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Showing posts from August, 2009

good bones

"She can wear a paper sack and look good--she's got such great bone structure." People often said this about my oldest sister in a way they might have hoped would trickle down to the rest of us as a genetic compliment. It was true. Johanna is very tall and has cheekbones and tons of sharp, jutting attitude that could pull off anything. Dare to tell her she didn't look good in that floor-length embroidered, nomadic goatherd's leather coat with the shaggy fur collar, the cowboy boots over her corduroy overall pants legs or the holly twigs in her fierce, swept-up-'do. The thing is, she would put them all on, as if donning a sack. And, on her, damned if they didn't look good.

I knew what they really meant by my sister's 'great bone structure.' She was thin. While my other sisters and I were shorter and periodically on the upholstered side, Johanna was a sort of high-backed shaker chair-- an elaborate coat-hanger--for her hip-hugger jeans, tiny tees…

golf clubs of the dead and the voodoo bowl

No, there's nothing very old here in Florida. And yes, it drives me nuts. When I moved here in 1993, it felt like moving to the bottom of the universe--the far flung place where nothing happened--the place where people came to get away from places where stuff happened. It took me years to look at it a slightly different perspective. In fact, it is the top of an entirely different universe--the quiet apex of the Caribbean, the top wisp of South American continent, rather than the dragging, soggy tail of the Northern one. Turning to this different point of view, Ecuador is closer than Ames, Iowa, and Lake Titicaca is no more remote and exotic than Lake Superior. It is cheaper and easier for me to travel to places that previously seemed outrageously beyond: Colombia, Trinidad, Lima--than to Chicago, Cincinnati, Hartford.

And, in fact, geologically speaking, Florida truly is the New World, having really only just raised itself out of the water a few relative moments ago by the sheer in…
It's no secret that I hate living in Florida. I hate the sand and the heat and the weird, plasticky texture of the grass that reminds me of those welcome mats with the little daisy in the upper right hand corner. I hate mowing the lawn on Christmas Eve. And above all, I hate that, with the exception of a few fairly impressive shell mounds piled up from Calusa clambakes, there's nothing very old here at all.

An "older home," is a Florida real estate-y term applied to any dwelling that was built before 1999. I say, as a general rule--with the exception of tents--no one should ever use the term "older home" if the residents are older than the home.

New buildings are made to look old here: Spanish colonial villas; Italian Mediterranean pallazzos and French provincial chateaux; Florida cracker-style stripmalls; Queen Ann style beach cottages done up with more lace and rick-rack than a maiden great auntie. But there's something amiss in these nostalgic architec…
These are lean days in the thrift stores. To everything there is a season and that goes for the ebb and flow of crap, too.

In my old hometown, early summer was the time to reap, and May presented the richest pickings--when the exodus of university students cleaned out their dorm rooms and ratty rentals and the weather became agreeable to garage sales and estate auctions. Summer Thursday nights, my mother would start to plan her garage sale attack plans, marking the newspapers with esoteric symbols that ranked the sales according to location and prioritized them by time and the secret language of the classified ads. She and her best friend would head off at dawn, stocked up on smokes and stoked up on McDonald's coffee and sausage biscuits. Going with them was an all day commitment that required fortitude, stamina and a tolerance for air that resembled the dense fug of a BINGO parlor.

Here in this fantasy land of Florida, May is still high tide--an influx of castoffs from seasonal res…