Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Smells like...?

      My husband’s nose is poised delicately over a large, freshly poured—some might say stupidly expensive—Petite Sirah.  We’re deep in romantic wine country.  Eyes closed, he conveys such bliss it sends me and my nose scurrying to my own glass.  “What do you smell?” he murmurs reverently.
     “Alcohol.”  Cause I do.  That’s what I smell.  The kind of scent I associate with the last few seconds of physical comfort I’ll know before my arm is jabbed with a sharp ‘this-won’t-hurt-a-bit” needle.  ‘Fear’ is the word association I put to those kinds of smells. 
     He laughs.  Cause he knows exactly what I’m talking about. 
     Don’t get me wrong, I love wine.  I drink wine all the time.  It’s all I do drink, as other types of alcohol for me are just that: Al. Co. Ho.  Rubbing.  Disinfecting.  Warning.  Those are the only appropriate uses for something that smells so damn industrial strength.   No…wine…wiiiiiiiine…whine…. That's always been my poison of choice.  And I don’t stint myself on price either, cause the cheap stuff gives me headaches.  When it comes to wine I go big or go home.  But having said that, I’ve never once been sniffing distance from it and found myself thinking: ‘Ah, there it is!  The indelible taste of scattered Autumn leaves laced in fine Brazilian dark chocolate with a whimsical note of a Monarch butterfly’s breath and all undercut by a sly hint of nun’s underwear’…or something.  Nope.  Words like ‘nutmeg,’ ‘cherry bouquet,’ or ‘soft alpine fire’ never occur to me, even when they’re advertised by the experts.  I don’t smell them.
     “What do you smell?”  I ask my husband. 
     He swirls the glass professionally, creating the ‘stems’ of wine on the inside of the glass that’s supposed to mean something…to someone.   He sniffs again.  “Hm, yeah…oh, yes…definitely…”
     “Smells like I’m one glass away from a guaranteed shag tonight.”
     Wine shoots out my nose.  Enough wine in fact by his definition to put him one and a half glasses away from getting lucky.
     It’s okay.  He’s wrong about the wine sealing the deal anyway.  After nearly thirty years together, wine coming up my nose is a far more effective aphrodisiac than wine going down my throat.  He had me at “guaranteed shag.”
     Let that be a lesson to you boys: girls like the funny.
     We also like bouquets of course…especially those underscored with the scent of fresh cut cedar along with the over-tones of rippling turkey-jerky, maybe just a nod from an elfen-lighted-honeysuckle-wick and finally rounded off with the smooth velvety texture of Black Sea mud, in order to reach for a perfect crescendo into a finely sanded, buffed if you will, holiday mood and—I could do this all day—the buttery warmth of toasted pine-cones…   

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

They call me 'Squinty'

     …and a lot of other really mean things, too.  “They” being the two bundles of joy my husband and I brightened this world with just over twenty years ago.  My kids find me and my whole completely-unfounded-yet-unshakeable-hippie-esque-conviction-that-if-I-don’t-get-reading-glasses-I-won’t-ever-really-need-them… they find the whole package deeply hilarious/super sad.  And oh, they just love finding funny/sad labels to tag me with, for any occasion.  Like “Al” short for Alzheimer—because not just my eyes have gone fuzzy. 
     Saying “Wait till you’re my age” is such a waste of breath, a fact I’m proud to say I’ve understood since back in the day when I was calling my own mother things like ‘Squinty.’   Though I think if I had actually come out and said something like that to her face, I’d’ve been Squinty long before my eyesight started to go from the clop I would’ve received.  Oh how my mother loved that word: clop!   Her daily mantra during my formative years was: “One good clop is worth a life time of understanding.”  Wise words, Nita Donovan, wise words… Unfortunately for me, by the time I could put them into practice, the world had gone irretrievably PC.  No one’s allow to clop anything these days, least of all your own kids.  The word ‘clop’ has gone out of use.  I doubt you’d even find it in the dictionary anymore, unless it was some cute reference to the sound your pony makes.  You know, the pony-you-never-got-so-therefore-had-to-buy-for-your-own-kids-who-weren’t-very-horsey-and-didn’t-really-want-one-anyway-and-so-now-you’re-feeding-it-and–looking-after-it-in-addition-to-paying-for-it… the sound your pony makes.  Clop-clop-clop.
     I have a whole menagerie of animals I’m looking after for my kids who don’t live at home anymore!   It’s my own fault.  My mantra during their formative years, was: “You have kids, you have animals.”  I said it until it was true, and was finally able to bring my husband around to that view.  He didn’t grow up with tankfuls of fish or pens of guinea-pigs and bunnies, cages of hamsters, rats, mice, or even cats and a whole slew of dogs, the way I did.  My parents were great that way.  They believed looking after animals was invaluable for children.  That every animal I bought with my own hard earned allowance/babysitting/shit-job money—every pet I had helped me learn skills I’d need later in life.  And oh how right they were.  I use those skills to this day.  Nobody cleans out MY OWN KIDS’S bunny-cage quite like I do.  And the added bonus is my kids were able to leave home with a clear conscience, knowing the Hansel and Gretel-like trail of pets they left in their wake would be well loved and looked after.  
        Well, I HAVE to look after all these critters, don’t I?  My kids might call me mean names if I didn’t.   

