Saturday, April 29, 2006

Peace, love, and the painted porch

Artwork (c) Singleton 2006

Through my eyes....

First of all, it didn’t start out a porch. Or a patio. Or anything close to the great outdoors. It was a 1950’s carport. I first pulled in under it’s protective roof in 1995 and immediately banged my shiney red car doors on the columns . My first car ever was a green and green 1957 Chevy and I was sure it was much bigger than Adam’s Apple, my candy red Grand Am. Why in the heck were these columns so close together? I knew instinctively, “this will never work”. Adam’s Apple was left to scorch in the sun .

Aesthetically, it was pathetic. The concrete floor was puddled with oil stains and thick with psoriatic peeling paint. But it was instantly, the entrance to my house. My kitchen door lived here. My driveway ended here. This was my new old house. And this was the way I wanted in. I stared at it.

For a long time.

And then I spent days on my knees, scraping the veneer of old paint off the floor, and intricately painting oriental rug designs on the concrete. Wallah! It’s a patio! Tacky, and hot as hell, I was still determined to make it a welcomed place. I parked a few chairs out there, a hanging plant, and directed visitors to ENTER here.

And they did.

Because I asked them to.

Over the years, the floor was leveled, the bottom was bricked in, the windows to the world were screened. A door that squeaks like a Halloween sound track was hung, wind chimes were dangled and strung, and placed meticulously anywhere there was a breeze. The mosquitoes were banned, the lizards never took their eviction seriously and have squatter’s rights to their original domain. The columns and walls were painted. Not to match the house. Not to match the landscape. To match my world.

The furniture is painted. The doors are painted. The kitchen window is painted. Graffiti is everywhere. The words, the moments, the memories are cradled forever in a psychedelic surround-sound-style mural that engulfs the entire porch. From the street, the view is probably somewhat obnoxious. An architectural wreck piled up against the little pink and white “grandma’s house”. From under the fan, parked in my pajamas, watching the sun come up, it is home. My children grew up here…their accomplishments and passages embedded in the walls. My grandchildren scribble here. You are allowed to paint on the walls at Mimi’s house. My friends etch their presence here, autograph my life with their thoughts and takes on our world. Hurricanes are recorded here, soldiers are immortalized here. The painted porch is my welcome sign.

Anytime the light is on.

Death of a Mermaid, Singleton

(c) Singleton 2006

and now you see all of me....
face up and eyes closed....
as if in peace....

"ashes to ashes
dust to dust
light as a feather
lift me up...."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The King of Dread and Other Silly Insecurities

Artwork (c) Singleton 2006

Introduction to Fear of The Unknown

I didn't start out in life all iffy, itchy, ants in my pants, scared of the dark. In fact I was a brave little cowboy at two, Peggy Lipton from the Mod Squad at ten, and probably out of this world by sixteen. No fear. My children think their generation coined that phrase. They're mistaken. We lived life by the fly. Half the cars I rode in didn't have seat belts, and we flew. Rip tides meant a great day to surf...or float...or play maniac drift wood...and we zoomed, perinwinkles and jellyfish dancing, churning under our sandy shadows. The local news announcement" "It's 11:00 p.m., Do you know where your child is?" meant put a dime in the payphone and call home...throw out the safety net, put Ziggy Stardust on one last time.

And then I rode the Zipper. It was probably 1973. There were 10 of us, and Miss Molly, of course. I wasn't allowed to ride with the boys. So Miss Molly was there, in her penny loafers, smiling, trudging behind us down the dusty aisles of the carnival. The designated driver. The designated Mama. She was in charge of getting us safely to and from the fair on this Friday night, and she believed in freedom. Let them have fun. "But is he nice?", "They're just kids", all of that...but she trailed behind us anyway, because she had to count heads on the ride home, and as many that rode in with her had to come home with her. I remember her standing there. Just past the ticket taker. Candy apple and cigarette in hand, in her moo moo and loafers, smiling at us... As we piled onto the Zipper, two by two....

Trisha and I buckled in, the cage clamping Bang! and our feet dangling forever in front of us...suspended over the dirty landscape of popcorn boxes, cigarette butts and torn ticket stubs. We laughed. And wiggled our feet and shimmied the cage. Could we rock it? We tried. It barely swayed. Our little dog pen in the sky was weighted at the bottom and our hundred pound efforts were not even tweaking the ride. So we screamed. As loud as we could. As if we were at the top of a ferris wheel reaching the heavens, on the yanking curve of a roller coaster falling from earth, we screamed. And Miss Molly just smiled.

