Posts Tagged ‘struggle’

Eglute’s evening at the residence of the Florin General Consul and his wife at a dinner honouring Master Printer K. and his wife M. – as told to the shoutbox last Monday – (spoken word)

The limo came to pick us up at 6

How bourgeoisie – a Hummer stretch!

The honourees had the primo seats and we peons had to contort ourselves into the row reserved for children and small pet animals

It was at that point that my pants began their journey to where they would eventually pool around my ankles

The ride to Manhattan usually takes about 1 1/2 hours

– but the driver was good –

We were expected at 7:30PM but made it in by 7:10

The limo pulled up to the chic-est, historic Rockefeller brownstone

The address was assured to be one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in NYC

We were dropped off –

I unfurled myself from the back row hiked up my knickers

and went in

We had to sign in at the guest register with the doorman

and were escorted to the waiting area which looked out over the gardens

(Yes, I know, gardens! in Manhattan!) and the East River

But we were early

And they made us wait

and wait

and wait

till 7:30 when we took the elevator up

the door opened up to a glorious apartment where our names were announced by the Cambodian butler – he completely mangled “Eglute”

The receiving line included the ruddy faced, athletic-looking General Consul

and his small-boned, big-headed American socialite wife

I blabbered something like “thank you for inviting us into your home”

I swear her lips barely moved when she whispered…

“Charmed” (I think – couldn’t really tell for the botox)

We were ushered into the living room again with views to die for

A young man in a rented tuxedo was propped in a corner, softly strumming something classically Spanish on his guitar

The interior design ran to overstuffed, ornately-coloured, silk covered chairs and settees with bleached whitewhite walls that wouldn’t ever, heaven forbid, see a child’s dirty fingerprint

Yet another Cambodian servant was handing out glasses of sparkling water and

wine while his sister slave handed out meagre canapés

sigh – so few canapés – and I love canapés

I paused to study the females of the group

Two kinds of women there

Florin born and bred – sturdy, horse-faced

and their NY counterparts – socialites, size zero (if that) – tan, manicured, adorned with simple but expensive gold jewelry on muscular arms

and LOTS of eye makeup

at times I thought I was at the circus

I couldn’t help but watch the rise and fall of the fake eyelashes

The men, for the most part, looked as if they were born in suits

None of them anything to write home about

a few people introduced themselves to RFH and I

and made desultory comments about lilacs, the Hamptons, and yachting

after 15 minutes of such exhilarating(not) chumming

it was announced that dinner was served

We entered a formal dining room where a LONG (read: how many trees were felled to make this furniture?) table set for 22

the bad part was that I knew I was now going to be separated from RFH and that I would be seated next to strangers from a foreign land

The servant motioned me towards one end of the table between two gentlemen

on my right – CEO of Commonwealth Bank of Florin

and to my left – The Cultural Liaison from the Embassy

the CEO was a stuffed shirt

every time he spoke his pushed in face would swim before my eyes

and all I could see was a pig rooting for truffles

but he was genial and on his second pre-dinner cocktail

so I was assured of light, inane conversation in the least

The cultural liaison was younger, but had a thicker accent –

so I found myself nodding sincerely quite often in agreement

to who knows what

the table was simply gorgeous

elaborate linens, 4 crystal glasses at each setting

silverware of varying shapes and sizes

some to the sides

some above the plates

mini gilt-edged menus were placed in small silver knob thingies in front of

every place (as were dual-sided place cards – oh dear, both sides of the table would know my name now!)

