Magic shoes

The Daily Life Text

Perhaps I’ve seen one too many viewings of The Wizard of Oz. Or maybe I just have a penchant for bright things. But really, I think that my predilection towards red shoes can be explained thus: My mother was a right proper bitch when she was eight.

It goes something like this: When she was eight, my mother was in a class with a girl whose parents bought her the best of everything. It should be said here that while my grandfather was a gentleman landowner, he didn’t see the need to shower his children with all sorts of geegaws and flashy items. So my mother wore hand-me-downs, often, and my grandmother often had to fight to get my aunts and uncles new items of clothing.

This did not bode well for the girl across the aisle from my mother, although she didn’t know it yet. My mom loves pretty things. Lately it’s ruffles. In the 80s it was skinny jeans with zipped ankles (don’t I wish I still owned a pair!). Back then, it was red velvet shoes. The girl across the aisle had them.

My mother went home, dragging ‘cos she didn’t have a pair, and my grandmother asked what was wrong. “Red shoes,” moaned my mother, and proceeded to ask for a pair. Of course her father snorted. She had perfectly good shoes; why would she need red ones? Pretty wasn’t a good enough reason. In the end, she begged and pleaded and finally struck a bargain: if she reached the top of her class in all of her subjects, she would get a pair of red shoes.

Oh, joy! Mom jumped at the chance. She studied hard and got great grades and did indeed reach the top of her class. Her mother sent the kitchen maid to pick up a pair of red velvet shoes.

My mother paced in the courtyard. Back and forth, back and forth. She waited until she couldn’t take it anymore, and then she ran onto the long drive leading from our home to the street. She stood there until she could see the puffs of diesel smoke from the tailpipe of a moped that signaled the maid’s return from her shopping trip.

The maid smiled to see my mother so excited, and then handed over a paper bag. My mother tore it open and set her eyes upon a pair of cheap velvet shoes, colored like dried blood and stiff with sub-par fabric. Her eyes welled with tears. She turned away so the maid wouldn’t see.

“Aren’t they okay, little bear? Just what you wanted?” The maid was anxious to see that she’d done a good job.

“They’re okay,” said my mother, and sat on the ground to pull on her new shoes. She says she remembers what they felt like, crisp and rough against her feet.

The next day my mother wore her shoes to school. And the girl across the aisle had acquired a red velvet school bag to go with her red velvet shoes. My mother saw spots. She pulled the girl’s school bag off her desk, emptied it, and threw it on the floor and stomped on it.

Then she got sent home for the rest of the day.

Yesterday I went shopping with my mom. We got me a pair of red shoes. I am really partial to them.

redshoes

My mom and I don’t always get along. Sometimes the sense of wistfulness is so great–the sense of wistfulness, I mean, that we aren’t ever really going to see eye-to-eye, I mean–that it’s like a fricking hole in my chest.

But we do, at least, share a love for fine things, the written word, great movies–and red shoes. To me they mean aspiration and joy; hope and envy. It’s pointless for me to try and explain really. But I’m glad I did. And I’m glad I bought these with my mom.

Oh, look, I’ve gone and disappeared again.

The Daily Life Text

And now it’s almost the end of the January. It’s been a remarkably busy few weeks. While I’ve been gone from these pages, I’ve been very busy taking care of a little project I’m so proud of. Most of you have already heard me speak about this, but I’ll say it again: I think ShelterBox is the best thing that ever happened to me. Well, aside from Jim and Sprocket, anyway. And my friends. And, um, being born and stuff.

I was telling my brother, in somewhat of a dazed state after a ton of activity, that I finally understood what it meant to him that he was a Peace Corps volunteer. No matter what happens, no one can take that away from him. He walks taller because of it. When I am wearing the ShelterBox shirt or pin, I walk taller. I know that.

These past few days have been incredibly taxing. We’re literally in the middle of a huge earthquake that I think did even more damage than the 7.6-magnitude earthquake that leveled Taiwan. Haiti, which had no real infrastructure to begin with, is buried in rubble. ShelterBox is there helping, and we’ve got a ton of attention now because of it. Because our goods are so tangible and so easily trackable—do you see a big green box here? Yes? Well, that’s your money, at work—CNN is following a big shipment from Newquay until they get to their destination in Haiti. It’s my hope that they’ll follow the shipment until it gets delivered into the hands of the Haitians. Our tents are now being used as medical tents in a makeshift hospital, so that amputations and treatment can be carried out in more sanitary conditions than they have been previously.

medicaltent

It’s incredible, how fast we mobilized. As a result, I am completely knackered. Here’s the schedule since the earthquake happened:

Tuesday evening. Earthquake happens while I’m at a meeting with Adam Stone, publisher for the Examiner newspapers, for whom I’m doing some copy-editing.

