Archive for October, 2009

The Curious Case of a Cut and Curl Calamity

October 27, 2009

old crone

(Here’s a shot Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man took of me when we were on vacation recently.  You can see I look very happy and rested.)

Long-time readers may recall that last year I wrote a post on my misadventures at the beauty salon called The Strange, Sad Tale of a Beauty Shop Washout.  Now in case you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s a little excerpt from that post:


She (we’ll call her Rhonda) obviously believed that the only good perm was a tight perm.  With every roller she rolled, she’d give this little yank at the end, just to make sure there was not one iota of slackness in that curl.  It hurt so much that tears sprang involuntarily to my eyes, but I just bit my lip and thought about how sometimes, we must suffer for our beauty.  And, really, all that tautness had the effect of smoothing out my wrinkles.  Why, my face hadn’t looked that tight in years!  My first facelift!

Two excruciating hours later, she was done and it was time for the big reveal.  As she started pulling out more and more of the little rollers, it became apparent to us both that something had gone terribly wrong.  There was no curl…no, not a bit.  Neither one of us said a word.  All I could think was—I do not care, just let the nerve endings in my head recuperate.  And she was probably thinking—If I don’t say anything, maybe she won’t notice. 

But there was just no denying it.  Rhonda took out the last curler and stared bleakly at my reflection in the mirror.  My hair hung lank and limp.  Finally, she spoke. “You,” she said sadly, “are curl resistant.” 

She called over the other stylists and they stood in a circle around me, shaking their heads mournfully, as though observing the scene of an accident.  “I just can’t understand it,” said Rhonda.  “I’ve never had this happen before.”

They all cast sympathetic looks her way and some of them looked accusingly at me, as though if I wanted it badly enough and if only I had lived a good life, my hair would have curled.  “Curl resistant,” they all repeated, like a chorus in some really bad opera.  “She is curl resistant.”

And now here I am over a year later and, believe it or not, my hair has not seen a perm rod or a pair of scissors since. Though it has had daily contact with a curling iron and an industrial-sized can of hair spray. Because those are the only things that can tame my wretched hair at the moment (or what’s left of my wretched hair).

You may recall that I mentioned in my previous post that “my curly perm makes me look like some refugee from the eighties.”  Well.  Now I’ve moved beyond that, I think.  Now I look more like maybe The Ghost From 80’s Past. You know, sort of like The Ghost from Christmas Past?  You can probably imagine it—a ghost crone with shoulder pads and wild eyes and long, stringy, straw-like hair (80’s music playing in the background) shaking a can of Aqua Net and saying, “Woooooo…beware this 80’s hair! It is not debonair! Beware, beware this hair!” And the ghost maybe showing scenes from Bad Haircuts and Perms Past. *Shudder*

You’re probably saying, “So what’s keeping you from getting it cut, Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl? Who’s stopping you?” Well, part of it is just plain fear. You know, the shameful stigma of “curl resistance.” Will I still be curl resistant? Will I again be ostracized for curl resistance? It was a pretty traumatic thing to be surrounded by that angry mob of hair stylists fingering my limp hair and shaking their heads in disgust.

Also, it always seems a bit risky to just pick a salon right out of the yellow pages or go to one just because it’s near where you buy groceries. That’s what I did last time and you can see how well THAT worked out. I’ve asked a few folks for advice, but so far every one of them has recommended one of those fancy, high-falutin’ places in the city that maybe have French or Italian names. Or the words “day spa” in the name. I avoid those like the plague, mainly because they charge more for one visit than I budget for an entire YEAR of beauty. Sure, I could stand to spend a little more, but I’d rather buy books. I’ve found it yields a greater rate of return. Besides, they’d probably give me some weird hairdo that would make me look like Rod Stewart or something. Nothing against Rod Stewart—I just don’t want to look like him.

