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Long live all maidens

easy and beautiful !

Long live mature women also,

Tender and loveable and full of good labor. 

Gaudeamus Igitur

« Something More Authentic | Main | Thus begins the new year … »
Wednesday
Jan272010

Eenie Meenie Minee Mo

So F. checking out the Now paid off. I thought Bombay Palace was a great venue. The way those waiters catered to us, suggesting the Cool Mango Buttermilk for your frozen mouth (so very thoughtful) … our own little “happy hour”! When F. entered with the gang, I must say everything livened up and the turbaned servers walked a little faster and worked a little harder. 

Markie seemed a little diminutive sitting beside her. Why did he sit there? Or did she put him there? F’s seating kafuffle was totally embarrassing: too much wind from the vent overhead, too cold near the doors, not private enough … I think I am beginning to unravel the 'affliction'. I felt sorry for the waiter, granted the menu was extensive: Ummmm … I'll try the seekh kebabs … wait, no, oh god, I just love lamb …I see you do the sali boti with the spices and dried apricots. Okay … yeah, I'll go for that …yeah … and we'll start with one bottle of the Chateau Neuf du Pape, right guys? Yeah, right, I thought, who's paying for this at $55 a pop? Are we treating her? Thanks to my innate frugality we ended up with reasonable red Chianti. 

And even Markie survived, being jerked around by F. like that: I think you definitely have something there Mark. You’ve got a voice, you know … of your own, and … you've got heat, which is the meat ... oh the effects of wine! Just a little less gravy …

Too bad we left the 'Exquisite Corpse' till the end, after such liberal imbibing and high-powered conversation. To see what came from those saturated minds, a few words here and then a few words from the next person and then the next, all strung together to create some pretty surrealistic stuff. And the tidbits you pick up on such an evening, like her admiration for Joyce Carol Oates, or for Annie Proulx and her “ down and dirty” style of writing a gay love story.

But she didn't comment on my Dutch Memoir. Well, fine. I'm not fishing for compliments. But how about you take a look at it for me (see the rather longish piece at the bottom of this email) ?! I’m overeager … I know. Will have more pages ready in a few weeks and hope for a full critique in class. Am finally getting to Hempel. 

January is over and the "hot prospects" all a little delayed. Francis has agreed to meet with me at Alize in February, just two old university friends chewin' the fat, as F. would say.

Hasta la vista             

Adria

 

 

A Matter of Choice

They say I look like her, my aunt Allegonda (Gonnie for short), the baby who is now eighty- eight. Or at least, will look like her. She is the last living sibling of my father’s sixteen brothers and sisters who date back more than a century. They were the products of fruitful and proper living, the hows and whys dictated by black robed clergy in velour bowler hats, pontificating from pulpits on high. My grandmother spent the bulk of her days in bed in the process of making and having babies. There was Johanna, Arnoldus and Janus, Arnolda, Leonardus, Lambertus, Anthonis, Bertha and Frans, Sjef and Willem. But Gonnie is special and precious, doted on by her three sultry beauties of daughters, their well to do husbands and their adorable offspring. She has not been the same since the death of her own husband, Leo, a retired policeman, who died some years ago. He was her lover, her butler and gardener and she mourns him to this day.

Gonnie suffers from hyperventilation whenever she stews about things, but especially about her own future. Breaks out in a sweat. When I last called her to say I would be there to visit in the summer, she faltered.

“Do you think … do you think I’ll still be here?”

Panic attacks happen when she finds herself in confined spaces but never when others most expect it. Once, when daughter Jeanne was driving on the narrow A1 on the way to Belgium, just staying with the flow at a hundred and forty kilometres, she refused to co-operate with the mandatory seatbelt rule. Tactfully, I had questioned her about the possibility of doing it up.

“ I never do it up, lovie. It’ll muss up my dress,” she’d said, smoothing out her stylish linen skirt, one of her own creations.

