Tuesday, June 25, 2013

floating thoughts

I am not a morning person and most likely never will be one. My mind is much more active in the later part of the day, which is probably part of the reason i did so well in school. I did my homework after school or in the evening, when i was most alert.

I am one of those who likes quiet in the morning, and although i awake more easily now than ever before, and although i'm far more lucid, i still do not dance as soon as i alight from bed, nor do i wish to engage in conversation. I will say good morning to the kittes and give them a pat on the head or a kiss, and i am happy to see them, but i really don't want to say much else.

They all seem to know this, and don't usually force me to say anything as they watch me pad down the steps into the kitchen and get their breakfast ready.

Doing such mindless tasks allows my mind to wander where it will, and sometimes, i pay attention to where it goes.

Today's thought train popped into my mind, as i made a mental checklist of all the spatulas, turners, and wooden spoons i have in a smallish ceramic container on the kitchen counter. How i've pared down the number of them over the years, it could probably do with another pare down, but i use every one that's in there.

The kitties were looking expectantly, knowing breakfast was coming. Jim rubbed against me, and i noticed his soft fur. JoJo blinked sweetly a few times, as did Phoebe, and i recalled one catering gig i worked when we were in our lean season.

Our lean season lasted several years, and during that time we took on a number of odd jobs to fill our meagre coffers. As i had worked in restaurants through college and for several years afterward, i found waitressing part-time to help quite a bit. As an offshoot, i knew people who catered on the side, and they sometimes needed waitstaff, so would call me or Himself (who tended bar) for jobs. Scott, a friend of Himself's who had met Himself when they both worked at a country club type place, had asked if he knew anyone who could serve as waitstaff for a Christmas party gig. They needed just one person, and everyone he and the caterer knew were already busy. I don't recall now if they had someone lined up who took sick at the last minute or what. In any case, Himself mentioned that i'd be available for the gig, and so i showed up to help.

The background info i was given was simply that it was a bank executive giving a Christmas party for his department or underlings at his home, and i wore my usual fancy dress waitstaff duds of black slacks, white tuxedo front shirt, and bow tie, and since it was a festive occasion, i also wore small pearl earrings. I was given the address, and it was in a posh, uber yuppie neighbourhood. I arrived about five minutes before the required time at the kitchen door, and helped Scott set things up. The caterer knew this man for some time apparently, and this man's dog, barely out of puppyhood adored the caterer. He wasn't a weinmarner, but one of the then fashionable designer breeds, although he made me think of a weinmarner. At any rate, i patted the pup's head, too, and he was no trouble as we got things ready.

The house looked like something out of House Beautiful. Every room was tastefully decorated, matching everything, no expense spared. The kitchen had miles of counter space, beautiful solid cherry cupboards, and everywhere around the house dripped opulence. This executive must've been pretty high up the big bank's ladder indeed.

And yet, despite all the grandeur and finery, there was an overwhelming sadness seeping in just at the very edges at first, but made headway as the evening wore on.

The caterer needed another large spoon for one of the dishes, and asked me to rummage through the kitchen cupboards and drawers to find something. Now, i don't like rummaging through other people's things, i always think it violates their privacy, but i was hired help, and needed to do this. Nearly every cupboard and drawer i opened was bare. BARE! I found a sorry excuse for a large spoon finally, and when the caterer looked in disbelief,  i showed him the empty cupboards and drawers. The few things they contained showed what one might see at a bachelor pad with a tv set that had a bent hanger for an antenna.

I came to realize afterward that no matter where i lived, the kitchen was the heart of my living place, and while i couldn't say it was well stocked with the finest of everything, it was stocked well enough with stirring utensils, at least a few knives for one to chop or slice food, cutlery, dishes, and glassware.

The host was affable to us, greeted the caterer most warmly, the way one does a dear friend, and i could see from the way he carried himself that he'd been used to having his own way for a long time. He was accustomed to people looking up to him, fawning at times, holding onto his every word.

The guests arrived at the front door soon after, all of them dressed to impress or what they thought would impress. The women wore brightly coloured print dresses, which was the rage of the moment, and most of the men wore turtlenecks with sport coats, trying to look successful without wearing the standard business suit they wore to work every day. One poor fellow, clearly eager to impress, wore a white shirt that wasn't ironed with a black vest (at a time where vests had gone out of vogue), black trousers, and a black jacket. A few guests quipped that he looked as if he should be the waiter and said it to one another, but just loud enough for him to hear. He wore a defeated look each time he heard the comment, trying to shrink a little more into himself, showing only another wrinkle in his shirt, or that his hair was just a bit too scruffy and should have been trimmed a fortnight ago. He stood next to me at one point, looking miserable, as someone made the comment again, and i'm sure, couldn't help noticing that my white shirt was really white, ironed, and my overall look was neat and trim, while his was...not.

