Sunday, November 20, 2011

A couple weeks ago I finished my first ten mobiles ("Space Delights"). Since then I've been on a house-painting bender, and am only just recovering from the fumes, but am DYING to get started on the next ten (they'll have a different style of frame--a vertical line with horizontal-ish arms). I'm going to enter these in a show sponsored by Austin City Hall, and maybe try to get them in a store, but I'm hesitant about separating them because I think they pack more of a punch when they're all together. I'll post more details about these guys later--right now, I REALLY need to take a shower...


Monday, November 14, 2011

It's one thing to joke about cops coming to the house when you're high on paint fumes and another thing when it actually happens. I'll just say this: it's not as funny as it sounds. Nervous giggling usually doesn't go over well with the law, and when your hair looks like it hasn't been washed in eleven days--specifically, because it HASN'T been washed--and you're giving off guilty vibes because of that time, twenty years ago, when you thought it would be amusing to write "I have a gub" on a piece of paper at the bank with your then-boyfriend, and he threw the piece of paper in the trash, and the cleaning person found it, and gave it to the bank manager, and next thing you knew you and your boyfriend were being interrogated at the police station--

That was twenty years ago, and my terrified tears quickly proved me innocent (and stupid), but for some reason the guilty conscience is still there, to such a degree that when I saw the cop car pull up to the curb I went and hid, and it took a few moments of standing in the dark hallway, clutching a paint can, before I came to my senses and thought "What the hell am I doing?" THEN I walked, a little more assuredly, to the open window of the office, which I was painting various shades of green, and said "Can I help you?" to the strangely bulging-eyed officer crossing the yard.

"Hello," he said. "How are you?"

"Fine, thanks," I replied. "And you?" I didn't do it!!

"Just fine," he said, eyeing me--scrutinizing my sloppy painting getup, my guilty aura, my past lives as a gondolier and a squirrel--with mild suspicion. "I'm looking for someone"--my throat tightened--"who, I'm told, lives at this address. Do you know David Rice?"

Phew--he wasn't looking for me! I started to feel friendlier towards the cop, and for a second imagined myself inviting him in through the window, offering him a glass of milk, maybe gently broaching his eye problem. All I could manage, though, was a smile--a smile that said, I hoped, I'm a good, rule-following person. Those mushrooms I wrote about? Shiitake!

He waited. Gesturing awkwardly with the paint can--what was wrong with me?--I croaked out an answer: "David Rice? NO! NEVER HEARD OF HIM."

It was too vehement. The cop looked at me, his bulging eyes still bulging, and I began to think it was a trick--I'll make them nervous with my weird eyeballs! I'll make them think I'm the one doing illegal things, things that make me look this demented way!--but caught myself. "He used to live here, you say?"

"Yes, his sister told us this was his last place of residence. You've never heard of him?"

HELL NO, I wanted to yell, while in the back of my mind I started to wonder: maybe this David Rice lived with the seven other male occupants during the house's looney bin phase? Maybe he's the one who kicked the bedroom door in? Maybe he left the deep holes--enraged-looking gouge marks--in the kitchen counter? Something kept me from going into all that, and I just offered this piece of information instead: "We do get mail for other people, sometimes."

It seemed to do the trick. He looked at me one more time with his disconcerting cartoon eyes, asked my name--why??--and thanked me. When his back was turned, I got braver: "Have a nice day!" I called out. "Thanks for stopping by!" He waved, and got in the car.

Hiding behind the living room curtain, I watched him sit there for ten minutes, ten minutes during which, I was sure, he did a background check, triple background check, and inside-out cross-pollinating background check of my current life and the ones spent as a gondolier and squirrel. Finally his car pulled away--Good riddance, I thought, go do your job and catch David Rice!--and I went back to the office, where the afternoon light was making the newly painted room look especially happy and inviting. In the past week, the bathroom, hallway, kitchen, and front door had undergone similar transformations, making the whole place so much nicer--more dignified, more respectable, more normal--than it did when we moved in last year, not long after its illustrious time as a halfway house. To have helped bring about that change, to have replaced ugliness with beauty and carelessness with order, to have created, in a way, a new reality for myself and the family, felt really, really good...

No one's come looking for David Rice again, and I think it's pretty clear he doesn't live here anymore.

p.s. please note author wearing pig hat in photo. Get it? Pig?


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Yesterday Lula was in the studio while I continued my eternal activity of walking around the house with random objects in my hands, wondering where the other green sock was and what had happened to the 599 other lego ocean liner pieces; to add to the stupefyingly endless amount of daily household chores, I'd started organizing a closet in the hallway, dumping its dusty, mysterious contents--crap, mostly--on the studio floor.

One of the things in there was a pink box I'd been using to store sentimental stuff--postcards, old passports, somewhat macabre locks of the kids' hair, Lula's baby teeth--and though putting it in the studio with Lula made a little bell go off, I was in a fog of dodishesmakedinnerfoldlaundrywashdogsfindsockopenmail, and it wasn't until I heard her say "Hey Maman! I found my second tooth! We forgot to put it under my pillow!!" that I realized Pink Box + Lula = Oh Shit.

"Your...tooth? What tooth?" I asked, the fogginess giving way to alarm. Silently I berated myself for slipping up, for allowing the Great Tooth Fairy Myth--and Lula's precariously hanging, 7-year-old, almost-not-believing-anymore innocence--to be threatened. She'd recently told me some of her friends don't believe in Santa Claus; though I'd suspected she plays along, to a certain degree at least, with the bizarre gift-oriented lies we tell her ("Yes! It IS remarkable that Santa gives the exact same toys as the ones at H.E.B!" "Yes, it IS weird that Maman and the Tooth Fairy have the same handwriting!"), I'm finding that a year of a child's life, from my new perspective as an ancient person, goes a lot quicker than I remember it going, and...What?? Lula doesn't believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy anymore?! I'M NOT READY FOR THIS!

Scrambling to gather my thoughts, hoping she'd interpret my 10-second pause as Preoccupation With Important Housework, I affected a tone of nonchalance: "Oh right, we forgot that one. We'll just do it tonight." Still frozen in the middle of the living room, I waited for her reaction: had it worked, or would she...laugh at me? Did she know?

She answered in a clear voice, a voice so sweet, so guileless, that I couldn't help wondering if I was the one being duped. "Ok Maman, I'll put it in an envelope, then!" she said, and I heard her walk, suspiciously businesslike, into the office. I heard the filing cabinet open, then the desk drawer (to get a pen to write a note, I assumed), and then, still as perfectly accepting of "the story," maybe just a little too unquestioning, she walked briskly down the hall and into her room.

I heard the bunk bed creak, and started to relax. Phuh-EW, I thought, and then I wondered: had she written a note? If so, what did it say? Was it another series of questions asking how she could beat her friend Sammy in track? Was it a repeat of the last "note"--the words "I WANT A TOY" hastily scrawled on the back of the envelope? Or was it something different, a little more thoughtful--something that matched the steadily growing, happily purposeful activity I sense(d) in my not-so-little girl?

I still don't know what she wrote, because I forgot to do the whole Tooth Fairy routine last night. That came close to inflicting serious damage to the reputation of the Winged Hoarder of Teeth, but! As everyone knows! If you're late getting your tooth under your pillow--even if you forgot!--you get put waaay down at the bottom of the list. So she might not come on a timely basis. Although she had better, if she wants anyone to care about her...

Better go put that scratchy costume on.