Welcome to the swamp! Here, lurking in the muck, where creativity spawns, you'll find Mrs Crocodile, aka Colleen Dunkel, a costumer and teacher based in Basel, Switzerland.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ode to Boyfriend Jeans and Tailors

Boyfriend jeans:  no-woman is going to ask you if her butt looks big in them, because it does.  For one post I would like to sing the praises of boyfriend jeans:
Oh last season's style, a garment that never needed to walk down the catwalk and into the street because it was already on the streets and in our homes.   As long as you had a boyfriend and your boyfriend was a bit bigger than you, his jeans fit you, as long as you didn't mind not looking in the mirror, the jeans fit you.  Oh guys, you have it so easy, for if you take off your tuxedo hose and have nothing to wear, you can always wear your jeans.  However, if you are in a no-male-involved-same-sex-marriage and you have to resort to borrowing or stealing the jeans from masculine acquaintances, I feel for you.  Oh, but we all know how exciting it is to shop in the opposite sex's department of the best thrift shops and the worst department stores.  I know the clothes don't fit, but it's fun dressing up in another person's clothes.  Or try this:  walk up to a man on the street and ask him to take off his jeans for you.  Let me know how it goes.
Well, enough of that, I look around and see so many jeans, so many colors, so many cuts and I remember a time, not too long ago, when breaking in a new pair of jeans was more time consuming than making lasagna from scratch with the noodles you had to cook first.  I remember Levi's 501's shrink to fit, it was a gamble if they would actually fit after you washed and dried them as much as your mother would let you and they were so new and so blue you still didn't want to wear them out of the house. An urban myth from the seventies tells of people actually burying their jeans in the earth for a month because it was the best way of breaking them in.  A person who inherited a pair from an older friend was a lucky dog.  Then there was this interlude of designer jeans when we were in elementary school; they were way too tight to breathe in and firefighters were tired of cutting people out of them, so I guess that's when designers started working on stretch denim.  In the middle of the eighties it was "the 501's Strikes Back", probably since they had lasted so long and they walked back out of closets like the clones.   But for me the best part is that today, Levi's will take a picture of your rear and customize your jeans for you based on their research and photographs of 60,000 female behinds.  Sorry guys.  I know it's a far cry from the same company that started making jeans from tent fabric, but they reckon that a woman on average tries on 10 pairs of jeans before she finds the one pair that fits.  What they don't say, but we know, is that if you are like most of the 60,000 women photographed, you most likely find that your rear changes after a year or so, due to gravity, Thanksgiving dinner or a sit down job and the customized jeans don't fit anymore.  Which brings me to mention this quote by George Bernard Shaw: "The only man who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew every time he sees me, while all the rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them."  Actually I've been just chomping at the bit to use that quote for a while.  So my advice?  Can't get an appointment with your tailor?  Stay in the boyfriend jeans, you'll be able to sit at the computer longer and read more blogs.

Yours, with tuxedo pants on,

Yours,
Mrs Crocodile


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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Playing Island

Patti docked in the shallow water.
My kids don't play house, they play island.  I'm not exactly sure how this came about, but it seems an important game.  If you want to play it at your house, here's how it goes.  Take a few but very important items: towels, a trash can, storage baskets, bowls, which you will then miss if they are not in their usual place.  Then in the middle of a room, usually in the middle of a main passageway, like at the entrance to the flat, in the hallway, or in the middle of the kitchen, put a towel or basket on the floor to mark the island.  Then take some dolls and set up a home for the dolls on the towel.  For some reason, there is always a toilet on the island and some beds, but the toilet has been an important part of this game for already two years.  I know this because my kids used the trash can from the bathroom, so it was missing for the better part of two years and no-one was allowed to use it to actually throw trash into.  Only dolls and stuffed animals were allowed to poop in it.  After the set up, which typically takes several days but could take up to a week, you can start to play, so at night before you go to bed, you put the dolls and stuffed animals in their island beds, in the morning you wake them up again and get them dressed.  Shoes and slippers become boats and the dolls or stuffed animals sail to other parts of the house.  Shoes with shoe laces are particularly good as boats because they can be tied to other items of furniture so that they won't float away.  Each rug has a different depth, so that sometimes characters can get out and swim or actually touch the ground of the water.  Some of them can't swim and the swimming lessons begin.  There is a lot of feeding and cleaning going on on the island, which makes me think it's really a version of playing house.  So now you know how it goes.  I'm so glad my kids are so creative and don't play house the normal way.  Either it has something to do with how I play house, or don't.  On the subject of playing house, with one my English classes we are reading "Revolutionary Road", Richard Yates's critique of fifties America which has been recently made into to movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.  The wonderfully truthful and therefore mad character of John Givings, puts it into words for me:  "You want to play house, you got to have a job.  You want to play very nice house, very sweet house, then you got to have a job you don't like.  Great."  So like I said, I like that my kids play island.
Aloha for now,
Mrs Crocodile 

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Warning: Contents of my life may be exhausting

Here is the fine print:  Why is it that raising healthy children, gently insisting that they eat enough vegetables, do their homework, then taking them to some activity outside of school which is good for them therefore fueling a certain passion for life, working as an appreciated and energetic teacher, writing, I hope, a sometimes inspiring blog, helping English speaking theater in Basel out with their costumes and loving it, working in the evenings as a dresser at the Theater Basel and loving it, sticking the very interesting and informative fish stickers in the Migros underwater sticker book in the right places with the kids and reading what they are in German, and saying "Oh, it's an elephant fish, I didn't know that", trying to find ways to cook as fast as possible, but still feel like I've eaten something more nourishing than just melted cheese on toast, fixing jeans with holes in them, trying to find the hours in which to sleep as much as possible, keeping a nice boyfriend, carving out time alone, having the song "Cry Baby" by Janice Joplin stuck in my head, letting peace reign between two ex's, organizing who can take the kids in the evenings, doing my homework from drawing class which makes me feel good when I see my progress, looking forward to dumping all my cares and woes on a therapist, canceling appointments when there is Terminkollision, keeping up with the e-mail in-box, oh and cleaning the house, thanking my lucky stars that's it's not a bigger house, making sure three people have clean clothes to wear every day, making sure we don't look poor and trodden down, making sure I don't feel poor and trodden down, trying to write in a diary to keep it all straight and trying not to become an alcoholic which would otherwise wash it all down quite nicely, be cheaper than some drugs, but still on the expensive unhealthy side, so instead styling my hair for ten minutes and trying to find an appointment with a good friend for coffee in between her busy life and mine...why, I ask, is this so incredibly exhausting?


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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jump!

I have been told I should read "the Artist's Way", by not one, not two but three people, who incidentally, don't know each other.  You don't have to hit me over the head.  I got it now.  Either this is a really good book or I really need it.  I can't tell you as yet, because when I ordered the book in a well-known, very large book shop in downtown Basel, they said the English version could take a few weeks to get delivered.  Now they sent me a notice that said the English version is un-deliverable at the moment.  I don't know how long a moment is in the Swiss German speaking world, so I am left to speculation about what the book is actually about:  I have an inkling that this book covers the spiritual side of the flowing energies of creativity, helps us to tap into them and thank the powers that be as we shed our fears of being creative and as life would have it, lessons are learned only when we are ready, but we could tweak them a bit.  I got that from skimming the German version, but it could be totally off.
So today, my point: a lesson is actually much easier to learn when I have already internalized it, in fact when I have already actually learned it.  And then I just need some time, a person's wise words or a book's gentle way of opening a world to me, it makes no difference if it is fiction, non-fiction or science-fiction.  Because actually we know our lessons.  Sometimes of course one does need to be hit over the head and jump into the pool of fears.
Yours, with life-vest on,
Mrs Crocodile.





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Monday, November 1, 2010

Aslan, my new favorite hero

Aslan is a very special kind of lion. This is the kind of stuff he goes on about in his regal way: "Do not dare not to dare. Touch me. Smell me. Here are my paws, here is my tail, these are my whiskers. I am a true Beast." This is taken from The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis.
Okay, you think I've been away from the blog-o-sphere for so long and now I come out with this: a child's book?  Well, one of the perks of motherhood (since they need to be counted and recounted again and again, least the actual work of it all overshadows the perks) is that you get to read all those stories you loved as a child over again and really get into them this time because you kind of understand what they are going on about.  Many discussions are spent mulling over the ins and outs of the plots and characters with my children to an extent that I find really very satisfying.  I have even been known to read farther into my son's book because I couldn't put it down after he fell asleep.  But my point is completely elsewhere.  It is with what Aslan said: "Do not dare not to dare".  The last bit of that quote I also love: "I am a true Beast".  It seems, although this explanation would be daring in its simplicity, that one has to be a Beast (with a capital B) to dare to dare.  Since Aslan is about the closest thing they have to a god in Narnia, you are just going to have to take his word for it.  And this week I take as my mantra: "Do not dare not to dare".  It's a good change from the usual: "I move forward with confidence and ease from Louise Hay.  "Do not dare not to dare",  which always makes me take a deep breath in, since the sentence when said outloud is somewhat forboding, I'm looking forward to the adventure it brings...
Yours, daring and true Beast
Mrs Crocodile



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