Friday, February 27, 2009

Tonight Only!

I'm sorry to lay this on you at the last minute like this, but you've got to go down to the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club from seven to eleven. The Indians will be there -- Gandhi, not Tonto -- serving up food and drink, trinkets and music. Entrance is free, although the goods are not. I don't know about parking.

Mike and I are going even though I have an early morning at Ybor City tomorrow. It's the annual Flan Fest -- chocolate flan, guava flan, mango flan. I don't want to jinx myself ... but after having sold twelve dollars worth of one-of-a-kind crafts in five weeks, what, really, would be considered a jinx? ... but I fear that all the money-totin' citizens will be on the other side of Centennial Park, while I'm over here looking longingly at the Flan Fest.

Well, I'll have John's book with me, and that'll help pass the time, even as it gives me pain. He gave it to me for reasons of his own. It's science-fiction, which I can live with. I'm afraid the author, Piers Anthony, is yet another of those who keeps my attention just long enough to piss me off. (If I'm lucky, Piers Anthony has gone to the Great Library in the Sky and won't be getting any notices from Mister Google that someone -- bien50, maybe -- has taken his name in vain.) It's just that it's so sexist. I mean, our hero, Stile, has sex with a robot and a unicorn, but really loves a human but look: he respects her so much -- but not the others -- that he won't have sex with her. What is that? "I respect you so much, I won't engage in the ultimate form of love-sharing with you."


So Stile is talking with his robot in this scene.

"I do love you somewhat," Stile said. "I know that now."
"But I'm a machine!"
"And I'm a concatenation of protoplasm." He spanked her pert bare bottom. "Now move, creature!"

Do you feel my sister?

Of course, I might actually be lying to you. It's one giant book with three novels in it and I'm almost finished with the second, so how bad can it be, right?

I have other things to say but I want to shoot this out to you so you won't be late for the Friday Night Shuffle tonight.

Let's take a moment to pause and welcome Don Dewsnap, my newest Follower. Well, actually, instead of pausing, I think I'll just freeze like Bambi in the lights of a Hummer because Don's a Master Proofreader. Instead of different colored belts, they give neckties, but still, it's going to be scary having him in the audience. It'll be better for you, though.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Power of Fiction

Well, I had my first peanut-butter-and-green-olive sandwich the other day. That's a direct result, as you'd know if you'd been paying attention (and you know who you are), of a fictitious creature, Stephanie Plum. The comingling of tastes and textures wasn't as good as I'd hoped it would be. Nonetheless, I had another one the next day because I didn't have any of my usual toppings handy. Jan, who cannot comment at this blog because of a hopefully temporary technology deficiency, told me that chopped green onions is also a fine peanut butter addition.

I have rooibos tea over there in my tea caddy, too, because of fiction. It's drunk by Mma Ramwotse in Alexander McCall Smith's Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency series. Because I love her, I needed to try her tea. I like it. I don't know that I shall ever love tea of any sort. Although (or because?) Mma Ramwotse lives in Botswana, she drinks hers hot. I prefer mine cold. It refreshes even better than water on a sweltering Florida afternoon.

Speaking of which, my coffee pot just gurgled its readiness. I'm drinking more than my share today because I just bought a new supply of freshly ground beans and the fragrance insists that have just another cup. Or two.

I started shaving again because of fiction, and I quit shaving again because of fiction.

I saw my first unshaven female arm pit in the summer of 1973. My roommate's sister showed up from Kansas all natural and healthy and hippiesque and hairy. I loved it. I thought it was the height of femininity, although I am well aware that my culture is staring at me bug-eyed with disbelief, as are perhaps some of my Followers.

I quit shaving my pits but I kept shaving my legs. I didn't much wear sleeveless tops anyhow and I didn't have the courage to let my leg hair grow.

So, pit hair 1973 St. Cloud, Minnesota ... yadda yadda yadda ... pit hair 1987 St. Petersburg, Florida. Please note that both cities are saintly cities. Coincidence?

I was in my bathtub, reading The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike, who only died this past January. There's a hippie witch in the story, a woman who doesn't shave. Updike said this was a "challenge to men."

Goodness! I have enough trouble with men! I don't want to make everything worse by having pit hair! So I shaved it. Yes I did.

