Saturday, June 9, 2007

coming soon to a chimney near you

Last fall, I called a friend on a Saturday afternoon to find out what she and her family were doing that evening.

“We’re watching the chimney sweeps at the Grove Arcade. They come out at around seven. Some guy gives a talk about them beforehand. Wanna come?”

I immediately thought of Mary Poppins and imagined a whole mess of sooty, down-on-their-luck but still joyous chimney sweeps rushing down from various chimneys at the Grove Arcade and dancing their way out the doors. The kids would love it. I would love it. We were all over those chimney sweeps.

I was surprised not to have heard of this apparently annual event, but I chalked it up to being relatively new to Asheville. And it occurred to me that I hadn't ever actually noticed any chimneys, but whatever, sometimes I'm really good at missing the obvious.

We got there a bit before seven. It was an unusual crowd: much smaller turnout than you'd imagine for such a spectacle. Hardly any kids, a lot of older folks. With binoculars.

Huh. Were the chimney sweeps so tiny?

Then I overhead the older folks talking. Not about dancing, or soot, or Mary Poppins. They were talking about nesting, migration, and bird calls. They were talking about swoops! Chimney swoops! Which, I soon found out, are a kind of bird, though when I Googled them just now I only got two hits, which means they're obviously not famous or important birds.

I had been in a lousy mood that day anyway because I'm always in a lousy mood I had just gotten a very housewifey haircut. (When I complained about it to another friend, she said, “But you are a housewife!” and, really, with friends like that who needs mother-in-laws?)

So it seemed fitting that my expectations would continue to be dashed, if not by a stylist who, when I say, “Please don’t give me one of those mom haircuts,” hears, “Please definitely give me one of those housewifey cuts, because I’m feeling a little too young and sexy these days,” then by my own inability to hear what’s been said to me, such is the power of wishful thinking. Because who could brighten up a shitty day better than Dick van Dyke? I wanted Mary Poppins. I got The Birds.

Thankfully, we hadn’t said anything to the kids other than that we were meeting our friends at the Grove Arcade. So they didn’t have the disappointment to deal with. They did a lot of running up and down the sidewalks, and then climbing on the lions who, inexplicably, had become "princesses who are gonna kill you with their penises." (Yikes, guys, I'll be sure to stay away.)

Me, I spent some time crying in the gutter, brushing my housewife hair out of my eyes, while the swoops circled undramatically very high above us in the darkening sky.

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