ginny: on bras

I would like to make clear from the beginning that I was thinking about making “clothes” the topic for the week when Julie messaged me and asked me if I would consider “bras” as the topic.  It was close enough to what I was thinking about so I said okay, but I am only claiming partial responsibility for it.

A couple of years ago I was reading a magazine at work and I came across an article about bras.  The bras looked something like this:

Before I continue let me just say that if you attempt to Google “bras” for photos, plan on spending at least a couple minutes looking at some very interesting contraptions.  For instance, this one:

or this one:

or the apparently Lady Gaga inspired this one:

Yes, that is bacon.

Anyway, back to my lacy bra story.  I held up the magazine to a female friend of mine and said to her “Who in the world would wear a bra like this?”  She replied “That’s what all of my bras look like.”

Ahem.  Awkward.

My bras are utilitarian in style and color.  They have no lace, no extra padding, no push up, no bacon, and, for heaven’s sake, no under-wires.  I’ve been told I should wear a bra with under-wire support, and I’ve tried one or two, but … no.  Hell no.  I can’t abide wearing them.  They are poke-y and uncomfortable and I just can’t bear them.  If I sag in my old age (or possibly now) because of my aversion to under-wires, then so be it.

When I was still playing around with the idea of wearing such things I got “professionally” sized.  Everyone says you should do it because apparently 97% of women are wearing the wrong bra size.  I just made that number up but I do remember it is a rather large percentage.

Here’s the thing about the internet.  As I’m typing this post and making up a statistic that is only marginally important to my point, I realize that I don’t have to make it up.  One “open new tab” and Google entry later and I have discovered, without even reading any articles, just looking at the preview lines on several website hits, that the percentage of women wearing the wrong bra size is between 80-85%.  I saw those numbers several times, so I can be reasonably sure that it is accurate, or at least as accurate as such a statistic can be.  Certainly more accurate than my WAG.  Google that acronym if you don’t know it.  Googling is quick and painless.  Google has not paid me for this shout out.

Also, Google does not agree with me about what WAG means.  Because I suggested you Google it I had to Google WAG, and I discovered that it is a pet food supplier, the New York Stock Exchange acronym for Walgreens, as well as an acronym used mainly by the British tabloids meaning “wives and girlfriends”.  There are also Wag Hotels, full service cat and dog hotels in San Francisco and Sacramento.  I meant none of those things when I said my WAG.  I meant “wild a$$ guess”.  Perhaps Google doesn’t like a$$.  I will not be researching what comes up when you Google a$$.

So I got myself sized, tried on a couple of different styles, bought three or four with the infernal under-wires, and left thinking that a new phase of my undergarment life was beginning.  Two weeks later, maybe less, all of the new bras were shoved to the back of the drawer, never to be worn again.

I understand to a point the women who feel sexier or more attractive or more confident when they wear certain bras, but I am not one of those women.  Fortunately for me, and I’ve been trying to avoid saying this because it just seems like TMI,  my husband – or any of the other men before him – has never once rejected me because of the lack of lace and frills and push-up-ness of my bras.  I’m fairly certain that once I’ve gotten to that point with a guy they have been more interested in getting the bra off than they are in a momentary “ooh, that sure looks nice.”  There is a chance I have only dated, and then married, undiscriminating heathens, but I’m okay with that.

There is only one other thing I want to say about bras, and I will lead with a couple photos of my friend Deborah:

Bras can be fun and funky and they can be art.  Deborah is involved with The Breast Cancer Resource Center of Austin, and every year they have an Austin Art Bra fundraiser.  Breast cancer survivors model bras made by local artists in a runway show to raise money for the BCRC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support to those with breast cancer.  Deborah gave me permission to include her photos here, but I didn’t want to put up anyone else’s face without them knowing about it, so Google Austin Art Bra for some other photos of really interesting and imaginative bras.

You won’t see me wearing anything like these bras. Then again, it is highly unlikely you will see me wearing any bra.  I grew up in an era where showing your bra strap, let alone the entire bra, was considered either trampy or just in bad taste.  Nowadays girls and women don’t seem to have any qualms about it.

