Thursday, April 30, 2009

Another Car!

It's always a great day when I start painting a car. Today it's Olga's 2008 Honda Fit. I want to surprise her, of course. Or, no. Maybe it's more like I don't want her to see it until it's done because sometimes the journey isn't so grand. Sometimes it is the destination.
But check this out -- I had to buy six ounces of powdered aluminum. How cool is that?

In any case, this is the first and last photo we'll see until the car is completed, so you may as well enjoy it. I especially like the shadow show of the snake eating a tin of English Ovals. I welcome other ideas of what's going on there. I've painted a lot of car, given two dogs a bath each, comforted a post-surgery cat in the hospital and delivered another one to his home after a short stay, and I've done the dishes. I simply cannot be expected to do everything.

I've recently seen a couple of billboards that I find ... stupid. Yes. Just stupid, I guess. Someone's trying to be clever but it just isn't working. This travel agent's on the Obama bandwagon: Yes You Cancun.

Oh, please.

This next one is much worse, but maybe only because it's about cancer. It's a billboard, as I said, so there's not a lot of time to read. I think they're saying, "Hey! come have your cancer here, not there."

"You cancertainly choose," assures the billboard.

Gesu bambino! (I just read Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon. Her Guido Brunetti mysteries take place in Venice -- and I don't mean Florida. Well, I don't mean California, either.)

I wonder if the hopefully low-paid marketing people at that cancer place (wherever it is, whatever it is) think they're being edgy like the Snickers people with their Have a hungerectomy written in Snickers typeface. I hope not. I hope no one thinks it's ingenious. The only thing that makes the Snickers' ads okay is, like everything else where money's concerned: It's cool if rich people say it is.

Look, I have no idea where that last comment came from, unless I'm saying the cancer people are poor and Snickers is or are not, and even so, what am I saying? Hah. I'm probably saying it's time to shut up.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ranting and Panting

Here's a great site to visit, in honor of the Earth. I found it in Rob Brezsny's newsletter:

I ran across a passage in my journal that talked about blogging. I was new to blogging and not sure if I wanted to continue. The things I worried about then -- in June of 2008 -- are things I still worry about: I have to monitor myself, for instance, a most distasteful task. In fact, in one of Valpak's psychological tests I took in order to be in a cell (big whoop, as we said in 1967), it showed that my "natural" self and my "adaptive" self are the same. It distills to: What you see is what you get. (It also finally distilled to, "You're fired!" but that did take fifteen years.)

But here I am, nearly a year later, still monitoring myself. Pretty good, huh? I have, for example, several friends with highly bloggable tics, but do I point at them here? Do I encourage your laughter as we examine their lovable idiocies? I do not.

I also wrote back then that I write too much, that only unemployed people would have the time to read all my words. I think that's still true, too.

And then I toyed with the word blog itself. I still can't really use it verbally without exaggerating it. I pronounce it more like blawg. I'm making fun of it -- and me -- just through enunciation. I'm not even completely convinced of its grammatical usage. Do I write a blog or do I simply blog ... er, blawg?

Ah, who cares? I want to write about restaurants. I'm not up for my entire rant about them, but I'm sure I can manage a shorty.

Mike and I went to Lee Roy Selmon's last night for the first time -- also for the last time, if I have any say in the matter. I just didn't enjoy the food. I had the Smashed Potatoes and they were nasty. At first I thought it was the gravy that appeared without my approval. I had tilapia, for pete's sake; why would I expect gravy? And it was mushroom gravy which, if you're my unfortunate Friend in Facebook, you've already seen is my least favorite food. Nonetheless, I soldiered on. But the potatoes themselves were bad-tasting. Maybe they put mushrooms in the actual potatoes, too. The color was right for that sort of subversion.

The fish was tender to the point of inconvenience. I couldn't spear a bite with my fork. It required a shoveling motion. A spoon would have been a more efficient utensil, I suppose, or a spork. How I love that word! If I could find a non-plastic spork, I bet I'd buy one.

The steamed broccoli was great.

Well, and the bread pudding sans Praline Sauce was perfect. It was exactly the way it was meant to be. I did eat the ice cream the waiter put on the side (despite my order that it be excluded altogether), but it would have been just fine without it.

