Friday, April 25, 2008

All Sorts of Things (Friday Roundup)

Everyone handles the gas crisis in their own way. Consolidate errands. Scale back vacations. Replace spark plugs. Carpool. Drive only when necessary. Stay home.

And then there's this, spewed from a friend's mouth and directed at her kids shortly after she paid $3.40something/gallon: "That's IT! We're not going to church on Wednesday nights ANYMORE!"

All right! Way to cut back...

Peter Walsh Would Be Proud ... Today marks Day 3 of My Clean Sweep, inspired by that Simon Cowell look-alike Peter Walsh, who has created all kinds of chaos in my home, thanks to his book. I will not take before and after photos, nor will I describe the filth, dust and debris that I encountered in only one room. Except for this: I went through 127 books, ALL OF WHICH WERE IN THE DEN. The interesting thing about this: Our den has no bookshelves. So that should illustrate what I was up against. I had to take a break after three hours, sit on my front steps and take a Claritin, which I chased with a Propel.

And finally ... Another blogger waxed poetically earlier this week about the downside of losing weight when you're past 30something, as I am. The scale says you're losing, but the body shape says you're just a loser. (I'm paraphrasing here.) Body parts hang and sag, and there's not a darn thing you can do about it.

My comment to her was a hearty -- and virtual -- nod of the head. And then I wrote this: "I hate when I tell someone that I wake up at 4:40 a.m. three days a week to work out with a trainer and ALSO exercise on my own another one or two days each week. And then they look me up and down, wrinkle their brow and start to say, 'You're kidding,' but instead say a kinder (but still puzzled), 'Really?'"

To which I say, "Yes, REALLY. And I could probably kick your *@&."

Go lift something heavy. Or run. Or ride a bike. It's spring, and it's the weekend ...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

That's the Hottest Thing You've Done All Week!

This is about the book "It's All Too Much" by Peter Walsh, the professional organizer from TLC's hit series "Clean Sweep."

This type of book is generally not my speed, but it has earned favorable reviews, AND my well-meaning husband checked it out at the library AND BROUGHT IT HOME TO ME. I could read between all KINDS of lines here, but I'll just take it at face value and assume that he thinks I have a crush on Peter Walsh and his Australian accent. Or that I especially enjoy that gentle way he has of making grown men and women cry in the middle of their cluttered family rooms because they are just discovering they have "issues" that make them hold onto things like bowling balls, school projects (theirs, not their kids'), broken furniture and clothes that will never ever fit them again. "Issues" that have led them to believe that wrapping paper and scrapbooking supplies belong on the dining room table.

I took one look at Al Gore's home office (see Tuesday's post), and I was inspired. I was NOT going to be like that wasteful Al Gore and his 13 computer screens and 27 tons of paper. I don't care HOW many solar panels he has or HOW many carbon credits he has bought to ease his conscience. It's WRONG. So I picked up the book and resolved to straighten up. I started in my office. In one afternoon, I rearranged two computers, cleared my desk of yesterday's (and today's) coffee mugs, the unopened mail, the subscription cards and the plates (yes, plates) and made about 19 stacks of papers across the floor and along the very comfortable couch in my office that nobody has sat on in WEEKS. So while the rest of the room may not be so tidy, by golly, my desk certainly is. It's a methodical purging that will ultimately lead to an entire Cleanly Swept house. I hope.

SOMEbody is paying attention. This is an e-mail I received from my husband last night: "The fact that you have been reading a self-improvement book and acting on it... That's probably the hottest thing you've done all week."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Keeper of the Time Capsule, Guardian of Nostalgia

I met Tim Hollis about a year and a half ago by phone while researching a story for a newspaper. We later met in person at a brown bag luncheon at the downtown library. A few months later, I pulled him from the background, pushed him into the spotlight and wrote a magazine feature about him because nobody around here does modern history quite like he does. And now, he is splashed across the newspaper with news of the release of his latest book, Vintage Birmingham Signs. By my count, this is his 11th. (He'll correct me if I'm wrong, I'm sure.)

If you're researching anything dealing with the past, Hollis is a one-stop shop--a valuable asset to anyone with any sense of nostalgia. He co-contributes to the website, which is a virtual (and often laugh-out-loud) walk down Memory Lane for people who grew up in the '60s and '70s, whether they grew up in Birmingham or someplace else. Many of his books serve as detailed extensions of the site.