Feeling a little lost – I brightened with the thought “dinner – finally!” – I could make small talk and hide my emotions in my cheek along with a mouthful of veal piccata

each crystal glass was a wine flight tasting with each course

white with Butternut squash soup

red with veal

sweet with dessert

the food was meh – spare – the socialites pushed it around their plates and ate


so as I said – I was looking forward to a lot of listening and nodding

when all of sudden

before the soup could even be served

the Consul stands up, welcomes everyone, says a few nice things

and announces that as no one knows each other at the table

that we would go around and introduce ourselves

and say a few words

I almost spit in my crystal water glass…

First one around the horn says –

Hello – I am the Florin ambassador to the US


the second one says

I am an expert in the indigenous Art of Florin blahblah

the third one says I am the cultural liaison from Florin to the US….

and then it’s my turn

WTH am I going to say?

my blood pressure crept up the charts

I burbled something about the honourees being dear friends

and having worked for said honouree great Master Printer

and, and….I’m blurring…. I think I said something else that was perceived of as witty and polite as I was rewarded by a collective murmur of approval from the table –

I took a sip of wine –

I had done it –

I was home free – onto the next course and the next goblet of wine!

when I took the moment to look across the table towards RFH

he was, IMHO, uncomfortably sandwiched between two gnashed-toothed socialites

one looked like Jackie O and I strained to hear her undertone to RFH-

“Your hair …just like a rock star”


the other one on the other side had her claws dug deeply into dearest’s arm speaking earnestly and occasionally licking her lips


she looked exactly like a bleach blond version of Elvira – the vampire woman

complete with collagen swollen smile

the hair – was – how shall I put it?

– shaped into a very uncommon hairstyle

sort of like the Pope’s hat

perhaps a unique Florin custom

whatever – I truly was looking forward to dessert – Profiteroles!

of course, it is proper to wait until all 22 are served before digging in

it took a while for the waiters to make the rounds

I waited and chafed and chafed and waited

– when I glanced up to the head of the table –

noting in horror that the Gen consul was rising yet again to intone another pearl of diplomacy

“And now we would appreciate a moment to hear some stories from our guests”, he pronounced,

Eglute would you care to begin?”

I looked down at the glistening profiteroles and swore under my breath

A story? Me? – Who do I look like – Isak Dinesen?

I am without a clue

I begin a ramble (and I have a voice that projects)

I seem to remember something about art, rocks, trucks, sleeping

I know not what I uttered

RFH’s eyes were widening with every word

I think I had finished as the table sounded with polite applause

I have a face that blushes easily

RFH told me later that by the end of the story I was crimson

So duly chastened and mortified… onto cream puffs at last!

I look around and the skinny women were using a spoon and a fork, at the same time, to attack the little globes

I am amazed but decide WTF – when in Rome/Florin…

I almost caused an international incident

the cream puffs (which should have been soft and luscious)

were frozen and cold …..and hard!

In my attempt to bisect one (as one couldn’t really stuff the entire golfball-sized sweetness in one’s mouth – could one?)

with above mentioned etiquette-correct spork-age

my hand slipped and managed (mayhaps subconsciously with malintent) to launch a solitary chocolate sauce enrobed orb into the air

in slow motion I perceived the projectile volleying its way towards blond Elvira’s uncommon hairdo

I must have been nodding to something of great import in the minutes before

as the thickly accented cultural liaison was paying close attention to me and my plight

in mid-incoherent-sentence he deftly plucked the sphere from the air returning it to my bread dish with aplomb

and a smile

how grateful was I?

I salute Florin

Just when I thought the evening couldn’t offer any more labours

at 9:30 on the dot – the Consul (slurring now)

says all guests that wish to leave could do so now

the rest could join the Ambassador and the Mrs in the parlour for coffee

how regimented!

I looked longingly over at the honourees we came in with and then towards RFH

but they were deep in sober convos

and were herding themselves towards the living room and “a cup”

that’s one cup – tea or coffee – that’s all you get

milling…I can do that – that’s when you pretend to admire the artwork – everyone was exhausted of chatter anyway – edging closer to the door and goodnight…right?

what! a final dreadfulness! – Consul rallies the remaining guests with….

”…and now, can we all stand for a group picture?”

my pant waistband is at this point slung well below my hips

I potato-sack race for the B-room

where a scented candle burned in the boudoir nook (as the bathroom is not just a toilet – it is made up of three rooms – the toilet room, the sink room and the boudoir – albeit with low ceilings) – the vervaine taper was using up all the available oxygen – I was beside myself – and feeling faint

I endeavoured to wrestle my clothes into submission

and frantically washed my hands with cold water to rouse myself

I espied a wrought iron tree next to the sink with linen hankies on it

is that what I dry my hands on?

no – there are towels here – and there and there

I probably soiled the family crest linen – whatever –

the swoon was accelerating, I willed myself to stay in the here and now

in a flash of reverie I saw them all leave and my body only discovered the following Tuesday slumped over the commode

(as socialites don’t pee – you know)

I burst out – smiled for the Cambodian slave photographer

and joined the conga line as we were politely ushered out

just before the stroke of 10

With a weak handshake from him and herself and the parting favor of a CD of the classical guitarist’s greatest hits, we hit the street in search of the Hummer stretch and home

It’s tomorrow and I am not quite right yet –

I play scenes of both ceremonious spectacle few are privy to and self-conscious discomfiture in my head

I know it was a once in a lifetime experience

But I am happy to be back in my house/castle

and pantless if I wanna be

Cream puff – anyone?



My Truth

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?  The world would split open.

-Muriel Rukeseyer

I am a feminist.

This is not something my grandmother would have said, not something my mother would ever say, and I doubt they would be pleased to hear the words from me.

And yet, it is their gift to me.

My grandmother was a young woman in West Texas during World War II.  She and her sisters put their willing hands and strong backs to the work that needed to be done, and kept the family farm afloat while their brothers were away.    She fell in love with a young soldier who was shipping out soon to Guam, and they decided, together, not to marry until the war was over and he was safely returned.  They both knew far too many young widows struggling to feed their fatherless children.

The world of my grandmother’s youth was opening a door for women.  They went to work in droves, filling positions men had left empty, in factory and field, doing what they had known they could do all along.  My grandmother stood on the threshold and took one joyous step.

It was all the world allowed her.  The war ended, the men came home, the women were sent back to the kitchens and nurseries.

The frustration of having that hope stripped away, of seeing that new world split apart like the firewood she had chopped in her brothers’ absence, thrown back into the embers of the hearth, shaped my grandmother in ways on which I can only speculate.  She never told me any of this.  I wish she had, but the Fates cut her thread before I was ready to hear and understand.

She had great hopes for her daughter.  She launched her into the world, pushed her out of the nest.  But my mother had grown up a mouse of a middle child, bookended by two boisterous brothers with overwhelming personalities.  She never seems to have found her way.  After one semester in college, she married, and though she tried to continue with school it took only the disapproval of one backwards professor, who sneered at her that women could have an education or a family, but certainly not both, to discourage her.

A delicate flower, my mother today wilts in the shadow of the prevailing opinion of the strong-willed men around her, and it is only when we are alone with my sisters that I can coax her into blooming, a tame little root-bound rose.

Our freedom is new.  It is easy to forget that, since the overt oppression seems sometimes like such ancient history.  We are the first generation to really get to spread our wings; the first grand migration following the path of a sisterhood of trailblazers.  We are the first generation of women in millennia who have grown up believing on a grand scale that we could be who we want to be, that we are not less than, that we can walk our own path.

I am a feminist.  This is the gift my mother and grandmother gave me, and it is the gift I hope to give to my nieces, my young friends, my daughters from another womb.  I am not ashamed to say it, as if it were a dirty word.  I am not going to pretend that society didn’t force my mother, my grandmother, and countless mothers before them whom I never knew, into roles that were little better than the yoke on a team of oxen.

And it is my dearest hope that one day, among that next generation, there might be even one who will have the opportunity to look at my situation from a higher plateau of freedom than I now enjoy, learn from those things I am unable or afraid to do, and spread her wings wider still.


Time Flees Irretrievably

“Each thing I do, I rush through so I can do something else.” – Stephen Dobyns

I never knew, until just now when I looked it up for this blog, who had written a phrase I have muttered countless times.  I feel the truth of this phrase more and more of late.  There is a constant barrage of things that must be done.  Things that stand up and scream for your attention.  Things that, no matter how much you would dearly like to ignore them, you know you cannot.

Were it just me in my life I would be the only one to suffer for lack of clean undergarments.  Alas, I have two people who look to me for just such things.  These things and oh so much more.  Two people.  Who let this happen?  Wasn’t I supposed to be the old spinster with copious amounts of cats?  That was the plan in high school as far as I can recall.  Yet here I sit.  A wife.  A mother.

No, I was not your typical little girl planning out her wedding in detail from a young idealistic age.  I did not pine for motherhood.  Yet these are stations in life I could not do without.  To lose either would be to lose large parts of my heart and soul.  To leave gaping wounds in my very being.

Important as these roles have become, I nevertheless find myself rushing through the everyday realities of them.  To what purpose?  Hurry up and get dinner done to hurry up and get a bath to hurry up and get in Pjs to hurry up and get in bed to hurry up and go to sleep to hurry up and get to work to hurry up… Time flies.  Such a cliched phrase never appeared more true.  I’ll be with the only man I’ve ever loved for 10 years this anniversary.  My daughter will be 4 in mere months.  I was impatient for her to crawl, to walk, to talk, to learn her letters, her numbers… what’s the rush?  There is no race.  Slow down, I tell myself.  Enjoy her!  Be silly with her!  Structure will come, as will knowledge, but she won’t want to build tents out of blankets and sleep under your desk while you work forever!  And still I turn her away, because Mommy has to work.  Mommy always seems to have something else that wants her attention.

Do I have a purpose or a point?  No, not particularly.  These phrases chase themselves around my head and so I decided to put them down on “paper” so that maybe they would give me some peace.  Maybe it’s to show myself how important it really is, that even though she is in the house with me all day, she still needs the quality time of my focus and attention for things other than bad behavior.  Maybe it’s just to appreciate mundane things like everyday meals and goodness forbid laundry.  Create quality time where before was a mad dash for the next task.

I have a cross stitch that hangs in my daughters room.  It was made by my great grandmother and was given to my mother when I was born.  It too contains a phrase that rises up now and again to catch my eye.  I hope I learn to heed it before it’s too late.

Cleaning and scrubbing can wait ’till tomorrow,
for babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobweb – dust, go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep!


Hurdles Through Quicksand

Waking up, day in and day, out… as my eyes open upon what light shines on or though, my mind mentally jots down ideas. Driving home and surveying how the moonlight shines on God’s green earth or the creation of human technology, my eyes take note. However, when i sit in front of a blank canvas, my mental notes start caving in.

Not enough time, need to process more other important work….

Sitting there with the paintbrush in hand, the smell of turpentine surrounding me, i become numb. Is this what writer’s block is but from a different artistic angle? Is it, maybe my insecurities are taking the best of my judgment?

Everything surrounding my conscience can’t seem to put it down on canvas! Damn you Lee! Damn you Silvestri! Damn you Adams! It’s not their fault, it’s my own.

Sitting again in front of the canvas, i start imagining all the endless possibilities. All the countless colors or non colors that can be shared within each other. The abstracts can take outside the canvas and maybe through a lens. Yes a lens!

The lens captures everything in an instant and can be used whenever the mind forgets. But sometimes, the mind considers that cheating.

The right hand for stroking the paint across the stretch cloth. The smudging of blacks and whites to emphasis depth and perception. No, paint.. paint… !! The smell of triumph. The countless inner criticisms. The countless inner errors only the eyes will pick up. Those damn imperfections! … NO! The good ole saying .. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” … Continues pushing the camel fine hair across the smell of canvas… the reds, yellows, blues… turning into oranges and greens… all blending together. Yes, this has to be the accomplishment!

And maybe at the end of the inner battle, a Rembrandt could be created.