Mar 31, 2011

A Family. A Fair.

The Medieval Fair starts tomorrow in Norman, our home town. Chris and I will probably take Charlie along with my mom.

We'll eat some roasted corn. Listen to the bagpipes. Visit the mermaid's keep. Cheer on a joust. Wash down a humongous turkey leg or a piping hot meat pie with blue-glass bottle of sasparilla. Smirk at fifty-something fat friars with suspiciously modern Birkenstocks and middle aged wrinkled wenches getting sunburned cleavage on this first weekend of spring. Roll our eyes at fourteen-year old girls with fairy wings and glitter eyeshadow and their skinny pimply-faced boy counterparts trailing behind in dangerously tight leather pants and open-laced pirate shirts.

You know, like normal people do when they go to a Ren Fair. (That's insider lingo for Renaissance Fair. Why am I using insider lingo you ask? Um... well.... )


Yes, it's true. That's Donny the magician's squire (or something like that) in the foreground. And Kathleen the court jester in the background. Juggling. On a guy's shoulders.

When Kathleen and Donny were tweens (that was before they called them that) they were completely drawn in to the cloak-wearing, dagger-yielding, ye-olde-fake-accent-speaking world of Medieval Fair.

They belonged to a group (The Arthurian Order of Avalon to be precise) that practiced jousting and sword fighting and juggling and (okay, yes, role playing) year 'round in people's backyards or in the community rooms at the library or veteran's centers, or sometimes even on nature expeditions. But it all culminated with the Medieval Fair every spring.



Look at that cute little mouse on the end of Donny's staff (do you see it?!)

Our mom sewed so many awesome costumes for Donny and Kathleen over the years. And as they grew up, so did their characters. Kathleen was only a jester from about age nine to eleven. Then she was sort of like a little rascally tomboyish maid. But the last year she participated in the fair she had the most gorgeous Anne Boleyn costume. It was dark blue velvet and white silk and lace with tons of beading and detailing and that sucker was corseted on her so tight (and she was a complete waif) that she looked like a living doll. It was breathtaking really. I think she rode in on like a white horse even.

But Donny really grew up with Med Fair and the friends he made there. For years he just played the fool. He was always the court jester. The older boys, the more athletic boys (and don't let my skinny pimply-face comments above fool you, there were "golden" boys even in this Dungeons & Dragons circle of friends), like the Achemire brothers for example, blue eyed, bawdy, sulky, mysterious, beautiful boys who stole the heart of every girl, prancing in on their horses with chain mail and wooden shields and real swords and re-enacting these sweeping dramas for the crowd.

Meanwhile Donny the jester is practicing, practicing, practicing. Learning to juggle heavy knives and catch an apple in his teeth. Learning to breath actual fire. His sweet jester role soon evolved into the Evil Jester. The Arthurian group always does a living life-size chess match at every fair. There is the black and the white. Donny in tattered brocade and long black tresses, always did an impressive fire-breathing move as he took one of the white queen's pawns.

But on one of the later years, I think Donny was sixteen, one of the golden boys, was it an Achemire? Perhaps. He had a bloody accident in the joust earlier that morning. Like he broke his finger or something like that. And he was playing freakin' Lancelot (one of the star roles) in the chess match performance that afternoon.

Everyone was in a tizzy, the middle-aged wenches, the fat friars, the school-girl crush maids who could barely look up as they flocked around the Achemire, dressing his wounds, but all the same, joined the question... what would we do? Who could possible fill in for Lancelot, he had like 50 lines, plus three crucial elaborately choreographed fights!

And Donny piped up... "I can do it." He had been to every practice, watched every fight and heard every line from his jesters' spot for weeks. "Surely not shy Donny?" everyone thought.

But Donny. Literally. Slayed it. He came to life in front of the crowd. He nailed the lines. He swung that freaking sword. He wowed the onlookers with their roasted corn in one fist and turkey legs in the other. But mostly he wowed his peers. They talked about Donny all the rest of the day, and the rest of the month. "Who would have known?"

Donny was a golden boy, too. Just of a darker variety.

But of everyone, our mom was the proudest. Did I mention, um... so yeah, she was sort of like the queen.


The Dark Queen, of course. Hey, if she's going to put in the man hours making all those costumes, she might as well get one herself! She could even fight with a staff! Plus the Arthurians really needed some adult chaperones. I mean, fourteen year olds? Fairy wings and glitter? Tight leather pants. It's like pre-Twilight hormonal craziness, but I'm pretty sure those kids weren't as abstaining as much as Edward and Bella.


Donny, Mom (before she went all dark) and John (the youngest of the two Achemire boys, and Donny's first true best friend.)


