Monday, December 27, 2010


In high school, I used to write down New Year's Resolutions. I'm pretty sure each list included LOSE WEIGHT!!! because I was, after all, a girl in the United States. Now I'd write the same thing, but it would be upper and lower case without exclamation points or boldface, and without the hope I had in 1966. I guess in that sense, I haven't lost my girlish figure after all: It's still completely unacceptable.

For years, I just ignored the whole Resolution thing. After all, I'd never (ever) followed through with a single one of them. Why keep kidding myself? But then I fell in with a small clutch of people who were heavily into intentions. "Hey! Are you going to the museum tomorrow?" "That is my intention." You couldn't get a yes or a no out of these people. I was so focused on their complete lack of a straight answer that I never did understand what their intent(!) was. Were they demonstrating their lack of control in Life? Were they avoiding disappointing others, like Dad, who'd only answer "Maybe" to the clamor to go four whole miles to Silver Lake to swim? Were they eschewing responsibility? I never asked that. I just listened to their intentions and simmered in my own slight indignation.

And that led me to, for the last fifteen years or so, making New Year's Vague Intentions. Why torture myself? Why not face reality? Why not just admit that I'm not going to lose the weight (or exercise or learn to play piano or stop having clutter), but that I am going to have the vague intention to do all that? This way, I'd be a Winner all year long! No one's disappointed. There's no pressure. Just relax. Ahhh.

But a couple weeks ago, I burst into flames and engaged in really bad behavior. I decided that I'd had enough self-indulgence on all levels (except maybe for that weekly massage) and that it was time to Straighten Up. Even my horoscope was on my Higher Self's side. Levine & Jawer say, for the end of the year for Libra:

But insistent Mars's square to parental Saturn in your 1st House of Self on December 29 says enough is enough. No matter how old you are, it's time to grow up. Stop dancing, turn off the music, and get serious about the commitments you're making.

So this year, I'm re-instituting my New Year's Resolutions. No more dithering for me! No siree, Bob! And none of this general 6. Be kind to people stuff, either. I want specifics here. There will be the short form (1. Lose weight) followed by a concise plan of action, because if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I'm not letting me off the hook, no matter what.

Nor am I listing my Resolutions for you. The proof will be in the pudding, which is an adage that has always baffled me, yet I continue to be unwilling to look it up. Even now, with the Internet at my literal finger tips, I will not research it. If an instructive phrase is so obscure as to be unintelligible, then it's time to ease it out of the language.

On the other hand, it's occasionally fun to just invent what it might mean. Maybe it's from the times of ancient printers, when ink was still something of a mystery. Maybe someone accidentally dropped the proof – for an early blog, for instance – into the Christmas pudding (so it would have been a Yule blog), and while it colored the food a bit, the words remained intact on the goat skin, proving that the ink was superior, and so it's a phrase to be used when we really want to say, well ... something like, I don't know – Time will tell? Just you wait and see? We won't know till we know?

And look at today's numerical date. You don't have to be a fan of the binary to appreciate that.

Monday, November 8, 2010


I know we're not supposed to air our dirty laundry, but the truth is, this is my clean laundry. I hung up this colorful display in the evening just before it finally rained after sixty-seven days of fasting. Therefore, this Tibetan prayer flag of panties stayed up for another two days before it dried.

In another clothing-related blooper, I went to Tampa International Airport on Thursday to pick up Kathy. The timing was right for me to stop in at the inaugural exhibit at the new gallery space in the walkway between the terminal and the Marriott Hotel. It's Owen Pach and his "Fiery Passion, The Beauty of Elements." It was impressive. Make a point to check it out next time you're in the airport.

As I approached the exhibit, Victoria Wenner, Owen's sweetheart, called out, "Barbara Nicolazzo! I have a tee shirt with your name on it!" Ah! I had painted an iguana which was auctioned off, along with many others, to raise money for Lizard Live, a charity Victoria supports. Apparently the organization had listed the names of the donating artists on the back of the shirts. How kind!

Later, when I ran into Owen, he too said there was a shirt for me. "And it's got my name on it!" I exclaimed. He frowned and tipped his head and wasn't sure. It was hours later, I swear, before I realized that Victoria was simply using an idiom in English, my mother language, as in, "This dunce cap has your name on it, Barbara!"

Plus, I locked my keys in the car. That's not really so awful. I mean, the engine wasn't running and it wasn't raining. But it was the second time in as many weeks. It had taken forty-five minutes to jimmy the first time, but the locksmith – the same one, of course – is no fool. It only took fifteen minutes this time.

The thing is, I had made a copy of my key after the first incident. I just hadn't gotten around to taking it off my keyring and putting it somewhere where it would be useful in the extremely likely event that I'd do it again.

And then there was dinner last night, the first Sunday in November. It was a lazy day, the first day in a long time with no demands on me except a long nap with the kittens, and then a great dinner at seven o'clock cooked by Kathy and Richard – spinach pies and leek risotto, respectively – followed by pumpkin pie by Ruth! Yay! I was doing dishes when I glanced at the clock and saw I was going to be late if I didn't hustle. I threw the Meow Mix containers on the floor, letting the cats pine for opposable thumbs while I raced to get dressed. I flew over to the house and got there two minutes before seven.

