Monday, September 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Sonny!

You know, the world is just FULL of Libras!

Actually, I looked it up on the interweb and it said that October 5 is the most common birthdate, and that's a Libra. On a different site, though, it said a date in July was the most common. How strange is that? You'd think it would be a black-or-white sort of fact, not subject to opinion or bias. My friend Ken said something's only true if you believe it, so I hereby declare that, indeed, October 5 is the day.

On the other hand, I don't believe Ken's statement ... or do I? Hmm ...

I do believe it's my buddy Sonny Fenwick's birthday, though. He's The Bubble Man at I helped him with his book, The Bubble Truck Goes to the Moon. He goes to art car shows and brings The Bubble Truck -- his only vehicle, by the way (which is how an art car should be, if you ask me, which you didn't) -- to parties and preschools and churches. He even gives lectures at schools on a variety of topics, so if you're anywhere near New Albany, Indiana, check him out, please. Here's an entertaining NPR spot that includes him.

There was a jolly little spontaneous dance at the Blues Fest on Saturday. Vicki and Lisa decided to buy a purple tee shirt from me on my birthday to give to Rene for her birthday on Tuesday. She turned around and bought a black shirt for her husband because he's continuing to have birthdays, despite horrific chemo therapy and the disease that preceded that.

So hooray for birthdays!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It's My Party

A year ago yesterday, I saw that Google had prettified his name by putting Happy Birthday decorations on it. I know that a lot of people are afraid of gmail because it scans the emails and then puts up advertising based on the keywords it finds. I'm not one of those people. Still, it was a little disconcerting to see that Google was wishing me a happy birthday.

By the time I saw the birthday decor this year, though, I'd learned to hover my mouse over Google's logo in order to see an explanation. Ah. Google was celebrating ten years while I was celebrating fifty-eight. Which reminds me -- and you, if you've been paying attention -- to check my profile here in Blogtown and see if my age has changed.

I'd like Mister Google to change the options for delivering blogs. I'd like you to be able to sign up to get an email notice when I've published a post. The notice would merely have the link to this blog. That way, you'd be seeing the ambient artwork in the blog and there wouldn't be hundreds of copies of it all over the world. Okay. Maybe not hundreds. Maybe tens. Okay. Fine. Ones. Ones of copies of it all over the world. Sheesh.

But if I can't get Mister Google to give me smart quotes or em dashes, what're the odds he'll give me a simple link?

My friend Bob asked why I'm blogging, although I continue to be unsure of the language. Do I "blog" or do I "post a blog"? Do I just "have" a blog? Well, the orange button below (which you can't see) gives me the option to PUBLISH POST, which just messed up the proposed POST BLOG option.


Bob said he'd email me with his questions about my publishing and/or posting blog but he hasn't done it yet. In the meantime, when I told Mike I wish there could be an automatic notice of blog action, he said, "But that just says to people that you want them to read what you wrote." Well ... yes. Of course I want people to read it. What else? So let's examine this thing, shall we?

Barbara: I decided to write a blog because I wanted to see if I had the discipline to write every single day.
Barbara: I know. It turns out that I don't have that discipline. Or maybe I don't have it yet. Or maybe that shouldn't have been the goal in the first place.
Barbara: Good question, Bob. I'm starting to think that there are people who express themselves and people who don't. I mean, I actually spoke one of the worst swear words right out loud during a movie in a theater with people in it while I watched Crash. I have no doubt there were other people in attendance who had the same internal reaction to the scene. The difference is that their reaction remained internal. I also drive an art car, which is not the most anonymous way to move around the city. Perhaps I just have a stronger desire to be seen and heard than some.
Barbara: You're right. I like the idea that I'm not simply babbling in an email to my priceless friend Michele several times a day. In this blog, I make at least a modest attempt to be coherent and cohesive. Fine. Put "modest" in italics. I think writing a blog is good practice for Real Writing just as sketching and doodling is good practice for Real Drawing.
Barbara: No, not really.

* * *

Here's an SPCA alert. I was giving Benji a bath the other day. I've been using Dr. Bonner's peppermint soap on him lately. It leaves him nice and soft. This time, though, I decided to use Shea Moisture brand African Exfoliating Black Soap with Shea Butter & Vitamin E. I love the fragrance.

