You smile and think how much you’ve changed

Back in the day, I remember singing lyrics to, This is the Day, by The The?:

Well you didn’t wake up this morning ’cause you didn’t go to bed
You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red
The calendar on your wall was ticking the days off
You’ve been reading some old letters
You smile and think how much you’ve changed
All the money in the world couldn’t buy back those days

...life was sweet.
…life was sweet.

Always loved the song, but many years ago, when I listened to that CD over and over again, I was so happy with the moment that I was in. I had no idea that I was changing, or ever would. I had a leather jacket that I swore I would probably go with me to my cremation. Everything seemed perfect … down to the leftover carry-out food that was in my refrigerator. I figured I would stay pretty much the same. Never a smile after reading old letters. Never feeling older. Always being me.

This week, after a half day of work, the photographer who I just wrapped the job with suggested we go have lunch. Neither of us were familiar with the area, so we relied on Yelp for suggestions. A name, “Fuel Cafe” popped out of the list.

I said, “Let’s go, I’ve heard good things about this place.”

So, he drove and we went through this really nasty hood. We saw Frankenstein houses with busted out windows and bad paint jobs. Gym shoes over wires. Ferocious looking dogs taking giant shits that super rats ate. I didn’t see any pretty little lap dogs, or white fences. We were just about to figure out plan B when the sign to the cafe came into our vantage point. There was a house a few away from the cafe that had a taxidermy ¬†black bear in the branch of a tree. I was terrified. But it was also Wisconsin. What did I expect?

“Ummm, we can totally go someplace else,” I said.

“No, Let’s check this place out,” said my lunch buddy.

Great, I thought… I wasn’t wearing my bullet proof vest and the place looked gross. Inside, it was raw. Posters of motorcycles were everywhere. I am not a fan of “theme” based eateries. They remind me of something that should be at an amusement park. The clientele was indie-rock-style. The coffee sipping crowd was adorned with dreadlocks or hipster cropped hair. Everyone had a tattoo, smelled of cigarettes and obviously loved the obscure music that was cranked to eleven. I was self conscience in my dirty North Face coat and felt alone with my nothing-cool-about-me. Where was my hand knit scarf (that my mommy made me)? By trying so little, I stood out like an asshole yuppie. I was an impostor in a mecca of cool that I didn’t quite understand. At this place, the cashier could have worn a vintage swim cap with plastic flowers stuck to her head and been taken more seriously than me.

Ordering lunch was like a job interview where I had no idea about the right answer. The waitress burned a look into me and turned my head into a pink, glitter, Halloween skull. Telepathically she was saying, “You are so fired!”

I figured a veggie sandwich with a down and dirty latte would be the ticket. The food was good. Coffee “Fuel” worthy. My blood sugar level suggested I relax. Taking the whole experience in with a full belly, I realized that the reason I felt so uncomfortable was that I HAD CHANGED! Twenty years ago, this place called Fuel would have been my scene. I would have loved the place and brought my parents there for a veggie sandwich birthday dinner! What was going on???? Nowadays, birthday dinners are extra fancy fare like oysters and pork belly!

I looked over at the girl behind the coffee counter and realized that twenty something years ago, I WAS THAT GIRL. It was odd to remember that I worked at cafes, where I used to know how to make the fuck out of a cappuccino. I probably even wore a vintage ¬†bathing cap to work. That wasn’t weird! Once upon a time, I had no idea what it was like shopping retail. I even bought soap at the Village Thrift.

My lunch friend and I had a lot of fun. We even bought t-shirts and I laughed to myself thinking we were such tourists. I had to leave with some trinket that I found from my trip to the way back time machine. So glad I had those days … yesterday. I loved that old me, but now I realize that I have grown and it just is. Still, it’s good to remember what it was like to be a little raw around the edges … an easy cool that just happened. Something about that foundation makes today very solid. Cause, I don’t want to go back to the past … well maybe for a another t-shirt and some coffee.

