One More From Ben: ‘Confessions’

posted in: Art, Chicago, Word Nerd | 8
Sleep, city. Looking north from the Adams and Wabash el station. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

Remember last week, when I told you about 1001 Afternoons in Chicago?

I’m still reading it, meting out the remaining entries in Ben Hecht’s book so that the miracle will last as long as possible.

Last week, I shared an excerpt, and for tonight’s Sunday Evening Post, I’m going to share a full entry from the book. The piece is called Confessions. It’s one of the best things I have ever read, I think. The humanity, the specificity, the simplicity — it’s remarkable, at least to me. So I typed up the piece, just for you. I like to type up or write out longhand passages of writing written by far better writers than myself. Like a painting student copies a masterwork in order to learn how to paint, copying down other people’s writing is one small thing I do as a writer. It’s an interesting exercise because guess what? Great writers also have to actually write the word “the” in lots of places. They also have to decide, finally, how a piece should end. And begin. We’re all faced with the blank page. We’re all using the same words. We’re all human — right, Ben?

Maybe you think sharing another Hecht excerpt this week is a bit lazy. “This again?!” some of you might say, though I don’t think any of you will say that because you’re not the type. The thing is, it’s been a good but super intense weekend, I’m deep in preparation for QuiltCon (!), and I’m not feeling well. And so, I can either rest on the shoulders of giants and make us all happy, or paste together something mediocre for you and make us all sad. Not a tough call, really. I’m pretty sure I’ll post again this week; my sea legs are feeling stronger.

 

Confessions, by Ben Hecht, from 1001 Afternoons in Chicago, 1921.

The rain mutters in the night and the pavements like dark mirrors are alive with impressionistic cartoons of the city. The little, silent street with its darkened store windows and rain-veiled arc lamps is as lonely as a far-away train whistle.

Over the darkened stores are stone and wooden flat buildings. Here, too, the lights have gone out. People sleep. The rain falls. The gleaming pavements amuse themselves with reflections.

I have an hour to wait. From the musty smelling hallway where I stand the scene is like an old print — an old London print — that I have always meant to buy and put in a frame but have never found.

Writing about people when one is alone under an electric lamp, and thinking about people when one stands watching the rain in the dark streets, are two different diversions. When one writes under an electric lamp one pompously marshals ideas; one remembers the things people say and do and believe in, and slowly these things replace people in one’s mind. One thinks (in the calm of one’s study): “So-and-so is a Puritan … he is viciously afraid of anything which will disturb the idealized version of himself in which he believes — and wants other people to believe … “ Yes,m one thinks So-and-so is this and So-and-so is that. And it all seems very simple. People focus into clearly outlined ideas — definitions. And one can sit back and belabor them, hamstring them, pull their noses, expose their absurdities and derive a deal of satisfaction from the process. Iconoclasm is easy and warming under an electric light in one’s study.

But in the rain at night, in the dark street staring at darkened windows, watching the curious reflections in the pavements — it is different in the rain. The night mutters and whispers.

“People,” one thinks, “tired, silent people sleeping in the dark.”

Ideas do not come so easily or so clearly. The ennobling angers which are the emotion of superiority in the iconoclast do not rise so spontaneously. And one does not say “People are this and people are that … “ No, one pauses and stares at the dark chatter of the rain and a curious silence saddens one’s mind.

Life is apart from ideas. And the things that people say and believe in and for which they die and in behalf of which they invent laws and codes — these have nothing to do with the insides of people. Puritan, hypocrite, criminal, dolt — these are paper-thin masks. It is diverting to rip them in the calm of one’s study.

Life that warms the trees into green in the summer, that sends birds circling through the air, that spreads a tender, passionate glow over even the most barren wastes — people are but one of its almost too many children. The dark, the rain, the lights, people asleep in bed, the wind, the snow that will fall tomorrow, the ice, flowers, sunlight, country roads, pavements and stars — all these are the same. Through all of them life sends its intimate and sacred breath.

One becomes aware of such curious facts in the rain at night and one’s iconoclasm, like a broken umbrella, hangs useless from one’s hand. Tomorrow these people who are now asleep will be stirring, giving vent to outrageous ideas, championing incredulous banalitiies, prostrating themselves before imbecile superstitions. Tomorrow they will rise and begin forthwith to lie, quibble, cheat, steal, four flush and kill, each and all inspired by the solacing monomania that every one of their words and gestures is a credible variant of perfection. Yes, tomorrow they will be as they were yesterday.

But in this rain at night they rest from their perfections, they lay aside for a few hours they rest from their perfections, they lay aside for a few hours their paper masks. And one can contemplate them with a curious absence of indignation or criticism. There is something warm and intimate about the vision of many people sleeping in the beds above the darkened store fronts of this little street. Their bodies have been in the world so long — almost as long as the stones out of which their houses are made. So many things have happened to them, so many debacles and monsters and horrors have swept them off their feet … and always they have kept on — persisting through floods, volcanic eruptions, plagues and wars.

Heroic and incredible people. Endlessly belaboring themselves with ideas, gods, taboos, and philosophies. Yet here they are, still in this silent little street. The world has grown old. Trees have decayed and races died out. But here above the darkened store fronts lies the perpetual miracle … People in whom life streams as naive and intimate as ever.

Yes, it is to life and not people one makes one’s obeisance. Toward life no iconoclasm is possible, for even that which is in opposition to its beauty and horror must of necessity be a part of them.

It rains. The arc lamps gleam through the monotonous downporu. One can only stand and dream … how charming people are since they are alive … how caring the rain is and the night … And how foolish arguments are … how ban al are these cerebral monsters who pose as iconoclasts and devote themselves grandiloquently and inanely to disturbing the paper masks …

I walk away from the must smelling hallway. A dog steps tranquilly out of the shadows nearby. He surveys the street and the rain with a proprietary calm.

It would be amusing to walk in the rain with a strange dong. I whistle softly and reassuringly to him. He pauses and turns his head toward  me, surveying me with an air of vague discomfort. What do I want with him? … he thinks … who am I? … have I any authority? … what will happen to him if he doesn’t obey the whistle?

Thus he stands hesitating. Perhaps, too, I will give him shelter, a kindness never to be despised. A moment ago, before I whistled, this dog was tranquil and happy in the rain. Now he has changed. He turns fully around and approaches me, a slight cringe in his walk. The tranquility has left him. At the sound of my whistle he has grown suddenly tired and lonely and the night and rain no longer lure him. He has found another companionship.

And so together we walk for a distance, this dog and I, wondering about each other …

Stay: Ben Hecht, Chicago, Me, and You

posted in: Art, Chicago, Paean, Word Nerd | 23
Ben Hecht’s book, opened to the first full-bleed spread, with illos by Herman Rosse. This alone is reason own “1001”, but it gets better from here. Image from the Newberry Library here in town. Don’t be mad, I’m promoting books!

 

Today, a book interfered with all the work I was supposed to do. I’ll have to get up very early in the morning to catch up, but I don’t care. There was nothing I could do. Today, there could be nothing in the world — thank God — but this book, the delicate snowfall, and the pub where I sat, in the window, reading for two hours. The barstool I selected was inside Miller’s Pub, est. 1935, a Chicago institution, shielded and admired by the el at Wabash and Madison.

The book, A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago, started as a column in the Chicago Daily News 1920s. The author, Ben Hecht, is a name some of you might recognize, but if you do, I’ll bet it’s because Hecht achieved screenwriting stardom in Hollywood in the 1940s, writing or doctoring scripts a whole bunch of classic films. But before he decamped for Hollywood, Hecht was a dyed-in-the-wool Chicago newspaperman. He started writing for the dailies here when he was just 15, and he was good at what he did. What he did was write well about stuff that happened in the city he dearly loved.

Some years before the column began, Hecht left the News to work in publicity. He wanted to make more money and get away from the grind of reporting round the clock, so he went for it. He hated the publicity business, though, and was quickly miserable. His editor wanted him back and had an idea of how to get Hecht and keep him interested. He asked Hecht if he’d like to write a different sort of column for the News, one that explored the people of the city, but this time with a decidedly narrative tone. Hecht could interview people as he usually would, but then, rather than file a Q&A or a “This happened and this happened” piece of reportage, he’d have license to make the vignettes almost … poetic.

For years. In the preface to the 1922 book containing dozens of these “afternoon” characters — this is the book I couldn’t put down this afternoon — I learned that Hecht loved writing this new column so much, he’d do it when he was sick, tired, traveling, depressed, etc. He called the column “A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago” (a Scherezade riff, obviously) and he filed a column every day.

The humanity in these pieces is almost agonizing. Page after page of poignant, funny, achingly true portraits await you as the author tells Chicago through its people: prostitutes, auctioneers, homeless people, businessmen, shop girls, tattoo artists — this is all in the early 1920s, remember, but every single word is as true today as it ever was. People lose jobs and lose their families, they hope and dream, they forgive — sometimes they die, too. I was crying at the bar, trying to hide my face from the nice couple sitting to my left who were in Chicago for a nice weekend. I’m glad they didn’t ask me what I was reading; I would’ve rhapsodised and scared them away.

The book is funny and beautiful and I want to share an excerpt with you.

If you know me, you know I love Michigan Avenue. I walk up that grand boulevard and walk it all the way back down as much as I can and much more lately, since some days I just don’t know what to do with myself. On those days or any day besides, Michigan Avenue, from 9th Street to Delaware is my spinal column and it keeps me upright. So, imagine my rapture when I turned the page of Afternoons to find Hecht vignette about my street that was so right, so brilliant, so true, big, fat tears plopped onto the page as I read. There is no comfort like the comfort that comes when you see that you are known by someone who knew you before you were born.

Here is an excerpt from the “Michigan Avenue” piece from A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago, by Ben Hecht, 1921.

