See you on the other side of the (Arizona) border!
See you on the other side of the (Arizona) border!
T minus 24 hours to road trip to California!
I was thinking the other day that not having human kids means that I’ll never have to feel like the Grinch who stole Thanksgiving when my kid comes home from school brimming over with warm and fuzzy stories about the “history” of “the first Thanksgiving” and I find myself unable to keep from explaining the truth behind the myth. If schools could just limit Thanksgiving holiday festivities to cute finger turkey drawings, then fine, but somehow, I don’t see them omitting the fables of the “Pilgrims and the Indians” being BFFs on “the first Thanksgiving” anytime soon.
That bit of cynicism aside, one thing that’s remained true about Thanksgiving over time is its focus on expressing gratitude for a bountiful harvest, which has broadened to include giving thanks for everything that we have, including our good health and each other. This is the aspect of the holiday that appeals to me the most – its focus on family.
Thanksgiving is this week Thursday, and we’re going to be spending it with my family. When I lived in France, I missed the comfortable proximity to my family more on Thanksgiving than at any other time. You always hear people saying, we should give thanks and express gratitude for our families every day, not just on Thanksgiving, and I agree with this, but still… Thanksgiving.
And I’m feeling so grateful for my family… the family that chose me, the one that I’ve chosen and the one that I inherited just by being alive.
We all have family, even if we think we don’t. If your circumstances are such that your actual family members are absent in the world, if you feel isolated and friendless, as long as there are people in the world, you have family.
In Hawaii, you’ll find this concept expressed openly and naturally by the locals, as the family mentality is a part of the local culture. If you’re walking along the beach and a child is playing in your path, it’s likely that the adult sitting nearby will call to the child, with firm affection, “Come over here, Bobby… let Auntie pass.” And you’ll look over at the parent to find him smiling and nodding at you with respect. Auntie. Think of it! A total stranger will see you coming and say to his child, let Auntie pass. (Yes, this happened to me.)
You are family. We’re all family. Humankind is a human family, and I believe this to be true: When there’s injustice in the world, we have to remember that we’re all brothers and sisters, and we have to allow this to give us strength. Being united gives us strength. Our interconnectedness is an absolute, even in our moments of craving our solitude, even while counting our enemies. To me, Thanksgiving is a time to remember this and to feel our bond and connection with others. Being human also means that we can lose patience and hold grudges, but on Thanksgiving, I want to be mindful of our oneness and feel grateful for what that means. We walk the same earth and breathe the same air. We can help each other and commiserate and make each other laugh and offer comfort and support as easily as we can do harm.
Happy Thanksgiving week, All.
It’s November 11, which means that here in the States, we’re observing our national holiday to recognize veterans of the armed forces – the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.
At the end of October, I received this incredible email at work:
Saturday, November 8th ASU is hosting Notre Dame at 1:30 p.m. With a desire to honor all of our veterans at ASU, a limited number of tickets have been made available for our veteran faculty and staff. You served with honor, now we honor you. Thank you for your service!
This came from the Salute to Service committee out of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, a wonderful campus and community resource for veterans and their dependents at ASU. November 3-14 had been designated as “Salute to Service” week – a week of events with focus on military appreciation built around Pat Tillman’s birthday, November 6, and today, Veteran’s Day, November 11. With this, ASU celebrates the entire week as a way to honor vets and Pat Tillman in continuing his legacy as a heroic Sun Devil and pro football star who sacrificed his life in serving our country.
Callaghan was especially excited about the opportunity to go to Saturday’s game against Notre Dame because he’d never been to a college football game before. Coming from France, he had no real concept of the importance or spirit of athletics at the American university (there’s no equivalent of it over there – no collegiate athletics programs, no mascots, no school colors, no marching bands, no cheerleaders or rivalries or tail-gate parties or events like homecoming or play-offs, etc.), but he had heard all the stories. I mean, he knew about it, but he’d never experienced it.
Man, did he get a first-class education in American college football spirit on Saturday! We walked down to the stadium – the joy of living downtown will never fade – where he dipped his virgin toe into the traditional institution of American college football. His foray turned out to be more of a head-first dive straight into the insanity that was Sun Devil Stadium that day. The game against legendary and well-seated Notre Dame proved to be a phenomenal, exciting, well-fought battle on Frank Kush field (55-31 ASU, final).
As you can imagine, the Sun Devils’ victory parlayed into an outrageous all-night party at the many bars, clubs and restaurants up and down Mill Avenue, the main street of Tempe.
Later that night, the passionate and gracious Notre Dame fans we spotted on Mill stood out in their navy and gold gear as they took in the chaos of the festivities with wide eyes. It was like a UFO had deposited the Fighting Irish fans in downtown Tempe, and they had no idea where they were. We saw them wandering slowly down the street in their unseasonal-to-them shorts and t-shirts, looking around with dazed expressions, and maybe it was just me, but I didn’t think they were thinking, damn, we lost, so much as, damn, now we have to get on the plane and go back to freezing Indiana. Because that’s what I would have been thinking, if I were them. (Aside: I’m certain that Arizona gets some of its transplants because people decide to move here after visiting from their cold places to support their teams playing the Sun Devils in sunny Tempe. It got up to 90 degrees that day. Callaghan and I were in long-sleeve t-shirts because we wanted to avoid getting farmers’ tans, but most people were in regular t-shirts or tank tops and shorts. You can generally get away with that year-round out here.)
Here are some pics from Saturday:
This brings us to today, a day off, and, most importantly, a day to remember and reflect with gratitude. Happy Veteran’s Day, and to all of you vets out there, thank you for your service!
I had an idea, and then I didn’t. Then I thought I would wake up early this morning with that same idea or some other idea circulating through my brain, but alas, it didn’t happen. The waking-up early part almost-but-not-quite happened, but the idea part didn’t, and that, unfortunately, was the critical part. I’m idea-less. It’s been a long week, and ALL THE IDEAS have left the building. I got nothing.
Or so I thought. One thing I did want to mention is that Ronnie James’ girlfriend has returned, to our relief. You see, she’d disappeared sometime early Halloween week, and you know that long-rampant (albeit probably untrue) rumor about how so-called devil-worshippers swoop through the neighborhoods around Halloween and abscond with outdoor cats – particularly the black ones – to use for “rituals”? So I’d been a bit nervous for her, she who roams the ‘hood with no fear. By Wednesday last week, Ronnie James (le pauvre petit Wrah-Wrah! as we like to call him) could be observed at any given time draped forlornly over the table in front of the window, his dragony yellow eyes half-closed and scanning the street horizon in search of his little lady. And finally, two days ago, she made her first post-Halloween appearance.
She returned just as spry and adorable as usual. We wondered whether her Mommy or Daddy (we believe that she’s someone’s kid, and not just a stray) deliberately kept her in during Halloween week, a thought that warms my heart. Even if those black cat rumors aren’t true, there’s a lot to be said for peace of mind. I mean, anything could have happened. She could have been hit by a car or something.
So that’s the report from the neighborhood, folks. All is well.
