Monday, March 30, 2009

Best Quotes from SPE

Contrary to popular belief, the Society for Photographic Education is not comprised of solely techies--sp? or stodgy academics. The majority of the folks are fun and like to party after conference hours (or sometimes during). This can lead to some interesting discussions and comments.

My two favorite comments of the weekend:

1. My crystal was really 'SHAKIN' in there.

(a response to an African and Indonesian art gallery with great feng-shui. my friend was carrying a very powerful crystal in her pocket.)

2. You are not ONE OF THOSE are you?

(This requires more context. I crashed an International Film Festival party across the street from my hotel. The main 'attractions' were naked women standing in various poses throughout the gallery. Picture a low-brow, lower cost version of a Vanessa Beecroft performance. A stereotypical male filmmaker character complete with black leather jacket, tinted sunglasses and ponytail  happened to be standing next to me. It's pitch black in the gallery, yet his ponytailed self refused to remove the tinted sunglasses. He makes a snide comment about the naked women--If they are going to stand there and entertain us, at least they could look happy about it. I knew I should just walk away. But I had to insert my opinion. I said that the director probably gave them instructions on how to look and also that it was not that easy to stand completely still in a distorted position for any length of time. At that, he looked at me and smirked--Oh, you are not one of those... are you? Meaning of course--the dreaded At which point I walked away. After 5 minutes, he found me again and confessed that despite my tendencies, I was the most interesting person there (besides the naked women). I told him that I preferred men half his age with more egalitarian attitudes and walked away AGAIN.)

Radio Voice

One of my many jobs as Mid Atlantic Regional chair is to introduce speakers. In Dallas I was lucky enough to introduce two speakers that I actually know--Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman. (Their performance/talk on psychic experimentation was FABULOUS) Later that day, Nate tells me that folks came up to him afterwards and said that I had a radio announcer voice. He suggested that I may have missed my TRUE calling. I told him about my radio voice TRAINING. My first real job was at Chi Chi's Mexican Restaurant in Pittsburgh. I lied about my age and was working illegally (age 15) as a hostess and appetizer waitress in the bar. We had to wear outfits that were slightly scandalous. Off the shoulder blouses that revealed a bit of teenaged cleavage with a long or short skirt (depending on whether it was the bar or hostess station). The wrap-around skirts tended to blow open while walking. One of my many responsibilities was to page the customers over the loudspeaker. After my first week, my Boss decided that my voice was too abrasive and gave me lessons on how to speak in a throaty, slightly sexy voice, which would appeal to the masses of Chi Chi customers. The Patel party, the Patel party please....The more I sounded like a purring porn star, the better. However at 15, I didn't even know about that yet. The best part of the outfit was a big pin that said, TECATE MY BODY. (pronounced tuckhottie--rhyming with body). I am so not kidding. For those of you unfamiliar with Mexican beer, Tecate beer is produced in Tecate, Baja and tastes a bit like pee (or what I imagine pee might taste like). We were also instructed to smile and give great customer service, especially to the male bar patrons. I spent a lot of time trying to avoid having my body Tecated (teecaughteed). Of course now, those lecherous corporate managers would all be sued for sexual harassment in the work place. But at the time, we just thought this was part of our jobs.

Missing Father Saga

After much contemplation, I decided I am not going to divulge the missing father saga, primarily because I could not spin it into even a slightly humorous tale. (And humor is the prime component of my blog) Also out of respect to my father, I doubt he would want his entire story aired for public scrutiny. Suffice to say that my father disappeared when I was 8, reappeared for a few years when I was 18 and then has been incommunicado for the past 14 years. I think we are both glad that we saw each other, but for different reasons. That's it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Homage to the Deceased Matriarch or Roast the Ghost

In honor of my deceased grandmother's recent 90th birthday, I'd thought I'd share some of her words of wisdom.

Meme 'isms' (truisms is stretching it a bit, besides stealing from Jenny Holzer. However I admit to believing ALL of her isms as a child)
1. If you stick your tongue out, a crow will come and PECK it off
2. Children should be seen and NOT heard
3. It's just as easy to marry a rich man as a poor man
4. The proper china and silver pattern will determine future happiness
5. It's important to decorate your home for every holiday (apparently your husband will respect and love you more)
6. That's not mold, it's penicillin. It's good for you. 

Those that know me, know that I stick out my tongue at every opportune moment as well as speak my mind, even when it gets me into trouble. As a teenager, I adopted the retort--I don't have to  marry rich, I'm going to BE rich. (Which I had to later recant when getting a job in academia-ha ha) I did get married, but didn't have a wedding, so was spared the agony of choosing a china and silver pattern, much to the profound dismay of my grandmother. My motto--if it can't go into the dishwasher, I don't want it. The only holiday I decorate for is Halloween--the creepier, the better. 

