The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Dan and I had to get our taxes done in the morning. Oh Joy. There's nothing in the world, except perhaps a trip to the dentist, that will fill one with more trepidation.

We got up early and drove to our accountant's office. It was a relatively painless procedure, during which we found out that we would be receiving quite a large sum of money each, in refunds. To celebrate, Dan decided that he would treat us to lunch at one of the pubs on the way home.

The pubs in Australia are much more similar to the pubs in England, than they are to the pubs in the United States. Many of them also have full service restaurants inside, as well as rooms to rent for the night. They're social hubs and I never feel weird about going inside an Australian pub. I can't say the same for the ones back home in the USA.

The menu at the pub we chose was quite varied. I ordered the daily roast, and Dan ordered a Thai curry. We happily chatted about what we were going to do with our tax refunds, and then we left to run the rest of our errands for the day.

Now, we have a small economy car that we drive, and quarters are fairly close, and when Dan and I started to drive off, I could smell a strong smell of curry.

Dan loves to talk, and the more he talked, the more I could smell the curry. I furiously started to fan the air in front on my nose, and Dan turned to me, bringing his face even closer to mine. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"It smells like curry in here," I told him. Not just any curry, used curry. Curry that's already been eaten and is starting to break down. I continued to fan my nose.

Fortunately, after a few more kilometres, we got out of the car again to run our errands, and Dan decided to buy a Coke. We were once again back inside the enclosed car. This time, the curry smell was worse. Dan was belching up Coke AND curry. It was like being inside someone's bowels. Not just any bowels - the bowels of someone who had just eaten spicy Thai curry and washed it down with a carbonated beverage.

I couldn't wait to get home and get out of the car. Even with the air on, I felt like I was suffocating.

Later that night, we watched The Lake House, and there was a scene on a bus. Sandra Bullock's character was talking out loud to herself, about getting to know her love interest better. The complete stranger sitting next to her figured she was talking to him, and got out a phial of breath spray and used it.

I watched with complete and total envy.

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posted by Melanie O. at 10:58 PM - 4 comments
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Dating Hell
My husband took me on a date today. He didn't tell me where we were going, just that he was going to take me to lunch and that he had something in mind for us to do.

Dan rarely plans these sorts of things. It's usually me who fills our social calendar and who scopes out the local tourist magazines for weekend activities, so I was quite thrilled by this turn of events.

We got into the car and headed south towards Moss Vale. We passed The Briars restaurant, just south of Bowral, where there was a big banner proclaiming Christmas in July. I got even more excited, because Dan knows that Christmas in the summer here just doesn't do a whole lot for me. I much prefer Christmas in July.

It started to pour - we got out of the car, and I walked up towards the restaurant. We heard people muttering about the restaurant being booked out, but surely, Dan had made reservations.

No - he hadn't. No Christmas in July lunch. We wound up at the local pub in Moss Vale instead, which was cozy, but it wasn't The Briars.

After lunch, we got into the car again and headed out for the rest of our date. Dan had decided that we would visit some of the area wineries that we haven't been to before, to do some wine tasting. It was all becoming clear to me now. Our wine cabinet is getting low, and Dan wanted some new bottles - bottles that I was expected to buy, as I usually take responsibility for this task.

I had to laugh. What's a date without an ulterior motive, anyway? At least it wasn't as bad as the worst date I ever had.

That date happened in 1987. I dressed up for the occasion. He picked me up and we went to a posh restaurant and ordered stuffed mushrooms for hors d'oeuvres. They turned out to be slippery suckers and in between the chatting and flirting, we managed to sail two mushrooms across the floor of said posh restaurant, past the wondering eyes of other patrons.

The rest of the meal went fairly well - no major mishaps. Afterwards, we went to see a movie - Rocky IV - my date's choice, of course. A real "date" movie, yeah. It was the late show - the one where all of the drunks come in. Half way through the film, the guy two rows back from us vomits on the floor. Floor is sloped, and vomitus slowly makes its way towards us. I lift my feet up to avoid the slop. Usher comes in and asks drunk guy to leave.

Date takes me home - we laugh about the evening's mishaps. Within a day or so, I am sick from the meal. I think I have hepatitis. My food sits, undigested, in my stomach, for a week. It literally starts to ferment. For days, I am belching up the gas issuing from the fermenting contents of my stomach. My stomach has not been the same ever since.

I live in another city from my date and we stay in touch and buy each other gifts for Christmas. He buys me a small gold chain. Two weeks later, I hear from a friend of mine who lives in the same town he does - he's been hitting on her and bought her the exact same gold chain he bought me. She and I laugh about it behind his back. Needless to say, the guy I was dating wound up with neither one of us.

This makes having to buy bottles of wine look like the winner of the Most Romantic Afternoon Award. It's all a matter of dating perspective, especially when you've been to Dating Hell.

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posted by Melanie O. at 10:45 PM - 3 comments
Friday, July 13, 2007
I can remember the night my parents went to see Barbarella at the cinema. My sister and I sat at home with a babysitter (possibly the guy we used to terrorize) and waited for our parents to come home.