You could have done anything, if you wanted
And all your friends and family think that you’re lucky
But the side of you they’ll never see
Is when you’re left alone with your memories
That hold your life together, like glue

 

Please go away. Far, far away!

My husband and I were celebrating his 50th birthday at our favorite restaurant. We were seated rock-star, bellied up at the bar. Sipping gin and tonic, noshing on select delicacies from our charcuterie plate, a bedazzled hand reached in front of me and dropped an empty plastic bottle of Smart Water.

Next, the hand that was weighed down with a giant rock, hailed the bartender like a cab. She elbowed me. She complained about the time it took for SERVICE! Clearly, I was in her way and she really wanted a Grey Goose and soda. Her husband was thirsty for pinot noir. This was no average patron. No, I was standing right next to a very entitled, Dago bitch. Wow, lucky me!

I felt like that bitch was on the verge of going all Reese Witherspoon (the new “postal”). I could feel the prickly tension from this lady and braced myself to hear her shout at the totally slammed bartender, “DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM? WELL, YOU ARE ABOUT TO FIND OUT BUDDY. I AM AN AMERICAN CITIZEN, STANDING ON AMERICAN SOIL THIS IS MY RIGHT. I NEED A DRINK AND THE SEATS THAT I HAD RESERVED! WHY AM I¬†WAITING??!!??”

Before she could spew the words … bad news! Grey Goose is like so five-years-ago and not on the menu.¬†Frazzled¬†with uncertainty, the lady with the rock on her well manicured finger, was stalled by the intense chore of reading the menu. This required squeezing herself right next to me at the bar. I could smell her odor, feel her arm, she flipped her hair in my face. I was so in her way. What was I thinking? Like, how dare I?

At last, five minutes later, a much needed drink was in her botoxed hand. Just in time to greet her friends who FINALLY arrived. The now expanded party required drinks immediately!!!

Waiting for SEVICE! The important bitch gave her friends and everyone surrounding the bar the skinny. “THIS BARTENDER SUCKS! I AM SO ANNOYED! I CANNOT BELIEVE WE HAVEN’T BEEN SEATED. I AM TALKING TO SOMEONE ABOUT THIS! WE SHOULD BE DRINKING FREE DRINKS!”

One person in the party remarked, “Nice place. What is it? Like Eye-taal-yun?”

“Yes,” said the bitch and scurried off to complain to the host.

I wanted to let her know that she was wrong. The the food at the establishment is Mediterranean. The chef creates small, special¬†plates ment to be shared. The menu regularly changes with fresh, farm-to-table¬†ingredients. Food isn’t fast and doesn’t come off a conveyor belt. The drinks are¬†exquisite¬† and as for the wine list… well, the owner is a sommelier. Chef Boy’r Dee is not in the kitchen.

We asked for the bill and wrote a note to the bartender, warning him that he and the staff might need to get their shit together. What would it be like if this upset lady never came back? She could be the one trickle of hope that would make our little fancy¬†restaurant a big deal. People would fly in from Japan just to sample the eye-tail-young food. They would marvel at the lady with a big rock and botoxed hand. They would request to be near her table. The¬†napkins her party used would be¬†auctioned¬†off and the¬†restaurant¬†would use the proceeds to expand the “stupid communal dining.” Plus, enough change would be left to make a hefty donation to¬†Habitat¬†for Humanity. Wow, our favorite dig could go from stupid and suckie to¬†smashing. I imagined totally being that powerful bitch’s best friend, learning how to be a BIG bitch, and getting lots of free drinks. Bonus.

Seriously folks, I hope she hated the place and complained to all her asshole friends. I want this¬†restaurant¬†to stay special, custom and not some cookie cut bullshit. I want to wait for a well crafted cocktail that is worth waiting for. I’d love to say to that woman, “GET OUT and don’t let the door hit you in your boney ass.”

We just wrote down all the shit she was saying about the staff and passed it to the bartender. He’d deal with them. NEVER piss off a bartender.