I have squandered an afternoon seduced from labors by this Pied Piper of a street. And not only I but everybody I ever knew or heard of was in this street, strutting up and down as if there were no vital projects demanding their attention, as if life were not a stern and productive routine.

[There] was no sign, no billboard to inspire me with a sense of duty. So we strutted—the long procession of us—a masquerade of leisure and complacency. Here was a street in which a shave and a haircut, a shine and a clean collar exhilarated a man with a feeling of power and virtue. As if there were nothing else to the day than to decorate himself for the amusement of others.

I begin to notice something. An expression in our faces as we drift by the fastidious ballyhoos of the shop windows. We are waiting for something—actors walking up and down in the wings waiting for the their cues to go on. This is intelligible. This magician of a street has created the illusion in our heads that there are adventure and romance around us.

There are two lives that people lead. One is the real life of business, mating, plans, bankruptcies and gas bills. The other is an unreal life—a life of secret grandeurs which compensate for the monotony of the days. Sitting at our desks, hanging on to straps in the street cars, waiting for the dentist, eating in silence in our homes—we give ourselves to these secret grandeurs. Day-dreams in which we figure as heroes and Napoleons and Don Juans, in which we triumph sensationally our the stupidities and arrogances of our enemies—we think them out detail by detail. Sometimes we like to be alone because we have a particularly thrilling incident to tell ourselves, and when our friends say good-by we sigh with relief and wrap ourselves with a shiver of delight in the mantles of imagination. And we live a charming hour through a fascinating fiction in which things are as they should be and we startle the world with our superiorities.

This street, I begin to understand, is consecrated to the unrealities so precious to us. We come here and for a little while allow our dreams to peer timorously at life. In the streets west of here we are what we are—browbeaten, weary-eyed, terribly optimistic units of the boobilariat. Our secret characterizations we hide desperately from the frowns of window and the squeal of “L” trains.

But here in this Circe of streets the sun warms us, the sky and the spaces of shining air lure us and we step furtively out of ourselves. And give us ten minutes. Observe—a street of heroes and heroines …

The high buildings waver like gray and golden ferns in the sun. The sky stretches itself in a holiday awning over our heads. A breeze coming  from the lake brings an odorous spice into our noses. Adventure and romance! Yes—and observe how unnecessary are plots. Here in the Circe of streets are all the plots. All the great triumphs, assassinations, amorous conquests of history unravel themselves within a distance of five blocks. The great moments of the world live themselves over again in a silent make-believe.

The afternoon wanes. Our procession turns toward home. For a few minutes the elation of our make-believe in the Avenue lingers. But the “L” trains crowd up, the street cars crowed up. It is difficult to remain a Caesar or a Don Quixote. So we withdraw and our faces become alike as turtle backs.

‘Do You Want To Talk?’

posted in: Day In The Life | 57
This is a pub in Britain. This is not where I went that night, nor were there flowers atop the bar I visited. It felt like there were! Image: Wikipedia.

 

I recently experienced the worst day of my life.

That’s saying something. I’ve lost people close to me. I’ve had organs removed, with complications. I went through a divorce. But this particular day was bad in a new way. That fresh hell was nowhere I wanted to be. When I can manage it, I’ll share with you as much as I can the series of events that lead up to the worst day of my life; for now, I’ll dump you right into the action, because the story I want to tell tonight begins there.

The worst day of my life culminated in a phone call. After that phone call, everything around me entirely drained of its color. Did you know the whole world is just a paint-by-numbers coloring book? On the worst day of my life, my pencil case, crayons, plastic sharpener, eraser — all of that was raptured, I guess. I was sitting in a white world with black lines and my body was shaking so hard I couldn’t have held a crayon if I wanted to.

The only thing I knew is that I had to leave the house, but I couldn’t like, be a person. I couldn’t manage carrying a purse, or charting a course, or having a plan. I always carry a purse. I always have a plan. I chart. But not on the evening of the worst day of my life. There in the endless, blank coloring book, I somehow got together my I.D. and the cash I had in my wallet. I put those things in the breast pocket of my brown wool coat, grabbed my phone and my keys, and left the building.

You know I love the Loop. “My endless Loop”, I call it, and it’s never let me down, so I went into the Loop and that’s where I walked. I don’t remember anything. Wait: I remember buying cigarettes. I know, I know. But don’t worry: I’m not smoking now. But on the worst day of my life, I definitely did. I walked and smoked in the Loop until I realized it was very cold and that I should go home, though I wasn’t sure why. What was there? Why not stay out?

When I turned south on Dearborn, the twinkly lights at the end of the street showed me the way. There. A plan. I was going to walk to those lights and have a drink at that nice-looking local pub that I had never gone into because … Well, I don’t know why I hadn’t ever been there. I just hadn’t. But I was going there now, alone, to drink something you need an I.D. to buy (check). That was the entire plan. It was unusual, which meant it fit with everything else that day, except this seemed like something I was choosing.

The pub was lively but not crowded. I took a seat at the bar. I ordered a shot of tequila and a beer.* Thus served, I did the salt-drink-suck thing (if you have to ask, you’ll never know) and just kind of stared at the television above the bar. My life didn’t feel real. My heart was wet concrete, dripping into my slush-soaked boots. There are times when you’re so happy, you “don’t have a care in the world.” But you can have the same feeling on the worst day of your life. You don’t have a care in the world because … who cares?

The man sitting next to me was alone, too. He was doing a crossword puzzle on his phone. He was wearing a stocking cap. He had a beard. He could’ve had a peacock nest on the top of his head and a clown suit on and I still would have done what I did because I didn’t have a care in the world, and what I did was turn to this person and say:

“Would you like to talk?”

He looked up at me.

“I’m not hitting on you. I’m not a weirdo. I just … You’re sitting alone and I’m sitting alone and we could have a conversation, you know, instead of doing the screen thing.”

He smiled. “I’d love to talk.”

So we did. We talked so well, in fact, that when we parted ways after about an hour and a half, we agreed that we should keep talking. And we have, which is pretty cool. And all I can say is that when you have the worst day of your life, you should definitely leave the house. Don’t take a purse. Don’t have a plan. Smoke cigarettes if you have to, but no matter what, tell the truth.

Tell the truth, and start from the beginning.

 

*Pro tip: If you’re ever buying me a shot, it’s tequila. Funny, since I’m a pasty Scots-Irish-Norwegian, but maybe my soul comes from someplace warmer. Also, Nick and I broke up over the holidays, in case you were wondering.

Wanna Sit By Me At Lunch? An ‘UnConference’ Report

posted in: Chicago, Day In The Life | 16
Kids at daycare.jpg
These kids don’t have enough agency to decide things about lunch. But they will. Image: Wikipedia.

 

I recently attended an unconventional conference — an “unconference”, as they call it.

The event was like nothing I had ever experienced and fostered both intellectual bliss and psychological discomfort. Thankfully, the bliss eclipsed the agony — but it was a close call there for a minute. Would you like to hear more? Excellent, because I have prepared more.

The conference was hosted by Google and some other very Google-y companies with which I am intimately familiar, but solely as a consumer. Before the conference, such companies were essentially faceless to me. I don’t have a cousin that works at Facebook, for example. I didn’t go to kindergarten with Elon Musk — and thank goodness, because I know he would’ve eaten my paste!

This year marked the 11th year of this thing. The 350 people who attended hopped on planes and trains and came from all over the country to get to Google’s Chicago headquarters. But those 350 people weren’t just any 350 people, oh ho! No, no: We were all on the list. Oh, yes. There was a list. Because whatever you want to call it — conference, unconference, think tank, nerd camp, slumber party for geeks — is by invitation only. First, you have to be nominated by someone who has attended in the past, then you have to apply, then you have to be selected. If all that works out, you can get your groovy nametag and it’s on like Donkey Kong.

Speaking of Donkey Kong: I think I met the guy who invented Donkey Kong.

It’s possible. Because that’s the kind of person who goes to this thing. The whole place was swarming with top brass in the fields of gaming; government digital operations; linguistics; neuroscience; the internet … There was a guy who owns and operates a yo-yo empire. I met a woman who makes the Chicago Botanical Garden the Chicago Botanical Garden. I was in a discussion group with the host of a very, very, very popular network reality television show. I attended a talk given by the UK’s leading war correspondent. I went to an “Ask Me Anything” session about the Chicago transit system hosted by the guy who is literally in charge of Chicago’s transit system. In the mix were scholars. Writers. Thinkers. Artists. Doctors. Comedians. Lawyers.

And one … whatever I am.

There were numerous occasions when I had to swallow hard and try not to cry. And I know, I know: You’ll say that I was in the room because I qualified to be in the room! Logically, I knew that. But emotionally I couldn’t get there. No matter how you slice it — and though every single smartypants person was so friendly and awesome — these people were intimidating. Many of them are also exceedingly wealthy, so there was that inadequacy going on, too. I wasn’t in my comfort zone, sister. I was in my “uncomfort” zone which does seem appropriate.

In a few different sessions, I said things that just didn’t come out right. Afterward, I would tell myself, “Fons, don’t talk anymore, just listen in the next one” but then I’d go to the next session and get so excited about the topic that I’d raise my hand and say something and that sounded stupid, too. The session I lead went okay, but okay wasn’t enough: I wanted it to be amazing. At lunch or in the hallways between sessions, I was nervous. Surely there was lipstick on my teeth. Surely I had toilet paper sticking to my shoe. I bit my cuticles so bad I drew blood — twice. I had to put a band-aid on, which made me feel like a gross weirdo with a band-aid on.