Wednesday. I spend all morning and the early afternoon organizing efforts to get ShelterBox top of mind with Rotarians and tweeting about our efforts, just in case anyone else is watching. My girls at Rotaract of the UN spend some time organizing a fast happy hour, to take place on Monday. I send a quick note to a buddy at Pepsi who knows some folks who live in the city who might go to the fundraiser. I go out Wednesday night and drink too much, feeling a lot of pressure and not believing that such a horrible thing could happen to such a defenseless country. I get a note back from my buddy saying that his Haitian friends at Pepsi have taken an interest. The thing begins to take form.

Thursday. Our teams arrive at Port-au-Prince. I wake up hungover to an e-mail from Pepsi asking if I’m available for the next week to demonstrate the box at Pepsi headquarters. Jim calls to tell me that it’s actually going to be a whole week-long promotion, with bake sales, raffles, and presentations. I go to do a taping for the middle-school kids across the street. I get home to urgent requests for a conference, a phone conference at least, the next day, to arrange all the details for this promotion.

Friday. Conference at Pepsi. Interview for the Examiner’s Business of the Week feature. I get notice that the Westchester Tweetup Group is planning on making the following Thursday’s Tweetup a benefit for ShelterBox. I get a lot misty at the thought of so many people rallying around. I finish up my personal statement for an MFA application and send it in. One step closer to being done. I also file my story.

Saturday. I wake up to a tweet from a local green enthusiast who does cooking demonstrations with local ingredients at the Katonah Farmer’s Market. She wants to make one of her demonstrations a benefit for ShelterBox. We agree on the following week. I spend the rest of the day editing The Examiner. Jim and I head to a friend’s house in New Jersey for the evening—some good conversation and much-needed decompression occurs, although, as we’re walking the dogs on the beach, I’m taking phone calls, trying to arrange coverage for the Farmer’s Market.

Sunday. I can’t remember Sunday. At all. I only remember that Jim and I went to Aileen’s for BACON EXPLOSION. Have you ever had bacon explosion? It is a veghead’s nightmare. For me, pudgy little post-Ironman me, it’s not so good, but it was OH SO GOOD. Anyway. Oh, right, I also did a lot of editing on Sunday.

bacon

Monday. More editing. And a happy hour. Some long-lost friends came out. I was all verklempt to see such support. And really happy to hear that we’d raised enough money for a whole box. Awesome. All that from a $10 open bar and passing the bucket. Fricken awesome. We go to a sushi dinner with friends to celebrate.

lookit my new double chin! wow!!
lookit my new double chin! wow!!

Tuesday. Big, big day at Pepsi. People were in awe. I was in awe, as I am every time I unpack the tent. Probably the crowning achievement was hearing the cafeteria manager say that she and her crew were taking up collections to help Haiti and that we were going to be it for them. The chef came out. I almost cried.

box

Wednesday. Big day at Pepsi R&D headquarters. Full presentation this time. Awesome to hear all the questions; great to see peoples’ faces again as they saw the tent. They did a raffle. The company matched. We had donations from $10 to $750 that day. I almost cried, again. I went home and struggled to pack and work on my critical essay. But I’ve been very disjointed lately.

pepsidemo

Thursday.  I’m away from my desk, of course, but still tied up in ShelterBox stuff. I have a feeling I’ll be tied up in it for quite some time, don’t you?

In the mud

The Daily Life Text

I have read a lot of words these past few days, working on the local paper doing some copy-editing and writing for them, and then reading a working draft for a friend of mine. Busy is good, but the past few weeks have left me with very little inspiration for my own work, or even my essays, which are due in a work or so for the MFA applications.

So here’s a photo dump.

We went home on the 22nd for the hols and spent the night before going back to Claremont with my brother and his fiancee, Laura, making sugar cookies.

They were not the most perfectly shaped things:

Xmas trees, not shrubs.
Xmas trees, not shrubs.

And then we frosted ’em.

finishApparently I enjoyed myself.

pigI also got smacked down for making this cookie, which was, in Laura’s words, “Not your best work, Yi Shun.” Hmph.

To be fair, Laura added the weird white drizzling.
To be fair, Laura added the weird white drizzling.

Then we went home to Squaremont on the 23rd. We went to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden, where I’d only been once before. I thought it absolutely gorgeous. There is something really magical about a desert garden and the sheer variety of desert plants.

I've forgotten what this is.
I've forgotten what this is.
This is a manzanita berry shrub. Isn't it gorgeous?
This is a manzanita berry shrub. Isn't it gorgeous?
Winter sage, paired with manzanita berries. Love the contrast!
Winter sage, paired with manzanita berries. Love the contrast!
Fishbowl!
Fishbowl!

My town is best known for Mt. Baldy, which serves as our everyday backdrop and has nice bowl skiing when it’s not dusty and dry out. I haven’t been there in years, but the view of it is always in my head.

memtbaldy

Adrianna spent the night on Christmas Eve (we banished mom to the living room and Jim, Adri and I cooked). Mom got drunk later. I didn’t get nearly drunk enough.

testing the tonality of her wine glasses.
testing the tonality of her wine glasses.

