A Door Unopened

A Door Unopened
Knock, knock...

Thursday, June 30, 2011


When I first met my husband the possibilities of us being “us” were wide open and— at least to me—not readily apparent. Any old thing could have happened from having our first date be our last date, to submitting to the old ball and chain routine (not bloody likely in my frame of mind at the time but like I always say: Never say never.). Our random meeting on Craig's List—a wrong ad, right guy mishap—meant we knew virtually, literally, and figuratively, very little about each other at the start. So I went on what I heard and saw and drew logical conclusions. It was years before I found out my version of reality was a myth originating from the leftovers of a past love.
Tim and I met sometime in the first week of October and things went pretty well. "Pretty well" meant that by the time December rolled around I started thinking of ways to ensure Mr. Grumpy (his future, self-imposed and very apt alias) had a happy Christmas. He was brimming with bah-humbug and I felt the need to slap his bad attitude upside the head and knock the man silly with yuletide cheer. I saw it as Nativity poker. "I see your snide views on religion and commercialism and raise you with 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.' And to sweeten the pot I'm throwing in 'If you're gonna do it, do it right.' So there.  I call, Scrooge-dude. Read ‘em and weep."
I thoughtfully observed what interested, delighted and tickled my new beau’s fancy and followed the lead. Along with the obvious—wine, good food, photography, literature, cashmere sweaters, and sexy clothes (for me, not him) —I noted he had a fondness for eggs. In his kitchen he kept a bowl in which nested a stone egg along with a couple of blown hens’ eggs that had been dyed and intricately carved. So when I found another couple of eggs on a holiday shopping jaunt—one that subtlety chimed when shaken and one that merely looked pretty sitting in a bowl—I thought they'd be  nice additions to his burgeoning clutch.
This is one  of two bowls from our current collection. You can see one of the original carved eggs (pink and white) at about 7:00.
On Christmas morning when he opened the ovoid offerings (in addition to the basketful of other presents I showered upon him, kicking his Scrooge 'tude to the curb, not for good but for the moment) he seemed appropriately appreciative. Almost immediately the new, Noel eggs took up residence with the previously established bowl dwellers. They all seemed to get along well and eggsisted in peaceful harmony.

It wasn’t long before more egg opportunities presented themselves and we both joined in on the acquisition eggspedition. Once you have your eyes oriented toward ova you find they’re sold nearly everywhere and certainly in any place that sells souvenirs or gifty-type items. In terms of happy reminders of places you’ve visited, eggs seem to have a certain hard-boiled charm. You sift through your collection and reminisce about where you were when you got them. That marble one caught your eye in Volterra, Italy. The abalone pair you picked up in Russell, New Zealand. The little glass ones came from Moab, UT. Those faded soapstone eggs you found in Point Reyes Station but they came all the way from Tanzania. And so the scramble goes.

Years passed. The bowl in Tim’s kitchen filled and I started a bowl at my place with the eggs he bought for me. It wasn’t a huge mission in life but just a little sideline that aggreggated and multiplied. I witnessed history repeating itself. People saw I had an egg collection and wanted to help it along so they bought more eggs to contribute. Thus, they became an inanimate form of tribbles (see Star Trek episode 44: The Trouble with Tribbles for further explanation.). I started with one and suddenly the next time I looked, the bowl was overflowing and I had to get a bigger bowl. It’s a weird reproductive phenomenonwhich actually fits when you remember the fact that they are, after all, eggs.

As the eggs amassed our relationship incubated successfully. When we went to Italy for our wedding, we spent some time at Tim’s cousins’ place in Rome. Lo and behold, they too, had an egg collection. We discussed how much we liked them, and they told us where their eggs were collected and we all agreed the elliptical embodiments are kind of a cool way to bring back a piece of having been somewhere. We should have eggspected it but were nevertheless happily surprised when we opened our wedding gift from these same Roman cousins. Egged on by our shared interest, they thoughtfully gave us one pink and one blue gorgeously crafted porcelain egg from the famed Italian makers, Capidomonte. We were now officially acknowledged as egg lovers—united and celebrated in proper Italian matrimonial style.