Hmm ... I also asked for a piece of foil for my doggy bag but the server insisted on bringing foil and Styrofoam. I guess the waiter knows me better than I do (NOT).

I also quite enjoyed the warm moist terrycloth towels that were presented at the end of the meal. It's a nice touch, although an odd one. The only other time I'd seen that was on the KLM flight to Amsterdam on the way to Accra. And now here's a downhome cookin' joint with them. It's fine. The only problem with those towels is that it made me want to wash my whole face and arms and legs -- whatever flesh was available. Hm. Maybe the next time I'm blue I'll try the Warm Damp Towel Therapy and see how that goes. I'll bet it's better than Moose Tracks.

When Matt, who was there to serve us, first showed up, he placed our coasters with a flourish that ended with a smart tap. Well. When he brought the towels, he also put on a performance with them, twirling them -- which helped them lose their heat -- before placing them back on their plates. He was a nice enough fellow and he did seem to get it that we really weren't there for an evening with him, but I do question restaurants that demand weirdness from their staff.

The singing of Happy Birthday is so common in restaurants, it's not even considered odd anymore. I don't exactly mind it, but it's always too long. Yes. One verse of Happy Birthday is too long, at least at a restaurant. Go ahead and make a fuss. What the heck. It's a once-a-year event. Birthdays are fun. But just make one big punch and then get on with your life. The staff could bring the single candle stuck in the whipped cream on top of the melting ice cream on top of the chocolate syrup on top of the brownie on top of the white-chocolate-raspberry sauce with crushed pistachios and then yell, "Happy Birthday!" and be off. In. Out. Yay.

Instead, they sing, which they all hate to do. In fact, if they like to sing, they still have to pretend they don't. The song, never very peppy to start with despite its festive reason, drags even further as the lines go on, like a toddler's wet diaper at a family reunion. It's almost over now. I, as a nearby participating singer (because I do, in fact, like to sing, and they're making such a racket, it's not like I can chat with Mike anyhow), am starting to wonder what the Birthday Girl's name is, since I'll be singing it soon. I can see her staring straight ahead, her spontaneous smile starting to lose its motivation, and I can see there's no name tag.

Oh, but that's right! Restaurants have solved that problem. Instead of happy birthday to you, it's happy birthday from them. So: "Happy birthday, from Lee Roy Selmon's. Happy birthday to you!" Isn't that a special treat!

Yeah. Much better to just yell HAPPY BIRTHDAY and get back to work.

How about the writing your name upside down and backwards thing that servers at Macaroni Grill have to do? It might be cute even the third time you go, but after that, it's just one more thing you have to wait for, gritting your teeth behind your weak smile.

The noise at Selmon's was too much, too. I said to Mike, "Is this how America dines?" He thinks so. There were too many televisions, but at least they were silent. There was plenty of noise from the patrons themselves, all of us trying to be heard over the whiny, squealy guitar music. Now there's something to ease digestion!

Mike said he always asks them to turn down the radio when he eats at ___, a place I love, so it deserves the ___. He's been told that the waitresses like the radio. Dang. Don't they know they're at work? As Liz so eloquently puts it, "They're overhead. I'm profit."

Oh heck. Let's just finish the Restaurant Raunt* and be done with it, shall we?

Mainly what makes me crazy is that I actually expect the servers to pay attention to my body language. If I'm nose-to-nose, talking intently with my dinner partner, believe me, I don't want you to announce, "And here's your water!" You say it with such pride, as if it's a grand accomplishment. No. All you've done is interrupt us. If for some completely bizarre reason I'm unable to recognize it as the water I ordered, I'll ask you. Okay? Otherwise, just put it down and go away.

Last night, after young Matt came by many more times than necessary, with my smile getting tighter and my answers terser, the manager came by for a chat. He actually squatted down so he could look up at our nose hairs as he talked. He wanted to know how it all was. He knew we were new to Lee Roy's and he wanted to make sure everything was alright.

