Thursday, August 30, 2012

Working Vacation

I’m back to work after a “working vacation.” I volunteered to be a minion at SF BATS this year and it was fabulous. If you are a tarot-enthusiast, it may help to know that BATS stands for the Bay Area Tarot Symposium, celebrating 21 years of bringing tarot goodness to tarot lovers. The star of the show is Thalassa, the talented, funny and formidable organizer of the bee-zillion things that need to be done behind the scenes and on stage to make it all come together.

My BATS weekend actually had started almost a week earlier. Not only had I received a box of goodies from Ellen Lorenzi-Prince for the Millard Fillmore Memorial Spiritualist Temple Garage Sale, but also few precious decks of the Cirque de Whimsy Tarot from Carol Hartman DeVall, plus an enormous box of “mystery costumes” from Nancy Antenucci. I treated it all as “do not open until…” well; at least we didn’t have to wait until Christmas. SF BATS is scheduled for the last weekend in August.
Not only was I the shipping destination for a few BATS buddies, but I had my own stuff to prepare. I had just received the second printing of the Dust Bunny Lenormand and was busy making the colorful cases for them. People had been asking for more so I figured it would be good timing, especially since Thalassa had scheduled two BATS classes on Lenormand, one with Melissa Hill and one with Mary Greer. Both sounded interesting to me and I hoped I could fit them in with my volunteer duties.

Not only did I have my own decks to get ready, but I had also been inspired to make a little treat for my BATS buddies who were also members of a Facebook Group called Squeelandia. The group was created by none other than Thalassa, a critter-fancier with a soft spot for bats (of course!), baby sloths and other wiggly-nosed young un’s.

In Squeelandia, there are commonly posts sharing photos of baby animals, the kind that make us all say, “SQUEE!” and fall over from “teh kewt.” And with all of them, we “Squeelanders” are tempted to reach out and touch their little nosies and say, “Boop!”

Yeah, revolting, I know. Like a cup of tea with half a cup of sugar. But, look! A baby hippo! It’s that kind of thing that the Squeelanders go for. For Squeelanders, nothing is too sweet. So I made Boop! buttons with cute animals. I made too many, of course. Sometimes you just can’t get enough Boop!

All this took almost all week, except of course we did go to the Bay Model in Sausalito (by the way, that’s free admission and free parking, great for kids and groups), then to Book Passage in Corte Madera where I snagged a couple of delights like Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness and Lev Grossman’s sequel to The Magicians, The Magician King. Hey, a girl’s gotta read, right?

People have asked me, “What’s the difference between Reader’s Studio and BATS?” Certainly BATS is less expensive for me because I can sleep at home. Travel expenses are a huge consideration. Seriously, when you are face-to-face with all the goodies from Tarot Garden, which would you rather buy, airfare or #43 of 300 of a limited edition woodcut Marseilles-style Italian tarot? Just in case you wondered, yes, the tarot deck is cheaper than the airfare. Really.

I do love Readers Studio but there are differences between it and BATS. At RS, the main event is three half-day classes. If, for instance, one of the half-day sessions is not something you are interested in or is aimed at a different level from your own, you’re unhappy with approximately one-third of the experience. There are unofficial activities that are organized around RS; the best ones cost extra. Airfare, plus hotel, plus the conference, plus the early bird class, plus the field trip to the museum and it adds up. And you haven’t even bought that limited edition deck yet. That said, I’ve learned how to manage a little here, a little there on the RS easy payment plan to pay for things along the way and I LOVE seeing everyone. RS is well-attended and generally has a larger vendor room.

BATS, on the other hand, offers three separate classes for each class session. If you aren’t interested in something in the main room, there’s every chance you’re going to be excited about what’s going on in one of the other classrooms. There are classes suited for beginners and for more advanced students.

Readers Studio’s conference charge includes some meals, water and coffee. BATS provides coffee, tea and water throughout the day, a cocktail party at night. This year’s cocktail goodies were easy to make a meal of or just pick at as a snack before adventure dining in San Francisco.

