Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Par-tay, Charlotte style

My very dear friend Lynn decided to throw us a welcome to Charlotte party and seeing as how we missed getting together with people in a big way, we said of course. I know she is saddened by my lack of friends in Charlotte and wants to introduce me to many of her friends whom she loves so much. I also know she is one helluva hostess and throws a fabulous party (she is a native New Orleanian after all) and our arrival in her new home town was the perfect excuse for throwin down.

I was a bit nervous about the party for several reasons including most importantly, my open and apparent need of new friends. Would I seem desperate? I sure didn't want to come off that way. I also wasn't sure what parties were like here and how different they would be from my own Canadian backyard summer affairs which tended to be loose and long-lasting. I didn't know if people would take off their masks, let down their hair or whatever other cliche there is for having some real fun...that's what I like to do.

To ease my anxiety, Lynn strategically made me in charge of getting everyone their first drink. This allowed me to introduce myself, get people talking, and hopefully a little liquored up. As a former bartender, it was a role I was very comfortable with. It also gave me a purpose other than sitting on the sofa waiting for people to be my friend. Blech.

My kids planted themselves out front and worked their quirky, adorable charm on all the unsuspecting guests. "I'm Keller; my dad is famous, and so I'm famous and I like armchairs" was a particularly memorable opener. Cyre on the other hand, shook hands and directed traffic. Her manners are impeccable at most times and shone this particular night. My husband planted himself in a chair beside the piano and played jazz tunes with his partner in crime, Ethan. I couldn't help but relax and smile.

The music, food and wine worked wonders. Before long, people were laughing and chatting up a storm. Friends sat with friends as per usual at a party but were quick to make room for someone new. The kids got tattoos from the hostess and one mom took it upon herself to put them every kid there (and herself of course). Food just kept showing up as did bottle after bottle of Shiraz's, cabs and Merlots. Things were heating up!

With all the good food and free-flowing wine, it wasn't long before other guests decided to get in on the entertainment. I just prayed my husband, the paid professional, wouldn't roll his eyes when the amateurs stepped up to the mike. To be fair, Lynn had warned us that a few friends had anticipated a well-heeled hootenanny and were going to bring along their instrument of choice. One friend was even going to bring a pair of tap shoes; this I couldn't wait to see! Another friend had a song to sing and when I asked her about it at the beginning of the night she replied "not yet honey. I'm not nearly drunk enough!". Ooowee.

What started off as a trumpet/piano duo became a trio with the additional of an accordion, a quartet with the addition of an African drum, and an accompaniment to both the hoofer and the belter. Channeling her best Ella Fitzgerald (well, more like Ethel Merman really) one guest sang a tribute to our host that had us in stitches. "Bravo!" we shouted, though I noted how quickly my husband counted down another song he was certain she wouldn't know. The tap-dancing professor proved that one isn't restricted to using just the left or right brain. I was inspired.

I was also flattered by the friendliness of the folks there and the warm welcomes I received. I'm making a list of names and email addresses so I can send out thank yous and tell our guests how much it meant to us to have them there. I know I won't be BF or BFF (what does those mean anyhow?) with all of them, but I do know I'll be friends with more of them. It was a wonderful way to meet some wonderful Charlotteans.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Flea Market: The Future of America

As much as it pains me to say so, Jeff Foxworthy is right on the money. About some things anyway. The other night while channel surfing I came across a comedy panel with JF on it and he was waxing poetic on his favorite topic, Rednecks. His brilliant remark "Show me a three year old in a diaper walking around a flea market with a baby bottle full of coca cola and I'll show you a future NASCAR fan" rings oh so true. I know because I saw that three year last week at a flea market just outside of Charlotte.

Someone told me the flea market south of Pineville had really great antiques on Saturdays so being a second-hand/thrift/consignment store junkie, I naturally decided to drag my poor family and visiting friend down to the Carolina border to check out all the great finds. My kids have been down this road before and are automatically suspect of any such invitation which means bribes are in order. A new toy, a junk food-like snack or cold hard cash to spend are what get Cyre and Keller into the car. My husband on the other hand, loves the social petrie dish that is flea market culture; he was game . My poor friend from out of town had no choice but to tag along.

