Monday, July 28, 2008

On the Radio! Radio!

I'm wondering how to be cheerful about murder.

I was hustling yesterday, getting things ready for my Wednesday take-off, in a good mood. I was listening to the radio. Now, I tossed out my television in the spring of 2004 and I quit buying the Sunday newspaper around the same time. I used to enjoy the comics and Dave Barry, but the last time I bought a paper -- a couple years ago -- he wasn't in there anymore and the comics had no charm for me.

I only listen to the radio in my car, and only sometimes, and when the news comes on, I switch to a CD, even though the radio's tuned to NPR. A shrink said that this is a survival technique on my part. I don't know about that. I've always had long periods of not watching TV. When I was twenty-four, I went to Mohawk Valley Community College for Advertising Design and Production, and a teacher there told me I'm "culturally deprived" because of my lack of television.

He's correct, of course, but, frankly, it doesn't come up a lot. Now and then, someone -- maybe just a fellow consumer in line -- will mention a potential hurricane and I won't know a thing about it. Guess who's less anxious. I've got friends who went to hear some comedian I'd never heard of, but they know I'm ignorant of many things and don't seem to care.

I'm not sure about the depth of my ignorance. Isn't it just details? Dates and names? I'm a typographer; I know God is in the details. But culturally? Does it matter which politician is getting ___ from ___? Don't I already know a bit about corruption? What more do I need to know?

I certainly don't need to know about missing babies. Even less do I need to know about the lives of actors and athletes.

I've chosen a few organizations I support with money and mouse-clicks. That list changes occasionally, but mostly I do what they say. I'm a blind activist.

Maybe watching TV and reading papers -- staying culturally sated -- is just a conversation-starter -- literally something to talk about, a way to make a connection in a seemingly too-busy, too-fast world. How 'bout them Bucs? Oh, did you hear about that poor little girl ...? Can you believe that bastard in Washington --? Those people over in Pakistan had better --! And oh! the gas prices!

Look at that. I almost forgot to mention the gas prices. That's because, I believe, I'm culturally deprived. I forget I'm supposed to be crazed and frustrated and frightened by all that. Hah! As if I am not perfectly capable of providing those emotions for my own self.

So yesterday I was changing my habit a bit, listening to the radio in my house. I was listening to A Prairie Home Companion, involved in something -- painting a mailbox or sorting through photos for the class reunion or searching for directions to Louisville -- when the news came on. Well, I barely noticed it. It didn't even occur to me to switch to a CD because I wasn't paying attention to the radio.

But then I heard these words: the massacre of Muslim men and boys.

And then I burst into tears. I was walking to the kitchen, heard the words, started sobbing. The radio continued with the story, something about war crimes, I think, and what to do with whoever it was who ordered the massacre. Those are the details I'm talking about. Do I need to know this guy's name? I sure don't know the names of the murdered men and boys.

I know the name of one of the unmurdered Muslim boys: Fahrudin. I used to work with him. He's a sweet-natured Bosnian who's got great language skills. I'm always so amazed when an immigrant can make a joke about words in his step-mother language, like a pun or a double entendre. I went with Fahrudin to the doctor's office after a horrible dental experience that left a six-inch scar on his neck. He wasn't sure enough of his English to do this alone. I actually had to read "penis" to my friend, from the doctor's intake form.

Everything I know about Islam (which is a lot more than a lot of people, and a lot less than a lot of people), I know from Fahrudin. He's now a father of a son, by the way, and while his own parents long to return to Bosnia, he and his wife do not. They like America, although they're extremely unAmerican in the sense that they don't use credit cards.

I don't know what all that crying was about. I kept thinking that it doesn't matter what they do to the man who ordered the slaughter. They can kill him, forgive him, whatever. What matters is that it should never happen again, ever, to anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances. Look at this. There are people trying valiantly to save the humphead wrasse as others are trying just as tirelessly to rid the world of Tutsi.

Jesus. Well, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, and Diosa.

I thought this, too ... Hmm ... they "massacred Muslim men and boys." And what did they do to the women and girls? Ah, rape. Of course. Silly me.

All my life, I have heard "men" and asked "what about women?" That seems to have come with the texture of my hair. I remember singing When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again and wondering what my part could possibly be. The men will cheer, you see, and the boys will shout. The ladies? they will all turn out! But what about the girls? What will the girls do? I won't buy that the girls are tucked in with the ladies, because the boys are not tucked in with the men. They are separate, with separate duties. I will, however, grant that the use of "men" and "ladies" does not employ the literary device of parallelism. It should be men and women, or gentlemen and ladies. The song mixes them, as, of course, our culture (!) does.

I took a Women in Literature class one time, in the mid-seventies, and one assignment was to pick a quote from a list, and talk about it. I chose Dorothy Parker's ditty, Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses because I myself wear glasses and because it points out the oneup stance of men. If men are making passes, they should be doing so at women, not girls. Jeeze. I delivered my oral assignment and the female teacher's response was, in a condescending tone, "Well, you'll think differently when you're older."

She was wrong, of course. I am not amused when I'm referred to as a girl. Nope. It doesn't make me feel younger. It makes me feel less-than -- or at least that you think I'm less-than. I don't mind someone calling me girl like it's my name. Hey, girl! How are you? That's kind of fun and homey (if not homie).

The waiter at the Pasadena Steak House referring to me as "the young lady" is offensive, too. On which planet is fifty-eight considered young? That my dining companion, an elegant woman of eighty-one, was also called "the young lady" only makes it worse. I understand that the waiter, a middle-aged man with a radio voice, thinks he's being charming or flattering. I would like the understanding to change hands. Let him understand that it's an insult. I don't like the assumption that young is preferred and that lady is preferred. I am certainly not young (nor wish to be) nor, most times, a lady.

"But you're not old!" some would say. Get this: there's a place other than young and old. There's grey, as in matter and hair and area.

In the melodious waiter's defense (sigh), I must add that he called the men "gentlemen," so at least he was literarily correct. He did not, however, call them young gentlemen. Wouldn't "young gentleman" seem to refer, cutely, to a boy, a child? Then surely "young lady" refers to a girl.

And now I must go read some more of Byron Katie's Loving What Is.

Oh. And do you get it that the title is the tag from some song from some era sung by some group?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

It's probably time to show Mark's car, huh? I confess I've had trouble with it. I don't think there is enough contrast between the colors and the car itself, but other people don't seem as bothered by that as I am. Still, before I even got the car, I asked Mark to withhold judgment for a week. I've found that things grow on me. Every time I look at the pictures, I like it more. When I return from Kentucky I'm going to put a background -- yes! after the fact! -- on the hood.

Kentucky. This is Sunday. I'm leaving Wednesday. I'm tempted to panic, but to get ready for the Kentucky Art Car Weekend 2008 (, I really only have to ... finish painting one mailbox and maybe paint another ... go through my note cards and remove the Christmas ones (of course I meant the holiday ones) ... decorate the Healing Hand on the roof of my car ... use polishing compound on the non-new paint ... clean the inside ...