In my defense, it was a lot of stimulation and sensory overload. The conference is objectively stressful and the organizers warned all the first-timers that it would be. When I shared with my “homeroom” leader that I was freaking out, she couldn’t have been nicer and confessed that the first year she came, she left after the first day! However fancy-pants it may be, being thrown into a room with 350 strangers is a lot for anyone, she said, especially if you work from home or with a small team. I told her how I was in a pretty fragile state, too, from some life stuff, and that maybe that was affecting me. She gave me a hug and grabbed my hand and we went and got schmancy coffee from the coffee bar. Things got way better after that. I learned more in three days than I thought was possible. 

And the stress is a distant memory, now. I’m eager to volunteer to host the monthly salons local attendees put together between conferences, and, if I get to go again next year, I’ll be the first on the list to volunteer to help out newcomers. As soon as I get my nametag on, I’ll wing my way through the crowd, eagle-eyed, looking for any girl with a fresh band-aid.

You, Quilts, Then, and Now: A Call For Photos

posted in: Quilting, Work | 23
So good. Pictured above with their Nine-Patch quilt are (L-R) Rene Dehaan and granddaughter Jean Dehaan in July, 1978. Photo by Richard E. Ahlborn. Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

 

I’ve been wanting to ask you something for a long time, so it’s exciting to finally get the opportunity. It’s a three-part question:

  1. Have you been quilting or otherwise engaged in the quilt world for more than 30 years?
  2. Did you take pictures?
  3. Will you show me?

Show me the rounded-edge Kodak prints, the polaroids, the slides — I love it all. If it’s got your personal quilt history in it, I’m interested, and I want you to tell me about the pictures, too: Who are the people? Where were you? What year was it? And what was she thinking with that haircut? Things like that.

Here’s an important note: While I’m interested in quilt history from the big bang right on up to five minutes ago, I’m specifically looking for quilt-related photographs of people with their quilts taken from roughly 1940-1990.

That 50-year span is where I’m spending major research time for a number of projects. I can comb through this or that archive, and I frequently find things in databases and so forth, but asking you to share pictures is way better because you’re a real-life person who can, you know, talk to me. A citation can’t talk. Besides, I think this is going to be super fun.

I’m trying to think of things you’ll ask so that I can answer you ahead of time. Let’s see how I do:

I have pictures of all the quilts I ever made! When do I start??
Wait, wait! I love that you documented all the quilts you made but I am not looking for pictures of quilts by themselves. I am looking for pictures of people with their quilts. Making them, showing them, sleeping under them, presenting them, hiding under them, waving them like flags, cuddling up in them, helping sew them, using them for oil rags in the garage — all of that, any of that and more. Picture of you and the quilts in your life. That’s what I’m after. The photo up top is the kind of thing I’m talking about. Does this make sense?

Got it. Now, reassure me what you’re doing with these. These photos are my property.
I want to look at these photos for my own edification and research. If there comes a time when I say, “This photo is incredible and I would like to use it for [insert project here]”, then I will contact you and we will both enjoy filling out many forms. Consider these words our very public, very binding contract: Whatever photos you share with me go no further unless we go further together. Look, it’s possible a hacker could get into my computer and start flinging pictures of you sewing in ’72 with Jan and Marla at the old house on Sycamore Street, but this would be out of my control. I do not think anyone will do this.

I’m so excited! I’ve been waiting for years for someone to ask to see my “Krazy Kwiltin’ Daze” photo albums. I have scanned a lot of my photos already. Where do I send the pictures? 
If there’s a tidal wave of photos (!) there will need to be another system, but for now, scan your pics and email me at mary @ maryfons .  com. Attach as many as you like. You can put “Photos” in the subject line. Alternately, you may put in the subject line the kind of ice cream you like best. I’d like to look at an email box full of ice cream flavors, wouldn’t you? I encourage you to use this option.

But, but … I don’t have a scanner. Or maybe I do, but I don’t know how to use it. I have so many photos! I hate technology. Now what?
I was afraid you’d ask this. I hate technology, too. I think you have to ask someone at a Walgreen’s or a FedEx-Kinko’s to help you? I suppose it would work to take a picture of a picture and email it to me from your phone. But this might be a miserable task, since I’m asking for information along with the picture. Speaking of information …

What kind of information do you want? I forgot to put the milk away last night, so I hope you don’t expect me to remember names and exact dates on a lot of these pictures.
I left the milk out, too. Just do your best. Try to identify the people in the picture. Tell me where the photo was taken. If anything, do try to remember the year, even if it’s a rough guess. But don’t sweat this: I’m not doing genealogical research; this isn’t forensics. Just gimmie the gist.

The idea of this makes me happy, but I fear that I will feel sad while I’m doing it. It makes me not want to do it.
I know. It’s hard to go through old photos, sometimes. People have passed away. Everyone 25 years ago was 25 years younger. Yes, nostalgia may have its way with you. It always has its way with me. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. Stick those photos back in the drawer if it’s too weird. I’ll survive!

What else?
I have this fantasy of sitting and looking at humble photo after humble photo of people and their quilts during this timespan. I’m hoping I’ll see a picture of kids in the ’80s making a quilt fort; I’m prepared to drool over a photo of a sew-in at a college dorm; I’d love a black and white shot of a protest quilt of some kind; I’d just die and go to heaven if one of you sends me a picture with someone smoking while quilting, but this would surely be too good to be true.

Whatever you send, whatever you remember, thanks for being there.

Hospital, or: ‘Late But Coming’

posted in: Paean, Sicky | 43
Denmark hospital room. (I didn’t have to go that far.) Image via Wikipedia.

 

 

I wasn’t kidding. About the Sunday Evening Post.

But on Sunday, I had to go to the hospital. You guys, I’m so sorry. I left in the early evening, right when I had planned to sit down with you for a nice fireside chat. I was so looking forward to it. All day, I was. Proof is in this very moment: I’ve just walked in the door to my home after so many days and what am I doing? Even before taking out the garbage, even before putting in a load of laundry. Even — prepare for astonishment — before making tea … I’m here. Right here.

I’m still here.

The Sunday Evening Post was late, but it was always coming.

Love,
Mary

 

The Sunday Evening Post : You Look Good

posted in: Day In The Life | 193
A fête to end all fêtes? You bet. Photo: Wikipedia.

 

Say you’ve been living in the same city for over a decade and then decide to move away.

Before you leave, you’ll probably enjoy some intentional farewell-ing. If you’re an extrovert with a robust social life, you might get a going-away party. The party might be a big deal or a small deal, but either way a send-off would be a gathering of people who will miss you when you’re gone. At the very least, someone will want to grab lunch with you before you dip and they might pick up the check. For luck, you know?

Now, a couple years later, let’s say you move back.

You don’t slink back. You don’t return in shame under cover of darkness, but your return could not be considered triumphant. I mean, it’s not like you slayed a dragon or rescued a village of maidens — or even one maiden. And while (most of) the people you used to know are happy to see you back, it would be unwise to expect a fête with kazoos and signage. Seriously, don’t wait for that. People are living their lives. Your comings and goings are not as significant to them as they are for you, and that’s okay. The truth is, it’s “out of sight, out of mind” for most of us, squirt.

What I’m getting at is that it would be a mistake for me to burst into the room, as it were, and proclaim my return to PaperGirl, waving my best Queen of England wave, batting my eyelashes while wondering how many virtual roses may soon come sailing to my feet. I know many of you have missed me — and thanks for making me cry, dweebs — you’re busy. You’ve been living your life. You’ve got concerns that do not concern a blog or absence thereof.  And believe me, I know that some of you may have missed me for awhile but missing turned to annoyance because let’s face it: I ghosted. For a minute. And we have a … thing.

I’m sorry.

If you’ll have me, you can have me. I’m home.

And if there are any of you out there who might make a fuss; I appreciate it. A lot. But I don’t really have a choice. When I drifted away and put my head in the sand, I had no idea how drying all that sand was. I’m going through a lot of moisturizer — and I like the fancy stuff. It’s not sustainable. Besides, stuck in all this sand, I can’t hear or see anything, which means I can’t see you.

My idea is to write The Sunday Evening Post* every week. We have to set reachable goals. We have to ease into things. If I get too excited, I’ll spill my bowl of soup and then feel defeated and stick my head back in the sand.

I cannot express how good it feels right now to mix metaphors for you.

*We reserve the right to bend time and space.

The List

posted in: Confessions, Day In The Life | 43
Women grocery shopping in 1989, according to Wikipedia. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

At this point, I think it’s best that I make a list.

A list of the reasons why this PaperGirl has been so absentee. A list of reasons why she’s struggling. Why she is internet-skulking around, looking guilty, trying not to wake anyone up when she gets home, slinking through the back door with the stealth of a teenage ninja with something to hide. Perhaps it’s time to make a list of the reasons why the woman feels as though there is something to hide. Like a grocery list, except with guilt and creeping dread. And shame! Don’t forget the shame.