Yeah. Let's not pause even for a moment to wonder who this Updike is or why I should believe him against my own self. Yeah. Let's not look back on our own history and see that most of my lovers liked it or ignored it. Only one disparaged it and his name really was Dick. (Still is, I'm sure.)

Two or three years later, I decide to revisit an Updike novel, one of the Rabbit ones, and behold! Rabbit is watching his wife get out of the shower. He's intrigued by the beauty, tenacity, and fragility of one lone drop of water sweetly clinging to -- what? Dear god! it's swinging from her pit hair like a gorilla in the jungle (if you want to believe Dick but, really, why would you?).

I spent some time being indignant with John Updike. I wanted to write a scathing letter to him, blasting him for his, his ... um, because he, uh ...

It took me way too long to figure out that John Updike wasn't the one to blame. As always, like the poor sot in Margaritaville, it was my own damned fault.

Well, that pit hair in the shower thing at least got me keeping the razor out of my arm pits again, but it was some time later before I gave up shaving altogether.

I was racing off to work. It was near the end of 1993, so I had long pants on, but I was wearing sandals. I was just about out my door when I stopped dead. Had I shaved today? Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Such a panic. My god, if I hadn't shaved my legs in a MONTH, you'd still only have maybe an inch of ankle to figure it out. I was totally disgusted with my concern. Who's got time for such pettiness? (Well, I do, of course, but my pettiness shows up in other venues.)

So I swore off shaving and I've been committed to it since that day.

I dated a man from Dominica for a bit. He said making love to hairless American women was like making love to girls. He shuddered. It made him feel like a pedophile. Bodily hair, after all, is part of the whole secondary sexual characteristics package.

And guess where pheromones live.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hat's On!

I know you've all been going to The Hunger Site every day not only to be good clicktivists but also to read the quotes from black-African-Afro-Americans. I'm sorry to report that they started recycling the quotes a couple days ago. Jeeze. What's wrong with them? There are plenty of great sources for quotes from black people. If nothing else, there's Real Life. After all, quotes don't have to come from printed sources.

Take Joan. I used to sit on the other side of the grey cubicle from her. She was a proofreader, I a composer. We'd chat all day long, even as we worked. Hm. I wonder if that's why I got fired? Anyway, one of her favorite quotes, which I share with you now, is:

I feel ya', sistah.

To which I'd always reply, "You feel my sister? Why would you do that? She's not even here!"

Who is here, though, is Joan's mother, who died many years ago. I never met her, but I saw her photo on Joan's dresser and had to have a copy of it. First of all, she's simply beautiful. Second of all, look at her hat and lacy dress! They're gorgeous! Third of all, her daughter looks like her, and I always love it when families display their shared DNA.

I envied my Catholic cousins who got to wear hats every Sunday (at least until 1962). I myself even own a few hats and they look really good on me. Yes. I have a good hat head. But I don't like the feel of them. Some of them even change my hearing because of the rims. Er, brims. And hats are hot. I'm talking temperature here, not style or sex appeal.

At Ybor City, I'm able to see women trying on knit hats. That vendor's usually next to me. Within sight is another vendor who sells factory-made hats for women and men. I love watching people try on hats. I have no discretion about it, though: I think everyone looks fabulous in every hat s/he tries on. Everyone. Every hat.

At the Buddy Helm ( drum sessions at The Longhouse (, he wears an African hat, like the lid to a round box. He also always wears a loose African shirt and I, too, usually wear something African. Well, the last time, Jeff ( ran out to his car and came back wearing a rakishly drooping beret of some sort. Next time, I, too, shall wear a hat, although I'm limited. I gave most of my collection away in a ruthless fit of trying to declutter my apartment. Still, I have an Annie Hall hat, which simply does not fit drumming, and a straw hat, which ditto, even though the straw actually came from Africa.

Drat. I'll have to go hat-hunting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's the LAW!

At the Ybor City Saturday Market last week, I saw another vendor waving over two on-the-hoof policemen. A young man with a placard was preaching hellfire and damnation. Or was it brimstone and damnation? In any case, it was from the Book of Revelations. His sign had magazine pictures of volcanoes and other natural -- or are they? -- disasters. I guess he was trying to illustrate The End of the World. And he was preaching.

The vendor told the cops that the kid was "impeding sales." Hm. How then shall I explain the last three weeks of no sales?

