me a cooked meal, an invitation to a party or a look of confusion as to the statue in question.
            Ah, well, at least I have my chicken sandwich from Jack-in-the-Box to sustain me through this cleaning binge.  But now I can't find it.  I'll bet Daddy ate it. Como se dice, "Big ol' hog?"

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Grace Under Fire?

My sister Shontyl asked, while reading my niece’s Vogue, “Did you know that Coco Chanel was a real person?”
                Me:  "Yes.  Didn’t you?"
                My Daddy:  "Isn’t that Ice-T’s wife?"
                Me:  "Who?  Chanel?"
                Daddy:  "Yeah.  His wife is named Coco."
                Shontyl:  "Mr. T’s wife is Coco Chanel?"
                Me:  "What?  No!  He said Ice-T and that’s wrong.  She may be named Coco but that is the only thing she has in common with Chanel you can be sure."  I would have said more but I’m afraid of Ice-T and what may happen if he ever reads this blog.  Excited about the visibility of my blog, but very, very afraid. 
                Shontyl:  "Who’s Ice-T?"
                Daddy:  "He’s on one of those shows.  CSI, NCIS, SBPD or something."
                Me:  "Law and Order SVU."  (In my head:  Who are these people?)
                Now to understand my frustration, you have to know that I am downright persnickety about my trivia.  I know scads of things about myriad things that matter not to most people.  I am a trivia nut and there are numerous tomes and board games in my home that sit unused as my family has tired of my triumphs.  It couldn’t have been my victory dance and chant (all five verses), could it?  Surely not. 
                Now I know that a mastery of trivial facts does not make me smarter than anyone, but I do enjoy being informed on a number of subjects both intellectual and pedestrian.  Full disclosure, it’s mostly pedestrian.  I have read Foucault’s ‘Madness and Civilization’ but only the first 32 pages. 
My trivial knowledge does make me a great Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-er.  I realize this game is passé but I like it and will revel in my un-coolness.  My sister, in her attempt to malign my trivial character, double-dog dared me to link the most obscure “movie star” she could think of (Tyra Banks) to Kevin Bacon through six movies or less.  Challenge accepted dear sibling.   Tyra Banks was in ‘Life Size’ with Lindsay Lohan who was in ‘Mean Girls’ with Tina Fey who was in ‘Date Night’ with Mark Wahlberg who was in ‘Boogie Nights’ with Philip Seymour Hoffman who was in ‘State and Main’ with Sarah Jessica Parker who was in ‘Footloose’ with Kevin Bacon.  And that’s without using my old standby of Dan Ackroyd-was-in-‘Blue Brothers’-with-John-Belushi-who-was-in-‘Animal House’-with-Kevin-Bacon-link.  Because Dan Ackroyd has been in a bunch of movies, y’all.
                The reason I bring this up is I have a great memory and quick recall and I know many in my immediate family do not.  For example, my sister gets Chevy Chase and Bill Murray confused.  Yes, you read it correctly.  And my Daddy’s frames of reference are boxing, football, ‘Barney Miller’ and ‘Hee Haw’.  But my conundrum is I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do when my Daddy gets dates and facts wrong when he tells a story.  Now, those who know me know part of my “charm” is I am honest to a fault.  I don’t know how to be anything but, so I am very direct in my conversations with my Daddy and all those in my circle, be it work or play.  But I don’t know if he’s misremembering due to his age (he’s only 70) or his need to re-interpret the past.  And it’s constant; like he works for Fox News or something.
                And I find myself trying to catch his mistakes, like some intrepid reporter.  It’s almost become a contest for how many times I can correct him.  Is this some latent rage at our past relationship or lack thereof?  Or am I just being tooky, which is a word my family apparently coined because any time I use it people question what it means.  Tooky is, well, tooky.  You know, persnickety. 
What if I’m just a run of the mill butthole?  And if I am, is it hereditary and can I blame him?  And if it’s not my being obnoxious, do I just let the inaccuracies slide?  Even if he’s using them to malign someone’s character or call into question someone’s motives? 
I just don’t know what to do.  The only thing I know is whenever I correct him he gets his feelings hurt and withdraws physically from me unless we are eating.  Nothing will keep him from his “grosh-ries”.  I have taken the tack of saying, “Are you sure that’s right?  I remember…” and then I tell either the version of the story I have heard my entire life or I re-state the facts as I remember them if I bore witness or participated, willingly or otherwise.
Sometimes it’s harmless, like the year he had his picture taken on the bike from “E.T.” at a mall somewhere.  It’s the most hilarious picture.  He says it happened in 1977 in Lousiana.  “E.T.” wasn’t released until 1982 so I know his version is not true.  Other times he tells my staff about car wrecks I supposedly had which never took place, in locations I have never been, in vehicles I have never owned or driven, doing all manner of things my little Southern Baptist mama’s boy heart just couldn’t have done out of the all-consuming fear of being cast into the lake of fire, y’all.
So, I sit here unsure of what to do.  Do I let the lies fly or do I swat them all down, like so many poorly designed paper airplanes?  Do I conduct a brief cost-benefit analysis before I speak or do I just do damage control after the fact?  Since we’re expected to do New Year’s resolutions, should I just take the high road and let him tell his version of the story?  Even if he skews everything negatively and uses these re-tellings to cast dispersions on loved ones’ characters?  What if I agree with his take on their character but for reasons other than those misrepresented?  Do I agree to keep the peace or just say “oh” or “uh-huh” and hurt his feelings because he thinks I’m belittling his feelings?  Mind you, he didn’t quite say those words.  What he actually said was, “Oh, am I not important enough for you to talk to me?  Would it help if I used bigger words? I've got four hours of college.” 
Also, should I refrain from comments about his hygiene and general demeanor?  Should I have not said, “We could grow corn in your dirty underwear” when he asked if I wanted a garden in the backyard?  Am I hateful? Is the latent aggression not so latent?  I went to nine months of anger management therapy last year to find the root of my hostility and it a seemed to boil down to mi padre (that’s Spanish).  And even if he didn’t treat me very well growing up shouldn’t I just get over it already?  I mean, what’s the damage?  He hurt my feelings?  Well boo hoo you big baby.  Put on your Incredible Hulk Underoos and deal with it, is what I’d say to me if I was someone else listening to me.  You know it’s bad when you get on your own nerves.
So there you have it.  I resolve to be a better person in 2012.  To be more graceful, in the Biblical sense of grace as I am fleet of foot per the witnesses to my dancing skills last night at the Presbyterian Singles Dance.  I don’t think God was mad at me for (1) dancing or (2) with Presbyterians.  I'm sure he didn’t like it when I silently judged that one girl who was wearing mis-matched animal prints and whipping her hair with more dedication that was warranted at a church function during Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer”, but I have asked forgiveness and have resolved to be less judgmental this year.   And that's all I'm saying for now.