Monday, April 28, 2014

On the Road with a Bicycle and Bananas and Birds

Sweater: Mossimo, Target
Dress: Modcloth
Shoes: J. C. Penney's
Bag: DSW
Sunglasses: Kohl's

Top: Frederick's of Hollywood
Skirt: Rampage, Macy's
Shoes: Alloy
Bag: Target
Belt: Marshalls

Top: Candie's, Kohl's
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Payless
Bag: Candie's, Kohl's
Scarf: Express

Years ago, I used to force-feed myself the classics.  I didn't enjoy reading these books.  But I thought that if I read enough Hardy and Hemingway, then some of their genius might rub off on me.  Eventually, I gave up this charade, plunging instead into the rose-colored world of chick lit and biographies by comedians.  So last week I was surprised to be eyeing a copy of Jack Kerouac's On the Road in a bookstore.  I'd always wanted to read it (somehow it never made it into my self-imposed serious reading curriculum) and even had the novel's iconic quote on a magnet on my fridge:

"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars . . ."

There was nothing for it but to march to the register, a decision, I confess, that was not wholly motivated by a renewed appreciation for lofty literature.  No, the scales were tipped when it occurred to me that I could weave my reading experience into a future post, as the Southwest Sizzle Necklace would be a fitting (if lighthearted) tie-in to Kerouac's beloved American West.  

So, just what is this book about, anyway?  Sal Paradise, a twenty-something writer who wants more out of life than the view from his aunt's New Jersey apartment.  Seduced by wanderlust, he sets off on a series of cross-country road trips, a mad ex-con named Dean Moriarty his ill-chosen muse.  Dean asks Sal to teach him how to write, the first of many acts that establishes him as earnest Sal's fast-lane, fly-by-night foil.  Sal is forever following Dean in the hope that catching him will reveal the riddle of life.  It's a gritty tale, driven by the kind of hitchhiking, petty-thieving, drug-laced, wife-swapping joy ride to enlightenment that could be hatched in the brain of only the man who, however unwillingly, gave rise to the beat generation.  I liked its nonconformist message as well as its quest for something real.  But its inescapable seaminess unsettled me, and I cringed every time Sal and friends stole another round of sandwich fixings, my disgust only deepening when those same sandwiches began to spoil in the Midwest en route from San Francisco.  Also, for all the importance ascribed to personal freedom in this seedy (albeit spiritual) story, I would be remiss in not mentioning that its treatment of women is downright appalling.  I reminded myself to be less judgy about this, as the book is set in the late 1940s, a time not exactly known for feminism.  Still, I found it upsetting.  Almost as upsetting as the whole food spoilage thing.  So I did what I always do in uncomfortable situations, which is to say, ferret out the funny.  Here are some of my favorite snippets from Sal's journey:

"I went to sit in the bus station and think this over.  I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that's practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious, and it was delicious, of course." (14)

"I might have gotten a ride with an affluent fat man who'd say, "Let's stop at this restaurant and have some pork chops and beans."  No, I had to get a ride that morning with a maniac who believed in controlled starvation for the sake of health." (106)

"At dawn I got my New York bus and said good-by to Dean and MaryLou.  They wanted some of my sandwiches.  I told them no.  It was a sullen moment.  We were all thinking we'd never see one another again and we didn't care." (178)

Now that I'm reading this over, I'm thinking that I should've said I ferret out the "food" instead of the "funny."  Still, pie a la mode wasn't always enough to hold my interest.  Classic or not, On the Road is just such a boy's book.  One afternoon I divided my lunch break between reading it and window shopping, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I found the window shopping to be more fulfilling.  Which shouldn't have surprised me, come to think of it, considering On the Road's anti-materialism agenda.  

Nevertheless, I forged ahead.  And good thing, too, because I happened upon a (non food-related) passage that really spoke to me.  Oddly enough, it comes from that sad scoundrel Dean.  He and Sal are riding along with a couple of strangers, and Dean sums them up:

' "Now you just dig them up front.  They have worries, they're counting the miles, they're thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they'll get there - and all the time they'll get there anyway, you see.  But they need to worry and betray time with urgencies false and otherwise, purely anxious and whiny, their souls really won't be at peace unless they can latch on to an established and proven worry and having once found it they assume facial expressions to fit and go with it, which is, you see, unhappiness, and all the time it all flies by them and they know it and that too worries them no end." (209-210)

As an inveterate worrier, I was struck by Dean's description of people who allow anxiety to erode their lives - the very opposite of their unyawning, roman candle counterparts - namely, him.  He tells us that fretting is pointless because things have a way of working themselves out whether you obsess over them or not, and that if you spend all your time worrying, then you end up worrying your whole life away (a sentiment, as it were, echoed by the great Jason Mraz).  That's almost inspiring enough to put on a pillow.  You know.  If Kerouac was into that sort of thing.

I'm glad I read it.  Partly because I get to cross it off my bookshelf bucket list (for a ghost of that overzealous bookworm squirms in me still), partly because it gave me a deeper understanding of my fridge magnet.  That having been said, I think I'll go for laughs the next time I hit the bookstore.  In the interest of keeping things carefree.     

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Fruit and Fiber (and a Unicorn)

Brought to you from the Katy Perry CD case that keeps on giving.

