Thursday, November 14, 2013

She's baaaaaackkkkkk...

Can't believe I've been away from this blog for two years!  But I'm back...hold the applause.  So, what's new with you?

For me, the past two years have been busy.  Moved house, had two new grandchildren, the Moose (hubby) semi-retired, I wrote and performed in an award nominated sold out show with two other comics called Three Stuffed Mums for two seasons at the Adelaide Fringe Festival (still performing it around Oz), taught a successful comedy workshop with the other Stuffed Mums and in the middle of teaching the second workshop as I type.  I am also in the process of writing for a few other projects and I've started a historical novel.  (I spend a lot of time researching, and more time procrastinating.)  I work three days a week at the Natural Resource Centre down the street from my house which is just enough to keep me in the real world and appreciate being self employed the rest of the time.  I've found my inner Martha Stewart, tending two vegetable patches, a productive nectarine tree and a couple of heavily laden plum trees.  I'm waiting for all the plums to ripen so I can learn to make plum wine from the neighbourhood botanist - and I don't even drink wine.  And of course, I've aged two more years and gained/lost/gained another twenty pounds.

Our new house has a much larger garden than we've ever had and it's a time consuming job to battle the weeds, keep the roses tended and the birds from raiding the fruit trees.  I even started making bread.  Well, the bread maker makes the bread, I just  put all the ingredients in and leave it alone til the bell rings to tell me it's done.  Not exactly pioneering stuff, but if you knew me in my younger less domestic life, you'd know that's near enough.  My friend Charmaine in Honolulu is always speechless when I rattle off my new found skills.  (She knew me when the only thing I made for dinner was reservations.)  I even bake a lot.  My son came to visit from Hawaii and told his fiancĂ©e I never baked for  him when he was young.  In my defense, while he was growing up I was working two or three jobs at a time and barely had time to take a nap.  Now that I'm an old bat with not such a hectic schedule and no parents to care for or children to raise, the occasional loaf of banana bread, carrot cake or batch of chocolate chip cookies is pretty easy to do...and makes me seem much more accomplished than I actually am.

And that brings me back to the blog.  I'll probably cover a bunch of those adventures within these pages now I'm back in the blogosphere.  I'll either bore you to death or keep you entertained, you'll have to decide.  But I hope it's the  latter, so don't hesitate to drop me a comment and let me know which it is.  In the meantime, it's back to my 'to do' list until the next blog.

Who said things slow down at 60?  Pfffft.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reflections in a Green Glass Bowl

Memories are triggered by some seemingly small and common things. I was doing the dishes yesterday and began washing a dark green glass bowl distinctively shaped with dipped edges. I use it as a fruit bowl, or a fancy serving dish for salad and the like when entertaining. It's a simple but beautiful dish. As I washed it, memories of my lovely Aunty Lani came flooding back. It was a bowl I inherited from among the things she left with us.

My Aunt came to live with us when I was about 15 years old or so. My father had been divorced for several years and was raising my younger sister and I alone, while working two or three jobs to pay off the debts my mother had run up before they got divorced as well as taking care of the normal living expenses. Aunty Lani was also divorced, her children were grown and married. She needed some place to live and we needed a woman's influence. I'm not sure if that's how it really played out as I was never really told why she was coming to live with us, but it worked to our advantage.

Living with my aunt was like having Auntie Mame in our house. She was in her late fifties or so, and had lived an interesting life full of twists and turns. She was an avid reader - philosophy, poetry, literature of all kinds. The bookshelves in her room were full of interesting books on a wide range of subjects, everything from current novels to Nobokov and Steinbeck and the I Ching. She was knowledgeable in our Hawaiian cultural roots and the genealogy of our family. She would tell me stories about our grandmother Lu'ukia who was a kahuna lapa'au (Hawaiian herbal healer) and other relatives I wasn't old enough to remember. She was apparently a bit of a rebel in her youth - my father called her, my aunt Elaine and uncle Elton 'beatniks' which always made me laugh -and was worldly in a way I had never come across. Well travelled, she was interested in art, jazz, wine, science, Hawaiian history, opera, foreign films, and often went to lectures at the museum or the university. She never stopped learning. It was she who took me to see 'Ulysses', a film based on the book by James Joyce (my introduction to Milo O'Shea's glorious eyebrows) and 'The Marriage of Figaro' at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii; it was my first look at opera and I loved it. She opened my provincial eyes to the wide world and all its glorious arts, and encouraged me to grow and develop my interests. Her politics were left-leaning and humanitarian and we would often have longs talks at night in her room about the Vietnam war and the anti-war movement in which I became heavily involved.

