Armistead Maupin Preferred the Shelter of Fiction, But With That Attitude He’d Have Been Dead By Midnight If He Lived in Northern Minnesota

Probably because the weather has been so forbidding this week–damn cold and unbelievably blustery–we’ve been delighting in indoor pursuits. The grey and the dark and the blow-the-pants-right-off-your-legs wind outside all highlight the beauty of food, conversation, warmth, shelter, reminding us how fortunate we are to have relief from the elements. Last night, hours after my afternoon exercise (during which I became a human ice sculpture that shattered into a million tiny shards whilst hoisting frozen limbs over the threshold to enter the house), I was still shivering. On my way upstairs to take a long, hot shower, I remarked to Byron, “There is much that I would record in my Gratitude Journal As Suggested and Sponsored by Oprah, if I kept a Gratitude Journal As Suggested and Sponsored by Oprah, but today, the thing I would write about is how thankful I am we’re not nomads, having to set up a tent in this cold and wind and then, were we alive at the end of the process, sleep in the thing. On the flip side, if we were nomads, we might dig a pit and cook our food in it, which is always infinitely awesome, plus no one would ever invite us over to buy junk we don’t need at a Pampered Chef home party because, when you’re a nomad, there is no home nor chef nor pamper.” Rather, there are only unrelenting cold and wind and sand embedded into your privates.

Indeed, in contrast to the hellwinds circling around outside this week, all sheltered pursuits are a delight. As the sky outside roars, I chortle happily and sit at the computer, doing my job of teaching online classes. The new semester at my college has started up, and, here during the honeymoon phase, my students and I are loving each other. I know, of course, that by week 8 of the term we’ll all go seriously Brand-Perry on each other. For now, though, it’s just good fun, with everyone feeling chatty and happy to meet; during this beautiful week of chipper “ain’t anything possible, so long as we’re together” attitudes, we’re still pipping along and planning our wedding in India. Extra credit to those students who let me ride the elephant.

What’s more, yoga class at the Y this week was both snug and beneficial since Slightly-Scary Teacher Lady focused on our hips, and I do so love deep lunging and trying to get my shoulder under my knee as I lay my forearms on the floor and wrap my hands around my foot. Attempting such stuff reminds me that I’m made of oft-neglected joints and cartilage and sinew and that they deserve as much attention as muscles and bones. Further, I’m crazy about the corpse pose that ends class because I actually die when I do it.

It’s also been wonderful to watch Girl relaxing into winter soccer practices. She started soccer when she was four, but always participated in rec leagues. Then, this fall, she decided to try out for a competitive league that serves as a feeder to the big high school program in the city. She made the cut and is now doing a few weeks of winter practices before spring practices start up in April. Apparently, the spring and summer practices will be led by “foreign coaches,” which gives me hope that she’ll be marshaled through drills and scrimmages by a dental hygienist from Thunder Bay and a bus driver from Belize. This week, though, with boring old domestic coaches who merely grew up passionately playing soccer here in the U.S., it’s been wonderful to walk into the massive sheltering space of the Field House at the U up the hill and watch groups of girls in shorts burn off their mid-winter energy.

Byron kept himself out of the frigid winds this week by setting up shop in the teaching classroom at our Whole Foods Co-op. Monday night, he spent a few hours demonstrating six Turkish dishes to a full house, simultaneously playing Turkish music, projecting a slideshow, and chopping garlic. The response to his class was so enthusiastic that he’ll be offering it again this Spring and has started creating a series of Turkish cooking classes to be offered in the fall and through community ed. The only downside to this explosion of ideas and popularity is that it will seriously cut into his time as my personal houseboy. Who’s going to bring me my coffee if he’s off teaching mezzes, and the kids are at school?

The biggest indoor warmth this week arrived on Monday, and it’s heated up our hearts more and more each day:

Although I’d been longing for a piano in the house for eons, I finally made some calls last week and lucked into this restored upright. Each of the four of us spends some time every day, noodling around at the ivories, trying to dredge up notes and theory from years past (in my case, it’s been nearly 30 years since my last lesson, which is weird because I’m 24). Our Girl took lessons in second and third grades before having a year of viola (plus a fake year of viola in Turkey, during which she had no teacher and just had to saw out “Go Tell Aunt Rhody” on her own), and now this year, she’s playing clarinet with surprising aptitude. Paco, however, moved into the school system just as musical opportunities were diminishing, and then we went to Turkey, so he–the most innately musical in the bunch–has never had a chance to learn an instrument.