People always cup their faces and peer into my car. It's a disappointment, of course, because there's nothing in there but traveling and show debris -- my cooler, my backpack, empty mailbox boxes. The people are not being rude, by the way. Many car artists do amazing things to the interiors of the cars. I have a small string of Tibetan prayer flags and a wind chime, but that's just about my car, not my art car.

I have to spend some time with Mister MapQuest and my pal Randy McNally. I have no natural sense of direction, so I expect to get lost. I only get lost once I'm there, though. Like I think I might be going to my cousin Nickie's house in Louisville. I'll probably get lost returning to my hotel from there, but I'll make it from Florida to Kentucky just fine.

I'm seeing Nicolazzo cousins on Sunday and a Huckabone aunt and uncle on Monday. Christa K will be worked in there, too, hopefully Monday night. She's a young successful playwright and I'm only withholding her last name because I'm not sure of the spelling and simply don't want to go look it up. I used to call her -- just in my own head -- Christa Kriminettley, which was a swear word my mother used, although I doubt it was spelled like that. Perhaps it was never spelled. Perhaps it was only invoked verbally. Maybe swear words lose their power when they're captured in the sticky web of spelling, the way a god gets demeaned with definitions. Hmm ...

I won't bother you with all the details (for a refreshing change), but there was a mixup in communications one time, and Christa came over to my house thinking it was the writers' group night. It wasn't, but Mike and Fernando (from Colombia) were here. We ended up reading her play, which I later saw performed in Sarasota with the man who later fired me after fifteen years of loyal service. Ahem.

Christa's friend played Mike's grown daughter. He and I were middle-aged lesbian lovers -- so you see that Mike had to really reach deep in order to pull off that part; or maybe not: a sexual attraction to women is totally within his repertoire -- and Fernando was our five-year-old grandson. Since we "adults" were seated in a line on the couch (not to say anything about sitting ducks) and Fernando was on the floor at our knees and we had only one copy of the script between us, and since Fernando's English, while far superior to my Spanish, is not exactly on the tip of his tongue, the timing suffered.

Christa, of course, directed, which mostly consisted of laughing at us.

So I think I'll see Christa and her partner on Monday. Maybe I'll spend the night with them. Maybe I'll let them know about that ... And then I'll head home, stopping in Cumberland to see the Clarks.

When I was thirteen, I had thirty penpals. Most of them were from the States, but I had one from England, Susan Rudd from Kent. We wrote for a couple of years. She called apple seeds "pips," which was so exotic. Those Brits!

Another was a boy in Sweden, which was okay until he decreed that he'd write in English and I'd write back in Swedish. What was he thinking? Didn't he know I was an American?

Another one was Ima Clark from Cumberland, Kentucky. I'd always wanted to go to Oregon and to see the bluegrass of Kentucky. Now, "always" at age thirteen was probably about eighteen months, but still, a dream is a dream. So when some girl joined our school from Kentucky and had a friend I could write to there, I was delighted.

"Some girl." I thought it was Judy Oatman but Ima said just yesterday that maybe it was Nancy or Judy Carlson. Huh.

In any case, when I was fourteen, my parents brought me to Buffalo, where I boarded a bus bound for Hazard. The smell of diesel even now, more than four decades later, can still fill me with a sense of adventure and freedom, even if its coming from a big black pickup truck with a rebel flag on the back and a No Fat Chicks In Bikinis bumper-sticker.

The harried luggage-man with Greyhound asked me if I were going to Cincinnati. Well, yes. Cincinnati, then Hazard. So my luggage stayed in Cincinnati for two weeks while I shared Ima's clothes.

Despite having been penpals for a year at that point, we had apparently not talked much about our families. I knew she had an older sister who'd gotten married and moved out. So when the Clarks picked me up in Hazard, I couldn't believe how packed the car was. There were three boys and two girls. The mother was home cooking, else there wouldn't have been room for us. We slept three to a bed.

The dad was the only one who talked the whole two hours from Hazard to Cumberland and I couldn't understand a word he said. I tried to envision two whole weeks without being able to talk to anyone. My god! Now, I'd certainly heard a Southern accent on The Andy Griffith Show, but it was nothing like this. There was nothing to do but smile and nod and look out the window. The other kids -- even my Ima! -- were silent as stones.

Those two hours, by the way, may well have only been ten miles as the ruler measures, but it was one mile up and then one mile down ...

We got home just as Mrs. Clark was putting the huge Sunday dinner-type lunch on the table. The father worked in the coal mines. He had this giant meat-and-potato meal every day when he woke up just before noon, and then went to the mines.

Something happened to all our tongues at that meal. Suddenly everyone was talking and laughing including me and I could understand everything. You can't imagine my relief. I spent the next two weeks laughing, it seemed. They had a cousin next door, a perfectly handsome boy of the perfect age, named Billy Joe. My god! My time with them is the sweetest memory of my entire girlhood. Yes. I'm always at my best when I'm away from home ...

I saw them when I was twenty-one and again when when I was forty-nine, nine years ago. I would have said it was four years ago. So I'll swing off I-75 on Tuesday and go see them. That'll be so fun!

I confess I'm scared of the driving. When I was there in '99, Gordy did all the driving and I did all the looking out the window. I have that phobia about heights. I really think it should be called a Fear of Falling, not Fear of Heights. Anyway, half the time, I couldn't even look out the window. I just knew the rented van was going to tip over and fall a million miles down that mountain! How's it going to be with me driving? Well, I suppose I'll keep my eyes on the road, huh? Yikes. I can feel my back getting all creepy just thinking about it. Gak.

And now ... some pictures of Mark's car.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Frenzy Forfended

Talk about harried! I've had Mark's car to paint since Wednesday night. Thursday was spent the way it always is with a new car -- pretending it isn't there. Okay. That's not accurate. But I do act like I'm ignoring it when, in fact, it's got my full attention. It's like being in love in, say, seventh grade. Well, and in the fourth decade, too, I'm afraid. You just ignore the object of your affection until s/he finally realizes that you're smitten. If s/he glances your way, you quick! turn your head. You glance at the sky. You whistle an aimless tune. The advantage of this being a car instead of a love object is that it actually can't glance my way. What a relief!

I walk around it, rubbing at spots, pulling at the Honda logo, bending down and snapping the bumper with my finger. I mutter things like, "Okay, but then where would the yin-yang go?" I spread my arms and swirl my hands like a conductor, helping myself to envision what I'm talking about. Then I hear silverware clinking from the neighbor's kitchen and realize that she can hear me murmuring and see me gesticulating, so I stop it for a while. It doesn't last long, though. If she thinks I'm a nut-bag, she won't be the first.

I have to turn my little kitchen into a little studio. The two feet of counter space have to be cleared off. I want the little rugs to be the non-skid type, so I switch them. I line up paper plates, jar lids, frozen-meal and Meow Mix containers -- anything that can be used as shallow reservoirs for paint servings that I'll stick the sponges in. I arrange stir-sticks from the paint store and plastic spoons. I crack open a new box of latex gloves. I grab the Gojo and then remember that this is the first time I'm going to use non-toxic paint. I put it back, not quite trusting that action. No Gojo? No paint thinner? No big fat mess that will never go away because 1-SHOT, the sign-maker's paint which causes cancer in California, is a thing of my past?


