Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stuff You Don't Talk About

"I've been there," I pointed to the television. The process of learning about your sweetie is an ever-unfolding comedy for my husband and me. "There's stuff in Illinois you just don't talk about."

The TV ad pictured a hale and hearty man standing in his living room, gold streaming through his sunlit picture window, swinging a scythe to harvest the wheat growing there indoors.

OK, maybe it wasn't quite like that when I lived in Illinois. There was a lot of bad shag carpet. I remember that clearly. They used to sell shag carpet rakes too, to untangle your shags presumably, since no one apparently wanted dreadlock carpet. Fashion has its intangibles.

I'll always remember fondly that summer on Crab Orchard Lake when I somehow felt confident enough to wear a bikini. I'm not sure I would recognize that person now. The bikinis are a faint memory: There was a killer chocolate brown one and then there was one with blue and turquoise pattern. I would wear them, but I would put a beach wrap over them. My fantasies of luxurious beachwear were always trumped by my self-consciousness. Fashion is not easy, especially for the faint of heart. With my history of swimwear letdowns, no way was I going on that inner tube behind the boat, nope. I was happy to keep my wrap on and let my hair bleach out in the wind.
Besides the fear of failure of the structural kind, there's also the panache part of it. This was a time when stack heels were mandatory. Even professional models were reported to have injured themselves on the runway in those extra-high heels with a misstep. Imagine the possibilities with someone who has fallen down stairs all over the United States? And yet I wore them, even with my swimming gear. I figured I could take advantage of my natural shortness and wear those heels as high as I liked. I liked the leather and cork wedge heels. I was lucky that my ankles were flexible enough to take the abuse of turning them, falling on the side of my foot and landing suddenly and without warning. What do you do when that happens? You get up, smile, brush yourself off and continue with that "I meant to do that" look on your face.

Or that's what I did. No, I didn't mean to do it. I'm strictly a Birkenstocks girl now. I think I used up all my ankle credits in my 20's and 30's. My chiropractor has enough work to do with what I have going on now without my tempting fate. I do have one pair of high-heeled sandals. I look at them every once in a while. I don't talk about wearing them. It makes my feet hurt just thinking about it.

Ah, but the good old days! The only reason they made so much fun about Imelda Marcos and her hoard of shoes was that they knew about it. Other people had lots of shoes. We just didn't talk about them. We wore them, admired them, bought them, agonized over materials, straps, the perfect hosiery to wear with them. But some guilty pleasures are best kept mum.
Tea Tarot
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord

I mourned the loss of my hippie hand crafted boots, sandals and overstitched Mary Janes when their time had come. Letting go can be so hard. I even embraced my fashion failures and utility wear as long as they remained intact for at least one wearing. Flip-flop blowout was irritating, but consider the loss if you bought seven pairs and realized there was a manufacturing flaw and your other six pairs were doomed. It's stuff you don't talk about.

Years after those summer days on the lake, right about the time when my once-frightening mortgage on the haunted Victorian plus the car payment got to be momentarily easy to pay, especially when I was a computer programmer by day and teaching a (now "antique") programming language in the evenings, a shoe wonderland opened in town. Warehouse stores weren't common then so when the Shoe Circus or whatever it was called opened up on the east side of town with acres of inventory runoff of "name" shoes, all of us little moths traveled to the flame.

It started to seem like a good thing to have a huge Victorian house all to myself with such a shoe thing as I had. Not that my co-workers were comfortable with the idea that a re-"singled" woman with a "man's" job lived in a large house by herself.

"What do you do in that great big house all by yourself?" they wanted to know. If this had been said with a flirtatious tone it could have been either funny or offensive, depending on delivery. But the guys I worked with were programmers. They were sincere. They were sincerely mystified. They did not get why it would be cool.

"I stretch my arms out and don't touch anything," I teased them. "I make rug angels in the carpet in the turret room." In retrospect, maybe it would have been better to leave them with an enigmatic smile rather than a quip. Extravert, what can I say? But no girl I knew talked about her closets and the intensity with which they were maintained and fed.

My first venture into the Shoe Circus was electric with possibilities. It could have been static electricity too, a common wintertime hazard of indoor Illinois. No matter, I was thrilled to be there, guilty and thrilled. I held back. My circumspect five, merely five, pairs of shoes and I slipped into the checkout line. I looked up from my cart to the customer ahead of me. I was amazed. I was validated.

