Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Real Royals

This week has brought out all the Royal-Watchers, and I have to admit that I’m one of them. My love affair with England began when I was twelve, when I first went to England for three weeks and began my love of travel. How could I not love it? It was rainy and old and literally foreign, with different food (stands selling hot chestnuts), different accents (blimey!), different transportation (trains & double-decker buses), different buildings (castles with turrets) and a different city vibe than I had felt anywhere before.

But I think the presence of the royals influenced the culture the most. While society gets farther and farther from ceremony, tradition, and respect for history, the presence of the British Monarchy gives us the true definition of class. We need more class.

Sure, some people may say that society is moving away from the royals – that they’re no longer needed, that they spend too much money. But we need examples of royal living. We need to see people bow and dress up and given titles of honor. In this world whose definition of “real” is watching people from New Jersey getting drunk in a hot tub, we need to see people living royal lives. We need to see that it’s possible. There really are princes and princesses living in castles, even nowadays. It’s a fairytale that is real.

Of course the Royals don’t have it easy; no one does. Their lives aren’t perfect; no one’s is. But that just makes them more real. So this Friday morning (at 3am!) I will sit in front of the TV like I did years ago, when Mom got me out of bed to sleepily watch the historic ceremony. I’ll see the military and the horses and the carriages and all the fanfare, live, right there, for real.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

George's Buffet

This morning I took George for a walk before work, and on the way I had to suddenly pull him away from an apple core that was lying in the gutter. In fact, he has learned that any little thing on the street – rocks, leaves, twigs – might be food, so he knows to check out every single thing quickly before I notice.

George has learned from experience. There is always food lying along the sidewalks of our neighborhood. I have seen burritos, pizza, hamburgers, chicken legs, and more, and I often have to stop George and play tug of war to get a chicken bone from his mouth.

Why do people randomly toss away things? I also wonder about the number of times I see a lonely shoe on the side of the road – I’ve also seen a solo sock. Do these fly off motorists who drive with one foot out the window? I just don’t get it. I don’t think I’ve ever lost one shoe.

We live in such an excessive society, where we have so much excess that we let food sit in the refrigerator until it spoils, and we literally cover our sidewalks with food. A starving person would be in heaven just to walk my neighborhood, due to the smorgasbord that awaits. But for now, George is the one who enjoys it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

From Observer to Greeter

Oh, how I love to people watch. I’m sitting at Starbucks, and the guy outside is reading a book called All Things Shining. He’s sitting in the bright sunshine (the umbrella is still closed from our recent winds) and his feet are propped up on the chair across from him.

It’s Sunday morning, and Starbucks is bustling. All the tables are full. In fact, I had to quickly lose my place in line to grab the table where I sit today. Another man was also headed for it, and we decided to share the table, even though it was tiny. I told him, “We’ll just pretend we’re in Europe, where they share tables in restaurants.” I hoped he knew what I was talking about; it seemed like he did. So, right now he is sitting opposite me, reading the Wall Street Journal.

Against the wall is a young man who I have seen here two days in a row. He has no drink in front of him (maybe he’s been here so long that he already drank one?) and he is drawing. That’s exactly how he looked yesterday – sitting there in a low slung hat, drawing with an ink pen on a pad of paper before him. He’s chewing a toothpick – but on closer inspection I see that it’s a match that is hanging rakishly from his mouth. Much cooler. I wonder what his story is. Everyone has a story.

An excited group cry just came from the corner, where a family of three generations (at least) is hunched over a computer that is sitting on the coffee table. They are skyping with a family member somewhere far away. I should move closer and try to learn more, but I’m too lazy.

At a table in the window, a heavyset man sits alone with no drink. He is waiting for someone. Finally a woman enters, looks around the room, then walks over to him and introduces herself. It must be a blind date. I bet they met on the internet. They order drinks and their conversation mixes with that of the room.

Soon my role of Observer will change, due to the change in the season. It is now warm enough outside to resume bringing George with me, and we will sit outside next to the door and try to stay in the shade of the umbrella as the sun crosses overhead. There, we are the Greeters, and everyone says hello to George as they enter or exit. It gives him a big ego.

I love to be at home on a day like this, with the windows wide to let in the sunshine. But it’s also nice to be outside in the world, interacting even in a small way, being part of it all, observing.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hat Lady

At the dog park today, a little black schipperke approached me cautiously while I sat on the bench with another dog owner. The dog barked at me a few times, then he walked up and let me pet him on the head.

The dog’s owner explained the dog’s behavior. “He’s friendly; he’s just never seen a hat before,” he said, referring to my sun hat and its wide brim. “I’ll have to start wearing a hat at home so he’ll get used to them,” the man added. Friday (the dog’s name) waited for a few more pets and then ran after George out onto the grass.

I think it’s a shame that people don’t wear hats anymore. (A baseball cap does not count.) I long for the times when people dressed up – the days of gloves and heels and hats, when women wouldn’t be caught dead in pants in public, when men wore hats and shined shoes and made sure their pants had a sharp crease.

What does it say about our society, now that people wear pajamas and slippers in public? The next time you’re waiting in line at the grocery, look around you and survey all the people within eyesight. Usually, there is no one dressed well. It’s a sea of dingy jeans, cutoffs, bra straps, and sweatpants. And of course I’m not saying we all need to dress up all the time, but I think it’s sad that sloppiness is the norm.

I wasn’t alive in the era I’m talking about, but I watched it on TV all the time. I loved those old black and white movies with the elegant men and women. And I loved looking at the photos of Mom and her sister in the 50’s in poodle skirts, cardigans, and bobby socks.

So, I am a hat wearer. When I wear a hat, it means I’m in a good mood. In hats, I feel creative, artsy, dressed up a little. When I see other people in hats, they seem jaunty, edgy. You have to have a certain self confidence nowadays to wear a hat. Hats make a statement. My sunhats make me feel like I’m on vacation. Berets feel European. Newsboy hats feel cocky, opinionated.

And hats hold memories. My Mom’s fellow teachers gave her a hat party when she had cancer and lost her hair. I hung a row of antique hats in the kitchen of my first apartment. I tend to buy hats when I travel to other countries. And Mom and I always wanted to buy me a real top hat – the kind that is flat and then pops out so you can wear it – just like Fred Astaire. I’ve always had a hat collection.

After writing this, it makes me think of my Grandpa, in his black shined shoes and houndstooth pants, stopping by the door to put on his fedora on the way out. I’ll have to find that hat the next time I’m at Grandma’s. It’s a connection to Grandpa, and to those past times that make me sentimental.