Sunday, May 22, 2011

Red Lace and Spiced Rum

I’ve liked this title and wanted to use it for a few weeks. I just wasn’t sure what it was going to be about. It reminds me of so many things and they are seemingly unrelated but the phrase itself is so sexy and so perfectly personal I just had to start rambling about it and see where it leads me. 

Red lace is of course beautiful and mysterious and a bit seductive also. But of course red lace isn’t only “red lace”. It also is anything that is laced with red. It could be sweet juicy watermelon or bloody sheets or even Kool Aid spilled on a linoleum floor.  It’s that image of a kitten playing with red yarn on your white carpet. It is often delicious like poured syrup from a cherry jar over a grapefruit half. I think red laced grapefruit would be a really lovely and elegant menu item. Red lace curtains certainly evoke a very specific and unique combination of emotions. I’m not sure if I really want to go there. Red lace also reminds me of red leather and that leads me down a completely different trail. That is one I really do want to examine.

Red leather takes me not just into the past, but a to a whole different world that’s tentatively available just a few hours south. That world is Key West. It really is almost impossible to imagine it accurately unless you’ve been there. I promise I’ll do the best I can to make this realistic. But it will only be as accurate as my own memory allows. It’s my truth, which I’ve been told is often full of exaggeration and at times borders on hallucination. 

But Key West and I have much in common and for whatever reason I feel qualified to share my Key West ramblings with you today.

You don’t have to drive the entire long creepy “Twilight Zone”esque bridge that looks like it’s going nowhere to start to get that Key West feeling. That might be what justifies the long narrow road that gets you there. You have to experience Key West in layers. As soon as you hit Key Largo your blood pressure drops, your mind drifts, your muscles relax and a noticeable weight floats right out of the top of your head. By the time you get to Islamorada you start craving fresh seafood and rum runners. Although it doesn’t really have to be rum runners but any tropical alcoholic beverage. It could be Mai Tai or Voodoo Punch or even Pina Colada in any fruit flavor you choose. You can get that frozen or on the rocks and even though I always order on the rocks when I’m inland, once I get as far south as Islamorada I start ordering frozen. I even take the goofy little cocktail umbrellas and place them in my hair.

The long bridge to Key West has some colorful little stops known as the upper keys but the main purpose of each of these points is to help you relax and let go and become that other version of yourself. The board just slides out of your ass. Your guilt and anxiety drift out of reach. You suddenly can’t take yourself seriously and the people around you are fascinating and creative and appear just as relaxed and comfortable as you feel. By the time you get to Key West you will be hypnotized enough and intoxicated enough to accept the lessons Key West has to give you. I mean this in a completely loving and accepting way. Being seduced and indoctrinated is not always a bad thing. I don’t regret for a minute what I have taken from these experiences. It was worth every minute of the drive over the longest bridge of identical scenery imaginable. Or is it unimaginable?  

Then you arrive and it's so much more than you imagined. The Island itself exudes an aesthetic that is vibrant and vital. You can feel it through your entire body while you are there and it doesn’t go away. It’s completely pleasant and comforting. You recognize everyone you see on Duval Street as a unique and creative individual. You feel that everyone sees your own creative uniqueness too. There is no pressure to prove yourself or promote yourself. You are here. You’ve arrived. You are on Key West. Here you are in the most dreamlike tropical setting surrounded by these relaxed and comfortable creative and carefree strangers and it hits you....

Key West wants you to remember that your life is your greatest and most ambitious art form. If your life isn’t beautiful and symmetrical and perfectly balanced there is no reason to beat yourself up. Key West reminds you that your life is beautiful in it’s uniqueness. It is the perfect reflection of who you truly are. If it’s slightly or greatly off kilter it is even more interesting.

Key West will teach you that perfect isn’t pretty and many things are pretty perfect in this very real place that only seems imaginary. Your life is your most simple and complex artistic statement. No matter what that statement is and no matter how you have chosen to present that statement it is yours and it doesn't need an audience.
It is free and at peace. It is at home and comfortable being viewed and experienced in Key West.

Key West lets you know that your life, your artistic statement, can be anything as long as it’s yours. It is color on canvas or graffiti full of angst. It’s the sound of a violin or a majestic marching band. It is truth combined with soul. It isn’t the cold hard facts. It’s the heartfelt vision of the artist. With no criticism in sight, this art form seems invincible. That is the only shortcoming of the school of Key West. Because in truth life is quite fragile. Life is way too short and regrets are inevitable. But the lesson you have learned here is still invaluable because Key West has let you in on a truly liberating secret.... 

You don’t have to decide to create a beautiful life. 

You've already done so.  

new poem by Chel


Like buttons on a gaming controller-
Why are you allowed to push the ones in my life?

Who gave you permission?
Put you in charge?

How can you seem so unaware?
Always pushing me closer to the edge?