I get out the big rubber mallet, my pride and joy. I feel so competent owning that thing. I've got the big flat-nosed screw driver, too, for prying off the paint lids. These two tools look like twins, they're so bespattered, head to toe.

Another mismatched twin set is the canine contingent at Stefan and Lissa's house. I've painted two trucks and a golf cart for their new nursery, Banyan Scapes. They've got a short fat bulldog (because that's the only size they come in) who's brindle, and a matching GREAT DANE. They look so funny together!

My studio's ready. I've added the blue painter's tape and scissors, my pica stick (which I had engraved with my name at a jeweler's a hundred years ago), the white China marker. I'm set.

I only need to drive the car to the car wash, and then pull it up between the houses, up to my kitchen door. That will wait till Friday.

And Friday came. With it came a big dark funk that I honored by feeling fat, ugly, and stupid all day. Still, I went out in the morning to wash the car ... and couldn't release the parking brake. What? It's got a standard transmission, which I know how to drive (don't I?), but still, who uses the parking brake in flat Florida?

Well, I asked that question -- more as an indignant, rhetorical rant than a question -- of a handful of people, and they all said, "Well ... I do."


I let Friday slip by but that's okay because I have a whole week to paint the car and who can do good work when she's feeling horrible?

Actually, the answer, I'm pretty sure, is: I can. Yeah. I don't think I need to be in a good mood to do good work. I might have to be in a good mood to write, but not to paint. In fact, the first paint I ever put on a car was when I was angry and heart-broken and hopeless. And I remember years and years ago, I got on this huge rave about freaking men. All they do is TAKE, y'know? Not a single one gives. They all take! take! take! I was so mad! The only halfway artistic thing I'd ever done was papier-mache (my queendom for some accent marks!) piggy banks for my ten nieces and nephews way back in my married days, so I made a papier-mache, um, breast, using my actual, ah, chest for the model. I intended to have a whole series of them, each with something hanging off them, draining them -- men! babies! -- and then I couldn't think of anything else, and I've never had babies, but I should think they'd be kind of cool and not really a bother, at least not so young, so I gave it up.

I also envisioned a series of peniseseses. Do I have to mark this as an "adult" blog if I say "penis"? God. I hope not. The penes would be stand-alone units, like a hat-rack sort of. And the tips would have:
  • a screaming, raucous, wide-open baby bird mouth (because men are so greedy)

  • the muzzle of a rifle (because men use sex as a weapon)

  • the head of a squalling, pissed-off baby (because men are so demanding)

Actually, I remember having at least half a dozen of those ideas, but, as with the breast, the idea came to naught. I'm sure it's just as well. I can't guarantee it, but I suspect a wall full of angry penes would put a pall over a party.

Plus, that was in the Olden Days. Now, of course, I see men as kind and gentle and strong and sensitive and cooperative and understanding.

Not to mention: I digress ...

Saturday, I ran off to an all-day drumming session. It was taught by Buddy Helm. Just go to and see for yourself. It wasn't a plain old drumming circle. It was great and I'm glad I went. I got to eat at The Summer of Love, too, on South Pasadena just after the Palms of Pasadena Hospital. It's a nice enough sandwich joint, a place where lunch can be a ten-dollar bill instead of two of them, as is normal for dear old Gulfport ...

And my buddy Mike was able to release the brake, so I finally got started on Sunday. Whew! And by the way, don't tell Mark any of this, okay? Thanks.

All that muttering and hand-waving did me some good because I made more headway on Sunday than on any other first day of any other car.

And today's Monday. Suddenly, I was inundated with work for Liz's book. It sort of blindsided me. I was just making corrections, and there weren't that many, but still, I sat down here at eight in the morning and didn't get up again until six. I was starting to panic. I've got some really complicated things planned for Mark's car and I need all the time I can get. I'm just sick about those days I wasted. Okay: that day. Day One and Day Three were not wasted. But I hadn't counted on having to work on the book and I started to think nothing would get done.

How quickly I went from well, this is a surprise to this will never get done! auughhhhhhh!

And then Mittens, my beloved cat, sat outside and screamed for entrance. She came in and sat on my, um, studio -- a 20x40" folding table that I was using for the two hundred and eighty-eight times two pages I was dealing with. I moved her off the studio four times. There just wasn't room for her and the book. And I was getting insane about getting things done. But Mittens just made herself comfortable in the way of the cat, and there was nothing I could do but take pictures of her being so cute. She saved the day. I lightened up.

I made a huge mistake on the cover of the book, but Liz caught it and it took one minute to fix. I'm going to get to bed at a decent hour tonight. Tomorrow and Wednesday will be all for Mark's car. There will surely be last-minute touches on Thursday morning, and then I'll pick him up from the airport at three forty-five and he'll never know how frenzied I was for a couple hours today.

Liz's book is the ultimate pet sitter's guide named The Little Bastard Won't Bite ... and everything else your pet sitter needs to know. You'll want several copies of your own, one to keep and many to give. Many of Liz's friends have the honor of having their pets' pictures included in the book. I'm one of them. I swear that this photo of Mittens sitting on her own page was not staged. I didn't have time or inclination for it. It just happened. Again, that cat saved my day.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mea Culpa

From French to Latin in one short day!

It turns out that the bit about French's Mustard Company from yesterday was a "prank," according to Mister Snopes, so there's one more reason not to blog ... or is it "post" ... or "post a blog"? Man, it's bad enough that I have to monitor myself (and when have I ever watched my mouth?), but now I have to be accountable, too. Dang!

And I'm the one hitting REPLY ALL when I get one of those fear-mongering emails about yet another scam or another missing girl (boys seem to stay home) or another brand new spankin' thing for women, in particular, to be afraid of.

He's UNDER the car! He's in the BACKSEAT! He's behind the SUN VISOR!

I call those people emotion vandals and I think they're bad. So there.

When I get a sensational email like that, I Snopes it, find out it's a lie, and REPLY ALL. I'm such a missionary! That's kind of a two-birds/one-stone thing for me. I'm also hoping that whoever sent it will figure out that she should BCC (blind carbon copy) next time.

I was going to leave the BCC unexplained, but a smart, young (thirtysomething) businesswoman asked me how to do it the other day, so I'll assume nothing. Today, I confess, I was killing time, waiting for Liz's manuscript, and I looked in Craig's List under Personals. Boy. Mea is culpa today, huh? Anyway, I saw "NSA" too many times. I was pretty sure is wasn't No Sex Allowed, but that's as far as I could figure. I had to go to too many pages to learn that it means No Strings Attached.


So now I've learned that even a Snopes-intensive person like myself can be too hasty, too believing, too naive ... uh ... too high up on a soapbox ...

But isn't it nice to be able to respect French's Mustard again? Yay!

