Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Tree

I didn't know it required full body armor to deal with a cedar tree. My mistake. My brother and I four-wheeled through his woods on Thanksgiving looking for a Christmas tree for Sissie (me). For the non-Americans among us, "four-wheelin'" is a verb in the southern part of the USA. It means to ride in a vehicle (jeep or truck, usually) where the suspension of the wheels is elevated to the level so as to pass over any small obstacles in it's path...fallen logs, deer, rivers, etc. You are a redneck if, the suspension on your vehicle is so high, it is considered dangerous (not legal) to drive on a street. Your street cred is also higher, as this is a superfluous vehicle for you and your family, the extra car.

Of course, my brother has a large economic drain called a "child"...he can't afford for his four-wheeler to be illegal on the street. I just hunch down in the seat when we ride around...why should my street cred suffer? However, the morning after picking my tree and hauling it home, I woke up looking as if I had done four rounds with Pinocchio; blisters, slivers and little bits of green were bodily attached TO ME!

Fa la la.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We Could Mess Up a Free Lunch

The Roanoke Valley has four rather bohemian coffee shops named after a local mountain. The waiters are very young and extremely hip, the coffee is so strong it can walk out of the cup and leap into your mouth when ordered to do so. They are playing an old Bob Dylan album tonight and a piece of cake is $5. That's two gallons of gas, folks. Sure, the floors are cool, the furniture is collegiate and comfortable...but you can't smoke inside and the cake is outrageous.

It's not that it isn't worth it, but the owners are catching us at a weak moment, aren't they? Everything about the place screams rathskeller...a gathering place for wild and crazy youth. And we walk in with our middle-aged bodies and hips and look at the cake and think, "Boy, that would be good with coffee, wouldn't it?" The atmosphere tells us we can eat all we want and will burn it off pulling an all-nighter tomorrow.

The reality? Well, the reality is that America is getting much older. We are still hippies, we just put calories on like our parents used to. Being hip burns calories. Being a hippie doesn't. Lunch is no longer free. Every bite costs now.

And if this sounds like a rant because I bought the brownie instead of the chocolate chip fudge cheesecake...well, it is. I'm not paying $5. Sorry.

All of Roanoke has now moved into fall, which is wonderfully mellow here. We're still in shirt sleeves and sandals, and the leaves are rust, gold, green yellow and chrysanthemums are everywhere in the same colors. We are moving into the national eating season: Thanksgiving and Christmas and, to some extent, New Year's. Thanksgiving is really just so American that it is very difficult to explain. When I tutored an Arab family, I just told them that on Thanksgiving we: travel, eat, stare at TV and become comatose over the table. There really is no other ritual for Thanksgiving, unlike our other holidays.

There is no input from other cultures for Thanksgiving. For Christmas, America has incorporated the German tree, the Dutch St. Nick, the Swedish legend of the animals speaking, the carols of England, and the food and candy of almost every country on Earth. But Thanksgiving just sits there, as we do, bland as the Pillsbury dinner rolls and just as exciting.

A Roman feast is the only precedent in history. The Romans supposedly had 'vomitoriums' where one could free one's stomach up for the next 10 courses and more wine after one had filled up the first time. A never ending meal. I see that as next on the Thanksgiving plate, as it were. Forgive the pun.

Now, why did haggis suddenly come to mind?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Not Again

I have finally watched Brokeback Mountain and I can honestly say that I am glad I didn't pay to see it. Despite the numerous awards it won, I kept waiting for the plot to emerge. The only one I could find a trace of is a timeline of homophobia from the '60's to the '80's. It was a beautifully made movie, and the actors were fantastic, but the reviewers kept asking the actors if they were afraid of being "labeled" as a result of their roles. Being labeled as what? Actors? Maybe someone would wander into the theater and NOT know it was a movie they were looking at or that movies are make-believe?

Megan changed the name of the chicken she named 'Original Recipe' to "Peanut Butter.' So now she has two chickens: Peanut Butter and Extra Crispy.

I'm sure she knows about the time I tried to change her diaper. She was about one year old, tottering around, excited to be able to walk. She had to have a diaper change and Aunt Alise volunteered. Once I got her diaper open, with all the steaming contents, RIGHT THERE, I changed my mind, but it was too late. I threw up all over her, the wall, the changing table, etc. I try not to think of it now that she is twelve years old, but I still have nightmares about it. She was baptized in true Stewart fashion, although her mother didn't see anything remotely funny about it. Maybe it's a Scottish Thing.