For a flourish of a finish today, you get a couple of kitty grams:
Happy Friday, All!
HELLo! This image-centric post is brought to you by one of America’s favorite holidays, Halloween, which is TODAY. Yay!!
This is just to say Happy Halloween, and here are a couple of pictures I took of creepy sights around town, and here’s another one of Zombie Callaghan, and here’s one of our jack o-lantern (not in that order), and hey, here are a couple of pics of the cake I made last night – the cake that I’m bringing to our Halloween potluck at work today, because I love my co-workers so much!
As for this evening? After celebrating Halloween pretty much all month, Callaghan and I are going to enjoy a low-key night at home. We’re going to watch this week’s episode of American Horror Story and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. THAT IS THE PLAN, STAN, and we’re sticking with it. =)
Let’s start with home…
Then to the Melonhead Foundation’s Drag Bingo charity bash!
I don’t exactly have coulrophobia (a pathological fear of clowns), but still…
And in our neighborhood, this house always catches my every-horror-tuned eye…
And for work today, I made this cake, a tradition I’ve done for Halloween potlucks for years:
Happy FRIDAY Halloween, Everyone!
I have nothing to give you today, due to the fact that the saga of my new computer took up every last second of time between Friday and 11pm last night (when we weren’t gallivanting at Drag Bingo or working out in Body Combat class or doing laundry or actually working, that is). Guys, to give you an idea… a new episode of Homeland is available, and we haven’t watched it yet! That is our NUMBER ONE show this season, we’re utterly enthralled, and it’s been driving us crazy that there’s an episode just sitting there, unwatched. But we’re going to watch it tonight after grocery shopping (didn’t even get that done over the weekend) after work, so I get to look forward to it all day.
I’m extremely happy – I would even say thrilled – with my new computer (and this is the second one since the saga began – I had to take the first one back because of major issues), but I haven’t really used it yet. My amazing brother remoted in from California last night to help me set it up, and since then, I’ve been busy sleeping (a scant five hours) and showering, and now I’m sitting here with a cup of coffee and Callaghan next to me and the lights on in the deliciously dark early fall morning and the sound of the sprinklers on the lawn and kitties running around.
Speaking of kitties, have I mentioned that Ronnie James has a girlfriend? She’s an outdoor neighborhood kitty, and she’s adorable. She comes and sits on the table under the window, and she and the Wrah-Wrah gaze and bat at each other.
Also, here’s a photo from Drag Bingo, which many of you have already seen on facebook. This was actually taken right before we left the house:
Have a great Tuesday, All!
Q: What happens when you watch the American Horror Story: Freak Show premiere and the first two episodes of Stalker all on the same night?
A: The next time you’re alone in the house, ALL THE LITTLE NOISES will cause you to jump and imagine that the most terrifying clown you’ve ever seen is creeping around your windows.
And, if you’re kind of warped, like me, you’ll love it.
Fear is a mysterious emotion. It can be taught, or it can be intuitive. It can be provoked by things we perceive with our own senses, or by others’ senses. Fear as a response to external stimuli real or imagined can also be unpredictable.
I have phobias, meaning that I experience irrational fear in response to specific things. I also have PTSD, meaning that I have a few known “triggers” floating around in a deep lake of more inexplicable, unknown causes of panic. The resulting inner havoc is predictable even if its cause is not… it’s the familiar old Armageddon of panic and stress boiling in my core, rippling outward through my body like a fire spreading through a house. It feels like I’m being consumed. Sometimes, it even feels like I’m going to die, or like I have to die. I actually take medication for this. Throw in the by-product of clinical depression just to balance it out, and there you have the main reason I live for my body combat classes at the gym three days a week. I enjoy them because they’re amazing, yes, but I also need them for medical reasons. Intense physical training on a regular basis helps my brain chemistry better than anything.
So it’s a mystery to me why, when a former boyfriend introduced me to the creepy PlayStation game Silent Hill (the only video game I’d played since the ‘80’s), I quickly became addicted and couldn’t wait for darkness to fall every night so I could huddle in the shadowy corner of the bed with all the lights out, trembling and listening to the discreet yet horrifying sound of snow crunching beneath my feet (leave it to developers of Japanese horror to make the sound of snow horrifying) as I walked through the abandoned town in search of my daughter. You would think the eerie sense of being watched and the unpredictable sightings and attacks would have sent me into PTSD Armageddon, but instead, I found myself craving more.
It’s odd, this thing about the horror genre in pop culture. If scary movies, television shows, books or games manage to provoke fear or stir up the creep factor even a little bit, which very few of them can do, by the way – my favorites are the ones that can – I just twitch a little and then run back for more. Yet, the sight of a sewer roach encases me in fear and leaves me traumatized for days. Why is that?
I would venture to guess that the PTSD lurks behind this incongruity. Fear strikes, and in that moment of skyrocketing adrenaline, I’m instantaneously alert and on edge. Maybe, in some perverse way, I love it because it makes me feel alive… alert, alive and ready to act, and when this response comes in the wake of stimuli that I know is fictional, I can just enjoy the rush. There’s no real-world threat in fiction. (A roach is not a formidable threat, but it is real.) Maybe I’ve become a “fight or flight” response junkie, though I don’t think I’d go so far as to say I’m addicted to adrenaline, a phenomenon that some people apparently experience. For me, in the case of creepy movies and T.V. shows and books, maybe I’m more just hyper-intrigued by the fear of the unknown, and of the (horrifying) possibilities. Neither am I sure that there’s much of a difference between this kind of fear addiction and the kind of garden-variety thrill-seeking that leads people to go bungee-jumping (I am not a thrill-seeker of the bungee-jumping variety). Whatever the case, I find the psychology of fear to be fascinating. Fear is terror-provoking, thrilling, necessary and fun. What emotion other than love covers all of that?
My affection for the horror genre pre-dates my PTSD, so perhaps that’s significant, as well.
I also think that it’s my PTSD that drives me through whatever martial/fighting arts training I’m doing, especially when my energy stores are low, though I’d loved combat sports long before the PTSD, too. In high school, I was the girl who demanded that the P.E. faculty allow girls to take wrestling, because that was what I wanted to do, and I was outraged that only boys could take it. (In the end, they acquiesced, but only because I got other girls to sign my petition, indicating that they would take it with me. We were only allowed to wrestle under the stipulation that we’d wrestle each other, rather than the boys. Haha!) (I don’t think that anyone was surprised when I joined the Army after that.)
On the tail of that tangent, let’s all take a moment to acknowledge that Halloween is just two weeks away. I’m beside myself with glee. We’re in a house now, which means that we get to give candy out to trick-or-treaters. I wonder how many American Horror Story Twisty the Clowns we’ll find on our doorstep Halloween night? I can’t wait to find out!
Happy Friday, All!
First of all, Happy 4th of July, fellow Americans! I’m coming at you from a coffee shop this morning because our internet at home is down. And hey, how about that dust storm last night?! The luscious scent of creosote enveloped us the second we stepped outside this morning… it’s going to rain. Monsoon season begins!
