20 December, 2006

Mysterious Conversations

...every time we think about the bacon and the beans/we'll think about the fun we had way down in New Orleans.....

"It used to be when we had fewer beautiful nice things to do that we used to put that one on you and that one on me and that one on you and that one on me and yata data yata data yata data tch tch tch." She grins at me. I am helpless to do anything but grin back.

I'll be back tomorrow, pussycat. Dinner looks nice.

She shoves aside the box of beads she's brought with her to the dining room so that her hands are free to slap the table in a familiar, and formerly terrifying, noisy gesture. "Sit down!" she shouts. Her eyes are filled with fear and frustrations she can no longer name. I sit.

We'll go on her time. Her grasp of 'tomorrow' is slipping. There is only Now.

Aunt D. accepts my tardiness, and seems even pleased that Grandmother cared enough for my presence to have a tantrum at my leaving.

We are back to playing with her shiny things, doing what Daisy calls "being busy". She goes through each drawers, marveling at the contents of each. Sometimes she takes out her hats, which she has filled with her shiny Mardi-Gras beads. She rearranges the beads, fiddles with buttons and mismatched earrings, and puts things back again. Checks another drawer, moves things around, shows me a picture again, and goes back to the drawer with the shiny things.

"I love this drawer," she tells me. "Sometimes, I play in here fore hours." Behind her, Daisy nods affirmation. I go to the bathroom while she is playing. She misses me.

God. I felt better when I thought she would forget me the instant I was out of her sight.

"I'm leaving it on because you don't know if it's not on if it's not on. And then they've got to there there there there there and there."

I have brought a tiny notebook. On each page, I draw one picture and write its name, using colored pencils that Gran has artfully arranged in the toothbrush holder in the bathroom. (Objects have ceased to have purpose. She either likes them or she doesn't. She keeps shoving the phone under things in a drawer she doesn't favor, or stuffs it in the back of the closet- not because she doesn't wish to be disturbed, but because the object itself holds no appeal for her.)Slowly, Grandmother flips through the pages on the book she's watched me create, reaches the end, turns the book over and begins again. I've drawn a heart and the message "I love you" on the first page and the last page. She goes through it several times before putting it away in the top drawer of her dresser.

When she's not looking, I move it to the middle drawer, where her 'treasures' are, hoping she will rediscover it sometime when I am gone.

"I got the rest and if they don't get 'em, they don't get 'em. It can stay there, there's nothing wrong with him."

I must leave. It is time. Aunt D. waiting to go to dinner. The last time I left my grandmother, my heart broke and I cried for myself, for my loss, for being torn. When I am with her, I want to stay with her always. Daisy catches me in unexpected tears with both of her warm arms.

"I here for you grandmama," she says. "I take care of her. You don't worry." She finds a tissue for me. "I got to go get a drink for her, because she miss you in a minute."

The last time I left, I cried because I was afraid I'd never see my grandmother again.

How nice to be wrong; how hard to be right.

(The Battle of New Orleans; Jimmy Driftwood)

22 November, 2006

Gut Strings

...one foot on the platform/and one foot on the train/ I'm going back to New Orleans...

In some moments, she is any old person, sucking on the stumps of her worn-away teeth. At others, in her arched eyebrow or the imperious wave of her hand, when she laughs out loud and kisses me, I catch a glimpse of my grandmother.

The Suzuki kids have come here to rehearse for their holiday show. It is An Event. Like schul this morning, where one unfortunate collapsed, and the rest were wheeled into the hall to await their turn to be pushed back to the ward; wheelchairs of docile elderly flesh, lined in a row against a wall, an effective but slow-motion evacuation. Where was I? Ah, the children. The elderly long for glimpses of rounded cheeks and silky hair. Chairs are brought to the atrium, and patients are wheeled in and parked. Grandmother refuses to be associated with this infirm, and sits in a chair that is (clearly- to me, anyway) onstage. This affords her a close view of the little darlings, and a tolerant nine-year old permits a strange old lady to smooth a strand of her hair behind her ear. This is my grandmother's gesture, the one she practiced on me countless times when I was young. I envy the nine-year old, briefly consider cutting my hair back to the length it was when I was a child. My slippery locks must have been strange to her, as both her daughters were curly-headed. I wonder if somewhere in her mind, remnants of the little girl I was echo faintly.

The music is pleasant, if occasionally wrenching. (Four-year-olds sawing away at violas and violins with low degrees of accuracy beats badly-tuned bagpipes for audible excruciation, to my ear at least.) Grandmother takes it into her head to move from her chair. Daisy and I chase her, me last with Grandmother's wheelchair, trying to dodge the parade of youngsters as they walk around the immobile and incoherant.

Now she leans on an arched window opening, watching the children put their instruments away. She says one of her nonsense sentences, and I respond by leaning against her and saying, I love you.

She says, "I love you too." A moment later, like Dorothy, she says, "I know YOU."

"See, she know you," says Daisy, unfolding the wheelchair. "And I know YOU!" says Grandmother to Daisy. And we all laugh. Has seeing these children somehow created a resonance with my grandmother that allows her to connect with me? For a moment, she knows me.

Maybe. Maybe it is enough that she loves me. Maybe it is enough that I love her.

Here in New Orleans, time is measured not before the war and after, or before nine-eleven and after, but Before the Blow and Since the Blow. That blow destroyed homes and businesses with water, wind and ransacking. But the move from New Orleans to Houston- eleven hours by bus- and Houston to somewhere else- eight more hours- a prolognded stay in unfamiliar surroundings, a hip-breaking fall, and subsequent pneumonia, destroyed my grandmother.

She cannot be rebuilt.

(House of the Rising Sun; The Doors)

20 November, 2006

Unknown Sojourner

...take a stroll down to Basin street/Listen to the music with that dixieland beat/Well the magnolia blossems fill the air/You aint been to heaven till you been down there....

I am up early, but not earlier than Aunt D., whom I suspect did not sleep at all. She makes an egg and turkey bacon for me, padding barefoot in her dressing gown, duckwalking a bit from her bout with polio six decades ago.

It is quite, quite warm. 70 * by day's end, in fact. Fortunately, I did pack some warm weather clothing. It is odd to have packed both a bikini and a hat, not sure which you'll wear. As it turns out, I'll wear neither. I slide open the sunroof on the PT Cruiser and grin as I drive in daylight through this still-lovely city. Traffic is light. I noticed last night that the streets were deserted, but put it down to the late hour. It was not the late hour. A great deal of the city is empty.

The bridge offers me a lovely view, and I grin at the gilttering slate-grey river that snakes through the city. I choose the right road, but go the wrong way, and am soon in the ghetto, which these days is more of a barrio.

I enter the locked ward, nervous of what I'll find. My grandmother is in the doorway of her room. I meet for the first time Daisy, who attends her.

"Loooook, Meez Jackie, who come to see you! It’s Jackie dotter! It’s you grandotter. Tell her you name, sweetheart."

Despite hearing my name, Grandmother does not know me. She seems pleased to see me, but she doesn't know me. We sit in the common room with Becky, who is training to be a music therapist. She sings to each patient individually, then encourages them to sing songs with her and her accoustic guitar. Gran is tolerant but uninterested.

"Do you have a special visitor today?" Becky asks her.

"Not really," responds my gran.

Afterwards, we take a little stroll/wheel around the lake outside- she walks with her feet while sitting in her chair. I walk behind, and she forgets about me, muttering to herself in a disjointed monologue. When we return to her ward, it is lunchtime. The attendants have arranged a lunch for me. Cornbreaded catfish, hush puppies and stewed okra? A little bland, but really not bad for institutional food.

We go back to her room, at her insistence. She shows me her beads. They are shiny Mardi Gras beads that have never made it onto a parade float. She has handfulls of them. They're in a turned-over hat. "Don’t touch them! Just leave them there. They’re fine just like they are. That one’s gorgeous. Look at that. It’s blue, and this one’s black, and that’s blue, and that, and that, and that, that one’s gorgeous."

And now Gran is ready for a nap. She climbs into her bed. "Bye, bye," she dismisses me.

I’ll see you later.

I tell Daisy that I'll be back in a couple of hours, and head to the Quarter. I find a garage near Hove Parfumerie on Rue Royale and relinquish my borrowed car. Where’s Cafe du Monde from here? The garage man grins at me. He walks me outside the entrance of the garage and, twisting me by the shoulders, points me toward the river. The green and white awning beckons. "Enjoy your cafe," he says.

And shopping. I came here specifically to spend some money.

"And we thank you very much for that. You have a good time, doll."

Off I stroll to Jackson Square, where I remove my shoes.

A fortuneteller beckons me over. "You're not from around here?" No. And neither are you. No honey drips from your voice, and your face is hard and cool as a day-old pancake.

"I'd put on my shoes. People pee on the floor here." She indicates the flagstone walk in front of the Cathedral. I know it. Like any tourist spot, the panhandlers gravitate here. Bums sit and spit and drunks stagger and heave and loonies gibber and drool here. But the superstition is, if you are barefoot in the Quarter, you'll be back.

Still, I wash my feet when I return to my room. And wipe my shoes out, too.

After cafe-au-lait and begneits (my crumb-phobia has for many years deprived me of the delicious taste of begneit dipped in strong coffee- and yet,it's nice to find that life holds a surprise or two) and visits to my favorite shops, I return to the nursing home and to Grandmother.

Daisy tells me Grandmother didn't stay in the bed any longer than it took me to leave the building, and I'm sorry that I missed three hours with her. And yet. A change in routine is unsettling for an Altzheimer's patient, even a pleasant change. She may have needed time to regroup.

Grandmother opens drawers and discovers her belongings. The bottom drawer of her nightstand contains only a skirt.

"Nothting here but this," and she pulls it out. "Look, that’s nothing, nothing, nothing at all. It’s beautiful, look at it. It’s not mine, but it’s beautiful."

We sift through her jewelry boxes, which contain buttons, unmatched earrings, pendants without chains, a special jeweled belt, and more Mardi Gras beads. It is these she likes best. Outshining the halfhearted glitter of rhinestones on antiquated ear-bobs, the plastic metallic gleam and silky smoothness of stranded ovals clicking together as she piles them up or slides them onto her arm appeals to three of her senses.

She pulls out playing cards, a large stack of several different decks blended all together.

