Bag Lady

Bag Lady

Bag Lady

I know you thought I’d captured a real street character, didn’t you?  There is one to die for (a photograph of anyway) who rides a three-wheel tricycle and collects garbage along the roads and highways here.  She was featured in our local newspaper a few years back.  Unfortunately, the bag lady I met today is of a different sort.

I fell asleep in those sweats and the better-than-silk, “Thermaskin” undershirt sometime after midnight.  I woke up about mid-day with one cigarette left (The Arch Nemesis ate half a pack with no ill effects) and no damn coffee.  So, I threw on the first sweater I saw in my closet and my wool-lined clogs over my smart-wool socks, and grabbed my glasses.  That’s where I went wrong…putting on my eyeglasses too early.  I saw myself as I passed the mirror.  The image shocked me.

I saw myself as others see me.  There I stood.  Dressed in a pair of my dead husband’s no-particular-label gray cotton sweats with the undershirt hanging out at least half a foot from the top.  I had my favorite purple, Italian-made clogs with quilted tops, rubber bottoms, and boiled wool insides on my feet.  (Italians make the best pottery and the best shoes  in the world).  So far, not too awful.  But, then there was that “elegant” sweater.

My daughter tries desperately to dress me well.  She tells me this is alpaca or ” Mo” or some other kind of hair sweater.  It scratches my neck.  It has a fashionable, “asymmetrical hemline”, she says, in her very best runway voice.  (Translation:  it sags.)   It is going to look wonderful over the gray silk turtleneck with the latest leg-width pants.  Oh, and it has a coordinated fringed scarf…obviously to keep the damn hair sweater from clawing me to death.  It is warm too.  That part sticks.

It was too late to change my image.  I stumbled out the door to the garage trying to paste down the back of my hair with both hands hoping it would look as little as possible like a nursing home bed-head.  I reassured myself:  “At least I remembered the eyeglasses”.

39 Comments on “Bag Lady

  1. I knew I loved you, George, but I had no idea that we’re related. We must be. The evidence is right here in this post!

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    • Lord, Donna, I figured you for a bag lady too! You gotta’ be one to know one, huh? I love your writing and I can’t wait to see what you will come up with. That is going to be a treat and a half! 🙂 One Cowboy’s Way just told me about the history of bloomers. Susan B. Anthony, no less, wore them. They inspired women’s rights! Go visit him.

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  2. I’m very late to this party . . . but I love all the comments, and love even more your responses. I particularly love the anecdote about having your lungs checked out. Doctors hate those who defy the odds, and no doubt George Burns had a few not very pleased with his choices. You’re our Dorothy Parker, and deserve your own table at some southern equivalent to The Algonquin. As to outfits, the day my sister turned 60, she let her hair go white and declared to whomever happened to be listening (me), “FINALLY! I get to wear PURPLE!”–and now some ten years later walks about like the Grand Marshal of a Grape Festival.

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    • Only Dorothy would think to describe “the Grand Marshal of a Grape Festival”. The quote that sticks in my head from Dorothy goes something like “I don’t care what they say about me as long as it isn’t true”. That and the immaculate conception thing. Now that was funny…to me anyway. I’m nothing like Dorothy except in spirit. Dorothy was brave. I’m shy. She was an extraordinary talent too, by the way. We could have been little flies on the wall over the Round Table. Wouldn’t THAT have been fun!!

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      • Well, BE self-effacing then, but we’ll take sitting at your table over hers. The quote that sticks in my mind was when she was holding court and someone came in and announced that President Coolidge had died, and she immediately said, “How could they tell?”

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        • Stop it, Lance! You are determined to cause me to break a vessel somewhere in my head! I forgot she said that. Now, I’m gonna’ have to go back to visit old Dorothy too. I left Irena Sendler in the middle of a Warsaw ghetto to come here. Now, behave and go find Irena.

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  3. I completely love the story! You write so well, so real….so human. I can almost hear you telling this to a good friend over coffee…..speaking of which, what on Earth possessed you to go to sleep without coffee in the house for when you woke?!!

    Very nice photograph as well. I can see that you are loving what you’re doing……

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    • Alex, I come from a time when “writing” meant writing and receiving long letters from friends. I still have the steel engraving plate the printer used to print the header for my papers. Lord, I love the feel of good rag paper. I loved to write on it. The last note I wrote on the last of my note paper was to an ornery old lawyer friend of mine. I told him in the note that he was the recipient of my only remaining “good” note paper and I hoped he appreciated it! When we moved from NC to Texas, the printer mailed the engraving plate to me, but I never found a printer here who would use it. The tremor in my right hand ended my letter writing and I miss it. All of my old letter writing friends are dead now anyway. I don’t write. I write letters. That’s what I do here.

      Yes, I do enjoy my letter writing on this blog. I thought I had forgotten how to write to a friend. Then you came along and I started to remember how much I always enjoyed a good letter. It’s the product of your encouragement…good or bad. I am remembering what I forgot. I met you. I am meeting such fascinating people. Thank you, Alex!

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  4. I love it, George. Even though the majority of your face is covered by the camera, I see enough of you to see YOU. Bless your daughter. She’s just trying to love you. I do the same with my own dear mother, primping and pawing her every chance I get.

    That sweater really is elegant, by the way. I was coveting it long before I read on.

    Michael is right — you could definitely do stand-up. In fact, between the three of us and our myriad of niches and talents, I’m quite certain that we could pack a venue full of people and give em a heckuva show! They would have to be drugged, mind you, but that’s easily perpetrated. 😉

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    • what a show that would be…George would steal the show though and not want to. Cara would likely use her power of suggestion to keep the room amused and in good spirits and I would likely get booed at some point for telling the audience some quirk of mine they stupidly perceive as insensitive and would have to immediately resort to fecal shock jokes to keep people from leaving. “folks seriously, we will bring George back up in a moment, I only have a few more points to make tonight..babies on planes should be given mandatory benadryl…BOO! BOO! BOO!…OK ladies and gentleman..I give you George and the cigarette smoking parrot! (huge applause)

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      • *searches blog furiously for “like” button*

        And my first bark-laugh of the day, ladies and gentlemen, goes to . . .

        Michael Housewright!

        In addition to the bottle of Kistler, I would now like to add on a box of Godiva chocolates. White or Dark?

        Oh, and you are so right. George would win em over in a heartbeat. Never stood a chance . . .

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    • Cara, I am not funny. I’m not clever. I’m not even interesting in person. The only part of me that you see here is the me that lives inside my head. I’m a recluse. An old hermit. I don’t answer the phone or the doorbell. Unless I have to. You and Michael would have to produce that show. I might watch on TV if I could find the right channel. Anabelle, the old Shih Tzu, is sleeping on your sweater on a chair behind me as I type. I could never get together, as they say, and I still can’t.

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      • Wherever did you hear such nonsense, George? Even if the you I see is what’s inside your head, is that not still you? Was I not compelled to know the woman who speaks sense and truth with both modesty and wit? I tell you, George, whomever hisses these lies at you, tell them to bugger off. So you’re a hermit. Okay. That speaks more about you as an introvert than it does anything else. I don’t answer the door or my cell-phone, either. So, I guess I’m a hermit, too. I hope your pooch is enjoying a fine nap. Take the lint roller to my sweater if you remember. If not, no big deal.

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    • You aren’t old enough to appreciate it yet. The children are downright handy once they evolve from little crumb-snatchers into competent people who are resourceful enough, energetic enough, and bright enough to do for us the things we don’t want to do for ourselves. Yes, sometimes I am offended until I remind myself that I really am stumbling around mindless of the things I should be doing that they do for me. The relationship with our children is always a double-edged sword. My advice is to concede only the ground you want to concede. 😉

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  5. A society obsessed with image, if only they paid attention to those wise English teachers, they would remember the advice of The Bard:
    I grant I never saw a goddess go;
    My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.

    Those wise English teachers know what is important, there are many layers of meaning & don’t make surface judgements. But, when you leave the house, make sure you have all your ID with you just in case. 🙂

    Your forthright humour is a delight.

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    • elmediat, You understood. Of course, you did. We are the same. I finish it for those who don’t know Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130”.

      “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
      As any she belied with false compare.”

      We should re-read that sonnet when we start to feel too full of ourselves, huh? “A society obsessed with image…” You said it as well as any I ever heard.

      I laughed out loud when you advised me to take my ID. Now, YOU are the funny one. I don’t know how old you are, but only those of us who understand elderly people or who are getting there ourselves understand that line!

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  6. I just read something that Nia wrote about you, and it made me curious. On opening your blog, I saw this shot of yourself in the mirror. I plan to keep looking, but I just wanted to tell you already, that I don’t think clothes matter that much… but that one can see the world of a person, in his or her face. Because of that, I regret that you hid your eyes with the camera. Even so, you look quite presentable from my point of view… though the flash is more than a bit irritating. Forgive me for speaking before I even got to know you.

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    • I honestly knew you had to be a Virginia Slims gal. My uncle smoked for 60+ years with no traces of lung damage. He had a heart attack (small) 3 years ago and put away his smokes without 1 since. He is sadly not the same guy now for many reasons and I believe it was grief, trauma, and fear that changed him. I am not sure now that I wish he had quit, nor am I sure what he believes.
      Vague I know, and it is an emotional subject for us all. If those smokes keep you doing what you are doing and you are happy doing it, then keep on keeping on my friend.
      Of course, who the hell I am to say anything about your habits, choices, or way to be? I just look forward and hope for a day to sit across from you and talk about nothing on the surface while knowing it is all in fact there all the time.
      Sweet thoughts today George. I like that idea

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    • I love you, Shimon! You are an honest man. I am careless. I thought the flash was awful too along with the unedited-out junk on the mirror, etc. I was hopeful that somebody would tell me how to idiot-proof my use of that external flash. I forget about it. I think I have to take it off the camera and jack the ISO up to a grainy 1600 or so, huh? Hebrew. It occurs to me that I don’t know even the sound of Hebrew. Your Gravatar is beautiful. You belong in a painting. Thank you for stopping by. Nia is a wonder, isn’t she?

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      • Thank you very much, George. I love you too. Glad you asked about the flash, because I don’t usually give advice until I’m asked. Too many people are offended by something like that. Anything that’s idiot-proofed, usually gives poor results… in photography, at least. You can get some pretty good pictures at ISO 1600 if you have good lighting inside. But you can also aim the flash at the ceiling or at a wall, and use the light that bounces back. With an external flash, that is usually easy. In such a case, it is advisable to raise the ISO to 400. Depending on the lens, you might need 800. You can also pre-set the focus on the camera, and then lower it to your chest, and then shoot. This will allow your viewers to see your face. I have such a love for Hebrew… it is one of my frustrations that I can’t share the beauties of my language with people that I meet. But it does sound different, when spoken by different people, from different sub cultures within the Jewish people. However, it’s greatest beauty is in its internal construction. It is a conceptual language.

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    • Thank you, Nia. You always make me feel happiness in your photographs and in your words.

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  7. I see my Mother every morning when I allow myself a brief glance at my reflection, that’s all the encouragement I need to look after myself better, she’s 89 now and tiny as a bird and I love her dearly, but I can do without the daily reminder. I like how you seem to be pulling back the layers of yourself through this blog, self-portraits are soooo scary but you’ve faced yours with such good humour, perhaps I’ll try that myself one day…

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    • I was always shameless. I used to be a real clotheshorse. When you are older, you will feel the freedom to just be. I never felt self-conscious about how I looked or who I was. I love playing the old lady now. If I felt old and vulnerable, that wouldn’t be possible. We never fool anybody but ourselves anyway. You are too lucky that your mother is still here. Cherish her and let her do whatever she wants. When I was younger and saw my mother in myself, it was a little off-putting, but the older we both got, the better I liked the similarity. She was a prissy old lady…unlike the daughter she could never quite dress up. Thank you for your honesty. I like that.

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  8. you could really do some stand-up comedy, or a winner take all read-off against David Sedaris. This is just damn funny. I did not peg you for a smoker. Please tell me you smoke something brash like Marlboro Reds or Luckys. I just cannot picture you with a Newport.

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    • Michael, I have smoked a lot of smokes of different kinds, but never Luckys or Marlboro. I used to steal my dad’s Lucky Strikes and trade them at the little store next door for Salem menthols. I don’t smoke unless I have my brand (Virginia Slim, ultra-light, menthol, shorts, with the silver stripe. Got it?) I do not smoke in my house or anybody else’s. I am the only person I know who has smoked for more than fifty years without developing some godawful lung disorder. That really steamed the pulmonologist who ordered the CT to diagnose my mild shortness of breath. He said he would show me my “Swiss cheese” lungs at the next visit. Next visit, he stayed in the examining room just long enough to tell me in this curt tone: “You have very little lung damage.” Well. That pissed me off. So I asked to see the Swiss cheese lung CT. He reached over, flipped his laptop open, and allowed me a two-second look at a set of perfectly normal lungs. As he showed me out, he said if I had any further trouble, he’d be happy to see me. He offered that begrudging little courtesy only because he lives a few houses down the street from me. Asshole.

      Come to find out, I was aspirating reflux at night from GERD. All old smokers develop GERD from damage to that little flap that’s supposed to close off the opening to the stomach. I sleep on six pillows like a beached whale. I figured it out myself.

      I’m happy to amuse you whenever I can. 😉

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  9. Now that’s a true unadulterated self portrait ! That has to be a winner in any contest

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    • I”m glad you liked it, Cowboy. For some reason, your opinions are important to me. I guess I know cowboys don’t lie. 🙂

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