Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gooses and Ganders

Well. Webster's Word of the Day is celebrating Halloween. Today's Word is lycanthropy: the delusion that one has become a wolf. Google, of course, has entertained itself and me with the messing of its logo. In fact, that's one reason it's my home page. Letting the kids in the back room play with the logo for special events is something like driving an artcar. It takes an American icon off the pedestal and onto the lawn for a picnic.

Today is Halloween. I can see from Facebook and Walgreens that it's a big fat deal to many people. It seems to be growing like the wart on a witch's nose, but I don't know why. I know my brand-new great-niece has a costume, and she's not the only infant to have one.

As far as Mike can make me do anything, he's making me go to his veterinarian's party tonight. We thought it might be funny to go as ghosts the old-fashioned way -- with white sheets and eye-holes -- but I haven't seen a white sheet in years. I'm not sure a floral or striped ghost would fly.

I met a thirtyish man in the Halloween aisle at Walgreens yesterday. He told me his girl (his language) wanted him to go as her pimp so she could dress up "cute, y'know." Oddly, I do know. I remember wanting to be, uh, cute and Halloween seemed to be the one time a year it could be attempted. I never did, though. I didn't know how. Still don't. Tonight I'll probably toss on my nun suit and be done with it. Mike will slap his monster mask on his face, becoming a magician -- transforming a "mask" into a "costume."

Terry Washburn, a boy from high school who scared me on a hormonal level because his very presence made me want to be, um, cute, complained on Facebook that his girlfriend is making him "dress up like a chick. UGH."

There's something fundamentally wrong with "chick" coming from a sixty-year-old's mouth. However, that leads nicely into my main point, about ganders and sauces, and so we're grateful to Terry.

When I was in fifth grade, my brother Jim was in seventh, and he'd made a papier-mâché mask with one eye and one horn. It was purple. You know the song. My dad had a pair of knit pajamas -- tee-shirt material -- that were purple enough for Halloween. They were medium blue.

Jim was going as a chick, although I'm quite certain we said "woman," and if we didn't, I'll simply rewrite history and say we did.

To that end, he went out back and borrowed a bra from Bernice Recchio. She was my best friend Kathy's mom, our backyard neighbors, and she was big enough that a twelve-year-old boy could fasten her bra around his scrawny chest. Naturally, Jim stuffed the cups with toilet paper and continued with his costume.

I put on Dad's pajamas and, just as naturally, stuffed the groinal area with toilet paper and continued with my costume.

I assure you that nothing sexual was going on. I was merely filling that vacuum which Nature is said to abhor.

Alas, it turned out that we were allowed to emphasize some body parts but not others. If I'd spent fifth grade in the time of codpieces, it would have been a different story. Indeed, the thrust of the costume would have been the groin. But this was 1960 or '61, and after Mom laughed herself sick, she made me remove the toilet paper.

I've been sullen ever since.


Please read the next entry, which is also for Halloween.

Sarah’s Metamorphosis

A Piece of Fabulous Flash Fiction
by Sloan Davis
with his kind permission

His voice hummed deep and soft in her ears even after she hung up. Had he actually said she was the prettiest thing on two legs? Her face flushed at the thought. She reached for the salve and, rubbing the ointment over the pimple that had appeared that morning on her nose, felt warmth emanating from the pus-filled lump. She went to the bathroom mirror and saw to her disbelief it had tripled in size in less than an hour. It was a full blown boil. The Autumn Ball would have to wait. She couldn't go with him, not now, not like this. In the kitchen she poured herself a steaming cup of coffee and sat at the breakfast nook table and cried. All her plans, dreams, chucked upon the rocks. He would meet somebody new. She rubbed the back of her neck and felt another lump, but this one wasn't a boil. She ran back into the bathroom in time to see her shoulders cave in and a large hump, not unlike Quasimodo's, rise below her skin. Panicked, she darted to the phone, but it was too late. Her skin cracked. Long ugly hairs grew out of the boil. Her fingers stretched and bent with long sharp nails. A front tooth fell out. She spun around in her kitchen in an absolute daze when something inside her bubbled and boiled until she couldn't stand it any longer. She opened her mouth and screamed, "Happy Halloween!"