Claiming all along that you love me.
Casting me out and reeling back in.

Define insanity...........

Don't you know that you will never succeed?


Sunday, May 15, 2011

This story really never ends.....

Pete and Repeat  were in a boat. Pete fell out who was left?
That joke is a classic. I first heard it from Peter Mullally. I honestly believe that knowing Peter refined my sense of humor. This guy was a rockstar and a ninja and wasted no effort letting anyone know who he is. He could quiet a room full of people as they waited to hear what he would say next. He always had the perfect one liner and never missed a beat to provide the perfect punchline. 

I have a list of Classic Pete comments and stories that are not easy for me to present. But I will try to convey them as best I can. I fear some are the “You had to be there” type of stories. We’ll see.

One story....

One day I had been arguing with Peter about how lazy he is. There really wasn’t much of an argument. He asked me to do something for him, I said he was lazy and he said “am not”. That was pretty much it and I wandered off to another part of the house. I left him in my bedroom in front of a portable TV that might have been turned on and might not have been. A few minutes later he called me back into the room. He was jumping on my bed. I was kind of amazed. It wasn’t really something you would expect of Peter. Once he arrived he rarely moved except to light a cigarette or go to the bathroom. That’s probably not fair and me just trying to win the old argument that never happened, but I was surprised to see him jumping on the bed. 

He was kind of wild eyed and crazy and was saying how high he could jump. But I was scared. I quietly asked him to stop before he hurt himself. I begged him to stop and he kept jumping higher and harder. I finally yelled at him. “You’re going to break your neck!” He stopped. I was so relieved. Then he asked me to hand him a pillow to put on his head in case he hit the ceiling. For some reason this made perfect sense to me and I handed him a pillow. He put the pillow on his head and the stuffing from the pillow fell down to both sides leaving his head completely unprotected. he jumped as hard as he could and hit the ceiling and fell in a heap on the bed and rolled off onto the floor. I thought he might be dead. I shouldn’t have laughed. But it was so absurd I couldn’t help it.

Another story.....

One time we are all playing pool at my house. Peter’s girlfriend was mad at him as usual and he was ignoring her (also as usual). Cindy kept whining and pouting and she was getting really worked up and he just kept playing pool and joking around with the guys. I knew something was going to happen and I figured eventually Cindy would be reduced to tears. So the more he ignored her the more upset she got and her face was turning red and her eyes were welling up.

Finally he turned to Cindy and said “Your face is so red, if your stuck out your tongue you would look like a hemorrhoid.” Even though it was hysterical no one laughed. It wasn’t just the line. It was the delivery and the timing and the whole scene. It was classic Peter. Just like the joke that never ends.

Okay, here’s one more..... 

One day, Pete showed up at our house. He told my mom that he wrote a poem and he wanted her to read it. I knew he was up to something, but kept my mouth shut. He handed my mom a piece of notebook paper that was covered front and back with writing and my mother read it. When she was done she said “Peter, that is beautiful. You wrote this by yourself? My, you are very talented”. He smiled graciously and thanked her for the complement. He took the notebook paper back and tucked it into his pocket. 

He started to walk away and turned back to my mom and said “I also wrote music to go with it”.
Then he began to sing. He sang the first verse of the song “Both Sides Now”. At first my mother was completely engaged then she started to look puzzled and eventually you could almost see the light bulb go on over her head. She shook her head and told him she’d heard it before. Peter just shrugged his shoulders and moved on.  

I guess you had to be there. I’m glad I was.

If He Says He Didn't Do It, He Didn't Do It!

I first became interested in Bill Taylor when I met one of his younger sisters at a slumber party. She was adorable and told us she had seven brothers and sisters. The oldest boy in the family was my age. I hadn’t met him or even seen him yet but I was already in love with him because Joanie was so adorable. I guess that’s as good or bad a reason as I ever had for choosing a boyfriend. I had a lot of fun with Bill, or Wild Will as we sometimes called him. Bill was always with Peter and usually with Bob (Bubba) and sometimes with George. So when Bill came over he brought a houseful of boys with him. They came over almost every day. I had a bunch of cute girlfriends who hung out there too. 

They all called me “Tish” because that’s what my mother called me. My mom was really popular with my friends. She really was amazingly tolerant. I remember one time I was making candles and everyone found out how outside the box my mother could be. I used to buy “Gulf wax” from the gas station and melt it in a pot on the stove. I added crayons for color and poured the melted wax into various molds. One of the most popular molds was the Coke bottle. It was simple enough to pour the wax into the bottle with a funnel. The problem was getting the bottle off the candle without damaging the candle. We figured out that you had to wait for the wax to cool almost completely and then you could shoot the bottle with a BB gun to shatter the bottle off of the candle. The aim had to be perfect so you would hit the bottom rim of the bottle and not damage the wax. We all had to practice. Except for probably Peter, who most likely couldn’t be bothered. He really deserves his own story.

