Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Bored of the Flies

On November 22, 2010, I had a plague of flies for a day. The kittens, at seven months, spent most of the day chasing the fat buzzing buggers from room to room. There were dozens of flying demons outside, too. I don't know what caused this event. I didn't see or smell any rotting creatures or compost. The flies mostly swarmed around the front of the house, which made coming and going a creepy event. At one point, several of them got between the screen and the window in my front door. I used a housewarming gift from our practical Flahoos – a fly swatter – to mash them while they were trapped.

Well, as you can see in this Glamour Shot, they're still trapped. It's true that the ensuing months have caused a certain shrinking of the mini-monsters, but their spirtless presence is starting to bore me. I'm no longer interested, in a vaguely scientific way, in their slow transition to dust. If I could figure out how the window works, I'd push them out.

I recently noticed that if I can't figure something out quickly – as in instantaneously – I simply won't do it. I give up. I have zero tenacity. Some unloving pseudo-friend sent an email to her "intelligent" friends, according to the Subject Line. What do these words have in common? asked the chirky email. Listed were banana, dresser, grammar, potato, and others. And no, the email cautioned, it's not that they have letter-doubles.

Normally, I would just click my tongue and frown, cursing the person who sent such nonsense. However, that email also suggested that I Give it another try and Look at each word carefully. I can't imagine what possessed me, but I actually followed the directions. I tried. And I figured it out, and now the friend who sent it is one of my very best friends.

So I suppose it's possible that I'll be able to decipher that window someday and scoop out those dusty cadavers.

Speaking of things that expire, did you know that Dawn dishwashing liquid expires? It does, at least if you're using it with the other secret ingredients that make up the bubble solution used by Sonny Fenwick for his Bubble Truck (www.bubbletruck.com). The Dawn has to be a particular kind of Dawn, which I used for a while. Last night, I brought home my favorite kind, the stuff that smells like lavender, so I can think I'm at a tony spa while I wash the dishes (uh huh). Because my dad's spirit lives on, I tipped the remains of the blue Dawn into the fresh purple Dawn and behold: blue is heavier than purple.

Speaking of colors, here's a yellow flower. I don't know what kind it is, but there's another plant like it nearby, and one about three feet tall twenty feet away. They'll produce a single yellow bloom, one at a time, at the very top. Thanks!

Speaking of flowers, here's a rather scraggly pot of hyacinths I bought at Publix the other day. I prefer purple, but those were really sad. This white one apparently is spending all its energy on fragrance, which creates throat-quivering nostalgia in me. Give it a day or two and that aroma will fill my whole house ... except that the weather is so fine that all the windows and half the doors are open, so the scent will whoosh outside with gentle spring gusts.

I don't know if spring has sprung here on the West Coast of Florida. I realized for the first time this year that I don't know what the defining symptom is, for spring. At home, in Western New York, it was when the snow stopped, not that we'd know exactly when that was. I don't know what it is here. When we turn on the air conditioning? (Please say no!) When there's no threat of another thirty-degree night?

What if the appearance of disembodied squirrel tails is a sign of spring? Nancy said she'd heard that hawks will snatch up a squirrel with their claws and then use their mighty beaks to snip off the tail, since there's no real nutrition in it. That would explain what happened here. There were no other squirrel bits about and none of the seven felines were wearing rodent-eating grins.

And really, I don't know if hawks have mighty beaks, but I do know if that if I'm referring to wing├ęd predators, mighty's got to be in there somewhere.

I'll show more pictures of Jean's car on my Car'toos blog (which you can reach from this page, I think, but don't rush over there; I probably won't have time today) , but for now, let's just all enjoy this one.

First I used black and blue paint on her silver car, which she asked for. I delivered it to her. She was unhappy with it. We weren't able to get together to talk about making her happy for more than a month, a month during which I steamed and stewed and thrashed – and lost confidence. Not everyone has fainted with pleasure when they take delivery of a car I've painted, but most of them really really like 'em. I engaged in all varieties of self-doubt and -castigation, but when Jean and I finally got together, she told me her solution: paint over the black and blue, lightly, with pink.

Wha–? That didn't sound right. But I did it and it actually looks very cool and Jean is now ecstatic. I learn something with every car, but this lesson was more abstract than just a technique or product. Jean offered me more money, since she agreed that I had given her what she asked for initially. But when I saw how happy she was with the car, I refused the extra money. I realized that while I won't work for free, I really value the person's satisfaction. I want you to like your car, not just put up with it, like I'm putting up with screened-in flies.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thank you, Mr. Whitman

A nineteen-year-old Quaker, Stephen F. Whitman, opened a confectionery shop (if not shoppe) in Philadelphia in 1842. Because of that, here I am, eating the first bon bon from my small Whitman's Sampler. I thought it was a chocolate-covered cherry. I don't like them, so I wanted to get it over with. It turned out to be filled with coconut, though. Yay!

It's Valentine's Day. Have you noticed? Sixty and single, it seems I've sort of forgotten about this day. I know there was a time, when I was young and juicy, when I really craved a Hallmark Valentine's Day. I wanted a boyfriend who was sophisticated enough – and rich enough – to give me the works: flowers, candy, a card so extravagant it would embarrass us all with its velvet and ribbons and embossed hearts and that one thin translucent sheet that protected those reckless, swirling words of eternal devotion.

Turns out those things don't require sophistication, although they do require more cash than perhaps ought to be spent. When I was thirty-five, I had such a boyfriend. A gold necklace may even have been involved. Whatever, it didn't thrill me like I thought it would, and I blame that on my father.

Dad, despite his solid Italian blood, didn't show any emotion besides rage until he was a grandpa, so giving his wife and kids a decent Valentine's Day involved collusive subterfuge. Dinner was usually eaten as fast as possible so we kids could get on with our lives – Scouts or Capture the Flag or skating (ice and otherwise) or reading or homework or whatever the season and various ages suggested. But on February 14, we didn't leave the table. We sat and waited for Dad to finish his meal. Finally, with a sheepish grin and a poorly executed stretch and yawn, he'd stand up. "I'm tired," he'd say. "I guess I'll go up for a nap."

And up he'd go, up our creaking stairs to his bedroom where we'd hear paper rattling. He'd clump back down the stairs and put the big flat brown paper bag next to his dinner plate. "Oh," he'd say, as innocent as bad acting would allow, "I forgot these!" And then he'd disappear up the stairs again.

Mom would open the bag and behold: five small Whitman's Samplers very much like the one next to my keyboard right now, complete with its bit-mapped rose. Oh wait. That's not bit-mapped. That's supposed to look like needlepoint, like a, um, sampler. Yes. There would be five small Whitman's Samplers and one big one for Mom. It's only this year that I paused to wonder if she shared hers with Dad, even though I've thought about Dad's Valentine's Day tradition for years.

I've wondered, for instance, how long he stayed upstairs after he dropped off the hearts. And I wonder what he felt when the year came when he only needed four small hearts because his firstborn – a son! – was off at college. I also wonder if he carried that tradition all the way through to his fifth child – a son! – who was (and remains) four years younger than the fourth child – a son!

Well, however that tradition started or ended, I know that it lives on with me. Even though I much prefer chocolate-covered orange peels from Schakolad (or lemon peels or ginger, if anyone's taking notes), I still want a Whitman's Sampler at Valentine's Day. And in the years when I want to share the love, that's what I give, too. But I always make sure Dad's third child – a girl! – gets one of her very own.