"How many will you have?" she asks.


She hands me a stack of probably twenty.

How many will you have?

"This many." She takes a stack of thirty or more. I fan the cards in my hands, waiting to follow her lead.

"Well, we don't need this one, and he can just stay right here, and we don’t care much about THAT." She puts a four down, face up.

I have this. I put a three next to the four.

“That’s good, that’s good.”

Do you have a two?

She looks, finds a two, puts it next to the three. "Do you have an ace?"

I do. I put it next to the two. How about a five?

She has a five. She asks me for a six. I put one down. Then she puts down another six. We put down three sixes before moving on to seven. Then, eight nine ten just fast like that, and then she scoops them all together and turns them face down, passing them to me.

"We're all done with that, it won't bother us anymore."

We play again. If she notices that I play a card from the set we just completed, she does not object. We play three or four rounds of this, sometimes going all the way up through the face cards.

Daisy brings dinner to Grandmother in her room. Grandmother picks at her food. I agree that the stewed spinach is less than appetizing. Daisy brings an Ensure drink. Grandmother likes it, but keeps asking if it is mine or hers.

We play with the things in her jewelry boxes for awhile longer. When she climbs into her bed and recedes into the television. I kiss her forehead and promise to return tomorrow.

"Leave me a note," she requests. I find paper and tape to post the note on her mirror.

‘My darling pussycat,’
it reads, for the word ‘Grandmother’ has no meaning for her anymore.
‘I will come back to see you again tomorrow, which is Saturday. I love you.
xox Missy Belle’.
Missy Belle is what she used to call me when she knew me.

"She know you," Daisy insists. Possibly Daisy knows my grandmother better than I do at this point. I don’t care if Grandmother knows me or not. I want to enjoy her, and make her feel loved and entertained. The other residents sit, nearly catatonic, not conversational or animated. My grandmother may not make sense, but she is talkative.

Is she enjoying me? Is this a good day?

"This a verrrrry good day. She like you, can’t you tell?"

She does?

"Oh, yesssss. She like you, like you ver’much. Doan you know, she never let noooo body touch her card. But she, she play wit you. She like you so, so much."

I leave, feeling somewhat better, and arrive at the apartment to find Aunt D. still in her dressing gown. I have a feeling she napped a lot. I hope she did, anyway.

"You're too late to order dinner, lover. They used to close at six, but since The Big Blow, they close up at five, I guess."

She’ll cook something, she says. I resolve to leave earlier tomorrow, to avoid Aunt D. cooking. She does it, but I know she doesn’t like it.

"Don't you tell your mama I served you raw food," Aunt D. admonishes as we cut into buffalo burgers that are dark on each side and cool in the center.

Why would I do a thing like that?

"Because I did. Look at that thing."

Well, if it doesn’t moo or bleed when I cut it, I don’t mind.

No need to tell her I'm not a meat-eater. We're in the South, and I will be Southern.

It's only for a little while.

(New Orleans; The Blues Brothers)

16 November, 2006

In Transit

...good mornin', America, how are you?/don't you know me? I'm your native son!/I'm the train they call the City of New Orleans/I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done....


BWI Airport is so clean. And so familiar. Well, except for the name, which is now Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International or some such unwieldy monniker. I check in, once at the curbside, and again at the gate, and then go for a seven-dollar Guinness Stout at the bar. I knock it back fast, and feel unapprehensive within minutes.

Fearful of confiscation, I've left my knitting needles home. "Compromise, and take a crochet hook," my mother advises. "No one can construe that as a weapon."

Not until I shove it up your nose and yank your brains out with it, because I am a ninja.

Refusing to compromise, and perhaps practicing a bit of civil disobedience, I've brought a set of chopsticks, an emery board and two Band-Aids. While the plane waits for takeoff clearance, I file the tips of the chopsticks into points and wrap the bandages around the opposite ends. I cast on fifteen stitches and have knit three rows by takeoff.

Yes, in fact, my middle name IS MacGyver.


We approach Miami airport. I have never basked on white Miami beaches nor frolicked in the turquoise Miami sea. I allow myself to wax rhapsodic for a few moments- but what's this? What are these fake oval islands covered with mansions and strung together by a bridge like a chain of obscene man-made jewels?

I watch toy buildings speed by, trying to get a feel for a city I will not see, and the wing flaps go up and the pilot has suddenly set us down in the sweetest, softest landing, tender as a first kiss.

I only realize later that moment is the best part of my stay in Miami.

It turns out that I hate the Miami airport. The smoking courtyard, open to the sky, offers a glimpse of sunset. As little as I smoke, how is it possible that no fewer than three disposable lighters are confiscated from my personal luggage? Old fireating habits die hard, I suppose. I bum a light from a Limey, watch the sunset in a stifling three-story room with no roof. And then begin my trek to the opposite end of the airport, which takes fourty minutes.

I am chilled enough waiting at my gate- a three hour layover- to put on my leather jacket, the nicer one that I don't wear much (which is why it's nicer, obviously) thinking I should have thought to bring gloves, just in case. And then I check my pockets.

It's kind of lovely to discover a pair of gloves in your pocket, particularly nice ones that you'd forgotten your mother-in-law gave you last Christmas.

The eight-dollar sandwich I buy is lousy. The second seven-dollar beer costs me also my cellphone. It falls out sometime after I phone Aunt D. and before I board the plane, while I'm scurrying to buy and drink a beer before takeoff. I discover it missing when I try to make an "I'm on the plane now" call to my family. I am permitted to unboard to look for it at the gate, and an airline employee calls it, but gets my voice mail. Someone has picked it up and turned it off. Dammit. I get back on the plane.


I resign myself to the lost phone. My seatmates, from Edmondton, Alberta, are lovely people, and we enjoy ourselves. Jared reaches across Autumn to pat my hand and say what he thinks are comforting things during my white-knuckled transitional period. I give him lotion to soothe his sunburn. The flight attendant, unable to help finding my cellphone, and unable to provide any pain reliever to Autumn, sets us up instead with tiny bottles of Baccardi. "Oops," she says."Look what fell off the cart. Lucky you! Need mixers?"


The landing is engagingly lumpy, like a ride at a carnival, with extra whoosh factor.

At Hertz, I pick up the car I reserved. Or rather, I don't. I first ask directions to a Walgreen's (I saw some neon as we taxied in), thinking that surely they will have disposable cellphones. She gives me directions and a map, and then asks, "How would you like to drive a PT Cruiser?" Would I! Well, this IS nice.

I drive away confident that everything will go smoothly now.

The woman at Walgreen's allows me to use the pharmacy phone, once I've agreed to purchase a Tracfone and a card with ninety minutes.

Do you know, on television, a drug dealer walks into a convenience store and walks out, talking on his newly-purchased untraceable phone? Do you know, it doesn't work like that in real life AT ALL? The phone has to be charged, and then you spend sixty-leven hours on a land-line to register the blasted thing.

I lose myself hopelessly going from the Walgreen's to Aunt D.'s house. So hopelessly that the maps given me by the kind, calm man at Triple A cannot help me. The road I want is closed down. The Detour signs lead to nowhere. I fear I am in Slidel, the place my mother specifically instructed me to not go. I stop behind a police car. The officer gives me directions that are helpful, if not entirely accurate. Once I finally find St. Charles Avenue, I spend a silly length of fruitless time looking in the 3700 block- I've transposed addresses. My gran's nursing home is in the 3700 block. Aunt D. is at 1750 St. Charles Avenue, a gated apartment complex where the guard has been alerted to my arrival, and evidently pestered. Because my untraceable cellphone is useless. Because there are no payphones. Because I'd be uneasy about getting out of the car to use a payphone. Frustrated? Doesn't even cover it.

By the time I arrive, Aunt D has worried herself into a frazzle.

"Don't nevous me like that, darlin'! My old bones caint stand it!"

Cuppa tea, lover? It's a Band-Aid, but it'll have to do.

(The City of New Orleans; Arlo Guthrie)

15 November, 2006

Promotional Interruption

...we interrupt this angst to bring you the following announcements....

Murder! Death! Mayhem! Paycheck!

It's a killer weekend! Do Or Die Mysteries debuts this weekend at Spotlighters Theatre (817 St. Paul St. Baltimore, MD 21202; 410-752-1225) with The Legend of Creepy Hollow. Cybele Pomeroy appears as a nefarious displaced politician in a small haunted town. Dying to be with her are the Prince, Coco, BuddaPat, the Animal, and two brand-new cuties. Shows are Friday night November 17th at 9 and Saturday night November 18th at 8. Tickets are $15. On Sunday, November 19th, see her as an aging soap-opera sexpot from the popular television drama All My Traumas in A Murderous Production at Fabulous Whispers Restaurant in Pasadena, Maryland. Tickets are $25, plus cash bar. Doors open at 4 PM, buffet at 5 PM, and showtime is 6 PM.

Disclaimer: Do Or Die Productions officially denies any knowledge of the preceding announcement.

08 November, 2006

Civic Doody

...safe from a rolling sea/ there's always been a quiet place to harbor you and me....

And so begins my indefinite self-imposed media blackout. How long can I go without knowing the election results?

Because I don't particularly care what they are, first off; because I don't think they'll ultimately make any difference for a second; because I'm just that unpleasant this week is a third.

I've been particularly snarky, yes, thanks for asking. Why?


Oh, and I went to the polls yesterday. Not that I believe in the democratic process anymore, because I don't. Who can know the agenda of any candidate, when all the major economic players have one of each in their pockets? And, hello, Diebold machines? I touch a screen and I trust that this company's software is recording my vote as I enter it? Without a reciept of any kind? Could someone just hand me a paper ballot and a number two pencil, please?

I was told by an election judge (hard to come by, in this burb, by the way) who has suspicion levels to rival my own, that use of the absentee ballot is permitted for those of us unwilling to give faith to these electronic machines.

Which is not to say that there won't still be fraud (was that enough negatives for you?) but those of us who give a shit and don't trust Diebold will feel assured that our vote will be counted as we cast it, assuming it isn't 'lost in the mail'.

Though of all Suspicious Agencies, the US Postal Service has been the one to foster a tiny little birthday candle sized flicker of hope in my black heart.

When I mail a card from Baltimore and in two days it's arrived in Minneapolis....well, kudos to you-does, Postal People.

