The Girl from Alabama / / Cigar-Tin Stories Number Seventy-Nine

There was a girl from Alabama in our hot tub. There were two other kids as well (I say ‘kids’ because they all look like kids to me, when in fact they’re probably old enough to drive) but they quickly fled. The girl from Alabama was a Chatty Cathy of the first order, with a charming habit of sprinkling everything with “ma’am”. She was in Canada, and staying at our hotel, for a family reunion–– a very pricey one, I thought. I had that overrich feeling one gets from having just finished the kind of meal that includes the words “goat cheese mousse”.

It was an echo of the way I used to eat restaurant meals, in that long ago, premised on the idea that I should order things that belong to some other time and space, some imagined version of myself, better dressed, better read. It could always be boiled down to: what have I not ever had, what would I never have. I would order things like I was stepping into a dark room, wondering what would happen when someone turned on the lights.

The resort stay, sans eight year-old maniac, was a gift from C’s sister––birthday, anniversary, something–– and C had added spa treatments for herself and then the dinner for us. The hot tub was a short walk (longer when it’s winter, and the robe and slippers are comically/tragically meant for normal-sized people) around the corner from our room. The girl from Alabama was an anomaly: not middle-aged, not pellucid-skinned, not accustomed to glossy catalogues for apparel themes in expensive-casual. But she had youth, which is better.

“It’s been cold in Alabama,” she told us. “A little snow shuts the whole place down.” Later, when she was gone, as C looked up at the stars, we tried to imagine the helplessness and wonder of Alabama snow. The water steamed gorgeously around us.

It was the kind of hotel or resort or destination or something where everything is old and distressed and new and vaguely European. At breakfast the croissants were in miniature. Waiting for C to buy some of the spa product she’d been treated with the day before, I read labels like poetry––mocha berry bronzer, bright skin starter set, caramel latte tinted moisturizer, stone crop serum––and understood it about as much.

Earlier the same weekend we saw Les Misérables from a box seat. Javert seemed like a bit of a tormented prick but I couldn’t be sure from way up there. The French certainly romanticize and commodify the whole self-destruction business. The crowd was very well-behaved and no one looked at their phones at all. C bought me a button of Cosette.

I’m late with this today because of crazed secretaries groaning with more demands for Calibri. What is it with this ugly, default font? It’s the typographic equivalent of a MasterChef Cruise where the entire crew is violently bulimic and keep giving you drinks based on curaçao. A rule for life: just because you’re comfortable with something does not mean it’s good.

I picked out a book from a box on the sidewalk and took it to my studio and tied it up with twine and painted all the pages shut. Then I painted it some more. Then I put it on a shelf and forgot about it for a year. Then I took it down and painted it some more, and added collage. And then more collage. And then I gave this object a new title, and sealed it all once more with varnish. And that’s how things get done in a studio sometimes, being found and forgotten and then seen again and rescued.

I hope you’re having a good day. The clouds are sitting right on the ground today.


Draw things, paint things, write things, make things.