So I poured the water on Benji's beloved head and squirted on the soap -- and was attacked by the stink of an especially foul paint thinner toxic icky rank curl-your-nose sort of oily substance that can't have been good for the poor boy's skin, although he seems just fine. Dawn Dish Detergent was the only other thing at hand, so I used that. They use it at oil-spill sites, to get oil off seabirds, so it's got to be better than paint thinner.

Well, I used a myriad of things, first to get it off his head, and then to make the stench go away. None of it really worked. For once, I was glad that The Boys weren't having a sleepover, that, in fact, Mike would have to smell that nasty fetor all night long.

I have only the faintest memory of putting some noisesome liquid into that soap bottle. I would have told you that I never have mislabeled bottles or jars around, but I would have been very wrong.

* * *
Don't get me started on polls, okay? I mean it. I'm convinced that polls actually MAKE presidentsandIcan'tbeartothinkofthat so let's just c a l m d o w n and only say this: My friend, John, was upset by a poll that said that thirty percent of Democrats wouldn't vote for a black person. That is pretty disturbing, isn't it? Yeah. We both sort of wandered away from that conversation shaking our heads sadly. Damn Democrats. Hah! and they think they're liberal.

Yep. Neither one of us thought to question the percentage of Republicans who wouldn't vote for a black man or woman ...

* * *
How many of you think I'm using a thesaurus today?

You're right.

* * *
My birthday was an especially good one, by the way. I was showered with handsome gifts and cards and phone calls -- always a plus -- and I spent time with people I like. I acquired my first-ever serious piece of art, a wall piece by Bruce Gilbert. Some people bought some of my shirts and a mailbox. I got some sun. I ate mac'n'cheese. Yep. Happy birthday to me!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mister Google -- REALLY!

I apologize for the absurd placement of the letters along the picture of the Ghanaian mourners. Although there is a "preview" setting with this setup, it's not accurate. I've been a typesetter since 1973. This actually bothers me.

Sigh ...

I Can See Clearly Now

It's been a month since my class reunion and I haven't written about it because it just wasn't that exciting. And that's what made it so much fun. It was the most relaxed grouping of any sort I've ever attended. There was pleasant milling about, a lot of smiling. I stayed till one in the morning and if anyone was getting drunk, it only showed in the length of stories that were being told about high school exploits. Now and then, a couple of the men would drive off in a truck and return half an hour later. That's it. Pretty conservative, I'd say.

I didn't remember that C was a singer and J didn't remember that I was queen of the prom. I hadn't known that D's son is in prison for murder, but I did know that DA, a classmate, was. So, like any group I should think, it was mixed, and we talked about some things and not about others. There was just enough talk about Mexican migrant workers -- who were black when I was a kid, and then Puerto Rican and then Haitian -- and about the upcoming election for me to remember that, beautiful though Wyoming County is, I really couldn't live there. But I sure can visit there, and I'll love it when I do.

The lucid vision referred to in the title, though, is about my Miami windows in the living room. I finally cleaned them. I had quite forgotten how filthy they get without my even noticing it, giving out, as they do, onto the porch. But I like that, because the difference is profound when I do clean them and I can spend two or three days being mildly excited about my new windows.

Most of the people I visited on my trip were the kind of housekeepers who actually keep a house, as in maintain. They, poor things, never get to experience the night-into-day effect that I do. That's less poetry for them.

I worked in a slo-mo frenzy today, preparing for our house guest. I'm planning a trip to the recycling bins today, so I wanted to slice cardboard boxes, readying them for flattening. I went to my desk for my Xacto knife (which is really an Olfa knife but whoever heard of that?), and then I noticed a new email, so I sat down and read it. Then Mittens yelled that she wanted in, so I went to the porch and got caught looking at the huge red caftan swinging from a plant hook. I'm airing it out. I had to dismantle my altar for our guest, and this caftan was the bottom layer of cloth on the table, followed by a square of white cloth used in the secret ceremony that initiated me into my meditation practice. Am I mystical or what?

