Thursday, September 04, 2008

Fork You

Yesterday I learned to drive the forklift. It was TOTALLY FUN! I wish my car had that kind of maneuverability. It would make parking in my small New England town so much easier.

I moved a pallet with empty bait barrels on it around the shop, so I got to use the forks and everything. Only toward the end did I realize the forklift had a rearview mirror. I'd been turning around and taking advantage of my yoga-trained flexibility. So I decided to use the mirror to fluff my hair and apply lipgloss. The Port Captain found that kind of funny. I'm not sure why.

At the end, I backed it into a corner, right up next to some lobster traps. I kept saying I was a Worker's Comp claim waiting to happen, but there were no casualties.

Now I'm wondering what else is totally fun that the mens have been keeping from me. The vote, peeing standing up, changing the oil in my car... the mind boggles.

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's Official: I Have A Crush On A Dead Man

And by "dead man," I don't mean someone who is lousy in bed, or incredibly dumb, or even on death row (although, at my age I suppose I can't be too fussy about any of those characteristics - except, of course, the first one). I mean a person who died in 1996.

That man is Gene Kelly. Okay, so the old-school pictures don't necessarily translate well into pixels, but that is a dreamy-looking guy. He was an accomplished singer, dancer, actor, director, choreographer, and producer. I'd be willing to bet that he was kind to his mother and never missed an opportunity to help widows and orphans. He just seems like that kind of guy on the silver screen - and movies never lie to us, do they?

How this infatuation came about is that I recently saw The Drowsy Chaperone at the Providence Performing Arts Center, and not only was the show awesome but it also reminded me how much I have always loved musicals.

A few weeks and one NetFlix subscription later, I watched Singin' In The Rain and I was in love. Gene did the choreography as well as some very fine singing, dancing, and acting in that movie, which led me to watch An American In Paris - a film he also choreographed. Now I've got On The Town and Gene Kelly: Anatomy of a Dancer waiting for me at home. Oh, and I'm also reading a biography of the man.

Clearly, I am obssessed.

Someone recently asked me what I find so attractive about him (okay, fine, it was my therapist, but it might be a question a friend would ask). Aside from his - excuse the cliche - movie star good looks, he was also incredibly talented in so many areas. He seems to have been one of those people who set a goal for himself and didn't rest until he reached it - someone who strove for excellence all the time. I admire that, even though (or maybe because) I am someone who is so much more easily defeated.

Then there's the dancing. Great day in the morning, the dancing! His style was athletic, energetic, and definitely masculine. He was incredibly strong, and yet graceful. Watching him, I am always amazed at how easy he makes it look.

I took ballet for twelve years. I know that most, if not all, of what Gene Kelly did was not easy at all. I also took tap for one year, but at age 30 and after all those years of ballet, it turns out that my hips were too turned out and I was the worst tap-dancer ever. I could perform the steps, but I could never get the noises right, which is sort of the whole point of tapdancing, don't you think?

On one hand, it proved that my mother may have known what she was doing when she refused to let me take tap when I was a kid because she didn't want to listen to the noise. On the other hand, I believe that the only time to take tap along with ballet is when you're a kid and building neural pathways like nobody's business. Which, I learned in the first chapter of Gene Kelly's biography, is exactly what he did and look where it got him.

Gene Kelly wasn't perfect. I've read enough on IMDb to know that he was a perfectionist and he could be a tyrant on a movie set. Apparently, he was the sort of man people either loved or loathed. He made Debbie Reynolds cry, for pete's sake! But somehow, amidst all the movie-musical glamour, that makes him more human. He worked hard and expected the same from the people who worked with him. I think most of us can relate to that far more than we can to many of the spoiled and self-indulgent movie stars of today.

Like the narrator in The Drowsy Chaperone, I've always thought that life would be infinitely nicer if, when I'm having a bad day, some friends would rally around and sing me a song about cheering up because tomorrow will certainly be better. Or if, instead of negotiating traffic after a long day at work, I could join my fellow Newporters in a rousing production number designed to leave us all feeling happy and refreshed.