Well, heck, as long as I'm here -- and you can thank Steve in Minnesota for that -- look what I bought today. I bought five quarts of paint at Healthy Homes on 22nd Avenue North, across from Mazzaro's. It's green paint -- non-toxic paint -- for Mark's car, which I'll start painting on Thursday. I wish I could show you the paint chips. Hmm ... perhaps I can ... The flavors are Cozumel (turquoise), Electric Orange, Citrus Splash (yellow), and Grenadine (red). Well, and black, of course, which I want someone to name Whipped Licorice, please. Thank you. Black is what holds it all together. I took the chips from Behr, so I guess we should applaud them, too. I'm going to scan the colors. Since everyone's screen is different and blah blah, let's play it like this: If you like the colors, the scan was good. If you don't like the colors, something's wrong with your screen.

I know the men at Healthy Home were intrigued by the colors, not knowing that they were for a car. This particular car seems like a real challenge to me right now. I hope I'm up to it. Mark assures me I am, but he's not strolling in my flip-flops, is he?

Prepare to swoon.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Cressida for Peace

I'm plowing through a bunch of photographs because I've got to get things to John, who's building my website. I ran across this picture of my '87 Toyota Cressida, my first art car. How I loved it! I had forgotten all the changes it has gone through. Someone mashed the trunk and the rear passenger side, so I had to re-do some things.

Look at my Peace Sign Flag. I had completely forgotten about that. I was just so pissed that, because of DevilBoy mentioned in an earlier post today, our country's flag came to mean The War-Monger's Flag, The I-Don't-Listen-To-ANYBODY Flag.

That blob in the middle of the flag is the gas-cap door that somehow wasn't harmed. Do I know how to take a good photo or WHAT? I don't know how to crop the pix for this blog thang, either.

I needed to add this on today because, I swear, I am never talking about politics again. Ever again. For real. I mean it.

Uh ... la Jour de la Bastille

I'm not a particular francophile, but I was disturbed, as you'll recall, that my calendar has no listing for Bastille Day, which is today. Ole. Today, according to my Women of the African Ark calendar, brilliantly purchased by Mike at the Museum of Modern Art, is merely a bank holiday in Northern Ireland. Or is that just North Ireland?

My lovely datebook from the Sierra Club has nothing planned for today, either.

What's up with that? My mind -- ever ready to blame B's collection of demons and idiots (I can't bring myself to mention that lame-brained duck's name here) -- wonders if perhaps all mention of Bastille Day was stricken from all the calendars right about the time that French Fries became Freedom Fries. Do you remember that? Can you imagine such inanity coming from the government of one of the most powerful nations in the world? Well, of course, that power's been draining away -- sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly -- in part because of such things, although I don't suppose B and his thugs made the changing of the name of our favorite junk food an actual law. (God. Sometimes it really sucks to be a Libra.)

Still, how third grade! And not quite half the citizens of B's own country were praising the French for having zee bolls to just say non.

But wait! I can't be talking about politics! It makes me sick! Let's rush back to the French in general, shall we, before I cough up a hairball?

Dismayed by the absence of Bastille Day on my calendars, I did some extensive research on the topic. That is, I asked Liz. She has a datebook from American Express and it has Bastille Day noted. Whew. I feel a lot better, don't you?

Right after high school, I went to junior college in Rochester, NY, where I lived on the third floor of an orange house on Argyle Street with Margie French and Pat French. (That's where I lost my virginity, but I only bring this up because Janet might be reading.) I mention these young women separately because they weren't even related. And get this -- they both worked at the French Mustard Company. I merde you not!

I just googled French's Mustard because I'm pretty sure my roommates went to work on Mustard Street. I was young. I'd never imagined that companies would build their factories and then name streets after themselves. I had the idea that streets belonged to everyone, so I was impressed with that.

For my wedding, Margie and Pat gave me a gift set from French's, a wicker basket which included boxes of, oh, instant mashed potatoes and instant scalloped potatoes, but also tins of spices. I thought the whole thing was very elegant. I envisioned using the basket to go off on romantic picnics with my new husband, drinking French wine and eating French bread and, well, really, eating Velveeta because I couldn't imagine something as bizarre as, say, Camembert. I wasn't fantasizing about French wine because of French's Mustard, but because -- at least in those days -- French equalled romance. The end.

So I went to check on the address of the company, and look (or don't!) at what I found from 2003:

"We, at the French's Company, wish to put an end to statements that our product is manufactured in France. There is no relationship, nor has there ever been a relationship between our mustard and the country of France. Indeed, our mustard is manufactured in Rochester, NY. The only thing we have in common is that we are both yellow."

Let's see if we can ignore the terrible diction. "We are both yellow," indeed. It should have been "our mustard and the French are both yellow." And those commas around "at the French's Company" hardly need to be there, while one after the second "relationship" would be a comfort. But I digress ...

Again I say unto you: How third grade!

Well, I suppose that's something we can say for The Duck: He brought a childlike flavor to our nation.

I clipped a great article about la Tour Eiffel to give to a friend who's an aerospace engineer. It was something about all the lights on the Tower and the intricacy of the blah blah. I don't remember the content, except I knew an engineer of any sort would probably be interested in it. I told him about it but he didn't want to read it because -- you guessed it! -- that Tower is in France.

Oh, I click my tongue and moan out loud at the idiocy of some people! I can't believe such morons exist, let alone that some are my friends. What are they thinking? Well, they're not, of course. Their minds are so closed that --

And then I realize, of course, that I'm exactly like they are. It's only a different flavor. I am just as convinced of my side of the issues as they are. They shake their heads at my ignorance as often as I do mine at theirs.

My apologies to third-graders everywhere -- even in Texas, even in France.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Outdoor Showers

I've heard of outdoor showers before but I've never actually seen one. I assume that there are four walls but not a roof, that you can shower with the great outdoors above your head, with no one to see you but birds. You'd have the fragrance of all your blossoms right there, and all the outdoor sounds. I'll bet even traffic sounds pretty pleasurable from an outdoor shower.

Well, my friend ... uh, let's call her Sally ... has an outdoor shower and I got to see it today. It is absolutely glorious. And maybe this is how all outdoor showers are. I don't know. This is how many walls it has: ZERO. It has the same number of ceilings.

Yep. She just steps outside, strips off her clothes, and turns on the water. Can you imagine the freedom that provides?

I stood there and looked all around. The only way anyone could see her -- a neighbor out to mow his lawn, a missionary knocking on her door, someone on the street -- would be if they're in a helicopter. The hot-and-cold shower is attached to the house, with a completely private privacy fence on the other side. The other two sides are Sally's yard, but between the foliage and the setup, it's totally secure. She's as protected out there as if she were inside the house in the bathroom with sea horses on the shower curtain and a lock on the door.

I hate to have to talk about the differences between men and women, but, you know, we women never get to walk around with just a pair of shorts on, so this outdoor shower, this amazing permission to be totally naked OUTDOORS is just mind-wobbling.

I did it once a thousand years ago outside of Utica, NY. I was out in the country, walking near my trailer (yes; I know), and it just seemed like no one was around, so I took off all my clothes. I didn't actually do anything. I just stood there naked, feeling the air and sun and shadow on parts of me that never got to be outside. Then my boyfriend showed up and the rest is cliche. (My queendom for an accent mark!)

This isn't about exhibitionism, of course. I'd burst into flames if someone saw me. But it is about, well, freedom, I guess: freedom in the outdoors. Anyone can be naked inside. But outside? Whew!

I suppose the closest I ever get to it is when I'm swimming, which I haven't done in years. Water makes me feel naked even when I'm not.

But back to Sally's shower ... I'd almost be afraid of that kind of freedom. What if it felt so good that I'd never want to give it up? What if it got so that I wouldn't even put on a robe to go back into the house? What if I didn't wait till I got outside to skin off my clothes? What if I started accepting The Watchtower in the altogether? I suppose some conversions might take place.

Now here's a bit of synchronicity ... Mike and I were having a too-caloric, too-late giant wad of fat and sugar at IHOP a couple nights ago with our friends John and Janet, whose names don't have to be disguised because if they're doing anything untoward in their backyard, I don't know about it, not that Sally's behavior in her shower is anything but envy-making and goddess-given and completely rapturous. I casually mentioned that I'd love a job at home, a job I could do "in my jammies -- not that I wear pajamas."

Janet put up her stop hand and said, "Now, that's too much information!"

So now I'm wondering what she'd think of this outdoor shower blog ...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Toxicity Toxic City

I had to poison my cat today. Well, I'm presumably poisoning her fleas, of course, but I'm sure it poisons her, too. I put the poison on her on the first of the month. Some of you calendar-oriented folks out there might want to point out that today is the eleventh of the month, not the first. Yes. But then Mike might read this and become indignant because I scream at him for not poisoning his pets with regularity. It's really a challenge to maintain hypocrisy.

A couple days ago I received a big, big box that was holding a folding magazine rack. I'm going to use it to display the papier-mache Ashanti tribal symbols I make. They're wall-hangings and will fit nicely. I'm pretty thrilled with it, actually. It came swathed in bubble-wrap which I had to peel off it like a wet sock. I tossed it into a corner because goddess forbid I should take care of things as they come up.

And that's where Mittens is sitting. She's nested, poisoned, in a pile of plastic.
I dug out some little areas rugs recently that had been stored in a big plastic tub from RubberMaid. The smell was awful. I tossed the tub out on the porch where it's probably staving off everything from raccoons to iguanae to mosquitoes from its stench alone. That's when I decided that I'm going to slowly get rid of the nasty things that live here. If it's not good for the earth, how can it be good for me?

I used to drink bottled water, but then I became self-employed (ahem) and didn't want to pay for it. For a while, I drank tap water, blessing and thanking the water a la Dr. Emoto (look him up -- he's great!). I let some people talk me into believing that tap water's really bad, though, so I've started with the Brita pitcher-and-filter getup. The filter lasts for two months for the average family of four.

Think about that for a minute.

Okay. Now let's translate for the average family of one. You'd think that would mean that my filter will last for eight months. But wait. Maybe the average family isn't home all day long. Okay. Should we knock off half a day? More? Less? And what if the average family drinks eight cans of soda each every day and the water they drink is limited to what they accidentally swallow while brushing their teeth, which are rotting away from all that soda but would be restored if only they'd drink tap water, which contains fluoride?

You see my dilemma.

Going to Brita's website is no help. I don't have the patience to wait for the screen to settle down. It takes forever to download because, look! there are faint little bubbles everywhere! Aww. How clever! Yeah. By the time the site's ready to go, I'm ready to delete.

Well, I put the filtered water into my ice cube tray and I've discovered that, after a while, the cubes leave teeny white flakes of, what? Water? What's going on with those white floating things? They remind me of fish food. I've decided that when my cubes start leaving those flakes, it's time to begin the preliminary procrastination for changing the filter.

But how nice not to have dozens of plastic bottles to recycle! The more I don't buy bottled water, the happier I am about it. Whew! Talk about over-packaging!

In Ghana, I was riding a bus ... Don't you hate it when people who've traveled once in their whole lives have to say things like I just wanted to say, which is: In Ghana, I was riding the tro-tro when ...

Tro-tro. Please.

Not to mention, I'm missing a question mark up there. God.

But still, in Ghana, we never ever said "bus." The thing was a "tro-tro," the end, amen. And it was one of two words -- "fu-fu" being the other, as you know if you've been hanging on my every word, which you should be if you know what's good for you -- that I actually remember from Twi, one of the sixty languages spoken in that country.

I used to think that people were just being arrogant when they'd use foreign words when telling a story of their travel. I thought they wanted us to say, "But wait, O Mighty Traveler! O Thou Most Superior One, pray, I beg thee, explain thine use of tro-tro!" Now I think that the use of those words is for the traveler's sake. It reminds her of being there and how fine it was. It makes her tip her head, eyes unfocused, while she remembers and smiles. That one word, tro-tro, was enough to make Ghanaians start pointing or, more likely, take my arm and bring me to the tro-tro and strike a deal with the driver and pick out the best seat for me.
Just "tro-tro." Wow.

So, really, then, when I was riding the tro-tro, we drove by a woman on the dusty roadside drinking a bottle of motor oil. Yes. She was drinking out of one of those thick, black oil bottles with the nice long neck for easing pouring. I have no doubt it was water in the bottle, but still -- what a startling sight. They use everything in Third World countries.

That statement was brought to you by the wide experience of two (2) Third World countries, unless Colombia's one (1), too (2), then make it three (3), Panama being one (1)

I was in Montreal one (1) (sorry) time with a boyfriend. He knew someone who had a cousin who ran a boarding house or some precursor to the B&B. This was in 1974, I think. I wonder how many of you weren't even born then. Jeeze. This is middle-age talk.

Anyway, we stayed there for a night. The next day, we wandered the grounds, looking for the marina we'd been told about. We saw a little girl, maybe five years old. We also saw a broken dock that couldn't have been six feet long in its heyday. Goodness. What if this were the marina? By now, I was used to the idea that not everyone spoke English, so I said, drawing upon my days and days of high school French, "Bonjour."

"Bonjour," she replied shyly.

"Marina, um, ici?"


Wow. Look what I had done. It was very satisfying.

One thing I've really enjoyed about being around non-English-speakers is the great lengths to which we'll both go to get the message across. The whole body in involved in the question and answer. You end up looking like a couple of clumsy mimes, I suppose, but it's really fun. I tried to get water in Fuso, Ghana. A young man approached me when I got off the tro-tro (!). He simply offered his services, in case I needed anything. I did. Water.

His English was better than my Twi, but it still took a while to get water. I said "water" and we ended up at a little store -- like a flea market stall -- that had nothing like water. I then said, "Voltic," which was the brand name of the bottled water. Ah! He brought me to a battery place. I made the gesture of drinking! Oho! He took me to a bar. Happily, an empty Voltic bottle was there (believe me -- it wasn't in the recycling bin; no need for that). I pointed and smiled happily, and he brought me to a place that sold ... WATER. Yay!

I love that stuff.

So now my area rugs are on a shelf in the bedroom instead of in a big evil toxic yucky plastic box. I'm going to offer it to my neighbor, though, who's moving out of this duplex after nine years. Obviously, I don't like her much.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


I'll soon have to write a couple paragraphs about what I've been doing for the last forty years. Photos are requested, too, for an exhibit at the farmhouse where the fortieth class reunion of the class of 1968 at Letchworth Central Junior-Senior High School will take place.

I remember my mother's fortieth class reunion. We both were in awe that such a thing could be taking place. I never really thought of my mother as old -- even when she was -- but I also, when I was thirty-four, didn't think about her feeling younger than her years, or of having sex at age fifty-eight.

Not that I have sex, you understand, or even think of it.


Anyway, I've got some exotic pictures of me in Ghana from ten years ago. THEY certainly will go in the exhibit. There I am in native garb (in which I look stupid, as all white people do, in my never-humble opinion), surrounded by a sea of little kids. There's another one of me pounding fu-fu, or was I just watching someone pounding fu-fu?

What surprised me more than anything when I got back from those five weeks was that I hadn't ever attempted to hold a baby on my back the way the women do there, with the cloth, leaving themselves free to, well, pound fu-fu and gather paw-paws and pineapple. I never tried to carry anything on my head, either, but that doesn't surprise me. Next time, I'll at least try the baby thing.

I was with Habitat for Humanity for two weeks, and then on my own for three. We dozen white women traumatized an entire generation of Ghanaians in the village of Kushea. These kids on their mothers' or sisters' or grandmothers' backs would take one look at us and lose their minds. They'd stiffen and shake and shriek as if we'd dropped them in ice water ... or as if they're stuck their fingers in electrical outlets, had there been any.

The older kids, toddlers big enough to toddle, thought we were most interesting, but those babies are still having nightmares about us.

I have a picture of me grinning between two soldiers in Bogota, Colombia (again: my queendom for an accent mark!), German shepherds at attention.

Hmm ... I have wedding pictures, too, but no divorce pictures. Doesn't that seem strange? Really, now, divorce is at least a big a deal as a marriage, but we just duck off to a lawyer's office and get it done alone. My then-husband didn't even know he was divorced. He got a notice in the mail from the court that said his case had been heard, but that's it. He didn't know if the divorce had been granted -- like a wish, like a scholarship -- or denied.

I have pictures of me in my art car. How screamingly cool is that?

I don't have any pictures of me sobbing on the way home from work, night after night, crying so hard I thought I'd snap a rib, while my mother wandered the halls of Alzheimer's.

I don't have any pictures of my broken heart, either. I almost said broken hearts, but yeah, I guess I only have one. Seems like more, though.

There's no picture of that one boyfriend smacking his own head against the window of my [painted] car because being with me can make some people crazy. No pictures of me smashing my beautiful blue-and-white teacups on the floor, gouging the linoleum, because sobriety doesn't always bring sanity.

On the other hand, no pictures are needed of our tenth class reunion when my drunken boyfriend beat up his equally drunken girlfriend -- the Queen of the Prom, by the way -- right in front of the class of '68.

So I'll bring my way-cool photographs of Africa (Africa!) and South America and the cars and trucks I've painted. I'll write that I'm a member of the St. Petersburg Writers' Club, that I've actually edited a novel. People who got married and had children who now have children will look at the exhibit and think that their lives are boring. They'll think that putting their kids through college is no big whoop, that staying together for thirty-five years is a sign of boredom and fear, not maturity and love. They'll note that I included a picture of my cat but not of my non-kids. Oh. They'll imagine their lives without their kids and just frown, not quite able to do that. They'll have their noses pressed up the glass of my life, and they'll see me peering longingly into theirs.

But whoa! what if we're old enough now -- wise enough -- to realize that the grass really isn't any greener? At forty, I was occasionally sad that there wouldn't be children for me, but at nearly sixty, I just shrug. So what? That simply wasn't my path this time around. What if all of us at good ol' LCS think that way? What if we've already learned that different is just different -- not better or worse -- and that happiness really is wanting what you already have?

What're the odds of all that being true?

Monday, July 7, 2008


For you Friends of Bill out there [wink wink] feel free to congratulate me today. Thank you.

WOW, then WOW!

I used to paint my nails all the time. I preferred such a dark red that it was almost black. In fact, before I discovered Revlon's Vixon #63 (which, for all I know, doesn't even exist anymore), I'd put down two layers of black and one of red, and it was great.

I would also paint at least one fingernail an entirely different color, usually green or blue, usually the pinkie, but sometimes the ring finger. It made people crazy. They were certain it had to mean something. If they weren't my own nails, I'd agree: I prefer fraught. But it meant nothing. It was just to shake it up. On the super-rare occasion when I wear earrings, I don't: I wear earring, singular. Just because.

When it was time to take off the polish, I'd be so relieved, somehow, by the clear, fresh, unpainted nail again. It looked so pretty, all pale and nice and healthy-looking. But when I put on a fresh coat, I was thrilled with having the color again. "Again." As if it had been weeks instead of minutes.

Well, it's been a long time since I've painted my nails -- maybe since I've started painting other things -- but I had the same experience this morning. Benji and I went to the car wash.

Mike always wants to know what Sunny was doing, since they're his dogs, after all (or so he thinks). Usually I'll tell him that Sunny was crying at the door, pawing at the kick-plate, whining and trying to come out with us, scrabbling and clawing while I used my foot to shove her snout back into the house. The truth is that she's almost always sleeping. She turned sixteen in January. She deserves to be absolved from chores.

I wanted to see if the high-pressure hose at the car wash would knock the paint off those white plastic lawn chairs. It WILL! This is very exciting. This is the first time that I've had hope that something can be done with those chairs besides leaving them out and hoping someone will steal them.

There's a drawback. I spent two dollars on one chair and I didn't complete the task. I used some of my time to flush the chips of lime 1-SHOT down the drain. I don't want the Car Wash Cops to come get me for littering. Still, just knowing it's possible is a thrill.

The same thing happened with the chairs as used to happen with my nails, though. Oh! it was so good to see the paint and the ugliness from months outside get washed off that chair! The pine needles and lizard droppings and yellowed clear-coat were swept away. The clear, clean white came through again, looking all fresh and lovely! Ahh!

Ooh! and then I started thinking about how cool it would look with that blue on it!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Chairs and Tables

So look. See the blue and brown and orange and red chairs on my porch. Now imagine there to be three black ones and one blue and one red with no designs at all. There. Now you've got a better idea of my porch right now. Oh. Add five matching tables, please.

Yes. Of course I could have taken a picture of it but I think we all need to use our imaginations this morning, don't you?

I'm painting these chairs for Lee only because I love him. I've had it up to here with painting plastic chairs. No matter what Mister Krylon has to say about Fusion, no matter what Mister Rust-Oleum has to say about his plastic primer -- their pants are on fire. Period.

Okay, my friend Pam has had success with painting plastic chairs, but she doesn't stack them, and there's the rub. These poor painted chairs can't take even normal use, let alone abuse. I was at Gulfport's Tuesday Market in the rain. One of the chairs tipped over into a small plot of wet, loose mud, and even that scratched the paint. And they were clear-coated.

Lee, however, promises never to stack them. He says he tips them when not in use. I'm afraid that even tipping will hurt the poor delicate things.

Still, a painted chair is so nice compared to a plain old white one or a plain old green one, fading and mouldering into leprosy.

I've had a traumatic time with these chairs. I use 1-SHOT on my cars (despite the fact that it causes cancer in California), and I thought it would stick to anything. I only thought that because I was a total idiot about paint. Now I merely a semi-total idiot about paint. Anyway, I have eight -- count 'em! -- plastic chairs stacked up in my yard, waiting for further attention. These are the chairs that 1-SHOT didn't work on. I've spent way too much time trying to peel off the paint, but only some of it comes off. Perhaps I'll try power-washing them at the car wash. In the meantime, can you say White Trash?

Oh look! I also added a picture of a table I painted for an acquaintance. I painted four chairs for her, in four colors, and then, weeks later she wanted a table. I like it.

That's Benji in the background, practicing gnawing his foot off in case he ever gets snared by a bear trap. The table in on my studio -- a 20"x40" folding table. Ah! At last! the proper use of those inch marks!

I have to work on Liz's book today, too. It's going to be fine. For those out of the know, let me say that I'm typesetting the book for her, although I believe they're calling it "formatting" in these desktop-publishing days. Damn kids!

Anyway, I just have to process a bunch of photos for the book. We've given ourselves July 14 as the deadline, but we're allowed to cheat. Isn't that Bastille Day? Hmm ... my calendar says it's merely a Bank Holiday in Northern Ireland. Man! I'm glad I checked my calendar! I haven't even sent out the invitations yet!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fourth of July

Well, I went off this blog to go see if The Battle Hymn of the Republic has anything under the sun to do with patriotism, and I was certain I'd saved what I had written. Alas (or not), it was lost. Here's what you don't get to hear about:
  • the noise level of my neighborhood at ten at night on the Fourth
  • a profoundly hideous vocal concert in a southern city (I'm omitting the name of the "musical" body and its host city to protect the guilty)
  • an excerpt from a bit of writing about my mother and her favorite holiday: the Fourth of July

What you do get on this national holiday, then, is this:


Thursday, July 3, 2008


Today we'll see what I write about when I don't feel like writing.

I'm all out of whack because I didn't get to sleep until three in the morning and within ninety minutes of finally awakening, I had a massage with a new therapist.

How many of you out there have had a professional massage? Raise your hands. Don't be shy. I've arranged this blog in such a way that while I can see your hands waving enthusiastically above your heads or just sort waggling at the ends of your wrists (depending on your own personal experiences), the other readers cannot. Your anonymity is safe with me.

The most important thing to remember while receiving a massage is to keep your eyes shut. I learned this in childhood, as I'm sure you did, too: If I can't see you, you can't see me. If this weren't true, no one over the age of twenty-two would ever get a massage.

I've been naked and relaxed in the presence of at least twenty massage therapists -- female and male -- and only one has ever started me off on my back. It was awkward and I wish she hadn't done it. I need that half hour on my belly with my face in a cradle, relaxing and drifting, following the flute and wind chimes in the music as they evoke other lifetimes and sweeter days, completely forgetting that I'm roaring naked, all splayed out on a table in front of a total stranger.

When the therapist indicates that it's time to roll over onto my back, I'm so dreamy and slow, so otherworldly, that I wouldn't care if the entire tenor section of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir were watching.

But start me off on my back, when I'm fresh from the streets and the drive over and the introduction to the new therapist, and yikes! I'm not going to like it.

Today's therapist was the second, then, to start me off on my back. I objected to that, but only mildly. By the time there's nothing between me and the world but a thin cotton sheet, all my firmness and courage dissipates. The woman has seventeen years' experience giving massages, and she starts us all off on our backs, so there we are. I even gave her a truncated, verbal version of this blog entry, but she just chuckled.

Not only was I not relaxed enough to be ignorant of my surroundings -- which included, by the way, a healthy, fit, fully-clothed person, as opposed to my flabby, overweight, bumpy, hairy, splotchy, naked person -- but she started right off at my face, so her face was mere inches from mine. It was just too vulnerable a position. I was squinting, which is not the most relaxed position for the eye lid, but if I didn't squint, then maybe my eyes would fly open because of that same involuntary reflex that caused me to giggle during communion at church camp when I was eleven and the pastor thought it would be cool to evoke the first-ever communion by having only twelve of us in a small room with just candlelight. If I hadn't squinted this afternoon, then I might have actually made eye-contact with this massage therapist, and then I'd never get another massage in my whole life ever again I mean it.

So the massage, you see, is successful only when there's complete trust founded on mutual understanding -- and blindness on my part.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dogs and Stingrays

My youngest brother said, referring to plant poison, "I'm sure you'll write about it in your blog ..." and so the pressure's on!

But first ... have you thought about that Altoids tin with quarters in it? I haven't. I quit thinking about it as soon as I discovered that it was gone ...

Today I tried to help a little girl quit being afraid of dogs. Benji -- a fifteen-pound, black-and-white, cute-as-can-be mutt of some sort, with whom I am completely in love -- and I were walking around Gulfport. We didn't mean to. We meant to mail the landlady's lease to her in Atlanta, which we did, and then we meant to go into Small Adventures, a little bookstore, which we didn't. Instead, we walked up their wooden ramp but then bypassed the door. We went down the back steps and into the back alley of a bunch of businesses.

Benji, never a scavenger, was particularly interested in a big square black dumpster that announced (in a booming voice) that it was for discarded cooking oil only, and that it was private property. I was so busy gazing at it and wondering why, for instance, it would be square. I connect liquids with roundness -- like milk tanks in the barn and milk tankers on the road, like gasoline trucks, like grape juice, like cement trucks ... or am I going too far with the liquid thing? Yes. Surely I am.

But yes: liquid and round, not liquid and square.

Okay. You've got your square cardboard cartons for milk and some juice, but originally, the way god meant it, it came in round bottles.

I also wondered who picks this oil up. I've never in my life seen a square (?) tanker coming to get the discarded cooking oil. Perhaps Texaco comes for it, shouldering in on the cooking-oil cars.

Well, while I wondered all that, Benji was LICKING the weeds around the dumpster. I would have dragged him off by his collar, his feet flailing in the air, his trachea collapsing, his torso writhing as it twisted wildly to evade my grasp -- except that he came willingly, as he always does.

It turned out that we were stuck in the alley. All the buildings are connected. So we wandered around till we got out. We went out on a street and I heard the ominous sound of dog tags. It's only ominous because Benji, alas, doesn't get along with other dogs. I turned and looked. Two big, mottled dogs were standing at attention across the street, wondering what we were up to, wondering if there were a game to be played, a snack to be had, a sudden war, what? In the end, the dogs and I just looked at each other, wondering. Benji, on the other hand, was snoozling around in some weeds, paying attention to none of us.

The critters at home act like this, too. I'll look up from the keyboard and see that Benji's on his couch, looking at me like, "What? What're we gonna do now?" And Mittens will have her head up, too -- amazingly -- unfurled from the wooden table long enough to maintain a similar gaze aimed at me. Sunny's on the floor, looking up at me expectantly.

What do they want?

Benji and I rounded the corner, back on the civilized sidewalk now, and there was a young man with two young sisters or two young daughters or something. I can't judge ages. It seems like I used to be able to at least guess the decade, but even that dubious skill was lost when I turned forty.

I overheard the littler girl telling her father that she's afraid of dogs. Well, I can't tolerate that, so I told her Benji's nobody to be afraid of. I asked if she'd come pet him but she just stared at me. The older girl came willingly. Benji, on the other hand, was snoozling around in some other weeds, paying attention to none of us. When he could be convinced to join the fun, he showed up with teeny little plant pods on him. I picked them off while the bigger girl pet him and then the littler one decided not to be afraid of him, and she pet him, too.

I told her that she can no longer say she's afraid of dogs. I gave her permission (like it's mine to give) to say she's afraid of all dogs except one. "And if there's one, there's got to be two."

There's no logic to that, but no one was screaming for logic ...

I was always afraid of dogs when I was a kid. Well, and when I was a grownup, too. Even little dogs could kind of spook me. I don't really understand it. We had a dog once, Gramps. He was a beagle-mutt, I think, from Bliss (NY), I think. Still, I've always been at least wary of dogs.

I can't believe how important they are to me even now.

I was herded by a border collie one time. It was so strange. I was in Napoleon, Indiana, which harbors about two hundred souls. Sunny and Benji weren't in my life then. I don't know if it would have made a difference.

I was at my friend Beth's house and she was gone. I strolled out of town, which was four houses down. It was May and just gorgeous, especially to someone who hadn't seen a real spring in more than a decade. I saw lilacs again! Oh my! I saw my first-ever beaver in a creek. It was great. I was ambling down this country road, feeling fine, and up on the left came a farm house. When I got even with the house, a big ol' collie came out barking. It came right up to me. Its mouth was about the level of my hands as they hung down, a fact I was extremely tuned to. It stood in front of me and did not budge. I was scared and then, of course, I remembered the admonition about dogs: Don't let them know you're scared.


I tried to walk around the dog, but it followed me. It stuck to me like Benji's little green seeds. That collie just walked and nudged until it had me completely turned around and heading back to where I'd come from.

I wish I had a video of that. (See how modern I am!)

I'm off to a ballgame tonight to help Steven celebrate his birthday. I really like him, but I am not a sports fan. Mike'll buy me hot dogs and ice cream, though, and there will be laughing and screaming even though I don't even how how football's played. It's the Rays and the Red Sox.

And who names these teams? I remember cheers from high school -- Red and white! Fight! Fight! and (for Warsaw) Orange and black will fight 'em back! -- so, clearly, danger and warriorlike behavior are involved. I get it with the Rays. Seems like they were better as Devil Rays, but who am I? It's about stingrays and they are scary. Fine.

But Red Sox? They can't even spell it right. Maybe if it were Red Socks there'd be some hint of the violence we require in sports. Otherwise, what? I'm supposed to be afraid of underwear?

And how 'bout them Jazz? Now there's a scary name. Look out or we'll come in on the off-beat!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Remember when people used to call diabetes sugar diabetes? It was sometimes shortened, but shortened to sugar. Yes, children, as in, "Have you heard? She has sugar!" Now we say "diabetes." I wonder when they made the switch.

Of course, cancer was occasionally called The Big C, as if naming it would cause it. For all I know, it would; everything else does.

I have five green plastic lawn chairs to paint, but the chairs are not new. I took them to the car wash yesterday to _____. Yeah. You fill in the blank. Gee, what do you think she did at the car wash?

Anyway, it was actually kind of fun. It was about seven at night, and I was hot and sweaty because it's Florida. When I'd squeeze the trigger, turning the hose into a pressure hose, the chair would go flying across the bay (not Tampa Bay, you understand). I'd aim it right down into the hollow legs of the chairs, so I could remove generations of minute critters. Naturally, they'd all splat back at me, which I found refreshing, even though Florida tap water isn't very cool. I drove home picking bug elbows out of my hair.

I also drove home without that Altoids box filled with quarters. I'd put it on top of the coin box because I knew a single two-dollar session wouldn't cut it. So what do you think? Do you think the box of quarters was still there this morning? It's been raining every day, so I would think the car wash wouldn't be all that busy, and it's very gloomy this morning. What say ye?

It's Canada Day today, so, um, go, Cannucks! I don't believe I know any Canadians, although I've been there, if course. I grew up in the Buffalo Snow Belt, so there were always Canadian coins around. I went to the World's Fair in 1967. I don't remember the name. Expo '67? Maybe ...

I took a train from Buffalo to Montreal in about 1976 or so. I went to AA's fiftieth birthday there in '85, just before I moved down here.

Yuck. And now I see something I don't like about blogging: It's too public. I know. Let's all pause for a giant DUH. Still, I always think my life is an open book, but apparently it's not. I mean, there are things I'd like to say about the World's Fair, but what if my family's listening? and about the first trip to Montreal with Carl Ham, but what if you respect me ...?

Well, about the World's Fair, my whole family except Jim, the oldest, went. We borrowed all kinds of camping equipment because we couldn't afford a hotel, of course. The rest of them wanted to go to a separate island at the fair that held the amusement park. Amusement parks have never amused me, so I stayed where I was. I promised to stay right there at a park bench, and except for a moment -- or could it have been an hour? -- when it started to rain and we went up under some trees, I did stay there.

Did you notice the "we"? I was sixteen-almost-seventeen and these two French-speaking boys started speaking French to me. I'd had two years of it and the one -- Camille, who hated his name because it was a girl's name -- spoke fairly good English. The other was Pierre, who spoke no English. We had to limit our communication to gazing into each other's eyes, which we did most vigorously.

When the rain quit, we went back to the bench, but my family never showed back up. I assume they all hated me by then. The park actually closed and it got to be midnight. The boys stayed with me, but I wasn't willing to leave because I'd promised to stay.

Finally, a park official found us and brought us to a subway or something, where my family was. I couldn't believe how upset my mother was. She was actually rude to the boys, which was mind-boggling. I expected everyone to just be fine with everything. It never occurred to me that perhaps I'd ruined their whole day at the World's Fair.

For some reason, Mom did the driving. She never drove when Dad was around, but she did this time. And she made a wrong turn. We didn't get back to the campsite till three in the morning. But the tent and everything was gone. It turned out that a fire had started somehow, and everything had burned to a crisp. As I recall, only a transistor radio (remember those?) was alive. All that borrowed equipment -- the tent, the sleeping bags, the cooking gear -- was burned.

We slept sitting up straight in the car -- six of us! -- for about three hours, then we woke up and Dad drove us to Vermont for breakfast, and then down to Plattsburgh to drop my sister off for college.

If anybody yelled at me about that day, I must have blocked it out of my memory.


Well, gee, Happy Canada Day!