As it happens, the tenor of my day was changed when a stranger extended his hand at the end of a transaction. I met his palm my own shaky hand, the one that thrummed with unrelieved tension, expecting a quick, firm squeeze and an impersonal release. Instead, he put his other hand on top of mine, enclosing me in a warm hand sandwich. "Everything will be fine," he said.

I feel oddly confident that it might, after all.

(Rock The Boat; Hues Corporation)

03 November, 2006

Narrative, Anticipatory

...going to need two pair of shoes/when I get through walking to you/when I get back to New Orleans....

I feel apologetic for the lame title, then irritated I've set such high standards that I'm embarassed at the occasional mediocrity. One of my friends is often annoyed by his own lameness, so then I feel stupid because the offerings he designates 'lame' are usually the ones I find funniest, because he writes above my head most of the time and I miss the humor altogether. That's a damn lot of emotion-laden introspection to pile onto two words which, through no shortcoming of their own, failed to be brilliant.


The trees have finally exploded into color, like little girls with a brand-new dress-up box, and everywhere I drive, loveliness abounds. Usually, I get this kind of gorgeous a little earlier in the year, before the weather's gone truly cold, which it has, despite the random (e.g., Wednesday) topless day. Still, I resist putting on socks.

That's true, but deceptive: the full truth is, I can't find any of my socks. I think I remember having purchased some within the last decade. Where could they have gone to?

Don't answer that.

I enjoyed being mostly naked last time I saw the city. In June, Nearly Naked is probably the best strategy for New Orleans heat and humidity. This month, no matter where I go geographically, it is chronologically November. Now, I do expect November in New Orleans to be milder than November in Baltimore, but when I found November in Minneapolis to be milder than November in Baltimore a couple of years back, I question the validity of that expectation.

In short, I have no idea what to pack. And I leave Thursday.

I will look up the Glassharper while I am there, and maybe Se7in, but I will not visit Dan Mehn, Master Joyner, who was one of my favorite survival stories. He missed last summer's disaster in New Orleans by virtue of being here for the Ren Fest, but then managed to smash himself to bits against an oncoming dump truck- or something along those lines. He amazed his rehabilitators by eventually walking, and had a reportedly wonderful season at Faire this year. And then last week, collapsed from a heart attack and died. The Universe, after granting us an extra year to love him, reclaims him.

The purpose of this trip is to visit a city I love, but mostly my grandmother, who may or may not know me. Last time I was there, surreal dominated. I can't even begin to construct a set of expectations for this trip. Possibly that's for the best.

I may be getting used to this joy/pain cocktail of life. Pour me another, Harry, and make it strong.

(Walkin' To New Orleans; Fats Domino)

02 November, 2006


...is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?/ Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality/ Open your eyes....

I walk in, spotting at the end of the room the man I came to see. The beertender remembers my brand, and I've got a cold one in front of me in no time at all.

"Hey, sweetheart! How the hell are you?"

He pats my hand fondly. He likes me. Never underestimate the attractiveness of listening intently and laughing at someone's jokes.

"Where you been? I thought you didn't like it here anymore."

Busy. Too busy for beer, isn't that sad?

Never underestimate the power of flattery. He admires me, and I preen. What? Please, it's been a whole week of being my regular self.

Spots of bright illuminate the darkness. This place walks the line between seedy and cozy, if it can be granted that seedy and cozy are closer than shouting and waving distance. I like it here. I feel energized and safe, both at once, which is exquisite.

"Look at you. You got that librarian thing going on. Gimmie those glasses a minute- do you even need them? I think you wear them just for the fantasy aspect."

I hand them over and he admits they're no prop.

"No, but you've got that fantasy thing going on, you know it, a man expects any minute you're gonna take off them glasses and let down your hair..."

There is just one clip holding my hair, and it comes out easily. He stops mid-sentence. The beefy new beertender hurries over, wide-eyed, to introduce himself.

"You did that on purpose."

Well... you kind of asked for it.

(Bohemian Rhapsody; Queen)

31 October, 2006

Love Stinks

...ooh, ooh, that smell/ can't you smell that smell?....

"Zo, Zeabelle, you haf a vaterbed, and ve are sleeping downstairs? Vhen ve gonna get an invite?"

Well, Hilby, last time I checked, neither of you have the right equipment to be invited to my bed.

"Oh, you haf not heard ze rumors about my equipment, I guess. Zey are all true." He waggles his eyebrows. Martin, stuffing in eggs, remains silent.

No, no, Hilby- I've smelled you coming in from a long drive. I've smelled you after a hard, hot day of performing. I've smelled each of you fresh from the shower. Neither one of you ever has even the faintest hint of diesel about you.

Martin snickers.

"Zo, you turned on by diesel fumes, uh?"

It's a conditioned response.

(That Smell; Lynryd Skynrd)

28 October, 2006

Bite Me

...you are here and warm/but I could look away and you'd be gone....

So the faire is over, which means I have to find something else to write about. Those of you who are not Festival-oriented are relieved, and those of you who are can go back to not reading until next August.

(No, I don't have a contract. But after two decades of planning my life around these several weekends, and kudos from the man who signs my paycheck, I'm reasonably certain that my delightful captivity will continue.)

While I regroup, ask yourself:

You Are a Boston Creme Donut

You have a tough exterior. No one wants to mess with you.
But on the inside, you're a total pushover and completely soft.
You're a traditionalist, and you don't change easily.
You're likely to eat the same doughnut every morning, and pout if it's sold out.

My only problem with this designation is the pouting. I don't pout. Children pout. I am an adult.

Adults sulk.

(Sentimental Lady; Fleetwood Mac)

25 October, 2006

A Wrap

...gonna treat you/ Like the queen you are/ Bring you sweet things/ From my candy jar....

Light breeze lifts our white cloaks, our shimmery organzas, creating billows of floating motion. A path of fallen leaves stretches like a golden runner in front of us as we process. I wonder if this is the last time we process together, this group. Next year, I think, will be different. It always is.

A child looks in awe. "She's been doing this a long time," says the woman with her. "When your daddy was little, she...." I do not hear the rest of the sentence. This is a good thing, perhaps.

Paul brings chocolate raspberry brownies. They are too rich for eating more than one tiny bite at a time. Thank you, Paul. We gorge ourselves on Scotch eggs, brownies and fruit. Gigi taps a pear, asks a question with her eyebrows. It is a special pear, harder, sharper, large as an apple. I stretch my eyes with my fingertips. After one moment of horrified shock followed by one of amused comprehension, she rolls around in silent laughter. I shrug and crunch another bite of my Asian pear.

Isabelle Glass is back, and That Girl and I return for a second, smaller, forray. Lust delayed, fulfilled, assuaged, relents.

"I've got a name in the blog," gloats the Mome Rath. "I'm in the blog," responds the gloatee. "Yeah, but I've got a name."

The organist has painted a portrait of the four of us, oil on canvas, and I am touched beyond words. I cannot hug her as I'd like to: I haven't powdered yet and my makeup will smear all over her Redskins shirt. If you pray, pray for her. Her health is poor, and since Ken and Bill and Jim have departed permanantly, leaving holes in my heart, I worry.

Firehorse makes accuses me of littering. "Choose your punishment! Do you prefer public humiliation, or branding?" I make my choice not based on personal preference, or character integrity, but on which is funnier to communicate physically. I lick my finger and touch the air with a sizzling sound. "Branding it is!" He brands me with a red stamp. "I don't have an L for littering, so you'll have to have a P for piracy."

At the front gate, I slip on slick ground and go down hard on my knees- the stilt has betrayed me. I am irritated at the interruption, bruised by the landing, unperturbed at the embarassment (Martin goes down all the time, often deliberately) encouraged by the positive reaction to my assisted stand-up, and most upset that my trousers are dirty for the rest of the day. Ah, vanity.

I watch my associates, the ones I created literally and the figurative one, smiling. Fluffy stays with us for our entire stilt-walk, leaving only when we peel off to O'Shucks to swipe swigs of beer. We swipe so much beer, hard tea, and meade that it seems like a good idea to get off stilts and go to the wine garden for more swipeage. Two wine-sodden superhero-booted spandex-clad clowns slither and saunter, slightly sloshed, back to MimeCamp.

I have made friends with three (young, attractive) musicians from Montreal. They sit in our camp chairs, relaxing between sets, murmuring sensual sounds, though they might be talking about replacing brake shoes for all I am following. I describe something, cursing, then ask them to pardon my French, which they are speaking. One of them tells me that even in French, one says ‘excuse my French’, rather than ‘Pardon my American.’ I wonder if he is pulling my leg. I wonder what ‘pulling my leg’ is in French. Hilby trots into mime camp for something or other, saying "excusez moi s'il vous plait, you beeg fat bott eas een my vay."

Hilby and Martin take us to Sputnik for a treat- they have gone on and ON about this resaturant. The food lives up to their accolades and we exit stuffed and satisfied, with a new favorite place to eat.

"It's the last weekend," my mother qualifies. "Do you get to play with the patrons?"

Mom. That's my job description.

"I mean, I guess, do you get to be outrageous since it is the final two days?"

Mom. I could hardly BE more outrageous, unless I were to strip naked, and it is just not the weather for that.

I am informed that someone with whom I've had an ambivalent relationship may or may not be returning next year. Ambivalent again, I am not sure how I feel about this, at the same time wondering whether it will affect my life, performance, art, in the slightest, and then deciding that that’s enough mental energy to devote to this subject. And yet, in this moment of writing, I break my promise to myself. And if I edit this paragraph later, I’ve broken it twice.

The weather is wonderful, the crowd oddly subdued. It is the Day Of Wrong. I watch the crowd, clad in tie dye, in drag, as Storm Troopers, less impressed by wrongness than in previous years. I notice fewer Designated Patrons celebrating our final day of the season than I expect. Perhaps they are all in one of the pubs.

