Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Skipping Ahead...to May

     How did April slip away? Thirty days, into a morass of decrepitude, overall laziness, insufficient energy - to do what?  How does a person mark monthly achievements anyway? A short memorable excursion to the Big Apple in ideal spring weather, celebrating the long ago passing of a friend from Covid most likely pneumonia as a cover. Consult the wee datebook and find no discernible uptick in enlightenment or possibly even what might pass for joy among the living. But joy often is transitory and barely discernible. It can happen in the most unexpected ways.

Which brings me to what many some people might consider an entirely superficial pleasure that can take up time without any conscious notion of time passing - going shopping. What's more, shopping in a superbly equipped Goodwill emporium. The word emporiumEver is used judiciously and correctly - for such outlets many of them, sell used goods operating in a very formal fashion under their own terms. On a single ground level are arrayed clearly the items for men as separate from women, though often the two are mixed. (As in: extra large t-shirts perfect for women wanting a loose feeling over swim suits or even as substitute  sleepwear.)  

The back of the store is a well regulated jumble of miscellaneous home and hobby goods - the usual mix of frames, dishes, TVs, utensils, what-have-you. Everything you didn't think you needed until now. There is no need to rush through the place, barely even any need at all when you first enter with a friend, taking an hour out of the day to  browse with nothing in mind but the filmiest goal of all: to buy something at a bargain price, to feel somehow free of the overpriced commercial marketplace. A treasure hunt - a game women play best.

We see few men the morning we walk into an especially welcoming Goodwill store just off to Route 50 in Arlington, Va. Shoes to note are placed above the racks of, well just about every item of clothing a person could want. Signs point to the bargain color of the day - lavender strings are 50 % off, we see. My friend has an especially astute eye for worthy purchases; her sense of style is innate. It is admirable and not transferable.

 We both have a casual incentive for prowling widely here: she is about to travel late spring to a cosmopolitan city where temps can be cooler than average. Probably she could find suitable duds in her own closet but the thrill is finding one 'extra' that will mark the trip as special. Besides there is satisfaction an ego jump, in choosing a treasure out of all the mayhem spread before us. The mingling of garments is such that seasons don't matter. She can pick out like a flying gull going for a fish in the sea the singular perfect enhancement to her wardrobe, which she always does. This time it is a light wool black and white top that registers 'designer' even though the label isn't  well known name. Sometimes the thrill is pouncing on fabric that is above and beyond the polyester norm. Other times it is casing the aisles long enough to find two unrelated items -  Merino wool sweater and heavy cotton Adidas trousers, for example. Casual wear elevated with that interior gleam of 'I've just invented something, just for me.'

It helps to have that motivation. In my case I  was intent on sniffing out the right color top to match the multi=colored silk scarf that had inspired the previous purchase at a high-end well-branded women's clothing of a boldly colored linen trouser suit and jacket. No real style but what I challenged myself to create on my own. It was never a question of real need - maybe only the need to brag  about buying a skirt for 6 dollars, a sweater for 3.

You cruise the aisles anonymously. There is no pressure to buy, to try. At the end of the hour you might well end up, as I did, with seven items costing a mere $40, including tax and a wee donation to round out the sum. The receipt tells me of the special savings - how I somehow managed to save $3.75 on each of two items mysteriously listed as 'women's sweater and women's pajamas. Never mind that original purpose is entirely irrelevant. The cashier stuffs my lot in a large plastic  bag and tells me to 'have a good day,' or a familiar pleasantry that somehow cheers us on our way out the door with a sense of gratification and a sense of feeling time well spent.

Besides, it's all going to a good cause isn't it?  The stacks of donor merchandise piled up outside the building under big tents, handled by employees in blue short with experienced efficiency: a reminder of how (but really?) the stuff can be recycled or somehow reinvented into funds for the less fortunate, as the saying goes. Money for training and rehab. Whatever. The name Goodwill says it all.

Friday, March 24, 2023

Spring, At Last the Sun


So onto April and its blithering weather. But also to the flowering forth of a Kwanzan cherry tree so dependable and bountiful that it spreads over four backyards on Capitol Hill. All hail the mighty beauty, for baring mighty winds, the stately plant shows its flame for three weeks running. 

Then beware: Petals float down invariably, coating the ground in a pink carpet that inevitably crumbles into brown.

