Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dusting off the welcome mat.

When the kids are in school, our lives are a whirling, twirling series of getting up early, learning stuff, working, then flopping into bed. Socializing takes a back seat to obligations.

Summer's a different story.

Summer needs to be relaxed, and it needs to happen on the cheap.

But I do like a certain level of structure, even during the summer. So I've fashioned special events that take place on Tuesday and Thursday nights. They're among the top three or four of the most highly anticipated evenings of the week.

Both evenings are very social, and totally cheap.

That cheap part is important.

On Tuesday evenings, we have dinner on my back porch with my sister and nephew. After dinner, we have an informal Salon. We pick a word, a thought, a random idea, and we all write about it. No judgment - it can be a poem, a story, an idea, an essay, a haiku, whatever. Nothing's wrong or judged and everything's appreciated, so ideally, there's very little self-editing.

I picked this week's topic. Heat. My Salon contribution will follow....

As for our casual Salon evenings, we're borrowing an idea from Dorothy Parker. Back in the day, Dorothy and her cohorts would convene around their big round table and talk about events of the day, cerebral reflections and other interesting stuff.

I'm no Dorothy Parker, although she's on my Short List of those living or dead people who'd I'd invite to dinner.

Salon, for us, is a time to connect. Our Salons are recently reconstituted. We had weekly Salons a few years ago. Then we all got way too busy and we let it go.

And now, this summer, Salon is back. The kids are older, we're all a bit wiser, and we have a new-found appreciation for our Salon time.

As for Thursdays during the summer, we enjoy a Peasants Feast.

We borrowed the idea, just like Salon. Regardless of its bastardized origins, each Thursday this summer will be a unique blend of whoever chooses to show up with a side dish with the intention of doing some summer socializing.

Both Salon and Peasants Feast bring a series of interesting, cheap, conversational bright spots into our week. Both evenings are perfect on so many levels. We get to be all kinds of social, we experience a high level of thrifty tasty cheapness, and it all happens in our own back yard.

I love the thrifty part, but I love the social part even more.

And I did mention I wrote a little something about heat for our Salon tonight?

I chose heat last week, because it was bloody hot last Tuesday, and it was the first word that sprung to my mind.

So here's what I'll be reading tonight. A little something about heat. Interestingly, I thought of the idea for this little story in the shower this morning.

When he looked back on the day, he thought he should have waited to put on the clown suit.

But it was almost noon when he stumbled out of bed, and he was running late. The party started at 2 pm, and he had to travel across town so he could spend his afternoon making inattentive, sugar-laden children believe in a 3-dimensional cartoon man.

So he put the suit on. And the makeup. And the hair.

He felt like a mole squinting at a brightness intended to be avoided when he emerged from his bungalow as his clown self and made his way to his 1972 Chevy Impala. He could tell it was later than he thought when he saw the sun was past its highest point. It was definitely well after 1 pm.

Kids don’t care about time, he thought as he adjusted his big orange wig so it fit in the car without him having to slouch. It’s the grown-ups who are all about time. And it was the grown-ups who paid the happy funny clown. This thought prompted his swift, jerky acceleration out of the driveway as he made his way across town.

Just like the businessman who expects things to work his way as he’s headed to a high-level business meeting, clowns don’t anticipate car trouble.

But traffic was heavier than he anticipated, and the day was steaming hot. He could feel the toothpaste-white makeup he’d applied on his face slowly dripping down his neck into his red ruffled collar.  He could feel his red lips slipping down his chin.

Then the radiator blew.

He did what he could to quickly veer to the widest part of the highway’s edge, but he was driving a 1972 Chevy Impala. Speed and efficiency weren’t part of the design.

But he managed, even during the frightening time when his wig tilted and impaired his field of vision. He almost hit a Prius, but the Impala limped to the side of the road just as the Prius passed, leaving a loud and oddly friendly horn-honking contrail in its wake.

His first order of business was to open the hood, which now was spewing billows of steamy heat. The car’s discharge, once released, reacted madly with his makeup, which turned his clown face into what appeared to be the face of a smeared, colorful, cartoon monster.

That’s when the police car arrived.

Not unlike any emergency, the officer sauntered to the side of the Impala as if he were admiring a colorful bouquet of roses. No urgency, lots of attitude.

The officer quickly assessed that the clown’s radiator needed a bit of a twist. Having been a mechanic before joining law enforcement, the officer sauntered back to his squad car and retrieved a wrench.

The radiator, like the crazy clown man, just needed to relieve some pressure.

The wrench, like the saunter employed to retrieve it, was applied gradually and methodically.

The clown man stood back and watched, not knowing what would happen, but knowing he needed this to work so he could get to work, making the children laugh.

But this was no laughing matter.

The car didn’t exactly explode. It just reacted. Reacted to the heat of the day, the tension of the driver, the misdiagnosis of the officer.

And where once there was a Chevy Impala, there was a plume.

The officer didn’t know what to do once he found his gun and baton in the nearby bushes. So he just watched.

The clown sat back and watched too, knowing he was late.

He drank it all in, processing the consequences of the moment.

All he could do was laugh like a clown.

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