Aunty was always kind in simple ways. When my younger sister went to visit her friend Gina, Aunty Lani would wrap some Hawaiian dried fish and send that with her to be sure to give Gina's tutu (grandmother) as a thank you for her hospitality. It was Aunty's close friend, celebrated Hawaiian artist Allen Akina, who designed my wedding holoku (dress) at a fraction of what it would have cost as it was made with his original hand printed fabric design. And even though she was unable to come to my wedding as she was in the hospital dying from a cancer that had wrapped itself around her spine, she sent me her beautiful cameo to wear on my wedding day.

Little things I do now - always having fresh flowers in the house, sending hand written thank you notes on beautiful little note cards, or filling my house with photographs and works of art - show her influence in my life. She showed me that art is not limited to paintings hung on walls, but can be found in every day objects like simple note cards, Chinese vases overflowing with flowers, or that green glass bowl full of fruit. I guess what she ultimately did was show me that life itself can be an art, and that living it well is a choice that brings beauty and joy into not only your own life, but the lives of others.

So now that green glass bowl is clean and ready to fill again. The pears I brought home from the market this morning will have to share the space with all those memories I have of Aunty Lani. They're both pretty sweet, but the pears won't last nearly as long.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Loose Lips

The British comic, Jo Brand, has just published a book called 'Can't Stand Up for Sitting Down'. In a recent interview, she asserts that 'many comics are disturbed.' She may be in a unique position to make that statement, being both a comic and a former psychiatric nurse.

She's probably right. Comics, more than most professions, do have a skewed way of looking at the world. It's what we do. It's what makes things funny to us. And before you single us out, in the audience laugh at these skewed observations, so you're at least participating in the madness, if only for that odd hour as you sit in the dark of the comedy club or theatre and laugh. So you're in this too.

I've often thought that I must be 'disturbed' as I find things in life that are astonishingly stupid or hysterically funny and I seem to be the only one to do so. At least, my husband contends that I'm the only one he knows that thinks like me. And until I put it on stage in comic form, I sometimes think so too. It's when the audience laughs that I know that they understand that madness and recognize the truth of it. Laughter validates my 'disturbance' as it were. (So it's your fault after all!)

Here's a recent example: I read an article this week about the increase in numbers of women world wide who are opting for 'vaginal rejuvination' surgery. An increase of 300% in the last decade. Yes, they get their vaginal 'lips' tightened, tucked, and looking as close to 'new' as possible. In Australia alone nearly 1,400 women so far this year have opted for this cosmetic procedure. Now, as with most surgical procedures, there are valid medical reasons to have it done. But disturbingly (to carry out this theme) most of the women having this surgery do it purely for appearance's sake alone.

I'm at a loss to understand why. If I was going to have cosmetic surgery, I think I would do something that would be more visible to the vast majority of people I meet. Maybe a tummy tuck, a chin lift, getting rid of the puffiness around the eyes, that sort of thing. Presumably, unless you're a porn star or a high priced call girl, the audience for your physical upgrade would be quite small. So it must be just for personal satisfaction and self esteem. Again, it boggles my mind how your self esteem can depend on whether your labia is attractively smoothe as a Barbie doll or looks like a well worn saddle bag.