The cops said that the preacher was actually exercising his freedom of speech in a public place, just as the vendor was. There was nothing to be done.

A couple of vendors were really snarly about it. I wonder if "freedom of speech" just sounds like some damned liberal rhetoric or something. Or is it more like: I believe in freedom of speech as long as I like what you're saying so freely?

I know this: When it's raining and I'm driving in a parking lot, say, and visibility is low, I think that I, in an automobile, should have the right of way before a pedestrian because I can't make quick stops in this slippery rain, can I? When, on the other hand, I'm in that same parking lot, but I'm walking back to my car, I think pedestrians should have the right of way because they're getting wet, after all, and it's only right that cars let them go first.

There was a whole lot of freedom of speech going on at the Market. To my right, across the narrow street, was the museum store. It was blasting out some really white bread music whose lyrics included "this Spanish song." It didn't sound Spanish at all. It was too smooth, too much the crooner. But the singer was, in fact, a Tampa man with Spanish heritage. Still, it sounded like Ron Howard singing La Cucaracha with Aint Bea on the congos.

In front of me was more recorded music, a variety of stuff to suit the variety of children who were up on a stage doing things. It was hard to tell (but not to hear) from my location, but it seemed to range from martial arts to modern dance. When I broke out of my canopy to buy an gyro, I saw a glittering clump of hooker-looking females on stage. They turned out to be young teenagers, but they sure didn't look it. It's such good news that I've never been a mother!

Now, the night before, in my own very neighborhood, there was another issue of freedom of speech. If I'm House #1 (and I assure you I am), then House #3 is a real annoyance. I love it that the biker-looking guy who lives there burns wood outside. Such a lovely fragrance! However, I don't like his drunken Friday and Saturday nights. He and the people on the other side in his duplex crank up the radio or stereo and blast till late at night.

One night, it woke me up around eleven-thirty, and I put on a caftan and wandered over there. I seriously don't know what I thought I'd do. Maybe I thought my disheveled appearance would send them screaming into their homes. Maybe I thought I looked waifish and they'd pity me and turn down the noise. Whatever I thought, I walked up there and saw that they weren't making the noise. It was House #4. I instantly made up the surely reasonable story that House #4 is really pissed about the noise and that The Noise Wars have started.

I knocked on their door. I rang on their bell. More than once. But their music was just too loud. I walked back home through the alley. I saw the biker who'd come out to quiet his two dogs, so I muttered, as if to myself but really to him, about the time and about sleep and about bad neighbors.

Well, last Friday, it was just too much. Again. This time, I called the cops. No. I didn't dial 9-1-1. I called the non-emergency number. A woman answered. I asked if it were against the law to be noisy at this time of night (nearly midnight). She said no, but she said it might be against an ordinance. Ah! a loophole! Within six minutes -- no kidding -- the loud music stopped. And it didn't happen again on Saturday, although that's also a regularly scheduled let's-get-drunk night.

My only concern is that, well, what if I called the cops on the fed-up people at #4 instead of the biker man at #3? I'm afraid they'll hate me and slash my tires or throw paint at my car (heh heh) ... but then I remembered that I issued my complain anonymously. I mean, the cops probably kept a record of the phone number I called from, but they didn't ask for my name. Hmm.

And here's the last thing about the law and then I'll shut up.

I haven't had health insurance for over a year now but I want my teeth cleaned, so I called my dentist for an appointment. Lisa at the front desk said I can't have it done without an exam first, since the last exam was more than thirteen months ago. I said I can't afford an exam and the cleaning, plus: I don't want one. I just want the cleaning.

She said it's a law. I must have the exam, too. I said no way was dental health legislated, for pete's sake. She quoted something from the American Dental Association -- yes, that same hallowed organization that recommends every toothpaste on the market. I shared with her that I didn't think the ADA was exactly a law-making body. She insisted that I must have the exam. So we hung up.

I was steamed but I didn't know what to do. About half an hour later, the dentist himself called. He read off a Florida statute that said, indeed, a dental exam is required if more than thirteen months has passed. Sweet Jesus! (I'm pretty sure if you say that with a Spanish accent, it's not actually Taking The Lord's Name In Vain.) You wouldn't think the State of Florida would be so very concerned about my mouth health, would you? Well, I scheduled a cleaning sans exam, but I shall have to sign a waiver.

I can't help it. I just despise lawyers and legislators. And insurance people. And loud neighbors.

Meanwhile, back at the Market ...

A man came by with a big carton of books which he was handing out. I hate to waste paper, and I usually refuse the things people want to thrust into my hands at shows and events anyhow, so I did not easily accept this book. It was The Way of Happiness by L. Ron Hubbard. Each was individually wrapped in thin plastic, like Saran Wrap. I scratched off the wrap and looked at the book. There were pencil drawings throughout and lots of leading (the space between lines). It was clearly a book set up to look bigger than it really is, like a dog whose hackles are up.

Other vendors were muttering about how awful Scientology is. I agree that it's kind of creepy to be on that Clearwater street with so many quiet, slow people in suits. And if The Media call something a cult, I tend to shiver, too, whether from fear or anticipation, I'm not sure. That's just one of many, many reasons I avoid The Media. I don't like it that John Travolta is a Scientologist, even as I haven't a clue what Scientology is.

I was arguing about it with the vendor next to me. I told her I'd really rather not hate something until I know what it is, ya' know? She pointed out that there were mysterious deaths connected to Scientology. Yes. I sort of remember that from the days when I read newspapers.

She also said she was raised Catholic, so she knows what the real beliefs should be, even though, she was quick to add, she's a lapsed Catholic. Yeah. I'm sure the Catholic Church has no mysterious deaths on its hands. No abuses of any sort.

Well, I skimmed the book, it being a long, boring day. I hoped to find out what, exactly, is so spooky about Scientology. I didn't find out. The Way to Happiness said to take baths often and to eat right, to avoid drugs altogether and take alcohol sparingly. The only thing it said that seemed against my own current thought is that we should try to influence people to our own way of thinking -- as long as our own way is The Way to Happiness, I would guess. I'm not sure there's a benefit to trying to influence people.

Hours later, I saw some man not only do a double-take, but walk back to my booth. Be still, my banging heart! Is a sale looming? No. The guy saw The Way to Happiness propped up against the tree where I'd put it. He'd thought it was L. Ron Hubbard. Yep. I moved it a block away to the newspaper box. My own heart couldn't have withstood more excitement like that ...

Completely off the subject, how about this picture of my beloved Mittens, huh? She got involved with a paper bag full of newspaper strips I use for papier-mache. The bag has those loop handles. I thought the bag was going to win for a while, but Mittens prevailed.

It's unfortunate that Mister Google once again refuses to publish my photo as I gave it to him. Move your monitor ninety degrees clockwise and you'll be looking at this picture the way god meant you to look at it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jason!

This is the first picture I have of my nephew Jason. He's snuggled down there in the womb of my sister, on the floor in front of the sofa. My boyfriend took this photo of my family in 1975, as verified by the facial hair on the men. (Facial hair on the women didn't appear until just a few years ago.)

That Carl was a trained photographer is no surprise when you consider that the flash went off in the mirror -- thereby hiding himself -- and there are no eye-hiding glares on the seven pairs of glasses in my family. There would have been more spectacles, but the progressive ones amongst us were wearing contact lenses, something I still can't do.

There are two parents here, three sons, two daughters, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and an exchange student. I leave it to you to sort us out.

Before Beth had Jason, I had a dream that she had given birth to a daughter. I give a lot of power to dreams, whether they deserve it or not, whether they want it or not. I was absolutely convinced that Beth's child would be a girl, so I was really surprised when Jason turned out to be a boy. I was so confused that for a minute or two, I truly thought I was an uncle.

I have a friend whose young daughter burst into tears when she found out she could not grow a beard like Daddy's when she grew up.

Life is difficult.

Friday, February 13, 2009

It's a Miracle!

This isn't exactly the face of The Virgin Mother on an office window on Drew Street in Clearwater, but it is an authentic Lay's Classic Potato Chip in the shape of a heart the day before Valentine's Day.

I think the Gods of Coincidence and Miracle are messing with me because I'm talking about Valentine's Day a day early. They're the ones Who have caused this photo to come in sideways when, in fact, the photo is rightside-to on my computer.
I even went to Edit Html (but shouldn't that last indecipherable bit be all caps?) and transposed WIDTH and HEIGHT to no avail.


Well, let's not let it spoil our early Valentine's Day. I'll be heading for Ybor City at seven a.m. tomorrow, returning to this side of Tampa Bay about eleven hours later. Have mercy! From there, I'll join John, Janet, Canyon, and Mike for some overeating of pizza, wings, coconut cream pie, and chocolate cream pie. Did I mention it's American Heart Month? That was designated back in 1963. Since they didn't name it American Healthy Heart Month, I'd say we're safe with that menu.
But now I'm off to make some drum music.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Black History Month

This link has a new face and a new quote each day throughout this month of Black History. I'm finding it really interesting, especially since I've heard of so few of these people. I'm also interested in how many of them clearly are not completely filled with African blood. I don't know why that surprises me. It shouldn't, but it does.

I remember meeting a black man in a Laundromat. He asked me out to lunch "if you don't mind a half-breed." Turns out he's half Italian. Well, me too. So why am I white and he's black? I mean, yes, his other half is African and mine is god-knows-what, but why isn't there something to describe our shared blood?

But then I had a black co-worker who didn't consider Italians to be white. He didn't call them black either. Hmm. I don't know what he thought of us.

Somewhere in my teens, I started being ashamed that I was a WASP (white anglo-saxon protestant), and was relieved when I finally figured out that Italians don't fit that profile. My mother's side does but when you've got even One Drop of Italian, it's like all your drops are Italian, no matter what you look like, no matter how lacking in ethnic excitement your upbringing. This is why I can actually believe I'm not a WASP when, in fact, at least half of me is. Hmm ...

My former mechanic's last name is Chan. Since he looks like a plain ol' white guy, I asked about that. Well, many many generations ago, a Chinaman moved to Trinidad and married there. A bit later, one of the descendants moved to the U.S. More generations later, here's Mister Chan, with no sign at all of that One Drop that at least was demanded to make a person black if not Chinese ... or mechanically inclined.

One of the worst things about having changed my name at marriage was that people said to me, "You don't look Swedish." My mom got rejected from a jury because of her last name. Oh wait. Because of her husband's last name, Nicolazzo. If she'd retained her maiden name, Huckabone, which is, um, IrishSwedishGermanMutt, she'd have served on the jury.

I recently saw a giant pickup truck with a grey-headed couple in it (meaning: my age). The front license plate -- the fake one here in Florida where we only require the back plate -- said WASP 1. In the back was a bumper sticker: America -- Love It or Leave It. Talk about a blast from the past. I suppose that was in response to the tee shirts and bumpers stickers you can see now that show the peace sign and say, "Back by popular demand!" I guess rigidity -- something WASPs are famous for -- would oppose America -- Love It or Change It.


Anyway, go check out that site. While you're there, click on the button and give food to people. Go all the way to the top and click on other tabs to click on other buttons to inspire the sponsors to give books, cat food, mammograms, Green Stamps, whatever ... You, too, can become a clicktivist and Change It.

Here's something I love about Black History Month: At least it pins down the word "black." I don't have to fuss with African-American or Afro-American. I can just say black and be done with it. For one month, I can be politically correct. That why I love the Bureau of Indian Affairs, too. This is a sign of middle-age, of course, but I don't care. I'm right on schedule.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Immediate, Intimate Foot-in-Mouthery

I don't remember the first time I wanted to write to an author, so it must have been pretty early on. I know Linda Seth and I formed the George Maharis Fan Club and saved our pennies until we got enough money for a stamp to send him a fan letter, but I confess that I don't remember actually sending him anything.

Writing to a writer is terrifying. Anything you say will surely be judged, and you will lose because they, after all, are the real writers. Better to leave that fan letter unwritten.

On the other hand, so many books have given me so much pleasure that it began to seem downright rude that I never told the authors about it. But then there was the matter of finding their addresses. Writing to someone in care of a publisher seemed too impersonal. But what else was there?

Then there was the problem of salutation. I could never think about writing to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., without addressing him that way. No "Mr. Vonnegut" for me. I couldn't even leave off the junior. However, by the time I finally wrote to him, he himself had dropped the junior, so that problem was solved.

In fact, a wrote a small flurry of fan letters many years ago. I praised their writing and then asked for even more: I wanted their photographs, too. Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut totally ignored me, but Anne Tyler, Alice Hoffman, Sarah Bird, and Dave Barry all wrote back. Only the first and last on that list produced photos, but it was still thrilling to get their cards in the mail.

It all started with Alice Walker in 1984. I'd written a raving eleven-page handwritten letter to her after having read The Color Purple. She responded with a handwritten card that had her picture on the front. How I cherish that!

But then the computer came on the scene -- even my scene. I have now downloaded and printed not one but two pictures of Stephen King -- the way I remember him when I first started reading him, and the current guy. I asked Alexander McCall Smith's photographer for the opportunity to buy a photo, but he sent me two, absolutely free. Graham Clark sent them from Scotland, at his own expense. How exciting and generous!

I ee'd Ron McLarty to praise him for The Memory of Running. I asked for a photo and he sent one. Yay!

Christopher Moore sent me a file I could print. Okay. Fine. That's what inspired me to just go to writers' sites and pluck the photos from there. That was before I realized how much ink it takes to print a full-color photo. But that was before I discovered that The UPS Store will print 'em for thirty-five cents.

My point (perhaps) is that I've long had relationships with writers ... first just in my head, but then on paper, and finally via email. Even email has a certain distance, though.

But then I praised Diane Hammond's Hannah's Dream right here in this blog and she responded with a comment! That was really exciting. A handful of friends were just as giddy as I. It's really a thrill to hear from a Real Writer.

But look what happened last night -- and here's that toes-on-tongue moment you've all been waiting for. Remember my trashing Jessica Barksdale Inclan's book, The Matter of Grace, yesterday? Well, so does she!

Yes! Mister Google, ever a busybody, informed Jessica ... er ... Ms. Inclan of my sin, and she came and read my blog and left a comment and now I'm all embarrassed and appalled and wondering what to do. What if I put Olga's picture at my home page here instead of my own? What if I change my name? Maybe I'll move to Ocala.

The thing is, even with Diane Hammond's comment, I still think I'm basically just nattering away and that all both of my Devoted Readers check in now and again, chuckle or frown, and move on. I never think about how far-reaching my yammerings might be. It's like I was gossiping with some friends and happened to mention, with no real malice intended, that Jessica's knee socks are baggy, and then I look up, grinning from my evil comment, and see Jessica standing close enough to hear.

Instead of reaching out and slapping me, though, instead of snarling, "Oh yeah? Well, your mom wears ankle socks!", Jessica just looks down at her socks and kind of likes the way they're relaxed and happy on her shapely legs.

I told Liz I'd have to monitor what I say from now on. "Oh, really?" she said, her voice deep with disbelief and disagreement.

Olga says, "You'll have to decide if you're going to be true to yourself or not."

Hm. Well.

The thing is, I'm built true to myself. One shrink said I have no filters. (He didn't offer to install any, by the way.) I suppose I'll just keep on doing what I do. I am Out There, aren't I? I like to think it started with driving an art car. About eight years ago, my artist friend Betsy Lester watched me drive up to some event at The Arts Center in my freshly painted car. "Boy, you're really Out There, aren't you?" she exclaimed. I was puzzled. I thought all artists were Out There. But it turns out they're not. Not necessarily. Betsy, for instance, is Out There ... in a gallery, not on the open road.

Now I think I was Out There in my mind long before I ever painted a car. And I guess I'll remain Out There because I don't know how to be anywhere else. And Jessica's response was so funny and sweet and forgiving and humble (she knows her size) that -- so far, anyhow -- it doesn't hurt to be Out There.

So There I am.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Excitement in the Neighborhood

I returned home yesterday from picking Melanie up at the airport and behold! My street was blocked for a block by this crane-and-half-a-house scenario. Other neighbors who were free at noontime were cluttered about, speculating. I talked to an employee with Bubba on his shirt. He said when they're busy, they deliver two or three modular houses per day. Goodness.

And this one -- two bedrooms and a bath -- cost $200,000. Their high-end house is $350,000. I trust that covers shipping and handling.

See the house on the lower left? The owner was chatting with us, but when the new house became airborne, he ran back home to "make sure everything goes right." Isn't that funny? Talk about not recognizing the limits of your control! My buddy Sonny ( pointed out that usually when something big and heavy is going over your head, held in the air by cables, you want to get out from under it. Well, maybe this man's house was more like his ship than his castle, and he was prepared to go down with it.

It'll take about a week to "button up" this house, and then the people can move in.