The woman at the checkout ahead of me had at least a dozen pairs of shoes and I immediately figured out why. She was an Amazon, a giantess, Jeri Ryan times about 1.5 times the expected in height, perfectly proportioned. She was, in short (well, pun must be intended since I am), the most intimidating woman I had ever seen. Her legs really were up to here, meaning my shoulder. And I realized, with a sympathy that surprised me, just over five feet tall and a mere mortal that I am, that this poor dear had a shoe thing too and worse yet had a lifetime of difficulty finding sexy shoes in Amazon size.

The rollercoaster of unspoken emotion was almost too much for me when, after Ultra-Jeri left with her score, the checkout clerk showed obvious signs of melting into laughter. I smiled and bought my shoes without saying a word, suddenly glad for my common bond to Ultra-Jeri and also for my comfortable ordinariness. I pulled my own 2 of Swords to hold back on expressing my thoughts.

I adored that one pair of 9 Wests in soft tomato red with the daring toe-cleavage I bought that day. No one ever knew what I really thought when I wore those shoes. Sometimes, there's just stuff you don't talk about.

Best wishes!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tarot of Da Feet

I love getting together with folks who love tarot or with people who have similar interest of any kind. It’s probably the extravert thing about me but how fun when we already have a topic of conversation, especially one as varied, controversial and dynamic as tarot. It gets even the introverts talking and you should know nothing pleases me more than to know what’s on an introvert’s mind. For instance, that’s why there’s a comment section at the bottom of each blog; you email people will just have to click on the link to the blog to see what I mean.

When I was in my 20’s it became apparent that the art of conversation was not something one learned in high school or at the parents’ knee. I realized that reading up to 4 books a day during my summers and watching entirely too many black and white movies gave me a skewed perspective of human interaction. They call those old movies “talkies” because they figured out how to add the sound of human speech to otherwise “silent films.” But I think today the common view is that those movies were “hyper-talkies” and our current films are something more like either “moodies” or “special-FX-ies.”

“Nobody talks like that!” people complain about those old talkies. Ha-rumph, she thinks, well, I do! So while all the girls were falling for the strong silent types in the more modern movies made while I was growing up, I had crushes on James Stewart and Humphrey Bogart. My father was particularly horrified to find this out.

“They’re MY age!” he sputtered. Well, that’s something that can’t really be helped. Love transcends time, especially movie-star love. It’s not to say that I didn’t swoon over Clint Eastwood chomping on a cigar in the sweaty west or rolling his eyes at administrivia in police work. I did. But my true loves were the guys who talked to me.

Now I’d love to give advice to the love-bound male to assure them that girls like it when they talk to them about anything, but, alas, it’s not true. Those same dull thuds who tried to convince me that no one talks “like that” were the ones who could drool on endlessly for hours with pithy statements like, “Oh, wow, stereos, man.”

Yes, these timeless words were often enhanced by natural chemical substances which are only recently available to those with a prescription in some states. Weed tended to slow down any conversation and limited the topics to the aforementioned stereos, whether Layla was the greatest song ever but still heard too often on the radio, the quality and availability of rolling papers and other paraphernalia and who had been busted recently doing something really stupid (as opposed to sitting for hours in a filthy living room talking about these timeless things).

Inevitably the conversation got around to food, usually brownies with herbal additives. Apparently the goal among those eligible males I knew at the time was to “astro-plane.” I think that meant losing some control over much if not most of your sensory capabilities, something ultimately all my friends would turn to me while discussing and say, “Yeah, but we don’t recommend it for you, Marcia.” I had to agree.

Seriously, purposefully lowering my IQ and that of my compadres does not seem like fun to me. I like to remember the concerts I attend. I like sparkling conversation. I liked dates who did not fall asleep midway during a romantic moment. And then, plush as I am, I’m also curious as to why people think the reasons for obesity in the US are such a mystery. “Man, I have got, like [giggle, snort, cough and spit all at once], the munchies, man.” The Big Lebowski is delicious fun as movie; in real life, I think I’d rather count paperclips than live that.

Rather than hurt any of my stoned friends’ feelings, I tended to wander off and do things like teach adult education courses in antiques at the local junior college, learn Gregg shorthand for fun and profit, dabble in geology to explore caves in Southern Illinois despite my claustrophobia. Oh, wow, man, like, salamanders!

Only much later did it occur to me that while I was at the same time trying to stifle my negativity about the Doper lifestyle and amuse myself with something I was truly interested in, I and my smokeless life were being “dissed” as “narc” behavior. Well, the stuff does make people paranoid too, I guess. The upshot was that while I liked most of those folks aside from their hazy moments, they for the most part did not like me. What’s not to like? Well, everything, I suppose.

