Monday, March 26, 2012

Modern-Day Princess (and Prince) and the Pea

Well, in Andersen's fairy tale, there was a prince who wanted to marry a real princess. He traveled the world looking for his princess but had no way of knowing if the young women who claimed to be royalty were indeed his equal. Frustrated and sad, he returned home alone.

Then one night during a terrible storm, there was a knock at the castle (I assume it was a castle) door. Standing there was a sopping wet young woman who claimed she was a princess. She sure didn't look like a princess with her stringy, wet hair and soaking wet clothes.

Okay, thought the old queen. I know just what to do to find out whether this young woman is an imposter or the real deal. The queen went to a guest bedroom (who knows how she decided which one of what must have been dozens), stripped the bed down to the frame, placed a pea on the bottom, and then piled twenty mattresses and twenty elder-down beds (whatever they are) on top. The supposed princess was instructed to relax for the night.

"And how did she sleep?" the old queen asked the next morning.
"Well, not well . . . not well at all."
There was, she said, something hard underneath her all night, and she didn't sleep a wink.

Ah, ha! She must be a princess after all, reasoned the prince and his parents.
"Nobody but a real princess could have such a delicate skin."

The princess and prince were married and, as best we know, they lived happily ever after and never had a mattress issue again.

Well, that's more than I can say for my husband and me. After almost 19 years with the same mattress, we took the plunge and bought a new one. Like Goldilocks who tested three kinds of porridge, three different chairs, and three different beds, we lay on almost every mattress in the store.

"This one's too hard," I said.

"This one's too soft," he said.

"I like the memory foam," I said.

"I hate the memory foam," he said.

And so it went. Back and forth. One mattress after the other. Finally, I laid down the gauntlet.

"Okay, either we make a decision or go someplace else," I said. "We're driving this poor salesman crazy."

"Oh, no," the young man said with limited enthusiasm. "This happens all the time."

My husband reluctantly agreed to try Serta's new memory foam mattress, a compromise between the glorified Tempurpedic and a regular firm mattress with inner springs. We were given up to 90 days to decide whether we wanted to keep it or return it for another mattress of comparable price in the store.

Well, it didn't take long for my husband to convince himself that we'd made a big mistake. He tiptoed out of bed in the middle of the first night with a sore back and slept fitfully the remainder of the night in our old bed that we'd moved to the guest bedroom.

"I'll never sleep in that bed again," he said. "So, we either return it or we're in separate beds forever."

Now, after living with this guy for more than 30 years, I've come to expect such dramatic pronouncements. So, I just nodded and went on with my day. He did sleep in the guest bedroom the next night but crawled into our new Serta on night #3.

"I can punch my fists into it," he said as he pushed his weight into his fists. "Look at the indentation. That can't be good. I need support."

So, back to the mattress store we went. At this point, I didn't care what mattress we settled on. I just wanted a decision. After spending far too much time, we (he) decided to go with a firm Tempurpedic.

Of course, a few days later he announced "I like the Serta!"

I wanted to murder him. Just like my husband to change his mind.

But change his mind he could not. So, out with the Serta and in with the Tempurpedic.

To tell the truth, I'm finding this new mattress a bit too firm, but I'll suffer through, if for nothing else to prove to my husband yet again that I'm the good sport who can roll with the punches - though will never be able to roll with ease on our new mattress.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I'm back in the good U.S. of A. And for that I am grateful. Never mind the current crop of Republican Presidential candidates and their positions on everything from the ills of university culture to contraception. I again have unlimited hot water and took my first bath in two months.

Okay, Afghanistan is proving to be a disastrous failure just as Iraq. But I can drink the tap water without worrying about that nasty parasite giardia lemblis turning my lower intestine into a crampy, acidic, bloated mess.

Sure, I realize that the average gas price is now an outrageous $4.79 per gallon. But I can use my WiFi anywhere in the house at any time night or day without worrying that it's either going to crash or not work in the first place.

Speaking of cars and the price of gas, I'm grateful to Honda for their fuel efficient CR-X and even more thankful that I can depend on the car and not on my two aging legs for transport. Walking is great exercise, no doubt. But try walking up the hill from San Miguel de Allende town center to a casa perched way high up. The view is grand, but the schlep can take a hike.

The Congress remains gridlocked; civility is a foreign concept. Still, I can speak my native language and not worry about how to conjugate irregular Spanish verbs in the past tense.

And the quiet! No damn roosters, sheep, chickens, or whining dogs (Oh, did I mention the church bells?) to prevent me from falling asleep or being rudely awakened at dawn.

And never mind that it's only March. Mother Nature (with the help of climate change) has shown mercy on us mid westerners and brought a very early spring. It was a balmy 65 degrees here today. Early spring bloomers are up, and the promise of resurrection is in the air.

We Americans take so much for granted: good (well, sometimes) drinking water, central heating, electronic sophistication, farms in the countryside, not in the midst of cities . . . The list of conveniences goes on.

It feels good to be home, even though those three out-of-control boys two houses down have begun their screaming and fighting and tears AGAIN. But I've vowed not to complain after the daily cacophony in San Miguel de Allende.

I'm back in the U.S.A. and grateful.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Good Morning, San Miguel

I can thank El Senor de la Conquista for the festivities that woke me out of a sound sleep way too early this morning. The drumming and dancing began last night with celebrants from a host of cities in the Mexican state of Guanajuato converging here in San Miguel de Allende. And the celebration continued long into the night (for all I know, it never stopped) and began anew with gusto at the crack of dawn. Even the highest-rated earplugs were no match.

From what I gather, there are two versions of how this festivity began. One version has it that in the late 1500s two human-sized figures honoring the Lord of the Conquest were made out of corn paste (Don't ask because I don't know) and carried to San Miguel and another town. The two Franciscan friars carrying these guys were attacked and killed. The friars were goners and so were the two figures - until they were later found by a group of Chichimeca Indians.

The other version of this ruckus festivity has it that the figures were found by a Chichimeca Indian and hidden in a cave, where they ostensibly still reside. The statues revered today are said to be replicas.

Whatever the version, suffice it to say that this is a wild and wooly time in San Miguel. If I weren't on meds for the typical intestinal parasite that lays thousands of travelers low, I might consider getting dressed and walking down to the plaza where hundreds of the celebrants have assembled. Maybe I'll find the will after a healthy breakfast and another round of pills.

What I can say for certain is that after returning home next week I will NEVER complain about noise again - not about the kids two houses down who scream and yell all summer afternoon, about the neighbors on the other side who put their stereo speakers on their back porch, about the gardeners who rev up their lawn mowers and leaf blowers too early on a Sunday morning . . .

No, I will relish these sounds as sweet background noises against which I can easily fall back asleep or read a book or enjoy the peace and beauty of my sedate Midwestern town where few if any folks would dare to bring out the drums at 5 a.m.