Except that it was actually two minutes before six because, of course, we FALL BACK the first Sunday in November. Indeed, I had FALLEN BACK with my alarm clock, my car clock, and the microwave clock. I still can't figure out my stove's clock, but I try not to look at that appliance anyhow. My computer and cellphone are resourceful: they do it themselves. That only leaves the kitchen clock and that, of course, was where I looked. There's a Murphy's Law in here somewhere.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Face Value

"Not on my face, Henry! Not on my face!"

That's what I was yelling this morning at two-thirty. I'm glad that I live in a house now and not in a duplex whose wall I shared (for sixteen years) with various people. I suppose what my erstwhile neighbors would have thought of my outburst would have depended on their own experience in life, coupled with what they could glean of my life, living, as we did, bedroom-by-jowl, but without being friends.

I knew, for instance, that Sharon arose at six each day and went through a ritual with her two very large dogs. First they chased a ball. Then they leapt into the air. Then they wrestled over a toy. Sharon would clap her hands again, and it would be breakfast time. Face to face, though, she and I barely spoke. She silently disapproved of my rolling-in-the-dirt Benji and the sprawling, wandering Sunny. She'd stand at the corner of the building, her giant canines at her side, waiting for us to tumble and bumble past before they began their orderly, educational walk.

Wes, my first and favorite neighbor, was never home.

Nadia herself was quiet, but had a short-term boyfriend who crowed like a rooster each morning. He was very good at it, and I was out of work by then, so I didn't mind the disruption at all. In fact, I liked it. It's an exuberant start to the day.

In the house next door was a couple about my age with a grown daughter who had some kind of mental illness. She'd be fine for months and months, but then there'd be a sort of breakdown and she'd get out the lawnmower. She'd mow and mow and mow, furiously churning the dust – this is Florida, remember – first muttering to herself, and then yelling to herself, and then finally sobbing. I was always so impressed that they'd discovered mowing as a way for her to release her steam.

One time I went out to my car and found the father and daughter tinkering with the mower. She was still hiccuping with sobs, her mascara mixing with dirt, but her dad and I chatted about the weather as if an hysterical nutball of a daughter were the norm – which it was, after all.

Of course, I provided some entertainment, if not consternation, for my neighbors, too, but it seems to me that people who live in groups – that is, us – simply must pretend that they don't hear and see what they hear and see. That's part of being a good neighbor, like not using the chain saw too early, or taking packages inside when it's raining.

So I don't know if anyone heard me last night when I yelled at Henry. He's one of four six-month-old kittens. I remember vigorously wiping something off my face a couple of times, and then I woke up to find him stepping on my face. That's when I yelled. Three of the cats flew off the bed, but Henry stayed. He probably thinks he's showing me acceptance and tolerance, whereas I'm wondering if someone had dropped him on his head when he was little – and if not, why not?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Super Size: Me!

At about seven this morning, I bagged up the garbage and brought it out to the Dumpster. I returned forty seconds later to find the trash container full of kittens. At first, Ruthie was just sitting in the bottom, but then Henry joined her, which tipped the thing over, and battle ensued. Jack joined the fray but Luca, ever the lady, simply watched.

Happily, they were distracted by breakfast, so I was able to right the container and put in a fresh liner. I have four boxes of Glad ForceFlex Medium Garbage Bags in my cupboard. Tall and Small are on every store's shelves, but Medium are hard to come by. Whenever I find them, I buy them. Let's dismiss Small as too small to do the job as a main garbage container in a kitchen, even for a single woman who doesn't cook. That leaves Tall, which is too big to fit under the sink. That leaves Medium, which is my size, but, as I said, difficult to find.

That means that people have their kitchen garbage out in the open? Or their countertops are taller than mine, and a Tall can fit under the sink? I really don't know. I just know that it's getting more and more difficult to stay Medium.

Look at this beautiful cup and saucer Kimberly gave me for a housewarming gift! I love it! I collect blue-and-white teacups, although I am not a serious collector. That is, I don't know jack about the cups. I just like them. Still, I noticed that this cup is especially large. I checked out the writing on the bottom. It was designed by Ralph Lauren (or a minion thereof). Ah, so it's modern. I think my next most modern piece is at least twenty-five years old, a blue-grey by Mikasa. Ralph's is eight ounces, while the standard teacup is only six. I have a couple that are five ounces, but beyond that, they move into the realm of the demi-tasse. Apparently in the teacup world, bigger isn't necessarily better, but it is newer.

The other day, Olga and I went down to North Port to Warm Mineral Springs (dot com). That's the catchy name of a warm mineral springs that maintains a steady eighty-seven degrees, and which Ponce de Leon mistook for the Fountain of Youth, because of its fifty-one chemicals and stinky nature, I guess. In any case, "warm" is misleading – at least in my world – but in the world of springs, it is warm. There are cold, warm, and hot springs, and their standards are different from mine. I, for instance, would have named the place Chilly Mineral Springs.

On the ride there, I put my twenty-ounce bottle of water into the cup-holder built into my 1990 Toyoto Corolla. It just barely fit. In fact, before the trip was over, I just put the bottle between the seats, and let it bobble around on the parking brake's handle. Twenty years ago, no one was driving with twenty-ounce cups.

I, too, am getting bigger. I hit a milestone the other day. I had the perfect over-medium eggs at the Kopper Kitchen. When I stood and looked down at the check, I saw instead a lovely glob of golden yoke on my shirt. As my party pictures showed, but which I had been able to ignore, I've become one of those middle-aged women whose, um, chest has broadened and sunken down onto her stomach, which has also grown, until her whole torso is just this, this wobbling barrel of doughy flesh. And that chest has become a sort of table for all manner of things, starting with, on that fateful day, egg yolk. Instead of the 36 C of my youth, I'm a 44 Long.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


When I was a kid, I never even said damn it. That's not a surprise. There was almost no cussing in my house. It certainly wasn't on television (not that we had free access to that), and of course there was no YouTube or other cyber source to provide us with models.