The pink and blue Capidomante eggs frame our wedding picture. The two other stand-alone eggs were gifts.
At some point—and there is debate as to eggsactly when—but after some number of years, Tim revealed a little tidbit he'd left out of the equation: Those original eggs, the ova I spied in his kitchen long ago, were not his. Nope. It was not his collection at all—it was his previous girlfriend's. I remember sitting there blinking at him, feeling slightly dumbfounded. The fact that they were the old girlfriend’s wasn’t overly surprising; her stuff had been strewn all over Tim’s place in those early days of getting to know him. What waylaid me was that this was the first time I was hearing about it. All those years—perhaps 4 or more—we'd been slowly gathering our congregation and I suddenly find out the primordial pile was contributed by the ex. It was an oddly eggsasperating moment when I realized—I accidentally poached her eggs!
I suppose I could have gotten mad; instead I cracked a huge grin. I mean you have to admit—it’s funny. What it boils down to is that we have an eggsquisite collection including the seed eggs from my husband’s old flame. It’s a perfect eggsample of befuddlement by way of eggstrapolation. So in addition to having stories to tell about from whence our eggs came, I’ve hatched the story of the inception of their collection. Eggscellent!

Our second bowl of eggs has a smattering from New Zealand, Moab, Volterra, Tanzania by way of Point Reyes Station, and the Christmas jingle egg.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


My paternal grandfather, Grandpa Don, was easy to love. He was fun and funny. He called my sister, Cookie and me, Cupcake. He would sit in his armchair in the living room or T.V. room and let my sister and I brush what was left of his hair. We’d take turns maneuvering the lonely, clinging strands that traversed the desert of skin surrounded by a retreating Friar Tuck semi-circle, with a baby brush, making sure the stalwart hairs were neatly arranged. He did a special trill or R-rolling with his tongue at the back of his throat that would make us laugh and beg for more. He indulged me when I was sick from mono in 4th grade with the” Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom” by V.J. Stanek. I spent days and nights poring over the tome, learning about everything from protozoa to pit vipers to pangolins. It was the best part and only lasting vestige of the 3 months I spent home from school. It remains my most precious book.

Grandpa Don was also endearingly unconventional in his grandfatherly manner. This was due to his love of scantily clad and/or naked women. Hold on. Take it easy. I can assure you his fondness never resulted in lurid or unsavory behavior towards anyone. His appreciation was honest and unapologetic and perhaps was a natural outcome of his profession as a corporate photographer for Chevron. A dyed-in-the wool devotee of the female form, to my knowledge, he was never scolded or denounced for his affinity. His interest was not only tolerated, in his home it was nourished and fostered. Cheesecake chiquitas and birthday suit kitsch were major parts of his persona. Perhaps this sounds odd coming from his granddaughter, but I must confess that I enjoyed his penchant as well.

Visits to the grandparents’ house in the outer Sunset District house of San Francisco, were not complete without a trip down to the basement to hang with Grandpa. In addition to an all-encompassing collection of shop tools, he had an extensive and eye-popping assortment of pin-ups. The top wall of his workshop was rimmed entirely with Vargas and Petty girl pictures.

The women exuded a blatant sex appeal which was not lost on me, although I was too young to put a name on it. I understood those fluffy, flouncy, flirty, femme-fatales were more than merely desirable. They were sirens in silk, vamps in velvet, seductresses in satin, elegant enchantresses, come-hither charmers, tantalizing temptresses, goddesses of give-it-to-me-baby. Beautiful and mesmerizing, I couldn't keep my eyes off them.

