Wednesday, October 27, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

It’s October, that singular month solely dedicated to haunted houses, ghosties, ghoulies, and things that go bump in the night.  Growing up, my friends and I would have sleep-overs at each other’s house, and stay up late into the night to watch the Friday night scary movie. Then we’d try to sleep without becoming incontinent. (No easy task. It’s still a challenge.)

There was a whole compendium of Hollywood 1940’s B movies of terror, from Frankenstein to the Werewolf to the Mummy…and, of course…Dracula. They all gave us grand mal bejeebers.  But the greatest challenge to bladder control was always Vlad Dracul.  What a spooky invention he is.

Bram Stoker created a disturbing mythological creature whose horror is so potent in part because he is a count…Count Dracula to be exact.  By the way, did you know that Bram Stoker slept with a sarcophagus in his bedroom? Dennis said he could top that, but I advised him to think it through very carefully. The name “Dracula” actually comes from a Transylvanian word meaning “dragon.” He isn’t hairy.  He doesn’t snarl or drag his leg because his bandages are sagging. His manners are impeccable. He is charming and articulate. He is always dressed in his finest cloak and slicked back hair.  And his fangs lie covert under his lips.  That is, until he needs them.  And then he rips back those lips to reveal the incisive suckers that will ultimately puncture two perfect holes in the neck of some hapless, penoir-clad, really stupid woman’s jugular. Most of his victims are neuron-non-functioning females with a penchant for pajama couture.

Dracula is a very sloppy diner, however. He tends to slurp and slobber and do socially unacceptable things with his food. But I suppose that’s because he must hastily eat and run in order to prevent clotting…another argument for going vegan. I can’t believe there are so many females with the intellectual agility of a fruit fly that have managed to provide the Nosferatu with sufficient nourishment to perpetuate the species of undead mutants throughout the centuries.  Of course, I also could never understand how the mummy was able to catch a fleeing girl while wrapped in gauze and dragging a gimpy leg…except that she was always tripping over her long, flowing nightgown, (constructed of transparent material that was little more than lace over nude).  Witless women who are always falling are the ultimate nocturnal horror.

Every year I debate about whether or not to wear a costume.  Assuming another identity or a third personality might be a pleasant pastime. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a dilemma if it were not for the rigorous routine I go through on a daily basis just getting dressed and preparing myself to enter polite society.

First of all, the fashion barracuda proclaim that one must not only be dressed, but presentable.  Being a raving cutie is mandatory.  Well, that’s just fine, except that through the years, Nature has caused everything adorable to spiral downward so drastically, it actually shifts one’s center of gravity.  This constitutes felonious assault.

It has been said that anatomy is destiny.  I believe in destiny.  I also believe in anatomy.   So to combat such unmitigated anatomical, graphic sag, I bought a rather unique invention that goes by the brand name “Spanx.” It is this century’s version of the Victorian corset. It is a shape shifter with a vice squeeze of such vengeance, that it requires a hydraulic engineer just to elevate it above the thighs, that is, if you once get both feet in the opening. 

One is then obliged to grunt, groan, push, pull, stuff, lubricate, curse, contort, and utter polyglot expletives to maneuver the device upward into its targeted position.  Breathing is not an option. You know you got it right if there is serendipitous collateral cleavage enhancement due to thigh fat that has popped into your bra by blunt force trauma.

 Once you are clad, and the apparatus is in its final resting place, you experience something akin to the vague calm you get after puking. You’re ready for your close-up.

The first time I succeeded donning this “jaws of life” undergarment, I resembled a yak in spandex.  The look is finished off with a whole tube of mascara and stilletoes.  Of course, attired thus, I couldn’t possibly outrun even the most pokey mummy.  But then, looking like this, Dennis assures me I’m not in danger…unless there’s a demented mummy somewhere out there looking to drown me as a humanitarian gesture.

Unfortunately, nothing short of a toxic oil slick or agent orange and latex gloves can dislocate the Spanx from the torso, and the idea of wearing the outfit for a week should be considered.  One must really think it all the way through

It’s no secret that I don’t like Halloween.  It marks an anniversary that’s scarier than anything the mind of Bram Stoker could invent.  Dennis’ most recent foray to the phlebotomist revealed a slight elevation in his CA 19-9 tumor marker.  (Those Huntsman blood-suckers can conjure some serious nightmares.)