It would be improper to speak ill of the deceased, especially the family matriarch. (She might send a crow to peck out my tongue) So think of this not as a ghost roast, but sharing a few 'vivid' memories from my childhood and beyond. 

1. My grandmother was a product of the Depression, so learned to be frugal and saved everything. a.k.a packrat. One summer, my cousin and I had the pleasure of riding in the car with my grandparents from Dallas, Texas to the Florida Panhandle and back. The station wagon was packed floor to ceiling (and roof) with suitcases and assorted essentials, such as her sewing machine, which always dangled precariously from the roof. My cousin and I were wedged in the backseat with no room to move, suitcase separating us. Air conditioning must not have been invented yet. Ever the practical one, my grandmother spared us from eating in restaurants, instead serving us such delectable delights as vienna sausages and pimento cheese sandwiches, washed down with a swig of TANG. (When I made a face, she said that TANG was what astronauts drank). When we were bored, she made us sing bible and camp songs. The way home was especially fun, because we had to share the already crowded backseat with all the decaying 'sea creatures' my grandmother had collected at the beach. Horseshoe crabs, sanddollars, starfish and conch shells. Imagine trying to eat pimento cheese with the odiferous stench of death and exhaust permeating the entire car.

2. Meme's most creative drink concoction--grape juice and milk. 

3. My grandmother's house was an assemblage artist's wet dream. She saved EVERYTHING. Did you know that you can re-use the same teabag for at least a month? 50 years of newspapers were stacked floor to ceiling. I could always count on finding candy in every room, but it was a trick to find some that wouldn't break your teeth. She had closets full of flowered bathing caps, colorful polyester dresses and furs with the animal heads still attached. The refrigerator was always filled with the most colorful penicillin I've ever seen. Unfortunately, I was not yet evolved into my postmodern artistic sensibility, thus was unable to appreciate the abundant treasure trove. 

4. My favorite story involves resourcefulness and death. I think Meme was in her early 70's when she discovered a possum (texas spelling) eating her garden. Now most people would call animal control and have the possum removed. Not my grandmother. She built a cage to trap the possum. After she trapped it, she devised a ingenious plan for its demise. She did not shoot it or poison it. Nor did she want to risk it returning to her garden. She attached a garden hose to her car's tail pipe and pumped the possum full of carbon monoxide. My sweet little 'ol bird-loving grandmother GASSED it to death. 

5. Later in life, afflicted with severe dementia, she was convinced that everyone was stealing everything from her. It didn't matter that her accusations were unfounded or ridiculous. This behavior did not endear her to the staff at her nursing home. My favorite story was when she accused my brother-in-law of stealing her underwear. She threatened to disown him if he didn't return it. Meme--why would anyone want to steal your used, old lady underwear? Reasoning was useless. She went to her grave convinced that my brother-in-law was a no good underwear-stealing thief. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

evil all around us

I'm not talking about Evil with a capital "E". I'm talking about the lowercase kind. If you've been reading my blog, you know that I speak about demons on a regular basis. Demons seem to inhabit my life and much of my time is spent trying to exorcise (not to be confused with exercise) them. Demons possess my computer, camera and every type of technological device found in my home or at work. Right now, they have possessed my mouse (computer, not field) 

At least twice a week, demons possess my children and dog. They usually afflict me on a daily basis. I've realized that they are not restricted to the house or family however. For example in my yoga class on Monday, I was practicing exorcising my demons through deep exhalations. When I was almost demon-free, the song from the Exorcist began to play over the speakers. Clearly the demons were laughing at my attempts. You might be doubting my sanity at the moment. However I was not the only one who noticed the Exorcist theme. One student remarked, I was really in the zone until the Exorcist music came on. The teacher was blissfully unaware that demonic forces had overtaken the class. She is close to my age, so it is remarkable that she didn't even KNOW that this was a satanic song. 

In case you doubt me, evil with a small 'e' has 287,000,000 google results.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cars & Life Lessons--Humility & Non-Attachment

It is amazing how God uses the little things to teach us such profound lessons. I've never been into cars. I didn't own my first car until I was 25 and needed it  for my job as a marketing consultant for Mobil Oil Corp. I purchased the same car that my mom had--a 1990 Toyota Camry. That was the only NEW car I've ever owned and I drove it into the ground--200,000 miles in 7 years. 

My next car was also a Camry--this time USED from an auto auction. (The perks of working as a consultant for an automotive dealer) After that I had a Ford Explorer--an Ian cast-off, which I also drove for 175,000 miles. Around the 170,000 mile marker, my friend decided to sell her 1997 or 1998 (I can't remember) red Land Rover. Of course I told her that I couldn't afford it, but Ian thought otherwise. Despite it's 8+ years, it looked brand new and only had 50, 000 miles on it. For $18,000 it was a bargain or so I thought. I did briefly wonder why a $45,000 car didn't hold it's value after only 7 years, but quickly put the thought out of my mind. 

