Thursday, November 25, 2010

Peas All Gone!

A few evenings ago, I dined with old friends, Gene and Charlotte, at the iconic Atlanta eatery The Colonnade. As Charlotte was enjoying her veggie plate, I, my chicken-fried chicken, and Gene, his salmon croquettes, he reminisced about growing up near Atlanta in the 1940's and 50's, describing memories of driving downtown with his mother to shop at Rich’s and Davison’s Department Stores and the small magic shops that were situated between those two Grande Dames of Southern Shopping. He told about following his mother up and down Peachtree Street, to and from Forsyth Street, and how the trip was made less painful as he was allowed to stop at both of the magic shops on the way. He said that, all the while he was eating lunch at Rich’s Magnolia Tea Room, he’d be trying to decide which one of the magic tricks he would be allowed to buy.  As Gene was talking, my own Rich’s memory hit me like a….well, like a mouthful of English peas. 

Living way down in Waycross as we did, we didn’t make it up to Atlanta very often. However, I did have two aunts who lived here and we would drive up to see them from time to time. My first memory of an Atlanta visit must have been in about 1954, which would have made me four. I remember looking in the Rich’s window and seeing my first television screen ever, all lit up in vibrant black and white. I also remember eating lunch in the tea room there.

As a child, I was a picky eater. On one occasion when I was quite small, a nice neighbor lady asked what I liked on my hamburger, and I responded with “everything but the meat.” I’d like to think I was ahead of the  times with my vegetarian sensibilities, but I guess my recent chicken-fried chicken selection would belie that. And a vegetarian I definitely was not, as, to my child mind, vegetables were to be avoided at all cost. 

I’m pretty sure that, for my nice luncheon at the Magnolia Tea Room, I ordered either a cheese sandwich or my extra-special favorite, peanut butter and jelly. I’m also certain that my sneaky mother mouthed something about a vegetable to our complicit waitress in her frilly white apron.

It doesn't take much of an imagination to conjure up what happened next in the midst of a nice meal in a lovely restaurant full of happy post-WWII hatted and white-gloved matrons and very few children.  To my horror, English peas arrived in a neat little pile on my plate; Mama told me to at least taste them, and I said no.  She ordered and I cried.  She put her foot down and I petulantly took a spoonful.  But, determined to have the last, albeit silent word, I refused to swallow.  

The rest of the meal was spent with me full-cheeked and teary-eyed, but Mama didn't relent.  Finally, the bill was paid and my Mary Janes insolently followed my mother's spectator pumps past the other patrons, out the door, and into the elevator to take us to the first floor where the perfumes and hosiery were displayed and sold.  Midway through our downward journey, I looked up at Mama and smiled my best smile.  In the midst the packed elevator full of  other shoppers and diners, I said, in what my mother later reported to have been an extremely loud voice, "Peas all gone!"

Rich's Department Store, with its Pink Pig at Christmas and its Crystal Bridge spanning seven stories, is also gone, gone from downtown Atlanta and elsewhere.  All that's left are grown-up memories of little children reluctantly following their mamas in their pretty hats and white gloves up and down Peachtree Street; children just looking for some respite, perhaps a magic trick or a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich with no vegetables. 

Although Gene eventually understood that there were simple solutions to the magic tricks he obsessed over and purchased on his shopping trips to downtown Atlanta, solutions explained by the sales clerk as soon as he handed over his small bills and coins, I continue to dislike English peas to this day.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


When I was a kid, I was a real crybaby. The only spankings I  remember were when my mother had had enough and she would pop me on the bottom to “give me something to cry about.” She later told me she believed that I would get into a state where I needed to cry hard and then get over it. I don’t know if that was true or if she was so sick of my whining that she just snapped.

I remember when I was about six or seven, a time when I was quite proud because I hadn’t cried for an entire day. That was most likely something my entire family noted and celebrated.

These days, I rarely cry. I can go months without a whimper or a sniffle, probably because I pretty much lamented myself out when I was a little girl.

My brother, Sandy, was sometimes mean to me and he ignored me for most of my childhood. Maybe he couldn't take all the blubbering.   Right now, he's in ICU at Georgetown University Hospital and I can’t stop crying.

You see, despite his slow start, he turned out to be a really good man, maybe the best I’ve ever known, one I still need to have on this earth with me for a while longer.