Fountain of Sonic Youth

Was she getting under my skin, or was it simply my vanity? A newly minted Columbia College grad stood in front of me steaming a glittery, hot pink t-shirt that changes colors when it’s exposed to heat. No, she wasn’t my assistant, just some young fool working for cheap and I couldn’t wait to see her fail. It takes years of torture to be a killa photo stylist, such as I. Pity the fool who shows up in some over accessorized Forever 21 outfit and thinks they can own it. Pifff!

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched. She sang along to music and even performed a few air drum solos. SO FIRED, I thought.

Then I was humbled by this oddity. She was good. Real good for a newbie and I knew I had to up my game. How was this happening? This was like watching someone jump on a horse for the first time and win the Kentucky Derby! Rivaling Evil Knievel, the rider would soar through rings of fire, with arms raised, shooting off guns. A crowd of fans would embrace the rider with expectations of autographs and perhaps fortification.  I calmed myself down by remembering that strange things can happen. I mean, there are freaks of nature. She was one of them. One of those hermaphrodite types. Stink-eye to you, Ms. Columbia College!

We were together in the prep room She wanted to get to know me. Who wouldn’t? I am such a rock-star stylist. Now was when I would bring out the brag stories. I’d talk about location shoots (never mind the 20 hour day). I’d talk about working on exotic assignments for magazines (never mind¬†editorial¬†work pays dirt). She would want my autograph.

She was practicing her drum solo, listening to The Doors.

“You like them? The Doors?” she asked.

“Sure,” I said.

“So, did you go to Woodstock?” she asked with a serious look.

Okay, WTF WOODSTOCK? Christ, I don’t even think I was born yet.Really. Do I look, OLDER THAN MY AGE?

[Death to a stylist. You are a granny. No more late night drink bingeing. Beauty rest, botox…MAKE AN APPOINTMENT! Get a walker…change the front stairs into a ramp, wear athletic pants and a matching hoodie. Steal jelly from the diner, complain about aches and pains, eat bland diet.]

“Ummm, no more like Lalapalooza, Woodstock was ¬†like my parents generation, well except they were even too young,” I said (the latter part being a lie).

“Oh. Did you ever see The Doors in concert?” she pressed.

Annoyed, but keeping my calm I delivered, “Oh yes, I drove to the concert in my VW bus. I was of course tripping my brains out at the time. Really? Jim Morrison overdosed on smack in some shitty bathtub in Paris when I was like two years old. The closest I’ve gotten to The Doors is listening to them on the radio.”

The other stylists laughed. One said, “I just loved that movie with Val Kilmer and Meg Ryan.”

The new girl looked scared that I might steam her face off. She said,”Oh, I am not American you know. I am not sure about your holidays. You are cool. I feel sorry.”

I decided to turn the steamer off and¬†whimpered¬† “It’s okay, but ‘Woodstock’ isn’t a holiday. It’s not Martin Luther King Day. And I am young! (I willed my audience) I’M NOT SOME HAG! LOOK AT ME, I’M WEARING A CUTE OUTFIT!” She broke me. I was not cool, but rather an insecure¬†idiot wearing flowered jeans from Target. They set me back $11.

“So, do you like Sonic Youth?” she asked.

“Yes, and I have seen them in concert,” I said.

“Wow, so cool,” she said.

Finally a bridge to mend our gap! Right? Wrong. She thinks I’m an old toad. I think she should stop doing pretend drum solos and get off her phone. She should turn her music down and stop driving so fast. I’ve never seen her drive, but I’ll bet she has a million speeding tickets tucked in her wallet. And she’s probably on drugs like all the young kids. I’ll bet a sawbuck¬†there are White Castle boxes all over the floor of her car.

She’s got nothing on me. Now excuse me, I have a lunch date with my mother to discuss Downton Abby.

Lord Help Me, Elizabeth This is the Big One

There are zombies and then there are toddlers with tiaras. I’ve been holed up in hotel rooms with very little free time to do anything other than treat my brain to flat screen mush. I have become a cable tv victim.¬†Sprawled¬†out on a dialed up sleep-number bed, like a character from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I have been ending my days with junk food, bottles of wine and yes! Toddlers & Tiaras. A week later, my¬†motor¬†skills are lacking and I can’t stop hitting myself.

