On this day, I can't help but reflect. This time last year, we were getting ready to host a New Year's Day Going Away Brunch and then embark on the adventure of living on the lake. The goal was to spend a year residing on a pair of houseboats in an effort to gain self-sufficiency, hone my writing, and discover my true purpose, while documenting the experience in a book called Bourbonista on a Boat: From Glamour Girl to Off-the-Grid.
After serious contemplation, I have decided this book may never happen. Why? Because you are more likely to lose friends and family by writing about them than you are by leaking government security secrets, sleeping with their spouses, or having horrendous halitosis.
I have no problem revealing warts and all about myself. Frank, by marrying a writer, signed on, too. But the rest of the characters in my life and on the dock did not. And, let's face it. It's our flaws that make us interesting fodder. But not everyone wants to see their idiosyncrasies in print.
Is it worth it to risk alienating your loved ones for the sake of "art?" I'm still not sure. But I'm offering you the preface for your judging pleasure. .
*Disclaimer: Keep in mind that I am called the Bourbonista for a reason. My recollections of the following events are as accurate as I could make them while under the consistent influence of Old Fitzgerald."
No one was surprised that I committed a federal offense. However, everyone, including myself, was shocked by the chain of events that followed. This is the story of a life-altering trip—future pun intended, but no LSD involved.
The Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Mine did not. It began with approximately forty-three staggering steps that stretched over two downtown blocks and ended with me lying face-first on Church Street.
Now, I am no stranger to falling. My first memory is of running across my grandmother’s driveway, staring down at my new tennis shoes. They had red uppers, a sunshine yellow tongue, and bright blue laces. Those Keds were perfection in primary colors. One moment, I was the wind and my feet were a rainbow. The next, I was a sobbing heap with bloody knees and a chin full of gravel.
Forty years later, there I was lying on the sidewalk bewildered and bruised. Again, shoes were the culprit. Except this time, they were a ridiculously expensive pair of gray suede, four-inch platform ankle boots with an open toe and a ruffle down the side. They represented everything that was wrong with my life.
I had known better than to wear them. There were never parking spaces downtown at midday near Café Lucinda. It was a Lexington landmark frequented by lawyers, ladies who lunched for a living, and people in town for the horse races at Keeneland.
Despite, being quite well-connected, I’d never met Lucinda the Legend…at least, not that I could recall. The chef that was as famous for her Bohemian behavior as her buttermilk fried quail. It was rumored she was a long-standing VIP at Studio 54; a spy during Vietnam; a muse for painter, David Hockney; and had slept with Golda Meir. In addition to the restaurant, she ran a halfway house for recovering addicts and had a veritable mermaid museum in her apartment, which housed over one thousand of the mythical sea vixens. If she and I had met, it would probably have been at the kind of party that didn’t lend itself to clear memories the next morning.
As the editor of a local lifestyle magazine, it was my job to photograph and profile her for an upcoming issue.
Immediately upon entering the cafe, I came to the conclusion that people must be able to reincarnate not only as cockroaches and Shirley MacLaine, but as rooms as well. In a previous life, this one had been a can-can dancer. The color scheme encompassed every shade of pink from bunny nose rose to flamingo fuchsia and shamelessly boasted flamboyant emerald green and cheetah print accents. Chandeliers and fringed fixtures, no two alike, hung over each white cloth-clad table. Napkins fanned out from the tops of crystal wine glasses. Reigning over the dining room, a semi-nude portrait of the proprietress seduced patrons as they gorged on foie gras. Despite its attempt to be casually avant-garde, it was the kind of place that always made me feel like I was using the wrong fork.
Lucinda entered from the back and explained that one of her “boys” had relapsed and gotten arrested. Between posting bail and coming up with the day’s lunch special, she hadn’t had time to put on her make-up. Using her reflection in the antique cash register, she slathered on a coat of lipstick and informed me that she’d prefer to wear just her chef’s coat and red patent pumps for the shoot. She climbed up on the bar, popped the cork on a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque, and poured a glass to use as a prop. I took a quick series of photographs of her toasting the camera and then began the interview.
Sometime in the course of our conversation, I mentioned that I was dating Frank Rose. She smirked and purred, “Really…I hope you don’t plan on getting serious.”
In response, I flashed my engagement ring.
