Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm Way Too Old for This

What was I thinking? I'm way too old for this. Yesterday, I was up at 4am with the other 2 billion citizens of the world to witness the Wedding of the Century. That was a good idea until I had to be on a 5:30 flight this morning. Sometimes I'm not good at math. A 5:30 am flight means I am leaving my house at 4:30 am and crawling out of bed at 3:30 am. 

To add insult to injury, the smart people were the ones who slept in yesterday and just watched the coverage of the wedding as it was replayed every hour with commentary. Live is so over rated these days. Heck, by the time they saw it, the TV folks could comment on the designer of Victoria Beckham's hat (Philip Treacy) and the Bride's gown (Sophie Cranston). Lesson learned - for the next "Wedding of the Century" I'm sleeping in.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix it

Oysters at Bowen's Island, it just doesn't get much better than that. Last night we made our way out to the beach for dinner. As we drove up to Bowen's Island it was clear that things had changed - modernized, so to speak. This was not good. There are some things in life that don't need fix'n and this was one of them.

The screen house where we had placed our orders (to be recorded on notebook paper) for years was abandoned. And, although the parking lot was full, the deck was empty. An ominous sign had a large blue arrow pointed to the left and said "Stairs".  Our youngest daughter, who was with us, (and had never been there before) was mildly appalled at the thought that we were lamenting over a tattered screen house and an old covered deck.

There was a new three story building that we had noticed being built the last time we were out there. The sign led the way to a stairwell up the side of this building. This was not good. Entering the large room on the top floor, the first thing I noticed was that the chairs all matched - that wasn't right. For years we were seated at tables with an unimaginable array of chairs, with a good chance no two at any table matched. And, horrors there was a computer sitting on the bar. Surely it was all over now but the crying. Now, our youngest daughter was surely questioning our sanity at our sadness over matching chairs.

As I walked up to the bar, following the sign that read "Place Order Here", I was heartened to see the menu had not changed (still a single sheet of white paper enclosed in a plastic sheet protector) and when the gentleman took my order, he wrote it down on a sheet of notebook paper. (There is a God.) We walked out on the deck to an amazing sunset view of the marsh. Looking at the barrels labeled "oyster shells only" and seeing the friendly graffiti already starting to cover the wooden siding, it was clear that the "old" was settling into the "new".

Then our food came. And, if I closed my eyes I would have never known I wasn't sitting on the old deck just past the old screen house, because the oysters were cooked just right. Maybe a little change is OK, as long as you know what you're doing and what not to mess with. And, they did.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Denial of Middle Age

Sunday I had the pleasure of meeting some old former classmates of mine the weekend of our 30th college reunion. I had skipped out on the official parties (and later learned it was money well saved.) As we walked around campus, caught up with each other's lives, and reminisced, it felt like nothing had changed (after all the college is 240 years old). The good times we talked about seemed like yesterday.

Philip and I had traveled to France our freshman summer on a college trip with a well loved professor and I was inquiring about her. In discussing the professor's current age, I said, "She has to be 20 to 25 years old than we are." "Oh, no, she's older than that. She's at least in her 70's," he responded. "Philip, do the math." Then he thought and looked at me. "Good God, I forgot, we're in our 50's".

We still feel young but are in our early middle ages - that state of denial. Of course, reality comes back to me when I remember that my oldest daughter graduated from the very campus I was standing on - 4 years ago. And, my youngest daughter, "God willing and the creek don't rise," (as my Aunty used to say) will soon.

Thomas Wolfe may have said, You can't go home again, but with the right memories of the best times you certainly can relive those wonderful moments over and over. And, in them, you are forever young and the event is perfect. Of course, that is until an old friend reminds you that your memory is not exactly the way it happened.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Way too much work

As an orchid hobbiest, I assume that is what you call one who pays dues to a local orchid society (and never attends the meetings), has invested an inordinate amount of time and money into a rather diverse orchid collection as well as two small greenhouses (complete with a misting system), and endures the thrill of the bloom and the agony of blight, season after season, I have always prided myself on caring for my plants until their dying day. And, I have always been concerned about making sure I had "quality" specimen from top breeders.

Both of these traits are apparent in my greenhouses. There are gorgeous blooming catlayeas in unbelievable colors that fill the room with exotic fragrances. And, there are pots containing brown nubs with the only indication of survival being only one or two small green leaves. It just pains me to get rid of a plant if there is any sign of life. I just cannot pull the plug and toss the pot. 

