TBT: Koresh Van Turned Pick Up

I didn’t move out of my parent’s house for good until I was well into my 30’s. I’d leave for a while and some fiasco or bout of ill health would lead me back. When I moved back for the last time with my daughter along, my parents had a few nickname-worthy neighbors.

One of them was a young man my family privately called David Koresh, who predictably lived on a property known as the Compound. David radiated a half-baked, cult-forming charisma but lacked the looks or vision to exploit this charm. There was a small but shifting cast of characters who’d frequent the Compound.

David tried starting several junking businesses without much luck. For a season, he collected appliances from various curbsides on garbage day, but these washers and the like would end up in pieces on his curb within a fortnight of their arrival.

Somehow he acquired a white cargo van (the kind my mom calls a serial killer van) that barely ran, and he decided that he’d convert it into a pick up for hauling pallets.

Here’s what the van looked like when it appeared at the Koresh Compound:

These pallets were to be made from salvage wood, i.e. hammering together good wood from broken pallets he’d recovered from who-knows-where.

I’d imagine that economy of scale doomed this venture. Some of my parents’ other neighbors could not tolerate the noise and debris from the van make-over. Within days of its transformation into a creeking pick up, the authorities determined it was not street legal (with pressure from the neighbors, of course).

The van/pick up was towed away shortly thereafter. I did take a couple pictures of this gem before it was gone:


Evading Reality Through Photo Editing


This evening I dabbled with online photo editing so I could procrastinate on doing those last bits of junk that need done before I can call it a day. Ordinarily I do these things right when I come home from work or else the dread of doing them will spoil my evening. Of course, there are a few things that have a way of almost never making the daily to-do list. Dusting is one such task. It usually happens on random weekend mornings when sunbeams break their way through our east-facing windows, making the dust too obvious to ignore. Perhaps this is what gave birth to my weekend photo walks: leaving the house during the very hours that highlight the dust on my days off from work.

I dabbled with the online photo editor BeFunky tonight and created the image above from a photo I took of one of the petunia pots in the backyard. The edit from BeFunky was a bit too vivid (too bad they don’t have a dust overlay to dampen the saturation), so I fed the image through Aviary as well to mute the colors.

Here’s another version to which I added what I would write on that flower pot if I pursued engraving as another hobby to crowd out cleaning from my schedule:


Buttercream Overload


I devoted this evening to making a ludicrous amount of buttercream frosting for our second cake decorating class. I didn’t post an update about the first class because it was one of several interludes in my parenting history I keep in a mental file called Mother of the Year™.

We were missing a couple supplies needed for the first class, which so bogged down the pace of instruction that we finished a half hour late. I also had some spontaneous short fuse moments. I ask for your pardon in advance for the following: some people have resting bitch face, but I also suffer from resting bitch voice when the pace of my day overwhelms me. That day went full bore from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and I feel awful that I failed to suppress that voice for the occasion.

Today I learned that 10 cups of buttercream is the absolute frosting capacity of a six quart mixer. The result was something my mother calls a “full mess.” A mess is “full” when you hope against hope that no one will witness the scene until it’s at least halfway cleaned up.

By the way, our instructor has been decorating cakes professionally for 42 years. Willie Nelson gave a free concert in my town 35 years ago, and she baked the cake for his reception. She had a snapshot of this cake, which contained a portrait in icing of the singer. It really looked just like he did back then!

When he saw the cake, he said, “I’ve been done in everything but frosting until today.”

Buttercream Dreams

My daughter and I have signed up for an entry-level Wilton cake decorating class in June. Provided at least two other people register for the evening session we prefer, I may be close to learning how to ice a cake evenly. When I was my daughter’s age, I iced a friend’s birthday cake, and her mother asked me if I was paying a pink tribute to the mashed potato mountain from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

I shied away from learning the Wilton method in the past because I thought that I might be better off being bad at icing cakes than learning passé or gauche techniques. I imagine that someone in America made a cake shaped like bell-bottom Levi’s Action Slacks and decorated it with a tiny star tip to reflect the tight polyester weave of that fabric. Last week I bought some large Wilton icing tips and was just thrilled with the results. Maybe just maybe this is the clan who can help me decorate a cake decently.

A dear friend of mine dug into the Wilton hobby twenty years ago, and she lent me her class books and the fantastic 1997 Wilton Yearbook. When I think of the late 90’s, I feel like this era happened about five years ago. These catalogs remind me that my sense of time is warping. 1997 really was 20 years ago, and my daughter, who already ices a cake better than I do, was minus four years old.

Before I close, I will share some shots of these catalog pages. By the way, I love aged catalogs. When I worked at a department store, I’d study the store’s past catalogs whenever customer traffic evaporated. I learned that the store had offered a hookah bong by mail order back in 1977, with the advice, “filter with water or liquor for a smoother smoke.”

The bong could have paired well with the clown technique below. This method must be more responsive to trends than I suspected. While you can learn to make buttercream mountains on top of cupcakes nowadays, back then creating a 3D figure was part of the class:

I hoped Robert liked chocolate. The script on this cake looks positively funereal:


I need this cat pan! I ordered it off Ebay, and my daughter and I hope to ice cat cakes in several versions based on our favorite shelter cats:


All that is missing is tobacco, or else one could have birthday cake candles to represent all three players in the unhold ATF trinity:


I don’t remember that the 90’s were so baroque:


My lilac bush is in mid bloom.


When I smell lilacs, I imagine what life was like when they were in high vogue around a hundred years ago. Like fashion, garden plants have trends, too. For instance, evergreen bushes hardly sell now, but they seemed a mandatory addition to the houses I saw built in my 70’s childhood. My family once lived in a house that was built during World War I, and it had a massive common lilac bush in the back yard that had grown heavier with blossoms with each passing year. By the late 80’s, this bush had become a yearly riot of purple joy that measured about 12 feet in all directions. Prince could have shot an album cover in front of it. I can imagine our claw-footed tub transplanted to the foreground of the bush, with steam rising from it as Prince pouts at the camera.

This house was so dilapidated that our landlord sold it to a prison rehab project for a dollar when we moved out. The linoleum had buckled in places, exposing a lining underneath made of newspapers from 1917. As the floor slowly fell apart, I saw the hairstyles and must-have dresses of that era. If I closed my eyes, I could see these women chatting beside the lilac bush, eating crust-free watercress sandwiches cut twice on the diagonal as they sat around a wrought iron table painted white. Their 18-month-old children would already have been potty trained and could have built houses of cards for the entire forty five minutes it took their mothers to finish tea.

In contrast, we the last occupants of that house as it was originally built were barbarians. This was the house I lived in when I started wearing bras. When I balked at this change, Mom reassured me that things had become so much easier for womankind regarding foundation wear. There was a freedom in never thinking a girdle was necessary.

Mom raised this subject again recently, and told me, “You should have seen some of the crap women thought they needed to wear. I remember women wearing gowns that were ridiculous. If they moved wrong inside them, their entire body would be punctured.”

This was the house where I daydreamed of vacationing with Duran Duran, the narratives of which were deeply informed by V.C. Andrew’s starter smut. This was also the house where I later gained 30 pounds in a summer listening to the Beatles while sipping Classic Coke and eating Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls by the box.

We moved out the next summer as the lilacs moldered from the heat and relentless bees. A couple months later, Roseanne appeared on the cover of T.V. Guide for the first time, and I was horrified to notice that she and I were wearing the same Lane Bryant plaid shirt.

This is what comes to mind when I smell lilacs, all the women I could have been.

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