Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Art of Playing Dolls

Do little girls actually play dolls anymore?  I know that my daughter didn't, but then again, she has always been very grounded in reality and not much given to flights of fancy.  I was heavy into doll playing, from about the age of 5 or 6 up through near puberty. Not baby dolls, mind you, too dull.  Shirley Temple and Betsy McCall were the dolls I played when I wanted girlish heroines, and Barbie when I wanted someone older. My sister and I got matching Shirley Temple dolls one year for Christmas.  One of them was dressed as Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm, complete with gray and white striped overalls with a straw hat.
The other was dressed as Heidi, and wore a dress with a red skirt.  They both had lovely ringlets, but we soon remedied that.  It didn't take long before the curls were gone, each doll sporting a new haircut.  We never named them.  They were stock players in our daytime dramas, and their names and personalities would change depending on the situation.  My Shirley ended up with short hair, so she usually played a boy's role.  She lost her hair in a bathroom incident.  I had taken her into the bathroom with me, and had rested her against the space heater for a minute...or two.  It didn't take long for the heater to turn her hair into a melted, matted mess.  My mother, in a fit of pique (she had a lot of those back in those days), took a pair of scissors to her, and she wound up looking quite butch. We had a small Betsy McCall doll. She was made of a brittle plastic, and did not have the typical plastic joints, although her knees did bend.
After a while, her legs were so loose that they practically dangled from the hip sockets.  So she became the perennial invalid.  Enraptured as I was at that age with the story of Heidi, she became our Clara, confined to an invalid's bed converted from an old Easter basket. Our friend Carol from down the street played with my sister and me most days.  Carol was a great doll player.  Her dolls' characters were always the brattiest and the bitchiest.  We didn't even have to ask her to make them bratty and bitchy - she just did it  naturally.  Her characters' cruelty to the invalid Betsy always roused our ire.  When we switched it up and played with the Barbies, the melodrama was kicked into high gear. (I had a classic ponytail Barbie, at least she started out that way. Ever the curious one, I thought she would look better wearing long blonde tresses like Mary Travers.  Imagine my horror when I discovered that her hair was only rooted around the hairline, leaving a huge bald spot that covered almost her entire head.  I was finally able to twist her locks into a tight bun that I affixed with a straight pin to the top of her skull. No collectors' item there.)
Carol provided the love interests - one Ken doll
and one GI Joe borrowed from her younger brother.
GI Joe was uglier than Ken, but what he lacked in appearance he made up for in agility.  Oh, the infidelities and the intrigue! I don't think anything good or useful came out of those experiences, and our mothers would have probably been both horrified and amused had they taken the time to listen to us.  Fortunately they did not. (Thanks to ebay for the pix! Sorry, Joe, I hate to embarrass you with the full frontal nudity, but it was the only way to display your superior physique.)

Thursday, January 12, 2012


When I think about comfort food, the first thing that comes to mind is pot pie.  I have loved pot pies ever since the days when my mother would serve us classic Banquet pot pies, baked to perfection in their little aluminum foil pans.  She would always buy an assortment - chicken, turkey, and beef - in my mind, the chicken was the best, with turkey running a close second.  I loved the crust, and on those occasions when she would skimp and buy the pot pies that only had the top crust, I was heartily disappointed.   I had a certain way of eating the pot pie:  I would wait until it was cool enough to touch, then I would quickly flip it upside down on my plate, trying to remove the entire pie from the pan without breaking the crust.  Then I would carefully break into the bottom crust (that was now on top) and watch the gravy ooze out before I would begin to eat it, always making sure to have a little bit of crust and a little bit of gravy in each mouthful.  It did not matter to me that there weren't many vegetables in the pie (heavens, no!), or that the pieces of meat were practically microscopic.  To me, the whole story was the savory goodness of the gravy and the crust.

