Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fangirl at 71

My granddaughter was here for a visit last week. At 14, Annie is devoted to her favorite teen idols. She spends hours listening to their music, watching YouTube videos, and catching up on concerts and other news. She writes fangirl fiction and posts it on Tumblr under a different name.

During the same week I received a Facebook friend request from the man who had been my favorite teen idol when I was about Annie’s age. He is still famous and still performing. A thousand women respond when he posts.

The friend request looked real. I went to his fan page, a page I was already following, and saw the same profile photo that had been sent to me. Could it be? I knew better, but the past came rushing back to me, sweet and irresistible.

As a girl in West Virginia I rushed home when my teen idol was scheduled to sing on American Bandstand. My heart would race with love and excitement, tempered by a cold fear that I would be interrupted during those precious minutes he was on TV. Please, I prayed: no phone ringing; no Mom coming in from the kitchen; and, most of all, no failure of the picture tube in our black-and-white set. I would pull the vinyl-covered ottoman close to the screen, sit down, and make sure the volume was just right. How I loved that boy’s moves, his hair, his twinkly eyes, his voice, and the way I could hear his smile in the music.

I’ve kept the record albums I bought and memorized. I’ve seen my idol in concert twice. The first time I was a screaming teen-ager thrilled to be present for Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars at the Charleston Civic Center. I was too young to drive, so Dad chauffeured my friend Mary Jo, my little brother, and me to the show. When we sat down, Dad stood out in his gabardine topcoat among the squirming, screaming kids. The second time I saw Bobby Rydell I was a senior citizen, still thrilled and screaming like it was 1959.

I deleted the fake friend request and decided to do what I would do for anyone I thought was hacked. I sent a PM (personal message) from his fan page.

He responded, advising me not to accept: “I do not send requests.” A second message came the next day thanking me for the heads-up.

“Your grandma had a teen-age idol too,” I said to Annie. “I still do, and guess what? He’s writing to me on Facebook!”

“Grandma, that’s really exciting!” You said it, Sister.

He posted a SCAM alert. On the private side, I wished him luck and got a “thumb up” in return. I thought that was it, but we had another couple of exchanges about the fake account.

Was he really writing all these notes? It was fun speculating with Annie about whether the messages were real or had been generated by someone hired for the job of keeping up the star’s social media presence.

I then noticed "he" was one of my 83 personal page followers. What? A follower is someone who chooses to follow another’s public posts. Was it possible? After all, we had corresponded--if all of that was real. I compared photos, and the “follower” looked as real as the “friend” had--but no. It was not possible my teen idol was following my Facebook posts. I decided to write again to let him know the fake account had turned up on my page. I thought that would be the end of it.

“I think it’s over,” I said to Annie. “My messaging romance is over.”

To my surprise, he replied again with a lovely note. I was suspicious, though. How could he take that much time to write to me?

I asked Annie’s dad, “Do you think it’s him?” and showed my son the string of messages. He studied the latest one while Annie and I waited.

Greg said, “I think it’s him.”

I have other idols. I’ve been introduced to a few. Fabulous performers, some are also known to be aloof or demanding. Surely they grow weary of the attention from time to time. One star’s stage makeup failed to cover his five-o’clock shadow before scruffy beards were fashionable. Another performer shook my hand and gave me a photo signed “Love.” Honey, I thought, if you love me, put an expression on your face. When we learn to expect and excuse giant egos in exchange for entertainment, kindness is a surprise.

After his last message, ending with “It is a pleasure,” I found myself love-struck again, the way I’d been at 15. I could think of nothing else. Messaging with my idol had provided more than a memory; I was once again immersed in the experience of fan love. I figured I was on the brink of becoming a pest by then, so I sent a final message and mentally signed off.

My buoyant feeling persisted the next day as I listened to oldies on XM radio while driving to a local mall in the spring sunshine. I was filled with a sense of well-being. I knew exactly what emotions had prompted those love songs.

At age 71 I was floating on a fangirl cloud like the one I remembered—one like Annie’s. It was fun and wonderful. I got a “thumb up” to my last private message, a perfect ending to my week of fan love. And was that really B. R.? I say yes. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Window Dressing

I recently put up a decorative curtain rod and hung new floor-length floral curtains in my master bath. Putting up rods is stressful. The task brought to mind a few “curtain fights” with significant others over the years. Now that I live alone, I attempt simple household tasks by myself with my limited supply of tools.

Getting those curtains into place was important, as my only line of defense for a few weeks was the translucent blind on the window, hanging slightly crooked from worn-out strings. Every morning during those weeks I took my shower with the lights off; thus, I had to wait until it got light enough outside to see where the soap and shampoo were. I could find everything else.

Every day my process brought to mind a scene from “Seinfeld” in which George Costanza visited his mother in the hospital. As I remember it, she was hungry and asked him to go to the cafeteria and bring her a sandwich, but George stayed put because he was mesmerized by what was happening in the next bed.

