One woman, lots of paint and hundreds of tiles. If you're here because you found a painted tile, it's yours to keep.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Malorey's not-so-little secret

Sometimes Malorey Merrit hid the things that mattered most ... she was only trying to protect them. But some things eventually grew too big to stay hidden forever.

Malorey is hiding out at Starbucks, the one near Southport Shopping Center in Fort Lauderdale, where she got her most recent caffeine fix. Do you know they have skinny cinnamon lattes now?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Everybody loves Ray-Ray

Sometimes long, winding stories just aren't necessary or desired, which is why Ray-Ray's tale is summed up in a dozen words. He kinda wishes people would tell their stories to him that way. In fact, he's thinking of setting a 12-word limit for all his very dramatic friends.

Left little Ray-Ray at Sushi One Takeout, one of my fave sushi spots. It's at 23 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Ray-Ray is hiding behind a pot of flowers in the cafe's only rest room, wrapped in plain brown paper. If you take him home, remember this: Next time you want to complain about the latest drama in your life: 12 words. That's all you get. By the time you whittle it down to 12, you might realize it's just not that big of a deal and you probably don't need to talk about it at all. Some things really are just better left unsaid. Just ask Ray-Ray.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Worry Girl

Most days Cindy Lou could effectively block out all of her worries and concerns and hone in on the tasks at hand. Other days, she wondered and worried incessantly about one thing after another, prompting her brother to call her Worry Girl.

She wondered how that man who’d been sleeping on a bench outside the BK for four hours wound up so sad and hopeless. She wondered if she would be the next person at her workplace to lose her job and health benefits, She worried that the hard little lump on her leg was something serious and whether her stiff knee meant that it had spread. …. When it rained, she remembered that she forgot to get new windshield wipers and wondered how long it would be before her roof sprung a leak …

While driving, she worried that some outrageously expensive Escalade would pull out in front of her and she would barrel into it, causing more damage then her insurance would cover. … She also worried she wouldn’t be able to meet her work deadlines, or that she would commit to something bigger than she could handle in her ongoing efforts to prove herself worthy enough to continue employing …

She worried her cat would not recover from his battle wounds and that those waxing strips she bought at the drugstore would pull her whole eyebrow off …. She worried that her long lost relative would never call her again, or that he would and she would have no idea what to say since she doesn’t know why he stopped talking to her to begin with ….

She worried that someday her secret blog would be exposed and all the kids at work would laugh and laugh and laugh and she would simply die from overexposure… She worried that she would die before she got around to making those cremation plans and her kids would get stuck making the tough decisions … She worried that she would wake up one day and realize she’d been so busy working that her entire life had passed her by …. She worried that her kids might never realize how much she loved them … She worried that they would realize it and miss her terribly and be inconsolably sad when she was gone …. She worried about how much she had begun worrying about “when she was gone,” as if she was going somewhere and that maybe this was a sign that she wouldn’t survive the accident with the Escalade that she hoped not to have ….

She worried that the movie The Secret was right and that somehow worrying about these things would cause them to happen …. She worried that her boyfriend would meet someone far more chatty, upbeat and well-suited for him and fall madly in love with her but not have the heart to tell her that and then she’d be forever stuck with someone who secretly wished he was with someone else …. She worried that she left the stove on, the candles burning and the back door unlocked … She worried that she did lock the back door but would lose her keys and not be able to get in the backdoor …

She worried that some old friend would drop by unexpectedly while she was wearing plaid shorts and a striped shirt and fuzzy mismatched socks and her house was a wreck … She worried about all the people wandering the streets all around the world who were displaced, hungry, sad and feeling like no on in this entire earth loved them enough to help them …. She worried, when she couldn’t take much time out of her day to hang out with her little cat Blackie, that he would feel hungry, sad and like no on this earth loved him enough ….

She worried that when the guy on the corner asked her for money that she wouldn’t be able to differentiate between someone who was sad and down on their luck, someone who wanted to buy crack and someone who could no longer afford the meds they needed to treat their depression… She worried that she might one day feel sad, down on her luck or like she needed a drug to get through the day … She thought about all the people she knew who took doctor-recommended meds to get through the day ….

