Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Alan Flusser and My Mama

Any port in a storm, right? You know what I’m talking about. How many times have you been trapped during a family visit and enthusiastically volunteered to…run to the store…drop off something at the post office…you know…anything and I mean anything…just to get out of the house and feel the fresh winds of freedom on your face?  Even if it’s for only fifteen minutes.

I love my mama in the way that—well—I was about to say in the way that only Southern boys love their mamas but it ain’t true. All boys can love their mamas this way if they so choose. And I do love my mom. But I’m back home caring for my mom this week and I’m in that emotional and humbling crucible again. The one that’s been shilly-shallying between a rolling boil cauldron and a slow-cook ennui crock-pot since March. We aren't special and I'm not looking for sympathy. But I can say unequivocally that it's hell--with brief, transient rays of hope. I think.
So when I found a thirty minute reprieve day before yesterday I was on it like a rat on a damn Cheeto. Drug store for various mama supplies and since Stein Mart was a 3-wood away, I spent my extry time there.
The Alan Flusser—Stein Mart relationship goes back probably fifty-plus years ago. Alan Flusser and Jay Stein were sleep-away camp mates during their formative years and have remained close ever since. I always get a kick out of seeing Alan’s Stein Mart thumbprint here in Florence, S.C. There’s not much of a Stein Mart presence in the D.C. area so I don’t get to see this stuff all the time.
Every time I'm there I get the urge to stop some random Stein Mart shopper and say “look…see that guy Flusser and all of these clothes with his name on 'em?...well he’s in my speed dial…look…here it is if you don’t believe me…hit the button and we’ll call him if you really don’t believe me.” And it would really be a kick if I’d wear a pair of Alan’s hand me down bespokeydoke shoes and take one of them off in Stein Mart and show it to the poor stranger who I’ve buffaloed into hearing my Flusser caca and tell him that story. Butcept I don’t wear those kinda shoes in Florence, S.C. People...even if they’ve known you their whole-entire complete life...will whip your ass for wearing such things around here. Belgians are a huge risk and that’s where I draw the line. My mama even looks at those kinda cockeyed.
So I walk into Stein Mart and the Flusser goods are preening front and center. Alan’s style tweaks on these mass produced, mid-tier quality goods are always there. It’s consistently there in color and pattern and a design treatment or two. But within reason…mind you…there are fuzz limits since...these goods are made…over “there”.
But this season, the Flusser Stein Mart goods are off the hook tasty. Blown away might be a bit too strong but it's close. I’m just telling you…the look for the money index strongly favors pouncing on some of this if you live near a Stein Mart. The first thing that caught me was the less than seventy-five dollars corduroy blazers. Oh, and kiss my a_s in advance for those of you who are gonna say... “yeah but it’s gonna look like crap in a year”. Well guess what mister quality man…not everyone can afford to go to Macy’s…where Dockers wearin, beer bellied wad of adipose gets swathed. Lordy I’ve got anger issues.
I’d a snapped a few more pictures…including the double vents and the contrasting felt collar treatment on one of the corduroy jackets but I’d taken so many already that I figgered Hoyt or Darnell…you know…the Stein MartMinions would collar me any minute. Plus my shore leave was about to expire and I had to get back home.
And this season’s goods include a Tattersal shirt that equals the Cordings look at much less the tariff. Cordings aesthetics parity in Florence, South Carolina. Damn.
The colors and patterns are extry rich and there are brushed cotton trousers to complement the four corduroy jacket color choices.
I’m broke. Seriously so. But I’ve spent more on parking in one night in D.C. than you’ll have to spend on one of these jackets. And the Flusstouch…is there…inside and out.
If I can spare it, I think I’m gonna go back before I leave tomorrow and snag this cardigan sweater. Surely there are fuzzier things than this cardigan number. The paisley-floral patterned shirts always catch my eye but I never seem to be able to rig ‘em up properly. Plus...LFG would f.l.i.p. out if I showed up in one of them. This sweater however, is just jaunty enough to aggravate my number one woman and that’s fine with me.
A bit of LFG aggravation will at least induce a grunt out of her and trust me—lately I’ve come to cherish churlish grunts and eye-rolls. Y’all tell me that it’s a phase but I’m too old for phases. Shut up.
So my mom was supposed to die in March. Two weeks in a coma of sorts and we decide to pull the plug on the respirator and say goodbye. Formulaic for middle aged kids to say goodbye to parents who at eighty-three years old with rapidly declining qualities of life are ready to go, right? This transcendental, humbling, defining event with my mom has taught me to tread these issues less stridently.

Instead of dying, my mom wakes up and is four-plus pissed off that she’s missed three episodes of The Walking Dead. My sibs and I...through tears and snot and bi-polar emotions are now laughing at and with our mom. Two more weeks in the ICU and then it’s rehab hospitals and another round at the acute care hospital and now after almost six months...home. She needs 24/7 care but my brother calculated that the cost of caring for her at home is no greater than at the nursing home. So here we are. And here this week...I am. My mom left home in an ambulance in March and with the exception of ambulance and transport rides, hasn't had the sunshine on her face since then.

