PaperGirl Blog by Mary Fons







21 Reasons To Love Des Moines, Courtesy LIFE Magazine.

posted in: Day In The Life 1

I was going to write a list for you today.

I planned to title this post, “10 Reasons To Love Des Moines” and I was going to include things like, “The capitol building is pretty” and “The cost of living is low” and “Two words: BUTTER COW.” But when I searched for a vintage postcard-style picture of Des Moines online, I found a LIFE photojournalism piece featuring Des Moines teenagers in 1947. And my plan went out the window.

Because. Well.

That raaht thur's a kissin' party.
That ruht thur’s a kissin’ party.


I know them. They live in Wicker Park.
I know them. (They actually live in Wicker Park. Shh!)

And of course:

"Joyriding" = "Cruising" = "Rollin'" There is nothing new under the sun.
“Joyriding” = “Cruising” = “Rollin'” …There is nothing new under the sun.

My list was cut because nothing I could say about Des Moines could be better than looking at these photographs. There are twenty-one of them, and they depict the late 1940s, and they depict teenagers, and they communicate heterosexuality and good grooming, sure; they capture all these things and more.

They sure show Iowa. Des Moines. It does kinda look like that, like cars and boys and high schools and kissing parties; it looks like staring off into space, it looks like hiding something, it looks like black and white, sometimes, too. It stopped looking like home to me awhile ago, but it will always look familiar.

Visit scenic Des Moines, courtesy of LIFE, right here. 

Agreeing To Disagree With Mr. Brooks Brothers.

posted in: Day In The Life 2
I would honestly purchase either one of these outfits.
I would honestly purchase either one of these outfits.

So a girl walks into a Brooks Brothers store in Des Moines, IA.

I was looking for a black turtleneck. I’m here filming the PBS show and I needed a black turtleneck. I wanted it to be thin enough to wear under a jacket and nothing that would look like poo after two washes. Des Moines is many things; fashion mecca is not one of them. But there’s a serviceable Brooks Brothers store in a mall on the west side of town, so I paid it a visit yesterday.

Wouldn’t you know it, bam, right there on a table, the exact item I was after. A lucky day. To congratulate myself on something I had nothing to do with and to pay my respects to the Msrs. Brooks, I thought I’d try on the darling jumper I saw in the window. A kind, 50-something fellow with a sibilant “s” helped me to the dressing room.

I came out to examine things in the three-way mirror; I liked the dress very much, but I had an undergarment issue. The brassiere I had on yesterday was not proper for it, but I could see with the right one, the outfit was positively dishy. The clerk came into the fitting room area and gave me an encouraging nod.

“Oh, that’s nice!”

“Well, thanks,” I said, eyeing the shoulders. “I like it, too. I do need a different bra with it, but it’s great.”

“Woah!” he said, “TMI!”

In case you are reading this post from your home under a rock, “TMI” is short for “too much information.” It’s become a noun. Example: your officemate tells you his hemorrhoids are flaring. This is “a TMI.” Another example: your mother tells you, “Your dad was all over me last night, honey! What a naughty boy he is, sometimes!” This is a TMI.

But I ask you: Is a fitting room attendant or retail clerk in a clothing store receiving too much information when a customer remarks that with the right foundation garment, the item of clothing she’s considering will be fabulous? For your consideration, I offer what I believe would have been TMI’s in the fitting room of Brooks Brothers yesterday:

TMI No. 1: “My breasts are swollen, but when they aren’t, this jumper will be great.”
TMI No. 2: “I’m a pig. I’m a pig and I hate myself. I ate an entire cheesecake last night. God! My husband is such a [redacted]! I hate him. I hate him and I hate myself. This is cute, though.”
TMI No. 3: “Is this eczema or something else?”

Thoughts? Anyone? Did I go to far?

Summer Ain’t Over Till The Cicadas Knock It Off.

posted in: Day In The Life, Tips 0
"I ate the rest of the Chunky Monkey."
“Yes. I ate the rest of the Chunky Monkey.”

I have a friend whose favorite food group is ice cream. It’s no use pointing out to him that ice cream is not considered a real food group. He has no need for guidelines he had nothing to do with. In the world of my friend, ice cream is a food group and that, he would say with a mouthful of rum raisin, is that.

Iowa is hot today. Earlier in the week, it was hotter still; the temperature reached to triple digits. Whenever the temperature hits that high anywhere, I feel intensely depressed. I picture stifling attics, air conditioners that blow engine block heat, and days that don’t end when the sun goes down. It’s not that hot now, but I walked around the town square today and the word “scorched earth” kept pounding in my temple. When your skin is mad at you, the weather sucks.

Ice cream helps.

Summer is over — another guideline none of us had anything to do with — but it ain’t autumn for awhile. Pull out some ice cream. It’s Friday night! Smooth some mint chip on your tongue. Lick a twist cone. Suck melting vanilla off a pralined pecan. Take out a pint of strawberry — pure, simple strawberry — and go sit outside somewhere. Focus on it.

If you’re eating with a metal spoon, when you’re done with your ice cream, lick your spoon clean and press the back of it right between your eyes. It’ll feel cool on your skin. A little sticky, sure, but no stickier than the day itself.

I’ll bet you did three things well this summer, big or small, at home, at work, or out in the world. Think about those things while the cicadas or the skyscraper air units whirr. Ice cream is a food group and summer isn’t over till you say so.

Hot, cold. Hot. Cold.

I’m a Divvy Girl, Chicago.


Gimme a kiss!
I’m a Divvy! Gimme a kiss!



Chicago has me in her teeth.

It’s been this way for awhile. Now the city has a bike-sharing program and I’m more hopelessly in love than ever. Meet le Divvy.

I’ve tried to write a poem, a paean, to my town many times. I’ve started poem after poem — entitled, of course, “Chicago” — and I fail horribly every time. It’s simply too difficult to express my feelings on the greatness of this city. I mean, Nelson Algren and Simone de Beauvoir went on dates here. Together. And she was cheating on Sartre with him! They like, had a beer at the Green Mill. I’m paralyzed. Every line I attempt is a fart in the wind. I know my place. I’ll just keep reading books, maybe.

Let’s get back to that bike up there.

Chicago has implemented a bike-sharing system. There are banks of bikes all around the city. You pay a yearly membership ($75) to get a fancy square key and then you can ride the bikes. All the bikes. Whenever. You punch in a code to unlock a bike at Street A. You ride your bike (a gorgeous and hearty and smooth bike) to Street B, find a dock where you can lock it back up, and bam. Welcome to your life.

I didn’t jump on a Divvy right away. After all, I have a bike of my own, and what if I looked dorky or something? (I told you — my brain is full of farts.) But the moment I got on my first Divvy, I was hooked. More than that. I was mega-hooked. Let me tell you what freedom is, comrades: walking to a bike, unlocking a bike, riding a bike, getting off a bike, walking to your door and NEVER THINKING OF THAT BIKE AGAIN. It’s like I was taken to my destination by angels. It’s as though I had wee winged feet.

Anyway, thanks Chicago. I love you. I will ride your bikes. I will still love my favorite bus lines and you can’t be the Brown Line on a rainy day in the Loop. But those blue bikes are the best idea you’ve had since Millennium Park and we all know how that turned out.

Saint Laurent Boots + Bakelite = Congruent

posted in: Day In The Life 0
I know, right?
I know, right?

These boots arrived as I was leaving Thursday. As I walked out the front door of my building, the UPS gal walked in. She had a large box with my name on it. I knew what it was.

Thankyouveddymuch,” I said, and signed for it.

I set the box in the back seat and hit the road. As I sped north to Door County, I periodically looked at the box over my shoulder, the way a mother checks up on a baby in a car seat. I adjusted the rearview mirror a few times over the course of my five-hour trip, looking back to beam at the box. I had been anticipating these boots for many moons.

My final destination would be our family’s cottage, but I wouldn’t be able to make it there that night, so I had a reservation at the Holiday Music Motel, my favorite place to spend the night outside of the Ritz Carlton in Paris (I’ve never been there.) The Holiday Music is clean, adorable, and affordable, and they have great coffee, cozy linens, and have somehow managed to do retro decor well. Not easy.

When I got to the motel, I checked in and like a badger with a sandwich, I tore into the box. Tissue paper went flying. Plastic was tossed. The black Saint Laurent box nearly glowed. I pulled the boots from the pretty cloth bag and sighed a deeply contented sigh. They’re better than I even hoped and they fit perfectly.

The word “incongruous” means “not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings or other aspects of something.” Those boots looked so out of place in the Holiday Music Motel that they entered into a kind of zen belonging. Delicious.

I was traveling alone, but that night, I had two bedfellows: the right shoe and the left one.

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