Frankly, I am terrified of Toddlers & Tiaras. I worry that one day, I will look out my hotel window and see a sea of toddlers with tiaras, foaming at the mouth, carrying bags of sugar, and on a quest to take over the world. I know that when I run into a zombie, I will put a stake in it’s heart. I wonder though, how will we as a nation survive an invasion of toddlers with tiaras?

Yikes! There she is again, “Heaven” or something. This five year olds favorite food is chocolate. When she grows up she wants to be Ms. America, and THIS YEAR, she really wants to shoot and kill a deer. Flash to a video clip of this five year old who is a¬†pageant¬†winner armed with a shot gun. She is in the middle of some forest, hunting deer.

“Doe, a deer, a female deer
Ray, a drop of golden sun
Me, a name I call myself
Far, a long, long way to run
Sew, a needle pulling thread
La, a note to follow Sew
Tea, a drink with jam and bread
That will bring us back to Do (oh-oh-oh)”

Two hours later, this kid is riddled with¬†disappointment. The deer are on to “Heaven,” or whatever the hell her name is. Apparently, what looks to be an organized conspiracy,¬†¬†the entire supply of this forest’s deer have fled. It’s almost like they¬†sense¬†a tsunami. They have smelled the demon stench of a toddler in a tiara!

Sad, Heaven goes home sans a deer strapped to the top of her Lady Ga Ga kid car.

I sit on my bed with a¬†Kleenex¬†box and¬†stifle¬†a sob. That poor little¬†toddler! She worked so hard! It’s like, she was robbed! What were the producers of this show thinking? Couldn’t they throw in a prop deer? Ratings, people … ratings! This is the kind of let-down that can turn a little tot towards the dark side and we don’t want that. I want these kids happy and if all it takes is a dead deer then I say, sock it to her!

Because it takes a lot of time, practice, money and guts to get into the glitter¬†pageants! Like them eat cake, shoot deer, and best of all dress up real slutty! Someday, that kid will grow up to be an overweight diabetic, coupon clipper, hooked on pain pills. That’s when she can remember the glory days. The day when she got up on stage and rocked a bikini made out of bacon.

One kid named something stripper like, “Baby boo-boo” now has her OWN REALITY SHOW! Talk about killa! She makes fart noses under her arm. Outstanding and adorable at the same time. She has a real supportive family, (thank¬†Buddha!) Her mom spends all her free time collecting coupons to save money that will pay for all the¬†pageant¬†expenses. It adds up: hotel rooms, Daisy Duke¬†costumes, sugar,¬†Mountain¬†Dew, and sugar! The family is so¬†resourceful¬†and considerate to this child, they take road trips and find road kill. True¬†libertarians, these folks remove the¬†carcass¬†from the road, take it home, wash off the flies and make sausages from the meat. Waste not! Take that Bobby Flay! I smell a smack down. Because someone needs a spanking.

Do you have a broomstick to go with that dress?

It always happens when I’m on the beach. Some perfect girl has to ruin my sunny day and there she was.. all skinny, tan, and wearing the most fabulous tunic in the world. She sat right next to me and I immediately gained ten pounds. I tried not to stare, but it was soo hard. She had something I wanted.

“Okay, give it up…where did you get that tunic. It’s fantastic…and please don’t tell me the South of France or I will feed you to the sharks, ” I asked.

She glanced over her Gucchi sunglasses, looked me up and down, tossed back her head to giggle and after a terrible pause she said, “It’s from Jen’s Pirate Booty and it’s called the Fleetwood Mac. I did the same thing as you to a girl on the beach in Miami…nearly knocked her down to find out about this top. You should get it!” she gushed.

(Cool and then we could be TWINSIES! and bffs. We could like totally go shopping). Except, now she was done with me..I was the peasant on the beach and her super hot, babe-a-licious, obviously rich boyfriend was massaging suntan oil all over her stupid, perfect body. So I sat there abandoned with my thoughts.