Note that I switched from I to we. That happens when I think about my childhood. I imagine that when I was a kid, I felt more connected to others, more a part of a group – my four siblings and two parents – so that my experience always felt like a shared experience, even when it wasn't. I've also noticed that I easily say we "used to" do things. We used to play Capture the Flag at Chasteks in the dusk. We used to play Hide and Seek with the whole neighborhood. We used to go swimming at Silver Lake.

Well, I know we did those things, but I'm not convinced, now, that we did them often. I remember the games as having been played only when we were pretty small, and that they were played with big kids who, in reality, probably didn't let us play with them much at all.

Still, my sister and I used to have to share a pair of skates. I think we were brilliant (or was it Mom?) because instead of one girl skating with two skates half the time, we each had one skate all the time. We'd push and coast, push and coast, like a kid on a scooter, but not.

But back to swearing. Yes. That's what this blog is about. What did you think it was?

About once a year, my dad, who was a hothead, would roar, "Jesus Christ Almighty!" He sounded like the very God Whose name he was taking in vain. That evoked silence all round. Once he said, "Poop!" and we little kids giggled ourselves silly. Mom said damn several times a year, which is not bad for a working mother with five kids, I'd say.

Well, and the kudos don't really go to her. It was the times, I fear, and perhaps place. I never even read The F-Word until I was in my twenties, reading Vonnegut. I certainly hadn't heard it from anyone's mouth.

But the more I type, the more I think my family might have been freakish. Perhaps we were cleaner than others (or more repressed?), but the era certainly had something to do with it.

I've got a Friend on Facebook (hence the properly nouned "friend") whom I know to be a sweet, gentle young woman. She belongs to a group on Facebook named Pull Up Your F**king Pants You Look Like An Idiot. I was appalled when I saw that. I imagined her saying those words, which she would never do.

But of course, she merely joined the group; she didn't name it. A child named it, else there'd be some punctuation between Pants and You.

This morning, I read another Facebook entry that disturbed me. It's from a fourteen-year-old I know personally (unlike some Facebook Friends, I'm amazed to report), who's a well-behaved kid. He's handsome and bright and plays the French horn, for god's sake. (The actual instrument has been changed to protect his identity but not his innocence.) Here's what he wrote around midnight: "2 more goddam mother f**king days".

Well, even though it's incomplete, I'd like to have had a period at the end of the sentence. The number should have been spelled out: Two. If I thought "goddam" was truncated for the purpose of a slight bit of reverence or at least misdirection, that would be cool, but I think it was done out of ignorance. The really upsetting part, of course, is – how can he not know that "mother f**king" is one word?

In the end, I think we should legalize swear words. It seems that the UK has done it. Even chubby gray-haired ladies (ahem) holding cloth bags full of cabbages, standing under black umbrellas, say fooken. Ah, maybe that's what we should do. Let's curse with accents! I have long been a fan of shite.

I have a Colombian friend who liberally sprinkles his conversation with, er, fooken and motherfooken. I assume that on some level, he knows those are bad swear words, but I should think it's easy to swear in another language. It's like you're not quite guilty, since it's really not your language. I have a Polish friend who would never say pizza because it sounded too much like, um, female genitalia in Polish. Well now.

If there were no swearing – since it would all be acceptable – that would be one less thing to watch out for. We wouldn't have to think about who's hearing us (like our uncle's stupid friend who's always nosing around on Facebook!). No one would ever have to hear that ridiculous argument that people who swear a lot are simply showing off their lack of vocabulary. No. They're displaying the miracle of muscle memory, if you ask me, the amazing strength of habit.

I say let's swear with accents or in languages other than English, and get on with our lives. Che cazzo, y'know?

Friday, May 14, 2010


Okay. I'm painting a car, but I'm also waiting for yet another air-conditioning man to show up and give yet another estimate, and I'd rather paint straight through than be interrupted, and I just tried to update my address with Office Depot which resulted in many curse words, so – I know! I'll write a blog!

There must be a god! Look! I just made a dash! This is seriously exciting, and I've been yanked out of my discontent like a, a ... oh, let's let a Southern Writer finish the simile. In any case, those who know me from working with me know what a complete thrill this is. NUM LOC on. Hold down ALT. Zero one five zero. Whoo hoo!

I remember changing my name on everything from my Social Security Card to my library card when I got married ... and then again when I got unmarried. It was difficult, but I was young (twenty-three) and technology hadn't even given us a vertical line in typesetting yet, so it wasn't so bad. These days, though, trying to change my address at not quite sixty, while blasting myself for procrastinating on painting that car, and suffering heartily and loudly at a lack of air conditioning, it's a lot harder.

This last episode – the Office Depot one – was made extra annoying because there was a slight delay on their phone, so while the beleaguered Customer Service Rep was waiting for me to tell her how I was today, and while I was debating whether to channel my mother and simply say, "Fine, thank you," or channel my own damned self and say, "What difference does it make?" she thought I hadn't heard, and so repeated the offensive question.