I always look for the kind of beauty shops I grew up with—the kind you see out in the country, maybe housed in a little shed in somebody’s back yard. You know, with names like Cathy’s Cut ‘n Curl or Barbara’s Beauty Boutique. I particularly love salon names where “K’s” are substituted for the “C’s” as in Kathy’s Kut ‘n Kurl. And of course, you know I can’t resist a pun in the name, like Shear Heaven, A Kut Above, Cut and Dried or my favorite ever, Curl Up and Dye. And there’s always the matter-of-fact, no-nonsense names like Betty’s Beauty Shop. They’re like yeah, that’s the name, I know it’s not cute—take it or leave it, lady.

But probably the real reason I haven’t gone yet is that my hair looks so bad now that I can use it as a handy excuse not to do things I’m dreading. Like going to the doctor. I avoid doctors like the plague, too, but I really do need to get that long-overdue checkup. But I can’t until I get my hair cut. And we’ve heard of a church where we might actually fit in, but we’re pretty nervous about going. Terrified, in fact. But really, I can’t go anyway  until I get my hair cut. Plus, I have two friends from the past that I haven’t talked to in years that I’d like to call. One of them lives nearby, but I’m scared of rejection—it’s been a long time and maybe they will have forgotten me. Sure, I’d call them…but I can’t until I get my hair cut.

See what I mean? It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to see that I’m using my hair as an avoidance mechanism—a convenient excuse to not do the things I really should.

Hey, maybe that’s what I need—professional help! A psychiatrist! Because I really, really want to change. Maybe I should be looking for a psychiatrist instead of a hair stylist. Maybe it’s my head and not my hair that needs help. Maybe a shrink is just what the doctor ordered.

There’s only one problem: I mean, you know how it is.  I really can’t go to a psychiatrist…

Until I get my hair cut.


Embracing My Inner Curmudgeon (and Some Well-Deserved Applause)

October 19, 2009


(I apologize that I could not find the proper attribution for this great drawing, but am amazed at the striking resemblance to this writer.  Uncanny, really.)

One of the things that I looked forward to most about getting old was that it would at last be acceptable to give my inner curmudgeon free reign. Yep, I thought maybe I could give real credence to the stereotype of the grumpy old lady.

Well, the truth is, while I might have an inner curmudgeon, I’m actually pretty even-tempered, so I’m not yet shaking my bony fist at cocky young whippersnappers on a regular basis. But I will say that the past few weeks have sorely tested the limits of my patience and brought out my inner grouch.

First of all, our television went out, and it took the built-in VCR with it. Sure, it was 12 years old and maybe 12 years is all you can expect for electronic lifetimes these days, but it really hurt to lose our VCR, too. Then, the next day, the blade flew off our riding mower and took two fan belts with it. We have a big, big yard, so we really need that riding mower.

But it wasn’t just that. It was the little things, too, one darn thing after another—from problems with an item we just paid good money for to groceries scanning higher than the listed price to newly purchased carrots being slimy. I hate it when my carrots are slimy.

No need to rehash all our troubles, but allow me to indulge my inner curmudgeon long enough to say this:  The Eyeglasses industry, on the whole, is an out and out rip-off. A greed fest. A shameless screw-job. I have no idea what the mark-up by optical companies is on eyeglasses, but I know it is huge beyond all justification. And I’d like to say to the optometrist that I recently had the displeasure of seeing: You should be ashamed—charging those exorbitant prices, knowing full well that many of the people that come to you (including me) can ill afford to buy even the cheapest frames you provide. And, boyhowdy, that sure is one slick operation you’ve got there—the way you funneled me right out from my exam into your eyeglasses “showroom.” And what a friendly salesman you have in there! Or at least he was until I expressed my utter incredulity at the prices and I was ushered out quicker than you can say “flimflam man.” Of course, what I really wanted to do was to tell him just exactly where he could shove all those hip, trendy pieces of plastic “designer” junk.

Oh. Sorry. I lost it for a minute there. I told you I had an inner curmudgeon.

Anyway. What I really wanted to do here is to recognize my one interaction with a commercial interest in the past few weeks that was positive beyond all expectation. Where I was treated with respect and consideration. Where the response to my concern was cheerful and prompt. Who was this rarity, this paragon, this fine model of good customer service? Why, I’m glad you asked.

It was Oxford American, my favorite magazine ever. Perhaps you’ve never heard of it, but if you’d like to read the finest in writing from the South (not to mention their annual music issue that includes a really swell CD), you should definitely check them out. In fact, one of my dreams as an aspiring writer is to be published someday in Oxford American.