So Sandy, if you'll just get better and out of that place, I promise to stifle it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Shootout at Wells Fargo

If I had a gun and knew how to use it, and if  I wasn’t afraid of being arrested or of having to do community service by picking up trash on I-75, I would shoot out that stupid red and yellow Wells Fargo sign which is now attached to what was formerly my beautiful faux antebellum Ansley Park Wachovia branch office.

It’s not that I can’t accept change when it comes to my change. When The Big Kat and I first married and moved to good old Warner Robins, we kept what little  money we had at Citizens’ State Bank, our hometown institution. As the years went by, Citizens’ State was bought out by First Atlanta, and then First Atlanta was bought out by Wachovia, kind of like that whole little fish getting eaten by a bigger fish thing.  Survival of the fittest fish.

I was fine with all of that. I think I remember some minor annoyances with ordering new checks or a few fee anomalies, but there was nothing that made me want to throw eggs at a drive-through window or paint graffiti on a bankly exterior.

Until Wells Fargo came along.

At first I was relatively happy with this newest bank buy-out because Wells Fargo is a west coast outfit and I thought it would make banking in Portland less of a problem.

Boy was I wrong. So far, banking anywhere has been a big old  enormous problem,  and one I didn’t see coming.

It started the day I had jury duty. I woke up to a stormy morning, one that made me wonder why I ever thought I wanted to be a good American by registering to vote when I was eighteen.  In the driving rain,  I had to make my way to find the correct parking lot over by Turner Field so I could catch the shuttle to the Fulton County Courthouse. Nothing is ever easy in Atlanta.

As I was driving, I realized I didn’t have any cash and I recalled the need for vending machine money from a previous jury duty. No problem, though, because my bank was on the way. As I drove up to the ATM in the pelting rain, I noticed the Wachovia sign had been removed and a ghastly red and orange Wells Fargo one had replaced it. But I wasn’t worried because my online banking messages had promised a seamless transition and when had I ever been lied to online? I slid my Wachovia ATM card in the slot with my wet arm, only to have the machine whir and buzz and shimmy and shake and then actually look confused. It ultimately told me that it couldn’t read my card and to try again later.

Chalking it up to bad karma and worse weather, I didn’t think much more about my money as I was busy taking my life into my hands just getting to the parking lot, into the shuttle, out of the shuttle, and into the courthouse, all in the dark and the rain.  At that point, I figured I wouldn't live long enough to put money in a vending machine anyway.

But live I did.

After sitting all morning in my wet socks in the jury holding room without benefit of a Diet Coke, waiting to see if I'd be picked, they let us go to lunch.  Leaving the courthouse, I was thrilled to see the sun and I considered this to be a good bank-card omen along with the cute pizza place I found close by.  I ordered my slice and salad and handed over my card.  

Declined.  The nice lady tried again.  Declined again.  Thank goodness I had a credit card or I would've starved to death on the steps of justice and just how unjust would that have been?

I cut my lunch short and tried to find a Wachovia/Wells Fargo within walking distance, but no luck there either.  Back into the courthouse, sitting on the floor, calling multiple phone numbers and calling out multiple bank and social security numbers in the midst of God and felons and other people who, like me, were too stupid to get out of jury duty.

Guess what?  It was a screw up.  The ten people I talked to finally came to that conclusion.  However, they also came to the conclusion that they couldn't send me another ATM card for ten days.  

But life went on.  I wasn't chosen for jury duty and I got over the ATM mess and did without until, fifteen days later, my new Wachovia card came in the mail.  I was told to use that card until my Wells Fargo card arrived.  All seemed well enough.

Fast forward a couple more weeks.  There in the mail was my brand new (and quite pretty not yellow and red) Wells Fargo card with a phone number to call to activate it.  I was pretty excited, feeling that I could, finally, move on with my life.

"I'm sorry but we have no record of that card" is what the somewhat snotty person on the other end of the line told me after I'd called out the numbers on both sides three times.

Spending some time picking up trash on the highway might not be such a bad way to spend a few weekends.  I look pretty good in orange.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

That Dog Still Hunts

This last month has been an exciting one for me. First of all, I was kissed by a gay man in drag a few weeks ago, and then, just this past weekend, I was told by a non-gay man that I was “well preserved.”

I’d never been told that I was well preserved before, mainly because, when I became the age to be considered so, to put it bluntly, I wasn’t. I have that redheaded skin that was never supposed to see the light of a sunny day, but nobody told me or, more likely, I didn't listen.

