Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Lizbuth!

Liz by any other name would be as ... hmm ... as, ah ... Well, two decades ago, Frank referred to Liz as "that sassy Southern woman," and that sounds about right. I mean, she's a dead-on professional. She smiles when it's required and keeps the F out of all office communications. She says please and thank you and calls her clients Mizz and Mister. I think the sassiness only shows where appropriate.

She's my hero: She's a wild woman who can easily be appropriate when it's required. Wow.

She's seventy-four today but looks sixty. Well, I met her when she was fifty and she looked like she was in her mid-thirties. Yep. She's always looked about fifteen years younger than she really is. So I guess when she was fifteen, she looked fetal.

I've been waiting HOURS for her permission to post this photo, but I may go ahead and do it anyhow. She probably doesn't like this picture, but most of us don't like photos of ourselves, do we?

Well, I went to the Third Annual Baldwin Park Arts Festival last Saturday. I sold as much there as I usually do at an Ybor City Saturday, so let's move on, shall we? Let's go, in fact, to the Motel Nix ... er, Six. Usually I like them. All I want on the road anyhow is a place to shower and sleep. It's a lovely bonus that a motel room isn't cluttered. In fact, it was this lack of chaos that I was looking forward to in a room away from home, although the horrible bedspread in every room is anything but serene. It's this whole scene of Americana, making sure they've covered all the cliches -- and they are legion. The Statue of Liberty. A bucking bronco. A sailboat. A pine tree. The Golden Arches. And all of it in a stay-awake red-orange and blue. It's pretty awful. But maybe it's like those diners that just want to move customers in and out, so the furniture is uncomfortable: lingering over a cup of coffee is not encouraged.

The stay at Motel 6 started off bad. It was five-thirty-two when I got there, and the lobby -- using that term generously -- closes at five-thirty. We therefore conducted business with a sliding glass window, a faulty speaker, and gross body language in a closet-sized alcove. "Sign the card!" the clerk yelled from behind the counter in the locked lobby, across the room and through the glass. The people ahead of me were understandably unsure how to do this. The clerk stomped over to the window and said, "Sign the card now!"

It turned out that she meant -- and possibly even said -- "Slide the card now!"

Even so, when it was my turn and she yelled, "Sign the card!" I required further clarity. I had been expecting a bathroom, though, so I wasn't thinking well. I was distracted, having driven -- using another term with generosity -- ten miles an hour for an hour on Route 4, for a total of three and a half hours just to get to Orlando. I needed a bathroom and water and coffee. And -- why not shoot for the stars? -- a lobby with a bathroom.

"This must be a pretty rough neighborhood, huh?" I said, after having complained about the closed lobby.

"Oh, no," exclaimed the clerk. "It's nice enough."

"Why the early closing then?"

"Oh. That's just for safety and security purposes."

"Uh huh," I replied. "So it's a pretty scary neighborhood. Should I be scared?"

"Oh, no," exclaimed the clerk. "It's for me. It's just for safety and security purposes."

"Well, then, are you afraid of me?"

A supervisor of mine, back in the Old Days when I had a job, sent me to a shrink because I'm "argumentative and confrontational."

I guess ol' Tom Bodett will keep the light on -- and the lobby locked.

I drove my car around to my room and discovered that all the parking in front of the doors was handicapped parking. I'd have to park away from my room. In this nice, scary neighborhood.

No matter. Believe it or not, I'd brought a swimming suit. Back in Louisville last August, I yearned to be able to use the pool at the Ramada, but between being old and fat, and not having brought a suit, I simply longed. This time, I brought a suit. I'm still old and fat, but two outta three ain't ... oh wait. Old. Fat. Okay. One outta three ain't bad.

But the pool was. The pool was bad. The bottom was leprous but, really, that's only paint, right? And there were things floating on the surface. It was mostly organic debris -- leaves and twigs and those ornate oak-pollen clusters. There was the holey edge to a computer print-out, and while that may not be organic, surely it was biodegradable? Nonetheless, the pool wasn't very appealing. I decided to just sit and read, but the lounge chairs were all gray with mold and basically unpleasant, so I went back to my room, both relieved and disappointed that I couldn't get into the water.

My non-smoking room smelled just a little bit like smoke. It had an ashtray on the nightstand, but it was upside down and it had a note taped to the bottom: NON-SMOKING ROOM.

And the cover for the AC unit was missing, so I had a four-foot-long vent with no way to direct the whoosh of the air. I actually didn't mind that. It was sort of like sleeping outside on a breezy night, but without having to worry about critters. And while nothing kept out the bright lights from the parking lot, the fan's noise kept out most of the traffic noise.

I'm afraid Elizabeth's chances of canceling her birthday picture have simply run out. And I know my older brother and sister will be happy to get a glimpse of her. They met her thirteen years ago when they escorted Mom down to The Home down here. Oh. And my friend Leone is rehabbing from a stroke at the same place where Mom died. Leone even asked if it bothers me to visit her there, which is very kind of her -- no surprise. And no. It doesn't bother me.

Here are Carl Knickerbocker (dot com) and Carolyn Stapleton ( and me at Baldwin Park. Of the two women, guess who's the nutritionist and who's the overeater.
And, gosh, I sure hate to complain about Mister Google, whom I actually love, but why is the spacing between paragraphs such an issue here? I put two returns between grafs and that's fine. Until I add a photo. Then the spaces double. I spend more time removing extra space than writing this blog. Damn and drat.

To perhaps distract from the picture of Liz -- which I think is a great picture of her style and energy (and, ahem, car) -- I'll include an evidentiary photo. Once again, here's an out-of-focus photo. How does that happen with an aim-and-shoot camera? Well, let's pretend that the fuzziness is coming from sweet Mittens' fur and not from the idiot behind the lens.

When I think Mittens is outdoors, lounging in the shade, being kind to lizards and compassionate to palmetto bugs, thinking, perhaps, of dining daintily on Meow Mix and sipping neatly from her pretty blue bowl, when I think she's daydreaming of pink satin pillows and former beaux, I fear she's actually been racing across the lawn and clambering up the telephone pole as far and as fast as she can go.

Disillusionment is not for the weak.


Barbara said...

From my friend who can't easily comment at my blog (Are you listening, Mister Google?) ...

Sweet bien,

You know how there are some newspaper columnists you always read and nearly always really like? And very occasionally, they write something really classic, to be treasured forever? This edition of your blog seems to fall into that category, doesn't it? It's wonderful; I wish I could respond to it through the more public channels, but they seem to keep insisting that I also begin my own blog in order to.

If you can, will please forward my wishes for a happy birthday, and many more of them, to Liz?

(And your picture of Liz and her truck is better than all those I took of just the truck!)


Barbara said...

Naturally, I disagree with Lee about car pix. He's the only one who could come up with a good shot of her X-terra.

Jim Mitchell said...

Hey there Barbara - I wanted to just say hello and comment on how much fun Kathy and I had at the Ybor market. Your art is fantastic and fun too... Thank you for being such a good sport with the CBG. I am just a few blogs away so drop in and say hello sometime. See you soon - next time I'll try to bring Angel. Take care - Jim