Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Hamsters Are Back!

Please visit my sports blog, Greetings From Smashville to see what they have to say about the NHL Awards!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Three Women In Search Of The Perfect Marked Down Paint Tube

Deep in my black little heart, I knew by two this morning that I would not make it to Bridgestone to take pictures.  That was roughly the time that HH the Doggy Lama Niklas Lidstrom decided that he could not bear to sleep quietly one more minute and stood in the middle of the hallway to howl at...well, to howl at something.  I had initially dropped off to sleep at around 1:15 am.

When big dogs howl, there is a magnificence to it. There is something primal and grand and bigger than the present in the howl of a large dog. 

That magnificence was not present in my hallway as far as I could tell.  Well, maybe it was there in Niklas' little bitty mind.  Niklas is a shih tzu.  He weighs nine pounds and is roughly a foot tall standing on all fours.  Watching him try to howl is like watching a dust mop throw a tantrum.

I opened my bedroom door a little wider and he trotted in, hopped on my bed and then creatively sprawled in a way that made my sharing it with him almost impossible. His predecessor was a bearded collie/sheepdog mix who weighed roughly 125 pounds, was taller than me when he reared up on his hind legs and yet he and I managed to share my bed quite comfortably during storms.  I'm not sure where this "What's yours is mine and what's mine is mine" ethos is coming from with the current Dogboss.

So I attempted sleep, failed, then got up and took my mother to her doctor's appointment.   While I was waiting and pretending to be productive by editing the roughly five thousand pictures that are currently sitting on my hard drive, my phone rang.  I saw the exchange and immediately assumed it was Sarah making her initial salvo in the now eight year old War To Make Jas Go To Bonaroo With Sarah. 

I answered the phone with:  "I don't need to go to Manchester to see hippies. All I have to do is talk to my mother."

There was a pause and then Amy asked me if I was really turning down a chance to go to Bonaroo. She counseled me to sleep on that decision.  After I asked her how she and her very lovely and wonderful husband were doing, she caroled a single word into the phone:


Oh, yay!

Oh, crap.  I was so ready for sleep.  But...butbutbutbut...JUNKET!

Okay, you're probably picturing some outing where a hand full of women pile into a car and go to Green Hills or Cool Springs and squee over mass produced cuteness.*  Nothing could be further from the truth.

All of us, right down to the girliest of the group.** hate to do that kind of shopping.

There are two kinds of junkets we make.

Food and Books -  In some ways they're kind of the same thing in terms of where they fit in our lives. A real score is finding something on any of our PaperbackSwap wish lists for less than five dollars.   I would tell you where we look at/for books but then I would have to apply for the witness protection program.

Art/Phography Supplies - No big secrets. If there's a good sale at Plaza or Jerry's, that's where we go first. If not, we check out the clearance aisles at the local home improvement stores and those temples of home schooling craft genius: Joann, Hobby Lobby and Michael's. 

Today we got a shock as we stood in the wedding wares aisle at Michael's and stared dumbfounded at the wall of baskets that had replaced their clearance section.   A sweet, perky clerk walked up and asked who the lucky bride was.  Alice pointed at me.

The clerk squealed and started wiggling my arm.

Don't ever squeal at a group of artists, especially if two of them are wearing hockey sweaters. 

"Awesome!  I love it when older people find loooo-uuuuove!"  She squinched her cute little nose. I considered pinching off Alice's cute little head.  "What does he do?"

"Well, there's not really a he,"  I said.

Perky's eyes widened and she nodded slowly and said, "Oh... I don't think we have a cake topper for that, but we could make one.  So who is the lucky girl?"

I glanced at my friends to see who was going to volunteer.  Amy raised a finger.

"Actually, she's coaching hockey in Saskatchewan right now. They made it to the postseason! I hope they manage to have short series so she can come to Tennessee before she gives birth."

By this point, PerkyClerky had the same look that I've seen animals in PeTA ads have when they've chewed off a limb to get out of a trap. 

"You never really can tell..." she stammered.