I'm happy to have had some recent masculine attention, I guess, but it doesn't thrill me like it would have when I was younger. I know it’s going to come as a sad shock to my legions of male admirers, but I’ve got to confess that I’m just not all that interested in the romantic arts any more, now that my hormones have dried up like a corsage in a spinster's hope chest.

Come to think of it, most men my age, the ones I know, at least, aren’t all that interested in sex either, despite their big talk. They’re more concerned with their bowels than their genitals and the only breathing things they’re sleeping with are their CPAP machines.

It’s all a relief really. I can go to bed by myself without having to hold my stomach in while I sleep. Furthermore, I don’t have to worry about my breath or what kind of noises I may or may not be making in the middle of the night.

The only thing I sometimes miss is a big old hug, preferably from a good looking man. I like hugs from my grand kids, but as sweet as they are, they just don't pack the same kind of punch as when a burly man wraps his arms around you and squeezes. I've taken to
requesting a hug, now and then, when I find a likely victim, and, so far, it's worked out well. The police haven't been called one single time.

Okay, I know I’m going to be hearing from all the Sexy Grandmas out there and the people for whom sex just keeps getting better and better. All I’m saying is what I know about myself. Sometimes I do think I’d like to “do it” one last time before I die, but when I consider all the trouble I'd have to go to, what with driving to Target for new underwear and then pretending to be interested in that last pass thrown in the fourth quarter of the championship game in 1967, it just isn’t worth it. Plus, I’m pretty sure none of the men I know would be willing to put up with me for long enough to move the cat off the bed, much less to get my lumpy, wrinkled self out of my flannel nightgown.

I do have friends who are still sexually active, if that's what you would call it. Most of them are with the same men they married 30, 40, or 50 years ago so I guess they've got the process pretty well in place after all of that time, but I'm not sure it's all that active. I think it's more like, "turn off the TV when you're done and don't wake me up, for heaven's sake." If any friends my age are having monkey sex on the kitchen table with their husbands, they've been nice enough to keep it to themselves.

I also know a couple of older women who are still dating. One, who is a lovely 70, has dated the same man for about 10 years. She says he’s kind of cantankerous but he’s rich. Since I’ve known her, he’s taken her to his summer home in France, his summer home in Thailand, and now he has a summer home in Panama (and I don’t mean that vacation city in Florida). However, because he’s 80 and has had a stroke, the love relations are somewhat problematic. She's described the pump he purchased for big bucks at Emory Hospital, and how his nubbin looks like a rat in a bottle when he’s pumping it up, and how he has to put a rubber band around it to keep it alert afterward. With that information, I've come to the conclusion that I can live without a summer home in Panama.

I have another friend who has continued to date men who often can’t quite rise to the occasion even though they manage to look surprised each time and to make it seem like her fault. She was excited last week, however, when an old beau called. And that's because, in her words, “that dog still hunts.” It took a few minutes for those of us who were listening to her story to realize the pointer she was referring to wasn't canine. When I recovered enough to ask her the last time she'd seen that "dog" actually "hunt," she said it had been about three years. The bad news is that, as we all know, one dog year is worth seven human years, so I'm not all that optimistic as to my friend's chances for a successful kill any time during this particular hunting season.

Back to my new boyfriend, the one who had the good taste to realize just how well preserved I am. He seemed to be quite a catch, and I know this because, before he offered me his well considered compliment, he'd talked about himself non-stop for almost 45 minutes, about his many accomplishments including all the women who had wanted him. I could also tell he had a good appetite since, all the time he was pointing out his impressive history and many attributes, he was stuffing appetizers into the part of his mouth that wasn't doing all the bragging. And then there was his wife, who just so happened to be talking to someone just over his shoulder, seemingly quite happy to have the ass bend someone
else's ear for a while.

And so, instead of spending my time trying to find Mr. Wonderful as this point in my life, I think I'll continue to pursue a simple hug every once in a while, preferably from someone young and hunky. After all, I don't want to cause a heart attack.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tripping Down Olfactory Lane

I read somewhere that smell has the best memory and odors bring back recollections better than any of our other senses. Regrettably, I must be lacking in the schnozzle department, or perhaps my nostril-to-brain synapses are a bit congested, because I don’t have many memories related to smell. However, not having much to report hasn't stopped me in the past and it certainly won't hinder me now.

