Friday, June 14, 2013
Last weekend, my sister Patti and I drove St. Patsy to Gettysburg so that she could spend a month with her remaining sister and my favourite aunt, Shirley. She and her husband (my Uncle Dick) are former English teachers and avid history buffs, as is my sister. So...I was pretty much in heaven. We crammed as much Gettysburg Battle Lore into 36 hours as was humanly possible, leaving time for family stuff as well.
One evening, after a narrated tour of the Battlefield and a long-awaited, up-close viewing of the life-size bronze monument of General Longstreet, we drove to my cousin's home for a cookout. (No, I did not eat outdoors. Don't be ridiculous. And my cousin did a very sensible thing that I must mention: he had a large oscillating fan out on his deck. Not only did it provide cool air from the woods behind, but it kept bugs away. Marvelously smart, that.) As we sat around talking, I was immediately reminded of something my students used to tease me about.
You see, throughout my teaching career, my students used to swear that, because I was so enraptured with literature and constantly stringent with grammar and spelling, my idea of fun would be to sit around and talk about books and pick apart sentences and grammatical errors. To discuss symbolism in film and literature; to argue whether a character's dialogue was true; to discover themes in what we've read and seen. I used to fix them with an icy stare and simply move on.
At the big family table, my sister, my aunt, my cousin Mark (a former radio personality, writer, and journalist), and I immediately started talking about books. There is a new Lincoln book out, and Aunt Shirley wants me to read it. I want her to go and see the new Gatsby film. Patti had read a critical analysis of Gatsby and was rereading the book before she saw the film. And then we were off. Pretty soon, we went from there to everyday errors that irritate us: further vs. farther, irregardless (aargh!), it's vs. its, and so many more. It was absolutely wonderful. My students, of course, were right. There is nothing I love talking about more than books and The Language. And there is almost nothing I like more than the company of other English teachers. Or English-y people. Even when we don't agree--Mark reads a lot of fiction, and you know how I feel about that--I find their company stimulating and engaging.
At one point, my aunt mentioned her church group, the name of which tickled me. She is Episcopalian, and her group calls itself the Episco-Pals. You know, pals, as in friends. I got a charge out of that. I was informed that when a committee was organized for some project, they called themselves the Episco-Planners. "That's wonderful!" I exclaimed. "You can form a study group for the works of Edgar Allan Poe and call yourselves the Episco-Poes! Virtually anything that begins with P, really, can be EpiscoPized." It's true, you know. They can be the Episco-Painters, Episco-Pilots, and they can use their Episco-Power to stamp out Episco-Porn.
Okay, so, maybe not that last example. But it's fun to play with The Language, isn't it? I know that's not so just for those of us who used to teach it or write it for a living. It's a very satisfying contrast for me, to revere The Language in the gorgeous prose of Fitzgerald's Gatsby, in the speeches of Lincoln, and in the clean beauty of Whitman's poetry, but also to be able to tease it and twist it like the EpiscoPuns, slang, and creative neologisms that arise from every niche of our world.
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Rick says I am more "serene."
On Saturday, my friend Butch, who has not seen me since about January, said, "Wow. You're catching up to Rick in the grey hair department."
Chivalry. Dead as a flat skunk on the turnpike.
My Serenity and Inner Smile notwithstanding, I still have a few things to snark about. Do you? Howzabout we share, here, at the Dept.? I'll go first, and you can grouse around in Comments.
1. Brrrrrr. It is June, and I have my heat on right now. Allowing for the absolute fact that I Am Not Normal, it's still abusive that last night it was 49 degrees in NEO. It got so cold in my house without the heat on that my cheapo wine fridge refused to work. If it is exposed to temps below 61 degrees, its thermostat malfunctions. Well, guess whose reds were at a frosty 57 degrees until I unplugged it this morning to recalibrate? Right now, it is 64 degrees outside. On June 4th. It was 65 inside when I came home from the afternoon movie. I do not suffer in my house, so on went the furnace.