Whoa, I’m feeling scattered here. Let me focus on sharing with you my latest favorite discovery.
The first time we spotted a vehicle with a “Not Cal” decal, we did a double-take. The second look was necessary because we’re used to seeing California pride decals that say “So Cal” for Southern California, or “Nor Cal” for Northern California.
We thought we were looking at a “Nor Cal” decal, but the “r” wasn’t right… it looked more like a “t.” It seemed to spell “Not Cal.” Squinting and looking closer, I realized, Hey! It DOES say “Not Cal!” Then I saw that the lettering was centered over a beautiful bronze graphic of the state of Arizona, which was resplendently merged with the Arizona flag. Not California. Arizona. I was stoked.
[Side-note trivia: In the 2001 poll taken by the North American Vexillological Association, the Arizona flag ranked #6 on the list of 10 Best Flags in North America – the sixth best flag out of 72 flags! New Mexico’s flag took first place, Texas came in second, and Quebec’s flag ranked third with its elegant fleur de lys design. Interesting, right? See the poll results here.]
Broken down geographically, the residential picture of my life looks like this:
First, I lived in “Nor Cal” for 18 years (born in San Francisco, raised in San Jose), spending most childhood summers with extended family out of state (Hawaii). I moved away after I graduated from high school. I’ve spent the last 27 years in “Not Cal.”
Over those 27 years, I lived overseas for five years (three years and three months in West Germany/Germany, six months in Saudi Arabia/Iraq/Kuwait, one year and six months in France), and five months in Texas… and I’ve lived in Arizona for 20 years and eight months (interrupted only by the time spent in France and Texas).
The point being that I was born and raised in California, but I’ve lived more of my life outside of California than in it, and over 75% of that time, I’ve lived in Arizona. I couldn’t be happier in a place, and I especially couldn’t be happier to NOT be in a place. For all its beauty and the fact that people I love live there, California and I are not a good fit. I’m a California native who feels like an Arizona native, and I’m not alone… we ‘Zonans like to joke that anyone who’s lived in the Land of AZ for 10 years or longer qualifies as a native, since most people who live in Arizona moved here from somewhere else.
(Apparently, a significant percentage of transplants in Arizona come from California. My friend and real estate agent Nick once remarked that every time there’s a natural disaster in California, Californians stampede to Arizona.)
So when I saw the “Not Cal” decal the first time, I was amused.
The second time I saw it, on a different vehicle, I was even more amused, because then I realized that “Not Cal” was a thing, which meant that it could be had. I found it online, ordered it, and Zach-the-Not-Cal guy got it to our mailbox within two days.
So, Zach and everyone at Not Cal Clothing and Big Cartel (funny coincidence… I’m at Cartel right now), thank you! Thanks for helping us ex-Californian ‘Zonans represent. =)
To avoid naming names of people, places or institutions, I invite you to imagine the following scenario:
You work at a place where brilliant, creative people – artist-musician-dancer-engineer crossbreeds – make cool things.
So you’re on your way to work one day, and when you get to your destination street, you see a bunch of cops and emergency vehicles crowded around the upcoming intersection. You think nothing of it. This is America. A clusterf*ck of cops and emergency vehicles is not an unusual sight.
You get upstairs to your meeting. Most everyone’s already there, except for the person leading the meeting. Then he calls someone in the room to say that he’s been delayed a few minutes, go ahead and get the meeting started.
He finally enters the room, replete with casual yet apologetic haste. He’s late, he explains, because he’d encountered an “incident” on his way in that “involved one of our people,” so he stopped and talked to the detectives to help sort it all out.
It turns out that “one of our people” had left his cool-thing-in-progress on the street momentarily, but in that moment (of course), a passer-by found it. Police cars, fire engines and bomb squads arrived. In the end, the authoritative involvement included two cities. The intersection remained closed off for several hours, diverting traffic. News reporters entered the fray. Also, implementing communications safety procedures developed in the aftermath of tragedies at several universities in the nation, university officials alerted the entire community of students, faculty and staff on their cell phones, cautioning everyone to stay inside until an “all clear” was issued.
All because our guy’s project – a kind of animated sculpture resembling a round device with lights and flexible parts and whatnot, I don’t know exactly what – had been left in a box next to a parking meter, an unfortunate happenstance. What are the odds? And what are the odds that the exact person who could un-kerfuffle the whole thing happened to stroll through that intersection on his way to our meeting?
If you can imagine all this, you’ll know I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have an exceptionally un-boring job, as far as office jobs go. (It’s especially impossible to be bored when you go home to another creative genius.)
And on that note, I’m off to get ready for the day, which begins with taking Callaghan’s father to the airport. We’d capped off his visit from France with a side-trip to California to spend time with my parents over the holiday (Memorial Day) weekend. Our month of hosting house-guests has wound down to an end! It was fun, but I have to admit, it’s good to get back to a routine. I like routines.
So does the Wrah-Wrah.
Late last week, my camera departed for the great camera boneyard in the sky. Alas, my humble little Canon powershot is no more. (Cue the violins.)
It wasn’t old so much as pointed-and-clicked to death… I think it was sheer overuse that did it, and maybe the fact that I didn’t exactly keep it swaddled in bubble wrap every second of its life. I got it in 2011 right before we left the States; it did the rounds with me all over France and Berlin, Germany and Casablanca, Morocco. Then it photo-documented our five-month adventure in Texas before we came back to Arizona. I always had it with me.
Its demise on Friday morning happened quickly and without warning, and I had to do something fast, right? Because being without a camera is just weird in a not-good way. I was going to spend the weekend taking pictures of things for my February Favorites post, which obviously didn’t happen!
In the end, instead of getting a new camera, I decided to get a phone featuring a decent camera. This means three things:
–I no longer have to carry around a camera and a phone.
–I finally have instagram.
–Because of instagram, I predict that I’ll be taking more pictures than ever.
But before all that insanity begins – before I can start inundating my instagram with gratuitous selfies and pictures of what I’m wearing and the food I’m eating and the interesting people in Walmart and Arizona sunset after Arizona sunset and whatever other clichéd subjects you can think of – I need some time to acquaint myself with both my new camera and instagram, itself.
All of this to say that while my February Favorites post is going to be late, I do have an image to share with you today! I first saw this when it jumped out and tried to kill me as I scrolled through my blogroll last week (I’m looking at you, Junk Food Guy).
Yes, that would be a gigantic plastic baby whose bib reads I HEART KING CAKE.
This is nightmare fuel. Pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel on a basketball court.
You might recall that during Mardi Gras season last year, I wrote about the Mardi Gras king cakes here in the States and the French version (the Galette des Rois), and I mentioned the little plastic baby tucked inside that bestows royal status upon the person who finds it in their slice? Well, what you see in the image above is the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team’s nod to Mardi Gras, bringing that little plastic baby to life on their basketball court as a seasonal mascot to honor the occasion. I, for one, find this horrifying life-size plastic baby (Jesus?) to be one of the most awesome mascots to ever grace a basketball court. Good job, Pelicans!