We even pulled our Aunt Lynda and our little wood-nymph cousin Kaitlyn into the act one year. Lynda was fittingly earthy, Kaitlyn had a real bunny in a basket.

Why no pictures of me in this royal picture? Um, yeah, I was nerdy enough already. I didn't need any more help! Honestly, it was the age thing. When Kathleen and Donny first got involved they were still practically little kids. I was fourteen already. And, I already knew a girl in my grade who was already all sucked into that scene, and she truly believed with her heart-of-hearts that she was a descendent of honest-to-god elves. And she told anyone who would listen all about it. And of course, being teenagers, we completely ostracized her for it.

So no matter how many Excalibur and Labyrinth movies I had watched as a child (also 'cause of mom), or how many Robin Hood tales and Choose Your Own Adventure novels I had read, and as much in my secret heart-of-hearts I really, really, really wanted to do it... my teenage pride just wouldn't let me.

But I was my family's biggest fan. (Go figure.) I went to every joust and every chess match. I even designed the t-shirt for the Med Fair one year. I supportively "huzzahed" and"oohed and aahed" at all the appropriate moments. And I still love it every year. Even though my own kin no longer grace the chess board or ride across the muddy jousting field there's still always an Achemire, god love 'em and their dreamy blue eyes, to be spied in there – like those high school quarterbacks who just never give up the glory days.

Today at lunch Kathleen and I were chatting about the upcoming weekend. She told me how she always "confesses" her Med Fair past only after she's known people for while. Like on a recent nature hike with friends, when she revealed, "uh, hey guys, the last time I hiked up this trail I was in leather and chain mail."

She's decided that she isn't going to go with us on Saturday. To clarify, we are just normal looking spectators now. Our freak flags... or should I say courtly banners... hidden from the casual eye. Kathleen sighed that it's too windy and the fair has gotten just too huge and crowded (thousands and thousands flock to it annually).. she's just gotten over it.

But I'd bet a giant turkey leg she'll cave at the last minute and tag along. Aw hell... I gotta just end with it. Huzzah!

Mar 25, 2011

Devil Inside



So momentous occasion. This, my friends, is that very first time you find a devil picture in your child's backpack.

Time to check his still-baby-blonde-hair for triple sixes beneath the scalp, look for small animal bones under his top bunk mattress, make sure no lipstick is placed in easily accessible backwards-writing range of any mirrors... and stop feeding him pea soup.

You know, just in case.

Mar 17, 2011

The Family Of Tomorrow



"Look Pa!" As we gather around the family "hearth." One of our very first computers. Guess where it lived? In the piano room of course.

Won't be seeing my dad this weekend on our typical Saturday visit. He'll be fishing a tournament. But he's been texting me and Chris all week to see if the iPad2 we ordered has arrived via FedEx, yet. Like, he literally wants the tracking number so he can monitor its progress. (He also tracks my flights when I go on business trips).

He's basically living vicariously through our purchase, because he's frankly addicted to new technology. Our dad. The Oklahoma Bass Fisherman of the Year like ten freaking years in a row. One year away from retirement (he's always one year away, actually, and then chickens out and decides to 9-t0-5 it for one more year). Gets senior discounts. Remember watching Davy Crockett as a child of the fifties on his black and white TV set (that was probably the first moment of technology love, actually). Is what us agency folks would call... an early adopter. An early adopter that takes five minutes to type in his Google password because he's searching for his reading glasses and then uses the one finger typing approach, usually gets it wrong the first time, and then has to try again.

When our family went to Epcot for the first time as kids, one of our favorite rides was The Carousel of Progress. You follow this animatronic family through time until eventually they become the "family of tomorrow." Shag rugs, strangely mid-century living room furniture, but like with a computer (gasp!) in the kitchen! And technology all around them.

So flashback to last Saturday. I look around my parents living room, Chris is in the loveseat browsing his iPhone for the new iPad2 colors, Dad's in his armchair on his laptop (he once had an old Dell laptop that he hilariously just taped an Apple logo to the back of) comparing what color iPad2 cover he would buy if it were his (he-can't-stand-it) purchase, Mom's on the couch playing Words With Friends on her ancient iPad classic, Charlie's playing the Xbox while standing in the middle of the room, Sam's sidling down the couch trying to ditch his iPod for mom's iPad (but she's not giving in... yet) cause the Angry Birds are just so much bigger, and Jeremy and Kathleen are on the other end of the couch with me, looking up Costa Rica adventure vacations on their iPhones.

But dangit. We're all together!