And it's been good for me to again engage in this level of servitude. It puts everything else in perspective. Drywall repairs? New appliances to buy and install? That stuff's a walk in the damn park my friend. Let me tell you. My fully lucid mother who is once again opinionated and tasky and funny and loving…has the use of her hands. And that’s it.
I seek no accolades for helping my mom. It’s what I’m supposed to do. And if anyone deserves a medal, it’s my baby brother. He’s local and he’s put his life on hold for this. And that’s why when he and his partner decided to go ahead and get married last Saturday on the beach at Litchfield, who was I to say let’s wait till things settle a bit. Hell, things may never settle. So he’s honeymooning and I’m doing the five in the afternoon till nine in the morning shift solo. Bedpans and all.
I’m meeting with a carpenter in the morning to get a wheelchair ramp built. But it was so lovely yesterday that Bobbie Jean, mom’s angel who comes during the day, and I decided to lift that damn wheelchair ourselves and get mom out in the sunshine. How would you feel, the moment the sun kissed your face for the first time since March?

I will not be able to muster the words to describe it. I think being outside for thirty minutes in absolutely beautiful weather was as great for my mom as any pill or any physical therapy visit could ever be. The wheelchair ramp can’t get built fast enough. Daily rolls around the block will be as good an unguent as anything for my mom.
And then there’s Harry. I went to school with Harry from kindergarten through high school. He has cerebral palsy and lives next door to my mom. Harry’s parents bought the house next door and customized it so that Harry could live a dignified independent life there. And he does. To say that he’s an inspiration is an understatement. I wish that I could find a copy of the letter that he wrote my mom when my stepfather died five years ago. Harry is a big ole beautiful pile of humanity living in that gnarled, uncoordinated vessel of his.
Harry, like us, never figured that my mom would ever be home. So he’s seen the sporadic pulse of comings and goings next door as various ones of us have squatted in our childhood home while mostly staying with my mom at whatever facility she’s been in. And I can only assume that when he saw my mom outside, he got in his motorized wheelchair and bounded as fast as that thing would take him...out of the house to come over and see her.
You can’t fake this. The joy and love energy circling my mom and Harry was palpable. Their reunion was sublime. And I don’t give a damn if you call me a p_ssy for crying. I had to go get behind the azaleas for a minute so that they wouldn’t see me joyfully convulsing. Sweet.

So it’s off to meet with the wheelchair ramp man in the morning. Then back to the D.C. area in the afternoon. My intent is to make someone else joyfully convulse this weekend. Shut up.

Onward. Just freakin’ upside down with all that’s afoot. Butcept with a new Stein Mart Flusser sweater.

ADG II…Convulserator

Friday, September 6, 2013

Last Days of Linen

…and Seersucker too while we’re at it.
I’m known and prone to bend break the rules and and amidst these remaining shards of  post-Labor Day heat, I’ll be extending my use of linen till probably Halloween. Your Seersucker (yes, I capitalize Seersucker. I’m from the South. South and Seersucker deserve to be capitalized and I don’t have to explain it. Shut up.) however, must now be gone. At least around these parts.