On that note, I must run off now. Here’s a link to my fledgling instagram page for those who wish to follow: www.instagram.com/thatasianlookingchick
Happy Mardi Gras!
For Valentine’s Day, Callaghan gave me a gift set of my current favorite fragrance (Guilty, in case you were wondering). As a life-long perfume addict, fragrance is still my favorite “romantic” sort of gift to receive. Though Callaghan’s a wonderful chef, the way to my heart is not through my stomach. It’s definitely through my nose!
I knew about that gift in advance, but yesterday, he surprised me with an early gift… one that he made. He came in and leaned it up against my bookshelves while my back was turned:
When I unwrapped it, I found a painting of red roses! It’s a framed assemblage of gorgeous, vibrant red roses.
Over the summer, he started working with alcohol-based inks on thin plastic sheeting to make these assemblages. The finished works are hand-drawn, cut out, pieced together in careful composition and colored by hand, airbrush or a combination of both. He’s now created several pieces working in this technique, and I’m eager to see the completed collection. He’s aiming to make about 40 assemblages.
Here are a few more shots of my Valentine’s Day roses:
I took everything off the wall behind my desk and placed the roses there, low, as a kind of backdrop before my eyes that I can admire while I’m sitting here.
While I’m in bragging mode, I would like to show you another finished piece from the collection. This one is my favorite, after the roses:
Do you recognize some of the elements from Antoine de Saint Exupery’s “Le Petit Prince”?
Callaghan also made a colorful little bouquet for Mom, which we sent to her following her last chemo infusion:
Callaghan is currently accepting commissions for these custom floral assemblages. If you’re interested in ordering one, let me know via my Contact page, and I will connect you. =)
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Hey Fat Choy! It’s the Year of the Horse, and we’re off to a galloping start.
It’s also the last day of January, and I’m wrapping it up with a list of things that brightened my world during the month. Anytime is a good time to celebrate “the little things,” though, I figure.
So let’s start with food, because I stumbled on a great light late-afternoon nosh this month, and I’m eager to share it.
1). A cup of Trader Joe’s Pomegranate White Tea with a LÄRABAR über Roasted Nut Roll (sweet and salty fruit & nut bar).
This antioxidant and protein-packed duo bridges the afternoon to the evening really well with just enough caffeine to get you through, but not enough to interfere with your sleep later… and it’s tasty, healthy and substantial. You get a little bit of tart, sweet and salty all at once. Liveliness all around!
2). Learning to drive a manual transmission – Tara’s corvette!
I’m 45 now – I’m entitled to that long-awaited mid-life crisis, and we all know that where there’s a mid-life crisis, there’s got to be a Corvette. (Hey, I know my stereotypes.) My friend Tara indulged me one night a few weeks ago with her car and her patience, and it was exciting! Thanks again, Tara!
3). Returning to the gym.
I didn’t take a picture of our new gym, so here’s a logo from the web, instead:
We knew when we landed back in AZ that we’d join a gym and start working out. After some lengthy research and consideration, we finally decided everything and made it happen.
Our new memberships came with a complimentary session with a personal trainer. I met with mine the first Friday morning after we signed up. My trainer was nice, although there was some kind of disconnect between us.
“So what are we doing this morning?” He got right into it.
“I’m horribly out of shape,” I told him. “I haven’t worked out regularly in like three years.”
“What do you mean you’re ‘out of shape’?”
“Well, after three years of mostly just sitting around, I’ve become one of those “skinny-fat” people, you know?” I explained. “I’m not overweight, but I’m out of shape, and my body fat composition is probably a mess.”
We’d joined a gym in France, but we went all of like three times, so it didn’t count. I’ve literally been 95% sedentary for three years.
Fitness and martial arts training used to be a serious business with me, as those of you who used to read my LiveJournal may remember. I’d been a dedicated gym rat and student of various martial arts, I went to yoga regularly, and at one point I’d studied to get my personal trainer certification. I never followed through on that, but I read the whole darn book in preparation for it. I also studied nutrition, and I continue to keep up with the ongoing scientific research in the areas of fitness, nutrition and health.
I would have thought that my trainer would measure my body-fat percentage to get an assessment, but he did not. Instead, he decided to kick my ass as if I was in better-than-average shape.
Consequently, the next day, I could hardly walk.
“What part of ‘I haven’t worked out in three years’ was unclear?” I complained to Callaghan later. But still, it was fun. And the gym is super nice. I especially love doing laps in the pool, stretching in the sauna afterward, and then sitting in the Jacuzzi.
4). Starbucks travel drink container
This was one of those frivolous impulse purchases, but it was a delayed reaction impulse, which sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. I saw a bucket of these cups glinting in the sun at the Starbucks that day we broke down on our way to Palm Springs. It ended up being one of those situations where something catches your eye, you note to yourself that it’s interesting, and you ignore it and move along… then, later, when you’re sitting at home 159 miles away, it pops back into your head with the realization that you would really love to have it, and you kick yourself for not having gotten it. You can’t stop thinking about it. You’re mesmerized by the memory of its lid’s shiny coppery facets. It’s sitting in a bucket in Blythe, California, 2.5 hours away, and you’re not going to drive 2.5 hours just to go get it. Thus, your quest begins… every time you pass a Starbucks, you ask your husband to please wait just a second so I can run in to see if that one carries those cups! until finally one of them has them… at which point you discover that it’s stupidly expensive, but by then it’s become The Holy Grail, so you HAVE to get it.
Now I feel slightly guilty about it, but a). the guilt is not as bad as the mournful feeling I had when I thought I’d missed my chance to get it (first world problem alert!), and b). not really, because I’ve been drinking water non-stop since I got it, I love it so much! And that’s a good, healthy thing. No buyer’s remorse here. Nope. None.
Plus, I discovered that it’s sweat-proof, which is a great feature. I keep it filled with ice, and the surface of my desk stays dry. WIN.
5). Townes Van Zandt and the documentary about him, Be Here To Love Me: A Film about Townes Van Zandt
In my November favorites post, I talked about my passion for Steve Earle, my favorite country music artist. Townes is Steve Earle’s collection of Townes Van Zandt covers, and it’s a favorite CD of mine because I’m a huge Townes Van Zandt fan. He’s regarded as a “songwriter’s songwriter,” covered by many other musicians, and I find the story of his life to be as fascinating as the brilliant and haunting lyrics he wrote. I mean, as a poet, songs like “Rake” and “Marie” simply floor me.
I love Steve Earle’s Townes Van Zandt covers more than anyone else’s. Here’s his version of “Marie”:
If there was ever to be an anthem for the homeless, that song would be it.
6). The requisite beauty product item on this list has to be the Simple Sensitive Skin Experts foaming facial cleanser.
My Mom loves this cleanser. She gave me a bottle of it when I visited them in December, and it’s grown on me since then, as I’ve used it routinely. It’s almost-but-not-quite overkill for my skin (I have normal skin, and foaming cleansers are usually best for oily skin), but I’m used to it now, and it’s true that my face feels especially clean after I wash with it. I use it at night after I remove my makeup.
7). The girl who hula-hoops on the grass across from our place.