"Tell what?" I asked.

"I don't know!" she practically shouted.  "Um, okay. If you ladies need anything.  Holler."   And then she speedwalked away.

We watched her go, all of us silent as if we were waiting for the Chuck Jones dribble of gravel that inevitably follows all good cartoon mayhem.

 "Our work here is done." Alice bowed her head, looking almost beatific.

"Was that really necessary?"  I asked.

Amy nodded.  "She started it.  Bitch shouldn't have taken away our clearance section.


* We are nothing like the ridiculous radio ads that seem to be in high rotation on every station advising women to get surgical or chemical help to make them all 25 again and to withold sex if they don't get a big, sparkly product of forced child labour from a third world country.  They suggest "getting a headache" if you don't get a diamond.  Excuse me?  Sex is actually good for headaches.

**I am actually the second girliest although my standing might have slipped now that the phrase "punch (x) in the junk:" seems to be a permanent part of my idiolect.

copyright 2011  Jas Faulkner

Saturday, March 26, 2011

You Only Think You Want To Be Married To Lloyd Dobler

All of us have -or at least I hope we all have- an internal filter that goes off when we start to say the wrong thing.  I call mine my "Not helping, Sister!" filter and sometimes its not quite as effective as I would like for it to be.  Earlier this week was one of those times.  I tried to be Switzerland when someone called on me for some female solidarity. 

I guess this blog post is my chance to say what I didn't get to say that afternoon.  It will probably cause at least a few people who read me to mutter, "Throwback." and delete me from their RSS feeds and bookmarks.  Oh, well.  Here goes...

Okay, you have every reason to assume that I'm going to be sympathetic with your significant other's desire to spend an afternoon at Big!Huge!OutdoorManlyManEmporium! with the guys looking at fishing lures and deer pee and whatever else they look at when we're not around.  However, you are probably coming to this conclusion for all of the wrong reasons.  Let's get this out of the way right now.  Yes, I work in a field that has been traditionally the domain of male interest and is still dominated by men.* I enjoy the company of the people I share a camera perch with and am lucky to cover a group of guys where are decent and drama-free. 

In spite of the fact that I spend a large portion of my week knee deep in all things macho, there are times when I just want to be around other people who have voices as high as mine and talk about shoes and knitting. Does this make me anti-male because I want time with my girlfriends?  No.  The flip side to that is that your husband's or boyfriend's desire to do  things with his buddies is not anti-woman or anti-you or anti-anything.  It's a healthy desire to identify with his own sex whether it entails sitting in a duck blind at dark thirty o'clock or comparing the munsell scale of tubes of cerulean blue acrylic paint at Plaza. 

As his life partner, you should be his best friend and his favourite person in the whole world. As his BFF and his FPItWW, you should also recognise that he needs time with his friends following his interests just as you should be wanting time with your friends following your interests.  Have you ever been in a relationship where the other person seemed to have no friends and no enthusiasm for anything beyond spending time with you?  Does it sound like something out of the movies?  Is it the manifestation of the fantasy we're all supposed to have where Lloyd Dobler steps right out of the screen wearing his trench coat and  blares his damned boom box full of Peter Gabriel at your bedroom window? **

Let me tell you from personal experience that being completely, totally responsible for someone else's happiness is a bigger burden than you think it's going to be.  Let's face it, even if you did end up with Lloyd Dobler, the first week you might be thinking, "Lucky me waking up next to Lloyd Dobler! He looks just like 80s' vintage John Cusack. I done good!" But from roughly Wednesday of the second week on, he'd be telling you that all he wanted in life was to be at your side while you'd be thinking, "Please, for the love of God! Go read a book or something!"   I've been there and believe me, the man who looks to me to complete him is the man who will cause me to run for the hills with my trusty shih tzu at my side.