I have a buddy in South Carolina—we coulda been blood brothers…our proclivities-quirks and other idiodamnsyncrasies are almost identical…kinda like me and LFG’s Uncle Toad…butcept I still have abs and those guys don’t—who uses the “85 Degree Rule” and it makes sense for South Carolina. According to my Sandlapper cousin, it makes no difference what month it happens to be, if it’s 85 degrees, everything in the closet, including Seersucker remains fair game. I’ll go with that—but only in climes like the Carolinas or that tropical place where I lived for a couple of years—New Orleans. (The punctuation in this paragraph has the makings for a Goat Rodeo. Shut up.)
My cadet blue linen togs barely arrived in time for any 2013 use but they managed to eke their way to me a week ago. And I’m still all about frog mouth-top pockets and flat fronts on my casual trousers. I don’t wear navy blue trousers. They just don’t seem to go with any of my jackets and even if they did, the stark contrast is too much for me. So the cadet blues offered an alternative to a twelfth pair of tan linen trousers and enough contrast that I can pull these off with a navy blazer.
Figured I’d get ‘em in Seersucker while I was at it. And for winter 2013? Light gray flannel—top pockets—flat front—BUT with belt loops. I need a canvas from which my Orange Fuzzy Coffman’s Crocodile belt will preen. You laugh now. You’ll be jonesin’ later. Be quiet.
Two inch cuffs, too…and a dress extension front closure on flat fronts. These are enough of a folly, design-wise, to keep me interested and others curious. If only I could manage that in my romantic endeavors. Where’s that neighbor lady this morning. I've suddenly got a cravin’ flung on me.
My other quirky-fuzzy trouser experiment over these recent years was thanks to Bookster (R.I.P.) and my ideation of a flat-front, dress extension, split back—fishtail waistband tog—reminiscent of cavalry officer trews. Dark green corduroy above.
Got ‘em in grey flannel, Seafield tweed, and tan linen too.I wonder if Bookster will rise again. Anybody know?
Ok, I digress…back to linen and seersucker. Of all my potential follies in 2013, my M. Dumas—Vineyard Vines seersucker jeans…aren’t one of ‘em. Home run. Period. And for some crazy reason, I can make ‘em work. Shut up.
Light as a feather yet substantial enough to keep all the bits secure when going commando. Seersucker Commando. Now that’s something.
Since I’m down to writing two stories a month, let me really digress and offer an update on my move and LFG and everything else. I drug dragged  my feet for months on end regarding pulling the trigger on a place in Bethesda. I’ve got great excuses but they are excuses nonetheless. One of my business partners had a second heart surgery in January so we were all doing extra duty, my mother’s high drama health saga began in March and has kept me pretty much consumed during every bit of free time I’ve had to break away and go to South Carolina and assist. But I promised LFG that I’d be in Bethesda when the new school year started—and I barely made the deadline.
And when she and I found this quaint little cottage we both knew that this would be a great nest for me/us. As I explained to her; even though I’d only be five minutes away, I would still be spending more time in my Bethesda nest without her than not. Therefore it was crucial that the place felt right and good for me. I signed a two-year lease on this house and my hope is that I’ll be inclined to stay here till LFG graduates from high school.
It’s been humbling to learn how much sh_t one person can accumulate in ten years. My marriage ended a decade ago and I’ve happily added more books and toy soldiers and caricatures and clothes and other irreleventia to my holdings during this epoch. And I swear that I’ve given tons of stuff to Goodwill and have shed at least two hundred books.
But this move has shed light on the fact that I’m a borderline hoarder. Tasty hoards but hoards none the damn less. And to exacerbate the issue I closed my office in Old Town and now all of the caricatures and other goodies that swathed those walls are here in Bethesda too. It’s all good but I’ve gotta have a purge of sorts rather soon.
So it is all good, right? You bet. Moving is one of the top stressors in life…right up there with divorce, marriage, loss of a loved one etc. But some stress can be good and I’d define this move as positive tension. I’m going to be very happy here and can even co-parent the pooch now. However.
The renovation of my Old Town digs is another story. I’m on the record admitting that I’m a terrible investor but my saving grace has been the rental properties that I’ve owned in Old Town. I moved back into one when I divorced and began to half-ass evolve it into my own little Anglophilic Redneck Ass Deliverance Meets Sir John Soan with a splash of Hollister Hovey while babysitting Honey Boo Boo  pad.
And unbeknownst to me, it was a hot mess when I began to create the punch list of stuff that needed to be done to revert it back to the updated neutrality that rental properties need to convey. To say that I bit off more than I could chew…to say that there have been moments when I was teetering on being in over my head is an understatement.
But when the quotes started to roll in I declared that I could save ten grand by handling everything myself. And I will ultimately save the ten grand but methinks I’ve at least vanquished two of my years. I’ve been working twelve-hour backbreaking days and until yesterday, I couldn’t see that I’d made any progress. 
Never say never…but I’m pretty sure the next time around I’ll at least hire someone to do a few of the more aggravating jobs.
Aggravating? Ten years’ worth of half-ass do it yourself endeavors creates a pile of onerous revisions and I wasn’t gonna let someone else discover my previous “hell, it looks good enough for me” shortcomings while I was standing there. 
Drywall that came off in chunks when I removed prefab wainscoting…chair rail moulding nails that hadn’t been properly countersunk with a nail punch and had three different coats of paint slopped on them…

Crown moulding that needed recaulking but only after the old, cheap silicone caulk had been stripped. Bathroom fixtures, carpet and appliances that were installed in 1989. Damn.
And dark colors? Barney Purple LFG bedroom with Day-Glo orange outlet covers and lime green doors? I’ve used ten gallons of primer on one door. Never. Again.
Here's the Barney Purple bedroom after a zillion hours of .....
I did remove and replace the door facing with LFG's measurements on it.
And the new appliances are installed in the kitchen but I still can't muster the juice to erase LFG's chalk scribbles just yet. And no, I won't have the drywall cut out and replaced. I just need to suck it up and...erase it.
Bold striped walls with black and white photos in the half-bath. Brilliant, right?
I'll have all of that particular brilliance vanquished this weekend.
Ok. I’m gonna close this drivel and roll the refuse carts to the street. I live in the suburbs now and that’s what we do. And since I'm still getting to know my neighbors and first impressions are so important, I'm gettin' dolled up in linen before I step out.

Onward. With Aleve and Icy Hot--I've got Paint Roller Elbow.

ADG II--Bethesda