Earlier this week I was working on Abigail’s Halloween costume and couldn’t help but look back at last year’s flamingo costume. I know. It’s amazing. Isn’t she the cutest thing you ever did see?
That’s a rhetorical question.
Now she is a year older and a year bigger. All she wants is Elmo. I offered to make her an Elmo costume but Bubba and Kerry thought dressing as Elmo might confuse her (“Where is Elmo?” “Who is Elmo?” “I am Elmo?” “Elmo is me?”) which is a valid concern. She’s not even two years old and already pushing the boundaries of Existentialism because THAT’S HOW GENIUS SHE IS.
Sorry for the shouting. It’s an Aunt thing.
Today I was chatting with Kelly who mentioned her son Jack is wearing an Elmo costume this year (Jack is a little bit older and can handle the Elmo-Is-Me soul prodding)…she mentioned that after Halloween, “you could easily make into a pillow or something.”
If Elmo could be turned into a pillow, could any costume turn into something else? Like, for instance, could I sew up the edges of an abominable snowman costume and stuff it with batting and leave him to sit on my stairs year round?
Or, this Kermit costume? What if I stuff a giant Kermit costume with chicken wire and raw cotton and and leave him hanging around the house when I’m not there. That’s a burglar deterrent if I ever heard of one. I mean, who would rob Kermit? If I was a burglar and came to someone’s house and found a life-size Kermit doll sitting on the couch, reading a magazine, eating crackers and all, I would think, “Damn, there is some freaky business going on in this house. Let’s hit them up next door.”
So now I pretty much need to purchase or make an head-to-toe adult size costume this Halloween. It’s a matter of safety. But what costume? Hmmm….
My childhood neighbors, the Robersons, liked to dip things in gold. Brass, actually. Shoes, watches, army hats, pieces of machinery…even a guitar pic from a guy who played backup for Elvis. Nothing was too good to get the dip.
The Robersons, a lively retired couple, were known across the neighborhood for throwing impromptu Samba parties in their driveway complete with Perry Como music and custom cocktails with exotic names like Swamp Gas and Singapore Sea Breeze.
Mrs. Roberson would don a sequin cocktail frock and wheel out the bar cart, while Mr. Roberson flirted with the neighborhood females, regaling war stories from his days in Korea. “See this scar? Man doesn’t get a scar like that at the beauty parlor, no sir, that’s a bohica burn that’s what that is. Battle of Old Baldy, that’s what that is. They never saw us coming.” And everyone would shake their head and click their tongues as if to say, I know. I know. I saw it all go down on M.A.S.H. last week.
Folks would bring their own glass, sometimes a bottle, and sometimes, on special occasions, Mr. Elfman from down the road would bring his world famous whiskey milk punch. I am not proud to say that, at age nine, my first experience with alcohol consisted of ten feeble sips of Mr. Elfman’s milk punch followed by a mighty spray of vomit across the side of Roberson’s garage. I don’t remember much after that, but one of the neighborhood boys later described it as, “The raddest spew ever!”
The next morning at breakfast, my father informed me that me that I would be going back to Roberson’s house to apologize for 1. Vomiting all over the side of their garage and 2. Drinking their booze without bringing any for the host. The issue of underage drinking never came up.
Mortified and still slightly whoozy from the milk punch, I ran over straight away, going so far as to offer to weed their garden or scrub down their garbage cans, anything they wanted, just so long as it didn’t involve another drink. Mr. Roberson, who also looked a little whoozy from the night before, slapped his knee and declared, “Charlene, let her polish the brass. I hate that sh*t and you’re too old to see straight.” Then led me to the library where I proceeded to spend the day polishing brass knick-knacks with a tube of Close Up cinnamon tooth paste.
Mr. Roberson was partner in a tool and die factory that made parts for heating and cooling systems—not what you might call glamorous work but made him a lot of money. So much so, every time a new cog or gizmo made him a dollar, he had that dipped in brass and mounted on a piece of wood to put on display in their home library. Business flourished and the collection never stopped growing. That afternoon alone, I polished enough brass pieces to fill the shelves of their wall-to-wall library bookshelves, plus Mr. Roberson’s highly intricate war-themed chess set, complete with brass canons with real cannon balls. “There’s real gun powder in them cannon balls. Don’t polish too hard, less you want to the amo to go and blow off your hand.”
I polished slowly.
It was hard work, but at the end of the day, I stood back, impressed with my work and declared to no one in particular, “One day I will be the sort of grown up who has a room full of golden knick-knacks.”
And here we are.
Last week my apartment was posted in a house call from Apartment Therapy, wherin I mentioned my “solid gold garden gnomes” which prompted an email from Alice, who asked, where are your gnomes and where can I get some of my own.
Well Alice, these are not only garden gnomes, they are naughty garden gnomes: one is pooping, the other is mooning. If I could have found one in mid-vomit, I would have purchased it too. SUBTLE NOTE TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS: MY BIRTHDAY IS AROUND THE CORNER.
The gnomes started out as traditional plastic garden gnomes—a gag gift. I always wanted to put them in my garden but feared they would get stolen or offend someone. Then I though, well, if I am going to offend someone, why not do it in solid gold. Tastefull. Trump-like. I always wanted a room full of solid gold knick-knacks. No time like the present.
The pooping gnome was painted in antique liquid brass, and the moon gnome was done in 24k gold leaf, because, you know, I like to keep it classy.
Guys, meet Wolfy. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing* and, as pictured above on the left, a gift from my fourth birthday. As you can see, I also got a Snoopy Sno-cone Machine** that day. It was a very good year.
Wolfy was one of the few stuffed animals I truly loved as a child and one of the very, very few that I managed to keep all these years. Cloaked as a simple lamb, his job was to sit at the foot of my bunk bed and guard against monsters and bogymen, ready to bust out of his disguise, bare his teeth, and rip apart any potential source of danger. Sort of like Twilight, except everyone kept their shirt on.
*Note, I only recently learned that the expression A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing, is a bad thing. Apparently it comes from the Bible and is something one is supposed to avoid (Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves)…Does everyone know this except me? And if so, why would they make stuffed animals of false prophets? This is slightly disturbing, but somehow, it makes me appreciate Wolfy (and Twilight) a little more.
**Speaking of false prophets, I have a critical news flash: SNOOPY’S SNO CONE MACHINE IS STILL IN PRODUCTION. Buy it here and you can have it in hand before this blessed heat wave is over. Your welcome.
It’s a very creative donkey display, don’t you think?
Hard to believe they have been dead since before you were born.
That’s the hallmark of quality taxidermy you know—they look younger than you.
Actually, I once had a job working for a taxidermist.
And by job, I mean eight hours spread over two days in a basement full of freezers while wearing a gas mask and listening to Fleetwood Mac.
And by taxidermist, I mean an artist who specialized in bodily restoration.
That’s what he called it: bodily restoration.
Working for a taxidermist probably strikes most people as gross, but I didn’t mind. Embarrassing? Sure, but I was young and the money was good and I figured I had seen plenty of dead stuff in my day. What was one more raccoon?
And besides, the taxidermist was a very nice man—not like these weirdo taxidermists you see on TV who live in their parents’ basement and get off on collecting body parts—quite the contrary, he was quiet and gentle with soft voice and an immaculate work space. Lots of coasters. Cleanest mustache you ever saw. Sometimes he would talk to the animals as he worked and say things like “are you sure you want to twist your neck to look to the right? The squirrel in the tree is on the left. See here….that’s better, isn’t it?” and of course, everyone agreed the left would be a much nicer place to gaze upon for all eternity.
On the downside, he smelled strange and listened to way too much Stevie Nicks. This one time, he told me he could only install glass eyeballs while listening to Sara because it “inspires an inner serenity” which was major creepy, yet, oddly complimentary, no?
I liked to think when Stevie Nicks sat down to compose the piece, she thought, I want to write a song that entrances a man into state so serene he is fit to install glass eyeballs into the head of a bird carcass.
You know, apparently Sara was actually written about Mick Fleetwood’s first wife, but I’m pretty sure Stevie is going to change her story when she hears my theory.
Anyway, this job, with the taxidermist, would be the first of two jobs where I was hired entirely based on the appearance of my hands. The moment the taxidermist saw them he flipped them over, held them to the light and declared they were “the hands of jeweler!”
He was getting up in years and his hands were not as steady as they used to be. Stuffing and sawing were not a problem, but he needed someone with steady hands to glue individual hairs and feathers around the facial features of the deceased. See, (and feel free to skip ahead if you just ate), if you have ever seen a dead animal, you know the areas around the eye sockets and mouth are the first to decompose, and since making a dead animal look alive again relies heavily on the appearance of realistic hair, my job would be of critical importance. He made a big deal about valuing my time and my talent, which was a first for me in the workplace. It’s hard to say how much I appreciated it at the time. Hallmark just doesn’t make cards for these things.