I recently decided to treat myself to a subscription and was mighty excited about the thought of finding it in my mailbox again, but experienced some difficulty in receiving a particular issue. It was their Southern Literature Issue with lots of writing about writing, so I wanted it real bad. But when I filled out their Customer Service form, I’ll have to admit that I expected just the typical form email back. You know, the generic, non-personal kind that leave you feeling angrier than ever?

So imagine my surprise when I was personally emailed back within an hour by Tammy Gillis, their office manager, who told me she was immediately forwarding my email to Matt Baker, Associate Publisher. Within a very short time, I received a very nice email from Matt Baker expressing his sincerest apologies and indicating that he had personally mailed me out a copy that very day!

Okay, here’s where I’ll confess that, at the time, I thought, “Right. Sure you did. I’ll believe that when I see it.” Sorry to say, but some of my recent misadventures in customer service have made me just a mite cynical.

So imagine my surprise (and delight) when I found Issue #66, the Southern Literature issue of the Oxford American in my mailbox within a week, mailed personally by their Associate Publisher. I was thrilled.

So, thanks, Oxford American and Tammy Gillis and Matt Baker. I know you’ll probably never read this, but I wanted to say it anyway. I wanted to sing the praises of a company that is motivated by something besides greed, not to mention the fact that they put out a very fine product that even folks like me can afford. You’ve made me a happy woman and a slightly less cynical one.

It sure is nice to have something good to read. Maybe it will help to take my mind off the smirk on smug Mr. Eyewear Consultant’s face when he told me, “You really should try something stylish and fashionable for a change—it would make you look so much…younger.”

Why, it’s enough to make me shake my bony fist just thinking about it. *Shakes bony fist and mutters*   That impudent young upstart. Cheeky, brazen whippersnapper.

Never Smile at A Crocodile (and Other Cautionary Tales)

October 8, 2009

bunny alert blog

I thought it might be appropriate, as a follow-up to my post about our plant friends seeking world domination, to show you some of those from the animal kingdom that share our three and a half acres here at the Doublewide Ranch.

rat snake blog

(Rat snake in our driveway. I almost stepped on him because I was looking up at the sky.)

It’s amazing to me to observe how animals go about their daily business, adjusting without undue distress to our interruptions, intrusions, and insults. But then, who can say what they’re thinking, what goes on behind those whiskers, beneath those big furry ears, or even under that scaly armor? Who can forget the Hitchcock movie, The Birds?  *Shudder*  True story: My friend Kevin and I were eating lunch in a city park in Winston-Salem once when we suddenly realized we were surrounded by squirrels, who had gathered slowly and quietly, one at the time, until there were at least twenty circling us and closing in fast. We laughed nervously, quickly gathered our things, and practically ran out of there. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was more than a little spooked that day. And recently, at my favorite spot nearby on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Craggy Gardens, rangers closed the picnic grounds after a bear literally snatched a plate of chicken from right under a lady’s nose.

mockingbird in persimmon tree blog

(Mockingbird claiming our persimmon tree)

You may be laughing now, but one day you’ll remember my words. Or maybe one night—when you hear the mournful howls of coyotes in the darkness. Or when the Unseen rustle the underbrush as you pass. Or when you glimpse movement at the corner of your eye, only to see nothing there when you turn.

There was a really catchy Disney song (it was from Peter Pan, I think) from my children’s younger days that still goes through my head on occasion:

Never smile at a crocodile.
No, you can’t get friendly with a crocodile.
Don’t be taken in by his welcome grin–
He’s imagining how well you’d fit within his skin!
Never smile at a crocodile
Never tip your hat and stop to talk awhile
Never run, walk away, say good-night, not good-day
Clear the aisle but never smile at Mister Crocodile!

Good advice, I’d say. Respect our animal friends, but keep a proper distance (especially from crocodiles. And pit vipers. And Komodo dragons, maybe). Let them go about their animal business without interference. Without intrusions.

Let’s just hope and pray that their “animal business” doesn’t involve WORLD DOMINATION.