After stilts, we head out for a serious Renaissance Retail Experience. The Bee Folk for honey, candles and soap; the Fairie Booth to pick up Trixie our pixie, freshly repaired; Page After Page for books and sealing wax; the giant slide, just for fun- and as an efficient way to get down the hill; Holy Cow to look at pocketbooks; passing by Half Moon Travel Cloaks, who stubbornly refuse to create a warm wool cloak in Mimi-pink; High Point Crafts to look at fans and dusters, ultimately buying a (what?) walking stick (my ankle has barked at me all day, probably specifically to cajole me into making this elderly purchase); Blessed Scents for more soap; Bull's Eye for a bag made of cowhide shaped like a mouse which we do not find and buy instead the skin of an ermine, which the baby girl names Herman, then Thurmon, and carries with her everywhere; Souveniers in a vain attempt to find a 2006 coffee mug, coming away with a MRF logo T-shirt so my son can stop playing Marlon Brando/James Dean in his white T-shirts jeans and leather jacket; and finally, Steak 2 for a final serving of curly fries.

If I had forethought enough, I would have filled a cooler with frozen chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick, of which I had (only!) two this season, and in fact I did think of it and rejected the idea as a bad one after the scale reported that I had not lost a pound, no not even one, over the run of the Faire.

Crooked Finger Man finds me, gets my address, promises to send something. I kiss him goodbye, aware that it could be for the last time. "I have loved you these many years, my lady," he says again. And I, you, sweetheart.

I wipe my daughter's makeup from her face, drying her tears at the same time. She articulates my grief for me. "Here, everybody treats us like we are special and they love us so much and now we have to go back to being our regular selves."

Don't I know it, darling.

I relate this to the boys later, my husband included." Ahh, zhe angst of zhe clouwn," Hilby sympathizes. "So you tell her she eas special and she haahs so many peeople who loves her as herself."

Sure I told her that.

There is a pause. We twinkle at one another for a moment.

I mean, it's bullshit, but I told her.

Hilby snickers. "Jah, ov course, eat's so totally boollsheet."

So totally bullshit. My specialty.

(Wrap It Up; The Fabulous Thunderbirds)

18 October, 2006

Alternate Viewpoints

...Blue morning, blue day, won't you see things my way?....

The day is grey again- I hate this weather, not because I hate what the weather is, but because I hate what it does to me. A mere two rainy days in a row can throw me into a blue funk that lasts until the sun comes back, which sometimes takes a week or more. I hate to be that fragile, but there it is. I expect the red bra and pants I don under my black clothes will make me feel better. Disappointingly, they don’t.

Isn't that funny, though? The weather itself doesn't bug me: it's what the weather does to me.

Because it's all about me, isn't it? Except when it's not.

Depressive weather requires a different perspective on intimate topics. Here, I find the 'she-said' version of my affectionate assault of an unsuspecting teen.

Monday October 2 2006

Mom had given me a little note thing to give to one of her old friends, Cybele, a mime. Her picture was in the flyer that had been sent in the mail, so I knew what mimes to look out for. So while we were eating, I saw them, & ran up, asking which of them was Mrs. Cybele. The other lady pointed, & I said I had something from my mom. She took the little thing, saw mom's name, & her mouth dropped. Then she gave me the biggest, firmest hug ever.

Being a mime, she of course couldn’t speak, but it definitely seemed an "oh em gee" moment.She looked like she was going to cry. She kissed me on the cheeks & hugged me again, & pressed her hand over her heart, blinking rapidly. She pulled me back & looked me up & down, & bowed as saying 'thank you." I bowed back. One of the other mimes had wandered off, probably thinking, "Awkward!" Mrs. Cybele whistled & stamped her foot & he came back. She put a hand on his shoulder & on the head of the littlest mime, then pressed a hand over her heart. (Now that I think of it, they must've felt awkward, like, "Mom... are you ok...?") I asked if they wanted me to take their picture, & they nodded. Janna had come up behind me, & we said goodbye. They waved & took hold of each other's long hats once more & moved off. Janna commented on how we had gotten quiet, too. It just feels odd talking to a mime; it feels like you ought to communicate silently, too.

And a patron I did not meet makes no mention of me, but gives an excruciatingly detailed account of waiting in traffic; here he is, lads and ladies, Hotspur.

After being directed to park in the back forty (and literally, this WAS the back forty-- I heard they shut the gates on Sunday because the parking lot got full up), we trudged for what seems like forever to get into the faire. Drey had tickets for us.. Huzzzah! I essayed, feebly! The first thing you notice about the Ren Faire is people. People in funny outfits. Tourists, milling about. In vast numbers.

And again. This time, with stilty-mimey folk.

Vast numbers? Pfah, you have no idea. This past Saturday, 25,000 people and then some enter our gates, form long lines for food, and fill the joust arena to capacity. That's vast numbers.

It was cold, too! We are glad of our two cloaks apiece, for sure, and take every opportunity to sit in the sun. Around about two-thirty, finally, after my second hour on stilts, I break my first sweat of the day.

From AutumnCat’s photo site:

the Mime Smooch

Thank you for the kind comments, but actually, the makeup makes me beautiful. WIthout it, I am pedestrian, mundane, uninteresting and common.

Here’s one of my baby Lili, which might be better, even, in black and white.

Another sweet one of Lili and a bubble, and one of the white and gold, just me.

"You're not chopped liver," he says, and hands me a white rose emblazoned with my face. He calls himself the White Dragon, but this seems like the sweet gesture of a white knight.

A young woman seeks me out, finds me because I am not only bright pink, but nearly nine feet tall. "You held my oldest daughter, and we got a picture. This," she says, indicating the baby she holds, "is my new daughter. Would you hold her so we can get another picture?" I nod agreement. "You won't run off with her, will you?" She laughs.

Are you kidding? After a challenge like that? Of course I will. After she snaps the shot, I turn the baby sideways under one arm and take three swift strides in the opposite direction, to the delight of the crowd.

"Give back my baby!" she cries, running after me. "Oh, please, give back my baby!" There is real distress in her voice. Well, lady, you gave her to me. I demand a kiss from her, and hand over the pink-clad oblivious mass of flesh. This is not that baby, but it’s a good shot, again from David Davidson.

A patron wants to pay me to teach her clown makeup technique, which I will do, if she insists. I guess when you’ve done it twenty years or more, it’s easy, and when you’ve never ever done it, it’s not.

Hilby has remembered his face cream this time, but left a hairbrush and a razor. I’m sure I ll find traces of ‘the boys’ for weeks and months to come.

A strange sort of consolation prize after they’ve gone for the season. Which ends after this weekend.

Two more days... I'll pack in my joy, before I pack up my Joy, my powder, my kneepads...

(Blue Morning, Blue Day; Foreigner)

16 October, 2006

Underneath Everything

...I wanna be your t-shirt when it's wet/ I wanna be the shower when you sweat....

She stares critically at my chest for a moment, then reaches into my bra and rearranges me. I stand, patient as a horse with a farrier, while she does this.

You'd expect this, maybe, of a bra saleswoman in a shop dressing room. It's Coco. We're in the office at the Center. Mr. J. stares, laughs. The new tech, not loquacious to begin with, is stunned to literal open-mouthed silence.

I realize suddenly that this seems odd public behavior to anyone who doesn't know us well.

Mr. J. attempts explanationtion. "They've been in theatre so long, you know."

Coco, undisturbed, regards my newly-fluffed bosom.

Is it better?

"Better. Before, you just looked.... squashed."

Well.... thanks.


My sister is about to pull away. I stand in the drive, the sun on me.


"Hey, what?"

Can you see my underwear?

She studies me, squinting.


How about now?

I tug down the side of my knit yoga trousers and flash her my lacy panties.

"You are so weird." She shakes her head and drives off.


He regards a flimsy object in my car. "Is that .... underwear?" A fair question. It could be.

Sort of. Not really. It's a tube top. For when I'm caught in a T-shirt or something and the sun's out.

He looks confused, disappointed and apprehensive, all at once.

([I Wanna Be] Your Underwear; Bryan Adams)

13 October, 2006

Wake, Shower

...at night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet/a freight train running through the middle of my head....

A roll of sound like a fighter jet circling rumbles into my subconscious, tears a hole in the sky, rips me from sleep.

Soft patter of rain soon follows.

I touch the bed next to me: empty. This is no surprise. The surprise is how accustomed I have become to its emptiness.

I wonder for a moment if I've put the top up. Of course I have. Still, the rear window will leak. Ahhhhh.... I'll worry in the morning.

This explains the aching joints last night. If the weather clears, I'll wake limping again tomorrow, as I have for the past week. If the weather would make up its mind, I could walk normally. When I hurt before I've even left the bed, I'm unmotivated to leave it.

Well, fairly, MORE unmotivated.

But the sun is out now, which my morning limp predicted, and unless I miss my guess, it's Topless Weather today.

(I'm On Fire; Bruce Springsteen)

12 October, 2006

Blog Stalking?

...something tells you that you've got to get away from it....

It has been so wet, the leaves are sullen in their greenness, refusing to change.

"I was stalking your blog," says the Mome Rath, "and I want you to know that I would never think of you as chopped liver." Well... thanks.

My childhood friend Squirrelly appears on site with her family. We see each other once a year, these days, and it's now. I haven't said a word to her in six years. Her eldest daughter and mine hit it off and play nicely together while Squirrelly and I shop for walking sticks, despite the fact that one of them isn't speaking. They demand a play-date. It would be nice to talk to my friend again.

The site is packed. We head out on stilts, Gigi and I, because that is the most effective way to entertain a crowd of this size. And Martin injured himself showing off yesterday, so he's benched for our biggest day ever: 24,761 is the figure I hear afterwards. Patrons have waited up to four hours to enter our village. That Girl finds it amusing to share with me that she has gas, which is unfortunate for the patrons behind her, since our cabooses are roughly face-level. We move quickly through the throng. Leaving the parking lot later proves to be a challenge.

We drive past a sign that used to say BATEMAN FOR SHERRIF in white letters on a dark blue ground. Some wag has blacked out the E in Bateman.

"Let's take the long and stupid way home, Mama," Fluffy requests. Okay. The blackglass harbor multiplies sparkling city lights. I drive past my favorite bar, the one I don't visit much (the ones I don't like, I visit never) and wonder if my friends are inside. Fuzzy is asleep on her brother's shoulder. When we reach the end of Key Highway, I ask Fluff if this is long and stupid enough.

"Yeah," he replies. "Let's go home."

It occurs to me that because they are with me, I am home already. The house is just a final destination.

(Our House; Talking Heads)

05 October, 2006

One Thing...

...you've seen your name on the walls/ And when one little bump leads to shock miss a beat/ You run for cover and there's heat, why don't they/ Do what they say, say what they mean....

