Where Everybody Knows Your Name…and They’re Always Glad You Came

There is a couple in our friend circle that everyone wants to be like: Sean and Kalli. They live in a communal house with a few other roommates. Kalli is an artist, and Sean is in a band. When you arrive, everyone hugs you. When you leave, everyone tells you they love you, just in case you A) didn’t know or B) die on the way home. There are big dogs to jump and kiss you when you walk in the back door, which is always unlocked in case anyone they know needs anything. Kalli’s artwork hangs in the hallway, and Sean has a music room with concert posters and carpet tiles arranged creatively on the walls.

They have turned a potentially awful back yard right beside the interstate into a weekend oasis for friends, drinks, and grilling, complete with twinkle lights, hammocks, and a water feature they made from an old trombone. Sean’s special secret recipe mojitos line the fridge in Sprite bottles, and you are to help yourself to that, as well as the honey mustard chicken he’s been grilling for two hours with his brother-in-law. Kalli will be wearing a piece of jewelry she has made, probably involving an owl and feathers, and telling an incredible story about ghosts in one of their childhood homes, or about Sean’s mom yelling at them through the door about condoms while they had sex in his room in high school.

There is much drinking and smoking, eating and talking, and laughing. Sean’s mom or brother-in-law or sister or some of Kalli’s brothers may be present. There is an iPod on the table playing the product of Sean’s band’s latest recording session of reggae. Someone with a generic name shows up, and you realize you know them, but you didn’t know Sean and Kalli knew them. Then you remember that Sean and Kalli know everyone. And maybe you keep randomly meeting people they know because it’s a sign that you both know good people.You may meet their friends from high school, because the group never really split up, even though they live in various places. Or you may meet someone who can eat a corn cob in 22 seconds, or someone who owns the local independent bookstore slash coffee shop. You will “know” them all, already.

I always say, “They’re good people” about those I really respect, admire, or connect with. But I think it’s just as much about being “real” as it is being “good.” So maybe I should say “They’re real good people.” Sean and Kalli are good people. They would be reliable emergency contacts in the event of a dead battery or your one phone call for bail. But they’re also real people. What you see is what you get. Take it or leave it. (But they love you anyway.)

We all talk about how we would someday like to have the Sean and Kalli house, where there is always something going on, everyone is always welcome, food and drink abound, love and kindness permeate, there is always music and laughter, and you are accepted — no, welcomed —  just as you are. We know they won’t be around forever — once Kalli finishes her program this fall, they may move away. And we want to continue their tradition of real hospitality on our own. I feel so fortunate to know people like this, who make you feel like you do when you listen to your favorite song.

Advertisements

Good Music: Coldplay

This is hitting home for me right now…

Lost
by Coldplay

Just because I’m losing
Doesn’t mean I’m lost
Doesn’t mean I’ll stop
Doesn’t mean I’m across

Just because I’m hurting
Doesn’t mean I’m hurt
Doesn’t mean I didn’t get what I deserved
No better and no worse

I just got lost
Every river that I tried to cross
Every door I ever tried was locked
Oh and I’m just waiting ’til the shine wears off

You might be a big fish in a little pond
Doesn’t mean you’ve won
‘Cause along may come a bigger one

And you’ll be lost
Every river that you tried to cross
Every gun you ever held went off
Oh and I’m just waiting ’til the firing’s stopped
Oh and I’m just waiting ’til the shine wears off

Oh and I’m just waiting ’til the shine wears off
Oh and I’m just waiting ’til the shine wears off

Random Craftiness

I have to say I haven’t been doing too much crafting since I moved. The majority of my craft supplies were given away prior to moving, and the rest is mainly in storage in North Carolina. I brought a few small supplies — one pair of knitting needles and some yarn, one box of jewelry findings, my sewing machine/sewing box and two pieces of fabric. That’s basically it. This is probably the one thing I should have made more room for in the car…everything else I can do without, but my craft supplies make me happy. Alas, I was overwhelmed by having an entire room devoted to it when it came time to pack. And I definitely needed to clean out the collection. Over time, I had built up way too many of those things you buy and think, “I am going to use this when I make something at some point.” So here is an update of my craftiness as of late with minimal supplies and a few economical purchases.

Nobody in our apartment building has their own private outdoor seating area because the outdoor area is just one big long hallway with cut-out breezeways like windows. So everyone has created these little spots outside their doors, most of which include a grill if nothing else. I swear, people down here are crazy about their barbecuing. Our outdoor spot used to consist of a bench and a couch with no cushions someone left behind before we moved in. I decided we needed something just a tad bit classier for our classy friends (haha) to visit when smoking. So…decorating while on unemployment is a challenge, but I like to think of myself as the world’s best bargain shopper, so it was a challenge I attacked happily.