Fall Into Wonderland

My service dog Eddie isn't here to enjoy his favorite season this year, Fall. I miss him as I walk on the Hollins University campus, one of his favorite places to go, too. I think it would work out much better if our animal companions lived about 30 years. What was God thinking? Maybe he knew they could only take so much of us. I mean, feeding them Purina instead of hunting deer and buffalo for them must suck, from their point of view.

My blog statistics tells me someone in Slovenia is reading my blog. Hi, Slovenia!

I am really quite crippled at the moment, having finished my monologue about Scotland. I could write about the time I went to Cairo, Egypt, but the world is not nearly as funny in another language. Besides, it was the summer after 9/11 and my hosts were worried about security. I blend in very well in Italy or Scotland, but pretty much stick out like a sore thumb in a country where everyone's skin is not pale pink and white. I did have the good sense to wear jeans. Although Cairo is the "sin city" of the Arab world--like Vegas. What happens in Cairo, stays in Cairo.

And what was really funny there was ME, although I'm sure my hosts weren't amused at the time. Right after an attack on America, and just as the fighting was picking up again in Egypt, I decide, for the first time in my life, to become regular in my habits. I wanted to eat at the same Lebanese restaurant every night at the same time, and after cruising around a bit and looking, I decided the funnest place in Cairo was the historical Old Muslim Marketplace.

NO, not where they sell old Arabic men, but the marketplace from a very long time ago, a bit like Colonial Williamsburg. And I really wanted to join the crowds in the mosques and smoke and drink coffee and flirt with all the great looking guys I saw everywhere. So the guy I was with, who worked for a government agency, decided at this point that we should stay in for a couple of nights. I think that's when his blood pressure started to bother him. 

The really exciting time I had there was crossing the street. I am assuming most of you are used to two lane roads common in Britain and America. Cairo had the same streets, but where we only try to fit two cars in a two lane street, it was up for grabs there. It did cut down on my shopping sprees. If I couldn't buy it on my side of the street, it went unbought.

I would like to tell you something exciting is happening in Roanoke, but it's only fall. Although that is quite an accomplishment, all the way around.

Friday, November 5, 2010

This Is Nirvana, Isn't It?

Marc and I had managed  to take a vacation overseas, even if we didn't have to learn a new language. And we were congratulating ourselves that the car was still at Dulles. What we hadn't counted on was arriving in D.C. on Easter Sunday. We couldn't figure out why the entire population of the city seemed as intent on leaving as we were...shouldn't the traffic be flowing the other way? It took us 3 hours to travel 4 miles. After Edinburgh and London, we thought it couldn't get any worse. And we had been tripping the light fantastic in some of the most solitary regions of the world, which made it particularly aggravating to be stuck in crowds at the end. 

Well, I am at the end of this trip. Marc and I hope to travel back to Scotland in the spring, so get ready. In the meantime, I want to continue this blog and I am entertaining suggestions for topics. You can write me directly at:

Peace Out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Easter in Hell

We spent Good Friday, due to poor planning, touring Edinburgh castle. Imagine visiting Disneyland on Mother's Day. We boarded our flight to London the next day and landed in Heathrow on Saturday. Heathrow is a MAJOR airport and one of the two largest in England. And interesting note: the population of England seems to be getting younger, as the population of America ages. I have not seen that many children in a very long time. And they were all of an age to be in strollers, or drooling, which made it that much more fun. The key to this adventure was that we were flying from London to Dulles on Virgin Airlines after British Airways flew us from Edinburgh to London.

Virgin Airlines has this silly, stupid rule that one must be ON THE PLANE one hour before takeoff. Not standing in line, not waiting for the stewardess to call your row, not walking down the plank, but seated and munching some peanuts. So we missed the flight for Dulles. And Virgin couldn't have cared less about our travel much for that.

However, British Airways did. Because we bitched a lot and the stunningly handsome guy behind the counter liked Marc's jokes. (No comment) So they put us up for the night at an airport hotel. We thought, "No problem, a bonus night in London!" Only we were an $80 taxi ride from 'downtown'.

We had these tiny bags of essentials, like toothpaste, razors, etc., but not my medicines and we had been in the same clothes for 3 days. Out of a sheer sense of outrage, we went to the gift shop at the hotel, and I bought a bikini made from a British flag as alternate wear. It was that, or men's underwear, same design. No t-shirts, no sweats, nothing present that crowds an American airport for wearing apparel. Just bathing suits. Marc, of course, just bought Megan a bear.

Parading around the hotel room in a bikini in front of my brother was not the funnest thing I have ever done, but it was CLEAN. It was that or a sheet. My jeans were just too gross. Of course, I had to climb back into the jeans to eat, AT THE BAR, but what the hell.

Tomorrow: Easter Sunday in Washington D.C.        or How I Got Enlightenment In Just One Lifetime