Wednesday, September 17, 2014

He's a doctor, and he plays one on tv (or the big screen, whichever)

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Since hitting my thirties forties, my body has gone a wee bit haywire, thanks to a combination of hormonal skirmishes and sour cream and onion potato chips.

To give you an idea, earlier this year I watched a tiny freckle on my collarbone inflate into a horrific skin balloon worthy of its own after school special. Circa 1983.

It was enough to land me an audience with a dermatologist, but not until two months later. The timing turned out to be less than perfect because as it happened, my ghastly growth heroically absconded from my neck exactly one week before my appointment.

It’s like my body isn't even trying to be normal.

Still, I kept my meeting, mostly because I wanted to make sure the rest of my beauty marks weren’t plotting a mutiny, but also because I thought I might be able to talk the good doctor into removing a bothersome bump located just below my left eye, which had been eliciting far too many “here let me get that smudge off of you” gestures from total strangers.

On the morning of my consultation, Geoff offered to drive, in case I inhaled too much rubbing alcohol and became unable to find my way home. Since I am incapable of parallel parking at the best of times, I took him up on his offer.

 In the waiting room, I was able to catch up on my reading while discovering an assortment of disorders and allergies I might start to develop as I age. When the nurse called me in, almost an hour later, I was grateful for the reprieve. That was, until she handed me a disposable sheet and asked me to strip down to my underwear.

“But,” I said, motioning towards my face, “I’m just here for this little bump…”

She left the room with the words “The doctor will be in to see you shortly,” trailing behind her.

As I sat, perched on the examining table, it struck me how utterly freezing the room was. I tried to stay warm by rapidly rubbing my hands together, which might have worked had I not accidentally grabbed and ripped my paper privacy sheet in half. And so, to keep my mind off my nudity, I started to compare the marks on my skin with the images on the posters covering the walls.

After diagnosing myself with several stages of skin cancer, I noticed some pristine utensils sitting on the counter-top in the corner. A syringe and razor blade were accompanied by a stash of cotton balls, paper towels and a tiny bottle of liquid labeled HurtBeGone or NoMorePain or something like that. Really, there was no reason not to feel panic-stricken.

That’s when Val Kilmer walked in.

“Hello,” he said as he reached over to shake my hand, “I’m a major motion picture star from the 80s and 90s and beyond, and I’ll be playing the role of your dermatologist today.”

At least, that’s what I heard.

He had a puzzled look on his face as he glanced at the torn paper sheet no longer covering me in any useful way. Then he proceeded to inspect my collarbone (inflamed mole) and the spot beneath my eye (skin tag). Following that, he asked me to lie face down on the table so he could have a looksee.

That’s when several thoughts occurred to me all at once…

GOOD LORD, a dermatologist is a SKIN doctor. I have skin ALL over my body. I am about to be inspected, close up and my doctor looks like Val Kilmer (post Top Gun). I did not groom today. Wait, is that a magnifying glass? 
At the end of the going-over, my dashing specialist told me that my skin was healthy. He even named a few of my moles and said I should probably keep an eye on them, then he said he’d be right back and left me to get dressed.

I was conflicted. Sure I felt violated but at the same time, I had just been given a clean bill of health, so really… double win!

When he returned, Val Kilmer had a can of liquid nitrogen tucked under his arm. That’s when I noticed he was wearing sandals. He had me hold my eyelid shut with my left hand while he blasted the hell out of a spot mere millimeters from my eye.

“This may or may not work. You’ll know either way in about two weeks,” he said as a slightly icy sensation turned to blazing hot pain.

“Ouch?!” I spat. To which he whispered, “Yes.”

Then he continued to burn my face for several more minutes.

Before I left, we discussed laser surgery which could remove a small spot on my nose that only I can see. In bright sunlight. Wearing three pairs of reading glasses. Val Kilmer told me the surgery might temporarily leave me looking like I have two black eyes, then he proceeded to punch me in the arm show me what to expect in terms of discomfort. I agreed to book an appointment.

After that, he bid me farewell.

Back to the waiting room, Geoff took one look my eye and asked, “Too much rubbing alcohol?”

“Yeah,” I replied, “Something like that.”

Fast-forward several weeks...

The skin tag that had been plaguing me for nearly 4 years first grew to epic proportions and then, without fanfare, disappeared without a trace – kind of like my modesty and now I feel like a movie star.
Thank you Val Kilmer. Thank you.