Readers Studio has a unifying theme with an emphasis on education and audience participation, an exercise at the beginning, the three large classes and an exercise at the end, with some entertainment and some special short programs included. For instance, this year I hosted one of the breakfast round table wake-up sessions and had people playing Tarot Bingo.

BATS presents information but the participants are free just to soak it up. Those who have classroom performance anxiety exchanging readings with their new friends are relieved of obligation to prove to themselves they have learned something. At BATS, you soak it up. And of course there are lots of informal activities!

Because I was working behind the counter at the Garage Sale, I attended most of the presentations in the main room where the vendor tables were. But, I tag-teamed with other Core Daughters of Divination and caught both of Mary Greer’s classes, one each afternoon. I’m drawn to the historical talks and Mary’s got the goods. One day she talked about her historical tarot tour of Northern Italy. OK, skip what I said about airfare and lodging; I want to go on a tarot tour of Northern Italy. The second afternoon she talked about the history of the Lenormand. And how cool! Apparently “tarot bingo” is actually an historical tradition. I blushed when Mary gave my Dust Bunny Lenormand a plug and sent people from her class back to buy a deck. Wow! Thanks, Mary!!
The days were long and fun and yet, when it was time to pack up and steal into the night, I was sad it was over. Nancy Antenucci and I helped Dan Pelletier push the cart of boxes of Tarot Garden decks, significantly fewer than at the start of the weekend, up the hotel parking garage ramp and laughed again over the skits they performed with Rhonda Lund and Thalassa at the breaks. I still am not sure how Dan got out of that straightjacket; practice, I expect.

I am so grateful to Thalassa, her husband, her daughter, and all the DOD’s who worked so hard to make the 21st SF BATS so full of tarot goodness. And for Thalassa herself who weathered this year's personal tragedies, job search woes and behind-the-scenes snafus resolved without a hair out of place, BOOP! The Show Must Go On!

Best wishes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Attack of Conscience

I talked to anything when I was little. Mom got me a parakeet. Jill, a male parakeet as it turns out, seldom got a word in edgewise. He could say, “Drink,” especially when he heard water running in the kitchen sink. Jill and I were adoring friends, though. He liked to sit on top of my head and play with my long blonde hair.

We had dogs when I was very little, springer spaniels, I think. Clementine, named for my very favorite song that she and I would sing together, encouraged to stay outdoors, shared a dog biscuit one day when I was in need of deep doggy comfort. Of course, I talked to Clementine, certain she understood my every word.

Clementine and her brother Rocky had to go away though. I don’t remember why. It was some grown up reason of course. Having had and lost a dog all in one year, a year when my parents were in full bloom of their years-long, most bitter and violent fighting, I switched roles in what now seems like a perfectly understandable way from a psychological point of view. I became protective of all animals who needed someone to hug them and love them and talk softly to them. I became detached from people who were angry and sad and loud and frightening. I built fortresses of stuffed animals to buffer me from the screaming and tears when I wasn’t trying to actively intervene to make it better.

I quickly learned to read and became a fan of children’s mysteries, usually stories where the adults who were supposed to help didn’t or couldn’t. The children rose to the occasion, most often with their animal companions who understood and supported them. Often the children, the animals or something interesting they found was magical in nature. Sometimes a kindly older person would give them a hint or let them in on a secret most adults had forgotten.

Half Magic by Edward Eager was one of my favorites. Four children, left to the latch-key because their father was gone and their mother was forced to work, stumble across a nickel that wasn’t exactly a nickel. It was, of course, magic. Each of the children had an adventure, first by accident with one of them musing that she wished kitty could talk. The cat started sputtering in nearly-English epithets and the children worked out that the nickel was, well, half magic. They got half their wishes with unpredictable results.

One of the children, Kay, wanted to be part of King Arthur’s Round Table and found herself seated on a horse in full armor, a knight, “Sir” Kay. After knightly bravery and feats of derring-do, she takes off her helmet to reveal that she is, after all, just a little girl. I loved this part.

