Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Come Fly With Me!

Hey everybody! Welcome back to the virtual existence. I had a happy holiday and I hope you did too. I actually went away from the house, far away, and came back jet-lagged, yet refreshed. Let's review.

First, there was the tree. If it were up to me, I would completely ignore Christmas as much as humanly possible. In fact, I would convert to Judaism and be done with Christmas once and for all (and also because Judaism makes a lot more sense to me than Christianity, although deep down, Buddhism seems to make the MOST sense to my particular sensibilities--and the conversion process is less lengthy besides). Where was I? Oh yes, the tree. I have a nine-year-old who LOVES Christmas. He loves the lights. He loves Santa Claus (even though he doesn't believe as of this year *sniff*). But he especially loves getting presents, so dang it, there WILL be a tree in our living room, come Christmas time. Otherwise--where would we place the presents?

This year we were leaving on Christmas day to visit family and friends on the East Coast. So the tree had to go up a little earlier. No problem. Our nearby Orchard Supply Hardware had an excellent selection of affordable firs. Here is the first ornament I ever made as an adult living on my own:

Candy was eaten long before box was made into an ornament
This ornament, consisting of an empty box of Atomic Fire Ball candies, hung by a red ribbon, was first hung in San Francisco during my very early 20s. My roommates wouldn't chip in to help buy a tree that year (I was very poor and apparently so were they, having blown their waitressing and au pair profits on cocaine). So I used a wooden ladder that I found alongside our apartment building, and made a bunch of ornaments out of stuff I found around the house. This is the lone surviving ornament from that time.

If you hang some lights and homemade ornaments on an old wooden ladder propped up in your bay window as the fog horns blawmp the night away, it's actually quite festive. Although, truthfully, I set up the Christmas ladder as a sarcastic rejoinder to my chintzy roommates. They got me back though by loving it and telling me what a great idea. I'm always surprised to find this ornament at the bottom of my ornament bin. I guess I have a hard time letting go of the atomic-age past.

Then what happened? Well, I visited an old friend from high school/college who lives nearby but who I hardly ever get to see. I bet you have friends like that too. Before we left on our trip, I vowed to make super-human efforts to see her and I'm so glad I did. Kim and her family have lived a sustainable small-footprint existence for decades, before that was considered fashionable. She has a lovely garden and lovely compost heaps and a house made from straw bales and plaster. Plus an impressive chicken coop that's populated by some awesome chickens. Take a look at this beauty:

Awesome Chicken
I love photos of chickens--don't know why. I just love birds in a framed context in general. Birds are ancient and interesting creatures. All these chickens lay brown eggs and one shy hen (not pictured) had a crest of feathers that looked like an older lady's best church hat. That's awesome.

What a looker! And she knows it
On Xmas day we headed east and made our way to my mother-in-law's in Stonington, Connecticut. Where is that, you ask. It's right up the street from Mystic. I'm sure you've seen Julia Roberts' first feature film, "Mystic Pizza." Everyone on planet Earth has mysteriously seen this movie. Here's what Mystic looks like in the movie:

And here's what the Mystic Seaport looked like, back in the late 50s, when these home movies by the late Robbins Barstow were shot (Mystic starts around 1:30). Sixty years later, the seaport looks basically the same.

Truth be told, much of the area looks similar to when it was first inhabited by ship builders and commercial fishermen, starting in 1649. My in-laws have interesting taste in their geographical headquarters. You can also see other choice areas of New England in this video, including what looks like the beach at Watch Hill, Rhode Island, set to Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers' song, "New England."

Where my mother-in-law lives, tiny beach cottages sit alongside over-sized second homes built by city-folk. Her street consists of mostly modest homes, some original from the 40s; others rebuilt to new hurricane codes. Every once in a while, someone comes along and tries to shove their McMansion development into a small lot, with an ocean view, of course. Sometimes they get their way, unfortunately.

But forget about them. Let's look at a dock with a wind-chill factor of sometimes mega proportions.

This little beach is down the street from my lovely mother-in-law's house and it's perfect for kayaking during the summer. In the winter--it looks pretty, but don't touch--you'll shiver.

There's frickin' big rocks in Stonington. All over New England, there's rocks galore, but Stonington is especially rock-laden. Hopeful and obsessive original settlers built land-ownership fencing made entirely from rocks from their properties and these walls are still standing throughout the area. Weird, because they're perfect fences held together without concrete or supports.

A big fallen tree, washed up on Trestle Beach. This beach is full of seashells (mostly colorless and ugly but there's some nice scallops). It runs alongside the train tracks and if you have any toddlers in your party, they will surely find that thrilling.

Our friend Jen in New Jersey decorated her house festively with olden-days Christmas decor and what's nice about that, besides it being old-timey, sparkly and nostalgic, is that most all of it came from her grandmother's collection. Authentic Christmas memories.

I'm sorry but I have to include this tie I found at the Goodwill near Westerly, Rhode Island. Yes, you are seeing a guy sitting on flying toilets, while plungers and toilet paper sail forth alongside him. Fascinating!

The tie was designed by After Dark--the Macintosh screen-saver people who brought us flying toasters throughout the early 90s. Glad they trademarked the flying toilets--wouldn't want someone stealing this flash of fashion brilliance. I didn't buy this tie. Even I have my kitsch limits.

Who wants an Utz potato-chip treat? Om num num num. (According to someone's Internet list, "yum" is out but "om num num" is in--I'm starting out the new year right on trend.)

By the way, whoopee cushions make fabulous stocking stuffers.

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