Friday, April 30, 2010

My kind’s your kind, I’ll stay the same

I wish with everything in me that I could relive a few distinct moments, in particular those instances when I was stalled in the midst of a hasty departure by my dad calling after me, “Catherine, let me make you a map.” I’d duck back inside to find him poised at the dining room table with a red Bic pen in hand, carefully studying a larger map of St. Louis. The fodder for his map. My map.

This was a pre-GPS era. It probably wasn’t pre-MapQuest for the rest of the world, but it was for us, when going online involved a 10-minute symphony of beeps, hisses and static as our little Packard Bell clawed desperately at the outer limits of cyberspace. Attempting to create driving directions would cause a definite crash and a potential seismic shift.

If I had it my way, I’d just jump in the old Geo Prism and rely on my memory to get me where I needed to go. I pride myself on a particularly keen sense of direction, and I rarely got lost. But my dad had the foresight to realize that my mind map might one day fail me – that I could potentially leave to meet my friends for a movie and end up at an abandoned strip club across the Mississippi.

The entire process was a lesson in patience. I had places to go, Steak ‘n Shakes to loiter in, Weezer lyrics to overanalyze, cigarettes to not smoke, memories to make. But first, I had to wait in the front hall, sighing and pacing as he drew arrows, sketched landmarks and wrote out street names in his patented all-caps font. The final result was so precise, so endearingly perfect that I’d soon enough forget my frustration over missing the first five minutes of Bowfinger.

In hindsight, I wish I’d saved at least one of those maps instead of letting them get buried and broken under piles of physics books and pools of sun-warmed soda. I can’t say I ever completely depended on them to reach a destination, but they were always next to me for the journey, and that part hasn’t really changed at all.

From Slate:
Wonderful hand-drawn maps from firefighters, club-hoppers, Boy Scout dads, grandmothers, and Alexander Calder.

(Image from Slate)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy 30th Birthday

Like the musical hotdog card hidden in your lunchbox says, we just make sense together. Thank you for keeping me in your heart. Happy birthday!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lights, psychos, Furbies, screaming babies in Mozart wigs, sunburned drifters with soapsud beards...

By far the funniest thing I've seen on SNL this season:

Note: I totally screwed up the quote in my headline yesterday. It has since been corrected. So embarrassed...

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spicy Szechuan Chick Lit

Spicy Szechuan Style Vegetables and Chicken, you are my new favorite frozen meal. Always at arm's reach when the idea of putting things between bread seems too time consuming, too overwhelming, too involved. You taste frozen enough to remind me that I am at work, with enough zucchini to convince me that you are healthier than something with no vegetables at all.
Speaking of tasteless consumption, this post was actually supposed to be about a book I just read. The other day, I found myself saying to Matt, "I just want to finish this book so I can write a blog post about it and then never talk about it ever again." Having reached the finish line a few days ago, this post is way overdue.

For some odd reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to read Amy Sohn's Prospect Park West. I'd developed this slight fascination with Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood's parental culture simply because Gawker sometimes talks about it. I knew the book was an easy read, full of namedropping and metaphors comparing human emotions to expensive objects like strollers and shoes. The straw that broke the Manolo's heel (I don't think that worked, which is why I don't write chick lit) was the fact that it took me approximately forever to finish On the Road, a book that seventh graders can read in one sitting, while texting. All of this created the perfect storm that propelled me to order Prospect Park West from Amazon's marketplace for $6.

And here I sit, still debating whether or not I want my $6 back (it would be enough to buy three Spicy Szechuan Style Vegetables and Chicken meals). I'm no better for having read this fictional romp through an upper-class neighborhood populated by over-medicated movie stars and self-righteous super moms. The plot kept getting more ridiculous as the story lines began to overlap, sort of like the movie "Crash" if you replaced the racial tension with references to sleeping pills.

I bet by now you're thinking a) it sounds like she hated this book and b) this isn't the blog I was looking for. But believe me, I'm grateful to PPW for getting me through a slump when anything more intellectually stimulating was completely out of the question. If I hadn't been reading about playground politics and affairs between food coop workers, I would've been drawing finger pictures in bathroom mirror condensation and wishing I'd spent my $6 on a smutty read instead of frozen meals.

So now I'm back on the literary straight and narrow. Next up: Illumination and Night Glare, an autobiography of Carson McCullers that my sister gave me for Christmas. No condo board squabbles or chardonnay hangovers in that one. At least I don't think so.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Slowly, but surely...

I have begun dressing like an elementary school art teacher. One piece of the puzzle at a time, I now feel uncomfortable in anything that isn't garishly colorful and unflatteringly comfortable. One jumper and two dangly cat earrings away from a water color dinosaur.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Stove Sweet Stove

Growing up, we had a wooden toy stove - a really stark, simple toy with sliding panels that allowed us to keep important things inside, like plastic pots and pans, rubber WWF figurines and stolen cans of soup. When I'd outgrown the stove, disregarding the fact that my siblings had not, I made the offhand suggestion to my mom that it would make a good dollhouse. This was bullshit because anyone looking at it would agree that it would make a bad dollhouse. But I was still at the age where I thought building a slide next to the basement stairs and cushioning the landing with Easter grass was a brilliant idea, so, you know...

But my mom, never one to back down from a challenge if thrift is involved, went to work turning the simple stove into an equally simple dollhouse. It had four rooms and an attic with a removable roof. An artist friend painted the front butter yellow with creeping ivy. And before unveiling it to us, my mom filled the inside with Victorian-era Playmobile furniture that looked amazing but tasted really bitter if you licked it. Everything about the dollhouse was anachronistic and mismatched in scale, but we loved it and took special care never to let the people inside know that they were living in a converted oven.

The years gave way to other dollhouses - the kind with staircases, chimneys and porches, but the sturdy stove was the one to survive falls off shelves, dog attacks and small cousins looking for places to hide half-eaten pieces of cake. As far as I know, it's still sitting in the basement, waiting for the day when my robot children or cat children can lay claim to it. And at that time, I'll be able to say, "Gather round robots/cats, and I'll tell you the story of how a fake stove became a real home."

All of this is a segue to a piece in today's New York Times about modernist dollhouses. Intriguing for anyone who likes dollhouses (past me) and modern design (current me, in theory).

Modernist Dollhouses


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