No, really.

(Val Kilmer photo: Dallas Morning News)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Painting in public. Or not.

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

It should be fairly obvious to everyone by now, that I am not a people person. It's not that I don't like people (well, most people), it's that I'm just really, really uncomfortable around them. 

If you don't believe me, just go ahead and try to strike up a conversation. I'll want to chat (I really will) but in the end, we'll both be hearing crickets. (Or worse. )

And the thing is, the thoughts in my head are often far more interesting (albeit more inappropriate) than what comes out of my mouth.

It is for this reason that painting in public is excruciatingly painful for me. Because, you know... people. And while most folks are delightful, some are less than sublime and others are downright offensive. I get it, they don't know what to say either. I mean, artists are weird and you never know when one of them is going to cut off an ear or develop syphilis, right?

Trouble is, I don't have the nerve to speak my mind -- in person.  However, in print I'm such a charmer. That's a joke, by the way.

So, here, in no particular order...  are 20 comments and questions heard while painting in public -- followed by my responses. And my thoughts. 

"Are you an artist?" 


What I say: Yes.

What I'm thinking: Of course not, I’m a dental hygienist. See my utensils?

"Did you paint that?"


What I say: Yes.

What I'm thinking: Actually no, I just tossed the guy who was here into the ocean so I could steal his canvas.

"I can’t draw a straight line."


What I say: That’s funny, neither can I. (smiles)

What I'm thinking: Well aren't you original. It's not like I haven't heard that 1000 times before.

"I don’t have a creative bone in my body." 


What I say: Oh, heh heh. Um.

What I'm thinking: I’m not sure what you want me to say here. I'm sorry?

"My Great Aunt was an artist."


What I say: Oh, that's nice.

What I'm thinking: I'm so freaking happy for you.

"Do you make a living from art?"


What I say: It can be difficult, but I make out okay.

What I'm thinking: That depends. Do you have a better offer?

"Do you have a day job?"


What I say: I'm an artist.

What I'm thinking: Would it be fun if I told you I was a brain surgeon?
ps: It's 11'oclock in the morning. This is daytime.

"I wish I could paint." 


What I say: You might surprise yourself.

What I'm thinking:  I wish I had an invisibility shield. Zap. Crap. Nope, not working.

"You are so creative." 


What I say: Thank you.

What I'm thinking:  I’ll bet you’re proud of me too.

"How much would you charge for a painting of ____________?" 


What I say: For this size? Around $100.00.

What I'm thinking: Thanks for asking but I know you're just making small talk and have absolutely no intention of buying my work so shoo.

"How long will it take you to finish that?" 


What I say: Oh, another hour or so.

What I'm thinking: Four hundred and thirty-three hours. And 17 seconds. Give or take. Thanks for asking.

"Do you show your work in, you know, galleries?" 


What I say: Sometimes.

What I'm thinking: Mostly I show in meat-packing factories. But galleries might be something for me to look into. Thank god I ran into you.

"Do you know _________? She’s an artist too. I love her work."


What I say: Yes, I know her.

What I'm thinking: Yes, I know her. She's kind of a shithead and the fact that you like her work makes me question your judgement. 

"Did you go to school for art?" 

What I say: Yes.

What I'm thinking: I thought you might be a snob but now I know for sure.

"Did you draw that out first?"


What I say: No.

What I'm thinking: If I say yes does that make me a failure in your eyes?

"What are you painting?"


What I say: Oh, just that boat over there.

What I'm thinking: Ok Sherlock. It’s a boat. A freaking boat. It’s that boat, in the harbor, right in front of me. Can you stop talking now?

"Is that paint by number?" 


What I say: Haha. No.

What I'm thinking: Haha. I'll be your wife regrets marrying you.

"Is that from memory?"


What I say: No.

What I'm thinking: Yes. I am Just. That. Good. Would you like me to paint you a horse now?

"Do you paint by heart?"


What I say: Not usually.

What I'm thinking:  I don’t even know what that means.

"Good luck to you!" 


What I say: Thank you.

What I'm thinking: Seriously? Good luck to me? WTF?

"Can I take a photo?" 


What I say: Sure

What I'm thinking: What not? You’ve stolen my time, you might as well steal my soul too.

Yeah, I know that was 21 comments/questions. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

And now, because I can't be the only artist who has painted in public (with expected results), I have created a handy visual aid.

You're welcome.

No, really.

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.
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