How could I be strong, brave, noble, effective, triumphant, rescuing, able, protected and protective? How could I be all those things and still a little girl? I liked being a girl. I just wanted to be all those other things too. Kay got her chance to wear her armor and was assumed to be knightly until she revealed herself to be herself, someone who was underestimated.

It should not be a surprise, then, that all my pets are rescues. Maybe it is because I wanted to be rescued from my family’s unhappiness and turned it around so I would not cast myself in the role of victim without hope.

In the transition from talking to stuffed-toys to adult stray critter collector, I had some bumps along the way.

It was 7th grade, a year of bitter disappointments, social disasters and dashed fantasies. It was winter in wind-bitten New Mexico and lunch-time. We huddled in groups, near doorways, behind trees, anywhere on the junior high campus to shield us from the relentless blast that went through all the layers of clothing, sometimes laced with “dry” snow, little ice balls with a grain of dust at the center of each. We waited for the teachers to let us back into the building.

A commotion on the east wall of the main building drew my attention. It was one of the teachers, Mr. Burke, a bull of a man, history teacher and football coach. A shivering puppy had wandered onto the campus and sought shelter in a winter-dormant flower patch. Mr. Burke was kicking the puppy, kicking its head against the wall, the rough brick wall. The puppy was squealing in pain. Mr. Burke was yelling. The kids were yelling. I snapped.

I had no armor but I charged. I landed on the teacher’s back like a creature from a gothic horror, screaming, trying to strangle him. I had never tried to kill anyone or anything besides cockroaches before. I was only partially successful. The puppy got away. Mr. Burke lived.

For the next two years, I called him “Fatty” to his face, daring him to hit me even as he punched my cafeteria lunch ticket each day in line. I learned he beat his children. I saw his daughter bear the bruises of his brutality. My loathing grew. This abuser of the weak had power over us. He learned I played football in the summers with the boys, one of only two girls the guys allowed to play. Mr. Burke said it was too bad I couldn’t play varsity junior high football since I wiped up the sandlot with his team off season. I smirked but hated him still.

Finally, junior high was nearly over. I had a hall pass, a valid reason to be in the hallway during class for some errand. And Mr. Burke stopped me.

“I have a hall pass,” I glared defiantly, all 5’1” of pure resentment. Oh, this teacher inspired me, all right. I determined to be a teacher. One more of me meant one fewer of his kind. I couldn’t kill him even though I tried that one day long ago but I could be what he never could.

“See here, McCord,” he sputtered. “I have to ask you a question.” I waited, feet planted.

Tea Tarot
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord
“All this time I thought you were just some ordinary ornery kid, calling me names. Now I find out you’re one of the smartest kids in school. Why don’t you treat me with respect?”

I was astonished. He didn’t know. His depravity was so complete that it never occurred to him what he was. My chin started to crawl up my face, about to crumple into tears. But Mom had taught me if you’re going to talk, say something intelligent. I spoke distinctly, knowing I would not be able to repeat myself.

“I cannot respect a man who kicks dogs,” I spat out word by word, suddenly 6 feet tall in full armor, my hall pass a sword in my hand. I had risen to become not the Knight but the Queen of Swords finally able use the truth as a weapon in defense against tyranny. And I ran for the girls’ bathroom and stayed, sobbing until the bell rang. I was half magic too.

Best wishes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Live! On Stage!

Going to the outdoor theatre and seeing Blithe Spirit last week brought back memories of the stage. It’s true: not all of them were happy memories.

Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

I think I mentioned once that I didn’t enjoy being a model. Even still in ruffled baby pants, I was pretty sure that boop-boop-ee-doo bending over to show that big appliqued valentine was funny for everyone except me. I didn’t like the attention. How could a three-year-old conclude that they were not giving me attention, they just liked the cute clothes on the little blonde girl. It was nothing personal.

I greeted my modeling days with the same joy I did sitting on “Santa’s” lap, that guy in the red suit who smelled like booze and tobacco. I didn’t like the Easter Bunny in the department store either.

