Not Without My Decor

Curtains Have I Made
A set of curtains I’ve made

I’m feeling possessive of my curtains.  Paranoid might actually be a more accurate descriptor.  We’re getting ready to move again in a few months & my anxiety has decided to fixate on whether or not we’ll be taking them with us to the new place.

I’m sure that sounds like a small petty thing; maybe it is.  Let me explain it a little better.  We moved around a lot when I was a kid—not military-family a lot but as my parents’ jobs & finances changed, we inevitably found a new place every 3-5 years.  We never took the curtains with us & to this day, I don’t know why.  Maybe they didn’t want to deal with the hassle of taking down the rods & hardware & putting it up at another place.  Maybe there are super secret real estate arrangements that hinge on whether or not a family willingly gives up their window dressings.  Maybe my parents have some heretofore unknown superstition about carrying draperies (& by extension bad luck) from one dwelling to another.

I don’t know & for the most part, it was just a thing I didn’t get to have a say in, like the moving.  It didn’t really bother me until I got older, had a job, & was able to spend my own meager income on decorative things.  We moved into one house where the owner had left behind her own drapes in some of the rooms.  (Why?!  What is the reasoning?)  These were blackout drapes that were coated in cat fur near the top.  I was working at a linens store at the time & I spent a couple of weeks looking at what I liked & comparing prices, before finally settling on green panels & long gauzy white swags.  It would hardly make House Beautiful but I had ambitious dreams & a minimum wage budget, so I made it work.

A few years later, it was time to move again.  And when I brought up how I was trying to figure out how to pack the curtains, my mom told me I couldn’t take them because, they weren’t included in the contract.  HUGE fight followed: I’m screaming that I bought them with my own money & my mom yelling back that she’s not going back to the realtor to dicker over curtains.

When I finally moved out on my own, I didn’t take any curtains & lived in different rented places for seven years with just blinds & nothing else.  And then, my husband & I moved to our current place & I loosened up a bit.  There were no pre-existing blinds, the Target curtains we bought were flimsy & we had some drafts coming in through the windows, & I was learning how to sew. . . so I made curtains.  Nothing too fancy, just repurposed sheets that were on sale but they made me happy & they were pretty. . . & now we’re getting ready to move again.  And I don’t want to leave these behind too.

So I guess it’s time to grow up & ask why we always left the curtains behind.  At the very least, I still have the cheapie Target curtains; I’d have no problem leaving those for strangers.

Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: The White Album

The White AlbumThe White Album by Joan Didion

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The White Album: a collection of essays by Joan Didion covering a phase of disillusionment she suffered in her thirties with the upheavals of the American 1960s & the paranoia of the 70s as its narrative backdrop.

This book proves to me that sometimes a book or an author just has to come to you at the right time. I had previously read Blue Nights & found myself underwhelmed with much of it. I picked up Album partially because some of it had shown up in an episode of You Must Remember This & partially because I felt ready to give Didion a second chance. As I read further, I found myself deeply empathetic to Didion’s bewilderment of living in a time where violence & chaos seemed part of everyday life, mistrust underscored every relationship & experience, & with Didion’s own confusion about what her role was supposed to be in her developing family & Californian community. Her words were a odd comfort to me, a conflicted thirty-something trying to figure out how to get through the current troubles racking American society in 2017.

Even the essays which would seem dated today, like the development of the first HOV lane or reflections on the lofty ambitions that created the Hoover Dam or the Governor’s Mansion built by the Reagans before they left for the White House, have fascinating connections to today’s crumbling infrastructure, the rogue Park Service’s struggle to maintain public lands, & the hollow display of wealth in American politics. Reading Didion’s subjects also emerged, to me, as a clearer influence on Claire Vaye Watkins & helped me understand some of Gold Fame Citrus better. (Although, there is some very clear class conflict that Didion recognizes but is unable or uninterested in pursing further.)

Because of these personal associations with reading The White Album, I can’t promise that another reader will have the same epiphanic moments as myself. But I do think that the collection is still powerful & will move readers in unexpected ways.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: The Bone People

The Bone PeopleThe Bone People by Keri Hulme

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A deeply impressionistic novel about three outcasts in New Zealand who find each other & slowly grow into a family.

From now on, if anyone asks me for stuff similar to Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, Bone People will be my first recommendation. There are some basic plot similarities, such as the intersections between European & Maori, urban & rural/Aboriginal lifestyles. There is also a child in danger & a community around it that knows about the trouble but has convinced itself to look the other way. But where Lake gestures to the metaphysical, People fully incorporates mystical influence into its story, making the story seem more like another iteration of a folk tale or mythological story. Echoes abound in Bone People, especially around the character Simon, & creates plenty of tension & wariness simply by hinting at or distorting what is or isn’t said. (I spent a good portion of the book suspecting Joseph of even worse actions than what is portrayed.)