This post has already gotten more gruesome than I intended, so I’ll spare you the details of my eight hours of bodily restoration boot camp, sufficed to say, I quit shortly after a phone call with a client in Missouri who wanted me to color match the innards of a fox to see if they would be appropriate to use in his fishing gear. It didn’t matter how much I needed the money, a girl has standards.
Blah blah blah, where was I going with this? Oh yes, the taxidermied donkeys. So last weekend, Kiki and I went to the Field Museum, which is sort of like Chicago’s natural history museum—an essential library of taxidermy species, plus a basement of archived creatures that the public never gets see. The taxidermist I worked for was always very proud to say he had several birds on display at the Field, but I won’t show you pictures of them because I cannot remember which ones belong to him. I think there was an African partridge or two. Or something. Oh, I’m a bad employee…
|Photo Caption Wanted
Anyway, while we were at the Field, I saw these donkeys on display. The taxidermist was highly critical of how subjects are positioned and thought they should mimic their natural environment. I’m guessing the people at the Field Museum are of similar ilk, so I wonder, honestly; what the hell is going on here?
These donkeys—are they kissing? Are they greeting? And that one in the middle looks shocked. It sort of looks like a scene from Three’s Company with Jack and Janet smooching on the couch and Krissy just walked in from the Regal Beagle.
Or maybe it’s something else.
I can’t decide. But it’s a very creative donkey display, don’t you think?
Y’all have to see this.
I was clearing out an old box last weekend and unearthed this old thing; it’s a cathedral window valance I made ages and ages ago. Note: I am not a quilter. Also note: as someone who struggles to complete simple tasks like opening mail and putting on pants, this bad boy is a masterpiece.
Each one of those squares took an hour or more to make, BY HAND. Not machine. HAND. That means every little square is snaked with 100% cotton thread soaked in my saliva and the trails of bloody thumbprints.
Wait here, you’re telling me you have a red and purple quilted window valance AND it’s soaked in bodily fluids? Why on earth would you keep that in a box? Shame on you, Peaches. Home decor that sexy deserves to be on display.
So true. Shame, shame on me.
|That aint cat hair you’re looking at.
Why don’t you include an instructional tutorial on how to make this, so I can have my very own red and purple quilted window valance soaked in bodily fluids?
Gosh, I would love to show you how to make these, but alas I am at a loss. I learned how to make cathedral window quilt squares from my Aunt Pat many years ago, who learned it from her mother-in-law years earlier, who learned it from hers, and so on, and so on, and so on. It appears to be one of those ‘cottage arts’ that is being lost through the generations. Just now, I found lots of stuff on the interwebs about making cathedral window quilts by machine or using shortcuts (I adore her voice on this one–I could listen to her for hours!) but the end results do not appear to be the same as the style featured here. Maybe it’s a Mississippi thing. Maybe it’s an Aunt Pat thing. Well, bottom line is I have no clue. If anyone has a good tutorial, feel free to link up in the comments. I for one would not mind a refresher course 🙂
|Stuckey’s truck stops make the best pecan candy. It’s so amazing, we’ll forgive them for spelling “y’all” wrong.
This photo was taken March 21, 1991. Twenty years ago today.
I remember because it was my half birthday, and back then, something as momentous as a half birthday seemed pretty darn important.
We were on an excursion to Vicksburg, outside Stuckey’s getting gas and pecan log rolls. I was goofing off and taking pictures of my cousins using scotch tape to deform their faces when my Uncle Tom leaned over and quietly suggested we take a photo of the sign. He said, You’ll want to remember this one day.
I obliged and didn’t think much of it. I knew the Gulf War had just ended and all the adults were talking about the price of gas and how ticked off they were that it hadn’t gone back to being under a dollar a gallon. Funny thing is, somehow, in my mind, I honestly thought Uncle Tom meant I would one day tell my children about the time…When I was a kid and there was a war on and we were willing to pay as much as $1.13 a gallon!
Truth is Uncle Tom worked in the oil industry for decades and probably saw what was coming today. You ought to hear what he has to say about tomorrow….
I think $1.13 looks pretty good right now.