I quickly developed an unhealthy attachment to this car. I LOVED the 3rd row of jumpseats. I LOVED that I could tow a boat. I LOVED that it was a hip, cool RED car. I LOVED that it had heated seats. I LOVED the sunroof (which only worked for a week until I drove into my vertically-challenged garage, crushing the sunroof) My lovefest diminished a bit at 75,000 miles, when the car started falling apart. The Land Rover service dept. personnel all wear suits and serve you wine when you visit. This is so you refrain from going into apocalytpic shock when your service bill arrives. It is never under $1000. Clearly Land Rover is in cahoots with the Devil or Dick Cheney, because you can never get aftermarket parts. ONLY Land Rover can fix your car. After I've had to mortgage my children against future income, I realized that perhaps the Land Rover wasn't such a smart car to own. The bottom-less money pit of HELL. 

One day while driving home from a weekend field trip with my Uarts students, my car decided to just die. Ian says it didn't actually BLOW-UP. It wasn't like the car explosions in the movies. However, the engine light briefly went on and the temperature dial went berserk, (resembling an alien encounter depicted on X-files). Luckily or not, it stopped on an exit ramp 5 miles from my home. Smoke poured out of the engine. I didn't see flames, but the car was clearly SMOKING! In order to avoid  asphyxiation, I had to exit the car and sit on the side of the road like a homeless person. It was a bit embarrassing. Even though there are dozens of service stations in the area, AAA took hours to rescue me. 

I worked in the automotive and gas business for 10 years, so should be used to the stereotypes surrounding women and cars. Of course, everyone thought that the dumb blonde forgot to put oil in the car. In actuality, the  coolant leaked out. I'm not a car designer or manufacturer, but it makes sense that there would be some sort of warning light that would indicate a leak or at least a verbal warning--SELL THE CAR NOW, WHILE YOU STILL CAN.  

The well-mannered suited guy at Land Rover told me in a calm voice that my engine was fried. How could an engine fry in such a short period of time? You can fix it, right? Ok--how much does a new engine cost? I reply, equally as calm. He says a new engine costs over $10K-- $4K more than the car is worth, as if this is an everyday conversation and not 25% of my yearly income. However I could tell that the man was truly contrite and it pained him deeply to give me such dire information. NO ONE would even take the car for spare parts. I had to walk away. Just walk away. YES, YOU HEARD ME RIGHT. I JUST WALKED AWAY FROM A PERFECTLY GOOD CAR WITH 80,000 MILES AND A FRIED ENGINE. 

My lesson in humility and non-attachment was far from over however. The good and bad news was that I was blessed to inherit my husband's car once again. He had a company car, so was able to 'give' me his 1995 Chevy Impala SS. A muscle car with a corvette engine and tinted windows. It only had 150, 000 miles. I nicknamed it THE TANK or THE BOMB.  (not to be confused with da bomb) I get lots of attention driving the car. Heads turn and stare in awe at the middle-aged blonde woman driving the cop car. The loud engine announces my arrival at least 3 blocks in advance. But how many people can go O-60mph in only 4 seconds? I can beat any mom in the school pick-up line and I'm the envy of every teenaged boy, who says--wow!!! your car is really fast. My favorite day was when the rusted muffler dropped to the street, causing sparks and a hideous grating noise. As I was pulling into the parking lot for my son's wrestling tournament, some guy yells Lady--it's your muffler. I kept my mouth closed, practicing great restraint. 

I promise you I've eaten humble pie and don't even notice the stares anymore. I don't have any attachment to this car, so if you have an extra one that you'd like to gift me....

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mad as a Hornet

Responding to Camille's facebook update about bad encounters with bees, I decided that further explanation was necessary. Another example of my exemplary parenting, which I'm about to admit to the whole wide virtual world. While driving home yesterday, Camille starts screaming--"Owww, Owww, frick, frick, frick, what the frick." (No, I was not poking her with my taser). Unnerved, I nearly swerve off the road. "A bee stung me." The supportive, trusting parent in me says out loud--Where is the bee? I don't see a bee. It's winter. How would a bee possibly get into the car? The pseudo cursing continues. Part of me is freaked out by the possibility that there may be a bee and it could sting me next. The other part of me is smiling, because the frick, frick pseudo cursing is rather funny. Camille announces that she SEES the bee on the floor of the car. Panic sets in--KILL THE BEE, KILL THE BEE!  Now this is the awful part. I actually laugh at my daughter's pain and am secretly thankful that the bee stung her and not me. We arrive home and argue over who is going to kill the bee. You kill the bee. She says--"I'm not killing the bee, you kill the bee." This goes back and forth for a couple of minutes until we both ditch the car and leave the bee, which really is not a bee, but some species of killer wasp or hornet. We wait until Ian gets home and tell him that he has to kill the stinging insect. In the meantime, guilt sets in over my immature parenting and I look for benedryl, advil and aloe (for her, not me). I can only attribute my behavior to a deep-seeded fear, genetically inherited from my biological father, who was convinced that killer bees were going to take over the world (or at least Texas). He even put aluminum foil on his windows to protect himself from invasion. 