I’ve mentioned her before. She continues appearing on the lawn to practice her hooping, so finally I had to take a picture; I feel like it’s a terribly stalker-ish thing to do, but I made sure to avoid getting her face so as to respect her privacy. I wish that her inspirational energy could come through to you in the picture, though. She’s diligent, and she’s a delight to watch.
8). French blue and white toile plate – Luneville “The Cottage”
What is it with me and small collectable plates these days? It’s a new thing. Also in my November favorites post, I’d talked about the handmade Greek one (Bonis Ceramics) I’d found in the corner of a used bookstore, and since then Callaghan discovered this plate, a family piece from France, in one of his many boxes. Somehow, it immediately found its way to the corner of my desk, where it’s resided ever since. All month long, the sight of it has made me smile.
9). My boys. Ronnie James and Nounours have taken to cuddling so close, they almost look like conjoined twins.
Joined at the hip, those two!
10). Finally, venturing into Callaghan’s office/studio more and more gives me a gateway to the realm of the strange and unexpected as he’s started creating more, and you know me. I love it. Yesterday, I caught this in my peripheral vision as I left the room:
…so I stepped back to take a closer look.
Now let’s see what February brings!
Okay, let’s roll out 2014’s blog posts on a frivolous yet utterly momentous note: I finally did something about my hair! Or, rather, I finally sat myself in the chair of someone who could do something with it. Staggering, I know… but finding a stylist who could smooth out all the jagged, shaggy shapelessness I had going on before feels like an immense accomplishment. Wonder Stylist’s name is (fill in the blank), and she works at (insert name of cheap, walk-in hair-cutting chain, because you know I won’t spend more than $15.00 on a haircut) on (insert name of intersection conveniently near us), and there you have her… my new secret weapon. Here’s hoping she’ll stay there for a while, since stylists at those places tend to migrate around from location to location. I followed my last girl all over the East Valley for five or six years until I left for France! This girl’s sort of new there, though, so I think she’ll stick around. She’s brilliant with a pair of scissors, she gives a great scalp massage, and she’s really nice.
This haircut was not an agenda item for yesterday. I simply woke up at the point where I had to run out and get it done. It had been bothering me for a long time, and it just felt like the thing to do on the last day of 2013.
I went outside this morning and took some pictures so you can see, kind of:
It feels good to be past the “awkwardly growing out a super short precision cut” stage. It’s the end of an era, so to speak, and just in time for the New Year.
I hope you did something… or will do something… small yet important for yourself to ease into 2014 with aplomb! Sometimes, that which seems superficial actually isn’t, at all.
Friday was my birthday, so I thought I’d inundate this space with some pictures! Surprise! heheh.
First, a brief reflection: I’m now 45. Honestly? The only way I feel different is better than ever. I’m grateful to have no health complaints, I’m happy to finally have a use for the cute reading glasses I got in France, and I’m eager to set off down whatever path the New Year unrolls before me. I always loved how my birthday blends into the New Year, being at the end of December… I never thought of my December 27 birthday as being “unfortunately” lumped into Christmas. It’s all about the New Year, as far as I’m concerned.
Recently, I broke open a cookie fortune and got a fortune that catches my current drift splendidly:
Oh, the magic of a fortune cookie! “Creative energy is up – capitalize on it.” Yes. Yes, that is true, and yes, I will!
So, we spent the weekend at some favorite local haunts. First, Callaghan took me out on a lunch date. Deciding where to go was easy – I just wanted to satisfy my craving for Pita Jungle’s certifiably to-die-for lentil fetoosh salad. (The spellcheck wanted to change “fetoosh” to “fetish,” which is pretty clever. That salad has some serious addictive properties.)
The weekend also involved:
–A pedicure with Callaghan. Well, initially it was going to be just me, but shortly after we got there, he found himself getting his feet rubbed, too…the ladies there were quite persuasive, but it took little arm-twisting to get him in the chair next to mine. As the forty minutes of expert and intense foot and lower leg pampering and massaging wound down to its conclusion, he looked over at me and exclaimed, “Wow! I can’t wait for your next birthday!” I think he enjoyed it.
The deep, shimmery greenish-black nail polish I chose is OPI’s “Live or Let Die,” but it should be called “YOU WANT A TOE? I CAN GET YOU A TOE. THERE ARE WAYS, DUDE.” (Though this polish is darker than the Big Lebowski Nihilist Chick’s.)
–A detour through Papago Park on our way home.
–Also, after several months of Homeland deprivation, seven episodes suddenly became available… so we holed up for some serious binge-watching.
–And there was the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl game on the 28th…
–We didn’t go to the game, but we went to sit on the patio at Rúla Búla for a little while…
On our way out of Rúla Búla, I glanced up at one of the T.V. screens and winced on behalf of Michigan, because I’m partial to the Wolverines, and man, that score was painful. Final Score: Kansas State, 31; Michigan, 14. Oof.
At least the Wolverines and their attending fans got to hang out in paradise for a couple of days. I’m here to tell you, there’s hardly a sight as gleeful as a Michigan fan skipping down the street in Tempe, Arizona WEARING SHORTS AT NIGHT at the end of December!
–Strolling home, we admired Mill Avenue’s holiday lights, which always stay up until after New Year’s:
…and here we have my beloved mill, street-side:
I guess if I could marry any building, it would be that mill, haha!
–And, of course, there was the Ronnie James.
It was a lovely weekend, and I’m ready for 2014!
I was the last one to wake up this morning, and when I did, the whole family piled onto the bed. I opened my eyes to find myself buried beneath Callaghan, Ronnie James, Nounours and the spread of gifts that had somehow migrated there. Santa’s getting efficient, streamlining the process to where you don’t even have to get out of bed! I figured I must have slept in, but it was only 7:30. (Who says I don’t have kids? I have three… two in the shape of cats, and one in the shape of Callaghan.)
Fifteen minutes later, I’d removed my retainers, brushed my teeth and jumped back into bed with the coffee Callaghan brought me, deliciously creamy and sweet with my favorite almond milk and stevia, and we all opened our presents. It was our first Christmas with Ronnie James and Nounours, and they got right in on the action with no prompting whatsoever.
Our celebration actually started yesterday when we went to the movies and caught American Hustle. I have two words: Jennifer Lawrence. Just… 23 years old, really? Wow. The entire cast turned in supremely well-crafted performances, though. It’s always a pleasure to go to the movies and leave feeling like it was worth it.
Too much excitement for kitties. As for us, we’re taking it easy, too. I hope you’re all enjoying a splendid day!
I missed you all here last Friday; hopefully, that absence will translate to a blogging schedule change in the near future. Time will tell, as they say. With 2014 right around the corner, changes are inevitable!
On Friday night, the Big Fish Pub hosted M2N’s annual end of the year PJ party, and Arizona Native American punk rock band Ethan 103 played a set. Front-man Wayne and his wife, Nicky, have been long-time friends, and it was great to see them again after being gone for three years! The band delivered a solid performance, as usual. Good times. Local people, you should check these guys out!