So, Bill was out in my carport shooting at the coke bottles and I guess he decided to shoot some other stuff for whatever reason. I suppose it looked like the neighbors who live behind us and to the right weren’t home when he shot at their sliding glass door. He didn’t even get a chance to run inside or put the gun down when the neighbor came out and started yelling at him. Bill just stood there holding the BB gun and kept saying “I didn’t do it” which was absurd because he was literally holding a smoking gun. My mom came outside and the neighbor came over and dragged my mom over to his glass door to show her where the BB had hit the door and put a chip in the glass. Bill was still holding the gun when my mom asked him “Billy, did you shoot this nice man’s window?” and Bill answered “No, ma’am”. I’m sure calling her “ma’am” was inspired and brilliant because it actually worked. My mother put her arm around Bill and turned to the neighbor and said “If he says he didn’t do it, he didn’t do it”. Amazing. He was still holding the gun and smiling from ear to ear. The rest of us just watched in amazement.  Peter could imitate my mother perfectly saying those words. It still makes me laugh when I think about it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Unconditional Love??

Does anyone else remember when it was easy to fall in love? It wasn’t complicated. It just sort of happened without any real effort or planning. Maybe I’m looking at something that wasn’t really there. Maybe it always took more energy than I remember, but it was at one time at least fun.
You’re sitting on the beach. The clouds are fluffy and white. The sand is hot and the water is cool. There is a nice breeze and you are talking with a cute guy. You both are laughing and enjoying the beauty of the day. At some point he brushes up against you or you both reach for the same seashell and your hands touch. In that moment you both know that you want to touch again and more and you don’t just want it. You need it. It’s perfectly mutual. No one has to ask permission. There are no consequences. There aren’t even any expectations. It’s perfectly balanced and there is no pressure.

Some would argue that what I have described isn’t love at all. It is “chemistry” or infatuation. But I find it so much more pure than the stuff that is attached to “relationships”. You know the stuff. Its the keeping score and bargaining and “tonight I have a headache” and faking orgasms.
It’s feeling rejected and jealous. It’s demanding loyalty. It’s not pleasant. It’s not nurturing. It’s not any fun at all. Why can’t we just enjoy each other and when we don’t, just move on? 

I get the thing about the value of keeping the family together and the importance of raising children with (at least) two parents. I think there is a time in life where being part of a family as a parent and role model is really very fun and kind of seductive in it’s own way. But if we’re not having babies, why do we have to play house? It seems to me that this is where relationships get unfun and restrictive. This is where expectations enter and feelings get hurt. Conditions are assigned and lines get drawn in the sand. I've seen the most ridiculous actions and comments considered betrayal. At the end of the day if you aren’t happy, why do you stay? Most relationships eventually fall into a really strange place where no one is even trying to make it pleasant anymore. (maybe not most, but many)

I am still, through all of this cynicism, a true believer in unconditional love. I’ve felt it. I’ve lived it. I’ve given and received it. But for me it’s always been fleeting. Once you make a commitment you have established a condition. Of course now you’ve laid the groundwork for more conditions and this opens the door for betrayal and accusations and all that blah blah blah. Is that a place where something as pure as love can grow? 

When I was very young I had a boyfriend who I knew loved me. I never expected anything of him. I just knew he loved me. I never demanded he be faithful to me. He wasn’t. It didn’t matter. I loved him and he loved me and we both knew it and when we were together it was about us at that moment, not who we were with yesterday or last night. At some point I learned to expect something different. I laid down conditions justified by self respect or moral standards. That was the end of unconditional love for me. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Poems by Chel (Mother's Day 2011)

"The "Son" always shines"   for Travis

Where have you gone?
Seems only yesterday you were holding my hand.
I watched as you rode the merry-go-round, smiling, not a care in the world.

From pre-school to college with the bat of an eye.
From child to man.

I still listen for your voice-your footsteps on the stairs.
I turn and look-it isn't you.
Just the vision of you in my mind.
Your music resonates from the corners of every room.
Filling my heart with the harmonies of life's greatest moments.

I remember......yes, I remember........
And I smile and think......could there be any greater joy?

You are everything I ever imagined.

"Cancer, Courage and Marching Band"   for Marcus

Why does life deal certain people a "bad hand"?
Some have to fold and others make lemonade. NO caffeine.......

Do you think it is the music?
The drive? Because they hear a different beat?

The metronome of life ticking them to move forward?
Continue on?
To repeat to the point of perfection?

Or is it the family?
The camaraderie?
The band?
A focus?
A will so strong that they are mentally and physically there, against all odds?

Perhaps it is all of that and courage, too.
A dream, a goal.

Whatever it is, know that you're my Hero......