Qualm, by the way, means a sudden uneasiness.  Interesting how it sounds like calm, but is the exact opposite in meaning.  At least it is interesting to me because I do have qualms about writing about bras, as evidenced by my multiple trips to Google.  I am not sure why I agreed to writing about this topic, unless it was to give Julie the opportunity to write about the Oprah bra.  I hope she does.

julie: on bras

My entry will be on “the brassiere.” 

If you forgot to pack underwear, and you are a man (or woman, not my business) who wears men’s underwear, you can pretty much go to any store, Walgreen’s, Von’s, hell, even Kum & Go, and buy two 3-pcks of either briefs or boxers for under  $20.  Okay, maybe you don’t love Fruit of the Loom or Hanes, but they will be just fine until you get home, right?  And if you like those brands, hey, who can’t use a few new pairs. 

If you are a woman in the same spot, well, you probably can find something similar.  Probably either a variety of loose strange leopard skin type designs in that cheap kind of stiff not really lace but not really cardboard kind of material, or a pack of cotton something of which they will most often  likely be out of any size near to what you need but that’s fine, right?  At least it’s something.  If they aren’t completely horrible, you can stick them in the back of the drawer for when you haven’t done laundry.

BUT, if you are a woman (or man, not my business) who wears brassieres,  or is even willing or likes to wear a bra, good luck in any of those stores.  You may find some cute little “sports bra,” but if you ever have had to buy one of those in one of those stores, you know how well that works.  Nope, you will have to go to a department store, or a store that specializes in “bras” or something similar.  And if you can’t get to one of those and have to get whatever you can, you will no doubt throw it out or use it as a washrag when you get home. 

Really.  This is just so annoying to me.  And if you can get to a store where you can buy an actual brassiere, it won’t be cheap or even reasonably priced unless you can catch a sale.  There are all the various things for men and women, briefs, bikini, boxers, french this or that, thong, all kinds of everything.  The more fancy, the more the price.  If you want silk, you pay for it.  And then there are undershirts for men.  These are great shirts and you can get them for the same low price as the plain white briefs.  Nothing like a Fruit of the Loom or Hanes undershirt.

This is where it all gets different.  And part of the problem is that after the period when brassieres became bras and wearing one was a point of discussion and definition, bras where suddenly no longer simply a necessity, they were a huge new shiny business.  And it suddenly was much more expensive and much more complicated trying to buy a brassiere.   I dread it now.  If a store is out of the few styles made by the few brands I trust, it’s a nightmare.  

It’s sort of like “the bicycle” in a sense, I know there must be better analogies or examples, but that one comes to mind so let’s go with that.   For a while, after other forms of transportation became popular,  most people who used their “bike” to do what the bicycle was really built and designed to do, be transportation,  were either just unable to pay for other transportation and using the bike to save money,  or were considered “strange and geeky.” 

But then it was rediscovered.  That’s how we came to now have all the varieties, mountain bikes, speed bikes, racing bikes, city bikes, exercise bikes (although those are more often referred to as “exercise bicycles,” not sure why).  As with many things, in order to bring it back and make this old think new and modern, it had to be updated and upgraded and shiny and have gadgets and all kinds of things and colors and fancy names.  And really, all you need is the basic bicycle, it works just fine.

Same with the brassiere.  Okay, yeah, there are ones for this and ones for that and that’s fine, but it just shouldn’t be so hard or so expensive to just find a regular brassiere.  Really.

ginny: on listening

Listening to music.

Listening to the ocean breaking against the shore.

Listening to the tv on in the other room as a baseball game is broadcast on a warm summer evening.

Listening to your baby’s cry at three in the morning when all you want is for her to go to sleep.

Listening for the opening of the front door when your child is out late.

Listening for a strange sound to repeat itself when you are home alone late at night.

Listening for a break in the conversation so you can say what’s on your mind.

Listening for an expected insult or a slight or a putdown.

The world is full of so much noise, how is it we decide what to focus our attention on?