I was cleaning out some old storage containers last weekend when I found these wooden chairs and boxes that my Uncle Joe made for me many years ago.
Cool Uncle, huh?
They got packed away the last time I moved only to be unearthed now, after years in hiding. It’s funny, I used to look at these as everyday objects but now that they have been away for a while, it’s much easier to appreciate their value. His artwork is all over my house, and even though it’s special to me, sometimes it becomes so familiar that I fail to stand back and admire and appreciate it as much as it, and he, deserves,
Uncle Joe started selling his artwork long before I was born, but despite his success and artistic chops, he has never been pretentious about how we treated or displayed his work. I think he liked the idea of my Barbies sitting down for tea time in these chairs. I think he liked the idea of using his boxes to store my stickers and clip-on earrings. I think he was, and is, uncomfortable with the idea of his work being put on some sort of pedestal, which is funny because he was always the first person to put my own work on a pedestal, crayon doodles and all.
When I turned nine he gave me my first set of oil paints…
Unrelated Tangent: unless you are exceptionally confident in the child’s artistic abilities and *you* are directly responsible for stain management in the home, NEVER GIVE A NINE-YEAR-OLD OIL PAINTS.
…my Dad eventually had to hide them from me for fear I would paint that cat Cerulean Blue, but not before I finished a simple 8×10” canvas of a street light. It wasn’t much to look at, but as I recall there was an excess of texture, something that makes just about any piece impressive looking to amateur painters. I called it Rapunzel Fire Hair.
Sadly I do not have a photo to share, as Uncle Joe was so impressed with my artistic skill that he wrapped up the canvas in brown paper and sent it to one of his gallery contacts in Santa Fe to see if they would be interested in carrying a “young and upcoming artist.”
Two weeks later a letter arrived at house addressed to me. It was on formal letterhead (a first in my book) and included a check for $25.00 made out in my name (another first). The note indicated that the gallery was not carrying oil paintings that season, however, they wished to keep Rapunzel Fire Hair as an addition to their private collection, and as “down payment on future opportunities together.”
As you can imagine, I was over the moon and envisioned a lengthy career as an oil painter, in Paris of course, wearing blousy white shirts and eating croissants day and night.
Sadly, a few years later, in the middle of an adolescent tantrum, as I threatened to run away to Santa Fe to become a wildly successful painter of street lights, my Dad informed me of the truth: Uncle Joe had put the gallery up to it. He sent a letter to his friend the curator, and $25 check of his own, requesting they send me an encouraging rejection letter and a check for the same amount. Uncle Joe knew that a single letter would encourage me and validate my work for years and years, long after the check was cashed, and even after I found out the truth.
Cool Uncle, huh?
|One of my favorite pictures of him, working away at make-shift studio set up in my parent’s dining room, surrounded by paint brushes and scrap wood.
Y’all, meet Ahmed. My favorite Christmas decoration. He may not look Christmasy, but believe it or not, he reminds me of the baby Jesus in the most wonderful way you can imagine. Ahmed, in all his glitter and glory, is a Tool of Worship.
As someone whose system of beliefs runs “deep and polka dotted” the holidays make me keenly aware of our diversity in faith. Christmas time can drudge up a lot of confusion for people who fall outside to picket fences of organized religion.
Do you say Merry Xmas or Happy Holidays?
Do you get offended if I just typed Xmas instead of Christmas?
Do you get offended by people who erect a Christmas tree in their home but never bother to celebrate the birth of Christ?
Do you get offended by people who hang dreidels on the Christmas trees?
Do you sometimes wonder, “Why the hell am I up at the butt crack of dawn roasting this damn turkey for four kids who will be too full of chocolate Santas to appreciate this hard work?”
Don’t answer that.
I have a confession: I’m not Aunt Peaches. My real name is Second-Cousin Peaches. See, I don’t have any siblings, or, not in the typical sense at least. So being an Aunt is pretty much impossible.
Disappointed in me? I’m not. My niece Abigail’s Dad, Bubba, and his two siblings, Katie and John, are as close to brothers and sisters as I have ever known. We are close in age, and played and fought and sang and screamed and burped in each other’s faces the same as siblings. We even went to school together. I saw two of them just last weekend.
Abigail is named after my Mother who passed away when I was young, and who loved my cousins same as she loved me. They were, and are, my family. So when I was twelve, and they up and moved to Saudi Arabia, I was heartbroken. Years later I realized that their move was best thing that ever happened to me but that’s a story for another time.