Really? Do you think he'd change that foul Smashed Potatoes recipe for me? Me neither. Do you think he could get Matt to quit saying, "Good choice!" every time I clarified my order? Do they think I need encouragement, like a three-year-old? "Well done, Barbara. You ordered the broccoli! Good girl! Good girl! Hey, Savannah!" he says, yelling over to the next table's server, "Barbara here ordered the broccoli!" What is that about? And has anyone ever made a bad choice? "Oh. Oh dear. Savannah, uh ..." -- with a quiet aside to me, "Sorry, Barbara" -- "Barbara here has ... well, she's ordered the tilapia. What do you think? Should we ... Sorry, Barbara. Savannah and I think that's a bad choice. I mean, I'll bring it. Don't get me wrong. But, really. Bad choice. Yeah."

I'm told it's only going to get worse as I age. At some point, they'll be saying things like, "Oooh! and she ate all her salad!" I know this because older friends have told me this. They'll treat Mike and me as a married couple, which is reasonable but screamingly inaccurate, and they'll start to think we're cute. Again, I know this from older people who have suffered at the hands of well-meaning but idiotic servers.

I have a friend who broke a decades-long bout of celibacy when he was seventy. When he brings The Little Woman to these restaurants and they get the Cute treatment, he's tempted to share with the server just what it is that he and she spent the afternoon doing. He thinks that might change the Cute to Running From The Room Screaming, but damn! I wish he'd do it and I wish I'd be there for it!

I recently asked for the first cup of coffee to be regular and the next to be decaf. Well, he brought the pots back too soon for me. I use cream and sugar. I don't want to destroy the delicate balance of the two, although I understand that not everyone shares this view. My friend and I were talking intensely, as we usually do. We kept up the conversation during the pouring of the coffee. Must I -- really, must I stop my life while the server pours the coffee? May I not continue my meal and conversation? I placed a hand over my cup and continued talking. He interrupted, "But I brought the decaf!" he said perkily, as if he'd performed something extraordinary.

"Yes. That's your job!" I sneered silently.

I was forced to offer a cold smile and murmur about the Delicate Balance, but I really wanted to slap him. He demanded that I pay attention to him. But that's not how it works. It's the opposite. Or should be.

I suspect I was a queen in a former life.

Oh, and how about the server who returns with the food and then says brightly, "Who gets the pork medallions?"

"Who gets the tip?"

Seriously, I often forget what I ordered. Again, I'm usually there for the company, not the meal. My focus is on conversation, not side orders. Well, not when I'm with Mike, of course. In fact, I believe it was Mike who first said -- not in a restaurant -- "Who gets the tip?" I think that's a great line and I suffered until I finally found a place I could use it without doing any serious damage, like inspiring servers to spit in my food.

Five or six of us were having a long late lunch at Habana Cafe here in Gulfport years and years ago. One of our party was from Venezuela, which is completely irrelevant to the story but for a moment, I thought it mattered. The waiter was a gorgeous young man with a fun spirit and a Spanish accent, and there was a lot of laughter between him and us, so when he showed up laden with dishes, saying, "Who gets the menudo?" I used that line. Whew.

It just all boils down to my wanting the servers to pay attention, which is -- or should be -- a huge part of their job. I want them to notice if I've run out of cream as much as I want them to notice that I'm alone and frail and have huge eyes and a quivering mouth. If I actually answer when they say, "How are you today?" well, then, they should go ahead and share their life stories. They should make little jokes and remarks every time they walk by my table. Obviously, I crave a little attention, so they should give it to me.

But if I glare at their every remark and heave sighs every time I have to lean back from my fervent conversation so they can place the water just so, well, then, back off, bucko!


*This was purposeful. Please. A little credit?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Introducing ...

Well, I just finished building the BlogGarage for my art cars. You can now go to to see all of them. I have a website (, but I'm not in charge of it. I still have to add cars #9 and #10 to that site. That's how I got the idea to just use a blog as a website for the cars. Now I can add a car whenever I need to. I like that better than preparing packages for John to do it, including captions, and making sure that the caption names match the photo names.

As a graphic artist, though, I admit that it's hard to stand by and see that I don't know how to change the green background to, say, blue for the art car blog. The blog is called Car'toos -- as in tattoos. I think you can click on my profile on this page and get to Car'toos from there.

Anyway, check it out. Coming soon (or not) will be a sort of miscellaneous or etc. blog where I'll keep pix of my mailboxes and other things. Yep. That makes more sense than running to John every time I need something.