And so, in my disturbed comic way, I began to wonder. Just when is it that you decide you need to have 'vaginal rejuvination' or in medical jargon, a 'labioplasty'? Do you see yourself naked in the mirror one day and think, 'Good heavens! I look like I have Mick Jagger in a leg lock! And he needs a shave.' So I've come up with the top ten reasons for having a labioplasty, those moments when you realize you must get it done:

10. When you wear a short skirt on a windy day you sound like a tent flapping.
9. You trip over your shoe laces while running then remember those shoes don't have laces.
8. When you ride your bicycle you still need bicycle clips even if you're wearing shorts.
7. When you get a Brazilian, they charge you by the hour.
6. Instead of a pair of knickers, you have to wear a bra.
5. Your husband saw you in a pair of tights and said, 'Wow, your thighs have realled bulked up.'
4. You leave a trail in the sand when you walk on the beach.
3. You just had a 6kg baby and your fallopian tubes are dangling like a set of fleshy wind chimes.
2. You can still applaud your favourite band while carrying two beers back from the bar.

And the number one reason you know you need a labioplasty:

1. Your husband started calling you the 'HunchCrack of Notre Dame'.

Ok, so I'm a little disturbed. Time to go. I'm done flapping my lips for now.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Eyes Have It

I went to the optometrist recently because my eyesight had been deteriorating. Badly, and with noticeable speed. I couldn't see people across the street, or at the other side of a room. The audiences were just a blur. Even if I knew someone well, they had to be practically standing on my foot for me to recognize their face. That's pretty bad.

Ok, I still took my time making that appointment. First, because I'm a wuss about doing anything remotely medical and I'm a major procrastinator. I'm of the "wait til I get a tooth ache before going to the dentist" school of thinking. Second, my schedule was hectic. But when it got to the point that I was reading with reading glasses AND a magnifying glass and still couldn't see the newsprint or computer clearly, and feared for my life stepping off stage (and hopefully not falling down the steps) even I had to admit I really needed to get a new pair of glasses. So I finally coordinated a date and off I went. I just couldn't put it off any longer.

I hadn't been to my optometrist in so long, he retired. No, really. Same receptionist, different doctor. So I go in to see the new doctor and say, 'I need a new prescription for my reading glasses.' So he hits the projector and brings up the eye chart. He: 'Can you see the bottom line?' Me: 'Not a chance.' He changes to a larger font. He: 'How about now?' Me: 'Not even close'. He changes the font again. He: ' What about now?' Me: 'Well, that depends on how you define 'see'. I know it's there, but it's really fuzzy.' By the time he got the giant Sesame Street letters up on the screen (as in 'today's program is brought to you by the letter E' with Elmo dwarfed next to it) I admitted defeat. He cut the screen and looked into my eyes with assorted light sources and instruments of ocular measurement. Then he said, 'I won't give you a prescription. It won't help. You have serious cataracts and need surgery.' Me: 'Are you sure?' He: 'Pretty sure. I went to school for this type of thing.'

So Dr. Hook (seriously, that's his name) sent me to the cataract surgeon for a consultation, assuring me he was one of the best in the business. So hubby and I trundle downtown to see the surgeon. The office was very efficient looking, everyone on staff wearing suits or the female version of suits (black skirt, white blouse, black jacket) and busy checking people in, pulling files, doing eye tests, giving instructions, making appointments, answering phones. You know it's a thriving (as in lucrative) business when everything is gray carpet, silver lettering and large paintings. While waiting in the waiting area, we were amazed at the numbers of people coming in and out. Hubby says, 'Wow, there's certainly a lot of people doing cataract surgery. Who knew?' I said, 'I don't think some of them knew themselves. I'm sure if you asked some of them 'And what brought you here today?' they'd say, 'I don't know. I was walking past the building, a guy in a suit punched me in the eye, gave me a card, pointed me in the direction of the lift and said, 'fourth floor'.' We both burst out laughing. Turns out, by the looks we got, we were the only ones that found that remotely funny.

So we meet the surgeon, a lovely man, who by the way seems to be one of only two people with a sense of humor in that office that we could tell, and scheduled the surgery. Well, surgeries, as it turns out since one eye goes one week, the next on the following week. (Well, they go together, but only one gets worked on at a time. It's not like you can send them in alone or anything. Although, that would certainly be convenient.)