“It’s six-thirty. Time for your sponge bath,” the nurse said to her patient, pulling the curtain closed between the beds. George then enjoyed a “cinema in silhouette” as the nurse slowly sponge-bathed the shapely female patient.

I didn’t want to be backlit and displayed like a shadow puppet as I went about my morning routine. A viewing audience outside my house at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. is unlikely, but people do walk their dogs and get their newspapers. My neighbors and I share sidewalks, and most of my home is on the ground floor.

When I moved into this condo, the previous owner had left mini-blinds on all the windows, so I didn’t put up curtains right away. One day a neighbor told me she could see me in my room at night. She was doing me a great favor, letting me know my mini-blinds with their gaps and bent slats were not affording me complete privacy. Live and learn.

The recent curtain installation went smoothly after I exchanged the first rod I bought. (Note to self: Measure the window before buying the hardware.) I have no power tools, but my hammer and screwdriver did the job. I left the blind in place. The curtains not only added a layer of privacy; they also look pretty. Because they match the ones in my bedroom, they visually define the space as what it is: a master suite.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Popsicle Parts

At age 70 I may have solved one of the little mysteries of my childhood.

When I was young my grandfather was the postmaster of Glen Ferris, West Virginia. The post office was located within our company store, so Grandpop also ran the store. If he wasn’t sitting at his desk behind the postal cage, he was standing behind the counter of the store in a white butcher’s apron waiting on customers.

I loved to go into the store and visit Grandpop. I also loved popsicles. Against a back wall of the store sat a long, low freezer like the one Aunt Bea had on her back porch in The Andy Griffith Show. It contained varieties of ice cream. I would open the heavy top and look into that freezer often because I had noticed that sometimes one or two of the popsicles were broken.

Two attached “pops” on sticks constituted one popsicle, but sometimes only one half remained in the wrapper. I called them “extra halves,” and when I found one I knew no customer would buy it; therefore, it was free. My friends and I enjoyed many extra halves as well as the thrill of finding them in Grandpop’s freezer.

This morning I was remembering those days and I thought: How did the extra halves get into the freezer? Who ate the missing halves of the popsicles? A customer wouldn’t have paid for a popsicle and left half of it in the store.

It had to be Grandpop!

Maybe my grandfather munched on part of a popsicle while he stocked the shelves or had a few minutes between customers and then put the rest into the freezer for later. Or maybe he did it for me, knowing I had discovered a great treasure in those abandoned pieces. That mystery won’t be solved, but either way, imagining my grandpop in his store apron, bending over to put popsicle parts in the freezer so many years ago, gave me a smile.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Dick Clark

Dick Clark was the Oprah Winfrey of his time—or, more accurately, of my time. If Dick Clark sold it, I bought it or asked my parents to buy it.

I was trying a new shampoo this morning when I remembered my long-ago loyalty to Pink Pamper shampoo. As a teen-ager it was my go-to brand. Why? Dick Clark. I believe he also advertised Tame cream rinse, the product I applied to my hair after the Pink Pamper shampoo.

Clark hosted two television shows, “American Bandstand” and “Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beechnut Show.” In the days before commercials were big productions offered as entertainment, Clark was a spokesman for his sponsors. The spots were simple; he held a product, looked into the camera for the sales pitch, and talked right to me. I’m sure of it!

The title of Dick’s Saturday night show was a huge clue to my hoarding of Beechnut Spearmint chewing gum. We were supposed to save the green wrappers and send them in once we accumulated a certain number. I don’t remember why, just that I kept mine in a paper sack on top of the bookcase in my room. In order to collect a sack full of gum wrappers, I chewed Beechnut Spearmint exclusively and often, despite the oft-repeated advice of my high school French teacher:

“The only difference between a girl chewing gum and a cow chewing its cud is the thoughtful expression on the face of the cow.”

Dick hawked another product I knew I needed the minute I saw the commercial. “When you learn to talk with your eyes,” Dick said, “it’s time to curl your lashes with Kurlash.” Of course it was. I bought not only the eyelash curler but also its companion piece, Twissors, used for grooming one’s eyebrows. One end was a tweezer and the other, scissor-like handles that were pink to match those on the Kurlash. The eyelash curler is long gone, but I still have my Twissors!

I loved Dick Clark and his TV shows. As a girl I used to write letters to him, pouring my heart out about which Bandstand regulars and songs I liked. One day my mom and I stopped at the Glen Ferris Post Office on our way to some appointment. In the mail was a postcard for me from Dick Clark! His signature was at the bottom. I was ecstatic. It’s all I could talk about. After that I wrote more letters to Dick and collected more postcards, each with a different message. The fact that they were mass-produced did not occur to me once.

