Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Roll Up The Windows!

At Least I Can Still Smoke In My Car!

That's a bumper sticker I was following the other day. The big pickup truck had a small American flag decal and a big American flag with an eagle covering the whole back window. There was also a poor little copyright-ignored Calvin peeing on something. He's always urinating on an object I can't quite make out.

Yes. At least smokers can still smoke in their cars. But they don't. Have you noticed that? Even in the rain, one or two fingers and a thumb are sticking out of the top of the window, holding the smoldering cigarette out into the drizzle. I've actually experienced more second-hand smoke driving, since people can't smoke anywhere inside.

Do you think they think it's against the law to smoke inside their own cars?

I smoked three packs a day for twenty-four years, right up until July 5, 1992. Now I hate cigarette smoking and can't believe my eyes when someone I know and love still smokes. I mean it. I am amazed when I see them light up. I'm in denial about it for them. "You still smoke?" I'll ask, incredulously. I'll ask that five times a week if that's how often I see them. I just can't get it through my head that everybody didn't quit smoking on July 5, 1992.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fee Fine Mo Mum

With all the parking and unparking and reparking that I've done today, it's a miracle that I only earned one (1) parking ticket. And with all the cussing and blaming and rationalizing that I did upon seeing said ticket, it's amazing that I finally just shut up and paid the fine. In fact, believe it or not, the check really is in the mail.

First I picked up Mike at his house (and parked, of course). Then I brought him to the whole Bayfront Blah Blah Medical Thing downtown (and parked). I was slightly familiar with the complex because we'd made a trip to the Emergency Room the day before. In fact, every three hours yesterday, I went back outside with my pocket full of purposeful quarters and fed the machine. Perhaps I expected to be rewarded today for yesterday's vigilance.

As I gazed down on Sixth Street this morning from the doctor's waiting room, I could see block-long lines of cars parked on both sides. Only one car had a ticket on it. I found myself coming back again and again to the car with the ticket. Then I felt I was giving it too much power. I was inadvertently invoking the Law of Attraction, so I made myself think Pleasant Thoughts to negate the negativity of that ticket.

It didn't work.

Still, after receiving the ticket, I drove back home (and parked) to put Mo in a box and bring him to his chemo therapy (where I parked).

Headed back home, I stopped at Subway (and parked) because it was just after noon and I still hadn't had morning coffee or breakfast, so a five-dollar footlong sounded great, even though I can't agree with the lack of a hyphen in "footlong."

Well, my car wouldn't start, so I walked the ten blocks to Mike's house, hoping to use his car. It started to rain on the way, but it was only drizzle, so I just walked faster. Olga passed me and honked merrily. She just saw me striding along, finally doing that exercise I'd been talking about. I could have flagged her down, of course, but the walking actually felt good. It was helping to stamp out the building aggravation.

I got Mike's car and went back to Subway (and parked). My car started. That wasn't a complete surprise. It's been misbehaving that way for months and months. The mechanic has replaced fuses and a fuel pump, and those have helped, but nothing has solved the problem. It's intermittent, which just makes everything worse.

So there I was with two cars and a footlong. It began to feel like the riddle with a goose, a fox, and a bag of corn.

I drove home in Mike's car (and parked). Liz came and brought me to my car at Subway and I brought it home (and parked). Then it was time to pick up Mo, so there I was, parked at the animal hospital again. Let's stop and count, shall we? Let's see ... counting reparking back at home now, that's ten. There will be one more when I pick him up, another when I bring him to his place, and another when I return The Rainmaker to Blockbuster. And then home again for the night, yes? Good.

I'd like to know who wrote the parking ticket -- I mean, who wrote the words to be printed on the ticket. On the side giving my car's information -- including that it's "red," which is always amusing -- there's a ten-digit Issue No. That's the only number given on the ticket. Still, on the front of the envelope, under the spaces for my return address, they require my Case No. And on the back, as a mailing instruction, they insist that I put the Citation No. on my check.

Whenever I've had a multiple-choice question, I've assumed someone's toying with me. I expect there to be some evil twist, some loophole, some punctuation left out that's going to affect the answer. I don't expect the multiple-choice question to be straightforward.

Well, I have the same suspicions of anything government-related, no matter how small the government. I actually think that a Case No. is printed on my ticket somewhere, possibly in invisible ink, and that my inserting the Issue No. will hold up payment to such an extent that I'll have to pay the late fine of $40.00 instead of the timely fine of $25.00.

Furthermore, why is this thing even called a ticket? You get tickets to a movie, tickets to the ballgame, to the concert. Yay! I have tickets!


