Monday, September 23, 2013

Saloon Girl

So long, weekend! Don't let the door hit you on the way out! Whew. Let me begin by saying that I have fully realized I am old. And married. Old and married, that's me. A typical Friday night for Clint and me is an exciting outing for dinner at Jason's Deli, a stop at the bookstore where a latte indulgence is optional, then home to watch Dateline at 10:00. Whatever kidnapping, murder, or heist Keith Morrison is delving into is typically the extent of our Friday night excitement. If Clint manages to stay awake long enough to see Leno's opening monologue, I consider it a personal victory.

But this Friday night made up for any lack of weekend hubbub we may have been experiencing. A friend of mine, who for the sake of anonymity will further herein be referred to as My Friend (terribly creative, I know, please try to follow all this complexity), invited us out to celebrate a happy occasion in her life.

We don't really go "out" in that sense any more. "Out" is the bar scene: downtown--or Uptown as Charlotte likes to call it. It's for youngsters, for singles looking for dates, for people who don't care about Dateline but do care about Twitter and texting and mingling and who can stay out late and whoop it up. I did my share of whooping back in the day, but I've reached the age where it actually whoops me back, if you know what I mean, so this is not really my comfort zone.

We are told to meet at a bar that calls itself a saloon. Why it does this, I still cannot reckon. We did not enter through swinging doors, there was no sawdust on the floor, no cowboys at the bar. In fact, I have unaffectionately nicknamed the place TGICocktails for its generic approach to serving overpriced, watered down drinks.

Back in my heyday, we didn't wear dresses for bar hopping. First of all, we thought it looked like you were trying too hard. Secondly, it's not as comfortable as pants or jeans. In fact, the big decision for night-on-the-town wardrobe used to be: black pants, or jeans? This particular Friday night, I chose jeans and a silky peasant top--it was from Bebe, which in my opinion always means it is bar/saloon worthy. Banana Republic? No. Ann Taylor? Puh-lease. Bebe? Let me open the velvet rope for your cool self, miss. Right this way.

Once we arrive, I see that I am dead wrong. I am surrounded by a sea of girls/ladies/women in every shape, size, color, and hemline of dress imaginable. Except for those of the male persuasion, there isn't a pair of pants in the room. Except yours truly. We just arrived, it is already nearing my bedtime, and I feel old.

However, compared to My Friend, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. Apparently, there were lots of celebratory drinks involved in this outing, even before we arrived on the scene. My Friend is a tiny girl and let's just say that all the revelry was taking a serious toll. She clutched a fistful of my silk blouse and used me to keep her in an upright position for a pretty good while. When she finally let go, I would have been relieved except for the fact that she promptly tumbled to the floor. And then stood up and fell again five minutes later.

At this point, I began searching for her ride, who we came to learn had decided to abandon ship leave while the getting was good. Clint and I go to the bar, get My Friend's tab paid up, and then have to physically pry her away. Seriously--this five foot one, hundred and five pound girl starts grabbing the bar and refusing to leave. Now, this is kind of baffling for me since the bar had not exactly been kind to her in the first place, and in the second place she could absolutely no longer hold her head up.

Thank God she's not heavyset, because we literally carried her down the sidewalk and to our car. Along the way, I bent down on my hands and knees and unbuckled her four inch strappy sandals that were serving as a serious ankle breaking threat and carried them, too. I felt like a fireman doing one of those challenges where they are forced to carry objects and run an obstacle course. As we pull up to the exit of the garage, My Friend announces she thinks she is going to be sick. I hop out of the car, open the back door, and wave traffic around our car as she loses some of the Jager bombs she very enthusiastically imbibed in a little while before. I offer my sympathy and some Quick Trip napkins I handily keep stored in my console.

Then we begin the adventure of finding her house. You see, we had only been there once before, and she is in no shape to be giving us directions. While My Friend is curled up in the backseat with the quilt our dog likes to ride on when he's in the car, we mercifully stumble upon her home. And fumble with all 45 of the keys on her key chain (why? what are all of these for?!) before finally getting it right and getting her inside.

While her little terrier is very happy to see us, she has not been a happy dog while she was home alone without her owner. Clint is nice enough to clean up the doggy 'business' that has been left unceremoniously in the den while I help My Friend to the bathroom. While she is worshipping the porcelain god, we take the dog out for some air, play with the pooch for a bit, and then fetch My (moaning, groaning, disheveled, near comatose) Friend some water. Then we throw in a blanket and a pillow for good measure, put her phone by her hand just in case, and head home.

What a night! A long, crazy, strange, exhausting night. We woke up Saturday still shaking our heads over that adventure and all its ins and outs. Clint texts My Friend to make sure she is okay. The response? She tells us (after announcing that she feels like pure death) that she remembers very little about us being there and has no idea how she got home. All of that, and she has no memory of the fricking fiasco. You seriously cannot make stuff like this up.