One lady I know has a professional greenhouse keep her orchids and then deliver them to her when they are blooming. When the blooms start to fade, she simply calls the greenhouse to come remove the plant and replace it with a fresh blooming one. I cannot decide if this is cheating or the ultimate in luxury. Either way, she is out of my league and her style is way above my non-blooming plants, much less those on life support.

I walked into the kitchen of one of my friends and commented that he always had beautiful orchids. They weren't necessarily exotic types but they were all in bloom with healthy green foliage.  After I checked (very discreetly) that they were real and not very expensive silk replicas, I commented, "You always have such beautiful blooming orchids. I'm scared to ask what your secret is." 

He laughed, "It's real simple - Costco and Lowes. When you can pick up blooming orchids for $19.00 I try to keep fresh ones in the kitchen all the time." "And, when they stop blooming?" "Trash them." "Just throw them away?" I asked thinking of the guilt I would have. "Have you ever seen an orchid plant without blooms? It's not a very attractive thing."

That afternoon I went home and walked into my greenhouses (not through them - they're too small). Suddenly, I knew I did not need to hold on to these terminally ill plants. Reality hit me, they were not going to come back to their glory days. So I went through and tossed all the plants that did not look verdant and hearty. (I swear I could hear little voices saying "Help, help, save me, save me." as they went in the trash.) 

When I finished and looked around I was surprised. My greenhouses were no longer cluttered but instead filled with lovely orchids, some blooming some not. (Personally, I still have a place in my heart for a healthy non blooming plant.) Now I knew when those times came when nothing was blooming, I could run to Lowes or Costco and with a minimum investment add blooming plants to my greenhouse to tide me over until my other plants graced me with their spikes and blossoms.

I had to come to terms with my actions. It had been a mercy killing not herbicide. Bless me father for I have sinned. And, to think about all the books I read about only raising the exotic species, how certain types were so "pedestrian". Suddenly, I was back to enjoying the hobby. I have the best of both worlds - exotic specimens that I pray will re-bloom with a guarantee of delightful blossoms year round from the more "popular" types. Now if I can just stop having nightmares about plants screaming in agony as the trash can is emptied into the dumpster.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Me? a Possible HVT?

I might as well turn myself into TSA for a full body search and inquisition. I am sure my name is on some watch list. Several months ago, some friends and I had planned a trip to Las Vegas. We were only going to be gone for four days (Thursday through Saturday). Luckily, I had enough frequent flyer miles to book my flight with my miles and a $35 fee. Life was good. First class  round trip, Las Vegas - SC - life was better.

Last week, I learned I needed to be in Phoenix  that Sunday, so I changed my reservation to fly from Las Vegas to Phoenix on that Saturday. Sadly, I was not able to convert my miles or my first class seat for the trip. The good news was that I was going to have a day and a half in Arizona for photography, life was good. I did some research and found that once I got to Arizona there was a scenic train ride through part of the Grand Canyon. So I made a reservation and rented a car. I was set - or so I thought.

The following day, I learned that one of the events we were going to attend in Las Vegas was on Saturday night instead of Friday, so I needed to change my flight, once again, to leave on Sunday instead of Saturday. For the third time, I called the airline and rescheduled my flight. This change meant that I would not have time for the train ride, so I needed to cancel that reservation as well as the car rental.

The worse part of all of this was that my original return ticket was still open because it would have cost me more to reschedule that leg than to make a separate one way ticket on that Saturday. Then when I went to change that ticket to Phoenix from Saturday to Sunday, I had gotten such a good deal that the change fee was more than the value of the ticket, so once again, I had to book an additional ticket. So at this time, I have three open tickets from Las Vegas, on two days, to two locations. 

I am sure on Homeland Security's radar, I am a possible HVT (High Value Target), well, not really but it sounds good. Actually, I am probably just a "marked woman". Two hot buttons with Homeland Security are one way tickets and multiple tickets from one location on a single day. If I had paid in cash, I'm sure I would have hit the trifecta and they would be watching my house. Now, if for some reason I win any money while I'm out there, I'm doomed. Can you imagine how much fun I would have if I show up at security already on their watch list with a bag full of cash? 

