Category Archives: Fashion

The Seventh Season

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New England has more seasons than any other place I’ve ever lived.  Texas has two seasons: Hot Dry, and Cool Wet.  You can get both seasons in the space of one week, and they each come around multiple times per year, but there are still only two.  Wisconsin had four seasons: Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring.  Very basic and uncomplicated, those seasons. New England has at least six.  There’s the usual Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring, but then there’s also Stick and Mud.

Stick comes between Fall and Winter, and it’s one of the two seasons that is characterized by a preponderance of the color Brown. Stick is the inevitable payment, with interest, for the fabulous New England Fall, known world-wide for its stunning multicolored beauty.  At some point, all of those wonderful brightly colored Fall leaves, well…fall.  Fall off.  Hit the ground, and lie there, moldering, leaving the world full of, well…sticks.  Stick season.

Mud comes between Winter and Spring, and is the sad payment, with interest, for those picturesque hills covered with glistening white blankets of snow.  At some point, it melts, and because the topography of New England can be summarized with a few short words like “hilly”, “rocky”, and “surface water” we get a truly epic season of Mud.  This year, astonishingly – given the record amounts of snow we had – Mud was surprisingly short and surprisingly not horrible.  Huey has been known to lose up to three shoes in a really bad Mud.  This year, he only lost one, and it was almost time for the farrier to come out and put his summer shoes on anyway, so it wasn’t too bad.

Pretty much, I think, everyone knows about Summer, Fall, Spring, and Winter, and quite a few people have heard of Mud.  Stick is a new one on me since I came to New England, as is the seventh season: Long Sleeves And Shorts.

Long Sleeves And Shorts can overlap with several of the other seasons.  It almost never overlaps with Winter, not unless you’re talking about tweens and teens, all of whom are indestructible, and none of whom think it’s Cool to dress for the weather.  Long Sleeves And Shorts season can overlap with Summer, particularly on the coast.  Most frequently, though, it happens in conjunction with Spring, Fall, Stick, and Mud.  A certain quality to the air arrives, and people flood out onto the streets sporting a wide range of Long Sleeves and Shorts.  Since New England is basically the Fountain of All Preppiness, you often see khaki shorts and rugby shirts (on both men and women).  You might see boarder shorts and long-sleeve t-shirts.  You see skimpy little running shorts and a long-sleeve quarter-zip technical top in lurid colors never seen elsewhere in nature.  You see padded bike shorts, and long-sleeved slinky tops festooned with obscure logos.  You see cargo shorts and flannel shirts, or denim shorts with thermal waffle-knit henleys.  If it’s particularly chilly, you see the shirts covered up with a zippered  vest.  When Long Sleeves and Shorts season happens on the coast in summer, you can see shorts paired with a collared shirt and a sweater.

I’ve been in and around New England so long, at this point, that I didn’t even notice Long Sleeves and Shorts season until this past fall, when some friends of mine from Texas came up for a visit.  Roy and I suited up for some outing or other – independently, I should add – and rejoined our guests.  They stared at us in astonishment.  “Long sleeves? And shorts?” they said.  “Now we really know we’re in New England.”  They were both baffled and amused by this, I think.  I suppose that I would have been, too, if I were more recently from Texas.

As it is, it makes perfect sense for me.  Long Sleeve and Shorts season is characterized by the exciting phenomenon of having two seasons in one day.  Sometimes two seasons in a four-hour period, which it’s been doing lately.  You have to dress for both, and this is the compromise.  It’s Winter in the morning – it was 34 when I woke up – so you wear the long sleeves.  But you know that it’s going to be Summer in very short order – probably by the time I come back from grocery shopping – so you wear the shorts.  What’s not to understand about this?

In Texas, it’s not unknown to have both seasons in one day: to wake up to Hot, and then have an arctic front blast through and drop the temperatures to Cool.  The difference between Hot and Cool season in Texas can be anything from 101 Fahreneheit to 40, so this is not a trivial swing.  The deal is, it doesn’t happen that often, certainly not every day of the week like happens in Long Sleeve and Shorts season in New England.  And in Texas it’s completely predictable, often down to the very hour when it will happen.  So Texans go off to work and school in their Hot season clothes, and the ones who are paying attention to the forecast in the morning, drag along their huge puffy winter commuter coats, and they’re fine.  The ones who weren’t paying attention do high-speed sprints from the building to the car and then sit there for five minutes, turning the heat on full-blast until their bare legs recover their color and feeling.