"Hey, Mama. Like my in-between?"

Fluffy's wearing a gold hat, white makeup, a wifebeater, tighty-whiteys, white knee socks and gold shoes.

Lovely. Just....lovely.


He describes a fun street bit involving pillows and another actor, and some sneaking.

But could you... would there be a way to, to give a pillow to a patron?

"And make the patron part of the re-enactment?"

Right, and let the patron whack away at you with the pillow, which they will, because they don't really want to hurt you. Or two patrons, even.

"Give the patron a pillow. Brilliant! That's brilliant."

I thought it was street performing, but I'm happy to be brilliant. Anything for you, JohnBoy.


A rose-seller brings a rose to Gigi, hands it to her with a sweet smile.

I'm sure I frown.

She catches my expression, and laughs silently at me. She makes a karate chop with her hand, then starts feeling her torso, trying to remember the location of her organs. She mouths "liver" at me.

I sigh, and show her the spot below the rib cage on the right side. I make short chopping motions with my hand over it. She kicks her feet, convulsed with inaudible giggles.


"Which one of you is Syb...Sigh... Cybele?" All other white panto clowns point to me. We are exiting lunch. A young lady has accosted us.

"I have a note for you."

She's in garb. Who is sending me a note? An admirer? Hmmm? Where's my rose, then?

"It's from my mom. She used to be Kate? She turned into a hermit after she had kids." She hands me a folded paper, with "Cyb" on the outside and an e-dress on the inside.

In an instant, this young lady is much more beautiful than she was a moment before, because I can see traces of my dear friend all around her face. The unsuspecting teenager is grabbed most enthusiastically and hugged and kissed most thoroughly. She is most tolerant of this treatment, knowing she is a surrogate.

Here I am, still, waiting for you to find me.


"Hey, there you are!"

It's Rufus Rutabega! and the SeaLion! I don't remember what we called the sea lion. My first favorite young juggler, who could juggle seven clubs, but only with his mouth wide open. Hot damn! How many years has it been?

"Jim told me where to find you."

Really? How did he know? But here you are! He finds a pen. He's local again, he says. We exchange info. Huzzah! We'll have beer together. Or with our respective kids, ice cream. Wow! You show up after all these years!

And here I am, still, waiting for you to find me.


Coco calls. There has been a fire.

'But here's the funny part, because you know there's always a funny part."

Like Nanny's teeth?

"Yes, like Nanny's teeth."

At her husband's funeral, Nanny went out without her teeth. One of the grandkids brought them, in their little wet plastic case, to the funeral home. Nanny didn't feel like putting them in, after all. Coco got to hold them. She went to the lobby and put them in her jacket pocket. Later, she remembered she didn't wear her jacket today, and fetched them out of the pocket of a jacket that looked like, but wasn't, hers. She put them in the car. After the bit in the funeral home, there was the bit at the cemetary, where the jacket's owner was wearing it. Coco went to him and told him "a funny story."

"Ah," he said. "I wondered why my pocket was wet."

So what's it this time?

"You know that dog she's got, with the same name as my husband? That's so old and untrained and fat..."

And shits under the piano?

"That one. Well, that dog was dead. He was dead of smoke inhalation. Dead. Just- dead."

That sounds like a good thing.

"Well, but the goddamn paramedics gave the stupid dog mouth-to-mouth, and then took it to the animal hospital!"

Oh. And him with no piano to shit under now. What kind of a life will that be?


"So, what, do I have to complain to get a mention?" asks Firehorse. Well, no. But it helps sometimes.


Three weekends remain. Here I am, still, waiting for you to find me.

(One Thing Leads To Another; The Fixx)

04 October, 2006

August Heat

...I don’t know the answer to that question/ Where’s the look? if I knew I would tell you....

I'm not a big fan of the space/time continum.

That is to say, I question its validity.

My knees tell me that I am old, but I don't believe it. My face doesn't show it. Only the ages of my children give me away.

And on a day like today, when I am topless, footloose and panty-free, with the sun gleaming on my shoulders, I wonder whether I can give creedence to the concept of a mono-directional timeline.

The calander says October. I seem to still be in Baltimore.

It's fishy, is all I'm saying.

(The Look of Love; ABC)

28 September, 2006

Corner, Spotlight

...oh, life is bigger/ It's bigger than you/ And you are not me/ The lengths that I will go to/ The distance in your eyes/ Oh no, I've said too much....

He slinks down the stairs and opens his arms for a cuddle.

Morning, Fluffy.

"Morning, Mama. Did Hilby come last night?"

Yes, he did. And guess what he brought?

"Another person?"


Hilby arrives with, as is his wont, an additional human. Three of them, actually. Last weekend, it was Karl, who was a surprise, but this weekend it’s Karl’s girlfriend, Hilby’s girlfriend, and- hooray!- Martin. Yes, fans, Lurk haunts the site of the Maryland Renaissance Festival again.

The forecast is much more dire than the actual weather. On Saturday, more than 20,000 patrons are undiscouraged. Sunday somewhat less so, but apparantly it was pouring in northern Anne Arundel county, so there you go. It’s not about whether it will rain, it’s about whether the patrons THINK it will rain. Makes bribing the forecasters an appealing idea.

Saturday is gorgeous, perfect, breezy enough that the white costumes flow and billow. A film crew loves us. We’re not sure who they are or why they’re here. That Girl, who would know, suspects a college project. A couple, armed with serious cameras, follows us around.

"They’re the best thing in this whole place."

No. Really? How nice of you. Shoot us anytime.

It’s Adventure Weekend, and pirates abound. The Bee Folks encourage patrons to holler Arrrgh and throw cheap plastic necklaces from their balcony. Note to self: check out their new fragrance; they promised in Pennsylvania that they were debuting a new hand cream fragrance in Maryland.

Jaki, our organist, accepts hugs, and refuses questions about her health. Will I lose her next? I hate to wonder, but life is short, and those who grace it do not always grace it for long.

Isabelle Glass, whose products have moved me to drool since Artscape 05, is here as a guest vendor. Mimi and Gigi lust after fancy silver and glass necklaces. Hawk gives permission for obscene expenditure, which (booyah!) is write-offable. We walk away adorned and shiny.

Though we break the 2K mark, the lines are amazingly short. Even at the privies. The longest line? The ATM. Go, you lovely patrons. Buy stuff. Booyah.

After work, after snack, after Fluff loses track of a wooden mug that I found one year in PA and lovingly restored, Fuzzy and I get our hair braided. Four days later, we both are are still looking pretty good. Good job, Rapunzelgirls. Fuzzy still has her silk roses, even.

As planned, we eat Vietnamese with the Jasters. Fluff is adventurous and not only chooses an unfamiliar dish, he asks for it in Vietnamese. The restauranteur, taking our order, is impressed. Fuzzy wants chicken and broccoli. I eat stir-fried vegatables, which, oddly, come out the same no matter which -ese I try.

At home, I kiss my children goodnight....and goodbye, because they are rapidly becoming not my children anymore, but their own human selves apart from me, who happen to live in the same house.

I will kiss them goodbye a thousand more times, and they will never know it. I mourn the passing of their child-ness, even as I celebrate their steps to maturity. Some of you will know what I mean.

Hurry to the Faire: it's half over. Four weekends left. The weather is here, and you are beautiful. Come see Mimi.

(Losing My Religion; REM)

22 September, 2006

Wild Life

...You got the lips that I’m mad about/ I got the lips that’ll knock you out/ C’mon wild one, be wild about me....

The Questing Sniff slips his leash to chase a neighborhood cat. It's a bold cat, and needed chasing. I had no idea the dog could slide from his collar at will. It's a trick he's been saving for An Occasion.

A tiny lizard, a skink, (I think!) plays on the cobbled apron of the Root Beer Float booth. It is striped and brownish, except for the tail, which is a startling neon blue, as though the skink had purchased it afterwards, for vanity. An upgrade. The lizard version of a boob job.

Mime Camp (extra posh this year: saucer chairs and carpet and a large plastic tote for a coffee table) has been adopted by a toad, presumably the Common American Toad, though he looks more like the Fowler's toad. There is some hybridizing between the two, which might account for his appearance. I say "his" though I have no way of determining the gender of this specimen. He seems undisturbed by our humanity and hops contentedly near our feet, hiding under our chairs with his backside tucked under the edge of our rug. Why a toad's butt should be colder than the rest of itself is beyond me. Just another herptological mystery.

Two striped spiders build webs near our home every night. Every morning, the webs are gone. One hangs on the corner formed by our porch roof and its endmost support. The other attaches to the crepe myrtle bush at the bottom, and to the night sky at the top. I was so surprised and thrilled to see this web stretch to infinity that I had to work most dilligently to not be disappointed when I at last spotted the spider spinning down from an overstretched electrical wire.

(Wild One; Bobby Rydell)

20 September, 2006

Not Yet!

...If I had a day that I could give you/ I'd give to you a day just like today....

My trousers reach mid-calf, my tee-shirt, my elbows. A slice of skin shows between waistbandless hipslung knit trousers that have seen better days and a vee-neck pullover in similar condition. My navel, however, is covered. The air is turning, is littered with rattling leaves that tattle the tale "summer is over, summer is over, put on your clothes."

The sun is bright, not fierce. The breeze is somewhat more aggressive than gentle. It is nothing short of gorgeous- but I can feel death in the air.

My toes are yet bare, though, and I ride topless today, defiantly clinging to warm rays with hot pink toenails.

(Sunshine On My Shoulders; John Denver)

18 September, 2006

Day's Remains

...the love you take/ is equal to the love you make....


baby powder
powder puffs
"duck" tape
Joy (TM)
baby wipes
battery-operated clock


sew fabbo new costumes
alter new pink cloak
make bubble juice
obtain more white socks
clean for houseguests
research toad species


Rain ruins the grounds and discourages the patrons.


2 pair tights
1 unitard
2 wooden spoons
3 hats
7 napkins
1 tablecloth
3 1/2 pair socks
4 wooden bowls
1 gold camisoile
1 long-sleeved white cardigan
3 wooden mugs
4 pair gloves
3 gauze shirts
1 pewter mug
2 tee-shirts
1 brocade jacket
5 empty plastic water bottles
1 white lace brassiere


To dine at a Vietnamese restaurant on Sunday after picking up paycheck, with friends doing same.