Afterwards, the next day, we asked what the movie was about. They explained it was a funny science fiction movie. They mentioned the biting dolls and space ship and provided a brief plot synopsis. I was all of eight years old, and pronounced afterwards that that didn't sound so bad, so why weren't kids allowed in? Then my father explained about Jane Fonda's nude scene during the credits. I replied with "Oh."

Two years later, at Man and His World in Montréal, in the French Pavilion, I got to see the real biting dolls that were used in the film. I remember the French Pavilion was quite surreal, with moving lips broadcast on monitors throughout the space.

Years after that, when films were finally available to the public, curiosity got the best of me, and I purchased a copy of Barbarella on VHS for myself. I figured that if it was campy, sexy, and funny, then it was the perfect film for me. I was right. Nestled in all of the shag carpet, Perspex scenery and lava lamp effects, was Jane Fonda, looking stunning and soft - the American version of Brigitte Bardot.

Her co-star, John Philip Law, was one of my first ever crushes. I remember seeing him in a TV presentation of The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming. I am stunned to find out that he's my mother's age. In my mind, he'll always be Alexei Kolchin, or Pygar the angel.

One year, for Halloween, I suggested that my (then) boyfriend and I attend a Halloween event as Barbarella and Pygar, but I don't think he relished the thought of appearing in public in nothing but a loin cloth and wings. Besides, wings are problematic when you try to go through doorways. We opted for Robin Hood and Marian instead.

Tonight, Dan and I watched Barbarella together for the third or fourth time. Every time we watch it, we get the giggles and notice something new. There's something so seductive about a film that makes no pretenses about what it wants to convey. Watching it, though - I get wistful for an era where people seemed much freer to express themselves sexually in such a fantastical and innocent way. The new films I've seen lately are incredibly violent and depressing in comparison. It's no wonder I have to retreat every now and then to the innocent sexuality of the past where I can imagine what it's like to have a smoke of Essence of Man.

Most likely Jane Fonda cringes when she thinks of this film, but I hope she realises how many people actually adore it for all of the things that are "bad" about it. One visit to will provide witness its endurance. It's held out so well over the years, that's it's being re-made. I don't know how it will compare to the original, though. Things have changed a lot since 1968.

If I can lose a few pounds, I may still dress up as Barbarella one year for Halloween. Dan would like that - although I think he'd be dressing as Duran Duran. The scientist, not the 80's pop group.

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posted by Melanie O. at 11:16 PM - 1 comments
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Wart, the grackle
When I was about age 27 and living in central New York, we had a house in a small suburb. It was an older style Cape Cod timber frame house badly in need of insulation and a new heating system, but it had a great back yard with cedar trees and a vegetable garden.

We had a cat, whom I called Dingbat. She was a long-haired beige ball of fluff who was probably the greatest hunter around. We went away overnight once, only to come home and find fur all over the upstairs dormer. We feared the worst had happened to Dingbat. No - a squirrel had gotten into the house and Dingbat, fierce protector of her castle, decided that it was a better meal than dry cat food.

Dingbat protected the house from mice, chipmunks, and all manner of rodentia, but when she went after a nest of birds one early spring, my admiration for her turned to horror. I wound up rescuing a fledgling bird from her grasp. My sons came running in to tell me that there was a commotion with the cat in the back yard, and so I rushed out only to find a young bird, barely with pinfeathers, in her clutches.

I scolded Dingbat and took the baby inside. It didn't seem too worse for wear. No scratches or bite marks that I could see. Shaken, but not stirred, the naked little bird cocked his head at me and immediately bonded with me as its rescuer.

Since I rescued it, I felt responsible for it. With the help of my sons, we went to look for the baby's nest, but it had been abandoned. I wasn't going to leave this little baby on its own, so I decided I needed to find out what it would eat.

I knew a little bit about bird habits, and tried a variety of things. First, bits of grain or Cheerios softened with a little warm water. The baby turned it's little birdie beak up at anything with vegetable matter in it. I dreaded this - it must be a bug and grub eater. Great - just what I needed on top of four sons to chase after.

Dutifully, I went out to the vegetable garden and dug up some earthworms. I hand fed him and baby gobbled them eagerly and then pooped just to show me that I had gotten it right this time. I didn't expect him to live past the first day. I figured the trauma of being caught by Dingbat would be enough to do him in. But the little bird was a tough little guy and was still with us the next morning.

By the second day, I knew that baby bird was here to stay for a while, so we had to give him a name. I had been reading T. H. White's The Once and Future King and decided that baby bird should be called Wart, after King Arthur's nickname. After all, Merlin had turned Wart/Arthur into a bird at one point to assist him with his education. Wart the real bird was developing distinct human bonding characteristics, and I was bonding to Wart, as well. This wasn't good. Giving him a name probably didn't help matters.