Not that I didn’t try my hand at performing now and again. Dancing lessons were a flop, but, oh, that chicky costume! Mrs. T’s piano lessons were much better for the costumes than the music. I thought so at the time. Having learned grace under pressure as a runway—should that be toddleway?—model I was able to gut it out through bad fingering and crashing chords, curtsey, retreat to backstage. Only then did I faint. What a trouper!

I don’t know why I kept trying the stage when I hated it. I think in some ways it was a sense of altruism, volunteering to save some other child from the mortification and terror of being under public scrutiny for their entertainment, not one’s own. This form of self-sacrifice was mistaken for a craving for attention of the thespian variety.

It didn’t take me long to convince myself that I was not leading lady material. But funny girls can be sidekicks, supporting actresses, comic relief, “wing chicks.” And there I found my comfort zone.

Pressing still on my urge for creative expression was my consideration for my older brother. He played the part of the husband in the 9th grade’s production of Wait Until Dark. In spite of the fact that he was my brother, the one I had known all my life, through squirt guns, sandbox squabbles, he, the one who lost his pet mouse in his room, in spite of all that, he was pretty good, I had to admit.  He played guitar in a band. We had been so competitive all our lives but in junior high I became embarrassed about competing with him academically. We had both made difficult transitions moving from Florida to New Mexico. We found out quickly that our new school chums were critical of kids who made good grades. My brother ditched his grades purposefully to make friends; I would not, preferring to be hated for the truth than liked for a lie. Or, that’s how I saw it at the time. Junior high kids can be so…dramatic.

When he showed his flair for theatre and music, I postponed those activities until after he graduated from high school. In my senior year, I went hog wild. Literally.

I remember cringing once at a customer in the antique shop who was trying to be kind and chirped, “Oh, to be sixteen and beautiful again! This is the best time of your life.” I thought glumly, If it’s downhill from here, someone please just park me in the sand dunes and let me dry up. Then, the only consolation about having boys talk to my chest was that they weren’t inspecting my unreliable complexion.

In my senior year, I suddenly relaxed, no longer in fear of outshining my brother. He had gone on to college, even though the university was closer to the house than the high school. I had come into my own. I was the editor of the yearbook, something I had aspired to since 7th grade. I sang in choir and madrigals. Our high school went to All-State and I passed the audition to be in the All-State Choir. I tried out for the school play and won a part as The Maid; my hair, dress and make-up so “good” that I could hear kids in the audience asking, “Who is that?” Perfect, I thought, perfect.

I would later go on to be a newscaster for a radio station, citing my lack of nervousness as being my point of view. I wasn’t talking to 30,000 listeners. I was talking to a hunk of metal on a stand, a microphone, safe from stage fright by speaking earnestly to an inanimate object. I sang tenor with Sweet Adelines and was a member of a quartet, finding my safe zone to be the barrier that was the edge of the stage. After the performance, in hands of my octogenarian adoring fans I was once again terrified.

One performance, though, filled me with perfect ease. It was my senior year of high school, that moment when I was sure that I was bright with a brilliant future ahead of me. It was the All-School Program and there was a Show to put on. Super Bill, our choir director had some ideas about a few light-hearted acts to put on in between the sincere performances of folk song and ballet. There were costumes. There were microphones. We were going to sing and dance.

We were The Three Little Pigs.

Super Bill rightly assessed his performers. Kathy, Earlene and I actually did have the brass to dress up in pig costumes and sing and dance on stage. Brian, handsome, glib, dangerous, a wolf in real life with an endless string of attempted conquests in his reputation, was The Big Bad Wolf.

It was dress rehearsal night. We ran through the entire show in costume, with the band, the props, the sets, the whole enchilada. It was Pig Time and we were on. And suddenly I noticed that my microphone wasn’t there, no stand, no mike, no cord.

“Super Bill!” I wailed through my pink pig persona, “my microphone!”

“Aw, go ahead and sing,” Bill cajoled me back to pig performance. “We’ll get another one for you tomorrow night.”