Right now as I am typing this I can hear crickets chirping and a train rumbling on its tracks.  I hear the keyboard clatter in fits and starts as I type, and then backspace to fix words or erase whole paragraphs.  I thought this would be a much easier topic for me to write about but once again I’m struggling.

Years ago a friend sent me a horoscope that a woman had done for me based on my date and time of birth, and where I was born.  One of the things that she wrote was that I needed to start meditating right then, ASAP.  I bought books and cds on meditating.  I studied various techniques on how to meditate.  I even dabbled a bit in self-hypnosis, which is just another form of meditation.  I have all of the information I need to begin meditating, and yet I resist.  After one or two sessions of sitting and breathing, I habitually find other things to do. I am afraid of the voice behind the voices in my head.  I am afraid to listen to what it might say.

There’s this author.  Her name is Oriah Mountain Dreamer – don’t judge either me or her based on her name – and she uses this beautiful analogy for how she knows that there is one whom she calls The Beloved.  She writes about being out in her neighborhood as a child right after the sun has gone down.  She knows every nook and cranny, but as the light begins to fade and shadows emerge it becomes a slightly different place.  It’s a little scary, but she feels secure because she knows that at one point her mother or father will call to her and tell her it is time to come home.  That “knowing” that someone is waiting for her to call her home, that’s what she carries around with her as she lives her life.  Sorry, Oriah, if I have completely butchered that analogy.

To head on back to me and meditating, it’s like I know someone is waiting for me to stop and listen, but I am afraid of what I am going to hear.  So I keep myself busy listening to and listening for other things.  At this point you might be thinking that I am afraid the voice is going to tell me that I am bad or wrong or that I should be doing this or that other thing.  When people are afraid of hearing something it is usually bad news they are afraid of.  I am actually afraid of the opposite.

Here’s the thing.  I have held myself together my entire life in this tight little package, protecting myself from being hurt by not allowing others to get but so close to me.  I could tell you stories of mean girls and horrible boys in grade school who teased and tormented me, and they would make up some of the reason why I close myself off.  But the fact of the matter is that someone whom I loved very much when I was a young girl betrayed my trust and stepped over the line of what is right and wrong.  I didn’t tell my parents, and I never told anyone for many years.  I have lived for 40 years protecting myself because no one else can protect me.  A lot of how I define myself is wrapped up in having to keep myself safe, and so I keep my distance.

If I were to meditate, what would the voice behind the voices in my head tell me?  Would it tell me that I no longer have to be so closed off?  Would it tell me that it is okay, that I am loved, that I am and have always been protected by that which is both a part of me and larger than all of us?  If that were to happen, then who would I be?

There are times when I hear the voice behind the voices in my head, and I live for a moment or a few hours knowing that I am loved and we are one, but I can never stay there.  I retreat back into myself – I have been told that I live in a cave and am disconnected from what is going on around me at times.  I don’t want to lose control, and I sure don’t want to voluntarily give up control.  Meditating is voluntarily giving up control of the thoughts inside my head.  Meditating is surrender.  Surrender and giving up control leads to bad things happening.

Intellectually I know this is not necessarily so.  Unfortunately for me I don’t always listen to reason.

I would love to end this post with a promise to meditate.  I would love to decide to listen to the voice that is behind the voices in my head.  I can feel it calling to me, but I don’t trust it enough to let go.  I think about it, though.  I think about what life would be like if I could surrender and not keep myself so tightly wrapped.

One day I hope to give myself permission to listen.

julie: on listening

Oh, man, okay.  Now I just have to get my post over here and go through it and publish.

First I have to have coffee.

Now then,  here is my question: Is listening a noun or a verb?  (Or maybe a “helping” noun or verb?)

I’m not asking what the dictionary would say if you look it up, I got that.  I started looking up “listen,”  “to listen,”  “listening,” “did listen,” “was listening,” “should listen,”  and every other listing for listening I could ever find, years and years ago.  I looked it up so many times that the listings for most of the page of “L” words sunk in as well.  What I am asking is, when you talk to people and hope they are listening, what are you hoping for?