I'm about to get a new computer, so if anyone has any big fat opinions they want to offer, now's the time.

I am once again behind in my book reports, so let's get to it.

I read American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. It was about a plain ol' woman who accidentally married the man -- something of an idiot -- who became President of the United States. She married this guy, knowing that their political views were opposing views but she didn't think it much mattered. The Resources list at the back included biographies of Laura Bush. It was sort of interesting and sort of boring. Perhaps it went on for too long. I know that I didn't like feeling okay about her husband for even the teeniest moment. That is, of course, I didn't like having one jot of sympathy for Bush. But then I let myself relax. It was a novel, after all, and hate really hurts the hater more than the hated.

Before we move on, though, let me say that Curtis is not a woman's name. Surely Ms. Sittenfeld isn't trying to seem male -- in this year of your lord two thousand and nine -- a la George Sand, so we'll assume her parents named her that. That's fine. What the heck. We've got women using men's names all the time, but isn't it time to switch that around, too? I'd like a baby boy named after me: Barbara. Why not? If we can have a Jamie who's female, then why not a male Stephanie?

Marge Piercy solved all that nonsense in Woman on the Edge of Time, one of my all-time favorite books. Our heroine, Connie, moves from an insane asylum (where of course she doesn't belong) in modern times to nice friendships in the far future. In that future, the gender-specific names disappear. They're replaced with names -- chosen by the person her/himself (despite my recent blog) after a, um, Trial by Fire! -- like Luciente and Green Fire, Box Turtle and Jackrabbit. Sometimes we have to read for a couple of pages before we know whether a person is a man or a woman. Instead of being confusing, it's intriguing.

Then I read Lottery by Patricia Wood. What a great story this is! Its opening sentence is great: My name is Perry L. Crandall and I am not retarded. And he isn't, but he's close, and it's a wonderful book. You've met most of the characters in the book sometime in your life -- maybe in your own house.

It's Patricia Wood's first novel. I have a friend of a friend who prefers to read first novels. I'll have to find out more about that. I generally find them less than satisfying. This, however, was perfect.

And today I finished another book I'll read again: Little Bee by Chris Cleave. It's a powerful book written with poetry. Two women -- one from Nigeria, one from England -- are narrating it in alternate chapters, in the first person, but of course it's still Chris[topher] Cleave talking. It used to be that only Stephen King could write believably from a woman's viewpoint. Now there are quite a few men who can do that. I wonder what's happening with that? My god. Do you think men are understanding women better? Or did the Earth's axis slip?

Anyway, I heartily recommend Little Bee.

And now I must go play in the papier-mache.

Don't forget to look at my other blog. I wonder if it will show up on this page? It's all still a mystery to me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Hut

Have you noticed that Pizza Hut now calls itself The Hut? You can't give yourself your own nickname. It's not done. I refer you to George in Seinfeld, trying to make everyone call him T-Bone. It won't happen. Nicknames are bestowed.

Well, perhaps Pizza Hut is thinking of The Hut as its wrestling name. Now there's a concept I can support. When I got my beautiful cat, pre-named Mittens, a long-haired domestic-Birman mix, she seemed so delicate and sweet. She has the coloring of a Siamese and her fur is bunny-soft. Aww.

Of course, I hadn't yet seen her eviscerating a pigeon on my porch.

Still, when Mike started calling her The Mitt, I didn't like it. She's a she, not some idiotic male wrestling fan with a Bud gut and missing teeth. Alas, Mike -- like calling Miss Pook Mister Pook -- calls my charming feminine feline The Mitt.

It's hard coming up with wrestling names, though. Mike, for instance, is an accountant. What are you going to name an accountant? The Calculator? Hmm ... that's not bad. The Ten-Forty? Hey. That's not really so awful, is it? Men are always calling things by numbers anyhow. She's a ten. I just got me an F-350. (Men apparently are also always using bad grammar.)

