Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Crazy Ideas Not So Crazy

During our travels R expressed the idea of having a mannequin couple sitting in our home, dressed, and appearing to read or watch television to give the impression we were at home when we would be in Maine or Michigan or north Mississippi. I thought his idea "crazy". However, when we visited a New Orleans eatery on Magazine Street, what should we see but a mannequin couple sitting in a show window eating! So there are many crazy ideas floating around concerning mannequins!

A recent example was printed in Sunday, August 19th issue of our local Clarion-Ledger. In the Family section is a story of a family who bought a mannequin. As the woman related, "Four years ago Larry wanted to know what I wanted for my birthday. I told him I wanted a mannequin for the dining room window." Sure enough, they found one on eBay. She stands in her latest fashions gleaned from second hand shops, and on holidays she is dressed appropriately. She has her own closet and a changing wardrobe of hair colors. She's  been dressed as a pilgrim, a Saints cheerleader and has celebrated the key holidays in costume. What fun they must have!

Would R have dressed his couple more than once? I doubt it. But we have often found a use for a male mannequin: to sit in the back seat with a hat on to accompany daughter J on her trip west, to go with my sister and me to distant states, or just to be a "pal" to me when I'm driving around town. I can envision myself discussing ideas for essays, talking over problems, mulling suggestions for dinner (when I used to cook), or just "being there." And like a pet, there'd be no back talk. No back-seat driver. Ahh . . .

Since we didn't have a mannequin for J when she headed for Utah over 10 years ago, crossing the expanse of New Mexico, Dad did decide that she take a sweet potato, the kind that sort of looks like a gun, and put it in a holster. When she got out of the car for meals, she'd remove the potato to give the impression of anyone checking through the car's window, that she was totin'. Worked like a charm. She also put a hat above the back seat to make drivers behind her "think" she had a guy sleeping in the seat.

There's no way anyone can use sweet potatoes to mimic a couple playing Scrabble in the living room. I'd advise anyone needing "life" to appear in the home, buy a mannequin, dress it in comfortable clothes with a drink nearby and go!

Meeting Mr. Smith Part 2

He and I meet the following Saturday. The crowd has thinned a bit; perhaps due to waning days of summer. Mr. Charles Smith is his cheery self, waving to me  across the long expanse of the building. I hesitate to stop and buy a dozen eggs beforehand. I know our business is more important. Today I’ll see the drafts of Mr. Smith’s book he’s aptly named Gems of Love.
We greet each other with a hug this time. We are already friends. First I inquire if he has any new paintings on display and he points to a group to the left of him. Sure enough, examples totally different from the figures and objects I’d seen the week before. This group gives examples not unlike those of Jackson Pollock. The kind everyone thinks s/he can accomplish by throwing paint from a brush and watching it land somewhere on the canvas. A mishmash of colors. Yes, I definitely can identify with the blues and greens I see. Surprisingly, Mr. S shows me the difference between these and the ones a short distance from where we stand. Double paintings. Turn either side and voila! another painting. The one I select as my favorite shows beautiful blues and greens; the other side reds. Again these were in his self-crafted frames.
Sitting down again, he tells me about the latest having been shown at an exhibit a month before at the Architecture School located on Capitol Street in Jackson. He pushes a brochure into my hands. He then begins to explain about other public displays he’s had.
Finally, he settles down to show me his drafts. He pulls out one from a boxy bag sitting beside his chair. He opens a well-worn manila envelope and pulls a thick sheaf of papers. Good, not too much to edit. As I look over the pages, well typed and paginated, another envelope is handed over. And another. And another, until I’m managing six envelopes in my lap. As I open each one I realize two hold examples of poetry written as greeting cards, all folded in shapes he desires. The outside of each has some colorful drawing. I call them greeting cards, and surely the greetings are different, rather passionate, as though one person expresses his fondness for another, a deep longing for the other.   I’m struck by the thoughts, so intimate and meaningful.
I’m overwhelmed at what I’ve been given. “Mr. Smith, I can’t tell you when I can finish these. There is so much here.” I begin to feel I’ll let him down with my braggadocious air of the week before. “You know I’ll be teaching a class once a week for the fall . . .” The feeling of failure begins to overwhelm me.
“I know that. Take it all. I trust you. When you can, look at it and tell me what I need to do.”
With a smile, a load of manila envelopes clutched to my chest, I leave hoping against hope that I can accomplish what I said I would and make Mr. Charles Smith happy.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Meeting Mr. Smith Part 1

He sits leisurely at one end of the building, his art work on tall stands surrounding him like a cloak. No one is taking more than a first glance at his work. I walk over, ever the one to dispense encouragement to those who display their crafts. Fishing for a compliment on his splotches of oils, I manage to say something like “What interesting work you have; I must admit I’m not in the market to buy, but I’m happy to see you surrounded by beautiful scenes.” I manage oftentimes to blubber words to cover my intention to look but not buy. I stroll from one piece to the other, thinking how much this man needs art guidance. My second thought crowds out the first: art lessons may ruin his creativity.

 His expense is in tubes of oil paints, as the thickness on the “canvas” is heavy. He uses bare plywood cut in shapes. Still I recognize this man is using what he can find to convey his sincere artistic self into these wild, colorful shapes. I turn to him, standing now in front of his folding chair, grinning widely. He’s tall, almost six feet on a thin frame clothed in a white shirt, a contrast to his dark skin. I introduce myself and he tells me his name. One I’ll never forget: Charles E. Smith. I once knew another Charles Smith, a journalism teacher in one of the schools where I had taught. Of all the vendors in the Farmers’ Market downtown, this gentleman has no competitors. 

Mr. Smith tells me about his art shows and how he’s sold “many, many paintings.” I once heard that an artist should never indicate anything but optimism about the number of paintings or craft works that he’s “sold.” I take him at his word. I glance again at the figures on the boards. Perhaps because I 'm  not an art critic; I can't tell if these depictions from his mind were one day going to be owners’ prized possessions. Art is in the eyes of the beholder.

This smiling man is quite willing to reveal himself, as we Southerners often do. I listen. “I’m 71 years old, and I expect to live a long time. For years I’ve had these ideas inside me needin' to get out.”  He mentions  having been ill some years ago and writing down his thoughts had been therapeutic, so “I kept on, writing a book, each chapter originally as nine separate little books based on the happiness I found,” and explaining his beliefs.

I nod and say, “I share writing with you. I write short pieces about what I observe around me,” feeling less creative in the presence of this enthusiasm.

He then explains about his book. “It’s not complete, ‘cause I need someone to edit what I have.”

 “Mr. Smith, you have a better chance of getting your work published than I. There are many minority writers on the book market You  may have something to offer the public.”  He nods.
An idea strikes and  I add, “I’ve done some editing in the past of a few manuscripts. Let me take a look at yours.” I run through a litany of what I’ll be looking for in his work: vivid words, sentence clarity, punctuation, and deletion of unneeded wording. He smiles and agrees, bends down to a bag next to his chair and pulls out a business card. “Here’s my card. Next week I’ll bring my work to you.” I look down at the card and read
The Birth Place of Living – Ideas
Mr. Charles E. Smith
Artist, Poet, Writer, Publisher

His outlook on life is on this card. I feel a kinship with Mr. Smith and say aloud, “Mr. Smith, I’m so glad to have met you, and I hope I can help you. I feel . . .” and he finishes my sentence, “the good Lord led us to each other.”

Thursday, August 02, 2012

My Taste Change in Food

The other day in exercise class the new instructor asked around what favorite food each participant liked. Those aren't questions I care to answer. Why? Because my answer doesn't sound like that of a normal person. You see, down here in Mississippi hog jowl cooked in fresh summer veggies, cornbread, slice tomatoes, topped with some slice of fresh ham makes an ideal meal for some; others prefer steak and French Fries. If you are different you may be looked upon as strange.

When my turn came I took a deep breath and let it out: "I don't like to eat anymore.Nor do I like to cook." I didn't have to look around at the dozen pairs of eyes boring holes in my head. I went on to say food no longer held an appeal for me. I then explained my food source was usually a Smoothie. A fruit one or a combination of fruit and vegetables.

And, of course, I had to explain. How can I go without food? It's not the normal amount that others eat.  I eat throughout the day tasting small snacks: peanut butter and banana; cheese and crackers; halves of pimento cheese sandwiches; small cans of tuna fish and soup; sushi are a few samples.  Not chips, candy and pre-made peanut butter crackers. I still enjoy sweets, but I eat them rarely.

 I attribute my lack of appetite to desiring to eat less bread and sweets, cutting down on salt, sodas, and those items on the food chain we all insist have to be a part of our daily diet. This change in my eating is supposed to help me live a long time. The point was to lose some weight--although no one has ever accused me of being overweight. But my dress size history zoomed from a Size 6 to a 12. Ok, so that occurred over the span of 50 years.

Then the case of the lazy cook came into view. I've always been an open-a-package-or-can-and-heat person, never learning the basics.How can a person cook if there's no desire? My husband somehow exempts me from my behavior--after all, he's saving a bit of money.He enjoys eating out --he eats and I watch, sipping ice water until he is satiated. Works fine for us and a half dozen neighbors who feel the same about cooking.

I'm waiting for an application to a  contest to arrive in my mailbox urging me to write an essay on why I deserve a For-Life Prize of Healthy Snacks delivered to my door by a local restaurant of my choice. If you know of one, clue me in.

Aging and Meds

Of all the pills I swallow each morning, I feel no better, stronger, braver, or  more energetic. If I sleep 10 hours at night, I wake up, do a bit of housework and return to bed for a nap, be it 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. Those darn pills don't seem to be helping. Dr. Weill, whom I enjoy reading online, tells you need this for that and I add this but that seems to elude  my face, my neck, my back or whatever.

I've given up sodas because a nurse said it weakens the bones; I've given up steak because chicken and fish are better; I've given up milk because its full of lactose; I've given up just about everything that  "they" say is not good for you. I'm starving on crackers and almond milk, the chocolate kind.

Now, I'm seeing teeny lines dot my face. I'd hoped to have none for a few more years. So far I've not seen any wrinkles on the neck, but the arms - - my gosh, the arms look like corrugated cardboard! It's not fair for us to grow older and lose the few good parts of our body we've had so long. A doc told me this is the result of losing hormones. I would have honored and adored hormones in my lifetime if someone had told me  they'd disappear, that I'd see and feel the results. If I only knew then, what I know now - - what a change in my lifestyle there would have been.

A number of years ago a program interviewed a man whose pills numbered over 100, the bottles line up on several shelves built for their display. He vowed these were all he needed to live a long, healthy life. I never remembered his name; don't know if he's still shakin' a leg.

Take good care of yourself. Don't get into the habit of taking OTC supplements and swallowing Rx meds any more than you have to.