unfinished business: some background

The story of Penelope Bruce

This summer at Cape Cod, several people in my family attended a flea market in Sandwich. For those of us who participate, my family consists of seasoned flea market-goers, both in the sense that we are adequately intrigued and unimpressed as deemed appropriate. This particular event is on the small side, and occurs weekly throughout the summer months. It offers a somewhat typical mix of antiques, jewelry, car parts, weak coffee in Styrofoam cups, books, and other collectibles ranging from the unique to the insipid — after all, one man’s treasure is another man’s “what the hell is this?”

Engaging in activities such as this with a group usually finds me on my own less than five minutes within arriving.  I always notice this, and have occasionally wondered about it. Whether it be shopping, touring a museum, apple-picking; visiting a used car lot, brewery, or snack bar, I can’t help but wind up on my own as others pair or group off.  (Insert romantic dream-like answer to this unspoken question here, which manifests itself into my soul mate and life-strolling partner, despite actively searching for him or not.) And so I found my pace: examining beaded necklaces, Depression glass and signs; passing by rifle paraphernalia, turning my nose up at overpriced lunch boxes, and stopping to greet each friendly dog in attendance (except Pugs, sorry).

I passed by my mom and my aunt once or twice, discussed the location of the best donuts with my dad, and saw my brother and sister-in-law a couple rows away during the course of the morning.  I could only get myself half interested, not finding much that inspired me, only going back to buy a couple items out of slight boredom. It was towards the end of the last row when my Aunt Kathy approached me with a treasure.

“I will buy you this if you promise to finish it.”

Here’s what I know, mixed with what I’ve gathered: Someone, who I think was a girl, set out to write a book.  She began with a blank Composition book, gave her work a title (Gifted Girl) decided on an outline of at least seventeen chapters, with corresponding illustrations. As was customary, (until when?) she was planning on listing her illustrations just after the table of contents, along with a caption (or quotation, as she wrote it).  The handwriting is not something you would not see in any type of American school, at any level. It resembles the model cursive that hung above the blackboard in every grade I attended before high school. Four chapters are written in the composition book, although I have no way of knowing if the last one is complete. The rest of the book is empty, except for two pages: one “Serena’s Love Scenes– Final” and the other is a sketch of a Colonial house among trees, underneath which it reads “Our Home / firstname lastname ’40”  Now. I am fairly positive the first name is Dorothy. The last name, however, is up for debate. Howes? More on that later.

So, in honor of my Aunt Kathy’s birthday (yesterday) I decided it was time to begin this project. I took some photographs of the book, began to think about how I could use this format to do it (as much as I can) justice, and maybe find out who wrote the beginning of Gifted Girl.  I will begin typing her first four chapters soon, and will welcome any creative input to help give Penny some direction and new life.

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mixtape-minded 1

mind-blowing blank slate

One of my earliest realizations about being human was the idea that what surrounded me was good.  So good that my next realization was, it wasn’t going to last forever.  For some reason, my very young mind became painfully aware of my mortality before I knew what to do about it, and, not only in the sense that I would die someday, like everyone, but that I might forget someday.   I decided I would do what I could to remember all that I could, as I went along.

Yet sometimes in life, answers come to us just when we need them (or just before the question is formed).  My friend Kevin told me in college that if it weren’t for Kurt Cobain, he would never have found his way beyond heavy metal.  That Nirvana had essentially saved him from a musical life of L.A.-based hair bands, grunge relieving glam.

In the early days of my hamster-wheel multitasking, I was never without the radio on in the background.  Sometimes TV, but mostly the radio, as it accompanied activities such as working on my dollhouse, drawing with friends, hanging out discussing what to do next while sitting in my bedroom. Being the youngest of four siblings all of whom are ten+ years older, I grew up listening to all that 1978 and beyond had to offer in the way of pop , classic rock, the end of disco, and post-beginning New Wave music.

Engrained in my brain became melodies and lyrics, constantly.  Memorized and mixed up, associated with good and annoying, I sang them all, repeatedly.

Some time around 3rd grade; maybe the summer before,  I had a scary thought: what if I never heard a particular song again?  I might not even know who sang it, but I knew one thing: I liked what I liked, and had to remember why.  Some songs reminded me of my sister, some of my brothers, others of cousins, places where I’d been, but mostly people close to me, and mostly songs that weren’t played as often, once I’d realized this. Scroll up to recall my human realization that I could very possibly forget those lyrics, or that moment.  I realized I had no choice but to begin writing down song lyrics, along with some reference of who and/or why they resonated with me.

And so I did. Copying down the words to songs like Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie” (Katie I carefully wrote on loose leaf paper) Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby” (someplace near school in Danbury) OMD’s “If you leave” (Cape CodMary, John and Kevin) began to take an important role in my free time.  If I had no paper on hand, I made do with what was around, evidenced by the lyrics written in the front cover of Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume. (Which song was I referencing? Must find book)  Even in the shower once, I distinctly remember writing REO SPEEDWAGON hastily into the steam on the tiled wall as the DJ spoke through the ending of a song that came through the tiny clock radio.  I needed to prepare for the possibility of the unfortunate event I should lose my memory before the end of my regulation less-than-five minute allotment, so I could hold onto evidence of that moment’s answer to the eternal question in my head, “Who sings this?!”

I would have carried on like this as long as I needed to, I suppose.  Yet it was the summer before 5th grade that I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. I had been listening to cassettes since 3rd grade (U2’s Rattle & Hum, Robert Palmer’s Heavy Nova, and INXS Kick being my top three) but somehow missed seeing the “record” button on my modest boombox until then. Sitting in my living room, realizing, somewhat dumbfounded, that I could record songs off the radio rather than just having the ability to record voices from the room was like getting pushed off of what had been a very limiting cliff. I dove head first into a world of relief, possibility and best of all, the chance of holding onto, if only for a little bit longer, what would remind me.