My friends in Kentucky had had their houses moved so the railroad could go through. They didn't have to do a thing except get out of the way. Yes. I mean they didn't have to take pictures off the walls or pack up the crystal. The houses were scooped off their foundations and placed onto the new ones. Not a single thing was broken. Amazing.

In literary news, I finished Lean Mean Thirteen last night, another Stephanie Plum story by Janet Evanovich. She's always entertaining. In this case, she was also inspirational. Twice in the book, Stephanie makes a peanut butter-and-olive sandwich. I will probably never eat jelly or jam again in my life, but I'm a major peanut butter fan. I like mine with dried fruit -- usually cranberries -- or a banana, with cinnamon and ginger. If my refrigerator is fully stocked -- and you surely know the odds of that by now -- I'll put a big wad of spinach or alfalfa sprouts or other greens on top.

But olives, huh? I wondered what kind: green or black? Hmm. Well, Ranger -- the super-hot mysterious Cuban security expert -- was around for the second sandwich, and while gazing at Stephanie in a narrow-eyed fashion, he plucked an olive from the jar.

Green it is! That's on my shopping list.

I've been reading, skimming, talking to, and cursing The Matter of Grace for nearly a week now. I'll mention the author's name but please don't take it as a recommendation: Jessica Barksdale Inclan (my empire for an accent mark ... for the a in her last name). The book is confusing. Three or four (see?) friends are focused on Grace because her cancer has come back but maybe it's really anorexia but if so where's she going every night if not to chemo and if she loves her young daughter so much why does she spend so little time with her -- not to mention Stella's infidelity (or is that Blanche?) and Felicity's ... well, whatever it is that Felicity has? Like that. Grace, by the way, is a lesbian.

While I'm delighted that lesbians are showing up in literature just like they show up in Real Life, I fear for the time when gay men start showing up like that. I'm afraid with the double dose of testosterone, there won't be time for story, drama, character development ... But maybe it'll be a new genre: friction fiction. Or am I overstepping? Or does it already exist? Or should I just shut up?

Anyway, if I ever do finish Grace, it will be with a lack of grace, but you'll hear about it here ... whether you want to or not.

Did you notice that I offered my empire for an accent, when I usually offer my queendom? Well, in our new writers' group, I referred to myself -- in print -- as the "self-appointed Empress ... er ... secretary," but the writers preferred the former, so I'm the Empress of the group. Yay! But I wonder: If my Empresshood was agreed upon by popular vote, by democracy, does it still count?

A man at my TM group said my car reminded him of Keith Haring. The man was amazed that I'd never heard of Keith Haring. I am never amazed to find out something I don't know. Good heavens. Even when I'm ninety, there will be more that I don't know than what I do know. But I discovered through an internet search that Haring used black paint on a red car. I guess that's why the TM guy thought Haring and I should be intimates. I guess I couldn't have come up with that idea myself ...

I am really being small-minded today and so I'm going to a meeting. If that doesn't turn me around, I'll try that olive thing, although it's possible that a mysterious Cuban would do the trick.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Happy Birthday, Bobby!

Okay. Surely no one called him Bobby. But today is Bob Marley's birthday. Please do yourself a favor and go to his site (try to guess its address!) and click on the video that PFC has made. Another window will pop up and you'll hear people from around the world playing and singing One Love. I'm still sniveling. Man, I love dat shit!

Playing For Change can tell you more articulately than I what they're all about. Go see it at

Okay. And Mistah Marley's address is

Even if you don't like Bob Marley -- and who could that possibly be? -- you'll sure love watching and hearing all the people from so many different places.

I'm about to leave for dinner at Carraba's or Carabba's or Some Italian Joint with Flowers in Its Hair (or Shrubs on the Roof), so this is it for now.

Check out those sites. You'll thank me for it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Happy Groundhog Day!

Wow. In my desire -- inspired by our own Olga -- to not only entertain but to inform, I've discovered some interesting things about Groundhog Day.

  1. The critter's name is one word, not two as I had thought.

  2. The gala celebrations of Groundhog Day started in 1871. I think we'd be justified in two years to double the energy of our festivities, even though I don't know the word for "the hundred and fortieth anniversary of." Well, then maybe we should wait until 2021 so we can have the sesquicentennial. Yeah. That'll make it easier on us all.

  3. If Phil of Punxsutawny sees his shadow today -- meaning it's sunny up there in Pennsylvania -- then there will be six more weeks of winter. A cloudy day (with no shadow) indicates an early spring. I thought it was the other way around. I can't imagine the tragic results had I continued in this ignorance.

Groundhog Day, the movie, was and remains one of my favorites. The extravagance of our [anti]-hero's feats satisfies me greatly. He saves lives! He thwarts thieves! He plays the piano! Nothing exceeds like excess. The first time I saw it, which is when it came out in February of 1993, I decided that next Groundhog Day would see me up in Punxsutawney.

Well, deciding and doing are two different things, aren't they?

My mother's first serious boyfriend and his family lived in Punxsutawney when I was a kid. I remember only one visit from them, this doughy man with a puffy wife and too many kids with runny noses. I remember looking at those kids and thinking I could be them. My last name would have been Swanson. Hm. I prefer Nicolazzo. Of course, if Mom had gone ahead and married that Eddie, I might have looked at Mike Nicolazzo's kids with their dark hair and dark eyes (except for that middle child with the hazel eyes who now lives in Florida and is blogging such a convoluted scenario that she's about to hit the CANCEL key), and been grateful for my blonde hair and blue eyes and snotty face. I might have been thrilled to have a Swedish name. Who knows?

I do know that Mom was proud of her ability as a young girl to spell Punxsutawney properly, as well she should have been, as I also am now.

I grew up three miles from the southern tip of Letchworth State Park. On Labor Day, the Silver Springs United Methodist Church had a breakfast out at the park. Do you think that's true? Maybe it was Easter Sunday? No. I remember being in church on Easter morning, where we by god belonged, not outside being boggled by Nature at Her finest. Well, maybe a sibling will chime in and correct me if I'm wrong. Let us go forth with Labor Day.

The men would fry bacon and eggs on the grills at the park and I vaguely remember sweet rolls. I can't believe this, but I actually preferred store-bought sweet rolls, even though Mom baked fabulous sticky buns. It's only in adulthood that I recognize the error of my young taste buds. But what I really remember about the Labor Day Breakfast is all the groundhogs we'd see on the hilly lawns of the park. Dad drove along the winding road that led from DeGolyer's farm at the park entrance and followed the deep gorge the Genesee River had gently gouged over the centuries. I was accustomed to seeing those fat brown mammals waddling alone on the side of our non-park roads. I saw plenty of them dead on the side of the road. But only at the park, and only early in the morning, did we see groups of them wandering around so chocolate against the bright green grass.

I'm using I and we interchangeably, I see, which is what I do when I'm talking about my girlhood. I think I was part of a pack as a kid, not quite an individual.

When I was in Ghana with Habitat for Humanity, we were served a meal of ... well, they didn't really say. They just brought us some white meat that we all assumed was chicken. If chicken, it was the best I'd ever had. Afterwards, they told us it was bush rat or bush baby.

That's a tough call, isn't it? Would you rather eat a rat or a baby?

Later, after Habitat left and I was hanging out with a family in Accra, a twentysomething son and I rode up in a government-run bus to Kumasi. On the side of the road, a boy was holding up -- for sale -- a dead animal by its front paws. It looked like a groundhog to me. My friend said it was a bush rat.

I don't remember people at home eating groundhogs or woodchucks, but if it tastes like bush rat, we should.

Now say it with me, please:

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck

if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

A woodchuck would chuck all the wood it could chuck,

if a woodchuck could chuck wood!

Do parents teach that to their kids these days or was mine the last generation to chant that fricative-heavy verse?

Speaking of verses, here's Tom Robbins' great version of the days-in-a-month rhyme:

Thirty days has September,

April, June, and November.

All the rest have thirty-one,

save February, which has too many Rs.

I finished reading 47 by Walter Mosley on January 31. It was the author's first foray into young adult fiction and my first foray into Mosley's work. 47 is about colonial American slavery with a sci-fi twist. You go, Wally! He's famous (but not to me) for his Easy Rawlins mysteries, but his next book will be pornographic.

I may have cleared up the trouble some of you have had while trying to leave comments here in Blogtown. You should be able to comment anonymously and without having to get a Google account. You brave and tenacious ones may try again.

And again.

Aren't spellchecks fun? Mister Google didn't like Punxsutawney -- not even on Groundhog Day! -- but he did suggest "unexciting" and "preexisting."