It doesn’t happen often enough in Texas for there to be a proper season for it.  Here, though, I have three choices for the day: waffle henley, rugby shirt, or t-shirt.  The shorts are a given.

The Changing Of The Clothes, or Rumble In The Rubbermaids

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If ’tis the season of the pumpkin run,
And ’tis the season of the festival of mums,
And ’tis the season of the cider donut,
Then ’tis also the season of the changing of the clothes.

This is one of those Northern Things we didn’t have in Texas.  In Texas you can tell that the seasons changed because people start whining about the weather.  In the summer, there’s no point to whining about the weather – it’s hotter than the fiery pits of hell, and stickier than a piece of used chewing gum, and, well, if people could rustle up the energy, then tempers would be mighty short.  Besides, if you start whining about the heat and humidity of the eight-month-long Texas summer, then when would you ever stop?

Fall is different.  They call it “fall” because the leaves fall off the trees.  In New England, they turn amazing colors and provided a major tourist draw before they fall down.  In Texas, they pretty much just go straight from April, to Dead.  Unless it’s mountain cedar, in which case it goes from pollen cycle to pollen cycle, sickening thousands with every blast of tree sperm.  Mountain cedars pollinate with cold snaps too, which just adds insult to the existing tremendous injury.  Texans have a sick sense of conflict when the weather map shows a bright blue spiky line diving down from Canada.

On one hand, Texans are thinking “Yahoo!  A cold front!!  It’s going to get down into the upper 50s at night!  Turn on the electric blankets, break out the hot chocolate, and someone get a fire going!  We’re having winter!!!

And on the other hand, the same Texans are also thinking “Ah, shit, a cold front.  Means the trees are gonna pollinate.  Better hit the pharmacy for a refill of my steroidal nasal spray and get it going before my sinuses back up so hard my ears pop when I swallow, and it feels like fire ants are crawling all over my skin and scalp. Damned cedar.”

I know, I know.  There’s you, thinking “oh, yeah, another one of those Tall Texas Tales.  hay fever so bad your ears pop when you swallow.  that’s a good one.  pull the other finger, it’s got bells on.”

But, I swear it on a stack of Bibles, it’s perfectly, totally, literally true.  I know this because it happened to me every winter before God Gave Us Flonase, the only allergy drug that works for something like this.  I had it so bad one year that my sense of taste was completely gone – not that I wanted to eat much anyway, what with my ears popping every time I chewed or swallowed – but it was so bad.  How bad was it?  It was so bad that I loaded up a baked potato with sour cream that was way the other side of its grave, and the only way I could tell was that it was dead was because of the weird grainy texture from all the curdling.  Yes.  Allergies so bad you can eat rancid milk products and not even realize it.

That’s when I Found Flonase.  That stuff was a real godsend to central Texas, too, because before that, with every cold front you’d have maybe 30% of the population wandering about like the most miserable pack of zombies on the green earth, all stoned out of our beans on Benadryl…and still suffering.  Yessir, Flonase Saved Civilization.

Anyway, when the dewpoint drops to a bone-dry 65 degrees, and the nighttime temps go down to 59, you know it’s winter in Texas.  And that means that you bring out the sweater.  And the jacket.  And maybe you go into that drawer where you keep the oddball items like bathing suits and cycling shorts, and you find the long-sleeved t-shirt.

All of that notably singular.  Because in Texas, winter comes in 2-day long increments.  You get winter for two days after a front, and then it goes back to being April.  Maybe another three weeks later, you get another two days of winter, and then four weeks of April.  Somewhere in there, everyone throws on a jacket and changes out of the sandals into closed-toe shoes and goes out shopping for an Xmas Tree. Because, you know, on some visceral level it is generally known that shopping for an Xmas Tree in a t-shirt, shorts, and pair of flip-flops is wrong.

That, however, is pretty much the extent of the Seasonal Wardrobe Changeover.  That, and trying to remember where the umbrellas went when the dry spell fired up last May.