Friday, April 15, 2011

We Do Change

You know you live in the South when all the streets in your neighborhood are named after Confederate Generals - Hampton, Lee, Heyward, Hodges, Bragg, Alexander, Breckenridge, and Jackson. I imagine there are plenty living here who don't have a clue and it's probably best left that way. This whole area was developed about fifty years ago and so far no one has pulled the politically correct card and petitioned to have the street names changed. Let sleeping dogs lie. At times ignorance is bliss. We can't help it if while in school, they slept through that chapter on our most recent unpleasantness.

In those fifty years the town has grown, yankees have moved in - and stayed this time. Our little world has become multi-racial, multi-national, multi-lingual - why we've come far from just being multi-denominational. Those were the days when finally we accepted the Methodists, but I digress. Some would say we have joined the twentieth (and now the twenty-first century) - albeit kicking and screaming. The Junior Service League has had to open its doors to everyone. To some it was harder to digest than cucumber sandwiches with the crust still on them at an afternoon tea. To others it was a breath of fresh air, like a window finally being opened in a stuffy room.

But back to the street names - my youngest daughter's friend was thrilled that she lived a street named for a rock star - Jackson, Michael Jackson. Her father commented, "Well, if that's so, then the next street over, Bragg, must be named for the punk rock star Billy Bragg." And, I'm sure they didn't miss the boulevard named for the martial arts hero, Bruce Lee. It's all a matter of perspective. And, who said the South never changes - it's a regular chameleon.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Us and Them

My Mama likes to think she has an "open mind" and is not confined by the past. (I hate to tell her but it doesn't matter how far she ventures, she'll never dig herself out of the deep south and her youthful days in Marlboro county.) I will say she is very tolerant of race and religion and she is very well read. However, there is one thing I don't think she and her friends will ever be able to embrace, and that is NASCAR watching, beer drinking, cussing, floozy dressing red neck women. In fact they would rather not acknowledge their existence.

My mother refers to them as "girls who are not from good families." (They are from 'Broken Homes' and are products of alcoholics, divorces, and such in the family.) When I was growing up, I always thought they came from families who had more fun. Maybe that was why I found Bell Watling so interesting in GWTW, all she was missing was NASCAR. And I can assure you that was a matter of timing. Personally, I never saw anything wrong with them and neither did my Dad. Mother had her own agenda. I was going to have a proper upbringing. (And, I guess I did despite my family issues with alcoholism and divorce.) But I digress.

Mama always had the "us and them" outlook. Dad had the "us and them" outlook, also. But the way he looked at it, if "them" were having more fun, then "us" needed to go join "them". Mother was convinced it was a slippery slope to a ruined reputation, a life in a trailer park, and a guarantee that I would drop out of school. I knew none of that was going to occur because as much fun as my Dad was, he had certain expectations of me and I was not going to let him down. Mama on the other hand was more concerned that I was invited to the right parties, dated the right young men (from "good" families like ours), and socialized with the right friends. She always assumed (1) I would get these "right" invitations because these "good" people liked me, and (2) if that happened, of course that would be what I would want to do.

I learned early on just to throw the name of a Dr's son or daughter in the list of people I was going out with. Or, mention one of the larger homes in the Country Club where we were going to hang out. In her mind, any socialization with the medical profession was upward mobility and nothing nefarious ever happened at an estate.

I think her world was shattered my junior year in high school when one of the nice girls from a "good family" like us, who lived in a large house in the Country Club (unlike us) had to suddenly leave school for a year and move out of town. I'm not sure what was worst - the reality of the issue (that was spoke about only in whispers) or trying to discuss it with me.

Of course I knew the scoop from the get go, but made it as unbearable as I could for her. To this day, anytime she tries to sully the reputation of a good ol' red neck woman, I remind her it wasn't a NASCAR watching, beer drinking, cussing, floozy dressing red neck young lady, who did not come from a "good family" who had to leave school that year.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Close Encounters

To continue my Wal-mart shopping adventure, I pass on the donuts, pay for my purchases and make my way to the parking lot. A young boy meets me at the door, "Mam, do you want to give a dollar? We are raising money for. . ." and he looks over his shoulder for help from a lady smoking a cigarette sitting at card table. "Mama, what are we getting money for today?" I just say, "No thank you," and move on to my car, holding onto my purse.

I notice the church going lady get into her Buick Lesaber - that fits. What doesn't quite fit is the "Trimspa" family climbing into their late model Lincoln Navigator. Who knew? How presumptive of me to think they would have been in some souped up pick-up truck complete with NASCAR stickers. But, my preconceived notions are vindicated when I spot the decal covering the back window that reads: "Rest in Peace, Dale Earnhardt, King of NASCAR, 4-29-51 to 2-18-01".

