Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

image of toy dinosaursMy Darling B and I spent the afternoon shopping for clothes. And here’s just one more reason I have to believe she’s the perfect match for me: We both feel that the only thing more painful than shopping for clothes is getting run over by a train. Wait, no: Shopping for a car is probably more painful. I’m pretty sure she’d be with me on that one, too.

Shopping for clothes can never be over and done with quickly enough. Even when I know exactly what I want, and I know exactly where it should be in the store, and the store just happens to have it in my size, it will still take me at least an hour and a half to drive to the store, go into the store, grab the clothes I want, pay for the clothes, get out of the store and drive home. An hour and a half of my weekend is a lot more time than I’m willing to give up for anything but the things I enjoy doing, or absolutely must do.

Unfortunately, we had both put off buying clothes for so long that I was down to the last pair of pants that were good enough to wear in mixed company. I had a few not-so-grubby ones that I could still wear in public, but only if I knew I wouldn’t be going anyplace fancier than the hardware store, or to a place where I knew the lights wouldn’t be very strong, like a corner tavern, or a dungeon. B was in a somewhat similar fix. Looking for new clothes had become something we absolutely had to do, so, with gritted teeth, we saddled up and headed across town to the Hilldale Mall.

B had the idea that she could get what she wanted at Macy’s. That turned out to be wrong, mostly. I think she said she found a handbag there that was exactly what she was looking for, “but I can get it cheaper on the internet.” It turned out she was totally wrong about that. The one at Macy’s was a steal. Well, maybe not exactly a steal, but more affordable than any she could find on teh intarwebs. Now she’ll have to go back.

Macy’s had a pleasant surprise in store (accidental pun) for me: Pants by Dockers. Lots of stores carry Dockers, but never in my size. In fact, I think it’s a state law that Dockers can sell pants in Wisconsin only if they have a waist no smaller than 40 inches. If you’d ever been to the Monroe Cheese Festival, you’d know why. But Macy’s must have been granted a waiver, or somebody goofed up the order, because they had two pairs of Dockers pants in a 33 waist, and I snapped them both up. Didn’t even care that they were priced at fifty-eight bucks apiece. I had to have them. Weirdly, when I checked out, the guy scanned the price tag, then got a little sheet of bar code stickers out of his cash register, peeled one off and placed it on the price tag over the original bar code and scanned it again. He did the same thing to the other pair of pants. I got them both for seventy-something bucks total, so there must have been an unadvertised sale going on. Score!

But the shoe selection at Macy’s was dismal, nothing but very stylish dress shoes, and running shoes. What I really needed was a pair of walking shoes, so I left the store by the main entrance to see what the rest of the mall had to offer and came face to face with a North Face store. That’s too many faces to be coincidental. And besides, North Face wouldn’t sell crappy shoes to hikers, right? So I barged right in and asked the first salesperson I ran into about walking shoes.

She wanted to sell me a pair of flashy running shoes, all shiny silver trimmed with traffic yellow. “Have you got a good walking shoe I could also wear if I wanted to stop into a nice place for a drink?” I asked her. “Something, um, normal-looking?” And indeed she did, a nice all-terrain shoe with leather uppers. She even had it in my size.

Back at the mall, My Darling B was having no luck at all searching for jeans or shirts among the available clothes. She wasn’t doing much better with the shoes. There was one pretty good shoe store at the mall, but a dozen or so people were competing for face time with the few salesmen on staff, so she gave up on that. We regrouped outside Macy’s to discuss our options and she decided to try one more time down the other way, while I amused myself in the toy store. They had dinosaurs. There’s still no toy better than a toy dinosaur.

Eventually, we had to make a trip to the Kohl’s store right down the road from the neighborhood where we live to find some jeans she could live with. They’ve got sparklies on the butt, but I guess she’s okay with that. I’ve never seen her with sparklies on her butt before. It’s a new thing for me. Maybe a good thing. I’ll have to think about it a while.

sparklies | 6:06 pm CST
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Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

image of video tape The Quiet Man

Every Saturday morning for at least a month, maybe two, I’ve been picking over the VHS tapes on the shelves of the Saint Vincent de Paul thrift store looking for a copy of The Quiet Man, John Ford’s mash note to Ireland, and every weekend I’ve been disappointed. The shelves are loaded down with hundreds of tapes every time I visit, but mostly with newer movies, and usually crap like Mission: Impossible 7 or whatever the latest sequel is. It takes a lot of picking to find a golden oldie like The Quiet Man and they’re so rare it’s easy to get discouraged, but I keep looking because just about the time I lose heart and start to believe the thrift store tape aisle has finally become sequel hell, I run across a classic.

The Quiet Man has, however, long eluded me.

Until yesterday, when I was walking up State Street and I noticed a Goodwill store that I hadn’t seen there before. It might be a new store or, more probably, it has always been there and I just haven’t been paying attention. A glance through the window told me there was a big bin of VHS tapes on sale, so I stepped inside and got to work shuffling through them. And what do you know: There was a copy of The Quiet Man at the bottom of the last bin. The search was over. I raised a note of thanks to the muse of thrift, then presented myself with my new prize at the checkout.

“They’re two for one,” the cashier told me. “Go ahead and pick out another one.”

I almost told him I was so happy finding this I didn’t really want another one, but I don’t like to refuse hospitality, even in a thrift store, so I went back to the bin and came away with a copy of Ocean’s Eleven, the George Clooney version, not the Dean Martin version.