I bought that red fabric in Ghana. The edges have a thick border of intricate black design, drawn as if with a fine-tipped pen. The center has delicate black flowers. Red is the color of mourning in Ghana. The fabric sat in my house for years until The Arts Center had a Valentine's party that required attendees to wear red and bring tea cups. I had the caftan made by Joey here in Gulfport. It's got a V-neck and pockets. I've only worn it that one time. Really. Where else would I wear such a thing? But it's beautiful. It's possible that the picture in this blog will be one of the caftan taken through the clean windows. Such suspense.

I was in the big market in Kumasi in Central Ghana when a couple of women dressed in red came rushing up to the fabric booth where I was fingering material, planning shirts. The women were yelling and laughing and blowing shrill whistles. It turned out that the woman who owned the booth had had a sister die recently, and these noisy women were paid to visit her with noise and laughter, to cheer her up.


The houseguest is Miss Pook, a domestic short-haired cat belonging to my friend Melanie. Mittens is not happy about this. We've had Miss Pook stay as long as a month, and Mittens still refused to be a gracious hostess. The solution is to keep Miss Pook in the bedroom and Mittens out. The litter box is set up in there, along with the water and food dishes. I've cleared the top of the dresser so that if Miss Pook ever comes out from under the bed, she can have a perch up there. She can jump to the empty altar, then to a chair painted to match my car -- not that Miss Pook will pause to appreciate that -- and then to the feeding station on a bookshelf. She'll disappear for a while and then suddenly materialize in bed with me, just as I've turned a page. That'll scare the bejesus out of me, but then I'll settle down and pet Miss Pook till I fall asleep.

Here's a picture of a shirt I bought in Columbus, from Wali Neil. He's amazing. He painted it with bleach. And then here's my first attempt. I had to call him in Cleveland to get more tips, which he generously gave me. I'll show you a final product when I produce one.

I'm getting ready for Circus McGurkis on October 18, but some of my mailboxes will be with The Longhouse folks at the 49/1 Blues Festival this upcoming Saturday (also my birthday) on the 49th Street corridor at Tangerine. It's from ten to four.

When I started this blog, Mister Google wanted to know my birthday and my age. I gave him both, thinking that the birthday information would be prominent, so that my dozing fans could rouse themselves and go out to buy handsome gifts. Alas. My date remains a mystery to the adoring public. My age is listed, though. Do you think Mister Google will change 57 to 58 on Sunday? Let's watch!

If anyone can tell me how to put captions on this photos, I shall remain forever in his or her debt.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Riding Along in My Artomobile

Don't you just hate it when some insane driver insists on driving so fast he's a menace to us all? What's he thinking? that he's the only car on the road? that his destination is more important than everyone else's?

And what about the driver who's so slow she's a danger? Dang! I don't really want to push someone who's clearly not comfortable doing the speed limit but jeeze! she's causing accidents left and right, and then just tooling along at her own non-speed, oblivious to all the havoc she's causing. This is especially annoying when she's using the merge lane at 40mph.

Bad as they are, consider the idiot who's driving exactly the same speed as you are. What a pain in the turbo he is! You can't get by him. He can't get by you. You're blocking everyone, just because he's dumb enough to be driving just like you are! Sheesh.

I was driving towards South Pasadena this morning when I saw a sign that said Left Lane Ends Soon. Having actually graduated from The Barbara Nicolazzo School of Perfect Driving, I eased into the right lane as soon as possible. Cars behind me were dashing into the left lane, whizzing by, ignoring the sign, so there was a jam at the point where the left lane actually did end, just like it promised it would. No way was I letting those non-sign-reading speed demons get ahead of me. I obeyed the warning. I'm not letting them in.

The more I sat in the still right lane, the hot breeze of the Left-Laners riffling through my hair, the more steamed I got. What? Rules are for people other than the Left-Laners? We who cooperate should sit silently while the Left-Laners cruise ahead of us, demanding more than their share -- demanding my share? Are they over there congratulating themselves on their savvy traffic moves?

Oh, I muttered and cursed! I jerked my hands around, although I confess that I did not use any recognized hand gestures because I'm simply not That Kind of Girl. Still, there were glares galore and snarls coming from my car.