I was thinking, it is so strange that Fleetwood Mac is inspiring fashion. Suddenly the tunic became an instant reminder of Stevie Nicks and her¬†truly¬†epic outfits. This made me chuckle. Stevie Nicks, the¬†consummate gypsy; she was like a witch without a broomstick. She refused to evolve into new style trends. Can you imagine if Stevie would have caved in the 80’s and started wearing Izods and penny loafers? Stevie is someone who kind of created her own brand. She’s never deviated from her style and could probably claim to have invented boho chic. Hands down, I’d give her the title.

That crazy witch! I bet she burned the Official Preppy Guide Book!

I sat back lapping up rays that were crisping my cellulite to golden perfection and wished that I could step inside¬†Stevie’s¬†closet. What would I find? Feathers, lace,¬†gauze…vintage cocaine! What did her child hood photos look like? Did she always wear black? Was she a witch? Did she wear pajama’s, underwear? Did she skinny dip and think, screw a bathing suit? Did she prefer gold to silver? Did she have a cat who was black and she named it “Magic” and it wore a fancy¬†turquoise¬†collar? Was she a¬†vegetarian. Did her bedroom have statin sheets, lots of pillows, candles and a scarf over a lamp? Who was her favorite designer?

Then I fell asleep. Woke up with the love bird neighbors gone. I checked out the Fleetwood Mac tunic on my smart phone and shit is it expensive. So sad. I won’t be buying that any time soon. I had to think, “Won’t you throw me a voodoo bone Ms. Nicks? I will take any of your hand me downs and rock my next beach party!”

And then next time some perfect girl will be all, “Okay, give it up where did you get that fabulous tunic?”

I would pause, create¬†anticipation, toss back my head while laughing and say, “Oh, it’s a little something that my friend Stevie Nicks gave me. Yep, we go way back! She has great style!”

TMI

She kept dropping her magazines and apologizing. As the plane took off, I realized that I was seated next to a highly intoxicated middle aged women. A bombed broad, if you will. I never got her name, but boy, did I get her story.

She lives in Palm Springs, sandwiched in between big homes with celebrities. The community where she resides is gated. Recently, she got divorced. Her ex is an asshole and she is so, so happy he isn’t in her life any more. But she’s worried that her super rich, beautiful sister is trying to¬†sabotage¬†her life. She is an heir to the family apple and cherry orchards. She doesn’t understand why they are not making wine out of the fruit. She interviewed in Paris to sell wine for Catherine Deneuve. Do I know who Catherine is?

“Yes,” I said as I shoveled chips and guacamole in my mouth. I offered her a chip. As she reached over to grab a snack from my bag I noticed beautiful rings on her fingers and I complemented her.

“I need another ring, ” She slurred.

“Me too,” I said.

She can’t stop talking.

“I’m just so glad that I bought my house, because if my sister has her way, I’ll be out on the street with nothing. Not even grocery money. SHE’S TRYING TO STEAL THE ORCHARD AND IT’S NOT HAPPENING. Let me tell you, I’ve lawyered up!

I’m just worried about my daughter. I think her boyfriend makes her sad. She’s not the same…it’s like she hit her head. Maybe he hit her head? Better not. She needs out.

I love my house. I like to decorate with themes in mind. Like an all Paris theme is cool. One time I was at my boyfriends house and I don’t know…maybe I had a premonition. I decided to leave and walk the dog. When I got inside my house, there was this guy standing in my kitchen and going through a wallet. Idiot, the wallet was empty! And you know what I did? (She raised her folded arms to her chest and started pushing the seat in front of her). I started to go after him like a football player and then he just womped me on the head and I passed out. He left. He didn’t get anything. Now I have alarms everywhere. I even hide my purse and sometimes I can’t find it.

Yeah, I’m a party girl. I dated a guy in the NFL. I want to be a model. Always wanted to be a model. I did stuff for REI and Eddie Bauer, but my Daddy said, ‘Models are SLUTS.’ Well, you know what I heard on the radio the other day? Older models are in demand! Oprah Winfrey is looking for older models and I’m gonna do it. I think that I need a haircut. Bangs are in, so cute. I’m going to get my haircut like Taylor Swift and become a model. And sell wine.”