“Seven ninety-five,” the cashier announced, after totaling it up. I thought that was a bit much, but I’d been looking for this movie for a while so I didn’t argue. After handing me my change the cashier hesitates a moment, pointed to my hat and asked, with a ring of doubt in his voice, “You bought that here, right?”

Most of my hats look like thrift-store bargains, so I could understand why he might’ve thought that. “No,” I answered, “I came in wearing that.”

“Really?” he said, and started fumbling in his pockets, finally bringing out a set of keys that he used to unlock the cash register.

Then the light went on for me. (I’m kind of slow sometimes.) “Did you charge me for the hat?” I chuckled.

“Yeah,” he said. ”I’m really sorry.” He really was, too, acting as if he’d just done something unforgivably rude and was worried I’d make a huge stink about it.

“No worries,” I told him as he handed my money back to me. After voiding the first transaction and ringing it up again the two movies came to a buck fifty, making my beat-up straw hat worth about five and a half bucks at thrift store prices. And now I know that, the next time I get a hat to wear while I’m working in the yard, I should find one at the thrift store, because buying new cost me five times that.

Hats Off! | 12:14 pm CST
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Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Here’s one that’ll take me a little while to live down, at least in my own mind: My Darling B and I go to a group dance class each Tuesday and Thursday night. It sounds like a lot, but each class is only forty-five minutes and it goes by so quickly that it’s over just as we’re getting warmed up and feeling the urge to keep on going all night long.

I think we’ll probably be going on Monday nights, too. The schedule just changed and on Mondays they’ll be teaching some swing steps. We’ll need to learn as many steps as we can between now and the night of the hangar dance at the airport on July 31st. Right now we can do a grand total of two steps, and I can twirl B in circles a lot. That’s not going to get us very far.

But back to last night: As I said, the schedule just changed and Tuesday nights they started teaching waltz steps. This is a huge deal because I just love to waltz. The other dances are just fine, and I believe I had almost as much fun as B did learning salsa steps, but when we start waltzing I don’t want to stop. I think the last time I had that much fun was when I was learning to fly. The two are pretty much the same thing, as far as I can tell. Waltzing gets me just as high, and there’s no danger of crashing and burning.

We must have left the house to get to last night’s lesson too early, or traffic was much lighter and much faster than usual, because we ended up at the dance studio about fifteen minutes before the class started, so after changing into our dance shoes B and I stepped into the back room to warm up a little.

B bought herself a pair of dance shoes after the second or third lesson. She was already well down the road of becoming a dance nerd, although she has yet to order a pair of heels. She says she’s going to sew a ball gown this winter, too, and has already spied out a pattern. Photos to follow, promise.

I held off buying dance shoes until last week, not because I wasn’t totally devoted to learning to dance but because I’m a great big cheapskate. I already have a pair of shoes, what do I need another pair for? I’ll tell you what I need them for: I need soft, lightweight dance shoes so I don’t mash all ten toes of every dance partner at the studio to jelly. I’m sure there’s a limit to how many times they’ll put up with a pummeling from my size-twelves with patented Vibram soles, no matter how bravely they smile and assure me, “That’s all right.” Bravery is routine to women who will dance with beginners, particularly a salsa.

For our warm-up I led B through a couple basic turning box steps, an underarm turn, a crossover or two, and then, when I tried a cross-body lead, it fell apart at the end so completely that we couldn’t start up again and ended up just standing there, unable to pick up the beat. The expression on B’s face said, What the hell just happened? so vividly that we both broke down laughing.

“Okay, let’s try that again,” I said, thinking it was just a fluke and we would be able to glide right through it once we got going. It was such a simple step, and we’ve done it so many times, that surely we could fly easily through it again.

But no. I led her into it, she came to the turn, and when I stepped around to pick her up we were both out of step and couldn’t sync up again. Bizarre.

“We did this just last night,” B chuckled. “We shouldn’t have forgotten it by now.”

So we tried once more, and once more it fell apart at the end. This isn’t a hard step, and we’re two fairly intelligent people. We should have been able to figure this out, but no matter how we tried to break it down we couldn’t quite find the point where we lost it.

As we were about to give up and move on, Christopher, our regular instructor, popped into the back room. He was working with another couple out on the studio floor but would have been able to see us through the French doors and apparently couldn’t bear to watch us dork up this one simple step any longer. Or, to hit the dork squarely on the head, he couldn’t bear to watch me mess it up. The first rule of ballroom dancing is, Mistakes are the guy’s fault. He leads the dance, after all. I’m not sure how fully I agree with that, but in this case at least it carried plenty of weight.

“You’ve got to bend your arm,” he told me, giving a quick demonstration before he dashed back into the studio by lowering his left arm, then crooking his elbow. This is the signal from the gentleman to the lady that they’re about to start the cross-body lead. I’d been lowering my arm but I’d been keeping it ramrod straight, not bending it. Could the answer to our problem be that simple?

His laser-sharp eye had zeroed in on exactly the one part of our dance that would put everything right. As we stepped through half a box I dropped my arm, tucking it back by bending my elbow, and B glided effortlessly through the turn. Hey! It works! To make sure it wasn’t a fluke we tried it again, and again we pulled it off without a hitch.

How could I have missed that? Won’t miss it again, though.

The Secret | 9:09 am CST
Category: entertainment | Tags: , ,
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