And no, I'm not going to tell you what happened to Mike. You'll have to read his blog to find that out. Suffice it to say that his medical insurance does not cover parking fines.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Runaway Returns

Well, it's been an awful morning. I've experienced anger, panic, despair, sorrow, boredom, gratitude, and joy. No wonder I'm tired.

I let Mittens outside last night around eight. I was watching a fairly stupid movie on Maybe it's call A Dog's Breakfast. Instead of a made-for-TV movie, it was a made-for-cultdom movie, but it never made it. Anyway, I knew I'd be up for another hour, so I obeyed the wishes of my beloved cat, and let her out.

I called her many times after the movie, but she didn't return. Well, she's been hanging with Nero. Oh my god! I wonder if they have formed a cult? He does seem to have some strange power over her. He's an unfixed male (as you'd know if you'd been paying attention) and I swear I've seen her want to come inside, but she checks with him and he says no and she stays outside.

Being a wild-haired feminist myself, of course I resent her kowtowing to him. On the other hand, although they're faint, I, too, have memories of losing my heart and other organs to inappropriate males, so I've not been too harsh with Mittens's choice of companion.

Well, if she starts wearing a bonnet, I'm putting a stop to the whole thing.

So Mittens was gone all night. That's not my preference, but it's not unusual, either. She's always out front waiting for me when I get up the next day. I'll open the door and she'll start talking before she even gets all the way inside. I never know if she's chewing me out for having slept later than she'd counted on, or if she's simply engaging in Girl Talk, regaling me with tales of her night. Either way, I enjoy it.

In fact, that's one of the things I prefer about cats -- at least my cat -- compared to dogs: She talks with me. She says something and I respond and she responds and then I say something. It's a regular dialogue and I love it. A dog may flap his tail, roll onto his back, or even yelp a little greeting, but it's just that -- a greeting, not a conversation. No wonder they're men's best friends.

Well, this morning, I was up at four because, actually, I was concerned about Mittens. I went out and called for her, a waste of breath. I went out again at six. Nero was there. I brought him wet food. I think I may entice him into a cat-carrier one day and bring him to the vet for neutering and vaccinating and debugging. Bringing on the Meow Mix is the first step.

So far, when Nero's around, Mittens is around, too. But not today.

I Facebooked it and got some sympathy, which was nice. I skimmed the entire novel, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, by Steven Spielberg, of all people. There's a fourth book in that series. I'm assuming the movie borrows from all four because there was no cute little E.T. in this one.

While I'm at it, let me also say that I finished Sarah Bird's The Flamenco Academy. Usually her writing is jaunty and casual. This is a real departure from that, which she talks about just before the Reading Group Questions and Topics for Discussion section. I like both her styles, and now I want her to write a book about writing. Anyway, thumbs up on this one.

Ooh, but thumbs down on those annoying book club cheaters at the end of so many novels these days. Maybe this is just sour grapes because I've never been invited to join a reading group and a minuscule part of me wishes I would, but most of the questions seem insulting or irrelevant. I wonder if the authors even like this sort of thing. And who writes the questions? And do reading clubs even use them?

But I digress, don't I, Diane?

I wanted to take Benji on our regular walk so we could look for Mittens that way. He didn't want to walk, however, and I've never been able to say no to him. The only reason I wanted him with me was so I could talk out loud and people would think I was talking to my dog instead of to myself. Years of living alone -- and especially these last eighteen months of not even going to a job -- have encouraged me to chat away even though no one else is around. Thank god that business of talking to yourself equalling insanity is just an old wives' tale, right? Right?

I embarrassed my own self by chanting that find-it poem that Catholics and other superstitious people say. Oh. I suppose it's a prayer, since it's addressed to St. Anthony:

St. Anthony, St. Anthony,
Please come down.
Something's lost
And must be found.

You don't mind a little forced rhyme, do you? Me neither. Presumably St. Anthony's okay with it, too. Or maybe he had a fight with the Patron Saints of Poets -- there are four of them. Dang. There's only one Patron Saint of Geologists, and it's Barbara. There are over twenty for Difficult Marriages but only one for Happy Marriages.

I thought about the photos I have of Mittens and envisioned them in LOST posters. I don't have good pictures of her, mainly because I'm a lousy photographer. Since this is skeeter season -- as it is for about nine-tenths of the Floridian year -- her nose looks like raw hamburger. She has a hyper-sensitivity to mosquito bites. I started putting Skin So Soft on her this year after all the bumps showed up. I actually think the bad nose keeps her from being kidnapped, though.