The point is, well, an example of the question I am asking is,  if a student is sitting at my desk and starring straight at the teacher,  when that teacher’s done explaining and that student gets up and does something differently than that teacher outlined, why would the conclusion be that the correct question to ask could possibly be, “Julie, were you listening to the instructions?”  Or even, “Julie, did you hear what I just explained to the class?”  I mean seriously, what does if that student was “listening to” or “heard” one or all of those words have to do with what the teacher really wants to know which is why I am not doing what she said the whole class should be doing.  I know it sounds bad, but really, once a teacher asks a student that question,  or something really similar, I pretty much thought they were a bit unintelligent.  (I would like to point out that although as a student I didn’t always do things in the “instructed” order, I always finished everything and got most of everything right.   So the  real questions were more like “why wasn’t I doing what the teacher told me to?”  And I would have been more than willing to answer had it been asked.)

Despite the fact that I had no problem with the work, and actually was way ahead on a lot and definitely on, I can’t remember what it was called, but this whole reading thing that had booklets and cards with stories and different levels were different colors and you read a story and answered questions and then once you were done with all the ones in one color group you moved to the next.  As I said, I was usually a couple colors ahead of most of my classmates which  could be seen as a good thing, but on that day, it was not, at least not by that teacher.  What was important on that day was the fact that I “seemed to be having some trouble,” with, among other things, “listening in class.”  Because on day in particular, I spent too much time reading.

I told my mother that I ABSOLUTELY and positively was listening in class and that every single day I heard every single word my teachers said.  Those were measurements my mother used, “absolutely and positively” and “every single” of anything, but especially words, “every single word”  as a concept, is important.  This seeming to “not listen” was not a new problem by the fifth, I think, grade,  on this day, when my mother had to come, again, to talk to my teachers.    I was in this double kind of classroom.  One side was one grade, and one was another.  I don’t know, come to think of it, it was either fifth or sixth grade, no, fifth I think.  Not sure.  Sixth I would say is probably right, no, fifth.  The teacher on my side was Mrs. Wheeler, but, I don’t know.  I had a horrible person named Mr. Benson for some grade, and I think that might have been sixth? he was NOT what he appeared to be at all and my mother almost got him fired, well, what he did, was doing, almost got him fired, it should have and if that was now it would for sure.  But anyway, it is all kind of mushed together, and it doesn’t much matter, it was one of those grades.  Fifth, I am sure now, it was fifth.  My side that was my grade side that year was fifth.

So we had these two rooms and two teachers and my main teacher let me read ahead as long as I kept getting things right.  But the box with some of the cards was in the other room.  I really don’t remember the whole reason why, I would have to really think it all through, but most of it isn’t important.  The point was that one day I went from one color to another, I think from browns, tans, beige, those kind of things, to red.  I was done with all the cards in the color and so I moved on.  But the “problem” was that I had spent a good while reading and finishing all the cards to move up and hadn’t done much else of what we were supposed to be doing.    Sometimes, how my mother would explain it,  I just got kind of “deeply focused on and consumed by” one thing at a time.    My main teacher had talked to my mother several times and had sort of gotten to the point where she didn’t really get too upset along the way if I didn’t do everything exactly at the right moment as long as I  ended up with everything done.  But the other teacher in the other room was really involved with needing to have every instruction followed “to the letter.”  So that’s why my mother had  to come to see my teachers that time.

When she got there and we all sat down, the teacher asked me if I would please tell my mother why we were there.  I said, “I was reading too much the other day.”  That actually seemed to make that teacher happy because she said something like, “That’s a good example of just what the problem here is.”   She went on to basically say that I knew that was not the reason we were there and that it was because I had not “listened” to the instructions and had not responded in an acceptable way when she asked if I had been listening.

That was when I made the mistake of saying that if a teacher wanted the right answer they should have sense enough to ask the right question.  I remember that teacher’s name and just how she looked,  I could probably look it up and find out what grade it was, but I think what happened was that the teacher that was usually in the room was on leave, or maybe had left for good, and so this one was there and it was her first year in that double class kind of thing and looking back, maybe she wasn’t so good at combining teaching philosophies.  Or at hearing students just blurt things out, even if they were true.  It was a fairly unpleasant situation for my mother, I know that because she kept smoking even though she really wasn’t supposed to in the classroom we were sitting in and one place she usually did try to follow the rules was at my school.  But the teacher was smoking, so I guess my mom figured she could too.