So maybe a lot of my love for Gene Kelly has to do with the characters he played, and the fact that musicals always had a happy ending - which, as we know, is often not the case in real life.

Then again, it could be this simple: all that dancing gave the man a really fine ass.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Get Your Kicks

Part of what motivated me to visit my sister in Chicago (besides the obvious: that I haven't seen her in a year and a half and I miss her) was the opportunity to do a little driving on Route 66.

I'm not quite sure when I developed an obsession with The Mother Road, but I can tell you that it coincided with my discovery that there are a lot of kitschy and retro attractions all along the way. My love of the kitschy and retro has been mentioned here before. I am known to use the phrase "tacky, but in a good way," and mean it.

When I'm stressed out, I fantasize about packing everything I can into a U-Haul, sticking the cat in her carrier, and simply driving away from my life to start over elsewhere. I dream of hitting the open road - just me, the cat, a journal, and some good traveling tunes.

I thought it might be healthier to explore the road trip idea a little, but without actually running away from home and making my cat carsick. All that remained was selling my sister on the idea.

I knew we'd only have a day to do this in, and I wasn't sure she'd want to wander aimlessly around Illinois. So I did a little internet research and found an attraction we could base our trip around:

Gemini Giant, a 50-foot fiberglass spaceman outside the Launching Pad Diner in Wilmington. He's a relic from the 60s, when America's imagination was captured by the space program. It took some research and a call to the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce to make sure the diner was still open.

I emailed the information to my sister, and waited with trepidation, picturing that she might suddenly fear for my sanity - and, possibly, remember that she had something terribly important to do that weekend. Instead, she emailed back "That looks awesome."

I love my sister.

We had a great time driving from downtown Chicago to Wilmington. We passed through Joliet and bought sodas at a Route 66 tourist trap that had Jake and Elwood Blues dancing on top of it. We stopped at a gift shop and I bought a Route 66 shot glass (tacky, but in a good way), and got a little off course a couple of times (it's been a while since I've navigated, and my mind wandered). Finally, Rachel yelled "There he is!" and we saw our spaceman, right by the side of the road. We stopped, took some pictures, and ate a greasy lunch.

Outside the diner were some bikers. Another of my odd little hobbies is getting my photo taken with ineresting characters, so Rachel walked right up to them and asked if they'd mind posing with me. They were actually quite nice and agreed to the photo shoot.

We all look pretty chummy, don't we? You don't know the half of it. The one on the left has his hand on what I like to call my "hip-butt juncture."

It was a day to get your kicks on Route 66. And if feeling up a 44-year-old's ass is that guys idea of kicks, then God bless him. I just smiled for the camera and thanked them after the picture was taken. That's how I roll.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Stand Corrected

Yesterday, I was in the office alone, minding my own business, getting some work done, when the aforementioned Port Captain walked in.

After the usual greetings, he said "I have something to show you. Now, keep your hands to yourself and your eyes where they belong." He began to unbuckle his belt.

I was intrigued.

He turned around and showed me the top of one very small, very pink butt cheek. He'd been tanning bare-ass after all. Nice butt, too.

My life. I could not make this shit up if I tried.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Go Big Or Go Home

I was talking with one of the Port Captains yesterday (they provide shore support for the lobster boats), and he told me, in a very conspiratorial tone, that he's thinking of going to a tanning salon. He wants to even out his "dumpster man tan" - which, having grown up in the 'burbs, I didn't even know what that was. Turns out, he is referring to what the rest of us call a "farmer tan," but in the city, it's the sanitation workers that tan around their t-shirts. Who knew?

I thought it was really funny that he was whispering it to me like he was thinking about doing something illegal or immoral. But we are talking about a fisherman, and tanning in a salon is pretty metrosexual for a guy like that.

I laughed and said "You do some random funny stuff, you know that? But seriously, if you're going to tan, you've got to be buck naked. You need a tan butt." He looked at me like I'd lost my mind.

"If you're going to do random funny stuff, you need to commit to it. Go big or go home!"

I'm thinking about opening a diner in Amarillo with the help of a married man or a biker dude (while wearing lame' hot pants, can't forget the lame' hot pants), and this guy is worried about baring his butt in a tanning bed.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hoosier Fry Daddy?

You know how it is. Anytime you go to your parents’ house, you automatically revert to old patterns and roles. Maybe you were the smart one, or the pretty one, or the athletic one, and no matter how many years it’s been since you graduated from high school, as soon as you are in the presence of your family, the old label clings to you like a barnacle.

I wasn’t the smart one, the pretty one, or the athletic one. I’ve always been the one most likely to do something stupid to mess up her life. I don’t know how or when I got that particular label. I was a timid child, so it’s not like I was jumping off the roof wearing wings I’d made of construction paper, or anything like that.

Looking back over the years, however, I can’t deny that I’ve made some pretty stupid choices – and they are always big stupid choices. I can’t seem to be content with things like getting my phone shut off for non-payment or thinking that Paris Hilton is an excellent fashion role model for a middle-aged woman. Oh no, I’d never do either of those things. In fact, my life is fairly routine and regimented. My bills get paid, my apartment gets cleaned, and – unlike Paris – I wear slips and underwear, just like my mother taught me.

But occasionally, it’s as if I stumble across a handful of magic beans and I decide to plant them just to see what will happen. And next thing you know, I am on a ferry with my cat and all my worldly goods, moving to Nantucket to live with a guy young enough to be my son. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. It always does.

My youngest sister, Rachel, was The Good Child. Seriously, she was. I am fourteen years older than she is, and I remember how easy-going a child she was. Pretty, smart, sweet – a parent’s dream. She went on to get a good education and a series of good jobs. She’s the successful one… except, now, at 30, she is contemplating a big career change. As in leaving the business world of Chicago and becoming a horse trainer in Austin, Texas.

I vary between wanting to be a fly on the wall when she has that little conversation with our mother, and thinking “Wait a minute, I’m the big disappointment in the family. Back off my turf, sister.”

I also worry that as The Good Child, she has no idea what sleeping dogs of war she’s about to awaken. I wonder if she has the skills to handle what is about to come barreling at her. So, despite the fact that I really enjoy my job, I thought that in sisterly solidarity, I’d join her in her quest for a new life. I cooked up the idea of opening a diner together on Route 66 outside Amarillo called Two Sisters, where the uniform includes lame’ hot pants.

Somehow, though, the idea simply does not seem big enough. I was talking with a friend, brainstorming about how I could set the screw-up bar so high that none of my siblings could hope to reach it. He suggested I have an affair with a married man, waving his wedding band in my general direction and asking “How can I help?”

When I finished cleaning up the mess I’d made from spewing tea while I laughed, I said, “It needs to be bigger. You’d have to run away to Texas with me and become my fry cook.” (What a diner really needs is a fry cook with a master’s degree. Am I right?)

Upon reflection, however, I realize that there are a couple of other candidates who would make my family’s hair stand on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine. For example, I work with several heavily tattooed lobstermen with criminal records. (Just so you know, I don’t haul trawls; I push paper.) I’ve seen a lot of bearded guys zooming around on Harleys lately. The mind boggles at the possibilities.

I’ve decided that the best way to handle this is to try it as a statement: “My daughter ran away to Texas with a married man and opened a diner where she wears lame’ hot pants to work every day. He’s the fry cook.” Or, “My daughter ran away to Texas with a burnt out, heavily-tattooed lobsterman. She opened a diner and wears lame’ hot pants to work every day.” How about “My daughter ran away to Texas on the back of a Harley with some guy who looks like a member of ZZ Topp, and now he’s the fry cook at the diner she runs while wearing lame’ hot pants.”

Except, I’m not so sure that last one is viable, because I don’t believe my parents actually know who ZZ Topp were. (Are?)

I think of it as a public service, really. My siblings can forever more be up to all manner of crazy things and our parents won’t even blink. It’s like I’m handing them a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card.

Merry Christmas for the rest of your lives, y’all.