“Have you ever met his ex?” she asked.
The ex was a constant source of insecurity for me. None of our friends or relatives could understand why I would be in the least bit intimidated by a woman who had done time for both possession and prostitution, and was by all accounts a succubus. People were constantly congratulating Frank on our union, as if a foul-mouthed alcoholic like me was a huge step up. I, however, couldn’t help feeling that he and she had some “Sid and Nancy, sex, drugs, and rock and roll” bond sealed in vomit and sweat that could never be broken.
“No, I’ve never met her.”
Another smirk. “She’s back in town, you know?”
The rest of the interview was a blur of kissing ass and asking questions. Finally, I had enough to write the requisite one hundred and fifty words. With a generic goodbye, I bolted out the door toward my office and the awaiting flask in my top desk drawer.
As I wambled down the sidewalk on legs as unsteady as a newborn giraffe’s, a barrage of thoughts flooded my head.
“Why do I care about what other people think so much that I will sacrifice my values to try to impress a stranger?”
“How did I get so frickin' fat?”
“When am I going to finally find my purpose in life and stop wasting it? Do I even have a purpose in life? Does anyone? Or is that just feel-good, self-help bullshit?”
“How did I get so obsessed with his crack whore ex that I would drive all around town just to find a copy of Busted magazine to see her latest mugshot?”
“Why am I killing my ass in a job where no one appreciates me and I get paid less than the delivery drivers? Why don't I have the balls to ask for a raise?”
“Am I a genuine alcoholic or just a problem drinker? Should I stop? Could I stop?”
“Do I actually have the talent and discipline to write anything legitimate ever again?”
“Why do I wear high heels when they make me so fucking miserable?”
“Who the hell am I?”
As I was asking myself these questions, my heel slipped in between the bars of a sewer grate. First, I faltered, then I began a fall that was both epic in its length and symbolic significance. It was marked by intermittent periods of almost regaining my footing and composure quickly followed by pure panic as my face headed straight for the street.
After ricocheting between parking meters and cars, I crashed into a Mercedes sedan, setting off the alarm, and then succumbed to the sidewalk. Congratulations, concrete, you win.
From my gutter vantage point, it became clear that I needed to step back, reassess, and make some major alterations. Something had to change. Maybe, everything had to change. I just knew I never wanted to feel that helpless and humiliated and utterly lost again. I made a promise to find myself…even if I had to go to the ends of the earth to do it.
Blood from a gash on my shin had stained the dove gray suede of my shoebooties—the name was even more preposterous than the footwear. These shoes, and all they stood for, had to go. I vowed, then and there, to banish high heels from my new life. In a frenzy of liberation, I yanked off the sadistic stilettos and shoved them into the nearest receptacle, which just happened to be a United States Postal Service mailbox. Thus, I committed a felony, and embarked on a whole new breed of insanity.
For Christmas, Frank bought me a Stanley Fat Max 450 Amp Car Battery Jump Start Starter + Air Compressor Pump. Going back and forth between the lake, I do regularly drive on some of the most treacherous roads known to man, so it is incredibly practical. But not exactly romantic, which led me to ask myself, is the romance in our relationship dead? And, if so, how did we kill it? I think I have the answer: By only having one bathroom.
It is common knowledge that in order to keep the spark in a relationship, you also need to keep a little mystery, especially when it comes certain bodily functions. However, when you only have one bathroom, this becomes impossible. Frank has no issue with busting in right while I'm in the middle of a relaxing hot bath and plopping down on the toilet. He does, at least, bother to pull the shower curtain closed to block my view, but it doesn't block the smell.
I refuse to succumb to this level of inappropriate intimacy, which led to one of the most humiliating experiences of my adult life. Recently, the situation was reversed. Frank was lounging in the bathtub and had locked the door. I was in a most dire need of the toilet facilities. I banged and screamed, but he had the water running and couldn't hear me. There was no time to wait. I had to find an alternative. With the trees bare and a clear view from the apartment building behind us, the backyard was not an option. A bag would work. It wasn't glamorous, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I rushed to the laundry room to find one. Then, I simultaneously doubled over with a cramp and spotted the litter box. I need not describe what happened next, except that midway through the ordeal, my cat Angus walked in. He just stopped and stared. First confusion, then disgust filled his feline face.