1 ziplok bag cubed cheese
1 block jarlesburg
1 bag macintosh apples, unopened
5 loose apples
2 nectarines
1 white peach
3 bunches slightly wilted grapes
12 slices of summer squash, green and yellow
4 bottles of water, 2 still frozen


Three hours on stilts after ten yoga-free days. Ouch.

We, the silent, entertain the blind.

No kidding; there is a group of people with long white canes. An elderly man peers through rhuemy eyes and declares, "It's a stiltwalker!" His young compainion sticks his hand out, in the wrong place, of course. We move to accommodate. A woman says "Don't step on me!' and pulls her cane close, as though to ward us off.

Justin stands still. He's just enjoying the sun, he says. I so rarely see him standing still. He's a powerful, watchful presence even at rest.

She commandeers me, bends my will to her plan, and thrusts a white box into my hands. "She'll know something's up if she sees me come back this way," she says, referring to her daughter. She tells me to go to the backstage door of the venue the child's father performs even now. I allow my eyebrows to express doubt. "It's okay- they're all in on it." I go, and open the door. "What are you doing here?!" exclaims a man I'm not sure realizes I quit speaking to him about a year ago. I gesture with the box. "Oh." He takes it, sets it down somewhere "safe". I close the door quietly and leave.

I, for one reason and another, find myself alone from time to time. I enjoy this as a guilty pleasure. Saturday, I was on my own, making bubbles at the Front Gate for guests exiting the Faire. Sunday, I soloed on stilts. I don't mind sharing my space, my bits, my shtick, my props. But sometimes, yes, sometimes, it is nice to reclaim it as just mine.

It is not raining, but nearly. The gloom hangs like fog over the village. It is our job, by virtue of our white and gold gorgeousness, to alleviate this. We process, toning gently. The lumpy Tibetan bell is low-voiced and slightly melancholy, like cowbell, like foghorn, like TS Eliot. The brass and wooden windchimes ring a faintly cheerful tinkle. She is turned away, speaking. He spots us, and, wordless, pats rapidly on her arm for her attention. She closes her mouth, turns to him with an irritated expression, spots us and relaxes into astonishment. The entire group stands silent as we pass, pleasure spreading their mouths and streaming from their eyes.

Thank you. That was the reaction I wanted.

(The End; The Beatles)

10 September, 2006

Ahem. Hello?

...I am not interested in poetry/ Poetry's another word for love....

I was Featured Poet at the Pour House Cafe last night.

I didn't mind rushing to leave the faire, since I hadn't had the best day, and it had started to rain anyway.

I didn't mind racing through laundry and a shower because I can be quick.

I didn't mind driving thirty-five miles, since I had good directions, traffic was light, and I found rock star parking in front of the venue.

I didn't mind that no one showed up for the poetry reading but me and the organizer, because these things happen sometimes and I got paid anyway, plus free food and coffee.

But when the organizer insisted that I use the mike to read my poems to nobody but her, that was when the evening became Officially Pretty Damn Stupid.

(I Am Not Interested In Love; Two Gentlemen of Verona; MacDermot & Guare)

08 September, 2006

Physically Here.....

....We were at the beach/ Everybody had matching towels....

Well, when she's ready to sell, let us know. We've been wanting a place at the beach.

"You mean YOU've been wanting a place at the beach, don't you?"

No, Mr. Wiseass Rudeypants, that's not what I mean.

Your father wants a place at the beach, too. You know why? Because he knows it would make your mother insanely happy. See how that works?

"Uh....not really."

Well, you've got time to figure it out, I guess.

In any case......

Ocean City Beach Vacation! Next Week! Yeeeeehawwww!

(excited? me? what makes you think so?)

(Rock Lobster; The B-52s)

06 September, 2006

It's True.

"...but attractive to the eye and soothing to the smell. Ha-ha-ha-ha. Poppies....."

I eat poppy seed rolls partly because it would be mortifying to come up too squeaky clean on a random drug test.

(Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West; The Wizard of Oz, 1939)

05 September, 2006

Blogging This

...two guys walk into a bar....

BuddahPat, the Animal, Desdemona One and I sit in a BYOB Thai restaurant when Superman walks in. This sounds like the opening to a joke, but it's just the opening to my post, and I didn't even write it. The Animal did. Plus, it actually happened like that. BuddahPat was a Thai virgin, which is fair because he popped my sushi cherry, though it was someone else who convinced me (under influence of beer) to try sashimi.

After Thai, we go to Turner's, where BuddahPat's favorite beertender is on duty. I see two lovely reasons why she's his favorite. She's also really sweet, and makes me a weenie (read: I can drive after drinking it) Cosmo. Which was delicious.

We watch pretend TV. It was the episode of Barney Miller where Joan Collins makes a guest appearance. And Gary Busey in a bad toupee. The Animal rolls his eyes.

"What was her name?"

Never tell me that I know YOUR favorite bartender's name before you do.

"Ah, but you do. What was it?"

It's Tori. And I think she, like Beyonce, is proof of the existence of God. I know this is a favored theory of his.

"That's right. Beauty like that doesn't happen by accident."


Thursday, the rain begins. Between then and now, the five gallon bucket in my front yard has nearly filled. And it continues to come down. Ernesto The Hurricane knocked out power in our area, including at the Festival, but we persisted. As did the patrons. Still, I'm glad I don't have to work in the weather today.


In white angel outfits, we pass Kate Cox's booth. Her baby daughter is wrapped in red silk. Kate passes her to me, and we pose. Somebody get me a copy of that.

Later, I let myself lag behind, looking at the backs of my troupe, all stilted up. The big pow of turquoise, red and lilac fills my eyes. Something else, pride, maybe, or joy, fills my heart. Whatever it is, I'm glad to be on site, because my throat is also full and I couldn't speak if I wanted to.


"Look, it's Mimi! There she is!"

I put on my 'I'm so glad to see YOU' face, just in time. "Look, honey, I told you she'd remember!"

I put out my hand. She rears back.

"She's afraid of gloves. It's okay, sweetheart, this is Mimi! She's been talking about you all year!" Right, the little fairie girl afraid of gloves, I do remember. She was Vignette #4. And she's brought not only her grandparents, but also her parents and her new baby brother, who I promptly steal. Oh, way to comfort the kid. Go, Mimi.


I tip my hip, saucy, at a patron the beertender has now informed me "totally just took a photo of your bum." In response, Mac McPatron flashes me.

He flashes me.

That's right, lifts his kilt from where he sits on a bench and flashes me his wanker.

Apparantly he's got a sheepskin tucked inside the back of his wool kilt- which makes sense for sitting- and there it lies, like an uncooked sausage on a fluffy bun.

Before I look away with a shudder of astonishment, it registers that he's not only regimental, he's uncut.


"I stumbled across it by accident, and I can't believe there's no mention of me."

You did not read through three years' worth of archives. You did not.

"M. was away. I had a lot of free time," he says with an embarassed shrug. "But not one mention! I mean, we've shared stuff!"

So we have, Johnboy, like spit, during a recent murder mystery. Also, you happen to be one of my favorite former-YAE kids. Er, former kids.

Plus, you've read my archives. That alone earns you a mention. AND your own special code name.

....you'd think the second one would've ducked.

01 September, 2006

Inside Job

...Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip/ Mum mum mum mum mum mum/ Get a job Sha na na na, sha na na na na....

Totsie brings up an interesting point. There is probably some need for 'back story'. To those of you for whom this is already old hat, skip ahead to the joke at the end. And Dan Tobin should skip it entirely, since he only reads the short ones.

In 1985, my mother saw an advertisment for performers for the Renaissance Festival. My friends Kate and Teever and I went down on a Saturday. I auditioned as a mime. I was contracted, by director John Strucken, assistant directed by Carolyn Spedden.

The Maryland Renaissance Festival began thirty years ago as a tent show at a local music venue. You can read more about it here.

My history is as Mimi, Mime Game-Master. As best I remember it, so please excuse any details I've gotten wrong.

I missed my first weekend of the 1985 Faire- the first year it was in Crownsville, Maryland- because my grandfather died and my sister and I flew to Detroit for his funeral. I finished sewing trim on my costume on the plane. I missed another weekend in 1989, when I went on my honeymoon. And then, in 2003, I missed the final two weekends, because I broke myself.

That first costume worked well, and looked good, but because it was back-lacing, was impossible to get into alone. Also, the white blouse had a habit of coming untucked from the black trousers, which looked messy. It was cute, though: A white blouse, black bodice, black trousers, white tights and black slippers. The slippers fell apart after two weekends, and it took several years before I finalized my footwear look. Then, two or three years ago, I revised it again. I spent my days playing with patrons. I met Coco in 1986, when she was the village bag lady.

That first season, there was a storyteller's chair. I sat down in it towards the end of the day, one day near the end of the season. A patron eating some cookies asked if I was going to tell a story. I nodded sarcastically. She waited, expectant. On the spot, I told the story of the The Three Bears. She followed and enjoyed. Others gathered and paid attention. It was a birth.

The next year, John scheduled me for several slots in the storyteller's chair. The year after, the same, only that year, it rained. A lot. Jim Frank felt sorry for the soggy little mime with only a few brave souls to sit on soggy hay bales to watch. He had taught himself to eat fire, and closed my show for me with something more entertaining than my stories. Once, I was brave enough to ask him to teach me to eat fire. He said yes. This was how our partnership began.

Seven years later, our partnership dissolved. I'd just had my first baby and he was getting married. In the meantime, we'd done four shows a day together as Firespiel, traveled to do a season at the Georgia Renaissance Festival (which John Strucken was directing), walked stilts together in parades and other places (for ten or more years, every pair of stilts I owned was Jim-built.), done one season with Jer Gallay as The Imaginary Circus, run through three costume looks, changed focus, argued, agreed, learned new skills and kept old jokes. It was during this time that marshmallows came to be known as 'mime bait.' Now, of course, it's liquor. I began to do murder mystery shows with Coco, outside the Faire. Inside the Faire, I had developed a stilt show all by myself, written for, costumed and directed Dragons By The Tale, a theatre troupe that performed children's material, ate fire at the non-Pub-Sing pub amidst wild drumming, hopped behind the bar for guest stints as 'beer mime' and learned how to make amazingly simple, but somehow impressive, huge bubbles.

