The Pram

Lying on my back
On thin foam makeshift mattress
Combed cotton coverlet close to skin
Sounds drift on summer breeze
Birds chirp
Familiar voices and foreign ones float
Interrupted by distant staccato airplane motor
Eyelids heavy I drift
Comforted by nearby walls
Retractable sunshade
I peer upward to glimpse sky
Viewed through mosquito netting
Quivering green leaves shuffling overhead
Squinting in bright green-blue refracted light
Inhaling synthetic scent of bleached white plastic
And clean air and baby powder
Falling downward into cavernous
Dreams
Chilled by air
Warmed by sun
Wholly content
Until squeaky springs
Jar my body
Casting rest aside
pram 1

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Cute Bra Right?

That depends on what you expect. Ask any woman about bra shopping, and she’ll likely possess at least one tale of improbable fit, pokey underwires, itchy lace, and ill-fitting cups, not to mention a few harsh words for the designers. But, before we plunge too deeply into that rabbit hole, you’ll need some background.

Before the 2016 American presidential election, which catapulted the real world headlong into an alternate-reality caricature of itself, Stick Chick had a gripe about American trade with China and was pleased to hear candidates talk about renegotiating deals.

Could we talk about quality control of important products?

For humanitarian reasons, Stick Chick makes a practice of avoiding purchase of products made or assembled in China despite their lower price tags. This remains a great challenge because of the temptation to shop on the cheap.

Similarly, she avoids shopping at Wal-Mart [which she calls Wally World; see Vacation the movie] in protest of its policies which help to keep its low-wage workers poor and its endless supply of Chinese-made products. But, despite her best efforts, her options are often narrowed or wholly unavailable.

She noticed this challenge when she shopped for a fabric shower curtain. Stick Chick scoured online and in department stores until, after three months of searching, she had to admit defeat. She could not find a single shower curtain anywhere that was not made in China. In a fit of defiant indignation, she opted to keep the old one until it falls off its rings.

Failed-Inspection-Tags

Her reasons for avoiding purchases of Chinese made items are admittedly not entirely altruistic; Stick Chick also takes issue with the lack of quality control.

Case in point: a recent online bra-shopping experience

The low price should have been a tip-off, but the reviews (which in retrospect had to be faked) glowed. No mention of the bras’ country of origin appeared. The photos that showed off the delicate feminine features and the variety of colors made them attractive. Reviews supported the idea that products were true to size.

After checking the size chart and reviews, Stick Chick ordered her “usual” size in two colors: pink and light blue.

Puzzling to the point of comical, the supposed pink one could be better described as “soft peach” (which was not even an option.) But it was not so unattractive as to dissuade her from keeping it. Likewise, the light blue could better be described as “smoky seafoam green.” Again, not what she expected but pretty too.

The surprise she discovered, about which there was no mention in the product description, was the extenders included in the package with each bra. Bonus.

Had the extenders matched the bras, it might have been more so. The soft peach bra included a neon pink extender. The smoky seafoam green had an added electric medium-blue one.

Chinese Bra IMG_2862

Stick Chick imagined the factory offloaded overstock extenders to gain favor for sending freebies. That, or they’d unknowingly hired either a colorblind employee or one with zero fashion sense.

Stick Chick tried the bras on for size and determining they fit fine without using extensions, laundered them. The rub came after the first wash. Both bras shrunk so much that they no longer fit. Not even close. No way, no how.

Realizing the true purpose of the included extenders, she thought they should have come with this notice:

“We know they don’t match, but hold on to them. You’re gonna need them.”

Judge the lack of QC for yourself and make a mental note of this the next time your government wants to arrange a trade deal with China for something slightly more important like, say, I don’t know, scaffolding or airplane parts.

Can we just make sure it includes a clause about quality control?

Future Plans to Join a Hippie Commune

A recent viral story about the sarcastic comments which accompany a senior high school student’s yearbook photo incited a flashback reminiscent of Stick Chick’s own yearbook quote.

Before we go there, it’s worth illustrating how dramatically things have changed in the nearly four decades since. Though there are companies that still produce class rings, it’s safe to say they’ve become passé. For a variety of reasons, students no longer clamor for those expensive mementos.

Stick Chick’s high school…true story…offered two other options in addition to the class rings that she coveted but could ill afford. One of these included the annual high school yearbook. It was the other that offered a more affordable and dare-she-say practical option.

