It is the kind of coffee shop you would expect to find in Portland or Seattle. Not a big chain, but a funky converted space, an old maintenance garage in this case, adorned with mid-century modern fixtures and poured concrete floors, what urban hipsters everywhere must imagine heaven's waiting room looks like, complete with heavily tattooed angels bearing espresso and vegan muffins. My artist friend and I meet here occasionally, mainly because if we squint and talk loud, we can blur out the crush of harried moms and screaming toddlers and pretend we're breathing the rarefied culture-filled air of one of the aforementioned cities, instead of sipping lattes in semi-rural desert suburbia with plans to stop and check the Old Navy clearance rack on the way home.
On this day, it was particularly busy. Maybe it was a school holiday. The place was packed and the line long.With plenty of time to decide which delivery method we wanted for our caffeine fix, we turned to the Plexiglas case of baked goods. The artfully arranged piles of treats looked ready for their Martha Stewart Living cover debut, but one stack of butter/sugar/flour outshone them all. Cupcakes, with thick swirls of pink frosting and a sparkling crust of coarse sugar glinted in the early morning sunshine. Oh, we wanted one, yes indeed, maybe two, maybe two and one for later. Next up to order, poised to plunk down whatever ridiculous amount they were asking per cupcake, I froze mid-sentence as movement caught my eye. There, in the case, taking a leisurely stroll across one of the pink confections was the biggest house fly I had ever seen. Whether you are averse to the saliva a fly coughs up whenever it finds a food source, or just the fact that they land on everything--manure, road kill, public restroom toilet seats--most folks prefer to just say no to fly-pawed food. We were no exception to this. Upon closer inspection we realized that the case had no back, just a sneeze guard, and the restrooms were, in fact, right around the corner. The solemn vow was made right there on the spot to never eat anything from that case, EVER.
A few moments later, while we sat idly sipping our beverages in the Phoenix sunshine, we saw a young lady with a skip in her step and a pink cupcake shining from its plastic blister box. After a brief debate over the merits of telling her that the black specks were maybe not errant pepper, we decided ignorance was bliss and watched as she broke open her prize, crammed half in her mouth and drove away. We looked at each other, amused and slightly nauseated, and decided that somewhere in there was a truth, a life lesson if you will, only we couldn't settle on which. Sometimes life is a pink cupcake and sometimes it's fly poop? When life gives you a pink cupcake ask where it came from before biting? We never did agree on what to embroider on the pillow, but personally, I think it is always wise, when handed a giant sparkling over-the-top, pink cupcake, to have a good friend who will remind you to scrape the icing off. You still end up with cake.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
I almost forgot to put deodorant on before my school visit. If you doubt the seriousness of this near-miss of personal hygiene, you clearly have never referred to one of your drawings with "and this is Number Two" to a classroom of third graders, or sprayed the front of your pants with water from a recalcitrant bathroom faucet--twice--resulting in a snicker-inducing wet spot on the front of your pants. Giant pit stains rest securely in the top ten of giggle-producing pandemonium at any elementary school, and rightly so.
Underarms coated twice, I arrived at Anna Marie Jacobson Elementary in Chandler for two presentations to fifth and sixth graders. My visit was part of the week-long Read Across America celebration, but I also had the good fortune of my day coinciding with the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Being greeted by Ms. Cartan in a Cat in the Hat striped top hat with a black nose and whiskers artfully painted on her face can't help but put you at ease.
The two presentations went off without any embarrassments or technical hitches, and I was once again blown away and deeply impressed by the sea of bright minds before me. Their questions were thoughtful, their answers astute. The idea that we would short change these kids in any way, in the ways we already do, seems criminal and deeply saddening. Here in Arizona we seem to be fighting a losing battle. Certain politicians seem to think that the bare minimum is good enough. Well, it isn't. The kids at Jacobson elementary and everywhere deserve all we can give them, and I hope that in some small way my presentations said, "I believe in your potential. I will keep on fighting for you. I will not give up on you." I also hope it said "Making books is a fun and interesting job, and pit stains are not the end of the world."