Thursday, February 28, 2008

It was a dark and stormy night

A few weeks ago, I won a writing contest on a blog run by the talented artist rtisan (you can see my gorgeous prize in a post about the contest below). Well, I ran a link to the winning essay and figured that was enough, but a writer friend told me I should run it on my blog. It really didn't seem necessary to me, it was just a little riff on noir detective fiction (incorporating a list of words rtisan provided).

On the other hand, I haven't posted in a few days, and this is ready to go. Enjoy!

* * * *

If it weren’t for the torrential rains and that damn wiener dog, sitting in the middle of the doorway like he owned the place, I would have kept on going and never would have noticed the dame in the galoshes. I mean, she wasn’t much too look at, standing there in that disgusting gray overcoat, her complexion like peanut butter and jelly. Grape jelly.

“Got a light?” she said, in a voice that reminded me of Carrotop on coke. She stuck an umbrella out and blocked my way. I tried to weave around it, but she hooked me around the ankle and pulled tight.

“Hey, gumshoe,” she said. “I’m talking to you.”

I turned to look at her then. She had a nose like a stiletto, a mouth like a head of cauliflower. “Kind of a stormy night, ain’t it?” she said, and I could tell that she was coming onto me. “What of it?” I said, trying to maintain my usual swagger but she unnerved me, this dame. I knew what she wanted, and I knew that in the end I would give it to her.

I always had a soft spot for peanut butter and jelly.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Millie's bracelet

I found this bracelet in a box with a lot of other old costume jewelry my mother accumulated over the years, most of it my grandmother’s, but this particular bracelet she said belonged to Millie, my grandfather’s second wife. Grandpa and Millie married on the day his divorce from my grandma came through, and they were married 45 years until her death.

I didn’t meet her, or my grandpa, until I was well into my twenties. They lived on the West Coast, estranged from the family. But every Christmas she would send us something we would find appalling and inappropriate--a platter of dried apricots, a piece of driftwood adorned with plastic balls in the shape of a grape cluster. This bracelet reminds me of those gifts--dyed yellow shells with fake pearls and rhinestones. If I'd seen her wearing it back then, I know I would have secretly laughed at it. Now it looks kitschy and fun (still ugly though).

When Grandpa and Millie finally moved back to the Midwest, I saw them more often, once or twice a year at most, and Millie was always a sweet, quiet little woman, a diabetic who had to eat at 5:00 on the dot. The kind of wife my grandpa preferred, who jumped up whenever he wanted something, ever alert so she could meet his every need. After she died, Grandpa went off the deep end, proposing to her sister and then two more women until one finally married him the year that he turned 90. That marriage too ended in divorce, with a court injunction because Grandpa threw an afghan at her. Not an easy man.

I have a few things of my grandpa's to remind me of him--some hats, a turned bowl he made during his woodworking phase--but until I saw this bracelet, it had been some time since I'd thought of Millie. This reminds me of how sweet and unpretentious she was, and how she always remembered us in her own way.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Shoe fetish

You don’t need to know that I’m now barefoot and will be wearing clunky brown oxfords later when I do go out. Just know that I love these shoes and that they would look absolutely fabulous on me.

These vintage shoes are from an amazing Etsy shop named joules. The proprietess talked with me about how she goes about choosing shoes for her shop:

“I always look for integrity of craftsmanship, most often found in Italian and Spanish brands, and certain American shoe companies of the past. I prefer to see all leather construction, including the lining and soles. Styles that make a definitive fashion statement, and clearly exemplify their decade of production, are best. It's especially nice for the footwear to exhibit little to no signs of wear, but that is rare. Finally, they have to be the sort of shoes that I personally would like to own. I'm quite selective and pass up many vintage shoes, as I find a great number that are simply mundane and commonplace. I seek a certain funky elegance, in tune with my own quirky aesthetic.”

Funky elegance indeed. Here's a few more examples to drool over:

The shoes are , from the top, Via Spiga tiger stripes on black suede, made in Italy; Joseph vintage silver leather pumps; Maud Frizon of Paris black suede shoes; Paradox by Zalo, green leather; Realities by Ooomphies black velvet slippers; and Amano Bootier with Paul Allen.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A fishing I will go!

I asked my son to get the mail today and he went out in the snow barefoot (I didn't want it that badly!), but when he came back here's what was in it:
This beautiful print is by a talented artist from Santa Rosa. You can find more of her work at her Etsy shop, rtisan2, or on her blog. I won this as one of the winners in a writing contest she held a couple of weeks ago. It was a fun contest--OK, not the best writing I've ever done, but fun, and best of all this was my reward. You can find my prize-winning entry on her blog, but really I'd suggest you enjoy her artwork and jewelry instead.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Three teenage boys in a carpool talk about video games

“It’s awesome man, I’ve got this dragon like that you can never find anywhere but I found it and now I’ve got it on my team.”

“I never bother much with the animals cause they get super powerful later on but at first they’re just not worth it, I think the people are worth more than the animals early in the game.”

“I got this guy that’s like a prisoner and he had his hands in handcuffs and you don’t find out till later that it was because he’d gone crazy and he was just the strongest guy and he killed everyone around and that’s why his hands were tied up.

“Did you ever get the golem?”

