Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cotton Mountain

Dear Jimmy,

I confess shamefacedly that I heard "Calton Hill" as "Cotton Hill." Twas the altitude, I'm sure. Imagine my horror as I attempted to Google Cotton Hill and did not find the spectacular view of Edinburgh. In fact, I found a farm in South Carolina and a sheep herder in Australia. Not at all what I remembered. I know I grumbled and gasped my way up the miles (or so it seemed) of gentle slope. It wasn't that bad, really. It was shocking in a way, as it was such a gentle hill and yet we ended up being on top of the world. It was thrilling in so many ways. To be so high, to have climbed so high, was a great accomplishment. I know you're wondering what in the Scottish tat I'm talking about...but see, Jimmy, we in the Midwest don't walk anywhere. Ever. Certainly never up a hill. But it was beautiful and I wish I'd taken a photograph. I would defend the city from invaders up there, I swear I would.

And Oxford Bar...what a lovely place. I've had such a time of it I tell you! To mesh my vision with the reality. I think what made it work best for me was having Peter's dog under the table with his occasional snuffle.

Reminds me of when we were in the church and the minister (Canadian!) would mention God and you'd hear this low moan from across the aisle. I lost it, I tell you. I'm always a bit nervous in a church - always a bit afraid there will be a bolt of lightning (errant, I'm sure) and that will be that. Best not to even catch my eye in church as you'll then see my shoulders heaving and you'll think the Spirit has caught me (finally).

I've a funeral tomorrow - my Aunt Shirley passed away. Did you know my mother's name was LaVerne? No lie. LaVerne and Shirley from Milwaukee. Sounds like a sitcom. Oh wait. Anyhooo, I've spent the evening trying to find a suitable dress, shoes and hosiery to pay my respects. Although I'm sure Aunt Shirley (we called her June) would rather that my outfit actually fit so she'd forgive me wearing my "normal" attire.

So we soldier on watching those in the previous generation pass on to the Shotz Brewery in the sky. Actually, John and I are convinced our mothers live in our attic, smoking and drinking and complaining about our housekeeping. Perhaps Auntie June will join them and they'll put another pot of coffee on and empty the ashtrays in anticipation of her arrival.

I hope there will be a dog in the church tomorrow so my heaving shoulders will look like I'm hiding a laugh or that I've been caught by the Spirit.

All for now, more later.

Monday, September 19, 2011

These Days

Dear Jimmy,

Ah yes...the wonderful song y'all played for us. Who knew that young Mr. A even knew who Jackson Browne was/is. That, Jimmy, is why the internet rocks. Bless him for that. I'll always remember that three playing away. The problem with a jam is trying to find the three songs that you all know, but that wasn't really a problem for you, was it? You and John know a lot of 'em and they're good and fine and they made the band wives tap our toes or want to dance. Lovely, innit?

But we had our moment, me and you, didn't we? See, I don't sing, can't sing - Mr. Steimke told me (freshman year) that I completely could not sing. So I try to avoid it because he'd make that face. He's long dead, Jimmy, but I remember as though it were yesterday. But I love music and I love singing. So I sing funny and make people laugh. I sing as though I'm in the West Allis Community Theatre's production of Oklahoma - my voice can be big and loud ("as the wind comes sweeping down the plain..." [arm swoop]). I can fill the auditorium without using a microphone. My friend Mary - her maiden name is Rose - she makes me sing "Everthing's Coming Up Roses" like Ethel Merman did. It makes her laugh and that makes me happy. My voice is soft and quite thin - it used to be very high (first soprano but ciggies and rum have made me alto-to-high-tenor I think). No matter.

You made me happy when you agreed to sing "King of the Road." It makes me laugh to think of our goofy duet. Thank goodness you knew the words to the second verse as I dropped the ball. I wasn't taking the piss either when I tried my Proclaimer accent - mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, donchaknow?

Along with all the beautiful memories I have of our lovely holiday, that one ranks right up there because I was able to be me. Goofy and off-key, but laughing and making other people laugh. It's just who I am. A woman of means by no means.

All for now, more later.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lang may yer lum reek!*

Dear Jimmy,

I thank you for your patience as I twiddle about and have not quite mentioned the Land of Your Birth, the blessed Scotland! It's easy for me to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and prattle on about things of import but lesser consequence. Where I falter is in the big things, the really important ones. I struggle to write about them. Bear with me as I try my best...