And now, the reasons why I am not checking in as much these days …

  1. I refuse to be a blogger who posts apology posts about how “it’s been so long” since she posted .. and yet, that is precisely what’s starting to happen.
  2. I used to have myself to manage. Just the one person, and that one person was someone I’ve known for 39 years. These days I’m in charge of a staff of four, roughly. That’s four (not at all roughly but perfectly) incredible, beautiful, talented, brilliant people who count on me to steer a pretty large ship. Two ships, actually: Quiltfolk and the Big Project.
  3. The Big Project is a 10-12 part documentary series on the history of quilting in America. The project has been greenlighted. But I’m not supposed to tell you that. But that’s what it is. If you’re a reader of this blog, you have now read this. I might even delete what you’re reading right now because I shouldn’t say this. This is a leak you’re reading. I cannot and will not mention it again until it’s okay to talk about it, but I’m telling you now because I love you and miss you and it’s the least I can do. I’m working on this film. It’s real. It’s going to be huge. Think Netflix huge, Amazon Prime huge. (*I’ve decided this message will self-destruct in 48-hours. So tell your friends and share away. Because by Monday, it’s gone. It’s real. And it’s gone.)
  4. Between the documentary series and Quiltfolk, there is zero wiggle room. For anything. Less than zero. I keep trying to make that not true.
  5. I feel different, guys.
  6. My politics are starting to show and this is complicated. Part of what I have long cherished about my blog is that my readership is bipartisan. I have so seldom gone on record about political feelings because I need PaperGirl to be a place where humans with different ideas are friends and, because of that friendship, can listen to each other and find peace. (When you really listen to someone’s life story, it is impossible to hate them.) But I fear my beloved country is slouching toward tyranny and Stage IV bigotry. How can I be a good citizen and not speak of this when I have a public forum and thousands of friends who — were we all to move as friends to change the course of history for good — how can I be a good citizen and not do this? My fear is doing it poorly, carelessly. PaperGirl is not a Facebook post, dashed off after dinner, after a glass of wine, after watching the local news. No. This is PaperGirl, and you’re better than that. But I am no politician. My citizenry is secure. But my political engagement as a citizen is keeping me up at night.
  7. When I have 30 minutes in front of the laptop and I’m not doing work, I want to email Nick. Or read something. Or watch something idiotic.
  8. I have never done anything halfway. If I can’t do this right now, I will not insult you with half measures. “All or nothing” is a terrible binary, unless you’re me. If you’re me, it makes almost mathematically-sound sense. (I wish it didn’t.)
  9. I plan to delete Facebook. I refuse to be a part of that business. They are watching us. They are profiting off our data. They don’t care about me, they don’t care about you. I’m concerned they don’t particularly care about our democracy. This is not conspiracy theory. The Facebook app on most mobile devices is set to collect audio. When you speak, what you say is being harvested. Ever talked about something with a friend and then saw an ad about it on Facebook? They’re literally listening to us. I’m not okay with that. So I’m not “hiding” Facebook. I’m not taking it off my browser. I’m not just deleting the app on my phone. (I haven’t had that app in two years.) I’m deleting Facebook. I’m gone, my darlings. There was a time when we were human beings without Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room-inspired internet project. I want to be that kind of human. If it means I suddenly cease to exist, I’ll let you know. By mail.
  10. When I miss something terribly, it is better to just not look. This is my approach to places where I used to live. Pictures of people who I used to love or who are dead, now. I’m afraid to look at what I miss. So I didn’t log on for a week.

Love,
Mary

Life Change, or ‘Washing My Clothes In My Robe’

posted in: Confessions | 21
It just looks like heaven. Heaven! Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

To look at me from where you are, it seems possible I am an adult person. I pay my taxes. I arrive on time, most of the time, to the places where I am expected, and I can reach things on most shelves. I brush teeth, buy a round, shake hands. Sure. All of that.

Fake news.

I moved into my condo seven years ago and the entire time, while I could have afforded to buy one many times over and though the space is equipped with the proper hookup valves, I have chosen not to install a washer-dryer in my unit. This is after longing and pining and wishing I had one pretty much the entire time.

The pumpkin spice latte you’ve been enjoying stalls halfway to your lips. You blink. “Mary … What are you talking about? You don’t have an in-unit washer-dryer and you want one and you could ostensibly get one? Really?” You lean in. “Mary … Tell me the truth. Are you afraid of washer-dryers?”

I roll my eyes and tell you no I’m not afraid of washer-dryers, Karen. But my eye roll is hiding my shame. The truth is that I am afraid that getting a washer-dryer will prove to me that my kitchen remodel was flawed. When I had the kitchen remodeled years ago, I asked for all open shelving. I have a galley kitchen, which means that it’s long and narrow. Even while small-ish and narrow-ish, I love it — and I knew I’d love it more if the gross, boxy cupboards were gone and replaced by fabulous open shelves running from one side of the subway tiled wall to the other. I knew it would open the space and it absolutely did. Besides, I love the dishes I have, I love my teapot, I love the beautiful wine glasses I keep polished and nice. The kitchen looks great.

But it meant that pantry items were to be put somewhere else, unless I wanted cracker boxes and spice jars and rubber-banded bags of rice out in front of God and everybody. Open shelves have a certain display quality to them and the objects I have are display worthy; the bags of pumpkin seeds, not as much. So I put all that pantry stuff in the small (small) pantry room, on a big (big) steel shelf … which covers the washer-dryer hookups. Because I thought I was fine using the building laundry room. Because I like laundry rooms. Because it’s good exercise going up four flights of stairs every time I need to do the wash. Because where am I going to put these cans of black beans??

Well, I’ll have to figure it out, because I ordered a washer-dryer combo thing. Nick helped me get just the right one. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the cracker boxes and the rice bags. But I am so, so excited about the prospect of padding over to my washing machine, opening my washer lid, and throwing in my clothes for to clean them. The unit will be delivered late this month and to celebrate its arrival I think I’m going to wash everything in sight. Besides, I like clean items!

My fear of getting a washing machine also had something to do with having a fear of being an adult. I don’t know if there’s a single sentence in the universe more adult-sounding than, “I can’t do it then, sorry — my new washer-dryer unit is being installed that afternoon.”

If I’m an adult, that means I’m closer to all of this ending, and that’s the last thing I want.

So I did the laundry in the laundry room for seven years.

Tired Kid

posted in: Confessions | 12
See? Tired kid. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

Oh, hello, hello!

First of all, I’m okay. Thanks for checking on me. You’re kind and dear, and if I had the juice to go on about your kindness and dearness, it would be a juice cafe around here. Think ginger-kale-apple-lime-parsley or something equally piquant and healthful. That’s you. You’re piquant and healthful and if I had a juice cafe, I’d serve you.

Second of all, I’m traveling across a very large state for Quiltfolk’s ninth issue and I’m the editor and I’m the driver, so when I’m not on location, setting up shots and directing this and that, I’m driving to the next location. So it’s hard to do a blinking thing when I drop into another hotel room at night if that isn’t face planting into the bed.

Third of all, that picture up there doesn’t mean anything. After being away for a spell and then posting a picture of a woman with a baby, it’s possible that you might glance at the photo and see a baby think, even for a split second, “Mary Fons is pregnant!”

She is not.

But she is a baby. And she’s fussy. And she’s hungry. And she loves you.

And she’s out.

Fight, Fight, Fight

posted in: Confessions, Day In The Life, Luv | 14
Take that. And that. And this. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

I had a fight last night with Nick. Nick and I had a fight last night. We fought.

So I got back from Wisconsin and had 30 hours at home before I had to leave to fly to Nashville for Quiltfolk. I saw my beautiful friend Bets Ramsey down there and a fine time was had by the Quiltfolk crew working on the pattern project. The location shoot was all well and good — but I was about to find out that my otherwise fabulous Saturday would be an Airport Appreciation Day.

That’s what we say in my family when you experience what I experienced trying to get home: a delayed flight; a long while of just sitting on the tarmac; luggage that literally took 45 minutes to appear on the carousel in Chicago. The result? I got back to the far south side of Chicago too late to go to Sophie’s surprise bachelorette party on the far north side. That’s bad. I feel so rotten about it, I am now scared of Sophie. She will not be mad. She will understand; I couldn’t help it. But it was her bachelorette party. And we love each other. And I’m always out of town. And she’s getting married. So it’s like, “Yo, Fons. Where you at?”

Physically, I was in transit. Mentally, I was in anguish. Because of the party — and because of the fight.

I don’t like fighting. I don’t like the person I am in a fight. I wouldn’t say that I “fight dirty.” But I can get downright ferocious. I yell. Loudly. I also say bad words. That’s crazy to me, that I yell and curse like a sailor, but I do. In a fight, I’ll find myself YELLING at the PERSON for doing THE THING that made/makes me SO MAD, [INSERT EPITHET] — and I’ll think to myself, “Since when did you start yelling and cussin’??”

I think it was with Yuri. That was some yellin’, cussin’ love.

Anyway, I was yellin’ and cussin’ and then I hung up on him and then I was stabbing text messages in ALL CAPS, and that’s worse than YELLING but at least it’s quieter. Wow, but I was hurt. Nick hurt me. He didn’t mean to, but he didn’t … Oh, I won’t go into it here. But yes, I lashed out at him because I was hurt, I was tired, I was definitely going to miss Sophie’s party and then, because the fight was distracting me and I was crying, I actually got off on the wrong stop. It was the pits. It was all just the pits.

I don’t like to fight because I don’t like myself as a fighter.

Is that a good reason to not fight or a terrible reason?

The Last Day of Vacation: How To Weed

posted in: Day In The Life, Family | 13
Not our tools, plants, or hat, but a fair representation of things. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

On my last day of vacation, I helped Mom and Mark weed the big, circular raised bed at the front of the driveway. It took about an hour with the three of us going on it. We kids can often be found helping out with that chore when we’re at the cottage; it’s the least we can do. Mom and Mark feed us lasagna and take us for ice cream, they encourage book reading and napping, and there’s a moped up there. We weed.  

It was hot the other day and there’s no shade out there. My stepdad was working pretty quickly because he hates weeds. “Filth!” Mark bellowed, throwing a particularly gnarly one into the big bucket. “These damn weeds! I went over this entire thing not but six weeks ago, Marianne!”

Mark and Mom are master gardeners, which I think means they have a certificate and field questions when anyone decides to plant a shrub. Being a master gardener does not make a person automatically organized and awesome when they go about their gardening, but Mom and Mark just naturally are. Case in point: Mark had divided the bed into “zones” and we each had our own zone to weed. 

“There’s your zone and there’s your zone,” he said. “And Marianne, there’s your kit, and there’s your kit, Maru,” Mark said as we walked over to our worksite. The “kit” he made included a bucket, gardening gloves, a trowel, and a mat or towel to kneel upon. I love my stepdad so much. A weed kit? In a delineated zone? Who does that?? Mark. Mark — otherwise known as The Cap’n — does that. He’s also great because he says things like “Filth!” when pulling pesky weeds.