How much do you know about Saudi Arabia? You probably know they aren’t exactly friendly toward Westerners like you and me. They keep a strict interpretation of Islamic law and are perceived to isolate themselves from outsiders in general. Its home to Mecca, which is as sacred as it gets in the Islamic system of beliefs.
Tangent: If you are not familiar with the basic tenets of Islam, but you think that everyone on the planet should know about your religion, I want you to stop reading this and click right here right now. Yes, now. Read it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Look, I’m not trying to evangelize any point of view here; I just don’t think anyone has any business running their mouth before they open their ears.
My family lived on a compound that functioned in the same way you hear people describe army bases in other countries–like a small town with walls and its own school, grocery store, post office etc. Thing is, even if everyone on this private compound was American or Canadian, they still lived under Saudi Arabian law. Breaking these laws could lead deportation or imprisonment, or better yet, corporal punishment, including the public amputation of your hand or foot, or maybe just a good ol’ fashioned flogging. Getting stoned to death in the town square was a not uncommon. Fun stuff, huh?
*Folks, I’m no international legal scholar, but let me give you a few of the more memorable highlights:
- No drugs or alcohol of any kind. You couldn’t buy Wild Turkey in the whole dang country!
- Human rights were not a priority. Women were treated sort of the same way our society would treat a small child –no voting, no driving, no walking around alone in strange places. Technically, I believe they could own property but no bank would accept their signature without her husband’s written authority. Women would shroud themselves head to toe in a type of dark body veil called an abiyah. Now, I know plenty of ladies who will tell you the abiyah is a liberating experience, but you sure could have fooled me. I could chit-chat about this for ages, but this story is already making me ramble, so if you want to hear more about human rights in Saudi Arabia, or women’s right’s in particular, I suggest you read Princess. It was real popular a few years back and might be outdated by now, but I tell you, it is a fascinating read.
- Freedom of speech did not exist. Openly criticizing the government was forbidden.
- Western influence is shunned at every opportunity. People would tell stories about buying a magazine in London for the plane ride into Saudi, where promptly upon arrival, a little man at the customs counter would flip through your magazine with a giant black marker and ink out any unsuitable images of girls in swimsuits, pictures of booze, etc..Click here to see images of Mariah Carey albums as they are sold inside Saudi Arabia vs. Everywhere Else. Fascinating stuff.
- Freedom of religion does not exist. This was a big one. The Government strictly prohibited the public practice of any religion besides Islam. There were no churches. Non-Islamic/foreign/temporary workers were allowed to enter and live in the Kingdom, but they could only worship in secret inside the privacy of their homes. Items like Bibles and crucifixes were as illegal as drugs or violent weapons. Oh wait, violent weapons weren’t illegal at all. Just the same, sometimes people would sneak them in by hiding them in their luggage in a box of tampons or wrapped in dirty underwear, but it was risky. Any item deemed a “Tool of Worship” would be confiscated on the spot, and the person carrying the item could be deemed a zealot missionary and sent back to where they came from. This could also mean that you, or your family’s breadwinner, would loose their visa and thier job and be deported on the spot. Sometimes Westerners were given some slack, but generally speaking, the rules were firm and unfavorable.
* Please note my crass summary of these laws is mostly written in the past tense. I have read the Saudi Arabian legal system has come a long way in the last twenty years but I am inclined to think some things never change. I hope you’ll do your own research before forming an opinion. If someone reading this has first hand experience and would like to pipe up, well go ahead and chime in. I’m all ears.
So, given what I just said, how do you think people celebrated Christmas in a place like that? Not like you can find a contraband Christmas tree in the desert. There are no chestnuts roasting on the fire. No jingle bells to jangle. What would you do to mark the season?
You would get creative, that’s what you would do! And that’s just what these families did. Thousands of them, every year would build Christmas trees out of cardboard and tomato cages or string lights on potted plants. Now that stuff seems trendy and eco-conscious, but back then, for them, it was the only option. Isn’t that wonderful?
My favorite story was about people building nativity scenes out of children’s toys. Sometimes they were nothing more than a manger made of a simple blanket fort with a few teddy bears underneath. Other times they got real elaborate and theatrical; Barbie and Mr. Potato Head sat in for Mary and Joseph. Gi-Joes offered gifts of gold, frankincense, and murr, as a family of My Little Ponies looked on. Swarms of farm animals could be swapped in for matchbox cars or tiny plastic army soldiers. Jesus was usually played by a Polly Pocket Doll, or they made him themselves out of clay.
Somewhere along the way I heard about a lady in Riyahd whose young son had outgrown his dinosaur obsession. She took the contents of his rejected toy chest, dipped them in glue and glitter, and went to town. The end result was a glittering nativity scene that took over most of their living room. They said it was wonderful. Some people might think that sounds scandalous, but I think it must have been beautiful. More important, it says something about how each of us can find a way to celebrate our family and our faith, even when we in the most unwelcoming surroundings.
Gosh, that storyline sounds familiar….reminds me of this of this baby that was born in cold dark barn, surrounded by humble creatures while worshiped by angels and kings. I wonder if there is a connection? (That’s sarcasm.)
Years passed….my family moved back to the US and we were back to tearing up the holidays with evergreen trees and A Barbra Streisand Christmas Album. (That’s not sarcasm.)
The holidays seemed much the same as always until the Christmas Eve after my father died. I was twenty and didn’t have anywhere to go. I was still in college and my friends had all gone home for the holidays and my boyfriend was working late in a restaurant. I couldn’t afford to travel to see my extended family down South. Probably just as well I was alone that night because I was really good at feeling sorry for myself. I mean, realllllly sorry. Like, Real Housewives of New Jersey style sorry. So I sat there and cried and watched It’s a Wonderful Life. Eventually I got bored and frustrated and started cleaning…one thing lead to another and it was time to take the garbage out.
Just as I got to the alley behind my apartment, I saw him there. Standing on the edge of the dumpster waiting for me, a tuft of snow on his green plastic head. It was dark outside and there was the halo of a street light shining down around.
I have never seen a living nativity but I’m pretty sure the feeling of awe and wonderment I felt in that moment by the dumpster is as close to a spiritual fireworks as I will ever know.
Sure, it was just a just toy on a trash can. Sure, it was probably just some leftover trinket some kid dropped while carrying his other Christmas loot. Sure, that snow had been projected for days. Sure, that light shined down on that dumpster to keep the rats away. Sure, there were a hundred people walking down that alley who could have stumbled in at any moment….but in that moment, in my moment, I was sure that dinosaur was meant for me.
Two minutes later, I was back in my apartment, plastic dinosaur in hand. Ten minutes later he was dipped in glue and glitter. Thirty minutes later he was situated on top of the TV, surrounded by mementos; photos, books, a wallet, a necklace, a piece of ribbon…it must have been an odd sight to see them there, piled up on the TV that night, but what did that matter? It was an inventory of the people and places I love most. Not so much objects of desire, but tools of worship.
Six month update: To my surprise, this post created some controversy.
Click here to read what happened next.
This is all your fault. I have decided you owe me. And now I have a request.
See, a few weeks ago, while under the influence of prescription cough syrup, I made this necklace out of pearls and fingernails. Fierce right? Then I went and wrote an unreasonably long post about why I made the aforementioned necklace. Why? Because, frankly, the cough syrup went to my head and who else is going to listen to me spill my guts on these things? Blogging is free and cheaper than therapy. You should totally try it sometime.
My post was the story of a raging former beauty queen and her children’s lemming like capacity for common sense. It even included a “pre pubescent Texan stripper” reference that generated a lovely email from a real-life not-so-pubescent former Texan stripper named Jacqueline (hey Jax!), who, I might add, has promised to teach me to dance something called the rocket ship if I come to Fort Worth and show her how to make crepe paper flowers. I am really looking forward to it.
I also got some other emails, including three about you, Mr. Diamond. See, somewhere in the middle of my epic and Tolstoy-esque eloquence, I mentioned that my Mom loved your music. It played non-stop in our house for years. When she got sick, my dad installed speakers and stereo wires all over our house so she could hear your music playing in every room. Even the bathroom. Have you ever listened to the Jungletime in the shower? No? Let me tell you something: it’s Friggin Rad.
Thing is, Mr. Diamond, that line about your music was scarcely more than a mention in a very long story. No one gave a hoot about that fingernail necklace. It’s all about you, you, you.
Then, last week, again I mentioned your song Porcupine Pie and got more emails, all about you. Don’t get me wrong, I love your music almost as much as I love getting emails, but dude, Mr. Diamond, you stole my thunder.