My car. My art car. I've known since I started driving an art car that people expect me to be more generous in traffic. It's true. It even makes sense. Surely a car as cheerful as mine would be driven by someone who'd be happy to let the other driver in. Nothing wrong with generosity. In fact, there's plenty right with generosity. Courtesy on the road is just a good safety tool.

Not this morning, though. This morning I didn't want to be nice.

I'm a fan of Byron Katie ( ). I agree with her: The only time I feel bad is when I'm having a thought that disagrees with reality. It's when I'm shoulding instead of ising. The reality is that people do reach for more than their share, and I'm one of them. Not to mention -- who can know the size of a share anyhow?

I absolutely know that there's a grand principle involved in this whole story, but I'm still too indignant (and righteously so) to figure it out right now.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

La de dah!

Well, look at me! I came home from Hot Times with two out of three trophies, for the Longest Drive and the People's Choice. That last one is gratifying. Of course, I wasn't competing with the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir, was I?

This was my kind of competition: I didn't even know there was one. Some guy said, "I love you car! I even voted for you!" Voted? Then I was given a sign to put on my car, and I directed admirers to the voting booth. The trophy at the bottom is the Longest Drive prize. In case you can't see, it's covered with ducks and fish and bugs, including a huge palmetto bug. Pah! I'm from Florida. That bug is like snow to a Buffalonian.

I spent about five times more than I sold, so I'd say it was a typical show for me.

For some seriously interesting tee shirts, go check out Those guys were next to me and I enjoyed their company and their shirts. If you buy one now, in about a year, you'll be able to be very smug and elite as you gaze down at your little friends, telling them you've had your Choonimal for quite some time now ...

A couple years ago, I came out of Office Depot to find a note on my car. A woman named Candy said there's an art car show in Ohio, and I should go. She left her number. Well, I had my beloved '87 Cressida then, but I was hesitant to drive it to Tampa, let alone Columbus. Still, I kept her number. At the beginning of this year, I actually met Candy here in Florida, where she again told me about Hot Times. And behold. There I went. It turns out that she's very active in community events there and many, many people thought I was Candy. We are women of a certain age, with long greying hair and dark frames on our glasses. Thank god she's well loved! People came up to me, smiling, wanting hugs. I really think I should have received a third trophy in the Candy Look-Alike event.

There was a great parade. It started off with flag-bearers. I think they called themselves twirlers. They were like color guards. These were adults with long poles and flags. One woman said she's had two concussions from twirling. Oh no. Give me an art car.

The art cars followed a truck full of women drummers, who kept things lively. I was fourth in line behind a couple of wild men who were behind a woman in a bamboo car. The police had cleared the streets, so we could and did snake back and forth across lanes. The parade stalled once, so the two men started circling the first car. I wish I'd had the courage to join in. Next time I will. There was a time, not so very long ago, when even driving on the grass here at my rented duplex would have seemed out of bounds. Imagine the joy, then, of driving big loops on the left side of the street. Oh yeah.

I had a lot of intense conversations with people at the show, mostly about art. I bought a shirt from a man who paints black shirts by squeezing bleach onto them out of bottles "like the kind you color your hair with." Yeah. Candy and I don't know what he's talking about. But I love his style.

There was a woman who had shown her stuff to one friend only, and then to me. That alone constituted an honor. On Sunday night, she showed up with a shopping bag full of samples. Using the pull-off foil lids from applesauce, she drew symbols on them with ballpoint, but the ink didn't show, of course, since it's foil. The lids ended up looking embossed. And the designs looked like they were from some African country that hadn't been discovered yet. She painted primitive scenes on soup cans and she found stories in the designs resulting from stamping paper with cardboard she'd cut slits into. She gave me a small painting, just a cluster of dull blue strokes on white. She painted it on a cereal box she washed -- because she likes the texture of washed cardboard. As soon as I saw it, I said, "Burning bush."

* * * * *

I'm having trouble shaking off the trip. I unpacked the car two days after my return, but I still haven't put things away. It was a good trip, and absolutely gorgeous with a late-summer northern beauty, but I feel exhausted. Or maybe I'm just sad to be home again, even though I'm really glad to be home again (!). I said a lot of goodbyes, it seems. Well, and I said some hellos, too.

Oh, shut me up!