So in order to ward off evil, I got out my trusty vampire-killer kit.  I have put a garland of garlic in the windows, over the doors, in my cauldron, and around my neck. (I also ate some raw cloves to throttle up the potency, but so far I’ve inadvertently offed strangers, stray cats and small children.)  I’ve placed mirrors on all the walls, so I can detect if someone does not cast a reflection.  Sadly, my own reflection would scare Beelzebub out of Hades.  And I have a stake and a hammer.  I’m ready. Extreme cage fight! Bring it on!

 Dennis said this was all well and good, but he thought Dr. Mulvihill’s recommendation more efficacious than my “Van Helsing” remedy.  He will have his blood re-drawn on Friday to re-check the values. Hmmmmm.  How utterly devoid of flair.

I know all will be well.  But I will be glad to get out of October altogether, when the only thing that goes bump in the night are my thighs as I make the midnight run to the latrine.   I love the season, but not the holiday.  I can’t wait until November, the month of pilgrims and gratitude.  As always, we have so much more to be thankful for than afraid of. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One of These Days

“One of these days” arrived last week.  Dennis and I went to Vermont.  For years, we have promised ourselves that one of these days we would do our “Robert Frost/east coast in the autumn” dream excursion.  But things just kept getting in the way.

First of all, we had babies.  And, because they were particularly cute, we opted not to eat our young, but feed them instead. Of course, there were days when we questioned that decision, but on the whole, there has not been much beget regret.

Then there was the little matter of Dennis’ practice.  He was either at the hospital, in the exam room, or on call.  So many patients.  So little time. This could have been irritating had it not been for the fact that we could pay our bills and feed our offspring. The girls were getting older, and had come to expect food, clothes and a roof as a right of their existence. 

Our world seemed to orbit around the girls’ mouths.  We filled them with food and drilled them for cavities.  And we single-handedly provided the financial wherewithall for their orthodontist to take an early retirement.  (He retired to the east coast one autumn.)

As the years came and went, Erin and Brodi went to high school with all its proms, football games, social interaction, and drama…a time of life that would strain even the financial empire of Bill Gates himself. 

And then came college.  Apparently both girls had actually internalized our recitation of  the catechism of higher education.  And the registrar demanded financial remuneration.  Apparently they didn’t consider the fact that the girls had teeth straighter than palace guards as tuition payment.  Pity.

Just when we thought we saw some possibility of heading east over the Rockies, both girls fell in love.  And we had weddings.  Boy Howdy! Did we have weddings!  And in the natural cycle of things, babies came.  More adorable babies.  And like the generation preceding, they, too, demanded to be fed regularly.

Traveling would be so much more convenient if life didn’t keep intruding on our GPS. 

However, we are now at a point in our lives where we probably have more yesterdays than tomorrows. So this fall, when two roads diverged in a yellow wood, we took the one less traveled by, and that really has made all the difference.

I’m not sure why we chose Vermont in particular.  Perhaps it was all those idyllic images from “White Christmas” of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing about snow and dancing as “the kids put on a show.” So, why not?

I love Vermont.  It is so quaint.  “Quaint” is not just visual.  “Quaint” is a mind-set.  It beckons you to gather around a hearth-fire and huddle under a quilt pieced by someone’s grandmother as she sat in her rocker.  “Quaint” has an aroma.  It’s warm, mellow apple cider and soup of barley and beef.  It’s the loamy smell of soil in autumn’s chill. It’s the perfect still-life.  Of course, the older people pictured in these Normal Rockwell tableaux never seem to be plagued by an aging bladder.  (After the third cup of sweet cider, not to mention several supplementary diet Cokes to throttle up the energy level with caffeine, Mother Nature gets ugly, and humiliation in polite society is one untimely sneeze away.) Thus, there are never any artist’s renditions of an up-ended cup of cider in mid-air suspended animation as a gray-haired granny is depicted as a mere blur  bookin’ it to the bathroom.  Pity.  There is no room in “quaint” for potty breaks.

Every corner on every street has a white clapboard church.  And every denomination ever conceived was represented in Vermont.  There was even one whose sign read “First Church of Something Something, Scientist.”  We passed too fast to read it exactly, but I did wonder if there was a certain IQ required for membership. Just down the road a ways was St. Somebody’s 2nd Church of Something Or Other.  I figured that was probably for the mentally deficient, or those who hadn’t done well enough on the entrance exam to be a “scientist.”  Ironically, the parking lot of THAT church was packed. 

Vermont has a plethora of unique warning signs for all the things that could possibly cross the highway as you’re traveling the byways.  There were silhouettes of cowboys on horses, moose, mountains with rocks crumbling down the slopes, and the universal image for the chronically confused – who probably should have been attending their church meetings instead of wandering out on the freeway.

There was even a sign specifically targeting bikers:  “Scarified pavement.  Motorcycles Exercise Caution.”  So those of us not on motorcycles continued driving carelessly. 

At one point, traffic was merged into one lane, and, as luck would have it, we happened to get behind a truck with a sign on the back that read:  “Construction Vehicle.  DO NOT FOLLOW.”  Well, we had no choice. There was simply nowhere to go. So we just averted our gaze as we trailed along behind, and tried not to make eye contact.

Vermont doesn’t have cities.  The whole state is comprised of hamlets, villages, boroughs, and towns with names like Bellows Falls, Westminster, and Dover.  Besides the traditional clapboard church, each village has a cemetery, usually located in a prominent place adjacent to the churchyard.  However, one cemetery was located at the end of a road marked “Dead End.”  We tried not to identify ourselves as tourists with our moronic laughter, but that was way hard.  Of course, exclaiming “Oh, my heck!” blew my cover as a rube from the West in the witness protection program.

Even the street names are charming:  Hummingbird Hill, Apple Valley, Birdsong Way, Gingerbread Corner.  One sign read, “Village Peddler:  Next Right.”  I wondered what the peddler would peddle. Utah is sadly lacking in village peddlers. I think our state needs to “Mayberry Up!”

The speed limit is 50 mph at its fastest.  But most roads do not exceed 30.  The pace is languid, not sluggish.  I like languid.  We saw signs warning of reduced speed ahead.  But reduced speed simply meant coming to a complete stop. 

Vermont is in a whole different time zone.  I was never sure just what time it was.  It’s pleasant to lose track of time.  Heck, with everything being so quaint, I even lost track of the century.  We mingled with people whose hair had never been chemically enhanced, and who would stand in clusters with their hands in their pockets and visit.  Rushing would violate their standard of behavior.

Houses are constructed with wrap-around porches whose inhabitants colonize rockers and Adirondack chairs so generously proportioned, they swallow the sitter from shoulder to knees.  Once you nestle into one of those babies, you’re in for the whole conversation.  Porch-sitting is a lost art.

We were able to visit Robert Frost’s home where he penned “Stopping By A Woods On A Snowy Evening.”  It was enchanting, located in the heart of fields and pastures.  I can see why he would be inspired by Nature.

As luck would have it, I, too, was “inspired by Nature,” and searched for a restroom.  Apparently, Robert Frost did not feel inclined to build such conveniences for tourists.  He seemed to prefer to ponder and write poems.  The proprietor indicated where to go, and it was actually Robert Frost’s own bathroom.  I sat and waited for inspiration.  Nothing happened.  However, there is a tradition among those so persuaded to write a parody of Frost’s famous poem.  So I, like others before me, decided to try my hand at it. 

Here goes.

Whose john this is I think I know.
But Robert Frost ain’t here no ‘mo.
He will not see me stopping here
To take a seat and rest my rear.

Dennis gave the keys a shake
To signal the end of potty break.
I threatened to take those keys and deposit
Them in the depths of the water closet.
So I hollered through the bathroom door
He was toast if he shook those keys once more.

The outhouse was lovely, dark and deep,
But we had itineraries to keep.
And miles to go before we’d peep.
And miles to go before we’d peep.

It was with great reluctance that we left Vermont.  We knew we had passed beyond the borders of “quaint” when we entered New York and motored through places named “Pittstown” and “Hoosick.”  They just didn’t have the same charm.

When we finally arrived home, and we were unpacking our bags, I saw a notice from the baggage handlers that announced they had randomly chosen my luggage for inspection.  What???  I couldn’t believe it.  I felt violated.  I dreaded what some stranger with rubber gloves and nefarious motives discovered about me as he rifled through my belongings.  What we pack reveals a lot about ourselves.

No doubt there is a guy working for Delta Airlines that now knows:
I have a fettish for empty calories with all the “Runts” and “Goobers” I had stashed in the side pockets just under the laundry.
I carry “dummy” lingerie on top of my shredded Minnie Mouse nightshirt just in case my suitcase accidentally falls open in public.
And then there are all the things (inserts, etc.) that constitute my shape shifters I use to alter my appearance I don’t even want to think about.

Oh, the humiliation.

It’s akin to death by a thousand duck nibbles.

One of these days, I’m going to write a scathing letter of protest to the TSA. 
But not for a while.  Right now we are celebrating.  Brodi always said that one of these days she would write a book.  And she did.  And someone wants to publish it. “One of these days” is actually January, 2012, when the book will be in the bookstores.  At the moment, we are all grinning and looking goofy, and exclaiming in unison, “OH MY HECK!”  We are in Utah, after all.