Wait! Except Donny. So mom called him up (it was his birthday) and even though we got his voicemail (on his iPhone) we all screamed out this weird kind of Jesus version of the happy birthday song that our eighty-something grandma always just spontaneously sings to us without even saying hello when we answer the phone on our birthdays. But we got the words kind of jacked up (because we don't really ever hear this Jesusy birthday song except for that once a year ambush) but we're all scream-singing and laughing anyway.

Seriously, Apple should put us in a commercial. And Disney should make us into a ride.

Mar 16, 2011

Feeling Famousish



Usually Donny or Kathleen are getting press. But this month I've got my very own feature, okay, one page (pg. 21 to be exact), in MARCH magazine. It's for like lady-power-types like me. You know, because all the lady-power-types wear purple jeans and do all their work on Etch-A-Sketch. I just tried to channel Kathleen in this pose.



Kathleen only had to channel Kathleen when she was featured in the Glamour Weddings blog. Look! Kate Winslet and Kathleen are on the same page! Now, if that's not famousish, I don't know what is.



Even Donny got a bit part in Martha Stewart Weddings for officiating this really cool circus-sideshow-coney-themed wedding under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Look! Half his head! Martha herself picked out that shot, all Anna Wintour style. I bet there were like fifty pictures of half of Donny's head all pasted up on some stark backlit wall. Interns and art directors were crying. But in the end... an editorial masterpiece.


But usually Donny's editorials are of the counter-culture variety. I think this story was from Inked magazine. Martha's critical eye had no part in this meticulously crafted spread. She probably would tsk-tsk at the reversed out shadowed body copy type. She has standards, people, standards!

That's how she got to be a lady-power-type, you know. Like me.

Mar 10, 2011

Born This Way





So Kathleen has always been a bit of a paradox when it comes to her style, or even on a grander scale, her exterior manifestation of herself as she chooses to present it to the world. The photos above might lead you to believe that like many little girls she liked to envision herself as a princess or a doll or something very sweet and girly. But that sly smile gives her away. It's just a ruse.


I'd like to say this layered, aggressive, glittery, pouty stomp pose was a glimpse into her true self. But even that is simply too one-dimensional (if you can call anything about this look simple).


Now, the crazy-lady straw hat and red cape with pink jumper pants combo is sort of the closest to the truth because it is so self-created and not modeled after any one style. Or better yet, droopy onsie with a random piece of brown fabric fashioned as... oh, no that's not some headdress.. it's hair. Kathleen had very little hair, so she'd sometimes put skirts or fabric on her head to "feel what it's like." Our mom had very, very long hair, and sometimes me and Donny (her haircut was all short and 80's feathery by the time Kathleen was a toddler) but when we were baldies, we'd fan our mom's long dark frizzy 70's mane over our own heads and pretend it was ours.

Maybe that's why Kathleen's hair is always her best accessory now? It can be red or black or straight or curly or literally wild with a sentient intelligence all it's own, but it's always an extension of Kathleen. She never, ever, has a bad hair day. I'm not saying this in an enviable way. It's a fact. And it's one she has deliberately willed into being.

One thing us Thomas kids don't lack is an ability to just will (or work) our way into self-defined specialness. Kathleen by sheer willpower, and by all the means available to her as an adult (her tween self just didn't have the resources or the true courage, just the sporadic, quickly shattered kind) is declaring with every outfit or outfit post "I craft myself into a persona that is so special that I am undeniably someone you must look at. With mean glares and eye-rolls, or curiosity and sideways appraisal or sheer unblinking appreciation. Regardless, because you look, I am."

1. a coworker once actually dressed up like Kathleen for Halloween
2. I stood in line with Kathleen once when she auditioned for Top Model and she got some of the "serious" and prone-to-start-a-fist-fight auditioners seriously riled up by being so irreverent about the whole thing (but in her heart deadly serious) as she practiced her now much more developed "stomp walk" for a local news cameraman
3. Kathleen wore a flight suit to school sometimes in fifth grade
4. Kathleen wore a men's tie at picture day in sixth grade (with a side ponytail)
5. Kathleen gets heartsick if she sees something that should be on her body that is not

Last week while we were eating a whole box of gluten-free nut crackers between the two of us in our mom's kitchen (it's that vegan thing she's doing) she told me she lost three blog followers when she posted about her girl crush on Lady Gaga. Now if that's not totally appropriate, I don't know what is.

If I start to sound all thesisy or philosophical when I talk about Kathleen, it's because I think how I feel about her is the most complex of anyone I know. I have to stop myself from talking about her in conversations (which I only succeed at about 50% of the time). It's hard for me to post about her as much, because I feel like I'm talking about myself too much, but a version of myself that is maybe a little too brash, or too all-caught-up-in-it-all, but is also hilarious and unafraid, and cool to look at. And cool to eat crackers with when she's pretending to be a vegan.