Top: Material Girl, Macy's
Bra top: Boscov's
Skirt: Macy's
Shoes: Guess, DSW
Bag: Harajuku Lovers, Ross
Sunglasses: Claire's

 Avocado Aficionado Necklace

Top: Kohl's
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: J. C. Penney's
Bag: XOXO, Ross
Belt: Marshalls
Sunglasses: Cloud Nine, Ocean City Boardwalk

Tank: J. C. Penney's
Camisole: J. C. Penney's
Jeans: Candie's, Kohl's
Shoes: Kohl's
Bag: Bisou Bisou, J. C. Penney's

Sensible eating is nothing without the reward of an occasional treat.  Fruit may be good for the colon, but it's fruitcake (okay, regular cake) that makes us sing.  It's the same with jewelry making, and this otherwise heart-healthy post's indulgent interloper is none other than the unicorn.  It even looks a little like candy, what with its clear, colorful, lollipop-like acrylic. And just in time for Easter too.  If you end up with a unicorn in your basket instead of a bunny, then you have one funny mummy (if you're British.  If not, then you just have a [still brilliant] but assonance-free funny mommy.)

Easter means spring, and spring means a great time to stock up on jewelry supplies.  I was doing just that at A. C. Moore last week when a woman in line started asking me questions: What are you making?  (Me: Necklaces)  Do you sell them?  (Me: Yes)  Are you doing the Ocean City Craft Fair next weekend?  (Me: No, I don't do craft shows anymore, [adopting the same tone as people who say they no longer eat carbs].)  I gave her my card without uttering a syllable of sales speak, paid for my beads, and went on my merry way.  Never mind that I was wearing one of my necklaces and had only to unzip my jacket to show off my skills.  I just wasn't feeling it.  The whole exchange made me wonder why I was so hesitant to promote myself in person, yet spent so much time and energy (ahem) crafting my presence online. 

Just days later I found myself in another checkout line chat.  This time it was the cashier who struck up the conversation, commenting that her two-year-old niece would love my lollipop-themed necklace.  I offered up a jokey "I made it myself" but didn't give her my card, partly because my necklaces would challenge the neck strength of anyone younger than ten, and partly because I didn't want to seem pushy.  Which was ironic considering that while shopping I'd been ambushed by a stranger proffering a coupon for cellulite removal.  Flummoxed, I discarded it into the nearest discount lotion bin (I was in Marshalls) as soon as the stranger was gone, half-remembering some story my aunt had told me about chloroformed business card scams.  "That chick had moxie," I thought, although not necessarily the good kind, as disturbing shoppers to suggest that they would benefit from having the fat sucked out of their thighs is the last word in tacky.  Still, I couldn't help but think that I could probably benefit from more moxie of my own, and that it would jive well with the "do one thing that scares you every day" mantra playing on a loop in the back of my head.

Next time, craft supply and discount fashion workers and shoppers, next time.  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Bold Gold . . .

Top: Free People, gifted
Camisole: J. C. Penney's
Jeans: J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Betseyville, Macy's
Bag: Gifted
Belt: J. C. Penney's

 Terrific Tusks Necklace

Dress: Lauren Conrad, Kohl's
Top: J. C. Penney's
Cardigan: Kohl's
Shoes: Carlos Santana, Macy's
Bag: J. C. Penney's

Sweater: Boscov's
Blouse: Marshalls
Jeans: Boscov's
Shoes: Parade of Shoes
Bag: Kohl's
Scarf: J. C. Penney's

Top: Kohl's
Skirt: Target
Shoes: Alloy
Bag: Target
Belt: Kohl's
Sunglasses: Kohl's

Wild Rose Necklace

Blouse: J. C. Penney's
Camisole: Kohl's
Jeans: Mossimo, Target
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Kohl's
Jacket: Bisou Bisou, J. C. Penney's

. . . not to be confused with Rold Gold.  As in pretzels.  Unless, of course, this week's hook is a promise to untwist the mystery that is fashion (it isn't).  That having been said, I'll move on to the other defining element of this post's pieces, namely elephants.

I like to eat an elephant one bite at a time.  (I also like white elephant gifts [although not white elephant parties] and referring to painfully obvious and obviously painful unspoken topics as elephants in the room.)  Like most of us, I find that this sneak snack attack resolves most of life's seemingly insurmountable tasks, whether they be writing a book, finding a use for your 100-piece protractor collection, or unearthing a much-cherished (insert name of guilty pleasure artist) CD from your clutter-clogged trunk.  My own personal self-help safari has most recently led me to tackle the mess that is my craft room.  Truth be told, "craft room" is too lofty a label for the second bedroom that also houses the husband's clothes because our bedroom closet, as well as every other available surface, is claimed by my kudzu-like wardrobe.  "Craft room" also suggests that I make most of my stuff at a designated work station instead of on the living room couch binge watching TV.  Anyway, I considered snapping and posting a few "before" shots but quickly rejected that idea, having no wish to be outed on "Hoarders."  Each weekend I persevere by beating another shelf or corner into submission, an endeavor that involves repackaging my stock, marveling at the occasional, hey-that-would-make-an-awesome-necklace find, and mostly wondering why the heck I ever thought I needed so much paint.

In other domestic news, earlier this week my check engine light came on.  This had happened a few months ago, then stopped as mysteriously as it started.  I tried not to panic, summoning the wisdom of "The Big Bang Theory" by telling myself to be more like Penny and less like Sheldon.  (Hey, she drove that old Volkswagen for nearly seven seasons before it finally died and Leonard had to buy her a new one.)  But such sitcom solace was not to be had, as images of fiery auto crashes exploded in my head Sheldon-style as I crept along the highway to the tune of honking.  When I got home one white-knuckled hour later, I vowed to call a mechanic (okay, to ask the husband to call a mechanic) and get to the bottom of things once and for all.  The talk was had, the phone number retrieved, and then . . . the light never came back on.  The Sheldon in me was disappointed and even insisted that we still call the mechanic to get to the root of this insidious issue.  But the Penny in me was relieved and already spending the car repair money on rhinestones.  You know.  To store in my (almost) clean craft room.