He mumbled something inaudible to which i replied, "Pardon?" He looked up, said, "Never mind," and i said quietly, "The best way to come to these things is simply to be yourself. Thank the boss for a lovely evening, but don't grovel. If the only thing they can find to say is they don't like your outfit, they're not worth knowing. You are so much more than your job. At least you should be. I know i am."

And here, he looked at me directly. I'm sure it was an unconscious move on his part when he stood a little talller and straightened his shoulders. I asked if he were done with his plate. Yes, he was thank you, and i took it from him.

I circulated easily among the guests, clearing away things, changing ashtrays, providing stacks of clean plates and napkins. Scott was very busy at the bar mixing drinks, and i helped him a little bit.

The host had shown a hint of nervousness just before the throng arrived, midway through some of his lackeys grovelled, which made me say what i said to the Unfortunately Dressed Man, and three-quarters of the way through the evening, the host relaxed a little and enjoyed himself. He delighted in showing off his gorgeously decorated home to a few of the more attentive females.

By the time the party was ending the Unfortunately Dressed Man had had a nice convo with the host, and when one of the cattier women made the "you are dressed like a waiter" comment, he replied with a smile, that he supposed he was, and it was good to know that he had a fall back career should he need one. I was within earshot and smiled to myself, although i saw him look in my direction and smile a bit more broadly at my smile.

The party wound down, and Scott, the caterer, and i cleaned up. I'd had a few women ask me if i could work some parties for them, as they liked my service very much. A few had flirted with Scott, even though he was "the help," and he, too had a few ask if he would bartend some private events for them. I came to find out the caterer often took care of the dog since the host worked such long hours, and he had agreed to take the dog home with him since the host would need to be at work early next day.

There was a goodly amount of food left, and we asked the host what he wanted us to do with it. We usually would simply wrap it up and put it in the fridge but given the amount of leftovers and just him, we were willing to divide it into smaller portions and freeze most of it. He answered that he didn't want any of it, not one trace of food or drink. We wanted to be sure we heard correctly. Yes, we had. The caterer wanted some, but left the lion's share to Scott and me. There were unopened bottles of liquor he didn't want, either, and the caterer was eyeing the bourbon, so he took that. I ended up with among other libations, four unopened bottles of wine that made for nice Christmas gifts, and opened bottles of red and white that i used for cooking.

And the food! Scott, like Himself and me, was in a lean season. The food was a tremendous windfall. The caterer didn't want any of the prime rib or shrimp, and dividing the roast beef three ways still meant plenty for everyone. (yes, there was a beef roast in addition to the prime rib, an assortment of cheeses and salads.)

Scott and i felt almost guilty for getting paid, as the food and drink would put our households in good stead for a month at least. The host was very tired, thanked us profusely for doing such a great job, and gave us each an extra tip for making his party such a success. We both sincerely thanked him and were dumbstruck at his generosity. And sadness.

For all his house's grandeur and designer fashion, it was a lonely shell. The people who had come to his party were wowed by his position, house's opulence, and wanted to impress him in some way. But not one was a friend. The host patted the dog's head, looking somewhat forlorn that everyone was leaving him.

I drove home in my ancient Honda loaded to the gills, walked into my smallish house--using the kitchen door, as the front door was really just for show--and Himself and our geriatric cat Zerbe were in the kitchen. He was drinking from a water glass that had originally been a jelly jar, greeted me warmly with a hug, dressed in his pajamas as it was late, and Zerbe wandered over from her kibble dish to greet me, too. Himself put on a bathrobe, winter coat, and boots to help me unload the food and drink from the party.

We had a midnight/wee hours supper of cold shrimp and beef with glasses of white and red wine. We toasted our good fortune, were thankful for the generosity of the very well-to-do sad host, and as i looked around, i saw nothing designer about our house. I looked at the ash cupboards in the kitchen knowing that the plates my family had given me with their best wishes and love were stacked behind the doors. The spatula in the nearly overstuffed crock by the stove had been Great Aunt Jean's, which she had gotten as a bonus from the Fuller Brush man in 1950-something. The vibrancy and love of our home met me as i entered, and i wouldn't trade it for all the big, executive, heartless haciendas with perfectly coiffed rooms sporting nearly empty cupboards.

I blinked and looked again at the crock near the stove. Hard to believe where my thoughts get to, early in the morning, when i've gotten out of bed but am not really awake enough to do much more than say hello to the kitties and get them breakfast.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I really like flash mobs

And i really like this one they did at Waitrose.

Grocery Store Opera

Only thing is, i didn't see any Scotch eggs. I was half expecting to see Mr John Gray or Mr Tom Stephenson. Still, it made me smile.