So listen, girlfriend.  He was complete when you married him or you wouldn't have wanted him. Does he want to spend ALL of his time with his friends instead of you?  No?  Are his friends jerks or are they respectuful of you as the person he has chosen to be with?  Respectful?  Check.  Okay, then. The fact that he has a group of decent friends who are either happily attached themselves or are what Benjamin Franklin might have called "unclaimed blessings" and they think enough of him to want to spend time with him says a lot about his good character. Unless they're all out buying crack or hiring hookers, that time spent isn't hurting anyone.  If anything, it reestablishes that you trust and respect who he is. It should free you up to follow some of your own interests.   Just my .02.

*For the few of you who don't know, I'm a sports columnist and photographer. According to my BGBF, Kevin, who submitted a bunch of pictures to Getty (via his current media wonk squeeze) on my behalf last week and caused me to curl up in a closet and breathe into my yoga bag for twenty minutes, I am now the real thing.

**I've been told that "Say Anything" is supposed ot be the ultimate in Chick Movie romantic fantasies.  This supposition must have come from a focus group composed of two dozen male college students who were working on their degrees in marketing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

Responses to the death of Elizabeth Taylor have been varied.   Some people are bowled over by her physical beauty and acting talent. Others view her as tabloid fodder, famous for being famous.

I first encountered the work of Ms Taylor as a horse-mad tween. My late night sleepover TV fare usually consisted of scratchy local station prints of The Thin Man series, Hammer Horror movies and the sublime delights of Godzilla and his pantheon of clumsily destructive but sadly misunderstood monsters. One night whoever was at the switch at the Lubbock UHF station gave everyone a break from the usual silliness and ran "National Velvet".

I was enchanted. Elizabeth Taylor as Velvet Brown was pretty. She was smart and she was spunky. She rode horses. And best of all, she had the same color eyes as me. No "freaky devil blue eyes" as the fundamentalist crotch fruit loved to call my own dark blue orbs.* Miss Taylor's eyes? They were violet. I wanted to be Velvet Brown and race horses and have an adorable, crushworthy red-haired guy sidekick.**

I'm sure I saw her in movies over the years that followed but the next time she would impress me would be a little over ten years later. While working as a volunteer stitcher for those who needed help with memorial panels for The AIDS Quilt, I would often see the men seated around me stop what they were doing and glare at images of Ronald Reagan on the evening newscasts.

"Say it," someone would mutter.

"He won't," responded another volunteer, "He never does. He never will."

Everyone would shake their heads and get back to work as the list of the dead lengthened and Ronald W. Reagan refused to ever publicly utter the the words "GRIDS", "AIDS" or even "homosexual" while he was in office. All of this went on as many people who made his career in Hollywood possible fell to the strange virus that was cutting a swath through the LGBT community.

Not everyone would be so afraid to put themselves out there in order to help their friends. One night another famous face appeared on the news. It was Elizabeth Taylor, older, thicker, but still possessed of those blue/violet eyes and whatever personal reserve of courage she pulled from to breathe life into Velvet Brown.  Ms Taylor spoke up for the people who were abandoned by individuals who once declared their love but who now ran scared in the face of  men and women who thought nothing of declaring the purple, bruise like marks of Kaposi's Sarcoma to be modern-day Marks of Cain.   Elizabeth Taylor was one of the first people to lend her face and name to the cause of AIDS awareness, of extending mercy to people who were being subjected to what amounted to a witch hunt. She named the disease and she named the sufferers and she asked all of us not to forget them.

To be honest, I hadn't thought much about her lately, but in considering her very long, very storied life, her activism is the first thing I think of now. Whenever someone tells me that causes x, y, or z aren't my fights. I remember that living in the comfort of being part of the majority culture as a straight, white, heterosexual theist doesn't necessarily give me the automatic privilege of happy obliviousness of the lives of others. I will also remember that for may in my generation, this ethos was explicitly demonstrated and prescribed when Elizabeth Taylor did not turn  her back on her friends.
Godspeed, Ms Taylor! I hope your heaven is a place full of glamour, cute lap dogs, comfort and all of the friends you had to say goodbye to way too soon.