The day after the piano was delivered, he had me sit down with him to explain the basics of the keys and the notes. Now, three days later, he has about six songs in his repertoire and is very proud to have memorized “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.” I’m sure a significant part of his motivation comes from the applause he receives at the end of each song from his biggest fans:

The hilarious part of having a piano in the house is that we’ve delved into the heretofore-untouched stacks of sheet music left over from Byron’s youth, and each night, while the kids do homework or enjoy their screen time, I’ve been sitting down and lurching my way through “The Entertainer” and “Music Box Dancer” and–better yet–the collected hits of Billy Joel. Sometimes all that can be heard above the whistling wind outside is me thunking away. For, you see, I can give you a song. I’m the piano man. I can give you a song, tonight. Naturally, it will help if you’re all in the mood for a melody. I’ll get you feeling all right.

Incidentally, does anyone have the sheet music for “Nadia’s Theme”?

Keeping me warm while I figure out sharps and flats is my new Lululemon Scuba Hoodie. I agonized quite a long time over buying such a spendy thing, but finally I conceded that my desire for a Hoodie of Excellence would never rest ’til I tried one out.

And friends? Ladies? Sole Male Who Might Have Stumbled Across This Blog While Googling Information About the Debt Crisis?

It. is. so. killer. That whole business about getting what you pay for is born out in the Scuba Hoodie. All of Lululemon’s products are high quality and well made for women, but this Scuba Hoodie is so radically fabulous that I have to stop typing here in a few sentences so that I can head to the Unitarian Church, where Ms. Lululemon awaits me at the altar. Once we’ve exchanged liberal lesbian vows (“I promise not to get mud on your Carhartts when I our black lab out for a walk”), I will be Jocelyn Lululemon, rightful co-owner of all the Scuba Hoodies on the planet. I’m pretty sure that means I get to have one in every color. Or maybe it means I get one in half the colors, and my wife gets one in all the other colors, and then we share. Because, seriously, is not one of the greatest boons to a lesbian partnership the doubling of one’s wardrobe?

Ms. Lululemon better not be a size 2, though, or my entire plan derails.

Even if I’m limited to just one Scuba Hoodie in my life, though, it’s okay. I’ve got the piano-playing third grader and the cooking husband and the soccer star sixth grader and the yoga and the twenty-five-year-old male student whose favorite Spice Girl is Posh. My heart is full and very, very warm.

And if I still feel the wind drafting its way in through the cracks, I also have this:

These ambrosial colors were knit together by fellow blogger Kmkat, who saw my vlog a few posts back and noted that she had just the thing to keep me less shivery in my own house. Basically, it’s a knitted buff, and it showed up (dropped off by her med student son who was in town looking for housing for an upcoming residency) at a moment when my earlobes had ice crystals forming on them.

As it turns out, generosity, talent, thoughtfulness–

those are the things keeping me warmest of all this week.


Comments

Armistead Maupin Preferred the Shelter of Fiction, But With That Attitude He’d Have Been Dead By Midnight If He Lived in Northern Minnesota — 14 Comments

  1. Ah, spendy things….we never feel we truly deserve them. I firmly believe, and will take a vow at the altar (should one exist) of the Unitarian Church, that you do deserve this spendy thing. I have never heard of it, but it truly looks and sounds spectacular for our horrific winters.And of course, the use of the word “spendy” in an of itself identifies us as one of those folks who lives in a place where such a thing would be considered undeserved, i.e. Minnesota.

    Truly, Jocelyn, your cozy home with all of the warmth of your family sounds wonderful.

    But does the fact that your personal houseboy is making Turkish dinners as part of his class, does that mean that you do not have him there to make those wonderful dinners for you? That’s just not right!

  2. Had never heard of a buff. I don’t get out much. But the knit-thing matches your eyes! Perfect! Wear it in good health. And warmth.

    I have always maintained that a house is not a home without at least one animal, preferably a cat. I must now amend that to include a piano. Ours is still in the Minneapolis house, and I miss it.