Copyright 2009 by Sloan Davis

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chained Enterprise

Let's get the immediate things out of the way: Tonight is drumming with Buddy Helm (dot com) at The Longhouse ( from seven to nine. And tomorrow is Circus McGurkis (dot org) from nine to four, rain and shine. I'm looking forward to both, although tomorrow I'll be in front of Liz's house at six-fifteen a.m. in the morning, which is a purposeful redundancy, a reminder of the insanity that led to me agree to such a godless hour.

Or what do I know? Maybe six-thirty is a godly hour. I've rarely seen it.

I'm concerned right now about those low book prices that the Icky Stores are promoting: Walmart, Amazon-dot-com, and Target, where -- unbelievably -- the customers are called guests. You can read all about it at if you haven't heard about it already. Basically, if I can get a brand new Barbara Kingsolver hardback for ten bucks, why would I ever pay twenty-five bucks again? Given that, why would anyone ever publish a writer less than (so far) Kingsolver, less known, less proven?

This is not to mention the independent bookstores who simply can't afford to match Walmart's prices.

The dilemma here is that, gosh -- those chains sure are cheap and convenient, aren't they? Yep. I needed a copy of the APA publication laws (believe me -- these people are not into "guidelines"). I called Haslam's. They don't stock it, but they can order it. Well, I believed I needed it right then, and even if I didn't believe that, I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm an American and I deserve instant gratification.

Mercy. Is that whole John Lennon INSTANT KARMA thing a reaction to that whole Red-Blooded American INSTANT GRATIFICATION thing?

Well, I called Borders and they had it and I got it and now I wish I'd waited. If I really want to be the change, then I'm going to have to, um, be the change. I can't cheat and go off to a chain just because it's faster and cheaper. I'm all for free enterprise except for when I'm not. I'm not for it when big fat corporations like Walmart can and do stomp out the Little Guy. I don't know what the solution is. Man, I can barely articulate the problem. But I do know that my books will have to come -- finally! -- from independent bookstores.

The profit Haslam's makes pretty much stays in Pinellas County. The profit Walmart makes? I hate to think.

I have a dear friend, Kati, who works for a non-profit organization that helps indies stay alive in the face of the chains. How awful that such an organization is even needed. It's like the American Civil Liberties Union. Too bad it has to exist, but as long as it does, it's got my membership.

Remember when Walmart was first spawned? It absolutely raved, in red, white, and blue tones, that all its items were Made in the U.S. of A. Remember that? Now you'd be hard-pressed to find any item made here.

It'll be hard to give up Amazon because I buy really cheap used books there. I'll consult with FlaHoos. She'll tell me where to get them.

Well, it took a little doing, but I've been buying nothing but Fair Trade Certified coffee for years. Now it's time for books.

And then vegetarianism.

But first I'm taking Mo back to the hospital.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lost Art

I was waiting at the airport last night and wandered over to a display case featuring the Sister Cities program in Tampa. Six countries were represented: Spain, France, Italy, Mexico, Colombia, and Israel. Each country had sent a small gift. Italy, for instance, sent a colorful miniature wooden horse pulling a wagon. It looked like a gypsy wagon, like those teeny Italian cars at Mazzarro's on 22nd Avenue North which Vitale Bros. has painted. There were five at my last count -- cars, not brothers -- and they're a ball to look at: such detail! such color!

Israel's gift was a small slab of silver with a rendering of the city of Ashdod etched into it. Because of its placement on the shelf and the mirrored surface thereof, it was easy to see MADE IN ITALY at the base. That seemed ... sad? funny? Well, odd at best. Oh. I suppose it could have seemed cooperative, couldn't it?

Nearby, in that short hallway leading to the smokers' exit, was a replica of the cathedral at Oviedo, a gift from Spain too big for the display case -- too big for the hallway, too. It was six or seven feet tall, its spire cramped against the ceiling. The whole thing was crowded in that spot. The plaque describing it was mounted on a stubby post, which I had to bend over to read, yet which came up to the third floor of the cathedral.

Well, maybe Ovideo had a dozen of these impressive buildings cast in bronze and keeps them in a (big) back closet until they sister up with another city. I just googled it because I really couldn't remember if it was a cathedral or a castle, and I was taking notes with my Swiss Army Pen (a photo of which is displayed here, not for the first time, but I'm sick of not having photos on my blog), on the back of a business card that was already full of notes. It turns out that one of the relics at the cathedral (not castle) is the sudarium, the cloth used to cover and clean the face of Jesus after the crucifixion, not to be confused with the Shroud of Turin.

Good heavens!

I wonder how many people even look at that Sister Cities display. Thousands of people walk, rush, struggle through that airport every day, but checking out the miniature paintings from France in the display case probably isn't on their itinerary.

Harmony Pharmacy had a kiosk at the airport. For $35 you could get a flu shot. I can't imagine a less medical setting than an airport, unless it's a Walgreens drug store, where you can also get a flu shot. Yes: You can get one. I'm not going to.

In other news, it's Columbus Day, and for a change, Monday falls on the twelfth. Remember when Columbus Day was a nice day? Years ago, I bought A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. I just didn't have the heart to read it, though. Look at this, an online excerpt taken from the book at

Then, on October 12, a sailor called Rodrigo saw the early morning moon shining on white sands, and cried out. It was an island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean sea. The first man to sight land was supposed to get a yearly pension of 10,000 maravedis for life, but Rodrigo never got it. Columbus claimed he had seen a light the evening before. He got the reward.

And that little injustice didn't even involve blood.

It pleases me, in a gloomy sort of way, to think that things were good -- or at least better -- in The Olden Days, whether I mean cave days or Mom's time, and that things are just getting worse. I watched Impromptu again Saturday night, the movie about Frederic Chopin and George Sand. There was a little dope-smokin' goin' on, and a fellow viewer exclaimed, "They had that back then?"

Maybe each generation thinks it invented all the vices. Maybe it takes a perverse pleasure in Being Bad, like rival high schools bragging about how awful the food is in the cafeteria. Or maybe things -- that is, people -- have stayed pretty much the same.

After the movie, my friend said she wished she'd lived in times like the movie, with the balls and the gowns and the tea in the garden. Yes. Except that she'd have been the servant sewing those gowns, working sixteen hours a day, six days a week. And she sure wouldn't have gotten Columbus Day off!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Smooth Moves

Now that some gas stations insist I use their brand credit card or actual cash in order to get fuel at the marquee price, I haven't quite found my gas station. I want to use my debit card and I want to get the price that's advertised. That means I'm driving around until suddenly my car is gasping for sustenance, and I stop at the next place.

The other day, it was the Shell at 58th and Central. I'd been there once or twice before and have enjoyed the classical music swelling incongruously at the pumps. That day, though, it was plain old rock 'n' rock. Perhaps that should have tipped me off.

In any case, I marched off into the little store because I'd be using cash, thanks to its maddening Shell-cards-only policy. I whined to the silent clerk about having to make two trips to get the stated price for a fill-up. I mean, this is America. Cheap, abundant gas at great convenience to myself is a birthright. I handed him some collateral: a twenty-dollar bill. He barely looked at me.

I removed the trigger from its holster and jammed it at my tank. It wouldn't fit. Great. I wiggled and poked some more until reason struck: I'd grabbed the diesel pump. Yes, Virginia, size does matter -- and hallelujah for that.

I decided that instead of a fill-up, I'd just get the twenty, thereby saving me that journey back to the store. I never want to tell them I'm just getting twenty dollars' worth because the system will take as much time to pump those last fifteen cents as it took to get that far in the first place. I felt a tad smug, as if I were outwitting that blank clerk somehow. Yep, I felt that way right up until it hit $19.85 and slowed to the pace of molasses in ... oh, well, tourists in July.

And then today, I took a Publix gift card and went off to buy coffee and other life-saving supplies. The checkout girl -- a teenager obviously new to the job -- couldn't get the price on an item, so she asked me the price. Right. Like I'd know. If you put me on The Price Is Right, and offered everyday items like bread and milk, I wouldn't have a clue. I've never known how much things cost. The clerk just sort of stood there, helpless. I suggested brightly that she call for a bag boy. She said they were short-handed and other clerks would get mad if she took their bag boys.

I told her to forget the item. By now I had two people behind me -- and we were in the Express Lane. She finished up and I swiped my card. It wouldn't take. I tried again. It wouldn't take. The clerk tried. It wouldn't take. I tried again. She tried again. I gave up. I said I'd pay with real money. Turns out I didn't have enough real money. The clerk and I stared at each other. "What do I do now?" I asked.

"I don't know," she said.

I snapped, "Well, find someone who does," and she managed to do that.

While she was explaining the problem to the supervisor, the woman behind me, who'd been waiting peacefully, said, "I noticed you're using a Publix card."

"Yes," I said, suspicion and mortification dawning.

"Well, but this is Sweet Bay."