Well, take me. I don't even like people calling me Barb, so I can't imagine embracing a wrestling name. In fact, now that I think about it, I realize that maybe you can't even give yourself a wrestling name. What if, for instance, I decide to use some physical feature of myself that you hadn't even noticed? Now you'll notice it, so now I'm embarrassed. I mean, what if I decided to go with the obvious and call myself The Glass Eye and you hadn't even known I had a glass eye? Now what? Or what if I call myself The Leg and you don't think I have particularly interesting legs. You see the dilemma.

Maybe you can't ever give yourself a name -- nick or wrestling. You can't even give yourself a Plain Old Name because you are way too young when the naming occurs. Ah. Maybe you can only name yourself if there's a ritual involved, a coming-of-age rite of passage like spending three weeks in the woods alone or going to the mall without your friends. Maybe a name must be either conferred by someone else or earned by yourself through some trial by fire. Or water, in the case of witches and back-strokers. Hmm.

I know a couple, the male part of whom is The Third. Yes. He's YYY III. Imagine the pressure when his own son was born. You'd have to name your son YYY IV, wouldn't you? How could you not? What a sublime act of rebellion to name the boy ZZZ. Well, The Third did, in fact, name his son ZZZ. The father's surname has way too many consonants and ends in ski but the son's name is Logan. I guess we know who wears the haggis in that family.

My ex-husband, a purebred Swede, named his daughter Lied (leed), Swedish for song (and English for prevaricated). He's a musician, so that makes sense. I've wondered, though, if his wife, also a musician, is Swedish and, if she isn't, how she accepted that. If that were my daughter, I should think I'd insist on the girl being named Canzonetta, even though it sounds like it comes dusted with powdered sugar. And notice that I completely left out my mother's side of the mix.

Moving on, let's sing The Alphabet Song to honor the birthday of Diane Hammond, author of Hannah's Dream.

Today is also the birthday of my high school sweetheart, John Beaumont. He was the first of our Class of 1968 (Letchworth Central Junior-Senior High School, Gainesville, NY) to die of Old People Stuff. He had a fatal heart attack just before his fifty-fifth birthday.

And of course it's Tax Day, so Mike will see his dogs again later today for the first time in weeks. They've been having sleepovers here so often that their jammies are getting ragged. (They sleep in the nude at home, which is as it should be.)

Returning to names, here's the name of a church -- or at least a "ministry" -- that's on Tyrone just as the road rises up and splits into a frontage road, if indeed that's what happens to the poor thing. It's in the strip mall where the scrapbooking store is ... or was. Anyway, it's called A Touch of God.

No. They're not kidding. Okay, we've all seen A Touch of Class. Blah, blah. And then A Touch of Glass, which is a bit cute, but still ... But A Touch of God? Good heavens! Do they mean like Touched by An Angel? I'd be okay with that if it were The Touch of God, but A touch is just too generic. I should think the touch of God would pretty much blow your mind and deserves something more than A.

Or do they mean just a smidgen of God? just a dab? I'll take a mote of God, please -- mote being such a biblical term, like dust (right, Eunice?). And if that's what they mean, then why bother? May as well hang out in your yard and worship the God In Nature, right?

And wasn't Nature just fine yesterday! My god! all that wind! all that rain! Yay! Both my doors are open now, letting in all the light and air that'll fit. It's absolutely gorgeous both out and in.

And now I'm off to join a friend for lunch at Panera.

The Pan.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Menagerie a Cinque

My empire for a couple of accent marks. Yes, I'm in more of an empress mood than a queen mood, although I did deliver two Rubber Duckies decked out as Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth (there was also a Shakespeare and a couple of devils). I brought them to my friend Steven, who just moved in with his boyfriend, Joe. They've been together three years and didn't know until a month ago that they each owned a Rubber Duckie. I should think that would have come out (as it were) around the second date, but what do I know? I haven't dated in so long, I forget how to cry.

But the menagerie of which I speak is
  1. Benji
  2. Sunny
  3. Mittens
  4. Miss Pook
  5. Nero

I know you want to pronounce #5 like Nero Wolfe -- near-oh -- but that's not correct in this instance. This is a black cat who is engaged in some drawn-out negotiations with my beloved Mittens, and since it's Italian for black, I'm insisting that we pronounce it nay-roh, and yes: roll that R. For three evenings in a row, Nero has sat outside my door and meowed until I've brought him food. Mittens has been off at the far edge of the lawn. (This is the third year of a drought; I use the term "lawn" frivolously.) Because Mittens hasn't prevented the feeding, I assume she wants Nero for a friend.