I called my friend, an animal psychic, and left a message asking if she'd "gotten" anything on Mittens.

About three minutes after that, I heard Mittens's adorable voice. I looked out the window and there she was on the porch. I, of course, was up for a tearful, heartfelt reunion. She was up for Meow Mix and a nap. She chose a new place amongst the clutter. She was so bushed, the flash didn't even bother her. And she wasn't chatty, either. I fear that last night's activities will remain a mystery to me.

But how do people with children ever handle the angst? Seriously. How can you stand knowing all the things that could happen to your kids, and yet you let them out of your sight anyhow? Okay, sure. They're in their thirties, but still, doesn't it just break your heart, make you useless with all that hand-wringing? Don't forget, there are only five Patron Saints of Parenthood ...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sun Tea

I mostly drink water and coffee (fair trade, with turbinado sugar and soy creamer) but I also enjoy a couple herbal teas: rooibos (red bush), drunk by one of my favorite literary characters (Mma Precious Ramotswe, which you'd know if you'd been paying attention); peppermint; licorice, which does not taste like Good & Plenties, which are vile (no offense, Messrs. Strickland, Mahon, or Hershey). What these herbal teas have in common is that there's only one ingredient. That appeals to me.

Despite the title of this blog, I want you to notice that the photo shows no sun. Nope. This is really Shade Tea. I used to make Star Tea when I worked nights. I put a dozen bags of rooibos into a tall glass jar that held a couple quarts. I filled it with water and put it out on the sidewalk in front of my house. This would happen around two in the morning. When I woke up the next day, I'd wring out the tea bags and put the jar in the refrigerator.

I called it Moon Tea for a while, but I like Star Tea better. It's because of the Star Tea that I tried Shade Tea and found that it works just fine. Now, deep inside my brain, I feel quite certain that the tea would brew indoors. It would brew in the corner of a closet under a pillow in a box. Nonetheless, Shade Tea is far more romantic than, say, Under The Bed Tea, or Top Cupboard Tea.

I had a better photo of the tea brewing, but I wanted my northern readers to see the grass. We've had so much rain that we may actually be out of the three-year drought. But look: there are still bald patches.

Speaking of bald, here's my hubcap! The UPS guy brought it yesterday. Until I got this, with its cone in the center, I had assumed my 'cap would be a plain jane. It's going to be fun to figure out what to put on it, and how. I hadn't though about those spaces around the rim, either, and now I want to weave something through there. But I paint; I don't weave. Do I?

If I were in my new house (again with the euphemisms, if not flat-out lies), I'd at least have primed it by now ...

Book Update: I may have to give up on the idea of telling you each book I read. It's too hard to keep track of. I mean, emulating dear KT in Minneapolis, I'm writing each book down -- in the same place, not on bitty little scraps of paper floating around -- but then I forget to record them here. I just wasted time searching my blog and even so, I can't tell. So never mind. The last three I read are:
  • Testimony by Anita Shreve which was very Jodi Picoultesque; I enjoyed it.
  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. I laughed at a bunch of these essays. I'm not a diehard fan, but each book I read gets me closer to that category.
  • I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloan Crosley, who appears to be a David Sedaris wannabee. Or not. I don't know. This was a collection of essays, too. She just seems too mean. Great title, though, huh?

Mo, by the way, is doing nicely. The vet said his bloodwork is good, but I don't know what that has to do with cancer. He spends at least part of the night on my pillow which, oddly, I don't mind at all.

Nero -- that scrawny black unfixed stray who may or may not be bullying my beloved Mittens -- has a wound that's looking pretty bad. Someone thought the young man out back might be the owner, so I sought him out. He was wearing Surfer Boy shorts and a boa constrictor when I found him. A former snake-owner myself, I just found the creature absolutely appealing -- so smooth and muscular. When the sun caught her just right, her scales seemed holographic.

He doesn't own Nero, though, so I'm trying to think of ways to capture him and bring him to a vet. The trouble is, I only see him at night. He'd hate me if I kept him in a carrier all night long. He'd probably yowl the neighborhood awake, too, and do that spraying thing that male cats do that is still, thankfully, just a theory to me. So I'm just wringing my hands for now.

Lubber Update: I sprayed Windex on that last lubber, since one article said that dumping it in soapy water would kill it. It didn't seem to have an effect on it, but I haven't seen it since. I look for it all the time, though. If I find it again, I'm just going to push it off my Mandeville, but not kill, maim, or annoy it. Okay, you lubber lovers?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

One Love / One World

Oh yeah, let's sing it all together now. One love! One heart! Let's get together and feel alright! I've always been in a musical black hole. This is embarrassing, but by the time I became aware of Bob Marley, he was already dead. I had a television then and Publix had that great commercial of The Good Uncle blowing up all the water toys for the kids at the family reunion until all the food was gone. One Love played throughout. It blew me away. I asked around and found out who it was and bought a CD and became a fan.

Well, tonight at 11:35 on The Tonight Show, the Playing for Change (dot com) band will be playing, and maybe they'll play One Love. I almost wish I had a television ... Check it out if you don't have to be up at five to go to work. The man on the far right in the photo is Vusi Mahlasela, part of the band. Just saying his last name -- no matter how you pronounce it -- is music.

I've met Lillo Nicolazzo on Facebook. He may or may not be related. Since his English is as non-existent as my Italian, we basically just smile at each other across the ocean. Still, I had enough French and Latin in high school, and enough Spanish in romance, and enough English in my life to understand his response to my comment. I told him to say hi to my beloved President Barack Obama if he sees him. Yes. Somehow I -- with no tv or newspapers -- found out that Obama's in Italy!

Oh. I know. My CD-player in my car is starting to deteriorate, and I couldn't stand listening to Sounds of Blackness (Africa to America: the journey of the drum) hop and skip, so I resorted to the radio. I listen to WUSF because I like the classical music. I don't like their politics, though. I support WMNF (I don't want their music but I like their politics) by, uh, wearing the tee shirts that Mike gets when he sends them money. Either way, they both subscribe to NPR news, so that's the news I catch a couple times a month.

I told Lillo to say hi to Obama and Lillo wrote back: Io apprezzo molto il tuo Presidente Obama ...

We must be related, as I, too, often dribble off with ellipses ...

Mike and I went down to the animal hospital to get Mo from his first chemo treatment. As we walked in, the receptionist said she was just about to call Mike to tell him Sunny's ashes had arrived. Yep. Festivities all 'round. Mo's reacting well to the treatment, but I don't know if that says anything about the actual cancer.

Remember when people wouldn't even say cancer? They used to say the Big C, dipping their heads a bit as if it were a secret. They'd whisper about cancer. Now, heck, I know an older couple who goes to the dermatologist together to have their melanoma (melanomi?) removed. It's an outing.

Twice now, I've had to interrupt myself (and I hate when that happens) to see if I've talked about something before. It turns out that I've talked about things on Facebook. Well, that's going to stop. I can't be flitting around, searching for keywords (lillo, hubcaps), and god knows I can't just remember, either.

So check out Eunice Fisher's contribution to Ken Marquis' project,, shown here. See it bigger on the site, where the pieces are shown alphabetically by artist. I'll be getting my own hubcap in the mail soon. I can hardly wait!

I just commissioned Derrick Johnson to paint my chest of drawers. I'm really excited about that. He's here in Gulfport. I just love his stuff. And how about Vincent Pompei? Can you even imagine having such a name? I'll be needing one of his pieces soon, so perhaps you'd like to start saving now. My birthday's sooner than you think!

Speaking of birthdays, I celebrated twenty-five clean and sober years on Tuesday. That's not nearly as exciting as you might think it should be, but I suppose it's like a plain old birthday. Turning thirty was a lot more interesting than I suspect turning sixty will be, but I still like gifts and restaurant meals, you know? Well, do things just get more ordinary as we age, do you think? Here comes Christmas! Yah, yah. I've had a buncha of those. Nice, but so what? Is that it?

I remember when Mom said she probably wouldn't even put up a tree one year. That seems so sad, but now it just seems ... convenient. I know I used to collect rocking horse ornaments, but I haven't displayed them in a long, long time. Ten years? At least.

Okay. Maybe celebrations of annually occurring things aren't as exciting, but, truly, my Stankin' dresser? THAT'S exciting. The upcoming hubcap? Oh yeah.

Good. I didn't think life was that bland ...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Fifth of July

I just love having another artcar out back! Josh acts like his truck is no big deal. He cut the metal to use as stencils on it. Well, maybe it's nothing compared to what he could do, but it's pretty impressive to me as is.

Furthermore, there are no wild parties, so far, from the eastern side of this bitty little duplex into which he just moved, so all is well. Still, I'm anxiously awaiting news on my new house ... "my" and "new" being euphemisms.

If you're also a Facebookie, you'll know that on Friday, July 3, I was the Featured Artist at the Industrial Arts Center. As is par for those events, I made about $5.50 per hour, not counting setup and teardown, but I had a lot of fun and made some good contacts.

Because I am fat and sedentary, and because I moved all my stuff three times on Friday (into the car, out of the car, and back into the car, where it remains two days later), I could barely walk on Saturday, the Fourth. That's fine with me. I rarely do anything on the Fourth. It's never meant much to me.

When I was in high school, it meant there'd be the big parade in Warsaw [NY], population 3,651 in 2009. I imagine it was about the same in, say, 1968, my senior year. The Attica State Prison riot trials took place there, since the prison is in Wyoming County, of which Warsaw is the seat, being the big city and all. It not only has traffic lights but a monument in the middle of an intersection. Until this exact moment, it never occurred to me to wonder what the monument is about. I've pretty much only viewed it from the eye level of a kid sitting in a car, going around it, feeling scared and excited because you really can't see anything from that perspective. Death could have come unseen.

My friend Jeri was once driving her three-year-old around the monument because she was making a left-hand turn. This was in the Olden Days when kids could clamber all over the vehicle and no one thought they were in danger. Well, as she executed the turn, she heard little Stevie giggling like crazy. She glanced over and saw him hanging by both hands from the bottom of the window well, swinging his feet out into the open air created by the door flying open on the turn.

Talk about excitement!

Well, okay, being in the marching band wasn't that exciting. On the other marching-band holiday, Memorial Day, we'd march in three little towns on Saturday and one other on Sunday, but on the Fourth of July, we'd march in the big parade in Warsaw, where there were actually three bands. That's pretty amazing, really. They were from Warsaw, Perry, and my school, Letchworth Central Junior-Senior High School. It was made up of five little villages and the surrounding farms, so we weren't as cohesive, perhaps, as the other bands. Or maybe we were. I have no idea.

I know that Perry had a girls' athletics department. A couple of times, Mrs. Dake, the girls' gym teacher at Letchworth, would pick out a team-load of us and tell us we were playing Perry in basketball that night. You didn't have to be athletic. You only had to be obedient. I know for a fact that knowledge of the rules of the game wasn't a factor. You had to be the kind of kid who said, "Okay." Those Perry girls actually had plays worked out that seemed to be announced by a special clap which their coach -- a coach! -- would make. I was just baffled and ashamed.

But good ol' LCS shone on the parade grounds. I'm pretty sure we did, because we were the only band to go all the way to Syracuse to compete in the statewide championships there. I remember almost nothing of those trips except my mother's excitement. If we won, if we placed anywhere, we were to call her -- collect! -- and she'd arrange a band made up of the parents of band members to welcome us home. I have no doubt she'd have done that, had there ever been a reason ...

The Fourth of July was Mom's favorite holiday, although I don't know why and now I never shall, and it's also Leone's favorite. She's the friend I just helped move into the Independent Living facility. We talked about it last night on the phone. She grew up when World War II was going on, and she was aware of the fact that we were losing. It was a big deal when the battle at Normandy took place, and the war started turning around. She was so proud to be an American.

I, on the other hand, grew up in the Vietnam Era, when Our Boys were coming home hooked on heroin, facing hippies who protested again the war and preached love and peace and marijuana instead. I grew up when our cops killed our teenagers at Kent State. What??! I still had a television when Watergate was happening, and even then, I remember thinking that I'd better not have kids because if their kids ever asked Grandma what it was like during Watergate, I wouldn't be able to tell them. I couldn't pay attention to stuff like that. It seemed too confusing and too ugly. Yes. I never had the head or heart or stomach for this sort of thing. I don't know why, at age fifty-eight, this is news to me. I can't read books or watch movies about "international espionage" because I just can't keep track of everything. I'm much better at forthrightness and transparency.

So unlike Leone, I grew up in an America that seemed pretty bad, really, where it seemed even the government was against The People. We had JFK and lost him, MLK and lost him (except in street names now), and Bobby, who never had initials, and lost him, too. If you were "proud to be an American," it meant you were a Republican and thought we should go forth and kill everyone except the white people (well, go ahead and kill the French), taking everyone's natural and unnatural resources, bringing them back for a few paunchy white men to share, and the price in blood be damned. It was either non-white blood or poor-white blood, so it hardly mattered. Its loss could be seen as a good thing.

If anyone can bring me back to being proud to be an American, it's President Barack Obama, although, really, being proud of a citizenship into which I was born is equal to being proud of my eye color. I had nothing to do with it.