She considered the morning she watched a pharmaceutical company rep arrive at her doctors office and ask how he could get face time with the doctor and the receptionist telling him, without cracking a smile, that it would have to be a luncheon appointment and explaining where the entire staff likes to be taken to lunch …. She considered how he happily agreed to whatever they demanded because he works for a big corporation with an expense account and wants to sell lots of drugs to make his wallet fatter and his employer richer and more powerful so they could continue prompting doctors to push their drugs and make enough money to buy more politicians ….

She worried about the Supreme Court’s decision to further empower giant corporations to buy politicians and envisioned politicians giving speeches in caps with the names of the corporations who support them while a sidekick with a very soothing voice interjects with details about the side effects of certain decisions: "For some, this solution may cause poverty, hopelessness, illness and depression …."

She wondered why her primary care physician’s office had recently become a Botox facility …and worried that she hadn’t yet found a new doctor because all of her friends docs were now Botox clinics too … She wondered if this was a new trend. She googled and discovered that it was ….She wondered whether the Botox patients were more lucrative and if this was why she now had to wait a month for an appointment … She wondered if she should just make an appointment for Botox and then upon arrival tell them she really didn’t need something that would paralyze her facial muscles and simply wanted a Pap smear to make sure she didn’t have cancer. … She wondered why the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suddenly decided that women in their 40s don’t really need mammograms and how all the women who were diagnosed with breast cancer while in their 40s, or younger, felt about that.

She worried about how little she sometimes thought about all the crooked things going on in this world because she felt powerless to do much about them and was too busy working anyway … She worried how much powerful people would get away with, knowing so many people are too busy working anyway …

On good days, she just worried that she wouldn’t get through all of her work by 6ish on Saturday so that she could go out with her boyfriend and chat and laugh and have a big old glass of wine and worry about nothing except whether to order the burger or the shrimp. … She worried about how all of her worries melted away on Saturdays and what that meant. She began to calculate how many Saturdays she would have in her life if she lived until 70 … then thought better of that and took a little gulp of her Saturday wine and drank to denial, and the comfort it offers.

Then, almost immediately, she felt guilty about just forgetting it all … but not that guilty because, after all, it IS Saturday, and even worry girls should forget about everything once in awhile. If we don't take time out to talk and laugh at ourselves occasionally, we'll never be able to maintain the energy it takes to do all the worrying.

Worry Girl is wrapped in a brown paper package and hiding at the Briny in Fort Lauderdale ... It's where she landed after dinner and a glass of wine. She's on a gigantic tile .... bigger than all of the others, because she was a little worried that no one would find her otherwise.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Long Live the 5-7-5

Haiku Jones’s parents met at a poetry event and bonded over their love of haikus. Naturally, they named their firstborn daughter after the 17-syllable form of Japanese poetry that brought them together and extremists that they are, both agreed that it would be wondrous and magical to only speak to their daughter in the language of true love: haiku.

Perhaps because that was almost all little HJ ever heard for the first years of her life, her first word, was not momma or milk or baby. One day, Haiku simply blurted out: “I really want milk. I want it right now, Mommy. Pass my bottle please.”

Haiku's parents, Shelby and Vince, were overjoyed. Vince even shed a little tear. The milk request was the first of many, many haikus their daughter would utter in the years leading up to kindergarten.They kept many of them in a scrap book that showed her growth and development, and would share them with others. One read: “Play Doh is awesome/Red, yellow, blue or orange. Mold it into balls.

Shelby and Vince’s friends thought their haiku-spitting daughter was pretty cool at first but after awhile the novelty wore off and they just felt kinda sorry for Haiku, and stopped letting their kids plays with her.

Until Haiku went off to kindergarten and even for years afterward, she didn’t fully grasp just how different she was, or exactly what set her apart from the other kids. She just knew that other kids told her she “talked funny.” She thought they talked differently too, but thought it was sort of beautiful the way they rambled on incessantly, like a river that just kept flowing and never felt the need to stop and consider things before moving forward.