We had a very active Christmas Day. We all exchanged presents and then we went for a walk in the hills with like, a gazillion other people who all had the same idea.

pneguinparents

My parents look like bookend penguins in this photo. adorable. I look like a treetrunk.

And then we picked up Kara and went to Laguna Beach to sample some incredible Japanese food. First we had more exercise in the form of a nice walk along the beach.

I love this photo! Two of my favorite people are smiling!
I love this photo! Two of my favorite people are smiling!

When we finally got back to New York, our friend Dave was happily ensconced in our place awaiting our arrival. Then Dave left and Jody arrived. We spent a lot of time doing this:

sitting on the couch in our PJs, I mean, not picking at split ends.
sitting on the couch in our PJs, I mean, not picking at split ends.

And then there was New Year’s Eve. Alan and Helene came up to a very loud place in White Plains. We ate a lot of food and had some margaritas and then we exited the madness, but not before this photo was taken.

NYE2And then the next day we went to Jen’s for a New Year’s Day party

NYD

And I think that’s quite enough photos for today, don’t you think? Meh.

Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009: New person

The Daily Life Text

New person. She came into your life and turned it upside down. He went out of his way to provide incredible customer service. Who is your unsung hero of 2009?

I am really, really behind on this one. I’ve been thinking about it for a really long time–there are several new people in my life currently, people I’d really like to give a shout-out to here, but I must confess that the person who sticks out like a big bruised thumb is not new at all.

I speak of one Colin True.

typicalcolin
this is colin. yeah, he's my person of the year. you got something to say about that?

Why pick Colin? The answer is manyfold. First, our relationship is indicative of the randomness that makes up the best of friendships. (I met one of my closest friends to date on a subway platform.) Second, I am a firm believer in serendipity. Third, I am also a firm believer in asking for something you want. Fourth, I believe in networking. Finally, I believe in the concept of working on your true passion.

Here’s why Colin fits all of these parameters:

1. Random humor: We met while I was working on ARFE, a not-for-profit dedicated to making the environment a key priority for outdoors athletes. His company, Timberland, was a key sponsor via their SmartWool and GoLite brands, and Colin was a part of that. One day, in confirming a meeting, I riffed off some random old English–something stupid, like “My good sir–I am herewith confirming our rendezvous at the hour of blah blah and at the watering hole of so-and-so…” Imagine my surprise when Colin replied in like fashion, even throwing in a farmboy (The Intern) and signing himself Lord of GoLite. I about crapped in my pants laughing. I wish I’d kept that stupid e-mail.

colinjimyi
Among Colin's favorite activities is mocking dead people!!

2. Serendipity: Years later—and I do mean years—I was sitting at the airport in Phoenix, on my way to Las Vegas for Interbike, when I had a thought: Would GoLite or Timberland, and therefore, Colin, also be going to Interbike? I sent a text message. Alas, Colin was no longer with GoLite or Timberland, but he was in the Phoenix airport. Yeah.

Here is just a glimpse of what happened at Fat Tire Narnia. Don't you wish you were there???
Here is just a glimpse of what happened at Fat Tire Narnia. Don't you wish you were there???

3. Just ask: Colin and his lovely family included Jim and me on an invitation to Fat Tire Narnia. We speak, of course, of the famed weekend that involves mountain biking, good beer, and friendship. Of course we said yes. I never expected that we’d be included in Colin’s initial invitation, but I’m glad it happened. Much hilarity ensued. You never know who’s going to say yes, and what will come of it, but you’ll really never know if you don’t ask. Jim, too, learned a lesson here: Be brave, get to know new people. Perhaps you will meet someone who will kick your ever-lovin’, mountain-biking patootie, finally.

4. Networking: Ours is a winding path–ARFE had its heyday in 2006!–but I’m glad we stayed in touch. There are many new opportunities, some work-related, others not, to be had if you just ensure that you stay in touch, and life is so much richer if you can let your brain free-associate. People are whole packages, gifts to be opened. Everyone out there has something to offer you, and it behooves everyone to consider that in our everyday interactions.

5. Work can be your passion: Colin is a trail-runner, a mountain-biker, a snowshoer. His family shares his passion for all of these things. More important, in the time I’ve known him, Colin has worked on Timberland, GoLite, at CitySports, and now is a key player at a new company called Waterbox. Waterbox is going to be a raging success because Colin and Canice, the founder of Waterbox, live the lifestyle they’re preaching, at the intersection of style, art, and the outdoors.

Family True. Happy! And outdoors! Imagine that!
Family True. Happy! And outdoors! Imagine that!

Colin’s wife Carli is a teacher, and she, too, follows her passion. I hope their daughter Lily does the same with her life. She’s got great role models.