“Yeah, the golem was pretty good man, but then it turned into a stone golem. Until he does that, he's pretty good.”

“I don’t even bother with Sheera because you know she’s going to turn on you. Even in the lower levels I don’t bother because she always deserts you later and it’s just not worth it.”

"I never liked her cause she's an old lady."

“You know who’s cool man is Croesseus and you don’t find out till later that he’s your father, not until the end. He’s all pimped out and cool man and as soon as I saw him I said I gotta have that guy.”

“Yeah but then he dies on you.”

“Yeah but you get him back at the end of the game. And he’s so wicked, he just kills everybody around him man, he doesn’t care.”

“Yeah he’s so pimped out.”


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Art and life in a voyeuristic society

It used to be that to learn your neighbor's dirty secrets, you had to don a trenchcoat and peep through their window. Or go through their trash, or buy a pair of good binoculars. Now all you need is the URL for their blog or to know the forums where they like to post.

I haven't been going to online forums for long, so I'm still amazed at what people are willing to divulge: polyamorous relationships, abusive spouses, runaway children, nasty diseases. Others of us are more circumspect, a few get offended, most of us like to gawk.

A friend sent me a link to a website, PostSecret, where people share their secrets--dirty, funny, touching, fascinating, and sometimes tragic. "I was off my meds when I broke up with you," one reads. "I had to go back on them to live with what I'd done." Best of all, the secrets are sent in anonymously on one side of a home-made postcard.

"Before you marry her, you have to know she slept with three guys on the night of her bachelorette party!"

The tragedies and triumphs of everyday life combined with art. And you don't have to hide in the bushes.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Vision quest

Aren't these great items? My first Etsy treasury that ended up on the front page. It's amazing how much exposure that brings--four of these items have sold so far, and I'm sure the shops got a lot of other views and sales as well. My shop even got a few increased views, and about 10 extra hearts yesterday out of the experience. So another lesson in the value of taking good photos.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Buttons, buttons

I've never been a big collector, not since I was eleven and had a herd of ceramic horses, and I've never been inordinately obsessed with buttons. But now my work area overfloweth and I have to admit they're pretty cool.

I think my favorite is celluloid. This was one of the earliest plastics, later abandoned because it was found to be unstable. Millions of buttons from the 30s and 40s are available today, in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Here's a picture of some of my current beauties:

These celluloid buttons include bubbletops (on the top row), a tight top (far left), and three wafer buttons. The far right one is a layered and carved wafer, one of my favorites types. The bright blue one is called a buffed celluloid (not sure if you can tell in this photo). Bubble tops and tight tops all have metal backings; the difference is in how close the celluloid is to the metal.

Now here's what some of them look like when they're made into jewelry:

On the left is a bubble top, paired with a chunky lucite button (a later plastic). You can really see the depth on this one. To the right of that is a layered wafer, carved to reveal the different colors underneath (the button on top is, I believe, a Victorian cut steel). Finally, below is a pressed wafer button (this one is topped by a carved vegetable ivory button and mother of pearl).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

On a lighter note:

I got this at an estate sale a few weeks ago--great graphic, isn't it? I plan to post it on my etsy site, but first I'd like to listen to it. Aye, there's the rub. I tried to unearth our turntable, and somehow the cord has disappeared, so now my husband has completely emptied the armoir we keep our records and CDs and stereo in, and we're trying like crazy to find the cord.
So my house is an even bigger disaster than usual, but this winking Irish lass cheers me right up!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Not a great day

I was going to post something a little more upbeat and useful today, but I live in Kirkwood, Missouri, where last night this guy went crazy and killed five people at city hall. The mayor (who lives 3 blocks from me) is in the hospital still, possibly dying. The councilwoman I was planning to vote for as next mayor is dead. The gunman, Cookie Thornton, is dead, as are two police officers and two more city officials.

Cookie Thornton went to high school with my husband, and he was quite the character about town--generally upbeat and well liked, but over the years increasingly combative. This feud with city hall has been going on for some time. I first became aware of it about three or four years ago, when our kids had to attend a city council meeting for boy scouts. It was in October, and Cookie had taken a couple of bales of hay from an arrangement they had outside city hall, and he lugged them upstairs and put them in the meeting room so there were little wisps of straw all over. Well, the powers-that-be were making him clean up after the mess he made, so as we left the meeting he was on his knees in the middle of the aisle picking up straw, being as obstructive as he could and singing, "Oh it's good to be a free slave in Kirkwood." He was laughing and joking with people, and we stopped to talk to him for a moment, and for some time after that we sang that song when the circumstances seemed to warrant it.

One thing I like about this community is that most people seem to acknowledge this tragedy has six victims, including Cookie.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Foggy morning breakdown

I got up at 5:30 the other morning. The snow had mostly melted out of the front yard and the street was thick with fog. This picture was taken standing on my front porch, feet wet, dog sniffing at the door behind me.

The tree swing has been there for four or five years now, and the kids never swing on it anymore. About time to take it down, you say? But doesn't this just look the picture of the American suburb? OK. This summer we'll take it down. Before the hornets find it.

(This picture was taken with my new Nikon D40x, which I'm still getting to know, though we're already in love. I didn't use a tripod, as you can see. I cannot explain the gorgeous red color--it was really more of a misty gray. Perhaps in time these mysteries will become clear.)