It wasn't until this year, however, that I actually tried to make a pot pie myself.  (I don't know why I never tried it sooner, but I will admit that laziness played a part.)  I had bought a turkey much larger than usual for Thanksgiving this year, and I had quite a bit of turkey left over, so  my thoughts naturally turned to possible uses for leftover turkey.  I considered turkey soup, but when I spied a recipe online for turkey pot pie, I knew immediately what I must do. I finally got around to making it a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving.  The picture above shows the result, and I am here to testify that it was every bit as good as it looks.  No, I did not make the pastry crusts myself - I am perfectly satisfied with the store bought variety.  I had saved some of the turkey broth also, which made a fine gravy. (Here is the recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/turkey-pot-pie/)  I have made a vow to myself to continue this tradition.  Yes, I know that pot pies are BAD FOR ME.  But there are times in life when I just want to revert back to those comforting days when I had a Mom who would cook food for me, even if it just meant throwing something in the oven.  And for times like those, there's nothing that satisfies quite like a pot pie.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

people who take care of their things

Last night we spent New Year's Eve with some people who take care of their things.  They are a childless couple who work with my husband.  I don't know them very well, but am getting to know them a little better, and this is how I have chosen to think of them.  Their kitchen and bathroom are gleaming, immaculate expanses of marble, tile, and polished wood.  Their yard is a wonderland of perfectly coordinated and well trimmed woodland paths.  Their dogs are fluffy, clean smelling and well behaved.  I felt a bit glum as I thought back to my own cluttered house, remembering the Christmas mess that still lingers, the dirty floors, the dusty surfaces, the smelly dogs, and my old cat who pees wherever he damn well pleases (it's his version of wearing purple).

I remember an incident that happened when I was a young child.  I had a baby doll that I cared nothing for.  I carried her by her hair, what little of it remained, and her naked little vinyl body bore the scars of neglect - scratches and scuff marks from being stepped on, rolled over by the rocking chair, or ridden over on a trike.  One day the little girl next door asked if she could have her.  Sure, I said.  Take her.  The next day my friend showed up with my old doll in a new baby bed made from a shoe box, with a piece flannel carefully folded to make a mattress.  She carefully lifted baby from the bed and cradled her in her arms.  Baby was dressed in clothes for a change.  Her hair was combed.  Her body was clean.  Suddenly I felt a pang of regret.  How could I have given up something that was so precious?  I remember running home to my mom nearly in tears, and asking her how I could go about getting baby back, and I think my mom gave a stern rebuke accompanied by that old platitude about the grass always being greener on the other side of the fence (I wasn't sure how that applied in this case, but I did realize that if I were to get it back I would have to employ my own devices).  I don't remember how it all turned out.  In all likelihood I either bullied the girl into giving it back to me or traded her something truly worthless for it.  In either case, I think I did get the doll back somehow, and soon she was relegated once again to the heap of neglected toys.  Because the truth of the matter is, baby dolls never interested me that much.  What I envied was the happiness and contentment that other little girls derived from them. 

I bring this story up because it reminds me very much of how I react when I enter the homes of folks who truly love them and maintain them perfectly.  I always feel envious.  I do not necessarily wish that I owned the house or the furnishings.  I just wish I had a clean, neat, lovely house where everything was new and everything worked properly and everything was spic and span.  I'm no longer five years old, so these feelings of envy do not usually last very long.  Because I realize that I have exactly the house that I can tolerate.  When things get so bad that even I can't tolerate them, I generally do something about it.  I realize that what I truly dislike is the drudgery of keeping a house neat and clean and working properly.  And I also realize that although in theory I would enjoy having a beautiful home and yard, it would not bring me the same happiness and contentment that others derive from it.