As I finally get to my car, I am met by a Jehovah's Witness who hands me a pamphlet and says, "God Bless." I honestly don't think this was the experience Sam Walton had in mind when he envisioned his empire. By the time I got home I felt like I had endured close encounters of the third, fourth, and fifth kind. The unfortunate thing is - this is a weekly occurrence here. It's not like they only come out at night or seek their own kind.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Where Do They Come From?

It always amazes me when I go to Wal-mart on the weekends, what (not who) I will see. Where do they come from? And trust me, I assure you it only happens down here. They must just come in from somewhere out there, parts unknown. I don't think the mother ship is parked behind the store, although, honestly, I never looked

I've never seen more than 2 arms or legs on any given body, but never stayed around long enough to try to count digits. Even if you weren't from around here, trust me, you couldn't miss them. One would think they were members of some sponsored team, since most of them sport t-shirt, sweats, and jackets with logos of cigarette brands, automobile companies, and NASCAR. 

This past Saturday, I was in line behind a very large woman with tattoos, bleached hair pulled up with a banana clip, cropped pants, and red stilettos. She was accompanied by a "gentleman" twice her size dressed in a sleeveless camouflage shirt, blue jeans, and yellow crocs and two children that looked like they had crawled out from under a rock (or the car on blocks in the front yard) one dressed in a black Dale Earnhardt tee-shirt and the other in the requisite Winston Cigarette jacket. The man and woman were having a high level discussion over a dozen donuts, a frozen pizza, and a bottle of Trimspa Diet Pills. 

The conversation went like this, "But if I buy these pills, I can eat the pizza and the donuts. Anna Nicole Smith said she used these pills and that was how she loss weight." "Oh, yeah." "Yeah," she said as looked at the box of diet capsules.  Then the mother (I assume) came up and weighed in (no pun intended), "How 'bout some pills to make some old rich man marry you. That's what you need." About that time the younger woman turns around and hits the young boy in the black tee-shirt on the back of his head, "I've told you John, Jr. not to hit your sister. We don't hit other people. Do you get it?

Behind me in line are two dower Mennonite women dressed in their traditional knee length calico dresses with their small caps and sensible shoes quietly taking in the scene (and no less praying for their souls) and a very distinguished little African American woman in her Sunday-go-to-meeting outfit, complete with matching hat and purse. And, there I am in my blue jeans and sweater holding my Diet Cokes (with lime) and collards, thinking about how good those donuts look.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Conspiracy in the Making

It's a conspiracy, or at least my mother is convinced it is. The phone call yesterday finally got around to, "Well, our neighborhood is never going to be the same?" "What do you mean?" OK, I was game, like I had a choice not to ask the question. "That florist is going to take over. He had a homeowners meeting and didn't invite three of us." "Now wait a minute, even he could not do that." "Well, he didn't call it a 'meeting'. He invited them to a dinner party at his house and they discussed the neighborhood."

"But why do you think he is trying to take over?" "Because he didn't invite the three people who disagree with him." I was already exhausted, but she continued. "They just don't understand what he wants to do. We had such a good thing before he moved in." "How much damage can he do? Paint everything pink?", throwing gas on the flames. "No," she said failing to enjoy my humor. "For one thing, he wants to restrict who can live here." Well that's a new one. 

"In what way?" "He thinks you should be at least 60 years old to buy a house in the neighborhood." "Well, that would keep out families with young children." Then to make sure she knew I had not joined the enemy, I added, "I'm not sure he can do that." "And, he still wants to re-do the entrance." And, the mail boxes, I thought. "And, the mail boxes," she added. "Well, just let him. It'll keep him occupied. Besides, you said that the developer never finished the entrance when he left." "Can you only imagine what it would look like?" A little over the top came to mind but 'eye catching', given his partner (and fellow florist) had done a program for my garden club informing us that lime green was the new neutral. 

"Well, it's not like he's going to have cars on concrete blocks or washing machines on the front porches." "No, but he'll want us all to have those stupid urns he keeps around his house and topiaries - he loves topiaries."  I guess at 78 you have earned the right to fight over urns, topiaries, and mailboxes. Personally, I'm glad I don't have a dog in this fight.