Monday, May 16, 2011

You wander around on your own little cloud

Wild strawberries galorious.
Last night, the girls and I watched part three of South Riding on PBS in the living room while MathMan and Nate interacted with the Bulls game in the bedroom I share with MathMan and his growing collection of Calculus books. When the program ended, we got sucked into a special on Petula Clark. None of us could explain why we continued to watch, but there we were - watching until the very end. Inertia is a powerful force especially on a Sunday night.

I knew so little about Petula Clark, this woman who sang the song I heard every time I sat waiting for my orthodontist to get off the phone (he was usually discussing his boat) so he could peek into my mouth and issue directives to his posse of hot babes with bitchin' wedge hair cuts, clad in uniforms the color of Necco Wafers. Adjust that, remove this, tighten this wire..... They carried out his bidding with painful precision while I winced, tried to fight the tears that sprang to my eyes and reminded myself that a dazzling, straight smile was worth it. Plus my mother always took me to Skyline Chili afterward. So worth it.

I always left with either Downtown or Georgie Girl stuck in my head for the remainder of the day. This didn't make being thirteen years old any easier.

While we watched, we discussed the songs (Chloe correctly noted that Ms. Clark had about six hits that she sang over and over on those funky TV specials), the hairstyles, the costumes and the background dancers. I decided that Ms. Clark would have done well to fire her stylist. I don't care if it was the sixties.

Petula Clark was quite the outlier. During the British Invasion, she was the PTA Mother to the hippies and mods. I mean, what in the hell was Donovan on? But there was Petula in her Paul Revere ponytail and flowery gown singing about where we can go to forget all our troubles, forget all our cares. Exception to the rule that she was, Petula Clark gave the world a song that, even forty years later, is guaranteed to worm its way into your brain and stay there. I can't think of a single song that Donovan sang despite the fact that he had a better hairstyle and cooler clothes.

Of course, I'm still singing Downtown today. The cats are providing backup. I love it when they're willing to play along. And they look smashing in their Mondrian outfits.

Speaking of orthodontists, you should see the hate mail from Nate's orthodontist. They want their entire payment before they'll do any more work on the kid's teeth. Well, yes. That's practical and realistic. I can't make the $155 payment most months and they expect me to yank $3,000 from somewhere. It pains me greatly to send them dribbles of dosh, but I am not going without a place to live, electricity, water, gasoline, the phone, food, and natural gas in order to pay the orthodontist bill. I've offered to work as an indentured servant until the bill is paid in full, but so far no dice. Anyway, the hate mail contains colorful threats. They're going to ruin our non-existent credit or worse. What's worse? Jail? I hear it's being done.

This is frustrating, of course, because we're contrite non-payers who didn't include the orthodontist's bill in our bankruptcy because we intend to pay when we have money and who, when we agreed to put the braces on Nate's teeth, had twice as much income and always fully intended to make those payments. As much as I don't want to stiff a small business person, I really don't appreciate being threatened.

Meanwhile, Nate may wear these braces until the glue holding them on finally dissolves over time. I can't imagine the adhesive is meant to last more than twenty years or so. The brackets will fall off sometime in his early thirties, I suppose.

He's thrilled about getting a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the person who wore his braces the longest ever.

He's such a sunny side of the issue kinda guy, that Nate.
The revisions on my manuscript continue, although operations have moved indoors. Funny, when we lived in the Midwest, this temporary weather setback would have sent me into a chill-induced Blue Period. Here I welcome the break from last week's searing heat. Oh, perspective, how I love you.

While I work on the story, I'm thinking about movies. I've been watching more than usual. Most of them aren't of the blockbuster genre. The Boys Are Back with Clive Owen. Summer in Genoa with Colin Firth and Catherine Keener. Please Give, another movie featuring Catherine Keener with Oliver Platt and cameos with Sarah Vowell and the guy I always think is Oliver Platt, but isn't. He's the guy who was in Grounded for Life, not Oliver Platt. Sometimes my brain connects two people and it's hard to sever those connecting threads once they entwine.

None of these movies are neat and tidy at the end. They illustrate the complex and often heartbreaking act of being human. Ugly and beautiful. Empty and full. Something to celebrate, something to smother.

What does this have to do with writing? Buckets. Buckets and buckets and piles.

From the mailbag, I want to share with you some treats we received from Summer. Such sweet goodness. And tea. Delectable tea named after one of my favorite cities. I guess share with you isn't quite accurate. It's a photo. If you want some of these, you'd better get here quick. We are not big on moderation.

Thank you, Summer. We're grateful for your kindness.

Seize the moment.  Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.  ~Erma Bombeck

What's been your biggest surprise lately?


  1. I'm a sucker for Anna Maxwell Martin. I loved South Riding. And I too hate being threatened by collections people. Petula Clark I'm lukewarm on. I prefer Dusty Springfield to Petula.

  2. TV is a mighty force. In my heyday, I could watch Lifetime for Woman for hours upon hours. Once, my husband, who was just my boyfriend at the time, tried to turn the channel. I whipped that remote in his face and tried with all my might to turn him off. I really thought it would work.

    Nowadays, not so much tv.

  3. How come I haven't watched any of those movies? Was I in Finland? Now I want to. While I'm humming Downtown.

  4. Don't remember any Donovan songs? Having just spent a weeks holidays in a hotel glorying under the name of Club Atlantis, I still hear "Way down below the ocean ..." chiming away in my head.

