Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rocky Cliffs, Grilled Corn, and Thanks

Chad and I went to one of our favorite restaurants in one of our favorite towns last weekend. Imagine a cove, quiet and rocky, with a little cottage on a cliff to the right and nothing but grass and birds on a cliff to the left. And ahead there is ocean, ocean, and a little more ocean, with some sky at the end. Sometimes a sailboat slowly whispers across. That is where we were, sitting at a copper topped table at the window, the sound of silverware and plates and clinking glasses and chatter with some laughter stirred in around us.

We ordered enough food for all four seats at the table and proceeded to eat it all, slowly, smiling. I had scallops grilled with bay leaves and orange rind, and grilled corn and a beautiful green salad with mustard vinaigrette. Chad's calamari had chick peas and paper-thin slices of lemon battered and fried with the calamari itself. Everything was just so good. I had this overhelming feeling of gratitude while sitting there, full of all of this food and scenery and just plain old happiness.

We had been there some time when the mother and daughter sitting at the table next to us finished their meal and got up to leave. They stood, and the mother turned and pointed at my grilled corn. And she said exuberantly:

"How was THAT?!"

It took me a second to answer her, because I swear to God, if her fingernails had been one day longer, she would have been touching my corn. She was that close. I finally stuttered that it was amazing, and she turned to Chad and said:

"And how was the Peekytoe crab?! I saw you had that!"

But Chad had his mouth full and couldn't answer. Because we were EATING DINNER. So I said:

"Actually, that's the buttermilk fried chicken."

And she said, still exuberant:

"No, I mean his appetizer!"

"Oh, that was the calamari." I tried to smile, but I was really distracted by her hands floating over my food.

The woman's face literally turned to stone. "No! It was the Peekytoe crab!"

And here is where I had that slow-mo cartoon moment, where I stood up out of my body, everything frozen around me, and took a good hard look at the situation. Then I sat back down into my body, looked at the woman, smiled really really big, and said:

"Oh RIGHT, the Peekytoe crab. It was great!!!"

The color came back into her face, and she clapped. "Oh, I'm just going to have to get that, next time!"

Then she and her daughter shuffled off, and I thought about how completely ridiculous that last minute of my life was. And then I thought about my mother (no, not because my mother is like that, but because she isn't). My mother is a stickler for manners--and when I say stickler, I mean there was never a time when manners didn't matter. They always mattered. ALWAYS. My mother and father took us to "training nights" at restaurants when we were little, where, if we were not behaving well, we were brought outside and told very firmly how we should be behaving. And then we went back in and did so.

I always found these manners extremely annoying. But I can also say that the older I got the more I appreciated them. And now I know, because of last weekend, that I am officially old. I am an old person who wants everyone to have manners and not point their fingers at my corn.

Thanks, Mom.

PS: I didn't take this picture. But this is really the place.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Old cookies = OK?

So I went digging last weekend, in a trunk, in my basement. This trunk was full of magical treasure--from pictures to diplomas to old letters from old loves to lots and lots and lots of writing. So I took a smattering of it and brought it upstairs to lose myself in my silly old self.

Just to give you an idea--this smattering included a "book" I had written in the 2nd grade, about my favorite pony. In my story, Misty the pony wasn't just a pony that I took lessons on, but was a famous racehorse, of course. And the story was a mixture of two of my favorite Little House on the Prairie Episodes and a Ramona Quimby book...with Horses. I laughed out loud at points--especially at the "illustrations" I added, in magic marker.

It was funny to read the pieces from my early college years, too--not only to see where my brain and heart and soul were at that time, but also to see how much they changed over four years. It really is amazing how much you learn in college: about your past, about yourself, about how those things affect each other, and about how they affect your path.

As a whole, the essays and stories painted a picture of a girl trying to learn to like herself and deal with the cards she had been dealt. And they're melodramatic and girly and nostalgic. But at least they're not recycled episodes of Little House (I learned SOMETHING!).

And one of the pieces, only one, I actually was really impressed with. It was my final story in a creative writing/short story class I took my sophomore year in college. It's complete, and it's creepy, and I love the ending. But here's my big question--is it OK to go back to something that old and resurrect it? I think I can improve it even further...but is that...allowed? It feels like the new me cheating off the old me!

In any case, I'm going to keep digging in that trunk. I think there are a few years I missed. And I miss them.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Morning Tea and Books

When I get into work in the mornings, it's either just me, or me and one other person. It's so quiet and special to be in a normally busy studio with laughter and art bouncing off the walls all by yourself.

I unlock the doors, turn on all the lights, including the fish tank lights, at which point the fish go nuts because they know food is coming. I feed them the stinkiest fish food ever (was fish food always so stinky?) and chat with them for a minute or two, especially since a few of their fish friends have gone to fish heaven over the past months. I try to get them to talk about it, but they just flip their tails at me. Then I warn them that they'll eventually need major psychotherapy unless they start expressing their feelings.

Then I put on some music and open the blinds to look out over the harbor. This morning is dark and rainy and the water looks almost black. It's so quiet, just so quiet, and people walking over the bridges to work hurry below me while I feel so still. I sip my tea and breathe and then settle in for the chaos.

These are the simple things that I never write about but that comprise my day, my-almost-every-day. Which means that they're probably the things that I should be writing about, right?

In other local news, I have been hit by a great children's book idea, which really, is a lot like a bird flying above and aiming poop directly at your head: it doesn't happen very often and everyone says it's good luck, but it does require a lot of work.

I'm so excited about it. I'm working on my (as Anne Lamott says) shitty first draft, and then I'm going to sit in a pile of my ultimate favorite kids books (like Vivian, here) for hours and hours.

To get me started, does anyone know any good names for giraffes, monkeys, turtles, and horses? Especially non-gender-specific names?