An excerpt from an article I wrote about him last year:

Depending on the topic at hand, Tim Hollis stands either frozen in time, or he is traveling through it as slowly as a Sunday drive. He can discuss the history and former tenants of refurbished downtown buildings as readily as he can mentally sort through the whereabouts of 1960s TV puppeteers.
If it happened in the ’60s or ’70s, or if it happened in Birmingham, Hollis knows about it. The handy thing about that: His memories are your memories. The restaurants, the department and discount stores, the toys and TV shows – he remembers everything you may have long forgotten. And if it’s tangible, you’ll probably find it in his house.
His home, where he has lived since he was 2, is a shrine to all our childhoods and an archive of Birmingham pop culture. It serves as a time capsule of toys, books, games and TV Guides (every issue from November 1972 to November 1992) that could be mistaken as symptoms of a much larger disorder. “Once I find a photo or something concrete, that’s one less thing I have to store in my memory,” he says.
He consciously began building his collection in 1982 by visiting flea markets, but only to buy back things his parents had gotten rid of. “When I did find them, they were ridiculously cheap,” he recalls. He knew the collecting had gotten out of hand when he would buy things he felt he should have had, but never did.
Haven’t we all wished that we owned toys we played with as children? That we had videos of our family vacations? That we had kept better scrapbooks?
Nostalgia is always in style, “but the generation that’s nostalgic changes,” Hollis says. If you’re in your 40s, it’s your turn. A 40-something himself, Hollis has, in a way, been planning for this all his life. As a kid, he knew that the places and things around him and his experiences wouldn’t last, but that his memories would. To ensure he could always look back in time, he stored and archived everything he could and photographed and wrote about everything else.

And finally ...

He has written 10 books that chronicle everything from Birmingham’s broadcasting heritage to Dixie vacations. It’s a sort of thank-you to those who formed his childhood, but it’s also a gift to others stricken with nostalgia.
Hollis’s greatest fear, he says, is forgetting pieces of his life. He sees the forgetfulness in others of his generation, doesn’t understand it and works to prevent it. “I’m trying to force people to remember things they think they’ve forgotten. Life is a big whirlpool of stuff that makes up people’s memories,” he says. “I don’t want to forget anything.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day To You! Happy Earth Day To You!

It's not easy being green ... and that's why I don't even try. I figure if I don't have the power to create this world, then I probably don't have a shot at destroying it either.

Ways I Plan to Celebrate Earth Day

Use My New Al Gore Washing Machine
I don't pander to advertisers on this site because, well, I don't HAVE advertisers. Does the Washington Post have ads on its front page? The NY Times? Wall Street Journal? That's right -- and if they can squeak by without them, then so can I. Think of this as an online Consumer Reports, unmarred by the influence of the mighty dollar and whorish sponsorships. It is with absolute objectivity that I can report that I have found what may well be the greatest invention since Toaster Strudels. And just in time for Earth Day!

It seems as if the Spirit of Al Gore himself somehow entered my home in the middle of SEVEN LOADS OF LAUNDRY over the weekend and breathed all kinds of toxins and bad juju upon what he perceives as an energy-sucking, water-using washing machine and made it die. Just like that. I was very sad.

Fast forward: I jumpstarted the economy by investing a lot of money in the Cadillac of washing machines and am now the proud owner of a Whirlpool Cabrio (see photo), which allows me to wash twice the volume of clothes with half the water and, theoretically, half the detergent. Open the lid, and it's like staring down into the Grand Canyon. According to our sales associate and the owner's manual, I can wash 25 bath towels in one load--if I owned 25 bath towels. So, instead, I stand in front of the new machine and shout, "Give me what you got!" I'll take it all -- bedspreads, bath towels, king-size sheets, bring it on.

Find Me Some Carbon Credits!

While I am proud to have this energy-efficient, minimal-water-using washing machine, I do not own its energy-efficient, minimal-electricity-using companion of a dryer because I AM NOT INDEPENDENTLY WEALTHY. So the monstrous load of clean, wet clothes must be divided in half to be dried, thereby creating TWO loads to be dried. So I am looking into buying some carbon credits, as Al Gore has reportedly done. If your carbon footprint looks like it was made by Sasquatch, as mine does, maybe it's time to face facts and ease the guilt. Oh, wait. I don't have any guilt. Sort of my own little inconvenient truth.

Pictured at right: Al Gore in his home office in Nashville. This home office is located in the same home that allegedly generates a $30,000/year utility bill. I'm just saying... That's an awful lot of paper he has stacked about. And paper comes from trees ... (photo credit: Time Magazine)

Listen to Kevin Bacon Tell Me How to Save the World

I would listen to just about anything Kevin Bacon has to say. He could stand in my kitchen and jabber on about carbon footprints and global warming for all I care. I would be One Captive Audience. Fortunately for me, he's part of the lineup here, where you can learn more about Earth Day 2008 events around the world. Providing further green-living inspiration and Earth Day cheer are such notables as Chevy Chase and Zack Braff.

Hop Aboard the Earth Day Party Train!

What's an Earth Day party without styrofoam cups and aerosol cans of Silly String? We have landfills to fill, you know.

Happy Earth Day, everyone. Go do something responsible...