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I cannot recall another time in my life when I’ve been moved to use that word.  But after   2  1/2 years of dealing with architects, builders, scam artists and my somewhat screwy partner in crime, I have received my golden ticket to legally convert my single-family home into a two-family.  It’s nowhere near complete; I merely have the building permit.  According to the town of Bethel, and the powers that be, the job should cost approximately $45,000.  Would some people be fazed by that figure?  Sure.  Am I?  Nah.  To some,  it would appear that the last six years of my life put me through a form of torturous hell. But the way I see it, I’ve strengthened my resolve, I have the ability to undergo things that would make most people shrink in fear, and I have gained knowledge I didn’t exactly ask for, but wouldn’t trade in for anything.  Well, maybe a million dollars. Or even 45 grand… In short, being a homeowner and a landlord has made me one tough chick.  I have a loooooong way to go in my endeavors, but I must celebrate this small victory.

Don’t be intimidated by the high quality of this photograph; just enjoy it.

Yes, the image is sideways.

I meant it to be sideways. Really.

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Muppet Face

as much as I encourage others to avoid avoid overusing the “to be” verb, I have to say that THERE ARE may situations in life where words just won’t do; where only a facial expression suffices.  Sort of similar to those moments in The Office, where Michael does something embarrassingly ridiculous, and Jim turns to the camera, looking for some semblance of validation or perhaps, just a witness.  I often refer to these moments as “Muppet Face” times, when I cannot or will not find words to describe how I feel, but only communicate with my expression.  It’s usually when I can’t believe something has reached a certain level of stupidity, or when a person is so rude or foolish, I need to allow for a quiet pause, to let the universe recognize and account for the situation at hand.  Waitressing is superb for this, and offers up many opportunities for Muppet Face.

Anyway, I needed to bring this to the table of recognition that is my blog. I am sure I’ll be referencing Muppet Face quite often. So there ya go.  Grainy picture, but a tribute to the fact that we all have a Miss Piggy in our life that brings out that Kermit smushed grimace.

words can't do what the face can.

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just a long night. a really, really long night.

Just had one of the longest nights of my life at the restaurant.  Not worst night, not busiest night, not deadest night, not most terrible, just long.  The time between 4pm-6pm felt like five hundred years.  When it was 7:06 I felt like the universe was playing some sort of cruel joke on all of us. I kept wondering why it wasn’t getting dark outside yet. Sometimes I think me waitressing makes complete sense.  It’s natural, I’m good at it, I like people, I like the fact that I bring people heavy plates of pasta and meat covered in cheese, and they are happy, seemingly, for the moment. (Can’t really get deeper than that.)  Then other times I completely spaz out and think I might not be able to handle another solitary moment of the torture of serving people food. Of having to apologize for being out of something as if it were my home I was entertaining these goodnatured guests, and Yes I’m sorry we’re out of lemonade, yes we have no blender tonight, no we have no root beer, we’re out of gnocci, straws and bread.   Sometimes I’m way overenthusiastic; other times I can barely keep my disgusted Muppet face from showing as I walk away.  Bad tippers,  people who leave baby wipes on the table, people who think it’s ok for their children to be rude, or perhaps they don’t realize…at the end of the night it’s all good.  Add it to my character.

she's not even holding the tray right

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you asked for it…

sometimes we need to hear it?

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the answer

I felt great trepidation about my train trip to Virginia this past week.  Having only somewhat lukewarm–bad experiences with Amtrak in the past, and sort of ridiculous memories only blown up by time of great train memories in Europe ten+ years ago…I wasn’t up for a great review.  But— I will hand it to Amtrak; it wasn’t bad at all.  My trains were all on time, workerpeople were nice, nothing went awry. Nothing that was the train’s fault.

Had a wonderful visit with my dear friend.  Short escapes from real life are more and more needed as time goes on.

And…the watched pot did boil. The answer was not to my liking, but I’m going to be ok*

Even though I’m making a Muppet face right now.

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Cape Cod, August 2011

words to follow.  Just this for now…enjoy. love

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watching the damn pot

Yes, idioms exist for a reason.

As much as I don’t like to admit it, I’ve been changed by modern technology.  Doesn’t fit well with my adult ADD.  Or, should I say, it fits perfectly with it. Fact is, I can’t NOT check things that can be checked, on a regular basis. If I’m in the middle of a conversation, whether it be by email, text, whatever, and I don’t get an answer to some question, well, I can’t stop checking.

Checking checking checking checking.

Damn the stupid email subscriptions I’m subscribed to because I didn’t notice I clicked “yes”

Damn the people who sold my information to others and set me up with stupid healthy living updates on stuff I don’t care about.  It’s not pertinent to why I keep refreshing my email.

But, it’s another lesson in some sort of reminder as to why I need to slow down and refocus.  After I check this pot of water.

f-ing patience

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can’t undo it

I’m trying to write a letter to someone right now, and it’s proving to be one of the most difficult things I’ve done in a while.  I spend a lot of my time advising others on being effective with words, and I’m embarrassed to be so stuck.

I guess, to be fair to myself, it’s because I’m trying to say something to someone that I’ve never said before. And I have absolutely no idea how my words will be received.  I decided I can handle any outcome, and I’m anxious to learn what will follow, but I can’t seem to finish the thing.  I’ve asked friends for advice, I’ve tried to just pour my heart onto the page, I’ve revised drafts…and I’m still stuck.  I’ve even Googled for help.  But Google doesn’t have my answer this time.

Once it’s written, it’s written.  And once it’s sent, I can never take it back.  We shall see.

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