Dec 30, 2010

Donny's Bag



This is Donny's trusty bag. In off-seasons it travels with him across the country on his burlesque tours, in more touristy times it rides the train from his Brooklyn apartment to the glittery lights of Times Square where Donny sometimes works as a sidewalk barker for Ripley's Believe It Or Not. And of course from Memorial Day to Labor Day it spends many long afternoons resting in the sideshow dressing room at Coney Island (on the floor next to the snake's tank to be exact) while Donny runs the ten-in-one for the constantly revolving crowds.




It also comes home with him on the holidays. He packs light. Spare socks in one side pocket, spare undies in the other. One pair of skinny jeans inside, rotating out with the pair he wears. The same system with his button-up shirts, one white, one chambray. And a couple wife beaters for good measure.

When his tour came through Oklahoma, he showed off a smaller companion leather sort of dopp kit bag that matches this bigger saddle-style-backpack one. He was very proud of it. I was like "um, Donny, are you going to do something real with your money, or are you just going to keep buying bags?" Kathleen thought this was hilarious. I think it hurt Donny's feelings a little. I was halfway through my second ungodly strong vodka tonic, so I am absolved.


Lastly it comes with this odd white thingamabob.


Which actually isn't strange at all. It's kind of sweet. It's a viewfinder. The picture inside? That's Anna. Donny's "girl." Wowsa, right? You don't know the half of it. But this post is about traveling light, so Anna tales must wait for another day (and for me to be sure that she doesn't mind getting the Thomas treatment, i.e. telling all to anyone who'll listen.)

So in the meantime, like Donny's spare socks, just know she travels with him wherever he goes.

Dec 29, 2010

A Simple Outing

Prepare to Embark. Er, yeah, down the street for a bite to eat.

Over the Christmas break and Donny's Christmas visit, we had lots of Christmasy times at our parents' house: opening gifts, grazing, scary movie watching, and doing like at least six jigsaw puzzles. (Seven if you count us redoing the Muppets jigsaw puzzle twice per Donny's suggestion, just to see if we could beat our time the second go 'round. Which we did.)

But a few days before all the holly jollying, and one day after Donny arrived in from New York, just the three of us went on a simple outing.


Even simpler, yet. Pizza. At our favorite local place.

No fuss, really.


Except Kathleen first has to figure out what to wear. Hmm, what to wear, what to wear on a late December day?


Ah, yes. As little as possible. Perfect. But now to track down her favorite pair of jeans.


In her scary basement-slash-laundry room. Now you don't see pics of that on her blog do you? That, my friends, is the creepy side of living in a quaint old house.


Back to the cute side. Put on a sweater. And now, a search for shoes. But where's Donny?


In the bathroom.


Where his backside is now properly taken care of.


But this mustache is not acceptable.


This is going to require a redo. And apparently a comb.


It seems like refixing your mustache is kind of like refixing your bangs. An equally annoying starting-over-sort-of-task.


Okay, now that's all taken care of. It's on to the bag. This is the leather saddle-style bag Donny lives out of when he is on the road. Everything in it's proper place. Socks in the left side pocket. Underwear in the right. What? I snooped while he was in the bathroom.


Kathleen has meanwhile added more layers. Wise choice. Donny is showing her his new leather gloves. She is properly reaffirming his stylish choice.


It's really mutual admiration all around at this point.


Then we set off. To The Wedge, our pizzeria of choice.

No photos at the table. That would just be impolite. But I can tell you that the lunch conversation, which would basically become the running joke of our entire Christmas break, is that Kathleen and Donny have decided they are "lactose intolerant." Notice the quote marks.

This did not stop them from eating every piece of pizza on their plates mind you, all while listing all the things they are now by choice "allergic" to. Including dairy, sugar, gluten and wheat. Now, this sounds like they are making fun. Which they are. Of themselves. Because they would both love to be allergic to all those things and be tragically thin due to no fault of their own.

These are the conversations people hear at neighboring tables and probably think that the Thomases are the most narcissistic ridiculous people. Because we are.

Oh, and Kathleen found her shoes.


Now, like I said, this was just a simple outing. Lunch. But there was an antique store just down the block I wanted to go to. So before we headed back to my house to eat Oreos, we stopped in. Don't ask me why Donny has picked up this baseball mitt. He knows absolutely nothing, nothing... and I mean, nothing about baseball.


Meanwhile, leave it to Kathleen to pick up some interesting reading.