Here are some visuals:
And on Sunday morning, we found ourselves at (what’s becoming) our usual Sunday-morning haunt:
Looks pretty haunted to me… and gorgeous. Old, storied places speak to my soul; maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to this mill.
That’s it for my brief weekend wrap-up… I hope you’re all enjoying a relatively relaxed Christmas week!
Okay, since my last post, we relented and turned on the heat! We set it to 68F, which is perfect… you would never know that it’s cold outside, especially with the bright sunshine coming in. Also…
(I never say “cacti,” by the way, even if it’s the more accepted plural form of “cactus.” Cactuses! Cactuses! Cactuses! I love that word. I find it more lyrical and adorable and appropriate for their personalities. “Cacti” sounds so coldly scientific to me.)
The weekend was full of things to see and art to admire. The main streets of our neighborhood were closed off for the Tempe Festival of the Arts, an event that happens every year in the fall and the spring. It’s fun, and it presents a great opportunity to purchase gifts from an enormous and diverse gathering of artists.
May I just say that I loved that parking wasn’t in the equation this year, since the festival is now just a stroll down the street! We wandered through about half of it, speaking with some of the artists along the way.
Continuing the holiday spirit at home, last night we enjoyed a lovely and unexpected discovery at the bottom of a box that’d been in storage since I’d moved to France – the Christmas wreath Mom had given me! Which I’d thought was long gone. Which had me feeling kind of heartbroken all day the day I’d thought it was long gone. It’s here now, along with some other things I’d thought had gotten lost in the shipping!
Why hello, December! I can’t believe it’s already time to recount the blessings of November.
November was all about road trips and nesting and family. Between driving from Austin to Phoenix, and Phoenix to San Jose, and San Jose back to Phoenix, we clocked in more than 40 hours on the road… and it was worth every second. November’s main highlights were moving back to Arizona and going to spend Thanksgiving with my family in California.
November’s “BEST OF” to note:
1). Being back in the desert.
2). Music: Steve Earle, my favorite country artist and one of my all-time favorite musicians, period. He’s a wonderful poet, and I love his unique sound… it flows between country, country-rock and alternative country, rich with folksy, rock n roll and bluegrass flavors here and there. He’s just amazing. I made a playlist of my favorite Steve Earle songs and burned the CD for our trip out of Texas. It was perfect!
3). Target’s generic brand energy drink (Archer Farms). We think it out-red bulls Red Bull, and it’s very tasty.
4). Living in downtown Tempe.
5). Re-visiting favorite old hang-outs.
6). Feeling truly at home again! After books, houseplants define “home” to me.
7). My house-warming gift to myself, which didn’t cost me a cent.
8). Dexter. We binge-watched the entire eight seasons, starting in Texas and ending in Arizona.
9). November’s rave-worthy beauty product was (and continues to be) Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil for Hair, Body & Face. I spray a little in my palm, rub my hands together and run them through my dry air, and it leaves a nice sheen. Callaghan also loves it for his skin.
10). Two Very Happy, Satisfied At-Home Kitties.
And last, but far from least: Thanksgiving in California, a last-minute decision that was the best decision ever!
So, that little stealth mission I’d mentioned in my last post?
On Thursday afternoon, we spontaneously decided to join Mom and Dad in northern California for Thanksgiving. We hit the road at 11:00PM, arrived the next morning (the drive is 10-11 hours) and spent a fantastic weekend with them. It was especially great when my brother and nephew showed up! Thanksgiving on Friday felt so much like the real Thanksgiving that all day Saturday, I thought it was Friday. There’s nothing like family. It had been three years since I’d visited mine in California, so that trip was a long time coming.
We left for Arizona yesterday morning and got home after dark. I thought I’d share a few road trip pictures:
Today was my first Thanksgiving in the States since 2011, which means that it was my first Thanksgiving in two years! It’s so good to be back. If I’m going to tick off a list of reasons to be thankful, I’d have to put that up in the Top 5.
We started out the day with coffee on our balcony.
Then we headed out the door, walked down the street, and hiked up “A” Mountain.
How I have missed it!
I always enjoy that little hike and the view of Tempe and The Valley beyond, but my focus this morning was on the old Hayden flour mill on the subsequently named Mill Ave, our main street here in Tempe (which, by the way, was originally called “Hayden’s Ferry”). The mill is one of my favorite local landmarks, and I’ve been trying to get good pictures of it since we’ve been back. Needless to say, lots of pictures were taken this morning. Here are just a few:
Now, we’re off on an exciting last-minute Mission Which Shall Not Be Named At This Time. (Sorry to get all Harry Potter meets the C.I.A. on you guys. There’s a reason for it.)
If you celebrated Thanksgiving today, I hope it was fabulous! Happy weekend, and GO DEVILS!! Our annual Territorial Cup game will take place here on Saturday, and it’s going to be epic, as always.
I return with pictures! As I’d gleefully noted before, my books are up, which means I once again have, as Virginia Woolf would say, “a room of my own.” It’s such a simple thing, but it makes all the difference. After being away for over two years, I’m feeling truly at home again, and I’m grateful for it; my office is our living room, and it’s like a big cozy library. All the relics are here… the Chagall prints I’d scrounged from a dusty pile in that thrift store in West Germany almost twenty-five years ago, just before The Wall came down, and also from West Germany, the iron dragon candlestick found on a stroll through a street fair on a cold wintry night. My brother’s old Six Million Dollar Man thermos (c. 1974) and the white porcelain cat a friend gave me when I was sixteen. The fresh flowers, childrens’ books and pocketbook-size literature and pulp fiction in the dark bookcase by my desk, and, on the other side of the room, the bulk of my book collection awaiting detailed organization in the larger bookcases. The butsudan my Grandfather refurbished for me before he died. The candlestick a beloved friend sent from France. And so on.
So this is our living room. We’ve clustered our loveseat, ottoman and my beat-up old German trunk (serving as a coffee table, as usual) under the window on the wall between the two sides of the room. Callaghan’s all set up, too… he’s got the larger of our two bedrooms for his art studio, and it’s perfect for him.
In other news, I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving week already!
I have this theory about Halloween masks. There’s a formula for what makes the mask spooky, and it’s simple: No teeth = spooky. Teeth = not spooky. This is not to say that all masks without teeth are spooky, but just that the spookiest masks I’ve seen are the ones without teeth.
We went to check out the masks at the Goodwill (famous for its Halloween displays), Walmart and Target. The main thing I noticed about the masks in these major stores with popular Halloween sections (we didn’t go to any Halloween specialty stores) is that they mostly represent zombies and other toothy creatures. Today’s trend is monster masks, and snarly carnivore teeth seem to be the common denominator and defining characteristic from monster to monster. They’re fun, these masks, but I don’t find them scary at all… the gaping, snarling or grinning mouths jagged with sharp teeth just don’t chill my spine.
Here’s a sampling of the masks I tried:
To me, the spookiest one is the toothless clown at the bottom right corner… and not just because it’s a clown. The mask on the opposite end of that row is also a clown, and that one’s not scary to me. It happens to have teeth, which I think kills the creep factor, though it is a pretty cool mask.