Monday, 5 August 2013


…If, in your head, you heard that uttered in the strict tones of a German Dominatrix, you’d be halfway to correct.  The woman who spoke what for me has become an immortal line was German, she was very dominating, and uber strict. 
Or maybe it was just her accent. 
But in any case, she was a pharmacist.  Offering up a choice of cough drops to some kvetchy Americans with a cold. 
But oh how we laughed, my husband, my daughter, my son.  Oh how we repeated that line “You Vant leeeek? Oder SAAAUUUCK!!?”  It’s impossible to gauge how many times, let’s just go with ‘over and over,’ the woman growing more dominating, more strict, more German with each repetition all through out that Christmas visit to our daughter who lives in Stuttgart (and if repeating ‘You vant lick or suck’ with your kids seems inappropriate, I refer you to the previous post).  
Here’s what’s really inappropriate…we were in Germany.
The poor woman was doing her best to speak our language.
Our daughter has been living in Germany for nearly seven years.
I go there A LOT, and beyond ‘Ausgang’ ‘Bitte’ ‘Danke’ and ‘Schnell!’ I got nuthin’ (And according to my daughter, I plug those words in with an offensive willy-nilly randomness).
Oscar Wilde said: “Life is too short to learn German.”  It’s hard to argue the logic of that, but I do think life’s too long to not learn something besides English.
Turns out I have zero talent for foreign languages.  This is not news to me.  That truth has been self-evident since high school when I broke my French teacher (Monsieur Peterson, if you’re reading this…I’m sorry!!! I mean… J’ai regrette?  No, that’s not right…).  But we split our time between the US and Europe and so about four years ago, fed up with being that mono-linguistic American, I set a goal: fluency in a minimum of two foreign languages before I croak. 
I began with Spanish, convinced that somehow the language of Salvador Dali would be the “easiest”—wha--?   (Next up: Japanese ‘cause that’s so easy too).  I would do this in my spare time (which like my talent for languages, I have none).  Spanish is everywhere I told myself.  My kids went to Spanish Immersion schools, they’ll help me, I reasoned.   I can do this, I affirmed.  I was distracted in high school (unlike now with family, career, life).  How hard can it be?
Two things.  Numero uno: Your first clue would be Salvador-freakin’-Dali.  Right there I could rest my case.  But I got a numero dos: believe me when I say, I am nothing if not Type A.  And hand on my heart, I have never, ever, EVER put so much effort into anything…with so muy muy POCOS resultos! 
But, I’m four years and countless teachers, courses, tapes, computer programs, books, DVD’s, ‘meet-up groups’ (not to mention beaucoup dinero) in.  AND if you dare stop with a language you basically tumble right back to the bottom of the mythical Sisyphus Language Mountain with a boulder where your brain used to be…So I push on.
Currently I’m torturing a lovely man named Ronald in Costa Rica by Skype twice a week in private lessons.  I know repetition is the key to languages—I’ve been told that over and over (ba-dum-ching) but there’s level of  ‘Ground Hog’s Day’ to these bi-weekly sessions that’s just SO out there.  (A film I adore, btw, and whose plot I tried to explain to Ronald in Spanish last week, but it was lost in the…).
Ronald of course is very polite.  He’d never run around over Xmas howling with laughter with his family over dumbass things I say…Ronald really is a much better person than I….Still, I know, oh yes I do… when I try to express ideas like: ‘You really must see ‘Ground Hog’s Day!’ by saying: ‘Tengas que ver ‘El Dia de los Groundhogs!’ well, just by the way Ronald drops his head in his hands and emits a mournful sigh, I know… what I really just said was “You Vant lick?  Or suck?”