Practical Man often says I was born in the wrong time–that I should have been a hippy. Maybe he’s right. Case in point:
- I love Volkswagen anything (as long as it’s pre-1980).
- I have a tendency to decorate everything that doesn’t move (and even some things that do) with bohemian prints.
- 95% of the guitar music I play is 60s and 70s folk.
I would have liked being a hippy, I think. Except for the straight hair and no bangs thing.
Let’s just say that I have forehead issues.
So, I can’t truly be a hippie, now can I? First of all, I can’t even spell it. And I’m sure that hippies were more about peace, love and all that good stuff and not so much about the forehead vanity.
I know I should be thinking about pilgrims and injustices perpetrated on aboriginal peoples and green bean casseroles, but at this time of year, I can’t help it. I think about the dump and VW microbuses and a strange and mythical place called the Group W Bench.
It all started 32 Thanksgivings ago, when my dad introduced me to Arlo Guthrie’s iconic Vietnam protest song, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree“.
I learned to love it–and now, I’m learning to play it on the gi-tar–with feeling.
So far, I’m pretty terrible but, in my defence, I’m a lot older than Arlo was when he first came up with the concept of an 18 minute and 34 second song.
My fingers, not to mention my will, are weak.
What can I say, I’ve been wasting my life, obsessing about my forehead.
But, I can play the chorus:
I’m pretty sure I can’t sustain it for 5 minutes though, let alone 18 minutes +.
The point is, I’ve also been inflicting Alice’s Restaurant on as many people as possible, since I first fell in love with it as a teenager:
- In 1996 (after I was old enough to know better), a friend and I attempted to write the lyrics (all 18 minutes and 34 performance seconds of them) in black magic marker on his bathroom walls.
- I met my friend, Bamboo Guy, partly because we bonded over the fact that he lived in a church, just like Alice and Ray and Potcho The Dog, from the song.
- My dad and I saw it live in 2005 during the Alice’s Restaurant 40th anniversary tour.
And, I’m not alone in my quasi-obsession. My uncle Putt reportedly played and sang Alice’s Restaurant to countless Inuit listeners, while he was working in the Canadian North in the early ’70s. He and my aunt recently gifted me with something I’d never seen before:
The Alice’s Restaurant book!
It doesn’t have “27 8×10 color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was, to be used as evidence against us”, but, it does have groovy sketches.
Soooo very groovy. I wish I could show them all to you!
Yep, as many of our southern neighbours are sitting down this weekend to what we up north call “American Thanksgiving”, I can’t help thinking of Alice and her restaurant and how one young guy took his peaceful protest on the road, way back when.
Protests go so much better with a gi-tar, don’t you think?
Although the Vietnam War and Alice’s Restaurant came about before I was born, I feel as though the past couple of weeks may have felt a little bit similar to what things felt like back then.
People feeling strong feelings.
Neighbours worried about neighbours. Or, angry at neighbours. Or, bewildered by neighbours. Or, disappointed by neighbours.
Something about neighbours.
Kinda tense, as I said.
But, that’s not what this blog post is about.
This blog post is about giving thanks.
That’s why I called the post, “And now, for a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat.”
Thanks–to Arlo (may I call you Arlo?), for showing me that we could believe in something and deliver a message to people in a way that made them smile, while also making them think.
Thanks–to my dad, for sharing Arlo with me and Uncle Putt for giving me his long-treasured book. Thanks–to Practical Man for driving all the way to Stockbridge, Massachussets to visit “the scene of the crime” and for listening to me squeal my way around the countryside that led to The Church. Thanks–to Fairy Godson’s parents, who went to the ACTUAL Alice’s garage sale (accidentally) on Cape Cod and got to talk with ACTUAL Alice and then they brought me back a Christmas ornament from ACTUAL Alice’s garage sale that ACTUAL Alice used to have in her living room on her Christmas tree!
Thanks– to Arlo again, for being a role model in the never-ending sentences and segues that have become his (and, okay, you may have a point here: MY) trademark style.
And, if you’re celebrating this week, I hope you have a “Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat” and I also hope you walk into the shrink wherever you are,
Just walk in and say, “Shrink,
You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant”
and walk out.
If one person, you know just one person does it, they may think she’s really weird and they won’t pay attention.
But if two people do it…in harmony, they may think they’re both Canadians and they won’t pay attention to either of them.
And if three people do it…can you imagine three people walkin’ in, singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walkin’ out? They may think it’s an organization!
And, can you imagine fifty people a day? I said FIFTY people a day…walkin’ in, singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walkin’ out?
