Posted: August 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: California, Friends and Strangers, Little Rhody, Mama Posse, Movies | 1 Comment »

Years ago, driving across the Bay Bridge, I saw a car with the license plate WMNRSMTR.

As you may know (from my excessive blathering about it), I’m from Rhode Island. A place where vanity license plates—and those with low numbers—are regarded as the pinnacle of social worth.

Not to show off or anything, but my first car, a major jalopy, had the most-excellent plate, KB 2. It was because I was dating the son of a Department of Transportation employee. That car’s been off the road for twenty years now, but my Dad (FB 14) is still proud of that license plate.

Aaaanyway, I was driving behind WMNRSMTR. It was clear that there was a message in there, but not so clear what it was. And I’m usually great with word things. It’s those pastel dotty posters you’re supposed to stare at until you see the wolf baying at the moon that I have trouble with. I almost never succeed at having the image emerge, and end up just lying to whomever I’m shopping with at Spencer’s that I saw it.

But I digress.

So here’s me, alone in my car, trying to crack the code:

“Wim… Nurse.. Mutter…”

“Wih Minners Matter?”

Then more determined:

“Wim NERsum Terr!”

“Wimin URS Tur!”

And finally:

“Wim NER Smerrterr?”



Yeah, yeah, I get the irony.

And speaking of women, but really just a total tangent, I realized the other day that my gynecologist’s office is on BUSH Street. No joke! How good is that?

So a couple months ago I went on a day-long yoga retreat in Marin. I’ve done this before but always with my friend and faithful neighb, Jennifer. This time I was flying solo. So at the lunch break I was sitting somewhat dorkishly at the big communal table, having one of my twice-a-decade moments of shyness. Just hoping one of the other yoginis might put their play-with-the-outcast-on-the-playground skills to work.

A trio of older women, in their 60s or so, were sitting to my right. And one of them got to talking in a loud and animated enough way that I felt I could scoop hippie vegan soup into my mouth and look at her. You know, pretend that she was talking to me too.

She’d lived in a chicken coop in Georgia, she said. Yes, a chicken coop. Starting when she was 20 until about—long pause, looking up sideways to think—until she was 26. “It had a packed clay floor,” she pointed out. As if we’d all maybe been picturing parquet. They cooked on a grill and had an outdoor water drum that was painted black that they used as a shower.

I was instantly jealous.

When I was 20 I was living in Ohio. Sure that’s rustic and all, but I mean, I had indoor plumbing.

She’d moved to Georgia from Minnesota with her “pack,” as she called them. A group of about eight who I couldn’t help but imagine as a bra-disparaging partner-swapping commune-like klatch.

Again, more envy. Or maybe just deep deep fascination.

And they were potters, of course. That’s to say, throwers of pots. (By this point in the story I think I’d pulled my chair nearly an inch from her, abandoning my soup, enraptured.) They—her “pack”–had waited for their potter’s wheels to arrive in the mail first, then they hit the road for Georgia.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many pottery wheels they had, and why they didn’t just have them shipped straight to Georgia. But I didn’t want to ask too many questions. After all, I was kind of auditing the story as it was.

After more good stuff about one klatch member who was a professor getting fired, and some details on the rigors of heat-free winter-living, she mentioned  she now owns a gallery in Berkeley. The woman at her left has a gallery there too. They said the names of the places, which I of course instantly forgot, but in my mind I envisioned visiting there a lot. Buying stuff. Becoming an apprentice. Keeping a pet cat there.

Even though I kinda hate pottery.

Then this other woman pulls up a chair with her bowl of soup. And for a moment my verging-on-creepy fixation with the gray-haired pot-throwers was broken.

The new woman started chatting with the instructor about how she’s out of town so often for work. So, I summon some social courage and ask her what she does.

And DO YOU KNOW WHAT SHE SAID? She said she is a bee broker.

A BEE broker!!

I didn’t know what that was but I instantly wanted to be one too. BEES! Of course!

So, I say, “So, uh, what is a bee broker?”

And do you know what she said? She said that she has some big rig that’s filled with hives that she brings down to Modesto to the almond farms. She then sets her bees free in the fields. It’s like the farmers rent them! Then at night when it gets all chilly the bees fly back into the truck to go to sleep with in the hive, or have sex with the queen, or do whatever it is they do in there. Then Ms. Bee Broker heads off to another farm.

I almost hugged her.

Now I was going to have to split my weekends between Modesto and the Berkeley pottery studios.

All this talk was more energizing than all the hold-one-nostril breathing and triangle-posing the first half of the retreat had served up. I loved every one of these women. If these gals by were so amazing, what were the ones crouched over their vegan soup over there like? I wanted to start going from woman to woman, looking intently into each of their faces and interviewing them all documentary-style.

I mean, I was feeling like the odds that the next person I’d talk to would be a Bed, Bath & Beyond employee was pretty low. But the thing is, if she had been, I think I would have suddenly slipped into a reverential trance, and praised all that was holy about mattress pads. I was ready to find the love in everyone.

Without drugs!

After lunch and before my yoga, we all hiked to the beach. This hike is pretty crazy gorgeous. If you’re ever in California, call me and I’ll take you to this place. It’s along a super lush valley where these Buddhists have a homestead. You pass all their perfect vegetable and flower gardens, then a silly idyllic horse pasture, and then the path narrows and it’s all just and trees and flowers and birds and butterflies and nature and shit.

What I mean is, it sure is purdy there.

Then when you arrive at the beach, you get that positive ion hit. Whatever that high is that you get from the ocean water. Someone told me about this once and I still believe that there’s something to it, even if it’s really not true.

But clearly in the mode that I was in I needed no more highs of any sort.

Beachside I wandered up to a group of co-yoga-retreaters and sat on a driftwood log with them. (See how socially brave I was getting?) We were looking out at the water, and I was feeling certain one of them was about to tell me something that would make me weep and hug her ankles and think that the world was a beautiful beautiful place. You know. I was just waiting for that.

Even better, I got some excellent book recommendations. These gals were older, but let’s just say we were reading at the same level. We all clucked with praise for that great hedgehog novel. And then they bantered about the name of a few other amazing reads. Eventually I’d borrowed a pencil from one of them and an ATM receipt from another and wrote the all the titles all down. We even talked about our favorite children’s lit because—get this—one of them had been a children’s librarian for, like, 30 years or something. Joy!

If I were to spelunk a few layers down on my desk today, I may even find that paper today and read those books.

Just a day or two after it opened, I went to see the Sex and the City movie with a Mama Posse friend. I never read movie reviews. Having even the smallest inkling of what to expect in a movie destroys it for me. I spend the whole time waiting for whichever scene it is that’s funny or dumb, and I can’t even enjoy my wine. (Yes, smuggling red wine and plastic cups into the movies has become par for the course for me and the Mamas.)

But in the days leading out to my Moms Night Out, Mark, bless his heart, made sure I knew how utterly decimated this movie had gotten by reviewers. It’s badness delighted him.

But whatEVER. We still went. And all of Oakland was out in their fancy. I mean, black girls in stilettos and what looked like prom dresses. I mean, it’s Oakland. If there was any Prada, I didn’t see it.

Me, I was in flip flops.

And do you know what? I LIKED the movie. Sure it was vapid and silly and predictable, and there were probably some culturally-offensive jokes, but it was entertaining. Yes, I actually chuckled—full-out laughed a bit too—and found it perfectly un-intellectually engaging.

On the way out, I think I even complimented a woman on her purple clutch, awash with feel-good audience-mate comraderie.

I’m not exactly sure what all those reviews said—because if I’m disinclined to read reviews before seeing a movie I’m even disinclineder to read them after. Maybe those writers were preparing to see Amistad, and were taken aback when the movie was more about Manolo Blahnik shoes, low-cal cocktails, and menopause. You know, I think they were missing the point.

While I’m at it, do you know what movie I also saw last week? The latest Twilight movie. Oh yes I did.


Sure, I’d had—-okay—a few Mai Tais beforehand. But even without cheap rum coursing through my veins I think I’d be squealing over the dreamy barely-legal cast and walloping my poor friend’s arm during the shirtless scenes. It was entertaining. I enjoyed myself.

And where’s the shame in that?

I’m hardly going to defend the artistic merit of either movie. But I will say, that in a theater full of women who likely spent their days working in courtrooms, or classrooms, or at The Sunglass Hut—or hell, wrangling with clay or bees or young children—for us gals it felt good to put our hair down and our feet up and let the low-browness of it all wash over us. I mean, isn’t that why men watch wrestling?

From what I can tell, despite what movies we may make a big show of going to, that license plate was right. Women are smarter.

1 Comment »

One Comment on “WMNRSMTR”

  1. 1 FAB said at 6:33 am on August 9th, 2010:

    Low number plates are sold, bargained and even bequeathed by will in R.I. A recent number was sold for $25,000!!!! And there is a weekly column in the Sunday Providence Journal on number plates with odd or interesting numbers or letter arrangements and the meaning or reason behind it. FB14 has adorned my cars for 60 years!

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