A friend of ours just happens to be one of the maintenance guys at our apartment complex. With his help (and a bribe of coffee and pie), we were able to get the ratty couch carted off. Then he told us the apartments have a storage room of furniture they keep when people move and leave it behind, and as the bearer of the key, he offered to trade the couch for a table and some chairs. YAY, free furniture! The table turned out to be in great condition and reminds me of ones we used to have at school — that fake pickled wood that looks surprisingly like real wood. We also got some ubiquitous plastic lawn chairs in good shape, but looking a little dirty and dinged up. One coat of white spray paint, and they look brand new! (Spray paint = $2.98 @ Home Depot)

Next, I went in search of table decoration to offset the lovely black plastic ashtray we have. (Note to self: get a cooler ashtray.) Found cool table runners at Pier One…for a lot more money than what I spent on the place mat you see pictured! SCORE! (Place-mat-turned-table-runner = $4 @ Pier One)

One more cool accessory needed…and I am a sucker for Moroccan themed decor. So I splurged and got this glass lantern at Pier One also. It takes tea candles only, which is sort of annoying, and they are not very easy to get in and out. But it looks super cool glowing at night. I think it’s a nice complement to the conch shell and succulent plant I already had. (Lantern = $8 @ Pier One)

Finally, I was going to make chair cushions, but it turned out to be cheaper for me to buy new ones on sale. This is one of my most favorite shades of green, and they have a nice embossed diamond pattern in the fabric. Matches the table runner perfectly! (Cushions = $16 @ World Market)

And, voila! Outdoor seating for two, for only about $30! (Four, if you include the Depression-era wooden bench, with paint-splattered red vinyl seat that I inherited from my grandparents, which also sits outside. One of my most-prized possessions!)

I’ve also made and donated three baby blankets to an organization that formed in the wake of the devastating tornadoes we had recently here in Alabama. We are fortunate to live about three hours away from the area hardest hit, and although there was still a small tornado that caused some damage in our county, it was not nearly the ruined mess here that you’ve seen on the news. This group was formed by a friend of a friend, and they are having people donate handmade baby blankets and things to babies who were orphaned by the tornadoes, moms-to-be-soon, and new moms who may have lost anything “special” that was being saved for their babies. It’s supposed to provide a special heirloom, with meaning and significance — a keepsake.

I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on fabric and notions, so I used one of my favorite fabric-hunting tricks and hit up the closest Goodwill’s linens section. You can almost always find decent, usable fabric there in large pieces and other forms (blankets, curtains, etc.). It’s perfectly fine for cutting up and sewing with after a washing. I ended up buying a couple of blankets, a crib sheet, and a set of curtains, and this was enough for four blankets, although I only made three. I did buy the satin ribbon for binding at Walmart, but it was only about $3 per roll, and I only needed one roll per blanket. When I was little, my blankie had satin ribbon binding, and to this day when I feel it, I remember laying in my crib and being calm and relaxed. So, I included that in all of my blankets.

Now I Can Survive

Reason number whatever that I am loving living in Alabama: SNO-BIZ! I can’t say I’ve ever lived in a place that had sno-cone stands everywhere. It must be because it gets so damn hot down here, and that phase of summer is just barely beginning right now. But I am a complete sucker for shaved ice. Back in high school when I was a marching band geek, we would go on trips to competitions on Saturdays and get Hawaiian ice (same difference) after we performed, changed clothes, and were ready to relax and watch the other bands. We spent hours eating Hawaiian ice, hanging out with our friends in the bleachers, watching our competitors, and flirting. Great memories. Prior to this week, that was probably the last time I actually had a shaved ice.

And then, someone introduced me to the awesomeness that is Sno-Biz.

Not only do they have a three-page menu of potential flavors and flavor combinations, but you can also get Italian cream sodas which are basically just slushier and in a cup with a straw. Personally, I prefer the spoon and bowl. Mother of God, I love it so much! I can foresee this as one of my savings graces for surviving the summer down here. That, and friends who love going to the pool.

Funny story: when I first moved here, I drove by this place called Tiger Ice, a little roadside stand with a sign. I was so freaking excited because I THOUGHT it was a Hawaiian ice stand. Then a friend informed me that since we are in SEC football country, the land of epic tailgating, there are places where you can just randomly buy bags of ice. I was so disappointed! Plain ice? How boring!