Thing is? Nine times out of ten? When Kathleen pretends something... it's only a matter of time before it becomes real.

Mar 8, 2011

Mixed Feelings 'Bout Missing Bath Time




So I'm on a three-day business trip for the advertising agency I work for. Travel is typically exciting and fun. Typically bath time at our house is exciting and fun, too. But with a seven-year old and two-year old left to their own devices in a tub (not completely neglected, we have a tiny house, we're right around the corner, okay just don't call social services)... exciting and fun can quickly turn into manic and/or a situation that could call for a home equity loan to repair our flooded bathroom.

But I can't complain. My husband actually always gives our kids their bath. In fact, they probably wouldn't get bathed if I had to remember when they were due a good scrubbing. He even blow dries their hair as they stand in the toweling down "station." Then he shuffles them down the hall to me, where I get them in their PJs, get those iPhones back in their little hands, and tuck them into their bunks.

We don't actually allow the iPhones in the bunks, but a few nights ago I did wake up to both the kids playing them at 4:30 am in top bunk, bottom bunk respectively. They were like children from another era with flashlights and comics... a tiny oasis of light in a dark bedroom (but with Angry Birds soundtracks.) Apparently Charlie stole them from their docks in the kitchen, but at least he was considerate enough to steal Sam's for him, too.






"Where's my phoooonnnne?"
(Sometimes he clarifies if I don't give him the "phoooone" and says "iiii-phone.")

They probably should invent one that goes in the water. (Hey, Apple folks, how 'bout now that you guys have the iPad 2 out, why don't you get started on that waterproof iPhone?) Meanwhile, I think I will enjoy the mixed blessing of being on the road, in my wonderfully lonely hotel room and take a bath all by un-manic – at least for the moment – self.

Mar 3, 2011

Donny Vomit As Muse


So, not surprisingly, Donny... or I should say Donny Vomit really seems to capture peoples' imaginations. These are just a sampling of some of the creations various artists have made with him as their inspiration.

From left to right art by: Luma Rouge, Wyatt Terwilliger and, er... I don't know who did the last one (dang, it's my favorite, too) I'm so unprofessional. But I have to say, I don't think Donny has that much chest hair.


Of course, Donny Vomit has been depicted in a more official way on his namesake brew, Human Blockhead of The Coney Island Lager series by Shmaltz brewing. And every time I see his Coney Island sideshow banner stretched over the boardwalk I get goosebumps.

Seriously, my husband was playing the Grand Theft Auto the other night that's set in the "fake New York" and he's driving around Coney Island. So I direct him down a side alley, and boom, you can see the little video game Coney Island sideshow banners. I couldn't quite make out if one of them was Donny's but I pretend that it is. Then we go rob someone and carjack them. The perfectly-artsy Marie Roberts is famous for painting all the Coney Island banners. I wonder if she knows about the Grand Theft Auto game?

But I also just think it's funny to see all the other little mini-masterpieces from the professional to the, er, not-so-professional, that are floating around out there.

by Gal Stark Arad Kabiri

by Kenny Lombardi

by Melissa Belkin Presti (and one of the few before Donny grew his mustache!)

by Sharon S. Ma

What's weird is that Kathleen and I both mastered in fine arts. But I don't think either of us have actually ever done a, you know, a "rendered" Donny piece (designing his web site and mustache contest posters and wax tins don't count). We're kind of weird about our own art anyway. Like it's a parlor trick or something that we can just draw or paint or whatever. But it's not something we do. We like to save the parlor tricks for Donny.

And save the Donny art for... his most artsy fans.

Mar 2, 2011

On The Road Again

Photo: Vegas Vision Studios

So Donny is on the road again, touring the country in a crowded trailer full of costumes, girls, roadies and a dog... with the Pretty Things Peep Show.

Photos: Deanna Marie

And there's lots of exhilarating on-stage moments like this one.

Photo: Eric Harvey Brown

And exhausting ones, too. This is Donny's stressed out but-taking-charge-in-the-moment look.

Kathleen had a quick visit with him after his show when he came through Tulsa on some random Wednesday night a couple weeks ago. She said he was "accidentally sober." That he hadn't really been partaking in the festivities that ultimately surround their shows in the bars and lounges and hole-in-the-walls their burlesque tour takes them. And so he was missing home. Thinking about settling down and getting "domestic." Donny Vomit Homemaker.

It could happen.