Most folks just know to hang around people who have things in common with them. My own skin-crawling craving for novelty, diversity, change, new ideas, new experiences, the restaurant I’ve never been to before, the next moment because it’s never been here, etc., also leads me to think that because I like all kinds of different people, they will also like me. Well, how rude to assume! Nothing like a rejected thrill-seeker who is easily thrilled, I say. In a way, my acceptance, nay, embrace of whatever is different from me is also a bit of my blind spot.

This week I’ve had the chance to get together with a few different bunches of people and worked on applying one of my old saws about how to tell if some human interaction (it’s hard to call all human encounters relationships) is working: Do you like yourself when you are with them?

I dated a guy for a really long time, years, in Illinois. He was cute.  He was smart. He would talk about ideas. He was collaborative. He could laugh at his dyslexia and work through it. There were a lot of pluses. There were significant detriments too. And the worst of these was that I did not like who I was when I was with him. So I broke it off. In the lonely days after the break up, I realized time and again that I had made the right decision. I needed to be a more positive person than I ever could be when I was around him. It was necessary for my survival. It took me a while to put it together, but finally I realized that I needed to surround myself with positive people and step away from negative ones. I tended to take on the characteristics of my surroundings.

So, Tuesday, I dragged my friends Becca and Andrew to a San Francisco Meetup called Tarot Café. You’ve heard about Andrew a bit before. He’s 24 and a tarot reader and enthusiast. Enthusiast doesn’t quite cover it. He will tell just about anyone his favorite deck is the Robin Wood although he does have a dragon thing going too. Becca is a professional illustrator who has worked for some Big Names and on some Famous Projects that you’ve probably heard of but to keep her out of trouble we will leave it at that and say she is some kind of artist. She’s been coming to my Backyard Tarot classes and is the first to tell anyone that she is not a tarot reader. I’m hoping we can do a deck together, but don’t get too excited, kiddies. It’s going to take a while.

There we were with our café drinks at Borderlands Café, sitting around the tables with our decks, talking with Anastasia Haysler of Tarot Media Company about balance and the equinox. In the midst of Becca’s dawning horror about the possibility of reading tarot for the fun exercise and another meetup member’s eagerness to get on with the reading part, the balance of opposites there across the table from each other, I realized I was happy there. I liked being with people who like what I like, even if they like it for vastly different reasons, lengths of time, images and symbols or uses for tarot.

Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

Yes, it’s different. Tarot is different. When people find out I read, write, talk, joke and create tarot, sometimes they have to step away because, well, because that’s just too different for them. But like Becca’s draft drawing of the Hanged Man (no previews yet), I’m happy in my difference even though I know it isn’t for everyone and that I might get shunned, “dissed,” made fun of, looked at with disbelief or actively disliked. The Hanged Man and I are like this, after all.

So at the Tarot Café when the regular part of the meeting was over, I was sitting next to RoseRed Robinson also of Tarot Media Company, who we have both determined is one of my cousins and not all that distant. She had an assortment of Tarot Bath Salt Sachets to choose from for the door prize people of which I happened to be one.

I asked, "Oh, do you have a Hanged Man?"

"I don't think so," she said, looking at the bunch. "What would Hanged Man sachet smell like?"

I thought for a minute.


I settled for the Empress, roses and jasmine. Love that Tarot Cafe!

Best wishes!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

No Good Deed

You’ve heard the saying: No good deed goes unpunished. It ranks right up there with: The path to hell is paved with good intentions. I figure my tombstone, if I get a tombstone, will say, “She meant well.” She did and still does.

I finally submitted my written entries to the Little White Book (LWB in Tarot jargon) for the 2011 Tarot Collectors Forum Collaborative Deck. I had volunteered to help, meaning well. I did help, some, but not as much as I originally meant to. I had no idea that my time between April and the present day would be so busy. Luckily, I had created my card images early in the project and knew what I wanted them to look like.

My Hierophant is taken from a postcard from 1900, a Medicine Man, a shaman from his tribe, enfolded in skins, showing his hard-won humanity from within the animal and as if from an inner glow, the spirit within him showing through that humanity. I portrayed him in shades of plum rather than stark black and white, a color like the fruit that nourishes the spirit and the body, a color like blood, like royalty, like a cabinet piece kept behind curved glass, forever protected like a treasured pearl within an oyster. He is gentle and terrible. He is stern and understanding. On his face are the events of humanity somehow put together as a puzzle to answer the questions of spirit. He is here with the cure, although you may not like his answers.

