Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vagina Dialogues, Revisited

I stopped at Trader Joe's to pick up some wine and noshes on Friday, before heading out of town with my girl peeps.  "Have fun, and behave yourself!" said the cheerful clerk.  (They're always cheerful at Trader Joe's.  It's part of the job description.)

"Make up your mind," I said hilariously.  "Have fun, or behave myself?"  Aaahhh-hahahahaha.  I do love my own sense of humor.

This group of peeps has vacayed together before; the stories are recounted in Vagina Dialogues I, II, III and IV.  This trip we were down three members (four if you include L-Tiny): Vespinator moved to Germany (how rude), Rock Star is promoting her new CD on a 10-day Midwest tour, and the Professor is re-prioritizing.  

We navigated Friday night traffic, met up with peeps along the way, and came up with the first catch-phrase of the weekend:  "This trip is a well-oiled machine," J. Cool kept saying, "Well-oiled machine.  Everything is under control and running smoothly."  This, after she spent an hour-and-a-half driving less than ten miles from her house to my house.

We finally arrived at the cabin in the woods around 10 p.m., and we were more than ready to tip a glass of wine or two.  Somehow we stayed up well past midnight--two of us until 3 a.m.--eating cheese and drinking wine with labels like Pirate Booty and Evil Twin.  Our conversational topics included boyfriends, movies, kids, jobs, house renovating, and the pronunciation of "gor-GON-zola" and "PAP-ricka."

We also discussed our plans to go kayaking the next morning, which ONE OF US had spent HOURS researching and planning.  After the long drive and several glasses of wine, the thought of spending a couple of damp hours testing our upper body strength against a swift current did not sound appealing to one or two group members.  Actually, all of them, except me.

The next morning we again debated the merits of going kayaking on the scenic Pigeon River.  The day was overcast and chilly, and the stakeholders were sort of inclined to noodle around antique shops and go to wine tastings rather than getting in touch with their inner outdoorswoman.

"It's so gloomy," one whined.

"My broken rib still hurts," complained the accident-prone one.

"I hate nature," said a third.

"Two-and-a-half hours?" they chorused.  "My muscles are sore just thinking about it."

We put Skip, the cheerful and obliging shop-keeper at Kayak-Kayak in Holland, MI, on speaker-phone.  "Tell you what," he said tinnily.  "Come on over to the shop, and I'll drive you down to the river.  If it's raining too much, I'll refund all your money."  This was a more-than-reasonable offer, and we headed up to Holland.  (Or is that down to Holland?  I'm bad at geography.)  It started drizzling, then really raining on the drive up, and Bob the Builder could not let it go.

"Here, E. Peevie," she said helpfully, "you can borrow my sunglasses."  Beat.  "They'll keep the rain out of your eyes."  Squeak, squeak, swish, swish went the wipers as we followed Skip and his trailer of brightly colored kayaks down the highway.

"I'm just going to close my eyes and imagine I'm sitting by a fireplace holding a glass of wine," Bob said.  I threw a Look at her, but even I was starting to wonder if maybe this was not a great idea after all. 

"How far away is this place?" we wondered, as the miles blurred by; and the rain kept coming.  We had thought it was a mile or two up the road, but--maybe because of the rain, and because of Bob the Builder's unrelenting teasing--it seemed like we were traveling to another state.

Finally, we pulled over and bounced down a rutted road.  Skip backed his trailer up against the shore and started unloading kayaks.  A tiny sliver of blue sky appeared, but the clouds kept drizzling, and we pulled our hoods and hats down over our faces.  Skip pointed us to the life jackets, but reassured the hydrophobes among us that the river would rarely be more than a few feet deep.  He pulled a blue tandem kayak off the trailer and dragged it to the water's edge.

"This one's ours, J.Cool," I said.  The others were all taking singles, but J.Cool has back issues, and I had volunteered to be her chief paddler. We climbed in, and Skip pushed us off the shore.  We paddled out into the middle of the gentle current and waited for the singles kayaks to join us.  Spike found a rhythm easily, and quickly turned out into the current; BrokeGirl wasn't very far behind.

But Queen and Bob the Builder, OMG.  They spent some time talking over paddling strategy with Skip, and then he pushed them away from the beach.  Bob headed straight into the weeds on the opposite bank; and Queen paddled in circles.  Bob freed herself from the river flora, turned herself around, and paddled back across to the other bank; and Queen paddled in circles.

J. Cool and I drifted and watched the unfolding drama of Urban Girls v. Pigeon River, periodically calling out to them supportively.  And by "calling out to them supportively," I mean "laughing hysterically."

"Shut the eff up!" Queen yelled, somehow switching from clockwise circles to counter-clockwise circles.

Eventually, the comedy portion of the kayaking expedition ended, and our group meandered down the Pigeon River.  The sky drizzled, stopped, and drizzled some more; the sun made occasional promises, but failed to deliver.  We disturbed a great blue heron, who lifted up from the shallows and spread his blue-gray wings against the gray-blue sky.  A hundred yards further down, we startled his mate, who also flapped languidly away.  A pair of wood ducks floated in the weeds, barely glancing over as we paddled by.

"This is my new favorite sport!" Bob the Builder allowed, and I maturely resisted saying, "I told you so!"  
Until now.

After an hour or so of paddling, drifting, and floating downstream, we headed back upstream to our beachhead, where Skip was waiting to pull us ashore.  I think he was a little surprised that we had stayed out as long as we did in the not-so-accommodating weather; or maybe he expected one or more of us to die a watery death and not return at all.  