Another month soon gone, and mighty May is upon us. Surely a good month for travel in any hemisphere.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Moving on through February


    My hair guy maintains a chair in a salon in the Westchester complex in Northwest DC. 

 He needs to talk and I need to listen while he does his work. This most recent encounter took place in  the first half of the month  on a Friday as usual, five weeks or so since our last encounter. He bustles around, he challenges the norms of his profession. I help with the foil squares that contain a poison (dye) to give me the low lights disguising more or less the lethal white strands of hair. "You don't want to touch it. You can't deny its danger."  Which is why his wife never tried  and instead cuts her white hair short. Today's conversation went from the wife who took away his motorcycle long ago after she found their 14-year-old had made a key and went off on a wild ride. She did it when her husband was away. 'I was mad at her for about a day but what could I do." He never bought  another one.  He is a wonderful guitar player and a cancer survivor now down to138 pounds so he can at least can get back to running..if he dares. 

Our conversation: He tells me about time he had his long dark shoulder length locks cut by hair product emissary Paul Mitchell; how today's parents are not doing their job; how he always stands up when an 'elder person' comes into the Metro (or a room I suppose);  he banters with other clients coming and going and a colleague who has the chair next to his in this low ceilinged outpost. "You've got to drink water, drink eight glasses a day," he implores. He says this is necessary especially for older people, for health in general. 

And he sweetly reassures me that I need not worry about my ever increasing age, which continues to baffle me - why so well so long. "Because you are getting god's reward for being such a good mother when you were younger."

Always a sermon and then a pat on the back.

Friday, January 6, 2023

new year to cheer or fear: January

     Time to take stock, whether in facts or feelings.  Much news comes out of census reporting - if you are statistical minded - now that the past decade's assessment has been (mostly) tallied. Of national and rural/urban living. It seems the urban population in the US has - no surprise - increased: we are now 79% urban vs 20.4 % rural. Definitions have changed, too,  so that an urban area is now 5,000 people and above and there are now 2,646 urban areas in the US, Puerto Rico and US islands. 

How this matters, of course, is how much federal support - in funds and services - is given to different areas. That's a fight at the national level by and large, where elected representatives and agency heads are critical.


    On a less sweeping scale, my thoughts  focus on yet another periodic conversation with my hair care specialist . While I sit covered in plastic sheeting and a towel, he cuts and talks, sprays and enlightens. We gossip a bit over another woman client whose feud with yet a third client means he cannot really keep up a relationship with both since they both live in the same residential complex where he works. The two women have had a spat over a job that is apparently the reason for their existence, as relatively useless and unimportant it would seem to be. The one cannot stand to be in the same room with the other. Then there is the ultra-rich client who confesses her facial makeover at age 38 cost $23,000 and made it look like a 16-year-old. The problem with the botox-plus-surgery for yet a fourth woman is her total self-absorption as she must be constantly reassured of her good looks. Her droopy mouth has gone but not her fear of its eventual return. How she must be constantly on guard.

    He is a trained musician who recently joined a group performing what he calls Peruvian waltzes, folk rhythms he now  hums to me when I ask. And his wife the accountant who would like to retire but whose boss begs her to stay on until his cancer treatment is over - and longer, too, just in case.  His treatment has left him a thin man without much taste for food and a perilous weight for a tall man of only 140 pounds. He sees a trainer once a week to learn how and whether certain exercises will improve his body, to grow muscles - which he finds ridiculous since 'the age thing' never can be overcome. 

    I'm the client but perhaps am I also a therapist of a kind - sitting in front of a mirror, welcoming the ministrations of a professional whose hands are flitting back and forth, chop chop, while I am embalmed in his chair. He likes someone who can respond to his talk. We go back and forth:his wife (always), his grandkids, the ways of a diminishing world. He is diminished - he should be 20 or more pounds beyond 140 and he worries about this. He worries about the price of a personal trainer - $85 a session, he confides as though it were a secret shame - helping him in some way to sustain - not quite build - muscle.  His style has changed since the chemotherapy. He applies the same low lights (not highlights - I don't know the difference), I hold the 4 inch square foil while he bends hair strands around them.  This is a coloring job that will blend with the gray and not let gray get the upper hand. I sense a weaker yet obliging hand. We are really four people: two bodies and two mirror images.