I actually have more recollections about bad smells than good ones, but, because no one wants to read a litany of bad smell memories, I’m going to offer up just one. The one I'm providing is more an indictment of my brother, Sandy, and how he abused me when I was a child than anything else. I remember when I was little, as soon as we passed the Glenn County line on our way to Jekyll or St. Simon's Island for a family vacation, I would start crying. The tears arrived because, as soon as that good old paper mill odor hit Sandy's sinuses, he would announce to everyone in the car that I’d just passed gas. The injustice of it all made me so furious that I would first burble and and then howl and finally my tears would irrigate the interior of our Ford Fairlane as if from a revolving sprinkler head. But I do have to say the smell was bad enough to have made my eyes water anyway.

Now on to a sampling of the very few good smelly memories I have. You'll be happy to know that I'm keeping the more personal ones to myself.

I remember my mother's scent when she and Daddy would go out, which wasn’t all that often. I have no idea what her perfume was, but I recall her smelling different and fancy on those occasions when she was all fixed up in her pretty pink and cream floral dress and high heels. My memory is mixed in with the pride I felt at those moments, pride that came from having such a beautiful mama.

I remember the fragrance of Christmas. For some strange reason, the smell I think of most often was the scent of some article of clothing, a little slip or sweater, that would be enveloped in tissue paper and a white department-store gift box and opened by a very happy me. The best way I can describe it is that it had a Belk's smell. For a child who received the great majority of her clothing straight from her mother's sewing machine, errant threads and all, I can see why the smell of something "store bought" would be memorable.

I remember taking a cooking class on the top floor of the Savannah Electric Company with my Girl Scout troop. For one of our lessons, we made some type of pinwheels that were created, in part, by melting butter. Apparently, I’d never smelled real butter before as my mother was a huge margarine fan. The smell of melting butter still reminds me of those cooking lessons, the only cooking lessons I ever took in my entire life, if you don't count the tips I garner but don't employ from the Food Network.

I remember the smell of Memorial Stadium in Savannah when we would go to Jenkins High School football games. I think it was primarily popcorn, but there was a teenage smell to it too, probably part bonfire, part adolescent boy sweat, part my Ambush cologne optimistically sprayed on as I headed out the door on chilly Friday evenings.

The smell of Johnson’s Baby Lotion takes me back to when each of my children were newly born, the three happiest times of my life, bar none. And to think that something smelling that good actually came from me! Okay, I know the mewling, hurling, crapping smells were the ones
I spawned and the lotion came from the Johnson Company, but I'm going to remember it the the more fragrant way.

In contemplating the very small number of smell memories I have, I began wondering if the paucity was based on an apathetic proboscis, or if I just hadn't tried hard enough in the smelling department. So I decided to conduct an experiment.

While walking to my polling place on election day to vote for a myriad of people who I knew couldn't possibly win, I decided to multitask so as not to waste my time. In an effort to do better in the olfactory department, I committed myself to smelling my way across South Prado, through Ansley Park, and then all the way to First Presbyterian Church where I would cast my sad ballot. Feeling confident I hadn't, in the past, worked hard enough sniffing and whiffing, I dedicated my walk to my schnozzola.

I smelled some grass being cut, but the scent was kind of annoying. A smoker drove by and I was glad for all the ordinances we have now. I coughed up some fumes from traffic on Peachtree Street. But I didn't smell anything good that I'd one day remember while writing my memoirs. No whiffs of an autumnal bonfire, no dinners being cooked by a mother (or father) in a frilly apron, nothing that would bring on a good bout of nostalgia at a future date. I felt even more dejected, not to mention light headed from coming close to hyperventilating

But all was not lost. As I was walking and sniffing and lamenting , a friendly dog ran up to me and stuck his nose in my crotch. The dog stopped, looked up at me, and then sat on his haunches with a puzzled look on his snout, as if some inchoate recollection had entered his brain stem.

Did my private parts bring back some long ago memory for that dog? Did I somehow remind him of his dear mother and her aroma when she was heading out with the pack? I thought to ask him, but decided no, I couldn't worry about a dog's quest to remember and document a reminiscence from puppyhood.

If that dog smelled something that brought back a memory, something that would bring him full circle in understanding the meaning of his life, something he needed to commemorate in some way, he was just going to have to write his own damned blog.

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