Spillover

 

One of the destinations of the daily 10,000 step walks my sister and I take is Atwater Park in Shorewood, where one of my favorite pieces of public art sits waiting for us. It is called “Spillover II” by a Catalan artist named Jaume Plensa (thank you, google). Take a look for yourself.

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The artist explained his use of letters by saying we use language to commune with nature and the world, or something like that, which is very nice, but I have my own ideas. I see a guy who consists of a jumble of amorphous, incomplete thoughts swirling around inside and outside of him. As he stares at the water, concerns begin to drain away, slowly emptying his faceless, everyman head. The way he sits, hugging his legs, makes him slightly vulnerable, but the upright head puts him squarely in the world. It fascinates me to think how different the impression would be if that head were bowed, making him looked scared or fetal-like. As is, he’s got more communing to do and he’s going to stick around for a while.

I get the impression he is fairly universally loved by the local people, but, of course, it wouldn’t be art if there were no controversy. Some tourist inspected him, “discovered” the secret message “dead jew” among his ostensibly random letters, and then blogged about it. Scandalous! Outrage! To jump to the end of the story, the artist graciously offered to alter his piece, exchanging a letter or two, so that it could no longer be “misinterpreted”. (Correcting my misinterpretation would probably require more major changes, so I hope Jaume never gets wind of this post . . . )

 

While on the subject of public art, I’ll add another fairly recent addition to Milwaukee’s collection – one that clearly falls at the other end of the aesthetic spectrum.

Meet the (monstrous) “Bronze Fonz”:

 

 

 

 

I think I’ll skip the interpretation of this one and move right to the scandal. Some art director complained and said he would move his gallery if the Fonz went up near it. When that made the news, the phone calls started coming. The art director then recorded some of these messages – which he called “death threats” – and put them on a website. (http://www.hotcakesgallery.com/milwaukee-bronze-fonzie/) Three of them come from 1) a homophobe who somehow sees the statue critique as an insult to the Green Bay Packers, 2) a Canadian who is now seriously considering not coming to Milwaukee, and 3) the Fonz himself (sort of). At first I was a little wary about clicking on “Listen”, but then – as I should have guessed, this being Wisconsin – they were pretty tame. (What does it mean to “end like Dahmer”?) Still, it is beyond my comprehension how some people have the inclination, energy or time to be leaving insulting messages on a stranger’s voicemail. Henry Winkler would not approve.

The end of this sad story of schlemiels (“Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!”) is that some musicians remixed the messages and set them to catchy beats. They made me laugh, but now I have this silly and bizarre song stuck in my head. “Gay boy. Dahmer gay boy. Gay boy. Go away . . .”

I think I need to go back to Atwater and look out over the lake for a while.

 

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Dejuvenating

Since the husband couldn’t come along on our trip to Milwaukee this year, it was up to me to get the bikes in working order for my daughters and me to use. I hauled them up from my sister’s Silence of the Lambs basement, removed the cobwebs and set to work. Tires were pumped up, brakes were checked, rust was WD40’d, chains were oiled, seats were adjusted, gears were tested. We were good to go.

Of course, one of these three bikes was my now 42 year old Takara ten-speed which I have affectionately named “The Rejuvenator”. And once again, he lived up to his name. When I got on him and started pedaling, the old magic of muscle memory kicked in immediately. He was perfection. This was how a bike was supposed to feel! I sped off into traffic like any 15 year old would, exhilarated by my newfound mobility, leaving my fifty-seven year old achy, gouty and bursitis-prone self behind in the dust.

Common sense says that a person can’t truly love an inanimate object, but I beg to differ.

On the other hand, I find myself wondering how long this magic can last. How long can those bald and ever so slightly flatulent tires hold out? His brake lines are also creaking more, the joints of his gear levers are stiffer and he is getting crankier when I shift. His handlebar tape is sagging and decomposing. His age is showing.

And what about me?  A week from now, I will take him back down to the basement before leaving to go home. At our next reunion, I will be 59 and probably as good as retired. Will I still tear around town on him when I am 61? 63? 65? Will the day come when I have to give up riding ten-speeds altogether? How will this end?

I almost hope he goes before my ability to ride him does. That a tire bursts and is too expensive to replace. Or that a part rusts through that is no longer produced. That when our relationship ends, it will not be me abandoning him. It will be his last full measure of devotion.

 

Day Ten Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifty-Eight

About thirty-two years ago I was contemplating getting married, so I consulted “the bible”, and in particular, Chapters 8 and 10. After that, I insisted on adapting our wedding vows to “I promise to love, honor, cherish, and occasionally play Scrabble with you for as long as we both shall live.”

It turned out that “occasionally” meant once every quarter of a century. So it was only five years ago that I discovered, to my horror, that my husband cheats at Scrabble. (Or do you think that “Jeanhose” and “Krux” are words?) Thank goodness I won the game anyway. Two points less and I could be divorcée right now.

 

As it is, it’s my 30th wedding anniversary today, and sort of like last year, I spent most of it chauffeuring kids around, obeying the commands of my cleaning lady, and doing load after load of laundry. It’s now about 7:00 pm and I am all alone for the evening – unless of course my adopted refugee son pops in for some food. Daughter 1 flitted in from her trip to Malta and took off two hours later to spend her first night in her new apartment in Graz. Daughter 2 is at a concert in Vienna, with friends and strict instructions to send me a text message every two or three hours.

And the husband is off fishing in Sweden again.

However . . .

Being the person he is, he made sure that a surprise appeared in the kitchen this morning. I might just be the only wife in the world who un-ironically thinks a bag of Cheetos is the best anniversary present ever! (The fountain pen was nice too.)  But wait, there’s more! A half hour later my cell phone chimed.