By this time I was wearing what I still wear at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, a black unitard with a cropped Tudor-style top trimmed with bells. That top has held up surprisingly well. I wish I knew what I had made it from. I 'outgrew' my favorite pair of stilt pants- which I still wear in Pennsylvania, with short, JimBuilt stilts- a beautiful purple paisley rayon blend that flow when I move. I developed a solo fire-eating show, and a friend painted a beautiful banner for it. I built MimeCamp, a place to stilt up, keep costume changes and food. I had the opportunity to work with the Young Actors' Ensemble for a couple of years. This is where I met That Girl, who said to me, "I want to do everything you do." Well, that was fine, since I'd been looking to clone myself for three years or so, thinking that double the Mimi meant double coverage at the faire. Which did not happen, exactly. Something else did, perhaps better. Also at this time, Fluffy decided he wanted to be in my Mimi Flambe show- I was doing a couple of Mimi Flambe shows each day, and one or two storytelling shows. My storybook had increased from just The Three Bears to a total of four or five stories, including a naughty one about a maiden and a moose that the Pyrates used to narrate. Fluffy, as Max joined the act, and was an instant hit. Gigi joined the act, and was an instant hit. Fuzzy, safe at home and three years old, was furious. With Fluffy's help, she painted a cardboard box to be HER makeup case, and chose her name. Yes, a full two years in advance. Each of them began training to walk stilts at five years of age. Their first stilts were also JimBuilt. Now, we all walk HickoryStix, which were created by Martin Ewen, Lurk, in the Altitude Factory, which was located in my basement, just for irony.

Moresca sent out a catalogue with a white costume they called Gelsomina. I HAD to have it. Debra at DragonWings built a gorgeous feathered hat to go with it. I was hesitant to wear it at Faire, because of dirt. Patron response convinced me otherwise. That Girl came up with the idea of a procession of the four of us, all in white. She built the first cloak, and decorated the children's costumes. Since then, we keep adding elements. And now, I'm midway through a build of another set of fanciness, not white this time.

Shortly after Gigi joined me, she began to outshine me. In a sartorial fashion, if you'll excuse the pun.

"You need to be brighter," Carolyn told me. I tried purple. "You need to be brighter," Carolyn told me. "Look at Gigi, how she just stands out." Okay, does hot pink stand out enough for you?

So here I am these days, in a shiny hot pink spandex unitard and a brocade jacket, with pink superhero boots and my poufy long-tailed trademark hat. Guess what? I am bright. I stand out.

My day used to begin atop the front gate, blowing bubbles. Then I became part of a troupe, and now our opening is in fabulous white costumes, and if anyone has put a photo of this on the 'net, I can't find it. I've looked. I used to spend a lot of time taking families of patrons to various places on site when I saw them staring at the map in complete befuddlement. Nowadays, I spend a lot of time on stilts stealing sips of beer from patrons. Mime Lunch has evolved from a simple picnic wherever we felt like having it to the un-show, Chat and Chew With Mimi and Gigi at the Boar's Head Tavern. We are SuperModels, and spend an inordinate amount of time changing from one costume to another all day. We also officially finish at 3:30 PM, so latecomers may never even see us.

I still guide lost patrons, steal beer and babies, grin and wave madly to people I don't know, pose for photographs, fall in love with special guests and give them Most Favored Patron status, see self-Designated Patrons year after year with their authentic garb, and their rabbit fur covered baskets which contain cell-phone, PDA and digital camera. I know vendors better than the acting company, since they return year after year. An actor has to be with the company three or four years before I'll even notice him, unless he's living in my house. But now I have a troupe, an entourage, a partner, a family. Together, we're bigger than Mimi ever was.

I think that's a good thing.

I once knew a poet who would start writing his poetry immediately when he got up in the morning. You could say that he went from bed to verse.

(Get A Job; Silhouettes)

30 August, 2006

Alive; Dead.

...how does it feel to be/one of the Beautiful People?/How often have you been there?/Often enough to know.....

A sinking snuggle into shabby seat is a welcome embrace. I pull off my top to the Beatles blaring through the radio, and a grin explodes across my face. How I've survived most of August in the BoringMobile is a mystery. Now, with load-in complete and Opening Weekend under our belts, the larger vehicle becomes superfluous for the next eight weeks.

Opening morning is cloudy, but untroubled by precipitation. We are glad to not broil under the gleaming sun. Our spandex suits provide gleam enough.

The white outfits are, as always, a hit, and the race to assist in the PeeWee Pirate and Princess Party Parade (in honor of Kids Free Weekend) puts us behind for Chat-N-Chew with Mimi and Gigi. Good thing I specially marked all times as being "ish" in nature. A garbed couple loans me a baby to snorgle. She's waiting for a meal- her father holds an old-style formula bottle in his hand, but the baby seems content, and settles in my lap as though she'll stay forever. It's an organic sort of non-show event, akin to the bubble appearance I put in on the piazza at the Pennsylvania Faire, wherein there is little required of the patrons in the vicinity. Admire, participate, ignore; it's very low key. Plus, we renew our bodies for our stilt excursion. I've scheduled us too tightly. We make it out on stilts by 1:30, not 1:00, as planned, but make up in enthusiasm what we lack in promptness. Everyone comments on how the children have grown, and it's not just a joke about the stilts. This is us, the first year Fluffy worked with me.

Ken's brother is beginning to look like Ken to me. His ginger hair is silvering. Ken remains dead, except in my heart. I think about Crooked Finger Man, the amatuer photographer who has been looking more frail each year. I wonder if he is connected in the fringe, if any of our company knows his name or could discover what's become of him. I think of Bonnie, formerly Bliss Goodbody of the Bawdy Balladeers, who has been in poor health for some time. Jim Casey's booth, since his death, is being run by his sister. Tradition continues.

I search for new vendors in old booths: who has sold to whom during the off season? I find none. There is a new kiosk for hairbraiding, owned, I assume, by the Goddess Gracie, since I see her there. There are three or four tents up on formerly performable spots. It's just not worth trying to choerograph a "big bit", as any available real estate is leased to a crafter by the management as soon as I discover it. There is a cart selling egg rolls. The tents with logs and bags of hay for people to whack one another with are gone. I do not see the rickey carts, but they often do not appear until the third weekend anyway. Some of the acts are new, but old: Daniel Duke of Danger is here. I remember him as one third of Pandemonium. The London Broil is here, Duncan and Louie being from the first group of the Young Actors Ensemble in 1993. Or maybe '92. Possibly '91. Damn, I'm old.

We wander long-legged into the pub, and there, there! is Crooked Finger Man, looking fragile, but pleased to see us. Darling, you couldn't be nearly as glad to see me as I am to see you. A young man I recognize tells me Dan is back. Dan the Master Joyner, maker of fine furnishings, was in an accident that should have finished him off. "He's in the booth, so stop by to see him." I waste no time. "I'm glad they never told me how bad off I was, or I wouldn't be walking right now," Dan tells me.

"It's our in-betweens that are most comical," That Girl remarks to me, wearing a unitard around her ankles and white socks on her feet. She does a little dance.

I can't argue with that. Next time, I'm wearing stilt pads on my knees, a bra, a hat and a thong. I do a little dance.

"Cybbie, I never thought of you in that way before. It's been so.... platonic between us for so long."


Tim stops while we're changing out of stilts. "Hey, Cyb, has Carolyn told you?"

Told me what? No.

"No, I guess she wouldn't have had time. It's about Bonnie. Bonnie Orr died yesterday. I don't have any details. She'd been pretty sick for awhile."

Thank you for telling me.

Tim is wrong. It's not his fault. But I'm extremely glad that he is, because that means I can call and talk to Bonnie, just like everyone else who got the wrong information is going to do.

A man has hunkered down to talk to That Girl. "Hey, good talking to you, see you on site." He leaves.

Who is that?

"You know what, I don't even know his name."

Okay, but who IS he?

"Some vendor guy. I play tic-tac-toe with him."

Oh. On stilts, right?

"Yup. Don't you play tic-tac-toe?"

I used to.


With Bill. It was my special thing with Bill. So I think I'll probably never play tic-tac-toe anymore.

"Oh." She digests this. "Well, I'm glad you taught me to play."

I doubt very much that I taught you to play tic-tac-toe.

"You know what I mean."

Of all friends that remain dead, Bill's still my favorite.

(Baby, You're A Rich Man; The Beatles)

29 August, 2006

Unrequested Gibberish

....Sabba sibby sabba; Nooby abba nabba/ Le le lo lo......

Do not phone me with your accent dripping with Jamaica, or Sri Lanka, or China, and then be offended when I ask you to repeat yourself because I don't understand you.

Don't assault my ears and my limited brain capacity, then smack me with your impatient and condescending attitude. Just don't even. You called ME, remember?

Plus, you're a telemarketer, remember?

Not so high up on the food chain, I think.

(Good Morning, Starshine; 5th Dimension)

25 August, 2006


...It gathers in my throat and it gathers up my breath....

When I was Featured Poet at the Coffee Beanery Cafe for the Green Moon Poet's Society back in March or May or something, I expected just a couple of cats to show up. But the place was very full. When I returned in June, it was packed.

Last month, for the debut of The Poetry Experience at Ahh, Coffee in Eastport, people were on chairs, the floor, squashed together by the counter; it was really thick with humanity.

Tonight, I'm Featured Poet at Ahh, Coffee. And I kind of wish I didn't know what to expect.

There will, however, be room for you, if you show up. Don't wear a beret or a red carnation. I'll know you by your nakedness.

(Anxiety (Get Nervous); Pat Benatar)

24 August, 2006

Gooooood Morning!

...it's daybreak, if you'll only believe/ And let it shine, shine, shine/ All around the world....

Brrrrrrrrrring. Brrrrrrrrrring. Brrrrrrrrrrrring. Brrrrrrrr-

Wakey, wakey, hands off snakey!

"You're cute. You know what they say in the military?"

No idea. And I guess what I should have said was, Risey, shiney, hands off gynie!

"Hah! I love it. What they say in the military is Drop your cocks and put on your socks."

Wouldn't know. Never been in the military, don't have a cock of my own.

"I know, right? But I like risey shiney hands off gynie."

