Thursday, November 7, 2013
My morning started very badly.
You all know the sort of day - the sort where everything goes wrong right from the very beginning. My alarm didn't go off, so I overslept and rolled out of bed on the wrong side. The water in the shower wouldn't go hot and the yogurt in the fridge was past its date and tasted like stomach-aches later at lunchtime. There were no clean shirts, my trousers needed a button sewn, and when I threw on a skirt instead and pulled my stockings up, a fingernail popped and ripped a ladder all the way from toe to thigh.
In short, it was a perfect petty morning storm, with irritation running up and down my spine like needles raining down on a tin roof. It felt so ground-in I reckoned I might fill those needles up with ink and run that funk right into my skin like a tattoo.
And then I missed my bus. Of course I couldn't get a taxi - taxis with passengers inside seemed to pause and gloat as they flew past, and when - at last - a free taxi stopped, it overshot, slamming to halt ten yards farther down the street. I chased it down and stepped inside - and I was drowned, crushed beneath a wave of sound. The driver spoke. I couldn't hear.
"Turn Your Music Down!" I yelled.
Accordions and violins rose and swelled. My funk was flattened, crushed, beneath music like a fifty-foot monster swell off of an Alaskan surfing shore.
"TURN YOUR MUSIC DOWN!"
He nodded and the music shrank in size to something more manageable - a howling north-sea gale perhaps, and we shot out into the street, crossed three lanes of traffic without a single honk, and settled down to cruising comfortably in the inside lane.
The driver twisted in his seat and smiled at me. I hated him at once.
"Good Mooooorning Senorita!"
And he rolled his rrrrr's. With enthusiasm. I hated him worse than ever.
"Where, Sennnorrrrita?" He said, rolling worse.
I told him. He nodded, and turned the music back up.
"You mind?" He shouted back at me.
Strangely enough, I found that I didn't. It was tango music: thumping upright piano and accordion, with lots of sturm and drang. It suited me and my funk right down to the ground.
"The music's the best parrrrrt of the job!" He shouted, clashing the gears horribly and braking sideways into a lane full of big orange buses.
"Herrrrre in the taxi I can sing all day long. Tango, cumbia, jazz, bossa-nova, opppperrrrrra-"
He rolled his rrrr's again, but the accordion was thumping and I found I didn't mind. He twisted in his seat to look at me again, and we shot across a rather large cross-street on the red.
"May I sing for you?"
"Sure." I said weakly. I held tight to the door handle. "It's your taxi. Feel free."
Flashing me a splendid smile, he turned back to the steering wheel, nudged the volume dial up to maximum, straightened his back, and sang.
He sang Dejame Asi by Alfredo de Angelis, and he sang it in a loud, clear tenor voice, all the way through to the end. My bad mood melted away like snow beneath a summer sun, and I clapped and shouted out loud in pleasure.
"Bravo!" I cried, when he had finished. "Wonderful! Magnificent! Would you do another one?"
"You mean it?"
So he did. He sang El Choclo - by de Angelis again, and then he sang another one, and another -
He sang me all the way across town.
At the end of the ride, I tipped him the entire value of the fare. As he nosed back out into the traffic to drive away, I reached out and tapped on his window.
"Thank you." I said. "Thank you."
And I reached back into my purse and gave him all the money I had in it. If I miss my bus again this evening, I will be walking home. That's all right - there's a big moon scheduled, and a clear sky, and I'll do it singing, imagining piano and accordion going at it hammer and tongs, all the way.
That's how my Friday has gone so far. How's yours?
Saturday, November 2, 2013
I began sewing this dress a couple of years ago for an Alice of Wonderland party, but I never finished it. I was dressing as the titular Alice - a rather bashy, brutal sort of Alice, with a contract out on the head (complete with frozen glass eyes and a zipper to make a purse) of the Cheshire Cat. On the morning of the party, before the final seams were sewn, Zoe, the party's hostess, called in floods of tears. She'd found her beloved cat Horse lying in the back garden, dead from a snake-bite.
We were all shattered. My costume stayed unfinished. There are some things that nice people just don't do.
Three years later, Alice of Wonderland, Cheshire Cat Hunter, received her last stitch. And she was a most appropriately Halloween-y sort of costume - absolutely loaded with horror and dread, and the day after the party, in the cold light of morning, what fifteen assorted people cannot understand is how European Civilization survived half a millennium of hoopskirts.
I couldn't pass a decorative cobweb without trying to take it away with me on my pink petticoat - as well as whatever the cobweb had been attached to, which was usually a chair, which meant that whoever was sitting on the chair came too. I nearly took down the buffet when I leaned gingerly in for a pineapple kebab - the hostess had cleverly swapped out the tablecloth for more cobwebs, and when three people reached out to catch me, i found that the pork platter and a bowl of punch were strung out on a cobweb lead line, teetering on the brink of total party disaster.
I was banned from the living room the second time I passed the coffee table - my swinging skirts were setting glasses of punch flying. That second pass had taken out the refills of the ruins of the first, and as I fled, disgraced, the conversation turned from how the hostess had illegally given herself a bye into the semi-finals of the Pictionary tournament, and moved onto candles and farthingales and pocket-hoops and how on earth the Victorians had managed to survive the bustle. Those inventive Victorians had lit their houses with kerosene lamp and gas burners at the ends of clumsy rubber hoses. Swinging hoops are bad enough, but a bustle you can't see coming or going - the mind shudders.
I had hoped that the other guests would thank heaven for small mercies and call me back, but instead I was banished to the corner of the dining room and set counting the votes for the costume contest. The seal on my funk was set when I found that people had been writing opinions in the margins of their ballots - my Alice dress had narrowly missed out on the prize for "most genuinely frightening costume" because people were worried that someone would have to present that prize to me in person.
And the evening's true ignominy? The final seal and funk?
Reader - it was my party.