“Hey, guys,” I said, wiping sweat from my brow, “I have a great idea for a horror movie. It would be called The Gardener or The Weed Killer. I mean, look at these implements. They’re so scary!” I held up a tool Mark had put out in case we needed it, some sort of terrifying small rake-claw.

“This one would work, too,” Mark said, showing me a truly frightening-looking blade. “I call it my scalper. You could do some damage with this.” He stabbed the knife into the dirt and cursed at whatever green bit he vanquished.

Mom brought out some cups of water. A butterfly flew by. I was happy.

A Quilt Scout Round-Up!

posted in: Quilting, The Quilt Scout, Work | 3
Who’s that gal, sittin’ on a chair? It’s the Quilt Scout! It’s the Quilt Scout! Photo: Lucy Hewitt, 2018.

 

 

I have been a little relaxed about letting you all know when there’s a new Quilt Scout column up. But why?!

After all, this Scout continues to keep the home fires burning over there at Quilts, Inc., opining about all sorts of quilt-specific items twice a month. Besides, she’s been filing rather sparkling content of late, darnit. Most of the time, when I turn in my work to the (rakish) Bob G. and (steadfast) Rhianna G., I say, “This is my favorite column, yet, you guys!!” but lately, I’ve meant it even more.

If you go to the Quilts, Inc. Scout page, I guarantee you’ll find several pieces worth your time. What will likely show up first is my piece examining the similarity between music “zines” of the 1990s and the early publications of the late-20th-century American quilt revival. Fascinating stuff. The column I turned in last week might be up by the time you click, though, which is just as groovy: I offer tips for taking great quilt style photography. Trade secrets!? You bet.

Regardless of what comes up on the homepage, all my columns, most-recent first, are linked on the left of the page. These pieces shall surely provoke and entertain. Now, I mean “provoke” in a good way, as in “provoke thought” or “provoke reflection”, though I have been informed that several of my columns — presumably the post critiquing feminism/quilting and the one about the Smithsonian article — elicited angry letters! Yes! Several people were miffed and let their miffs be known in emails (okay, two) to my bosses. Well, I like that very much. Writing and/or reading about quilting shall never be dull because the quilt is alive and well and complicated. Let the discourse live!

See you at the Scout. And you know, speaking of feedback … If you like what you read and want the Scout to keep scouting — forever in service to you — let Quilts, Inc. know. We all need a little encouragement, even a fearless scout.

‘Verushka, Make Me Dinner!’

posted in: Confessions, Family | 16
Ladies and gentlemen, Verushka. (Fake home assistant device and photo by Marianne Fons.)

 

 

I vehemently oppose the “home assistant” device.

Alexa, Echo, Google Home — I don’t care which mega-conglomerate made it or how soothe-saying the device’s (female) personality sounds: They’re no damn good.

Do you have one of these? Have you, like Nick, welcomed an unblinking, all-seeing eyeball into your home that watches you and listens to you and records your data and sells it to [insert mega-conglomerate here]??

“Alexa,” Nick will say to the cylinder that lives and breathes in the corner of his room, “What’s the temperature?”

“The temperature is 80-degrees,” Alexa “says.”

It sounds so civilized. It even sounds helpful. Alexa may be, in certain cases. I understand there are arguments to be made for folks with limited mobility; I know certain tech gadgets can assist those differently abled. But for the majority of folks out there, these things are unnecessary. Just because we can have them does not mean we should! The whole thing is dastardly. Sick, even. These devices listen to and watch people in their homes, gathering data about citizens’ private lives for Lord knows what! “They” are watching our activity online already. Isn’t one mode of home surveillance enough?

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. After all, there is one home assistant I’m okay with. Have you heard of her? Her name is …

Verushka.

See, my mom and my stepdad and I were talking about this “home assistant” thing and got to joking around, shouting out questions to no one (and no device) in particular, asking things that couldn’t possibly be answered by Siri, Alexa, or anything without organically-grown brain matter.

“Verushka!” Mark yelled from the porch. “When did I learn to ride a bicycle?”

“Verushka!” Mom called. “What color of blue do I need in the quilt I’m working on?”

We started asking Verushka lots of questions — she didn’t answer a single one! — and while Mark and I were laughing about it, Mom, because she’s hilarious, actually fashioned a Verushka. A mini-monolith, an analog wonder, really just a cardboard box with a wifi signal drawn on with a Sharpie, Verushka is the best “home assistant” money can’t buy. She isn’t hooked up to the internet. She’s not collecting data. She’s free.

“She’s like a dog, except less expensive,” my mother said.

“She’s my new pet rock,” said Mark.

We ask Verushka all kinds of things. We ask her about the weather, but then we just look outside. We ask her if we have eggs and then, when she is silent as the grave, we ask the person closest to the fridge. We ask her about the meaning of life, obviously, but I happen to know the Siris and the Echos out there have a programmed answer for such “silly” questions. If you ask Siri, “What is the meaning of life?” she’ll say something like, “To think about questions like this” or “42.”

This is where Verushka pulls away from the pack. Because Verushka answers that question the only way a robot/invasive species should answer: She replies with silence. And in that silence, the people in the room can either talk to each other about it or, if, the woman is by herself, she can sit for awhile and think about it.

Alone.

Mary Fons : The Rolling Stone Interview Pt. 2

posted in: Day In The Life | 9
Sure, this is Dan Dugan testing microphone mixers in San Francisco in 1980. But doesn’t this photo sort of invoke a Rolling Stone interview? Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

If you missed yesterday’s post, you’ll want to click here to get caught up. What follows is the second half of imaginary Rolling Stone’s interview with the legendary, the elusive, the deeply nerdy … Mary Fons. Ann Kotske reports. —Eds.

RS: You almost didn’t come back for the second half of this interview. 
PG: That’s true.

Why not? 
I like to switch things up. I wondered if some people wouldn’t be into the Rolling Stone interview format they’d just skip today’s post because it would be the same thing as yesterday.

Very considerate.
I’d like to think that sort of editorial concern has kept people reading me all these years.

You decided to go ahead with it, though. Why?
Continuity concerns me, too.

Let’s switch things up, then. We can leave behind heavy issues like — 
Like life.

— like life, sure, and — 
Death.

Okay. But aren’t life and death connected?  
Pardon?

If one is off the table, the other one is, too, don’t you think? 
Who are you?

Come on, let’s have some fun. How’s Nick?
Achingly good-looking. Sweet. And going into a year-long master’s program in a few weeks. I’m crazy about him. We’re still taking things slow-ish. I think.

Tell me about your outfit.
Didn’t we said yesterday I’m in my pajamas?

You can have changed. 
Now there’s a sentece: “You can have changed.”

I think it’s grammatically correct in this case. Now, the clothes.
I’m becoming a person that wears one thing: a classic-fit, Oxford-style shirt from Brooks Brothers with tailored black or navy trousers. I’m not interested in wearing or shopping for anything else, which feels strange but also feels right. This ensemble is perfect for every occasion, whether I’m in the city, headed to my office, or on location in who-knows-where, executing some photo shoot. I feel polished and practical. Of course, beyond the shirt and trousers I need great shoes and a great coat and handbag. That’s where I have my fun. But the crisp, white or blue-striped Oxford and the black pants … I can’t think how to improve on that.

What’s your fascination with unboxing videos on YouTube?
Watching people take foreign objects out of a box feels like Christmas. But there’s also a morbid fascination in it for me. Consumerism is eating the world alive, so watching unboxing videos is like partying on the Titanic.

How’s your mom?
Hi, Mom! You’re reading this, of course, so answer in the comments. How are you?

How’s your dad?
Haha. I don’t know. Dad, how are? Let me tell you: If my estranged father reads my blog and chooses to comment, any recent lull in blog posts will be more than made up for in the days to come. That will be interesting. So … Dad? Are you there? How are things?

I noticed you’re not blonde anymore.
After two years of being blonde — and loving it, I’ll have you know — I had to stop. My salon is great, but blonde is tough on a gal after awhile. I’m only biding my time until my hair is healthy enough to destroy again.

What’s on tap for tomorrow?
On tap?

Like, what’s on deck? 
On … deck.

What are you going to write about tomorrow?? 
Whatever it is, it’ll be true.

Mary Fons : The Rolling Stone Interview Pt. 1

posted in: Word Nerd | 18
Sure, this is a picture of Ratna Sari Dewi Soekarno, wife of the deposed president Soekarno of Indonesia at the Apollo hotel in April of 1970 — but doesn’t it *look* like she’s interviewing me for Rolling Stone magazine? Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

For well over a decade, writer, editor, quilter, and erstwhile poet and performer Mary Fons has faithfully maintained her blog, PaperGirl. Though the number of posts each week fluctuates slightly from daily to thrice a week or so, Fons’s thousands of subscribers rely on Fons’s unwavering commitment to post “fresh observations.” Sometimes sad, sometimes funny, sometimes outright strange, Fons’s blog is, at the very least, a respite for weary internet travelers, revolted by the endless news cycle and social media inferno.

But lately, possibly due to her demanding job as editor in chief of Quiltfolk magazine, or the ramping up of a major, as-yet-unannounced media project, PaperGirl posts have been sporadic. Her fans are wondering: Where is our PaperGirl? When imaginary journalist Ann Kotske called on her, Fons was at the (very real) family lake house in Wisconsin, sipping tea and wearing blue gingham check pajamas at 10 a.m. What follows is the first part of Fons’s first (imaginary) interview for Rolling Stone.

 

RS: It’s beautiful here. How often are you able to come up to the cottage? 
PG: Not often enough. The last time I was here was in November. I came up with friends from the school newspaper.

