Holiday Inn, 1965.
We took the first two weeks in Aug every year to go somewhere as family. Whirlpool shut down those weeks for maintenance and everyone went on vacation then. I guess Fort Smith (and Benton Harbor) emptied out and Labor Flight commenced.
Ann's in college, the 5 of us are almost done traveling together en masse. This is the trip to meet Senator McClellan (powerful but not scandalous) in DC (not to be confused with Sen Wilbur Mills and Fanne Foxe --"The Tidal Basin Bombshell", one of my favorite scandals, 1974, when Mills was caught driving drunk with stripper Foxe in DC, she jumped out of car and over side of bridge to escape) Daddy and McClellan were friends from Dad's time on the United States Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management since Daddy testified years previously during some hearings about collective bargaining and other areas of his expertise.
We are all on the final BIG vacation of the family, and that meant even Ann, who was in her junior (?) year in Razorbackville. College began after Labor Day then, I think.
The family stayed in one motel room (obviously) with a "rollaway" bed for Ann. Not FAIR!! NOT FAIR!! John and Dad in one double bed, Mom and me in the other, Tri-Delt sorority Ann in rollway. Man was I jealous! I wanted that bed ...
I remember Ann coming out of bathroom with her 1⁄2 slip pulled up to above her bra, as a sort of mini-dress, as she was grabbing her clothes and going back into bathroom to finish dressing. Man did I think she was COOL doing that. I asked Mom about it and she told me Ann saw that on Peyton Place on TV and that Ann wasn't supposed to watch that nighttime soap but she did and that was all they could do ... oh she was cool, that Ann.
So we are on our way to Washington DC from Ark. in Daddy's stationwagon with fins, it died a couple years after but made that trip in fine form with a mechanic installed AC unit hanging under the dash. John would see the Smithsonian, I would meet the pony of my dreams. I'm not sure what was in it for Ann, probably not having to work. She didn't "do" summer jobs like some of us did. She was too busy with Tri Delts and rush and all those important activities, including buying Madras anoraks and cashmere sweaters with dyed to match skirts.
We were near VA for the final slog through Williamsburg before going into DC. Daddy took us to the Pony Penning the day before as a special nod to me and my love of Misty. Insanely wonderful surprise ...
Middle of the night, I wake up gagging and choking. Mom is holding me down on the bed trying to stuff the bedspread and blanket INTO MY MOUTH. I start yelling and thrashing around. Daddy gets up, comes over to Mom, lays his hand on her shoulder, says, "Give it up Ruth, she can't help it... let her go... "
My brother sleeps through it. My sister glares at me from across the room in HER private rollaway bed.
I sit up, ask, "why are you trying to kill me?"
Ann says, "because you're an idiot ..."
Mom says, "You are grinding your teeth so loud we're all losing our minds ..."
"Not John..." I point out.
"Idiot," says Ann.
It is seared into my memory -- along with a night soon after when Ann begged Mom and Dad to let her watch Peyton Place. Daddy started making fun of it, Ann was furious. One of the best Bob-Sayings came from that night: "Rodney's gonna' knock a lung out of Elliott".
Peyton Place!? These silly Housewives of the Terdman Heights have nothing on that show!
For the last decade or perhaps more, my friend Ernest comes to the house mid-November with a sign-up sheet for his church's annual citrus fruit sale. The Love, Faith and Victory Tabernacle is a small Christian community in a small Southern town (my small Southern town).
Ernest and I met back in 1991 when he introduced himself as the neighborhood helping man. His words. He also drove the City's garbage truck. Working in a capacity such as driver for any City vehicle, a man or woman achieves a level of respect matched by any professional occupation in this town. Does that make sense? It's my wonky way of saying that Ernest, even though his job was something many would consider lowly on the face of its description of his duties, became a pillar of the community.
The many years Ernest spent driving the huge truck created some medical problems. His right hip needed replacement and he waited until he retired to have the surgery. He walks with a much more dignified air about him now that his gait is straighter and he is in control of his movements (as opposed to pain being his navigator). Ernest came by mid-November and I ordered, as I always do, navel oranges and tangelos. For $36 I have my two boxes of glorious Florida goodness. The tangelos are incredible this year. So juicy, I had to change shirts after eating three of them because my sleeves were wet.
I've been friends with Ernest ever since the first moment I met him. Not something I say about many people, one must usually prove one's self to be called "friend". Right?
And now Tangelo Thumb. It's the raw space under my fingernail from digging into the skin of too many tangelos. Citrus Thumb. After eating almost a dozen tangelos in the last 24 hours, my poor thumb! I try eating the citrus fruit by cutting it with a knife, sectioning it and imitating Marlon Brando's garden scene in The Godfather but the process of removing the skin, peeling the tangelo remains a sweet holiday joy for me.
I wouldn't give up having this sore thumb for anything. And the same is true for my friendship with Ernest, who arrived on my front porch around 9:30 p.m. last night, shining a flashlight into the living room window and hollering "VALERIE! IT'S ERNEST!" -- giving Caroline and me the fright of our life. And also a belly laugh as he remembered my daughter on the day he met her, "a little bit of thing and now look at you, so hard working and I know you are, running a company ... been to college ... is there anything you need? If there is, you call Ernest, your mom has my number"
Not three days ago I stood on the porch with weepy eyes and a bleak outlook, telling my husband, "We don't have any traditions any more. Not one holiday event recreates what I remember, the way it used to be for ME."
Not three days ago -- I forgot Ernest was my holiday tradition. And tangelo thumb.
Taking a few months off from blogging to feed the beast. Thought I'd use the mini-iPad to do the dirty deed but it's a pain in the ass to type on the little bitty blue tooth keyboard and it seems I just get started and the battery goes kerplunk. Had to wait to get here into the studio with the trusty iMac, the real deal, to type out some words of wiz.
Thank you to all my Dead Mule supporters. I have the $$ in trust, and it will be showing up in 2014 in the guise of either writing contests or t-shirt giveaways. Or it will be used to pay server fees and domain name registration fees because I know that's what you, my dearest online friends, want me to do with it.
The studio portion is complete. Four rooms complete with kitchen and even a laundry room/shower facility. Upstairs living quarters are next. We'll start advertising for campers for Summer 2014 by mid-spring. I know, it's a little late in the season by then but the summer season is late Aug - early Sept so there's plenty of time!
To celebrate the four rooms we now have four dogs.
Clown dogs and the old man dog, Thompson.
Look forward to: product reviews. Product comparisons. Art previews. Monetary tributes to an all-star cast.
Soon it will be 2014. Newness. Check it out then. Not now. Now is not good. I'll just be over here in my little chair. Cursing Paper53 because it lost hours and hours of my work. Applauding "Sketches" because it saved my hours and hours of work. Yeah, Paper53, you so disappointed me. Hooray LateNiteSoft! You rule my sketching world.
Remember: when in doubt, grab and pad of paper and a pencil. Maybe a sketchpad and some pens. Some paints, a paintbrush and a canvas. Old school beats new school. New school needs a battery. New school needs a stylus. New school loses your work.
It is a world wherein abstinence from political thought and discussion is almost a sin. Republicans in US Congress develop a fear of the known, those who control thoughts in minority districts... minorities of thought, not race. Those who believe in less government demand more government to control the ill-defined limited government they embrace.
Available on October 4th, this Friday, the new Mule will feature over 30 personal essays -- MEMOIRS of a Certain Type.
Stay tuned for more information.
over and out.