You haven’t heard from me lately because I’ve been too busy and popular to write blog posts. I’ll be back any time now. Until I return, hold this thought:
On an achingly-lovely late-summer day, I headed to the post office to mail a letter. As usual, silly me, I neglected to notice the time was noon, i.e. lunchtime.
The queue at the post office stretched all the way out the door and into the beige-and-gray lobby. At least fifteen people were in line ahead of me.
Achingly-lovely late-summer days always fill me with unattainable yearnings. As I stood in the post office line, I longed to go home. Not home to my apartment, but home to my PLANET…the planet I got kidnapped from by earthlings when I was a baby.
The problem is, and always has been: I don’t know what or where my planet might be.
As I surveyed the lobby, I imagined my planet’s corridors would be painted in bright tropical colors, not sombre beige and gray. Cheerful robots bearing free foot-long hot dogs and gooey blueberry pie would roam the perimeters. And people would act like I do, talking too much and saying silly things, not quietly waiting in line.
Filled with sudden hope, I scanned the crowd and listened for signs that someone else was a visitor from my planet.
At the counter, a postal worker queried a man with a pile of paper-wrapped parcels, “Do these packages contain anything dangerous or explosive?”
“Only if you consider satire dangerous and explosive,” the man said.
Underneath my purple hair extensions, my ears perked up. That sounded like something I might say. As the postal worker viewed the man with the kind of puzzled expression I’m all too familiar with, I considered breaking rank, running over to the man, and shouting, “Take me home with you!”
But I didn’t.
You see, I needed to mail my letter, and I didn’t want to lose my place in line.
Do you have a pet peeve? I don't. Actually, I don't have any kind of pet...I'm too busy and lazy to take care of a pet. Pet peeves are especially difficult to feed and clothe, unless you're the chronically-angry type. I'm too busy and lazy to be a chronically-angry type. Plus, I have this problem with staying organized and focused, and pet peeves require a great deal of focus and organization. In order to keep the pet peeve fed, especially during dry spells when everything's going really well and nothing annoying is happening, it’s necessary to go out and look for trouble…and I already have too many to-do items on my daily list.
Another strategy, if a pet peeve has gone into temporary dormancy, is to generate new pet peeves, at which point there’s a whole squirming litter of them, and it’s been my experience that it’s hard to farm out extra pet peeves to friends and family.
When I mentioned to an acquaintance of mine that I have no pet peeves, he remarked, “Yes you do!”
“Like what?” I said.
I thanked him for his input and went home to brood on the subject, which was difficult to do because of all the noise from the renovation of some nearby former art studios which were being converted into luxury apartments.
I decided the best plan was to take the bus to Minneapolis. Taking the bus to Minneapolis gives me the illusion of traveling somewhere else, possibly because I am traveling somewhere else. During the three blocks I was alone on the bus, I decided that building construction doesn’t qualify as a pet peeve. Pet peeves are things which only annoy certain people, not everyone. Pet peeves indicate some sort of grudge or neurosis.
I racked my brain, trying to think of something to develop a pet peeve about, something maladjusted and specific to me. All I could come up with are the kinds of things which anyone in their right mind would hate, like being called “ma’am”…or getting grossed out when people clip their toenails on public transportation…or becoming allergic to hair dye and having to go gray whether you want to or not.
Just as I was about to give up finding a pet peeve to claim for my own, a woman got on the bus. She expertly navigated paying her fare and getting seated, all while talking loudly on her cellphone.
As I listened to the woman’s conversation, I realized she was having success in every area of life where I wasn’t doing too well.
I got so envious and crabby overhearing all the good things happening to the woman and not to me, I realized I’d just developed a bona fide PET PEEVE!
My pet peeve: strangers who talk on cellphones in public, and their lives are better than mine.
For the next few miles, I explored my wonderful new feelings of resentment. I felt like I finally had something worthwhile to contribute to the global community. But then, after we crossed the achingly-lovely Mississippi River and stopped near the Guthrie Theatre, the woman got off the bus. As I watched her, something inside me snapped. I realized the woman was probably an actress rehearsing a part in a play, and the whole cellphone call was a hoax.