How has your life changed since you got your master’s? 
It sounds terrible to say, but I didn’t think the master’s degree would matter as much as it has. Certainly, plenty of people think an MFA in Writing doesn’t matter, that a higher education in the fine arts is too nebulous to have substance. There might have even been a part of me that thought that. But having done the work, knowing how hard it was, knowing how I was then compared to how I am now, it’s just night and day.

In what way?
I’m smarter! (Laughs.) Seriously, I can actually feel my brain working differently than it used to. I read a text or I sit down to write something and it’s like, “Oh, right. I actually know what I’m doing.” I’m also just two years older; I’ve been through more experiences and all that. But there is a kind of critical thinking I do now that I was absolutely not doing before. It feels … powerful.

I talked to a few of your blog readers — 
Wait. Really? You did?

Well, no. But many of them have been surprised there have been fewer PaperGirl entries lately. Now that you’re done with school, you should ostensibly have more time to blog. Is it something else?
(Sighs.) Well, I’ve been trying to figure out why it’s been slow lately. It’s strange to me, too. With Quiltfolk and this other big project I’m working on, there’s definitely time constraints, but I didn’t have time in school, either, and I did pretty well. There are times when … (Long pause.) There are times when I think I ought to be working on essays, on longer pieces, and that my hours spent blogging should be spent working on those.

What are the essays about?
My illness. Fashion. The DIY country craft home decor women I watch on YouTube. Chicago.

Have you thought about closing the blog? Even for awhile?
Absolutely not. The number of posts may ebb now and then, but there is no threat of PaperGirl closing or drifting away.

Why?
Because it’s not a brick wall. I’ve said it for years: Even though this blog is about my life, I do not write PaperGirl for myself. It’s always been for readers. It doesn’t matter if there’s a handful of them or an army of them. Look, I write my diary for myself. Those volumes are solipsistic and scandalous and inappropriate and navel-gazey and maudlin and there’s no spellcheck. PaperGirl is not my diary. It’s a conversation. That’s why it works. It’s a two-way thing. There is a living relationship between the writer (me) and the reader (you.) And it’s a long-term relationship — the longest relationship I’ve ever had, by the way. I close the blog, I close that relationship. It means too much to me, so no way.

You’re committed.
Right. No break-up. No divorce. We’re staying married. (Laughs.) 

You mentioned in your diary —
Sweet living — you read my diary??

Just a few pages. It’s very good. You should think about publishing it.
This is unbelievable. Where is my publicist? (Calling.) Publicist!

Sorry, sorry! I didn’t really read your diary! I’m an imaginary journalist! Can we continue?
Only because you’re imaginary.

You seem to foster a kind of “woman of mystery” persona in the blog by being vague about various “big projects.” On Instagram, you redact locations. Even talking about your “scandalous” diary communicates that there’s the you we get here and the you we don’t get, a Mary that exists in other places and is doing different things. What’s that about?
It’s so funny: In this world of public pages and social media, anytime you say you’re intentionally not mentioning something, you become a “woman of mystery.” But I know what you mean. On Instagram, I’ll redact the location if I’m on a Quiltfolk shoot, since we’re not yet announcing what state is next in the lineup. That will change, by the way.

Oh, Quiltfolk is going to start sharing where you’re going next??
Yup. We’re going to start “announcing the season”, if you will. I’ll talk about that more this week.

So you’ll be posting more this week.
Every day I’m up here in Wisconsin. There’s a lot to talk about.

We can start anywhere you like.
Good. Let’s start with the second half of this interview.

Fine.
Fine.

Are you repeating me?
Are you repeating me?

Stop that.
Stop that!

Okay.
Okay.

Thank You … For the Hairdryers

posted in: Paean | 11
Hey, buddy. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

So often, it seems that something which used to be a given — because we live in a civilized world — we are told, “I’m sorry, we no longer offer that. ” Or perhaps it’s, “That is no longer included in the price of this thing. ” Or maybe it’s, “The cost of this arguably simple and sensible thing will now be added to your total bill.”

Luggage is often no longer included in the price of your airplane ticket. You have to pay more for your checking account, but there’s really no reason given as to why. There are “service taxes” for many, many things and, if you’re in Chicago or New York, I happen to know, grocery bags (or department store bags, or any bag) is not a given. It is literally not given. You pay 10 cents a bag, because … Because they say so.

But here at this Hampton Inn, on location for Quiltfolk magazine, I have reason to bring you the good news. We have cause to rejoice. Because there is a holdout in this world of “no longer included.” Oh, but she’s a small, small thing, but she grants great gifts, and in the spirit of gratitude, I praise, praise, praise! the soulless, corporate monolith that is the hotel chain industry for leaving her be. She is the one, the only, the ubiquitous:

Hotel hairdryer.

There she blows.

In every bathroom. In every hotel but the seediest, scariest, no-tell motel in the nation, it seems. Sometimes, she is screwed to the wall and she is ear-splittingly loud and barely effective, but she is there. Sometimes, she is very small, almost a toy. Many times, though, she is wrapped lovingly in a drawstring bag, tucked under the sink or in a nook. She may live in that bag in the closet, but she is there. In extreme circumstances, you may have to ask for one at the front desk, but you shall have one. For now.

Thank you, hairdryer for still being there. I don’t want to pack my hairdryer when I go on a trip. I don’t have room, I don’t have patience, and I just need you to be there, okay? And you are. You are always there.

Powers That Be of the hotel chain industry, please, please do not remove the hairdryers. Let the hairdryers live! I know how you’d remove them: You’d say you were protecting the environment, cutting down on energy waste. That’s what you did with the linens, you know, and you didn’t fool anyone. “Linen changes are done by request only. We’re saving the environment, one sheet at a time!”

Malarky! You’re saving your bottom line. But it’s cool, it’s cool.

Just keep it hot …

With the hairdryers.

TSA Cookies: They’re Great!

posted in: Confessions, Day In The Life | 16
It’s almost as if they’re exiting the scanner. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

Hilarious things happen to me.

Or maybe totally normal, definitely not-hilarious things happen to me and because I’m a dweeb, I just find them hysterically funny. Does it matter, in the end? My life strikes me as funny when it’s not devastating — and that’s how I like it.

Today, after passing through the metal detector at the airport TSA screening area, I waited at the end of the scanner conveyor belt to retrieve my purse. There, sitting atop the conveyor belt at the end of the line, orphaned and forlorn and wrapped in plastic, for the third time in my life … I found a cookie!

So I took it.

And I ate it!!

I did, I did! I found a cookie at the TSA and took it and ate it! And I’ve done it before!

Listen, listen: I need you to listen!

Can we agree that there are cookies. Yes. Some cookies get wrapped in cellophane and packed into purses and bags when people go on airplane trips. Yes, well, sometimes these airplane trip cookies — I guess one time it was a brownie — get knocked out of those bags while inside the TSA conveyer belt scanner! The bag gets bumped! The cellophane-wrapped cookie falls out!

And the person who packed the cookie doesn’t realize it!

Who gets their purse off a conveyor belt and goes, “Wait, wait; let me make sure my cookie made it through.” No one does it! Only later, halfway across the country, will the person become dimly aware that a cellophane-wrapped baked good may have been lost on the journey … But when? How? Was there a cookie in her purse, the person wonders … No, it couldn’t have been …

Yes! Yes, you had a cookie! It was wrapped in cellophane and it was in your purse! It fell out in the conveyor belt! After it got bumped around in the dark for awhile, it came out! A TSA person put it on the top of the conveyor belt! It sat there for a long time, probably an hour!

And then I came through and found it! And I took it!

And then I ate it!

The thrill of this TSA cellophane-wrapped cookie is extreme. And because it keeps happening it’s a serious game for me, now, spotting and liberating a TSA treat. The liberation moment is intense because we all know there is not to be any kind of funny business in the airport. I get that; I respect that. But let’s use our heads, people. The treats I keep finding at the TSA screening area are fine. These cookies are not involved in a scheme. No one is “planting cookies” at the “airport,” and if they were, they wouldn’t be using the TSA “screening checkpoint” as their “base of operations.” The TSA cookie — or brownie, that one time — is innocent. And abandoned.

I think the cookie I got today was homemade. Seriously, I’m eating it right now. Somebody makes a good oatmeal raisin, let me tell you. Delicious! Wish I had a glass of mil —

“Mary!” you say in a sharp voice. You purse your lips and look disapprovingly at the crumbs on my blouse. “That cookie might belong to someone! You shouldn’t take something that doesn’t belong to you. You should let a TSA agent know. What if the person comes back for their cookie and it’s gone?”

I look down at the cookie in my paw and look back up at you. You see that I am confused. “But … Who would want a cookie that has been bumped around a TSA checkpoint for an hour and then placed on the top of the conveyor belt?”

You shake your head, but secretly, you want a bite.

It’s My Birthday and I’ll Blog If I Want To — I Want To!

posted in: Day In The Life | 38
That feels about right, actually. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

It’s my birthday!

I am on a plane!

I’m headed home from the long trip and I have a couple days before I go out again, but that’s okay, because I like it. If you stay at home, you have good days and bad days and stressful days and non-stressful days and birthdays and days that are not your birthday, right? Right. I have all those days but more planes in mine than other folks might. (And fewer than some others do!)

Today has been two parts fabulous and one part challenging. The two fabulous parts were that I woke up feeling vital — that’s fabulous! — and I saw my sister Hannah in New York City for lunch. Fabulous again! (Flight arrangements needed changing a few days ago and in the changing, a layover in NYC was created, thus, lunch with Hannah.)

The challenging part is that I’m not perfect and I’m in charge of people, now. I have only been in charge of myself, really, in this life. I’ve worked in ensembles a lot; I’ve been part of many teams. But like, I manage people. I ask people to do things. Worse yet, I tell them things that we will be doing. Like, “We are traveling this date and this date, so … pack, baby!”

My brilliant friend Heather — who you know from this glorious scene two years ago and from my post about my deep love of her here — is a production goddess at Quiltfolk and she books a lot of travel for the location shoots. I answered a question for her incorrectly about dates. I gave her wildly wrong dates. She was like, “Ooookay … so … that’s … new ” and did what she was supposed to do, which was talk to the photographer and the writer going on the trip about their flights.

Panic ensued.

So I feel dumb, because wow, was I wrong. And people scrambled and freaked out like they had gotten something wrong but they hadn’t at all. It looked like I don’t have my schmoo together, even though I think I mostly do, considering just exactly what is happening in all of our lives right now. Certainly, I am getting good at surrounding myself with remarkable people who can help me manage it all.

Anyway, I had spaghetti at the airport! It was remarkably good for being airport spaghetti. And there’s still one more birthday gift to go: When I get home, Nick will be there. I told him all I wanted for my birthday was a clean kitchen.

“I think I can manage that,” he said.

The Mystery, The Pageant

posted in: Art | 15
Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes, ca. 1850. Amon Carter Museum, 1999. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

A quilt-world friend with a sizable internet presence told me recently, “The project I’m working on is under wraps for now, so on social media I’m not saying where I am or what I’m doing and my mom said, ‘You’re as mysterious as Mary Fons!'”

I probably don’t need to tell you how much I relished this. I hotdog relished it. Me, mysterious? A woman with a sock monkey mascot? A woman who still doesn’t have a new dishwasher? Fabulous!

I could understand the perception, though. I blog on the ol’ PG and am not always forthcoming about where I am and what I’m doing, not because I don’t want you to know; in fact, I desperately want you to know. I want you to know where I’m going for Quiltfolk magazine; I want you to know where the next Quiltfolk pattern is coming from; I want you to know about this other quilt-world project I have going that I can’t talk about, yet, but which is major.

But I can’t tell you everything because there is an order to things. I didn’t make the order. I make the content, the world makes the order. So, I tell you things as I can and hope you’ll stay until everything becomes clear.

Here’s what I can tell you:

I have come to upstate New York. I am near Syracuse. I have come here for a solid week to research and gather information from one of the most important living players in American quilt history. The reason we have set aside an entire a week is because a) I have a full-time job as editor in chief of a magazine and have many responsibilities from day to day which require my attention; b) it’s summer and everyone/everything is slow; and c) there’s so much to dive into with this person, we really need a year, not a week.

Here’s what else I can tell you:

I have been going through hundreds and hundreds of photographs, tin types, daguerrotypes, prints, and photos, all of which feature people and their quilts. That’s what this person has, among many other objects: He has photographs of people and quilts, starting in 1850, when photography became “a thing,” to around 1950. I’ve cried several times. I gasped, looking through the stacks, the boxes, the treasure. Put another way, I spent a day looking at humanity in photographs and stereoscope images and what I can tell you is that nothing has changed. We are the same. Humans are the same today as we ever were.

Sure, we have laptops now. We have polymers. We have the internet. We have blenders and vaccines but we also still have quilts. We still have families, cats, and dogs. Illness and death come to everyone and always has. Some of us have always mugged for the camera. There’s always been a person who blinked in a picture. We didn’t invent selfies in the 21st century; there are just more of them now and we can take them faster.

Being human is complicated, but today, I don’t think it’s so mysterious.

Summer Killjoy

posted in: Confessions | 59
Postcard, “Swifts Beach on a hot summer day, Wareham, Mass.” c. 1945. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

It won’t sound good, what I would like to state for the record. Even the record won’t like it. The record may resent my statement because the record enjoys outdoor music festivals and hot dogs, but here goes nothing:

I intensely dislike the summertime. A lot.

It’s a provocative thing to say; I know I am well in the minority on this. But I am trying to set myself free. While many folks — most, it seems — will walk a mile for a hot, sunny July day; while many are taken with things like ball games and tank tops; while most look forward to the break from X or Y the summer may afford them, I renounce all these things. I have ‘nounced them before, but today I officially I renounce them.

Why? What did summer do to me today?

It’s what summer keeps doing to me: Summer makes me sweaty. And I am so tired of fluffing my hair and doing my makeup and getting all ready for my extremely demanding day only to look totally and utterly fizzled by the time I get anywhere. I am a brisk walker (surprised?) and my gait doesn’t help matters: I exert and pay the price. Just for being efficient, I pay! After a brisk walk in October, I arrive to a place looking and feeling like a woman with a purpose; briskly walking to a place in summer means I arrive looking like a woman who needs a gym towel and a bottle of Gatorade.

I don’t like it!

It’s not just vanity, either. It’s uncomfortable and irritating in a psychic way, this summertime. So much shiny cement in the city makes me upset because the glare is oppressive. People wear fewer clothes in summer and while it’s nice to have bellies and breasts and muffin tops and … backs, I don’t want to be privy to all those bodies. Must I? Must you? So much flesh on display in the summertime. So very, very much flesh.

This summer distaste has been true for awhile but today I just about had it. Am I a bad person? I want fallen leaves! I want to wear my scarf! I want to put on socks and I want to walk down the city streets, arm in arm, you know, with someone, and sort of skooch together and feel good about that. There’s no skoochin’ together in August. In August, it’s like, “Literally do not touch my skin.”

Anyone else?

Nick Fixed It

posted in: Confessions | 17
Men at work. Image: Texas iron worker. Wikipedia.

 

 

Nick fixes things.

I had a sconce. It needed installing. He installed the sconce. My toilet was running; he fixed it. I didn’t even ask.

I had two heavy, mirrored shelves and I asked him to hang them. He did. He did that today, in fact, so that while he went about his work, I could fling my body into my black leather recliner and read about quilts in America. I am always, always reading about quilts in America, and because I am always, always reading about quilts in America, I have not the time nor the patience to learn how to install a light or fix a toilet or hang two heavy, mirrored shelves. But I want these things done so badly and I know I don’t know the first thing about them, so it’s incredibly frustrating.

In order to keep my house from falling apart, I hired a handyman awhile back. It did not go well; a story for another time. But if you want to get wooshy about Nick, let me share a conversation we had awhile ago while eating pizza. (Note: Nick often helps his dad out with projects, but I didn’t realize how much.) This is pretty much verbatim:

M: (Chewing.) So your dad rents these couple apartment buildings.

N: (Also chewing.) Mm-hm.

M: Well, I need a few things done around here. Does he have a handyman I could call? To hire. Like, a fix-it guy?

N: (Grins.) We are the fix-it guys.

“We are the fix-it guys.” He might as well have said, “There’s a cab waiting to take you to Barney’s for a shopping spree; make sure to get something appropriate for the opera, Mary. Because I’m flying you to the Met for opening night of Tosca tonight. I love you, darling.”

The glory of having a man help me out has attendant pain: Should I value this so much? Is this joy, this gratitude, this almost sycophantic love I feel for a man who helps me with simple things just awful?? I could learn how to hang a light. I could learn how to fix the toilet for real instead of just jiggling the handle (which, by the way, sort of works.) I felt vulnerable and stupid when I gushed over Nick today, praising him up and down for helping me to hang those mirrors today. I wasgrateful in the extreme, but … is there something wrong with me that this is the pinnacle, the zenith of love? Completing a honey-do list?

Maybe it is. Or maybe helping each other is what it’s all about. I help Nick, too.

I will say this, though it’s silly to bring up such a large/sore subject and then get out: I didn’t have a father around, you know, growing up. But before Dad left and it all went to hell with the divorce and all, my dad was amazing at fixing things. He built stuff, he designed structures, he repaired cars. He was the fix-it guy. I’m really, really not comparing Nick to anyone, least of all my dad; I’m only looking for causes. Causes and roots and reasons why.

I’m always fixing, fixing, trying to fix, too.

Merikay, Magazines, and ‘Magnétisme!’

posted in: Fashion, Paean, Work | 5
A slightly earlier ad, and from France. But they’re always ahead, those French people, when it comes to creams, etc. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

I’m in Knoxville with Merikay Waldvogel. There, I said it.

Yes, here to visit the legend herself for a research project I’ve got going. This blog post, in fact, is brought to you by the Wald, as I like to call her: I left my laptop at her house and she brought it to me at my hotel. While we can all appreciate the Wald for her tireless research and quilt scholarship, we can love her eternally because she is a woman willing to hop in her car at 8:30 p.m. and bring this girl her laptop. She is a pathetic creature without it. Thank you, Merikay.

While I was waiting for La Wald to deliver the package, I leafed through an issue of NeedleCraft Magazine. Merikay lent me a few issues to look at tonight before we meet back up tomorrow.

“Hm,” you say, “NeedleCraft. No, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of NeedleCraft. Sounds intriguing. Is it new?”

In fact, the magazine is quite old. The publication was founded almost 100 years ago and closed around the start of WWII. If Merikay was with me right now, she could tell us specifically, but I can tell you that NeedleCraft was (is) beautiful. It’s bigger than your standard tabloid (11” x 17”), for one thing; I don’t have a tape measure, but I think this sucker might be as big as 13” x 20”, which is pretty freakin’ big. The font style on the coated newsprint is delicate, exact. The printing is fine; all the illustrations clear and crisp. The cover is the best part: full-color, lavishly illustrated, on glossy paper. And of course the content is what you’d think it would be: items, articles, patterns, news, etc., all related to various needle arts, e.g., embroidery, crochet, crewel, beading, and quilts, naturally.

There are also ads, and one of them is just too, too great not to share verbatim. I can only share the copy, of course; you’ll have to get the September 1928 issue of NeedleCraft and turn to p. 18 to see the visuals for yourself. Just look for the Art Nouveau illustration of a woman putting face powder on herself in a mirror … that a man is holding, I think? It is very sexy and weird. For now, ladies, I ask you: Do you have … Magnétisme???

