Today

I’ve been sitting on So I See for some days, wondering where to go now. I have 100 or more vintage Jottings from years past and assumed I would uncork them on So I See even though Now is always getting in way, wanting to be expressed…

It occurs to me I need to define the word, “Jottings” which I use but do not own. “Jottings From 5th and G”, is the original title of an article in the Lake Oswego Review beginning in 1970s, or earlier by reporter and First Addition resident, Peg Patterson. Sometime later, it became a generous publishing collaboration from the Review and Lake Oswego Adult Center for senior writers. JoAnn Parsons, recently retired from the valued historical list of Jottings organizers as she moves forward with a new book. Writer, Cherie Dupuis is now in charge. Thank you both from the hearts of us Jottings writers. Here’s a couple more Jottings…

The Visitor

Marge Stein was the real receptionist and this was her day off. Stepping into Marge’s place at the front desk was like stepping into my very own ocean liner and steering the museum through this rainy Monday in 1956. The thick, half-round, hand rubbed, oak desk, built high off the polished marble floor is where the public echoes from Tuesday through Sunday.

Marge looked like a museum receptionist should look, thick, straight, Burnt Umber hair, long enough to sculpt snake shapes around the back of her head. Makeup, as if applied by Johannes Vermeer; her figure mirroring the bronze Venus by Aristide Maillol standing in the foyer. She gave tailored suits, knit shifts and belted tunics a reason for being fine art. I was no visual match, not well- designed, yet–an art student, working to keep herself afloat .

The under-counter fluorescent lit-up me and the whole front desk. The museum people arriving for work waved, winked and nodded. One, not noticing I wasn’t Marge, asked, “Did you play Bridge at Carol’s on Wednesday?” I imagined I was Marge and said, “no” in two tones.

Checking the desk’s cubbyholes to see that the stamps, envelopes, rubber bands and miscellaneous were in order, I read Marge’s note from yesterday, swoopily scripted in cobalt blue ink. It said, “Dora, Susan Levin will deliver Igor to the front entrance at 11 a.m. Be sure Max is there!”

Dora Oaks was secretary for Museum director, Max Sullivan. She told me when to mimeograph announcements, polish the samovars, dust the collection racks or, the best job, attending the front desk. Dora wasn’t there, yet. So I left the note on her ink blotter with the morning mail and ran back to answer the flashing phone, letting the caller know that Edward Steichen’s photographic portraits of New York and Hollywood’s famous-types were on view through November.

Back at the desk, the museum was still, dark, except for reflections of the wet, gray day on the polished floor and the lit up reception desk. The light/heavy, stopping/starting rain tones on the sculpture court skylights beat a bluesy sound track for this morning.

I was free to swivel in my maroon, worsted wool, desk chair studying Chaim Soutine’s baker in a white hat and coat leaning on thick red cadmium above the; South Gallery doors; to the shelf of Ming Dynasty bowls in the glass case near the umbrella stand. A hundred and eighty degrees from the bowls was the huge, black and white abstract, “Painting # 7” by Franz Kline–teacher-in-residence that year.

At exactly eleven o’clock two dark bodies blew into the foyer – talking loud like sailors in a squall. My spine uncurled from the back of the chair. One tall man, one short, popping, shaking, spraying umbrellas, horn piping out of their tailored overcoats.

The shorter man said, “This Portland weather, it is like a storm at sea!” – trilling all his rrrrs. The tall man said, “Yes, I’ve lived here five years and I’ve grown to expect a certain amount of stormy weather. I’ll take you to the upstairs gallery and show you how it influences some of our Northwest painters. But first, Igor, follow me, Dora has a hot drink waiting for us in my office.”

As they passed the front desk Igor winked at me. I wondered if Dora knew that plans had changed. It was Max, not Susan, who delivered Igor Stravinsky to the Portland Art Museum that day to view his portrait in the, South Gallery, Edward Steichen exhibit.

Norma Edythe Heyser (If there are any readers who remember the Portland Art Museum in the 1950s and 60s, please contact me with your stories or a photograph of the front desk, the elevator, or maybe a story about Polly Illo, Bob Peirce or anybody–thirsty for the olden days! soisee.org)

Oil Bath

My apartment bathtub is a white, size small, plastic box into which my size large parts do not entirely fit. I have avoided bathing until struck with an unrelenting desire to fix my dry, itchy skin with an oil bath. I don’t know if there is such a thing but I imagined it through and decided to prove it’s effectiveness. Since the little white box doesn’t attract elegant bathing, there is no particular sentiment concerning its condition or inadequate function.

The idea haunted me for several weeks when, at Bale’s grocery store, on 10% Off Tuesday, I spotted a tiny bottle of Crisco Oil for $2.46. which inspired action. Its label reminds me of mother’s pie crust made with Crisco shortening which may inspire further action at another time.

Late afternoon, on 10% Off Tuesday, seemed just right–the world outside cold, blowy, wet. Drawing the shower curtain to the back wall, I turned the water full on to nearly hot, threw in three fists full of Epson Salts and a generous third of the Crisco bottle content. The bathroom fan with its bright, warming–orange globe gave a crystal shimmer to lovely, four inch, floating ovals of undulating grease lighting up the steamy stage for a thrilling adventure.

Crisco Oil undulating in the bathtub

Before entering the tub, I hooked up the Sony boom box playing Chet Baker and Strings, dimmed the lights, lighted a votive candle for the edge of the tub and, taking time to acclimate to temperature, slowly submerged myself into the treatment.

In seconds the oil bonded to every part of me. I became shiny, slimy, slick, sliding throughout the dimensions of the box without volition–no longer sitting but rolling side to side. All concern aside, laughing out loud and fully accepting the situation as is–it was fun until my inner adult suggested, This may be unstoppable. I should have a telephone. Would 911 consider a Crisco Oil bath an emergency?

Taking time to slip around, soak, feel warm and think about how greasy hands and feet are useless on plastic, I remembered discovering, on a slimy roof, that a Turkish Towel is a no-slip panacea. Both the wash cloth and bath mat fit the definition and are within reach at this critical time when the water is cooling.

Yes, it worked perfectly. I carefully planted the wash cloth under my foot and very bent leg; folded the bath mat over the tub-edge capturing one hand and one foot. With benign help from an adjacent slippery cloth-bar, I stood strait up, stepped out, slowly, successfully and thanked the Great Creative Source–wondering if anyone from the Ottoman Empire knew the full value of Turkish Towels.

My skin is making a remarkable recovery and asking for more. Am currently planning the next oil bath adventure–perhaps tying wash cloths to my feet and maybe, thereafter, using my hands to engineer a Fuji Apple pie–thanking both to Crisco.

Norma E. Heyser 11/15/17

2 thoughts on “Today

  1. Both of these stories are great, Norma. I do recall your reading the oil bath adventure at a Jottings meeting with all of us laughing hysterically.

    Like

  2. Vividly described! The first in particular required better recall than I can summon.
    The recent closure of that grocery store has suddenly made the second piece historic too.

    Like

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