In contrast, take the vintage masks of yesteryear. I’m talking about the old-fashioned, simple ones, those plain, homemade masks that not only didn’t feature teeth, but whose mouths were often so brief that they seemed like afterthoughts… those masks of the “pillowcase over the head with eye cut-outs” variety. Those, I have to say, really kind of creep me out. There’s not much to them, and maybe that’s why they work. Less is more, as they say. It’s those minimized, close-lipped, atrophied or warped little mouths that give those masks that certain spooky je ne sais quoi.
And who can forget the mask on this child in the chilling Spanish film The Orphanage?
I don’t know about you, but that’s certainly not a vision I’d want to see standing at the end of my bedroom hallway! No teeth necessary.
Just to rule out the possibility that it’s the black-and-white photo effect at work, I examined my snaggle-toothed mask mosaic again as a black-and-white image to see if the absence of color would add to its spookiness.
Conclusion: the creepiest masks are the ones that don’t have teeth. It seems counterintuitive, but think about it… lack of emotion is scary. A closed mouth is a mysterious mouth. We don’t know what’s going on behind those lips, and the unknown is scary and unsettling. (The Mona Lisa would not be nearly as mysterious were she revealing her teeth.)
Only three of the masks I tried on didn’t have teeth, and my favorite was one of those:
That’s my new favorite excuse for impulse purchases at Target: “It’s seasonal!” Of course, this only works if the thing is, in fact, seasonal. I think that a t-shirt with a mummified Snoopy design on it qualifies.
SO. A Halloween costume isn’t going to happen this year, but this seasonal t-shirt makes up for it somehow. Also, I had too much fun trying on masks at various places. More on that later, perhaps.
Here are the weekend highlights, in brief:
Happy Monday, All!
Happy Boss’s Day to all you boss-type folks out there!
I’ve called myself “self-employed” for just over two years now, during which time I’ve forgotten to recognize myself on Boss’s Day each October 16. So today, on the third October 16 of being my own boss, I’m sending myself this card:
Because, as usual, I’m feeling late with everything. I think the card is supposed to be funny, but it works. (Pun recognized after the fact.)
And now I shall return to my Arizona job research/search endeavors, because a part of the AZ Plan is to return to the workforce. I predict that this time next year, I’ll be a 3x/week-midnight-blog-posting Ninja, and I’ll be able to send someone else a card for Boss’s Day!
Fall is here, Halloween is coming up, and while we have no idea what we’ll be doing costume-wise, I can at least enjoy feeling seasonable now when I put on my Halloween t-shirt, which I got from Target several years ago and actually wear throughout the year.
I wore it yesterday:
Creepy/scary Halloween imagery usually appeals to me more than the cutesy variety, but this t-shirt was an exception. I couldn’t resist it!
I’m generally enthusiastic about wearing Halloween stuff year-round, but I know that when the late Peter Steele of Type-O Negative described the mysterious gothic vixen in his song “Black No. 1” and concluded with “every day is Halloween,” he probably wasn’t thinking of her wearing a t-shirt that says “I (heart) the night life” under an orange heart-feathered cartoon owl perched on a sparkly gold crescent moon. I’m just too lazy to be a gothic vixen every day, so I go with the owl.
Moving the same note along to our apartment, we’ve got our Fall/Halloween mantel décor up! PICS – because it happened.
ETA: No leaves, branches, pumpkins or gourds were abused in the making of this display.
We’ve now been back in the States for three months, and our things – what we’ve taken to calling “The Shipping” – will arrive tomorrow. Yes! The Shipping actually arrived from France in June. It’s been chilling in New York all summer, and tomorrow morning, it will ride into Austin like a long-lost unicorn on 18 wheels. (This is what a unicorn really looks like: a pile of boxes and a scratching post cat tree.)
Three months doesn’t seem unreasonable for international movers, but because of the company’s initial indications to us, we were expecting The Shipping to arrive around mid-August. In reality, the end of the month arrived with no communication from the shipping company people until the very last minute when they called to give us a window of the 29th through the 3rd. Long, riveting story cut short: they couldn’t narrow it down to an actual date, but the driver called on the 3rd (the last day of the delivery window) to say that they would be here on Thursday the 5th.
Once The Shipping gets here, we have to figure out what to do with it. It’s a lot, and we’re in this small one-bedroom apartment. Minor details! We’ll work it out.
After all that excitement is over, we have some concerts to anticipate this month, and then the month of October. October is going to be amazing, because American Horror Story comes back on the 9th! Season 3. Coven. It’s going to be EPIC. Look at this cast!
…which gets me thinking about Halloween, because the time to start thinking about what to be is now. My only criteria are “creepy” and/or “strange,” and the creepier/stranger, the better.
Today is the first Monday of September, which means that it’s Labor Day here in the States (and in Canada too, I think). The holiday celebrates workers, and its meaning is to rest. It also means that we – Callaghan and I – have no idea whether we should actually expect our huge house-shipping-from-France arrival event to happen today, as the shipping company had given us the awkward holiday weekend delivery window of Saturday through tomorrow.
How does it work with truckers and others whose jobs take them on the road for extended periods of time? Do they look at their little calendars on the dashboard and go, “Okay, it’s time to check into a motel!” and then sit there for 24 hours until it isn’t Labor Day anymore? Or do they just plow through the holiday, disregarding it completely? That wouldn’t seem fair. No one should have to work on Labor Day.
Or, as a former boss of mine used to sort of joke, people should actually work extra hard on Labor Day, a viewpoint shared by this guy:
It’s interesting how the way we think about work seems to be a reflection of what we do in life.
For example, yesterday, Callaghan was telling me about his friend who owns a restaurant in France.
“He’s a nice guy, but he’s not the best person for his job,” he said. “He should actually move to Costa Rica.”
“Why Costa Rica?” I asked, intrigued as always.
“Because he’s a sloth. He’s… very relaxed.” He went on to describe the guy’s slowness in bringing water and bread to the tables.
But of course! Only an artist/illustrator/cartoonist could so naturally reach such a conclusion. Leave it to Callaghan to get me forming mental images of sloths working in restaurants, balancing drink trays and platters of food on the ends of their long arms.
Anyway, have a great Labor Day! I don’t know what you’re doing, but we’re planning a Breaking Bad marathon… because we’re addicted. Har har!
Two years ago, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at Gallagher’s pub in Chandler, Arizona. Last year, we didn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at all, since we were occupied in Nice. This year, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by drinking Killian’s here at home, listening to Alan Stivell – not Irish, but it’s Celtic music, so close enough – and savoring Callaghan’s cooking.
“Callaghan” is an Irish name.
With this in mind, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d interview Callaghan about how he got his nickname.
INTERVIEW, PART 1
Me: You’re French. How did you end up with an Irish nickname?
Callaghan: Because my friend’s a cowboy.
Callaghan: He used to wear a fringed leather jacket that made him look like an Indian.
Me: I’m not getting it. I need further explanation.