I recall how on a previous visit of mine she’d been happily munching away on her bacon pancakes, along with the rest of the clan: a special birthday celebration at the Pancake Farm on the Leender Way. Without warning she began to squirm uneasily, pushed away her plate, then her chair, and stood up looking a little green around the gills. I guided her out through the back door into the fresh air. Together, we spent a little downtime, taking deep breaths, walking past the children's petting zoo admiring the llamas. Soon everyone joined Gonnie amid the greenery, and colourful ices, sorbets and assorted desserts soon graced the little patio tables. Starchy waiters began to take orders.

This time when I visit her she seems in superb form. We meet at the posh estate of her daughter José, in the picture perfect village of Waalre where I am privileged to attend Gon’s August birthday breakfast. She leans on the arm of Elise, a dark haired beauty and her middle child, just back from holidaying in Egypt. With the reverence afforded to the central figure of a religious procession she is being led from the family Mercedes, parked amid boxwood and euonymus, into the bright airy expanse of kitchen. But I am dismayed to see the extent of her hobbling as she manoeuvres the fine white pebbles strewn in and around the flowerbeds. Her grandchildren, some already nearing that precarious stage of puberty, form a sort of cortege and bounce around her with their abundance of electrified hair: black, blonde and red … curly and straight. Such sharp contrast, these life-affirming manes, to their Oma’s flat salt and pepper locks placed ingeniously so as to camouflage the more balding areas of her pate. 

“Auntie Gon”, I say. “You’re limping!”

“Oh shut up about it,” she says as she reaches for the table’s edge inside the kitchen.

Her face is contorted and her breathing shallow as she plops herself on a chair. Her head is tiny, set against the huge art deco mural that decorates the wall behind her: a still life with large knife and red fruit on one side, balanced by Picasso- like creations of green and orange on the other. 

This imposing woman wears organza outfits in creams and whites, three quarter length jackets over ruffled, short sleeved dresses, her own haute couture creations, crafted only recently. As she sits, legs crossed, she plays with her skirt and adjusts it to fit below the knee, covering a bony shin. A coy Allegonda slowly slides it back up again to show a fuller section of her leg. Her pathetic lower extremities show signs of abuse, the kind that western women inflict on themselves in the name of fashion. It’s her pointy Cinderella shoes into which she does not fit. I touch her foot. She winces. The foot itself bulges out and over her shoe, as would an airbag, refusing to fill the space. Her shrivelled, but elegant leg, sports bubbling veins of yellows and blues, shades of pink and orange. The ropy decorations twist like miniature rivulets amid a visible network of spidery veins.

Her daughters eye me hopefully, thinking I might tactfully advise their pig headed mother about the pros and cons of orthotics and what are called, comfortable shoes. Gon allows me to inspect her painful foot. I avoid applying pressure, but it is too late. Her screams attest to the severity of this ugly geriatric affliction.

“I have tried everything,” she argues. “The podiatrist whittles away but it makes no difference.”

“Mother, look at this ridiculous thing!” says Jeanne, who turns to me, explaining that her mother has created her own insoles out of sanitary napkins placed within a nylon sockette. They look awkward and constantly slip out of her shoe.

“Look at these shoes, auntie Gon”, I say, and pull a state of the art orthotic from my ugly, black, sporty- looking running shoe.

“No more pain for me … I go up and down stairs at train stations, run for buses, wearing my backpack even, and no problem,” I gloat.

Perplexed, her gaze shifts numerous times from my shoes to her deformed foot, which looks much like the product of Chinese foot binding. Characteristically, her mouth begins to hang open. I can see her tongue sitting there, immobile. She is thinking and will soon pass judgement.

“But how can I wear shoes like that?!” she exclaims.

 

I know she is right. I have watched her since I was a child, shuffling in high heels for several city blocks to meet up for coffee and ginger cake with her favourite niece and corset maker. Her vanity is incurable She is tall and imposing, as was my father. Her eyes may be somewhat closely set, her cheeks a little droopy, but I have caught her admiring herself in the mirror that hangs above the fridge in her kitchen, turning her head this way and that. On top of the fridge she keeps the milk white dish of assorted ruby red lipsticks. Not the cheap sort, but golden cased, higher end brands like Chanel and Dior.

 

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