Just like that, my pet peeve evaporated, and my naturally-sunny personality kicked in. I found myself making mental lists of the ways I could be proactive about procuring the goodies the woman was pretending to have while she talked on her phone. I got off at the next stop and headed back to my studio…and ever since, my entire life has been an ongoing, raving success.
The trouble is, I still don’t have a pet peeve.
The checkout lines were long at the grocery store today. It seemed that everyone, like me, dilly-dallied until their cupboards were bare before they went shopping.
At one point I turned around to see how many people were waiting in line behind me. A bright-eyed man in his 50's stood holding a red shopping basket.
"My brother's dog reads the newspaper every day," the man said to me. "Can you believe it?"
"Yes, I believe it," I said. "Dogs are very smart."
"The dog will only read a newspaper which no one else has read. If someone even unfolds it, the dog refuses to read it. Can you believe it?"
"Yes," I said. "I feel the same way about newspapers."
"My brother says the dog also sells insurance. Can you believe it?"
"Yes. I believe it." My reply was automatic and possibly not sincere; I felt like things might be getting out of hand.
"I don't believe it," the man said.
I nodded my head. "Now that I think about it, neither do I."
"My brother says the dog only sells insurance to famous sports celebrities." The man laughed loudly. "I think my brother's full of it. I think my brother's a storyteller."
"I like storytellers," I said. "A lot of my friends are storytellers. In fact, I'm kind of a storyteller myself..."
The man wheeled around and said to the woman standing behind him, "My brother's dog reads the newspaper every day. Can you believe it?"
The line suddenly advanced, and I reached the checkout counter.
"Paper or plastic?" the cashier said to me.
"Paper," I said.
I'm still trying to figure out what the Universe is telling me, with all this paper manifesting in my life.
Want to celebrate the end of summer at a fun and fabulous event? Visit the Red Garage Studio on Friday, September 7, from 7-10 p.m. A popup Sketchbook Show will be opening in Allison Ruby's lively Minneapolis venue, featuring 30 local artists. One of my summer 2018 sketchbooks will be on view, recording the workings of my mind while I try to make sense of the turbulent world we live in.
Red Garage Studio location: 3640 Garfield Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55409
If you can't make it to the opening, the show runs September 7-September 16.
Thursday and Friday, 3-7 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday noon-4 p.m.
Or by appointment. (If the weather is bad, check the Red Garage Studio Facebook page to find out if the gallery is open.)
Detail from The Summer of 2018, 2D/3D acrylic on cardboard, 11" x 22"
Sketchbook Show Artists:
Christopher E. Harrison
alex m. petersen
Nina Martine Robinson
Maria Cristina Tavera
Derek Van Geisen
People appear and disappear from my life on a fairly regular basis. Because I'm the center of my universe, I assume all of them have been put here for a reason, to relay information to me from myself.
I'm writing this blog post wearing a pair of pretty reading glasses gifted to me by a dear acquaintance of mine .
"The minute I saw them, I thought of you," she said as she handed me the floral-print spectacles.
Floral? I thought to myself. Why would she think of me when she sees floral? Everyone knows I'm about leather and spandex and grit. I never wear floral...it makes me feel like a couch.
"Thank you," I said.
I took the glasses home with me and ended up wearing them all the time. They were the prettiest glasses I'd ever owned, and when I caught sight of myself in a mirror, I felt happy
A few days after my friend gave me the glasses, I got word that she'd suddenly died.
I didn't attend her funeral because I was swimming in puddles of tears. I took some comfort in realizing she would have understood my absence: she had a way of looking past the theatrical posturings of the world and seeing the small, tender stuff hidden behind the scenes.
When my friend The Gardener waxed eloquent about watching bumblebees cavort in his magnificent garden, I said in my most-wistful City Rat voice, "I wish I was a bumblebee flying around a beautiful garden."