Seniors could choose to purchase a cream-colored, 16-ounce ceramic beer mug with the high school’s official green emblem trimmed in genuine 14-karat gold. For an added fee he or she could have writing, presumably a name, etched on the mug in gold.

Perhaps it was the heat of June in the 50s era buildings which lacked air conditioning or that her particular class was collectively a lot of miscreants who they were pleased to finally be rid of, but Stick Chick never understood how the student government managed to slide beer mugs for teenagers past the faculty advisors and administration. She recalls with great delight that a classmate named Bridget ordered hers which read, “Bird Shit” and got away with it. Stick Chick purchased a mug devoid of customization, filled it once at the senior graduation party, quickly realized its potential and has kept pennies in it since.

Ah, but we’ve digressed from the tale of the yearbook quote.

Feeling trapped as caged animals, Stick Chick and a friend fantasized about the places they’d travel and the things they’d do when they were finally free from the confines of high school and the small town in which they lived. For fun, the two would challenge each other, attempting to out create one another with fictional, fantastical scenarios whereby they would once escape. They wrote notes and kept journals of their plans, some sad, others brave and still others so silly to them that they’d find themselves doubled over with laughter in fit of tears, wheezing and gasping for air. So it was obvious, after one particular fit of giggles that they’d plan to “dye their hair pink, move to California and join a hippie commune.”

The creation made for one of those inside jokes that only friends understand. When graduation approached and the papers for senior yearbook quotes were distributed, it seemed obvious to Stick Chick what she would write when she read the lead:

FUTURE PLANS: ________________________________________________________

Every now and again, chance meetings with high school acquaintances would begin with the comment, “Oh, I thought you moved to California. I must have been mistaken.”

To which Stick Chick would reply, “I wonder where you got that idea.”

 

Missing the Point of Living

We’ve become a visual lot with our media—social and otherwise.

Lately I’ve thought about how, before the advent of photography, we humans managed to appreciate the beauty of life. If we’re honest, we’ll admit that there are certain places too vast and human experiences too fraught with emotion to make capturing them photographically pale when compared to the feeling inspired by living the moment.

The lack of tools needed to capture one’s likeness might have left the more self-absorbed feeling impotent unless wealth afforded them the ability to hire a portraitist.

Conversely, those less fortunate or living in rural places, set apart from civilization excepting the occasional itinerant salesman or traveler, probably owned few instruments of self-indulgence such as these; forced instead to focus upon things without.

I envision a homesteader spending a lifetime tending to land, animals and family, who when rare opportunity to break arose, did not pause to consider looks for his own sake. Rather others may have insisted that he or she gather the instruments of grooming and couture for the purpose of looking the part by which they would be judged.

I take photos. Lots and lots of them. Several recent changes have become apparent to me when I am holding a camera.

Though I work hard to remain discreet it’s intensely difficult to capture candid photos. The instant people notice me, they pose. Worse, they give me that kissy-faced selfie expression that only works for Betty Boop.

Notably, it has become implausible to capture a photo of any group of people wherein at least one person is not fixated on his or her phone rather than upon the people and happenings that surround them.

If I shoot using my phone, no one cares, few people notice and no one asks on what website the pictures will appear.

I enjoy watching people even if through a lens. Lately, I’m just less sure of exactly what I am seeing.

Children possess an innocence that I most love to capture.  I lament that even those as young as one year old understand that the phone with its camera is the object for which they need to “act” and they, encouraged by well-meaning parents, respond by becoming an actor in its presence.

If there are children present in a public space, regardless of whether I say I am an amateur or professional photographer (and I have chosen to say one or the other depending upon the occasion) I get asked who I am and my purpose for taking photos. I don’t have to respond at all though I usually do. In public spaces, a person has no “expected right to privacy;” on the whole people seem to think that they do. This despite that they are likely being recorded whether I choose to press the shutter button or not.

Maybe the answer is in the words. By “taking photos” maybe people have come to believe that I am “taking” a part which inherently belongs to them. Still, I react with sadness when people become suspicious of my intentions. These are often the same ones who load their social media with photos of their children, friends, co-workers, the places they frequent, the insides of their homes, schools, places of work, worship and recreation.

I love photographing people at public events but I also make time to put down the lens and live in the moment.