In New England, it’s a different matter.  Sure, I still have that oddball drawer full of off-season stuff, because I know there will be warm days in the spring, or cool days in the fall, but not enough of them coming together consecutively to warrant the full Changing Of The Clothing.  In the north, and I learned this good and proper when I moved from College Station, Texas to Madison, Wisconsin, and discovered that not all sweaters are made of cotton, I discovered that the points of overlap between the Summer Wardrobe and the Winter Wardrobe are minimal.  Mainly consisting of a waterproof slicker, and a pair of leather boat shoes.  Beyond that, there’s no points of similarity.

The Summer Wardrobe has t-shirts and shorts, and lightweight cotton sweaters, and thin hoodies, and linen slacks and jackets, and silk shells. It has Birkenstoks and canvas boat shoes and sandals and huaraches.  It has thin, stretch riding breeches, and a whole stack of disreputable short-sleeve t-shirts only ever worn to the barn (and any place I have to stop at en route). It has cotton dresses and thin white cotton tunics.  It has capri pants and fabric skimmers. It has a waterproof slicker and a pair of leather boat shoes.

The Winter Wardrobe has waffle-weave and rugby shirts, stacks of wool sweaters (with a few silk blends thrown in for variety).  It has mock turtlenecks in every style under the sun, and corduroys.  It has heavy woven dress jackets and thin silk turtlenecks for layering.  It has a rainbow of clogs, to keep one’s feet out of the inevitable muck, and a whole shelf of boots.  It has coats – light coats, technical coats, wool coats, long dress coats, short sports coats, and a disreputable flannel-lined water-resistant duck-cloth woven field coat for the barn.  It has flannel-lined pants, pants made from high-tech mystery fibers spun from recycled soda bottles, and more cords. It has flannel pajamas and a drawer full of silk thermal underwear.  It has thick knee socks and fur-lined slippers with non-skid soles. It has thick jeans, dress shoes that can only be worn when there hasn’t been a heavy rain or snowstorm in recent history.  It has duck shoes in six different colors, because once winter really sets in, these are the only things to wear, assuming you don’t want to ruin your good shoes.  It has a waterproof slicker and a pair of leather boat shoes.

The Changing of the Clothes requires the logistical skills of General Patton, and a willingness to crack the whip, because otherwise, the house will be littered with rubbermaid totes in partial stages of unpacked-ness until May, and everyone in the house will be perpetually cranky because nothing can be found.  It is additionally complicated in my house by the fact that my house, and I love my house, has four stories, counting the basement.  The basement is where out-of-season clothes live.  The top floor is where Roy’s clothes live, and the floor behind that is where my clothes live.  So any rubbermaid totes full of vestments have to be hauled up a minimum of two narrow flights of stairs, unpacked, repacked, and hauled back down again.

A long while back I found that the only way to do this that doesn’t make everyone hate each other for weeks is to do it in one huge marathon.  It’s not a fun day, but there’s nothing quite so satisfying as the sight of a closet with the upcoming season’s clothes all neatly stored, the vision of rubbermaid totes stacked neatly back in the basement, and the knowledge that this wretched chore will not have to be done again for six months.

Such is the price of living in an Historic Home.  I know, from pictures, that the Victorians wore a stunning amount of clothing at one time, but damned if I know where they put it when it wasn’t on the body, because it sure as hell didn’t go into their closets.  I don’t think the closets in my house would hold even one crinoline, let alone a couple of them, and a big fluffy dress, let along more than one change of clothes.  It’s really a mystery to me.

Another matter the significantly complicates the Changing of the Clothes in my house is a certain disparity in the size of our wardrobes.  Roy’s entire winter wardrobe, without the collection of outdoor boots, fits in five rubbermaid totes.  My entire winter wardrobe, without the collection of outdoor boots, requires thirteen rubbermaid totes.   I can’t feel it at all fair to make Roy sherpa those thirteen totes up two narrow flights of stairs, so I do it all myself.  And, because no one can drag their heels harder or longer over the hassle of the Changing of the Clothes than Roy, I usually wind up hauling his five bins too.  I found that if I stack them up so that they block the stairs leading up to his study, he will usually get the idea to carry them up the rest of the way, and once there, the notion to actually unpack them and extract his next-season clothing usually strikes.