Friends, they may think it’s a MOVEMENT.
And, that’s what it is.
The Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement and all you gotta do to join is to sing it the next time it comes around on the gi-tar.
I went to Disney World, for the first time, on my 40th birthday.
As you do.
That year, they had a “Come to Disney for Free on your Birthday” promotion.
We were already going to be in Florida and it was the perfect excuse to go. Disney isn’t cheap and as you may remember, Practical Man loves a good deal, yes indeedy.
He’s just not a huge fan of Disney.
Or mouse ears.
“You’re not going to wear those when I’m with you, are you?” I could already hear him asking at the prospect of my dreamed-about Mickey ears.
I knew this would be the question he would ask because he asked it when I came home with rubber boots that had large, purple and pink flowers all over them.
And when I found the perfect artsy-hippy-dippy-trippy shirt.
He also asked it when I made the first large-ish felt flower for one of my hats.
But, 20 or 30 large-ish felt flowers later, he’s kind of getting used to me now. I think he’s realized that he can still maintain his preferred position “under the radar”, even when I’m wearing something attention-grabbing, because people are too busy gawking at a 40-something woman wearing items normally associated with 4 year olds, to pay any attention to him.
I don’t mind the gawking. Adults don’t smile nearly enough so, anything I can do to help in that area is right up my street.
My festooned, childlike street, of course.
(You may recall how much I love a bit of festooning.)
Back to my point, which is that we were going to be in Florida for my birthday, visiting my aunt and uncle.
My first hint that Practical Man didn’t really want to spend a festive 40th birthday day with his dearest at Disney was, well…okay, I married him, so I like to think I know about some of his likes and dislikes.
(I’m always studying, in case we we end up on one of those newlywed games, even now that we are 20 years into our romance.)
Anyhoo, the second clue was that for most of the drive to Florida, Practical Man kept saying to me, “Don’t you think you’d have a better time at Disney with your aunt?”
I tormented him through Pennsylvania and both the Carolinas and Georgia, but knew that, yes, I would have a great time with my aunt Feather at Disney.
She has no problem with Disney, crowds or mouse ears.
And, she encourages things like staying overnight in the Herbie the LoveBug themed Disney hotel (Hurrah!) and eating Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream bars (Yum!) and not minding when her niece wears Mickey Mouse ears all day long over her sunhat, even though she’s 40.
I am 40ish going on 4. Yep, that’s me.
As if it could get any better, the Magic Kingdom folks gave me a giant button at the gate that said “Happy Birthday Christine!” in two foot letters on it and every time there was a parade or a character going by (which was a lot), they would lean down from their stilts with a giant smile and yell, “Happy Birthday, Christine!” which Practical Man would have hated, but which I love-love-loved.
But, my favourite part was the parade that started, right after the sun went down. All the floats were lit with thousands of coloured lights and it was warm and beautiful with my Aunt Feather and there were fireworks all for me, I’m sure, on my 40th birthday.
The Magic Kingdom really is just a festooned, childlike street, after all.
Have you noticed how “festoon” rhymes with “swoon”?
Last night took me right back there. It was the Santa Claus parade in my hometown and I was invited to join Fairy Godson and his family and friends at the big event downtown.
Even though there were shades of Magic Kingdom in this festival of lights, Florida it was not. I was wearing down-filled everything with an added layer of neoprene on my feet, thank goodness.
My magic kingdom for some down-filled undies.
Even though the weather is finally turning a bit more wintery, just for the record, it’s still a bit too early for Santa.
Practical Man has rules about these kinds of things: no Christmass-y stuff until December 1st.
Or, maybe that’s the earliest date I have cajoled him into. We definitely follow the “out of respect for our veterans and their families, absolutely nothing festive until after Remembrance Day” rule.
Even though it was early, it felt like the festive season at the parade. All the kids lined up to catch their candy canes and stickers and wave at Rudolphs with blinking noses and Elves and that giant marshmallow guy from Ghostbusters.
Who knew that Ghostbusters were festive?
My friend Grover, that’s who.
Fairy godson was taking it all in, with a line of other kids his age. They were, like me, wrapped in down-filled everything, from head to toe.
Sucking on candy canes, naturally.
I was jealous of their ear flaps.
It was 16 degrees Celcius yesterday afternoon, my friends. The climate changed just in time for the parade and our recent rash of Spring-like-weather-in-November had done nothing to harden us for standing out in the festive wind coming straight up Princess Street, off Lake Ontario.