Meltdowns--snow and otherwise

The question most often posed to me, (besides can I spare some change) is how do I do all that I do. This is usually meant as a compliment from some well-intentioned individual who doesn't work four jobs while trying to raise two children, maintain an art practice and some semblance of sanity. I have two canned answers for this question. I either respond that I'm a schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder or that I have meltdowns on a regular basis. I'm pretty sure that answer A is false, since my step-father worked as a psychologist in a hospital for the criminally insane for 25 years and probably would have had me committed by now. (Have you seen the new Showtime series--Tara??)

At this point in the conversation, the well-intentioned individual is laughing a bit uncomfortably. Really--how do you do it? Answer B is the correct answer--you win. Usually stress triggers the meltdowns which only last 24 hours or less. I've been told that perhaps I should try medication or therapy to prevent these meltdowns. But truthfully, they serve as their own therapy and I always feel better after they are over. Thankfully they only occur once every quarter--kind of like the obligatory taxes. Also after growing up in a household with two psychologists getting their PhD's, I was the unwilling guinea pig for every type of therapy possible, so am a bit reluctant to re-engage in this form of treatment. 

My most recent meltdown occurred this weekend coinciding with the big thaw--a foot of snow melting in 60 degree weather. What triggered it? Children and computer problems. You may recall that my Mac G-4 died on January 23rd after my teenager 'touched' it. Jesus saved better than me, so I was without quite a few files. Luckily I know MAC fix-it fairies. My fix-it fairy is quite busy and in-demand, so I waited patiently for the retrieval of my hard drive and the miraculous death-life recovery. I finally got my computer back this weekend, eager for a spring break video editing marathon. Saturday, when I open up final cut pro, the evil demon inside my computer tells me that my serial number is not valid! No big deal, since I know software fairies as well. My software fairy gives me two other serial numbers to try. The evil demon denies both. At this point I'm in a bit of a panic, since I only have a few days to complete this editing and my university labs are closed during spring break. 

Usually this in itself would not be enough to cause a meltdown, since I do yoga and practice deep breathing during times of duress. 

However, not only was the computer possessed by evil demons, my children were as well. Their demons are a bit more passive aggressive than the computer one. Cole--have you put away your 4 baskets of laundry? (no response) Have you been watching T.V. for the entire 5 hours that I was at work? (yeah--but this is really good) Have you practiced your guitar or emptied the cat litter? Turn off the T.V. now and do your chores. No T.V. until the chores are done. 3 hours pass during which time I'm dealing with the computer demon. Cole--you still haven't put your laundry away. I've been telling you to put your laundry away for 5 days now. What have you been doing for the past three hours? Uh--playing. YOU HAVE TO PUT YOUR LAUNDRY AWAY NOW OR BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN! An hour later I catch him on his computer. COLE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON THE COMPUTER? I SAID NO TV OR VIDEO GAMES UNTIL YOUR CHORES ARE DONE. Mom--you didn't say no computer--only no tv or movies. I'm feeling a bit volatile, but swallow it. My teenager Camille has similar issues--Camille please take out the garbage and empty the dishwasher. Also you need to clean your room and write your thank you notes. She's a master at saying ok or yes and then completely blowing me off. 

Hours later--after I have PATIENTLY ASKED FOR THINGS TO BE DONE, I'm imploding with anger and frustration. However I am determined to not scream, since both children think I have anger management issues. Mom--why are you so snippy? Take a chill-pill mom. Children who value their lives, should not say such things to parents who are on the brink. 

I am fast approaching a meltdown. A downward spiral occurs within minutes.  It no longer is about kids' chores or computers. I somehow convince myself that I'm a beastly parent--my children never listen to me and I should never have been allowed to have them. I'm a terrible role model, who failed to instill a sense of community and work ethic in my kids. They suck all the life out of me. I'll be old and withered before I ever have a life again. I'll never have time to make art and my art career will be over. The climax of the meltdown usually includes thoughts that my life sucks and why do I even bother.  This is why God made pharmaceuticals. I could go on a rampage, but it's better to get a good night's sleep and start all over the next day. 8-10 hours of ambien-induced sleep should not be underrated or undervalued.