"Don't judge me," I yelled.
Angus just smirked and went to tell our other cat Oscar what he'd witnessed.
When Frank finally emerged from his bath, he opened the door and asked, "Did I hear you knocking?"
"What did you need?"
"To use the bathroom."
"Oh, I'm sorry, I'll get out."
"No need, now."
"Did the urge pass?"
"Nope." I couldn't look him in the eyes.
"I don't understand."
After another ten minutes of incessant questions, I explained what had happened. For the first time in our marriage I saw sheer terror in my husband's eyes. I could see him picturing the whole thing in his head, Since then, he has woken up in a cold sweat, whimpering on several occasions. I'm pretty sure what his nightmares are about.
And that, my friends, is how you kill the romance.
CHRISTMAS LIST - 2013
My name is Donna Ison. I am 45 years old. Though good is a relative term, I can say that, despite my colorful flaws, I have finally accepted my true nature as good and know I deserve good things in life. Therefore...
1) A magical writing sweater that when worn allows me to produce endless brilliance effortlessly. Any color will do, though red brings out my eyes.
2) The willpower to lose the 40 pounds I've gained over the past five years.
3) A three-toed sloth. I will take excellent care of him. And with our new property, he'll have plenty of trees to climb.
4) For every human being to feel loved and blessed and beautiful far more often than not.
5) Which brings me to this. When the time comes, please let me die before Frank. I just don't think I could go on without him. This is probably more of a God request, huh? I'll pray about it too, but I just wanted to cover my bases.
6) Which reminds me...though I don't need one yet, and I am taking Milk Thistle, as a precaution, you might want to put an elf on the task of building me a new liver. Blood type - O Positive.
On that note, I left you a jigger of Old Fitz to wash down the cookies. And, a carrot for Rudolph.
You be careful out there. It's a mad, mad world.
And because you have all been good boys and girls this year, as well, Santa is giving you a kindle copy of "The Miracle of Myrtle: Saint Gone Wild" for FREE. Dec.22-26.
For those of us who are baking challenged, this is not an easy time of year. But, I have a secret weapon even more powerful than any rifle…the trifle. This Mint Chocolate Trifle is festive to behold, delicious to digest, and so easy a monkey could make it.
All you need is:
Brownie Mix (and eggs, oil, whatever said mix requires)
Andes Crème de Menthe candies
8 oz. Cream Cheese (room temperature)
2 packages White Chocolate Pudding
Hard Peppermint (sticks, canes, or mints will do)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make brownie batter.
Melt 13 Andes candies in a microwave safe bowl for one minute.
Pour into batter.
Bake per instructions on box.
Eat one brownie while hot to ensure quality, and then let the rest cool.
Make pudding per package directions.
Mix pudding with 8 oz. cream cheese.
Take out all of your holiday frustrations on the peppermint by crushing approximately ½ cup with a hammer.
Mix peppermint into pudding.
Break apart cooled brownies into bite-sized pieces.
Layer brownies, pudding, brownies, pudding into Trifle Dish.
*If you don’t have a Trifle Dish, I suggest buying one. They are inexpensive, and I swear you’ll feel more sophisticated by just knowing you have one in the cupboard. But, you can use any clear glass bowl or vessel.*
Top with whipped cream and decorate with candy canes and Andes candies.
Congratulations! You have captured Christmas in a bowl. Prepare to witness the wonder.
WARNING: Transporting a trifle is a two person job. You need a driver and a carrier. I found out this the hard way today when I tried to drive while holding the above trifle between my knees. It was neither pretty nor safe.
The recent rash of robberies of all the grooviest local Lexington businesses reminded of one of the most fascinating historical characters. Mary Sweeney was her name, and throwing bricks was her game.
Mary Sweeney was a well-educated, middle-classed mom with a penchant for destruction. In the 1890’s, after a head injury, Mary began having manic episodes. She found the only way to calm her nerves was to take liberal amounts of cocaine (then legal) and shatter shit. So, she went around Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota throwing bricks through the windows of successful establishments. She’d hop on a train, head to a town, and wreak havoc until arrested. For her exploits, she served time in 100 different jails. It is said, she single-handedly did over $50,000 worth of damage…and remember this was in the 1800’s. Her exploits are documented in the film, Wisconsin Death Trip.
