Thursday, July 31, 2014

If you can't take the heat... bathe in bamboo juice.

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

On a day not so long ago, I was helping to hang an art show. It was a hot day – much warmer than what had been forecast - and as a result, everyone there was dressed in outfits better suited for a polar vortex than a lava rinse.

At some point in the afternoon, I started to smell the faint stench of body odor.

My mind was immediately transported back to the summer after I graduated from art school when I worked at a gallery with a woman who eschewed deodorant. It was a particularly challenging time of my life since the office was exceptionally small and had no air-conditioning. I mean honestly, walking into that place was like being surrounded by fifty 9 year old kids,  just developing sweat glands.

My colleagues and I had so many questions about our co-worker.
Did she not know she reeked like dirty socks soaked in fish goo? Could she not smell herself? Dear god, did we all stink?
It was a superficial summer to remember.

Meanwhile back at the art show, I scanned the room to see which one of us was fouling up the air. My gaze rested on one volunteer unpacking paintings. She must be so embarrassed, I thought as I wandered to the restroom.

Then, the unthinkable happened. The body odor didn’t disappear as I walked away from the crowd. In fact, it intensified.

Oh dear lord. The pong was coming from ME.

My mind raced…
Did I forget to put on deodorant this morning? Is this shirt defective? Have I always stunk and am only just now discovering it? Is this why I never get invited to parties? 
I rinsed my arms in the bathroom sink, making the woman in stall #1 nervous enough to stay put until I left the room.
Fast-forward ahead three weeks. Geoff and I are getting ready for dinner out with friends. It is hot. Really hot. Sun scorching at 7pm hot. And so, I choose a black shirt and black pants. Because, of course I do.

Since this is to be a fancy dinner, I want to be sure I don’t stink like a 5th grade classroom during standardized test week. So, I grab a heavy-duty antiperspirant/deodorant that I've never tried before. The bottle claims to make the wearer smell of oranges and bamboo, lasts for 24 hours and won’t let anyone down. Ever.

I put my faith in the fine print, which promises that the white film will fade as it dries.

In the car on the way to the restaurant, Geoff looks over at me and asks if I’ve been eating icing sugar. I look in horror at the shockingly white dust covering my ultra-black pants.

I peer under my arms and discover what looks like shredded coconut under my pits. It’s like the deodorant isn’t even trying to dry clear. But I do smell like orange slices. Sweet, sweet oranges.

“Go back, go back!” I shout, desperate for a do-over.
“There’s no time!” shouts Geoff back at me.

I frantically search the car for napkins or paper towels and settle instead for a supermarket receipt with an exceptionally large number of potato chip purchases.

After carving away part of the mess from my skin, I tackle my shirt and pants, which now look like they were worn during the clean up after a flour factory explosion. I complete the gargantuan task of rubbing away most of the white just as we arrive at the restaurant.

Wandering to the door, I leave a trail of deodorant on the ground and I imagine what the people walking steps behind us must be thinking…
What’s going on up there? Is that rice? There’s confetti all over the pavement. Did someone just get married? Oh there, up ahead, there’s the lovely couple. It must have been a Goth wedding because the bride is dressed completely in black and it’s one hundred degrees outside. Poor dear, she’s obviously used to wearing Doc Martens because she’s clearly having trouble in her heels. Maybe she’s one of those punks, I mean look at her hair. It’s enormous!
We meet our friends for drinks on the deck. I escape to the restroom to perform a scent check and do a happy dance when I realize I still smell like oranges and bamboo. I decide that panda bears must smell terrific. I then notice a white deodorant streak stretching across my stomach towards my back and realize there is no way I can pull off the amount of class required of me tonight because no amount of rubbing is going to get rid of this smear.

Fortunately, the restaurant was dimly lit with no signs of a black light. Geoff, our friends and I had a tremendously fantastic dinner and in spite of the heat, I smelled like citrus punch all night.

And, my dinner companions didn’t have any idea how utterly embarrassed I was. Nor did they know how much Happy Time deodorant had fallen into in my underwear.