So after a very eventful out-and-about experience, I think we have had enough excitement for a while. If you need us, we'll be having our usual at the neighborhood Jason's Deli. If the night needs a little spicing up, well, it's almost time for pumpkin spice lattes over at the bookstore. And for my Friday night outings, dresses are absolutely optional. Actually, depending on the mood, yoga pants are optional. That's just the way this saloon girl does it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Suzanne Sugarbaker and Uncle Buck

At this point, most of you have probably heard or read about my (usually) darling husband, Clint. But what you may not know is that for years, I had a second husband. Yep, I'm a bigamist. Allow me to introduce you to Matt, my "work husband" for almost three years.

I met Matt when I went to work at Satan's lair Wachovia Securities, way back in 2003. We both worked in Marketing, and we hit it off as soon as we were introduced. He immediately commented on my fabulous bag, within five minutes he had declared me the modern day Suzanne Sugarbaker and we were laughing like hyenas, and within a week we were fast friends.

When you are a cubicle rat, you need people around you to commiserate with, or you will slip slowly into madness (you may still do that, but it will be expedited without fellow cubemates to keep you company). My work environment at the time was the stuff the movie Office Space was made of (the first time I saw it, it felt like a documentary of my Wachovia years).

Allow me to elaborate. A man who worked on my floor made the local news: the family dog was missing and he taped strips of raw bacon to his car windows and drove around town for a week looking (incidentally, they found the dog. Part of me was happy for the family and the other part of me was sad for the dog). Another guy wore a real, honest-to-God kilt every Friday (so I can't wear jeans, but Walker can strut around with naked kneecaps and a wool skirt? That seems normal). We found an homage on the employee bulletin board someone wrote to their beloved "Rocky," a pet rat who had passed away. The thermostats on the walls were fakes, giving us the illusion of being in control of the temperature, but in reality, we didn't even have the authority to turn up the A/C on a hot day. And lest I forget the dude in the back corner: a contractor whose project was over, yet someone had forgotten to let him go. So he continued coming to work, reading the newspaper and sleeping in his cubicle until quitting time each day. Can you see why the need for moral support?

Matt and I bonded over similar upbringings; he was from Monroe, North Carolina and could completely relate to my small town of Toccoa, Georgia. We were both as Southern as they come, raised on the same junk food, the same TV shows, the same Southern Baptist ways. Our mamas and grandmothers used the same sayings. We had the same sense of humor and could not resist the urge to cut up whenever we were together. Which was pretty much all the time, once my lucky stars and a reorganization found us working in cubicles right across the aisle from each other.

My adoring work husband weighed in on questionable outfits, new shoes, new haircuts. He carried all my heavy boxes of marketing materials for me without ever being asked, and almost every single day that we worked together, he dutifully walked me to my car at 5:00. We were scolded a few times for having more fun at work than we should, and it wasn't long before we learned to talk across the aisles from our tiny little gray cubicles without saying a word. One glance and the eyes would tell the tale. That, and a few zillion emails back and forth, helped pass the time in an endless sea of work days.

We had plenty of (mis)adventures, but I will never forget the time we decided to get ourselves spray tans. Overhead fluorescent lighting does not exactly impart a healthy glow to a cubicle rat. I agreed to try it, but only if Matt would go in first. Let's just say that when he showed up for work the next morning, he definitely turned some heads. And bless his sweet heart, he thought all the comments were compliments. There were lots of "wows," only not for a good reason. At 5:00 that day, he said, "Call me and let me know how your tan goes!" To which I had to reply, "Honey, there will be no spray tan for me. Sorry to renege on our deal, but you look like you have overdosed on beta-carotene. I cannot do the half human/half carrot look." He found it funnier five days later when his orange essence finally washed away.

Matt was not just my 8:00 to 5:00 other husband, he also took on dog sitting duties (he proudly pronounced himself Cotton's "Uncle Buck"), and he helped moved more than his fair share of furniture into our house. The only forms of payment I could get him to accept were cheesy souvenir t-shirts, the occasional home cooked meal, and bags upon bags of Sweet Sixteen powdered doughnuts. Well, all of that and the fact that I dutifully covered for him at work while he went out to the parking garage and napped in his car. "Matt? He's in a meeting. A very important meeting. I'll tell him you stopped by." It's what work husbands and wives do, right?

Matt was zany, outgoing, general, he was what you would call a real character. Some of his friends nicknamed him "Shine," as in sunshine, because generally he was a bright spot to any day. To know Matt was to love him; he was full of charm, quick wit, and infectious laughter.

At least once every few weeks, he went to his neighborhood bakery and bought an entire cake, pretending it was for some special occasion, and then ate the whole thing himself. He bought lotto tickets on a regular basis, always promising to split the jackpot with his work wife. I'll never forget when he took a part-time job at GNC. He called and screeched into the phone, "Guess where I'm working now? Here's the hint: we are going to pickle ourselves with vitamins and supplements and live forever!" Man, I wish that was the case.