 

MAGNÉTISME!

Now … she is gay, fascinating!

WOMEN marveled — men were intrigued. Overnight the pale calla-lily had turned flaming peony! Now she was gay, enchanting, magnétique!

She had discovered the allure of a fragrance. Now her talc, her toilet water, her sachet, her face powder, all breathed the parfum of love … of romance … of melting moods — Djer-Kiss the unforgettable fragrance — the parfum that adds to mere prettiness the charm and mystery of magnétisme??

 

At your favorite beauty counter

A Strange, True, Terrifying Tale

posted in: Uncategorized | 16
That’s about right. Photo: Wikipedia.

 

 

Talking to Nick today over bagel sandwiches, I recalled something frightening that happened to me when I was in high school.

Two things before I tell the story: The first is that while the ending of this story is eerie, our heroine (me) ultimately emerges unharmed. The other thing is that this is a story about a grown man preying on a young girl. So it’s not light reading and it might not be anything you want to read at all for a host of reasons that make sense, so please feel free to skip this one if you need to.

So I’m about 15 years old. Sophomore at Winterset High School. And because I’m a weird, creative, more-than-slightly-awkward teen, I was excited to get out of town whenever I could. This mostly meant going to Java Joe’s coffeehouse in Des Moines with a friend who could drive. My friends and I went to Java Joe’s because there were poetry slams and open mics and, because they didn’t serve booze (see: coffeehouse), me and my friends could hang out there.

loved Java Joes. I loved going up to the mic. I loved writing poems in study hall knowing I’d be delivering them the following Wednesday — and yeah, I still remember that the open mic at Java Joes was on Wednesdays because it was church. The place was cool, so we felt cool, and my friends and I needed to feel that way. The lights were low, there were neon signs on the walls. The place smelled amazing, like fresh roasted beans and clove cigarettes … not that I would know about that part.

The frightening thing that happened didn’t happen at Java Joe’s, though. You’d think so, right? “Funky” coffeehouse. Adults. Open-mic poetry nights. No, Java Joe’s was great. What happened happened at a brightly lit, parents-everywhere Barnes & Noble bookstore — which also held an open-mic poetry night. (You just never know, is my point.)

My friends and I heard about the new monthly event and of course we added it to our social calendar. More space to practice poems, more chances to get out of town, etc. One night, I got up and read a poem and it turned out the Des Moines Register was there, and they put my picture in the paper in the Metro section. I was really on my way.

The second or third time I was at the event, a man came up to me during the break. He was in his 50’s, I’d say. Tall. Barrel-chested, I recall, or maybe he was overweight. I recall that he was not handsome, but then, I was 15, so I’m not sure what … There’s a lot I don’t remember. What I do remember is that the man said to me:

“Well, my goodness. You are incredibly talented. Mary, I have a publishing company. I’d like to talk to you about your poetry.”

I was speechless. I was over the moon. I don’t know what I said, but I’m sure his words had the intended effect: I was a 15-year-old girl who wanted to be a famous poet more than anything in the world. Why, my needs and goals and hopes and wishes must have been obvious to everyone — or at least to him.

Obviously.

I’m afraid I can’t remember exactly how it transpired, but I know that we set up a meeting to talk about making me a famous writer, essentially. I knew enough to not go with him anywhere; I knew enough not to meet him somewhere random, so we agreed to meet at that same Barnes & Noble. But that this meeting would take place at all without my mother involved …?

We met at the bookstore. Was it a week later? Was it after the open-mic the following month? I forget that, but I will never forget what he said to me when we were sitting at that cafe table.

“Mary,” he said, a strange twinkle in his eye, “what would you say if I told you I have a boat. And I’d like to take you sailing around the world. What would you say to that? We could leave tomorrow.”

I heard once that when we die, we go to a movie theater and we watch the movie of our life from start to finish. If that happens, I’ll be very curious to see how I reacted to that man when he said that to me. I’m pretty sure I was flustered in the extreme and said something like, “I’d have to ask … my mom.” But what could I do? This publisher? A boat? Sailing around the world? High school was lame most of the time … But … No, no. I knew there was something wrong with the twinkle in his eye and I didn’t feel right. I told him I had to go, but he got my phone number — and then he called a couple times. One day there was message on the answering machine.

“Mary?” my mother asked. “Who was that? A person from the bookstore?”

I was terrified. My sisters and I could tell Mom anything. I hadn’t done anything wrong. Why was I terrified?

“I don’t know him,” I said. “You can erase it.”

The story ends in an eerie way — so eerie that even now, knowing what happened, having lived through it, I can only shiver and shake my head.

The fall play was about to open. (And close; school plays only ran one weekend.) I had mentioned to the man that I was in the play; I probably told the newspaper, too. The point is: He knew about me being in The Miracle Worker that weekend.

On Saturday night, the last night of the play, I was rehearsing my lines in the band rehearsal room located off the brand-new auditorium — the new auditorium, which featured new seats, new curtains, brand new light and sound boards. There was a monstrous rainstorm predicted that night; the thunderheads were closing in on Winterset by the hour; there was a green cast to the sky, the kind of heavy, still green that comes when Iowa thunderstorms are about to get real.

I looked out the window at the sky and then my eyes moved to the parking lot.

The man. He was there. He was getting out of his car and coming toward the high school. He had driven to Winterset from Des Moines, he had come to the play. He was going to be in the audience, watching me, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.  My heart rose in my throat. No, I thought, no this isn’t —

And then, with a clap of thunder so loud I jumped a foot, the rain came. I ducked down under the window and listened to the thunder. The lightening flashed, the wind blew.

And the power went out.

There was a blackout. The storm took out the new, defective light and sound boards in the brand-new auditorium, and the play was cancelled. The fall play was never cancelled. That night, it was. My castmates, eager to do the big final show, were inconsolable, but they found strength in me, who was gushing with consolations. It’s going to be fine, I chirped; how could we have had a better show than last night?? Better to go out on a high note, guys! They cried and thanked me for being so optimistic; the rain lashed at the windows and I stole glances when I could, praying I’d see the man running with his umbrella back to his car. I never did.

I don’t remember if he called again. But I didn’t go back to the open-mic at Barnes & Noble. And I never saw or spoke to him again. I told my mom this story at one point, years later. No, he didn’t put his hands on me. But he put his brain on mine, and it stayed there.

Obviously.

Hotel Beer

posted in: Confessions, Travel | 9
I was never a fan. Then came Tuesday. Image: Wikipedia.

 

 

Where in the world is Mary Fons?

Louisiana, and all the time.

Well, I’m back in Chicago tonight, but I’ve returned from Louisiana once again. You see, Quiltfolk’s Issue 07 features quilt culture in the exquisitely gorgeous Pelican State — now on newsstands and subscriber mailboxes everywhere! — and because we have successfully launched Quiltfolk Patterns concurrently with that issue I have visited Louisiana not once, not twice, not three, nor four times in the past few months, but five times. Five times! I’m practically looking at apartments.

Louisiana is a fine state full of fabulous people; I’m about to give you an example. But first I need to sit here a minute and dab (daub?) my forehead, which in a parallel universe is still dripping with sweat. In this (gross) parallel universe, I am literally wringing out my shirt. In a parallel universe, I am guzzling water, lemonade, iced coffee, and air conditioning condensation to rehydrate myself because the heat and humidity in Louisiana have taken my very soul and baked it and cooked it and braised it till there is nothing left. Nothing left!

What I’m trying to say is that it’s hot down in Loo’siana in the summertime. I talked to a local on Trip No. 219,920 about it.

“I don’t know, man,” I said. “I really like New Orleans, but this heat is killin’ me. I guess you guys must get used to it.”

The man just looked at me and swiped his forehead with a bandana. “No ma’am, you never get used to it. It’s just no damn good. Everyone pretty much tries to leave in the summer. What brings you to town?”

So on Tuesday, I was down there for a location shoot. I can tell you more about that later; suffice to say now, it was a very challenging day. It rained on and off. We were shooting at two different locations. The humidity was at 100 percent. I was with lovely people, but all of them were first-timers for Quiltfolk, so I was the usual mother hen, directing things and managing things, but I also was the only one on the shoot who had done this particular thing before. So it was a lot. Oh, and because flying into Shreveport costs about as much as flying to Paris, we all flew into Dallas and drove to Louisiana, which was a 4.5 hour drive that started at 6:00 a.m.

When we finally wrapped for the day, I left the girls at the car to begin check-in the 3-star hotel — which will go unnamed for reasons that will be evident — where we were staying that night before rolling out for Dallas in the wee hours (again.) When I came in the automatic doors, the girl behind the front desk did a double-take. I didn’t look disheveled: I looked like I had been swimming with alligators. All day. I tried to be chipper and perky but there was no chip, no perk. I handed over the credit card. I mumbled something about being out in the heat all day.

“Ooh!” she said. “That’s bad!”

“Well, it’s always nice to be in Louisiana,” I said, a last flicker of my humanity coming through. “Me and the crew are gonna go get some dinner and drink a couple beers. That should put us right.”

The girl stopped. “You need a beer.” Then, she called to the guy over in the breakfast nook. “Roger! You got some of those Budweisers in the fridge?”

Roger came over. “Yeah, I do. You want a couple? I got Bud and I got Bud Lite.”

I just looked at them. This was a hotel that rhymed with, you know, Smolliday Inn or Shmampton Schmin or Schmarriot Schmotel. You know? This was highly irregular — and righteously rad. I don’t even like Budweiser!

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, I do want that beer. You people are angel people.”

And they sent me on my way with not one but two Buds. Which I gave to the girls. And they drank them.

 

 

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