Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Merry Sedaris Christmas

This summer I went on a David Sedaris binge. I read all of his books including
SantaLand Diaries, where Sedaris recounts his job as a 30 year-old elf in Santa Land at Macy's, New York.  The book's cover featured Santa at the men's urinal. I wonder if Santa sued Sedaris for this unflattering image? The original 1997 Holidays on Ice book featured a frosted highball glass. The newest version from 2008, repackages the same stories from the previous decade, as well as a few new stories. The cover shows an elf-like figurine who has fallen through the ice. While one could make a case for irreverence, it doesn't send the same message as the high ball glass. I personally like the urinal image the best. 

Since I believe in spreading Christmas cheer, I have purchased this book for some family members who need a good laugh. Not everyone can appreciate Sedaris' dark humor. Dinah, the Christmas Whore sends a strong Christian Good Samaritan message if one can read between the lines.  Season's Greetings is the most outrageous satire of Christmas family newsletters that I've ever read. My ribs hurt for days from excessive laughing. 

One of my favorite stories is not included in this book. Sedaris describes his struggle with finding the perfect Christmas gift for his partner Hugh (who he lives with in Paris).  The perfect gift turns out to be a skeleton! Hugh, who is thrilled with this gift, decides that it should be hung in the bedroom. Sedaris laments about having to see the skeleton every morning upon wakening. I wish someone would give me a skeleton for Christmas. 

In the new edition of Holidays on Ice are a few stories that I haven't read like Jesus Shaves and Six to Eight Black Men. Is it really tacky to give the relatives a slightly USED book? 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Confessions of a Cruiseaphobe

This was last year's Christmas letter. Since it was pre-blog, I've had a few requests to resurrect it for the archive. That's what writers and artists do, right? They rehash, recirculate, recycle, regenerate--in an effort to maximize distribution and efficiency. 

I know this isn’t the traditional x-mas newsletter. But if you got one of those from me, you would know that I had been abducted by aliens and Ian would have gotten his dream Stepford wife. No, the above picture is not from the cruise, which will be the topic of this slightly irreverent rant. I am smiling, because the dolphins just goosed me and I’m a bit terrified.

 Confession #1: Cruises resemble Hell much more than the utopic Shangri-la promised by Royal Caribbean.

 Observations or Reasons to Support Confession #1: Seasickness, Seasickness, Seasickness—I assumed since I spend my entire summers on boats, that I would never succumb to sea sickness. My friends all said—the ships are so large, you don’t even feel the sea. Well, I didn’t need to feel it. All I had to do was look at it and it was nausea-city. I felt like the chick in Hitchcock’s Vertigo. (Hint—mass quantities of Dramamine and alcohol are not a good mix)

 Observation #2: Spring Break mentality is unattractive in people over 40. Hey—I like to party just as much as anyone else, only not for 16 straight hours. People start drinking various rum-infused concoctions at 10am, continuing for the entire day/night. Inebriation tends to dull one’s sense of hearing, as well as one’s sense of propriety. Thus, no one is aware of their deficiency in social filters. 

 Observation #3: Cruises are license for gluttony. Now I’m sure this is obvious, but I had never witnessed this type of over-consumption. Imagine hundreds of people piling their plates with fat-laden foods—super size me doesn’t even begin to compare. I might be the only person in history who lost weight on a cruise. 

Confession #2: I admit to being a closet spa slut. Immediately upon boarding, I take a spa tour and am recruited to be the spa model. I agreed without ever asking what I had to do. All I cared about was getting the free spa services. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the massage spa model. I was the model for a European torture treatment (probably designed by some masochistic male). I had to lie on a table in the LOBBY of the spa with red algae on my thighs, stomach and hips, covered in clay mud and attached to electronic stem therapy for 1.5 hours, while patrons toured the spa, poking and prodding me. (Apparently, they thought I was a manikin, since no LIVE, SANE person would do something so embarrassing). In case you haven’t had the luxury of electric stem therapy, it feels like thousands of needles pricking you all at once. The benefits of such torture??? Detoxification and slimming—3-8 inches in one treatment. Unfortunately, the technician forgot to measure me before my treatment, so no proof exists of my suffering or ultimate improvement.

 Confession #3: I’m allergic to the ocean. All of you who know me, realize that every time I enter the ocean, I am stung by jellyfish, Portuguese manowar, etc… So in Cozumel, I grill the tour guide, who assures me that in October, there are NO jellyfish, sea lice or anything, which could possibly sting me. While snorkeling, I try to ignore the stings that I’m feeling over my entire body. It must be a figment of my overactive imagination. Upon exiting the ocean, the dive guide suggests that I have an extra drink. I’m ecstatic. No signs of stings—until the next morning. My entire body is covered in large, red, oozing blisters—which resemble a bad case of leprosy. Given my vast medical training, I deduce that I’m allergic to particles of coral and sea anemones, which freely float in the water by the reefs. (Hint—large quantities of Dramamine, benedryl, cortozone and alcohol don’t mix)

 Confession #4: I feel ever-so guilty about admitting my cruise abhorrence. After all, who can complain about an all-expense paid trip to the Caribbean during the middle of my work semester?