I think, like Mary Sweeney: The Wisconsin Window Smasher, we all have a violent streak. We just control it, but many of us are just one mule-kick-to-the-head from letting it out. I know that if mine were released, it would culminate in shin kicking. I would buy badass pointy-toed cowboy boots (like the ones pictured), and then travel the tri-state area kicking strangers in the shins. I’d just run up, smile, kick them, giggle, and run away. Donna Ison: Bluegrass Bone Bruiser…it’s got a ring to it.
You might note that, aside from this sleeping cat, beneath the tree is empty. Despite it being mid-December, it is devoid of all presents. This fact has led me to ponder the act of gifting. Here are a few thoughts.
1) When it comes to host/hostess gifts, just take one. Or, they have every right to spit in your punch. If you show up empty handed, the effervescence in your glass will not be from champagne.
2) There are always debates on whether or not to regift, and I'd love to hear how you feel about it. I, personally, see nothing wrong with passing on an item that you don't like to someone who would love it, on ONE condition...that it was new when it came to you. I have one relative who, I swear, just grabs things out of her closet or from a shelf, blows the dust off of it, and shoves it in a gift bag. When she gives it to you, she explains, "It's an antique. Seriously, it is real vintage. Retro is all the rage this year." No, bitch, it's a tacky figurine that you bought from a souvenir shop in Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1975.
3) When it comes to gifts, stay away from the three A's--art, animals, and activities.
Art is subjective. A masterpiece to one person may be just a bunch of paint splattered on a canvas to someone else. There is nothing more annoying than having to rush and grab a hammer and nails to hang a picture when the friend who gave it to you does a drop-by, so you don't hurt their feelings. I suggest just leaving a hanger on the wall.
Animals. I love animals...all animals, but unless you are willing to pet sit at any time with no notice and pay the vet bills when Fluffy eats a poinsettia, then don't buy an animal.
Activities - gifts should not require that the receiver has to sweat or cook or get rubbed by some stranger in order to fully take advantage of your generosity. Don't assume the only reason poor Aunt Irma has never zip lined is because she hasn't had the opportunity. Maybe she's afraid of heights or has hemorrhoids. And, if they don't use it, they feel guilty. Guilt the gift that keeps on giving.
4) If you want to make it easy for people to buy for you, develop either a hobby (for Frank, anything BMX or boat works) or a collection. I have one friend who used to collect everything, including cookie jars, rubber ducks, salt and pepper shakers, decorative plates, and anything cow-themed. This made it a joy to shop for him, then he embraced minimalism. So, this Christmas, out of respect, I'm not buying him shit.
5) Surprises are for suckers. Even Santa needs a list to make certain that all the good boys and girls get what they want. Print out a list of items in all price ranges, in large print, and pass it out to all the people who you know will feel compelled to buy you a gift.
Or you can avoid all of the above, by getting everyone the perfect present--the gift of altruism. Although psychologists argue exactly why (check out this article, This is Your Brain on Charitable Giving), donating to worthy causes or those less fortunate makes people feel warm and happy, and that's what a gift should do. So, head on over to GoodGiving.net and purchase a gift card. You pick the amount, the recipient picks the charity, and the organization gets the money. It's a win, win, win!
In the crime shows, they always send out a Forensic Computer Examiner to go through a suspect’s Googling to determine just how disturbed they might be. After looking back over recent searches, I realized that if this ever happens to me, I’m screwed.
Here are some examples of answers I’ve sought from the interweb:
Do I have rabies?
How long can a cat go without food before they will starve?
Can you get HPV from a loofah?
How many virgins did Lady Bathory actually kill?
Do squids have penises?
What is the most powerful poison on earth? And, where can it be purchased?
Is bourbon gluten free?
Can tornadoes cross water?
Has anyone ever made a porn based on "The Smurfs?"
Has anyone ever published a cannibal cookbook?
What is the proper pronunciation for “kegal?”
How many bars of Irish Spring soap can a dog eat before serious consequences?
Are there any states where human taxidermy is legal?
What is the name for the sexual fetish involving arm pit hair?
…and the one that makes me question my own motives…
In which states is human taxidermy legal?
Sharing All I KNOW about the fine art of voluptuating. here's to living the lush life.