How that all ended is not important.  But what “listening” is/has remained a sort of pet interest of mine forever.  When my son was really little I rarely asked if he was listening to me but if  I thought he wasn’t, that is, if I thought he wasn’t paying attention, I would say, “Hey, are you listening to me, are you paying attention?”   Because from the beginning I told him that when I was telling him things he should pay attention and if he didn’t understand he should ask me what I was talking about and if he thought it wasn’t right, he should tell me why.  Because really, I didn’t want to tell him anything and then realize that if I had said, “Okay, I want you to listen carefully,”  and I hadn’t said, “And  I want you to understand and act on what I am saying and ask if you have any questions or suggest something different if you want to but don’t expect me to change my mind unless you have an extremely valid argument,” I would have done exactly what I thought made that teacher somewhat unintelligent.  From the beginning I wanted us both, me and my son,  to know what was expected from the other when we were “listening” to each other.  Communication is a vital thing in parenting, at least I think so.

I was thinking about this the other day as I was watching two political strategists, one Democrat and one Republican, talk at each other; it was just laughable.  It’s like so much of what is going on in general. I keep hearing about all this “redefining” of words.  I think it’s bizarre.  If  you figure that what so many suggest sets humans apart and makes them more intelligent, theoretically, is their communication skills, their language and the ability to use it all to move forward and think logically, to be motivated by thoughts and feelings other than simply acting to survive, and again, if this puts us in a state of  “superiority” is really a personal opinion and not fact if you ask me,  if everything is redefined instantly as people are talking, if people can make anything make anything mean whatever they choose at any given moment, isn’t that sort of, well, regressing?  I mean, if we are not going to use language to communicate, if we aren’t really trying to understand each other, don’t we end up back at just trying to survive?  And then it occurred to me that that might be just what the political strategists may really want, for people to feel like this election is about actual survival.

And  what better way to do that than to destroy communication?  It makes sense, right?  I mean it seems like a whole lot of people in this country literally are not able to actually comprehend what a lot of others are saying.

Of course, there is that strong possibility that a lot of people have trouble comprehending what the hell I am talking about.  But that’s okay,  I have fun saying it and I realize that in the scheme of things, it isn’t important. And the thing is that it isn’t because I have redefined any of the words, I just maybe haven’t put them together in an order that is recognizable to many, which maybe is a good sign for those who have a little trouble with it.

ginny: on arts and crafts

Cute little jar like thing, isn’t it?  I made it for my daughter a couple of years ago and it makes me smile to look at it.  I actually stole it back from her not too long ago and now it sits on my dresser with an odd earring or two tossed inside.  Also a necklace that says “Sing like no one can hear you”, which is how I wish I would approach art – as if no one but me were ever going to see it.  I get self conscious about … wait, here it comes … not being good enough at artsy things, or crafty things, and so I don’t.  But that’s a perfectly lovely little jar like thing and it is shows a wee bit of artistic talent.  At the very least I am rocking those bold colors.

My sister is an amazing quilter and I am always astounded by how she can choose fabrics and designs that end up looking beautiful together.  How does she see that before she makes it?  This was supposed to be a blog about me and arts and crafts, but then I thought about my sister and how talented she is so I thought I’d show you one of her quilts.  I have now spent fifteen minutes looking at all of the photos of her quilts and I can’t choose just one.  This has now become a Jeanne Quilt Showcase.  Let’s start here …

This is one of the first quilts that Jeanne sent me.  It is the world’s second most comfortable nap blanket – the most comfortable will be up in a minute.  I love the kaleidoscope nature of it.  I’ve tried to picture what the original fabrics must have looked like for them to have turned out like this but I can’t quite do it.