Donny, by the way, is still in the background on the phone with a friend who has called him to ask if it is possible to swallow two swords at one time. Donny reassures him, "oh yeah, you can do that, no problem," but warns him "just don't stick them in one at a time, stick them in together, then pull them out one at a time, that's the way to do it... you know... without puncturing your esophagus."

Hey, Donny may have spent the entirety of his short lived stint on a t-ball team in the second grade in the outfield picking dandelions, but he knows his sword swallowing.

And these are the conversations people hear while we're browsing through their shop. Who think we are so, ha, ha, ahhh... charming. But strange. Because we are.


One more photo op with big baby in the statuary garden on the way out.


And lunch is convened. Just another day at the sideshow.

Dec 23, 2010

Christmas Morning


Christmas morning. A relative term. At what point does lying in your bed with your eyes wide open from about 3:30 am until 5:30 am become actual "morning?" I think a quarter 'til six was usually when we would finally snap and creep into our parents room.

Even though our early bird parents would roll out of bed with little resistance, we then had to wait for them to pull on robes, or god forbid go pee. This would probably take all of one minute, but it seemed like an eternity. Because in our family it was a strict rule that no one could run ahead into the living room on Christmas morning. That would be just utterly, utterly wrong.

Our parents would always make us wait in the dark stairwell or hallway, while one of them went ahead into the living room to be sure the Christmas tree lights were turned on, and the camera was ready. That's what we're doing the photo above. Waiting in the wings with mom until we got the green light from dad.

And this is the last photo of Christmas morning where you will actually see our faces. Because the rest, although spanning almost a decade, all have one thing in common (besides varying degrees of brownish-goldish carpeting) our heads our down, our intent clear, our mission simple – opening presents.



a. Blue Banana Seat Bike. Which I embarrassingly didn't learn to ride for another three years.



b. Cowboys & Indians Fort. This is really hard to see in this photo, but that thing was amazing with all it's little miniature soldiers and warriors and log walls and towers. Donny is in love, you can tell.

c. Smurf Drum. I don't remember ever seeing this toy again. It's shelf life must have been short. Let's just say we were still stepping on miniature cowboys for years after, but the Smurf drum faded quickly into obscurity or the back of a closet.

d. Big Bird Alarm Clock. The most annoying alarm clock of all time. "Rise and shine! Wake up you sleepy head! That's right get one foot out of bed! Then the other!" But imagine Big Bird literally screaming this at you.

e. Kathleen. New baby, means baby toys, like...

f. Generic Stuffed Bear Number One. She could care less.

g. Generic Stuffed Bear Number Two. That might be a bunny. Still, no love there.

h. Generic Stuffed Bear Number Three. Yep, not so much a winner.



i. Mini Trampoline. An eighties staple. Who didn't have one of these suckers in their house. I think they were made popular by the aerobics craze, but for most parents they were a compromise gift to kids who didn't get real trampolines. You could still hurt yourself or fall just as easily, though. The difference being you were probably inside where you would fall into, oh... a giant floor console tv set.

j. Boom Box. A much more iconic eighties staple. I would use this one to tape songs on the radio. Or sometimes we'd record our own radio shows. I didn't get my first store-bought tape until a couple years later. I remember picking it out at the store with my mom. What's the deal with the delayed full-realization of my gifts? It was INXS "Kick" of course.

k. Care Bears Nightgown. From Care Bears to "Devil Inside."



l. Cute Blue Pajamas. Note the jaunty red cuffs.

m. Ridiculously Large Tree. No, really. Look how gigantic this tree is. This is just the bottom third of it, because we had a big lofted ceiling. Our dad would drive his boat across the lake where we lived at the time, and chop down a cedar tree from some secret lot, and then bring it back home strapped to his boat. This one was by far the largest. We literally once had a bird fly in through our back sliding glass doors and roost in it.

n. Generic White Bear. Hmm. Curiously still twisty-tied to it's box.

o. Not-So-Generic Care Bear. Cast aside. Face down. Ironically no one cares.

p. Alf Doll. And the clouds parted and the light shone down, and Kathleen found her first love. No cute button-nosed bears with red bow ties or hearts on their tummies for her. This was a formative moment for her.



q. Playdoh Sweet Shop. Big hit. Fun for all ages.

r. Plus Came With A Hat. Kathleen of course snags the cool accessory first.

s. Donny Is Curiously Still Wearing The Same Pajamas.