My King of Wands is also from an antique postcard. Depicting the Master of Energy, my guy, the mighty hunter, has a solid grip on his shotgun but even that control is not enough to prevent an accidental misfire as the gun fires when the stock hits the ground. The Mighty Hunter’s hat is thrown back from the force of the blast, a bit of collateral damage, and he is momentarily thrown off balance. But the Happy Squirrel in the corner of this funky valentine is unharmed. I wanted to show that just a “hands on” approach was not necessarily enough to demonstrate true mastery of energy. You can be paying attention to one thing and something else can go wrong.

My favorite offering this year is my 9 of Wands. The subject of this card is a little fellow in colorful clothing, seemingly ready for a party, but he has a terrible toothache. It could be from some bad eating habits like too many sweets. Whatever, the cause from the past, he has a cloth bandage tied around his head and jaw. His lips and tongue are swollen almost to the size of the moon. At this moment in time, he’s apparently experienced some good times and has the expectation of more, but also he is currently experiencing the bad times. He has paused in his steps along the road, clear that his next move is to get some relief for that tooth but also with a dawning suspicion that his problems, which may have come all of a sudden, could be due to his own actions. Overlaid on the image is the music score to Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, a dance traditionally celebrating harvest. The throb of the music seems to be in sync with the throb of the pain of that sore tooth, like a tune he can’t get out of his head. It is a self-assessment he cannot ignore. Can he go on?

My father used to caution me about burning my candle at both ends, which sounds like typical fatherly advice from his Air Sign Aquarius to my Fire Sign Aries. I of course took a typical Fire Sign approach to this well-meant warning. I usually ignored him. After all, a candle does have two ends and what’s that other end doing just sitting there? Makes a better fire if you’ve got more, right? And if you hold that candle in the middle… well, if you do, it can start to look a lot like that shotgun the King of Wands accidentally fired. So over time, I have learned to try to limit my commitments to what I can actually accomplish.

It doesn’t always work that way. I have so many more ideas than I can ever implement or even write down and save for later. I thought I would have more time this summer because I had not committed to as many events for reading tarot. But I underestimated how time-consuming my two favorite tarot conferences would be, The Readers Studio in April and BATS, the Bay Area Tarot Symposium in August. Throw in that family reunion, a couple of classes to teach, a few readings, work, the house and basically, I think I ran out of candle! True Fire Sign, my first impulse is to ask for more candle, not to step away from any of the activities.

But I was happy I had caught up on some of my obligations, although I’m not sure my partners who have worked more steadily on the Collaborative Deck are quite ready to forgive me. I hope they do. They are good people and have continued to nag me without actually taking out ads to hire someone to hunt me down and execute me. I think that was going to be the next step. And I still want to participate in this deck and future ones. I have offered further help.
Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

The help comes with just a little ray of hope for my collaborators: I’m not actually committed to any big tarot projects between now and the end of the year. And I’ve volunteered for one of the more odious tasks in the deck creation, the money part. I’m hoping they will take me up on the offer so that in some way I can atone for my being the Prodigal Partner.

In that way, maybe my own 3 of Pentacles, the teamwork card, won’t have completely fallen off the cart of intent and we will get the 2011 Tarot Collectors Forum Collaborative Deck published after all!

Best wishes.

*** ***

This week’s results for Mr. Goon’s Sports Page are posted. Picks for the upcoming weekend games will be posted soon. Let’s see if we can do better!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In the Pool

After picking the Super Bowl loser a couple of years in a row, I officially retired from sports picks with Tarot. But my husband convinced me otherwise. We are members of the GVMNFPEADS. OK, not every organization has a catchy acronym, but this one has been in existence for a long time. That’s a very long time, somewhere around 30 years, maybe more. (Children, please! Put away your calculators. These people have youthful ideas in spite of the cold, hard numbers. Besides, it's not nice to be rude to old people.)

I’m actually a newbie to the pool, whose official name is the Greater Vallejo Monday Night Football Pool Eating and Drinking Society. I’ve only been associated with the pool for the last 16 years. It was a little awkward breaking in as the new kid. In fact, when John brought me to the first football pool dinner, I had no idea that the members thought I was a kid. I figure it’s because I don’t have many wrinkles.