Well, it's probably less applicable women, because I think in general we're pretty secure that we can sleep without our parts going wandering off to have their own adventures without us.

"I love getting a wakeup call from you."

(Daybreak; Barry Manilow)

21 August, 2006

Gearing Up

...I've got two tickets in my pocket, now baby, we're gonna disappear/ We've waited so long, waited so long.....

The season is upon us. That Girl and I will break camp on Wednesday. Fluff and Fuzz are anxious to get started. I have a boxfull of brochures in the BoringMobile. I don't get my car back until I've finished schlepping ladders, stilts, trashcans, tarps, carpets, plastic tote boxes, camp chairs, shovels, rakes, makeup cases, bugspray, gardening gloves, and oh yes costumes.

I have to make sure the childrens' stilts still fit: their feet may have outgrown the bolted boots, and their shins may have outgrown the leg support. If the former is the case, it's new boots time. If the latter is the case, it's considerably more involved. I dumped a load of cash at my local JoAnn Fabric in pursuit of new heights of beauty. This weekend, people. You want a brochuere? Call the faire, or e-mail me with your addy, and you will have a tri-fold glossy in hand within days.

Join us? I've got two tickets I'm willing to give away (yes, I said give.) Send me g-mail.

(Two Tickets to Paradise; Eddie Money)

18 August, 2006

Whoa, Really?

...Philosophy is the talk on a cereal box/Religion is the smile on a dog.....

I set off for my daily walk, small leather purse for cellphone, poo bags, and writing implements over my shoulder. He eyes the medium sized sheathed dagger still dangling from its strap, leftover from last RenFest season.

"Now I see why nobody bothers you on your walks."

Oh! Of course! And all this time, I was thinking it was because of the large dog at the other end of the leash.

(What I Am; Edie Brickell)

17 August, 2006

Stupid, Scary.

"...Oh, crap; I lied to myself." --Fuzzy

This piece of nonsense, (which may not be considered Safe For Work),Warp Factor Love, comes to you courtesy of WilWheatonInExile. He blames his stepson Ryan. Yeah, I blame my kids for the stupid stuff, too.

Francesca, that mazboot Mama of Frankie Can't Relax, shows us this Not Safe For Work horror show. The scariest bit is, I'm pretty sure I know a few people who would consider having this done. Gee, it sure is colorful.

So the kids and I are checking out the colorful Simpsons episode when Lisa turns vegetarian, with Paul and Linda McCartney as guest voices. The original air date was October of 1995, and that was the 7th season of the Simpsons. Scary that Paul should be widowed, married and divorced, and this crazy cartoon show is still running.

Life imitating cartoons is stupid: see this Wolverine wanna-be. Modification? Please. From BoingBoing.

Also scary: This Sunday, I will appear with Do Or Die Productions in One Of The Gang at Fabulous Whispers. I'll be wearing a black slip and black shoes. At least. The stupid part? Audiences have been enjoying this cliche-infested show for as long as I can remember, and it's still a favorite.

Next Friday, August 25th,I am to be Featured Poet at Ahh, Coffee in Edgewater. The event starts at 6:30PM, and is supposed to run til 8:30, but everyone had such a good time last time that the owner kept us on until 9. Cliff and Rocky will Emcee, and Rocky will bring his new drum, which I will stroke for mojo-- mine or its, I'm not sure. Rocky, Cliff and I hope to read our triptych poem, Rocky's Blood Writes, Cliff's This Poem Is A Zombie, and my Dr. Frankenpoet.

The next day, of course, the long-awaited Maryland Renaissance Festival opens for its Thirtieth Season, with lots of yummy surprises, including the Mediaeval Baebes. Scroll down this page to see Out of the Box's schedule (that's us), and we espcially invite you to bring your food to lunch with us. Remember, we're being paid to not talk, but we love hearing your voices. This is the first year we're hosting a meal, and it will be sad if no one joins us.

Do identify yourself if you come see me, by wearing a red carnation and a beret.

I, naturally, will be naked.

Under whatever I'm wearing, I'm always naked.

15 August, 2006

Flying Leap

...got to roll with the punches and get to what's real....

That Girl has just sent me photographs.

"I finally did it!" she squeals in an e-mail. Really? What has she been wanting to do that this 'finally' is an operative word?

She painted a Mimi-pink jump-suit on her body and leaped from a fully functional airplane, naked but for the man strapped to her back.

I would never do this, no. I'd be too wussy and chicken to jump naked from a plane.

I would have to wear boots.

(Jump; Van Halen)

Lightly Toasted

...I touch your lips and all at once the sparks go flying....

I wake to cold water. It's so cold, even the water in the Hot tap is cold. It's three in the morning. Happy Monday, I guess.

The drive home was uneventful, lightly trafficked and quiet reigned in the back seat. The BoringMobile behaved itself, except for the seat which always bites the backs of my legs and makes my feet go to sleep. No matter; it's comfortable, and fits gear plus family, which was the point.

Mimi Flambe appears this year, after all, at least for four shows. I was sad every time I looked at my beautiful, dust-collector banner. When Fluffy declined to write more material and opted instead for us to be Designated Street Performers this year in Maryland, I had mixed feelings. Fire being not an option at Maryland this year, when Kirk asked me to perform Mimi Flambe for Pennsylvania Ren Faire's Opening Weekend, I said Yes.

He puts me up in a hotel in beautiful downtown Manheim, PA, which sports a beautiful miniature golf course, a stagnating green pond with brown ducks or a blue heron, but never both at once, horse-drawn Amish buggies, field after field after field of lush green corn, the constant odor of manure/fertilizer, charming Victorian homes, and literally more used car dealerships than you could shake a stick at. Your arm would get tired.

We Independants mostly suffer through Morning Meeting, and fail to hear the announcement that the grounds will open at 10:45 instead of 11:00 AM, because it failed to be mentioned.

I spend my first hour being quietly atmospheric. My flight deck is crammed with characters, so I find a semi-shady spot with a good-sized rock for standing on, with a downhill breeze. Out come the giant bubbles, which never (never yet) fail to charm. A family wants to take me home. A woman mouths "I want that job" at me. A man critiques my bubble mix. "Too much glycerine," he pronounces, then advises me that vegetable oil works just as well. Perhaps I'll try it, now that I've already ordered a gallon of glycerine. Characters interact: "Oiye, lookee that! It be pixies! Oiye, come 'ere, come back, ye pixie!" and "It must be a thing of the devil! Look at it! It's beauteous and shapely! And there it goes, Pop!" Oh, he was talking about the bubble.

It's funny to note how a perfectly ordinary looking young guy with slightly shaggy hair who wouldn't deserve a second look wearing a TOOL tee-shirt dons a velvet doublet and suddenly becomes a dashing romantic hero. Provided, of course, he has a good jawline. All the velvet in the world won't help a weak chin.

There is an encampment of torture devices and torturers and torturees. I watch. One device, a head and hand stocks, is occupied by a patron-garbed gentleman. A torturer slaps him with a wet sponge. Another installation, a two-person leg-stock, holds a couple of enticing wenches. Their faces and feet are visible. A man tickles them with various objects, and they shriek almost convincingly. I know people who would find this appealing, but wonder when objects and activities traditionally labeled as "kink" wandered into the realm of "family entertainment."

I realize that I don't know the Designated Patrons here at PARF. Soon, soon, I will see my own beloved patrons, reconnect with my fan base, with the people who have loved me for ten years or more; some of them twenty years, and counting. And yet: "Mimi? Is that?" I turn. "I thought it was you! It's good to see you here!" And then, in a conspiratorial undertone, "You are still doing Maryland, right?" I nod. A look of relief. "Good. I'll see you in two weeks, then."

My first show is at 1:30 PM. Fluffy didn't want to do the show, so I rewrote a bit, moving back to my "Bob" show, and rewrote a bit more until what I presented was a Double Bob show. It went well, for me, for the Bobs, and for the audience. Kirk even pronounced my first shaky effort "good stuff," which provided validation for Primarily Decorative.

The mud show at PA is run by a guy I've know for twenty years now, who never really learned my physical language very well. Not surprising, as he has the attention span of a gnat. And yet he asks me who is still in Maryland that he would know. I mime a swordfight. He comes up with Hack and Slash. I draw my sword sideways across my tongue and then tip my head back to swallow, giving the trademarked arm gesture and snap that belongs to ".....Johnny Fox! Johnny's still there? That's incredible, what is he, ninety?" Hah, like you're much younger. I pull out a pretend clipboard, to indicate Carolyn, but he guesses Mary Ann Jung, which is also correct. I make an O with my arms, and he says, "Wow, Mark Jaster's still there, too?" Oh, you'd be surprised. I wave a wand and poof. "A magician. Uhhhhmmmm...." I hold a flower, smell it, ouch, thorns. I shake my hand and suck on my gloved finger. "Flower, pretty flower....rose. Rose." I do the magic thing again. "Magic. Rose. Mike Rose! Hah! I remember him when he was Brian Howard's partner." Right. I remember that, too. Funny that I never think of Mike as Brian Howard's first partner. I deliberately do not mention my ex-partner, who is still there as well.

In the afternoon, I do an organic "show," which is mainly just me and the bubbles and the patrons. They are tired; it is five o'clock and the sun has been strong. I interact with people who are resting, or waiting, or pausing. They assemble and disperse, and do not interrupt the storyline, because there is none. I finish when I see Kirk, waiting to bring the Living Statue to the Piazza.

Sunday's Morning Meeting is mercifully short. I work powder into my white base, apply liner and lips. Kirk asks the Independants, "Any problems from yesterday?"

The mikes at my stage weren't working at all.

There is dead silence. Kirk looks apologetic, then confused, then good-naturedly furious. The assembled bursts into laughter. It's a good start.

The second day goes much as the first. I see people I breakfasted with at the hotel, but they do not recognize me, for I was incognito.

At 'my' stage, a couple of well-garbed patrons from Maryland are righteously indignant on my behalf that I will not be performing fire there this year because of last year's 'incident.' "All the years Mimi's been doing fire, we said, and never an accident, and here comes this newcomer, and now Mimi can't do her fire show anymore. It's not right." Which was extremely gratifying. "We'll see you soon," they promise. "In two weeks."

That's right.

Two weeks.

(Kiss Of Fire; Georgia Gibbs)