Well… they didn't. Until now.

No, really.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mushrooms aren't the only things that get mixed up

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

“I have a reservation.”

I was at the front desk of the Fairfield Inn in Smithfield North Carolina – a welcome position after the day’s drive, which had taken us through states crippled by an early ice storm.

“You are in room 106”, said the angelic young man behind the counter – who was most certainly fresh out of finishing school – courteous, well mannered and highly manicured.


The lobby was lovely, with soft colors and an accent wall behind the counter depicting tree limbs. Or a spider web. Or maybe capillaries.

Photo: Fairfield Inn

Either way, it was stylish and also hypnotic. I felt instantly in harmony with my guest services agent who - in the time it took to write down my license plate number - walked me through three of my past lives. Twice.

Then the phone rang.

Opposite to the check-in zone, was a seating area, plucked straight out of an episode of Mad Men, season 5. Very modish with a long low table, orange lounger, and a jaunty lamp. There was also a teeny tiny horse in the fireplace. Because, artists.
Photo: Fairfield Inn

After completing the gargantuan task of transporting our overnight bags, colossal snack cooler, pillows, laptops, toy bags and stuffed animals from truck to room… we gathered in the hallway, planning our next move, which – on this trip - most often, (but not always) involved a Cracker Barrel, since we’re all about consistency and also, buying trinkets.

One problem. Because of power outages associated with the ice storm, the local neighborhood Cracker Barrel was closed.

So instead we went to The Outback where our pre-dinner conversation sounded something like this…

Me: I wonder if they have mushrooms.
Jan: I’m sure they have mushrooms. 
The 5 year old: I LOVE MUSHROOMS!
Geoff: Let’s order mushrooms. 

We don’t get out much.

We placed our orders with our server Jill making sure to ask for a dish of plain, cooked mushrooms for the kid.

Shortly after, our food arrived. Steak for Geoff, chicken for Jan and I and a big plate of veggies for the littlest one who always amazes me with her preference for greens over grilled cheese. Not to mention her penchant for kippered herring.

Then, the mushrooms appeared. They were grilled, brown and drenched with wine sauce. I took a bite and became immediately drunk.

When Jill came back to ask how things were, we said everything was great. Still, since we were hoping to keep our kindergartner sober for the evening (after all, she was really looking forward to a swim in the hotel pool) we asked if she could take back the mushrooms and instead bring us some just like those, only without the booze.

She obliged and within minutes, brought a pile of covered, smothered, battered and deep-fried mushrooms.

Kind of the opposite of what we were hoping for.

We gave up on the mushrooms, finished the rest of our supper – which was actually pretty good - and decided that our server was just a bit muddled in the head so we tipped her anyway.

Poor confused, mixed-up Jill.

Driving back to the hotel, our after-dinner conversation sounded something like this…

Me: How hard is it to cook a plate of grilled mushrooms?
Jan: Maybe nobody there actually eats mushrooms.
The 5 year old: I really love mushrooms. 
Geoff: Maybe Jill was into the wine sauce. 

Remember, we don’t get out much. Which also kind of explains what happened next.

We walked into the hotel lobby and made a beeline for the hallway leading to room 106. There was only one problem. The hallway wasn’t there. Not only that, the fireplace was gone and along with it, the horse.

Photo: Sleep Inn

My transcendent guest services agent and his mesmerizing wall mural were missing and instead there stood a woman with brown barrettes in her hair. There wasn’t a mural behind her but there was a sign that said: “You are in the wrong hotel. This is a Sleep Inn. You are staying at the Fairfield Inn – down the street and to the right.” 

Photo: Sleep Inn

This, was our hotel.

Photo: Fairfield Inn

This, was not our hotel.

Photo: Sleep Inn

We, were most certainly mixed-up.

My only defense is that it was dark, both hotels had automatic sliding doors, I had eaten one of those boozy mushrooms and most importantly, Geoff was driving.

No, really.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Spot the missing roof

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

My time in art school seems like it happened an eternity ago. Mostly because it's been an eternity since I attended art school.

I love to make art, but I also love to write and I find that the words don't ever seem to flow at the same time as the paint.

To give you an example, it took me approximately 17 and a half minutes to write that last sentence.

In other words, here's what I've been up to lately...

Did you spot the disappearing (and reappearing) roof?

Artists are magicians.

No, really.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Coastal expression

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

When I'm writing, I'm not painting and when I'm painting, I'm not writing.

I haven't been writing much lately...

Friday, May 9, 2014

These run on sentences have been written for writers. And mothers.

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

It’s approximately five years ago and you - feeling particularly blank and sweaty - are feeding your pudgy infant for the umpteenth time that day when, in an exhausted stupor, it occurs to you that you haven’t changed a poopy diaper in oh I don’t know, 2 or maybe 6 days.

So you panic and immediately call the exclusively-breastfed baby help line at the hospital and the woman on the other end of the phone – who sounds inexplicably like your Aunt Trix – asks you if the baby seems happy. “Yes”, you reply, “I suppose so.” I mean, how are you supposed to know, right? You’ve never been in charge of a three-month-old before and sure she seems content. I mean, she eats constantly and sleeps whenever she wants, so yeah, she’s freaking ecstatic. Wouldn’t you be Aunt Trix?

“Does her belly hurt?” No.
“Is she passing wind?” Yes.
“Is she curled up and writhing in pain?” No.

You’re told that your child is not constipated and her bowel isn’t twisted and no, you aren’t a horrible mother. Your baby is just busy absorbing all the nutrients from her diet and breastfed babies are known to go as many as 12 or more days without a movement, so relax, keep on feeding her and when you’re nearing in on day 10 watch out, because you’ll be dealing with a soft serve ice cream machine.

All of this is reassuring until several days later when you’re walking through a TJ Maxx in Florida, longing for a time when you might possibly be able to wear a pair of low cut jeans again when you look down at your daughter just as she makes THE FACE.

That’s when you realize that today is day 10 and what the hell were you thinking going shopping with a time bomb who could blow at any moment but that doesn’t matter now because now you are running out to your car after forgetting to pay for the maternity t-shirt draped over your shoulder and who cares about a shoplifting charge because a horrific beast is about to unleash itself in a diaper with a surface area slightly larger than an international postage stamp.

But before you can get the car door open something unspeakable happens as your teeny tiny innocent smiles and coos while the odor overtakes you. So you begin to unravel the puzzle that is her onesie inside of which you know is a cross between a jumbo sized can of cheap dog food and death, but by the time you get to the diaper, your face is so scrunched up - kind of like a dried apple doll -  that you can barely see and by the time you open your eyes you stare in amazement and say to the child – your child - “What? That’s all?” 
This is exactly how I feel about writing at the moment and judging by the first lines of many of my favorite blogs, many of the writers in the world are feeling pretty much the same way.

As in: 
Sorry I haven’t posted in a while…
I haven’t had a chance to blog…
It’s been too long since I blogged...
Why I haven’t posted in months... 
I know, I know. You’ve been busy. Life has taken over. You’ve lost track of time.

Lies. Lies. All LIES! 

The truth is, you’re blocked. I know because I’m in the bathroom stall next to you.

Sure we’ve been tooting out 140 characters on Twitter, but our usual 500 word blog posts are nowhere to be seen as we keep absorbing our surroundings, waiting to squeeze out a monster sundae worthy of a Pulitzer. Or at the very least something we can upload to our blog this week that doesn’t include the words wordless and Wednesday.

But what if the sundae never materializes? What if at the end of day 10, all we end up with is a tiny, melted malted milk ball?

And it’s then that you realize you no longer know how to spell the word Wednesday without help from spell-check and so you decide that maybe it’s time to turn off the computer and go for a walk to unplug yourself.

If you need me, I’ll be at TJ Maxx, longing for a time when I might possibly be able to wear a pair of low cut jeans again.

No, really.
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