Seriously. Can't we just cut to the chase? Can't we just conduct business? I'd like to hear, "How can I help you?" I can't even bear it when s/he says, "How may I assist you?" so imagine my burst-into-flamesedness when s/he says, "How may I make your day even better and more productive with our fine Office Depot products?" By cutting your tongue out, sweetie.

And have you noticed that Have a nice day in the stores is being replaced with Have a nice rest of the day? Ah. I guess they didn't catch me early enough to have a whole nice day, so I'll just have to settle for the rest of the day. I've even heard Have a nice rest of the week. What? Why? Jesus.

Ms. Home Depot also used my name for each and every question and comment. Okay. I know when I'm in love, there's nothing sweeter than his name, and I over-use it at every chance. But please. I'm just trying to change my address. Hearing my name twelve times in a two-minute conversation is just too much, no matter how much she and, by extension, Office Depot love me.

"Okay, Barbara, I just need you to verify your original address, okay, Barbara?"

Well, it's not okay. See, I actually can't verify my address. She has to verify my address. I can confirm it if she'll first announce it. I want her to say, "I'll need to verify your address. What is it?" I think this has to do with transitive and intransitive verbs, but I don't know for sure. Perhaps it only has to do with personality disorders.

In any case, when she ended our oddly successful call with the waitress-like question, "Is that all for you today, Barbara, or is there something else I can assist you with, Barbara?" I paused – to let that delay in the phone take place – and said, "Yes. No." We both hung up.

And that's another thing. With cell phones and even cordless phones, you can't slam a phone anymore. How frustrating! Hanging up on someone is no louder or rage-filled than someone gently touching the OFF button after murmuring sweet nothings to his/her girl/boyfriend. This is no way to live! I can't even slam a door anymore. Dave installed a storm door which eases shut and neatly ticks into the closed position.

Before you make Facebookesque comments about how you haven't even turned on your air-conditioning yet (and you know who you are), let me refer you to the accompanying photograph. See the ceiling fan whirling its little heart out? See the open window and the swing outside? See the other open window on the west? No. You don't. But it is open, creating a nice cross-breeze. And it's a windy day with an overcast sky, so the heat really isn't bugging me. It's kind of like you really don't have to use the bathroom until you're on the highway.

Let's go back to that remark about Southern Writers. I know Liz, Gale, and Rhett have just perked up their eyes. What I don't get is why there is a genre called Southern. Joyce Carol Oates often writes about Western and Central New York, but I don't think there's a genre called Western New York Writing, or even Rural Writing or Midwest Writing or Northern Writing. So why the Southern?

I can't quite believe it has to do with slavery, only because I've read Southern Novels that aren't about slavery. Can it possibly have to do with racism? Is that it – even though there's surely racism in all fifty states and our territories? James Baldwin is with me on this.

I sort of thought it might have to do with colorful similes, which is why I called for help in that area. I generally think catfish and hound dogs have to be involved. That dash yanked me out of my discontent like a catfish snatching a June bug out the air! But maybe I'm thinking of Mountain Folk?

In Pat Conroy's latest book, a really bad book which I couldn't even finish, he had sentences like, "Being a good Southern boy, I wore a tie to church." Boys in Chicago don't wear ties to church?

Don't make me Google this!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gulfport! Magazine

You have to look closely to see what's really going on here. Nero's trying to, um, pet the nice snake which is disguised as a bush branch in the upper left of this photo. See her head? I tried to think about her neck, but that's impossible.

I first came upon the dark duo with her coiled in a big enough circle to support herself in the strike position while she opened her mouth as w-i-d-e as it would go. Nero was lounging not a foot away, occasionally glancing at her, but mostly acting bored. Just as her open-wide stance is a strategy for survival, so is his ennui. I saw her strike out a couple of times, but either she was just trying to make him blink or her neck was too short. He didn't even flinch.

Later I discovered them around the corner, apparently trying to build a tree house together, as suggested in this photo. In the end (so far), I think she slid under the door of a shed out back, because I found him there, sitting calmly, waiting.

He didn't come home with snake on his breath, so I assume their friendship continues.

What's this got to do with Gulfport! Magazine, you ask. Nothing, say I. But I do urge you to go down to the Casino today at 4:30 to be on the cover of the inaugural issue, unless you're an artist, in which case you should go at 5. I think the camera will be clicking pretty much as scheduled, so be prompt. Go to for more information but, really, isn't this enough information right here? Of course it is.

I'm going to bring my AutoCling to St. Pete Beach's Corey Avenue Sunday Market from 9 to 2 tomorrow. Come out and buy some CarBling. Here are some awful shots of the newest Mo'bling. Yep. I can't settle on a name, but remember there was a whole blog about my [not] naming stuff? It's called, appropriately enough, Nameless, from June 29, 2008. Go read it on your own, okay? I've got to order new glasses. They'll at least help me see things if not name things.

And, really, what's your opinion about "Dinky Manor"? Should I keep the name of the house that Vicky named when she owned it -- and for which her parents made a sign -- or should I change it, and if so, to what? Here's a picture of the kitchen. New cabinets, door, and floor! It's neither a before nor an after picture. It's a during picture, which is the worst.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Change of Address

I've lived at this address here in Gulfport for sixteen years as of July 1, but I'll be moving out by May 1. That means I'll be dealing with -- ominous fanfare, please, like when we're about the meet the monster for the very first time in a black-and-white movie but before the torch-wielding villagers have gathered, scarves wound tight against bats, pitchforks at the fore -- the Dreaded Customer Service Representative (DCSR).