Strangely, my mom, with her staid, East Coast sensibilities, seemed unfazed that my sister and I regularly hung out with Grandpa Don in his man-cave decorated with girly photos. I wonder if she ever knew how much we talked to Grandpa Don about which were his favorites, and which were ours.  I pondered this mightily on each journey to the cement ground floor while I watched him work on whatever wood or Lucite project he had cooking.
I can't remember which part of which finger it was that was missing, but I recall watching him work and hoping he wouldn't lose any more of himself. For as many times as I asked him to tell me the story of how he lost a portion of his finger to the table saw, you'd think I'd remember what, exactly, was missing. It occurs to me now that perhaps he was thinking too much about his cheesecake instead of his fingers when he accidentally lopped off an unwilling, slow moving volunteer. Oops. BIG OOPS.

The other interesting sights my sister and I were treated to during those impressionable years, were the special drinking glasses Grandpa Don brought back from Mexico. On the outside of the glasses were women dancers in cultural clothing--Spanish Flamenco, Hawaiian Hula, Polish Polka, and Native American Pow Wow--and when you drank down, on the inside of the glass you'd see the same women but without clothes. The images were exceedingly non-explicit, but you'd see their forms undressed with tiny nipples and discreet creases. They were, in their nude way, very chaste and non-raunchy. The glass gals were merely culturally diverse, pleasing to the eye and in the buff. And when you think about it, shouldn’t everybody be au natural on the inside of a glass? Otherwise your clothes would get wet.

I think these glasses are pretty subtle. But I realize not everyone appreciates the genre.

I still have the glasses on display in our dining room. Upon showing them to a visiting friend, she exclaimed, "This explains a LOT about you!" If she meant that she understands why my tastes run a smidge on the racy side—I see what she means. If not, she may need to elaborate. I didn’t ask for specifics. Like my grandfather, I see nothing wrong with some tastefully done nudity and I see no need to defend myself. The images are not even close to what I’d label as obscene or graphic—but that’s just me.
Grandpa Don died when I was in fifth grade—forty some years ago—from emphysema. You guessed it. Smoker. Big time. Had to be on oxygen at the end. He wasn't very active during the wind down. Kinda just...faded away. That's how it seemed to me at the time. I guess losing most of your lung capacity will do that.  You breathe in. You breathe out. And if you have emphysema that's not enough. It kills you in the not-so-long run. From what I could tell, oxygen starvation is not a good way to go. By the end, not even the sight of Vargas vixen could inspire him to take the lungful he needed.
I was very sad about his passing. I never doubted it back then, nor do I now. But I remember thinking at his funeral that I should be crying. I didn't cry. I don't know why. To this day, I don't know why.  But I miss Grandpa Don. He was a big influence in my life. I was reminded this past weekend that he remains so. 
At the art and wine festival in Novato this weekend, we found a booth that had old forties and fifties ads, giclees, put onto canvas and paper. (Please check out francofolie.com if you’re interested. He has Vargas prints as well.) We bought three and a fourth was thrown in as a bonus.
These prints are mainly by Gil Elvgren, a contemporary of Vargas and Petty. Both Elvgren and Vargas did commercial work, however, Vargas’ art eventually became a staple of Playboy magazine. Elvgren, to my mind, had a better sense of humor. His girls are often more clothed but in whimsical, humorous situations. I love his work and something tells me Grandpa Don would have too!

An Italian ad for a mattress. "My goodness! That certainly was a GREAT night!"
Artist: Milo Manara (Thank you, Roberto Mongardi, for your help.) If this doesn't get you to buy this mattress check your pulse. You might be dead.

"I wonder if Petey would mind giving up a few tail feathers in the interest of fashion." (Gil Elvgren)

"Oh gosh! Need to hurry and wipe before shampoo gets in my eyes!" (Gil Elvgren)

"Golly gee! Now I'm all wet!" (Gil Elvgren)
This picture, titled, "Fresh Lobster" we didn't find but will have to look for it. I love this print! (Gil Elvgren)