I won’t say that it’s an easy time in the house.  But at least it only usually takes a few days from start to finish, and at least, it’s over until next May.

To celebrate the rumble of the rubbermaid totes, I have this amazing dish of apples and cherries. It’s extraordinary.

1¼ C old-fashioned oats
a generous cup of packed brown sugar
¾ C flour
a generous sprinkling of ground cinnamon
¼ t salt
¾ C butter
1 C sliced almonds, toasted in a pan, and chopped
½ C chopped crystallized ginger
4 pounds tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1½ C dried tart cherries (NOT the sweetened kind)
½ C sugar
juice of one lemon
1 T flour
liberal dash of ground cinnamon

The easy way is to use the food processor. Mix oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in large bowl. Put the almonds and crystallized ginger in the processor and pulse until chopped up. Add the butter and pulse until it gets lumpy. Add the dry oat mix, and pulse until you get a crumble consistency. Put into the fridge while doing the next step.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 13×9 baking dish. Combine apples, cherries, sugar, lemon juice, flour and ground cinnamon in large bowl and mix it up well. Put into the baking dish and flatten out a little. Sprinkle topping over apples. Bake until topping is browning, about 55 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream, or just eat directly out of the pan with a spoon. It all just gets better with age, too, so you can nibble on this out of the fridge for several days.

Pumpkins

One of the many Sincere Pumpkin Patches in my neck of the woods.

Give Me A Damned Break.

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Well, Roy scored huge with the holiday gifts.  He bagged for me this absolutely amazing all-weather riding rain coat, with an adaptable skirt to cover the saddle and protect it from drizzle, and incredible styling.  I saw it in a magazine ad, checked the company’s website for the sizing chart, and then requested this item from Santa.

Santa delivered, with a stunning ruby-red intensely styling garment.

That fit, if by “fit” you mean “will zip up cleanly over underwear”.  I tried it on over my silk thermal top – apres ski present orgy – and it was…snug.  It zipped.  It “fit” in that technical sense.  The sizing chart wasn’t…wrong…it just failed to take into account that a person might want to be wearing something other than a bra under a cold-weather riding raincoat.  Now, I’m having a hard time imagining the circumstances under which I’d want to wear a cold-weather raincoat over a tank top and a pair of breeches.  And that’s what it would take.  Anything else would be snug.  And “snug” isn’t something I think of when it comes to athletic gear.  Stretchy, fitted, yes.  Snug, tight, no.

It’s bad enough that I’m going to have to send this astoundingly gorgeous coat back.  In my adult life, I’ve been as small as a size 14, as large as a 20.  I got down to a size 12 one year, when I was finishing my dissertation and getting divorced, and everyone asked me if I’d been sick.  For me to get into a size 12 requires that my shoulder and collar bones stand out like wire coathangers, that you be able to count and inspect every one of my ribs, and that my vertebral column be visible against the drape of a loose-fitting t-shirt.   And, as I said, everyone assumed that I’d been having chemotherapy or dealing with some kind of life-threatening illness, I looked that haggard, gaunt, and bad.  That’s what it takes for me to be a size 12.

I used a couple of internet calculators, and realized that I’ve been in the 97% percentile for height and weight since the day I was born.  So it should be a surprise to me that the smallest I’ve been in my adult life is still well into “Size Large” territory?  My shoe size, depending on who you ask, is anywhere from a 9 1/2 Wide (Payless) to an 11 Medium (Stuart Weitzman). I’m just…value sized.

So, as I say, it was bad enough having to relinquish the Amazing All Weather Riding Coat, but the truly depressing part was that – due to the “European Styling” no doubt – a size 16 (assuming nothing but underwear) was a 2XL for this company.  Yes. If we want to assume some rational degree of foundation garment, like a bra plus a long-sleeved shirt, this coat can have been no more than a size 14.  And that’s a 2XL.

This company isn’t alone.  This phenomenon is pervasive with respect to women’s athletic gear.  You want to do yoga in appropriate attire?  Awesome! As long as you’re no more than 5’8″ and 115 lbs.  You want to go riding in appropriate attire?  Super! If you’re 5’6″ and 100 lbs.  You want amazing alpine ski pants?  Better not be any more than 5’7″ and 105!