The brighter the flame, the quicker it tends to burn out. And Mattie was no exception. Over Labor Day weekend in 2006, that big heart of his just gave out. My precious friend had a heart attack, alone in his apartment, and transitioned from my work husband to my guardian angel instead. It took  me three years to take his number off my speed dial, and I still think of something at least once a day that I want to tell him. When I left Wachovia to take another job, Matt sent me flowers and the card read, "I will certainly miss you." The irony of that is still bittersweet, since I am the one who wound up doing the missing.

Matt--my sweet friend, work husband, confidante, cohort, partner-in-crime--because you loved attention almost as much as me, this post is for you. They say there are no tears in heaven, but I have no doubt that since you got there, you have had them laughing so hard they cry. It's not the same without you.

So, like we used to say, UHBB: uh-huh, buh-bye. For now, anyway. Miss you, Shine!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Everything's Better in the Bahamas

Ah, vacation. As a somewhat (read: highly) excitable kind of gal, the mere anticipation of getting away to the beautiful Caribbean starts my heart pitter pattering months in advance. Seriously, I have been counting down the days since we made our reservations back in May.

I love vacation for so many reasons: I don't cook, I don't clean, I don't floss my teeth (believe it or not, I am a stickler for the rules. This devil-may-care, in your face flirtation with gum disease is total renegade behavior). You get to stay up late, enjoying what Kevin McAllister in Home Alone very aptly called, "stuff that will rot my teeth and my mind." So! Much! Fun!

This year's trip was no exception. They say everything is better in the Bahamas, and I tend to agree. But rather than tell you about what an amazing time we had last week, sipping daiquiris and sunning ourselves, I thought I would tell you about the educational aspects of our trip (or, as Clint called it every two minutes, "VAY-CAY!"). Consider this my version of What I Learned Over Summer Vacation. And proof that people watching will truly expand your mind.

1. After spending five days poolside and gawking at my fellow vacationers/passersby, I now estimate that roughly 33% of the population is tattooed. The number would be higher except that I am factoring in children and the elderly, who may or may not have made the decision to ink themselves. Some of the tattoos are better choices than others--I'm looking at you, meathead with 'fearless' written in all CAPS across your big, beefy neck. And all of you with the tramp stamps. And the Chinese lettering--haven't the Chinese bested us at enough, without dominating the world of tattoos as well?

2. In an even more striking statistic, I would now say that 80% of the world is overweight. Not morbidly obese or anything, but definitely carrying a few extra doughnut holes around the middle. Let me also note that I determined this while enjoying an order of nachos in between sips of pina coladas. The point being that you really should stop worrying that people are judging you in your swimsuit; they are too busy trying to stay stuffed into theirs to throw any criticism around. Well, 80% of them are, anyway.

3. No matter what the shape or size, women will find a way to wear a bikini. I was jaw-droppingly amazed at some of the swimwear choices that strutted by my lounge chair. Ladies, you do not have to force a square peg into a round hole, in this case the round hole being a triangle-top string bikini. I happen to know for a fact that Spanx makes swimwear, and a sensible one piece would make everyone, including you and the sighted folk around you, more comfortable poolside. And you can avoid looking like a big ol' buttered Thanksgiving turkey while working on your tan.

4. The Duck Dynasty phenomenon has not yet made its way to the Bahamas. I wore my "Happy, happy, happy" t-shirt to breakfast one morning and it drew far more attention than I would have anticipated. Several hotel employees were fascinated by Phil's picture, and drawn to the three-happy saying he has coined. I was, well, happy to spread the word. And that's a fact, Jack.

5. There is a *slight* chance you are getting old when you get shin splints from doing too much walking in flip flops while on vacation. And you hurt your hamstring riding water slides. Walk it off, walk it off.

6. Last, but certainly not least, it turns out that Clint and I can spend six days and five nights together without completely wearing out each other's nerves. Our vacations are usually four nights but this year we stayed an extra day. I had feared the worst, but aside from a little eye rolling here and there (and everyone knows that side eyes, eye rolls, and tuning the other person out are the trinity of long term relationships), we got along just fine. Our flight home was completely full and we wound up sitting 10 rows apart, and even though Clint said he tried in vain to find someone to switch seats with him, I secretly think he was back there in 17F enjoying his solitude. Hey, we're married and we like each other fine, but we're also human.

Now, I know I promised not to brag, but all-in-all, it was an awesome trip. We had a delicious pre-birthday dinner for Clint at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill and it was one of the best meals I have ever eaten. It was worth (Clint) turning a year older. We spent time on the beach, by the pool, reading, relaxing, swimming, sipping, sunning, grinning. And now that the trip is over, it's back to cooking, cleaning, flossing, doing...I told you it's better in the Bahamas, now didn't I?

I suppose it's time to start the countdown until next year's trip....