"If I looked out my window and saw a 125-pound bumblebee flying around my garden, I'd be really worried," he replied.
My late mother used to say outrageous things, great sweeping remarks about the nature of life in general. I’d tell her she was wrong, and she’d argue she was right… and much to my dismay, she always turned out to be right.
Except about one thing: my mother told me you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
I usually don’t have flies in my loft. I have other annoying creatures, both human and non-human, but not flies. Something changed, though, when I awoke one morning with the thought in my head that I should eat more fresh fruit.
Ignoring my own advice to never go grocery shopping while hungry, I threw on some clothes and rushed to a nearby food market. The moment I walked into the place, a shelf groaning with organic strawberries caught my eye. The winsome fruit was exactly the shade of alizarin crimson I favor in oil paint, hair, wine…and strawberries.
I grabbed a pound of the berries and headed toward the checkout counter.
As soon as I got home, I washed some berries and popped them into my mouth. They tasted so good, I gave my reflection in the mirror a double thumbs up. I put the remaining berries in my refrigerator to feast upon later.
Several hours later, after a satisfying session of painting, I took a break for a snack. When I opened the refrigerator door, clouds of fruit flies flew out and converged upon my kitchen counter, which held the remains of my previous night’s party. The unwashed wine glasses especially attracted the tiny, winged vermin.
I ran a sink full of hot water and liquid soap, plunging the wine glasses into lavender-scented suds. Most of the fruit flies perished immediately. A few of them escaped, so I rolled up a copy of The New York Times and taped it into place, fashioning a deadly artisanal swatter.
Then I marched the uneaten fruit to the dumpster outside.
The next few days were hellish. Every time I thought I’d killed the last of the fruit flies, a new batch would appear. I put out a little dish of honey, thinking the vermin would get stuck in it and I could squish them to death, but they ignored the honey. All they wanted to do was hover around my head, making it difficult to do anything constructive.
It was time for a fruit fly trap.
If I’d lived near a cute little hardware store, I’d have gone there to ask if they had any fruit fly traps. But all the cute little hardware stores have been gentrified out of my neighborhood, so I had to go shopping online.
Oddly enough, no one had fruit fly traps for sale online, but I found lots of DIY hacks. Several involved filling a shallow container with apple cider vinegar and squirting a dab of dishwashing liquid into the vinegar.
Luckily I had all the required supplies in my loft, so I made a fruit fly trap and put it on the kitchen counter.
Within two hours, 43 fruit flies had drowned.
Three days, later, the infestation was over.
The possibility that my mother was wrong about other things besides how to catch flies has opened up a whole new world of potentials. For example, what if it’s not true that the early bird gets the worm? What if it’s not true that if you make your own bed, you have to lie in it?
What if it’s not true that it’s a man’s world and nobody can ever change it?
As I traversed the cobbled streets near my loft, lost in a cloud of oblivion, I suddenly noticed a pigeon ambling beside me. I stepped up my pace, thinking I’d lose the scruffy bird; the pigeon trotted faster. I slowed down; the pigeon followed suit. I ground to a halt; the pigeon stopped in its tracks.
The whole situation caused me great unease. The pigeon seemed too friendly. It seemed unusually unafraid of humans. Rummaging through my brain, I tried to remember whether pigeons can get rabies.
Then I noticed the pigeon was unabashedy oogling my feet. I examined my sneakers, thinking I must have a smidgen of food stuck to the sole, but the cross trainers looked pristine as the day when I bought them.
“Oh swell.” I said to myself. “I’ve attracted a pigeon with a foot fetish. Why do things like this always happen to me?”
Then I took a closer look at the situation. I suddenly realized my athletic shoes had the same exact markings as the pigeon.
“What a relief,” I said to myself. “The pigeon doesn’t have a shoe fetish. It just thinks two other pigeons are walking down the street.”