2. Duh. Speaking of the movie, my "daughter" Kait and I went to the noon showing of The Great Gatsby. Until a few teenagers showed up, Kait--at 20--was the youngest person there. (I was the second youngest, even though I used my AARP card for $2.00 popcorn and free soda.) At the end of the movie (possible spoiler!) the narrator Nick Carraway is shown placing a title page on the manuscript of the story he has been telling for the whole movie. It says "Gatsby by Nick Carraway". As he is doing this, a teenaged girl behind us said, "Wait. Wait. Is this a true story?" A few moments later, she said, "Hold on. Wait. I thought the book was called..." (another possible spoiler detail) and then in the scene, Nick is shown writing "The Great" above the title. The girl behind us says, "Nick Carraway? I thought the book was written by F. Scott Um..." and then I stopped listening because I knew that if I didn't, I was going to have to go back there and teach for about an hour in order to be able to go on with my life.
3. Hello? The media are all exercised about this Pew Research report that says over the last 50 years, many more women are the sole or primary breadwinner for their families, a figure jumping from 11% in 1960 to 40% in 2011. Well, holy crap, where the hell has everybody been? How many of my readers needed the Pew Research report to tell them that? How many of my readers have been living that stat? How in the hell can this be News? I guess I shouldn't be so intellectually disdainful. After all,
Erick Erickson, Fox News contributor says it's downright anti-science:
"I'm so used to liberals telling conservatives that they're anti-science. But liberals who defend this and say it is not a bad thing are very anti-science. When you look at biology -- when you look at the natural world -- the roles of a male and a female in society and in other animals, the male typically is the dominant role. The female, it's not antithesis, or it's not competing, it's a complementary role."
Hey, so there ya go. Ahem.
4. Grrrrr. I've said it here before, and I'll say it again. Until she said that stupid, condescending remark about the Hurricane Katrina victims, I liked Barbara Bush quite a bit. I still do like the way she speaks her mind and seems to be realistic about her family and politics. Everyone knew she was fully aware that the wrong son made it to the White House, and when she said there have been enough people named Bush at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, she was right. Jebby disagrees, however, and he is already starting on the stump for 2016. When asked about his mother's assertion that their family should end their aspirations for the Presidency of the United States, here is what Jeb said about Bar: "What can I tell you? All I can say is we all have mothers, right? She is totally liberated, and God bless her."
What can I tell you? If either of my sons said any of that condescending and chauvinistic bullshit, I'd call him out in the media for A) using empty, meaningless rhetoric; B) stating the obvious; C) being full of hot air; D) acting like a candyass. Barbara Bush has more restraint than I do, so I'm sure she did all of the above, but in private. She is totally liberated...what a perfect ass. Hey, Jeb! If it were up to people like Erick Erickson in your party, women would never have been liberated, such as we are. And we liberated ourselves, no thanks to you.
And the struggle continues.
Your turn now to unload your snark in Comments.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
"What's going on with that guy?" I said without thinking.
"The car ahead of him probably isn't done yet, and he doesn't feel like waiting," my patient husband replied. In a few moments, he slid our Prius into the spot at the pump formerly held by the aforementioned Rogue Van.
As Rick was pumping gas, I watched the lackadaisical SUV driver ahead of us. He looked foreign, maybe Mediterranean or Slavic. His clothes were a rumple of two shirts, dark pants, and slip-on sandals and socks. He had hair falling into his eyes, and in his mouth was an unlit cigarette. Done fueling, he simply stood at the rear of the car, doing I knew not what.
Pretty soon he wandered away, probably to have that cigarette, leaving his gassed up car parked at the pump. In a few moments, a back passenger door opened. Tumbling out as if he had been ejected or had fallen, a boy of about eleven or twelve appeared. He was wearing a teeshirt and nylon basketball-type shorts, and his hair was moppy and Early Bieber-esque. He was extremely chubby everywhere, and as he stood there, he scratched his considerable stomach, stretched, and then continued to merely stand there, shielding his eyes a bit from the sun, now and then jerking his head so as to flip the hair from his face. A woman's voice called out something from the car, and he said, "But it's so hot in there. And I'm tired." Another admonition from the car. It was ignored, and the man was nowhere in sight. The boy stood there some more.