Sunday, June 16, 2013


I've come to the conclusion that we need to have a week before the actual vacation to get ready to be away from our usual life, and a week afterwards to ease back into the usual routine. Although i've had many agree with me, it still doesn't happen this way. Pity.

Himself was away just before our former neighbours were going to arrive, so it fell to me to get things ready for their arrival. The huge limb that fell from the dead maple was simply just another thing to deal with in a long list of sprucing things up.

I found the process a bit telling, really. Most of the people who have visited or stayed overnight were people i knew well or have sailed with, and so although i went through similar preparations when they arrived, i never for a moment felt that they were arriving to inspect things, but rather arriving to see ME. For some reason, with these neighbours Himself felt that we really needed to put on the dog and pony show. I don't really know what point he felt he needed to prove, but i must say that it made the prep work i was left to do more irksome. It did however, have some positive results, which didn't escape my notice. I finally organised the closet in the guest room, so it's much more useable now, and i had planned to visit an acquaintance's open house for her new business on the Saturday the guests were to arrive. We figured they would be arriving at 5 pm, and i had hoped to get things all done by noon or 1 pm, so i'd have time to pop by the new venture and rest and relax a bit. Maybe even go for a a short kayak paddle around a pond near the house if not a sail.

Ah, yes, grand plans....

Himself seemed to think that we needed to do more, and worked at a frenetic pace. I had cut up most of the limb, but left the biggest bits, in part because i wanted to check with my neighbour to see if he could use it for his boiler (he's got an outside wood-burning model), and said neighbour wasn't home for a few days. If neighbour said yes, then we could see what size would work best and take it from there. There were a few cuts i had started but hadn't completed as the bugs really started biting me, and i could feel fatigue mounting, so felt it prudent to stop. But, that wasn't good enough for Himself, and he borrowed a larger chain saw from a friend and started hacking away at the bits i had started. He ended up leaving the biggest bit because he, too had enough bug bites and realized i was talking sense when i thought him too tired to continue safely.

That left him to redo some of what i'd already done inside the house, and i realized that he was in that crazy mode that refuses to listen to reason. I got things ready for the dump run, and he went with. I nearly had him convinced to go for a kayak paddle if not a short sail, which we figured we'd do when we got back from the dump and fed the cats. And, there was the open house i wanted to attend.
Our former neighbours called. They said they would when the crossed the border into our state, and we were shocked that they called so early. This meant they'd be here in two hours.

I never made it to the open house. We didn't kayak. Or sail.

This couple had never been in this state, although she's lived in many places, as her dad was in the military, so moved around a lot. He was always a hometown boy who's lived within a 35-mile circle. They do like to travel to a few places, their current favourite being Vieques, an island near Puerto Rico. They are nearly 10 years older than we are, and she has a bad back, so we tried to couple activities that allowed for walking and sitting. We also made up a list of rainy day and sunny day activities. And after harping about  New England's typcially being cooler in summer, especially at night, they arrived to 90°F (32°C) temperatures. Ahem.

The weather cooled off during their visit, and we had several, spetacular, sunny days. Himself cautioned against going on our boat as it's small, and Neighbour's back might not fare well in the tippy dinghy and if the water is choppy. He hadn't included me in on the conversation, so i had no idea of its existence, until i suggested a sail around the harbour. A part of me wanted to remind Himself that it was also MY vacation, and if he and Bad Back Neighbour (BBN) wanted to go through galleries ad nauseum, which they did want to do, then Other Neighbour (ON) and i could go boating. ON hinted at a smile when i suggested that we split up to have a gallery/boating afternoon, but quickly nixed the idea, suggesting instead he'd like to see where the boat was moored. When i mentioned there were a few schooners close by, BBN wanted to see those, so we all went down to the wharf. Once we got there, i saw the wind had picked up a bit, enough that it might make for an adventurous sail in our little boat, so it was probably just as well we didn't go.

Neither neighbour had ever been on a sailboat and Himself thought it might be better for their first experience if we went on a larger one. A number of larger boats have two-hour sails, which is a nice introduction, and BBN mentioned only afterward that she's been seasick a couple times, but thought she'd be all right. And, she was. The schooner was one i had sailed on a few years back when a fife and drum friend visited, and he'd never been sailing, either. It was before we got Retrouvé, and to watch this young man's face light up as he experienced his first sail is something that still makes me smile.

The day proved to be quite windy indeed. They reefed the mainsail, and we were going 7 knots. Although we weren't that far from the dock, the temperature was appreciably cooler, easily 20 degrees. I stayed in my shorts and tee shirt, not needing to add another layer, but our former neighbours were glad we had insisted they bring along layers and to wear jeans.

When recounting the places we went with our former neighbours to my knitting group, they all nodded. "Yep, you hit all the places people want to see when they get here." Although i had grown up on the coast, i had forgotten about having to shuttle people around who visited. Then again, that task never fell to me, as my parents took care of that part. The people who had visited before these neighbours either had been here before or were truly here to visit us.

We did go to a few museums, both of which had items i wanted to see. One, which is a transportation museum had loads of school kids when we went. Bruce, a neighbour from around the corner, volunteers there, and he had mentioned taking driving lessons so he could drive the Model T they have. I happened to run into him on my way back from the restroom, and he asked if i wanted a ride in the Model T. He had just gotten done giving a bunch of the kids rides. BBN had gone out to the truck to read her book and smoke as she was done looking in the museum; Himself and ON were in a part adjacent to where i ran into Bruce. So, i gathered everybody together, and Bruce gave a brief talk about the car. After that, we piled into the Model T and went for a short spin. I found it thrilling, and all of us remarked how nice a ride it was. BBN's back didn't give her any trouble, and an older couple who saw us go for a ride, waited until we returned and asked if they could hop in, too.

We ate some meals out, but many more at home and took turns with the cooking. Fortunately, we liked to eat many of the same foods, and it was a nice way to wind down the day. BBN doesn't smoke in her house and doesn't smoke in anybody else's, either. I used to smoke, years ago, and i realized with a start that since living here, no one's smoked here. I don't have to gather ashtrays or clear them, and since i no longer smoke, i don't have to time everything between cigarettes. BBN is a very considerate smoker, doing her best to keep smoke from blowing in people's faces, not pitching her butts on the ground, yet i couldn't believe how much i smelled the smoke. And how it irritated my nasal passages. I sneezed more in three days than i had all year, and she casually mentioned that i might have allergies, which she herself had only lately developed.

The cats wrinkled their noses at the smell, and although they liked her, they stayed away from her when she smoked. She wondered why they weren't going to her, and when i mentioned the cigarettes, her face fell a bit. I explained that they'd never smelled smoke like that before. Which they haven't, really. Many people here have woodstoves, so in the fall and throughout the winter, one smells woodsmoke, but that's different.

When we weren't traipsing through museums, we were walking through towns, looking in shops, and stopping often so they could take pictures. BBN is an artist and teaches art students. She wanted some landscape pictures for herself and them, and one afternoon, when she wanted to pick up some Christmas presents at a comestibles place, she and i drove around to a few places i thought would make for good architectural pictures. I'm not sure what all Himself and ON got up to when we were doing that. ON is mechanically gifted and happiest when working on projects. Since most of our house and the barn was built in the 19th century, there are projects aplenty, and he was admiring some of the construction and commented on some things he liked and some that he'd consider changing. It wasn't said in a judgemental way, simply a "Hmmm, that's interesting how they did that, i'd have done it like this."

So, as vacations go, i didn't get away from it all as it were, but rather delved into what's local. It can be fun playing tourist in one's own backyard. They left early Thursday morning, and Himself and i decided to go sailing before the weather changed over to rain. I'm glad we did, even though we simply puttered around the harbour. JoJo and Jim reclaimed the guest room bed as their own once they saw the visitors drive away, and Phoebe sniffed every inch of the guest room. She had provided a welcome by killing a mole down cellar and meowed a lot at us before, during, and after meals. 

It rained the rest of our vacation until Sunday, and we walked a bit in the rain, slept in a little, did some reading, watched a movie or two.

Since my job is sedentary, i find i like to be active on vacation. Although we walked around a bit showing the sights to our former neighbours, BBN on a few occasions told me to slow down, which surprised me, as she was quite the walker when we were neighbours. I remembered that i walked slowly after breaking my leg, and the last time she and i really walked together, i had a hard time keeping up with her because although my leg was nearly mended, walking with any quickness still eluded me. That had changed, apparently, while i wasn't looking. A few other things have changed, too. I am now living in a place that encourages active movement every season of the year, and i find i like being part of that. I found myself being thankful for the many people over the years who've housed me when i was on vacation, who took days off to show me local sights that they would have most likely preferred to skip, and who perhaps put their wish list of things to do aside for my sake.

Friday, June 14, 2013

We now return you to your regular broadcast...

We were on vacation last week and our former neighbours came to visit for several days. While it was good to see them and show them the house and environs here, it was a lot of work, too. Himself and i spent the latter part of the week dodging raindrops for the most part, and once i returned to the salt mine, i found loads o'stuff waiting for me to do.

The thoughts of blogging about our vacation and entertaining our former neighbours did cross my mind, but now as i sit here on Friday evening with a fried brain, well, the words are not flowing freely. Or coherently. Perhaps after a good night's sleep and some time away from the computer screen, i can do a proper blog post.