*Okay, the fact that I used to do a very good impression of Linda Blair as Regan and that this was the late seventies did not help matters. I offer this bit of data in the interest of fairness.

**My parents mercifully let me keep my crush on that movie; so for many years I had no idea that Taylor would grow up to change husbands the way John Mayall changed bands and that Mickey Rooney would grow up to be, uh, Mickey Rooney.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"See Rock City!" Death: The Cheese Grits Interview*

So I went out to get the mail and when I came back in, he was sitting there, all four feet nine of him.

"Do you really think going outside in your sock feet is a smart move?"

"Hey!" I pointed at my feet. "Double thick thinsulate booties from L. L. Bean.  Not just socks..."  I trailed off.  "Why are you here?"

"I need to speak with you."

"Oh shit. Now?   Really?  Now?  Couldn't you wait until after the Predators win the Stanley Cup? And why are you manifesting yourself as a middle school FFA member."

"You have a soft spot for ROTC and FFA kids.** To your thinking they're making an effort to do the right thing."

"Don't pander.."

There was a flurry of glitter and whirling plasma, the air had the ozone smell one associates with an appliance shorting out.

"And don't try to materialise as a dishy goth girl with an ankh pendant.  That's been done to death."

"Oh, ha ha." The glittery mass shuddered to stop and then reformed as Tom Stoppard."

"Please tell me you didn't kill Tom Stoppard."

"I don't kill..." he held up his fingers to do air quotes, "anyone. When its their time, I accompany them."

"How nice.  So- will you please put down those drafting pens?  They cost a fortune!"

"Like you're gonna need 'em. I'm kidding.  Relax.  You're alive and so is Tom Stoppard. I happened to run into a friend of yours..."

"Which friend?"  I felt sick and cold.

"I was just doing my job, but as always, I'm sure there were hurt feelings.  Usually, I try to be sure family is given some nudge.  You're like family, so consider yourself nudged.  I'm not saying any more.  You'll get the call."

Death took a deep breath and cocked his head to one side.  "Well?"

"Words aren't my strong suit right now."

"I guess you could paint me the message? Interpretive dance?  Quilting?  Oh, wait.  You did that in the 80s."

"Please don't be so...so..."


"That word has gotten a bad rep over the past few years.  I'm really put out with you."

He sighed. "Do you think this job is easy? I would have rather been a lawyer or a veterinarian or any number of things.  Didn't happen. We are who we are.  Can I let you in on a little secret?"

"Please don't."

"When your number's up, when your time has come, when they call your name out yonder, you'll be glad to see me. Everyone is."

"That is such bullshit."

"No it's not.  Think about it.  Better yet, let me show you..."

He reached toward me and the only sensation I had for a few seconds was the sound of wind moving through trees.  Then a second later everything came back, my office, the January chill, the fact that I was standing in my home talking to Death.

"Of course it's different for everyone," he said.  "Your favorite sound in the whole world is the wind moving through tree branches. You didn't know that until now, did you?  For someone else, it might be the street noise they woke up to as a child.  For another person, it might be the noise of their wife making breakfast.  Everybody is different.

And another thing... Death is kind of like Rock City."


"Okay, you know how there are parts of Rock City where it looks dark, dangerous and fairly impossible to navigate without pain and injury?  That's before you actually take those paths.  Death is like that. It's only scary from this side."

"Yeah, but.."

"Your phone is ringing." 

He handed me my bluetooth thingie and I leaned over to answer the call.

"And put some shoes on," he said as I reached around to answer the call, "It's freezing in here."

I turned around to answer him only find the room empty and my friend on the other end of the line.

In memoriam for LS 1927 - 2011

*This is satire.  Any resemblance between the characters and allegorical figures from the classical Western canon, living or dead, are purely coincidental.

** For my Canadian readers: ROTC = Reserve Officers Training Corp, kids in high school and college can get academic credit for taking military training classes  FFA= Future Farmers of America  Future Farmers starts in seventh grade in the US.  It's very similar to 4-H.

copyright 2011 jas faulkner