"Way to go, ladies!" he called out cheerfully as we approached the beach where he waited in the shallows in his shorts and Keens.  "I'm so proud of you!  Next trip you get half off!"  He clearly enjoyed putting people on the river.

"I'll bet he's a retired bond trader who left the big city and opened up the little kayak shop that he had always dreamed of," profiled BrokeGirl.  Sure enough, when we asked him, he said he had retired from Goldman Sachs and moved from New York a few years earlier.

I love my peeps, and I could not be more grateful for their friendship and the opportunity to hang with them, away from the chaos and responsibility of real life.  But as it often happens, I was also grateful to come home to my little family, to eat grill-marked hotdogs with them, and to listen to my delicate flower of a little daughter belting out Bon Jovi's Shot Through the Heart in the shower.

NOTE:  I borrowed the heron photo from NJ Bird Photos which has hundreds of really fabulous photographs.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


I gave up my bon-bon-eating, People's-Court-watching, freelance-writing life of leisure, freedom, and flexibility; and I have acquired gainful employment.  Full-time gainful employment.

I will not miss the broke-ness of the last two years, when new clients and new projects were few and far between.  I will not miss the narcissism and personality disorders of certain clients.  I will not miss having to fight for every dollar on every quote.  I will not miss clients who pay me late, even after agreeing to a contract which stipulates the terms of payment QUITE CLEARLY thankyouverymuch. I will especially not miss clients who ignore my invoices and don't pay at all.  (How do they sleep at night?)  And I will not miss being asked to work for free, on spec, on commission, on percentage, and other euphemisms for slavery. 

I will miss the bon-bons, Judge Marilyn, the flexibility, and the afternoon naps.  I will especially miss the thrill of landing a new client, and the intellectual and creative stimulation that comes from having a variety of projects from a variety of clients.

But I'm happy to be making this transition at this stage in my life and my career.  I like having an office to go to--especially one that is only 3.2 miles from my home!  I like having colleagues nearby, and camaraderie of the workplace.  I like not having short people follow me into the bathroom, and I like getting a regular paycheck.
I got my first paycheck on Wednesday, and spent a third of it on Friday getting two new tires after getting a flat on the way to work in the morning.  (Because they say, you know, that you can't just replace one old tire.)  Apparently, I ran over a jagged piece of metal (I heard the pop!), which did not play nice with the Bridgestone.  This was my third punctured tire in eight months.  Is the Universe trying to tell me something?

The young Peevies are adjusting well so far, ten days into the new schedule.  They are excited that their allowance will soon be reinstated, and that they get picked up by friends most days after school.  They are getting quite good at making their own breakfast and lunch--although I recently learned that A. Peevie has a tiny forgetting-his-lunch problem.  Fortunately, Mrs. LunchLady takes care of him.

Now I just need to complete my own transition adjustment, so that I can continue to regale my loyal Green Room subscribers with frequent tales of hilarity, woe, and the occasional bit of political propaganda.  I'm working on it, people.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sisterhood of the Traveling Purse

A few years ago I bought a cute purse at a resale shop.  It was sort of blue-jean blue, with gold threads interwoven throughout the fabric.  I paid about $10 for it, or maybe $12.

I brought the purse to a gathering of a few friends; and one friend in particular, BrokeGirl, admired it a great deal.
"Here, have it," I said spontaneously, dumping out the contents and handing it to her.  "I'll just put my stuff in a plastic bag until I get home."  It didn't feel like a big deal to me, but she was touched, which in turn gave me warm fuzzies.  As Friend Phoebe figured out, there is no such thing as a selfless good deed:

Phoebe: [on phone] I have found a selfless good deed. I went to the park and let a bee sting me.
Joey Tribbiani: How is that a selfless good deed?
Phoebe: It makes the bee look tough in front of his bee friends. The bee's happy and I am definitely not.
Joey Tribbiani: Uh, Pheebs, you know the bee probably died after it stung you?
Phoebe: [stares blankly] ...Dammit.
[hangs up]

The story doesn't end with BrokeGirl.  Many months later, BrokeGirl was visiting with our mutual friend Catosa, and Catosa admired the purse.  BrokeGirl decided that the well-loved purse should continue her soon-to-be-epic journey, so she dumped out the contents and gave it to Catosa.

Subsequently, Catosa, who lives in Estes Park, Colorado, gave it to C-Rey, who held onto it for several months before giving it to a "darling, sweet woman" from her church, JaMo.  At the moment, the Traveling Purse is living happily with JaMo in Denver, Colorado--as far as I know. 

I feel sort of proud to be the first donor of the traveling purse.  If I had any inclination that the purse would become such a symbol of friendship and generosity, I would have taken a photo of it hanging over BrokeGirl's shoulder--but alas.  I had no prescience, no foreknowledge, no psychic abilities.

But if you admire a cute blue fabric purse, and its owner says, here, have it!--please send me a photo, and let me know how long you hang on to it before you feel compelled to give it to another admirer.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Happiness Is...

..sleeping until you wake up naturally, with no alarm clock.

...eating something sweet for breakfast.

...hiking on the Kal-Haven trail

...taking photos of bright blooms and butterflies on the Kal-Haven trail.

...a covered bridge.

...waving to a kayaker on the Black River.

...when the Black River kayaker interrupts his paddling rhythm in order to wave back.

...sharing a giant bag of pink and blue cotton candy.

...having dessert first.  At this place.

...reading a book on the beach.

...a perfect frisbee throw.

...grilling the perfect burger.  And then eating it.

...a whole day of no kid-bickering.  Not that I would know.  I'm just sayin'.