Wart, of course, needed a "nest" to stay in, so I found a cardboard box, shredded newspaper up to pad it, and Wart settled into the makeshift nest. At night, I threw a little blanket over the top and he settled in and went to sleep. In the morning, as soon as I took the blanket off, his little voice could be heard shrill and loud, and he jumped straight onto my hand as I held it down to him. "Feed me!" I can only assume this is what he was demanding first thing in the morning. So, out to the garden I went, to dig for more earthworms. After a while, I kept a plastic gallon jug filled with dirt and worms in the garage so that I wouldn't have to go digging so often.

In the meantime, Dingbat the cat was introduced to Wart. She seemed to understand that he was now a part of the family and that she shouldn't chase or hurt him. She never did after they were properly introduced. She sniffed him up and down, looked at me as if to say "must we, really?" And then left it at that. Afterwards, she treated Wart with supreme indifference.

This went on for several weeks. Wart grew feathers. Wart sat on my shoulder and went everywhere I did. Wart would not let me out of his sight. Having become his rescuer, I was now his surrogate mother. In the mornings, when I took the blanket off his box, he fluttered now up to my shoulder to perch. I decided it was time to teach Wart how to fly when he started fluttering around the livingroom, stretching his wings and trying them on for size.

It was high summer. I could now identify what kind of bird Wart was. Wart was a common grackle. He would one day have black feathers with an oil slick sheen. But for now, he was still quite young and needed to learn how to fly.

I took him out to our back yard and he sat on my shoulder, the way he always did. I imagine his surprise when I cupped him in my hands and tossed him up into the air! His natural response was to flap his wings, and he fluttered to the ground several times. We repeated this exercise several times a day. I decided I needed to get Wart to be a bit more independent and discover the back yard for himself. It's where he was born after all.

One day I took Wart out to the backyard so that he could explore on his own. I went inside the house for the afternoon, and after several hours, went back out to the back yard to see if Wart had disappeared and gone exploring, or even better, perhaps discovered other grackles. No - he had been hiding in a tuft of grass next to the fence, and as soon as he saw me appear, he came screeching out from his hiding place, ran across the lawn, and plopped himself down between my feet.

It was the cutest thing I'd ever seen, but unless I wanted to hand feed a grackle for the rest of his life (as well as dig worms,) I'd have to teach him to be independent.

For several days, I took him out to the back yard and eventually, he did get the hang of flying. He never flew very high or very far from me. I dug up worms and bugs and hoped that instinct would kick in and he'd at least take a peck at them. He was clueless.

Finally, near the end of summer, I decided it was time to launch Wart into his own world. It was painful - I was very attached to that little bird, but I didn't feel it fair to handicap him and keep him from the life he was supposed to have.

In the end, I took him to a park and stayed with him a while. He didn't fly away. I had to put him in a tree. I think we both felt miserable, but I hope that instinct kicked in and he survived. Funny how a little bird like that can get under your skin. Of course, were Wart still around, I'd still be digging grubs and worms and he'd still be pooping on newspaper as if to say that I got it right.

Darn it. I miss that bird.

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posted by Melanie O. at 8:21 PM - 2 comments
Sunday, July 01, 2007
Madame Bijoux
I often wonder what kind of woman I will be once I hit my 60's. It's still a fair ways off, so I have time to make a lot of conjecture.

If I go by what's happening in my life today, I'd have to say that I get nightmares of becoming one of the drawings sketched by character Jack Dawson from the movie Titanic: Madame Bijoux. Madame Bijoux covers herself in old jewelry and old furs and hangs out at the local café, hoping for her long lost lover to come back from sea.

I suspect I won't be waiting for my lover to come back (Dan says that if anything ever happens to him, he'll be haunting me for the rest of my life.) But I do suspect that I will be covered in jewelry of some kind. Currently, my jewelry box overflows with fashion and fine jewelry that, even if I wore a different piece every day, would take me months to get through. And I keep going back to online auctions, looking for more. It's as if I'm looking for that piece of jewelry that will give me eternal youth, or that is "haunted" and will bring some magic into my daily existence, or that is a real "find" and is worth fifty times what I paid for it.

Let's face it - I like sparkly things. And the older the sparkly thing, the more I like it. Currently, half of my jewelry dates back to the 1940's and 50's. I like the continuity with the past. In some ways, I'm sad that I don't have daughters to pass this stuff down to, but there'd be no guarantee they'd like or appreciate it anyway. I'll have to will it all to Dan to sell it all at online auctions. Unless of course, he's haunting me, and then I might be wearing it at the local café, waiting for his ghost to appear to me.

I even hold onto the broken pieces, thinking that one day I will restore them. I hate to throw something away, especially if it's old. I don't have this same problem with cheap new stuff made in China, however. It's made to be thrown away, and when it breaks, it's usually not salvageable (I learned this the hard way.) Old jewelry, like old cars, are classics that should be given tender loving care.

With this in mind, I can look forwards to being an old classic one day, myself. And I intend to maintain a bit of sparkle, as well.
posted by Melanie O. at 12:20 PM - 3 comments

About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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