Did I mention I’d like someone to invent down-filled undies?
But, it was still as lovely as that time at Disney.
I had no mickey ears last night but, just look at all the pretty lights!
We waved at baton twirlers and gymnasts (there were a lot) and dancers and pipe bands. We yelled Merry Christmas at passing elves and tigers and snowmen. Float riders reminded us that “Santa would be coming soon” and we jiggled to the assorted Christmas tunes emanating from the passing parade. There was even a ferris wheel float!
I’ve decided I’m a night-time parade kind of a girl.
No matter the season or the location, this kind of joyous, sparkly, celebratory event is right up my street.
My festooned, childlike street, of course.
With a side of down-filled underwear.
So far I haven’t died.
That seems like a good thing.
Practical Man found a giant puffball yesterday, when he was out in our forest. When he told me how large it was, I decided I had to see it for myself.
Out in The Nature, as it were.
This tells you what a momentous occasion it was. Me, out in The Nature, in the middle of the week, no less.
We ventured out today after lunch, across the yard, down our forest path and back to the last part of our trail, before it ends at the farmer’s lane. I pointed out what I thought were new trees and Practical Man assured me that those trees had been there for 10 years. I noted the grassy areas where there used to be just rocks and he shook his head.
Things sure do change in The Nature, when you only come out to visit a few times a decade.
Finally, under the trees, off the trail, I saw it.
I didn’t see any fairies dancing.
But, then, this wasn’t a toadstool. It was a puffball.
I picture Rubenesque fairies (of the sort I could blend in with), eating ice cream under this cherubic baby.
Or rather, babies.
There were two.
A giant puffball and a super-cali-fragi-listic-expi-ali-docious puffball. The giant-est puffball of them all.
It’s hard to capture the scale, when it’s in the forest, but it was GIGANTICO.
Bigger than my head and we all know that my head is blessed with some magnificent largesse.
This mushroom was endowed with some encephalic proportions, yes sirree.
Here’s a picture of it in the kitchen sink, in case you had any doubts about the size of it.
The puffball, not my head.
I was slightly nervous, what with it being a wild mushroom and all. Practical Man knew what it was (Calvatia gigantea) but, to reassure his suburban-born wife, he did a little extra research. The Google assured us that it was the harmless and edible Giant Puffball (The Google is always truthful and wise, as long as you don’t believe much of what it says.) And, our friend, Trail Diva, reassured me that we seemed to be the lucky owners of a forest delicacy.
Fried in some butter, it could even be used in lieu of noodles for lasagna, she said.
She had me at “fried in some butter”.
Accordingly, Practical Man plucked it from its forest home and brought it to the house.
It was kind of like bringing home the moon.
A moon that might kill us with its toxins and pent-up mushroom rage.
What, what, what?
A puffball is a pretty show-offy mushroom with its moon scape-y shape and super-cali-fragi-listic-expi-ali-docious size, I think you’ll agree. This made me wonder if it might be the mean girl of the mushroom world.
You can tell I love The Nature, right?
We had to use a very big, bread knife and even that wasn’t enough to deal with the extravaganza of mushroom we had on our hands.
Houston, we need more counter space!
I can hear my friend Pippi saying, “Bleeech”, as I write this.
Not a mushroom fan, that one.
Even I was slightly overcome. This was bigger than the watermelon we had last week and that took a party and 4 meals to devour.
We have mushroom enough for crowds.
Or, for a wicked show-and-tell at school.
Yes, definitely that.
Except, there’s no show-and-tell when you’re an adult, more’s the pity. Many a meeting could be livened up with some show-and-tell, don’t you think?
I’m not sure mushrooms would make it past the (inevitable) safety checkpoint on the way to work show-and-tell, though.
Anyway, we cooked it, outside on the barbecue (it’s the expensive hydro rates in the afternoon and it’s 30 degrees C today, that’s why).
Fried in butter, ‘cos those were our instructions.
We both tried a little schnibble, after it had been fried.
(I watched for convulsions, in case Practical Man and The Google and Trail Diva were wrong.)
It tastes pretty good but we’re not sure about the consistency.
Slightly mushy. Too much butter?
Is there such a thing?
We’ve decided we’ll make lasagna a la Trail Diva with it.
Even though the Italians are probably rolling over in their gnocchi-lined graves.
And Pippi is probably saying, “Double Bleech.”
By the way, this post is a bit of a “do not try this at home” affair. Don’t–I repeat: DON’T just grab mushrooms out of your yard and chow down.
Gotta be careful with the fungi, friends.