It’s really incredible. Basic catalog sizes assume that women are – at the very tallest – 5’6″.  I have at least as many women friends who are taller than this as I do friends who are shorter.  HELLO, PEOPLE!  Better prenatal nutrition => taller people!  Ask the Dutch!

Even without taking that important factor – height – into consideration, we wind up with Pure Insanity with the women’s size chart.  For point of reference, LL Bean considers a size 16 to be a Large (sometimes it is, not unreasonably, an XL).  Measurements for this size are bust (41.5″), waist (34), hips (44).

Arc’teryx and UnderArmour consider this to be between a Large (12-14) and an XL )(16-18).

North Face considers these to be just over the upper bound of an XL (16+).

Marmot considers them to be an XL (12!!!).

Mountain Hardwear and Merrell consider these measurements to be an XL (16).

Isis considers them to be a 2XL (18, only they don’t seem to make 2XL or 18s).

prAna considers them to be something in excess of an XL (12-14), the largest size they appear to offer.

Outdoor Research and SmartWool consider them to be an XL (no numeric size given).

Patagonia considers them to be an XL (16).

Columbia, Royal Robbins, and Nike call them an XL (16-18).

ExOfficio considers them to be an XL (18).

Asmar Equestrian, maker of my wonderful raincoat, considers these measurements to be a 2XL.

What the hell?  One set of measurements, 12 different sizing approaches.

And then, on top of it, these are size charts built on some kind of Theoretical Capacity.  As in, yes, the riding coat zipped so it technically fit but it wouldn’t have fit if I’d tried to put anything sensible underneath it.  And, I know from personal experience, this is also true for the size charts from Arc’teryx, North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Outdoor Research, Patagonia, and Columbia. The only one on the list above that actually appears to factor in practical considerations like the need to move about comfortably and layer appropriately is Royal Robbins.  The rest of it is rubbish.  It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even bother trying to shop in the women’s department at REI.  The concept of “vanity sizing” is utterly absent from the field of women’s athletic attire.

Goddamnit.  This shit makes me totally sick.  I hate having to send back this gorgeous coat, in a size 2XL, because it is too small.

I hate having always to wear men’s clothes and look like a total shlub while working out.  I would dearly love to wear athletic gear – in particular, ski gear, that is actually designed for the shape of a woman’s body.  I look like the freaking Michelin Man out on the slopes, and if it weren’t for my red hair pouring out from under my helmet, I’d routinely be mistaken for a man.  Ask me how I know.  Because last year, dammit, my hair was bobbed.  And if I got called “sir” once in the lift lines, it happened twenty times.

There’s no good reason for this, by god.  Athletic women come in all sizes.  What we have in common is that we’re in shape, and we don’t want gear limiting our range of motion, and we want to look good while we’re doing our thing dammit.

It’s not like this is just a woman’s issue, either.  Last year I bought ski pants for Roy.  To his utter desolation, the only thing that fit was a pair of Columbias with a velcro waist in size 2XL.  He’s a totally normal sized guy, too.  It’s just that every damned pair of the ski pants were designed for some dude who is 6’4″ and 130 lbs.  “Welcome to my world,” I told him.  I don’t think he found this to be a comforting sentiment

No, Really, It Was A Traffic Cone.

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I’m getting quite a few questions about Clay’s “fake carrot” and want to take a moment here to explain.  Yes.  My day started by rolling out of bed on the Late side, hustling into my riding gear (more on that below), sloping off to the stables, finding that Earth Moving Equipment had occupied the premises (and being incidentally totally delighted that the driveway had been graded, as the recent storms had made it increasingly difficult to steer the car around the potholes), and that consequently all the horses were still in their stalls.

I scored a new rope halter (see below, under “Woot, Last Night”) for Huey and was sufficiently occupied with getting his Brand Spankin’ New Rope Halter on him and escorting him out to the cross-ties for some High Quality Grooming (followed by Low Quality Riding) that I didn’t notice his right side.  You tack horses up from the left side.  This, by the way, happens because you wear your sword on the left, and don’t want to get it tangled up with your legs and stuff as you vault into the saddle from the ground. No, I’m not kidding.  Look it up.