In second grade, her very wise teacher, who had majored in English, sat Haiku down and explained that the language Haiku had spent her life developing was indeed gorgeous, but more than a tad limiting and that there was a world of other possibilities, other ways to express one’s self. She told Haiku that a girl her age shouldn’t try to limit her thoughts to 17 syllables even if she clearly was very good at doing so. Haiku was intrigued, though a little confused. She never knew she was developing anything or consciously trying to limit herself. It’s just the way she always talked.

But she told Mrs. Lively that she would try to break her 5-7-5 habit and try new things, like just “free talking.” Mrs. Lively said she thought that would be for the best and that she’d even talked to Haiku’s parents and that they had agreed it might be a good thing for her to explore other conversation options.

That made Haiku feel like she’d done something wrong. She hoped her parents weren’t going to be mad at her. That night on the way home, she started practicing new speech patterns. It was more difficult than she imagined it might be. As Mrs. Lively pointed out, she did consistently speak in the 5-7-5, but it was never an effort. It’s not like she counted syllables; they just flowed that way for as long as she could remember. But now she had to count them all the time to make sure she didn’t have the 5-7-5 pattern because then she would have to reword it in such a way that it seemed “free.” Oddly, all this effort, made her new sentences feel anything but free.

But soon, the efforts began to pay off. Sort of. Not that her new language felt natural. It didn’t. But in the years to come she did begin to fit in better. Other kids began to accept her and were allowed to come over to her house and stuff. She liked that part of it, even if she had to keep counting and saying things that didn’t feel right to her. She never talked to the other kids about it, except for Inky, the girl who always had ink stains on her hand. Inky felt like her one true friend because she accepted Haiku even back when Haiku was openly doing what her teacher called the 5-7-5. Inky loved words and was always writing in one of the many sections of her gigantic loose leaf paper- filled binders. She had about 7 dividers in there,with pictures drawn on them to represent the various categories of her writing. "Love" had a gigantic red heart with lots of little teeny conversation hearts inside it. “Diary” had an illustration of a giant keyhole and a kid with a key hanging around her neck. “Overheard” had a giant drawing of an ear that Inky told her belonged to an artist named Van Gogh. She said he didn’t need that ear to hear with because he listened with his eyes and talked with his paintbrush. She was funny like that, always saying really unusual things, but Haiku liked her because she was just so darned interesting, not like other kids who just talked about boys and dances and other stupid stuff that didn’t mean much at the end of the day.

Haiku told Inky about that talk she’d had back in second grade with their teacher Mrs. Lively and how Mrs. Lively explained that her talking in the 5-7-5 all the time just wasn’t right, and how she tried hard never to do that anymore but that secretly inside her own head, everything was still all about the 5-7-5.

Inky was fascinated and said she wondered why Haiku had stopped speaking in what she knew must have been her native language, but agreed that a secret haiku language was indeed special and that sometimes secrets are the only way we can protect such special things from the ridicule of those who don’t understand them. She made it clear, however that she understood about her language and would be honored if Haiku didn’t feel the need to hide her 5-7-5 ways in her presence. So Haiku talked to Inky in the language she was most comfortable with and Inky would sometimes ask Haiku’s permission to write something she’d just said into her giant binder of words. Inky clearly loved Haiku's language, and Haiku loved the stories Inky obsessively wrote in binders that lined the shelves of her room.

Inky told Haiku someone once tried to tell her that there was something wrong with her, too. … that some therapist her mom dragged her to discussed her obsessive writing habits, and even had some long name to describe it and pills to "cure" it.

“See how life is,” Inky said. “The minute you develop something unique and beautiful, people wanna tear it down and call it a disease, just because they don’t have it, and if they don’t have it, then for God’s sake, there must be something wrong with it." You believe in God?” Haiku asked.
“I thought you were atheist. Believed in nothing.”

“I believe in some things,” Inky says. “I’m not exactly sure what yet, but I do think it’s interesting that people are always asking other people if they believe in God. I never hear anyone ask anyone whether God believes in them, because if God does believe in them, then he should trust them to do what’s right. And if people can be trusted to do what’s right, then they don’t really have to keep putting all of their decisions in God’s hands, like I always hear people saying. Think about it. If there is a God and he created us, then don’t you think he’d have given us what we needed to make decisions for ourselves? You think he’d wants us having to come to him for every little thing. I mean, what is that, job security?"