Rick finished up and got in the car. As he did so, the boy turned around, and I got a glimpse of his teeshirt's slogan. How good is this?
Monday, May 20, 2013
My brother and I felt energized. We had gotten all the tables out in record time. Not a single item had been damaged in the storage shed over the winter; everything fit on the tabletops, and there was enough new inventory to freshen up the usual offerings that had seen several sales. We voiced and affirmed our Goals: This was The Year, I said. It would be sold This Year.
At nine o'clock the gates opened and a steady stream of cars began driving through the lake community. Here and there, an Amish buggy clattered by. We chatted with customers, marveled at the lovely weather, joked about this and that, and did our best to encourage sales. Suddenly, a woman returned after having had a conversation with me about my breadmaker (marked down from $15 last year to $10 this year!). She said her husband wanted it. I walked with her to the table and helped lift it and take it to her car.
As I returned to the table, a young Amish woman was paying my brother. He glanced up at me with a careful smile, a very, very restrained grin, for in her arms rested...
MY PUNCH BOWL.
It was all I could do to control my urge to break into a simultaneous peformance of the Halleluia Chorus and an interpretive dance demonstrating my extreme elation and relief, which would have looked something like a fist-pumping, twirling, leg-kicking, spasming victim of St. Vitus' Dance trying to escape a swarm of hornets.
She looked smug and thrilled at her five-dollar bargain and walked hurriedly away,
Two other Lifer Items were sold quickly after that: the Ghostbusters sleeping bag and a set of drapes and bedskirt, both of which had been in at least 5 sales. (Never underestimate Blowout Pricing.)
I knew you'd all want to share in My Victory. It's a Dream Come True!
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Did you ever have the sensation that nothing was happening in your life, yet you were very, very busy? I'm feeling that way lately, and I have to tell you, it's all very odd. Of course, these days, if I have anything to do, it seems like a big deal.
While I have a moment in my Big Honking Schedule, I thought I'd share a few Cranial Crumbs and tidy the space up a bit.
---|Google Is So Deep. Sometimes, when I'm doing a little research, Google likes to wax poetic in order to give me some perspective and some spontaneous poetry. For example, I was searching for something which began with the word "white." I got as far as wh, and Google began a poetry slam (punctuation is mine; line break is all Google):
where's my refund?
what's the word,
white pages Ohio?
Wow. This really identifies the urban angst that is Out There, in The Mean Streets. Google really gets it.
I admit it. I like to nudge Google and make my research queries in the form of a question. I got this far in my most recent query and Google took it away: "Why are m-":
why are manhole covers round?
why are my boobs sore?
why are my hands always cold?
why are my cookies always flat?
---|Kickoff! I don't give a damn about football of any kind, but I got very excited about the Cleveland Browns first draft pick this year. Why? Only because he has the Best Name Ever. BARKEVIOUS MINGO. Oh, yes, say it over and over again. How fantastic of a name is that? I heard that name over a year ago and made a Solemn Vow to someday name something BarkeviousMingo, all together like that, because it is a kickass name. He goes by a wimp-out nickname, KeKe, but not in this house. He will always be BARKEVIOUS MINGO at the Dept. The Browns did a great job in the Name Department. They also drafted a Leon, a Jamoris, and an Armonty. Nice work.
---|I'm Organic, At Least. It occurred to me the other day that I would love to be my shampoo. You probably would, too. Just read the label. I really want to be a "sensual and alluring blend." Don't you want to "have great body and sparkle"? Wouldn't you like to hear someone tell you that being with you is "rejuvenating"? I sure would.
---|'Tis The Season. Friday was my birthday, and one of my best gifts was the weather. I actually wore flipflops out in my yard and was able to garden. Naturally, that is the only time I wear flipflops. Sadly, I know that A) most teens have been wearing flipflops for months now, and B) most people wear flipflops to weddings, restaurants, funerals, and other public places. I think my Original Point was, however, that the weather was warm enough that I could both garden and wear summer shoes. Sigh.
---|Animal House. Finally, just some general silliness. Since Rick and I got rid of cable, we're forced to talk to one another more often.
Nance: Where are you going?