If we end up hallucinating or dying, I’ll let you know.
Everyone knows that collecting books isn’t the same as hoarding, right?
Collecting books is literary. It’s a luxury (after all, how many mansions and castles didn’t have a library room?) It’s professorial.
And, even though I’m a professor’s daughter and not a professor myself–not to mention a library user and advocate–I do love to keep me some books.
Especially vintage books.
Just a few.
Before you start picturing the worst-case scenario, let me clarify that we only have four bookshelves in our home.
Okay, fine. We have books in nearly every room (on tables, in magazine racks, in cabinets,) but only four official bookshelves. That’s what counts.
Four bookshelves is nothing for a bookworm/vintage lover/pack rat, all rolled into one.
Really, I’m small potatoes in the world of book hoarding–I mean–collecting.
I once knew a couple who brought back over 250 books from their honeymoon. He was doing his PhD (What did I tell you? Book collections are professorial.) and she just loved books. Their Victorian house was a maze of floor-to-nearly-ceiling shelves, lining the walls in every room, the hallways and even up the stairs. The top floor used to be fiction and the bottom floor was non-fiction. Even if I hadn’t been living in a village with a teeny, tiny library at the time, I would have loved their house. It came up for sale recently and I was tempted to buy it even though they and their books are long gone.
Their collection made that house a home.
It was a swoon-y, book lover’s house of the best kind.
Like that couple, our measly four bookshelves are also floor-to-ceiling and chock-a-block with books of all kinds. Mildly organized, as I like to be once or twice a year and clustered among other vintage objects that need a home. I also (ahem) collect a few vintage toys, which fit very well in my children’s book section.
I believe the staging experts calls this “giving the eye a place to land.”
Anyhoo, the annual book sale for the local symphony orchestra started this weekend and I have never been. I can’t imagine why, especially after all the fun I had there on Friday evening.
It was in a warehouse, which made it even more fun because of the whole forsaken, industrial vibe. Plus, there is bound to be tonnage of books in a WAREHOUSE!
When we got inside, there was a map which showed what types of books were in each section.
Maps = tonnage!
Sections = tonnage!
I consulted the map and tried not to squeal. There was a children’s section and music A, B, and C sections!
Three sub-sections = tonnage!
Practical Man and I mused about the definition of “Ephemera”.
Such a fun word, don’t you think?
Can’t remember what it means, of course. This is why I don’t do crossword puzzles, like my sister and Grandma Helen. I could Google the word, but I like to give my brain a chance to percolate for a few days.
It’s cheaper than Lumosity.com.
I hot-footed it to the music section, leaving a Practical Man in my book-hoarding dust. There were books about genres of music and books about the people who make music. But, I’m not as keen on reading about music as I am about playing it. So, I searched through lots of classical piano books–even a couple that looked just like the ones I scored in East Berlin back in 1985, before the Berlin Wall came down. (You had to spend all your money before you came back to the West and I spent it, even then, on super-economical, communist music books.)
On Friday evening, I looked for guitar books to help me with my new-ish relationship with Alice, my guitar.
It was a fun search but, yielded nothing interesting.
Then, I saw them: piles of vintage sheet music. There were boxes full of music with retro graphics and songs from the likes of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald.
Swoon-y swoon, swoon!
There was music featuring my friend (well, in my imagination anyway), Julie Andrews. I’ll frame this score by my piano.
Some of the books just SMELLED vintage and special and the pages and illustrations dated them instantly to a by-gone era. Like, this Fireside Book of Folk Songs that is a large, hardcover book from 1947. There are songs to sing and play from South America and Scotland, Cowboy songs and Railroad songs, Hebrew songs and Chinese songs. There is even a part for spirituals and hymns. The arranger notes in the preface that “To avoid the monotony and vulgarity, no attempt has been made to persuade one style of accompaniment to suit varying styles of melody, and the square-toed “oom-pah” bass had been studiously avoided.”
Now, who wouldn’t want to take that book home with them for the bargain price of $1?
I found a couple of gifts for people who appreciate this kind of dusty treasure just as much as I do (I wish I could show them to you!) and Practical Man popped by every once in a while to carry my growing pile, because opening my car door and carrying my books is the kind of vintage gallantry that oozes out of his pores every old day of the week. He paid my $12 total at the end of our book sale, Friday night date, too.
He’s a keeper, that man.
As I rifled through the sheet music, I felt my heart begin to beat faster. Judging from the era of most of the music, I wondered if it had come from one person’s collection. And, I suddenly realized that something really special might be found within the stack. Something that was worth far more than the 10 cent price tag that was listed on the sign.