Last night, though, Nero used Mittens's pet door and came right up on the porch. I didn't like that -- at least, not until I have Mittens's permission to like it. I gently nudged Nero back outdoors, but he took off like a bottle rocket and ended up across the street somewhere. I haven't seen him since, and I won't be here at his regular feeding time.

I want to know if he's a legitimate stray and needs to be fixed and vaccinated. I also want to know if he's really Nero or if Nera would be more appropriate. I don't actually know how to tell the gender of a cat. I mean, I don't even know if close inspection would reveal that information.

Let's move on, shall we?

Miss Pook, Melanie's cat, has adjusted to her status as guest well enough to finally quit hissing. In fact, she joined me in bed the other day, even though Benji, a critter of the canine persuasion, was on my other side. Sunny continues to need, um, let us call it personal care. She's a geezer, but we trust she'll last through Tax Season, when her father will finally be able to spend some time with her.

In the meantime, I have finished making papier-mache eggs for now. Oh. I'll put a photo of them in here. That'll throw off the headline, won't it? Good! As usual, how Mister Google will integrate the photo and the text is a mystery.

My table is absolutely laden with blossoms. The hyacinth I recently raved about has lost its juiciness. The individual little blooms just dry up. I'll plant it by Monday, I swear. Maybe I'll plant the violet then, too. Three of the lilies are still putting out a gorgeous aroma, although they've lost a bit of their visual beauty. I was walking Benji the other day and Keith stopped me to offer a vase full of white irises and red carnations. He lives next to a funeral home and gets the leftovers. He assured me they'd been rearranged. Yes. I suppose it's important to know these aren't real funeral flowers anymore. Perhaps their chakras get cleansed through the rearranging, so death drops off like brittle leaves.

And then ... remember Steven all the way from the first paragraph? Well, he gave me two miniature pink tulips from his arrangement. I didn't even know they made miniatures! So I may not have a new Easter dress (thank god!) but I sure do have flowers. Yay!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and -- yep! -- the Ugly

Wow. This is Blog #101 for me. And it's #3 for today. I'm a fairly all-or-nothin' kind of person, but this is a bit much for even me.

I had both dogs in the car today, returning from the vet, and I decided to go get dog food. That started with stopping for cat food (don't ask). I was in the store not even ten minutes. When I returned, I saw that one dog (who shall remain nameless) had shat in not only the front seat, but the back seat, too. I'm sure he moved to the back seat hoping to avoid his own action. By the time I returned, he was behind the back seat of the station wagon.

That was bad enough, with nothing but plastic bags for cleanup. What was really nasty, though, was the woman parked next to us. She was well-groomed (as opposed to my raggedy self), in her mid-forties maybe, in an SUV. She was on a cell phone, but she was eager to talk to both whoever was on the other end and me.

It turned out that she was talking to the police because I had dogs in the car with the windows rolled up. As it happened, I had dogs in the car with one window rolled down. The temperature was not hot and the sun was not out. In fact, my online source says it's sixty-one degrees right now, and this was an hour ago. Even if the temperature has dropped ten degrees (which it hasn't), it's still not hot. Plus, the wind has been fabulous today, hasn't it?

She railed at me, asking how I'd like to sit in a hot car in a fur coat with all the windows up. She absolutely would not listen to my pointing out that it's not hot and a window is open. My driver-side window was open, but that was on the non-her side. (Shouldn't I get some sort of punishment for that sentence? The "non-her" side?) She sarcastically commented on my so-called love for my dogs. She told me I'm very lucky because it turns out that the police don't care about dogs in hot cars with the windows rolled up.

I didn't actually feel lucky, but I'm sure I am.

After I'd cleaned up the best I could, I invited her -- nicely, I swear, and calmly; she was upset enough for all of us -- to sit in my car herself to see that it really wasn't hot at all. I'm delighted that she refused, because out of four sitting spots, two were fouled with canine manure and one with an elderly dog. I told her she might be less angry if she had more facts.

But she was full of righteous indignation -- one of my favorite drugs -- and adrenalin (which I don't like), so a reasonable conversation really wasn't in the offing. As I buckled up, she yelled, sarcastically, that she supposed I treated my dogs differently in each season. Driving away, I thought, well yeah: I do. Gee, and I dress myself differently, too. And I take an umbrella or not.

Yeah. It was just ugly and I hate that it affects me so. I wish I could just ascertain my own innocence within my own self, and get on with my life -- without her. Instead, I blew off the dog-food part of the trip. After all that babbling earlier today about fragrances, I really wasn't up for a longer ride with stenches, plus my good mood had been shattered, plus it was rush-hour.

So driving back to Gulfport, a car full of Michiganders in the next lane was charmed by Benji sticking his head out the window, standing proud and brave like a Norse figurehead on a ship (not that figureheads are generally portside ...). The son, maybe eleven, asked if the dog in the back were a Golden Lab. Goodness, no. But I so wanted someone to be right that I simply lied to the lad. "No. She's a cocker spaniel [truth], " I said, "but she's the same color as a Golden Lab [falsehood]."

That made me feel a little better. And when I got home and had cleaned up the car, I saw that my second cousin had a new blog entry ( about skiing in Colorado, so I read and watched that. It entertained and distracted me, although I must say that a lifetime without ever seeing a raw Rocky Mountain Oyster would have been a serene lifetime. My cousin's the Meg in frankandmeg.

Still, it takes a lot of effort to overcome negative experiences, doesn't it? Is that true for you, too, or am I just a faint-hearted, delicate thang? I have thought before that if even a tiny grain of truth lives in an otherwise unfair accusation, I can feel enough guilt to cover the world. But there's not the teeniest bit of fact in that woman's scene today, and I am still unduly affected by it. Well, I am a Libra, and you know how we hate injustice. In fact, Mom's most-repeated phrase (to me, anyhow) was, "No one ever said it was going to be fair." I trust that was in response to my chronic whining of, "But it's not fair!"

If everyone in my life is a reflection of me -- and there is a school of thought that believes so (but I am not a registered student there) -- then, what? I unjustly accuse people of wrongs they haven't actually committed? I think I need to straighten everyone out?

Yikes. I'd rather talk about bull balls.

The Library Report

Remember I said I was simply going to tell you what books I've read and whether I've liked them or not? Well, when have I actually done that? Gee, I tend to natter on about them.

Anyway, I've been remiss. Since we were last in the library, I've read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I was surprised I hadn't read it before. It came from one of the many boxes of books John gave me. I'm glad I read it, just because it's a classic. I wouldn't read it again, though. I liked the foreword by the author. There were parts he'd change, but of course he's just letting it go since it's so popular.

I read Three Junes by Julia Glass. Wow. It was really, really good. It's her first novel, so goody: there'll be more. Unless she's like Harper Lee. I loved everything about it. We had Scotland and Long Island and gay men and happy marriages and dogs.

Just this morning, I finished She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. It turns out that I'd read it before. This happens, but it's usually with movies. The book seemed familiar until I finally realized that, indeed, I had read it. But that doesn't mean I remembered anything. I just kept experiencing the familiarity and wondering what happened next.

Now let's move to the movie section. I watched Milk the other night. I loved it, of course. I cried off and on throughout. I'm always so amazed at the bravery -- the physical courage -- of just plain old people, non-warriors, who have finally just had enough.

Nature's Finest

I really miss Albertsons grocery store. They always had such fine flowers, three for ten bucks. Some Publixes have that, but not the Publix near me at Pasadena. I've always preferred cut flowers to plants because they're already dead. I don't feel responsible when their petals drop off and their leaves get slimy. With a real, living plant, there's always the possibility -- nay, the inevitability -- that it'll die and I'll feel bad. Even if it doesn't exactly die right away, I assume the blossoms -- so crisp and beautiful in the too-cold grocery store -- will lift their delicate leaves to their eyebrows and faint away in the warmth of my apartment. Sometimes I even think they're programmed to require Hospice as soon as they leave the store.

However, I had a reason to be on the southside a couple days ago, so I went to that Publix and got the cheap flowers. I got two stems of white lilies. The clerk assured me that the white ones have the strongest fragrance and, indeed, the aroma is absolutely gorgeous. The five flowers were completely closed when I bought them and only two of them are open now, so I expect a week or two of pleasure from these.

I also bought a potted plant, but I'm determined not to feel bad when it begs for mercy. Here's my rationale: I've already so enjoyed its powerful perfume that if it keeled over right now, I'd still feel I got my seven dollars' worth.

It's a three-headed purple hyacinth. The scent brings me back to spring in Western New York, to Easter Sunday, with sometimes a new dress and always an Easter basket. We had daffodils out back behind the snowball tree. There were irises along the driveway and lilies-of-the-valley on the other side of the porch. Tulips lined the sidewalk leading to the porch. There was also some big-headed flower I can't remember and never much liked -- it always had bugs in it -- but it was a summer flower, so let's ignore it for now.

The thing is, all those flowers were planted by someone else, by whoever owned the house before we did. But they bloomed the whole thirteen years that I lived there.

The first phone number I can remember started with Hyacinth-3. People only two or three years older than I remember when they rang up the operator just to call their grandmother down the street. They'd ask for Hyacinth-3-2558. By the time I came along, though, we dialed all our calls, using HY for the hyacinth. A couple years later, it became -- and remains -- 49.

Hyacinths were easy flowers to make in grade school, using purple tissue paper cut into circles the size of a fifty-cent piece. Yes. As long as we're amblng down Girlhood Road, let's not use quarters. I sort of remember putting library paste down on the flower shape, and then taking a purple circle and bunching it up against the eraser end of a pencil, and twisting it onto the glue.

Oh, who knows?

But I do know that Mom decorated at least one cake with hyacinths, using a single blop of the tip for each small petal. That sounds so tedious, and yet that's how I paint cars (with sponges, not cake-decorators, Sonny!), and I find it both soothing and stimulating.

I intend to plant my hyacinth out under that oak. I'll wait till the blooms drop off. I wonder if they do it one petal at a time or if the whole thing thuds to the floor.

In another burst of Mother Nature doing Her thing, I was outside waiting for Sunny to move when I saw a lazy bug fly under a palm frond. It had long legs hanging down, like a kid sitting on a dock. There were even knees. I pushed away some foliage to get to the frond and underneath was a wasp house the size of a kiwifruit. A couple adolescent wasps were floating around.

Hmm. This is right next to my screened-in porch. I don't want wasps there. Well, really, I don't want any bugs anywhere, except I know (vaguely) that Bugs Are Good. I only like bugs in theory. Still, I'd rather discourage than flat-out kill.

So I cut that frond off. That disturbed some more young wasps. Mittens almost went for one, but I believe she makes a point to be languorous whenever I'm around. I think it's a ploy to get more fish. "See, Barbara?" she's saying. "If I had more fish, I'd have more energy."

Well, I almost put that frond in the trash can, but I envisioned the garbage man lifting the lid and having a small swarm of young but determined angry wasps on his hands ... er, face. So I just left the frond on the ground, house-side up.

A nest, by the way, is just too cozy a name for wasps.

And the last Nature's Finest story is this ... I went to Nature's Finest, our mismanaged health food store, the other day. It looks like a convenience store in a bad neighborhood from the outside. And employees sit at the outdoor table and smoke. Jeeze. Everything's over-priced, which I guess is normal for a health food store, but even Publix's ground-peanuts peanut butter is cheaper than Nature's Finest. I went in one day and saw a display of empty boxes for aromatherapy patches. That same display was still there three days later.

I used a gift card,which is a lovely thing, for my purchases. Well, the clerk wanted to know if the card would cover the bill. I don't know. She sighed. The card was four bucks short. No problem. I have another gift card (yay!). That inspired another sigh and another query about the amount on the card, the answer to which -- "I don't know" -- produced yet another sigh.

It's my opinion that if it's such a huge problem to not know the balance before the transaction begins, then it's up to Nature's Finest to find a better card. Surely it can't be up to the customer to remember the balance.

The clerk taped the receipt, which also recorded the card's balance, to my gift card, like Mommy safety-pinning the mittens to the snowsuit. And like a recalcitrant child, I snatched the receipt off the card in front of the clerk's eyes.

She sighed.