  3. Oh me-oh-my-o. Bitter are those winds that rush from Duluth across icy Great Lakes and whistle past my window in the land of Cleve. I have lusted after the Lululemon scuba hoodie myself, as I am, too, a yogini, though I have, sadly, lapsed these past months. You inspire. Perhaps the enticement of such a purchase shall be my inspiration for restarting. Hmmm. By the way, the piano player’s audience in your house is, quite simply, the bomb.

    • If you can’t rise to the yoga pressure, STILL get the Scuba Hoodie. I’ll never wear it post-yoga, most likely, but I’ll wear it every day, all the time, especially when they bury me in 50 years. Just get one. It’s the most happy-making thing.

  4. Hooray for lululemon, pianos, Muppet applause for boys who learn six songs in three days, husbands who cook, and girls who play soccer! Not to mention yoga, which warms my little heart, too. You shall have a cozy winter now.

  5. ah you have much to keep you warm. and this warms me as i rattle around a large empty house since everyone else has gone elsewhere this weekend and my plans fell apart. though i have been able to keep warm with my new kermit the frog duluth style hat, not sharing any of the gooey chocolate dessert i made for myself, and hugh jackman movies.

    there is only one thing i do not understand in this post….the concept of “mid-winter energy.” ;)

  6. Huh. There’s a Lululemon store right close to where I work. I’ve never bought anything because damn! the prices!!!

    But if the hoodie has the Jocelyn seal of approval, I might take a deep breath and JUST DO IT.

  7. I’ve never heard of Lululemon, but I do envy the pianist at your house–cheered on by Muppets. Ah, Billy Joel. You bring back memories of my piano days, too. I had to play the love them from The Godfather for a recital back in my days of playing.
    Off to mourn the end of football season some more…

  8. headbands, and hoodies, and pianos, perfect.
    Not to mention some of my other favorite things; cooking men, cozy headbands, and beautiful unions.

    Yes, much is happy and good, even if ice-encrusted and blustery.

  9. Congratulations on the hoodie and even more on the piany, and thank you for the inspiration when next I am invited to a Pampered Chef party: “I’d love to, but I’m living in a box near Third and Main.” The last time my college called me up for money, I actually told them I’d died.

  10. Quite wonderful to catch up with all your recent doings in such a fashion, Jocelyn. (Although I was frustrated in my first five attempts to read this as IE seems to be practicing its own brand of censorship on blogs like yours, giving me only a quick glimpse of the page before going – and staying – completely blank. Thank goodness for the competition!)
    Your Girl reminds me of my own, who was a soccer nut from way back. Same fair-hair and lankiness of leg – actually reading about her often makes me quite nostalgic for those days, which flew by faster than everybody warned me, even. I want them back!! I want to redo some stuff!!
    And the piano business, of course, is very dear to my heart. Every house should have one, and every parent should get a medal for (sometimes) suffering through the endless repetitions that naturally accompany the acquisition of skill, although drums have to be the worst, imo. I am pleased to know that you play and laughed at mention of ‘The Entertainer’ which was, by far and away, the most popular non-classical piece of all my students, no matter what their age. ‘In The Mood’ also has universal appeal and while simple enough for a beginner to approach, becomes rhythmically complex when two hands come into play. A great brain workout, though – way better than wielding a toothbrush with the non-dominant hand.
    Lulu is terrific, I agree. I have a few pieces and would love more, but since they last so long I can’t justify new purchases just yet. The youngest used to work for them and describes their corporate culture as tilting markedly towards the cult-ish. Word has it that the alliteration of the name was deliberately chosen so as to make it unpronounceable to the Japanese, but for what reason I can’t imagine. Not a politically correct one, anyway.
    And finally, isn’t it wonderful that people not only read you but respond so warmly? What a treat that little ear warmer is, and you have added a new word to my vocabulary, or at least a new meaning to an old word. Now what you need is a muff. I found one in the closet the other day, lined with real fur! But somehow I don’t think you’d find it useful having your hands clasped in front of you, Buddha-like, while running. Especially if you slipped.

    I salute you, fellow winter-braver. While the So, of Fr. was a relatively balmy 0 (32) this morning, my home town is having to put up with -38 today, and soon so will I. We can commiserate together then.

    Oh, and Groom’s cooking classes? I want in.

  11. Le sigh… It is pretty much spring all winter long here in crazy California and yet I am still cold ALL THE TIME. Do they make a Lululemon Snuggie?

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