“Sounds like a plan,” I said and pressed the button to get a flight attendant the hell over to save my ass.

“I’ll take a beer,” I said.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, we can’t serve due to turbulence,” said the flight attendant.

“Wait, we can’t have drinks? Come on, set us up! Is this like, no way Jose?” asked the aspiring model.

“Sorry,” said the flight attendant.

The aspiring model opened her¬†rattling¬†purse, and extracted a big bottle of pills. She popped a handful of drugs into her mouth. “I need back surgery,” She said.

So, THAT’S her story, “Bummer,” I said.

Annie, get your gun

I don’t think that creative people need to suffer in order to produce art, but I do feel they need poetry in their soul. I just got back from a five-day location job where I learned something surprising about myself. I’ll do almost anything to be accepted and liked. Including ditch my poetic sensitivity and possibly join a cult. Well, maybe not a “cult” … but maybe an Elks Lodge if they would have me.

I’ve just returned from a job that had me in the wilds of northern Idaho. I was the only “lady” on this gig. The guys all knew how to handle a fishing rod and all sorts of guns. They had volumes of incredible near death experiences involving exotic travel and true macho man skill. Everyone¬†swapped¬† stories about BIG fish they caught and as the exchange of conversation rallied, ¬†I sat on the edge of my seat and wished that I could contribute. Frankly, I wanted to be one of the guys. Even the rugged model talked about cobia fishing and shooting ducks.

I’ve gone fishing with my husband and had a blast. But for me, it wasn’t so much about the size of the fish that I caught (a minnow) it was more about having fun. I had never shot a gun. I haven’t ever seen a purpose. In fact, I think the most violent thing that I’ve done was when I was I kid, I used to catch daddy long-legs and pull off their legs.

I started to feel like I wasn’t playing for the same team. Instead, I was an odd tourist wearing white gloves, eating tea sandwiches, and watching my reality show with opera glasses.

Day two, early in the morning, I was perched on a¬†mountain¬†and had to shimmy my way down a sharp incline that lead to a creek. This is where ¬†I adjusted my models waders and fussed with a box of flies. Looking down at us, I noticed two spectators. One was a pretty girl. When I made my way up the hill, she introduced herself.¬†Petite, blond, with clear blue eyes and beautiful despite no make-up. I could tell right away, she was¬†the great sharpshooter, Annie Oakley. Even though she introduced herself as, “Ashley” I knew better.

I imagined her next target as me. I’d back up and stand alone in a dusty field with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth. Annie would point her rifle at me and a second later, the¬†cigarette¬†would explode into a firework of ¬†loose tobacco. Next, I’d back up a thousand more feet, toss-up a¬†buffalo¬†nickel¬†and duck as the bullet sailed through the coin.

Later in the day, we spotted her. She was shooting chipmunks and plenty of ’em. Not once did she miss her mark. She was Little Sure Shot. This girl ranked and I wanted to be her new BFF. I’ve never wanted to kill something so bad. I was craving the rush of a fresh chipmunk slaughter. Screw shooting at some stupid can or a plastic bottle. Then I imagined myself graduating to bigger and better game.

I’d get off the airplane when I returned home and instead of giving my husband a t-shirt as a¬†souvenir, I’d hand over a jagged edged mouse ear and tell him the rest of my kill was being shipped to the house. Danger is my middle name.

Not.

I screamed when I shot the gun. I didn’t hit shit (and let me tell you there was plenty of steaming piles). I’m just a girl who likes lip gloss and cute shoes. (Sorry) I did like getting dirty and actually I think this trip was more poetic then I would have thought. Allowing yourself to be curious about something you may not embrace can open a door to a whole new life perspective. Shootin’ guns is pretty fun, but I’d never aim for a living creature. I think my skill is more along the lines of dancing by the light of the moon.

...just another day at work.