 Counter argument or the positive outlook: At least we didn’t spend our own money to experience the cruise phenomena. It was warm. Obama won and the cruise ship showed the election coverage. I have really good stories to share.

 Memorable Moments: One of the dinner waiters from Goa, India. “Madam, it is a fish, it is supposed to taste fishy.”

 (In the Jacuzzi with 8 other people, all strangers.) 3 very large men from Kentucky talking about incest and sex with their sisters. I am so not making this up. That was my one and only dip in the Jacuzzi.

 Sneaking into the Ritz Carlton’s pool in Grand Cayman. (The cruise ship’s supposed 5 star resort excursion was a dive motel with 2 outdoor showers to be shared by 200 people)

 The champagne bar on the ship. A glass of Veuve Cliquot can make almost any situation bearable.

 This is getting too long. I hope you had a good chuckle at my expense. Laughter is the best stress remedy. Keep it real and keep the focus on t he reason for the season.

 Wishing you a blessed holiday season.



p.s. Ian and I usually disagree on most things—politics, child raising, movies, art, etc…

we both agreed that this will be our first and last cruise.

Performing the Mommy Woes

Looking through the pre-blog archives, I discovered this gem. Written as a monologue for my graduate performance art class in 2001, I had to 'perform' it in front of my 20-something, unmarried, childless peers. Only my professor laughed. As I re-read it, I realized that some things haven't changed a bit. 

Some people are born with maternal instincts.  God skipped me when passing out those genes. When I was younger, people commented on cute babies. I noticed their deformed heads and drool-soaked faces.

 When I was in middle school, I babysat everyday after school and all weekend EVERY OTHER WEEKEND for 2 little boy monsters named Alex (6) and Michael (7). Their behavior convinced me to never have children.  As soon as the mother left, Michael hid under his bed, refusing to come out.  At times I dragged him screaming, kicking and biting from his safe haven.  Alex was a WILD THING.  One time he snuck out of the house, climbing a tall tree in the front yard.  A neighbor called the fire dept.. Sirens blared, as the firefighters employed a 30 foot ladder for his rescue. He also was a bit of a pervert at that young age (Alex, not the firefighters).  As often as he could manage, he grabbed my breasts or tried to unbutton my pants. 

So now I have kids.  I love them and all, but still those maternal feelings have to be worked on continuously, developed like a muscle.  I know women have been raising kids for centuries—so why does it seem so difficult to get through a single day? 

 A typical day begins at 7am with my 2 yr. old human alarm clock screaming, “Mommy out, Mommy out, Mommy out, Mommy out, Mommy out, MOMMY OUT!!!”  I go into my 7 yr. olds room whose alarm is blaring; yet she is somehow still sleeping through the racket.  “Camille, it’s time to get up.  You’re going to be late.”  I go into Cole’s room to change his diaper and get him dressed.  “I do it.  I do it.  I do it myself”. “No poop, just pee” Ok Cole you can do it.  “Pocket pants, Mommy.  Pocket pants.  Pocket pants.  No, BLUE pocket pants.  Me no like that shirt.  Pocket shirt.  Blue pocket shirt.”  Cole, the blue pocket shirt is dirty, here’s a truck shirt.  “NOOO!” Car, car, blue car.  Ok Cole, here’s your blue car.  Cole, let’s put your shoes and socks on, so your feet aren’t cold. “I do it myself, Mommy” Cole, you’re putting the shoes on the wrong feet.  Your feet will hurt.  “No Mommy.”  “I DID IT, I DID IT” 

 I go back into Camille’s room—“Camille why haven’t you gotten dressed?  You have been staring at your dresser for a half an hour and we’re going to be late.”  “I can’t find anything to wear”.  “Just put on a pair of jeans and T-shirt”.

  I go into the kitchen to make breakfast and pack lunches.  The dog whines to be let out.  The cat meows for food.  Even the fish are on my nerves this morning.  I briefly contemplate pulling the plug on their oxygen bubbler.  Camille comes into the kitchen wearing dressy black patent leather shoes with jeans and a T-shirt.  “Camille, you can’t wear those shoes to school.”  “Why not?”  I have told you that those are for dress up and they will get ruined in gym class.  Have you fed the animals yet?”  No, I still have to brush my hair.  “What have you been doing for the past 45 minutes?”  “getting ready.”

 I gulp my chocolate protein smoothie, while making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  “smoovie, mommy, smoovie”.  Okay Cole, if I let you have some smoothie, you have to be careful and not spill. “ok, mommy, no spill”

Shrieks erupt.  “Mom, Cole hit me”  Cole, don’t hit your sister.  Say you’re sorry.  “No” Cole, say you’re sorry now.  “No” Say you’re sorry or you’ll get a spank.  “Sorry sissy.  Uh oh, mess mommy mess.  (He starts to cry) Oblivious to the crying, Camille says, “Mom, I really want an American girl doll.  I saw it in this book I’m reading.  I have to have one.  They are so cool. (Cole is still crying)  Taylor and Dillon have them.”  Camille, I can’t discuss this right now.  Camille still talking, “Yesterday in school, I was sitting at my desk and Taylor was mean to me.” “She said she didn’t want to play with me at recess”.  "I’m sorry about that."  “Can I stay up and watch the dinosaur movie tonight?" "If your room is clean and your homework is done, we can talk about it."  Whining and Stomping. “But mom, I don’t want to clean my room. I hate cleaning my room.  Cole doesn’t have to clean his room."  "Cole is only 2 and you are 7."  “That’s not fair.  Lori’s mom helps her clean her room.  You’re mean." 

 Phone rings.  Both kids run to answer it.  I got it, no I got it.  Camille rips the phone out of her brother’s hand.  Cole starts crying, “Daddy, Daddy”.  “Hi Daddy, when are you coming home?  I want an American girl doll.  Cole hit me.  He’s being a pain.  He messed up my room and now I have to clean it.”  (Cole is now screaming at the top of his lungs and bites Camille on the leg).  Cole gets the phone and now Camille is crying.  “Mom, I can’t walk, my leg is hurt”.  "Camille, we only have 10 minutes util we have to leave and you haven’t eaten your breakfast." (Cole is in background still on the phone) “Daddy, monster here.  Roar.  Monster, monster in phone.  Here mommy” (hands me the phone)  "Hi Ian, sorry I can’t talk, we have to leave in 5 minutes and we’re not ready yet."  I hang up the phone and Cole cries, “Daddy, Daddy”.  "Camille, get your shoes and socks on.  Cole, get your coat on."  “No zipper mommy, no zipper”.  Ok Cole, no zipper.  Bapac, blankie, bear, monster book, mommy.  "Ok, let’s hurry and pack your backpack.  Camille, we’re getting in the car now." 

 We’re all in the car and I’m backing out of the driveway.  Cole says, “Poop, mommy, poop.” Camille says, “ mom, I can’t find my sneaks”. "Camille, how many times have I told you, that if you put them away when you take them off, you would know where to find them."  “Big poop, mommy, big poop”.  “Mom, I’m not allowed to wear my snow boots in class” 

I pull back in the driveway to change Cole and let Camille get her shoes.  10 minutes later we are back in the car.  “Alligator song mommy, alligator song.”  "Cole we’re already heard the alligator song 5 times, let’s listen to something else."  “Alligator song, pees mommy” Okay.

 We finally make it to school.  Camille’s in a bad mood, so am I and it’s only 8:45 in the morning.

Some things haven't changed. I still have to yell at them to get ready in the morning. They still argue and can't find their clothes, shoes, backpacks, sports bags. Thankfully, I'm done with the diapers phase. 


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mid-Career or End of Career Christmas Card Retrospective

2000 printed on silver metallic paper

For fifteen years I HAND-MADE Christmas cards each season. The tradition started when I was in college studying art and photography. I used the opportunity to showcase my ‘quirky’ sensibility and ‘dark’ humor. For you photo geeks out there, the first year, I produced hand-tinted cyanotypes. This involved painting a chemical compound on 100 individual 5x7 pieces of watercolor rag paper (in almost total darkness), waiting for them to dry, projecting/exposing an image onto each paper, developing each paper in a chemical bath, drying them and adding a bit of hand-applied color. This does not include the time it took to write a personalized message, label, stamp and mail them. This also does not factor in the time it took to recover from my subsequent mental breakdown.


In hindsight, I can only attribute my insanity to a multiple-personality disorder; my other self posing as Martha Stewart.  For the past three years, I have been on Christmas card sabbatical in an effort to cut down on holiday-induced stress. Besides my medical insurance no longer covers the stays at the sanitarium. This year, instead of spending thousands of hours collaging, printing & painting cards, I scanned previous years’ cards for your enjoyment.


In anticipation of the protests, “Hey, that’s cheating!” I have a few retorts, some of which are not appropriate for posting. Many of you either—A. put your cards on display to show-off how popular you are or B. throw them in the recycle bin or worse GARBAGE as soon as you open them.


My digital card retrospective is eco-friendly. No trees were killed in the making of this blog, Nor did I spend what would equate to arming a small country for the production and distribution of the cards.  And if you don't like them--delete.