Last night as I drifted off to sleep with my cat purring contentedly by my side, I looked around at our bedroom -- shoes littering the floor, a laundry basket of unfolded clothes perched on a stool, clutter on the dresser and the nightstand -- and sighed.  I guess I will be cleaning the house on Monday.  But I'm not going to beat myself up too much if I get distracted and decide to do something more interesting instead.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Times are tough all over

Just got back from the mountains of North and South Carolina, a country of beautiful vistas, gorgeous waterfalls and (at this time of the year) bright autumn leaves.  My husband and I stayed a couple of nights in Asheville, an oasis in the desert, in terms of being a bastion of progressivism in an otherwise conservative area.  It also seemed to be one of the few places with a thriving economy.  The rest of the region is horribly depressed right now, and I don't mean emotionally (although that may in fact be the case).  Another area that seemed to be doing all right for itself was Cherokee, located in the Cherokee Indian Reservation. I only say that because my memories of Cherokee date from nearly twenty years ago when we lived in Charlotte.  The only word that comes to mind when I think about the town back then is "crummy".  The town is still crummy, but maybe not as much as it was.  It's still littered with more moccasin stores than you can shake a stick at, although we did see one old guy, dressed in full Cherokee garb, apparently doing just that.  I was tempted to walk into one of the stores to see if the moccasins were bearing a "made in china" tag.  At any rate, the town has now been transformed by the presence of a huge hotel and casino complex that has actually brought in a number of other newer hotel chains to provide an alternative to the 1950's style motel courts that still seem to struggle on (one of these even offered "wi-fi" on a cardboard sign taped to the office window).  The casino and adjoining hotel were packed, by the way.  Still not much to choose from in the way of restaurants, however. Heading south of of Cherokee, the signs for "Hillbilly Bob's Flea Market" seemed to indicate the only commercial activity for miles - and when we finally passed it, it appeared to be shuttered and closed, perhaps for the season.  The towns of Highlands and Cashiers were posh spots, akin to Aspen or Jackson Hole, and they were bustling - proving that even in a tough economy the wealthy have to have a place to go.  Heading down into South Carolina, the road into Greenville provided perhaps the most depressing stretch of highway in the area.  Mile after mile of shuttered businesses and house trailers, with thrift shops and auto repair shops being about only signs of commerce. All in all, if you're looking to invest in a vacation home in the mountains of NC, I would highly recommend that you do so now - prices are low compared to several years ago, and I would suspect that the sellers would be willing to cut you a deal.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'm Mad as Hell and I'm Not Going to Take it Any More

I'm not thrilled about Occupy Wall Street, and it's not that I don't sympathize with the 99%  - after all, I am part of the 99%.  To me this movement represents the utter failure of our political and economic system, and in that respect it's not a good thing.  This is a "mad as hell" moment for America.  I've been waiting for such a moment for over 30 years, ever since this:

Now that it's here, I wish I could sit back and savor it.  I wish I felt like participating. Instead I just feel jaded and cynical.  This probably has a lot to do with my age, because I'm getting to the point where hardly anything has the capacity to either shock or inspire, but instead goes into a big bucket called called "miscellaneous bullshit". But I really do want to have some hope for our country, desperately, in fact. So, before tossing the OWS movement into the miscellaneous bullshit container, I am going to take a wait-and-see approach. This is my opinion, for what it's worth: to all those who are looking for some sort of coherent, effective political movement to arise from this, don't hold your breath.  The most that we can hope for is that the folks in congress get the drift of which way the wind is blowing and take some positive action.  Let's consult the Magic 8 Ball to see what it has to say about this.  Hmmm...."Don't count on it."  There you have it, straight from the Magic Orb.  I, on the other hand, in spite of the logic of the 8 Ball, would like to hope that some hearts and minds may be changed.   I guess I'm not so old that I've lost hope, however jaded I may be.

Friday, September 30, 2011

suppose we all start talking like this

This is a scene from the great film noir classic Double Indemnity, screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler. 

I gotta say, I love this witty repartee.  Now let's get real - I would bet a paycheck (right now that equals about zero, but nevertheless...) that people never talked like this, even back in those noir days of the late 40's/early 50's.  Clever dialog like this just doesn't happen in real life.  But wouldn't it be great if it did?

One Toke Over the Line - Part 2

A friend forwarded to me a photo of this delightful Hillbilly High Rise - I would live there myself if I could: