Tag Archives: Houston

Fridays at Home

4th May 2012

Well hello there, Fridays at Home. Where have you been? I’ll be honest. I just have had zero juice in the home area lately. Plus, I’m saving all my extra (haha!) money for New York and have been working on the side to do so. So the house? Yeah, it’s languished. I really just need to clean. I did spend four hours on the yard this weekend, though, mowing, cutting down junk trees, trimming huge limbs from the fig tree, and generally complaining with the brightest of bright red faces you ever did see. It wasn’t even hot, but cutting down trees – even small ones – and dragging them to the street? Not. Fun.

But! A few weeks ago, I went with my fantastic aunt and her partner to Houston. It was a perfect day. Great weather, sunshine, museums. Then we veered off the beaten path and went to a couple of cool shops and an old favorite – Adkins Architectural Antiques and Art. I wanted ALL THE THINGS. I did not buy, however. I was good. Thought I’d share some of my favorites:

Not even sure what these are, but they looked really cool and had great colors.

These are claws from claw-foot bathtubs. They look so fantastic all together, though.

PS. Those bathtubs look a lot nicer than they are. I grew up with one. I missed showers.

These fishing nets were easily 20 feet tall. I have no idea what you’d do with them, but they were great.

This color blue reminds me of Italy. Ahh.

Isn’t this fantastic? I want it in my backyard.

The curve on this handle is absolutely gorgeous. Greek style and rusted, but I’d take it home in a heartbeat.

Is there anything more soothing than the sound of water? This fountain made me want to have a beautiful garden. Alas, the way I am about yardwork, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. 🙂

Hope you enjoyed coming along with me! Do you have any favorite haunts in your area? Or have you bought any treasures lately?

 

The Picky Girl Reviews Faded Love by Jim Sanderson*

24th February 2011

I miss you darling more and more every day

As Heaven would miss the stars above.

With every heartbeat, I still think of you

And remember our faded love.

Bob Wills, “Faded Love”

Tagged by the Austin-American Statesman as “a world of almosts,” Faded Love defies easy definition. Jim Sanderson’s collection of short stories, published by the new Ink Brush Press, isn’t really about love at all. If you held a gun to my head and made me pick a theme (which I wouldn’t put past a couple of these characters), I’d have to say these characters mourn what they thought their lives would be, but for one reason or another their love of life has turned into something ugly and tarnished. I know many of you balk at collections of short stories for various reasons, but this collection reads more like a novel. A character or setting from the previous story makes its way into the next one because, as Sanderson says in his Author’s Note, “related stories, no matter how long, whether written or read, may better approximate our sense of time passing, of our own time passing.”

I found this to be distinctly true for this rough-shod, usually-drunk, always-questionable group of characters. They are not likable, yet they are so real, particularly because they weave in and out of stories as people in our actual lives do. Friends come and go; situations change. All of this merely emphasizes the “passing” with which Sanderson seems almost obsessed.

The first story “Potential” is about Bailey Waller, a former football hero turned car salesman who has got

Po-tential, Po-tential, like it was two words. Mr. Bob Compton said he had it. Even his freshman history teacher said he had potential. It wasn’t something he could define; he just knew potential was something that made getting what he wanted easy.

But potential can only take Bailey so far, and after not making the pros past college, Bailey drinks his life away, tossing empty beer bottles into the swimming pool at his apartment complex, where he lives after his wife dumps him. He takes on a job as a high school football coach but knows from the outset, he is doomed to failure.

Often, during these stories, I thought of Studs Terkel and his fascinating book Working. He interviews people in their daily work, and though Terkel’s work is based on real people and their jobs, Sanderson’s characters, too, have moments of nobility in often-demeaning jobs.

In “Stripping,” Lee, a dancer-turned-stripper (see a theme here?) takes choreography from numbers she has appeared in on stage – Chorus Line, West Side Story – and uses them in the “titty bar” where she dances nude: “Oklahoma…didn’t require pasties like most other states did.” So she doesn’t bother “teasing them during the first dance then shedding her top on the second.”

Lee takes pleasure in pushing the limits of the men who come to watch her, and though these men don’t know quite what to think of her, they know they’ve seen something special. That spark makes them uncomfortable, and before long, Lee is kicked out, told to go find somewhere she can dance the way she wants. The kicker is – no one wants a stripper.

Then there’s Velda Ortego, whom we see as an old woman, a former successful writer of a PI novel series. But Velda has killed off her main character and her son has died in a drunk driving accident.

…some people from M.A.D.D. wanted me to join their ranks and to use my son as another example about the problems with teenage drinking and driving. I got drunk.

By all rights, you shouldn’t like Velda. She leaves her son when he’s young, drinks too much, loses job after job, and never uses her full potential. Velda, though, is so honest. She turns down M.A.D.D. because she doesn’t want her son “reduced to a cause.” She is who she is, an old lady with an old dog, looking back with regret on her life.

Velda, Lee and Bailey are joined by other characters, bedraggled and downtrodden, and if you take anything away from this review, it should be that Sanderson can create some damn good characters (walk in any Texas honky tonk, and spot the smoker, sitting alone with definite don’t-talk-to-me body language; you’ll find him or her in Faded Love). Not much happens in these stories; certainly there’s not a lot of love, but it’s in those small, quiet, disheartening moments that Sanderson finds a rough, hard-won beauty, something not easy to do in the west Texas and east Texas towns these characters inhabit. Each is seeking some sort of sanctuary, a place where they can exist as they are, yet Velda puts it most succinctly when she says at the close of her tale, “Perhaps, an oasis from love is what we all seek.”

jenn aka picky girl

*Full disclosure: Dr. Jim Sanderson is a colleague at the university where I teach; however, I asked to review his book because I enjoyed it and because I know many of you have expressed interest in short story collections without having many recommendations. So support a prof and Brazos Bookstore in Houston if you get a chance.


Review: Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

2nd October 2010

*Trigger warning: this post contains a story line which deals with domestic and sexual abuse.*


On the tail end of yesterday’s post, I had to write this morning about Blue-Eyed Devil. As promised, I went to the library last night and on my friend Sommer’s suggestion picked up the two sequels to Sugar Daddy, a book she passed on to me several years ago. Now, let me just say – my intentions last night were to eat dinner in my pjs, crawl into bed, and sleep blissfully until morning. Lisa Kleypas had other plans, and no, I’m not being dirty.

I stayed up until almost 3 a.m. reading this book. A romance novel? Sure, I guess. But it wasn’t just a romance novel: I CRIED.

There, I said it. The last book that made me well up was The Book Thief, ok. I’m a quality crier. No sappy ending brings tears to my eyes. In fact, sometimes I laugh at that sort of thing, but lying in bed, reading Blue-Eyed Devil, I couldn’t control my tears.

Haven Travis (I know, such a soap opera name) comes from Texas oil money and is from ritzy River Oaks Houston. She comes from a pretty strict background, although her best friend Todd, the son of two artists, is extremely liberal. He’s Buddhist and explains to Haven that Buddhists “spend a lot of time contemplating the nature of reality.” As a child when she asks to attend a Buddhist temple with Todd, her mother tells her she is a Baptist, and “Baptists didn’t spend their time thinking about reality.”

As an adult, though, Haven has got a conscience, which sometimes blinds her to people’s true natures. She is constantly trying to make up for having quite a lot of what most people have so little. The book opens at her brother’s wedding (culmination of Sugar Daddy), her boyfriend Nick by her side. But Daddy Travis, Haven’s impossible-to-impress father can’t stand Nick. In fact, no one seems impressed with him. However, Haven knows Nick came from nothing and loves his character and liberal nature. During the wedding, Haven sees who she thinks is Nick slip into the wine cellar and follows him in. Only it’s not Nick; it’s Hardy Cates, a business competitor of the Travis family. Cates, ahem, weakens Haven’s knees, but she leaves in search of Nick, who has spoken with her father, asking for Haven’s hand in marriage.

After she marries Nick and is cut off from Daddy’s money, she realizes Nick harbors great resentment toward her background. He blames Haven for her family’s money, even though it’s not something Haven thinks about. He wants to have children to manipulate money from Daddy Travis. The marriage becomes increasingly unstable as Nick’s personality deteriorates before Haven’s eyes. Haven must iron his shirts – just so – or she’s a bad wife. If she doesn’t have dinner made when they both get off work, she’s a bad wife. You see where this is going, and it’s not a comfortable place.

Nick becomes progressively more dangerous, and I think my tears started here, in the midst of the first slap:

Screaming. I’d never had someone scream into my face like that before, certainly not a man, and it was a kind of death.

Growing up, I remember my dad as a fairly laidback dad. He worked a lot as a grocery store manager, but it’s not his absences I remember. What has always, always stuck with me are the times when we would be watching television or a movie when my dad would abruptly get up and change the channel or turn the television off. I didn’t understand what was going on, having not even noticed what had happened on screen – a man hitting a woman, and I’m not sure if he ever explained; it may have been my mom who told me, “Your dad doesn’t ever want you or your sister to think that sort of violence is ok.”

Small – but it left an indelible impression on me. I won’t quote the violent scenes or the incident that pushes Haven to leave, but she does leave – after Nick throws her, bodily, onto the front stoop. Her older brother Gage sends someone to collect her in Dallas, and after a trip to the Medical Center, begins to heal. She’s skittish and sad, but slowly the old Haven comes around, except in social situations. One night after having drinks with her brother at a downtown bar, an incoming crowd shoves her, terrifying her with the body contact, into who else but the blue-eyed devil Hardy Cates, and Haven must come to terms with what has happened to her and learn to trust again.

It sounds so cliche, but honestly, if you could see my bleary eyes and mussed hair, having slept in until 9:20 a.m. (so so late for me), you would understand. It’s much less a romance novel than a story of hurt and healing. The only aspect of this novel that bothered me (other than the obvious) was the thought that most domestic violence victims don’t have a family with access to private jets and loads of money and influence to keep an abusive partner away. Of course, it’s fiction, but the book made it seem as though leaving the abuser is simple, when in actuality it’s not. I will say there are moments in the book that subtly address that, but it was just an observation.

I also hope you will not not pick up this book because of the abuse although I would certainly understand. I really enjoyed it and was interested in the narcissistic-personality disorder the book discusses.

And, as to my bout of crying, let’s just not mention that. Has a book ever caught you off guard like that? Especially a book you never thought would have that sort of effect on you? Please say yes.