Thursday, December 10, 2015

Miss Scarlett & her champagne

Last time I drank champagne in the afternoon, I wound up with my hands resting peacefully in the thick sugary frosting on a slice of wedding cake.

Things like this happen when I make an internal observation that I’m ever-so-cool.  That’s when I am brought face-to-face with a more humbling reality: I’m really not that cool at all. 

Those moments – the ones where I cannot ignore the truth of my awkward-idity – arrive with such impeccable timing that they cannot be denied. 

And they’re abetted by champagne.

So – I went to two weddings in one day, back in the day.  Two cousins.  Across town from each other and across a wide gulf in style. 

The first, a lovely morning, mimosa brunch affair set in the Rose Gardens atthe Philbrook Mansion, timed to side-step the Oklahoma heat.  The bride’s dainty flower girl wore a halo of baby’s breath.  The pristine, tiered white cake had strawberries around the perimeter.  The champagne flutes were frosted with sugar.  And the Mumm was ice-cold.

I drank two.

As I replay the events of that day, it seems plain that I most likely arrived at the second soiree with a bit of that sugar glaze on the corners of my mouth.  I hadn’t felt a thing.  Imagine.

The mid-afternoon timing of this second cousin’s nuptials was an accommodation of the NASCAR schedule.  She and her groom would catch a honeymoon flight to the Pocono race track where they would whoop it up as husband and wife.

Her vows were exchanged in the chilly confines of the Southside Baptist Church’s basement rec room.  The ping pong tables were covered with white plastic sheets and the words “Patsy and James Together Forever,” stenciled in glitter and attached to 10lb. test weight fishing line were strung up between the Fire Marshall’s mandated utility windows.

The Korbel was iced down in a galvanized trough, brand new for the day but to be turned out to the farm for watering the cattle after.  Linoleum tile and folding chairs completed the ambience.

Am I starting to sound snooty?  Well.  There you have it. 

I had begun to feel my Scarlett O’Hara, perhaps the effect of a couple more – or was it three? – plastic cups overflowing with the bubbly.

I looked good for one thing, or so I thought, compared to my cousin’s country friends.  I had the best hair.  The best dress.  The sexiest shoes.

It was in this superior state of mind that I took my Styrofoam plate with a big chunk of Sam’s Club wedding cake and a plastic fork and found myself a seat. 

Rather than digging in right away though – how crass! – I sat and smiled serenely at my male cousins and their buddies who clearly had an eye for me. 

I crossed my ankles, just so.

Oh, here comes Terry with his friend Junior.  They certainly do have goofy grins. 

“Hey Carolyn!”

“Hi Terry!  Can’t believe Patsy’s tying the knot!”  I admit it – champagne brings out my tendency toward the inane.

“Hey Carolyn!”  This was Junior, giggling.  Not the brightest bulb in the pack.

“Hey Junior.”

“You gonna eat that cake?”  Now why, oh why would he ask that?  And that infernal giggle.  Honestly.

There was plenty of cake for everyone.  But OK.  I don’t want more cake today.  He can have mine.

But when I went to hand him my serving, I found that the back of my left hand had eased onto the icing ever so gently and rested there like a goose settled onto a clutch of eggs.  The weight of it had pushed that whipped confection out into fat bulges on each side. 

My right hand, set palm-to-palm with my left, just as Miss Manners prescribes, allowed those down-turned digits to dip into the frosting also, giving them perfect sugary-white gooey fingertip caps.

That’s when those big corn-fed country boys burst out laughing and pointing to smarty-pants me. 

I cannot recall the rest.  I only hope the commotion didn’t draw too much attention away from the bride.

So you can see why it is with some trepidation that I prepare to attend a champagne ribbon-cutting ceremony this afternoon. 

I don’t know if I can be trusted.  What if they serve Moet & Chandon?  Whatever will I do?

Therefore, I have a plan:  Mr. Plath will accompany me.  His instructions are to spirit me away immediately following the toast.

Fiddle dee dee!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Buddha and the haircut

A friend of mine is going to Chang Mai to get her hair cut.

OK.  She’s going for bigger better reasons than that.  She already went once all by herself, to study Buddhism.  For a year!  By.  Her.  Self.


I’m working hard to think of anything I have ever done in my lifetime that can be held up alongside that.  I got nuttin’.

Oh, once I went to Cuernavaca for a two week language immersion school.  By myself. 

All my fair weather language learner wannabe friends punked out on me as the trip got closer.  One by one they fizzled on our red hot idea to submerge ourselves in the culture and come out fluent. As each one became wan and apologetic I held my head up knowing that the next one would go.

Until finally, I had to actually go – by myself.  I had to do what I’d talked so big about – or shut up and slink away, credibility tattered.  Never talk about it again.  And let’s face it, shutting up is not in my nature.

So I signed up for classes and booked a flight.

But I was terrified.  I stood on the curb at San Francisco International Airport and cried after my husband dropped me off.

At the other end of the flight, I got in a shiny red car with the smiling man who held a placard with my name on it and had visions of his being a kidnapper who would spirit me away into the labyrinth of Mexico City instead of delivering me to the doorstep of the family who did everything for me except run my bath. 

And I was so homesick my stomach hurt! 

Then, when it came time to come home, I cried again for leaving such lovely people.  Muchas gracias por todo mis amigos. 

Now we’re Facebook friends.  

So I suppose I can claim to be a person of conviction.  I don’t spout off about a value-driven life and then go on about my merry business without a value-driven bone. 

But dang.

How’d I get to be her friend anyway?  She has that Buddhist patience thing you hear so much about.  She doesn’t butt in when you talk or anything. 

I hope I don’t prattle on.  She looks serene no matter.

This trip must be a refresher course.  Five weeks.  A touch up you might call it.  Maybe Buddhism’s like a haircut – gets a little shaggy after so much growth.  Needs to be shaped up.  Add some highlights.  Cover up the roots.

So it makes sense she will get her hair cut while she’s there.  She said she is looking forward with happy anticipation to sitting down again with Vera, the stylist who managed her minimalist coif when she was there before.  Vera, she says, understands Western hair.

Wow.  That’s deep.

I wish I understood Western hair.  And Buddhism, for that matter.  

My training in the Southern Baptist tradition did not take, much to my grandma’s dismay.  I let go of all that hell’s fire back before I cut my own hair from sit-on-it to shoulder length.  Truthfully, it was harder to give up my hair than it was to turn away from all that judgmental-ism. 

I love to sing those hymns, though. 

Do Buddhists sing?  Oh I know they chant.  And hum.  You know – resonate – with the Om.  But that is not the same as a good old Bette Midler belt.   Cathartic!

But I digress.      

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          When a person finds a hairdresser who understands her hair, who can make her hair perform – her hair whisperer – well, desire for worldly things falls away.  It’s a Buddhist thing – like the 3rd Noble Truth. 

A person will go to extremes – even to Chang Mai – to be in the presence of such a Master.  Because after all, a bad hair day creates anguish for the wearer which may be projected outward onto the unfortunate world she encounters. 

And, it follows, the converse is also true:  Good hair = good thoughts.  A noble path to true happiness.

It’s a Buddhist thing.

If you have the courage of your convictions, you get on the plane and go.