Yep. I'll be on the phone a lot, after having pressed so many numbers on my cell phone that it thinks it's about to connect me to someplace in Indonesia, when in fact I'm just trying to reach a human being ... English ... existing account ... address change ... I said address change ... no, I don't want auto insurance .... EXISTING ACCOUNT! Of course, poking "5" several times really hard doesn't come across like CAPITAL LETTERS IN AN eMAIL, so there's really no satisfaction to be had.

At least this morning's call was just to renew my AAA membership. It should have been simple. I'd received written notice that the automatic renewal was going to take place shortly. Had all my information remained the same, you wouldn't be reading this blog. As it was, not only is my address changing soon, but the debit card used for payment has since swooned or otherwise expired, so I had to furnish that fresh information, too.

And I would have done it online except that the instructions in the letter were incorrect. There was no "My Account" at the top of the page (or the bottom or the center) of But I'm no idiot. I fumbled around till I found a Renew Your Membership page, but of course I couldn't remember if I'd ever been online with Triple A before (because I'm not twenty-one), and even if I could have remembered that, I promise you I wouldn't have remembered the password because ... well, see excuse above.

In addition, the topics listed online were so very sensitive to the merest tickle from my mouse that menus and sub-menus were bursting out on the page so fast and colorfully that they obliterated everything else ... except my desire to slap someone. Ooh ... how about a DCSR?

I used the 800 number and got a man with a Radio Voice. That's always pleasant. I like nice voices (I trust Berny is blushing now). I also prefer to talk to male DCSRs. This will probably come as a surprise to you, but sometimes I'm a tad hot-headed. This never bothers men. They just don't take me seriously. They ignore the crazy lady. Women, on the other hand, won't give an inch. They respond to every nuance in my tone, my word choice, my neck angle -- and they make me pay for it.

So I got the nice man with the Radio Voice and it really was quite pleasant. He did say "St. Pete," as opposed to "St. Petersburg," and I'm a nut about that, just because I have a baton up my derrière, but we straightened that out. Then he made the mistake of asking me if there was anything else he could do for me today.

Well, I told him about the bad instructions for renewing online. Yes. I actually thought he'd do something about that. Perhaps he felt personally attacked (despite my Radio Voice) because he suddenly started acting like one of those Talking Robots on phones. You know how they are. If you clear your throat, they interrupt themselves and say, pleasantly enough, "I'm sorry. I didn't hear that." Some -- the more relaxed Talking Robots, the ones in jeans -- will even say, "I'm sorry. I didn't catch that." You apologize, and the Robot repeats itself. If, like me, you end up cursing the day it was assembled, it again apologizes and repeats the options. It's sort of like being on the the phone with a friend when you both have bad cell phone reception. Just when you think she's done talking and so you say something, she says something, so you're both apologizing and saying What? Huh? Within thirty seconds of that, you're no longer friends. It's just too annoying.

So Radio Voice (RV) and I went on like this:
BN: I'm just saying the written instructions are wrong.
RV: Now, if you just go to where it says "My Account--"
BN: That's what I'm saying, there's --
RV: and choose--
BN: no "My Account."
RV: "Renewal Options" and--
BN (shrieking): LISTEN TO ME!
RV (stung): I'm just trying to help.
BN: There is no help. It's DONE. I called you instead of using the computer. I'm trying to make it better for the next--
RV: Oh no, ma'am, I can help you, or you can just go to and--
BN: You HAVE to let me--
RV: add "South" to the--
BN: finish a sentence!
RV: address. Triple A South. See?
BN: But it doesn't SAY to do that!
RV: We can do it now! Together!
BN: We've ALREADY DONE IT! I'm just telling you--
RV: Just go to Triple AA south dot com and--
BN (weeping): the instructions are wrong.

The difference between male and female DCSRs is that the women hang up on me, whereas I hang up on the men.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I wish the title were something inspiring like carpe diem! which we all know from Dead Poets Society. Or even Carpy Derby, a fish festival my Uncle Bob used to run near Binghamton [NY]. I'd be satisfied with Joe Carp, for that matter (as is Steven), but alas, the title is simply Carp! because I want to complain.

I was at the cat food store, since I'm not allowed around dog food for the nonce, and I was in line behind a young mother with a son. The kid wanted her attention, and kept pulling on her clothes. Her jeans were really tight, but he found a belt loop he could yank, to no avail. She was on a cell phone, which is why she didn't have enough extra attention to give to her son.

Keep in mind that I'm not a mother, so my comments should carry twice the weight of someone who actually knows what s/he's talking about.

But really, before cell phones, at least the mother could snap at the kid to shut. up. right. now. Or she could have threatened him with some privilege being withdrawn. Or, heck, she might even have listened to him and they could've spent five minutes looking at the rescue kitties. With her cell phone, though, she barely had enough energy or brain cells or whatever it takes to deal with whoever she was talking to and the clerk, who needed the Magic Cat Food Store Card and who wanted her to sign the receipt.

Yes. She could have been a pediatrician saving some child's life over the phone, but, again, today's title is Carp! so maybe you should just shut. up. right. now.