When I grow up, I wanna…

“I’m so sick of being 24!” says my massage¬†therapist. He’s digging his hands into my¬†fleshy¬†muscles and releasing my real world tension. As he rubs my backside, I think about how I’m:¬†unemployed, have super crappy heath insurance, just paid a plumbing bill that started out at $350, and then, “Lady, it’s lookin’ more like a thousand bucks, want us to finish?”

et fucking cetera!

My massage guy goes on. “I am so tired of going out and being all dressed up, and all of the sudden some stupid drunk girl walks up to me and steals my hat. Like, that’s super cute or something? And then her boyfriend comes over and is all, “That’s my girlfriend, so lay off.”

“And I’m like, hello??? I’m GAY. I dont’ like your stupid girl friend, I just want my hat back.”

As he¬†angrily¬†¬†kneads¬†my back, I choke back ¬†tears, and happy/mush feelings. My mascara is running all over my face. In the¬†background¬†this weird music is floating in the air. I imagine I would be forced to listen to this if I was in a cult. It’s this Zen shit, and I’d rather listen to My Gay Puerto Rican Massage Therapist, Who Wears¬†Argyle¬†and Polos … who tells me he’s gay every five minutes.

He reminds me that he is gay with every story he tells. I find them to be refreshing after a day of paying plumbing bills.

“I’m just ready to be older and out with more sophisticated people.¬†Sometimes, I find a deal on¬†Groupon for fine dining. I find a deal for a great meal at an upscale place and I go alone. I lie, and tell my boyfriend that I’m working and I just bring a book to the bar and pig out. I can never take those leftovers home and I feel bad,” My Gay Puerto Rican Massage Therapist, Who Wears Argyle and Polos says to me.

I finally chirp in,¬†“Honey, no one wants sloppy seconds.”

So far, I’ve been too amused to cut him off. Now, I know why so many people are quiet when they get old. It’s not because they are nodding off. ¬†On the contrary, they are thinking, ” Oh you silly, just you wait until your hip hurts and that’s all you can talk about. Now let’s hear another hat story!”

He’s ¬†rambling¬†about Mad Men and how cute they are. And as I listen to him I ¬†think, “You know, I like me right now. Plumbing bills, crappy insurance and all. I would not like to be 24 again.”

I’m plenty cool being a 7-year old collecting an unemployment check.

The mean reds

Work is slow. Idle time can make me worry and think, “crap! am I washed up? Is this it? Am I a hack?”

The photo biz in Chicago is a bit stagnant. It’s all in far away places, or hidden from me. So, I’ve been watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s and feeling a lot like the main character, Holly Golightly.

I’m nothing fancy, but like Holly Golighty, I delight in the treasures life puts before me. It helps take the edge off my rotten anxiety. It’s not just a gem from Tiffany’s that I find attractive. Simple beauty in life moves me. I get excited by things like a feather, a glass marble, a wrinkle in someone’s skin. I love color, shapes, texture. I melt looking at¬†beautiful¬†photography.

Here is an excerpt from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?
Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?
Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?
Paul Varjak: Sure.
Holly Golightly: Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name!

Finally the phone rang, and it was my BFF, Beyonc√©*. She was all up in my face like, “Girl, you’re a survivor and don’t forget it. You know I wrote that song about you. Why don’t you make yourself useful and update your portfolio! Sure, I remember when you used to rock out wearing a side pony-tail, but that was a long time ago, and now you’ve got taste. Put some of that personal style in your book.”

The side pony tail comment made me wonder if there is a¬†scrapbook¬†circulating around the Industry with blackmail photos of me dorked out. Was there an inter-office¬†envelope¬†sent around to bookers who are now keeping me at arm’s-length?