So, in my best deep-breathing projection, I tried to compensate for the lack of electric amplification, belted out my Number Two Pig solo, sang and danced with my pretend-porcines and screamed and ran, perhaps with all too real horror, from Brian the Big Bad Wolf.

At the end of the Pig Performance, we awaited the assessment. Was it OK or do we need to do it again? A call came from the darkened back row of the theatre. Who it was I will never know, but he proclaimed what my brother had suggested for years.

The Queen of Wands is the life of the party. She is in her element not necessarily as the Star of the Show but in the thick of the energy. She encourages those around her to join in. She loves a crowd. She need not be the prettiest girl in the room. She’s on fire. She might be one of the most interesting people you’ll ever talk to, Dos Equis or not. She might wear you out.

“Marcia doesn’t need a microphone.”

Well. The show was a success. My microphone made a mysterious reappearance on the night of the performance. But I have since retired from the stage.

Best wishes.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Date Night

“John!” I hollered to the Hubs. “Get out your calendar. You’re busy next Wednesday night, OK? We’re going on a date!”

We have busy schedules and sometimes it’s hard to get just a little you-and-me time with Mr. Popularity. He’s been a little disappointed with the rugby pitch lately with people saying they were going to use it and not showing up. That sounds like a small thing until you realize that the Hubs waters the grass, mows the grass, arranges for trash pickup and porta-potties and makes sure the field is configured for whatever sport is using it at the moment. It’s a bit of work and more than that a bit of expense. So having events book the field and then evaporate without a trace is exasperating.

It ranks right up there with the group that used the field vigorously as planned and never paid, then sought to “rent” the field again. It ranks up there with the group who accidentally made off with the scoreboard controls only to have those same controls sold back to my dear husband. Yup, the same controls. Nope, that wasn’t a long time ago. Yup, just this week.

My husband is a gentle man and a gentleman. He seeks to remain friendly with the weasels and ne’er-do-wells who pull these stunts. He tries to soft-pedal these stories with me because he knows they upset me and he doesn’t want to have to deal with my annoyance too, even if it is clearly directed in defense of him and not against him. After all, he just wanted to have a place that was a positive venue of good fun for the community, one that gets bashed by its own residents as much as it does by people who feel they are too genteel to live here.

I’m not saying my own little town is suddenly a Garden Spot by any means. It is, however, no longer ranked as the 7th worst city in the USA. The city is no longer in bankruptcy, for instance. I make my own jokes, saying that we never did have martial law like everyone thinks. After all, we couldn’t afford it. But there are people out there who are making huge efforts for their communities all over, not just mine. I think they must be tired and discouraged the way my sweetums gets sometimes.

So, in the spirit of spontaneous entertainment, I took my friend Thalassa up on a suggestion to go to the California Shakespeare Theater’s production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. There’s supposed to be an umlaut or whatever we call those two little dots over a vowel in English over the e in Mr. Coward’s first name. If I find out how to do that here, I’ll fix it. Mr. Coward was a wonderfully talented dancer, actor, writer born in 1899 and died entirely too soon in my opinion. His acid wit is sweet as sour lemon drops for me.

Philippa Kelly writes in the program notes, “…he found wildly enthusiastic audiences for his lighthearted plays about shamelessly vain people, the proceedings edged with astringent social commentary….” Well, right up my alley, or more accurately perhaps, my front walk. People are always asking if I could have dinner with someone from history, living or dead, who would it be? Noel Coward would be on the list at least but only if he dominated the conversation!

John and I met well past our college days but we both majored in English literature, both having had some trouble settling on a major at all. John flirted with psychology and sociology, and even for a while engineering, while I had a math scholarship that I didn’t accept, selected English and nearly diverted to a geology degree at the last minute. We both like mystery and humor and find the combination of the two nearly irresistible. And then there’s my penchant for the metaphysical.

Up popped the notice about Blithe Spirit and my credit card sprang into action. Happily enough, there was also a discount “secret code” to enter to make the deal sweeter. Honey, I thought, we are so going to this play!