So I’ve haltered Huey up on the left, and I guide him out to the cross-ties – and it seems like he remembers his last lesson in Respecting My Space While Going In And Out Of The Stall (see “I Am A Horrible Horse” for more details) because he does not charge through, over, or above me.  And I get him all set up in his cross-ties, and I’m grooming his neck and moving back, and then the barn owner steps out of a stall that she’s cleaning and says “Did you see the cut on his face?”

It’s good that she clarified with the “on his face” bit, because I’ve been treating a cut on his right-rear hock, and low on his right neck, and I noticed on Thursday that he had more boo-boos on his left check and over his right eye.

I have to say, at this point, that Huey is not particularly “accident prone” – for a horse.  I haven’t, yet, had to call the vet out to patch anything up.  Knock on wood.

So I said “On his eye? Or the one on his cheek?”

And she said “Oh, no.  The one on his lip.”

I regarded his mouth – still on the left side – and said “He has a cut on his lip?”

She said “Over here, on the right.”

I came around, and he had a wound the size of a nickel, right there above his lip on the right side.

“Oh.” I said.

That’s when she said, and this is a direct quote, “Clay hit him in the face with a traffic cone on Thursday.”

“Oh?” I said.

And she explained that Clay had picked up the traffic cone from the pasture (she puts the cones in places to discourage the horses from frequenting them, although I must say that evidence available does not support the proposition of a significant Deterrent Value of the cones) and tried, repeatedly, to get Huey to “take it from him”.   This was, truly, a fairly short time after Huey got a carrot from me, and Clay tried to approach me, and was forcibly driven off by Huey.  It’s all true.  I don’t know for certain that Clay tried to pass the traffic cone off as a carrot, but given the earlier Carrot Controversy and the fact that both carrots and traffic cones are pointy and orange, I see no reason to believe that it was not being passed off as an ersatz carrot.

So. It’s true.  Clay hit Huey in the face with a traffic cone and made a big cut.

Now, I have to say that any day that starts off with the news that another horse hit my horse in the face with a traffic cone is one that is likely only to get weirder.  Thank heavens I have experience with lots of wack shit from my youngest brother, who was once evicted from an Xmas pageant for hitting himself rhythmically on the head in time to Jingle Bells…and then decided to expand the experience to hitting the kid in front of him in the head in time to Jingle Bells.  I love kids with ADHD.  You just never know what they’re going to do.  And I’ve been Emergency Backup Mom to any number of other kids with ADHD, each of which has come out of the corner fighting, with some curve ball just as nutty as another horse assaulting mine with a traffic cone.

Or, as a friend of mine observed, “I had no idea that horses are this much like children.”  Granted, this is the mom of one of my Emergency Backup Kids who, at the age of 5, was attending his mom’s wedding (to 2nd husband) and burst into loud weeping mid-ceremony, and when the ceremony was halted promptly so that his mom could find out what was going on, the kid responded “I always cry at weddings.”  So having her observe that having Huey is pretty similar to having kids was a truly sobering thought.  Or as sobering as I could have, given that the image I can’t get off the front of my mind is one of Clay racing around with a traffic cone in his mouth and accidentally walloping Huey in the face with it.

Woot, Last Night

We’re in the happy position of having a major equine exposition going on virtually in the backyard.  Down in Springfield, at the Big E (home of the butter sculpture, see earlier post) is a massive quantity of Horse People.  According to the expo’s website, 79% of the attendees are female.  What I can’t tell is whether this figure includes the Horse Husbands.  Like my spouse.

My trainer and barn owner is the person who turned me on to this thing.  She warned me to steer clear of the exhibit floor.  With good reason.  Let me just say that for the individual that is a Shopaholic (I am) and a Horse Person (I am) there is nothing that is closer to a Religious Experience than Shopping For The Horse. It’s like My Little Pony taken to the nth degree.

It’s a 4 day expo, and we showed up for Day 2.  Actually, I’d scored tickets to a magnificent horse performance event that is held all four nights of the expo, sponsored by Pfizer (and say what you like about Big Pharma, Pfizer are the closest thing we have there to the Guys in White Hats.  They also developed a daily dewormer, so that Huey just gets a handful of pellets in his grain, which he hoovers right on up every single day, which means that I only have to squirt deworming paste into his mouth two times per year instead of every six weeks.  And if you’ve ever tried to Pill A Cat, you will have some frame of reference – albeit an inadequate one – for what is involved in Deworming A Horse).  Anyway, I had scored tickets for this event last night.

I’m going to cut in here and say what I have to say about the Pfizer show:  I have conceived a new Heart’s Desire. I want my own private herd of white Arabian horses, all of whom can read my mind, and who do tricks.  I also want to dance with Huey to music in a spotlight while we are both wearing glitter.  But mostly I want my own herd of Arabians that can read my mind.  The show, in short, was awesome.

But, before that happened.  I had to be in Springfield for a job interview (interviewing someone else, not interviewing for a new job) and didn’t get to leave that until 2:30.  It’s 40 minutes home, another 15 for my spouse to dick around, and another 35 back down to a different part of Springfield for the expo.  The Parking Fairy gave me an excellent spot right by the front gates, and things were going very smoothly until we discovered that the gate fee – separate from the tickets for the Pfizer thing – had to be paid in cash.  Of which I had bloody little.  And spouse had less.

“Is there an ATM?” I asked.

“It’s inside.” was the answer.

There followed a complicated, nay, Byzantine, series of interactions that ultimately involved me entering the expo on Trust, searching for a working ATM, extracting cash, hustling back to the gate, paying the fee, retrieving the spouse, and entering legitimately.  Which ate another 20 minutes.

By that time, I’d missed the clinics I wanted to go to (watch other people learn to ride, which as a Horse Person and Educator is unusually fascinating) so we dropped in on a seminar on caring for the Senior Horse.  I was heartened to find that that their definition of “Senior” was anywhere from 25 to 37.  Huey is 17.  The thought that I could be dealing with Huey’s wack shit for another 20 years is…inspiring. Knock On Wood.

After that, Jeff decided to stay in the darkened seminar stage room for the next lecture (and nap) while I…shopped.  Oh holy cow.  I got a great discount on a new rope halter.  Huey didn’t precisely need a new rope halter, as the one I inherited from his previous owner was still in pretty good condition…but the new one is green.  And it has a big fat, longer, green lead rope.  You red-heads will know:  there is no color that is better for a red-head than green.  And Huey, like Clifford, is a Big Red Horse.  Green is his color.  And I got a Deal on it.

I also got a Deal on the riding boot cell phone holder.  Go  ahead, laugh.  But the thing is, my barn owner doesn’t want people riding alone – if there’s no one roaming around the barn or property, she doesn’t want us riding unless we’ve got the cell phone on us.  Because, as I know all too well, shit happens, you fall off, and maybe someone needs to call 911.  My breeches have one pocket, and it’s the size of the 5th pocket on a pair of 5 pocket jeans.  Big enough to stick a finger in, but not nearly big enough for a smartphone.  So when I came round the corner and saw a display of cell phone holders that are meant to strap around your calf I was thrilled.  Talk about your Niche Product, there. This one has an artistic rendering of a horse-head on it.

Then there were the polar fleece vests.  I’ve never considered myself a Vest Person.  I’m more of a Sweater Person, a Jacket Person, and on occasion, a Gigantic Fake Fur Coat Person.  However, now that I consider the need to have my arms freely moving while my core is kept warm, say, while I’m on the back of, say, my horse, I have really come around to the whole Vest Notion.  And these vests were embroidered with…horses!! And not only that, but some of them were embroidered with hunting horses, and some with jumping horses, and some with barrel racing horses, and – yay – some with dressage horses.  Like Huey’s gonna be, once I learn to teach him how to do it.  And they fit me perfectly – a truly rare occurrence.  I got a good deal on those, too.

Some of the stuff I did not buy:

These

These

Or These

Because, even though I did not notice this when I was in Ireland, Irish people have tiny calves.  So none of them fit.  This was, mercifully, also true for every other totally amazing boot at the show.

I also did not buy the Western saddle that was encrusted with rhinestones and silver conchos.  When I saw it, the only thing I said to Jeff was that this saddle would really do a Dallas Rodeo Queen proud.  Now, some of you will understand this instantly, and derive a picture of appropriate degree of ostentatious over-the-top splendour.  But if you don’t grasp it instantly, nothing else I could say would cause you to understand.  You either get Dallas Rodeo Queens or you don’t.

This would have been a Shopping Orgy under any circumstances, but as it was…well…you just have to mentally combine Filene’s Basement, or DSW, with My Little Pony and Black Beauty…to really understand the Extravaganza.

Now, if Huey would only relax his whole-hearted dedication to acquiring filth and fighting with the other horses…although, to be fair, the Traffic Cone Incident was not his fault.

Huey the Wonder Horse

Rough Morning For A Glamazon

Standard

For a given value of “Glamazon”, that is. Back home, in any one of the big Texas cities, I would not qualify.  My hair is too small, and I do not wear makeup to the grocery store or the gym.  My leather jacket is decked out in fringe and wooden beads, not rhinestones. I refuse to wear shoes that hurt my feet, and I feel that at 5’10”, do not not really need the commanding presence conferred by high-heeled pumps.

But, as they say, “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king,” and I no longer live in Texas, I live in the Pioneer Valley, and it seems that the simple fact that I wax my legs and eyebrows, and deep-condition my hair on a regular basis is enough to get me Full Glamazon Status.  Never mind my huge collection of shoes and handbags, and my instinct to coordinate my outfits…even to go to the grocery store and the gym.  It is also enough, amusingly, to get me relegated to the status of “Bimbo” with certain elements of the local society, who appear to regard any woman who engages in Grooming as an individual of inferior intellect, who must play up her looks to compensate for the lack of a brain.  Just wearing lipstick – heck, even colored lip balm – to a party with this sector of society is enough to bust your rank.  Certain other elements in our local society regard me as a Quisling for removing any of my body hair and wearing a bra.

I was grateful when my local paper (which celebrates its 225th birthday today, which impresses the heck out of me) instituted a regular one-page Friday “style” feature.  Yet this, too, bears the distinctive stamp of the Pioneer Valley:  the style team canvasses downtown looking for someone who appears to have spent an actual thought on assembling their clothing, photographs him or her, and interviews the person about their Look.  I’d say, conservatively, that 90% of the people the team chooses have assembled their Look off of the racks of the local thrift store.  Not that I have a problem with dressing from the thrift store – I’ve done it myself – but it does, shall we say, limit the degree of sophistication and coordination one can achieve with an outfit.  So the short story is that virtually all of my local competition for the Glamazon title are, regrettably, hipsters.  That said, there are a small number of individuals with truly interesting style – in the Rodarte sense – that operate out of the thrift store around the corner.  They’re more of the Burning Man tribe of Fashionista, and their outfits are clearly assembled with great care, express significant individuality, and in general, they’re a joy to watch as they swan around the town with their vintage handbags and pumps.

Back to my morning.  I hate it when I look at the 54 pairs of summer shoes (the winter shoes and boots are still in storage) and reach the depressing conclusion that I Have Nothing To Wear.  I am certain that my husband hates it even more than I do when that happens.  Fortunately, this isn’t one of those days.  The roughness of my morning has everything to do with the quandary of finding an outfit that will carry me through the day without major alterations and trips back home.  This is not, I should note, one of those trite little crises about how to dress for work when one must go straight out to an evening function.  Enough women have difficulty with this question that every women’s magazine in the country runs at least three articles per calendar year on how to navigate those waters.  Those waters, however, are pure class-1 rapids.  That’s grade-school…ABCs and 123s, as easy a sail as you can get with both feet actually in the boat.

My issue is graduate-level:  what outfit can I assemble that will carry me from the barn, where I need to clean up a horse and supervise the pre-purchase exam from the vet, to my classroom where I need to deliver content on cost behavior and estimating cost functions, preferably without stains, mud, hay, or Eau du Equine.  And, thanks to the tattered rags of Tropical Storm Lee, it looks like the barn scene is going to be characterized by a general sense of Wetness.  I have come, reluctantly, after 90 minutes of firm consideration, to the conclusion that this cannot, in fact, be done.  I must take an entirely separate set of clothes into which to change on the fly.  I cannot help but feel that my Serious Glamazon Sisters in Texas would have found a way to pull this off. Oh, the shame of it all.  The disgrace.

I’d wear a paper bag on my head, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t go with my shoes.

Old French Quarter Lamp

I feel as dilapidated as this lamp from the French Quarter.