Tea Tarot
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord

My friend B. G. says you can’t have an unwrinkled face and a tiny derriere at our age. Well, it’s not like I wanted to be “plush sized” but if the side benefit is being mistaken for John’s “cradle robbee” then I guess it’s OK. Let’s just say I’m not as young as a lot of people think I am. Then again, I’d say I was much younger! One year I started dropping comments revealing my age so people would relax, for goodness’ sake. Over time, the poolies and I have gotten to know each other a bit and I don’t feel like I’m treated like both the blonde and the little red sportscar all rolled into one. I don’t think of myself as my husband’s midlife crisis, but more like the cure for it. They probably do get that between the two of us, the dog provides the only adult supervision in the house.

So, when Ricky Rasputin, our illustrious organizer, sent out the Week 1 picks sheet, I considered long and hard before playing along. There’s a little history of course. About three years ago, I decided to take the pool seriously. You know what I mean: Study. I read the newspapers, listened to the pundits, figured the point spreads, even threw in a favorite color or mascot into the mix for fun. I submitted my selections faithfully, writing role-playing emails to RickyRasp posing as the Faithful Servant to Mindless Leader of the Sunless World.

Even the role-playing has history. My husband spent two years in India in the Peace Corps and returned for a few visits, once as a Fulbright Scholar. Pardon me for bragging but I think that’s pretty cool. After all, at the same approximate age, I was still trying to referee my parents’ fights, teach junior college courses in collecting antiques and get a second college degree, this time in a marketable skill. I can’t call going to Missouri exotic travel, especially when I started from Illinois. Refereeing my parents’ fights died off as a calling when my mother was diagnosed with cancer and decided not to fight with anyone any more. At least I got to spend some quality time with her before she died. And I don’t think I saved the neighborhood from my parents’ quarrels since by then they were good at keeping them within household and decibel boundaries, refining the process over time.

So, back to the hubs. While he was in India, one of the people he worked with there thanked him for his efforts to bring sunshine to the sunless world. It transformed over time to be an official title of the Mindless Leader of the Sunless World. So when we got together, I became the Faithful Servant, the scribe for our little kingdom and Mindless' right hand.  Maybe left too. As you can imagine, appealing to Ricky Rasputin requires a certain decorum. You can’t just say, “Here ya’ go!”

Week after week, I studied and submitted the picks, beseeching Ricky Rasputin to accept the humble efforts of the unworthy scribe. Week after week, our collective score sank like a stone to the inglorious position of next-to-last. If we had been last, we would at least have gotten the prize for being the worst.

Alternatively, our friend Maxine basically threw a dart at the wall and submitted all her picks at the beginning of the season at random and finished a teeth-gnashing above-average. Fie! Phooey! Fine. Other f-words came to mind, few of them football. So the last two years, we’ve signed up for the pool but not submitted any picks, watched our friends’ fortunes rise and fall throughout the NFL season, hosted our requisite GVMNFPEADS dinner on the Monday night we signed up for and just enjoyed everyone’s company.

There are a few poolies who have passed on, one in particular a retired doctor originally from the Boston area, who would have snorted at the idea of just enjoying everyone’s company. But Rocky adored my husband and was delightful with me, something not everyone can say. Rocky and his sunny wife Kay served us dinner most Thursday nights until they became too infirm to do so. Now they are both angels in heaven.  At least Kay is.  But Rocky was serious about his football. I’m not sure he would appreciate that we were just as serious about our socializing with the pool and its other extraordinary members.

We’ve had a judge, a couple of doctors, teachers, civil servants, politicians, other medical professionals, a roofer, a former merchant marine, the gardening experts, the flooring folks, sales, service and the humane society people in the pool. This is a fun bunch of people dedicated to good food and good football. They are world travelers. They are organizers. They are promoters. They are movers and shakers. They are people like anyone else trying to get along.

So this year, after a little prompting, I’ve decided I would dip a toe into submitting my picks, using, of course, the Tarot! No analysis, this time, no serious studying of the sports section or calculation of odds or factoring in injuries. Nope, just the Tarot this time. Each week, I’ll post the picks on a separate page here in my blog which I’ve named Mr. Goon’s Sports Page. Each team gets a card for the game it plays that week. Pitted against its opponent’s card, they will duke it out Tarot-style. The games will be ranked based on whether their card pair comparisons look like a sure thing (high point values) down to the hard to tell games (low point values).

OK, boys, let’s spin that Wheel of Fortune! I’ll let you know how I do.

Best wishes.