We gave up an evening of Olympic drama and baseball and trekked the easy distance to Orinda and the theatre. It’s right off Highway 24 with easy parking and, even better, easy access from the BART station. The theatre is outdoors, nestled in the dry summer hills, and there’s a shuttle that picks up the BART people and the lifetime members of the Knee Club (John and I are members). To solve the problem of what to do about dinner in the time between work and the theatre performance, there is a lovely picnic area under the trees.

We stopped in Orinda at the Europa Hoffbrau and picked up sandwiches for our picnic, then found out that sandwiches are available at the snack bar on the theatre grounds. No matter! Our sandwiches were wonderful and we shared a picnic table with a mother-daughter team who had brought an entire basket full of treats. I thought I was going to have to pull the Hubs out of our new friends' home-made guacamole.

The bells rang and we were off to our seats where it was still allowed to finish dinner if you hadn’t quite, as long as you don’t make noise to disturb the performance. Cell phones and pagers off and the magic began. Literally.
Tea Tarot
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord

Blithe Spirit starts out with a writer hosting a séance-dinner party with the ulterior motive of getting great descriptions and authentic jargon from the medium, Madame Arcati. Madame gives the host and his guests quite a show. We soon find out that a door has opened to allow the spirit of the host’s more-than-a-handful first wife to appear but only to the host, so it seems. Wit and physical comedy combine to show us that ghosts may be just as tired of haunting us as we are with putting up with them.

My favorite performance was Rebekah Brockman’s Edith, whose harried and hurried maid makes you certain that it is difficult to get good help these days. Her hypnosis sequence was snort-your-drink funny. Domenique Lozano’s Madame Arcati was ectoplasmic in her physical comedy and properly sonorous in her delivery, a medium with a mission. Kudos, too, to the set designer Annie Smart whose vision of the Condomine home had its own kind of frighteningly accurate echoes of the sort of interior decoration favored by my mother with those little unexpected special effects.

If you happen to be in the San Francisco Bay Area between now and September 2 and find yourself at loose ends for an evening’s entertainment, this is just the thing for date night, the night with the girls or any other 3 of Cups frivolity, say an extra evening available during the SF BATS, the Bay Area Tarot Symposium, perhaps. A word to the wise, if the day is scorching hot, the evening’s performance is likely to be comfortable with a light wrap. If the day is bearably mild, bring blankets and bundle up.

For more information go here:

Best wishes!

PS - That secret code is "seance"...Go! Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Safe at Home

I grew up in a family where a little drink now and again was acceptable. I remember bravely trying the beer at the bottom of my mother’s glass when I was 4 or so only to affirm and occasionally re-affirm my dislike of the brew. I don’t mind that others do like it, of course. It’s just not for me. I mean, why not just eat raw bread dough and be done with it?

As much as I hated and still hate beer, I like wine a bit more. I once captured a case of Sutter Home Reserve Red Zinfandel which I cherished lovingly until it was gone and even kept the wooden box around as a reminder for a while. That was some good stuff, raspberries and pepper, mmm-mmmm!

At the time I was pleased with my purchase, recommended by a friend who worked at Sutter Home in the Napa Valley. Later I learned that it was a coveted year and I had wasted it on evenings of grilled steaks in the backyard with the Hubs. I with my untrained palate and all felt a vague sense of unworthiness since other people who knew what they were drinking were devastated to learn that the case was long gone. I shrug.
I remembered buying really excellent Cabernets in the 90’s and watching them go out of my price range. Seriously, I’m not going to pay that much for wine. This is why I will always be small time when it comes to wine tasting. But I do so enjoy the local fruits and the ability to take advantage of living so close to fabled wine valleys. They call where we live the “Carneros” district. I think that means the cow pasture. If it doesn’t, it should.

Mom and Dad would order a glass of Rhine wine for me at dinner sometimes starting when I was 11 or so. The waitresses would roll their eyes, but it wasn’t exactly banned if your parents ordered it for you. I never had more than one glass, often unable to finish that one. I remember the wine, called Wedding Veil, and thinking some ominous thoughts associated with that.