But, as always…

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂

Japanese and bald faced hornets eating sap blog

Giant Hornet and Baldfaced Hornet eat sap (at least, I think that’s what it is)

groundhog praying blog

This groundhog lives under Tom’s workshop. He has gotten fat from our apples and pears.  I guess that’s why they call them “hogs.”

bunny in the meadow blog

Sure, he looks innocent, but IS he?

rabbit on all fours blog

The first time I’d seen a rabbit up on all four legs.  Curious. And kind of funny. Perhaps he’s working on becoming bipedal?  Part of his devious plan for world domination?

squirrel eats big nut blog

Mmmm…this is a really tasty nut. And I’ve got it all to myself!  yum, yum…

squirrel with big nut blog

Hey, lady, get that camera outta my face!  Can’t a squirrel eat a nut in peace around here?

alert squirrel blog

Hey, lady!  Didn’t I tell you to get that camera out of my face? You wanna piece of me? And say, lady, didn’t I hear that you’re a little scared of squirrels?  Heh, heh, yeah…it was something about a certain squirrel incident in Winston-Salem….

A Morning Glory Warning Story

October 1, 2009

kitchen koons blog

My regular readers (thank you!) may remember that my daughter Ariel is an art major at UNC-Chapel Hill. One of her painting instructors last spring required each student to choose an overall theme for their works in the class. Ariel decided to paint her notion of what might happen if humans left earth and nature was allowed to take over. I liked all of her paintings, but these two are my favorites.  (Sadly, my camera did not do them justice.)

ariel's painting blog

Indeed, an interesting thing to ponder but a bit sobering as well. I found it even more frightening to imagine what might happen if nature took over while humans were still here. In fact, right here on my own front porch and the area around it, I have witnessed daily the horrors of such a scenario. A terrifying sight! An appalling spectacle! Yes, folks, you are about to see for yourself what happens when you allow to run amok MORNING GLORIES BENT ON WORLD DOMINATION!

chime morning glory bee blog

(Yes, those are chimes.  And yes, that is a bee.  Beeware, bee!)

Even worse than this was what took place right at our own front door. I noticed a couple of months ago that there was a morning glory that had grown right up to the threshold.

“Ha, ha,” I said to Tom. “Look at that. I think that morning glory is trying to get into the house.”

And we both chuckled at the thought. No way THAT could happen since we have both a storm door AND a fairly tight front door with weatherstripping.

morning glories run amok blog

Pretty soon the morning glory started to put out flowers, and we’d smile and step over them as we came and went. We regarded our charming little door blossoms with fondness and affection. Sweet, pretty little purple flower.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, we came home, opened the storm door, and noticed that the morning glory had somehow snaked its way behind the storm door.

“Ha, ha,” I said to Tom. “Look at that. The morning glory got past the storm door.”

There were a few seconds of uneasy silence before we both laughed heartily (perhaps a little too heartily) at the thought. No way that morning glory did that on its own! One of us must have nudged it accidentally with our foot! Yeah, that’s what happened! That’s it! Ha, ha, ha, ha…

morning glory as petunia blog

(A morning glory posing as a petunia)

I’m sure at this point, dear readers, that you know what happened next. And you’re no doubt recoiling in revulsion, your heart pounding with dread. Yes, yes, it’s true. One morning, as I was turning the door knob to open the front door, I looked down and there it was. A little green shoot—poking out from under our door. It looked so harmless, so innocent, so benign. But don’t be fooled by those little green shoots that start out so small; by those heart-shaped leaves; by those luminous pink, white, and purple blooms. There’s far more here than meets the eye—things that go on when we’re not looking or when we’re asleep in our beds at night.

Sure, they’re charming little flowers. Enchanting even. And I can tell you for certain that you only have to plant morning glory seeds once—after that, they easily self sow. And self sow. And self sow. So go ahead, plant them if you must. Plant them if you dare.

But don’t let your children out of your sight for a moment. Keep your eye on small pets at all times. Make sure you have a pair of sharp pruning scissors always close at hand, and be prepared to use them.

And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

windmill and morning glory blog

morning glories and sky blog