I was at Sears purchasing an emergency tire. I had just noticed that my right rear tire was bald as a pancake, so I ran out and got the tire. There's not much to do around a tire shop, even one near Tyrone Mall, so I took my book to the waiting room. A woman who'd removed her red cowboy boots was talking loudly (of course) on a cell phone (of course). The television was squealing and yammering from a high corner. I tried to turn off the TV, but I couldn't find the switch. I would have settled for a mute button, but that was lost to me, too. All I could do was find a channel with snow, which actually worked pretty well. When I turned around to find a seat, the woman glared at me and said, "I was watching that!"

"But you're on the phone!" I exclaimed, as you can see from my exclamation point.

"I can listen to the phone with my ears and watch the TV with my eyes," she said.

I held up my book and said, "You mean I have to listen to you and the TV?"

Apparently so.

The only way I could walk peacefully out the door -- after restoring the barefoot cowgirl's channel, of course -- was by recognizing that I was the freak in that scene. Most people really can watch TV and chat on the phone. I can't.

But I'll bet I could watch TV and carp on the phone ...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Black Eye Quiz

You know we all put our best face forward on these social networking sites, so when you start getting dizzy from looking at my black eye (and my frizzing gray hair and my sagging right eye and the snarl lines around my mouth), just glance over at the good photo that lives on this page before continuing to read this blog. Think of the good photo as the sherbet served at restaurants to cleanse your ocular palate, as it were ... not that either one of us has ever been to a restaurant that did that.

Are you still with me? Good. So how did I get that black eye?

Mike gave it to me because I want to paint the original tongue-in-groove real wood paneling at Dinky Manor, my new house. Michele did it because ditto. Gower did it because ditto, but he added, "It's your heritage!" It's not my heritage. It's not even his heritage. He's just a second-generation Floridian.

Let's move on to other options.

Mittens gave it to me because I continue to feed Nero, and to aid and abet and otherwise nurture his existence, which I also do for her, which obviously doesn't hold any weight.

Time Insulation gave me the ol' shiner because I couldn't schedule the crawl-space or attic insulation without first conferring with Dave. I'm pretty sure that my friend Steven schedules this sort of thing for a living. Now I know why he always wants to quit his job. First the AC guys have to go in, then the solar tube needs insertion, then the insulation can go in, but that's just for the attic. There are other reasons the crawl-space can't be insulated now, including, but not limited to, electrical work, plumbing work, and spiders with opposable thumbs.

Rhett because, although I have gathered new paint (Mediterranean Blue, Pool Blue, Passion, Kelly Green, and Apple Tart) and have procured another new mailbox, I still haven't started painting. The first two attempts were so disastrous, I had to scrape the paint off and start again.

As long as we're in that vein, perhaps James held me down while his young daughter Jamie kicked me in the eye because I said I'd rewrite their story -- and I will! I will! -- but I just haven't gotten into it yet.

Val and David smacked me because of my political views.

Dave did it because I haven't found the black-and-white floor tile I want in the kitchen.

Do you think Small Adventures Bookshop did it because I was too fast in my turnaround for new business cards? No. Of course not, but I had to add something positive here.

Okay. How about this? How about a can of dog food fell on my face?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring Ain't Sprung

I'm dressed in what is by now my normal winter at-home ensemble: black leggings, black socks, black sandals (I'm sorry); a long-sleeved, ankle-length lavender nightgown, an item I go many years without wearing at all; and a black-cream-and-brown below-the-knee caftan. Today I added a yellow-and-orange sarong wound around my head and throat, believing that most of my heat leaves through the top of my head if not out my nostrils like a dragon. I feel like a pioneer woman -- from the Middle East.

My point is, it's still freepin' cold here on the west coast of Florida -- at least in my apartment. I have to say, though, that I'm getting used to it. I'm not comfortable with the cold itself, but I am starting to pull on all these clothes without complaining about it.

Okay. So Spring ain't sprung, the grass ain't riz, but guess just where my hy'cinth iz! Yes! Last year, I planted the hyacinth I'd bought at Publix. I stuck my face in the purple blooms and inhaled the scent of home. Oh my. I think our cold winter made it all possible. I am thrilled on a daily basis. I wonder if I'll dig them up -- there are three -- and bring them with me when I move (eleven blocks east and fifteen blocks north) or if I'll leave them for future renters. I suspect the former, selfish wench that I am.

My friend Fernando (from Colombia) says his mother tosses out tulips all the time because they're overrunning her St. Pete lawn. Really? I hadn't known that bulb plants could flourish without a hard freeze. Well, here I am with my concrete thumb, thinking I should know all about plants.

Fragrant flowers aren't the only new thing I've discovered this season. Look what a routine trip to Walgreens yielded:

Yikes, huh? I can't quite put my finger on what's so amazing about a chocolate cross or praying hands, but I am dumbfounded. It seems sacrilegious, and yet it is a nice melding of the secular and the Christian, and it's doing it with chocolate, so how bad can that be?

On the other hand, someone told me they'd bought chocolate
Jesuses at a church once. Man, I'd love one of those! Talk about "This is the body"! Talk about becoming One!

And the last of the newness is MotoBling -- mobile bling. Michele still prefers Mo'bling because it suggests mobile bling
and more bling, but since I'm a missionary for artcars, I must insist upon MotoBling. I want people to buy a handful of these painted magnetic-sheeting squares and put them on their cars in patterns. If they won't paint their cars, they can at least decorate them.

I scanned these Oms instead of taking actual photos. The colors aren't true, so you'll have to see them in the flesh this Saturday, March 13, at The Longhouse ( from 11 to 4, during the Pink Flamingo Home Tour. The Longhouse is not only celebrating five years of delivering great massages (among other things) but also the grand opening of Longhouse Yoga right next door. I'll pitch my canopy and sell tee shirts, mailboxes, and MotoBling. Much of the latter is geared toward yogites, but Om is good for everyone. There will be free organic and vegan food by King Natural Catering Company (727 631-1314). You can tour the facilities of both buildings, meet the teachers and practitioners of various disciplines, participate in yoga demonstrations, and enter free drawings for great gifts including but not limited to a full set of chakra-colored lotus MotoBling by the verbose local artist, moi.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Positively Republican

That's a bumper sticker on a car that's often in the parking lot of my Walgreens. Someday, if I'm lucky, I'll bump into the driver.

I remember thinking kindly of Eisenhower, perhaps only because he was the first president I was aware of, and I believed, as a child, that presidents were right and good. Or heck, maybe Ike was right and good.

I assume I started viewing Republicans as absolute other around Nixon's time, but I wasn't always like that. I remember hanging Kennedy-Johnson posters with my best friend Linda Seth. She was Catholic: of course she was going to vote for Kennedy. Or would have if we weren't ten. The point is, I wasn't against Nixon. I was for Kennedy.

By the time W came to steal the election, my stomach hurt every time I heard his voice. I had breakfast the other day with a friend who couldn't stand his face. She covered her own eyes as she said it, just as I cover my ears when I say my bit. The repulsion is real. Perhaps it's just -- "just" -- that we've made him stand for everything that's stupid and violent, dangerous and arrogant in this country.

In this country? I almost changed that to "in the government," but these days, I see all Republicans as Bushites: stupid, violent, dangerous, arrogant. I can't stand that they're pro-life and pro-war. Just how does that work? I can't stand that they're big fat Christians, but killing is somehow okay. The bumper sticker WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB? doesn't even strike them as sarcasm. They stroke their beards and think about it. Hm ... who would Jesus bomb? Let's see, we got them A-rabs, of course, and maybe a buncha Jews ...

I got a mass email today with a really funny joke about a Muslim (of course) terrorist (of course). Our American forefathers, in this hilarious scenario, greet him at the Pearly Gates, although how such an evil person made it to heaven is not explained. These righteous Americans take turns committing violence upon him (yes! in heaven!), while quoting the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and their own historical speeches (although not the bit about religious freedom, of course). When the poor man is finally left alone, weeping, an angel appears. The Muslim cries bitterly that this was not what he was promised. "I told you there would be seventy-two Virginians waiting for you in heaven," quoth the angel. "What did you think I said?"


I burst into flames when I read that, of course. Well, the email was from a woman in a group of friends from a conservative rural area. Does that also mean Christian? Probably. The kind that hate? Yeah. This whole God Is Love thing that Christians like to promote, based on their own holy text, is nonsense to most of them. Or maybe it's more like a selective love. God loves Christians and whites, for sure. I suppose He loves men more than women, brunettes over blondes, swords over ploughshares. I'm pretty sure He just doesn't have quite enough love for gays, though. Or liberals.


I know I have at least one (1) Christian reader here who actually embodies that God Is Love thing. And I know there's at least one (1) Republican, based on that hopeful bumper sticker, who is probably merely conservative, not stupid, violent, dangerous, or arrogant. She (I'm so sure she's a she!) wouldn't refer to her president using a racial slur, even though she may have preferred McCain. So there's hope, right?

Mostly what I want is for me to quit being so sure that all Republicans are idiots. I can't stand it that I'm right there in the black-or-white, either-or world, but I am. I can subscribe to the theory that we're all multi-faceted and that we shouldn't be judged (if at all) by just one facet. What if you judged me only by my near-total inability to find my car in a parking lot? But if you believe in torture, then how we are in the world -- our orientation -- is so very different that I don't know if we could find things to talk about at lunch. If I know that you automatically think black people are less than white people, how can we even chat about books? Don't our politics reflect our core values? I don't know how I can enjoy your (non-religious, non-political) humor while also knowing that you think Palin is a fine example of American womanhood.

Deleting without reading emails from certain "friends" doesn't seem to be the answer. I'm already an ostrich in so many ways. Right now, I'm incapable of calm, political discussion, and I may always be so. I had to take a psychological test when I worked at The Widget Factory. It turned out that in all my reactions, I was never "neutral" or "moderate." I was either "passionate" or "extreme." That doesn't sound like a good dinner companion, does it?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Big Game

I worked fifteen years for America's Favorite Junkmail®, so I know that Joe's Bar & Grill down the street cannot advertise any "Superbowl" specials. Oh no. That would bring a swoop of attorneys* down on his beer-soaked wooden floors. Now, if he spends the huge dollars and arranges licensing with the Superbowl boys, then it's okay, but those people are few -- and wealthy beyond belief. Therefore, poor Joe has to advertise "The Big Game" specials.

Each year at the junkmail factory, we'd receive a memo reminding us not to type "Superbowl," even if the advertiser did. They'd have to fax us a copy of the license to get The S-Word on a coupon, and I personally never saw one.

For some reason, I thought that law applied only to print advertising, but this year I noticed a couple bars with "The Big Game" on their marquees, and then I went to Publix ... on the day before The Big Game, which I'll never do again.

The place was so packed, I very nearly had to park across the street. The store was full of signs about The Big Game. Drinks for The Big Game. Snacks for The Big Game. Meat, potatoes, side dishes, napkins, cakes, balloons, and feminine hygiene for The Big Game. Okay. Maybe not, but the whole store seemed to have its very existence rooted in the idea of The Big Game. The PA system was full of it, too. At checkout, I gloated to the clerk. "Hah! You can't say 'Superbowl,' but I can!" A department manager overheard me, and we smiled and rolled our eyes in insider sisterhood.

So here's my dream. I want everyone to be so paranoid about saying or typing or even thinking "Superbowl" that we as a nation end up calling it The Big Game. Hah. Let's see 'em copyright that!

*It's like a pride of lions or a pod of whales or -- closer -- a murder of crows.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Finding Beauty in Death

I know few of you northerners had sympathy for us southerners during the cold weather at the beginning of this month, but perhaps you could dig deep and feel sorry for our plants. Most of them really suffered from the freeze, although I can't tell yet if the damage is permanent. René says this isn't the time for pruning. We're to leave everything alone and see what develops in the spring, which should be in another week or two.

In the meantime, look at how gorgeous these palms are. True, those copper fronds are probably dead, but what colors! In the sun, they're golden. In the shade, bronze. And the plant itself is still alive. I have a cactus of some sort, thanks to Vicki, that's now reddish, too, thanks to the temperature. Based on what happened to a frozen aloe a couple years ago, I think the cactus will resume its green, given time.

Now here's a picture of Silver who, despite the title, is not dead. He's an outdoor cat from down the street who occasionally takes an afternoon nap on my bed and usually shows up once a day for fish. I woke up one recent morning and opened the door to the porch. There was Silver in a chair and there -- stepping backward then -- was something slightly spongy underfoot. It was a three-legged squirrel, an apparent thank-you gift from Silver, for those soft naps and the daily Meow Mix.

The stump seemed pretty well healed, and there wasn't any blood anywhere; nor was there life. For all I know, Silver just happened upon a fresh corpse and decided to cash in on it. Well, why not?

I figured I'd pick it up like I pick up after Benji. I'd put my hand into a plastic bag, snatch up the poor squirrel, and then push the bag down off my forearm for a tidy package. Alas. I turn out to be much too squeamish for that. I couldn't stand the idea of feeling the squirrel's not yet rigid body with just the thinnest of plastic between us. I had to put on a big yellow Playtex glove and, holding four folded-over paper towels (that's eight layers now), lift the squirrel by the merest last hair on its tail, and lower it nose-first into the bag, trying very hard not to watch, yet wanting, at all costs, to have perfect aim.

Interestingly, I also had to make noises. I suppose it was just my version of whistling in the dark, but I had to make eewing and gakking sounds, and I had to gibber out loud. "Oh man. Silver. Jeeze. Thanks but really. Yuck. Ouch. What was that? Aw man."

Whenever I watch suspense movies, I picture myself in her -- always her -- shoes, and I know I could never keep my mouth shut while the demented stalker searches for me, muttering and panting while he tosses his knife from one scarred, rough hand to the other. I could tolerate about four seconds of hiding behind a post in a midnight parking garage before I'd burst into the open, hands in the air, shrieking, "Here I am! Here I am!"

I was going to take a picture of the dead squirrel but decided against it, even though it wasn't especially disturbing. (You're welcome, flahoos.) Instead, I'll include a picture of its initial resting place, a sort of funeral parlor. Or maybe this is the critter version of the Catholic Purgatory (assuming they've still held onto that little bit of dogma). Here's where the squirrel waits until it ascends into that Great Landfill in the Sky.

Two friends later told me I should've put the body in a public waste basket, like at Walgreens or by the Beach Bazaar downtown. That way, it would be taken away the very same day, instead of having to wait the whole weekend for Pickup Monday. So that's the Body Disposal Tip for today. You're welcome.

Monday, January 18, 2010


This is America, after all, so we'll assume that Whitco Insurance doesn't actually sell people, even though that's what its sign says. I understand that the sign isn't big enough to hold the word "insurance," or that they may have run out of S's. I know Mister Whitco is trusting Gulfport's citizens to use that phenomenon of closure to add "insurance" in their minds as they drive by on the way to Walgreens to get some Moose Tracks.

I don't mind any of that, but I do mind it that Whitco also sells "car" insurance. I mind the inconsistency of language here. Why is one type of insurance for an inanimate object (a car) and the other for an animate object (a person who owns a home)? Why not "car insurance" and "house insurance"? Or "carowners insurance" and "homeowners [insurance]"?

Unbelievably, I'm not even complaining about "homeowners" being one word, or about the lack of a possessive apostrophe. No. I'm grousing about the disorderly usage.

I think it has to do with euphemisms. Really now, you don't buy a "home." You buy a "house." Only love and cinnamon -- not insurance -- make a house a home. But the whole real estate industry is about making the structures we live in sound better than they really are. Hence, "cozy" really means "cramped."

And speaking of synonyms, let raise our voices (in unison, of course) to wish Peter Mark Roget a happy birthday. Since he was born in 1779, he won't be smiling and blushing while we sing, but his famous Thesaurus, first published in 1852, has been in print ever since then, so perhaps his spirit is coloring with pride at such an accomplishment.

I think we should all celebrate this occasion -- observe, commemorate, keep, remember, solemnize, extol, honor, praise, eulogize, glorify, exalt, toast -- by using as many synonyms as possible, all day long, in everything we do. Repeat, reiterate, reassert. Another fun activity would be to ponder the fact that there's no synonym for synonym.