Plum Crazy Cake

September 2008

Gravity had been pulling me into friendships with boys.  I say “boys” in keeping with my older sister’s claim:  males are not “men” until age thirty-six.  It follows that there is a brief stint of “manhood” until [approximately] the age forty when the “mid”-life crises flare with symptoms of boyish antics and convertible cruising.

The boys in my life were mixing my intentions of friendship and feelings.  They were leaving me high and dry when they finally found the girls that were into them in the way they expected me to be.  Their evasion translated to, “Oh, this must be awkward for you.  This must be awkward to see me with my girrrllllfriend.  This is so awkward I don’t even have time to call you or write you those epic emails I used to send or attend every cultural event with you” when really, it should not have been awkward at all!  It should have been perfect!  They just wouldn’t stop with the awkwardness.  What did that leave me?  Girls?

For starters, girls are quite frequently very competitive forces.  Secondly, I had recently graduated from college, my closer friends had parted or were on the verge of parting, and the dynamic for making new friends had completely changed.  What did one do after college?  I had entered the “real world,” and I wasn’t quite acclimated yet.

The academic world had been a bubble.  Pre-school all the way until the [still unopened] university diploma was a consistent backdrop on which friendships were more like submissions or evolutions.  School-based friendships are a lot like baking bread.  Various ingredients (soccer stars, honor roll kids, only children, immigrants, Catholics and crafters) mix together in one bowl (the neighborhood, the campus, the recess yard, the dorms, the story-time carpet squares, the Dean’s List or the monkey bars), are covered by a towel or saran wrap (the closed door of the classroom or school) and allowed to rise together into one comfort food.

In the proverbial “real world,” there is no towel of protection or saran wrap or mixing bowl ensuring people come together in a meaningful way.  There isn’t a designated time and place to mix together and rise into a friendship.  We’re just rolls on a pan, seemingly made from the same dough but separated to rise independent of one another.  In the real world, we meet, we greet, I think you’re cool, you think I’m cool?  Then what?

A friend date?  Or worse…you wait and do the modern circle-yes-or-no card proposal, “[name] vous a ajouté à ses amis. Nous devons confirmer que vous connaissez [name] pour que vous puissiez être amis,” which is Facebook French for, “can I stalk your pictures now?”  Initial friendship with boys had seemed easier until the onset of the various versions of “we should hang out.”  “We are hanging out.”  “Yeah, but we should hang out….[awkward.]”

Thus I was really lucky to meet a girl named Camille.

I was at the  I Made It! Market, doing rounds of scoping in between helping my friend Nina “Bee” with her table of deer-shaped, wood paneling patterned, contact paper, decals by providing her with a picnic lunch.  From the picnic spot on the ground, I realized I had almost missed an entire portion of the craft circuit vending in the alley behind the community center.

There in the mix, was a table of wonderfully creative purses, with pockets upon pockets, knittings, patches and happy fabrics.  There was, however, no crafter at the table.  I beheld, I admired and then I continued to an odd “they must have gone to Carnegie Mellon” display of handmade chain meal.

I had a lot of time on my hands after serving up my picnic and mingling.  It was time enough for more mingling, more craft perusals, a photo adventure in the church-turned Community Center, to purchase what became my favorite dress from a jazzercise troupe and in the meantime caught glimpses of a colorful, dread-locked girl floating here and there.

Meeting Camille was putting two and two together.  I made another round, wound through the alley again, and now the happy table of warm and amusing fabrics had a vendor.  It was the warm-spirited, dread-locked girl I had seen scoping other tables.

Of course the dread-locked girl with the handmade tool belt was the vendor behind “The Plum Crazy Tree.”  I complimented the work.  I’m Quelcy.  I’m Camille.  I immediately admired Camille’s attitude toward her artwork- just try it!  She showed me how the complicity of her purses had progressed, and I talked about making and selling purses in high school under my mom’s sewing guidance.  Wow, a cool girl, not pretentious, fun, creative, down-to-earth and stylish…but living in Greensburg and not Pittsburgh …nooooo! How would we ever make it to the platonic hang out stage?

It just took a bit of patience and another market to forge and foster a new friendship.  The I Made It! Market roved to the South Side of Pittsburgh, to the Brew House Artist Collective, and while I was leaning over a table of knitted this or beaded that, I heard someone say my name.  Camille!  We picked up where the last conversation left off.  I met some of her Greensburg crew, tried on a “winter sombrero,” which I would one day own.  We used the social networking tools of the time to exchange escargot mailing addresses, and we came to be very great correspondents and friends.

I would say, “You’d be lucky to have a friend like Camille,” but that’s impossible.  There is no other girl like Camille!  She is positively unique, uniquely positive and just plum crazy!

On top of that, she is a girl, and she is my friend!  For that, she deserved a Plum Crazy Cake made with the grains and with crazy plums (plums drunk off the wine in which they stewed)!

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