I resumed walking. The pigeon matched my steps. We promenaded all the way to the corner. As I stepped off the curb, the pigeon turned tail and returned to patrolling its turf.
All in all, I’d say it was a good day in the city.
Nancy Robinson, Alone in the City 1996, mixed media (2D/3D acrylic on foam core board, plastic figure), 13" x 13" x 2"
Do you spend your days dodging cloudbursts of unbearable emotions?
I hope not because...well, because I like you.
Nancy Robinson, 2017, Self-portrait with the Bluebird of Happiness, oil on canvas, 24" x 18"
I had a wonderful birthday this year, filled with good food, yummy art projects, lovely men and happy sunshine.
Around 10 p.m. on the night of my birthday, I sat at my project desk making a gratitude list. I had so many things to be thankful for, I filled page after page.
Suddenly, my phone rang.
The voice on the phone sounded tired but resolute. "Hi. I'm downstairs. I have something to give you, to celebrate your birthday."
I smote my brow. "But you're in graduate school. You're too broke and busy to be doing this!"
"I'm never too broke and busy to celebrate my friends' birthdays."
I shrugged. "Well then, sure, I'll buzz you in."
A few minutes later, my friend dragged into my place and set a bottle of wine on the counter. "You like chardonnay, right?"
"Sure," I said.
He rummaged in my silverware drawer for a corkscrew. "I know it's probably too late for wine, but I wanted to toast you on your birthday."
He uncorked the bottle as I mused silently that I'd never witnessed such murky chardonnay.
"Oh no." My friend held the bottle to his nose and sniffed. "This isn't chardonnay. It's catnip ale."
"Here. Let me smell it." I took a whiff of the pea-green liquid. "Omigod, it's so strong."
He hastily recorked the bottle. "I think it's gone bad. I made it a couple of years ago and stuck it in my wine cellar. I didn't mean to bring it...I was in such a hurry this morning, I grabbed the wrong bottle."
I laughed. "Don't worry, I think I have something milder we can toast my birthday with: I just bought a new bottle of rubbing alcohol."
His lower lip curled into a pout. "It's not funny. I wanted your birthday gift to be perfect."
"It is perfect," I said, and I meant it. "It's a much better story than if you arrived with a nice bottle of wine. I can always buy my own bottle of nice wine, but a good story is priceless."
My friend looked at me gloomily. "I suppose you're going to make this into a blog post."
"Of course not," I said.
Are you depressed by today's unseasonal blizzard? Do you need an inspirational story to perk you up? If your answer is yes, read about how Nancy Robinson cheered up a friend who was caught in the grip of uncontrollable natural events:
(Reprinted from October 8, 2015)
I ran into a writer friend of mine at Trader Joe's the other day. My friend is very nice but struggles with melancholia, so I like to try to cheer him up.
"How wonderful to see you!" I said. "Did you have a fun summer?"
"No,"he said. "I spent the summer defending my house from woodpeckers."
"Woodpeckers are so cute!" I said.
"They're destructive," he said. "They poke giant holes in my siding and make so much noise I can barely concentrate on my writing."
"You sound depressed," I said.
"I am," he said.
"There must be some way to make this fun," I said. "Since birds are technically dinosaurs, you should tell people you spent your summer defending your house from dinosaurs."
"You sure are full of bright ideas this morning," he said.
"Seriously," I said. "You should take a picture of yourself dressed like a caveman and then post it on your Facebook page. It will get you lots of attention and help your writing career."
"I don't do Facebook," he said.
"Why not?" I said. "Facebook is a valuable career-building tool for a writer like you."
"I don't have time for Facebook," he said."I'm too busy defending my house from woodpeckers."
"Dinosaurs," I said. "You're defending your house from dinosaurs."
"Okay, dinosaurs," he said.
"Now, didn't I just make you feel like your life is a TEENY bit more fun?" I said.
A smile played across his lips. "Maybe."
"See? I'm like a woodpecker poking holes in the siding of your depression," I said.
"I guess that would be one way of looking at it," he said.