The Dogs Have Their Day

One of my favorite things about Alabama so far is Tuskegee National Forest. I am sort of a lazy hiker, meaning I like to be outdoors and in the woods, and I enjoy admiring trees and rocks and animals and streams and the amazing feeling of relaxation this brings me. But I don’t like to work too hard for it. I am seriously appreciating the fact that I can go hike at Tuskegee and have a nice little workout but not feel like I’m going to die, because while the trails are not completely flat, they are also not that strenuous. And, as I have mentioned before, living in the river region of the state means there’s always some good water to visit at the end of the trail, and the prospect of water keeps me moving and motivated.

A couple days ago, I went with a friend and our dogs to the woods for a hike. Her dog, Delilah, and Birdy get along very well together, and we try to let them play a lot. They have similar personalities, although Lilah is still a puppy and more energetic. But Bird has her energetic moments still, even in her middle age. They seem to be a good influence on each other.

So we grabbed some subs and headed out to Macon County for a nice hike that ended at a little secret beach by a creek that she visits frequently. The beach is mainly pebbles, but there is a small sandy spot where we spread our blanket, cranked up the Bob Marley, and ate lunch. We spent a few hours out there letting the dogs run around to their hearts’ content, getting all sandy and nasty. The creek was pretty low because we haven’t had much rain lately, but it was still deep enough in places for the dogs to pretty much submerge themselves. They would alternate soaking, running, and wallowing in dirt. Then, rinse and repeat. We hung out in the creek for a while, where we could walk rock-clay flats in between clear ankle deep water, gently streaming and gurgling.

In the afternoon, it began to thunder, so we checked the weather on her phone (oh, technology!) to discover a severe thunderstorm warning for pretty much right where we were sitting. She was ambivalent about leaving just because of a little rain, but I figured based on where the storm was, we’d probably have just enough time to hike back to the car before the rain started if we left right then. So, we did that, and enjoyed a wonderful, dark, cool, thundery hike back. I love being in the woods just before it storms. We lost a little time when the girls wandered out of eye-shot and we had to wait for them to find their way back to us. But we made it back to the car with just enough time to change back into flip flops before the rain started. It stormed on us all the way back to Auburn and a good while after, but thankfully no tornadoes or even warnings.

We stopped on the way home at the dog wash place, which still didn’t remove all the sand from Birdy’s coat but helped a lot. She was very excited to receive a bag full of organic peanut butter kiss treats after her bath, which she hates. She stood as immobile in the tub as possible while I tried to manhandle her 75 pounds around in it and glared at me angrily when I sprayed her face with water. There was absolutely no way she was coming back into the house coated in creek sand. And it probably washed off some ticks and other gross things as well.

I remarked to my friend on the way home that being in the woods/hiking/relaxing by the water makes me feel the same as if I had just had a massage. Two days later, Birdy (a.k.a. OLD LADY) is just now recovering her energy and for the last 24 hours has not moved from one of two spots in the apartment like she has never been more exhausted in her life. It’s days like that which reinforce my belief that Birdy and I were just meant for each other. I spend a lot of time thinking about making my dog happy, and when we are in the woods, and she gets tired of running and exploring, she will lay down near me so that she is touching me with some part of her body just slightly, and we’ll just look at each other contentedly, silently understanding that this is a good life we have; that we are lucky to have each other. Lucky to be friends.

Books: Dance of Death

I’m so sad to announce this is the only book I’ve read in the last few months. I got hooked on crossword puzzles, although they are slightly torturous to me. I drive myself crazy with my simultaneous hatred of them and compulsive need to do them. My dad is a crossword whiz, and my favorite memories of his father include sitting with him in his dark, cool den while he chain-smoked, worked the NY Times crossword, and fed the dog brie and snickers. I can remember sitting in my dad’s lap as a kid while he tried to teach me the concept of the clues. It frustrated me when I was five, and it frustrates me still.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are probably my current favorite authors of popular fiction. My snobby creative writing professors in college always poo-pooed anything popular and not considered “Literature.” I still maintain a dislike of Stephen King, mainly for that reason, but also because we were forced to read him as an example of bad writing. I liked The Shining, but otherwise I am unimpressed. Anyhoozer, I just discovered a regional chain store here called Hastings, which is sort of like Borders, but they have a lot of used books and you can also rent movies there. So, I picked up this one as part of my continuing effort to complete their catalog. Evidently I’m reading them in all the wrong order, even though the list in order is printed in the front of every book. Some of them are trilogies, but they’re all written to function as stand-alone books as well for dummies like me who can’t get my shit together well enough to read them in order. The main character that most of their criminal mysteries center around is Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast, and the authors keep him shrouded in enough mystery as a character that I keep reading to find out more about him and his crazy family.

And, thanks to the modern miracle of social networking, I was able to recycle it immediately after reading to my friend John, who I grew up next door to as a kid.