I am mad at you.
Fast forward to tonight. It’s nearly midnight and and I’m watching your recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live chumming it up and talking about your new album of cover songs. Must admit, I prefer your original work, but who am I pass up a new version of Desperado? Thought I would take a quick glace at your stuff on Itunes…new, old, and otherwise.
Fast forward ten minutes later, to me, right now, on the living room floor, listening to your version of Midnight Train to Georgia, blowing my nose in my shirt, blubbering to the cat about a simpler place and time.
Now the cat is mad at you too.
Mr. Diamond, sir, knock it off. I have work to do. I could be doing something important like glue-gunning sequins to a hippopotamus Christmas tree topper, but instead, now I’m cruising ITunes for songs I haven’t listened to in years and drudging up all kinds of angry, festering emotional dust bunnies. Twenty seconds scanning this list, thinking of all the times and places in my life where you have played a part….
When I scan this list and look at your catalog of work and the course of my life, it becomes plain as day: you, Mr. Diamond, are everywhere.
You were there playing Kentucky Woman in the lobby of the restaurant where I saw my ex-fiancé out with his new girlfriend NOT EVEN THREE WEEKS after we broke up. I hated her. She was a size zero and made a casual reference to Kierkegaard in the first five minutes. You would hate her too. I didn’t eat anything at the restaurant that night, or for the next week, for that matter….blah blah blah….now I’m over it, but, Mr. Diamond, if you ever decide to write a song called Up Yours Kentucky Woman, that would be really awesome.
You were there in an army bar in Bishkek, Kyrgystan on New Years Eve 2004. I know, I had never heard of Kyrgyzstan either. It was impressive. Most of the bar patrons smelled like camels and grain alcohol and no one batted an eyelash when the bar keeper hired an exotic dancer to drop by for a live show. So there she was, wearing a bikini made of scrap leather and fur, shaking her tail feather, making freakishly strong eye contact, carrying a boom box with her song of choice: We’re Coming to America.
You were there the one time I ever saw my father cry. It was a random morning when I heard him go out to the car and play Hello Again louder than that car stereo had even been played before. From the corner of my window I could see he had his elbows up on the steering wheel with his head in his hands. When the song ended, he grabbed the cassette tape and turned it back to AM radio like nothing ever happened. He never saw me through the window. I never asked him about it. I really wish I could go back and ask him.
You were there with me on my first real baby sitting job as I sang Sweet Caroline to the 16-month-old little girl whose diaper I was changing at the time. Sweet Caroline is just the sort of upbeat, bouncy song that is good for distracting babies when they are having their private parts cleaned by a strange new babysitter. The crescendo peaked with the line about …reaching out, touching me, touching you… and a sudden explosion of butterscotch sludge. An explosion. I’m not even kidding. It got in my hair, Mr. Diamond. I heard you wrote that song about Caroline Kennedy, but did you know that song has that effect on babies?
You were there when Miss Kimmy, Washington County’s most enchanting 23-year-old tattooed tap dancing teacher, chose the music to the annual recital. Have you ever seen a pack of chubby eight-year-olds shuffle-ball-change to Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show? Yeah, me neither. And neither did Zynetta Hughes’ Mom. She didn’t know your music and thought you were making fun of Christians. Don’t be offended, she was one of those snake dancing church goers. That’s a lie. Mrs. Hughes didn’t dance with snakes, it’s just an expression. Actually, come to think of it, there was a real snake dancing church two counties over but Mrs. Hughes was not a member. Mrs. Hughes was very normal, just uptight. Although, she named her kid Zynetta, so, not that normal.
Well, it’s hard to pin point that exact moment in time, but I’m guessing you were there too.
I could fill a book with memories of your songs and their attachments to people and places that you have never heard of…but I digress. There is work to be done and a hippopotamus tree topper to sequin. I cannot stumble down memory lane with you and your Two-Bit Manchild music any further this evening, Mr. Diamond.
However, before I go, I would like to make a small request. Since it is now abundantly clear you will be writing the soundtrack to my life, past, present, and future, I for one would like to hear more harmonicas. You hardly ever incorporate them in your music and they are my favorite instrument. Don’t get me wrong, you know how to write a song just dandy without my two cents, but, if I’m going to be hearing you at nearly every pivotal moment in my life, I feel that I am entitled to some input.
More harmonicas please.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.