I met Dick Clark at a car show in downtown Cincinnati in the mid ‘80s and got his autograph on a piece of paper I was sure I put in my jacket pocket. When I looked for it later, it was gone. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Hair Au Naturel

Month by month, my hairdresser is cutting the blond from my hair. I’ve wondered for a long time what would be left, and yesterday I saw my natural colors emerge. I’m now sporting a mix ranging from dark brown to light gray.

Perhaps this change is appropriate and well timed, as I’m having a significant birthday in a few weeks. After all, when one’s child, age 44, has gray hair and Mom does not, something is askew.

A practical decision triggered the change last March before I left to hike the Appalachian Trail. Knowing it would be months until I had a haircut, I opted for a short do a la Jamie Lee Curtis. Instructions for creating her haircut can be found on the internet.

In addition to the cut, I chose to have my hair highlighted in order to minimize the glaring contrast of roots vs. ends. Why some women think exposed roots are fashionable escapes me.

My hair was easy to manage on the AT, even as it grew out. I woke up, ran a brush through it, and moved on, having no idea of the result. In the woods there are no mirrors, and the one I’d brought with me was sent home during a pack shakedown shortly after I hit the trail. I did not shower, shampoo, or see my own reflection for days at a time—a fact of life for a long-distance hiker.

It’s freeing to go without mirrors. I was happy to do so, as my hair wasn’t the only wild thing. I wore no makeup. My nails were a disaster, jagged and ringed with dirt. I could be picked out from a distance by my outfit, which I wore every day and laundered about once a week.

By the time I’d made it to Hot Springs, North Carolina, I was in full-fledged hiker mode. In particular, I’d embraced my natural self. I vowed never to color my hair again.

When I returned home after three and one-half months, I high-tailed it to the nail parlor but left off the makeup. I got my hair trimmed, but not as short as Jamie Lee’s. A good deal of the blond color had remained. Until yesterday.

Will I keep my vow? It’s been only a day, but I’m thinking I will.

If I was good at selfies, I’d show you my new look. Oh, what the heck…

Monday, February 16, 2015

Appalachian Trail, Here We Come!

Yes, we.

This month I gained an experienced hiking partner for my upcoming 2015 adventure on the Appalachian Trail—the trip I thought I would be taking by myself. Well, just me and the bears, to frame it ungrammatically.

My partner goes by the trail name Peevy McG. I’m Early Bird. Peevy is someone I have known for years. We’ve worked together and live only 15 miles apart! We’ve even hiked together in recent months, though I didn’t dream she was dreaming of hiking the AT.

Our decision to tackle the trail together was a joyous turning point for me. For two years I had wrestled with my own desire to do a thru-hike. The idea of walking in the woods through 14 states for 6 months was both compelling and terrifying. As I thought it through, I wished for a hiking partner many times but knew that I would likely enter that 2,189.2-mile “footpath” alone.

My friend Peevy brings so much to the party. She has camped and hiked at home and abroad. She has the gear and knows firsthand what Mother Nature can bestow on us—from gorgeous sunsets to thunderstorms--when we choose to live in the wilderness. And then there is the fun factor. I like to be cautious with my announcements, but our plans are coming together. We leave for Atlanta in a few weeks.

I will be keeping a journal on the trail but most likely won’t be blogging during that time, as my writing process will be on the primitive side with no computer on board. I’ll post to Facebook occasionally using my cell phone.

Just wanted you to know. : )

Saturday, January 24, 2015


It’s a sunny Saturday morning in this Cincinnati suburb, and I have nothing on the calendar. This kind of day always takes me back to the summer of 1997 when I moved into my home.

I had been living with a man in a house we bought together. It was on the opposite side of town in a rundown area. Why? A thousand reasons, all of them bad. He and I were mismatched, and once that fact was acted out enough times to become indisputable, I began looking at condos. I moved to this place in June, so happy.

I hadn’t liked it at first. I’d seen it during an open house when it was empty of furniture except for the lawn chair where the realtor was sitting. It had a tired look for sure, but after seeing the other choices I knew this should be my home.

When I moved in, the place had been a rental unit. The predominant interior color was gray and the d├ęcor seventies “modern,” if there is such a thing. I was on a budget, half scared I wouldn’t be able to pay the mortgage, but every week I bought myself flowers at the grocery store. I put the vase of bright blossoms on the coffee table for color.

On Saturdays like this one I marveled at my new place, going up and down the stairs cleaning, fussing with this or that, putting things away, and thinking about furniture. Well, furniture placement; I wouldn’t be redecorating for years.

Slowly I began to make changes, but that isn’t the point. The point is the way the sun was shining on those magical Saturdays when I could do what I wanted. Sometimes I stayed home and puttered, perfectly content. Sometimes I ran errands and bought something small for the house. 

Seventeen years—nearly 18—have passed, and I still love my home. I still go up and down the stairs in the mornings getting coffee or doing laundry or just looking around, glad to be here. The only thing I would do if I could is to copy and paste, putting the clone next to a certain beach in the warm South. The sun has been out, but it’s darn cold here.