To say I was disappointed with the offerings is a major understatement. No antiques, junky electronics and cheapo fleece blankets with pictures of wolves and football teams did nothing for me. Although there were some truly far out, glow-in-the-dark, neon palm tree and blessed Madonna lanterns for sale, most of the stuff there was forgettable. It takes an awful lot of awful for me to travel to a consumer gathering of any sort and not spend a dime. My daughter did pick up a couple of books and my son got a coffin-like incense burner but I left empty handed. Humpf.

What I did get out of the trip though is really hard to explain. It was worthy of a comedy special on its own, JF style of course. How to do justice to the phenomenon that is Dave's Ministry...let's see. We were walking down a main aisle, browsing at rows of imitation name brand sneakers and such when we heard the strum of a gee-tar, followed by a lonesome voice. "They have paid entertainment at this place?" was my first reaction, followed by "what the hell kinda busker is that?". Hell no, heaven, ummm...maybe. You see, Dave drove down to the market every weekend to spread the gospel of Jesus' love to all those poor families who were willing to park themselves on the nearby benches and listen up. He had a hand-written sign with his name, a bucket to collect money for I don't know what exactly, some pamphlets to hand out and a microphone to sing from.

I couldn't make out what his handouts said or which song he was singing for I dared not venture too close. I really wanted to get my hands on his words of wisdom but fear kept me a safe distance apart. As surreal as it was, I was mesmerized and couldn't tear myself away. I looked over at my husband and friend just to compare their reactions with mine and validate that what we were witness to was truly unbelievable. Yep, same stunned look. My husband then raised his eyebrows in "Oh ya, baby" glee and my friend turned away in "only in America" embarrassment.

Now to be fair, his voice wasn't awful and his gee-tar playing passable. But Dave was 100% sincere and that's what gets people in the end anyhow. I imagine Dave engages in one or two Christian discussions every weekend and I also imagine that's good enough for him. Shoot, if I get one or two comments per blog entry, I'm thrilled! Maybe like blogging is for me, Dave's singing is therapeutic for him and satisfying without any measured response. Or is it? We'll have to check with JF on that one. He'd know.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I never noticed it until the other day. There I was, innocently cruising the aisles of the local department store with my husband who was on a quest for new black pants, when he pointed out the obvious. "There's nothing but pleated pants here." "Is that weird?" I replied. "Haven't you noticed that so many of the men folk around here wear pleated pants?" I hadn't.

I am not a fashion moron nor a savant nor a fashionista. I regularly read fashion magazines and even check out the Satorialist on a semi-regular basis and therefore consider myself "in the know". But the pleated pants syndrome had escaped me...until now. Row upon row of khakis and slacks in the department store with their neatly pressed pleats hung there waiting for average guy to take them home. If jeans could have pleats, I'm sure they'd sell them there too.

Maybe it was just that store. I decided at that very moment to do an informal survey of every guy I saw for that day and every day going forward. (I'd probably forget after a day or two but it seemed like a great social experiment nevertheless.) It would prove to be a bit tricky, staring at men's lower halves, without coming off like an over-sexed cougar or a castrating man-hater. I had to be casual, sneaking sly glances at all times.

No sooner had I stepped out the door did I almost ran into two guys wearing you guessed it, pleated pants. Khakis to be exact. Wow. It could have been beginner's luck, I told myself. As I crossed the street toward my car, I pretended to look for traffic, but instead did a quick pedestrian scope. Pleats, pleats, pleats, wait; shorts. It was unbelievable. I felt like I was witnessing a clothing cult of some sort.

What is it about this town that loves the pleat? I was sure it was just another male fashion faux pas until I spotted a woman walking downtown in a pair of pleated pants later in the week. Khakis again. I hit the brakes and risked a rear-ender when she passed in view. Could it be spreading?

In a complete panic that night, both the husband and I scoured our drawers and closets looking for any sign of pleats. As he pulled out an older pair of khakis, a "HA!" erupted from my lips. Wait, they weren't pleated. Good to know they still made khakis sans pleat. What I really need to know though is whether the pleat is unique to Charlotte or not. Any feedback America?

I'm thinking a "What Not to Wear" marathon is in order for this town. What do you think?