Check out what my husband calls “our Weddingfish”:

 

I’m starting to think this guy might be a keeper.

 

In Search of Lost Opportunities

 

This one is for Alison With One “L” for making me laugh out loud with her last post (“Lost Time, Indeed”) in which she deals with her PTSD (Proustian Traumatic Stress Disorder).

As much as I would like to help you with your weightier existential questions, I am, unfortunately, a bit of an agnostic when it comes to packing peanuts and quantitative tomato decisions. I also won’t be much help when it comes to an obsessive need to finish every book, however recklessly started, because I share that particular quirk . . . ( . . . although! . . . I admit to the occasional skimming – e.g. the last 30 pages of “War and Peace” or the Mueller Report footnotes). How I CAN help, maybe, is by telling you the advice I would have given you had I known you were about to crack open a Proust – in the hope that it may positively influence your future choices in reading material and help you toward the non-remembrance of painful things past.

Belated Piece of Advice #1: To start off, I’m thinking what you need now is something  . . . shorter. So when fondling the next massive tome, stop and consider the alternatives. Behold:

Behold again (the novel you just finished in a nutshell):

 

Belated Piece of Advice #2: In case the above is a bit too superficial for your current frame of mind, here is a more philosophical yet still logical approach to decision making. Starting with some basic Math, I think we can agree that:

if A=B, and C=D, and B≠D, then A≠C.

Now let’s apply this logic to a certain French novelist.

Life is short. Proust is long. Short ≠ long. Therefore, Proust equals death.

 

I rest my case.

Happy future reading, Alison! May it be pithy.

 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

P.S.

In case you liked the first sample from this book, here are a few more of my favorites . . .

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My Big Fat Greek Marriage

Couples who poke fun together, stay together.

In other words, married people who can dish out and take good-natured teasing have the best chances of staying together. I heard this on one of my podcasts a while back and it stuck with me, maybe because it explains how my husband and I have managed to make it for over thirty years. We don’t really have a lot of interests in common, but we DO like the teasing.

Take for example these two recent phone conversations. Before reading them, there are a few things you should know: 1) my husband and I never use affectionate, diminutive nicknames, and 2) my husband likes to pee outdoors.

 

Conversation 1:

(my cell phone rings)

Me: Hello

Him: Good Morning, Schatzi!

(short silence)

Me: Who is this?

 

Conversation 2:

(I see that my husband tried to call me. I call him back. He picks up, but doesn’t speak.)

Me: Hello?

(short silence)

Him:  Wait . . . I’ve got my bimple out . . .

(short silence)

Me: Is that what you wanted to tell me?

 

I blogged a while back about how we sent our DNA in for testing, and that has turned out to be an excellent source of jokes. First off, after reading that post, my mom sent me the results of her brother’s test – which I assume would be the same as hers and half of mine. It confirmed what I had basically expected. Mom’s theory was debunked – no Roman blood anywhere. The German, English, Norwegian, Scottish and Irish parts were all confirmed, but – to my delight – the test also showed Swedish and Welsh ancestry. I walked around for a few days feeling very Scandinavian and relishing in my genetic upgrade. When the subject of my husband’s summer fishing trip came up, I exclaimed “Why do you have to go all the way to Sweden when you’ve got a Swedish chick right here at home?”

But then the (dubious) results of my test arrived.

 

Conversation 3:

Me: According to this, I am 0% German!

(short silence)

Him: Maybe it’s time for a talk with your mom.

 

I stared at the ridiculous results for a long time, trying to make any sense of them. The English and Scandinavian parts were in there, but no Irish or Scottish. That was bad enough, but then . . . no German!?!? There was also a whole lot of new stuff too: Finnish, Latvian, Estonian . . . and the coup de grace:  Apparently I am 15% Greek with a smattering of Italian (That Roman guy is back!!)

How can I be Greek? I spent my childhood eating Grandma’s German cooking and playing Sheepshead. I internalized Grandpa’s Germanic “Work hard and play hard” ethic. I raked leaves and babysat and waited tables and got good grades and studied . . . To think, all that time, I should have been taking 3 hour lunch breaks and going into debt and dreaming about my future big fat wedding . . .

Of course my husband started crooning about his Greek wife and doing Zorba dances. But then his test results arrived . . .

 

I can’t believe I married a Yugoslavian.

 

ANYWAY . . . I am currently working on the wording of my indignant email to the customer support people of this DNA testing company.

And before I forget –

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!!

We can talk about the Roman guy and this Greek stuff when I come in summer.

Cat Pit Ululation

 

The same scene plays out over and over again. I go to the desk where my laptop sits and begin . . . watching the news, doing work or a translation, blogging . . . whatever. At some point Devil Cat leaps up onto the desk, often spilling my coffee or knocking objects off. I pick him up, put him on the ground. He leaps again. I remove him again. He leaps again, and this time he quickly prances across the laptop keyboard. Menacing messages appear on the screen such as “Shutting down . . .” or “Delete file?” or “Restore computer to factory settings?”

Sometimes things heat up and I just shove Devil Cat off the side of the desk, trusting that he will land on his feet. Sometimes he digs his claws in and pulls the table cloth along with him. Sometimes, as he is leaping, I block his landing spot on the desk, sending him sprawling.

This battle went on for years. And then . . .

I gave up.

 

Addendum: Oddly, it seems history does sort of repeat itself. It was during my last sick leave with a similar ailment that an altercation made me think my cat might be possessed by the devil . . .