    (Yeah, and I wasn't even smoking anything illegal on my cloud!)

    Jennifer Juniper's still trying to catch the wind with the hurdy-gurdy man ...

  5. loved South Riding, Petula and her music..not so much the threatening orthodontist though..;j

  6. "Forget all your troubles, forget all your cares" - if only my little town had a downtown, man I'd be carefree.

  7. I love Donal Logue (the guy from Grounded for life).



  8. Hooray for movies that aren't neat and tidy at the end!

    I love it when a movie challenges me, and lothe the dumbing down of cinema. So movies that force you to think are a treat. Cruely, so are ones where the hero gets killed (cos then you know they will not milk it for a sequel). Not too many like that these days.

  9. I bought my sister a Petula Clark CD a few years ago, and we listen to it every time I visit!

    Glad you're educating those girls of yours. What else do you have them listening to?


  10. I bought my sister a Petula Clark CD a few years ago, and we listen to it every time I visit!

    Glad you're educating those girls of yours. What else do you have them listening to?


  11. Now Downtown is in my head, too. I had no idea the singer was a square. You know what would be a really funny thing to be contagious? Farts. I wish you could do like a yawn, but cut one instead, and everyone else would sort of catch the farts, and there would be a real outbreak, and I would be there laughing in the corner.

    I'm going to try watching some foreign film tonight on Netflix. They usually pull me outside myself better, and I really need that right now.

    You're welcome for the tea. Andrew is off on a mission of mercy to make me some decaf Earl Grey right now. I honestly don't know what I would do without tea.

  12. Petula Clark, so Ed Sullivan.

  13. Petula never did it for me; I was more into a young Grace Slick with her pouty mouth...

    And my biggest surprise of late was just this morning, when the Porcelain Altar at work rejected my humble offering... OK, so maybe it wasn't that humble, but still. How rude.

    I'll bet the next supplicant thought that as well!

  14. Biggest surprise?

    Living the vida loca in Pandora's box.
    The washing machine went belly up
    replacing it resulted in the spigot springing leak & the need for a plumber on a Saturday.
    That night we went out & returned home to find the storm door had a new development-- it locks us out of the front door.
    Seriously. Another thing gone wrong. On the same day?


    So I am making light of this situation-- go with the Sue Lowden's plan & bring a chicken to the doctor (remember she suggested you can barter?).

    Pretty raw deal for the orthodontist to hold your kids teeth hostage due to unfortunate circumstances. I mean, how many orthodontists do you know who are broke?
    Can't they make this their charity case?
    Is it not a write off for them as a "business loss"?

  15. A bit off topic, but maybe not. I saw this & thought of you:

    Regarding unemployment compensation:
    "Even though it's a paltry sum. you should never feel shame about receiving this: Every single paycheck from the time you began working has contributed to this government program. You deserve it, and hell, you literally paid for it."

    I don't know, make your best plea, using some of the material you wrote here & present a heartfelt appeal.
    He's a doctor-- he took an oath to first do no harm.... right?

  16. I just watched Please Give and loved it for the same reasons. People's lives are messy, untied things. I adore Catherine Keener.
    We followed that up with Kinky Boots (the title made me think of you, ha!) which I absolutely loved.

    (My sister is a dental hygienist so let me know if you want me to ask how to get that glue off. (I can't believe that orthodontist. Prick.)

  17. Given your creativity, I think you could manage to pull off some kind of ironic horror movie killer braces punishment for them. I'd never tell.

  18. I have South Riding on the Tivo. I hope to have a chance to watch it soon. Loved Petula Clark and don't mind having Downtown running through my head all day!

    We had the same issue with our ortho - but I told them to be patient and it would eventually be paid. They were not happy but they did not get threatening. The Oral Surgeon on the other hand sent me to collections and that cost about double to pay off in order to keep them from sending off bad things to the credit reporting companies which would have cause HUGE problems for my husband's business.

    Considering how much money they make, especailly compared to most physicians, I think they are a bunch of greedy bastards.

  19. I am definitely going to have the song "Downtown" in my head all day. And that's a good thing!

  20. Wait. I made that up. I think I combined PBS and Downtown, and then saw Downton Abbey on Netflix, and thanked you for the tip. Still, it's a cool show.

  21. Green & Black chocolate AND fancy teas??? I like to say I cannot be bought, but....I could be bought.

  22. It's got to the point where my biggest surprise comes every morning when I wake up to find the revolution hasn't begun yet.

  23. I love Catherine Keener, too. As for the orthodontist, talk to him in person, pull the curtain back on the great Oz. Bring in the threat letter and explain your payment plan. I bet he'll work with you.

    I was watching South Riding but missed Sunday's episode. Am bummed.

  24. My favorite uncle loved Petula Clark. He did over 20 years ago. I can't hear Downtown without thinking of him. And that's a very good thing.

  25. Surprises? A litter of feral kittens living under our patio steps. Feel like adding a tabby or two to your cat collection?

  26. I'm more of a Rod McKuen fan, thanks to my closet hippie mum. "Mud Kids" is my favorite, but I can sing along (poorly) with both "The Earth" and "Joanna" albums.


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