Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mah Jong and Me

Scarlett read the Happy Ladies Club newsletter and chose mah jong for her first activity.  I got into the class off the wait list... and I was just about as anxious as those of you watching the mailbox for college replies are right now.

Does that seem odd?  Scarlett and I can meet for any number of wonderful reasons.  My life is totally scheduled with class and exercise and GRIN and The Burrow and I don't need another appointment on my calendar.  The weather is beautiful and won't be this palatable for long and I really should be outside enjoying it.

Yet,I was giddy when I received the email giving me a newly opened spot in the five session Introduction to mah jong class.

I like games less for the strategy involved than for the feel of the pieces in my hand.  Nannie gave me a backgammon set 40 some years ago; it's as delightful this afternoon as it was when I played it as a grad student in Chicago.  Various iterations of dice resulted in one red and one amber of equal heft and balance.  These things are important to me.

I know where my joy in textured playing pieces originated.  We spent our summers at a beach club, a pool and food and beach and lounge chair paradise along the Atlantic Ocean.  Our family changed and left our swim gear in a rented-for-the-summer locker, a wood slat stall which could be opened and closed by The Locker Boy.

Oh, the crushes we had on The Locker Boy.

For those with more disposable income, those who chose to sit with the grown ups instead of watching the kids by the pool, there were cabanas.... and yes, there were Cabana Boys, too.

The dads took up residence on the weekends, playing cards and smoking cigars. But during the week the lounge chairs and card tables on the patios in front of the cabanas were populated by slender women with teased hair, wearing one piece swim suits with long skirts or colorful beach towels anchored at their waists.

They were playing mah jong.

Their nails were shiny with polish and clacked and clicked and ticked against the tiles and the sounds went right through me.  The game looked fast paced and cutthroat in a girl-friends kind of way. There was time to chatter and time to play, and it was fluid and quick and I wanted it... a lot.

Everyone had a cigarette and a pack of gum.  People moved in and out of the game as lunch or the pool or a soda break demanded.  It was different but it was exactly the same.  These women were what I saw on television.  They were shiny and glossy and knew just what they were doing.  They were so unlike my own mother, who was nothing like anything I saw on the silver screen.

I grew up and realized that those women were no happier or healthier or smarter or more fun than my own maternal unit, but the impression they made lived on. I've waited to play for 50 years.  This morning I got my chance.  I brought my $35 check and my neatly polished nails to the social hall at the Unitarian Universalist church four blocks away.

Scarlett and I played with two former Chicago teachers using the instructor's oldest set.  It felt wonderful in my hands.  The oils of generations of use, the rough edges of the etched designs which rubbed hundreds of other fingers before mine.... I was there on the patio outside a cabana on a sunny Long Island afternoon.

Then the instruction began and I brought myself back to the moment.  I tried to remember which were bams and which were cracks; the dots were self evident.  There are dragons and seasons and flowers and there's something called soap which still has me confused.  The official game rules were created by "a group of Jewish women in New York."  So says our teacher, and who am I to dispute it? It's a completely congruent statement for me.

The game changes every April; there are only certain ways to win and those are revealed on The New Card. We were encouraged to go on-line and pre-order ours; apparently, they are hot sellers. Happily, the cards are nicely laminated and brightly colored.  It would be a shame if the tactile delights of the game were besmirched by an inferior necessity.

No one won today, and somehow that seems to be okay.  We have a hand out to review before our next session, and I've been told there are on-line sites as well.  For now, though, I'm going to close my eyes and continue my trip down memory lane.  Not all of it was wonderful, but the clacking of those mah jong tiles sounds like a claxon in my head.... it was the sound of being an adult, and I could taste it.....

Monday, March 2, 2015

Miss Ashleigh's Lament, or Guys and Dolls in Tucson

It started out as a great plan - Amster and her kids and I would drive down to the University and see Guys and Dolls, part of Broadway in Tucson, a Nederlander Presentation.  We'd go out for pizza and wings or chimichangas and flautas for dinner, and I'd be home in time to watch the Arizona-Utah basketball game at 7.