To sum up, a language-heavy book that excels more at atmosphere than plot. Kerewin never totally overcomes her perfect persona tendencies & Joseph’s redemption is a little too pat, but the author’s artistry is still compelling.

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Books, Thoughts

Off the Shelf: A Bride’s Story, vol. #1

A Bride's Story, Vol. 1 (A Bride's Story, #1)A Bride’s Story, Vol. 1 by Kaoru Mori

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A historical fiction manga set in 19th century Central Asia near the Caspian Sea. The story follows 20-year-old Amir Halgal who is married into the Eihon family to 12-year-old Karluk. Amir strives to do right by her new family & fulfill her duties as a wife & daughter-in-law. But trouble is on the horizon as Amir’s family contemplates reneging on the bridal agreement & marrying Amir to another clan.

The first volume of A Bride’s Story sets the tone for an atmospheric, leisurely-paced story that lovingly recreates period details such as the craftsmanship of building a house or the importance of a herd of sheep to a nomadic tribe. This measured pace allows curious readers to get comfortable with the unfamiliar setting & characters. With that said, Amir, in this volume, seems a little too perfect. She is respectful to her new in-laws & considerate of others, quick-witted, an excellent hunter, able to flawlessly make fancy clothing & is in no way upset about being married to a pre-teen boy. Then again, this is the same artist that produced Emma: A Victorian Romance which suffered with a similar “perfect” protagonist that everyone loved. It also took this reader some getting used to the idea that this beautiful accomplished woman was often thought of as too old or inferior in regards to her status as a marriageable asset. I’m not saying I misunderstand the context of time & culture–just that the tonal disparity blunted my interest in reading further. Perhaps I will pick up this series again at a later time because I was very curious in the world Mori creates.

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Break That In For Ya?

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Broken Brim Hats

There is one obvious clue that admits daily my redneck background–the curve of the brims on my caps.  A tight arch that narrows one’s vision & draws direct attention to one’s eyes when they’re looking in your direction.  That narrow curve is the only way to wear caps, as far as I’m still concerned, & whenever I see someone wearing it differently, I have to bite my lip to keep from saying, “Hey hon, can I break that in for ya?”

Flashback to high school biology class, where boys seemed to outnumber the girls.  I sat in the very back with other slacker kids who didn’t want to be there.  (I was a fake, a girl who typically got good grades slumming with “the bad kids”.)  One knot of five guys near the front were all rednecks who were polite to the teacher but occasionally did chew in class & never ever took off their hats.  Big guys that sometimes were on sports teams but more often than not went off to the vocational wing after lunch & who did not seem to give a shit about a single thing–grades, their life past school, underage drinking, bringing a knife to school.

If I had been born a boy, I probably would have actually tried to fit in with these guys, my dreams of genderbending artistic androgyny aside.  (But then again, Perry Farrell once said that that part of what he was doing was trying to get guys like rednecks interested in looking past gender norms so maybe this is an easy internal conflict to understand?  It’s easy to say what could have been when you look back at an imagined life.)

But there was one guy in my class who was kind of in-between cliques just like me, except he sat a little higher on the popularity scale because he was actually good-looking.  He knew the redneck guys by name, somehow wore black cowboy boots in my woodsy Virginia town without looking tacky, &, later admitted, watched the same sci-fi/fantasy TV shows as me.  How did he do this?  I did not know but I became obsessed with the curve of his hat.  Because he could essentially put on a camouflaged cap with the mandatory fish hook tietack slid on the right side of the brim & just be that guy, the guy with the loud drawl & the cigarettes in his shirt pocket who was gonna be rowdy & say what he wanted & did not care–unless someone in charge was around.

2016-06-20 16.06.27
Caps (B&W)

And so, one day before class began, after a few weeks of preparatory small talk & flirting, I asked him the secret–how to get the perfect bend to a capbill.  I had tried unsuccessfully on hats of my own & they often just looked beat up or crooked.  “Are you serious?” he asked, “You’re really curious about my hat?”  I don’t even know what lame answer I came up with but, yes, yes, I admitted, tell me about your hat.

What followed was like some secret male recipe of cool: fold the bill up & down in half  symmetrically until it breaks, shove the folded bill into the band in the back as far as it will go, then stick it in the freezer for a day or two.  After you take it out & thaw it, you can either wear as is or sleep with it under your mattress until you’re satisfied with the curve.

I felt like I had gotten some glimpse into a world that I would never really traverse & perhaps this is why I still wear my hats this way.  The sensation is a familiar one, something I think I’ve written about often–a girl on the outside looking into the boys’ world & trying to decode its’ symbols.  I come across one & uncover some small meaning & take it away to wear as an accessory of triumph.  No wonder the trappings of femininity are still alien to me–I’ve rarely applied the same interest to other girls.

Inspired by The Daily Post topic “Curve”