The photo doesn’t do this one justice because so much of its appeal is in the details of the stitching.  It is actually a beach scene.  The top right is the sun, and there she used a zigzag streaks of sunshine stitch.  Bottom right is the ocean, with wavy wave stitches.  Top left you can see the flowers, and she outline each of them to bring them to life.  Bottom left is the shore … and she included a surprise for me …

Our mother loved frogs 🙂  You’ll find them in other pieces of Jeanne’s work.  For instance …

She doesn’t just do quilts or wall hangings – she quilts things like this reversible bowl!  I had to dump out the Dove chocolates that are usually in here so that I could take the picture.  I told you she is crafty!  Here is another other non-quilt quilted item she has sent us – and by “us” I really mean she sent it to my daughter.

Yes, that’s my lovely daughter hiding behind the pillow!  This pillow is also reversible – each of the squares folds back to reveal other fabric and patterns.  It can change moods as often as, you know, the girl behind the pillow.

Pretty cool, huh?  I love how the blocks pop out.  This next one she made for my daughter, who has had it on her bed for many many years now.  It is definitely well loved.

One of the things that I love most about this quilt is that those colors – black, white, and red – were the primary colors in my apartment when I was pregnant with my daughter.  Every time I see it on her bed it brings me back to that time of my life.  Jeanne made me a baby quilt all those years ago and I went looking for it earlier.  I thought I knew where it was, but I can’t find it.  I would be very sad if I don’t have it any more but fortunately I do have this next one … at least for a little while because once again it belongs to you-know-who …

As promised, The World’s Best Nap Blanket!  Seriously, those of  you who know me know that *I* am the flip flop girl, so how not-the-flip-flop-girl got this quilt I’ll never know.  But it is the perfect weight and size for napping, and as long as it stays in this house it will get used by me.

Sometimes Jeanne will quilt pictures of things.  What sort of things, you ask?  A fish, I respond.

Dude, totally one of my favorite things.  I love the pointy things around the edges – are they shark’s teeth?  Are we looking at the fish out of the mouth of a shark that is about to eat it?  I love all the patterns that went into making the fish.  Again, how did she know that the brown fabric would be great fins?  And look at his eyes!  Is this the end of a long day of swimming around?  Is he exhausted?  And what about that butterfly stitching on his tail?  How sweet and random is that?  I love this guy ❤

Other picture quilts are more involved than my finny friend here.  Take this one.

This is Jeanne’s dog George, who regularly gets tormented by a Blue Jay in their yard.  The background of this one tickles me.

I don’t remember what Jeanne calls this one, but to me it is Paradise.  Do you see how the picture is a take-off of the border print with the tree and umbrella and hammock?  How sweet is that?

This next one is sweet in a different way.  This is a quilted representation of a pencil drawing that her son did.  Amazing and beautiful.

Okay, we’re down to my two favorite Jeanne quilts.  This first one was years in the making.  Jeanne has had a print of Andrew Wythe’s “Christina’s World” for a very long time.  For those of you who have never seen it, here it is:

I may be getting the story wrong, and I hope she corrects me if I do, but once Jeanne started quilting she began to get an idea of doing a quilt of this.  She worked on it for years, but was never satisfied.  Then she came up with the idea of Christina’s Spring.

I love the tree.  I love the flowers spilling out.  I love the green of the field.  The whole thing makes me happy.

It makes me almost as happy as this last quilt makes me.  One Christmas I sent Jeanne a card that I absolutely loved, and on the inside, as a P.S. I wrote “This would make a beautiful quilt!”.  The next November a box showed up on my doorstep.  Inside, underneath the card sent back to me, was this:

Even without knowing the story, how can you look at this guy and not smile?

Ever time I look at him I think of my sister sitting in her room on the other side of the country, selecting just the right fabric, cutting out the pieces, and putting them just so.  I think of her stitching everything together and smiling as the snowman comes to life.  What an absolute gift, the instant connection I feel with Jeanne every time I look at this quilt.  When I spend any time thinking about it, like I just have, I tear up.