The music blasted, not thumped. It sort of screeched and rattled against the cage. We banged. With our free arms we pounded, : " Let us out! Stop!" and we laughed. We wanted it to never end. This feeling of being jolted and snatched and flying precariously close to danger. And then we heard the noise. I think it was a boom, but like a snake, the tail end of it hissed. And the world stopped. Or at least the Zipper did. We were hanging face down, staring at the dirt, screaming. And we were almost at the top of the Zipper.

We just kept screaming. No fear. Fun. Laugh. Kick your sandal clad feet. And then one by one, as the fire grew, they were cranking the cages down towards the ground. And everyone below us was climbing out of their naughyde nightmare and leapng to the ground. We were cranked higher. To the top. And then over the top. And then face down, to Miss Molly and the circle of faces holding the net. The net? Carnival canvas bunched up in a heap, held steady by a tribe of sunburned and wrinkled men, smiling up at us, (Is this supposed to be comforting?) hollering "jump" ! You're kidding right?

It was the smoke that convinced me to do it. To reach over and bop the latch. To send us free falling, clinging to nervous laughter and each other's jeans, through the air and into the makeshift trampoline. We landed with a thud, as 8 men came to their knees and Miss Molly watched. We had road rash from the flight, or the landing, or the twisting of our 'too-cool" outfits in the process.

And then we had free passes.

"Ride anything you like."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Color of The Sky

In the Aftermath

I stood on my deck, splintered boards mildewed under my bare feet, and thought for a moment what an odd bowling alley our backyards made. It had been days, maybe weeks, since the last storm, and now, with every fence down, it looked as if Mother Nature had carved an alley smack down the middle of our block. No longer protected by the waving arms of oak trees or divided by property lines, our secret lives were now exposed.
Backyards, so unlike the portrait we present to the street, are storybooks. Real-life story books. A rusty swing set , four doors down, still stands. I envisioned a young man there, sweltering in the sun, making sure the shiny new frame was meticulously level, and then affectionately drowning the legs in a pool of concrete. His little ones could touch the sky, and never-ever would that tee-pee frame teeter from their fun. I counted the houses again. Mrs. Lazaro is a widow now, her children long grown. On holidays, laughter blows over the fences like barbeque smoke. Her grandchildren.
A little to my left I see a flattened fort and the remains of a toppled tree house. The yard is over grown, lush with weeds and kudzu. The newly fallen trees look like Lincoln Logs tossed absentmindedly from heaven, landing just so on a boy’s world. Three little rascals are climbing over and under the debris .The oldest, lanky and with a mop of hair the color of damp mulch, claims his territory. He quickly mounts his flag; a brightly colored swim suit secured by duct tape. Two little fellows scramble to follow him. No one hollers out the back door to be careful. I know instinctively that when the fences go back up, the little jungle created by the hurricanes will remain there. Paradise for three little boys.
I feel like a peeping Tom here. I can suddenly tell who has matching garbage cans and which of my neighbors haven’t a clue what actually is garbage. An above the ground pool is now a crumpled pile of blue in the distance. It looks like a miniature mountain of vinyl. I have to squint to make sure it’s not just a reflection of all the blue-tarped roofs surrounding it. Whose lazy round river has been destroyed? I realize suddenly that backdoors are very different from kitchen doors or front doors. Some appear to have not been opened in years. I imagine them lined with deadbolts from the inside. Are these dog -less homes? I wonder why the inhabitants, once neighbors, now strangers, have never felt the urge to tiptoe barefooted in their pajamas through the wet grass. To gaze at the stars on sleepless nights.
I scrunch my toes on the cold, soft planks of my beloved deck. I close my eyes and pretend the towering trees are still dancing overhead; their swooping branches sprinkling morning dew into my coffee cup. The rising sun kisses me and for a moment, I’m standing at the ocean’s edge, digging my toes into the wet sand. I can almost smell the salt drifting in the breeze. This is my backyard. As I turn to open the back door, I remind myself that when this is all over, I want to hang a welcome sign here.

The Positive Side of Paranoia

When I was a teenager my mother told me to always carry a dime in my pocket...
in case I needed to call home...
Now you need to carry a pocket size hammer in your purse in case your car goes flying off a bridge and the electric windows won't roll down and you have to smash your way to safety.....
And do they even make dimes anymore?