Since I would not be able to face stage lights for a week after each surgery, I had to schedule the surgeries around my gig calendar. My last gig for October was out in the country town of Melrose for the SA Rural Women's Association, and I booked the first operation for the day after I got back home. However, I came home not only with a nice cheque for my work, but a bad cold. I called the surgeon to say I was sick, stuffed up and coughing, should I cancel? I mean, all I needed was to cough at an inappropriate time and have the old scalpel slip and do a Van Gogh. As it turns out I was well enough to go through with it, and managed to keep from coughing for the time it took to do the surgery. And boy am I glad I went through with it.

I can see! How the heck did I put this off for so long? It was like going from analog tv to high definition tv...things are now sharper and there's more color and light in the world. That butterfly bush in bloom at the end of the driveway that I thought was mauve...hello, it's a beautiful bluish purple! I can't be more enthusiastic or appreciative of my surgeon's talent. In the old days, people just went blind or lived with impaired vision. And now, how lucky are we that science gives us the option to restore a key part of our lives - sight!

I have learned that there are things we take for granted, either through ignorance, fear, or laziness. Our senses are some of those. How wonderful would it be for a blind person to be able to see again? I can't imagine the total reversal of perception that would be. My poor sight was more of an inconvenience than anything else. But to see clearly again...a miracle!

And now I think, boy, wouldn't it be great if instead of just restoring physical sight, doctors could some day restore a higher level of sight? To maybe see things as others see them, to appreciate the differences in our backgrounds, to even see things as they really are, instead of how we imagine them to be. To remove the cloudy film of prejudice and ignorance, and see the human race and our world for all the beauty it really has.

Now that, I wouldn't put off .

Monday, August 30, 2010

Contested Development

I did something this past weekend that I said I would never do again. I allowed myself to be recruited into another comedy contest. After the last one, for a national TV show, I told myself 'no mas!' (yes, I occasionally talk to myself in Spanish.)

Nerve wracking and stomach churning, competitions are so not me. I never liked competitions of any kind. I prefer to compete with myself and not fellow human beings in, card games, anything. Other than the occasional death match in Scrabble, I"m just not into it. I don't get the point. Especially in something so non-quantifiable as comedy. It's hard to judge comedy because of the variety of styles. You can't really compare apples to apples or in the case of comedians, nuts to nuts. At least not to say one is better than another. More accomplished maybe, but not necessarily better, or best. And for this particular competition, with judges from a trendy magazine and a radio station that is not exactly my demographic, I had a pretty good idea before I left where I would end up in this exercise. I even predicted who the winner was going to be. And I was right. (Not to take anything away from the winner, he is a very good comic.)

But the dangling carrot of a five thousand dollar prize was too tempting to pass up. So against all logic and better judgement I travelled to the west coast of Oz, took a ferry to a holiday island, and found myself the lone female comic among a field of nine competitors. I knew many of the guys so it was at the very least a nice way to catch up with comics from other cities across the country, trade horror stories and lie about our various projects, and inevitably, make fun of the comics and comedy promoters we don't like. (Now that was fun.)

The night of the competition, the hall was packed. There was a high profile and extremely highly paid MC (our collective jaws dropped when we heard the price tag), and lots of alcohol for both the comics (not me, since I don't drink) and the audience. The line up was decided by lots, and I was first up in the second bracket, a pretty good place in a three hour show. One advantage to being the lone woman, they tend to want to sandwich you in the middle. (Insert joke here.)

We only had 10-15 minute sets so I made sure all my stuff was edited down to the biggest laughs in the best bits and I blitzed it. I have to say, I enjoyed the audience and my set rocked. I know comics always say that, but mine was an homage to the great Dave Grant...bang, bang, bang, they barely had time to breathe between punchlines. It killed. I had to pause at spots for applause breaks. I loved it.

In my heart, I knew I wasn't going to win this contest, but it was still a disappointment when they announced the winner. And I really got myself for being so stupid and buying into the competition side of things. What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking CASH, actually. But who needs this kind of bummer? And self inflicted too. Jeez.

The thing with competitions is that there is a winner and there are lots of losers. And who wants to feel like a loser? Comics are already their worst critics. We beat ourselves up enough when a joke dies or you and the audience don't match and your entire set is one flush away from the crapper. You would think that's enough. But no, we can be gluttons for punishment.

