Monday, March 20, 2006

Little Boys Don't Have Lu Lu's

One of the challenges of taking care of an eighteen month old girl, is finding time to go to the bathroom. Usually, I sneak away while Lea is strapped down in her high chair or taking a nap. Today however, I took a risk and attempted to use the bathroom while she was busy throwing puzzle pieces across the room and screaming the words, "Caw caw!"

I didn’t shut the door all the way because I knew she’d hear the click of the lock and run to the door immediately to beat on it and scream my name. Or caw caw.

So instead I closed the door a little and then sat on the toilet and tucked, “it” so I could urinate. My plan didn’t work because she walked into the bathroom while I was in the middle of conducting business. I realized I’d been caught and wondered if I’d scarred Lea, and if twenty years from now she’d be lying on a therapist’s couch explaining how she’d caught her nanny on the toilet and he was tucking "it". I felt defenseless and wondered how I was going to get “Jake's Snake” back in my underwear without her seeing. I improvised by taking off my shoe and throwing it out of the bathroom.

"Caw caw!" I yelled.

Lea tilted her head and smiled. Then she walked up to the toilet paper and tore off a piece and handed it to me.

I became impressed that she knew what toilet paper was for and then became concerned. Did she think I was going number two? That was one of my five greatest fears. Then I started thinking, how did she know what grown ups did after going number two? She was still in diapers so how did she know bathroom etiquette? Were her parents going number two in front of her? Was that legal? Should I call child and family services? If she thought I was going number two anyway, should I just go ahead and take advantage of it?

Then I realized that her mother probably went number one in front of her and most women used toilet paper for that. So Lea didn’t think I was taking a trip to Number 2 Town, she thought I was a woman. She thought I had a lu lu! (Swiss term for Myrtle's Turtle)

I liked it better when she thought I was going number two. I couldn’t get mad at her for thinking I had a lu lu, though. She was only a baby. Had an adult thought I had a lu lu, it would be a different story. I cross my legs sometimes when I sit but I hardly think it’s severe enough to make people think I menstruate every 28 days and am capable of giving birth.

The whole incident got me thinking. Do I have a right to be mad at an adult if he/she truly thinks I have a lu lu?

When I tell people that I’m from Louisiana, I often get interesting questions.

“Are you married to your cousin?”

“Did you go to town in a rowboat?”

Did your cousin have a rowboat?”

Living in Switzerland, I’ve come to realize that now I’m the one asking stupid questions.

“Do you speak Swiss?”

“Why don’t they sell Swiss cheese at the grocery store?”

“Do you read Swiss?”

I think we often forget that we don’t all come from the same backgrounds and culture. A carpenter might think I’m an idiot because I can’t operate a leveler and I might think he’s an idiot because he doesn’t know what “first person” means. Are we both idiots? Is it O.K. if we judge and condemn each other for not knowing all the things that we know, even if we consider them to be common sense?

I’ve come to realize that we’re all children in some way. We’re all learning new things by watching and asking questions. No matter how old we get, we’ll never stop learning and there will always be some little bit of information that we don’t know. And while we’re learning from others, we’re also teaching them.

I learned from Lea that instead of being annoyed with people’s ignorance, I should take the opportunity to share with them what I know. I did, however, decide to let Lea’s parents teach her that little boys don’t have Myrtle's Turtles. I just had the feeling that if I explained it to her, I would have a lawsuit on my hands.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Little Bit Glamorous

O.K. I’ve officially cracked. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Elvis and am wearing cowboy boots and a tuxedo that I bought yesterday on a whim. I already have a tuxedo. Two other if you count the one I used to wear when I worked as a caterer. I wore that one three times (once to serve food to a high school band at the Copacabana and another time when I served Joan Rivers coffee cake) and the real one, twice. So why did I buy another one?

I guess it all started yesterday morning when I saw a Maroon Five video. One of the guys was wearing a black jacket with a white shirt and a black tie. It was nothing cutting edge, but I liked it. Being that I’m not working in an office, I don’t have the need to dress up and so I often find myself in the casual uniform of today’s youth- tennis shoes and jeans. (All right, I’m in my mid thirties so I guess using the word, “youth” to describe myself is stretching it, but you get the picture.)

So, why the tuxedo? Why not a pair of khakis and an oxford? I guess I’m just in a stage of my life where I want to be a little bit glamorous. Is that so crazy? To every now and then want to stand out amongst the millions of others that surround you? To feel special?

I'm not saying that I need a tuxedo to be glamorous. I grew up on a farm and I would never trade that for the world. I realized this last year when I was home and I had to borrow my brother’s diesel truck. I was wearing flip flops and it was hard to use the clutch with them, so I took them off. When I shifted the gears, the truck jerked, causing me to bounce around on the seat. The only radio station I could catch was a Cajun French one. As I drove down the street, barefoot, listening to French music and bouncing around on the seat, I forgot that the air conditioner didn’t work or that I was choking on the diesel fumes or that a spring from the seat was poking me in the butt. I felt different from my friends in New York. I felt, well, I guess in my own way, I felt glamorous. And I’m not going to lie, it felt great.

Is it really that horrible to want to be a little different? I’m not talking about making yourself suffer just to be different. I’m saying doing something that you enjoy, which happens to make you different. So what if I want to wear a tuxedo to a McDonalds. I love this tuxedo. It fits like a glove and if I get hit by a bus tomorrow (wait, maybe a bulldozer because that sounds more glamorous), I want to be buried in it. If that makes me crazy, if that makes me a freak, if that makes me a person with bad taste or a person who is trying too hard to stand out, then I guess I’m that person. But in the end, when I'm laying in that coffin (make it a water bed) in my tuxedo and cowboy boots, I’ll know that I’m really just a person who wants to be, a little bit glamorous.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Badminton Anyone?

I’m not going to lie to you. I am not the greatest athlete in the world. (Even if I did try to lie to you, my five brothers and mother would be right behind me to tell the truth.) I do, however, enjoy playing sports. So one day over tea, I asked my Swiss friend, Yann, if there was a place or club to play organized sports in Switzerland.

“Yeah,” he said. “We can play badminton.”

“That’s funny,” I laughed, causing tea to pour out my nose.

Yann didn’t understand why I was laughing. I explained to him that when I heard the word, “badminton”, visions of old people at a Sunday picnic popped in my head.

“It’s not like that here. We can go play next Tuesday.”

Since it was the best offer I had gotten for a sport’s activity, I decided to give it a shot. So one February evening, Yann and I took a fifteen minute bus ride to what I thought would be God’s waiting room in the back of a recreation center. I was unexpectedly surprised, however, to step off of the bus in front of a three story building filled with badminton courts and young people that you might see hanging around any U.S. college athletic center.

Even though it had been twenty years since I’d touched a badminton racket, I stepped on the court with an air of cockiness. It was badminton; one step below bowling and one step above the ring toss at a carnival. This was a country where melting cheese was a national past time. Of course I’d have no trouble beating Yann and teaching the rest of the participants a thing or two.

The first time the birdie flew past me, I giggled. I just needed to get used to the light racket. The fiftieth time the birdie flew past me, I smiled the same way a person does when they meet their X with a new companion. The hundred and seventy seventh time the birdie flew past me, it took all my will power not to shout profanities and throw the racket across the net at Yann’s head. Alright. I admit. I shouted profanities but didn’t throw the racket.

After our hour was up, I thought the worse part of the experience was over and that I wouldn’t have to endure it again. I was sadly mistaken because the next day my body felt as if a truck had dragged me thirty six miles through a field of rocks. Very sharp, very large rocks.

What did I learn from all this? I learned that the odds are in a Swiss man’s favor when you play badminton against him. I learned that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or a game by its racket. And I learned that crow tastes the same in America as it does in Switzerland; even if it’s covered with melted cheese.

Petting The Cat

One of my favorite scenes from a movie is the rabbit scene from Mighty Python’s, “The Holy Grail.”

These knights, covered in armor, are looking at a bunny rabbit hop around the entrance of a cave. Legend has it that the rabbit is a fierce beast that guards the cave.

“But it’s just a little old bunny rabbit,” one of the knights say.

He walks towards the cave entrance and the rabbit jumps up and bites off his arm. The entire army charges and the rabbit devours all of them in a matter of minutes. I guess you really have to see it to appreciate the humor in it.

In the Swiss apartment I now live in, I have my own little bunny rabbit. It’s a cat named Wooten.

Her favorite place to sit is on a bureau in the long foyer between my room and the bathroom. Her favorite time to do it is in the middle of the night, when I am half asleep, and walk to the bathroom. Her favorite thing to do is to leap into the air hissing and swiping her claws at me as I try to make it to a safety zone.

“She’s just a cat,” Heather tells me as I rearrange my walking pattern throughout the apartment so I remain at least ten feet from Wooten.

“Yeah, and Charles Mansion was just misunderstood,” I tell her.

On a few occasions when I was laying on the floor or sitting on the sofa, Wooten walked over to me and sniffed my face or hand. My heart pounded like a drumstick hitting a base. She walked away without harming me but issued me a warning hiss saying that I might not be so lucky next time.

“I don’t know why you’re so scared,” Heather told me one day. “You’re wearing blue jeans and boots.”
Heather had a point and since Wooten’s attacks had decreased to two per day, I decided that maybe it was time I called a truce.

This morning as I was watching, “The Love Boat,” in French, wondering why I ever watched it in English, Wooten passed through my legs and rubbed her tail against me. She purred softly like one of those cats in commercials. It occurred to me that it might be time for me to take a chance and bend over and pet her. As I type this, blood is still pouring down my hand.

Six years ago, I decided to pet another cat called, “My Life.” I walked into work without any intentions of petting anything but after a karaoke luncheon in the office cafeteria, I realized that there was more to life than working 9 to 5. Or in my case, 7 to 6:30. So I quit my job without any plans except to pet life.

The past six years have been the hardest I’ve experienced. I’ve melted cheese on potato chips in celebration of Thanksgiving and Christmas because I couldn’t afford anything else. I took hour and a half train rides to carry hundred pound trays of food for $10 an hour. And I spent days at a time in my apartment without speaking to anyone because I couldn’t face the truth that I had jumped off a high diving board and water was nowhere in sight.

I recently found out that two publishers are competing against each other to buy a novel that I wrote. It’s been three years since I first started typing the pages of the manuscript. I’ve spent months of hours researching things such as chicken judging contests, the 1970’s and the difference between a tap shoe and a jazz oxford. And until last week, I had no idea if it would ever be published.

I can see the water now but it is still far away. Far enough away that I sometimes wonder if I should have stayed on that diving board and searched for another route to get there. I know I can get to that water but have to keep reminding myself that I need patience, passion and strength. Which is why I've written this entry. Because I needed a reminder.

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to let my scratch heal before I try to pet Wooten again. But I have decided to stop walking the 50 extra steps to go through the living room to get to the kitchen in order to avoid passing her. I’m going to walk by the cat and let her know that although we don’t have to best friends, I will not let her push me around anymore. And of course, I’ll be doing this while wearing blue jeans and boots.