It’s true, not everyone is born with taste. As much as I’d like to think that I bounced into the world with style in my DNA, that’s far from honest. I used to walk around wearing leg warmers and a headband that I made out of Swatch watches. I also used to wear a different color Chuck Taylor high top on each foot. Right was pink, left purple. Fake hair, cardigan sweaters worn backwards, combat boots, layered Izods with the collars up, tie-dye, Jam shorts, ripped cut offs with fish net stockings, stupid hats and tight bike riding shorts were in my style kit. I once went dancing at the Smart Bar wearing a night gown. I also had head gear. No shit. Let’s get real … truth be told, I was born poor and although I wish my first spoken word was something like “Gucci goo,” it was, “hot dog,”

Beyonc√© was right. I need to show the world a few things. Eventually it’s time to stop the mean reds from taking over.

Over the course of the past couple of months, I’ve worked on adding fresh material to my portfolio. ¬†I’ve been working on concepts, art directing, and styling. Involved from the bottom up, I put together a great crew for this photo shoot, my “Girl Power!” team: photographer Mandy Gray, hair and make-up by Michelle Balaz, and models Erika Milde and little Ella.

Take a peek at the shoot, which I’ve called “the Tiffany’s project.” I put enough shit on my credit card to move to¬†Australia, but so what? It all went back without a hitch. It was a lot of fun and I felt that same quietness and pride ¬†that Holly felt when she would step inside Tiffany’s. BTW, I’m taking calls, accepting job offers and yes, I clean windows!

 

* Irish people lie.

I wouldn’t eat that…

… before I take a picture of it! Cooking with family is one of my¬†earliest¬†and most fond¬†memories. There is something about food, not just the taste, but even the¬†preparation¬†that I find comforting. When I was five years old, I would watch Julia Child and wish so much that I could be a guest at her decorated table. If invited, I would even bring the wine.

Soon curiosity lead me into the kitchen where my parents eagerly taught me basics.¬†First, was learning to stir things like eggs, or ratatouille. Then making meatballs, and hamburgers. By the time I reached junior high, I mastered baked¬†Alaskan,¬†b√©chamel¬†sauce, the perfect steak, and homemade French fries. While my¬†roommates¬†in college where living on Jimmy John’s sub sandwiches and pop tarts, I would sit down and with white-gloved hands, I’d ¬†eat my¬†signature¬†dish, chicken piccata.

Now, my¬†passion¬†for food has developed into food styling … not easy! Rarely is food photo friendly. Just like a model, the stuff on your plate isn’t really a natural beauty. ¬†Think about the heat from photo lights that can kill food on set. Also, consider your average bag of something like potato chips. Discovering a perfect chip in a bag is ¬†sometimes harder than finding a snack that looks like the Virgin Mary. Not all food¬†photography¬†is honest. Good styling requires a skill to doctor up products to give them a real wow factor. Sometimes that means using glue,¬†glycerin, searing meat for a brown color (but beware it is raw inside),¬†substituting¬†Crisco¬†and mashed potato¬†flakes¬†to make ice cream, ¬†or use a blowtorch to brown meats and¬†casseroles¬†that are barely roasted, etc.

With the advancements in¬†digital¬†photography, stylists now have an advantage of working with more natural food. ¬†Photography¬†is faster so food won’t die on set like it did in the past. Personally, I like to cook things as real as they are and work with the natural beauty and¬†caramelization¬†that occurs.

Knife skills, piping, and color balance are all essential. So is speed and the ability to squeeze into a small set.

In the constrained and humble surroundings of my modest dining room, my husband, photographer Greg Neise and I have started a photo project shooting food. We’ve been working with natural light, and two small strobes. It’s been a challenge to keep the backgrounds unique for each shot. Take a look at what we’ve done in our little studio.

I always liked how Julia Child cooked with lots of wine and seemed to be having fun on her show. We do the same thing and incorporate cocktails into shots. What’s better than celebrating life with a great meal and drink? I want my shots to convey a feeling of good times! This life after all, is my party.

Champagne and caviar tray.
Soft-boiled eggs with toast points, bacon-wrapped peaches and Bellinis.
Mini Manhattans
Mini bread bowl with spaghetti and sauce, topped with a meatball.
Mini reubens atop potato-leek soup shots.
3 mango tarts, by Maggie's Creations P√Ętisserie.
Macarons by Maggie's Creations P√Ętisserie.