Then other plans for the kids intervened and others were invited and then changed their plans and by the time I ended up in my seat in Centennial Hall I wasn't really sure who was sitting where. I was focused on the fact that I'd managed to keep up with Elizibeth on a trek through college students and visiting parents and Cal divers and free frogurt and my hip was only vaguely announcing its presence. I'm not sure my gait was perfect, but she didn't have to slow her pace for me.

Progress is progress, slow though it may be.

With Bert and Ernie filling out our ranks, we settled into fairly comfortable if not well raked seats. The tall man in front of us changed places with his short wife at intermission; I know whereof I speak.  The music started - yes, it was a live, if small, orchestra - and the woman behind me began to hum along.  It didn't bother me at all; I was doing the same thing.  The reviews in the papers encouraged viewers to keep their sing-alongs to themselves, but it was clear from the get-go that that was not going to happen.

At times, I wondered if the audience might have outshone the performers on stage.

Isn't that a sad thing to type?  Beautiful Annie has season tickets for Broadway in Tucson, and her Facebook page is dotted with Why are they screaming instead of singing? and THIS is not musical theatre! After last Saturday, I know exactly what she means.

Frank Loesser and Damon Runyon did not write lethargically.  There is nothing slow about the not-quite-sung-more-like-patter music and lyrics which bring early 20th century Times Square alive on stage.  It's big and booming and noisy and crowded in their world.  It's flash and sparkle and charming cheats and big hearted blondes.  What was presented at the matinee was almost none of those things.

Miss Adelaide, whose Lament was one of G'ma's favorite tunes, had a tiny voice without any noticeable New York accent.  She may have been born in Rhode Island, but she'd been in NYC for at least the 14 years of her engagement to Nathan Detroit.... and the accent makes the Lament the story it is.  Without it, and with her poor diction and inability to enunciate when the going got tough, all a newcomer could fathom was that she was somehow, for some reason, sneezing on stage.
Nathan Detroit mumbled almost as much as his lady love, and he never seemed to fully inhabit his role.  There's something disconcerting about an actor who's watching himself perform.

There were anachronistic touches - the guy roller skating in satin short-shorts would have been more at home in a Men At Work video than on Damon Runyon's streets.  There were sloppy touches - pressing the hems on the men's jackets would seem to be part and parcel of a wardrobe supervisor's job.  It was a very expensive way to see what the Nederlander organization thinks is acceptable American theater.

Skye Masterson and Miss Sarah Brown had voices which soared, carrying the story along when I began to despair.  Though the Havana cafe scene was more athletic than frenetic, more splits and cartwheels than drunken debauchery, these two made up for it in the moonlight, admitting I've Never Been in Love Before.

I wish I'd remembered More I Cannot Wish You for Little Cuter and SIR's wedding; Arvide was a glimmer of hope in the otherwise disappointing second act... disappointing until Nicely Nicely and the gamblers got religion.  Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat  had everything the rest of the performance lacked.  It was quick, it was sharp, it was busy, it was synchronized, and the words were clearly sung.  The audience was engaged; there was much foot tapping and head bobbing and shoulder waggling.

It almost made me sadder, somehow.  Obviously, the company has it in itself to create joy on the stage. I wish it had been able to capture that joy and spread it out over the nearly three hours we spent in our seats.

Friday, February 27, 2015

And Now There Is This.....