So, I've learned another hard lesson. And even if I didn't win this contest I made a few more fans who vowed to come to see me next time I'm in their city - not counting the drunk girls who had to have a photo taken with me and who will probably see it later and think 'who is this and where were we?'; - I bonded with a few more comics and did a bit of networking and really did have a great show. So that's all great.

But, never again. Of course, that's what I said the last time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

House Beautiful

The pest control guy came this morning. I forgot he was coming to do the annual house inspection. So I was still in my pajamas and checking emails, socks on my feet, hair awry, with a half finished cup of tea still trying valiantly to wake me up completely to face the day.

It wasn't so bad until he walked into the master bedroom. Half made bed, a regular "Fibber McGee and Molly" style closet. You know the kind so stuffed full of...well, stuff... that you have to be prepared for an avalanche of sorts when you pry it open. Because not only is it full of clothes, but it's the place I shove miscellaneous stuff when surprise visitors arrive. To be honest, I think there's still some stuff back there from past surprise visits. But I forgot about the pest control guy. And of course, he had to check all the spaces, including the magic exploding closet. Oops.

Okay, so I'm no Martha Stewart. I have a small embroidered wall hanging in the hallway that says, "A clean house is the sign of a wasted life" and I'm sticking to that sentiment. I'm not obsessive. At the end of my life I don't think I'll be saying, "Gosh, I wish I had polished those tiles more." One has priorities. Mine is not making sure some random photographer from Better Homes and Gardens can drop by and do a stunning photo spread any time of the day or night. Good luck. Although I do usually have fresh flowers on the dining table. (Let me just move the newspapers so you can see them.)

My house isn't dirty. It's lived in, but healthy. It has character. It has life. It has less than optimal storage. And two dogs who think they own the place. And a husband who has no concept of 'a place for everything and everything in its place'. Which is why we resort to the occasional reshuffle of stuff into the nearest closet before we open the front door to visitors.

However, once visitors arrive, there is good conversation, laughing, coffee and munchies, and hospitality. There are friendly dogs who enjoy a good throw of the tennis ball or a Scoobie snack. One of them even does doggy tricks; he just learned to moon walk. There's the sound of jazz or Hawaiian slack key guitar from the stereo, paintings and photographs on the walls, posters from past shows and Fringe festivals. Occasionally, there is the aroma of fresh baking. It's a home.

If you're interested in white glove inspections, this is probably not the place for you. Perhaps a visit to the nearest hospital, where instead of the sweet aroma of banana bread baking, you can inhale the sharp tang of bleach while you admire the precise hospital corners of the bed sheets.

So as I wave goodbye to the pest control guy and make my way through the dog fur tumbleweeds that need yet another quick vacuum, I polish off the last of my tea and feel lucky to have this sometimes untidy but always loving home.

F*** Martha Stewart...this is living!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Selective Memory

The Moose (that would be hubby) and I stopped in to visit Mum today. As we left to go home, Mum gave the Moose his childhood favorite treat, Wagon Wheels. Well, mini wagon wheels. For those not familiar, Wagon Wheels consist of a round cookie base with a layer of marshmallow creme. The whole thing is then covered in chocolate. Apparently, when the Moose was a mere mooslet back in Jolly Olde, this was his favorite confection. Mum talked about the excited five year old Moose with thruppence (three pence for the non-Anglophile) clutched in his little hoof dashing out to get his Wagon Wheel, a young man on a mission. Lovely memories of childhood were dutifully and lovingly recalled.

Later this evening at home, over a cup of hot tea, the Moose happily started in on a mini Wagon Wheel (half the size of the original and twice as expensive - welcome to the 21st century). I asked him, 'So, how is it? Is it all you remembered it to be?' He swallowed and said, ' Yeah. Dry and slightly crappy.'

I couldn't stop laughing.

This one incident is enough to convince me that revisiting comforting childhood memories is better without reality intruding. Like so much else in life, a little self delusion is not necessarily a bad thing.