t. Look At My Pretty Hair. Only a self-conscious fourteen year old would bother to blow-dry her hair straight, and have it perfectly side-swept for early morning present opening, lest anyone see her look less than perfect. A fourteen-year old... or an adult Kathleen, that is.

u. Inline Skates. These were for then scruffy-haired Kathleen. She terrorized the neighborhood in them for years to come. And, briefly, in her early twenties was an honest-to-goodness roller girl. An honest-to-goodness roller girl with perfect hair. Do they come any other way?

v. The Same Dang Pajamas! I might be wrong, but I think these used to have footsies in them. They have been cut out so when Donny stands up they are like capri length pajamas. I think he finally had his growth spurt the next year. That, or he's literally going to show up Christmas morning in two days from now wearing them with his handlebar mustache and a cup of coffee.

Dec 20, 2010

A Christmas Story


What to do when you've already watched The Fantastic Mr. Fox three times in one afternoon? When you can't stand the Angry Bird game theme song tinnily ringing through the house any longer?

Turn off the television. Confiscate the games. Turn off all the lights. Read stories to your kids under the tree.



We read Pippi Longstocking, which gleefully I ordered out of Charlie's little Scholastic catalog flyer thing they send home. Remember those?

Charlie was leery, since it was a girl on the cover. Until I explained that he was going to lose his mind once he found out about Pippi. That basically she has no parents, lives in her own house, has a horse, a monkey, is stronger than any grownup... oh, and has an endless supply of gold in a tree trunk in her front yard. Sold.

I know, I know, it sounds very good-mommy of me. And all looks very quaint. Until I couldn't resist and had to grab the digital camera. Which, since it has a screen, my kids thought was the closest they could get to playing the DS or my iPhone. So they took turns taking photos of each other, of me and the tree. When I say taking turns I mean alternately screaming. Which I hesitate to mention, since it all looks so picturesque. But what's a good Christmas story without a little mayhem?

Dec 19, 2010

Merry. Merry.





Christmas has always meant going to our parents' house. And the weeks leading up to Christmas include breaking out the classic decorations we've been unpacking for twenty-five plus years: brown and olive skinned wise men figurines, mossy nativity scenes, porcelain candlestick holders that spell N-O-E-L.

This year I feel like I am starting to establish our own Christmas trimming traditions. A little more of the Babes In Toyland variety. Vintage candy tree ornaments, wooden popcorn and berries, lots of snowflakes and snowmen. Not so happy birthday Jesus... true. More like happy birthday Burl Ives or Willy Wonka.




I really love my little neighborhood at the holidays. Especially when it snows. Though in Oklahoma that usually doesn't happen until after Christmas. When you grow up in the suburbs built circa 1980, you kind of go ga-ga for houses of the 1930's variety.

Our neighbors (Mr. Scott and Mr. Ray who also go ga-ga for houses of the 1930's variety for other inherent reasons) have these awesome berry bushes that border our driveway. They look highly poisonous, thus irresistible. So I always want to eat one when I pass by. And perhaps also feed them to my children. Willy Wonka would approve. Burl Ives would sing. And maybe Jesus would still save us.

Dec 16, 2010








Gifts I Got From My Family Last Christmas:

From Dad: An actual ventriloquist dummy. Completely random. In this huge box. Like a full-size, honest-to-goodness, old-school ventriloquist dummy. This is nothing I have ever asked for, or even thought to ask for, since obviously the asking-for-gifts-part-of-my-brain is too underdeveloped. Because it. Was. Awesome. It's probably totally going to murder us all in our sleep some night. I could tell Donny was so jealous. I'm surprised this guy didn't get swiped and smuggled back home to Brooklyn in Donny's carryon.

From My Sister: A white. Winged. Ass.

From My Brother: A mineral kit. It was actually for my then five year old Charlie, who is all about digging in the playground or the backyard and unearthing diamonds. Or gold. He's obsessed with finding gold. This Ebenezer kid of mine will actually swipe my jewelry off the counter and add it to his treasure box. This gift was a hit to say the least.

From My Husband: Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I did ask for this. But I hadn't read it since I was a kid. I always remember "I cannot go to school today said little Peggy Ann McKay. I have the measles and the mumps, a rash a gash and purple bumps... What? What's that you say? You say to today is Saturday? G'bye. I'm going out to play!"

But when I was flipping through it the other day as a grownup, this little one made me cry. It makes me cry right now.



Maybe Charlie's onto something after all.