Thanks for a lovely visit, FlapJilly.
Grandpa and I will miss you more than you can imagine.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

And Then There Was The Playground

FlapJilly went to the playground today.
It was her first experience with outdoor equipment.
By the time she was able to sit up on her own, the snows had descended on her home turf.
Grandma was happy to show her the ropes.
That's an accessible swing for movement impaired children, but it fit FJ and G'mu just fine.
SIR and Little Cuter were excited to put her in the bucket swing,
but she kept sliding down.
Her little hand had the bar in a death grip.
With the addition of Mommy's purse as a backstop, the entire adventure took on a much happier cast.
Daddy held her back
and she sailed to Mommy 
 and if she could have formed the words she'd have been yelling "HIGHER!!!!"
The slides were less successful.
SIR barely fit on the smallest one, and FlapJilly wasn't that thrilled with the tube,
but standing in Daddy's arms is pretty wonderful no matter where you are.
We paid a visit to Christina-Taylor's angel
which lives on the grassy slope overlooking the tot-lot
and I spent a moment or two counting my blessings and thinking of my angels.
I hugged the ones nearby and sent loving vibes heavenward and then I stowed the sadness and we went to lunch.
Life is good. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

And Then We Did This

Grandma gave FlapJilly a baby carrot....
excuse me....
an organic baby carrot...
and the reaction was mixed.
My finger seemed just as tasty.
More tomorrow; we're going to the playground!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

And Then There Was THIS

Dkzody gave me permission in yesterday's comments to let the world stop.
So, instead of typing to you we did this:
I will try to type for you tomorrow... but I make no promises.
This is so much fun. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

With Best Intentions....

I planned to write. That was my intention. 
Then this happened
 And this happened.
There was this
 and this
and this.
I am happy in GrandmaLand.
Blogging might just have to wait.

Friday, February 20, 2015

I Want My Rotary Phone Back

I wrote you all a lovely post.  It had pictures and laughter and love.  FlapJilly is bringing her family to visit us tomorrow and I was awash in the wonder of it all.

And then, the laptop ate it.

I clicked Save because I wanted a better picture of the high chair and the fire engine and the swim clothes I bought her.  I took those photos on my phone, cropped them on my phone, and tried to upload them from my phone.

Blogger was having none of it.  The new photos were no where to be found, then or now.  I know they are on the phone; I can see them.  But the synchronization feature is apparently too much bother for Lenore the Loser Laptop. 

I could send them to Evernote or email them to myself or upload them to Blogger and write the verbiage around them, but I'm too peeved for any of those options to work right now.  I have no more love in my heart; I'm just pissed at the loss of that lovely post.

So, I want my rotary phone back.  I never misdialed; it wasn't that hard to put your finger in the hole and pull the dial around to the metal arc.  I remember trying to beat the touch tone phone with the rotary phone at the World's Fair in 1964; not even Maddy, the most popular and therefore obviously the most phone savvy of us all, even she couldn't go faster.

On the other hand, the kids using the touch tone phone made a lot more mistakes than she did.

I want paper files.  I don't want to have to open folder after folder and enter a passcode to get the list of passwords I need to open the programs I'd like to use.  I tried printing out the list, but I believe them when they say not to reuse your password so the list was six or seven double sided pages long.... and then something would get hacked and I'd need to change the code or I"d find another site requiring a passcode and after a very short time the paper was unreadable. 

I don't want to type things into a screen.  I want to hand write my bills and use my T-80 to balance my checkbook and I want to run out of stamps and return address labels.

No, I don't.

But I feel much better now, after that rant.

Thanks for listening, denizens.  I'll post pictures (if technology allows) and write about love next week.  Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy Birthday, G'ma

I always liked the fact that our birthdays were a week apart.  You and I were the only ones who truly appreciated the month of February.  Everyone else was looking forward to Lincoln's Birthday and Washington's Birthday but you and I knew that the more important dates were our birthdays.

We were right, of course.

You did not look forward to turning 50.  Your standard line had always been, "Just take me out back and shoot me."  When Daddooooo procured a cake with that picture decorating the top, you were not amused.  He never tried to be an ass... and yet, he was.

Still, you smiled and ate it and thanked him. 

Valentines Day was yet another reason for gifts in February, and his heart shaped pizza the following year made up for the 50 faux pas.  You were good about concentrating on the better side of his weirdness... and he never did forget a birthday.

