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chattaway epiphanies

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I guess a bigger Gator fan might have stayed home to mourn our disappointing loss to the Semenholes tonight. But I was just thankful not to be in Tallahassee cutting gum out of my hair. 

Besides, it was my friend Scrabble’s 40th Birthday and we were to meet at the historic Chattaway Restaurant. I had never been there before but was confident Carrabba’s it was not.

As I pulled into the gravel parking lot in South St. Pete, a man smoking unfiltered cigarettes and sporting a rocker mullet and acid-washed jeans flagged me down. I opened my window, wondering if perhaps he was breaking the news that this wasn’t actually Scrabble’s birthday bash but rather a Loverboy concert.

“I was just waving,” the man, who I later discovered to be a band member on a smoke break, explained.

“Okay…” I said, feeling pretty sure if feathered roach clips were still around, he had one hanging from the rearview mirror of his car right beside the “leather scented” Little Tree.

As I crossed the rickety wooden bridge to enter the Chattaway’s al fresco dining area adjacent to a coral pink ramshackle that it called home, I debated whether it was possible The Copper Monkeys slipped LSD into my vodka during the Gator game.

Trellises adorned with Jasmine and colorful strands of Christmas lights helped to camouflage the occasional Travelocity-like garden gnome, fairy or whimsical tree face. Hand-painted clawfoot bathtub gardens made you question, “Why the hell not use a bathtub as a planter?” And also, “Am I still tripping?” The fusion of its Margaritaville, Caribbean, kitschy, 60s hippie vibe was made even more schizophrenic by the restaurant’s interior tea room complete with real china, British memorabilia and lace table runners.

But perhaps the Chattaway’s most interesting dichotomy was its clientele.

Surrounding its outdoor space heaters and Parrothead walk-up bar was a combination of yellow-toothed locals boasting single-stranded DNA and…us. A tight-knit group of about 20 overly educated, Range Rover driving parents of private school children who wanted to escape in their pitchers of beer and Chattaway burger baskets. It struck me then that this was the ideal setting for Scrabble’s birthday, as she is a bit of an enigma herself.

One of the most brilliant people I know, Scrabble may have read every book on the New York Times bestseller list this year, but she has trouble spelling the word “does.” Despite her age, she’ll maintain the envious quality of always looking 16. Her hair is that pin-straight shiny that never requires a flat iron or my overpriced Frederic Fekkai glossing conditioner. And most admirable? She seems to genuinely adore her husband. A soft-spoken but incredibly intelligent and interesting  fatherly type who would encourage you to enjoy dessert despite its toll on your hips.

As I sipped an imported beer from a mug that may have doubled for one of the Chattaway tubs, I began to relish in the warmth and enchantment of this 50-year old eatery. Sitting across from my gorgeous friend Mary who possesses the rare cornflower blue-eyed-black-hair combo, I was completely entertained by the notion that this world is more bipolar than not. Because just a few inches behind her, a Joan Jett lookalike with tire marks on her forehead was sloppily gyrating to the band’s classic rock covers. It was evident Joan Jett was a strung-out groupie, and I found it comical that someone so rugged and timeworn would be in the same sightline as one of the most refined women I know.

It was then that my friend’s husband Mr. Camper sparked a heated debate about who was more desirable at Ridgemont High. Clearly one would guess that her absence of a gag reflex and the most iconic bikini scene ever would have earned Linda this title, but he swore most men would pick Stacy. A poll at our table proved him shockingly correct. Mr. Camper was either animated and hysterically funny or asleep in a narcoleptic coma. Why is it that it has taken me 30(cough) years to discover we are more Cybil than we realize?

I don’t claim to understand much. I’m baffled by simple concepts. Like how even 100 units of Botox cannot stop my forehead from moving. Or why we slam on the brakes at the Sunpass toll even though we know the gate is foam and will do no damage when we plow right through it. But it was at the Chattaway Restaurant in South St. Petersburg that I was able to finally understand and embrace that waiting outside every stuffy tea room lurks an eccentric garden gnome ready to dance when the time is right.


Written by I only Wear White When it Rains

November 28, 2010 at 10:03 am

i sold my torch to pay attorney’s fees

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I suppose because I’ve dodged a Vicodin addiction, avoided a 100-pound weight gain/loss, and don’t depend on my therapist to tell me whether I want my hot chocolate with or without whip, I’m perceived as dealing well with my divorce.