And so back to my original thought, which is that I should just forget about being good enough and “just do it”.  I look at her quilts and think I could never be as creative as she is.  Ah, but I suppose my little jar like thing shows that maybe there is hope for me yet.  I have always wanted to try my hand at pottery.  Now, where could I put a potter’s wheel …?

julie: on arts and crafts

When I was really young, on Sundays, me and my dad went to Maxwell Street.  This does have to do with “Arts and Crafts,” but there are a few little interesting things that maybe  don’t so much but are fun to tell so I will get them out of the way first. 

Like once I heard someone say something about “Jew Town,” and I asked my dad why anyone would call Maxwell Street “Jew Town” and he said that it was because the best time to go was Sunday morning when all the goyim were at Church.  I was about four at the time and it made sense, although I wasn’t sure if that meant that everybody who was there when we were was Jewish and if all the people who came later were not Jews, there were some questions there.   But at that moment, I was satisfied with what my dad said.  In retrospect, I have realized he always had a certain way with words. 

And then there was the question of pickles.  We ate “New Pickles.”  But not really, really new pickles.  The trick was to get them right when all the flavor had sunk in but before they got too soggy.  The pickle guy on the same side of the street as the two-foot long pasta and James from New Orleans who played the guitar was the only place we got pickles and he would always give me one to try from the middle barrel.  He would say, “Okay?” and I would say, “Yep,” and we would get some.  My dad said that making pickles was not something everyone could do really well.  Which actually was kind of funny because there was a deli next to where he worked that we used to eat at a lot, H&H Deli, and the guy who was the guy at that deli, Maishe, he said they had best pickles anywhere.  Whenever we came in he would say, “Give them some New Pickles,” and right when we sat down, someone would bring us a plate with pickles.  Or sometimes he would say, “Little David, go pick out a couple,” and I would go over to the jar and point to one or two.      

I usually liked the ones we got on Sunday better, but I would tell Maishe the ones at the Deli were the best ever.  My dad would sometimes joke with him that there were some good pickles other places, but not too often.   Maishe grew up in the same neighborhood as my dad and was “connected.”  He was always getting in trouble and finally got sent away to another state and they told him he had to work there and not do certain things, and he did for a while, so they let him come back to Chicago, but then  he messed up again and one day they found Maishe in the trunk of a car in an alley.  My dad said that Maishe was really smart and that he could have been the CEO of any company if he had just not developed a love for the things he did.  He said that there no matter what business you are in, you have to learn to do certain things certain ways, he called it “learning a craft.”  In retrospect, I’m glad I never told him I thought his pickles weren’t that good.

So arts and crafts.  Okay.  At a certain point, my father started giving me change when we would go to Maxwell Street and he would tell me, “choose carefully and don’t buy any dreck.”  Although I had a vague idea of what “dreck” was, for several weeks I would just watch my dad and listen carefully to what he called “shit,” and what he stopped to look at and what he would eventually buy.  I knew “dreck” was really “shit.”   It took a while for me to decide to make my first purchase.  I got shoelaces.  He asked me how much the sign said and I said, “a dime.” And he asked me how much I paid and I said, “a nickel.”  My dad said there was an art to not paying more that you should for anything. 

We stopped going to Maxwell Street every week.  Once in a while my dad would come get me and we would go, but it was different.  We would look for things and he would always be impressed, he would say, “You have really developed a good eye,” but it wasn’t the same as when I was little.  I suppose nothing ever is.

We started going to flea markets and all kinds of odd shops, mostly in Michigan and Indiana, on the weekends.  My dad would get really annoyed if we got somewhere and it turned out to be an “arts and crafts fair,” or something similar.  “Nothing but a bunch of dreck,” is what he would say would be inside.   But sometimes there was some kind of neat stuff.  I liked the quilts people made.  I thought some of it was kind of cool.  My dad would get annoyed with me sometimes and say, “that is not art.”  But I knew that.   I would tell him I knew that, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still like it, I mean, if you really look at them without judgement, there are a lot of things that are fun, just nice to enjoy.    Much later, in retrospect,  I realized the discussion about the worth of much in life between my dad and I had been created very, very early. 

I don’t remember making many things that would be really considered sort of “arts and crafts,” but when I was a teenager I did become really fascinated with Salem and witchcraft and the way those women were treated.  In retrospect,  I realize why.