Callaghan: Back in 1988, Dude (Jean-Michel, aka Jean-Mi) got a beautiful fringed leather jacket that went very well with his long, dark hair.
Me: WAIT. Jean-Mi had long hair?
Jean-Mi is one of my favorite people in the world.
Callaghan: Yeah. He looked like an Indian, so we gave him a cowboy name, haha!
Me: Why – oh, because the French are enamored with the whole American “cowboys and Indians” thing.
Callaghan: Oh yeah!
Me: Okay. But why “Callaghan” for a cowboy name?
Callaghan: GriGri (that would be Christophe… no one I’ve met here goes by their actual name) started calling him that. Because of Clint Eastwood. Dirty Harry. You know, Dirty Harry Callaghan?
Me: No. I do not. I guess I’m a terrible American.
Callaghan: You suck. Especially for a San Franciscan!
INTERVIEW, PART 2
Callaghan: Yay so we finally have a journalist interested in this! Well just so you know, there’s really a cult of Dirty Harry here in France. People in France really love Dirty Harry. Now I’m VERY surprised that you don’t know about him.
Me: I know about him, I’ve heard about him, but I’ve never seen it. So how did the name “Callaghan” go from Dude to you?
Callaghan: Well, Dude decided that the name “Callaghan” was so intense that he should call GriGri “Callaghan,” too. And because I was hanging out with them all the time, I became “Callaghan” as well. And then I started to… well, it became a nom de plume… I started signing my drawings “Callaghan.” So the years have passed, and um I stayed “Callaghan” because I was signing my drawings, and… so people called me “Callaghan.” Because of my drawings. And I was still calling Dude “Callaghan” for a long time. I still do today, from time to time.
Me: Dude? I never heard you call him “Callaghan,” except when you introduced him to me as “the other Callaghan.”
Callaghan: Yeah I just call him “Dude,” really. When I came back from the States, people were calling him “Dude” because his brother Lio – that’s short for Lionel – oh, and Lio’s wife’s name is Valerie, but we call her “Valoche,” which is argo for “suitcase” –
Me: Why do you call her “suitcase”?
Callaghan: Nah, it’s an actual nickname for Valerie. “Valoche” is a nickname for Valerie, and it also means suitcase (valise). And even another word for “valise” is “valdingue.”
This is how I learn French.
Me: Okay! So anyway… Dude…
Callaghan: So Dude. Um… so um yeah so when I came back from the States, Lio was calling Dude “Dude,” so I started calling him “Dude,” too, instead of “Callaghan.” Anyway, “Callaghan” stuck for me. And I’m still signing my drawings “Callaghan.” Parce que j’ai un gros flingue. (“Because I have a big gun.”)
I won’t even go into that. It’s yet another slang phrase derived from French pop culture.
So that, my friends, is how Callaghan (Philippe) got to be called “Callaghan,” and Dude (Jean-Mi) got to be called “Dude.”
Erin go Bragh.
Scene: It’s mid-morning, and we’re in this café in Romans. There’s a thick layer of snow piled on the roof of our truck and the temperature is cold enough to keep it from melting, but the sky is clear. After our coffee, we’ll wander purposefully through the day until we arrive at the movie theatre in Valence for an afternoon showing of Les Miserables, which we’ve been waiting to see since September. It’ll be our first time going to the movies in Valence.
We leave the café, get in the truck. When we turn right into the first round-about, the pile of snow on the roof breaks and falls dramatically onto the windshield in two loads – rumble thud, thud! – making us laugh as we catch the startle reactions in each other’s faces. Callaghan clicks on the windshield wipers, and we watch the blades push and sweep away the clumps of snow. It hadn’t snowed in Romans, but now the round-about is dusted with the snow we brought down from the mountain. You’re welcome!
It was that kind of day, low-key and full of whimsical surprises. At the end of it, I realized that I’d accidentally put on Callaghan’s jeans; all day long, I couldn’t understand why they were so huge on me. Typical! I fail at getting dressed! Callaghan made me laugh. Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables made me cry. (Her ability to evoke emotion with the depth of her performance gifts astonishes me. Now I want to see Rachel Getting Married again.)
We had dinner at home. Callaghan put a glass vase of fresh flowers on the counter and cooked dinner for me, and it was fabulous. I am lucky.
Happy February! Let us eat cake.
“It’s funny how much bigger Bruce Willis is than Ronnie James,” said Callaghan as he watched our cats play together. “They remind me of the Galette des Rois.”
Galette des Rois. Cats. I’m always intrigued by Callaghan’s mental leaps.
“Galette des Rois” translates to English literally as “Kings’ Cake.” In the States, we usually just call them “King Cakes.” They hit Louisiana bakery shelves on 6 January (the beginning of Epiphany) and roar on up to the Mardi Gras carnival celebration in the middle of February (the culmination of Epiphany, the last three days of which are known as the big Mardi Gras street bash after which hardly any of the carnival-goers remembers what happened because of the epic scale of the debauchery that took place). King Cakes are as heavily associated with the New Orleans Mardi Gras as beer, boobs and beads. They are not, as far as I know, associated with cats. Nor do they resemble cats, even remotely.
For one thing, cats are not ring-shaped twists of yeasty dough, and they are not sweetened with icing and dyed purple, green and yellow.
I guess some of the French patisseries in New Orleans also offer the solid round puff-pastry French version of the King Cake, but the traditional New Orleans garish rings are what come to mind when I think of King Cakes… so much so that when Callaghan first pointed out the Galette des Rois to me here in France, I didn’t even realize I was looking at the same thing.
“Like the ones we saw at Lili Croustille the other day?” Callaghan continued as he spoke of the cats. “I was looking at the Galette des Rois, you know, at the 8- and 6-part ones. Bruce Willis is the 8-part one.” I figured that by “part” he meant “serving.”
We’d actually bought one those cakes, an event I won’t likely forget because I’m human, and humans have a tendency to remember embarrassing moments for all eternity. Because when we got home from Lili Croustille and I went to cut that cake, I couldn’t do it.
I inserted a sharp knife blade into the buttery, flaky crust and hit resistance right away. I pressed harder, but the knife didn’t progress. I started sawing the knife back and forth, quickly checking over my shoulder first to make sure Callaghan didn’t see me struggling to slice the delicate dessert. No luck. Finally, feeling completely ridiculous, I added downward pressure to my sawing action. And then I gave up.
I’m sure Callaghan thought I was hopeless, but he gamely came over and looked down at the cake where it rested all innocent-like on its little round cardboard thing. The cake looked smug. It was grinning up at me. Yes, it was.
“What’s wrong?” Callaghan asked as he studied the cake.
“It doesn’t cut,” I said, accusingly.
I took hold of the knife again and made another attempt with Callaghan standing there, watching. Once again, the knife stopped half-way through. I kept the blade where it was and moved it slightly to the side and saw a small, hard figurine. A figurine! I made the connection. I guess King Cakes all over the world have a figurine or something equally menacing inside, poised to choke a person or foil her slicing attempts.
Callaghan never did elaborate on his thought process.
See a resemblance?