And then, I found it.
The song that would bring tears to my eyes in a warehouse full of bargain book tonnage:
It was sung in an episode of Downton Abbey in recent years, but, that’s not why I know the chorus by heart:
I’m in love with you.
Let me hear you whisper
that you love me too…”
Originally a hit in 1911, it became the biggest selling popular song on the market again, in the run up to WWII.
But more than this, it’s the song my grandparents played in their “cellar” rec room, amongst the ’50s furniture, when I was growing up.
It was the first song that they danced to at their 40th wedding anniversary, when I was 13 years old, my grandfather with tears brimming in his eyes.
It was my grandparents’ love song.
And, in part because of the symphony book sale, its ours too.
As he does.
I am mostly sitting in his favourite chair (as I do), holding my belly button with both hands and trying to take deep, cleansing, banana-muffin-scented breaths.
My hands are cupped, as if I’m carefully holding a baby chick, but what I’m really doing is attempting to keep my belly button from making a fast getaway. It’s a task that requires vigilance and dedication, even through my bewilderment. I don’t honestly know why my belly button has forsaken me in this manner. I mean, I’ve been good to the thing, over the years.
- I’ve kept it (mostly) from being sun burned.
- I’ve kept it (mostly) from being mercilessly tickled.
- I’ve never pierced it (my sister holding the waistband of her pants out for two days after she had hers done a hundred years ago, was a good deterrent).
As in most things, I am a belly button goody-two shoes.
Yet, here I sit. In full-on Belly Button Betrayal.
I got terrible books out of the library and Olympic Golf has officially come back. This is what misery looks like, my friends.
Every once in a while, I limp into the bedroom to the full-length mirror and lift my shirt to look.
Is it still there? In one piece?
Now, I’m navel gazing.
Except, not like Gandhi or Elizabeth Gilbert (author of the wildly popular memoir, Eat, Pray, Love). Someone with important socio-political/existential/spiritual (Gandhi) or even spaghetti questions (Elizabeth Gilbert) on their minds.
I do have those questions but, tra-la-la, the Olympics are on.
So, I’ve been navel gazing for a week, on account of the laparoscopic surgery I had. Note to self: my belly button does NOT look like the ones on the Canadian beach volleyball team.
Actually, navel gazing and fussing. Lots and lots of fussing.
I don’t remember Gandhi doing much of that, do you? Maybe you lose your belly button when you’re fasting for important, civil rights reasons. Not that I’ll ever know. I came out of surgery after lunch, ready for a 3-course meal, since I hadn’t eaten since MIDNIGHT the night before!
I’m really more like Elizabeth Gilbert than Gandhi.
More foodie than faster.
Uh huh, that’s me.
By the way, do you think making banana muffins is a sophisticated avoidance technique? Practical Man is…well, practical. When there’s a problem, he usually has a very practical solution. And, making banana muffins does afford a brief respite from your fussing/navel gazing wife doesn’t it? Actually, don’t answer that. I’m not sure I care if it’s a sophisticated avoidance technique, so long as I get some banana muffins out of the deal.
Naval gazing and fussing. I feel like that might be on my headstone some day, darn it. Kind of sums me up pretty well at the moment.
And, while I am a talented fusser, as Practical Man can no doubt attest, I would like to stop.
Really, I would.
It’s just that I never thought my belly button could hurt quite this much. On account of, I am a documented ‘fraidy cat and I’ve never had a single baby and everyone knows (or at least, I knew with utter certainty when I was 6) that babies come out of that aperture thingy in the middle of our belly buttons.
YAWN. (That’s how I thought the aperture part opened, when I was 6. The doctor would tickle it a little, and the mama would YAWN and then the baby on the bench nearest the belly button door, would pop out.)
Uh huh. Inadvertent childbirth. That must be it.
That’s really the only reason I can think of that my belly button would feel like it’s had a grapefruit pulled through it.
Maybe not. As far as I know, there is no tropical fruit lurking in my belly.
I’m more of a vegetable–okay, carbs–girl, to be honest. With an ice cream chaser.
Good thing, too since I now know how much it hurts to get (what feels like) a grapefruit pulled through your belly button. All you women who gave actual birth to an actual human and not a grapefruit. Pfffffff. Sure, that’s cool. But, I mean, really.
Have YOU ever had a grapefruit pulled through your navel?
It’s almost time to head to the mirror again.
Watch for my life-changing memoir: