Sunday, March 26, 2006

How An Obsession Begins

There I was, rambling the aisles of Winco, when I saw her. Not her, really, but what she was carrying. A purse.

It had a cartoon of an avocado on it. Perhaps the avocado had a face, giving it the kind of anthropomorphism that avid collectors of Japanese & Korean stationery appreciate.

I wanted to ask her about the bag, but her boyfriend hovered nearby with a kind of protectiveness that said, "Stop staring at my girlfriend." Or maybe it said, "I'm on meth."

I've been pining for a new bag, because my two-year-old Chiapas woven tote bag has been reduced to shreds (though beautiful pink, orange, and gold shreds). I almost got a green flowered bag at Foundation Garments, but it was made of recycled inner tubes and smelled it. I lingered over the African print bags at Target, but the handles weren't right.

This bag, with cartoon produce and what looked like charming lyrical writing, was the one. So, when I spotted the girl a couple aisles later in the bulk candy section (sans boyfriend), I pounced. "Your bag! I love it!" And, close enough to touch the bag, or grab it and run off, I saw a part of the writing: Oaxaca. "It's from Oaxaca!" I said.

She beamed. "My brother got it for me." She smiled. She knew she had the platonic ideal of a bag, against which all other bags would be measured and ineveitably fall short, causing me years of agony.

Later, unloading the box of 174 diapers from the car, I cursed myself. I shoulda just offered her cash for the damn bag because, even if I trek back to Oaxaca, a city I know well, finding that exact purse would be nearly impossible. Perhaps if I had noted the store the bag was advertising but there, immersed in the powerful smell of bulk Kisses, I had let the girl go.

So when I nursed baby Jenny at 11 that night, I turned to Ebay. The problem was I had no keyword for my bag. "Bag" and "purse" summoned nothing. I tried "Oaxaca" and "Mexico", paired with "cartoon avocado". Can you believe that got me no results?

I abandoned Ebay for Google but I found, that I often do when pairing too many distinct terms in a keyword search, that I had discovered yet another way to access a billion porn sites. Why oh why does "cartoon avocado" plus "Mexico" equal porn wonderland?

But then I had a memory. I'm walking with Jen at the Mercado de Abastos in Oaxaca. A booth of religious charms and milagros calls to us. And then, a couple aisles away, we spot two women sitting by a monton of blue corn tortillas. Jenny buys them, and they pull them out of a bag.

A beautiful bag. Sort of the shape of my Winco girl's bag. I search on "market bag" which leads to "tote bag" and then I remember the material--vinyl--and it all somehow guides me to Gringas & Company and this bag, so close (and yet so far?). It doesn't say Oaxaca, and the avocado has no face (but did I contrive that anyway?), but I emailed las gringas to ask if they have others, and I await their reply.

I may just have to haul my sorry self back to Oaxaca. Or at least to Winco, same day, same time.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Road to Fame

Since I began blogging here a few months ago, I have been invited to write for another blog, assigned to write articles for a fashion magazine (about art, thankfully, and not fashion), and, now, I have had a ten-minute play based on this blog chosen to be produced as part of "Thicker Than Water", a festival of plays exploring the dark side of Mother's Day.

My "Crappy at Yoga" piece about mommy and me yoga (and grief) inspired the play. And even though this isn't the big time, it feels big for me. I remember how Jenny never wanted to get involved in theater because she couldn't deal with all the egotism and drama mamas--so she became a solo performer! Only one big ego to deal with there. I have a similar feeling, that it is better to write for the stage than to be involved with the personalities onstage.

Part of me really is deeply hoping this isn't a fluke. What a brilliant life it would be to write plays and have them performed around the world. Someday, when I'm not embroiled in writing my terribly tedious thesis and changing diapers all day, I'm going to go on a playwriting and play-marketing binge, writing and sending out a ton of work.

Of course, I always think such ideas sound great when I am embroiled in some assigned, restrictive task. It's the "if only" syndrome. In Spanish, they have a verb form for it "si hubiera", the verb tense of regret.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Jenny's Fun Tips: Teaching by Gossip

Making announcements to groups of children is a futile task. The only way to circulate key information is by acting as if it's a big secret.

Jenny knew this. Although she had a voice powerful enough to shout over three playgrounds full of kids (and used it daily to yell "L-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ne up!"), she more typically would sidle over to the corner of the yard and sit for a spell. She might have a piece of origami paper with her, and casually fold it into a house for her "Fourth Pig" story.

A couple kids would gather, and then more, as Jenny circled into her story, folding paper the whole time. By the ending joke, she had an audience, and that audience was her afterschool group, who she could then casually usher into their next activity.

I used Jenny's trick often in my classroom. Rather than formally begin a tedious math lesson, I'd amble over to the angry-boy-who-cries-during-math and I'd show him the teacher's manual. "Check this out," I'd say, pointing to an illustration showing the connection between addition and subtraction. "I thought you'd like it--there's pictures of food." We'd chat about it and then, suddenly, math had begun.