When I turned 40 you forgot to call... or send a card... or remember that it was my natal day at all.  When we spoke later that week, you were abashed.  It seems that you were incapable of registering the fact that you had a child who was four decades old.  You'd just denied my existence.

I laughed with you at that.  As Little Cuter looks her up-coming 30th birthday squarely in the face, I feel your pain.  I'm not laughing so hard any more. 

You aged gracefully and peacefully, shedding your sharper edges along the way.  Though Brother and Sister think I had the hardest duty, caring for you at the end of your life, they are wrong.  You were no longer judgmental... except about strangers at parties.  You were willing to do whatever I suggested, and thought my adventures were delightful even though you couldn't remember them.

You loved me, and told me so.  That was the best and most profound change, the one I cherished most.  You trusted me and never argued... if I thought it was right, then you agreed.  I knew that was a blessing at the time, and I told you so.  Your response was quintessentially you: Why not? Who wants to be around a cranky old lady?

I would love to take you to lunch tomorrow, sharing sea food and watching you devour a chocolate dessert.  Instead, I'll dig in the garden and talk to you.  I'll tell you about FlapJilly and the consonants pouring from her face and I'll wish, for a while and forever, that you were here to share the joy.  It's like you said when Bubba, your mother, died: Now, there's no one else on the planet who wants to hear me kvell* about my grandchildren as much as I want to kvell about my grandchildren.

I won't languish in sorrow, though, because we were happy whenever we were together, and I don't want to lose that feeling.  I'll remember your 90th birthday party and your bemusement...what am I doing?  It must be a party. It's for me? I'm HOW old? ... and I'll wish we were celebrating your 92nd one today..... together.

Happy Birthday Mommy..... I love you lots.

*kvell- express joy, brag

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Random Thoughts

Robert B. Parker is dead, but Spencer and Jesse Stone live on.  Ace Atkins has kept the short sentences and chapters, though he's added a bit more description, in his role as Spencer's caretaker. Jesse Stone is now encased in more verbiage than Robert Parker wrote if you took all his books together.  Reed Farrel Coleman twirls the language on the page; he's a poet from the dark side, for sure.  If only he'd use a proper name now and then to remind the reader which character is speaking.
My Humanities Seminar requires no reading; there are articles which augment the lectures, and which are to be read after class.  It's odd to attend a class without preparation, but the absence of required reading has left me with plenty of time to indulge in novels and biographies and history.

This move to non-fiction is a surprising turn of events. Is it possible that my brain is expanding its capacity as I age?
Alex Rodriguez apologized for his bad behavior while acknowledging that many will not believe his sincerity.  He sent a hand written letter to the Yankee organization, refusing the team's offer to let him use Yankee Stadium for his mea culpa combined with a press conference.  He's managing the story, without allowing for questions.

He wants his return to be all about baseball, not about his suspension or the PED use which led there.

I'm not sure he's in charge of that particular agenda.
TBG finally received his Medicare card.  His gap coverage is in place, but his prescription drug coverage won't be official until March.  It seems that one must have the actual card in hand before the application can be processed.

It's a damn good thing he didn't need any medications this month. Slow acting bureaucracies make for good posts, but they also interfere with real life.
Kevin Spacey has been showing up in credit card ads this month, in advance of the return of House of Cards next week.

Am I the only one who sees a connection between the two events?

Am I watching waaaaay too much tv?
Did you ever look up at the tv  (I guess the answer to that last question is YES) and see a friend's face only to have that face transform into a famous person?  I just saw Mr. Dreamy Cakes in the person of John Calipari..... for a moment, I was stunned.
We have a new, commissioned artwork from Seret on the wall over the fireplace in the living room.  It's paint and pumice and textured and fabulous.  It's from her cairns series, based on the small, stone, directional, commemorative, balanced piles one sees along trails here in the southwest.

We see it as we come around the corner form the bedroom, as we come in from the garage, as we cook in the kitchen.  The joys of an open floor plan home are magnified when there's something wonderful to see; the house seems to have revolved to put this piece at its center.


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