Rick: I'm gonna go change before dinner and before I jump in the shower. I just feel gross.
Nance: Into what?
Nance: What are you going to change into?
Rick: An elephant.
Nance: What kind of elephant?
Rick: A baby one.
Nance: Oh, good. How cute.
(Later, after dinner, Rick gets up.)
Rick: Okay. I'm gonna go grab that shower.
Nance: Why not just use your trunk?
Go ahead. Google that.
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Wednesday, May 01, 2013
It's about damn time.
On my various errands--many chauffering St. Patsy to her various Medical Necessaries--I am often enthralled by the many glorious flowering trees so many people are privileged to have in their yards. One oft-travelled route takes me past no less than five towering tulip trees in full bloom, their spent pink and white petals creating a pastel coverlet on the new grass beneath them. They are incredible. On that same drive is a bonfire of forsythia at the entrance of a pine forest. It looks as if a half-dozen bushes grew together unfettered by boundaries both upward and beyond. Blossoming trees froth with pink like bubbles on a strawberry soda, while the terraced elegance of rare dogwoods look serene and aloof.
When I was a kid, we had a big, gnarled, knotty apple tree in our backyard. Its branches spread far and wide, and it blossomed heavily every other year. My father loved that tree. Every single one of us was photographed up in that tree, from newborn to college. Grandkids were, too, the ones who were around while Dad was alive. The apple tree produced a ton of apples, too, but the bugs and birds always got to them before any one of us could. "Honey, you ought to get some spray and spray that tree," my mom used to say. My father would look at her like she had told him he should cut the tree down. He couldn't imagine spraying any sort of pesticide on his tree. He figured it was perfect the way that it was. It wasn't there for the apples, anyway. It was there for its beauty.
When I got a house of my own, I wanted a few things in my yard. One, I wanted a lilac bush. Two, I wanted rose bushes. Three, I wanted a flowering tree. My lilac bush got a powdery mildew or fungus or something, and little by little, no matter what we did for it, it kept dying back. My rose bushes just never did well, either, and even my father, The Rose Doctor himself, couldn't get the soil right for them. And the flowering tree?
We had two huge silver maple trees on our teeny tiny lot when we first moved here. One--which we had removed--was pretty much right in front of half of the garage. The other was in front of our house, on the curb lawn (which I had always called a tree lawn). There was no space anywhere for a flowering tree. Many years later, when we redid our backyard, taking out all the grass and landscaping it into a back garden, I told our landscaper that I wanted a flowering tree someplace in the scheme. "Can't do it," Marv said. "They get too big. Besides, the only place you have to put one, really, is too close to the pond. They drop stuff. Clog up the skimmer. Make a huge mess."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I appealed to Rick, who pressed the case to Marv again. But it was true. There wasn't any place for a flowering tree. "Everyone gets all excited and jazzed up about flowering trees," groused Marv. "It only lasts two weeks. Two weeks. Then what? Just a tree. No one thinks about that."
He's right. No one thinks about the other fifty weeks because they're too busy glorying in those two weeks. Two weeks of unabashed beauty. Two weeks of affirmation that yes, winter is not going to last forever, that spring is coming after all. Two weeks of hope. Two weeks of remembering that the world has lovely things to share. Two weeks of appreciating Nature's gifts after a dark and cold winter. Two weeks of knowing that something simple can still have the power to awe you. A wonderful two weeks that make me smile, appreciate, and remember.
I miss my father every day although he is with me always.
Monday, April 22, 2013
I have to remember that They are Out There. I don't know why I'm surprised. Two days before Easter, when Jared and Sam informed me that yes, of course we would be coloring Easter eggs; what am I, some kind of communist, I had to hit up a local dollar store to find egg dye. Luckily, I found some (the packaging and directions were all in French, by the way), and when I made my way to the cashier, I saw a sign that jolted me. Immediately, I took a photo with my trusty phone, knowing I would send it to Jared and Sam, and thinking I might one day use it here at the Dept.
This is that day. This, Dearest Readers, is Out There:
Join me in keeping The Stupid at bay. Let's all make a solemn promise to be brilliant as often as we can.
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