It was these sort of frank discussions that led Haiku to remain friends with Inky for years to come, and to find her own voice again -- the 5-7-5 that came so natural to her. No longer did she have to hide it or feel ashamed of it. She knew now that it was a beautiful and natural thing, a rhythmic language that was involuntary, like a heartbeat, or breathing, or a genuine friendship.

She didn’t speak it all of the time. She knows what she must do, to get a job, hold a job and deal with people who were nothing like Inky, but occasionally she meets another free spirit and in her head, she always sums up every conversation, every life experience, and every major event in her life, in the language of her people.

Recently, for example, her kitty Blackie began having dreams about a big black dog and developed an irrational fear of being alone, so Haiku was unable to leave her apartment for more than a few hours a day on weekends. This meant she could not go see her big fancy boyfriend and spend the night, and he in turn was unable to stay at her house either. Haiku’s bed was just too tiny. It was sad, and after he explained why he could not ever stay, she replayed his conversation in 5-7-5: “I love you a bunch/but your bed’s smaller than mine/no where for my feet.”

She’ll do the same thing after an afternoon of gardening, summing it up with something like “Vines are so gnarly/They kill everything in sight/And then reach for more."

She had haikus for each of the 19 times her heart got broken, and summed that all up with "When hearts do flutter/Know just how fragile they are/Not unbreakable."

The 5-7-5 is what helps Haiku keep her head on straight, and for the last few years she’s been touring the college circuit, talking to students about celebrating their differences and making the most of the things that set us apart from one another, because somewhere at the heart of those things that set us apart, lie our strengths, our beautiful shiny little cores.

Long live the 5-7-5. Haiku is hiding in a drawer in the ladies room of Total Wine on Cordova Road in Fort Lauderdale. That's right, second drawer down, in the ladies room.

Friday, January 01, 2010

The new Polly

2009 was a very tough year for the typically optimistic Pollyanna. Silver linings in black clouds were elusive. Her Uplift Tea simply put her to sleep and she all but stopped saying things like “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” … and “This too shall pass” … and “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

She realized that the light at the end of the tunnel was fading for too many people and that despite what she’d been saying for years, hope was not always on the horizon. All the things she once believed in now felt like a little crockpot of crap.

To make matters worse, Polly was one of 100 Pollyannas charged with spreading hope and optimism in her increasingly large region, and 70 of her co-Pollyannas were terminated this year, their positions simply eliminated. Each received a pretty little pink slip that read: Every time one door closes, another one opens.

Now Pollyanna had three times her normal workload, but with no extra pay and clients who were sadder and more hopeless than ever. Pollyanna, who’d always prided herself on her work, could no longer do such a shiny knock-up job of providing hope. She no longer had the time or resources to customize individual hope plans and secretly inject them into people’s dreary little lives.

Now her support to the masses has been dwindled down to the one line she feels covers everything across the board. Her new advice: "Just find whatever little glimmer of hope you can and hang onto it as tightly as you can, for as long as humanly possible. Then hope with all of your might for the very best." There are no more charming or clever tricks in her little bag. That's all she's got left.

Happy 2010. Now do like Polly says and go forth and search for your glimmer. Don’t forget to hang on and hope for the best. Hope with all your little might. Hang on tight.

Tiles are typically put on the streets to be found, or in other relatively public places, but Polly's had an extraordinarily rough year, so I dropped her in a place where I knew she'd be warmly welcomed ... at a close friend's mom's house. She's not just any mom. She's a card shark who will beat the pants off anyone in rummy. She'll act like she doesn't know how to play, saying something like ... "Hey, those twos are worth 20 points right???" and then turn around and beat the heck out of ya, while playing the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in the background. BTW, she does a mean pirouette to the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. Let's just say she knows her Radetzky March from her Blue Danube, ya know what I mean? She knows her German chocolates too, and is reportedly the Rummikub Queen. That's right, she will put you to shame.

So we think Pollyanna's on the right path, because Rummikub Queen is probably going to teach her how to play Rummikub ... a nickel a point, and then Polly won't have to work so hard all of the time, and maybe she'll have more time to dream up a hope plan for others, like us.