In fact, lately I’ve become a sort of Statue of Liberty for women in perilous situations who are about to fall, jump or be pushed into the steaming cesspit of marriage dissolution. Somehow when I said, “Let’s get drunk on frozen strawberries soaked in Effen vodka while we watch a Gator game and forget how shitty my life is,” what everyone heard was: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

When did I become a beacon of hope and promise? I haven’t been able to navigate these murky waters any better than Lucas Lightning trying to find Penelope’s car in the amphitheater parking lot after a Dave Matthews concert and no less than 12 community beers.

And that light at the end of the tunnel that all your “happily divorced” friends rave about? Well, I’m pretty sure that’s a train.

Because I still prefer Tic Tacs to Wellbutrin, I’m becoming aware of the many pitfalls of severing ties once and for all. Here are some considerations before you hand over that $10,000 retainer to your attorney (which, incidentally, will be used in the first week):

  • If you think your husband was pissed off when you accidentally plowed your Land Rover through the garage door, then just wait until you take half of his 401k.
  • Your $360-an-hour forensic accountant’s job is not to compute your “lifestyle analysis,” it’s to determine how much money he can actually extort from you. Save yourself $20k and put your expenses in an Excel spreadsheet yourself.
  • You might be able to stomach the thought of your husband sleeping with another woman, but how about her chargrilling fajitas on your Viking range? Or hanging her clothes in your custom-built-to-accommodate-200-pairs-of-shoes closet?
  • That hospital fundraiser may be getting stale. But seeing the invitation addressed to your (ex)husband “and guest”?  Ouch.
  • Your attorney is not your friend. If you have $10 in marital assets, understand that you and your husband will each end up with 50 cents. The attorney will get the rest and then tell you how lucky you are to have that 50 cents. After all, you only deserved a dime.
  • Like it or not, you will now be lumped into the “single” category. It might be wise to start perpetuating a rumor that you are a celibate lesbian to avoid any awkward set-ups or eradicate any unwarranted husband-stealing concerns.

So I guess my only advice to those of you about to set sail toward the Mother of Exile is this: Turn your fucking boats around.

This might be the land of the brave, but divorce is hardly free.

Written by I only Wear White When it Rains

November 21, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Posted in heady

my eat, pray, love moment

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There is a critical part in Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoirs and movie “Eat, Pray, Love” where her character played by Julia Roberts collapses in a fit of tears on the bathroom floor and, for the first time ever, prays to God.

My Julia Roberts moment came tonight. Five minutes before a shower and approximately two days before the final hearing of my divorce.

I crumpled like a soggy newspaper on the 24-inch Walker Zanger marble floor tile that helped me to exceed my master bath budget by 150 percent. Only I didn’t pray. Instead I crawled over to my bottom drawer, sniffing and sobbing, to find my dental picks. And sitting lotus in front of my bathtub, I began to floss.

I wish I could report that I found God at that moment, but all I found was a ball of hair and lint in the corner of my bathroom near the tub that my loyal housekeeper Lucie must have overlooked. So I choked and hiccupped my way over to the Clorox wipes considering that perhaps if poor Lucie didn’t have to spend so much time picking up my scattered clothing castoffs from all over the floor, she’d actually have time to clean.

So after rounding up tumbleweeds of my hair, more blubbering and attempting a Shavasana in the shower that was more water boarding than relaxing, I walked into the master bedroom where I used to sleep.

I stood staring at the man to whom I’ve been married for nearly a decade. I had a million things to say and many questions left to ask. But instead I blurted out this gem:

“What was the card game we used to play in Gainesville on our little wooden table?”

“Rummy. Do you have a cold?”

I shook my head, turned on my heel and walked away. I didn’t get very far before panic set in when I realized the grave consequences of this situation. I cannot believe it took me this long to consider the fact that I might actually (gasp) lose custody of Lucie.

The thought of it makes me want to throw up about as much as I do when Julia Roberts whines about how difficult it was to gain 10 pounds for the “Eat” part of the movie. I gained 10 pounds during the previews and wish they could have just skipped right to Javier Bardem. I want my two hours back.

But if nothing else, the movie left me wondering if I have too few teeth and inspired me to pen my own memoirs: “Floss, Drink, Sleep.” I can’t promise God or Billy Crudup, but there’s sure to be broccoli-free (albeit substantially fewer) teeth and praying only when I can’t find a size 9 espadrille.

Written by I only Wear White When it Rains

November 1, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Posted in heady

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