When people have asked me "how was your vacation?" or "how was England?" I have to pause and force myself to breathe. I tell them my vacation was wonderful, England was lovely, but Scotland was sublime. I tell them Scotland is the most beautiful place I've ever been to (and honey, I've been around). I tell them that the songs and poems and movies do not do it justice, because it's soul-crushingly beautiful. I tell them that you can feel like a microcosm because the land is big and green, filled with craggy cliffs and the sea is rough and cold. Or that you can feel the power of the sea shoot through your body and you feel invincible and somehow you know you've come home. I tell them that the people there are amazing - once you pass the invisible test, you become family and there's no better family to have. I tell them that the ONLY way to see Edinburgh is with a historian as there is more history is one city block than we have in thousands of miles in this land of Apple and Microsoft. I tell them the food is amazing - the fish is fresh-caught and has never been near a freezer, the cheese is divine and puts Wisconsin cheese to shame. I tell them they've never been to a family party until they've been to a Scottish family party where the wine flows and the music plays and everyone is smiling and laughing. I tell them that for the first time in decades (I've had almost five so that's a lot) I had no worries and did not miss where I live. I tell them our accommodations were first class and that I can never thank our hosts (that would be you, your lovely bride and your brogue-y son) enough or possibly repay the hospitality. I tell them I'm going back as soon as I can because although I saw a lot, I could not take in any more as my senses were full up.

As they listen to this enthusiastic diatribe of love for all things Scottish, their eyes glaze over a bit and they say one of two things:

1) I've always wanted to go to Ireland.
2) So, is it like Braveheart?

Yes, my darlings, it's a wee bit like Braveheart.

All for now, more later.

*May you live long and stay well.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Creation Dream

Dear Jimmy,

I know it's been a while since I wrote, but life interferes. School is about to start and the whole but-I-have-a-CAREER thing has days of exhausting intensity. Of course I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I?

I do have more to tell you about my trip (Further Adventures of a Broad Abroad), but then I remembered the tattooed Buddhist.

I met a man recently whom I shall call John. That's actually his name, so it works. He's very, very tall and extremely thin. He has a shaved head, a very long beard and lots of painful looking metal bits piercing his ears. He also has a body suit (not a leotard like the fashion of the 1970s...ah, the '70s!), but rather tattoos from his wrists to his ankles. I can only assume it's a full body suit since he was wearing clothing, but I took him at his word. Needless to say, he's a pretty intense (read: scary) looking guy. Although from Ohio (or Iowa or some other vowel-laden state) he's been living in various locations in Asia. He lived for many years in Indonesia and Viet Nam, but currently resides in India - since Asia is an "emerging market" we need lots of people to live over there to get it emerged.

So here's a fully tattooed, fiercely pierced dude sitting in my cubicle - I am paid to support our "field staff" and he's as far a-field as I've experienced. We do our work thing and one thing leads to another and the conversation twists and turns (you may recall my uncanny ability to divert a conversation to odd territories) and I discover that in addition to knowing more about motorcycles than just about anyone, he's also on a spiritual quest. Which, it turns out, has a lot to do with his living in Asia (Mohammed and the mountain and all that. Oh. Wait.).

Anyhooooooo, since I find spiritual quests fascinating (I personally haven't made the time in my busy knitting and cocktail schedule for my own quest, but I do find them interesting nonetheless) I proceed to (gently!) pepper him with questions. We find common topics to discuss (did I mention that my first husband was practically a shaman? No? Shame, as it's an interesting story. He's dull as dishwater, but the story has moments of interest). John, it turns out, is a man in pain. His wife left him several years ago and basically kidnapped their daughter. He misses his little girl so much and has been working very hard to find her (in Asia! where there a bajillion people! Poor dude!). In the meantime he's been meditating and hanging out with the Dalai Lama (as you do). Since I had done a paper on the Dalai Lama for school, I felt a complete kinship with John. I mean, golly, I read the Dalai Lama's book so I practically know him too! Free Tibet!

Moving on.

John gave me some suggested reading material (The Sacred Path of the Warrior, which I've started but must read slowly as it may just cause my soul to explode). So when he asked the question, "Why is this happening to me?" in reference to his missing daughter I attempted to offer him some comfort by responding, "It's a question that contains its own reply." Pretty profound, huh? Sure is. The kicker is it's not my line, it's a lyric from a Bruce Cockburn song - the same title as this missive. It's a great song and he's a great lyricist. I still feel pretty badly about it (my response, not Bruce Cockburn), a bit guilty actually. Here was someone who was hurting so badly and needed to know why the Universe was challenging him in such a terrible way, and I toss out a fortune cookie response.

I guess I'll just have to hope that John the Tattooed Buddhist will find the answer he needs while he's on his quest. I also hope that he and Bruce Cockburn forgive me.

All for now, more later.