My parents, when speaking to each other in normal tones, liked to remember their days in Washington, D.C. when Daddy was stationed at the Pentagon. They indulged in gourmet dining, the ballet, and the opera while they were there, before my brother and I were born. I calculated that this coincided roughly with their romantic dating phase which ended pretty abruptly never to resurface except in fond memory of dancing and cherry blossoms. They wanted us to appreciate good food, good wine, good entertainment, good literature, good music and of course good manners.

That may seem a little shocking in our health-conscious times now, I know. It wasn’t that unusual to give a kid a sip now and again in the 1950’s and 1960’s though.

It wasn’t that they were unaware or unconcerned about the negative effects of alcohol, rich food and such. It’s just that they never drank enough to even be tipsy, except the one time my Dad agreed to have dinner with my prospective in-laws during the Hubs-1 era.

That day he had tee martoonies and I was shocked, a little amused, but mostly shocked. He laughed, he giggled, he talked and then he went home to my mother who had refused to attend, something that should have shocked me but by then was actually expected. I don’t know what the conversation was that day. I’m just glad I missed it. Did you meet my mom, the Queen of Swords? Yeah, that was one more “everybody duck” moment in our happy home.

Mom liked her beer, sometimes wine and sometimes some kind of variation on a whiskey sour made with store brand grapefruit soda. She would have a drink in the evening. It wasn’t lots of drinks. It was a drink. It seemed normal. Now I realize she should never have had it with untreated major depression. Alcohol is the opposite of what she needed.

Alcoholism never occurred to her. I think she was pretty sure it ran in other people’s families. But you never knew. She had a momentary terror when she discovered my brother as a baby making nightly forays to the refrigerator to chug wine. She dashed immediately to the pediatrician with the little sot, apparently with visions of infantile dry-out clinics and baby delirium tremens. The doctor, they told me, laughed out loud and explained that my brother the great explorer was teething and the wine made his gums feel better. Welch’s Grape Juice was the approved substitute and after that, even with all his teeth, my brother was seldom without grape juice.

One thing I did appreciate about my parents’ more relaxed attitude about drinking was one of the more reasonable house rules starting when I was in junior high. By the time I had the idea to ride in cars with boys but of course was not allowed to, there were enough of my schoolmates’ older siblings who had been in terrible drunk driving accidents.

In Portales, New Mexico in the 60’s and 70’s driving was one of the few forms of entertainment. We lived in a “dry” county but that didn’t stop kids from driving the 20 miles up to Clovis to attempt to purchase beer and wine with faked ID’s or an older degenerate friend. By the time most kids wanted to experiment with alcohol, I knew that Coors Lite was the junior high beer and that I didn’t want to be anywhere near kids who had been drinking and driving.

“Now, if you want a drink,” Mom pointed to the built-in bar in the family room of the house we leased across from the hospital, “there’s the bar. Make a drink. Stay at home where you’re safe.”

One evening I took her up on her offer. Mixology was not something I read about when I read nearly every book in the library that one summer. It just wasn’t interesting. So, when I determined to create my masterpiece, I started from scratch. I settled on rum, which my parents did not care for particularly so it must have been a gift, mixed with 7-Up for its fun fizzy effects and grape Kool-Aid, all on the rocks.

I note this recipe to you in the earnest attempt to help you learn from the mistakes of others. It was quite dreadful, really. But it was mine. I gulped down my creation and retired to a luxurious bubble bath worthy of Cleopatra where I sang “Winchester Cathedral” at the top of my lungs in a falsetto that turned my throat into road-rash. I didn’t drown. I was safe, at home, just like the 9 of Pentacles, surrounded by only local hazards.

Sometime during the evening I donned a bathrobe, found a clean cotton mop-head to use as a wig and performed “Winchester Cathedral” for my parents who laughed until they cried and guided me wisely to bed to sleep off my over-indulgence.

That actually did the trick. I really didn’t want a drink again until after I was 21 although I took a swig of Annie Green Springs now and again. There was no romance in drinking for me.

I do still like to sing in the bathtub though. And that still makes people laugh, especially the people next door.
Best wishes.